Release Blitz + Giveaway: Playing the Player (Miami Piranhas #2) by Beth Bolden


 

RELEASE BLITZ

Book Title: Playing the Player (Miami Piranhas, Book 2)

Author and Publisher: Beth Bolden

Cover Artist: Cate Ashwood Designs

Release Date: August 3, 2022

Genres: Gay contemporary sports romance

Tropes: Fake boyfriend, bisexual awakening, friends to lovers

Themes: Found family, trusting yourself, trusting others, finding confidence

Heat Rating: 4 flames    

Length: 91 000 words

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Buy Links - Available in Kindle Unlimited

Universal Link  |  Amazon US  |  Amazon UK 

Blurb

Center Logan Banks didn’t come to Miami looking for a best friend.

He came for football and for a chance at freedom—the freedom to live out of the closet.

But after a water main break, he lands an unexpected roommate, the new Piranhas kicker, Dylan Leonard. Between practices, games, and too many late nights on the couch, a best friend is exactly what he gets.

When Logan’s past rears its ugly head and threatens to destroy the freedom he’s hoped for, Dylan becomes more than just a friend. He becomes a lifeline.

But then their friendship gets incorrectly labeled as something more, and Dylan shocks Logan by suggesting they play along with a fake relationship.

Logan knows it’s off limits to fall in love with Dylan. He’s supposed to be straight, he’s his best friend, his roommate, and his teammate. But the closer they grow, and the more he and Dylan fake falling in love, the more real it feels.

The more real Logan wants it to be.

Making a play for love is the biggest risk he’s ever taken, but he wants it all and he wants it with Dylan.

Excerpt 

Dylan’s jaw dropped. “You’ve never seen Star Wars?”

“Guilty as charged.”

“Well, first, we’re gonna remedy that ASAP,” Dylan said with relish. “I can’t believe I get to pop your cherry.”

Logan froze, his hand still on the controller. “Uh,” he said. “Hate to break it to you but that’s been done . . .”

But I could pop yours, that voice that didn’t want to cooperate, inserted slyly. And now Logan was fucking thinking about it. A dark head, between his heads, tongue flicking out uncertainly. A hand pressed to the middle of his chest, as Dylan squirmed on his dick.

Stop. Do not cross Go.

“Your Star Wars cherry, silly,” Dylan said, laughing, punching him lightly in the arm.

“Is that a thing?” If it was, then Logan wanted it to be Dylan who did it. Logan wanted him to do all kinds of things.

It was a problem, even though he kept trying to pretend it wasn’t.

“Sure, it can be,” Dylan said, one of those quicksilver grins lighting up his whole face.

“So why this game?” Logan asked, trying to pluck the game from Dylan’s fingers, but he was too quick, and pulled it away. “’Cause it’s easy?”

“Well, it’s simpler, sure, but it also requires less hand-eye coordination,” Dylan said, and Logan shot him a glare. But Dylan only laughed. “We’re being honest here, dude. Set you on a football field, and you’d destroy most everyone, but with a video game controller in your hands?”

“Fine, fine, fine,” Logan said with a resigned sigh. He grabbed for the game again, and Dylan wasn’t quite fast enough this time, and when Logan got ahold of it, he didn’t let go.

Yanked both it and Dylan over the side of the couch, and Logan froze as the other guy landed basically in his lap.

He 100% did not mean to freeze. It wasn’t in his nature to freeze.

After all, they had a touchy-feely friendship. Logan had never shied away from touching Dylan and vice versa. It worked for them.

But now he was in his lap.

And he wasn’t moving.

Logan could count every shade of green in Dylan’s eyes as they stared at each other. His hand hovered right over Dylan’s back. He wanted to push him in, pull him close, but no matter how touchy-feely they were, they weren’t in the habit of embracing. Not like this.

Not with Dylan straddling him, not only wearing a pair of athletic shorts each.

Then Dylan reached out, pressing a palm against Logan’s chest. Right where his rose tattoo sat, right over his heart. Not pushing him away. Not using him to get up. Just resting it there.

Like he couldn’t help it, he just wanted to touch.

You’re wrong. He doesn’t want to. Not like that. Not like you want him to.

Logan opened his mouth to make a joke, but his brain was empty, and nothing came out.

Dylan leaned forward a fraction. Licked his lips.

There was something soft and hazy and affectionate in his gaze. Something curious.

And then he spoke. “Guess,” he said, voice low, “that your reflexes really do suck, Banks.”

About the Author 

A lifelong Pacific Northwester, Beth Bolden has just recently moved to North Carolina with her supportive husband. Beth still believes in Keeping Portland Weird, and intends to be just as weird in Raleigh.

Beth has been writing practically since she learned the alphabet. Unfortunately, her first foray into novel writing, titled Big Bear with Sparkly Earrings, wasn’t a bestseller, but hope springs eternal. She’s published twenty-three novels and seven novellas.

Author Links

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Release Blitz + Giveaway: Kinked Up (It's a Kink Thing #1) by M.C. Roth


 

Kinked Up by M.C. Roth

Book 1 in the It's a Kink Thing series

General Release Date: 2nd August 2022

Word Count:  75,115
Book Length: SUPER NOVEL
Pages: 283

Genres:

BONDAGE AND BDSM
CONTEMPORARY
EROTIC ROMANCE
GAY
GLBTQI

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Book Description

 

Can Trick choose between the love of his life and the sub of his dreams?

Nav can’t count the number of times he has wished he could close his eyes, hand over the reins and let someone take care of him. It’s a dream that none of his exes have been able to fulfill—not that he really understands what he needs.

At least, he doesn’t until he stumbles into a dark alley to get away from the bustling noise on the dance floor where he doesn’t belong. He’s not alone in the alley, and the stranger who gives him everything he’s longing for isn’t a stranger at all but Trick, his gorgeous neighbor who has a body that models would kill for and the softest blue eyes that Nav has ever seen.

Trick has everything he could ever wish for, including his kinky fiancé, Theo, who has been by his side for ten years. So when Trick sets up an intense scene in an alleyway that pushes their boundaries beyond anything he could have imagined, his life seems perfect. But when the alley lights flicker on, he discovers the man against him isn’t his fiancé at all.

One perfect mistake will change their lives forever.

Reader advisory: This book contains pain play and consensual non-consent.

Excerpt

Nav’s apartment key tumbled from his hand as his phone vibrated, rattling his change and his plastic swipe card from work. He fumbled in his pocket, pulling his phone out and groaning at the name on the display.

“This is not a good time,” he said as he accepted the call, sighing at the laughter that burst against his eardrum. He glanced down, searching for his key that had somehow made it halfway under his apartment door, only the jagged edge visible beneath the crack.

He really needed to get a keychain so the thing didn’t disappear on him again. He’d already gone through three keys in the last month, and the hardware store was starting to get suspicious as to why he needed so many spares. There just didn’t seem to be much point to getting a sparkly keychain if he wasn’t going to keep it for all that long.

“How did it go, Nav?” asked Sasha through the speaker.

No matter how many times Nav lost his things or moved, Sasha always seemed to track him down. He was Nav’s self-appointed best friend and number one annoyance.

Nav let out a sigh, leaning his back against the door as he looked down the hall. There were a dozen doors that were identical to his, with grungy numbers barely clinging onto their hastily painted surfaces. At one point, the doors must’ve been a dreadful forest green, but someone had decided to paint over them with a thin layer of white primer. The results were pale lime rectangles with dark corners where the primer had been rubbed raw. The red apartment numbers completed the nightmarish Christmas look with tacky gusto.

“It went great. Better than great, actually. Everette never wants to see me again, and he got his brother to throw me out of the house.” Nav rubbed at his shoulder where he was sure there was a bruise. They’d taken the throwing part a touch too literally, and Nav had found out first-hand how hard concrete sidewalks were.

“Ouch. Not unexpected, though,” said Sasha, his laughter booming through the tiny speaker. “Maybe you shouldn’t have hit on their dad?”

Nav ran a hand through his hair before he leaned back and let his head rest against the thin door. It sounded hollow to the touch, and it nearly bowed under his weight. “Maybe their dad shouldn’t have been so hot. I mean, who the hell walks around in just their boxers then gets offended when they get hit on? I didn’t know guys his age could even have abs like that. His body was just rocking.”

“Gross… I don’t need the details,” said Sasha, the phone rustling. “How many is that now, though?”

“This year or this month?” asked Nav, sliding down the door until his ass met the thin and filthy carpet. A light flickered overhead, and somewhere a baby screamed. His neighbor down the hall was making their weekly batch of boiled cabbage, if the smell was anything to go by. And who the hell had crushed packets of ketchup at the end of the hall?

“You’re such an asshole,” said Sasha. “I’ve never met someone who has as many ex-boyfriends as you have. You must run into one at every bar.”

Nav laughed, letting the grief of the situation roll off his shoulders and down the ratty hallway to find a sewer out on the street somewhere. There was hardly any grief there at all, if he were honest with himself. He’d only dated Everette for three weeks, which was two weeks longer than his usual attention span. The guy had been cute, but nothing compared to his dad.

“Most bars are out. Restaurants, too. I ran into Josh the other day, and I swear to God he spit on my salad,” said Nav. He’d still eaten the salad, of course. A little spit never turned him off a good meal.

“So, you won’t come out for drinks with us tonight?” asked Sasha. “Katie already did her hair up real nice, and I can’t wait to fuck it up.”

“Your straightness disgusts me,” said Nav, letting his eyes drift shut. It had been a long week of too many hours at work and even more wasted on another guy he knew would never work out. His shower was calling to him, and he could definitely hear the cries of his lonely pillow.

“I dunno. I’m really tired, Sash.” He leaned his head to the side to cradle his phone against his ear. A noise at the end of the hall made him startle, but he kept his eyes closed. It was probably just one of his asshole neighbors getting home after their day job. They would be able to step by him just fine.

“All the more reason to come out with us. You’re in a rut, Nav. You need to relax and stop trying to fuck your way through every gay bedroom in the city. Come out with us tonight for drinks, keep your dick to yourself and I guarantee you’ll feel better.”

“Drinks do sound good,” said Nav, pulling his feet closer when the squeak of shuffling footsteps approached him on the carpet. “Okay, I’ll be there tonight. Don’t let me fuck up again, okay?”

“Deal.” Sasha chuckled. Nav could almost see his best friend’s smirk through the phone. “I’ll keep you surrounded by women so your dick shrivels up and dies. Then I’ll get you so wasted that you forget about Tray.”

“Tray was last month, before Scott and Paul, remember? Everette was the guy whose dad I just fucked,” said Nav, lowering his voice as the footsteps came closer. He already got enough flack in his life for being gay and he didn’t need any more shit from anyone.

“You are fucked up, man. I’ll see you tonight. Nine sharp at Pinty’s. Bring your long underwear and a chastity belt.” Sasha ended the call with a click and Nav sighed, letting his phone slide to the ground with a hollow thump. He could sleep against the door, even with the floor jamming into the bruises on his ass.

Who actually threw someone? Concrete was not a fun place for his skinny ass to land. At least they had tossed him his pants.

“You okay?”

Nav’s opened his eyes and cursed to himself, scrambling to get up to his feet.

Of course, the person to see him crumpled outside of his door had to be his smoking-hot and totally unreachable neighbor. He was gorgeous, with short blond hair that models would die for, and the softest blue eyes Nav had ever seen. Top that with thick shoulders, strong arms and thighs that could kill and he was everything Nav dreamed of.

The guy was also completely and totally unavailable. His boyfriend was the most average person in the world but had something that Nav couldn’t even fathom—commitment. Every time Nav saw his him, the boyfriend was usually close by.

“Sorry… I just lost my key,” said Nav as he pushed back against his door, his knees wobbling as his neighbor got closer. His mouth went dry, his throat constricting like nobody’s business. His palms went damp as he suddenly began to sweat, his face flushing. Hunger evaporated in his gut like he’d just gotten a whiff of fresh ass, and his priorities had spun one-hundred-and-eighty degrees.

He was also the only one who did that to Nav. The beautiful blond specimen transformed him from a bonified slut who was proud of it into a blushing virgin.

Nav had fucked and been fucked by more guys than he could remember, but something about that tall, built frame and those crystal-blue eyes sent him back to his high school days when he’d seen his first cock and decided he was gay for life.

“Oh crap, that sucks,” he said, running a hand through his blond locks that were probably softer than actual silk. “Did you call the superintendent?” He shifted a brown paper grocery bag in his hands, reaching into his pocket for something.

Of course he was environmentally aware, too, which made Nav want to drool. There was nothing worse than a hot guy who used plastic bags and drove a car that guzzled more fuel than a loaded transport truck. Can you be any more perfect?

Nav shook his head. “N-not yet. I think I probably just dropped it somewhere.” Nav wanted to crumple into a ball. His voice was so soft and weak that he probably sounded like a virgin, too.

Virgins were the literal enemy. Clingy, flustered and nervous, Nav always steered well clear. He’d been there, done that and returned the T-shirt.

Knowing how thin the walls were in the building, Nav guessed the guy had probably heard his sex adventures from across the hall, which was probably why he was looking at Nav with confusion and concern etched onto his perfectly sculpted face. Statues were probably made of this guy—hopefully the ones with the big dicks and not the little ones.

Nav slid his foot sideways to where he remembered dropping the key, hopefully concealing it. He was such a fucking idiot, but he couldn’t even think straight with his neighbor staring at him, his gaze piercing straight through his defenses.

“Did you need a hand? Just let me put my groceries in the fridge and I’ll help you look for it.” A soft smile settled on his lips as he pulled his own key out before opening his door with one hand.

“No, it’s okay,” said Nav, his face burning. He slapped his hands to his cheeks as the guy looked away, hoping to draw the heat out with his frigid fingertips. The sight of his wide, strong back had Nav flushing all over again. He looked away and into the apartment instead, his jaw dropping as something caught his eye.

There, on the wall, and hidden in the most unlikely of places, was a painting that he’d never thought he would see again.

“Oh my God, you have one of Brian Maeckery’s paintings?” He stumbled across the hall, his key and his bag forgotten as the art drew him through the open door.

Seeing it again was the same as seeing it for the first time. The piece was one that had caught Nav’s eye when it had been in the studio. His breath stuck in his throat as his cock swelled against his will, his groin pulling tight.

He couldn’t help it. The brushstrokes were perfection, each one laid with such sensual purpose that Nav could almost feel them against his skin. The lovers on the canvas were wrapped around each other in an intimate embrace that made Nav’s blood boil. They looked at each other in the peak of their pleasure, love and commitment frozen on their features. It was as unreal as a dream.

But what was his favorite painting of all time doing in a run-down apartment building? Sure, his neighbor had spruced up his place from what Nav could tell, but the painting didn’t belong.

“Yeah.” He set his grocery bag on the counter, before turning to Nav. “He’s actually a friend of mine. He owed me a favor, so he gave this to me as payment. It’s a beautiful piece.” He shifted, flickering his gaze over Nav once before he turned and started unloading his groceries.

Butterflies erupted in Nav’s belly. Brian Maeckery was nearly famous—like a shiny, untouchable doll on television. Nav would have worshiped the ground that he walked on, if only he had been able to find his house.

“I’m so jealous. I’m such a huge fan of his.” He let out a sigh, reaching for the muddled color where the lovers’ legs met. He hovered a few inches away, his hand trembling. The last price tag he’d seen on it was over one-hundred-thousand dollars. “It must’ve been one hell of a favor.”

It still smelled fresh, the flavors of the paint rolling over his tongue as he inhaled sharply. The wooden frame was pristine, without a hint of dust or fingerprints, but how long would that last? It was something that should have been hanging in a temperature-controlled gallery for the rest of its life behind a pane of thick glass, not in a shitty apartment building soaking up the faint smell of cigarettes and cat piss.

His neighbor paused, a tray of chicken breasts clutched in his fingers. He furrowed his forehead before he let out a small laugh, his eyes lighting up. “Not really, no. My fiancé and I modeled for the painting, so Brian thought it was best if we were the ones to get it.”

“Wait…what?” Nav took a step back, his gaze flashing between him and the painting. The faces on the canvas were in shadow, with only their lips visible and a hint of their partially closed eyes. But it did look like them, and the hair color was spot-on. And their bodies…oh God. Was that really hiding beneath the guy’s T-shirt and jeans?

“Shit, I’ve jerked off to this painting,” said Nav, flushing as he smacked his hand to his forehead. “I-I mean, shit. You’re Theo?”

His boss had relayed the entire story as they’d hung the painting in the gallery together—how Brian had claimed that Theo was his muse and how he had called to him with each brush stroke. Nav had agreed from the bottom of his balls. That had been the first time the painting made him hard—but not the last.

Nav dropped his gaze, flushing so fiercely that he wasn’t sure his cheeks would ever cool again. He couldn’t look at him. In fact, it was probably best if he turned around and crawled back to his apartment before begging for forgiveness through the door.

Nav started as his neighbor chuckled. His gaze was dragged back to the gorgeous blond, his heart thudding as he stared at the man with his head tilted back and his lips curled and open as the beautiful sound emerged.

“Theo’s my fiancé,” he said, wiping the gathering tears from his eyes as he continued to chuckle. “I’m Maverick, but everyone calls me Trick. Thanks for the compliment.” He let out another laugh, his body shaking as his chest heaved.

“I’m so sorry. I’m just really tired, and I always say things I’m not supposed to when I’m tired.” He bit his tongue as Trick laughed even harder. Trick was stunning when he was silent, but when he laughed, he transformed into an actual Adonis.

Nav looked at the painting again, something new surging from the base of his gut.

As much as he had longed to be the one in the painting in the past, it had always remained an unattainable figment of Brian’s imagination. It had been fitting that the only thing that he would ever love was an imaginary scene with a fictional man.

But they were real…and the man he’d been fantasizing about was Trick. His heart rate picked up, his chest rising and falling like he’d just run a marathon.

Trick was obviously in love with Theo. He’d smiled, the corners of his eyes crinkling when he’d said Theo’s name. And the painting…? Nav hadn’t known what true love looked like until he had seen the canvas.

An ugly green monster twisted in his gut, leaving a foul taste in his mouth. It seemed that everyone could fall in love except him, even the not-so-fictional characters in a painting. He was going to be cursed to chase brief hookups for the rest of his life, ditching them before they lost their new boyfriend smell and shine.

“Sorry. I didn’t mean to upset you by laughing at you. I was just surprised,” said Trick, his humor falling away. “You sure you don’t want me to help you find your key? Or I can get you a drink if you want to call the super and wait here.”

“No, it’s okay. I don’t want to intrude,” said Nav. He looked back to the painting, but the magic that had enthralled him for months was gone. His stomach lurched as he took a step back.

I’m just overtired. Alcohol required STAT.

“Well, it was nice meeting you…” Trick paused as if he were waiting for something.

“Nav.” He shrugged, filling the uncomfortable silence.

“Nav. Just knock if you need something or if you change your mind.” He smiled, parting his full lips to reveal white teeth that were perfectly straight. His smile was dazzling, pulling a wave of fresh heat from Nav’s core.

“Thanks. Bye.” Nav rushed into the hall, shutting the door before Trick could say anything further. His heart was still pounding, and for some strange reason, he felt the first prickling of tears at the corner of his eyes.

He took a deep breath and pinched the base of his nose. He must’ve been more exhausted than he’d thought if he was already starting to get teary-eyed. He usually didn’t hit that level until he’d worked sixty hours in one week. He’d only done fifty-five hours in the last five days, so he should have still been in the glaringly frustrated and angry phase.

He reached for his key, easing it out from where it had squirmed through the crack under the thin door. He grabbed his bag, hauling it over his shoulder and turning the key in the lock before pushing inside.

Unlike Trick, he hadn’t spiffed up his floors or counters in his apartment. There really was no point if his stay was going to be brief.

The paint was the original faded ivory with a few cracks around the corners and a smudge of purple along one baseboard. The floors were roll-on linoleum with a few holes in the kitchen where someone had repeatedly dropped a sharp knife. It could have been anyone’s apartment.

Except for the art that he’d hung on the walls. The art was all his. Most of the paintings were little pieces he’d picked up in estate and garage sales in the city, with a few originals from up-and-coming artists. His work in the studio gallery put him in reach of a few artists who hadn’t hit it big yet and had prices that were within his reach.

He stepped up to one of his favorites. The artist was known simply as Rachel, and they had a way with traditional techniques that wasn’t too common anymore. A frog on a lily pad would have made most artists scoff, but Rachel had elevated the simple idea and done something beyond anything Nav could have imagined himself. The frog was made of stars, and the lily pad was the cosmos, according to the gods. It always managed to take his breath away.

All the works he had managed to collect were beautiful and unique, but nothing like the scandalous and sensual canvas of Brian’s work. It was so far beyond his price range that he didn’t deserve to be close enough to touch it.

His throat clogged as he thought of the painting in its dismal setting across the hall.

“Christ, I need a drink.” He pulled his clothes from his body, letting them trail on the ground on his way to the shower. As the water cascaded over him, he tried to push the painting and Trick from his thoughts.

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About the Author

M.C. Roth

M.C. Roth lives in Canada and loves every season, even the dreaded Canadian winter. She graduated with honours from the Associate Diploma Program in Veterinary Technology at the University of Guelph before choosing a different career path.

Between caring for her young son, spending time with her husband, and feeding treats to her menagerie of animals, she still spends every spare second devoted to her passion for writing.

She loves growing peppers that are hot enough to make grown men cry, but she doesn’t like spicy food herself. Her favourite thing, other than writing of course, is to find a quiet place in the wilderness and listen to the birds while dreaming about the gorgeous men in her head.

Find out more about M.C. Roth at her website.

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Audiobook Blog Tour + Giveaway: Dropnauts (Liminal Sky: Redemption Cycle #1) by J. Scott Coatsworth


 

J. Scott Coatsworth's diverse hopepunk space opera Dropnauts Is out in audio, narrated by Kevin Earlywine. And there's a giveaway!

Life after the Crash.

Over a century after the end of the Earth, life goes on in Redemption, the sole remaining Lunar colony, and possibly the last outpost of humankind in the Solar System. But with an existential threat burrowing its way into the Moon's core, humanity must recolonize the homeworld.

Twenty brave dropnauts set off on a mission to explore the empty planet. Four of them—Rai, Hera, Ghost and Tien—have trained for two-and-a-half years for the Return. They're bound for Martinez Base, just outside the Old Earth city of San Francisco.

But what awaits them there will turn their assumptions upside down—and in the process, either save or destroy what's left of humanity.

Amazon Audio | Universal Buy Link | Goodreads


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

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Excerpt

Dropnauts meme

Listen to chapter one:

[audio mp3="https://www.otherworldsink.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/08/DS-CH-1.mp3"][/audio]

We’re going home.

Rai sweated inside his suit, white-knuckling the arms of the retrofitted launch chair under his suit gloves. He watched the Zhenyi'slaunch countdown clock.

Sixty, fifty-nine, fifty-eight…

Outside he was calm, but inside he vibrated like an erhu string, his stomach doing acrobatics in his chest. I’m not ready.

Five teams of dropnauts had strapped themselves into their jumper ships, prepared for the ascent from Redemption on the lunar surface to Launchpad station. Outside his porthole, the blue-green marble of Earth beckoned.

Forty-five, forty-four…

Rai cast a nervous glance at his three teammates. Hera was doing her preflight check, her back to him, sweat dripping down the umber skin of her neck from her short-cropped, curly black hair.

Behind him on his right, Tien’s eyes were closed, and she was still as a golden statue. Zen.

He turned to find Ghost looking at him from behind. His ex grinned, running his hand through his lanky, dirty blond hair, his green eyes twinkling. His skin was as white as Rai’s own, but with a dusting of freckles over the bridge of his nose.

Rai managed a pale imitation of a smile back. -It's totally safe.- Ghost's voice pinged in his head, em to em.

-Easy for you to say.- Ghost had never feared a thing in his life.

Rai sighed. If he had to, he could take the small ship apart and put it back together with his bare hands, a skill learned under Sam's supervision—the mech was as harsh a taskmaster as any human Rai had ever worked for. Still, he felt like puking. The speeches and adulation of the farewell celebration were over, and now his doubts circled like vultures. I'm not ready.

Thirty-two, thirty-one…

-You'll be ok.- Hera's determined voice this time. She turned to squeeze his knee, and then fired up the Zhenyi'shydro-fuel engine. He flashed her a sheepish grin.

A hundred meters away, the Bristol's takeoff shook the landing pad. Rai watched it rise, carrying Dax, Jess, Ola, and Xiu Ying, the London team, toward the bright stars above. The jumper’s expelled water froze almost instantly, falling as snow over the snaking lava tube that held the city of Redemption. A lunar blizzard whipped by them and shimmered into nothing.

Rai closed his eyes, remembering the night before. Jess, laughing and dancing with him at Heaven, the clear dome of the lunar sky sparkling above them, the heavy beat of the thromb club pulsing through his chest. Dancing like no one was watching.

He rubbed his jaw. It still ached from the fist he'd taken to the face. Wild party. And a wilder night with Ayvin, the jack he'd picked up at the club.

"Zhenyi, ready for liftoff in T-Minus ten seconds.” Sam's voice, coming from Team Five's ship, the Liánhuā, was cool and collected. Did the mech feel emotion, like the nausea that was boiling in Rai's guts? His teammates were strong, smart, and prepared for anything. I can do this. Besides, it was too late to back out now.

"Affirmative.” Hera shifted in her seat, her biframes stretching her paralyzed legs for her.

"You’ll do okay, tiger.” Ghost elbowed him in the ribs.

“Six, five, four…” Hera swiped the glossy white control deck, and the launch controls appeared, floating over the white surface.

“Leave him alone.” Rai could hear the icy frown in Tien’s voice.

He closed his eyes, willing his stomach to calm. Here we go. Nothing he could do about it now.

“Three, two, one… hang on.” Hera fired the engines, and the craft lifted on a cloud of steam into the star-filled skies of Luna.

Rai squeezed his armrests again as G-force pushed him hard back in his seat. He was committed now. Poppies, Chinese Houses, Fiddlenecks, Baby Blue Eyes, Yellow Pansies, Star Lilies… Reciting the flowers of the old San Francisco basin helped soothe his abraded nerves as the rumbling of the little craft rattled his bones.

He opened his eyes to see Redemption receding below them. The great lava tube was striped with sparkling bands of solar receptors that let sunlight into the city below. Rail lines snaked out from Redemption to the transit center like roping vines—to the seed launcher at Copernicus Crater, to Renewal colony, and beyond.

As the city shrank below them, his fear turned to sadness, a lump forming in his throat. He’d taken his home for granted, enthralled by the idea of joining humankind’s greatest adventure in a century. Now he might never see it again.

The hydro rocket thrust them up out of Luna’s gravity well into naked space, toward the bright blue skies of the empty Earth above. Rai stared at it, that enigmatic ball in space which no one had visited in over a century. What secrets are you hiding?

The roar cut off as quickly as it had begun, leaving the Zhenyi drifting upward in silence as they slipped out of Luna’s grasp.

Hera’s hands flew across the deck, swapping the launch controls for navigation, and nudged them onto a new course following the Bristol toward the Launchpad.

Rai let go, his breath coming out in a heavy sigh.

“See? That wasn’t so bad.” Ghost unbuckled his seatbelt and stretched, yawning as if he didn’t have a care in the world.

God, he's beautiful. Pale as his namesake under his mop of dirty blond hair, the engineer’s thick arms were just a suggestion under the bulky suit, but Rai could still see them in his mind. Ghost’s well-toned muscles, the smell of his skin after—

“You okay, buddy?” Ghost was staring at him, one dark eyebrow raised in concern.

Rai bit his lip and looked away. “Just nervous. Wondering if we’ll ever make it back home”

“Hey, if things go well after the drop, maybe you and me could open the first Earthside bar since the Crash.” Ghost leaned over him from behind to stare at the Earth through the porthole, his cheek close to Rai’s

“That’s crazy.” But his spirits lifted. It was idiotic. And just the distraction he needed.

Ghost sank back into his own seat. “Every outpost needs a good bar where the colonists can blow off a little steam, right?”

Rai laughed in spite of himself, warming to the idea. “We could call it ‘The Frontier’.”

“Or ‘The Wild Hookup’.”

“Best beer this side of the planet.”

Only beer!”

Rai snorted. Just like old times. He hadn’t forgiven Ghost, though. Not yet. He looked down at his gloved hands, emblazoned with the leaf-and-orb of Redemption’s space service.

Things had ended badly between them—crash and burn bad. Still, they’d be too busy the next few weeks to think about anything but the drop. The survival of Redemption and the remnants of humanity depended on them.

He could let it go. I have to. He’d managed the launch, after all. I can do this too.

Ghost squeezed his shoulder and closed his eyes, touching his temple and bobbing his head to a song only he could hear.

Rai turned away.

You're stronger than any of us. Hera had told him that the night before. Still, he didn’t feel strong.

He looked out of the porthole again at the Earth—the same view they’d had from Heaven. And yet somehow, it looked different. More real.

Poppies, Chinese Houses, Fiddlenecks, Baby Blue Eyes, Yellow Pansies, Star Lilies…

He touched his hand to the porthole. Even through the glove, it was cold. We're going home.


Author Bio

J. Scott Coatsworth

Scott 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 of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA).

Author Website: https://www.jscottcoatsworth.com

Author Facebook (Personal): https://www.facebook.com/jscottcoatsworth

Author Facebook (Author Page): https://www.facebook.com/jscottcoatsworthauthor/

Author Twitter: https://www.jscottcoatsworth.com/jscoatsworth

Author Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/jscottcoatsworth/

Author Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/8392709.J_Scott_Coatsworth

Author QueeRomance Ink: https://www.queeromanceink.com/mbm-book-author/j-scott-coatsworth/

Author Liminal Fiction (LimFic.com): https://www.limfic.com/mbm-book-author/j-scott-coatsworth/

Author Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/J.-Scott-Coatsworth/e/B011AFO4OQ

Author BookBub: https://www.bookbub.com/authors/j-scott-coatsworth

Narrator Bio:

Kevin Earlywine

Kevin Earlywine is an actor, director, singer/songwriter, and audiobook narrator who hails from Rockford, Illinois! His debut album DANGER was released February 28th, 2017. Kevin started writing songs for the album in 2012, and finally in November, 2015, he started recording the songs!

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Release Blitz + Giveaway: The Oracle's Flame (Oracle #1) by Mell Eight


 

Title:  The Oracle's Flame

Series: Oracle, Book One

Author: Mell Eight

Publisher:  NineStar Press

Release Date: 08/02/2022

Heat Level: 3 - Some Sex

Pairing: Male/Male, Male/Male Menage

Length: 19100

Genre: Paranormal, LGBTQIA+, romance, menage, dragons, sailors/pirates, royalty, psychic, action/adventure

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Description

The Kingdom of Altnoia is on the cusp of civil war. The king and heir have been murdered, the throne taken by their uncle, and the kingdom’s only hope lies with Prince Edan who has been missing for the past year. The Oracle appoints Kindle, her new Dragon of Fire, one task: find Prince Edan and keep him alive.

It should have been a simple task, but Kindle did not anticipate Prince Edan would hide away on a pirate ship, forcing the dragon not only to endure pirates, but seasickness and his fear of water. And nothing, not even the Oracle, could have prepared him for the two pirates he meets and the complicated feelings they spark.

Excerpt

The Oracle’s Flame
Mell Eight © 2022
All Rights Reserved

The castle wasn’t burning, although her mind’s eye saw it outlined in flames. There would be fire, but not this night. No, this night was death. This night was treason.

These events had already occurred. They were sent from the past, meant to ensure her understanding of the present, and to help her decipher the future. They were important, so the Oracle watched them again.

Ferim was scowling over his brother’s body. His older half brother, the king, was dead. The specter of his mother, the long-dead second wife of the previous king, hung over Ferim’s head as he declared himself King of Altnoia. The spite in his mother’s heart had successfully lived on, given new birth at the end of Ferim’s bloody sword. The king was dead. The king’s wife was dead. The king’s oldest son was dead. Ferim’s mother placed a heavy crown on Ferim’s head and then began to let out a crazed laugh.

The second son of the dead king escaped the castle, a circle of loyal servants and guards ensuring that Prince Edan, the rightful heir to the throne, boarded a ship in the harbor. Cannons fired as the White Crest forced an opening through the country’s armada. The news of the coup in the castle was just arriving at the port; too late to halt Prince Edan’s escape. Those captains loyal to their jobs futilely returned fire while those loyal to land and crown abandoned ship and took to the hills to begin building a rebellion against the false king.

The rebellion continued at sea as well, led by Prince Edan and his loyal crew, and the years passed. King Ferim grew in power, but dissent also grew as the people thought of their lost prince. The Oracle watched as a sickly green shadow began to grow in Altnoia. First the shadow was contained, as a shadow should be, by the forces of light and dark. It clung to Ferim’s robes, his shoes, and his very breath. But sickness spreads quickly. As Ferim breathed on his councilors, their shadows also began to grow ill. Ferim walked through the city, and everywhere he stepped, a pool of deadly miasma formed. Soon the shadow was hanging over all of Altnoia.

These were the images the Oracle’s mind provided to symbolize corruption and greed as they fermented. As filling one’s own pockets with gold and gems went above the good of the country. As regular citizens fought to produce enough grain to feed their families and pay the tithe the king demanded. As they sickened and died when blight came to the crops and deadly illness into the wells.

The people remembered the prosperity they had enjoyed under the murdered king, and they remembered their prince had escaped that day of blood. The people hoped for a better life, and the rebellion grew in strength every day. King Ferim sat on his throne and heard those whispers, and he knew Prince Edan had to die for his reign to continue.

And thus, the present was ended. Now it was time for the future, for the unknown, and the possible paths diverged in dozens of directions. Should King Ferim go riding on one sunny day in late spring, his horse would step in a hole, and both horse and false-king would be dead. But such an event was unlikely. King Ferim was afraid of riding, as that was allegedly what had killed his beloved mother. The Oracle discarded that path and moved on to another.

The Oracle was not alone in her mind, which helped her sort through the possibilities of each future path. She was myriad, the consciousness of each Oracle that had come before her current body held safely within her. Each consciousness sorted quickly, soon finding the most likely paths of future possibilities. The Oracle watched each one occur in her mind’s eye.

Purchase at NineStar Press

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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Release Blitz + Giveaway: Blood & Dirt by Corey Niles


 

 

Title:  Blood & Dirt

Author: Corey Niles

Publisher:  NineStar Press

Release Date: 08/02/2022

Heat Level: 2 - Fade to Black Sex

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: 110200

Genre: Paranormal Horror, LGBTQIA+, Contemporary, paranormal, horror, urban fantasy, golem, students, homophobic attack, murder, revenge

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Description

Vincent depended on his boyfriend, James, to stand up for him—until a violent hate crime results in James’s murder.

Weeks after his funeral, James reappears, perfectly healthy but changed in ways that neither of them can quite understand. Now, Vincent must uncover what truly happened on the night they were attacked.

In the face of an apathetic police force and a growing number of missing gay men, Vincent and James work to identify the criminals who attacked them.

With James scarred from what happened to him in the weeks between his death and rediscovery, Vincent must learn to stand up for himself and face his real monsters or lose James—and himself.

Excerpt

Blood & Dirt
Corey Niles © 2022
All Rights Reserved

Panther Hollow

Dead man walking. Vincent waited for the elevator in Posvar Hall. Four years was coming down to a single meeting. If the trajectory of his day so far had been any indication of how it would go, he was fucked.

The elevator door opened with a ding. Empty. His chest pounded and hands shook, but he forced himself to step inside and press the button for the third floor. The stainless-steel door closed him in, and he stared at his blurred reflection in the metal. Another ding rang out as he was dragged past the second floor and again when the door opened on the third. They sounded like the beating drums of a funeral march, and he did his best to ignore them.

Just outside the elevator, a woman spoke with an older man about some foreign conflict. They were both dressed in business casual attire. History professors, which didn’t come as much of a surprise in the history department.

“Excuse us,” the woman said, and only then did Vincent realize he was standing in the elevator doorway.

“Sorry.” He slipped past them, his cheeks blazing. The hallway was empty and silent beyond a little chatter leaking from the office doors that lined the walls. Professor Cowart’s office was down the hall on the right. Vincent had figured that out the last time he’d attempted to visit him, but he wasn’t going to turn back again. He was going to face him and explain the situation.

Each step made his heart beat faster and hands shake with more fervor. Sweat crawled down his back, and he knew it had little to do with the winter coat he wore or the backpack slung over his shoulders. So much was riding on this meeting. If today was going so badly, then maybe that was a warning sign from some higher power to turn around and come back another day.

Shit.

He stopped, and before he chickened out, he called James. “I don’t think I can do this.”

“What’s going on? What did he say?” Concern dripped from James’s words like butter on movie theater popcorn.

“Didn’t get there yet.”

“I thought you got off work at four?”

“We got slammed right before my shift ended. Didn’t get out of there until a quarter after. Then, someone stopped me to ask about Damien Wright. He’s the guy I had that thing with freshman year, and apparently, no one has heard from him for like a week. He’s in Myths with me. So, I—”

“Okay, that’s a lot, and we can talk about it later, but just breathe for a hot second because you sound like an old man in an anti-smoking ad.”

He might’ve laughed at that, under better circumstances. He sucked air into his starved lungs, filling his nostrils with the stench of his own sweat. He hadn’t smoked since he started dating James, but a cigarette sounded pretty good right about now.

“Babe, something is always going to happen. You can’t keep putting it off.”

Vincent exhaled. “I know. I’m just…I don’t know.”

“Today isn’t going as planned, but he has office hours until five, right? So technically, you aren’t late.”

“Right.”

Someone called out to James, and he said something Vincent couldn’t quite make out in response before he got back on the phone. “Sorry. Look, I gotta get back to the lab to help clean up for the day. Just don’t leave until you come to an understanding. Most of undergrad is proving that you care enough to work for it.”

With that, he was gone. Vincent took another breath and let his boyfriend’s words wash over him. James was right. He couldn’t keep putting off the meeting, but James’s ideal outcome was a little harder to swallow.

James spoke from the perspective of a student who’d graduated with honors and breezed through his first year of med school at the University of Pittsburgh. Meanwhile, Vincent had barely survived his first three years of undergrad. To make matters worse, he’d only started caring about Professor Cowart’s Myths, Legends, and Folktales class after he got back the rough draft of his final and realized he risked failing out during his last semester.

While he seriously doubted the meeting would end as favorably as James assured him, that didn’t mean it would be as disastrous as he presumed. He repeated James’s words to himself, screamed them in his mind over every second thought that sprung to life until he reached his destination. By that point, he almost believed them.

The office door was shut. A small wooden plaque was fixed to the opaque glass with “Dr. Charles Cowart” printed on it, and a poster was taped to the door below it:

I’ve always preferred mythology to history. History is truth that becomes an illusion. Mythology is an illusion that becomes reality. —Jean Cocteau

White text on a galaxy background. Laminated. Vincent wasn’t surprised to see the poster. He’d heard Professor Cowart babble on about the quote at least a hundred times in class. Beyond the plaque and poster, he could make out the faint silhouette of someone at a desk through the opaque glass. He brought his ear to the door. Silence broken up by the occasional clacking of a keyboard.

Just don’t leave until you come to an understanding.

Vincent knocked on the door.

The silhouette rose and walked over to him. The door swung open. Professor Cowart stood in the doorway. He was dressed in a beige suit with a crimson tie. His salt-and-pepper hair was shaped into a tight Afro that seemed at odds with the unkempt soul patch jutting from his chin.

“Hello.” He said it as a statement, but his furrowed eyebrows made it a question.

“Hi, Professor Cowart. I was wondering—”

“Dr. Cowart.” He motioned his head toward the plaque.

Vincent wiped the sweat from his forehead and pushed back his hair to keep it from sticking to his damp flesh. “Sorry. Dr. Cowart. I was wondering if I could speak with you.”

“And you are?”

“Oh, I’m, ah, Vincent Vicar. I’m in your Myths class.” He offered his hand, but Dr. Cowart walked back into his office.

“Take a seat. I’ll be with you momentarily.”

The office was colored yellow in the afternoon light pouring through the three floor-to-ceiling windows opposite the door. Dr. Cowart took a seat at his desk and resumed typing something on his laptop. Vincent set his backpack on the ground. He sat down in one of the two wooden chairs in front of the desk. The musky smell of tobacco and old books filled the room. The warm light and the smell had a dizzying effect. He felt like he was in a preheating oven.

He took off his jacket and laid it on his lap. Thankfully, he hadn’t sweated through his T-shirt. His phone buzzed in his pocket. James knew he was busy, so it was probably some telemarketer. He ignored it. He didn’t want to give Dr. Cowart any more reason to dislike him. Trying to sit quietly, Vincent waited for his professor to finish whatever he was doing.

Dr. Cowart typed in no apparent rush.

Vincent focused his attention on the bookshelf behind Dr. Cowart to keep his mind from spiraling down a rabbit hole of what-ifs. Worrying about having to retake the class in the fall as opposed to graduating in a little under two months would only make him a bigger ball of stress. On the stuffed bookshelves were small copper figurines of various characters and creatures from stories they’d studied in class. Vincent could make out a wolf stalking a young, hooded girl just behind Dr. Cowart’s head. There was also a Grecian warrior wielding a taut bow, whose name he should know at this point in the semester. The hero’s cape was molded to look as if it were blowing in the wind. Like the warrior could come alive at any second and land an arrow between his eyes.

Dr. Cowart shut his laptop. “Without telling me something I shouldn’t know, you wouldn’t happen to be aware of any reason why Damien Wright has missed my last two classes?”

“No, I’m not.”

“Hmmm. It’s difficult to keep track of all of you in such a large class, but some students, like Damien, make themselves known.”

“Oh?” was all Vincent could think to say. He wasn’t sure if the comment was directed at him or Damien. While missing a week’s worth of classes didn’t seem like something overachieving Damien would do, Vincent hadn’t known him all that well, and he had bigger problems to deal with at that moment.

“You’re a senior, correct?”

“Yeah. I mean, yes, I am.”

“Not a history major, though, are you?” He rubbed his soul patch thoughtfully like some wise old sage.

“No. I’m general studies.” He waited for a lecture concerning the pitfalls of such a degree when just another semester or two could enable him to obtain a more specific and substantial degree.

“Hmmm,” Dr. Cowart said, as if that decided something. “Anyway, what was it you wanted?”

“I was wondering if I could talk to you about the grade I received on the rough draft of my final.” He took his paper out of his backpack. Dr. Cowart made them print out their essays and submit them in person so that he could write out his feedback, which, in Vincent’s case, was little more than a red “D” written on the top of the page with the phrase “off topic” written below it. “I just wasn’t sure how my paper was off topic.”

Dr. Cowart took the paper and leafed through it. “What was the assignment?”

“To look at a story we discussed in class.”

“And for what purpose?”

“To research the historical context and analyze it to understand its legacy.” That was all the assignment guidelines had said.

Dr. Cowart glanced up at him, his eyes narrowing. “And what did you do?”

Vincent wasn’t sure what Dr. Cowart was getting at, but he had a sinking feeling he was walking into a trap. “I traced Grimm’s Hansel and Gretel to the 1635 story, Nennillo and Nennella, and then I examined how it was rooted in oral stories dating back to the Great Famine of 1315-1317.”

“That’s right.” He set the paper down on his desk. “And why did you examine this context?”

Vincent resisted the urge to point to his thesis statement on the first page. “I guess to indicate how this absurd story was inspired by real history, which resonated with readers.”

“I wanted you to examine the historical context. However, as I discussed in class, realism is of little concern to me beyond understanding why these stories continue to affect those who read them centuries later. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I seriously doubt that modern readers are captivated by how the story captures accounts from the Great Famine of 1315-1317. I want to know why this tale has survived the test of time.”

Vincent couldn’t remember whether he had attended the class where Dr. Cowart explained the assignment. If he had, he must not have been paying attention. He wished that archer on the shelf would put him out of his misery, but when Dr. Cowart continued to stare at him, he realized his question wasn’t rhetorical. “I don’t know.”

“Which is why you earned such a low grade on this assignment.” Dr. Cowart slid the paper back to him. His lips tightened like he was fending off a smirk.

Vincent swallowed in an attempt to push down the anger bubbling up inside him. “Because of this grade, I risk failing the class.”

“I don’t believe this grade would have been so devastating if you had a higher grade going into the assignment. That being said, I assign the draft of your final at midterms to ensure there is plenty of time for revisions. I suggest you use the next two months wisely.”

Vincent wanted to interject. Flip his desk. Do whatever he had to do for Dr. Cowart to understand that it was virtually impossible for him to pass the class unless he got a perfect grade on every assignment, including the final draft. Tell him he was already drowning in loans he couldn’t pay off and he couldn’t afford to be there another semester. Explain that it was tough working two jobs and keeping up with all his course work. Demand a new grade.

But he didn’t.

Unlike James, he didn’t have the drive and hard work to back up his words. As much as Dr. Cowart wasn’t softening the blow, Vincent had gotten himself into this situation, and he would have to try, and undoubtedly fail, to get himself out of it.

He collected his things and stood up. “Thanks for taking the time to meet with me.”

“Of course.” Dr. Cowart opened his laptop. Vincent was at the door when Dr. Cowart added, “History isn’t about observation. You have to dig into it and see what’s between the dirt and worms.”

Vincent wondered what great historian had said that quote and whether Dr. Cowart had it printed, laminated, and hanging somewhere in his office. As soon as he got into the hall, his phone vibrated. Below a missed call from an unknown number that surely belonged to a telemarketer was a text from James, asking how it was going. Vincent called him.

“So, what happened?”

The eagerness in his voice made Vincent feel sick. “Can we go for a jog?”

“What? It’s cold out, it’s supposed to like rain or slush tonight, and it’ll be dark in another hour or so. What happened?”

“Sun’s still out. It’s not that cold. The rain isn’t supposed to hit us until later. We have time. Please?” Vincent needed to get away from campus and pump his arms and legs until he forgot about everything except filling his lungs with air.

“Was it that bad?”

Vincent didn’t think he could explain just how poorly it’d gone without crying in the hall. “I’ll explain everything later. Can you bring my sweats and meet me at Schenley Park? We can park on Overlook Drive.”

“If you insist, cutie.”

“Thanks.”

“Just hurry. It’ll be dark soon.”

Purchase at NineStar Press

Meet the Author

Corey Niles was born and raised in the Rust Belt, where he garnered his love of horror. When he isn’t advising college students, he enjoys binge-watching horror movies and traveling to hoard American history in his cheeks like a chipmunk. He hasn’t met a creepy, isolated hiking trail he hasn’t liked.

After studying creative writing and gender and women’s studies as an undergraduate student, he went on to graduate from Seton Hill University with an MFA in Writing Popular Fiction.

In his spare time, he nurses his caffeine addiction and tends to his graveyard of houseplants. He is also a single father of a very fluffy cat named Alexander, who quickly forgot about his humble beginnings.

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Blog Tour + Giveaway: Novas Got Nerve (Liquid Onyx #1) by BL Jones


 

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Book Title: Novas Got Nerve

Author: BL Jones

Publisher: Ninestar Press

Cover Artist: Jaycee DeLorenzo

Release Date: June 14, 2022

Genres: Sci-fi/paranormal/urban fantasy, action/romance thriller, Superhero/supervillain. Magic/superpowers. 

Tropes: Found family, slow burn romance, tragic past, orphan, emotional scars, Best friends older brother, love triangle, antagonistic romance, love/hate relationship, Opposites attract 

Themes: Emotional trauma. What makes a hero? Found family. Not being defined by your parents’ actions/by your past.

Heat Rating: 2 flames   

Length: 165 000 words/585 pages

It is not a standalone book and is part of a series (Liquid Onyx series)

The book ends on a cliffhanger.

Goodreads

Buy Links

NineStar Press  |  Amazon US  |  Amazon UK

He has far too much nerve. He can blow things up with his mind. He’s got anxiety. Yeah. The world should probably brace itself for this one.


Blurb

British superheroes, melodramatic Mages, snarky secret agents, one hell of a found family, and a whole load of weird people.

Also, there's a duck.

This is the painfully bizarre origin story of Rexley Nova.

When Rex was four years old, he became one of the world’s first superhumans.

When Rex turns twenty, he feels the drive to use his scientifically given abilities to protect the world. He leaves home to become a member of the Secret Superhero Security unit, alongside three of his friends and Danger City’s own superhero, Polaris.

Rex fights murderous Mages, evil organisations, criminal mafias, his agency appointed psychiatrist, his own anxious brain, and the most frightening of all, his attraction to a certain blue-eyed superhero.

Excerpt 

“Come on, North,” I say, coaxing, spitting blood out of my mouth. “Don’t be nice.” I get as close as he’ll let me. “Treat me like you’re paying for it.”

Damon’s nose flares, and his lips curl to form a jagged snarl. His expression changing from robot to human in zero point five seconds flat. He makes a low sound that’s just the right side of threatening to be a problem for me. And not in the way it should be a problem for me.

Damon catches my arm at the right angle and twists me around so my back is pressed against his front. He wraps an arm securely around my waist, hauling me in even closer. A blaze of heat singes along my nerves when Damon runs his hand under my T-shirt, his fingers dragging over the hot skin of my belly. I try to kill it dead, the vulnerable quiver his intimate touch invokes, but that just makes it worse.

A full-on no-shit bonfire lights up inside my stomach. It sends a fucked-up message to my head, which in turn sends an even more fucked-up message to my cock. It’s like my body is playing telephone with itself.

You’re not supposed to want to get off with the bloke who’s making you bruise and bleed. Not without a serious discussion about it beforehand, anyway.

Pretty sure Damon and I aren’t going to be doing anything that sensible. Especially since the most sensible thing would be letting go and walking away before we can make this situation any worse.

Damon wraps his other hand around my throat, fingers digging in lightly, his thumb pressing against the edge of my jaw. He tilts my head to the side, exposing more of my throat to him. I resist the urge to lean my head back on his shoulder. Because I’m not mad.

My chest rapidly rises and falls as I struggle to breathe. It’s not really because of all the hits I’ve taken. I’m having more trouble dealing with Damon’s proximity than I am to what he’s done to me with his hands. A sign that maybe he was pulling some of his punches.

“You,” I say, barely getting the words out through all the tightness and the pain and the blood, “have got some serious control issues, North.” I shift against him, and he tightens his hold in response. I smile, oddly charmed by it.

“Might want—” Another few unsteady breaths. “—to see somebody about that.”

Damon feels like solid stone against my back, his body so tense I’m worried he might shatter if I tap the wrong spot too hard. As if in response to my thoughts, Damon’s arm around my waist changes from tight to crushing. His fingers press into my neck with clear intention. Not enough to choke. Just a reminder. Or a warning. A warning to be careful where I’m going with all of this.

My pale skin bruises easily. I can tell I’m going to have some on my throat. I don’t hate that idea like I should. And something about it being Damon who made them, whose fingers dug into my skin and left behind a mark, speaks to a primal part of my brain.

Damon’s mouth skates along my jaw, either by accident or on purpose, I’m not sure which. It doesn’t really matter. A short, bitten-off moan leaves my throat in a rush. I clamp my lips together to try to contain the rest of it. But it’s too late. Damon heard it. A shudder runs through him, a ripple of feeling and skin and warmth. An answering wave rolls through me, my body set to quaking.

I need to stop.

Damon bends his neck to speak directly into my ear. Our height and size difference aids him in making me feel completely taken over, enveloped, held in place, swallowed up and overwhelmed by my temporary loss of autonomy.

“Is this a game?” Damon asks, and he sounds, it beggars belief, genuinely upset by the idea.

About the Author

BL Jones is a twentysomething British author who spends all her free time reading and writing and taming her three little brothers. She lives in Bristol with a temperamental bunny named Pepsi. She’s been writing stories since she was five, rarely sharing them with anyone except her numerous stuffed animals. BL has had a difficult journey into discovering and accepting her own queerness, and therefore believes that positive, honest, and authentic stories about queer people are very important. She hopes to contribute her own stories for people to have fun with and enjoy.

Author Links

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