Blog Tour + Giveaway: A Christmas Kiss by Annabelle Jacobs

Ready for fresh Christmas romance this season? 

Annabelle Jacobs and Signal Boost Promotions are hosting a release blitz tour for A Christmas Kiss. (See our review for the friends to lovers romance here

Annabelle doesn't want you to leave empty handed! Enter the giveaway for a chance to win an eBook from Annabelle Jacobs' back list and $10 Amazon gift card! Good luck!

A Christmas Kiss - Annabelle Jacobs

Author: Annabelle Jacobs

Cover Design: Garrett Leigh

Release Date: November 18 

Length: 38,000 words

Buy Links: Amazon US | Amazon UK


Keeping secrets from your best friend isn’t right, but it’s easier than admitting you’ve fallen in love with him.

Sharing a late-night kiss with his best friend, Alex, is Riley’s dream come true. Waking up to discover Alex was too drunk to remember anything is more like a nightmare. Scared the truth could destroy their friendship, Riley keeps quiet and pretends nothing happened.

Alex can’t shake the feeling that he said or did something stupid on their group’s drunken weekend away—why else would Riley be avoiding him? Although the explanation he finally gets sounds plausible, Riley’s still acting strange, and trying to figure out why that is unearths emotions Alex has worked hard to bury.

Riley knows not telling Alex how he feels is probably selfish, but he wants one last normal Christmas before he has to come clean and face the potential fallout.

He should have known it wouldn’t be that easy.

Author Bio

Annabelle Jacobs lives in the South West of England with three rowdy children, and two cats. An avid reader of fantasy herself for many years, Annabelle now spends her days writing her own stories. They're usually either fantasy or paranormal fiction, because she loves building worlds filled with magical creatures, and creating stories full of action and adventure. Her characters may have a tough time of it—fighting enemies and adversity—but they always find love in the end.

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Anniversary Shenanigans: Author Visit + Giveaway - Jay Northcote

Today we have Jay Northcote and a hot for teacher fic that's sure to melt some brains for an entirely different reasons than sadistics statistics.

I stare at Dr Carter, trying to look as though I’m listening as he talks about the history of the welfare state, and damage wreaked by Thatcher’s government. But his words flow over me like warm water, stroking my senses but not sinking in.

He turns to write on the board and shows me his arse, strong and firm in those jeans he always wears that cling to him just right.

When he turns back, his lips move, and my gaze snags on them. Contrasted by the pepper and salt of his stubble, they’re so freaking pink. Plump and perfect, I imagine how they’d feel against mine--or how they’d feel wrapped around my cock. At that thought, my dick tingles, lengthening and shifting in my shorts.

Fuck! I should know better than to freeball in one of Carter’s lectures.

My chair screeches as I move closer to the desk to hide my boner. I’m seated at the back of the class and I’m grateful for that.

My cock is literally aching. I reach down, telling myself I’m only going to adjust it. But my hand lingers despite my good intentions and I squeeze, nearly making my eyes roll back in my head. The squeeze turns into a slide, the silky fabric of my basketball shorts slipping silently over the skin like a jerk-off aid. I bite the inside of my cheek, trying to keep my face impassive as I rake my gaze over Carter. His broad shoulders, the muscular forearms where his shirtsleeves are rolled up. His hands. Jesus Christ.

I move my hand faster, barely thinking about what I’m doing. My rational brain is offline and my body’s taken over with the need to come. Ridiculously close already, I squeeze my eyes shut, trying to claw back some control.

“Ryan!” The commanding tone makes me freeze.

I open my eyes and Carter’s staring right at me, eyebrows raised.

I grip my dick hard to the point of pain as my impending orgasm slips away from me. “Yes… Sir?” My voice is mortifyingly husky. Some of my classmates snigger. Nobody ever calls him Sir. Where the hell did that come from?

“Are you okay? You look a little flushed.” He drops his gaze to where my traitorous arm disappears beneath the desk. There’s a dirty curve of amusement to his mouth that’s unmistakably knowing.

My dick jerks in my hand. “I’m fine.” I clear my throat. “Just a little hot.”

The dimple at the corner of his mouth deepens. “Yes…. It is warm in here today.” He holds my gaze and it feels like static crackles between us. But then he turns away and picks up his notes. “Now. Where were we?”

Disappointment floods me and I tell myself not to be so stupid. What was I expecting? I’m lucky he’s turning a blind eye. Fucking idiot that I am, jerking off in the back of class like a perv. I’m older than most of the undergrads here, so I should know better. I let go of my deflating erection and pick up my pen, trying to force my mind back onto what I’m here for.

But then he speaks again, casually. “Oh… Ryan? While I remember. I need to see you about something. Can you stay behind after the lecture today?” His eyes glint in a way that rekindles my libido like a jump-start to a flat battery.

Hell, yes I can. “Yes… Sir.” I don’t think I’m imagining the flare of heat in his eyes when I call him that. 

Author Bio

Jay lives just outside Bristol in the West of England. He comes from a family of writers, but always used to believe that the gene for fiction writing had passed him by. He spent years only ever writing emails, articles, or website content.

One day, Jay decided to try and write a short story—just to see if he could—and found it rather addictive. He hasn’t stopped writing since.

Jay writes contemporary romance about men who fall in love with other men. He has five books published by Dreamspinner Press, and also self-publishes under the imprint Jaybird Press. Many of his books are now available as audiobooks.

Jay is transgender and was formerly known as she/her.

Jay’s books

Show of hands who needs a cold shower? Be sure to let Jay know what you thought of his fic in the comments. We'd like to thank Jay for celebrating with us.

Jay’s brand new release, A Family for Christmas, came out yesterday.

Zac never had a family of his own, but Rudy has enough to share.

Shy, inexperienced Rudy has a crush on Zac from the moment his new colleague walks through the door. On an office night out before Christmas, Rudy finds the courage to make a move, and they form a tentative bond. When he discovers Zac will be alone at Christmas, he invites Zac to come home with him.

Zac prefers to keep people at arm’s length. Yet when Rudy offers him a family Christmas it’s impossible to resist. With no parents of his own, Zac is pleasantly surprised to be welcomed by Rudy’s. The only drawback is that everyone assumes they’re a couple. Unwilling to disappoint Rudy’s mum and make Christmas awkward, they decide not to deny it.

It’s not a chore for Zac to pose as Rudy’s boyfriend, but the pretence makes him want things that scare him—things like a real relationship with Rudy. Zac’s suffered enough rejection in his life already and is afraid to risk his heart. If he can get over his past rejection and let Rudy inside his armour, he might get more for Christmas than he ever imagined.

Buy links:

Amazon US
Amazon UK
Amazon Universal!
Or Jay's page:

 Enter for a chance to win an ebook from Jay's back list!

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The giveaway is open until 12:00AM (Eastern time) on 11/25/16. Shortly thereafter, we will contact a winner! 

Please respond to the winning notification within 48 hours or we will choose another winner. Good luck!

Trivia Question

This friends to lovers story features two hockey players named Wes & Jaime. Name the series. (worth 5 pts)

Don't forget to tag @BMBReviews as well as the author along with your answer on Twitter to be entered to win DSP credits!

 Don't miss entering in our month long unicorn giveaway here!

Review: Breaking Hell's Rules by Lyssa Dering

Freedom wasn't supposed to be this dangerous...

When succubus Reth finally meets their soul quota and gains freedom from Hell, they decide to take up residence in New Orleans. Immediately they discard the body they've been wearing since 1952 and slip into something a little more virile, pleased to find they get a cozy apartment for their trouble. Too bad the apartment has a joint lease with their body's ex-boyfriend Jude.

Jude is walking around with a black eye and a bad attitude, and when Reth tries to explain things, Jude doesn't believe them. Plus, he refuses to move out. Reth doesn't want to take Jude's soul, and they really like this body. So they show him some succubus action minus the soul-grabbing, hoping to scare him off.

But they never expected for the mortal to take a liking to them. And they never could have predicted just how pure Jude's soul would be. When Reth unwittingly commits a sin against Lucifer, they'll need Jude's help to avoid an eternity of suffering... For them both.

WARNING: Contains abuse themes (but not between the main characters) and graphic content.

This was way cuter than I expected. I kinda loved this even though one thing bugged me throughout.

I’ll get this out early so the review makes sense. The only thing that bugged me about this book was Reth using the pronouns “they” and “their” when referring to themselves. I really liked that succubus are gender neutral but it got confusing when Reth was with Jude or anyone else and would say “on their hands and knees on the pavement outside Jude's apartment.” When they were now alone but had just been with someone else. So that got confusing and a bit irritating at first, but it was not enough to take me out of the story.

Okay then, let’s see if I can keep this short-ish and sweet, just like the book.

Reth is a succubus, a demon who steals the dark souls of sinners by having sex with them to fill their quota for Lilith down in hell. Reth is tired of being in servitude, they have one last soul to take and wants their freedom. When they find a tattooed man with a dark soul, they literally fuck the man into hell and then take over his form. This form comes with a name – Tyler – and this form comes with a boyfriend named Jude.
"So what are you, a gay sex demon?"
I adored Jude. He is a man after my own hopeless romantic heart. Jude is strong, but Jude is a romantic who just wants someone one to fuck him into the mattress with crazy passion and then cuddle the hell out of him after as his partner takes the weight of the world off Jude's shoulders. You see, Tyler was not a good guy or a boyfriend as the bruise on Jude's face suggests when we meet him, but when Reth sends Tyler's soul to hell and takes over his human skin... how is Jude to know the difference when Tyler comes home?

With shows like Lucifer and Supernatural in popular rotation Breaking Hell’s Rules was fun to read. You have the demon who is done with hell and just wants to live freely. You have Jude who doesn’t know the power he holds and always falls for the wrong guy and you have a cast of characters who are never what they seem. You have the total opposites attract vibe (which I LOVE) with a bit of heaven and hell tossed in and I am hooked, book and sinker!


So, back to the review at hand. Reth likes their new body, they want to keep it and when they meet Jude, they decide that Jude needs to move out but Jude ain’t having it. It’s Jude’s place and Tyler needs to get with the program…only this isn’t Tyler anymore.
After being forced to leave Heaven on the back of Lucifer's bad choice so many centuries ago, Reth was finally done with Hell, and while the future was uncertain, there was one thing that was crystal clear: they weren't going to be obligated again for anything.
It was so much fun watching Reth tell Jude who they are and the only way they can show Jude what their true form looks like is to have sex, but having sex with Reth makes you lose your soul so… yeah, I am not giving that any of that away.



I’ll stop here to not go into spoilers but this was fun. There are demons, angels, hellhounds and the fires of hell. There is flesh burning semen, salt across doorways and windows and there is an oddly but perfectly matched couple who will give up everything for the one thing they’ve never had.

Breaking Hell’s Rules was super fun, super sexy, super sweet and just a joy to read. I loved Reth. I adored Jude and I even have a high five in me for Brett because he is Brett. I loved the hell out of the end and yeah, this was MUCH better than I expected.

Find on Goodreads!

Anniversary Giveaways: NineStar Press

Giveaway time!

Thanks to NineStar Press and Tal Bauer, three lucky people will win an ebook copy of Tal Bauer's Enemy of My Enemy (The Executive Office #2)!

See our review of the title here!

Fifteen years from now, an affair rocks the world.
Two men commit to their impossible love.
One general is determined to destroy them both.

President Jack Spiers and former Secret Service Agent Ethan Reichenbach throw caution to the wind, committing themselves publicly as the first out male lovers and partners to occupy the White House. Jack moves Ethan into the Residence, but as Ethan settles into his new role as first gentleman of the United States, not everyone is thrilled with their choices. When it seems like the world turns against them, Jack and Ethan must turn to each other, finding the strength together to press on.

In the chaos, Jack’s relationship with the Russian president, Sergey Puchkov, grows closer, and the two nations find themselves working almost as allies. But President Puchkov has secrets of his own, secrets that could rip everything apart. And Ethan steps back into the action with Lieutenant Adam Cooper, taking charge of a covert kill team tasked with hunting down General Madigan once and for all.

But Madigan is elusive, and his dangerous reach is long. He strikes at Jack and Ethan from the shadowy corners of the globe, unraveling their entire world. As the mad general draws new allies together, he is single-minded in his quest to destroy the only two men who ever beat him.

He will stop at nothing until Jack and Ethan are shattered men, worlds apart, and struggling to get back to one another.

And after that, Madigan’s true revenge begins …

Release Date: October 24, 2016
Category: Romance
Genre: Contemporary/Thriller
Sex Content: Explicit
Pairing: MM
Orientation: Demisexual, Gay
Identity: Cis
Length: Long Novel
Words: 158443
Pages: 287
Cover Artist: Natasha Snow
Purchase Links:
NineStar Press:

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The giveaway is open until 12:00AM (EST time) on 11/25/16. Shortly thereafter, we will contact three winners! 

Please respond to the winning notification within 48 hours or we will choose another winner. Good luck!

Don't miss entering in our month long unicorn giveaway here!

Review: A Christmas Kiss by Annabelle Jacobs

Keeping secrets from your best friend isn’t right, but it’s easier than admitting you’ve fallen in love with him.

Sharing a late-night kiss with his best friend, Alex, is Riley’s dream come true. Waking up to discover Alex was too drunk to remember anything is more like a nightmare. Scared the truth could destroy their friendship, Riley keeps quiet and pretends nothing happened.

Alex can’t shake the feeling that he said or did something stupid on their group’s drunken weekend away—why else would Riley be avoiding him? Although the explanation he finally gets sounds plausible, Riley’s still acting strange, and trying to figure out why that is unearths emotions Alex has worked hard to bury.

Riley knows not telling Alex how he feels is probably selfish, but he wants one last normal Christmas before he has to come clean and face the potential fallout.

He should have known it wouldn’t be that easy.

Thank you, Annabelle Jacobs. I needed this. I needed this book at the exact moment I read it. A Christmas Kiss is an angst-free, flufftastic, best friends to lovers romance. I needed escapism and that's exactly what I got.

Everything started on a drunken night, when Alex and Riley took their friendship to the next level. There was kissing and touching and snuggling. Riley thought that was it. He thought they would wake up and be in lurrrrrrrve for the rest of their days. Unfortunately, Alex was a little too drunk and when he woke up, he didn't remember a thing.

So Riley was back to pining for his best friend, only things were way more awkward. Of course, poor Alex had no idea why everything was weird between them. Maybe if he didn't just up and forget about kissing his bestie, he wouldn't have been so clueless. But I digress.

Both of them were head over heels for each other, but never wanted to say anything and risk their friendship. So typical, right? I mean, how many times have we read his trope? So many. But I never, ever, ever, ever get tired of it. Ever. Their friendship, their chemistry and their tension all mix together to make the best OMG-they-finally-had-sex! scenes. The fact that the story was told from dual POV really drove up the sexual tension between the guys. Yeah... I loved them together.

There was a lot to love about this book, aside from Alex and Riley. The setting was perfectly Christmas-y. They spent the holidays at a cabin in Wales with some friends. Decorated with a tree and lights and mistletoe. So cute and cozy. Their friends were awesome. Fun and 100% supportive of Alex and Riley's potential romance. Their friends mostly tried to stay out of their business, but did give occasional push when they two guys were too dense to just make a move.

But the guys finally got a clue and all the waiting was worth it. Not that I waited all that long, since I gobbled this one up in one sitting. 

It's November. It's time for some sweet holiday reading and I highly recommend adding A Christmas Kiss to your list.

A copy was provided in exchange for an honest review.

Find out more info on Goodreads.

Trivia Question

Name the author that has a series set in the 1920s, a series about the men in uniform in Vegas, and a BDSM series. (worth 10 pts)

Be sure to tag @BMBReviews on Twitter along with the author and your answer to be entered to win DSP credits!

Anniversary Shenanigans: Author Visit - Anyta Sunday

Antya Sunday is here! We repeat Anyta Sunday is in the stable! And she's predicting our horoscope. Well, we should say a few of her characters are! Check it out! 

Dear Boy Meets Boy, happy 3rd birthday!

Thank you for all the inspiration you bring to your readers! Lately, I’ve been working on my newest book, a sweet, lighthearted M/M romance titled “Leo loves Aries" (out in December this year!), and in this book horoscopes play a major role. So to celebrate your birthday, here’s the horoscope for your next year, presented by characters from some of my novels: Theo from “Leo loves Aries”, Marcus from “True Colors” and Cooper from “rock”.

Boy Meets Boy Yearly Horoscope


Birthday: 1st of November 2013

Starsign: Scorpio

Ruling planet: Mars

Theo Wallace from my upcoming novel “Leo loves Aires” says:

This is a powerful year for creativity and drawing new people toward you, Scorpio! With your focus, you will see any new projects through and accomplish all what your desire.

With your strong will power, you will be a positive influence on the hearts of many readers. Your charm will encourage others to try new books and new authors and leave them smitten.

You are all about love this year, Scorpio. All about being faithful, loving and tender. Though don’t forget you have a sting, Scorpio. And sometimes your romance can benefit from a little pain and possessiveness.

Marcus from my upcoming book “True Colors” says your lucky color is light red, the color of sensuality, joy, sexuality, passion.

Cooper from “rock” says this year Scorpio’s lucky stone is topaz. Incredibly stimulating for the mind, and important for friendships and love endeavors.

Leo loves Aries:


A new person will enter your life in the early year, Leo. Look past any moments of frustration they might bring and laugh—this could be the start of a thriving friendship.

Theo Wallace usually laughs at the horoscopes his mom sends. Still hung up on his ex-girlfriend and practically friendless, this one begs him to reconsider. Because a friendship that stuck, that thrived

Well, that would be a reason to leave past pains behind and look to the Bright Future.

When his sister Leone challenges him to find her the perfect date for a spring wedding, Theo uses it as a chance to make new friends. Theo’s ex economics tutor and newest roommate Mr Jamie Cooper seems to be a possible and convenient match. Real convenient. Like written in the stars, convenient.

All he has to do is make sure this Jamie is good enough. Could really be The One for her, and the friend for him.

But watch out, Leo, the stars have a surprise in store…

Add it to your shelf on Goodreads!

About Anyta Sunday:

A born and raised New Zealander, Anyta Sunday has been exploring the literary world since she started reading Roald Dahl as a kid. Inspired, stories have been piling up in her head ever since. Fast forward to her mid-twenties and jump a few countries (Germany, America, and back again), and she started putting pen to paper. When she’s not writing or chasing her kids around, she’s reading, hiking, watching a Joss Whedon series, attempting pilates, or curling up with her two cats. Updates on her projects can be found at

Anyta loves writing romance, mainly contemporary gay M/M. Another favorite genre of hers is fantasy, but also there the romance is never far away. Her books have been translated into German, Italian and French.

Sign up for Anyta's newsletter and receive a free e-book:

Thanks boys and Anyta for stopping by!

 Don't miss entering in our month long unicorn giveaway here!

Anniversary Shenanigans: The COX, an Interview with Outlaw and Amazeballs Giveaway!

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Blog Tour + Giveaway: Learning to Want by Tami Veldura

Please welcome author Tami Veldura to the clubhouse! Tami is promoting her latest sci-fi release, Learning to Want! Gorgeous cover is gorgeous! 
Check out the author's interview, learn more about her process, pick up the NineStar coupon code below AND don't forget to enter in the giveaway - one lucky person will win their choice of ANY NineStar Press book!

First off, tell us a bit about Learning To Want! What can we expect?

Aliens! Spanking! Hot sex! Gender neutral pronouns! Learning To Want is set on an alien desert planet with strange customs and a caste system in place. One of the protags is a native citizen while the other is brought from off-planet. I wanted to develop a sense of a bigger universe even though the story is a short novella.

How do you make an alien planet familiar to readers?

Have you ever been to Death Valley? Or the Adriatic Sea? Or a salt flat? There are strange, extreme places already on this planet that can serve as great inspiration and convenient analogues for possible alien worlds. Dulia is a desert-dominated planet, full of sand and sun, and the native species are adapted for that sort of environment.

Are your aliens based on anything in real life?

The Frea are anthropomorphic lizards, complete with scales and tails. Slone-Dogs are based on hyena and african wild dog packs. There are some aliens that are little more than a sketch of an idea since they don't feature prominently. I took inspiration from scifi tropes and ideas or other alien races I've read about to build some variety into the story.

What kind of research did you do for Learning?

The world, the aliens, and the plot are all familiar ground for me and I pulled from concepts I'm already familiar with. However, I spent a lot of time researching and talking with sensitivity readers about my characters of color. I am white and I want to write books that are respectful and good representation, and just like studying the medical profession for a doctor character, I need to study the different experiences POC have to get the details right.

The edit was hard for this book, where did you get stuck?

I got stuck starting! Learning began as a five thousand word short story and when Nine Star accepted it with the idea to expand on it, I was very excited to explore more about the world. I had all kinds of ideas for cultural details and plot refinement, but it took me MONTHS to open the document and get started. I think the whole concept became a little too big and I was intimidated!

How did you come up with the title?

Learning to Want was my working title for the book during development. The initial concept of the main character learning about dominance and submission was core to the story and the question I've often seen in BDSM conversation is why would anyone want to be spanked or dominated? I always leave myself open for title ideas during editing and proofreading, but this one stuck around!

Is there any particular message you hope the readers grasp in this book?

There's been a conversation happening lately about consent and whenever BDSM themes or kink are present in a book there's always a question of reality vs. fiction. Is this a consensual and healthy relationship or fiction? Is this poor representation or a fantasy? I've written questionable and non-consent stories before and I wanted to go in a different direction this time. The core of this novella is about consent on several levels, and the different ways consent is or isn't given.

Will there be other stories in this universe?

I'd love to write more! There are a bunch of different alien ideas I have, and the setup I've already done opens a lot of doors for potential stories. I dropped a bunch of teasing glimpses of the wider world that I hope my readers enjoy and I can see a long string of sequels following Khoram and Atash on their adventures. I even have titles already!

What's up next for you? What can your fans expect to see?

Right now, I'm elbows-deep in administrative work for my business. Writing and editing books are the fun part, but after that there's a lot of behind-the-scenes work. I review my contracts, upload books to different websites, release goodies through my newsletter and Patreon, all in between writing. In fact, at the end of the month, a sexy deleted scene from Learning will go out to my newsletter subscribers.

However, the next big project I want to start is a contemporary suspense M/M novel about FBI agents and brainwashing experiments like Bucky Barnes in The Winter Soldier. I have an outline ready to go and I'm excited to get started.

How can fans follow your work and chat with you?

I prioritise questions and conversation with my fans on Patreon. You can support me for as little as 1$ to get your name in a story, request a genre, and get all kinds of extras (like free scenes, short stories, and art) that no one else sees.

I'm also frequently on Facebook and Twitter talking about my day. Feel free to follow me there!

Fans can sign up for my newsletter and ARC list to get notifications of new books and bonus scenes with each new release.


Author Bio

Queer romance, science fiction, fantasy, steampunk, and YA fiction author. I’m only here until I reach escape velocity. Artist. Gardener. Gamer. Raynauds. Asexual.

Friend me on Facebook:
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Khoram is an enforcer, a bodyguard, but his boss has just betrayed him. Now he's stranded on a desert planet he's never heard of, chained to the only other human around.

Atash grew up in the cracks of Dulia's complex social structure, where dominance and submission are a man's worth. He's struggled for years on a lower caste but Khoram could be his ticket to a better life if they can find common ground.

Atash wants to teach Khoram the art of submitting by choice and maybe make a name for himself along the way. Khoram, however, isn't here to play Atash's political games. He's going to escape, if his former employer doesn't see him killed first.

Publisher: NineStar Press
Release Date: November 21, 2016
Category: Romance
Genre: Science Fiction
Sex Content: Explicit
Pairing: MM
Orientation: Gay
Identity: Cis
Length: Novella
Words: 32100
Pages: 67
Cover Artist: Natasha Snow
Purchase Links:
NineStar Press:
Barnes & Noble:
All Romance Ebooks:

COUPON CODE: Get 20% off preorder on NineStar Press website with coupon code “preorder”
* (Good until release day)

Tami Veldura © 2016
All Rights Reserved.

Khoram couldn’t help testing his bonds. The metal chain between his hands and feet rattled, laughing at his attempts. The line of slaves shuffled forward one space, and Khoram was dragged along whether he wanted it or not. A lot of things were happening whether he wanted them to or not. The food he ate, the beer he drank, the clothes they took, the hands that verified he was in working condition. He flinched at the memory.

To distract himself he looked up and tried to count the days. Four behind bars on Elliot’s ship thanks to good-for-nothing Nik, six on the small space hopper, three in the holding cells while he and the Ohiri waited for another connection, two in the transport that left them here on Dulia, five—no, six now—at the auction house. Twenty-one days for Nik to cover his tracks. Almost a full cycle for the trail to go cold. Khoram grit his teeth. At the very least something different was happening.

The slave line shuffled forward.

Here, off stage, they kept the rooms mostly dim. It didn’t diminish Dulia’s oppressive heat in the slightest, but the closer Khoram was guided to the glowing roll-up door of the slave block, the more he longed for home. His fitful dreams tortured him with visions of Avois’s wet jungles and waterfalls. He hadn’t actually been home in over a decade, too busy making his fortune as an enforcer and bodyguard, but he was starting to see the error of his ways. Or at least the error of Nik’s.

Khoram licked his lips. He pressed them together, already regretting it. They’d been chapped dry for days. His wrists and ankles chafed under the iron. These were better discomforts than the lingering slick between his legs and exactly what lay on the other side of that bright doorway.

A Dulia lizardman flared the red frill around his neck as he walked the slave line, clicking orders in his native tongue and emphasizing them with a small electric prod. Khoram had tested the prod’s worth enough times to know it could knock him on his ass without much effort. He looked away from the mercenary and shuffled forward with the line.
He wasn’t exactly inconspicuous. The group he was chained to consisted largely of Ohiri natives: light-skinned, five-foot average, and generally docile. They were just as likely to stay in line without the chains and prod. Khoram stood out among them: a tall, dark, massive human furious in his captivity. Khoram was highly trained and just waiting for a chance to show it. In a fair fight, the lizardmen would fold like paper and they knew it. He’d never been unchained, left alone, or handled by fewer than four, and they were always armed with their electric prods. Always on alert.

Khoram grit his teeth. From capture to sale, he hadn’t managed a single successful bid for freedom, and he’d tried more than a few times. Now he took a breath and let his patience steady his hands, let the line of slaves tug him along. If the lizardmen couldn’t be overcome, whoever purchased him could be. Khoram wasn’t entirely familiar with Dulia’s customs, but if the easily dominated Ohiri were slaves of choice, Khoram wasn’t going to fetch much interest or profit.

The slave in front of him was unleashed from the line and yanked out the bright door. A lizardman pointed at the vacated spot, and Khoram shuffled forward to occupy it. The heat pulsed through the door in bright waves, bringing scents of sand, sweat, and a light spice that was unfamiliar. He could hear voices, now: the auctioneer yelling in rapid Duliana, the crowd barking their bids in turn, the sound of rhythmic smacking, a chorus of cheers. Another winning bid.

Then Khoram’s chains were unleashed and, flanked by two lizardmen with prods, he was led through the door. Hot metal rattled under his feet, and the blinding sun limited his view of more than the circular platform onto which he was pulled. A lizardman unhooked his wrists from his ankles, instead latching the chain to something that hoisted his arms suddenly overhead. His breath whooshed out. They tightened his ankle chains to the platform, and with a metal screech, it slowly began to rotate. They were showing him off. A tingle of awareness tripped over his skin and exposed groin—the attention of a hundred eyes.

Khoram squinted. The auctioneer espoused in Duliana for several minutes, likely explaining why the hell this bear of a human was on the block instead of a lithe Ohiri, spinning his assets to garner the crowd’s favor. Khoram knew a snake-oil salesman when he saw one, even if he didn’t share their language.

The platform turned him, and he faced the crowd. More of a species mix than he expected. Lizardmen were not the primary slave-owners if this was a decent selection. Mostly tall Frea, in fact, their black scales draped in white gossamer. They were members of Dulia’s refined upper caste, and other than video, this was the first he’d seen them. They weren’t known to ever leave Dulia, though they profited from the wider galaxy’s trade gladly. Pockets of Slone-dogs made the most noise in the crowd. They barked in their hybrid dialect, likely obscene things Khoram didn’t want translated. He curled his lip at the closest pack, and they yipped at each other.

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