Review: Contour (Shape of You #1) by Meg Harding

Jamie “Roxy” Albright has one great love in his life and room for no other. He lives and breathes makeup. Men are nothing more than temporary distractions and romance… well, that isn’t worth his time. With a burgeoning career as a YouTube makeup artist opening doors to never before dreamed of opportunities, time isn’t something Jamie has and distractions aren’t something he can afford.

Instagram model and shirtless wonder Tyler Jackson is quickly falling for elusive Jamie. How it went from a seemingly innocent message to feelings, he’ll never know. Their chemistry is instant and fiery hot, and Tyler’s never been that good at self control. The challenges are endless, though. There’s Jamie’s walls to break through and a country worth of space between them. And just when things are starting to look up, life throws a wrench in the works.


This is such a relevant read at the moment with how on fire YouTube and Instagram are. There are millions of people who are extremely loyal to their favorite online personalities that this read hit me in my happy place. Picture it… Male Youtube make up artist (MUA) lusting over an Instagram model. Add in a private message sent and buckle in for the delicious ride.

I may be a *tad* bit in love with Jamie “ Foxy Roxy.” He’s a 20 year old MUA with a sassy personality. He's honest yet evasive. Jamie's unapologetic and has zero shame. Oh, and he wears MANTIIIIIIIIES. Along with the satin and lace, he has an ass you can bounce a quarter off.

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Where were we? Oh yeah, Jamie. He has commitment issues and never sleeps with the same man twice. Due to his past, his ideal gift is lube and condoms in lieu of flowers #practical. He’s also thirsty AF for Instagram model, Tyler Jackson and his two adorable dogs.

Tyler is a country boy at heart and “Instafamous” model by accident. He has dimples, tattoos and abs for days. *growl* Tyler is also really down to earth, caring, and becomes genuinely interested in the beautiful, Jamie. What started with a flirty private message became two different yet compatible men forging a friendship and then those pesky feelings just creep up.

The thing about Tyler is that he’s a serial monogamist while Jamie favors his one and done approach. Jamie is overly guarded for fear of giving away his power. He's closed up tighter than Fort Knox in a way that isn’t rude, just honest. He wants to be in charge of the power exchange that happens when you release the inconsequential and the important pieces of what makes up a person. Jamie has reasons and Tyler respects the boundaries while trying to find a way to chisel at the walls.
“I’m not asking you for forever, I’m just asking you for right now.”
I lovvvvvvvvvvved them together. Every time Jamie revealed a tiny piece of himself I wanted to cheer.
“Jamie was a secret I wanted to unravel. But if I pushed, he’d run, and that was the last thing I wanted.”
The messages they exchanged had me swooning and cackling at their banter. You can *see* how their relationship develops online and then when they meet in person it has a natural progression. The growth was realistic to their circumstances of living long distance. Tyler and Jamie actually communicated. *gasp* I know, I know... relationships are no place for communication but they were very adult about their boundaries, expectations, and who they are as people. Their personalities complimented each other and I was doing my happy dance all the way to an HEA.

The sex. The chemistry. The heat.

Y’all, it deserves its own paragraph. This book wasn’t a sexfest but when it did take place…

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Their first time… HAWWWTT.

”I straddled his waist and started to pull my panties down. He stopped me. “Keep them on. Push them to the side.”

Not to discredit the writing of the sex scenes… but, I think what added the cherry on top for me (besides the lace thongs), was the connection and foundation they built before they had sex. They communicated for months and Tyler insisted on a date before they rode their way to orgasm.

With all this gushing over my love for Contour, I had to give it 4 stars. Why, you ask? The ending. This story drew me in right away with Jamie’s voice and had me hooked until the end. The last 10ish% left me scratching my head. The pacing throughout was great and then BAM, the end was rushed. Everything was just tied up in a fast little bow that altered my enjoyment. The “angst” and its resolution were unnecessary IMO and led to a disjointed ending where the MCs didn’t fully act like themselves.

Still, I enjoyed this book, the banter between Tyler and Jamie, and the secondary characters. This is my first book by Harding and I’ll definitely read more of her work as well as any additions to this series. Recommended.


Release Blitz + Giveaway: In Wild Lemon Groves by Selina Kray


Celebrate the release of In Wild Lemon Groves with author Selina Kray and Signal Boost Promotions! Learn more about the contemporary romance today! Enter in the giveaway to win a signed copy of Stoker and Bash: The Fangs of Scavo!




Universal Buy Link: books2read.com/WildLemonGroves

Length: 55,000 words approx.

Cover Design: Tiferet Design

Blurb

A telltale knock on a quiet winter night is a sound no husband wants to hear.


S├ębastien Osaki has spent the past three years surviving the loss of his beloved Henry. When Seb lands in Amalfi, Italy, for their would-have-been tenth-anniversary trip, he’s haunted by the memory of the man he loved. Following Henry’s notebook leads him to some breathtaking coastal views but also right back to his despair. Seb’s there to get his groove back, not let the past wrong-foot him at every turn.


Enter Andrea Sorrentino, chauffeur, part-time pet whisperer, a Bernini statue in a soccer tee and tight shorts. From the moment Andrea picks Seb up from the airport, he knows just how to soothe Seb’s case of the sulks. But Seb isn’t sure he’s ready for Mr. Right Now, let alone a potential Mr. Right, in a part of the world where all roads lead back to Henry.


Can sun, sea, and eating your weight in pasta mend a tragedy-stricken heart? Will wine-soaked Amalfi nights and long walks through lemon groves work their magic on Seb’s wounded soul? Or will he slink back into the shell of his grief once his grand Italian adventure is over?




Excerpt

Scent of sea and palm,

Craggy and ancient, a world

Bathed in saffron

- #17, In Blue Solitudes, S. Wilson-Osaki


“A. S’okay.” Bleary eyed and bone weary, S├ębastien stared at the sign for two minutes before it registered. He kept his distance, glanced around the bushel of sun-ripened cab drivers and chauffeurs waiting to squeeze every last euro out of their charges, but no.


This was him. Smile so bright it blinded, like glare off a windshield. Footballer’s frame decked in team colors and too-tight shorts. Face Bernini could have sculpted. Hair black as an oil slick, greased into a neat, perfect slope. His tortoiseshell eyes twinkled in Seb’s direction when he took a cautious step forward.


Signor S’okay?”


“Osaki. Yes.”


“Ah, Osokay.”


“Osaki. O-sak-i. Japanese.”


“You fly from Japan?”


“No. Canada. Montreal.”


Si, si, Signor Osaki. Sebastiano.”


Seb opened his mouth to correct him but nodded instead. “That’s me.”


“Andrea Sorrentino.” He thumped a hand on his chest. “You want I take your bag?”


“Uh…”


Before he could decide, the driver clacked down the handle on his extra-fee-heavy suitcase and hefted it under his arm like an unruly toddler. “Vieni, vieni.” He dove into the crowd before Seb could get his bearings.


Spotting the clean line to the exit, Seb set his own pace, his tipsy head still mired in a post-flight fugue. Thirty-two sleepless hours, plus a morning spent tracing and retracing his path through the labyrinthine halls of the Rome airport to make his connection, left him listless. With exhaustion but also nerves. What had he been thinking, shipping off to a country he’d never been to and where he didn’t speak the language?


The answer, of course, was Henry. Who should have been there, propping him up with his rock climber’s arms, but also with his wonderment, the kid-in-a-candy store way he’d seen the world. Henry had puffed all his energy and excitement and fire into Seb’s lead balloon and—in his latest impossible feat—made him fly.


Clutching his backpack like a life preserver, Seb practiced his deep breathing as he waded through the stream of travellers. More of a trickle, really, now that he was in the flow. One foot in front of the other, he reminded himself, looking for a focal point. A taut jean-clad ass, with a carefree swagger all its own, lured him the rest of the way. Seb staggered out of the airport terminal…


… into a whole new world. The hazy afternoon sun swaddled him like a warm blanket. Ripe with the scent of palm trees and petrol, the parking lot was more social gathering than frantic hub, with drivers chatting, smoking, and laughing as they waited for clueless travellers to wander by. Stoic mountains—silent sentries at the gate to paradise—shadowed the horizon, rings of mist crowning their crater heads.


Woozy with relief, Seb lowered his lids to half-mast and basked in the moment. This was Henry’s world. He was safe.


A hulking black SUV screeched to a halt in front of him, blocking the view. Before Seb could decide whether to be terrified or outraged, his driver slid open the side door, beckoning him into his luxury air-conditioned chariot. Too polite to give in to the urge to collapse across the seats and zonk out, Seb stumbled into the nearest chair. His hands shook as he fought with the seat belt. Something about that fateful click brought the reality back home—he was trapped in a jet-fuelled coffin with a man who could barely pronounce his name, soon to be zipping down a highway where speed limits weren’t even guidelines, thousands of miles from home, by a world-famous volcano that once scorched everything for miles—


Hand on his knee. There was a hand on his knee.


Signor Osakay? You want I get you espresso? Water? Food? Is no trouble.”


“No.” Seb shut his eyes, sucked in all the air he could. “I… I’m just tired. Didn’t sleep on the plane.” When he opened them again, he met soft eyes shimmering with kindness. His exhalation came easy. So did his smile. What was his name again? Andrea Sorrentino. A gentle name, full of music.


Granita al limone. Un momento.” A squeeze to Seb’s knee, and he hopped out the door.


Author Bio


Selina Kray is the nom de plume of an author and English editor. Professionally she has covered all the artsy-fartsy bases, having worked in a bookstore, at a cinema, in children’s television, and in television distribution, up to her latest incarnation as a subtitle editor and grammar nerd (though she may have always been a grammar nerd). A self-proclaimed geek and pop culture junkie who sometimes manages to pry herself away from the review sites and gossip blogs to write fiction of her own, she is a voracious consumer of art with both a capital and lowercase A.


Selina’s aim is to write genre-spanning romances with intricate plots, complex characters, and lots of heart. Whether she has achieved this goal is for you, gentle readers, to decide. At present she is hard at work on future novels at home in Montreal, Quebec, with her wee corgi serving as both foot warmer and in-house critic.


If you’re interested in receiving Selina’s newsletter and being the first to know when new books are released, plus getting sneak peeks at upcoming novels, please sign up at her website: www.selinakray.net


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Series Blitz + Giveaway: Demons & Wolves Series by Katze Snow


Katze Snow and Signal Boost Promotions celebrate the Demons & Wolves series! Learn more about the paranormal series in today's release blitz! Enter in the giveaway to both eBooks: Broken in Silence (Book #1) and Within These Depths (Book #2)!





Demons & Wolves Series - Available to borrow on KU

Book #1 - Broken In Silence - books2read.com/BrokenInSilence


Book #2 -Within These Depths - books2read.com/WithinTheseDepths

Cover Design: Jay Aheer @ Simply Defined Art

Broken In Silence 

Tannerian Wulfric is a leader—a strong alpha who bows to no-one, especially those who try to undermine his authority.


When an opportunity arises, he grabs it with both hands and lets nothing get in his way. Trouble is, his brother has been caught in the crossfire of glorious retribution, and Tanner is in need of assistance.


For many years, Alex Jonas has lived his life in peace. But when fate lands him in the hands of his ex-lover and alpha, he finds himself in the centre of a feud he never knew existed, and must immerse himself in ways he had never imagined. One chance encounter, one night, and everything comes crashing down around him. Alex must fight for his life while Tanner fights for one thing and one thing only—vengeance, which has never tasted sweeter.


Can Tanner avenge his family’s death without spilling more blood? Or will his inner demon tear apart everything he has worked for, and lose the man who owns his heart?


Within These Depths


Tanner is so close to his revenge that he can almost taste it. With an unusual brand of negotiation skills under his belt, he has everything he needs. Now all that stands between him and destroying Elijah Ravenhill is a dangerous mission into the depths of Hell. Accompanied by his guides, he will enter where loyalties and souls are tested, and few ever return.


Newly mated Alex just wants to keep his loved ones safe. In the sprawling grandeur of Wulfric Manor, he finally has his family under one roof, even if it may only be temporary, and his dreams of having something normal seem to be within reach. Yet what’s normal for the wolf is torture for the prey, and chaos descends on Alex with one mysterious phone call.


Can Alex have all he ever dreamed of without sacrificing his life? Will Tanner put an end to Elijah once and for all, or will his revenge go up in smoke within the fires of hell itself?


Warning: Within These Depths is the highly anticipated sequel to Broken in Silence: Demons and Wolves Series, and things are really heating up. This story is NOT a typical romance and it's not intended for those who seek a HEA. It cannot be read as a standalone.



Excerpt - In his own unique way, Tanner tells Alex he loves him

“You,” Tanner seized Alex’s chin and lifted it upwards, “are mine. I won’t let you out of my sight again. A minute, a day, a decade—I want every second of them. Is that understood?”


“You promise?” Alex joked, though his heartbeat spiked with confusion at what Tanner was announcing. He loved him? The alpha had never told him that. He’d never even hinted towards him being anything more than an eyesore he’d taken in off the streets. Although Tanner wasn’t exactly serenading him, the meaning was there, all right––a faint glow between the cracks of darkness. And Tanner had claimed him.


“Promises are for the weak. You are mine, and I intend to keep it that way even if I must hunt you to the ends of the abyss.” His lips assaulted Alex’s, crashing against his mouth with wild abandon…


Author Bio

Katze Snow never learned when to shut up. Food and coffee are what encourage Katze to function in a semi-normal, sort of socially acceptable way. Doses of sarcasm and sass are what she lives for, and her wolf, Kiba, who is Katze's little furbaby. She's been writing since she was a child, but finally published her debut novel, Alpha's Bane, in Autumn 2016.


While Katze also writes MF, MM is where her heart truly lies. Her writing is dark, gritty, and takes satire to a whole new level. Come and join her! But be warned: Katze likes her men dark, twisted and all kinds of messed up, and she hopes you do too.


When Katze's not writing, she's working for a top secret, underground organisation, or taming wolves. (Check out her furbaby, Kiba!)


"Why ever would I want to go to heaven, when hell is so much more fun?" ~ Broken in Silence (Demons and Wolves #1)



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Review: Just for Nice (States of Love) by H.M. Shepherd

Nick Caratelli flees the city in an attempt to escape a broken relationship and a career he never wanted. He plans to set up a bed-and-breakfast in the heart of Pennsylvania Dutch country—despite the fact he has no experience in renovating the old building. Luckily his handsome neighbor Sam approaches him with a curious proposal: he’ll help with the restoration in exchange for Nick babysitting his niece.

As they work to have the bed-and-breakfast open for business by summer’s end, their lives become interwoven without them even trying. Before he knows it, Nick is recovering from his loss and taking his place in the unconventional family that seems determined to form. But for Nick and Sam to be together in all the ways they desire, they’ll have to realize all the arguments against romance exist only in their heads….




Not too bad for a debut novel...

As per the blurb, Nick is getting over a bad break up and has decided to quit law and open up a bed and breakfast. He realizes too late that he’s a bit in over his head and really doesn’t have the knowledge to do what needs to be done. Perhaps fortuitously, Nick’s neighbor Sam, is in need of a babysitter for his niece and offers his handyman services in exchange. Attraction and feelings inevitably develop because of course they will!

I’m going to assume that the States of Love series has a word limit on how long a story can be and that the author was perhaps stymied by this. I wanted things more fleshed out. I wanted everything from Nick’s sexuality, to Sam’s past, and even the niece’s age, to be revealed with better timing and explanation than what I got. I felt like I was in the dark for three quarters of this book and just when things were finally coming together, a few months pass by in a flash, and we’re told the ending, rather than shown. To be honest, approximately 100 pages is just not enough to properly do a story justice most of the time, and though I absolutely adored the premise, this fell short for me.

Again, I liked what I got. Points go towards the very likeable MC’s and the hot sweetness when Nick and Sam acted on their attraction. I’m just really greedy, and I wanted more.


Thank you to the author/publisher for a copy in exchange for an honest review.



Release Blitz + Giveaway: Wolf and the Holly (The Rowan Harbor Cycle #2) by Sam Burns


Celebrate the release of Wolf and the Holly (The Rowan Harbor Cycle #2) with author Sam Burns and Signal Boost Promotions! Learn more about the paranormal romance and enter in the eBook back list giveaway today!




Universal Buy Link: books2read.com/WolfAndTheHolly

Length: 199 pages

Cover Design: Melanie Harlow @ Clause & Effect


The Rowan Harbor Cycle Series

Book #1 - Blackbird In The Reeds - books2read.com/BlackbirdInTheReeds

Blurb

Five years ago, Jesse dropped out of college and came home to Rowan Harbor to find safety with his pack. A broken man, he’s been living as though the world is ending—allergic to responsibility and spending most of his nights at the local bar.

But he can’t avoid growing up forever. On the night of his thirtieth birthday party, he finds his childhood friend Isla unconscious, attacked in the middle of their peaceful hometown. The wolf inside him wants to protect its people from the slick-haired, smooth-talking vampire who’s brought trouble to town, and Jesse can’t run from his instincts any longer.

Now that his inner wolf is out of its cage, it’s picked the most inconvenient moment to find its mate. Sean Anderson—recently back from college and much changed from the skinny preteen Jesse once knew—is just what he never knew he needed.

Trigger Warning: discussion of past abuse.

This novel is intended for adult audiences, and contains swearing and sex.

This is the second of nine books in The Rowan Harbor Cycle, not a standalone. It continues where the first book left off. Jesse and Sean will return in book five to continue their story, so this book contains a HFN, not their HEA.





Author Bio

Sam wrote her first fantasy epic with her best friend when she was ten. Like almost any epic fiction written by a ten year old, it was awful. She likes to think she’s improved since then, if only because she has better handwriting now.

If she’s not writing, she’s almost certainly either reading or lost down a wikipedia rabbit hole while pretending to research for a novel.

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Review: Eight Nights in December by Keira Andrews

A geek. A virgin. One sexy holiday.

Orphaned Lucas figures spending the holidays with his obnoxious roommate’s family in New York City is better than staying alone on campus upstate. He ends up sharing a room again, this time with his roommate’s brother, Nate. Geeky photographer Nate isn’t at all what Lucas expects. In fact, he’s incredibly sexy—especially when he invites Lucas into his darkroom...

They hide their attraction during Hanukkah celebrations, but behind closed doors, Lucas and Nate can’t keep their hands (or mouths) off each other. Nate’s only looking for a bit of holiday fun, and amazing sex with a hot virgin definitely fits the bill. Yet as the candles burn, Nate and Lucas begin to realize eight nights will never be enough.


I am ridiculously in love with holiday stories, it’s my vice and I’ll read them all year long. I love Christmas stories best of all, and I’m sure that’s because that’s what I know, but what a treat to read a story about Hanukkah for a change. Not that I haven’t read a Hanukkah themed story before, there just aren’t nearly as many or nearly enough.

I think Eight Nights in December will stick with me because of how well everything meshed together organically. The MCs were amazing, but the family dynamics and the importance of the traditions to them all were just as integral to the story as the romance, giving Eight Nights in December more depth than most holiday novellas.

Speaking of MCs . . . . Lucas was the kind you root for from the moment he comes on page and he’s just an all around good person you would feel lucky to have in your life. I love his sense of empathy and his goals to live life as his true self. He doesn’t have it easy after the loss of his dad, but he doesn’t wallow, he grieves as one would expect while at the same time looking forward. He covers the gamut of emotions in a restrained, realistic way and the author showed me what Lucas was going through without telling me in overly dramatic prose.

His college roommates younger brother Nate, who he ends up rooming with when Nate’s mom refuses to let him spend winter break alone, is also a treat to read about. He’s the quiet, bookish one in the family as opposed to his jock star of a brother. It was obvious his family loved him, but it was also clear he was lonely in his own home. His passion, photography, was regarded as a hobby and he kept his sexuality a secret as he feared the repercussions of coming out. I really liked him from the beginning and he also broke my heart.

The two of them end up deciding to have a holiday fling as Nate does not DO the boyfriend thing. Who am I kidding, they didn’t decide, they couldn’t really keep away from each other and Nate found the fact that Lucas was a virgin completely delicious. These two have some hardcore chemistry and their interludes were both hot and sweet. Now Lucas DOES want to do the boyfriend thing, but he’s not about to ruin a good thing, so he keeps his yap shut the best he can.

The adorable thing is that they are obviously both way more into each other than they let on and there’s enough give and take of emotions and flirtations to keep the story hopeful throughout even if they aren’t rushing their way to any declarations. The angst was short lived and kept to a minimum and I was so glad to read through Lucas and Nate’s communication because it actually kept them moving forward to being happy.

They do keep everything a secret and that did add an element of excitement to their trysts, but when things starting getting real the secret became harder to keep and something had to give. It did and it was the perfect of resolutions. It may have been a little too perfect, but it’s exactly what I would have wanted for them, so I loved it pretty hard.

Another gem in this story was the epilogue. When I finished the last actual chapter prior to the epilogue with a plethora of percentage left I was bummed because I wanted more and I was expecting the token HEA, but the author did right by these guys and gave a beauty of an epilogue that was more than just a couple of pages of closure. I got to read about Lucas and Nate as a real couple and got to know them in that new light. I absolutely loved that it covered their time, their growth, the family and Hanukkah again. It felt like the story came full circle.

I've added this one to my holiday reread list.



**a copy of this story was provided for an honest review**

Release Blitz + Giveaway: The Winning Edge by Keira Andrews


The Winning Edge is re-released! Keira Andrews and Signal Boost Promotions celebrate the figure skating enemies to lovers romance today! Learn more about the story and enter in the giveaway to win a back list eBook from Keira Andrews!




Universal Buy Link: books2read.com/TheWinningEdge

Cover Design: Dar Albert @ Wicked Smart Designs

Blurb

Can figure skating enemies find love off the ice?


After an explosive locker room confrontation with his Russian rival ends in the most intense sex of his life, American pairs skater Dev Avira is distracted to say the least. He’s worked for years to have a chance at Olympic gold, and he can’t let himself—or his partner—down. Playing cat and mouse with the steely and smoldering Mikhail Reznikov is the last thing he needs as he prepares for the biggest competition of his life, but they can’t keep their hands off each other as the Games approach.


Dev soon learns that beneath Mikhail’s arrogant and aloof exterior is Misha, a passionate man who warms Dev’s heart and scorches his bed. They’re both determined to win, but for Misha his freedom could be at stake if he and his partner take anything less than gold. Who will stand atop the podium? And can secret lovers from different worlds make a life together once the competition ends?


This gay sports romance from Keira Andrews features enemies to lovers, two alpha men, sequins, and of course a happy ending. Content previously published as novellas Cold War and Holding the Edge.





Excerpt

December: The Grand Prix Final

Dev reached for his partner’s hand, and he and Bailey glided onto the ice wearing matching bullshit smiles as a voice announced: “In second, and winners of the silver medal, representing the United States of America—Bailey Robinson and Dev Avira!”
Thunderous applause filled the arena, and flashbulbs popped as they took their bows and waved to the cheering Japanese crowd. Dev wished he could soak in their love and choke down the acid bitterness currently lodged somewhere around his sternum.
Smiles still firmly in place, he and Bailey hopped onto the carpet surrounding the podium where the gold medalists waited in all their sequined and red-feathered glory. Leave it to the Russians to make their Firebird costumes as literal as possible. Kisa Kostina, not a bleached-blonde hair out of place, beamed as she bent to air-kiss Bailey’s cheeks.
Dev’s jaw clenched as he shook Mikhail Reznikov’s hand. He hated himself for the skitter of electricity when their eyes and palms met. Mikhail’s lips curved briefly into an approximation of a smile. At thirty-one, with his short dark brown hair sweeping over his forehead, his steel-blue eyes, his broad shoulders and lean, tall body, and his truly spectacular ass, he was stupidly handsome.
Asshole.
Dev and Kisa exchanged air-kisses before he helped Bailey step onto the second tier of the podium. He took his place behind her and waved again to the audience while the third-place Canadians skated out to take their bows, followed by more air-kisses and handshakes. Although Dev and Bailey genuinely liked the Canadian team, this ritual was so painfully fake. They were all here to win, and there was only one satisfied team on the podium.
And satisfied the Russians certainly were. With his regal air, Mikhail was one of the most pompous, egotistical people Dev had ever met. He was the king of the pairs world, and he damn well knew it. Sharp-eyed Kisa was the ice queen, and together they were a perfect, humorless match. They kept to themselves off the ice, always civil but never friendly.
How Dev would love to see Mikhail Reznikov brought to his knees. He ignored the flare of desire in his belly at the other implications of that thought and refocused his attention on his resentment of Mikhail’s place on the podium.
The Grand Prix Final was the last international competition before they all returned home for their national championships in late December and into January. Olympic teams would be determined, and then on to the Games in Annecy in February. Since he was seven, Dev had dreamed of winning Olympic gold. He was so close he could taste it.
The officials presented flowers and medals, and Dev played his jovial part. Being on the podium here meant they were among the best of the best, yet the silver medal hung around his neck like an albatross. He knew he should be grateful for what he had, and proud of everything he and Bailey had accomplished. And he was. But second place wasn’t good enough.
He wanted to win.
As the all too familiar “Hymn of the Russian Federation” played, Dev watched the flags rise to the arena’s rafters. Just once, he wanted the Stars and Stripes to have the middle position. Sure, he and Bailey had won plenty of competitions. They had narrowly missed making the last Olympic team, and that disappointment had fueled them. They’d dominated American pairs skating ever since. Three-time national champions. Winners of multiple Grand Prix events—including Skate America, Skate Canada, NHK Trophy, and the Cup of China.
But they’d never beaten Kostina and Reznikov. Every time they faced the Russians, they came up short. They were the reigning world silver medalists, and even though they’d worked endlessly on their artistry and connection and edges and transitions—it was never enough.
It wasn’t as if the Russians weren’t good. Dev could admit they were amazing, particularly on the technical side. They were three-time world champions, and when they were on, they were unbeatable. But tonight Kisa had fallen on their throw Salchow and they’d lost unison on their side-by-side combination spins. Yet they still won by eight points. Eight! Sure, Bailey had put a hand down on their side-by-side triple toes, but it was a minor error. It felt like the judges had decided Kostina/Reznikov were the winners before any of the pairs even stepped on the ice.
The crowd cheered as the anthem ended, and all the skaters squeezed onto the top of the podium for photographs. At five-ten, Dev wasn’t the biggest of the male pairs skaters, but tiny Bailey only reached his shoulder. Mikhail stood a good three inches taller beside him, because of course he had to be better in absolutely everything. Dev grinned for the photographers and held up his silver medal as he fantasized about elbowing Mikhail off the back of the podium.
The torture continued as the teams posed for more photographs on the ice with their flags. Then it was time to circle the rink for a victory lap. Dev and Bailey stopped to hug a few fans, including Amaya and Reiko, two young women who attended almost every competition around the world. Dev had no idea how they afforded it, but he was always grateful to see them in the stands.
Reiko handed him a stuffed elephant. The elephant was the state animal of Kerala, the Southern Indian state where his parents had grown up before immigrating to the US, where Dev was born. He’d mentioned once in an interview that his good-luck charm was a tiny elephant pendant carved from jade that he wore during every competition on a silver chain, hidden beneath his costumes.
Ever since, fans had given him elephants in every imaginable form, from dolls to statues to goofy hats. He loved every single one, and his mother collected them in what she called the Elephant Room back home in Belmont in the Boston suburbs.
He kissed Reiko’s cheek. “Thank you, sweetheart. Hope we’ll see you in Annecy?”
She bounced. “Oh yes! We would not miss this. And we love new costumes!”
“Glad to hear it!” Dev grinned.
After NHK they’d scrapped their initial costumes, which didn’t quite capture the darkly romantic tone of their Jane Eyre long program—officially called the free skate—set to the score from the 2011 film. Now Dev wore navy trousers and a button-down silk shirt with a simple white cravat, while Bailey’s navy dress with delicate white embroidery at her wrists and around her neck perfectly set off her auburn hair, which she wore twisted into a braid wrapped around a knot. Dev had grown his thick black hair a little on top, where it curled in what he liked to think was a rakish fashion.
Reiko’s smile gave way to a frown. “The results not correct. You and Bailey are true winners today. Everyone thinks this.”
Amaya nodded vigorously.
“Thanks, guys. We love you!” Bailey gave them another hug before they skated on.
After yet more photos, they finally escaped backstage. Their coach, Louise Webber, walked them to the dressing rooms. Louise had been a pairs skater herself in her youth, although she’d never gone past the national level. Now in her forties, she was still in amazing shape, which she attributed to her “Asian genes.” There wasn’t a streak of gray in her short black hair, and while she often said Bailey and Dev would give her wrinkles when they didn’t follow instructions to her satisfaction, none were in evidence.
Dev just wanted to get back to the hotel, but there was still the mandatory press conference to contend with. “Is this over yet?”
“You did your job out there. The rest of it is out of your hands. I’m proud of you.” Louise gave them both a squeeze. “Don’t let it get to you.”
“I’m not. It’s fine. I’m fine,” Dev insisted.
Bailey snorted. “Uh-huh.” She patted his hip before disappearing into the women’s dressing room. “See you in a few.”
Of the six teams that qualified to compete at the Grand Prix Final, the three who didn’t make it to the podium were long gone. In the men’s dressing room, the Canadian, Roger Jackman, was already zipping up his hoodie and stuffing his feet into his sneakers.
“Hey, man. I gotta call my wife back home. The baby’s due any minute now and I want to catch her tonight before it’s too late. Or early. I’m so fucked-up with this time change. Don’t rush getting changed, okay? I need a few extra minutes. See you in the press room.”
“Sure, no problem.” Dev held out his fist. “Great skate tonight.”
Roger bumped him back. “You too.” He shrugged. “What are you gonna do, right?”
As Mikhail strode in, Roger hurried out, tapping his cell phone. Dev sat on a bench and unlaced his skates. From the corner of his eye, he watched Mikhail peel off his black bodysuit festooned with shimmers of burnt orange and red. Several feathers floated to the tile floor. Underneath he wore a black tank top and boxer briefs that clung to his narrow hips and muscular thighs.
Swallowing hard, Dev quickly stripped off his costume and transferred it to a garment bag. Wearing dark boxer briefs as well, he reached for his track pants, but found his attention drawn back to Mikhail. The arena’s locker room had been gussied up with several wardrobe racks and a bank of makeup tables with mirrors and chairs. Still in his underwear, Mikhail went to one of the mirrors and leaned close.
The ego on this guy. It wasn’t bad enough that Mikhail had to always win—did he have to parade around the dressing room half-naked? Still, Dev had to swallow hard as traitorous desire seared in him. Mikhail steadily met his gaze in the mirror, and Dev jerked his head away, cheeks hot. Stupid! The last thing he needed was to get caught lusting after this asshole.
“Don’t worry, your guyliner isn’t smudged,” he snarked before glancing over.
In the mirror, Mikhail’s brow furrowed, but he said nothing and pulled a lash from his eye.
For some reason this refusal to engage lit a fuse to the anger simmering in Dev’s gut. “You know, you could lighten up once in a while. We get it, you’re an artiste. So tortured and…Russian. With your flailing arms and your nines for Performance and Execution even though you just go through the motions. You always get nines, and I bet you did tonight, despite Kisa cleaning the ice with her ass on that throw. You guys even fall artistically according to the judges.”
Mikhail straightened and faced Dev. His gaze raked down Dev’s body and back up. Nostrils flaring, he asked, “You have a problem?” His accent was fairly thick, but his earlier years training in Connecticut gave him a strong command of English. “Talk to the judges. We don’t control them.”
Dev barked out a laugh and took a step closer. “We both know your federation has the judges in its pocket. Skating has always been about politics, and no matter what scoring system they bring in—it always will be.” He shook his head. “Why am I even getting into this?” he muttered, more to himself than Mikhail. He headed toward the bathroom. “Forget it.”
Mikhail stood unmoving, and maybe Dev meant to get a little too close and knock his shoulder. But he definitely didn’t intend to end up slammed into a locker with Mikhail gripping his arms, his eyes blazing and face twisted. Dev’s skin burned where Mikhail touched him.
“You think it’s so easy for us? You know nothing. Nothing!”
Dev shoved against Mikhail’s chest, but he didn’t budge. Fingers curling in Mikhail’s tank top, Dev struggled to focus when he wanted so much to rip the cotton away and feel Mikhail’s pale skin. “Cry me a river! You win everything just by showing up. You could drag Kisa around by her hair for four and a half minutes and you’d be golden.”
Poshel na hui,” Mikhail spat.
Dev had been around Russians long enough to translate. He gritted his teeth. “Fuck you too.”
Their harsh breathing filled the air, fingers digging into each other’s skin, bodies so close and—
They were kissing, mouths open and teeth clashing, tongues battling as they rutted together. The metal of the locker was cold against Dev’s back, but everything else was fire—desire pumping through his veins, and the unstoppable urge to get closer, closer, closer. He moaned raggedly as his brain tried to connect with his body.
What am I doing? Stop!
His body ignored him, and he spread his legs as Mikhail jammed his thigh between them. They were both already hard in their underwear, and Mikhail groaned as Dev grabbed his ass and ground their hips together. Dev hated him so much, but he couldn’t stop touching. His hands roamed over the hard angles of Mikhail’s body, and he panted into wet, messy kisses. Mikhail clutched Dev’s hips and thrust their cocks together.
Anyone could walk in. Stop! I hate him! Wrong, wrong, wrong!
The scattered snippets of thought only made his pulse roar louder, and his balls tightened already, his body desperate for the release. They jerked together, and Dev could only give in to the madness that had taken over.
When Dev’s orgasm ripped through him, his shout was muffled by Mikhail’s palm slapping over his mouth. Mikhail hunched over as he rubbed against Dev in a frenzy, his quiet little gasps warm and wet against Dev’s neck. He came silently, shuddering with the pulses of his release. Dev’s body hummed with aftershocks, and he closed his eyes, breathing hard through his nose since Mikhail’s hand still covered his mouth.
Then the heat vanished, and Dev opened his eyes. Mikhail backed up across the dressing room, shaking his head slowly, eyes wide. Dev was frozen in place against the locker, his briefs sticky, and his arms hanging at his sides. They stared at each other as the seconds ticked by.
“Gentlemen?” a man’s voice called, accompanied by a sharp knock on the door. “We’re ready for you in the media room.”
They leaped into action, yanking on clean underwear, street clothes, and shoes in a blur of movement, not meeting each other’s eyes. Dev made it out first, and he smiled and made his apologies to the officials, following them to the press room. Sweaty and sticky and in desperate need of a shower, he tugged on his fleece and felt exposed even though it wasn’t as if there were wet spots on his track pants.
In the press room, the other skaters sat behind a long table on a raised dais. Kisa waited in the middle with the Canadians on her left and Bailey her right, everyone seated in their medal positions. On the rows of chairs in front of the table, the media, coaches, and various event and federation officials waited. Dev avoided looking any of them in the eye as he took his seat.
He couldn’t avoid his partner, and he smiled in what he hoped was a low-key, completely normal way. His mouth felt raw. Jesus, do I have beard burn? Bailey’s brows knitted together, and she reached up and straightened his hair. Shit. His hair.
Everyone knows! It’s flashing all over me in neon letters. Neon and all caps!
Breathing deeply, he struggled to unscrew the cap from the bottle of water placed on the table in front of him. It took two tries, but he got it, and gulped. His heart pounded so loudly he was sure everyone could hear it.
“Everything okay?” Bailey murmured.
He nodded.
Under the table, she squeezed his thigh. “We’re almost there. Just think—tomorrow we leave Kyoto and get to sleep in our own beds again. At least for a few weeks.”
With a rush of affection, he took her hand. If there was one thing he could count on, it was having Bailey beside him. He exhaled and concentrated on her familiar warmth.
Mikhail entered the room, head high and shoulders back, his hair artfully swooped over his forehead. He managed to make warm-up pants and his red Russian team jacket look like Armani. Expression calm, he took his seat next to Kisa. While Dev wanted to crawl out of his skin with a mess of emotions from shock and anger to a shameful craving for more, Mikhail Reznikov appeared utterly unaffected.
Dev had never hated him more.

Author Bio

After writing for years yet never really finding the right inspiration, Keira discovered her voice in gay romance, which has become a passion. She writes contemporary, historical, fantasy, and paranormal fiction and — although she loves delicious angst along the way — Keira firmly believes in happy endings. For as Oscar Wilde once said:


“The good ended happily, and the bad unhappily. That is what fiction means.”


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Release Blitz + Giveaway: Once Upon a Rainbow (Volume Two) by Various Authors


Once Upon a Rainbow Volume Two is out! Celebrate with IndiGo Marketing and the eight authors from the anthology: Jennifer Cosgrove, Sara Codair, Emmalynn Spark, K.S. Trenten, Lina Langley, Rebecca Langham, Sita Bethel, and Tray Ellis! Learn more about the fairytale retellings today and enter in the giveaway to win a NineStar Press eBook!



Title:  Once Upon a Rainbow, Volume Two
Author: Jennifer Cosgrove, Sara Codair, Emmalynn Spark, K.S. Trenten, Lina Langley, Rebecca Langham, Sita Bethel, Tray Ellis
Publisher:  NineStar Press
Release Date: February 5, 2018
Heat Level: 3 - Some Sex
Pairing: Male/Male, Female/Female
Length: 125366
Genre: historical, paranormal, contemporary, LGBT, fantasy, magic, royalty, lesbian, lawyers, family, contemporary, captivity, immortality, historical, friends to lovers, criminals, trans, dark, dystopian, political

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Synopsis

Your favorite stories from childhood have a new twist. Eight fairy tales of old with characters across the LGBTQIA+ spectrum.

Coming Home by Jennifer Cosgrove – No one ever expects to be Prince Charming.

Snow Fox by Sara Codair – Jealous Queen E’s attempts on Snow Fox’s life are trending.

Deathless by Emmalynn Spark – Love means finding new ways.

At Her Service by K.S. Trenten – Dancing to her true desire.

Shattered Glass by Lina Langley – The resistance was never ready for this.

Finding Aurora by Rebecca Langham – Setting out to save the sleeping princess does not go as planned.

Master Thief by Sita Bethel – He became the greatest thief in the world so he could steal his squire’s heart.

The True Love Curse by Tray Ellis – True Love would be wonderful, but the curse keeps getting in the way.

Excerpt

Coming Home by Jennifer Cosgrove
Scott Prince has everything, but it doesn’t mean that he enjoys all the responsibilities that come with it. It is, at times, a lonely life. But things start looking up one evening when, at an obligatory social event, he meets a handsome man while stepping out for some air.

But then the man disappears. Scott and Molly, his best friend, find him again in a very unexpected place, and the mystery deepens. A tale of an evil stepmother and horrid stepsisters versus a man who is fiercely independent, and a Prince that will do whatever he can to help him escape his situation and come home.

Snow Fox by Sara Codair
Working at a fast food chain and photo blogging about her transition, Rosa Nieves, known to the internet as “Snow Fox,” is just trying to pay for nursing school. But when her photos go viral, Queen E can’t tolerate the idea that there is a badder bitch than herself, and sets out to murder Snow Fox. Can Rosa survive the wrath of a jealous, rich bitch with an enchanted smartphone? Or will one woman’s vanity be her doom?

Deathless by Emmalynn Spark
Prince Ivan has never been particularly good at being a Prince, so when he comes to rescue his wife from the evil wizard, he ends up offering himself in her place. Vanya soon learns that, while Alex may be an evil wizard, he’s a hell of a whole lot more. But the Prince kills the evil wizard, right? There’s no way the Prince and the Evil Wizard could love each other instead? Sometimes, love means writing your own happy ending.

At Her Service by K.S. Trenten
Cinders would much rather fondle her mistress’s bony feet than go to a ball. Magic whisks her away, in spite of herself to a night of lights, dancing, and mystery where she discovers her true heart’s desire. For nothing is what it seems where enchantment, fairy godmothers, and princes are concerned.

Shattered Glass by Lina Langley
Kai Axelsson is on the most dangerous mission of his life.

A timely twist of fate. A clever deception. And suddenly he’s found himself a place among the staff at Sandheim Palace, entrenched among the people bound to serve a despotic queen. Kai’s only job is to feed the propaganda machine while staying out of sight–yet when he catches the attention of the queen’s brother, what began as an information gathering mission becomes a battle for Kai’s very soul.

Powerful. Magnetic. Immortal. With a breath of frost and a sliver of glass, the crown prince Alexander weaves his spell around Kai, intent to claim him forever and draw him into the darkness of their world. Yet where Alexander’s heart is made of ice…it’s the fire in Johann’s that could be the key to bringing Kai home.

Johann never wanted to let Kai go on this mission. And now a fatal misstep could mean losing the only man he’s ever loved. Only Johann can break the spell entangling Kai’s heart in thorns of darkest glass.

Before the dark prince’s corruption claims him completely, and Kai is lost forever.

Finding Aurora by Rebecca Langham
Aurora Rose slumbers in the city of Oldpass, a cursed kingdom once allied with Grimvein. She is powerless to control her own fate. At least, that’s how the story goes.

Now, as Grimvein faces attack, Prince Amir has been tasked with the life-threatening rescue of Aurora, his parents hopeful that he will marry the princess and secure safety for their kingdom. Talia, the strongest spellcaster in the known lands, protects and guides the prince in his quest to save a woman that threatens to change their lives forever. In finding Aurora, the pair will realise the truth about themselves and each other, coming to understand just what – and who – they really want in life.

Master Thief by Sita Bethel
Tyv grew up hungry and cold in a shack boarding the property of a noble family. His father could never provide enough food, clothing, or warm shelter, but there was one important thing he gave to his sons- the choice to go find their own destinies.

The True Love Curse by Tray Ellis
Widow Clara Hammond doesn’t have time to worry about misfortune befalling the royal family when she has a house to repair and stepsons to feed, but on her way through the forest she encounters Queen Almarine. The queen is searching for a cure for her ill son, Prince Roald, and Clara can’t refuse helping her. The more time they spend together, the more Clara likes Almarine, and the more it seems that Almarine likes her back.

Henryk Hammond is struggling to finish his law degree when the whole university is shut down in a city-wide search for a solution to Prince Roald’s illness. While waiting in the long line to offer his own meager knowledge an old woman gives him a magical cloak and gains him audience with the Prince. Henryk’s watchful night takes him on a wild ride of dancing and feasting as he follows the Prince out of the palace. As morning arrives, Henryk realizes that to save the Prince they’ll have to confront the enchantress together. There’s only one way up the tower to the witch’s lair, but Henryk is determined to end the curse.

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