Tag Team Review: Slippery Creatures (Will Darling Adventures #1) by K.J. Charles

Will Darling came back from the Great War with a few scars, a lot of medals, and no idea what to do next. Inheriting his uncle’s chaotic second-hand bookshop is a blessing...until strange visitors start making threats. First a criminal gang, then the War Office, both telling Will to give them the information they want, or else.

Will has no idea what that information is, and nobody to turn to, until Kim Secretan—charming, cultured, oddly attractive—steps in to offer help. As Kim and Will try to find answers and outrun trouble, mutual desire grows along with the danger.

And then Will discovers the truth about Kim. His identity, his past, his real intentions. Enraged and betrayed, Will never wants to see him again.

But Will possesses knowledge that could cost thousands of lives. Enemies are closing in on him from all sides—and Kim is the only man who can help.

A 1920s m/m romance trilogy in the spirit of Golden Age pulp fiction.

3.25 Heart average
Adam - 3 Hearts

After living through the Great War, Will Darling is happy to quietly manage his late uncle’s second-hand bookshop. His sedate life takes a turn when the bookshop starts attracting some strange visitors looking for mysterious information.

Will has no idea what’s going on, but he’s more than happy to accept the random offer of help from Kim Secretan. Kim’s charm and the mutual desire between them is just an added bonus.

I’m always a fan of KJ Charles’ theme of throwing together love interests from completely different walks of life. It makes for an interesting romance!

Will and Kim couldn’t be more different - completely different upbringings and social statuses, and very different views of the world.

But from the moment they meet, the sparks are obvious. There’s no denying the connection!

Of course, as the blurb hints, Kim has some secrets that drive a wedge between the two men.

Was it unfortunate? Yes.

Did I necessarily think it was a big deal? Not really, the two barely knew each other! I don’t think Kim owed Will anything at first.

However, I could understand Will’s hurt feelings regardless. Especially after he opened himself to Kim so quickly and easily.

Kim and Will’s relationship is very much so dictated by the events in the bookstore. They grow closer as they try to stay ahead of the odd events.

I won’t give anything away on the mystery, but I will say it was an entertaining read! A good mix of action and politics.

In fact, the book was quite gritty at times. I was hooked on the plot!

However, in the end, I felt like something was missing. It could be that the relationship took a back seat at times. Or that I couldn’t help but compare Will and Kim to some of my favourite KJ couples (Stephen and Crane, in particular!), and the two men just didn’t measure up.

Regardless, the romance just didn’t do much for me. The ending is very much so a tentative “let’s give it a go and see what happens”, so I’m hoping Will and Kim will win me over in book 2!

R *A Reader Obsessed* - 3.5 Hearts

I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not a historical MM connoisseur but Charles’s Magpie series is one of my favorites, and I’ve been wishy washy over what next to read of this author’s and instead of diving right in, I’ve avoided them all until now.

To say the least, I’m charmed, especially titillated by the idea that the rest of this trilogy is planned to come out this year and features one couple - all of which greatly appealed to my quirky preferences.

As per the blurb, this stars Will Darling, a somewhat hardened young fellow who’s been down on his luck having returned from the war and instead of being embraced, has had a hard go of it. When he falls into an inheritance of his uncle’s bookstore, the last thing he’s prepared for is to be embroiled in a treacherous push pull by what seems like the military and a secret society - both hell bent on getting a hold of some very nebulous but sinister knowledge that may or may not benefit mankind (depending on whose side one is on). Now Will is very practical, and just because someone demands something without due cause or adequate explanation, doesn't mean he’ll automatically comply even if he had a clue as to what everyone was making such a fuss over.

When a stranger becomes friendly and offers his help, Will can’t help but be persuaded to accept the generosity from sophisticated handsome Kim Secretan, who has plenty of his own secrets and a hidden agenda as well.

There’s no doubt Charles can write a tangled tale. Points towards making Will an upstanding character for he’s no slouch. At times, I questioned his belief that all men should play fairly and honorably which often got him into certain sticky situations, but the man is certainly no pushover, and though he doesn't hold any high opinions for the government, aristocracy, or scary faceless bullies, Will knows what’s good and just and he’s not going to be forced into anything untoward if he has any say about it!

So yes, Will is played and betrayed, and the story is fast paced with twists and turns providing plenty of mystery, a bit of suspenseful action, and a slow development of the attraction between him and Kim that results in some nice (lite dirty) smexy!

The main conflict is technically resolved, but the overall story arc remains to be further explored. There’s a fragile truce between scrappy Will and idealistic Kim at the end of this first installment, and I’m intrigued by their dynamic and am saving rating stars for what I hope will be an even bigger payoff that’s sure to come in the future adventures (and definitely, the feels) that hopefully await them!

Release Blitz + Giveaway: Flowers of Flesh and Blood (The Yakuza Path #5) by Amy Tasukada

Join author Amy Tasukada and Other Worlds Ink as they celebrate the re release of Flowers of Flesh and Blood (The Yakuza Path #5)! Learn more about the latest from the thrilling series and enter in the giveaway to win an eBook box sets of books 1-4 of The Yakuza Path! (5 winners)

Flowers of Flesh and Blood - Amy Tasukada

Amy Tasukada has a new MM organized crime thriller, book five in the Yakuza Path: "Flowers of Flesh and Blood." And there's a giveaway!

A killer. A traitor. A deadly war that could take their love and their lives…

Ruling the Kyoto yakuza makes Nao Murata a perpetual target, especially with the Koreans encroaching into their territory. An attempt on his life at his mafia headquarters crosses a line. Setting up his beloved ally Aki as the would-be assassin crosses another. Nao knows the only way to save his friend’s life is to sever their growing bond and force Aki to fake his own death…

But Aki Hisona refuses to stay dead. Determined to expose Nao’s would-be killer and save the man he loves, Aki goes deep undercover in the Korean underworld. But when he’s asked to prove his loyalty, he risks becoming caught in a web of his own lies…

With Aki gone and the Kyoto mafia in grave danger, Nao fears his trust in others could be fatal.

Will Nao and Aki find the assassin in time, or will Nao’s rule end in bloody chaos?

Flowers of Flesh and Blood is the powerful fifth installment of The Yakuza Path thriller series. If you like gritty Japanese crime, richly nuanced characters, and slow-burning gay romance, then you’ll love Amy Tasukada’s high-octane novel.

Buy Flowers of Flesh and Blood to slice into the Japanese underworld today!

Amazon | Amazon UK | Amazon CAN | iBooks | Barnes & Noble | Kobo | Universal Buy Link | Smashwords | QueeRomance Ink


Amy is giving away five eBook box sets of books 1-4 of The Yakuza Path with this tour. Enter via Rafflecopter:

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Aki closed his fingers around the paper brim of his empty coffee cup and ripped another small piece off. Without looking, he added it to the pile on the table. Mindlessly stuck on repeat, he ripped, added, ripped, added, over and over.

He’d spent the night in the twenty-four-hour Korean café, trading off between sleeping in the bathroom and eating cake to justify staying. He’d been hoping to improve his Korean, but the speakers played nothing but pop songs. Aki learned a million new ways to tell Nao how he felt but doubted he’d gained the right words to impress Namjoon.

Another rip.

Another one on the pile.

Another turn of the mangled cup… Another rip.

His ribs tightened in his chest, crushing his heart until it screamed. He didn’t deserve to be by Nao’s side.

Another turn.

Another rip.

Another sugarcoated song about love.

Aki’s thumb hit the bottom of the cup. Nothing more to tear up but himself.

He stood, bones aching from napping on the bathroom floor. He needed a bed, and the only way was with Namjoon’s help.

Author Bio

Amy Tasukada

Amy Tasukada lives in North Texas with a calico cat called O’Hara. As an only child her day dreams kept her entertained, and at the age of ten she started to put them to paper. Since then her love of writing hasn’t ceased. When she is not penning her next book she can be found drinking tea in a frilly

Amy Tasukada loves hearing from her readers. You can contact her through her website, and also find out how to be first to read her next book!

Author Website: https://www.amytasukada.com
Author Facebook (Author Page): https://www.facebook.com/amytasukadaofficial
Author Twitter: https://twitter.com/amytasukada
Author Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/amytasukada/
Author Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/16096563.Amy_Tasukada
Author QueeRomance Ink: https://www.queeromanceink.com/mbm-book-author/amy-tasukada/
Author Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Amy-Tasukada/e/B01MRS2BQE

LOGO - Other Worlds Ink

Exclusive + Giveaway: When I First Saw Red (Soldiers & Mercenaries) by Kasia Bacon

We're so happy to have today's visitor! Give a round of unicorn hoof stomps for Kasia Bacon! Kasia visits with many goodies including an exclusive excerpt from her new upcoming short novel, When I First Saw Red--extended from a flash fic from our 2018 anniversary and a pretty cool giveaway! 
Don't miss our 4 <3 review HERE
Take it away Kasia!


I hope everyone is feeling well and staying safe! I’m popping in today to tell you about my upcoming release titled WHEN I FIRST SAW RED.

You might remember the little flash fic I wrote for a visual prompt during the Unicorns’ Anniversary Shenanigans a year and a half ago. Time flies! Meanwhile, that piece has grown into a short novel. And it’s coming out next week on June 5th!

Since Boy Meet Boy Reviews might be considered somewhat of a fairy godparent to Red’s story, it’s only fitting to announce here that WHEN I FIRST SAW RED is now available for pre-order on Amazon! Check out the blurb:

Lázhien’s human. A common Imperial soldier. And my soulmate.
How could fate get it so wrong?
The demon in me craves this bond with every shred of his being. He pushes me to accept it. This time I won’t yield to his demands.

Red’s a lust demon, a whore and a stuck-up snob.
The most beautiful man I’ve ever seen. Pain in the arse. And he hates my guts.
I’d be an idiot to pursue him. Yet something about him compels me to make him mine.

When I First Saw Red is a complete and standalone short novel with an HEA ending, featuring a couple of reluctant fated soulmates—a demon and a human—trying and failing to defy destiny.


Amazon UK

How about a little excerpt to mark the occasion? Don’t forget to scroll to the bottom for the giveaway!


 “Come in,” a clipped voice called from the other side of the door in response to my knocking.
My gullet constricted as I turned the handle. Thanks to the gods the creaking of the old hinges muffled a loud gulp that escaped me.
The room proved to be a well-lit suite, larger and fancier than I’d expected. I assessed my surroundings within a quick couple of glances. Vases of fresh flowers and bowls of fruit here and there introduced splashes of colour throughout the space, which was filled with sparse but fine furnishings. A healthy-sized blaze crackled in the tiled fireplace. The vibrant wall-to-wall rug reminded me of the exotic hand-woven textiles I’d encountered during my deployment in the South Isles.     
There he stood by the vast four-poster bed—the object of my lecherous thoughts. My tormentor, who’d inspired dozens of ferocious wank sessions over the previous week. A true miracle I hadn’t chafed myself raw. 
He was barefoot again. I wondered if he had an aversion to footwear. His glossy, vibrant hair—fashioned into a tousled plait and tied with a dark ribbon—splayed down his chest on one side, reaching his waist. I couldn’t fault the manner in which his white unbuttoned shirt and snug breeches revealed more than they covered.
My heart fluttered in my chest, frantic like a trapped bird. 
He snapped shut a silk painted fan he’d held in his hand and cast it aside, eyeing me in silence as he crossed his arms over his chest and propped one hip against the pillar.
I wouldn’t have called his demeanour friendly. For whatever reason, he’d agreed to the engagement, but his body language couldn’t have screamed fuck off any louder. 
His puzzling attitude agitated me on the spot, just as much as his looks enthralled me.
“Good evening,” I said, rougher than I’d intended, addressing him in Common Elven. Not that I counted on dazzling him with my linguistic ability, mind you. Or proving myself less of an uncultured ignoramus than he’d likely taken me for. Nothing like that. At all. “I’m Sergeant Jhagán.”
After a small pause, which he devoted to giving me an appraising squint, he granted me a regal head tilt in the way of a greeting.
Heavenly gods almighty.
The clench of my jaw brought on a feeling of fullness in my ears. Who the fuck did he think he was? The Emperor receiving homage? I couldn’t believe the snooty Elfling arse. And speaking of arse, didn’t it make me a bigger one since I’d financed this sorry venture with recent card winnings, a pawned family heirloom and an advance against my next three wages? Less than two minutes in, I already found myself spinning in the same cycle of intermittent fury and desire I’d experienced around him on the previous occasion. Because yes, I wanted to kick him in the groin with my reinforced leather boot. And then kiss him senseless.
Not knowing what to do or say felt foreign to me. Irritated by my sudden diffidence, I stepped farther inside—uninvited—and threw a pouch stuffed with coins onto his dresser. It turned out a thousand-worth of silvers made one hell of a clank landing in a pottery dish. 
His eyes slitted. “How predictably vulgar,” he said in the most cut-glass accent I’d ever heard.
Out of nowhere, I appeared to have developed a severe teeth-grinding habit. Did he try and test my patience on purpose? I wasn’t savvy on brothel etiquette, but his behaviour hardly struck me as customer-centred. Why the hell were his services held in such high regard if he treated all his patrons like dirt? Or was it what kept them so keen? Either way, I shouldn’t have thought him adorable when he glared at me in distaste, his perfect, slightly upturned nose wrinkling and his lashes throwing long shadows over his cheekbones. Desire zigzagged down my spine. Unable to speak for the next few moments, I focused on calming my quickened breathing. 
He continued standing perfectly still, ever-so-mocking and enragingly self-possessed, never averting his eyes from mine. “What would you have of me, Sergeant?”
I didn’t like the way he emphasised my rank. Neither did I appreciate the blasé note to his tone. My nerves strummed with tension. Stupid disappointment knotted my stomach at the reminder that he saw me as just another patron. And one who made his skin crawl more than others, at that. After rubbing shoulders—and more—with the nobles, being saddled with a grubby soldier like me must’ve felt like a demotion to him. Yet clearly, my coin didn’t smell offensive to him.
Since I didn’t answer, he appeared to have grown impatient and broke the silence. “Let’s get right to it,” he said with a pointed look, indicating the evident hard-on that stretched the seam of my crotch rather obscenely. “You seem roaring to start.” 
Heat rose to the nape of my neck, but my uneasiness hadn’t affected my nether regions. I didn’t go on wasting time fretting over my performance. Oh fuck, no. I couldn’t wait to lay my hands on the cheeky bastard. To dig my fingers into his hips. To force him down, face-first into the…
I wasn’t quick to anger, but he seemed to excel at exasperating me. I sucked in a deep breath. Before we got to the meat of the matter, the situation required a slight redefinition.
It took two strides for me to face him up close. A childish pissing contest or not, the way I towered over him pleased me. “What I’d have of you, Red,” I said, pronouncing the last word in Imperial Common instead of using his Elven name, “is to stay quiet. And wiggle out of those togs in a flash.”
An ironic smile tugged at his lips, and he nodded as if in agreement with himself. “A savage, naturally. As befits a soldier.”
I tried to rein in my frustration along with my arousal. My endeavours to do so had yielded no success. I reinforced my earlier instructions with a quirk of an eyebrow and a jerky gesture that never failed to work back in the barracks. 
That got His Royal Arseness’s attention.
Without looking away, he proceeded to peel the shirt off his shoulders, every deliberate move uncovering more and more of his pale, flawless flesh to my hungry gaze. 
By then, my own skin had flushed with warmth and tingled all over. I caught myself shivering in anticipation. I didn’t bother to hide my reaction.
Unhurried, he yanked at the drawstrings of his trousers. The fitted fabric put up only brief resistance.
“That’s enough,” I barked before he could pull his trousers past his mid-thighs. To my satisfaction, my well-practised sergeant’s tone made him blanch. The way the garment restricted his movements appealed to me. All of him appealed to me. Including his bared cock—a slender, veiny perfection. Which was the opposite of flaccid.
Well, fuck me sideways. How about that?
The ice prince turned out to be quite rigid indeed. In all the right places, too. I could’ve made an effort to conceal my knowing smirk. I didn’t.
“The oil’s by the bed stand,” he said in a dry tone, no doubt irritated at the evidence of his own interest poking into the air. He shifted and made to position himself face down on the bed, providing me with a good view of his exquisite, round globes.
I clenched my teeth again. This time, to prevent my load from blowing.  
So he expected me to fuck him from behind with no further ado. Did that hurt my feelings? Not really. Honest to the gods, I wanted nothing more than to cover his lean frame and crush him flat into the mattress while pushing inside him raw. To hold him beneath me and ram into him, taking my week-old frustration out on his arse. I would’ve been within my right, as I’d paid damn well for the privilege. But doing the very thing he anticipated from a savage rubbed me the wrong way. 


To celebrate further, I discounted the first book in the Soldiers & Mercenaries series.

DON’T FIGHT THE SPARK—a complete and standalone story featuring a different couple—is now priced at 99c / 99p on Amazon and Amazon UK! Snatch it up now!



If you’ve read and enjoyed DON’T FIGHT THE SPARK, you’ll be pleased to know I’ve written a humorous EXTRA SCENE to it. It’s available for free to the members of Bacon & Elves, my author group on Facebook. You can join it here:



This super cute key charm, featuring the characters from WHEN I FIRST SAW RED: Ōkkanȏ and Lázhien, is up for grabs! Enter the Rafflecopter to try your luck. I’ll post the prize internationally. All the best!

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Giveaway is open until June 5th, 2020 Midnight EST! Shortly thereafter, we will contact a winner!

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


A linguist and an avid reader with a particular fondness for fantasy and paranormal genres, KASIA BACON lives in London with her husband. When not tearing her hair out over a translating project, she writes stories about the shenanigans of emotionally constipated assassins and sexy Elves. Otherwise, she can be found shaking her loins at a Zumba class, binging on anime or admiring throwing knives on Pinterest. A lover of MMA and Muay Thai, she also enjoys nature and the great outdoors. She dreams of becoming independently wealthy, leaving the city and moving into her wooden mini-manor—located in the heart of stunning forests resembling those of the Elven Country depicted in her tales.

Find Kasia online:

For excerpts, free stories and updates about new projects, sign up for Kasia’s newsletter.

To access exclusive Order Universe content, join Bacon & Elves on Facebook.

Blog Tour + Giveaway: Forbidden Love (They Bite #2) by Lee Colgin

Welcome author Lee Colgin and IndiGo Marketing visit on the Forbidden Love (They Bite #2) blog tour! Learn more about the urban fantasy that can be read as a standlaone! Plus, the author answers a few questions and hosts a $10 Amazon gift card giveaway! Good luck!

Title: Forbidden Love
Series: They Bite, Book Two
Author: Lee Colgin
Publisher: NineStar Press
Release Date: May 18, 2020
Heat Level: 3 - Some Sex
Pairing: Male/Male
Length: 52800
Genre: Paranormal, LGBTQIA+, paranormal, urban fantasy, friends to lovers, werewolves, vampires, slow burn, college, supernatural

Add to Goodreads


When an esteemed vampire doctor treats an injured young werewolf, desire sparks between them.

Dr. Benjamin Arleth has devoted his life to finding a medical cure for his species’ most devastating weakness—sunlight. Finally, one of his pharmaceuticals shows promise, but sabotage looms large in the lab.

Wolf shifter Nathan Cramer is ready to finish grad school and begin his career when a trip to Center City’s Peace Conference goes awry. Weak and bleeding, Nathan knows his wounds could prove fatal. Dr. Arleth is his only hope.

Can love flourish between enemy species despite a society in turmoil? Could vampires walk in the daylight or will darkness reign? It’s a race to find answers, and Ben will have to put his trust in Nathan if they’re going to make it out alive.

Forbidden Love is a MM urban fantasy/paranormal romance and the second book in the series They Bite but can be enjoyed as a standalone.


Forbidden Love
Lee Colgin © 2020
All Rights Reserved


Elbow deep in test tubes and chemicals at his state-of-the-art laboratory, Doctor Benjamin Arleth startled when his alarm went off. Time for patient rounds. He hated to abandon his work when he was making so much progress, but duty called. The long sought-after drug to render a vampire resistant to sunlight would have to wait another night.

The supernatural realm’s most accomplished vampire doctor had no surgeries on his docket this evening. What he did have were several recovering patients to check on: a grouchy were-leopard who’d been impaled by a hunter’s arrow, and a friendly young Living vampire who’d undergone corrective surgery for metatarsus varus, or in layman’s terms…pigeon toes.

Benjamin went to check on the young vampire first. Knocking on the open door, Ben stepped inside the generic white hospital room. “Hello, Olivia, how are you feeling tonight?”

She grinned at him from under her nest of blankets. Olivia was small for her seventeen years, partially due to rotated tibias, but she had a big personality. Blonde curls spilled over her shoulders, and an incorrigible sense of humor sparkled behind pale golden eyes. She was fully grown, a condition that had to be met before her legs could be fixed and, more importantly, before she could be Turned. The poor girl was bored, stuck in the hospital recovering, and eager to get back to her life.

“I’m good, Doctor Arleth. I’ve been walking without any help. Can I go home today?” She looked hopeful.

The doctor tutted and shook his head, approaching her bed. “It’s too early for you to be walking unassisted.” She started to protest, but Ben continued, “You could do damage and set back your healing if you aren’t careful. Just because you can do something, doesn’t mean you should.”

Olivia groaned. “But it’s so dull here.”

“Tell me about it. I’ve been stuck here a lot longer than you.” He made a face at her, and she laughed.

“This sucks,” Olivia said with typical teenage angst. “You’re cute though, in that tall, dark, and handsome sort of way. You could get a life outside this place if you wanted.”

“How do you know I don’t have one already?”

“Call it a lucky guess.”

“Moving on.” Ben reached for her blankets. “Let me examine your legs. Then you can walk with me and show me how you’re healing.”

“Deal. Anything to get out of this room.”

Ben picked up her left leg gingerly. The flexible cast allowed him to take her knee through its full range of motion. He flexed and pointed her foot.

“How does it feel? Any sensitive spots?”

She shook her head. “Nope, I’m telling you it feels great. You must have done a really great job.”

“Good.” He put the other leg through the same exercises, watching her face for a reaction. If there was one, he didn’t catch it. Either she healed quickly or she’d mastered hiding discomfort. You’d expect the former of a Turned vampire, but a Living vampire like Olivia would take longer to heal. The girl was either lucky or deceptive; he’d find out as he watched her walk.

“All right.” Ben set her leg carefully back onto the bed. “Time to boogie. Show me what you’ve got.” He reached for her hand and helped her to her feet.

She took a step forward. So far, so good. After walking several laps of the medical center’s recovery floor, Ben believed her progress genuine. He’d miss her. Olivia was pleasant when she wasn’t busy teasing him.

The were-leopard, however, he’d love to get rid of.

The cat had been on a drunken joy run when he’d crossed into unprotected forest, human game lands. Shot through with an arrow, not only did he almost die, but the human who’d shot him had to have his memory wiped after seeing a leopard turn into an angry, naked man. He was lucky the hunter kept his shit together to call for help; otherwise he’d have died from internal bleeding. He’d been a terrible patient, complaining about everything from inadequate pain medication to the lack of decent food. What did he expect? A steakhouse?

Ben walked into the leopard’s room, eager to be done with him. “Jason, how are you tonight?”

The cat scowled as he scooted upright in the bed. “How do you think? I’m in pain. This place is stingy with the meds.”

“Pain medication is often ineffective on were-creatures. We simply have nothing else to give you.”

“A drink wouldn’t hurt.”

Ben clenched his jaw. “Still against hospital policy, I’m afraid. Let me check your wound, and I’ll see about releasing you.”

Jason pushed the covers down, and Ben got to work. The wound, though still inflamed around the edges, had closed nicely. Ben palpated the were-leopard’s abdomen, checking for signs of swelling or bleeding. Jason complained but didn’t seem overly sensitive. It should be safe to release him. Thank god.

“Good news, you’re healing well. We can send you home tonight. How about that?”

“About damn time, I’m ready to get out of here,” Jason said. “I need some real food and a good screw.” He added an obscene gesture Ben found distasteful.

“Hold off for now. I’ll send a nurse to fill you in on the physical restrictions until you’re completely cleared. Come back in a week for a final check to make sure there’s no lasting damage. Until then, be careful not to aggravate the wound.”

“Right, I get it. Careful when I’m screwing. Noted.”

Ben schooled his features to neutrality. It would be unprofessional to lecture manners to a patient, even if they deserved it.

When Jason didn’t get whatever response he’d been hoping for, he changed the subject. “Are you going to the Peace Conference this weekend? The nurse said they were bringing in extra doctors. Could get rowdy!”

“I am. I’d have gone, even if I wasn’t on call.”

“Shitty thing they’re considering. Breaking the Edict of Secrecy. Stupid idea,” the leopard huffed.

Ben did not point out that the very reason the were-leopard landed in the hospital to begin with was because he’d broken the Edict of Secrecy. Allowing a human to see him shift was against the law.

Supernaturals kept themselves hidden from humanity, but was that wise in light of the technological revolution? It was a matter of time before a human filmed something on a cell phone, and they’d be exposed. If they chose to reveal themselves, the narrative could be controlled. If humanity found out by accident, it could all go terribly wrong. Many in the community had strong feelings on the subject, including this exasperating were-leopard.

“Perhaps you should come and listen to the presentations. I’m sure there’s more to it than we know.” The Edict of Secrecy had served its purpose. They must let it go. Knowledge was power and all that.

“I’d rather stab my eye out than listen to that horseshit,” Jason said.

“To each their own, but continued peace is in everyone’s best interest. We don’t want another Great War.” He glared at the cat, daring him to disagree. Vampires and were-creatures were historical enemies, but a Peace Accord maintained armistice between the species. Battle surgeons told nightmarish tales of the Great Wars.

Ben jotted down his final notes in Jason’s file and left the clipboard for his assistant, Amelia. “Take care Jason and heal well. I don’t want to see you here again.” Usually that statement was more a joke, but this time, he meant it.

“The feeling is mutual, Doctor.”

Ben hadn’t been expecting thanks, but the were-leopard’s complete lack of self-awareness annoyed him. Glad to be done, Ben made a quick trip to the nurse’s station to leave his patient updates so he could return to his research, his life’s work; a drug to allow Turned vampires to walk in the sunlight again…his holy grail.

Ben lost himself in the research.

He had dozens of theories to deliberate and countless components to try before he’d risk another test of the drug’s efficacy. Sunlight could reduce a young vampire to ash within moments, and an ancient would be dust in less than an hour, so each failed test proved lethal to some criminal soul.

The Vampire Council provided test subjects from their prisons, but Ben wouldn’t take a life lightly, no matter their crimes. As the death toll added up, guilt sat heavier in his chest. The formula had to be right before he’d ask for another trial.

Another alarm rang, jarring him from work. Only a few hours remained before dawn, and he had to leave now if he was going to meet Samuel for smokes. He’d told Samuel he’d be there. Benjamin hated to leave his research—had to tear himself away from it—but Samuel wasn’t the kind of vampire you wanted angry with you, so Ben wouldn’t stand him up. He cleaned and stored his equipment, turned off the lights, locked up the lab, and headed for their favorite haunt, the Eternal Knight Club.

See Olivia, I do have a life.

Author Interview

This book is the second in a series. Tell us about the series.

They’re all written to work as standalones, but I did want to tell several stories in the same world, hence the series. There’s a bit of overlap, but we’re following a different couple’s journey. It’s fun to include characters from book one and also feature a character who will be in book three. I enjoy that challenge. They’re set in a world where supernaturals have just been exposed, and now that humans know there’s that underlying potential for conflict threaded throughout. I hope readers will follow all three books, but each novel is a full story with a happy ending, no cliffhangers!

What’s the hardest thing about being an author?

Definitely the blurb. Blurbs are a nightmare! In the beginning I didn’t realize that’s it’s often the author who writes the blurb. What a bummer to find out you’ve written an entire book and now you have to blurb it! Sheesh.

And the easiest?

The initial idea for a love story is probably the easiest thing for me. I have so many ideas, it would take more than one lifetime to write them all. That’s not to say I have loads of novels in their entirety plotted out in my head, only that initial spark that I build a novel around. That’s my favorite part.

Tell us about you. Do you have any pets?

Yes! I have six dogs, which may seem like a lot, but it’s actually the perfect amount for me. They’re all rescues, and they’re all mixed breed. I DNA tested everybody, which was super fascinating. I have one dog like looks like a small black wolf, and the DNA test came back that she’s part miniature poodle! Who knew? The dogs work with me in my primary job, which is a touring circus show. We’re obviously grounded due to Covid-19, but usually we’d be starting our peak season right now.

A circus show? How does that impact your writing?

It doesn’t much in the way you might think. People have suggested I write circus into my novels. While it’s a fascinating topic, and I love the circus, it’s still my main work and not at all what I want to write about.

What helps my writing is all the touring we do. Moving around constantly provides great inspiration. Plus I often live in campgrounds in places with woods, lakes, and hiking trails. Those settings are very motivating for me, and make me itch to write. I miss it. This is the longest I’ve stayed in one place since 2002!


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Meet the Author

Lee Colgin has loved vampires since she read Dracula on a hot sunny beach at 13 years old. She lives in North Carolina with lots of dogs and her husband. No, he’s not a vampire, but she loves him anyway. Lee likes to workout so she can eat the maximum amount of cookies with her pizza. Ask her how much she can bench press.

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Review: The Prince's Dragon (Fire and Valor #2) by W.M. Fawkes and Sam Burns

The last place Lord Tristram Radcliffe ever expected to find himself was right hand to the Llangardian throne. His parentage should have seen him banished, but he managed to keep his draconic secret. Now, King Reynold is dead. Long live King Roland.

The boy ascends to rule a kingdom in chaos, and Tristram must undo the damage of the last king's reign to save his people from lean winter and wolves in the palace itself. Reynold’s former shadow, Bet Kyston, is determined to root out King Roland's enemies, but his version of help may cause as much harm as good.

There remains a traitor near to the throne, and when the king falls mysteriously ill, Tristram’s strongest ally is forced to leave court. As his enemies move closer, the strength of Tristram's regency is more precarious than ever. Abandoned and friendless, Tristram must sacrifice everything to protect his homeland or risk not only Roland’s life, but his own.

This sequel did not disappoint and obviously, cannot be read as a standalone seeing as how this starts right where The King’s Dragon left off.

Front and center is the fragile connection between newly appointed regent Tris (half human, mostly secretly half dragon) and assassin Bet. They have one common goal and that is to keep Tris’s young cousin Roland, alive until he’s old enough to take over the crown. Each has completely different ideas and methods to accomplish such, each at opposite ends of the moral spectrum as it becomes increasingly clear that a traitor is in their midst. However, the undeniable pull between these two has only gotten stronger, and it was satisfying to see their feelings evolve into an intensity that made me swoon.

What ensues is still a complex look at the tenuous and contentious dynamic, not only between humans and dragons, but also both having hostile relations amongst others of their own kind. On the periphery, but no less interesting or important, are the various other characters in play. This involves humans and dragons alike, each struggling to find their path and do right by their peoples in any way possible. Intersperse all that with a sadistic ambitious enemy who has a seemingly unbeatable terrible power and one knows that more anxiety inducing trouble is sure to come.

All of these storylines are set in motion, as discoveries and machinations push everyone towards a journey of smartly revealed convergence.

Be forewarned that though Tris and Bet’s growing romantic feelings are the main course, also brewing is a FF and MF pairing that have significant page time and explicitness. Though I would gladly forgo the lady bits in what I choose to read, I still quite enjoyed these other two couples plus one more possibly in the works. What I came to conclude was that this story and the overall series as a whole, has emerged as an absolutely fantastic ensemble piece containing magic, dragons galore, political intrigue, and fucking asshats who need to die a slow painful death.

Yes, this still boasts 5 main POV’s with a smattering of other voices. Yes, there’s plot twists and reveals around every corner. Throw in some nice smexy and plenty of feels, and you’ve got a well rounded historical fantasy that kept me engrossed the entire time.

I applaud the complexity of how Fawkes and Burns handled so many characters and plot threads (while never being confusing), bringing a wonderful conclusion to the second act despite ending on a crazy cliffhanger. My only complaint is that the next book isn’t waiting for me to dive straight into!

Review: Date Me, Bryson Keller by Kevin van Whye

What If It's Us meets To All the Boys I've Loved Before in this upbeat and heartfelt boy-meets-boy romance that feels like a modern twist on a '90s rom-com!

Everyone knows about the dare: Each week, Bryson Keller must date someone new--the first person to ask him out on Monday morning. Few think Bryson can do it. He may be the king of Fairvale Academy, but he's never really dated before.

Until a boy asks him out, and everything changes.

Kai Sheridan didn't expect Bryson to say yes. So when Bryson agrees to secretly go out with him, Kai is thrown for a loop. But as the days go by, he discovers there's more to Bryson beneath the surface, and dating him begins to feel less like an act and more like the real thing. Kai knows how the story of a gay boy liking someone straight ends. With his heart on the line, he's awkwardly trying to navigate senior year at school, at home, and in the closet, all while grappling with the fact that this "relationship" will last only five days. After all, Bryson Keller is popular, good-looking, and straight . . . right?

Kevin van Whye delivers an uplifting and poignant coming-out love story that will have readers rooting for these two teens to share their hearts with the world--and with each other.

Where's the com in this romcom?

I was waiting for it. I wanted it. But not one chuckle did I have.

Ironic since this story bursting at the seams with social justice issues one of which being how queer kids never get the romcoms, HEAs and the like, instead being relegated to the funny friend or killed off. So I was surprised that not only was Date Me, Bryson Keller not funny but Kai, our protagonist, was put through the gauntlet.

Don't get me wrong the relationship between Bryson and Kai is sweet and romantic which I enjoyed and kept me engaged but (a) I wish it was more the focal point and (b) every time I turned around Kai was being subjected to yet another awful event in his short life.

Kai is the narrator and, though his narration is a bit choppy and oddly formal for a 17 yr old initially, he is likable which integral to this story. He's tenderhearted, loves his friends and family, is awkward in that adorable, blushing way and is terrified of being rejected once he comes out. Bryson is king of the school who was dared into "dating" anyone who asks him out on Monday for one week. Though we don't get his perspective it's clear he's kind, generous, honest, loyal and incapable of artifice. I liked him a lot. I also loved the secondary characters: Priya, Donny and Kai's amazing and possibly preternatural sister, Yazz.

Where the quibbles arose for me is... probably my annoyingly erratic inability to suspend disbelief. So the location of this story which is (as far as I can deduce) about 15-20 minutes outside Los Angeles in contemporary times. They attend a prestigious private academy wherein all the students are vying for spots at places like Stanford. California is arguably one of the most liberal and open-minded states in the union and these students are the new generation so the notion that the vast majority of the student body would not only be homophobic but viciously so was a bit hard to swallow in California. Maybe Alabama or Idaho but Cali? Big city, intelligentsia Cali????

I also found it far-fetched that Kai's parents didn't have an idea whatsoever given all the telltale signs pointing to his sexuality.

However, what I did appreciate about this story was the differing trajectories of Kai and Bryson coming to grips with their sexualities; the bit about there being no right way to get to the destination I thought an important one.

And did I mention how sweet they are? They are cute together so much so I wouldn't be averse to catching up with them in the future.

Even though Date Me, Bryson Keller wasn't perfect I did enjoy the journey and will be on the lookout for this author's sophomore offering.

Triggers: homophobia, violence

An ARC was provided by NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Release Blitz + Giveaway: Lighting the Lamp (Sophie Fournier #3) by K.R. Collins

Lighting the Lamp is out now! Celebrate with author K.R. Collins & IndiGo Marketing, find out more about the contemporary romance, read & excerpt & enter in the $10 NineStar Press credit giveaway too!

Title: Lighting the Lamp
Series: Sophie Fournier, Book Three
Author: K.R. Collins
Publisher: NineStar Press
Release Date: May 25, 2020
Heat Level: 1 - No Sex
Pairing: Female/Female
Length: 100100
Genre: Contemporary Sports, LGBTQIA+, Contemporary, sports, romance, lesbian, bisexual, demisexual, ice hockey, coach, teammates, slow burn

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Entering her third season, Sophie Fournier has almost everything she wants. She’s the captain of the Concord Condors, she’s roommates and linemates with Elsa Nyberg, the elite Swedish winger she’s wanted to play alongside since the Zurich U-Tourney.

There are two major things she’s missing, though. She doesn’t have her next contract lined up, and she still hasn’t won the Maple Cup, hockey’s most coveted prize. If she wins the Cup, she’ll have leverage going into her contract negotiations. And, in case she needed more motivation, this is Benoit Delacroix’s final season as a Concord Condor, and she’s determined he won’t retire without lifting the Cup.


Lighting the Lamp
K.R. Collins © 2020
All Rights Reserved

Chapter One
The 2013 draft in Orlando, Florida marks the third one Sophie’s attended. She made history in 2011 when she was the first woman drafted into the North American Hockey League. Last year, she was given the honor of selecting Elsa Nyberg for her team, the Concord Condors.

This year, Sophie’s responsibilities are fewer, but she’s still here representing the League. Unlike other players, who watch the draft from their couches or receive alerts while on the beach or touring wine country, Sophie is here in a crisp black pantsuit, a red pocket square her only flash of color.

She’s here so the Commissioner can lay a heavy hand on her shoulder and lean in for pictures to prove how progressive his league is, as if one woman among hundreds of men is progress. Well, it is progress, but it isn’t nearly enough.

There will be more women drafted today and tomorrow, and Sophie’s confident at least one of them will play against her this season. She refuses to hope Elsa will keep her promise and make the jump from the Swedish Hockey League to the NAHL this year, but she has high expectations for Alexis Engelking.

The American is slated to be drafted high. Lenny Dernier, infamous for his rants on The National Sports Network, is already wringing his hands over her upcoming inclusion among hockey’s best. Once, forgetting she was mic’d up, Engelking dropped an f-bomb on live television. Dernier accused her of being “a terrible role model for our Canadian children” as if every Canadian who has played the game is an angel.

Indianapolis files on stage to make the first selection of the draft, a long procession of middle to upper-aged white men in suits. The TVs behind the stage show Engelking sit up straighter in her seat as if she’s anticipating her name being called. Her hair is chopped short, jagged angles as sharp as her cheekbones.

A different camera shows Chad Kensington, another American, slumped in his seat. His blond hair is parted to the side and slicked to stay there. His mother elbows him, and he makes a half-hearted attempt to sit up straight.

“Thank you, Orlando, for hosting us today,” Indy’s owner says. The crowd, predictably, cheers. When he thanks the Commissioner, the crowd boos, also predictable. Sophie doesn’t remember the Commissioner facing constant heckling when she was younger, but he’d made himself no friends when the League ground to halt during the 2010-2011 season.

Indy’s owner steps aside so his grandson, a cute kid with chubby cheeks and a Renegades ball cap on his head, can step up to the mic. They have to lower it for him, and the boy checks the cards in his hands before he looks over his shoulder. His grandfather smiles encouragingly. “Um, first overall, the Indianapolis Renegades select Chad Kensington.”

Kensington stands up and shoots the nearest camera a pair of finger guns. His smile is as greasy as his hair. Sophie’s seen enough tape to know he’s talented, but he struts up to the stage as if he thinks the League should be grateful to have him. His suit is too big in the shoulders and too long in the leg as if he expects to grow into it. He’s dwarfed by the men on stage; the only ones he’s taller than are the owner’s two grandkids. He taps the brim of the grandson’s hat. The owner’s granddaughter hides behind the man who Sophie assumes is her father.

Sophie discreetly checks her phone as she waits for all the hoopla to finish. Being at the draft always brings back memories of her own. She wasn’t sure she’d be invited until a few months before and, even once she was there, it wasn’t a guarantee a team would select her. In case being the first woman to try to play in the NAHL wasn’t enough of a barrier, the Commissioner required teams to apply to be co-ed.

The Concord Condors were the only team able to draft her, and she sat in the stands as they made selection after selection, never calling her name. It took two hundred and twenty-four names until hers was called. Instead of being drafted first, or even first round, she was dead last.

She shakes the memory aside as Seattle comes on stage. Sophie quits feeling sorry for herself. Barrett Corderman is the one who deserves her pity as Seattle drafts him. She’s making a name for herself in Concord, pulling her franchise from the depths of the League and turning them into a real contender. Seattle, on the other hand, is where players have their love of hockey sucked out of them.

Indianapolis makes another appearance for the fourth pick, gained in a trade last season. This time, the owner ushers his granddaughter on stage, and Sophie has a good idea of where this is headed. When the girl calls out Alexis Engelking’s name, Sophie allows herself a smile. Engelking marks the fourth woman drafted into the League, and the highest selected of them all. There’s a tightness around Engelking’s eyes as she accepts her jersey as if she felt she deserved to go higher.

Welcome to the club.


Concord drafts a defenseman with the first of their first-round picks. With their second, they select Tanner Bechtol. He’s small like Kensington, and his hair falls into his eyes, only for him to shake it back out of his face. He looks overwhelmed by everyone on the stage, and it takes two tries for him to pull his jersey over his head.

It isn’t exactly a promising start, and she expects a lot out of him. This is one of the picks which came from trading their captain, Matty, at the deadline last year. Bechtol stumbles off the stage. He would’ve tripped and face-planted in front of the cameras if Mr. Wilcox didn’t steady him. Sophie keeps her expression tranquil in case anyone is watching her, but inside, she scowls. This is who they gave Matty up for?


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Meet the Author

K.R. Collins went to college in Pennsylvania where she learned to write and fell in love with hockey. When she isn’t working or writing, she watches hockey games and claims it’s for research. You can find K.R. on Twitter.


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Release Blitz + Giveaway: The Loyal Whispers (The Life Siphon #3) by Kathryn Sommerlot

Join author Kathryn Sommerlot & IndiGo Marketing in celebrating the release of The Loyal Whispers (The Life Siphon #3). Find out more about this LGBTQ fantasy, read an excerpt & enter the giveaway to win a $10 NineStar Press credit! Good luck!

Title: The Loyal Whispers
Series: The Life Siphon, Book Three
Author: Kathryn Sommerlot
Publisher: NineStar Press
Release Date: May 25, 2020
Heat Level: 1 - No Sex
Pairing: Male/Male
Length: 78900
Genre: Fantasy, LGBTQIA+, Contemporary, sports, romance, lesbian, bisexual, demisexual, ice hockey, coach, teammates, slow burn

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Ravee: a pious Rad-em merchant’s
daughter sailing with her family’s goods

Mairi: the Runonian king’s advisor
seeing the outside world for the first time

Alesh: an alchemist’s apprentice in
Joesar with a past rapidly catching up to her

Three women find themselves caught in
the threads of change as the world threatens to fall apart around them. From
across the Oldal Sea, the southern kingdom of Dusset has declared war, and if
anyone is going to survive it, the alliance between Runon, Chayd, Rad-em, and
Joesar must be solidified.

But there are forces at work that could
undermine all the progress King Yudai and Tatsu have made. Peace treaty
negotiations between the four realms could crumble at any time beneath the
building tension.

As the women’s paths converge, they must
navigate the true meaning of loyalty to themselves, their countries, and their
families, while at the center of it all, a shattered king, hellbent on revenge,
threatens the world balance.


The Loyal Whispers
Kathryn Sommerlot © 2020
All Rights Reserved

One: Ravee
Choked with debris, the waves lapped at
the fire-blackened hull boards left behind, and worse yet, bodies bobbed in the
spaces between splintered wood. They quivered up, bobbing with each crest,
clothing billowing around motionless limbs, and Ravee had to turn away with one
hand pressed to her mouth to keep her meager breakfast down. The air smelled of
burning softwood and singed flesh interwoven into an overpowering and
inescapable tang which did nothing to help her constantly queasy belly.

“Gods above,” Captain Wret hissed under
his breath. When Ravee peeked over her shoulder, she couldn’t miss how his
knuckles had blanched white, his fingers clamped around the deck rail. “What
happened here?”

The answer seemed very obvious: the
worst. The lingering fear of anyone who took to the seas was a shipwreck,
whether it be by pirate attack or by the unforgiving elements, and the evidence
of just such a tragedy lay strewn around their vessel in the whitecaps. But no
storms had darkened the sky in the past week, only a clear blue horizon with
favorable winds. Pirates tended to strip the ships of both treasure and
hostages before destroying them. Broken shards of porcelain dishes floated
among the wood, and anyone searching for profit wouldn’t leave something of value
like that behind. The knowledge should have helped to ease Ravee’s nerves, for
they were far less safe with their trade cargo if pirates roamed the Oldal Sea.
Still, the uneasiness was slow to dissipate.

As her stomach settled and stopped
roiling at the grisly aftermath, Ravee turned back to peer over the ship’s
side. If it hadn’t been pirates and couldn’t have been the weather, few other
possibilities made sense. Ships didn’t simply spontaneously break apart, and
the sea serpents had already entered their dormant months. A horrible stillness
settled over the remains, as though not even the sun’s bright rays could touch
the bloody mess.

“Look!” one of the deckhands yelled.
“Rad-em colors!”

The man’s outburst prompted a scrambling
of boots across slick boards as the sailors searched for something to reach the
silk with. Eventually, the cloth floated near enough for a man to fish it out
with one of the long deck mops, and while Ravee’s heart skipped at the sight of
her countrymen’s flag, the shock paled in comparison to what came up after it.
More silks, strung together on the single rope line, tangled together in a mess
of clumped, torn fabric. Ravee had never heard of the countries sailing under a
united banner, not even in the oldest orated history lessons. She whispered a
prayer under her breath as the crewman struggled with the cord, grateful her
hands weren’t visibly shaking.

Captain Wret pushed the sailor aside to
grab at the bulk, and his hands were steadier than the deckhand’s had been. He
pulled the Rad-em colors free, and then the rest one at a time, peeling the
sopping layers apart until four flags lay spread across the deck. Four silk
banners, fraying and burned on the right side as though they’d caught fire as
the ship went down and only the briny seawater had stopped them from being
completely devoured.

Four silk banners representing the
kingdoms of the southern coastline.

Ravee’s stomach twisted again with a
painful throb.

“Rad-em,” Wret said, pointing, “Chayd,
Runon, and Joesar.”

“Impossible,” one of the men argued.
“They’d never sail together like this, and under united colors?”

All the flags had been displayed on a
single vessel, and to have such a bold showing could mean only one thing.

“They were on official business,” Ravee
whispered, speaking before she could stop herself. Wret’s head snapped in her
direction, his eyes sharp, but he didn’t stop her from continuing, which was
something. “In an official capacity.”

“Yes,” Wret said. “They were traveling
as ambassadors. Peaceful ones, likely, given the treaty negotiations.”

“Who would attack a ship containing
peaceful representatives from all four of the coastal kingdoms?” the sailor
nearest to Ravee asked.

Wret’s gaze shifted to the broken,
charred pieces of the ship still floating out on the sea. “The easiest way to
answer that is to figure out where they were going.”

Then his expression morphed, cycling
through surprise and shock before hardening in resolve. He crossed to the rail
with long steps and hesitated only for a moment, scanning the water before
shouting, “Get a lifeboat dropped! Someone’s alive down there.”

In the resulting chaos, Ravee was pushed
back, shoulders bumping into her arms with such force her skin would bruise.
She couldn’t see around the sailors to confirm for herself, and she knew better
than to try to fight it; Captain Wret was displeased enough already to have her
aboard his ship accompanying her family’s goods and hadn’t bothered to keep his
feelings quiet. Making her presence known could result in banishment to the
belowdecks sleeping quarters afforded to her.

A lifeboat splashed down into the sea
and a few of the sailors started up nervous muttering, but it wasn’t until
several moved to the rigging that Ravee felt confident enough to slip through
the small crowd to the railing again.

The sailors in the lifeboat were pulling
a body out of the water, and despite Wret’s earlier outcry, the man looked very
dead to Ravee. He didn’t so much as twitch as the sailors rowed toward the
ship’s side and prepared the dinghy to be lifted back up. When one of the crew
hauled the man over the rail and deposited him onto the deck, his head lolled
lifelessly to one side. Bits of his shirt had been eaten away by the flames and
a nasty-looking cut sliced across his forehead, the red of the still flowing
blood mingling with the sea water clinging to his skin. The sailors spent a
long moment staring at him in silence.

In the stillness, the air above the
ship’s deck shimmered as shivers ran the length of Ravee’s spine in a familiar
tremble. Bithlad, God of healing, appeared behind her with all four of his
hands ghosting over her biceps as he whispered, He’s alive. Help him.

Ravee darted in between the sailors,
nostrils burning with the lingering smell of the less fortunate passengers and
her feet propelled by the murmured command. She pressed her head to the injured
man’s chest, shoulders sagging at the muffled breath sounds. He was alive, but
only barely so.

“How did you know?” she asked Captain
Wret, who had advanced to hover uncomfortably over her shoulder.

“He was clinging to one of the bigger
pieces of the ship’s hull, and his position was too unnatural to have been the
result of post-death rigor.”

Ravee studied the man’s body. “I doubt
he would’ve lasted much longer out there in this state.”

“He may not be the only one. The
lifeboat’s already prepared—we should search the area for more survivors,” Wret
said, and he walked away to bark the orders at his crew.

Ravee stayed where she was kneeling with
one hand on the man’s shoulder, wishing she could will him to wake up. His eyes
stayed closed, though it was comforting to see his chest rise and fall, even if
the breaths were shallow. The lack of movement gave her a better opportunity to
check him for injuries. Though bleeding steadily, the cut on his head wasn’t deep,
but as she peeled back the soaking layer of clothing from his torso, she
exposed a fresh wave of crimson. Along his side darted a dark gash, and it
seemed his shirt had been the only thing holding what remained of the skin
together. Ravee clasped her hand against the wound in shock.

“Please!” she called, and one of the
crewmen thrust a rudimentary first aid kit into her open hand.

At least she had a needle and thread,
even without time to sterilize the metal. Ravee sent up a quick prayer to
Urutte, God of fate. Her family sold leather goods, and while she’d never had
to sew flesh before, her needlework skill ranked high. Her hands trembled so
badly she pricked her own finger trying to stitch the wound, and all she could
think of was how thankful she was the man remained unconscious. It would’ve
been agony if he’d been awake to feel the needle threading through his already
flayed skin.

She wanted to vomit, and somehow managed
to keep all the bile in until she’d finished. Running to the railing took two
heart-pounding moments, and she only barely made it in time to avoid her
breakfast splashing across the deck. Her cheeks warmed, but there wasn’t time
to be embarrassed; the lifeboat was hauling another body from the sea, and
Ravee wiped her forehead with her shirt sleeve before moving to the newest one.
Bithlad’s presence behind her faded, but she murmured a prayer the God might
watch over the rest of the poor souls fished out from the brine.

By the time the entire area had been
scoured, the sailors had found two more survivors, and Captain Wret called the
search off as the sun set bright behind the wreckage. Fewer pieces of the
unfortunate ship remained than had floated earlier along the whitecaps, and
even many of the dead had been pulled beneath by the undertow. Wret’s men found
four survivors total, including the first man: two more men and one woman. The
crew carried the limp bodies to the bulkhead closest to the rudder and did what
they could with the extra bedding supplies. But it wasn’t much, and as Ravee
stood looking over the remnants of the ship’s unfortunate passengers, she could
hardly breathe.

The man whose side she’d stitched closed
seemed to have stabilized, and the woman had surface burns seemingly unrelated
to her head trauma, but the last one, an older male whose arm had been severed
at the wrist, was unlikely to make it through the night even with the
tourniquet and linen wrapping they’d employed. Knowing the background of their
survivors was impossible. They could have been crew on the ship, servants
accompanying the envoys, or the dignitaries themselves, but until one of them
woke with a clear enough head, Wret’s Sheersilk was sailing blind.

An entire ship destroyed, with nothing
stolen and the passengers left to bloat.

“Where was their course?” Ravee asked as
Captain Wret’s heavy footsteps sounded down the wooden stairs behind her.

“This far south? Dusset, probably, the
same as us.”

Ravee swallowed hard. “You said earlier
we’d know who did this by studying their heading. What does this mean?”

Wret’s face, almost unrecognizable
without its usual sneer, was grim. “It’s possible someone has declared war on
us all.”

The man missing his hand let out a low
moan, and Ravee wrapped her arms around her chest to try to fight the sudden
chill sweeping through the bulkhead.

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Meet the Author

Kathryn Sommerlot is a coffee addict and craft beer enthusiast with a detailed zombie apocalypse plan. Originally from the cornfields of the American Midwest, she got her master’s degree and moved across the ocean to become a high school teacher in Japan. When she isn’t wrangling teenage brains into critical thinking, she spends her time writing, crocheting, and hiking with her husband. She enjoys LGBTQ fiction, but she is particularly interested in genre fiction that just happens to have LGBTQ protagonists.


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