Blog Tour + Giveaway: Pirate Master (Pirates of Port Royal #3) by Jules Radcliffe

Welcome author Jules Radcliffe and Other Worlds Ink's blog tour stop for Pirate Master (Pirates of Port Royal #3)! Learn more about the latest from the pirate series and enter in the $10 Amazon gift card giveaway!

Pirate Master - Jules Radcliffe

Jules Radcliffe has a new mm/gay pirate romance out: "Pirate Master." And there's a giveaway!

A strait-laced lieutenant. A free-living pirate. A hopeless love.

Quinn has never met a man quite like Perry. Stern and cold on the outside, burning up inside with secret passion. Yearning for a mastery only Quinn can satisfy. But Perry is no outcast—he’s a respectable officer in His Majesty’s navy. Reluctant to test his love for a pirate, Quinn baulks at asking him to give up everything he holds dear.

Though he has no regrets about their night of glorious sin, Perry sees no future with Quinn. Unlike the pirates of Port Royal, he isn’t free to love where he pleases. If word of his illicit affair came to the ears of Commodore Pobjoy, his career would be at an end. And the disgrace might mean he could never return home to England.

With war on the horizon, the Caribbean is a hotbed of intrigue. Quinn is betrayed and thrown into Monte Gris, an impregnable dungeon even the fearsome Brethren of the Coast aren’t strong enough to breach. Perry is stunned. Everything he valued is hollow and meaningless without his master.

Willing to risk all to get Quinn back, he refuses to abandon hope and plots a daring and dangerous rescue. But he can’t do it alone. He’ll need every scrap of ingenuity at his disposal to persuade the Black Wolf and the crew of the Audacious that his plan will work.

This time, it’s not just Perry’s career and reputation at stake. If he fails, men will die. And both he and Quinn will suffer a gruesome fate at the hands of a terrifying acolyte of the Spanish Inquisition.

About the Series:

Pirates of Port Royal banner

The Golden Age of piracy—a time of terror on the high seas, of romance and intrigue, of dastardly deeds.

In Port Royal, a brotherhood arises. A society of gallant buccaneers and rough marauders who owe allegiance to no one but themselves. Fiery men of fierce passions who take what they want and love where they choose.

Set sail for swashbuckling adventure with the Pirates of Port Royal!

Universal Buy Link | Smashwords


Jules is giving away a $10 Amazon gift card with this tour – for a chance to win, enter via Rafflecopter:

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Pirate Master meme

The faint chime of watch bells sounded. Perry, still nine parts asleep, automatically counted two and one.

Not yet time to rise.

He subsided back into his lover’s embrace. Recalling whose arms were wrapped strong around him, whose heart beat slow and steady under his ear, Perry smiled drowsily.

Sometime later, he woke alone, the bed beside him cold. Disappointment gripped him. But when he lifted his head, he saw a pair of boots, the tops sagging to one side, and a shirt and breeches hanging from a hook. Quinn’s clothing from last night. Wherever the master had gone, he could not be far.

Perry stretched out stiff arms and legs, and rubbed his tender arse in idle memory. Thinking of last night brought a grin to his face. He climbed from his bunk and stuck his head through the stern window.

The harbour was smooth and still, and other ships and boats were faint silhouettes in the predawn gloom. With only a handful of men aboard and the watch changeover at least an hour away, he took the chance no one would be wandering about this part of the ship. Naked but for his shirt, he dashed to the wardroom quarter gallery.

He peered into the little mirror nailed to the bulkhead. If he stood in the right spot, he could see his whole face in its burnished surface. He was surprised to see looked much the same. He touched the scar under his eye and traced down to his lips with light fingers. Mayhap the customary tightness in his face was eased.

The crew would tease him mercilessly for last night, but it was a price he was willing to pay. He wanted more of Quinn’s kisses, both the rough and the gentle. Never had he dreamed they would be lovers, not after so many months of crossing swords. It had taken him so long to come to his senses. Too long, he thought wistfully. Because one way or another, his time with the Brethren of the Coast was about to come to an end.

The news flying around the port came to his ears as soon as he set foot on land yesterday. Governor Modyford, newly appointed and on his way from Barbadoes, intended to honour King Charles’ new accord with Madrid. The market was abuzz with speculation. If the governor revoked the marques against the Spanish, would the Brethren ships change allegiance? Would they go to the French colonies of Saint-Domingue and Tortuga, or even to the Dutch in Curacao?

The Audacious might not abandon Port Royal, but Perry was still a lieutenant in the navy. He would still have to leave. Making peace with Spain was a clear sign that the English crown had made its decision—war with the Dutch Republic. Sooner or later Perry would be recalled, returned to England to defend home shores. Belike he would be given a command. Not even Commodore Pobjoy’s spite would stop him being promoted in a time of war.

For years, Perry had dreamed of being a captain. For months, he had pined to return home. At last, he was on the verge of having his ambitions granted. He sighed at the irony.

Because last night, Quinn made himself Perry’s master, and everything had changed.

The ambitions he had once aspired to, the blocks on which he had built his lonely existence, the things he had long accepted as his lot in life, all had collapsed like a house upon the sand. Now his greatest wish was to stay in the Caribbean and serve aboard the Audacious. Even if he never rose higher than second mate, he preferred that to being half a world away from Gabriel Quinn.

But his native caution warned him to be wary. Not to put too much stock into Quinn’s sweet words of possession.Their shared passion might be as ephemeral as a candle: burning bright whilst the night lasts, naught but a puddle of cold wax in the light of day.

After all, the sailing master could do better than a charmless nobody. Perry stared at himself in the mirror. Staring back was a man all of drabness: mousy hair, colourless eyes, bland features. And there were deeper things amiss with him, things beyond the power of a mirror to show: tongue-tied in company, lacking any gentlemanly refinement, ignorant and uneducated. What could a man like Quinn see in him?

A complete mess is what he’ll see if I don’t clean up. Perry smoothed down his wayward curls in an attempt to look less freshly fucked. He grimaced, an expression that landed somewhere between smug and rueful. Even if Quinn did not fuck him into disarray again this morning, erelong every pirate in Port Royal would know the sailing master of the Defiant had tamed the uptight Mr Perry-grin.

He filled the basin and stripped, splashing his body and dousing his head. He scrubbed vigorously, feeling an energising tingle all over. Some parts of himself, however, were very tender, and he dabbed the cold water carefully on those raw places.

The door creaked. Snatching up his shirt, he pivoted to put his back to the wall. Quinn stood in the doorway clad only in his drawers, his magnificent chest on display. Perry’s breath caught, and he was tempted to drop to his knees. Instead, he dropped his shirt. Quinn knew his scars; last night he had traced every one with tongue and finger. Perry felt no shame before him.

At this show of trust, he was rewarded with the master’s sensuous smile. He returned the smile shyly and turned back to the basin. He sluiced his torso, washing off the remnants of soap. A new excitement buzzed in his veins when he heard Quinn’s breeches drop to the floor. Arms slid about his waist, and his heartbeat kicked up. A naked chest pressed to his damp back, kisses marked his shoulders. A firm prick prodded his bare buttocks.

“’Tis dangerous for a pretty boy to be wandering naked around a pirate ship,” murmured Quinn into his neck, kissing and nibbling.

Tilting his head, Perry leaned back into the embrace. “Am I in danger, Master Quinn? Surely you’d not take advantage of a defenceless sailor lad.”

Quinn bent him forward. Hands on the bulkhead, he pushed back as a hard length slid between his thighs.

“Only when he’s as saucy a piece as you, Mr Peregrine. I’ll be taking advantage of you at every opportunity.”

Author Bio

From the time I learned to talk, I told stories. From the time I learned my letters, I wrote the stories down!

I love vintage items, from advertising posters and pulp fiction covers to Art Deco furniture to Victorian sex toys.

I’ve lived, studied, and worked in several countries, but I always return to Australia. My home is near the beach in Queensland, where I live with my unconventional family. But I miss the cold winters and often dream of sitting by a blazing fire on a snowy night.

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Tag Team Review: High Heat (Hotshots #2) by Annabeth Albert

Annabeth Albert’s Hotshots series continues—the emotions and intensity of Chicago Fire with the raw, natural elements of Man vs. Wild.

Smoke jumping is Garrick Nelson’s life. Nothing, not severe injuries nor the brutal physical therapy that follows, is going to stop him from getting back with his crew. But when a lost dog shows up on his front porch, he can’t turn her away, and he can’t take care of her on his own. Thankfully, help comes in the form of his new sexy, dog-loving neighbor. As they work together, trying to re-home their little princess, Garrick can’t resist his growing attraction for the other man, even though he knows this guy isn’t the staying type.

Rain Fisher doesn’t take anything too seriously. He dances through life, one adventure at a time, never settling in one place for too long. When his hot, conveniently buff, neighbor shows up on his doorstep, dog in tow, Rain’s determined to not just save the adorable puppy, but her reluctant owner as well. He never expects their flirtation might tempt him into stay put once and for all...

3.25 hearts average

R *A Reader Obsessed* - 3.5 Hearts

This was a very nice age gap story, full of hurt/comfort and generously brimming with slow burn UST and sexual healing.

It’s recommended to read this in series order since last we saw Garrick in Burn Zone, he had suffered some serious injuries which were far worse than feared. Never mind two broken legs but add a spinal injury as well, and Garrick has been struggling (but mostly winning) at beating the odds, determined to regain full mobile function so he can get back to fighting fires as a smokejumper. When he spies a skittish stray dog, he knows he can’t fully care for it and enlists the help of his neighbor’s grandson.

Rain is visiting for the summer, and he wants to work the front lines of a fire crew. Being an animal lover, Rain sees a golden opportunity and asks, in exchange for assisting with the sweet orphaned dog, for Garrick to train and get him in shape to become a firefighter. As these two develop a routine and then a friendship, the strong attraction between them can’t be denied.

So what’s an older pansexual, known to be quite the player prior to his accident, gonna do with a free spirited young man who’s always ready to move onto the next adventure? You guessed right.

Of course, as feelings inevitably develop, will either be able to trust in their own wants and needs as well as have faith the other will commit for the long haul? Will personal life expectations stymie current happiness, impeding the chance to be fulfilled now despite not yet achieving well intentioned goals??

Thankfully, there was minimal protracted angst unlike the first book. Garrick has pretty great optimism and drive in the face of so many obstacles, and Rain, despite his youthfulness, has tremendous empathy, and grace.

Overall, I enjoyed this. I can’t quite exactly pin down why this wasn’t a 4 star read for me. Assuredly, Albert always writes well - there's no doubt about that as she delivers alternating pov’s, with an overabundance of smex that is protracted, varied, and explicit (ie. manties, toys, exhibitionism, topping from the bottom) for those who need to know. Again, the wild fire scenarios were consistently well researched and lent a good amount of suspense. So, regardless of how I rated this, if you love the above mentioned tropes and have a soft spot for uniformed men in dangerous situations, then this should reliably satisfy! Enjoy!

Adam - 3 Hearts

Rain and Garrick have little in common. Except for two things - the injured dog they suddenly become responsible for, and an undeniable mutual attraction.

Starting off as strangers, they quickly bond over taking care of Cookie, the playful stray that showed up on Garrick’s doorstep and decided to stay.

And after some initial hesitation, both men are more than happy to explore what’s between them.

I liked how easy Garrick and Rain were with the physical part. Yes, Garrick does have misgivings about the age gap, but they’re both on board to have some fun. And they definitely brought the heat!

Bonus points for the easy acceptance of Rain’s femme side!

But things are far from simple. Garrick struggles with injuries he sustained on the job, and Rain can’t stay in one place too long before the itch to move on hits. And both of those things affect their ability to build a meaningful relationship.

I really appreciated that Annabeth Albert didn’t gloss over or minimize what Garrick’s injuries meant. There’s no miraculous recovery or easy fix to get back to “normal”.

However, it’s not an easy thing for Garrick to accept. His refusal to face facts was a bit annoying at times, but it was understandable - holding on to that hope of getting back to the life he used to have was the motivation Garrick needed to push through the gruelling recovery.

However, more than Garrick’s stubbornness, it’s Rain’s wandering way of life that puts an expiry date on what the two men have between them.

But the heart doesn’t stick to timelines! Through walks with Cookie, cozy dinners at home, and nights spent in each other’s arms (and eventually even shared days at work), the Rain and Garrick’s lives slowly become entwined.

The way Rain and Garrick fell in love and built a shared home without even realizing it was absolutely adorable. It was easy to root for them, and I really wanted them to make things work!

It takes a hard reckoning for Garrick and Rain to finally get their heads on straight, but their HEA made the uneasy road worth it!

Overall, I enjoyed ‘High Heat’ a lot more than I did book 1 in this series, and I’m invested enough to see what book 3 has to offer!

Review Tour: Spell of the Werewolf by J.R. Loveless

J.R. Loveless and Gay Book Promotions visit to promote paranormal romance, Spell of the Werewolf! Check it out today!

Book Title: Spell of the Werewolf
Author: J.R. Loveless
Publisher: Independently Published
Cover Artist: Doelle Designs
Release Date: May 29, 2020
Genre/s: Paranormal Gay Romance
Trope/s: Enemies to Lovers
Themes: Self-forgiveness, redemption, learning to accept the things you can’t change.
Heat Rating: 3 flames
Length: 124 pages / 34 000 words
It is a standalone story.
Buy Links - Available on Kindle Unlimited
Moonrise will never be the same.
A werewolf with a death wish bargains with a hunter for salvation.
Justin has spent several lifetimes atoning for the violent nature of his curse. A mindless angry beast several nights a month, he carries a burden of blood for past sins. Tired and lonely, he’s seeking an end to his torment.
Vincent bears the curse, though only by half. A hybrid, he hunts those of his brethren who let their monsters take over. And he’s hell bent on destroying them all, until he's forced to deal with one who’s begging for peace. Except deliverance wears many guises.
Their desire for redemption erupts in a fiery passion drawing them closer together.


“Because you are so closed-minded you can’t see anything but what you want to see. Justin is a good person. He didn’t ask to be what he is. We can still find the one who bit him!”

Vincent laughed, a clear cynical sound behind it. “If he can find the one who made him. The number of werewolves grows every day. It’ll be impossible. So, no. He has to die!”

Justin had heard enough. He stepped forward and called, “Vincent.”

Vincent whipped his head around and smiled, harsh and bitter. “So you decided to show. This human means that much to you?”

“Let her go,” Justin snarled, ignoring Vincent’s question. “Then we can fight.”

“I’ll let her go… once you’re dead.”

Justin pulled the sword from his back and moved into the light shining from the fountain. “Let’s do it then.”

“Ah, so the little boy went and got himself a big knife, did he? Do you even know how to use it?” Vincent taunted him.

He did an expert twist of his wrist, sending the blade of the sword spinning around him. Vincent’s eyes narrowed just before he attacked. Their blades clashed against one another as they fought; their movements almost an elegant dance between them. “So you’ve had some training, kid? It’s not enough to save your ass.”

Vincent thrust at him, but Justin cut up with his sword and sent Vincent’s flying into the air. The blade clattered against the ground, landing a few feet from them. Before Justin could strike at him again, Vincent leapt backward, grabbed his sword, and flipped, landing several yards away from Justin. Justin knew it wasn’t going to be an easy fight.

Circling one another, their swords glinted in the moonlight. Justin narrowed his eyes while he waited for Vincent to make the first move. Too impatient to wait for Justin to make his move, Vincent went to strike once more. Justin blocked the blow and attempted a return hit, but Vincent was too fast, crashing his sword into Justin’s. Swords crossed at the blade, Justin thrust upward and managed to nick Vincent’s cheek. Vincent cursed, jumped backward, and touched the small cut. His fingers were dark with a smear of blood when he dropped his hand from his cheek. Justin smiled mockingly at him. “Aw. Did I cut you?”

Vincent curled his lip into a snarl and rushed toward Justin with his sword raised. The fight continued for some time, and eventually they stood facing one another, panting for breath. Justin could see Vincent’s anger reflecting outward from bright violet eyes. He’d never met another person with eyes the shade of amethyst. If he were honest with himself, Vincent would have caught his attention many years ago. The broad shoulders, gorgeous white hair, high cheekbones, and obvious strength rang all of Justin’s bells. Of course, the idea of Vincent ever having an interest in him caused Justin to snort.

The sound set off the next chain of events, flaming Vincent’s rage even higher, or so Justin figured when Vincent struck harder than before. They circled each other. Vincent took the next chance to slice at Justin, but Justin grabbed his wrist and wrenched him forward and over his shoulder, sending Vincent’s sword across the ground to Kara’s feet with a clatter of metal on the cement. Justin immediately pinned Vincent underneath him. Breathing heavily, Justin sat there atop Vincent for several seconds without a word, trying to catch his breath.

“I don’t want to kill you,” Justin rasped.

Vincent looked up at him in skepticism. “Why?” Vincent demanded.

Justin retained eye contact with him. “Because I don’t like hurting someone who hates those monsters just as much as I do.”

Vincent seemed to contemplate Justin’s words, and then something seemed to click inside Vincent. The fight left his body. Justin became aware of Vincent’s hard body against his, their suggestive position, and what it could have meant in another world. Flushing, Justin stood and held his hand out to Vincent, who studied him for several heartbeats before allowing Justin’s help up from the ground. Justin rushed to Kara’s side to untie her hands and massaged them to bring the feeling back into them.

“Don’t think this means I trust you, wolf,” Vincent growled as he retrieved his sword. “If you even so much as look at a human in the wrong way, I won’t hesitate to kill you.”

The sound of his sword bottoming out in its sheath punctuated his promise.

Kara glanced at him and snapped, “How do we know we can trust you?”

“You don’t.” Without another word, he strode off into the darkness.

About the Author
J.R. Loveless began her adventure in writing romance at the young age of twelve. Her foray into creating her own worlds and telling her characters’ life stories was triggered by her own love of reading. She currently resides in South Florida with her dog and two cats, volunteers for an animal rescue in her spare time, and works as a manager for a financial lending institute. Someday she hopes to begin writing as a full-time career and bringing more of her ideas to life.
Her journey into gay romance began in 2005 when she began posting her original fiction on a forum for feedback and readers’ pleasure. In 2010, a good friend urged her to submit to a publishing company, and the day she received the acceptance and contract was the best day of her life. Since then, she has been noted to be one of the most purchased audio books after Fifty Shades of Grey on, received best gay romantic fiction for Touch Me Gently in the 2011 TLA Gaybies, and even received an award for Chasing Seth in 2012.
J.R. adores her fans and loves hearing from them.

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Release Blast + Giveaway: What's in a Name? (Foothills Pride #1) by Pat Henshaw

Don't miss today release blast from author Pat Henshaw and Other Worlds Ink for re-release, What's in a Name? (Foothills Pride #1) now from JMS Books! Learn more about the contemporary romance and enter in the $10 Amazon gift card giveaway!

What's in a Name? - Pat Henshaw

Pat Henshaw has a new Contemporary MM romance out, book one in the Foothills pride series: "What's In a Name?"

On his 30th birthday, barista Jimmy Patterson decides to get rip-roaring drunk after his roommate-boyfriend abandons him at a bar in the tiny California foothills town of Stone Acres where they have relocated from San Francisco. Jimmy is immediately rescued by the burly owner of Stonewall Saloon, who has had his eye on Jimmy since the first time he came in months before.

Jimmy’s fine with being saved but wants to know the bartender’s real name since the guy has worn name tags with an assortment of names every time Jimmy has spoken to him. After Jimmy nicknames him Guy, the bartender decides to turn guessing his first name into a game, giving Jimmy a guess a day for a week and promising to wine and dine him during that time. If Jimmy’s guess is wrong, he owes Guy a zing-zow, knock-your-socks-off kiss. Jimmy agrees since this sounds like a slam-dunk, win-win deal.

While he searches for cringe-worthy given names, Jimmy is distracted by the destruction of his shopping mall coffee shop. He is also beset by the town council that doesn’t want him to buy an historic bank building in Old Town Stone Acres to set up another coffee shop. The celestial high of being romanced by Guy and the abyss of business worries don’t seem like the road to happily ever after. However, Jimmy and Guy might be in for a big surprise.

About the Series:

After housing prices rose to unbelievable heights in the San Francisco metropolitan area at the turn of the current century, gay men headed for the Sierra Nevada foothills. The historic former mining town of Stone Acres with its gay sheriff seemed like the perfect place to settle. But the conservative white descendants of the early town fathers seem ready to fight back. Is a move East the solution the gay men are looking for?

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What's in a Name? meem

Is there anything worse than waking up with a really bad hangover? The answer, I found out that morning, was a solid yes. My particular hell was waking up in a strange bed with someone lying next to me, who’s snoring away so loud I was surprised the neighbors weren’t complaining. What made it all worse was I had to pee really, really bad, and I didn’t have a clue where the bathroom was.

I lay on my back taking stock. I was naked, covered with a beige sheet and navy blue comforter in a huge bed, my head taking up most of the California king space.

Where the heck was I? I had no clue. I really didn’t care because I was hurting so badly it’d probably be better if whoever lived here would just shoot me and put me out of my misery.

Still, I had to pee, so I slowly swam to the edge of the bed, trying not to move any body parts. Which was a complete failure. I ached all over. Had someone beaten me up?

As I reached the side of the bed and peered over the edge at the floor a few stories below, I groaned. Where was the ladder to climb down to the carpeting? I clutched the edge of the bed with one hand and rolled to my side.

“Hey, where you going, Jimmy?”

I hadn’t noticed the snoring had stopped until the voice boomed in my ear.

Carefully, I turned my head.

The Stonewall Saloon bartender with the nametag of Alex last night was peering at me over his chest of hair. His eyes were squinted. A slender beam of light from a gap in the curtains was aimed at his face.

“Bathroom. Pee.” I sighed. “Gotta pee.”

“Right.” He groaned and caused a tidal wave on the mattress even though it wasn’t a water bed.

My body reacted with the seismic quake and my stomach protested. I swallowed back the rising pain even though I knew my gut had nothing left in it to come up.

I felt large hands under my arms.

“Right this way.”

His voice clanged from one of my ears to the other.

He turned me, and we marched to a doorway and into the bathroom. Carefully, he lowered my nude body down onto the toilet.

“No spilling.” He turned away and walked into the hallway.

I pushed my limp dick between my legs and did my thing, not spilling a drop on the bathroom floor or the toilet seat. Then I rested my arm on the sink counter next to the toilet and put my head on my arm.

“Nope, no snoozing here.” His voice boomed. “C’mon. It’s way too early for this shit.”

Again arms lifted me. After I balanced myself, one hand left. The toilet roiled. The hand returned.

“We’d usually wash our hands,” the voice murmured through me, “but I think we’ll skip it this time.”

Back in bed, covered, dry mouthed, I decided it was again nap time.

THE NEXT time I woke, I was awake. Awake awake. Oh my God, where in the hell am I awake. Shit, I’m in big trouble awake. Where are my clothes awake.

I took inventory. No pain in the ass. That was a relief. No smell of semen. Check, and another sigh. No aches and pains that weren’t directly related to way, way too many shots and beers, check. No clothes. No clothes?

I was okay, pretty much, other than naked, hungover, and in a stranger’s house.

Damn it, I was thirty years old, naked in a stranger’s bed, with only a hazy recollection of what happened after my now former boyfriend Alex stranded me at the Stone Acres’ historic saloon.

I had a hazy memory of the bartender helping me to the bar bathroom the night before and this morning. So was I at his house? If so, how’d I get here?

“Um,” I tried to say, but my mouth was glued shut.

I reached over to feel the side of the bed. Still there. Then I reached over to the other side. Nothing. No one.

Okay, I was alone in a strange bed as my memory filtered back online. I had been an ass, and the bartender with the faux name of Alex had taken care of me anyway. I owed him my firstborn child, should such a thing happen to me now in my boyfriendless state. I owed Alex the bartender everything, including my pride and gratitude.

What I really needed to do was apologize for causing him so much trouble.

Slowly I sat up and then stood. My knees protested, so I sat back down and then tried again. This time my knees cooperated.

Author Bio

Pat henshaw logo

Pat Henshaw, born and raised in Nebraska, has lived on the U. S.’s three coasts, in Texas, Virginia, and now California. Before she retired, she held a number of jobs, including theatrical costumer, newspaper features reporter and movie reviewer, librarian, junior college English instructor, and publicist. She also loves to travel and has visited Canada, Mexico, Europe, Egypt, and Central America as well as almost all fifty U. S. states.

Now retired, she enjoys reading and writing as well as visiting her older daughter, son-in-law, and grandchildren on the East Coast and playing havoc with her younger daughter’s life in NorCal.

She thanks you for reading her books and wants you to remember that Every day is a good day for romance.

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Release Blitz + Giveaway: The Painted Phoenix by Sarah Kay Moll

Join author Sarah Kay Moll & IndiGo Marketing in celebrating the release of The Painted Phoenix. Find out more about this contemporary thriller, read an excerpt & enter in the $10 NineStar Press credit giveaway too!

Title: The Painted Phoenix
Author: Sarah Kay Moll
Publisher: NineStar Press
Release Date: July 20, 2020
Heat Level: 2 - Fade to Black Sex
Pairing: Male/Male
Length: 75200
Genre: Contemporary thriller, LGBTQIA+, contemporary, literary/genre fiction, criminals, crime syndicate, children, family drama, pansexual, polyamorous, open relationship, mental illness, artist, lawyer, tattoos, dark, depression, PTSD, HEA

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With paintbrush in hand, Nate Redfield
takes a city full of ugliness and makes it beautiful. His quiet, empty life is
a refuge from a harrowing past, and although he has nothing to love, he also
has nothing to lose. Standing up to the syndicate is a good way to end up with
a hole in his head, but Nate is not afraid to die.

For once in his life, he’s going to do
the right thing, even if it kills him. And it probably will.

But the most dangerous criminal in the
city—a man whose sadism and ruthlessness have become local legend—decides to
spare Nate’s life. On the streets, Ras is a cold-blooded syndicate enforcer,
and makes no apologies for it. But he pursues Nate with a tenderness like
nothing Nate has ever known. While no amount of violence could compel Nate to
betray his moral compass, love leaves him defenseless.

The vibrant portraits Nate paints tell
every story but his own: a lost little girl who thinks of him as a father, a
lawyer who tempers justice with compassion, a crime boss and an art thief, and
the killer who stole his heart. Ras offers him the love he’s yearned for all
his life, if only he is willing to close his eyes to the violent truth. But his
story is not one of compromise. It is the story of an indomitable spirit,
rising like fire from the ashes of his past.


The Painted Phoenix
Sarah Kay Moll © 2020
All Rights Reserved

The Cat Scratch Club. 2005
Ink on paper

Nate Redfield knows he’s going to die.
He’s known it for a while now—woken up with it, gone to sleep with it, held it
near to his heart. It’s not suicide, not exactly, but it might as well be. He
might as well be putting a gun in his own mouth when he pushes open the doors to
the Cat Scratch, the seedy strip club where Alan DiCiccio conducts his

He walks past the stage, strippers
swaying, sliding their G-strings down their long, supple legs so a handful of
men can spend their Friday afternoon appreciating the view. The bouncer at the
back of the room gives him a nod and steps aside so he can push open an
unlabeled black door and walk into what serves as DiCiccio’s office. Behind
him, the bouncer’s heavy footsteps follow, and then the door clicks shut.

“You’re late,” DiCiccio says. “I hope
you’s got some extra cash to make up for it.”

DiCiccio looks Mafia, through and
through, with a New York accent and an unnecessarily formal black suit. But
he’s not Mafia. There is no Mafia in this city, only the syndicate with a monopoly
on crime and the muscle to keep it that way. DiCiccio works for them, so Nate
does too. Or he did, anyway. Until today.

“I quit,” he says, and with those two
words, his heart begins thumping, fast and heavy like someone’s banging the
hell out of a snare drum in his chest.

“You quit?” DiCiccio leans forward over
the scattered cash and bags of white powder on his desk to stare at Nate. “You
fucking quit?” He looks up at the bouncer. “Bobby, am I hearing this shit

“He said he quit,” Bobby responds. He’s
a tall, beefy guy with stubble and a couple of big gold rings Nate imagines he
wears just for the scars they leave on his victims. “You heard him right.”

“Okay…” DiCiccio draws the word out.
“I’ll humor you, Nate. Why the fuck do you think you’re going to quit sellin‘
for me?”

Nate is silent for a moment, gathering
his courage. “’Cause it’s wrong,” he says, standing still to give away no hint
of the fear scrabbling inside him like some desperate animal.

“Oh, it’s wrong, is it?” DiCiccio puts
his hands behind his head, leaning back in his chair. “You think it’s wrong,

“No, boss. I think it’s his fucking

“That’s right. It’s your fuckin’ job.
Which I gave to you as an especial favor to my friend Troy. And now you come
and you throw it in my face.”

“You told me the pills wouldn’t hurt
anybody,” Nate says. “You said they’re not real drugs, and it’s not gonna hurt
anybody that bad. But that’s not true. And I’m not gonna do it anymore.”

He thinks of the girl who used to buy
from him every Tuesday, dark eyes, a bitter laugh. She was found dead from an
overdose just a few days ago, and since then, Nate has been building his
courage for this confrontation. He’s not going to walk away alive. But better
him than another person like her.

“Nate, look. I like you; I really do.
You’re a nice guy. But you come here and you tell me you’re not gonna do your
job, and you really leave me no choice. You get what I’m sayin’?”

“Yeah.” Nate’s high voice comes out
rough and raspy.

“No.” DiCiccio shakes his head. “I don’t
think you do. What I’m sayin’ is that you get out there and you do your fuckin’
job, or Bobby here’s gonna have to fuck you up.” He puts his elbows on the desk
and leans forward. “You understand that?”

Nate looks at the glinting rings on
Bobby’s right hand, so thick and heavy he might as well be wearing a pair of
brass knuckles. Nate’s not afraid to die, but he wishes it wasn’t going to hurt
so much.

“I get it,” he says.

DiCiccio shakes his head sadly and
glances at Bobby, jerking his head at Nate.

Bobby nods, solemnly, like they’re
making a bank transaction—not playing around with someone’s life—and that just
pisses Nate off.

A hot wave of anger crashes over him,
and as Bobby approaches, he lunges forward, driving his fist into Bobby’s gut
and then bringing a knee up hard between the hitman’s legs. Bobby makes a
sharp, wounded noise, going to his knees, and Nate drives a hard kick to his
ribs. He’s been in enough fights to know how to move and how to make sure the
other guy isn’t getting back up anytime soon.

“That’s enough.”

It’s not DiCiccio speaking, but a low
melodic voice Nate’s never heard before. He steps back from the groaning thug
on the floor and looks up. A man stands in the doorway, his messy dark hair
falling over his forehead, and he smiles at Nate. It’s the damnedest thing,
this smile. It doesn’t fit the situation at all. It’s the kind of friendly,
amused smile he might give Nate if they were walking their dogs in the park and
the leashes got tangled together. It’s strange and surreal and almost familiar.
And the adrenaline is stretching seconds into minutes into hours and
highlighting every detail of this man who—Nate somehow just knows, from his
arrogant stance and the tilt of his chin—now controls every aspect of the

“Who would like to explain to me what’s
going on?” the man asks.

“Jesus fuckin’ Christ, Ras,” DiCiccio
says. “Make a little noise next time you walk in a room, you sneaky bastard.”

And Nate freezes, his earlier fancies
iced over with fear because this is Ras, second in command to the syndicate
boss and meanest motherfucker in the whole city. He’s heard a lot of talk about
Ras—anyone who’s spent time in the criminal underworld has. The gossip rags
love him. Their stories are sensational and exaggerated, but the rumors Nate
hears on the streets—tales of sadism and deadly skill—make him think there is
some truth to them.

“DiCiccio.” Ras doesn’t sound happy to
see the drug dealer. “What’s all this?”

“Motherfucker attacked me,” Bobby moans
as he picks himself up off the floor. “The little faggot fights dirty.”

Nate winces. He’s used to that word, but
it still wounds more deeply than any other.

“He attacked you, did he?” Ras sounds

“He thinks he can quit,” DiCiccio says.
“He comes in here givin’ me some bullshit story ‘bout how what we do is wrong,
and he’s just not gonna do it anymore.”

The corner of Ras’s mouth twists upward,
and he glances at Nate. “What we do is wrong. I can hardly fault him for being

“I’m not doin’ it anymore.” Nate’s mouth
feels dry and sandpapery as he waits for Ras’s response.

“Great for you, you’re a big fuckin’
hero.” DiCiccio rolls his eyes. “You got any last words, big fuckin’ hero?”

“Fuck you,” Nate growls, anger coursing
through him so hot he doesn’t feel the fear anymore—it’s burned away like a
paper shell around something hard and relentless as iron.

DiCiccio raises his gun in one sallow
hand. The bang of the gunshot is so loud Nate can almost feel it, a tangible
burst of pressure. But nothing hurts. Nate looks down and is startled to find
himself intact.

DiCiccio drops the gun and stumbles
forward, collapsing on the carpet. A pool of red seeps out from under his head,
a bright spatter painting the far wall.

Ras has holstered his gun, but clearly,
he can draw so fast he may as well still be holding it. He turns to Bobby and
raises an eyebrow.

“I swear to god I had nothing to do with
it,” Bobby says, backing away as Ras approaches. “DiCiccio was the one who stole
from you. I told him not to. I told him!”

Nate’s not stupid, he knows this isn’t
going anywhere good. So while Ras pulls a little knife from his pocket, he
darts out the door, sprinting for the parking lot. He draws in a shaky breath
when the sunshine falls over him, so bright and carefree, but he can’t spare
even a trembling second because he’s got to fucking run for it. He zigzags
through alleyways, ducks into stores, and indiscriminately boards busses and
trains, traveling across town in the wrong direction for a couple of hours
before he feels safe enough to get on a train headed home.

He’s not an idiot—he knows that in this
town, no one can watch a syndicate enforcer do a hit and walk away. He’s
probably only delaying the inevitable, and as he watches the shining city
outside the windows of the train, he wonders if he’s ever going to see it
again. It seems fraught with fragile beauty, the blinding splashes of light
reflected in storefront windows and the metal of the cars streaking by on the

In his entire life, he has only ever had
one true love, so it makes sense that as he nears the edge of his lifetime, he
has only one regret. He left her behind because he had no other choice, but he
could no more stop loving her than he could stop his blood from flowing through
his veins. And even when his heart has beat its final rhythm, that love will
endure. He knows that much is true, even as he believes in nothing else.


NineStar Press | Amazon

Meet the Author

Sarah Kay Moll is a wordsmith and an amateur homemaker. She’s good with metaphors and bad with coffee stains, both of which result from a writing habit she hasn’t been able to quit. She lives a mostly solitary life, and as a result, might never say the right thing at parties. She’s passionate about books, and has about five hundred on her to-read pile. When she does go out, it’s probably to the library, the theater, or the non-profit where she volunteers.

Sarah lives in a beautiful corner of western Oregon where the trees are still changing color at the end of November and the mornings are misty and mysterious. She spends her free time playing video games and catering to her cat’s every whim.

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Giveaway + Release Blitz: The Man from Milwaukee by Rick R. Reed

Celebrate the release of The Man from Milwaukee with author Rick R. Reed & IndiGo Promotions. Find out more about this horror/thriller, watch a video & enter the giveaway for a $10 NineStar Press gift code too! 

Title: The Man from Milwaukee
Author: Rick R. Reed
Publisher: NineStar Press
Release Date: July 20, 2020
Heat Level: 3 - Some Sex
Pairing: Male/Male
Length: 64500
Genre: Horror/Thriller, LGBTQIA+, horror, mental illness, grief, virgin/first time, Jeffrey Dahmer, HIV, AIDS

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It’s the summer of 1991 and serial
killer Jeffrey Dahmer has been arrested. His monstrous crimes inspire dread
around the globe. But not so much for Emory Hughes, a closeted young man in
Chicago who sees in the cannibal killer a kindred spirit, someone who fights
against the dark side of his own nature, as Emory does. He reaches out to
Dahmer in prison via letters.

The letters become an escape—from
Emory’s mother dying from AIDS, from his uncaring sister, from his dead-end job
in downtown Chicago, but most of all, from his own self-hatred.

Dahmer isn’t Emory’s only lifeline as he
begins a tentative relationship with Tyler Kay. He falls for him and, just like
Dahmer, wonders how he can get Tyler to stay. Emory’s desire for love leads him
to confront his own grip on reality. For Tyler, the threat of the mild-mannered
Emory seems inconsequential, but not taking the threat seriously is at his own

Can Emory discover the roots of his own
madness before it’s too late and he finds himself following in the footsteps of
the man from Milwaukee?


The Man from Milwaukee
Rick R. Reed © 2020
All Rights Reserved


Dahmer appeared before you in a five
o’clock edition, stubbled dumb countenance surrounded by the crispness of a
white shirt with pale-blue stripes. His handsome face, multiplied by the
presses, swept down upon Chicago and all of America, to the depths of the most
out-of-the-way villages, in castles and cabins, revealing to the mirthless
bourgeois that their daily lives are grazed by enchanting murderers, cunningly
elevated to their sleep, which they will cross by some back stairway that has
abetted them by not creaking. Beneath his picture burst the dawn of his crimes:
details too horrific to be credible in a novel of horror: tales of cannibalism,
sexual perversity, and agonizing death, all bespeaking his secret history and preparing
his future glory.

Emory Hughes stared at the picture of
Jeffrey Dahmer on the front page of the Chicago Tribune, the man in Milwaukee
who had confessed to “drugging and strangling his victims, then dismembering
them.” The picture was grainy, showing a young man who looked timid and tired.
Not someone you’d expect to be a serial killer.

Emory took in the details as the L swung
around a bend: lank pale hair, looking dirty and as if someone had taken a comb
to it just before the photograph was snapped, heavy eyelids, the smirk, as if
Dahmer had no understanding of what was happening to him, blinded suddenly by
notoriety, the stubble, at least three days old, growing on his face. Emory
even noticed the way a small curl topped his shirt’s white collar. The L
twisted, suddenly a ride from Six Flags, and Emory almost dropped the
newspaper, clutching for the metal pole to keep from falling. The train’s
dizzying pace, taking the curves too fast, made Emory’s stomach churn.

Or was it the details of the story that
were making the nausea in him grow and blossom? Details like how Dahmer had
boiled some of his victim’s skulls to preserve them…

Milwaukee Medical Examiner Jeffrey
Jentzen said authorities had recovered five full skeletons from Dahmer’s
apartment and partial remains of six others. They’d discovered four severed
heads in his kitchen. Emory read that the killer had also admitted to

“Sick, huh?” Emory jumped at a voice
behind him. A pudgy man, face florid with sweat and heat, pressed close. The
bulge of the man’s stomach nudged against the small of Emory’s back.

Emory hugged the newspaper to his chest,
wishing there was somewhere else he could go. But the L at rush hour was
crowded with commuters, moist from the heat, wearing identical expressions of

“Hard to believe some of the things that
guy did.” The man continued, undaunted by Emory’s refusal to meet his eyes.
“He’s a queer. They all want to give the queers special privileges and act like
there’s nothing wrong with them. And then look what happens.” The guy snorted.
“Nothing wrong with them…right.”

Emory wished the man would move away.
The sour odor of the man’s sweat mingled with cheap cologne, something like Old

Hadn’t his father worn Old Spice?

Emory gripped the pole until his
knuckles whitened, staring down at the newspaper he had found abandoned on a
seat at the Belmont stop. Maybe if he sees I’m reading, he’ll shut up. Every
time the man spoke, his accent broad and twangy, his voice nasal, Emory felt
like someone was raking a metal-toothed comb across the soft pink surface of
his brain.

Neighbors had complained off and on for
more than a year about a putrid stench from Dahmer’s apartment. He told them
his refrigerator was broken and meat in it had spoiled. Others reported hearing
hand and power saws buzzing in the apartment at odd hours.

“Yeah, this guy Dahmer… You hear what he
did to some of these guys?”

Emory turned at last. He was trembling,
and the muscles in his jaw clenched and unclenched. He knew his voice was
coming out high, and that because of this, the man might think he was queer,
but he had to make him stop.

“Listen, sir, I really have no use for
your opinions. I ask you now, very sincerely, to let me be so that I might
finish reading my newspaper.”

The guy sucked in some air. “Yeah,
sure,” he mumbled.

Emory looked down once more at the
picture of Dahmer, trying to delve into the dots that made up the serial
killer’s eyes. Perhaps somewhere in the dark orbs, he could find evidence of
madness. Perhaps the pixels would coalesce to explain the atrocities this
bland-looking young man had perpetrated, the pain and suffering he’d caused.

To what end?

“Granville next. Granville will be the
next stop.” The voice, garbled and cloaked in static, alerted Emory that his
stop was coming up.

As the train slowed, Emory let the
newspaper, never really his own, slip from his fingers. The train stopped with
a lurch, and Emory looked out at the familiar green sign reading Granville.
With the back of his hand, he wiped the sweat from his brow and prepared to
step off the train.

Then an image assailed him: Dahmer’s
face, lying on the brown, grimy floor of the L, being trampled.

Emory turned back, bumping into
commuters who were trying to get off the train, and stooped to snatch the
newspaper up from the gritty floor.

Tenderly, he brushed dirt from Dahmer’s
picture and stuck the newspaper under his arm.


Kenmore Avenue sagged under the weight
of the humidity as Emory trudged home, white cotton shirt sticking to his back,
face moist. At the end of the block, a Loyola University building stood
sentinel—gray and solid against a wilted sky devoid of color, sucking in July’s
heat and moisture like a sponge.

Emory fitted his key into the lock of
the redbrick high-rise he shared with his mother and sister, Mary Helen. Behind
him, a car grumbled by, muffler dragging, transmission moaning. A group of four
children, Hispanic complexions darkened even more by the sun, quarreled as one
of them held a huge red ball under his arm protectively.

As always, the vestibule smelled of
garlic and cooking cabbage, and as always, Emory wondered from which apartment
these smells, grown stale over the years he and his family had lived in the
building, had originally emanated.

In the mailbox was a booklet of coupons
from Jewel, a Commonwealth Edison bill, and a newsletter from Test Positive
Aware. Emory shoved the mail under his arm and headed up the creaking stairs to
the third floor.


NineStar Press | Amazon ebook | Amazon Paperback

Meet the Author

Real Men. True Love.

Rick R. Reed is an award-winning and bestselling author of more than fifty works of published fiction. He is a Lambda Literary Award finalist. Entertainment Weekly has described his work as “heartrending and sensitive.” Lambda Literary has called him: “A writer that doesn’t disappoint…” Find him at Rick lives in Palm Springs, CA, with his husband, Bruce, and their fierce Chihuahua/Shiba Inu mix, Kodi.

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Blog Tour + Giveaway: The Stark Divide (Ariadne Cycle #1) by J. Scott Coatsworth

J. Scott Coatsworth and Other Worlds Ink visit today on The Stark Divide (Ariadne Cycle #1) re-release blog tour! Rediscover the first tale in the sci-fi saga and enter in the giveaway for chances to win: a $25 Amazon gift card with this tour, and a signed paperback trilogy of the Oberon Cycle (Skythane, Lander and Ithani) – two winners!

The Stark Divide - J. Scott Coatsworth

J. Scott Coatsworth has a new queer sci fi book out book one in the Ariadne Cycle: "The Stark Divide." This is a re-release.

Some stories are epic.

The Earth is in a state of collapse, with wars breaking out over resources and an environment pushed to the edge by human greed.

Three living generation ships have been built with a combination of genetic mastery, artificial intelligence, technology, and raw materials harvested from the asteroid belt. This is the story of one of them—43 Ariadne, or Forever, as her inhabitants call her—a living world that carries the remaining hopes of humanity, and the three generations of scientists, engineers, and explorers working to colonize her.

From her humble beginnings as a seedling saved from disaster to the start of her journey across the void of space toward a new home for the human race, The Stark Divide tells the tales of the world, the people who made her, and the few who will become something altogether beyond human.

Humankind has just taken its first step toward the stars.

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Scott is giving away a $25 Amazon gift card with this tour, and a signed paperback trilogy of the Oberon Cycle (Skythane, Lander and Ithani) – two winners! Enter via Rafflecopter for a chance to win.

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“Dressler, schematic,” Colin McAvery, ship’s captain and a third of the crew, called out to the ship-mind.

A three-dimensional image of the ship appeared above the smooth console. Her five living arms, reaching out from her central core, were lit with a golden glow, and the mechanical bits of instrumentation shone in red. In real life, she was almost two hundred meters from tip to tip.

Between those arms stretched her solar wings, a ghostly green film like the sails of the Flying Dutchman.

“You’re a pretty thing,” he said softly. He loved these ships, their delicate beauty as they floated through the starry void.

“Thank you, Captain.” The ship-mind sounded happy with the compliment—his imagination running wild. Minds didn’t have real emotions, though they sometimes approximated them.

He cross-checked the heading to be sure they remained on course to deliver their payload, the man-sized seed that was being dragged on a tether behind the ship. Humanity’s ticket to the stars at a time when life on Earth was getting rapidly worse.

All of space was spread out before him, seen through the clear expanse of plasform set into the ship’s living walls. His own face, trimmed blond hair, and deep brown eyes, stared back at him, superimposed over the vivid starscape.

At thirty, Colin was in the prime of his career. He was a starship captain, and yet sometimes he felt like little more than a bus driver. After this run… well, he’d have to see what other opportunities might be awaiting him. Maybe the doc was right, and this was the start of a whole new chapter for mankind. They might need a guy like him.

The walls of the bridge emitted a faint but healthy golden glow, providing light for his work at the curved mechanical console that filled half the room. He traced out the T-Line to their destination. “Dressler, we’re looking a little wobbly.” Colin frowned. Some irregularity in the course was common—the ship was constantly adjusting its trajectory—but she usually corrected it before he noticed.

“Affirmative, Captain.” The ship-mind’s miniature chosen likeness appeared above the touch board. She was all professional today, dressed in a standard AmSplor uniform, dark hair pulled back in a bun, and about a third life-sized.

The image was nothing more than a projection of the ship-mind, a fairy tale, but Colin appreciated the effort she took to humanize her appearance. Artificial mind or not, he always treated minds with respect.

“There’s a blockage in arm four. I’ve sent out a scout to correct it.”

The Dressler was well into slowdown now, her pre-arrival phase as she bled off her speed, and they expected to reach 43 Ariadne in another fifteen hours.

Pity no one had yet cracked the whole hyperspace thing. Colin chuckled. Asimov would be disappointed. “Dressler, show me Earth, please.”

A small blue dot appeared in the middle of his screen.

Dressler, three dimensions, a bit larger, please.” The beautiful blue-green world spun before him in all its glory.

Appearances could be deceiving. Even with scrubbers working tirelessly night and day to clean the excess carbon dioxide from the air, the home world was still running dangerously warm.

He watched the image in front of him as the East Coast of the North American Union spun slowly into view. Florida was a sliver of its former self, and where New York City’s lights had once shone, there was now only blue. If it had been night, Fargo, the capital of the Northern States, would have outshone most of the other cities below. The floods that had wiped out many of the world’s coastal cities had also knocked down Earth’s population, which was only now reaching the levels it had seen in the early twenty-first century.

All those new souls had been born into a warm, arid world.

We did it to ourselves. Colin, who had known nothing besides the hot planet he called home, wondered what it had been like those many years before the Heat.

Anastasia Anatov leafed through her father, Dimitri’s, old paper journal. She liked to look through it once a day, to see his spidery handwriting and remember what he had been like. It was a bit old and dusty now, but it was one of her most cherished possessions.

She sighed and put it away in a storage nook in her lab.

She left the room and pulled herself gracefully along the runway, the central corridor of the ship, using the metal rungs embedded in the walls. She was much more comfortable in low or zero g than she was in Earth normal, where her tall, lanky form made her feel awkward around others. She was a loner at heart, and the emptiness of space appealed to her.

Her father had designed the Mission-class ships. It was something she rarely spoke of, but she was intensely proud of him. These ships were still imperfect, the combination of a hellishly complicated genetic code and after-the-fact fittings of mechanical parts, like the rungs she used now to move through the weightless environment.

Ana wondered if it hurt when someone drilled into the living tissue to install the mechanics, living quarters, and observation blisters that made the ship habitable. Her father had always maintained that the ship-minds felt no pain.

She wasn’t so sure. Men were often dismissive of the things they didn’t understand.

Either way, she was stuck on the small ship for the duration with two men, neither of whom were interested in her. The captain was gay, and Jackson was married.

Too bad the ship roster hadn’t included another woman or two.

She placed her hand on a hardened sensor callus next to the door valve and the ship obliged, recognizing her. The door spiraled open to show the viewport beyond.

She pulled herself into the room and floated before the wide expanse of transparent plasform, staring out at the seed being hauled behind them.

Nothing else mattered. Whatever she had to do to get this project launched, she would do it. She’d already made some morally questionable choices along the way—including looking the other way when a bundle of cash had changed hands at the Institute.

She was so close now, and she couldn’t let anything get in the way.

Earth was a lost cause. It was only a matter of time before the world imploded. Only the seeds could give mankind a fighting chance to go on.

From the viewport, there was little to see. The seed was a two-meter-long brown ovoid, made of a hard, dark organic material, scarred and pitted by the continual abrasion of the dust that escaped the great sails. So cold out there, but the seed was dormant, unfeeling.

The cold would keep it that way until the time came for its seedling stage.

She’d created three of the seeds with her funding. This one, bound for the asteroid 43 Ariadne, was the first. It was the next step in evolution beyond the Dressler and carried with it the hopes of all humankind.

It also represented ten years of her life and work.

Maybe, just maybe, we’re ready for the next step.

The crew’s third and final member, Jackson Hammond, hung upside down in the ship’s hold, grunting as he refit one of the feed pipes that carried the ship’s electronics through the bowels of this weird animal-mechanical hybrid. Although “up” and “down” were slight on a ship where the centrifugal force created a “gravity” only a fraction of what it was on Earth.

As the ship’s engineer, Jackson was responsible for keeping the mechanics functioning—a challenge in a living organism like the Dressler.

With cold, hard metal, one dealt with the occasional metal fatigue, poor workmanship, and at times just ass-backward reality. But the parts didn’t regularly grow or shrink, and it wasn’t always necessary to rejigger the ones that had fit perfectly just the day before. Even after ten years in these things, he still found it a little creepy to be riding inside the belly of the beast. It was too Jonah and the Whale for his taste.

Jackson rubbed the sweat away from his eyes with the back of his arm. As he shaved down the end of a pipe to make it fit more snugly against the small orifice in the ship’s wall, he touched the little silver cross that hung around his neck. It had been a present from his priest, Father Vincenzo, at his son Aaron’s First Communion in the Reformed Catholic Evangelical Church.

The boy was seven years old now, with a shock of red hair and green eyes like his dad, and his mother’s beautiful skin. He’d spent months preparing for his Communion Day, and Jackson remembered fondly the moment when his son had taken the Body and Blood of Christ for the first time, surprise registering on his little face at the strange taste of the wine.

Aaron’s Communion Day had been a high point for Jackson, just a week before his current mission. He was so proud of his two boys. Miss you guys. I’ll be home soon.

Lately he hadn’t been sleeping well, his dreams filled with a dark-haired, blue-eyed vixen. He was happily married. He shouldn’t be having such dreams.

Jackson shook his head. Being locked up in a tin can in space did strange things to a person sometimes. I should be home with Glory and the boys.

One way or another, this mission would be his last.

He’d been recruited as a teen.

At thirteen, Jackson had learned the basics of engineering doing black-tech work for the gangs that ran what was left of the Big Apple after the Rise—a warren of interconnected skyrises, linked mostly by boats and ropes and makeshift bridges.

Everything north of Twenty-Third was controlled by the Hex, a black-tech co-op that specialized in bootlegged dreamcasts, including modified versions that catered to some of the more questionable tastes of the North American States. South of Twenty-Third belonged to the Red Badge, a lawless group of technophiles involved in domestic espionage and wetware arts.

Jackson had grown up in the drowned city, abandoned by his mother and forced to rely on his own intelligence and instincts to survive in a rapidly changing world.

He’d found his way to the Red Badge and discovered a talent for ecosystem work, taking over and soon expanding one of the rooftop farms that supplied the drowned city with a subsistence diet. An illegal wetware upgrade let him tap directly into the systems he worked on, seeing the circuits and pathways in his head.

He increased the Badge’s food production fivefold and branched out beyond the nearly tasteless molds and edible fungi that thrived in the warm, humid environment.

It was on one of his rooftop “gardens” that his life had changed one warm summer evening.

He was underneath one of the condenser units that pulled water from the air for irrigation. All of eighteen years old, he was responsible for the food production for the entire Red Badge.

He’d run through the unit’s diagnostics app to no avail. Damned piece of shit couldn’t find a thing wrong.

In the end, it had come down to something purely physical—tightening down a pipe bolt where the condenser interfaced with the irrigation system.

Satisfied with the work, he stood, wiping the sweat off his bare chest, and glared into the setting sun out over the East River. It was more an inland sea now, but the old names still stuck.

There was a faint whirring behind him, and he spun around. A bug drone hovered about a foot away, glistening in the sun. He stared at it for a moment, then reached out to swat it down. Probably from the Hex.

It evaded his grasp, and he felt a sharp pain in his neck.

He went limp, and everything turned black as he tumbled into one of his garden beds.

He awoke in Fargo, recruited by AmSplor to serve in the space agency’s Frontier Station, his life changed irrevocably.

A strange sensation brought him back to the present.

His right hand was wet. Startled, he looked down. It was covered with blood.

Dressler, we have a problem, he said through his private affinity-link with the ship-mind.”

Author Bio

J. Scott Coatsworth

Scott lives with his husband Mark in a yellow bungalow in Sacramento. He was indoctrinated into fantasy and sci fi by his mother at the tender age of nine. He devoured her library, but as he grew up, he wondered where all the people like him were.

He decided that if there weren’t queer characters in his favorite genres, he would remake them to his own ends.

A Rainbow Award winning and runs Queer Sci Fi, QueeRomance Ink, Liminal Fiction, and Other Worlds Ink with Mark, sites that celebrate fiction reflecting queer reality, and is a full member member of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA).

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