Book Blast + Giveaway: Midas Touch by Alex Hall


Author Alex Hall and Gay Book Promotions host today's book blast for Christmas friends to lovers romance, Midas Touch! Find out more and enter in the $25 Amazon gift card giveaway!

BOOK BLAST

Book Title: Midas Touch: A Christmas Romance

Author: Alex Hall

Publisher: Madison Place Press

Cover Artist: Rebecca Slather

Release Date: November 9, 2020

Genre: F/F Romance

Themes/Tropes: Christmas, childhood friends to lovers

Heat Rating:  3 flames   

Length:  75 000 words/ 208 pages

It is a standalone book.

Goodreads

 

Buy Links - Available on Kindle Unlimited

Amazon US  |  Amazon UK 

 



Blurb

Gwen Cook has returned to Williamsburg, Virginia, after more than a decade away from her family estate. Frankie Porter has spent the last year renovating that same estate, turning the dilapidated Cook mansion into a showpiece. Gwen and Frankie shared a childhood full of hard secrets and ripe with first love. Now adults, their paths cross again and sparks fly.

A HEA with content warnings for PTSD and implied child abuse.



Excerpt

The boathouse had barely changed in twelve years. The creek ran quite a bit deeper and wider. Brown water had swallowed up much of the far bank and licked in pools about the base of the boathouse itself. Frankie had to shove back kudzu and sumac as she walked. The soles of her boots sank inches into mud. Tiny pink-and-white wildflowers grew up between the trees, and here and there she spotted a drooping hedge bright with red berries.

She made her way cautiously through the undergrowth until she could touch the old building. Standing against the foundation, she cocked her head and squinted up along brick walls. The boathouse seemed as sturdy as she remembered. Two stories high and crumbling on the outside, it was ruler straight and strong except for the roof, which still sagged but hadn’t given in to the elements and fallen.

“Used to be, they knew how to build to last.” Frankie patted the warm brick.

The structure didn’t tower the way it had in her childhood, but she supposed it wouldn’t. She had grown—her bones had lengthened into adulthood. She’d managed to top five feet, barely. At sixteen, she’d feared she would be stuck forever just above four.

Frankie hesitated, glancing up into the sky. The trees had grown tall, and she could see less of the sun than she remembered. The place was definitely cooler, definitely shadier; but on a warm summer afternoon, shade wasn’t such a bad thing.

She leaned against the boathouse and untied her boots. Stripping off her shoes and socks, she stood barefoot in the mud, regarding the brick walls. Twelve years gone and she was no longer a child. Could she do it?

Of course she could. Was it wise?

Probably not.

But her fingers and toes found the old cracks easily, and before she knew it, she was halfway up the wall. The brick brushed her khaki shorts, leaving brown stains. A branch streaked her white shirt with sap. Frankie didn’t notice. At the top she hoisted herself over the edge of the roof and onto the shingles. She sat very still, holding her breath, waiting to see if the roof would protest. The shingles held, even when she rose to her feet and tiptoed across the top of the boathouse to her old perch.

She looked up and around first, admiring the oak and the dogwood and the ash with their green-as-grass leaves. She sucked in the fragrance of the creek as she brushed her bangs from her eyes. Then she took a deeper breath and looked down.

James Creek glittered below, cut into geometric shapes by dim sunlight. Shadows gathered at the edges of the water and then spread away along the bank. From where she stood, the water looked deep and inviting.



About the Author 

Sarah Remy/Alex Hall is a nonbinary, animal-loving, proud gamer Geek. Their work can be found in a variety of cool places, including HarperVoyager, EDGE and NineStar Press.

 

Author Links

Blog/Website  |  Twitter: @sarahremywrites 

 

Giveaway 

Enter the Rafflecopter Giveaway for a chance to win

a $25 Amazon Gift Card

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Blog Tour + Giveaway: Surrounded by Silence by Eric Huffbind


Author Eric Huffbind and Gay Book Promotions host the final stop of the Surrounded by Silence blog tour! Check out the billionaire contemporary romance and enter in the $25 Amazon gift card giveaway!

BLOG TOUR

Book Title: Surrounded by Silence

Author: Eric Huffbind

Cover Artist: Eric Huffbind

Release Date: October 14, 2020

Genre/s: Contemporary Gay Male Romance

Trope/s: Billionaires, Hurt/Comfort, Post-Divorce, Middle Age

Themes: Learning what it means to be selfless rather than selfish.

Heat Rating:  4 flames 

Length:  71 000 words/259 pages

This is a sequel to The Rescuer, but can be read as a stand-alone.

Goodreads

 

Buy Links  - Available on Kindle Unlimited

Amazon US  |  Amazon CA  |  Amazon AU  |  Amazon UK   

 

Lonely billionaire, Samuel Barron, has finally met someone he finds himself falling for, but can he handle a romance for a gentleman whose entire world is surrounded by silence?


Blurb


After public humiliation, Sam Barron has come to the realization his billions can’t buy him love or happiness. Despondent and feeling like his life is in a downward spiral, he comes to realize he needs some professional help. Despite trepidations, Sam turns to Jason Parker, a social worker who at his heart, is a rescuer. Even though Sam had been so hateful towards him in the past, Jason can’t help but think Sam deserves to suffer. Jason tells Sam straight out, “You’re a spoiled brat without a shred of humility!”

Jason has deep concerns about helping Sam, but might be willing, if Sam volunteers at a soup kitchen. Grudgingly, Sam accepts Jason’s condition, and while performing his volunteer work, meets the flirtatious Noah Wagner. Noah is close in age, attractive, and Sam likes the way he feels whenever he’s around him. Noah is the first person Sam has known who is profoundly deaf. So, how is Sam to navigate a romantic interest with a man who can’t hear a word he says?

Surrounded by Silence, a Contemporary Gay Male Romance, is a sequel to Mr. Huffbind’s debut novel, The Rescuer. However, this book can be read as a stand-alone. If you enjoy a story where the villain becomes the hero, you will love Surrounded by Silence.



Excerpt

Coming through the front door of their apartment, Jason called out, “Honey, I'm home. Where are you?”

Poking his head out, Christopher announced, “I'm in the kitchen making dinner.”

Strolling into the kitchen, Jason gave Christopher a kiss, and asked, “How was work today?”

“Oh, it was okay, same old same old. Not particularly exciting. How about you?”

Jason took a small step backwards and began rubbing his eyebrows. “Well, an old friend of yours came to see me today, without any forewarning, of course!”

“An old friend of mine? I can’t imagine what old friend of mine would come to see you.”

“I'm being facetious,” Jason said. “Calling this man a friend is a bit of a stretch, and he’s someone I wasn’t happy to see.”

Christopher's eyes narrowed as he squinted. “Please, tell me it wasn't Sam Barron?”

“I'd be happy to tell you it wasn't Sam Barron… but I would be lying. Yes, it was Sam. Admittedly, I was floored! And as you can imagine, especially since he showed up unannounced, I was less than ecstatic to see him.”

“Dear God, almighty! What in the hell did he come to see you about?”

“As you might suspect, I was a bit miffed. Not trying to change the subject, but something smells awfully good. What's for dinner?”

“Just a frozen entrée of lasagna. Don't get too excited, but it’s your favorite brand. So, go on, why did Sam show up at your office?”

Jason took a seat at the small dinette table. “As hard as you might find this to believe, he came seeking my professional help. As far as I can gather, ever since all the bad press in the media hit the airways, he’s fallen into a deep depression. Perhaps, a deep depression isn't the best choice of words. Significant emotional distress is more accurate. Complains of loneliness and being guilt-ridden.”

Christopher said sharply, “And why should you care if he's guilt-ridden? He deserves to feel guilt-ridden!”

“You're not going to get an argument from me. Still… I felt bad for him. It was as if he was pleading for forgiveness, and begging for my help. He says he wants to become a better person. The guy was crying. Sounded desperate.”

“Christopher responded, “It sounds like he needs a psychologist, not a social worker.”

“Exactly! That's what I told him, but he insisted he wants me.”

“No offense, but why does he want your help?”

“You know Sam," Jason answered. "He always wants the best. In his mind, I'm the best. In addition, I'm gay, which is especially important to him, and I get that.”

Christopher started shaking his head in utter disbelief. “Wait now! Wait just a minute here! After the way that man treated you! And treated me for that matter! He has the gall to come and ask you for help!”

“He said he was a nervous wreck coming to see me! He knew damn well I wasn't going to be happy having him show up on my doorstep. The thing is, honey, I felt bad for him, and believe me, I hear myself saying this, and yet, I can't believe these words are coming out of my mouth.”

Christopher crossed his arms against his chest. “Let me guess! Your inner rescuer kicked in.”

Jason nodded his agreement of his husband’s quick and accurate assessment.

Jason waved his hand in a gesture to encourage Christopher to sit down with him. He pushed the chair away from the table giving Christopher easier access to sit.

“He saw how much I helped you. So, he trusts me. That's why he wants my help. You're right, of course, my inner rescuer did kick in. I told him I had to speak with you, and I would only help him if you granted me permission to. I wasn't going to do it without your consent. The guy looks pitiful. He said I could name my price! He even offered to pay me five hundred dollars an hour. Mind you, not during my regular working hours. He knows this is something that must take place outside the realm of my job. He was willing to come here, or I could go to his home. Tell me, what do you think? How do you feel about it? Would you be okay if I worked with him? Trust me, I have my own reservations, and... I can't lie, the money does sound appealing. I'm not a licensed therapist, but what I do isn't such a stretch from what a psychologist would do. So, I'm asking, would you be comfortable with this?”

Christopher asked, “The question you should be asking yourself is, how do you feel about it?” Although, I must admit, I know that man. If he wants you bad enough, he'll pay you whatever price you want. Ever since you sold your condominium and decided to live in my apartment, you’ve wanted to buy a house for us. Remember the model home we saw? The one built by Kirkland Home Builders. That money could help a lot towards a down payment. It's just so ironic! This is the same man who sent you into a panic attack, and now he comes crawling to you for help. Although, I know what you’re talking about. There’s a side of Sam Barron he doesn’t let people see. I'll be okay with it—if you're okay with it.”


About the Author

 

Eric Huffbind is a man of many talents. Over the course of his lifetime, he has worked as a Registered Nurse, a Travel Agent, and an Uber driver. He characterizes himself as a hopeless romantic and is the eternal social butterfly. Among his passionate interests are history, genealogy, romance books, and travel. 


Although his novels focus on the romantic relationship of two gay men, regardless of your sexual orientation, his stories are meant to rekindle the spirit and euphoria of falling in love. 

Eric is a lifelong resident of Southwest Ohio. Born in Cincinnati, Ohio, he currently resides in West Chester, Ohio with his husband Paul and their Pomeranian, Linus.

 

Social Media Links

Blog/Website  |  Facebook Profile  |  Facebook Author Page                     

Twitter  |  Newsletter Sign-Up  |  Instagram 

 

Giveaway

Enter the Rafflecopter Giveaway for a chance to win

a $25.00 Amazon Gift Card

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Hosted by Gay Book Promotions

   

Follow the tour and check out the other blog posts and reviews here

Blog Tour + Giveaway: Tiny Planet Filled With Liars by Stephen M.A.


Stephen M.A. and Other Worlds Ink visit on the Tiny Planet Filled With Liars blog tour! Discover more about the space opera and enter in the $20 Amazon gift card giveaway!

 
Tiny Planet Filled With Liars - Stephen M.A.

QSFer Stephen M.A. has a new diverse military space opera out: "Tiny Planet Filled With Liars." And there's a giveaway!

An armada that never dies. A society on the verge.

Every 30 days, Fleet Eternal arrives to surround the planet and lay siege to a complacent populace. Its armaments are unbeatable, its numbers uncountable, but the terrifying assault has one fatal flaw: a mere .01% loss in combat strength triggers automatic retreat and reset.

For decades, the Unified Fiduciary Dominion has relied on the Board and its military contractors to defend the planet and maintain the knife's edge of survival. Now, riven by greed and false confidence, those corporate lords have abandoned their duty in pursuit of political power.

The tactics of the Alpha Vector Defense Corps have served for generations—so why are they suddenly faltering? And why do Board members seem increasingly unconcerned with the tenuous state of the system? Armed with the exclusive authority to investigate, one fussy ex-military reporter must partner with a generous Madame to chase down the story behind a string of failed battles—and pray they find answers before the districts are turned to ash.

As casualties rise, The Interviewer faces deadly resistance ... and discovers a disturbing conspiracy at the highest ranks.

The world's security is careening toward disaster, and this whistleblower is running out of time. But when every answer seems to bring more questions, one reminder guides the way:

Don't come here looking for truth. This is just a pack of lies and the end of the world.

A genre-busting dramedy & political satire thriller in military sci-fi clothing.

Universal Buy Link


Giveaway

Stephen is giving away a $20 Amazon gift card with this tour:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Direct Link: http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/b60e8d47161/?


Excerpt

Tiny Planet Filled With Liars Meme - Stephen M.A.

2

Bartimus Caldwell

Onyx Hoteliers LTD., Suite 7382, Courtesy Level Omega Plus Royale

[Interviewer]

First, let me say welcome to the suite.

[Bartimus Caldwell]

Uh. Thank you.

[Interviewer]

It’s courtesy level Omega Plus Royale, you know.

[Bartimus Caldwell]

Okay.

Uh, I mean, that’s great. Very impressive.

[Int.]

Thank you. You need to purchase 2,000 units of Class A shares just to get the invitation to apply for a reservation.

[B.C.]

I see.

[Int.]

Mm-hmm.

[B.C.]

I’ll … uh … I’ll look into it, for sure, though I don’t know what I’d do with a room this fancy on my own.

[Int.]

You are Bartimus Caldwell.

[B.C.]

Yes, sir.

[Int.]

Don’t call me that. I’ve been discharged for years.

[B.C.]

I’m sorry, si—I mean, I’m sorry. I won’t.

[Int.]

State your position, rank, and assignment.

[B.C.]

Yeoman Sensor Scry, Grade III, Alpha Vector Defense of the Unified Fiduciary Dominion.

[Int.]

State your duties, in the most simple and clear terms you are able to.

[B.C.]

Uh … I coordinate the intake and regressive analysis of real-time sensor data to monitor the mid-threat-time development of incursions in the Alpha Vector, when under the command of UFD Central Board Oversight.

[Int.]

You’re a watchman and analyst.

[B.C.]

Uh … correct, sir.

[Int.]

How long have you been enlisted?

[B.C.]

I … was assigned commission four years ago.

[Int.]

You’re not volunteer enlisted?

[B.C.]

No, sir.

[Int.]

Why are you even allowed in the Operations Center, in that case? Or have those regulations been changed?

[B.C.]

I don’t—uh … I was not given such information, sir. Just the assignment.

I’ve been told my predecessor retired out of her indenture due to debilitating stress. Uh … several predecessors, actually. For the same reason.

[Int.]

I see.

[B.C.]

Yes.

[Int.]

Are you stressed, Bartimus?

[B.C.]

Yes, sir.

[Int.]

Bartimus.

[B.C.]

Yes, sir.

[Int.]

Stop calling me sir.

3

Bartimus Caldwell

Alpha Vector Operations Center

DURING incursions Bartimus Caldwell often feels chained to his desk.

Though incursion has initiated in the late afternoon (within a Unified Time Stamp of plus or minus 30 seconds) for the last twenty-six-and-one-half years, all personnel Grades V and below are still required to take stations no later than 0600 on the morning of.

Bartimus hates waking up so early, which may be why he avoided commission for so many years. It is to his great misfortune that he’s a whiz kid with sensor analysis, and inevitably discovered that Central Board Oversight had been made aware of his talents when he was abruptly recruited (then indentured) for a 20-year service stint four years ago, precisely two weeks after his 31st birthday. At the time he was gainfully (and happily) employed in the remote sexual screening industry, but that’s not relevant to this portion of his story.

Bartimus Caldwell’s desk, which binds him so readily, is located on the upper balcony of the Alpha Vector Operations Center, when under the command of Central Board Oversight.

This room represents the most exclusive and highly classified product catalogs of no less than three dozen military contractors. However, those who’ve bothered to learn as much know that in reality only two conglomerates perch atop the corporate meta-structure which hides its many tendrils behind each of those contractors.

In some professions, as you know, acknowledging this easily verifiable duopoly is quite literally illegal. For instance, service personnel are forbidden to acknowledge or discuss, in any capacity, any information that might insinuate that the dozens of military contractors working with Central Board Oversight are not in fact plucky small businesses that have been rightfully rewarded with thick and hefty revenue streams by virtue of patriotism and good old-fashioned UFD entrepreneurship.

Bartimus Caldwell adheres to this policy with unerring slavishness and would never even think of speaking ill toward the contractors. I know this because he has assured me of it several times.

When Alpha Vector Defense is not under the command of Central Board Oversight, Bartimus Caldwell’s desk is in the auxiliary hangar, packed in alongside the other 382 service members in the unit. In that venue, each such member enjoys no less than two square meters of personal space in which to perform their duties, of which their auxiliary desk takes up no more than one-point-two-five square meters.

Bartimus Caldwell bubbles with gratitude toward the military for providing this generously outfitted working space to its service members. I know this because he has assured me of it several times.

However, this was an incursion week, which meant that Board members would be in attendance for their usual round of post-contact media conferences and photo opportunities, which meant Bartimus Caldwell and his unit were stationed in the Alpha Vector Operations Center, showcasing the finest product catalogs of the military contractors owned by said members of the Board.

From his desk in the front ring on the upper balcony of the Alpha Vector Operations Center, Bartimus enjoys an unobstructed view of the entire room. Behind him on the octagonal balcony, which encircles the entire outer wall of the Operations Center, two more layers of desks and control consoles are laid out, fully staffed with unit members of Grades II and I.

The bidding wars to manufacture the desks used on the balcony have been quite fierce in recent years, and a new contract seems to be assigned every other month. Bartimus has grown quite used to arriving for OC duty and discovering a brand new desk in front of his seat, though thankfully, after one long stretch of genuine UX insanity, a regulatory design decree was issued that now ensures the general layout and functionality of each new desk model is largely the same as the last.


Author Bio

Stephen M.A.

Stephen M.A. is an ex-film student, Great Recession survivor, and first-generation tribal descendant originating from a reservation in big sky country. He now lives and writes in the northeastern United States.

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

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

Audiobook Review: Heart by Garrett Leigh

Cornish pastry chef Seb Wright dreads the summer tourist season. The cash injection to his artisan fudge pantry is more than welcome, the extra work, less so. Then one summer, a shadowy Good Samaritan catches his eye. Irish Traveller Dex is bewitching, a beautiful sullen enigma who turns Seb's world upside down until he disappears in the night, vanishing like a mystical summer rain.

Twelve months later Dex is in the midst of a dark storm. A slave to his master, 'Uncle' Braden, he spends his days cleaning caravans and his nights working in Braden's other businesses. His short summer with Seb seems a lifetime ago. Lost in the savage violence of the murky underworld, he doesn't dare dream he'll ever find his way back, until one night, a brutal crime opens the door for a chance escape. A new life beckons, old faces emerge, and immersed in the heady vibe of London’s East End, new love begins to heal his fractured heart.

Narrator: Dan Calley
Listening Length: 5 hrs 53 min




This is a beautiful classic Garrett Leigh angst-fest. It hurt so good!

Even better, it was wonderfully narrated by Dan Calley. I’d highly recommend the audiobook version.

When the two men first meet on the Cornish seaside, Seb’s not quite sure what to make of Dex. But he can’t deny that he feels a pull towards the vagrant, and he’s happy when Dex seems to respond back.

But Dex then disappears without a trace, leaving only enigmatic memories behind.

The truth about Dex is heart-wrenching. And be warned - the author doesn’t leave anything to the imagination. Readers get a front-row seat to the violence of the criminal world Dex was trapped in.

How Dex is treated and what he goes through would break anyone, and yet he keeps a core of fight in him.

And he has that brief moment of happiness with Seb to sustain him. The short summertime when Dex got a glimmer of a different life with a kind man.

description

When Dex eventually gets the chance to run, he goes to London. Only to end up face-to-face with Seb again.

I loved their reunion. It was awkward, but the electric pull between them was so obvious.

And even better was the friendship they slowly built. Their past and the feelings on both sides are undeniable elephants in the room, but the two men take it slow.

I really appreciated how perceptive Seb was of Dex’s boundaries. The space and care was exactly what Dex needed to gradually come out his shell.

Once they take it a step further, their relationship continues much in the same way - sometimes it’s two steps forwards and one step back, but it’s sweet and the love grows bit by bit.

Dex’s past does catch-up with him and Seb eventually, but they get through it. And their happy ever was a perfect ending, leaving no doubt that they’d build a forever home together.

If you’re looking for a complex love story that will put you through the wringer but leave your heart full, give ‘Heart’ a try!


A copy was provided in exchange for an honest review.


Cover Reveal: Honorable Convictions (D’Vaire #20) by Jessamyn Kingley

Happy Thanksgiving to the USA unicorns visiting the blog today! If you don't celebrate, happy Thursday! 

Join author Jessamyn Kingley and Gay Book Promotions as they reveal the cover of upcoming urban fantasy, Honorable Convictions (D’Vaire #20)!

COVER REVEAL

Book Title: Honorable Convictions (D’Vaire, Book 20)

Author: Jessamyn Kingley

Cover Artist: LJ Anderson of Mayhem Cover Creations

Release Date: December 10, 2020

Genre/s: M/M Urban Fantasy Romance 

Trope/s: Fated mates, enemies to lovers

Themes: Fate, love, second chances 

Heat Rating:  3 flames

 

To find love, two bitter rivals must start over or end their matebond forever.


Blurb

From the moment he is resurrected, Mitchell Brooks is full of ambition and determined to win at all costs. The fresh recruit pushes himself to the limit and earns the title of Juris Knight, a highly respected position within the Order of the Fallen Knights. Mitchell wants to be the best of his graduating class, but the task is impossible because there is someone in his way—the man who happens to be his mate.

Pierson Murphy is brought to life with the gift of a perfect memory and miserable resurrection sickness. After three days of suffering, he begins his journey toward Juris Knight and excels, achieving perfect scores on every aptitude test. However, Pierson struggles with an inability to relate to everyone—including the man supposedly destined to be his other half.

They keep their matebond a secret and after weeks of discord, they are sent to different cities and go their separate ways with bitter confrontations their only memory. A century later, Pierson has a spotless reputation and zero friends. Horribly burned out and aching for something more, he transfers to another office.

His reassignment is the impetus Mitchell needs to end the fierce competition with the man he should have treasured, and he shows up on Pierson’s doorstep, prepared to start over. However, Pierson is ready to move on and wants anyone other than Mitchell. With so many barriers standing between them, is it possible to find love and honor Fate?

 


About the Author 

  

Jessamyn Kingley lives in Nevada where she begs the men in her head to tell her their amazing stories which she dutifully writes it all down in what has become a small mountain of notebooks. She falls in love with each couple and swears whatever book she wrote last is her absolute favorite.

Jessamyn is married and working toward remembering to start the dishwasher without being distracted by the scent of the magical detergent. For personal enjoyment, she aids in cat rescue while slashing and gashing her way through mobs in various MMORPGs. Caffeine is her very best friend and is only cast aside briefly for the sin better known as BBQ potato chips.


Join her Facebook group, Jessamyn's Ruffian's

 

Social Media Links

Blog/Website  |   Facebook |   Twitter  |   Pinterest  |  Facebook Group

 

Hosted by Gay Book Promotions

 

Release Blitz + Giveaway: Liquid Courage by Stephanie Shea


Author Stephanie Shea and IndiGo Marketing visit with the Liquid Courage release blitz! Read more from today's promo and enter in the $10 Ninestar Press credit giveaway!

 

Title: Liquid Courage

Author: Stephanie Shea

Publisher: NineStar Press

Release Date: November 23, 2020

Heat Level: 3 - Some Sex

Pairing: Female/Female

Length: 85800

Genre: Contemporary, LGBTQIA+, contemporary, new-adult, coming out, college, dark, friends to lovers, soulmates, slow burn/UST

Add to Goodreads

Synopsis

Alexandria Van Kirk has always been a slave to her romantic nature. When a night of liquid courage lands her in bed with one of her best friends, Alex is confronted by a host of feelings that terrify her. Feelings about her friend and, unexpectedly, a barista from her favorite café.

It’s a tug of war between heart and body. Desire against all her daydreams of someone to share silence, sunsets, and coffee with.

But Alex’s past is also about to catch up with her. Tortured memories and the girl they’re all about. It’s like fighting the pull of a whirlwind. A surefire losing battle. But embracing a newfound romance amid the return of an old flame is a precarious balance, one not even Alex herself is sure she can manage.

How the hell does she choose between the girl she loves and the one she could never confess loving to begin with?

Excerpt

Liquid Courage
Stephanie Shea © 2020
All Rights Reserved

It had been brewing for weeks.

No.

Months.

Alex supposed it didn’t matter how long. Tensions between her and Ryan had reached a boiling point. Her body thrummed with quiet unease as vodka scorched down her throat and seeped through her veins. She shouldn’t have been drinking this much. What had she eaten? A few chips and maybe half a dozen gummy bears? No wonder the liquor had gone to her head so fast. It was sort of a nice buzz though—enough for her to feel a little less inhibited but still be aware the creepy guy she’d met earlier had been trying to talk her into a dark corner for the last ten minutes.

She leaned against the doorframe, gaze weaving through the mass of sweaty bodies dancing in the living room to land on Ryan.

Ryan tossed her head back in a laugh, grinding on some random guy who was more than happy to have his hands all over her. Her red, ruched dress rode up her thighs with every move. She flipped her jet-black hair and swept it all to one shoulder as her eyes landed on Alex, a smirk lingering on her lips.

Alex’s skin prickled with sweat.

Maybe it wasn’t the vodka.

Maybe it was the fact that Dom had crammed more than fifty people into a house meant to accommodate three for the riot he called a birthday party. God knows Alex didn’t go to these things for fun, but Dom was her oldest friend. She loved him way too much to not show up for his birthday, even if she was as close as any technology-obsessed millennial to becoming a hermit.

The guy—what did say his name was?—leaned closer, pulling her attention to his gangly, unattractive form. “So, do you want to maybe take a walk down to the park?” He stared at her expectantly, sweaty red strands of hair clinging to his forehead. As if she was going to be lured into the park at midnight to be groped by some guy who resembled a ’90s crackhead.

“Do you know what Einstein’s definition of insanity is?” she asked.

“No. But being this close to you definitely drives me crazy.”

Alex rolled her eyes, pushing him out of her personal space. A spot to herself to wait out the night. That’s all she needed. The one she’d been standing in had been perfect. Until now. Her gaze flittered across the room where Ryan had been dancing only to land on strange faces. “Damn it.” She started forward and bumped her way through the teeming living room toward the kitchen.

Nothing.

Doubling back, she tried scanning every five-feet-something girl who had dark hair. It hadn’t occurred to her before how many girls fit the criteria. Still, it would only take seconds to process that this girl’s hair was a few shades too light; that one’s skin wasn’t pale enough. Another was wearing a nearly identical dress, but the arch of her back didn’t seem quite right. Ry had a bigger ass.

Alex halted at the sight of Ryan sitting hunched over in a loveseat across the living room. She pushed her way through the dancefloor. “Ry?” Alex tilted her head slightly. “What’s wrong?”

Ryan peered up, eyes glossy and gleaming as she grinned at Alex. “Nothing.” Her head fell to her lap again.

Alex drew her brows together. Nothing really appeared to be wrong with Ry besides her being a little tipsy and possibly playing an adult version of peek-a-boo. She slid into the free space on the couch and shifted at the press of Ryan’s thighs against hers. Proximity wouldn’t do much to resolve her internal conflict. It sure didn’t soothe the thought that even sitting there with this thing between them still simmering was a terrible idea. She forced it down. “Tell me what’s wrong.”

“I told you. It’s nothing.”

“Ry…come on.” Alex nudged her, pressing her forehead to the side of Ryan’s face to provoke her into lifting her head again.

“I got a little light-headed. I’m better now.”

“Promise?”

Ryan turned her head, her lips brushing against Alex’s. “Promise.”

Alex’s breath caught, her pulse climbing. The heat… It wasn’t the vodka or the party being too crowded. It was them. A million red lights went off in her head. Ryan was one of her best friends. Risking that would be stupid and impulsive, and they’d both had too much to drink.

Ry dragged in a deep breath, and their lips brushed again, and Alex’s hesitance burst into spectrums of green. She leaned forward, taking Ryan’s lips in a gentle kiss. Slow, timid almost, as if they were both afraid to react too much. To react more than the other.

Was it good or bad that Ryan had kissed her back? Even with all the weird tension between them, she’d never imagined how acting on it would feel. Some lines weren’t meant to be crossed. Now that she had, she craved more of Ryan’s lips on hers—soft and yielding.

They jerked apart as a girl bumped into them, spilling the last few drops of her drink onto Ryan’s lap. The girl giggled and offered a barely coherent “Sorry” as she stumbled away.

Ryan stood, Alex following as Ryan weaved her way through the crowd almost aggressively, forcing people out of the way with her hands to clear a path.

“Ry!” The music smothered Alex’s attempt.

Ryan rounded the corner at the end of the hallway leading out of the living room.

Alex quickened her steps. As she rounded the bend too, she noticed Dom’s bedroom door had been opened. She took a tentative step inside. “Ry? Are you in her—”

The door slammed, and Alex turned. Ryan backed into it with a thud, pulling Alex against her, their lips pressed against each others. Alex’s hands found Ryan’s hips, and she squeezed. Everything from her grip to the way her teeth latched onto Ryan’s bottom lip was a confession. There’d be no stopping now. Not unless Ryan came to her senses and pulled away. Deep down, Alex was pleading for that to happen before things went too far, before their bodies admitted every word their lips refused to speak.

Purchase

NineStar Press | Books2Read Universal Link

Meet the Author

Stephanie Shea is a self-proclaimed introvert, who spends her days as a banker daydreaming of becoming a full-time novelist. Her mind’s fixation on characters and plotlines date back to high school when she’d find herself scribbling notes on her first novel instead of paying attention in calculus. These days, she reaches for a Post-It in her desk when inspiration strikes.

Her favorite things include binging tv shows, creating worlds where no character is too queer, broken or sensitive, and snacks. Lots of snacks.

Someday, she hopes to curb her road rage, and get past her anxiety over social media and author bios. Find her at Instagram.

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Release Blitz + Giveaway: Turn by Erin M. Grillot


Author Erin M. Grillot and IndiGo Marketing host today's release blitz for Turn! Read more about the contemporary tale and enter in the $10 NineStar Press credit giveaway!

 

Title: Turn

Author: Erin M. Grillot

Publisher: NineStar Press

Release Date: November 23, 2020

Heat Level: 2 - Fade to Black Sex

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: 69900

Genre: Contemporary, LGBTQIA+, contemporary, undercover/secret agent, childhood poverty, HFN

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Synopsis

The responsibilities Nathan has taken on are sometimes daunting, even as he loves his job. Always ready to rise to the occasion, he is both respected and feared in the office and in the field. His rise to quiet power has shaped his very being, and he knows each and every move as he plots his days and watches over his agents. His life has shaped him into a loner, however, and that is never more noticeable than when Eli begins work in Department 5.

Eli is not the typical Department 5 recruit, and his cheerful and polite nature is both intriguing and off-putting to Nathan. But as Eli weakens and breaks through Nathan’s walls, they gradually embark on a path of discovery and a relationship that defies both of their assumptions. It is by times quirky and odd, sometimes a little rough around the edges, always a bit fragile. But secrecy, lies, plots, and executions are Nathan’s job, and life—and some habits are hard to break. Finally, the tension their work holds can no longer be contained or ignored, and it threatens to destroy either themselves or all that they’ve found together.

Turn is a story about power, tough choices, and strategic moves—of knowing when to sacrifice a piece in this ongoing game of chess, sticking by your actions, and knowing what the endgame is—no matter what the personal cost. Most importantly, it’s about life’s hardest lesson. Sometimes love isn’t all that you need, and the wants of our hearts aren’t always enough to overcome who we are and the realities of life.

Excerpt

Turn
Erin M. Grillot © 2020
All Rights Reserved

They often say you have to let something go, and if it comes back to you, it’s yours. For the longest time I believed that was bullshit—the worst damn advice ever given. That those words, like so many others, were just one of the many lies we would tell ourselves to convince us it’ll all be okay. Patronizing and empty.

Or, so I had thought.

But, sometimes, you give up your queen to protect your king even if it isn’t what you want to do. You may not get that piece back, you may be stuck with a pawn the rest of the game, but you saved your king. And in a game of chess, that can be the difference between a win and a loss; and in life, the difference between survival and death, happiness and apathy, success and failure.

*

A headache builds near the edge of my temple tonight—just an inkling so far, spurred on by the limits I seem to keep pressing and expanding. History has proven that it will blossom into a full-blown one by tomorrow. It means I haven’t been sleeping enough, and I’ve been squinting at papers and screens for too many days in a row. I should go home, eat a real dinner, and sleep, if even for a few hours, in my own bed. I also know, as I know many things, it is unlikely to happen, not at already half eight and after an unexpected phone call with an undisclosed, yet disgruntled French government employee destroyed my productivity earlier this afternoon. A small sigh escapes me as I rub the bridge of my nose and turn my eyes back to the file in my hand.

I jest about my job sometimes to myself, oversimplifying it to the hero-and-villainesque themes of a childhood comic book. A therapist might say it is a coping mechanism, which may be true, but if I think of it that way, then the real-life complexity doesn’t matter to me. I am aware my day-to-day decisions are more gray than black-and-white. The business of secretly making sure the free world stays that way isn’t a quiet desk job for the faint of heart. It is an unending mess of data and decisions juggled and balanced with ruthlessness, subterfuge, PR, and ridiculous amounts of coffee. A veritable nightmare some days, but utterly fulfilling in its endgame.

These last few years, I am rarely active in the field anymore, generally spending my time in either the planning or cleanup stages of the operations, hidden in some windowless office that justifies my lack of knowledge about the weather. But the past weeks, I have ended up involved in multiple side tasks that take me back to my beginning days here at Department 5. Side tasks that come with their own laundry list of issues. And while I thrive on it all, relish each time I tick something off a to-do list, close out a deal, solve an international incident, save a life, take a life—there is still a limit. I need a break, probably more than I realize.

Some days, I am not even sure what it is I do all day, what this job has made of me. There are papers and meetings, decisions and actions. I oversee budgets and tactile missions in the same sentence somedays, make war and peace on two different continents in the span of hours, make a decision about copier paper and which guns to supply with the same signature. I’m still damn good at my job, even when I don’t always quite know how to define it.

There was never an interview, at least not an official one. My title and job description don’t actually exist. I’ve been here edging toward twenty years now, and after years of missions and working my way through the ranks, it seemed to simply happen. There was suddenly an open office and a second bodyguard; respect and fear; John, my mentor, quietly slipping out of the picture. And it was never said out loud, possibly never even thought—all my door says on it is my name—but it was as if it didn’t need saying or to be written. It simply was. Someone always needs to be at the top.

Sometimes, though, sitting in my office late at night, I wish I could see a self-portrait of myself. Do I look as old and tired as I feel, despite still being in my midthirties? Is this suit the powerhouse I imagined when putting it on this morning? Are the worry lines showing on my forehead; how disheveled does my hair look today? The physical attributes I feel define me…are they noticeable, or is it my own inherent belief that these things matter that makes them so? My elbows crooked at a crisp ninety-degree angle, resting along the desk with my sleeves rolled, tie and vest still in perfect condition…is it the picture that I think it is?

Image—being seen, or not seen, as I want to be—has been an armor for me since I was little, since I first discovered what it could do for me. The first time I learned how to hide in the library, how to camouflage myself as belonging somewhere I wasn’t supposed to be, looking the part to get handouts, not looking the part to avoid the critical eye of the police or school counselor. Clothes, demeanor, actions, stance, pronunciation…all a part of the package perfected in many ways over the years. It is an everyday thing for me now and as intrinsic as breathing.

My mind runs through it all in the background, juggling to keep a million things straight and on their course as I scan through the proposal—an eighty-plus page document that should have been twenty. Flowery and overdetailed, the analyst has potential, but he’s too fresh, too eager. I’m forcing myself through the pages, jotting notes and underlining the key pieces that were relatively well done. It’s tiring, more so than it should be, but there’s something important about knowing your employees and colleagues and what their thoughts and potential are. I expect a lot of my employees, and they rarely fail to deliver, but I also teach them well. I’m a hard boss, but I am also a fair one. I work more hours than anyone under me, something I make sure of each week. I can’t expect it of them if I can’t do it myself.

A sharp rap on the door startles me, and I blink slowly. The clock reads eleven thirty, and another slow blink reveals the same. Hours have passed without my knowledge. Peering down at the papers still in my grip, I find myself on page seventy-two, same as when I’d glanced at the clock striking nine. I roll my neck gently. My headache won’t be the only thing bothering me tomorrow.

I stand as Robert turns the knob and eases the door open. He stands up fully as soon as he spots me, and the slight frown already on his face deepens.

“Ready?” he asks.

My eyes cast wistfully toward the stack of papers for only a second before I grab them, nod, and follow him out of the room and down the hall. He holds open the car door as I climb in the back, and as he pulls away from the curb, a small yawn escapes my lips. His eyes track to mine in the rearview mirror, but anything he thinks of saying is silenced by whatever he sees on my face. If it is enough to leave him off his mothering, it probably isn’t good.

Five minutes later, he pulls in front of my building, and the car crawls to a stop. The small light in the entryway is on, which means Robert has made sure someone is on duty tonight. Despite my tiredness and headache, the smile tugs at the corners of my lips, and it doesn’t leave until I hear the car pull away after I shut the door behind me. I climb the stairs and unlock my own front door out of muscle memory.

I loosen my tie and, for just a moment, lean back against the door, letting the faint feeling of home wash over me. It is a small moment, over almost as it begins, but it gives me the strength to change into sweats and not lie down on the bed, and to make notes on the remaining twelve pages of the proposal brief I’d been working through before officially calling it a night.

Purchase

NineStar Press | Books2Read Universal Link

Meet the Author

Erin is a native Midwesterner who has spent her life loving words in all their forms. Turn is her first novel. She lives in Iowa with her three children. An avid wine lover, introvert, coffee addict, and nerd; most of her free time is spent with her children, reading, or writing. Find Erin on Twitter.

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Guest Review: First (99 Daddies #1) by Casey Cox

First: (adverb)
a: before another in time, space, or importance.
b: for the first time.
See also: Stirling "First-Time Daddy" Bishop.

A boy who can't find what he wants.
A Daddy who doesn't know what he needs.

With his big blue eyes, lean frame, and propensity for adorkable clumsiness, Mikey Harrison is a Daddy magnet...for the wrong type of Daddy. Those who mistake his desire to serve as an open invitation to mistreat him and abuse his trust.

But all of that changes when he lays his eyes on Stirling Bishop. Sure, the strong, silent (and irresistibly sexy) type ticks all of his boxes, but it's the tenderness underlying Stirling’s strength that makes him achingly irresistible.

For Mikey, it's insta-love.
For Stirling, it's insta-huh?

Despite looking like he was put on this earth to be the Daddy of every boy's dreams, the thought of dating a younger guy has never even crossed Stirling's mind, much less the idea of being a Daddy.

But there's no denying that Mikey awakens something deep within him—the desire to dominate, the need to care. It's been dormant, yet bubbling under the surface within him for his entire life.

Can Mikey help Stirling find the strength he needs to be the Daddy he was meant to be...and become the Daddy of Mikey's dreams?


Reviewer: Shee Reader

This book was adorable!

In a fictional city where daddies are plentiful, Mikey and his best pal Nick work as naked butlers for extra cash. Their employment at a special birthday bash for a group of men in a swanky suburb gave Mikey and Nick plenty to look at as they acted as stable for snacks!

Mikey (often a magnet for the wrong type of man) declared himself off the interested list right before his eye catches on Stirling Bishop. Stirling had attended the party for his dear friend Steel’s birthday, even though he really wasn’t feeling it. Sterling had been through three of the hardest years of his life, but a big birthday was worth celebrating no matter how hard life was. Stirling greets his friends before his eye catches on the adorable *naked* men acting as a table. Well, well.

Stirling's three best friends were all big men on the local daddy scene. Could their interference help Stirling discover an as yet unknown side to himself?

Mikey knows exactly what, or rather who, he wants. He wants Stirling to be his daddy - Mikey can teach him everything he needs to know, if only he were willing!

The lovely pair try dating and more, but Stirling pushes Mikey away so much that eventually, broken hearted, Mikey gives up. Will Stirling be able to pull this one back into his arms for good?

The HEA was well worth the drama, and Mikey finally gets what he needs and deserves thanks to some excellent meddling and a reluctant daddy who has to discover himself. This was a good fun, sometimes sexy romp with a delightful May-December age gap and a dose of good daddy kink.

Recommended!

I received a free copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.



Release Blitz + Giveaway: Glove Save And A Beauty by K.R. Collins


Author K.R. Collins and IndiGo Marketing host holiday release blitz for Glove Save and a Beauty! Find out more about the story and enter in the $10 NineStar Press credit giveaway!

Title: Glove Save and a Beauty

Series: A Sophie Fournier Holiday Story

Author: K.R. Collins

Publisher: NineStar Press

Release Date: November 23, 2020

Heat Level: 1 - No Sex

Pairing: No Romance

Length: 31400

Genre: Contemporary, LGBTQIA+, Contemporary, seasonal, sports, asexual, hockey, goaltender, Thanksgiving

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Synopsis

Gabrielle grew up in the shadow of Five-Hole Billy. When she becomes a goaltender, she carries two important lessons with her. Don’t rely on the fans for support and always protect the five-hole.

Isolated by the nature of her position and her personality, she struggles to fit in with her team. On the ice, she guards the net, the last line of defense when their efforts fail. Off the ice, her team views her as a girl, not a teammate, as if she can’t be more than one thing at once.

She doesn’t have the patience for their lack of understanding. She resigns herself to a quiet, lonely career set apart from her team. And then she gains a new teammate, someone outgoing enough to overcome her social awkwardness but who always respects the boundaries she sets. He meets her where she is, and she does the same in return.

Excerpt

Juniors marks her first Thanksgiving away from home. She lives with a billet family, because her team is too far to make the commute from her house. It’s close enough to Quebec to drive home for the holiday, because it’s a long weekend, but she doesn’t have a car, and Coach made it clear he expected them to celebrate together.

“Team is family,” he said and that was it, no discussion required.

She calls home to break the news as gently as she can. When she first left for this next stage in her hockey career, her mom cried. Her dad’s eyes grew misty. Gabrielle, uncomfortable with open displays of emotion, doesn’t want a repeat.

There isn’t one. She talks to her dad who says he understands and, later, after she’s hung up, she wonders if maybe he does understand and that’s why he was upset when she left. He knew it was a long-term departure. She won’t be home for holidays, and when she’s home in the summer, her days will be filled with training for next season.

And, provided everything goes well, when she’s finished with Junior hockey, there will be another level, one which will demand more of her time. She isn’t sure what level it will be yet. Playing Junior hockey meant giving up her college eligibility. The boys all have their sights set on the North American Hockey League.

There’s never been a woman in the NAHL before but, as people are beginning to whisper, there are no rules saying they can’t play. The whispers grow louder with every year Sophie Fournier plays, setting records and forcing people to think maybe. Sophie is only a year older than Gabrielle, and while she is making strides, they’re still a few years away from the NAHL being a consideration.

Gabrielle keeps her focus on the present. She shares the net with Dirk Trevens who resents her for being younger than him and for being a girl. He thinks those two things should make her worse than she is. Technically, she’s his backup, but she plays almost half of their games. They’re teammates, but he sees her as a threat.

By nature of their position, they spend almost all of their time together at practice, but she has a reputation for not speaking much, and their goalie coach doesn’t care if they get along as long as they listen when he tells them to do a drill.

Dirk will be easy to avoid at the Thanksgiving celebration with all their other teammates there. They celebrate on Sunday, so they can be with their billet families on Monday for the actual holiday. It means Gabrielle spends almost all of Saturday in the kitchen, baking both for her team and her billet family.

She closes the door to the kitchen, puts on her playlist—quiet and classical—and then opens her recipe binder. Each recipe is tucked inside a page protector in case of errant batter or other mess. They’re written in her neat script, and she can hear her father’s voice as she looks at the ingredient lists and steps. She ties her apron on. She’s outgrown the first one her dad gifted her, but like all the others before it, this one has a butterfly on it. It has three across the hem.

She’s never done Thanksgiving baking on her own. She misses her father’s steady presence, how she always knew he was there and paying attention even if they weren’t talking. He used to do the baking on his own before he invited her into the kitchen with him. Does he miss her, too, or is he glad for the return to his original routine?

She slices apples for pie and sugars strawberries for shortcake, and she makes chocolate chip cookies because they’re easy. Her playlist changes songs, and this one is familiar, from a ballet recital before she had to choose between ballet and hockey. She moves through the kitchen and occasionally goes up on her toes when a string of notes reminds her of a performance from years ago.

She was a figure skater and a ballerina long before she was a hockey player. She gave them both up to pursue hockey, because dedicated commitment is the only way to reach her goals. It doesn’t mean she loves either of them any less.

While baking is her Thanksgiving tradition with her dad, she and her mom would shop for Gabrielle’s holiday outfit. Well, when Gabrielle was young, her mom would buy it on her own. Three years after Gabrielle learned how to bake, her mom started taking Gabrielle on her annual shopping trip.

She doesn’t miss her mom while she peruses the mall for this year’s Thanksgiving outfit. Gabrielle’s always had a strong sense of her own style, and it didn’t often line up with her mom’s. She buys a forest-green jersey dress, because the fabric is soft and comfortable, and today’s get-together isn’t anything formal.

There are brown leather tassels on the short sleeves and a matching belt, wide and made to be worn just under the rib cage. She wears a long gold necklace with a circular pendant, a pair of ballet flats, and enough makeup to be noticeable. She pulls the top half of her hair back and braids it to keep it out of her face. She lets the rest hang down.

It’s a softer look than her teammates are used to seeing. She wears skirts and dresses to practice, but she doesn’t see her teammates before she slips into her locker room to change. They haven’t had their first game which means they haven’t seen any of her game-day dresses either.

She checks her appearance one last time, because she has an important impression to make today. She is their teammate, but she holds herself to a higher standard than wrinkled polos and thick clouds of cologne. She likes soft fabrics and fitted dresses and finding the perfect pair of shoes. Being feminine doesn’t mean she can’t stop pucks. Some of them will assume that after seeing her today, but she’ll set them to rights at their next practice.

Her billet parents pull up to the curb, but her billet dad doesn’t unlock the car yet. He twists in his seat so he can look at her directly rather than through the mirror. “This is your first team event. You have your cell phone and our numbers. If anything makes you uncomfortable, call us, and we’ll pick you up.”

“Thank you.” She knows they care—billet programs are competitive and coveted—but she figured they cared about their reputation. They care about her, and she offers them a genuine smile. “The Donnellys will be in the guest house.”

The Donnellys, today’s hosts, are a legacy billet family. They’ve hosted a player every year for the past fifteen years. Gabrielle’s never been to someone’s home where they have a main house and a guest house, but there’s a first time for everything. Her billet dad frowns at the reminder of minimum supervision, so she scoots out of the car before he can fumble his way through another well-meaning talk.

Once she’s out of the car, she can hear the music and laughter of a party already in half, if not full swing. She’s always early to practice and late to social gatherings. The former shows dedication, and the latter helps her avoid awkward misunderstandings.

Of course, being the last one to arrive means she makes an entrance, and everyone’s gaze swings toward her as she joins her teammates in the spacious backyard.

“You’re a girl!” Justin blurts. His face flames red, but his embarrassment turns to stubbornness as their teammates chirp him. “I mean, you look like one.”

“I always look like a girl.” She knows what he means—she’s in a dress rather than her hockey pads—but being a hockey player doesn’t make her less of a girl. And her dress, as much as she loves it, doesn’t make her more of one. She’s a girl because she’s a girl. The rest is presentation.

On the ice, she presents herself as a goalie. Her padding makes her bigger, helps her fill the net and intimidate the opposition before she makes her first move. Off the ice, she gravitates toward dresses and fitted blouses, in part because she likes them and, yes, in part because her teammates need the reminder.

Gabrielle intends to live a full life. She loves being on the ice, and she’ll make a name for herself in net. But she won’t spend all her time off the ice longing to be back on it. She’ll bake and shop and do yoga. She’ll paint her nails, look up new hairstyles to try, and read when she has the time.

“You brought pie.” It’s Mrs. Donnelly who looks past the dress and the makeup and sees what Gabrielle holds in her hands. “Did Cathy help you make them?”

“I made them myself. My dad taught me how.”

Mrs. Donnelly looks from the pies to Gabrielle and then back to the pies. Her disbelief is obvious, but she smiles as if willing to indulge Gabrielle’s fantasy. Gabrielle is reluctant to hand her offering over, but Mrs. Donnelly doesn’t give her much choice, taking the box of baked goods and bringing them into the house.

“You can bake?” It’s Justin again, right up in Gabrielle’s space, close enough for his cologne to choke out her subtle perfume. She fixes him with her best goalie stare, and he takes a step back. Unfortunately, it doesn’t deter him completely. “Sorry. But like, is there anything you can’t do?”

Because their teammates are assholes, there’s an immediate dogpile on Justin as they chirp him again.

“Oh, Gabrielle, you’re perfect,” Claude coos in a high-pitched impression of Justin’s voice.

“Gabrielle, will you bake me something?” Russ asks.

Gabrielle rolls her eyes at their antics and fares much better than Justin who turns an alarming shade of red. As if to prove he doesn’t have a crush on Gabrielle, Justin avoids her for the rest of the party. He sits at the opposite end of the table, and he carefully doesn’t look at her when they bring out the dessert.

Mark, who hadn’t been one of the more vicious mockers, takes his first bite of blueberry pie and gasps. He quickly takes another slice and deposits the piece on Justin’s plate. “You have to try this, dude. Life. Changer.”

There’s a mad scramble for dessert, and without any adults to mediate, there’s a chance it will end in broken dishes and blueberry filling smeared on people’s shirts. Instead, everyone manages at least two desserts on their plate, and Gabrielle finally earns her silence.

For a few minutes, there’s no talking. Whatever magic her dad works in the kitchen, she’s inherited it. The pie goes quickly, but the cookies disappear just as fast once her teammates realize she brought those as well.

“I’m doing this again next weekend,” Claude says, the first to break the silence. “With Bella and her family.”

“The pie won’t be as good,” Mark says.

Claude doesn’t defend his girlfriend, but he doesn’t agree either. He looks longingly at the empty pie pan and sighs.

“I can’t believe you have a girlfriend. Is she going to sit in the stands for all our games? Wear your spare jersey?”

“Nah, that thing reeks. She has her own.” Claude smiles and ducks his head, a little bashful, even as half of their teammates stare at him enviously.

“What about you?” Mark asks Gabrielle.

“I don’t have a girlfriend,” Gabrielle answers. And then, as Mark splutters, she adds, “I don’t have a boyfriend either.”

And she doesn’t have any interest in dating. Like baking, dating follows a predictable recipe. Only, instead of sift flour and chop apples and beat eggs, it’s go out to dinner for the first date, hold hands at the movies for the second, kiss on the third. She doesn’t want to do any of those things, especially as the recipe continues. If date five means having some guy try to stick his tongue in her mouth, she won’t go out with the same person five times. She isn’t sure she’ll ever make it to a second date.

It’s comforting, in a way, to know the pattern, because it means she won’t be caught off guard.

Purchase

NineStar Press | Books2Read Universal Link

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. Find K.R. on Twitter.

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Release Blitz + Giveaway: Burning it Down (CalPac Crew #3) by C. Koehler


Author C. Koehler and IndiGo Marketing return with a release blitz for the latest from the CalPac Crew series, Burning it Down (CalPac Crew #3)! Learn more about the contemporary romance and enter in the $10 NineStar Press credit giveaway!

 

Title: Burning It Down

Series: CalPac Crew, Book Three

Author: C. Koehler

Publisher: NineStar Press

Release Date: November 23, 2020

Heat Level: 3 - Some Sex

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: 87400

Genre: Contemporary, LGBTQIA+, sports, firefighter, veterinarian, rowing, accident rehabilitation, new identity

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Synopsis

Owen Douglas, Sacramento’s first out battalion chief, is grievously injured in the line of duty. When Brad Sundstrom finds out that Owen’s been noncompliant with his physical therapy due to depression, he pushes Owen into the Capital City Rowing Club’s adaptive rowing program.

Adam Lennox, a former collegiate rower, escapes an abusive relationship and makes his way to CCRC and quickly finds himself dragooned into helping out with adaptive rowing.

Owen, much to his surprise, finds both rowing and Adam much to his liking. When he realizes that Adam returns his interest, the sparks fly and they start a relationship. But even Eden has its snake, and Adam’s ex, Jordan, comes looking for him, willing to do anything to make Adam and Owen pay.

Excerpt

Burning It Down
C. Koehler © 2020
All Rights Reserved

Late summer, approximately a year and a half after the start of Rocking the Boat.

Four months into his new job as battalion chief for Sacramento City Fire’s second battalion and Owen Douglas still couldn’t sit still. Sure, he knew the job from a theoretical standpoint, and every day he learned more from a practical standpoint, but he couldn’t ignore the niggling discomfort he felt when he saw those bugles on his collar. Like his new uniform didn’t fit quite right, and perhaps from a certain point of view, it didn’t. No matter how he squinted or how many times he turned it this way or that, he couldn’t see all that much light between his investigation into the arson at the Bayard House at the beginning of the year and his promotion to battalion chief. More to the point, neither could the men and women under his command.

Not to mention every time he opened his mouth, unicorns crapping glitter and rainbows popped out. At least, that was what people seemed to be waiting for. He liked to think he was discreet, that nothing at work proclaimed him Big Gay Owen, no snapshots of boyfriends, no photos of him shaking his ass on a Mardi Gras float, no matter how much fun he’d had in Sydney, just a subtle rainbow on his battered 4Runner, a bar no bigger than the head of a toothbrush. He tried not to play the gay card, but he was the first out battalion chief in the fire department’s history, and well he knew it. More to the point, the people under his command knew it. Maybe he was just making too big a deal out of it or felt guilty for being promoted over the heads of more senior firefighters.

His intercom buzzed with his secretary on the other end. “Yes?” Owen said.

“Prissy Morrain to see you.”

“Oh! Send her in, please.” He dashed to his office door. He didn’t expect her until tomorrow.

Owen routinely left his office door open, but he quickly got out from behind his desk to greet his visitor, and not just because she outranked him.

“Chief Morrain! I’m so sorry! I must’ve made a mistake in my calendar. I wasn’t expecting you until tomorrow—”

Prissy Morrain waved a manicured hand. “Retired Chief, and I’m a day early. We both have better things to do than make small talk over hors d’oeuvres over at some white-tablecloth restaurant. Did you bring your lunch today?”

Owen nodded. Since he was a “first” for the department, he’d sought out the advice of another “first,” the first woman battalion chief, now retired from active firefighting and promoted off to one side to do something less dangerous involving paperwork. “I’ll grab it out of the fridge. There’s a nice park a block away. We can eat there.”

“That’ll do fine.”

Prissy Morrain was a handsome woman, Owen thought; really, she could’ve been one of those older models, the ones with silver hair and flawless skin who pitched vitamins to women of a certain age. Her wrinkles weren’t so much age lines scoring her face with years but delicate lines of character radiating out from her eyes and around her mouth to accentuate a ready smile. How she’d managed that with a career spent fighting fires and sexism, he’d never know.

He spent the short walk to the park rehearsing what he wanted to say, but when Prissy asked, “So what’s the problem?” Owen could only blurt, “I’m just not clicking with the people under me. This station, sure. My office is here, but the other stations in this battalion not so much, and there’s one station that when I walk in everything stops for a few minutes while I walk back to talk to the captain on duty, and that’s just creepy.”

“Have you talked to human resources?”

“Don’t be absurd” slipped out before he could stop it.

Prissy laughed. “Smart man. You don’t want this on your record.”

And that was why he’d contacted her. “Team-building exercises aren’t my thing at this point and are just a waste of time. I’m not in a burning building with these guys. They simply need to function with each other and work in coordinated groups, and they do. But I don’t like getting the stink eye either.”

“Look, hearts of gold, most of these guys, but it’s a conservative profession. The younger ones are yours,” Prissy said, arching one eyebrow, “maybe even literally. There’s more than one gay man among the recruits, and you’re a fine-looking specimen yourself.” She peered over the rims of her mirrored sunglasses, holding up one hand when Owen opened his mouth to interrupt. “Of course, you know better than that, but you know what I mean. It’s the ones who’ve been around a few years, the ones who’re your age and older, you may have to prove yourself to, the ones who might’ve even been up for your job. They’re the ones thinking ‘fag’ behind their smiles.”

“Or not, some of them,” Owen grumbled. “A few of them don’t even bother to smile.”

Prissy chuckled. “They’ll soon learn the stupidity of that. They may be comfortable for A or B shift, but if they’re dumb enough to piss in the battalion chief’s Wheaties, then they’ll have plenty of time to learn the errors of their ways on C shift, or better yet, transfer to someone else’s command. Too bad for them you’ve got just about the best battalion in town.”

It was true. Since he’d captained one of the downtown stations, when he’d been promoted, the fire department put him into an entirely different battalion so he wouldn’t be in immediate charge of his old buddies. The open battalion encompassed Midtown, East Sac, and part of the Pocket, named for the land inscribed within a bend in the Sacramento River. Sometimes he wondered if it was a coincidence that the city’s first out battalion chief also oversaw the gayborhood. He shrugged mentally. Oh well, easier relations during fire inspections, right? “That just seems so petty.”

“And the frat boy antics aren’t?”

Owen sighed. “True enough.”

“It’s not something you want to do often, because you will hear from their union reps about that, and about anything else if they develop an axe to grind,” Prissy said, “but used strategically, it can make your point quite nicely, and the best part is, it’s hard to prove.”

Owen nodded his head slowly. “One hundred and sixty-eight hours in a week, and five stations to staff twenty-four seven in three shifts.”

“Exactly. If you need to, you can always find something miserable for someone to do for a shift or two.” She ate some of her sandwich while she thought. “One more thing, and I hesitate even to mention it, but it was something a few—a very few—of my own firefighters used against me.” At his quizzical look, she said, “Sexual harassment.”

Owen sat back, tossing his own sandwich down. “Oh, that’s just what I need.”

Prissy patted his hand. “Don’t go borrowing trouble. It hasn’t happened yet, but you need to be aware of the possibility. You’re an out gay man, and you supervise a lot of men, some of whom are, by your own admission, not very happy right now. If they can’t pin anything else on you, they may try that.”

“Did that happen to you?” Owen asked, no longer hungry.

“Oh yes. I was a by-the-book chief, and when they couldn’t come up with anything else, some union rep had the bright idea of sexual harassment. Male firefighters, female chief. It was a situation rife with possibilities. Too bad for them and their credibility none of it was true, which quickly emerged when it came to a hearing. The judge laughed them out of court. It may be the same with you. You’ll be a by-the-book battalion chief, but some of them won’t like you just because you’re you, and the only thing they’ll come up with is that you ‘looked at ’em funny’.” She snorted. “Like you’d go for their stringy asses.” She stood up. “You know how to reach me, so do it if you need to. If you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go sculling. One of the advantages of seniority and a desk job is that you can take off more or less at will and no one will miss you. Of course, that’s one of the disadvantages too.”

Rowing. Brad. “Does everyone in this town row?”

“Only the best people. You should come check it out. The Capital City Rowing Club’s adult learn-to-row camps are about done for the summer, but there are still learn-to-scull lessons available.”

“Thanks for the talk. I really appreciate you taking the time,” Owen said, remembering a time he had been anything but by-the-book. The Bayard House. The second floor. Brad. He shivered at the thought of what they’d done. Unprofessional as it had been, it had also been damn hot.

And just the kind of thing people looking to take him down would eat up with a spoon. Fortunately, Brad didn’t seem like the kind to tell tales out of school. He was just too nice a guy. Brad had spent their one encounter thinking of someone else, someone who’d dumped him, and still the big sweetheart had pined for that other guy, even with Owen’s lips wrapped around his cock, and hadn’t that ever done wonders for his ego.

Owen wanted that, wanted that kind of devotion, he thought, sitting there in the leafy green silence of the park. Instead, like that time in the still-smoldering Bayard House, he was just the hookup. He got Brad off and sent him home and then followed up to make sure Brad called whatshisname. He liked to think he was more honorable than most, always the nice guy, always finishing last.

Then he heard the sirens and that was it, no more lunch. That was fine. He’d parted company with his appetite around the time Prissy had mentioned sexual harassment. The park was barely two blocks from the station, but he jogged back. “What’s going on?” Owen asked the dispatcher when he got back.

“A small grass fire at Cal Expo, sir. It doesn’t sound like anything to get excited over.”

Yet. In Owen’s experience, all fires were worth getting excited over, at least until proven otherwise. But maybe that was why he was a firefighter. He liked suiting up in his turnouts and racing to a fire in an engine running hot. He shook his head to clear the rising tide of adrenaline. He’d given some of that up to become battalion chief.

Then the radio went off. He picked it up. “Douglas.”

“I need four more alarms. This thing’s bigger than we were told. Much bigger, and it’s heading for structures.”

“On our way.” He put the radio down. “You heard Captain Chin. Get those trucks moving and notify Arden-Arcade,” he told the dispatcher.

“Beaufort!” he yelled for his driver as he ran for his office and his turnouts. A huge grass fire at Cal Expo that’s heading for the pavilions, and the state fair in less than a month. Why do I always end up involved in political fires?

He wore his turnout pants over his uniform. Sure, he’d sweat like a thoroughbred in moments in the heat once they arrived at the fire. It certainly wouldn’t be the first time. The rest he chucked in the backseat of the command SUV with the communications equipment. Then he checked his watch as he climbed into the passenger seat. Less than five minutes. Not ideal, but at least he beat his driver.

Beaufort came running up seconds later. “Damn, sir. How do you do that?”

“Because I’m a firefighter.”

“Ha ha,” Beaufort replied, climbing behind the wheel and flicking the sirens and lights on. But it was true. After earning his bachelor’s in biological sciences at UC Davis, Owen had gone to the Fire Academy at Sierra College. Beaufort studied communications and joined the department in that capacity, along with driving Owen’s now important executive-level ass to big fires.

Owen glanced out of Beaufort’s side of the SUV. “Look—!”

All he could tell was that it wasn’t one of his, and then the enormous fire truck smashed into them, tossing the SUV aside like a rag doll. He lost consciousness as the airbags deployed with a thunderclap.

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Meet the Author

Christopher Koehler always wanted to write, but it wasn’t until his grad school years that he realized writing was how he wanted to spend his life. Long something of a hothouse flower, he’s been lucky to be surrounded by people who encouraged that, especially his long-suffering husband of twenty-nine years and counting.

He loves many genres of fiction and nonfiction, but he’s especially fond of romances, because it’s in them that human emotions and relations, at least most of the ones fit to be discussed publicly, are laid bare.

While writing is his passion and his life, when he’s not doing that, he’s a househusband, at-home dad, and oarsman with a slightly disturbing interest in manners and the other ways people behave badly.

Christopher is approaching the tenth anniversary of publication and has been fortunate to be recognized for his writing, including by the American Library Association, which named Poz a 2016 Recommended Title, and an Honorable Mention for “Transformation,” in Innovation, Volume 6 of Queer Sci Fi’s Flash Fiction Anthology.

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