Blog Tour + Giveaway: Embracing His Syn (Nothing Special #2) by A.E. Via

Join author A.E. Via & Vibrant Promotions on the Embracing His Syn (Nothing Special #2) book blast tour! Find out more about the series, read an excerpt & enter in the giveaway for a $25 Amazon gift card! 4 WINNERS!

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Embracing His Syn
Nothing Special Series, Book 2
AE Via
M/M Romance, Law Enforcement
Release Date: July 28, 2014
Embracing His Syn Cover
Sergeant Corbin 'Syn' Sydney had dedicated his life to becoming the best detective. So when he heard there was an opening on the notorious Atlanta Narcotics Task Force, he jumped at the chance. But, what he wasn't ready for was realizing just how lonely he’d made himself, when he observed the loving and dedicated relationship between the two men he served under: Lieutenant Cashel ‘God’ Godfrey and Lieutenant Leonidis Day.
Syn prepared himself to accept his lonely fate until he walked into a small pub and met the long-haired, tattooed bartender, Furious Barkley. Before Syn can even understand why, he’s overcome with feelings he barely recognizes: passion, yearning, craving. And if the dark, lustful gazes are anything to go by, Furious might be feeling the same things for him.
Just two things need to happen before Syn and Furi can give each other what’s been missing from their lives for so long... Syn needs to find the evidence that proves Furi’s innocence of murder, as well as protect him from a past that refuses to let go.
God, Day, Ronowski, and Johnson are still as entertaining as ever...
You'll swoon over God's massive take-charge attitude...
You'll laugh hysterically at Day's never-ending wit...
You'll fall in love with Furious' mysterious, sexy demeanor...
You'll embrace Syn...
Disclaimer: The main characters of this book DO NOT participate in polygamous sexual pairings.
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Syn paid his tab for the one beer and left the pub. Somehow making love in an elevator didn’t appeal to him anymore. If he was being honest, women in general rarely did. He’d always felt they were more of a distraction than anything and he’d had very little time for distractions while focusing on his career. Syn looked up and down the street, about to cross to his building when a familiar figure caught his eye just a half-block up.

Furious. That’s what the man in the pub had called him. Interesting name.

Syn detoured and headed in that direction. His body completely ignoring what his brain was screaming. He just looks like him … this is not the same. Syn walked slowly, Furious wasn’t going anywhere since he appeared to be waiting for the bus. He watched a billow of smoke emerge from full, pink lips. Smoking. It was a filthy habit, but somehow, Furious made it look kind of hot. Syn was just a few feet away and saw that Furious had ear buds in, his hands tucked into the pockets of his jacket, head hanging down and all that hair falling over his beautiful face.

Beautiful face. Syn watched the man remove the cigarette from his lips.

“Uh oh. Stranger danger.”

Syn looked behind him but no one was there.

“I mean you. You just gonna stand there and stare, man?” Furious raised his head and turned slowly, pinning Syn with a hot glance.

“Name’s –”

“Yeah. I know your name, you told me already.” Furious cut him off. “Your cologne will give you away every time.”

Syn stepped a little closer. “Does it smell that bad?”

“Nope. Smells that good,” he said on an exhale of smoke.

A.E. Via has been a best-selling author in the beautiful gay romance genre for six years now, but she’s no stranger to MM. She’s been an avid reader of gay lit for over fifteen years before she picked up her laptop to place her own kiss on this genre. She’s also the founder and owner of Via Star Wings Books, having published a couple great new up and coming MM authors.
A.E. has a Bachelor of Arts in Criminal Justice from Virginia Wesleyan College that she used to start her own paralegal firm after she graduated in 2008. She spent five years preparing and filing bankruptcy petitions for struggling blue collar workers who couldn’t afford to file with a lawyer. It was a rewarding and satisfying career… but another path called to her.
A.E.’s novels embodies everything from hopelessly romantic to adventure, to scandalous. Her stories often include intriguing edges and twists that take readers to new, thought-provoking depths.
She’s recently celebrated her 20th book anniversary, and is kind of known now for her hardcore, play rough and love hard, bad boy, alphas. However, she does like to push herself to step out of her comfort zone, exploring different tropes, but she won’t push herself into a whole other genre. She’s head over heels for gay romance and she has tons of more hot stories to tell.
Be sure to visit Adrienne on her social media pages and subscribe to her newsletter to never miss another release date! Go to A.E. Via’s official website for more detailed information on how to contact her, follow her, or a sneak peek at upcoming work, free reads, VSWB submissions, and where she’ll appear next.
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Blog Tour: Crossing Nuwa: Trials by Sean Ian O'Meidhir & Connal Braginsky

Welcome authors Sean Ian O'Meidhir & Connal Braginsky along with Vibrant Promotions on the Crossing Nüwa: Trials blog tour. Find out more about this paranormal romance by reading the excerpt below!

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Crossing Nuwa: Trials
Sean Ian O'Meidhir & Connal Braginsky
Publisher: Dreamsprinner
Genre: M/M Paranormal Romance
Release Date: 02.04.20

With the help of technomage and hacker Theo, rare snake shifter Robbie escaped his mother and clan, who planned to use him as breeding stock. While still working to break through the conditioning and mind control of his past, Robbie is enjoying exploring a new relationship with the worldlier Theo.
But their fight isn’t over yet.
A trip to his aunt’s house for Thanksgiving is highjacked by political intrigue, leaving the couple wondering who their friends really are. They cannot help but be drawn into larger plots while trying to find justice for Robbie at his mother’s trial. When clan rivalries turn deadly, they’ll need their allies—and each other—more than ever.
Cover Designer - Anna Sikorska
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Guilt raced through me, a tangible thing that made me want to curl up and hide. She was so pale... her features drawn, normally vibrant hair lank against the pillow. “Her body’s naturally healing,”

Abi grumbled. “She’ll be fine if we can get blood for her to drink.”

“That won’t be a problem. Didn’t you say that the Council was able to call someone last night to help Robbie’s aunt?” Theo asked.

“Yeah....” Abi nodded. “The Mambas run several blood banks here.”

Why was this happening? Why would someone hurt Maggie? She was the kindest person in the world....Abi pulled her phone out, and Theo put his hand on her wrist. “Shouldn’t we maybe call the Council first?”

“No,” I said firmly, causing both Abi and Theo to look up at me, startled. “No... not yet. We have to go to the park.”

“Sugar, what are you saying?”

“If we call the Council, they’ll say to let them handle it. But they handled things last night and look where we are. We don’t know who did this, and if we don’t put a stop to it now, then we continue to be in danger. We don’t know if the Council will ever be able to figure out who did this. But we can. If we show up like they’re expecting us to.”

Abi chewed on her lip. “What about Mom?” she asked, her voice cracking, which tore at my heart.

“How’s this? Abs, you said that you know someone who can bring blood, yeah? Just call them and have them bring Maggie the blood. The three of us will go, as planned.”

Abi nodded. “Yeah. Yeah, okay.” She turned from us and focused on Maggie and her phone

“Theo....” He turned to me and I swallowed hard. “What’s Mother’s phone number?”

“Sugar...?” His tone spoke of concern, but I shook my head.

“Please?” He shifted his focus, his eyes fluttering closed for a brief second before he opened them and held out his phone to me. With trembling fingers I pushed the Call button and held the phone to my ear.

“Wilhelmina Ramsayi,” Mother answered. Her voice cut through me, leaving me breathless.

With a voice that sounded so much stronger than I felt, I asked, “Mother, are you still in San Diego?” I could have asked Theo to track her. There was a reason I hadn’t. It didn’t matter if she was here or not. She was needed now.

There was a pause that extended for a beat too long. I was about to check to see if I had lost connection when her very clipped response came. “Yes.”
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Sean is a shrink who by day spends time in jails and prisons (evaluating criminals) and by night writes romantic fiction. Sean and partner live in San Francisco ruled by their three cats and can often be found trying new restaurants. With the understanding that they live in Heaven, Sean adores spending time sitting near the water with a laptop in hand, gazing at the bay and making daydreams a reality for others to enjoy. To read more about Sean's adventures, please visit
Connal Braginsky is a tech nerd that has taken a leap of faith and took a chance on writing. Born to Russian immigrants, he came out as gay at 19, and was recently diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (Asperger's Syndrome).
He loves to read, and learn about Technology, Esoteric subjects and considers himself a transhumanist (the Russian Cosmism variety). His other pastimes revolve around philosophy which includes Panpsychism, Process Philosophy, Taoism, Buddhism and Gnosticism. He is also interested in various scientific fields, including Quantum Physics, Quantum Biology, Neurology, Psychology, and Sociology.
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Audiobook Review: The Prince and His Bedeviled Bodyguard (Paranormal Princes #1) by Charlie Cochet

Prince Owin

Being a fierce predator—not at all adorable, despite my graceful stature—the last thing I needed was a bodyguard. Especially a wolf shifter, whose presence alone was an insult to my princely principles. As Prince of the Ocelot Shifters, I prided myself on my infallible feline instincts, uncompromisable dignity, and flawless fashion sense. If having a canine follow me around at all times wasn’t bad enough, I now faced the most important moment of my entire life. The time had come to prove I was worthy of my crown. If only I could find a way to get rid of the pesky bodyguard.


When the King of All Shifters asked me to guard Prince Owin, I admit I had no idea what to expect. Cat shifters tend to be a little intense, not to mention kinda cranky. Owin was no exception, though he seemed crankier than most. Being his bodyguard was proving to be one of the greatest challenges of my life—but not nearly as great as convincing him there was something special between us. When Owin is faced with a perilous quest to prove his worth, I was determined to keep him safe, even if the same couldn’t be said of my heart.

Listening Length: 3 hours and 18 minutes
Narrator: Greg Boudreaux

Reviewer: Shee Reader

I absolutely adore a good shifter romance, and this was no exception! Prince Owin was lovely, if a little high maintenance and Grimm was an extremely long suffering bodyguard. They are sent off on challenge by the King of all Shifters (I need his book BTW, his right hand man is totally in love with him but he hasn’t noticed). They get up to some marvellous and slightly scary adventures and I laughed at the magic purse, so funny!

The writing was smart and engaging, and the narration was as stellar as I’ve come to expect from Greg (one of my all time fave narrators). There was just enough tongue-in-cheek from Grimm, and exactly the right amount of haughty high maintenance from Owin.

The HEA is delightful too. This book is an all round delight, and I cannot wait for more. Spoiler alert: I’ve already pre-ordered the next book in the series!)

I was given a free copy of the audiobook in exchange for an honest review.

Blog Tour + Giveaway: Fallen Love (Fallen #1) by Alex Stargazer

Author Alex Stargazer and Vibrant Promotions visit on the Fallen Love (Fallen #1) blog tour! Learn more about the paranormal romance and enter in the Fallen Love eBook giveaway! (4 winners)

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Fallen Love
Book One of the Fallen series
Alex Stargazer
Gay Urban Fantasy
Release Date: 02.05.20


There are many kinds of monster that walk the Earth. Some are ugly. Others speak beautiful words through forked tongues. But the worst possess the grace of angels, and the hearts of demons.
Upperclassman Conall is rich, impeccably dressed, and set for a prestigious career in the Party hierarchy. He doesn’t lack for anything—except, maybe, love.
When he finds Mark, alone, abandoned and hurt, he doesn’t expect one act of kindness to alter the course of his life forever. There is more to Mark than Conall can even dream of. The beautiful, vulnerable boy Conall knows is not human. A dark power lies within Mark—it can make him immortal... but love might be the price.
Fallen Love has dark magic, sweet romance, and lots of action.


Two dart in front of us, and for a moment, I freeze. They are creatures of nightmare: their legs are spindly, misshapen, and they seem to glide across the road. They hiss again. A split second later, they leap.

The first is incinerated in mid-air by a laser flash, and the android crushes the second. A slick, black-green substance drips from its dead body; the smell almost makes me retch.

I snap back to reality: we need to keep running. The boy is already in front of me.

“How many?” he cries.

“Does it matter? Let the android take care of them.” Despite my cavalier words, I’m close to panic. I squint, trying to make out the Upper Quarter. Not far, I think. We can make it.

The android opens fire, and at a glance I see what the boy meant: there are many, way too many. Several fall in the firestorm, but others clamour to take their place. This isn’t a lone attack; this is a swarm. And we’re right in the middle of it.

“Run faster!” I scream. “We’re almost there!”

But it’s too late.

A mutant slams into me with the power of a sledgehammer. I heave against it, fighting with its mandibles: I have to stop those fangs, so gleaming with venom, from sinking in and finishing me off.

And then the weight is off me. Through the corner of my eyes, I see it sail high into the air and into the reach of the android, but my sight never leaves the boy who saved me.

“I had to return the bleedin’ favour,” he says, hand outstretched. I don’t have time to thank him. He lifts me and we’re running again. The lights of the Upper Quarter are tantalisingly close. They shimmer behind an immense force-field, designed to keep out mutants and undesirables. Riffraff like the boy I just rescued.

Not that I have time to worry about that right now. “My ID will open the force field!” I cry, and I throw myself forward, fumbling for the ID.

With a flash of the reader, we cross the threshold. We’re in.

We breathe deeply, and I collapse against him. The mutants hiss, disappointed, and quickly slink back from the force field. A few are not so lucky, and are noticed by one of the guard towers. Machine gun fire turns the monsters into bloody smears on the ground.

Still, my interest isn’t on the monsters—it’s on him. It isn’t just the muscles, which are hard and powerful against my body. His scent is masculine, and sends a surreptitious thrill through me.

Before, I feared death; but now, I feel very much alive.

“That was fun,” I say.

“Fuck you.”


About the Author
Alex Stargazer is an author of dark, fantastical tales that snare you in with epic world-building—and keep you reading with funny anecdotes and beautiful love stories. He currently hails from rainy Scotland, but he can be found all over Europe. Since publishing his first novel—the Necromancer—at 14, Alex has released two short stories and an upcoming new novel, named Fallen Love. Sign up to his newsletter to stay up-to-date:
When not establishing the finer points of magecraft or the peculiarities of dragons, Alex is working hard on getting a Master’s degree in boring topics like economics. In his spare time, Alex enjoys exploring the wilderness of Scotland—though Austria, Italy and the Nordic countries fascinate him most. If he really needs to blow off some steam, Alex will shoot zombies in his favourite shooter, Left 4 Dead 2.
Alex can be found on Twitter @AlexStargazerWE or on Facebook at Alex Stargazer Writes Books. You can also get a free short story on his website:

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Audiobook Review: Consorts of the Red King by Eden Winters

In deepest space the ruthless Federation lays waste to one rebel colony after another, leaving comrades-in-arms Van Orskey and Tayn Kassik without family, without a home, and without hope.

With nothing left but each other, they run contraband and smuggle fugitives from the safety of their ship, the Cormorant—with the occasional clandestine mission for the rival Coalition thrown in. Their heists have not gone unnoticed, though even the bounty on their heads doesn’t prevent them from being a thorn in the enemy’s side at every opportunity.

Pissing them off? Big mistake.

From the day of his birth Prince Jorvik of Akiak learned duty, wisdom, and honor from his father, leaving him ill-equipped to withstand betrayal by his Federation-puppet uncle. He has no love for the greedy off-worlders who plunder his world’s natural resources and enslave his people. To defeat his foe, he needs the cunning, fearlessness, and touch of treachery only outlaws can offer.

Two off-world mercenaries make unlikely partners in Jorvik’s quest for vengeance, but the more he learns of them, the more common ground he discovers. In each other’s arms they find passion, heat, and maybe, a reason for living—until their common enemy threatens to tear them apart.

To survive, they must take on the corrupt Federation.

And win.

Listening Length: 12 hours 42 minutes
Narrator: Darcy Stark

Reviewer: Annery

The New Year has proven to be a bounty of riches and I couldn’t be happier. Eden Winters is a NTM author and shame on me for coming so late to the party. The audio version of Consorts of the Red King, which is how I primarily experienced this story, is nothing short of wonderful. I think I would’ve loved it just based on Darcy Stark’s masterful narration. Happily this an excellent marriage of a well told AU/SciFi story and the perfect performer for the job. Darcy Stark gifts us with distinct and nuanced voices for each and every character, from the lowly, one-scene-only ones to our protagonists Van, Tayn, and Jorvik whom he imbues with humor, emotion, and undeniable uniqueness. In my limited knowledge I’d see his style most closely resembles Greg Tremblay, and that’s no small compliment. If you like ABs, you won’t be disappointed.

THE STORY: Even if you’re only tangentially acquainted with post-Earth Sci-Fi from the last 40 years, from Star Trek to Star Wars to Firefly, the world created by will be familiar, but Eden Winters adds a deft touch of humanity, depth, and humor, and doesn’t resort to “telling” us about this world but rather showing it through action and speech. Things that should feel alien are utterly familiar, because in the end people are people even when they’re not humans. The insatiable and ruthless hunt for resources, child soldiers, questionable experimentation in biogenetics, and other ills of current Earth haven’t fallen by the wayside in this post-Earth future. Why would they?

Tayn & Van are former Coalition soldiers currently helming the Cormorant, a prototype ship which melds sentient pilots with the machine. Basically they’re sanctioned space pirates for missions against the Federation and other stuff the Coalition would rather deny. They’re also FWB (friends with benefits) who can’t acknowledge that they’re way beyond that, that their shared history makes them so much more. They need a push and it arrives in the shape of Jorvik, Prince of Planet Akiak, who’s fled home after egregious betrayals and has to transform himself in order to take back his kingdom and free his people. The three need each other in ways big and small and it’s beautiful to see them come together.

If you like adventure with heart, humor, grumps (looking at Van), and a decidedly different take on an MMM relationship this book is for you. Even if you’re not a superfan of any of those things I think these three characters will definitely win you over.

MISCELLANEOUS: Though the story ends in a satisfactory way there’s a giant door left for a sequel or two which I’ll be eagerly waiting for. The cover, though maybe crude or cheesy, is very representative of the characters and their relationship. It doesn’t lie.

Two characters show up towards the end, Connell and Stone, who besides being very helpful have their own sweet story told in The Sentinel, which is free. I’d recommend it.

Re-release Blitz + Giveaway: Tricks and Bids (Suit of Harte's #1) by Jacqueline Grey

Join author Jacqueline Grey and IndiGo Marketing in celebrating the re-release of Tricks and Bids (Suit of Harte's #1)! Find out more about the BDSM novella and enter in the giveaway for a chance to win $10 Nine Star Press credit!

Title: Tricks and Bids
Series: Suit of Harte's, Book One
Author: Jacqueline Grey
Publisher: NineStar Press
Release Date: February 17, 2020
Heat Level: 3 - Some Sex
Pairing: Male/Male
Length: 20300
Genre: Contemporary, LGBTQIA+, BDSM, romance, contemporary, gay, sex industry, prostitution

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When Michael Nole propositions Dillon Spade outside a BDSM club one evening, all he is looking for is a potential client and a little kink. He gets much more than he bargained for. As a prostitute, Michael enjoys sex but keeps an emotional distance between himself and the men he sleeps with. His priority is to keep himself safe, but after a night in Dillon’s bed, he finds the line between enjoyment and occupation blurring.

Dillon hasn’t taken another man home since his previous lover passed away six years ago, but there is something about Michael that calls to his inner Dominant in a way he cannot resist. His instincts want to claim the boy even as he reminds himself that he is only paying Michael for temporary company.

Their relationship may have started as a business transaction, but it’s difficult to remain professional when breaking all the rules.


Tricks and Bids
Jacqueline Grey © 2020
All Rights Reserved

“Hey. Wanna play?”

Dillon glanced up to find a young man leaning against the hood of his car. At Dillon’s pointed look, he took a step back, so he no longer touched the automobile.

“What gave you the impression I want company?”

“You obviously didn’t find what you were looking for in there” came the reply with a nod back at Harte, the BDSM club Dillon had just exited. “If you had, you wouldn’t be leaving this early.”

“And you think you’re what I want?”

The boy shrugged.

Dillon peered at him. He appeared to be in his midtwenties, fit and tight in the way Dillon remembered being before he’d hit thirty-three. He was shorter than Dillon with dark-brown hair long enough to grip: two things Dillon liked in a submissive. There was something familiar about him as well. If Dillon wasn’t mistaken, he’d seen him heading into a nearby motel a few times and never with the same “date.”

“Are you a prostitute?” Dillon asked.

The blunt question evoked an expression of surprise, but it rapidly morphed into a smooth smile. “‘Prostitute’ sounds like a job. It’s more of a hobby.”

“One you get paid for.”

“It’s a good hobby.”

Dillon cracked a smile. “How much do you charge?”

“Depends on what you want to do.”

That was reasonable enough, and if he’d been waiting outside Harte, he must know to expect kink and charge for it accordingly. “Are you clean?”

“Yes, and condoms are necessary and at your expense.”

“Expense? That sounds like a job term to me,” Dillon teased.

He considered his options. The boy was right. He hadn’t found what he was searching for in the club, and he held no illusions he ever would. Even after six years, he couldn’t help comparing every submissive he came across to the lover he’d lost. Harte called him a stubborn old goat, but the thought of building a relationship from scratch exhausted him. It was so hard to find someone whose rhythms and tastes fit with his own. Granted, the club was designed for negotiation and mutually desired play, but that was for the scenes that took place there. What about the rest of the time?

Dillon didn’t want a casual play partner. That did nothing more for him than scratch an itch that would return in no time. He wanted someone he could build a life with. He wasn’t going to find that with a prostitute, but something about the stranger brought forth yearnings Dillon hadn’t felt in years. He could take the boy home with him, indulge in what he wanted in his own territory and under his own rules. It would be a purchased illusion, but it beat going home alone and sleeping in an empty bed.

“Come on,” he said, pulling his car door open and unlocking the other side. “We’ll talk details when we get to my place.”

“Your place? Don’t you mean a hotel?”

“My place,” repeated Dillon. “I don’t do quick fucks.”


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Meet the Author

Jacqueline Grey currently lives on an island on the east coast of the United States. She spends her time outside her day job juggling her many interests which include reading, writing and drinking tea. She loves M/M romance, usually focusing on stories that include BDSM themes to one degree or another.

Jacqueline has always been driven by characters. She loves a good plot, but it’s the characters that pull her into a story. She loves romance and believes everyone has a right to be happy. She enjoys seeing her characters find that happiness for themselves.

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Release Blitz + Giveaway: The Weight of Living by M.A. Hinkle

The Weight of Living by M.A. Hinkle is out from NineStar Press! Join the author and IndiGo Marketing for today's release blitz and enter in the $10 NSP credit giveaway!

Title: The Weight of Living
Series: Cherrywood Grove, Book Three
Author: M.A. Hinkle
Publisher: NineStar Press
Release Date: February 17, 2020
Heat Level: 1 - No Sex
Pairing: Female/Female
Length: 79500
Genre: Contemporary, LGBTQIA+, contemporary, lesbian, trans, artists, caterer/chef, photographer/wedding photographer, teenagers, family drama, crazy weddings, Sailor Moon nerdiness, millennial angst, interracial/intercultural

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When she arrives in Cherrywood Grove for a working vacation, shy photographer Trisha Ivy expects to kick back and relax, enjoying her last summer of freedom before turning into a real adult with a mortgage and a nine-to-five. After all, her real life is back in Chicago with her best friend Bella, not a sleepy small town. But Trisha keeps running into beautiful, confident Gabi Gonzalez, a caterer working all the same weddings…and she’s the daughter of Trisha’s favorite local TV star. Trisha can’t resist getting to know her. After all, she’s only in town for the summer, and Gabi is straight. What harm could it do?

Gabi Gonzalez has spent most of her life trying to escape Cherrywood Grove and find something bigger and better. During an internship in Milwaukee, she thought she’d finally found it. But after her father’s sudden death, she returns home and tries to squeeze back into the same childhood roles: kid sister, cool aunt, tireless worker. She’s just resigned herself to going through the motions when she meets Trisha, someone who finally sees Gabi for her own self instead of putting her in a box. Can Gabi open up to Trisha about what she really wants before Trisha leaves town for good?


The Weight of Living
M.A. Hinkle © 2020
All Rights Reserved

2015, Three Months Before: The Time Gabi Was a Grumpy Tomatillo

Gabi had expected Soledad to laugh when she came in the room, and she was not disappointed. “What is your outfit?” Soledad asked, putting her hands on her hips. “I didn’t even know you owned a dress.”

Gabi busied herself rolling up the sleeves of her cardigan. She had short-sleeved ones, but none of them had been washed recently, so they smelled musty like the closet at her parents’ house. When she left for her internship, she’d only brought blazers. “I own several, as it happens. You remember how I used to dress. This is for business.”

Soledad glanced at her own outfit—a bright, short-sleeved button-down and her favorite gold chain. Gabi would have called it a self-conscious look if she didn’t know Soledad so well. “Well, sorry, I thought this was a TV show, not a board meeting.”

The twist to her voice was surprisingly nervous, and Gabi glanced at her again. “You don’t have to change. You look great.”

The idea of Soledad looking anything but great—except maybe elbow deep in week-old fryer grease—was unfathomable. Soledad’s hair was always sleek and freshly gelled; her shirts were always bright as jewels against her brown skin.

But she still didn’t relax; she was twisting the gold chain between her fingers, a gesture usually reserved for long talks on the phone with her latest girlfriend.

“You look fine,” Gabi repeated. “I have to dress this way to make my parents happy. You saw how my mom reacted when she noticed my short hair.” She affected a high-pitched voice, which sounded nothing like her mother but made the point. “‘Ay, mija, tu pelo! What did you do to yourself?’”

Soledad winced. “I thought I wasn’t supposed to remember.”

“She didn’t mean it.” Though Gabi’s mother certainly had. Gabi’s hair hadn’t been shorter than shoulder-length since a classmate rubbed gum in it in kindergarten. “Anyway, it’s too late to change, so they can’t say anything even if they want to.”

Gabi’s parents wouldn’t say a word. From the moment they laid eyes on Soledad, they had adored her. They’d spent the whole weekend hanging on her every word and laughing hysterically at her jokes.

Gabi clapped Soledad on the back. Touching her so casually seemed strange, but no stranger than Soledad’s nerves. She hadn’t even blinked when one of the guys in their internship group nearly cut off a finger slicing ham. “Come on, chill. This really isn’t a big deal.”

“Easy for you to say.” Soledad let Gabi nudge her toward the kitchen anyway. Today, they were filming in the big industrial kitchen on campus, which Gabi had hoped would put Soledad at ease, but no dice. “You’ve been on TV since you were, like, five.”


Soledad shot her a look, but before she could tell Gabi off, Gabi’s father Carlos swept into the room. As usual, several members of the crew trailed him trying to get his attention, but Carlos ignored them, making a beeline for Gabi’s side. He gave her a loud smacking kiss on the cheek, and Gabi dutifully rolled her eyes. She’d missed it since she’d been away for almost a year now, but her dad would get a big head if she let him know.

“There’s my girl. Or one of them, anyway.” He turned to Soledad. “I’m outnumbered, and it only keeps getting worse. I prayed and prayed Soledad would have a boy, but alas. Oh well. There’s always you, Gabi.”

“Not planning on kids, Dad,” said Gabi.

He draped an arm around her shoulders. “You haven’t met the right man yet, mija. I thought I would be a bachelor forever too, but here I am.”

Soledad snorted, and Gabi’s father wagged a finger at her. “Your opinion does not count, Señorita Rivera! Although when Sarah’s old enough, I will appreciate your help vetting her choice of woman.”

Gabi caught Soledad’s eye, both of them startled. Sarah was only seventeen, and their internship was nearly over. They hadn’t discussed the future, but it probably didn’t involve either of them hanging out in Cherrywood Grove.

Before Gabi had to figure out how to drop any bombshells on her father, Sarah popped up at his elbow. “Abuelo, I’ve already had three girlfriends.”

“Si, si, mijita, I know, but high school does not count.”

Sarah puffed up, a sure sign she was going to lecture all of them on exactly how serious she could be. And also, probably ageism or something. Gabi would have to step in. She loved watching Sarah unleash herself, and so did Carlos, but they were on a tight schedule today.

“Sarah, you said yourself you broke up with them because they weren’t mature enough for you.”

Sarah’s shoulders relaxed. “It’s true, I suppose. But Abuelo’s right about your boyfriends, Gabi. They were all garbage.”

Soledad did nothing to hide her smirk. Gabi pretended not to notice.

Carlos let go of Gabi, but only so he could pull Sarah to his side instead. “Now, have you got notes for me, hmm?”

“Yep.” Sarah held up her binder, labeled Talk of the Town in her impeccable handwriting. “Although I still couldn’t decide on one part. I know you said you didn’t like this line—” She flipped through the pages until she found one highlighted in blue. “—but I couldn’t think of a better substitute. Yours doesn’t roll off the tongue.”

“Ah! Lucky for us, our resident tiebreaker is here!” He reached out for Gabi again, holding one girl in each arm.

Soledad caught Gabi’s eye, her hand covering her mouth to hide a laugh.

Gabi made a face at her to indicate, I will deal with you later. To her father, she said, “Okay, okay, let me see.”

Her father passed her the binder. The line in question was a scientific explanation about egg proteins. Sarah’s version involved the actual names; Carlos’s was more simplistic. He never liked to go into too much detail in case it lost people’s attention. But his was patronizingly vague.

“Sarah’s is better,” Gabi declared. “But ditch the scientific terms. Call them proteins. We can put a graphic up with their proper names in a post if it’ll bother you so much.”

“It will,” said Sarah, though not as sharply as usual since she’d won the argument. “Don’t go anywhere, Abuelo. I have more notes.”

Gabi took the chance to duck out from under her father’s arm. Soledad was clearly still ill at ease, which would make for a stiff and uninteresting performance. And Gabi was the resident problem-solver, after all.

“Good, good, let’s talk.” Carlos touched Gabi’s elbow before she managed to slip away completely. “Oh, Gabriela, your sister was looking for you.”

Gabi waited until Carlos walked away, an arm still around Sarah’s shoulders, before letting out a disgusted sigh. “Of course she is.”

“Rosa’s pretty cool.” Soledad was only trying to tweak Gabi’s nose, but Gabi could never resist the bait.

“And beautiful and talented and blah blah blah.” Gabi adjusted the sleeves of her cardigan again, already sliding down. She’d forgotten how fussy feminine clothes were. “You only like her because you think she’s hot.”

“And you’re only cranky because she’s older than you and can challenge your authority.”

“Don’t you start rubbing in the age difference. My parents are bad enough. I can only handle being called their little surprise so many times in one week. And you wonder why I needed a break.”

Gabi shooed Soledad out the door over to the prep area, where Gabi’s sister, Rosa, was bent over a row of papier-mâché tomatillos painted with faces. Despite the barely dry paint, she was wearing a far fancier dress than Gabi’s, tied with a sash at her waist emphasizing her curves. If Gabi wore a similar dress, she’d look flat as a board. Or like Frankenstein’s monster.

Soledad tilted her head. “Are these supposed to be your family?” she asked, picking up one with Carlos’s distinctive broad nose.

“Oh, of course! And there’s you over here.” Rosa picked up one tucked behind the others with Soledad’s dimple in her left cheek. “You can take it home after the shoot if you’d like. A little memento. Otherwise, it’ll end up lost in Papá’s house somewhere. He’s less organized than I am.”

Gabi found her own. “Why am I frowning?”

“You’re unripe, obviously. Papá wanted some models to demonstrate how to shop for fresh tomatillos. See, he’s bruised, and Mamá is overripe.”

“You have way too much fun with this stuff.”

“Are you kidding me? She’s living the dream.” Soledad gently replaced her tomatillo next to Gabi’s. “Hell yeah I’m taking my mini-me home.”

“We’ll have to find a safe spot so your roommates don’t trash her.” Gabi poked Rosa’s arm. “Now what did you want me for?”

“What did I want you for?” Rosa tapped her cheek and then brightened. “Ah. Yes. Carry this, please? I’d ask one of the tech guys to help, but something always ends up broken.” She pointed at a box of miscellaneous props. “Also, it’s your turn to hide the armadillo. Several times over, but we’ll let it slide.”

“Can I do it?” Soledad asked, picking through the box. “It’s my favorite part.” She found it near the bottom and held it up, grinning. It was one of Rosa’s first props for the show and thus a little worse for wear, but it still worked.

“You have to be sneaky. Dad keeps his eyes peeled better than you’d think.” Gabi started to pick up the prop box, but her sleeves had slipped down again. She growled and shrugged off her cardigan.

“Bare arms? The scandal!” Soledad winked at her.

“I’m simply glad she’s wearing real clothes again,” said Rosa absently, picking up a tiny paintbrush to touch up a detail on Carlos’s tomatillo. “I have no idea where you got the outfit you arrived in, mi amor, but it should have been burned.”

Gabi caught Soledad’s eye and mouthed, I told you so. She grabbed the box. “Stop messing with those. We’ll need them sooner than you think.”

“All right, all right.” Rosa stepped back. “I’ll be there in a moment.”

“If you aren’t on set in five, I’m sending one of the tech guys here.”

Rosa flapped a hand at her, already inspecting another tomatillo to doubtless make a minuscule change no one else would notice, even in HD.

Rolling her eyes, Gabi nodded at the doorway, and Soledad headed out first, though she lingered in the hallway instead of walking right back into the kitchen.

“Getting cold feet after all?” Gabi asked, though she could never imagine Soledad intimidated. Then again, she’d never imagined her nervous either. “Say the word and you can leave. It’s not going to mess anything up.”

“Don’t be silly. This is awesome. It’s—” Soledad traced the swirling patterns painted on the armadillo, her expression thoughtful. When she spoke, her voice had softened. “You’re lucky, you know? I wasn’t sure what to think when you invited me to visit, but your family’s as good as it looks from the outside. It’s pretty cool. You’re so much less awkward here.”

Gabi adjusted her grip on the box, unsure what to say. She and Soledad rarely discussed personal topics. She wasn’t even sure why she’d invited Soledad to come visit during their break. Soledad was the only one without family to visit over the holidays, yes, but she’d been excited for the break from her roommates. Her own parents were nothing to write home about.

“I guess,” Gabi said, when the silence threatened to turn strange between them. It happened sometimes, both of them holding their breath for no reason Gabi could make sense of. “I’ve never thought about it.”

Soledad’s expression didn’t change. “I’m not surprised. It makes you even luckier.” As fast as it came, her mood passed, and she lifted her head, flashing Gabi one of her signature cocky grins. “It’s your job to distract your papá while I hide this.”

Gabi grinned back. “I see how it is. I’m always stuck playing the sidekick.”

“Damn straight you are.”

When they got back to the main filming area, Carlos had apparently decided on the finalized version of the script and settled on a good area to film the intro. Sarah waved them over to the corner, out of frame.

“Are we interrupting something?” Soledad whispered. She’d gone tense again, and now it was too late to do anything to loosen her up. Oh well. Most of the guests were bad on camera too.

“He’s not started yet. Trust me, you’ll know when.” Gabi sat in a folding chair beside Sarah; Soledad turned hers around and propped her arms on the back, as was her way.

“They’re only testing the acoustics in this room right now,” Sarah said, making notes in a different, rainbow-colored binder. “It’ll be a while before anything interesting happens.”

Still, they all quieted when someone called for silence, and the cameraman counted down like they were truly filming. Soledad leaned forward in her chair, mouthing the words along with Carlos: “¡Hola! I’m Carlos Gonzalez, and you’re not, coming to you live from the greatest kitchen in the world.”

They had recently tweaked the intro for this episode, and Gabi ought to have paid attention. Yet she found herself watching Soledad, her eyes bright with excitement, and when Carlos forgot a line and the whole crew broke up in laughter, Gabi realized she hadn’t heard a word he said.


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Meet the Author

M.A. Hinkle swears a lot and makes jokes at inappropriate times, so she writes about characters who do the same thing. She’s also worked as an editor and proofreader for the last eight years, critiquing everything from graduate school applications to romance novels.

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Release Blitz + Giveaway: Behind the Sun, Above the Moon Anthology by Various Authors

The non-binary science fiction and fantasy anthology, Behind the Sun, Above the Moon, is out from NineStar Press! Join the authors and IndiGo Marketing the celebration! Interested in learning more? There are featured stories from authors Ziggy Schutz, Paige S. Allen, Brooklyn Ray, J.S. Fields, S.R. Jones, Alex Harrow, Emmet Nahil, Sara Codair, and Anna Zabo! Plus, you can enter in the $10 NSP credit giveaway!

Title: Behind the Sun, Above the Moon
Author: Ziggy Schutz, Paige S. Allen, Brooklyn Ray, J.S. Fields, S.R. Jones, Alex Harrow, Emmet Nahil, Sara Codair, Anna Zabo
Publisher: NineStar Press
Release Date: February 17, 2020
Heat Level: 3 - Some Sex
Pairing: M/NB, F/NB
Length: 91300
Genre: Science Fiction/Fantasy, LGBT, contemporary, fantasy, science fiction, trans, nonbinary, magic, short stories

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A Queer anthology inspired by magic and the cosmos, a vast and beautiful place where planets, stars, comets—entire galaxies, even—live without borders, specifications or binaries. Stories span science fiction, science fantasy, contemporary, fabulism and magical realism, and celebrate Non-binary and Transgender characters.

twice-spent comet by Ziggy Schutz

From Dusk to Dying Sun by Paige S. Allen

Lost/Found by Brooklyn Ray

Awry with Dandelions by J.S. Fields

The Far Touch by S.R. Jones

Ink and Stars by Alex Harrow

Horologium by Emmet Nahil

Death Marked by Sara Codair

Weave the Dark, Weave the Light by Anna Zabo


twice-spent comet
On an isolated asteroid, Fer serves out their sentence with a found family of ramshackle criminals. Life takes an exciting turn when they befriend Ophelia, a beautiful humanoid creature with a tail like a comet.

From Dusk to Dying Sun
Jay Morrison almost believes the rumors of magic and mischief haunting the US-50. But their partner, Luis Inoa, has made a career guarding the dusty Nevada trails. According to him, the only scary things on the highway are the silences, until a group of tourists break open the sun and disappear into a fiery blaze.

When Hollis Griffin, a lonely sex worker living in Venice Beach, forms an unlikely friendship with a fallen star, she begins to face the truth about her life, her past, and what the future holds.

Awry with Dandelions
For thirty seconds every night, a disembodied specter named Mette visits with Orin who has long since written the ghost woman off as a recurring dream. But when Mette suggests meeting in real life, Orin’s inner world turns out to be more substantial than imaginary, and xie embarks on a journey to discover the truth of Mette and their strange connection.

The Far Touch
A long-standing coven of witches trek to their sacred space and accidentally discover life on another planet when their Solstice celebration interferes with a lone practitioner.

Ink and Stars
Locked in a contract to steal their ex-lovers ship, Chaz Neoma comes face to face with consequences, lost partnership, and the chance at a future, after discovering they aren’t the last Weaver in the universe.

In the far reaches of the Horologium Supercluster, an astronaux is stranded alone on a long-distance astral ship where they’re visited by three apparitions, telling stories of ancestors who traveled space before them. Coeie must decide whether to follow the ghosts of the past, or forge their own path through the cosmos.

Death Marked
As chief security officer in the Lunar Guard, Enzi is in charge of the security for their sister’s coming of age ceremony. A fragile relationship with their family doesn’t make keeping Ulsa safe any easier, and neither does a group of pesky drones or a hidden plot to overthrow their sister’s place in the family.

Weave the Dark, Weave the Light
On a crisp night, Ari, a supposed elemental witch, meets Jonathan Aster, a powerful being they desperately want to understand. As they explore an intense, intimate and passionate relationship, Ari unearths long-hidden mysteries about themself and their magic.


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Guest Review: Protected by Her Alphas (The Omega's Alphas #4) by Jayce Carter

It takes three alphas to bring this bratty omega to heel.

Emily Pitch, the spoiled heir to a massive fortune, is given a new security detail—three sexy, arrogant and infuriatingly dominant alphas. Emily is used to twisting men to her whims and being a brat—men usually only want her for what her family can give them.

However, these three alphas can’t be manipulated, threatened or annoyed into doing anything they don’t want to, and they regard her not as a prize or a meal-ticket, but as a woman they want.

Thrown into the trio’s company, Emily is forced to admit her growing feelings for them, and her yearning for more in her life. Can she create something real between her and the alphas, or will the dangers that chase them steal it away first?

Reader advisory: This book contains scenes of violence, attempted kidnapping, and implied coercion / dubious consent.

Reviewer: Shee Reader

First, this is a pretty quick read, and I was in the mood for exactly that today. There are times though, that a short story can leave me feeling a bit dissatisfied, and this was one of those.

There was no build up to the story at all, and I didn’t really care about Emily until quite far on in the book. I have no issue with erotic romance but the sex in this story felt a bit contrived. It was in a forest after a car smash and hiking for a day or so (in kitten heels), and all three alphas got down and literally dirty with this alluring omega. Maybe I’m being weird and failing to suspend reality for a romance but I didn’t like it!

For me the best bit of the book could have been much more emotive. When the old bodyguard arrives…I did like how Emily misread the situation. The reunion with the dad wasn’t emotional enough for me either. Maybe I’m just grumpy from my winter cold, but this was a disappointing read.

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

Blog Tour + Giveaway: Cat Escort by Melissa E. Costa

Welcome the Cat Escort blog tour stop today! Author Melissa E. Costa and Vibrant Promotions drop by with info on the paranormal romance and host a giveaway where you can win a signed paper back copy of Cat Escort!

Cat Escort Tour Banner (2)
Cat Escort
Melissa E. Costa
M/M Paranormal Romance
Release Date: 02.06.20

Novel (2)
Cover Design: Megan Lawson

A night of passion with a Cat Shifter escort becomes everything for a man with poor self-esteem.
To mend his broken heart, Seth purchases a date with a Cat Shifter Escort. The sex was so amazing, it let him forget his pain. Seth never expected to see him again.
Nao couldn’t forget the client who’d cried in his arms, so destroyed from love gone wrong. He wanted nothing more than to help the beautiful, broken man.
Their night was supposed to be a one time thing, but six months later, everything changed when they met again.
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Butterflies fluttered in Seth’s stomach. He planned on meeting his friend, Nat at Punky Brewsters—a bar they loved to frequent. Only this time, Nao would be there, too.
“Whataya think, buddy?” Seth held up his nicest pair of slacks for Bruno’s approval. 
The cat swished his tail in a sharp motion.
“Aw, come on, buddy? You can at least act a little excited?” Seth put on the slacks and tucked in his shirt. “Wait a sec? Too formal?” He freed his shirt, only to tuck it back. “Yeah…too formal.” Quickly, he untucked it again.
Because Seth was Seth, he showed up half an hour early. Nat always hated that, but he was a creature of habit. He hoped he hadn’t put on too much cologne. Sarah used to wrinkle her nose in disgust, claiming he always overdid it. But this time was different. He and Nao had hung out before, but never with Nat present.
What if she didn’t like him? Worse yet, what if she recognized him as the escort she’d set him up with? Maybe she’d think Nao was using him for another trick? 
Maybe that’s true. Maybe Nao is… 
Seth shook his head and tried to stop his spiraling thoughts. 
“Figured my boy would be early.” Nat squeezed his shoulders, and Seth almost choked on his drink. “Hope you didn’t get started?”
“Nah.” He’d never been much of a drinker. “Still on my first one.”
“So, where is this prince charming?”
“Shh…he could be here already. And I told you, we’re just friends.”
“Whatever, babe.” She nodded to the bartender. “Strawberry mojito, please.” 
Seth didn’t recognize the new guy. 
“Gotcha covered, sweetheart.” The new bartender winked at Nat, shaking two fingers like he shot a pistol. Seth inwardly cringed at the cheesy gesture. Bet he thinks that was suave…
Surprisingly, it worked. Nat returned his smirk, her eyes trailing the man’s tattoo sleeves. She took out her cigarettes and scooted a nearby ashtray in front of her.
When the bartender was out of earshot, she said, “He’s kinda cute.”
“Someone’s getting married in a month?”
“Married,” Nat laughed. “Not dead.”
“Hi.” Nao’s voice came from behind them. 
Immediately, Seth swiveled in his seat. Then he jumped up. “Hey, Nao.” He hadn’t intended to hug him, but when Nao initiated, he couldn’t resist. When Nao pulled away, his cologne lingered on Seth’s shirt, the floral-lemon scent he now associated with Nao. If only it would never fade, then he’d feel like he always had Nao in his arms. Seth turned to Nat. “Nat, this is Nao. Nao, Nat.” 
“From Sandy’s housewarming, right?” Nat held out her hand. “She didn’t introduce us.”
“That’s her, always running around.” Nao smiled. “Nice to officially meet you.”
“Likewise. You were at my New Year’s party, too, right?” 
Nao nodded.
A thought sprang up in Seth’s mind. “I never realized how close your names sound,” he interjected. Their names being so similar was quite amusing. They only had one letter difference.
Nao leaned closer to be heard over the heavy thud of the base. “We kinda look alike, too,” he said, full of sass. That wasn’t true. Other than their heights, they didn’t share many commonalities. Nat had nothing on Nao. While she’d always been pretty, it was apparent she’d eventually be a middle-aged woman with weather-worn skin trying to look twenty-five again. Smoking was speeding up her aging process. She had tried and failed to quit. At work, she always looked professional. It was only when she went out that she completely cut loose. Seth loved her to death though, cigarettes and classiness aside. 
“Swiped at birth?” Nat laughed and took a puff of her cigarette, trying to angle it away from them.
“If you're a cat lover?”
“A close second, but dogs for me.” The club lights emphasized Nat’s blonde hair. Her brunette roots had started to show.
Nao pouted playfully. “So much potential, only to lose to a dog…”
“Aww, sorry, kitty cat.” She patted his head with her free hand. “Seth’s a major cat lover, though. You should see him at the clinic. We call him the Cat Whisperer.”
“Oh?” Nao’s smile squinted his eyes. “I’d like to see that.”
Nat took another sip of her mojito. “Come by, and we’ll give you a tour.”
“I take it you guys work together?”
“Yup,” Nat said. “We met in vet school.”
Seth shifted in his seat. “Come on, Nat, like he wants to go to the vet.”
Nao crinkled his nose. “Well…when you put it that way, maybe not.”
The bartender placed another drink in front of Nat before he looked at Nao and gave him a wink. “Whatcha having?”
“Got any Sip-nip?”
Sip-nip? Seth hadn’t heard of that.
“You’re one lucky kitty. I’ll have it right up.” He gave Nao a flirty smirk and left to fix the drink.
Nat licked her lips, ogling the man from behind. “Hot, isn’t he? Amirite?”
Nao’s eyes fixed on the bartender. “Not bad.”  
A sour feeling came over Seth. 
“See, Nao agrees with me!” 
“What’s Sip-nip?” He needed to change topics fast. He already felt peeved at the bartender, and Nat continuing to swoon made him angry at her, too.
“The cat equivalent of a mixed vodka drink, with a heartier flavor.” 
The bartender set the drink in front of Nao.
“Interesting,” Seth said. “I never knew they carried that.”
“‘Guess you’ve never been here with a cat?”  Nao took a sip. “Want some?” He held it out to Seth.
“Uh.” Seth bunched his brows in hesitation. “I don’t know…”
“It’s not bad, promise.” 
Seth glanced at Nao’s lips, remembering their petal-soft feel. If only he could kiss them again. If it meant putting his mouth where Nao’s had been, then it was worth it—no matter how awful it tasted.
Bravely, he took a sip. The thickened substance coated his tongue, and the earthy flavor almost had him gagging. His lips puckered, and his face scrunched up. God, this is bitter! He’d once sampled his foster mother’s wheatgrass, and the awful stuff even tasted better than this. 
Nao’s smile grew. “Wait for it…”
Seth swallowed. A new taste came from the lingering bitterness. Broth? The veggie flavor gave it a hint of greens while otherwise tasting like beef stew.
“Woah…you weren’t kidding?”
“Told yah, if you can get through the initial bitterness, it’s pretty awesome.” He offered the drink to Nat. “Wanna try too?”
“Sure, why the hell not?” Nat laughed, her second mojito making her a bit tipsy. She sipped the drink. Immediately, she grimaced, her brows bunching.
“Wait for it…” Nao’s voice filled with more excitement, sparking the yellow tint in his black eyes. 
Nat swished the liquid in her mouth. Then her expression melted into one of enjoyment. “Hot damn! Never’ve guessed it, but holy shit, that’s good!”
“Exactly!” Nao took his drink back.
They settled on another round of drinks, when Nat said, “Okay, do tell? Did you two know each other before the party?”
Seth didn’t know what to say. He had never lied to her before. Nao seemed to wait for him to take the lead. “Uh, sort of. We met once.”
Nao nodded.
“I kinda had a hunch on that.” Nat took another sip of her mojito.
“Oh, yeah? How?” Nao asked.
“Guess it was how you guys walked like you were already familiar with each other.”
Nao’s smile held approval. “You’re pretty good at analyzing a situation.” 
“And that means a lot coming from Nao,” Seth interjected. “He’s like Sherlock the cat.”
Nao laughed at that.
Nat’s cheeks flamed, and Seth probably should stop her from having any more, otherwise work tomorrow would suck. “So, where did you meet?”
Seth wracked his brain to come up with something that wasn’t an outright lie.
“Just sorta happened.” Nao took a sip of his drink. “Kind of a one-night stand, so to speak.”
“Oh, my God, Seth!” Nat laughed. “I’m so proud of you.”
“Uh, yeah. I guess.” Seth’s burning cheeks hadn’t anything to do with his beer.
“He was so adorable, I couldn’t resist.” Nao grinned.
“Sooo? You two a thing now?”
Seth and Nao looked at each other. Was Nao thinking the same thing he was? “Um….”
“Taking it slow,” Nao answered.
“Really?” Seth couldn’t hide his hope, the alcohol making his words slip freely. Nao smiled at him, but there was something in his eyes, an almost pitying look, and it made Seth turn away. “Something like that.”
They stayed for another fifteen minutes talking when Nat had to head out. “Talk to you later, babe.” She kissed Seth from cheek to cheek. Then did the same to Nao. “Really great to meet you, let’s totally do this again.”
Nao gave her another squinty-eyed smile. “Of course.”
When it was only him and Nao, Seth suddenly felt shy. Wasn’t beer supposed to lower inhibitions? Maybe he should’ve had a second one?
Nao rolled his head from shoulder to shoulder, stretching before he swayed to the music. “Love this song.”
Seth hoped Nao didn’t ask him to dance. Not that he didn’t enjoy Nao’s lithe body moving sensually to the music—his shirt rode up and revealed his toned abdomen.
“I suppose.” He couldn’t take his eyes off Nao.
“I’m kinda tired.” Nao laid his head on Seth’s shoulder. “Zeth?” His S sounded more like a drawled-out Z
“Hm?” Every nerve on his body stood on edge. He wanted to touch Nao, but he couldn’t move, too afraid that if he did, Nao would push away.
“I like you.” Nao rubbed his nose against Seth’s shirt before he was back resting his head on his shoulder.
Sitting up, he smiled, shyly at Seth. Then he groaned and squeezed the bridge of his nose, closing his eyes. “Zomething’z wr-r-r-rong,” Nao slurred, his R’s rolled deep from his throat. His O came out strangled like Nao was fighting to keep from making a different noise. “I feel a bit lightheaded…it’z hard to think.”
“The drink?”
“If it is…that’z strange. I’ve alwayz drunk Zip-Nip, and this hasn’t happened before...”
“Oh? You wanna head out?”
Nao breathed deeply and shook his head. His fingers trembled, and he ran them through his hair to move it out of his face. His smile grew sensual, flirty. “I wanna dance.”
“You certainly bounce back quick.”
Par-r-r-tender?” Nao waved the bartender over. 
“Uh, maybe you should call it?”
The bartender’s grin widened. “Nah, let the little kitty have another.”
Seth narrowed his brow. “Thanks, but he’s had enough. Come on, Nao, let’s call it a night.” 
Nao leaned against Seth. Purring, he nuzzled Seth’s shoulder. “I wanna stay here with Zeth….” Seth’s stomach tingled. He liked his name spoken in Nao’s rich, adorable accent. Still, this wasn’t Nao. He didn’t want to take advantage of him in this state. Maybe that asshole bartender slipped him something? It made sense. No one else could’ve gotten a chance to mess with their drinks.
The bartender set down another glass. “The little kitty is cute when he’s drunk.”
Nao took a gulp before he giggled. “What’z in this thing?” He clutched his head. “World’z spinning…”
“Aaaaand, you’ve had enough.” Seth took a five from his wallet to leave a tip, but only because it was etiquette. He’d rather punch this guy in the face. “I’m closing my tab. Just put his on mine.”
“But the little kitty still needs to finish his drink.” He pushed the drink forward. “Don’tcha, kitty? It’s tasty to little kitty cats, isn’t it?”
Nao hummed, and rested his head on his arms; he still nodded. “Yesss…tasty.” He reached for the drink, but Seth stopped his hand.
“Just close my tab, man.” 
“I got monies, Zeth.” Nao sprang up before he wobbled in his chair. “Dizzy…”
“Easy there.” Seth prepared to catch him.
“I’m okay.” Nao’s accent swamped his slurred words. Giggling, he reached for his purse and nearly fumbled out of the barstool. He made noises similar to mews, then said softly, something that sounded like “yule-e.” Was Nao still speaking in English?
Seth stabilized him with a hand to his back. “Don’t worry about it. I’ve got it.”
“But I wanna earn my keeps…”
“I know how the little kitty can pay me back?” The bartender leaned closer and squeezed Nao’s hand.
Seth glared at him. “Back off, man.”
“What are you, his dad?” He stroked Nao’s palm before he tugged on his fingers, playing with his claws. “How ‘bout it, kitty cat? Wanna go to the back?”
Nao shook his head and screwed his eyes shut. “Thankz, but I’ll’ve ta pass.” Looking up, he giggled. “Not dis time, I’m with Zeth.”
“Come on, cutie, I’ll make it much better for you than this lame dude.”
Nao shook his head and tried to take his hand away, but the bartender didn’t let go.
Seth shoved him off. “Knock it off, asshole. He already said no, and he doesn’t need anything else to drink.” His mouth formed a thin line. “You put something in it, didn’t you?” 
The bartender scowled. “What the hell you implying?”
“You heard me. You put something in his fucking drink, didn’t you?” Seth held his ground, anger stirring up inside him. If this bartender wanted a fight, he would give it to him. He had no intention of letting anyone hurt Nao. 
“Okay, okayz.” Nao stood up, his legs wobbling. “I’ll go home,” his M rumbled from within his throat, “wiss Zeth.” He hugged Seth from behind and rubbed his face into the valley between Seth’s shoulders. “Yule-e…zal-knee.” After speaking the words, he slipped into soft mews. Though Seth wasn’t sure if it was a mew or an actual heavily accented word, he thought he heard, “Safe.”
Seth covered one of Nao’s hands that rested on his chest. His eyes locked in a staring contest with the bartender. “You gonna close my tab?”
“Fine. Whatever, man.” The bartender frowned at him but went to get his card. Seth watched him the entire time as the guy printed out the receipt before he signed.
He put an arm around Nao and walked them to the door.
Nao pivoted to face him and draped his arms around Seth’s neck. With feline finesse, he moved to the music, swaying his hips and rolling his stomach. “Dance with me?” 
Seth chuckled and shook his head. “You’re drunk.”
Nao leaned closer and whispered into his ear. “Zeth?” 
“Yeah?” Seth steadied him. 
“I like you, Zeth,” he purred. He rubbed his nose against Seth’s ear, then pressed their cheeks together. He rumbled out a series of words Seth couldn’t make out, but they didn’t sound like English. Seth managed to catch the word yule-e, again. Perhaps that word meant happy? Fun, maybe? Nao beamed like a giddy kitten whenever he said it.
A faint fragrance emanated from Nao. It wasn’t his cologne—although that was still present. This scent was different, more primal, and highly arousing. Seth’s heartbeat grew louder, blood pumping through his veins. He inhaled deeply and leaned into Nao until their bodies pressed together.
Zeth,” Nao purred. In between mews, he spoke strongly accented words. “Yule-lee, cha-rar. Happy…alive, zal-knee…horny.” Had Nao just said he was horny? Then again, with his heavy accent, perhaps Seth had misheard. Nao rubbed against him, and goosebumps pricked Seth’s skin. “I like you,” he whispered.
“I like you, too. Now come on, let’s get you home.” Seth tried to take Nao’s arms off him. God, how he didn’t want to. He’d rather shove Nao up against the wall and kiss him breathless. But he couldn’t. Nao was clearly under the influence of something, and Seth wasn’t about to take advantage of the situation.
“No, no,” he whined and held Seth tighter. “I wanna dance.” The scent clinging to Nao practically screamed sex. His firm body—all tight muscles on a slender physique—molded against Seth’s, who instinctively grabbed his hips, grinding into him. “Dance with me, Zeth.” Nao purred low. He nosed Seth’s neck and uttered something softly like a prayer. “Cha-rar, zal-knee…horny.”
Seth realized Nao was slipping in and out of his native tongue in an attempt to express his emotions.
He took a deep breath. Stop it. I can’t do this. He can’t consent; it’s wrong. Drawing from a reserve of self-control Seth didn’t know he had, he released Nao, and this time he succeeded in getting Nao to let go.
“You’re intoxicating,” Nao drawled, sounding like one long hiss.
“Nope, that would be the drug.” Seth guided Nao to the door, pulling him when he tried to stop.
“Such a meanie,” Nao whined. “Meanie, Zeth.” He made a low rroaw before muttering more foreign words. Seth didn’t understand them, but he got a general idea. Anger, frustration. Annoyance. Nao trilled Seth’s name and sounded even more like a frustrated feline.
“Yup, I’m a meanie, but you’ll thank me tomorrow.”
“But Zeth?” Nao’s voice grew small. He uttered a soft mew, before speaking in a hushed tone. Even though the words sounded a mixture of meows and gibberish to Seth, the emotions behind them stabbed his heart. He could hear the notes of fear, sorrow, and loneliness. “Don’t you like me? Coo-lay… zal-knee.” His voice trembled.
Seth stopped and faced Nao properly. “Yeah. I do. A lot, actually.”
Nao stepped into his space. “Then have me,” he moaned against Seth’s neck. The sound reverberated and tickled the soft hairs there. His scent practically begged Seth to give in, drowning him in arousal. Nao’s rough tongue licked from his throat to his cheek and sent tingles dancing down his spine. Claw tipped fingernails trailed his chest and abdomen before he grabbed Seth’s groin. Thankfully, he had worn his slacks. Otherwise, he’d be visibly hard.
Seth sucked in a breath. His body ached. He was slowly losing the battle, craving Nao’s warm hand around his shaft. Pulling Nao close, he whispered into his ear. “Tomorrow, come to me then, and I’ll do anything you want.”
Tomo-r-r-r-ow? I want it neow,” he grumbled, pouting. He rubbed up on Seth, purring, brushing his cheek against Seth’s before hiding his nose in the crook of Seth’s neck.
Seth continued to guide them to his car. He focused on his breathing, trying to calm his racing heart. His erection throbbed. “I’m gonna drive you home, okay?”
Nao shook his head. “No, let’s take my car-r-r.”
“If I do that, you’ll definitely kill me when you’re sober. In your current state, you’re gonna wreck.”
“Noes, I won’t.” Nao smiled flirtily. “Catz are graceful.” He hung on Seth, running his hand into Seth’s pants. “Zeth, I want you.”
“Feeling’s completely mutual. But not like this, Nao.” Seth took Nao’s hand out. “You’re drunk.”
“Am not,” Nao said, giggling. 
When they got to Seth’s car, he helped Nao lean against it. He cursed himself for not trading it in. Damn student loans. Who didn’t have automatic locks nowadays? Without a clicker, he had to unlock it manually, all the while keeping Nao from falling on his face.
“I’ve got thiz! I’mma cat. Catz...zee?” He pushed off of the car and lost his footing.
Seth caught him just in time. Thankfully, he’d stuck the key in the lock beforehand, so it hadn’t fallen on the ground.
“Don’t understand? I’mma cat…and catz ar-r-re graceful.” He sprung up onto his tiptoes, spreading out his arms as if he could leap right off the ground. “Zeeee? Graceful!” Seth hugged Nao’s waist to stop him from falling.
“Not tonight, you aren’t, buddy.” Seth helped him into the passenger seat. 
“Ummm... Zeth? Zeth, come back... pleeeease? Zal-knee, coo-lay…” Given the soft mew-like timbre of Nao’s next few words, if he had to guess what Nao said, it would be sad, lonely.
“Will do, buddy. But, I’m gonna sit in the driver’s seat, okay?” Seth closed the door while Nao continued speaking in his native language and a mixture of cat sounds.
When he got in, he expected Nao to jump him, but instead, Nao leaned his head against the seat.
“I don’t feel so good,” he groaned, finally sounding normal. “I hurt all over.”
“Don’t worry, you’re gonna sleep this off, okay?”
“Sorry, Zeth.” Nao cupped his forehead and massaged his temples. His thick accent returned, as his hands transformed into paws. “Zor-r-r-ry.” 
“For r-r-ruining your night.” With his tiny meows, Nao sounded like he was about to cry. Sadcoo-lay, zal-knee.” 
“Hey?” Seth patted his thigh. “You didn’t ruin anything, okay?”
“I’m all over za place.” 
“Yeah, but you can’t help it, okay? That asshole probably spiked your drink.”
Nao snorted, before laughing uncontrollably. “Z-Zome escor-r-rt I am.” He hiccupped. “Sh-Shoulda read him better-r-r-r.” 
“Nah, you’re good. That guy’s the asshole.”
Humanz hurt catz.” His speech slurred, before he laughed, and was bouncing in his seat. “Datz why catz must take care a catz.”
“Well, I’ll tell you what. You don’t have to fear humans while I’m around ‘cause there’s no way I’ll let any of them hurt you.”
Nao went silent, and Seth glanced to see if he’d fallen asleep. Instead, wide yellow eyes stared at him. When had Nao’s black eyes turned yellow? His cat ears were out, and his face looked more feline.
Zeth’z not mean,” he whispered. “Zeth’z trusted, nice.” He cuddled up against Seth’s shoulder, then nuzzled his shirt and kneaded it with his paws. “Yule-e…zal-knee. Cha-rar.” That scent invaded Seth’s nose again, stronger than before, making his body feel heavy with arousal. “Zeth’z hot.”
“Okay, now I officially know you’re drunk or high or whatever that drug’s doing to you.”
“Why? It’z how I feel.” He nibbled Seth’s ear, his sharp, pointy fangs both hurt and tickled.
Since he didn’t know the route to Nao’s place, he drove to his own apartment. 
When they got out of his car, Seth supported Nao with an arm around his waist, and they walked to the door.
Zeth…” Nao said, the word low and husky. He nuzzled Seth’s neck. “I want Zeth.” He kept trying to invade Seth’s jeans, all the while sending hot pants against his neck, kissing him, and sucking on his skin. Seth groaned at the sensations. He didn’t think he could get any harder than he already was. If there were a way to die from blue balls, he’d found it.
Every taunt muscle on Nao’s slender body, from his firm chest to his nicely defined abs, pressed against Seth’s side. That night, Nao’s naked skin had been smooth and soft. He remembered Nao’s thighs clenching as he rode his cock. His shapely ass fitted in Seth’s palms.
Seth moaned with need, wanting to take Nao right there on the driveway. “Fuck…” He reached for his keys, still trying to keep Nao from falling. Nao stopped ravishing him and bopped the jingling metal keychain with his paw. “Nao, stop it.” Seth couldn’t hold in his laugh. “I can’t unlock it when you’re playing with it like that.”
Nao bopped it again, giggling; his pupils blown. “Put it’z funz!”
“You’re like a kitten, do you know that?” 
Nao giggled again, making a chirping sound in the back of his throat. 
It became a game where Seth tried to get the key in the keyhole before Nao swatted it. So far, Nao was winning. A moth fluttered by the hanging light in the doorway, and Nao got distracted. 
When he swiped, Seth quickly took the opening, turning the key in the lock. “Okay, in we go.” Nao seemed preoccupied with the pesky insect. “Come on, buddy. We’re just a door away.” As Nao prepared for another pounce, Seth pulled him through the door. The momentum sent them tumbling to the floor.  
Nao burst out laughing, Seth right behind him. 
When he had laughed himself dry, Seth got to his feet. He held out a hand. Nao reached for it and missed it. Seth shook his head, a smile still on his lips. This time when Nao reached again, Seth caught his hand. “All right, let’s get you standing.” 
World’z spinning! Zpin world! Zpin!” Nao’s tail swished the air. He squirmed out of Seth’s arms, and onto all fours. Crawling, he circled Seth’s legs. With the way he moved, he looked like the cat he was, and not a human clumsily on his hands and knees. 
“You really are ridiculous, you know that?” Seth bent down and stroked Nao’s head. He ran his fingers through his dark hair—still human, wavy, and long. Nao leaned into the touch, slowly closing his eyes. The more Seth stroked him, the more he transformed into a cat.
“Oh, Bruno.” Seth gestured to the tabby. “Come and meet Nao.”
Nao’s cat ears perked up, and he scooted behind Seth. “He doesn’t like mees…” Nao pouted, his accent lessening.
“What, Bruno?” Seth stood. “He’s the nicest dude in the world. Come on, buddy, show him how awesome you are.”
Bruno twitched his ear and let out a low, long meow.
“Uh, uh…he wantz me to leave.”
Seth shook his head.
“Do you speak catz?”
“Hm…guess I didn’t think of that.” Seth helped Nao stand. “Well, you guys can meet again tomorrow. I’m sure he’ll be much friendlier when you’re your normal charming self.”
“No, noes, Zeth. I wanna play. Bruno-eowzz!” Nao twitched his ears and raised his tail. Bruno’s sharp tail-swipe had Nao pouting. “See? He doesn’t like me.”
“That’s ‘cause you’re drunk off your ass. Come on, I’ll let you take the bed.” Seth draped Nao’s arm around his shoulder and headed into the bedroom. He sat him down on the mattress.
Zleap with me, ZethZleap with me. Humanz...str-r-r-range. You’re not. You’r-r-re cat, like us.” He continued babbling as Seth removed his shoes. “Can’t trust humanz. Tr-r-r-rust you.”
“All right. Lie down.”
Nao rested his weight on his palms. Smirking, Nao licked his lips. “C’mere you.” He wrapped his leg around Seth’s arm and tugged him downward. “Wanna make you feel good.” 
Seth lost his balance and fell onto the bed. His erection throbbed painfully. God, he wanted to. 
Nao crawled to him, doing the most feline looking crab walk. He pushed his legs under Seth’s torso until he lay beneath him. “Ever wonder about that night?” He licked up Seth’s ear and ran his fingers through his curls. 
Seth shivered. “Um, yeah...”
Nao cupped Seth’s head, bringing them mere breaths apart. “Let’s not wonder...” His R rolled deep from his throat. Seth could practically feel it, “…be with me.”
He kissed Seth hard. His rough tongue delved into Seth’s mouth, scraping his teeth. Nao wrapped his legs around Seth’s waist and ground into his hard dick. “Zee? You want me too,” Nao spoke in a husky voice, each word came from the chest, like a purr.
Tight abs pressed into him, and Seth couldn’t hold back his moan. “God, yeah.” He kissed Nao with equal fervor, licking into his mouth, chewing his bottom lip, grinding into him, stirring up delicious friction that had them both panting. Seth didn’t want to stop. “But…” He had to. Nao probably wouldn’t remember any of this tomorrow. And if he did, would he feel violated? “Can’t.” He separated from Nao, not too gently because he was about to explode. 
Sadness filled Nao’s still yellow eyes. “You don’t like me…” 
“No, that’s definitely not it.” Seth shook his head. “You’re fucking hot, but—”
Put I’m dirty, ‘cause I’m an escor-r-r-rt.”
“Nope. Wrong again. I’d fuck you right here if you were sober.”
Put I am sober.”
“Nope, you’re the exact opposite, buddy. Sleep it off, and tomorrow, I’ll fuck your brains out if you still want me to.” Seth got off the bed before he helped Nao stand.
Put-Put…” Nao pawed at Seth’s shirt. He hugged Seth, again, nuzzling his neck. “I missed you…” 
Was any of this true? Did Nao actually miss him? No, that couldn’t be right. This had to be the drug talking. 
Nao flipped their positions and forced Seth to sit on the edge of the bed. He got between his legs and mouthed Seth’s shaft through his pants. “At least, lemme make you feel good?”
Seth groaned. 
Nao unbuttoned his pants and breathed over his briefs.
“Please, Zeth? Lemme taste you, please.” He accentuated his words with a nuzzle of his head to Seth’s groin, then tugged Seth’s underwear down enough to free his cock.
Hot breath tickled his sensitive skin, and Seth’s head lulled back. He had to stop this. Regardless of what Nao said, he still couldn’t give consent, not like this. Seth grabbed his head, trying to be gentle, even when he ached with need. “Stop, Nao…. please.”
Nao looked up, eyes wide and teary. “I’m zorry.”
“I want you, Nao. So bad…” Seth trembled with need. Tears of frustration lurked in the corners of his eyes. “But I want you to be here because you want to be, not ‘cause of some drug.”
Nao swallowed. “Put I do want ta be here.” He rested his head on Seth’s knee. “I want dis. Want you.”
Seth wished he could enjoy Nao lying against him, but after all of this, he desperately needed to go and take care of himself. He sucked in a few shaky breaths to regain his composure. “Let’s wait until you’re back to normal, okay?”
Nao stretched, yawning, and it freed Seth to get up. “Zleepy.”
“Exactly.” Seth walked Nao over to the front of the bed and helped him get under the covers. “Get some sleep.” He petted Nao’s hair and ran his fingers down the curve of his face. Nao had shut his eyes, and his breathing evened out. Seth smiled gently before he kissed Nao’s forehead.
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Melissa writes character-driven fiction, and any genre is fair game! When she’s not writing, she enjoys reading, anime, manga and gaming. Living by the motto of trying all things twice, Melissa has jumped out of a perfectly good plane, swam with manatees, dove head first into Alice’s rabbit hole, and seduced classy ladies in 6-inch heels. A free-spirited bohemian, she currently lives in artsy St. Petersburg, Florida with her soulmate and their two, adorably needy cats. 

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