Book Title: Cold Day Dawning (Jagged Shores #4)
Author: Thom Collins
Publisher: Pride Publishing
Release Date: August 22, 2023
Genres: Contemporary MM romance, thriller, suspense
Tropes: Small town romance
Themes: Family, rivalry, revenge, overcoming PTSD
Heat Rating: 4 flames
Length: 63 223 words
Although it can be read as a stand-alone, this book is best read as part of a series.
It does not end on a cliffhanger.
Available from Amazon, Kindle Unlimited, Pride Publishing,
First For Romance, B&N, and Kobo
Danger comes in the cold of morning
It should be the perfect weekend away. Dalton Caine makes the long journey to Nyemouth to attend a party hosted by his sister. Catherine is estranged from most of the family, but Dalton feels the time has come to build bridges between them. Things don’t turn out how he wants, however, when Catherine gives him a cold reception at the party. But the evening is not a complete waste of time when he meets local photographer Antoni.
Following a near-fatal attack six months earlier, Antoni has struggled with his physical and mental recovery. Catherine’s party is the first time he has been out at night since then, and he’s ready for an early exit when he meets Dalton. The stranger is warm, friendly and incredibly handsome. When Antoni overcomes his reservations and accepts a drink at Dalton’s hotel, it could be the start of something new for them both.
Despite the joy of fresh romance, things soon take a darker turn. The morning after the party, Catherine’s boyfriend reports her missing. Dalton isn’t initially concerned. Catherine has disappeared of her own will before, and he’s more interested in getting to know Antoni, but the men soon find themselves at the centre of a twisted mystery, one that puts both of their lives at risk.
Reader advisory: This book contains violence, murder, PTSD, memories of a child in danger and mental illness. Although it can be read as a stand-alone, this book is best read as part of a series.
A few moments later, a door on the right opened and a man stepped out. He caught Dalton’s attention straight away. Dressed in jeans, a black T-shirt and a dark overshirt, the man looked nothing like the pretentious people he’d encountered so far this evening. He was also very handsome, which didn’t hurt. He was naturally good-looking, with brown hair, slightly wavy on the top and cut short at the back and sides where it was starting to turn grey. He had a serious-looking face, and Dalton’s initial impression was of something quite sad about his eyes and downturned mouth.
“Hi,” Dalton said cheerfully, hoping the guy wouldn’t turn out to be like all the other guests.
“Hello.” The man didn’t return the smile, but seemingly noticing Dalton’s interest in the photographs, he came closer. “Do you like them?”
There was a trace of an accent there. Dalton couldn’t quite place it. Eastern European, he guessed.
“Very much,” he replied. “They’re remarkable. I’ve never seen Catherine like this before.”
The man looked between Dalton and photographs. “I’m glad you like them. I took all of these.”
Up close, he was even better looking than his first appearance. His eyes were dark grey and there was stubble on his square jaw, also flecked with grey.
“Wow,” Dalton said. “They are sensational…really.”
At last, his mouth turned upwards into the smallest suggestion of a smile.
“Thank you.” He held out his hand. “My name is Antoni.”
Dalton accepted the handshake. The party had finally improved.
About the Author
Thom Collins is the author of Closer by Morning, North Point and the Anthem Trilogy. His love of page turning thrillers began at an early age when his mother caught him reading the latest Jackie Collins book and confiscated it, sparking a life-long love of raunchy novels.
Thom has lived in the North East of England his whole life. He grew up in Northumberland and now lives in County Durham with his husband and two cats. He loves all kinds of genre fiction, especially bonk-busters, thrillers, romance and horror. He is also a cookery book addict with far too many titles cluttering his shelves. When not writing he can be found in the kitchen trying out new recipes. He’s a keen traveler but with a fear of flying that gets worse with age, but in 2013 he realized cruising is the best way to see the world.
Check out his website for news updates and a free ebook, The Night.
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“Wait here, that’s our ride,” Kai whispered. He eased Ori to the ground.
Panting, Ori leaned unsteadily against a stack of crates. He gripped Kai’s forearm.
“I know.” Kai confirmed he sensed the vampire in the car.
The car door opened and a boy, slight, with a mop of red hair under his Hitlerjugend cap stepped out. Ori sensed Kai’s surprise and had the fleeting thought of was this kid a vampire?
“Soldat.” The boy moved so he could make eye contact.
Kai raised an eyebrow and turned toward the kid. Ori sucked in a breath but addressing Kai as soldier almost guaranteed his attention.
The boy opened the back door of the car and stood to the side. “How far and for how long can you carry him? Not far enough to get away from them.” He nodded to the compound.
Ori frowned. The German boy suddenly sounded like an American girl. Kai met Ori’s gaze. The idea to trust this kid passed between them. Ori nodded slightly.
The kid waved toward the car. “Hurry!”
Read more snippets in The Rainbow Snippet Facebook group.
Endosymbiont is available in eBook and through Kindle Unlimited. This month the eBook is 50% off ($2.99).
She took ahold of Brandon’s chin, her nails digging into his skin and short, low pulses of power came from her fingertips.
“You’re a clever little boy.” She tightened her grip.
Pain coursed along Brandon’s jaw and into his chest. Tears sprung to his eyes. The woman rolled her eyes and let go.
“Clever, but a soft piece of shit.”
She knelt in front of Brandon and stroked his cheek a few times.
“Here’s the deal, you’re a specially trained scintilla. A little more talented than normal. Well, so am I. Except my training took a completely different course. Do you understand?”
Brandon swallowed hard and whispered, “Yes.”
“I thought you couldn’t hurt each other with your charge?” Bob asked.
Brandon was interested in the answer to that question too.
“There is a way around everything if one knows what to do and has the skills.” The woman stared down at Brandon, her lips twisted into a cruel smirk.
“That little stunt would’ve killed a human who wasn’t scintilla. Even a werewolf would feel very painful effects.” She gave Brandon’s face a harsh pat. “Isn’t that right little boy?”
Brandon nodded and glared at the floor.
She spun the chair around and Brandon was facing the computer tower again.
“Get it done.” She slapped her hand onto a piece of paper.
“I-I c-can’t with t-the ch-chair m-m-moving.”
She stood straight and blew out a breath.
Stepping away from Brandon she turned to Bob. “Get a stable chair.”
“Zoe, this one keeps him subdued. We used it before,” Bob argued.
Zoe whirled on Bob and flicked her fingers in his direction. Brandon watched, fascinated, as five thin, long sparks hit Bob in his neck like tiny spears. He slapped one hand to his neck and yelped.
“What the hell!” Bob sputtered.
“I know more about him than you do. I think I’ve got this covered. Just do it!” Zoe snapped.
Scintilla is available in eBook, paperback and through Kindle Unlimited.
My snippet this week comes from Jewel Cave, book 3 of Circles, m y romantic suspense thriller series.
Griff put the few sheets of paper into Clint’s outstretched hand, then leaned back and rested his arm on the back of the couch behind Clint’s shoulders.
“You’re doing your presentation on me?” Clint asked.
“No. I’m doing it on me. I’m the guy who is supposed to prevent stuff like what you went through. I’m not alone, and it’s hard to admit sometimes we can’t protect the people we love the most. It hurts.”
“I’m sorry I didn’t lock the doors,” Clint whispered. “You told me over and over to lock the doors.”
“Aw, Clint, it’s not your fault. Dylan would have gotten in, or you would have let him in. You thought he was your friend. If you’d fought more, he’d have shot you. You’re alive, and I don’t care about anything else.” Griff tapped two fingers against the end table. “Here’s an idea: we’ll sell the house, get something bigger, maybe out farther with more land or—”
“I don’t want to do that. We’ve worked hard on this house. Is that what you really want?”
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Jewel Cave is available in eBook, paperback and
through Kobo Plus and Apple Audio.
Book Title: Dionysus in Wisconsin (Wisconsin Gothic, Book 1)
Author: E. H. Lupton
Publisher: Winnowing Fan Press
Cover Artist: E. H. Lupton
Release Date: May 26, 2023
Genres: Urban fantasy/historical M/M romance
Tropes: Living Aphrodisiac, Turning into a God, Offing the Offspring, In Love with the Mark, Occult Detective, Don't Go in the Woods, Prophesies Rhyme, Killing the God, A+ Parenting, Metamorphoses
Themes: self-acceptance, overcoming family history, mystical library communion
Heat Rating: 3–3.5 flames
Length: 78 000 words/ 350 pages in paperback
The story ends with a lovely HEA.
Book 2 is due in early 2024.
Mythology, but make it everyone’s problem.
A graduate student and an archivist work together to fight a god.
Fall, 1969. Ulysses Lenkov should be working on his dissertation. Instead, he's developing an unlucrative sideline in helping ghosts and hapless magic users. But when his clients start leaving town suddenly—or turning up dead—he starts to worry there's something afoot that’s worse than an unavenged death or incipient insanity. His investigation begins with the last word on everyone's lips before they vanish: the mysterious Dionysus.
Sam Sterling is an archivist who recently moved back to Madison to be closer to the family he's not too sure he likes. But his peaceful days of teaching library students, creating finding aids, and community theater come to an end when the magnetic, mistrustful Ulysses turns up with a warning. There's a god coming, and it looks like it's coming for Sam.
Soon the two are helping each other through demon attacks, discovering the unsavory history of Sam's family, and falling in love as they race to find a solution. But as the year draws to a close, they'll face a deadly showdown as they try to save Sam—and the city itself.
“What did you want with it, anyway? There’s nothing of value in there. Just books. I would have let you look at any of them if you’d asked.”
Ulysses took a deliberate step closer, and Sam found himself retreating until he fetched up against the metal of the door. “Would you have, though? If I’d come to you and said I needed to investigate why the spirit of the stacks seems interested in you?” Ulysses took another step forward. They were standing far closer than people generally did, and it was both thrilling and terrifying. “Because a lot of people might find a request like that peculiar.”
Sam’s mouth went dry. They were practically chest to chest now. “I—Yes!” he said, and tried to pull himself up to his full height. “I don’t know what any of that means.”
Ulysses nodded. “Then this is going to be weird for you,” he muttered, voice rough and practically in Sam’s ear, and grabbed him. He opened the lock and pushed Sam through the door before he could protest.
On his desk were a white candle and a small, heart-shaped piece of blond wood that held a pencil in a vertical position. Beneath it was a sheet of typing paper, blank except for a cursive letter D in the center of the page. “What’s all this?”
“The inconclusive results of last night’s experiments,” Ulysses said. He grappled with the chair for a moment and then shoved it out into the corridor, shutting the cage’s door between it and them. There was just barely enough room for both of them standing up. This was going to be hideously embarrassing if anyone came along and caught them.
Ulysses, heedless, was lighting the candle with a Zippo. “The building seemed to have something to say to you in the elevator. Maybe it just needs more time to build up to a real psychic discharge, but we can’t wait that long.” He grinned again, eyes wide. “So I thought I’d bring it what it wants, and see if that helps.”
“You—what exactly do you do, Mr. Lenkov?”
“I’m a human lightning rod.” He reached up and grasped Sam very gently by the chin, turning his face to the candle. “Look. Be silent and breathe. Think about the flame.”
The other man’s taut body was pressed right up against Sam’s back, his left arm wrapped around Sam’s waist, and the candle flame was definitely not where Sam’s thoughts were heading. His face still tingled where he’d been touched. “Lenkov,” he said uneasily, “Ulysses. Are you okay? Are you—”
“No drugs, if that’s what you’re trying so delicately to ask. I never touch the stuff. Now hush.”
For some reason he wasn’t entirely clear on, Sam hushed. The man’s tone of voice seemed to demand compliance. At first all he could feel was the rush of blood through his veins, most of it headed southward. But after a while, his head started to clear. He could feel Ulysses breathing behind him and the movement of air through the study cages, smell the paper and Ulysses’s piney cologne and the slightly acrid candle. It wasn’t that his body stopped responding with arousal, but rather that for what felt like a few increasingly long moments he was conscious of all of it, and the linoleum beneath his feet, the rush of water through the pipes of the building. The loud clicks as the motion sensors turned the lights out, one row at a time. Still they stood in their tiny puddle of candle light.
Then, suddenly, the temperature dropped. Sam opened his eyes wide, afraid to say anything lest he break the spell, but also more generally terrified. He twisted slightly, but Ulysses’s grip was unforgiving. The other man leaned forward, murmuring something almost inaudible in a calming tone, and Sam gave up. Whatever was going to happen, he’d have a front-row seat for it. His breath hissed out, steaming.
Ulysses reached out and grabbed Sam’s right hand with his. “Using your left hand,” he whispered, “touch the planchette. Whenever you’re ready.”
Sam wanted to ask how he’d know when he was ready, but as their skin connected he felt a tension building in the room. It reminded him, abruptly, of the churning green clouds before a thunderstorm. The tension was in him, too, somehow, like anxiety but not quite, a nauseating squirming thing hiding there behind his breastbone. He closed his eyes and let it build for another minute, until it reached a level he couldn’t stand anymore.
He touched the planchette and felt it jerk to life as something ran through Ulysses and through him and somehow grounded itself in the paper. It was a little like the peculiar relief offered by a sneeze or an orgasm or taking off a pair of painful shoes, and a little like a static shock turned up to eleven. He might have shouted.
A moment later, Ulysses reached around him and pinched out the candle flame. Sam leaned dumbly against the wall, trying to catch his breath, and Ulysses turned on the overhead light, swung the door open, and carefully pushed Sam down into the chair.
“Sorry about that,” Ulysses said, sounding entirely unaffected. He picked up the page from beneath the planchette and frowned at it. Sam looked at the little stylus, which gave a desultory wriggle and was still.
About the Author
E.H. Lupton (she/they) lives in Madison, WI with her family. She is the author of the novella The Joy of Fishes (Battered Suitcase Press, 2013/2015). Her poems have been published in a number of journals, including Paranoid Tree, Poet Lore, 300 Days of Sun, and House of Zolo's Journal of Speculative Literature. She is also one half of the duo behind the hit podcast Ask a Medievalist. In her free time, she enjoys running long distances and art.
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Timoteo Tong has a new MM YA sci-fi/fantasy/paranormal romance out: Magic, Monsters, and Me. And there's a giveaway.
Sixteen-year-old Elijah Delomary loves the City of Angels. The sunshine, the palm trees, the ocean. He especially enjoys battling the monsters infesting the dark corners of the vast metropolis.
As he starts his junior year at Burbank High School he meets a new friend, Austin who also fights monsters to keep Angelenos safe. As their friendship develops and love blooms, Elijah’s arch nemesis Devlina reappears, threatening to use magic to destroy the world.
Elijah must now juggle pursuing his feelings for Austin, meeting the lofty expectations of his affluent and influential family, and fulfilling his destiny to combat the forces of evil and save his hometown.
Warnings: Bullying, racism, homophobia no HEA cliffhanger
Timoteo is giving away a $20 Amazon gift card with this tour:
Fifteen-year-old Austin Kang Jr., well over six feet tall, lean and lanky with a mop of black hair falling over his eyes, adjusted the thick black glasses on his face. He studied the white stone and glass mansion jutting out over a hillside on North Sunset Canyon Drive. The house appeared to have good feng shui, with a Southern exposure to allow absorption of positive chi, a panoramic view of the Valley below, and a clear path to the front door.
Feng shui was important to Austin and his parents. They believed it helped center their family and keep them grounded and safe. Austin and his parents were descended from a long line of Magicals called Glimmerers who could tap into a glimmer of magic and twist, turn, and manipulate it as if it were hot ore being turned into a sword.
Coaugelus, as they were known in the Old Language, the mother tongue of the Magicals, were a class of warriors. They defended Magicals and Ordinaries, or humans without magic, from dark forces, creatures, and monsters that lived in the dark shadows of Earth—a place called the Gloom.
Coaugelus, Magicals, and Ordinaries lived in the light in our world, also known as the Shimmering. Everywhere that the sun touched was part of the Shimmering. Austin, his parents, even the people driving by in cars, walking their dogs, and watering their lawns shimmered and lived in the light.
Long ago, the Gloom and the Shimmering met face-to-face in a great war that killed and destroyed countless Ordinaries, Magicals, and monsters. The war raged on and reached a crescendo. A Pàcifimenta, a treaty among Ordinaries, Magicals, and the Gloom was signed. The war ended. Peace settled over the Shimmering and the Gloom.
Still, many in the Coven, the collective of monsters in the Gloom, did not agree with the Pàcifimenta. They didn’t like that they had to sacrifice feeding on Ordinaries or haunting, possessing, or simply terrorizing them. Others wanted power to control the Coven, and to defeat the peace created by the Pàcifimenta. Some creatures didn’t like peace as part of their nature. These monsters were fought by Coaugelus like Austin and his family.
Austin loved three things in life: playing soccer (known as football back home in Hong Kong), listening to grunge music like his dad, and fighting the Coven. For Austin, being a Coaugelo gave him a purpose in life and a place where he felt like he belonged. He particularly enjoyed kicking, punching, and using Xem Sen Ou, the ancient martial art from Minerva in Old Earth in the Seventh Dimension where all Magicals came from.
He also fancied his PlasmX, a purple plasma staff that folded into nondescript metal object akin to a lighter that he always carried with him. He had used it only last night while hunting down a group of rather angry werewolves, or Malloupus, that were attacking tourists at the night market in Kowloon. Austin enjoyed watching the pure purple plasma slice through the heads and arms of werewolves that were in the middle of reaping the souls of innocent Ordinaries.
Austin loved saving Ordinaries from monsters.
“What’s our assignment?” Austin asked his parents.
“Trouble is breaking out within the Coven here in Los Angeles,” said Austin Sr.
Austin and his family spoke with posh accents, a holdover from when Hong Kong was a colony of the UK. “We’re here to investigate and report back to XAQ2,” continued Austin Sr.
“Bleedin’ hell,” Austin complained. “XAQ2 are wankers. Full of rules. Can’t we simply report to the Anti-Coven League and be done with it?”
“Xutactiendo Allégansa Qu’elicallen Duzo have moved more operations of the League from the clandestine to the legal,” said Austin Sr.
“What does that mean?” Austin asked.
“The Alliance is strained and weakened. As leaders of the Alliance, the Còngréhassa are trying to placate their counterparts in the Coven and maintain the Pàcifimenta. Part of that entails relying more on formal procedures. The League works in secret, whereas XAQ2 works through formal channels as the official body of the Alliance.”
“Tossers,” Austin said. “XAQ2 can all go to hell as far as I’m concerned.”
Austin glanced at his parents, who were standing beside him holding hands. His parents were madly in love, even all these years later. He wanted to be in love. He was going to find it—here in Burbank where he’d have four passions: soccer, grunge, being a Coaugelo, and being in love with a cute, wonderful, and smart boy. That was Austin’s secret.
Coaugelos shouldn’t kiss other boys, or so some said—at least, the old-timers in the Alliance. He didn’t care what they thought, but he worried what his parents would think. They were his best friends.
Austin fought and traveled all over the world with his parents. He was worried that if he told them his secret, they wouldn’t understand or accept him anymore. Losing the closeness with, and love of, his parents would hurt more than the bite of a Qu’muqa, a monster with green scales and ten mouths on two heads.
His parents worked as agents for the Anti-Coven League. When they got a new assignment from the League, they took on new day jobs for cover.
“What jobs are you supposed to be doing?” asked Austin.
“This time around, I manage a highly profitable import-export business specializing in Chinese antiquities,” responded his mother.
“Jolly right you are,” Austin quipped. “How many bloomin’ vases do we have?”
Austin Sr. frowned. “Too many,” he observed.
“What about you, Dad?”
“I run a gas station somewhere called Van Nuys,” Austin Sr. said.
Austin glanced at his mom and dad. “Looks like you got the shit job this time, eh Dad?” he said.
They all laughed.
“I ran a nail salon in Bangkok last time for six months,” Austin’s mother said. “I hate salons.”
“Yeah,” his father said. “I had to collect garbage in Berlin for a year. Remember?”
“How could I forget the smell? I had to be a maid in Buenos Aires.”
Austin tuned them out. This was one of his parents’ games: try to top each other in who had the worst fake job while they were out in the field fighting monsters for the League.
Austin caught sight of his cousin Barnhard “Barn” Wong strutting up the street toward him and his family.
Barn was Austin’s best mate. His father was Austin’s uncle. Austin was an only child, as was Barn. When they were together, they acted like brothers.
Barn waved, jumping up and down. Barn was always full of life and energy. Austin loved being around him. Life was better around his cousin.
“Oi, Kangs!” Barn shouted in Cantonese.
Austin noticed a red-haired boy with brown eyes and a band of freckles on his nose walking next to Barn.
Austin’s heart melted. He was the most beautiful boy Austin had ever seen—from Mumbai to London to New York and Tokyo and Sydney. He felt the universe shift inside him. He could feel the boy pulling him in as if Austin were a satellite circling the Earth.
Austin liked that feeling. His parents orbited each other, and like them, he wanted to circle this boy—forever.
Barn and the red-haired boy parted ways. Austin watched the boy walk across the street under the canopy of jacaranda trees, disappearing into a four-story white stucco Spanish colonial mansion.
“What’s my assignment?” Austin asked as Barn arrived, pausing to hug his uncle, aunt, and Austin.
Barn was affectionate and loved hugs and kisses, or smooches, as he called them. “Reconnaissance with my mate here? Hunting down Àzmadus? Orgmas?” Austin continued.
Barn high-fived Austin. “Let’s destroy monsters!” Barn exclaimed.
Barn was a Coaugelo like Austin. Barn’s extended family owned the Wong Aero-Magicals Corporation that made the PlasmX in factories in Chicago, Tokyo, and Bangkok as well as other equipment used by the Alliance to fight the Coven.
“You’re just a high school junior,” Austin’s mother said. “You need a break from hunting and fighting. You need to have fun!”
“You need to be a boy,” his father echoed.
“Killing monsters is fun,” Austin responded.
“Really fun, Auntie!” Barn added. “Austin can train at the Dáu Xhà, the dojo with Dáumo Máurso, the sensei.”
“Who?” asked Austin.
“He's an Immortal—Mars, the God of War. He runs the best Dáu Xhà in the world. You’ll learn the most powerful Xem Sen Ou with him,” explained Barn.
“Oi,” Austin said, “training with an Immortal. That’s amazing.”
“He’s amazing,” Barn said. “He’s nearly ten feet tall, a knot of muscle, and his voice makes the earth tremble.”
“Sounds a tad frightening,” Austin admitted.
“He’s the God of War, mate,” Barn explained, nudging Austin in the side with his elbow.
“Fair enough,” Austin replied.
“He likes cats—he has a dozen at his home. He also likes hot dogs—a lot—and slushies,” Barn said.
“Yuck,” Austin said, rolling his eyes. “I hate slushies.”
“Let’s go to the Dáu Xhà after you drop your stuff off,” Barn said, “So I can introduce you to Máurso.”
Austin glanced expectantly at the moving truck, the boxes on the sidewalk, and his parents.
“Go,” his mother said in Cantonese. “Have fun, boys! And no killing monsters!”
“Oi,” Barn said, already ignoring his aunt. “There’s a poltergeist at Dirk Delomary’s department store in the mall—third floor, women’s hosiery. We can destroy it after we get hot dogs and hang with Máurso,” he said. “And I know a cute girl at Chicken on a Stick who’s an Encantreina. She can turn satay into powerful silver daggers that will kill any monster.”
Austin grinned. He loved Burbank already.
Timoteo Tong grew up on a quiet street in Burbank, a suburb of Los Angeles located in the San Fernando Valley. He dreamed of one day living in a Victorian mansion with many rooms filled with antiques and artwork. He imagined himself fighting monsters.Timoteo grew up and began writing stories of a family of fighters battling monsters to save humanity.
Timoteo currently lives with his husband and a plethora of houseplants in San Francisco. He enjoys reading, writing, drawing, naps and binge watching TV. He loves cheese pizza, Pepsi and Vans.
Author Website: https://www.magicalsalliance.com
Author Facebook (Personal): https://www.facebook.com/timoteo.tong
Author Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/timoteoktong/
Book Title: Tea and Antipathy (Damien Murphy Pet Sitting and Murder Investigations Book 1)
Author and Publisher: Meredith Spies
Cover Artist: Samantha Santana/Amai Designs
Release Date: June 31, 2023
Genre: Cozy mystery, MM romance that is cozy-specific
Tropes: fish out of water, opposites attract, murder in a small town, quirk small town, amateur sleuth, pet sidekick
Themes: self-discovery, not all that glitters is gold, starting over, letting go of the past
Length: 72 000 words/246 pages
Heat Rating: None - There’s a romance subplot but as it’s a cozy mystery, it is a slow build across the series with no on-page sex.
It’s the first book in the series. It is a standalone story and does not end on a cliffhanger.
Damien Murphy isn’t a detective, but he played one on T.V. once.
Not everyone could say their luck started improving the day they got hit by a car, but not everyone was me. Which was good because one me is all the town of Lester Cove can handle.
Renee Rhodes was everything. She was the raspy voiced, designer dud wearing, theatrical queen I’d hoped she’d be in person.
It was like Liza Minnelli and Tyne Daly had somehow managed to have a baby then Tim Curry got involved somehow with Kander and Ebb doing the score and--
I stepped into the theater lobby which was all done up for the reception with swags of silver and gold bunting and huge (fake) flower arrangements in glossy black Art Deco style vases. I barely had time to take it in before Renee Rhodes, in all her elegant glory, came sweeping down on me from behind the buffet table, calling out in her kitschy Mid-Atlantic tones, “I was so worried you’d changed your mind! You’re late!”
Swept into a swirl of vintage Halston jersey, a heavy-handed application of Fracas with a soupcon of Bombay Sapphire cutting through it all, I couldn’t answer for fear of asphyxiating on either a mouthful of fabric or the fumes. She released me after a tight embrace and a waxy-lipped cheek kiss which I dutifully returned (sans waxy lips—my gloss was very light, thank you, and not at all sticky), she did that old person thing where they hold you at arm’s length and give you a look.
“I, ah, had car trouble outside of town. Something went kerflooey with the engine, I think. Or maybe the oil pan? I just know there was a lot of smoke.”
Ms. Rhodes tsked, looping her arm over my shoulder and giving me a tiny shake. “That’s why I went electric,” she pronounced. “It’s the only responsible way to get around these days, especially in a place like Lester Cove. No public transit, unless you count the ferry,” she added in a throaty stage whisper heard by pretty much everyone around us. “Now, come along, let me introduce you to the charming playwrights who’ve submitted their work for us to judge this weekend!” I had no choice but to follow her flowing jersey knit clad back towards the long refreshment table where she topped up her drink before gesturing towards the bottles in mute offer. I nodded, reaching for a wine glass before she stilled my hand and redirected it towards the stronger stuff.
“You’re gonna need it,” she muttered. “Have you read the packet of plays yet? It’s a lot.”
“I had the chance to look at some of the entries on the way here,” I said wincing at the sharp taste of the gin rickey she’d directed me towards. “They’re really engaging and—”
Ms. Rhodes snorted into her very full martini glass (the vermouth had been a mere whisper of an afterthought whisked away as soon as it entered her mind, apparently). “Most of them are amateurish, downright juvenile which isn’t surprising considering how Charlie treated the contest like some final exam for his students. The ones that aren’t high school efforts are so drab I wanted to scream, darling.” Something in my expression made her pause, offering me a small, not at all apologetic smile. “Forgive me. After years of being simply immersed in the craft, I find it’s hard to shake the inherent snobbery. I appreciate their enthusiasm, but they don’t understand theatre,” she said, this time keeping her voice low enough for just us two. The gala was more crowded than I’d anticipated for such a small town, the press of bodies dressed in everything from smart-casual wear to what looked like prom get-ups on some of the younger attendees forcing us to the side of the room, near a door discretely marked Box Office Management. “They crave it though. So many of them, especially the older generations, go all the way to the city for shows.”
“New York,” I murmured, not quite a question but laced with a bit of disbelief. New York was at least a half day’s drive from Lester Cove, quite a way to go for a play.
“Of course. I certainly don’t mean Bangor,” she tittered. “It’s a lovely city in its own right, but the theatre scene there is nothing like the city.” She exhaled gustily, pushing one of her brassy curls back from her eyes and glancing about, finding her angles before taking another sip of her gin, making sure she was displayed to her best advantage like a true professional. “Nothing is, really.”
“Renee!” A man giving young Kevin Kline vibes but when he was in In and Out, not A Fish Called Wanda, strode across the lobby towards us. Dressed in a wine-red three-piece suit, he stood out among the browns, navy and blacks peppering the crowd, though he didn’t seem bothered by the looks. In fact, he gave a few familiar nods and a quick smile or two on his way over before stopping short of Ms. Rhodes and folding his arms. “It’s been three months! I’ve been patient but--”
“Charlie! You absolute doll!” She leaned in and gave him a smacking kiss on each cheek. Charlie blushed and, somewhat awkwardly, returned the gesture, not quite meeting her skin but giving a little mwah sound.
A for effort, really.
“Damien, this is my dear old friend, Charlie Arnold. Well, old,” she tittered. “He’s a few years my junior but shhhh, don’t let on. Everyone thinks I’m at least ten years younger than I really am!”
I nodded, smiling. No one thought that, I was certain, but cultivating a certain mystique was so old Hollywood of her. “I’ll never tell.”
Charlie Arnold shifted a bit uncomfortably, tilting his head in the direction of the office behind us. “Do you have a moment? We need to talk about—”
“Now, Charlie darling, now is not the time,” Ms. Rhodes protested, patting his arm with the very tips of her brightly painted fingernails. “We’re in the midst of a gala!”
Charlie followed the direction of Ms. Rhodes’ waving arm. His lips tightened and shoulders stiffened as he turned back to face us. “That might well be, Renee, but the fact remains you made a promise—a legally binding promise—and—”
Ms. Rhodes’ smile was fixed and bright but distinctly unpleasant. “Charlie,” she gritted out. “This is not the time. Save your speeches for your students.”
“Renee,” Charlie said, straightening, shedding some of the deference he’d carried over just moments before, “you’ve been dodging me. Every planning meeting, every casual drinks evening, you’ve been avoiding the subject. It’s past time you dropped the charade.”
“You’re embarrassing me,” she whispered. “We’ll talk tomorrow!”.
“I’ve given you forty-odd years of tomorrow, Charlie and later, Charlie,” he snapped, “I’m tired of waiting, Renee. You owe me this much.”
“And,” she said, shooting me an apologetic eye roll, “we can talk tomorrow, Charlie. I assure you, you will not be disappointed.”
She gave his arm a firm pat then and, turning her back on him with a swish of jersey and perfume, took me by the elbow and steered me away from Charlie Arnold. “I’m so sorry about that little scene.” She sighed. “Charlie’s a dear old friend but he just can’t accept the fact some things are just done.”
“A lot of folks are upset about your retirement,” I demurred. “You’re quite the performer.”
She snorted delicately, giving me a nudge. “I’m an old broad who should’ve retired five years before I did,” she chided. “I just hung on because I wasn’t ready to admit my critics were right. I’d gotten to the point where I was just playing versions of myself, you know?”
My face warmed as I nodded. “I’m familiar with the feeling.”
About the Author
Meredith Spies (they/them/theirs) is a queer, nonbinary author who lives far away and writes queer-centered stories with romance in them and queer romances with stories in them. They believe that pineapple goes on pizza, that there’s no reason for open toed boots, and everyone deserves a happily ever after.
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Wyatt’s phone announced an incoming call. Val looked up and mouthed “who” when Wyatt just stared at the screen.
“Kevin,” Wyatt said in a low voice. At the same time, he put the phone to his ear and answered. “Hello.”
“What the fuck did you tell my wife, you cocksucker!” Kevin shouted in Wyatt’s ear. Val froze and raised his eyebrows. Wyatt shook his head and leaned against a chair, and Val went back to digging through the box.
“Little early to start drinking, even for you, Kevin,” Wyatt said calmly.
“She told me this morning she’s filing for divorce, and I know damn well you’ve been talking to her,” Kevin snapped.
“Kevin, if your wife wants to divorce you—and I can think of a dozen reasons why she’d want to do that—it’s not my fault. I have nothing to do with it,” Wyatt said, voice as hard as he could make it. “She’s probably fed up worrying about you giving her the clap. Or worse.”
Val winced and sat straighter. He held a book against his knees but barely glanced at it. His attention was riveted to Wyatt again.
Something outside banged to the ground, drawing both their attention. When Val stood up and started toward the door, Wyatt grabbed his arm and stopped him, shaking his head and whispering, “Whatever it is, ignore it for now.”
“You know I’ve thought about killing you plenty of times over the years. I even planned it out, but never went through with it. I had enough chances, and I should have taken them. I won’t make that mistake again,” Kevin growled in a low, strange tone of voice. Wyatt’s blood ran cold.
“Kevin! Kevin!” Wyatt barked into the phone, but the connection had gone dead. His fingers tightened around Val’s arm to the point Val squirmed away.
“We’re leaving. Now.”
“Huh?” Val didn’t budge. He dropped the book into the box. “What did he say? That book—”
“Bring it. I’ve got a bad feeling, and we’re getting out of here,” Wyatt said. He reached out and took Val’s elbow just as Val leaned down and scooped the box up, tucking it under his arm.
Wyatt hauled Val from the storage locker. He stopped only long enough to shut and lock the door. When Val took a few steps toward where they’d parked their car Wyatt lunged at him, wound one arm around his waist and shoved Val back.
“Stay behind me. Keep quiet,” Wyatt said. He stopped and looked around, taking in every detail.
“What the hell is wrong with you? What did Kevin say—?”
“Val! I’m serious. Shut up. Kevin Fells is one person on this earth, when he threatens to kill someone, I take him very seriously.”
A Barlow Lens is available in eBook, paperback and through Kobo Plus. This month the English edition is on sale for $2.99.
Interested in French or Spanish editions? Look at my Translations page.
Amir Lane has a new gay paranormal vampire book out, Heavy Metal Hunters book 1: A Riff of Retribution. And there's a giveaway.
Dead men are filled with life.
Eleven years ago, world-renowned guitarists Hale and Aleksandr learned that monsters were real. Hale lost the love of his life, and Aleksandr lost his brother.
When the carnage was over, they vowed to make sure no one else had to go through what they did.
But since then, another band's bassist has been killed at a festival, and she wasn’t the only one. Hale suspects a vampire was responsible, and that their drummer — the singer of his new band — knows more about it than she’s letting on. When a member of their new act is also attacked by a vampire, everything Hale has tried to keep in the shadows comes to light.
Hale has made a bargain with the gods for the power to heal. But he can't save everyone.
The dead are rising. The gods are angry. And even they won't be Hale’s biggest problem.
From USAT Bestselling Author Amir Lane comes a story of music, magic, and mayhem.
Warning: Substance abuse, self-harm, mentions of attempted suicide.
A woman’s voice cried out in the darkness.
“Help me! Help me!”
Hale ground his teeth against the instinct to find her. He didn’t know if this tactic was something they learned or if it was ingrained into them. The nearest cabins were all empty right now. They had checked before sundown and found no sign of human life.
That had been several hours ago. Somebody very well could have wandered up into the mountains and gotten hurt or lost in that time.
Hale doubted it.
The same cry came from behind him. This time, it was a man’s voice.
“Help me! Help me!”
Hale stood and raised his crossbow with both hands. Though it was fairly light, he was mindful of the way the weight tugged at the scars behind his left shoulder. In his periphery, Aleksandr sheathed the dagger and raised his own crossbow instead.
This wasn’t right.
Draug weren’t like European or North American vampires. They didn’t move in pairs. It was likely why Hale and Aleksandr had survived doing this so long. It was always two against one.
They had a strategy. His job was to slow the bastards down so Aleksandr could finish them off. Two of them coming from different directions complicated things.
“Hale,” Aleksandr said.
Hale knew that tone.
“Don’t,” he warned.
“You’ve been a good brother.”
Aleksandr laughed softly.
“I love you too, Hale.”
Hale’s lip twitched into a smile despite himself.
“Come on, you fucks,” he muttered.
The silence was worse than the noise. Had they seen the weapons and retreated?
From his left--
Eyes glowed yellow in the light of the fire. His finger twitched on the trigger. The bolt went wide.
The draug moved fast, too fast for Hale to follow. There was no point trying to see it. He allowed instinct to take over. He turned in the direction of the hairs prickling on the back of his neck as he released the bolt without letting himself think about it. A howl of pain rang through his eardrums. The draug paused long enough that Hale could see the bolt sticking from her thigh. She stared at him with sharp teeth bared and wide eyes a blue so pale, they were nearly white. She was thin enough that he could make out the bones of her skull and collarbones where her torn and bloody clothes hung loose from her body. It was impossible to tell how old she’d been as human.
Jeans and a t-shirt.
Had she been killed in the summer?
Hale smothered down the guilt before it could distract him. One week a year. That was the agreement. Anything outside that week wasn’t his responsibility. All he could do was put the poor thing out of her misery and keep her from killing anybody else.
His weak shoulder gave out a little as he pulled the trigger again. The bolt stuck between the draug’s ribs instead of her heart.
“How are you doing, Aleksandr?” he shouted.
The lack of verbal response wasn’t encouraging.
Hale slipped his shoulder to the side, narrowly avoiding the woman’s claws aimed for his face. The ash poisoning was slowing her down already. She was too close for the crossbow. He let it fall to the ground and moved his right leg back.
A sharp cry rang out behind him.
Hale made the mistake of looking back. He didn’t see Aleksandr or the other draug.
Gods, where was he? Where--
The woman slammed into him. The snow broke his fall, and the pain was muffled by the spike of adrenaline in his veins. He braced his left hand against her rotting throat to keep her teeth from his face. Cold pain pulled at the scars behind his shoulder. The weak muscles quivered with the effort of holding her back against gravity. Her ugly snarl looked even more inhuman in the firelight.
Hale’s pendants were hot where they’d fallen back against his skin.
Protect him, you bastards, not me. He’s not a fighter!
Hale could handle himself, but Aleksandr--
Aleksandr could hold his own. He wasn’t as soft as he looked. Hale couldn’t think of him while the woman’s short claws raked at his arms. She was clearly young enough they hadn’t had a chance to grow long yet. The sleeves of his jacket kept them from breaking his skin.
Hale shifted to push the woman back a few inches with his good arm. He wedged his knee up between them. His fingers scrambled over his thigh until they found the hilt of his dagger.
Blood splattered on his face as he drove the blade into the underside of her jaw. She howled and screamed around the metal. He kept his grip on the hilt as she jerked back, dislocating her jaw. She fell back, and Hale was on her in a less than a breath. He dropped his weight onto the dagger. It took two tries to get it between the ribs and into her heart.
It was concern for Aleksandr that made him stand as the draug woman thrashed on the snow, not the sick feeling that came with watching her die.
This never did get easier.
Amir Lane writes supernatural and fantasy with LGBT+ characters. From the frigid and mysterious land of Northern Canada, Amir is obsessed with loud music and black magic. They spend most of their writing time in a small home office or doing the circuit of local coffee shops. They live in a world where magic is an everyday occurrence, and they strive to bring that world to paper.
When not figuring out what kind of day job an incubus would have or what a necromancer would go to school for, Amir enjoys visiting the nearest Dairy Queen, getting killed in video games, and watching cat videos.
Author Website: https://amirlane.com
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My teaser this week is from For the Long Run,
my erotic romantic suspense thriller.
Scanning the surrounding woods, Eric searched for marks or clues in the trees standing nearby. “Yeah, I bet….” When he turned on his heels, looked up and caught sight of Jay, he let his voice trail off. Peeling off the gloves, he stood and dumped them in the trash bag sitting near the body. “I’ve seen enough. Can I get copies of all the reports and evidence?”
“Sure. I’ll send them over to the resort, now that there is someone working there who’d know what to do with them,” O’Dell said. She seemed amiable enough.
“Appreciate it.” Lengthening his stride, he climbed the few feet to the guardrail and road. He gripped Jay’s elbow and turned him around, aiming him at the car. Leaning in close to Jay, he spoke in a low enough voice no one else would hear. “Hey, hey, none of that. You might think turning green is a clever way to blend in, but it’s not.”
“Oh, pal, don’t even say it. I know that look.”
Jay probably had no real clue he was being hustled away from the body and toward Eric’s car. After stopping only long enough to unlock the door and shove Jay inside, Eric jogged to the driver’s side, got in, and started the car, pulling away as fast as possible without looking like he was making a getaway. Once around a bend in the road, he pulled to the side again. Reaching over, he curled his fingers around Jay’s neck and applied firm, steady pressure to the back of his neck.
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For the Long Run is available in eBook, Audiobook,
paperback and through Kobo Plus.
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