My snippet this week is from For the Long Run, an erotic mystery/thriller.
There weren’t a lot of people around, and it was too early for most of the bar patrons to be leaving, so it was unlikely anyone would see him other than Eric. The thought of someone other than Eric seeing him like this sent another spark of thrill slithering up from Jay’s stomach.
A few minutes later, Jay heard a car engine cut, a door open and close, and footfalls crunch over the parking lot, coming to a stop behind him. He started when warm hands, fingers spread wide, moved up and down his sides. One hand skimmed over his belly and dipped inside his jeans, gripping his cock.
Eric leaned his weight against Jay’s back and spoke in his ear. “Very nice.”
“P-please… I need….”
“Don’t worry, Jay, I’ll get you exactly what you need.” Eric stepped away and at once Jay missed his warmth and strength.
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For the Long Run is available in eBook, paperback and through Kindle Unlimited. Right now the eBook is 50% off ($2.99).
Book Title: The Queering
Author and Publisher: Brooke Skipstone
Cover Artist: Cherie Chapman
Release Date: January 19, 2023
Genre: Contemporary F/F Romance, Historical F/F Romance, YA LGBTQ+
Tropes: Friends to lovers, Coming of age
Themes: Coming out, finding love late in life
Heat Rating: 3 flames
Length: 92 000 words/ 318 pages
It is a standalone story and does not end on a cliffhanger.
Buy Links - Available in Kindle Unlimited
Trapped between a homicidal brother and a homophobic podcaster eager to reveal her lesbian romance novels, a seventy-year-old grandmother seeks help in Clear, Alaska.
Editor's Pick Booklife Reviews: A fast-paced yet thoughtful romance of coming out and finding love in later life in Alaska
5 Star Clarion Reviews: A riveting novel . . . about love, courage, and solidarity
NO ONE in the world is actually named Brooke Skipstone.
Not for almost fifty years.
Taylor Baird MacKenzie, a long-term substitute teacher in Clear, Alaska, knew her secret had already begun to unravel. Brooke wrote novels about lesbian liberation, fierce coming-of-age stories full of high family drama. Her readers probably pictured an author in her thirties with tattoos and a gender-fluid appearance.
Certainly not a seventy-year-old grandmother with long, thick hair—still more brown than gray—wearing lined leggings and an oversized hoodie that covered her butt. And unhappily married to the same man for over forty years.
Much too old and too obviously straight to be writing such novels.
Soon, everyone would know the truth--she was the author Brooke Skipstone. How big would the shockwave be?
Taylor had long feared the repercussions and kept her pen name secret. What would her kids say? And her grandkids, who hardly knew her because she lived so far from them. And saw them even less than usual because of Covid. At times the thought of discovery had seared her guts, but the liberation of writing what she wanted, revealing the characters living in her mind and the love and pain in her heart, had become her main reason for existence.
While at her keyboard, Taylor lost herself in her secret world—vibrant, passionate, full of laughter and turmoil and utter joy. Not like her real world of silence and numbing isolation, where she couldn’t talk about what mattered most to her.
Keeping the source of her greatest happiness a secret had suffocated her life.
Taylor stood at her classroom door before her last class of the day, while students thumbed phones and talked as they sat at a picnic table in the center of the Commons area. The same kind of table she and Brooke sat at in the spring of 1973.
Soon after Taylor’s college roommate and fellow theatre major, Brooke Tobolovsky turned twenty-one, Brooke changed her last name. Though she didn’t have the internet to check, she said she had never heard of anyone named Skipstone, so claimed it for herself. She thought it sounded cool. Much better for the stage and screen. Besides, she’d always hated the sound of Tobolovsky.
Regardless of her name, no one could ever forget her. Long, thick, cinnamon-colored hair; high forehead; deep-set blue eyes; and the biggest smile Taylor had ever seen. She could play Lady Macbeth just as easily as Juliet and belt out a song like a combination of Cher and Stevie Nicks. She was the natural lead, while Taylor was the utility player—competent actress, writer, composer, and organizational queen.
Once all the legal papers were complete, they celebrated with a pitcher of beer at The Hangout a few blocks from Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas. They sat at a picnic table under canvas stretched between oak trees, blocking the March sun. Brooke carved her new name on the bench as they pushed flip-flops through pea gravel and peanut shells.
“Does this mean I can’t call you Tobo anymore?” Taylor laughed and snorted beer.
Brooke scoffed with a quick flash of her eyes, “I’ve put a curse on that name, as you can see. Say it at your peril.” She cocked an eyebrow.
Taylor coughed this time, spewing beer on her shirt.
“I always knew you couldn’t hold your liquor.” Brooke wiped Taylor’s chin with a napkin.
“That word will never cross my lips again.”
“Which word?” Brooke teased. Her tongue peeked out the side of her mouth as she dabbed the snot from Taylor’s upper lip. “Hmm?”
Flashing a smile, Taylor said, “From now on, you’ll be BS to me. Nothing but BS.”
Brooke narrowed her eyes and tightened her mouth. “You’d better be referring to Brooke Skipstone.”
Taylor raised her hands and cocked her head in a perfect expression of amused innocence. “Certainly.” She tried to swallow the guffaw rising from her gut. “That’s exactly what I was thinking.”
They stared at each other for three seconds, each holding her pose until Brooke broke into a smile. “That’s BS and you know it.”
Taylor’s guffaw erupted, and in their laughter-filled haze, they both knocked their glasses to the ground. No matter. They drank from the pitcher and later started a burping contest. Taylor conceded when Brooke burped the chorus of “I Am Woman,” earning a standing ovation from the crowd of hippie students and locals that had gathered around them. The girls walked home, Taylor’s arm around her friend’s neck; Brooke’s around the other’s waist.
They were known as B&T because they were inseparable. They’d shared the ground floor of a small rental house since sophomore year but spent most of their time acting, hanging lights, building sets, and running shows at the Owens Art Center. If one of them wasn’t around the other, people would invariably ask, “Where’s ___?” with a little frown and gasp.
Taylor wrote and directed plays and musicals mainly for teens, while Brooke snagged major acting roles every year. Taylor was involved in every one of Brooke’s shows, while Brooke sang and acted in each of Taylor’s studio productions.
They were two promising women, determined to make their own way in the world and support each other’s careers in theatre—Brooke as an actress at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival in Ashland and Taylor as a drama teacher at a private school in a nearby city. After breaking up with their casual boyfriends and graduating in 1974, they headed west in a very used VW Camper Bus adorned with painted flowers to cover the rust.
They loved each other completely as friends and had only become lovers two days before Brooke’s death.
About the Author
Brooke Skipstone is a multi-award-winning author who lives in Alaska where she watches the mountains change colors with the seasons from her balcony. Where she feels the constant rush toward winter as the sunlight wanes for six months of the year, seven minutes each day, bringing crushing cold that lingers even as the sun climbs again. Where the burst of life during summer is urgent under twenty-four-hour daylight, lush and decadent. Where fish swim hundreds of miles up rivers past bear claws and nets and wheels and lines of rubber-clad combat fishers, arriving humped and ragged, dying as they spawn. Where danger from the land and its animals exhilarates the senses, forcing her to appreciate the difference between life and death. Where the edge between is sometimes too alluring.
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Declan shifted so he faced Blair completely. “Tell us everything about this car accident. What about the other driver? Were there any passengers?”
“There was no other driver. My dad lost control of his car and crashed into a cement wall,” Blair said.
“Wait a minute. Are you telling me your father, an experienced FBI field agent, with, I’m presuming, defensive driving training smashed into a wall during an investigation and nobody at the FBI thought it was even a tiny bit suspicious?” Forge’s temper started to rise and Blair didn’t need his empathic bond to feel the effects.
“Oh, hell, no. A lot of people at the FBI thought those events were very suspicious. My dad’s car was only a few weeks old. He’d just bought one of the new models to come out that year. He either jumped or was thrown from the car, no way to tell, but the doctors said he shouldn’t have lived, and it was miracle he did survive. The car was so badly burned there was almost no evidence recovered, and what they could find didn’t show any tampering.” Blair stopped and glanced around at the other men. “He survived the crash and died a few days later from a blood clot, but he never woke up. The people he worked with did what they could with what they had, but it wasn’t enough. It’s not a closed case, but it’s a cold case now. Whatever he knew that could have shed light on what happened died with him.”
“But you think it wasn’t an accident,” Forge said. He took Blair’s hand. “I can feel it.”
“Why didn’t you tell us before? Maybe we could have found more evidence or helped you,” Lucas said.
Blair sighed. “By the first time I talked to you guys, I was already changed. If you recall, I wasn’t exactly good at being a vampire.” He shrugged and focused on the floor, hoping none of them would notice the tears in his eyes. “I had no access to the FBI investigation, was afraid to talk to any of my dad’s coworkers, and it wouldn’t have changed anything. For what it’s worth, I always thought his car was hacked somehow. Back then I didn’t have the skills or resources to investigate on my own, and without physical evidence from the car, it was probably impossible anyway.”
He gave up any pretense of being unaffected by these recent revelations. Forge knew how Blair felt anyway. Lucas had become a good enough friend there was no reason to be embarrassed, and he’d already bawled like a baby recently in front of Declan. Wiping his eyes with the back of one hand, Blair added, “I never realized those two cases were connected or might be connected to the one we’re working on now.”
Declan put one hand on Blair’s shoulder. “There was no reason for you to. You certainly didn’t have enough information about the earlier cases to connect them.”
Quarry is available in eBook, paperback and in Kindle Unlimited.
Exciting news! The French edition of Run for the Roses (Book 1 of Circles) is now in French! Published by Juno Publishing it is available for pre-order!
Date de sortie: 15/02/2023
Les relations amoureuses ne sont pas faites pour tout le monde et Vladimir « Val » Mihalic pense que dans son cas, c’est mieux ainsi. Lorsque sa meilleure amie, Janelle, est gravement blessée lors d’un car-jacking, mettant sa carrière de jockey entre parenthèses, Val l’aide à traverser cette crise. Il ne faut pas longtemps pour que le père de Janelle, qu’elle ne voit plus, se présente à la porte de Val et que sa vie bascule.
Wyatt Harig aime sa fille, mais ils ont été forcés de s’éloigner l’un de l’autre. Après sa blessure, il sait que les choses doivent être différentes et il est le seul à pouvoir les changer. En arrivant dans le Kentucky, il trouve Janelle et Val, un homme séduisant et au grand cœur de vingt ans son cadet, impliqué jusqu’au cou dans une affaire de pari ayant abouti à un meurtre.
Val est un peu plus heureux qu’il ne devrait l’être lorsque Wyatt reste et se met à creuser plus loin pour découvrir la vérité sur l’« accident » de Janelle. Au fur et à mesure qu’ils découvrent les événements qui ont mené à ce jour fatidique, une solide amitié puis, plus encore se développe entre les deux hommes.
Mais la découverte de la vérité, qui exposera les escrocs et les meurtriers, va mettre en péril leur amour et leurs vies.
“Wait, Tyler, what’s that?” Linden reached over and put one hand on Tyler’s arm. For an instant he was distracted by the firm swell of his bicep.
The truck stopped, but Tyler didn’t change gears. “What’s what?”
“Look. Second floor, the end room—the drapes are open. All the others are closed. The snow at the back of the building isn’t as smooth as the front.”
Tyler leaned forward, gripping the steering wheel, and stared. “I went through with the work crews. We drained all the water from the pipes so they wouldn’t freeze when the heat and power were shut down. Then I locked up.”
“Did you close all the drapes?”
Tyler nodded. “Yes.” He turned to look directly at Linden. “The work crews left two days ago. I haven’t been there since.”
“Let’s put the truck in the garage and lock it up, then take a look.”
Tyler nodded and eased the truck forward again. “I locked the lodge up when we came out here.”
Linden nodded. “Good.” He let go of Tyler’s arm and rested his hands on his legs. “Do you know of anyone else in the area who might have come here?”
“No. If someone I knew was here, they’d have come to the lodge, don’t you think?”
“True. Is it possible you simply missed one room or left the drapes open?”
Tyler shrugged. “I suppose it’s possible.”
“Okay, we’ll keep on as if we haven’t noticed and then go around front and go in that way, take a look around.” He nodded at the garage as Tyler drove the truck toward the garage opening. “Are there any flashlights or weapons in there?”
“Flashlights and tools.”
They fell silent as Tyler guided the delivery truck into the garage and parked it across from the other two vehicles. He hit a button beside the bay door, and it closed. Linden heard a locking mechanism snap into place. There was a regular door to the right.
“Is it possible to get into the rest of the building from this garage?” Linden asked when the engine was off and they were climbing out of the delivery truck. Tyler nodded and Linden continued, “Let’s be sure the entrances in this building are locked down.”
“Don’t you think you’re overreacting to some open curtains? They probably just got overlooked when we went through and closed everything up,” Tyler said.
“Yeah, I probably am. But as you pointed out, we are out here in the middle of nowhere miles away from any sort of backup. There could be some sort of squatter who may not want to be found out. So, let’s be smart and safe about this,” Linden insisted.
Ashton K. Rose has a new queer fantasy/paranormal romance out: The Southern Magicks. And there's a giveaway.
How do you prove your innocence when you don’t even remember whether you did it or not?
After a demon attack reveals Dexter’s secret – that his Gran taught him magic – the twenty-three-year-old librarian is forced to work for the local magical law enforcement agency in order to prove his loyalty, and hopefully save his grandmother from execution.
However, when someone tries to frame him for crimes he doesn’t remember committing, Dexter realizes he’ll have to start an investigation of his own. Joined by his beloved husband Eli, their best friend June, and his journalist cousin Kat, he desperately tries to prove his innocence…which is kind of difficult when gaps in his memory make him doubt everything he thinks he knows about himself.
The race against time begins. Can Dexter and his team uncover the criminals weaving the web of guilt around him before it’s too late, or is he going to lose everything and everyone he cares about?
Warnings: Assault, violent imagery, panic attack on page, police brutality
Ashton is giving away a $20 Amazon gift card with this tour:
Direct Link: http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/b60e8d47271
I knew Nora Rowe had died in her home without anyone telling me.
I unlocked the door and my stomach dropped as I took in the sight of the small dim living room of her kit home, filled with books and old newspapers. The acrid smell of cigarettes and wood fire smoke filled my nose as I weaved my way through the stacks. Mismatched flatpack bookshelves that warped under the strain of thousands of books lined the walls. Her living room held no other furniture apart from an old TV and a worn leather armchair—the carpet covered by stained, threadbare rugs.
I flicked the first light switch I saw twice.
Why had I expected the power to work?
I walked over to the windows and pushed the dust-caked lace curtains aside.
My eyes watered as the sun poured into the room.
In the kitchen, the doors of the cupboards hung open. The only things left behind were a few cheap plastic items scattered across the scratched lino.
I stepped on a plastic cup on the floor. I wobbled on my feet for a few sick seconds before I grabbed the counter to steady myself. The sharp aluminium edge bit into the skin of my hand.
This place was a death trap!
She had over twenty library books I had to separate from the donations. My legs shook as I walked to the shelves closest to the door.
I ignored the erratic beating of my heart and the part of my brain telling me to run and pulled out my keys to flick the small key chain light on. I placed it between my teeth and examined the spines for library tags.
When the light hit the grimy glass of a small photo frame on the shelf, I saw something move behind me. I kept my eyes fixed on the glass and used my thumb to clear a spot of dust.
If it hadn’t moved, I could have ignored the human-shaped shadow reflected in the glass.
As a kid, I’d been hassled about seeing things and having an overactive imagination. When I was seven, Gran told me the truth. I shared her secret ability to see ghosts.
I turned to look at the woman who sat in the armchair.
This Nora was a couple of years older than the one who celebrated her birthday in the photo. Her gaze focused on the TV, which would have been new the year Queen Elizabeth was coronated.
I kept my gaze locked on her, blinking one eye at a time.
I slowed my breath and took a careful step backwards to the door. The back of my calf hit something that drove several points of pain into my skin.
The stack of books I knocked over sliced through my composure just as easily as it did the silence in the room, the hard covers and spines slapping against each other as they hit the floor.
“What the fuck are you doing in my house?” Nora stood and turned to face me.
I knew I’d given the game away when I jumped out of my skin and almost dropped my keys.
I made a noise like a dying rat.
She knew I could hear her.
The first thing Gran had taught me was not to let a ghost realise you could sense them. It was dangerous—a trigger for the ire of a vengeful spirit.
“I’m sorry,” I said. “Your son gave us the key.”
“Worthless piece of shit. Letting strangers into my house. He stole my grandma’s dinner set for drug money before my body was cold. I saw him put it in his car before he called someone to deal with the mess.”
“I’ll just be going now.”
“Actually, I’ll be going.”
I felt a sharp pain in my chest.
I tried to breathe, but my lungs refused to move.
I couldn’t breathe!
The edge of my vision went black as I gasped for air. I fell flat on my front. I was so focused on trying to breathe, I almost missed the presence pushing at the back of my mind. It started small, a hint of a suggestion. The temptation to give in grew. This was her body. I was nothing but a figment of her imagination. Dexter wasn’t real. Nothing more than a thought exercise to see what it’d be like to be a man her grandson’s age. With each second, it pressed harder, and the urge to give in grew.
It would be easy to give in and never have another worry again. All the pain and pressure of life could vanish if I relaxed and let her take control.
I shivered as I tried to move my arms to push myself onto my hands and knees. I focused on the door. It was only a short crawl. I had to do it. For a second, my vision went entirely black.
I gathered all the strength I had and screamed. The remaining air expelled from my lungs. I took a sharp breath. I moved my stiff arms and pushed myself onto my hands and knees.
I was Dexter; I was real, and this was my body. Nothing would take that away from me.
I closed my eyes and pushed back the ghost. I wrapped a mental net around the invasive presence in my mind and forced it back through the hole where it had entered. A hole it had dug in a part of my mind I didn’t even know existed.
One arm forwards, one leg forwards, and breathe.
Move. Breathe. Move. Breathe.
I made it to the threshold and pulled the door open. I slid headfirst down the concrete stairs to lie on my back.
The pressure in my mind slowly vanished as I fell.
I opened my eyes.
Pale blue sky, almost cloudless.
My eyes watered from the bright light.
The perfect day was oblivious to my plight. The mid-autumn day was hardly different from late summer. I could’ve laid there for hours, but the hot concrete felt like it was melting the skin off my back where my shirt had ridden up. I rolled onto the dead grass beside the cracked front path.
Sweat ran into my eyes as I sat up. I squeezed my eyes shut to clear my vision.
I could still feel the cold air wafting from the open door. I had to shut it. Mrs Gregory was looking for any excuse to fire me. I stood and walked to the threshold.
All I had to do was grab the handle, pull it closed, remove my hand from the handle and step back.
One quick movement.
I could do it.
As I stared, my eyes adjusted to the dim. She stood just inside, her hard eyes focused on me.
I stepped forwards and grabbed the door handle. Her hand shot out towards my arm.
Her pale, icy fingers clamped around my left wrist. I tightened the grip of my right hand around the door handle. I tucked my chin to my chest and threw myself backwards down the stairs, using the weight of my body to swing the door closed. My shirt ripped as I fell backwards; the sleeve stayed in her hand as my arm slipped free.
The air expelled from my lungs as I hit the ground.
I lay on my back and my lungs refused to work. Fixed to the spot in terror, I gasped for air as my body refused to perform. A function that was usually thoughtless had become my only thought, the pinpoint the world had narrowed to.
There was a dizzy relief as I breathed again, and after a few minutes I slowly stood.
Blood ran down my exposed arm, the only part of my body that had hit the thin concrete path.
Ghosts could touch me! Physically hurt me!
I closed my eyes and concentrated on my breathing, forcing back the panic attack that bubbled in the back of my mind. I knew about the possession, but the touch? Why hadn’t Gran told me? I needed to call Gran, but I knew she couldn’t help me. She hadn’t talked to me about magic since her accident when I was seventeen.
I suspected the accident was magic-related, but she’d kept silent about it.
She’d looked at me sceptically any time I’d mentioned magic afterwards, as though I spoke of childish whimsy and needed to grow up.
So I had.
I’d left Dunn and become a librarian, a nice stable job for a responsible young man who liked books.
A normal young man who had resigned himself to a life of pretending he couldn’t see the dead.
I’d somehow ended up with nowhere else to turn and ended up back in this town.
Now Gran was in America with Aunt Myrtle, so it was hard to get help.
I drove back to the library to pretend I’d been out for my lunch break.
Ashton K. Rose (They/Them) is a Queer author who writes Australian paranormal, urban fantasy and mystery fiction filled with LGBTQIA+ characters.
Ashton currently lives in sunny Queensland able to enjoy the best of the Australian bush and beach. Ashton spent their first fourteen years being raised on a remote farm shaped around the remains of an old mining town. Surrounded by the skeletons of past lives and their matching ghost stories, Ashton developed a love for fantasy, horror, and dark fairy tales from a young age.
Carrying a love of ghost stories into adulthood Ashton started writing novels about magic, vampires and ghosts. Ashton decided to set The Southern Magicks in a world heavily inspired by the backdrop of the Australia bush/beach and the speculative fiction Ashton has consumed over a lifetime.
Author Website: https://www.geekaflame.com/
Author Facebook (Author Page): https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100086363208232
Author Twitter: https://twitter.com/Geek_Aflame
Author Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/geek_aflame/
Author Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/21982765.Ashton_K_Rose
Author Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/author/ashtonkrose
Book Title: Harpy Trickery (D’Vaire, Book 34)
Author and Publisher: Jessamyn Kingley
Cover Artist: LJ Anderson of Mayhem Cover Creations
Release Date: January 26, 2023
Genre/s: MM Fantasy/Paranormal Romance
Trope/s: Fated mates
Heat Rating: 3 flames
Length: 90 300 words
The book does not end on a cliffhanger.
Amazon Series Link
The ruler of the sprites meets a proud, but wayward harpy. Will their love survive a little trickery?
At eighteen, Warrior Chieftain Kitlivri Cyrrien of the Sprite Grove gained his title. On a dark night, Kitlivri lost his parents, sister, and nearly his entire population thanks to a horrid wizard potion. The Draconises took in him and his brothers, and Kitlivri gradually healed. Now he is a talented businessman, and the sprites have expanded by three dozen. Honored to be the Warrior Chieftain, Kitlivri does not want to give up his important role in Draconis Enterprises, but he believes it’s a necessity.
Jace Pagonis is a proud harpy, but he chafes at his people’s antiquated rules. When Jace isn’t arguing with his mother—the leader of the harpies—he’s sneaking around to improve his archery skills. Weapons and tricks are forbidden to harpy men but are necessary for the women, who are responsible for the men’s survival. Desperate to convince his mother to join the Council, Jace creeps out of his village one night to explore.
Two weeks into his fact-finding mission, Jace meets Kitlivri and is stunned to discover that Fate has selected them as mates. Jace misses home, but he cannot leave Kitlivri, nor does he want to explain to the courageous sprite that he’s the bratty son of the harpy ruler. Jace throws himself into life as Kitlivri’s other half and co-leader of the sprites, but weaves tales to avoid the truth. However, secrets never stay hidden for long, and Jace must face his lies or risk losing Kitlivri forever.
Jace scratched his head and tried to make sense of their conversation. “You want to bind our souls for eternity but be just friends for now?”
“Is that such a horrible thing? We did already agree not to rush intimacy.”
“Yes, but you also mentioned you were interested in kisses. I’m confused,” Jace said. “I’m not against going slow, I just want to make sure I understand. I don’t want to do or say the wrong thing. I’ve spent my entire life disappointing people with my inability to fall in line with their expectations. I’d like to avoid that in the future.”
“I don’t have a strict timeline in my head of when I think we should move from friends to lovers or whatever. As we get to know one another, I think we will figure it out.”
“I understand,” Jace said. “Perhaps it’s something we can discuss in the future.”
“Communication is definitely key to a good matebond.”
Although Jace understood Kitlivri had experienced tremendous loss, it was deflating to think they were entering another lie. Among harpies, there was no bargaining with Fate when it came to her choices for a person. Fate chose mates and leaders, and she guided the decisions of her chosen. This was honored without question.
Though Jace flaunted his mother’s rules, his parents had a love that was indisputable. His older sister had her other half too and was rarely seen without the woman Fate had picked for her.
The rebellious part of Jace that wanted to forge his own path should’ve applauded Kitlivri’s desire to ensure that what Fate did aligned with his desires for his life. Instead, Jace wondered if the Warrior Chieftain was already displeased by him.
A voice in his head told him he was being unfair and should pay more heed to Kitlivri’s words about his devastated family, so Jace set aside his unkind feelings. Kitlivri was scared, and it was Jace’s role to support him, not question his motives.
“Yes, it is,” Jace said and somehow managed not to cringe since he’d already told lies and half-truths to Kitlivri. Jace wasn’t proud of his dishonesty, his unkind thoughts about Kitlivri’s desire to take their relationship slowly, or himself, in the general sense. It wasn’t until Jace had left his mother’s village that he’d understood how little confidence he truly had, and he was clueless about how to mend himself.
“I’m sorry I’ve upset you.”
“No, you haven’t,” Jace said. “I assure you I’m fine with moving slow. I’m upsetting myself by being foolish, and I understand why caring for someone must terrify you. Thank you for being courageous enough to share that with me. In time, I hope to offer you the same honesty.”
“Love is scary, but I’m already committed to being your best friend.”
The closest thing Jace had to a friend was his father, and Zephyr’s priority was, understandably, his mate.
“I’ve never had a best friend. I’d like to be yours,” said Jace.
“We might even find that we like each other.”
Jace grinned. “You have a growing list of attributes, Kit.”
“As do you.”
“Are you ready to do this matebond thing now?” Jace asked.
“I’m nervous, but yes.”
“Good, I’m glad I’m not the only one.”
Kitlivri held out his hand, and Jace didn’t hesitate to take it. “Did I thank you for agreeing to nearly every D’Vaire tradition?”
“Excuse me? I agreed to them all. You’re the one who was worried some of the feather markings on my skin would disappear if we did those tattoo-like mating marks,” Jace argued.
“I’m a fan of your feathers. Are you okay with sharing a bedroom with me tonight? I’d rather it be no one’s business but our own that we’re postponing intimacy.”
“I think I can handle my desire to ravish you.”
“I’m hoping I have the same ability to resist you,” Kitlivri said. “You are captivating.”
“Not a horrible thing to hear from a handsome man.”
“Am I allowed to call you that too, or will it offend you?” Kitlivri asked.
“As long as you see me as more than the face Fate gave me, you may comment on it as much as you like.”
“Or I could compliment you on other features.”
“I might be harpy enough to enjoy them too.”
“Jace, will you be my mate today?” Kitlivri asked.
“Yes. Yes, I will.”
Jace’s future was a blurry road with no destination in sight, but Fate had given him someone to travel it with, and he would do his best to rise to the challenges ahead.
About the Author
Jessamyn Kingley has published over thirty titles and refuses to pick a favorite among them. With an extraordinary passion for her characters, she enthusiastically adds tales to her D’Vaire series and avidly re-reads them whenever her schedule allows. After decades living in the Washington, DC area, she now resides in Nevada with her husband and their three spoiled cats. When she is not writing or adding new ideas to her beloved notebooks, she is gaming with family and friends.
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Kai Richter, already in the room, bent down, opened a door in the credenza, and poured what smelled like cream from a cardboard container into a mug of coffee. He replaced the container, straightened, and smiled warmly at them, his creepy persona gone. Another man with thick dark hair that hung almost to his shoulders, a swarthy complexion, and deep, deep brown eyes was sprawled in one of the chairs. When they walked in, he straightened and scooted the chair up to the table.
They were all vampires, yet none of them seemed surprised or bothered that Lucas was a werewolf. In fact, he felt the same sense of camaraderie as he did with the men he lived with. Despite how they’d come here and what it appeared Declan might feel, Lucas sensed no threat. The distinct odor of adrenaline, or any other chemical changes in the body indicating impending attack, was noticeably absent.
“Sophia is late,” the dark-haired man said. His accent was thick and Middle Eastern— Israeli or something similar, maybe.
Samuels snorted. “Sophia has been late for the last 130 years.” He walked to the table and sat down. “Gentlemen, we’ll get started without her.” He looked up at Lucas, Declan, Forge, and Blair. “My wife likes to make an…entrance.” Samuels made quote signs in the air.
Blair stepped toward the table, stopped for a second when Forge reached out and took hold of his arm, then gently pulled free. Forge’s gaze shifted to the table for a split second. He wore a decidedly aggravated expression. Blair raised his eyebrows, and Forge heaved a sigh. Whatever passed between them, Lucas sensed Blair was thinking the same things Lucas was. Blair sat opposite Samuels and folded his hands on the table in front of him.
Forge jerked out the chair beside Blair and dropped into it, looking up when Declan sat beside him. Lucas sat beside Declan. Lucas pointed at a stack of folders sitting at the middle of the table. “What are those?”
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