Release Blitz: Bumper to Bumper by Gretchen Evens

Title: Bumper to Bumper

Author: Gretchen Evans

Publisher: NineStar Press

Release Date: July 15, 2019

Heat Level: 3 – Some Sex

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: 19300

Genre: Contemporary, age gap, contemporary, dirty talk, gay, hookup app

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Synopsis

Gabe is bored with hookup culture. He’s in his thirties and wants something more stable. But sitting in traffic is even more boring. He expects more of the same tired, headless torsos when he swipes open Cruised, the most popular hookup app for men, during his morning commute. Instead, he meets Mark.

Mark is handsome, funny, and interested in conversation. He’s also interested in meeting Gabe in coffee shop bathrooms for quickies on the way to work. Mark doesn’t rush out of the room after sex either. He’s tender and sweet, and way more than Gabe had hoped for. The sex is hot, but the connection between Gabe and Mark is something deeper.

Gabe’s feelings grow each time he and Mark text, but seeing an attractive woman driving Mark’s car stops Gabe cold. He doesn’t want to hookup with a cheater. He doesn’t want to stop seeing Mark either. But could it all be a misunderstanding?

Gabe knows nothing about Mark’s life or how to negotiate a hookup into something more. Does Mark want something more, or is he already taken?

Excerpt

Bumper to Bumper
Gretchen Evans © 2019
All Rights Reserved

Gabe’s car lurched as he stomped on the brake. His bumper stopped inches from the expensive-looking sedan in front of him. He was going to be late. Again. He groaned and let his forehead rest on the steering wheel.

The traffic on I-40 was terrible. Every day it seemed to get worse. It was also unpredictable. Some days, his twelve-mile commute to the office took fifteen minutes. Other days, it took forty-five. It was impossible to tell which it would be before hitting the on-ramp.

At least he wasn’t the only one suffering like this. He spent so much time sitting in traffic during morning rush hour that he recognized a lot of the cars around him. It was a strange camaraderie. There was the middle-aged lady in the tiny hatchback whose hair color changed every week. The old hippy in a political-bumper-sticker-covered hybrid always rode in the left lane, even when traffic cleared up. The white luxury SUV driven by the angry twentysomething blonde only showed up some days, but she had passed him on the shoulder first thing this morning. He did his best to ignore the giant red truck with gun and Confederate flag stickers that always cut in front of him.

He moved ahead a few feet but stopped almost immediately. The car behind him swerved onto the shoulder to avoid rear-ending him. If someone hit him, he’d at least have a good excuse to give to his boss. But there was no way his twenty-year-old, hand-me-down car would survive.

Gabe gave up dreams of getting into a minor fender bender and inched ahead again. There must have already been an accident up ahead. Traffic was always slow, but it wasn’t usually this bad.

Sure enough, a fire truck and police car zoomed past on the shoulder. Great.

He picked up his phone to text his work wife he’d be late. He’d done that a lot lately, so she was a pro at covering for him. Maggie was great to have around but definitely the only type of wife he was ever going to have. She dodged traffic by taking backroads to the office, so Gabe didn’t feel too bad getting her to cover his ass. Her idyllic suburban lifestyle could support his terrible commute.

Maybe Miss Impatient in the SUV was the cause of whatever had them all trapped here. Gabe was annoyed enough to smile at that uncharitable thought.

Text sent, and he was still sitting at a dead stop. There was no harm in using your phone in the car if you weren’t actually driving, right? The highway was basically a parking lot right now.

Gabe tapped open Cruised, the hookup app he’d had the most luck with in the past.

Not that he’d had much luck. In quantity, sure, he’d had lots of luck. Gotten hella lucky. But in terms of quality? Nah. It was a desert of huge cocks with no brains attached out there. But, it couldn’t hurt to look. Looking was pretty much all he did these days, but it was nice to see some headless torsos and dick pics. Better than trying to figure out what the specialty license plate in the lane next to him meant.

He thumbed through profiles, most of which he’d seen before. It didn’t seem to matter if he was checking at home, work, or in the club, it was always a collection of the same tired old faces. Or not-faces. As frustrating and predictable as morning traffic. He glanced away from his phone to cover a few feet of space left open by a car switching to a moving lane. Why was the lane next to him always moving?

His phone buzzed in his hand—a surprise. No one ever messaged him first. Well, some guys did but no one he wanted to respond to. The message wasn’t from a name he recognized either.

SilverFoxxx

That had promise. He swiped the message open.

Hello.

That had…less promise. But at least it wasn’t a dick pic right away. And he’d managed to spell out “hello.”

Hi, Gabe tapped out as he crawled forward. He kept one eye on his phone and the other on the bumper in front of him.

The response came back immediately. Maybe everything seemed instantaneous when Gabe was traveling along at less than five miles an hour.

Your pictures make you look attractive.

Was that a neg? thats bc i am attractive

Your pictures make you look VERY attractive.

Damn right Gabe’s pictures made him look attractive. He’d spent a long time taking the perfect selfie to highlight his dark eyes and scoured through old text messages to find a shot of him at the beach to show off how his light-brown skin shone in the sun. It helped that the clearly defined abs he’d once had were on display too. Gabe tapped over to his mystery man’s profile but didn’t find anything other than the stranger’s picture. No preferences, or kinks, or anything.

Even his picture was just his head and shoulders, turned slightly away from the camera but not fully in profile. And with the sun shining directly behind him so everything was in shadow. The only things easily seen were the outline of his jaw and the clean-cut lines of his hair, but that was it. Very artistic, but not very illuminating.

your picture doesn’t make you look like anything

A little snide, perhaps, but these conversations never went anywhere. SilverFoxxx would eventually ask for a dick pic, Gabe would say no, and that would be the end of it. Or he would skip straight to asking to meet up for a fuck. Gabe might say yes, but he always ended up disappointed.

He was reaching the point where meaningless hookups weren’t doing it for him anymore. Even if the sex was good, it left him strangely listless afterward.

Maggie would say that was what happened when you turned thirty, and Gabe would tell her to take her soccer mom ass back to the suburbs and shut up about it.

That didn’t mean she was wrong, though.

His phone buzzed again.

I value discretion.

Was this guy a robot? Who said stuff like that? Who texted in full sentences?

Traffic started to clear a bit, and Gabe was able to get up to nearly twenty miles an hour. It was exhilarating but short-lived. They slowed back to a crawl less than a quarter mile later. He was going to be very late.

With his foot firmly on the brake and nothing else to do, Gabe turned back to his phone. SilverFoxxx’s last message continued to glow up at him. It was too tempting to ignore.

a hookup app isn’t for u if u want to be discreet

He should have spelled out you. SilverFoxxx probably thought he was an idiot. Ordinarily, Gabe didn’t care about stuff like that, especially from randos on Cruised, but this time, he was anxious. He stared at his phone until the car behind him laid on the horn.

Gabe crawled two car lengths forward but stopped again. Lights flashed on the left shoulder ahead of him. Hopefully, traffic would clear after this accident, and he could get to work.

The vibration of his phone in his hand sent a little thrill down his spine. Traffic was trickling forward, so Gabe glanced back and forth between his phone and the road.

But it’s convenient. What are you here for?

Gabe wasn’t sure what to say. He could be flirty. Or more than flirty and jump to the next predictable step. Or he could be honest.

not sure. mostly bored in traffic

Didn’t anyone ever tell you not to text and drive?

There was no hint of tone, but Gabe smiled anyway. Deep, rich, and sardonic—this guy’s voice was already in his head. So Gabe’s type. Obviously, he wasn’t stretching. Not at all. SilverFoxxx sounded like he was teasing.

im rebelious

I bet you are.

Gabe’s grin grew wider. This was fun. No gross comments or pushy requests yet. It was like SilverFoxxx could actually hold a conversation.

His phone buzzed again before he was able to think of a response.

Traffic is clearing up.

Gabe checked the location information. It seemed like SilverFoxxx was closer than he’d been before.

are u texting and driving too?

Gabe skidded all the way into the work parking lot looking for a response that never came.

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Meet the Author

Gretchen Evans is a bisexual, cis woman living with her partner in North Carolina. Her day job involves figuring out the best way to ask people questions they don’t want to answer. In the evenings, she does hot yoga and watches any TV show that can be read as queer-coded. She only drinks beer disguised as root beer and her perfect Sunday involves half listening to an NFL game as she reads a book. She plans to continue writing queer romance with engaging characters, sexy times, and feelings. You can find Gretchen on Twitter.

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Release Blitz: Out In The Field

Title: Out in the Field

Series: Out in College #4

Author: Lane Hayes

Publisher: Lane Hayes

Release Date: July 11

Heat Level: 4 – Lots of Sex

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: 51K

Genre: Romance, New Adult, College, Coming Out, Baseball, New Adult, Humor, Opposites

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Synopsis

Max Maldonado loves baseball. He knows playing first base at a private college probably won’t get him to the big leagues, but he doesn’t mind. He loves the game and his teammates. If he has to stay in the closet until he graduates, that’s okay. Baseball comes first. Relationships are complicated anyway. And after his recent messy breakup, Max prefers to keep things simple.

Phoenix Bell is a fabulous theater geek. He’s excited about his recent transfer to a new school with an elite liberal arts program. Life has been on hold for a while, but this opportunity feels like the fresh start he was hoping for when he moved to California. And the chance reunion with the hot closeted jock is an unexpected surprise. The two men have nothing in common and their timing couldn’t be worse. However, when their unconventional alliance blossoms into friendship and perhaps something more, it may be time to make some hard decisions. And perhaps risk it all…out in the field.

Excerpt

We were quiet for a moment. We shared his drink in silence as occasional bits of conversation and laughter from the party drifted our way. We were far enough from the action that the excess noise didn’t penetrate our cocoon. Just a couple of strangers in the dark again, minus the club music and lights and unrealistic hopes from the first time. I didn’t know about Phoenix, but this felt cathartic somehow. Like a fresh start.

“What else is going on? You look sad. It’s not me, is it?” I asked with a comedic expression.

He chuckled. “No. This is nice. I just—I tend to get a little blue on the night of the final performance. The anticlimactic feeling sucks, but it’s the nature of the beast. The cycle of slowly learning lines and getting to know your castmates is followed by long rehearsals where everything starts to gel. The excitement builds before the shows and everyone gets better and better and then…<em>boom</em>! It’s over. All that momentum and all the joy that comes from being part of something special disappears overnight. I’m gonna wake up in the morning back at square one.”

“That’s depressing.”

“Thus the vodka.” Phoenix raised his cup and took a sip. He set it between us before flashing a lopsided smile my way. “It’s just part of the process. I’ve been doing some version of this for years. You’d think I’d be better at transitioning from high to low.”

“Hmm. It’s kinda the same in baseball. When we start in January, most of the guys are out of shape and out of sync. We have to get used to a new crew and figure out how to work together. By the time our season ends in May, we’re a well-oiled machine. I’m not always sad when it’s over. Sometimes I really need the break. But by June, I miss it. The best thing to do is to stay in the game as much as possible. Play, watch, read stats. There’s probably a theater equivalent.”

“Sure. It’s called ‘get a new part.’ I’m already memorizing the script for the spring production at the Arts Center. They’re doing <em>Chicago</em>. God, I love that show. So many juicy roles. ‘And all that jazz,’ ” he sang that last line, then took another drink and handed his cup to me for no particular reason.

I widened my legs and propped my elbows on my knees. His gaze dipped briefly to my crotch before he licked his lips and glanced away.

“Who do you want to be?” I asked. “I mean…in the play.”

“In a perfect world, I’d be Roxie. But…I have a dick, so I’ll have to audition for Billy and pretend not to be crushed when they give me the role of prison guard or mafia henchman number two.”

“Why can’t you be Billy?” I asked before draining the vodka cocktail.

“I don’t have the right look. You’d actually be a perfect Billy. Have you ever thought about acting?”

“Me?” I pointed at my chest incredulously. “Fuck, no.”

“Why so adamant? It’s fun.”

“Theater stuff just isn’t my thing. I play baseball.”

“You can’t do both?”

“Nope. Not me. And I’m not interested anyway.”

He sighed dramatically. “Well…you were a good fantasy while you lasted.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?” I asked with a faux scowl.

“Just what you think it means. I know close to nothing about you except that you’re a decent kisser and—”

“Decent?” Now the scowl was real.

“Okay, better than decent. You were amazing. A real-life Prince Charming. But we can be friends now and—”

“I don’t want to be your friend,” I intercepted.

“Why not?”

“ ’Cause I like you.”

“That makes no sense.”

“Yeah, it does. I—” I hesitated for half a second before crashing my mouth over his.

And damn, kissing Phoenix was better than I remembered. I caressed his jaw tenderly before tilting my head to deepen the connection. I didn’t want to overwhelm him, but damn, it took everything I had not to put my hands all over him. I licked the corner of his mouth and groaned. He tasted sweet—like cherries or something. That had to be his lip gloss, I mused before driving my tongue inside.

Phoenix didn’t seem to mind. He moaned when I cupped his neck and tilted my head slightly to soften the connection. I flicked my tongue at the corner of his mouth before biting his bottom lip and pulling away. The kiss was sweet but much too short. And yeah, I was incredibly impressed with my restraint, but I couldn’t afford to start something we’d both regret later. Phoenix wasn’t a stranger anymore. He was a fellow student who knew my biggest secret. I should have been more concerned with resetting boundaries and moving on. But it didn’t feel that simple.

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Meet the Author

Lane Hayes is grateful to finally be doing what she loves best. Writing full-time! It’s no secret Lane loves a good romance novel. An avid reader from an early age, she has always been drawn to well-told love story with beautifully written characters. These days she prefers the leading roles to both be men. Lane discovered the M/M genre a few years ago and was instantly hooked. Her debut novel was a 2013 Rainbow Award finalist and subsequent books have received Honorable Mentions, and were First Place winners in the 2016 and 2017 Rainbow Awards. She loves red wine, chocolate and travel (in no particular order). Lane lives in Southern California with her amazing husband in a newly empty nest.

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Release Blitz: Another Dance by LA Ashton

Title: Another Dance

Author: L.A. Ashton

Publisher: NineStar Press

Release Date: July 8, 2019

Heat Level: 3 – Some Sex

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: 24500

Genre: Contemporary, LGBT, Reporter, journalist, figure skater, dancing, angst, international, men with pets

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Synopsis

Kaito Watanabe has finally nabbed an interview with his idol, Cristian Alvarez. Kaito is a journalist who’s spent his entire life looking up to the figure-skating champion. Cristian’s passion on the ice unearthed a love of dance in Kaito and made him believe in the power of artistic expression.

Now Kaito is face-to-face with the man he’s always admired. He believes himself insignificant and ordinary, a moth drawn to the light Alvarez casts. He can’t allow himself to believe Cristian’s flirtations are anything but natural charm—but Cristian has other plans. The tension pitches higher, legs and fingers intertwine, and Kaito begins to wonder if his fantasies have a shot at becoming reality.

Excerpt

Another Dance
L.A. Ashton © 2019
All Rights Reserved

Kaito adjusted the cinch of his tie.

The ice shifted in his glass before condensation trembled down the side, pooling atop the polished cherrywood of the table. Throughout his career as a journalist, Kaito had become accustomed to places like these. Hotel restaurants, hotel bars, hotels, hotels, hotels.

And while this hotel restaurant wasn’t unlike the others, the situation was different. That’s what had Kaito adjusting his tie every thirty seconds and fidgeting against the creaking vinyl of his seat. He put his head in his hands. Was he sweating? Had he worn enough deodorant to disguise the smell of fear he was most definitely emitting?

Cristian Alvarez is a man, not a supernatural predator.

Kaito checked his phone for the umpteenth time, then flipped it facedown onto the table.

Even if Cristian wasn’t a predator, Kaito almost always felt like prey.

At least this place was pretty. The hotel was done in soft reds and golds, and the lighting was warm. It was bright enough to feel good to the eyes, but dim enough to render everything in gorgeous softness and shadow. Smooth jazz drifted from unseen speakers, building ambiance around piano keys and sultry notes of brass.

His gaze flittered to the entryway, checking once again to see if the inward swing of the door brought with it a figure skating champion and the subject of Kaito’s adoration for his entire adult life.

It didn’t.

He looked down at the puddle left by his drink and tapped at his distorted reflection. Dark almond eyes hid behind thick-framed glasses and a splay of dark hair. He wasn’t notable—just a nearsighted guy who loved cats and figure skating. How he’d nabbed an interview with his childhood idol, he wasn’t sure. But he couldn’t turn it down, and he couldn’t run away, so at this point he only hoped he didn’t make a fool of himself.

The floor outside the curved wall of Kaito’s booth was wide open and lit with chandeliers. It was probably meant for banquets and gatherings, but the unoccupied space as it stood now looked meant for dancing.

Kaito trapped the straw of his drink with his lips. Kaito’s childhood obsession with ballroom dance was how he’d discovered Cristian in the first place. He’d watched professional dancers all his life, and it felt so natural for that interest to bleed into ice dancing and figure skating. Even if Kaito would never attempt the sorts of stunts they performed on the ice, their passion and interpretation made his heart long to tell its own stories through performance. Cristian, in particular, had inspired him—he moved like his limbs were propelled solely by the music, like he could hold it tangibly in his hands and spin it into a stunning waltz.

Kaito took lesson after lesson of ballroom dance, and eventually taught his two left feet to interact gracefully. He had never been truly outstanding—there was always a threshold of talent he couldn’t quite breach. He could impress a room full of untrained people, and as painful as the resignation was, he realized it had to be enough.

He missed it though. He stared at the open floor and imagined his feet carouseling over one another, turning smoothly to the piano and violin. He hadn’t danced in a long time. It would be nice…

“Are you Kaito Watanabe?”

Kaito rocketed out of his seat so fast he knocked against the table and almost spilled his drink. “Y-Yes,” he answered, compulsively pushing up his glasses. “And you’re”—he extended his hand forward, and even as he stared right at him, the words sounded like a dream—“Cristian Alvarez.”

Cristian’s smile splashed across his face like it was the easiest thing in the world. Dark curls fell over his forehead, forming perfect glossy spirals. He was tall, three or four inches taller than Kaito, with broad shoulders that made Kaito feel small.

You know that already; you know his height and weight like your own phone number.

But it was more mesmerizing in person, to be forced to tilt his chin up toward that face. “Yes,” Cristian answered, taking Kaito’s hand in his. “Thank you for the invitation.”

“Thank you for accepting.” Cristian’s hands were soft. His handshake was firm. Kaito mimicked the pressure, neither meek nor confident enough to do anything else.

“I hope your flight went well,” Kaito said as he withdrew his hand and settled back into his seat. He was a twittering ball of nerves, and he felt the stark contrast between his panicked motions and Cristian’s naturally graceful ones.

Cristian shrugged off his coat before sliding in across from Kaito. “Yes, it was quite pleasant. An easy ride.”

“That’s good.” Kaito became far too flirty and sharp-mouthed when he drank, but he also became less of a stuttering mess. He leaned forward to take a sip of his drink, intent on finding a balance.

“You’re quite the journalist, Kaito Watanabe.”

Kaito almost spit. Instead he coughed, covering his mouth politely. “Excuse me? I mean thank you. But you’re too kind.”

Cristian canted his head to the side. “Hmm, am I? Publishing articles in English and Japanese, procuring a large following from your blog alone, freelancing for many major outlets…” He set his chin in his palm and smiled. “I was impressed.”

Kaito folded his hands in his lap to hide the tremors running through his fingers. “All journalists have to work to make their voices heard, I believe…”

“But you write beautifully,” Cristian said. Thick dark lashes framed the bronze simmer of his eyes. Kaito went absolutely motionless, as if he were on the verge of shock or death. He can’t be saying—

“I read a lot of your pieces,” Cristian said before chuckling. “The ones in English, anyway.”

Oh my god, that’s what he’s saying.

Horror and excitement worked in equal parts to send earthquake-level tremors through Kaito’s limbs. Cristian Alvarez had read his work?

“Wow, I had no idea—” Kaito swallowed. “Whi—” Don’t ask which ones; it’ll seem like you’re asking for proof. He pushed his glasses up on his nose. “What, uh—” Don’t ask what he liked about them; it will look like you’re fishing for compliments. “Why—” Don’t ask why he looked you up; it’s because you were scheduled to interview him!

Kaito cleared his throat and beamed across the table. “I really don’t know what to say.”

Cristian seemed unfazed by Kaito’s sputtering. “You don’t have to say anything. Your writing makes every entry a pleasure to read.”

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Meet the Author

L.A. Ashton is an LGBT+ author writing LGBT+ fiction. They enjoy rock music, traveling, and anything else that adds color to their daydreams. They believe in the healing properties of art and of having a cat firmly stationed on one’s lap.

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Release Blitz: Through The Tears by Leigh M Lorien

Title: Through the Tears

Series: Torn Between Worlds, Book One

Author: Leigh M. Lorien

Publisher: NineStar Press

Release Date: July 8, 2019

Heat Level: 3 – Some Sex

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: 56600

Genre: Fantasy, LGBT, fantasy, gray-ace/gray-aro, transgender, bonded, monsters, violence, anxiety attacks

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Synopsis

Huge, horrid creatures with a taste for human flesh have been invading Seacliff Manor and its surrounding lands for years. Ghouls are coming from another world through portals made of magic. No one knows why or how, but nothing good ever comes with them.

During a hunting trip, Eamon encounters one such monster and falls through a portal into the ghoul’s hellacious desert home world. Separated from his home, his friends, and his lover, with no magic of his own and no sign of other life, Eamon expects to die there…until an encounter with a lone stranger gives him hope. There is a way home. But can Eamon survive alone in ghoul-infested terrain long enough to get there?

Worlds away, the Lord of Seacliff Manor is determined to bring Eamon home. Despite all evidence to the contrary, Rafe knows his human lover is alive. It’s just a matter of finding out where. To that end, Rafe has a plan. It’s dangerous, perhaps even suicidal, but he’ll do anything to save the man he loves.

From different sides of the galaxy, the lovers fight monsters and seek magic with one goal in mind: reunion. Monsters aren’t the only things they’ll have to defeat to find their way back to each other, and the horrors uncovered along the way may be more than they can handle.

Excerpt

Through the Tears
Leigh M. Lorien © 2019
All Rights Reserved

Chapter One
Rafe

The body lay at the base of a maple tree in a crumpled heap of leathery gray flesh and black blood. Rafe studied it for a long time. Its fanged mouth hung open, eyes like black marbles gazing lifelessly at him, hands with hawk-like talons curled into loose fists in the grass. It was more than capable of killing a human—gods, it was probably capable of killing him. He turned away, forcing down the momentary surge of fear as he took in the scene, playing through the information he had.

Eamon, Lionel, Rose, and Tuomas had been hunting that morning, as Eamon had said they planned to do. Lionel was training a new bird. They were well armed. No one left the stronghold unarmed these days. Ghoul incursions were growing more frequent, and the filthy things were getting bolder by the day. Rafe had wanted to send an escort with them but let his lover talk him out of it. We’ll be fine. We’re barely going past the village.

But they weren’t fine. Lionel’s bird didn’t return when it should have. The ghoul had crept up on them while they were distracted.

Signs of the struggle were obvious all around the body. Broken twigs, displaced leaves, mud spatters up the trunks of the trees. The humans had come out victorious. Three of them had, anyway.

Thirty or so feet beyond the ghoul’s body, a cliff dropped into the sea. Ignoring his audience—the three humans who’d returned, as well as two of his rin retainers—Rafe walked past the ghoul’s corpse, inspecting the grass between the site of the attack and the edge of the cliff. Clods of soil lay in heaps where massive claws had raked it up. He wished there was some indication of Eamon’s movements, but the ghoul’s weight and erratic assault covered all sign of his human lover. Blood spatters painted the grass black. Rafe didn’t need to touch or taste the drying liquid to know it was not human. Not Eamon’s. The rotten stench of ghoul blood was as foul as raw sewage and, for once, he envied the humans their inferior senses. Someone had hurt it, and badly, right here. Eamon was not a close-quarters fighter. He was barely a fighter at all. If Rafe were a gambler, he’d put his money on Lionel and the longsword he wore.

“You say he fell,” Rafe stated. It wasn’t a question. Rose had spoken for the group, told their story in a quavering voice. If the two men were hoping Rafe would show mercy to a teary-eyed woman and thus to them as well, they were all mistaken.

“Yes, Lord,” Rose said. “Th-the ghoul tackled him, and they rolled, and…I’m not certain, I mean I-I didn’t see it myself, Lord, but…Eamon was gone when…”

Rafe walked to the very edge of the cliff and leaned forward to look down, grateful for an excuse to breathe air untainted by blood. The tension level behind him rose tangibly, but no one rushed forward to drag him back. He was their lord, not a child to be scolded for putting himself in danger. Hundreds of feet below, waves crashed and roared over a beach of jagged stone. Even with his sensitive rin hearing, little more than the faintest whisper reached Rafe’s ears from this distance. There was no question that a fall from this height meant no survival for a human. No matter what awaited at the end of the fall, no matter how strong the human.

And yet…

He had not felt Eamon die. Rafe had never had a bound companion die, so, he didn’t know from experience what it would feel like, but he’d heard others speak of it. He’d expected something…worse. He should have experienced fear as Eamon fell, pain as he crashed to the ground and his body shattered against the rocks below. It would have dropped him to his knees, put him in a state of shock.

Instead, there was a sharp surprise, fear, and then…an absence. Eamon simply was not there. He wasn’t alive, but neither was he dead.

“You are aware Eamon is bound to me?” Rafe turned to the humans, and they all bowed their heads, nodding and avoiding his eyes. “You should have protected him.”

The wind off the sea howled and whipped his dark hair around his head. Everything was cast in a dusky gray—the winter sun had not shown its face for days, and the choppy sea below was the color of cold steel. Standing at least a head taller than the tallest of the three humans, Rafe was no stranger to intimidation tactics. It wasn’t his preferred modus operandi—physical threats were so pedestrian—but it was easy, and with the gaping absence of Eamon distracting him, it was all he managed.

“I’m sure they did their best, my lord,” Kiran, his retainer, said softly.

Rafe continued to aim a cold gaze at the humans.

“I’m sure. Have search parties organized. Comb the beach and the forest in this area. I did not feel him die.” And if he was mistaken and Eamon was dead…The words hurt as they formed in his mind, but he forced them out. “If you find him, or his body, bring him home.”

Kiran bowed his head and rushed toward the manor to find willing and able individuals to carry out the command. Wind continued to buffet Rafe’s side and face, tangling his hair as it whipped around. In his imagination, Eamon was scolding him as he worked a brush through Rafe’s hair as he did every night. Would it kill you to tie your hair back once in a while? It’s like you tangle it on purpose.

If it weren’t tangled, I wouldn’t need you to brush it, would I? Rafe would reply and grin in the mirror at his lover. The thought of the familiar teasing almost made him smile. Almost.

“M-my lord,” Tuomas ventured, stepping forward as Rafe returned to the ghoul’s body. “We would like to join the search parties, if we may.”

Rafe shook his head. “No. Take this body to the manor. Have it burned.”

The three humans exchanged wide-eyed glances. The ghoul was larger than all three of them combined. Heavy as it was, it would take them hours to drag it to the manor. It seemed a mild punishment in Rafe’s eyes, for letting his lover fall over a cliff.

Tuomas and Lionel were unbound and had been for as long as Rafe had known them. Rose was bound to Elena, the manor’s doctor, and lived in the manor with her, while the two human men lived in the village outside the manor walls—together, if Rafe was not mistaken. Eamon had lived with Tuomas for some time, until he came to Rafe’s attention, and still spent the night in Tuomas’s village home on occasion. Perhaps it was cruel to punish the three of them in any way for what had happened. They were likely hurting as much as Rafe, but they were not bound to Eamon. They could not feel his absence, like the loss of a limb or an eye or an ear, like a crushing emptiness where, until mere hours ago, there had been a warm, bright presence every day for the past ten years.

“Stay with them,” Rafe instructed his second retainer, Orienna. “See that we lose no one else to rogue ghouls today.”

The woman bowed. “What of you, my lord?”

“I’m in a mood to rip something’s throat out,” he said coldly. “Let the filth try.”

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Meet the Author

Leigh M. Lorien is a queer author who got her start at the tender age of five, writing and illustrating her own Sonic the Hedgehog stories. Fortunately, her writing has improved in the subsequent decades. Nowadays, Leigh’s stories primarily lean toward science fiction, fantasy, and urban fantasy, but she has had some contemporary pieces sneak out of her head. Regardless of genre, her books will usually include sarcasm, strong relationships (romantic and platonic), polyamory/non-monogamy, magic, music, animals, mental illness, and less-frequently-represented queer identities.

When she’s not writing, Leigh enjoys gardening, photography, travel, music, Renaissance festivals, doing hair-color experiments in her bathroom, and going on any kind of adventure involving the outdoors (unless it’s cold, screw that). If you want to know her better or see pictures of her many fur-children, she’s most active on Twitter and Instagram.

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Release Blitz: Erans’s Release by Dianne Hartsock

Title: Eran’s Release

Author: Dianne Hartsock

Publisher: Less Than Three Press

Release Date: July 3, 2019

Heat Level: 4 – Lots of Sex

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: 44,000 words

Genre: Romance, erotic, contemporary, gay

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Synopsis

It’s cliché to fall for the cute barista at the coffee shop, but Paul can’t help it. Eran’s shy smile and heated gaze are driving him wild. Convincing Eran to go out with him, however, is a lot harder than expected.

Eran’s been burned before—by family and more, enough to make him jump at shadows and avoid intimacy. But Paul is determined, and with the help of counselors, classes, and an unexpected modeling gig, Eran might just find that taking a risk on what scares him the most, has a worthy payoff.

Excerpt

Paul rested his chin on his hand and watched the snow come down harder outside the window, already sticking to the sidewalks. The roads would be next. It was beginning to look bad for anyone flying into Denver for the holidays.

“Any news?” he asked the man opposite him.

Shelton flicked him a glance then looked back at the text message on his phone. “The airport’s still open, but they’re worried about ice, and Nevil’s plane doesn’t land for another hour. It might end up being diverted. Damn this snow.”

“It’s a week before Christmas. They wouldn’t dare close the airport.”

“From your lips to God’s ear.”

“Anything else, sir?”

Paul looked up into pale blue eyes, clear and earnest as they met his. Men shouldn’t be allowed to have such pretty eyes. Especially not when they were surrounded by soft layers of dark hair cut in a bob at the chin, giving the man an almost feminine beauty.

“Can I have another espresso?” he asked, cursing himself for not requesting Eran’s phone number instead. Eran was the main reason Paul had started favoring this coffee shop. He’d chatted the young man up, soon realizing he was both witty and friendly, though he danced around any personal questions. That had only intrigued Paul further. What was his story?

They both reached for his empty cup, and Eran pulled his hand back as if stung. Color flushed his cheeks and he murmured an apology as he grabbed the mug and hastened across the room, retreating behind the counter.

Shelton dragged his attention from the snow piling up outside to give him a questioning look. “Why don’t you ask him out?”

“What?”

“Don’t play innocent! You’ve been inviting me here for the last two weeks, then ignore me whenever you catch a glimpse of the lovely Eran.”

“Sorry, dear. Feeling neglected?”

Shelton snorted. “Save your lines for Eran. But Nevil’s coming for the holidays, and I won’t be able to play chaperone anymore.”

Paul widened his eyes with a sudden thought. “I bet he thinks we’re dating. Shit.”

Shelton shook his head. “He does not.”

A teasing smile curled Paul’s lips. “Shelton, you’re delicious. If I hadn’t sworn off older men I’d definitely be attracted to you. Eran must be playing it cool because he thinks I’m with you.”

“I’m not sure that’s it.” Something in Shelton’s tone made Paul give him a closer look. Shelton shook his head. “I think he’s interested in you, but something’s holding him back from acting on it.”

“Maybe he’s just shy,” Paul suggested.

“It seems more than that to me. Look at him. He’s beautiful and sweet. He should be walking around this coffee shop as if he owned the place. Or posing on some magazine cover. Instead, he’s waiting tables. He seems fragile. Something’s not right…”

Paul missed his next words as Eran approached with his coffee. He gracefully skirted the crowded tables, slim in dark jeans and tee-shirt and the green apron tied around his hips. Paul felt mesmerized as he took the drink from Eran’s hands and murmured his thanks. Eran lingered to wipe the edge of their table with a rag, not quite meeting Paul’s gaze. Shelton nudged Paul’s shin with the toe of his shoe, rousing him.

“Oh, right. Eran, this is my co-worker, Shelton. We work in the loan department at the same bank.” Paul motioned in Shelton’s direction, sure he was babbling. “I’m keeping him company while his lover’s out of town.” He rushed on as Shelton snorted and Eran raised a brow. “I mean, we’re just friends. If you were wondering,” he added lamely.

A smile touched Eran’s lips and he leaned over and tucked a strand of Paul’s hair behind an ear. “In that case, the shop does close in five minutes, if you want to meet me out front.”

Paul gaped at him, and Eran’s smile widened, showing even white teeth. “See you soon.”

Paul turned his baffled gaze on Shelton as Eran left them. “Did you hear him? Was I dreaming?”

“Merry Christmas. Now let’s go. You don’t want to keep him waiting.” He waved off Paul’s protest. “I can catch a cab. It’s no problem.”

“Thanks.” Paul slid money for their drinks and a generous tip under his untouched coffee, then grabbed up his coat. Happy, he surprised Shelton with a kiss on the cheek before they went to the door. Maybe Shelton was right and Eran had a past. But that was what first dates were for, right? To learn about each other? Whatever it was, Paul was sure it wasn’t anything he couldn’t handle.

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Meet the Author

Dianne is the author of m/m romance, paranormal suspense, fantasy adventure, the occasional thriller, and anything else that comes to mind. She lives in the beautiful Willamette Valley of Oregon with her incredibly patient husband, who puts up with the endless hours she spends hunched over the keyboard letting her characters play. She says Oregon’s raindrops are the perfect setting in which to write. There’s something about being cooped up in the house with a fire crackling on the hearth and a cup of hot coffee warming her hands, which kindles her imagination.
Currently, Dianne works as a floral designer in a locally-owned gift shop. Which is the perfect job for her. When not writing, she can express herself through the rich colors and textures of flowers and foliage.

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Release Blitz: Palm Trees and Paparazzi by JC Long

Title: Palm Trees and Paparazzi

Series: Gabe Maxfield Mysteries, Book Three

Author: J.C. Long

Publisher: NineStar Press

Release Date: July 1, 2019

Heat Level: 1 – No Sex

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: 61200

Genre: Contemporary Mystery, LGBT, gay, mystery, romance, contemporary, establishes relationship

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Synopsis

Gabe Maxfield remembers Manuel Delgado all too well—since investigating him nearly got him killed. He’d be very happy never to see him again, but that’s not in the cards for him. When the mother of a missing socialite seeks out Paradise Investigations to find out what happened to her daughter, Gabe and best friend Grace Park are going to be thrown right back into Delgado’s world. Personal lives begin to interfere, as well, and soon they’ve got more on their plate than they can handle.

A missing woman.

Delgado’s son.

A romantically awkward Grace.

Gabe’s parents.

It’s just another week for Gabe Maxfield.

Excerpt

Palm Trees and Paparazzi
J.C. Long © 2019
All Rights Reserved

There was a time when throbbing music, frenetically moving bodies, and expensive cocktails would have been my scene—a time that passed a few years back, I’d guess. Actually, you know what? Scratch that. I’ve never been one for clubs. And with my twenty-ninth birthday merely two months away, it was really time for me to close that chapter of my life, anyway.

It was the second week of January, and some people still hadn’t lost the edge from New Year’s Eve. The club was packed full of people even though it was a Wednesday—thanks, no doubt, to ladies’ night and slightly discounted drinks for men.

My best friend, Grace Park, and I managed to snag a table that was far enough from the speakers that we wouldn’t be deafened for days to come by the outing.

Grace sat at the table, stirring the thin black straw in her vodka tonic, which she’d barely had half of. I’d volunteered to drive us tonight so Grace could have a few drinks, and she hadn’t finished her first one in the hour we’d been there.

“You look miserable, Grace,” I said, nudging her with my shoulder. “If you want to go home, just say the word. Really, we don’t need to stay here on my account.”

“I’m fine, Gabe,” she insisted stubbornly, even though I knew her well enough to know she wasn’t. She’d been down ever since New Year’s Eve. She’d been invited to a party by Jin Hamada, our private investigation firm’s resident tech expert and object of Grace’s affection, and had assumed it was a romantic invitation only to show up, dressed to the nines and ready, to discover it was a casual thing he threw for the people who lived in his apartment building. Jin hadn’t noticed, but Grace had been mortified.

It didn’t help that our assistant, Mrs. Neidermeyer, who lives in Jin’s building, did notice and teased Grace about it every chance that she got.

Privately, I thought Grace was taking it a little hard, but who was I to judge? I literally fled the continent to escape a breakup. That didn’t put me in the running for the category of most reasonable reaction to something.

“I thought coming to this club would cheer you up a little bit,” I said, taking a sip of my ginger ale—no alcohol for me, since I was driving. “I hate seeing you so down. I know how much you love music and dancing and clubs.”

Grace snorted. “When we were in college, yeah. But you know, maybe…maybe we’re a little old for this crowd.”

“I was just thinking the same thing,” I admitted. “When did that happen, though? When did we get old?”

“Kind of sneaked up on us, didn’t it? Here we are, just around the corner from thirty. Remember when we watched Friends in high school and we thought they were all overreacting about turning thirty? Now that we’re looking it in the face, I’m starting to think maybe they weren’t overreacting that much after all.”

“It’s not that bad,” I said consolingly. It was a weird reversal for us; usually Grace was the one doing her best to make me feel better, not the other way around. “Think about how high life expectancy is? Nowadays people don’t even really get started before they’re thirty.”

“Not so bad? Come on, Gabe. We’re almost thirty and I’m still single. I do want to have kids someday, you know? That’s getting more and more unlikely the longer I stay single.” She picked up her vodka tonic, tossing it back as if she could wash away the dour thoughts with it.

At least she drank it; that cost me six dollars.

“Don’t you think you’re taking this whole thing too seriously Grace? So you made a mistake and misinterpreted his invitation. You think you’re the first person to ever make that mistake?”

Grace scowled at my reminder. “I looked like an idiot.”

“No one even noticed!”

“Mrs. Neidermeyer almost has an aneurism from laughing every time she sees me!”

“Okay, so no one but Mrs. Neidermeyer even noticed.”

“That old lady is enough.”

“I don’t understand the rivalry you two have.”

“She’s got it out for me!”

“No, she doesn’t. She’s just spirited.”

“She’s medicated.”

I decided to drop the Neidermeyer discussion. It was a sore spot for her, and one that wouldn’t go away—particularly since I basically hired her to annoy Grace. The last thing I wanted to do then was to bring Grace down even more by talking about something that she hated.

I surveyed the bodies on the dance floor, taking in the sights, wondering if I could get a jolt of energy from them by proxy. Everyone seemed to be having so much fun, but then again that’s what clubs were, right? There were no doubt a large number of tourists among the crowd, people itching to get away from the tourist elements of Honolulu and into something that they were familiar with. Sure, the locale might be different, but a club was a club, whether it was in Seattle, New York, Pontiac, Michigan, or Honolulu.

“We’ve got company,” Grace said, drawing my attention from the crowd. I spotted my boyfriend, Maka Kekoa, making his way toward us around the perimeter of the room. A wide smile stretched my lips when I saw him. He was tall, his skin a sun-kissed brown that proudly displayed his Native Hawaiian heritage. His body was lean, hard muscle, kept that way by his rigorous exercise routine, his frequent surfing, and his job on the police force.

Walking behind Maka but still casting a shadow over him was one of Maka’s best friends, Hiapo, a big guy with an even bigger heart who ran an exclusive and popular lu’au on the island. Hiapo was without a doubt one of the cheeriest people I had ever met.

“Yo, howzit?” Hiapo greeted, his naturally loud voice easy to hear over the drone of techno dance music blaring in the background, a remix of a remix of a Cher song, if I had to guess.

“Hey, guys,” I greeted, moving my seat a little so Maka could make room on the other side of the table for himself and Hiapo.

Maka smiled at me, a look that always somehow managed to look sultry and goofy at the same time.

“Hey.” He planted a gentle, chaste kiss on my lips.

Beside me, Grace made a strange sound, a cross between a harrumph and a tsk. Maka cast an amused look her way. “I see your plan to cheer her up is right on schedule.”

“I don’t need cheering up,” Grace huffed.

“Girl, you still pining over that IT guy?” Hiapo asked.

“No,” Grace said at the same time Maka and I said, “Yes!” earning us both glowers.

“Traitors.”

“Listen, you need me to put something together for you? Plan a nice romantic package, like I did for these two here?” He indicated Maka and I with a thumb.

“I appreciate the offer, Hiapo, but that won’t be necessary. I don’t even think he likes me.”

“Have you asked him out?”

Grace squirmed in her seat. “No. But we’ve known each other for three years, and he’s never asked me out in all of this time. I think if he was interested, he would have done something about it already, right?”

“I see one major flaw in that logic, Gracie,” I said. “You like him, but you haven’t done anything about it, either.”

Grace’s brow furrowed as she struggled to come up with a comeback, but I could see in her eyes that she couldn’t. “I just don’t want to waste any more time on someone who might not even like me back. That’s time I could better spend going out with people who are interested.”

“But who you’re not interested in,” I added.

Grace threw her hands up in the air. “Is this beat up Grace night? Are you trying to cheer me up by making me more depressed?”

“Okay, okay, you win. I’ll stop.”

We stayed there for another hour, doing our best to get Grace to cheer up with very limited success. Finally we decided to call it a night. Maka and Hiapo left together, and I took Grace home.

We rode without talking, listening to various covers of songs by the Dynamos. As crazy as it might sound, I hate the Dynamos but really enjoy the songs themselves. I just can’t stand hearing them do the singing.

Finally I couldn’t take it anymore, and just before reaching the neighborhood she lived in I asked, “Are you really going to give up on Jin?”

Grace heaved a sigh, looking out the window, hand propped up under her chin, elbow on the door. With her sitting like that, I could imagine Grace being in a movie, with a deep, soulful soundtrack—maybe something by Adele—playing in the background.

“Don’t you think I should? It seems clear to me that he isn’t interested.”

“It’s not clear to me,” I said, pulling my car to a stop in front of Grace’s place. “Not until you ask him.”

“I’m not going to just waltz up to him and ask him! Don’t be ridiculous.” Grace unbuckled her seatbelt and pushed open the car door.

I shrugged nonchalantly. “Okay, then, fine. Let Mrs. Neidermeyer win.”

She took the bait, just like I knew she would, stopping halfway out of the car and fixing a stern glare on me. “What is that supposed to mean?”

“You’re always saying that she’s against you and doesn’t want you seeing Jin,” I reminded her. I hoped that the best way to build up her confidence was to give her an enemy that wasn’t herself. I didn’t feel too badly about it, considering she pretty much disliked Mrs. Neidermeyer the moment she set eyes on her. “If you just give up without really knowing, all you’re doing is giving her exactly what she wants, right?”

“I’ll think about it,” Grace said after considering my words. “I’ll see you at work tomorrow.”

“Goodnight, Grace.” I sat in front of her place until she was safely inside before driving home. I really hoped Grace did think about what I said and finally took the leap and asked Jin—that or move on, because working with her in this sort of funk was beginning to get a little tiring.

And, if I was being completely honest, it felt really juvenile, like high school all over again. I was ready for Grace to go back to her normal self. Maybe that made me a bad friend, but I looked at it a different way. Grace pushed me to get out of the condo and out into the world of the living once more after I arrived in Hawai’i, and I was returning the favor now.

I only hoped she would appreciate it as much as I did.

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Meet the Author

J.C. Long is an American expat living in Japan, though he’s also lived stints in Seoul, South Korea—no, he’s not an army brat; he’s an English teacher. He is also quite passionate about Welsh corgis and is convinced that anyone who does not like them is evil incarnate. His dramatic streak comes from his life-long involvement in theater. After living in several countries aside from the United States J. C. is convinced that love is love, no matter where you are, and is determined to write stories that demonstrate exactly that. J. C. Long’s favorite things in the world are pictures of corgis, writing and Korean food (not in that order…okay, in that order). J. C. spends his time not writing thinking about writing, coming up with new characters, attending Big Bang concerts and wishing he was writing. The best way to get him to write faster is to motivate him with corgi pictures. Yes, that is a veiled hint.

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Release Blitz: Where the Night Reigns by Emilie Lucadamo

Title: Where the Night Reigns

Series: In the Darkness, Book Three

Author: Emilie Lucadamo

Publisher: NineStar Press

Release Date: July 1, 2019

Heat Level: 1 – No Sex

Pairing: M/NB

Length: 59200

Genre: Paranormal, LGBT, fantasy, magic, demons, ghosts, horror, paranormal, Hell, gay, lesbian, war, reanimation, immortal, psychic/medium, no HEA

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Synopsis

The barrier between worlds has shattered. Demons wreak havoc across Earth; the dead are rising from their graves; psychics and witches are vanishing without a trace. The fate of the world rests in the hands of the enigmatic Tresser Corporation, a company of demon soldiers… and a kindergarten teacher.

In other words, humanity’s odds aren’t looking great.

When hunter, David Tresser, pairs up with a High Demon, he knows he’s in over his head. Of course, there are worse positions to be in, like Henry, whose girlfriend hasn’t been seen since the demonic attacks began, or the psychic Cassandra, who has become a target of those very demons herself. As this motley crew teams up, trust is slow to be gained…but they really have no choice when the world around them is falling apart at the seams. In the midst of it all, Tresser finds himself curiously drawn to the demon he’s not even sure he can trust.

After an exorcism gone terribly wrong, the team is left with no choice. To save their worlds, and themselves, they’ll have to travel into the darkest part of Hell: the Pits of Gehenna, from which no one has ever returned.

To defeat the odds and preserve humanity, they’ll all have to work together.

Excerpt

Where the Night Reigns
Emilie Lucadamo © 2019
All Rights Reserved

The tea has long since gone cold, but Tresser swirls it around his cup anyway. He’s not about to take a sip. It is far too frigid, and the last thing he wants to do is wind up spewing liquid over all this cozy living room upholstery.

At least that might give his host a valid excuse to kick him out. Then again, Cassandra Carlyle might be too damn nice—or too appeased by the Tresser Corporation’s considerable paycheck—to do it.

It’s obvious Cassandra isn’t happy having him here. That could have something to do with the fact that Tresser pulled up unannounced in front of her pleasant country home in a hearse.

(The ride is none-too-inconspicuous. His father had been adamant against it. Naturally, that’s why Tresser had to have it. It’s proved itself useful in carting around things such as equipment or bodies and has the most comfortable reclining seats.)

To be fair to her, Cassandra has taken it in stride. She let Tresser in, made him tea, and when he said they needed to talk, her reply was a gamely, “I’ve got the time.”

It’s still obvious she doesn’t want him here. Her wary gaze keeps flickering to Tresser’s dark boots like she expects them to leave oily imprints on the carpet. Her posture is a bit too relaxed, and her smile a bit too pleasant for her to be genuinely pleased with the company. Despite this, Tresser is impressed. Cassandra is good at concealing her displeasure under a veneer of easygoing friendliness. If figuring out what people are hiding weren’t his job, Tresser would never have known the difference.

“I’m not sure what to say, Mr. Tresser,” Cassandra sighs. Her fingers are wrapped around her teacup, violet painted nails stark against the white porcelain. “It’s all a lot to handle.”

If anyone can handle the chaos their world is descending into, Tresser is sure it will be Cassandra. The woman has already figured out how to deal with him. If she’s that good, she could probably walk through fire and brimstone without flinching.

“I’ve had to perform more exorcisms in the past few weeks than in ten years. News outlets are losing their heads. Buildings are being destroyed, people are dying, and our city is at the epicenter of it all.” She swallows, gaze flickering down for a second, and Tresser knows she wants to say something critical. She swallows it back at the last moment, however, settling for a mild but pointed, “It’s a good thing Tresser Corporation is here to take care of it.”

Except Tresser Corporation isn’t, not really. If the Corps were really focused on this tiny Rhode Island city, barely a speck on the map, then the problem would be over with by now. Men in black suits and sunglasses would swarm the streets; news outlets would be silent on the chaos, and common mediums wouldn’t be the ones performing exorcisms.

Tresser Corporation is currently focused on some tiny European country, which is being controlled by a dictator possessed by a demon of Ars Goetia lore. This wouldn’t be a major cause for concern, except the dictator has nukes, and that’s the sort of apocalypse even the Corps aren’t equipped to deal with. As long as the war in Hell stays mostly confined to Hell, Felix Tresser declared, it wasn’t any of their business. So instead of centering his focus on the tiny city literally crumbling to hell, he jetted off to Europe and sent a handful of his agents down to deal with it.

The crisis proved to be more than the agents were equipped to deal with, however. Only a week later, chaotic mission reports were being sent back to Felix—details of demonic possessions and people coming back from the dead. It became clear this was far more serious than it appeared on the surface.

That was when Tresser received the command to get down to Rhode Island and see what was what. This order came in the form of an e-mail—since his father was clearly too busy to call—with the mission reports attached.

Tresser wishes he could say he’s surprised, but after twenty-six years he knows the way his father’s world works.

More surprising, he supposes, is the fact that his father trusted him enough to place him in charge of this operation at all. Had this come at any other time, Felix would have handled something of this magnitude himself. Instead, he’s been forced to appoint his son, and Tresser would be lying if he said he was prepared. He’s led missions before, but nothing like this.

A part of him had no clue where to start, so as soon as he got into town he went for the obvious—a list of Tresser Corps’ contacts throughout the city. He found two names, and Cassandra Carlyle was the first on his list.

“I need you,” he said as soon as he sat down with the psychic, “to explain exactly what the hell’s been going on here.”

Now, with Cassandra wrapping up her sordid tale—full of destruction, chaos, and more demons than an exorcist could shake a cross at—Tresser wonders again whether he’s in over his head.

He’s as good at hiding his discontent as Cassandra is, if not better (years of dealing with his father has given him time to practice). Sure, in his rumpled jeans and leather jacket Tresser might not look the part of a typical Corps agent, he’s got his own brain behind him—plus, an abundance of resources to work with. A lot can be said about David Tresser, but only one person has ever dared call him incompetent, and that man just put him in charge of saving this entire city.

And, if what Cassandra is telling him is true, maybe the world. But Felix doesn’t need to know that until later.

As Cassandra finally falls silent, the expression on her face is clear: expectant. Tresser has said he’s here to help, and Cassandra is trusting him to do just that.

He knows exactly where to start.

“Okay,” Tresser says, clapping his hands together in a faux-eager gesture that makes Cassandra grimace. “I guess this makes you my eyes and ears.”

Cassandra blinks. Of all the things she may have expected, that wasn’t one of them. “I’m…sorry? What are you talking about?”

“You. You’re a psychic, and a medium. That makes you doubly qualified to give me the information I need to know.” Tresser Corps employs psychics for just this purpose; during a mission, they can be crucial for obtaining information that would otherwise have remained unknown. If Cassandra weren’t skilled, the Corps would never have bothered with her. “You’re going to help me out.”

“Mr. Tresser—” Cassandra begins, but Tresser cuts her off as he stands up.

“That’s my father. If you have to be formal, Tresser works just fine. Drop the ‘mister’, I’m not your boss.”

Cassandra follows him as he makes his way to the door. “I think I’m just confused about what you’re asking.”

“Scrying, right?” Tresser demands lightly. “You can scry.”

“Of course I can, but—”

“Great!” Tresser claps the woman on the shoulder—and, realizing at the last moment that he’s still holding the teacup, presses it back into her hands. “I’ll call you later. Sometime. Wait for me. Tresser Corporations thanks you for your assistance!”

The last comment is smarmy enough to make his father proud. Tresser has read the script enough times to know what to say when making an associate do something they might not want to do. He isn’t taking advantage of Cassandra; he just needs a psychic’s insight, and she’s been helpful so far.

She’s getting paid. She’ll get over it.

Tresser strides out the front door before Cassandra can get another word in. He’s not halfway down the walkway before the door slams shut behind him, loud enough to make the windows shake. Tresser springs a foot into the air, landing hard and casting an incredulous look back at the house. No way was that his fault, and he’s sure Cassandra didn’t do it.

He shakes his head as he double-times it towards his hearse. Damn mediums—always living in haunted houses.

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Meet the Author

Emilie Lucadamo has too many stories, and not enough words to tell them. At eighteen years old, she has been writing for most of her life, and telling stories even longer. Her dream is to one day become a critically acclaimed author. When not writing, she’s probably reading, or spending quality time with her dog.

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