Audio Release Blitz: Leaning Into Touch by Lane Hayes

Title:  Leaning Into Touch

Series: Leaning Into Stories, #4

Author: Lane Hayes

Narrator: Nick J. Russo

Publisher:  Lane Hayes

Original Publication Date: October 5, 2017

Heat Level: 4 – Lots of Sex

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: 80k words

Genre: Romance, Bisexual, Humor, Second Chance, Friends to Lovers, San Francisco, Office

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Synopsis

Josh Sheehan is unlucky in love and now… newly unemployed. He’s not sure what to do next, but he’s sure he should give up on romance. Especially after last time. His friends warned him that falling for the hunky Irishman was a bad idea. Josh can’t help feeling torn even though he knows it’s best to move on. But when an unexpected dose of family drama blindsides him, Josh finds himself leaning on the one man he’s supposed to forget.

Finn Gallagher is driven by success. He makes no secret that building a name for his tech company is his number one goal. Finn left home a decade ago with a ton of regret, a heavy heart, and a vow to never repeat the same mistake twice. However, there is something undeniably appealing about the self-deprecating man with the silly sense of humor that makes it difficult for Finn to remember why falling for Josh is a bad idea. It soon becomes clear they’re both in deeper than they intended. There is no way to remain untouched. And there is so much to gain, if they’re brave enough to lean in.

Listen to an audio excerpt & purchase at Audible

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 winners in the 2016 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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Meet the Narrator

Nick is an award winning narrator with a fan following for his work in fiction, specifically in the romance genre. His performances in two of Amy Lane’s books, Beneath the Stain and Christmas Kitsch, made him the recipient of Sinfully M/M Book Review’s Narrator of the Year – 2015. When he’s not in the booth, Nick enjoys spending time with his wife, Jessica, and kids, (aka their beagle Frank and cat Stella), drumming in his cover band, exploring rural back roads with his wife on his motorcycle, or being enthralled in a tabletop role playing game with his friends. 

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Release Blitz: Exploration by Quinn Ward

 

 
Length: 65,000 words approx.
 
Cover Design: Marisa @ Cover Me Darling
 
Blurb
 

The reluctant manager of his family’s restaurant, Frankie attempts to live up to the legacy of his father and grandfather. Running a business that isn’t his passion and trying to do it without asking for help leaves him turning to less-than-legal means when he wants to surrender control.



Newly divorced, Calvin no longer lives in the closet, leaving him searching for what he most desires- control. So when he finds Frankie on his knees in the back room of a local bar, Calvin sees the sub he’s only ever fantasized about having.


Can Calvin find the confidence to explore his dominant side while showing his younger roommate that submission isn’t only about whips and pain?

Quinn writes LGBTQ romance with a kick. Their stories center around the relationship building between the characters, but also shows how compatible they are in the bedroom (or wherever else the urge strikes).

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Email Quinn at: quinn(at)quinnwardwrites(dot)com
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Release Blitz: New Year, New You by Steve Pacer

Title:  New Year, New You

Author: Steve Pacer

Publisher:  NineStar Press

Release Date: April 23, 2018

Heat Level: 2 – Fade to Black Sex

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: 97900

Genre: Contemporary, LGBT, gay, bi, in the closet, coming out, family drama, contemporary

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Synopsis

Expectations are never realistic. Outcomes often fail to meet objectives. Wishes rarely come true.

None of that has ever stopped Abram Hoffman from meeting every goal he’s ever set. In a world full of constants—his pace per mile, daily caloric intake, number of isolated bicep curls—the balance of Abe’s delicately crafted life topples when his childhood best friend Cassie Montgomery unexpectedly moves back home with her new boyfriend, Jared, whose lingering touches and ambiguous actions make Abe question his true intentions. To top it off, Abe’s ex, Harris McGee, also makes a sudden splash back into Abe’s life.

As each of them suffer through life’s obstacles, they are forced to face the fact that control isn’t always an option and words, whether true or false, can’t always save you. Set in Buffalo, New York, NEW YEAR, NEW YOU deals with life and death—and the love that flourishes in between—told from three powerful perspectives.

Excerpt

New Year, New You
Steve Pacer © 2018
All Rights Reserved

Chapter One
ABRAM

“New Year, New You!”

Abram rolled his eyes and let out a brief but exasperated grunt as those words on the sign stuck to the front of Vitality Fitness became visible through the wind-whipped flurries.

The welcomed warm weather of December had faded away with the start of the new year, and knowing this was likely the last time he could make the two-mile run to work, Abram kicked it up a notch and reached a full-on sprint as he hit the parking lot. He quickly and carefully skipped across the winter-soaked pavement, catching a reflection in the window of the light snowfall caking his perfectly parted hair. Abram always thought he’d look good with a little bit more salt mixed into his pepper hair, a belief that only solidified on this brutally cold morning.

The jangle of his keys opening the door and the quiet hum of the gym’s lights comforted him. At 4:00 a.m., he knew the next hour would signal his final moments of solitude for the day. Because it was January 2, a day Abram coined January Fools Day, when the impostors began their infiltration complete with unrealistic timelines and unattainable wishes for their bodies. He hated this day.

Maybe it was an Upstate New York thing. Everyone there wanted everything so quickly, tossing aside the notion that the only way to achieve washboard abs or rock-hard pecs was actual work and commitment. In Buffalo, football was more important than fitness, eating more important than exercise. At no point was that more evident than the start of the year. Abram suspected this wasn’t the case in San Francisco or Chicago or Brooklyn.

He couldn’t remember when the thought of a busy gym full of people with healthy aspirations turned from a thrilling challenge worth tackling to an annoyance he’d rather avoid. Maybe it was because Vitality would be marking its seventh anniversary this summer, and for seven Januarys in a row, it was the same shit: a full house the first week of the year, followed by fewer people the next week, and even less the week after that. The purge continued until only the regulars were standing at the end of the month.

“New Year, Same Shit!”

He wondered if that slogan could be printed for next year.

Correcting the annual January attrition was one of the things Abe had worked on over the years by setting up programs designed to turn the slightly interested and motivated individual into someone wholeheartedly dedicated to fitness. But he knew that goal was futile. He had learned personal trainers and fitness programs could only do so much. A person only had the ability to change when they actually wanted to change, and there was nothing any outsider or any The Wealth of Health! class could do to change their mind. Being healthy was a lifelong obligation that very few people chose.

Abe glanced at his watch: 4:37 a.m.

It was way too early to be so philosophically negative.

He really had no reason to be bitter. The energy inside the gym that day would be electric. And the stability of owning Vitality was oddly comforting. No surprises meant no new disappointments. And at this point in Abe’s life, no fresh disappointment equaled happiness.

Where had the morning bitchiness come from? He blamed it on his lack of caffeine. Eliminating caffeine—one of his three New Year’s resolutions—had not been as easy an undertaking as Abe had envisioned. But he was determined to make this year the one he would become entirely independent of addiction. For as long as he could remember, coffee was the only thing Abe physically needed.

Sugar? He’d been ten years without it this spring—having none since the weekend of his twenty-third birthday.

Television? Down to about two hours a week, usually while squeezing in an ab workout.

Alcohol? Two and a half years without a drop and going strong.

Sex? Abram winced at the thought. He didn’t feel like counting the months.

Wait, has it been years?

A quick headshake followed by a sudden slap to his face and Abram successfully dug out of that wormhole. The thoughts of the previous years would not continue to creep into his daily life and slowly gnaw away at the positive future. That was New Year’s Resolution number two: don’t let the past dictate your future.

Besides, today wasn’t the day to be irritated. It was the day he finally got to meet Jared, Cassandra Montgomery’s new boyfriend. Cassie had been Abram’s best friend through and through since the first grade and the amount of love he felt for her wasn’t quantifiable. From the age of eight to the time Cassie left Buffalo at twenty-three, they had lived life parallel with each other. No one in town had talked about the two without referring to them as a pair. “Cass and Abe” had become local legends during their high school years. It’d started after saving Olivia Davidson’s life outside the local Dairy Queen when the six-year-old choked on a piece of bubblegum as they were working. When it happened, Cass and Abe looked at each other and sprang into action without even speaking. Abe hopped over the counter, ran out the front door, and began the Heimlich maneuver while Cassie called 911. By the time he forced the gum out, Olivia was powder blue. Abe would never forget the hue Olivia’s face turned, or the color of the burns Cass suffered from kneeling on the scorching blacktop while administering CPR.

Every now and then, he popped in the VHS tape of their interview on the local news, chuckling to himself at Cass’s ridiculously large scrunchie and the way his uniform hung on his gawky body.

That event only started their list of accomplishments as teens: the two were New York State Champions in their age group for Science Olympiad every year of high school; they became the first—and to this day, the only—couple at Kenmore East High School to be crowned Homecoming King and Queen and Prom King and Queen in the same year; and they even were valedictorian and salutatorian, with Cass beating Abe by a mere .013 in their final GPAs. That fact didn’t even sting for Abe; he was happy to once again be linked with Cassie on a grand scale.

Everyone thought they’d end up married, but destiny had other plans.

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Meet the Author

Having little luck finding anything similar to a “beach read” featuring a gay male character, Steve Pacer decided to write one himself. The end result, New Year, New You, is his first novel. The former television news anchor and reporter always possessed a penchant for writing but never imagined the satisfaction creating fiction has produced.

When not writing, Steve enjoys obsessing over what to eat for dinner, perfecting his tennis game, and watching reruns of the Golden Girls. He calls Buffalo, NY, home, where he lives with his husband Mike and their cats, Glory and Julie.

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Release Blitz: In Azgarth’s Shadow by Cassie Sweet

Title:  In Azgarth’s Shadow

Author: Cassie Sweet

Publisher:  NineStar Press

Release Date: April 23, 2018

Heat Level: 1 – No Sex

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: 94100

Genre: Paranormal, Urban Fantasy, LGBT, steampunk, fantasy, friends to lovers, fae

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Synopsis

When popular artist Nicholas Alexandre is shot and killed in a patron’s bedroom and his body dumped in Whitechapel, it is up to the talents of Drs. Mikhail Stanslovich and Dante Savoy to bring him back to life. Since the death of his beloved sister a few months before, Nicholas has lamented his pact with the fae master, Azgarth—for the world of the fae is one of broken promises and terrifying illusions.

Fae agent, Roman Cetanni has spent his tenure as one of Azgarth’s representatives trying to shield his charges from the fae master’s wrath. But what once seemed a division of worlds has now morphed until the lines between the human and fae world are blurred.

Even as Roman tries to help Nicholas recover from his injuries, a new threat looms. Lately more beings from the fae have invaded the human realm, and Oiredon, another fae master, wishes an alliance with Roman and his charges to aid in overthrowing Azgarth.

In these uncertain times, one thing is for certain: war has come to the fae and the lives of the humans they’ve touched hang in the balance.

Excerpt

In Azgarth’s Shadow
Cassie Sweet © 2018
All Rights Reserved

Chapter One
Light caressed Lady Clarissa’s bare breasts, creating interesting shadows as supplied by the long dark hair that cascaded over her shoulders in tousled curls. The strands revealed as much as they hid. She lay on the bed, gaze fixed out the window, staring at the moonlight. A pensive expression filled her lovely face. She didn’t do pensive well. Pouting and preening were more in line with her nature. Oh, there were the intrigues, instigations, and incidents, but they were solely to amuse.

“How much longer, Nicholas?”

“Not too much, my dear.”

Nicholas Alexandre put the finishing touches on the canvas and stepped back from his work. He’d painted her as Tatiana from A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Most people assumed Shakespeare wrote the play as a fanciful comedy. What they didn’t know, or understand, was the fact the Bard wrote it from his experiences of the fae realm.

Lady Clarissa was as much Tatiana as any woman Nicholas had ever known. Petty and jealous, she lived in a world where her needs and desires were met at the cost of those around her. He indulged her because her behavior, though outrageous, amused him. He enjoyed the way her schemes horrified society. These days, it was the only thing that lifted his grief.

He studied the details of the painting, not quite satisfied with the illumination. Not to worry, he’d add flourishes later. For now, he was exhausted and wanted only to pack up his paints and—

The door burst open and banged against the wall.

“You wretched whore!”

Lady Clarissa screamed and grabbed at a sheet to shield her naked torso from her enraged husband. “My heart, it’s not what you think.”

Sir Rodderick Danworth laughed and held the dueling pistol pointed at Nicholas’s stomach. “You expect me to believe that? In my own bedroom?”

Nicholas wiped paint from his brush, unperturbed that the angry husband threatened his life. “As you see, I came here to work. I’m nothing more than a humble painter.”

The laugh this time came out bitter, pained. “There is nothing humble about you. Do your promises mean nothing?”

A prick of conscience and a slight brush of regret. “My word is still good, but my purse is not subject to the whims of honor. I still need to eat and live. I have a grieving mother to support.”

The fact his mother hadn’t left her bed since his sister’s death, notwithstanding.

Rodderick kept his gaze focused on Nicholas, much as a hunter might a wild animal. Something stirred in the depths of his eyes, not entirely of the man himself. “You are nothing more than a deceiver. A liar.”

Nicholas inclined his head in a subtle acknowledgment of the accusation and let his suspicions fall to the ground unvoiced. “And so I am what the world has made me.”

Realization and pain morphed into fury, filling Rodderick’s eyes. He fought an inner demon that shone in the dark depths. The gun went off.

Nicholas watched in horror as the shot struck him true. Crimson bloomed across the front of his white shirt, spreading like paint through a jar of mineral spirits. Odd how no pain registered.

The paintbrush dropped from fingers that no longer worked. Sound became a distant, hollow thing. A scream came from behind him, but even that had the quality of a train entering a tunnel, the whistle fading into the dark earth.

If he’d had the ability, Nicholas would have laughed. A mortal wound would not kill one such as him; it only released him into the hands of the fae master, Azgarth. And therein lay his real fear. Servitude on this plane was one of commerce, a way to provide for his family in the manner they’d become accustom. Being one of the chosen in the fae realm for eternity was not the thing of beauty Azgarth promised. The thing he’d seen welling in Rodderick’s eyes.

The only one to derive any pleasure from such an association was Azgarth himself. However, it might give him a chance to see Juliana again. To see if she’d been taken into the fae realm on her death and protected.

Rodderick stood over him, his face white, lips pale. Tears streamed down his face. The darkness had faded from his eyes. “Look what you made me do.”

He was unsure if Rodderick meant Nicholas, Clarissa, or Azgarth. He moved his arm to try to cover the wound and staunch the flow, but could do nothing more than watch as the blood began to soak into the carpet beneath.

Lady Clarissa finally rose from the bed. She stood over Nicholas, looking down on him. Her mouth was pinched with displeasure, no doubt for the stains that ruined the Aubusson. “I knew your jealousy would one day be your downfall.”

Rodderick still held the pistol. Disbelief pulled his mouth down at the corners. “I’ve killed him.”

Nicholas tried to inform Rodderick that he was very much mistaken—he still lived and heard every word they said. The one to kill him was much worse than Rodderick could ever imagine.

Lady Clarissa took Rodderick by the arm. “No. We will keep this between the two of us. Call Charles and have him dump the body in Whitechapel. No one will bat an eye for one more murder in that part of town.”

Rodderick nodded mutely. He started out of the room, then turned back as Nicholas took one last shuddery breath.

Purchase

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Meet the Author

Cassie Sweet lives in beautiful Pensacola, Florida and often enjoys watching the Blue Angels do practice flyovers from the window in her writing nook. Growing up with a great love for the Grimm’s Fairytales and the original Star Trek, her stories might involve paranormal elements, space travel, or a combo platter of both.

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Release Blitz: Fighting for You by Megan Derr

Title:  Fighting for You

Series: Lifesworn, Book Two

Author: Megan Derr

Publisher:  NineStar Press

Release Date: April 16, 2018

Heat Level: 3 – Some Sex

Pairing: Male/Male Menage

Length: 35000

Genre: Fantasy, LGBT, fantasy, menage, bisexual, pansexual, royalty

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Synopsis

All Penli wants to be is left alone. After nearly a decade of blood and violence, and a lifetime of enduring his cold, ambitious family, it’s almost a relief to be practically alone in the middle of a desert kingdom with no way to return home because of the warrant out for his arrest.

The very last thing he needs is to be consumed by a fit of honor and nobility—but he would much rather die than ever see the two sweet, intriguing men who cross his path forced apart, one to be thrown to the streets, the other to marry a malicious bully Penli has despised for years.

Though he means only to free them, having no desire to marry after barely escaping one unwanted marriage, with each passing day Penli fears the only thing more difficult than throwing his life away will be resisting the urge to build a new one with two men he barely knows.

Excerpt

Fighting for You
Megan Derr © 2018
All Rights Reserved

Prologue
SIXTEEN YEARS AGO

“Enough.”

Penli huffed and fired one more arrow anyway—and yowled when the instructor cuffed him, leaving his ears ringing.

“What did I say?” Kure demanded.

“Enough,” Penli grumbled.

“Unstring your bow and clean up. We’re done for the day.”

Several paces away, Tishasanti the Bastard opened his mouth to argue, but a look from their archery instructor had him snapping it shut.

Penli bit back his own complaints, even though it wasn’t fair that he was making them quit practice before one of them had one. He’d almost had Tishi-Wishi. One more round and he’d have won!

Grumbling to himself, Penli unstrung his longbow and set it aside before he went to retrieve all his arrows, shoving them irritably into the quiver at his hip. When he was done, he retrieved his bow and headed off across campus to the dormitories on the far side. The air was chilly, heralding the coming winter, but not yet so cold that he needed more than the long sleeves and cowl he was wearing. Practice was usually active enough to keep him warm well into winter. Unlike Tishi-Wishi, he could handle cold weather.

Thinking of Tishasanti and cold weather reminded him of the time Tishasanti had lost his footing and slid all the way down a hill and into a cluster of shrubs the previous winter. Penli snickered at the memory.

“What’s so funny, Penlington? Other than your terrible aim.”

Penli stopped and turned and sneered at Tishasanti. From their first day of school, he’d hated Tishasanti. He was loud-mouthed, bossy, and thought himself better than everyone else. He also liked to solve problems with his fists and, when that didn’t work, tattled to his daddy.

After Penli had gotten revenge on him for a sucker punch by breaking Tishasanti’s nose, they’d been mortal enemies. Well, they’d already been well on the way to that, because Tishasanti thought he was the best at everything—including archery, which was Penli’s specialty. No way was Tishi-Wishi better than him. He didn’t care if they did draw even almost every single time. That was dumb luck for Tishasanti.

“Go away, Tishi-Wishi.”

Face going red at the hated nickname, Tishasanti spat, “If that bastard Kure hadn’t stopped us, I would have had you, and we both know it.”

Penli sneered. “Please. You’ll never have me in any manner of speaking. And you only beat me at anything when luck is on your side.”

“Oh, I see. Still mad about the way I trounced you in the ring this morning?”

Curling his hands into his fists at his side, Penli hissed, “You cheated!”

“All’s fair in war, Penlington. If you hadn’t been so busy fretting about your stupid hair, maybe you’d have seen that move coming. Who needs luck to beat you when all they have to do is get mud all over your hair or clothes? You fuss more than a girl on her wedding day.”

“At least whoever I marry won’t want to kill themselves rather than go through with the marriage,” Penli retorted—and didn’t move in time as Tishasanti bellowed and slammed a fist into his jaw.

Penli stumbled back several steps and wiped blood from his mouth. “Were you hoping I’d go down like you, Tishi? Sorry, you’re the only one here with a glass jaw.” That time, he was ready for the swing, and countered with a dodge promptly followed by a foot to Tishasanti’s stomach.

After that, the fighting got ugly, and stopped only when some professors showed up and dragged them apart.

“Sir—”

“Be quiet,” Kure snapped, and Penli withered. Of all the professors on campus, his archery instructor was by far his favorite—even if he could be infuriatingly stubborn and unreasonable about some things. Like putting up with Tishasanti.

He remained quiet as they were dragged into the headmaster’s office. Next to him, Tishasanti was equally silent, which was odd. Usually by now he was screaming about what his father would have to say about this.

“What a surprise to see you two again,” Headmaster Worth replied, leaning back in his seat, making it creak with the weight of muscle and fat wedged into it. In his tournament days, before they’d faded out of popularity, Worth had been called “The Wall” and he hadn’t turned into a ruin with age. “Two violent peas in a pod.”

Penli and Tishasanti bristled. “I am nothing—”

“We have nothing—”

They both cut off as Kure cuffed them.

Worth stared implacably for several long, miserable minutes. “You’re both too intelligent to simply throw you out for the vagaries of youth. However, these violent outbursts cannot continue. You are peers of your respective realms and you must learn to act like it.” When Tishasanti started to speak, Worth cut him off with a sharp gesture. “Spare me mentions of your father; I’ve conversed with him at length and he has left the matter of your discipline wholly in my hands. The question is: what sort of discipline will finally get through those stubborn heads of yours?”

Penli started to reply that removing Tishasanti’s head would fix everything, looked at Worth’s face, and thought better of it. Even if he was right that Tishasanti was the problem. Why did they insist on acting like he was just as responsible? Tishasanti was the one who always started it.

The look on Worth’s face then said he had read every last one of Penli’s thoughts and was vastly disappointed by them. How the bastard did that, Penli didn’t know.

Worth lifted his eyes to exchange some silent conversation with Kure.

“With me,” Kure snapped, and dragged Penli out of the room. The heavy door closed on the sound of Worth giving Tishasanti a dressing down unlike any they’d received before.

Penli snickered.

“And what, you think you’re not in trouble?” Kure demanded, dragging him down the hall and all but throwing him into an empty study room. After slamming the door shut, he folded his arms across his chest.

Penli scowled at the tear in a seam of his shirt—a beautiful, fitted thing meant especially for archery, dark violet lawn and embroidered all over with white and gold flowers. “You didn’t have to ruin my shirt.”

“The blood covering half of it already took care of that,” Kure replied, voice going even colder. “I think you have more important things to worry about than your clothes, Penlington.”

“He started it!” Penli snapped. “I was minding my own business, and he showed up—”

“Just because he taunts you doesn’t mean you have to give in.” Kure held up a hand. “But let’s start with before that. Why do you think I halted practice early?”

Penli shrugged and looked at the floor, fighting an urge to cross his arms. Kure looked intimidating when he did it; Penli would only look weak. “I figured you were annoyed.”

“Yes. About what?”

“I don’t know. I was hitting all the marks. I was one point ahead—”

“That. That right there. The points are not a contest. They aren’t there so you and Tishasanti can feud. Neither are the duels, or the tests, or anything else. Those are meant to test your personal acumen. Do you understand what it is you’re learning to do when you hit those marks?”

Penli looked at him with all the growing irritation overtaking him. “Hitting marks?”

Kure boxed his ears and, ignoring Penli’s yowling, said, “You are learning to kill. Every mark is, if you’re lucky, a dead animal brought down to feed your fellow soldiers. If you’re not lucky, your arrow will land in someone’s eye, or chest, or somewhere that will slow them long enough you can then take a killing shot. And instead of appreciating that, you and Tishasanti are so busy proving who is better that you’re not learning what you should be. What, pray tell, are you trying to be better than him at?”

“Everything.”

“Funny, he’s probably giving that same answer to the headmaster as we speak. Why do you want to be better than him?”

“Because I am! Because he picks on people for no reason, he hurts them and laughs as he walks off like none of them matter. And then he gets away with it because of teachers like you, who don’t care what he does!”

Kure sighed and motioned for him to sit, then took a nearby seat. “Penlington—”

“It’s Penli,” Penli muttered.

“Penli, then,” Kure said. “I know you hate him, and perhaps you have good reason. But you need to get through that stubborn head of yours that the biggest reason the two of you clash is that you’re a lot alike.”

“We are—”

“Be quiet,” Kure cut in calmly. “You don’t talk until I say you may. Now, then. You are both exceptionally smart. You are both highly capable in all manner of martial skills. You both tend to be aggressive when you are riled, which is not something to be proud of. If you had grown up just a little bit different, Penli, you would behave exactly like him. It’s by the grace of the gods and your parents that you don’t. But you do seem to have appointed yourself judge, jury, and executioner when it comes to Tishasanti, and that’s just as bad. You see one small portion of Tishasanti’s life and what goes on it. Perhaps he deserves to be punished, but who are you to decide and act on that? What do you think people think of you, always seeing the two of you fight?”

Penli shook his head, a knot forming in his stomach.

“They think you’re pretty, and nice at times, but mostly scary, because you’re always fighting. Because sometimes from where they’re standing, and the limited knowledge they possess, you look like the one in the wrong. Remember that Penli: you don’t always know the whole story, and who is the hero and who the villain is entirely relative. Leave the judging to those who have seen the whole picture.”

“Yes, Professor,” Penli said. Did people really think he was scary?

“Penli,” Kure said more gently, and when he finally looked up continued, “If you really want to be a better person than Tishasanti, then remember that only cowards resort to violence first. Only the cruel-hearted find humor in another’s pain. And the most dangerous person in the room is the one who thinks they know everything. Ignore Tishasanti as best you’re able. Focus on your lessons, and ‘besting’ him fairly. No more fights in the halls, or one day you’ll find that it gets easier and easier to use violence to put people in the place you think they belong. Violence should always be a last resort. Arrogance should never make your decisions.”

“Yes, Professor,” Penli repeated. “I-I’m not really scary, am I? Just because I fight with Tishasanti?”

“You’re intimidating to many because, in addition to fighting with him, you are fiercely competitive, lose your temper quite easily, and there are rumors you’re going to be snatched up by the army because of your archery skills.”

Penli had been preening about that all month: that he was good enough to become a royal archer, go on secret missions to defend the people, and save the kingdom. But with Kure’s words still filling his head, all he felt was sick and scared. He wanted to be a hero, not an evil bastard like Tishasanti. “I-I’m sorry. I really do just hate the way he treats people.”

“I know,” Kure said gruffly. “But trust that people with more experience will deal with him as best we’re able, and there are bits of the story you will likely never learn. I know it’s hard, and often feels unfair, but all you can do is keep moving forward doing your best. Stop giving in to your worst. All right?”

“Yes, Professor.”

“Good.” He stood and Penli did the same. “Now let’s get you back to your room so you can dress for dinner, and we’ll discuss your punishment along the way.”

Penli groaned, but fell into step alongside him as they headed across campus.

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Meet the Author

Megan is a long time resident of LGBTQ fiction, and keeps herself busy reading, writing, and publishing it. She is often accused of fluff and nonsense. When she’s not involved in writing, she likes to cook, harass her cats, or watch movies. She loves to hear from readers, and can be found all over the internet.

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