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

NineStar Press | Amazon | Smashwords | Barnes & Noble | Kobo

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: Come to the Rocks by Christian Haws

Title:  Come to the Rocks

Author: Christin Haws

Publisher:  NineStar Press

Release Date: April 16, 2018

Heat Level: 1 – No Sex

Pairing: No Romance

Length: 20800

Genre: Paranormal Romance, NineStar Press, LGBT, paranormal, mermaids, thriller, bisexual

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Synopsis

Linnea’s only safe place is a spot on the rocky shoreline where the water can be rather vicious. It’s here where she meets, and falls in love with, a mermaid named Mren. As their romance blossoms, the escalating harassment from Linnea’s ex-boyfriend Mikey threatens the secret relationship. Mren has vowed to protect Linnea, but she’s confined to the water and Mikey is a land monster. Meanwhile, Linnea will do anything to keep Mren safe from him.

Anything.

Excerpt

Come to the Rocks
Christin Haws © 2018
All Rights Reserved

The rocks were cold and wet from the sea spray, slippery and dangerous to trek across, decidedly lethal to stand on at the water’s edge if the ocean was in a bad mood, which it often was.

Linnea did it anyway.

It was her place, the one place she could go where no one else dared. Often, her car was the only one parked on the sandy shoulder between the road and the rocks. Rarely did anyone drive by. Even on the nicest days, when the sun was bright and the water was happy, Linnea was often alone out on the rocks. There were much nicer stretches of shoreline, much safer spots that most people preferred to visit. To Linnea, the scramble across the rocks wasn’t treacherous; it was a brief adventure. Sitting on the edge with her feet dangling just inches above the constantly churning water, the mist of it coating her jean-clad legs until she could barely feel them from the cold, wasn’t reckless; it was a necessary meditation. In the most dangerous area of the cove, Linnea felt safe.

She would sit there most afternoons if she could as the sun sank toward the ocean, but always left before it touched the water. Most days, the overcast sky darkened and changed color with the impending sunset. The ocean was always gray, though, various shades of it that reflected the water’s mood. Lighter, almost silvery, when the water was happy and calm, which was almost never. Darker and angry, when the water was feeling vicious and would slap the rocks as hard as it could, hard enough to knock a grown man standing several feet from the edge right off his feet and into the sea where he’d be battered against the rocks by its rage. Most of the time, the water was a medium shade, an irritated, mood-swinging gray, and the waves would more lap than slap at the rocks, but on occasion, the water would lash out.

Linnea was never afraid of this.

Oh, she was never stupid enough to sit on the rocks when the ocean was angry, although she would either sit or stand at the edge of them and watch the water from a distance. It wasn’t very fulfilling for her to come to the rocks on those days. It was as though the water’s anger denied her peace and she’d spend her time there apologizing to the ocean and attempting to soothe the beast so she could move closer to it.

On an unremarkable Wednesday, Linnea sat cross-legged on the rocks, the darker-than-medium-gray water a little angrier than irritated, smacking the rocks soundly and frequently, but not too aggressively. Yet. The chilly spray settled over Linnea in a fine mist that froze her exposed skin and dampened the jeans and the flannel overcoat she wore in such a way that she didn’t really notice that her clothes were damp until she touched them. The gray sky met the gray water at the horizon in something of a hue change more than a definite line, and Linnea gazed across the water, thinking of nothing in particular.

And then something caught her eye.

A decidedly not-gray sheen appeared on the surface of the water for only a second or two, disappearing before Linnea could truly focus on it. Linnea stared at the spot, waiting to see if it would reappear.

It did, but not in the same spot.

The little glimmer of green and purple and teal lingered long enough for Linnea to know she was actually seeing something, that it wasn’t just a trick of the overcast light on the gray water, and only then did she realize that this little shimmer was closer to her than before.

Curious, Linnea dared to get up on her hands and knees so she could better see over the edge of the rocks at the water, squinting as the icy sea spray misted her face. Leaning as far over the edge, as close to the water as she dared, Linnea searched for the little glimmer again.

The gray water hid its depths and everything contained in it unless it was close to the surface. Linnea didn’t even know how deep the water was there. The face materialized in the water like an evening star gradually coming into its own brightness as the sky darkened into night.

Linnea found herself transfixed by the face as it hovered just under the surface, the waves rolling into the rocks sometimes obscuring it, but never really distorting it as it floated, perfectly still and undisturbed by the movement.

The face was beautiful in its otherness. Linnea had never seen one like it on land, that was for sure. Eyes, as silver-gray as the water when it was happy, stared back at her, blinking leisurely. Hair the same color fanned out and floated around the beautiful face, as though it radiated from it. The skin was pale and pristine, broken only by the slightly pink lips.

Linnea stared, and the eyes stared back.

In an instant, the water turned angry. Waves slammed into the rocks, obscuring the vision, driving Linnea backward to avoid a face full of water. She fell on her butt and rolled, painfully bouncing her elbows and spine and the back of her head on the unforgiving, wet rocks. Water rushed along the uneven, polished surface, seeping into her jeans and between her flannel overcoat and her shirt.

The shock of the sudden turn of the sea, the stinging cold of it, the pain from the fall only froze Linnea for a second. She scrambled back to her hands and knees and crawled to the edge of the rocks, daring the water to slap at her again as she searched for the beautiful image she had seen.

It was gone.

Purchase

NineStar Press | Amazon | Smashwords | Barnes & Noble | Kobo

Meet the Author

Christin Haws is a tragically unhip writer, rerun junkie, baseball floozy, and fat girl belly dancing. Though she mostly writes horror, she’s known to wander into other genres and combine genres because she’s never been very good at genre rules. She currently crafts her stories while located in a small town in the middle of a cornfield. Her obsessions with sunglasses, notebooks, and pens will surely be her undoing.

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Release Blitz: Beholden by Kris T Bethke

 

 
Length: 42,000 words approx.
 
Cover Design: Written Ink Designs
 
Publisher: JMS Publishing
 
Blurb
 

Julian Thomas made the unpopular decision to become Beholden and focus his magic only on scrying. Because of it, he’s the best at his job and the top scryer for the Department of Extranormal and Magical Affairs. Which why Investigations Agent Wes Caldwell goes right to Julian for help locating a missing person.


When Wes needs to use his magic to boost Julian’s, they find a magical resonance between them that quickly leads to more. Julian doesn’t want to move too fast, but Wes knows Julian is it for him. He’s fine with waiting, as long as Julian stays close as they work through it.


But then Julian falls ill, and it’s clear there’s a magical reason. Wes will stop at nothing to find out what’s plaguing Julian, and when they realize just how deep the plot goes, they have more questions than answers. Magic is increasing in the world, and no one can figure out why. Julian and Wes have found love, but will it be enough to get them through what’s to come?

Excerpt
 

“Better?” Wes asked eventually. “Feel more centered and focused now?”


I nodded. Then I sat back a little so I could see his face. I wrapped my arms around his neck, and tucked my fingers down the collar of his dress shirt, not wanting to lose too much contact with his skin. “Yes, thank you.”


“First things first,” Wes said, his voice all business and his face serious. “Are we bonded?”


I sucked in a breath, surprised he’d made that leap. But he had to know that we weren’t. If we’d made a bond, even an unintentional one, he would feel the pull as much as I did. “Of course not.”


He just nodded his head, like that was the answer he expected. “But you feel better when you’re touching me. When you can pull on my magic to augment your own?”


I released a sigh, and couldn’t quite stop myself from snuggling just a tiny bit closer. I shrugged one shoulder. “Yes. Like I said, your magic fits with mine. So it’s easy and natural to use you as a source. I’m sorry about that.”


He glared at me like I had said something stupid. “Don’t be ridiculous. There’s nothing to apologize for. It’s not like you did it on purpose. Right?”


That last bit was said with just a tiny bit of accusation. I tried not to be offended. “No, I didn’t do it on purpose.”


Wes just squinted at me. “So then, we have to figure out what’s going on with you, what’s pulling on your power. Until then, you just need to stick close to me so I can keep you stable.”


I gave an indignant huff. “That’s hardly practical. We’ve both got jobs to do. You seriously can’t expect us to stay in each other’s pockets because I have a little sense of fatigue. You’re getting a little extreme there, buddy.” I tried to pull away from him but he held me fast, and gave me a look that I couldn’t quite interpret.


“You’ve got someone else that can keep your magic and your energy up?”


“Well, no,” I answered honestly. I’d never met anyone whose magic fit so well with mine. “But that doesn’t mean you can just drop everything and keep me stable. That thought is just-” I cast about for a suitable word and finally settled on, “preposterous.”


Wes just gave a snort, sounding amused. “I can do whatever I want. And I don’t want you lying in bed barely able to function. That serves no one. So you’ll just have to be ‘in my pocket’ until we can figure it out and fix you. There has to be some magical means at work here. And I am an Investigations Agent. I’ll investigate.”


His tone was playful, cajoling, and I wanted to smile, but this was too serious. We barely knew each other and, my crush notwithstanding, he couldn’t just drop everything to take care of me. He wasn’t making any sense.

 
Author Bio
 

Kris T. Bethke has been a voracious reader for pretty much her entire life and has been writing stories for nearly as long. An avid and prolific daydreamer, she always has a story in her head. She spends most of her free time reading, writing, or knitting/crocheting her latest project. Her biggest desire is to find a way to accomplish all three tasks at one time. A classic muscle car will always turn her head, and naps on the weekend are one of her greatest guilty pleasures. She lives in a converted attic with a way too fluffy cat and the voices in her head. She’ll tell you she thinks that’s a pretty good deal. Kris believes that love is love, no matter the gender of people involved, and that all love deserves to be celebrated.


Find her on her site https://kristbethke.com Facebook https://www.facebook.com/people/Kris-T-Bethke/100014524539852 or on Twitter https://twitter.com/kristbethke

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Release Blitz: Dead Fall (Dead Things #2) by Meredith Russell

 

 
Length: 66,000 words approx.
 
Cover Design: Meredith Russell
 
Dead Things Series
 
Dead Things (Book #1) – books2read.com/DeadThingsMR– (CURRENTLY FREE)
 
Blurb



Since the events in Chicago, Devin and Noah dare to believe that a future is possible, and there is hope. For them and humanity.


Noah struggles to find his place at Devin’s side. Stricken with survivor’s guilt and a driving need to make a difference, Noah leaves his lover to investigate the only lead he has to stop the undead. Himself.


Devin has fought to stay sane in a world of horror for too long and his one shining light is Noah. When Noah heads off on some misguided venture to search for answers, Devin knows he can’t bear to be the one left behind again.


They are two men who have nothing, and everything, to lose.

 

 

 
Excerpt
 
Chapter One
 
“Finger off the trigger,” Devin Reid instructed.
Noah rested his index finger on the side of the trigger guard, and stared down the makeshift gun range. He lowered his head, frustrated by his failure to hit all the targets set out for him.
“You just need to relax a little.”
Noah glanced at Devin. “You said to grip it tightly.”
With a nod, Devin said, “I know. But not so hard your hand shakes.” He pushed away from the front of the car, and came to stand beside Noah. “Grip. Ease off slightly.” He squeezed his hand around Noah’s, then relaxed it as he gave his instructions.
Devin’s hand was warm and clammy but Noah didn’t care. A small smile curled the corner of his mouth at Devin’s touch.
Devin’s breath was shaky as he lowered his head.
Things had been strange between the two of them over the last seven weeks. Both of them were figuring out where they fit in the world, and in each other’s lives. They had spent more time together, though Devin remained somewhat distant, not that Noah blamed him. Devin had lost the man he’d loved at the start of the monster-filled nightmare they found themselves in. He understood that Devin struggled with the lack of closure he still felt, despite knowing there was no coming back for Connor. The man Devin had known was dead. But it was about more than Connor. It was about Devin not thinking himself strong enough to go through that kind of loss all over again. To leave himself open to such grief and despair if he got close to Noah only to lose him as well. 
Noah closed his eyes as he felt the warmth of Devin’s breath on his neck. His heart ached as he longed to have Devin close. He remembered the warmth of Devin’s touch, the lines of his body, and the feel of Devin’s skin on his during the night they’d spent together in Chicago.
Chicago. He wondered what had become of the people they’d left behind. Were they safe? Was Chicago still able to offer them protection?
Sometimes he felt guilty that he didn’t care more. It wasn’t as if he knew them, not really. He wasn’t sure he remembered their faces anymore. Them or the people who had died on the journey there.
The journey for a cure. Had anything come from the blood sample they’d taken from him, of the vaccine or biological weapon against the undead they hoped to create?
His blood had saved Devin, had created a serum that could battle the infection, but it wasn’t a true solution. It could happen again, to Devin, to everybody.
Silence fell between them and Noah opened his eyes. Devin was looking at him through his shades, one crooked eyebrow raised above the frames.
“It helps if you keep your eyes open.” Devin smirked and reached down, taking Noah’s other hand in his. “Support your grip with your left.”
“Like this?” Noah waited as Devin checked his hold. He shifted his footing, steadying himself as he battled the frustration over only being able to hit the target two times out of five. “I don’t get why I’m doing this. I managed perfectly fine without a gun before you showed up.”
Has it really only been seven weeks? It feels like longer. A lot had happened since the day Devin had turned up at the Weber family’s farm. Noah remembered the shouting and gunfire, of coming across Devin and his partner, Kerry, desperately fighting off a small group of the undead monsters created by some twisted virus. He hadn’t hesitated when Devin was attacked. Noah had run headlong into the fray, determined he wasn’t going to see anyone die that day.
“Trust me, I know.” Devin frowned as he nudged Noah’s arms higher. “But if you’re going to be out here with me, then I prefer to cover all bases. You should be able to protect yourself in every possible way.” He stopped and peered over the top of his sunglasses. “I want you safe. You may be immune, but you’re not invincible.” He hesitated, then gently turned Noah’s wrist. They both checked the old scars—jagged marks left by the mouths of hungry monsters. “You could easily find yourself in a situation you can’t fight your way out of with just your bare hands.”
Tensing his jaw, Noah inspected Devin’s hand on his arm. Devin had scars of his own. With a breath, Noah focused back on the gun. Devin’s words were sobering. He knew he should be taking the training seriously, but all he could think was that they shouldn’t be wasting ammunition for him to practice, not when the bullets could be better spent by giving them to someone who could already hit their mark.
“Have you been dry firing like I suggested?” Devin leaned in close and looked along the sight of the gun.
Noah nodded. Devin had given him a snap cap to use to practice his aim. Devin was close enough that Noah could feel the beating of his heart when he leaned his chest against Noah’s biceps. Did Devin realize just how distracting it was to have him near?
“Good,” Devin said. He stepped back, nudging Noah to raise his arm higher. “You see the front sight? That’s where I want you to focus.”
Noah didn’t argue the fact he’d already been trying to do that. “Okay,” he agreed with a sigh.
“This is important.” Devin touched Noah’s forearm and waited for Noah to face him. “Please?”
Noah closed his eyes and took a breath. “I just don’t like the idea of wasting ammo.”
Devin shook his head. “What good is ammo if no one’s around to use it?”
He guessed Devin had a point. Noah’s gaze drifted from the gun sight to his forearm and the bite marks. So many people had died in the last year. 
Why am I still alive? What makes me so special?
“If you want another reason why we’re doing this, then it’s about protecting others. Not just yourself.” Devin cleared his throat and stepped back. “Things can go to shit in the blink of an eye. There’s not always time for you to run in and play hero.”
Noah glanced along the range to where five splintered wooden boards were propped up about twenty yards away. He knew Devin was right. Time was critical if there was an attack. He eyed the boards and the crudely painted words in red on some—Zombies grrr, Feed me brains, and Romero was wrong. He wondered who had painted the words. He didn’t figure it for something Devin would have done. There was very little Devin found funny. He eyed the third board. 
Romero was wrong.
He’d seen the original movies, groups of shambling undead somehow catching up to and overpowering characters as they stood and stared, and seemed to scream for a full ten minutes before getting their tasty, soft, internal organs devoured. The reality of the dead rising was a little different, or at least it had been in the beginning. The freakish monsters were hungry and fast, and unnaturally strong. It was only now that some of the first to have turned, after severe decay, showed signs of slowing down and immobility. Could they just outlive the monsters? Hide away until they rotted to nothing more than bones?
“Okay,” he said on a sigh, then set his sights on the center target. He steadied his aim and inhaled. Blinking, he readied himself to release his held breath, but Devin brought up his hand and held it over the gun, halting the practice.
Noah glanced at Devin, who had set his gaze on the horizon. “What?” He narrowed his eyes and scanned the area. “Did you see something?” 
Although the yard the range was set up in was considered clear and secure, there was no guarantee something might not stray into the area and beyond the protective wire mesh of the fence.
“I don’t know. I thought I heard…” Devin thumbed the catch of his holster as he surveyed the area.
The land surrounding the yard was mostly flat and open, ideal for reducing the chances of being caught unaware.
Devin shook his head. “I guess it was nothing.” He didn’t turn away at first, and eyed where the fence met the edge of an abandoned warehouse. “Let’s call it a day, okay?”
“Okay,” Noah agreed. He rubbed his stomach as it made a hungry growl. Hopefully, they would make it back to the prison in time for the afternoon meal. They had traveled several miles from the penitentiary to what could have been described as the middle of nowhere, to ensure the sound of gunfire didn’t draw any of the infected monsters to their door.
Handing Devin the gun, Noah shifted his attention to the building. “This place was cleared, right?”
Devin held the gun at his side. “A few weeks back.” He ran his hand over his unshaven jaw, then removed his shades, hooking them onto the front of his dark T-shirt.
Could anything have gotten in since then?
“The fence was secure. There was no evidence anything had got in or even tried to.” Devin sounded his thoughts. He scanned the yard. “I guess we should check it out.”
“Really?”
Devin quirked an eyebrow. “Really.” He set his silver gaze on Noah.
The intensity of Devin’s stare sent a shiver down Noah’s spine. He would never get over how strange, yet fascinating, Devin’s eyes were. He thought he would miss the clear blue Devin had studied him with when they’d first met, but all he could think about was how grateful he was Devin was here to look at him at all. Devin had been bitten. He’d been dying.
To Noah they were beautiful.
“Okay.” Noah shook away the memories of Chicago, trying to ignore the tightening of his chest. He walked to the car, where he took a red-handled fire ax from the trunk. He balanced the weapon in his hands, accustoming himself to the weight and feel of it. Though he felt uneasy, he knew they couldn’t leave without being sure. Neither he nor Devin would forgive themselves if anybody got hurt because they had dismissed their concerns and walked away.
Together they proceeded to the large warehouse. Clouds slowly drifted across the sky, blotting out the sun and casting a hazy gray glow over the yard. They began their investigation at the corner of the premises, where the fence met the steel shell of the warehouse. Wooden pallets leaned against the side of the building. Old blood stained the light colored wood. 
Devin edged toward the fence and wrapped his fingers in the wire mesh. Arching his neck, he examined the length of the building.
“I don’t see anything,” he stated. “If this place is compromised, it’s not from this side.”
Noah walked across the front of the warehouse. He stopped outside the large metal double doors. Idly, he reached out and pulled on the padlock attached to a chain, which secured the doors. “Should we break it?”
Devin shook his head. “There’s a door round the side.” He pointed to the other end of the steel structure. “Check that first.”
They made their way to the side entrance. Devin stepped forward and examined the broken handle. He tilted his head and looked grim. “There’s blood.” He took a step back.
“Do you think it’s one of them?” Noah tightened his grip on the ax.
“Freaks don’t usually go around smashing locks. But…” He raised his gun and pointed at the dried blood. “If someone was bitten, and sought shelter… They could have turned by now.”
“Okay.” Noah didn’t know what else to say.
Devin hesitated, then edged forward, leaning against the door as he listened. “I don’t hear anything—” A crackle of static and Jack Torres’s voice over the radio startled them both. 
“Devin, you there?”
“Christ.” Devin pressed his hand to his chest and stepped away from the door. He pulled the radio from his belt. “Great timing there, Jack,” he said in a hushed voice
Noah smirked as Devin shot him a despairing look.
“Why are you whispering?” Jack asked.
Devin cleared his throat and moved farther away from the building. “No reason. Just checking something out. Everything okay?”
“Yeah, just wondered if you guys were heading back soon?” Jack sounded edgy.
“Is there a problem?” Devin narrowed his eyes. He glanced at Noah as he talked to Jack.
Quickly, Jack dismissed Devin’s question. “No, no problem. I just need to talk to you about something.”
“You sure?”
“Yeah, yeah. It can wait. Come find me when you get back.”
“Sure. See you in an hour maybe.” Devin secured the radio onto his belt.
“What was that about?” Noah asked.
Devin shrugged and fixed his attention back on the busted lock. “Let’s get this over with, then we can find out.” He held his gun in front of him. With his free hand, he pushed. “Something’s behind it,” he said when the door didn’t budge. “Stay sharp, okay?”
Fear mixed with a rush of adrenaline as Noah flipped the ax over in his hand. He waited as Devin used his weight to shoulder an opening. There was a scraping sound. Whatever had been used to secure the exit was forced across the concrete floor of the warehouse. Eventually, Devin stumbled forward as the barricade fell away with a clatter.
Noah peered over Devin’s shoulder, noting more of the wooden pallets. The building was dimly lit. Sunlight shone through overhead skylights, illuminating dust that hung in the air. They held off entering the building for a moment, waiting to see if the noise drew the interest of anything nonhuman. When nothing came of their, less than subtle, entrance, Devin took the lead and headed inside.
The temperature in the warehouse was cooler than outside, and Noah shuddered as he examined the interior of the building. The space was high, higher than it seemed from the outside, and was filled with rows and rows of empty pallets. He looked at Devin who had stopped a few feet in. Noah examined the ground, noting what Devin had already spotted. There was more blood. Someone had been hurt, but not gravely, if the small amount of blood was anything to go by. Gravity had caused circular spatters where droplets had hit the floor, marking a path toward the front of the warehouse. Devin didn’t say anything and followed the intermittent stains.
The silence was unnerving and Noah checked behind them. Content there was nothing there, he shifted his focus back to Devin and the row of pallets they were following to the front of the warehouse. Devin raised his gun as they neared the end of the aisle, stepping out as he turned the corner. He stopped, seemingly surprised. He glanced at Noah, his expression softening.
Curious, Noah took the corner, catching sight of a woman and a young boy huddled together on the opposite side of the building. Though frightened, they appeared okay.
Devin lowered his gun, and raised his other hand. “We aren’t going to hurt you. Are you injured?”
Noah studied the pair along with Devin. The boy was pale and scared, but there was no obvious sign of injury. 
When neither replied, Devin took a step toward them. “Are you alone?”
Devin’s question was answered with an angry cry and blur of motion from his left. A man lunged at Devin, wielding a crowbar. Devin barely swerved the attack. The metal edge struck him on the shoulder, and unbalanced, he fell with a grunt to the dusty, hard ground.
“Stop,” Noah yelled, putting himself between Devin and the desperate man. He raised the ax, aware there was a second person standing in the shadows. “Look, we’re not here to hurt you.” He shifted his weight as a teenage girl stepped forward. She held a dented aluminum baseball bat in her hand. “Devin? You okay?” Noah kept his gaze fixed on the two people in front of him.
Devin coughed. “Yeah, I’m fine.” He cleared his throat and got to his feet. He rotated his shoulder, then joined Noah in the awkward standoff. He raised his gun and pointed it at the man.
“What do you want?” the man asked. His voice was shaky. He edged closer to the teenage girl, favoring his right foot.
“Are you hurt?” Noah said, drawing everyone’s attention to the poorly wrapped bandage above his left knee.
“It’s nothing.”
“Were you bitten?” Devin nodded toward the man’s leg.
“He wasn’t.” The teenage girl jumped to the man’s defense. Her dark hair had been cropped into a short uneven bob, which formed a rough line along her jaw.
Devin pursed his lips. “He your dad?”
The girl nodded.
“How about we all lower our weapons and figure this out, okay?” Devin glanced at Noah, indicating for him to go first.
Though wary, Noah did as Devin instructed. “Fine.” He loosened his hold, lowering the ax to his side, and stepped back to put space between him and the still-armed father and daughter team.
“Okay?” Devin returned his handgun to its holster. “We didn’t mean to scare you.”
The man glanced at his daughter. “It’s okay, T.” He dropped his weapon, and encouraged his daughter to do the same.
“I’m Devin, and this is Noah. We’re sorry if we scared you.”
Hugging his daughter close, the man said, “Kirk. This is my daughter, Tatum.” He pointed in the direction of the woman and boy, who were still sitting together. “My wife, Marie, and our son, Samuel.”
Devin seemed to relax when the man shared his and his family’s names. He kept his hand at his side. “Have you been here long?”
Kirk blinked rapidly. “A couple of days. My son is sick. We needed somewhere safe.”
“Sick?” Noah eyed the boy. “Sick, how?”
“I don’t know.” Kirk’s shoulders dropped as he gazed at his boy. “He hasn’t eaten properly in days, and when he has, he’s thrown up soon after.”
“I’m sorry,” Devin offered. He settled his sight on Noah. It was clear that he was considering what to do. Since the incident with Corden, they no longer had the luxury of taking people at their word. They had to be sure of who they were letting into the prison, no matter how adamant people were in claiming they were okay, or arguing that their injuries were from anything other than a bite.
The father gave a strained smile at Devin’s voiced sympathy. “It’s been hard. No food, no shelter. Always moving. It’s hit him the worst.”
Each member of the family appeared unkempt, dirty, and tired. Noah sucked on his teeth. These people needed help, help they could offer them. “Devin.”
Devin raised his head. There was doubt in his eyes.
“Please.” They were just people. Scared and exhausted people.
Devin stared at the ground. “How did you hurt your leg?” he asked. “I can help your son, but you have to tell me the truth.”
“On the fence.” Kirk looked from Devin to Noah. “I swear.” He wrapped his hand around his daughter’s. His face seemed brighter almost, as if he had been gifted with something amazing—the fact that maybe there was some hope and goodness left in the world after all.
“And the kid? He’s just sick?”
“Yes.” He nodded emphatically. “You’re part of a group? You have somewhere safe?”
There was a beat before Devin confirmed they did have somewhere. “We can help. We can look at your leg too, stop it from getting infected. But we’ll have to check you over. All of you. Properly. We can’t risk letting anyone who’s been bitten in. You understand, right?”
“We understand. Do what you have to do, but please, help us.”
Kirk’s desperation cut at Noah’s heart. If only it was just the undead monsters they had to deal with, but even now, despite all the horror and bloodshed, they were faced with the uncertainty of one another, of the danger other human beings still posed to them. Who should they trust? And who should they keep at arm’s length? He had fallen foul of people he thought were his friends, his neighbors. Distrust for others was why he had been alone when Devin had found him and why he had wanted to return to the farm, his farm, and be in a place he knew, not with Devin and the others at the prison. It was the reason he had survived for so long. But now, he couldn’t imagine anything else. He was glad Devin had shown up at the farm that day, even though his arrival had flipped everything he’d known on its head.
He had put his trust in Devin.
Noah looked from one family member to the next, then at Devin. They both knew this was the right thing to do. This was the human thing to do.
 

Meredith Russell lives in the heart of England. An avid fan of many story genres, she enjoys nothing less than a happy ending. She believes in heroes and romance and strives to reflect this in her writing. Sharing her imagination and passion for stories and characters is a dream Meredith is excited to turn into reality.

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Review Tour: Death By Starlight by Alexis Duran

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Title: Death By Starlight
Author: Alexis Duran
Series: Edge of Night #2
Release Date: July 19th 2017
Genre: Paranormal MM Romance/Fantasy

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BLURB

In Betwixt and Between, Ian and Zeke fought a battle against the queen of the dark realm in order to be together. Now, just when they think they might settle into as normal a life as elves living among humans might be able to expect, a new enemy threatens to tear them apart. While Zeke helps the shaman Alistair in his hunt for an elusive mermaid, Ian is called to confront a wicked nymph preying on tourists along Seattle’s waterfront. Zeke and Ian soon discover that the defeated Queen Ysolde has spread her evil into the sea realms, and danger lurks beneath every wave. But it’s too late to stop an escalating series of confrontations that lead to disappearances, death and the possible end of light in this world.

As Ysolde plots revenge and a mysterious prince seeks to win Ian for himself, the ancient war between light and dark sweeps Ian and Zeke into its maelstrom of hate, testing their trust for each other to the utmost.

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EXCERPT

“Someone has to restore the balance between light and dark energy. I’m one of the last of my kind. I might be the only one who can do it.” Ian slid his hands off the table and rested them on his thighs. He expected derisive laughter from Zeke or a gentle clucking accompanied by a sad shake of the head. Sure, Ian Evers, nobody reporter for a gossip rag, half-breed elf, was going to save the world and fix what Ysolde spent centuries destroying.

Zeke’s face remained impassive, but a storm brewed in his eyes. “You’re not the last of the liosa. Others escaped.”

“I might as well be. They’re all gone, run off to hide out beyond…” Ian waved a hand in the air, signifying that remote world he sometimes glimpsed when they made love.

Glaring out the windows into their backyard, Zeke breathed deeply but said nothing. Ian continued.

“If I start with some miniscule adjustments, push back against the places the dark realm has encroached on this world, maybe some liosa will come out of hiding.”

“They won’t like you being with a svarta,” Zeke said.

“That’s their problem. I know I might never be buddies with other liosa, but we could use their help, right? If Ysolde is plotting to retake her throne like you say, and the svarta are behind her—”

“Only some of them. We don’t need anyone’s help.”

“Yes, we do. We never would’ve defeated Ysolde without Alistair’s and Cleona’s help.”

Zeke leaned forward, his gaze now focused intently on Ian. “We’re stronger now. We need to concentrate on solidifying our connection and making sure no one can break it.”

“You think someone could?” Ian asked. Surprised by the fear he saw lurking behind his lover’s composure, he instinctively put his hands on the table and reached for Zeke’s. Zeke allowed his hands to be held without reacting.

“You couldn’t track me in the dark realm,” Zeke said. “I’m afraid the same would be true if you ever go off into the realm of light. I’ll lose you.”

REVIEW

I loved Betwixt and Between, so when Death by Starlight came up for review, I jumped for it. The author has a down to earth style that sparkles and shimmers in all the right places, lighting up like fireworks at the very end.

Zeke and Ian are going to make the Big Commitment; for a number of reasons this is needful, but more than anything, because they want to. Nothing for these two, elf of dark and elf of light, is ever going to be easy. Light and dark magic need each other, and they both have the potential to overwhelm or cancel each other out.

Not only this, but a good friend disappears, an old enemy re-appears, and a crazed elfin prince has plans to keep Ian for himself.

I love this author’s imagination and skill, from the magical, emotional, and erotic nuances of the romantic pair, the details of the underground world of the svarta, the remote and glacial world of the liosa, and the characters that support or thwart them. Highly recommended!

BOOK ONE

Title: Betwixt and Between
Release Date: June 29th 2015
Genre: Paranormal MM Romance, Fantasy

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BLURB

Reporter Ian Evers, obsessed with magical creatures since childhood, never experiences satisfying proof that the magical realm actually exists until he falls into an entrapment spell set by a handsome but dangerous elf. Barely escaping with his soul intact, Ian is able to undo the hex, but he can’t escape the very real infatuation he’s developed for the fierce, alluring elf.

Ezekiel Stormshadow is a svarta, a dark elf who serves the queen of the dark realm. The realm of darkness needs the power of light to survive, and while hunting the last few magical beings on earth, Ezekiel discovers Ian, a light elf who’s unaware of his true nature and ripe for the plucking. Their brief encounter awakens a great hunger in Ezekiel, and he’s determined to feast on the light elf’s power and body before the queen intervenes and claims Ian for herself.

Ian knows only he can save Ezekiel from the grasp of the dark queen. Driven apart by the ancient imbalance between the dark and light realms, an evil queen starved for power, and their fear of each other, Ian and Ezekiel are relentlessly drawn together even though their union might destroy them both.

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About the Author

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Alexis Duran was born and raised in the Pacific Northwest. At the University of Oregon, her fascination with people and relationships led her to major in Sociology, but her main love has always been creative writing. She has worked in museums, in fashion, in finance and film production. Her favorite job so far was Administrative Assistant in a haunted Victorian Mansion. She’s had several short stories published in the mystery, horror and literary genres, and one contemporary fantasy novel. Her fiction has won several awards including the Rupert Hughes Award from the Maui Writers Conference. She’s thrilled to enter the realm of erotic romance with the publication of her novels Touch of Salar, Blood of Salar and To Catch A Threeve. She’s is currently working on the next in the Masters and Mages series and several other m/m erotic novellas.

Links: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads | Amazon | Pinterest

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