Release Blitz: Thief of Hearts by Ruby Moone

 

 
Length: 72,000 words approx.
 
Blurb
 

It’s 1806 and aristocratic, bastard born jewel thief, David Lambert has few rules in his life. Never bed the staff, never bed a man more than once, and never kiss. In the space of one weekend, all his rules are shattered by a stunning, violet eyed footman with a secret.


Jeremy Naylor thought he had found the man of his dreams. Thought he had found the one person that might, just might, understand him. But in one shocking moment his dreams are destroyed, and he is forced to run for his life.


When Jeremy is flung into Newgate for a crime David committed, it’s a race against time to get him free and David is forced to face up to his past, his family, and accept that he might have a future if he has the courage to fight for it.

 
Excerpt
 

David hammered on the door of Charnley’s Grosvenor Street mansion and, finding the door unlocked, let himself in. He strode through the hallway, boot heels ringing on the marble floor, and was met by a flurry of agitated staff.


“Get me Charnley. Now.”


The butler emerged and addressed him in condescending tones, but David brushed him aside. “Where is he? Study?” he stalked across the hallway and headed for the study door with the staff flapping behind him. He threw open the door, but there was no-one inside.


“Charnley!” he bellowed. “Get out here now.”


The flurry of footmen was swiftly replaced by burly, determined looking grooms, so David pulled out a brace of pistols from the back of his breeches and aimed them.


“Hold it right there,” he said, and the men stopped. “I have no quarrel with you, but I will see Charnley. Anyone who tries to stop me will be shot. Those of you who know me know I will do it.” He raised the pistols and waited. No-one moved.


“So, where is he?”


“What in God’s name is going on?” Charnley appeared, leaning over the gallery balcony, then running lightly down the stairs wearing only his shirt sleeves and waistcoat. “Lambert, why are you causing ructions in my home? For God’s sake, man, put the pistols down.”


“First, call off your lap dogs.”


With a flick of a hand, the staff were dismissed, but David held onto the pistols. “Shall we?” he asked, nodding towards the study. He slammed the door shut behind them with his boot.


“Get him out. Whatever you want from me is yours, just get him out.”


Charnley frowned. “What the hell are you talking about?”


David stalked across the room, gun in hand and put the muzzle against Charnley’s chest. “You have until the count of three to tell me you will get him out. If you do not, I will shoot you and get him out myself.”


Charnley staggered back and held up both hands. “What … who are you talking about? Get who out of where?”


“One.”


“Lambert, I do not know what…”


“Two.”


“God… man will you … Oh Christ. Not Naylor?” A look of genuine shock on Charnley’s face surprised David.


“Three. Yes.” He pushed against Charnley’s chest.


“Yes, yes… of course I will help. Just put the fucking gun down.”


David lowered the pistol slowly, and Charnley backed away, one hand going to his throat. Sweat stood out on his brow.


“Get your coat, get down to Newgate, and undo whatever lies you told to put him in there. Now.”


Charnley lifted both hands. He was a little taller than David, and heavier having a few years on him, but he was treating him with a healthy respect. “Now, listen to me.”


“I’m listening. Get your coat.”


“David, I will do everything in my power to get Naylor out, but we have a serious problem here.”


“Which is?”


“He is not there because of anything that I did. I did not order his arrest.”

My name is Ruby Moone and I love books. All kinds of books. My weakness is for romance, and that can be any kind, but I am particularly fond of historical and paranormal. I decided to write gay romance after reading some fantastic books and falling in love with the genre, so am really thrilled to have my work published here. The day job takes up a lot of my time, but every other spare moment finds me writing or reading. I live in the north west of England with my husband who thinks that I live in two worlds. The real world and in the world in my head…he probably has a point!


Facebook Page – https://www.facebook.com/RubyMoone/?ref=bookmarks
Twitter – @RubyMooneWriter
Instagram https://www.instagram.com/rubymoone/

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Release Blitz: Lost in Indigo by VL Locey

 

Buy Links: Amazon US | Amazon UK
 
 
Length: 70,695 words approx.
 
Blurb
 

Mathieu Beresford was so close to seeing his dream come true.


The thirty-eight-year-old captain of the Buffalo Surge had led his team to the final round of the playoffs with his aggressive defensive play and leadership. During the first game of the championship series, he was taken down, and his leg snapped upon impact with the boards. From his hospital bed, Mathieu watched his team go on to win it all.


Adrift in anger, resentment, and the new direction of his life, he returns to his mansion along the St. Lawrence River. Alone and sulking, Mathieu is not prepared for Indigo Neu to enter his life. The genderflux twenty-year-old botany major signs on to play nursemaid, confidant, and groundskeeper over the summer and slowly leads Mathieu out of his confusion––one tender smile and touch at a time.


The deeper Mathieu falls, the more he wonders if being lost might not be so bad after all.

V.L. Locey loves worn jeans, yoga, belly laughs, Dr. Who, Torchwood, walking, reading and writing lusty tales, Greek mythology, the New York Rangers, comic books, and coffee. (Not necessarily in that order.) She shares her life with her husband, her daughter, one dog, two cats, two Jersey steers and a flock of assorted domestic fowl.



When not writing lusty tales, she can be found enjoying her day with her menagerie in the rolling hills of Pennsylvania with a cup of fresh java in hand.

 

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Release Blitz: Nectar and Ambrosia by EM Hamill

Title:  Nectar and Ambrosia

Series: Amaranthine Inheritance #1

Author: E.M. Hamill

Publisher:  Star Bard Books

Release Date: June 30, 2018

Heat Level: 1 – No Sex

Pairing: Male/Female, Male/Male

Length: 81576

Genre: Fantasy, urban/mythical

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Synopsis

Callie, a Classics major, flees home to protect her family from a monster straight out of mythology.  Visions lead her to Nectar and Ambrosia: the weirdest pub on Earth, where inter-dimensional travelers with attention seeking issues get drunk in between the A-list celebrity lives they create. They can’t pretend to be gods anymore—not since a treaty with the current Supreme Deity promising they won’t intervene in human affairs.

The Doorkeeper of this threshold, Florian, rides herd on the rowdy Amaranthine and offers her shelter and a job. Callie likes the lonely, mysterious bartender more than she should. For Florian, her presence is a ray of light in the gray monotony of his sentence behind the bar, but he keeps a cautious distance—the truth of how he became Doorkeeper could change Callie’s perception of him forever.

When angels show up for a war council over Zeus’s irrational mutters about a comeback, Callie has uncontrolled visions of an apocalypse.  Ex-gods realize she’s the first Oracle Priestess in generations. All Callie wanted was keep her parents safe, and now it seems she must sacrifice her future to keep the rest of humanity safe, too. Ambrosia could be the key to harnessing her visions— or it could cost her life.

War is coming. The threshold between worlds has never been more fragile. Callie must discover who is pulling Zeus’s strings and avert the final battle—before the immortal vying to become the next Supreme Deity kills her first.

Excerpt

Callie turned away, trying to decide if Florian and all his clientele were delusional or if it was some kind of big role-playing game for rich people. Folks could have a thing about dressing up in furry animal costumes. She supposed they could pretend to be gods and goddesses too. If it was a mythology RPG, they weren’t concerned with the classical part, except for the guy she saw yesterday afternoon. She was relieved to have a rational explanation for the horns.

Something moved outside the glass front door. Her heart seized in momentary panic. What if the monster still lurked out there?

Strange, visible turbulence seemed to ripple the panes. Callie squeezed her eyes shut to clear her sight and prayed it wasn’t the aura of an oncoming seizure. Cool relief extinguished the rising sparks of panic as the effect dissipated.

The door opened and revealed a spiky-haired, punk rock kid years too young to be in any bar. Callie was forced to squint in order see him clearly as he strode in, his outlines strangely blurred and soft. Sullen teenaged fluidity rolled in every line of his body. He surveyed the bar, narrow kohl-ringed eyes settling on the heavily intoxicated Zeus. A sneer comprised of equal parts contempt and satisfaction flickered over his mouth.

“There he is, the great king of the gods,” he muttered. He moved toward the bar, a glare of disdain sweeping over the other patrons. His eyes widened in appreciation as they passed over Callie, a little smirk growing as his gaze lingered too long on the front of her college t-shirt.

Despite her confusion on how he’d arrived, she gave him a thin smile and a cool nod, crossing her arms over her chest. He stopped short, an expression of shock on his face. Then a quick, sunny grin took over. His blurry outlines sharpened as he drew closer and she relaxed her squinted eyes, no longer struggling to focus on him. She decided it was a trick of the neon-tinted lights hanging in garish advertisement on the walls of the bar.

“My, my, my. Who have we here?” His voice, thick with Cockney vowels, dipped to an intimate tone as he approached. His body language changed to something more unsettlingly mature. He was older than he appeared. “Who do you belong to?”

“I’m Callie. I don’t belong to anybody, but I work for Florian,” she corrected him politely. “Can I get you something?”

“Well, for starters, tequila.” He smirked suggestively. “And your undivided attention.”

Callie resisted the urge to roll her eyes. No matter where she worked, the pickup lines were the same.

“I’m sorry, I’m busy working. I’ll ask Florian for your tequila. On the rocks, or a shot?”

“On the rocks, love.”

“I’ll need to see some ID first.”

“You are new here, aren’t you?” He flipped two fingers out, a driver’s license between them.  She took it. No stranger to fake ID’s, this one appeared to be real, and passed him as twenty-one. Still…

“John Smith, huh?”

He captured Callie’s fingers as she returned the license and kissed the back of her hand in old-fashioned courtliness, sea-colored eyes glinting in mischief. An odd, visceral twinge from her early warning system made her startle as his lips touched her skin. Goose bumps flecked her arms. A totally alien sensation overwhelmed her senses: it was as if something crawled off her skin toward his mouth. She shivered in response and tried to pull her hand away. His grin widened as he tightened his grip, apparently delighted by her discomfiture.

“Oh, ho. That’s a lovely surprise. Don’t mind me. I’m incorrigible. Call me Puck.” He scribed an expansive circular gesture with his free hand. “Welcome to the watering hole of the damned bored.”

Callie forced a smile. “Thank you. Now, if you’ll let go of my hand, I’ll get your drink.”

Puck made a mocking bow over her hand and released it, smirking again as he backed away, still admiring her in undisguised interest. Between them, a well-dressed man stepped directly into Callie’s path. He swerved with a graceful spin and apologized as Callie’s sneakers squeaked to an abrupt halt on the concrete floor.

“Sorry, hon. Good evening, gods and goddesses!”

“Herm!” came a shouted group greeting from the room at large.

“And fairies,” the man belatedly added, nodding at the punk rocker.

Puck offered him an extended middle finger and a dangerous smile. Callie’s mouth fell open, recognizing the Armani-suited guy from the previous afternoon.

“Jeeze, homophobic much?” she muttered.

“Trust me love, I am all fairy and he is far from homophobic. Sexual orientation has nothing to do with him being a prick.” Puck glared at the man’s back with undisguised hatred before another lightning-quick mood change and a devilish grin took over. “Make that tequila a double.” He winked at her, eyes making another head to toe rake of her body before he disappeared into the clump of huge Scandinavian-looking, Corona-swilling dart players.

Callie’s hair still prickled on the back of her neck even after Puck left, and she rubbed it, troubled. She turned back to the room, stopped short, and stared. More customers sat at tables and in the shadows of the booths, each group just a little stranger than the last. None of them used the door.

And the Armani guy—he’d stepped into her path. Right out of the air.

Something intensely freaky was happening that she couldn’t rationalize away, no matter how hard she tried.

Was Florian telling the truth?

Instead of fear, a deep, visceral excitement flip-flopped in her abdomen, butterflies on steroids.

She never pinpointed exactly when wonder began to crowd out her reservations. Rushing between the cooler and the tables, she caught snatches of conversation and shouted greetings when others appeared. Having to bite back questions when she delivered their beverages replaced the urge to roll her eyes. She fought to keep a professional demeanor rather than fangirl all over herself when Florian introduced the Armani guy to her as Hermes. Hermes! One of her favorite characters in Greek mythology.

Three hours into the shift, she took a quick bathroom break. Her back against the door, Callie put her hands over her mouth and muffled something that sounded suspiciously like a shriek. Whether it was fear or excitement, she couldn’t quite say. Her breath came fast and short until she got dizzy. She spun the tap on the sink and the shock of cold water on her face helped bring her back down.

“What the hell, Callie? Are you really going to believe this?” she muttered to herself in the mirror. She grabbed a paper towel to blot the moisture away and waded back out into the crowded bar.

Purchase

Star Bard Books | Amazon Kindle | Amazon Paperback |Barnes & Noble | Kobo | iTunes

Meet the Author

Elisabeth “E.M.” Hamill is a nurse by day, unabashed geek, chocoholic, sci fi and fantasy novelist by nights, weekends, and wherever she can steal quality time with her laptop. She lives with her family, a dog, and a cat in the wilds of eastern suburban Kansas, where they fend off flying monkey attacks and prep for the zombie apocalypse.

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads | eMail

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Release Blitz: My Crunchy Life by Mia Kerick

 

Title: My Crunchy Life

Author: Mia Kerick

Release Date: 26th June 2018

Genre: LGBT, Young Adult

BLURB

John Lennon fought for world peace, but sixteen-year-old hippie hopeful Kale Oswald’s only made it as far as tie-dying his T-shirts with organic grape juice. Now he’s ready to cement his new hippie identity by joining a local human rights organization, but he doesn’t fit in as well as he’d hoped.

After landing himself in the hospital by washing down a Ziploc bag of pills with a bottle of Gatorade, Julian Mendez came clean to his mother: he is a girl stuck in a boy’s body. Puberty blockers have stopped the maturing of the body he feels has betrayed him. They’re also supposed to give him time to be sure he wants to make a more permanent decision, but he’s already Julia in his heart. What he’s not sure he’s ready to face is the post-transition name-calling and bathroom wars awaiting him at school.

When Kale and Julian come face-to-face at the human rights organization, attraction, teenage awkwardness, and reluctant empathy collide. They are forced to examine who they are and who they want to become. But until Kale can come to terms with his confusion about his own sexuality and Julian can be honest with Kale, they cannot move forward in friendship, or anything more.

Find My Crunchy Life at Goodreads

Buy Links: Amazon US | Amazon UK | Harmony Ink

 

EXCERPT

Julian, 4: 00 p.m.

On my first day back to school after the incident, Sydney Harper, a junior from the right side of the tracks, cut me off in the hallway by the gym and got up in my face. “You didn’t really wanna die. My mother said it was just some kind of pathetic cry for help.” Having made her point, she spun around on her Ugg-booted nonheel and headed for the girls’ locker room.

Then in precalc, some guy I barely knew poked me hard in the back with a Sharpie marker, and I was the lucky recipient of another dose of compassion. “You just crave attention, don’t you, girly-boy?”

Maybe, on some level, they were both right.

But on that night in October when I decided my best move in life would be to wash down the last of the Extra Strength Tylenol in our medicine cabinet with a bottle of Citrus Cooler Gatorade, I knew I couldn’t lose, however it turned out. The alternative to my clever plan to get some attention, and maybe even a measure of help, was that I’d fall asleep and never wake up— which, in my opinion, served just fine as Plan B.

If nobody heard my “cry for help” and I checked out, we’d probably all be better off. No real harm done… except to Mama. But the freaking UPS man heard my “pathetic cry,” or more accurately saw my apparently lifeless torso hanging from the tree house in the side yard, and saved me.

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About the Author

Mia Kerick is the mother of four exceptional children—a daughter in law school, another in dance school, a third studying at Mia’s alma mater, Boston College, and her lone son still in high school. She writes LGBTQ romance when not editing National Honor Society essays, offering opinions on college and law school applications, helping to create dance bios, and reviewing English papers. Her husband of twenty-four years has been told by many that he has the patience of Job, but don’t ask Mia about this, as it is a sensitive subject.

Mia focuses her stories on emotional growth in turbulent relationships. As she has a great affinity for the tortured hero, there is, at minimum, one in each book. As a teen, Mia filled spiral-bound notebooks with tales of said tortured heroes (most of whom happened to strongly resemble lead vocalists of 1980s big-hair bands) and stuffed them under her mattress for safekeeping. She is thankful to Dreamspinner Press and Harmony Ink Press for providing alternate places to stash her stories.

Her books have won a Best YA Lesbian Rainbow Award, a Reader Views’ Book by Book Publicity Literary Award, the Jack Eadon Award for Best Book in Contemporary Drama, an Indie Fab Award, and a Royal Dragonfly Award for Cultural Diversity, among other awards.

Mia is a Progressive, a little bit too obsessed by politics, and cheers for each and every victory in the name of human rights. Her only major regret: never having taken typing or computer class in school, destining her to a life consumed with two-fingered pecking and constant prayer to the Gods of Technology.

Contact Mia at miakerick@gmail.com. Visit her website for updates on what is going on in Mia’s world, rants, music, parties, and pictures, and maybe even a little bit of inspiration.

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Release Blitz: Once Upon A Rainbow Anthology

Title:  Once Upon a Rainbow, Volume Three

Author: A. E. Ross, Elna Holst, Mark Lesney, N.J. Romaine, Sam Burns, Valentine Wheeler, W.M. Fawkes

Publisher:  NineStar Press

Release Date: July 2, 2018

Heat Level: 3 – Some Sex

Pairing: No Romance, Male/Female, Male/Male, Female/Female

Length: 121800

Genre: Paranormal, Fantasy, bisexual, coming out, dragons, fae, family drama, Fantasy, gay, kidnapping, knights, lesbian, royalty, sexual, trans, warriors, witches

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Synopsis

Your favorite stories from childhood have a new twist. Seven fairy tales of old with characters across the LGBTQIA+ spectrum.

Green Things Grow from Cinders by A.E. Ross – Glass slippers aren’t for everyone.

Gretel on Her Own by Elna Holst – This time around, Gretel Kindermann is on her own. Or is she?

Bremen Town Musicians by Mark Lesney – Loss and love on the road to Bremen Town.

The Scent of Magic by N.J. Romaine – Who can win a hunt against the Big Bad Wolf?

The Rescue by Sam Burns – Saving princesses is hard work. Getting out of marrying them is harder.

Loose in the Heel, Tight in the Toe by Valentine Wheeler – The shoe fits, the prince is won: now what?

Baile de la Marioneta by W.M. Fawkes – No one else can pull his strings.

Blurbs

Green Things Grow from Cinders by A.E. Ross

What if you could walk into a party with the perfect outfit—one that matches the way you feel inside?

For Ash Zermeno, the night of his best friend’s brother’s wedding reception is a hard pass: he’s certainly not going to wear the dress he ordered months ago, and he’s got no other wardrobe options. Forget about the fact that his long-time childhood crush Roman is going to be there. It just ain’t happening, no matter how hard he wishes on it. And he didn’t even wish on it…or did he?

Gretel on Her Own by Elna Holst

Gretel Kindermann has always lived in the little village at the lip of the Schwarzwald forest. But now, her father has moved away, her mother is indefinitely admitted to a private clinic, and her brother Hänsel, oh—

And all because of Margrete Heckscher. That Lebkuchen-making, sugar rush-inducing busybody, whose enthralling niece, lately arrived from Vienna, seems set on tempting poor Gretel out of her last vestiges of sanity… Because, surely, outside of the realm of fairy tales, there can be no such thing as an actual, magic-wielding witch?

Bremen Town Musicians by Mark Lesney

Simon the Donkey, an orphaned peasant boy on a Medieval farm, flees cruel servitude to seek his fortune in his childhood dreams of becoming a performer in the fabled city of Bremen Town. On the road he finds true friendship and finally love in the arms of young Edwin the Hound. They join with two other accidental travelers, Cat the Thief, and Rooster the Maid, conspiring together to survive in a brutal world of robbery and murder, with only the magical saving power of their talents for make believe.

The Scent of Magic by N.J. Romaine

Once upon a time, in a land far far away, a lone huntswoman comes across a traveller in red, walking through an autumn forest in the shadow of a spell-trapped kingdom.

Aletta moved out to the solitary woods to avoid the troubles of her past, but when she meets a young woman travelling alone with nothing but a red-hooded cloak, her sense of duty compels her to offer aid. But nothing is what it seems in the wild backwoods, and both women have secrets with far-reaching ramifications.

Aletta must confront her past and learn to trust herself, lest the hunter become the hunted.

The Rescue by Sam Burns

Brice has come to the dragon’s lair to save poor Princess Primrose, even if he doesn’t want her hand in marriage. The beautiful young man being held captive alongside her is a surprise, and Brice may not want a prize for his chivalry, but he wouldn’t mind taking Aidan home with him.

Loose in the Heel, Tight in the Toe by Valentine Wheeler

Catherine’s life was different before her stepmother took charge of the family. When her father was alive, she’d been the treasured daughter and the heir to his textile empire. Now she’s just her stepmother’s servant.

Prince Heinrich doesn’t want to marry, but as the only heir to the throne, he knows he must. When a mysterious woman at the ball in his honor is completely unimpressed by him, he’s intrigued. Could she be the partner he’s been looking for? And when catastrophe strikes both their lives, how can their arrangement hold together?

Baile de la Marioneta by W.M. Fawkes

José Velásquez has no ideas for his senior project, but when his classmate trades him a giant block of white pine for scrap metal, it’s almost too easy to carve out a fantastic sculpture. From the wood, José pulls the legendary Maya warrior Tecún Umán. It’s José’s best work, but how much credit can he take for the creation of a wooden man who steps off the block on his own? To get through his last exhibition, José must find an artistic voice uniquely his own or risk losing Tecún forever.

While José worries about his senior project, Tecún longs for a chance to experience being human with the man who drew him out of his wooden shell. He’ll do whatever it takes to get a real shot at life, even if that means cutting his strings to dance on his own.

Purchase

NineStar Press | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Kobo

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Release Blitz: Skating Through by Jennifer Cosgrove

Title:  Skating Through

Author: Jennifer Cosgrove

Publisher:  NineStar Press

Release Date: July 2, 2018

Heat Level: 1 – No Sex

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: 70500

Genre: Contemporary YA, BFF, coming of age, coming out, high school, hockey, homophobia, sports, YA

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Synopsis

There are two things Ben Lewis has convinced himself he can never have at the same time: playing hockey and being openly gay. Hockey is looking to be his only choice. Until now. Being captain of the team and starting his senior year of high school is a lot to handle. Throw in a budding friendship with his crush, Marcus, and Ben is faced with deciding if he’s brave enough to take the next step.

Fortunately, courage can come from unexpected places. His BFF Ryan, new friends, and a voice from the past are great assists to his determination to be true to himself and keep playing the game he loves, but will they be enough?

Excerpt

Skating Through
Jennifer Cosgrove © 2018
All Rights Reserved

Chapter One
“There you are.”

A murmured meow was Ben’s answer as Biscuit settled next to him, curling close to his side. He was wide awake. It was still dark outside, the only light in the room coming through the window from the streetlight on the corner. The alarm hadn’t gone off yet, but he’d trained himself to be up at the crack of dawn. He stretched, careful not to disturb the cat, and ran a hand through his hair in an attempt to flatten out the mess. He was in dire need of a haircut. Every year, he decided to grow it out, and every year, he changed his mind as soon as hockey season was on the horizon. It was just too much to deal with under a hockey helmet. Besides, he looked a little ridiculous with long hair.

He stared at the ceiling and let the rare quiet of the house wash over him. Most guys his age would sleep until noon, especially on summer break, but that wasn’t going to happen. The alarm started going off and Ben grabbed for the phone, accidentally knocking it off the nightstand along with his Band of Brothers DVDs and sending Biscuit scurrying away and out the door. He fumbled over the side of the bed, finally snagged the phone, and swiped across the screen to turn off the cheerful beeping.

Maybe he should just give in and go to the rink, get in some early ice time. He sat up and swung his legs over the side of the bed. His dad would probably get up and give him a ride. Ben rose and took a step toward the door. Or he’d tell him to go back to bed—it’s an off day, for god’s sake, Ben. Probably not, then. He shut the door with a click and got back in bed, scrolling through the texts from last night out of habit.

Ryan: he was in the shop again

Ben: …

Ryan: I didn’t say anything

Ryan: I wouldn’t do that

Ben: I know.

Ryan: you’re going to have to talk to him eventually

At that, Ben had put his phone down and gone to bed. Ryan meant well, but he wasn’t ready to deal with that. It just didn’t work that way. Not for him. Not now.

Ben looked at the time and groaned. When the phone beeped again, he turned it completely off and tossed it back onto the nightstand. He thought about getting up anyway but dragged a pillow over his head instead. Sleep deserved another try.

The next time Ben woke up it was to a pounding on his bedroom door that could only be one person. “Cut it out, Bethy!”

“Quit playing with yourself and get up, Benny!” The giggling that followed was cut short when he heard his mom’s voice coming up the stairs, followed by her light footsteps.

“Beth! Leave your brother alone.” A pause. “And don’t be crude.”

Ben rolled his eyes and struggled to sit up. There was a gentle tapping on his door. “Ben, honey?”

“Yeah, Mom.”

The door opened and she peeked in cautiously.

“Remember we’re going to help Gran today.” How could he forget? She’d reminded him every day for the past week. It wasn’t like he was going to suddenly develop amnesia or something. “And we need to leave soon, so if you want breakfast, you’d better get a move on.”

He definitely wanted breakfast. “I’ll be right down.”

“Hurry. The vultures are circling,” she said with a wink and closed the door behind her.

Ben got up, stretched, and rolled his shoulders. He thought about going through the flexibility routine Coach Jordan recommended, but he just didn’t feel like it. It was his day off, and he was going to stick to that. He let his routine slip a bit during the summer, and he’d get enough of a workout moving heavy boxes and furniture, anyway. His grandma was leaving the cold winters of upstate New York to escape to Florida’s warmer climate. She’d laughed when he told her she was a walking, talking cliché.

“That might be true, my love, but I’ll still be the youngest one down there.” It was true. She’d taken early retirement when his grandfather had gotten ill, and now that he’d passed, she had the means to make a move closer to her sister. He was going to miss her.

“Ben?” His mom’s voice floated up the stairs.

He sighed and picked up the DVDs that had fallen down beside the bed and started pulling clothes out so he could tell her, honestly, that he was getting ready.

“Five seconds!”

“Plate’s on the table.”

Ugh. He’d better hurry. He could smell bacon, and either Beth or his dad would have no qualms about stealing it right off his plate. Always the bacon. And today it would be real bacon instead of turkey bacon, so that made it even more tempting. Not that turkey bacon ever stopped them. He felt a twinge of guilt for making his mom fix two different breakfasts most days, but it was something they’d lived with from the time he’d started high school. Ever since he got serious about hockey.

It was all he’d ever wanted to do. He’d known from the first time he stepped out on the ice. He was good at it, and he was lucky to have supportive parents. It hadn’t been easy. The equipment and fees were expensive, and the demanding training and game schedules were always a challenge. But he was never late to practice, and they’d never missed a home game. It would be worth it, he thought. The college scholarship would make a huge difference. He didn’t want his parents to bear all the burden of putting him and his sister through school, not if he could help it.

He pulled on a faded Flyers T-shirt and opened his door, almost tripping over the ball of fluff waiting right outside. “Dammit, Biscuit!” He received a put-upon meow in return as he scooped the cat up in his arms. Biscuit’s rumbling purr was comforting against his chest as he carried him down the stairs. The cat started to squirm as soon as they got to the kitchen, ready to get at the food waiting in his dish.

Ben absently brushed cat hair off his shirt before sitting at the table in front of a plate piled high with eggs, bacon, and fruit. He was just in time because his dad and sister had almost finished their own breakfasts and were already eyeballing his. It was a cheat day, for god’s sake, but they were all vicious when it came to bacon. “Morning.”

Not quite sociable yet, his dad answered with a grunt. He’d be better after his second cup of coffee.

His mom swooped by and ruffled his hair. “You have ten minutes.” Ben ran a hand through his already messy hair and groaned. She narrowed her eyes. “Get a move on.”

He took her at her word and dug in. After he finished, he slurped down coffee and juice and took the extra precaution of downing a glass of water. It was already warm outside, even for August, and it’d be a long sweaty day.

“When do you think we’ll be getting home?” He’d promised Ryan he would go to a party with him tonight. It was a promise that only a best friend could drag out of him. Ben didn’t like parties for the most part, especially ones where there was drinking and other stuff. He knew it made him look like a goody-goody or a stick-in-the-mud or whatever other term Ryan could dream up to tease him with, but he didn’t like to take any chances. He couldn’t put his future in danger, as dramatic as that sounded in his own head.

His mom was digging through her purse for her keys. He let her look for a few seconds before reaching over and plucking them off the hook. She took them with a lopsided smile. “Sorry, what did you say?”

Ben rolled his eyes with a grin. She knew his practice schedule better than he did, but could never keep up with her keys. “What time do you think we’ll be back?”

“Why? Got a hot date or something?”

Ben grimaced behind her back. There was a lot she didn’t know about him, especially in that respect. He opened the front door and gestured for her to go ahead.

“Nah. Ryan talked me into going to a thing at someone’s house. Holtsy’s girlfriend’s?” He didn’t think she’d have a problem with him going to a party, but he didn’t want to have to answer a lot of questions. Plus, she loved Ryan.

She gave him an odd look before unlocking the car. She knew he didn’t like parties. “We should be back in plenty of time. You want to drive there or back?”

He’d had his driver’s license for only two weeks and was still nervous behind the wheel. It hadn’t helped that he’d put off learning how to drive until this summer, right before his senior year. The only reason he finally relented was because he’d be off to college soon, and his dad pointed out they wouldn’t be there to drive him to practice or class. So Ben had sucked it up and decided to learn. Driving still scared the hell out of him, though.

“Back.” The traffic would be lighter at least.

“All right.” They had a brief squabble over the radio that his mom won, before heading out. It was just the two of them, as Beth would be coming later with their dad after running some errands. “But no trying to get out of it this time.”

Ben shook his head and smiled out the window. “I won’t.”

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Meet the Author

Jennifer has always been a voracious reader and a well-established geek from an early age. She loves comics, movies, and anything that tells a compelling story.

When not writing, she likes knitting, dissecting/arguing about movies with her husband, and enjoying the general chaos that comes with having kids.

Website | Twitter

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Release Blitz: Chance by Archie Hellshire

Title:  Chance

Series: Graphene, Book One

Author: Archie Hellshire

Publisher:  NineStar Press

Release Date: July 2, 2018

Heat Level: 1 – No Sex

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: 26600

Genre: Contemporary, comedy, thriller, gay

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Synopsis

Daniel has spent his life traveling down the same well-worn path, safe inside a prison of his own making, with tomorrow promising no difference from yesterday. Then, one unremarkable morning, he meets someone who throws his life completely off the rails. All he knows about Nathan when he first sees him is that he’s beautiful, but it’s enough to get him to board the wrong train instead of going to the office.

This one careless step off the beaten path has unexpected consequences, as the mysterious passenger is being pursued by a cadre of mercenaries after the parcel he’s tasked with delivering safely to the other side of the city. Daniel has never considered himself brave, or strong, or fast, and he doesn’t come prepared for this fight, but at the right place, at the right time, someone can do the right thing and be a hero for a victim in distress.

Together, staying just out of reach of their pursuers and narrowly escaping tight spaces, they make their way to the delivery point. And as the journey wears on, they learn more about what’s in the parcel they’re carrying, and what it means for the world if they can’t deliver it.

Excerpt

Chance
Archie Hellshire © 2018
All Rights Reserved

The progress of the human race has not been pioneered by individuals overly preoccupied with safety. All the advancements of our people can be attributed to a ragtag assortment of gamblers with more courage than sense, diving headfirst into danger, compelled by the faintest chance of a payout, armed only with a devil-may-care attitude and maniacal laughter.

Somewhere in the world today, in a lab dimly lit by a pile of burning grant money, a madcap physicist is working into the wee hours of the morning, trying to turn a lump of coal into unlimited energy. Though we may scoff at his wishful thinking, it was not so long ago that our disdain was aimed at a pair of bike-shop owners who branched out into making the first aeroplane.

Before that, it was a hobbyist who decided to use new-fangled electricity to send messages across whole countries in the mere twinkling of an eye.

But it was before that, it was a sailor who tried to sail to the world’s edge and found North America instead.

But it was before even that, it was an apothecary who wondered if mucking about with a corpse might yield medical insight.

But it was far before even that, it was one of the nomads of old who decided to try planting crops instead of chasing mastodon across the continent to ward off starvation.

But it was before all of them, it was an ancient ancestor who made the controversial decision to play with fire.

Inspiring as their achievements are, for every success story, there are hundreds of gambles that met with total flaming failure. Understanding this, the bulk of humanity has, throughout history, chosen to build on the progress of others, well insulated from any risk to themselves. These people are comforted by the predictability of their lives. They benefit from the way things are and fear what they might lose if the rules of the game were to change. They have created for themselves a system of numerical precision, wherein all carefully selected actions lead inevitably to a foregone conclusion, and reaching your goal is only a matter of time and planning. These people are gamblers of a different kind; they have a system, but no matter how carefully they play the game, something can still come along to flip the board.

This story is about how the board was flipped, the gambler who played with fire, the orthodoxy who built their empire on the status quo, and the innocent people who got swept up in the tide and had to decide which side they were on.

Daniel Wyn opened his eyes at 6:30 a.m., mere seconds before his alarm went off. He had been getting up at the same time every morning for years and his biology had fallen into the steady rhythm.

He reached his hand out from under the covers and tapped the screen of his phone to silence his alarm as it started. While the thoughts of his waking mind were, as yet, unformed, he took in his bedroom around him. Sunlight filtered in through the sheer curtains illuminating four walls, bare of any pictures and with one flat-screen mounted opposite his bed. An orderly desk sat in one corner. On it lay his briefcase, packed and ready for work. A two-piece suit hung on the door of his closet, set out from the night before.

Comforted by the familiar surroundings of his bedroom, his mind gradually ramped into higher gear and queued up his morning tasks. He swung his legs out of bed to deal with the most pressing matter on the list.

After flushing the loo, he divested himself of his pajamas and stepped into his shower stall. The warm water cascading down his slim, toned body brought further clarity. As he worked the shampoo through his wavy brown hair, the different parts of his consciousness whirred into action after a night’s rest and began the work of assembling his schedule for today. Every duty, every task, every errand was carefully examined, tagged with a magnitude of importance, and weighed against all the other demands with each risk and reward noticed and noted. The steady dance of numbers that constituted Daniel’s worldview, a complex and harmonious rhythm, like the delicate inner workings of a clock, had fully powered up.

Wiping the layer of steam off his bathroom mirror, he shaved himself clean and appraised his appearance. Brown eyes stared back at him from his pale face. He reached up and gave a small swipe at a mole on his cheekbone with his fingertips, wondering, as he did every morning, if it looked like skin cancer.

Once back in his bedroom, he took his suit off the hook and dressed himself. This suit was one of three identical suits he had, indistinguishable right down to his underwear. He buttoned his top collar button, neglecting to put on his tie, since he didn’t own one; he felt that was inviting strangulation. He grabbed his briefcase, but before leaving his bedroom, straightened up his bed. He repositioned his pillow and pulled up the comforter on the side he slept. He cast a fleeting glance at the other side of his mattress, unmolested and empty, as it was every morning.

Once in the kitchen, he made himself breakfast, the exact contents of which he had decided at the beginning of the month as part of the regimen that insured he had all the necessary vitamins, minerals, and nutrients suggested by his dietician, who really wished that Daniel would stop calling him every month.

He turned on the morning news as he prepared his oatmeal and was greeted with validation of his constant paranoia.

“Late last evening,” the anchorwoman began to a backdrop of a smoking building, “an unknown number of assailants broke in to the Physics Building at the University of Northumberland. According to initial reports by the FBI, they planted and detonated a number of incendiary devices.

“No one has, as yet, taken credit for this attack, which the FBI is hesitant to label as terrorism, and they have not yet released numbers for any injuries or fatalities. We could not reach Physics Chair, Professor Geim, for comment. Now for the weather…”

At 6:45 a.m., food successfully ingested and dishes cleaned, he left his apartment, locked the door behind him, and headed to the neighborhood subway station. On the subway car, he diligently avoided making eye contact with any of his fellow commuters and touching any surface more than was absolutely necessary.

By 7:30 a.m., he was at his desk at work, half an hour early, just as he had done every workday going back several years to when he had slid seamlessly out of college into his job doing risk analysis at an insurance company.

There, Daniel was completely in his element. The cogs of his mind wound through the numerical data related to all the ways things could go horribly wrong and indexed them appropriately. It was work that was, for Daniel, both rewarding and life affirming.

“Hey, Dan,” said his neighbor, as he poked his head over the cubicle wall.

Daniel looked up from the report he was reading on space debris.

“You won the office pool.” He reached over the wall to hand Daniel a small wad of bills. “The new intern lasted exactly four months. I don’t know how you do it.”

“I noticed he had specialized in game theory rather than economics…” started Daniel in a quiet baritone. But his coworker had already walked on. Daniel turned back to the report he was reading, relieved he wouldn’t have to carry on a conversation.

Daniel was making up a spreadsheet to display the relative risk of being hit by space debris as they fell out of orbit when he was interrupted by the department manager.

“Mr. Wyn,” said a lady carrying a thin file folder, “We’ve been given a high-priority case from upstairs.” She handed him the folder.

He opened it to find a single sheet with a heading and several bullets.

“We need you to document the risks of electric cars.” She summarized for him.

He looked up from the folder, brow furrowed in confusion.

“The risk wouldn’t be any different from standard gas-powered cars,” he said. “You could actually remove all the risk factors associated with combustible fuels.” It was something an intern could do…if they still had one.

She stared at him for a beat, then looked around to see if there was anyone within range. She leaned in and lowered her voice to a conspiratorial murmur.

“One of the directors on the board also sits on the board of Texas Petroleum,” she explained. “He wants the company to charge higher premiums for electric cars, so we have to make them seem dangerous to justify it.”

Daniel gave a nod of understanding, and she left. Shrugging off the feeling that he was prostituting himself, he looked up information on electric cars and electrocutions.

Two hours later, the scariest thing he could find about electric cars was that they were going to cost him his job. He was pouring over a report on the toxicity of lithium batteries when one of the cogs of his consciousness gave an unsettling vibration. He looked up from his monitor and focused on the sensation; the intuitive feeling that something disruptive had just entered his orderly existence. He peeked over the edge of his cubicle to find the source of his discomfort. A shock of white hair, just barely clearing the other cubicles, made its way over to him.

He sat back down and leaned close to his monitor, not reading the words on the screen but staring very deliberately.

“Tryin’ to look busy isn’t gonna fool me.” The voice was feminine but with rough edges from being used for a lifetime. “Even if I thought you were busy, it wouldn’t stop me.”

He stared resolutely at his screen, unblinking, holding his breath.

“Ignorin’ me won’t work either,” the voice continued. At the same time, a massive handbag was plopped down on his keyboard.

All his strategies thwarted, he finally looked up to see the woman with coiffed white hair. Wrinkles on her face spoke of a lifetime of grinning mischievously. Two dark eyes that had seen a lot of hardship and sorrow, mostly of her own making, looked him over.

“Hello, Mildred,” said Daniel in his low voice, which now had a hint of a smile.

“Hey, Danny Boy,” she said. “What are you doin’?”

“Researching the dangers of—”

“I was just at the mailroom.” She cut him off. “The guy says they don’t mail things any more. What’s the deal with that?”

“They farmed mailing service out to a third party,” said Daniel, reaching into one of his drawers and pulling out a business card. He gave it a cursory look and handed it to her. “We started a business account with a specialty courier service to save money.”

“Trans-Commute,” she said, reading the card. “So, I have to walk all the way to their office downtown. Why is it every time they save money I do more work? And get paid less?”

Daniel shrugged, hoping not to get too involved in the subject. It wasn’t that he didn’t like Mildred, but meeting her was always a bit jarring, even for an adventurous person.

Mildred was a resident investigator for the company. She had a long successful career tracking down information, stolen property, and people in hiding. Her continued employment was guaranteed by her high success rate and the mysterious disappearance of the HR manager who insisted that eighty-seven was well passed mandatory retirement age.

“Well, thanks for this,” she said, holding up the card before she slipped it in her handbag. “Now, take me to lunch.”

“It’s only eleven thirty,” he said, following her anyway as she made her way to the elevators. “Lunch is scheduled for twelve.”

“That’s a whole thirty minutes away,” she said. “At my age, you can’t be sure if you have that much time.”

“If you don’t have that much time, does it matter if you’re full?” asked Daniel.

“Yes,” she quipped, “it does.”

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Meet the Author

Archie Hellshire is an author with aspirations of being able to write. He was born in the Caribbean where he developed a love of nature, the metric system, and high temperatures. In school, lacking any athletic or social ability, he became a very bookish person, indulging in the works of Douglas Adams, Terry Pratchett, JK Rowling, and Charles Dodgson. Despite being well read, he struggled with dyslexia and would forever remain horrible at spelling. The advent of Spell Checker reignited his dreams of becoming an author.

Archie grew up in a family and culture that was not tolerant of homosexuals, and he spent his entire young life in the closet, retreating into his books and a rich fantasy life. In the theater of his mind, the romances he read could be edited to be male couples. He dreamed of one day writing his own stories and living his own happy ending. Find the author on Twitter.

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