Excerpt and Sweepstakes: Return of the Lycan King: (Book #3: Darren and Cassandra) by Candace Blackburn

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Darren chases Cass to Ireland, determined to make up for his mistakes. When they return to North Carolina to build their lives together, nothing is the same. Darren has already fought to convince Cass to give him a chance, but a new Monarchy is just the beginning of the changes to the Lycan Kingdom. Secrets and challenges to Darren’s crown emerge, and his inner circle closes ranks, to protect their Kingdom, and to make sure the newly-returned Lycan King keeps his crown.

Excerpt from Return of the Lycan King: (Book #3: Darren and Cassandra):

Liam’s completion of flight training had rather fortuitous timing. Liam was one of the members of Lex’s security team before Darren moved in. Darren snagged the other Lycan on the way to the airport with the subtle threat to “move your ass and don’t breathe a word to anyone.” Darren looked out the window of the Konstantine jet and didn’t see ocean, but he didn’t know how close they were to Dublin Airport.

Reading Liam’s thoughts would have been easy enough, if Darren hadn’t happily discovered that he could block that ability. So, he hadn’t been subjected to the “have you lost your fucking mind” lecture that Liam likely received from Lex. Or the “you let anything happen to him, I’ll kill you, myself” that undoubtedly followed said lecture.

Darren spent the entirety of the flight thinking of his mate. The pain in her voice, on her face, and the tears in her eyes, all as a result of Darren not claiming her. Pain, he had his own. Not claiming her was a physical, mental hell–it was pain from head to toe. But, he had reasoned that he’d rather live with that pain, than put Cass through one second of his impressive–or not–collection of screw-ups. Not to mention, all the bullshit that came with being King.

I’d rather cut off my own head than cause her pain like I saw that day.

Which is why they were over European airspace, because Cass was in Ireland. She left to escape him.

Because seeing me hurt her.

“Darren, we’re ten minutes out from Dublin.”

Liam’s voice cleared his guilt-filled thoughts. He ran his hands through his hair and realized he needed to go splash some water on his face. “Thanks.”

“No problem.”

A minute later, he stood in front of the mirror and frowned. One of his buddies in college looked like he was in a perpetual hangover. Darren’s roommate used to tease the guy, telling him that he looked like he’d been ridden hard and put away wet. That saying pretty much summed up the reflection in the mirror.

Maybe I should stop off and get a haircut, buy a new shirt and jeans.

He probably would do that, if it didn’t take much time. His primary objective was to find Cass and get them back to the plane as soon as possible. Hell, he might as well tell Liam to file a return flight plan for, what, five hours from now? Yeah, that should do it. He hated the thought of claiming his mate in the bedroom on the plane, but damned if he was going to wait to get back to Raleigh. And, they wouldn’t be in Ireland for very long. Oh no. In and out, that was his plan. They’d be back in no time.

***

Liam kept up with Darren’s footsteps, barely.

“Still don’t understand why you wouldn’t want another beer. That may have been the best I’ve ever had. We should take a European beer tasting trip, just for comparison, though. German ales are pretty damned good.” They’d only gone in the last bar because Darren caught Cass’s scent.

“Not interested.” Glancing around the crowded Temple Bar section of Dublin, Darren wondered why Cass would be there. She was private, definitely not the type to hang out in tourist spots.

“Or we could just stay here and sample whiskey. All the whiskey.”

Technically, that didn’t sound like too bad of a plan, if he weren’t searching for his missing mate. “You should get on your knees and thank God that you can’t get cirrhosis.”

Liam snorted just as Darren thought he’d, again, picked up on Cass’s scent. He froze mid stride and almost took out a group of people. Peering inside the closest bar, he inhaled deeply and looked for her glossy black hair. Nada.

Shit.

Darren turned, making a complete circle so he could visualize everything around him. His frustration was growing. Cass was so close, and he needed to see her. Feel her. Wrap her in his arms. Drop to his knees and apologize for being a colossal ass. Spend the next century begging her forgiveness. Then spend the rest of his life making her happy.

The sounds of barf splattering the pavement shook him out of his thoughts.

“This”–he pointed down at the moaning human in front of him–“is what all the whiskey gets you.”

Liam glanced down with disdain as they stepped around the human. “Not me.” He waved a negligent hand. “Higher tolerance and all that.”

“Mmm hmm.” Looking around, again, Darren barely restrained a growl. Cass’s scent grew fainter, and he was no damned closer to finding her.

Going to lose my motherfucking mind.

Material brushed his arm, and Darren snarled as his head snapped around. “Hey, do you mind holding my jacket while I tie my shoe?”

What the fuck? Darren snatched the jacket and Liam bent, after casting a pointed glare toward Darren’s hands. Claws had already punched through the tips, and if he were a betting person, he’d put money on his eyes glowing. Taking a deep breath and closing his eyes, he slipped on his polarized Ray Bans, covered both fists with the jacket and willed himself to calm.

“No problem.”

Biggest white lie ever. If Darren spent two more seconds out there without Liam’s assistance, he’d likely have shifted and torn a bloody path through the Temple Bar district.

They needed to get out of public, check into a room and Darren needed to sleep off any jet lag. Then come sunrise, he’d try again.

Liam stood and cast a worried glance at Darren. “Okay?”

Not in the slightest. “Fine. Let’s get something to eat, go find a room, and search again tomorrow.”

Liam almost seemed to slouch in relief. “Sounds good. We’ll hit the roads in the morning.”

He confirmed that with a small nod. And I’ll spend another sleepless night without her.

Copyright © 2018 Candace Blackburn

About the author and where to find her:

image1Candace makes her home in North Carolina with her high school sweetheart husband and their two sons.  She’s an indie author who has published two previous romances (with a bit of fantasy in each), Tristan’s Redemption and Nate’s Forgiveness.  Her current works are all paranormal romance (her favorite genre to read!) and are set in her home state.  She loves coffee, cold weather, the Boston Red Sox, the Carolina Panthers, and hearing from fans.

Website  |  Facebook  |  Twitter  |  Goodreads  |  Amazon

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Excerpt and Sweepstakes: Christmas in Prague by Rick Pyrll

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Christmas in Prague is the story of Joseph, a divorced American twenty-something living as an expat in Prague. He’s obsessed with Karina, a Czech waitress-turned-supermodel. She’s freshly back from a trip to Italy with her English teacher, and she’s ready to give Joseph the attention for which he’s been longing. Will his Christmas wish come true?

Excerpt from Christmas in Prague:

After soup, we have Buck’s vánočka, sweet bread with apricots and raisins that have been soaked in hot brandy for days. I am not a huge fan, but I have a taste to prove that I am game. Next comes the fried carp with bramborovy salat. As the dishes are being served, Avi tells a story, an earlier expat Christmas at Beth’s apartment, the one that Kamil took after she left.
“I walk in and there she is, Beth, on her knees. Dressed in a white plastic apron, dishwashing gloves and lab goggles. The dish washing gloves were purple. On the floor were a rubber mallet, various rusting knives with wooden handles, and a pair of yellow gardening shears laid out on newspaper. There was blood all over. She was digging out guts, clipping off fins and the tail. Bits of guts and fish and blood were everywhere. Splattered all over the white tile. It looks like a massacre. She stuffed the offal in a plastic bag. It said Kotva on it. She stood up – bag in one hand, carp head in the other. She slipped in the blood on the floor and caught herself. The head kept mouthing, looking down. Beth looked at me, my mouth hanging open. She said, ‘What?’ I told her I would help her clean up. It was hilarious.” The potato salad is very tasty, but the carp is pungent. It is cooked to perfection, there’s nothing that could have been done better, but it is just a dark and smelly fish. No getting around it. I eat a couple of bites, wash it down with beer and move on. Whew.
Brad speaks up. “Barbora, can you ask your babička why carp for Christmas? I know it is a tradition, but why?” Barbora smiles and leans toward her grandmother, translating.
Barbora answers, “She says it is for good luck. You know in Slovakia and Poland they have the same tradition. Buy a carp at the Christmas Market, and it becomes a family pet for a few days, living in the bathtub. Some people ask the fish monger to cut the filets right there on Old Town Square, but the real way to do it is to bring it home and butcher it yourself.”

About the author and where to find him:

Rick Pryll is an award-winning author and poet. His book, “The Chimera of Prague” was selected as the winner of the 2018 New York Book Festival for Romance. A graduate of MIT, Rick wrote a novella as the thesis for his Mechanical Engineering degree. Having grown up in Western New York State, Rick and his wife, ArtPop Charlotte 2018 artist Holly Spruck, live in Charlotte.  They have two children, two cats and a dog. First published to the web in 1994, his hyperfiction short story “LIES” has garnered praise from the Wall Street Journal, SHIFT magazine, and several other publications in print and online.  It is cited in more than seven books, has been translated into Spanish and Chinese.  From 1996 to 2002 Rick lived in Prague, in the Czech Republic.  While there he published two books including Displaced (Foolishness Press, 1998) and Wallow (Foolishness Press, 1999).  His stories and poems have been featured on the pages of THINK and OPTIMISM.

 

Spotlight: Pillow Talk by Brittany Holland

 

Title: Pillow Talk

Author: Brittany Holland
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Release Date: December 7, 2018
Falling for him was never part of the arrangement, neither was sharing his bed… but I’m doing both. And now the sheets aren’t the only thing tangled between us.

Brittany Holland is a Starbucks drinking, Spotify addicted, self-proclaimed binge reader. Her love of reading and an active imagination inspired her to pursue her dream of writing. While creating drama for her characters and burning up the pages with chemistry, she survives on Haribo gummy bears and dark chocolate.  A lover of fairy tales and a believer in true love, Holland always gives her characters a HEA… but not before subjecting them to a little heartbreak and a whole lot of angst; unraveling a few secrets along the way.  When she’s not penning happily ever afters with a modern twist, she enjoys traveling with her husband and two children, dabbling in photography and binge watching Netflix.
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Excerpt and Sweepstakes: The Witch of the Prophecy by Victoria Jayne

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The Witch of ProphesyDivina’s had it with the prophecy. 

The vampire whose heart beats for a witch that belongs to a wolf shall save us all. He shall take his throne and rule over all kinds. If not, the vampire who belongs to the witch will end all kinds.

Divina’s not convinced the prophecy is about her. Her manipulative vampire ex-boyfriend, Rori, is reluctant to give up his love for her to pursue the throne. Meanwhile, the wolf shifter meant to claim Divina doesn’t believe in the prophecy. However, he does believe Divina is his mate.

With the pressures of the prophecy and the most powerful coven in the present-day United States, Divina is left to choose between complying with the prophecy and mating with Aric—or leaving it all behind to allow the catastrophic possibility of supernatural beings getting exposed to humans.

Excerpt from The Witch of the Prophecy:

“Pay attention,” she snapped. “You don’t need power, just Divina,” she spoke simply. “You don’t need the council seat, just your witch.”

Tightening his mouth into a firm line, Rori considered her words. The witches could be testing him. Through this manipulation, this appearance of Ines, they could be testing his resolve to sacrifice love for the throne, for the good of all kinds.

“If I do that then I will be the one to end us all,” he said, wary of Ines’ intentions.

Ines shook her head. “You have no desire to do such a thing,” she pointed out. “How could you end us if you don’t want to?”

She coughed again harder and longer this time. She looked at her hand and cursed before wiping it on the woolen blanket she held close around her.

“They are forcing you into a place you’re not meant to be, Roricus. You have to follow your heart, now that it beats. Don’t let the witches make you a puppet,” she said urgently.

He regarded her with a sideways glance. Her sickly form shivered under the blanket.

“What did they do to you?” he asked again.

With words in direct conflict with not only Esmine’s but Ines’ own words, Rori questioned her motive. Add her withering appearance, and it felt wrong.

With a tight-lipped frown Rori pondered his previous idea of her presence being a test by the Ember Witches; a test to his commitment to the throne. The more she talked, the more Rori felt the witches were pushing him toward the sacrifice.

She turned away from him. She tried to get up, but the witch lacked the strength and fell back down.

“Love, Roricus. Love is what you need to fight the prophecy,” she rasped.

Rori clenched his teeth. The manipulations needed to stop. His nostrils flared as his frustrations grew. The incessant games of the Ember Witches, of this witch, was enough to drive a lesser man crazy.

“They cast you out,” he surmised. “Did they strip you as well?” he asked.

She said nothing.

However, her trembling increased and the blanket slipped from her shoulder revealing her state of emaciation. She bowed her head and displayed just how thin her once lush red hair had become. She refused to lift it to him or, perhaps, she lacked the strength.

“Divina is to take your seat isn’t she?” Rori further concluded.

Silence.

“You went against the witches knowing that it was your seat up for grabs,” Rori said.

He breathed in sharply with the belief he knew Ines’ true intentions. He closed his eyes, trying to push down the bloom of rage growing and spreading in his chest. When he opened them again, the world was tinged red.

“You are here to sabotage—”

Ines sprang up interrupting his words. The blanket fell to her feet and exposed her skeletal body with clothing dangling from her. Sores covered her gray skin. Her eyes lacked the shine and youth they had the first time she promised him power.

Cold radiated off her and crept over Rori’s skin.

“I went against my coven for what is right!” she hissed. “I went against my coven for love,” she declared. “For your love, for Percival’s love! For Divina and Selene!”

Her bony fingers gripped his forearms. The sharp digits dug into the muscular flesh of Rori’s arms, threatening to pierce through with a strength he didn’t realize she possessed. She shook as all her energy appeared concentrated on her hold on him.  

 “You are not fit for the council, Roricus,” she seethed. “You lack the age and the commitment. It is meant for Percival. The coven fears Selene’s devotion to her vampire.”

“You were the one who said I could have power,” Rori said through gritted teeth.

The chill forced its way through his body stemming from her hands wrapped around his arms.

“I lied,” she said. Releasing Rori’s arms she hung her head and shrunk back into her blanket. “I’m not proud of it. I did it for my coven. But, my coven is wrong.” She peered up at him with wide eyes. The fury gone from them, sadness took its place. “They can’t tamper with what is meant to be. And what is meant to be is you and Divina, your love,” she said as her voice cracked.

She took a deep breath, obviously tired from the energy it took to speak of such things in her weakened state.

“You can have love. You will, if you chose Divina. The throne is meant for Percival. The seat is meant for Selene. The coven wants to change that but they shouldn’t.” As she spoke, she collapsed into a heap between the two planters.

Crouching, Rori reached out for the arms of the witch. When he gripped her, she howled in pain. Rori held her frail limbs and shook her. The tortured woman wailed as the skin on her arms ripped in his hands.

He pulled back, letting her go. His eyes widened and his mouth fell open in horror seeing the bits of flesh stuck to his fingers and palms.

Rori flicked his attention to the pained witch. She crumbled flat to the floor.

“Go to your witch, Roricus. Chase your love. Don’t let them strip you too,” she sobbed.

Amazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Amazon AU | Barnes & Noble | iTunes | Kobo

About the author and where to find her:

Victoria JayneGrowing up on the Jersey Shore, Victoria was an insatiable reader. She adored getting lost in the worlds others created for her. During her early teen years she enjoyed the works of R.L. Stein and S.E. Hinton. As she got older, she drifted into the worlds provided for her by Anne Rice, Suzanne Wright, J.D. Tyler, Joanna Wylde, Cherise Sinclair, Dianne Duvall, and Elisabeth Naughton, to name a few. These writers spawned her love affair with both the romance genre and the world of the supernatural.

Victoria started writing as a hobby while still in high school. Now her days are spent writing, enjoying time with her husband, and her two children. She still lives in New Jersey. Victoria is a New Jersey Devils Hockey fan, an avid SecondLife Roleplayer, and a Netflix binge watcher.

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Excerpt: Conduits by J. Ryan Sommers

 photo Conduits_FinalCover_zpshc6nrwde.jpgIt exists in a long-forgotten corner of the American dream.

Green Valley County is home to murders and heroes, ghosts and jinxes, gods, devils, and even a pygmy Big Foot.

But the biggest menace is Jinx Jenkins and the string of bad luck he bestows upon the townsfolk.

Can the good people of Green Valley overcome this one man’s curse?

If you love the classic comic and magical realism, you’ll lose yourself in this piece of Americana.

Become a citizen of the City by the Shore and see how seemingly random occurrences come to shape an entire civilization.

Magical Realism

Date Published: December 3, 2018

Publisher: Transmudane Press, LLC

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Excerpt from Conduits:

MILLENNIAL
Once, a poor, old woman lived in the foothills of Green Valley. Made old by the circumstances of her life. Mary Foster was known the county over as The Human Incubator, as she had been pregnant for the last 257 months.
Her pregnancy went as any pregnancy might. She received regular ultrasounds, took vitamins, and kept away from cigarettes and alcohol—save the occasional glass of wine.
Everything appeared to be right on schedule until her due date. Yet the baby never came. The doctors told her to be patient because these things sometimes happen.
So, she waited.
But the baby never came. When seven days passed without any change, the doctors decided to induce. To their surprise, the child held tight. The only course of action was to retrieve the child through C-section. The doctors put Mary under and sliced her open. The lead surgeon put his hands inside and was shocked to feel a bite.
A tiny hand came out and extended a middle finger.
The doctors had a single option: sew Mary back up. The child did not wish to be born. And so, the baby never came.
Holidays passed, children grew tall and strong, and Mary remained pregnant. Her life was thrown out of whack. And as the months and years ticked by and the child inside her grew, she found herself incapacitated. Soon, the burden grew too large for her to walk, and she needed to be wheeled around. Her diet changed, as did her bathroom schedule. She sold all of her normal clothes and spent a fortune on muumuus—the only thing that fit her belly. But worst of all, consumed with pain, she hardly attained a few hours of broken sleep each night. Mary was forced to move in to a nursing home where they tended to her needs.
The father was a one-night stand, a passing traveler on his way out west. She’d never got his name, let alone a number to reach him, but he might as well have not existed at all. Nonetheless, Mary habitually pictured and cursed his face. After a while, though, even his face faded, and she was left with a melting pot of emotions. Hatred and fear and anxiety and discomfort and frustration and happiness and love and lots and lots of pain.
At first, she referred to the baby as It. But after a while, Mary saw fit to give the child a name, so she called him Junior.
Junior aged within Mary, siphoning away her youth. Middle age brought her liver spots and wrinkles. Her skin grew thin and her eyes weary.
Hope had left her.
When the last drop of life was suckled and nothing was left for Junior to reap, the baby finally came. Fully grown with teeth and hair and a beard, Mary awoke one morning to find Junior at the foot of her bed. Despite his appearance, he had the mental capacity of an infant.
Mary spoon-fed him, scooping up the spittle and shoveling it back into his man-sized mouth. She changed his diapers and clothes and even gave him baths. And in spite of all her newfound hardship, Mary had never been so happy.
At last, she was able to stand and walk on her own—a thing she’d dreamt of whenever she did sleep. She could drink alcohol again. And although she never smoked cigarettes before, she started up, just because she could.
She had her body back.
Junior relied on his mother for everything. She cooked and cleaned and earned the money despite his fully capable body. For he was naïve to the ways of the world and, like any child, assumed all the world to be his juvenile right.
One day, old and withered and drained, Mary grew ill. She needed Junior to take care of her.
The man pouted and kicked and cried and cursed.
Dishes piled high, and clothes grew in heaps, soiled and stained. An odor fell about the place so foul, not even Junior could deny it.
At last, he realized the weight he must bear, so Junior picked up a spoon and fed his mother the way she once did for him.
He ventured out into the world and discovered, ever so harshly, that the world was not immediately his. Rather, it was up to him to earn his way and stake his claim. He found work, and in time, an appreciation for his mother took hold. Resentment gone, he realized Mary, with all her hardship, always did the best she could. And wasn’t that all anyone could ever ask?
The day came when Mary finally died, old and gray with a smile on her face and Junior at her side.

About the author and where to find him:

 photo 10446570-10100736183120327-4616790942525536776-n_orig_zpssnpmys7k.jpgJ. Ryan Sommers has an MFA in creative writing from Columbia College Chicago. He and his wife recently left the windy city and relocated to Houston where Sommers teaches and continues to write. Sommers has been writing stories since he was a kid. He found it to be an escape at one of the most difficult times of his life, his childhood.

 
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Excerpt and Sweepstakes: T.A. by Jamie Begley

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TA Version 1 eBookCuffing season was supposed to be about finding a hook-up to keep her warm during the cold Kentucky winter nights. T.A. wasn’t looking for Mr. Right; she just wanted Mr. Available. 
That was before she met Dalton Andrews. The widower was nursing a broken heart, and the only thing he wanted was a woman to take his grown kids’ minds off worrying about him. 

It was supposed to be a trade-off—he would keep her warm and toasty during the nights, and she would put up a smokescreen in front of his kids during the days. It was a win-win situation.
That was until the famous actor decided he wanted out of the deal and Mr. Available was a no-show during the biggest snowstorm of the year.

Poor schmuck didn’t realize that all the drama he had experienced in Tinseltown was nothing compared to dealing with this bitch.

TA Teaser 2

Excerpt from T.A.:

“Are you politely asking if I’ve ever gone to big cities before?” she teased. “It might surprise you the places I’ve been.”

“Try me.”

“Baby, don’t tempt me.” Joking, she smiled at him, only to see him shooting an uncomfortable look back at her.

“T.A., I don’t want you to get the impression that we’re going to be more than friends.”

Her enthusiasm took a nose dive as if she had jumped off a cliff, and instead of the cool water rushing up to meet her, she hit the rocky bottom, and the only thing left was her splattered remains.

“Tell me what you really think, Dalton,” she murmured derisively. She wasn’t going to take his shit when she was the one who had gotten up in the middle of the night to help his conceited ass out. “First, you act like I’m a hillbilly hick who’s never been out of Kentucky before, then you act like I’m going to feel you up in the front seat when I’m joking around. If this is how the next two days are going to be, you can pull a u-ey and take me back to the airport. I can still make it back to Kentucky and spend Christmas with people who know how to have a good fucking time.”

She tensed when he expertly turned the steering wheel to enter a shopping center. Stopping the car, he unbuckled his seat belt to turn sideways in his seat.

“I don’t think you’re a hillbilly. I actually think you’re a lot smarter than you pretend to be. Secondly,” he snapped out, “the only reason I said anything is because I’m trying like hell not to hurt you, T.A.” His hand reached out, cupping her check. “I really like you. Probably more than I should.”

Her lips trembled at his admission. “Then what’s the problem? I like you too.”

“The problem is, I feel like I’m cheating on Oceane every time I fucking look at you.”

She rubbed her cheek against the palm of his hand like a kitten wanting to be stroked. “That must be a bummer for you.”

His eyes fell to her lips. “You have no idea.”

T.A. licked her bottom lip. “Try me.”

Dalton gave a ragged groan as his lips lowered to hers. “Jesus, stop me…”

Jesus must not have stopped him because his mouth covered hers. Being kissed by Dalton was as hot as she dreamed it would be, but it was so much, much more than she expected it to be.

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About the author and where to find her:

Jamie Begley PhotoI was born in a small town in Kentucky. My family began poor, but worked their way to owning a restaurant. My mother was one of the best cooks I have ever known, and she instilled in all her children the value of hard work, and education.

​Taking after my mother, I’ve always loved to cook, and became pretty good if I do say so myself. I love to experiment and my unfortunate family has suffered through many. They now have learned to steer clear of those dishes. I absolutely love the holidays and my family puts up with my zany decorations.

For now, my days are spent writing, writing, and writing. I have two children, my daughter is also an author, and my son just tries not to blush when someone asks him about my books.

All my books are written for one purpose- the enjoyment others find in them, and the expectations of my fans that inspire me to give it my best.

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Spotlight: The Tiger’s Tale (The Undercover Cats Series) by Kelle Z. Riley

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Is she hitting her stride? Or going nowhere fast?

Fresh from a successful undercover operation, scientist/spy-in-training Bree Watson should feel on top of the world. Instead, the ground is shifting under her feet. When her handler abandons her to follow a lead with his sexy ex-partner, Bree must choose between a normal life, or proving her worth as a spy. Not an easy choice, when she factors in:

  • A police detective’s amorous intentions
  • Her handler’s mixed signals
  • A teaching post at a university filled with intrigue
  • A dead administrator with a sordid past
  • A timid tiger and her tenacious trainer—both being framed for murder

Combined with fanatic football fans, beatnik poets, an orphaned monkey, a demanding boss, quirky colleagues, and her angry cat, the result may be a recipe for disaster.

Can she take the heat? Or will she get burned?

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Out January 15, 2019 – The Tiger’s Tale by Kelle Z. Riley

Pre-Order now to get an exclusive short story, Busted at Bingo!

Enter your pre-order information here to receive your short story: https://goo.gl/forms/5GJlzRFfkGwDXafL2

Visit Kelle Z. Riley on Facebook and find out how you can win The Tiger’s Tale swag.

About the author and where to find her:

RJR_2662 - CopyKelle Z. Riley, writer, speaker, global traveler, Ph.D. chemist and martial artist weaves bits of her real life into the Undercover Cat Series books. The series features a scientist-turned-sleuth who juggles mystery, romance and the search for a perfect cupcake recipe.

By day Kelle is a full time chemist working in water treatment with multiple U.S. patents. At night she turns into an author whose accolades include finals in the RWA Golden Heart and numerous chapter contests. More information on her workshops can be found on her website.

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Review: Dracul by Dacre Stoker and J.D. Barker

36193316It is 1868, and a twenty-one-year-old Bram Stoker waits in a desolate tower to face an indescribable evil. Armed only with crucifixes, holy water, and a rifle, he prays to survive a single night, the longest of his life. Desperate to record what he has witnessed, Bram scribbles down the events that led him here…

A sickly child, Bram spent his early days bedridden in his parents’ Dublin home, tended to by his caretaker, a young woman named Ellen Crone. When a string of strange deaths occur in a nearby town, Bram and his sister Matilda detect a pattern of bizarre behavior by Ellen — a mystery that deepens chillingly until Ellen vanishes suddenly from their lives. Years later, Matilda returns from studying in Paris to tell Bram the news that she has seen Ellen — and that the nightmare they’ve thought long ended is only beginning.

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Source: NetGalley and Audible          My Rating: 5/5 stars

I never thought there would be a vampire book, from any genre, that would come close to replacing my all-time favorite vampire book, The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova.  I am damn glad to know I can still be surprised!

On the surface, Dracul was intriguing; from the cover to the synopsis, I knew it would be something I would, at the very least, like.  At second glance, I was a bit concerned with the overall length of this book.  I’ve been an avid reader long enough to know, I get intimidated by the really big books and at 500+ pages I worried about DNFing Dracul without really giving it a chance.  And so, I scurried off to Audible. 

From the first word to the very last, I soaked up this book like a paper towel soaks up a spill.  With a full cast of narrators, this dark, unnerving, and completely enthralling story had me mesmerized.  While I want to say I was most intrigued by the men of this book, Bram and Dracul, I found I was most drawn to Ellen Crone and Matilda and through those women, I saw and heard the story in a very different light.  Both women are strong, courageous, and intelligent creatures who have been thrown into situations not of their making.  For Ellen, the story is long and winding with so much tragedy, heartache, and misery as to be nearly unbelievable, yet she has persevered.  Matilda has had something of a privileged life, but has always been somewhat sidelined because of her gender, the time period, and her devotion to her brother, Bram.  Matilda is headstrong and determined and very much drives much of the action in this book.

As to the men, I found Bram’s brother, Thornley to be among the most interesting.  Though he doesn’t have much of a role to play in the first part of the book, once Matilda enlists his help and his wife has been attacked, Thornley is all in.  Like Ellen Crone, Thornley is punished for his love and only becomes involved in the madness to hunt down a nightmare when his wife’s life is at stake.  Though Thornley loves his brother and sister, he loves his dear wife even more and seeks only to avenge her condition.  What’s more, Thornley introduces the group to Vambéry, a most mysterious and wickedly intelligent man, who aides the hunting party in their endeavors.  Though Vambéry is committed to helping the group, his loyalties and beliefs are clearly divided which adds a whole other level of tension to a story already fraught with tension.

The Bottom Line: I will be forever grateful I listened to this book and didn’t attempt to physically read it.  Because of the length and intricacy of the story, I fear I may have given up on what turned out to be a truly phenomenal read.  Every narrator brought something special to the story and though there are many voices involved, all were quite clear, and I never found myself wondering, “Who’s speaking now?”  In fact, I found the voices and perspectives to be quite discernable, quite clear, and absolutely true to the personality of the character.  This is a fascinating and complex story from start to finish and I feel certain, this first read through, or listen through as the case may be, won’t be my last.

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Spotlight and Sweepstakes: Successor by Rae Miles

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SuccesorFor seventeen-year-old Evan, graduation means the freedom to leave behind her small-town life and find where she belongs. She never expected it to be in a different world.

Across time and space, deep in a mysterious jungle, Evan discovers the hidden heritage of her mother’s people and her own legacy. She becomes their elemental, a protector gifted with the power to control nature. The role has its challenges, but the biggest is the inexplicable connection with her scarred bodyguard, Ren. Frustrated and fascinated by him, Evan resists the magnetic pull after realizing there’s more to it than simple attraction.

Claiming her birthright reignites the wrath of a ruthless enemy with a score to settle. To protect her new family, Evan will need to call on her formidable power. But embracing it could cause her to lose herself and the man who holds her heart.

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About the author and where to find her:

Rae MilesRae Miles started creating characters at the ripe age of nine, dreaming that one day they’d have a place to call home. Many years and a creative writing degree later, that dream became a reality with her debut novel, Successor. When not writing, Rae’s absorbed in reading, movies, music, and napping. She loves animals of all kinds, and currently lives in Wisconsin with her three quirky cats.

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Release Day Review: Killer Classics (Book #5: A Book Barn Mystery) by Kym Roberts

39168407Charli takes great pride in running one of the few independent, family-owned bookstores in
small-town Texas. She vets everything carefully, with an eye to the eclectic tastes of the locals. That includes the Book Barn’s weekly book club selection. This time out it’s a mystery whose characters bear a striking resemblance to local citizens, including Charli’s friend Sugar . . . who’s the prime suspect when her real-life nemesis is found dead in a hotel’s water tank.
 
With help from her pet armadillo Princess, Charli campaigns to clear Sugar’s sweet name—literally—when the up-for-election mayor becomes a killer’s next target. Murder and politics make scandalous bedfellows as Charli discovers that fiction may be fatal, but reality could be just as deadly . . .

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Source: NetGalley          My Rating: 4½/5 stars

“They all knew I was responsible; who else could cause that much uproar in town?”

Truer words have never been spoken by Charli Rae Warren and in this installment of the Book Bark Mystery series, Charli Rae is up to her butt in trouble only she can cause. 

  1. There’s a new book and it bears a striking resemblance to Hazel Rock
  2. Said new book describes a grisly murder of one of the locals
  3. Said grisly murder occurs
  4. There’s a skunk incident
  5. There’s a book burning
  6. There are multiple arrests
  7. Charli Rae Warren is involved in all parts of the above list

One would think, based on her track record that Charli Rae is a professional trouble seeker.  While that is not the case, trouble always seems to find Charli Rae and once again, the trouble involves murder.  What’s more, the suspected killers are two of the kindest people in all of Hazel Rock, and with few exceptions, no one can believe they really committed the crime.  With only the right thing left to do, Charli Rae dives into the fray determined to clear her friends’ names.

Meanwhile . . . .

When not solving crimes and generally causing trouble, Charli Rae is determined to see her relationship with the super sexy sheriff move forward.  Mateo is the only man Charli Rae has eyes for, but the stubborn man doesn’t quite understand her feelings.  Adding to the confusion is the near-constant presence of Charli Rae’s ex, Mayor Cade Calloway.   While Cade may be interested in Charli Rae, he has bigger fish to fry, larger life concerns, and he isn’t the type to make a move on another man’s woman.  Trouble is, Cade needs Charli Rae’s help and he isn’t quite ready to reveal the why of it to the general public.  As you might expect, this sort of subterfuge causes issue for Charlie Rae and Mateo.  Because, she needs one more problem in her life 😊

Meanwhile . . . .

Simply because a grisly murder and man problems aren’t enough to deal with, Charli Rae also has a frisky armadillo on her hands.  Princess has always been a good girl, behaving herself, keeping herself clean, and providing loads of love and laughs for Charli Rae and her customers.  It seems, Princess has found herself a new boyfriend and most certainly isn’t an armadillo.  Though Charli Rae tries to convince Princess of the error of her ways, her feisty girl isn’t having any of it!  As far as Princess is concerned, everyone can either get good with her new man or get gone.  Ironically, because of her boyfriend’s identity most really do want to get gone 😊

The Bottom Line:  Killer Classics is chock a block full of all the things I have to come love in this series!  Charli Rae is once again up to her butt in trouble, Mateo is frequently found dismayed by Charli Rae and her antics, Princess is up to her brand of mischief making, there’s a murder to be solved, and the citizens of Hazel Rock whom I have come to know, and love make plenty of appearances.  I sincerely feel as if this series is getting stronger with each new book, as each character evolves, and the community becomes stronger after every trial and tribulation.  This series is such a great mix of mystery, light romance, humor, and friendship and it has kept me entertained from the very beginning.

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Excerpt and Sweepstakes:Stranded for Christmas (Book #4: Holiday Acres Series) by Noelle Adams

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A snowstorm. Her much older business partner. One very hot night.  Laura Holiday doesn’t believe in romance. Her life revolves around her work and her six-year-old son. The last thing she wants is a fling with her friend and business partner, Russ Matheson, who is emotionally unavailable and thirteen years older than her. But one night in a snowstorm changes their relationship forever.

Excerpt from Stranded for Christmas (Book #4: Holiday Acres Series):

“The snow is getting bad,” Russ said, turning back to look out the window.

“Is it?” Laura looked pretty and flustered and breathless. Her shoulder-length brown hair was slipping out of her ponytail, and she must have gotten hot because she’d taken off her sweater. She was wearing a fitted white shirt that gave him a clear view of her slim body, including the luscious curve of her breasts.

Russ dragged his eyes back up to her face, but that didn’t really help because she looked flushed and tousled, like she might have just gotten out of bed.

His bed.

He gulped, remembering how she’d looked that morning in her pajamas.

He really needed to stop thinking such things.

Laura would be mad as hell if she found out.

“Russ?”

He blinked, trying to refocus on their conversation. “What?”

“I asked if it was really bad out there.”

“Oh yeah. Take a look. It looks like the parking lot is mostly empty, so the customers have obviously cleared out. The roads must be pretty bad. You probably should have picked Tommy up early.”

“Shit.” Laura came over to stand beside him so she could look out the window too. “Well, I better go get him now before it gets any worse.”

“You want me to drive you?”

She turned her gaze up at him, her brown eyes big and deep. “I’m capable of driving in the snow, you know.”

“I know you are. It was just an offer.”

“I’ll be fine. I’ll take the SUV.” She sighed and rolled her eyes. “Olivia and Penny have to go out in this too. And I’ve got to stop by Candy Cane Cottage to assess the damage to the bathroom.”

“Surely that can wait.”

“We’ve got someone else renting it this weekend. I need to assess it so Ed has time to fix it tomorrow morning.”

Russ shook his head. “That driveway to Candy Cane Cottage is steep. You’re never going to get up it in this snow. And if you get up, you won’t be able to get down.”

“I’ll be fine. I told you I’m taking the SUV.”

“You’re putting a lot of faith in the powers of an SUV.”

“Oh shut up.” Her words weren’t sharp. Her expression was almost fond. “I can’t believe this snow. Why couldn’t it wait a few more hours?”

“The weather isn’t prone to following your timeline.” His voice was dry because she was still standing very close. He could smell the fresh scent of her hair. He wanted to tangle his fingers in it. He wanted to trace the freckles on her face and neck with his tongue.

“I don’t know why it shouldn’t follow my timeline. My timeline is a good one.” Her voice lilted slightly, and she leaned against the wall as she gazed up at him.

Russ took a step closer to her so he could smell her again. “I’ll let the weather know it needs to improve its performance to fall in line with your schedule.”

She took a shaky little breath, and her eyes dropped, causing her thick lashes to spread out against her freckled skin in a way that enchanted him. He edged a little closer, bracing one hand on the wall beside her.

He had her trapped against the wall now, and he’d completely forgotten the track of their conversation. His breathing had quickened, and his body had tightened, and his mind was buzzing with attraction. Need.

Something a lot deeper.

She wasn’t pushing him away. She wasn’t trying to cut the tension. She looked breathless. Excited.

Like maybe she wanted him to kiss her.

He wanted to kiss her more than he’d ever wanted to kiss anyone in his forty-five years. He’d assumed that was something she’d never want, but maybe…

Maybe…

He leaned forward a little more. He could hear her quick intake of breath. Her eyes darted up to his face and then down again.

“Russ,” she said, raising a hand to put on his chest the way she had that morning in the kitchen.

“Yes?” His voice was way too husky, but there was nothing he could do about that. She was so close. Almost within reach at last.

Her fingers fisted in the fabric of his shirt. “Russ.”

“Yes.” This time it wasn’t a question. It was the pure articulation of his heart.

She licked her lips, and the small gesture made his groin harden. “Russ, please don’t.”

He’d been leaning forward even more, but at that he grew very still. “Don’t what?”

“You know what.” She took another breath—different this time—and looked up to meet his eyes again. “Please don’t.”

“Laura, I’m not going to do anything you don’t want, but I think maybe you do want—”

“I don’t—” She broke in, dropping her hand from his shirt. “Please don’t.”

Russ sighed and took a purposeful step back, feeling like he’d been hit by a truck.

Laura gave him another quick look and then grabbed her purse and started for the door.

“Be careful,” Russ said as she left. “The roads are bad out there.”

“I’m always careful.”

Copyright © 2018 Noelle Adams

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About the author and where to find her:

Noelle Adams PhotoNoelle handwrote her first romance novel in a spiral-bound notebook when she was twelve, and she hasn’t stopped writing since. She has lived in eight different states and currently resides in Virginia, where she reads any book she can get her hands on and offers tribute to a very spoiled cocker spaniel.

She loves travel, art, history, and ice cream. After spending far too many years of her life in graduate school, she has decided to reorient her priorities and focus on writing contemporary romances.

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Excerpt and Sweepstakes: Theirs Ever After (The Thalanian Dynasty) by Katee Robert

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Kateerobert_ebook (1)Sometimes happily ever after isn’t all it’s cracked up to be…

Theo Fitzcharles thought he’d put the worst behind him when he became King of Thalania and named his two lovers, Meg Sanders and Galen Mikos, as his Consorts. Unfortunately, the realities of running a country have worn on all of them, individually and as a triad. Theo has every intention of making things right, but first he has to deal with an old enemy who’s closer than anyone could have dreamed.

Meg Sanders never wanted to be a princess. Now that she’s one of two Consorts to the King of Thalania, she knows why—it’s work. Every time she turns around, she’s misstepping and struggling not to screw up the careful political maneuvering required for her new position. But her struggles with the new position are the least of her worries she’s attacked in the palace.

Theo, Galen, and Meg must race to identify her attacker and neutralize them before they can make another attempt to hurt her. There’s plenty of people who want Meg out of the palace—and at least one isn’t picky about whether she’s breathing or not when she goes.

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Excerpt from Theirs Ever After (The Thalanian Dynasty):

Meg knew what she should do. She should tell Theo that the best way to take care of her and Galen was to talk to them. But with the candlelight playing across Theo’s skin and his skillful hands working at the knots in her shoulders, she couldn’t work up the energy to fight with him. “I’m not happy with you.”

“I know.” He dug into a particularly tight knot, working it with his thumb. “What do you need from me tonight, princess?”

She let her eyes close, let him keep working his magic on her body. Six months into their relationship, and Meg knew that Theo would give her anything she asked for. If she wanted him and Galen to dress up like Vikings and roleplay one of her favorite scenes in a romance novel she was reading, he’d do it without question. He had done it without question last month. Theo might be fucking up on communication and overworked to the point where she barely saw him, but she never doubted for a second that he loved her and wanted her happy.

She slipped beneath the surface of the water. Free of his touch, clarity didn’t suddenly strike her like lightning. If there was an answer, she didn’t have it. Meg slowly stood and let herself drink in the way Theo watched her. As if she was some kind of Aphrodite rising out of the ocean instead of standing here in their tub. “I just want you tonight, Theo. None of the bullshit. Just you.”

He nodded and grabbed one of the ridiculously large towels they kept stocked in here. “Let me take care of you tonight,” he repeated.

Easy enough to read in between the lines of what he wanted. A reprieve in a long line of reprieves. Theo was trying to hold off the inevitable conversation all three of them had to have until he could iron out the mess Thalania had become in his absence. Or maybe the backbiting politics and squabbling seven Families had always been like this. Either way, Theo wanted time to get it handled.

She just wished he’d lean on her and Galen a little bit in the meantime.

Meg stepped out of the tub and let him wrap her in the towel. “Like I’m going to say no.”

Theo dried her gently, thoroughly, making quick work of it. He had a face built for candlelight, all sharp angles and a beauty that was damn near painful to witness. The passing time should have inoculated her to the sight of him, but then he would turn just so or look at her with those big blue eyes, and she’d forget to breathe.

“You could.”

She blinked. “What?”

“You could say no.”

Meg laughed. She couldn’t help it. “Theo, have you looked in the mirror lately?”

He glanced over, and she followed his gaze to the large mirror situated on the other side of the bath. They painted quite the picture, him large and towering over her, his shock of near-black hair several shades darker than hers, his big hands holding the towel against her skin. For once, he wasn’t wearing his usual clothing of suits that cost enough to give Meg hives. In the workout shorts, he looked… Not normal. Theo would never be anything as mundane as normal.

He looked touchable.

So that was exactly what she did. Meg ran her hands up his stomach to his chest and stepped to him. “I know I could say no. I’ve said no to you more times than I can count since we’ve met.” She cupped his strong jaw with her palm. “Theo, are you okay?”

“No.” He pulled her slowly, inexorably closer, until her breasts pressed against his bare chest. “Just… Let me take care of you tonight, princess.”

The rare vulnerability he let her see in that moment seduced her as thoroughly as his body ever had. She nodded. “Yes.”

Theo swept her off her feet and carried her out of the bathroom. Normally, she’d give him shit for such a caveman move, but Meg didn’t want to poke at him tonight. She was tired and heartsore, and both her men were obviously feeling the same. They couldn’t fix the mess waiting for them outside those doors, but they could strengthen their foundations tonight.

She just hoped it would be enough.

Galen waited for them on the bed, clothed in only his skin. Her heart skipped a beat. As much as Theo’s beauty seduced her, Galen’s raw sex appeal knocked her right in the stomach. His dusky skin was crisscrossed with lighter scars, a testament to the abuse his father had leveled at him as a child. His dark hair had grown longer, losing the military-like cut. She liked it. There was a lot to like about Galen.

He watched Theo carry her toward him with a predatory look that sent a bolt of desire through her. Only good things came from Galen getting that expression on his face.

Theo set her on the bed just out of reach and pressed a hand to her shoulder. “Don’t move.” He was only gone a moment, disappearing back into the bathroom and reappearing with a hairbrush. He took up a position against the headboard and urged her to sit between his legs with her back to him.

Theo began carefully combing her wet hair.

Meg closed her eyes and let the gentle tug of the brush soothe her. The fluffy towel and Theo’s proximity kept her cozy, but Galen’s attention pricked along her skin, a promise of things to come. On and on it went. Theo was never one to do things halfway, but he seemed to enjoy the slow slide of the brush through her drying hair as much as she did.

Finally, he set the brush aside and eased her back against his chest. Her hair was almost dry at this point, but Theo moved its soft weight off her neck and pressed a kiss to her throat. He pulled the towel away from her body and tossed it off the bed, leaving them skin to skin. It felt good to be wrapped up in him like this. Even better than his combing her hair.

The mattress dipped and Meg opened her eyes to find Galen had moved to a point just past their feet for a better view. He arched a dark eyebrow at her, but something soft and intimate marred the arrogance of the expression. He needed this reaffirming as much as she did.

For once, no one colored the air around them with filthy words and dirty talk. Theo stroked his hands over her body, the rough slide of his palms across her skin sending her nerves sparking in response. She writhed a little, but he wouldn’t be guided. He paid equal attention to her arms, her shoulders, her stomach and her hips, avoiding her breasts and pussy.

The damn tease.

Finally, a small eternity later, he cupped her breasts, giving them the same slow exploration delivered to the rest of her body. Meg couldn’t stop herself from arching up to press herself more firmly into his hands.

“Impatient,” he murmured against her skin.

“Can you blame her?” Galen’s rough tone made Meg shiver. He reached down and palmed his own cock. “She’s shaking with need.”

Meg grabbed Theo’s hand. She spread her legs wide, hooking them on either side of Theo’s, making sure to give Galen a good show. “Take care of me, baby.” She pressed his hand to her pussy. “You promised.”

“I did, didn’t I?” Theo cupped her there roughly, possessively, the touch lighting a spark beneath Meg’s skin. He pushed a single finger into her, still teasing, not offering nearly enough of what she craved. His voice curled around her, just as intimate as their current position. “I’m feeling generous tonight, princess, so I’ll let you choose how we give it to you.

Copyright © 2018 Katee Robert

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About the author and where to find her:

KateeRobertNew York Times and USA TODAY bestselling author Katee Robert learned to tell her stories at her grandpa’s knee. Her 2015 title, The Marriage Contract, was a RITA finalist, and RT Book Reviews named it ‘a compulsively readable book with just the right amount of suspense and tension.”  When not writing sexy contemporary and romantic suspense, she spends her time playing imaginary games with her children, driving her husband batty with what-if questions, and planning for the inevitable zombie apocalypse. 

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