Tag Archives: release day!

ReRelease: The Geek and His Artist By Grace R. Duncan writing as Hope Ryan

<b>The Geek and His Artist
By Grace R. Duncan writing as Hope Ryan
http://www.hope-ryan.com/Geek-Artist

Blurb: Can Simon get past his fears and take Jimmy’s offer to get out of danger?</b>

Simon Williams spends his lunch periods drawing his geek and trying not to think about the terrors waiting for him at home. He needs to get away from his abusive father before he suffers the same grisly fate as his mother. Because he’s learned the hard way running away doesn’t work, he’s counting the days until his eighteenth birthday.

Jimmy Bennet should be spending his lunch studying so his senior GPA is good enough to get him into college, but he can’t seem to focus thanks to his distracting artist. When he’s given the opportunity to tutor Simon in Trig and discovers Simon’s home-life nightmare, he wants nothing more than to get Simon out of danger. This need becomes more urgent when Simon comes to school the Monday after their first date with bruises, but it takes a broken leg before Jimmy can convince his boyfriend the Bennets really want him.

But the danger Simon thought was past shows up at the most unexpected time, and he must stand up to the fears he’s held so long to protect not only himself, but the man he wants to spend his life with.

ExcerptL

Simon frowned down at the grade report in his hand, trying—again—to figure out what he was going to do about his trig grade. His feeling had been right: he’d bombed the fall semester for the class. He shouldn’t have taken it in the first place—he didn’t need it for college—but he had and now he had a D+ to show for it. He could drop the class, but if he did, then the D+ would stay on his transcript. Not the end of the world, but he really didn’t like what it would do to his GPA.

His only other option was to see about getting some tutoring to try to bring that grade up, since his solo attempts hadn’t done much at all for him. He’d been fine with algebra, geometry, and even algebra II. So when he’d signed up for trig, he’d expected he could handle it. Little did he know that trigonometry was a completely foreign language from the others.

The Bastard was going to kill him for being late, but Simon would just have to deal with it, and if he was lucky, he could still make it home in time to cook. He needed the good grades for financial aid.

He sighed, folded the paper back up, and stuffed it into his backpack, then pulled the door to his school library open. He paused just inside the door and looked around, but didn’t readily see anything set up as a tutoring center. The library itself wasn’t big, the bookshelves reaching the ceiling and crammed into just about every available space. After giving himself a moment to make sure he didn’t see it, he moved over to the desk.

A large, older woman in a polka-dotted dress, with steel-gray hair and glasses with blue plastic frames that curved up to points in the corners, stood at a computer, checking in books. Simon guessed she was the librarian. He hadn’t had much need to come into the school library yet, so he hadn’t seen her before. He waited for a couple of minutes, but when she didn’t even seem to see him, he leaned on the counter and cleared his throat.

Her head whipped around. “Oh! I am so sorry, deary. I didn’t notice you there.” She stepped closer and smiled widely. “You’re so quiet! Most of the boys in here make so much noise. How may I help you?”

Simon found himself returning her smile. She reminded him of all those grandmothers he’d seen in just about every movie ever, and he found himself wondering if that’s what a real grandmother was like. He had no idea what his had been like since he hadn’t met them before they died. He shook the thought off. “I’m sorry. I was looking for the tutoring center?”

“Don’t worry, dear,” she said, patting his hand. “It’s over there. Kind of hidden, I’m afraid. One of the tutors is there now.” She pointed toward an enclosed room on the other side of the main library area, the door the only thing showing among the stacks. When he peered closer, he saw the walls above the bookshelves and now could tell it was its own room.

Simon thanked her, she patted his hand again, and he crossed to the door, hoping against hope that whoever the tutor was wouldn’t be an ass. He knew some of them did it for their community service requirements—Simon still had to figure out what he was going to do—and not because they wanted to actually help.

When he stepped through the door and looked around, he saw one person—obviously male, by the breadth of the back—hunched over a table. To his left a clipboard sat on the short counter, asking for name, subject, and date, which Simon filled out, then looked back at the tutor.

And stopped dead, staring.

Young Adult Contemporary Romance

320 pages

Cover Artist: Kathryn Bone

Editor: Tricia Kristufek

Current Edition (second) – Independently published – October 23, 2020

Buy Link: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B08LF23NGG

Also available through Kindle Unlimited

Hope Ryan is an out and proud bisexual, wife of a loving guy, and mother to three, including an amazingly brave gender-fluid son. She loves to write about the tough stuff, but also wants to see her characters happy in the end. She feels strongly about showing there is hope for everyone, no matter where you come from, how you identify your gender, or who you love.

Hope likes to play board and card games and can often be found playing God with her Sims or running around, fighting monsters in a virtual version of Middle Earth. Her TV and movie preferences lean towards anime, sci-fi, and fantasy, though she’ll never turn down a good happily ever after love story, either. As long as there are explosions or action, she’s happy. She loves to read books of all kinds, though prefers stories about love in its many forms.

Come join us on Facebook at Grace’s Groupies where you can find out more about Hope and Grace, hang out with other fans and authors, and have fun!

Website: www.hoperyan.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/hoperyanauthor

Email: hoperyanauthor@gmail.com

Release Day – The Sorcerer’s Guardian by Antonia Aquilante

Title:  The Sorcerer’s Guardian

Series: Chronicles of Tournai, Book Four

Author: Antonia Aquilante

Publisher:NineStar Press

Release Date: September 14, 2020

Heat Level: 3 – Some Sex

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: 111400

Genre: Fantasy, LGBTQIA+, Fantasy, romance, family-drama, gay, cisgender, magic, cat shifters, magician, captain of the guards, storm, antagonists to lovers, court intrigue

<a href=” https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/55157863-the-sorcerer-s-guardian”&gt; Add to Goodreads

</A>

Summary

Savarin honed his Talent through years of study, and to achieve his goal of becoming the most powerful and accomplished sorcerer in Tournai, he made magic his life. Among the wealthy and noble circles he moves in, no one would suspect the handsome, refined, arrogant sorcerer’s humble beginnings—which is how Savarin prefers it. He wants to be seen only as the man he’s made himself. When Tournai’s princes task Savarin with studying and strengthening the spells that protect the principality from magical attack, he is more than happy to do so. The spells are complex, centuries old, and exactly the type of puzzle Savarin is eager to solve. But to his annoyance, the princes insist Loriot accompany him on his journey.

Second son of a minor noble family, Loriot worked his way up the ranks of the royal guard to captain with single-minded determination and takes pride in his service to the crown. He must obey the prince’s orders to protect Savarin, despite believing his skills would be best used elsewhere and his wariness of magic. UnTalented himself, Loriot has learned not only the benefits of magic but also its potential for harm—and how to counter it. He still believes it’s best to avoid most magic entirely, which is difficult when he’s tasked with playing guard to a powerful sorcerer.

Loriot and Savarin clash repeatedly during their journey, but the simmering tension between them doesn’t only stem from their work, and passion develops into feelings neither expected. But Savarin must still secure Tournai’s magical barrier, and his only solution will endanger both him and the royal family.

Excerpt

The Sorcerer’s Guardian

Antonia Aquilante © 2020

All Rights Reserved

As afternoon waned into evening, Loriot approached his house on Dove Lane. Weariness dragged at him with each step. He hadn’t slept more than a few minutes in the last few days, and now that the crisis had passed, he felt the fatigue down to his bones. But the lack of sleep was worth it for the good outcome of the situation.

He trudged up the few steps to his front door, its rich blue color recently freshened, and let himself in. The key turned smoothly in the lock, and the magical protections on the house recognized him as belonging, allowing him inside. He shivered, even though he didn’t feel anything as he crossed the threshold; perhaps someone with a Talent would, but he had neither Talent nor any sensitivity to magic.

Inside, the house was quiet. The formal parlor was empty, which was unsurprising as they rarely used it—only when Joceline and Oriana chose to entertain. He wanted more than anything to go up to his bedchamber and collapse into his bed for the next few days, but he couldn’t. Couldn’t even collapse for a few hours without checking on his family. But he knew where at least one of them was likely to be at this time of day.

The sitting room at the back of the house was quiet, too, so quiet he could hear the scratch of his sister’s pen on paper as he stepped into the doorway. Joceline sat at her writing desk, papers spread around her, pen flying across the page. Despite the silence, she didn’t notice him. A good writing day, then. He hated to disturb her, but she’d want to know he was home.

“Story going well?” he asked, keeping his voice quiet so he wouldn’t startle her. He’d learned it was better to have to repeat himself than to scare her when she was absorbed in a world of her own creation.

But he didn’t have to repeat himself today. She glanced up immediately, her gaze hazy and then sharpening. “There you are! I was wondering if you were ever coming home.”

He hadn’t been gone so long—only a couple of days—but he did try not to let a day go by without returning for at least a little while. He stepped farther into the room and sank down into a comfortable chair. “It was unavoidable. You got my notes?”

“Of course. You know I was just teasing.” Joceline narrowed her eyes and studied him with an intensity he could almost feel. “Is everything all right? You look exhausted, and I heard yesterday the guard was searching everyone leaving the city.”

He scrubbed a hand over his face. Sitting had been a mistake. His eyelids wanted to droop; his body wanted to melt into the cushions. “There was a kidnapping.”

“Not Prince Julien?”

“No, no. And it’s fine now,” he reassured her, trying to keep her from coming out of her chair in her alarm at a threat to the heir to Tournai’s throne. “It wasn’t a member of the royal family at all.”

“But you were involved?”

As captain of the royal guard, Loriot normally wouldn’t be directly involved in such a situation. “The baby taken was the daughter of Prince Amory’s friend, Master Tristan. The merchant. Though if what I saw means anything, he’ll likely be a member of the royal family soon.”

“Really?” Joceline leaned forward, her interest of a different kind now. “There’s going to be a marriage? To whom? The princess?”

He shook his head. He didn’t need to tell her what he said should go no further. He didn’t ever tell her anything truly secret, but Loriot didn’t see the harm in a little meaningless court gossip now and then, especially since she wouldn’t spread it. “No. Lord Etan.”

She sat back with a huff. “Well, they really are bucking tradition, aren’t they?”

He let out a short laugh. But what she said wasn’t untrue. Both Tournai’s prince and his cousin, a royal duke, had married men in the last couple of years, and now it seemed Lord Etan, another cousin of Prince Philip’s, would do the same. Loriot couldn’t think of a time when such a thing had happened, as the royal family and nobility tended to marry those who could provide bloodline heirs for their titles—and some families were even more conservative, only marrying women.

“Good for them,” Joceline said. “I hope they’re happy.”

“Now that Tristan’s daughter is back with them, I believe they are.”

Concern flooded back into her pretty face. “You found her? And the person who took her?”

“Yes, with Master Savarin’s help.” He’d gotten over any resentment he might have had that he needed the help of magic long before today and was happy to use any tool he had access to. Savarin, the most powerful sorcerer in Tournai, was not someone whose help should be turned away, and Savarin never withheld it, serving Tournai whenever he was called upon.

“The sorcerer? How did he help?” Joceline sat forward, a gleam in her eyes he recognized well. She wasn’t simply curious; she wanted to know because she might use the information in a story.

“Joceline.”

“What?”

He sighed and shook his head. “He used his magic to try to track the kidnappers and then to try to find the baby directly. He pointed us in the right direction, let us know where to search for them.” Loriot didn’t bother mentioning the help they’d received from someone else, a scholar at the university. If he read Savarin right, Savarin would be finding Master Corentin at the university soon and asking him about the magic he used, because it also sounded as if Savarin hadn’t heard of anything like it.

“Interesting.”

“Let me guess, your new story has a sorcerer character.” He arched an eyebrow at her, his mildly disapproving tone mostly put on. Which she would know, as she was aware how proud he was of her accomplishments.

“I have an idea that would call for one. What’s Master Savarin like?”

“I don’t know him very well.” He tried to think of anything he knew about Savarin beyond the surface. “He’s powerful and arrogant with it.”

She shrugged. “I’d be surprised if he wasn’t. Aren’t all powerful sorcerers arrogant about their power?”

“I wouldn’t know. I don’t know any others.” He resolutely pushed his newly acquired knowledge of the royal family’s secret Talent from his mind. He didn’t need Joceline seeing a hint in his expression and trying to badger the information out of him. He would never tell, but life would be easier if he didn’t have to fight Joceline about it.

“All the ones I’ve read about in stories are. Especially the evil ones.”

“Tell me you’re not going to base a character on Master Savarin and make him evil.” Making the most powerful sorcerer in the country an evil character in a book sounded like a horrible idea.

Another shrug. “Powerful sorcerers always seem to be evil characters. Or self-sacrificing ones who save the day.”

Loriot shook his head and heaved himself to his feet. If he didn’t move, he’d end up sleeping right there. “Alain is upstairs?”

“Yes. But wait,” she called after him as he walked toward the door. “You must know something else about Master Savarin.”

“I really don’t.” He didn’t turn.

“Is he handsome?”

Savarin’s image filled his mind—his height and broad shoulders, perfectly carved features, blond hair he thought would be soft under his hands. His stride hitched, but he shook the image away and ignored Joceline calling after him. Perhaps she would forget the idea entirely if he didn’t encourage her.

He doubted it, but he could hope. The idea of Savarin as a character in a book on the shelf of a bookshop made him cringe.

Trudging up the stairs took the last of his energy, but he forced himself to bypass his own bedchamber. He couldn’t go to bed without seeing Alain. Not after so long away, not even if it hadn’t been very long. The door to the room at the back of the house was partially open. He peeked in as he pushed it open the rest of the way. The room was tidy, except for a veritable city built of blocks in the middle of the rug. The nursemaid noticed him first, but Alain wasn’t far behind. He looked up, his bright-green eyes—twins of Loriot’s own—lighting up, and something inside Loriot melted, just as it always did under those eyes.

“Papa!”

With ease of long practice, he caught the five-year-old bundle of energy that came flying at him and swung his son up into his arms. He cuddled him close for as long as Alain would allow. As tired as he was, he wouldn’t want to be anywhere else. “There’s my boy. I missed you. Show me what you’ve been doing.”

Purchase Links

<a href=”https://ninestarpress.com/product/the-sorcerers-guardian/ “> Ninestar Press</A><a href=”https://geni.us/Zg3Bo “> Amazon</A>

Meet the Author

Antonia Aquilante has been making up stories for as long as she can remember, and at the age of twelve, decided she would be a writer when she grew up. After many years and a few career detours, she has returned to that original plan. Her stories have changed over the years, but one thing has remained consistent—they all end in happily ever after.

She has a fondness for travel (and a long list of places she wants to visit and revisit), taking photos, family history, fabulous shoes, baking treats (which she shares with friends and family), and of course, reading. She usually has at least two books started at once and never goes anywhere without her Kindle. Though she is a convert to e-books, she still loves paper books the best, and there are a couple thousand of them residing in her home with her.

Born and raised in New Jersey, Antonia is living there again after years in Washington, DC and North Carolina for school and work. She enjoys being back in the Garden State but admits to being tempted every so often to run away from home and live in Italy.

<a href=” http://www.facebook.com/AntoniaAquilanteAuthor“> Facebook</A>

<a href=” https://twitter.com/antoniaquilante“> Twitter</A>

<a href=” antonia.aquilante@gmail.com”> email</A>

Giveaway

One lucky winner will receive a $10.00 NineStar Press Gift Code!

<a href=”http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/555033ec807/?widget_template=589504cd4f3bedde0b6e64c2“> Direct Link</A>

Release Day – The Couple Next Door by Rick R. Reed

Title:  The Couple Next Door

Author: Rick R. Reed

Publisher:NineStar Press

Release Date: September 14, 2020

Heat Level: 3 – Some Sex

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: 66500

Genre: Contemporary, LGBTQIA+, MM romance, author, multiple personality disorder, brothers, murder

Add to Goodreads

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/54905509-the-couple-next-door

Summary

Jeremy Booth leads a simple life, scraping by in the gay neighborhood of Seattle, never letting his lack of material things get him down. But the one thing he really wants—someone to love—seems elusive. Until the couple next door moves in and Jeremy sees the man of his dreams, Shane McCallister, pushed down the stairs by a brute named Cole.

Jeremy would never go after another man’s boyfriend, so he reaches out to Shane in friendship while suppressing his feelings of attraction. But the feeling of something being off only begins with Cole being a hard-fisted bully—it ends with him seeming to be different people at different times. Some days, Cole is the mild-mannered John and then, one night in a bar, he’s the sassy and vivacious drag queen Vera.

So how can Jeremy rescue the man of his dreams from a situation that seems to get crazier and more dangerous by the day? By getting close to the couple next door, Jeremy not only puts a potential love in jeopardy, but eventually his very life.

Excerpt

The Couple Next Door

Rick R. Reed © 2020

All Rights Reserved

How many disappointing dates will I endure before I just give up?

I mean, here I am, a perfectly attractive, fit, self-sufficient thirty-year-old, and I’m still waiting to meet the man of my dreams. Mr. Right. Hell, tonight I’d even settle for that character who seems to come along on dates for most of us, the all-too-common Mr. Right Now. But even he isn’t on the seat beside me. In fact, I strongly doubt he’s anywhere in the vicinity of the Capitol Hill neighborhood of Seattle where I live.

Believe me, I’ve looked.

Mr. First Date pulls his Ford Fusion up to the curb in front of my apartment building on Aloha Avenue. We sit in awkward silence for several long moments, listening as the engine ticks down as it cools. I can feel him looking at me. As he’s done most of the evening, he waits for me to speak. I turn my head and, in the dark, give him a weak smile. The date, dinner at a little sushi place on Broadway, had not gone well, full of uncomfortable silences, awkward pauses, and desperate looks around for avenues of escape—on both our parts.

Do I need to say we just didn’t click?

I didn’t think so.

So what he says now surprises me.

“Do you want me to come up?”

Really? We’ve just spent an hour and a half of agony together, trying to find a snippet of common ground that doesn’t exist, and he’s wondering if I want him to come up, which we all know is code for “Shall we make the beast with two backs?”

Seriously? The most irksome thing is, I’m considering it. I mean, he’s cute in spite of our lack of social connection. He’s a games developer for a software company here in town and looks it, with a sort of hipster/geek vibe going on. He has red hair, which I love. He has a beard, which I love. He wears retro glasses, which make him look paradoxically goofy and sexy—which I love.

Would it be so terrible to sleep with him? I mean, it’s been at least two weeks since I’ve enjoyed the charms of anyone other than Mr. Thumb and his four sons, so at least in terms of a release, maybe I should just say “Sure” and open the car door. If things go like some of my dates in the past, he’d follow me upstairs to my apartment and be back in his car in, like, fifteen minutes.

No, I tell myself. And then I tell him, shaking my head, looking sad, and saying the words countless heartbreakers have used over the years to stop ardent passion in its errant tracks.

“I’m sorry, Neil. But I have to get up early.” Lamely, I pat his hand. “Maybe another time.”

I don’t need to be psychic to know that we both know another time ain’t gonna happen.

Neil seems relieved as he restarts his car. He shrugs. “It’s okay. Club Z’s just a couple minutes away, right? Down Broadway and a right on Pike—easy.”

He grins at me, and I wonder if he expects me to laugh. Club Z is one of Seattle’s filthiest bathhouses, and yes, it’s only a few minutes away. He doesn’t seem to need directions.

It’s my turn to be relieved that I didn’t actually succumb to the temptation of inviting this jerk upstairs. Wordlessly, I get out of the car and slam the door behind me.

Neil roars off into the damp and still night.

I pause and sigh, staring up at the building in which I’ve lived for the past five years. It’s an okay place, an old redbrick three story with none of the modern amenities—no stainless steel, granite countertops, or gas fireplaces. My apartment is homey. It even has the original tile, sink, and claw-foot tub in its single bathroom. The living room is large, with three big windows that look out on Aloha and let in lots of light—on the days when we have sun in Seattle (that means usually summer days). The floors are scuffed original hardwood. The kitchen actually has a pantry and built-in china hutch. I’ve painted the place a cheery, soft yellow.

Upstairs, the TV, with its DVRed episodes of at-odds Sons of Anarchy and Downton Abbey, awaits. Upstairs, there’s the gelato I love from Whole Foods in the freezer—hazelnut dark chocolate.

Such is my life. Comfortable and a little lonely.

Sometimes I wonder, like Peggy Lee, if that’s all there is.

I head toward the glass-paned front door. I grope in my jeans for my keys. The mail had not yet arrived before I left for my date, and I wonder if there will be any surprises in the vestibule mailbox. You know, like an actual letter from someone, standing out from the usual assortment of bills and solicitations by the cursive spelling out of my name—Jeremy Booth.

My problem is I always have hope, even when there’s little reason.

I open the front door, and that’s when everything changes. My life turns upside down. I go from bored discontent to panic in a split second.

The first thing I hear is someone shouting “No!” in an anguished voice. I look up from the lobby to see two figures on the staircase above, on the second-floor landing. One is a guy who looks menacing and so butch he could pose for a Tom of Finland poster. An aura of danger radiates from him. Aside from his imposing and muscular frame, he’s even wearing the right clothes—tight, rolled jeans and a black leather biker jacket with a chain snaking out from beneath one of the epaulets. His high- and tight-buzzed hair gives him a military—and mean—air. He has his hands on the shoulders of a guy who looks a bit younger and much slighter, making me want to call up the stairs, “Why don’t you pick on someone your own size?” The smaller guy, blond and clad only in a pair of pajama bottoms, struggles with his attacker, looking terrified. Their movements, clumsy and rough, would be comical if they weren’t so scary. The smaller guy is panting and batting ineffectually at the bigger one.

“Please! No! Don’t!” the smaller guy manages to get out, his voice close to hysteria.

I have never seen either of these men before. In fact, the whole scene has the quality of the surreal, a dream. The danger and conflict pulsing down the stairs makes my own heart rate and respiration accelerate, causing feelings of panic to rise within me.

And then the worst happens. The big butch guy shoves the smaller one hard, and all at once he’s tumbling heavily down the stairs toward me.

The fall is graceless, and it looks like it hurts. It’s over so fast that I’m left gasping.

I look up to see the leather-jacket guy sneer down at his mate, lying crumpled and crying at my feet, and then turn sharply on his heel to go back into a second-floor apartment that had been vacant yesterday. He slams the door. The sound of the deadbolt sliding into place is like the report of a shotgun. Both slam and lock resound like thunderclaps, echoing in the tile lobby, punctuation to the drama and trauma of this short scene.

I switch into Good Samaritan mode and drop to my knees at the sniveling, crumpled mess of a man lying practically at my feet.

“Are you okay?” I ask and reach out to lightly touch his shoulder.

He jerks away and, wincing, pulls himself up into an awkward sitting position. He stares at me with clear blue eyes for a moment, almost as though he’s trying to place me. He finally looks away.

“My ankle is throbbing. It hurts like hell. Maybe I twisted it.”

I don’t know what to say, other than to ask, “Would you like to try and stand? Test it out?”

He nods.

I lean over to grip him under the arms—it’s damp there, and I can smell the ripe aroma of body odor, probably inspired by fear or panic—and pull. He comes up with me and then stumbles, wincing and crying out.

“Damn. I might have sprained it when I fell.” His eyes are so appealing, in both senses of the word, as he stares at me, as though seeking direction for what to do next. He leans on me, taking his weight off the injured ankle.

I keep my arm around him, and together we limp over to a bench set beneath the bank of common mailboxes. We sit.

“What do you want to do?” I ask.

“I don’t know. I think Cole may have locked me out for the night.”

Purchase Links

<a href=” https://ninestarpress.com/product/the-couple-next-door/“> Ninestar Press</A><a href=” https://geni.us/KnWmoVc“> Amazon</A>

Meet the Author

Real Men. True Love.

Rick R. Reed is an award-winning and bestselling author of more than fifty works of published fiction. He is a Lambda Literary Award finalist. Entertainment Weekly has described his work as “heartrending and sensitive.” Lambda Literary has called him: “A writer that doesn’t disappoint…” Find him at http://www.rickrreedreality.blogspot.com. Rick lives in Palm Springs, CA, with his husband, Bruce, and their fierce Chihuahua/Shiba Inu mix, Kodi.

<a href=”http://www.facebook.com/rickrreedbooks“> Facebook </A>

<a href=”http://www.twitter.com/rickrreed“> Twitter</A>

<a href=” https://www.instagram.com/rickrreed/“> Instagram</A>

Giveaway –

One lucky winner will receive a $10.00 NineStar Press Gift Code!

<a href=” http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/555033ec809/?widget_template=589504cd4f3bedde0b6e64c2″&gt; find it here</A>

New Release -The Scholar’s Heart by Antonia Aquilante

Title: The Scholar’s Heart

Series: Chronicles of Tournai, Book Three

Author: Antonia Aquilante

Publisher: NineStar Press

Release Date: July 13, 2020

Heat Level: 3 – Some Sex

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: 108082

Genre: Paranormal Fantasy, LGBTQIA+, Romance, fantasy, family-drama, suspense, gay, bi, court intrigue, kidnapping, abduction of a baby, friends to lovers, hurt/comfort, magic users, cat shifters

Add to Goodreads

Synopsis

Though he is the youngest son of a royal duke, Etan is a scholar at heart, happiest in a library surrounded by his books. He contentedly juggles his work for the prince’s government with his studies of the history and legends of Tournai, a subject of particular interest to him because he shares the secret magical Talent that runs in the royal bloodline. However, Etan’s peaceful world turns upside down when his best friend—the man he secretly loves—unexpectedly marries someone else.

Tristan is the oldest son of a wealthy merchant, raised to shoulder responsibility for the family business one day. That day comes far sooner than anticipated, and he makes a deathbed promise to his father to marry the woman his father chose and become head of the company and family. Tristan values his friendship with Etan and has always been attracted to him, but he can’t forsake his duty to his father, even if it means giving up the possibility of having Etan as a lover.

A year later, Tristan is a widower with an infant daughter and a mother who demands he marry again quickly—something Tristan resists. Circumstances throw Etan and Tristan together again, but even as they succumb to the desires they’ve always harbored, Etan battles his feelings, wary of being cast aside once more. When the unimaginable happens, Etan and Tristan must come together and support each other through the ordeal…and maybe beyond.

Excerpt

The Scholar’s Heart
Antonia Aquilante © 2020
All Rights Reserved

Prologue
One year earlier

“There you are!”

Tristan’s musical voice made the simple sentence something special, or perhaps Etan’s feelings made it seem so. Etan smiled as he looked up from his book, a glow of warmth and welcome lighting him up inside.

Tristan strode into the small room Etan had claimed for his own in the palace’s labyrinthine library. He had a desk in the university library as well, but these days, out of necessity and preference both, he conducted most of his work in this cozy little room. Obscure history books filled the shelves lining the walls. The table in the center of the room held Etan’s notes on his studies and projects, all neatly organized so he could find anything he wanted quickly. But this morning he slouched on the comfortable couch instead, book propped in his lap.

He sat there, book forgotten as he watched Tristan, the morning sun streaming in through the window and glinting off Tristan’s bright gold hair. Tristan seemed to bring the sunshine into the room with him, brightening what had been an ordinary morning until that moment.

“Good morning, Tristan.”

“Good morning to you.” Tristan sent a flirtatious smile in his direction and skirted the table, coming closer.

“It’s good to see you.” He probably sounded ridiculous, but he hadn’t seen Tristan in a few days and, well, he’d missed him.

Tristan’s smile warmed, turning a bit softer. “You too.”

Etan frowned as Tristan flopped on the couch at Etan’s side. Not at the action, but at the look in Tristan’s eyes. The brilliant blue seemed shadowed somehow. “Everything all right?”

“Fine. Why do you ask?”

“No reason. You just seem a little…” Etan shrugged. He couldn’t quite put a word to it, and he couldn’t very well say he didn’t think Tristan’s eyes sparkled as much as they usually did. “Troubled, maybe.”

Tristan was quiet for a moment and then scooted closer and rested his head on Etan’s shoulder. “I’m fine. A little tired. What are you up to?”

“Doing some reading.”

“For work or pleasure?”

Etan suppressed a shiver at the way Tristan’s voice shaped the word pleasure. Certainly, it had to be unconscious on Tristan’s part, but it put ideas into Etan’s head he didn’t want there, not yet, not when he and Tristan hadn’t spoken of feelings between them beyond friendship. But he could see those feelings were there. Perhaps he should just come right out and kiss Tristan. Tristan seemed to be over what feelings he’d had for Amory, Tristan’s lifelong friend who was now married to Etan’s cousin. Etan didn’t see any of the emotion or longing he used to in the glances Tristan sent Amory’s way. Maybe Etan had waited long enough.

He’d certainly paused long enough before answering. “A bit of both. Want me to read to you?”

He’d read to Tristan before, many times, sometimes with Tristan sitting as he was now, snuggled up against Etan’s side, sometimes with Tristan lying with his head in Etan’s lap. Tristan seemed to like when Etan read to him, seemed to enjoy the legends and histories Etan habitually occupied himself with, seemed to even enjoy when Etan forgot himself and ran his fingers through Tristan’s soft hair as he read. Etan hadn’t read to anyone before except for his youngest sister, Meriall, but reading to Tristan was a far different experience from reading bedtime stories. He liked it, liked having Tristan close and hearing Tristan’s comments and reactions.

“I’m not sure I can sit still today. I’m sorry.”

“It’s all right.” He’d realized early on in their friendship Tristan was an athletic person who enjoyed being active and outdoors. Etan came to treasure the moments of stillness and quiet, when he saw Tristan’s intellectual side and his softer side in equal measure, but he enjoyed sharing the other more active times with Tristan too. Tristan always made the rides through the countryside and the hikes along the cliffs and the rambles over the beach fun. “What would you like to do?”

“Will you go for a ride with me?”

He thought briefly of the work awaiting him in the office he shared with Cathal, of his plans to spend the morning with his books and his studies before he returned to that work. And tossed it all aside with one glance into Tristan’s eyes. As he always did. His books would still be there when he returned to them later.

And he wasn’t convinced Tristan really was all right.

“Of course. Shall we go now?”

When Tristan agreed, Etan set his book aside and tidied away a few papers. On the way to the stables, they stopped in Etan’s suite so he could change into riding boots, but they didn’t dally otherwise. Stable hands saddled their horses quickly, and they mounted up. They rode together out of the palace gates and through the city, an easy conversation flowing between them. Once they left the city, Etan let Tristan lead. When Tristan took the road leading out to the cliffs, Etan knew his suspicions about Tristan’s state of mind were correct. Tristan seemed to prefer a gallop along the cliffs when he felt he needed to escape something, some pressure in his life. He talked to Etan about it sometimes, at least a little, but only after the ride.

As Etan expected, Tristan veered off the road as they neared the cliffs. The path he chose wound through some trees until it ended in the meadows overlooking the sea. Once they were through the trees, the view opened up before them, with fields dotted with wildflowers and a rocky precipice tumbling down to the vivid blue of the sea. The area was one of Etan’s favorites. He’d rather walk along the cliffs or picnic at the top so he could better appreciate the view, but riding was exhilarating too. Well, any ride with Tristan was. Tristan was a skilled and fearless horseman, who ended each ride flushed and smiling. Etan always wanted to grab him close and kiss him when he saw Tristan that way, to see if he could make Tristan breathless for another reason entirely.

Maybe today he would.

He put the thought out of his head as best he could for the moment as Tristan urged his horse into a gallop and took off parallel to the cliff edge. Etan hurried to follow. If he thought about it too much, he risked falling off his horse, which would certainly end any chance of kissing Tristan today.

Instead he concentrated his thoughts outward to the sea- and flower-scented wind blowing in his face, to the sunlight warming his skin. The day was perfect for spring, a little cool early in the morning but pleasant as the sun climbed. The sky was clear, the sea calm. There would be fishermen out in their boats, working to bring in the day’s catch. But they weren’t close; no one was close enough to intrude on his solitude with Tristan.

He watched Tristan, slightly ahead of him. Tristan really did ride well, better than Etan did, but then Tristan had probably spent most of his childhood trying to get on a horse while Etan had spent his sneaking off to the library. Or using his Talent to change himself into a cat and climbing trees. But, most often, the library. And given where Tristan had found him this morning, not much had changed. But he did come out when Tristan asked. Unlike when he was a child and his brothers would come and pounce on him and drag him from the room.

If Tristan wanted to pounce on him, it would be another story entirely.

After a while, Tristan began to slow his horse, and Etan followed. Upon reaching the point, they paused to take in the view and then turned back for home, riding side by side at a much more leisurely pace. Etan expected Tristan to be more relaxed, even laughing, after the long gallop as he so often was, but if anything, he seemed more pensive.

Etan let Tristan have his silence, even though it pained him to do so. He wanted to help, to make whatever it was right again. Tristan had cheered him up often enough, and they’d bolstered each other’s strength through bad times. But Tristan had to speak in his own time, and he’d never actually ask for help even when he did.

Tristan didn’t speak until they were almost all the way back to Jumelle. “My father wants me to marry.”

Etan’s brain stuttered. He had to have heard wrong. He whipped around to look at Tristan, but Tristan was still staring straight ahead. “What? Did you say he wants you to marry?”

“He’s dying, Etan,” Tristan said in a small, quiet voice that made Etan hurt.

“Tristan. I’m so sorry.”

“Thank you.” Tristan glanced up at the sky for a moment, and Etan gave him his privacy to pull himself together, or what passed for privacy when they were riding side by side. “He wants me settled, since I’m to run the business when he’s gone. He wants the business settled too.”

Tristan’s family business was the largest shipping concern in Tournai, and as Tournai was a country rich in trade, owing in part to a quirk of geography, the business was a prosperous one. Etan could understand somewhat Tristan’s father wanting him to be settled down if he was to be both the head of the business and the head of the family. Old-fashioned, perhaps, but there was probably some real concern for Tristan in his father’s desire too.

Etan worked himself up to suggest perhaps the two of them could wed. Not right away, but they could make an agreement and use a betrothal period to see if they would suit. Etan believed they would, but he was already thinking of ways to convince Tristan and Tristan’s father, if necessary. Etan’s own father would be difficult, he was sure—as a duke, his father would want Etan to make a more advantageous marriage to a lady of noble birth—but he could deal with Father later.

But all those thoughts—all the hope that came with them—screeched to a halt when Tristan spoke. “I’m to marry a daughter of a friend of Father’s, Dariela. They think it will be good for the business.”

“You already know—you’re marrying a woman? That woman?”

Etan had no idea who she was—she might be a perfectly lovely person—but he couldn’t understand Tristan marrying her, or marrying any woman. Tristan preferred men, the same as Etan did. Etan had hoped Tristan might just plain prefer him.

“Father thinks it’s best. For the family and the business.”

“Yes, but—what about you? What do you think?”

Tristan shrugged. “I must live up to my responsibilities to the family and the business. I have to run everything as Father would want. He shouldn’t be dying so young.”

“I know he shouldn’t. It’s awful.” Etan scrubbed a hand over his face. “He’s been to see the healers? I’m sure Jadis would see him if I asked.”

“He has, and Amory already had Jadis examine him. This illness has gone on too long undetected and untreated. His heart is too weak now.”

“I am so very sorry, Tristan.” He wanted to pull Tristan into a hug, to hold him and try to bear some of the pain and grief for him, but they were on horses. And Tristan was about to marry someone else. “Are you sure about this marriage though?”

“I don’t see a reason not to marry her. Do you?”

The statement was a stab of pain to his gut. He had to bite back a gasp, it seemed so real, so physical. He managed to murmur something that might have been an agreement, because what else could he do? If Tristan didn’t see a reason not to marry this woman, Etan could hardly give him one.

By the time Etan arrived back at the palace, he felt as if a yawning, empty hole had opened inside him. His head was buzzing, and he couldn’t seem to think quite straight. His feet carried him to his office. But when he walked into the empty room, he just dropped down into his chair and stared at the polished top of his desk, clean of papers since he’d tidied up yesterday.

Tristan was getting married.

He and Tristan would never be anything other than friends, and Tristan obviously wanted it so, was fine with it. Perhaps Etan had been wrong about Tristan’s feelings all this time.

“Etan?”

Etan looked up, but it took him a moment to understand what he was seeing. He hadn’t even heard the door open. “Cathal.”

Panic, an emotion he seldom saw in his stoic older brother, flooded Cathal’s face. “What is it? What’s happened?”

“Tristan is marrying.” Pain spasmed through him as he said the words, but he had to say them, had to get used to hearing them. Tristan was marrying, and all chance Etan might have had with him was gone.

Purchase

NineStar Press | Amazon

Meet the Author

Antonia Aquilante has been making up stories for as long as she can remember, and at the age of twelve, decided she would be a writer when she grew up. After many years and a few career detours, she has returned to that original plan. Her stories have changed over the years, but one thing has remained consistent—they all end in happily ever after.

She has a fondness for travel (and a long list of places she wants to visit and revisit), taking photos, family history, fabulous shoes, baking treats (which she shares with friends and family), and of course, reading. She usually has at least two books started at once and never goes anywhere without her Kindle. Though she is a convert to e-books, she still loves paper books the best, and there are a couple thousand of them residing in her home with her.

Born and raised in New Jersey, Antonia is living there again after years in Washington, DC and North Carolina for school and work. She enjoys being back in the Garden State but admits to being tempted every so often to run away from home and live in Italy.

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Release- Spell of the Werewolf by J.R. Loveless

Title: Spell of the Werewolf
Author: J.R. Loveless
Cover by TL Bland
Release Date: May 29, 2020
Word Count: 34k+
Genre: Paranormal, Romance, Enemies to Lovers
Keywords: werewolves, unexpected attraction, enemies to lovers, hybrid werewolf, human, immortality, cursed, sword fights, hunters, monsters, creatures, horror

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Buy Link: at Amazon here.

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Blurb:
Two centuries ago, Justin was turned against his will into a werewolf – a mindless, angry beast three nights a month. Ever since, he has done everything he can to atone for the blood on his hands, even going so far as to hunt his own kind. The burden of carrying on is heavy and unforgiving, and he’s reached the point of not caring if he lives or dies.

Vincent is a hybrid, half-werewolf and half-human, spending his days, and nights, hunting werewolves. Vincent may be half-monster, but he lives and breathes by his human half. Hunting werewolves and taking down as many of the creatures as possible is all he can see.

A chance meeting changes everything. A deal struck between them, a threat to humanity, and their mutual attraction combined brings them together in an explosive way. Vincent has found the one who can break down the walls around his heart – will he now be able to carry through on his promise to end Justin’s torment, or will Justin live to see another moonrise?

Excerpt:
The crunching of bones breaking and mending echoed off the cement walls and metal cage surrounding him, while his gasps of pain mingled with the excruciating change until Justin lay there a panting, trembling mess. He curled into a fetal position, staring at the bars and wondering how much longer he could continue to live through the unbearable transformation. Every full moon he became a monster with no thought of anything except feasting on flesh, human or otherwise. He’d lock himself in a steel cage lined with silver in the basement of whatever house they were renting to stop himself from hurting anyone on the three nights he couldn’t control himself.

“You’re back to normal, I see.” A low voice came through the darkness.

Justin closed his eyes against the brightness of the light flicked on and Kara, his best friend and caretaker, stepped toward the cage with keys in hand. She unlocked the door, then the chains, and helped him to his feet. After handing him his clothing, she went back upstairs without another word. Kara was the only person in his life who knew about the beast inside of him. She’d been a loyal friend and his only family for the last ten years. But before her, he’d spent almost two hundred years on his own, merely surviving.

Despite his outward appearance of an eighteen-year-old young man, he’d actually lived for two hundred and eighteen years. He stood at an even six foot with a wiry, lean build, which never changed no matter what he ate or how much he exercised. Black hair, as dark as a moonless night, just brushed his shoulders when he didn’t keep it tied back. Most humans found it hard to stare into his eerily light blue eyes. Maybe because they could sense the evil lurking beneath the surface, or perhaps they could see the creature pacing inside him, waiting for the nights it could be free.

In the time since his life changed forever, he’d seen many wonderful and horrible things: the invention of trains, cars, and airplanes, wars, slavery, death, and blood. The only cure he knew of to end his torment was either death or to kill the one who’d bitten him. His desperate search led him here, to Japan, where he spent every waking hour not working trying to find word of the bastard’s whereabouts.

Justin made his way upstairs to the kitchen and found Kara cooking breakfast on the old stove in the house they’d rented. He watched her as she moved about the tiny kitchen. Petite at five-foot-two, she had beautiful auburn hair that hung down her back to her hourglass waist. She kept it in a ponytail most of the time. Bright green eyes complimented the light dusting of freckles across her nose. He cared for her a great deal, even loved her in his own way, but he knew it wasn’t the kind of love she wanted from him.

Thirty-five now, she’d found him ten years ago lying in the bushes in her backyard the morning after a full moon. He’d had large wounds all over his body from a fight he’d been in with another werewolf in the area. She’d tended his injuries and taken care of him until he’d regained consciousness. When he’d awakened, she’d demanded the story from him; she said it was either that or she’d call the police. So he’d told her everything, his past and the monster hiding beneath his flesh. They’d been together ever since, moving from place to place in search of the one who could break his curse. They both worked odd jobs during the day to support them as they moved from city to city and country to country. It’d been her idea to build the cage lined with silver and secure it to the ground wherever they were.

Setting a plate on the table for him and another for herself, she slid into one of the chairs. “You were overly anxious last night. More so than usual.”

Justin looked at her and then away. He picked up his fork but didn’t begin eating immediately. “I don’t remember anything, you know that, Kara. Maybe there’s another werewolf close by.”

There were many malevolent creatures in the world that humans remained unaware of, or they chose to ignore the obvious signs, writing off anything unexplained as animal attacks. Mostly, his kind stayed away from one another unless they felt threatened. “Tonight’s the last full moon, for this month at least. I don’t know how much longer I can take this, Kara. I want it to be over.”

Kara studied him for a long moment before replying, “We’ll find him, Justin. You just need to have patience.”

“How much more patience can I have, Kara?” Justin snapped. “It’s been two hundred years. Another hundred and I’ll go insane!”

She looked at him sadly but didn’t say anything. They sat in silence for the remainder of breakfast. Justin barely touched the scrambled eggs, attempting a bite or two to appease Kara, but he couldn’t stomach the idea of eating. He knew she meant well, and she couldn’t really understand why he wanted to die, but her words only served to reinforce why he couldn’t continue to live like this.

After breakfast, Kara washed the dishes and then grabbed her purse. “I’m on my way to work. I’ll be back before the sun sets to lock you in.”

He watched her leave, staying at the table even after she’d gone. The night he’d been bitten played in his head like a mini movie, almost as if it were someone else’s reality. It was 1802, and he’d been out drinking at a local tavern, celebrating the birth of his best friend’s baby. When the owner finally kicked them out at two in the morning, he started toward home, weaving along the street in his drunkenness. Most people were tucked in their beds asleep. No noises could be heard other than the odd stray cat in the alley garbage bins or the lone bark of a dog in the far off distance. A loud crashing sound echoed off the cobblestones and in between buildings just before a large heavy weight slammed into him. He flew through the air, landing with a thud on the unforgiving street.

He realized a huge animal, something akin to a wild dog, lay on top of him, pinning him to the ground. Before he could react, the animal sank his teeth into his shoulder. Justin remembered screaming in pain as blood poured from the torn flesh. He heard a gunshot as someone came running down the street, yelling to scare off the dog. The animal let go and ran off, leaving him lying in a pool of his own blood.

The man who’d saved him had taken Justin to his home and rung the doctor. The doctor stitched him up and bandaged his wound. Justin returned to his own home the next day and went about his normal life. The wound healed in a miraculously short amount of time, and he’d begun to notice strange things happening to his body in the following weeks. He found himself abnormally attracted to the scent of blood, and he could smell things from several hundred feet away. His eye sight and hearing grew sharper, and his strength increased three fold.

The first full moon came a little over three weeks after he’d been bitten. He was out chopping firewood for his parents when it started. He thanked God every day since then that he hadn’t been home when it happened. He remembered dropping to his knees as a sudden pain gripped his entire body. His screams of anguish filled the forest behind his home; the snapping of his bones breaking was the only thing louder than his cries. Hair sprouted along his hands and arms; his jaw elongated into a snout. He could still feel the terror he’d felt during his first change. He lost consciousness afterward or so he’d thought. He figured out the next morning that when he became the monster inside, he lost all control of his awareness and the beast took over.

The only thing he remembered was waking up covered in blood the next morning. He’d vomited at the grisly sight beside him. A mutilated body of a man lay near him. He couldn’t even identify the face of the man, to know who he’d been, because his face had been torn to shreds and then gnawed on by some great animal. He’d gone to the nearby river to wash the blood away the best he could and made his way slowly toward home, where he’d snuck into his room to pack some of his things. He left a note for his parents telling them he was sorry, but he could no longer stay with them. They weren’t safe with him. He’d saddled his horse and left for good.

He’d been running ever since. The only person he’d gotten close to in the last two hundred years was Kara. Even after ten years he still feared for her safety, but she never let him take off alone no matter how many times he tried.

Bio:
J.R. Loveless began her adventure in writing romance at the young age of twelve. Her foray into creating her own worlds and telling her characters’ life stories was triggered by her own love of reading. She currently resides in South Florida with her dog and two cats, volunteers for an animal rescue in her spare time, and works as a manager for a financial lending institute. Someday she hopes to begin writing as a full-time career and bringing more of her ideas to life.

Her journey into gay romance began in 2005 when she began posting her original fiction on a forum for feedback and readers’ pleasure. In 2010, a good friend urged her to submit to a publishing company, and the day she received the acceptance and contract was the best day of her life. Since then, she has been noted to be one of the most purchased audio books after Fifty Shades of Grey on Audiobook.com, received best gay romantic fiction for Touch Me Gently in the 2011 TLA Gaybies, and even received an award for Chasing Seth in 2012.

J.R. adores her fans and loves hearing from them.

Website: http://www.jrloveless.com
Blog: http://www.jrloveless.com/blog
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/authorjrloveless
Twitter: https://twitter.com/jrloveless
Amazon: http://amazon.com/author/jrloveless