Book Title: Honorable Convictions (D’Vaire, Book 20)
Author: Jessamyn Kingley
Cover Artist: LJ Anderson of Mayhem Cover Creations
Release Date: December 10, 2020
Genre/s: M/M Urban Fantasy Romance
Trope/s: Fated mates, enemies to lovers
Themes: Fate, love, second chances
Heat Rating: 3 flames
To find love, two bitter rivals must start over or end their matebond forever.
From the moment he is resurrected, Mitchell Brooks is full of ambition and determined to win at all costs. The fresh recruit pushes himself to the limit and earns the title of Juris Knight, a highly respected position within the Order of the Fallen Knights. Mitchell wants to be the best of his graduating class, but the task is impossible because there is someone in his way—the man who happens to be his mate.
Pierson Murphy is brought to life with the gift of a perfect memory and miserable resurrection sickness. After three days of suffering, he begins his journey toward Juris Knight and excels, achieving perfect scores on every aptitude test. However, Pierson struggles with an inability to relate to everyone—including the man supposedly destined to be his other half.
They keep their matebond a secret and after weeks of discord, they are sent to different cities and go their separate ways with bitter confrontations their only memory. A century later, Pierson has a spotless reputation and zero friends. Horribly burned out and aching for something more, he transfers to another office.
His reassignment is the impetus Mitchell needs to end the fierce competition with the man he should have treasured, and he shows up on Pierson’s doorstep, prepared to start over. However, Pierson is ready to move on and wants anyone other than Mitchell. With so many barriers standing between them, is it possible to find love and honor Fate?
About the Author
Jessamyn Kingley lives in Nevada where she begs the men in her head to tell her their amazing stories which she dutifully writes it all down in what has become a small mountain of notebooks. She falls in love with each couple and swears whatever book she wrote last is her absolute favorite.
Jessamyn is married and working toward remembering to start the dishwasher without being distracted by the scent of the magical detergent. For personal enjoyment, she aids in cat rescue while slashing and gashing her way through mobs in various MMORPGs. Caffeine is her very best friend and is only cast aside briefly for the sin better known as BBQ potato chips.
Gwen Cook has returned to Williamsburg, Virginia, after more than a decade away from her family estate. Frankie Porter has spent the last year renovating that same estate, turning the dilapidated Cook mansion into a showpiece. Gwen and Frankie shared a childhood full of hard secrets and ripe with first love. Now adults, their paths cross again and sparks fly.
A HEA with content warnings for PTSD and implied child abuse.
The boathouse had barely changed in twelve years. The creek ran quite a bit deeper and wider. Brown water had swallowed up much of the far bank and licked in pools about the base of the boathouse itself. Frankie had to shove back kudzu and sumac as she walked. The soles of her boots sank inches into mud. Tiny pink-and-white wildflowers grew up between the trees, and here and there she spotted a drooping hedge bright with red berries.
She made her way cautiously through the undergrowth until she could touch the old building. Standing against the foundation, she cocked her head and squinted up along brick walls. The boathouse seemed as sturdy as she remembered. Two stories high and crumbling on the outside, it was ruler straight and strong except for the roof, which still sagged but hadn’t given in to the elements and fallen.
“Used to be, they knew how to build to last.” Frankie patted the warm brick.
The structure didn’t tower the way it had in her childhood, but she supposed it wouldn’t. She had grown—her bones had lengthened into adulthood. She’d managed to top five feet, barely. At sixteen, she’d feared she would be stuck forever just above four.
Frankie hesitated, glancing up into the sky. The trees had grown tall, and she could see less of the sun than she remembered. The place was definitely cooler, definitely shadier; but on a warm summer afternoon, shade wasn’t such a bad thing.
She leaned against the boathouse and untied her boots. Stripping off her shoes and socks, she stood barefoot in the mud, regarding the brick walls. Twelve years gone and she was no longer a child. Could she do it?
Of course she could. Was it wise?
But her fingers and toes found the old cracks easily, and before she knew it, she was halfway up the wall. The brick brushed her khaki shorts, leaving brown stains. A branch streaked her white shirt with sap. Frankie didn’t notice. At the top she hoisted herself over the edge of the roof and onto the shingles. She sat very still, holding her breath, waiting to see if the roof would protest. The shingles held, even when she rose to her feet and tiptoed across the top of the boathouse to her old perch.
She looked up and around first, admiring the oak and the dogwood and the ash with their green-as-grass leaves. She sucked in the fragrance of the creek as she brushed her bangs from her eyes. Then she took a deeper breath and looked down.
James Creek glittered below, cut into geometric shapes by dim sunlight. Shadows gathered at the edges of the water and then spread away along the bank. From where she stood, the water looked deep and inviting.
About the Author
Sarah Remy/Alex Hall is a nonbinary, animal-loving, proud gamer Geek. Their work can be found in a variety of cool places, including HarperVoyager, EDGE and NineStar Press.
Hunger Strike, The Road of Bones drops you two centuries into the future. The moon has been sheared in two, much of the Earth is a wasteland, and the world is ruled over by witches and sorcerers with cruelty and indifference. When the town of Endly is threatened by the tinkerer and his army of animorphs, sixteen-year-old Hunger Strike, alongside his best friend, Winda, and his adopted brother, Denver, devises a plan to move thousands of its residents across the treacherous wilds, in the hopes of finding a new home within the borders of a strange land far to the west, known only as The Weird Wood.
Winda is the adult in the room. Always. She approaches challenges logically. Where I’m a bumbling mess of emotions, Winda has a way of removing emotion from any given situation, and then, with a clear head, she begins to formulate a plan of action.
So, I relate every detail of the past couple of hours to her, ending on a sour note with the impending invasion, and then I sit back, fold my arms across my chest, and I watch the gears spinning behind Winda’s eyes, a flickering candle between us.
A minute passes. Two. Three.
“The beasts!” she shouts suddenly, jumping to her feet and kicking the leg of the table. Next, to my horror, she pulls her machete from its sheath and, in one lightning fast motion, she stabs its tip into the table, plants her hands, locks eyes with me, grits her teeth and she spits; “Well, I’m not going down without a fight, you hear?? We’ll certainly die, but we’re damned well going to take a few of them bastards down with us, and we’ll bathe in their blood together before our glorious deaths!”
I knit my eyebrows together. Clearly, someone has taken my Winda and they’ve replaced her with a person who delights in taking baths in other folks blood. I, however, do not. Where’s the adult in the room? The lack of emotion? The clear-headed plan? We really are screwed if even Winda can’t wrap her head around this thing and spit out a strategy other than bathing in blood and glorious deaths – a duo of rather unappealing options in my less-than-knowledgeable opinion on the subject.
“Um – I don’t like that plan, Winda,” I whisper, painfully aware that Denver is in my bedroom and probably listening to every word we say.
“What else is there??” she spits back at me, once again taking her seat.
I furrow my brow. “Running?”
“Leave – all these people to be slaughtered?” Winda hisses across the table at me. “Is that what you’re suggesting, Hunger?”
“No, Winda, that’s not what I’m suggesting,” I say.
“We take them with us,” I say.
There’s a pause while Winda looks across the table at me like I’ve just grown a hideous extra head or two. “There are – thousands of people living in Endly, Hunger.”
“Two thousand, three hundred and thirty-seven,” a raspy little voice says.
I glance over my shoulder. Denver is peeking into the kitchen from the hall.
Winda sneers at him.
Denver has always been quite anxious around Winda. It might be her machete, or the pistol, or the fact that he overheard us discussing how she had accidentally murdered her pet cat, Mr. Wiggles. Or all three.
About the Author
T.J. Pike has been writing since splashing down on this tiny blue marble in late 1986, when a native of the planet observed what a brilliant liar he was. “You should either write a book or go into politics,” the woman was heard to say. Having been a VIP guest at the White House several thousand times over the past hundred years, he chose the former. Hand cramps, cold feet and early mornings soon inspired him to invent the computer, wool socks and coffee, though not in that order. Pike is currently number one on the Epsilon Delta Bestsellers list, and if you visit the Planet Arkon, you can find a bronze statue of him in the alleyway behind Smirk’s Liquor Mart, just to the left of the dumpster. Dubbed the most prolific story-teller of his time by Deckon-the-deceiver, Pike currently resides in New England, where he spends his days in the clouds, atop his dragon, Dinky, only stopping to allow her to feed on the occasional villager or two.
Why must I have these feelings for you? You’re my ex-stepbrother, and nothing will change that truth, no matter how many letters I write.
I never expected to see you again–or to rescue you from the side of the road in a blizzard. I didn’t think you would ever like me, much less kiss me in a steaming hot tub on a snowy night. It seems we make better lovers than brothers, which is all kinds of naughty and nice while we’re snowed in together.
But can this new intimacy last when the skies clear and my family finally arrives for the holidays, or are we just two guys in a mountain cabin with a great view of everything we want but can’t have?
Naughty & Nice is set in the same universe as Secret Admirer but stands alone.
“So, this is the hot tub,” I said, apropos of nothing.
“Yep,” he said, grinning. “Nothing gets by you.”
“I’m very observant that way,” I said, nodding seriously. I looked around as if taking in my surroundings, and when I got back to Jonas, I looked at him boldly, straight-on, my gaze skimming from his lips to his shoulders to his nipples, visible just above the water line.
He cleared his throat. “I’m starting to notice that.”
I wasn’t being subtle.
I’d angled for this to happen. To be in this hot tub with Jonas. I’d told him I wanted to soak away the cold in my bones, and that wasn’t a lie, but it wasn’t entirely true either. I’d wanted to get closer to him. Wanted to feel another flash of the heat I was sure I’d seen in his eyes at dinner. Maybe it was an anomaly, and we’d have a soak and move on with our lives. Or maybe…
Maybe it’d combust, given the right circumstances.
To my frustration, Jonas’s phone chimed with a message. He looked away to pick it up. I watched as his lips quirked into a smile while he tapped out a response. He’d gotten a couple of these texts in the car too, tonight. It wasn’t like before, when he was avoiding messages. This was someone else.
“Who’s texting you?”
He glanced up, then irritatingly right back down to the phone. “No one important.”
I huffed. “They have a lot of your attention.” My stomach tightened. “Is it a hookup?”
Jonas didn’t answer immediately, and every second wound my insides a little bit tighter. If Jonas had someone in his life—or more than one, as his busy phone led me to believe—I wouldn’t be surprised. Why wouldn’t someone want him? He was effortlessly gorgeous; I’d seen him roll out of bed and ruffle his hair with his hand and look fabulous. That was it; his whole morning routine. And there I was in front of the mirror, trying to tame flyaway hairs and choosing my clothing with care. He was smart and self-reliant too. He didn’t bail on school or his future just because he was in a messy relationship. He dealt with life. Guys like him were never alone.
I edged closer, our legs brushing underwater. “Is it someone you’re serious about?”
“Nah, I don’t do serious.”
His eyes met mine and held. “Tried it once. It didn’t suit me.”
I suspected he meant me, even though that didn’t make any sense. We’d never had a relationship. We’d had one brief kiss, and that was it. Surely he hadn’t been serious about his stepbrother with a bad attitude? I must be reading too much into that look…
“So, you’re texting with a non-serious hookup?”
He set the phone aside, lips quirking. “A potential hookup. Guy lives near here—”
I slapped my hand onto the surface of the water. “Oh, hell no!”
He laughed a little in disbelief. “What?”
Something came over me. All the tension that had stretched between us, all my restraint, snapped.
“No,” I repeated. “No hookups with other guys while you’re here.”
He raised an eyebrow. “Other guys?”
I was busted. He saw right through me, to the jealousy I had no right to have. I sucked in my bottom lip, tasting the faint tang of chlorine from the water droplets that had misted my face.
“Go on, Quinn. If you’ve got something to say about my sex life, I’m all ears.”
My face flushed hot. Words of apology were on the tip of my tongue. It wasn’t my place; it was none of my business.
Unless I made it my business.
Pulse speeding up, I turned toward him. “I’ve got nothing to say.”
“No? Because it seemed—”
I pushed forward in a rush, letting my mouth do the talking. Our lips pressed, clung. Jonas’s breath caught as I licked his bottom lip. Then, as if I’d hit fast-forward on a video, he was all in. His hand clamped around the back of my neck, pulling me hard against him as he deepened the kiss. My blood leapt with the thrill of lust and adrenaline as his tongue slid along mine, tasting and teasing. Jonas was a skilled kisser, advancing and retreating, giving me just enough to want more, then changing tactics to wind me up all over again.
The kiss went on forever. One kiss blended into the next. We sipped air as we repositioned our mouths, kissing one direction, then the other.
I was burning up in the steamy water, and yet I was shivering as cold winter air brushed over my neck and shoulders.
Jonas grabbed my hips, dragging me into his lap. I felt how hard he was, and ground down against him until he groaned satisfyingly against my mouth.
“No.” I finally pulled back to look into his eyes. “I’m not baby, or honey, or any other thing you call your hookups. I’m Quinn.”
His voice was husky but soft as he responded. “Quinn.”
I shivered to hear my name in that sexy, velvet tone.
“You sure you want to do this with me?” he asked. “I know we’re not related by blood, but…”
Was I sure it was a good idea? No. But did I want it? Desperately.
“We’re not brothers.”
About the Author
DJ Jamison writes romances about everyday life and extraordinary love featuring a variety of queer characters, from gay to bisexual to asexual. DJ grew up in the Midwest in a working-class family, and those influences can be found in her writing through characters coping with real-life problems: money troubles, workplace drama, family conflicts and, of course, falling in love. DJ spent more than a decade in the newspaper industry before chasing her first dream to write fiction. She spent a lifetime reading before that and continues to avidly devour her fellow authors’ books each night. She lives in Kansas with her husband, two sons, one snake, and a sadistic cat named Birdie.
Serial killers think if it all goes south and they finally get caught that their swan song is a day in court, making the families relive the agony while they get off on that delicious pain, all over again.
Not happening. Not anymore. We’re not making celebrities out of monsters. We’re not giving them a stage to strut on.
Now they get an audience of two.
One to Handle the problem, one to Witness it.
I’m a Witness. I trained for six years to do my duty, to manage my contracted killer, and to watch justice be done.
I knew it would be hard, the first time, to watch the eye for an eye moment.
I expected to feel a lot of things – fear, disgust, guilt.
I didn’t expect to feel turned on.
And I didn’t expect my contracted killer to look quite so pretty with blood on his hands.
HANDLED is a dark gay romance with themes of justice, retribution, and unsuitable love. It is not for the faint of heart and contains graphic scenes intended for an adult audience.
I wake no less irritated than when I went to sleep. Frustration and arousal are rolling at a low level simmer in my brain and my body. I should have sought a release but I couldn’t make my mind up if I needed to hurt, or be hurt.
Normally I know exactly what I want.
Watching the kill turned me on, it always does, there was pain involved, and although I was fifteen feet away I could feel it, smell it, almost taste it as the wire of the garotte carved through the dirty skin of the neck.
It was the laziness of the killer that confused my arousal though. He was sloppy, his victim was random, there was no finesse anywhere, no evolution in technique, no learning or adapting.
The pain on the victim’s face had caused a jerk in my limbic system, my cock going half hard, my blood sluggishly stirring, but the lacklustre carry through from the killer snuffed my rising hormones.
I know I will be a lot harder when I kill him.
The pleasure will last a lot longer.
The best I can say about last night’s kill was that it was quick. Which was a blessing for the victim.
It was the second time I had seen this killer perform, and the previous operation had been no more inspiring than this one.
I roll out of bed, I have time for a shower before watching the congressional committee do their annual rehashing of old issues before failing to find a way out of their ethical conundrum.
It is essential viewing, it gives me insight into which way the wind is blowing on Capitol Hill with regard to my employment and more than that, my existence.
Chances are the wind will still be gusting in my direction. The public remains fascinated and frequently aroused by people like me, but reluctant to face the unpalatable truth that the human genome throws us up for a reason, and that reason is survival.
Apart from that it’s always amusing to watch the Director deliver this year’s version of his you can’t handle the truth monologue.
Under the warm water of the shower I feel again the urge to give into the sexual side of my issues but it’s not worth it. It won’t assuage the itch, and I still can’t decide, hurt me or hurt someone else.
Sometimes, when the disconnect is bad, I look down at my body and I am surprised, because it isn’t what I expect to see. I see smooth lean muscle and length when what I expect to see is skinny and short and dirty, with old blood on the backs of my legs, grime ground into too pale skin, and my ribs like a toast rack.
The curling arousal makes it worse. I need to kill or this vision of me becomes the more prevalent one, and that isn’t helpful, it takes the confidence away.
I don’t have bad memories per se, I just had my evolution forced, and so the real me, the me now, it sometimes regresses, and if I look in the mirror I see both of us, one standing inside the other. The grown Handler and the tortured child.
Once I get my new Witness and handle this killer it will be so much clearer, and then I can take my release with clarity and passion.
Rubbing my hair dry I walk naked into the bedroom and flick on the tv. The committee is coming to order, the Director adjusting his microphone smoothly on the desk in front of him – I honestly don’t know how he has the patience for this, but then we have different mentalities. His various assistants
are congregated behind him looking like a row of funeral directors, which is essentially what they are – all dark shiny graduates of the Witness program.
It would be nice if one of them was assigned to me, preferably one that I won’t want to kill within the first half hour, and then we can get the show back on the road and I can finally let the curling, aching need in me find its path to completion.
About the Author
Romilly is queer. Romilly wakes up every morning and decides which (witch) to be. Some days Romilly is an Imp, some days a Fairy, some days a Stoic, and some days a Gladiator. Romilly has a classical education, a filthy mouth and loves OTK spankings and strong Sirs who give love and punishment in equal measure.
Romilly is also very shy but makes every effort to engage with people from all walks of life and likes making friends and meeting fans on social media.
When love does not dare speak its name, trusting is the hardest thing to learn.
England, 1910 – Ted has a good situation as first footman at Montague Hall, the splendid Gloucestershire manor of the 6th Earl of Carran. But he has just made a mistake so serious it could cost him his position, and even land him in prison if the authorities found out.
As valet to the 9th Duke of Argyll, Richard’s London life is glamorous. But when he has his heart broken, he longs to get as far away from the city as possible. The pace at Montague Hall might be sedate, but its tranquillity is like a salve to his shattered soul. And unforeseen diversions are to be found even here. Like handsome, despondent first footmen.
The last thing Ted needs is a new temptation. But his Lordship’s new valet isn’t just gorgeous. Richard is also brave and kind – and he wants to make Ted happy, something Ted never dreamt would come to pass.
Trusting again is hard, and in a world that reviles their love happiness is hard-won. Can they hope to carve out a contented life against all odds?
Dorcas was just coming through the baize door, carrying a tray stacked high with serving bowls. Ted hurried to hold the door for her.
“Thank you.” She gave him a smile and quickly but gently deposited her load on a sideboard.
Ted was fond of the head housemaid. They got on well, and unlike many of the other servants, Ted trusted her. Dorcas was plain-spoken and a hard worker, and she didn’t tolerate the mean kind of teasing that some of the younger servants engaged in with impunity.
He went to open one of the tall cabinets where a couple of shelves were bare. “Here, I’ll do it.” He started stacking the bowls on the shelves, which were too high for Dorcas to reach without a footstool.
“Thank you.” Dorcas rubbed her arms. “Golly, those were heavy. Good thing Mrs Stokes didn’t see me. That would’ve been quite the hiding.”
“She would’ve had good reason.” Ted hefted the bowls. “Imagine if you had tripped with these!”
“Yes, but the stairs are steep and narrow, and it’s bad enough coming up once with that huge tray.” She watched as Ted opened a different cupboard and started counting bread plates. “Aren’t you done yet? You’ve been up here an age!”
Ted made a face. “You know what Mr Wymer is like. He won’t stand for a single spoon out of alignment. And Jimmy’s managed to wriggle out from under him, so I’m doing the dogsbody work.”
Dorcas clicked her tongue impatiently. “You have to stop letting him walk all over you, Ted.” She stood with her hands pressed into her sides, shaking her head. “Who’s the first footman, hmm? You or him?”
Ted kept his eyes on the plates. He might have confided many things in Dorcas, but the reason why he didn’t dare vex Jimmy was too shameful to share even with her. “You’re right, of course. But…you know what he’s like.”
“Oh Ted.” Dorcas sighed. “What are we to do with you?” She turned back towards the door to the back stairs, but then wheeled back around. “I nearly forgot! You were up here, and you wouldn’t have heard yet.” With a glance at the door to the dining room, which was half-open, she lowered her voice. “You won’t believe what happened. Mr Brown has handed in his notice. He just told us.”
Ted stared at her. “What do you mean?” He nodded towards the dining room. “But Mr Wymer didn’t say anything. He must be aware.”
“You know what Mr Wymer is like. Discreet to a fault.” Dorcas put on a serious face and lowered her voice. “An upstanding servant does not gossip, Theodore.”
Despite himself, Ted grinned. The imitation was spot on. Then he remembered the news and grew sombre again. “So Mr Brown’s gone.” After Dorcas, the Earl’s valet was Ted’s second favourite amongst the servants. They weren’t bosom friends – clearly, or Mr Brown would’ve confided his plans in him – but Ted valued the man’s support against Jimmy and Mrs Dankworth, who was the Countess’s lady’s maid and who liked to team up with Jimmy to make Ted’s life hell. Losing the valet would bring change to the balance downstairs, and that would not bode well for Ted. An unease settled in his gut.
Dorcas seemed not to notice. “He’s not gone yet, but he will be by the end of the week. The Earl agreed to let him go on short notice. You know he’s courting the daughter of that Cheltenham pub. Her father died a few days ago, and they need to move quickly so that the pub can stay open.”
“Mr Brown is going to be a pub landlord.” Ted was bemused by the idea. “You’d think that being valet for an Earl would beat that life any day.” He couldn’t imagine leaving service. The work at Montague Hall wasn’t exactly a walk in the park, but the house was comfortable and the Peytons were fair employers. After what he’d left behind at home in Yorkshire, this house was paradise. But then he remembered the impossible situation he’d gotten himself into with Jimmy. Maybe starting over new somewhere wouldn’t be so bad.
Dorcas shrugged. “I guess love trumps all in the end.”
Ted didn’t know what to say to that. He knew that people like Dorcas believed this, but he also knew that for people like him, this was not likely to ever happen. He picked up the stack of plates. “I better take these through, before Mr Wymer sends out a search party.”
“Right you are.” Dorcas gave him a smile and a wave, and vanished through the baize door.
About the Author
Mel Gough loves writing about love – but with a twist. Nominated for the 2019 Selfies Awards, her bisexual romantic suspense novel He is Mine is a typical Mel Gough story. She needs her HEA fix, but on the way there will be thorns and fire, and sometimes brimstone. All right, that might be over the top, especially since her stories are firmly based in the real world – though not always in the here and now.
Born in Germany, exploring other realities has been Mel’s siren call since she was young. Books opened up a plethora of worlds, and soon gave her a strong love of the English language. After an MA in Anthropology, field work in the middle of nowhere seemed like one adventure too far, so Mel settled in London, which, to misquote Dr. Johnson, she will never tire of.
Mel loves to bend genres – her romances are gritty and dark, and sometimes there’s a dead body. She’s been told that her prose is beautiful yet disturbingly real. She’s curious about bygone times, and hopes to speculate about the future in one of her next books.
A senior basketball player. A mysterious new girl. A secret romance…
Charlie Baker wants out. She wants out of her small, southern hometown of BluHaven and she has her sights set on a basketball scholarship to a college as far away as her dreams can take her. Everything is going according to plan until she moves to town.
Aspen Sullivan is breathtaking. She is beautiful, smart, talented…. She evokes feelings in Charlie that she hadn’t thought possible. When their friendship blossoms into something more, Charlie discovers a new truth about herself. But with Aspen’s mysterious past, they must keep their relationship a secret.
Will their love be strong enough to endure the trials of deceiving those closest to them? Do they have what it takes to escape the constraints of the south and the closet together?
My Ticket Out is a Young Adult, LGBT story about love, and self-discovery. If you enjoy stories that include romance, heartbreak, and embracing who you are, then you will definitely love this book by author J.N. Miller.
Pick this book up today to see if Charlie will find her ticket out.
“We did not come this far to roll over like a bunch of pigs! Take the ball and put it in the damn basket!”
Falcons on three… one… two… three… FALCONS.”
Twelve seconds left on the clock.
One more shot.
One more play.
One last chance.
Twelve seconds is all the time we need.
Defense pounces the second the ball is inbounded like a leach latching itself to the only available life source.
The fast break is swift–over before it even started. One hard dribble towards the middle and the ball is launched to the center of the court.
Seven seconds left.
What comes next is second nature. A hard cut to the basket and back out to the wing, my hands raised in the air as I catch the ball before defense has time to adjust.
Four seconds left… Three seconds… the ball rolls off my fingertips.
Two seconds… it swirls around the rim.
One second… and falls to the ground.
The sound of the buzzer erupts through the gymnasium, solidifying our defeat. Final score thirty-six to thirty-seven.
I inhale the musty stench of sweat, perfume, and hairspray as we sulk into the locker room and take a seat while we wait for the aftermath that is Coach Stewart. I lean forward, resting my elbows on my knees and focus on the sweat dripping from my forehead, plummeting to the ground, leaving a minuscule puddle between my shoes.
That’s all we needed. And I blew it.
My main priority from the second this year started was getting a basketball scholarship out of this small town. From our very first game, it’s felt like my life has been dependent on one specific goal. A single accomplishment–like making the game winning shot–is going to make or break my future.
Coach Stewart charges through the door, letting it slam against the concrete wall as he steps in front of us. His gaze is intentional and cold, his demeanor full of discontent and indignation. His eyes trace over us, one by one, pausing just long enough for us to feel the misery set in.
He dips his head, slowly shaking it back and forth, before he holds up his index finger. “One shot. One damn shot. That’s all we needed to be undefeated this season.” He lifts his head, settling his hands on his hips. “We made mistakes tonight. And sometimes one mistake is the difference between winning and losing. The season’s not over yet. We’ll just have to practice a little harder to end it on a high. We’ve got a few games left, don’t give up now. Practice tomorrow after school. Bring it in.
Falcons on three… one… two… three… FALCONS.”
I shuffle to my locker, ignoring the hushed conversations happening around me, and begin gathering my stuff.
“That was a nice shot, Charlie,” Riley says as she pulls off her jersey, tossing it to the growing pile on the floor and retrieves her tshirt from the locker next to mine.
“Thanks,” I mutter, “I’ll see you tomorrow,” and sling my bag across my shoulders, heading for the door.
I get about three steps away from the locker room when I’m cut off by Ben. He’s wearing faded jeans, a red and black flannel over a plain white shirt, and boots with dried mud on the sides. The typical wardrobe of the boys that live around here. He’s taller than me by about three inches, with chocolate brown hair falling in his face, and forest green eyes that can’t seem to focus on what’s in front of him. “Hey, Charlie. Nice game.”
“Thanks,” I say, trying to brush past him.
He takes one long stride to the right, blocking my path. “I was thinking about checking out that new movie this weekend. Thought you might like to join me?”
“No thanks, I’m busy.”
He leans in closer, the smell of popcorn lingering on his breath, “C’mon, Charlie,” He whispers, “It’ll be fun. It wasn’t too long ago you jumped at the chance to go out with me.”
That’s not actually true. I only went out with him because Riley insisted and I finally agreed in order to get her off my back, not because I found him even remotely attractive. Of course, he doesn’t realize that, which isn’t all that surprising when I really think about it. We did the typical dinner and movie date but he couldn’t hold a conversation that didn’t revolve around him. Within the first twenty minutes of the movie, he’s shoving his tongue down my throat. I managed to wrangle him off before awkwardly sitting there trying to pretend I was somewhat interested in the film playing on screen. I haven’t gone out with him since.
“Ben, I need to get home. Can we talk about this some other time?”
“So,” he says, straightening up, his tone chipper as a smile plays around his mouth, “You’ll think about it?”
I stagger past him, picking up my pace as the EXIT sign beacons above the door, hoping my silence will answer his question.
I step outside, breathing in the bitter, frigid air of late February and make my way to my old grey Sedan. I pull out of the parking lot and head towards downtown. BluHaven is a small, southern town where the same families, shops, restaurants, and business have been here for generations. There’s a church on nearly every street corner, everything shuts down on Sundays, high school sports are the main source of entertainment, and everybody knows everything about everyone.
They say you have the freedom to be whoever you want to be, to express yourself in your own way. But if that goes against the belief system that’s been set in stone since before I was born, then don’t even bother. It’s not that I hate living here. It’s just that I never felt like I truly fit in, like my place has always been somewhere else in this world.
About the Author
J.N. Marton graduated from the University of Central Arkansas with a Bachelor’s degree in education. Along with educating the future of our nation, she enjoys taking her daily morning run, reading any book she can get her hands on, and binge watching the latest shows on Netflix. Marton happily lives with her wife, Hollis, and their Lab/Basset Hound mix, Sam.
Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow her on her favorite social media platform, Twitter @jn_marton.
The last thing Jeff wants is to spend time with the man who totaled his car—the one he spent years restoring with his late father. But if he wants to resurrect his childhood town’s annual outdoor hockey tournament, he’s got no choice.
The last thing Mika wants is to work with the guy who took off right after the accident, without ensuring he was okay. And working together on organizing Jeff’s proposed tournament sounds like a complete nightmare. He’s got enough on his plate after surviving cancer.
Sparks fly as they’re forced to work together, but is that enough for them to set their differences aside and pull off the tournament in only two weeks? Or will they prove to be immune to the magic of Christmas?
Standing, he held a hand out to the man who was so much his type it was almost laughable. Three or four inches taller than Mika’s own five-ten height, dark brown hair that shone red under the warehouse’s lights, like the deepest shade of mahogany, with charcoal-gray at the temples and above his ears, and lines that fanned out from narrow eyes a dark shade of blue. A high forehead in a heart-shaped face and the physique of a footballer completed the package.
All of that wouldn’t have been a big deal on its own, but the way he held himself with the cool confidence of someone who knew his place in the world?
Yowza. Talk about Mika’s type wrapped in a black wool coat and a stubbled jaw more gray than brown. He’d have been giving Jeff his number if the guy wasn’t scowling at him.
Wait, that scowl . . .
Jeff stared at his outstretched hand. “No.”
“Uh.” Rearing back, Mika dropped his arm back to his side. “Excuse me?”
Zach crept up behind him, gaze swinging from Mika to Jeff. “What’s wrong?”
Jeff waved a hand at Mika. “This is the guy you want me to work with?” He put special emphasis on this, as though Mika were a criminal who’d steal his wallet when he wasn’t looking. Straightening his spine, Mika planted his hands on his hips.
Zach blinked once. “Yes?”
Holland Stone—Zach’s boyfriend and Mika’s ex—approached from where he’d been working on his float for the parade, clad in a dusty T-shirt and even dustier jeans. He squinted at Jeff before turning to Zach and Mika. “You two okay?” He held a hammer in one hand like he meant to wield it. Not that he ever would, but the image would’ve made Mika chuckle had he not been so confused.
And frankly? Kind of hurt. What the hell had he ever done to this guy?
“I can’t work with him.” There was no give in Jeff’s tone.
“Why not?” Zach stepped in close to Mika, butting in against his left side. “Mika’s the best.”
Aw. The ire in Mika’s chest faded a little at Zach’s words. It was nice of him to say, especially since Mika had made the worst of first impressions on him last Christmas.
The amount of disgust in Jeff’s scoff would’ve been impressive had it not been directed at Mika. “I’m not working with the guy who totaled my dad’s car.”
Mika’s head jerked back. “What?”
Zach and Holland swung their gazes his way.
“I didn’t!” Taking a step back, he raised both hands. “I’ve never totaled anybody’s car in my life.”
“Oh no?” Jeff argued, raising both eyebrows, and god, the sarcasm. “Not even a turquoise 1956 Chevy Nomad near the Bluffs in Pacific Palisades? About this time last year? Ring any bells?”
That was where Mika knew this guy from! Jesus, he was still holding a grudge? “Okay, first of all, I apologized, like, seven times. Second, I gave you my number. It’s not my problem that you didn’t call. Like I said—I would’ve paid to get it fixed. And third.” Leaning over the desk, he narrowed his eyes on a squinty-eyed Jeff Bellmoor. “Totaled?”
Jeff winced. “Fine. That’s maybe the wrong word.” Uttered so begrudgingly, it was a miracle he managed to say the words at all. “But like I said—it’s not about the damage.”
A huff of exasperation escaped Mika and he threw his hands up. “I don’t know what that means.” He hadn’t known then either.
“Never mind.” Rubbing his forehead, Jeff turned away. “You wouldn’t understand.”
About the Author
Amy’s lived with her head in the clouds since she first picked up a book as a child, and being fluent in two languages means she’s read a lot of books! She first picked up a pen on a rainy day in fourth grade when her class had to stay inside for recess. Tales of treasure hunts with her classmates eventually morphed into love stories between men, and she’s been writing ever since. She writes evenings and weekends—or whenever she isn’t at her full-time day job saving the planet at Canada’s largest environmental non-profit.
An unapologetic introvert, Amy reads too much and socializes too little, with no regrets. She loves connecting with readers. Join her Facebook Group, Amy Aislin’s Readers, to stay up-to-date on upcoming releases and for access to early teasers, find her on Instagram and Twitter, or sign up for her infrequent newsletter.
Maybe it didn’t end there. Maybe it started with a kiss…
The only thing Ilan Nadav knows about relationships and marriage is that they ruin people. He’s committed himself to the bachelor life, and he’s never been happier—until his best friend had to go and fall in the sort of toe-curling, sonnet-writing kind of love. Witnessing that created a hunger in Ilan, and now all he can see is the people standing near him who deserved better than they got. And one of those people makes his heart beat a little bit harder and a little bit faster—but he’s the last man in the world Ilan is allowed to want.
After all, Fredric Pedalino is his best friend’s dad.
When Fredric comes to him for advice about dating men, Ilan is forced to re-write his own reality—and maybe his stance on love, because Fredric is the sort of man with the ability to sweep him off his feet. Even when he isn’t trying.
Ilan wants Fredric more than he’s ever wanted anyone before, but he’s not sure he’s willing to take the risk. After all, loving that man might cost him everything.
“I was on a date when you called me. My first real date maybe ever. You know, the kind that didn’t mean a quick hook-up on my couch before I sent him packing.” Ilan let out a huffing breath, and his fingers stroked absently over Fredric’s knuckles, sending sparks shooting up his arm. “I saw your name and I knew if I answered that call, that would be it. It would be over.”
“And you did answer,” Fredric said softly.
“Yes,” Ilan breathed out, “I did. I did, knowing what I was getting into—but I also did it thinking it was safe because there was no way you wanted… me.”
Fredric’s stomach twisted and his heart thrashed. He hated how hard this was, how complicated, how much fear ruled the moments between them. But like Teddy said to him, it would be worth the effort. “Except I do.”
“And I don’t know how to tell you no,” but before Fredric could lean in and close the distance between them, Ilan went on. “And I don’t know how to say yes.”
Fredric nodded, deflating a little, but not pulling away. “Then have dinner with me. And a little more wine. And that cake you brought.”
Ilan was silent a long while. “And then?”
“And then we take Bas for a walk. You can tell me what the winter sky looks like here at night. I’ve never asked before.”
Ilan’s fingers twitched, and his voice was thick. “I can do that.” He paused again. “And then?”
“And then, we do it again—something else,” Fredric said. He shifted closer, until their knees touched, and Ilan pressed back against him. They started to tangle in places, more than their hands, and it felt right. And as much as he was still nervous, he felt safe. “We see movies, and we eat dinner. We take a tango lesson at the community center. We find a wine and paint night and you can help me paint a cactus.”
Ilan laughed. “Yeah?”
“Yes,” Fredric said. “I just need to know that it starts here.”
“Just a chance,” Ilan breathed out, like he was making the promise to himself, not Fredric. “And if…if I can’t,” he said, then stopped. “If whatever inside me has been so wrong for all these years stays wrong, and you need something more…”
He couldn’t imagine a world in which that would be possible, but he owed Ilan at least one promise tonight, and he could make it that one. Tugging their joined hands toward him, he pressed the warm knuckles to his lips and let them linger for a long, long moment. “We will never be broken.”
Ilan’s breath was softer this time, but still trembling—just like his hands. But instead of pulling away, instead of letting whatever he was feeling get the best of him, he didn’t let go.
About the Author
E.M. Lindsey is currently living in the United States. They spend their time writing, reading, hiking, and binging Netflix – in that order. Find their work exclusively on Amazon.
A beta in an oppressive werewolf society must participate in a mating ceremony where alphas hunt their future mates.
As a beta in Wereduin society, Fern has no choice but to be mated when he comes of age. The ideal beta wereduin was subservient to their alpha, bears young, and knows their place in society.
Fern isn’t like that.
Rather than become an extension of his alpha, Fern wants to play in his band, hang out with his friends, and stay himself.
Now of age, Fern is to be placed in the Offering—an annual ceremony where alphas hunt and claim their beta mates. And whose attention does Fern attract? None other than Donovan Blackfang, a Highborne alpha who will stop at nothing but to claim Fern’s heart, body, and soul.
Someone grabbed the nape of my neck. Shit, no! Why hadn’t I paid more attention to my surroundings?
This alpha male was stout and gray. His jagged claws dug into my shoulder, and it ripped a cry from my throat. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw another beta. This alpha must have been cornering her before I showed up. She didn’t look back at me as she made her escape. The alpha who had me could have come from my worst nightmares. He had a large scar across his eye. His thick, weather-worn hide told me he’d been at this game for a while. He could be my papa’s age, not that age mattered for werewolves, but his face was truly menacing. The glee I found in his glowing red eyes terrified me. Veins riddled his muscular physique. One of his ears had been chewed off. He gripped my shoulder, tearing my skin. I clawed at his hands, face, biting wherever I could as he forced me onto the ground.
I felt sure I was a goner when he was knocked off of me. Growling surrounded us. It was the large, black alpha that had taken on the slaver. He snarled at the alpha who had been about to rape me. Slowly, I crawled away on my hands and knees. That was when he turned his fangs on me, growling. He didn’t want me to leave, as if he already felt some ownership of me. Something in his eyes halted me and trapped my breath in my throat. I shook my head rapidly.
There was no way I would be claimed tonight. And certainly not by a male. I took off running, leaving them to their fight.
It was over shockingly quick. The dark alpha won. My alpha. It confused me when I momentarily thought of him as mine. My body wanted to submit. Arousal grew heavy in my groin, heating up my body.
Instincts be damned, I was not born so I could have some male alpha’s pups.
The black alpha picked up speed.
Just then, two alpha males sprang from either side of the woods. I ducked low, and they collided into each other. I dodged around them. The left one snatched me back before the alpha on the right knocked him to the ground.
Both alphas were beautiful—if I allowed myself to think something like that about the same sex. One was a scarlet red, while the other a golden bronze. Hopefully, the two would also stop the black alpha who still followed me, and I could make a getaway.
Both tried, not wanting to let a challenger slip by.
I dragged out a relieved sigh. Part of me was disappointed, and that part scared me. The rest of me was thankful. I didn’t want any of them to win—especially the strong dark alpha.
It was apparent by their beauty that all three alphas fighting over me were from the upper-class. But my eye was drawn to the dark one—jet black with those piercing neon-blue eyes and riddled, muscular physique. Of the three, he was the most handsome. Shaking my head and trying to remove those unwanted thoughts about the beautiful alphas fighting for me, I left them to battle.
When I heard them following me, I stole a glance over my shoulder. My heart stopped. Both the scarlet and golden-bronze alphas chased behind me. The dark werewolf must have been beaten. My heart sank. I wanted to slap myself. Why did I feel so let down?
I ran blindly through the forest and over the rocks until I backed myself against a cliff. Both werewolves approached me, snarling. I retreated as far as I could go before I drew my fangs. There was no way I was going down without a fight.
Perhaps they formed an alliance because they no longer fought each other. Instead, they homed in on me. Was I about to be claimed by two males?
How would they take me? I only had one opening. Would they both try to fit? My body trembled, but my beta brain started to submit. It craved having the alphas’ cocks inside me.
Backing away, I shook my head and crouched low. They sprang at me, but before they could touch me, a black shadow leaped from the cliff over my head. He landed in front of me.
There he is again!
The black alpha.
Gratitude overwhelmed me, and I could do nothing but stare at him. I wanted this alpha. I ached inside. Precum dripped from my hard cock. I wanted him inside of me.
Violently, I shook my head. No. I did not want to be claimed by anyone tonight. I found a small opening created by their fighting and snuck out. The black alpha growled at me, and I couldn’t stop my shiver. He wanted me to wait for him. He wanted me to let him claim me. Already, it felt like he had his claws around my heart.
About the Author
Rosary is an author of erotica ranging from sweet and fluffy, to dark and taboo. She aims to foster a sex-positive experience for readers to indulge their fantasies in a fun and safe space. Sometimes she uses her writing to journey into the often hidden and taboo depths of human sexuality, and hopes readers will take away from her stories, not an acceptance of violence and sexual abuse, but rather a way to embrace their inner desires often shamed by society.