Saturday 29 April 2017

Release Blitz & Giveaway - K.A. Merikan - Laurent and the Beast (Kings of Hell MC #1)

Buy Links: Amazon US | Amazon UK

Length: 135,000 words

Cover: Natasha Snow


Nothing can stop true love. Not time. Not even the devil himself. 

1805. Laurent. Indentured servant. Desperate to escape a life that is falling apart.

2017. Beast. Kings of Hell Motorcycle Club vice president. His fists do the talking.

Beast has been disfigured in a fire, but he’s covered his skin with tattoos to make sure no one mistakes his scars for weakness. The accident not only hurt his body, but damaged his soul and self-esteem, so he’s wrapped himself in a tight cocoon of violence and mayhem where no one can reach him.

Until one night, when he finds a young man covered in blood in their clubhouse. Sweet, innocent, and as beautiful as an angel fallen from heaven, Laurent pulls on all of Beast’s heartstrings. Laurent is so lost in the world around him, and is such a tangled mystery, that Beast can’t help but let the man claw his way into the stone that is Beast’s heart.

In 1805, Laurent has no family, no means, and his eyesight is failing. To escape a life of poverty, he uses his beauty, but that only backfires and leads him to a catastrophe that changes his life forever. He takes one step into the abyss and is transported to the future, ready to fight for a life worth living.

What he doesn’t expect in his way is a brutal, gruff wall of tattooed muscle with a tender side that only Laurent is allowed to touch. And yet, if Laurent ever wants to earn his freedom, he might have to tear out the heart of the very man who took care of him when it mattered most.


Hound’s alarmed growling was coming his way, along with whines, when he reached the right door and opened it, only to have the massive Rottweiler’s body rush past him and into the corridor. Beast expected his pet to rush toward the room where the accident happened just minutes ago but Hound looked back at Beast, as if signalling he wanted to be followed, and rushed the other way, stirring the worst of feelings in Beast.

Was there an intruder somewhere in the house? With the sheer size of the former asylum that has served as the Kings of Hell Clubhouse for the last fifteen years, it was easy to overlook things happening in the disused parts of the property. They once had a bunch of teenagers who came over wanting to spy on the orgy. That thankfully didn’t end in blood, and out of the whole mess they got Jake to join their ranks.

Beast wondered whether he shouldn’t go back to the armory and get himself a gun but ultimately decided against it. There would be police and emergency services coming for Davy, and he didn’t want to run around with a firearm, no matter how good their relationship with the local police was.

Hound moved as if he were following a clear trail, but Beast couldn’t smell anything apart from dust and dampness. They were leaving behind the shouting and even the sound of the ambulance approaching, and eventually entered a corridor so disused it had a thick layer of dust on the floor. Now even Beast could see faint footprints in the dust, and next to them, dark droplets that could be blood.

Hound smelled the traces, looked back and broke into a run, which had Beast following him with the worst of expectations as to what he would eventually find. His heart beat faster as they ran down the dark hallway.

The building was a labyrinth, and this far away from where they all lived and worked, it wasn’t even wired anymore, so he breathed in the smell of mildew and followed Hound through the darkness in hope he would not stumble.

Windows in the doorless rooms on both sides of the corridor were the only source of light, now delivering a faint red and blue glow of the approaching ambulance. For all Beast knew, this could have been a gothic castle, something out of Bram Stoker’s Dracula, with bloodthirsty monsters waiting for their next victim in one of the endless hallways, and yet he only ran faster, listening to the steady tap of Hound’s paws.

Without any hesitation whatsoever, Hound rushed inside one of the rooms and gave a growl so vicious something inside Beast mourned his decision not to take a gun with him. But no one shot at him when Hound let out a single bark. Beast pushed past the empty doorway, jumping over a fallen chair, only to see someone hiding in the shadows.

Judging by the long, wavy hair and small stature, Beast at first thought it was a woman, but then the person spoke with a distinctly male voice.

“I… I’m not certain where I am.” The stranger took half a step out of the shadow, and into the flashing light coming from outside. His accent was distinctly foreign. French maybe?

Beast took him in with a scowl. Blood covered the stranger’s face, hair, dripped from his chin, from the tips of his trembling fingers, and stained the outfit that looked as if he’d stolen it from the set of a costume drama. Knee-high boots, fitted pants, a vest worn under a tailcoat.

“What the fuck are you doing on our property, boy?” hissed Beast, watching the soft features of a very young man. “Whose blood is this?” he asked, still cautious. In his experience, a non-threatening presence could hide an adept fighter, so he was not taking any chances as he joined Hound in front of the stranger, who was so short in comparison to Beast’s own six foot five form that his red-stained head only reached Beast’s pecs.

The stranger backed away into the corner, whimpering in fear the moment Hound growled at him again and lowered his head, but Beast wasn’t having any of it and grabbed the boy’s arm. “Is the blood yours then? Someone attacked you? Where?” he asked, not hesitating to pat the intruder down, to make sure there were no weapons hiding under the fancy coat.

The boy tried to weasel out of his grip, but he didn’t seem adept at using force. “N-no. I don’t think it’s mine. I don’t know. Is this hell?”

Beast groaned, staring at the silly-looking young man, whose white shirt was completely drenched in red. Someone must have died to produce this much blood.

“You will explain yourself to King.”

Author Bio

K. A. Merikan is the pen name for Kat and Agnes Merikan, a team of writers, who are taken for sisters with surprising regularity. Kat’s the mean sergeant and survival specialist of the duo, never hesitating to kick Agnes’s ass when she’s slacking off. Her memory works like an easy-access catalogue, which allows her to keep up with both book details and social media. Also works as the emergency GPS. Agnes is the Merikan nitpicker, usually found busy with formatting and research. Her attention tends to be scattered, and despite pushing thirty, she needs to apply makeup to buy alcohol. Self-proclaimed queen of the roads.

They love the weird and wonderful, stepping out of the box, and bending stereotypes both in life and books. When you pick up a Merikan book, there’s one thing you can be sure of – it will be full of surprises.

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Thursday 27 April 2017

Release Blitz & Giveaway - Josephine Myles - Screwing The System

Buy Links: Amazon US | Amazon UK 

Length: 228 pages

Cover Design: Harper By Design


When Boss meets brat…

Forced to apply for a job he doesn’t want, Cosmo Rawlins has only one aim in mind: fail the interview and get back to making music. But his attempt to shock the sexy, sharp-suited Alasdair Grant has a very different result.

Instead of getting thrown out of the office for flaunting an interest in BDSM, Cosmo finds himself on his knees, apologizing to the most dominant man he’s ever met.

Alasdair has more important things on his mind than training a novice sub, especially a rebellious bad boy like Cosmo. But there’s something beneath the youngster’s bratty attitude that fascinates him.

As Alasdair takes Cosmo in hand—and for a wild ride on his Harley—he becomes obsessed with bending the young rocker to his will, both in and out of bed. But while Cosmo might enjoy the kink, he’s not up for becoming Alasdair’s household slave.

When Alasdair goes one demand too far, Cosmo is gone in a cloud of dust. Forcing Alasdair to admit that earning Cosmo’s loyalty—and love—will involve the toughest challenge he’s ever faced.

Warning: This title contains an overbearing Top with a less than glamorous job, a rebellious brat who refuses to call him sir, and a total lack of high-end BDSM clubs or playrooms. Expect floggings over the kitchen table instead. Written in Jo’s usual exceedingly “English” English.

NB. This book is a re-release.


Cosmo crossed his ankle over his knee and began humming. It wasn’t deliberately to annoy the blonde chick behind the reception desk. No, he’d had this tune buzzing around in his head ever since waking, but what with having to come along to this interview for a piece-of-shit job, he hadn’t had a chance to get it down yet. That was why he couldn’t hold down regular employment, see? It wasn’t laziness or stupidity, no matter what his old teachers might have said. Nah, he was just one of those creative types. He’d told that to Irene—she was his advisor at the Jobcentre. He’d told her he was looking for jobs that would utilize his musical skills. She’d said, “In High Wycombe? Dream on, Cosmo,” and told him he had to put down a wider range of acceptable jobs or she’d bloody well do it for him.

In the end, she had started to arrange interviews for him, which explained why he was sitting here, waiting to be interrogated about his suitability as a “sanitary disposal operative”—in other words, the poor sod who had to go around emptying bins in ladies’ toilets.

Fuck that.

The skinny bloke who’d gone in before him loped out of the shuttered office and hightailed it across the lobby to freedom. Cosmo sighed and popped a stick of gum into his mouth. Fresh breath, see? It looked like he was making an effort so he’d get brownie points, but chewing gum during an interview was guaranteed to piss off pretty much every manager out there. As was asking how many cigarette breaks you got per hour.

“Mr. Rawlins?” the blonde chick called. “Mr. Grant will see you now.”

Cosmo stood and smoothed down his black drainpipe trousers. He even had a well-ironed shirt and tie on. Thing was, he’d discovered that on him, the smart clothes and grade-two haircut made him look less like a good little worker and more like a thug. He’d probably get a job as a bouncer if that was what he was going for—not that he had the intimidating build or anything, but he looked well hard, what with the couple of scars on his chin and the one across his eyebrow from fighting off angry closet cases, plus he could do a mean stare if he felt the need.

But he had other tricks up his sleeve too. Quite literally. Cosmo massaged his sore wrists and headed on into the boss man’s office, giving Blondie a huge grin on the way. She smiled back, all coy-like. Barking up the wrong tree there, love.

Mr. Grant, on the other hand… There was a tree he wouldn’t mind barking up. Or climbing up, more like. He was huge and had to be old enough to be his dad, which wasn’t actually all that old, seeing as how his dad was only fifteen when he got his fourteen-year-old excuse for a mother up the duff. But this wasn’t some fat old geezer with white hair bristling out of his nostrils. Mr. Grant wasn’t big like that. He was built like a bricklayer, all broad chest and shoulders bunched with powerful muscles. It was obvious, even with his body covered up by the fancy suit, he spent time down the gym.

“Cosmo Rawlins,” the boss-man said, holding out a huge hand, which swallowed up Cosmo’s in a warm and firm handshake. What a grip. Cosmo had all kinds of naughty thoughts about where else he’d like to feel a hand like that and wondered whether getting a boner in the interview would be something this Mr. Grant would report back to Irene. Best not take the chance. “I’m Alasdair Grant. Please take a seat.”

Usually these things were done across a desk, but Mr. Grant didn’t seem to need the prop to boost his ego and had a load of comfy chairs arranged around a giant coffee table at one end of his office. The man was clearly doing all right for himself. Cosmo could have fit the entire ground floor of his shared house in there and still had room to swing a cat in. Not that he believed in cruelty to animals or anything.

“Nice place you’ve got here,” Cosmo said as he settled into the chair indicated.

“Thanks. It’s taken me a decade to build this company up, but we’re now the largest sanitary services operation in the South East.”

Cosmo tried not to look too impressed, but it was bloody difficult not to when faced with the sight of Alasdair Grant seated across from him, like a stern George Clooney with that handsome face, cropped salt-and-pepper hair and designer stubble so thick it was bordering on beard territory. He had these sharp grey eyes fixed on Cosmo. It was unnerving, sitting there with the bloke looking at him like that.

Was Boss-man checking him out? Yes, definitely, but Cosmo was buggered if he could tell if it was purely a professional assessment or if there was a more salacious interest lurking in his gaze. Alasdair Grant didn’t have a wedding band, but Cosmo wasn’t going to read too much into that.

“So, Cosmo, has your advisor at the Jobcentre let you know exactly what the job entails?”

“Emptying rag bins in the ladies’ lavs, as I understand it.”

Boss-man gave this pained smile and leaned forward a little. Shit, it felt like he was looming over Cosmo, despite him being the other side of the coffee table. “That’s certainly an element of the work, but it’s a more responsible position than that. We provide a full replenishment service for all disposables, like paper towels and hand soap. We also empty and top-up the vending machines, so there’s a cash-handling element. You’d be in charge of one of our vehicles and acting as a frontline representative of Sanco Solutions at all times.”

Cosmo tuned out the words Boss-man was saying and just enjoyed the sound of his voice. There was this deep bass rumble to it that made him think those lungs must be huge, but that was overlaid with a melodic timbre not all that many speakers had, and there was a smooth, easy rhythm to his speech. Shit, he could listen to him for hours. Cosmo found himself tapping his foot and drumming his fingers along with his words. Gave him ideas for inserting a rap in the middle of the new song. Some UK Garage or Grime stylings, maybe. Would that work? The rest of the band would hate it. Rizzo especially, which made it doubly appealing.

“Mr. Rawlins. Am I boring you?”

That made him snap his head up. “What?”

“You looked like you were lost in music.” Boss-man stared pointedly down at his fingers.

“Oh, that. Sorry, it’s just habit. I’m a musician, see, and I can’t help it. I find inspiration everywhere.” Actually, this was good. Playing the flaky-musician card put off most employers, but he didn’t normally get a chance to until the bit at the end when they asked him if he had any questions.

“A musician? What do you play?”

“Guitar, and I sing too. I’m in a band. ScarDue, we’re called.” How much longer he’d be a member, he didn’t know. They were currently experiencing a bout of creative conflict. In other words, the rest of them were content playing cover versions of alt-metal hits in local pubs, whereas he wanted to experiment with crossing genres, come up with a completely original set and go places.

“Should I have heard of you?” he asked.

“I doubt it. Not unless you make a habit of hanging out down the White Horse on open-mic night.”

“Can’t say I do. The White Horse… Is that still a bikers’ pub?”

“Kind of. More emo and goth kids these days, but there’s a few bikers still hanging around. Freddie’s mates.”

“Freddie Henderson? Is he still the landlord?”

“Yeah, you know him?” Cosmo couldn’t imagine the two of them moving in the same social circles. For a start, Freddie had a shaved head, handlebar moustache, and the rest of his body was pretty much covered in tattoos and black leather. Alasdair Grant, on the other hand, was corporate establishment through and through.

Boss-man got this weird expression on his face. Fond? Yeah, it was that, but there was something more. Something kind of hot, like he was remembering sexy good times.

Author Bio

English through and through, Josephine Myles is addicted to tea and busy cultivating a reputation for eccentricity. She writes gay erotica and romance, but finds the erotica keeps cuddling up to the romance, and the romance keeps corrupting the erotica. Jo blames her rebellious muse but he never listens to her anyway, no matter how much she threatens him with a big stick. She’s beginning to suspect he enjoys it.

Jo’s novel Stuff won the 2014 Rainbow Award for Best Bisexual Romance, and her novella Merry Gentlemen won the 2014 Rainbow Award for Best Gay Romantic Comedy. She loves to be busy, and is currently having fun trying to work out how she is going to fit in her love of writing, dressmaking and attending cabaret shows in fabulous clothing around the demands of a preteen with special needs and an incessantly curious toddler.

Website and blog:
Twitter: @JosephineMyles


Wednesday 26 April 2017

Cover Reveal & Giveaway - RJ Scott - Ellery Mountain Series 1, 2 & 3

Out May 10 

Covers Designed by Meredith Russell

Rescuing cop Finn Ryan from a burning precinct was easy; it's keeping him alive Max Harrison finds difficult.

Firefighter, Max Harrison, is running from the city and finds peace in the sleepy Smoky Mountains town of Ellery. Finn Ryan is one of only three cops in Ellery, and someone is out to hurt him. Can Max find the arsonist, and keep Finn alive?

How can Daniel convince the man he loves, to stay with him in Ellery?

Luke Fitzgerald left Ellery Mountain for college and vowed never to return, but with his father murdered, he has no choice but to return. Luke only goes home to sell off his share of the Ellery Mountain Cabins, but everything changes when he meets the son of the other owner.

Daniel Skylar is an ex-soldier who lives every day to the limit and sees a future in Luke. It doesn’t matter what Daniel says, or how much he needs Luke; Luke isn’t staying once everything is sold off. Surely Daniel can understand that?

Jason McInnery, hounded by the paparazzi after his brother's death, runs to the one place where he hopes people will not sell him out. The place where he was born.

Hiding in the tourist cabins at Ellery Mountain Resort out of season he thinks he finally has room to breathe.

If only Kieran Dexter, a man ten years his junior, would stop fixing stuff and causing ripples in Jason's peaceful space.

Author Bio

RJ Scott is the bestselling romance author of over 100 romance books. She writes emotional stories of complicated characters, cowboys, millionaire, princes, and the men and women who get mixed up in their lives. RJ is known for writing books that always end with a happy ever after. She lives just outside London and spends every waking minute she isn't with family either reading or writing.

The last time she had a week’s break from writing she didn't like it one little bit, and she has yet to meet a bottle of wine she couldn’t defeat.

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Tuesday 25 April 2017

Release Blitz, Review Tour & Giveaway - Silvia Violet - Well-Tailored

Buy Links: Amazon US | Amazon UK | iTunes | Barnes & Noble | KOBO

Cover Design: LC Chase

Length: 62,000 words

Thorne and Dash Series

Professional Distance (Book #1) Amazon US | Amazon UK
Personal Entanglement (Book #2) Amazon US | Amazon UK
Perfect Alignment (Book #3) Amazon US | Amazon UK


Marc longs for a grand romance, but he doubts he’ll ever be that lucky. Then he meets Darius, an arrogant tailor who pushes all his buttons. When Darius offers him a job, Marc hesitates—he needs a direction for the future, not another man who doesn’t believe in relationships.

Darius lives by a few unbreakable rules: never sleep with employees, fashion should be simple, and romance is for fools. Marc, with his shimmery-sweaters collection, makes him want to break every single one.

They quickly give in to desire, but Darius wants to protect himself and Marc refuses to repeat past mistakes. It’s only when they let go of assumptions, that love has a chance to take hold.

Well-Tailored is a companion novel to the Thorne and Dash series. It can be read as a standalone. 
Author Bio

Silvia Violet writes fun, sexy stories that will leave you smiling and satisfied. She has a thing for characters who are in need of comfort and enjoys helping them surrender to love even when they doubt it exists. Silvia's stories include sizzling contemporaries, paranormals, and historicals. When she needs a break from listening to the voices in her head, she spends time baking, taking long walks, curling up with her favorite books, and spending time with her family.


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Monday 24 April 2017

Release Blitz - Rick R Reed - Unhinged

Buy Links: JMS Books | Amazon US | Amazon UK

Paperback: JMS Books 

Publisher: JMS Books 

Length: 65,315 words


Horror. Romance. The two seem at odds, yet in provocative author Rick R. Reed’s hands, the pair merge like a match made in heaven ... or hell.

Prepare for a dark journey into an unhinged world populated by ordinary and extraordinary monsters. Unhinged brings you sometimes chilling, sometimes romantic, sometimes hilarious, but always thought-provoking tales.

Among them you’ll find a chilling and redemptive ghost story, a most unusual and shocking first meeting for two lovers, a story revolving around one of the 20th Century’s most horrific serial killers, and a darkly comic take on the vampire mythos. This collection will make your heart race with passion ... in all its forms.

Contains the stories: Echoes, How I Met My Man, The Man from Milwaukee, Sluggo Snares a Vampire, The Ghost in #9, and Incubus.
Excerpt (From "Echoes")

Instead, a complete stranger stood in the doorway. He was about my age, mid-twenties, and stood about five-foot-four with a too-thin frame that made me want to feed him a few Giordano’s pizzas. The guy had dark, buzzed hair and a matching goatee. His skin, even in this dim light, looked ashen, marred by sores in various stages of healing. He stood just over the threshold and the weird thing was, it was like he didn’t even see me. Dark eyes darted about our new home, as if he were looking for something.

“Hello?” I said, standing still. I think I was too weirded out to be scared at this point. I just assumed maybe he had the wrong apartment. He certainly looked harmless enough. In fact, if I put enough breath behind it, I thought I could probably blow him off his feet.

But he didn’t answer. He continued to look right through me, as though I wasn’t standing there, all six-feet-two inches of me. Other than stacks of boxes, rolled-up rugs tied with twine, and furniture shoved at odd angles, I was pretty hard to miss, even in the orange-tinted light seeping in from our huge window.

And then he came into the room. Walked right into my and Ernie’s new home.

“What are you doing?” I snapped. “Can I help you?” I moved a bit closer, thinking to block further entry. Should I call out for help?

It was as though he didn’t hear me. He continued his progress into the apartment unabated. I was too stunned to do anything but stand and watch, gnawing on a hangnail. He moved into the center of the room and did something really strange—he squatted and felt around on the bare floor, as though he was groping for something. He paused and then the rest of his actions were all pantomimed. To the best of my ability, I could discern what looked like someone taking a pipe in his hands, bringing it to his lips, firing up a bowl with—again—a non-existent lighter, and then blowing out an invisible cloud of smoke. He closed his eyes and whatever his imagination told him he was smoking must have been deeply satisfying. His eyes popped open once more, and he appeared all at once more alert.

It was then he seemed to notice me standing there. I’m sure I was slack jawed and, to be honest, starting to get a little bit scared. I wondered where I had left my cell phone. Would anyone hear me if I screamed? Over the roar of an el train?

He smiled, and there was something winsome and sad in it, something plaintive in those brown eyes. But his teeth were repellent—how did someone so young end up with such badly decayed teeth? He held the imaginary pipe out to me. When I didn’t move, he shook the hand holding the “pipe” impatiently, as though beckoning me to take it.

“What the fuck?” I whispered. I moved toward him.

That’s when I heard the creak of the floor, and I turned just in time to see a shadow cross the wall. It was fast—almost a blur. But the dark shape had a human form. For some reason, the shadow brought with it an icy chill.

I wanted to scream but could not find my voice.

When I turned back, the intruder was gone, as though the shadow I had seen a moment ago had swallowed him up.

“Honey? Rick?”

I swam up from dream to wakefulness all at once, feeling disoriented. I was panting.

Want a taste of one of the stories from the Unhinged collection? Get a free sample at Amazon here.

Author Bio

Rick R. Reed is all about exploring the romantic entanglements of gay men in contemporary, realistic settings. While his stories often contain elements of suspense, mystery and the paranormal, his focus ultimately returns to the power of love.

He is the author of dozens of published novels, novellas, and short stories. He is a three-time EPIC eBook Award winner (for Caregiver, Orientation and The Blue Moon Cafe). He is also a Rainbow Award Winner for both Caregiver and Raining Men. Lambda Literary Review has called him, "a writer that doesn't disappoint."

Rick lives in Seattle with his husband and a very spoiled Boston terrier. He is forever "at work on another novel."

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Blast From The Past Blitz & Giveaway - Lauren Gallagher - All The Kings Horses

Buy Links: Amazon US | Amazon UK

Length: 91,000 words

Cover: Lori Witt


Amy Dover’s dream of training horses has come with a price. The pressures of her career—not to mention an oppressive husband and business partner—have sucked out all the joy the horses used to bring her. After her husband’s sudden death, Amy leaves that world behind and takes a job as a farmhand so she find her passion—and herself.

Dustin King has more than enough on his plate. He’s got a full barn and a packed training roster that includes rescued horses who need more attention than he can spare. The last thing he wants to deal with is a woman who’s unnervingly indifferent toward horses, no matter how attractive she is.

Except Amy isn’t as indifferent as Dustin thought. In fact, working with two traumatized horses might be just what she needs, and as Amy and Dustin bond with the rescued horses, they also bond with each other. Dustin reignites something else Amy thought she’d lost forever. No matter how much they try to resist, the spark that draws them together keeps getting hotter.

But Amy has known from the beginning that she’ll one day go back to her old life. She just didn’t plan on having someone to leave behind this time…


I didn’t go to my husband’s funeral.

It was a closed-casket service, so there’d be no closure from seeing him one last time. I didn’t care to see him again anyway, closure or no. All the tearful sentiments—he was so young, it was so tragic, he was such a wonderful man—would have sent me right into the ground with him. I couldn’t stomach the thought of one more person patting my shoulder and telling me how sorry they were, how horrible it must be for me, and to call if I needed anything at all.

The night before they buried Sam, I quietly packed the few things I couldn’t live without into my truck. Whatever belongings didn’t fit, I left in the too big, too quiet house. The next day, at a little past noon and right around the time my family and friends were probably all dressed in black and filing into the church, I climbed into the cab and drove out of town without looking back.

I didn’t know where I was going.

Well, that wasn’t entirely true. I had an address entered into my GPS. I had a job lined up, a place to stay, a destination in mind. But beyond that? I didn’t know. I didn’t know anything anymore except that I needed to get far, far from here so I could collect my thoughts and
and I didn’t even know. I couldn’t even say I needed to sort out my feelings, because I didn’t feel anything. No pain. No grief. No anger. Nothing but the restlessness reverberating through me and telling me to just get the hell out of here.

So I drove.

I was forty-eight miles from home and two from the county line when my cell phone rang. If the caller ID had showed any other name, I’d have ignored it, but since it was my older sister, I answered.

Cringing, I said, “Hey.”

“Honey, where are you?” Mariah asked in a hushed whisper. Voices murmured in the background as she added, “The service is starting any minute.”

The service. My husband’s memorial service. There should have been a lump in my throat or something, maybe even some hot, seething anger, but I felt absolutely nothing. Even the makeup-concealed mark on my face wasn’t throbbing anymore.

“I’m not coming.” Ugh. Could I have sounded any more like a petulant brat? Stomp, stomp, I’m not coming, and you can’t make me. As if it really was that simple or that petty.

“You’re not coming?” Anyone else would have read me the riot act, but Mariah just lowered her voice a little more and asked, “Why not?”

“I can’t.”

She was quiet for a moment. I thought she might be chewing on what I’d said, thinking of a response, but soft movement on the other end suggested she was relocating to someplace where fewer people might overhear. The voices in the background quieted, and Mariah said, “What’s going on?”

“I can’t do it,” I said. “Look, there’s a lot I can’t explain right now. I just, I need to get away from
everything. Clear my head, I guess.”

“Get away? Meaning?”

“Meaning I’m—” I paused. “I’m leaving, actually.”

“Where are you going?”

“I need...” I glanced at the rearview, meeting my own eyes for a second before I focused on the road ahead. “I just need to go away. Get myself back together.”

“Okay, but where?”

I gnawed my lower lip. I really didn’t want anyone to know because I didn’t want any of them to try to find me. I just needed to be as alone as I could get for a while. Taking a deep breath, I held the steering wheel tighter. “Just don’t worry about me, okay?”

“You know I will.”

Leaving Snohomish County. The sign whipped past my truck, and I slowly exhaled.

“I’ll be fine,” I said.

“You’re blowing town while we’re burying your husband.” Mariah’s voice was gentle but insistent. “That’s not fine, Amy. That’s going off the deep end.”

“Well, maybe that’s what I need to do, then,” I said quietly. “Maybe I need to go off the deep end.”

My sister was silent for a long moment. “When you get a chance,” she said finally, “could you at least e-mail me and let me know where you’re at with the horses on your training schedule? So I can work with them for you?”

Guilt twisted under my ribs. I’d been in such a hurry to get away, I hadn’t thought about everything else I was leaving behind. “Oh, man, I’m sorry, Mariah. I’m leaving you in a lurch, aren’t I?”

It’s not too late. I can turn around. Hardly anyone even knows I’m gone yet. King’s Ranch probably won’t have any trouble replacing me. Farmhands are a dime a dozen.

“Amy. Honey.” Mariah’s voice was the closest it could be to a reassuring hand on my shoulder. “If this is what you need to do, then I’ll hold down the fort while you’re gone. I’ll bring in an extra pair of hands if I have to, but you just go. We’ll all be here when you come back.”

When I come back.

Am I coming back?

I swallowed. It hadn’t even occurred to me before this point how long I might be gone, or if I might go back at all.

But all I said was, “Thank you.”

“You’re welcome, sweetie,” she said. “What should I tell people?”

I gritted my teeth. “Just tell them I’m okay, and I need some time to deal with everything.”

“How much of that is true?”

I rested my elbow beneath the window and rubbed the back of my neck. “Well, the last part at least.”

“That’s what I figured.” Mariah sighed. “Take care of yourself, all right?”

“I will.”

“And you can call me any time. You know that.”

“Thanks.” I paused. “You can call me too. I’ll still have my phone.”

“I’m sure I will,” she said. “I have to go. The service is about to start.”

I exhaled. So I was really doing this. My husband’s funeral was starting, and I was really driving seventy-five miles an hour in the opposite direction and wondering if I could possibly get away any faster.

“Okay,” I said, gripping the steering wheel tighter as I pressed down on the accelerator. “I love you.”

“Love you too.”

Aside from the engine and the hum of the road beneath my tires, the truck’s cab was hollow and silent without my sister’s voice. I flipped on the radio, but the music just annoyed me, so I went back to silence.

And I kept driving.

My chest ached with guilt. Part of me wished I could think that ache away, but part of me was admittedly glad to feel something for the first time since long before Sam died, even if it was just guilt that I’d left my oppressively huge workload in my sister’s lap. Maybe I should have done this sooner. While he was still alive and could have dealt with the fallout of me leaving.

Yeah, right. I wouldn’t have made it past the end of the driveway.

But Sam couldn’t stop me today, and I would find a way to make this up to Mariah, so I drove, and I kept on driving. Mile after mile, city after city, over the ear-popping mountain pass and down into the desert scrubland while the familiar evergreen trees faded in the rearview. An off-ramp took me from the interstate to a rural highway, and that highway wound between cornfields, wheat fields and dry brown hills that lounged across the landscape like lazy Shar Pei dogs.

The highway narrowed, and the speed limit inched down from fifty-five to forty-five to thirty-five. It dipped into the twenties as I rolled through a no-name town with dusty pickups parked along the sidewalks in front of places with names like “Mom’s Diner” and “Aunt Edna’s Groceries.” On the other edge of town—the first edge still being visible in my rearview—the speed limit picked up to forty-five again, and I continued weaving and winding my way past the fields and hills.

With every mile, I was less and less sure about this. It wasn’t like me to just drop everything and run, especially without saying a word to anyone until the wheels were already in motion. The more unfamiliar scenery I passed, the more real it all became, and this strange brand of newfound freedom became almost suffocating in its uncertainty.

But I couldn’t turn back. If I’d thought this through before I left, I’d have talked myself out of it, and now that I’d come this far, pride wouldn’t let me face my family yet, not after they’d probably heard what was going on. What I was doing. How badly I was losing my mind.

And anyway, I told myself, I had a job waiting for me out here. A menial one in which I was very, very replaceable, but still one I’d committed to start tomorrow. If I decided to go back to the world I’d just left–and the job to which I should have been way more committed—fine, but not at the last second. I’d left enough people high and dry this week.

And I had to do this. One more second within those familiar walls and fences and I’d have gone even more insane than I was apparently going right now.

Of all things that could have offered me some kind of comfort today, I found relief in the moment I turned off the blacktop and onto a dirt road. When my back tires bumped from the lip of asphalt onto the rough, pothole-littered gravel, I rolled my shoulders like a huge weight had been lifted off them.

I was no longer connected to the never-ending knot of pavement that tangled and twisted together in one giant rat’s nest of streets and highways. I was no longer tied to the loops and straightaways and exits and off-ramps that, no matter how far I’d driven, always bound me to that one blood-stained intersection. As dust kicked up from my tires and I navigated around potholes the size of grain buckets, that intersection no longer haunted my rearview mirror.

I wasn’t free. Not yet. But I was a mile closer to it.

“Next left,” my GPS announced, and I took the turn.

I was in one of the river valleys now, and the dirt road took me past more fields and—thank God—some forested areas. Not as thick and green as on the other side of the state, but not quite so desolate and scrubby as every uncultivated stretch I’d seen for the last few hours. Off and on, between small clusters of trees, white fences surrounded herds of cattle. Then horses. Then cattle again.

And finally, long after the sun had settled behind the distant mountains, I turned down a long, dusty driveway and drove under an arching sign that read King’s Ranch. Twin fences lined the driveway and guided me to the heart of the ranch, where two log houses and a large barn with pale aluminum sides stood in front of a covered arena.

I pulled up beside the barn. When I turned off my headlights, the milky glow of a few mercury vapor lamps kept the night from closing in.

As I got out of the truck, a light came on behind me, and I turned around as an older gentleman in dusty jeans and a cowboy hat stepped off the front porch of the larger house.

“Can I help you, ma’am?” he asked, Texas dripping off every syllable.

“Yeah,” I said. “I’m Amy Dover.”

He stopped, straightening like I’d just shocked the hell out of him. “Are you, now?”

“I am.”

“Well. How about that.” He continued toward me and extended his hand. “I’m John King.”

“Oh, right,” I said. “We spoke via e-mail.”

He smiled, the weathered corners of his eyes crinkling. “We did. Now, Dustin owns the place—I’m mostly retired now—but I can show you where you’ll be staying.”

“Is Dustin here?” I asked as we started walking across the gravel driveway.

“Not tonight,” John said. “He’s down in Oregon picking up a couple new horses. I imagine he’ll be home around noon tomorrow, so that ought to give you some time to settle in.”
In spite of the voice in my head that decided—again—to question everything I was doing, I managed a smile. “Sounds good.”

“You’re a lifesaver, Ms. Dover,” he said. “We’ve been hurtin’ since the last hand left, especially with Dustin being away this past week.” He gestured at himself. “These old bones can’t do all this nonsense anymore, I’ll tell ya.”

“Glad to help,” I said.

You have no idea how much you and Dustin are saving my sanity right now
John led me across the driveway to one of the two log houses. The one he’d come out of a moment ago was two-story, while the one he led me toward was single-story but wider than the other. Almost like two small ranch-style houses pressed up against each other. When I’d agreed to take this job as a live-in farmhand, I’d expected a tiny apartment, maybe a converted loft over the barn or a mother-in-law suite beside the house, but, by the looks of it, this was a full-size duplex.

As we walked onto the porch, John said, “Dustin lives on that side.” He gestured at the door on the far right of the wide porch. As he started toward the left side, he said, “And this side is yours.”

“Interesting setup,” I said.

“Well, we built the duplex so the kids had places to stay,” he said. “It was cheaper, you see, building one instead of two. But our daughter decided she didn’t want to stay on the farm, so we decided to use her half for farmhands. Ain’t a lot of other places for someone to live around here, and it meant we didn’t have to convert the barn office into an apartment, so it worked out nicely.”

He pushed open the door and made an “after you” gesture.

I went inside and looked around.

The cabin was small but cozy. It was pleasantly decorated in a country style that matched the old, probably antique furniture. From what I’d heard about Eastern Washington’s winters, I had a feeling that wood-burning stove would come in handy in a few months.

Not that I planned to be here that long. I didn’t think so, anyway.

“I hope this will do for ya.” John took off his weathered old cowboy hat as he stepped inside. “Ain’t exactly a New York penthouse, but it’s what we’ve got.”

“It’s fine.” I took in my surroundings. In fact, I liked the tiny place. It was small, and it was—more or less—mine. After sharing a house that was simultaneously way too big for two people and entirely too small for Sam and me, this was perfect. Turning to John, I said, “It’ll be just fine. Thank you.”

“Good, good.” He put on his hat and inched toward the door. “Well, I’ll let you get settled in. In the morning, I can show you around the farm.”

“Thank you,” I said.

He went back up to the main house while I grabbed a few things out of the truck. Not a whole lot—I hadn’t brought much anyway—but just the bare minimum to tide me over until tomorrow. Then I went into the tiny, warmly decorated bedroom that was mine for the foreseeable future.

Just the sight of the queen-size bed made me doubly aware of how exhausted I was. Every muscle ached, and my eyes were heavy like I’d just come home from a grueling, weeklong competition. Time to get some sleep. I could deal with thinking and all of that when the sun came up.

I went into the bathroom and, without looking in the narrow mirror above the sink, washed the concealer off my face. It was only when the water swirling down the drain was clear, devoid of even a single trace of color, that I forced myself to look at my reflection.

The bruise had faded, but not by much. The edges had expanded a little, radiating out from the darker center that covered my cheekbone, and the farther they reached down my cheek and up to my eye, the lighter they were. At least it was more of a sickly blue-green today rather than the deep, furious purple it had been the morning after. Another week or so of applying and reapplying concealer—wonderful when I’d be working outside in dusty summer heat—and it would be gone.

My gaze drifted from the bruise to the leather string suspended around my neck and dipping beneath my collar. Swallowing hard, I reached up and pulled it out from under my shirt, and the hairs on the back of my neck stood on end when my gold wedding band caught the light from the single bulb above the mirror. The heavy ball of lead that had taken up residence in my stomach sank a little deeper, and I let my gaze flick back and forth from the ring to the mark on my face.

One would go away on its own. The other, only when I took the initiative and took the damn thing off. And left it off this time.

Sighing, I let the ring drop onto my chest, wondering how a band that thin could be so heavy. One of these days, I’d take it off. Maybe even get rid of it.

But tonight, I just
I couldn’t. Not now. It was too soon.

Too soon? I should have taken this thing off years ago.

Maybe so, but I had my limits. Skipping town and blowing off Sam’s funeral pushed those limits, but taking off the ring? I wasn’t ready for that yet.

I closed my hand around the ring, the metal cool against my skin and the guilt hot in my otherwise numb chest. Closing my eyes, I could still hear the rumble of his motorcycle fading into the distance. I could still taste the venomous whispered prayer that it would be the last time I heard that sound, that he really wasn’t coming back this time.

Guess you should be careful what you wish for.

Author Bio

Lauren Gallagher is an abnormal romance writer who has recently been exiled from the glittering utopia of Omaha, Nebraska, to an undisclosed location in South America. Along with her husband, a harem of concubines, and a phosphorescent porcupine, she remains, as always, in hiding from the Polynesian Mafia. For the moment, she seems to have eluded her nemesis, M/M romance author L.A. Witt, but figures L.A. will eventually become bored with the wilds of Spain and come looking for her. And when that time comes, Lauren will be ready. Assuming L.A. doesn't have her hands full keeping track of Lori A. Witt and Ann Gallagher, which she probably will.

Twitter: @GallagherWitt

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Wednesday 19 April 2017

Release Blitz, Review Tour & Giveaway - Clare London - A Good Neighbour (London Lads #3)

Buy Links: Dreamspinner | Amazon US | Amazon UK

Length: 18,825 

Cover: Tibbs Design


A London Lads Story

A secret affair can’t go on forever.

Dylan Philips admits it himself: he’s a relentlessly single man in a small suburban town, both proud of and resigned to being a good teacher and a devoted nephew to his mischievous great-aunts.

When the aunts take a hand in matchmaking him with Josie Whitman, the girl who lives along the street, Dylan doesn’t tell them what kind of soul mate he’s really looking for—and the fact that he’s already found the man in question. It’s not Josie who’s travelling from London every month to her town property, but her journalist brother Neal. And Dylan meets up with Neal whenever he can.

But decisions must be made for their future. Dylan is risk-averse to everything from overseas travel to coming out, whereas Neal embraces adventure—and now he wants to take Dylan with him.

Horrified that his chance at love will move even further out of his reach, Dylan realises it’s time for him to own up to what kind of man he really is. He needs to find courage and compromise. And who knows whether the great-aunts will be a help or a hindrance with that?

First Edition published as A Good Neighbor by Amber Quill Press/Amber Allure, 2009.

April 19 - Urban Smoothie Read, Books Laid Bare Boys, The Way She Reads
April 21 - Molly Lolly
April 24 - Scattered Thoughts & Rogue Words
April 26 - Dog-Eared Daydreams
April 28 - Making It Happen
May 1 - M/M Book Addicts, MM Good Book Reviews
May 3 - Diverse Reader, Sarandipity
May 8 - Jim's Blog
May 10 - Book Lovers 4Ever, Bayou Book Junkie, Love To Read Romance Books

Author Bio

Clare took the pen name London from the city where she lives, loves, and writes. A lone, brave female in a frenetic, testosterone-fuelled family home, she juggles her writing with the weekly wash, waiting for the far distant day when she can afford to give up her day job as an accountant. She’s written in many genres and across many settings, with novels and short stories published both online and in print. She says she likes variety in her writing while friends say she’s just fickle, but as long as both theories spawn good fiction, she’s happy. Most of her work features male/male romance and drama with a healthy serving of physical passion, as she enjoys both reading and writing about strong, sympathetic and sexy characters.
Clare currently has several novels sulking at that tricky chapter 3 stage and plenty of other projects in mind . . . she just has to find out where she left them in that frenetic, testosterone-fuelled family home.
All the details and free fiction are available at her website. Visit her today and say hello!

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