Thursday, October 31, 2019

ARC Review: Stained Hearts by Parker Williams

Blurb:

Can two hearts stained by past pain find healing together?

Tom Kotke held his husband of twenty-five years on the day he died and spent nearly a year adrift. Determined to force Tom back into the world, his family takes him to the Park View Diner, where he meets young stained-glass artist Aiden Dawson. For a brief moment, Tom doesn’t think about his deceased husband—a terrifying prospect.

Slowly, Aiden draws Tom out of his shell and helps him feel alive once more. But Tom isn’t the only one who has suffered. Aiden fears no one sees beyond his wheelchair. Even if Tom can convince him he’s different, they’ll still have to overcome their age difference and a secret that could destroy their future together.



Sandra's review:





This is the 3rd (and probably final) book in the Links In The Chain series, which must be read in order. Even though each book deals with the relationship story of a different couple, the books build on each other and should not be read as standalones.

I knew this 3rd book would make me cry, having read the blurb and a teaser from the first chapter shortly after I finished book 2. I knew Tom and Brian's 25 year love story would come to an end with Brian's death of cancer, and I knew Tom would have a really difficult and long grieving period.

After Brian, Tom is in so much pain. Heart-broken. Lonely. And so, so sad. Everything everywhere reminds him of Brian, of the love they shared, and the strong connection they had. He misses Brian in everything. I felt his grief; it dripped off the pages. Tom's family is watching helplessly, until they feel that enough is enough - Brian didn't want Tom to grieve forever, and it's time that they fulfilled their promise to Brian.

Bookblitz: Dorothy In the Land of Monsters by Garten Gevedon



Dorothy In the Land of Monsters 
Garten Gevedon
(Oz ReVamped, #1)
Publication date: October 11th 2019
Genres: Fantasy, Paranormal, Young Adult



Blurb:
Shifters, Zombies, and Vampires? Oh my!
My name is Dorothy Gale, and I think I might be dead.
When my dog Toto and I got swept up in a twister, we landed in hell. A very colorful hell. Like a rainbow dripping in blood. Now it looks as though this dreadful underworld plagued with vampires, zombies, and shifters will be the site of my eternal damnation.
They say this terrifying land called Oz isn’t hell or purgatory and escape is possible, but first I must survive the journey down the blood-soaked yellow brick road to the only place in Oz where vampires dare not tread—The City of Emeralds. 
With enchanted footwear and the help of my three new friends—a friendly zombie, a massive shifter lion, and a heartless axe murderer of evil night creatures (who also happens to be the hottest guy I’ve ever seen)—Toto and I have a chance to make it to the Vampire Free Zone. When we get there, I must convince the most powerful wizard in this magical land of monsters to send us out of this radiant nightmare and back to the world of the living. They say he’s just as frightening as this monstrous land, that he detests visitors, and even the most horrifying creatures cower in his presence. But I must seek him out. And when I find him, I’ll do whatever it takes to make him send me home.


EXCERPT:

Gray everywhere. As I stand on the porch of my aunt and uncle’s home, all I can see is the great gray expanse of prairie on every side. No trees, houses, buildings, people, nothing at all breaks the broad sweep of flat gray country that reaches to the edge of the gray sky in every direction. The sun scorched the plowed fields into a dusty, gray mass that expands to the horizon line, the endless gloom broken only by the little black shadows of the fissures running through it like the marbling of a corpse.

Even the grass is dead and gray—the hot sun singed the blades until they were the same lifeless gray color that blankets everything. Years ago, the house was a pristine white, but the torrid summer sun burned and blistered the paint and the heavy winter rains battered it away, and now the house is as weathered and gray as everything else here. It’s fitting for what it’s like to live here in Middle of Nowhere, Kansas. It looks like what it is—bleak, leached of any color, any excitement, anything interesting at all—drained of life. Gray is gray is gray is my life. It surrounds me from all sides, all the time. And it sucks. Thanks a lot, climate change.

I came to live with my Uncle Henry and Aunt Emily on a crappy little farm when my parents died in a car accident. I was thirteen. Because Emily was the only family I had left, she got stuck with me. She could have refused me and left me as a ward of the state, but she was kind enough to take me in. Even though I don’t share the same connection with Emily and Henry that I did with my parents, they’re still family—the only family I have—so, I may complain about this being the middle of nowhere, but it’s better than being in an orphanage or foster care or some group home. Yeah, their place is tiny, and old, but at least it has four walls, a floor, and a roof.

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Blogtour: Slow Dating The Detective by Sue Brown



Please welcome Sue Brown with 

Slow Dating The Detective 

Cowboys and Angels #3


If you read my books, you might think I’ve got a thing about bars and bartenders. Two of my recent series have been set in bars; Cowboys and Angels in the city, J.T’s Bar in a small town. Which is strange because these days I never go to bars at all. My social life tends to focus around coffee shops. Yes, yes, I’m addicted to caffeine. I admit it. 
I needed somewhere guys meet and it wasn’t going to be the gym because that involves exercise. When I came up with the idea of Cowboys and Angels in Speed Dating the Boss, I wanted a place that was a community in itself, a home from home for guys. Somewhere they visited all the time, let their hair down, and relax. 
Where do guys go? My ex (he’s a friend so he won’t shout at me for mentioning him) has a life focused around our local pubs. Not for the beer, but for pool, darts, jazz, local bands, pub quizzes, and whatever else is going on. And maybe the beer too. He’s out nearly every night because there’s always something going on and he’s part of many communities. As our kids have grown up, they’ve joined him in some of the activities. 
Media always talks about the loss of community in cities and suburbs, no one knowing their neighbour, but there are other ways to become part of a community. People go to church, take their dog to the local park (dog walkers always know the names of the dogs they greet if not the owners), become part of the school community etc. Why not include gyms and bars too. 
Let’s not forget online communities for those of us who don’t want to step outside the front door *cough*Sue*cough*. I’ve been in the genre a decade and have known some of the authors and readers in M/M Romance longer than I’ve known some of my local friends. The genre’s grown bigger for sure, but it’s still a community (with its loves and dramas) and many smaller ones within it. My online MM community/family were vital to me a few years ago when real life took a difficult turn. I’m forever grateful. 
Going back to Cowboys and Angels, I wanted somewhere that was as much a home from home for my guys as it was for the customers. When I wrote Slow Dating the Detective, it took me two attempts and two different couples to get to their Happy Ever After. With the second attempt I had to slide two completely new characters into the Cowboys and Angels world, but it was easy. Once I worked out who knew who and how, Keenan and Nate were in there, part of Dan and Gideon’s ever extending family. Keenan loses one community but gains another, and a smoking hot boyfriend at the same time. Go Keenan!
My two bars are total opposites. I mean, Cowboys and Angels doesn’t get dirty cops and escaping felons walking through its door on a regular basis. But they are a place for family, friendship, and lots of dating. Maybe that’s where I’m going wrong. I ought to find a bar of my own.


Blurb:

A gentle bartender might have what it takes to mend a relationship-phobic detective’s broken heart… but first they have to admit they’re dating.

Keenan Day could kick himself for letting the hot, dark-haired stranger he met outside a strip club get away. Instead of a phone number, he gets a punch in the face—from the boyfriend of his prospective employer at the Cowboys and Angels bar. When two cops come to check up on him, one is the sexy stranger, Detective Nate Gordon.

The initial attraction hasn’t cooled, and though Nate is leery of commitment, one hookup turns into another until they’re seeing each other in everything but name. After a recent nasty breakup, Nate balks at being part of a couple, and Keenan agrees, even though that’s all he’s ever wanted.

Just as they reach a standstill, a crisis shows them what their friends have known all along—they’ve already moved way past hookups. Now they just have to decide how to move forward.

Excerpt:

To pacify Mind Mom, Keenan added a couple of oranges to his order and lemon muffins just for the hell of it. He walked back slowly, his supplies in one arm and eating a muffin. The muffin was so-so, but he was hungry enough that he didn’t care.
Suddenly a large golden retriever ran toward him at full speed and leaped at him. Taken by surprise, there was no way Keenan was able to keep his balance, and he went down under seventy pounds of dog, his bag of food going one way and his half-eaten muffin the other. He just managed to avoid smacking his head on the sidewalk.
“What the hell?” he yelled.

Blogtour: Heist by Kezzy Sparks



Heist

Kezzy Sparks 

Publication date: October 31st 2019
Genres: Adult, Paranormal, Thriller



Blurb:
A thrilling introduction to the dark mystical world of Melanie ‘Breaker’ Perkiss, Buffalo NY’s most capable witch hunter and spell lifter. 

In this debut instalment, a dark mage acting on behalf of a vengeful ex has magically removed the genitals of a man and vanished, leaving him wiped clean down there. And unfortunately for the victim, he is set to wed…now imagine saying ‘I do’ while in that deprived state. 
No wonder when a shell-shocked and heartbroken Casey walks into Melanie’s office to report the incident, the witch hunter immediately goes on a chase, risking her own life as she encounters dark creatures and malevolent spirits in the city’s darkest corners.
The pressure is indeed on Mel: the wedding is fast approaching and leads remain few. Will she be able to corner the mage, recover the taken goods and save a doomed marriage, while bringing the conspirators to justice?


Thanks very much to My Fiction Nook for allowing me to share this here. Indeed, it's such an honor to be posting on this page.

       I do love to write a lot, but truth be told, I am also an avid reader. And in that pursuit, my choices in fiction span the gamut from romance to thrillers. 

     That said, below are the top five books that I have checked out and enjoyed in recent weeks. 


  #1. Origin, by Dan Brown. In this thriller from the New York Times best-selling author, Harvard symbologist Robert Langdon, is invited to Spain to be part of an audience for a lecture by one Edmund Kirsch, who supposedly has made a discovery that will shake all modern world religions down to their core. As bad as things would rather turn however, Kirsch is murdered that same night and it is left to Robert Langdon to search for Edmund’s discoveries and broadcast them to the whole world.


  #2. Safe Haven by Nicholas Sparks. This one is almost the same romance formula that you can expect from Nicholas Sparks, but it has one important element that signifies a departure from his old writinga thriller/suspense element arising from inclusion into the plot a stalker/murderer trope. The novel’s events are as harrowing as you can expect from Nicholas 


  #3. Third Grave on the Right, by Darynda Jones. This is the third instalment in the Charlie Davidson series and in it, Charlie continues with her grim reaper job, just as she does with the private investigation work. Her romance with Reyes farrow continues to grow but there are some problems along the way.

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

ARC Review : Hat Trick (Fake Boyfriend #5) by Eden Finley

Blurb :

Soren:
You know what’s not fun? Going on a Fiji vacation with four other couples. Especially when recently single. 
What’s even worse is when a past hook-up arrives unannounced. 
Not only do we have a history, but he’s ten years younger and a famous rock star. Most importantly, he’s my friend’s little brother. 
Being trapped on an island with Jet Jackson is going to be sweet torture because all I want is another chance. 
I just don’t think he’s going to give it to me.

Jet: 
You know what’s not fun? Escaping one guy who broke my heart only to run into another. 
Being on the road for three years has left me exhausted. The last thing I want is for Caleb ‘Soren’ Sorensen to try for round two. 
I can’t fight my draw to him. I’ve never been able to. 
I’m suddenly back to being the na├»ve kid who stupidly lusted after a hockey player. 
All I can think is if I let Soren get close, I’ll walk away from this vacation with a double broken heart.

Hat Trick is a full-length M/M romance with a guaranteed HEA. This is the final book in the Fake Boyfriend series and as such is not recommended to be read as a standalone. All main characters of the series feature heavily.



Christelle's rating:




Last part of this entertaining and hot mm romance series. I advise to read the previous books before to make for a greater entertainment. And all the readers who enjoyed this series won’t be disappointed.

So, JET !!! Finally, hehehe. Jet is now 23, still full of energy, has an innocent face with a big mouth. And his musical career is taking very, very well. But touring and being under the thumbs of his label is taking a huge toll. Needing a break, he flies to Fidji to spend a few days with his brother and the “Gay Brigade” (code for all the MCs from the previous books – so great they are all there, without stealing the show), including Soren, the sexy 33 y.o. hockey player.

Soren also has a lot in his mind. He can feel he’s at the end of his career, he’s single again… and look who’s crashing his vacations : the “little bro” of the Gay brigade, whom he biblically got very close to a few years ago, not knowing Jet was his friend’s brother.

Blogtour: The Dragon CEO's Assistant by Jenn Burke



Please welcome Jenn Burke with 

The Dragon CEO's Assistant

Golden Kingdom #2

a Dreamspun Beyond title



Blurb:

The heart remembers.

When Aidan Bishop staggers out of the woods, naked and suffering from amnesia, he needs to relearn who he is and where he fits in the world.

His boss, nearly five-hundred-year-old dragon Nassim, head of a successful tech company, hurries to claim his wayward assistant and guide him back into the life he disappeared from. As they get to know each other again, Aidan wonders if their relationship went deeper than employer and employee. But Nassim isn’t telling, and Aidan has a secret of his own… even if he doesn’t know it yet.




Get the book:


    


My favourite amnesia romances
By Jenn Burke
Amnesia is a tried-and-true plot device for all sorts of entertainment. A ton of TV shows have employed it for tension and “what if” scenarios, like Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman, Due South, Full House, and even two episodes of Knight Rider (where Michael and KITT were both affected separately). 
In movies, it can be a great overall plot, like in Total Recall, The Bourne Identity, and The Long Kiss Goodnight, or a turned-upside-down element, like in While You Were Sleeping
It’s even been used in video games—the main character’s loss of memory is a key component of The Knights of the Old Republic and manipulating memories is an ability your character has in Remember Me.
So, yeah. Amnesia in fiction is a thing. And I’m happy to share some of my favourites in a form of entertainment I haven’t mentioned yet—m/m romance books!
Forget I Told You by Tanya Chris
This book starts out with the main character knowing something about his life isn’t right, but he can’t quite put a finger on what. He can’t remember marrying his wife—and suspects he might be gay, a suspicion that’s confirmed when he visits a gay bar and has a scorching encounter with a stranger who seems all too familiar. But what’s the truth?
Okay, first off—that cover. I don’t often gush over covers, but this one fits the story so well, it’s awesome. As for the story itself, I loved the twist Tanya Chris put on this amnesia tale. It was not what I was expecting, but it was great, and it kept me guessing! 
An Uncommon Whore by Belinda McBride

Release Blitz: Sons of Rome by Karrie Roman




Title: Sons of Rome
Author: Karrie Roman
Publisher: NineStar Press
Release Date: October 28, 2019
Heat Level: 3 - Some Sex
Pairing: Male/Male
Length: 77300
Genre: Historical, LGBT, PTSD, soldiers, military, age gap, disabilities, war, ancient Rome, virgins

Add to Goodreads




Synopsis


9CE Germania

Battle weary and fearless Centurion Drusus Tuscus has only three more years in the Roman Legions and then he can return home to the mother and young brother he was forced to leave behind seventeen summers ago. Drusus has suffered much during his years in the Legions: defeats, fallen comrades and excruciating wounds, but this time the stakes are so much higher. As he prepares to lead his warriors from the safety of their winter base, across the Rhine into the wilds of Germania, he awaits the arrival of new recruits to bolster his century. With these men he will face the ferocious barbarian tribes, many still chafing under the yoke of Roman subjugation.

When his friend and Optio returns with the new men, two faces in the crowd change everything for Drusus. His brother, long lost to him and now a man, stands before him and he brings with him a friend, a man named Caius. A man who stirs the long dead fires of Drusus’s heart. Two men, neither of whom Drusus is willing to lose to a barbarian blade.

As the campaign begins, whispers of betrayal and rebellion stoke a fear in Drusus, especially as his arrogant commander refuses to take heed of the warnings. As catastrophe stalks their footsteps Drusus must balance his duty to Rome with his love for Caius. He will give everything he has to save his beloved brother, and Caius, the man who has stolen his heart.

Two lives that mean more to Drusus than his own.



Excerpt

Sons of Rome
Karrie Roman © 2019
All Rights Reserved

Prologue
8 BCE

Of the many things he would miss about his life, Drusus could not decide which he would yearn for most—his mother’s sweet smiles or his baby brother’s happy babbling. Of course, he loved the land around his family’s farm and would miss the beasts as well as the hard, honest work he toiled at day after day. But his family? Oh gods, how he would miss them.

Only two years ago, having barely reached his eighteenth summer, Drusus had become head of his family after the death of his father. Little Calpurnius, his brother, was barely two summers into his life then, having come along as a great surprise to his parents after many years of failed attempts at a second child. With his loveable nature and adorable face, Calpurnius had easily become the light of the Tuscus family. The time between Calpurnius’s birth and the death of his father had been a happy time for Drusus’s family.

“Drusus, you take too much time,” his mother called.

Agrippina Tuscus was devastated by the loss of her husband, and now, so soon after, she was losing her eldest son to the Emperor’s legions. Drusus had been conscripted. They’d always known it a possibility—more of a certainty—but, nonetheless, Drusus and his mother felt the blow when they finally came for him.

Drusus was not a coward, and he had little fear of battle. He dreaded leaving his mother and little Calpurnius though. They had slaves to tend the farm, and he knew each of them to be loyal. But there was no man of blood here, no Roman man left behind to defend what was left of his family should the need arise. And his family in danger scared him more than any battle could.

“I am taking the land into memory, Mother, so I will not forget what I am fighting for,” he answered as his mother came to stand beside him. Drusus was an unusually tall man who stood above most but towered over his diminutive mother. She looked so fragile beside him, and yet he’d seen her turn into the lioness when the need arose, especially in the care of her children.

“You fight for Roma, son. For Roma’s glory and honour. For Emperor Augustus.”

“I fight for you and Calpurnius too. I fight to keep you safe. I fight for this.” He spread his arms wide and cast them over the panorama of their land: the rolling green hills heavy with wandering sheep, snow-peaked mountains far in the distance, cypress trees swaying gently in the breeze. The wildflowers were due to bloom soon, bringing with them their honeyed fragrance as well as the chirps of a thousand cicadas.

He’d miss it all. The aroma of Cassia’s bread as it baked on the hearth, and even the dry dirt that needed tilling for seeding—and got everywhere—would be missed. The melodious banter of slaves as they worked at the jobs he should be doing were it not for his conscription, the bleat of the sheep, the low calls of the cattle in the field: he’d miss everything. Wherever he went, he’d experience similar sights and sounds, but they wouldn’t be home.

“I would have you stay, Drusus.”

“I cannot, Mother. It is a citizen’s duty to fight with the legions for Roma.” He pressed a tender kiss into her hair, the scent of olive oil and farm life potent in the strands.

“I know, son. I speak selfishly. I will miss you though. It will be many years before you return. Little Cal will not know his brother.” For twenty years, his life would belong to Roma; he’d be nothing more than another body in the cog keeping the Roman war machine turning.

Drusus saw his mother turn her gaze to where Calpurnius was playing with one of his kittens—exactly as he did—at the mention of his beloved brother. He watched the boy’s cherubic face light up in fits of giggles as the kitten rolled playfully all over him. With Cal’s white curls framing his pinked cheeks, he had the look of a god. All who met Calpurnius fell for his charms.

“Pray the gods I make it home before he is sent to the legions.” Drusus flinched at his thoughtless words, knowing they would cause his mother more pain.

As a true Roman woman, his mother ignored his insensitive words, stoically bearing Drusus’s departure instead. “Be safe, Drusus. And do not fear for those of us left behind.”

His mother wrapped her arms around him and held tight. Drusus mirrored her actions, doing his best not to think this may be the last time he held her—saw her. His sweet, kind mother.

He eventually pulled away and took her face in his hands, his gaze intent on her as he did his best to brand her image into his memory. Her dark curls and gentle eyes, the crinkles at the corner of them from years of laughter, her sun-kissed skin. She was still a beauty, even though youth had passed her. He had hopes she would find a good man to marry her one day soon, but he knew his father held her heart even from the afterlife.

Calpurnius was playing with his kitten when Drusus took leave of his mother and went in search of him for their goodbyes. He wasn’t sure Cal comprehended what was happening. The little boy understood Drusus was going away, but the idea of twenty years meant nothing to a child of four. Drusus wondered how long it might take for Cal to stop thinking every day maybe this would be the one his brother returned. How long before Cal forgot him entirely?

“Dru, kitten scratched my arm.” Calpurnius thrust his arm out to show him the offending wound as he approached. His little lip quivered as he looked at the tiny knots of blood left in the wake of the little cat’s sharp claws.

Drusus kneeled before his brother and scooped him into his arms. He kissed the scratch repeatedly until Calpurnius finally giggled and pushed him away.

“Kitten was only playing, Cal. He did not realise how sharp his claws are or how fragile your skin is.”

“You go now?”

Monday, October 28, 2019

ARC Review: How To Run With The Wolves, How at the Moon #5 by Eli Easton

From The Blurb:
Zeus loves his job on the new Mad Creek Search & Rescue team, and his inner Saint Bernard is finally being used to his full potential. When he sees a mysterious and wild-looking quickened—a dog shifter—at an earthquake site in Alaska, Zeus is compelled to investigate. Zeus falls hard for the primal beauty of Timo and of Alaska itself. Both call to his deep canine soul. But the Quimmiq pack’s laws are as harsh as the Alaskan winters, and Timo is out of his reach. 
Timo’s pack of dog shifters left their Inuit village generations ago and have lived wild ever since. Not trusting the “one-skinned,” and with their numbers dwindling, the Quimmiq are on the verge of extinction. Timo is shocked to discover a whole group of “two-skinned” working as a rescue team, and he is particularly fascinated by Zeus, a gentle giant. He senses what Zeus feels for him… but it’s forbidden. 
Can Mad Creek save this lost quickened clan? Perhaps—if they can learn how to run with the wolves.

Karen's rating:




Sometimes the journey turns out to be better than the destination...

While I've really enjoyed this series I have to admit this 5th and final story for me has turned out to be the weakest of them all.

"How to Run with the Wolves" is the final book in Ms Easton's 'Howl at the Moon' series and also serves to segue to a spin-off series about the quickened or two skinned (as the Alaskan group refers to themselves) intended to be set in Alaska.

I found that while I enjoyed the last part of this story more than the beginning,  unfortunately, overall things just didn't work for me as well as the previous books. In general I just didn't feel the connection between Zeus and Timo but more specifically, for me, on an individual level these two just didn't quite feel right for me.

Zeus and TImo in some ways really were total opposites...mainly in that Zeus comes across as having a more serious nature as well as being a loner...someone who's not comfortable in large groups even if it's family and friends, mostly people he's known his whole life. This was one of the parts of the story that helped keep this story unique in the series and interesting for me, since for the most part the quickened tend to be more gregarious and outgoing individuals who enjoy or at least are more comfortable with a lot of social interaction.

Release Blitz: He Dreams Magic by Emme C. Taylor




Title: He Dreams Magic
Author: Emme C. Taylor
Publisher: NineStar Press
Release Date: October 28, 2019
Heat Level: 1 - No Sex
Pairing: Male/Male
Length: 88100
Genre: Fantasy, LGBT, fantasy, alternate universe, literature, horror, captivity, magic, magic users, action/adventure, monsters, slow burn

Add to Goodreads


Synopsis


Ren has always wanted to leave, to escape his quiet village life. He wakes up from gold-tinged dreams with his heart pounding and a yearning for something he can’t name, can’t hold. He longs to experience something magical just once in his life.

Nico’s monsters don’t lurk under the bed. They walk in daylight. They haunt him every day of his life. He’s possibly the strongest magician of his time, yet he’s trapped. All he wants is an out.

At a magical carnival in the middle of a forest, Ren and Nico collide. They’ve been on this collision course their entire lives, always hurtling toward each other. For both men, escape is now. They have no choice but to flee together. Monsters and betrayal hunt them across strange lands. They find themselves on a journey to save each other—and possibly the world. All they have is one another, Nico’s magic, and a lifetime of half-remembered dreams. But finding each other, finally having someone to rely on, might be the strongest magic of all.



Excerpt

He Dreams Magic
Emme C. Taylor © 2019
All Rights Reserved

Ren

The lake was on fire. Ren dipped his oars into the water and swept himself closer to the blaze, each stroke an exultation. He’d been waiting months for this, counting down the hot summer weeks to autumn and rain and flames.

He was ready to throw himself into the burn.

The fire came on time, as it did every year. The first rainstorm of autumn brought them down from the sky. Or so the story was told. Ren couldn’t quite bring himself to believe they rode through the skies on storm clouds and dropped to the ground between thunderclaps, stealing their impossible power from the lightning.

Then again, they were magicians. Anything was possible.

Ren’s village, Klein, lay huddled in the dark at his back. On the opposite shore, half the forest flickered red. The low clouds caught and held the glowing light from below. The spectacle could be seen from every village in the surrounding valley, a beacon: come, step into the heat, play with us, burn with us.

For the first time in his life, he was going to see it up close. From the quiet safety of Klein, the spectacle always gave the impression of a town set aflame. So near to it, it wasn’t like that at all. More like the whole world had ignited. His fingers around the wood paddles twitched with anticipation. This was it. Finally. Finally.

Sunday, October 27, 2019

ARC Review : Tallowwood by N.R. Walker

Blurb :

Cold cases, murder, lies, and an unimaginable truth.

Sydney detective August Shaw has spent the last decade of work solving cold cases. Since the death of his boyfriend eight years ago, August works alone, lives alone, is alone — and that’s exactly how he likes it. His work is his entire life, and he’s convinced a string of unsolved cold-case suicides are linked to what could be Australia’s worst ever serial killer. Problem is, no one believes him.

Senior Constable Jacob Porter loves his life in the small town of Tallowwood in the middle of the rainforests in northern New South Wales. He runs summer camps for the local Indigenous kids, plays rugby with his mates, has a close family, and he’s the local LGBTQIA+ Liaison and the Indigenous Liaison Officer.

When human remains are found in the camping grounds at Tallowwood Reserve, Jake’s new case turns out to be linked to August’s cold cases, and Jake agrees they’re not suicides at all. With Jacob now firmly in August’s corner, they face one hurdle after another, even when more remains are found, they still can’t seem to gain ground.

But when the body of a fellow police officer turns up under the same MO, it can’t be ignored anymore. August and Jake must trace the untraceable before the killer takes his next victim or before he stops one of them, permanently.

Christelle's rating:




NR Walker is among the authors I read the most. She’s very diverse in the subplot but the romance is always up front and center and there is a lot of sweetness, low to no angst, a lot of chemistry and some steam even hotness.

Well, it’s good to be surprised...in a good way :-).

Tallowwood is a tiny bit different in that this time, even though the romance is still there with top notch characters, but the hotness is low-key with more angst than usual and the subplot, a well-done murder mystery, is as much present as the romance. No complaint from me: I enjoyed this new book a lot because the mystery was gripping.

For a long time, some gays are being murdered, making it look like suicides. August, a Sydney detective working on cold cases, is the only one willing to see the work of a serial killer but is unable to gather sufficient proof. Until another dead body is discovered in a small town, with so many similarities that August drives down there, eventually pleased to have to work the cases with Jacob, a young local cop, very professional and opened to August’s theory.

ARC Review: Toil & Trouble by Augusten Burroughs

Toil & Trouble: A MemoirFrom the blurb:

"Here’s a partial list of things I don’t believe in: God. The Devil. Heaven. Hell. Bigfoot. Ancient Aliens. Past lives. Life after death. Vampires. Zombies. Reiki. Homeopathy. Rolfing. Reflexology. Note that 'witches' and 'witchcraft' are absent from this list. The thing is, I wouldn’t believe in them, and I would privately ridicule any idiot who did, except for one thing: I am a witch."

For as long as Augusten Burroughs could remember, he knew things he shouldn't have known. He manifested things that shouldn't have come to pass. And he told exactly no one about this, save one person: his mother. His mother reassured him that it was all perfectly normal, that he was descended from a long line of witches, going back to the days of the early American colonies. And that this family tree was filled with witches. It was a bond that he and his mother shared--until the day she left him in the care of her psychiatrist to be raised in his family (but that's a whole other story). After that, Augusten was on his own. On his own to navigate the world of this tricky power; on his own to either use or misuse this gift.

From the hilarious to the terrifying, Toil & Trouble is a chronicle of one man's journey to understand himself, to reconcile the powers he can wield with things with which he is helpless. There are very few things that are coincidences, as you will learn in Toil & Trouble. Ghosts are real, trees can want to kill you, beavers are the spawn of Satan, houses are alive, and in the end, love is the most powerful magic of all.


Heather's rating:




I'm a long-time Augusten Burroughs fan, and Toil & Trouble: A Memoir is the kind of engaging, funny, eccentric, likable book that I would expect from him.

Look, I'm not going to debate the existence of witches or witchcraft, but I found Toil & Trouble: A Memoir to be pretty compelling. His stories that involved his magical abilities were interesting, but it isn't his talent that made the stories so wonderful, but the way he told the stories. I could listen to some of those stories for hours, just read them or have someone read them to me over and over again, and I don't think I would ever get tired of them.

Unlike many of his previous books, Toil & Trouble: A Memoir doesn't have any sad components. Maybe some scenes were melancholy, but the rest of the book was just a fascinating tale of his move to rural Connecticut with his husband. And, yes, he made that a thousand times more interesting that it sounds when I type it out.

Saturday, October 26, 2019

ARC Review : The Lion and The Crow by Eli Easton

Blurb :

In medieval England, duty is everything, personal honor is more valued than life itself, and homosexuality is not tolerated by the church or society.

Sir Christian Brandon was raised in a household where he was hated for his unusual beauty and for his parentage. Being smaller than his six brutish half-brothers, he learned to survive by using his wits and his gift for strategy, earning him the nickname the Crow.

Sir William Corbett, a large and fierce warrior known as the Lion, has pushed his unnatural desires down all his life. He’s determined to live up to his own ideal of a gallant knight. When he takes up a quest to rescue his sister from her abusive lord of a husband, he’s forced to enlist the help of Sir Christian. It’s a partnership that will test every strand of his moral fiber, and, eventually, his understanding of the meaning of duty, honor, and love.

Christelle's rating:





A historical novella from Eli Easton, an author who is starting to have a nice place in my list of authors to read.

Set up in medieval England, it recounts how Christian, a beautiful young man using his wits to survive among a brutish family, and William, a great warrior with the sense of honor the size of a mountain, form an alliance to save William’s sister from an abusive husband and in the process, give in their mutual attraction.

Kudos because first, it’s nicely developed in such a short length, and then it’s clever while I was not initially convinced due to the time chosen. And I enjoyed seeing William battling with his desire.

Release Blitz: Under His Skin by J. V. Speyer


Under His Skin 


J.V. Speyer 



Publication date: October 26th 2019



Genres: Adult, LGBTQ+, Romance, Suspense



Blurb:
A brilliant scientist out to save the world. A jaded agent looking to save the one he lost. And a conspiracy that spans oceans, reaching into the deepest parts of American national security. 
Lennon is a genius. He’s devoted his energy and his time to designing products to save lives. He’s gotten rich doing it, too. This time he’s created something to revolutionize war, crime, and policing – a bullet that heals. He’s on top of the world and the one thing he needs is someone to share it with. The one he loved disappeared without a trace years ago, and until he gets closure he can’t commit. 
Ben is an agent with an agency so secretive for years people didn’t know it existed. He screwed up years ago and fell in love with the man he was supposed to be guarding. Now his lost love is in danger again. He’s developed a product bad actors all over the world will want to get their hands on. When Ben’s superiors order him back to Lennon’s side, he goes without hesitation. There’s only one catch – Lennon can’t know he’s there. 
When one of those bad actors strikes, all the rules go out the window. Can Lennon overcome his mistrust once he knows the truth about Ben? When the enemy turns up the heat, will Ben manage to save Lennon from people who want him to kill?


EXCERPT:

Ben checked his look in the mirror. Everyone had their “thing,” something that would throw the entire meeting or experience off for them, and there was nothing that could rescue it. For Ben, it was talking to someone who had food stuck in their teeth. Anyone reporting to him knew that they needed to clean their teeth before stopping in for a meeting.
Ben’s commanding officer, Agent Dickinson, had a thing about people’s ties. They had to be perfectly straight and not askew in any way. Ben could remember coming out of a fight with a spy from a drug cartel, trying to make an immediate report to Agent Dickinson, and getting dressed down because his tie was crooked. Ben had been bleeding from a stab wound at the time. Agent Dickinson had been so distracted by the messy tie he couldn’t see the blood.
Ben wasn’t bleeding now. He had no legitimate excuse to be slovenly. He straightened his tie and brushed a few pieces of lint from the jacket as well. Then he headed out to go and face Agent Dickinson.
Dickinson waited for him in his office. A giant American flag stood behind him. Dickinson wasn’t usually that guy. They all knew where they were and who they were working for; they didn’t need to be clubbed over the head with it every time they walked into a room. The ever-present flags had come in with the new administration. Every room had to have a flag now. It was a mandate. Every room had to have a flag, and every lapel had to have a flag pin. Apparently the new president thought people would get confused without them.
“Siddown, Kellogg.” Dickinson drummed his fingertips on the desk for a moment and then he sighed. “It looks like we’ve got a burgeoning situation in Boston.”
Ben felt a twinge in his heart, but he ignored it. An agent wasn’t supposed to get twinges in his heart. An agent shouldn’t have felt anything for someone in his charge to begin with. Besides, Lennon had almost certainly moved on a long time ago. He probably had a movie star partner now. Maybe he’d married a model. Maybe they stood around looking gorgeous together on the red carpet.
“Kellogg!” Dickinson slapped his hand on his desk, making Ben jump. “You paying attention or you going to sit there and gather wool on the taxpayers’ dime?”

Friday, October 25, 2019

Blogtour: Dancing with the Lion: Rise by Jeanne Reames



Please welcome Jeanne Reames with 

Dancing With The Lion: Rise




The story of Alexander before he became “the Great.”
Finished with schooling, Alexandros is appointed regent of Makedon while his father is away on campaign. He thrives with his new authority—this is the role he was born for—yet it creates conflict with his mother and Hephaistion. And when his soldiers, whom he leads with unexpected skill, start to call him “The Little King,” his father is less than delighted.
Tensions escalate between Alexandros and his father, and between Makedon and the city-states of southern Greece. As the drums of war sound, king and crown prince quarrel during their march to meet the Greeks in combat. Among other things, his father wants to know he can produce heirs, and thinks he should take a mistress, an idea Alexandros resists.

After the south is pacified, friction remains between Alexandros and the king. Hostilities explode at festivities for his father’s latest wedding, forcing Alexandros to flee in the middle of the night with his mother and Hephaistion. The rigors of exile strain his relationships, but the path to the throne will be his biggest challenge yet: a face-off for power between the talented young cub and the seasoned old lion.

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About the Series
Alexandros is expected to command, not to crave the warmth of friendship with an equal. In a kingdom where his shrewd mother and sister are deemed inferior for their sex, and his love for Hephaistion could be seen as submission to an older boy, Alexandros longs to be a human being when everyone but Hephaistion just wants him to be a king.


Guest Post

Anonymous Question (via Tumblr): 
“So you emphasize Amyntor is ‘ugly’ in the first Dancing with the Lion novel, and sort of imply Hephaistion might not be his real son. Is there a reason for that? IS Hephaistion his son?”
Amyntor is a loose, literary parallel for the philosopher, Sokrates (left). The ancient Greeks maintained a confluence of assumed ideal characteristics: wealth, birth, beauty, intelligence, bravery, and athletic ability. This defined the “hoi aristoi,” or “best men”—the aristocracy. To be honest, it’s not so different from modern America, and elsewhere in the West, which tends to elevate celebrity beauty. Yet the Greeks did recognize it as a cultural fiction. Sokrates, especially, blew it up. He was reputedly the “ugliest man in Athens,” but also the wisest, and had the biggest heartthrob in Athens chasing him (Alcibiades). He was enormously controversial in his own lifetime, which led to his execution by state order. Later, he was virtually deified in the works of Plato and Xenophon, et al.
In the novels, Amyntor is a “Sokrates” figure. We have this unattractive man who’s nonetheless beloved by most who know him well (including his beautiful wife who gives her looks to her beautiful son). Hephaistion doesn’t care about looks precisely because of his family. He knows what true virtue is. He’s well aware he’s attractive, and isn’t falsely modest, but he measures his own worth by other criteria. Despite the very pretty cover on Becoming, Alexandros is not exceptionally good looking. Hephaistion even observes of him: “Only a flatterer would call him handsome.” But Hephaistion falls for him anyway because he knows the truth: looks aren’t virtue. He seeks virtue.

Book Blitz: BITE by Various Authors





Buy Links: Amazon US | Amazon UK | Universal Link  

Exclusive to Amazon and Available to Borrow with Kindle Unlimited





Vampires old and new, strong and sensual, with desires both predatory and protective. Their attraction is fierce and fascinating, and their love is eternal. We believe they deserve a very special kind of man—and their own happily ever after.

Four best-selling authors bring you their own take on the vampire lover’s story. 

In Out of Time by Clare London, the ancient vampire Ambrus tries to protect Edward, a newly-turned young man, hoping to bring him comfort, acceptance of his fate, and eventually love. 

In Christmas for a Vampire by Ruby Moone, grief-stricken vampire, Ellis Davenport, faces a miserable, lonely life when it seems the love of his life prefers death to eternity with him.

In A Tale Told in Darkness by Sue Brown, Lee comforts his lover with the tale of Brook, a vampire who falls for his neighbour Michael. When the young man is pursued by someone far more dangerous, only Brook can save him.

In Lamb to the Slaughter by Joanna Chambers, there is very little Lucien St. Villiers enjoys more than hunting for beautiful young men who are eager to learn all that Lucien has to teach them. 

Please note: these stories may also be individually available for purchase at various times. This collection is a special event for 2019.



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Thursday, October 24, 2019

Author Of The Month - Keira Andrews - Grand Finale



Welcome to our Grand Finale celebrations for the amazing








In our final post, we'll take a look at Reading The Signs, including a brand-new cover, and Flash Rip. We also have our author interview, and one more chance to win!


First up, Flash Rip

Blurb:

On Australia's hottest beach, the most dangerous current is between them.

Training to be a lifeguard is tough work, but Cody Grant loves a challenge. He spends long days in the sun and surf rescuing swimmers from treacherous rip currents while trying not to lust after senior lifeguard Liam Fox—who is deeply, painfully closeted.

Liam was supposed to be a football legend. Now in his mid-thirties, it’s been over a decade since his dream shattered along with his knee. Fans still recognize him regularly, and he's terrified his sexuality will be discovered and his conservative parents will reject him. He has strict rules to protect his secret and keeps everyone at arm’s length. Liam never acts on his need to surrender after being shamed for it years ago by the first and only man he trusted.

Out and proud Cody fascinates Liam—and tempts him to break all the rules.

Cody is practically half Liam's size and age, but has the confidence and compassion to take charge and give Liam the release, affection, and acceptance he desperately craves. But how long can a secret affair satisfy their hearts? As if saving lives isn’t hard enough, Cody faces his greatest challenge yet convincing Liam to trust him and find the courage to live out loud.

Excerpt:

“Home sweet home,” Cody said, flipping on the ceiling fan. He’d left the big screened windows over the patio open to get air in. The studio had AC, but he preferred the fresh breeze unless it was scorching hot and humid.
Liam gazed around warily. From where he stood in the doorway, the queen bed was directly on his right. He stared at it, and Cody was glad he’d at least pulled up the sheet and thin duvet, even if nothing was really tucked in.
Adam’s apple bobbing, Liam croaked, “It’s nice.”
A dark thrill of lust spiraled through Cody. Yes, Liam Fox was thirsty. But Cody had to play it cool and not spook him. He felt like a spider luring its prey into a web, and he couldn’t deny it excited him. He’d never, ever do anything Liam didn’t want, or pressure him, but if Liam did want this—if he actually wanted Cody… His heart thumped.
Calm down. Fix the leak and see what happens.
“You want another coffee? I’ve got a machine. I don’t use it very much, but there are some pods.” On the kitchen side of the studio, he opened a drawer.
“Sure. Thanks.” Liam slid off his thongs by the door and tentatively walked over.
While Liam looked at the collection of coffee types, Cody took off his running shoes and socks and made sure the bathroom was clean enough. He should probably put on a shirt, but…didn’t. Instead he pulled out the toolbox, putting it on the dining table in the middle of the studio. 
“Hey, can you do me a Milano after? Thanks.” He didn’t really need another coffee since he’d had a flat white earlier, but he wanted to give Liam something to distract him. He could sense a ball of anxiety in Liam and wanted to tell him it was okay, and they didn’t have to do anything. That Cody wouldn’t bite. Much.
He considered whether he was completely misreading the situation, but honestly couldn’t figure out why else Liam would be so nervous and tense. Cody kept talking. “You know, the first time I went to Barking, I got caught in the Croc.”
“Really?” This teased a little smile out of Liam. “Do you remember who pulled you out?”
“Not his name, but he was older. Blond hair, buff, really tanned. Very white teeth. He had a tattoo on his chest—a dolphin. He was like the poster boy for an Aussie lifeguard.” Not unlike you.
“Ah, Muggsy. He’s a contractor in Coogee. Used to be casual at the beach, but then business was too good. Nice bloke.”
“He was like a knight on a stallion. I’d been stupidly trying to swim back to shore instead of sideways out of the rip, panicking. And then the lifeguard was there, the rescue board appearing over the crest of a swell like out of thin air. I’d felt so alone and terrified, and he pulled me up over his board like I weighed nothing.”
He didn’t add that as a scrawny, gawky, horny-as-hell thirteen-year-old, he’d turned Muggsy into his go-to spank bank favorite. “You’d think it would have put me off Barking Beach forever, but I was hooked. It was fun and scary, and Muggsy was so reassuring. It really made me want to be a lifeguard. That combination of excitement and helping people.”
A smile tugged at Liam’s lips as he toyed with the pod of coffee he’d pulled out for Cody, the machine pouring his first. “Thought you weren’t a daredevil.”
Cody laughed. “No more than you are. I mean, I like the thrill of the ocean. But I’m not crazy like Baz. Holy shit, some of the waves he’s surfed? I saw an old competition on YouTube. It was insane. Or the break down near Walpole, ‘The Right’?”
Liam whistled. “Oh yeah. One of the biggest in the world. I wouldn’t dream of it, mate.”
“Me either. I did surf school down in Dunsborough last year. The swells are sick. Got absolutely smoked a few times. Then once I was in a vortex, and it was dumping me over and over.” He shuddered. “I thought my number might have been up.”
Cody remembered it as if it were yesterday, the sensation of being pounded down by a breaking wave, then sucked back to the rim of the shallow sandbank, then thumped down, sucked back—like a rag doll in a washing machine. Holding his breath, praying he’d be able to gasp in another before the next swell crashed him down.
“I was lucky the waves let up and the Jet Ski could get in and grab me. Never been so happy to see another human being in my life. That’s when I really knew I wanted to do this job. I’ve dreamed about it since I was a kid, and worked hard toward it, but in that moment, after the relief… It was like I knew it in my soul.” He scoffed. “That sounds stupid.”
“Nah. I get it. I totally get it.”
“Was it like that for you and footy?”
Liam looked back at the coffee machine, his shoulders tensing. He was silent a few moments, and Cody was about to apologize for bringing it up when Liam said, “Kind of. I always loved it, and I was so good at it. I worked my arse off, but I was born with the gift too. It made my dad so happy. Mum too, but…especially dad.”
He sounded so wistful, and Cody almost held his breath waiting for him to go on. Liam said, “Making him proud motivated me even more to be the best. Footy was my life. It was…me.”
Silence stretched out as Cody tried to think of the right thing to say, fighting the urge to reach out for Liam and reassure him that whoever he was now, it was okay. As much as he wanted Liam sexually—and holy shit, did he ever—it was the mystery of him as well, the depths of sadness and longing that Cody wanted to soothe.
The coffee machine popped up the empty pod, and they both jumped, then laughed awkwardly. Cody moved to the sink. “Better get started. So I unscrew this first, right?”
Liam sipped his coffee and gave Cody instructions where necessary, nodding and not saying much else. Soon enough, the tap wasn’t dripping, and Cody drank his coffee and tried to think of another reason for Liam to stick around. He scanned the studio, then a light bulb went off—or didn’t, more to the point.
“I need to change a bulb in the track lighting too. I’ve been meaning to get to this stuff for weeks.” He went to the wall by the patio door and flipped the right switch to remind himself which light had burned out. Then he got the spare and climbed up on the solid dining table. “It’s a pain in the ass. These bulbs are fiddly.”
Liam chuckled. “Pain in the aaaass. You sound so American sometimes. Canadian, I should say.”
“Pain in the arse, excuse me. See? If I say it like that I sound pretentious. Like to-mah-to. It doesn’t work with my accent.” He screwed in the bulb on the track.
“Fair enough. It does sound strange now that you say it.”
“Can you flip the switch?” he asked. Liam did, and the bulb came on with the others. “Cool, thanks,” Cody said, still standing on the table.
Well, that didn’t take long.
Mind working for yet another excuse for Liam to stay, he moved to step down onto the chair, watching Liam under his lashes. Then he did something he wasn’t exactly proud of, but what the hell.
He was going for it.
“Whoa!” Cody faked losing his balance, arms out, and Liam was right there with strong hands spread over Cody’s bare waist, steadying him on the wooden chair. Cody grabbed Liam’s shoulders, looking down at him—although not that far since Liam was a giant.
“Thanks,” Cody said, the word coming out breathier than he intended. He felt light and tingly all over, and fuck, he really wanted Liam Fox.
And he swore Liam wanted him too.

Get the book:




Second in our line-up, Reading The Signs


Blurb:

This hot-headed rookie needs discipline—on and off the field.

As a teenager crushing on Jake Fitzgerald, his big brother’s teammate, pitcher Nico Agresta decided he can never act on his desire for men. Nico is desperate to live up to his Italian-American family’s baseball legacy, and if he can win Rookie of the Year in the big leagues like his dad and brother did, maybe he can prove he’s worthy.
At 34, veteran catcher Jake just wants to finish out his contract and retire. His team doesn't have a prayer of making the playoffs, but who needs the stress anyway? Jake lost his passion for the game—and life—after driving away the man he loved. He swore he’ll never risk his heart again.

Then he’s traded to a team that wants a vet behind the plate to tame their new star pitcher. Jake is shocked to find the gangly kid he once knew has grown into a gorgeous young man. Tightly wound Nico’s having trouble controlling his temper in his quest for perfection and needs a firm hand. Jake fights to teach him patience and restraint on the mound—but when the push and pull explodes into the bedroom, can they control their hearts?
Please note: This 2nd edition only changes the cover art. No new content has been added.

Excerpt:

Nico just needed to throw one more strike. Jake’s left knee throbbed, and he balanced on his toes in his crouch, his shoulders hunched forward. He flashed the signs and waited for the pitch, the crowd buzzing like cicadas in the surprisingly humid night. It was late June now, and this was apparently a taste of what was to come. Sweat dripped down Jake’s forehead, and he wanted to push up his cage mask and swipe it out of his eyes.
Nico wound up and let the pitch rip, just missing the corner of the plate. Jake held the ball, twisting his wrist minutely toward the strike zone. But the ump behind him, his hand resting lightly on Jake’s back, didn’t say anything as he stood up straight, which meant it was a ball.
Fuck. Full count. If Nico walked the bases loaded, his night was over, and he’d be on the hook if these runners scored in the inning. Nico’s shoulders were up, his fingers tapping his thigh restlessly. Jake wished he could communicate with him telepathically and tell him to breathe. Hell, he wished he could pitch for him, but all he could do was flash the signs and hope.
It was crazy to think Jake had only known Nico again for what, a month or so? Maybe it was the time they’d spent together years ago, because hell if Jake wasn’t rooting harder for Nico than he had for any of his pitchers in far too long.
The crowd roared as the fastball streaked over the plate and hit Jake’s glove, the batter caught looking and the ump pivoting with a guttural called third strike.
One more. Just one more out and they would escape the jam. Pop-up, fly ball, strikeout, groundout. Jake mentally reviewed the stats of the next batter and flashed Nico the sign for a two-seam fastball to try and generate weak contact in the bottom of the strike zone.
Nico nodded, wound up, and unleashed the ball toward the plate. Just like Jake had hoped, the batter jumped on the first pitch, hitting a grounder to third that ended the inning. Jumping to his feet, Jake shouted along with the crowd as Nico pumped his fist and walked toward the dugout. Jake pushed up his mask and joined him, slapping Nico’s butt with his gloved hand.
“Great patience to get the out. Keep it up.”
A grin brightening his face and dimpling his cheeks, Nico nodded. Jake firmly told himself to ignore the flutter in his belly.
But a minute later through the din of the crowd and an old CCR song, Nico’s voice rose at the other end of the dugout. “No way. I want to stay in. I can do it!”
Jake looked over to find Nico on his feet, gesturing emphatically to Skip and Loyola. Murakami, the closer, was up in the bullpen, and Nico’s face was turning alarmingly red. Jake wanted to go talk him down, but it wasn’t his place to get involved when Skip was already over there. The other guys seemingly ignored the fracas, but Jake knew they were listening to every word.
“I can do it! I want the complete game!”
The coaches spoke reasonably, too low for Jake to hear. Nico shook his head emphatically, insistent that he could finish the game, but the decision had been made, and he grabbed a batting helmet and whipped it onto the floor, where it clattered and spun. “Fuck this!”
Jake’s blood pressure spiked with equal parts irritation and disappointment. This juvenile bullshit should have been beneath any major leaguer, and Jake had thought Nico was better than that.
Chomping his gum so hard he was about to dislocate his jaw, Skip glared and hissed a warning to Nico, who slumped down on the bench, his lips pressed into a thin line and arms crossed, steam practically shooting out of his ears. The guys down there gave him a wide berth, and attention turned to the field as the team went up to bat. Jake was tempted to go over and tell Nico to cut the shit, but hopefully they’d score an insurance run or two and he’d get his head out of his ass.
Naturally that didn’t happen. After a pop-up, a ground out, a walk, and a fly ball, it was time for Murakami to close it out in the top of the ninth. Jake pushed Nico from his mind. The crowd cheered Murakami’s arrival from the bullpen, clapping along to musical interludes and doing the wave, excitement brimming. When he was ready, Jake flashed the signs. Three outs, and this one was in the bag.
Too bad the bag had a big fucking rip in the bottom.
Murakami was usually steady as a rock, his breaking balls fooling hitters from both sides of the plate. But after a walk and a hit, Atlanta’s second baseman ripped a three-run homer. Head low, Murakami trudged to the dugout in the middle of the inning after retiring the other hitters, the dissatisfied crowd unnervingly quiet.
Jake patted Murakami’s back, his jersey damp. “It’s okay. A bad day at the office. Happens to all of us.”
Murakami shook his head. “Tell that to Agresta.”
“He’ll survive. That’s just the way it goes sometimes.” Jake gave him another pat, then realized Nico was staring daggers at Murakami, who slumped on the bench. Jake briefly glared down the dugout at Nico and added, “We still have a shot to tie it up or pull ahead.”
Unfortunately, it was three up, three down in the bottom of the ninth, and that was the ballgame. The crowd shuffled out of the stadium as the team retreated to the clubhouse. Nico’s hands were balled into fists, and he kicked the side of the bench before disappearing down the steps.
Clenching his jaw, Jake stalked down the tunnel to the dugout with the guys, no one saying much of anything, the silence thick but for the dull echo of their cleats. Nico was just ahead, and he muttered, “Should have kept me in. Could have had it. I fucking had it.”
As Nico shook his head and scuffed his foot, his cleats scraping the concrete, a bolt of anger fueled Jake’s steps. Grabbing Nico’s arm, Jake tugged him away from the entry to the locker room and down to the gym, deserted since they were going on the road in the morning.
Bypassing the main area of weights and cardio machines, he hauled Nico into the stretching room, slamming the door behind them and flipping on the overhead lights. Like everywhere else in the clubhouse, the room was accented in the team colors, and Jake blinked at the assault of red and white.
“What the fuck?” Nico yanked back his arm. His cap was pulled low over his face, his blazing eyes just visible under the brim.
“Stop acting like an asshole. Mura feels bad enough about the blown save without you sulking about it.”
“He only had to get three fucking outs.” Nico’s hands cut through the air. “How hard is that?”
“Sometimes it’s damn hard, as you well know.”
“I needed this win!”
You needed it? No, the team needed it. Team always comes first, and we all fuck up sometimes. So no glaring and guilt-tripping. Come on, you’re better than this.”
“It’s wrong to care? Sorry if I give a shit about winning.”
“And I don’t?”
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