Audible Release/Excerpt

Title: The Five
Author: Lily White
Genre: Dark Romance/Romantic Suspense
Narrators: Rose Dioro and Jason Clarke
This is not your average love story….
Every man who meets Rainey wants her. Having lived a life of sex, drugs, and manipulation, she is a temptation with far too many secrets.
 
When psychologist, Justin Redding, is assigned to Rainey’s case, he has no way of knowing the tale of debauchery he will encounter.
On a twisted path of love, loss, and murder, Rainey leads Justin through the events of her life.
Death follows Rainey…. Justin fights to discover her secrets….
But will he discover the secret of The Five in time to resist Rainey’s ultimate seduction?
 
Warning: This book deals with sensitive subject matters that may be upsetting for some listeners.

“No, Rainey. Let me look at you. I love looking at you. Even when I close my eyes, all I see is you.”
I dropped my arms, my legs trembling. This was Rowan, the sweet, kindhearted boy I loved. Yet, in that moment I feared him. The adrenaline was wearing off and I was suddenly so cold.
His lips parted as he stared at me, those blue eyes I knew so well slowly taking in my body as heat blazed behind them. He’d grown so large, twice my size at least, and it had never occurred to me how strong he was until now. Nobody would pick on him anymore. Not without getting their asses handed to them in a fight.
“Can I touch you, Rainey?” His eyes lifted to mine. “Is that all right? For me to touch you?”
“Always,” I whispered, unable to put any strength in my voice. “You can always touch me.”
He stepped forward and I stepped back out of instinct. He would never hurt me. Not Rowan. But what I saw in him now was the predator that had always lingered just beneath the surface. He wasn’t a monster like his family or David. Not him. He was something else entirely.
Pain shot through his eyes when I moved, his hands fisting at his sides. “Do I scare you now?”
Shaking my head, I forced my mouth to move. “No. It’s just -“
“Just what?”
“You’re different, Rowan. A man, I guess. You’ve grown.”
Blue eyes held mine, the darkness in them seeping away, but not entirely. His lips pulled into a tight smile. “You need a man. I’ve become exactly what you need. For you, Rainey. Not anybody else. Just for you.”
I drew in a rattling breath. “Touch me.”
Rowan moved forward and I held my ground, craning my neck to look up at him. He was shaking, his skin so cold that I knew I had to fix him somehow. “Rowan?”
“Yeah?”

 

“Will you kiss me?”

 

Lily White is a romance writer who likes to dabble on the taboo side of eroticism. She is most known for her Masters Series, Target This, Wishing Well, and Asylum. In addition to dark romance Lily writes contemporary romance, taboo romance, and psychological thrillers. Lily enjoys stretching her writing muscles by continuing to challenge herself with each book she publishes.

 

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New Release/Excerpt

Title: Thick & Thin
Series: The Chubby Girl Chronicles
Author: Tabatha Vargo
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Release: January 21, 2020


Jenny Michaels
We promised to stay best friends through thick and thin, but that was before the kiss that changed it all. Before he went off to war and left me behind angry and bitter. Now he’s back, turning my world upside down, but I’m not the love-sick tomboy he left behind. And even though he always promised through thick and thin, something tells me I’m a little thicker than he had in mind. 
Joshua Black
I made promises to Jenny, but I’m not the boy I was when I left for Afghanistan. I’m broken, scarred, and not nearly good enough to hold her heart. I tried to do the right thing and stay away, but my family needs me, which means I have to go home. Jenny hates me, and maybe that’s a good thing because I only want to do right by her. That means keeping my hands off her newly rounded curves. No matter how hard that might be.
JENNY MICHAELS
“Guess what they say is true,” he said, sliding up to the bar next to me.
I didn’t look his way, but I knew he was talking to me. “And what’s that?”
One minute he was sitting across the bar and staring back at me with a look in his eyes I couldn’t name, and the next he was at my side, the heat from his body burning me even though we weren’t touching.
I felt as though my chest was caving in. Part of me had wanted to see his face so badly it burned, but the other part of me, the new self-conscious part, didn’t want him to see me. I was fat. I had gained so much weight since we had last seen each other. My body and its hormones had lost their ever-loving minds and decided I would be much better suited for a size eighteen than my old size two.
“Sprints is basically full of trash these days.”
His hurtful words struck their intended target … my heart. And I sucked in an injured breath before turning his way. My eyes collided with his and all the warmth that had once lived in his gaze was gone. Instead, there was only cold anger staring back at me.
His face was harder, his eyes stern and his lips tight. He wasn’t thrilled to see me and honestly, I felt the same. The urge to leave was strong, but I was too prideful. Instead, I remained seated and lifted my beer for a casual drink. It was too late to turn and leave. My spine stiffened and I sat up straighter hoping to smooth my fat rolls. Sweat dotted my upper lip and quickly I swiped at it. I was nervous, although, I would have eaten nails before I admitted it.
He wanted to play the asshole. Fine. But I was an adult and I wasn’t about to respond to his bullshit. Instead, I turned away and lifted my beer for another sip as if his words had meant nothing.
“Did you hear me?” he pressed.
“Yep,” I said, popping the P.
What had I ever done to him? He was the one who had pushed me away. The one who had ended our friendship or whatever the hell it was.
He was different inside and out. Cold and callous. His body was leaner, and he was taller.
He moved closer, his familiar scent invading my space, and that, combined with the width of his shoulders, took my breath away. Josh was no longer a nineteen-year-old boy.
No.
He was a man.
All grown up and looking so delicious I wanted to lean in closer and taste him.
He grinned as if he knew what I was thinking before his face disappeared from my view so he could speak directly in my ear.
“You’ve really let yourself go, huh? I guess all those gummy bears finally caught up with you.”
Pain shot through my stomach so intense I felt the need to gag.
My weight. He was talking about my weight. Josh had never been so cruel to anyone. He never teased or bullied.
Who was this man?
“And you’re really an asshole, huh?” I countered.
His remarks were harsher than mine, but I was so shocked by his insult I couldn’t think of anything good enough to match his devastating words.
He pulled back and his grin didn’t reach his eyes. “The biggest.”
I let my eyes drift low until I was looking at the seat of his loose jeans. “Not really,” I said, referring to the size of his cock.
Men hated that shit, and if he was going straight for my weak spot, my weight, then I would do the same.
His grinned slowly disappeared and his eyes lowered, turning into angry slits. “Just because you’ve had an obscene amount of cock in your face, doesn’t mean you’re an expert. And I seem to remember you enjoying it just fine.”
Ouch.
Apparently, my reputation had proceeded.
Jenny Michaels. The town slut who went off to college and slept around.
A rebuttal burned my tongue, but I didn’t spill. Let him think what he wanted. It was none of his business. He had given up that right when he pushed me away.
“I was a nineteen-year-old virgin. What did I know? Anyway, I faked it.”
I hadn’t.
It had been beautiful, and it killed me to tarnish the moment that had gotten me through so many dark nights.
Again, he leaned closer, his hot breath rushing along the side of my cheek.
“Liar. You came so hard your eyes rolled back in your head. It dripped down my cock like a fucking waterfall.”
I opened my mouth to tell him to go fuck himself, but before I could, a woman I had never seen before came up beside him and poked him in the side.
“Hey, are you ready to go? This place is giving me a headache.”
 “Yeah.” He leaned back, pulled out his wallet, and tossed a bill onto the counter to tip the bartender. “See you around, Michaels.”
His use of my last name was impersonal and cold. I hated it.
“Yeah. Hopefully not, Black.”
And then he was gone, leaving me breathless and emotionally exhausted.
I hated him, but I hated myself even more because even though he had struck me in my weak spot and said some of the most hateful things a person had ever said to me, there was a soft spot in my broken heart that still loved Joshua Black. 
JOSHUA BLACK
Jenny Michaels was no longer a small girl.
She had blossomed and filled in, in all the right places. Her body was thicker, her breasts larger, and she had curves that begged me to trail them with my tongue. Words ripe with cruelty spewed from my lips, hurting her the way she had hurt me three years ago, but my body was using a different set of words. Words like …
Ache.
Hard.
Wet.
Soft.
Fuck. 
Tabatha is a New York Times & USA Today Bestselling author, best known for her sexy adult romance Little Black Book.
 
Tabatha writes in all genres, including adult and new adult, and isn’t afraid to venture into the dark side on occasion, as she proved with her dark, prison romance, Slammer. 
 
She’s an avid reader of all things smutty and the writer of sexy stories featuring redeemable alpha bad boys and sweet, strong women.
 
Her other loves include her children, her loving, supportive husband, anything historical, and wind chimes.
 
When she isn’t writing, she’s texting book ideas to herself.
 
Tabatha is represented by Jane Dystel of Dystel & Goderich Literary Management.
 
Subscribe to Tabatha’s newsletter and get a FREE BOOK!
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Book Tour/Giveaway/Excerpt

Title: Respectable Riot

 

Series: Riot MC Series

 

 

Author: Karen Renee

 

 

Genre: MC Romance

 

 

Release Date: December 31, 2019

 

“Beast and Janie had a bit of a rocky start, but I couldn’t stop reading because I HAD to find out where they went next.” ~Jenn the Readaholic

 

“I absolutely love Respectable Riot! The characters were gripping, and I was captivated by the storyline.” ~Behind Closed Doors Book Review

“… a slow burn well written MC book.” ~World of Books 65

She has it all, but she still has nothing.
 
Married to a local politician, Jane Ramos-Palmer won’t put her dreams aside for her husband’s any longer. Overhearing her husband being blackmailed, Janie realizes nothing in her life is as it seems. She’s willing to ditch all she has, so she can gain everything she ever wanted. Fighting an ugly divorce, meeting and falling for Beast couldn’t happen at a worse time for Janie. Escaping her oppressive husband is her top priority, which means her infatuation with a biker must wait.
 
His world was wrenched cruelly away from him. David “Beast” Huntley’s trust has been violated, and being twice shy means he’s determined not to get involved with another woman. At least not seriously, and not any time soon. But Janie provokes something in him. His attraction to her gnaws at him, even though she’s mired in an ugly divorce with a sketchy politician. Staying away from her is in his best interest and his club’s.
 
When the president of rival MC blindsides and assaults Janie, Beast’s inner-beast is awakened. He cannot fight his attraction for her, no matter how wrong it might be.
When we finally pulled off at a gas station, I swung off the bike, grateful as all hell to stretch my legs. Beast felt my eyes on him, if the expectant look on his face was any indication. I waited for him to join me on the sidewalk.
“You got somethin’ on your mind, Country Club?”
With a lopsided grin, I nodded. “First and foremost—”
He pulled me flush with his hard torso. “There’s a ‘first and foremost’. God. Gonna have to brace for this.”
“Fine. Do what you have to, but I feel compelled to let you know, on behalf of all the drivers you cut off, split lanes on, or passed on the shoulder, you drive like a colossal asshole.”
I thought he’d be pissed, but his twinkling eyes lit with a smile. Then he swatted my jeans-clad ass. Hard. His voice sounded on the verge of laughter. “What else you got?”
I wasn’t pleased about the swat to my ass, but I pressed onward. “Secondly, don’t let me hurt your ego or anything, but believe it or not, you’re not as important as you seem to think you are. I mean we’re not in that big of a hurry.”
His hand left my ass, and cupped my jaw. “There’s someone very important on my bike, babe, and it ain’t me.”
Well! That damn sure took the wind out of my sails. Luckily, I rallied. “I’m flattered you think that, but seriously–”
“Rule number one, no bein’ serious on this trip.”
“You can’t be–” It was on the tip of my tongue to say serious, and he knew it.
“Probably the only thing I mean business about. Gotta get you outta your head. Not right you can’t sleep through the night, and I don’t like it.”
“That was ‘cause of you,” I blurted.
“Say that again?” he demanded.
“Well, uh, I mean, I hate the idea of a guest sleeping on my couch.”
“Woman, that couch probably cost more than any bed I’ve owned. For a couch, it was more comfortable than my bed at the compound.”
I crossed my arms. “I should have been on it, not you.”
That odd look from this morning came back. “I’m in your bed, you’re in it with me.”
“You are not to be believed,” I muttered.
“Why’s that?”
“I saw you with that woman at Liar’s.”
His face hardened. “You mean Steph?”
I nodded because I didn’t trust my voice not to betray me.
“She’s an employee, Janie. Yak invited her to that thing. Followed her onto Liar’s street. Could tell she wasn’t sure which house would be his, so I rode next to her.”
“I see,” I murmured.

 

“So do I,” he grinned. “You were jealous.”
Karen Renee is the author of the Riot MC Series. She has wanted to be a writer from a very early age, and she’s finally bringing that dream to life. She has worked in advertising, banking, and local television media research. She is a proud wife and mother, and a Jacksonville native. When she’s not at the soccer field or cooking, you can find her at her local library, the grocery store, in her car jamming out to some tunes, or hibernating while she writes and/or reads books.
 
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New Release/Giveaway/Excerpt

Title: Andorra Sector: An X-Clan Novel
Collection: Zombie Year 2099
Author: Lexi C. Foss
Genre: Shifter Romance
Release Date: January 14, 2020

 

Katriana Cardona
 
My life ended the moment the X-Clan found me.
 
Bitten.
Turned.
And claimed by him.
 
My genetic markers label me as a rare omega. But inside, I’m all female alpha. And I will not heel. Not even to the Alpha of Andorra Sector.
 
Ander Cain promises me protection.
A new world of pleasure and pain.
But he wants all of me in return.
Even if it means taking me by force.
 
I’ll be damned if I give up my inner fight. I spent the last twenty years battling the walking dead. These wolves won’t know what hit them when I’m through.
 
Ander Cain
 
My life began the moment I found her, my darling little mate. She’s the force of nature Andorra Sector needs to give us hope for a future. A reason to keep going and to protect our lands from the zombie infestation beyond.
 
Yet she refuses to play by our rules.
 
Born in a time where humans will do anything to survive, she’s not used to the pack hierarchy or the laws our kind abides by. Oh, but she’ll learn. And I’ll thoroughly enjoy being the one to train her.
 
Katriana Cardona can fight me all she wants, but in the end, she will be mine. Whether she submits or not.
 
Note: This is a standalone shifter romance with omegaverse and dystopian elements. There will be three books in the X-Clan series, all featuring different couples.
 

Katriana froze, her petite hands gripping the comforter on either side of her hips. “Ander, please—”

“Oh, we’re past the point of begging,” I told her, sliding my belt through the loops. “Spread your legs, Omega.”

She didn’t, her instinct to rebel too strong.

Breaking her of that habit was going to take time.

Fortunately for us both, patience came naturally to me.

I dropped the leather to the ground and flicked open the button on my pants. “You’ll find that I do not enjoy repeating myself, Katriana.” Her eyes followed my movements as I slid the zipper down. “You’re also about to learn what happens when an Omega misbehaves.”

Wolves maintained a hierarchy for a reason. Alphas at the top, Betas in the middle, and Omegas at the bottom, though they were cherished treasures owned and protected by their Alpha mates.

Katriana was mine.

To punish.

To fuck.

To impregnate.

To protect.

And I couldn’t proceed with the latter if she was hell-bent on ignoring my commands.

I toed off my boots and socks, followed by my pants, leaving me clad in a pair of boxers that were far too tight for my growing arousal.

Katriana’s eyes grew wide. “No,” she breathed.

“It’ll fit,” I promised her. Despite their petite forms, Omegas were built to accommodate Alpha cock.

But she shook her head in the negative and pulled her knees up to her chest. “No,” she repeated on a snarl.

My lips twitched.

She wasn’t the only one who could make those sounds.

I returned her rumble with one of my own. However, mine held special properties. A call of sorts that an Omega couldn’t deny.

She convulsed violently in response, the hairs along her arms dancing in appreciation. “Oh God.”

 

USA Today Bestselling Author Lexi C. Foss loves to play in dark worlds, especially the ones that bite. She lives in Atlanta, Georgia with her husband and their furry children. When not writing, she’s busy crossing items off her travel bucket list, or chasing eclipses around the globe. She’s quirky, consumes way too much coffee, and loves to swim.

Release Blitz/Giveaway/Excerpt

Title: Wicked Warden
Series: Vicious Vipers 1
Author: Lynn Burke
Genre: MC Romance
Release Date: January 14, 2020
He’s the only man my father can trust when the cartel attempts to take us out. A vicious motorcycle gang member, he’s deadly with his fists and firearms.
 
He’s also the bastard responsible for my mother’s death.
 
I’m the one who’ll make him pay. A too-young, too-innocent woman he lusts after but refuses to touch.
 
He might believe he’s strong enough to withstand my plans for retaliation, but I will bring him to his knees and have my revenge.
 
Even if my heart dies along with his.
“We have to go.” Dad tugged me toward the exit. “Stick to my heels—don’t look at anyone, don’t speak to anyone.”
I nodded dumbly, using my free hand to swipe tears from my cheeks in an attempt to be the strong woman he wanted. If only he’d have offered a quick hug—the thing I always longed for and never received—the fortifying sense of having firm ground to stand upon, to depend upon outside of monetary means.
“The car’s at the end of the alleyway. You’ll get in the back, lay down, and stay down until I say.”
I nodded again, knowing to never argue with Dad’s commands.
One last quick scan of my face and he turned, grasping the exit door’s handle. Dad peeked out head moving left then right. “Stay close,” he whispered, pulling the door open far enough for us to slip through.
I stepped out into the dark after him, my breath loud in my ears as cold bit at my exposed, over-heated skin. Dad’s dress shoes slapped on the sidewalk, my heels clicking as we hurried up the alleyway.
A crowd still stood at the front of the club, but Dad pushed through, people closing back in behind us as we fought to get to the car.
I kept my focus on his tense shoulders rather than scan the crowd for faces I might recognize—my guards, or his men from the compound I’d called home. Every muscle inside me trembled, shaking my limbs. The second we escaped the throng, he headed toward a tan car I didn’t recognize, his head in constant motion as he scanned the immediate area.
Dad grasped the car’s back door handle.
Pop!
“Get in!” he shouted as people began screaming behind us.
He yanked open the door, and I dove in headfirst, my heart in my throat.
Oh fuck, oh fuck, oh fuck…
I curled up on the cloth seat, hugging my knees to my chest, trembling from fear as much as the cold.
Another gunshot sounded, and Dad slammed the door behind me.
Please be okay… I clenched my eyelids shut.
A third shot sounded through the ringing in my ears, and I bit my lip to keep from shrieking, curling even tighter into myself. Tears rolled down my cheeks, and I held my breath … waiting. Needing Dad to be okay. Needing him to get in the car and take me far away from the shit.
The driver door tore open, and a quick peek revealed Dad hopping in.
“Fuck!” He pulled away from the curb like a bat out of hell, tires squealing beneath us, and I clenched my eyes shut again, trying to still my breathing and calm the fuck down. Rather than spew a million questions and distract Dad as he muttered curses and sped down one road after another, I kept quiet except for sniffles when my nose threatened to drip.
Violence came with Dad’s line of business. I’d learned that first hand, and the aftermath of that war had left me without a mother, left my father broken and shut down toward his only living relative—me.
The only daughter.
The only heir to the fortune and empire he’d built from running drugs with a cartel I wished I didn’t know anything about.
“Shaun!” Dad barked. “Get your seat belt on. Now.”
He swerved, and a car sped alongside us as I sat up. Two men sat in the front, neither of which I recognized.
The one in the passenger seat raised a gun.
“Gun!” I shrieked, and Dad slammed on the brakes.
Lower lip between my teeth, I slid out of the shoulder strap and laid back down, curling up as tight as I could.
Dad stomped on the gas again.
Metal scraped—the car shifted.
Dad cursed low and long…
We sped up. He slammed the brakes again enough to tumble me off the seat had I not had the belt across my lap. More speed, more metal screeching—tears and snot mingled on my face, but I couldn’t be bothered to care.
I’d always thought keeping my eyes closed as a child meant no one could see me, that I hid in my own little world. Untouchable. Invincible.
I’d learned the day Mom died, the closing of one’s eyes couldn’t shield one from the horrors in life.
The car suddenly shifted—spun.
I bit my lip, tasting blood as I whimpered.
Sounds of screeching—metal smashing—a loud explosion.
Our car came to a standstill, silence engulfing the air around us.

 

© Lynn Burke 2018
Lynn Burke is a full time mother, voracious gardener, and scribbler of spicy romance stories. A country bumpkin turned Bay Stater, she enjoys her chowdah and Dunkin Donuts when not trying to escape the reality of city life.
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New Release/Excerpt

Title: Shadow of Angels
Series: Halfway Between
Author: Kathryn Ann Kingsley
Genre: New Adult Paranormal Romance
Release Date: January 6, 2020
The first time I died was November 1st, 1945. That might’ve been the first time, but it certainly wasn’t the last.
 
My name is Veil, and my life has been far from normal. Everything I thought I knew about myself had been a lie. Every single thing. Turns out, I had been in the care of a cult dedicated to a King in Hell and fallen archangel.
 
But after learning the truth of who—or what—I am, I devoted my life to stopping them and everyone like them.
 
Which is why when I learned that Boston was under siege from an occult society who was slaughtering innocents, I had no choice but to come and stop them. Even if it meant it would take me piece by piece through that past I’d spent seventy years trying to avoid—and right into the presence of the archdemon I’d been running from for so very long. Asmodeus.
 
Just when I thought things couldn’t get worse, I realized once more that I had no clue what was coming next…

 

“Raise your hands if you love villain romance! **Thrusts her hand in the air.** Kathryn is back with a new series! Shadow of Angels was a great beginning, and I can’t wait to read more.” – USA Today Best Selling Author, Tiffany Roberts

“Throw out everything you thought you knew about angels and demons and get ready to be swept off your feet with a kickass heroine in Shadow Of Angels!” – Julia from Red Hatter Book Blog

Veil was dying.

Again.

At this point, she was on a first-name basis with the sensation of her body shutting down. All her organs were struggling valiantly to soldier on, even though things were entirely out of place and had gone very much awry. A golf-ball-sized hole had been punched straight through her chest. But her body only had one job, keeping her alive, and it was trying so very hard to do just that.

She was lying on the floor. A bullet had been what put her there. A particularly large caliber one, judging by the pain. The gun the man had used packed a damn good punch.

It was also likely enchanted and holy.

She figured it went with the territory.

Now she found herself examining the ceiling tiles of a charming little coffee shop. It was trying to make the vintage thing work at all costs, even if it meant putting up fake stamped copper tiles. I bet they’re plastic from Home Depot or something.

It’s amazing what came to mind when the brain was struggling for oxygen and blood. The thoughts were always the most random, trivial things. Never anything salient or prophetic. Never anything interesting.

The bullet might have nicked her heart. It had definitely punctured her lung. She knew this, because when she went to breathe, it felt as though she had liquid in her chest. It gurgled like trying to suck air through a snorkel with too much seawater in it. The sensation was just as unpleasant.

It’d be over soon enough, she knew. It wasn’t the first time this’d happened. It wouldn’t be the last. While every kind of death carried its own unique form of pain, she likened it to flavors of ice cream. Sure, it all tasted different, but down at the core it was the same thing. How she got there might be new and interesting, might be double-fudge or salted caramel, but it all got her to the same place.

Man, I could seriously go for some ice cream right about now.

Lifting her hand, she touched it to the wound in her ribcage. It was sticky and wet. And big. She picked her hand up to look at the blood dripping off her fingers. More out of morbid curiosity than anything else. It was painful to breathe, so she opted not to. It would just get it over with easier that way. The darkness that was creeping at the edges of her vision would come faster. The quicker that happened, the quicker she could get on with her day.

Death obeyed, and she felt the darkness at the edges of her vision rush in closer. The bullet had punched its way easily through bone, flesh, and sinew. The man was also an excellent shot, she’d give him that.

Y’know, Yul Brenner made a weird villain in West World. Again, with the random-ass thoughts. It almost made her laugh. She would have, if she had the air and the lungs to do it. Just another weird thought popping up out of nowhere as her brain struggled to survive.

Veil knew the telltale signs that the end was coming soon. She shut her eyes as her lungs burned and willed her body to just give up the ghost and let it end. When a hand grasped hers and clutched it, she blinked in confusion and looked up at the man kneeling over her.

He had long, chestnut hair in a ponytail and sharp hazel eyes. He wore all black, save for a white clerical collar that only made him look tan by comparison. He held her hand gently, and with his other one with two fingers aloft, gestured in the shape of a cross in the air in front of him. Earnestly, he began to pray in Latin.

It almost made her laugh again.

“Don’t bother,” a familiar voice said from the table nearby.

“What?” the priest kneeling over her looked up, appalled and offended.

“Give her a minute.”



***



Two days prior.

Boston.

Once, not very long ago, the city had been Veil’s home. Well, it was the only place she had spent enough time in to qualify for the title, anyway. And for exactly those reasons, she avoided it as best she could.

Every street seemed to dredge up bad memories and feelings she didn’t want to experience again. She hadn’t been back in…oh, fifteen years, give or take, and another twenty before that. Once and a while she had to pass through, but never long enough to really let the cloud settle over her.

But her work had called her here. There were only a few things that could drag her back here, nearly kicking and screaming. Death on a large scale was one of them.

Death in the city of Boston was something she was familiar with.

This was where she had been raised. This was where she had spent time in the only semblance of a family she had ever known.

And this is where she had killed them all. This is where she had abandoned him to rot.

Veil shuddered. It had nothing to do with the overly-dry, overly-chill hotel room air. It had everything to do with the image that flashed into her mind. The glint of candlelight off a silver blade that was poised to drive into her chest and into her heart.

That had been the first time she had died and the exact moment everything had gone wrong. The moment she had learned everything had been a lie. She shoved the miserable memory to the back of her mind for the millionth time. It came back to her enough without having to dwell on it.

One foot in front of the other. Always. Immortality was going to drag her down the pavement anyway, she might as well stand up and walk. Besides, there was work to do. There were probably demons to hunt, and more importantly, the humans who brought them here.

She was standing by the window, looking down at the street and busy intersection below. They were staying at the Omni-Parker House Hotel. It was supposed to be one of the nicest hotels in the city. It was the oldest, anyway. It showed, if she were honest. It wasn’t a bad hotel, but it wasn’t her favorite. Namely, she wished she could open the window. She’d much prefer the heavy air of the city and the constant honking, shouting, and shrill whistle of the valet driver below, over the rush of the fan and the stifling feeling of the over-recycled air.

But, there was no use trying to get the windows open. They were screwed shut. Any jumpers might mess up traffic more than usual, and the city might not survive that. It was School Street down below her, and it was bumper-to-bumper in the evening rush hour traffic. That one-lane example an utter failure in city planning was already a majestic cluster-fuck on a good day without somebody turning themselves into street pizza adding to the mess.

Boston was a place built not on top of the old, but around it like a bad jigsaw puzzle. It was trying to do its best to cling to the old streets and old buildings that defined it. Unlike New York or Chicago, that hadn’t minded blasting down a few streets to fix problems, Boston was proud to let it linger.

New York and Chicago also had taken advantage of having mostly burned down at some point or another and used that opportunity to build streets in such novel concepts as “straight lines” and “grids.”

Not in Boston.

Major city improvements also never did quite go as planned. The Big Dig was testament to that. It made the populace a little less eager to take on new ones.

This intersection was a perfect example of Boston’s problem. Three lanes of road meeting two lanes meeting one. A seventeenth-century church, a nineteenth-century hotel, and two large glass structures of two very different styles all met at the same point.

School Street, meets Tremont, meets Beacon. Really, School Street should have been bulldozed a long time ago, if it weren’t for the string of historic buildings. Although, one of them seemed to have been turned into a Chipotle somewhere along the way, so there was that.

Old and new, woven around each other to try and make a cohesive whole.

She resembled the city. Maybe a little too much for comfort. Maybe that’s another reason she hated it so much.

Her thoughts strayed and tried to lock onto her opinions of the city below. Anything to keep them from the matter at hand. Anything to keep away from dwelling on what brought her to her former home.

But like a bad yo-yo, her thoughts spun out, ran dry, and let her dangling on the end of the string without anywhere to go. She had to wind it all back up and face the facts. The TV behind her was buzzing away, the local news personalities yammering pointless observations and speculations about one very undeniable thing—this was a city gripped in fear.

People were afraid to go out. They were afraid to leave their houses and apartments after dark. They had a perfectly good reason, by her estimation.

There had been murders.

Messy murders.

One person getting beheaded in an alleyway was awful, but not international news. Two people being dismembered, blood streaking the walls like it had been caused by a piece of rogue farm equipment, and people began to take notice.

But it didn’t stop. Every night, people went entirely missing…or were found in pieces. The sickest part was that the more apt description would be “pieces were found.” The dismembered bodies were never whole. Bits were being taken, but not just any bits. The important ones you’d notice, like the head or the whole torso. They only ever left the limbs behind, if anything other than just the blood.

Nobody had caught sight of what was causing the mayhem. At first, Veil had ignored the news, chocking it up to human, non-magic using crazies, until the blood left behind by one was scrawled onto the wall in a symbol. It was a circle, with angled triangles and pentagons inside of it. It bore all the hallmarks of a kind of ceremonial magic that she was all too familiar with.

It was dribbly, dripping down the cement surface, put there by hand by whoever—or whatever—had murdered the man left crumpled in a heap of torn up parts nearby. The writing was sloppy, the Enochian was mangled, but it had been clear enough.

After that, no matter her hatred for the city and her desire to never come back to Boston, she had to do something to stop whatever was transpiring. She couldn’t look the other way.

Neither could her friend, who was currently tapping away at his laptop like a madman. They were a team. He found her the jobs, she went out and did them. They had the same goal—to make sure as few people in this world suffered the same fate that they both had.

Veil’s job?

Cult hunter.

Not like she carried a card, or anything. She called it a job, but it wasn’t like you go off to get certified in it. She had enough background in the topic to be an “expert.” Both in the creatures that stalked the shadows, and the kind of crazies who worshipped them.

Demons were real. Angels could be worse. Even worse than them, were the humans who dedicated themselves in service to them, who prayed and knelt in devotion to one or more of the ancient creatures.

The ones who had their silly little altars and lit their candles and drew their symbols in chalk on the floors weren’t so bad. They were harmless, and she let them slide by. It was the ones who then etched those symbols in human flesh that were the bigger problem.

She hunted them down, one by one, and did what she needed to do to make sure they wouldn’t hurt anyone again. That was her bad excuse for “work.” It didn’t even come with a paycheck. Not really. Once and a while she’d take a gig here and there that came with a dollar sign attached. Missing persons, mostly. It was lame, but they paid extremely well.

She looked back at her friend. Richard was in his forties now, gray at the temples, glasses having grown thicker over the years, as he peered over them and typed away. She had met him when he was eight years old. He had been huddled in a cage in the corner, his head buried in his hands. He had listened to the screams of his mother and six-year-old sister as they were diced to pieces, dissected alive all in the name of glorious Belphegor.

The joke was on them. Belphegor had retired years ago.

She had “dispatched” the cult in the best way she knew how. She murdered them all. She hated taking lives, but they had given up their right to live when they had started chopping up innocent people. She had taken the boy outside and hugged him and stayed by his side until she had to make her exit as the cops arrived. Veil didn’t do well with the police. Too many very good questions that she had entirely unacceptable answers to, like “how did you get through the locked door?” and “does any of the blood you’re wearing belong to you?”

It usually didn’t. That tended to be the wrong answer. Cops got huffy at that kind of thing, go figure.

She’d kept an eye on Richard as he grew up. His family was gone, his dad having been shot by the cultists when he had tried to protect his family from being taken. The poor kid had been put right into child services. He was adopted at around ten years old by a nice family who cared for him. She had made sure he had everything he’d needed. When he went to college—and went on to get his doctorate—she had quietly paid for his tuition and made it look like a miraculous scholarship award.

She’d done her best to stay out of his life and to stay away from him. She only brought trouble, and any association he had with her was going to end poorly. That worked right up until the invention of the internet. Then, Richard had found her. He tracked her down by finding the occult bastards she was after right before she did.

The first few times he pulled that stunt she walked away from him and told him to go away and leave her alone. She insisted that she was dangerous. But the man was brutally stubborn, and he kept at her for years. Finding her targets before she would, texting her the locations—she still didn’t know how he had gotten her phone number—and meeting her at the scene before she went to work.

Finally, she had given up. He was better at hunting down her quarry than she was, that was for damn sure. And, once she’d given up and let him help, they had become fast friends. It was Richard’s digging and connections that had turned up the classified image of the circle painted in blood on the alley wall in Boston.

If it had been any ol’ ceremonial magic circle, she would have come to stop the sect and it wouldn’t have been anything out of the ordinary. It wouldn’t have bothered her or brought up the memories that were pulling at the back of her mind and ruining her mood.

But it hadn’t been just any circle. Ceremonial circles have rules. They work in certain ways, using lines and the right words to draw power. They tap into energies and pull from them. One wrong line, and it’s as useful as a lead balloon. This one…had invented a whole new set of rules. But, much like looking at the first cubist painting by Picasso, she knew it still worked. Even if it defied everything she knew.

The other problem is whose power it was tapping into. Whose name was scrawled in sloppy but legible Enochian. It was one that made her skin crawl. One that she knew quiet well.

Asmodeus.

The sun was going down, and that meant that it was almost time to get going. All the recent murders and disappearances all happened at night. Cliché, but not unexpected. She walked away from the window and slumped down at the opposite side of the table from Richard. Their hotel rooms had a little adjoining living room-ish kind of thing with a kitchenette, and while it was tiny, it worked. Hopefully they wouldn’t be in town for long.

The doctor in philosophical history—she thought that’s what it was, she could never get it right—had quickly taken over the table that was supposed to be used for eating, and had covered it in scraps of paper, notebooks, leather bound volumes, manuscripts, and his laptop. Research.

He didn’t acknowledge her she had sat down. He probably hadn’t noticed. Veil began to absently spin a piece of paper on the table in front of her underneath her fingers. “Any leads yet?”

“No,” he replied after a long pause and without looking up from his screen. “No one’s seen anything like the circle they drew on the wall. It’s…based in the lesser key, but it’s a new alteration. I have a few friends working on it, but nothing’s turned up yet. I still think we should contact the Church and see if they know anything. I’ve heard reports they’re already in the city, and—”

“No. Absolutely not. I haven’t hidden from them for this long only to screw it up now.”

“But—”

“We can solve it ourselves. We can. We always have before.”

He sighed. “Fine. I’ll keep trying. But I can’t make heads or tails of it. It’s entirely new. I can’t figure what they’re after.”

“Well, they need to be stopped. I don’t really care what they’re after.”

“Are they trying to bring him back?” That was the first time Richard looked up over the top of his glasses and screen at her, gray eyes worried.

“They can’t. Not from where I put him. Nobody can. Either they’re too stupid to know that, or they’re after something else.” At least, she was pretty sure of that. She at least sounded confident.

Richard shook his head, and sighed, at a loss. “If you manage not to knock one of their heads off in the process, perhaps we can question them.”

She snickered. “I’ll do my best, but I make no promises.” She stood again and stretched, cracking her back. She walked into her hotel room and grabbed her weapons. Two metal rods, about two feet long each, and otherwise nondescript. They weren’t flashy, but they were more than effective. Flashy got you noticed—flashy drew questions. Two metal rods earned you some squinty-eyed looks from the cops and the locals but could be mistaken for the weirdest new sporting craze, like those people who speed-walk with weights or something.

She slipped them into the holsters she wore on her legs, one on each side, tied her long hair back into a ponytail, grabbed her coat, and headed for the door.

“Be careful, Veil.”

“It’s just some losers collecting hearts because they read somewhere they could cast fireballs with them,” she grinned as she wiggled her fingers at him as if she were casting a cartoonish spell. “Just another day on the job, Richie. I’ll be fine.”

“Yes, yes,” he laughed. “But something feels odd about this one. The public attacks in a major city? And it’s his name they wrote…”

“I know. Trust me, I know.”

“And here, of all places, to have his name appear?”

She gritted her teeth and did her best not to yell at him that she was very much aware of the fact that this wasn’t a coincidence, no matter how you looked at it. “Just idiots in robes Richie. Like it always is.”



***



Veil walked down the street, humming to herself, slurping happily on her frappa-mocha-something from the coffee shop. She loved coffee. Adored it. And this was a frilly, far-too-sweet concoction loaded with more sugar and whipped cream than any of the actual caffeinated substance.

Fine by her.

It was seven o’clock, and it was already growing dark in mid-October fall. It was gorgeous in Boston that time of year. Even if it didn’t have a whole lot of trees to turn color, it was worth it. Halloween season was a special time in New England. The whole region seemed to just appreciate the holiday more—you could almost feel it tap into the earth. She used to spend a lot of time up on the north shore in Ipswich in her early years, and she remembered how inherently creepy that whole region was. She had loved it at the time and eaten up every volume of Lovecraft any of her so-called family would bring her. That, along with any scrap of anything spooky or morbid she could get her hands on.

The memories made her smile even as they dug a dagger into her heart. It was a painful kind of hate and fondness that mixed together as she took another slurp from the sugary mess she had purchased. It chased away her melancholy. Hard not to, when it even had little chocolate sprinkles on top.

No self-respecting adult had the right to buy something this stupid with a straight face. And she hadn’t, to be fair. She’d been grinning the whole time.

Focus, you moron. Focus. All the murders and disappearances had centered in and around the center of the city. And so, she started there. Worked her way out in slowly-widening circles. Which, really, were probably squiggly lines knowing the stupid street layout.

But she didn’t plan on walking around all night just hoping to trip over a bunch of assholes trying to summon whoever-or-whatever they were intent on calling. She had a plan. She was just trying to find the right place. It’s surprisingly hard to find a dark and deserted alley when you need one. Maybe they all went out of fashion. Not to mention, a dark and deserted alley that felt right.

Magical hoo-ha and all that stupidity. She didn’t understand it. But she felt it like the weather. People didn’t need to understand why it rained to know it was wet.

Finally, after an hour or two—and long after her sugary monstrosity had run out—she found the right spot. Glancing left and right, making sure she was alone, shed pulled a piece of white chalk out of her coat pocket. Humming and half-singing, murmuring the lyrics to “Black Hole Sun” to herself, she drew on the side of the Mexican restaurant the symbols she needed.

It took her three attempts of one line to get it right, and she had to use the melting ice from her coffee cup to wipe it clean. “Damn it,” she grumbled.



“Penmanship, dear. Penmanship is key.” The hand that settled on the back of hers was warm and gentle. Even if the voice was cold and trying to sound stern, it was clear it was for show. His emerald eyes seemed to catch her in them and hold her. They always had, and they always would.

“Start again, this time, try it with straight lines for a change.”

“A novel concept,” she teased back. “And here I was trying to be artistic.” No, really, she was just awful at drawing straight lines. He could do it with perfect and practiced ease, like it wasn’t even difficult. “Nobody appreciates my talent.”

“There is a time and place for all things.” He chuckled at her sarcastic joke. “Try again.”



Veil bit back the memory and swallowed it hard into the back of her throat. That, or the smell of the rotting dumpster nearby, was making her nauseous. Probably both. But finally, the work was done. She took a step back and eyed her work. It was a little crooked. She could almost hear his voice haunting her, pointing out over her shoulder the bits she had screwed up. He had been a perfectionist in all things.

The worst part was that he had never been wrong. It was hard to argue when he was right, but it hadn’t ever stopped her from trying.

Biting back the melancholy again, she sighed. It wasn’t flawless, but it’d work just fine. She tossed her plastic coffee cup into the offensive dumpster and walked back up to the symbol and put her palm flat against the center.

It was like popping a bottle of champagne. She had created the bottle, the cork, and the fizzy substance that wanted nothing more than to explode. If she didn’t pop it right, she’d take the cork to the face, shatter something, and otherwise just make a massive mess of things.

She shut her eyes and let herself focus on the feeling of it beneath her palm. Like a racing river beneath a smooth, frozen surface.

Some people had to chant to do magic. Some people used symbols. Some people gestured. Most did all three. They were all tools. They were guns, knives, swords, or tanks. They all existed for the same purpose—getting the job done. Magic was about will. Sheer, unadulterated force of will over the world around them.

Veil was shit at magic.

Well, no, that wasn’t true. She was better than the cultists she was always hunting. They sucked at magic. She had always just been surrounded by people far better at it than she was. She had always felt like the child playing adults at poker. And for all intents and purposes, she had been.

At least she didn’t have to chant or flail around like a moron. Her weapon of choice was drawing symbols and using those to tap into the world around her. She felt the lines she had drawn and used it like a fork. Just plunked it into the power around her and willed it to do what she wanted.

And right now, she wanted a compass. Something to show her the way to the fuckers that decided to make murder the new fall fashion statement.

She really had to learn to be more specific.

“Command me, Mistress!”

Oh, no.

Oh, fucking Hell.

Veil jumped back from the wall and watched in horror as an…imp pushed itself forward from the wall. Oozed out of the concrete as it borrowed molecules and substance from the building itself to create its body.

It flapped its little purple bat wings, and it landed on a trashcan nearby with a loud thunk. It was a chubby little bastard, and it looked like its little leathery wings wouldn’t hold up its girth on a good day. It petted its stomach with a toothy grin, tipped its stumpy, piggish face back and snuffed loudly in the direction of the dumpster. “What smells good?”

Veil groaned.

She hated imps.

It stood itself up and flapped its wings, and then landed on her shoulder like a fat, leathery cat. “What is our mission, Mistress?”

She tried to keep the disgust off her face. She was pretty sure she failed. Well, this is what she got for not being very specific in what kind of compass she wanted to create. “We’re hunting cultists. Murderers. They’re out somewhere and the city and I need to find them.”

“Oooh! Yes, yes! I can do these things! Yes!” It pointed a stubby, clawed finger out of the alley. “We should go that way!”

“That’s the only way out.”

“I know!” It grinned toothily. “Exactly! Then it is the right choice!”

She really hated imps.

“Just make yourself invisible. The last thing I need is to cause a panic.”

“I…cannot do this thing.” The imp pouted as he shoved a finger inside his ear and wiggled it, as if trying to get out some wax. She wanted to chuck it off her shoulder, but, she had summoned it, and that’d be rude. “Ah! I know! The humans have a beast for this kind of deed!”

It flew from her shoulder to the ground, and as it landed, its body flashed brightly and changed. She had to turn her head away, and when she looked back, the worlds weirdest looking dog was sitting at her feet, tongue hanging out the side of its mouth, panting happily.

Reaching down to pick up the leash it had the presence of mind to summon with its change, she sighed. “All right. Let’s go.”

It bounced up to its feet eagerly and bounded toward the entrance to the alleyway. But not before stopping to lift a leg and take a piss on a few boxes and empty kegs.

She really, really hated imps.
Kat has always been a storyteller. With ten years in script-writing for performances on both the stage and for tourism, she has always been writing in one form or another. When she isn’t penning down fiction, she works as Creative Director for a company that designs and builds large-scale interactive adventure games. There, she is the lead concept designer, handling everything from game and set design, to audio and lighting, to illustration and script writing. Also on her list of skills are artistic direction, scenic painting and props, special effects, and electronics. A graduate of Boston University with a BFA in Theatre Design, she has a passion for unique, creative, and unconventional experiences. In her spare time, she builds animatronics and takes trapeze classes.
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Audio Tour/Excerpt

Title: Packaged Love
Series: Love at First Sight
Author: Loni Ree
Genre: Romance
Audible Release Date: December 13, 2019
Ebook Release Date: September 8, 2019

 

All I wanted to do was make a simple package exchange, then the next thing I know, Mr. Tall, Dark, Handsome, and Jerk-Face is slamming me to the ground and threatening me with jail and other real pleasant experiences. Yep, my day certainly could be better.

 

Who knew a delivery guy’s screw-up could lead to finding “the one”?
Ethan Wescott instantly falls for the gorgeous, little thief he catches stealing his package. Once he realizes it’s all a misunderstanding, he’s left trying to convince Emma even a caveman jerk deserves the chance to redeem himself. He’s going to have his work cut out for him, because so far, she isn’t too impressed.

 

 

After today, I can make the rest of the party favors and get my aunt off of my back, if the package ever arrives. While waiting and scrolling through the available movies, I hear the box drop on my front step and run to grab it. To my absolute horror, it’s not my box. The package is addressed to E. L. Wescott, 1216 Oak Lane Drive. I’m E. L. Wolcott, 1216 Oak Land Drive.

Oh my God! E. L. Wescott probably has my ceramic babies. After running to find my phone, I frantically look up Oak Land Drive in my maps app. To my surprise, it’s only a few roads away, so I decide to take the wrong package and hopefully make a hostage exchange.

Oh, wow, a couple of roads makes a huge difference. After turning onto the quiet subdivision road, the beautifully manicured lawns and gorgeous modern homes are a pleasant surprise. When I arrive at 1216, I notice a box sitting in front of the impressive two-story house. I park and take the package hoping to make the trade. 

A glance at the box by the door confirms my suspicion that my package was delivered here by mistake. Since I don’t want to just switch and run, I ring the doorbell several times, but no one answers the door. I figure it’s not stealing since I’m leaving their box and taking mine, so I exchange the two packages and head back for my car.

Two steps from my car, my body is slammed to the ground, and my box goes flying. I hear the sound of shattering babies, and my heart drops.

“You little fucker, I bet Bubba’s gonna love your soft ass in jail. You shoulda stolen from some other sucker,” is grunted in my ear as my head is shoved into the manicured grass.
 

 

Loni Ree, a very busy mom of six, loves to read because she finds that reading helps her escape the chaos of everyday life. She loves quick, red-hot reads that are on the excessive side. Writing is a passion of hers, so Loni decided to share the stories floating around in her mind. Her short, steamy stories are a little over the top because she believes reading should be an escape from real life. She writes about love at first sight that always leads to a Happily Ever After!

 

 
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