Sadonna at Love Bytes reviews has been reviewing the series, and she’s caught up now to this latest release. 4-1/2 hearts! Here’s a few of her words:
Whew! This one was a nail biter for sure! Just when we think Jackie and Brian might get a break, someone else comes after them. There are still some sexy times for these two and they seem to be getting on a more sure footing with each other, but they do have to deal with a lot of danger again. They of course support each other in every way, and I really enjoyed their time with their family and when they did have the chance to be out of the clutches of some crazy murderous revenge seekers. I have really liked the mystery arc of this series, but I’m hoping that if there is another book, that Jackie and Brian get some quiet time 😉 This committed couple deserves a break 😀 Highly recommended!
Hi, and welcome to release day 1 for A Shot in Darkness, the 7th episode in the epic, suspenseful, romantic thriller that is the Vasquez Inc series. I call this release day 1, because today’s the day you can download the book from the publisher’s website (only!) at 15% off. Here’s a little about the book, a brief excerpt, and a couple links—1 to download now, 1 to preorder on Amazon. (Amazon and other major retailers release the book for download in just one week, and links to the stores can be found at the Publisher’s website—use the same link given here. That will be release day 2. 🙂 )
A Scotland honeymoon promises joy for a Dom and his sub, but a criminal’s revenge may prove deadly.
Sure the danger that dogged their steps in Los Angeles has finally passed, Brian and Jackie seal their hopes for a new beginning with a New Year’s Eve kiss. Though Brian’s trauma at the hands of criminals has left its mark, they do their best to leave troubles behind and enjoy a Scotland honeymoon. The ancient city of Glasgow offers nightlife, historic sites, long walks through snowfall, great Scotch whisky, a cozy fireside — and a blazing hot private encounter with a cool, cool ghost.
But every time somebody wins, someone else loses. When Brian helped State Department cop Jesse Douglas take down a crime ring, a rogue FBI agent lost everything. She blames Brian, and with the help of false identities and very good skills at disguise, tracking him and Jackie down in Scotland poses no problem. When a final encounter in the Highlands turns deadly, the key to keeping Brian alive lies in Jackie’s hands. With everything he loves at stake, can he call up love, courage and confidence in time to take that single, vital shot in darkness?
To most people, it might not seem possible that a month could go by while a newlywed couple hardly spoke to each other. But as Jackie sat in his great-uncle Kaholo’s Nebraska living room staring out the bay window while, outside, December shed snow all over its last abbreviated afternoon, he reflected that this was exactly what had happened to Brian and him.
That truth didn’t surprise him in the least. The last crazy weeks had only been a continuation of the chaos that had started long before their wedding. The events they’d begun by calling “the Espen case” and ended up calling “the mess with that asshole Vintner” had started weaving its sticky web in and around Jackie and Brian’s lives almost a full year earlier. The day Brian walked into Vasquez Security, Incorporated’s Los Angeles office to take on the role of branch manager, he’d walked into the first ropy but invisible strands of disaster.
If only Brian had known what was to come, maybe he would have turned back around and walked out.
No. He wouldn’t have.
Jackie almost laughed at the notion as soon as he thought it. Brian had been hired by Jackie’s uncle Luki, who owned the company, to do a job. He just wasn’t the kind of guy to renege on a commitment once he’d made it.
Probably why he stayed with me.
Yeah. Their love story hadn’t been a bed of roses either, even though Brian had a funny habit of bringing the fragrant blossoms home and sticking them all over their apartment in vases in an effort to romance Jackie, his chosen lover and submissive. And now… husband. He’d tried so hard to get Jackie to take his marriage proposal seriously, but Jackie had artfully dodged it for months. Perhaps that was understandable, in light of everything else that was going on.
Jackie had relocated to Los Angeles to be with Brian, and the city’s devil Santa Ana winds — and the memories and associations they held for a once-fragile Jackie — had assaulted him from day one. LA had not been kind to him when he was a homeless teen, and it continued its mean tradition now, almost a decade later. He’d witnessed a kidnapping, and the same day had an accident that set him back on his heels physically and mentally, then as soon as he recovered, another one. And then an amputation. The months and months of disbelief and hurting and healing and grief that followed remained in Jackie’s memory a strange nightmare, as if the time then had been a living thing.
And it hadn’t been an easy time for Brian either. But, even then, long before any vows were said, Brian had certainly made a commitment to himself to be the lover, the Dom, the man Jackie could count on. And he had stayed, remained steady at Jackie’s side even when Jackie had tried to shut him out. He’d cried, he’d loved, he’d cajoled and comforted. He had failed, at times. In an odd twist, sometimes broken Jackie had led Brian out of darkness.
But when Jackie’s chips were all in and he desperately needed a win, Brian had come through and played the best cards in his deck. He’d shown Jackie love, wrapped him in safe, careful knots, and set him flying in joy.
”Look,” he’d said. “You’re beautiful. I want you to see it. I want you to know.”
Jackie had seen, and his love for Brian, already spreading wide, had grown deep roots that, he liked to think, helped them both hold steady when the shit started hitting the world’s biggest fan.
The shit — the detritus of the Espen-Lieb-Vintner disaster — had been lying littered over their lives in Los Angeles. The Thanksgiving holiday break they’d taken in Colorado, complete with everything from a private night of fun kink, to a relaxed and joyful family dinner, was like fresh air. Maybe it made them a little high, because they got married while they were there.
Cue the giant fan.
The Colorado fairy tale ended, and the nightmare of the next few weeks began. Jackie hadn’t been with Brian — first his new leg needed fixing, then he’d been taken into hiding for safety. But Brian had almost constantly faced imminent danger, and Jackie’d hardly slept.
For weeks he’d worried, while Brian, on his own in LA, went undercover as an informer for the feds, at the same time pretending to work for Vintner, who could vie for the title of “nastiest piece of criminal shit Jackie had ever encountered.”
Then came the day the tide of trouble had turned to crisis, when Brian had been taken off the streets at gunpoint to be Vintner’s “guest.” The police sting went all wrong, but that same day Vintner’s organization imploded. Shot point blank and carrying the bullet in his abdomen, Brian escaped through LA’s network of tunnels. While Jackie’s uncle Luki helped the law bring down Vintner aboveground, Brian had hung on to consciousness in the hidden corridors underground and somehow done what was in front of him to do — bring a bad man out of the tunnels to face justice and shepherd a remnant of Vintner’s trafficking victims to safety.
That, Jackie thought, was courage.
But that hadn’t been the worst of it for Jackie. Because an ambulance took Brian away — in custody, as if he was the criminal, and Jackie waited for hours in what might have been the coldest, harshest surgical waiting room ever, at County-USC hospital. He got word that Brian was safe, out of surgery, recovering, and he breathed. But he couldn’t see him. Brian was in police custody — a jail inmate. Jackie hadn’t cried then, nor when Sonny hugged him and took him “home” to a hotel room. He’d figured he was just too tired and burnt to cry, yet his wet pillow and sore eyes told him he’d cried in the night.
As if he’d been keeping his tears secret even from himself.
It would have been difficult — impossible — to pretend all that hadn’t happened. If he could have, though, he would have jumped at the chance. Now that it was all over but the shouting, as they say, it felt impossibly heavy.
All of which was why tonight — New Year’s Eve — with its implied celebration of fresh starts, seemed like an extraordinary gift…
My holiday lights are still up and burning every night, and I don’t even apologize. Light in darkness is what I love most about holidays, and this year I feel like we need it more than ever. So I decided we should have a book sale.
Falling Snow on Snow: Seattle, Music, Snow, Love — $1.99 (50% off) (And the Audiobook is 20% off, too.) Get it on Amazon
Can anything redeem December in Beck’s eyes—even a man with an angel’s voice? (Simply a story of how love happens, even in the bleak midwinter.)
Saving Darknight — $2.99 (25% off), and it’s still free to read via Kindle Unlimited. Get it on Amazon
Fate and a dragon unite two men in a battle for love, magic, the march of time, and holiday joy. In a time of tall-masted ships and hand-made lives, a Guardian and a sailor find true love and their fates in each other. But romance, and a future together must wait, for duty calls. In a battle against dragons, can they seize victory in time to rescue the magic of Darknight and deliver holiday joy to a world that can no longer find its own way?
Adam’s fears of pairing are valid, but if he doesn’t get past them, he’ll lose his best friend’s love forever.
About Because I Want To
Omega Adam and Alpha Matt have been best friends all their lives. Matt has been there for Adam from his first heat. They’ve never been apart and Adam has never considered being with another person. So, it confuses Matt when Adam refuses to allow Matt to bite and pair with him.
Adam has seen for himself what happens when an alpha leaves his paired omega, when his mother went through the excruciating pain of a new alpha bite. Knowing his best friend as well as he does, he knows that if Matt ever bit and paired with him, Matt would never leave and consign Adam to the pain of a new bite or a life without sex. But Adam knows that it wouldn’t matter how Matt felt, he’d stay even if he felt trapped by the situation, making them both miserable and hurting Matt badly.
When Adam finds himself pregnant with Matt’s baby, he panics. All his attempts to keep Matt from getting trapped have been useless. With no idea what to do, he ends up hurting Matt anyway. If he doesn’t come to terms soon with his fears, he could find himself completely alone and losing the only person he’s ever loved.
Contemporary, AU, omegaverse, Mpreg, Kindle
Length: 150 pages – 52000 words
Cover Artist: Kathryn Bone
Editor: Tricia Kristufek
An Excerpt from Because I Want To
Matt buried his nose in Adam’s pale blond hair and took a surreptitious inhale. He couldn’t let himself do too much or he’d end up with a very unfortunate boner. Even with the Sepel, Adam still let off more pheromones than usual at that time of the month. And even though Matt took his own medication, he would react a bit more than he would outside of Adam’s heat. But usually, Matt could control himself well enough. At that moment he’d have no reason for a hard-on unless he did something like this.
Still, he couldn’t resist taking in Adam’s scent. It filled him, and he focused on the ache in his chest instead of the arousal. He wanted that scent for his own, wanted Adam to be his. Each month it seemed to be getting more difficult to hide his feelings and go home after Adam’s heat was over. It was the want of the bond, the life, and the family he craved with Adam that he struggled to hide. Though they were still fairly young, it wasn’t too unusual for an omega to bond or even get married at their age—just out of high school, barely eighteen. Most omegas were happy to, especially the pairing part, in an attempt to limit the chance of rape and unwilling bites.
Matt closed his eyes and did his best to calm down. Despite Adam’s slow breathing, Matt didn’t think he was completely asleep yet. He didn’t need to hear Matt’s heartbeat or feel the increased breathing as Matt struggled with the wants he couldn’t have.
Like the want to roll Adam onto his stomach, pull on his hips, and fill him in one thrust. His omega body would welcome it, especially during heat, and Matt would get lost in the man he loved. While buried in Adam’s body, he wanted to bend forward, move the blond hair aside, and bite down on the nape of Adam’s neck. He wanted to let go, fill Adam with his cum—and fill Adam’s womb with their child.
With slow, shallow, deliberate breaths, Matt managed to calm his heart. He focused on what he had, what he could have—the man in his arms, even for this short time—and let himself drift off to sleep.
About The Author
Grace Duncan grew up with a wild imagination. She told stories from an early age – many of which got her into trouble. Eventually, she learned to channel that imagination into less troublesome areas, including fanfiction, which is what has led her to writing male/male erotica.
As someone who loves to travel and see new places, Grace has lived all over the United States. She has currently set up camp in East Texas with her husband and children – both the human and furry kind.
As one of those rare creatures who loves research, Grace can get lost for hours on the internet, reading up on any number of strange and different topics. She can also be found writing fanfiction, reading fantasy, crime, suspense, romance and other erotica or even dabbling in art.
“This full, lush tale reaches maximum thrill in a matter of paragraphs, its potent language of blood, sweetness and fear exposing the duality of a priest and the razor-sharp line between the seductive longings of good and evil. [The author} writes through the darkness with a quiet grace and a careful touch, never letting this moving tale flop into the clichés of fiery damnation and screaming vicars.” ~~Louisa Thompson, reviewing (1st ed.) in The Future Fire
The Story: Ousting this demon has nothing to do with holy water—it’s all about a steady hand on the dagger.
Mary Evans’ blood pooling in the cobbled streets beneath her corpse symbolizes everything DuHarren hates about his contract with the demon Tamuel. Father Michael—a beautiful but angry green-eyed priest—performs the latest in a long line of failed exorcisms. But where salt and holy water fail, will murder succeed?
October being the month when all things dark are brought front and center to cause shivers up and down even the stoutest of spines, I’ve re-released the short story, “The Demon Tamuel: A More Beautiful Monster,” with a stunning cover from Sleepy Fox Covers. Featuring DuHarren and Father Michael, the story actually revolves around the demon’s desires, and he is the source of all the available sorcerous powers—and all the troubles too. With a bundle of similar names, this demon is usually (in the “lore” of such things) considered a fallen angel, said to be responsible for giving humans ink, scroll, and the ability to write—including writing and signing contracts that can get a person in all kinds of trouble. On the other hand, sources say he might cure stupidity, and he taught men the “strikes” formerly known only to spirits, including everything from serpent bites to what sounds to me like heat exhaustion. Though there is a thread of male-male attraction, this story is neither romance nor suspense, but rather dark fantasy with overtones of psychological horror. It’s unlike any of the Lou Sylvre books published before, and so I’ve released it under Lou Sylvre writing as Loretta Sylvestre. Pre-order today for 99¢ on Amazon, and block out a little time on the 17th to curl up in a well-lit corner to enjoy a truly eerie short read.
Amazon US: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B08L1DFM93 (99¢)
Amazon UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B08L1DFM93 (.77€)
(Also available on Amazon stores worldwide.)
After too much time apart from his lover and sub, Brian Harrison is thinking kink, a cowboy hat, and one more marriage proposal. When Jackie Vasquez finally says “yes” to a wedding, he also says, “why wait?” But their vows and the toasts to the happy couple have hardly faded when a phone call reminds them that trouble still awaits.
Despite his best intentions, Brian broke the law in his efforts to stop a powerful criminal from harming those he loves. He could go to prison, or he could risk his life going undercover to help bring one of Europe’s most nefarious citizens to justice. Friends and smart thinking can help him do the right thing. But only love can supply the courage he and Jackie need to prevail against schemes and guns and, if they’re lucky, stay alive to enjoy a honeymoon.
An Exclusive Excerpt:
For Brian, Jackie’s unfaltering love and a quiet session showing him how beautiful he was in ropes had resulted in a settled mind and a good night’s sleep. By the time he sat at the table with his early morning coffee, though, he was worried again. His anxiety had taken a new tone. One good thing: Jackie loved him. Bad things: he was in trouble with the law and on mandatory leave from his job. The worst thing — or so it seemed at the moment: Luki probably didn’t trust him anymore, and he still hadn’t told him everything.
Jackie had gone out already, wanting to check in at school and with Dr. Holland, and maybe see Esi. Brian hadn’t wanted him to go, but Jackie understood the risks, and he was all grown up, and neither love nor Dominance, nor even marriage gave him the right to keep him from making up his own mind. He listened to Brian’s pleas to “be careful, don’t go places alone, and if you see something or someone that seems wrong, call me or the cops, depending.” And then he kissed Brian, said, “I’ll be careful,” and left.
As a result, when Luki arrived in LA and came up to the apartment, Brian was home alone.
He sat down on the couch looking exhausted. Brian felt bad, knowing he was about to lay some more trouble on him, but he was determined. He made coffee, poured two cups, and said. “Luki, there’s more. I meant to tell you all of it, but… well, I’m not sure why, but it just didn’t happen.”
Luki looked at him either forbiddingly or inquiringly — Brian wasn’t sure which.
“I’ve agreed to… work for Vintner.” Tempted to go on and pour out the whole story, Brian swallowed down the flood of words and guilt, and waited for Luki’s initial response.
Luki barely reacted. An eyebrow went up, and clearly gears were turning, but he didn’t ice down, and he didn’t snap. He didn’t even make one of his snarky comments. After a moment, he said, “I’m pretty sure I shouldn’t take that statement at face value.”
“Uh, well, there is more to it, yes.”
“Speak. No wait. I need more coffee. You?” Without waiting for a reply, he stepped into Brian and Jackie’s tiny kitchen retrieved the pot and the sugar bowl and brought them to the table. “Sit down here,” he said, while shoveling sugar. Once he’d taken his seat and fetched a toothpick from his pocket, he said, “Go.”
Brian picked up his cup and sipped, intending to stall and collect the right words but only succeeding in burning his lip, so that all he really said was, “Shit!”
Luki got him ice water.
“I am afraid of Vintner, which I already told you. Last thing I wanted was to end up like Espen, but he managed to blackmail me, I guess. He hired me… I mean, he came in pretending to be a customer — pretending either of us believed that — and wanted me to look into the hot cars he sold that were then stolen from his customers. I said no, but he let me know he could hurt people I loved. And well, I believe him Luki. Ruth and Jade, what happened to Lonny, that’s not coincidence.”
“No. It’s not. And you’re right to be scared of him. So you… agreed. You didn’t think of telling me.”
“It was the first thing I thought of, but that was part of his warning And I half-convinced myself I could just do it, and he’d let us alone. I know that was stupid.”
“That’s all there is. Except I went to jail…”
“Not that time. Before.” Brian told him about Jackie’s search for Esi, about the trip into the tunnels with Dr. Holland, and the weird fight with Roscoe Lieb, or Gerald Roscoe. “Whatever his name is. We both got arrested. I got released. Apparently there’s no record of it, because it didn’t turn up in the fingerprint match the other day.”
Luki stayed calm and cool, but there was a strained edge to it, and he said nothing until he’d finished his coffee and started in on the toothpick. “Anything else, Brian? Anything at all?”
“Um… I demanded data from him, info on his customers. Told him I couldn’t do the job without it. I thought maybe we… I… we could use it to… I don’t know. I got it. He sent files.”
Luki’s eyes widened and he nodded, but the silence was deep enough for Brian to count the muffled ticks of the clock on the kitchen stove.
“Just so you know,” Luki finally said, his tone casual, “He’s not blackmailing you.”
“It’s called coercion, not blackmail. Two different beasts. And you realize that by working with Vintner — even superficially — you’ve become at the very least an accomplice in his crimes, if perhaps a case couldn’t be made for conspiracy.”
Brian closed his eyes, part of his struggle to maintain his balance. Bullshit. I am not a criminal! He knew that, and he was convinced that Luki knew it too.
“You could try, as a defense, to point out that you were coerced — feared for your life, even. Unfortunately, while coercion can get you out of a contract, it can’t really get you out of a guilty verdict. So we’ll have to try something else.”
“Of course, Brian. Think about it. You are my nephew’s husband. If you get hurt, he’s hurt. And you’re my employee. If you get convicted my business is seriously fucked. And you’re my friend. Someone I care about. Love like family — you are family. I might not be happy with things you’ve done, but I’m not gonna hang you out to dry.”
“Uh, well. Thank you.” In reality, Luki’s kind words did more to undo Brian’s composure than any threat or angry snarl could ever have done. He couldn’t meet Luki’s eyes, so he drank coffee, then wiped an imaginary spill with the heel of his hand. “So then, you have a plan?”
“Yes. I’m going to disappear, at least as far as most eyes are concerned. I’m going to take some important people with me to keep them safe — including Jackie.”
Brian wanted to break down and cry. Everything he was facing was already overwhelming. The last thing he wanted to hear was that he’d be facing it alone, with no help, and no Jackie to claim his attention once he got home — and yes, to find comfort in, even shelter.
“No,” Brian said, and even though it came out like a poisoned breath, he meant it sincerely. He wanted Jackie safe above all else. And if Jackie was at the apartment behind VSI — or anywhere Vintner could find him easily — safe is what he would not be. After swallowing to try and fix his voice, Brian repeated, “No, Luki. Jackie being safe is the most important thing in the world. Hiding with you seems like a safe place.”
“Good. To be clear, he and Sonny and whoever else close enough to either of us to be in danger — if I can get them to join me — will be ‘hiding’ on vacation. And I’ll have some people around, keeping eyes out. People who know how to deal with bad guys.”
He stopped speaking, and when he caught Brian’s eye, smiled softly, his eyes kind and reassuring in an expression Brian thought wouldn’t have even been in Luki’s repertoire before Sonny, before the cancer.
Brian breathed a little easier, and smiled back, although truthfully it only made the desire to weep a little stronger. He still pushed it back, though. He didn’t want Luki to think he was caught up in self-pity.
“You won’t be alone in whatever’s coming your way. I’ll make sure you have a way to get in touch with Jackie, and possibly more important in the circumstances, me. I’ll help you in any way I can that doesn’t endanger our people more than necessary. I’m going to seem to disappear, but I’ll be around. Does any of that help?”
Brian nodded emphatically, almost knocked the chair down, getting up, and started viciously rinsing out his cup. “Though I’d feel even better if I was one of them.”
“One of who?”
“People who know how to deal with bad guys.”
“You are, Brian. Why do you think Vintner feels a need to make sure you’re handled?”
Luki brought his cup to Brian for a wash, leaned in, and said, “Anyway, I’m glad the measures I’m taking make you feel a bit better. Because, I now need to pull the rug out from under you.”
“I’m going to report it all to Jesse Douglas.”
At the word ‘report,’ Brian dropped the cup. Fortunately, nothing broke. “Jesse Douglas — State Department, they’ve already had me charged with a crime.”
“Yeah, well. I think we can stop that before it becomes a trend.”
Thanks for reading! Comments welcome below, and if you are typically do reviews, review copies are still available.
In 1605, Robbie Elliot—a Reiver and musician from the Scottish borders—nearly went to the gallows. The Witch of the Hermitage saved him with a ruse, but weeks later, she cursed him to an ethereal existence in the sea. He has seven chances to come alive, come ashore, and find true love. For over a century, Robbie’s been lost to that magic; six times love has failed. When he washes ashore on the Isle of Skye in 1745, he’s arrived at his last chance at love, his last chance at life.
Highland warrior Ian MacDonald came to Skye for loyalty and rebellion. He’s lost once at love, and stands as an outsider in his own clan. When Ian’s uncle and laird sends him to lonely Skye to hide and protect treasure meant for Bonnie Prince Charlie’s coffers, he resigns himself to a solitary life—his only companion the eternal sea. Lonely doldrums transform into romance and mystery when the tide brings beautiful Robbie Elliot and his broken harp ashore.
A curse dogs them, enemies hunt them, and war looms over their lives. Robbie and Ian will fight with love, will, and the sword. But without the help of magic and ancient gods, will it be enough to win them a future together?
Isle of Skye, June 1745
Ian woke with a start, his dirk already in his hand before his eyes were properly open. He glanced around, unable to shake the feeling that something was wrong, although if asked what or why he couldn’t explain it…
The harp was gone!
Memories of the evening before flooded his mind. He’d walked by the beach as he usually did, checking that all was well and there was nothing there that wasn’t supposed to be. Since his run-in with Campbell and his men, he’d made a point of keeping an eye on the area at least twice a day. The harp had caught his eye, the tip of the old wood caught on the white crest of a wave, not quite submerged, or belonging.
It had taken but a moment for Ian to make the decision to rescue the thing. Part of him identified with it, he suspected. It had been so long since he’d felt he belonged. Sure, this was an important task he’d been given, but it was so lonely, especially since Fergus had died. It wasn’t as though he and the old man had conversed much, but Ian had taken some comfort in the knowledge he wasn’t completely alone. When his uncle had bestowed the task upon him, it was understood he’d keep to himself and not have much to do with the locals. The Harp and the Sea
It was safer for both him and what he guarded as it didn’t take much for stories to travel and find the wrong ears.
He still regretted not having had the chance to tell his parents the truth behind his banishment. His parents might not have approved of their son’s relationship with another man, but they hadn’t turned their backs on him for it. However, it hadn’t stopped his mam from telling him it wasn’t natural. A fine young strapping lad such as himself should get himself a pretty girl and settle down.
Months spent in only his own company hadn’t stopped him wishing for what he didn’t have, and what he truly wanted. On a cold night, those dreams were both a comfort and a curse.
A firm thigh. A muscular arm. The scent of someone unmistakably masculine.
“Aye, because that’s going to happen,” he’d muttered as he waded out from shore to recover whatever it was stuck out there, neither a part of the sea nor the land.
The water was freezing, but he’d expected that. He’d shivered, but it wasn’t from the cold. One firm yank and the harp was in his arms. His breath hitched, his imagination caught in the same way the instrument had been trapped by the seaweed, a green slimy rope holding it to its watery prison.
The harp was still beautiful, despite the state of it. Once ashore, Ian allowed himself to run his callused fingers over it, marvelling at the smoothness of the wood. Amazingly, the strings were still intact. He plucked at one, and then another, wincing at the following cacophony. It needed a good tuning, but he didn’t possess the knowledge. He had no clue what song it should play, just the strong feeling it was missing something—that like him, it wasn’t complete.
His thoughts snapped forward to the present, his attention taken by the slightly open door of his stone cottage. He’d shut it the night before, he was sure of it.
Ian’s eyes narrowed. Some thieving bastard had been in his home while he slept! Fully awake now, he grabbed his sword and its sheath as he stomped out of the cottage, intent on capturing the culprit and at the very least giving him or her a piece of his mind.
At least it wasn’t Campbell or one of his men. If it had been, Ian would know it by now. Campbell wouldn’t have let him sleep but more likely held a knife to his throat and ensured his waking was a painful one.
“Not very clever for a thief, are ye?”
The tracks leading from just outside the door were clear as day, the red rays of the rising sun highlighting them as clearly as though the thief had left a sign-posted trail for Ian to follow. He didn’t need any further invitation. The harp needed to be kept safe, though if asked he wouldn’t have been able to say why. Still, he had to find it.
The footsteps led him to a clearing some distance from the cottage. A man sat huddled on the ground, clutching the harp to his breast. He seemed lost, afraid, yet for some reason very familiar.
Ian forgot to breathe for a moment, lost in the sight before him. The man was slim and blond, with long hair stretching down to almost his arse. He stared at Ian, his green eyes the colour of the deep sea. Neither of them moved.
And then the harp began to sing.
The sun finally rose, and Robbie Elliot felt its warm finger skim along his pale skin, seeking his bones to warm them. Every time this moment had repeated itself throughout his long life, for just that blink of time, his existence seemed worthwhile. To feel the sun caress and kiss his skin, to see it spark gold off the knotty locks of hair that hung before his eyes, this one feeling made his heaven. It would pass too soon, but for that instant, everything was perfect.
He looked out at the olivine sea. He loved her, gave thanks to her for the gifts she had given. She was his mother, but she gave with a cold breast.
Heavy footsteps approached; it would be the Highlander who’d been asleep in his cottage when Robbie snuck in to retrieve the harp. The man would be afraid of witchcraft, once he saw Robbie sitting before the harp, legs stretched on either side, leaning over the arc of its neck as if it were an ailing lover.
Robbie hadn’t made it to land yet from his most recent stint at sea when the ruddy Highlander had lifted the harp from the foam at the edge of shore, but he’d been aware. Even before Robbie left the surf and stepped on dry sand, he’d sensed the man who’d touched his harp and felt he’d known him a lifetime.
And the feeling had woken him quickly, completely, mind and body, had pulled him towards the beach as if he were a fish on a line. He didn’t fight it. For the first time in so many that he’d lost count, a man had found the harp! It was a man who’d been drawn to the magic, who’d touched it and touched Robbie, though he—this Highlander who’d found the harp—had no way to know what he’d done. Drawing his first harsh breath of air as he rose from the sea, Robbie had felt such hope that it stung his eyes.
Voice raspy from long disuse, he’d whispered to himself, or perhaps to the sea. “Can it be at last? Can this be the completion of the magic?”
For all he had tried, he had not been able to make the harp sing with any of the women he and the harp had met—be they ladies or housemaids, whether they wanted him or not. And he knew why. He was, despite everything, the same Robbie Elliot he’d always been, and they were women. How could that work?
Now, sneaking a glance as the finder approached him across the meadow, Robbie thought, But this is truly a man. A ruddy, huge Highlander, kilt-clad and bearing a hand-and-a-half sword across his back.
When the man found the harp, Robbie had still been roaming far out among the waves. But despite the distance, with all the senses of the sea at his disposal, he’d seen and heard with his mind’s eye—and no less clearly. The great bear of a man had hefted the sodden wood of the harp in one massive hand—a hand that Robbie could feel as if it grasped his own flesh—and carried the wounded thing to shore, whistling off-key some song of the Highlands.
And now the Highlander stepped into the glade where Robbie sat in the sun with the harp before him as if ready to coax a tune from her broken strings and warped neck. He strode across the sunlit ground, the red flush on his face and neck betraying his anger, his eyes on the harp, intent.
But when at last the tall, red-headed Scot raised his eyes to meet Robbie’s… Oh, wonder!
The harp began to sing.
Thanks for reading! I’d love to hear your thoughts! Comment below, or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Deep love, hot kink. Secrets call for a shot of trust when true danger lurks in LA’s hidden places.
Brian Harrison wants to keep everyone safe — especially his beloved sub, Jackie Vasquez — and he’s convinced the only way to do that is to dig ever deeper in a forbidden investigation. Keeping his activities secret from the State Department means keeping them from his own boss, Luki Vasquez, and keeping secrets from Luki means Jackie can’t know either.
Meanwhile, Jackie keeps his own secrets as his kind heart and indomitable spirit drive him to find and help a mysterious homeless woman, who may be connected to a kidnapping. Both men dance around dangers lurking in LA’s hidden places.
Love continues to grow, adventurous kink heats up, and a marriage proposal still hangs in the balance. Can a willing shot of trust keep them together and alive when secrets collide?
Luki’s face had gone dark with controlled anger as he read the missive, then he’d passed it to Brian. While Brian read and fought down the urge to hang his head as if the letter was a scolding and he a misbehaving teen, Luki sat unmoving except for chewing a matchstick—his stress replacement for the cigarettes he’d quit half a dozen years ago.
Luki had stayed in LA for a week after what Brian was now calling “the Espen incident,” helping Brian through the red tape that had resulted from those events, and, once again, to help put VSI Los Angeles back in good order. The office’s most experienced agent, Lonny, had turned in his resignation, and on the evening of the day the State Department letter came, Luki hosted a small retirement party for him at the Brown Derby. Edith, Lonny’s wife, had been so happy she was practically shining the whole time.
On their way back to the apartment, Brian listened to Luki say more words at one time than he’d ever heard his boss string together.
Luki made it clear he was pissed at the perpetrator of crimes against what he called “his people.” He explained that he wanted to find the “doers” who had “subverted” Espen, a man whom Luki described as a “formerly decent guy.” He wanted to catch the “low-life fuckers” who had threatened an innocent, disabled woman. These “jerkwads,” he proclaimed, had put his nephew Jackie at risk by invading his—and Brian’s—home, had caused a situation in which he himself as well as Brian and Lonny could have been “barbecued” or at least “smoked to death,” and had put Sonny, Jackie, and Margie at risk of “bad shit,” like arrest, at the very least. And the “whole fucking mess” had generally “screwed with” Luki’s company and his life for months.
“If I don’t catch them and make sure they pay, maybe nobody will.” Luki went silent for a moment after that. Then he said, “Sonny would say I’m not being reasonable.”
Brian grunted to show he heard, because he wasn’t about to touch that.
Then Luki said, “I would tell him I don’t give a fuck.”
As chilling as it was to see his boss so pissed that he’d defy the husband he all but prayed and sang hymns to, for Brian, that wasn’t the worst of it. It wasn’t only Luki’s people threatened by the situation, it was his own.
In fact there was a lot of overlap—almost one hundred percent—and Jackie was at the top of both their lists. Beautiful, precious, wounded, strong, remarkable Jackie. Luki would protect him with his life—Brian knew that. But that was not an inch farther than Brian would go. Jackie filled a place in Brian’s heart no person or thing could ever replace. He suspected he wouldn’t survive losing him—he’d come close enough to that awful loss to know it would gut him. So yeah, Brian wanted the bad guys just as hard as Luki did, if not more.
But what he could do about that probably depended on Luki, and now that Luki’s federal resource had dried up, maybe Luki’s hands were tied. So as they pulled into the driveway that evening, he asked, “What are you going to do, boss?”
“You don’t need to know what I’m going to do, Brian. Your attention belongs on what you’re going to do. You—and VSI Los Angeles—are going stay miles away from anything to do with Espen or this mess he wrapped himself up in. If you can’t do that, then I will fucking fire you, and close the office. Am I clear?”
Brian heaved a sigh. “Crystal, boss. Fucking crystal.” In truth, Brian had never heard Luki speak like he did that day, and his carefully controlled tone and cold demeanor rendered it ultra-scary. But Brian knew there were still some criminals out there wearing, in Brian’s mind, a target. He wasn’t likely to forget that.
Thanks for reading, and as always feel free to leave me your thoughts in a comment. I love hearing from you! If you’d like an ARC, please contact me here, via email, or by Messenger.
Lou Sylvre loves romance with all its ups and downs, and likes to conjure it into books. The sweethearts on her pages are men who end up loving each other—and usually saving each other from unspeakable danger. It’s all pretty crazy and very, very sexy. As if you’d want to know more, she’ll happily tell you that she is a proudly bisexual woman—a mother, grandmother, lover of languages, and cat-herder—of mixed cultural heritage. She works closely with lead cat and writing assistant, the (male) Queen of Budapest, Boudreau St. Clair. She lives in the rainy part of the Pacific Northwest, and hearing from a reader unfailingly brightens the dreary weather. Find her through her links listed here, or drop her a line at email@example.com.
(Her Twitter name is sylvre, and she’s pretty sure she still has a tumblr account…)
After a crash left him with new mental and physical scars, Jackie Vasquez has finally regained his focus, flair, and bright outlook. Though he’s letting Brian Harrison’s marriage proposal simmer, it’s not for lack of love. He’s set his sights on putting his life right first — a new job and a fresh start at graduate school. But Los Angeles — the city of devil winds — has new trauma in store for him. Another accident leaves him with the stump of a leg and defeated spirits, adrift despite Brian’s devoted attentions.
While Brian copes with his own emotional trauma, he hopes to break through Jackie’s apathy, but work at Vasquez Security takes more and more of his time and attention. Specifically “the Espen case,” which his boss — Luki Vasquez — has forbidden him to pursue. Help comes on all fronts from friends and family for both Brian and Jackie, but even as it does, danger mounts from outside. Can the two men find their way back to love as well as passion and fulfillment in their D/s roles? Can they survive the confrontation with danger that seems to loom closer and darker every time LA’s hot winds blow?
The morning after their stellar session, when Brian got out of bed, he discovered Jackie was already up. The fortune cookie was no longer on the night table. Brian walked out into the open front rooms of the apartment looking for his boy, eager to kiss Jackie soundly and get his answer to the marriage proposal.
Jackie had left three of four diagonally cut pieces of cinnamon-toast on a plate, two strips of bacon in a pan, and half a pot of coffee still keeping warm, but he was nowhere to be seen. Brian poured himself a cup of hot coffee and grabbed both bacon strips with his fingers. He sat down in his usual spot at the table, wondering if he should feel disappointed, worried, or perhaps unconcerned. Jackie had certainly demonstrated his feelings for Brian the previous night.
But the question Where the hell is he? kept popping up in his mind as he devoured the bacon and chased it down with coffee. Then, as he helped himself to Jackie’s toast leavings, the question evolved into Why the hell would he leave without a word?
Followed closely by Why hasn’t he answered about marrying me?
Shit. “No” would be better than silence…
Wait. No, it wouldn’t. But shit…
After he polished off the toast and talked himself out of putting a shot of J&B in his second cup of coffee, he remembered that phones and text messaging existed. Hopeful, he swallowed most of the coffee down and went to the bedroom to fetch his phone. Aha! A text awaited, and it was from none other…
— Good morning, Bri. I’ll be home soon. Before I forget. What happened to that broken drawer in the playroom? —
It took Brian a number of seconds before he could even make sense of the question, so far was it from what he’d expected — and desperately hoped — to see, but eventually he put it together. Annoyed, but glad Jackie had at least not forgotten him entirely, he texted back.
— It had a lock, no key, and I couldn’t pick it. I broke it. Where are you? —
Brian waited, sitting on the unmade bed in his skivvies, only vaguely aware of Marley head-bumping his arm hoping for a good scratch and not even noticing the sun blazing through the window and baking his left shoulder. He didn’t get an answer. He sighed very deeply, well aware of how piteous it sounded, and then he moaned, “Dammit, Jackie.” Sure the devil boy would be his undoing someday, he gritted his teeth, resolving not to worry until something clearly indicated he should.
He picked up his phone to send another text, but before he could do so, he got a mixed media message. As often proved to be the case with images, it had taken a long time to get to him, having been sent even before the text he’d already responded to. It was a selfie. Jackie looking very fine and dressed for success, wearing a blazer the same color as his eyes and a tie… one of Brian’s, he believed.
He texted back: You look good. Why are you wearing a tie?
He waited. No answer.
He waited some more. No answer.
He started to wait some more, said “Fuck it” out loud, and sent a final text. What did your fortune cookie say? And wherever you are, be careful.
Brian dressed, walked down to the office, and had already situated himself at his desk and powered up his PC when a reply came.
I love you, Brian.
Brian didn’t reply. He was already tired from the strange interaction. He just gathered up his things and, sighing again, turned his attention to work.
More and more he found he accomplished the tasks of management easily. He whipped through the morning’s e-mails before Livvy showed up, made a pot of coffee, assigned Lonny to manage a personal security situation for Korean corporate officers in Los Angeles for a wedding, and reviewed the latest financial reports with Ahmad. After a break, during which he tried unsuccessfully to reach Jackie by phone and then spent fifteen minutes crocheting with Livvy while she talked about her nephew’s latest musical triumphs, he worked on a plan he’d been putting together to point VSI-LA in a profitable direction over the next couple of years.
LA was rife with security companies, a good number of them with high level capabilities. It was why Luki had never concentrated his energies here — a big market with an even bigger pool of competition, and as successful and respected as Vasquez Security was, it remained a small- to- medium-sized fish in the large pond. That made it difficult to compete with the likes of Security Group International, and SGI’s office in LA was more than triple the size of Brian’s little group.
But he thought the office could do better than it had. The key was targeting the right niche. He’d researched, and he’d found two of the least monopolized areas to be security for transient high level corporate officials — like the Koreans in town this week — and event security for small to medium-sized posh gatherings. VSI was set up well to grow in those market areas, and his report included the necessary facts and figures for Luki to make a decision as to whether to invest in the additional personnel, training, equipment, and advertising to accomplish it.
Now he set his mind to propose one additional area of investment, one he wasn’t at all sure Luki would approve. For one thing, it involved privately dealing with things that technically should be the domain of law enforcement agencies. For another, it involved putting someone in the middle of very dangerous situations — negotiating with kidnappers and dealing with blackmailers — and nobody on staff at present in Los Angeles was qualified. But Brian knew Luki had done that type of work, and he had other agents in Chicago who could do it. Luki could do the training, and Brian really wanted to be trained and to do the work. He wasn’t sure why he wanted to do something so patently risky, except that he hadn’t studied what he’d studied and gone on staff with the London Metropolitan Police in order to spend all his time at a desk.
Whatever the reason, his brain got ridiculously excited at the idea. He’d need a partner, and he thought Amy might be a good choice. If not, they could hire someone. With Luki’s connections in the business, Brian had no doubt they’d pick up jobs if word got out VSI-LA was equipped to deal with them.
Interestingly, he’d found a file indicating Espen had been looking into the same field of operations a few weeks before his disappearance, but he hadn’t compiled any reports except a list of other security companies that offered the same services.
As that thought passed casually through his thoughts, a realization jolted him — as if lightning had struck and revealed Espen’s secrets. Two entries in the notebook had been different than all the others. Both had the letters RL, a date, and what was surely an amount of money. Only one had been crossed out.
Espen was a gambler, possibly an addict. Espen had been deep in debt to someone represented by the initials RL. He’d paid RL once, but not the second time. Around the same time, he’d compiled that list.
It clicked. He hadn’t been thinking of the business, he’d gone looking for help with a blackmailer.
Lou Sylvre and Anne Barwell’s New Zealand romance (in which two sweet, hot, lonely men try their damnedest not to fall in love) has a new home with JMS Books. It will go wide with retailers soon, but for now you can pre-order from the publisher (at a nice discount)… and read it on release day, January 25, 2020.
We have a lovely cover from Written Ink Designs, and we’re anxious to share it. With no further ado—
It’s beautiful, right? And so are our lovers, Rusty and Nate, as is their story. (Spoiler: happy ending!)
Fog at Wellington’s airport leads two men to an impromptu road trip. Destination? Could be love!
Kiwi Nathaniel Dunn is in a fighting mood, but how does a man fight Wellington’s famous fog? In the last year, Nate’s lost his longtime lover to boredom and his ten-year job to the economy. Now he’s found a golden opportunity for employment where he can even use his artistic talent, but to get the job, he has to get to Christchurch today. Heavy fog means no flight, and the ticket agent is ignoring him to fawn over a beautiful but annoying, overly polite American man.
Rusty Beaumont can deal with a canceled flight, but the pushy Kiwi at the ticket counter is making it difficult for him to stay cool. The guy rubs him all the wrong ways despite his sexy working-man look, which Rusty notices even though he’s not looking for a man to replace the fiancé who died two years ago. Yet when they’re forced to share a table at the crowded airport café, Nate reveals the kind heart behind his grumpy façade. An earthquake, sex in the bush, and visits from Nate’s belligerent ex turn a day of sightseeing into a slippery slope that just might land them in love.
About that time, Rusty followed Nate onto an even narrower track that took off to the right—the sign marking it as Browns Track. He had to pay attention to his footing now. The trail was truly steep—muddy and slippery in places.
Immediately on thinking those words, slippery in places, he felt like it was about something besides the muddy ground of the Orongorongo forest. He associated the phrase with his own intentions, coming out here with a man who—okay, I’ll admit he pulls at me like sex on toast. If he wasn’t so sure he didn’t want anybody, he’d think he wanted Nate. And yes, he knew he was skirting the truth.
Is that a rock in my shoe? Hard to think about anything else, really, with that irritant. He needed to do something about it. “Nate, hold up. I have a—”
A rolling blast of thunder cut his words short. In his mind’s eye, he saw explosions all around him in a cornfield around a sleepy, dusty town in Helmand Province, Afghanistan. But he’d come a long way since leaving that year of his life behind, and he knew almost instantly that he wasn’t there; the sound he heard wasn’t war.
“Fuck! Earthquake,” Nate said.
That made perfect sense—especially as the ground suddenly lurched beneath Rusty’s feet, knocking him off-balance. He fell forward, and gravity carried him downslope against Nate, who went down under him. Instinctively, he tried to shield Nate’s head from hitting the hard ground, cradling it against his chest with his hands. The packs on their backs weren’t bulky, but were enough of a lump to keep them from rolling far. Instead they slid, and by the time they came to a stop, they’d nearly reached the river.
Rusty lay still, concentrating on steadying his breath, but when he realized his body lay spread over Nate’s like butter on bread, his heart took off racing all over again. Trying to rein in his senses—ignore the feel of the man, the scent of him, the rush of his own blood heating his veins — he pushed up onto his elbows.
“Are you all right?” he asked.
The breathy sound of Nate’s voice seemed to belie his words, and Rusty turned sharply to meet Nate’s gaze. He looked pissed again, and Rusty couldn’t blame him. He pushed up farther, intending to rise and then help Nate to his feet. But from that slightly higher perspective, Rusty suddenly saw he’d been reading Nate all wrong.
Yeah, maybe there was anger in that smoldering gaze, but it wasn’t anger at Rusty. The man’s as hungry for me as I am for him! Rusty knew that without a doubt. Of all the incongruous things, he could even smell Nate’s arousal mingling with his own. It smelled damn good.
And fucking dangerous.
He told himself his arousal was just a reaction to the shock of the quake, or it was from being thrust into proximity with Nate for the last twenty-four hours, or maybe he was hypersensitive, having gone so long without a man. He steeled himself to pull away from the man—the damned desirable man—who lay beneath him. But before he could put the intention to the test, Nate clutched the front of Rusty’s shirt in one strong hand and brought the other one up under his jaw, either holding his head or caressing his face. God, it was a sexy move.
Nate spoke, his glorious green eyes widening as if he shocked himself with what he said. “It won’t mean anything, right? It won’t… change anything. It will just be sex.”
How could the word “sex” harden Rusty’s cock to the point of pain? But he knew the word was coincidental; it was Nate unleashing possibility that made him fall headfirst into the desire he’d been trying to hold at bay.
He glanced around. They’d ended up some yards from the trail behind a tall rock formation and some brush, which screened them from the path and the river—and from anyone who might pass by. It seemed as if the earth had deliberately shaken things up, conspiring with fate to land them there. They were alone.
Nate let out a rush of heated breath, and seemingly the last of his inhibition flew away with it. He sat up long enough to strip the pack off his back and toss it aside, and Rusty did the same. Without any further warning or delay, Nate pulled him down and kissed him hard, smeared their lips together, licked across Rusty’s mouth, plunged his tongue deep.
Rusty felt on fire, flame burning away every emotion but want. He vaguely realized he didn’t usually want quite this hard, that the extremity of desire might have something to do with the nature and identity of the man he grappled with, but that was nothing more than a rumor behind the yearning that loomed huge, front and center.
Thanks for reading, and as always feel free to leave your thoughts in a comment. Anne and I would love to hear from you!
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