Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Release Blitz: No Luck by Kayleigh Sky

Title: No Luck
Author: Kayleigh Sky
Genre: M/M Romance
Release Date: May 21, 2018
Summary:
Careful what you wish for…

Close to landing a role in a sitcom he hopes will show his father he isn’t a failure, Vane Riley loses everything when his boyfriend dumps him and his father dies. With nowhere to turn, he heads home to regroup and help his sister, Rose, keep the family diner afloat. Trying to ease his grief with a guy in a bar seems like a good idea until the guy can’t get rid of him fast enough. The last thing Vane expects is for his one-night stand to appear at his dad’s funeral with a quirky tarot reader on his arm and a romantic history with Rose.

Doug Moore is a widower who isn’t ready to move on, but he can’t seem to get the clumsy guy he met the night before out of his thoughts. After helping Vane get back into the car he somehow locked himself out of, Doug figured he’d never see him again and can’t believe his lousy luck when Rose’s loser brother turns out to be the hookup he can’t stop thinking about. Doug is determined to keep his distance, but when Rose hires him to renovate the family home Vane is now living in, there’s not much chance of that happening.

Though Doug wants nothing more than to resist him, Vane ticks all his boxes. Clumsy, needy, sexy and… Oh yeah. Paranoid. Not for a minute does Doug believe somebody is out to hurt Vane despite the strange accidents that have befallen him since returning home, but Vane is sure somebody wants him dead.

Doug is solid and steady. Vane is emotional and imaginative. Nobody’s trying to kill him. Doug is sure of it…

At first.


The interior was dark, lit mostly by the glow of the TV.

Doug was pretty sure the guy at the table beside him was sound asleep. The dreariness of the place hit him out of the blue, and he had a feeling he was just punishing himself by staying. There were other places he could be, even sitting in a movie theater with Dorcas if he’d thought about it. But that ball of energy in his chest had brought him here.
He let his chair tip down just as the entrance door swung open and somebody in jeans and a jacket with a hoodie underneath stepped in—and promptly tripped. After he righted himself, the guy fixed what had to be a glare at the raised section of weather stripping across the threshold.

Doug lifted his mug, laughing into it before he took a drink.
The newcomer headed to the bar and stood at the corner until the owner finished with another customer and turned to him. Doug couldn’t see the guy’s face in the shadows, but he heard the owner say, “Yeah?” in a surprised tone and a few words in return. “Real quick… couple miles.”

Doug doubted the owner responded to whatever the guy was talking about. A useful reply would need more than the “You gonna buy somethin’?” he came up with.

Doug finished his beer and kept his eye on them. Maybe the owner made the guy nervous because the money he dug out of his pocket flew everywhere but on the counter.

“Shoot.”

The almost curse rang loud and clear. Doug grinned as the guy chased the rolling coins, picked up a couple, turned around, and bent over again.

Nice. Cute little bottom in those worn-out jeans.

Doug watched him step back to the corner of the bar and count his coins. The owner shook his head. Doug sighed, guessing the guy didn’t have enough money and the owner wouldn’t cut him any slack. What an asshole. Doug wasn’t coming to this place anymore. It had always been sketchy, but now it was a dreary, low-class dump.

He stood and strode to the bar. “Another one. For him too.”

The guy raised his head from his pile of money, and Doug got his first good look at his face. He startled. “Jesus, are you okay?”

The guy frowned, looking cute as hell as he tried to figure out Doug’s question.

Doug pointed at his own cheek. The poor light hid a lot, but he thought the guy blushed. And then he… giggled. A real-live giggle. Doug couldn’t help but laugh. Of all the weird things. Though from the twitches running through the guy, his giggle was clearly a result of his nerves. Doug liked that. Meg had been shy too.

“Kick-boxing.”

The words took a moment to register. Doug lifted the beer the bartender set down and motioned with his chin at the other one. The guy picked it up, nodded, and took a swallow. His sigh sounded happy.

“I didn’t think kicking people in the face was allowed,” Doug said. He didn’t for a minute believe the guy had gotten his bruises in a kickboxing match.

“Well, it was an accident. I’m kind of clumsy.”

No kidding. “Glad I have no interest in contact sports.” No, Doug was a baseball kind of guy and lazy about working out. His job was physical, and he put muscle on without even trying.

“I quit,” the guy said.

“Better part of valor,” Doug murmured.

A slow smile lit the guy’s face. “Caution is preferable to rash bravery,” he added to the quote. “You’re a Shakespeare fan.”

Doug hid his surprise with a nod. The guy was beautiful and charming and familiar, but Doug drew a blank trying to figure out where he’d seen him before. “Are you from around here?”

That changed things. The smile flattened, and the guy pulled back.

“Just visiting. My car broke down. Well, not actually broke down. I got out and dropped my keys.” He gave a blustery-sounding laugh. “Now I’m locked out.”

“I can jimmy it.”

The guy stared at him with his mouth half open. The pink of his tongue showed. Damn. Heat built between Doug’s legs. He shifted on his stool as his lust bloomed, a sensation he’d almost forgotten about. He hooked up with willing partners to expend some energy, but to be honest, attraction wasn’t usually a big part of it.

“Are you a car thief?” the guy asked, shrugging his jacket off.

“Right.”

The smile came back. “Just checking.”

The guy shifted to the stool between them and his hair swung, the dark ends brushing the tops of his shoulders. He tucked it behind his ears, then pushed up the sleeves of his hoodie. He had holes in his lobes but no earrings, and a tattoo of a sun done in black ink decorated the inside of a wrist.

Doug rocked forward, feeling the pressure on his balls, and set his elbow on the counter. “Drink up. I’ll take you to your car.”

The guy nodded. “That’d be great. I was going to call someone, but my phone’s broken.”

Of course it was. This guy screamed total disaster. “What’s your name?”

A whisper of a hesitation preceded his smile. “Ethan.”

Ethan. A nice name, but it wasn’t his. Or maybe it was his middle name. Interesting. Doug wasn’t afraid of him and didn’t think he was a psycho serial killer or anything. When it came down to it though, he probably couldn’t pick a serial killer out of a crowd to save his life. But this guy looked friendly, a little nervous, and a lot needy.

The perfect storm for Doug. He stuck out his hand. “I’m Doug.”

Warm fingers gripped his, and a jolt like a zap from a live wire shot up his arm and down his spine. Ethan’s mouth opened again, a slight part, the pink of his tongue a glimmer inside. “Nice to meet you, Doug.”

“You too.”

He wanted to do more than meet him though. He wanted to plant himself inside him. Ethan’s eyes widened as Doug stared at him, his pupils stretching to the edges of his irises. He flicked his lip with his tongue, picked up his beer, and chugged it.

“Want another?” Doug asked.

Ethan set his mug down. “Sure.”

Doug raised two fingers. “So whadda you do?”

“Write. I’m a writer.”

“Oh yeah?”

“Well, wannabe. I don’t have anything out, yet.”

“You will if you keep at it. That’s impressive. I have a tough time writing a two-page proposal.”

“What kind of proposal?”

“Job proposals. I own a construction company. We do mostly renos and additions.”

“Oh, that’s cool. Like the Property Brothers.”

Without the brother. Or the money. Or the fame. Doug nodded and pressed his lips into a smile. “Exactly.”

Ethan grinned. “I love those shows. I can barely use a hammer.”

“Somehow I think your thumbs thank you for not trying.”

Ethan gaped. Then he inhaled as though to speak but laughed first instead. “Okay. Okay. That’s probably true.”

His hand rested on the counter, and Doug wanted to touch it. The fingers lay flat, long, and slender. The thumb twitched, and Ethan curled it under his palm.

He was elegant and clumsy. And interested in Doug. Heat glowed in his eyes.

Doug pointed a finger at the beer. “Finish up. Let’s get out of here.”
Ethan swallowed. “Yeah. Okay.”

After he drank the rest of his beer and tugged his coat on, Doug gestured to the back door. “This way.”

They went down a short hall to a door painted the same black as the walls. Doug opened it and looked back. A hesitant smile greeted him and a flutter of panic stirred in Doug’s belly. Too sweet.

He knew with perfect certainty he should bail and also that he wasn’t going to.

Author Bio:
Kayleigh Sky is a m/m erotic romance writer.

Kayleigh’s stories are tales of struggle and pain, loss and despair. Love is won in the battle to rise out of the depths of darkness. Victory is in the sweet bliss of happily ever after.

Once upon a time Kayleigh hid out in a cold dark garage reading a book her parents forbid her to read. She was nine years old. The book? Giovanni’s Room by James Baldwin, a story of love between two men–well, actually the story was a little more complicated than that, but hey, she was nine.

In the dark of the garage, a light, a passion, a sheer joy for love in all its manifestations awoke.

And love between two men–Hot!

Kayleigh’s men are often broken, always brave, and always memorable.


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Release Blitz: Allure by CA Harms

Title: Allure
Author: CA Harms
Series: Brooklet Dreams #1
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Release Date: May 22, 2018
Summary:
The next generation of the Southern Boys returns in a new spin-off series, Brooklet Dreams…

She was supposed to be my forever...

I’ll never forget the first time I saw her. She wore overalls two sizes too big and a pair of gloves that were also too large for her little hands. But that didn’t faze her one bit, and we clicked instantly.

By the age of twelve, we had become best friends, and by the time we turned sixteen, we were more. I had eyes for only one girl. My girl.

But then life changed, and different paths led to broken promises. When she left town, I was forced to let go of our dreams.

I spent my days existing. Baseball, classes, and working at the family farm became my life. I didn’t care about anything else. Until I met Allison Jo.

AJ was the quiet girl I never expected. She brought me to my knees with that beautiful smile. She made me laugh and slowly brought the old me back to life. I found myself wanting more with her.

I became her world, and she was my everything.

But when my past returns, my world is turned upside down.

I’m not sure I was prepared for what was about to happen.



     

Author Bio:
C.A. Harms is like any other addicted reader. She enjoys happy endings and HEA love stories. She hasn't always been a lover of Romance and had once been addicted to a good Mystery. Just recently she has taken on a new liking and now is a full blown Romance novel addict.

She lives in Illinois and enjoys spending time with her husband and two children. You will always find her with her kindle or paperback in hand as it is her favorite pass time.


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Allure #1

Southern Boys
AMAZON US  /  AMAZON UK  /  AMAZON CA
AMAZON AU  /  GOODREADS TBR

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Release Blitz: The Omega's Physician by Kenna Grace

Title: The Omega's Physician
Author: Kenna Grace
Series: Bundle of Joy #1
Genre: M/M Romance, MPreg
Release Date: May 19, 2018
Cover Design: Ana J. Phoenix
Summary:
Lachlan
I’m ready for a baby, but haven’t found the right alpha. Most of them are alpha-holes, and I’m tired of waiting. I don’t expect to meet a great guy when I go in to discuss my options to get pregnant without a partner, but one of the doctors in the practice is hot and seems different from the alphas I’ve met in the past. I risk letting Donovan in and start thinking about a future, but then he ghosts me. He doesn’t return calls or messages, so I give up, figuring it’s over—until I find out I’m carrying his baby. He seems to want to be involved with our child, but how can I trust him again?

Donovan
Lachlan is the perfect omega. I get close way too fast, at first ignoring my personal rule of doing no harm to my own heart. Watching my fathers’ marriage splinter has left me wary of involvement, and I don’t do long-term. When I realize I’m falling for Lachlan, I run until I find out I’m going to be a father. I only have a few months to convince Lachlan I can change, and figure out how to do that, while watching out for my omega and our unborn child.


“Well, rest assured I’ve gone through all my options over and over. This is what I want and I’m ready for all the responsibilities that come with parenthood,” I replied, glancing down at the stack of books she had placed on her desk. Her hand was resting on top of them still, but I could make out words on the cover.Updated Registry Donor Listings.My heart fluttered in my chest knowing that I was about to take the first steps into fatherhood.

Katy smiled, surely pleased that I had done my research before coming in today. “Well, that’s fantastic. If you’re sure this is what you want, you have my support and full attention. If you’re ready, shall we go ahead and move forward with your decision?”

“Please,” I said, confidently. I was ready for this and was eager to get the process started.

“Well, I know you’re probably excited to get started,” Katy said, noticing my eyes were still locked on the stack of books under her hands. “But first things first. I’m going to need you to start tracking your fertility time. This isn’t a cheap procedure, and accuracy of insemination is half the battle.”

I let out a laugh before averting my focus back to Katy. “Of course. Actually, I started a few days ago in anticipation of this meeting, so I’ll get the completed information back to you as soon as possible.”

She nodded and stood up from her chair, grabbing the stack of books in her arms. “Now, the fun part,” she said, giving me a wink. “Follow me and I’ll set you all up.”

I nearly jumped out of my seat with excitement. “After you,” I said, bowing down and swinging an arm out.

Katy let out a laugh and rolled her eyes. “Let’s go.” She gave me a pat on the shoulder and walked out of her office. I followed closely behind, trying my best not to knock into the entourage of people strolling down the crowded halls in white coats. Finally, nearing the end of the hallway, we reached a closed door. A plaque on the wall next to it denoted it as the designated room for Donor Research. She opened the door and took a step inside, holding it open for me so I could walk in behind her. “Have a seat.” She motioned to a large desk with a chair.

“So, this is where the magic happens?” I joked, taking a seat at the desk.

Rolling her eyes, Katy placed the stack of what I thought were books on the desk in front of me. Turned out, it was actually a set of three binders. “I hope you like reading, you’re in for a long day.”

I pulled the binders up to me and lined them up. I opened the first one and shuffled through a few of the pages. Each page had a picture of a different man with a little biography underneath the photo and some details typed out next to it including their name, age, and profession. Each binder must have had at least a couple hundred pages. There was no doubt in my mind that it would take at least a few hours to get through them.

Katy shuffled behind me and started sorting through a large cabinet while I skimmed through a few more of the pages. I didn’t pay much attention to her as I was absorbed by the contents of the binders. It wasn’t for a few more minutes that my attention snapped back to her when a loud thud sounded next to me.

She smiled as she tapped her hand on another pile of binders that she had just dropped on the table. “In case you get through those without a match.”

My eyes widened at the stack of binders in front of me and I could feel my jaw go slack. Well, maybe I was being optimistic about getting through all this in a few hours. “Looks like I have my work cut out for me,” I said, shutting my jaw with my hand and rubbing my chin between my thumb and index finger.

Katy smiled. “I’ll give you some space. Be sure to take your time and don’t feel like you need to get through all this today. This is a big decision and until you have your fertility time tracked we can’t progress any further anyway. So, take your time and be absolutely confident with your donor choice.”

“Thanks, Katy. For everything.”

Author Bio:
Kenna Grace is a small woman with a huge personality. By evening, she can be found writing, reading, and getting lost in her wild imagination.

In her other life, she’s a behavioral analyst and devoted partner, but writing about men falling in love and their happily-ever-after is so much more exciting!






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Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Blog Tour: Bound by Alexandrea Weis & Lucas Astor

Title: Bound
Authors: Alexandrea Weis & Lucas Astor
Series: Magnus Blackwell #2
Genre: Adult Supernatural
Release Date: April 17, 2018

Summary:
Magnus Blackwell’s past is about to catch up with him.

An evil force has seized New Orleans. Pestilence, suffering, and darkness cloak the city. The citizens are scared and need their mambo to guide them, but Lexie Arden can’t help anyone. A diabolical presence has taken Lexie’s power and severed her ties with the other side.

Magnus Blackwell is fighting demons of his own. Torn between his devotion to Lexie and a spirit from his past, Magnus’s loyalty is put to the test. He must revisit his sins to uncover the key to the hatred ripping the city apart. If he doesn’t, Lexie’s reign as mambo will end.

Their search for answers leads them deep into the darker realms of voodoo—until a desperate Lexie does the unthinkable, and Magnus can do nothing to spare her from her fate.

What is the biggest influence/interest that brought you to this genre?
I grew up in New Orleans and was raised in the French Quarter. Paranormal is the normal there, so writing paranormal stories is a very good fit for me..

When writing a book, what is your favorite part of the creative process(outline, plot, character names, editing, etc)?
Just the writing part. Editing is the hardest, but I don’t plot. I just write and see where it goes. Names are worse than editing for me. I usually consult others on that one.

When reading a book, what genre do you find most interesting/intriguing?
Historical. I am a history geek at heart.

If you could co-author with any author, past or present, who would you choose?
Ina Fleming or Tennessee Williams.

Have you always wanted to write or did it come to you "later in life"?
Nope. Ever since I was eight, I’ve bene writing in some form or another. It was the one thing I felt I could do.



Lucas Astor
Lucas Astor is from New York, has resided in Central America and the Middle East, and traveled through Europe. He lives a very private, virtually reclusive lifestyle, preferring to spend time with a close-knit group of friends than be in the spotlight.

He is an author and poet with a penchant for telling stories that delve into the dark side of the human psyche. He likes to explore the evil that exists, not just in the world, but right next door behind a smiling face.

Photography, making wine, and helping endangered species are just some of his interests. Lucas is an expert archer and enjoys jazz, blues, and classical music.

One of his favorite quotes is:  “It’s better to be silent than be a fool.”  ~Harper Lee (To Kill a Mockingbird)

Alexandrea Weis
Alexandrea Weis is an advanced practice registered nurse who was born and raised in New Orleans. Having been brought up in the motion picture industry, she learned to tell stories from a different perspective and began writing at the age of eight. Infusing the rich tapestry of her hometown into her award-winning novels, she believes that creating vivid characters makes a story memorable. A permitted/certified wildlife rehabber with the Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries, Weis rescues orphaned and injured wildlife. She lives with her husband and pets in New Orleans.


Lucas Astor

Alexandrea Weis
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Bound #2

Series




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Book Blitz: Hard Love by Shana Vanterpool

Title: Hard Love
Author: Shana Vanterpool
Series: Guns & Ink #2
Genre: New Adult, Contemporary Romance
Release Date: May 22, 2018
Publisher: Swoon Romance
Summary:
When two people in pain collide, there is something intoxicating about drowning in the chaos of hard love.

Brando Hawkins is a detective with the Denver Police Department. The world should be his to take. He’s a dedicated officer with a promising career. But Brando’s got secrets. Dark, ruthless secrets. At twenty-six, he’s burned-out, and the sight of another body, one more unhappy ending, might just do him in.

Catherine Abbott is a woman who wars with her demons and guards her heart. Immersed in a world where people ink their lives on their skin, Catherine trusts only that which she can see. And, as a rape survivor, she finds comfort in control.

But Brando’s demons start to tangle with hers. They’re dangerous, like hers. But they’re beautiful too.

A spray of bullets brings them together, and the pain of their pasts collide with the lure of their futures. Cat wants to mend his heart and his wounds, but Brando’s secrets lay tucked away in a vault so tightly sealed, she can’t get through.

Everything around them is covered in the confusion of love and the burn of revenge, but no one ever said love was easy.

Hard Love is the next standalone installment in the Guns & Ink series by Shana Vanterpool, a world of tattoos, love, and redemption from Swoon Romance.

Mad Love #1
Summary:
She was a disruption he never wanted.

He was everything she distrusted.

Klayton Caldwell owns a tattoo shop in Denver, Colorado, and has seen just about everything and met just about every kind of person. And they all have one thing in common. Ink.

He isn’t complicated. What you see is what you get. Sex? Always. Relationships? Never. Pleasantries? He doesn’t do that either. Those who can’t handle his mouth get inked elsewhere. Klayton holds everyone at a distance, even his friends. He doesn’t do “close.”

Until Madison ends up in his tattoo parlor, broken, afraid and alone. There’s something about her, and almost immediately, Klayton’s guard drops. Now, everything he knows about himself changes as his life begins to unravel.

Twenty-year-old Madison Hart’s future was taken from her the moment she was abducted from her college campus and held captive. After escaping, she flees, running into a stranger. A stranger who shares a similar past. Someone who might be able to help her heal. If she’ll let him.

Madi comes into Klayton’s life like a storm. She’s beautiful. Pitiful. Dangerous. Her pain runs deep enough that she may never be able to talk about what she’s experienced. Her refusal to talk takes a level of patience Klayton’s not sure he has.

He must navigate her broken pieces by changing everything he is. Who he’s been all these years won’t work anymore. But Madi fights him, she fights herself. She fights the madness.

She refuses to talk. He can’t control his mouth. She doesn’t want to be touched. He can’t help himself. They don’t want love. Inside this storm, is a love so mad it might destroy them both.

MAD LOVE is book 1 in the Guns & Ink series from Shana Vanterpool. Look for the rest of the Guns & Ink series coming soon from Swoon Romance.

Author Bio:
When I walk into a book store I feel at home. When I smell the pages of a brand new book things make sense. When I read I am who I always wanted to be. I read to escape and I write so others can as well. My family, my actress dog Bella, coffee, and a steamy love story are a few of my most precious things.


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Hard Love #2

Mad Love #1



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Monday, May 21, 2018

Monday's Memorial Moment: Robbie Riverton - Mail Order Bride by Eli Easton


Summary:
Being a fugitive in the old west shouldn’t be this much fun.

The year is 1860. Robby Riverton is a rising star on the New York stage. But he witnesses a murder by a famous crime boss and is forced to go on the run--all the way to Santa Fe. When he still hasn't ditched his pursuers, he disguises himself as a mail order bride he meets on the wagon train. Caught between gangsters that want to kill him, and the crazy, uncouth family of his "intended", Robby's only ally is a lazy sheriff who sees exactly who Robby is -- and can't resist him.

Trace Crabtree took the job as sheriff of Flat Bottom because there was never a thing going on. And then Robby Riverton showed up. Disguised as a woman. And betrothed to Trace’s brother. If that wasn’t complication enough, Trace had to find the man as appealing as blueberry pie. He urges Robby to stay undercover until the danger has passed. But a few weeks of having Robby-Rowena at the ranch, and the Crabtree family will never be the same again.


Robbie Riverton had a bright future ahead of him on the stage in 1860 New York but one fateful night everything changed.  Witnessing a murder he hightails it out of town and while on the wagon train he meets mail order bride Rowena Fairchild.  Through a few more twists of fate, Robbie takes Rowena's place with the Crabtree family. But when he meets son Trace, sheriff of Flat Bottom, more than his life is at risk.   Nothing will ever be the same for each member of the Crabtrees after they welcome Robbie Riverton, mail-order bride into their home.

How can one not fall in love with Robbie Riverton is beyond me, he is so absolutely adorable and anyone who can make such an impact on a whole family in such a short space of time is aces in my book.  Trace is no slouch himself when it comes to enjoyable, would I call him adorable? Probably not but he is certainly lovely and one I rooted for from the very first moment we meet him.  You just know the fire between them will rival any shoot-'em-up the Old West has to offer.  Now I won't give anything away but I will say that Robbie's journey is one I won't soon forget and I'll be re-visiting on more than one occassion in the future.

I haven't read everything in Eli Easton's library but what I have read has never failed to entertain and Mail Order Bride is no different.  Taking her spin on romance, her character development, her way with scenery and dialogue, and putting it into a historical setting was just one of the best reading treats I could ask for.  Was it a bit of a far-reaching idea for 1860? Some might see it that way but history does contain some interesting twists and turns.  This is fiction after all and Robbie Riverton: Mail Order Bride is clever, fun, sweet, and entertaining from beginning to end with just the right amount of heat and humor, I hated to say goodbye to the lads when I swiped the final page.  Who knows maybe if we're real nice and real lucky we'll see the boys again in one of Miss Eaton's famous Christmas stories😉😉 but if this was the only time we see them, Holy Hannah Batman! what a winner!

RATING: 


Chapter One
March 15, 1860
New York City
“It was from Aunt Dinah’s quilting party, I was seeing Nellie home!”

Robby’s melodic tenor echoed in the narrow corridors backstage as he made his way to his dressing room. He exchanged winks, grins, or backslaps with everyone who squeezed past him. He was in a damned pleasant mood. The standing ovation they’d just received had put him on top of the world.

“Seeeing Nellie hoooome!” he bellowed in the big finish as he banged into his dressing room. His name, ROBBY RIVERTON, was on the door, and there was a water pitcher and a single rose on the table. This was the good life.

He plopped down at his dressing table. In the mirror Jenny Daley appeared, looking like an exotic flower in her red kimono. She leaned against the doorframe. “How you have a scrap of energy after three shows a day, I’ll never know.”

“Tis the reward of a pure and saintly heart,” Robby said, laying on a thick Irish brogue.

“Bollocks. You’re depressingly young. That’s all.”

Jenny Daley was a huge star of the New York stage. She played Lady Macbeth in their current production, and easily convinced the audience she could bend a man to her will with her raven hair and green eyes. She’d managed to outrun her age so far, though Robby figured she had to be nearing forty.

“You hardly even break a sweat,” Jenny complained.

“Nonsense. I’m wet as the Hudson in unmentionable places. Lord, I’m parched.” Robby reached for the pitcher. It was vilely hot onstage, especially under the costumes and makeup. He tilted the china pitcher over a glass, but nothing came out.

“Flory!” he bellowed. He went to the doorway, squishing Jenny aside, and stuck his head out. “Flory!”

Jenny stuck a delicate finger in her ear. “And to think I once had excellent hearing.”

Flory, a mousy little thing of about fourteen, came running. “Yes, Mr. Riverton?”

Robby ignored the hearts in her eyes. “My pitcher is empty again. How many times must I remind you to keep it filled?”

Her face fell. “Sorry, Mr. Riverton.” She bobbed a curtsy and ran off with the pitcher. With a huff, Robby returned to his chair.

“Don’t be hard on the girl,” Jenny tsked. “She’s awfully mashed on you, Robby.”

Robby began wiping off his makeup. “You forget, I was that girl. I labored backstage for four years, and I always had water ready for the actors.”

“Yes, but you are smart and capable,” Jenny said gently. “Thank God not everyone is, or we’d have even more competition than we have now.”

Robby gave her a smile in the mirror. “You’re right. Though how you stay so humble, I’ll never know.”

She made a face. “I’ve been set down a peg or two in my life. Now, are you coming out with us tonight? Don’t tell me you’re working, for I shall despair if you say no.”

Robby grimaced. “Not tonight, me bonny lass. I have an audition tomorrow. Need to memorize my lines.”

“Oh? What’s the play?” Jenny slunk into the room with renewed interest.

“Nick of the Woods at the Tripler.” Longing shot through Robby’s chest. He really wanted this role.

“Ooh! That ghastly thing?” She looked delighted.

“Yes, life in the wilds of Kentucky. It’s quite bloody, you know.”

“The play is? Or the real Kentucky?”

“Both.”

She shuddered. “Lands. You couldn’t drag me any farther west than Philadelphia.”

“I concur. But playing a frontiersman would be loads of fun. Don’t you think? All that growling and snarling and…hair.” Robby made claws with his hands and grimaced horribly at her in the mirror.

She laughed. “Darling, you growl like a kitten. You’d sooner be cast as Nick’s wife. Want to borrow my red dress for the audition?” She smiled at him prettily.

“Nick doesn’t have a wife. He has animal pelts, and knives, and a vengeful heart.”

“Pity. You’d be a shoe-in for Mrs. Of-the-Woods.”

Robby would never live down the fact that his first big break at Burton’s New Theater had been in a female role. He’d been working in costuming when the actress playing Ophelia fell ill with the flu, as did the understudy and several other cast members. Hamlet had been his mother’s favorite, and Robby had every line of the play memorized. He’d stepped forward and, at nineteen, got his first role on stage. The audience and critics had loved his “tender insanity.”

Well, why not? Men played women’s roles in the olden days. If anything, Robby considered it a double feat of acting—playing the part of “Miss Angeline Smith” who was playing the role of Ophelia. He was blasted proud of that performance.

“I can growl,” he said firmly. “When you come see me in Nick of the Woods, I shall put you into convulsions of terror.”

 “Well, good luck, my bene boy. We shall miss you tonight. You know what they say about all work and no play.”

She kissed his cheek and glided from the room, a picture of grace.

She didn’t give Robby the chance to respond, but what he said about all work and no play was that if he were very diligent, and very lucky, he might one day be as famous as Jenny Daley.

Robby finished removing his makeup, thanked Flory and gave her a sweet smile when she returned with water, and put on an undershirt and dressing gown. He settled down with a bottle of wine an admirer had sent backstage, turned up the lantern to its highest pitch, and dove into the realm of the dreadful Nick. He paced and grimaced, shouted and groaned.

He could growl, damn it. He needed a role like Nick. He’d been playing pretty boys for five years now, always the son or the young, naive lover. Hence his role as MacDuff’s son in the current production and not Macbeth. He needed to prove he was ready for mature roles despite his baby face.

He was so focused on his task that he lost track of time. Then tiredness hit him like a sledgehammer from out of the blue, and he could barely keep his eyes open. He glanced at his pocket watch. It was just after midnight. The unsavory elements would be out and about, and it was a twelve-block trek to Mrs. Grassley’s boarding house. He should have left hours ago.

When he exited the back door of the theater, the sky was pitch black and the city was transformed by the flicker and shadow of gas lamps. It was cold, the sort of cold that made the inside of your nose crisp and brought tears to your eyes. Robby pulled on his gloves, struggling with them under the back door’s gas light. At least the cold woke him up. If he walked fast, he’d be home in no time.

Only he got no farther than one step. He was suddenly aware that near the opening of the alley were moving shapes. There was a shouted, “No, please,” and a barely there snick of a knife.

Robby blinked in surprise. His eyes adjusted to the shadows just in time to see the act. Two large men held the arms of a dignified-looking fellow with gray hair, an elaborate moustache, and a three-piece suit. A fourth man, a short bulldog of a brute with thick jowls, a heavy wool coat, and a bowler hat, attacked the gray-haired man, jabbing forward with his right arm. The victim’s face contorted with agony as the knife plunged. Bowler-Hat stabbed again and again until the man with the gray hair slumped, lifeless. And still the knife moved once, twice.

Robby was so close, he could see the sticky glint on the blade.

He only realized he was panting in terror by the rapid cloud of condensation that formed in front of his face and faded, formed and faded. Then he made an involuntary sound, a sort of lowing, and the three men snapped around to look at him.

“Don’t stand there, you nimenogs. Get him!” Bowler-Hat bellowed.

The men who were holding the victim let him drop to the cobblestones. It wasn’t until they’d taken a step toward Robby that he found the sense to move. He briefly considered going back into the theater, but the door had locked behind him, and there was no time to muck around with keys now. He dove to the right. The alley wasn’t a dead end, thank God. He came out on Centre Street, the sound of his pursuers loud in his ears. He ran harder and faster than he’d ever run before in his life, on and on, street after street, turning as often as he could. He finally turned onto a familiar street and, seeing no one when he glanced behind him, dove into the Long Shoreman.

Jenny and her friends frequented the establishment often, and Robby was not unknown there. The owner, Phil, was a good sort. After no more than a brief plea, Phil stuffed Robby into his private office then vanished again. With his ear pressed to the door, Robby heard Phil’s voice and the angry demands of his pursuers. The back door banged as someone rushed out.

For a long moment all was silent, and there was only the pounding of Robby’s blood in his ears. Then a light tap on the door startled him. Robby stepped back to let Phil in.

Phil carried a whiskey bottle and two shot glasses, and he filled them. “They’re gone. Here, drink this.”

Robby took his and swallowed gratefully.

“What the hell was that about?” Phil grumbled. “Is The Weekly Sun hiring thugs as their critics now?”

“I saw a murder.” Robby’s voice was hushed, as if it were afraid to come out. He dropped down onto a settee crowded with coats, the strength leaving his limbs.

“No kiddin’? Did ya really?” Phil didn’t sound especially surprised. Murders were far from uncommon in New York City. “Well, we can smuggle you outta here after a bit, and you should be all right. I told ’em you went out the back and off they went.

Robby shook his head. It had all been such a blur. But a heavy, dark feeling was settling on him, a sense of utter doom and dread. “No, they saw me coming out of the theater. Had to have gotten a good look at my face. There’s a gas lamp above the door.”

“Oh. That’s a bit of rum luck.” Phil pushed aside some coats and sat down next to Robby. He poured them both another shot.

“And I was so thrilled to have that new poster of me stuck up at the front of the Burton too,” Robby said with a bitter laugh.

It had pricked Robby’s pride every time he passed that poster. There were five glass frames hanging at the front of the theater, and several were dedicated to the current and next production, so being featured in one of the remaining slots was the privilege of a drawing attraction.

The poster depicted Robby standing with one foot on a stool, a dashing cape cast over his shoulder, his face angelic as he looked toward the heavens. The costume, complete with leggings and puffy pantaloons, was from his recent role as Laertes in Hamlet. His face, unfortunately, was completely bare in the image, without even whiskers to disguise him. WITH ROBBY RIVERTON the poster proudly announced.

Yes, it was rum luck. The rummiest. Robby wondered how long it would take the men to trace him to Mrs. Grassley’s boarding house. A day? An hour?

“Ah, Robby, I wouldn’t worry about it,” Phil said amiably. “They’re probably some no-accounts who won’t even bother to go look at the front of the theater. Why should they? You saw something, they scared you off, end of story. It was dark, wasn’t it? You probably didn’t get a good look at their faces. They’ve no reason to track you down.”

Robby stared at Phil, that sense of doom settling deeper. Ice crept up his spine and he thought he might cast up his accounts. This couldn’t be happening. Dear Lord, his life was ruined. Scorched earth. He couldn’t go back to the Burton, or any other theater in New York. He probably shouldn’t even go back to Mrs. Grassley’s to collect his things.

Because he had recognized them, or at least one of them. He’d just seen Mose “The Terror” McCann, leader of the Bowery Boys and the most notorious gangster in New York, murder a man in cold blood. And Mose McCann was known for being smart, vicious, and very careful to never leave witnesses.

Robby grabbed Phil’s shoulders with both hands, like he might grab a life raft in a treacherous sea. “You must help me get out of town, Phil. Because if I don’t, I’m a dead man.”

Author Bio:
Having been, at various times and under different names, a minister’s daughter, a computer programmer, a game designer, the author of paranormal mysteries, a fan fiction writer, and organic farmer, Eli has been a m/m romance author since 2013. She has over 30 books published.

Eli has loved romance since her teens and she particular admires writers who can combine literary merit, genuine humor, melting hotness, and eye-dabbing sweetness into one story. She promises to strive to achieve most of that most of the time. She currently lives on a farm in Pennsylvania with her husband, bulldogs, cows, a cat, and lots of groundhogs.

In romance, Eli is best known for her Christmas stories because she’s a total Christmas sap. These include “Blame it on the Mistletoe”, “Unwrapping Hank” and “Merry Christmas, Mr. Miggles”. Her “Howl at the Moon” series of paranormal romances featuring the town of Mad Creek and its dog shifters has been popular with readers. And her series of Amish-themed romances, Men of Lancaster County, has won genre awards.

In 2018 Eli hopes to do more of the same, assuming they reschedule the apocalypse.


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