Sunday, April 23, 2017

Sunday's Safe Word Shelf: Surreal Audiobook by RE Hargrave


Title: Surreal
Author: RE Hargrave
Series: The Divine Trilogy #3
Genre: BDSM, Erotica Romance
Narrator: Hollie Jackson
Audiobook Release Date: April 6, 2017

🎂🍸🎂Happy Birthday Jayden!🎂🍸🎂
Summary:
***2015 FINALIST for BDSM Writers Con Golden Flogger Award for Best BDSM Novel of the Year***

Catherine O'Chancey is a young submissive who has found her happily ever after, with a man far better than she’d ever dreamed.

Or has she? Is life that easy?

Jayden Masterson first opened his playroom to Catherine—a provocative Irish beauty with a penchant for pain—and then his heart to her everyday persona, Erin. For him, life has never been more perfect . . . Or more confusing.

He's comfortable as a Dominant, but still finding his way as a lover and equal partner. Jayden is also learning that he can't protect his jewel from everything—nor should he. Some battles she must fight on her own.

The travesties of Erin's past still haunt her, and as the couple move forward in their merging relationship, they must now cope with the physical damage left behind by her abuser.

Catherine and her Master have a lot to learn—about each other, and about themselves. If Jayden and his jewel can overcome the challenges they'll face on the next leg of their journey, their ending just might be . . . Surreal.

***Contains explicit sexual content (including multiple partners and gender pairings) and mature situations which could be trigger-inducing for some readers.***



To Serve is Divine #1
Summary:
Catherine O’Chancey is a reserved, demure, and graceful submissive. All traits she trained hard to enhance when she discovered the world of Dominance and submission in college. In an attempt to start fresh after the unexpected death of her last Dom, Catherine moves to Dallas, TX to escape the shroud of darkness he left behind in her life. She has tried to fight the need that resides deep within her to submit, but finally has to admit she can’t for it is not a choice, but part of who she truly is. After months of mental preparation, she ventures back into the lifestyle by attending a coveted open-night event at Dungeons and Dreams, an exclusive BDSM club.

Is it fate or coincidence that Catherine garners the attention of one of the club’s board members who happens to be on the hunt for the perfect sub – a partner who enjoys receiving pain and pleasure as much as he enjoys doling it out?

Jayden Masterson is many things: a firm Dom, a shrewd businessman, and a gentleman. What he isn’t, is someone who partakes in relationships outside of contractual ones with his multiple, uncollared, regular submissives. While he likes rough sex, he is not an animal, and can find pleasure only if it is consensual. What his harem is missing is a pain slut; could there be one in his future?

Upon meeting Catherine, Jayden feels an instantaneous spark inside him that has him wanting to know not just her body, but her mind. He wants to unravel her mysteries and discover her secrets. Through pain can they find the pleasure they seek? Can part-time pain lovers find full-time fulfillment when it’s not in their contract?

A Divine Life #2
Summary:
Over the past year of being Jayden Masterson’s collared submissive, Catherine O’Chancey has worked through the mental terrors left behind by her old Dom—she thinks. To celebrate their collaring anniversary, Jayden organizes a special day, during which her final limits and fantasies will be realized. Will it prove to be more than she can handle? Can she endure the erotic onslaught her mind and body will experience and survive unscathed?

While Catherine faces dark shadows and pleasurable highs, Jayden finds his own inner strength being tested. He has come to realize that, somewhere along the way, Catherine has taken possession of his heart, mind, and body. Now he faces his biggest challenge ever; he must let go of all his submissives but one: his jewel, Catherine. Can he leave his philandering ways behind? Has he made the ultimate mistake by putting his jewel into the hands of others?

To Serve is Divine #1
Original Review for eBook/Print Version July 2013:
I really enjoyed this first installment of the Divine Trilogy. I would've liked to have had a little more detail into Catherine's horrifying time with her previous Dom but we still learn enough to understand her hard-limits and why she's been away from the lifestyle for awhile. I really enjoy the chemistry between Jayden and Catherine as well as Micah. Can't wait for the next one.

A Divine Life #2
Original Review for eBook/Print Version August 2013:
This was a perfect 2nd installment for the Divine Trilogy. I didn't really think it possible but this is even sexier than the 1st book. Erin's limits are tested as is the relationship between her and Jayden. We learn a little more of her past with the despicable Spencer through a flashback/memory. Even though the time frame is considerably shorter than what was covered in the 1st book, I think that both characters actually grow and discover more, not only of each other but themselves as well. We're also introduced to a few new characters and others that are "expanded" on, which in my opinion only heightens both Erin and Jayden's places in the Dom/Sub atmosphere. I am eagerly awaiting for book 3.

Surreal #3
Original Review for eBook/Print Version March 2015:
I'm not going to say too much in my review, as I don't want to risk giving anything away. Now, I will say that I think this is a perfect way for this series to end, if it must end. It's like seeing a story come full circle as well as the characters involved. I think we finally get to see just how far Catherine has really traveled. Throughout the series, we've seen Catherine blossom but in Surreal, she becomes the Rose Parade.  We are always learning and growing in life and this is a great example of how even Jayden, who is so confident in his role as Dom, can still be taught a few things.  If you're looking for a true story that involves the BDSM lifestyle, than this is the one for you.  In my opinion, 50 Shades doesn't hold a candle to RE Hargrave's Divine Trilogy.

RATING: 

Author Bio:
Domestic engineer. Author. Burgeoning editor. And quite possibly certifiable. Believing every story can shine bright with a bit of tenacious tough love, R.E. Hargrave is thorough and to the point. An international bestselling author, she takes storytelling and manuscript polishing seriously, working with her authors and on her own creations to ensure they come to life, crawling from the pages and into the reader’s souls.

Hargrave lives on the outskirts of Dallas, TX and is married to her high school sweetheart; together they are raising three children. A native 'mutt,' she has lived in New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Alabama, Texas, and California. She is fond of setting her stories—which range from the sweet to the paranormal, to the erotic and horrific—on location in South Carolina and Texas.


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Surreal Life #3
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Saturday, April 22, 2017

Saturday's Series Spotlight: All's Fair Trilogy by Josh Lanyon


Fair Game #1
Summary:
A crippling knee injury forced Elliot Mills to trade in his FBI badge for dusty chalkboards and bored college students. Now a history professor at Puget Sound university, the former agent has put his old life behind him—but it seems his old life isn't finished with him.

A young man has gone missing from campus—and as a favor to a family friend, Elliot agrees to do a little sniffing around. His investigations bring him face-to-face with his former lover, Tucker Lance, the special agent handling the case.

Things ended badly with Tucker, and neither man is ready to back down on the fight that drove them apart. But they have to figure out a way to move beyond their past and work together as more men go missing and Elliot becomes the target in a killer's obsessive game...

Fair Play #2
Summary:
Fifty years ago, Roland Mills belonged to a violent activist group. Now, someone is willing to kill to prevent him from publishing his memoirs.

When ex-FBI agent Elliot Mills is called out to examine the charred ruins of his childhood home, he quickly identifies the fire for what it is--arson. A knee injury may have forced Elliot out of the Bureau, but it's not going to stop him from bringing the man who wants his father dead to justice.

Agent Tucker Lance is still working to find the serial killer who's obsessed with Elliot and can't bear the thought of his lover putting himself in additional danger. Straightlaced Tucker has never agreed with radical Roland on much--"opposing political viewpoints" is an understatement--but they're united on this: Elliot needs to leave the case alone. Now.

Tucker would do nearly anything for the man he loves, but he won't be used to gain Elliot access to the FBI's resources. When the past comes back to play and everything both men had known to be true is questioned, their fragile relationship is left hanging in the balance.

Fair Chance #3
Summary:
Elliot Mills comes face-to-face with evil in this follow-up to Fair Game and Fair Play from bestselling author Josh Lanyon  

One final game of cat and mouse…

Ex–FBI agent Elliot Mills thought he was done with the most brutal case of his career. The Sculptor, the serial killer he spent years hunting, is finally in jail. But Elliot's hope dies when he learns the murderer wasn't acting alone. Now everyone is at risk once again—thanks to a madman determined to finish his partner's gruesome mission.

When the lead agent on the case, Special Agent Tucker Lance, goes missing, Elliot knows it's the killer at work. After all, abducting the love of his life is the quickest way to hurt him.

The chances of finding Tucker are all but impossible without the help of the Sculptor—but the Sculptor is in no position to talk. Critically injured in a prison fight, he lies comatose and dying while the clock ticks down. Elliot has no choice but to play this killer's twisted game and hope he can find Tucker in time.


Fair Game #1
Original Review August 2014:
The mystery that seems to land at Elliot's feet, thanks to his dad, really grabbed me and didn't lose my interest all the way through, even as everyone was telling him to drop it. The chemistry between Elliot and his former lover Tucker just leaps off the pages. Despite the arguing and cross-purposes, you find yourself rooting for them all the way through, even when you want to sucker punch Tucker or give Elliot a solid shaking, you just know they will be better together.

Fair Play #2
Original Review November 2014:
What can I say about Fair Play? Amazing! Awesome! Exciting! Just to list a few words to describe Josh Lanyon's newest release. I didn't think I could love Elliot or Tucker or Ms. Lanyon for that matter, any more than I did after reading Fair Game, but you know what? I do! If Elliott thought the end of the summer school session was going to make life easier than it was during the Sculptor case than he's got a lot of rethinking to do. With Roland's book coming out soon, it seems trouble is coming out of the woodwork.

I love the mystery in this one nearly as much as I loved the Sculptor case in Fair Game. The connection between Elliott and Tucker just jumps right off the page despite some holes in their communication, not to mention the heat between the couple. Throw in a horde of intriguing former anti-war radicals and you have a story that just won't let go of you from beginning to end. I'm already feeling E&T withdrawal.

Fair Chance #3
Original Review March 2017:
Elliot and Tucker may not have the same hold on my heart as the author's Adrien and Jake from her Adrien English Series but they do give them a run for their money.  Their give and take chemistry in both their home life and the Sculptor case is even stronger in the aftermath of Fair Chance as it was in the initial investigation in Fair Game.  I dread the thought that we won't be seeing any more of these two but if that truly is the case, well what a way to say "the end"!

Did Andrew Corian have an accomplice or is he just trying to keep his game afoot with Elliot, to keep him looking over his shoulder, or to get the death penalty off the table?  For that answer, you'll have to read this yourself and if you have been following this tale since Fair Game you won't want to miss this great conclusion, if you're new to the game well then here is the perfect time to give these boys a go.

I love it when every secondary character has a purpose.  When you are dealing with a mystery sometimes the secondaries are glorified extras to cloud the suspect pool.  Not in Fair Chance, each one has a specific role, some are true suspects, some are true co-workers, some are family, but they are all important, they all add a little something to the tale that would leave a hole if they were not there.  When the mystery is "Is there a mystery?" it takes talent to tell it, to blend "is there" to "yes there is", to thread passion and humor with love and hate.  Those are just some of the reasons that Fair Chance is a nail-biter and if you don't bite your nails, be sure to have some toothpicks handy to gnaw on, you are going to need them.

RATING: 


Fair Game #1
His cell phone was vibrating.

From where he stood at the lectern, Elliot could see it jittering on the top of the desk. He ignored it. The days when a phone call might signal the need to leap into action -- and danger -- were long behind him. Seventeen months behind him.

“... rats overran the compound, and the stench of the brimming privies polluted the air. Starving prisoners ate candles, bootlaces, vermin.”

The usual ripple of disgust ran through the rows of students in the Bryant Hall lecture room. A few busy hands made notes, but honest to God. Was the notion that life in a prison camp would be living hell really a point these kids couldn’t remember if it wasn’t jotted down in a notebook?

“By the time the Civil War has over, over four hundred thousand soldiers were POWs -- that number, you’ll be surprised to hear, nearly evenly divided between Union and Confederate troops.”

On cue, the little blonde in the front line of chairs raised her brows in surprise and shifted in her chair to better display her long, slim legs.

What was her name again? Mrachek, Leslie. That was it.

Catching his gaze, Mrachek smiled demurely. Elliot bit back a sardonic grin. Barking up the wrong tree there, Mrachek, Leslie. If Elliot was inclined to get involved with a student -- and he was not -- it would more likely be the broad-shouldered redhead sitting next to her.  Sandusky, John.

Sandusky was chewing the top of his pen, staring into space.

Elliot sighed inwardly and continued, “The treatment was no better for officers. More than three hundred of the nine thousand men held at Johnson Island in western Lake Erie, died -- primarily of starvation and disease.”

His phone was buzzing again.

Funny, how you just knew when it was trouble. Granted, Elliot didn’t get a large number of calls these days. Not like when he’d been a hot shot Special Agent with the FBI. His physical therapist, his teaching assistant, his father…that was pretty much it. Maybe that explained why he was having trouble tuning out that ghostly knocking on the desktop. So much for his vaunted power of concentration. Tucker would have -- no.

No, he wasn’t about to let his thoughts stray in that direction.

Elliot glanced at the clock in the back of the room. Four minutes to the hour. Close enough.

“And that just about does it for today, boys and girls,” he announced.

A few faces blinked at him as though he’d woken them from a dream -- which he probably had. Others glanced around at the clock or at wristwatches while papers and books were shuffled and the students began filing out of History 353.

Elliot turned away from the lectern.

“Professor Mills?”

Mrachek, Leslie accompanied by a bored-looking Sandusky, John was smiling up at him.

Elliot raised his brows in inquiry. His expression must not have been encouraging because her smile faltered.

“Leslie, is it?” he asked more cordially.

“Yeah. Leslie Mrachek. I’m also in your Film and History: The American West course.” She was turning the full battery of white teeth, blue eyes, and adorably freckled nose his way. Elliot controlled his impatience.  Not her fault if his knee was beginning to ache and he was suddenly, keenly feeling the frustration of his new sedate, confined life in academia.

 “Oh, yes?”

Her escort, Sandusky, was checking the messages on his cell. Leslie said, “I was wondering if I -- if you would consider looking at my essay on the films of John Ford before I officially turned it in?”

Was that done? Though he’d earned his doctorate before joining the Bureau, Elliot had done very little teaching. All too often he felt like he was feeling his way through the dark; far less savvy than some of his younger, fresh-out-of-college peers.

“Of course.” If that wasn’t kosher, he’d know better the next time.

“Are your office hours still from nine to eleven on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, and two to four on Tuesdays and Thursdays?”

 “Uh, right.”

She gave him that blazing smile again. “Sweet! Then I’ll see you tomorrow.”

Elliot nodded politely, bemusedly. Leslie departed with the stoic Sandusky in tow. Elliot retrieved his phone and checked messages.

His father’s number flashed up.

The letdown caught him off guard. What -- who -- had he been expecting? Automatically, he gathered his tan Brooks Brothers raincoat and briefcase. Speaking of office hours, he was due in his lair now.

He punched in the phone numbers as he walked. His office was located in Hanby Hall on the other side of the quad near the arboretum. The rain had stopped. The campus -- tidy lawns, old-fashioned brick buildings, towering white birch and beech trees -- sparkled in the fleeting sunlight as though newly washed.

“Hey, Professor!” A student on a bike winged past him like a giant bird.

Elliot flinched. At least he managed not to reach for a shoulder holster that wasn’t there, so progress was being made.

The phone ringing at the other end picked up.

“Hel-lo.” His dad sounded like always. Relaxed, cheerful. Clearly it was no family emergency that had him ringing Elliot during class hours. Of course, they were a two-man family, so if there had been a genuine emergency Roland Mills would probably not be the one placing the call.

“Hey, Dad. You rang?”

“I did. How are you, son? Are we still having on dinner on Thursday?”

They had dinner every Thursday. They’d been having dinner once a week since Elliot had left the Bureau and returned to teaching at Puget Sound University.

“Sure.” An uneasy thought occurred. “Why?”

“You remember Tom and Pauline Baker?”

“Vaguely.” He skirted two girls in boots and mufflers, texting madly as they walked and mumbled to each other.

“Their boy Terry is a student at PSU. At least he was up until two weeks ago.”

“What happened two weeks ago?”

“He disappeared.”

“Boys do sometimes.”

“Not this boy. Terry was a very serious kid. Good grades. No trouble.”

Elliot said dryly, “Sounds like he was due for some time off.”

“Be that as it may, Tom and Pauline don’t believe he dropped out of sight voluntarily.”

Elliot had reached the long narrow steps leading up to bullet-shaped oak door of Hanby Hall. As always when faced with stairs he felt a twinge of anxiety. The pain after his knee replacement had been excruciating -- beyond anything he’d imagined or previously experienced -- but he was recovering well now and stairs rarely gave him trouble.

He went up them steadily, went inside the building already quieting down as the next session of classes began.

Keeping his voice down as he walked past closed classroom doors, he said, “If that’s the case, and they have some grounds for believing foul play, they should go to police.”

“They’ve been to the police. They’ve been to the FBI.”

“I haven’t heard a word about this.”

“Charlotte Oppenheimer asked them to keep it quiet for now.”

Oppenheimer was the current president of PSU. She had a vested interest in keeping rumors of possible malfeasance to a whisper.

“What is it you want me to do?” Reaching his office, Elliot put his briefcase down and found his keys listening to the uncharacteristic silence on the other end of the line.

“I’d like you to talk to the Bakers.”

Not what he was expecting. “How is that supposed to help anyone?” Elliot had had his share of talking to grieving parents. If there was a bright side to losing a job you loved, it was the part about not having to deal with terrified or distraught loved ones.

“I just thought you could talk to them. Reassure them.”

Stepping inside his office, Elliot closed the door, and said quietly, “There may not be cause for reassurance.”

“I know. But you’ve got experience in this kind of thing. I thought you might be able to use that experience to help them navigate these waters.”

Here was irony. “You hated every moment I worked for the Bureau. All I ever heard was how I was wasting my life in the pay of a fascist organization working for a corrupt regime.”

“And so you were.” The years had only slightly mellowed Roland Mills’s militant and anarchist tendencies. Back in the day, he’d been right out there with Abbie Hoffman and Jerry Rubin -- flowers in his hair and screaming for revolution -- before he’d settled down to relatively staid life as the most liberal professor on the campus of one of the most liberal of the liberal art colleges on the West Coast. Elliot was his only child, the off-spring of Roland’s third and final marriage. “So you were,” Roland repeated. “And squandering all the gifts and talents the universe bestowed on you. But here’s a chance to put those oppressor-of-the-people skills of yours to good use. These are friends and they need help.”

“Jesus, Dad.” Elliot stared out the window, but he wasn’t really seeing the pale, glistening tree trunks or the silver pink rhododendrons in this part of the arboretum. The museum of trees. He was seeing another rainy afternoon -- a park in Portland, Oregon. That day had ended in bullets and puddles streaked with blood.

Hell. Maybe it was the weather. Washington’s dark, wet winters got to him sometimes.

Elliot shook off the shadowy feeling of premonition. “All right. What’s the number?”

Fair Play #2
Phone calls at three a.m. Never a good thing.

"Got it." Tucker's voice was groggy. He groped for his cell phone.

"Land line," Elliot mumbled, pulling the pillow over his head. One of the perks of academia. The three a.m. phone calls were no longer for him.

Tucker swore, dropped his cell and knocked the phone receiver off the hook. The mattress jumped as he lunged for it, and Elliot moaned.

"Sorry." Tucker grabbed the receiver and rasped, "Lance."

Silence.

Tucker said in a completely different voice, "Say that again?"

Elliot opened his eyes, listening.

What felt like a long silence followed before Tucker said, "We're on our way." He clattered the phone back on the hook and snapped on the bedside lamp. "Elliot. Wake up."

"I'm awake." Elliot was already shoving back the covers. "What is it? What's wrong?"

"We gotta roll."

Elliot's heart pounded in a crazy mix of adrenaline and dread. He tried to read Tucker's face in the blinding blaze of light.

"Your dad is okay." Tucker emphasized the word. "But the house is gone."

"What?"

Tucker put a hand on Elliot's arm and gripped it. "There was a fire. Your dad got out unhurt. He's fine. But it sounds like the house is going to be a write off."

Shock held Elliot motionless. Tucker had spared him the real fear before it had time to form, but even so. Gone? The house he had grown up in? In some ways, a lot of ways, that house still meant home.

He shook off Tucker's arm, jumping out of bed, barely feeling the jar to his reconstructed knee at the incautious movement. "There's no ferry this time of night."

"I'll sail us across."

Elliot nodded. He didn't trust his voice yet.

Tucker headed for the bathroom and Elliot automatically moved around the room, finding clothes, dressing in jeans and a sweater, forcing himself to concentrate on what he might need later that day once they were across the sound and into Seattle, once this immediate disaster had been met and dealt with.

That was the downside to living on an island. You always had to plan ahead.

Was he going into work today? What would Roland need from him -- beyond the obvious.

Outside the window, it was pitchy black. The silhouette of tall trees coalesced with the still darker night. No sign of dawn yet. The air was damp and chill. It was always a little damp on the island. Elliot shivered.

The bathroom door opened, and Elliot said to Tucker, "Did you actually talk to my dad?"

"No. His neighbor called. What's her name? Mrs. MacGillicudy?"

"MacGillivray. So my dad --"

"He's fine. She said he was still talking to the fire department." Tucker grimaced. "You know your dad. He probably figured he'd wait till a decent hour to break the news to you."

Yeah. True. In fact, knowing Roland, they might not have heard anything about this disaster until Elliot went over there for dinner tomorrow -- or rather, tonight. Though Elliot had been living with Tucker for nearly six months, he still tried to have dinner with his dad every Thursday evening.

Anyway, that explained why the call had come in on the land line and not Elliot's cell phone.

Elliot, already dressed, watched Tucker tug a crisp white shirt over his massive shoulders, and swiftly do up the buttons. He tried to control his impatience. It wasn't like Tucker wasn't moving fast. Anyway, whatever had happened had already happened. Ten minutes, even half an hour wasn't going to make a difference either way.

He was still having trouble absorbing it though. For all his dad's hippy dippy ways, he wasn't a careless person. No smoking in bed, no smoking at all. The house was an old bungalow in the historic Ballard neighborhood, but it was well-kept and carefully maintained. And at three in the morning what were the chances of fire in a lint trap or a cooking mishap?

He took his turn in the bathroom, swiping on antiperspirant, splashing water on his face, shaving, brushing his teeth. He still wasn't sure if he'd be going in to work or not. It was all going to depend on what he found at his dad's.

He walked out of the bathroom. "You ready?"

"Yep." Tucker finished buckling his shoulder holster and pocketed his cell. His day job was FBI agent. He worked out of the Seattle Division. That was where they had met. Elliot had been an FBI agent too before getting shot in the line of duty had permanently sidelined him. Now he taught history at Puget Sound University. He was okay with that. Mostly.

Sunrise was still an hour away when they left the cabin. The Nissan 350Z's headlights picked out clumps of glistening berries, secret messages carved in tree trunks, and the occasional gleam of eyes. Elliot drove swiftly down through the dense and silent woods to the Dorado Bay marina where Tucker moored his sloop in one of the yacht club slips. Tucker still rented an apartment in town -- that was the reality of the hours his job required -- but most nights he traveled by ferry to the island. Luckily he generally left his car on the mainland side.

No one was around as they parked and got out. Even in summer, the peak boating season, not many boats were anchored in the small marina. The sound of their slammed car doors echoed loudly across the empty parking lot.

The pulleys and halyards of the flag pole planted in front of the closed restaurant chimed against the metal like a ghostly ship's bell as they walked past. The breath of the sound rose damp and fishy. Colorless triangles of boating flags flapped desultorily overhead as they walked, soles biting on wet stones, down to the dock and Tucker's sloop, the Bull Fish.

It didn't take long to cast off. They had it down to a routine by now. Elliot, slower on his feet than Tucker, climbed aboard first and started the motor. He watched, the engine gently idling, as Tucker untied the ropes. The water slurped and sucked against the side of the boat, sloshed noisily around the dock. Golden bulbs of kelp bobbed languidly just beneath the green surface.

Tucker waited until the stern began to swing away from the dock before finally casting off the bow line and springing onboard. He changed places with Elliot at the helm, and Elliot went down to the little galley to make coffee. Instant coffee, and no cream, but a slug of Irish whisky helped.

He brought a cup of the black, bitter brew to Tucker.

"Thanks," Tucker said. He swallowed a hot mouthful. His eyes were a glint of blue in the pre-dawn gloom. "You okay?"

"Yeah." Elliot summoned a smile. Some people might find their silence odd under the circumstances. But they had both been trained not to speculate, not to waste time and nervous energy on questions no one had the answer to. Tucker had told Elliot everything he knew and that would have to do for now. Just having Tucker here helped.

He turned to study the approaching lights of Ketron island. Spray hit his face, cold, salty, invigorating. He drew in a deep, steadying breath.

They were making good time, doing about fifteen knots. The wind was behind them and it was only about a twenty minute sail anyway.

In the east, dawn had finally arrived like fire curling the edge of black paper, burning the night away.

An unexpectedly hard shove of water hit the prow of the Bull Fish.

"Holy mackerel," Tucker muttered.

Elliot emerged from his own dark thoughts in time to see a gray whale breach surface several yards away and smash down again, sending up a wall of water and foam that rocked the sloop again. He steadied himself on the metal port railing. This was not the deepest part of the sound, averaging only about four hundred and fifty feet, and mid-June was late in the season for grays. They migrated from Alaska to Baja in the early spring.

"That is one big fish," Elliot said.

They looked at each other in the gloom. Elliot saw the gleam of Tucker's smile. His own mouth curved in answer.

* * * * *

The garage was gone. The house had not burned to the ground, but it might as well have. Elliot stared at the charred ruins in the wan light, but it was almost too much to take in. The air was acrid with the stink of smoke and the exhaust of the fleet of still rumbling fire engines. Most of the garden too was gone. The enormous old wisteria was a black, twisted stump. Ash lay like snow on what was left of the rose bushes. The lawn was a muddy, boot-trampled swamp.

He was dimly aware of Tucker's hand on his shoulder, squeezing tight, and he appreciated that wordless offer of support.

Turning from the rubble, he scanned the throng of people -- firefighters poking around the soggy, smoldering ruins of the house and looky-loos doing what they did best, namely getting in the way of everyone else -- until he spotted his father standing with a crowd of neighbors, some of them in bathrobes, some of them dressed for work, all talking animatedly.

Roland wore jeans and the red and gray Beacon bathrobe he'd had since Elliot was a kid. His graying hair was looped back in its usual ponytail, though more haphazardly than usual. He was holding what looked like a small safe.

"Dad!"

Roland turned, startled, and came to meet them. "Elliot? What are you doing here?"

They embraced awkwardly, Roland still clutching his portable safe. He was not a tall man, but he was built to last. Sturdy-framed and muscular. Except this morning he seemed to have shrunk, and his clothes and hair smelled of smoke. Elliot's arms locked around him. When he drew back he said, "What do you mean, what am I doing here? Mrs. MacGillivray phoned and said --" His voice cut out. His father looked drawn and, for the first time, old. It was all Elliot could do not to haul him into a hug him again. "What the hell happened?"

Roland shook his head. "Maybe something in the wiring. It's an old house." He drew a deep breath. "Was." He noticed Tucker standing silently by, and managed a weary smile. "Tucker."

Tucker said gruffly, "I'm very glad you're okay, Mr. Mills."

Roland nodded and then shook his head as though words failed him.

"How did you get out?" Elliot asked. He had to force himself to look at the house again. If his father hadn't woken up in time... there wouldn't have been any surviving that. Hell, smoke inhalation killed more people than burns.

"It started in the garage, but luckily the smoke alarms inside the house went off. I had just enough time to pull my pants on, grab my wallet, and find the safe. I went outside and turned on the hose, but..."

But a garden hose against what must have quickly turned into an inferno?

"Christ."

Once again Tucker rested his hand on Elliot's shoulder. Support and solidarity. Not that he didn't expect support from Tucker, just that Tucker had turned out to be more emotionally generous than Elliot had expected.

"What do you need from us?" Tucker asked. "Say the word."

"I should be all right. I've got good insurance," Roland said grimly. "Now's when those bloodsuckers can start earning their premiums."

"The shock must be wearing off," Elliot told Tucker, and the serious line of Tucker's mouth tugged into a half smile.

Elliot watched as firefighters began to expel the water and air from the heavy yellow hoses, preparatory to flattening them out so they could be retracted and folded. The battle was over. Now it was just a matter of mopping up the ruins. No ambulance. No coroner's van. He was deeply thankful, and yet he heard himself saying, expostulating, "You shouldn't have spent time going after that safe. You could have been trapped in there. Every minute counts in a fire."

"Your mother prepared this safe for just such an occasion. No way in hell was I leaving without it."

Elliot's reply was forestalled by the approach of the fire captain, still wearing his yellow helmet and protective gear. "Professor Mills?"

Elliot and Roland's "Yes?" popped out in unison.

The captain was a middle-aged, ruddy-faced man with silvered scars on the right side of his face. His pale eyes moved from Elliot to Roland.

"I'm the homeowner," Roland said.

"Captain Burris."

Roland offered his hand. "I appreciate everything you tried to do here tonight, Captain Burris."

"I wish it had been more. But even if we'd gotten here sooner, there wasn't a whole hell of a lot we could have done."

"Which means what?" Tucker asked before Elliot could.

Burris said to Roland, "Which means that this is off the record, but I think you ought to know that we're calling in arson investigators on this one."

"Arson?" Elliot repeated.

Roland said nothing.

"You think this was arson?"

Burris looked at Elliot. He said simply, "I know it was arson."

Fair Chance #3
Chapter One
"I knew you'd come."

Andrew Corian, dubbed "The Sculptor" by the national press, was smiling that same old smile. Supremely confident and a little scornful. For a moment it was almost as if he were seated at his desk in his office at Puget Sound University and not in this sterile interview room at The Federal Detention Center in Sea-Tac.

"Sure you did," Elliot said.

Corian's powerful hands, thick wrists handcuffed, rested on the resin table. He spread his fingers, palms up in a "be my guest" gesture as Elliot took the plastic chair across the table.
He had been second-guessing the decision to meet with Corian from the minute he'd acceded to SAC Montgomery's request, and Corian's supercilious attitude just confirmed his doubts. They were not going to get anything useful out of the Sculptor.

"How could you resist?" Corian was saying. "A chance to play hero one last time. A chance to convince yourself you got the better of me."

"Sounds like you've been hitting the library psych shelves pretty hard." Elliot folded his arms on the tabletop, glanced casually around the room.

He'd been in plenty of these interview cells back when he'd been with the FBI. Neutral colors. Durable furniture. Stainless-steel mesh over the bulletproof frosted windows. A guard outside the door. Generic right down to the two-way mirror, behind which stood Detective Pine of Tacoma Homicide and FBI special agent Kelli Yamiguchi.

Just in case Pine and Yamiguchi missed anything, cameras overhead were recording the interview.

Corian's eyes, a weird shade of hazel that looked almost yellow in the harsh institutional light, narrowed at Elliot's gibe, but his broad smile never faltered. He seemed to be in a great mood for a guy looking at multiple life sentences.

"I don't need to read a psychology book to understand you, Mills. There's nothing complicated about your psyche."

"But enough about me," Elliot said. "Let's talk about your favorite subject. You. Or more exactly, why you wanted to see me."

The rough material of Corian's prison khakis rustled as he sat back in his chair. He looked a bit like a cartoonist's idea of the devil. Gleaming bald head and immaculately trimmed Vandyke. He was a big man and prison had made him bigger. Leaner. Harder. He looked like he ate steroids with every meal and spent all his free time bodybuilding. Maybe the bodybuilding wasn't far from the truth. There wasn't a hell of a lot to do while sitting around waiting for trial. Not when you'd been caught red-handed, as it were, in a series of brutal slayings and mutilations spanning more than fifteen years.

He said, "I didn't want to see you. I gave you permission to visit. That's all."

"Two letters in two months? We're practically pen pals. Come off it, Corian. You want me to sit here and listen to you explain in detail how brilliant you were. How brilliant you still are compared to the rest of us."

Corian's smile widened. "That wouldn't be the only reason."

"It'll be the main reason. You're sure as hell not interested in bringing closure to the families of the victims."

It was quiet in the interview room. On the other side of the heavy soundproof door a symphony of discordant sounds were reaching crescendo level: guards yelling, televisions blasting, prisoners shouting, the incessant thunder of an industrial-strength plumbing system, the chatter and buzz of walkie-talkies, the jangle of keys and slamming of steel doors.

"You've never understood me, Mills."

"You're right about that."

"But you're afraid of me."

Elliot sighed. "No, Andrew. I'm not."

They had never been on first-name terms. Corian replied, "You should be, Elliot."

"This is bullshit." Elliot made sure to keep his tone bored, indifferent. The last thing he wanted was for Corian to know just how tense he really was. "If the idea was to get me here so you could practice your bogeyman routine, you're wasting both our time." He pushed his chair back as though to rise.

Corian sat back and expelled an exasperated sigh. "Goddamn. Can't you at least buy me a drink before you screw me over?"

The indignation was almost funny.

"Look, you wrote me. I'm not looking to continue our relationship--if you want to call it that. I don't need closure. I got my closure when they slammed the cell door on you."

That wasn't completely true. Like everyone else involved in the case, Elliot wasn't going to truly breathe a sigh of relief until Corian was tried and convicted. He wanted the reassurance of knowing Corian was locked up in a maximum facility until the end of time. The numerous court date postponements were wearing on everyone's nerves.

Corian had the gall to look wounded. It was only partly an act. Being a psychopath, his own pain and his own frustrations were very real to him. It was the suffering of other people he was indifferent to.

"You want something from me. So be it. I'd appreciate a little courtesy. A few minutes of intelligent conversation. Or as close as you can manage."

Elliot eyed him without emotion. "All right. But we don't have all day. If you've got something to say, you'd better spit it out."

Corian leaned back in his chair, smiling. "How's the fall session shaping up? Have they hired someone to replace me yet?"

"Oh, no one could replace you."

"True." Corian merely grinned at the sarcasm. "How's Rollie? I read his book. When you think about it, it's pretty ironic. The only child of a celebrity sixties' radical joining the FBI."

"Yep. Ironic. Are we done with the chitchat?"

Corian's smile faded. "All right. Ask your questions."

"As of this date, sixteen bodies have been removed from the cellar of your property in Black Diamond, bringing the number of victims to twenty-three. Is that it? Is that an accurate head count? Or are there more?"

"Head count." Corian's smile was pure Mephistophelian. Partly he was acting. Partly he was simply...evil.

An old-fashioned concept, but what else did you call someone who was technically--well, legally--sane and yet a ruthless, remorseless predator? Maybe the problem was with the way the legal system defined insanity, but mostly the problem was how society dealt with monsters like Corian once they were identified and captured. Elliot had grown up believing the death penalty was barbaric, an anathema in a civilized society. But was warehousing monsters really a better plan?

"If you want to go there," Elliot said. "What did you do with the heads of your victims?"

"That's an interesting question. Why do you think some of the bodies were buried and some were used in sculptures?" Corian was equally aware that they had an audience, both human and mechanical.

"No clue. Like you said, I've never understood you. Why did you only target young men? You're not gay. Why did you never target women?"

"Where's the sport in that? Besides, I like women." Corian didn't wait for Elliot's response. "My turn. Why do you think all the bodies were headless?"

A game. That's all this was to Corian. Another game. "To make it harder to identify the victims."

Corian tipped his head as though considering this. "I wonder. Maybe. Partly, no doubt. But you're a student of history. You understand the possibilities and precedents."

The theory of ritualized cannibalism had certainly occurred to Elliot before that moment, but his stomach still gave a queasy roll of revulsion.

Watching him, Corian said, "You're horrified, yes, but you're fascinated too."

"Mostly I'm troubled. My concern is for the families who deserve to know whether their missing child is one of your victims."

"I don't know that they deserve anything. After all, their children wouldn't be missing if they hadn't failed as parents."

"Yeah, that's right," Elliot said. "It's the fault of the parents that these young men were captured and butchered for your...art. Did you have some method, some system of record-keeping that would make it possible for you at this late date to identify the remains?"

"What remains? Who says there were any remains?" Corian was grinning. "Waste not, want not."

It wasn't easy, but Elliot kept his gaze level, his expression emotionless. "I'm speaking now of the sixteen previously mentioned bodies recovered from your cellar. Do you have any means of identifying them?"

"This is deal-making territory," Corian said. "We both know you're not in a position to offer me any deals."

"Then why am I here?" Elliot gestured at the mesh-covered window. "What's the point of this?"

Corian pretended to give this serious thought. "Several reasons. First and foremost, your being here annoys the hell out of your boyfriend. Special agent Tucker Lance."

The bastard was right about that.

"Okay," Elliot said evenly. "You're having your laugh now. But the joke will be on you after the jury listens to all that evidence. It'll be too late for making deals then."

Corian's eyes gleamed. "Don't you want to ask me why? Why I did it? Why I killed them?"

"I know why. You're a sick sonofabitch."

That was the truth. As far as it went. But even Elliot, who knew there was no possibility of understanding a brain like Corian's, sometimes found himself questioning, puzzling over why. Certainly the families wanted to know, wanted some explanation, wanted to be able to make sense of these multiple tragedies.

How could such things happen?

Was there anything worse than losing a loved one to a random act of violence?

Probably not. But even if you could understand the pathology of one serial killer, you were essentially starting from scratch with the next. At least as far as prevention went.

Apprehension was another matter. But apprehension was moot in this case.

Corian's lip curled scornfully. "That's not worthy of you."

"No? It's the truth though. The why doesn't matter." Elliot's chair scraped noisily as he rose.

"You're leaving?" Corian couldn't conceal his surprise.

Elliot had turned away, but he glanced back. "Yep. Things to do and places to go. I'm not interested in providing the audience for your insanity plea test run. And since you don't plan on telling me anything I don't already know..." He shrugged.

Corian was not used to being walked out on. His smile was slightly forced. "Are you so sure?"

Elliot smiled. He headed for the door.

As he reached for the buzzer, Corian spoke.

"Mills. About earlier. I didn't mean you have anything to fear from me personally."

The guard opened the door. Elliot spared Corian one final look. "No, of course not. You're worried about my karma."

"No." Corian grinned, looking more satanic than ever. "No, you should be worried. But not about me. My work is done."

"It sure is," Elliot replied. "And wait till you see the retirement package we've got for you."

* * * * *

"He's in a good mood," the guard observed as the door to the interview room settled into place with a heavy and final-sounding click.

The guard was probably in his mid- to late twenties. Medium height, buff, boyish. Corian's preferred type, if he only knew it.

"Never happier," Elliot agreed. "But then who doesn't like having company?"

By the time he made it over to the viewing room, SA Yamiguchi, Tucker's second on the multiagency task force responsible for bringing Corian to justice, had already taken off--no doubt in a hurry to get back to the Seattle field office and deliver her "I told you so!" to SAC Montgomery.

She wasn't alone in that sentiment.

"That was a waste of time," Detective Pine commented. He and Elliot had history, but this time they were on the same team. Pine was short, dark and ambitious. A few years younger than Elliot. Young enough to believe he had everything under control--young enough to believe in the concept of control.

"Pretty much," Elliot agreed.

"Why do you think he wanted to see you so bad?"

"He's lonely?"

Pine's laugh was sour. "Maybe it's your sparkling conversation. I nearly spit my coffee out when you started to walk out the first time."

"I might as well have walked out, for all we got out of him."

Pine shrugged. "You opened up a dialogue. Maybe that's worth something." From his tone, Pine didn't believe it.

"Maybe." Elliot didn't believe it either.

"Do you think he's serious about trying to claim he had an accomplice?" Pine asked a short time later as they were walking to the parking lot.

It was a relief to be outside. To fill his lungs with fresh air and feel the sunlight on his face. Elliot had nearly forgotten that stale, metallic, disinfected scent unique to correctional institutions. The blur of chemicals was intended to mask sweat and urine and the inevitable odor of way too many people packed into too small a space for too long a time.

Pine added, "That had to be what he meant by "my work is done.' Why would he wait till now to play that card?"

Elliot shook his head. It was definitely late in the game for that move. But then Corian was playing his own game. And making the rules up as he went. "An apprentice? An acolyte? Who the hell knows?"

"That's for sure. Homicidal freak," Pine muttered.

Corian was an aberration, true enough, and nothing would have made Elliot happier than to never have to gaze into his odd tiger eyes again. But declining Corian's invitation was a luxury he didn't feel he had a right to. Not with so many grieving people waiting for answers.

Wednesdays were not regular visiting days for the detention center, and the large sloped lot was largely empty. Elliot had parked in the shade of a spindly maple, leaves already starting to yellow in the September sun.

"He can't plead not guilty," Pine said. "Not with the mountain of evidence we've got against him. He can't imagine--"

"Hell yeah, he'll plead not guilty." Elliot was almost touched by Pine's naivetÈ. "They always plead not guilty. His lawyers have already laid the groundwork for not guilty by reason of insanity and they'll keep hauling witnesses onto the stand to testify he's nuttier than a fruitcake. Which he is. Though not in the eyes of the law. Not so far. So yes, I think it's entirely feasible he'll try to play that card. What does he have to lose?"

Nothing. And they all knew it. Including Corian.

Pine gave a curt "See you at the briefing this afternoon."

Elliot raised a hand in dismissal and peeled off, striding toward his silver Nissan 350Z.

Pine stopped. Turned back. "Mills."

Elliot looked up from unlocking his car door.

"If he's not lying about an accomplice..."

Elliot nodded. "Yeah. The thought occurred to me."

Author Bio:
A distinct voice in gay fiction, multi-award-winning author JOSH LANYON has been writing gay mystery, adventure and romance for over a decade. In addition to numerous short stories, novellas, and novels, Josh is the author of the critically acclaimed Adrien English series, including The Hell You Say, winner of the 2006 USABookNews awards for GLBT Fiction. Josh is an Eppie Award winner and a three-time Lambda Literary Award finalist.

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EMAIL: josh.lanyon@sbcglobal.net



Fair Game #1
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Fair Chance #3

Pre-Order Blast: Loving Riley by Liz Durano

Title: Loving Riley
Author: Liz Durano
Series: Celebrity #2
Genre: New Adult Contemporary Romance
Release Date: April 26, 2017
Cover Model: Stuart Reardon
Photographer: Franggy Yanez
Summary:
Some secrets can't stay hidden forever...

To his fans, Ashe Hunter is the perfect man, the classically trained British actor taking Hollywood and Broadway by storm. To his American girlfriend, Riley Eames, he is a man in love and he'll do anything to keep her safe from the prying eyes of paparazzi suddenly digging into her life.

But to someone from his past, Ashe is her ticket to Hollywood fame and she'll do anything to get it even if it means tearing down the image he's built for himself ever since he left her.


“What did she mean when she said I was so vanilla?” asked Riley.

Ashe had known this was coming, that Riley would ask questions. Well, why shouldn't he just answer her truthfully?

“It has nothing to do with your hair, petal,” he said. “Unfortunately, Catriona Marks is not known for her subtlety.”

“What does it mean, then, ‘She's so vanilla’?” Riley asked, her voice mimicking Catriona's words as she pulled her hand away and crossed her arms in front of her chest.

“Catriona's tastes are what might be called ‘alternative’,” explained Ashe. “In some circles, she's better known as ‘Mistress Cat’.”

“Like a Dominatrix? How would you know that?” Riley paused, raising her hand. “No, don't answer that, Ashe. I’m not sure I want to know.”

For a few moments, she didn't speak. He watched her bring her hand to her mouth, her expression distraught as if a vision of Ashe and Catriona together had come to her mind unbidden. Then she turned her face toward the window, watching the snow outside as the car made its way through the streets.

"You used to date her, didn't you?"

"Yes," he replied.

“It would have been better if you'd just said she's your ex-girlfriend,” Riley said. “She is, isn’t she? Is she the actress who discovered you?”

“Yes, she is.”

They spent the rest of the ride in silence. Ashe had much to say, but this was not the ideal place to tell Riley the things he wanted her to know about his past and the people who belonged there.


Loving Riley #2

Loving Ashe #1

Loving Ashe #1
Summary:
A booty call. A stuck elevator. A chance to move on.

Three years after her ex-boyfriend left her to pursue his Hollywood dream, barista Riley Eames’ life is still on hold, hindered by questions only he can answer. So when he asks to meet her for a booty call while he’s in town, she reluctantly agrees, only to find herself stuck in the hotel elevator with rising British star, Ashe Hunter.

He's gorgeous, charming, and before the night is over, smitten.

But a celebrity romance may not be enough to get Riley's love life moving again, not when the ex-boyfriend is back in town and with him, the secrets that will change her life forever.

Author Bio:
Though Liz majored in Journalism in college, she discovered that she preferred writing fictional stories over proofing news and ad copy. These days, Liz is the author of five full-length novels including Everything She Ever Wanted, Loving Ashe and A Loving Riley.

When she’s not arguing with her muses about their story arcs, she’s usually hanging out with her little prince, stepping on Legos and building train towns. She’s probably also guzzling down coffee and sneaking in the chocolate while learning about the world from other peoples’ writings. And she’s always asking questions. Always.


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