Release Day Blitz: RUN IN THE BLOOD By A.E. Ross

Title:  Run in the Blood

Author: A. E. Ross

Publisher:  NineStar Press

Release Date: December 25, 2017

Heat Level: 2 – Fade to Black Sex

Pairing: Female/Female

Length: 78700

Genre: Fantasy, LGBT, Fantasy, abduction, family-drama, mythical creatures, dark, pirates, royalty, sailors, quest

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Raised on the high seas as an avaricious corsair, Aela Crane has turned her back on her roots, but she can’t seem to stem the ancient magic that courses through her. Del is a soft-spoken soldier who seems to know more about Aela’s inherited powers than she does. Brynne’s the crofter’s daughter who’s reluctantly learning to become a princess, if she could just get a certain swashbuckling someone off her mind.

Originally hired on (okay, blackmailed) by the King of the island nation of Thandepar, Aela’s light monster extermination gig takes a fast turn into kidnapping-for-profit. Del tries to ignore family issues by searching for a long lost friend, and ends up getting both for the price of one. Brynne’s prepared to give up her heart for her country until her own personal heartbreaker shows up with the most terrible timing.

As the three of them become more entwined in their own political predicaments, and each other’s lives, they may discover that the legacies their parents have left them aren’t as solid as they seemed. In fact, they may just slip through their fingers, leaving all three fumbling to forge their own future, before the kingdom comes crashing down around them.


Run in the Blood
A.E. Ross © 2017
All Rights Reserved

Chapter One

A sharp blast of seawater hit Aela Crane square in the face, soaking her curls. As she gripped the rim of the crow’s nest with dark knuckles, the surface of the ocean seemed to rise up to meet her as the brigantine listed at a dangerous horizontal angle. The captain was throwing out all the stops to catch up to the mercantile cog just ahead of them.

Just below, her shipmates flew through the rigging, raising and lowering the sails as the ship made a shuddering turn to the right. On the deck, she could see a familiar spark of flame as their archers held lit arrows nocked to their bows, ready to release them into the air.

The corsair ship, faster and sleeker, gained on the struggling cog. Aela knew that their captain, the infamous man named Dreadmoor, would not give up his quarry. He did not like to lose. She heard his voice call out gruffly from the fore as he ordered the archers to release the flaming shafts. The arrows arced up and over, some sinking into the cog’s starboard side with a dull thunk, while the truer ones found their targets. Screams rent the frigid air as the brigantine finally veered within spitting distance. Several grappling hooks sank into the cog’s side, stabilising the two vessels.

The dull sound of boots on soaking wood thundered below her as the corsairs swarmed across a boarding plank, their swords ruthlessly singing with the blood of the merchant sailors. Aela leaped down from the crow’s nest; her hands burned on the coarse rope as she swung herself down to the deck where her own salt-weathered boots landed with a wet thud. The rigging above her head shook as the lookout boy scrambled down, eager to cross the planks and join in the fray. He landed beside her and slipped a dull blade from his belt. Shaking back his shaggy red hair, he grinned up at her. She clicked her tongue in reply and hefted her speargun with muscular arms, scarred by the marks of a dangerous life. Knife wounds and near misses were etched into her powerful limbs, evidence of her trade.

A corsair almost since birth, Aela Crane had grown to womanhood in the crow’s nest, her only masters the sea and the sword. She and the freckled boy, Timlet, made for the gangplank and the merchant ship, but as Timlet took a step onto the cedar board, it lost its purchase on the other side and fell free, crashing into the ocean below. Aela grasped Timlet’s arm and pulled him stumbling backwards before he could follow the plank down into the waves.

“Thanks.” Timlet smiled graciously, blushing. Aela released him as he took several steps back, readying himself. He burst forward towards the side of the ship and then leaped off the edge and across the gap to land safely on the other side. Not a moment after landing, he flew into the fray, confronting a young merchant sailor who had naught but a trowel to defend himself.

Aela stepped back, considering the jump. The gap between the ships wasn’t large, but she didn’t have the same acrobatic knack as Timlet, and above else, valued style over substance. She aimed her speargun into the mast of the merchant ship and let it fly. The spear arced through the night sky, and the spear tip buried itself deep into the mast, pulling the line taut. Aela took a run and swung herself across the gap to land up on the aftcastle.

Knees bent, she scanned the action. Her fellow corsairs fought man-to-man on the deck below. She could see Timlet dodging the young sailor’s trowel, bobbing and weaving as he prepared his attack as she had taught him. He ducked and danced away from his opponent’s lunges, letting him tire until he could get in behind and slit the throat. As he pulled his knife across the boy’s neck and released his blood, the body fell backwards, collapsing onto Timlet. Aela shook her head. The boy still had a lot to learn. As Timlet struggled to free himself, another man fought his way along the deck, past the body of the young sailor.

The man swung and jabbed at every corsair he could reach, seeming to search the boat until his gaze met Aela’s as she stood on the aftcastle. Here was the captain of the vessel. It was clear in his purposeful stride, which hastened after he saw her and made his way towards the stairs. Trying to think quickly, she tugged on the line of her speargun and flipped the retraction lever as the steel tip came free of the mast. The line reeled back into the gun and the sharp metal shaft came shooting back towards her, clicking as it locked back into its place in the barrel.

The merchant captain was almost upon her as she pulled her long dagger from its sheath and turned to block his first swing. She scanned his form. He wore a vivid purple coat. Its crest featured the North Star, a sign of his patronage to the king of Thandepar, the frozen country in whose waters they currently sailed, and whose merchants they currently slaughtered. She smirked as he lunged again, and blocked him easily.

“Don’t worry. We’re here to relieve you of your extra cargo.” She grinned, lowering her gaze as she flicked his curved sword away with her blade. She circled him, daring him to strike again.

“What goods? We’ve nothing but a hold full of bodies, thanks to you.” His hair was grey, and his skin was sickly pale. Still, there was something familiar in the ridge of his nose and the set of his brow. The captain tried to gauge her skill as she stepped around him, dancing away as he tried another strike. She clicked her tongue at him.

“Oh come on. You’ve got to have something good down there, sailing in the dead of night like you are. No lights. No noise. Quiet as a thief.” She lunged in with her blade, not to cut but to tap him on his waist, teasing. Furrowing his brow, he jumped back out of his range, a curious look in his pale blue eyes.

“So quiet we were, one almost wonders how you found us.” He raised an eyebrow and stepped aside quickly as Aela pounced forward for a true strike. He was spry, which surprised her. He was much sharper than he seemed, in his delicate purple coat.

“Come closer,” she said, still taunting. “I can make you a free man.” Her tongue brushed her lower lip as she stepped in close, tucking her blade between his arm and abdomen. “One plunge of my dagger and you’ll have no king but the patron of the dead.” Aela jumped back rapidly as the captain struck at her shoulder. She was too quick, and his sword cut only air. He sneered.

“You corsairs are all the same. You think you are the only free people in this world.” His voice was strained.

“Yes, as that is the case.” She mocked him smugly as she sidestepped another blow.

“Ah, but is it? I have land, I have a lord, and I have—” He stepped in towards her, catching her off guard. “—a family.” He thrust his blade against her outer thigh, pressing its sharp edge through her rough trousers, splitting threads and drawing blood, but barely wounding. “And your lifestyle will not allow you those things. Is that freedom?”

Aela jumped back, feeling his blade slide free of her flesh. She gave a quick glance down to the deck to see Timlet scrapping with another sailor.

“What is it you people say?” the captain continued. “I pledge allegiance to the sea. Landless, lawless, honour free?”

She spat at his feet. “My crewmates are my family, and this ocean is my land.” She thrust forward, but the captain stepped free of her blow. She was becoming irritated, and she knew that it made her vulnerable to attack, but she pressed onwards, striking again and again but failing to land a blow. He had made her angry, and the heat rolled off her body, warming her blade, fueling her fire. She tried to blink it away, but it was too late—she could not recover her concentration. The captain lowered his sword as he gaped at her. She knew that her eyes had blazed from their usual deep brown to a candle’s twin. Blazing orange, flickering like a flame, and the pupil ringed with blue. Before this moment, she could have been any woman to him, from any place. Her complexion was not unusual; deep brown eyes with skin the colour of a sequoia tree, its strength echoed in her muscular frame. Her head was crested by a bluster of curls, the sides haphazardly shaved for ease of maintenance at sea. Besides the profiteer’s attitude, the sea-dog smell, and the uncanny bloodlust, she would have been passed without notice in any marketplace.

Monster.” He choked out the word. His eyes were locked on hers. She allowed herself a moment to hate the familiar fear in his gaze before she lunged forward, striking at him, forcing him to defend himself.

“Do you want to keep staring? A second ago, you wanted to kill me.” Aela sliced into his leg, letting the blade bite before ripping it back.

She burned on, forcing him backwards. She had him up against the railing of the aftcastle, her dagger at his throat, the sea at his back, ready to finish him off when she heard a noise behind her. She glanced back, expecting a sailor come to defend his captain, but she could see the battle had ended. It was only Timlet, scrambling up the stairs towards her. That one look back cost her the chance for a killing blow. The captain pushed her back, and before she could strike him, he leapt over the railing and into the sea, swimming clear of the rudder and away from the cog. Timlet joined Aela at the railing as they stared out at the sea and the merchant captain swimming away in the waves. Aela’s eyes still burned.

“You little bastard, you let him jump!” She swore at Timlet, and a red blush spread under his freckles as he edged away to avoid her wrath.

“It was an accident! I was only coming to make sure you were all right!”

“I protect you. It doesn’t work the other way around.”

“Well, he’ll never make it to land anyways! He’ll just bleed out in the water or get speared by a narwhal or somethin’,” Timlet stammered. Aela stepped towards him and he flinched as if expecting a blow. Instead, she let out a laugh. The fire faded from her as she put a hand on his shoulder and squeezed.

“Speared by a narwhal? You’re ridiculous.” She gave him a slight push backwards and turned back to the sea. She pulled her speargun from its holster on her back and set it on the railing to steady her aim. She found her mark through the sight and pulled the trigger, sending the metal spear flying through the night. It landed with a thunk in the captain’s back, as his desperate swimming ceased with a shriek. His body bobbed on the frigid waves, spear sticking out like a dorsal fin.

She cut the rope that connected the spear to the gun. She would buy replacements on their imminent return to port, and had no desire to keep this one as a reminder that she had failed to keep her cool. Timlet squeaked behind her. She turned to see him rocking on his heels.

“He wouldn’t have made it far before drowning,” he remarked to his feet. Aela returned her gun to the holster and stepped towards him. She could hear the sound of the other crewmates’ celebratory hoots as they carried goods from the merchant ship back to the brigantine.

“Ah, but drowning is a long and painful death.” She shrugged and guided Timlet back down, across a new gangplank, and onto their ship. They would break the cog, sinking it with the sailors’ bodies inside, and find a less conspicuous spot to spend the night.

They chose a deep cove to drop anchor in until the morning. Its patchy evergreen forest was part of a small strip of land along the southern coast of Thandepar that its people referred to as the green belt. That coastline was one of the few fertile places on the northern continent where crops could be grown in abundance. The only others were a handful of deep river valleys tucked between the glaciers, the meltwater carving out hollows where the people of Thandepar had settled their major towns. It was a country made beautiful by its desolation. The valleys and the green belt produced the majority of the food for the small nation, but its trade wealth lay elsewhere.

Dreadmoor directed his corsair crew as they carried their bounty deep into the brigantine’s hold. It contained a rich cargo: gold from Thandepar’s deep mountain veins and vibrant dye squeezed from its tundra lichen. The refugees from Old Ansar had found it that way when their ships arrived on its shores. Empty. They came from southeastern lands of heat and spice, overcome with brimstone, to a world so penetrated by frost that it could scarcely feed their children. Gradually, they rebuilt their civilization, digging deep in the mountains for gold to trade and squeezing what little life they could out of the permafrost. Their capital, called Ghara, was built in the ruins of a stone stronghold they found etched into a high peak, its previous inhabitants long gone. But not entirely gone…

Aela floated on the surface of the ocean. Her evening swim was a chance for solitude. She could reflect on her thoughts without interruption. Heat radiated from her body, warming the water in her perimeter, another aspect she had inherited from unknown ancestors.

Tiny chunks of ice bobbed by, lazily melting as they entered her range. She tried to rein in her feelings, considering how the merchant captain had broken her practiced cool. He had known what she was, so she had killed him.

Aela dipped her head back into the warm water, letting it pool around her temples and in the hollows of her ears. It would have been a lot more therapeutic if she wasn’t jolted to reality by the sound of Timlet hollering at her from the deck. She jerked upright, flipped onto her stomach, and swam towards the rough rope ladder that hung down from the deck.

She climbed up, hoisted herself over the edge, and grabbed her worn pants and light-weight tunic from where they lay, then pulled them on as Timlet waited patiently. He had his usual expression of half-cocked excitement, but there was an odd pall behind his cheerful expression. He had seemed alarmed when she killed the merchant captain, although he himself had dispatched a young sailor only minutes earlier. He was easily her favourite crewmate, maybe because he was so different from the others. There was no question of their archetype—like her, life under the sign of the Corsair had made them reckless, charming and avaricious. Timlet, on the other hand, seemed like he might be more at home under the sign of the Merchant, working at a bakery or a grocer. He was a fair-weather fiend, but a true friend—almost like a younger brother. Aela didn’t think she’d enjoy her days half as much without the chance to ruffle his ginger hair or coax out his ragged smile. She meant what she had said to the merchant captain. Her crewmates were her family, for better or worse.

“Captain’s called a moot in the galley,” Timlet said, sweating slightly as he averted his gaze from the damp linen hugging her form. Aela considered him for a moment with a wry grin and then made her way to the meeting.

As soon as Aela stepped into the ship’s galley, she was hit with a hot blast of salt, sweat, and aging pork. The furnace was lit, the flames roaring behind Dreadmoor as he shouted orders at the crew.

“We’ll make port tomorrow morning at the city docks. If any one of you shit-brained amateurs draws the attention of the guard, you’re on your own.” Brine-aged ale sprayed from his tankard as Dreadmoor slammed it down on the table. Aela smirked. As much as he played the rough sea dog, she knew that the captain was a family man at heart. After all, he was the closest thing she had ever known to a father.

She rested her forearms on the cool surface of the ice box, listening to her crewmates chatter about the prospect of fresh food. After weeks of nothing but stale bread and salt pork, Aela was salivating at the prospect of a nice ripe orange or a handful of figs. She couldn’t wait to slip unnoticed through the dockside souk and grab some fresh piece of paradise, letting the juice of the fruit run past her teeth as she bit through its flesh. But those weren’t the only fruits she was looking to pluck. While every port had its own special delicacy, the city of Marinaken held her favourite—a crofter’s daughter by the name of Brynne. Aela traced her teeth with her tongue as she thought about the smell of hay and the warmth of sunbeams that highlighted scattered freckles, that thread of common themes came to Aela each night as she slept. She always woke with a fleeting internal warmth that could never seem to be replicated during her waking hours.


Aela’s reverie snapped in half as Dreadmoor roared his name for her and shook his tankard. She wiped flecks of salty ale from her cheeks and bared her teeth at the old captain.

“Aye, Captain?”

“Something tells me you haven’t heard a word I said,” he barked.

“Memorized them, Captain.” Aela grinned, standing to attention. The captain gave her a dark, humourless glance.

“You better watch your shit-eating mouth. One more insolent word and I’ll declare open season on your hide.” His lips parted to show crooked, rotten teeth as Dreadmoor brokered a threatening smile. At his words, lude jeers and slurs erupted from the rest of the crewmen and women. Timlet shrunk back, appearing genuinely concerned. Aela peered around and raised her eyebrow at the hardened crew as she shifted into a defensive stance.

“Good idea, Captain. We’ve been riding a bit low with all the new cargo. Could stand to throw a few bodies overboard.”

Her hand rested against the smooth leather of her dagger’s hilt as she anticipated a brawl. Aela was used to the captain testing her ever since she arrived on the ship as a child. She had assumed he was trying to prepare her for the realities of corsair life, and if so, he’d succeeded. She moved into a crouch, ready to cut the first bitch or bastard to try to prove their mettle against her.

Before anyone could reach her, Dreadmoor’s tankard hit the slick deck like a shrapnel round, spraying ale and glass shards into jockeying crewmen.

“Get out of my fuckin’ sight, all of you!” he roared as his crew tried to flee from the blowback, piling out on to the deck. As they scrambled, Aela backed up and stepped discreetly down the narrow stairs that led below deck. She slipped into the belly of the ship, taking a shortcut through the cargo hold, and paused to run her hand over the looted crates. A surprisingly good haul for a mercantile cog of that size, especially one so close to the coast. Normally that kind of ship would be carrying food and supplies up to the river valleys, but the cargo in the hold was full of Thandepar’s best trade goods. Each crate featured a violet seal bearing the North Star, some holding high-value dyes, others good-quality seal pelts.

Aela poked and peeked, checking out the haul. Definitely one of their better ones in quite some time. Along with the crates were a couple of bulging gunny sacks. The first one made a clinking noise as Aela kicked at it with the tip of her leather boot. She raised her eyebrows and bent down, her suspicions confirmed as she opened the top to see that it was absolutely stuffed full of gold coins. Her breath caught in her throat as she realized she was looking at enough currency to establish a small estate. She picked up a gold piece, sliding her thumb across the design. One side bore the familiar North Star. The other side featured a profile of the Ansari king, his small tight mouth and high cheekbones standing out in stark relief. Aela stood up, flipping the coin across her knuckles, and tucked it into the lining of her tunic.

She left the hold, her head spinning over their newfound nest egg. Surely Dreadmoor had plans for it, but she had a few suggestions in mind now that they were apparently filthy fucking rich. But those could wait for tomorrow, she thought as she climbed up into the crow’s nest to watch the sun rise.

The clouds split open, bloody hues sinking down behind the buildings of Marinaken as the ship shuddered into its natural deepwater harbour. Reedy stretches of land reached out on either side of the boat as they slid up into the mouth of the estuary. Farmland spread out on either side, meeting in the middle at the crooked port. Like most towns in Thandepar, the buildings tipped the past into the present. Ancient stone foundations were topped by timber refits as the community built itself upon the bones of unfamiliar ancestors.

As the ship reached its mooring on one of the many rickety finger docks, Aela slipped down the rigging and landed on the deck with a thud.

She stalked across the ship, then vaulted over the side and down onto the salt-stained planks to help secure the brigantine along with the other crewman before taking a look around. After being so long at sea, the sounds of the harbour rang in her ears. The main marketplace for the country’s breadbasket, the dock area was full of every kind of salesman—fish, produce, baked goods, and those identifiable few selling something slightly more intimate. Aela smirked to herself. She had learned her lesson years ago in the southern ports. Young and hungry, she had handed her gold to the first woman to give her a peek, and ended up with a delicate and painful rash that made the local medic blush.

In the centre of the square, a crier stood on a raised platform, barking the horoscopical advice of the day for each of the archetypes. Not unusually, the Corsair was not included. Aela toyed with the gold piece from the hold as she approached the end of the dock, trying to decide which pastry seller seemed the most desperate. One sweet bun to get her energy up, and then her only plans involved freckles and moans.

As she stepped off the dock, she lurched forward, thrown off balance as Dreadmoor’s massive arm landed around her shoulder.

“Aela, dear. Spare a moment for an old sea dog?” He bared his ugly grin and offered a hand as she tried to regain her balance.

“Can it wait? I have somewhere I need to—”

“Oh I wouldn’t worry about that little ginger muff. Word on the cobble is that she’s up and moved.” He pulled Aela in conspiratorially.

“How do you know about her?” She knew that the captain didn’t give a shit what she did once she left the ship. She was instantly put off by the idea that he would bother to find out. Had he been watching her? Anticipation began to grow in her chest, prickly and strange. It was not a feeling that Aela Crane was used to. She tried to take a step away as he dug his fingers in tighter.

“Oh come now, pip. I know everything. What kind of captain would I be if I didn’t have all the information? After all, information is worth a lot.”

Aela’s stomach flipped as she stared at Dreadmoor. His blank expression was a threat. Not aggressive, not victorious—all business. Behind her, she could hear the townspeople scatter to clear the square at the sound of marching boots drawing near. The sound of the barker abruptly ceased as he quit the square, his monetary advice for followers of the Merchant abandoned midsentence.

Aela shuddered as she gazed past Dreadmoor onto the dock, where the crewman were lined up behind their captain. Not a single eye met hers—except for poor Timlet. He was peering around, concerned and confused. The idiot, he had no idea what was about to happen.

Aela knew. She knew that the person she trusted most had just bent her over a fucking barrel. She knew who she would see when turned around. She had his face tucked inside her tunic, imprinted onto the gold coin that rested against her skin.

“You sold me out,” she hissed at the captain, as she turned to face the king of Thandepar.

He was regal and refined. His skin wasn’t so different a shade from the coin itself. It was a deep bronze, his expression far from welcoming. The skillful etching on the metal’s surface had the same tight mouth and rigid cheekbones that framed a crooked general’s nose and two eyes like fine marble. His deep purple general’s coat matched the uniforms of the score of soldiers standing in formation behind him, the North Star insignia embroidered over their hearts.

The king cleared his throat pointedly in the midst of the awkward silence that had fallen as Aela looked him up and down, calculating. His attention lifted past her to rest on Dreadmoor, who still kept his arm firmly around his furious charge.

“I trust you received the payment?” His tone held no mirth. It was merely official, like chalk on slate.

“Like fish in a barrel.” Dreadmoor smirked. Aela shuddered at her own idiocy. Two full bags of Thandepardine gold on an inland trader? She bit her lip in fury, the taste of blood dancing on her tongue. Dreadmoor gave her a rough shove forward and she stumbled to her knees.

“Go south.” The king spat his words at the corsair captain. Clearly dealing with his kind left a poor taste.

“Move out, boys!” Dreadmoor shouted, herding the crew back towards the ship as the king’s soldiers surrounded their new captive. Aela tried to think quick, but her mind felt sluggish. She tried to rise, letting out a guttural cry as the nearest two soldiers slammed her to the ground, prone. The adrenaline fought its way through her veins, blocking out sight and sound. She hardly heard Timlet’s shouts. She only barely registered his body flying off the dock, knife bare, in the direction of the soldiers. What she did feel was the warm spatter as his arterial spray hit the cobbles of the dockside market.

“Up!” barked the king as the soldiers lifted her roughly to her feet. Now upright, she could see that he held the young sailor by the collar of his tunic as blood flowed loosely out of the gash in his neck. Red bubbles slipped out between his lips like glass orbs. Aela’s heart pounded viciously against her ribs as the taut string inside her snapped. She roared, furious and wild. Heat radiated across her face as her eyes ignited, burning as her veins caught fire. She lashed out with every limb, every ounce of strength remaining. The guard scattered and re-grouped, coming at her in fours and fives, overcoming her once again. They had order, control, and military training. She had only desperation and rage. She lunged her head and chest forward as two soldiers pulled her arms behind her, the metal irons ringing as they were clasped around her wrists.

“The longer you struggle, the less chance he has of surviving.” The king spoke evenly, devoid of emotion. Aela’s gaze snapped back to Timlet. He gasped raggedly. For a bare moment, his eyes met hers, projecting desperation. Breathing deeply, she tried to centre herself.

“What…do you…want from me?” She stumbled on her words as she tried to calm the bloodlust that controlled her. The soldiers’ grip held tight even as she swayed on her feet.

“I need your help with a task. And if you care about this misshapen pup as much as you seem to, you’ll agree to assist me.” He gazed down at her, his expression unreadable. This king seemed to have a knack for mystery. It suddenly occurred to Aela that she didn’t even know his name. Call it a perk of living the corsair life, but there was no need to pay attention to local politics. Aela turned from the inscrutable king to Timlet. Her instinct was to resist, to be self-serving and stubborn. But in the end, he was the only person from her so-called family that cared about her fate. The rest of the crew was already scrambling onto the ship, preparing to make sail.

“If I help you, you’ll get him to a medicinary?” she asked, hesitant to trust the strange monarch.

The king nodded.

Aela bit back the urge to keep fighting, her temperature dropping as she continued to breathe. “Then I agree.”

As two soldiers left the pack to carry her bleeding friend in the direction of the city’s healers, she cursed his idiocy under her breath. She always knew that he didn’t belong among the bruisers in their crew. There’s no place for a hero on a corsair ship.

With white-gloved hands digging into her arms on either side, Aela let herself be half marched, half dragged across the square to the nearby teahouse. A tiny bell hanging from the lintel chimed softly as they entered the fairly well-appointed establishment, startling a plump shop woman who dozed at the counter. The stone floors were covered with soft hand-woven rugs, giving an air of cozy sophistication. This was not the worst scrape that Aela had gotten into, as a career corsair. The prim atmosphere of the teashop was alarmingly calm, a juxtaposition given the events that led her there. It was not the kind of place that made Aela feel comfortable; she preferred the hay-and-piss stench of shithouse taverns.

The good shop woman mopped her gray bangs out of her eyes and then jumped up to bring her sovereign of a fresh pot of tea and two cups, at his signal. The high, strained whistle of a kettle sounded from the kitchen. She must have been in the process of making herself a morning cup, only to have it co-opted by the man to whom she already gave a quarter income in fealty. Thandepar was not a nation made rich by coincidence.

Jerked roughly into a chair at an intricately carved wooden table, Aela resolved to keep quiet until she figured out exactly what the king wanted from her. As he sat down opposite, he smoothed the rich fabric of his uniform and stared back at her, impassive. She studied his face, trying to pick out any thread of humanity that she could exploit. Like any good brigand, Aela knew that finding the human side of your enemy could mean finding their weak spot.

His fingers were slick, long creatures. He held the teapot in one hand, pouring it into two cups held with the other. She wondered about his family. She wondered who he asked for strength at night, when he scanned the stars. He had a military look, so perhaps it was the Guardian, but there was something about his demeanour that didn’t seem to fit. Aela had learned to pick out the constellation of the Corsair from a young age, though she had never stepped foot in one of his few blood-soaked temples. Dreadmoor taught her well in that regard. Aela flinched as she tried to squeeze that late fond feeling out of existence. Across the table, the king failed to hide a smirk. He had found her humanity first. She had lost their unspoken contest. He slid a cup of tea in front of her and signaled to her left guard. She heard the iron scrape as he unshackled her wrists. Aela resisted the urge to rub them as she stared hard across the table and repeated her question from the market square.

“What do you want from me?”

The king flicked his gaze up from his tea to meet hers as he took a sip. The steam from Aela’s own cup rose in front of her like a soft breath across her lips and nose. She took the cup in her hands, letting the warmth spring through her aching muscles. The king opened his mouth to speak, pausing slightly before his delivery.

“I knew your father,” he said.

Aela surprised herself by laughing sharply. Maybe she had overestimated this character if he thought that was going to help his cause.

“Congratulations. I didn’t.” Strangely, she thought she caught sight of a well-repressed smirk on the king’s lips as she took a sip of tea.

“Aela Crane, I have a proposition for you.” He poured himself a second cup as he waited for her to respond.

She didn’t.

“Perhaps you’ve heard of a little problem we’ve been having in the mountains surrounding the capital.”

Aela shook her head. “I’m afraid I haven’t been paying that much attention to the local gossip of your country.” Aela shrugged.

The king plowed on with his pitch. “The short version is that we’re having something of a pest problem. A certain type of beast that your family is particularly…proficient in hunting.” She didn’t like the way his gaze bored into her as he spoke.

Aela raised her eyebrows, skeptically. “Well, I don’t know what you’ve heard about me, but it can’t be much, because I’m not a hunter, and my parents didn’t teach me a damn thing.”

“Trust me, you may not know it, but you’re a natural-born hunter. And you’ll have four of my finest men to accompany you.” He gestured to his uniformed guards, standing in formation outside the empty tea shop.

“You mean guard me?” Aela glanced at the guards on either side of her chair.

“Not at all.” He paused to sip the tea. “You’d be leading the expedition.”

Aela stared at him, scrutinizing his every movement as he spoke, searching for a tell. She was waiting for the other boot to drop. So far nothing about this interaction added up.

“I’m sorry. Let me get this straight. You paid off my captain and crew to deliver me to your feet so that you could ask me for a favour?” Aela sat back, crossing her arms.

“Let’s just say you’re a difficult woman to get ahold of, and I was happy to do whatever it took to make that happen.” His cold expression wasn’t giving away any secrets as he spoke, so Aela decided it was time to push her luck a little. She kicked her feet up on the table and swigged the remainder of her tea.

“And what’s in it for me?” she asked, dropping some swagger. The king shook his head almost imperceptibly, his mouth tightening.

“A room in my household and a position as the Master of Hunt.” His lips twitched upwards at the corner as if he might attempt a smile. “The position your father once occupied.”

Aela pursed her lips, confused. This strange hard man was offering her something she had been purposely avoiding her entire life: security, patronage, and a link to her roots. Aela smiled, knowing her decision was an easy one.

“Sorry, man. That’s not really my thing.” She pushed her chair back and stood up. “But thanks for the tea and bloodshed.” The king signaled the guards to let her leave.

“Well, you’re more than welcome to go on your way. We’ll always be able to find you if we need you.” He broke into a truly terrifying facsimile of a grin.

Aela smiled. If that was the threat she was waiting on, it was one that she could live with. She shrugged and walked away from the table. Already, she formed plans in her head: a new crew, a new boat, and the waves beneath her once again.

As she hit the door handle of the tea shop, the king called out: “But I’d worry about that young friend of yours if I were you. Modern medicine can only do so much.”

Aela froze, her stomach dropping. Timlet. The king had managed to zero in on the one thing that made her human. Her blood flowed hot as she thought about the only person in the world she cared for, and realized that she should have let him die rather than be held over her head as a bargaining chip. She turned back to the king. He didn’t even have the decency to smirk victoriously. He was as blank as ever. It was the Bureaucrat, Aela realized. That was the patron that he looked to in the sky in times of need, if he even had any.

“When do we leave?” Aela said through gritted teeth.


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Meet the Author

A.E. Ross lives in Vancouver, B.C. with one very grumpy raincloud of a cat. When not writing fiction, they can be found producing and story-editing children’s cartoons, as well as producing & hosting podcasts like The XX Files Podcast. Their other works have appeared on Cartoon Network, Disney Channel and Netflix (and have been widely panned by 12-year-olds on 4Chan) but the projects they are most passionate about feature LGBTQIA+ characters across a variety genres.

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Release Day Blitz: THE TALE OF A FAIRIE NIGHT by Tay Laroi

Title:  The Tale of a Faerie Knight

Series: The Faerie Court Chronicles, Book Two

Author: Tay LaRoi

Publisher:  NineStar Press

Release Date: December 25, 2017

Heat Level: 1 – No Sex

Pairing: Female/Female

Length: 74600

Genre: Fantasy, LGBT, fantasy, contemporary, action, family drama, bisexual, bodyguard, fae/faeries, mythical creatures

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After the fall of Queen Mab, DJ Suzuki resolves herself to an aimless life of entertaining, drinking, and hooking up within the Faerie Realm. After twenty ageless years, she knows she can’t go back to her family, despite the fact that her brother still searches for her and the small voice telling her that her parents might have had a change of heart about her orientation.

When a young woman named Talia shows up at DJ’s workplace desperate for help, DJ sees a way to rid herself of the guilt of staying away: she’ll take Talia where she needs to go if Talia rids DJ’s family of all memory of her. Talia will be safe and DJ will be free to live in the Faerie Realm with a clear conscience. Everyone wins.

Except there’s more to Talia and her situation than she’s letting on. Her pursuers want more than just her. They want the Faerie Court, and Talia is the key to getting it. If DJ can’t get Talia to safety before they catch up, a guilty conscience will be the least of her worries. She just might have a faerie civil war on her hands.


The Tale of a Faerie Knight
Tay LaRoi © 2017
All Rights Reserved

Chapter One

The soft glare from the street lamp outside wakes me up. The soft drone of my box fan tempts me back to sleep, but the knocking at my door makes that impossible. I swear under my breath, but I should be grateful. I need to get up and get ready to go to work.

It turns into pounding as I roll out of bed and hunt for pants.

“Keep your wings attached,” I bark, wiggling into a pair. “I’m coming.”

The tiny little man at the door looks me over and scowls at my stained T-shirt, dirty jeans, and bedhead. Given that he’s wearing leaves, vines, and moss shoes, I don’t think he has room to judge. Thankfully, there’s no one coming in or out of the apartments to see him.

“Delivery for Ms. DJ Suzuki,” he grunts, holding out a large wooden crate. At least he’s calling me DJ instead of Daisy Jane now.

I take it and perch it on my hip. With my free hand, I take a handful of pinecones and acorns from the bucket by the door and dump them into the man’s hands. As he counts out his payment, I survey the contents of the crate. It’s filled with fruits, vegetables, breads, a gallon of milk—hey, wait a minute.

With a tip of his dusty cap, the little man says, “A pleasure as always.”

“Hey, whoa, hold on,” I snap. “There should be a bottle of wine in here.”

The man blinks up at me, then twiddles his thumbs. “Pardon me, miss, but I only make your deliveries. I don’t pack them.”

I study the large satchel hanging from his shoulder. It looks pretty weighed down, if you ask me. “What’s in the bag?”

He shoves it behind his back. “Is Miss accusing me of lying?” With his squeaky voice, it’s more like a small shriek. “Faeries can’t lie. You ought to know that.”

“Yeah, but you bastards steal anything and everything. Hand it over.”

“Miss can’t have my delivery bag. You didn’t pay for it.”

I glance at the clock on the stove and it nearly gives me a heart attack. It’s 8:45 and I need to be at work at nine. I forgot to set an alarm. Curse my love of sleep.

“All right, here.” I dig in the bucket by the door again and pull out a small plastic baggie. “You give me my wine and I’ll give you this dirt from a witch’s grave. Deal?”

His eyes get as big as harvest moons, and I know I’ve got him hooked like a goblin on gold. He digs around in his bag and, lo and behold, pulls out my bottle of Pixie Dust Sparkling Wine. “You drive a hard bargain, Miss.”

We make the exchange, and he studies the dirt in the bag like an elated mad scientist, then tips his hat again. “Have a lovely evening, Miss.” With a series of pops and a wisp of smoke, he disappears, leaving behind the smell of burnt herbs. His evening probably won’t be so lovely once he realizes I got that dirt from a playground.

Oh, well.

I kick the door shut behind me and sort my groceries like a mad woman, tossing the things that need it in the fridge and leaving the rest of the counter. Glass jars filled with herbs for tea line the bottom of the crate, even though I assured my boss I still had plenty. If the faerie food didn’t give me longevity, then surely the amount of herbal tea they make me drink would.

Being cursed to only eat faerie food from here to eternity isn’t so bad, given how much healthier they eat than humans. The only things I ever miss are my mom’s homemade lasagna and my dad’s barbecue. Faeries don’t cook much of either, unfortunately.

Thankfully, they like chocolate almost as much as I do. There’s three bars sitting between the teas. Heedless of the time, I squeal for joy and rip the paper off of one, chomping off a huge bite and letting the beautiful blend of bitter and sweet cocoa melt on my tongue as slowly as possible, because, in addition to tasting like heaven, it tastes like home.

It tastes like chocolate chip cookies, fresh out the oven after making snowmen in the moonlight with my brother. It tastes like Halloween candy and staying up late to watch scary movies. It tastes like cake at countless birthday parties.

Just like the chocolate, the aftertaste of the memories is more bitter than sweet. I wrap it up and reach for an apple instead.

I throw on a black tank top and take a few bites. The shirt reveals the rivers of Japanese wood-block style images interwoven with Gaelic knots tattooed down my muscular arms. As I one-handedly rake a brush through my hair, a tuff of dark brown on top of my head and pixie-short sides, I finish the apple with the other. There’s nothing but the core as I put on some basic makeup: foundation, mascara, and some smoky eye shadow to frame my round monolid eyes like my dad’s. A bit of tinted lip balm is enough for my full lips, which match my mother’s.

The clock on the stove reads 8:55 by the time I grab my equipment bag and head out the door for the night. A few of the building tenants smile as they pass me on the stairs, and I return the gesture, even though I’ve never learned a single name. It’s too risky. People would notice too many strange things after a while, like strange little men delivering my groceries for example. Besides, my nightly work schedule doesn’t leave a lot of room for a normal social life, even if I did still know how to socialize with humans. I’m not sure I do.

On hot June nights like this, I drive with my windows down. The wind off Lake Michigan feels fresh and alive. It fuels the hustle and bustle of downtown Grand Harbor and helps wake me up for the long night ahead.

While the city hums with activity—tourist families shopping, local artists selling their works, independent musicians trying to make it on the bar scene—the area where I work is as dead as the old factory buildings that surround it. At least, it is for now. In a few hours, it’ll come alive.

Not that the humans will ever know.

When I first left the Faerie Court all those months ago, I thought it would be hard to walk the fine line of existing in the two worlds, but it’s actually quite simple. When I work, I’m a part of the Faerie Realm: magic and strange creatures intermingling in a world just out of humanity’s line of sight. At home, I’m as human as I was before I stumbled into my mistress’s lair those twenty years ago. It’s all TV, eating out, and paying my bills. The two don’t mix. Faeries want nothing to do with the Human Realm and most humans don’t believe in faeries enough to go looking for them.

Not that they should.

I park and slip in the nightclub’s back door. The vacant dance floor and dark empty chairs look eerier while unoccupied than when they’re overflowing with mystical creatures. I hate being alone in this place. Luckily, I hardly ever am. I find my boss, Iver, in his natural habitat behind the bar whistling as he takes inventory. He doesn’t notice me come in, so I take the opportunity to mess with him.

As he kneels below the counter, I silently plop down on a barstool and wait. He sets a nearly empty bottle of vodka on the bar, which I hide behind my back the second his hand disappears again. He reaches back up for it, gropes around, then stands back up with a cross look on his face.

“Evening, Iver,” I greet with a wide, unassuming grin. “How’s it going?”

He shakes his head, but smirks, and holds out his hand for the bottle. “It was going great before my imp of an employee showed up. You’re late, by the way.”

“In my defense, the delivery faerie tried to cheat me out of my alcohol. I couldn’t just let that slide.” I hand him the bottle and hop off the stool. “Which reminds me…”

As he puts the bottle in its original spot, I flip the door latch and let myself behind the counter. He’s tall, even for an elf, so I have to stand on my toes and pull on his shoulder to plant a kiss on his cheek. It’s completely innocent. He made it clear on day one he didn’t date employees. It’s kind of a bummer. He’s a looker and that’s been my only standard for a while now.

“Thank you for the chocolate.”

“I figured you deserved it.” He wipes my kiss off with the back of his hand. “You’ve been working particularly hard lately, despite your tardiness.”

“That’s because I don’t have any more online classes to worry about, thank God.” Since I wound up trapped in Faerie at sixteen, I never finished high school. There’s a lot I don’t understand about the twenty-first century, but being able to get a GED online has been an absolute blessing, especially since dial-up is a thing of the past. Having friends in Faerie that were willing to help me write up some fake transcripts certainly helped too.

I can’t tell you why I got the dumb thing. The Faerie Realm isn’t exactly renowned for its stellar universities, so it’s not like I’m going to be continuing my education any time soon, seeing as I’m not going anywhere. I’ve got all the time, booze, fun, and entertainment in the world, so why would I? A little voice in the back of my head, which sounded a lot like my brother, just told me it was a good idea. My brother tended to have a lot of those. I get pissed at myself for getting it if I think about it too long. It’s almost like I still want my family to be proud of me or some shit, which is nonsense.

I kneel behind the bar and hunt for something to drink. It’s all here for faerie consumption, so I have plenty to pick from. I think I’ll go with a rum and Coke.

“If you’re so grateful to me, maybe you’ll ease my nerves and drink a little less?” Iver raises an eyebrow as he watches me drop ice into a glass.

“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” I reply, precariously measuring out the rum. “I don’t drink that much. And I always make sure to sober up before I leave. Can’t enjoy eternity if I’m dead.”

Iver sighs. “What if a human were to come in here and see you?”

“Humans don’t come in here,” I remind him, swirling my drink before taking a sip. Needs more rum. Maybe a little vodka to dilute the sweetness. “The one time they did, Calista got rid of them.”

She accidentally got rid of me too. Some dweeb asked her to bewitch a group of human girls, who had wandered in here, to make them leave. Since I didn’t come here that often back then, she thought I was one of them. It was quite startling to be dancing one minute only to wake up on James-Child College’s campus the next. We’ve become pretty good…well, I’m not sure what you’d call us.

“I just don’t like taking risks. That’s all,” Iver says.

I roll my eyes and lean on the counter. “Right. Mr. Let’s-Stage-A-Coup doesn’t like taking risks.”

Iver gives me a dirty look. He doesn’t like it when I bring up the coup last October in which he and a bunch of his buddies took back the Faerie Court. He’s too humble. Given that he helped take out Queen Mab, whom I served for the better half of twenty years, I’m eternally grateful to him and everyone else for it.

“That was a completely different situation,” he huffs. “You’re comparing pixies to trolls.”

“If you say so. How’s the court doing, anyway? Other than sending us more enjoyable customers, that is.”

Iver wipes the whole counter down before he answers. “It’s fine.”

“Uh-oh. Trouble in paradise?”

My boss glances around the club to make sure we’re still alone. Leaning close, he mutters, “You know the string of human disappearances lately?”

“Yeah. It’s all over the news around here.” I down the rest of my drink and reach for the bottle again.

“The queen is starting to suspect it has something to do with Faerie. More specifically, the Mab supporters who broke out last November.”

I give an impressed whistle. “Queen Titania inherited quite a mess, huh?”

I really feel for the woman. First, her sister, Mab, took the throne and trashed the place for about a hundred years, then as soon as she gets it back, several of her sister’s supporters manage to escape. Now she’s got human disappearances on her plate? Who would want to be Queen of Faerie?

“I thought faeries only snatched children,” I muse, mixing my second drink. “Every missing person I’ve seen so far is either in their late teens or early twenties.”

“We’re not supposed to anymore. She dismissed the connection at first, but apparently, she’s picking up a pattern. They’re all loners. They disappear at night with their doors locked and live in secluded, wooded areas.”

“What does Queen Shaylee think?”

These days, the Faerie Court is split in two. Queen Titania rules the Seelie Court, the area around here. Her daughter, Shaylee, rules the Unseelie Court farther to the south. I’ve never met Queen Shaylee, but if the stories I’ve heard about her are true, I wouldn’t be surprised if she was behind it. After pretending to be Queen Mab’s long-lost daughter and tricking a human girl into sacrificing herself so that the coup could happen, she doesn’t seem like the most trustworthy individual.

“Her Majesty Shaylee is currently away, dealing with some rowdy solitary fae,” Iver says. “Though her champion, Dominic, assures Queen Titania that there hasn’t been any suspicious activity in the Unseelie Court.”

“Of course, he said there isn’t,” I scoff. I scowl down at my glass. I jacked up the rum-cola ratio again.

“Dominic’s loyalty still lies more with Titania. If he thought Shaylee was doing something wrong, he’d be sure to say so.” Iver snatches the rum bottle out of my reach and sets it on the counter behind him. “And you have a job to do, missy. Don’t get out of control.”

“I’m not,” I huff, swirling my drink. “I’ve worked in far more inebriated states than this.”

Iver sighs. “Don’t you have equipment to set up?”

I throw back the rest of my drink and wipe my mouth. “All right, all right. I’m going. Thanks for the gossip update.”

Iver takes my glass. “You’re an honorary faerie. You ought to be in the know.”

Honorary faerie. That has a nice ring to it.

A few regulars trickle into the club as I set up my music equipment. Luckily, all the speakers, mics, and most of the wires were here when I took the job back in November. I just had to provide my own laptop and controller. Neither of them are very fancy, and I had to learn on the fly. Truth be told, I’m okay at best. I can do basic effects, put together a decent playlist, and weave it together seamlessly, but that’s about it. I’m more of an acoustic guitar girl, honestly.

At least, I was before I got trapped in Faerie. I haven’t touched a guitar in forever.

Lucky for me, faeries aren’t very picky when it comes to human music. As long as they can dance, they’re happy, so by eleven, the dance floor is filling up with people and creatures who look like they walked straight out of storybooks and nightmares. Bright glistening wings shimmer in the flashing lights while hollow eyes beckon into the shadows those too naive to know any better. Wispy ghostlike women twirl around men made of sticks and stones, promising them all the stars in the sky in exchange for a drink at the bar. They might give them the stars with or without the drinks since they’re all so high on this place. I feel it too. The rhythm, the magic-infused atmosphere, the secrets and mysteries growing in the shadows. It’s all more intoxicating than the alcohol I’ve already consumed.

So are some of the people who dance in the crowd.

The woman who slips behind my workstation is the perfect example. She runs a finger up my spine as the overwhelming smell of cloves hits me, then she wraps her arms around my waist, swaying in time to the music with me.

“Evening, Calista,” I greet, craning my neck to meet her sparkling green eyes.

She removes one of my headphones to whisper, “Have you missed me?” That smooth, sultry voice sends a chill through me. Her cool body sends another one.

“Of course,” I reply. “Where’ve you been? I haven’t seen you around lately.”

“Out and about,” she giggles. “You know how it is.”

I sure do. I have no idea how or where Calista spends most of her time, and I guess it’s not really any of my business. What I do know is that whenever we happen to bump into each other here at the club, we have a good time together, no strings attached. Some of the other patrons are pretty good substitutes, male and female alike, but I’d be lying if I said Calista wasn’t something special.

“Looks like you’re working hard,” she mutters, lowering her lips to my jaw. “You deserve a break.”

I swallow hard and try to think straight, which is nearly impossible since her hands have started to roam. “Enticing as always, but I’ve got another two hours before my break. Iver’d have my hide if I slipped off now.”

Calista huffs and lays her head on my shoulder. “Who am I supposed to play with until then?”

“Go dance,” I suggest, lowering the volume on one song as another starts. “I’m sure you’ll find somebody.”

“I wanna dance with you, though,” Calista insists, slipping one hand down to the lining of my jeans. “You’re my favorite.”

I try to ignore the way my heart jumps and how my skin heats up and attempt to focus on fading to the next song instead. Paying attention to those reactions could mean I might be developing feelings for her, and that’s a no-go. She just meant that she has a better time fooling around with me than with other people here. That’s it.

“How about this,” I say. “My buzz is wearing off. Go get me a drink, and then we’ll try to work something out, okay?”

“Sounds good.” Calista kisses my neck and disappears. She shimmies through the dancing crowd, her loose translucent sleeves and bare midriff flowing with the beat while her low-hanging skirt sways.

I try to focus on the music and forget her words. I’m her favorite in the way we all have our favorite drinks to get wasted with. That’s it. Even if she meant something more, it’s not like I’d pry and risk ruining the fun we have. Trying to get close to people, opening up to them, that’s the quickest way to let things go to shit, especially in the Faerie Realm. And I don’t mean just bad breakups. She could get seriously hurt. Not everyone here likes that I’m human or that I used to work for Queen Mab. They could use either of those facts to get…creative. Things are fine the way they are. Besides, nymphs aren’t exactly famous for their ability to hold down a steady relationship.

Time passes, and then some more creeps by. I’m beginning to think Calista found someone else after all, but I survey the crowd just in case. I really did want that drink.

The Employees Only door flies open and catches my eye. It only leads to the back parking lot, but Iver usually keeps it cursed so no one can sneak in without paying. Since I’m human, I’m the only one who can go in and out without getting hurt.

A young woman sprawls in anyway, disheveled, bruised, and barefoot. She tries to straighten her ripped gown and breathes heavily as she looks around, in what appears to be an attempt to get patrons’ attention, with shaking hands and wide eyes

Someone help me.


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Meet the Author

Tay grew up reading too many fairy tales and watching too many movies, which is probably why she writes fantasy now. When she’s not at her day job or writing, she can be found taking spontaneous drives to new places, and drinking way too much coffee. Her first book, “Portraits of a Faerie Queen,” is set to be released in 2017.

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Release Day Blitz: GET UP by Reece Pine

Title:  Get Up

Author: Reece Pine

Publisher:  NineStar Press

Release Date: December 25, 2017

Heat Level: 3 – Some Sex

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: 69500

Genre: Contemporary, LGBT, MM, contemporary, wilderness, child abuse, mental illness, PTSD

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Recently dumped (again) for being cold, Guy gladly accepts his publisher friend’s request to go to a remote hut in wintry Nunavut to find out whether aspiring novelist Cam Campbell is a plagiarist. By agreeing also to help the eccentric ecologist survey wildlife for a month, Guy buys time to assess Cam’s innocence and hear stories about Cam’s late father–Guy’s favorite fantasy writer and the man whose book Cam is accused of stealing.

Guy’s investigation is soon biased by his attraction to Cam and the growing concern about Cam’s odd behavior. At times, Cam dissociates and is icier than Guy could ever be, yet he’s the only one who’s ever recognized, at a glance, the emotions burning beneath Guy’s surface. Guy knows he’s the best person to help Cam abandon the dangerous wilds outside and address those in Cam’s head, but he also knows that he’ll lose the chance if he comes clean about his ulterior motives for getting close to Cam. How can he convince Cam to come in from the cold… and why are they both really out there anyway?


Get Up
Reece Pine © 2017
All Rights Reserved

Chapter One

At least he wasn’t nervous about meeting the kid anymore. He’d stopped feeling anything at all besides dread and the wheels of the suitcase he’d slung over his shoulder bruising his numb ass with every stumble. Finally, Guy glimpsed smoke wisping from a rustic pipe chimney a hundred yards farther than the thousand miles he’d already come. His brogues, so iced over they looked like glass slippers, skidded on the porch’s wooden boards. The leather-gloved hand he threw forward to balance himself rattled the doorframe with a thudding knock, sending ice shards showering behind him from the rafters overhead.

“Hell-lo?” he croaked. “Cam-meron C—”

The alluring burst of firelight that greeted him as the door opened was immediately extinguished by someone squeezing the swollen wood shut behind themselves as they stepped forth. Guy was suddenly too surprised to be awestruck over meeting Alessandro De Carli’s son at last. He was glad his frozen eyelids couldn’t blink, because the guy—the specter, presumably Cameron Campbell—might disappear if he did. For a second, he wondered if he’d knocked on the wrong gingerbread house door, only there was no other shelter for fifty miles.

Cameron Campbell was known to be even more reclusive than his late father, but he wasn’t actually supposed to be mythic. The tiny guy blocking the door with sturdy, unlaced boots looked like a wood nymph. Eyes as blue as distant stars stared at him unabashedly. Maybe the reason no journalists had ever snapped pictures of the kid, and why he had no online presence, was because he couldn’t be caught on film.

“Incredible.” Cameron must have read Guy’s mind, and he pressed rosebud lips together in exasperation. “Are you alone? Did you hitch here? There’s no corpse in a cab parked on the highway I need to go rescue? Insane.”

Guy respectively nodded and shook his head, hoping the well-earned insult was aimed at the driver on his way west who’d dropped him at the side of a barely used road, far from the highway. Guy had considered himself lucky to thumb a ride at all out of the tiny settlement of Ipasila, built around a gas station, which was the closest town to Campbell and two hours’ drive from the Hudson Bay hamlet of Arviat in southern Nunavut. In hindsight, the man had been almost as reckless as Guy himself had been for not driving him straight to the police. Instead, Guy had been let out of the relative safety of a truck armed with nothing more than the GPS tracker Guy had brought with him and prayed was accurate.

“C-Cameron…” Not Cameron, Guy revised. A Cameron was a strapping guy—like a Brad or a David—or a blonde woman. This pixie prince was either a Cam or a question mark. His eyes looked magnified behind the lenses of large glasses, the arms of which must have burned cold against his temples because Cam removed them—only for his naked eyes to be comically large. It was still possible he wasn’t even De Carli’s son, since he looked nothing like him. Wrote nothing like him either, which was why Guy was here. “You’re C-Campbell, right? De Carli’s s-son?”

It was Campbell’s turn to draw back in surprise. “Are you from a newspaper?”

“Am I s-selling subscriptions?” Traipsing from cabin to cabin after dark? “D-does it matter? Let me in.” Heat from indoors infused the porch floorboards and bled into Guy’s damp soles, announcing itself as pain in his brittle toes.

“I don’t do interviews about my father.” Cam reached inside the hood of his puffy coat, just a shade lighter than his luminous, creamy skin, to pull a long coil of black hair forward. It hung like gossamer over the gray scarf around his shoulders.

He’d let down his hair, so now Guy could enter, right? “Do I l-look like a journalist?”

“Nah, you look too honest.”

Guy’s brows were too frozen to frown at the sarcasm. He knew damn well he had a poker face. That was the problem; now that he was literally incapable of moving his face he probably looked normal, not dangerously hypothermic.

“I’m with your p-publisher.”

“You’re from Ames? In that case, first, tell Claire she should be fired and charged with attempted murder for sending you. Secondly, and for the hundredth time, I canceled the submission for Close to Home. I didn’t mean to send it to you guys in the first place. Third, stop hounding me about it.”

“Fourth, f-fuck off,” Guy anticipated his next order. “I c-can’t. And I’m from F-Fairbanks Press.”

“Ha! Are you guys even still publishing me?” Cam swept his bangs behind an ear, which was slightly pointed at its tip.

Of course, it is. “You’re the one who n-never answers emails.”

“Internet’s intermittent out here. And there’s nothing wrong with that manuscript that isn’t Fairbanks’ fault.” Cam pursed his lips, which were tinging blue before Guy’s eyes, and nuzzled his chin into his scarf. Guy was torn between thinking it served him right to be cold and wanting to offer his firstborn as passage to the gatekeeper who halted Guy’s shuffle forward by holding up a gloved palm. “Uh-uh, no way. You ought to know the drill, New Yorker. You are, aren’t you?”

Guy was as native a New Yorker as anyone who’d moved there in adulthood and would never live elsewhere. A load of the population was in the same burned boat as him, so yes, he could claim to be from New York, but that was irrelevant while the heat fleeing his eyes stung.


“So the same rules apply here as there,” Cam continued, as though this were a holiday home in Connecticut. “You know, I met a hiker from Texas here who’d never even seen snow before, but he knew enough about it to come in September, not March. Why do you think I can’t get any volunteers to assist me at the moment?”

Because not only did this waif conduct questionable wildlife research in the middle of nowhere while purportedly editing a novel, but he also lived at the end of a spur trail a mile west of an icy road to nowhere.

Cam stamped his feet, blowing into hands he cupped over his mouth. “Come on.”

What did the little sylph want? For Guy to roll a seven? Produce a magic key?

“For God’s sake, guy, you need to strip!” Cam finally twisted the door handle behind him, spilling back into an amber glow. Guy tumbled in after, out of the deadly night air.

Instantly, his coat became the warmest bath Guy had ever had the pleasure of sinking into. Flames in the hearth curled into come-hither licks Guy’s jellied legs couldn’t obey. There was enough ecstasy to be had where he wilted against the closed door. The sensation wrenched him from numb to overwhelmed in a blink, and thrust him the closest to an imminent powerful orgasm he’d been since…he didn’t want to know.

Cam busied himself over at a kitchen counter, ignoring Guy, who stood, shaking in the doorway, suddenly struggling with a boner that had sprung from pure physical shock, surprising and mortifying him. He had to admit he could see how post-hypothermia blood rushing around could cause such a phenomenon, but man, did it have to? Thankfully, melting into a hunch helped hide it when Cam reappeared in front of him wearing only a few layers of sweaters and brandishing two steaming mugs of coffee.

Its intoxicating aroma further confused his senses by going straight to Guy’s cock. Now, there’s a new kink. He failed to convince himself his hand quivering was an aftereffect of the cold, not the sight of the now gloveless, pale hand offering a chipped mug with the handle out for Guy to grab. Cam raised an eyebrow at Guy’s taking it with his left hand.

“Oh, you’re a lefty?”

“I guess,” Guy said, distracted by just how fine Cam’s fingers were…and how Cam’s palm was apparently immune to the hot ceramic he held courtesy of calluses, frostbite, or immortality. “Looks nice….”

“Not too strong?” Cam asked, a smile curling the corners of his mouth.

“N-no such thing.” Guy slurped half the treacly concoction before gasping, “Thanks.”

“Sit.” Cam nodded to a couch piled high with blankets resembling a laundry pile. There was nowhere to sit except on top of them. “And I wasn’t kidding before. You need to strip, like, five minutes ago. Show me some skin.”

“What?” Skin?

“And a business card.”

Shit. Guy had no such thing—he should have made Huw make him a mock-up one before coming. If Cam was astute enough to ask questions like that, it might be hard to deceive him as planned. Plausible excuses whirled in his mind, but were as hard to grasp as the snowflakes he ruffled loose from his hair, stalling for time. He was surprised they hadn’t melted, since his scalp was beginning to burn….

“Of course, I’d prefer skin first. And so would you,” Cam said.

“I’m here to work,” Guy retorted, reinforcing the lie to himself.

“How do you know De Carli was my father?”

Guy blinked. “Isn’t he?”

“My pen name’s Cameron Stewart. I know my real name’s on the contract I signed with you guys, but that’s Cameron Campbell.”

“That’s De Carli’s son’s name.”

“It’s also as common as mud. How do you know I’m him?”

“Because…” Heat surged through Guy’s veins, and flashes from the fireplace in his periphery blinded him. Flames shot up his spine, turning his thoughts to smoke. His erection stirred as he willed it to subside. Instead, his heartbeat faded, which was a lot more alarming. “Because…”

Struggling to balance his tilting mug on the surging, damp footwell he slumped down upon, Guy bit at his glove to peel it from his roasting hand. It dangled from his lip, and he batted it away to better claw at his collar, trying to escape its stranglehold. Sweat made it slippery in his shaking hands, and he panted more feverishly than he had while staggering outside, where everything was white—as white as everything was turning now.

“Hey, stay with me, guy.” Cam rose from his slouch against the back of the sofa, surrounded by a blizzard of stars that swarmed Guy’s vision. He was warmth personified, the most enchanting thing in the dreamscape Guy had navigated to get here, and he was still miraculous, even now that everything had become a nightmare. His own sharp intake of breath echoed from afar as Cam lunged toward him through the static.

“I hoped you were him,” spilled in a murmur from Guy without his control. Strangely, Cam seemed to slip farther away the closer he got, as Guy sensed himself falling. It looked like he wouldn’t manage to save De Carli’s son after all. Well, he thought as all light vanished, at least he’d managed to meet him. And he got to die in the arms of a beyond-beautiful man.

No, forget that, his consciousness broke through. De Carli’s son was stunning, strange, and fascinatingly all the way out here. Never mind the fact Guy couldn’t write, he was going to live and find out what made Cam tick if it was the last thing he did.


NineStar Press | Amazon | Smashwords | Barnes & Noble | Kobo

Meet the Author

Reece is allegedly a descendant of Ann Boleyn. If you have any ancestors who were in England circa 1500, then there’s a 50% chance you too are distantly related to Anne Boleyn. In fact, if you’re of European descent, then you and everyone else of European descent share a single ancestor, who lived around 1400. And in 3,000 years’ time, all of humanity will be able to trace their lineage back to someone who is alive today. Reece thinks it would be cool if that person was G-Dragon.

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Social media, New followers, Reviews and related STUFF.

You can tell, based on how chatty I’ve been lately on both my blog and social media that I’m stalled on drafting my WIP.

I’ll get back there when life calms down a little bit more.

I need to say a few things that might be of use to peeps, given the increased numbers of new followers who’ve found me lately.

I’ll be brief (fine, I’ll try, don’t hold your breath).

A) I don’t habitually follow back. I’ve dealt with A LOT of harassment, mostly through Twitter, but also through facebook and my blog. I don’t even check my notifications for who has followed me or unfollowed me anymore.

I do check to see if a mutual *we both follow one another* unfollows, but as for new follows? I don’t even look.

Two reasons, I gain/lose upwards of 20 new followers daily, so I’d be a lot more swamped than I already am keeping up with social media if I auto-followed.

If you are someone who needs a follow back to feel okay with a relationship with me, I can’t really promise that? I respond to almost all @s on Twitter (unless I miss the notification, I hang in my mentions, not all-notifications, so I usually do see them) emails, etc, but I get it if that’s not enough for people.

The best way to get my attention is to talk at me a lot.

Like… a LOT. If, over time I feel we click, then I may eventually follow back.

I might not though. Because secondarily, I try to keep the numbers of accounts I follow lower because my feed is an absolute mess. I don’t see the peeps I want to see and talk with if I have too many peeps I follow. I tend to go through and do a semi-regular clean out of inactive accounts and people I haven’t connected with on a social sense as well. If I have to ask myself who the hell you are? You probably have an unfollow coming, even if we’re mutuals.

B) It used to really hurt me if a mutual unfollowed me. These days, if we haven’t connected in a social sense, godspeed and I wish you well. It’s really okay. You can go on and not have anything to do with me. I will unfollow you though. I’m not in this for a numbers game.

My one addendum on that is that if you’re an author, and we’ve been mutuals, I can promise I won’t be pushing your work anymore, nor will I be buying. There’s a bit of a professional give and take with an author/author relationship.

I’ll also notice if I’m the only one pushing your work, and you’re not pushing mine. I have a varied reading palate, not everyone does, so I get it, but if you want ME to be helping push your work, you gotta scratch my back, too. (lolz, doesn’t apply to super famous authors that I adore. I’m just thrilled y’all are following and talking to me, that’s more for authors who are around my same level of publication history. Though if we’ve been mutuals and suddenly we’re not, I’ll probably stop buying your books. Only cause it hurt me that that happened, and I probably didn’t understand the why.)

Just the way I’m wired. I’m contrary, I own it.

C) Please Please Please don’t @ me on twitter with your books unless I ASK for a link. It’s not quite a blocking offense, but I REALLY don’t like it.

I’m contrary by nature, so the second you do that? I can almost guarantee I won’t be reading it.

Same goes for sending me an email and asking me to pimp your book on my blog/buy your book to read for review.

Really people? No. Just no. Firstly, I think this probably violates spamming laws.

Secondly (and I’m not talking a review request, that’s a completely different animal) I’m not made of money. 99.9% of the books I read are ARC copies or from the library. I can’t afford to buy books by authors I KNOW I love. Why in the world would people think that I’m going to spend money on their books, just so I can review them? I don’t get it.

That’s not how reviewing works.

The way reviewing works is that you send me the book for free, AFTER asking if I might be interested in it, and AFTER reading my review policy to make sure it’s fine by you.

You don’t ask me to buy your book so I can review it. Nope.

Lolz, yes, this happens, A LOT.

You might be surprised at how often that happens.

Finally, if you’ve in any way been responsible for harassing me? (Subtweeting counts, especially if you’ve used my name or description, because you know? That actually IS legally harassment) you can consider yourself blocked and blacklisted FOREVER (or until you apologize).

Since most people who end up harassing me are doing it through an ableist lense, welp, I figure I’ll be in my grave before they confront their ableism and apologize for fucking up.

But, that’s really neither here nor there.

So that’s my social media update in a nutshell.

Guess I was long winded after all.


Allocishet written queer fiction

So I made a comment on twitter last night.

I feel like this post may get me in hot water, but lolz, that’s not anything new.

My comment was to the effect that I can tell, when I’m reading, if a queer fiction book was written by a queer person. (I didn’t say what TYPE of queer person, just that I can tell if it’s written by a queer.) And I can.

Books written by allocishet women, (probably men too, but I’ve never read any m/m that I know was written by a straight guy) lack so much nuance. This doesn’t necessarily make them bad books. It just makes them books I don’t want to read.

That lack of nuance means it’s not meant for, nor is it usually marketed to queer people. That’s totally cool. There is a huge market for m/m written by straight women for straight women.

Does it edge into fetishizing gay men? Absolutely. Is it my business? Not really. I’m not a gay man and until I hear from one of my gay male friends about their feelings on the matter, I don’t (and shouldn’t have) a voice on whether that particular subset of fiction is harmful because it doesn’t really affect me. Not as deeply as it does the gay male community.

Here’s the tweet.

I feel, given some of the responses that I need to be crystal clear in my opinion on this.

To be 100% clear, all I’m saying is that I CAN tell the difference when I’m reading if it was written by someone who is allocishet and if it was written by a queer person.

I’m not making a judgment call, I’m not saying you (if you’re an allocishet writer) shouldn’t write it. All I’m saying is that I can tell and that you’re missing nuance.

I can’t even really put my finger on the exact parts of a book that clue me in to that, but so far, I’ve never been wrong.

It’s the same for me when I read kinky fiction, I can TELL if someone is kinky (even if they haven’t DONE everything they’ve written about, they’ve thought about it, a lot, it’s just how the kinky brain works. They’ve probably researched it, read about it… so that’s another subset of queer fiction I can tell about.)

I can tell if a female writer has either thought about having sex with a girl a lot OR if they actually have.

It’s probably little things, word choices perhaps. I don’t actually even know.

Also, to be 100% clear.

People can write whatever the hell they want, that’s their choice. I don’t have to buy or read it, that’s my choice.

I don’t agree with the, apparently massive, level of witch-hunting that goes down in the communities toward straight m/m authors. I don’t think I was even aware how bad it was, or the forcible outings that have happened. That’s not cool by any stretch of  the imagination.

All I’m speaking to is me and my experience.

I don’t buy or read books written by white people about the PoC experience. (That’s not the same thing as having PoC in your books, world is full of diversity, show that, but maybe don’t write *about* being black if you aren’t. Even if you manage to avoid harm, you’ll miss the nuance.)

I don’t buy or read books that bash queer people.

I much prefer ownvoices fiction with regards to ANY marginalization.

I also don’t knowingly buy or read queer fiction books written by allocishet people.

They lack the quality that I need when I’m reading queer fiction.

It’s the be all and end all of it for me. My book money and my time is too scarce to put it towards something that I’ve historically not enjoyed reading.

That doesn’t mean that queer folk shouldn’t be writing for other queer folk. Of course we should be!

ANY sort of queer person can write queer fiction. I mean, I write m/m relationships (I have them strictly vetted by my gay male friends, lolz, they love getting new pieces from me) but I DO write them. To exclude m/m relationships from my very queer work would be wrong, IMO. It would be exclusionary.

And I’m a non-binary, pansexual, kinky, asexual, aromantic queer. I’m not a gay male.

I’m not saying queer folk should only write their own narrow marginalizations.

I’m not saying people can’t write what they want.

All I’m saying is that I *can* tell and I usually choose not to read queer fiction that is written by allocishet people.

You do you, don’t be an ass. That’s all.



A reaction to The Last Jedi, from a die hard SW fan who hated Rogue One.

TL;DR is…

I fucking loved it so hard. You hate Frumplestiltskin, the GOP, and maybe even rich peeps?


Spoiler free review.

I’m not going to go into detail. I don’t usually review movies, I bitch about or laud them on twitter instead.

I reviewed Rogue One, but only cause I loathed it with every fiber of my being.

S’okay, you can disagree with me and I can judge your taste until the end-point of my being.

Lolz, we can still be friends. You’ll just get a side-eye from me about the movie, is all. (Seriously, my best friend completely adores it, we just look at each other weird about it.)

That review can be found here. I wasn’t kind, or nice, the movie was shite.

I’m someone who grew up on these movies, (I’m old, seriously, these movies were my childhood, I’m utterly unreasonable about them. I don’t CARE).

There’s a format to them.

You can scoff all you want at me but I’m actually an editor in real life, like, it’s my JOB to do this stuff.

Rogue one failed on pretty much every aspect except that it was sorta… not really… not even close… to being Star Wars Shaped.

It failed the format, it failed the canon, it failed everything, including the fucking romance.


I’m thinking of torturing myself through it again, since it’s on netflix, to see if it was REALLY as bad as I thought. Preeeeety sure it was.

I’m a masochist. Don’t sue me, I’m broke.

The Last Jedi? I was actually terrified to go see it, because R1 made me hate Star Wars. People who LOVED R1 kinda made me look at the fandom in a WTAF sorta way.


I had edits for The Last Jedi, if you know me AT ALL you know I’ve got edits on EVERYTHING. Including life.

The Last Jedi didn’t disappoint. I loved it. I loved every aspect of it.

I cried, I sobbed. I just. THAT IS STAR WARS!!!

THAT is what people who kept saying in 2016 that R1 ‘was the movie they needed to see’ (with regards to the resistance and a message of hope and the election and gahhhh)… nope.


The Last Jedi carried that message, and then some.

Choice, Action, Consequences, Results, Lives lived on the edge, Heroic Sacrifice, Balance between light/dark, Space Battles, HOPE AGAINST THE DARK.

Yeah. THAT is Star Wars.

Also, I really want a Vulptex, (crystal fox) ridden by a Porg, followed by a Fathier, cause OMFG SQUEEEEEEE!

Okay. Stopping now. So I don’t spoil it. I loved it. It brought Star Wars back to me.

And after the godsfucked year a queer, autistic, mixed-race, pagan, expat American has had in 2017?

I needed THAT movie.

Go on now.

See it.




New Book Review: WALKING ON WATER by Matthew J. Metzger

LGBTQIA+, Fantasy, Romance, Retelling (Little Mermaid)



When a cloud falls to earth, Calla sets out to find what lies beyond the sky. Father says there’s nothing, but Calla knows better. Something killed that cloud; someone brought it down.

Raised on legends of fabled skymen, Calla never expected them to be real, much less save one from drowning—and lose her heart to him. Who are the men who walk on water? And how can such strange creatures be so beautiful?

Infatuated and intrigued, Calla rises out of her world in pursuit of a skyman who doesn’t even speak her language. Above the waves lies more than princes and politics. Above the sky awaits the discovery of who Calla was always meant to be. But what if it also means never going home again?


Read it. Hie thee hence to a place to buy this book (ideally the publisher) and READ IT NOW.

I’m picky AF about books, those that I give an unreserved five-star score to and want to leap up and down on the top of a building for? Yeah. They’re GOOD.

I’d like to say I’m without words at how wonderful this book is, but it’s honestly just that I have SO MANY positive words about it that I’m having trouble expressing myself.

This book wrecked me in all the best ways possible.

It made me curse the author, it made me so flipping MAD, I cried, sniffly sort of crying and the ugly sobbing sort of crying. I laughed, snickered, and snorted a few times too, and at the end? I hugged my tablet to my chest and I’ve been walking around with the goofiest grin on my face since.

I loved it so much.

Even if reading it did make me forget to eat two meals and I forgot to drink my tea.

It gave me many things I didn’t know I needed to see on-page until I read them.

Trans rep– there is a whole chapter about one of the MCs that so clearly echoes exactly how I feel about my physical form some days that I cried to read it. I needed that. I needed a happy ever after kind of story for a trans person who had to choose not to be in contact with their family because of not being loved for who I am. I needed this book so very much and I didn’t know HOW MUCH I needed it until I read it.

Ace rep– I’m a sex-positive ace, but it’s rare as hen’s teeth to find ace rep of any kind, (thank goodness this is changing) and seeing the way the author deals with a sex-repulsed ace was still healing to me because she was there, on page, and her needs were respected and met. (There IS sex in this book, on page, erotic sex, but it’s not for the ace side character.)

Pain rep/cane use– I have chronic pain and use a cane and the way pain is handled in this book is so accurate, it’s perfect. (It’s pain from an injury, but the way the MC deals with it is true to my experience.)

Fat positivity Fat characters are also spoken of in a positive light. I liked that too.

Bisexual representation!– On page bisexual representation. Bisexual GUY on page rep and the story isn’t ABOUT being bi, they just are. Love to see that.

World building- Very gritty, realistic historical fantasy type world building.

The story itself and the author’s voice is enveloping, powerful, beautiful, and lyrical.

I especially enjoyed the unique descriptive qualities to the characters, unusual choices of words can be so lovely if used well.

In dual PoV books, it can be hard to nail the two different character voices, the author nailed it in this one. I loved the very different feeling to each of the two PoV MCs, side characters were as well developed and written as the MCs.

I want more books out in the world like this and I want it now.

Content warning on graphic battle scenes, graphic shape change scenes. (I loved them, but I love gore in book/movies.)

Content warning on a (very few, I wasn’t counting, but like three, I think) usages of ableist language for self-labeling.


Readability: 5 of 5 star-1586412_1920 Though I pre-ordered this book, I waited to read it until I knew I’d have time to finish in one sitting. I’d heard it was really good, and I know what I’m like with a good book. I wasn’t wrong, life pulled me away the first two times I tried to read this (over the past two days) but I managed to read from about chapter 3 to the end today and OMG. What a freaking amazing ride. This is not the kind of book that you’ll be able to read just a chapter a night, it’s just that great.

Arcs: 5 of 5 star-1586412_1920 It’s a little mermaid retelling, so I knew sort of what would happen, the author stuck true to the tale as far as the details, but brought a completely unique and fresh perspective to it. The tension leading up to the first turning point and then again to the climax were so masterfully done that my heart was in my throat in both places. The climax itself had me cussing out the author. SERIOUSLY. YOU DIDN’T HAVE TO BREAK MY HEART. But I’m glad you did, cause you sewed it up again, better.

Craft: 5 of 5 star-1586412_1920  I need more stars for rating Ninestarpress’s books. I caught ONE typo, that’s it. I would’ve liked to see a little less passive voice, but there were really only maybe four sentences I caught it in that could’ve been more strongly worded (and as y’all know, passive voice is my Achilles heel in reading (writing too) so I have an unreasoning hatred for it. Four sentences of passive voice is far and away better than anything big 5 is putting out these days (barring some few authors who I will sell a kidney to buy their work if needed). This book is excellent, and it’s one I’m so happy I bought and own cause it’s definitely going to go into the re-read often pile. I might even buy a second bound-copy, because I want one.

Go on now, I wouldn’t steer you wrong, go buy the thing!

Remember if you buy directly from the publisher, the pub and author both get more money so the can keep bringing you more books.

Ninestar Press 


Don’t forget to review! Reviews sell books for authors. 🙂

Add it to your TBR on Goodreads here.

As an extra, Matthew was kind enough to give me a character interview for one of my favorite side characters, Doktor Karl Hauser, you can read that here.