Tuesday, March 21, 2017

A Human Element Book Blast

Blurb:
Evil comes in many forms…

One by one, Laura Armstrong’s friends and adoptive family members are being murdered, and despite her unique healing powers, she can do nothing to stop it. The savage killer haunts her dreams, tormenting her with the promise that she is next. Determined to find the killer, she follows her visions to the site of a crashed meteorite in her hometown. There, she meets Ben Fieldstone, who seeks answers about his parents’ death the night the meteorite struck. In a race to stop a madman, they unravel a frightening secret that binds them together. But the killer’s desire to destroy Laura face-to-face leads to a showdown that puts Laura and Ben’s emotional relationship and Laura’s pure spirit to the test. With the killer closing in, Laura discovers her destiny is linked to his, and she has two choices—redeem him or kill him.


Excerpt:
“I am not here to hurt you,” the man said when Ben shrunk into the rock. “I’m going to cut the ropes.”

In a few swift movements he slit the ropes binding Ben, who staggered back. The man caught him and held him up, then ripped off the duct tape.

“Who are you?” Ben’s body trembled from the rush of fear and a fierce headache pounded in his temple.

The man didn’t answer. He bent over one of the dead Samoans and pulled out a wallet. He looked inside and threw it at Ben. “It’s yours.” Then the man led him by the arm down the overgrown road where he handed Ben his clothes from the brush.

“Come on,” the man said. Ben looked back at the dead men sprawled face down. They oozed like two fat walruses sunning themselves in the moonlight. “Don’t worry about them. I’ll dump them later, somewhere they’ll never be found.”

In a daze, Ben followed his savior up the rough road, stumbling behind him in the dim moonlight.

“I’ll take you back to base and you’re on your own,” the man said once they reached his car, parked off the main road. “Don’t speak of this to anyone. Understand?”

Ben nodded and climbed in the car. He looked over at the stranger in black who had saved him. His mammoth biceps flexed as he drove, hunched over the wheel. Ben stared at him, and then a memory flickered. “Why are you following me? Why save me?”

“I’m an interested party. Leave it at that.”

“I can’t. I would have died up there for sure.”

The man didn’t respond.

“Thank you.”

The man looked at Ben. His green eyes glowed in the moonlight that filtered into the car.

“Someday you might not thank me. Someday you might not survive.”


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Don't forget to visit the other stops on the tour.


Author Bio and Links:
Donna Galanti is the author of the paranormal suspense Element Trilogy (Imajin Books)  and the children’s fantasy adventure Joshua and The Lightning Road series (Month9Books). Donna is a contributing editor for International Thriller Writers the Big Thrill magazine and blogs with other middle grade authors at Project Middle Grade Mayhem. She’s lived from England as a child, to Hawaii as a U.S. Navy photographer. Donna enjoys teaching at conferences on the writing craft and marketing and also presenting as a guest author at elementary and middle schools.

Visit her at www.elementtrilogy.com and www.donnagalanti.com.

Connect with Donna:
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Purchase books 1 and 2 in the Element Trilogy

Monday, March 13, 2017

Collared by the Cowboy Book Blast

Blurb:
Bound and determined to break free of a small town, Mia isn't about to let a little thing like a bondage club or a cocky cowboy stand in her way. Not when it means unearthing the truth. Undercover, she enters an elite world defined by sex, subs, and power. What can happen? It's just for a night...

Out of necessity, Brandon guards his privacy. Tall, dark, and frowning--he gives Mia a run for her money when she almost blows her cover. He's one hot piece with a very dominating streak. Think hair pulling, panty-dropping! He's gorgeous, built, and makes her want things. Dirty, dark, and not part of Mia's plan.

Brandon is down for the chase, and catches the dark-eyed beauty in a lie. The little researcher needs to be taught a lesson. Pretty with curves galore, yet it's her smart-mouth that forces his hand. If Mia wants to learn about his club, he'll teach her every dirty detail of what it means to surrender. To him.

Their raw chemistry is undeniable. Mia is more than a tantalizing and temporary diversion. She becomes the woman he can't let go.

As Brandon and Mia explore falling in love, they reveal their darkest secrets. From the shadows, a stalker with a taste for revenge is just waiting for an opportunity to strike.


Excerpt One:
Dani called from down the hall. “Did you find a pair?”

“Operation stiletto was a six-inch success.” Rolling onto her elbow, Mia snagged the bag and pulled out the shoebox. In a few hours, she’d hit the doors of the S & L in these unless she took a spill—

“Here. Knock ‘em dead.” Dani commanded her attention with an outstretched hand. Over her roommate’s finger hung a hanger, and she waved a tiny scrap of red leather in Mia’s direction.

“Interesting. But no.” Her brow knitted as she stared at the crisscrossing laces of the tiny corset. “When I said outfit, I was thinking something larger than a rubber band.”

“This dress will help you fit in.” Tutting, her roommate thrust the fetish dress into her hands. “Thank me later when you land your first job.”

“By chance does that job involve a street corner?”

“Funny,” Dani replied. “You’re stalling.”

“You do realize that I’m the one who’s gotta fit into this little number. Operative word: little.” Mia rose and held up the dress probably two sizes too small. “Just where am I supposed to fit my boobs?”

“Okay, I can see you’re going to overanalyze this into the ground.” Dani snapped her fingers. “Let’s go. Time to change. Stat.”

Rather than waste time arguing, she’d just try on the dress and make her point when a body part or two sprang loose.


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Author Bio and Links:
Susan’s sweet-n-sexy stories ignite a reader’s imagination. Her style of red-hot romance stars dirty talkin’ alpha heroes and feisty quirky women. Over several series, she crafts heartwarming fiction, filled with realistic details, and developed multicultural characters that are relatable to readers worldwide. So much, her books are international bestsellers.

Born and raised in Miami, Florida, Susan is married to an incredible man who puts up with a fly-by-the-seat zany wife. And why not? They write in partnership and live near Nashville. Besides writing, they’re involved in environmental engineering, have three daughters, and lots of pets. Giving back to the community is a big part of their writing and publishing, and includes funding a student robotics program, giving to We Need Diverse Books, and supporting Semper Fi to assist Marines.

These bestselling sexy cowboy romances, the Bad Boys series will continue to grow with more releases. To stay abreast of Bad Boys’ steamy romance happenings, stay in touch via Susan’s RED-HOT ROMANCE newsletter. Sign up for freebies, releases, and sexy cowboy news!

Catch Susan Arden:
Website     |     Facebook     |     Instagram     |     Twitter     |     Blog


BOOK IS ON SALE $0.99 DURING THE TOUR
Amazon     |     Simon & Schuster

Monday, March 6, 2017

Dragon Void Book Blitz

Blurb:
A woman born on the wind...

A Turul princess, Evie North has waited long enough for her “one true love” — a man she’s stopped believing truly exists. She throws caution—literally—to the wind and decides to take matters into her own hands. She chooses a handsome stranger from a crowd and falls into bed with him, hoping love might find her in his arms.

A human man drawn to powers beyond his comprehension...

The only thing Marcus Calais knows is that he’s likely to die in a pointless war but also honor-bound to run into battle. At least until he meets an angel named Evie in Central Park who incites stronger desires than he’s ever had and whose songs drive him to levels of passion he never imagined. After just one night with the lovely, waifish beauty, he discovers he has so much more to live for. Will he sacrifice his principles to stay alive for her?

The immortal dragon who owns both their souls...

“Ked” is what his five siblings call him, but others simply refer to the huge black dragon as The Void. He is darkness personified, but nothing is darker than the enemy he is up against. It will take true darkness to fight the evil permeating his world, and to save the female Fate intended for him. But Fate has a funny way of switching things up when he least expects. What will he find when he ventures forth into the enemy’s lair in search of love?

What other surprises does Fate have in store?




Excerpt:
“You terrify me,” he said softly, and she knew what he said was true. Even if the Wind hadn’t been there to verify his honesty, she’d have known it by the wetness in his eyes. “You are the most beautiful woman I’ve ever seen and the first one I’ve ever wanted so much I’d behave like a rutting stag the first time we meet. I don’t do this, Evie. What I want to do with you is entirely out of character for me. I know you have no reason to believe that because we just met, but it’s the truth.”

She laughed shakily, taken aback by his bare honesty. “Surely there have been others… Look at you.” She waved her hand down his sturdy frame, still crouched before her.

He shook his head. “I’ve tried off and on, but somehow the women I’m most drawn to are wildly inaccessible. You’re the first who’d give me the time of day. That in itself makes you infinitely more amazing to me. But there’s something deeper.”

He reached up a hand and placed his palm against the center of her chest. The simple touch stole her breath. “I can’t put my finger on it, but I really want to know everything there is to know about you.”

Evie found it hard to fill her lungs enough to speak. Finally, in a near whisper, she said, “What if I never trust you enough to share my secrets?”

“Then I’ll have to prove to you that you can.”

She sighed, relieved that he told her the truth, but also more anxious than ever that she hadn’t heard any hint of a lie. If she had, she’d have had an excuse to avoid following through with her crazy plan.

She urged him to stand and laced her fingers through his again. Taking a deep breath, she found that steely will of hers along with the wicked streak that had urged her to seek him out to begin with.

“Rutting stag, huh? I think I like the sound of that.” She grinned up at him. Abruptly he wrapped her in his arms and laid a hot, hungry kiss against her lips. In spite of the cold brick wall he had her pressed into, all she could feel was his heat flooding through her thin dress. She clung to him, melting against him, both of them oblivious to the traffic on the sidewalk passing by like nothing out of the ordinary was occurring. Like she wasn’t on the verge of letting this man fuck her silly against the wall right out in public on a cool spring evening.

The honk of a cab caused Marcus to jump and draw away from her. She held on, reluctant to lose the warmth of his body and the sweet pull of his mouth. A small, petulant sound came out of her and he groaned in response. He placed his hands against the wall on either side of her head and peered down into her eyes.

“You’ll be the death of me, Evie North. But I think you’ll be worth it.”

Purchase
Animus Press  |  Amazon  |  Barnes & Noble  |  Kobo  |  iTunes


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Meet the Author:
Ophelia Bell is the author of the super steamy bestselling Sleeping Dragons series. Ophelia loves a good bad-boy and especially strong women in her stories—women who aren’t apologetic about enjoying sex and bad boys who don’t mind being with a woman who’s in charge, at least on the surface, because pretty much anything goes in the bedroom. Ophelia grew up on a rural farm in North Carolina and now lives in Los Angeles with her own tattooed bad-boy husband and four attention-whoring cats.

Website   |   Facebook   |   Twitter
Goodreads   |   Instagram

Friday, March 3, 2017

Dragon Blues Book Blitz

Synopsis:
Even immortal dragons can have crazy exes.

Three thousand years ago, immortal blue dragon Belah and her old lover took their kinks just a step too far, and she's been trying to get over it ever since. The problem is that her ex is still out there wreaking havoc on her world, while Belah spent the last three millennia in hiding.

With her race's world changing, it's time for Belah to show her face again. Finding a new mate should be easy for a dragon as powerful as her, but "baggage" is an understatement when your ex is your race's mortal enemy, and he's just let you know he wants you back.

Determined to move on, Belah finds Lukas and Iszak North--not one, but two gorgeous, musically talented, and especially kinky brothers from one of the dragons' sister races. The pair are perfect for Belah. Their race of falcon shifters mate for life--one look at Belah, and both North brothers know she's their One. The problem is, they have baggage of their own, and Belah's old lover is at the center of it. The brothers can't help but love her in spite of her past, and when Belah answers their mating call and gives herself to them completely, they would do anything to keep her, even forgive her connection to their enemy.

When Belah's old lover calls in a promise, she and her new mates learn there is more at stake than love, and it might take more than fancy knots and an adeptly wielded whip to find true happiness.


Excerpt:
“We’ll be gentle,” Lukas said. He leaned in and Belah gladly opened up for his kiss.

“Don’t lie to her, brother,” Iszak said. “It’ll be as rough as we need it to be, but I have a feeling that’s what you’d rather have, isn’t it, Belah? You’re going to feel so much pleasure it’ll blow your mind, but we’re going to get one thing straight first. You’re going to submit to us the way your kind does to you. By ‘you’ I mean the Dragon Council. I’ve met a few dragons who broke your laws, so I’ve heard stories. If you want to tell me I’m wrong, please feel free to explain, but at the very least, tell me you understand.”

Belah balked, then was rudely reminded of her bindings when a knot dug in hard between her shoulderblades. Behind her, Lukas’s warmth came close and she felt him kneel between her legs. His warm cock brushed against her ass as his lips went to her ears.

“Do you submit?”

“To submit in the manner you ask would be no punishment,” Belah said. “Because it would mean being allowed to neither give nor receive pleasure from anyone besides those I submit to.”

She gazed up at Iszak, her eyelids fluttering when Lukas’s hands slid around her waist and up to cup her breasts and tease her nipples. “That sounds perfect, so do you submit?”

Before her, Iszak moved closer, the head of his cock radiating heat and the delicious aroma of his arousal mere inches from her lips. He reached down and cupped her cheek, stroking his thumb across her lower lip.

“Promise you submit to me and Lukas and only us.”

“I submit to only you, Iszak North and Lukas North, as my true and fated mates. I will take pleasure in no other partner until Fate decrees my days on this earth are done.”

Iszak let out a groan of pleasure that spilled into his gaze. “Fuck, your voice is beautiful when you say all the right words. Shame you won’t be using that mouth to speak for a good long while. Open up, baby.”

Purchase
Animus Press  |  Amazon  |  Barnes & Noble  |  Kobo  |  iTunes



Meet the Author:
Ophelia Bell is the author of the super steamy bestselling Sleeping Dragons series. Ophelia loves a good bad-boy and especially strong women in her stories—women who aren’t apologetic about enjoying sex and bad boys who don’t mind being with a woman who’s in charge, at least on the surface, because pretty much anything goes in the bedroom. Ophelia grew up on a rural farm in North Carolina and now lives in Los Angeles with her own tattooed bad-boy husband and four attention-whoring cats.


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Goodreads   |   Instagram

Monday, February 27, 2017

Two Worlds Collided Review Tour

Blurb:
Evie Reid, on a whim, agrees to travel back in time to 1997 to change bad boy Bellamy Lovel's path of destruction. She's smart with a college degree, but she's still fan-girl crazy for the rock band, Civilized Heathens. Evie knows despite all Bellamy's smiles and enthusiasm on the stage, he's destined to end it all on one lonely night in a hotel room unless she can change his path.

Bellamy isn't keen on having Evie as his personal assistant, hired by his band mates to watch over him, and keep him on schedule. However, there is something about the woman that sparks his interest, despite his best to ignore her. When darkness threatens to consume him, he realizes she may be the only light that will chase the shadows away.


Excerpt:
She spotted Bellamy standing on the ledge a few feet in front of her. Fear rose up inside of her like a tangible force that urged her to go to his rescue. Her legs carried her swiftly and her hands grabbed his dress shirt with some kind of wild print on it, and she yanked him toward her.

Bellamy's hands flew out in front of him as if to grab onto something to steady his fall. "What the–" Her cry of alarm muffled Bellamy's curse when she realized he was going to land on top of her, but at the last millisecond, Bellamy twisted, grabbing hold of her as he fell onto his back with her sprawled on top of him in an unseemly manner. Her hair had come loose from the knot at the back of her neck. Her glasses were askew on her nose and she tried to adjust them as she pulled on her blouse, which had risen above her waist. Bellamy's hot hands were on her flesh and for a moment she'd forgotten to breathe. She met his startled gaze and his lips pursed into a fine line.

"What is wrong with you, lady?" he said and shoved her away, not exactly rough but with a purpose to be as far away as possible from her.

She sat in a heap next to him, feeling a bit deflated that he didn't appreciate her attempt to help. "I was saving you," she said and lifted her chin.

"Saving me? Lady, you almost sent me tumbling over the edge."

   
My Review:
4 stars

I’ll admit, the main reason I wanted to read this was because of the whole time travel mixed with saving a rock star idea. I am a sucker for second chance stories, and this one sounded so unusual, I had to give it a shot. Well color me impressed, because I am so glad I took a chance on this. I was worried at first that the author would make this a “fix-it” story, where one character came in to “solve/fix” the “damaged” character. Especially with a topic such as this. However, my fears were soon allayed.

Part of this was due to the amazing characters. Bellamy broke my heart. As someone who has lived through depression, I could easily relate to him, and seeing his struggles so vividly yet well-handled was amazing. I cried throughout the book, rooting for him to make a different choice, to fight. And Evie…dear, sweet Evie. I loved how she was not only trying to help Bellamy, she was also growing herself. She was just the right partner for Bellamy, which leads me to the romance. The chemistry between Evie and Bellamy was perfect. I loved getting to see them together, especially their first meeting, and how they both changed each other.

My favorite part, though, was how the author focused on the idea that even though Evie was going back in time to try and change the past, the choice was ultimately up to Bellamy. There was no easy wrap up, no single solution, no miraculous fix-it. It was a very real look at what depression and what fighting depression looks like. At times, it was a bit much for me, but I appreciated how the author handled it, especially being someone who has dealt with depression for a good part of my life.

My only qualms with the story was that the beginning felt a bit rushed to me. I would have liked more time getting to see the future and learning more about the ramifications behind what Evie’s time traveling interference could do (I’m a major Doctor Who fan, so I love the sciency stuff behind time travel). Also, at times the sex scenes were a bit much. There was one in particular that seemed a bit forced to me, but part of that for me I think is because we were dealing with some heavy content matter as well.

Overall though, this was an amazing story that I greatly enjoyed and highly recommend. 

*I received this book in exchange for an honest review.*


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February 13: Up 'Til Dawn Book Blog
February 20: Books,Dreams,Life
February 20: T's Stuff
February 27: Deep In theCrease
February 27: SharingLinks and Wisdom
March 6: wordstravelfilm
March 6: Travel the Ages
March 6: Lorana Hoopes
March 6: Laura's Interests


Author Bio and Links:
Karen Michelle Nutt resides in California with her husband, three fascinating children, and houseful of demanding pets. Jack, her Chorkie, is her writing buddy and sits long hours with her at the computer.

When she’s not time traveling, fighting outlaws, or otherworldly creatures, she creates pre-made book covers to order at Gillian’s Book Covers, “Judge Your Book By Its Cover”. You can also check out her published cover art designs at Victory Tales Press and Rebecca J. Vickery Publishing.

Whether your reading fancy is paranormal, historical or time travel, all her stories capture the rich array of emotions that accompany the most fabulous human phenomena—falling in love.

Website     |    Blog     |     Facebook     |     Twitter

 Gillian’s Book Covers, “Judge Your Book By Its Cover”


Two Worlds Collided will be $0.99 during the tour.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Eye Candy Book Blast

Blurb:
Gavin Rossi is one sexy piece of Eye Candy wrapped in a tight body and sweet smile. The hot breath on his neck, the mesmerizing rhythm as he rolls his hips, the strong chest rising and falling beneath his hands make for a distraction he’s terrified to see play out.

When Dutch Williamson feels a set of perfectly sculpted thighs slipping over his lap, the last thing his liquor-hazed brain registers is this is my future. The tempting piece of Eye Candy grinding on his lap is going to cut him at the knees, and he knows it.

This is a dance. This is a tease. God, this is so much more.


Excerpt:
Gavin stood by the marble-top island. “We need to discuss rent.” He stuffed his hands in the pockets of his faded jeans. “Between the two jobs, I can pay you something. I don’t expect a handout. I need to do my part.”

Everything had turned upside down. Being alone and content no longer counted for anything good in his life. Once again, the privileges of his birth were humbling. He shut the door. The guy had pride. Fighting the urge to pull those sexy hips into his hands, he passed the island and looked over his shoulder. “You coming? You can pick which room you want and…we’ll discuss the logistics in the morning when you come to the restaurant for your interview.”

He stopped, giving Gavin time to catch up at the staircase.

“You were serious, weren’t you? I um, I really didn’t expect you to offer me a job. I figured I could get a good night’s sleep, you’d wake up and regret asking me to be a tenant, and I’d have to take off, but now it feels different.”

Dutch stopped when they reached the top of the stairs. “I told you, you’re safe with me. If you stay around, you’ll see I’m telling the truth. Every bedroom has a lock. Use it if you feel you need to, but know it’s your space, and I’ll respect that.”

Gavin took the bag to sling it over his shoulder. “What if I don’t want to lock the door?”

Well hell. “Then I’ll need to lock mine.”


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Click here to visit the other stops on the tour.


Author Bio and Links:
Pauline lives in the Midwest with her hero husband, two handsome boys, one ornery cat, and a lovely Pitbull. She enjoys writing erotic romance for all readers. From MM contemporary romance series to LGBT fairytales, Pauline shares stories that she holds close to her heart. By day Pauline is a special care baby registered nurse and by night a hopeless romantic. She loves to travel to New Orleans twice a year to recharge her creative battery and enjoy a bag full of powdered sugar covered beignets. Sit down, relax and Laissez les bons temps rouler!

Come say hello at:
Twitter    |    Facebook    |    Website    |    Instagram    |    Email

Book is $0.99 at Amazon

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

The Black Sheep and the Rotten Apple Release Day Tour


The Black Sheep and the Rotten Apple is the kind of book that just needed to be written, despite our already tight schedule. The idea first came to us when we watched a documentary about highwaymen, but we promised ourselves to wait. And then we went to Cornwall for a month, and initial plans collapsed. As we walked through the woods, watching the lush nature and the old stone cottages peppered on both sides of a valley where we were staying, the characters and story steadily came to us. Our aim was to write a historical book that provides as much excitement as readers learned to expect from our contemporary romance.

If you want to see our inspiration photos for this book, check out the ‘Black Sheep and the Rotten Apple Pinterest board:


The Black Sheep and the Rotten Apple is our baby. It’s been a year since we started working on this book, and to celebrate its release, we’re organizing a quiz for readers who follow The Black Sheep and the Rotten Apple blog tour. Answers to all questions will be provided in the blog posts, and we will then randomly pick the lucky winners. You can win:
  • a signed paperback of The Black Sheep and the Rotten Apple + a selection of Cornish treats (main prize - for one person)
  • 3 ebooks of choice from our backlist + a surprise treat from Cornwall (will go to 3 more people)
For a chance to win, follow the instructions in blog posts and solve the quiz, which will be published on our website on 1st February 2017. Please, send answers to kamerikan@gmail.com with ‘Black Sheep Quiz’ in the subject line of the email.

Winners will be randomly chosen from readers who sent us correct answers by 17th February 2017.

LINKS TO ALL POSTS:


Synopsis:
“How does one start a relationship with another man when it is forbidden?”

“One needs to decide that the other man is worth dying for.”

Cornwall, 1785

Sir Evan Penhart. Baronet. Highwayman. Scoundrel.

Julian Reece. Writer. Wastrel. Penniless.

No one forces Julian Reece to marry. Not his father, not his brother. No one.
When he is thrust into a carriage heading for London to meet his future bride, his way out comes in the form of an imposing highwayman, riding a horse as black as night. Julian makes a deal with the criminal, but what he doesn’t expect is that despite the title of baronet, the robber turns out to be no gentleman.

Sir Evan Penhart is pushed into crime out of desperation, but the pact with a pretty, young merchant’s son turns out to have disastrous consequences. Not only is Evan left broke, but worse yet, Julian opens up a Pandora’s box of passions that are dark, needy, and too wild to tame. With no way to lock them back in, rash decisions and greedy desire lead to a tide that wrecks everything in its way.

But Julian might actually like all the sinful, carnal passion unleashed on him. How can he admit this though, even to himself, when a taste of the forbidden fruit could have him end up with a noose around his neck? And with highway robbery being a hanging offense and the local constable on their back, Julian could lose Evan before he can decide anything about the nature of his desires.

POSSIBLE SPOILERS:
Themes: highwayman, abduction, ransom, forbidden love, self-discovery, danger, crime,
Genre: Dark romance, historical
Erotic content: Explicit scenes

WARNING: Adult content. Contains violence, distressing scenes, abuse, offensive language, and morally ambiguous protagonists. 


Excerpt:
The sun was high up in the sky by the time the desynchronized orchestra left Julian’s skull. There wasn’t enough space to properly lie down anywhere in the carriage, but he managed to obtain a comfortable position by resting his legs up the wooden wall while his upper body occupied one of the benches. He still felt like the filling of an enormous rattle as the carriage bent in all possible directions on the uneven road leading away from the coast.

Horace didn’t even make an attempt to hold back his disapproval, but after delivering several biting comments and a lengthy speech about duty, he at last leaned against the side of the carriage in the seat across from Julian and closed his eyes. It was difficult to say whether he was truly in need of a nap or if it was Julian’s face that he didn’t wish to look at.

With his headache out of the way yet not quite well enough to read, Julian opened the curtains in hope of amusing himself with the views, but so far, he merely got to see the side of a narrow gully—all dirt and grass.

He couldn’t understand why Father was being so implacable about having his youngest son marry a title. Couldn’t it wait a fortnight so that Julian could finish that new novel he came up with last night? This one could truly be the breakthrough Julian had been waiting for, the one that would make the Reece family known for more than fabric trade.

Inspiration was a moment in time when Julian’s friend Martin emerged from the darkness of an alley behind the tavern. In that very second he had not resembled himself but a man made of bronze, dreamlike and yet of substance, with strong hands that could crush Julian if they wanted. The novel would start with a similar encounter somewhere in the narrow back alleys, just off the Colosseum. Haunted by the ghost of an ancient gladiator, the protagonist would be believed to be slowly descending into madness, when in reality his awareness of the supernatural would become a vehicle for truth.

Julian was not yet certain of the exact message he wished to convey, but the events would be presented from several points of view, through letters written by the protagonist, his friends, and an official of some sort who’d represent the stale world order.

He’d already had several beautifully evocative ideas for metaphors describing the gladiator himself, but they became somewhat blurry after a night of cards and drink.

Oh, if only he could travel to Rome to let the atmosphere of the city soak him all the way to the bone—without a wife fighting for his attention and pulling him away from work because of feminine fancies.

He looked out of the window with growing disdain. Who in their right mind traveled on Sunday, and so early at that? Julian would have much preferred listening to a sermon at church to spending the day in what was effectively a hearse carrying one of the brightest literary talents just waiting to be discovered.

Now that Julian was feeling better, he was upset with himself about not asking for a day’s delay on religious grounds. He’d never been as devout about prayer as he was about his art, but if the Christian faith could postpone his commitment to a woman he never met, he would gladly kneel and pray. And Miss White wasn’t even a woman but a girl of fifteen, quite pretty in the portrait Julian had been shown, and a viscount’s only daughter at that, but surely as hungry for her intended’s attention as the bawdy house wench who’d become sweet on Julian some years ago.

Back then, he still visited Madame Canard’s establishment to do what everyone else did when they visited a school of Venus. These days, Julian had neither the overwhelming desire nor patience to handle a cunt, no matter how lovely the lady it was attached to. He still enjoyed having a drink with the harlots, and no card table within twenty miles was as lively as the one at Madame Canard’s, but at twenty-five he’d much rather handle needs of the flesh in solitude.

Sweet perfume made his nose itch, the act itself made him unpleasantly sticky—with his sweat and hers—and while he would not dare to ask, it was his suspicion that the friends who usually accompanied him to the brothel were only whoring so much because of pride and bravado. It was a sign of status to be able to afford women and decent wine daily, and so fucking and gambling was the thing you did as a social activity.

Julian’s eyes darted to Horace, who slept with his head thrown back and leaning against the side of the carriage. His wide-open mouth was asking for a distasteful prank, but Julian was far too upset to think of amusing himself at Horace’s expense. So far, the day’s joke was on him.

In the years past, he’d been mocked by his father and siblings over not taking on a profession that they deemed worthy of a gentleman, but with the family being very prosperous, Julian saw no reason to divert his focus from his one true calling.

Despite frequent threats, he’d hoped that Father—having four willing sons and three daughters—wouldn’t push Julian into marriage, but it seemed a lost cause. Soon it would be a wife nagging Julian to stop wasting his time following intellectual pursuits and instead turn his attention to practical matters. As the head of his own family, maybe he’d even be pushed to join the family trade, one step farther from traveling abroad to meet the great artists of the continent.

The carriage started a steep climb up a hill, and Julian cursed, pushing the soles of his boots against the wall to keep his body from rolling off the narrow bench. How long would it take for them to reach London at this pace? It was over two hundred miles away, so a week perhaps? The last time Julian had made the journey, he was so intoxicated most days that he couldn’t properly count them.

But out of nowhere, as the slope of the hill became gentler, the ugly dirt and grass that had been Julian’s only source of entertainment for the last half an hour were replaced by lush greenery of tree tops. He grinned and glanced at Horace, but the fat sod was too busy snoring to notice the change in scenery.

A wicked plan was starting to take shape in Julian’s head, and he quietly removed his feet from the side of the carriage and lowered them to the floor. Pulling himself upright was easy enough after that, and he stalled, eyes transfixed on the permanently flushed face of his brother that was an unappetizing contrast with the white wig he wore, and made him look like a man many years his senior. Julian might be less inclined to business, less sedate than his siblings, but at the very least he had good taste and flair most of Julian’s family lacked, buried deep in the stern world of pretense and money.

Horace didn’t even stir. The old pig was fast asleep, and if that wasn’t Julian’s chance to save his life, he didn’t know what was. Careful not to make any sound, Julian gathered his valise and the coat he’d earlier taken off because of the heat, stilling when the carriage came to a halt. His eyes immediately darted to Horace, but his brother only smacked his lips in his sleep. Hunt could have stopped to relieve himself. What an opportunity this was!

Julian could feel his heartbeat in his throat when he softly pressed on the door handle. Still distinctly aware of his brother being close enough for their knees to touch, were Julian not careful enough. He opened the carriage and left it in a soft stride before closing the door with care.

A warm breeze combed through his hair, wiping away the unpleasant wetness of sweat, and his lungs filled with fresh air, but he didn’t get to enjoy it.
The shining muzzle of a pistol was grinning at him from inches away.

Despite the warm weather, Julian’s whole body was shaken by a chill when his gaze met a pair of eyes so dark they might as well have been lacquered coals. 
The man had a tricorn hat pulled low over his forehead, and a black scarf obscuring the lower half of his face.

This can’t be happening.

“Don’t try to scream, or I will blow your brains out.” The man squinted and lowered his gun to Julian’s pupil. “Through the eye.”

Julian opened his mouth as his throat closed, robbing him of breath. He wanted to look back, suddenly wishing Horace weren’t such an easy sleeper, but Hunt was nowhere to be seen either. Heat washed over Julian’s body, making him stiffen as if he were made of clay. Had this man hurt their coachman? If so, where was the body?

“What do you want?” Julian whispered, resting his hand on the door handle when his knees softened.

“These.” A hand in a leather glove gripped Julian’s sweaty fingers and slipped off his rings. “And all your other valuables.” The man didn’t even blink, his voice dark as if dragged through tar.

Julian stared, and his mind finally came up with the answer for what this was. “You’re a highwayman...”

“And you’re cork-brained to travel on a Sunday when the roads are empty.” The man’s gaze drifted away to Horace for a split second, but he must have judged him as no threat, and when Horace snored from inside the carriage, the highwayman chuckled quietly.

Julian’s lungs emptied, and a silly grin emerged on his face, encouraged by the highwayman’s amusement. “Ah, I should have gone to church after all.”

The smile died on his lips when the robber poked Julian’s temple with his gun.

“Your valuables,” he urged.

Julian clenched his teeth when they threatened to clatter. He needed to keep calm. His father believed his friends to be villains, so he could handle one. “I’ve been taken out of the tavern this morning with nothing but the clothes on my back. I lost everything at the tables. You should try my older brother. 

He’s Father’s heir. He should have a healthy sum on him.”

The highwayman gripped the front of Julian’s waistcoat and pulled him forward so hard Julian stumbled straight into the man’s arms. He was much taller than Julian, with wide shoulders that were so strong their size couldn’t be just padding. His clothes smelled of leather and horse sweat, and Julian found himself staring into the eyes above the black scarf.

Before he could say a word, the man turned him around, and pressed the gun to the side of his head.

“Go on, wake up your brother.”

Julian breathed in and out, stiff with discomfort at the warm body pressed against his back as if the highwayman was seeking warmth. The gun provided some relief against heated skin. Its presence made Julian’s blood speed through his veins. It wouldn’t go off. Murder wasn’t in the robber’s interest, but if that was the case, then where the hell was Hunt?

Then an idea illuminated Julian’s mind. “I have a proposition, Mister—”

The highwayman stilled. He’d be lying. Of course. “Noir,” he said in the end. “What kind of proposition can you have, pretty boy? With no money in your pockets.”

Something about Noir’s tone sent a hot shiver through Julian’s ribcage, but he ignored the condescending words and slowly looked back into the blackest eyes he’d ever seen. “I don't have much on me, but you must know my father. He’s William Reece, the cloth merchant. You could take me and ask for ransom. We could split it between us like two gentlemen,” he whispered and gave Noir a polite nod. Appealing to the highwayman’s self-importance should do the trick. His kind were known for a love of opulence and status they didn’t deserve.

He must have managed to surprise the thief, because Noir’s grip on him faltered. “How much could I ask for a son who hates his father?”

Julian exhaled in relief when he felt Noir’s aggression turn away from him. “A lot. He needs me. I’m worth more than you can imagine,” he said with a small smile.

Noir stole another glance at Horace sleeping in the back of the carriage, and his gloved hand slid to Julian’s neck, squeezing around his nape in a way that had Julian rising to his toes. “You better be. You scream, or try to run, and I will kill you.”

Julian swallowed against the warm, soft leather. It felt surprisingly expensive. Might have been snatched from a gentleman. “I don’t doubt that,” he lied. “However, we share a common goal, friend.”

“Call me ‘friend’ once this is all over.” Noir shook his head and pushed Julian behind the carriage, where a gloriously jet-black stallion awaited its rider, and watched Julian with eyes as dark as Noir’s.

“I hope you haven’t hurt our driver. He’s a good fellow,” said Julian, smiling at the huge beast in front of him.

“He’ll live. Your brother will find him once he wakes up.”

Julian was sure there had to be a hint of a smile under that black scarf. When Noir put the gun inside his coat, Julian tried to assess the man more thoroughly.

The black leather riding coat was worn but of good quality. Could have been stolen too, but the clothes underneath, as black as everything the man wore, were clean, suggesting the highwayman wasn’t sleeping rough somewhere. Unless he dressed up for robbery.

Julian opened his mouth to comment on the beauty of the horse, but Noir spun Julian around and pulled back his hands.

“Good heavens. We’re partners,” Julian whispered with distaste. Hot and cold sweats were hitting him in rapid waves, and he couldn’t tell whether he was scared or excited about this new development. Once he got out of this, he could write a novel about the peril of travellers attacked by rogues while driving through a dark, rainy forest, and with a bit of poetic license, call it a true story.

“I haven’t decided on that yet,” said Noir, and a cold shiver went down Julian’s back at the proficiency with which the man tied his hands. A former sailor perhaps? That wouldn’t bode well, as those types rarely possessed the intellectual capability for complicated schemes. His speech was also far too refined to have been only recently acquired. Damnation!

“Mr. Noir. I’d much rather ride with my hands free. You see, I’ve been incapacitated by gin just this morning, and I don’t feel secure enough without my hands to assist me yet. I assure you, I am harmless.”

Once Noir had tied Julian’s hands, he turned him around. “Now you are. Up.” And just as Julian was wondering how exactly he was supposed to climb atop the tall beast, the scoundrel grabbed his legs and picked him up. Julian barely refrained from screaming. It was no way to handle a gentleman, and yet he couldn’t help but be amazed by Noir’s physical prowess.

Definitely a sailor. A naval officer, perhaps.

Julian’s face flushed with heat when he imagined his bottom sticking out like a whore’s ass at a party. Good grief, what had he gotten himself into? What was next? Being kidnapped by pirates?

His foot found the stirrup, and he exhaled with relief, pushing his other leg over the horse’s hindquarters until he straddled its back. “I see no reason for this kind of treatment, considering it was I who came up with a most lucrative opportunity for you.”

“Keep that up, and I will gag you.” Noir was quick to get on the horse himself as soon as he’d attached Julian’s coat and valise to the saddle. Julian felt completely overwhelmed when the man reached for the reins, all but embracing him.

Julian shuddered and curled his shoulders to not be in the way, though no matter what he did, the shape of the saddle brought them close together. 
“You’re a scoundrel. Another man in your profession would have treated me right.”

Noir laughed darkly. “You are correct, sir. How could I have forgotten.” Even though the mockery had him exaggerate the polite accent, Julian was becoming certain that Noir’s natural speech was not that of someone uneducated.
Before Julian understood what was happening, Noir pulled a burlap sack over his head.

“I will scream,” whispered Julian, staring through the dots of light in the smelly thing. He squeezed his hands into fists and pushed them hard against Noir’s stomach. His mind was rattling again, as if the drunkenness returned with full force.

“No one will hear you where we’re going.”

“Julian?” came a sleepy voice from the carriage.

Noir’s thighs tensed, and he must have urged his mount to rush, as it went almost straight into gallop.

Julian screamed at the top of his lungs. “Horace!”

The stallion flew forward, and without the aid of his hands, Julian was forced to hang on to it with his legs alone, shaken like a rattle. The rapid gait moved him back and forth over the front of the saddle, making Julian stiffen and push back against the firm chest behind him. Without seeing where they were going, Julian tried to hold on to anything he had on hand, and as it happened, it was probably Noir’s waistcoat. If the horse tripped, at least they would stumble and break their bones together. Or maybe the villain would cushion Julian’s fall in a well-meaning act of God.

It was Sunday.


Meet the Author:
K. A. Merikan is the pen name for Kat and Agnes Merikan, a team of writers, who are mistaken for sisters with surprising regularity. Kat’s the mean sergeant and survival specialist of the duo, never hesitating to kick Agnes’s ass when she’s slacking off. Her memory works like an easy-access catalogue, which allows her to keep up with both book details and social media. Also works as the emergency GPS. Agnes is the Merikan nitpicker, usually found busy with formatting and research. Her attention tends to be scattered, and despite being over thirty, she needs to apply makeup to buy alcohol. Self-proclaimed queen of the roads.

They love the weird and wonderful, stepping out of the box, and bending stereotypes both in life and books. When you pick up a Merikan book, there’s one thing you can be sure of - it will be full of surprises.


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