Re-Release Blitz: Blind Passion by Penny Brandon


Celebrate the re-release of Blind Passion with author Penny Brandon and Signal Boost Promotions! Learn more about the contemporary romance today!





Length: 82,000 words approx. 

Blurb

Attraction for Adam was not a handsome face, a striking smile, or beautiful eyes, but a scent that would drive him to distraction or a voice that could make his heart beat faster. When the combination of the two walked into his life in Luke, Adam couldn’t help but want him. But how was he supposed to know if Luke felt the same attraction? He had no prior experience, no past encounters, nothing to help him. Not even his sight.


One look at Adam and Luke wanted him. Sensual, gorgeous, kind, with a strength that Luke was drawn to, Adam was everything Luke desired. Being in Adam’s arms, showing him the pleasure of a man’s body, being touched, held, and desired in return, had Luke wanting more, had him wanting what he knew he couldn’t have.


It didn’t matter to him that Adam was blind, but Adam deserved more than someone like him. Luke was a man with a broken past and falling in love with Adam was a foolish thing to do, especially because Adam would never love him back if he found out what Luke was hiding.




About Penny

Penny is a complete romantic who believes everyone can fall in love if only they'll open their heart to the possibility, which is why she writes these hot erotic stories that will always have a happily every after. However, it doesn't mean that she'll make it easy for her men to get there. A lover of things that go bump in the night, Penny's imagination can sometimes run riot, so magic mirrors and evil dolls are only the beginning.


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Blog Tour + Giveaway: Second Wind by Aimee Nicole Walker


Welcome Aimee Nicole Walker and Vibrant Promotions to the clubhouse! The Second Wind blog tour visits with an not only an excerpt, but also a $10 Amazon gift card!

Second Wind Tour Banner
SECOND WIND
AIMEE NICOLE WALKER
M/M ROMANCE
RELEASE DATE: 02.14.18

Second Wind Cover
COVER DESIGN: JAY AHEER/ Simply Defined Art
COVER PHOTOGRAPHER: WANDER AGUIAR
BLURB
Second wind: a new strength or energy to continue something that is an effort. After an amicable divorce, Lincoln Huxley is ready to embrace the sexuality he repressed for more than two decades. Rush Holden is no longer willing to settle for closeted men or those who don’t share his dreams of marriage and fatherhood. A chance encounter on a lakeside pier is the second wind they both need. Or will it just be a painful reminder of all they had lost?
Second chance: an opportunity to try something again that failed one time. Rush and Lincoln have shared a lot of firsts—friendship, young love, and heartbreak. Cruel reality forced the two men to choose paths that took their lives in different directions. Twenty-six years later, they get a second chance to fall in love with each all over again. Can it really be that simple, or will the same issues ruin their happiness a second time?
Happily ever after: to live happily for the rest of one’s life. Rush and Lincoln know that love and life can’t be defined by words alone. Patience, commitment, and the determination to do whatever it takes will be the only way the two men achieve their happily ever after.
Second Wind is a funny, sexy, and endearing standalone romance novel about love, loss, and rediscovery. It contains sexually explicit material and is intended for adults 18 and older.

Second Wind Teaser 2
Second Wind Teaser 3

EXCERPT


I suddenly felt an invisible pull to go to the pier and ride the damn thing. No, Rush wouldn’t be with me in person, but the memory of him would be. I walked the short distance and bought tickets for the Centennial Wheel. The pier was packed with families and friends just looking to have a good time and enjoy the beautiful June weather before the serious humidity hit later in the month.

I felt a little silly as I approached the long line by myself, but I passed the time by texting Phee and checking my email. The line had suddenly stopped advancing, and I wondered if the ride broke down or something. Then I heard the chatter about newlyweds posing for photos with the grand Ferris wheel in the background.

“Look how handsome the grooms look,” someone said.

“It so good that people don’t have to hide any longer,” another person added.

I stepped out of line to see for myself, and my heart thudded to a stop in my chest before it raced with recognition. It wasn’t the grooms that held me spellbound; it was the photographer. I’d know that stance anywhere because I sure as hell had seen it enough times growing up. The camera he held in his hand was a lot different and more expensive than the ones he used to own, but the way he stood and cradled it like a rare treasure was all the same. Rush! But how was this possible? My mind had to be playing tricks on me. This moment was nothing but a fantasy brought on by all the trips down memory lane I’d made the past twenty-four hours. I would wake up to find that I fell asleep in the hotel room instead of walking to the pier.

There was no way in hell that Rush, my Rush, was a few hundred feet away from me. It had to be someone who resembled him. The photographer turned around and smiled at something his assistant said to him. I started walking toward him without stopping to think if I should. For the first time in more than twenty-six years, my world felt right. My Rush.

It felt like I’d caught my second wind.



Aimee Logo
I am a wife and mother to three kids, three dogs, and a cat. When I’m not dreaming up stories, I like to lose myself in a good book, cook or bake. I’m a girly tomboy who paints her fingernails while watching sports and yelling at the referees. I will always choose the book over the movie. I believe in happily-ever- after. Love inspires everything that I do. Music keeps me sane.



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Release Blitz: Pretty in Pink (Housemates #6) by Jay Northcote


Jay Northcote and Signal Boost Promotions are here today to promote the latest New Adult release from the popular Housemates series, Pretty in Pink! Learn more about the romance today!





Cover Design: Garrett Leigh @ Black Jazz Design

Length: 58,000 words approx.

Housemates Series

Book #1 - Helping Hand
Book #2 - Like A Lover 

Blurb

Ryan isn't looking for a relationship with a guy--and Johnny isn't looking for a relationship at all.

Ryan's always been attracted to tall, leggy blondes--normally of the female variety. When Johnny catches his eye at a party, Ryan's interest is piqued even though he's never been with a guy before. The attraction is mutual, and the amazing night that follows opens Ryan's eyes to his bisexuality.

Experience has taught Johnny that love hurts. Staying single is safer, and there's no need for complicated relationships when hooking up is easy. When he moves in next door to Ryan, they're both interested in picking up where they left off, and it seems like an ideal arrangement: convenient, mutually satisfying, and with no strings attached.

Despite their best intentions to keep things casual, they develop an emotional connection alongside the physical one. Both begin to want more from the relationship but are afraid to admit it. If they're going to work things out, they need to start being honest--first with themselves, and then with each other.

Although this book is part of the Housemates series, it has new main characters, a satisfying happy ending, and can be read as a standalone.



Excerpt

Ryan was a few drinks down and feeling pretty buzzed when he first caught sight of blond hair through the crowd of partygoers.

He nearly hadn’t bothered coming out tonight. He had his third year project to write up, and should have been working on that, not partying with his next door neighbours. But the rest of Ryan’s housemates had talked him into it and he could do with letting off some steam, so he hadn’t put up much of a fight. One night couldn’t make too much difference, right?

The blonde arrived late and headed straight into the throng of dancers in the living room, bottle in hand. Tall and leggy in black skinny jeans with shit-kicking boots, Ryan’s interest was piqued immediately and a spike of arousal made his cock wake up. Tall and blonde was completely Ryan’s type, but when this blond slid a leather jacket off slender shoulders and tossed it on the back of the sofa, his washboard-flat chest made it clear he was a guy—so not Ryan’s type after all.

Despite the gut punch of disappointment at that revelation, Ryan found his interest persisted. The guy drew Ryan’s attention like a magnet lining up iron filings, and no matter how hard he tried, Ryan couldn’t stop watching him.

Spurred on by alcohol and reckless impulsivity, Ryan made a conscious decision not to question his attraction and just roll with it. He gradually edged his way into the group where the blond was dancing, and when he finally managed to make eye contact, the guy gave him a knowing smile that reflected Ryan’s interest right back at him. It curled around Ryan’s balls like the gentle, insistent squeeze of a hand.

Game on.

University was supposed to be all about new experiences, and Ryan only had a few months left before he graduated. He’d never hooked up with a guy before, and it had always been on his sexual bucket list, but not a high priority. As a young teen he’d sometimes admired androgynous male models on the pages of magazines that his mum used to buy and felt a confusing interest in them… but he’d never seen a guy in real life he’d wanted to fuck enough to actually do something about it.

Until tonight.








Jay lives just outside Bristol in the West of England. He comes from a family of writers, but always used to believe that the gene for fiction writing had passed him by. He spent years only ever writing emails, articles, or website content.

One day, Jay decided to try and write a short story—just to see if he could—and found it rather addictive. He hasn’t stopped writing since.

Jay writes contemporary romance about men who fall in love with other men. He has five books published by Dreamspinner Press, and also self-publishes under the imprint Jaybird Press. Many of his books are now available as audiobooks.

Jay is transgender and was formerly known as she/her.

www.jaynorthcote.com
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Jay’s books

Guest Review: La Vie en Bleu (Lacuna Chronicles #5) by A.M. Daily

“My mother named me Miel. Grandmother used to laugh because she couldn’t believe anything sweet could ever come from my mother…”

Born in a turbulent age of violent political upheaval and societal collapse, and thrown to the streets of Zenith as a prostitute at a tender age, Blue yearns for a better life and learns to survive by following a simple piece of hard-learned advice: don’t trust anyone.

Heartbroken and embittered, Blue is convinced that love and friendship are unattainable, until a chance meeting with a charming but reckless gang initiate and a passionate affair with an enigmatic Mechi cause him to question everything.

But nothing lasts forever and a cruel twist of fate leads to the loss of love and the birth of an empire in this story of heartache, danger, and hope.

**Trigger Warnings: Dub-con/Non-con, rape, drug use, prostitution, abuse, graphic violence, explicit sexual content**


Reviewer: NeRdyWYRM

Retro-Bio

So, La Vie is, obviously, Blue's story. If you've read the preceding four books, then you were probably intrigued by his character. His life was not easy and human nature dictates that we want all the down and dirty deets.

That said, I did not read the first four books. I usually do that in preparation for writing a review on a book that falls in the middle of a series, but not this time. I did try to get into the series as a whole, and I generally love sci-fi or dystopian themes, but I just couldn't sink into these.

It took me a long time to get into La Vie as well. I can't really put my finger on why that is. Wrong headspace? Maybe. Is it a little slow? No, not at all really. Was it uninteresting? No. Poorly written? No. Poorly edited? No. So truly, I don't know why I struggled, but struggle I did. Does that mean you will? I don't know, but it's worth finding out.

The plot was kind of a retroactive biography of Blue's life. It started before he met the protagonists of the previous books, continued on through the most salient points of his life, and continued beyond that into his future with his ultimate love interest and containing a very effective sci-fi twist. Well, it was more like a sci-fi follow-through, but I don't want to spoil, even by hinting at it. I was glad for Blue at the end. Very, very glad.

In my opinion, this book can be read as a standalone and maybe should be read first. If you're a chronology stickler, you'll just avoid this advice I'm sure *wink* and that's okay, but for me, it actually made me a little curious about the other characters and the preceding books ... but only a little.

I was happy about that though because I don't take failure well, and the fact that book one was kind of a dead end, backburner question mark (for me), rubbed me the wrong way because all signs point to 'yes' that I should and maybe would enjoy the whole series if I hadn't been so ... precipitous in skipping to this one. Gah. I'm rambling.

Long story short, this book was pretty dark. Triggers abound. It can be read as a standalone although that might not be the most advisable route. If you have a hard time getting into book one, that may be an answer for you. Like I said, this one made me think about backtracking. I may or may not follow through on it. Blue was an interesting character and his life journey was, ultimately, pretty damned phenomenal.

The world was pretty well fleshed out given the fact that it actually consists of multiple 'worlds' with differing species and frankly, the human aspect was pretty fucked up. It kind of made me anti-my-own-species, if you know what I mean. I believed in the relationships, even when they weren't the healthiest, and the characters were all very detailed and emotionally evocative.

I'm not doing cartwheels, but I think it's a 'me' thing. For whatever reason I just had a hard time with this title. That's no reflection on the author or the quality of the book, not one bit. The quantifiable aspects of this book were very good indeed, it just didn't fly my ship.

More reviews by NeRdyWYRM can be found on Goodreads here.
Images (when present) may be subject to copyright.
ARC copy provided in exchange of an honest review.



Giveaway + Blog Tour: Lover, Lover (Dreamcatchers #1) by Liv Olteano



Liv Olteano is making her clubhouse debut today to introduce us to her new Dreamspun Beyond novel, Lover, Lover. She's brought an exclusive excerpt & a longer one to whet your whistle as well as a giveaway! Be sure to enter below. Good luck!



Exclusive Excerpt:

“I want to kiss you,” I whispered, staring at his lips.
They were plump and inviting, and I really, really wanted to touch them with my lips and tongue. I wanted to taste him again, to taste the coffee on his lips, the bittersweetness of meeting again. And above all else, I wanted to keep him safe. To be by his side, if possible, and assure his safety. Maybe try to cater to his every whim, too, if he’d let me. God, I wanted him back so badly it was eating a canyon into my heart.
“Don’t play with me,” he whispered, and leaned in.
“I’m not.”
“What if I can’t believe a single word coming out of your mouth?”
“Then don’t listen to my words. Listen to what my body tells you.” I picked up his hand and settled his open palm over my chest. “Feel how fast it’s beating because I’m this close to you. Could it lie, you think?”
He bit his lower lip. “Maybe not. But it might be telling me something different than what you’d have me believe.”
“Give it a chance to tell you anything. Give me another chance.”
“You’re a horrible person.”
“I am.”
“You broke my heart.”
“I know. If it’s any consolation, I also broke my own in the process.”
“I’m dying to feel your lips against mine again,” he murmured, and leaned in all the way.”




Excerpt:

“I put the phone back in my pocket and looked toward the bed. The victim stirred beneath the covers. I knew they were supposed to be sound asleep, but I held my breath nonetheless. It was really weird to stand and look at someone who was sleeping—I felt a bit creepy. The person had to be turning on the other side or something, but then the head poked up. The bedroom windows were positioned so the light from the street hit his face—because I saw clearly it was a man. He blinked a few times and looked at me, his face slack from sleep and probably the shock of staring at someone standing in his bedroom. He had hazel eyes and dark brown hair, and his skin looked just as deliciously tan as I remembered it. His face had changed a bit. The angles were sharper and the lines more prominent. He looked more grown-up somehow. But it was him, without a doubt: Angelo, my first real steady man. The one that got away—well, more accurately, the one I’d walked out on five years ago. Even if he could see me, the red charm still being active, he was supposed to go right back to sleep. If he’d remember anything at all, he’d be convinced it was a dream.

“Drew? Is that you?”

My heart skipped a beat or five. He was most definitely not going back to sleep. He was freaking talking to me! I panicked and quickly swallowed the green charm. I found myself immediately back at our home base, in the webs room, my heart pounding like hell.

Claw poked his head into the room. “Hey, man. Back already?”

I stared at his long, straight black hair, at his black eyes. I’d had a bit of a crush on Claw when I first met him. Something about his dark skin had always reminded me of Angelo’s permanent tan. But Claw’s black eyes with their intense, brooding gaze had never been like Angelo’s glimmering hazel ones. I felt my stomach tighten. Just thinking about his name did things to me, all these years later. I was such a huge moron—they had to invent a whole new league just for me.

“Come into the kitchen,” Claw said. “We’ve got a bit of a celebration going on here. You finally popped your dreamcatcher cherry after all.”

I smiled while my pulse spiked. Oh, crap. Way to end my very first mission—I hadn’t done the cleansing. I’d panicked and fled, without doing the cleansing. Goddamn it! For tonight, having used my red charm there would keep the home shielded. But without the cleansing it would be a beacon to all spaga, calling their attention to the premises and the residents, starting next nightfall. I had to get back there before that. No way was I going to tell Claw I’d screwed up on my first ever mission. No way. I just had to hope Aashi wouldn’t think to check up on my work. She didn’t, usually—at least as far as I knew. I could fix this.

I went into the kitchen where Claw and our other teammate, Taka, were holding up glasses of champagne. I took mine and we toasted to me not being the junior anymore. We didn’t hang around too much after that, going to our rooms instead. Claw had to attend the daily dreamcatcher leaders meeting for the Seattle area. Taka probably went back to his room to read—he was always reading, it seemed to me. And I just went to my room, hoping that the excitement would wind down and I’d be able to sleep.

It took a while. I kept thinking about five years back. I kept remembering nights spent with Angelo, and the sweet mornings after. All the things I now yearned for, and from which I’d run away then. I’d been dealing with a lot of confusion at the time. I hadn’t been able to find my center, and the steady connection between us had only made me feel more off-kilter when it came to everything else. I’d needed to sort myself out. So I walked out on him and tried to do just that.

It seemed to me that before shaking shit off and figuring yourself out, you had to get piles of shit a mile high weighing you down so you’d have the proper incentive. So I’d worked on my pile until it was nice and large. And then I’d shaken it off and figured out who the hell I was and what I wanted from life. Sad thing was, in my rare moments of honesty, I knew part of what I wanted was what I’d had with Angelo.

The look in his eyes tonight kept overlapping with the look in his eyes the day I’d moved out. It had hurt to walk out that day. I could imagine how it must’ve hurt him to see me do it. I had to make amends somehow. I had to keep him safe.

I finally fell asleep with the image of his hazel eyes running through my mind over and over again.

Want to read more from Chapter 1? Check out the book on the Dreamspinner Press site (below) and hit the Read an Excerpt button right beneath the cover! xD

Blurb:

Twin souls reunited.

Drew’s always been a fighter: first in martial arts competitions, and now as a dreamcatcher—keeping the people of Seattle safe from spaga attacks that would drain their life force in their sleep. All he has to do to become a full member of Team 32 is complete his first mission.

But the first one he has to defend is his ex, Angelo… the only man Drew ever loved, even if he was the one to leave. Drew never got over Angelo, and it seems Angelo might feel the same, despite the heartbreak he suffered at Drew’s hands.

As the chase after a powerful and resourceful caster hits close to home, old feelings resurface. But if Angelo learns of the dreamcatchers, he’ll be a target for the spaga. And how can he trust Drew now that Drew’s keeping bigger secrets than ever?



Buy Links:


About Liv Olteano:

Liv Olteano is a voracious reader, music lover, and coffee addict extraordinaire. And occasional geek. Okay, more than occasional.

She believes stories are the best kind of magic there is. And life would be horrible without magic. Her hobbies include losing herself in the minds and souls of characters, giving up countless nights of sleep to get to know said characters, and trying to introduce them to the world. Sometimes they appreciate her efforts. The process would probably go quicker if they’d bring her a cup of coffee now and then when stopping by. Characters—what can you do, right?

Liv has a penchant for quirky stories and is a reverent lover of diversity. She can be found loitering around the Internet at odd hours and being generally awkward and goofy at all times.

Links:




Enter to win a $10 DSP Gift Card. Giveaway ends February 28th!

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ICYMI: Read our 4 ❤️ review of Lover, Lover here.

Review: Teaching Ben by Shae Connor

Learning to love means a study in patience.

Fresh out of the military, Ben Cooper is ready for a new start. He’s away from his domineering father, making his own choices… and out of the closet. On his first day of college, he meets David Powell, who’s just the kind of gorgeous man Ben’s dreamed of. Too bad he’s the teaching assistant—which makes him off-limits in Ben’s eyes.

David is Ben’s age, but his life has taken a different path. He’s close with his family, who helped him deal with personal struggles after he came out. And while he’s staying away from any hint of scandal, Ben’s a kind of temptation he hasn’t faced in years. If only they’d met on more equal footing.

As the semester progresses and their lives become more entwined, keeping their relationship platonic becomes more difficult. They just have to hold out until the end of the semester…


This was cute but it didn’t really do much for me.

I’ll keep this short.

I liked the idea of student Ben falling for “teacher” David and the beginning with their flirting was super cute. It was even great seeing them become friends and David folding Ben into his family even if was just with his sister and roommate Hope for the time being.

But what bugged me was the reasons these two stayed away from each other for so long. I get that both men have had issues in their past but to keep beating the reader over the head with “But he’s my teacher” or “But he’s my student” was redundant and ridiculous because we are also beat over the head with the knowledge that Ben and David could be in a relationship and IT WASN’T AGAINST THE RULES.

I am all in for the slow burn but this was so slow, I got bored. The romance was pushed aside by a few characters that weren’t necessary and the Larry issues seemed to be a way to distract the reader and took me out of the story. David’s secrets weren’t as scandalous as we were lead to believe and the way he reveals his secret to Ben was told really weird and again took me out of the story when I should have been deeply engaged at that point.

There were parts I really liked and I did like Ben and David as characters, I even liked their chemistry but I wish something happened sooner than it did. The long drawn out wait for them to move forward romantically in any way made the sex or pay off for the wait feel obligatory and not organic. I didn’t care at that point if there was sex or not. But weirdly enough, I bought the “I love you’s” between them.

I don’t know. This wasn’t the book for me so we’ll leave it at that.




Release Blitz + Giveaway: Love on a Battlefield by Posy Roberts


Posy Roberts and Xpresso Book Tours host the Love on a Battlefield release blitz today! Don't miss out on learning about the second chance romance today! Enter in the giveaway for your chance to win a $20 Amazon gift card!

Love on a Battlefield
Posy Roberts
Publication date: February 20th 2018
Genres: Adult, LGBTQ+, Romance
Not every compass points north.
Andrew Summers is forced to spend his vacations reliving Civil War battles with his father. He hates every minute, until a blue-eyed, red-haired boy behind enemy lines catches his eye.
Shep Wells would much rather travel the world than play at boring war reenactments. He never dreamed a Texan boy would capture his heart.
Real life and years separate them; Andrew is forced onto real battlefields, but for Shep the world is a playground. They’re opposites, but writing letters closes the distance, uncovering their hopes and dreams. When Shep visits Andrew, they get to see if the tug they’ve felt for years is the compass pointing the way home.

EXCERPT:
My father started taking me to Civil War reenactments long before I understood the politics of the war and its moral implications. I was introduced to the tradition before I knew what any war was truly about.
It wasn’t until I was sixteen that I was allowed to carry a weapon and shoot it myself. The physicality of battle was exciting. Hand-to-hand combat when munitions were spent was better than football any day.
But there were strict rules my dad implemented that I didn’t enjoy. “If we’re going to do this,” Dad always said, “we’ll be as authentic as possible. We’ll do it right, unlike those people who think this is Summer Stock.”
I wasn’t allowed to socialize with the Yankees at all, so I hung out with the Confederate kids or sat around campfires listening to the adults shoot the shit. If school was in session, I’d bury myself in homework and often ended up helping some of the younger kids with their lessons. The guys my own age . . . Well, we had little in common. Some were intense, a few down-right scary with their racism so proudly displayed.
What I’d learned after hanging out with them for years was that they hated everyone who wasn’t like them.
I wasn’t like them, but I wasn’t about to let them know for fear they’d turn their hate on me.
For the last two years, I’d watched a Union kid who only came to a few of these events, not like most of the reenactors, who made this a way of life. When he showed up, he was the center of attention. Maybe because he was novel, but when he was there, he always drew my eye. It was obvious the other kids looked up to him, fawned all over him, really. I never got close enough to talk to him, to find out what made him so fascinating.
But I saw it from afar. He was strong yet graceful, with a mess of hair in a color I’d never seen outside of jewelry or pipe fittings. His smile was easily earned, and he seemed so . . . carefree. So unlike the overly serious and angry kids who surrounded me.
I’d watch the Union kids in their shorts and T-shirts laughing and having fun. I wanted to be a deserter. I wanted to go see what life was like on their side. It sure as hell looked like a lot more fun than what ended up feeling like a weekend prison sentence in a hot, scratchy suit.
I couldn’t stop myself from turning to him, staring at him. I’d watch him leap into the air to catch a wayward Frisbee or wrestle boys to the ground, then help them up, all with a bright smile on his face.
Last summer, he’d worn a wreath of daisies in his hair, walking around as if it was the most normal thing in the world. My ‘friends’ laughed at him and speculated about his sexuality. I joined the adults then, unwilling to spend any more time with the assholes. It brought me closer to the redhead too, so I made myself blend in with my surroundings and looked to my heart’s content.
I didn’t know his name. I never got the chance to find out, but if he was here this time, I was determined to discover it.
As we arrived Friday afternoon, I scanned the area for his hair but didn’t see him. After setting up camp, I followed my father out of our tent and joined the other men as they scoured maps and walked the battlefield to get a lay of the land. I turned down an invitation to hang out with the Rebel kids and instead listened to an expert on this particular battle drone on and on. Sitting there, sweating in my wool uniform under the scorching heat for hours, I had to get out from under the sun.
“I’m going to go fill up my canteen,” I whispered to my father.
“Stay hydrated.”
I gave him a quick nod, made my way past the tent filled with women and young girls quilting or spinning yarn, and found the metal water pump. I pushed down on the handle, trying to draw up the water, with little luck.
That’s when I saw him. He was in full Union dress, the buttons of his coat making the gold and red highlights in his hair appear metallic. He was unlike anyone else I’d ever seen.
He walked toward me with a wide smile. Sure of himself, but not cocky. More . . . careless. Utterly free.
“Want some help?” he asked. “I heard it’s hard to get this one started.”
I met his blue eyes, brilliant and wild like the sea. I was stunned into silence. He was even hotter up close, and suddenly I was unable to form words. I nodded my assent instead.
He wrapped his fingers around the metal handle and pushed down. It made a grating squeak that echoed, but the lever moved. He helped me push it down several times, hands sliding closer and closer with each pump until our fingers intertwined.
He laughed as water poured from the spout, and he bent down to taste the stream. The smell of iron surrounded us as I filled my canteen.
I watched him wet his hair, making it darker, which made his skin look extra pale. He was gorgeous, and the way the sun hit him right then, he looked like something out of a dream.
Stop being cheesy, I chided. So he’s hot. Don’t turn him into a fricking poem.
I replaced the cork, slung my bottle over my shoulder by the leather thong, smiled at him, and rejoined my father.
As we lined up on the battlefield the next day, I saw that shock of auburn hair straight across from me. Before I could make eye contact, the battle had begun, horses moving, gunfire blasting, and a few men already collapsing to the ground, probably playing out some real-life soldier’s tragic end.
I took out several Union soldiers with my fake munitions before I tripped over a rock. As I regained my footing and stood up, he was right in front of me.
I don’t recall if we gave each other a visual cue or if he said something, but we both decided to take a hit, bodies falling to the ground. We landed face-to-face, limbs sprawled out in opposite directions. My father was near, so I slammed my eyes shut, authenticating my death until I heard his voice move away with the continuing battle building.
When I dared open my eyes again, the Yankee soldier was staring at me, smiling and licking his lips. His jaw was strong, defined, dusted with stubble from who-knew-how-many-days growth, and it drew my attention to his chin and full lips. We lay there studying each other for several minutes, shamelessly staring, before he scooted closer.



Author Bio:
Posy Roberts started reading romance when she was young, sneaking peeks at adult books long before she should’ve. Textbooks eventually replaced the novels, and for years she existed without reading for fun. When she finally picked up a romance two decades later, it was like slipping on a soft hoodie . . . that didn’t quite fit like it used to. She wanted something more.

She wanted to read about men falling in love with each other. She wanted to explore beyond the happily ever after and see characters navigate the unpredictability of life. So Posy sat down at her keyboard to write the books she wanted to read.

Her stories have been USA Today’s Happily Ever After Must-Reads and Rainbow Award finalists. When she’s not writing, she’s spending time with her family and friends and doing anything possible to get out of grocery shopping and cooking.

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Review: Lover, Lover (Dreamcatchers #1) by Liv Olteano

Twin souls reunited.

Drew’s always been a fighter: first in martial arts competitions, and now as a dreamcatcher—keeping the people of Seattle safe from spaga attacks that would drain their life force in their sleep. All he has to do to become a full member of Team 32 is complete his first mission.

But the first person he must defend is his ex, Angelo… the only man Drew ever loved, even if he was the one to leave. Drew never got over Angelo, and it seems Angelo might feel the same, despite the heartbreak he suffered at Drew’s hands.

As the chase after a powerful and resourceful caster hits close to home, old feelings resurface. But if Angelo learns of the dreamcatchers, he’ll be a target for the spaga. And how can he trust Drew now that Drew’s keeping bigger secrets than ever?



I have a thing for books with fated mates or anything resembling that. I love the idea that there is simply one person out there that is made for you and no matter what you do, you HAVE to be with them. The want, the need and yeah even the insta love does it for me and with this story, we have the Native American legend of twin souls.

We meet Drew, the youngest member of Team 32 - a team of dreamcatchers - as he is going about his day being hanging around the shared house with his teammates waiting for the moment he gets his first assignment. When the moment comes, Drew is sent to protect a human who is being targeted by a spaga… lets get this out there real quick. Spaga are magically created creatures who “sneak into unsuspecting sleeping victims’ homes at night, giving them nightmares to get them agitated and steal their life force. It’s Drew’s job as a dreamcatcher to keep the human and their dreams safe. But this time, this very first mission of Drew’s leads him to the man he walked away from five years ago, the love of his life, Angelo. Momentarily distracted by the sight of Angelo, Drew fumbles his job, with a three second eye-to-eye moment with Angelo and takes his magic pill back home.

I love that this all happened in the first chapter and that we get Drew’s inner dialogue of lament about leaving Angelo. We get the why of it and we get some serious feels. I love second chance romances and I couldn't wait to see how Drew would try to reconnect with Angelo knowing they are now in the same city.

The re-meet cute was adorable even though we have a wary Angelo of Drew after their history, but he can’t seem to help himself and allows Drew to meet him where he works so they can talk. The chemistry with these two was instant and palpable; you could feel the pull they had to one another. The chemistry is so important as it gives that feeling, that pull which allowed the quick decisions made about their romance to be believed and everything that happens after.

I appreciated the take on the Native American legend of the dreamcatchers. How their “boss” Aashi, who is technically a spider, is the one who sends them out on missions and how each dreamcatcher is recruited to become a soldier of the ancestors. I loved the take on twin souls and how rare Drew and Angelo are, to be not only twin souls, but have the life force to also be dreamcatchers and together, they will be a force to be reckoned with.

Sure, the forgiving and falling back in love was fast and simply with Drew and Angelo, but they are twin souls, so it’s not a problem for me at all. I liked them together, I liked how they wanted to protect one another even before Angelo learns about the world Drew lives in. I loved how Angelo accepts who Drew fully is and the reason for his decision.

The story was fun and fluffy, just as a Dreamspun Beyond book should be. It was full of the paranormal with a twist and the romance that made me grin.



Release Blitz + Giveaway: Aerie (The Chinjoka Saga #1) by Jon Keys


Learn more about Aerie (The Chinjoka Saga #1)! Author Jon Keys and IndiGo Marketing deliver more information about the fantasy MM! Visit today and enter in the $10 NineStar Press credit giveaway! 



Title:  Aerie
Series: The Chinjoka Saga, Book One
Author: Jon Keys
Publisher:  NineStar Press
Release Date: February 19, 2018
Heat Level: 3 - Some Sex
Pairing: Male/Male
Length: 77900
Genre: Fantasy, NineStar Press, LGBT, shifters, magic, gods, friends to lovers, enemies to lovers, slow burn

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Synopsis

Askari, Dhala, and Gyam grew up as childhood friends during happier days for the Chinjoka, an Iron Age people with the ability to shapeshift, but now they must learn their place among the tribe while dealing with both a devastating plague and war with the Misiq.

Ena is a young warrior for the more savage Misiq, a tribe whose cruelty exemplifies their deity—the Angry God. The Misiq, also shifters, have declared a genocidal war against the Chinjoka, blaming them for the disease devastating both tribes. As a result, they are locked in a battle for survival. But when Ena is shown compassion by those he means to harm, he begins to question all he’s ever known.

A chance meeting changes their lives, and maybe their tribes, forever.

Excerpt

Aerie
Jon Keys © 2018
All Rights Reserved

Chapter One
Dhala’s world overflowed with desperation as he filled a bowl with crystalline water trickling along the edge of the sky portal for Gyam’s aerie. His attempt to spot Gyam in his flyer form was thwarted by the dense early spring fog that limited the visibility of the surroundings. Even the river running along the cliff was hidden from Dhala’s sharp eyes.

Assigned to be the Saat responsible for the last two Athru, Dhala took his worker caste’s responsibility of caring for Gyam and Choro with much weight, especially since Choro was in the final throes of the deadly plague that had devastated the Chinjoka over the last few cycles. As Choro’s health diminished ever more rapidly, Dhala and Gyam had become ever more desperate until, before first light, Gyam had left on the final attempt to gain their friend and mentor more time.

A gust sent a spray onto Dhala’s face and moistened the nest of short curls framing it. With the bowl having long ago been filled, he wiped the water from his skin and sighed.

“You can’t will him to travel faster, Dhala.”

Startled from his dower mood, he grabbed the bowl of fresh water from the trickle and moved to Choro’s side. “I’m so sorry. I was lost in thought.” He dropped a soft piece of trade cloth into the liquid, squeezed it almost dry, and ran it over the man’s face. Choro’s labored breathing echoed through the room, a symptom of how far the disease had progressed. Dhala found some solace knowing they’d had no new cases for a cycle. But sadness overwhelmed him each time he allowed himself to consider Choro losing his battle against the sickness.

With a hand withered to little more than talon and sinew, Choro caught his wrist. “Dhala, I’m neither fevered nor in need of cleaning. We both know my time is limited. Gyam set himself on this task hoping to change my fate, but this sun cycle is likely my last.”

Dhala scrubbed the tears from his face and scowled at the feeble figure lying before him. With a fierce determination, he grabbed the older man’s hand between his. “Choro, you will live. Gyam will find an osa herd, and the fresh meat will give you the strength to last until we discover a healing.” Dhala glanced out the cave opening to the fog-swathed valley that stretched to the forests surrounding Mother Falls high in the mountains to the north. Nothing of Gyam was visible, but he turned to Choro filled with a stubborn glint. “Soon. He must return soon.”

Choro lay back with a rattling breath. “Fledgling, we have not cured what is killing the Chinjoka in all the cycles since it began. Each caste suffered losses. Once I am gone, Gyam is the last Athru. None of the fledglings show signs of the Athru change, and the responsibilities weigh heavily on Gyam.”

Dhala dropped his gaze as Choro reminded him of his greatest shame. But there was a gentle touch on his chin, and he lifted his head. He took the elder’s hand in his, and Choro smiled sadly.

“It’s no fault of yours that you never left the Saat caste. The Father of the Twins decides who takes to the sky, who are the protectors, and who cares for others. We are all born with the abilities of the Saat, and many become able to shift to the protective plates of the Onija. But the few who are gifted with the faculty to shift into one of the Chinjoka flyers guard us from the sky. We all stop where the Father decrees.”

Dhala sighed again but released Choro and moved the bowl aside. The elder was right. Dhala needed to accept his place and the disappointment of never becoming one of the Athru caste as his father always believed he would. He would never develop the stone-hard plate of the Onija, much less the ability to become the taloned and winged protector of the Chinjoka.

Dhala’s father held several unique beliefs, including that the earthbound Saat were as important as the soaring Athru. When he was a child, Dhala spent many hours with his friends, climbing the precipice above the village as the Athru flyers glided across the azure sky. He’d loved the time among the heights, regardless of the season, but warm summer mornings were his favorite. By afternoon, the sun would heat the rocks, making them uncomfortable, but during the early mornings, the breeze coming from the warming grasslands northward to the cutleaf forest made it easy to imagine what flight over the last Chinjoka settlement would be like.

He glanced again to the outside, thrilled at the rays of sun cutting through the dawn haze and bringing the river far below them into sharper relief. The dry-fit stone wall that formed the flight path for this aerie glowed with the golden light of morning.

“He’s fine. Gyam is the strongest Athru I’ve met during my time in the aeries. When the Father takes me, he will need your help.”

Choro’s reference to the afterlife made Dhala cringe. He and Gyam had been determined to heal Choro of the plague since his first symptoms. Anyone who’d shown signs of the disease had left on the Long Flight with no exceptions. Dhala lost far too many of his friends, as had most of the Chinjoka. But when Choro showed the difficulty breathing that was the typical first symptom, Dhala fought with ferocious determination to save his friend and advisor. Choro’s downward spiral caused Dhala and Gyam to drift apart. They’d been among the best of friends since they were fledglings, but Choro’s terminal condition left Gyam bitter and unpredictable.

The result might be different if their only Athru healer hadn’t been one of the first to die. Others tried to find a cure, including his mother who was a well-versed Saat healer. The failure to determine a cure made people doubt their skills and, in some cases, blame the spread of the disease on the Saat healers. Regardless of the truth, no healer had been successful, and most had stopped their efforts, for fear they might be blamed.

“He comes.”

Dhala glanced at Choro, who nodded toward the aerie’s sky portal. An instant later, the slow beat of wings came closer. Dhala swept the room with his gaze and found everything to his satisfaction. He moved close as Gyam landed on the rock opening. Dhala couldn’t keep from gasping in awe any time he saw Gyam.

Each smooth wing was as long as Dhala’s height. The muscles across his shoulders and down his torso flexed with each swipe of his webbed appendages. Dhala stepped away when Gyam thrust his elongated muzzle toward him and screamed a high piercing call, demanding attention. Dhala wanted to clasp his hands over his ears but knew instead he would do as Gyam demanded. Gyam tensed and released another scream.

Dhala dashed forward and grabbed the blood-dripping osa heart from Gyam’s taloned hand. The fresh organ from the small grazer still quivered with the final throes of life. He rushed to Choro’s side, ignoring Gyam’s cry.

He knelt beside the older man and offered him the fist-sized heart. Choro preferred the meat of the smaller grazers, and a freshly harvested heart was a special treat. Both Dhala and Gyam hoped it would give him more strength, but Dhala feared it was Choro’s last meal. More of Choro’s presence in this world disappeared with each breath.

But he wouldn’t give up hope. Dhala arranged Choro’s bedding to make him as comfortable as possible while he enjoyed the treat. Choro sank his teeth into the morsel with clear relish as blood coated his fingers. Dhala couldn’t help but smile at the elder attacking the tidbit with the same enjoyment as a fledgling with a sweet treat. A short time later, Choro finished and glanced around him.

Dhala squeezed out the cloth he’d been using earlier and handed it to Choro, who took it with a grin and wiped himself clean. Once he’d finished, he lay back on the bed, closed his eyes, and sighed.

His voice rolled across the room. “Delicious, Gyam. That was the best osa I’ve eaten in many seasons.”

Dhala glanced over his shoulder to find Gyam in the midst of his change from his Athru form. The webbing was absorbing into wings, which were disappearing into Gyam’s muscular body, and interlocking scales were becoming supple skin as Gyam left the form marking him as Athru. Dhala relished the beautiful body being revealed to him. When front paws and talons became work-roughened hands, Gyam made his final shift to leave his Athru form and stood nude behind him. Dhala tried not to stare but lost his struggle. Usually, Gyam covered himself, but today, he held his loincloth in one hand while watching Choro. His stout, muscular body demanded Dhala’s attention until he realized how inappropriate he was being, especially given Gyam’s current state. Dhala was painfully aware of the attraction he’d had for Gyam since they’d both grown beyond fledglings, but he would keep his role as Saat for Gyam and Choro during his time of sorrow for them all.

He wrenched his gaze to the ailing man and got a smile and quick wink. Caught staring at Gyam, Dhala dropped his attention to the floor. A slight rustling served as warning when Gyam walked past him, making the last tie on his loincloth before kneeling at the side of Choro’s pallet.

“Elder, how are you feeling? Did the osa help?” Gyam asked.

Choro smiled and tapped Gyam’s cheek. Gyam grinned, and Dhala caught a glimpse of his friend from cycles past. He leaned in to give Choro a kiss on each cheek, but Choro’s gaze included both of them.

“It was warm and delicious, exactly what I needed. We must be honest. In spite of all your work, there is no cure. I am not long for this flight. My wings are tattered and bones are brittle. I will soon be with my mate. Both of you must accept this.”

Hot tears rolled down Dhala’s cheeks as he listened. He knew the truth of Choro’s assessment. His body was failing. Dhala’s gut twisted with grief, and a sob leaked from his lips.

Gyam turned on Dhala and snarled. His face elongated and his canine teeth grew as his emotions overtook his body. But before anything happened, Choro spoke.

“That’s enough, Gyam. You two stretched my life further than any of the others who have fallen victim to this illness. For that, I thank you. But the time is here.”

Gyam motioned at Dhala as he spoke. “He’s given up. He’s letting you die.”

Choro glared and sat up. Dhala scrambled to change his bedding to make it easier, but Choro waved him away. The movement threw Choro into a coughing spell that left him gasping for air.

“Please, Elder. Don’t strain yourself. I will do as you wish,” Gyam said.

Choro again motioned them off, but not before Dhala saw the flecks of blood on his lips. He lacked none of the weight of his role as elder Athru when he turned to Gyam.

“You will be the last Athru. You need your friends. You have been together with Dhala since you both ran free of clothing during the warm moons. You’ve protected and guarded each other through your time together. Now you have let this come between you, and it must stop. Dhala is your friend even though he is Saat. You have grown up together and must regain your ability to work together. Athru, Saat, or Onija, you are all Chinjoka. This disease has almost destroyed our people. So many have died, and only one village remains. You must rebuild the people. You cannot succeed without all three castes who make up the Chinjoka.”

Choro lapsed into another coughing fit. This one left him flat on his bed, sweating and gasping for air. He covered his eyes with an arm and tried to breathe. A morning breeze curled around them, bringing a mix of scents of the Chinjoka Basin, from the verdant growth of the shortgrass plains in the south to the crisp scent of the great cutleaf trees nourished by the Pilea River. The single wisp of air reminded Dhala of everything at stake for the Chinjoka nation. Dhala moved closer, pushing an immobile Gyam aside. He checked Choro’s pulse and found a weak thread. He ran his hands down the older man’s neck, but halfway along his path, Choro grabbed his wrists with the strength of a failing butterfly. The silent command left no doubt. He met Dhala’s gaze and nodded.

“Soon. But not now.” His gaze moved to encompass both of them. “You look like the gods are testing you. Both of you should rest, but I know neither of you will listen. I plan to sleep and won’t argue with either of you any further.”

With that, Choro sank into his bed and closed his eyes. Dhala waited but worried. He moved when Choro parted his lips.

“If you check my heartbeat, Dhala, I will hurt you in ways to prevent any enjoyment with a mate for the rest of your life.”

Dhala drew away and turned at a snort from Gyam. His dark eyes twinkled as he looked at both Choro and Dhala. “He’s not making idle threats. Even as he is now. Come. We can build up the fire and plan the evening meal. I asked a group of Onija caste hunters to bring the osa carcass. We must be ready for its arrival.”

They had created a bed of glowing coals when a voice came from the passageway carved into the interior of the cliff as a way to reach the upper caves.

“I could use a little help here! Gyam picked the biggest Twins-blessed osa in the entire basin.”

Dhala recognized the voice as another of their friends. Askari was of the Onija caste and one of the most successful hunters among the Chinjoka, but as a warrior, he was unequaled in the village. The plates he formed as Onija were as strong as iron but as mobile as Dhala’s soft skin. Dhala should have known it would be him who retrieved Gyam’s kill. That the three of them had been inseparable since they began to walk made it even more certain that Askari would be the one who would retrieve Gyam’s take. Even though the Father had spread his gifts through the castes as they went through puberty, bodies changing in line with their castes, their friendships had remained. They rushed to the path and found Askari balanced precariously while gripping the carcass he’d thrown across one shoulder. Dhala moved down the first few steps, grabbed the carcass by the stag’s straight-spiraling horns, heaved it upward, and settled it onto his shoulder. Once the body was securely in place, he carried it into the aerie.

Askari followed a few steps behind him, and as they reentered, he spared a glance toward Choro’s sleeping form before turning to the other men. Dhala stripped to his breechcloth and used his long knife to cut openings in the hind legs’ tendons so he could hang the osa from the tripod kept for that purpose. With practiced knife work, he peeled the hide from one side while Gyam worked on the other. With a soft crackle, he pulled the skin loose around the neck and glanced toward Askari. The plates from his Onija shift were still prominently displayed over his torso and brow. While scales proved invaluable in protecting one from the Onija caste during battle or hunting, they limited Askari’s finger mobility. The limitation made tasks requiring fine dexterity more difficult. Askari maintained his distance from the work being done, but Dhala knew his friend too well to allow him to avoid the dirty work of butchering the carcass.

“Askari, wake up and shift back from your Onija form. You can help.” He gestured his knife toward Gyam. “We want osa for dinner. The rest needs to be spread on a drying rack.”

Askari closed his eyes and skewed his face in an expression Dhala recognized as he shifted from his warrior form. Once Askari began, it took little time before his skin was as smooth, flexible—and vulnerable—as Dhala’s. He flexed his fingers a few times before pulling his side knife. Askari’s skill with a blade was evident by the speed the meat was prepared. With the three of them working together, butchering proceeded with well-practiced efficiency. As often as the three of them had hunted together, they should be skilled at sharing the work.

Dhala checked on Choro and saw his chest rising and falling. Signs of life, even if his breathing was shallow, gave Dhala hope. He had the urge to evaluate further but considered Choro’s earlier threat. He found the others cleaning the osa blood from their hands. Askari held out the bowl of water he’d filled earlier.

“Here, use what’s left, and I’ll get more.”

Dhala nodded and let Askari pour the cool liquid over his hands. He rubbed them together to loosen the drying bits from his skin. Once that was done, Askari splashed more water onto Dhala’s hands. After a few repetitions, Dhala was clean, and the pottery bowl was empty. He dried himself on his tunic and nodded to Askari.

“Thank you. We appreciate your help.”

Gyam glanced up and one brow lifted. But a moment later, he returned to the task he was trying to complete. His knife flashed in the light as he sliced the loin free from the backbone, cut the meat into thick slices, and threaded them onto fire-hardened skewers before hanging them over crimson coals. The meat was soon sizzling and filled the aerie with delicious aromas.

They tended the meat, constantly turning it to get a perfect sear on all sides. But while they did, Dhala kept a continual watch on Choro. All three friends worked to carve what remained into thin strips and hang them from the drying rack Dhala put in the small fire’s draft. The sun approached its peak when they finished. The skewered loin had cooked to perfection. Askari had always claimed a talent for cooking. He’d often said if Gyam had no choice but to eat his own cooking, he would learn how to do a decent job with its preparation. The smells of food had Dhala’s stomach growling, but he checked on Choro first to see if he might be interested in eating.

He walked over and squatted beside Choro’s bed. When he leaned forward to shake him awake, Choro’s eyes fluttered open.

“I’m still here, Dhala. The aroma of cooking osa was enough to keep me. It smells delicious. I haven’t eaten a meal from Askari in too many moons.”

“You will enjoy his cooking many more—” Dhala’s throat tightened, and he could not complete what he and Choro both knew was a lie. The older man patted his hand and smiled sadly.

“I relish sharing this meal with you. Bring me a piece of that delicious meat, fledgling. Invite the others to join us. I think we’ll have the best meal we’ve had in seasons.” He studied Dhala and continued. “Be certain to put out an offering of the osa to the gods, especially the Father. Their favor is needed by all of us.”

Dhala rushed away, glad to be focused on anything other than Choro’s rapid decline. The others turned to him as he approached. He glanced at them as he brought his emotions under control.

“Choro says the meat smells delicious and would like for us to share the meal with him,” Dhala said.

Askari leaned closer and whispered, “How is he?”

Dhala motioned toward the sleeping area. “He asked me to assure the offerings from the successful hunt. I will take care of their placement on the fire. Go. Sit with Choro and enjoy sharing our meal with him.”

Dhala drew his blade and carefully sliced thick pieces from the osa’s mineral-rich liver. After adding more wood to the fire, he dropped the raw meat into the searing hot coals. As the scent of the roasting delicacy filled the aerie, Dhala began a simple chant of thanks every Chinjoka was taught before their first blooding. As the last of the flesh turned dark, a breeze blew across the fire, hiding it in the smoke. Once Dhala’s sight returned, no trace of the meat remained. He hesitated but then joined the others with a shake of his head.

The three young men gathered the food they had prepared and sat on the floor surrounding their elder. Dhala brought small drinking bowls, one for each of them, filled with clear water Askari had brought from the river while they cooked. The mood was somber; everyone had seen the disease progress too many times. Choro only nibbled at his meat before setting it to one side. He lowered himself into the bedding and stared toward the open sky as they finished the rest of the meal.

“There are so few of us left. I don’t know how the Chinjoka can survive. Our gods have deserted us and the sickness destroyed the tribe until we are tempting targets to our enemies,” Choro whispered. The others fell silent as they explored their own dark memories. Blood-laced saliva and the gradual failure of the victims’ ability to breathe were the symptoms burned into the memory of any Chinjoka. The number of people Dhala had eased onto their Long Flight left him numb. Even at his young age, he remembered when the plague began. Hysteria made a bad situation worse. Early, when so many were dying, terror ruled people’s actions. Saat healers suggested any possible cure or at least a way to stop its spread. Its progression was slow but always fatal. It didn’t seem to spread through contact. In many cases, some members of a family would not develop symptoms, while their fathers, mothers, brothers, or sisters perished. The Athru healer who might have been able to develop a cure died in the first wave of fatalities. Saat healers could do nothing, but ignorance and malice caused them to be blamed for the disease. The first season was devastating for the Chinjoka, physically and emotionally.

One village had thrown a Saat healer from the burial heights in a confused effort to gain attention from the Father. Choro, and the other Athru caste who lived then, championed the Saat healers. But people still feared the illness that was wiping out entire villages, and the healers’ fear of retribution led them to stop aiding, not only those afflicted with the plague but other diseases normally not considered serious. This caused more deaths, this time from lack of rudimentary healing. The last of the plague victims received the best possible care. But even with the finest healing, like Choro was given, the ending was too predictable. And too tragic.

The small group finished their meal, and Dhala cleared the remains, dropping them into the cooking fire. The other two sat near Choro to fulfill any request. Dhala studied them, trying to think of anything to make Choro more comfortable. But he’d done all he could. To give Dhala something to occupy his thoughts, he began the work of tanning the osa hide. First, he brought a frame from the storage room. He cut a thin strip from the outer edge of the skin and made small slits along the edge. With care, he laced the pelt to the frame, stretching it into place.

“You have a skill to appreciate, Dhala. Don’t forget others take note of your labor,” Choro said.

Dhala faltered at his task. Tears flowed again as he met the gaze of the elder. He broke contact to refocus on his task even though emotions overwhelmed him. One thing he had learned early in life, emotional and fragile Chinjoka suffered short and miserable lives. He nurtured the strength to continue even when overwhelmed with impending loss. This was no different as he focused on scraping the hide clean, fingerwidth by fingerwidth.

But his walls broke and loneliness poured into Dhala. Too overwhelmed to continue, he let his hands drop to his side as he wept. No one chastised him for his lack of control, even though it was certain everyone heard. His strength waned as his sorrow leaked out as salty tears.

A light touch shocked Dhala, and he turned to find Gyam standing beside him. He stiffened, expecting a reprimand. But no rebuke came. Gyam instead knelt beside him and hugged him. Dhala returned his embrace. During that moment, his friend since birth returned, and the formal Athru of recent seasons vanished.

“He will be fine. I think the fresh meat brought him new energy. He will recover. Don’t grieve for him.”

Dhala schooled his expression before meeting Gyam’s gaze. Unable to lie, he spoke a different truth. “I believe Choro is one of the strongest Chinjoka I’ve ever met. If anyone can conquer the disease killing us, it will be him.”

Gyam patted his shoulder and flashed a smile at Dhala.

“Exactly. Now, one of us will sit with him so we are close if he needs anything. Otherwise, we will continue our day.”

“Of course, Gyam.”

Dhala tried to add more, but his knowledge of the Saat healing was too limited to enable him to sense the state of Choro’s rapidly deteriorating health. He nodded and turned to his work.

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Meet the Author

Jon Keys’ earliest memories revolve around books; with the first ones he can recall reading himself being “The Warlord of Mars” and anything with Tarzan. (The local library wasn’t particularly up to date.) But as puberty set in, he started sneaking his mother’s romance magazines and added the world of romance and erotica to his mix of science fiction, fantasy, Native American, westerns and comic books.

A voracious reader for almost half a century, Jon has only recently begun creating his own flights of fiction for the entertainment of others. Born in the Southwest and now living in the Midwest, Jon has worked as a ranch hand, teacher, computer tech, roughneck, designer, retail clerk, welder, artist, and, yes, pool boy; with interests ranging from kayaking and hunting to painting and cooking, he draws from a wide range of life experiences to create written works that draw the reader in and wrap them in a good story.

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