NEW RELEASE: ENDURING NIGHT BY JOHN WILTSHIRE

Blurb:

The supreme art of war is to subdue the enemy without fighting. Nikolas has always liked art.

You’d have thought that Ben and Nikolas would have learnt that their romantic holidays inevitably end up as disasters. A short break on the polar ice sees them trapped in a nightmare of murder and deceit. Neither of them, however, foresees the long-term impact that endless winter has on their relationship. They return with a metaphorical darkness that threatens everything they have created together. Desperate and fearing for Nikolas’s life, Ben makes a bargain with a surprising ally. For the first time, Nikolas meets an enemy more powerful than he is. But fortunately, not as sneaky…

Available now from MLR PressAmazon.comAmazon.co.uk and ARe

NEW RELEASE: IN DEEP BY ADAM FITZROY

Blurb:

Arriving on a remote Scottish island to investigate an unexplained death, Ted Harris finds himself entangled in the life of the community – and becomes attracted to Athol, his enigmatic landlord. Soon they’re working together, depending on each other for survival in perilous circumstances, and slowly unravelling the mystery. Will they ever figure out exactly how and why Kieran Parnes died and who was responsible for his death, and what will it do to the island – and to the tentative beginnings of their relationship – if they tell anybody what they know?

Excerpt:

As we crossed the island and I spotted the occasional distant croft or dogged tractor gleaming against the sky, it was easy enough to lose myself in my thoughts; I’d hoped to be a bit more observant right from the start and to hit the ground running, but actually I was tired. It had been quite a journey from Aberdeen to Kirkwall on the overnight ferry, and I had to admit that I wasn’t getting any younger. Maybe I should just cut myself a bit of slack for today, get a good night’s sleep and start fresh in the morning – assuming a good night’s sleep was to be had in the only B&B on the island with a room to offer me, of course.

When the Range Rover stopped outside an unprepossessing stone cottage, it was immediately obvious why the images on the island website had only shown the sitting-room and a couple of the guest rooms; this house was definitely no looker, and it was overdue a serious amount of external maintenance. As if it wasn’t ugly enough already, there was a fenced enclosure running up one side and across the back of the property with a locked gate and a sign reading ‘Calor Gas Sales and Service’. That hadn’t been mentioned in the advertising material either.

“Is this it?”

“This is it.” The engine was switched off.

Oh well; I’d booked it and now I’d have to stay here. Maybe when I was planning this trip I should have given a bit more thought to getting a room in Kirkwall and coming over on the ferry a day at a time – although though that would have been very much more expensive, both in terms of money and in time. “So what do I owe you?” I asked the driver; there wasn’t a meter in the vehicle.

“Fifteen pounds. But don’t worry, I’ll add it to your bill.”

“I’m sorry?”

“Your bill. When you leave.” And that was when the penny dropped that the driver had got out of the car – not, as I thought, to open the door for me, but taking the keys from the ignition, unfastening a gate in the lichen-covered wall and reaching towards the front door.

“Hang on, then, are you … ?” Following him up the path, I was trying to recalibrate my expectations; it would make sense, I thought, if the old salt’s son drove the taxi and regularly ferried people in his dad’s direction; that wouldn’t be a bad racket to be in at all.

“I’m Athol Grey.” The driver’s mouth twisted as though he was expecting a negative response. “You’re staying in my house.”

The mature and competent islander of my imagination vanished in an instant. I was left staring open-mouthed at a long-faced intellectual type with an air of disdain, who looked as if he’d be more at home at the controls of some all-singing all-dancing computer gizmo than engaged in any form of manual labour. Culture shock didn’t even begin to cover my reaction, which probably accounted for the next thing to come out of my mouth.

“Oh, for fuck’s sake – then you’re my landlord?!”

I regretted it immediately.

“I am, although I’d appreciate you moderating your language while you’re on my property.”

“Right. Yes. Sorry.” It was a long time since anyone had spoken to me in quite that tone of voice, but now I came to think of it weren’t they all ‘Wee Frees’ or something in the islands? I had an idea I wouldn’t be able to buy alcohol on a Sunday, for example, and probably not much of anything else. I was half-expecting the inside of the place to be all poker-work texts, with dismal Biblical pictures and a vinegar-faced landlady who’d object to incomers and Sassenachs on principle, but as soon as I stepped into the house it was obvious the website hadn’t lied; it was warm, clean and bright – although small and far from luxurious – and in the sitting-room there was a large-screen TV with a stack of DVDs beside it, so clearly I wouldn’t be required to forego twenty-first century living for the duration. There was also, in a basket beside the wood-burning stove, a grubby-looking Cairn terrier that could hardly be bothered to lift its head.

“That’s Sparky,” said Grey. “He’s twelve, and he spends most of his time asleep. You don’t mind dogs, do you?”

“Not a bit. Hello, Sparky, how are you?”

The dog managed to open one sleepy eye, but that was the extent of his reaction.

“He’d be out of his basket quick enough if you’d brought him anything to eat.” Grey dropped his car keys into a wooden bowl. “Speaking of which, would you like a cup of tea?”

“Thanks, yes, I would.” I hadn’t had much breakfast in Kirkwall; I’ve been on plenty of Jumbo jets and Airbuses in my time, but the thought of travelling on a tiny island-hopper with no aisle and no toilet had made me too nervous to eat much – and, as I watched the ground slip beneath us when we took off, I was grateful I’d stuck to the toast and fruit juice. Not that I wasn’t hungry now, though. “Actually, I don’t suppose you’ve got any food about the place? I reckon I could eat a horse!”

“Well – not a horse, anyway.” It was the first glimmer of anything that might have been humour; at close quarters, Athol Grey’s face seemed set in a permanently miserable expression as though nothing good could ever be expected to happen to him – and in fact he bore more than a passing resemblance to Eeyore. “D’you just want a snack, or would you rather have an early lunch? I’ve got some raisin scones, or I can defrost a burger if you like.”

“Raisin scones sound brilliant, thanks. Mind if I use the bathroom first?”

“Sure. I’ll put the kettle on, and then I’ll show you to your room.”

Available now at Manifold PressAmazon.comAmazon.co.uk and ARe

NEW RELEASE: THE ALTERED 3 (LYCANAERIS) BY ANNABELLE JACOBS

Blurb:

The Altered 3 (Lycanaeris) by Annabelle Jacobs

Matt is a single shifter living in a house full of couples. It’s not that he begrudges his friends their happiness—especially after everything they’ve been through—but he wants someone for himself. He wants a mate. Living out in the Cornish countryside there seems little chance of him finding one.

Thomas’s life has recently been changed for ever. Newly altered, he finds himself in danger as his mother, a prominent politician, works to put a stop to the mistreatment of altereds and bring those responsible to justice.

To keep him safe, Thomas is sent to Cornwall where Matt and his friends offer him refuge until he can return to his home in London. Despite the circumstances surrounding his arrival, Thomas and Matt bond in a way neither of them were expecting. They struggle to come to terms with what this might mean for their future once the threat is eliminated.

Excerpt:

Chapter One

August 2015

The cool breeze of early morning ruffled the curtains, and Matt squinted against the bright sunlight. It looked as though they were in for another beautiful day—this summer had been one of the hottest they’d had in a while.
He sighed and stretched his arms above his head, content to lie in bed and enjoy the rare quiet of the farmhouse. The barn conversions were nearly complete, and in another couple of weeks, there would be three fully soundproofed, open-plan apartments ready for people to move in to.
The work had gone surprisingly quickly, and Matt would be glad of finally getting a little space again, but he’d be lying if he said he was looking forward to it.
“Fuck.” He ran a hand over his eyes, indulging the feeling of longing for just a second before pushing the covers aside and sitting up.
It made perfect sense that the three couples should take the new apartments. The farmhouse wasn’t soundproofed yet, and everyone had had enough of listening to one another’s bedroom activities. It had been Matt’s suggestion in the first place, and he didn’t mind staying where he was. It was just… he closed his eyes and let out a ragged breath as the sounds of lazy kisses and soft morning greetings now echoed down the hall. He was jealous.
Jordan and Daniel, Keira and Charlie, and now Sam and Ash. They were all so happy. Matt was glad they had each other, but he desperately wished he had someone too.
“Come on, Matt. Get a grip.” The words came out barely more than a whisper. The last thing he wanted was for any of the others to hear him. He rubbed at his chest with the heel of his hand, massaging the constant ache deep inside. It had worsened over the past few weeks, and he couldn’t put his finger on why that was, but he wanted it to stop.
God, what was wrong with him this morning? He stood and shook himself before walking over to the window and drawing the curtains wide, until all he could see was blue sky and green fields. They were so lucky to live here, surrounded by this rugged beauty, and he needed to remember that and stop feeling so fucking sorry for himself.
He was safe; his friends were safe. What more did he need?

By the time he’d showered and dressed, the others were starting to stir. Matt bumped into a sleepy-looking Daniel on his way down the stairs, and couldn’t help but smile as Daniel grumbled out a “Morning,” yawning halfway through.
He shoved Daniel’s shoulder hard enough to make him stumble, and laughed at the look of outrage on Daniel’s face.
“Fuck off.” Daniel narrowed his eyes and took in Matt from head to toe. “Why are you up so early?”
Matt glanced at his watch—seven forty-five. It wasn’t that early. “Um… shouldn’t you be gone by now?”
Daniel frowned. “What time is it?”
Matt told him and watched in amusement as realisation slowly dawned.
“Shit, I am so late. Jordan must have turned off the alarm when he left this morning, I’m going to bloody kill him!” Daniel pushed past him towards the bathroom, cursing under his breath about inconsiderate boyfriends.
“I’ll put the kettle on,” Matt shouted over his shoulder as he headed downstairs.
The slam of the bathroom door was the only reply.
Keira and Charlie were already seated at the table when Matt entered the kitchen.
“Morning.” He walked over and flicked the kettle on, then opened the cupboard above to get two mugs out. “Are you two working today?” He turned to face them, leaning back against the counter.
Keira set her mug down on the table, and stood. “Yeah, our first group is at nine.” She held her hand out to Charlie and tugged him up. “We’d better go and get ready. See you later.”
“Have fun.” Matt smiled as they left still holding hands.
They’d been lucky as far as jobs went. As soon as the tourist season had begun in the middle of May, the job market had picked up considerably. Ash managed to get a job at a surf shop in Penzance, and both Keira and Charlie worked for one of the local surf schools. It helped that the guy who ran it was an altered, and after a few tense meetings, he’d agreed to give them a crash course in surfing and then taken them on. Most of the lessons were booked online. All Keira and Charlie had to do was turn up and spend the day on the beach helping people learn how to surf. It sounded like the perfect job to Matt.
The same guy also helped Jordan get a job as a lifeguard on Sennen Beach. They might only be temporary staff for the summer, but it wasn’t as though they needed the money. Between them, they had more than enough after the sale of Jordan’s house and the gym.
Everyone had been glad to finally have something to do other than fixing up the farm. Well, everyone apart from Sam. He might be spending more time as a human than a wolf these days, but he had no desire to mix with anyone other than their small group.
Matt was just finishing off the teas when Daniel thundered down the stairs, fully dressed but still towelling his hair. “Here.” He handed one of the mugs to Daniel and then popped a couple of pieces of bread in the toaster.
“Thanks.” Daniel sat down, gratefully cradling his tea in his hands. “What are you up to today?” He eyed Matt over the top of the mug, his gaze intent.
If anyone suspected Matt felt lonely sometimes, it would be Daniel. They knew each other far too well for Matt to hide it. He wasn’t exactly trying to either, but it served no purpose to bring it up and whine about it. There was plenty of time for him to meet someone. It had never bothered him before, and he was getting a little pissed off with it becoming an issue now.
“Well?” Daniel raised an eyebrow as he took a sip. “Everything okay?”
“Yeah, sorry. Just tired, I guess.” As if on cue, Matt yawned widely, his jaw cracking and making Daniel wince. “I’ve got a couple of projects to work on first, and then I might help Sam this afternoon if I finish early enough.”
The toaster popped up, ending their conversation as Matt spread butter on the toast and they both began to eat. Five minutes later Daniel was pulling on his shoes and hurrying out the door for his shift at the beach cafe. Matt took his tea down the hallway to his office. Writing software wasn’t the most glamorous of jobs, but it paid well, and he could easily work from home. Once again he marvelled at the way everything had worked out so well for them.
He kept waiting for something to ruin it.
Turned out he didn’t have to wait all that long in the end.

Matt came out of his makeshift office, formerly known as the dining room, in search of food, and he stopped in his tracks. He needed to be able to concentrate when working from home, so the office was the only room in the farmhouse that had any kind of soundproofing. That would explain why he hadn’t heard Daniel come back, but his scent lingered in the hallway, far too recent for someone who should still be at work.
“Daniel?” Matt strained to hear anything, but the farmhouse seemed quiet. His senses were a little overwhelmed after being effectively dampened for the last three hours, but after thirty seconds or so, he heard the tread of footsteps outside and a car approaching.
Jordan’s black Volkswagen T5 pulled up onto the gravel drive at the same time as Matt opened the kitchen door. Daniel walked over to meet Jordan as he got out of the van, holding his phone out for Jordan to see. Whatever was on there had Jordan tensing up immediately.
“What’s wrong?” Matt called out, making Daniel jump, but Jordan didn’t even flinch, already fully aware of his presence. Matt walked over to them and looked pointedly at Daniel.
Daniel motioned for Jordan to give him his phone back and handed it straight over to Matt. “I got an email from Shaw.”
It took Matt a good few seconds to recognise the name. And when he did, his chest tightened at the memories it invoked. It wasn’t that anyone had forgotten what happened at the facility, but it wasn’t exactly a popular topic of conversation. Michael Shaw, along with Ash and a Dr David Adams, had been injected with the serum by Chambers and he’d ended up a partial altered. Whatever he had to say, Matt doubted it would be anything good. With a resigned sigh, he glanced down and started reading.
Altered experiments are still happening. Check the news reports for more info. Need proof of who’s involved before seeking help to shut them down. We’re working on getting it, but have someone important we need to keep safe and out of sight in the meantime. Our best option is to send them to you. Will contact you at 6pm tonight.
The email was short and to the point. Matt felt oddly pleased Shaw hadn’t bothered with pleasantries. They weren’t friends, and he was glad no one pretended otherwise. He read it again to make sure he hadn’t missed anything, and handed the phone back to Daniel.
“So.” Matt glanced up at the sky, knowing their peaceful existence was about to change. But he asked the question anyway. “Are we going to take them?”
Jordan sighed and slipped an arm around Daniel’s waist. “I don’t think it was a request.” He nudged Daniel back towards the house, and Matt followed them. “And I’m not sure it’s something we can ignore any longer, are you?”
Matt hated that Jordan was right. He hated the stirrings of guilt even more, and struggled to push them back down. “Fuck.” He scrubbed at his eyes, suddenly feeling tired.
They’d pretty much cut themselves off from everything when they left London. The fire at the facility had made the news but was reported as a laboratory accident. As far as Matt was aware, the facility’s true purpose had never been disclosed to the public.
He turned on the TV and flicked through to a news channel. Sure enough, the big bold headlines scrolled along the bottom of the screen, echoing the email sent by Shaw.
Leading government official demands new enquiry into GFACs.
Daniel brushed past him and sat down on the sofa, eyes glued to the television. Matt took the spot next to him. They waited for the local news to finish, and then the picture changed to a reporter standing outside the Houses of Parliament.
“Earlier today the Minister of State for Policing, Crime and Criminal Justice, and Victims, Teresa Knight, stood up in front of her fellow MPs and demanded the files on the Government Facilities for Altered Children, or GFACs, be reopened,” the reporter began. “Ms Knight stated she had reason to believe the facilities’ data and records had not been destroyed as previously reported, and that the program to create super soldiers had been resurrected, funded by the private sector. She claimed that altereds had been unfairly treated and cast out by society when they were no more of a danger than anyone else who possesses the skills to defend themselves. She also claimed that her son had been targeted as a means to keep her quiet, and went on to say that one facility had already been burned down, but two more remained, and certain government officials were well aware of this fact. Ms Knight refused to name names when asked who was involved. Some of her fellow MPs dismissed her claims as ridiculous propaganda and rumour-mongering.”
Matt let out a low whistle. “Jesus Christ.”
The news reporter went on to talk about Ms Knight’s missing son, Thomas, who had been abducted a few days earlier, but had since been found by the police and was currently being held somewhere safe.
“I bet by somewhere safe they mean he’s locked up tight and under armed guard. I imagine that if he was taken once, they’ll probably try again, especially since she’s talking to the press.”
“I agree.” Daniel scooted forwards and plucked the remote control out of Matt’s hand. He lowered the volume and set it back on the coffee table. “And two more facilities? Fucking hell.” His voice came out higher than normal, and Matt frowned at the sudden increase in his heart rate. “Do you think Chambers kept them up to date with his research? Would he have had time before we shut him down?”
Daniel always kept calm. Years of smothering his body’s reactions had taught him that, but Matt felt the distinct edge of panic seeping out of him.
“Hey, Dan.” He reached out without thinking and put his arm around Daniel’s shoulders. Jordan’s low growl made him startle, but Matt didn’t remove his arm. He was used to Jordan’s possessiveness and ignored it like he usually did. “Shaw said he’d call later, yeah? We can ask him about it then.”
“I thought we’d put a stop to their experiments when we burned that place to the ground.” Daniel rested his elbows on his knees and covered his face with his hands. He let out a loud sigh. “How bloody naive. We’ve been living an easy life down here in Cornwall while they’re still torturing people and carrying out tests. Christ, I feel—”
“Daniel.” Jordan’s voice cracked like a whip, and Daniel’s hands fell away from his face as he glared back at him. “We left London to start a new life because the one we had was ruined by those people. Who knows how many are involved in this? We number six shifters and a seer—no match for a large corporate organisation and possibly government officials too.” He walked around the sofa and crouched down in front of Daniel, taking his hands in his. “I know how you feel, but there was nothing we could do.”
Matt thought about the news report and what Shaw had implied in his email. “But there might be now, though, right?”
Daniel nodded. “I think so. Whoever it is they need to get out of London, we should do what we can to make it happen.”
Jordan stood and pulled Daniel up with him. “We need to make sure everyone’s home by six tonight, so we can all hear what Shaw has to say.”
Matt sighed but stood up too, pulling his own phone from his pocket. “I’ll call Ash, and then go tell Sam. You two go and see Keira and Charlie.” He dialled Ash’s number as Jordan and Daniel left for the beach.
“Hey, Matt. What’s up? And make it quick. I have customers.”
Matt cringed as Ash’s cheerful voice greeted him. This was going to suck. “You need to be home by six tonight.”
“No problem, I’m finishing at five anyway. Why, though?”
Matt hated having to tell this to Ash, of all people. Ash’s whole life had changed thanks to Chambers and his experiments. “There’s two more facilities. And Shaw needs our help.”
The line went so quiet, Matt thought Ash had hung up, but then he heard the ragged inhale and a whispered “Fuck.”
“Yeah, okay. I’ll be there.”
He did hang up then, and Matt sighed as he put his phone away. Telling Sam would be just as unpleasant. Matt hoped he wouldn’t blame the messenger.

Available now at Amazon.comAmazon.co.uk and ARe

NEW RELEASE: FIRST BY KC WELLS

Blurb:

It’s taken Tommy Newsome a while to get his head around being gay.

Growing up in a small town in Georgia hasn’t prepared him for the more liberal life of a student at the university in Athens. Add to that the teachings of his parents and his church, and you have one shy young man who feels out of his depth. Working on his daddy’s farm hasn’t given him any chance of a social life, certainly not one like the clubs of Atlanta have on offer. Not that Tommy feels comfortable when he gets tosample it—Momma’s lectures still ring loudly inside his head.

All that changes when he goes to his first gay bar and sets eyes on Mike Scott.

When Mike’s not behind the bar at Woofs, he’s busy with his life as adult entertainer Scott Masters. Twenty years in the industry and the times, they are a-changing. Mike’s not had much luck in the relationship department, but as his mom is fond of telling him, you keep fishing in the same pond, you’re gonna reel in the same kind of fish. Maybe it’s time for a change.

Excerpt:

TOMMY NEWSOME regarded the exterior of Jungle, his stomach clenched. “I’m not so sure ’bout this, Ben.” The place looked huge, and judging by the number of guys going in there, it was going to be packed. He could already hear the steady pulse of disco music, and that was enough to make his heart beat out a military tattoo in his chest. Dancing… gay guys…. Hell, this was way out of his comfort zone.

 

His roommate laughed. “Don’t tell me you wanna chicken out already? I swear, you must’ve spent your entire first year sitting in your room every night.” He peered intently at Tommy. “Geez. I’m right, aren’t I?”

 

Tommy knew his cheeks were burning. His throat tightened, and the words wouldn’t come.

 

Ben’s laughter died, and he moved closer. “Look, it’s just a club, okay?” He patted Tommy’s arm. “And don’t think for a moment that I don’t know what’s going on in that head of yours. You’re thinking ’bout what your momma would say.”

 

Shit. Tommy’s stomach did a slow roll. “No,” he protested weakly, but he knew it was a lie. Momma’s voice was sounding off in his head, all right. Loud and clear.

 

Ben’s expression grew serious. “Well, your momma isn’t here, and all we’re talking ’bout is spending a night dancing.” His eyes sparkled, and there was a hint of a grin. “Loud disco music and cute boys—what’s not to like about that?”

 

Tommy shook his head. He’d known Benson Cardiff Wellington III since that day back in October of last year when Ben had struck up a conversation in their dorm. There was no way Tommy would’ve had the nerve to make the first move. Ben was everything he wasn’t. Ben’s upper-class upbringing was evident in his clothes and his manner, so far removed from Tommy’s humble origins that they might as well have been born on different planets. Once he’d gotten to know Ben a little, it was clear there were other things about him that were outside of Tommy’s sphere of experience. When Ben had revealed he was bisexual, Tommy had been stunned into silence. As far as he knew, no one in Americus was bi. They wouldn’t dare.

 

“Are we going in or what?”

 

Tommy sighed. Ben had no idea how difficult this was for him. Places like the Jungle were “the Devil’s playground” according to his parents. It wasn’t easy to go against everything he’d been taught his whole life. His momma had always lectured him on the evils of dancing and alcohol. Heaven knew what she’d say about a gay club—his ears would probably bleed after her pontificating.

 

“I promise you, God is not gonna send down a bolt of lightning to smite you the minute you set foot inside, okay?”

 

Ben’s words were laced with humor, but Tommy knew his roommate well enough to know they were uttered with kindness.

 

Enough procrastinating. “Okay.” Tommy took a deep breath and stepped through the door into the lion’s den, Ben leading the way.

 

It wasn’t quite what he’d imagined—it was much, much worse.

 

Music thrummed through the floor, and Tommy hated it. The lighting was low, with colored lights that played over the club’s occupants. Oh yeah—add to that the sight of all those guys, some half dressed, for God’s sake, pressed together on the dance floor. And there were so freakin’ many of them! The place was the size of a warehouse inside, and everywhere he looked, there were bodies: tight T-shirts, bare chests, so much skin on display.

 

“Isn’t this great?” Ben beamed at him.

 

“Yeah,” Tommy lied. It was so far from great it was unreal, but he didn’t want to let Ben down. It had been Ben’s idea to come to the Jungle, and Tommy hadn’t been able to say no. Part of him had been dying of curiosity of course, but now that he was there? Yeah, he’d had enough already.

 

Ben waved to a group of guys on the dance floor who waved back immediately, beckoning him to join them with wide smiles. Ben turned to Tommy. “How ’bout you get us a drink from the bar? I’ll have a bottle of water, okay?” And with that he thrust a rolled up magazine into Tommy’s hand and plunged into the crowd, which swallowed him up in a sea of flesh.

 

Tommy stared at him in astonishment, left standing at the edge of the dancing and feeling more out of place than ever. He didn’t give the small magazine in his hand a second glance but looked around, located the bar, and joined the throng of clubbers who stood waiting to be served. Damn, this place was loud. Tommy had never even heard such music ’til he’d come to college. There’d been nothing like that played on the radio at home, that was for sure. He hadn’t stayed in his room that first year because he’d been feeling antisocial—he just couldn’t cope with the culture shock.

 

Finally he got their drinks and retreated to a corner as far away from the bar and the dance floor as he could get. His senses were overloaded. He sipped his Cherry Coke and tried to relax, but it so wasn’t happening. This just wasn’t him. He watched as Ben cavorted on the dance floor, surrounded by beautiful boys—lean, smooth, and flexible. In spite of his heightened nervous state, Tommy smiled to himself. Ben was in his element.

 

The circular was still in his hand, along with Ben’s bottle of water. Tommy placed his drink and the bottle on the ledge that ran along the wall, and unrolled the circular, glancing at the front cover in surprise at the images of Atlanta Pride. It was a free gay magazine, David Atlanta. Curious, he leafed through it. It seemed innocuous enough: articles and ads for gay businesses in Atlanta. Tommy took his time; he’d never read a gay publication before. He stared at the photos, heart pounding. Suddenly everything seemed that little bit more real. He took a moment to breathe, trying to inject a bit of calm.

 

I’m really in a gay club. He’d fantasized enough about stepping out of his tight little closet. Actually doing it was scary as hell. But he’d done it. He’d finally done it. The thought brought a shiver to his spine, and he quickly gulped some more Cherry Coke before going back to his perusal of the magazine. When he got to the section advertising gay bars, he scanned the page. He stared at the ad for a gay sports bar, Woofs, within spitting distance of his present location. A gay sports bar?

 

His heart raced. He couldn’t walk into a gay bar alone—could he? The mere thought made him break out in a cold sweat, yet that didn’t stop the tingle of anticipation that trickled up and down his back. Do it. Justdo it. Don’t even think about it.

 

“God, you look like you’re having a heart attack. Is it that bad here?” Ben’s wry chuckle brought him swiftly into the present. “I wondered where you’d gotten to. What you doing hiding out over here?” He grabbed the bottle of water next to Tommy’s glass on the ledge and downed half of it in long swallows.

 

Tommy held up the magazine. “Thought I might go see what this place is like,” he said, more calmly than he felt. Inside he was a mess.

 

Ben arched his eyebrows. “Well, good for you, Tommy! Want me to come with, to hold your hand?” He winked.

 

Tommy laughed, the sound false to his ears. “Nah, I’ll be okay.” He was a big boy; he could handle it. Then he had to smile. He was a very big boy.

 

Ben nodded in approval. “Well, you got your ID, right?” Tommy nodded. “Then don’t get too drunk—you’ve got the truck, remember?” He glanced at Tommy’s glass and grinned. “But I guess I don’t have to worry ’bout that, huh?”

 

Shit. Tommy had clean forgotten about that. “How you gonna get back to your place?”

 

Ben waved his hand. “Hey, don’t you go worrying your head about me. I’m sure I’ll manage. And you got a key, right? Besides, who knows where my night will end—or in whose bed.” He waggled his eyebrows. “There’s this one dude over by the bar who is seriously hung.” Ben licked his lips.

 

Heat bloomed in Tommy’s face. He so didn’t want to go there. It was bad enough that he knew Ben went through guys—and girls—like a starving man who’d just come off a strict diet. He didn’t need any images of Ben cluttering up his head. Where was brain bleach when you needed it?

 

“Have a good night.” He patted Ben on the arm and made his way through the tightly packed crowd toward the main door. Once outside he breathed deeply.

 

C’mon, pull yourself together. He took a moment to collect himself and then headed in the direction of his truck. Woofs was only a short drive away. He drove up Piedmont Road, his heart still doing a dance behind his ribs. It had taken him his entire first year at the University of Georgia just to catch up with the rest of his classmates in terms of fitting in. Talk about a fish out of water. Tommy wasn’t sure he’d changed that much from the farm boy who’d arrived just over a year ago, so green, so innocent.

 

Not so innocent now, he mused as he pulled up outside the bar. He took his worn baseball cap from his jacket pocket and put it on. Inside he could hear roars and cheers. There was obviously a game on TV. He stood on the threshold, hands clenched tightly at his sides, knees feeling decidedly wobbly. How long he remained there he had no idea, but the sound of a truck pulling up beside his forced him into action. He pressed his hand against the white door, pushed, and then he was inside.

 

The bar was full of guys standing around little tables or at the bar, and there were several TV screens on the walls. His first thought was that he’d made a mistake. Everyone looked… ordinary, just guys hanging out, watching a football game, yelling at the screens and cheering. He edged his way through the crowded bar that was laid out in a U shape until he got to the far side where there were booths, all occupied. Miraculously, there was an empty stool at the end of the bar near the tabletop video games, and he slid onto it, pulse racing as he looked around. No one gave him a second glance, and he took the opportunity to take in his surroundings, his heartbeat returning to normal.

 

There were three bartenders, one of whom was circulating, taking and delivering orders, and chatting with other customers. One bartender in particular made Tommy’s heart pound a bit harder. He was maybe in his late thirties or early forties, about five nine, and wide across the chest, his upper arms thick with muscle. His hair was cut short, almost a buzz cut, and he had a beard, a little gray showing there. Glasses didn’t hide a pair of blue eyes that were intense, even at a distance. Just looking at him made Tommy’s dick hard.

 

“Hey, you gonna order or what?”

 

With a start, Tommy pulled himself back from his reverie and looked up at the bartender standing in front of him. He was tall, with a Mohawk and tattoos everywhere, a bruiser of a guy with rainbow-colored ear gauges.

 

The bartender smirked. “You back with us?”

 

Tommy’s cheeks were on fire. “A Cherry Coke, please.”

 

One eyebrow lifted. “A Cherry Coke.” He peered at Tommy. “You got ID, honey?” He gave him a flirtatious wink.

 

Nodding, Tommy reached into his pocket for his wallet and handed over the fake ID Ben had procured for him. He tried to keep calm. This was the first time he’d had occasion to use it. He held himself still and kept his eyes on the TV screen, ignoring the bartender while he inspected the card with a smile. When it was handed back to him, Tommy had to fight hard to hide his relief, even though it was plain the bartender’s perusal had been more playful than serious.

 

“Sorry, hon, but you know how fierce they are in this town about underage drinking. I have to askeveryone,” he said with an exaggerated sigh. “I’m sure you’re used to it by now.”

 

“Sure,” Tommy lied, nodding, like this really wasn’t his first time in a bar.

 

“One Cherry Coke, coming up.” The bartender gave him a nod and grabbed a glass. Tommy sagged onto the stool and breathed more evenly. He could deal with this.

 

Until he watched the gorgeous bartender lean across the bar and kiss the customer in front of him squarely on the mouth, then go back to his task of pouring out a beer, grinning, like kissing a guy was nothing out of the ordinary.

 

Shit shit shit…. Just like that, Tommy’s heart was doing its little dance all over again.

 

Then he began to notice things. The guy near the bar who had his arm around another guy’s waist. The third bartender, shorter than the other two and nowhere near as muscular, whose manner was a good deal more effeminate. More guys with their arms around each other. Kisses, just pecks on the cheeks or lips, but yeah, there was definitely kissing going on. He’d been too out of it at the club to notice if there’d been any of that going on, but at such close quarters, it was hard to miss.

 

That was when it really hit home. Tommy was in a gay bar.

 

“Here you go.” The Mohawk guy was back, placing a paper napkin and a tall glass of Cherry Coke in front of him. “You wanna pay for it or set up a tab?”

 

Tommy fumbled clumsily with his wallet, all thumbs, taking out three dollars and handing them over. Mohawk guy nodded and went over to the till. Tommy sipped at the drink, loaded with ice, letting its coolness take away some of the heat from his face. He pulled the cap bill over his eyes and leaned on the bar, observing his fellow customers. More than once his gaze drifted back to the bespectacled bartender, who was laughing and joking with his customers. Now and again he’d raise his eyes to watch the game, joining in the roars and groans of those around him.

 

Who was he trying to kid? Tommy couldn’t take his eyes off him. The man was sex on legs: those muscles, those eyes, that sexy beard…. Then he caught Tommy looking and flashed him a quick grin and a wink.

 

The hair stood up on the back of Tommy’s neck, and his breathing quickened. He felt light-headed, shivery, and hot, all at the same time. What made it worse? The bartender noticed. That grin widened and those intense eyes sparkled.

 

“Hey, Mike, can you check the pump for Blue Moon?” Mohawk guy said to Mr. Sex on Legs. Glugging noises issued from the tap as beer spattered into the glass he was trying to fill.

 

“Sure thing.” Mike gave Tommy a last glance before disappearing behind the bar. Tommy breathed in deeply and took a long swig of Cherry Coke. His physical reaction to Mike had been… powerful, not something he’d ever experienced before. He was still trembling, for God’s sake.

 

Well, if I’d had any doubts about me bein’ gay, that sure blew them all to hell. There’d been no mistaking the lump of stone behind his jeans zipper or the tingle in his balls. Not that he was gonna do anything: Tommy was more than content to sit in the bar ’til they closed, sipping Cherry Coke and enjoying the view.

 

Yeah, acknowledging he was gay was one thing—doing anything with that knowledge was something else entirely. And Tommy wasn’t ready to go down that road just yet. In fact, not for a long while yet.

Available now from Dreamspinner (and in paperback!), Amazon.comAmazon.co.uk and ARe

NEW RELEASE: TO LOVE A TRAITOR BY JL MERROW

Blurb:

Wounds of the heart take the longest to heal.

When solicitor’s clerk George Johnson moves into a rented London room in the winter of 1920, it’s with a secret goal: to find out if his fellow lodger, Matthew Connaught, is the wartime traitor who cost George’s adored older brother his life.

Yet as he gets to know Matthew—an irrepressibly cheerful ad man whose missing arm hasn’t dimmed his smile—George begins to lose sight of his mission.

As Matthew’s advances become ever harder to resist, George tries to convince himself his brother’s death was just the luck of the draw, and to forget he’s hiding a secret of his own. His true identity—and an act of conscience that shamed his family.

But as their mutual attraction grows, so does George’s desperation to know the truth about what happened that day in Ypres. If only to prove Matthew innocent—even if it means losing the man he’s come to love.

This is a novel-length expansion of previously published novella.

Available now from SamhainAmazon.comAmazon.co.uk and ARe

NEW RELEASE: TRUST BY SARAH MASTERS

Blurb:

Sometimes, trusting your instincts leads to happiness and love.

After coming out, life took a turn for the worse. I knew people would view me differently, of course I did, but… See, here’s the thing. How does a person cope when a few of their work colleagues play such a cruel trick that it leaves them wondering if they’ll ever trust anyone again? It happened to me, and trusting isn’t something I do easily now.

Until James came along. He’s a work colleague too, but my issue is, I keep thinking he’s playing another trick. You know, reeling me in, making me think he’s a good bloke.

He’s asked me to go out with him, and, although I should maybe get to know him a bit better first, I’ve said I’ll go. I need to get back out there, live a little. And if I get hurt? Well, I’ll just have to deal with it. Again.

But maybe he won’t hurt me. Break my heart and all that. Please God.

Available now at Pride PublishingAmazon.comAmazon.co.uk and ARe

NEW RELEASE: TEMPESTUOUS TIDE BY LM BROWN

Blurb:

Bound by a curse, two mermen find the greatest love of their lives, but can they keep it?

Justin is a merman who has been raised on land. He hates his fins and wants nothing to do with his heritage.

Lucas is an ambitious merman who has lived his whole life in Atlantis. He has spent his adulthood hiding his sexuality because homosexual relationships are forbidden in the underwater city. Now he has been sent on a mission by King Nereus to locate his oldest son and bring him back to Atlantis to take his place as the heir to the throne.

Although his mission seems impossible, Lucas finds help from the Atlantean Goddess of Love, little knowing that she has her own reasons for bringing Lucas and Justin together.
Justin is no stranger to immortals, having been raised by two of them, but he has no idea of the consequences of angering the Goddess of Love. When he insults her, she curses him to find love only to lose it forever shortly after. As the love ‘em and leave ‘em type, Justin isn’t overly concerned, at least until Lucas enters his life and he sees how the curse will end.

Together they could have the greatest love of their lives, but only if they can appease the furious goddess before their time runs out.

Available now from Pride PublishingAmazon.comAmazon.co.uk and ARe