#Review: The Captive’s Curse (Twilight Mages Book 2) by @eliotgraysonauthor #LGBTQ #RecentRelease #Romance #Fantasy #Magic

Moonbeams over Atlanta welcomes Eliot Grayson to the blog.  Eliot is back at it again with the sequel to The Royal Curse (see my review of the first book here, if you missed it). While standalone, I would recommend reading the first book to get the backstory of the universe.

Note: A reader copy was provided for an honest review.  The book released on Amazon May 30th, 2024.

The Blurb:

Unwanted. Unloved. Unransomed. And unable to control his dawn magic by any other means…

At odds with his family and on the run, Lord Cyril is taken prisoner and held in a gloomy mountain fortress—which he brightens up quite a bit, thank you. His captor wants him to be quiet and not cause any trouble, but who cares? Cyril may need the mysterious highwayman to quell his dawn magic and keep him sane, but he’s overbearing, sardonic, and unpleasant.

Mostly. Except when Cyril can’t live without his touch, or his voice, or his rare smile…

Ser Enzo, a robber and (not quite) a gentleman, desperately wants his obnoxious, adorable, irritating, irresistible captive off his hands…and other parts. Lord Cyril’s wanton, irrepressible, and worst of all—his family won’t take him back. Enzo can’t release him without being paid. It’s against his principles.

But so is keeping his bewitching captive forever. Cyril may be his prisoner, but Enzo’s dangerously close to losing his own freedom by falling under the mage’s spell…

The Captive’s Curse is the second book in the Twilight Mages series, but it takes place concurrently with book one and can be read as a standalone. Contains wildly inappropriate discussions of vegetables (no vegetables were actually harmed in the making of this book), the mad ghost of an evil lord (the Mad Lord is harmed, to no one’s regret), and the overcoming of fears, family quarrels, and scheming villains to reach a guaranteed HEA.

The Review:

5 Stars

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As per usual, I devoured this story in one sitting eschewing sleep no less. Again, the opportunity to read an ARC of the second book in this fascinating universe of Twilight mages was too good to pass up.

In this story, we have Lord Cyril who enjoys his magic control to the fullest extent, riding away from his family in his wedding finery, and demands his due from the disagreeable kidnapper/savior Ser Enzo even while hurt in the raining forest Cyril finds himself in. They circle each other, both pompous in their own ways, and they have their adventures as their story unfolds and fall in love. We continue in the British-style of storytelling, obnoxious ghosts, betrayals, some angst– mostly on Cyril’s part, but Enzo has some too, and some humor thrown in here and there to liven things. Most of the story is told by Cyril’s perspective and I would have loved to see Enzo’s side more, but I’m weird that way. 🙂

Overall, it’s a great book and you will run the gamut on the feels. The book continues with high-heat, quirky secondary characters, and the happily-ever-after ending we’ve come to expect.

The Captive’s Curse has everything you expected from the swashbuckling highwayman, plot twists, Cyril coming into his own, and of course, a love story with a slow buildup. Again, it was a fantastic read and I can’t wait for more. There are other characters waiting in the wings, and I would love to see their story unfold.

With this, I give The Captive’s Curse 5 stars.

Eloreen Moon

Book Links:

Goodreads | Amazon

About the Author:

Eliot’s a lifelong Southern California girl, right down to the flip-flops and backyard garden. When she’s not writing her next book, you can find her reading, drinking tea, or (more likely) catering to the demands of her kids and ancient, cranky cat.

Steamy books with delicious tension, heart-wrenching pining, and a hefty dose of action and adventure have always been her jam as a reader. Guess what she writes?

You can catch up with her on Facebook in her reader group, Eliot Grayson’s Escape from Reality, or sign up for her newsletter at eliotgrayson.com.

Website | Goodreads Author Page | Amazon Author Page | Instagram | Facebook Group ~ Escape from Reality | BookBub | Linktree

Earth 2100 (an anthology) by Various Authors #BlogTour #NewRelease #OtherWorldsInk #LGBTQ+ #Scifi #Gay #Lesbian

Moonbeams over Atlanta welcomes the Earth 2100 anthology with short stories by 18 authors curated by J. Scott Coatsworth. This is a speculative fiction set with LGBTQ+ characters including gay and lesbian identities. Come check it out below!

BOOK BLURB

Earth on the Cusp of the Twenty-Second Century

How the world has changed in the last seventy-six years. In 1948, scientists ran the first computer program, and “the Ultimate Car of the Future,” the futuristic, three wheeled Davis Divan, debuted. Since then, a succession of inventions—the personal computer, the internet, the World Wide Web, smart phones and social media—have transformed every aspect of our lives.

The next seventy-six years will change things too, in ways we can barely even begin to imagine. Culture, climate change, politics and technology will continue to reshape the world. Earth in 2100 will be as unrecognizable to us as today would be to someone from 1948.

Eighteen writers tackled this challenge, creating an amazing array of sci-fi possibilities. From emotional AI’s to photosynthetic children, from virtual worlds to a post-urban society, our writers serve up compelling slices of life from an Earth that’s just around the corner.

So dive in and take a wild ride into these amazing visions of our collective future.

Buy Links:

Universal Buy Link | Goodreads Link | Liminal Fiction (LimFic.com) Link


Excerpt

Tin Lizzy

Gail Brown

Chaos filled several of the workshop tables. Material overflowed a table with a sewing machine. Some heavy duty, water proof beige fabrics had drifted to the floor.

A thick vegetable and meat soup simmered on the stove in the tiny central kitchen area. Next to the stove was a table set for two. Without any chairs.

Celina rode her power chair over to the counter top stove to stir the soup. The counter was a few inches higher than was comfortable. Today she needed to cook more than her usual single serving. Maybe her height measurements had been off. The counter could be an inch shorter, and not be in her lap.

It was challenging to figure out how to build it low enough to see into a pan, and stir the food, while tall and sturdy enough to not knock it over when Lizzy slid under it.

There was only about a foot of space to work with, if she didn’t want the pan higher than her face, and not able to stir without her elbow at maximum height. Which risked boiling food splashing on her face.

Figuring out how to make furniture the correct height, so she could slip her non-functioning legs under it had consumed her waking hours, and even sleeping hours, for the last year.

The stainless steel pan reflected her face. Down to the pointed lines above her eyebrows. Even the eyebrow she had singed an hour before.

She turned the power chair back to her wood and metal design workstation. Another stainless steel surface. Covered with scars from the many experiments needed to build lowered objects, with a glimpse of personal beauty in their functionality.

What would Henril and Trinkle think of her newest achievement? Her former hiking partners no longer walked the trails as much without her.

Certainly not on the narrow bluff overlooking the river. Henril had avoided out of concern for Trinkle’s safety. Or so he said.

Hopefully, they would soon all be hiking together.

Buy Links:

Universal Buy Link | Goodreads Link | Liminal Fiction (LimFic.com) Link


Authors:

  • Tim Newton Anderson
  • nathan bowen
  • Elizabeth Broadbent
  • Gail Brown
  • J. Scott Coatsworth
  • Monica Joyce Evans
  • Isaiah Hunt
  • Blake Jessop
  • E.E. King & Richard Lau
  • Morgan Melhuish
  • Eve Morton
  • Christopher R. Muscato
  • Jennifer R. Povey
  • D.M. Rasch
  • Joseph Sidari
  • Mike Jack Stoumbos
  • Joseph Welch
  • KB Willson

It’s almost the end of April and another free book for joining #newsletter #newslettersignup #freebook #queeromanceink #LGBTQ+ #epilogue

This month, I have Together as part of the freebie giveaway if you sign up for QueeRomance Ink’s Newsletter. These stories are more towards romance with MM characters and Gay literature.

Together is the first story I wrote and published with Amazon and was part of a people of color charity anthology back in 2017-2018 originally called Beautiful Skin. I was proud to be a part of it because stories about people of color, or written by people of color, are beautiful and make the work richer. The anthology is out of print now, but the story is still available. A couple of years later, I wrote a flash fiction ficlit, an epilogue of sorts, as part of a blog tour I did August 2020. Thank you again to Sharita for the idea so many years ago. You will need to read Together in order to enjoy the vignette below.

While re-reading it for this post, I did a little more editing on it so it would flow a bit better. This is version two of the teaser that hasn’t been published before. -wink- Eventually, I will re-release Together with the epilogue. Perhaps I can get my act together this year. 🙂

~Eloreen

Saturday Night Date Night

Victor

It was Saturday morning and my turn to pick what we were going to do for our date night tonight. I thought making plans for two people for semi-regular dates was nail-biting. Try planning a date for three people regularly. We all have such different tastes and personalities that it can be a challenge. Luckily, we took turns choosing. If I had to do this every time, I’d go crazy and probably flail.

“Whatcha doing?” Enrique Cruz, my little writer said faintly but rapidly getting closer, startling me slightly. I quickly closed out of the browser I was looking at so he wouldn’t find out my plans and ruin the surprise. I had set things up to do this thing a few weeks ago with my best friend and business partner, Angela Carter, since I was neck deep on some major software updates that we’d rolled out for our mobile game we had first released a couple years ago. This Saturday night date night was special and too important to not have help. It was the one-year anniversary of myself, Enrique, and our other partner, Miguel Armenta, finally getting together as committed partners to each other. If the three of us could legally marry, I would have popped the question a while ago.

When he got close enough, I turned around in my chair and quickly pulled him into my arms and lap for a quick peck on the lips as a distraction. Except, it wasn’t quick. At all. He deepened it and claimed my mouth like it was going to disappear. Silly man. I wasn’t going anywhere.

Someone moaned. Might have been me. Then I felt another set of hands sliding down my naked chest as I had just gotten up from our bed earlier and didn’t bother to put a shirt on to finish the plans.

I gasped a mumbled explicative as my senses fired up when Miguel’s hands found my nipples and started rubbing them just like I like them. Something was nagging at me though. Something important.

Suddenly, I wrenched my now swollen lips away from En’s assault and placed my hands on El’s to stop his movement. I panted a little while I waited for my brain cells to get online and thing again. Fuck, we didn’t have time for round two.

“Stop.”

They tensed, stilling instantly.

“Sorry, nothing’s wrong, loves.” I kissed En first to reassure and then turned my chair, vaguely noticing that at some point the screensaver had kicked in and my chair was sideways. Someone must have moved me to get to me, the little minx.

“Mornin’,” I gave El a kiss on his impish lips to reassure him as well. They both relaxed and then I had a double lap full of my men. Good thing I had splurged for a high-weight computer chair.

“I’m sorry, my dears,” I started after they settled. “While I would love to go back to bed, we need to get ready for tonight’s date.”

Miguel glanced at the clock on the screensaver. “It’s only 11 am.” He turned back to me, confusion in his blue eyes. Then they cleared and narrowed. “What did you plan?” He stood up to get a better look at my facial expressions.

I was so close. I really couldn’t hide anything from El. Both of them really, but especially El with his sharp litigator mind. It’s why I had Angela make the arrangements in the first place. I was about to see the details of said plan when En came into the room.

“Nothing,” I said innocently. Not really, and it wasn’t working for either of them if their disbelieving expression where anything to go by.

“Uh, huh,” En said flatly, and stood up too. Yeah, that didn’t work either. En was a sharp observer too. They put their crossed arms on their equally naked chests nearly at the same time. That was hot.

I broke down. “Ok, there is something going on with tonight’s date night, but I actually don’t know what the details are yet.” I looked at them sheepishly. Out of habit when I got embarrassed about something, I looked down pulling my dreads forward and tried to hide behind them.

“Look at me,” El said with love and reassurance in his voice. I felt his hand gently lift my chin so I would look at him. When our eyes met, he continued. “I love you. You know we will love anything you have planned for us.”

“Yes, but I wanted it to be a surprise,” I sighed. “It’s why I had Ang make all the arrangements with my contingencies in case there was something on my initial list that wouldn’t work.” I had several options and back up plans to keep this particular date a surprise that I had to keep myself in the dark too.

En interjected, “You are fine, honey. I love you, too.” He put his hand on my neck and his forehead to mine. I closed my eyes content as they both returned to my arms and lap.

Speaking of lap, we needed to get moving if we were going to get started on this afternoon’s activities. “Let me up,” I said as I gently pushed them to their feet.

“There’s stuff starting in an hour or two and we are ending at The Melting Pot downtown.” I said the last thing absently missing the expressions on my men’s understanding faces as I went back to the computer.

“Fuck me, he’s proposing,” En blurted out at the same time El sucked in a breath shocked.

I paused from logging in. Damn, they really did know me well.

Down the Line (Jake’s Bar 04) by AG Meiers #BlogTour #NewRelease #OtherWorldsInk #Romance #LGBTQ+ #Giveaway #Suspense #Gay

Moonbeams over Atlanta welcomes AG Meiers. She has a new gay romantic suspense in her Jake’s Bar series Book 4: Down the Line.

BOOK BLURB

Revenge is a Dangerous Obsession.

Dean Hunt needs the story of a lifetime—Since his uncompromising attitude got him fired, the investigative journalist is hell-bent to expose the powerful and corrupt Conway family. It’s a career move, and absolutely not a vendetta against the oldest son Noel, who ghosted Dean after a mind-blowing weekend together.

Noel Conway needs a new start—After years away, Noel has come home to rebuild the bridges he’s burned. Too bad his past caused a ripple effect he can’t outrun. Now, he’s asked to save his family from the one man he never expected to see again but can’t forget.

Dean is chasing front-page news, and Noel is trying to protect the ones he loves. But the line between enemies and lovers gets blurred when a dangerous criminal from Noel’s past resurfaces. Will the truth shatter their tentative trust? Or do they have a shot at happily ever after?

But none of that matters when suddenly Noel disappears…

Down the Line, the final book in the award-winning Jake’s Bar series, is a spicy, M/M romantic suspense featuring a rainbow-colored bar full of quirky characters, and all the romance you can handle. So, download today, and get ready to fall in love with Jake’s Bar.

Warnings: smoking cigarettes and weed in the hot tub, kidnapping (on page scenes restrained), verbally abusive father

Universal Buy Link

ABOUT THE SERIES

The award-winning Jake’s Bar series is a set of steamy, M/M romantic suspense novels, featuring a rainbow- colored bar full of quirky characters, and all the romance you can handle.


Giveaway

AG is giving away a $10 Amazon gift card with this tour: a Rafflecopter giveaway

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Direct Link: http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/b60e8d47310/?


Excerpt

As Dean reached the top of the staircase, a man stepped out of the shadows in front of his door. Dean straightened his shoulders. “Detective Conway.”

“Hunt.”

In a parallel universe, they might have been friends. They were fighting the same fight. Had the same enemies. In this world, they weren’t brothers in arms. In this world, Dean had been cast as the villain.

“How can I help you this fine morning?”

“Open the door. We gotta talk.”

“Look, it’s been a long night—”

“Just open the damn door.” Conway snarled, pushing into Dean’s personal space.

Dean stood his ground. “Are you here in an official capacity? Because then, the answer is no, I won’t let you in. You have no warrant, no permission to search my property. I don’t consent—”

“Just shut the fuck up. None of us wants this shitshow to be on the record,” Con growled.

Dean, curious, took a step back and raised his empty hand, palm up. “Okay.”

He fished for his key, pushed open the door, and quickly disarmed his alarm system. Conway didn’t wait to be invited in, just crossed the living room, dropped his shearling coat onto the sofa, then walked over to the large window overlooking the river.

The view was the only redeeming feature of Dean’s otherwise-generic apartment. The mess didn’t help. There were dirty dishes piled up in the sink, a pizza box on the breakfast counter separating the cramped kitchen from the living room, and an unmade bed in the other corner of the room.

“For a guy who anxiously waited at my doorstep, you’re awfully quiet.” Dean smirked. “Coffee?”

“No.” Conway turned his back, now studying the row of framed newspaper front pages Dean had hung on the apartment’s interior wall. His personal collection of historic headlines—headlines that changed the world.

The oldest was from July 6, 1776. The Pennsylvania Evening Post, printing the Declaration of Independence on its front page. Next to it, the Daily Telegram, declaring the end of the Second World War. The two most recent, the New York Times’ “OBAMA: Racial barrier falls in heavy turnout” and, of course, the front page the day after 9/11.

Dean had added a few more personal favorites, like Moneta J. Sleet’s photography of Coretta Scott King at MLK’s funeral. The first Black man to win the Pulitzer for journalism.

Conway took his time examining each framed newspaper. Dean already regretted allowing the intrusion into his space. He felt exposed—vulnerable—under silent scrutiny.

Irritated, he started banging around the kitchen. He was in no mood to explain that looking at those headlines every day fueled his ambitions and inspired his dreams. Dean believed with every fiber of his being in the power of a free and independent press.

He turned on the coffee machine and leaned against the counter. As if Conway felt Dean’s angry glare across the room, he finally turned and stared right back. For a moment, they engaged in a silent standoff.

Unease flittered through Dean. Camille had been right. Her brother was seething with anger. And Dean had no fucking idea what he’d done to piss him off. He sighed and shook his head, then took two mugs out of the cabinet and put them onto the island. “Miguel, have a damn coffee. You look like you need it.”

“Says the man who clearly slept in his party clothes and crept home at sunup.”

“Guilty as charged.” Dean shrugged.

Conway curled his lip. “I do not know what my sister sees in you.”

It wasn’t a question, so Dean didn’t bother with an answer. “You wanted to talk? So, talk.”

Instead of talking, though, Conway pulled out a stack of papers. Pushing aside the coffee cups to make room, he spread them out over the counter.

Dean froze. The first blurry photograph featured Dean in another man’s arms. In the next, the same man was pressing Dean against a white porch railing, his own hands tangled in the man’s messy curls. Conway fanned the stack, revealing nearly a dozen more.

Dean and Noel Conway, kissing.

Suddenly, he was there again, the ocean breeze tugging on his clothes. Noel’s warm skin, tasting like sunshine and a hint of salt, his eyes blown with desire. Goddamn, so fucking beautiful, with that shy smile, whispered promises—

Dean’s throat was desert dry. His ragged breath and the hissing of the coffee machine came together like a fucking symphony. “I—”

“Save it. My sister thinks you’re this hotshot journalist. Full of passion. Braving adversity. Motivated by a noble cause. Yeah, fuck that. You’re after my family because Noel pounded your ass, then dropped you like he does everybody else. Your pride—your precious ego—is hurt because you’re just another notch in my brother’s carved-up bedpost.”

Conway grabbed his jacket and walked to the door. He turned and added, “Watch it, Hunt. You got no job. No friends. No prospects. But if you think you’ve reached rock bottom, think again.”

Dean contained himself until he heard his door close with a soft click. Only then did he allow himself to swipe papers, cups, and the fucking photos off his counter. The cups shattered on the tile floor.

Universal Buy Link


Author Bio

Eighteen years ago, AG Meiers came to the US for adventure and stayed for love. Currently, she lives in New England with her husband and two awesome kids—balancing work, friends and family, and writing.

When she has some free time, her favorite thing to do is travel and visit new places. Her past trips have already brought her to a variety of countries on four continents. She never passes up an opportunity to experience different cultures, diverse people and amazing locations.

Even though she has been dreaming up stories all her life, she has only recently started to write them down and share them with the world. As a writer she loves to put her characters through a lot of challenges, conflict and heartbreak, before she allows them to find their happy-ever-after.

Website | Facebook (Personal) | Instagram | Amazon

Earthquake Ethan (Forces of Nature 03) by R.L. Merrill #BlogTour #NewRelease #Romance #LGBTQ+ #Gay #Giveaway

Moonbeams over Atlanta welcomes R.L. Merrill today. She has a new contemporary MM romance out, in her Forces of Nature series, Book 3: Earthquake Ethan.

Forces of Nature Book Three Earthquake Ethan by R.L. Merrill

Book Blurb:

The Earth shook the morning actor Ethan Bradley arrived in Los Angeles looking for a second chance. He hoped his former producers Reese Matheson and Toby Griffiths meant it when they said to look them up if he were ever in LA because he had no other options. The pictures the paparazzi took at the wrap party for their London show made sure of that. What he wasn’t counting on was the reception he got from their manager, Arthur Frye. He was absolutely the kind of together guy Ethan wished would notice him, and for more than his pretty face and talent. Too bad Arthur only sees Ethan as a complication.

Arthur Frye has his hands full with his best clients—and best friends. The last thing he needs is another diva to care for, especially one who has a reputation for causing trouble. He has a strict rule against getting involved with the talent, no matter how pretty they are. Only Ethan Bradley shines for real, and when Arthur realizes his nice-guy innocence is genuine, he’s ready to do anything to help Ethan get his career back on track and get him out of LA. He’s too much of a temptation, and Arthur can’t afford to lose focus…not even for a chance at happiness for himself. Especially not when his star clients are about to risk their professional and personal happiness with their newest creation; a musical about two boys falling in love in the 1960s featuring music written by Reese’s grandfather, whose health is in decline.

Ethan Bradley shakes things up wherever he goes, and Arthur Frye is afraid he’ll be left in the wreckage if he gets too close. Can these two opposites find love on solid ground?

Warnings: implied sexual abuse off page

About the Series

Forces of Nature follows a group of talented men who are natural disasters, and the men who love them.

AmazonQueeRomance Ink | Goodreads


Excerpt

The morning after Ethan Bradley landed at LAX the earth shook. Literally. Being from Iowa, he’d always been afraid of earthquakes. He remembered watching footage when he was a little boy of the one that hit Northridge and it stayed with him. He’d even turned down a part in the film San Andreas because he was terrified of the real thing.

Plus—at the time—he’d wanted to be considered a serious actor, and accepting a role in a Hollywood disaster blockbuster didn’t fit in with his professional goals. Instead, he’d ended up going to London to film a clever romantic comedy. Then came the stage and more accolades at the age of twenty-six than he’d imagined possible.

When his hotel room rattled his first morning in LA and sent him diving under the desk in the early hours, he’d wished he’d stayed.

But London had nothing to offer him after the paparazzi ruined his life, and he couldn’t go home. So there he was, back in the states, and ready to grovel before his former producer—and crush—for a role, any role, that would allow him to get back to doing what he loved…acting, singing, performing.

Love was a strong word. It was what he knew, what he was good at, where his God-given talents lay.

He’d come to LA with a plan. Sort of. Go see Reese Matheson. Pray he opened the door and took pity on him. And that he didn’t hold a grudge.

He plugged the Malibu address he’d gotten from his London manager’s office into the Lyft app and went outside to wait for his ride. And prayed.

If Reese wouldn’t see him, he had a plan B.

He’d go to see Reese’s business partner Toby Griffiths. Which was probably a terrible idea, but the best he had.

Because there was no plan C.

He had exactly fifty dollars cash on him and a credit card dangerously close to being maxed out. Rock bottom was flying up to meet him fast.

The Lyft driver dropped him off at the end of a long driveway leading to a quaint little house that backed up to the Malibu shoreline. He knew nine o’clock on a Sunday morning was early, but the earthquake had shaken him so much, he couldn’t wait to get out of his room at the Holiday Inn. He’d been to LA before to promote his films, but he’d never felt comfortable among the glitz and glamour of Hollywood and Beverly Hills.

Malibu had the scenery people thought of when they imagined Southern California. Palm trees, mountains that broke off into the sea, miles of sand with beautiful people jogging along the water’s edge. It was picturesque, and sometimes cliché. For Ethan, it represented his last hope.

He climbed the steps, cleared his throat, reached for that enthusiastic confidence that used to come so easy for him once upon a time—

The door opened before he even had a chance to knock.

The short Filipino man standing there in a pair of scrubs had one eyebrow raised and a hand on his hip.

“Can I help you?”

His tone didn’t come across as helpful, despite his words.

“Yeah, sorry. I’m looking for Reese Matheson? My name is—“

“I know who you are.” The man’s raised eyebrow turned into a frown. “Just a minute,” he said before closing the door with a little less force than a slam.

Breathe. It’s fine. Reese is a good guy. He won’t be angry that I showed up. He’s a generous, kind person—


Giveaway

R.L. is giving away a $25 Amazon gift card with this tour: a Rafflecopter giveaway

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Direct Link: http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/b60e8d47309/?


Author Bio

R.L. Merrill brings you stories of Hope, Love, and Rock ‘n’ Roll featuring quirky and relatable characters. Whether she’s writing about contemporary issues that affect us all or diving deep into the paranormal and supernatural to give readers a shiver, she loves creating compelling stories that will stay with readers long after.

Winner of the Kathryn Hayes “When Sparks Fly” Best Contemporary award for Hurricane Reese, Foreword INDIES finalist for Summer of Hush and RONE finalist for Typhoon Toby, Ro spends every spare moment improving her writing craft and striving to find that perfect balance between real-life and happily ever after.

She writes diverse and inclusive romance, contributes paranormal hilarity to Robyn Peterman’s Magic and Mayhem Universe, and works on various other writing and mentoring projects that tickle her fancy or benefit a worthy cause. You can find her connecting with readers on social media, educating America’s youth, raising two brilliant teenagers, trying desperately to get that back piece finished in the tattoo chair, or headbanging at a rock show near her home in the San Francisco Bay Area! Stay Tuned for more Rock ‘n’ Romance.

Website | Facebook (Personal) | Facebook (Author Page) | Instagram | Goodreads | QueeRomance Ink | Amazon

The Hencha Queen (Tharassas Cycle 03) by J. Scott Coatsworth #BlogTour #NewRelease #OtherWorldsInk #SciFi #LGBTQ+ #Giveaway

J. Scott Coatsworth has a new queer sci-fantasy book out, Tales from Tharassas book 3: The Hencha Queen.

“A richly painted world that is both beautiful and sinister, evoking landscapes that are as much science fiction as Tolkiensian fantasy. 5 stars.” –Ulysses, Paranormal Romance Guild

BOOK BLURB

SILYA COMES INTO HER OWN, BUT WILL SHE BE ENOUGH?

Silya finally has everything she always wanted. She’s the Hencha Queen, head of the Temple, and is working to master her newfound talents. So why does the world pick now to fall apart?

Her once-nemesis Raven is off riding dragons, and their mutual friend (and her ex) Aik is nowhere to be found. Meanwhile, a new threat menaces the Heartland from the East, and if she can’t convince a reluctant Gullton city council to prepare for the worst, she may lose everyone and everything she’s ever cared about.

As she uses her magic-like abilities, wit and sheer determination to try to save the city, she’s joined by Raven and his new friends. Will their help tip the scales? And will they finally find out what happened to Aik as a dark storm threatens to sweep them all away?

Forget messy. Things just got apocalyptic.

Universal Buy Link

The Hencha Queen by J. Scott Coatsworth

ABOUT THE SERIES

The Tharassas Cycle is a four book sci-fantasy series set on the recently colonized world of Tharassas. When humans first arrived on planet, they thought they were alone until the hencha mind made itself known. But now a new threat has arisen to challenge both humankind and their new allies on this alien world.

Tales from Tharassas prequel cover

Books 1 & 2 are on sale through March 31st for just 99¢ each (eBooks, all vendors). And if you buy one (or all three) of the main series books, email scott@jscottcoatsworth.com and let him know and he’ll send you a free copy of Tales From Tharassas, the prequel.

See All the Pre-Release Deals


Giveaway

Scott is giving away an eBook copy of Tales from Tharassas, the prequel, to everyone who enters the sweepstakes: a Rafflecopter giveaway

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Direct Link: http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/b60e8d47308/?


Excerpt

A sharp crack filled the wine cellar. Kerrick swung the heavy mallet back and then assailed the flopwood boards that blocked the tunnel entrance again. The ancient wood splintered under the blow, sending shards clattering across the stone-paved floor.

It felt good to work out his frustrations. Still, the stubborn wood held out against his assault.

He rested the mallet on the black-tiled stone floor, wiping the sweat off his forehead with the back of his hand. Even after a hundred years, the barrier was strong. He’d tried to pry the boards out of the solid stone, but they’d been fastened in too tightly. Brute force it is.

“You’re doing great!” Cor’Lea’s voice was artificially bright, and she was as tall as he was, maybe a little taller, peering over his shoulder at the sealed tunnel entrance.

Silya had tasked her with bringing him down here to check out these hidden caverns under the Temple, in preparation for the coming war. Important, sure, but also clearly an excuse to get him out from underfoot while she prepared for her official Raising.

He grunted. “Thanks. These boards are hard as iron.” And hard as Silya’s will.

One day things would be different between them, once this crisis was over. I just have to be patient.

Coral laughed. “I’m sure a big, strong man like you can break through them easily.” She squeezed his bicep appreciatively.

He shrugged her off. He wasn’t sure if the gawky initiate was flirting with him or just trying to encourage him to get on with it, but either way, he wasn’t interested. “Stand back.” He hefted the hammer again, and she scurried out of his way.

He suppressed a smile, swinging the mallet around for another heavy blow.

Craack.

This time the board buckled inward visibly. Another few hits should do it.

He pulled back the heavy iron hammer again and hit the same spot with blow after blow. Craack. Craack. Craack.

The mallet broke through and a board fell away into splinters, clattering across the stone floor. One down, three more to go. “Why did they seal this cavern up?”

Cor’Lea gestured at the natural chamber. “There was a winery here before the Temple. Sister Dor said they used to use it for extra wine storage.” She looked around the natural chamber, which was now filled with wooden shelving holding a variety of bottled food stores. “When Jas ordered the Temple to be constructed, they kept this wide cavern and blocked off the rest of the tunnels.”

“Just in case the gully rats got in?” That thief Raven had apparently made his home in one of the underground tunnels. Who knew who else—or what else—lived down there?

Cor’Lea snorted. “Maybe.”

Are tunnels all connected, somehow? That was one of Silya’s most urgent projects, to map out the network of caverns beneath the city. Another reason she sent me down here—to get me out from under her robes.

A few more whacks at the next board served to both break it and let out his frustrations at the situation preventing him from doing his sworn job and keeping them apart. And at what she said was coming.

Craack. Craack. Craack.

The board snapped in half, and he judged that he’d cleared enough space to step through into the blocked-off tunnel. “Hand me that lantern?

Cor’Lea complied, taking the opportunity to brush his hand.

He rolled his eyes. I should be flattered. But his heart was already taken.

It was times like these he wished his brother Enrick were still alive. He’d know what to do. He’d been absurdly confident about everything, even though he’d been younger than Kerrick.

Kerrick wasn’t great with women.

He took the lantern and stepped over the bottom board, holding it in front of him. The bright light temporarily blinded him as he sought to get his bearings.

“What do you see?” Cor’Lea peered through the hole behind him.

His sight adjusted, and the tunnel’s walls came into focus.

He whistled. Stacked along the side of the tunnel were hundreds of crates, all strapped together in groups and sealed. “It’s… I don’t know what it is. But I’ll bet Silya will be surprised.” They’d have to find a place to put all this stuff—whatever it was, it was likely rotten after all this time. Silya needed somewhere to store people, not ancient goods.

Cor’Lea stepped carefully over the splintered boards to join him. “What do you think’s inside them?”

The long row of crates disappeared into the darkness. Who knew what the ancients had considered valuable enough to stash down here. Coin? Lost treasure? “One way to find out. Does the Temple have a crowbar?”

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Author Bio

J. Scott Coatsworth

Scott lives with his husband Mark in a yellow bungalow in Sacramento. He was indoctrinated into fantasy and sci fi by his mother at the tender age of nine. He devoured her library, but as he grew up, he wondered where all the people like him were.

He decided that if there weren’t queer characters in his favorite genres, he would remake them to his own ends.

A Rainbow Award winning author, he runs Queer Sci Fi, QueeRomance Ink, Liminal Fiction, and Other Worlds Ink with Mark, sites that celebrate fiction reflecting queer reality, and is the committee chair for the Indie Authors Committee at the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA).

Website | Facebook (Personal) | Facebook (Author Page) | Mastodon | Instagram | Goodreads | Liminal Fiction (LimFic.com) | QueeRomance Ink | Amazon

#Review: The Royal Curse (Twilight Mages Book 1) by @eliotgraysonauthor #LGBTQ #RecentRelease #Romance #Fantasy #Magic

Moonbeams over Atlanta welcomes Eliot Grayson to the blog.  Welcome to the first post on the new site. 🙂 Eliot is a new author to me but was intrigued by the burb she sent to me in Instagram direct message and wanted to read it.

Note: A reader copy was provided for an honest review.  The book released on Amazon December 7th, 2023.

The Blurb:

Dawn mage. Twilight mage. Cursed, useless, damaged, dangerous

His birth magic leaves Prince Nikola with nothing but bad choices: live as another man’s possession, subject to his whims and his desires, or remain dependent on a potion that stunts his powers and prevents him from knowing love.

Andreas vows to protect the prince with his life—whether Nikola wants him to or not. After all, the queen pays his soldier’s wage. Nikola’s nothing but a job to do.

But when they find themselves stranded, with Nikola’s potion running out, Andreas has to…improvise. Because what Prince Nikola needs to survive is the opposite of a lowly guard’s respectful protection.

It should’ve been only one night. Just until the potion’s refilled. But now that Nikola’s had Andreas’s touch, he craves Andreas again and again. He shouldn’t. But he—and his magic—can’t live without it…

The Royal Curse is a high-heat MM fantasy romance with a stubborn prince, an even more stubborn soldier, and cursed magic that can’t be denied. There is an on-page attempted sexual assault that is not between the main characters. HEA guaranteed.

The Review:

5 Stars

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I read this a few months ago, in one sitting no less; but, work, holidays, and moving my blog to be self hosting delayed this review. I realized as I was writing this post that it’s been a few years since my last review on my blog. I had said in an earlier post I wanted to review more this year. Well, now I have posted the first review of the year. 🙂 Hopefully, the first of many.

It is a start of a new series about Twilight mages and I have to say that Eliot knocked it out of the park with this first installment. We have Prince Nikola who suppresses his magic with a potion that needs to be carefully made, a trip that has some action-packed scenes highlighting that Nikola is not just a pretty, royal face, and Andreas, who started out as a bodyguard but the seeds of romance were in place long before these events. The writing is a cross between Victorian and medieval English in wording and cadence, and just a delight to read. It is definitely high-heat and wonderfully written with the requisite happily-ever-after ending.

It’s a fun story with some darker elements, a betrayal, and the romance gives you all the feels. In it, you can see the hints of who will be one of the main characters in a later book. Whether it’s the next book, or not, remains to be seen. I thoroughly enjoyed it, and I can’t wait for the next installment.

With this, I give The Royal Curse 5 stars.

Eloreen Moon

Book Links:

Goodreads | Amazon

About the Author:

Eliot’s a lifelong Southern California girl, right down to the flip-flops and backyard garden. When she’s not writing her next book, you can find her reading, drinking tea, or (more likely) catering to the demands of her kids and ancient, cranky cat.

Steamy books with delicious tension, heart-wrenching pining, and a hefty dose of action and adventure have always been her jam as a reader. Guess what she writes?

You can catch up with her on Facebook in her reader group, Eliot Grayson’s Escape from Reality, or sign up for her newsletter at eliotgrayson.com.

Website | Goodreads Author Page | Amazon Author Page | Instagram | Facebook Group ~ Escape from Reality | BookBub | Linktree

#Blitz: The Couple Next Door by @rickrreed #NewRelease #Contemporary #Romance #LGBTQIA+

Title: The Couple Next Door

Author: Rick R. Reed

Publisher: NineStar Press

Release Date: September 14, 2020

Heat Level: 3 – Some Sex

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: 66500

Genre: Contemporary, LGBTQIA+, MM romance, author, multiple personality disorder, brothers, murder

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Synopsis

Jeremy Booth leads a simple life, scraping by in the gay neighborhood of Seattle, never letting his lack of material things get him down. But the one thing he really wants—someone to love—seems elusive. Until the couple next door moves in and Jeremy sees the man of his dreams, Shane McCallister, pushed down the stairs by a brute named Cole.

Jeremy would never go after another man’s boyfriend, so he reaches out to Shane in friendship while suppressing his feelings of attraction. But the feeling of something being off only begins with Cole being a hard-fisted bully—it ends with him seeming to be different people at different times. Some days, Cole is the mild-mannered John and then, one night in a bar, he’s the sassy and vivacious drag queen Vera.

So how can Jeremy rescue the man of his dreams from a situation that seems to get crazier and more dangerous by the day? By getting close to the couple next door, Jeremy not only puts a potential love in jeopardy, but eventually his very life.

Excerpt

The Couple Next Door
Rick R. Reed © 2020
All Rights Reserved

How many disappointing dates will I endure before I just give up?

I mean, here I am, a perfectly attractive, fit, self-sufficient thirty-year-old, and I’m still waiting to meet the man of my dreams. Mr. Right. Hell, tonight I’d even settle for that character who seems to come along on dates for most of us, the all-too-common Mr. Right Now. But even he isn’t on the seat beside me. In fact, I strongly doubt he’s anywhere in the vicinity of the Capitol Hill neighborhood of Seattle where I live.

Believe me, I’ve looked.

Mr. First Date pulls his Ford Fusion up to the curb in front of my apartment building on Aloha Avenue. We sit in awkward silence for several long moments, listening as the engine ticks down as it cools. I can feel him looking at me. As he’s done most of the evening, he waits for me to speak. I turn my head and, in the dark, give him a weak smile. The date, dinner at a little sushi place on Broadway, had not gone well, full of uncomfortable silences, awkward pauses, and desperate looks around for avenues of escape—on both our parts.

Do I need to say we just didn’t click?

I didn’t think so.

So what he says now surprises me.

“Do you want me to come up?”

Really? We’ve just spent an hour and a half of agony together, trying to find a snippet of common ground that doesn’t exist, and he’s wondering if I want him to come up, which we all know is code for “Shall we make the beast with two backs?”

Seriously? The most irksome thing is, I’m considering it. I mean, he’s cute in spite of our lack of social connection. He’s a games developer for a software company here in town and looks it, with a sort of hipster/geek vibe going on. He has red hair, which I love. He has a beard, which I love. He wears retro glasses, which make him look paradoxically goofy and sexy—which I love.

Would it be so terrible to sleep with him? I mean, it’s been at least two weeks since I’ve enjoyed the charms of anyone other than Mr. Thumb and his four sons, so at least in terms of a release, maybe I should just say “Sure” and open the car door. If things go like some of my dates in the past, he’d follow me upstairs to my apartment and be back in his car in, like, fifteen minutes.

No, I tell myself. And then I tell him, shaking my head, looking sad, and saying the words countless heartbreakers have used over the years to stop ardent passion in its errant tracks.

“I’m sorry, Neil. But I have to get up early.” Lamely, I pat his hand. “Maybe another time.”

I don’t need to be psychic to know that we both know another time ain’t gonna happen.

Neil seems relieved as he restarts his car. He shrugs. “It’s okay. Club Z’s just a couple minutes away, right? Down Broadway and a right on Pike—easy.”

He grins at me, and I wonder if he expects me to laugh. Club Z is one of Seattle’s filthiest bathhouses, and yes, it’s only a few minutes away. He doesn’t seem to need directions.

It’s my turn to be relieved that I didn’t actually succumb to the temptation of inviting this jerk upstairs. Wordlessly, I get out of the car and slam the door behind me.

Neil roars off into the damp and still night.

I pause and sigh, staring up at the building in which I’ve lived for the past five years. It’s an okay place, an old redbrick three story with none of the modern amenities—no stainless steel, granite countertops, or gas fireplaces. My apartment is homey. It even has the original tile, sink, and claw-foot tub in its single bathroom. The living room is large, with three big windows that look out on Aloha and let in lots of light—on the days when we have sun in Seattle (that means usually summer days). The floors are scuffed original hardwood. The kitchen actually has a pantry and built-in china hutch. I’ve painted the place a cheery, soft yellow.

Upstairs, the TV, with its DVRed episodes of at-odds Sons of Anarchy and Downton Abbey, awaits. Upstairs, there’s the gelato I love from Whole Foods in the freezer—hazelnut dark chocolate.

Such is my life. Comfortable and a little lonely.

Sometimes I wonder, like Peggy Lee, if that’s all there is.

I head toward the glass-paned front door. I grope in my jeans for my keys. The mail had not yet arrived before I left for my date, and I wonder if there will be any surprises in the vestibule mailbox. You know, like an actual letter from someone, standing out from the usual assortment of bills and solicitations by the cursive spelling out of my name—Jeremy Booth.

My problem is I always have hope, even when there’s little reason.

I open the front door, and that’s when everything changes. My life turns upside down. I go from bored discontent to panic in a split second.

The first thing I hear is someone shouting “No!” in an anguished voice. I look up from the lobby to see two figures on the staircase above, on the second-floor landing. One is a guy who looks menacing and so butch he could pose for a Tom of Finland poster. An aura of danger radiates from him. Aside from his imposing and muscular frame, he’s even wearing the right clothes—tight, rolled jeans and a black leather biker jacket with a chain snaking out from beneath one of the epaulets. His high- and tight-buzzed hair gives him a military—and mean—air. He has his hands on the shoulders of a guy who looks a bit younger and much slighter, making me want to call up the stairs, “Why don’t you pick on someone your own size?” The smaller guy, blond and clad only in a pair of pajama bottoms, struggles with his attacker, looking terrified. Their movements, clumsy and rough, would be comical if they weren’t so scary. The smaller guy is panting and batting ineffectually at the bigger one.

“Please! No! Don’t!” the smaller guy manages to get out, his voice close to hysteria.

I have never seen either of these men before. In fact, the whole scene has the quality of the surreal, a dream. The danger and conflict pulsing down the stairs makes my own heart rate and respiration accelerate, causing feelings of panic to rise within me.

And then the worst happens. The big butch guy shoves the smaller one hard, and all at once he’s tumbling heavily down the stairs toward me.

The fall is graceless, and it looks like it hurts. It’s over so fast that I’m left gasping.

I look up to see the leather-jacket guy sneer down at his mate, lying crumpled and crying at my feet, and then turn sharply on his heel to go back into a second-floor apartment that had been vacant yesterday. He slams the door. The sound of the deadbolt sliding into place is like the report of a shotgun. Both slam and lock resound like thunderclaps, echoing in the tile lobby, punctuation to the drama and trauma of this short scene.

I switch into Good Samaritan mode and drop to my knees at the sniveling, crumpled mess of a man lying practically at my feet.

“Are you okay?” I ask and reach out to lightly touch his shoulder.

He jerks away and, wincing, pulls himself up into an awkward sitting position. He stares at me with clear blue eyes for a moment, almost as though he’s trying to place me. He finally looks away.

“My ankle is throbbing. It hurts like hell. Maybe I twisted it.”

I don’t know what to say, other than to ask, “Would you like to try and stand? Test it out?”

He nods.

I lean over to grip him under the arms—it’s damp there, and I can smell the ripe aroma of body odor, probably inspired by fear or panic—and pull. He comes up with me and then stumbles, wincing and crying out.

“Damn. I might have sprained it when I fell.” His eyes are so appealing, in both senses of the word, as he stares at me, as though seeking direction for what to do next. He leans on me, taking his weight off the injured ankle.

I keep my arm around him, and together we limp over to a bench set beneath the bank of common mailboxes. We sit.

“What do you want to do?” I ask.

“I don’t know. I think Cole may have locked me out for the night.”

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Meet the Author

Real Men. True Love.

Rick R. Reed is an award-winning and bestselling author of more than fifty works of published fiction. He is a Lambda Literary Award finalist. Entertainment Weekly has described his work as “heartrending and sensitive.” Lambda Literary has called him: “A writer that doesn’t disappoint…” Find him at www.rickrreedreality.blogspot.com. Rick lives in Palm Springs, CA, with his husband, Bruce, and their fierce Chihuahua/Shiba Inu mix, Kodi.

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#Blitz: The Handsome Twist by @PezhmunDGhiassi #NewRelease #Thriller #Horror #Romance #Menage #LGBTQIA+

Title: The Handsome Twist

Author: Pezhmun D Ghiassi

Publisher: Friesen press

Release Date: 8/19/2020

Heat Level: 3 – Some Sex

Pairing: Male/Male/Female (Male/Male interaction), Male/Male Menage

Length: 144 pages

Genre: Romance, Fantasy, Horror, Literary Fiction, New Adult, Thriller/Suspense

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Synopsis

The Handsome Twist is a dark fairy tale inspired by the author’s actual life, being raised in Iran as a gay male, which for many who don’t know, is equivalent to the death penalty. Due to tackling topics such as perverse behavior, taboo lust, political oppression, maltreatment, rape and homicide, in high volume of vulgar language, this book is aimed for the mature audience.

Living his sweetest life in a cozy cottage, deep in the heart of a magical forest, a little boy by the name Pezhmun is cursed on his 10th birthday by the 1st royal subject of Hell, queen of lust, to live a life full of horrific trauma and tragedy.

In the rudest awakening he is stripped from his chakras as they take human form, helping him to truly comprehend the power of love, through self acceptance and courage, where only then he meets his soulmate, but hopefully in time to save the world from plunging into eternal darkness.

This story points to topics in which many of people who grow up LGBTQ, usually face throughout the journey of self discovery and self acceptance with a hope of inspiring all to be there true organic selves.

The Handsome Twist simple edition is written in a more comprehensive manner for all to read without difficulty in comparison to the sophisticated, prosaic and poetic original version.

Excerpt

I was born on a glacial Thursday, 4 am of January 4th, 1990, in Baltimore, Maryland, from a mixture of Persian, Irish, Italian, and Native American, something my mother use to call a Heinz 57 ketchup. A year later, after my birth, both my father and mother grew exasperated from to the complexities of the cold climate. In a drastic change of mind, our domesticity was relocated to the Sunny Scottsdale of Arizona.

I confess life in the scorched city did us well. My parents both successful businessman and woman, steady income, a beautiful home and anything to ever ask for and how I wish life always showed its brighter side to me and my loved ones, but that’s not always the case, and this life we speak of isn’t always dreamy…

I recall being ten and en-route from school to home that day as a certain anxiety pommeled my paunch.

I swung the door open only to my witness, the household tarnished! I had never seen so much shattered glass and porcelain gathered in one spot! My pops seeing me rapidly tugged my wrist, marching to the bedroom, sitting us at his computer. “You want to see what your mom’s doing?” My momma’s shriek from the other side of the house rang loud “Parheez No! Don’t do that to him!” Disregarding her plea, he opened his browser, pulling up a website. A tall, scrawny man, his blinkers framed in glass binoculars, and a dirty brown mustache with a red cap on his head appeared as my father uttered, “You’re mother is fucking this man!” I gasped in shock! My breath shortened as I dashed to my only sibling, my older sister’s room drowning in tears! I leaped to her embrace as she nurtured me. How could someone do that to a 10-year old I pondered! Anyhow, let’s let that minor one slip, considering that the least of our worries, for now, that is.

Months later, the once upon a time madly in love couple split! My father by fate lost all his fortune to his partner who had swindled him to his very last dime and as far as my mother who till that day had dedicated her life-giving me and my sister her all, chose emancipation parting ways, re-wedding to a forest firefighter named” William Delaney ” who most likely now quivers in the icy flames of Hell!

My old man now left with empty pockets, and two kids on his hand did what he only knew best, returning to his homeland, Iran.

Luckily his parents had been financially blessed and were indeed the significance of benevolence granting us a home to launch a new life!

A year later, my Baba saw suitable to remarry, so he did. He pondered maybe if a motherly figure hovered our lives, it would do us good, another erroneous mistake!

My step-dame initially seemed the kindest, sweetest being to roam the earth, though gradually in time, she allowed her true colors to show vibrancy.

This woman I speak of had seen much darkness and cruelty in her life, and by the time she had been locked into our family, already had she entrapped herself in a chamber of bitterness, constructed by bricks of pessimism and paranoia. So to be honest, yes, she has a golden heart, though like myself a very fucked up past with the only difference I chose the path of wisdom, not ignorance in my years of youth.

My father made certain to never deprive her of emotion, yet still, she portrayed envy for the love and affection he offered us, making it her mission to assure our lives a misery.

By night shame would be our pillows and goosebumps of gloom our blankets. Now imagine me, my sister to her brown almond eyes, adversaries, not offspring!

Years of her crudeness sailed the sea of our existence till in a sudden twist, this compulsively jealous spouse of a wife of my father went down a darker spiral of violence as one day I declined one of her many ruthless requisitions, expecting me to drop whatever I had in hand and spring at her ease.

I stood up for myself for once, in-surprise my merit were sharpened claws! Scaring my throat, leaving a sting of blood, the image of my scrag!

If a wicked stepmother was my only pain, I’m positive I wouldn’t be here scribbling away.

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Meet the Author

Born in Baltimore, Maryland, Raised in Iran, Ghiassi is a renaissance in the field of art! At the age 10 after the separation of his parents he along with his father and sister moved to Iran. He soon began school in a Farsi language school and easily became adapted. In his teen years he discovered himself a dilatent in the field of art by sowing clothing, painting, dancing and high school plays. Ghiassi is a graduate with a BA in Persian literature. At the age 24 he returned to America, served as a US Marine reservist and soon found himself obsessed with writing and a brilliant outlet to manage his heavy luggage of trauma and pain. He currently now resides in Southern California, studying film and directing as an actors student in hopes to one day transform The Handsome into a full length feature.

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#Blitz: Time Lost (Out of Time 02) by C.B. Lewis #NewRelease #ScienceFiction #Mystery #LGBTQIA+

Title: Time Lost

Series: Out of Time, Book Two

Author: C.B. Lewis

Publisher: NineStar Press

Release Date: September 7, 2020

Heat Level: 3 – Some Sex

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: 114600

Genre: Science Fiction, LGBTQIA+, science fiction, gay, British, detective/police officer, law enforcement, crime procedural, engineer, programmer/decoder, murder, mystery, age gap, interracial, dirty talk, spanking, outrageous flirtation

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Synopsis

A dead intruder. A missing scientist. A terrified child.

No one wants a dramatic case first thing on a Monday morning, but that’s exactly what Detective Inspector Jacob Ofori got. It should be open and shut, but scientist Tom Sanders is nowhere to be found, a dead man seems to have appeared from thin air, and the Temporal Research Institute—Sanders’s company—is strangely uncooperative about assisting with the case.

Jacob’s only source is TRI engineer, Kit Rafferty. He clearly wants to help, but there’s only so much the man can and will tell him. As more and more impossible questions mount up, Jacob finds himself facing a reality that could change his world.

Excerpt

Time Lost
C.B. Lewis © 2020
All Rights Reserved

Chapter One
At first, everyone assumed it was a burglary.

The postman was the first on the scene. He’d arrived early in the morning to make a delivery to the house in question and found the front door wedged open. No one answered when he rang the bell, so he called the police. The two constables arrived to investigate, and they were the ones who found the body.

It escalated after that.

Not even noon, Jacob thought grimly. Hell of a way to start a Monday.

His autopod shuttled along, arcing off from the main highway. As much as he missed manual controls of old-fashioned cars and early autocars, he appreciated the driverless function of the pod because it gave him time to skim through the images from the crime scene en route.

He wouldn’t get a feel for the scene until he got there, but the images let him know what he was about to walk into. There were signs of a struggle in the room where the body was found, and plenty of blood, but the rest of the house seemed undisturbed.

“Control to Delta Seven. ETA to destination?”

Jacob leaned forward and cleared the images from the display on the windscreen, bringing up his location on the map. Beyond it, he could see the country roads through the glass.

“ETA fifteen minutes, Control,” he replied, then muttered under his breath, “Into the backside of nowhere.”

It was half an hour beyond the miles of sprawling suburbs of the city in the middle of green fields and close to a forest. The nearest amenities had to be at least four miles from the building. He shook his head. What kind of person chose to live all the way out there anymore? It wasn’t as if there were a shortage of housing in the city.

A chime indicated another image had been received.

Jacob opened it up and leaned forward, frowning.

A door, barely visible, blended into the pattern of the wall. No handle, no visible hinges.

“You seeing this, sir?” Constable Foley’s voice rang through the speaker.

“I am indeed, Foley,” he said, widening the image. “Is that a safe room?”

“Looks that way, sir,” the constable replied. “The dust in front of it suggests a box was moved and recently. Looks like someone might be in there.”

Smart girl, Jacob thought with approval.

“Any response?”

“Not yet, sir, but if they were attacked—”

“They might not be capable of replying,” Jacob finished. “Keep trying.” He minimised the image and looked out through the windscreen. “I have visual on you, Foley. Be with you soon.”

Ahead of him, the house was visible between the trees. The red brick structure had to be at least two centuries old, but even from a distance, the modern touches were obvious. The windows were thick and secure. The roof had been replaced with faux slate.

The autopod purred to a halt beside the four other vehicles lining the gravel courtyard, and the door slid aside. Jacob stepped out and glanced at the other vehicles. He recognised the coroner’s transport pod, and the standard blue-and-white- patterned squad pod, but the other two were probably the homeowner’s.

Foley opened the front door to greet him.

Half his age, she hadn’t been with the force long enough to be as jaded as him yet. She smiled in greeting. “Morning, sir.”

He winced. “Say afternoon. It makes it a little more bearable.”

She laughed. “You want a summary, sir?”

“I read up on it on the way over. Any word on the owner?”

“Thomas Sanders,” Foley said, leading him toward the house. “Forty-eight. Widower with one young son. He’s a well-reputed scientist and engineer. High up in some kind of historical and scientific research program in the city, the Temporal Research Institution.”

“Have you been able to make contact with him?”

Foley shook her head, her sandy ponytail swinging. She offered him overalls to cover his suit. “We’ve tried his business and private numbers. His colleagues said he’s been on a leave of absence for health reasons for several weeks. Our best bet is the safe room.”

“Any sign of the son?”

“We assume he’s with his father,” Foley replied.

“Do we have an ID for the body yet?”

She hesitated in the hallway. “That’s the strange thing, sir. We can’t find anything on him. His prints aren’t in the system. No DNA trace either. We still need to run facial recognition, but so far, we’ve got nothing.”

“That’s not unusual.”

Foley looked at him. “There’s something off about it all. I’ll show you.”

The house was spacious inside. The lower level was split into four rooms, all branching off from a wide, sunlit hall. Foley led him down the hall and to one of the rooms at the back, her covered boots thumping on the wooden floors.

Jacob stopped in the doorway, taking a moment, then stepped across the threshold. The crime scene team was still at work.

The room appeared to be some kind of laboratory with workbenches running along one wall. Another wall was covered in old-fashioned whiteboards with all kinds of incomprehensible text and codes marked on them in half a dozen colours. Jacob studied all of it for a moment, but whatever Sanders was working on, it was far beyond Jacob’s barely adequate physics A level.

There were little machines here and there, suspended from the boards by wires. Spools of wire and gears were scattered across the floor. Several boxes had been upended from shelves and lay on their sides.

In the middle of it all, the body lay face down on the floor, a bloodied hammer close at hand.

Danni Michaels was working on the body and glanced up with a nod. “Sir.”

“Cause of death?” Jacob said, keeping his eyes off the dead man’s face.

“Looks like blunt force trauma,” Danni replied, nudging her magnifying glasses up her nose with her knuckles. “I don’t think it’s a wild guess to say the weapon was that hammer. It was a single blow, landed here.”

Jacob gritted his teeth and looked. The left side of the man’s forehead was ruptured. His eyes were open, and he had an expression of surprise on his rigid, bloody face. He was young. Maybe thirties. Dark-haired. His eyes were dark, the pupils flared wide open, but death sometimes did that. Blood had spread in a wide, sticky pool around his body. Jacob swallowed down the familiar rising acid.

Christ, he hated the messy ones.

He glanced around the room.

A pair of slippers, several steps away from the blood pool, had left bloody prints on the polished floor. The owner must have kicked them off, and they’d ended up at least three feet from each other. Not good shoes for running, slippers. If he—men’s slippers, size nine approximately—had already knocked down the man on the floor, then there had to be another assailant whom he was running from.

“Any sign of this man’s accomplice?”

“Accomplice?” Foley asked.

Jacob gestured to the slippers. It was easier than looking at the body. “You don’t try and run from an unconscious, nearly dead man. There was someone else here.”

“We haven’t seen any sign of anyone else,” Foley replied. “Sorry, sir. I didn’t even notice that.”

He offered her a brief smile. “That’s why I’m a DI, Foley.” He motioned to the body. “You said there was something off?”

Foley nodded, crouching by the body. “Take a look at his right eye.”

Jacob went down beside her, propping his forearms on his knees. It took him a moment, but then he saw what she was pointing out: The pupil wasn’t blown. There was no iris at all.

“What the hell…” He leaned closer. “Michaels, can I borrow your magnifiers?”

She handed them over and obligingly shone the torch over the man’s eyes. “Clever, isn’t it?”

Jacob peered down and frowned. “A synthetic bionic eyeball? Is that even possible?”

Michaels shook her head. “I’ve heard of people developing them, but I’ve never heard of any successful trials.” She squatted by the body and grinned. “I can’t wait to get it out and see what it’s made of.”

“And there’s one of those images I didn’t need,” Jacob murmured, peering through the magnifier again. The pupil seemed to be a focusing lens. High-quality, high-end technology. “Foley, have you checked anywhere that might carry tech this advanced?”

“We’re putting together a list,” she said. “But from what we’re hearing back, this is off the charts, sir. No one has heard of technology like this before, or if they have, they’re not telling us about it.”

He straightened up. “You said this Sanders was a scientist?”

“Doctor in physics and engineering,” she confirmed.

“Could he have made something like this?”

She hesitated. “From all accounts, he didn’t deal in human biology or bio-artificing.”

“Doesn’t mean he couldn’t.” Jacob ran a hand over his face. “Well, if we can’t find this man by standard identification, maybe we can find him by the eye he doesn’t have. Danni, we need all the information you can get us as soon as possible.”

“Sir,” Danni said at once.

Jacob turned to Foley. “Where’s Singh?”

“Still trying to get into the safe room.” She jerked her head. “This way.”

The safe room was up the stairs in what appeared to be a playroom. Windows lined one of the walls, the others covered in posters and drawings. Kids’ toys and games were scattered all over the place. Singh was working his way along the one blank wall with a scanner.

Jacob took in the mess. “You said Sanders has a son?”

“Ben,” Foley confirmed.

“About eight?”

Foley looked at him in surprise. “Seven and a half. Is this another one of those detective things?”

Jacob chuckled. “This time, it’s one of those dad things.”

Singh glanced over his shoulder at them, sighing in frustration. “Foley, I know you said to scan for a high intensity of fingerprints on the wall, but this whole wall is fingerprints.” He nodded at Jacob. “Afternoon, sir.”

“Singh.” Jacob approached, studying the wall. “It’s very smoothly done, isn’t it?” He rubbed his short beard thoughtfully with his fingertips. “No visible buttons or latches anywhere?”

“None we could find,” Foley said. “I thought it might be a pressure-point system, but seems not. We requested an expert, but they’ve been delayed.”

“I think we need to un-delay them,” Jacob said, touching his earbud to activate it. “If Sanders is wounded and inside there, we need to get him out. If not, we need confirmation, because this could be an abduction.”

While they waited, Jacob had gone down to the laboratory to take another look at the whiteboards. He didn’t see what it had to do with Sanders’s work at the Temporal Research Institution. A quick search suggested the institution specialised in identifying historical discrepancies and confirming historical events. It could be something to do with locating old records and creating algorithms, he supposed. You would need a specialised engineer to do that.

“Sir?”

Jacob turned. “Foley?”

“The smith is here. I thought you might want to be present if he can open the door.”

They headed back up the stairs to the playroom. The body had been removed in the hour before the locksmith arrived, the crime scene unit now working their way out from the house across the grounds, searching for trace evidence of the intruders.

The locksmith was already working on the wall with a scanning device.

“Apparently,” Singh said, joining them, “all safe room doors come installed with a registration chip, in case the mechanism needs to be deactivated in an emergency.”

“Not unlike this,” Jacob observed. “Useful.”

The locksmith glanced over. “It’s a recent make. Give me two minutes.”

In the end, he took less than thirty seconds, and the door swung outward.

Inside, there was a room big enough for a family, but only one person was there. A small tawny-haired boy shrank back into the corner of the room, his arms wrapped around his legs, his face bone-white.

Jacob motioned for the smith and the two constables to back off, and crouched a couple of feet away from the door.

“Hey,” he murmured.

The boy was shivering, and tears rolled down his face from swollen, red-rimmed eyes.

Jacob took out his badge, laid it on the floor, and slid it across to the boy. “It’s okay. I’m a policeman. My name’s Jacob.” He watched as the boy tentatively leaned forward and looked at the badge. “Are you Ben?”

The boy nodded. “Where’s my dad?” His voice shook as much as he was.

“We’re trying to find him now.” Jacob offered a hand. “Do you want to come out? You don’t need to stay in there.”

“Dad told me to stay here.” Ben wrapped his arms tighter around his legs. “He told me to, until he came to get me.”

“I know.” Jacob knelt and sat back on his heels. “We want him to come and get you, too, Ben, but right now, I think he’d want you to be safe, don’t you? How about we keep you safe?”

“P-promise?”

Jacob nodded. “Promise.”

Ben got unsteadily to his feet. His trousers were sodden, and there was vomit on the front of his shirt. The poor kid must have been terrified. Jacob knelt up, offering both his hands, and Ben’s icy fingers wrapped around his.

“There you go,” Jacob said as gently as he could, drawing Ben back out. “You’re safe now.”

The little boy gave a sob and stumbled forward and wrapped his arms around Jacob’s neck, clinging to him. Jacob scooped him up and rose to his feet with the boy in his arms. He rubbed his hand in circles on Ben’s back.

“You’re okay,” he murmured. “You’re okay.”

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Meet the Author

C.B. Lewis has been making up nonsense since she was able to talk. Now, she puts it into computers and turns it into books. She is chuffed to bits to officially be yet another one of the collective of authors from Edinburgh. Find C.B. Lewis on Facebook.

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