Drifting by J. Calamy – Spotlight and Giveaway

Long and Short Reviews welcomes J. Calamy who is celebrating the recent release of Drifting, the first book in the Diving In series. Enter the Rafflecopter at the end of the post for the chance to win a $50.00 First for Romance Gift Card! Competition hosted by Totally Entwined Group.

Two men starting over, and the discovery that could shatter their worlds.

Artist and antiquities expert Cole Hadley is in a good place. Assistant Cultural Attaché to the US Embassy, Cairo, he’s over his divorce, rebuilding his confidence after years of fat-shaming and misery and checking off the first of his bucket-list items, SCUBA diving in the Red Sea.

Hank Ashton, bearded, built, the best—and meanest—divemaster on the Sea, is stranded in the dying town of Al’Shahin. He owes a local gangster a pile of money and is stuck teaching basic classes at a failing hotel to pay the debt, the dream of his own dive shop slipping further away every year.

Cole’s joy and wonder at Hank’s world cracks his carefully constructed shell, forcing him to realize how lucky he is. In turn, Hank’s lust for Cole’s body and care for his happiness go miles toward healing Cole’s bruised heart. Their shared passion for the marvels of the undersea world spills over into a sizzling affair…one they both know has an expiration date.

Until, in exploring the sea, they make the discovery of the century, one that could change both their lives. But their very different plans reveal just how little they know each other. Cole and Hank have to decide exactly what’s important to them and be brave enough to get it, if they’re to have any hope of resurfacing together.

Reader advisory: This book contains mentions of bullying including fat-shaming and homophobia, as well as reference to gangster activities.

Enjoy an Excerpt

It wasn’t fair to be this cold on the shores of the Sahara. Despite the broiling heat trying to claw its way through the cracks under the doors, the air conditioning of the Hotel Grande Al’Shahin was arctic, setting Cole’s teeth chattering and chilling his clammy shirt to his back. Hugging himself, he didn’t catch the concierge’s spiel.

“I’m sorry, what?”

“Our pool has a dance show every night at six o’clock.” She pressed a stack of brochures into Cole’s hands then glanced at his belly…again. He managed not to tug at his shirt this time as her voice dropped into a conspiratorial murmur. “We have the best in-house gym, and the spa has an amazing detox wrap. Takes inches off. Incredible results.”

How delightful. Cole couldn’t muster a single response, his mind clicking like a car with a dead battery. None of his canned responses, perfected over the last two years, were coming. Only his therapist’s “You don’t always have to educate people. Sometimes it’s okay to ignore them.”

“I’m more interested in diving lessons,” Cole said, trying not to clench his teeth. “But thank you.”

Her face went blank, but not before assuming a brief look of incredulity that didn’t help with the teeth clenching at all. “Diving? We have a full-service dive shop,” she said. “They do intro classes every Monday, Wednesday and Friday and twice on Saturday. If you…know how to swim?”

“Sounds great,” Cole said, sliding away. That was enough BS for one day. The flight from Cairo had been short but brutal—he didn’t need this on top.

Despite his grand-sounding title—and the State Department loved titles—as the Assistant Cultural Attaché to the United States Embassy, Cairo, Cole had flown in a middle seat. On the return flight I’m upgrading. Never letting the morale office book me a flight again. He’d pretended to be asleep to avoid seeing the faces of his row-mates. Legs and arms clenched tight, seatbelt cutting his hips despite the extension, Cole had barely breathed the whole flight.

The heat and salt marsh air of Al’Shahin had slapped him the moment he’d staggered off the plane onto the shimmering tarmac. Clean air, to be sure, but also hot. Broiling, unbelievably hot. And humid! Trapped against the Sinai, Al’Shahin stewed in the evaporation off the Red Sea. Less than a year in Egypt, and he thought he had mastered the heat. Humidity had not even occurred to him.

Neither had freezing to death in a hotel lobby. It was eleven a.m., and he was exhausted. A backhanded insult about his weight wasn’t the welcome he’d imagined. Three years ago, he would have broken down in tears. A year ago, he would have given her a lecture. But present-day Cole shrugged it off, making for the doors. They always mean well, don’t they? And maybe I’ll get the f****** wrap anyway. Maybe I wanted to before she even said anything. So there.

He took a deep breath before pushing out onto the patio. The heat clawed him with greedy fingers, sun blazing cheerfully away overhead. Three steps, and he could feel the heat in his mouth. Five, and he could sense it through the soles of his shoes. The back of his neck burned, and he looked around, trying to shake off the feeling of being watched. Stared at. You are being paranoid. It’s just the heat.

The pool shimmered, a mirage of blue. Darker sunglasses, they were first on the shopping list. Christ, and he thought Cairo was hot? Still feeling eyes on him, he tried to walk quickly but not too quickly, ignoring the rattle of his suitcase wheels over the pebbled walk. The sweat on his lower back itched. A shower. A shower and a nap then I can reassess. Hands slick, he bobbled his phone, dropped it and his sunglasses both. Someone laughed. Cole flinched, even as his brain registered the sound was happy, flirtatious laughter. Not look at that loser laughter.

“You are not a loser,” he muttered, gripping his phone and straightening his sunglasses. He gave his shirt a sharp tug over his belly. “You have never been a loser. Those were Donnie’s words.” He hadn’t needed that mantra in a while. Cairo was…good. Busy, interesting, professionally validating and really fricking good. Living in a cramped Cairo apartment? Not so much. But who cared? It was Cairo! The geography and antiquities nerd dream.

But now here he was, thinking of his ex, feeling eyes watching him, hurt and slipping into intrusive thoughts. Why? Just because people were laughing?

“All right, all right, quit messing around,” a rough voice barked out, making Cole fumble his phone again. The happy laughter cut off in a chorus of groans. “I don’t care how tired you are! You clean your gear, then you can relax.”

A small building squatted on the far side of the pool, with a thatch roof and an open central arcade, shaded and tiled in blue. The dive shop. The sign over the opening was faded, a shark curled dimly under the Grande logo. One of the million old pickup trucks littering Africa was backed up to the arcade, and a group of young people passed equipment back and forth like hurrying ants.

The bark belonged to a tall, scowling man standing in the bed of the truck with his hands on his hips and glaring straight at Cole from behind a pair of mirrored aviators.

Tanned from the sun, with wide shoulders, he wore a wetsuit unzipped to the waist and hanging around his legs. He had a shaved head and short scruffy beard, brown heavily threaded with gray. The harsh lines of his face made art deco angles with his jaw as he shouted at the divers scrambling around the truck. Whoever this pissed-off jerk thought he was, he was staring at Cole.

Taking a slow deep-oven-hot breath, Cole straightened his sunglasses, glancing back over out of the corner of his eye. His championship record of making a fool of himself in front of hot straight men made him cautious, but he didn’t miss the way the guy in the truck glanced his way again. Busted.

“It ain’t complicated, doll.” The divemaster sneered at a pretty blonde girl with her hands on her hips. “You rinse the salt off your gear, you hang it up, and then you can eat.”

About the Author J Calamy is a queer, disabled veteran and foreign service wonk who spends a good part of the year bouncing down dirt roads in the back of range rovers with men with guns. Coffee, romance novels, and embassy scuttlebutt are her last remaining vices.

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The Hardest Part of Writing by Tanith Davenport – Guest Blog and Giveaway

This post is part of a virtual book tour organized by Goddess Fish Promotions. Tanith Davenport will be awarding a $20 Amazon or Barnes and Noble GC to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour. Click on the tour banner to see the other stops on the tour.

The hardest part about writing is… the beginning and the end

I could argue that every part of writing has its own challenges, but there are two in particular that I always dread. Starting a new story and, of course, writing the synopsis afterwards.

Beginning a new story is always a nightmare for me. Not only do I need to introduce the characters in a way that will grab people, I also have to come up with an introductory scene that works as a good hook. Do I open with dialogue? Description? A surprise? And I have never liked finding a way to physically describe my heroine. We’ve all seen the cliché where the heroine looks at herself in a mirror – I try to avoid that, but always struggle to find a decent opening for it.

And then there’s the synopsis. Blurbs are fine – they’re designed to sell the story quickly and without ruining the plot – but the whole point of a synopsis is that it gives the whole plot and yet still has to grab the reader. Sometimes I feel like the synopsis takes more preparation than the entire story. It can be a humbling experience, as you try to prune your story down to its basic components and then instantly convince yourself that it sounds like crap.

Fortunately the fun part – writing the rest of the story – usually makes up for the bookended suffering. And for me it’s all worth it when I get to see my new cover art. There’s nothing quite like seeing an amazing cover for your new book, and luckily Totally Bound have a great cover art team.

Maybe next time I’ll start the book in the middle and write the beginning later.

Amber Blake is fleeing a terrible betrayal in her past by touring with rock band Puppetmaster as a make-up artist with her best friend Elyse. Knowing the band is struggling, she hopes to use her make-up skills to reinvent their image, but when a member of the crew drops out, Amber finds herself asked to contribute in a different way – in the form of heated sexual conversations with hot lead singer Cassian Marsh to put him in top form before every concert.

Despite her past, Amber is unable to resist Cassian’s charm and raw energy, and enjoys knowing she can drive him wild with just her voice – but their increasingly passionate meetings leave her longing for more. Can she move past the betrayal she suffered – and can she convince a man as commitment-phobic as Cassian to break his no-dating rule and let her into his heart?

enjoy an Excerpt

The music changed to a darker, heavier track and Amber felt goosebumps rise on her skin. If You’re Cold. This was one of their best ones.

Watching Cassian perform was definitely the best part of her job. During the day she never allowed her gaze to linger on him—at night was a different matter. At night she could hide in the shadows, no longer having to deal with the masks they wore every day.

Cassian behind his mask was just so…real.

But she had had enough musician boyfriends to know getting involved with another would be a bad idea, even if the men of Puppetmaster hadn’t been perpetually unavailable. Nate’s relationship with Elyse was considered a blip. Cassian hadn’t had a girlfriend in years.

And Cassian, she knew, was well out of reach.

But, God, was he worth looking at.

His lean, muscular arms exposed by his leather waistcoat, his slim hips, the tattoos that decorated his taut stomach, tempting her to follow their lines with her tongue. The way his sweat glistened on his skin as he moved, catching her eye with every motion.

But Amber knew, even if it were possible, it would be a very, very bad idea.

And she had had enough bad ideas to last a lifetime.

About the Author Tanith Davenport began writing erotica at the age of 27 by way of the Romantic Novelists’ Association New Writers’ Scheme. Her debut novel “The Hand He Dealt” was released by Totally Bound in June 2011 and was shortlisted for the Joan Hessayon Award for 2012.

Tanith has had short stories published by Naughty Nights Press and House of Erotica. She loves to travel and dreams of one day taking a driving tour of the United States, preferably in a classic 1950s pink Cadillac Eldorado.

Tanith’s idea of heaven is an Indian head massage with a Mojito at her side.

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(Not)Normal by Katy Hunter – Spotlight and Giveaway

Long and Short Reviews welcomes Katy Hunter who is celebrating the recent release of (Not)Normal, the second book in the Mixed Emotions series. Enter for the chance to win a $50.00 First for Romance Gift Card! Competition hosted by Totally Entwined Group.

Falling in love with Elijah Booth was never Milly’s plan, but the warm Texas summer, two adorable aunts and a horse called Smoky might just change her mind.

Milly Parker, a British singer, has packed her bags and is heading to her aunts’ house in Austin. Sally and Carrie run the best coffee shop in town, and Milly is about to become their newest barista.

She’s also about to meet some of Sally’s best customers. From nine to ninety-nine, they come in all ages, shapes and sizes. One in particular, Elijah Booth, catches her eye, but he is not like the boys she left behind.

Elijah, like almost every other single person in town, has made a vow of celibacy—not even a kiss before marriage.

Can Milly adjust to her new life in a new country and the new rules that come with it—or will she start to wonder if her new normal is even normal at all?

Reader advisory: This book contains mention of domestic abuse, using alcohol for avoidance, and a surprise pregnancy.

Enjoy an Excerpt

Sal taps on the steering wheel to the beat of the country music blasting out of the radio. The windows are wound down to the max, and the tires are speeding along the road a little fast for my liking.

“Is it far?” I’d quite like it not to be far. My legs are sticking to the fake leather seats. That’s going to pinch.

“No. Twenty minutes or so.”

It’s already been twenty-five minutes. How big is this place? Ever since we left Austin, all I’ve seen is the occasional red barn or auto shop and one or two shooting ranges. Otherwise, it’s flat, dry countryside as far as the eye can see.

I’m about to discover my new normal.

Normal. I hate that word. It packs people up in neat little boxes. My mum likes to use it when referring to anybody who isn’t exactly like her.

Me, for example.

“It’s not normal, Milly.” She’d brought it out when I’d run off at sixteen to be a popstar, when I’d given that up to go to college and again when I’d refused to bring any boyfriends home, because, well, none of them were going to last long enough for her to get attached. She might have brought it up once or twice when a video of me breaking my ex-boyfriend’s heart went viral. Then this… Flying across the world to Austin to help Sal run her coffee shop. Carrie is sick, like really sick, and Sal needs help.

And I really need to get away.

Mum thinks people should stay in one place. She’s always lived in the town she grew up in. She met and married my dad there, bought a home there. It’s like she got everything she needed with two minutes’ walk of the town center, cemented her feet to the floor and never moved again.

I will never cement my feet anywhere. You can quote me on that.

I can’t think of anything worse. How can you not want to see the world? Experience all the things? Taste all those delicious mouths that are just waiting to be kissed?

I’ve seen what marriage does to people, how it numbs their sense of adventure. I want to feel.

“Do you have to go in today?” I ask.

She turns to me and smiles, looking exactly like my dad for a split second. Luckily for her, that’s one of the very few things they have in common. “No, honey, you’ve got me all to yourself until tomorrow. Carrie’s got it covered.” Carrie is Sal’s ‘close friend’. I’m pretty sure she’s a lot more than that, but Sal has never been one to share things like that with our side of the family. I guess I’ll find out soon enough.

“And when do I start?” I lean down and grab my bag. Thinking about Carrie reminds me that I should call Mum and Dad, tell them I got here okay. I fiddle with my phone while Sal explains how the shift system works.

“So, it’s basically part-time. You start straight away, but we’ll ease you in.” Good. I’m no barista. Sal’s coffee shop is supposedly the best in town, and I’m not ready for that kind of responsibility yet.

Sal packed her bags at eighteen and ran away to America in search of Melrose Place. I don’t know where that is, but she told my dad that it had to be better than home. She met Carrie shortly afterward and they moved to a little town a few miles out of Austin, set up their business and never looked back.

I’ve never quite worked out how moving across the world, settling down and working in the same place for your whole life is any different from what she would have done had she stayed at home, but I guess it’s warmer—a lot warmer. The trails of sweat trickling down my back right now can attest to this fact.

Eventually, love makes everybody cement their feet to the floor.

I twist and turn the ancient buttons in front of me. One of them falls off into my hand. “Doesn’t this car have air conditioning?”

She chuckles. “The air conditioning hasn’t worked on this old thing for years. I keep telling Carrie we need to get a new car but goddammit that woman loves her Pontiac more than me.”

Unbuttoning my blouse in an attempt to get some kind of respite, I lean out of the window, letting my arm catch the gusts of wind as we race on down the road. Being blasted by hot air is slightly more pleasant than wallowing in it.

Precisely seventeen minutes later we draw up in front of their beautiful home. Admittedly you have to drive down the bumpiest, dustiest lane to get there, but it’s totally worth losing all the feeling in your bum.

“Her grandmother left her the land, and we built on it. Six acres.” Sal grabs my suitcase from the boot of the car and stands beside me, admiring her massive house.

Sal and Carrie have the kind of place that I could only ever dream of owning. It’s a mansion compared to what I left behind. Back home, houses are small and stuck together. If you strike lucky, you get an end of terrace with an alleyway that goes down the side. This place has a front porch, a double garage and a garden five times bigger than itself.

I’m not jealous. There’s nothing more stifling than buying a house. But if I did want one, it would probably need to look like this.

“And she doesn’t mind me staying?” I have fond memories of the few times I’ve met her. She would play board games with me when I was little and take me to the park, but I don’t know a lot about Carrie from an adult’s point of view, other than the fact that she is my aunt’s partner.

“Are you joking? You’re the daughter we never had. Prepare to be smothered.” I haven’t been filled in on the intricacies of Carrie’s illness, but I know it’s bad. Bad enough for my dad to shed a tear, and he never cries. Another member of the household is going to be a burden on the two of them, no matter how much they love me.

I grab my auntie and pull her in for a spontaneous hug. The woman is skin and bones. She works too hard and, as I’m beginning to understand, worries too hard, too. “I missed you, Auntie Sally. Can we go see Carrie right now? I need more hugs.” Carrie is the opposite of Sal. She’s all boobs and bum. The two of them are polar opposites, and yet it works. It has for twenty-five years.

We drag my suitcase into the front hall.

“Do you want a glass of water or something?” Bright, modern paintings adorn every wall, interspersed with landscapes and portraits. The house is open plan, light and bright—and hospital-level clean. There is not a speck of dust in the place.

Are they really going to want me living here? I’m twenty-one on the outside, but those who have had the misfortune to share a house with me might suggest that I stopped maturing at around age seventeen.

I gulp down my water as we close up the house and head off to the coffee shop, and I place the pristine crystal glass on a side-table by the front door as we leave. My disruption to their perfect home has begun, and it’s only the first day.

I’m more than exhausted but too excited to sleep. Leaning in to check myself in the car’s side-view mirror, I’m horrified by what I see before me. There are bags under my eyes big enough to have paid the extra baggage allowance. I look too much like I’ve been on a packed plane for fourteen of the last sixteen hours. Then again, when did I ever look fancy?

About the Author Katy Hunter lives on a mountain in France with her husband, kids and two dogs.

When she’s not writing you can find her curled up in front of the fire, book in one hand and a glass of chardonnay in the other.

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Snap Me Up by Landra Graf – Spotlight and Giveaway

Long and Short Reviews welcomes Landra Graf who is celebrating the recent release of Snap Me Up, the first book in the Full Throttle Cyborgs series. Enter for the chance to win a $50.00 First for Romance Gift Card! Competition hosted by Totally Entwined Group.

For this mechanic, anything is fair game.

Snapper Rodriguez never met a woman or a racer he didn’t like, until Gina Morales shows up. She’s butting her head under every hood, moving his tools and plain annoying. He’d rather fall down a mine shaft and lose his other limb than put up with her any longer.

Gina Morales is still trying to figure out what it means to be human, and as the first AI with a body in existence, she’s eager to find her maker. A racing garage like Full Throttle seems like a great place to start, though the head mechanic is an ass and she can’t help but get involved when their latest racing engine fails.

When Snapper and Gina are forced to work together to create a new engine and steal parts from competing racing gangs, the thrill of the job and the close quarters bring unwanted attraction. Too bad Snapper still wants her gone and will do anything to make that happen, even promise her tastes of human connection that she’s never experienced before. As things heat up, the threat to Gina’s synthetic heart grows, along with her confusion. They’ll have to decide if love is worth the risk or if this is a finish line they can’t cross.

Reader advisory: This book contains references to theft, cyborgs, and the major injury of a minor character.

Enjoy an Excerpt

Wrench to the left to loosen. Wrench to the right to tighten. Gina Morales found the process interesting, like everything else human.

Who came up with the idea to tighten clockwise or loosen counterclockwise? Who came up with a clock?

Of course, she could answer these questions with her big AI brain, though completing the actions, experiencing them, meant far more than simply knowing.

A loud winding noise started at the opposite end of the bay and Gina didn’t even bother to look. No, she’d tried to tell that idiot Snapper the engine wouldn’t work, but he, like most male humans, believed he knew more than a woman did.

All right, that may be unfair. He believes he knows more than me. Stubborn through and through.

A small explosive blast erupted at the opposite end of the bay, the air wafting the scents of combustion and melting metal. Then the fire exhaust compression tanks hissed. This brought a different smell. Gina sniffed and got a good hint of ozone, crisp and clean, before the fans kicked in to clear out any possible toxic chemical reactions.

“Fuck!” Snapper’s exclamation brought a smile to her face.

Since the first day Gina had stepped into the Full Throttle mechanics bay, Snapper had acted suspicious and rude. Though she half admired his cautious nature, it got a little old when he questioned every move she made.

Sure, she was lying to his face, but that was for her safety and security. No one could know she was the first-ever synthetic. Her AI brain had once been the primary software component of a ship named after her, but she’d evolved, and six months prior had discovered a madman from Earth’s moon had worked with someone on Mars to create synthetic bodies. It was her chance to exceed her parameters and prove her worth to her creator.

Though becoming human had opened a whole new universe for her.

It’s all new.

Snapper swore again and threw something. Gina set her wrench down and leaned up, squaring her shoulders as she approached him.

“It wouldn’t have done that if you—”

“Don’t say it, Gina.” Snapper brought his hand up and massaged his temples, rubbing black slick all over his tan skin.

The dirt marring his face bothered her. The lack of attention to cleanliness—she itched to take care of it. Problem-solving was a natural reaction to her root programming, as it had been for more than twelve years.

“You have—”

He whirled around to face her, blue eyes blazing. “Are you finished with the engine tune-up on that hauler?”

A shit job he’d given her for daring to make a suggestion the last time. As an AI, she should have learned her lesson, and she had, but being human meant trying again. At least, Sampson had always told her that.

“I’m almost done. Just tightening the last few bolts.”

“Then maybe stick to it and let me worry about the engine.”

She took a deep breath. “I would be happy to, though you should know that if you added an extra row of plugs, it would be able to distribute the load more evenly.”

“You’re a racing engineer now, are you? Your skills were slip drives and trolling motors when you showed up. Best stick to haulers, drifters and ships, and leave the racers to us.”

Gina clenched her jaw. “Snapper—”

“Gina, how about you finish your assignment and let me deal with ’ol grumpy ass here.” The voice beside her belonged to Drag, the newly appointed leader of Frog Lick and the Full Throttle gang. This town and the gang had once belonged to the Smiths, but they were long gone now, moved on or arrested. What was left was a blend of Smiths, others from another gang called Macintosh and some stragglers from non-affiliated gangs who had earned a place with Full Throttle.

Drag had been the one to give her a chance, while his buddy Snapper wanted to give her a hard time. Where Drag was all blond hair, straight-cut and slicked-back, with a solid build and trimmed goatee, Snapper was dark, curly hair and untamed beard. Like a wild man fitting into the uncivilized stereotypes often used to describe Mars men on the Upper Planets.

“Aye, aye, cap…er, boss.” She caught herself but didn’t miss how Drag’s blond eyebrow raised a fraction.

Instead of doubling down with more words that might give herself away, or cause more questions, she pivoted on her foot and went right back to the hauler. Her wrench waited for her, and she grabbed it, though her curiosity couldn’t be helped. She’d always been more of a listener anyway, from her years possessing an inanimate object.

“I don’t like her, Drag.”

She wrenched with a little more force than planned, and the damn bolt squeaked. Her grip eased up as the conversation continued.

“You could at least hear her out. She might have a good idea or two.”

Gina liked Drag. Liked him a lot. He was logical, smart, thoughtful, and he was constantly attempting to improve the gang-town, in more ways than others did. Starting with equality for women and men… Prior to Drag taking over as gang leader, women weren’t allowed to work in the mechanics bay or any areas of ship building and mining.

Snapper growled. “Maybe, but I don’t have time for ideas right now. We needed this racer ready to start testing. We’re pushing it as things are. Now, I got nothing.”

“You got a body, just not an engine. It’s all right, we have time and you go back to the drawing board. We’ll get thoughts from others at the town meeting tonight. Many heads are better than one.”

Funny how Gina had tried to tell Snapper the same thing a couple of days ago and he’d shot her down. Drag, on the other hand, was able to get through. At least, Snapper’s weary sigh implied most of his fight was gone.

“Fine, I’ll be at the meeting, though I was hoping to skip it.”

“No,” Drag replied. “I need you there. You and Rune are my right hands. We need to show a united front, more than ever.”

Gina tightened the last bolt in place and slammed the engine cover down, doing her best to give the impression that she wasn’t hanging on every word…except the pair had gone silent. She glanced over and saw Snapper’s pensive expression. Those fingers were back to massaging engine grease into his skin.

She rubbed her own fingertips together. The presence of grease there made her stomach turn a bit. Dirt, grime—she’d been a ship, knew the feel of such things, yet even now she ached to clean her hands.

“They turned us down, didn’t they?”

Snapper’s question was met by Drag’s nod of agreement. Not good at all.

She gathered her tools and dropped them in the box against the wall. Another quick look—Drag and Snapper were now talking to their driver, Hemi. She took that moment to slip away to the sink and contemplate her next move.

The water and soap were a mash of odd sensations that she’d never gotten used to, though less overwhelming than the baths with the full immersion into the liquid. She’d almost frozen in fear the first time she’d cleaned herself, her experience limited to the ion showers on the ships. No water, no waste. Though here, everything was recycled, filtered and re-used.

Soapy suds were swept clean by droplets of liquid—the same liquid that powered humanity. Seventy percent of their bodies was composed of this life-giving nectar.

Gina dried her hands on a towel then took another peek around the corner—with Drag and Snapper sidetracked, she could log her progress on the hauler in the computer and potentially access the other files. It wouldn’t take long, and this was her best chance, while the system was unlocked and available.

She hadn’t dared let the machine log her as getting in after hours or attempting to erase the evidence. In other circumstances, a little light hacking might work, but one never knew when a tech might discover her digital fingerprints and cause her trouble.

Snapper’s attitude toward her increased her desire to take the risk. She was tired of waiting, taking it slow, per Sampson’s suggestion. Hell, Sampson didn’t even know she wanted to find her maker.

Maybe Sampson didn’t fix my morality and ethics subroutines from when I was hacked eight years ago.

She logged the information then let her fingers fly. Her eyes scanned everything as fast as she could. Access to the Smiths’ old files, the visitors, the mechanics, the software developers and ship builders… The name imprinted on her mind, Torrent, never appeared anywhere.

Clicking out of the last file took her back to the main screen.

“I see you watching him. Best not to get any ideas.” Snapper’s deep timbre washed over her, a low rumble like when she’d be caught in the edge of a current floating through space and trying to get her bearings.

She froze. “What do you mean?”

“You watching Drag, getting that admiring look in your eyes like he invented Marsanium or something.”

Turning slowly, Gina found little to no space between them. Two steps max, but they were eye-to-eye. The big difference between her and most of the other women in Frog Lick—they had to look up to him. Maybe she did intimidate him. Sampson had suggested as much on their last holo-call.

“He didn’t invent Marsanium. The discovery was made by Jangles McKinney in 2292.”

Snapper shook his head and muttered under his breath, “You’re just a little walking encyclopedia and I know that, Gina. It was a comparison.”

“A figurative method of speech? I’m afraid I don’t see the reference clearly as I don’t admire the invention of Marsanium, though I do admire Drag. He is a good leader.” Hopefully, complimenting his best friend would deflect him away from noticing her inability to react to his figurative language. Fatch.

Snapper shook his head. “What are you working on here?”

“Just updating the maintenance records on the hauler and listing the parts and supplies I used.” She crossed her arms behind her back and stood up as straight as possible, prepared to handle whatever attitude he responded with. She suspected more vitriol.

“A lot of open files to be logging basic information,” he replied with a frown.

“I forgot where things were.”

Snapper stepped closer. “Then allow me to show you again, though maybe you should spend less time reading books and memorizing facts about my planet and focus more on your job?”

Gina stood her ground. “I found everything, and I’ll do better. See you at the meeting?”

She could smell his sweat, mixed with a citrusy flavor that reminded her of the lime grove on the planet Eden. Sharp and bitter, much like him. Scents were another gift humans took for granted. She enjoyed the smell of new things, along with trying to determine which ones appealed to her.

This close she could also glimpse the hairs on his chin, as curly and wild as the ones on his head. Though they weren’t all the same color—dark brown, ginger, even a couple of gray strands graced his face. Her exploration of his features meandered on to the Grecian nose, a near Romanesque style like the old books of Earth displayed. Bluest eyes with a smattering of wrinkles around the edges…and the indention between his brows that grew more pronounced every time he was frustrated.

“Gina, why are you looking at me like that?”

She reached into her back pocket and pulled out the towel there. Every mechanic kept one, though she didn’t sweat like the others and rarely had a use for it. Now she reached up and rubbed the grease away from his temples, one by one.

He took in a sharp breath, almost a hiss. There a was creak and groan of metal at her side as he clenched his cyborg fist tightly. Another difference… He, like Drag and a couple of the others, was enhanced with cybernetic parts. While she possessed more strength than the average human, there was a good chance Snapper could give back as good as she gave. Another thing we have in common, but I can’t tell him that.

She froze, and slowly pulled her arm back. “There. Clean.”

Her fingers still tingled from the limited contact with his skin. So much sensation, three thousand touch receptors in a fingertip. How do you humans not go into overload from a fleeting touch?

Snapper growled, that indentation between his brows back again. “Next time, Gina, ask for permission before you touch someone.”

She dropped the cloth at his feet. “Excuse me?”

“Leave Drag alone too. He doesn’t need you trying to moon after him.”

“What does that mean? I don’t moon after anything. You’re implying a moon can move outside of its orbit?” She cocked her head to the side as he took a step back.

“And pick up that cloth.”

He walked off without answering her question, on top of treating her like some Mars adolescent or a cleaning robot. She wasn’t a damn robot anymore, and high time she showed him, too.

About the Author:Landra Graf consumes at least one book a day, and has always been a sucker for stories where true love conquers all. She believes in the power of the written word, and the joy such words can bring. In between spending time with her family and having book adventures, she writes romance with the goal of giving everyone, fictional or not, their own happily ever after.

Website | Amazon Author Page | Pinterest | First for Romance | Goodreads

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Karma’s Kiss by M.C. Roth – Spotlight and Giveaway

Long and Short Reviews welcomes M.C. Roth who is celebrating the recent release of Karma’s Kiss. Enter for the chance to win a $50.00 First for Romance Gift Card! Competition hosted by Totally Entwined Group.

Karma isn’t the worst curse to have after all.

Zack is running from his family, his past and a curse that has tainted his life since childhood. Fleeing his temporary home for the sake of his ex-boyfriend, Zack becomes stranded in a snow drift in the middle of nowhere, wearing nothing more than a spring jacket and an old pair of running shoes. Resigning himself to freezing to death, he is rescued by Eric, an irresistible man who treads the line between kindness and discourtesy.

Zack quickly realises that Eric’s home is a different kind of frozen hell. There is no electricity in the tiny one-room cabin, no running water and definitely no Wi-Fi.

But Eric is more than just a man. He is the only one who seems to be immune to Zack’s curse, and he has secrets of his own. Eric may be more dangerous than anything Zack has ever seen before.

Reader advisory: This book contains scenes of violence and the death of a secondary character.

Enjoy an Excerpt

“No. No. No,” said Zack as he pushed the gas pedal all the way to the floor. The ancient car responded sluggishly, a full second passing before the engine vibrated with a purr that made his foot go numb. The bald tyres spun, trapped in a sheet of ice and snow that coated the road and the lone vehicle.

The storm sagged against the windshield as the wipers tried lethargically to keep up, leaving large, frosted streaks with every swipe. With each pass, the ice crystals grew denser, coating the wipers with budding globs of ice.

Another burst of wind battered the side of the car, fluttering against the door and buffeting the tiny cracks in the vehicle. A trickle of cold air brushed against his chilled knuckles, and a shiver cascaded though his body.

The vehicle lurched closer to the ditch that had disappeared into the blizzard’s cloud. The tyres caught, edging sideways in a frozen rut. He jerked at the steering wheel, but there was no response as he was buried deeper in the drifts.

Zack’s heart pounded as he lost control of the wheel and the engine sputtered. But he barely noticed as the car lurched into a stall or as the air got even colder through the flimsy heating vents. The storm was the furthest thing from his mind.

It had happened again. And, of course, it had chosen the moment when the biggest snowstorm of the decade was blowing its way across the lakes. The radar had probably gone from red to purple then black while he’d driven with no destination in mind.

The roads had been relatively clear a few hours before, when he had fled to his car, putting it straight into second gear before he even had his seat belt on. He had hit the highway, flipping a virtual coin to choose the exit he’d take before the heavy flakes had started drifting down from the grey sky.

He shuddered. His darkness—his curse—the thing had haunted him for as long as he could remember… It always seemed to choose the worst moments to rear its ugly, jealous head. This had to be one of the top five of all time, though.

He had tried to keep moving. He’d tried to leave before he could put anyone else at risk. ***

Then it had all gone wrong. One word and a spurned rejection, and his past had caught up with him with the force of a starving tiger. He’d staggered as he’d felt the blood drain from his face.

He had fled before anything could happen to the man who he had almost started to like. If he’d had the opportunity, he could have developed full-blown feelings, which were more dangerous than his curse.

He’d grabbed everything in sight that belonged to him, leaving more behind than he’d taken. His socks and underwear were lost beneath the bed and in the basket of laundry, but he hadn’t had the time to retrieve them. They weren’t the worst things that he’d ever left behind.

He’d had run to his ancient Honda, breathing hard by the time he had tugged the door open. As he’d sped away, he’d left another chunk of his past behind him, the sweet memories tainted by his bitter curse. The traffic had steadily thinned, until he was the only car in the midst of a forest that seconded as a snowy hell.

His trusty Honda was only five years younger than him and had more problems than he did, which was saying a lot. Its most recent issue was that it apparently couldn’t drive through more than two centimetres of fresh snow.

He fumbled with the key, glancing out into the bleak stretch of swirling snow as he tried to start the engine yet again. Stomping on the gas, he waited for the RPMs to climb into the red zone before popping the clutch and putting the car directly into second gear. First gear didn’t exactly work, and on ice, it was its own death trap.

There was a shuddering jerk that had relief flooding his gut, until the car rocked once and stalled back into silence. The dials dropped and the fuzzy radio station faded until the barest hint of the country song vanished under the sound of the wind.

“Shit,” he said as he slammed his hand against the steering wheel. It shuddered, barely holding on to its rigging after his repeated abuse. He could imagine the wheel finally tumbling off as he merged lanes on a highway doing one-hundred-and-thirty-five kilometres per hour. I’m lucky like that.

His palm ached from the hit and the cold that was steadily seeping into the car, but it didn’t stop him from slamming the wheel a second time. His thumb caught the edge of the horn, but the blaring sound was swept away on the wind.

The temperature inside the car noticeably dropped another few degrees, and his breath turned into a misty fog that coated everything it touched. The car’s heater was lukewarm at best, and without a working defrost, ice had started to crust on even the inside of the windshield.

He turned the key again as he popped the car back into neutral and pushed the clutch to the floor. He shivered as another gust of wind cut into the Honda. His thin jacket was best suited for balmy fall days, but it was the only one that had been in sight as he’d scrambled to leave. His toes were numb in his sneakers, and his hands? Well, he was afraid to look at them, because he wouldn’t be surprised if a few fingers were already missing. His gloves had been one of the many things that he had left behind, and his hands had been aching since the snow had started.

The car key turned under his hand, jingling with the other attached keys and mementos that he had picked up on his travels. There was a tiny metal sandal that he’d picked up in a beach town and an iron sun from a gift shop that he’d found in the middle of nowhere. The rest were worn, their edges smooth from their constant motion. He kept them close, so he wouldn’t have to look back and remember.

The key turned, with the promise of escape and a hint of heat. Silence. Not even a putter from the flooded engine. His gut churned as a shiver racked his body. It was so freaking cold, and according to the last clear announcement on the radio, the storm was just getting started.

He grappled with the horn, pushing the button as hard as he could. There had to be someone close by who would come to his rescue if they heard him honking. People in the city might not have looked twice, but he was pretty far into the wilderness, on the only road that probably ever saw a plough in winter. People were different out here—lonelier.

The button clicked under his palm as the battery finally gave out. The same battery had lasted him twenty years, so, of course, it would choose to fail him when he was about to lose his toes.

Zack took a shuddering breath as his vision blurred and his heart sank. He wrapped his arms around himself, trying to keep the warmth from escaping. Perhaps everything was finally catching up with him. Freezing to death wouldn’t be the worst way to go. He’d seen worse before—so much worse. His stomach clenched as memories fluttered to the surface of his mind. He tried to push them away before he could retch.

“Look at the snow. Just look at the snow,” he said, holding himself tighter as he tried to focus on an individual flake in the whirling mass—anything to leave the flashes of his past behind.

Beyond the window he could see bits of the forest through the gaps in the gathering ice on the windshield. The road was nearly invisible, with no tyre tracks except his own behind him. Even those were almost gone now.

A green bough fluttered in the wind, dumping its heavy load onto the ground below it. A bird fluttered from the branch, battling against the wind as it took off. For a moment, it looked like it would lose the fight and be tossed into the nearest tree trunk. It pumped its wings faster, finally triumphing over the storm.

There were no hydro lines along the road or lamp posts that would guide a traveller along at night. It was a tourist’s nightmare. He cursed himself, wondering if he should’ve taken the other fork in the road that had probably led along a path that was closer to the city.

A smudge of colour caught his eye as it flashed along the very edge of the trees. The trunks grew close together, dark and foreboding within the mass, and their limbs danced and swayed in the wind, dumping the snow back to the earth with each pass. There was so much movement that he wondered if he had imagined the blur.

He squinted and leaned closer to the window, trying to make sense of it through the fluttering snow. It could have been a deer. He’d already seen a few along the way, looking ready to jump out at his car and double his insurance. Or it could have been a bear, given how far he’d come, although he’d only ever seen them on television. The dark beacon had looked too small to be the creature he’d seen on Planet Earth.

He spotted it again as the wind stilled and the blizzard cleared for a moment. It moved through the snow with a fluid grace that could only belong to an animal who could survive a harsh winter. Nothing battered or beaten lived in this cold, and no predator could thrive without hunting in the perpetual storm that was February.

It grew closer with every loping step, until it seemed larger than what he imagined a bear would be. It was fast, too, cutting through the drifts as if it weighed nothing. Zack knew how hard it was to walk through snow that deep, which was why he usually avoided it at all costs. That, and he really didn’t want to get his too-tight jeans wet.

Zack scrubbed the inside of the window with his nails, bits of ice stinging his numb fingertips. His breath frosted it over again, until everything blurred.

It could have been a dog with how dark the colouring was, but he’d never seen a dog that big. A bear would definitely make more sense, but according to the television, bears hibernated in the winter.

The ice on the window thickened into an opaque crystal as he pressed his forehead against it, desperate to see what was coming. It was running at a pace that was hardly possible over the covered ground, gliding over the snow without seeming to disturb it at all.

A bubble of fear simmered in his gut as he pictured a bear breaking through his window with its massive, clawed paws. He was small enough that he wouldn’t be able to put up much of a fight, but there was still enough meat on him to make a decent meal, he supposed.

He took a deep breath, closing his eyes to try to ground himself. The wind around him paused, the car going suddenly still and silent. He snapped his eyes back open, looking through the tiny gaps from his fingertips. There was nothing but the dark tree trunks capped with pure white.

The seat creaked as he freed himself from the seatbelt and lifted himself to his knees, pressing against a strip of clear glass. He blinked, rubbing his eyes to remove the imagined fog, but nothing appeared. The snow was undisturbed, except for the partially covered ruts from his own tyres. There were no footprints, and no animal was out in the wind.

I’m officially losing my mind.

About the Author
M.C. Roth lives in Canada and loves every season, even the dreaded Canadian winter. She graduated with honours from the Associate Diploma Program in Veterinary Technology at the University of Guelph before choosing a different career path.

Between caring for her young son, spending time with her husband, and feeding treats to her menagerie of animals, she still spends every spare second devoted to her passion for writing.

She loves growing peppers that are hot enough to make grown men cry, but she doesn’t like spicy food herself. Her favourite thing, other than writing of course, is to find a quiet place in the wilderness and listen to the birds while dreaming about the gorgeous men in her head.

Website | Goodreads | First for Romance

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Midnight Highlander by Anya Summers – Spotlight and Giveaway

This post is part of a virtual book tour organized by Goddess Fish Promotions. Anya Summers will be awarding a $25 Amazon or B/N GC to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour. Click on the tour banner to see the other stops on the tour.

Xavier Campbell needs a miracle. If he doesn’t want to lose the life he’s worked so hard to build, he must get married, and quickly. Trouble is, there is no woman in his life. Not even a friend with benefits. As a regular Dom at Eternal Eros, he gets what he needs and goes home. And a wife? Hell, no. This Highlander is single for a reason. So when his entire existence threatens to come crashing down, he realizes he might have to make some adjustments…or a bargain with the she-devil who beguiles him, body and mind, from the first moment he touches her.

Emma Morton wants a man. To play with. Watch television with. Cuddle with. And yes, God help her, she wants him hard, naked, and in her bed. More than once. What she doesn’t want is complications. Expectations. She is dedicated to her work, to building her business. She’s worked too long and too hard to change her plans for something as fleeting as love. No matter how much she wishes otherwise, life has repeatedly proven that romance is a myth. Pure fairytale.

But passion? Yes. She could definitely go for a ‘Single’s Night’ of play—and release—at the infamous Eternal Eros.

After one scorching night of pleasure, a reckless bargain is made. Marriage with an expiration date. A business arrangement. Nothing more.

But what starts as a farce becomes a bit too real and Xavier realizes this is no game. Telling Emma the truth would be dangerous…especially when he realizes he is playing for keeps.

Enjoy an Excerpt

On her trek to the bar, she smiled demurely at Cooper, the hotshot, daredevil firefighter. He was sitting at one of the booths with Dr. Levi Mitchell, Gage Walker, and his business partner, Henry Sinclair. By the time she reached the bar, she was certain tonight would be exactly what she needed as a reprieve from the impending financial doom of her business.

Not even a short sale on the building would help get her out of this mess.

Every hair on her form stood at attention as the bartender’s frosty ice blue gaze landed on her. She didn’t know what it was about Xavier Campbell, but the sexy hulking brute always rubbed her the wrong way. Most of the Doms here, she could charm with a sweet smile and by exposing some skin.

This one, not so much.

He prowled her way, dressed for the event tonight in Scottish tartan, shit-kicker boots, and a bad attitude. For such a large man, he moved with lionlike grace. Emma was tall for a woman, clocking in at five nine. Yet Xavier towered over her, even in her four-inch stilettos. And he wore his control around him like barbed wire, liable to rip a body to shreds if they got too close.

“What’ll you have?” His voice, thick with Scots burr, seemed to caress her skin as he raked his scowling gaze over her body.

For tonight’s pagan-themed event, she had dressed as a Pagan Warrior Queen, which, at the costume store, had turned out to be a miniscule black dress that shimmered with glossy fabric made to look like leather, and a faux chainmail panel down the front. She even had a fake plastic sword attached to the belt around her waist. “Macallan. Make it a double. Neat.”

A thick inky brow rose at her drink order. “You sure you can handle that, lass?”

The way his voice rolled over the word lass turned her insides to melted butter. If he could do that with a simple word, he would be lethal if he touched her. Thank god she would never let that happen. Even if the man was the most sinfully handsome man she had ever had the good fortune to meet, he had danger written all over him. She even thought his long, dark chestnut hair with braids descending from each temple was sexy as hell. Most often, he wore it pulled into a ponytail at his nape. Seeing the wealth of his thick hair had her fingers itching to find out if it was as soft as it looked.

And his naked chest on display made her want to fan her face to diffuse the flames. The guy was ripped. Every muscle was defined, exuding just how powerful the guy was, with a light dusting of dark hair over his bulging pectorals, which arrowed down into a single happy trail over his muscly abs.

But his insinuation that she couldn’t handle her liquor pissed her off. “Why, because I’ve got tits?”

His expression turned to stone. “It’s a valid question. If I were you, I would drop the attitude, lass. Not a single Dom here wants to take a viper to their bed.”

“It’s a good thing then, that I’m not in your bed. Nor will I ever be.”

“I’d rather take a poisonous snake to bed than to have to deal with your sharp tongue. Just be careful, lass, because you’re walking a fine line with your disrespectful tone. If you cross it, I won’t hesitate to punish you. And I can guarantee that you won’t like it.”

She rolled her eyes at his brutish attitude. “And you’ve not earned my submission… Sir.”

She was in no mood to trade barbs with the beast.

About the Author:

Born in St. Louis, Missouri, Anya grew up listening to Cardinals baseball and reading anything she could get her hands on. She remembers her mother saying if only she would read the right type of books instead binging her way through the romance aisles at the bookstore, she’d have been a doctor. While Anya never did get that doctorate, she graduated cum laude from the University of Missouri-St. Louis with an M.A. in History.

Anya is a bestselling and award-winning author published in multiple fiction genres. She also writes urban fantasy, paranormal romance, and contemporary romance under the name Maggie Mae Gallagher. A total geek at her core, when she is not writing, she adores attending the latest comic con or spending time with her family. She currently lives in the Midwest with her two furry felines.

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Fire and Clay by Noja Lina – Spotlight and Giveaway

Long and Short Reviews welcomes Noja Lina who is celebrating the recent release of Fire and Clay. Enter the Rafflecopter at the end of the post for the chance to win a $50.00 First for Romance Gift Card! Competition hosted by Totally Entwined Group.

Who will end up getting burned when they collide?

Ian is a skilled but foulmouthed photographer with an aversion to meeting new people, a short fuse and a relatively short stature. One evening, he starts a squabble with Victor before knowing that Victor is the best friend of Ian’s current crush.

With them being in the same social circle and Victor being a model and theater actor, they keep meeting over the course of several months. Their interactions feature an array of jabs at the other’s height, mild aggression and attempts to mock or one-up the other.

But, through instances of Ian involuntarily showing his caring side and Victor showing what he’s made of, several sparks and serious talks, some denial and three successful photoshoots, their relationship gradually evolves.

Will they get past their initial animosity? Will they get burned by colliding with the other? Or will fire come in contact with clay to create something beautiful?

Reader advisory: This book contains bullying, mentions of eating disorders, violence and threats.

Enjoy an Excerpt

There was no clear-cut explanation for how Ian had ended up in a corner of a dark closet, fervently kissing a person who had once been a statue—or for why Victor was kissing back. Weren’t they supposed to come at each other’s necks?

It had all started several months before, when Hayden, Ian’s best friend since before they could read or write, moved into a new student dorm and invited Ian for a visit.

“Do I have to go?” Ian asked Hayden while they were talking on the phone.

“No, but I’d like it if you did.”

Hayden received a familiar grunt in return. That was how Ian usually relayed he’d do what Hayden asked him to, despite hating the idea.

There was nothing bad about going to see Hayden and his new dorm. It was having to meet Hayden’s new roommate that had made Ian avoid the visit for as long as possible. Going to the dentist was an easier experience for Ian than meeting new people.

Both of them had been living in Thornburg for over two years. It was a city that attracted people from all over the country, even from abroad, with its array of educational and professional opportunities, its growing social diversity and its vibrant cultural and entertainment scenes—not to mention its colorful palette of bars.

Thornburg’s vibe and offer had also attracted Ian to it, but college had been a short-lived initiative for him. His passion for photography had grown years before any facial hair had and Ian had been cultivating his skills in taking pictures for over half a decade at that point. As such, photography courses that treated their students as beginners had underwhelmed him greatly. He’d dropped out of college after the first year and applied to paid photography gigs with his extensive portfolio and a half-decent attempt at being friendly. Luckily, the portfolio had done its job.

Hayden was on the opposite end of the spectrum, both in terms of college and his capabilities in being friendly. If he still liked Ian after so many years of Ian being Ian, he could probably be friends with an anthropomorphized lemon. Hayden was in his third year at the veterinary medicine college and, as the extroverted person he was, he’d always chosen to live in the student dorms since coming to Thornburg.

When he’d first announced his plan to become a veterinarian, he’d said, “I already have experience in dealing with all sorts of animals, especially a chihuahua.”

His family had many pets, but that bunch hadn’t included a chihuahua. It was a reference to Ian. Hayden often compared his best friend to the small, mouthy dog that thinks of itself as a big beast and sometimes gets itself in trouble by aggressively challenging an actual large one. Ian’s only counterargument had been that, as opposed to him, dogs didn’t like being left alone.

To this, Hayden had replied, “If that really were the case, then why do you always come when I call you over?”

Admitting that he liked being around Hayden was too melodramatic for Ian, so he’d answered with a simple and dry ‘whoof’.

Thus, when Hayden had called Ian over to show him his new dorm room and introduce him to Danny, his new roommate, Ian had gone, despite his DNA constantly reminding him how hardwired he was to dislike meeting new people.

Danny was a year younger than Hayden, they’d hit it off from the get-go, they attended the same college and were equally as balanced in handling their studies and social lives.

If this Danny guy’s anything like Hayden, it probably won’t be so bad… F***, who am I kidding? It’s guaranteed to be bad.

Ian sighed before entering the dorm room. He relaxed his throat in preparation of swallowing many words he shouldn’t say but would probably end up voicing anyway. Taking in air, he opened the door and was instantly ambushed by something bright.

It might’ve been the warm rays piercing through the window, it might’ve been Hayden’s flower-power T-shirt but it was most likely Danny.

Danny was dazzling. All his features were soft and curvy, all his gestures smooth and inviting. His voice sounded like windchimes, his skin looked like fruity yogurt and his presence was as welcoming as one’s bed after a hard day at work. Ian barely remembered the correct sequence of the two syllables in his name when Danny smiled and initiated their introductory handshake. Whenever Hayden didn’t elbow him, Ian also barely remembered that he was a fully-fledged, functional homo sapiens specimen who should be able to hold a conversation.

But Ian was also a drawn-to-visuals person, and everything about Danny’s appearance gave off early summer day, with wildflowers swaying in the pleasant breeze and birds chirping in the trees. So, despite it being late October, Ian’s mind packed up and went on vacation, leaving him to be about as articulate as the chair he sat on.

By the time Danny had offered him the umpteenth solar-like smile and his second beer, Ian’s synapses were finally back to their usual productivity level. But there was a glitch in that system of synapses, and Ian let out, “You’re so sweet.”

Hayden choked on his beer. “You’re complimenting someone during your first meeting with them? I see… We should get our textbooks updated because flying pigs are definitely coming.”

“They’ve been around since the invention of the airplane,” Ian replied, referring to any human in the air.

“Okay, now, that’s the usual you. You had me worried for a sec.”

There was no need for Hayden to be concerned. Ian hadn’t been replaced by an alien lookalike. He was just smitten. In fact, he was so much so that he’d almost brought flowers on his next visit to that dorm room.

Becoming attracted to someone based on looks wasn’t unusual for Ian. But being smitten had been a rare experience, so it wasn’t just Danny’s looks that were working their magic on him. Despite being more apprehensive than the average person when meeting new people, Ian had started floating in a pool of serenity right after stepping into the range of Danny’s sunray-shaped aura. Danny often smiled—always with sincerity—acted in caring ways and looked at people as if he were hugging them with his gaze. Ian knew he was smitten when the thought of actually hugging Danny one day made something explode within his chest.

He continued visiting Hayden and Danny in that dorm room for the following two months and always tried having many pleasant interactions with Danny. It was easier than Ian-ly possible, because Ian wasn’t his usual self around him.

Hayden asked him about the reason behind his change in behavior, but Ian just said, “I have more vitamin D in my system now,” because ‘D’ stood for ‘Danny’, who was like sunlight in Ian’s mind, and sunlight was a known source of vitamin D.

Normally, Ian would’ve told Hayden the truth. But Danny was Hayden’s roommate, and Ian didn’t want to make things awkward by revealing his feelings. Hayden knew Ian was into guys just like Hayden was into girls, so there was no problem there. However, Ian didn’t know Danny’s preferences and he didn’t want to open Schrödinger’s cat’s box by asking either Danny or Hayden about that. If he discovered the cat dead, he’d also have to kill his current crush. If the cat were alive, he’d have to—God forbid—put himself out there and lay his feelings on the table for someone else to shuffle at will.

Both options came with downsides, so Ian just maintained a quiet crush on Danny. At least, that had been his intention…

About the Author:New writer on the romance block, Noja Lina likes writing uplifting contemporary romance stories. These stories are centered around engaging male characters, usually dealing with personal struggles alongside love struggles.

Noja lives in Romania, specifically Transylvania. When she’s not working at her full-time job or working on one of her stories, she enjoys her one-sided love relationship with various forms of Asian media, enjoys adding another cooking fail to the collection and hanging out with friends over a cold beer.

Website | Facebook | Twitter | < ahref="https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/60500740-fire-and-clay">Goodreads | First for Romance Author Page

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Hearts Ease by Mimi B. Rose – Spotlight and Giveaway

Long and Short Reviews welcomes Mimi B. Rose who is celebrating the recent relase of Heart’s Ease. Enter the rafflecopter at the end of the post for the chance to win a $50.00 First for Romance Gift Card! Competition hosted by Totally Entwined Group.

Her mysterious past holds the key to protecting his clan.

Between helping teens at an After-School Art Club and trying to publish her granny’s fairy tales, Chantelle’s life still feels somehow unfulfilled.

When his father and older brother died, Charles was forced into the role of Alpha. Three years later, he still hasn’t dealt with the loss. Now a rival pack is stirring up trouble in his grandmother’s hometown, and he must investigate.

But that is only where the mystery begins. There’s something else going on and it starts with the mysterious and beautiful Chantelle. The secrets of her past and her untrained magical abilities hold the key to the rival pack’s attacks. And when they discover that sorcery is behind the violence against women and children in the territory, they have to trust each other and forge a connection.

But is their bond strong enough to protect the pack and fulfil a Fated Mates prophecy, or will they lead the pack, and their love, to ruin?

Reader advisory: This book contains scenes of racism, violence and attempted/threatened sexual assault. There is reference to past memory modification and the off-screen death of a teen.

Enjoy an Excerpt

Chantelle Mizuki didn’t want to die today.

I’m wearing old underwear. With holes. Nobody is going to see them. No nurse, no doctor, no coroner. Nobody.

Chantelle’s footsteps crunched in the autumn leaves of the mountain forest. Night was falling. Wolves were howling.

Real wolves.

Granny Ceci’s voice rang in her ears. “Don’t go in the forest at dusk, mon chou.”

Too late, Granny.

She hadn’t planned to be out this late. It was light when the After-School Art Club finished at the library. She had asked her student Alfonso to stay and talk about his application for art school. By the time they were done, the sun was low in the sky. Only after Alfonso had left did she discover she’d locked her keys in the car.

In the daytime, everyone used the path through the woods to get to the other side of the village in the Laurentian Mountains of Quebec. She loved the soft pine needles underfoot, tall trunks stretching their branches to the sky, soothing fragrances of moss and fern. During the day Chantelle expected to stumble across Snow White singing and dancing among the trees.

Night-time was different. Every noise was menacing, every shadow a predator waiting for her to stray off the path.

Chantelle kept to the darkened trail, wishing those howls and barks were getting fainter. The sounds of the forest were soothing when she was tucked into Granny Ceci’s gingerbread cottage—her cottage now. This evening, those sounds took on ominous undertones.

She remembered Granny Ceci telling her, “Ma cocotte, the Laurentian Mountains are home to many creatures, some fair, some foul. Be prepared for both.” Tonight, it was the foul creatures. Why couldn’t it be chipmunks or raccoons?

Another howl wailed over the tops of the trees. The hairs on the back of her neck stood up. One step in front of the other. You can do this.

Soon she reached the edge of the village. Only a quarter of a mile left. Past Marie’s big house on the hill, through the ravine, then up the path to the top of her street.

No problem. She had survived book signings with dozens of cranky children and their bad-tempered parents. She had run off her cheating no-good boyfriend. A wolf or two? No sweat.

She picked up her pace to a jog. Her legs were aching, her chest heaving. At the very least she’d have a funny story to tell Yvette and Kat. Well, it would be funny if she made it home in one piece.

The recent wolf sightings had everyone in town worried. The wolves were larger than usual, more vicious. They had even killed some dogs. Villagers were warned to stay away from the woods at night. She knew her woodcraft and carried her multi-tool at all times, but that wouldn’t be enough to stop a feral wolf.

Of course, today was the day she’d locked her keys in the car. She’d forgotten to take her ADHD medication. And her publisher called in the afternoon to say they were passing on her “passion project,” as they’d called it. Illustrating Granny Ceci’s stories and having them published were a way to honour her grandmother’s legacy. But her reputation as a children’s story illustrator was not opening doors for the collection of folk tales. Her usual collaborator hadn’t helped at all. He didn’t want his favourite illustrator distracted from his own book projects.

Was the howling closer now? Or was it her imagination? She crouched by a small cluster of sumac bushes. Her heart raced. The wind whistled through the treetops, clattering in the dying leaves.

There was a clearing ahead. What a relief! It was the small field behind her neighbour’s house. Marie, a dear friend of Granny Ceci’s, lived on the edge of the village. The little meadow divided the forest from her garden, which was enclosed by a stone wall.

There would be a large blue spruce at the northern edge of the clearing. The conical silhouette of the tree stood tall against the dying light. Three shadows, large and shaggy, skulked at the base.

She spared half a breath for one of Granny’s favourite curse words.

Could she make it to Marie’s house? She should move slowly, deliberately, not run. But rabid or savage wolves would still attack. If they came for her, she would have to run along the perimeter.

She was stuck. Sweat trickled down her back.

I need a plan. If she got out of this, she could move back to Montreal. There was nothing keeping her here. Granny had died last year. Why was she still here? Pull yourself together, girl!

The moon burst out from behind a cloud.

One of the wolves looked up, the cool light illuminating his outline. He cocked his head and looked in her direction. He howled, long and low. The other two wolves nosed him, turning towards her. Could they see her?

She sent a silent prayer up to Ceci. Wherever you are, please help me.

The wolves paced at the edge of the clearing, whining and sniffing the air.

She had to move. Maybe make a commotion once she got closer to the garden wall. Marie might hear.

She breathed in and out. Now. She took a cautious step.

One of the wolves inclined his head. Had he seen her? Another step.

He pointed his muzzle at her, his tail arching over his back. Two steps.

The lead wolf pushed off on his hind legs, padding towards her position. The others followed on his tail.

Ben l’on! Granny would have said. Oh, come on!

She sprinted towards the wooden gate in the middle of the stone wall.

They reached her in the clearing. The largest one growled, ears and tail erect. His eyes looked odd—orange, almost glowing. Impossible. It must be a reflection of the moonlight.

These wolves were big. And their faces looked funny—no, not funny, just strange. Almost human-like.

Heart racing, Chantelle took a step back.

The wolves advanced, circling her. They weren’t acting like regular wolves. What was going on?

The leader surged forward, snarling. She backed up and bumped into another wolf. The wolf behind her made a huffing noise that sounded almost like a laugh. Goosebumps broke out on her arms. Was this the end?

The largest one snapped at her leg. As she stepped back, her knees buckled and she fell to the unforgiving ground beneath her. Tears stung her eyes as she scrabbled in the grass and dirt. He descended on her and sunk his teeth in her calf. She batted at him, a shrill scream erupting from her throat. She had to get away.

The other wolves nipped at her arms as she pulled back, dodging their snouts and paws. She searched for purchase on the ground. They dragged her across the ground, away from the wall.

Fear churned in her stomach. Her heart beat fast as she struck at the wolves. Then something changed, fear turning into anger in her chest. Tingling sensations erupted into a warmth across her chest. Her ears buzzed.

What’s going on?

Some kind of energy bubbled from her middle. Rising up, it surged from her core out towards her arms and legs. It felt strange, yet familiar somehow.

The buzzing increased, changing into a burning sensation. A shooting pain in her leg snapped her attention back to the wolves. Sliding along the ground, she reached for the wolf attached to her leg. She smiled as she caught hold. His fur was matted, his bulk solid beneath her fingers.

The low droning made her ears itch and blocked out the growls of her attackers. Her field of vision telescoped into her hands, legs, and torso in front of her.

Anger surged within her. She pushed out from her diaphragm. Energy tingled and sparked, hot and strong. It poured down her arms and into her hands. When she shoved against her attacker, something blue zapped out of her palms.

The wolf let go when the blast hit him. Falling back a few inches, he shook his head and coat.

Growling, ears back, he pushed forward. The lights in his eyes glowed. The wolves regrouped and closed in.

I’m going to die here. With no one present to hear a snappy parting line.

A spotlight came on, almost blinding her. A rifle shot rang in the air and the creatures froze. Out from the garden gate stepped a small figure.

Marie!

The ancient woman leaned forward, hefting a rifle that was almost as tall as she was. Her red plaid jacket was three sizes too big and hung down to her knees. She peered out from thick glasses beneath a dark green hunter’s cap.

“Allez-y vous, sales chiens!” The old woman’s Québécois accent was thick but her tone was unmistakable.

Chantelle sucked in a big breath. She shuddered and turned to her attackers. The larger brown wolf swung his head towards her.

Another shot grazed the attacker’s mud-coloured fur. Yelping, he jumped out of the ring of light. He whined, pawing the ground, the other wolves huffing beside him. He glanced over at the old woman.

A new growl, low and menacing, rumbled by the gate. Beside Marie was a large dog, ears back, tail up. They moved forward in unison. The wolves backed away from Chantelle.

The lead wolf slunk towards the trees with his two companions. Looking back, he howled once before the trio disappeared into the night.

Chantelle pushed up from the ground, relief warring with the fear and pain. She tried to stand but her leg throbbed. The bite marks oozed blood. Her feet shuffled forward as she held her elbow against her side. Had they bitten her arm too?

She reached towards Marie by the gate.

Then she was falling.

Strong arms wrapped around her. A low voice murmured and Marie’s voice answered. She was being lifted up, arms carrying her to warmth. The voices faded away.

Her fingers touched a soft blanket. How long had she been out? A fire crackled nearby. Gentle hands prodded at the bite.

She faded out again.

About the AuthorMimi B. Rose writes fantastic tales filled with steamy enchantment and tender-hearted fulfilment to thrill strong women. As a teen she read V.C. Andews’s Flowers in the Attic and Anne Rice’s The Vampire Lestat and she was hooked on fantasy romance and paranormal romance. Some of her favourite tv shows are Sleepy Hollow, Grimm, and Once–and the reboot of Beauty and the Beast starring Kirstin Kreuk (does anyone remember that series?).

She loves all kinds of shifters and vampires. Her all-time favourite authors are Faith Hunter, Ilona Andrews, Nalini Singh, and more recently Richelle Mead.

Mimi likes a sassy heroine who is independent but finds a strong hero who can keep up with her and treasure her for their uniqueness–including her flaws!

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Healing Their Wounds by Hayden West

Long and Short Reviews welcomes Hayden West who is celebrating today’s release of Healing Their Wounds, the third book in the City of Fountains series. Enter the rafflecopter at the end of the post for the chance to win a $50.00 First for Romance Gift Card! Competition hosted by Totally Entwined Group.

Sometimes you have to face the past to heal old wounds.

Craig Donaldson has been through a lot in his life. There’s one good thing that has come from it—his son. Owning his own business is hard but he’s making it work. Landing in the hospital after a car accident brings into his life someone he wasn’t sure he needed. The problem is, Craig isn’t positive he’s willing to expose himself to more wounds.

Dr. Hobert ‘Bobby’ Pearson loves his job at the hospital. Being the disappointment of his family isn’t something he is happy with. It seems as though when he gets close to someone he feels he could start a real relationship with, the past shows up and he’s again left alone. His family leaves fresh wounds in their wake. This new patient he has, however, hits all kinds of emotions inside him.

Will they be able to heal together? Or will past pain keep them apart?

Enjoy an Excerpt

Craig leaned forward, his heart caught in his throat. Perspiration dripped down his face, and he shuddered as excitement thrummed through him. So close. Oh God, he was close. So close.

He tensed, words lodged in the back of his throat, almost ready to be released but Not. Quite. Yet. Fingers curved, digging for purchase on something, anything, around him.

A few more seconds. He could hold out. He wouldn’t let go until he was sure. That strain on his body didn’t matter two seconds later.

He erupted, launching up from the hard bleacher seat he’d been on as he watched his son and his team compete in the semi-finals of the Little League World Series.

“Yes!”

All around the parents and friends of the team were cheering beside him. His son, Cody, was twelve this year, and it was his last year to participate. And Cody’s double had allowed his teammate to get that winning run.

Craig’s legs were weak as he continued cheering. He wanted to sink back down to the seat, but wouldn’t. Tears burned his eyes as he watched all of his son’s teammates gather and cheer to celebrate their win.

“Congrats, Craig.”

He accepted the hug from the father of another player, Christopher.

“Same to you. This is great for them.”

The man crossed his arms and nodded. “Sure will help line up the women.”

Craig frowned. “They’re twelve.”

Christopher smirked. “Never too young to start.”

Craig disagreed. “Yeah, they are. And it’s not happening with my boy.”

The man’s wife dropped between them with a squeal. “What are you two talking about? Colleges that will come after them?”

“Something like that,” Christopher said.

Emily kissed Craig’s cheek. “Congratulations, Craig.”

“You too, Emily.”

The blonde bounced down a few more bleacher steps to continue chatting it up with other families. Their son was one of the pitchers on the team.

About the Author

Hayden West lives in the Pacific Northwest, enjoys being outdoors, and hanging out with friends when not working on the next novella to be released.

Find Hayden at their website and blog.

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Complicating Roy by Megan Slayer – Spotlight and Giveaway

Long and Short Reviews welcomes Megan Slayer who is celebrating the recent release of the second book in her Love Me Do series, Complicating Roy. Enter the rafflecopter at the end of the post for the chance to win a $50.00 First for Romance Gift Card! Competition hosted by Totally Entwined Group.

Complication doesn’t always have to be a bad thing.

Duke Charles needs a break. He’s tired of life on the road and never having a place to settle down. He decides to head to Norville for a rest in his childhood home. Once there, he realizes his life isn’t quite so relaxed—he’s not only inherited the house, but a cat to go with it. When his friend from high school sends him on a date, he finds out how complicated life can be…in a good way.

Roy Mars likes his life as an artist. He paints, sells work and takes his cat, Raphael, for walks through Norville. He channels his emotions into his art…until he goes on a date and meets Duke. His uncomplicated life gets thrown into chaos, not least because Duke has rabid fans who insist on knowing every detail of his life.

Can Roy handle a little complication in the form of Duke, or will he quit before he finds his forever?

Enjoy an Excerpt

“Art is for everyone,” Roy murmured. He added a few more strokes to his painting, then stepped back to admire the piece. He loved creating art, but hated special commissions. As far as he was concerned, art should be creative and allowed to flow, not dictated according to a special plan—especially without his input. He’d been given the project and told what to do. Don’t deviate, just paint what the mayor wants.

This piece would drive him to drinking. He’d been commissioned to paint a bold, abstract piece that still featured faces for the wall behind the mayor of Norville’s desk. It should be a snapshot of the town.

Roy groaned. He didn’t think the painting, under the direction of the mayor, looked anything like a cross-section of Norville. It was too clean and orderly…and boring. He’d added all the elements desired and none of his personality.

He glanced back at the mayor. If Floyd Gatlin liked the work, he could be done with it. If not, he’d have to keep working until Floyd was happy. His own paintings, his Depressions series, could wait.

“Well?” Roy asked. “What do you think?”

Floyd tapped his chin. “It’s colorful.” He stepped back. “It’s got action, too.”

“I tried to follow your directions exactly.” Roy folded his arms. “It’s quite vibrant, like you wanted.”

“Vibrant, but not gay.” Floyd nodded. “I’m tired of seeing so much gayness in town. We needed to get the movie theater razed or turned back into a theater.”

Roy didn’t see the issue with the hairdressing salon that the former cinema how housed, or the amount of gayness in Norville. The people of the town liked color and to be unique. That wasn’t bad. “You don’t like Dye Hard Style?” Roy frowned. “James is a great stylist. He cuts my hair and I’ve never been done wrong.”

“Uh-huh.” Floyd made a sound that reminded Roy of a grunt mixed with a groan. “Why don’t you try Cutting Up? They’re better.”

He’d seen the new salon in the strip mall at the edge of town. Where James was flamboyant and fun, Cutting Up was much more conservative. He’d bet every Cutting Up across the state looked exactly the same. “James is a friend of mine, too. I support my friends.”

“Well, to each their own, but I’d like for him to move outside of the Norville limits.” Floyd waved his hand. “I’ll take it. Send it over for framing. We have a plan for displaying it.”

“Sure.” He didn’t frame his works and preferred the edge of the canvas. “I’ll have it over in a day or two.”

“Perfect.” Floyd faced him. “You know, I like working with you. You don’t act gay, don’t shove it in my face, and don’t expect me to be understanding. You accept me and I can be myself.”

Roy seethed. How rotten! He couldn’t keep his tongue. “Mayor Gatlin, may I speak freely?” He had no idea how this man had gotten elected, but he didn’t deserve the role.

“Sure.” Floyd clapped him on the shoulder. “We’re friends here.”

Jesus. “I create work for you, that’s for sure. The thing is, I’m gay. I might not be as flamboyant as James, but it doesn’t make me any less homosexual. I am gay. Also, I don’t appreciate you talking about James like he’s a scourge. I might not throw my being gay in your face, but I don’t appreciate your saying I don’t expect you to be understanding. You should be a representative of the entire town, not just one section and not just those who voted for you. You can be voted out of office, you know.”

“Did you vote for me?” Floyd narrowed his eyes. “You didn’t, did you?”

“My vote is private, but suffice it to say I don’t agree with your principles. Never have.” He chucked his paintbrush into the water cup. “Take the painting if you want. I don’t care. You can decide not to, as well. But know this, I will continue to be myself, which is gay. I’ll champion gay causes and will not take your bullshit. Please leave.”

“You’re throwing me out?” Floyd snapped.

“Yes, my non-understanding gay ass is throwing you out. I can’t listen to you insult me because I’m gay.”

“You’ve changed,” Floyd said. “You got famous and you think you can snap at people. See if anyone wants to buy your terrible art now.”

“At least you’re telling me the truth.” He opened his studio door. “Goodbye.”

Floyd stomped out of the building.

Roy slammed the door behind him. How dare Floyd talk to him that way? He’d prided himself on keeping his moodiness to his studio, but he’d been insulted. His friend had been slandered. Jesus. He’d been treated like a lesser person. He moved the painting off the easel and onto a side table. He couldn’t look at the work any longer, especially knowing he’d expended energy to create it, and now for nothing.

He didn’t act gay enough. What a crock of shit. What did he need to do to act more gay?

About the Author Megan Slayer, aka Wendi Zwaduk, is a multi-published, award-winning author of more than one-hundred short stories and novels. She’s been writing since 2008 and published since 2009. Her stories range from the contemporary and paranormal to LGBTQ and BDSM themes. No matter what the length, her works are always hot, but with a lot of heart. She enjoys giving her characters a second chance at love, no matter what the form. She’s been the runner up in the Kink Category at Love Romances Café as well as nominated at the LRC for best author, best contemporary, best ménage and best anthology. Her books have made it to the bestseller lists on Amazon.com.

When she’s not writing, Megan spends time with her husband and son as well as three dogs and three cats. She enjoys art, music and racing, but football is her sport of choice.

Find out more about Megan on her website, and sign up for the newsletter here. You can also check out her Blog, Amazon Author Page, Bookbub and Instagram.

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