Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Blog Tour: Addicted by Krys Fenner

Title: Addicted
Author: Krys Fenner
Series: Dark Road #1
Genre: Contemporary Young Adult
Release Date: September 29, 2017

Sixteen-year-old Bella Kynaston has been the victim of a brutal rape, by someone she can only describe as ‘the scar-faced man.’ With little recollection of what happened, she must somehow rebuild her life. Being the person she once was proves more difficult than she imagined.

To complicate matters, Bella has just met Jeremiah Detrone, the new guy in school. He’s attractive, funny, and smart. All things she’s ever wanted in a boyfriend. Too bad she’s conflicted over so many unexpected emotions. Without realizing it, she falls down a rabbit hole and begins walking a dangerous line between addiction and self-preservation.

As Bella works together with the police to bring her attackers to justice, will she be able to see it through to the end? And even if she does, will it only bring her more pain and misery? Or will she find an anchor in Jeremiah and figure out how to move forward?

Who are some of your favorite authors and/or books you read when you relax?
If I’m just kicking back and curling up to one of my favorites it’s likely J.R. Ward or Stephanie Evanovich. Sometimes I’ll even go over to my YA/NA collection and pick up Colleen Hoover, Chandler Baker, or Laurie Halse Anderson.

If you were approached to have your book made into a film, who would you cast? 
It would be a large cast, so let me start with the main characters and then go on from there. Vanessa Hudgens as Bella Kynaston, Jacob Artist as Jeremiah Detrone, Jesús Navas González as Gervasio Rodriguez,  Andy Wagner as Detective Owen Russell, Shemar Moore as Sheriff Jamar Detrone, Julianne Moore as Christine Detrone, Victoria Justice as Amanda Detrone, Octavius J. Johnson as Victor Hilliard, Robbie Arnell as David Warren, Sofia Carson as Heather Warren, Taylor Momsen as Alex Grayson, Catherine Zeta Jones as Milena Kynaston, Daniel Dae Kim as Dr. DeWei Kynaston, Nicole Lovince as Sarresh Zirlan and Prince Royce as Cristobal Rodriguez. There are a couple of others that are currently minor characters, but in future works become major characters to the story.

It's often asked what is your favorite part of being a writer but what is the easiest part of the creative process for you? 
I don’t think there is an "easy" part of being a writer. I mean, every writer faces their difficulties. But I guess if I had to pick one, I would have to say it’s coming up with the idea. I get flashes at various times of the day and sometimes my brain doesn’t care where. I could be driving and an idea will pop in my head. I’ve gotten to carrying a voice recorder or using my cell phone for notes because of this.

Is there any one character you've created that is most like you? If yes, how and why? 
There are parts of me a couple of different characters. Believe it or not, I take a little after Bella when it comes to being shy. I also happen to share Amanda’s attitude and sarcasm. That aside, I did base one character on me. Jeremiah’s mother, Christine Detrone, is the one I’m most like. I gave her a lot of my traits. She’s caring, supportive, and firm with her family. The biggest difference between us is that she has six plus children and all I have are three beautiful fur-babies. As to why, I felt it was important to make the parents the readers see as diverse and realistic.

If you could go anywhere(finances, time, & obligations not an issue) where would you go and why?
Ireland, hands down, I would go to Ireland. I would go for a few reasons. First, I’m part Irish and seeing my homeland would be the highlight of my life! Secondly, I have a fantasy novel in progress that takes place in Ireland. No better way to write than to throw yourself into the culture. Thirdly, my mom has always wanted to go and I’d be thrilled to fulfill that dream for her.

Author Bio:
Krys Fenner has been infinitely passionate about writing and helping people for as long as she can remember. To date, she has published two books, numerous poems, and is now avidly working on a fantasy series. Krys received an Associate of Arts in Psychology and is currently working on her B.A.

To find out more about Krys Fenner and her upcoming book releases, visit her official website.



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Blogger Review: The Gentleman's Muse by Summer Devon

When a frantic man races after David on a London street, he’s certain the fellow is a lunatic. But in fact, Isak Jensen is an artist caught by David’s beauty. He coaxes David to model for him, for a generous fee, of course. David, down on his luck and with a sister to support, agrees—despite his undeniable and dangerous attraction to the eccentric, wealthy artist. The sort of attraction that has led him into trouble before.

Enjoying rising fame as a painter, Isak struggles to keep his emotional distance from his handsome model—unsuccessfully. Dodging downstairs gossip and swirling intrigue amongst the servants, he and David indulge in clandestine rendezvous. Until the problems that hound David land on Isak’s doorstep in the shape of a former lover, a conniving aristocrat who preyed upon both David and his sister.

With a looming scandal in a censorious society threatening to destroy Isak, David, and his sister, Isac makes a perilous offer that could save them all.

When Isak spots David he sees a fine model for his lastest painting, chasing him down to offer him money to sit for him could have gone better but once David is in front of his easel, Isak is overcome with inspiration.  Isak's offer could not have come at a better time for David but when passion and attraction enter into the equation he's unsure if he'll be able to walk away.  When Bethie, David's sister, turns up followed by a scandal threatening to ruin them all will the passion and attraction that has blossomed between Isak and David be strong enough to survive what looms before them?

Once again, Summer Devon has shown that history is not boring by blending the morals of the time with an interesting cast of characters, intriguing drama, and of course blossoming romance.  I can't remember a time that I was not a history fan so I admit I set the bar pretty high when it comes to historicals and Summer Devon has never failed to reach it and The Gentleman's Muse is no different.

I must admit that I had an inkling as to where she was headed with these characters and their story and even the possible outcome but for me the adrenaline rush was in the anticipation of when and if the other shoe was going to drop for the boys.  Sometimes I even enjoy a book more when I think I know where it will end because as in life its often the journey that packs the punch.  Personally, even if you are not a historical fan I still highly recommend The Gentleman's Muse because even though the details of the time are true, the drama and romance is where the heart of the story lies.  David, Isak, and Bethie came to me at just the right time: a tale of "normalcy" after a month of paranormals in October and before the tales of Christmas to end out the year but I would have loved it at any time of year.


Author Bio:
Summer Devon is the pen name writer Kate Rothwell often uses. Whether the characters are male or female, human or dragon, her books are always romance.

You can visit her facebook page, where there's a sign up form for a newsletter (she'll only send out newsletters when there's a new Summer Devon or Kate Rothwell release and she will never ever sell your name to anyone).

EMAILS: summerdevon@comcast.net


Magic of Books Promotions Birthday Bash Part 6: Comedy

Authors: JD Frettier, Patrice Locke, Nikki Lynn Barrett
Genres: Comedy, Romantic Comedy, Paranormal, Contemporary

Magic of Books Promotions hosted its first tour during the month of November three years ago.

The company was created from the passion and desire of its owner, Tami Adams, because of her experiences as an author. From her struggles to have her books viewed and appreciated she knew there had to be another way.

Three years later Tami no longer writes but is determined to show the world the magic that lies within the pages of all books.

The following authors are helping Magic of Books to celebrate its birthday. Enjoy.

Message from Tami:
The last three years have been an incredible journey. I've made so many friends who began as bloggers, readers, and authors. I have been privileged to present and showcase new and old books from seasoned and new authors. I've learned so much I didn't even realize I should know prior to getting into this business. And after three years I can honestly say I'm still learning, I'm still growing, and I'm still making friends. I love and appreciate all of you who have supported my little slice of heaven. From the bottom of my heart, thank you.

✯ ✯ ✯ ✯


Comedy is a literary genre and a type of dramatic work that is amusing and satirical in its tone, mostly having a cheerful ending. The motif of this dramatic work is triumph over unpleasant circumstance by creating comic effects, resulting in a happy or successful conclusion.

Thus, the purpose of comedy is to amuse the audience. Comedy has multiple sub-genres depending upon the source of the humor, context in which an author delivers dialogues, and delivery methods, which include farce, satire, and burlesque.

Please enjoy these books that focus on comedy and all the sub-genres. The list is available in alphabetically order by title.

Don't forget to enter the Rafflecopter.

Desperately Seeking Sixty-Nine by JD Fettier
Romantic Paranormal Short Story Comedy
**2017 Reader's Favorite Silver Medal Winner: Fiction/Humor-Comedy**

The year is 1969. Though there is war and unrest in the world, on August 15th, on a farm in upstate New York, a little concert will go down in history as the most famous music festival of our time: Woodstock.

It also happens to be the day Bonnie McMillan and Peter Hampton meet and begin their free-spirited love-filled journey with each other. What happens at Woodstock stays at Woodstock, right? Nope!

Fast forward forty-seven years. Bonnie unexpectedly passes after a night of hot sex and is whisked up to Purgatory, 'The Green Room' as they call it. Bonnie's best friend meets her at the pearly green gates and the fun begins, from body sculpting to channeling.

Follow Bonnie on her erotically incorrect quest to re-connect with the love of her life. Or at the very least, make sure the sex toys are hidden before the kids start sorting through her things!

Exit Signs by Patrice Locke
Romantic Comedy
Tracy Price is a serious researcher. Then she meets minor rock star Jesse Elliot and the only question she wants to ask is, “May I sit on your lap?”

He’s trying to write a memoir that will bear his soul without invading his privacy and Tracy is trying to track a writer who vanished more than 70 years ago.
It all takes place in New Mexico, where Tracy has been happy with her uncomplicated life until Jesse rattles her brain and rocks her sanity. He decides she’s demented, and she believes he wouldn’t recognize the truth in a lineup of Bibles. Their only hope is to stop trying to read each other’s minds and start speaking their own. 

And solving the mystery of the writer who’s been missing for more than 70 years may be the key to solving their differences.

So Unlike Me (Winning Your Heart #1) by Nikki Lynn Barrett
Contemporary Romantic Comedy
How to survive an unexpected breakup with your ex-fiancé on national TV: 
1. Hide out under the covers at home.

2. Let your agoraphobic twin sister talk you into going to Paris in her place!

Lizette Monroe would be crazy to turn down her sweepstakes entering addicted twin's offer. Paris, France? It's the perfect getaway after all she's been dealing with. All she has to do is pretend to be Nola. Can't go wrong there, right?

Too bad it's not France, but a small town Tennessee town. Still, it gets her out of the public eye for awhile. 

Enter problem number one in the form of Dirk Ramsey, Nola's childhood best friend. He's grown up, gorgeous, and has eyes for her, except he thinks she's Nola. Lizette wants nothing more than to tell him the truth, but Nola's embarrassment and shame over her current condition has her begging Lizette to keep up the charade. 

It wouldn't be so hard if Dirk's touch didn't awaken a part of her soul she thought was lost. Did he really have to be there at every turn, especially when the truth is closer to coming out? And when Dirk does learn he's been reminiscing with the wrong twin- the one who didn't pay much attention to him back then, will that ruin a chance to get to know the man Lizette is now having romantic feelings for?

JD Frettier
JD Frettier is the nom de plume of USA Today Bestselling Author Jennifer Theriot. Being a child of the 1960s and Woodstock era, she was elated when a quirky couple spoke to her, requesting their love story be told. It was an offer she couldn’t refuse, so she decided to venture into the world of paranormal via 'channeling' with her debut novella, Desperately Seeking Sixty-Nine. JD’s laptop and mind are now open to new characters. She’s already interviewed and selected one for the next installment of her Green Room Chronicles....so stay tuned!

Patrice LockePatrice Locke
As a journalist, Patrice Locke wrote a lot of stories with unhappy and even tragic endings.

Facts are facts, and a writer doesn't mess with facts.

But fiction is another world. Patrice began writing novels, where she can control the endings and make them as happy as she wants. The best thing about fiction, she says, is having time to think before her characters speak, so they can say the things most of us only come up with after the perfect moment has passed.

She loves to write, read, and watch romantic comedies where life always turns out the way it should. Her only obsessive relationships are with semicolons and Oxford commas.

Though she doesn't like to brag, Patrice is an award-winning artist. She won a gold and diamond watch when she was 13 for decorating a turkey drumstick bone to look like Batman. Alas, that was her last recognition in the fine arts.

Patrice lives in Albuquerque, New Mexico, not far from her daughter Kaitlin, eight hours from her son Trevor, and way too many miles from amazing grandsons Alexander and Zackary.

Nikki Lynn Barrett
No matter where she goes, USA Today Bestselling author Nikki Lynn Barrett hears voices in her head. Instead of calling her crazy and locking her up, her family realizes it's just a product of being an author and allows her to write the stories so that the voices shut up.

But they don't. And probably never will. There's no need to lock her up, Nikki knows she'll never escape the voices, not until each and every last story is written. And for every story she writes, about ten or more ideas pop up.

When she isn't slaving away at her computer writing books that will probably make you cry and keep you in suspense, Nikki plots to take over the world one book at a time. What? It's a sickness. One she can't escape!

Books aren't her only addiction, though. Nikki can be found making up parodies to drive her son crazy, and bantering back and forth with her husband, who somehow manages to steal her away from the fictional world she lives in all the time.

Nikki lives in Arizona with her husband and son, where she can be found using every creativity outlet she can find through music, photography, handcrafted things, and random interests that she may pick up from time to time.

If you want to learn more about the author who makes people cry for a living, check out her website.

JD Frettier/Jennifer Theriot

Patrice Locke

Nikki Lynn Barrett

Desperately Seeking Sixty-Nine by JD Frettier

Exit Signs by Patrice Locke

So Unlike Me by Nikki Lynn Barrett

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Release Tour: Heart & Dagger by Holland Rae

Title: Heart & Dagger
Author: Holland Rae
Series: Ships in the Night #1
Genre: Adult Historical Romance
Release Date: November 17, 2017
Publisher: Wild Rose Press
Lady Charlotte Talbot hasn’t seen Armand Rajaram de Bourbon, her oldest childhood friend and once betrothed, since his family returned to India when she was fifteen. Since then, she has left a groom at the altar, changed her name to Catalina Sol, opened a house for unwed mothers and orphans, and captained a ship, the Liberté, crewed by the best fighters in the Spanish Main. She’s no longer the lady he left behind, not that she’d admit to wishing he’d return.

When Armand’s brother is kidnapped, he breaks his rule of never engaging with pirates. But desperation drives him to the Liberté and a life he thought he’d left far behind. He’d do anything to save Henri, but Armand never expected to find Charlotte here, and now that’s he’s found her, he doesn’t have a clue what to do about it.

Together, they must face kidnapping, pirate captains, blackmail, and themselves. The Liberté may sail thousands of miles from the shores of England, but that might not be far enough to escape the past.

“Like you, Armand?” she asked him. Her voice had reached an even tone, with no emotion evident, and that was far more terrifying than her angered yelling. Like him. He could have been her husband these years now, had he ever written back, had he not turned himself away from everything London and Paris were to him. He had been a coward and fool.

And yet, the knowledge did not serve to calm his temper in the slightest. Instead, he nearly ground his teeth to dust, as she continued her even speech.

“I have never needed a man to care for me,” she said, her gaze so full of disdain, Armand felt himself growing smaller in the wake of it. “I have never needed anyone to care for me.” This time, when she spoke, there was no denying the sadness that filtered through her words, or the expression in her eyes, and Armand felt his own grief in it, felt his own sadness as it mirrored hers.

“Why are you trying to change me?” she asked him. He knew he needed to back down, knew that if he spoke right at this moment, as this woman stood before him in her britches, then he would regret it forever. He knew all these things, and yet the anger seemed to consume him, anger, fear, sadness.

“It’s about time someone tried.”

He watched her finish dressing and leave without another word, but there was no denying the pain he saw in those beautiful eyes, and he felt all the hurt he had caused her as acutely as if someone had dug a knife into his very own body. Of course he didn’t want to change her, not the glorious laughter that exposed her long stretch of beautiful neck, not the way she treated the world’s misfits, offering them love and joy, so much more than just clothing and food. There was not a single thing in the world he would change about Catalina Sol.

He stopped short, eyes still wide upon the doorway through which she had only just left. If he didn’t want to change her, then why had he said so? Why had he said the one thing he knew would hurt her more than all the rest?

Because she had done the same.

She hadn’t even said no, hadn’t even rejected him in a way that stood to break him, but as Armand stood in Catalina’s chamber all alone, he realized he hadn’t proposed out of honor. He hadn’t suddenly developed the sense of responsibility that had forsaken him all those years ago.

He had proposed because he wanted to marry her. The thought was like a knife turning in his belly, and it sent a shard of new pain through his temple.

He had wanted to marry her.

As she had lain in the morning sunshine, her hair spread around her, that delicious glow upon her skin, Armand had believed it his duty to marry Catalina, but it hadn’t been his duty. It hadn’t been his responsibility. It had been his desire.

And then she had laughed, had laughed and thrown his betrayal of their once future in his face, and Armand hadn’t understood why he had been so angry. But he understood now, he knew exactly what had driven him to say the words he knew would bring her to her knees. Because she had brought him to his knees and Armand Rajaram de Bourbon, earl, comte, somewhere in line for an Indian princehood, didn’t like the sensation one bit.

Author Bio:
Holland Rae is an author of several works of erotic and romantic fiction in both the contemporary and historical genres, and enjoys pushing the limits of freedom, feminism, and fun in her stories. She has been an avid writer for many years, and recently moved back to her home state of New Jersey from Boston, after completing her education in journalism and creative writing. In her free time, she loves to travel, and spent several months living in a 14th century castle in the Netherlands. When not exploring the world, she likes dreaming up stories, eating spicy food, driving fast cars, and talking to strangers.



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Release Day Blitz: Dax by Shannyn Leah

Title: Dax
Author: Shannyn Leah
Series: Bad Boys of Willow Valley #1
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Release Date: November 21, 2017
It’s hard to resist a Good Man who’s a Bad Boy

Dax Colyn is one of the bad boys of Willow Valley. A fearless volunteer firefighter and hard ass mechanic, he makes all the woman swoon and he likes it that way. He keeps people at a distance since his mother died. He doesn’t want to let anyone in, much less a woman he knows he could fall in love with

Ava Anderson keeps people away, too. Haunted by her tortured past and constantly fearful of the future, it’s only her daughter Olivia and Dax’s dad Rowdy that she’s let in.

But when tragedy strikes, it pushes Dax and Ava together, forcing them both to let go of their fears. They soon learn how hard it is to keep pretending and how easy it is to let others in. Especially when those people are family.

Dax is the first book in Willow Valley’s Bad Boy stand-alone series. These hot contemporary romance books feature alpha males heroes and strong, independent women.

Fall in love with Dax Coyln, a volunteer firefighter and hard ass mechanic for his restoration business. He’s strong, solid, independent, until tragedy strikes that could tear him to the ground.

“Dax?” She’d moved directly beside him and he felt her warmth radiate near his arm. “Rowdy says you haven’t gone back to the hospital for a follow up on your shoulder.”

She set the princess-patterned bag on his desk before he could reply, not that he needed to answer her. They both knew he hadn’t gone back to see the doctor. He hated hospitals.

A couple weeks back on their way back to the station after dousing a farm fire, the new guy had driven off the road and flipped the fire truck on its side, sending all five of the men to the hospital. Had the ambulance driver not given him a choice, he wouldn’t have gone in the first place.

Big deal. Firefighters got muscle sprains all the time. Although his shoulder was being a pain and not healing. He should have gone for the follow up, but he could scrounge up a thousand excuses to hold it off, too.

Ava unzipped Olivia’s knapsack and pulled out a container of gel. “Let me see your shoulder.” Her teacher’s tone again. Damn woman.


“I didn’t ask. Take off your shirt, Dax.”

He leaned back in his chair to get a better look at her. He put on his famously seductive grin and tapered his eyes. “I’ve been trying to get you out of your shirt for years and you think you can come into my office and, after one demand, think I’m going to just strip for you? Do you think I’m that easy?”

Her lips curved upwards. “You are that easy.”

“Take yours off,” he retorted.

Her jaw tightened, as did the grip on the jar in her hands. Humor swept away, her eyes didn’t waver from his, and he watched desire heat up in them. The attraction between them resonated around the four walls of his office and he knew sex with her would be mind-blowing. Except, he’d never sleep with her. He couldn’t. As much as he teased and flirted, at the end of the day, they didn’t mix. Hot and cold. Water and fire. Besides, his dad would whoop him good and serve him up for dinner if it ever went that far.

Ava’s fingers grasped the edge of her blue and white plaid blouse and hiked the material high enough to see her naval.

Goddamit. They were in his office and the wall overlooking the shop was encased with windows.

He caught her wrist, conflicted with wanting more, all of her and not wanting any of her at all.

“Alright,” he growled, pulling her shirt back down over her denim shorts.

He stood up, ignoring what looked a hell of a lot like hurt in her eyes and yanked his own black T-shirt over his head. He balled it up, frustration invading his hands and tossed it onto his desk.

“If I’d known it was that easy to get your shirt off, I would have flashed my sprained shoulder a helluva long time ago.”

One thing was for certain, the teasing had to end. She’d never given an inch and today she’d have given a whole damn foot.

Author Bio:
Contemporary romance author Shannyn Leah loves olives, lip gloss and reading (and writing) romance novels. Her love of words started at an early age and soon grew until, during her teenage years, she’d started writing her own novels. When her mom pushed to finally publish some of the stories, she quickly amassed two complete romance series (By The Lake and Caliendo Resort series) and, in 2016, released her first Fantasy Romance entitled The Gatekeepers (Part One of the Winters Rising series).

When she's not writing contemporary romance books into the early hours of the morning, Shannyn can be found antiquing with her two favorite people, her momma and sister, in their picturesque London, Ontario hometown.

Shannyn would love to get to know her readers as you get to know her (just don’t send her any carrots!)

Get 3 FREE books and never miss special promotions, brand new release or the inside scoop by signing up for her newsletter.



Monday, November 20, 2017

Monday Morning's Menu: Forgive and Forget by Charlie Cochet

Dreamspun Desires #7
He's hot. He's dangerous. And he can't remember anything.

As the owner of Apple’n Pies, Joe Applin leads a quiet, uneventful life, content to spend his days serving customers who come from all over to eat his delicious homemade pies. Along with his motley crew—Bea, Elsie, and Donnie—Joe couldn’t be happier in his little kingdom of baked goods and java.

Experience has taught Joe that love is overrated—and at times dangerous. He has no intention of repeating past mistakes. But then he meets a mysterious, handsome man with amnesia, and Joe can’t deny something sweet is in the works. He isn’t one to take risks, not with his heart and certainly not with his life, but the more time he spends with the man he knows as Tom, the closer he is to losing both.

Chapter 1
“JOE! YOU’RE killing me!”

The low growl melted into a moan of satisfaction, bringing a hearty laugh from Joe. “It’s just apple pie, Mr. Richardson.” He refilled the wily old man’s coffee mug and received a bushy-browed scowl in return.

“The hell it is, son. If it was any old apple pie, you think I’d bother walking eight city blocks to get here? You’re too damned modest, Joe. Everyone knows you make the best damn pies in the city, probably all of New York State!”

Joe didn’t know about the entirety of New York, but seeing how happy his pies made Mr. Richardson was more than enough for him. Apple’n Pies wasn’t big or fancy, by any means. It was a cozy little hole-in-the-wall six blocks from Times Square, free of all the fancy coffee machines, exotic flavors, or overpriced merchandise. It was all his, and it was home.

Wiping his hands on his apron, Joe took a moment to survey his little kingdom of baked goods and java. The wooden floorboards and medium-sized counter were scuffed, the old oak frames of the booths just as worn, but solid and polished, the red upholstery always clean and without tears. What little chrome there was came from the stools at the counter, which had been installed a couple of years ago after one of his regulars had gone straight through one of the old ones. He could hardly have customers falling through the furniture now, could he?

The silver of the stools matched the shelving units of the back counter, which housed the tableware, and in the far corner was Rusty—a cash register that looked like it belonged back in the Civil War days. Bea was always telling him to get rid of it, but Joe didn’t have the heart. Besides, Rusty was still as sturdy and reliable as ever, even if the drawer did stick sometimes and Bea had taken a baseball bat to it on more than one occasion. Of course, the dinged-up baseball bat always came out of the scuffle worse off than Rusty.

The place was reminiscent of one of those old vintage cafés. It was old-school, but it was spotless, tidy, and most importantly, filled with happy customers treating themselves to his pies. In the corner, Dean Martin’s “Powder Your Face with Sunshine” floated up from the old radio.

Some men wanted to be doctors, lawyers, movie stars, or millionaires. Joe was happy baking pies, and when his customers were happy, he was happy, and they were happy with a little help from him. What more could a guy ask for?

The little brass bell above the glass-paned door jingled, and Joe cheerfully went to meet his new customers. Outside, the world was moving at rocket speed, with no time to spare for those who hadn’t the means or the heart to keep up. Apple’n Pies provided a quiet, safe haven for anyone who needed it, from Hollywood movie stars to youngsters down from the local Y. Everyone was welcome at Joe’s.

Joe greeted a young couple with a cheery “Good morning” before showing the couple to an empty booth.

The handsome pair looked like they’d stepped out of a fashion magazine. Their gazes darted around the place with noticeable uncertainty. It was pretty obvious it wasn’t their typical coffee stop. Joe never took offense. Instead, he smiled warmly and got busy making them feel at home.

“I’m Joe Applin. Welcome to my little corner of pie paradise. I’ll be happy to get you anything you like. While you’re under my roof, you’re in good hands.”

The young woman’s face lit up as her companion helped her out of her long expensive coat. “Oh! Applin, as in Apple’n! That’s you!” She giggled, and Joe felt his dopey grin get dopier. He never tired of people’s fascination with his name and how it suited his profession. Of course, it had been his family name long before he’d ever learned what a pie was.

“I hope apple is your favorite,” she chirped, clapping her hands joyously when he nodded. It was actually cherry, but who was he to burst her bubble? The pair slid into the booth and didn’t bother with the menu. “Father says your coffee’s almost as good as your pies. He comes in here all the time. Works just down the road at Jameson and Rotherford’s. It’s a law firm.” The young man at her side simply smiled fondly while his sweetheart held the reins on the conversation. “His name’s Allan Rotherford. My father, that is. Do you know him?”

“Of course, miss.” Mr. Rotherford came in every afternoon to take a slice of pie back to the office with him. After the fifth time, half the firm was in during various parts of the day, sneaking confectionary goodies back to their desks. “He’s particularly fond of the apple and cinnamon.”

“I tell you, Joe—may I call you Joe?” she asked hopefully. He nodded and she squealed with delight. “Well, Joe. Father’s been going on and on about your pies for weeks! I had to see for myself what all the fuss was about. He was driving me and my poor mother absolutely crazy. So,” she said with a decisive nod, “two apple and cinnamon pies, and two coffees.”

“Right away, miss. And when you’re finished, I’d love to hear if you enjoyed it as much as your father.” That seemed to make her even happier, and she nodded enthusiastically.

As he walked away, she chatted to her boyfriend at full speed, bringing a smile to Joe’s face. The guy was obviously smitten, seeing as how he wasn’t the least bit concerned about getting a word in edgewise. Removing the heavy glass dome over the apple and cinnamon pie dish, Joe cut out two generous slices and moved them onto two immaculate, white ceramic dishes. He dropped them off at the table along with their coffee, exchanged a few more pleasantries, then excused himself so the pair could enjoy their food. He barely made it to the counter when a loud crash echoed from the kitchen out back.

Here we go.

The door slammed open and Donnie scrambled out, nearly tripping over his own feet before he made a dive behind Joe. There were a few curious glances from some of the newer patrons, but the regulars were used to the daily disturbances brought about by the terrible trio Joe called family. Soon everyone’s attention returned to their newspapers and coffee.

“Joe, she’s trying to kill me!” Donnie’s voice went higher in pitch with every word uttered, and he clutched Joe’s forearms in what Joe assumed was meant to be some kind of death grip. In reality it was about as deadly as a kitten swatting at a ball of yarn.

Looking at the kid, it was hard to believe he was eighteen years old. Donnie stilled, most likely knowing Joe’s broader, six-foot frame would eclipse him. When Joe felt Donnie remove his hands, he knew the eclipsing was complete, and none too soon either. The kitchen door swung open, and Bea stomped out in all her gray-haired glory. Joe couldn’t blame the kid for hiding. He wanted to hide too.

“Where is he,” Bea demanded, folding her arms over her heaving bosom. She peered at him with her sharp green eyes. Joe knew better than to risk his life by incurring the old woman’s wrath, but he just couldn’t find it in him to turn the kid over. Bea was in her sixties, stout, hair pulled back tight in a bun, and had the power to command more fear than a military general. Not to mention, her batting average was probably better than any major league player’s.

“Bea, angel, what can I do for you?” Joe moved slowly in the opposite direction, and with every step she took, Donnie moved with him.

“Don’t you angel me, Joe Applin. I know you’re hiding him. If you’re not looking to get a good butt whooping yourself, you’ll hand him over.”

Joe knew full well she’d do just that. He’d been on the receiving end of her flaring temper more than once. Bea would chew Donnie up and spit him out like a piece of gum. “What’s he done now?”

“He’s been dissecting the pumpkins again,” she huffed, narrowing her eyes as she craned her neck to peer around him. Every time she moved, Joe moved. He desperately wanted to laugh, but Bea’s menacing glare kept him from giving in to the urge.

“He’s just curious, Bea. You know how excited he is about learning medicine. He wants to be a doctor, so he can help people.” Joe gave her what he hoped was his most charming smile. Her scowl deepened. Apparently, his most charming wasn’t charming enough.

“If he thinks that’s helping, he’s got another think coming. And you! You really think those puppy eyes are gonna work on me after all these years?”

Joe smiled hopefully. “Yes?” No. With a sigh, he let his head hang low. “You’re right. It’s my fault. I’m too soft on him.” He heard a few chuckles from around the room and knew everyone was waiting to see whether Bea would give in or Joe would end up flat on his face.

Mumbling a few unintelligible words under her breath, Bea stalked back into the kitchen. A light round of applause broke out in celebration of his victory, and Joe bowed with all the grace and grandeur of a Shakespearian actor.

“Thank you, thank you. You are too kind, my lords and ladies.” He straightened and spun around to the cowering young man, donning his best Groucho impression. “I got a good mind to join a club and beat you over the head with it.”

Donnie snickered, the tension seeming to ease from his boney shoulders. The kid always did like his Groucho impressions.

Being an only child, Joe learned from an early age to rely on his overactive imagination to keep him company on the days his parents were out working hard to earn a decent living—which meant Joe had been pretty much alone most of the time, but he’d been too busy to let the loneliness settle in, what with all the castles to conquer, jungles to explore, and cattle to round up. While most of his school friends were throwing pixelated barrels at big pixelated monkeys, Joe was building forts and labyrinths with the couch cushions and bedsheets.

Living in his own head had been such a part of his existence, when Joe grew up, he had trouble keeping his thoughts in there. Most people figured he had a few screws loose, but he didn’t mind. Sure, sometimes he felt a little embarrassed after getting caught having a rather animated conversation with himself, but never ashamed. It was just the way he was.

“I’m sorry, Joe. I didn’t mean to cause any trouble,” Donnie muttered. His bottom lip jutted out as he stared at the floor, kicking up imaginary dust. Wow, the kid was good.

“Say, that’s my bit. Go on, get back to work. And stop dissecting our groceries or you’re gonna be getting an early lesson on broken bones from Bea. Elsie will be here soon, anyway.”

At the mere mention of the young woman’s name, Donnie’s cheeks went pink and he shot back into the kitchen. Elsie was part of their motley trio, also eighteen and just as lanky as Donnie. She was a sweetheart and loved to fuss over Joe as much as Bea did. Donnie was goofy over her and everyone knew it; they were just waiting for Donnie to finish locating his backbone.

Someone called Joe’s name in a singsong voice, and he turned to Miss Rotherford, bowing politely at her table. Before he could open his mouth, she sprang out of her seat and flung her arms around him, squeezing the air out of his lungs.

“That was the best pie I’ve ever tasted! And your shop is amazing! I’m having a little shindig in a few weeks, and I was hoping I could pay you to make some of your delicious pies. Everyone will just die!”

“I hope not,” Joe gasped in mock horror. “I’d never get any return customers.”

She giggled and slapped his arm playfully. “Oh, I knew you could bake, but I had no idea you were so charming.” Her boyfriend paid the bill before he helped her into her coat, still smiling brightly. “So, do you think you could whip up five of each pie for me?”

“Five of—” Joe choked. “That’s ninety pies!” He had expected a dozen or so, maybe even two dozen. His mind quickly went through the practicalities of it, thinking about how long he’d have to get the extra ingredients, the added expense, and how he would have to ask Elsie and Donnie to put in some extra hours. Sensing his hesitation, she opened her tiny purse and took out bill after bill, shoving them into his hand. It was more money than what twice that number of pies would cost, and he quickly attempted to give some of it back. The more he put back into her little purse, the more she shoved into his hand.

“Oh, no, please, Miss Rotherford, that’s not necessary…,” he began when Bea materialized like a ghoul from the mist. While his heart slowed to a more nonapoplectic pace, Bea took the money from his hands and stuffed it into her apron pocket, smiling brightly at the couple—which was more frightening than her ghostly reappearing act.

“Don’t you worry, Miss Rotherford. Joe’s just a little shy. Of course we’ll make those pies for you. Your party will be the talk of the town.”

“Fantastic! I can’t wait. I’ll have my assistant call with all the details. I’m going to have to keep everything locked up. If Father finds out, there won’t be anything left by the time the guests arrive! Thank you so much.” She squeezed Joe’s hands, and before a single word could escape his gaping mouth, they were gone. Elsie skipped in just as the couple left. His expression must have said it all, because she looked about ready to turn and make a run for it.

“Is everything all right?” She looked from him to Bea with big brown eyes.

“Fine,” Joe replied through his wide grin and gritted teeth. “Would you mind helping Donnie see to the shop? I need a word with Bea.” He turned to the iron maiden and bowed regally, motioning toward the kitchen. “After you, your majesty.”

Bea said nothing as she marched into the kitchen with Joe following quietly behind. Once they reached the back storage room, like a gunslinger from the Old West, Bea drew first.

“Don’t even think about it. I know why you were trying to turn down that job.” She pinned him with a stare that could quake Hades itself, but Joe wasn’t about to back down. Of course, Bea had no intention of letting him get a word in edgewise until she said her piece.

“And don’t you give me any baloney about not enough ovens or ingredients or whatnot. You were gonna say no ’cause that’s the biggest order we’ve had yet, and you’re afraid it won’t be up to snuff for all them rich folks. That’s a load of nonsense and you know it. You saw that girl’s face. She loves your pie. Her daddy loves your pie. What’s more, his whole office loves your pies. So, you’re gonna make those pies, same as you always do, everyone’ll love them, and soon you’ll need to hire more help because you don’t pay me enough to look after the place, cook, clean, babysit you and them two kids, and I swear if that boy keeps dissecting my pumpkins, I’m gonna knock him into next week!” She took a deep breath and released it slowly. “I’m done.”

Damn. “Apparently, so am I,” he muttered. Once again, she’d fired first and hit him dead between the eyes. He never stood a chance.

“That’s what I thought.” Bea’s expression softened, and she brought Joe into a hearty embrace that left him struggling for breath. Sometimes—most of the time—it drove him nuts. But he knew everything she did was out of concern for him, so he couldn’t be too hard on her.

“Joe, you’re a good man. What’s wrong with letting anyone else besides me and the kids know it too, huh? How else are you gonna find yourself a nice man?”

“Oh no,” Joe groaned, shaking his head and gently pushing away from her. “We are not having the ‘you need a good man to take care of you’ conversation again, and we’re certainly not going to have it in the kitchen. I’m a grown man, Bea. I can take care of myself just fine. You don’t see me trying to fix you up with every old codger that walks in here.”

“Well, maybe you should.” An unsavory twinkle came into her lively eyes, making Joe take an instinctive step back. “I could use a good man to keep me warm at night, rubbing my feet, getting cozy….”

“Oh, dear God. Stop, please.” Joe shuddered at the images that stampeded into his head. Thankfully, they fled when Bea whacked him in the arm.

“Don’t be such a prude. That’s probably why you ain’t got no man keeping you warm. Lord knows enough of them try.”

Unfortunately, that was also true. On a daily basis there were plenty of guys dropping subtle hints, and some not so subtle. He supposed it had something to do with that age-old expression about the way to a man’s heart being through his stomach. As much as he wouldn’t mind having someone to keep him warm—as Bea put it—he just couldn’t find it in him to accept any offers, or even flirt back. The fear of losing what had taken him so long to rebuild was too great. He’d tried once. Thought he’d found his happily ever after. It had cost him dearly. He wouldn’t take that chance again. His heart couldn’t take it.

“Joe, you’re a good-looking man, what with all that pretty blond hair and those gorgeous eyes. Like the ocean, that one man said, remember? Not to mention strong and strapping. Plus, you have a mighty fine ass.”

Joe’s eyes widened, and he scrambled to cover his ass with his apron. “Please tell me you don’t go around looking at my butt, because I think I just might be sick. And don’t call my hair pretty. Men don’t have pretty hair. You wouldn’t tell Russell Crowe he’s got pretty hair.” Then again, this was Bea they were talking about. Her eyes lit up, and Joe backed away slowly.

“Oh, now there’s some meat you can sink your teeth into.”

Joe studied the apron in his hands, and nodded absently as Bea prattled on about the handsome actor. Wrapping the two sashes around his neck, he slowly pulled on the ends.

“He’s about your age, isn’t he? Thirty-three or somethin’?”

“I don’t know how old he is,” Joe replied casually, still pulling on the sashes. “I’m thirty-eight. Thank you for remembering.” Then again, she had written “Congratulations on turning 40!” on his birthday cake a few months ago. He’d initially believed she meant it as a cruel joke. Now he wasn’t so sure.

Bea laughed and patted his back so heartily it almost sent him staggering. “I’m just pullin’ your leg, Joe. Of course I know how old you are. If you start thinking I’m going senile, I’m gonna whack you one.”

Joe let out an indelicate snort. “Like you need an excuse.”

Taking the sashes from him, she unwound them from his neck, shaking her head in amusement. “I’m just saying, honey. You’re quite a catch, and they know it. It’s about time you knew it too. Not everyone’s gonna be like that jackass, Blake. Hell, his name alone should have been enough to warn you off.”

Joe cringed. “I thought we decided never to speak of him again?” He was not going to think about Blake. Goddammit, now he was thinking about Blake. Bea wrapped him back up in her embrace, petting his hair, and he let out a resigned sigh. Arguing with Bea was like stepping in quicksand. The more you struggled, the quicker you sank.

“You can’t let him ruin your chances of being happy, Joe. Don’t spend your life alone because of that ass. He didn’t deserve you.”

“I’m not alone,” Joe said with a smile. He rubbed his face against Bea’s shoulder, purring like a cat. “I got you, and I already know how you feel about my butt.” He pulled away and dodged another smack, laughing as he ran back out into the safety of his shop.

“Everything okay?” Donnie asked, his brows drawn together in concern.

“Yeah.” Joe grinned and leaned over, whispering loud enough for most of the place to hear. “Keep an eye on your butt. Bea’s on the prowl.”

The look of sheer terror that crossed Donnie’s face was too much, and Joe doubled over with laughter. Bea came out to see what all the fuss was about, and when Joe couldn’t answer on account of being too busy guffawing, she looked over at Donnie. The kid flew from the room like it was on fire, and Joe ended up leaning on the counter for support. The rest of the place erupted into laughter, and Bea looked around as if everyone had just lost their marbles. Maybe they had. Joe had that sort of effect on people.

“WELL, THAT was some mighty fine work, partners.” Joe waved good-bye to the last customer before turning the shop’s sign around to declare the end of another good day. “Donnie, bring the garbage around, will you?”

“Sure thing.”

Joe headed to the front door beyond the counter, and a few minutes later, Donnie returned dragging two large black bags behind him. He really needed to start feeding the kid some more meat and potatoes. The squirt couldn’t lift a dust bunny. Joe grabbed the bags from him and carried them the rest of the way to the front door and outside onto the sidewalk. Once inside, he locked the front door and headed for the side door to check on the garden between his shop and the fancy shoe boutique next door. It was a strange spot for a memorial garden. Decades ago, before the boutique was a boutique, it was a fancy hat shop owned by Mrs. Lowe. Although the shop had been sold long ago, Mrs. Lowe still owned the building, along with the garden she had made in honor of her late father, who’d died during World War II. Although there was an iron gate at the front that remained closed, as well as one at the back, sometimes kids would sneak in to make out or get up to things they shouldn’t be getting up to, so Mrs. Lowe asked Joe to keep an eye on it for her since getting around had become difficult after her hip replacement. Joe didn’t mind. When he needed a little break he would sit out here on the stone bench and just enjoy the trees and flowers. It was also where his fire escape was.

They had been busy from open until close, and thanks to Bea, they’d gotten the Rotherford order. The more he thought about it, the more excited he became. He’d never catered a party before. If it was a success, he might have to listen to Bea and think about hiring more help. If things went really well, there was plenty of room in the back kitchen for an extra oven or two, and if he sacrificed some of his savings, he’d be able to manage without too much damage to his finances. It wouldn’t be anything fancy, but a bit more space, new furniture, more staff….

The question was, could he do it? He’d thought about having a bigger place once, with a bakery inside. That had been before everything had fallen apart, including him. His business had been steadily growing over the years, and with the economy being what it was, more people than ever needed somewhere affordable to eat, and Joe’s shop fit the bill.

Jesus, what the hell was he thinking? His shop had barely changed in fifteen years. He was nearly forty. Was he really going to start taking such risks now?

Outside in the garden he noticed the place was a whole lot darker than usual. The black iron stairs leading up to his apartment were shrouded in shadows thanks to the burned-out bulb underneath it. Great.

“Donnie, grab me a bulb and the ladder, please. Damn wiring’s blown out the lights again.” He heard Donnie’s “okay” and went to check the gate to make sure it was still secure. He picked up a few pieces of stray litter, grumbling to himself. This was the third time in two weeks he’d had to replace the damn bulbs.

Seconds later, Donnie scurried out and set the ladder in place for him. “I thought Pete fixed it?”

“Me too.” Seemed every time Pete fixed one thing, another broke. Joe handed the litter to Donnie and was about to climb up the ladder when he heard a low wheezing sound. He froze. “Did you hear that?”

Donnie listened, then shook his head, but Joe had definitely heard something. He stared down at the damp ground and listened. This time the sound was louder, coming from the shadows farther down the garden. He glanced over at Donnie, and the kid’s bulging eyes told him he’d heard it too. Making quick work of changing the bulb, Joe swore under his breath. The light didn’t quite extend to the far end, but there was enough illumination between it and the moon where he could just about make out various shapes through the shrubbery.

“What do you think it is?” Donnie whispered.

Joe rolled his eyes as Donnie’s breath tickled the back of his neck. “You get any closer and you’ll be piggyback riding.”

“Sorry,” Donnie said sheepishly, backing away.

“It’s probably just a cat.” Please let it be a cat and not a couple of horny teens getting it on. Joe slowly edged toward the darkness with Donnie once again breathing down his neck, though Joe imagined the kid’s bout of courage had more to do with Elsie watching from the doorway rather than any desire for derring-do. He listened closely for more sounds, but aside from those of the city and Donnie’s breathing, he heard nothing. Then he saw it: a big, dark lump on the ground, highlighted by the soft glow of the moon. Whatever it was, it was moving. Just about. “Jesus, it’s a person.”

“Maybe we should leave him, Joe. It’s probably just some homeless guy who’s had too much to drink.”

“That’s no better. We can’t just leave some passed-out drunk in Mrs. Lowe’s garden.” Joe carefully inched closer until he stood over the figure curled up into a tight ball. “Expensive-looking leather jacket for a homeless guy. I don’t know about you, but I haven’t seen a lot of homeless walking around in leather biker boots, either.” He crouched down and shifted one side of the man’s black jacket. “Designer too.”

“Joe, look!” Donnie pointed to the stained grass just under the man’s head.

“Damn, is that what I think it is?” Joe carefully turned the guy’s head, finding the black hair at the back matted with blood. “Looks like someone got him good. We need to call an ambulance.”

Donnie hesitated before his instincts kicked in, and then he checked for breathing and signs of a pulse. “His breathing’s shallow, but he’s alive. He’s probably got a concussion, so it’s not good for him to be out.”

“I don’t know anything about head wounds other than the kind Bea gives me, and luckily, they’re not enough to get me concussed. Not yet, anyway.”

“If he’s got a concussion and he’s out, it could damage his brain. Problem is, we don’t know how long he’s been out for. We should—”

The man shot out his hand and grabbed a hold of Joe’s wrist, causing Donnie to shriek and Joe to nearly jump out of his skin. “Sweet Jesus!” Joe was about to tell Donnie to run and call an ambulance when he realized the injured man was trying to talk. “It’s okay. We’re going to get you to a hospital, just hang on.”

The man made a noise that sounded an awful lot like “no,” but that couldn’t be right. Maybe the poor bastard was out of his head. Joe leaned in when the guy lifted his head. “No cops,” he slurred, tightening his grip on Joe’s arm, his voice so low and gravelly Joe wouldn’t have heard him if he hadn’t been so close. “No hospital.”

“What?” Joe shook his head and did his best to remain calm. “Listen, buddy, someone knocked you over the head. You need medical attention.”

“Please, no cops. Help me.”

“I’m trying to help, but the best I can do is get you to a hospital. I’m not a doctor.”

“They’ll… kill me. Cops… dead…. No hospital. Please.” With that, the guy collapsed back onto the ground.

Well, those were certainly words he didn’t care to hear in the same sentence.

Author Bio:
M/M romance author by day, artist by night, Charlie Cochet is quick to succumb to the whispers of her wayward muse. From Historical to Fantasy, Contemporary to Science Fiction, no star is out of reach when following her passion. From hardboiled detectives and society gentleman, to angels and elves, there’s bound to be plenty of mischief for her heroes to find themselves in, and plenty of romance, too!

EMAIL: charlie@charliecochet.com