Thursday, January 21, 2016

Fallen Rose Series by Charlie Cochet

Roses in the Devil's Garden #1
Summary:
In a city overrun by lawlessness and corruption, best friends and lovers- Prohibition Agents Harlan Mackay and Nathan Reilly, are fighting a losing battle. With bootleggers running amuck and countless speakeasies materializing every day, how can two men possibly hope to make a difference? Especially when they can't even trust their own bureau?

If dealing with hoodlums wasn't enough, a ghost from Nathan's past threatens to destroy everything Harlan and Nathan hold dear.

Original Prompt:
Dear Author,
Please tell me why this man is armed and dangerous and who it is he belongs to. I really would like to know if he is defending his beloved or about to shoot him for cheating.

Photo Description:
A rugged, muscular man provocatively holds one arm up beside his head as he looks down at you. His other arm is across his chest, and in his hand is a gun. The words I am my beloved’s are tattooed across his forearm. He looks sexy and dangerous.

***Download the story, read it online or find it in Love Is Always Write: Volume 8.***

A Rose By Any Other Name #2
Summary:
Nights in the roaring city remind bright young things that life’s too short to take for granted. Tucked away in Times Square hides the Pantheon: a secret cabaret for wealthy gay men. Pretty young men in elaborate costumes and rouged lips are eager to please, and the champagne flows all night long. It’s a world of frivolity, fantasy, and debauchery. As Eros, the most sought after performer at the Pantheon, Julius uses his beauty and charm on enthusiastic patrons, but growing weary of superficial love, he longs to make a better life for himself.

Five years after being declared mentally unfit after surviving the trenches of No Man’s Land, Edward Joseph Clarence Junior pieced his shattered life back together. Now he’s ready to take on the family empire. To celebrate his thirtieth birthday, Edward’s cousin takes him to the most posh nightclub in town, the Pantheon. Falling under the sway of Eros, Edward and Julius find a love they’ve never imagined and the chance for a future they had only dared to dream about. But as Ares, a notorious gangster and Julius’s most important—and dangerous—client watches them, the threat to their love and their lives grows by the day.


I fell in love with Harlan and Nathan in Roses in the Devil's Garden, originally written for a story prompt in the Goodreads M/M Group, and it is amazing!  Then in A Rose by Any Other Name, we get to see Julius, who we were briefly introduced to in Devil's Garden, in his glorious element as Eros at the Pantheon.  Then there's Edward who is not exactly comfortable in his own skin since returning from the war.  Put them together and WOW! the chemistry is explosive, throw in Edward's friends as well as Julius' and my Kindle practically combusted on the spot.  I asked the author if there were going to be any more in this series and she said there are plans but right now her foreseeable plate is a bit full.  Well, whether it's a day, a year, or a decade I will be first in line to check it out and I highly recommend giving Fallen Rose Series a chance, historical lover or not it will capture you from beginning to end.  And by the way, Other Name might be Edward and Julius' story, Harlan and Nate make a very memorable appearance.

RATING: 


Roses in the Devil's Garden #1
Chapter One
“This story has no moral, this story has no end, this story only goes to show, that there ain’t no good in men…”

Why wasn’t he surprised the dance floor was flooded by couples shaking a leg to a tune about murder? It said a hell of a lot of about the times they were living in. More than he cared to admit. It was ironic, really. All this trouble to cleanse the country of its depravity and heathen ways, and instead, the line between law-abiding respectability and delinquency had become blurred to the point of near extinction. Nowadays, even granny was making a mint from the nice young boys running a Gin mill from her basement—something which would have been a step up from this joint.

This particular saloon was an old house converted into a sanctum of illicit activity, where everything from bootlegged liquor to prostitution was not only available, but encouraged. There were thousands of joints like it throughout the city, and for every one that closed down, three more popped up. In basements, flower shops, bakeries. No place was sacred, not churches, or funeral parlors, the latter being the worst of them.

The limited amount of space around them was occupied by a makeshift stage, overcrowded dance floor, and a chipped wooden bar that stretched from one end of the room to the other. Shoved out of the way into darkened corners and gaps, were little square tables dressed in white tablecloths—a poor attempt to add some class.

Plenty of well-to-do society folks had come out slumming, dancing the Charleston and the Bunny Hug in fancy beads and frilly feathers. The dames in their Louise Brooks bobs and rouged knees drank nearly as much as their beaus, who in their bright colored shirts and silly bowties were no doubt bursting to share their scandalous exploits with their less-adventurous fellows at the office come Monday morning.

If they only knew.

On stage, the pansies and lady-lovers danced, hugged, and kissed. They mingled and teased the crowd in a way that only years ago would have had them all thrown in a wagon and carted off to the hoosegow. If they even made it that far.
America had become the devil’s den, and New York City its garden. Most of the time, Agent Harlan Mackay didn’t know what to make of it.

“Why do I let you talk me into these things?” He peered down at the questionable looking liquid in his glass with a deep frown. Granted, it had been a long time since he had had whiskey of any discernible value, but he was pretty certain it wasn’t supposed to be the unsettling yellow-green concoction before him. Casting a glance over at his partner—Agent Nathan Reilly, his frown deepened. Nathan appeared too amused for his own good.

“Because you love my sense of adventure,” Nathan replied with a cocky, lopsided grin. He enjoyed his job far too much, in Harlan’s opinion.

“Is that what we’re calling it?” Harlan grumbled, bracing himself as he took a sip of a drink that set him back as much as a week’s worth of dinners at the automat. “Dammit.” He coughed and sputtered, dribbling a good portion of the stuff on his vest.

Nathan didn’t bother holding back his laughter. “That good, eh?”

“Tastes like piss water,” Harlan grunted, slamming the glass on the table and swatting it away from him in case the fumes alone did him harm.

“That’s probably because it is,” Nathan said with a grin before tossing back the contents of his own glass and shuddering. “Jesus, Joseph, and Mary Pickford’s momma, that’ll put some hair on your chest.” The pained look on his face brought a chuckle from Harlan.

Putting the empty glass on the table, Nathan blinked a few times, shuddered again, and called the waiter over to order another. Harlan just shook his head. Well, he could hardly let Nathan one up him, so he tossed back the remaining liquid in his glass.

“So how’d you hear about this one?” he wheezed.

“Arty down at Union Square,” Nathan replied, his head tilting to one side as he watched the spectacle on stage. Harlan followed his gaze and upon further inspection, noticed the fella sporting a pencil-thin mustache and tuxedo was a dame, and the beautiful blond in the flowing, lavender gown twirling a parasol was a fella.

“The blind guy who’s always sitting around George Washington?” Harlan’s gaze remained on the stage where the dame was singing Sweet Lady to the rosy cheeked boy.

“He wasn’t always blind.”

That captured Harlan’s attention and he shot an accusing look at the empty glass on the table. “You mean…”

Nathan nodded somberly. “It wasn’t piss water, I can tell you that much.”

“Son-of-a bitch.” It was no secret that Harlan didn’t give a damn about temperance. That’s not why he was here. It was about the innocent folks who were paying the price set by a bunch of high-society bastards sitting atop their high horses. Meanwhile, good, hardworking men like Arty were dropping dead, going blind, or being left brutally debilitated by those looking to make it rich. Uncle Sam had picked up his Bible for the cause, but not before carving inside the pages to leave room for his bottle of whiskey. Sometimes Harlan wondered if Nathan was right. Maybe this was one war they would never win, especially when most of their own men were no better than the hoods they put behind bars.
He had been so lost in thought; he hadn’t even realized they had company until Nathan smacked him in the arm and snickered.

Harlan’s gaze traveled up a deep blue suit, noting the slender curves and the purple rose tucked in the front breast pocket. There was a lighter blue shirt and lavender tie. Above that, pouty lips and even further up, the biggest, brightest blue eyes he had ever seen. It was the southern belle who’d been up on stage only moments ago, except he had traded in his dress for a three-piece suit. Harlan opened his mouth and when nothing came out; the kid dropped himself down onto Harlan’s lap and threw an arm around his neck.

“Hey, Daddy. How’s about wetting my whistle with a little giggle water?” The kid’s fingers caressed the stubble on Harlan’s jaw before they trailed down to his chest. Instinctively, Harlan put his hand over his pocket watch just in case. He cast a sideways glance at Nathan, who looked about ready to burst into a fit of laughter. Damn him.

“You know, alcohol’s illegal,” Harlan told the young man matter-of-factly. That earned him a pleasant laugh and a slap to the chest that nearly knocked the wind out of him. This had to be a first. Not many folks had the grit to get this forward with him, not even the boldest of ossified flappers.

“You slay me,” the blond giggled, before biting down on his full bottom lip. It was well rehearsed, but no less seductive. He was young, but not overly. Early twenties maybe, with the kind of brightness in his eyes that said he was far too smart to be in a dive like this, which meant only one thing. The kid was a worker.

“Listen, um…”

“Julius,” the young man purred. “Wanna dance, handsome? You can bring your meat. The more the merrier.” He turned his attention to Nathan, where he gave him the up and down, approval evident in his gaze. “I don’t usually go for petting parties, but I’d be happy to make an exception for you fellas.”

Harlan arched an eyebrow at that. “I beg your pardon?”

Julius leaned in and smiled knowingly, his voice low. Not that it was necessary with the brassy Jazz number the small orchestra was spewing out. There was also plenty of petting going on around them. No one was going to pay them any mind. They would soon enough, but not for the young man sitting on Harlan’s lap.

“Don’t worry, handsome. Your secret’s safe with me.”
Harlan’s eyes narrowed and he caught the hand that was making its way down to his stomach. “Alright, that’s enough of that.” Julius looked both surprised and tickled. He turned his smile on Nathan who damn it all, had yet to say a single word.

“So it’s like that?” Julius asked Nathan.

Finally, his so-called partner spoke up, a goofy grin on his face. “Yeah, it’s like that.”

Julius nodded and Harlan couldn’t help but notice how the brightness in the young man’s eyes dimmed a little. “Guess I should stick to the Parisian. Fewer husbands there.”
Grabbing his shoulder, Harlan pulled the kid close and whispered in his ear. “Get out.”

With an endearingly puzzled look, Julius looked from Harlan to Nathan and back. “I wasn’t razzing you, if that’s what you think.”

“No. I mean you gotta go. Now.” Harlan took the kid’s hand and slipped it inside his suit jacket.

“What are you—” The smile fell off Julius’ face as soon as his fingers slid over the cold steel. He swallowed hard. “Prohis?”
Harlan nodded.

“Can I take my friends? There’s only the two, I swear. They’re good fellas,” he pleaded, genuine fear in his big blue eyes. It was no secret how these things usually went. Finesse was hardly a requirement in joining the good fight. Neither was honesty, a clean record, a reasonable temperament or a dozen other virtues.

“You’ve got ten minutes,” Harlan warned.

Julius nodded and quickly slid off his lap. He started to turn then hesitated. Turning back, he gave Harlan’s cheek a quick kiss before hurrying off.

“That was real sweet, Harley.”

“Dry up,” Harlan grumbled. When he saw Nathan’s tender expression, the heat shot all the way up Harlan’s neck and into his face. Embarrassed, he suddenly didn’t know what to do with his hands, so he just fiddled with his tie. “Ain’t nothin’. You know what Mel and the rest of his bad eggs would do if they got their hands on Julius and his friends.”

Nathan’s expression sobered up considerably. “Yeah, I know.”
There was movement by the cloakroom and Harlan was relieved to see Julius with two other good looking young men hurriedly putting on their overcoats as they headed for the door. Julius paused, looked through the crowd, and caught Harlan’s gaze. With a small smile, he gave Harlan a curt nod and ushered his friends out. There was no guarantee that Julius wouldn’t find himself in trouble again, especially working a place like the Parisian, but at least Harlan had managed to keep him safe this one time. It was all he could hope for these days.

“Ready to go to work?” Nathan asked, interrupting his thoughts.

That drew a wicked grin from him. “Aren’t I always?”

They stood and made their way through the unsuspecting crowd to the cloakroom. Once they had their overcoats and hats on, they stood in front of the saloon’s only exit. Harlan removed his handgun from inside his suit jacket, followed by a black leather wallet. With Nathan ready at his side, Harlan aimed his semi-automatic at the ceiling and fired a round. The blast echoed through the room like an explosion, bringing the music to a halt along with everything else.

He held up his badge and shouted across the room, “Prohibition Unit! This is a raid!”

And then all hell broke loose.

A Rose By Any Other Name #2
Chapter 1
Manhattan, New York, 1927
The Pantheon Cabaret at Club Parisian
“THERE’S SOMETHING wild about you, child, that’s so contagious. Let’s be outrageous. Let’s misbehave.”

Julius Knight was quite certain when Mr. Cole Porter came up with that wonderful little ditty he hadn’t expected everyone to take it so to heart. Yet here they all were.

The world had become one of scandalous debauchery and moral depravity, wrapped in the illusion of decadence and served on a silver platter with a glass of bootlegged liquor. As Mr. Porter so lyrically put it, they would all meet their fate, but until the time came, Julius was going to take each and every one of those saps for all they were worth.

“My darling, you look scrumptious!” Aphrodite boisterously swept into Julius’s dressing room with arms wide open. The sequins and beads of her red gown caught the many bright lights and assaulted his vision. With every sweep of her arm, wisps of her long red feather boa and red-dyed ostrich-feather fan made a break for it. Her black-haired bob was impeccable, her cupid-bow lips scarlet, and, secured between two fingers, her favorite gold cigarette holder gleamed while smoke danced seductively from its end.

Aphrodite was grand and outrageous. A mother figure and warden rolled into one. With a fluttering of exceedingly long—and false—eyelashes, she sashayed to Julius and cupped his face. Her near-black eyes shone bright with excitement.

“He has an audience with you tomorrow night, my angel.”

There was no need for Julius to wonder which “he” she was referring to. There was only one “he” who mattered to Aphrodite.

Ares.

It had been Aphrodite who had bestowed the name upon Julius’s most exclusive patron, because in their world, this man believed himself to be a deity in human form, and he was no less violent in war than the Greek god himself. Only this war was not fought with swords and warriors over matters of importance such as freedom and love. It was fought with submachine guns and hoodlums over illegal liquor and money. There was no racket Ares was not a part of.

Aphrodite tilted her head, and her expression darkened for no more than a slip of a moment before it returned to its previous splendor. It had been brief, but Julius had seen it as clear as day. His heart pounded in his chest, but his lips curled into a smile as he coyly shifted his gaze to hers—an act he’d perfected over the years and on more than one occasion had defused potentially explosive situations.

“I’ll make certain he’s well looked after,” he promised. She patted his cheek firmer than necessary, but his smile never wavered.

“That’s my lovely boy. I’m so proud of you. Look at you.” She took a step back, her eyes raking over him with approval. “You’ve come so far in these two short years, my god of love. Remember the state you were in when I found you?”

The familiar crushing sensation Julius felt every time she reminded him of that night spread through his body, bringing with it a constricted feeling to his chest and an ache to his heart. Why wouldn’t she allow him to forget?

He swallowed hard and nodded. “Yes. I remember.”

“Poor thing,” she tsked, her hand stroking his cheek. “But life is much better for you now, isn’t it? You have a family who takes care of you and everything you could possibly wish for, right here.”

She motioned around his all-white dressing room decorated in the neoclassical style, filled with nothing but the most beautiful and expensive items. Objects made of silver and ivory, along with more cologne and perfume than he could ever hope to wear in one lifetime, all in bottles made of dazzling crystal, littered the surface of his white dressing table. Inside his white wardrobe were suits tailor-made with only the finest of fabrics. His shirts, ties, and handkerchiefs were all made of silk, his shoes leather.

A white velvety-soft carpet covered the floor, while sheer white drapes hung from the ceiling against every wall, giving the illusion one was indeed inside a Greek temple, one befitting the Greek god Eros, whom Julius portrayed.

On one side of the room sat an extraordinary white hand-carved chaise lounge for two, littered with an abundance of matching silk pillows. Even the swanky new Radiola beside it had been painted white. On the other side of the room, concealed behind veils of white, sat his large white four-poster bed with matching silk bedding. Greek vases filled with fresh roses on column poseur tables, all in white, were scattered everywhere. It was the most exquisite farce Julius had ever seen. A temple created to peddle an innocence he’d never had, mixed with a passion he couldn’t feel beyond the fantasies his mind conjured up to pull off such a ruse.

“You’re happy here, aren’t you?”

Aphrodite’s voice interrupted his thoughts, and again Julius nodded, unable to find the words to accompany the gesture. After all, it wasn’t as though he wasn’t grateful for what he had. Only a fool would take such luxury for granted. His friends entered the room, their smiles bringing warmth to his bones. He used the opportunity to turn away from Aphrodite’s penetrating stare.

“Ready?” Terry asked, his boyish grin reaching his kind gray eyes.

Mindful of his black-feathered wings, Terry headed toward him wearing an ensemble not at all dissimilar to Julius’s, except the vibrant ruby cloth wrapped around Terry’s hips was somewhat more modest than his own. It was also nearly as bright as Terry’s fiery red hair. The black straps of his sandals crisscrossed to above his ankles, and his rouged lips drew attention to his charming freckles.

“Of course. I need help with my wings,” Julius replied cheerfully. He refused to dwell on feelings brought about by old memories that no longer warranted his attention. Despair would do nothing for his complexion but bring about early wrinkles, and who would want him then? He was hardly na├»ve enough to believe these dizzy times would endure, and if they did, his beauty and youth would not. For now, he would make the most of the attention and adulation he received from his audience, an audience that came from all over to bow down before him and shower him with gifts.

His eyes met Lawry’s, and Julius found himself looking away. Although his friend’s dark eyes were as penetrating as Aphrodite’s, they expressed much gentleness and concern. Lawry had always taken such good care of him, and it made Julius feel terribly guilty when he tried to hide from him. Lawry was the tallest of their trio, his body tan, muscular, yet lean. He was handsome, confident, and possessed an elegance that demanded attention. Julius had always admired him for his boldness.

Lawry’s red-feathered wings ruffled softly as he made his way across the room. The black cloth around his hips matched his sleek black hair, as did the sandals on his feet. Lawry stopped before Julius, addressing Aphrodite, who watched them like a hawk.

“We’ll finish helping Eros,” Lawry said, his tone matter-of-fact, his manner one Aphrodite respected, as long as it didn’t contradict her.

“You look divine, darlings. See you on stage.” With that, she left, closing the door behind her.

Terry darted to the door to make certain she was gone before returning. He nodded to Lawry, who placed his fingers under Julius’s chin.

“Julius, what is it?”

“Nothing.” Julius gave him a bright smile and moved his face away to motion toward the large white-feathered wings sitting on the white silk bust. “We should shake a leg.”

Lawry sighed and put his hand on Julius’s shoulder. “She brought it up again, didn’t she?”

Julius fought to maintain his smile, though he doubted he could stop the sorrow from reflecting in his eyes. Luckily no one knew him well enough to know the difference, aside from his dear friends, of course. “When doesn’t she? I’m fine. Truly.”

Before Lawry could object, a familiar knock brought the hairs on the back of Julius’s neck to stand on end.

Swell.

“Are you decent?” a husky male voice asked, followed by a throaty chuckle. “So to speak.”

Julius closed his eyes and pursed his lips. His hand itched to form a fist and plant one right across the smug bastard’s jaw. Instead, he donned his most seductive smile.

“Ares, what a pleasant surprise.” He planted both hands on his dressing table at his sides, and leaned back seductively, his eyes raking over the larger man in the brown pinstriped three-piece suit with a red carnation in his lapel. “Looking dapper, as always.”

Ares ran a hand through his dark slicked-back hair—the side without the streak of silver—and nodded a greeting to Lawry and Terry as he prowled toward Julius. Ares loomed over him, his wide stance meant to remind Julius how much taller, wider, and more masculine he was. He rubbed his scarred jaw as his unsettling dark eyes ogled Julius.

“And you look fuckable, as always.”

How charming. Julius tilted his head, looking up at Ares from under his lashes, his foot running up the inside of Ares’s leg. “You certainly know how to get a fella all hot under the collar, don’t you?” Ares moved in to kiss Julius, who held a hand up to stop him, his smile playful. “Careful, handsome. I’m covered in fairy dust.”

Ares let out a bark of laughter and grabbed Julius’s chin, giving it a not so gentle squeeze. “You are something else, baby. I got you something.” He reached inside his jacket pocket and drew out a long red-velvet box. Holding it out in front of Julius, he opened it.

“Oh my God.” Julius’s fingers tentatively reached out to touch the stunning gold arrow lying snugly in its bed of thick scarlet velvet. It was roughly a foot long from the tip of the golden arrowhead to the end of its glittering gold feathers. He didn’t know how to describe it, but despite its beauty it gave Julius an unpleasant twist in his stomach. “It’s….”

“Pure gold, dollface. Nothing but the best for my baby.”

Julius swallowed hard as Ares closed the box and put it in Julius’s hand before leaning in to give his neck a kiss. “I see I’ve left you speechless. You can thank me tomorrow night.” He brushed his fingers down Julius’s torso and around to his backside before giving it a fierce squeeze. “I’ll make sure Aphrodite gives you the next day off. You’ll need it to recover.”

With a chuckle, he turned and walked out, closing the door behind him, the finality causing Julius to flinch. He didn’t know how much time he had spent standing there, staring at the closed door, when Terry caught his attention.

“Julius, can you hear me?”

Snapping out of it, Julius faced his friends, doing what he’d taught himself to do from the first day Ares had taken him to bed. He held his head high and shielded his heart. “Yes. I’m fine. Surprised, is all.”

“That’s the fifth time this month. His visits are becoming far more frequent.”

Julius frowned at his friend. “Thank you, Terry. It wasn’t as though I hadn’t noticed.” He opened the box in his hand and stared at the gleaming arrow. “How much do you think I can get for it?”

“If you trade it in, he’ll notice. It’s not like the cigarette cases or the lighters. He’s given you so many of those he probably can’t tell one from the other, but that….” Terry walked up to him and leaned in to have a look, giving a low whistle. “He’ll definitely notice if it’s missing.”

Julius snapped the box shut and placed it on his dressing table. “I’m hardly about to trade it in today.” He nodded toward the bust. “Are you going to help me with these? I don’t want to talk about him anymore.”

“Fine.”

With a grumble, Terry took one side of the golden harness, while Lawry lifted the other. They helped Julius into the straps, the weight of the wings something he’d long ago become accustomed to. Like so many other things.

“Well, if it ain’t the belle of the ball.”

They turned toward the familiar voice, and Julius stifled a groan. Applesauce. Because a visit from Ares wasn’t quite complete without Anteros showing up. The scheming little stool pigeon.

“Anteros,” Julius greeted, doing his best to maintain a somewhat pleasant smile. “Having a good evening?”

Anteros pushed away from the doorframe he was leaning against and entered the room, stopping when Lawry and Terry blocked his path. To this day, Julius found it unnerving being around Anteros. It was like looking into a warped mirror, one where the man reflected back at him had no morals, heart, or soul. Anteros’s animosity toward him shone in his icy blue eyes.

“Such loyal guard dogs you have, Eros.”

“Better a guard dog than a lapdog,” Terry replied through his teeth. “Say, what happened to your guard dogs? Oh, that’s right. You don’t have any, because men are no longer lining up to see you, are they? Enjoying our castoffs?”

“You little bitch!” Anteros launched himself at Terry only to have Lawry step between them and push them apart.

“Enough,” Lawry demanded, and Anteros stepped back, pinning Julius with a glare. His lips curled up into a sneer.

“Have fun with Ares tomorrow night. Who knows, maybe this time he won’t leave any bruises.”

With his departure, Anteros left a heavy silence behind.

Lawry turned to Terry with a sigh. “Must you antagonize him so?”

“He started it. I’m so sick of him always sniffing around Julius, looking for ways to take a poke at him.” Terry stepped up to Julius, his expression softening. “I’m sorry.”

“It’s all right.” Julius hugged Terry close, knowing his friend only had the best of intentions, even if at times he did speak without thinking. “Please be careful. I’d hate for him to get you into trouble.”

Terry returned his embrace. “I’ll try harder.”

“Good.” Julius smiled and pulled away to turn back to his mirror. There was no point in dwelling on tonight’s unpleasant visits. It wouldn’t change a thing. “Besides, you’d be upset too if one day Aphrodite walked in with some young new strumpet who resembled you and declared him your replacement. Imagine how Anteros felt.”

Terry shook his head. “You really must stop making excuses for him, Julius. It was Aphrodite’s decision, not yours. Anteros has no right to take out his frustrations on you. This is show business. Nothing is definite. Anteros is an attractive fellow, and although he might be too old to be the lead act, he’s hardly old. If he weren’t so bitter, he’d be far better off than he is now.”

Julius nodded and closed his eyes. He needed to clear his mind. In the distance, he could hear the brass and woodwind instruments of the jazz band playing a fast and loose tune, which meant the chorus boys were out on the floor in their skimpy cupid costumes getting the audience worked up while they waited for the erotes to descend from the heavens.

“I’m ready.”

Once outside Julius’s dressing room, Lawry and Terry walked side by side ahead of him as they always did. Crew members, performers, waiters, cigarette boys, and musicians alike cleared the way for them. Without Julius, the Pantheon wouldn’t be nearly as successful as it was, and no one knew that better than Aphrodite, who stood backstage waiting for them. Julius stopped before her as he always did, and she gently placed a kiss on his cheek.

“Time to steal their hearts, my angel.”

He gave her a nod, though stealing would hardly be necessary. By the time Julius was done with them, they would be begging him to take everything they offered. He climbed the steps to the stage after his friends with his head held high and his shoulders squared. Those men out there were waiting to shower him with adoration and, more importantly, lots of dough. A fantasy is what they came for; a fantasy is what he would offer. No matter who he faced in the club, he always had the upper hand. He was Eros, and they would all bow before him.

Poor mere mortals.

Charlie Cochet
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!


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Roses in the Devil's Garden #1

A Rose by Any Other Name #2
AMAZON US  /  AMAZON UK  /  B&N
KOBO  /  iTUNES  /  GOOGLE PLAY  /  ARe


Vampire Hunter by Victoria Danann

Title: Vampire Hunters
Author: Victoria Danann
Series: Rammel Hawking #1
Genre: Paranormal Romance
Release Date: January 18, 2016
Cover Designer: Victoria Danann
Photographer: Invita
Summary:
Ram’s book is My Familiar Stranger retold from his unique point of view, expanded with chapter insights from other significant characters. The story begins the first time he runs away to the New Forest at age ten, follows his recruitment by Black Swan along with his training to be a vampire hunter, and tells the story of the death of his first partner.


Lan (narrated by Ram’s first partner, Sir Lansdowne)
I had finished my education and chosen to sign on with Black Swan. The ink wasn’t dry on the paper before I was out the door. First assignment was Grunewald, the unit that serviced Berlin. It was close enough by whister to patrol, but far enough away to be secluded. The building was a renovation, or adaptation really, of an eighteenth century grand house, set in the middle of a forest preserve that was off limits to anyone not Black Swan. I had seen a lot of the world by then, but had never been to Berlin. I knew why we had a unit there. Because wherever you find prevalent nightlife, you find active nests of vampire. I didn’t have any personal experience with leeches at that time. But you don’t have to experience a thing personally to believe people when they tell you it’s nasty. I had never heard anything about vampire until six months ago. They trained our minds and bodies to be precision instruments and occasionally said something vague about protecting the innocent. But crap on a croissant. We had no idea we were preparing to be the only barrier between humanity and monsters that turned out to be real. Our story when we met civilian juvies was that we were in military school. Hel. Close enough. Right? Anyway, six months ago they clued me in. There are vampire out there. I had two choices when I turned eighteen. I could sign on as a vampire hunter or go home and keep my mouth shut about everything I’d learned. I was told that, if I chose the first option, I’d find that my training hadn’t even begun. I didn’t believe that. I mean how much harder could it be? Really. They said they took the mouth shut part of option two very seriously. No threat was spelled out, but it was certainly implied. I had six months to decide. So. Sure. I thought about it. A lot. The day before I turned eighteen I still hadn’t decided. I returned to quarters around ten o’clock, closed the door, switched on the light and nearly jumped out of my skin. My uncle was sitting there in the dark waiting like some creeper from a film noir movie. He laughed when I jumped. “Right. Real funny. What are you doing in this part of the world?” His smile slowly faded away. “Sit. I want to say something.” Uncle Al wasn’t the sort of guy you said no to. I sat in the chair closest to the sofa where he’d parked his overbearing ass. He didn’t speak at first, just stared at me, and I have to tell you it took every bit of the self-discipline I’d learned to keep from squirming under that kind of scrutiny. But I knew it was some kind of test. I was supposed to be patient and wait it out. So I did. “You’re going to be eighteen tomorrow.” I smirked. “So I hear.” He nodded. “Are you decided?” I looked away. “Honestly? No. I’ve been hoping for a sign.” “A sign, huh?” My uncle didn’t seem to think that was a reliable approach to decision making. “Well, I don’t know what kind of sign you’re expecting. I thought I’d stop by. Won’t be here tomorrow. So happy birthday.” “Thanks.” I stood when he got up to leave. He turned toward the door, but turned back like he’d forgotten something. I could almost see him mentally patting his pockets. “Anything you want to ask me?” I wouldn’t have thought so, but since he put it that way. There was something. “I guess it’s clear what choice you made. Any regrets?” He grinned. It was a thing so rare I couldn’t think if I’d ever seen him look pleased before. “A good question for a seventeen-year-old.” “Almost eighteen.” “Indeed.” He nodded. “The answer is no. Not one. Hope that helps.” I thought about it for a second. “Would you feel the same way if you died tomorrow?” His grin got even bigger. “Definitely.” With that he left without looking back and, in fact, it did help. Immensely. Teachers are known to go on every year about how you’d better get ready because the next year is going to be so much harder. But it never is. It’s always the same thing. So when I signed on to Black Swan for life and they told me it was about to get real, I just smirked on the inside and thought, “Yeah. Yeah. I’ve heard it before.” Looking back now I could slap my little bratty self for acting like a punk. Even if I kept it on the inside. For once the future of dread hadn’t been overstated. It had been understated. The next four years were rigorous enough to make the first five look like a glide on a paddle board over a smooth-as-glass lake. Naturally, once we understood that we were going to be vampire hunters, and what that meant, we began to pay attention in earnest. But here’s the bare truth of that. Nothin’ they can do or say can truly prepare you for what it feels like the first time you are face to face with a pale-eyed leech who wants to rip you apart with virus-dripping fangs. My internship was mostly served as backup to the Grunewald Unit knights. I went to Brazil for a few months and did an awful rotation in Central America looking for Chupacabra. Ew. Things give me willies when I think about them. Yeah. They’re even worse than vampire. I was always sent back to Berlin though. Like it was home base. That was okay with me. There was a lot of action and the Grunewald knights were good solid teachers. They taught me about slaying vampire and they taught me about camaraderie. Then, of course, there were German girls. I mean, you’ve gotta love girls who have beer with breakfast. Right? It was a good place to pay my dues and hone my skills. Three years later, I was told that I was being sent to Jefferson Unit. Rumor had it that I was going to be a vampire slayer in New York, New York. I wasn’t very impressed when the jeep stopped in front of J.U. It was the farthest thing from Grunewald Castle. A plain brick building with not a single window showing. Looked more like a prison than a Black Swan facility. Don’t get me wrong. I don’t require frills to complete me. It was just an observation. I stopped at the intercom. “Knock. Knock.” “Who’s there?” “Landsdowne.” “Just a minute.” I heard the buzzer and pushed on the door. My first thought was that there was an awful lot of activity for a place that looked so quiet on the outside. I hoisted my duffel up higher on my shoulder and stopped a kid going by. “Sovereign’s office?” “Down one level and turn right.” I nodded my thanks and headed toward the elevators. The central area was impressive with its three-story ceiling, modern gleam and polish. The place looked like a prison from the front, but once inside it was open and light with a view to what appeared to be a park on the other side of tall windows. When the elevator opened, I checked to make sure the down arrow was lit, stepped inside and pushed S1. A couple of girls, well, young women I guess you’d say, got in after me in workout clothes. One of them looked me over, taking in the duffel, “Transferring in?” “Yeah.” She smiled. “I’m Ellsbeth. I work in medical.” The elevator opened. When I realized they weren’t getting off, I finally got the hint and exited. “See you around.” The sovereign’s office wasn’t hard to find. The reception area was glass to the hallway, but I checked the plaque just to be sure. Sol Nemamiah, Sovereign. There was a kid at the desk, young enough to be a student. He looked up when I walked in and dropped my duffel. “Transfer from Berlin,” I said. “Go on in.” He pointed to a closed door. I opened the door, hoping the instruction wasn’t a new-guy-hazing prank. The first thing I saw was a mess of blond hair. I knew he was an elf because he had some of that hair tucked behind the ears. I guess he could have been fae, but I didn’t know of any fae knights. When he turned around, I had three thoughts. That he was just about my age. That his eyes sparkled with elf mischief. And that the only word to describe him was beautiful. Now don’t get me wrong. I have a strong preference for the opposite sex and don’t usually think about whether other guys are attractive or not. But this elf had it going and I would have had to be blind to not notice. I looked past him to the man behind the desk. You could tell it was the Sovereign by the way his jaw seemed permanently clenched. He pointed at the elf. “Rammel Aelshelm Hawking, meet Basil Rathbone Landsdowne.” The elf stuck out his hand. I took it and shook. That’s when it registered. I laughed and blurted out, “You’re P.P.” “Excuse me?” he said, with his brow knitting. I looked at the Sovereign and thought better of saying more. “I’ll explain. Later.” “You two are getting a try out as partners, attached to B Team, starting,” he looked at his monitor, “Thursday. Mr. Hawking, Mr. Landsdowne’s quarters are next to yours. Show him the way.” “Aye,” said the elf as he moved toward the outer office. He held the door open to the hall and gestured toward the elevator. “Welcome to worm patrol.” “Worm patrol? Sounds like I should turn around and ask for reassignment.” He laughed. “I’ve been told that’s what they call rotation in the Big Apple.” “Oh.” Once inside he pushed the third floor button and leaned back against the wall facing me. “So what was the peepee thing?” I grinned. “Not peepee! P. P. Your reputation is widely known. Parties and pussy.” He cocked his head and gave a tiny smile. “’Tis what they say about me?” “Yeah, man. It could be worse. They could be sayin’ you’re a limp dick wanker who’s scared of girls.” He combined a grin with a sly look that I’d come to think of as Ram’s trademark smile. “Spent a lot of time alone as a kid. I suppose there was some pent-up party in me. Maybe I’ve over-compensated. I would no’ want P.P. on my tombstone.”

Author Bio:
USA TODAY Bestselling Author, Victoria Danann, is making her debut into Contemporary Romance with releases in May and June 2015, after taking the world of PNR by storm.

Her Knights of Black Swan series won BEST PARANORMAL ROMANCE SERIES TWO YEARS IN A ROW (2013, 2014). Reviewers Choice Awards, The Paranormal Romance Guild.

Victoria's paranormal romances come with uniquely fresh perspectives on "imaginary" creatures, characters, and themes. She adds a dash of scifi, a flourish of fantasy, enough humor to make you laugh out loud, and enough steam to make you squirm in your chair. Her heroines are independent femmes with flaws and minds of their own whether they are aliens, witches, demonologists, psychics, past life therapists, or financial analysts from Dallas. Her heroes are hot and hunky, but they also have brains, character, and good manners - usually - whether they be elves, demons, berserkers, werewolves, or vampires.

The first book of the Knights of Black Swan Paranormal Romance Series, My Familiar Stranger, was nominated for Best Paranormal Romance of 2012 by both Reviewers' Choice and Readers' Choice Awards. All of her books have opened on the Amazon Best Sellers list and earned Night Owl Reviews TOP PICK awards. Many have appeared on Listopia BOOK OF THE MONTH as #1 across all genres.

For books published in 2013, Black Swan won three awards. 1. Best Paranormal Romance Series 2. Best Paranormal Romance Novel - A SUMMONER'S TALE 3. Best Vampire~Shifter Novel - MOONLIGHT. In 2014, Solomon's Sieve won Best Vampire Novel.

If you're interested in Victoria personally, she is also a classically trained musician who defected to Classic Rock music. Until 2013 she was the utility player for Houston's Roadhouse band, which means she played rhythm guitar, keyboards, sang back ups and female leads. Her band covered everything (note for note) from Styx to Led Zepellin to Rush.

She lives in The Woodlands, Texas with her husband and a very smart, mostly black German Shepherd dog.


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EMAIL: vdanann@gmail.com







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Kahayatle by Elle Casey

Title: Kahayatle
Author: Elle Casey
Series: Apocalypsis #1
Genre: Horror, Post-Apocalyptic, Science Fiction, Young Adult
Release Date: June 22, 2012
Summary:
NEW YORK TIMES and USA TODAY BESTSELLING AUTHOR, ELLE CASEY, brings readers Book 1 of 4 in the YA Dystopian APOCALYPSIS Series, suitable for older teens and adults.

KAHAYATLE. My name’s Bryn Mathis. I’m seventeen years old, and I live in a neighborhood outside of Orlando, Florida. I live alone because my dad died almost a year ago, along with all the other adults in the world. I’m almost out of food and the gangs of kids that roam around my town are getting more vicious by the day. It’s time for me to leave and find another place to live … a place where I can find food and shelter … a place where they won’t be able to find me. Alone, it might have been possible, but now I’ve got company. I’m worried that I don’t have what it takes to get from here to my final destination, and I have no idea what might be waiting for me when I get there.

Content Warning: Mild violence and some foul language. Meant for older Young Adult readers (age 15+). This book is in the Dark Science Fiction / Horror / Post-Apocalyptic genres, featuring teen characters only.

APOCALYPSIS SERIES READING ORDER
Kahayatle (Apocalypsis Book 1) **Special introductory ebook price**
Warpaint (Apocalypsis Book 2)
Exodus (Apocalypsis Book 3)
Haven (Apocalypsis Book 4)

This series is dedicated to the amazing, wonderful Native Americans who populate our nation, continuing their traditions and reminding the rest of us that sometimes, progress isn’t always the best thing for our people. I invite you to learn more about the Miccosukee tribe, their history, culture, and lifestyle by visiting this website: http://www.miccosukee.com/indian-village/

Chapter 1
I had eaten all the rations that were left in my house, except for five cans of baked beans and two bags of noodles.  It’s all I’d been eating for a week, and if I had to have another bite of starch I was going to puke.  I didn’t like the idea of going through my neighbors’ houses to find food, but the choice was being made for me now.  I was desperate.

Morning would be the best time for me to make my move.  I’d heard the sounds of other people - teens like me - moving around in the daytime; but usually it was in the afternoon or at night.  Groups of them had gotten together, looking for stuff in the houses that didn’t have kids in them.  None of the houses had adults in them anymore.

I needed to move without being seen.  Leaving my house unprotected would be a very bad idea.  I knew that these gangs were soon going to stop showing respect to the houses with kids in them like me.  It was only a matter of time before the resources left in these neighborhoods dwindled down to an amount so small, it would no longer be enough to support the number of growling stomachs that roamed the streets; not without the hungry breaking into the occupied places too.

I hadn’t heard them hit the house behind me yet, maybe because there was someone living there.  I’d never met that neighbor, though, and had never seen any sign of a kid there.  There were two other houses on my street that used to have kids my age in them, but they had left - I assume to join one of the roving gangs.  I guess they figured they had better chances of surviving in a group.

I didn’t feel that way at all. Before the world had gone into the crapper, I’d been pretty much a loner anyway.  I liked my music and my books and didn’t bother with after-school clubs or hanging out at the local cafe.  Besides, my dad had me in martial arts training every weekday and most weekends, practically my whole life; it didn’t leave much time for socializing.  I’d only moved to this town six months before my dad was suddenly gone.  He’d hoped to outrun the apocalypse, but it eventually caught up with him like it did anyone who wasn’t going through puberty.

The guys I trained with at various dojos over the years - I was always the only girl - were as serious as my dad about their skills.  They lived for the feel of total control and absolute domination, in any situation.  I appreciated the power, but it was never really my thing.  I did it to make my dad happy.  I’d advanced through the ranks, but didn’t get as far as he’d wanted me to.  Now he wasn’t here to help me move forward, and I wished like hell I’d tried harder.  For him and for me.

I decided to go to the house behind me to search for food.  Maybe there was a kid there, maybe there wasn’t.  It was worth checking out, at least.  I could get there by climbing my backyard fence, and no one who might be out on the street would be able to see me.  Up until now, no one had bothered to try and come into my house.  I’d put a note on my door that said to stay the hell away and that I had a gun - which was the truth.  But in doing that, I’d essentially become a sitting duck.  Eventually, they would come for the things they hoped were in my house - food and fresh water.  It was going to be time to leave soon.  But until that day came, I needed something else to eat.  My hunger was gnawing a hole in my stomach.

Two more hours and I’d go over the fence.  My hand went nervously to the ring on a chain that hung at my neck - my dad’s old wedding ring that he’d given me just before he went away for good.

Author Bio:
Elle Casey is a prolific, NEW YORK TIMES and USA TODAY bestselling American writer who lives in Southern France with her husband, three kids, and several furry friends. She writes in several genres and publishes an average of one full-length novel per month.


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