Monday, June 26, 2017

Monday's Montage Mantlepiece: Horns & Halos Collection

Demons and Angels have been among us for thousands of years, in many cultures and in many forms. What happens when you set the Mischief Corner authors loose on the vague prompt "Write a story about angels or demons?" The poor unsuspecting world is about to find out.

Archie's Accidental Kidnapping(Hounds of Hell #1) by Toni Griffin
Hellhounds are tasked with a very important job. Tracking down and killing Nephilim, half human, half angels. They are the absolute worse society has to offer and as such need to be eliminated. As Adze and his pack of hounds hunt the latest lowlife he meets Archie, his heart mate, something he never thought would happen to him. Now all Adze has to do is explain to his very human mate about the world he's just been dragged into, kicking and screaming. Sounds easy right? Not so much.

Internment(Spirit Threads #1) by Freddy MacKay
Alone on his mountain, the kitsune Tadashi only wishes to be left in peace so he can mourn his lost lover and take care of his temple. Unfortunately, several townsmen who have no idea of Tadashi’s true nature have different plans for the "Jap on the mountain" and his land. When they push the kitsune too far, he reacts with horrific violence, leaving tragedy in his wake. Broken and terrified of himself, Tadashi represses his natural drives and shuts himself off from the world.

The intrusion of a lost little girl and her persistent veterinarian uncle, Berg, into Tadashi’s life, turn his carefully ordered world upside-down. The reluctant hero needs to decide whether he is truly happier alone or whether he can once again embrace a truth he used to know, that life is for the living.

Hell For The Company(Brimstone #1) by Angel Martinez
Shax, the Demon Prince of Thieves, has reconciled himself to exile. He has a grand time careening around the galaxy as a high-end, intergalactic purloiner of pretties. Everything's going just fine, thank you very much. All right, fine, the anti-gravity cows are a bit problematic and some of his buyers are bad for his health, but he manages until he comes across an injured angel in a psychedelic alien jungle.

He only rescues the wing boy for his golden feathers, but what Shax doesn’t know about angels could fill an intergalactic encyclopedia.

Archie's Accidental Kidnapping by Toni Griffin
Chapter One
“What’s the deal with the bloody weather today? It’s hot as Hell.” Cacus bitched and moaned as he wiped the sweat from his brow.

Adze shook his head. “No, it’s not, Cacus. You’ve been to Hell, remember?”

“Don’t remind me, Adze. I don’t plan on going back. Ever!”

“None of us do, mate,” Pyro muttered from where he sat.

It was one of those rare days in February when Melbourne’s temperature skyrocketed to over forty degrees. Adze couldn’t wait for the sun to sink below the horizon and the place to cool the fuck down again. You never really knew what the weather was going to give you from one day to the next here. People talked about Melbourne as the city that had four seasons in one day, and they were right. The weather was all kinds of fucked up.

Nicor, Oriax and Daevas had even taken a break from the research they were doing to head downstairs for a swim, hoping it would cool them off.

Adze couldn’t believe how much the big strong hellhounds around him sounded like whiny little babies. As he’d reminded Cacus, they had been to Hell. All six of them had been born and trained down there and had dealt with much harsher temperatures than this in the past. He wondered silently if they were becoming too acclimated to Earth and if that was a good or bad sign.

When the need for a new team to be sent to Earth had arisen, Adze had received notification from Lucifer’s second that he was to choose five other hounds and make haste to Australia. The previous pack that had guarded the continent hadn’t survived its encounter with their last target.

Adze hadn’t liked the sound of that, but he would’ve done anything to get out of Hell. He hated it there, as well as most of the people that either lived or were confined there. He’d gone immediately to gather his friends and they’d all readily agreed to go. They’d been training as a group for a hundred years so Adze hadn’t expected any of them to turn him down. They had all wanted to get out of Hell as much as he had.

Hellhounds had been charged thousands of years ago with keeping the balance on the surface. They accomplished this by cleaning up the damage the angels did every time they visited Earth and couldn’t keep it in their damn pants.

You would think after the first couple of dozen times a child created by an angel and a human went insane and on a killing spree, the angels would have got it in their heads that maybe Earth wasn’t the best place for them to go and fuck their hearts out, but no, that would have been too easy. Instead, they continued to come, continued to find willing women, bed them, and then leave them whether they were pregnant with their offspring or not, heading back to heaven and their angelic duties.

He wasn’t exactly sure what it was that caused the offspring to go off the deep end, but Adze thought it might have something to do with the fact that angels just weren’t meant to procreate with humans. Their DNA didn’t seem to mesh well and ended up creating all manner of evil beings. Homicidal maniacs, terrorists, rapists, serial killers, bombers, arsonists, you name it.

Nine times out of ten, the person responsible for the atrocities would have angelic blood flowing in their veins. The cases of the responsible party being completely human were getting rarer every day.

There were hellhound packs located all over the globe charged with hunting down the nephilim—half angel, half human—and killing them. If the party was found to be completely human, then Adze and his pack didn’t touch them. That was the job of the local law enforcement.

As the angels refused to keep track of every woman they slept with, things were a hell of a lot harder on the hounds than they could have been. There was no easy way to find an offspring from one of these hook-ups. Only when a hound got close enough to the being could they sense the angelic blood in their veins.

Once the hounds got within a couple of kilometers of a nephilim they were able to track it easily. Angels glowed with a white aura that Adze had found in the past to be almost blinding when looking directly at them. Their children’s auras, however, blackened with every evil act they committed, making them stand out amongst all the humans.

Adze was thankful that whatever it was that caused the corruption in their bodies didn’t occur until adulthood. Only in extremely rare cases did this take place sooner. When the corruption manifested in adolescence, school massacres often resulted and Adze hated those the most. The needless loss of life seemed so much worse when kids were involved.

The nephilim they were tracking at the moment, Michael Bates, was wanted for the kidnapping, torture and murder of seven young men. His victims all had light brown hair, but of varying lengths, their eyes had all been differing shades of green and they all stood less than six foot tall, their ages ranging from twenty-two to twenty-eight.

Two of the seven victims had been in Melbourne on either business or pleasure, whereas the other five had lived in suburbs scattered around the city. They didn’t drive the same vehicle or attend the same groups, their professions ranged from a florist to a dentist to a student currently studying at law school.

He hadn’t kept the men for the same period either. Some he kidnapped and tortured for weeks before killing the victim and leaving the body in a public place to be found. Others he kidnapped and their bodies were discovered the following day.

None of it made any sense to Adze and he could feel his frustration growing exponentially along with his discomfort from the heat.

One thing they had going for them was the fact that this one was in their own back yard. Melbourne was their home base, the place they always came back to, and the city they knew better than anywhere else in the country.

Internment by Freddy MacKay
Part One - Monsters on the Mountain
Chapter One
Spring was alive and well on the mountain. Green buds covered the treetops, bushes bounced with the breeze, tulips and daffodils poked through the ground, and the smallest of forest creatures skittered about looking for their treasures from the previous summer and fall. Tadashi smiled as a familiar young squirrel scampered around his feet, chirping and squeaking at him furiously.

"I didn't take your nuts," chastised Tadashi, switching his broom to one hand. "You've forgotten where you've put them. Or they've decided to become wonderful new additions to the forest in the form of trees."

The squirrel stopped its angry barrage of noises and looked up.

"I'm telling the truth, Kou," said Tadashi. "I haven't hidden your nuts."

Kou chirped once.

"Look over there, by the arches." Tadashi pointed at the gate. "Why do you think a Black Oak is sprouting? I didn't plant it there."

The squirrel's nose twitched. He stared at the seedling then took off in the opposite direction for his oak by the temple.

"Aren't you even going to say you're sorry?" called Tadashi, shaking his head.

Kou climbed up his tree and went straight into his nest.

Tadashi chuckled and went back to his sweeping. "Little pest."

He didn't mind the forgetful little squirrel. The temple would seem big and empty without him. Company, in the form of the squirrel, was a welcome reprieve from his duties. Tadashi would have to remember to procure some of Kou's favorite treats. He had some hidden away. The spring was always a rough time of year for the small forest mammals like Kou, the poor squirrel could use a break.

Though he wasn't so small anymore. Kou had just turned a year at the end of April. It felt like just a moment ago that Tadashi had been up nursing Kou back to health after his mother abandoned the litter early. Kou had been the only one to survive. He'd been a fighter and would continue to thrive, though Kou had to be hungry. The winter had been an unusual one, the cold extreme even for the mountain, and food was hard to come by at the moment.

Definitely not an easy time for the animals, their stomachs empty, and they were looking for a mate. Tadashi stopped sweeping the grounds and searched for the squirrel. No wonder Kou was so upset. He must be preparing to lure a female. Were there any around? Tadashi scanned the trees and the forest floor beyond the gates. He couldn't see them, but he could smell them. Quite a few in fact. All of them were scurrying about looking for food.

Kou knew what he was doing, wanting his nuts. Sneaky devil. But then, Tadashi raised him. He only had himself to blame for the squirrel's cheeky behavior and slight, oh, awareness.

A squirrel raised by a kitsune. He must be getting lonely. Him, a messenger of the god Inari, taking in such a small pest. What is the world coming to?

Tadashi picked up his broom and headed back toward the small building next to the temple. At the same time, Kou popped back out of his nest, pinecone securely between his teeth. The little pest did have food. Kou ran by, dragging the pinecone with him.

"Be careful once you pass the gates," warned Tadashi. "It's not as easy to protect you once you leave the shrine."

Kou stopped and tilted his head, observing Tadashi.

"Here at the shrine, my powers protect you," said Tadashi. "Step off the sacred grounds, only my luck travels with you."

It wasn't the good kind though. Hadn't been for years, not since the Japanese engaged the Americans in the World War seven years ago. But Kou didn't need to know that. His happy aura was one of Tadashi's only lights. He didn't want to damper it.

"Go, have fun."

Kou chirped and ran off, scampering away with a sense of purpose.

Tadashi faced the temple and bowed, asking a favor from his god, Inari. "I know you and I haven't been on the best of terms, but please, protect Kou."

Tadashi straightened then resumed his course to the small hut by the temple, ignoring the larger house behind the shrine. He ducked into the doorway and took several long steps to the dresser by his bed. Tadashi rummaged around the top of it. He had kept a stash of Kou's favorite nuts for an occasion like this one… somewhere. A small, brightly colored cloth bag finally peeked out from under a pair of socks.


He had used a little of his magic on the bag so it preserved and kept the nuts fresh. Tadashi grabbed the sack and stepped back. He gently placed it on the floor so he could grab it once he had shifted. Tadashi quickly pulled off his clothes, letting them drop to the floor.

Funny thing about real clothes, they wouldn't just disappear like the ones that formed when he used his magic. Getting tangled in real clothes was cumbersome and annoying. So was having to strip naked to shift.

Hell For The Company by Angel Martinez
Chapter One
Bullets pinged off the rock beside Shax’s head.

Projectiles? Really?

He ducked lower and tapped frantically at his link, hoping it hadn’t taken damage. “Verin! You there, bud?”

A low growl came back through the link. “This better be—fuck! Is that gunfire?”

“Maybe,” Shax conceded as he flattened himself in the dust.

“What in Lucifer’s name did you do now, bonehead?”

“Um, there were pretties…”

Verin’s cussing became too heated and high decibel for him to continue the conversation for a moment. Finally, he stopped the tirade. “Get back here, then! Fast as that damn horse you borrowed can manage!”

“About the horse…”


“Got shot out from under me. I could, ah, use some backup out here, Ver.”

More grumbling came through but this time accompanied by the sounds of engine startup. “You at least get your damn pretties?”

Shax grinned despite the dire situation. “Oh, yeah. Show you when we’re off this dirtball.”

Engine noise drowned the next round of grumbling. Thank hells. Verin was coming for him. Not that a little thing like a gunshot was going to kill a prince of hell but damn it, being shot hurt. Maybe some demons got off on the whole pain thing, but he’d rather skip it, thanks.

“There’s nowhere to go, scum!” the local protector of law and order bellowed. “Give up now and we’ll most likely hang you all nice and humane instead of skinning you alive!”

Oh yes, now there’s incentive for you. The shooting had stopped for a moment, so he dared to poke his head up above his rock cover. “How about a third choice?”

“You’re out of choices, boy!”

Shax rolled his eyes at the incredibly witty rejoinder. “How about I go away and you never, ever have to see me again?”

He offered his most charming smile, then dove for the ground, swearing a black streak when bullets zinged around him. Ow. Shit. He pushed his hat back, probing gently at his scalp near his right horn. His fingers came away bloody. “I am never going into any bar that has a piano player, ever again. Cheap, shoddy, hick town. Stupid humans.”

The roar of the Brimstone’s engines briefly muffled the gunfire. Shax thought his partner would come in shooting but Verin often had more precipitous solutions. He simply set the ship down on the posse.

“Ew. Squish.”

The few townsfolk who were not under the ship galloped off, suddenly keen to be elsewhere. The loading ramp lowered with the bitchy whine of old hydraulics. Verin stood at the top, huge arms crossed over his chest, tapping one clawed foot on the deck plates.

Shax staggered out of his hiding spot, trying hard for an annoyed expression rather than one of profound relief. He pointed to the hull as he stumbled up the ramp. “I am not cleaning that mess off.”

“Idiot.” Verin snorted. “The mess’ll freeze the second we leave atmosphere and burn off the next time we do reentry. So damn planet-bound still.”

“Shut up. Am not.” Halfway up the ramp, Shax stopped. “Why’s the ship crooked?”

“It’s not. Get in here. You don’t look so good, genius.”

Shax was about to admit he didn’t feel so great, either, when the loading ramp inconsiderately leaped up and hit him in the face. The last things he heard were Verin grumble-cussing and soft mooing.


* * * *

The headache wasn’t as bad as the ones after a bad tongue-lashing from the boss. Humans thought that was just an expression. Ha. The Prince of Darkness had some of the most ingenious punishments. Still, Shax wasn’t in any hurry to get up.

Verin had dumped him in his cabin, probably to get him out of the way and secured during liftoff.

“Would’ve been nice if you could’ve taken off the boots, Ver.” Shax swiped at his blankets, trying to get some of the dust and sand off. Filth was not his modis operandus. Wasn’t usually Verin’s either, but sometimes Verin just couldn’t be bothered with small details.

He stripped and put the dust-plagued clothes in the dry-cycler. He’d deal with rips and scuffs later. The shower was sonic, better for water conservation, but it did have the luxury of a warm air jet massage, one of the reasons he had taken the captain’s cabin. Verin had the pilot’s quarters, equally well equipped.

Designed for a crew of six, the Brimstone was more ship than they needed but Verin did well with the flying part and he did well with the mechanics so they had no use for a pilot or crew. Since they had no need for a ship physician either, it was just the two of them, which suited them both fine.

Shax fingered the bloody line that parted his red-gold hair beside his horn. Pissed him off that those idiots had temporarily marred perfection. His horn hurt, for hell’s sake. Otherwise, he still looked good. Oh fine, his black eyes were a little bloodshot and a nasty bruise colored his jaw. He needed rest and pampering, but Verin sure as shit wasn’t going to do any of that and he’d left the minions behind on Earth.

He pulled on comfortable old work pants and a sweater, shrugged on his jacket and shambled off to the kitchen. While he wasn’t really in a mood to deal with computer snark, he needed his damn coffee.

Lights came up as he entered. The bench slid out from under the counter to welcome him. “Ivana, coffee.”

“How about you ask nicely, handsome?” the lisping CG voice purred. The damn computer had been programmed with a drag queen personality and neither he nor Verin could figure out how to change the settings.

“Ms. Ivana Cockatoo, might I have some coffee, please?”

“That’s better. Now why are you out of bed, sugar? You look like five light-years of bad road trip.”

Author Bios:
Toni Griffin
Toni Griffin lives in Darwin, the smallest of Australia’s capital cities. Born and raised in the state she’s a Territorian through and through. Growing up Toni hated English with a passion (as her editors can probably attest to) and found her strength lies with numbers.

Now, though, she loves escaping to the worlds she creates and hopes to continue to do so for many years to come. She’s a single mother of one and works full time. When she’s not writing you can just about guarantee that she will be reading one of the many MM authors she loves.

Freddy MacKay
Freddy grew up in the Midwest, playing sports and running around outside. And honestly, that much has not changed since Freddy was small and throwing worms at other kids, expect worm throwing has been replaced with a healthy geocaching addiction. Freddy enjoys traveling and holds the view a person should continually to learn about new things and people whenever possible.

Freddy's contemporary LGBTQ book, Incubation: Finding Peace 2, won 3rd Place - Best Gay Erotic Fiction in the 2012 Rainbow Awards. In 2013, Freddy's story, Internment, tied for 3rd Place - Best Gay Fantasy in the Rainbow Awards. Freddy's steampunk/SF story, Feel Me, was a finalist and honorable mention in the 2014 Rainbow Awards for SF.

Angel Martinez
Angel Martinez currently lives part time in the hectic sprawl of northern Delaware and full time inside her head. She has one husband, one son, two cats, a love of all things beautiful and a terrible addiction to the consumption of both knowledge and chocolate.

Angel's alter ego writes the all-ages science fiction - Sandra Stixrude.

Toni Griffin

Freddy MacKay

Angel Martinez

The Chauffeur by AP Hallmark

Title: The Chauffeur
Author: AP Hallmark
Genre: Romance
Release Date: June 6, 2017
April Sanders is beautiful and educated. She’s also a chauffeur. Her elite client list is quite extensive, and Jason Rowe is one of them.

From the moment he lays eyes on her, he tries to gain her attention, but unlike the other women he’s encountered, she isn’t impressed. Imagine his surprise when he learns she’s been hired to drive exclusively for the family.

Remaining the dedicated professional, April rejects Jason’s advances. That is until she receives the approval of the family matriarch. Her life will never be the same.

When a business deal goes sour between Jason and a competitive business associate, April gets caught in the crossfire. After a series of suspicious and ominous incidents threaten the Rowes’ inner circle, Jason’s possessive and protective nature knows no bounds where Ms. Sanders is concerned.

The Rowe’s are powerful and have powerful connections. When a member of the family is wounded, there’s no stopping the force behind them.

“Sure. Kyle, would you like to join us Wednesday night?” I ask, getting back to work. As I bend over to start emptying the box marked ‘kitchen’ I look at him, seeking his answer, and discover that he and Jason are having a silent conversation.

“Sounds good, April. I’ll bring the wine.”

Good manners dictate that I invite Jason, as well. “Jason, would you like to join us? I mean, if you aren’t busy?”

He pushes off the counter and throws his empty beer bottle in the garbage.

“Thank you, but I can’t. Maybe some other time?” He ghosts his hand down my arm, pulling me to him. “I want you all to myself,” he whispers in my ear, lying his stubbled cheek next to mine. A breathless moan gets caught in my throat.

Straightening, he looks around the apartment. “Your place looks great, April. Welcome home.”


“Good night everyone.”

“Good night, Jason. Thanks for the pizza and beer,” Emily calls.

“Yeah, Jason. Thanks!” Adam shouts across the room, waving. I notice that Sam doesn’t say a word.

I’m angry at his rudeness and head out the door to apologize for his behavior. Just as Jason turns the corner, I hurry to the top of the stairs, and I say it.


He stops and stills for a moment before turning, greeting me with a smile.

“Thanks for your help today and the pizza,” I say, pulling on the long strings of my cut-off jean shorts.

He takes the stairs one gradual step at a time to stand directly in front of me. My heart begins to palpitate, and my breathing becomes erratic. I take a step backward when he angles himself above me, forcing me against the wall. Placing his hands on either side of my head, he lowers his face close to mine. I can feel his warm breath on my cheeks, and when his hand cups the back of my neck, goose bumps cover my body. What I didn’t expect is the strange tingle making itself known low in my belly. Lord, if he knew how my body was reacting to his touch right now, I would never hear the end of it.

My hands search for purchase against the wall and my eyes close when he fists my hair. Gently tugging, he forces my head back even further and just when I think he might kiss me, he stops. His lips are so close I feel their heat. I focus on his mouth and wait, but he just stops. As soon as my eyes meet his, his mouth crashes down on mine, and he holds me captive as he consumes me. A whimper escapes my throat when his tongue touches mine. And just like that, he stops. My heart begins to pound in anticipation when he looks at my mouth, leaning toward me again. Eager, I close my eyes and wait for a kiss that never comes.

When I open my eyes, he’s gone. Taking a deep breath, I release a heavy sigh and rest my head against the wall. As I turn to go in, I’m startled to see Kyle leaning against the doorway, watching Jason’s aftermath.

“You’re in trouble now, April.” He laughs and turns to go back inside.

“Wait. What? What do you mean by that?” I shout, chasing him back inside the apartment.

Author Bio:
A.P. Hallmark resides in Reno, Nevada, near her youngest daughter and four grandchildren. A paralegal in real life, she started her love of reading at the young age of fifteen, beginning with her first Harlequin Romance … and Fabio.

Her male characters are strong and possessive, her women are strong and feminine. With two powerful lead characters, her stories are filled with adventure, romance, and sometimes their will to be the last one standing gives her readers a fun ride.

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