Thursday, October 26, 2017

Random Paranormal Tales of 2017 Part 9

Hearts Alight by Elliot Cooper
Dave Cunningham hates the rampant consumerism that’s come to dominate his family’s Hanukkah celebrations. But a chance to bring a bit of a holiday happiness to his long-time crush, Amit Cohen, helps put him in a more festive mood.

In the quest to craft the perfect gift, Dave tries to urge a few personal details out of stoic Amit. Unintentionally, he learns the Cohen family’s secret: Amit is a golem. But Amit has a problem that runs deeper than his magical origin, and a Hanukkah miracle might be the only thing that will keep the budding flame between him and Dave from going out. 

Original Review December 2016:
I loved the blend of holiday and paranormal that brought Hearts Alight to life.  I don't know just when I loved such a cynical character such as Dave, his hatred of the commercialism of the holidays has begun to cloud his judgement.  It takes Amit and his unique-ness to warm not only Dave's heart but also his views of the season.  Sometimes, commercialism can bring(or lead to) the true meaning of the holiday to one's heart.  Hearts Alight may only be a holiday novella but it's packed to the brim with hope.  Another great addition to my holiday shelf.


One Last Try by Kari Gregg
When Nox was fourteen, his brother Joth murdered their older brother, their mother, and a human girl. Nox survived, but the attack wrecked his womb. Shattered, Nox rejected the pack who fumbled helping a barren, grief-stricken omega cope. He built a new purpose for himself as a master craftsman. Mating? No thanks. He’s better off alone.

Humans studied Joth in prison until his father’s death ended the weekly visits. Joth demands Nox in their father’s stead in exchange for resuming therapy and tests… thereby risking the destruction of Nox’s carefully ordered world. Again.

The pack drafts alpha fixer Dio to untangle the mess. One sniff of the wary omega convinces him Nox is his mate. New medical treatments offer a slim possibility Nox could bear children, but if the past years taught shifters anything, it is an omega’s value is greater than his fertility. Reconciling Nox with his pack is more important. Laying to rest the ghosts haunting Nox is too. Learning to trust? Vital.

Dio just needs to coax Nox into one last try.

Content Warning: Omega mpreg and fertility themes, dubious consent, shifter knotting, an omega who rejects labels, and a bewildered alpha who wouldn’t have it any other way.

Predestination Unknown by Tanya Chris
Luther is almost enjoying a rainy day in Salem, Massachusetts on All Hallow’s Eve when his pursuit of a light-haired, light-skinned guy in a Pilgrim costume sends him crashing back in time to Salem 1692 and the start of the Salem witchcraft trials.

Ezekiel was only going about his chores when a gay, bi-racial man from the future dropped into his life. He doesn’t know Luther is from 2017, not from Boston. He doesn’t know that it’s OK to feel about a man the way he’s coming to feel about Luther. And he has no idea that the wealthy, white men running Salem are about to hang twenty people for the trumped-up crime of witchcraft.

Ezekiel has a lot to learn, both in bed and out, and he’s going to have to get up to speed fast if he and Luther are going to prevent a Colonial American tragedy, one that has already kind of happened. Is our future predestined? Or can Luther and Ezekiel change the course of their country for the better?

Predestination Unknown is a full-length M/M time travel romance featuring a bi-racial man from 2017 who travels back in time to the Salem witchcraft trials.

Content warning: Some unsympathetic secondary characters hold and express racist views. Most of these are immediately refuted by other characters, but a few comments go uncorrected."

Blogger's Note: I want to start by saying that when you read historicals you have to keep in mind the times and setting the story is taking place in, you can't go in expecting the story to be told with today's morals, emotions, and conversations.  If you go in expecting today's thinking then you will be disappointed and probably offended.  For me, if the author uses present day phrases and morals for eras gone by than I am going to be offended and put off.

Now as for Predestination Unknown, the author is new to me and that can always be a bit scary for some but I always find it thrilling.  Will this writer take my breath away?  Will they keep me interested to the very end?  Will I want to read more from them?  Well as for Tanya Chris I can safely say that I am definitely intrigued to visit her backlist and keep an eye on future tales.

I think it was the time frame that Luther suddenly found himself in that appealed to me the most.  I haven't read a huge number of time-travel stories but those I have read have never sent an African-American back to Salem on the eve of the witch trials.  So that alone made this story unigue and a big yes for me.  As for Ezekiel, how can you not love his naivity or genuine appreciation for Luther even if he doesn't understand it at first.

Predestination Unknown may not be perfect but I was entertained and hooked from beginning to end which is all I ask when I turn on my Kindle or open the cover.  I'm not looking for a history lesson but I do want true to the times when reading a historical and that is what I got.  All in all, Tanya Chris has brought a great read with lots of love, passion, drama, and definitely a bit of paranormal with the time-travel.  Some might see time-travel as more sci-fi or fantasy than paranormal but however you label it, its certainly worth a look.


The Half Wolf by Jay Northcote
Mate, family, pack, home… can Quinn and Kellan have it all?

Quinn grew up feeling out of place in the small town he calls home. Yearning for something he can’t name, he’s always felt different but never known why.

Kellan is part of a nomadic shifter pack. When they set up camp in the woods near Quinn’s town, the humans are unwelcoming and suspicious of the newcomers. The moment Kellan catches sight—and scent—of Quinn, he knows Quinn is special. But for the first time in his life, Kellan can’t trust his instincts. Quinn is human, and Kellan is a wolf shifter, so how can they ever be mates?

Their bond is instant and exhilarating. It breaks Quinn’s heart to know their relationship can only be temporary. Love isn’t enough when pack law forbids shifters to mate with humans. Tension explodes between pack and humans, and when Quinn discovers a shocking truth about himself that changes everything, he fears he’ll have to choose between the only life he’s ever known and the man he loves.

Damned if You Do by Marie Sexton
The path to temptation is paved with a hellish amount of paperwork.

Soul acquisition is a drag, but if Abaddon doesn’t catch up on his quota, he could be demoted to scooping poop for the Hounds of Hell. With a deadline hanging over him, he heads for the Bible Belt, looking for the perfect combination of sweetness and challenge.

Seth is a blind musician, part of a traveling tent revival. He’s cute, mystically talented, and quotes the Bible at every turn. His soul is pure enough to fill Abaddon’s quota for months to come, and Abaddon is determined to claim it.

The problem? There’s the revival foreman who watches Abaddon’s every move. Then there’s the mystery of Seth’s many unusual talents. Lastly, there’s Abaddon himself. He’s beginning to like Seth a bit too much. Maybe Seth deserves something better than damnation.

But Hell’s agenda isn’t negotiable, and time is running out. If Abaddon doesn’t play his cards right, he could condemn both of them to the worst fate of all—an eternity apart.

Warning: Contains a Bible-quoting twink and an irreverent devil. Also, snakes. Lots and lots of snakes. 

This title was previously published by Samhain. It has been re-edited, but the content is unchanged.

Hearts Alight by Elliot Cooper
Nothing made Dave Cunningham want to hibernate in his apartment for the winter quite like shopping for Hanukkah gifts with his brother-in-law. He stared up at the shelves full of brightly colored toys with an internal groan. Only another hour, he told himself. Two if he was unlucky. He fought the urge to plug his headphones into his ears to drown out the omnipresent Christmas music filling the store.

“What d’you think of this LEGO set?” Jake held up a large box depicting a desert island playset, complete with pirates and skeletons. His wide brown eyes looked frantic, panicked. He shook the box and pulled a face at the heavy rattling. “Shoshie loves pirates, but she’s probably too old for LEGOs. Or…I mean, is anyone ever too old for LEGOs?”

“She’ll love whatever you get her.” Dave half glared at Jake but caught himself and shook his head. It wasn’t Jake’s fault the delightful minor holiday of their youth had been swept up in consumerism. “You shouldn’t have to get her anything. We go through this same torture every year.”

“It’s not torture; it’s fun. It’s festive!” Jake insisted and flashed a bright smile. “Just thinking about her face when she opens the big one on the eighth night? I love it. And, more importantly, she loves it.”

“My sister likes getting presents,” Dave said. He couldn’t help but blame her for the deterioration of their family’s Hanukkah celebrations. There wasn’t any malice left in his blame, though, just an understanding of the sad truth. In trying to keep Shoshana invested in and excited about her Jewish heritage, their parents had put them on a dark path to celebrating materialism.

It had started when he was in high school and Shoshana was in middle school. First, with her upset at her Christmas-celebrating friends and their incredible hauls of gifts. Then the growing jealousy over not being able to participate in the Santa-spangled sweep of dominant American culture. Finally, they’d all endured one too many crying fits and months-long debates about whether or not modern―or historical―Christmas was even about Jesus’s birthday.

Their mother and father decided to do what some of their friends had done: one small gift for each night of Hanukkah. And since their father had grown up in a Christian family, he liked the idea of gifts exchanged between everyone, not just from parents to children.

For the first few years, the new tradition seemed all right. Shoshana’d been made happy. Dave had even enjoyed helping pick out gifts for his sister and parents. But as time went on, the presents got bigger, and their importance in the scheme of the holiday celebrations almost usurped their father’s latkes. They’d definitely overshadowed the lighting of the menorah and family game time.

“Don’t act all high and mighty like you don’t like gifts,” Jake said, arching a brow. He glanced back at the second box he’d picked up―a pirate LEGO set of a huge ship. “Ship or island?”

“Ship, so she can display it after it’s built.” Dave didn’t bother looking at the boxes or their respective price tags. Jake made plenty good money running Gin Teal, his hipster bar downtown. “I’m not saying I don’t like gifts or that she shouldn’t. Just that Hanukkah isn’t about gifts. It’s the festival of lights. Celebrating the rededication of the Temple. The miracle of the oil. Spending time with family and―”

“You’re saying you don’t want a totally secular Hanukkah, I get it. But Shoshie does.” Jake put the ship set in his shopping cart and headed down the aisle toward the board games. “She’s an atheist. I’m agnostic. It works for us and we can celebrate with old traditions and more modern ones. Without guilt, even.”

Dave plucked at the fringe on his blue-and-silver-striped scarf, his mind a jumble of rebuttals. There was more to it than the consumerism, the secular chokehold. He didn’t mind a dash of either. Modernity wasn’t the problem. It was the lack of balance. And the horrible pressure to be thoughtful and tasteful and have enough money to bring material happiness to his loved ones. He’d tried not giving gifts the year before, after explaining his tight budget and distaste of the focus on presents. No one had batted an eye; they’d all been understanding. And then they’d lavished him with gifts and, without meaning to, had made him feel terrible for not being able to reciprocate. It was a vicious cycle he couldn’t break.

“Maybe I should just celebrate on my own this year. I could open up my schedule to take more evening shifts at work, make a little extra money. Business is picking up with people wanting to do pottery-painting parties to make holiday gifts. And we’re booked up for three of our five holiday-themed painting classes,” Dave said as he trailed after Jake, hands thrust deep into his jeans pockets.

“You just said Hanukkah is about families celebrating together.” Jake shot him another look, pursing his lips in disbelief. A slow smile crept across his lips. “Oh, I know what this Scrooge act is about.”

The gleam in his eyes was the same one Shoshana and his mom got when they tried to set him up on dates.

“Don’t say it!”

“You’re lonely. Romantically lonely.” Jake picked up a game box and skimmed over the descriptions on its side and back. “Hiding at work and in your apartment isn’t going to change that. Besides, no one’s going to be doing art classes the week after Christmas. You’ve told me before your Valentine’s customers don’t start until after the first of the year.”

Dave groaned and picked up a Magic 8 Ball, flipping it over a few times without reading the message in the inky window.

At least Jake hadn’t said the dreaded “you need to find a woman.” Dave had tried dating women, but it had never worked out, for one reason or another. He was too oblivious. Too attentive. Too observant. Not observant enough. And, once, he’d been so lackluster in bed that his girlfriend had told him to stop, thanked him for his time, and walked out of his life.

Dating men hadn’t gone much better, if he were being honest with himself. He was no towering gym-honed testament to manhood, with his short stature and soft middle. He wasn’t highly educated, having done a failed stint at one of the local community colleges. He didn’t have much money, though he did have a decent job at his dad’s art studio. Since he’d gotten his own place, he’d been treading water. No one wanted to stick around and join him in his ambitionless pool.

“You should swing by the bar Saturday night,” Jake said after placing a dice game in his cart. He smiled at Dave with the brotherly warmth that had been there since high school, when they’d only been best friends, and then reached over to grip Dave’s hunched shoulder. “I’ll buy you a beer if you’ll just show up. You don’t even have to talk to anyone. Just…be present.” He smirked and cocked his head to the side, putting one fabulously thick sideburn and wooden earlobe plug on display.

“Har-dee-har. Let’s see what the oracle has to say. Should I go to Jake’s hipster haven on Saturday?” Dave shook the Magic 8 Ball, still secure in its packaging. When he flipped the ball over, the answer floated to the window. Dave sighed. “It is decidedly so.”

“Good!” Jake pushed his cart down toward the seasonal area of the store, beyond the tinsel trees and endcaps bursting with foil bows and rolls of wrapping paper. “Just a heads up, my uncle Amit’s working that night.”

The man was physically everything Dave wasn’t: chiseled muscles, strong chin, tall, huge hands, and slightly wavy black hair that swept perfectly to one side. Amit Cohen straddled that maddening line between men Dave wanted to be and men he wanted to be with. So what if he was a reclusive workaholic?

One Last Try by Kari Gregg
Chapter One
Six months later…
“You grew up.”

My brother’s voice had deepened during his years of incarceration. Gaze lowered to the metal table, I shivered at the mix of strangeness and familiarity. Part of me rejoiced. I hadn’t seen or spoken to Joth since we were boys, but despite what he’d done, the wolf inside me stirred with excitement at a reunion with my kin, any kin. The rest of me knew better, and I kept my attention the fuck down, my numb fingers grasping the telephone humans had provided as our means of communication. A thick pane of reinforced glass separated us, one I’d been assured could not be pierced by the claws of a shifted wolf and, in separate rooms, he couldn’t smell me through the overbearing prison aroma of cleaners and sweat. I was safe. Completely safe.

I shuddered anyway.

Joth chuckled at this visible sign of weakness. “You always were the runt of the litter. A year older than me, but still the smallest.” His chair squeaked, and when I cautiously peeked, he’d leaned forward, his massive body edging closer to the reinforced glass window. Only the barriers humans had erected prevented him from looming over me. “You grew, though.” He flashed a smile full of teeth. “So did I.”

When my heartbeat fluttered, I hoped the telephone wasn’t sensitive enough for him to hear it. I glanced at the video camera filming my side of the visiting room, hardly comforted by the flashing green light that told me the humans were recording and monitoring us closely.

“Won’t you look at me, Nox?”

I couldn’t. I sensed the humans and my alpha urging me to raise my stare from the table, to do as my brother bade me. When our father died, Joth had suspended the test regime and counselling that human authorities had instituted to study him. Humans were such contrary creatures. Their laws prevented the gathering of evidence and otherwise assessing a murderous shifter without the shifter’s permission. Joth had denied them that for months. No taped transcripts with human psychiatrists, no MRIs. Nothing.

“You can look at me, you know. I won’t hurt you.”

Oh, how I wished that was true.

Fingers tightening on the telephone, I stiffened my spine and forced my stare up. From the identical metal table on the other side of the visiting room window. To the faded blue chambray shirt our father had provided so Joth wouldn’t have to wear prison orange. Pulse racing, I looked from his chest to his thick forearms, ropy with muscle under a dense coat of dark wiry hair. Black, like our father’s. It contrasted the pallor of his skin, the hand gripping his telephone receiver unnaturally pale. I squirmed in my plastic chair, a jolt of anxious dread shooting through me at this reminder my brother rarely saw the sun. Steeling my resolve, I peered under my lashes at the broad stretch of his shoulders, then at the white glare of his undershirt peeping from the vee of his shirt at his throat. Pride at my audacity swelled my chest upon reaching the stubbled column of his neck—he hadn’t bothered to shave for my visit. But neither his patience nor my determination could prod my gaze higher. I could not meet the stare of an alpha, even one as disgraced and stripped of power as my brother.

“You have Mom’s blue eyes,” Joth said, his voice a low purr of satisfaction. “I don’t know how I could have forgotten that.”

I didn’t know how he could have forgotten it, either. Whereas he and Kinessa had taken their dark coloring and muscular bulk in both human and shifted form from our father, I’d resembled our mother from the first—blond, lean, and surprisingly agile. Not nimble enough to evade attack when it had come, but I was physically as much an omega as she’d been.

Joth tapped his fingers on the table, drawing my wary attention back to him. “Dad brought pictures a few years ago.” He sighed. “The warden let me see them eventually, but you didn’t directly face the camera.”

If our father had taken pictures of me, he’d done it without my knowledge, but that didn’t surprise me. We’d been ghosts, he and I. We’d shared the same address, but while Dad had haunted the house, I’d built a den in an outlying shed. We hadn’t talked. We’d barely noticed each other. I hadn’t realized our father remembered I existed until the freeway wreck had claimed his life on my twentieth birthday. Some believed it an accident, but I knew better. He’d waited to join his mate and his oldest son in death until pack law would deem me an adult and not a single day more.

I gulped, swallowing down a knot of grief. “I’m surprised the humans allowed pictures of me.” I resembled my dead mother. A lot.

“They wanted to assess how I responded.” Shrugging, Joth relaxed into his chair. “It was a test.”

Foreboding tensed my shoulders. “Did you pass?”

“I have no idea. They don’t tell me much.” Joth blew out a long breath. “I didn’t shift, though. Or cry.” He straightened in his seat. “I was happy to see you grown up. At least I knew you were hale and healthy. Dr. Bennet calls that a positive sign.” When I glanced up, Joth smiled at me. “I’m glad I didn’t rape you.”

My stomach flipped.

I jerked my gaze down so fast my head took a dizzy spin. Sick terror flooded me and the muscles in my body clenched in alarm as fight or flight endorphins dumped into me. Only my tight clasp on the telephone receiver anchored me in place. Human authorities and my alpha had sent me into the visiting room for this, insights and information they’d hoped I might pry free.

“Oh?” I said through numb lips. “No one told me you’d considered rape.”

“Of course they didn’t tell you.” Joth pressed his lips into a thin line. “I couldn’t admit it to anyone. You were a kid.”

He’d been one too, my brother a year younger than me. My belly twisted at the painful realization my then thirteen-year-old brother had… had…  “Why?” I asked the monster who was my brother.

“Why didn’t I tell them before? Or why didn’t I rape you?” he prompted.

When I glanced up, his brow furrowed. “Either,” I said. “Both.”

“I didn’t lie about killing the little girl. Or murdering Mom and Kinessa. Knowing humans would lock me up for the rest of my life, I confessed. I don’t hide from what I did.” He shook his head, ruefully. “I’m glad I didn’t rape you, though. I think I would’ve regretted that.”

Humans escorted Joth from his side of the visiting room later. My stomach churned, acid burning the track of my throat while they shackled him for the walk back to his cell. He winked. Smiled. Then, he vanished through the metal door.

The hour with him had passed quickly. My brother could be charming when he wanted, and he’d made a concerted effort to draw me out after revealing the bombshell detail of my endangered virginity the day of the murders. With his message—warning?—delivered, he’d invested the rest of our hour together mining my memories of happier times. With an ease that astounded me, a laughing Joth reminded me about the persistent stench of Kinessa’s farts lingering in the bedroom we three boys had shared. He spoke of pancake Sundays, our frequent camping trips, and past holiday mornings too.

After the murders, I hadn’t wanted to remember. Thinking about Mom, Dad, and my brothers had hurt me deeper and more grievously than the coma Joth’s blow to my skull had induced. Our father, for instance, had stepped up as coach when we’d enrolled in little league. Comparing those sunny afternoons with him at the ballpark to the dark tormented shell of a man Dad became short years later ripped open festering wounds I’d hoped had scarred over.

By the time humans strode through the door to return my brother to his isolation cell, a smile had curved my lips despite the pain, though.

Grief was a funny thing.

Still as marble, I waited in the uncomfy plastic chair on my side of the visiting room until my escort slipped to my side and, with a hand at my elbow, urged me to stand. She led me through the labyrinth of security checkpoints to the prison parking lot where a black Cherokee idled. My escort passed a flash drive to the driver through the window while I opened the rear passenger door to climb inside. As soon as I safely buckled into my seat, the driver gunned the gas. The vehicle shot forward like a rocket.

Little unsettled shifters more intensely than cages.

“All right?” the driver called over his shoulder as he steered to the main road.

I met his gaze in the rearview mirror and nodded.

My tense nerves unraveled as the scenery changed from city to suburbs, then to the green fertile woodlands promising home wasn’t far. The stress squeezing my chest loosened, allowing me to draw my first easy breath in what felt like decades.

Though he must surely scent my distress, the driver ignored me. He was only my guard, a beta selected to ensure I made the trip to and from Westfield Correctional Institute without incident. I didn’t know his name. One of the shifters the new alpha had brought with him when he’d assumed leadership of the pack, I guessed, though I’d kept away from my kind for so long he might’ve been someone I’d known before, now unrecognizable as an adult. The information hadn’t been offered and I hadn’t asked.

My heartbeat thudded loud in my ears when the Cherokee passed the road to my den without slowing and instead continued toward the center of the pack’s territory. Anxiety screamed inside me until I realized the new alpha would expect a report of the visit. Him, I’d met. Farron, my old alpha, had brought his replacement to my den before my father had died. Surprisingly young, even for a temporary fixer, Dio had towered over me, but when he’d spoken, his voice had been gentle, his words kind. He’d smelled of the pine forests of his previous pack and the bitter coffee he’d drunk while travelling on the road. He’d brushed his bent fingers across my cheek before taking his leave and accepted my submission to him as new alpha with only an acknowledging dip of his chin.

Dio was a hard man. He’d sent me to Westfield, but I’d seen his soft center, experienced it when he took care with me in the crude workshop shed, which was also my den.

We pulled up to a log cabin only a few hundred yards past the white farmhouse from which Farron had run the pack when he’d led as alpha. Once we’d parked, I unlatched my seat belt and hopped from the vehicle without prodding, curiosity overriding my caution. The pack had built the cabin after I ran with them as a boy, the absence of fresh wood scent, sawdust, and construction debris proving the place wasn’t newly constructed. A lot had changed, so many new things to see. I didn’t often desire or notice the world outside my den and didn’t venture far from it as either a man or my wolf, but the new homestead of the pack piqued my interest. I didn’t jolt at the driver’s hand splaying at the base of my spine to urge me to the porch steps, my senses too preoccupied with birdsong, buzzing insects, and the riot of fanciful colors in flowerbeds edging the front walk. My fingers curled at my sides upon spotting a swing hanging from the porch rafters, some horrible contraption manufactured from cheap labor and cheaper wood. The porch swing was serviceable, but hardly the mark of an alpha with a craftsman at his disposal.

Dio had assumed leadership of the pack months ago. Why hadn’t he ordered me to build a swing?

After the driver ushered me through the front door, I scowled at the bench lining the wall inside next. I sank onto it when my driver gently pushed my shoulder down. Irritation bloomed when the bench rocked, balance awry with my added weight.

“Stay here.” The driver marched through a doorway, deeper into the house, while I recalled the dozens of benches I had already built as trade goods for my pack. I was no lazybones, nor slacker leeching off the charity of the others. I worked hard and, after six years of practice, with skill too. I knew the pieces of furniture I made fetched a pretty price in the towns. Farron had told me.

I glared at the knotty wood. Clearly, this bench was unacceptable.

“Heya, Nox. You remember me, right? Asa?”

I jumped, startled from my disgruntled distraction and then blinked, uncomprehending, at Asa. We’d been close as boys, teammates in Little League and frequently assigned as camp buddies in scouts. He’d shot up several inches since and filled out with dense muscle. His hair was darker, his face leaner. When I pushed to my feet, instead of standing chin to chin, I tilted mine up to gape at him. He’d grown that much.

“I know you.”

“We were best friends. I knew you’d remember.” Smiling, Asa waved at the empty doorway. “It’s okay, I swear. C’mon, follow me.”

I’d left my only surviving kin, a brother who was a notorious mass murderer, in a human prison. Demonstrably, nothing was okay, but I shuffled toward Asa anyway. He led me into a great room. My nerves prickled at the trio of shifters gathered around a laptop on a desk on the other side of the wide space. The warm steady cadence of Joth’s voice reached my sensitive ears despite the low volume. Panic streaked through me, making me tremble until I spotted the flash drive sticking out of a USB port on the machine. I didn’t own a computer or any other digital device, but I remembered what technology was capable of when I’d attended Chester Run Middle School with Asa what felt like twenty lifetimes ago. My own quiet voice responding “I don’t know” to my brother confirmed Dio and his betas watched a recording from the prison. I managed to breathe again.

Stupid with relief, I followed Asa to a pair of wingback chairs placed before a fireplace in the corner innermost to the cabin. I sank gratefully into one of the chairs at Asa’s nudge.

“Wait here.” His mouth quirked into a sad smile. He lifted his hand from my elbow to card the hair at the top of my head. I usually kept it tied back and away from my face with scraps of string, but before climbing into the Cherokee for the drive to Westfield, the taller beta now screening the video of the visit had dressed me for the occasion. Gone were the gray sweatpants and flannel shirt my old alpha had brought for me when I’d outgrown the clothing I’d worn as a fourteen-year-old. Blue jeans now hugged my hips, ass, and thighs. A white cotton T-shirt and hoodie had replaced the flannel. New sneakers had been swapped in place of my sturdy work boots. The beta had shaved off the wild scruff of my beard as well. I’d expected a haircut too, my first since the murders, but other than yanking it free of my ponytail, he’d left my hair alone.

Considering how tenderly Asa petted me, maybe my hair at least had passed muster. I hadn’t bothered to ask then and didn’t now either. I simply basked in the heat of the fire, staring at the flickering yellows and oranges while Asa’s fingers stroked me. I tuned out the sounds of my visit with Joth—I was good at wiping my mind clean—and my bones soon melted under his touch. I forgot everything. The video. My brother. The antiseptic smell of the prison underlaced with the pungent stink of urine and despair. The new shoes pinching my toes inside glaring white socks I’d pulled up my calves that morning. The fire’s warmth and the casual hand in my hair felt wonderful, almost drugging me. My eyelids grew heavier. I might have fallen asleep had the recording not ended and Dio strode from the desk to crouch at my feet, his stare sweeping my lax form. He brushed my knee and I spread my legs, making room for him to edge nearer. His arms twined at my neck, a jerk of his chin ordering Asa away before plowing his fingers into my hair in his stead. His hand fisted, holding me fast as he leaned into me, brushing his cheeks over mine to mark with his fresh pine scent.

“You did well,” he said on a throaty growl. “Very well.”

I shuddered, my dick plumping inside scratchy denim at his praise.

“Seeing you pried loose a fresh detail about the murders. The human authorities are excited at this development.” He drew back, his nostrils flaring. He stared at me, his eyes as black as sin while he lowered one hand from my hair to pluck at the button at my fly. “I’m impressed.”

When my arms moved restlessly, Dio glanced at Asa still standing above me. “Get out.”

“No.” When I glanced behind me, Asa crossed his arms. “If he wants me to go, he’ll have to tell me himself. I won’t leave him.”

Shock exploded inside me. One of the pack daring to defy the order of the new alpha? On my behalf? I wasn’t alone. Maybe… maybe I never had been.

Capitulation became easier then. “It’s fine, Asa.” I drew my wrists over my head, anchoring my hands to the tall back of the chair. I froze in place. “I’m fine.”

“You sure?” He regarded me with steady dark eyes, brow raised quizzically. “You don’t have to do anything you don’t want.”

I shook my head. “Go.”

“Yell if you need help.” With a disapproving glare at Dio, Asa pivoted and marched away.

“Asa is a loyal friend. And a good man,” Dio said, but the scritch of my zipper lowering reverberated through me, catching my breath. Farron had never wanted me for this, and truthfully, I didn’t tolerate the company of others. Maise, another school friend, stopped at my den at each full moon to load the furniture I’d built as my offering to the pack. She distributed the pieces to other shifters or shipped it for sale in the human towns. I didn’t know or care which. All that had mattered to me was the lamp oil Maise left in trade and the supplies she brought to aid my work. I didn’t talk to her. She didn’t touch me. I made myself scarce, darting into the woods in my wolf form as soon as I heard the rumble of a truck engine as Maise bounced down the rutted driveway of my father’s house. I’d watched her from the shelter of the trees more than once. Maise was as small as I was and an omega too, a mated omega no less. She wouldn’t hurt me, but even her company, I could not bear. I’d occasionally put up with talking to Farron, but only because he was my alpha, so I had to.

Farron had stepped down as leader, though. Now, there was Dio.

Smothering the urge to squirm in my seat, I schooled my heart to stop racing and my limbs to cease shaking. I gasped as Dio spread the fly of my jeans wide and tunneled his hand inside. Strong hot fingers wrapped around my cock and squeezed, dizzying me. My lips parted on shallow pants as he drew my dick from the stiff denim, my length growing when his grasp tightened. He gave me several lazy pumps.

Dio didn’t smile. He didn’t try to soothe me with silly words or kiss me.

Instead, he bent over my crotch and kissed my cock.

My back bowed. A whimper climbed up my throat. I couldn’t have prevented my body’s reflexive response to Dio’s gentle attention to the head of my dick if my life had depended on it. Fortunately for me, my new alpha seemed well versed in controlling unruly omegas. He swallowed my dick down in one deliberate and greedy gulp. The wet heat of his mouth staggered me, the skillful dance of his tongue along the length when he bobbed magical and consuming. Tingling pleasure concentrated at my groin, swamping me. I groaned in equal parts joy and sorrow. His growl, smothered by my dick in his mouth, vibrated up my cock in unsubtle warning.

I couldn’t think.

I couldn’t breathe.

The trill of his tongue enraptured me. I whined, moaned helplessly. Every lick was beautiful agony, the pressure on my cock as he sucked shattering. I reveled in the sensations he wrought in me and hated it. Hated him for this callous seduction and despised myself for surrendering to him.

But of course, I submitted. What else could I do? I could no more resist the siren’s call of his talented mouth working my dick than withstand the regular flux of air into my lungs that demanded I continue this life of wrongness, of brokenness and misery. Still, I longed for the orgasm Dio built within me, gathering at the base of my spine. I yearned for release, struggled against it. Fought for it.

I cried out when he tore his wonderful mouth from my cock. Dazed, drunk on pleasure, I stared at his red swollen lips as he jacked me once, twice…

The world splintered. My muscles clenched. My vision grayed. My dick spurted, wet and thick. My alpha stripped my defiance from me as readily as he drained semen from my aching balls. I could only hold on for the ride. Sated, defeated, I collapsed into the chair.

Dangerous and magnetic, Dio studied the wreck he’d made of me. He didn’t smile or gloat. I wished for the proud curve of his lips because at least a grin might signal his own appetites appeased, but I didn’t lie to myself. I hid all the time. From what I’d lost and what I was, especially from those who claimed to love me, but I didn’t lie.

Still, my stomach jittered when Dio shuffled back from between my legs. I yelped when he grabbed and turned me in the chair so that my face pushed into the cushions and my ass tilted high. I trembled as Dio stripped my jeans down my thighs, baring me for whatever he desired. I expected him to fuck me. Being bedded by an alpha was my fate, after all. Before my brother had ruined me, before he’d destroyed our family, my future and my role in my pack had been set. This was what I had been knit in my mother’s womb to do. My terror was irrelevant. My weakness and rebellion didn’t matter. Dio had been brought into the pack as a fixer and among the many failures that required addressing was the stubborn virginity of a damaged omega: me. After half a year of the new alpha leaving me alone, I’d thought—hoped—Dio shared as much sexual interest in me as Farron had, but demonstrably, I’d been mistaken.

Despite my frightened wail, I didn’t feel the spongy tip of my alpha’s cock pushing against my hole. Dio pried my ass cheeks wide to expose the vulnerable part of me that would be his, but he didn’t open me for his dick.

He spread my crack for his tongue.

Wet. Hot. Slippery and agile, the tip danced over my hole, the warmth of his breath when he chuckled fanning my ring as it clenched. I shouldn’t have wondered at his laugh. As an alpha in his prime, he probably knew my body better than I did, but the frightened keening that climbed from my throat stuttered to a shocked gasp at his mouth on me, kissing me, sucking me there. The satisfaction that had dissolved me into a gluey puddle sparked with new hunger, pleasure whirling with the lap of Dio’s tongue on my hole. Wanton arousal tore through me, nigh painful in intensity. Dangling between my legs, my flagging dick stirred.

Horrified, I moaned out my anguish, but I still widened my thighs as much as I could, which wasn’t a lot, trapped as I was in denim. Dio’s control over me was absolute. He enticed my response with gentle nips and voracious suckling at my ring. Darting licks lit me up and obliterated everything else. My senses narrowed. My thoughts scattered. He taught me to want, to give in to him, and my blood heated with wicked delights I had never imagined. I pushed my greedy ass back to his mouth for more and whimpered brokenly with each avid swirl of his tongue.

So lost was I in my debauchery, I hardly cared when Dio finally withdrew his face from my ass because, though I mourned the loss of his sinful mouth, I knew what would come next and needed it.

He draped his body over mine, the warm silk of his skin astonishing me. I arched my back to welcome the stab of his dick in my crack and cried out when he slid from my hole in a heavy layer of spit.

“Shh,” he murmured on a throaty snarl, his grip on my hips a steadying vise sure to leave bruises. “Shh.”

I hushed, inhaling a lusty breath of air as his ass pumped, bringing his glorious dick to my opening again. This time, he pushed and with a painful snap, the head of his cock lodged inside me. I stiffened beneath him, a shocked yelp slipping from me. The intrusion didn’t hurt much. My alpha had roused me too expertly, softening my ass for his dick. The stretch burned a little, though, the sweetest of stings. I clenched my fingers and bit my lip as the sense of fullness intensified with every inch he pushed into me. He simply overwhelmed me. The musk of his lust teased my nostrils while his teeth sank into my nape. I welcomed the hurt as eagerly as my ass sucked his dick into my body. I wanted the taking and my chest heaved at the first gulp he stole of my blood.

He growled, ferocious and husky with menace, as the bulge of his knot pressed to my already stuffed hole. The spinning in my head and feral glee in my heart urged me to relax, to accept. I feared the knot he slowly shoved past my ring but not as fiercely as I desired that part of him. I shuddered with my relief when my ring snapped around the swelling, holding him captive inside my ass as certainly as his iron grasp on my hip and his teeth stabbing into my neck.

With me locked in place, Dio’s taut muscles unbunched. He’d tied me. I wasn’t going anywhere. Neither one of us would until he’d emptied inside me. Fixer or not, Dio was an alpha through and through. He lowered his hand to my desperate cock. He laughed into my bloodied nape as he fondled me. Orgasm would open my womb to him and to the seed that would soon race up his iron-hard dick.

Jaw clenched, ass tingling, I held out as long as I could, as much because I never wanted such pleasure to end as from my blind terror at the impossibility of Dio breeding me. Helpless, hopeless, I could not resist the deft skill of his stroking fingers. Tears I refused to shed burning my eyes, I spilled for him. Semen jetted from my dick to paint the floor and the chair in sticky ropes.

With my womb now opened, my alpha released the clench of his teeth in my neck and tossed his head back, howling as my tightening ass wrung his seed from his body. Moist heat flooded me as his cock pulsed, shooting his semen deep. The strength of my climax triggered his and best stacked the stingy odds of planting his pup within me.

Tired, sweaty, I moaned at his cum spurting into me. Filling me.

I blearily wondered how long it would take to confirm my brother’s claws had left me barren six years ago. Either way, the life I’d known was over. Again. I would never be the same.

My virginity was gone and the omega wolf inside me finally ran free.

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Random Paranormal Tales of 2017

Part 1  /  Part 2  /  Part 3  /  Part 4
Part 5  /  Part 6  /  Part 7  /  Part 8

Elliot Cooper
Elliot Cooper is a creativity addict who prefers writing stories that embody adventure, a hint of the taboo, and shadows that are deeper than they appear at first glance. All the better if romantic or erotic elements are key.

Elliot also enjoys video games and knitting, and lives in the southern US with his human and feline family.

Kari Gregg
Kari Gregg lives in the mountains of Wild and Wonderful West Virginia with her Wonderful husband and three very Wild children. When Kari’s not writing, she enjoys reading, coffee, zombie flicks, coffee, naked mud-wrestling (not really), and . . . coffee!

Tanya Chris
Tanya writes in a variety of romantic and erotic genres, being an avid follower of many of these genres herself. Some of her favorites are M/M romance, MFM threesomes, and BDSM with male submissives.

Tanya lives in New England with her boyfriend and her cat and has participated in many of the activities about which she writes, but not all of them. It's left to the reader to decide which are which.

Jay Northcote
Jay lives just outside Bristol in the West of England. He comes from a family of writers, but always used to believe that the gene for fiction writing had passed him by. He spent years only ever writing emails, articles, or website content.

One day, Jay decided to try and write a short story—just to see if he could—and found it rather addictive. He hasn’t stopped writing since.

Jay writes contemporary romance about men who fall in love with other men. He has five books published by Dreamspinner Press, and also self-publishes under the imprint Jaybird Press. Many of his books are now available as audiobooks.

Jay is transgender and was formerly known as she/her.

Marie Sexton
Marie Sexton lives in Colorado. She’s a fan of just about anything that involves muscular young men piling on top of each other. In particular, she loves the Denver Broncos and enjoys going to the games with her husband. Her imaginary friends often tag along. Marie has one daughter, two cats, and one dog, all of whom seem bent on destroying what remains of her sanity. She loves them anyway.

Elliot Cooper

Kari Gregg

Tanya Chris

Jay Northcote

Marie Sexton

Hearts Alight by Elliot Cooper

One Last Try by Kari Gregg

Predestination Unknown by Tanya Chris

The Half Wolf by Jay Northcote
💫⏳💫This book will be exclusive to Amazon for 90 days(Released 9/26/17),
after that it will be available at all major retailers.💫⏳💫

Damned if You Do by Marie Sexton

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