Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Random Paranormal Tales of 2018 Part 4


The Given & the Taken by LA Witt
Summary:
Tooth & Claw #1
Levi finally persuaded his wolf clan to allow him to bond to Ian instead of his predestined female mate. The catch? They have to spend a year apart after the bonding ritual. Then Ian must—using only their newly-forged spiritual connection—seek Levi out, proving the bond actually worked despite Ian being human.

Now the year is over, and Levi is desperate to have Ian back in his arms, but there’s one problem—Ian’s changed. In a moment of weakness during that agonizing year apart, Ian cheated… with a vampire. Now Ian himself is a vampire, and a devastated, furious Levi wants nothing to do with him.

That is until he learns his clan wants Ian brought to justice for desecrating their most sacred ritual. If they find him, they’ll learn he’s a vampire, and kill him. Afraid for Ian’s safety, Levi rushes to find him.

Darius, the vampire who converted Ian, tries to take him someplace safe, but when Levi catches up, all hell breaks loose. Now Ian’s on the run with a dead wolf’s blood on his hands, and the only way Levi or Darius are going to get near him is to work together.

They need to get to him before the rest of the clan… assuming they don’t kill each other first.

Original Review May 2018:
When Levi and Ian agreed the year separation after the bonding ceremony they knew it would be difficult but they had no idea it would be as difficult and life-changing as it was.  Upon reuniting, Levi finds Ian changed.  Ian is now a vampire and Levi wants nothing to do with him.  When he returns to his pack and learns what their plan for Ian is, Levi rushes to reach him first .  When Levi finds himself having to work with Darius, the vampire who changed Ian, to save Ian's life will they reach him before they kill each other or will the attraction they feel win out?  And where will that leave Ian when they find him?

WOW! There is no other word that will better describe the awesomeness of The Given and the Taken.  Just brilliantly WOW!  One of the things that I appreciated the most was that these men live in a world where people know about vampires and werewolves, where they are more than just myth and legend.  It probably occurs more than I think but not nearly enough for my liking so when I realized that humans knew about the vamps and wolves I loved this story even more.

As for the characters, I love them all, well not the pack elders but the four main characters were just awesome.  Sure I wanted to kick Levi's butt for awhile but let's be honest if we were in his shoes you know you'd be quick to judge Ian too and then have to spend the rest of the time fixing your mistake, so I can forgive him for that😉  Ian makes some mistakes but he was human after all, was being the operative word.  Darius may be a deadly vampire but I found him absolutely lovely and adorable.  Selena, Levi's best friend and would-be-mate if Ian hadn't come along, was honest and in-your-face, not letting Levi get away with his shoddy treatment of Ian not to mention making sure Levi and Darius don't kill each other.  What a great cast of characters.

I don't do spoilers but I have to say that I found Levi's faith in the pack laws evolving from trust to despising to be very believable.  Unfortunately, at some point we all lose faith in something or see what everyone else has been telling us so I was able to really connect with Levi in that instance.  Just brilliantly done from beginning to end and I can't wait to read parts 2 & 3 of the Tooth & Claw trilogy.

Blogger Update:  Circumstances have kept me from reading books 2 & 3 but they are still very high on my TBR list.

RATING: 

Beholden by Kris T Bethke
Summary:
Julian Thomas made the unpopular decision to become Beholden and focus his magic only on scrying. Because of it, he's the best at his job and the top scryer for the Department of Extranormal and Magical Affairs. Which why Investigations Agent Wes Caldwell goes right to Julian for help locating a missing person.

When Wes needs to use his magic to boost Julian's, they find a magical resonance between them that quickly leads to more. Julian doesn't want to move too fast, but Wes knows Julian is it for him. He's fine with waiting, as long as Julian stays close as they work through it.

But then Julian falls ill, and it's clear there's a magical reason. Wes will stop at nothing to find out what's plaguing Julian, and when they realize just how deep the plot goes, they have more questions than answers. Magic is increasing in the world, and no one can figure out why. Julian and Wes have found love, but will it be enough to get them through what's to come?

Butterfly Assassin by Annabelle Jacobs
Summary:
🐺Set in the Regent’s Park pack world🐺
Clapham Common—a new pack with their own set of problems…

Shifter Aaron Harper gets drawn into illegal underground fighting to keep an eye on his best friend. The thrill of the fight keeps him coming back for more, but discovery could mean imprisonment and banishment from their pack. Without a beta to watch over them, common sense takes a back seat.

Michael Archer of the Shifter Crimes Task Force is investigating recent murders. Despite the brutal cause of death pointing to the work of a shifter’s claws, instinct tells him a well-known nightclub owner is involved, but they have no proof.

Aaron and Michael’s paths cross after another body with the same injuries is discovered. With Aaron finding himself on the wrong side of the SCTF and Michael looking for a killer, any attraction between them is both ill-advised and unlikely. But fate has other ideas.

Witchbane by Morgan Brice
Summary:
Witchbane #1
Seth Tanner and his brother Jesse's fun evening debunking local urban legends ends with Jesse's gruesome murder. Seth vows revenge on Jesse's killer--too bad the murderer has been dead for a hundred years. Seth uncovers a cycle of ritual killings that feed the power of a dark warlock's immortal witch-disciples, and he's hell bent on stopping Jackson Malone from becoming the next victim. He's used to risking his neck. He never intended to risk his heart.

Lost in Time by AL Lester
Summary:
Lew’s life is pleasantly boring until his friend Mira messes with magic she doesn't understand. While searching for her, he is pulled back in time to 1919 by a catastrophic magical accident. As he tries to navigate a strange time and find his friend in the smoky music clubs of Soho, the last thing he needs is D etective Alec Carter suspecting him of murder.

London in 1919 is cold, wet, and tired from four years of war. Alec is back in the Metropolitan Police after slogging out his army service on the Western Front. Falling for a suspect in a gruesome murder case is not on his agenda, however attractive he finds the other man.

They are both floundering and out of their depth, struggling to come to terms with feelings they didn’t ask for and didn’t expect. Both have secrets that could get them arrested or killed. In the middle of a murder investigation that involves wild magic, mysterious creatures, and illegal sexual desire, who is safe to trust?

Original Review January 2018:
When Lew's friend, Mira, went missing he knew he had to find her at whatever the cost.  Well that cost was waking up in 1919.  Not only does Lew search for Mira but he also finds himself in the middle of a gruesome murder investigation.  The attraction between Lew and the lead investigator, Detective Alec Carter, is something neither man asked for but exists all the same.  As Lew learns to navigate through the past and Alec learns to readjust to civilian life after four years of blood, mud, and death in the trenches will they solve the mystery, find happiness, and discover a love that is illegal in the eyes of the law?

I want to start off by saying that most of you know I don't do spoilers but I even do less of them when it comes to mysteries and paranormals because even tiny little "throwaway" factors can be huge tip-offs.  What I will say in regard to the plot is I found it to be ingenious.  I always enjoy time-travel stories more where it happens more due to paranormal/magic than science, I think it just adds a special element that can actually heighten the mystery and even might border on horror.

As for the characters, they intrigued me and kept my interest from beginning to end.  I loved Lew's dedication to finding Mira, personally I don't know that I would have been able to keep my focus if I woke up in 1919 nearly a hundred years in the past.  As for Alec, despite having returned from four bloody years of war he is able to adjust somewhat "normally" back to civilian life.  That's not to say either character doesn't have issues with their circumstances but it makes them that much more rounded and believable.

Finally, I should note that there are some grammatical errors that some might find off putting or have issue with, but for this reader I did not.  Perhaps its because I tend to just mentally fix them as I read or perhaps I like to put my focus on the story and AL Lester's Lost in Time kept me intrigued from the first page to the last.  I look forward to what this new author brings us next.

RATING: 

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Random Paranormal Tales of 2017

Part 1  /  Part 2  /  Part 3


The Given & the Taken by LA Witt
It was unusual, to say the least, for wolves and humans to be as compatible as we were, but Ian and I were perfect for each other. Absolutely perfect. He’d seen me in my wolf form, but unlike other men I’d dated, he never batted an eye at being physically intimate in my human form. Nothing had changed between us the day I told him what I was.

The rest of the pack said Ian was a distraction. He kept me from being around the other wolves as much as I used to. He was the reason I’d leave the pack’s farm for days at a time. They were all convinced we were just a couple of sex-obsessed lovers who’d eventually get it out of our systems.

They didn’t have a clue. It would have stunned them to learn we spent hours on end just lying in bed and talking. Of course we had a scorching-hot sex life, but it was the long, intimate conversations that kept me in his bed until all hours of the night. I loved his dry sense of humor. I loved the way he couldn’t keep his hands off me while we talked—fingers in my hair, along my arm, across my cheek. I loved everything about him.

But maybe that wasn’t enough.

Please, Ian, don’t leave me out here.

An hour passed. Another.

My pants legs hissed against the three-inch snowdrifts on either side of the path I’d tramped down, brushing powder free and adding a whisper to the rhythm of my boots on the frozen ground as I continued pacing. I considered going somewhere else, somewhere I could warm the feeling back into my hands and feet, but I stayed put. If Ian did try to track me down, it’d be easier for him if I stayed in one place. Following such a sense had to be alien for him, and if I moved beyond just wandering around this clearing, it would only disorient him. Humans weren’t as accustomed to following senses besides sight and hearing, navigating based on a nebulous “feeling” must have been confusing as hell.

I stopped pacing. The base of my spine tingled as that sense of Ian grew stronger. Holding my breath, certain it was my imagination, I homed in on that pull. On him. It was indeed stronger now than it had been earlier, so he must have been closer. And moving. Drawing closer by the minute.

Relief warmed my veins. Maybe he would show up after all.

My heart pounded. Restlessness and the need for warmth got my feet moving again, and I resumed pacing. Back and forth. Back and forth. Minute after minute, step by step. Back and forth. Another hour inched past as Ian inched closer to me, and all the while, I searched the air, tasting it for the first hint of him.

There. Relief turned to anticipation. Closing my eyes, I drew in a deep breath, savoring that scent that had been lost to me for one long, long year. I opened my eyes and paced even faster, desperate to ease this nervous energy, this tension that had me tempted to break into a run. He’d be here soon. Very soon. I’d waited this long; I could wait a few more minutes. He had to find me. Then this would all be over.

Stronger. Closer. It was all I could do not to start toward him, dragged like a powerful magnet by an unseen and undeniable force. My nerve endings tingled, as if electricity crackled across my skin, ready to arc from me to him as soon as the distance—

I stopped in my tracks, one foot suspended mid-step. My blood turned colder than the wind around me. Something in the air was off. Wasn’t right.

I wasn’t alone. Ian was closer than before, much closer, but there was someone else.

I took another deep breath, and my hackles went up.

A vampire.

The scent was unmistakable. Not like death or decay like many would expect, perhaps not even an actual smell. It was more of a disturbance. Like an itch. An irritation. The tickle in the back of the throat that demanded a cough, the sting in the nose that warranted a sneeze.

What I didn’t smell was blood. Not even the faintest hint, which meant it probably hadn’t fed recently, and there were few things more dangerous than a hungry vampire.

Panic surged through me. Wolves could sense vampires from a safe enough distance to avoid them. Humans couldn’t. Ian wouldn’t know it was there until he could see or hear it.

And nothing outran a vampire.

Fuck the ritual. I didn’t lead Ian out into the middle of nowhere to be hunted.

I lunged out of the clearing, sprinting across the slick ground with practiced agility, cursing the snow that crunched loudly beneath my boots and the ice that threatened to send me to the ground. I was faster and stealthier as a wolf, but the transition took precious seconds I couldn’t afford to waste.

Every breath of cold air I dragged in burned my nose and lungs. My boot caught on a snow-covered root, and I stumbled, then slid on the snow before grabbing a tree to right myself. I paused, eyes darting around in the darkness until I was doubly sure I’d oriented myself to him; then I was off and running again.

My every sense thrummed with Ian’s presence as it drew me toward him, but even that powerful, electric pull couldn’t stop my skin from crawling beneath this intensifying itch. My eyes stung, but I couldn’t tell if it was from the wind or the vampire. Either way, I wasn’t stopping until I got to Ian, and come hell or high water, I’d get to him before that bloodsucking creature did.

Slipping and sliding on icy leaves and moss, I rounded another bend. A silhouette stood out against a gray backdrop of moonlit snow, and we both stopped, facing each other.

“Ian?” I whispered.

“Levi,” he breathed.

“Oh, thank God.” I hurried to him, threw my arms around him and held him to me. Closing my eyes tight, I forced myself to stop panting and freaking out long enough to draw in a deep breath of him through my nose and—

I opened my eyes. Released my breath. Drew another.

Shoving myself off him, I staggered back and stared at him, narrowing my burning eyes so I could make him out in the darkness.

“You didn’t.” Panic laced my voice. “Ian, tell me you didn’t. Tell me you aren’t.”

He dropped his gaze.

Oh, no. No. Please, no.

But too many pieces fell too easily into place. The sudden disappearance and reappearance on my radar. The change in the way I sensed him. The fact that he hadn’t come to me until after sundown. The burning in my eyes and nose.

I finally found enough breath to whisper, “Why?”

He shifted, the frozen ground crackling beneath his feet. “It wasn’t…” Rubbing the back of his neck with both hands, he turned away.

My heart dropped. Curling and uncurling my hands at my sides, I was torn between reaching for my lover—my bonded soulmate, for God’s sake—and refusing to touch the creature he’d become.

“Who did this?” I asked.

He lowered his hands but didn’t turn around. “A…friend.”

The world listed beneath my feet. Forcing back the lump in my throat, I said, “A friend did this to you?” My heart sank deeper. “You let him convert you, when you wouldn’t let me?”

Ian faced me now, and though he was mostly eclipsed by shadows, the light from the moon and off the snow illuminated just enough to reveal his set jaw, his gaunt cheeks, his exhausted eyes. Looking him up and down, I realized he’d lost weight. Even the heavy jacket couldn’t mask that, and when he reached up to sweep some of his long hair out of his face, his hand was bonier than I remembered.

Becoming a vampire hadn’t done that to him. If anything, most people looked rejuvenated after they converted. They were the very picture of robust health; appearances were certainly deceiving when it came to these vile creatures. It took years for anything to take a noticeable toll on a vampire, but Ian looked a decade older than when I last saw him. Thin. Exhausted. It wouldn’t have surprised me if he was pale too.

What’s happened to you?

I inclined my head. “Ian…?”

“He was a friend.” He pushed his shoulders back and looked me in the eye. “I didn’t ask for this.”

The hairs on the back of my neck stood on end. “He converted you against your will?”

Beholden by Kris T Bethke
"Better?" Wes asked eventually. "Feel more centered and focused now?"

I nodded. Then I sat back a little so I could see his face. I wrapped my arms around his neck, and tucked my fingers down the collar of his dress shirt, not wanting to lose too much contact with his skin. "Yes, thank you."

"First things first," Wes said, his voice all business and his face serious. "Are we bonded?"

I sucked in a breath, surprised he'd made that leap. But he had to know that we weren't. If we'd made a bond, even an unintentional one, he would feel the pull as much as I did. "Of course not."

He just nodded his head, like that was the answer he expected. "But you feel better when you're touching me. When you can pull on my magic to augment your own?"

I released a sigh, and couldn't quite stop myself from snuggling just a tiny bit closer. I shrugged one shoulder. "Yes. Like I said, your magic fits with mine. So it's easy and natural to use you as a source. I'm sorry about that."

He glared at me like I had said something stupid. "Don't be ridiculous. There's nothing to apologize for. It's not like you did it on purpose. Right?"

That last bit was said with just a tiny bit of accusation. I tried not to be offended. "No, I didn't do it on purpose."

Wes just squinted at me. "So then, we have to figure out what's going on with you, what's pulling on your power. Until then, you just need to stick close to me so I can keep you stable."

I gave an indignant huff. "That's hardly practical. We've both got jobs to do. You seriously can't expect us to stay in each other's pockets because I have a little sense of fatigue. You're getting a little extreme there, buddy." I tried to pull away from him but he held me fast, and gave me a look that I couldn't quite interpret.

"You've got someone else that can keep your magic and your energy up?"

"Well, no," I answered honestly. I'd never met anyone whose magic fit so well with mine. "But that doesn't mean you can just drop everything and keep me stable. That thought is just-" I cast about for a suitable word and finally settled on, "preposterous."

Wes just gave a snort, sounding amused. "I can do whatever I want. And I don't want you lying in bed barely able to function. That serves no one. So you'll just have to be 'in my pocket' until we can figure it out and fix you. There has to be some magical means at work here. And I am an Investigations Agent. I'll investigate."

His tone was playful, cajoling, and I wanted to smile, but this was too serious. We barely knew each other and, my crush notwithstanding, he couldn't just drop everything to take care of me. He wasn't making any sense.

Witchbane by Morgan Brice
Seth
How the hell did I end up on a date with a cute bartender? Seth walked beside Sonny as they meandered around downtown Richmond. Still, being with Sonny felt comfortable, in a way Seth hadn’t felt with anyone in a long time. Maybe it wouldn’t be so bad to get to know one of the locals, blow off a little steam, and make a friend who might be able to help him find the elusive Jackson Malone.

Seth had spent all evening watching Sonny tend bar. Sonny was good at his job, helpful to the servers, and made the customers feel at home. He was also damn good looking, and his worn jeans pulled just right across his toned ass. So when Sonny started throwing signals, Seth responded, and suddenly the evening had taken an unexpected turn.

“What do you do for fun?” Sonny asked, making conversation as they walked. Seth knew that behind the casual questions, Sonny was trying to figure out whether taking Seth home was a good idea. Seth found himself wanting to make a good impression.

“I read,” Seth said, sticking as close to the truth as he could. “Watch movies. Action flicks, superheroes, that kind of thing. Play video games, when I have the time. When I got out of the service, I thought I’d take a little time off to see the country, so I’m finally taking the road trip I promised myself.”

“By yourself?” Sonny sounded torn between being impressed and concerned.

Seth shrugged. “I’ve got friends scattered around, from the army and before. So I drop in and catch up. But yeah, mostly by myself. Clears my mind, you know?”

I should just ask him about Malone, Seth thought. The clock’s ticking. If Malone is a regular, Sonny’ll know. Then again, asking the guy he might be hooking up with about another dude was awkward, to say the least. It’s not like I can say, “I need to protect this guy I don’t know from a dark warlock. Do you have his number?”

“You want to go get some coffee?” Sonny asked after they had walked for a while. “This place I know has really good desserts, and it’s a nice place to just sit and chill for a while.”

It had been so long since Seth had been on anything resembling a date that he wasn’t quite sure what to expect. “Sure,” he said, less because he wanted dessert than because he didn’t want his time with Sonny to end yet.

Maybe he’d misread the signals. He’d thought Sonny was interested in him. Like, interested. Not that Seth wanted to have a quickie in the alley behind the bar, but he hadn’t expected Sonny to want to invest time getting to know him. After all, Sonny knew Seth was just passing through. It’s not like there might be a relationship to build.

And yet, as Sonny led him to a cool little indie coffee shop with an Edgar Allen Poe theme, Seth discovered that he felt all right with taking it slow. He liked that Sonny wasn’t rushing things, focused just on getting into Seth’s pants. It had been a long time since Seth had spent time with an attractive guy just talking...and flirting. God, he was rusty. But Sonny made it seem easy. Somehow, just sitting and chatting seemed natural, unforced. And for the first time in a long while, Seth felt himself relax.

“If you want to talk sports, you’re out of luck,” Sonny admitted as they found a cozy alcove with two plump leather chairs angled for conversation. “I know the scores for the latest games because the TV plays in the bar, but I don’t follow any teams.”

“Thank God,” Seth replied, settling into his chair. “I’m better on cars and motorcycles if that’s your thing.”

“I’m not a true gearhead, but I had an uncle who ran a garage and I used to help out in the summers.” Sonny paused to drink his coffee. They’d each paid for their own, but Seth had overheard Sonny’s order. Chai latte. Fancy, but hardly flamboyant. Seth splurged and added cream to his regular coffee. It tasted as good as it smelled.

“I learned to do some basic repairs, more out of necessity than anything else,” Seth admitted. “I’ve got a long way to go before I can strip a car down to the axles and rebuild it...although I think it’s cool to watch someone who can.”

The conversation turned to video games, a passion they both indulged, and Seth enjoyed the chance to talk in detail about his favorites with someone else who had played them through. “We should so do a campaign together,” Seth said and wrote down his username on a napkin for the big multiplayer game they both enjoyed. On impulse, he added his phone number. His heartbeat spiked when he slid the napkin to Sonny, afraid he’d been too forward. But when Sonny tore off a part of the napkin and returned the favor—including the phone number—Seth relaxed again.

“It’ll be fun to campaign with someone I’ve actually met,” Sonny replied. “So many of the guys out there are total douchebags.”

Seth was about to agree when Sonny’s phone rang. “Sorry, it’s work. Gotta take this.” Sonny frowned at the distraction. He listened for a moment, and his expression morphed from annoyance to resignation. “Okay. Give me twenty. Thanks.”

He shoved his phone back into his pocket and looked up at Seth. “I’m really sorry. Eddie, the guy who was supposed to work the night shift, got really sick and had to leave. Liam can’t handle both bars himself. So...I need to go in.”

“That’s okay.” Seth tried to ignore his disappointment. Even if they didn’t end up in bed, he’d been enjoying the company. “This was fun.” Had Sonny set it up for a co-worker to call him with an out if the evening didn’t shape up the way he wanted? Maybe Sonny had been waiting for Seth to make the first move, and decided things weren’t moving along fast enough? S***, how can I f*** up a date?

Sonny leaned over and put his hand on Seth’s arm. “I had a great time,” he said, making a point of meeting Seth’s gaze. “And if you’re still in town, I get off at seven tomorrow, too. If Eddie’s still sick I’ll make sure Liam has a different replacement. So come by if you want to try this again. Maybe go back to my place afterward, you know, Netflix and chill?”

“I’d like that,” Seth said, surprised at how warm Sonny’s hand felt on his arm. “Can I walk you back to Treddy’s?” Since he figured that they had both parked behind the bar, it only seemed right.

“Sounds like a plan,” Sonny agreed. They finished their coffees and headed out into the night. The walk back passed quickly, and Seth discovered he didn’t have to stretch to make small talk. Chatting with Sonny came naturally, and Seth felt a little sad to find them in front of Treddy’s so quickly.

“See you tomorrow?” Sonny dared to stretch up to brush a quick kiss over Seth’s lips. He had pulled away before Seth collected his wits enough to think about kissing back.

“Definitely,” Seth replied, hoping he didn’t sound twitterpated after the surprise of the kiss. Sonny shot him a wink and disappeared inside, and it took Seth another minute to realize he needed to move away from the door.

Sonny’s kiss went through him like a bolt of lightning right to his balls. Seth turned away from the doorway and tried to subtly adjust himself. The Hayabusa sat right where he had parked it, but Seth paused to think about his grocery list and what was in his laundry basket so that he didn’t have to ride home with a hard-on.

Back at the campground, Seth let himself into the trailer, surprised at how disappointed he felt. When he’d gone to Treddy’s, he’d expected to have a beer, chat up the bartender and some regulars about Malone, and make an early night of it. Now he felt a little cheated—and frustrated. Seth fished a beer out of the fridge and sat at his laptop.

His phone chirped as he waited for the laptop to power up, and for a moment, he found himself hoping Sonny had decided to text him. He’d already added Sonny to his contacts. Instead, “Luis” came up, and Seth resigned himself to talking shop.

“Hey, Luis. What’s up?”

“Hey, yourself. I couldn’t turn up anything on that warlock in Richmond you’re chasing, but I did get some hits on the one in Pittsburgh. Noah and I were over that way last week chasing a pack of shifters, and I had the chance to dig around while we were there.”

“Thanks,” Seth replied, trying to get his head back into the game. “Your hunt go all right?”

“We’re alive, and the shifters aren’t, so I guess that’s a win. Normally, I’d be ‘live and let live,’ you know? But this pack had gone gangland, and they’d already killed three cops. So Noah and I took care of it.” He paused. “I got banged around plenty, but Noah got clawed in the leg, so we’re holed up until that heals.”

“That sucks, man. But I’m glad you’re mostly okay.” Luis and Noah were friends of Toby’s, some of the first hunters Seth had met. Since then, he’d gotten to know several other teams, either people he happened upon in the field or friends of friends. He hadn’t found it unusual that many hunters worked in teams, but the number of those teams that were more than just work partners did give him pause. Then again, hunting was a lonely job, and “civilians” didn’t understand. Some of the hunters he’d heard about had a home base and kept to a radius. Many of them traveled like he did, from job to job. Seth supposed that hunting solo was the perfect gig for natural loners. If he were honest with himself, Seth had to admit he was a little jealous of guys like Luis and Toby, who’d found partners in every sense of the word.

“You get any leads on the Richmond warlock?” Luis asked. “Noah and I aren’t too far away—if you want back-up.”

Seth knew Toby’s opinion of him going after Gremory’s disciple by himself. His mentor had waxed obscenely creative in telling him just how foolhardy he thought it was for Seth to go up against the warlock solo. But Seth also knew that neither Luis nor Noah had any magic of their own, and so he didn’t want to be responsible for getting anyone else hurt.

“Thanks, but I think I’ll be okay. I appreciate it, though. And if I can help you out, just call.”

“We’re near Cleveland if you change your mind. Got a line on a couple of vengeful ghosts to put down once Noah’s healed up. But we could be in Richmond overnight if we hauled ass.”

“Go gank those ghosts,” Seth replied. “I’ve got this. Thanks for the intel. Anything you turn up on the witch-disciples, shoot my way. And let me know how to return the favor.”

“Sure thing,” Luis replied. “Watch your back.”

Seth hung up, and somehow the trailer felt emptier than usual. He turned on some music and pulled out a file on Corson Valac, Gremory’s disciple who had made Richmond his home. But as he slogged through the information, he found his focus had gone to s***. His mind wandered, wondering how Sonny’s evening was going.

Did Sonny make a habit of picking up dates at the bar? Seth wanted to think their connection had been special, but a guy who looked like Sonny would have his pick of partners, and Treddy’s probably turned into a meat market late night. He hoped that Sonny had been telling the truth about meeting up with him tomorrow.

But was he going back tomorrow? After all, he only had four days until Halloween, when Valac was likely to make a move against Malone, and Seth still didn’t know what either Malone or Valac looked like, or where to find them. Maybe the whole thing with Sonny was a bad idea, a diversion he couldn’t afford when Malone’s life was on the line.

Then again, Sonny might be a good ally, someone who could lead him to Malone and who knew the area. And if he spent the day chasing down leads, trying to uncover Valac’s current identity and getting his bearings, surely he could spare a few hours in the evening? Does it count as interrogating a witness if I’m giving him a hand job while I ask the questions?

By one a.m., Seth finally gave up on research, pitched the beer bottle, and headed for bed. And if he jacked himself off to thoughts about a certain dark-haired bartender, Seth figured that was his dirty little secret.

Lost in Time by AL Lester
He parked the department’s Model-T on the small lane off Hackney High Street where Tyler indicated and followed the man up a flight of steps from a small courtyard, behind what looked like a laundry. Tyler unlocked the door and looked at him. “Come in. You can wait in here.” He threw his damp cap and ‘cycle goggles onto a table that clearly served for kitchen and dining, shucked his coat and gestured to a battered settee in front of a cold grate. “Would you like a drink?” He was un-stoppering a half-full bottle of whisky and sloshing it into two glasses as he spoke.

Alec shut the door and leaned back against it, his arms folded. “How did you know him?”

He kept his gaze uncompromising.

The hand holding the bottle froze in mid-air and then very carefully replaced it on the counter. “I didn’t know him.”

The stopper of the bottle was replaced with deliberation.

“Rubbish.”

Silence.

“Do you want me to take you down to Wapping for questioning?”

More silence. Tyler lifted the glass and took a long slug. He turned to face Alec and Alec suddenly realized that he could have read the young man incorrectly and that he was face to face with the killer. He wasn’t as young as he had initially thought, now Alec was looking at him with a professional eye, and his hands and arms were sinewy and muscled where he’d undone his sleeves. His eyes were dark-chocolate colored, shot through with lighter hazel — almost gold — hooded and wary; and there was a smear of what looked like blood on his fingers where he was gripping the glass and another on his cheek. He told himself that Tyler couldn’t have killed the man — he’d have been covered in blood, the way the throat had been ripped out. But he knew the victim. Alec was sure of it.

Tyler raised the glass again and tossed the rest of the contents back; then turned and went to refill it. Alec caught himself watching the play of his shoulders under his shirt and a little frisson of desire shivered through him. Hell. That was the last thing he needed.

Tyler turned back to Alec, both glasses in hand and caught him looking. He held one out to him, clearly dismissing what he’d seen. “Do you want this?”

Alec unfolded from the door and took it. He gestured to the other man’s fingers. “You touched him.”

He said it flatly, not a question.

“Yes.”

Another pause. Tyler stared into his glass and Alec drank some of his. The bite of the spirit steadied him a little.

“Why?”

“Just as I was setting up the shot. Not deliberately.”

Again, he was lying.

Alec stepped toward the small table where Tyler had put down his camera kit and placed his glass down with a deliberate clunk on the surface. Then he took off his hat and his coat and threw them over the chair-back of one of the mismatched wooden dining chairs before he took another drink.

“Get going with the pictures, then.”

Let it play out, he told himself. Wait. Just let it play out.

He sat down on the battered settee, crossed his arms, and stretched his legs out, tilting his head back against the cushions and keeping eye contact with Tyler all the time. Tyler threw back the remains of his second drink and picked up his kit.

“Dark room’s through there,” he muttered, gesturing at a door. “Not much space in there.”

“I’ll wait here.” Alec was laconic.

He was more tired than he thought — a long day followed by two hours sleep, then being woken again by Grant when the call came in. It was pleasant sitting in the relatively warm flat, listening to the rain outside. It was proper rain now rather than the dank drizzle of earlier and he thought absently to himself that anything left at the scene would be washed away by the time he could get back there to have another look. His eyes started to droop and he let them, lulled by the sound.


LA Witt
L.A. Witt is an abnormal M/M romance writer who has finally been released from the purgatorial corn maze of Omaha, Nebraska, and now spends her time on the southwestern coast of Spain. In between wondering how she didn’t lose her mind in Omaha, she explores the country with her husband, several clairvoyant hamsters, and an ever-growing herd of rabid plot bunnies. She also has substantially more time on her hands these days, as she has recruited a small army of mercenaries to search South America for her nemesis, romance author Lauren Gallagher, but don’t tell Lauren. And definitely don’t tell Lori A. Witt or Ann Gallagher. Neither of those twits can keep their mouths shut…

Kris T Bethke
Kris T. Bethke has been a voracious reader for pretty much her entire life and has been writing stories for nearly as long. An avid and prolific daydreamer, she always has a story in her head. She spends most of her free time reading, writing, or knitting/crocheting her latest project. Her biggest desire is to find a way to accomplish all three tasks at one time. A classic muscle car will always turn her head, and naps on the weekend are one of her greatest guilty pleasures. She lives in a converted attic with a way too fluffy cat and the voices in her head. She’ll tell you she thinks that’s a pretty good deal. Kris believes that love is love, no matter the gender of people involved, and that all love deserves to be celebrated.

Annabelle Jacobs
Annabelle Jacobs lives in the South West of England with three rowdy children, and two cats. An avid reader of fantasy herself for many years, Annabelle now spends her days writing her own stories. They're usually either fantasy or paranormal fiction, because she loves building worlds filled with magical creatures, and creating stories full of action and adventure. Her characters may have a tough time of it—fighting enemies and adversity—but they always find love in the end.

Morgan Brice
Morgan Brice is the romance pen name of bestselling author Gail Z. Martin. Morgan writes urban fantasy male/male paranormal romance, with plenty of action, adventure and supernatural thrills to go with the happily ever after. Gail writes epic fantasy and urban fantasy, and together with co-author hubby Larry N. Martin, steampunk and comedic horror, all of which have less romance, more explosions.

Morgan Brice will be a Supporting Author at the Gay Romantic Lit convention and a Hosting Author at RomCon in October.

A. L. LesterAL Lester
A. L. Lester likes to read. Her favorite books are post-apocalyptic dystopian romances full of suspense, but a cornflake packet will do there's nothing else available. The gender of the characters she likes to read (and write) is pretty irrelevant so long as they are strong, interesting people on a journey of some kind.

She has a chaotic family life and small children, and she has become the person in the village who looks after the random animals people find in the road. She is interested in permaculture gardening and anything to do with books, reading, technology and history. She lives in a small village in rural Somerset and is seriously allergic to both rabbits and Minecraft.


LA Witt
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BLOG  /  PERSONAL BLOG  /  KOBO  /  YAHOO
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EMAIL :  gallagherwitt@gmail.com

Kris T Bethke
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EMAIL: kristbethke@gmail.com 

Annabelle Jacobs
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EMAIL: ajacobsfiction@gmail.com

Morgan Brice
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PINTEREST  /  AMAZON  /  GOODREADS

AL Lester
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AMAZON  /  B&N  /  INSTAGRAM



The Given & the Taken by LA Witt

Beholden by Kris T Bethke
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KOBO  /  iTUNES  /  GOODREADS TBR

Butterfly Assassin by Annabelle Jacobs

Witchbane by Morgan Brice
B&N  /  KOBO  /  GOODREADS TBR

Lost in Time by AL Lester
B&N  /  KOBO  /  GOOGLE PLAY

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