Saturday, August 18, 2018

Saturday's Series Spotlight: Four Kings Security by Charlie Cochet Part 1

Love in Spades #1
Ex-Special Forces soldier Anston “Ace” Sharpe is fighting a different battle these days—one involving the world of private security across the state of Florida. As part owner of Four Kings Security, Ace and his fellow Kings tackle everything from armed transport and investigations to cyber intelligence and executive protection. Cocky, fearless, and brash, Ace isn’t afraid to take risks.

After years of working alongside his father, Colton Connolly is ready to take the helm at Connolly Maritime, but his father’s retirement is put on hold when Colton begins receiving death threats. If that isn’t bad enough, his father signs a contract with Four Kings Security to provide Colton with round-the-clock protection, despite his adamant refusal. Colton’s life has been turned upside down, the last thing he needs is a shadow, especially in the form of infuriating, sexy-as-sin Ace Sharpe, who seems to be on a mission to drive Colton mad.

Sparks fly the moment Colton and Ace meet on a sultry night club dance floor. But getting involved with a client, even one as fiery and beautiful as Colton Connolly, is a line Ace is unwilling to cross. Colton might be attracted to Ace, but he’d been burned before. He might be willing to put his life in Ace’s hands, but not his heart.
As the Florida nights heat up, so does their passion, and Ace and Colton are faced with a difficult choice—take the plunge and risk it all, or play it safe and walk away?

If Ace can keep a deadly threat from robbing Colton of a future….

Be Still My Heart #2
Former Special Forces medical sergeant Russell “Red” McKinley knows a thing or two about wounds, like the fact some can take a lifetime to heal, if they heal at all. The scars Red carry run deep, and living with PTSD often means battling the memories of his past. Injuries he received while working an executive protection case with fellow Kings and co-owners of Four Kings Security, have once again forced past heartaches to the surface, but Red is determined not to let it derail his blossoming romance with sweet and sexy fashion photographer Lazarus Galanos.

Laz can’t deny there’s something special developing between him and Red, but Laz has wounds of his own. He’s hesitant to jump into a new relationship after his recent explosive breakup. Experience has taught Laz to doubt his judgement when it comes to men. Guys who seem too good to be true, usually are, and no one appears more perfect than Red.

When an attempt is made on Laz’s life, Red is determined to keep him safe. Laz may not be a client, and Red is still off duty, but Laz is one of their own, and nothing means more to the Kings than family. While an investigation is underway, Red and Laz are growing closer, but can they find a way to help each other heal and take a chance on love, or will their fears and insecurities cost them more than their future together?

Love in Spades #1
Original Review May 2018:
Colton Connolly is ready to take over running the family business, Connolly Maritime, but he's been receiving disturbing mail and packages.  Colton isn't concerned but his father is and hires Four Kings Security to protect his son.  Anston “Ace” Sharpe and his friends have found a new place in life running Four Kings Security after their military career was over and its given them a new lease on life.  When their new client is Colton Connolly things don't go too smoothly at first but when Ace steps in and does what he does best, Colton has a change of heart.  Will their attraction to each other put lives at risk or only their hearts?

When I saw there was going to be a new series from the author who brought us THIRDS I was pumped.  I have to admit that when I'm that excited about something, I am often a little disappointed afterwards, that it didn't quite live up to my expectations.  WELL!! I needn't have worried because Love in Spades lived up to my expectations and more.  One can't help but compare bodyguard/client romances to The Bodyguard with Kevin Costner and Whitney Houston, for me it just seems the natural comparison.  Let me tell you that Charlie Cochet's Love in Spades far surpassed my love of that movie.  Ace and Colton are a perfect pair,  By "perfect" I don't mean that everything is Utopian, because to me that isn't perfect.  Perfect relationship-wise is a meshing of love/hate, arguing/making-up, strengths/weakness, "perfect" is a balanced scale of good and bad.  That is exactly what these boys are, a well balanced duo.

As for the mystery behind the threatening letters/packages, well I think you know what I'm about to say: for those answers you have to read for yourself.  Trust me, you don't want to miss it!  I had some ideas from the very beginning and they evolved as I read the book(which a well written mystery should) so let me just say it was definitely intriguing that kept me hooked from beginning to end.

Four Kings Security is going to be great and I can't wait for more.  They may not be the boys from THIRDS but they are a very close second, I wouldn't want to put money on the difference and if the two series were cars I wouldn't want to put my finger between them.  Just brilliantly written with characters that I loved, even if I wanted to strangle a few of them at times(and not just the bad guys).  As I said, I am on the edge of my seat waiting for more.

Original Audiobook Review July 2018:
I'm not sure what I can say about the audio version that I didn't say when I read the ebook a couple of months ago.  Listening to the story was just as enjoyable as reading Colton and Ace's journey.  I don't listen to many audiobooks, I have many in my library but I just don't often find the time to listen to them because unlike many I don't find myself able to enjoy them in the car.  As for Greg Boudreaux's voice, I may not have a wide variety of narrator examples to choose from but I can't imagine anyone else bringing life to the characters.

Be Still My Heart #2
Original Review August 2018:
As Red McKinley continues to heal after being wounded in his aid to help Ace protect Colton and Colton's friend Laz he finds the new attraction to Laz blossoming.  Lazarus Galanos can't deny his growing attraction for Red but is hesitant to move forward after the destructive relationship he finally broke free of.  When Laz finds his life in danger, once again Red and the Four Kings come to his aid. Between bullets, nightmares, and misunderstandings will Red and Laz find love and home before its too late?

Be Still My Heart is just great, no better way to say it than that.  As it often does with me when it comes to series that features a new couple with each entry, the first is often the pair to grab hold of me the strongest.  Having said that, it doesn't mean I don't love the pairings to follow they just don't quite burrow into my heart as deep.  Red and Laz are lovely, they may not be Ace and Colton but they are still incredibly entertaining and powerful.  As for the mystery part of the story I wondered if that wasn't the culprit part way through but I wasn't sure until just before the reveal.  Now if that sounds cryptic, it was meant to as I don't do spoilers.

Let's take a look at Red and Laz.  Red is an intriguing character with plenty of moments in his past to keep him up at night.  The hell he seen during his time in the military would be enough to shut anyone off from the world but with King and the boys' help he has found ways to keep his mind at rest, that doesn't mean he doesn't suffer nightmares and the terror that comes with them but he has tools to help him now.  Unfortunately, there comes a point where as proud of him as I am for everything he's dealt with(I won't say overcome because he'll never "beat" it but he survives and moves forward) I still want to give him a solid knuckle-rap to the back of the head.  I won't say why, you'll have to read Heart for yourself to learn that moment, but I'm pretty sure you'll feel the same.

Now for Laz, what can I say about young Lazarus?  Laz may not see himself as strong but he has more strength than he lets on but that doesn't mean I didn't want to knock him upside the head once or twice when he assumed something about Red(and yes "something" is all you'll get from me).  You know what they say about assuming: you make an ASS out of yoU and ME. 😉😉  After all, there had to be some drama and it couldn't all come from the "who's behind it?" part of their journey.

I may not have been on the edge of my seat trying to find the whos and whys of Be Still My Heart but Red and Laz kept me teetering near said edge as they discovered each other and the journey they took getting from point A to point Z.  I should mention that although technically Heart is probably considered a standalone because it features a new pairing, I highly recommend reading Love in Spades first.  Will you be lost if you start with Heart? No but I found it just flowed better knowing Ace and Colton's journey, there are things touched on from book one but the author handles it so you won't be lost if you didn't read Spades first.  I can't wait to see what the author has in store for the rest of the Kings.


Love in Spades #1
Chapter One
“Goddamn it, Ace, get your ass back here!”

King’s indignant shout came through Ace’s earpiece, and it made his lips curl into a wicked grin. He hit the accelerator, and his Chevy Camaro Zl1 convertible roared like a wild beast. With the wind whipping through his hair, he tore down Anastasia Park Road, his vehicle mere feet from the black SUV trying to outrun him. Did they really think they were going to escape him?

“You’re not Vin Diesel in a fucking Fast and Furious movie! You’re going to get yourself killed!”

“It’s like you don’t even know me,” Ace shouted with a laugh, swiping his Glock from the holster under his arm. He leaned to the left and fired a warning shot, which hit the left taillight. The SUV swerved, regained control, and then lurched forward at full speed.

“Did you just open fire in a state park? Jesus fucking Christ!”

“Language, buddy. What would Momma say?”

“Don’t you bring your mother into this!”

“There’s nothing but road and trees. Besides, you need to be watching your blood pressure, old man.”

“Old— Fuck you! I’m a year older than you.”

“Technically, two years older.” Ace leaned over again, this time shooting out the right taillight, making the SUV swerve again. Amateurs. “My birthday’s not for another two months, which puts you at forty-one while I’m still in my thirties.”

“Would you stop shooting!”


“Why? Why? The ‘why’ should be obvious, you little shit!”

Ace tried hard not to laugh. King made it way too easy. “Like I said, there’s no one out here, so relax. I’ll have them before they reach A1A.”

“When I get my hands on you—”

After some scuffling, Red’s smooth rumble came over the line. “Ace? You gotta stop, buddy. Let the police handle it. Fifteen minutes. They’ll be with you in fifteen.”

“No can do, pal. My client, my problem.”

“Yeah, I get that, but, Ace, you’re not liable if the product you’re contracted to transport gets hijacked before you arrive to transport it.”

Fuck that. Didn’t matter that when he’d arrived at the client’s house, the client was screaming at a black SUV burning rubber, making off with the man’s million-dollar antique firearms collection. The point was, it was his client, and no fucking way was he letting these assholes get away with this shit on his watch.


Ace smiled at the sound of his cousin’s thickly accented voice, part of the Hispanic heritage they shared thanks to Ace’s Cuban mother. “Hey, the family’s all here! Hi, Lucky. How’s King?”

“Pacing the office and saying something about you sending him to an early grave. Por favor. Can you please not give our best friend and boss an ulcer, please?”

Ace snorted out a laugh. “King’s like a fucking Florida roach. Indestructible. A tank landed on him, and he’s still alive. Remember that?”

Red and Lucky erupted into barks of laughter, loud and boisterous. Man, he loved these bastards.

As expected, King was back on the line snarling at him. “Now you listen to me, you arrogant pain in my ass. You better do whatever the fuck you set out to do and not get dead, or I am going to hunt you down and murder you!”

“Well, that makes no sense. How can you murder me if I’m already dead? I mean, I guess maybe if I was dying and then you strangled me, or if—”


“Got it. Get the job done. Don’t get dead. That should be our new motto. I can see it now, right beneath the Four Kings Security crest. Clients will love it.”


“Gotta go. Don’t let Red eat all the donuts, and tell Lucky he still owes me fifty bucks.” He could hear Lucky cursing him out in English and Spanish before Ace disconnected the call. Time to put an end to this. He’d given the assholes two warnings, which they chose to ignore.

“Three strikes and you’re out.” With the opposing traffic lane empty, Ace floored the accelerator and pulled up beside the SUV. The driver looked at him, and Ace waved, gun in hand and a big smile on his face. He motioned for the guy to pull over, but was flipped off for his trouble.

“Okay, have it your way.” Ace prepared to shoot out one of the tires, but the guy wrenched the steering wheel, and Ace slammed the brakes. “Fucker tried to slam into me! So that’s how it is, huh?” Ace stroked his steering wheel. “Don’t worry, baby. No one’s gonna hurt you. Daddy’s gonna take care of it.” Pedal to the metal, he charged forward into the empty lane and sped past the SUV until he was several feet ahead. They were getting close to A1A and, more importantly, traffic. He jerked his steering wheel, the Camaro spinning until he was facing the opposite direction. He put the car in reverse and slammed the accelerator down, grinning at the stunned driver of the SUV as he whizzed by before moving into the lane and putting them almost nose to nose. Ace whooped loud, adrenaline rushing his system. Who did these guys think they were dealing with? Defensive driving was a staple of Four Kings Security. And the years Ace had spent driving all manner of vehicles over every kind of terrain didn’t hurt either.Movement from the

passenger seat drew Ace’s attention. The guy stuck the MP5 out the window, but before he could aim, Ace shot out one front tire, then the other. And unlike Ace’s car, which was equipped with run-flat tires, these guys had shit. The SUV’s driver lost control, careening off the road and into the shrubbery. Ace spun his car back around and followed, then hit the brakes when the SUV lurched to a stop. He put the car in park, unfastened his seatbelt, and got out. He was about to walk toward the SUV, when he heard King’s nagging voice in his head. With a grunt, he removed his double holster and snatched the tactical vest off the passenger seat. He quickly strapped it on, secured his Glock, popped the trunk, and pulled out his Taser shotgun.

Once the trunk was secure, he headed off into the dense shrubbery, shotgun at the ready. The only noise around him was from A1A traffic in the distance. He stalked toward the SUV, making sure to remain crouched low in the dry and dead overgrowth. It was after noon, and although the temperature was in the low eighties, the seventy percent humidity and glaring sun were trying to bake him. His black T-shirt was already sticking to his back, and sweat beaded his brow, the weight of the tactical vest certainly not helping. Having hunted through worse conditions, he barely registered the discomfort.

The SUV rocked, and the two front doors opened. The driver and his companion dropped out of the vehicle into low crouches. The driver held a handgun close to him, his companion the MP5. They darted to the end of the SUV, and the driver opened the trunk. A large armored crate sat in the back, and Ace shook his head. Were they planning on using a bunch of antique firearms?

“Fuck,” the driver hissed. “It’s got some kind of high-tech lock.”

No shit. These guys were obviously new to the whole hijacking gig. Did they really think a gun collection worth millions of dollars was going to be shoved in any old box? Ace recognized the crate, and that particular brand of awesome was equipped with biometric locks and a fingerprint scanner, so these dudes were shit out of luck. Ace steadied his breathing and crept into position right behind the two men. He’d seen all he needed. Gingerly he stood and aimed the shotgun at them.

“Any heart conditions I should know about?”

“The fuck?” MP5 guy and his companion jumped like spooked cats. They spun around, staring at him before their eyes dropped to the shotgun in his hands, their expressions comically bewildered. It was probably the bright yellow sections of the gun that were throwing them off.

“The fuck is that?” the driver asked, motioning to the shotgun.

“You didn’t answer my question. Heart conditions. How’s your ticker?”

The two men exchanged glances before the driver shook his head. “My heart’s fine.”

“Mine too,” the other replied.

“Glad to hear it.” He fired the shotgun in quick succession, hitting the driver’s companion first, then the driver, the 500 volts of electric shock dropping them to the ground, giving Ace roughly twenty seconds. Sirens filled the air, and by the time the police arrived on the scene, Ace was leaning against his car, arms folded over his chest, with the two men zip-tied on the ground by his feet.

Four squad cars skidded to a halt, and Ace waved at them. One very tall, very annoyed-looking officer wearing aviators got out of his car. He swaggered over to Ace like a cowboy from an old western, or more like a cowboy from Texas, since that’s what Officer Mason Cooper had been in another life. Mason towered over Ace, long legs, broad chest, and thick biceps, his large hands resting on his utility belt. He moved his aviators onto his head, his full lips—which Ace knew firsthand tasted very nice—pulled into a thin line.

“Good afternoon, Officer Cooper,” Ace said, grinning wide.

“Fifteen minutes,” Mason growled, that slow Texan drawl of his bringing back memories of them in bed together, naked, all that hard muscle pressed against Ace, his sexy rumble making Ace’s toes curl. “You couldn’t wait fifteen goddamn minutes?”

Ace squinted at him. “Is that a rhetorical question?”

Mason’s ice-blue eyes narrowed. He grabbed Ace’s arm and started hauling him away from the car before calling out over his shoulder. “Get ’em outta here. I need a word with Mr. Sharpe.”

Ace held back a smile at Mason’s manhandling. “Well, this brings back memories.”

Mason grunted, making sure they were far enough from the other officers before he released Ace, his low timbre doing lovely things to Ace’s groin.

“You okay?” Mason raked his gaze over Ace, his eyes darkening with lust. He tugged on one of Ace’s vest straps. “You listened.”

Ace rolled his eyes. “Yeah, well, it was either that or have King nag at me about it.”

“I like how you were more concerned about King naggin’ at you than the possibility of ending up with a bullet in you.”

“I believe the two are not mutually exclusive. Remember when you arrested Red?”

Mason groaned. Loudly.

“Yeah, how’s that ‘not being nagged by King for the foreseeable future’ working out for you?”

“How many times do I gotta apologize for that? I was doin’ my goddamn job. I shouldn’t have to apologize! It was my first day. I didn’t know who the fuck y’all were. I answered a B&E, Red was there and strapped. How the fuck was I supposed to know he’d been hired to babysit the property? It wasn’t until King arrived at the precinct and everyone lost their fuckin’ minds because I’d apparently pissed off the Second Coming that I was told about y’all.”

Ace doubled over, laughing at Mason’s traumatized expression. Like he was having flashbacks of first meeting King. It had not gone well. The thing was, Ward Kingston only lost his shit with those he considered family because his emotions got the better of him, but with everyone else? He didn’t even have to talk. It was impressive. King gave off this weird vibe of familiarity, like he suddenly morphed into whatever guy the person he was dealing with had a soft spot for. He became their big brother, their beloved son, their favorite cousin, a long-lost love, and then they were eating out of his palm and they’d do anything not to disappoint him. It was something in those deep blue eyes of his and the way he smiled.

“I’m glad you find my distress amusing,” Mason mumbled. He glanced over his shoulder before turning his attention back to Ace. “So, what you up to this weekend?”

“Providing King doesn’t murder me? FYI, if you can’t find the body, flex those manly muscles in front of Lucky. He’ll sing like a canary.”

Mason scoffed. “No offense, but your cousin’s a manwhore.”

“Why would I get offended? He wears the status with pride.”

“Besides, you know I ain’t interested in Lucky.” His blue eyes softened, and Ace swallowed hard as he looked away.


Mason let out a sigh. He nodded before letting his head hang. “I know. Doesn’t hurt to try, though, right?”

“That’s where you’re wrong, Coop,” Ace said, gently poking Mason over his heart. “It does hurt. We tried, remember?” Mason Cooper was a great guy. Problem was, after almost a year of dating him, Ace knew as much about him now as when they’d first met. Mason had secrets. Lots of them. He also had major trust issues. The fact he couldn’t bring himself to confide in Ace—someone who made his living operating with complete discretion—after almost a year, made it clear they had no future together. Ace could have dug into Mason’s past or run a thorough background check, but he respected Mason, and looking into him without his permission would have been an unforgiveable breach of whatever they’d had. Having access to the information, didn’t give him the right to use it.

The sex had been amazing, and the intimate moments even better, but Ace needed more. The problem was he cared about Mason, which led to them hooking up several times after their breakup. Having Mason shut him out each time he tried to get close had become too painful, so he’d done what he did with every guy who made him feel like he’d want more—he left them before they could leave him. They could be friends. Nothing more.

“I reckon you’re right,” Mason said quietly. “It was good, huh?”

Not trusting himself to speak, Ace nodded. He patted Mason’s shoulder. “I’ll follow you to the station.” He spun on his heels, walked backward to his car, and winked at Mason. “Gotta call this in. I’ll be sure to tell Lucky you asked about him.”

Mason’s laugh when he flipped Ace off made him smile. Whatever demons Mason was battling, Ace hoped the guy found some peace. He deserved to be happy.

Ace helped two officers haul his client’s crate into the back of Mason’s squad car before he climbed behind the wheel of his Camaro. “Thanks, officers!” Ace waved as he waited for Mason to get into his car.

Watching the man walk by was always a treat. As soon as Mason was on the move, so was Ace. Since his client’s property was now in police custody, Ace wouldn’t be letting it out of his sight until his client arrived at the precinct. It would take some time for the property to be released from evidence, then Ace would transport it as agreed. Soon as he was done, he’d drive off to his home away from home. Of course, that meant having to deal with his less-than-thrilled brother-in-arms. If all else failed, he’d do what he’d been doing for years when it came to pissing off King. Hide.

Be Still My Heart #2
Chapter One
“Are you trying to kill me?” Red shouted at Ace as his friend came careening around the bend, burning rubber, a Cheshire cat grin on his face. Whoever had decided it was a good idea to give Anston Sharpe a driver’s license needed to rethink their life choices. The man was a menace behind the wheel, and years of defensive driving certainly didn’t help his proclivity for challenging the laws of physics while in a moving vehicle.

“Where’s your sense of adventure?” Ace laughed as his vehicle flew up a ramp and soared through the air.

“I left it back on that bridge you tried to drive me off of!” Red jerked his steering wheel and almost jumped out of his seat when Ace’s car landed mere inches away. “You almost fell on me, you jackass!”

Ace’s cackle was evil, and Red shook his head. He hit the accelerator, trying to outmaneuver Ace, who wasn’t the only one experienced in defensive driving. At least Lucky wasn’t here, or Red would be sharing the road with two overly competitive daredevils who reckoned themselves invincible. The cousins shared a knack for attracting trouble and approached high-risk situations like they were personal challenges. It drove their boss and best friend nuts. Red felt for King. They might all be equal owners of Four Kings Security, but King gave the orders, same as he always had. During their Special Forces years when they’d been part of the same ODA—Operational Detachment Alpha—they’d followed him to hell and back. They’d follow him there now.

“Did you see that?” Ace whooped loud, his car having taken out two other vehicles.

“Show off,” Red muttered, skidding across the asphalt as he rounded one particularly harrowing bend, his teeth gritting and both hands on the wheel. He was so close. They were neck and neck. Red leaned forward, his grip fierce as he gained the few feet he needed to cut off Ace, the finish line coming up fast. Come on. He could do this.

The scenery whipped by in a blur, the noise around him nothing but muffled sounds. An object hurled toward him from out of nowhere, striking his car, and he cursed as his vehicle spiraled out of control toward the cliff’s edge, Ace’s laughter in his ears.

“You bastard! I can’t believe you triple red-shelled me!”

Ace cackled as he sped past him. “Sorry, bro. It’s every plumber for himself.”

“I thought we were on the same team!” No way he was catching up now. As Ace was about to cross the finish line, the screen went black, and they both gasped.

“What the—damn it!” Ace jumped to his feet and whirled around to glare at King, who stood behind the couch, arms folded over his chest. “I was about to beat my personal best!”

“And I was about to beat your person. Period.” King narrowed his eyes at Ace. “You have a very large, fully equipped game room at home. Why aren’t you playing Mario Kart there?”

Red bit down on his bottom lip to keep from laughing as Ace mirrored King’s stance. He lifted his chin and sniffed.

“Colton’s getting ready for a two-week business trip in New York. He’s flying out tomorrow, so he’s working from home today. Being the loving, considerate boyfriend that I am, I didn’t want to disturb him.”

King arched a blond brow, turning to Red, who grinned wide.

“Someone thought it would be a great idea to upload his music library to the house’s security system interface without figuring out volume control. Led Zeppelin’s ‘Immigrant Song’ blasted through the house so loud it rattled Colton’s bookshelves and everything fell off. Jack had to come out to fix it, and Colton told him to take Ace with him when he left.”

The corner of King’s lips twitched. “So what you’re saying is his own boyfriend kicked him out of the house for being a pain in the ass.”

Red shrugged. He was trying exceptionally hard not to laugh at Ace’s unimpressed expression, but really, Ace had brought it on himself. Poor Colton. The sudden blast of drums, guitar, and Robert Plant’s howling had scared him out of his office chair.

King turned back to Ace. “You know, when we stopped Colton from getting smuggled to another country, I assumed the threat to his life was over. Clearly I was mistaken. Do you always try to give your boyfriend a heart attack first thing in the morning?”

“You’re hilarious. And for your information, he did not kick me out. I can go home anytime I want.”

“Providing it’s after five o’clock,” Red pitched in cheerfully.

Ace gaped at him. “Whose side are you on?”

With no hesitation, Red pointed to King. “His.”

“Wow, that quick, huh? Didn’t even think about it. It’s like I don’t even know you anymore.”

Red chuckled at Ace’s mock disgust before they turned their attention back to King as he leaned his arms on the back of the couch, his expression stoic as usual.

“I love you both, you know that, right?”

They nodded.

“Good. Get the fuck out of my house.”

“That’s harsh, man. Red is injured.”

Red opened his mouth to say he was fine—it’d been months since he was released from the hospital—but Ace held up a finger, cutting him off.

“You’re kicking out poor, sweet, vulnerable Red?” Ace grabbed Red’s chin and squeezed his cheeks. Red was not amused. “Look at this face. How can you kick him out?”

“I’m not. I’m kicking you out, and he’s keeping you company. Unlike certain individuals whose life goal seems to be driving my blood pressure through the roof, Red actually listens.”

“Aw, don’t be so hard on Lucky. He tries. Sometimes. Not really. That is who you’re talking about, right?”

Red snickered, and King let out an exasperated sigh. The four of them were family. Brothers. Ace and King were best friends, and few people outside their circle understood why. Anyone who didn’t know them and witnessed the two interacting, assumed King couldn’t tolerate Ace, but King’s gruffness with Ace was all the proof of how much he loved the guy. King never lost it with someone he didn’t care about. The man was an unmovable mountain, a fortress, his stone walls impenetrable. He’d held the rest of them up when they’d been on the verge of crumbling. King had a habit of carrying the world, and everyone in it, on his shoulders. Ace made sure King didn’t get lost in the shadows of his own making. They were opposites in every way, and so they balanced each other out perfectly.

“Come on,” Red told Ace, standing. He patted Ace’s arm. “I’m hungry. Let’s go get some breakfast at Bibi’s.”

At the mention of food, Ace was out the door before Red even rounded the couch.

“Keep him out of trouble, will you?”

Red congratulated himself on not laughing in King’s face. Instead he blinked at him. “But I’m injured. The doctor recommended I take it easy for a while, remember?”

“Really?” King arched an eyebrow at him. “You’re going to play the injured card?”

Oh hell yes. Red nodded, even went for the big guns. He jutted his bottom lip out a little.

“Fine. You know the drill. Call me if it looks like he’s about to get arrested or cause more than ten thousand dollars’ worth of property damage.”

Red saluted him. “You got it.” Technically he’d been given the all clear from his doctor weeks ago, but King had insisted he take some extra time off. A horn honked, and he shook his head in amusement as he grabbed his baseball cap off the couch before heading for the front door. He stopped by the polished wood side table to pick up his wallet and keys. After closing the ornate glass door behind him, he followed the pristine redbrick path to the impeccable driveway. Outside of a Better Homes & Gardens magazine, Red had never seen such a picture-perfect house, but then King never did anything by halves. His life and everything in it was as structured and organized as he could make it. Preparedness was as essential to Ward Kingston as oxygen.

Ace sat behind the wheel of his Chevy Camaro L1 convertible, wearing his favorite mirrored aviators, a big grin splitting his face. The top of the convertible was down, and alternative rock pounded through the car’s state-of-the-art sound system. One thing Red could say for certain—there was never a dull moment around his brothers-in-arms.

Despite the early morning hour, the sun was glaringly bright. The weather was in the low nineties but felt like high nineties thanks to the humidity. Come August, the heat was going to be unbearable. Florida was a triple h threat: heat, humidity, and hurricanes. He couldn’t complain, though. The rest of the year, the weather was spectacular, and he was never far from a beach, great food, or attractions.

Having been prepared for King to kick them out of the house—King could only take so much chaos before lunch—Red had dressed in a lightweight, soft gray henley T-shirt, khaki cargo shorts, and his comfy gray Vans. Once Red was in the passenger seat and buckled up, Ace pulled out onto Cypress Lake Court and headed for Colonial Drive, where he made a left. Since most of the roads around King’s property were dead ends—thanks to King’s neighborhood being pretty much in the middle of a forest—they had to loop around to get to State Road 206. Red loved the location of King’s house, how quiet and peaceful it was.

When the Kings, Jack, and Joker had returned home for good, it was King who’d taken them into his huge family home. Their brother had been grieving himself, not to mention still recovering from his own injuries, but he’d kept them close, like he always did, protecting them, guiding them. Without King, Red doubted he would have survived. Not a day went by when he didn’t think about their fallen brothers, or how close they’d come to losing King. How close he’d come to losing King, and himself. When enough time passed where it seemed like he might be leaving it all behind him, his head never failed to remind him of what he’d lost.

“Hey, bud. We’re here.”

Red blinked up at Ace, who stood on the other side of the closed driver’s side door, his brows furrowed. Shit, how long had he been out of it?

“Sorry.” Red got out and closed the door behind him.

“You okay?”


Ace set the car’s alarm but didn’t move. “You want to talk about it?”

“It’s nothing,” Red promised. Years ago, Red had been in a very dark place, but he and his brothers had learned how important it was to communicate with one another. They trusted each other with their lives. Keeping everything bottled up wouldn’t do them any good. Thanks to King, they understood the importance of talking things out, how asking for help didn’t make them weak, didn’t make him weak.

“Trouble sleeping?”

Red headed for the front door of Bibi’s Café and opened one side for Ace, the little bell announcing their arrival. “No more than usual.”

He was glad Ace accepted his word for it, but then Ace knew Red would say if he was having trouble. Like most of his brothers, sleep never came easy, but after being shot recently, his night terrors had returned. They weren’t as frequent as they’d once been, which he was grateful for, but were still bad enough to have him waking up screaming and sobbing. Although he’d been eased off his medication years ago, he continued to check in with his psychologist once a month.

Pushing those thoughts aside, he smiled when Bibi came out from behind the counter, her blue eyes sparkling with mischief. “My brother kicked you out already? This must be a new record.”

Ace kissed her cheek before shaking his head in shame. “You know, you could have left him with some sense of humor. You didn’t have to go and steal it all for yourself.”

Bibi laughed before turning to hug Red. He kissed her cheek. “Hey, hon.” She pulled back and looked him over, her warm gaze becoming concerned. “How are you feeling?”

“Better. Thanks.” He used to get so angry when people asked him how he was feeling, believing they were doing so out of pity or because they thought he was weak. It took some time to understand they asked because they loved him.

“Is that Ace?”

“No,” Bibi called out behind her, cringing. “I was talking to myself.”

“Lies!” Bibi’s husband, Nash, burst through the swinging doors of the kitchen with flourish, all six-foot-three of muscular black man dancing a victory jig on his way over, his smile huge. “Yes! That’s right, baby. Whoop!”

“Damn it.” Bibi crossed her arms over her chest, her narrowed eyes on Red. “Thanks a lot.”

“What did I do?”

Ace laughed at her pout. “Oh my God, you lost another bet? Seriously, Bibi, you need to stop betting against your man. You especially need to stop betting on the Kings. What was it this time?”

Nash waggled his eyebrows. “Bibi said King wouldn’t kick you out until after lunch. I told her he wouldn’t make it to breakfast.”

Bibi planted her hands on her hips with a huff. “I figured Red would provide enough of a buffer.”

“Yeah, but you didn’t take into account that by Red staying with King while he recovered, Ace would be there more than usual and slowly the pressure would build until kaboom! Quite frankly, I’m surprised your brother lasted this long. I figured he’d be done after a week.” Nash did another little victory dance.

Bibi and Nash were part of their little family. They were also proof that true love and happy ever after did exist. It hadn’t been an easy road for them by any means. Bibiana Kingston and Nash Sherwood met in high school, and when they fell in love, the two faced a world of prejudice and hate, because not only was Nash black, but a Cuban immigrant.

Their families might have been accepting, but society had not been. Thankfully, Bibi was not a woman to be trifled with. She also had her little brother, her man, and his siblings to make sure no one messed with them. As of several years back, they also had all the Kings.

Bibi and Nash showed the world what it could do with its ignorance, and after successful law careers, both retired in their mid-forties and opened a café near the beach. The two had been married twenty-seven years and looked at each other like they’d just fallen in love. Except now. Now Bibi was glaring at her husband like she was plotting his demise.

“What did you win?” Red asked, amused.

“I get to pick our next vacation. Someone wanted to do hiking and a bunch of other exhausting ‘not my idea of a relaxing vacation’ stuff, and I wanted to do something chill. Bora-Bora, we are going to be on you!”

“Enjoy your victory, because next time, I will crush you.”

Nash let out a hearty laugh. “Baby, I do love your optimism. I shall now direct your attention to the board.” He swept an arm dramatically to the blackboard behind the counter that kept tabs on their monthly bets. Red winced.

“I can still catch up,” Bibi muttered.

Ace shook his head. “Nooo, you cannot.”

With what sounded like a growl, Bib jabbed a finger toward the nearest chair. “Park it, pretty boy.”

“Yes, ma’am.” Ace quickly took a seat and grinned up at Nash. “Did you hear that? Your wife thinks I’m pretty.”

Nash pursed his lips in thought, then shook his head. “Nope. Lucky’s prettier.”

Red laughed at Ace’s scandalized expression and took a seat opposite Ace. It was always a battle of wits between these two, and a highly entertaining battle at that, especially since Nash usually ended up the winner. Red had to give it to Nash. Anyone who could beat Ace at his own game had major skills.

“What? Are you kidding me? I am way prettier.” Ace motioned to his face. “This here is irresistible.”

“And I’m sure when Colton says it, he means every word,” Nash said, laughing when Ace flipped him off.

They put in their order, and with a kiss to his wife’s cheek, Nash disappeared into the kitchen, whistling happily. Bibi brought them their usual drinks—a latte for Ace and a protein smoothie for Red.

Ace smiled brightly at her. “You are terrible at placing bets. You should really stay away from Vegas.”

“Shut it, mister.” She went off to check on the other customers in the café, leaving Ace to focus his attention on Red. His sudden innocent expression was fooling no one, least of all Red.

Author Bio:
Charlie Cochet is an author by day and artist by night. Always quick to succumb to the whispers of her wayward muse, no star is out of reach when following her passion. From adventurous agents and sexy shifters, to society gentlemen and hardboiled detectives, there’s bound to be plenty of mischief for her heroes to find themselves in, and plenty of romance, too!

Currently residing in Central Florida, Charlie is at the beck and call of a rascally Doxiepoo bent on world domination. When she isn’t writing, she can usually be found reading, drawing, or watching movies. She runs on coffee, thrives on music, and loves to hear from readers.


Love in Spades #1

Be Still My Heart #2

Release Blitz: In the Shadows by TL Travis

Title: In the Shadows
Author: TL Travis
Series: Social Sinners #2
Genre: M/M Romance
Release Date: August 17, 2018
For Ricky “Stoli” Branson, the stars were on his side. Social Sinners was headlining their first sold out US tour. Radio stations across the states were playing their songs, and he’d won the heart of the man he loved.

Everything was going great, or so he foolishly believed...

When an accident has them burying one of their own and leaves another fighting for his life, Stoli questions his beliefs. Or lack thereof.

“Have faith,” his mother tells him. But how can you have faith in something that threatens to take away your only reason for breathing?

Book 1 – Behind the lights (MM) is the only book in the series that can be read as a stand-alone.
Book 2 – In the shadows (MM)
Book 3 – A heart divided (MMM)
Book 4 – Beyond the curtain (MM)
Book 5 – After the final curtain (MM/MMM)

Author Bio:
TL Travis is the author of The Sebastian Chronicles along with numerous other erotic novelettes (and many more in the works), The Elders Trilogy - an erotic paranormal (Vampire) romance novel series and many non-fiction articles.

In her spare time she likes to fish, enjoy all the Pacific Northwest has to offer, spin spicy erotic webs for readers to enjoy, and rescue any 4 legged lost souls she comes across. Since her children are grown and have flown the coop, she’s taken to spoiling her two deaf white boxers even more so than they were before.

To view TL Travis literary and photography works please visit her website.


In the Shadows #2

Behind the Lights #1
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