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Tuesday, October 31, 2017

All in Fear: A Collection of Six Horror Tales

Title: All in Fear: A Collection of Six Horror Tales

ISBN (ebook): 978-0-9972311-1-3

Genre: Horror/Romance

Authors: Steve Berman, KJ Charles, Avon Gale, Roan Parrish, Kris Ripper, J.A. Rock

Original Release Date: 12/1/16

Available on: All Major Retailers

Order link, epub and mobi (publisher’s page): http://openinkpress.com/product/all-in-fear-a-queer-horror-anthology/

Order link, Amazon:


Sales Blitz Info: All in Fear will be on sale for 99 cents on all platforms from 10/25 - 10/31 to celebrate Halloween.
All in Fear: A Collection of Six Horror Tales

Horror wears many faces, and its masks can be tantalizing. Some of the top names in queer fiction come together to spin their own versions of horror. Worlds rife with dark beauty and mystery, the familiar becoming terrible, creatures ethereal and alluring—and all bearing the gleam of love. Does hope lie along these grim passages or only doom? It will become clear. All in time—and all in fear.

Company by Roan Parrish
Nick Levy’s family is falling apart and he has no friends, but at least he can escape into the world of his favorite comic book series, The Face of the Vampire. Naturally, when the vampire in question shows up one day, Nick is enthralled. After all, what could be better than his own personal fantasy made real? Except that Nick isn’t exactly sure whether Michel is real or not. And when the arrival of a new boy in school promises romance, Nick sees a side of Michel he never could have imagined. This Michel is cruel, jealous . . . and he’ll do anything to keep Nick for himself.

Love Me True by Kris Ripper
Palmer's life is as good as it gets. Well, okay, so he hates his mind-numbing office job. But he's found a hot, smart, incredibly kinky guy. The sex is explosive. The power play is off the hook. And if he gets his way, Jon will soon be his husband.

When Palmer asks, Jon says yes. For the first time ever, Palmer thinks things might be really good. Sure, bad things happen in the worldto other people. But this is all he needs: Jon at the end of the day, in their bed, arms around him.

How could he have possibly been so stupid?




The Price of Meat by KJ Charles
Johanna Oakley will do anything to save her beloved Arabella from the cruelty of Mr Fogg’s madhouse—but ‘anything’ turns out to be more than she bargained for when she finds herself working for a man suspected of worse than murder. As Johanna is plunged from the horror of Sawney Reynard’s barber shop into the foul, lawless labyrinth at the heart of London, can she or anyone get out alive?

His Mouth Will Taste of Chernobyl by Steve Berman
Joining Zeta Psi isn’t Steve’s dream, it’s his dad’s. Nevertheless his dad’s gift of the mysterious Bailey flask gets Steve an in to the frat house, and maybe his best shot at being accepted on campus. But the flask’s silver sheen may only be lighting his way into the darkness at the heart of the frat—and the darkness he’s learning is within himself. Steve wants to choose who he is, but choices are dropping like flies as he learns the true mystery of the Bailey flask. How does he give back a gift that’s also a curse?

Legion: A Love Story by Avon Gale
STAFF SERGEANT JASON ESSEX, YOU HAVE RECEIVED THE FOLLOWING ORDERS FROM THE UNITED STATES MARINE CORPS:

REPORT TO: CAIN INSTITUTE [ADDRESS REDACTED]

ACTIVE DUTY COMMITMENT: GUARD AN ENTITY CURRENTLY HELD IN AN ENCLOSURE AT THE CAIN INSTITUTE. RECORD DAILY MEASUREMENTS. KEEP ANY AND ALL PERSONS FROM ENTERING OR LEAVING THE FACILITY. ENSURE THE ENTITY REMAINS COMPLETELY INCARCERATED. OBSERVE THE ENTITY WITHOUT ENGAGING.

ADDITIONAL INSTRUCTIONS: THIS ASSIGNMENT WILL BE CARRIED OUT IN FULL ISOLATION. PLEASE BE ADVISED.

Beauties by J.A. Rock
When Dr. Lester Usole attends an event at AI developer Carnificiality, he’s introduced to Beauties: artificial beings designed to provide tailored sexual experiences for their human owners. Lester isn’t interested in sex—but he is fascinated by Ira, a Beauty too violent to be sold.

Lester convinces Carnificiality to give Ira to him. Lester has always wanted the chance to work with an adult AI, and around Lester, Ira isn’t violent. He’s strangely innocent, uncannily perceptive, and his company does much to ease Lester’s loneliness. Except something’s not quite right: Ira roams at night, even when Lester’s sure he’s locked Ira’s door.

Soon Lester is certain of only one thing: Ira has a secret. Something that will link their pasts and change the course of their future—if Lester is willing to face what’s on the inside.


Excerpts and Reviews:

Excerpt from Company by Roan Parrish:
  "Hello, Nicholas," he said. How the hell did he know my name? I ran through many possible responses and settled, naturally, on the worst one.
              "Did my mom send you after me?" I asked, like a total loser.
              Michel didn't respond, just cocked his head as if to say, "I am a beautiful and otherworldly creature. Where I come from there is no such thing as mothers."
              "Are you real?" I asked then, congratulating myself on a slightly more pressing and practical question.
              "Of course," he said.
              He was just how I’d imagined him: graceful, and beautiful, and so, so lonely. I realized that I had returned his handshake without thinking and was now just standing there, holding his hand and staring like an idiot. At this thought, Michel smiled kindly, and lifted my hand to his lips in a soft, gentlemanly kiss. I'm not proud of it, but it was my first kiss, and even though it was just on my hand, I felt it everywhere.

Reviewed by E.Lo the Book Ho

Ya know how we all say “Oh how I wish my favorite book boyfriend was real!”. Ya...nope, not dropping that phrase anymore. This short story kinda freaked me out to be honest.
After some life changes in young Nick’s life he finds himself obsessed with a vampire series that started as just watching the movie and then, not getting enough of it, he buys all the comic books and immerses himself in them. His favorite character, one that he kinda develops a crush on,  Michael is one day standing in front of him...or so it seems. He is visited quite often by the vampire, they seem to start off kinda sweet in a strange way then they turn a little creepy. Of course this seems like all part of a teenage imagination gone a little overboard until Nick finds himself in love with a boy in his class, then things getting a little freaky.

Has Nick lost his mind, or has he been getting the visits we have all wished for?

I give this book 3.5 freaked-the-hell-out stars.

Excerpt from Love Me True by Kris Ripper:
“Truth or dare, Palmer.” He lay back against the pillows of our bed, still idly playing with the band of his shorts.
“Does this game really work if we already know everything about each other?”
He grinned. “You think we know everything about each other?”
“Oh, come on.” I poked him in the chest. “Do you really have secrets from me, mister?”
“Maybe one or two things that haven’t exactly come up yet.” The grin turned into a smirk. “I don’t tell you everything I think about, Palmer. Aren’t secrets supposed to keep things interesting in a couple?”
I rolled my eyes. “I don’t think we need any help keeping things interesting. Plus, I want to know everything about you. Don’t you want to know everything about me?”
“Uh huh. I really do. So: truth or dare?”
“Truth.”
“Okay. How about . . . when did you know you were in love with me?”


Reviewed by Stephanie:
3*
This story was pretty intriguing. I'm not sure how I would feel if that big of a secret was kept from me, or how I wouldn't have figured it out. I think I'd feel like the world's biggest dumb-ass. I actually feel really bad for Palmer. He was legit in love and maybe that's what blinded him to everything?

That being said, one thing to watch out for is the overuse of the word "like". It was used so much it was actually distracting and took away from the story. I had to skip parts to get through all the "likes". It was too unbelievable, I don't think grown men would over phrase that word. 

Excerpt from The Price of Meat by KJ Charles:
The doctor grasped her arm. Johanna stamped on his instep with everything she had, wrenched her arm free, and fled out of the terrible room, running for the stairs. Reynard gave a roar that might have been amusement or rage, and at the cry his men rose from the shadows with leering grins and stretching arms. Two moved to the base of the stairs. Johanna changed direction and fled for the other door, driven by the instinct of the hunted fox to seek any hole, and this time, nobody got in her way. She pulled it open, hurtled in, batted aside something heavy and cold that swung from the ceiling—
One of dozens of things, hanging from great hooks, cold and pale and heavy in the dim light from the door, white bone-ends showing where the inedible parts had been trimmed off.  It was a meat store, full of carcasses. The one she’d shoved swung back at her and on its side, like a cattle brand, Johanna saw an anchor-shaped tattoo.
A shadow fell over her. Reynard, with ragged, grinning men at his side, loomed in the doorway.
“Not a bad idea, Miss Oakley. We leave meat here to tenderise, and this should soften you up nicely. A couple of hours should make you more obliging, don’t you think? I’ve got to gather the Freemen for a meeting, but I daresay we can let you out once I’m done, if you ask nice enough.”
He stepped back and shut the door. It slammed on her like the thud of a coffin lid; the bolt scraped on the outside; she was alone in the dark. She hammered on its unyielding surface with her fists, begging and weeping and screaming for release from this dreadful larder, while behind her the dead men creaked and swayed on their hooks, quietly, gently decaying in the dark.

Reviewed by: Stephanie GooglyeEyes


3.5*

This was a nice (I use that term VERY loosely) short story for the season of haunting.

A historical work of fiction that is based around Sweeney Todd and Fleet St.
Of course this occurs after the cannibalistic​ barber, as there is a play on the name.

There are also some added features such as the free, lawless land of Alstasia (thats not so free) and a scientist working on "special" surgeries.

The story starts at the Asylum for the Weak Minded which I believe is a front to the Freemen of Alstasia.

One brave woman decides she'll do anything to save her beloved who is locked up in the Asylum. She takes the word of a "deranged" boy to the magistrate and from here takes matters into her own hands by going undercover in the peculiar barbershop.

No, there's no meat pies sold on the streets like in Sweeney Todd. This particular case is to control the so-called Free men in Alastria.
You have the food, you have the power. Either you eat their meat or you risk trying to go back into normal society.

It's all very creepy and thrilling. A non-stop read if you can stomach it!
 
Excerpt from His Mouth Will Taste of Chernobyl by Steve Berman:
As I push open the trapdoor at the top of the ladder, a moist, thick heat trapped within the attic overruns me. The outside daylight seeps through the oddly peaked roof, enough that I can find the dangling cord of a single bare bulb. One pull and I see the attic is really an unfinished elevated crawl space. By the time I worm off the last rung and onto the floor beams, my face feels like a windshield in the rain.
  Carl climbs after me. The brothers ordered me to retrieve last year’s Halloween decorations, but Carl volunteered to help. I almost wish he hadn’t because there’s not enough room in the attic for the two of us to move about comfortably. He ends up on his hands and knees beside me.
The cardboard boxes I brush with one hand are mottled with mold and coated with dust. I reach blindly into one box and pull out a cheap plastic devil mask, the scarlet streaked with thick crud.
“I hate Halloween,” Carl says. His pained face is inches away from my shoulder. Dark crescents bloom under his neck, his armpits.
“No one hates Halloween. There’s all you can eat candy. Free candy.”
He shakes his head like a thick-coated dog after a bath and the sweat flies in droplets. “My folks celebrated the ‘harvest’—”
I hold the devil mask in front of my face. The bits of Carl I see through the cut-out eyes look miserable. “That sounds spookier—”
“It’s just pathetic.” Carl reaches out and lifts the mask off me. “I was . . . quieter before I came here.”

Reviewed by E.Lo the Book Ho

Steve, “Sippy”, is a pledge of the Zeta Psi fraternity at Tulane University in New Orleans. He is a mouthy little pledge that is only there to please his father.  Upon his high school graduation he is given a flask by his father. This is no ordinary flask, it never runs empty, it always has just what the person holding the flask wants, and it also has people wanting to be with Steve. It seems that the magic little flask has gotten him in a bit of trouble, and maybe even found him some happiness.
I really enjoyed this story. It had just the right amount of mystery, angst and even a little gore. But I really wish there was more!!! I need to know more about this magic flask, and I really need to know what’s in the damn elephant!!!!

I give this book 4.5 magic flask stars!

Excerpt from Legion: A Love Story by Avon Gale:
Personal Journal
Today I asked Cain if demons really did eat human souls. I expected him to tell me that wasn’t true (they don’t live in a lake of fire, either) but . . . well. Apparently that part of demon-lore is true.

 “When I’ve broken these bonds of magic and found those who summoned me, Jason, I’m going to feast on their souls so slowly they will die a thousand deaths before I swallow them.”

That probably should have put an end to my thoughts about getting him out of there, but honestly . . . could I really blame him? If I were kidnapped and put into a cage, experimented on and held against my will, I’d be pretty pissed and looking for revenge, too. Definitely.

“Do you need souls to survive? Like food?” I asked. Because there’s only one human here at the moment. Freeing Cain doesn’t mean I have to be his lunch. At least, I hope it doesn’t mean that.

Reviewed by Stephanie:
I'm not going to lie, I'm not exactly sure what I just read LOL. All I know is it was a mind fuck and kind of hot in a very morbid way. Thank you, Avon, for making something so wrong feel so right. And also for making me think differently about demons 😂

When you think of the word legion, you think of a large army or vast quantities of something. In this case, I think it means host. Or maybe the many forms Cain can take.

Going on this journey in Jason's POV (and not knowing what we're getting into) was very intense. I loved all the emails and recordings and the crazy nightmares, and the "erotic" ones as well. It was super intense.  Seeing that it is "A Love Story" really makes you wonder....was it? or was it mind manipulation? 

Excerpt from Beauties by J.A. Rock:
Lester turned in time to see Ira pinch each end of the worm and pull it in half.
“Ira! What are you doing?”
Ira held the two halves up, each one still wriggling. “I want to see what’s on the inside.”
“But that kills the worm. Don’t you know that?”
Ira frowned at the dark half. “It wipes the worm?”
A sharp pain pulsed behind Lester’s right temple. It’s just a worm. Just a worm. It was startling, to see something come apart like that, is all. “It kills the worm,” Lester repeated.
“It doesn’t,” Ira said steadily. “Both halves can live on and become new worms.” The halves curled around Ira’s thumbs in perfect synchronicity, as though Ira had commanded them. “I just wanted to see what was on the inside. Lester.”
Lester didn’t answer. He studied the dark red clots at each end of the severed worm, unable, for a moment, to move.
A pale mass trailing wires like jellyfish tentacles. Lips moving. No screams. The long, spindly appendages of a cancer cell. Shaking in a white hospital bed. Lips moving. Last words. You had to take things apart to make them whole. That was how ABs had been created—by dissecting the human body until it was nothing. By building its echo.
Ira tossed the worm halves aside. “They have nothing on the inside.”

Reviewed by: Stephanie GooglyEyes
4*

Well that ending is definitely NOT what I expected! 

This story is about a group of scientists that create infant artificial beings. They have an "elastic" brain that allows them to grow and shape themselves almost as a human baby brain would. Sometimes they send the brain off to another Dept to be put into a toddler body, so on and so forth. Other brains they take back to dissect to see how it's growing and all the new paths created, etc... 

The flip to this, the partners of the original creation broke off and one started Carnificiality, aimed towards personal pleasure. Mainly they create bots for different sexual experiences.
Well, they somehow ended up with a brain that was unlike any they had before. Whether they really knew where it came from, or if it was just information they didn't want to give out is unclear. But Lester can't seem to not be intrigued by this AB while on a tour of this particular lab, that he ends up buying Ian. 

Ian is kind of a mystery. You can't tell if he's lying, there's things that he says that are very familiar, and there's just something "off" about him. But like Les, you're just as curious and can't stop reading. 

We learn about this ever elusive "Aaron" and the mystery of the frog fountain. But it's also so much more. There's a LOT packed into this short story. The characters, the world, I all very well written. Once you start you're not going out want to stop.





About the Authors:

Steve Berman
Steve Berman loves to tell stories that are both queer and weird. He was a Zeta Psi back in his college days at and remembers being hazed. He survived and graduated and even earned a Masters Degree in Liberal Studies. He has written and sold over a hundred articles, essays, and short stories. His YA novel, Vintage, was a finalist for the Andre Norton Award.


KJ Charles
KJ Charles is a writer and freelance editor. She lives in London with her husband, two kids, and a cat with murder management issues. KJ writes mostly historical romance, mostly queer, often with fantasy or horror in there.

Find her on Twitter @kj_charles, pick up book info and free reads on her website at kjcharleswriter.com, get the infrequent newsletter at kjcharleswriter.com/newsletter, or join her Facebook group, KJ Charles Chat, for sneak peeks and exclusives.

Avon Gale
Avon Gale wrote her first story at the age of seven, about a “Space Hat” hanging on a rack and waiting for that special person to come along and purchase it — even if it was a bit weirder than the other, more normal hats. Like all of Avon’s characters, the space hat did get its happily ever after — though she’s pretty sure it was with a unicorn. She likes to think her vocabulary has improved since then, but the theme of quirky people waiting for their perfect match is still one of her favorites.

Avon grew up in the southern United States, and now lives with her very patient husband in a liberal midwestern college town. When she’s not writing, she’s either doing some kind of craft project that makes a huge mess, reading, watching horror movies, listening to music or yelling at her favorite hockey team to get it together, already. Avon is always up for a road trip, adores Kentucky bourbon, thinks nothing is as stress relieving as a good rock concert and will never say no to candy.

At one point, Avon was the mayor of both Jazzercise and Lollicup on Foursquare. This tells you basically all you need to know about her as a person.

Connect with Avon:
Twitter: @avongalewrites
Sign up for Avon’s Newsletter: http://eepurl.com/bOXXp9

Roan Parrish
Roan Parrish lives in Philadelphia where she is gradually attempting to write love stories in every genre.


When not writing, she can usually be found cutting her friends’ hair, meandering through whatever city she’s in while listening to torch songs and melodic death metal, or cooking overly elaborate meals. She loves bonfires, winter beaches, minor chord harmonies, and self-tattooing. One time she may or may not have baked a six-layer chocolate cake and then thrown it out the window in a fit of pique.


Sign up for her Newsletter to receive updates about new releases, works-in-progress, and bonus materials like sneak peeks and extra scenes! http://bit.ly/2xHGvBj
Twitter: @RoanParrish
Instagram: www.instagram.com/roanparrish

Kris Ripper
Kris Ripper lives in the great state of California and hails from the San Francisco Bay Area. Kris shares a converted garage with a little kid, can do two pull-ups in a row, and can write backwards. (No, really.) Kris is genderqueer and prefers the z-based pronouns because they’re freaking sweet. Ze has been writing fiction since ze learned how to write, and boring zir stuffed animals with stories long before that.

Links:
The site: 
krisripper.com
The Facebook group: Ripper's Irregulars: https://www.facebook.com/groups/405062456366636/
The Twitter: 
http://www.twitter.com/SmutTasticKris

J.A. Rock
J.A. Rock is the author or coauthor of over twenty LGBTQ romance, suspense, and horror novels, as well as an occasional contributor to HuffPo Queer Voices. J.A. has received Lambda Literary and INDIEFAB Award nominations for Minotaur, and The Subs Club received the 2016 National Leather Association-International Pauline Reage Novel Award. J.A. lives in Chicago with an extremely judgmental dog, Professor Anne Studebaker.


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Monday, October 30, 2017

COVER REVEAL & GIVEAWAY ~ Welcome Home Soldier by Deanna Wadsworth

Title: Welcome Home Soldier 
Author: Deanna Wadsworth
Genre: M/M Romance
Publisher: Dreamspinner
Release Date: December 2017 


Clay and Daniel fell in love as enlisted men during Desert Shield, but Don’t Ask Don’t Tell meant they had to keep it secret. After Clay’s convoy was ambushed, PTSD changed him, and their relationship ended in a horrible fight on Christmas Eve.
Twenty-five years later, they’ve reconnected on Facebook, and Clay finds out Daniel will be alone on Christmas Eve. Impulsively, he sets out for Daniel’s hometown of Gilead, Ohio—where Daniel is now the mayor—to surprise him with a visit. But a blizzard strikes and Clay wrecks his car. All hope of seeing Daniel is lost—until a mysterious old man named Nick offers Clay a ride. The weight of past wounds and the scars of war might make their reunion awkward, but Clay is willing to take the risk to win back his lost love. Despite a lifetime of disappointing holidays, Clay hopes that this soldier is finally coming home for Christmas.





“You sure we’re gonna fit over that bridge?” Clay asked when a rickety-looking bridge appeared up ahead on the edge of the headlights’ range. The one-lane bridge didn’t look wide enough to fit the big vehicle.
“Oh, I can make it,” Nick assured him.
A soldier’s sixth sense kept him alive, and it was a trait very few lost. Though Clay trusted Nick knew what he was doing—he was probably a local—Clay held his breath as they squeezed over the old structure, the curved metal support less than a hand’s width away from Clay’s door.
“Told ya we would make it,” Nick said merrily as they bounced around a bit when the truck was back on the road.
“I can’t believe your boss has you delivering packages this late on Christmas Eve.”
“I work for a real stickler,” Nick said, chuckling. “Gotta make sure that everyone in Gilead gets their Christmas present.”
“You with the post office?” He’d been so anxious to get out of the weather that he hadn’t noticed any badging on the vehicle.
Nick chuckled again. “Something like that. I always spend Christmas Eve delivering packages. It’s what it’s all about, isn’t it? Giving everyone their Christmas miracle?”
“I could use a Christmas miracle.”
“Not dying on the side of the road is pretty miraculous.”
After a begrudging nod, Clay let his vision get lost in the warp speed. “Yeah, I guess so.”
Today would be one of his better Christmases. At least Clay wasn’t dead and he would get to see Daniel again.
With his track record, Clay should hate the holidays, but he just couldn’t bring himself to. Christmas was a joyful time of year, one of hope and miracles. Of course, wanting a perfect holiday and having it always fall short used to throw Clay into a tailspin of depression, drugs, and drinking. It was still the hardest day of his sobriety. Last year he did all right, however. He saw three movies on Christmas Day, one was a good, one was lousy, and he fell asleep during the third. The only places usually open were movie theaters and bars, and Clay had no business in a bar. No sense tempting Fate.
The soft refrains of “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” filled the cab.
A sudden, sickening sense of dread filled his chest.
Did he think Daniel would be thrilled to see him after the way Clay ended things? What if Daniel rejected him?
Then what?
He had no car, no phone. He glanced at Nick, humming along to the radio. Maybe he would let Clay ride along on his deliveries… and suddenly Clay was that scared little boy in the church again. Not knowing where he would stay for the night, abandoned and alone. The memory hit him hard, stealing his breath.
The Christmas lights blinked from the greenery on the pew in front of me. Maybe Mama will get us a tree so Santa can find me this year. Laughter caught my ear, and I turned. The family behind us was leaving. I looked around.
Everyone was leaving.
My tummy began to hurt. Mama said she was going potty, but she’s been gone a long time.
Where is she?
“You all right?” Nick asked.
“Yeah, yeah, I’m fine.” Clay blinked hard and rubbed his chest, forcing the old memory back into the box where he locked away things he couldn’t face.
With a bitter sniff, he realized that box had been too damn full for too damn long.
Staring out into the snow steadied his racing heart. He wasn’t that frightened kid anymore, hadn’t been for a long time.
The song on the radio repeated the refrain about being home, taunting Clay with promises of mistletoe and presents under the tree. And where the lovelight gleams?
Whatever that meant.
“There’s the mayor’s place,” Nick announced. “You ready, Clay?”
He shot the man a look, startled by the serious note in his voice.
Didn’t have a choice at this point. “Yeah, sure,” Clay managed as Nick turned into a plowed driveway lined by snow-covered trees that faded into the blowing white.
I could wander off into the night and freeze to death.
“It’s going to be just fine,” Nick assured him.
Clay flinched once more.
Nick wore the expression of someone who knew more than they should or perhaps had seen more than they wished. Or maybe Clay was imagining this entire thing and he was actually dead on the side of the road. He’d learned long ago the mind could create some powerful illusions.
At the end of the driveway, a gleaming light filled the white expanse, a golden beacon of home to match the song still playing. Clay didn’t know what he expected Daniel’s house to look like, but he should’ve known it would be a log cabin A-frame with a big deck drenched in snow. Daniel always dreamed of building a log cabin.
Looks like he got his wish.
Clay’s heart skipped as the song continued to play, and for an instant, Clay felt like a soldier coming home for Christmas after a long and weary tour.
If only in your dreams, Fisher.
“This is where you get off, soldier,” Nick announced.
Clearing his throat when the truck stopped, he offered, “Listen, Nick, I don’t know how to repay—”
Nick raised a hand. “No need. Just go in and make up with your friend.”
Clay studied the cabin, hunkered in between tall pines on one side and a barn on the other, bundled up against the elements. Smoke spiraled from the stone chimney, quickly captured in the storm and whisked away. Golden light spilled from the large windows and onto the white snow. Even through the storm, Clay could make out the colorful twinkling of a Christmas tree inside.
I don’t know if I can do this.
He looked at Nick. “Are you sure you shouldn’t come in? I don’t think Daniel would mind. The roads are getting dangerous.” It was ballsy to invite a stranger into Daniel’s house, but basic human decency wouldn’t allow Nick to go back out into the storm, right?
“No, no,” Nick assured him. “I’ve done this a time or two. I got it all under control.”
Clay nodded but didn’t move.
“Go on,” Nick encouraged. “I have more gifts to deliver tonight than just you.”
Chest aching, Clay let out a weary sigh and zipped his jacket. Then he shook Nick’s hand, engulfing it in both of his own. “Thank you again. And please be safe out there.”
Nick gave a rumbling, deep-belly laugh. “Oh, ho-ho! I’ll be fine. Don’t you worry.”
Hesitating for another moment, Clay said farewell, then climbed from the truck and shut the door. He waved goodbye and hunched into the weather. Leaving fresh tracks, he hurried toward Daniel’s porch. The wind swallowed the sounds of the truck engine, and when he glanced over his shoulder, Nick had already disappeared into the storm.
Godspeed, friend, he thought, grateful for his guardian angel tonight.
He hoped that same good fortune would stay with Nick on his route.
Clay stared at the ominous green door—Daniel’s favorite color. With a fortifying breath, he pushed the doorbell. When he didn’t hear anything, he knocked on the door with a fist. On the other side, a dog barked.
His heart gave a pang at the sound. His white German Shepard Lola had died too young, only seven. Damn, I miss her.
Clay raised his hand to knock again, but the rumble of a man’s voice followed by the switch of a deadbolt stopped him. His heart skipped. This is it.
The door opened.
“Clay?” Hazel eyes met Clay’s, wide with shock.
At least he recognizes me. That’s a start. Shoving his hands into his jacket pockets, Clay offered, “Merry Christmas, Daniel.”



Deanna Wadsworth might be a bestselling erotica author, but she leads a pretty vanilla life in Ohio with her wonderful husband and a couple adorable cocker spaniels. She has been spinning tales and penning stories since childhood, and her first erotic novella was published in 2010. She has served multiple board positions at her local RWA chapter and is the current President 2017 for Rainbow Romance Writers of America. When she isn’t writing books or brainstorming with friends, you can find her making people gorgeous in a beauty salon. She loves music and dancing, and can often be seen hanging out on the sandbar in the muddy Maumee River or chilling with her hubby and a cocktail in their basement bar. In between all that fun, Deanna cherishes the quiet times when she can let her wildly active imagination have the full run of her mind. Her fascination with people and the interworkings of their relationships have always inspired her to write romance with spice and love without boundaries.





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