The Legends of Ansu (Book 9)
July 16, 2020
Jaran Saerk is an exile from the North, driven out of his homeland by a
sorceress who killed his family. Now serving as a warrior in the armies of
the Imperial Shen, he’s never forgotten his vow to avenge his family and take back what is rightfully his.
Recently captured, Savarna hides a dark secret and doesn’t plan on staying a slave for long. Once she’s escaped, she’ll slip inside the Golden Palace and kill the Empress of Shen. When she meets the exiled warrior from the North, she finally may have her chance.
Finvar the Droll is a retired thief who insists he can help Jaran in his revenge against the witch. But whose side is he really on?
With enemies surrounding them on all sides, the trio must unite to stay alive in a realm trapped between war and sorcery, and to take down the witch Sheega before she destroys them all.
A huge figure knelt by a roaring blaze. A shaggy haired man he appeared,
with corded muscle and barrel-chest. He wore a kilt, but no cloak to cover his naked torso. Like Jaran, the stranger bore many scars on that flesh. And on closer inspection, he saw the man had only one arm. A distant memory flickered through him. And a name.
The one-armed warrior. A god of the north. Jaran knew the god was testing him. Despite his fear he stepped out, approached the crouched figure, who
looked up casually as he walked close.
“Your friends worry that you’ve left them, Jaran Saerk.” The voice was a gravel-scrape and thunder boom, those eyes glints of blazing sliver fire, the moonlight trapped inside.
“I needed time alone.” Jaran shoulder-tossed the elk in front of the god as a gift. He heard it boded ill, meeting Tyho the War God alone in the wild. “Time to think.”
“A gift for a gift.” Tyho rose to his feet, standing massive before Jaran. He reached behind his back and produced a huge long-hafted axe. “Your enemies are closing. You will need Griner to kill them.”
Jaran felt uneasy. Why would Tyho want to help him? And what would he ask for in return? Despite his misgivings, he gripped the weapon and thanked the god. Tyho pinned him with that terrible gaze. “Use it well. Griner belonged to Borian once, before that deity perished in the timeless wars. It serves you now—in the new struggle.”
“You mean against the witch, Sheega?” Jaran hefted the axe. It was heavy, the intricate rune markings glinted on its beard. He sensed power in the weapon. Felt strength flowing into his arms. Strength and something else. A slow burning rage. “I will avenge my father,” he told the god.
“You had best go back,” Tyho said, his silver eyes blazing.
“Your little camp is under attack.”
J. W. Webb is an English writer living in Georgia. Mostly he writes fantasy, though sometimes diverts in even stranger directions. His epic saga, The Legends of Ansu, blends the mystic grandeur of J.R.R. Tolkien with the gritty realism of George R.R. Martin. Webb’s characters are three
dimensional and flawed, their world a tapestry of vivid color and constant
motion. All the books feature beautiful sketches by the late Tolkien illustrator, Roger Garland. When he’s not writing, he spends his time in the garden or attending to the demands of his cat-overlords and dog companions.
Title: The Scholar’s Heart
Series: Chronicles of Tournai, Book Three
Author: Antonia Aquilante
Release Date: July 13, 2020
Heat Level: 3 – Some Sex
Genre: Paranormal Fantasy, LGBTQIA+, Romance, fantasy, family-drama, suspense, gay, bi, court intrigue, kidnapping, abduction of a baby, friends to lovers, hurt/comfort, magic users, cat shifters
Though he is the youngest son of a royal duke, Etan is a scholar at heart, happiest in a library surrounded by his books. He contentedly juggles his work for the prince’s government with his studies of the history and legends of Tournai, a subject of particular interest to him because he shares the secret magical Talent that runs in the royal bloodline. However, Etan’s peaceful world turns upside down when his best friend—the man he secretly loves—unexpectedly marries someone else.
Tristan is the oldest son of a wealthy merchant, raised to shoulder responsibility for the family business one day. That day comes far sooner than anticipated, and he makes a deathbed promise to his father to marry the woman his father chose and become head of the company and family. Tristan values his friendship with Etan and has always been attracted to him, but he can’t forsake his duty to his father, even if it means giving up the possibility of having Etan as a lover.
A year later, Tristan is a widower with an infant daughter and a mother who demands he marry again quickly—something Tristan resists. Circumstances throw Etan and Tristan together again, but even as they succumb to the desires they’ve always harbored, Etan battles his feelings, wary of being cast aside once more. When the unimaginable happens, Etan and Tristan must come together and support each other through the ordeal…and maybe beyond.
The Scholar’s Heart
Antonia Aquilante © 2020
All Rights Reserved
One year earlier
“There you are!”
Tristan’s musical voice made the simple sentence something special, or perhaps Etan’s feelings made it seem so. Etan smiled as he looked up from his book, a glow of warmth and welcome lighting him up inside.
Tristan strode into the small room Etan had claimed for his own in the palace’s labyrinthine library. He had a desk in the university library as well, but these days, out of necessity and preference both, he conducted most of his work in this cozy little room. Obscure history books filled the shelves lining the walls. The table in the center of the room held Etan’s notes on his studies and projects, all neatly organized so he could find anything he wanted quickly. But this morning he slouched on the comfortable couch instead, book propped in his lap.
He sat there, book forgotten as he watched Tristan, the morning sun streaming in through the window and glinting off Tristan’s bright gold hair. Tristan seemed to bring the sunshine into the room with him, brightening what had been an ordinary morning until that moment.
“Good morning, Tristan.”
“Good morning to you.” Tristan sent a flirtatious smile in his direction and skirted the table, coming closer.
“It’s good to see you.” He probably sounded ridiculous, but he hadn’t seen Tristan in a few days and, well, he’d missed him.
Tristan’s smile warmed, turning a bit softer. “You too.”
Etan frowned as Tristan flopped on the couch at Etan’s side. Not at the action, but at the look in Tristan’s eyes. The brilliant blue seemed shadowed somehow. “Everything all right?”
“Fine. Why do you ask?”
“No reason. You just seem a little…” Etan shrugged. He couldn’t quite put a word to it, and he couldn’t very well say he didn’t think Tristan’s eyes sparkled as much as they usually did. “Troubled, maybe.”
Tristan was quiet for a moment and then scooted closer and rested his head on Etan’s shoulder. “I’m fine. A little tired. What are you up to?”
“Doing some reading.”
“For work or pleasure?”
Etan suppressed a shiver at the way Tristan’s voice shaped the word pleasure. Certainly, it had to be unconscious on Tristan’s part, but it put ideas into Etan’s head he didn’t want there, not yet, not when he and Tristan hadn’t spoken of feelings between them beyond friendship. But he could see those feelings were there. Perhaps he should just come right out and kiss Tristan. Tristan seemed to be over what feelings he’d had for Amory, Tristan’s lifelong friend who was now married to Etan’s cousin. Etan didn’t see any of the emotion or longing he used to in the glances Tristan sent Amory’s way. Maybe Etan had waited long enough.
He’d certainly paused long enough before answering. “A bit of both. Want me to read to you?”
He’d read to Tristan before, many times, sometimes with Tristan sitting as he was now, snuggled up against Etan’s side, sometimes with Tristan lying with his head in Etan’s lap. Tristan seemed to like when Etan read to him, seemed to enjoy the legends and histories Etan habitually occupied himself with, seemed to even enjoy when Etan forgot himself and ran his fingers through Tristan’s soft hair as he read. Etan hadn’t read to anyone before except for his youngest sister, Meriall, but reading to Tristan was a far different experience from reading bedtime stories. He liked it, liked having Tristan close and hearing Tristan’s comments and reactions.
“I’m not sure I can sit still today. I’m sorry.”
“It’s all right.” He’d realized early on in their friendship Tristan was an athletic person who enjoyed being active and outdoors. Etan came to treasure the moments of stillness and quiet, when he saw Tristan’s intellectual side and his softer side in equal measure, but he enjoyed sharing the other more active times with Tristan too. Tristan always made the rides through the countryside and the hikes along the cliffs and the rambles over the beach fun. “What would you like to do?”
“Will you go for a ride with me?”
He thought briefly of the work awaiting him in the office he shared with Cathal, of his plans to spend the morning with his books and his studies before he returned to that work. And tossed it all aside with one glance into Tristan’s eyes. As he always did. His books would still be there when he returned to them later.
And he wasn’t convinced Tristan really was all right.
“Of course. Shall we go now?”
When Tristan agreed, Etan set his book aside and tidied away a few papers. On the way to the stables, they stopped in Etan’s suite so he could change into riding boots, but they didn’t dally otherwise. Stable hands saddled their horses quickly, and they mounted up. They rode together out of the palace gates and through the city, an easy conversation flowing between them. Once they left the city, Etan let Tristan lead. When Tristan took the road leading out to the cliffs, Etan knew his suspicions about Tristan’s state of mind were correct. Tristan seemed to prefer a gallop along the cliffs when he felt he needed to escape something, some pressure in his life. He talked to Etan about it sometimes, at least a little, but only after the ride.
As Etan expected, Tristan veered off the road as they neared the cliffs. The path he chose wound through some trees until it ended in the meadows overlooking the sea. Once they were through the trees, the view opened up before them, with fields dotted with wildflowers and a rocky precipice tumbling down to the vivid blue of the sea. The area was one of Etan’s favorites. He’d rather walk along the cliffs or picnic at the top so he could better appreciate the view, but riding was exhilarating too. Well, any ride with Tristan was. Tristan was a skilled and fearless horseman, who ended each ride flushed and smiling. Etan always wanted to grab him close and kiss him when he saw Tristan that way, to see if he could make Tristan breathless for another reason entirely.
Maybe today he would.
He put the thought out of his head as best he could for the moment as Tristan urged his horse into a gallop and took off parallel to the cliff edge. Etan hurried to follow. If he thought about it too much, he risked falling off his horse, which would certainly end any chance of kissing Tristan today.
Instead he concentrated his thoughts outward to the sea- and flower-scented wind blowing in his face, to the sunlight warming his skin. The day was perfect for spring, a little cool early in the morning but pleasant as the sun climbed. The sky was clear, the sea calm. There would be fishermen out in their boats, working to bring in the day’s catch. But they weren’t close; no one was close enough to intrude on his solitude with Tristan.
He watched Tristan, slightly ahead of him. Tristan really did ride well, better than Etan did, but then Tristan had probably spent most of his childhood trying to get on a horse while Etan had spent his sneaking off to the library. Or using his Talent to change himself into a cat and climbing trees. But, most often, the library. And given where Tristan had found him this morning, not much had changed. But he did come out when Tristan asked. Unlike when he was a child and his brothers would come and pounce on him and drag him from the room.
If Tristan wanted to pounce on him, it would be another story entirely.
After a while, Tristan began to slow his horse, and Etan followed. Upon reaching the point, they paused to take in the view and then turned back for home, riding side by side at a much more leisurely pace. Etan expected Tristan to be more relaxed, even laughing, after the long gallop as he so often was, but if anything, he seemed more pensive.
Etan let Tristan have his silence, even though it pained him to do so. He wanted to help, to make whatever it was right again. Tristan had cheered him up often enough, and they’d bolstered each other’s strength through bad times. But Tristan had to speak in his own time, and he’d never actually ask for help even when he did.
Tristan didn’t speak until they were almost all the way back to Jumelle. “My father wants me to marry.”
Etan’s brain stuttered. He had to have heard wrong. He whipped around to look at Tristan, but Tristan was still staring straight ahead. “What? Did you say he wants you to marry?”
“He’s dying, Etan,” Tristan said in a small, quiet voice that made Etan hurt.
“Tristan. I’m so sorry.”
“Thank you.” Tristan glanced up at the sky for a moment, and Etan gave him his privacy to pull himself together, or what passed for privacy when they were riding side by side. “He wants me settled, since I’m to run the business when he’s gone. He wants the business settled too.”
Tristan’s family business was the largest shipping concern in Tournai, and as Tournai was a country rich in trade, owing in part to a quirk of geography, the business was a prosperous one. Etan could understand somewhat Tristan’s father wanting him to be settled down if he was to be both the head of the business and the head of the family. Old-fashioned, perhaps, but there was probably some real concern for Tristan in his father’s desire too.
Etan worked himself up to suggest perhaps the two of them could wed. Not right away, but they could make an agreement and use a betrothal period to see if they would suit. Etan believed they would, but he was already thinking of ways to convince Tristan and Tristan’s father, if necessary. Etan’s own father would be difficult, he was sure—as a duke, his father would want Etan to make a more advantageous marriage to a lady of noble birth—but he could deal with Father later.
But all those thoughts—all the hope that came with them—screeched to a halt when Tristan spoke. “I’m to marry a daughter of a friend of Father’s, Dariela. They think it will be good for the business.”
“You already know—you’re marrying a woman? That woman?”
Etan had no idea who she was—she might be a perfectly lovely person—but he couldn’t understand Tristan marrying her, or marrying any woman. Tristan preferred men, the same as Etan did. Etan had hoped Tristan might just plain prefer him.
“Father thinks it’s best. For the family and the business.”
“Yes, but—what about you? What do you think?”
Tristan shrugged. “I must live up to my responsibilities to the family and the business. I have to run everything as Father would want. He shouldn’t be dying so young.”
“I know he shouldn’t. It’s awful.” Etan scrubbed a hand over his face. “He’s been to see the healers? I’m sure Jadis would see him if I asked.”
“He has, and Amory already had Jadis examine him. This illness has gone on too long undetected and untreated. His heart is too weak now.”
“I am so very sorry, Tristan.” He wanted to pull Tristan into a hug, to hold him and try to bear some of the pain and grief for him, but they were on horses. And Tristan was about to marry someone else. “Are you sure about this marriage though?”
“I don’t see a reason not to marry her. Do you?”
The statement was a stab of pain to his gut. He had to bite back a gasp, it seemed so real, so physical. He managed to murmur something that might have been an agreement, because what else could he do? If Tristan didn’t see a reason not to marry this woman, Etan could hardly give him one.
By the time Etan arrived back at the palace, he felt as if a yawning, empty hole had opened inside him. His head was buzzing, and he couldn’t seem to think quite straight. His feet carried him to his office. But when he walked into the empty room, he just dropped down into his chair and stared at the polished top of his desk, clean of papers since he’d tidied up yesterday.
Tristan was getting married.
He and Tristan would never be anything other than friends, and Tristan obviously wanted it so, was fine with it. Perhaps Etan had been wrong about Tristan’s feelings all this time.
Etan looked up, but it took him a moment to understand what he was seeing. He hadn’t even heard the door open. “Cathal.”
Panic, an emotion he seldom saw in his stoic older brother, flooded Cathal’s face. “What is it? What’s happened?”
“Tristan is marrying.” Pain spasmed through him as he said the words, but he had to say them, had to get used to hearing them. Tristan was marrying, and all chance Etan might have had with him was gone.
Meet the Author
Antonia Aquilante has been making up stories for as long as she can remember, and at the age of twelve, decided she would be a writer when she grew up. After many years and a few career detours, she has returned to that original plan. Her stories have changed over the years, but one thing has remained consistent—they all end in happily ever after.
She has a fondness for travel (and a long list of places she wants to visit and revisit), taking photos, family history, fabulous shoes, baking treats (which she shares with friends and family), and of course, reading. She usually has at least two books started at once and never goes anywhere without her Kindle. Though she is a convert to e-books, she still loves paper books the best, and there are a couple thousand of them residing in her home with her.
Born and raised in New Jersey, Antonia is living there again after years in Washington, DC and North Carolina for school and work. She enjoys being back in the Garden State but admits to being tempted every so often to run away from home and live in Italy.
Genres: Fantasy, Paranormal, Young Adult
TWILIGHT meets GAME OF THRONES
There is no rest for Reina Caraway. After a new foe arrives in Le Couvènte, he wipes the young Queen’s memory and transports her to Germany where she lands right in the middle of an ages-old clan war.
Between advanced training of her creator abilities, Council meetings, typical territorial disputes, and wedding planning, Reina is looking forward to rest. Rest that won’t come.
When a mysterious stranger arrives in Le Couvènte and succeeds in erasing Reina’s memory, he abducts her to Germany, landing her right in the middle of three powerful vampire clans. With flashbacks haunting her, Reina longs for something familiar even if it leads her to a dark, roguish vampire intent on seducing her.
Desperate to find his Queen and sister, Heath goes undercover as a spy for the conniving, Calabria, leader of the second most powerful clan with eyes on the highest clan throne. Meanwhile, Reina attracts the attention of the top clan leader, Marius, who is determined to claim her and her blood. But warring clans are the least of her concerns compared to a demonic vampire hellbent on devouring the creator Queen and her infinite powers.
Queen Reina’s trials take a dark and deadly turn in Requiem, the third installment in the Roseblood Series. After her downfall, will she rise from the ashes?
I froze. Roark took deep breaths, forcing himself to calm down until the bloodthirst in his eyes dissipated. Then, he inched toward me slowly. “I get it now. Marius sensed what I couldn’t. Why anyone would give up their throne for just one taste of your blood. Why you have more seekers than any other girl in Europe.”
“What?” I held my breath as he closed the distance between us, his dark shadow impaling my body.
“You’re a fucking symphony. You taste like four seasons. Like Aphrodite herself. You’re a goddess. A siren. There’s immortality in your blood. Do you understand what I’m saying?”
I thought back to that day in Kenneth’s manor. The invisible power I’d wielded.
“You’re human and beyond human,” responded Roark, cupping my cheeks, eyes shifting between each of mine.
I pressed my hips to his while leaning my chest away. Something was rearing. Combusting inside me. Aiming for my hand. Before Roark could lean in to kiss me, I raised my hand, retorting, “Beyond human…like this?” I opened my palm to reveal a fireball. Like a flaming white diamond the size of a golf ball. Even as I exhaled, Roark joined his hand with mine, extinguishing the fire right before he pressed his lips to mine, driving all other thoughts from my mind.
Emily Shore is a MN author with a B.A. in Creative Writing from Metro State University and was a grand prize winner of #PitchtoPublication, which led her to working with professionals in the publishing industry. She is signed with Clean Teen Publishing for her anti-trafficking dystopian The Uncaged Series – #1: The Aviary. For every sale, proceeds return to trafficking rescue. She writes in multiple book genres and ultimately strives for strong, female characters.
Over the years, Emily has connected with rescue organizations and trafficking survivors and injects the truths she’s learned into her books. She is a trained awareness speaker and loves speaking on sexual violence and always hopes for more speaking events in schools, churches, and libraries. Please contact her on her website if you are interested in hearing her speak – http://www.emilybethshore.com – and to sign up for her newsletter!
Emily lives in Saint Paul with her husband and two daughters. Emily is pursuing grad school for domestic abuse advocacy.
a Rafflecopter giveaway
Null and Void
(Royal States #2)
Publication date: November 15th 2017
Genres: Adult, Urban Fantasy
Born without magic, Mackenzie Little has few prospects. In a futile attempt to break her out of the null caste, her mother ropes her into participating in a charity auction, where anything can be bought with enough money.
She never expected her ex-boss would buy her company, but for one day, she lives a fairy tale.
Nine months later, despite their precautions, Mackenzie’s little miracle is born.
Armed with Texas pride and New York viciousness, Mackenzie must fight through hell or high water to protect her family of two from a society obsessed with the magic they lack.
If I adhered to popular belief, every living thing possessed a spark of magic. The trick was discovering that spark and coaxing it to life.
I wanted to find the bastard responsible for propagating that load of drivel and knee him in the groin so hard his descendants felt it while his ancestors rolled in their graves. Giving nulls like me false hope only made life more difficult. Without magic to ease the way, I needed pointless, wishful thinking like I needed an extra hole in my head.
The extra hole would put me out of my misery, and some days, the thought of escaping the incessant prejudice appealed. I always came back to my senses, and when I did, I became even more bitter about my lot in life.
If I had possessed a spark of magic, I would’ve used it to light a fire under my boss’s ass so he’d get back to work instead of hovering over my shoulder watching me plug numbers into a spreadsheet. What use was magic if I couldn’t do something productive with it? I’d already lost three hours of my day to someone else’s accounting error, and no magic on Earth could tap into a computer and force it to spill its secrets.
Magic could work with technology, but for whatever reason I couldn’t fathom, no one had figured out how to use magic to populate spreadsheets. Sitting straighter, I kept my gaze locked on my monitor to maintain the illusion of productivity. “Can I help you with something, sir?”
“I couldn’t help but notice you’re doing Abigail’s job, Mackenzie Little.”
I twitched at the mention of the woman, who often served as my supervisor when my boss, one Dylan Mason, didn’t feel like dealing with me. I really wanted to know why he always insisted on calling me by my full name. One day, when I tired of having a job, I’d tell him exactly what I thought of him and his obnoxious ways. I’d also give him an earful about the failings of his precious executive secretary.
I kept working and forced a smile. “She asked for help with a report as she has a very busy day today.”
Liar, liar, pants on fire. By help, I meant fix. By asked, I meant demanded. Abigail thanked no one, especially not a worthless null like me, even when I busted my ass making sure she didn’t lose her job. If I had had a single spark of magic, I would’ve started fires to watch them burn.
Most people didn’t want fire as their element; firebugs were as common as dirt, ranked low on the talent totem, and had a reputation of being dangerous without true benefit.
If it meant being something other than a null, I would’ve embraced even the weakest flame.
To cover my growing agitation over my lot in life, I hunted for the nefarious errors in Abigail’s formulas, making my boss cool his heels.
His impatient sigh pleased me.
“I see,” he muttered, hovering over my shoulder and watching me do his secretary’s work.
If I had possessed the power, I would’ve considered damning Dylan to the darkest corner of hell I could find. Ignoring his presence tested my patience, but unlike him, I showed no sign of my annoyance.
Within a few minutes, I found the problem: Abigail liked taking shortcuts and often forgot—or refused—to double-check her work. One corrected formula later, I emailed her the report.
I returned to the daily grind, checking the output of scripts for the marketing department so they could build the reports people like Dylan would use to make deals with other companies—or swindle clients out of their money. My boss continued to hover, leaning forward until I caught glimpses of him out of the corner of my eye.
Were all men such children? Why did such a handsome man have to be so insufferable?
For the sake of my peace of mind, it was a good thing Dylan irritated me so much, else I’d spend every night fantasizing about stripping him out of his shirt.
Susan Copperfield is the royal romance, urban fantasy loving alter ego of award-winning & USA Today bestselling novelist RJ Blain.
Under the super not-so-secret identity of Susan, the Royal States of America is explored, where the work of sixteen founding royal families preserved the United States from destruction and civil war when magic swept over the world.
In the Royal States, life, love, and magic always finds a way.
a Rafflecopter giveaway
Publisher: Boom Factory Publishing LLC
Release Date: July 13, 2020
making a name for herself as one of the top psychologists in the state of Louisiana. Years ago, she swore off men after receiving devastating news, news that proved her fiancé didn’t care about the rule “in sickness and in health.” It also proved he didn’t really care about her.
dreams could have conjured up.
editor. When her kids started school, and with the encouragement from her many
author friends, she finally sat down and started working on her first series, The Blogger Diaries, her own real-life romance. She’s now published more than fifteen stories in many different genres of romance.
With over five years in the industry, and millions of books sold worldwide, we know what it takes to become a successful author and we will use this knowledge to take
our authors to the next level.
“As a successful hybrid author in this ever
evolving industry, I know that you’re only as successful as the team that is promoting you!” – Aurora Rose Reynolds
Publisher: Evernight Publishing
❝Dreamland is a unique story that keeps you glued to the pages as a rock star learns to cope with his demons of his past and present.❞ – Beyond the Covers Blog
Title: Sweet Revenge
Author: Tilly Keyes
Release Date: July 13, 2020
Heat Level: 3 – Some Sex
Genre: Contemporary, LGBTQIA+, Revenge, friends to lovers, pastry chef, slow burn
Riley’s not the scared, weak boy of years ago.
Strong, handsome, wealthy, and successful, he should be happy, but he’s not. He’s still tormented by the memory of the bullies of his school years, the cruelty he was subjected to. There’s only one way to silence those reverberating memories, and that’s revenge.
But while seeking it, he finds peace in the small village where he befriends Zac, the cake maker. Zac’s the first friend Riley’s had in decades, boyish and fun and, without a doubt, sweet. Feelings grow toward the cake maker, but his need for revenge still hovers in his mind.
When he discovers Zac secret, he wonders if revenge is really worth it with Zac in the crossfire.
Tilly Keyes © 2020
All Rights Reserved
Riley stared at the different bouquets of flowers, then groaned and rubbed his temple. Choosing flowers wasn’t supposed to be torturous. He reached for a bunch of yellow roses and stared at them long and hard. Roses were far too romantic, and it certainly wasn’t meant as a romantic gesture. He put them back and grabbed a bunch of white lilies while nodding. They looked nice, a bit droopy, a bit torn, but it was the thought that counted.
“Are you confessing your undying love or going to a funeral?”
Riley paused and turned to the woman beside him. The old lady clutched a woven bag to her chest and stared him down with her beady eyes. Her lips were framed by a mosaic of wrinkles, and she trembled slightly as she waited for a response.
She hummed, stepping closer. Her hand closed around the lily stalks, and she pulled them from Riley’s hand. He wasn’t anticipating the strength and speed and was left clutching the air.
“Lilies are what I expect to have at my grave,” she said, slotting them back in the flower stand.
Riley frowned. “That’s…that’s nice to know.”
“And roses are romantic, haven’t received roses in years. If it’s not meant as love, or condolence, what are you buying flowers for?”
“To say sorry, sorry for being a rubbish brother, and an even worse uncle.”
“Ah, well, there’s no tags on the flowers that say those exact words. Boy or girl?”
Riley looked down at himself, then back up at her. The woman rolled her eyes. “I didn’t mean you, did I?”
“No, of course not,” Riley said, scrunched his brow. “Girl, my niece. I’ve got a niece.”
“May I make a suggestion?”
“I’m sure you’re going to whether I say yes or no.”
The woman laughed, and her thin lips stretched in a smile. “Ditch the flower idea, alcohol is far better.”
“Alcohol?” Riley smirked.
“A bottle of whiskey, that was my favourite.”
Riley lifted his eyebrow. “Whiskey?”
She jabbed his bicep with her bony finger. “Don’t think I can’t drink you under the table.”
Riley rubbed his arm. “I 100 percent believe you could.”
“Good, now get to it.”
Her gaze followed him as he walked towards the cashier.
It was only a small village shop, and they kept all the alcohol behind the counter along with the medicines and cigarettes. Riley flicked his chin out at the man serving.
“What rose do you have?”
“We only have one, and it’s £3.99.”
Riley smiled tightly, nodding. “Guess that’ll do, then, can I have a box of those beers too?”
He didn’t particularly like Emily’s husband, but he couldn’t turn up without something for him too.
He paid and strolled out the shop, but a familiar croaking voice made him stop. He turned back to the woman and watched as she hobbled towards him.
Her thin lips tugged into a smile, and her pink cheeks looked fragile as it stretched. “Be a dear and help me cross the road.”
Riley offered his arm for her to take and she latched on.
He led her across the road and once on the other side, released her arm. He looked down and noticed the flowers poking from her bag—white lilies. His mouth bobbed open as he thought of something to say, but she only waved him away.
“You’ve got something for your sister, but what about that niece of yours?”
Riley darted a look back to the shop, but a tapping sound had him turning back to the woman.
She knocked her frail knuckles against the window, and Riley looked inside the cake shop. He hadn’t been to the village for months, and the cake shop was definitely a new addition. The village shop barely stocked anything of use. There were boards covering the windows of the hair salon; the church looked haggard and crumbling. But the bakery gleamed, and the display he could see through the window was more at home in the posh areas of London.
Riley flashed a smile at the woman. “Thanks.”
She turned and waved over her shoulder.
Riley pushed inside the bakery, and immediately a sugary scent wrapped around him. He strolled up to the counter and admired the cake creations behind the Perspex shield. They were all identical and arranged in uniformed lines. Chocolate sponge, one that looked like lemon, and a pink one with a strawberry on top.
Riley looked up and craned his neck to see further into the bakery kitchen. There was no one inside, and he frowned, checking his watch. It was two o’clock, and he doubted the staff were still on break.
Riley bunched his lips together and waited, but there was no reply. He turned, poised to go back to the shop, but the billboard caught his eye, and he moved towards it.
Adverts were nailed to the board, one asking for a tenant, one selling a wheelbarrow, and another an old sofa. They were scrawled in pen, and the pictures were black and white. Riley freed one of the pieces of paper and frowned. Not an advert, but a missing pet poster. Not a dog, or cat like he expected, but an African grey parrot.
“Who’s a pretty boy, then?”
Riley startled at the voice and pressed the poster to his chest. He flashed a look at the man behind the counter and laughed softly.
“You scared the hell outta me.”
The man blushed and bit his lip. “Yeah, I don’t know why I did that. I saw you with the poster, and it kinda popped into my head.”
“And out of your mouth.”
Riley repinned the poster and walked towards the counter. The man was younger, midtwenties at a guess. He swept his black hair back over his head and fixed his warm eyes to Riley’s. There was a flutter in Riley’s gut that unnerved him.
“So, they haven’t found the parrot?”
“Nope, that posters been up since I opened.”
“The bakery is yours?”
The man puffed up, not to shove his muscles in Riley’s face but to show him the apron smudged with chocolate. “Yeah, it’s mine.”
“This place is real nice.”
“Thank you, it doesn’t bring me much money, but I enjoy it.”
Riley frowned. “Not everything’s about money. Happiness is more important.”
The man smiled warmly, then stuck out his hand for Riley to take. “I’m Zac.”
He frowned and looked down at their shaking hands when he felt stickiness. Zac glanced down, then up at Riley again.
“Well, that’s embarrassing.”
“Don’t worry about it.”
“Sorry for the wait, I was in the back, and I’m not strictly open right now.”
Riley darted a look back to the door and widened his eyes when he realised the shop was in fact closed.
“I’m sorry, I didn’t realise.”
Zac waved the comment away. “If I open all day, I’ll get overrun. I’ve got the breakfast pastries in the morning and the cakes and muffins in the afternoon.”
“You do this all by yourself?” Riley scanned all the cakes with wide eyes. There were so many it was hard to imagine one guy could do it all.
Zac ruffled his black hair with a tinge of embarrassment in his cheeks. “Yeah, I buy some stuff in and make the rest. My kitchen porter comes in at four and cleans everything up. He’s Dave—he’s a nice guy, but his taste in music is awful.”
“What does he listen to?”
“Very loud rock where you have no idea what the singer’s screaming about.”
“Ah,” Riley said, looking away.
Zac rocked back on his heels. “By that ‘Ah’ I’m guessing you’re a fan.”
“Maybe, maybe not.”
“So, Mr. Terrible-taste-in-music, what brings you here?”
“My sister, she lived in the village. I’ve been a bit of a crap brother recently, wanted to surprise her.”
Zac drew his eyebrows together. “What’s her name?”
“Emily Mathews.” Riley sighed.
It was a small village, but still with a population of a thousand or so—there was no way this man could know who she was.
“Ah. With little Maisy, right?”
Riley was rarely stunned, but it took an extended blink and a squeeze to the bridge of his nose before he could speak.
“Yeah, that’s right.”
“So, you’ve been a rubbish brother, then, and you want to make amends.”
“Something like that.”
Meet the Author
Tilly lives in a small village in the UK, surrounded by fields, and meadows.
By day, she’s looks after her two lively boys, but by night…she’s usually asleep, too exhausted to write, but sometimes she gets lucky, sometimes she settles down with a nice cup of tea and sinks into a story.
She hopes you enjoy them. Send her an eMail.
Title: Darkbeam Part III
Series: Beam Series
Author: Adrienne Woods
ISBN: Page count: 583
Publication Date: 23rd June 2020
Publishers: Fire Quill Publishers
The Third part in the Darkbeam Novels: The Rubicon’s Story.
Blake Leaf is fighting against the Dent. He truly believes that the Dent is an enslavement spell. One where he would lose himself and that the bond is not natural. He takes extreme measures with the help of Sam and Dimitri, a very dark sorcerer, that might cost him his life, if he caves.
Darkbeam is the Rubicon’s story and also part of the Spin off series from the INTERNATIONAL BESTSELLING SERIES The Dragonian Series.
UNIVERSAL BOOK LINK https://books2read.com/u/m0rjMA
The next day Elena felt lighter.
It was her birthday. I still didn’t care, but what choice did I have?
I hadn’t even Dented. The fucking spell was trying to suck me in, forcing me into what it wanted me to become.
Maybe George hadn’t been strong enough to fight it. Maybe he’d had Becky’s yapping in his mind and gave in. Well, I wasn’t some fucking Moon-Bolt who didn’t have the balls to fight.
I would break the spell. Whoever had come up with it would learn they’d made a mistake trying to control dragons.
I’m the Alpha. I won’t go down like that.
Until then, I had to endure every fucking moment of her rescue. Luckily, my father came through. He got her away from Stan and back with friends.
Her happiness clashed with my darkness, and their reunion made me shudder. It felt as if I would throw up, and I wasn’t even near her. My body felt wrong.
I tried to push her thoughts away and get my fucking life back. With effort, and some killer headaches, her yapping became more dull, like whispers.
It was bearable.
I could still see the events taking place in Elena’s life. It was exhausting.
I wasn’t giving in though. I’d fight until the bitter end.
* * *
I woke up just after lunch. Her voice was ringing inside my head, like an alarm clock I couldn’t snooze.
At least she was having fun and not whining. She was riding jet-skis with Emanual, King Helmut’s dragon. She was sitting behind him, with her arms wrapped around his waist. She felt conflicted. She was happy, but it was more than that.
I laughed as I realized what it was.
She was attracted to Emanual’s human form.
Better him than me.
I tuned in.
“It’s like flying,” she said, the jet-ski speeding through the water.
What did she know about flying? As I remember, she was scared of heights when she became a dragon.
“I forgot to ask you. How did it feel to be a dragon?” Emanual asked.
“Don’t. I miss it more than anything in this world.”
Had she embraced her dragon side? When? Why couldn’t I remember?
About the Author
Adrienne Woods is a USA Today Bestselling author, living in South Africa.
She’s been in love with books all her life and knew at the age of 13 that she is going to be a writer one day.
That dream happened ten years ago and she started to pen her stories down on paper. Firebolt, her debut novel, were released 4 years after that, and she hasn’t stop since.
Now she almost have 15 novels under her belt, and it doesn’t look like she is going to stop soon.
To find out more about Adrienne and her books, please visit her website at www.adriennewoodsbooks.com.
RAFFLE COPTER GIVEAWAY
Notorious Minds Boxset: Mystery & Thriller Crime
Published by: Fire Quill Publishing
Publication date: October 13th 2020
Genres: Adult, Mystery, Thriller
Delve into these dark and twisted tales by twenty USA Today and International Bestselling Authors.
No matter what kind of crime story typically catches your imagination, there’s sure to be something for everyone.
Conspiracies, political plots, and yes, even murder, are just a few of the crimes waiting inside this box set.
Discover a narcissistic grandmother running an underground syndicate, or a support group bent on murder…and even a serial killer who turns his victims into fairytale creatures.
Uncover the passion, jealousy, and fear lingering in every tale.
This box set is packed with thousands of pages that will hold you on the edge of your seat, crying for answers.
Definitely a must for fans of Patterson, Lee, and Grisham.
a Rafflecopter giveaway