Book Blitz & Excerpt: Resisting the Dream + Giveaway

Resisting the Dream Banner

Resisting the Dream, by Ann Marie James

Book 3 in the Everyone’s Mechanic series

Word Count: 57,607
Book Length: NOVEL
Pages: 233

Genres:

ACTION AND ADVENTURE
CONTEMPORARY
EROTIC ROMANCE
GAY
GLBTQI

Add to Goodreads

Book Description

Nikolai is the fun-loving, flamboyant cousin of Sergei Barinov. He doesn’t know a lot about cars but is happy working as the desk person at Everyone’s Mechanic while he completes his doctorate in finance and accounting. While his parents never accepted who he was, he at least had Cousin Sergei’s family to love and support him. Comfortable in his own skin, he dresses according to his mood, which could be a skirt and makeup or sweatpants. He has crushed on Brandon since he met him but has never been able to be around him without doing something embarrassing. He would love a chance to show Brandon that he’s not just style without substance.

Brandon began interning with Sergei’s company in college and has since worked his way up to be his right-hand man. He is very regimented, likes his routines and needs to stay focused to complete his many duties for Sergei. Brandon is also balancing secretly raising his now-fifteen-year-old brother. He has watched from afar as Nikolai went from being a gangly, awkward teenager to a stunning adult. Brandon might wish he could take the time to get to know Nikolai better, but he doesn’t feel he can add one more thing to his already-full plate.

When Sergei tasks the pair to work together to plan an LGBTQ youth center, sparks fly. Will they decide to take a chance—or will outside forces ruin the possibility before they can even get started?

Reader advisory: This book makes references to addiction, alcohol, attempted violence and drug use.


Excerpt

 

“You have a bruise on your cheek. What the hell happened?”

“Would you believe I ran into a door?”

Sergei widened his stance and put his hands on his hips, giving Nikolai his sternest stare. Nikolai rushed to explain. “Seriously, I saw Brandon going into your building yesterday afternoon as I was leaving, and I was so busy watching him that I ran right into the doorjamb.” Nikolai grimaced. “Not my finest moment, to be sure.”

Sergei’s stern expression morphed into an amused one and he coughed into his hand while avoiding eye contact with Nikolai. When their gazes met, Sergei lost the fight and laughed until he had tears running down his face and had to lean against the counter to support himself.

Nikolai shook his head in disgust at his cousin’s antics. “Yeah, yeah. Laugh it up. You do realize you probably just got grease on your suit, right?” Working at a garage had its advantages, including the apartment he was able to rent above the business, but spic and span cleanliness was not one of those perks. Oh, the owner, Kirk, ran a tight ship and everything was as clean as possible, but it was still a garage. It was Nikolai’s turn to laugh as Sergei looked down at himself to search for dirt on his custom suit.

Sergei took a swipe at his jacket before shrugging and looking back at Nikolai.

“So, why are you here?”

“I need a favor.”

“I figured.” Nikolai made a rolling hand gesture to try to encourage Sergei to spit it out.

Sergei’s forehead furrowed. “I’m a little concerned, though, that you won’t be able to complete this favor without causing yourself bodily harm.”

“What? Why?”

“I need you to work with Brandon on a project.”

“You need me to work with your personal assistant, Brandon Whitaker, on a project? But he hates me.”

“He doesn’t hate you.”

“Doesn’t know what to do with me then?”

Sergei shrugged one of his massive shoulders as Nikolai wished for the thousandth time that he had gotten some of Sergei’s six-foot-plus height and size. Alas, he was stuck at a measly, svelte five-foot-seven. “I can’t deny that. You confuse him, for sure, but he does respect you. He loves the reports you set up for him while you were interning last summer.”

“He was shocked I could even do spreadsheets and reports, though. He thinks I’m an idiot.”

“Only because you turn into a nervous klutz whenever he is around. A doorjamb? Really?”

“What? There’s something about him that does it for me—brown hair, brown eyes, six feet tall, those broad shoulders… Yum. What’s not to love? I know intellectually that nothing will ever come of it. Have you seen the women who come to meet him for lunch?”

“Yes, I have, and I also know none of them last more than a month.”

“He’s not gay. The number of women he takes out makes that very clear.”

“I don’t think he’s as straight as he pretends to be.”

“What do you mean?”

“I mean he watches you when you aren’t looking.”

Nikolai waved his hand in the air. “He’s just trying to figure me out. As you said, I confuse him. He’s not a man who likes to be confused. He’s the man with a plan for everything.”

“Exactly my point—and I don’t think he planned for you.”

“Whatever. What is it you needed me to work on with Brandon?”

“I would like you guys to work on plans for an LGBTQ center—a place where teens can come to either hang out or to get help, counseling, the whole nine yards. I want to offer classes as well—financial ones like budgeting and checkbook balancing as well as cooking and other basics. Maybe you can talk to some of the instructors at that dojo you go to and see if they would teach some self-defense classes too. The statistics for homeless youth—especially gay homeless youth—are scary, and I want to do something about it. It will be open to all but mainly to support the community.”

Nikolai was getting excited about the project. The center was something that was desperately needed there in Raleigh and elsewhere. He felt a slight twinge at Sergei’s casual dismissal of his time spent at the dojo. He wasn’t sure what his family thought he did there three-to-five days a week, but obviously it wasn’t learning any of the skills they taught, but that was partly his fault as he’d never told them when he’d received his different color belts. It was something private for him.

He was snapped out of his ponderings by the ding of the door sensor as someone else came in. He opened his eyes wide when he realized it was Brandon. He went to stand, the chair slipped back too fast and he almost fell, catching himself with a hand on the desk, just in time. Nikolai flushed with mortification as his cheeks got hot and he ducked his head, pretending to search for something on his desk in a sad attempt to seem like he had everything under control. Snagging a pencil, Nikolai pulled his long, wavy blond hair up in a messy bun on top of his head, and shoved the pencil in to secure it.

He glanced up after a moment to find Sergei staring at him in exasperation then turning to greet Brandon. “Hey, Brandon, thanks for giving me a minute with Nikolai before coming in. Nikolai is really excited about the project.”

Nikolai took a deep breath to compose himself then turned to face Brandon. “Nice to see you again, Brandon. This should be an interesting project. I look forward to working with you on it.” There. That wasn’t too psycho.

“Yeah. It will be a challenge, but I think we can come up with something great. I know you’re pretty busy with school and here, so when do you think we can meet to get started?”

“Well, I’ve already successfully defended my thesis, so my load at school is pretty light. I’m just waiting on graduation now.”

Sergei’s gaze snapped back to Nikolai. “Wait! When did that happen?”

“A couple of weeks ago,” Nikolai said with a shrug.

“Why didn’t you say anything? We should have celebrated.”

“Well, first you were in London at that big conference, then you hibernated with your hubby for the weekend and didn’t come to family dinner. It just kind of got lost in the shuffle.”

“Did your family go to your thesis defense, at least?” Sergei asked, frowning.

Nikolai couldn’t quite hide his grimace. “Um, your parents and Sasha came. My parents couldn’t make it. It wasn’t a big deal.” Nikolai didn’t even believe himself, so he knew Sergei didn’t.

“We’ll discuss this later.”

“Nothing to discuss.”

Sergei scowled at him. “There’s a lot to discuss, but first, do you definitely want in on this project?”

“Of course, I’m in. It’s important.”

“Agreed. So, when are you available to meet on it?”

“I have sessions at the dojo tonight and tomorrow morning, but I’m free after that. I know tomorrow’s Saturday, so we can postpone to next week if you guys need to.”

“Saturday afternoon works for me. What about you Brandon?”

“Yep. That works. I have somewhere to be in the morning as well, but I will be free about noon.”

“Great. How about we meet at my house then? I’ll feed you all lunch.”

“Sounds good,” Brandon and Nikolai answered together. Nikolai could only shake his head at himself after the bolt of arousal that went through his system when he made brief eye contact with Brandon’s brown-eyed gaze. He hazarded a small smile at the man, but Brandon didn’t respond, instead breaking the connection and turning toward Sergei. “Okay. Glad that’s settled. We need to get moving. We have that meeting at two o’clock with the planning commissioner about your new property on Fayette Street.” Brandon then turned and walked out of the door after a head nod to Nikolai.

“Plan to stay after the meeting to continue our discussion about your thesis defense.”

“It really wasn’t a big deal, Sergei. You know my family doesn’t understand or approve of me and my ways.” Nikolai put air quotes around the ‘my ways’, as it was a common phrase from his mother. His mother and father were not the warm and supportive parents that Sergei’s were. Nikolai’s father was very much about toxic masculinity and a woman knowing her place in the world. Nikolai did not fit his father’s definition of a good son at all, so he was ignored—and that was fine with him. It really was, but Sergei never understood, mainly because Nikolai’s father was always on his best behavior whenever Sergei was around, thinking he could use his connection with Sergei for his own needs in some way.

The truth was—and one his father would never admit—that Nikolai’s father was both scared and jealous in equal parts of Sergei’s power. He felt that as the older Barinov male, he should have been the one to have the influence and wealth that Sergei had accumulated and that Sergei should seek his council like he was smarter, because of his age. Sergei was actually one of the most intelligent people Nikolai knew, and that was saying something because Nikolai had been going to school forever.

Sergei was also one of the hardest-working people he knew, with Brandon being right up there with him. Brandon was truly Sergei’s right-hand man, and Nikolai wasn’t saying that because he had a major crush on the man either. Part of the reason he had such a crush on him was because he worked so hard and was so dedicated to Sergei. Nikolai’s father was lazy and dedicated only to himself. Sad, but true.

Sergei interrupted his thoughts, and Nikolai scrambled to remember what they were talking about. “Not. The. Point. I don’t care how your parents feel about things. This is about communication between you and me. We will discuss it Saturday. Da?”

“Da, Sergei,” Nikolai conceded grudgingly.

“Good. I will see you tomorrow.” Sergei then followed Brandon out of the door.

Choose Your Store

First For Romance

About the Author

Ann Marie James

Ann Marie James is fluent in two languages, English and sarcasm. She believes that you will never learn anything new if you don’t read as much as you can, and/or talk to every stranger you meet. She always looks for the best in people and to treat people the way she wants to be treated. Above all Ann Marie believes in love, whatever form it takes. Relationships are hard, love is the glue that keeps it together.

Giveaway

Enter for your chance to win a $50.00 First For Romance Gift Card!

a Rafflecopter giveaway


Notice:

This competition ends on 5TH October 2021 at 12am EST. Competition hosted by Totally Entwined Group

Book Blitz & Excerpt: Must Love Cats + Giveaway

Must Love Cats Banner

Must Love Cats, by Angela Addams

Word Count: 68,373
Book Length: NOVEL
Pages: 268

Genres:

ACTION AND ADVENTURE
EROTIC ROMANCE
MÉNAGE AND MULTIPLE PARTNERS
PARANORMAL
REVERSE HAREM
WERESHIFTERS

Add to Goodreads

Book Description

Four fiercely protective shifters. A curse and a ghost town. A bunch of wily cats and one woman who can save them all.

Lucki Collins has landed the job of a lifetime—Cat Keeper of Lady Clover’s Cat House in Weeping Falls, Alaska.

Lucki discovers early on that Weeping Falls is cursed and that the cats she’s there to care for are the townspeople, who must abide by the cycle of the sun and moon—taking cat form during the day and human form at night. They are magical creatures known as ‘familiars’, who can enhance the powers of a witch considerably, the very thing that puts them in danger.

Lucki meets her protectors—Reuben, a bear shifter, Wren, a wolf shifter, Ben, a hawk shifter, and Julian, a lion shifter—who must not only keep her and the cats safe, but also somehow convince her to bond with them. Their magical bond is the only thing that will give Lucki control over her powers, which are necessary to defeat Angelica, a sorceress who wants to capture all the cats and use them for her evil goals. Lucki hasn’t had the best experience with love, but rather than leave the men hopeless, she offers to help them break the curse by another means.

Things don’t go according to plan, and Lucki is left with the challenge of overcoming her past and setting aside her fears. If she can believe in herself and put her faith in love once again, she might just be able to triumph over evil and save the people she has come to deeply care about in Weeping Falls.

Reader advisory: This book contains a scene of public sex, references to emotionally/psychologically abusive sex, the death of a parent from cancer, graphic and gory violence, the death of a major character and murder of animals.

Excerpt

Cat Keeper of Weeping Falls. It sounds like a joke, right? Cat Keeper… What the hell kind of job is that?

“The best job in the mothereff”—burp—“ing world!” Lucki Collins raised her almost empty pint of beer and cheered the crowd of rowdy townspeople who were seated all around her. The burn of too much booze heated her cheeks, and the ache from so much laughing had her cradling her side. She was being treated like a queen and didn’t care if she was making an ass of herself.

“Cheers to our new Cat Keeper. May your time here be ever filled with joy.” Mr. Rose an elderly man with a bright red nose and long white whiskers, raised his glass, which was filled with…milk. It was the only thing he’d been drinking all night.

Lucki figured it had to be mixed with bourbon or something. The man was way too cheerful to be sober. They’re all way too cheerful. The entire town of Weeping Falls, a population of a hundred at most, had welcomed her with open arms the second she’d cleared the town line—and hadn’t stopped welcoming her.

“To our blessed Cat Keeper!” Everyone cheered, raising their glasses, thumping on the tables, laughing, singing.

They were in the tavern, a throwback to the old West, complete with its swinging doors and long curved bar, plank wood floors that were scuffed and dented and an old-time piano that one of the residents had been playing since Lucki had gotten there. Everyone was dressed in the fashion of the time too—from the cowboy hats to the heel spurs, corsets and billowing skirts. Lucki truly felt like she’d stepped into the olden days—and she loved it.

Weeping Falls had been an actual mining town back in the day. Now it was barely hanging on as a ghost town tourist attraction—the Wild West in Alaska. There wasn’t much in the way of bookings, from what she’d gathered. The only visitor was her, and she was soon to be a resident too. She’d be Lady Clover’s Cat Keeper, responsible for tending to a massive cat colony who’d been bequeathed a mansion and a trust fund and who called Weeping Falls home.

When she’d been offered the job, she’d thought she’d heard wrong.

“Cat keeper? What kind of job is that?”

Scout, the man who’d found her, had answered her simply and honestly. “We can’t afford a trained vet to come. You have almost all the requirements and a lot of experience working with animals. You’ll do.”

Lucki had been working at shelters her whole life. Always a tender heart around those injured or in need of love, she’d solely manned a cat sanctuary in her hometown until a fire had taken out the entire colony the past summer. It had nearly destroyed her heart to lose all those precious lives.

Scout had come knocking on her door one morning, claiming he’d heard about her compassion toward the felines and had wanted to offer her a new job as Cat Keeper for Lady Clover’s Cat House in Weeping Falls, Alaska.

It had seemed like a good idea at the time—a windfall, actually. Everyone knew she was destined to be a crazy cat lady anyway, and now she was going to be paid to fulfill that dream. It sounded pretty freakin’ perfect to her.

Besides, she had another reason to leave home—a big, six-foot-two, built-like-a-brick-house reason whom she wanted no reminder of ever again. He’d be in jail for another year at least, and by the time he got out, he’d find no trace of her. That gave her some measure of peace.

Her heart had been crushed, battered and beaten enough over the last ten years. She needed this escape, and Scout’s offer had come at the perfect moment. Time would heal all wounds—or so she’d heard—but cuddling with a bunch of cats would make that time sweeter.

And there hadn’t been a moment of regret—not one. She’d spent more than a day on the road with only a brief stop to rest, travelling all the way from her hometown in northern British Columbia.

It was a long way to come for a bunch of cats.

Best decision ever!

She downed what was left of her beer then snorted in the most unladylike way when another full pint slid in front of her.

“Oh boy, no way!” She laughed. “You people are going to get me totally wasted.”

“Aww, lass, no harm,” Andy Crawlie drawled. “We’re just happy yer finally here. We’ve been waitin’ on ya fer a vera long time.”

That had been what it had been like the entire night. They’d fed her delicious food until she was stuffed, then they’d started pouring the beer, keeping her glass full while they sang and laughed and told stories. There were enough people in the tavern that she lost track of all the names and keeping everyone straight. But she had plenty of time to learn them.

Lucki giggled but pushed the glass away. “Thank you for all your generosity, everyone.” She had to raise her voice to be heard over the music playing. “I think I should head back to Lady Clover’s, though. It’s late… Wait! How late is it?” Her phone had stopped working at some point during the night. She imagined that cell service was spotty at best around here anyway. She made a mental note to ask someone about it in the morning when her thoughts were clearer.

“Oh, it’s hardly after midnight, dear,” Sandy Evernight said as she picked up Lucki’s beer and took a sip for herself. “But if you must go, we’ll send you with an escort, to make sure you get back to the house in one piece.”

“An escort?” Lucki pushed her chair back. The wood feet thudded across the floor, giving Lucki a bit of a fight to stand.

“It’s always a good idea around here.” Sandy shrugged, her cheeks bright. She had a glint in her eyes that made Lucki question if there was a punchline coming. “‘Cause of the wild animals and such.”

“Wild animals?” Lucki frowned, her good mood taken down a notch. Not a joke, then. Right, because you’re in the middle of freakin’ Alaska! Spring is coming. Of course there are animals roaming around.

“Och, Sandy, quit scaring the girl. You want her to pick up and leave before she’s even settled in?” Mr. Rose said. “Rueben’s out there watchin’ for her. He’ll make sure she gets home safe.”

“Oh, Reuben’s around?” Sandy winked, aiming another sly smile at Lucki. “Didn’t know. Hadn’t seen him.”

“Don’t be daft, woman.” Andy tsked.

“You’ll be fine, Lucki,” Mr. Rose said with a reassuring pat on her arm. “Just be sure to put your coat on. The nights are still bitter cold around here.”

Someone handed Lucki her giant parka as she stood on wobbly legs, the beers rushing through her system worse than she’d first thought. “Thanks.” She slipped herself inside the warm down coat and instantly shivered as the heat embraced her. It would soon be too hot to be wearing inside the tavern. That was for sure. “I’ll see you all in the morning.”

Everyone mumbled something at her in response, but as she moved toward the door, she realized they just as soon returned to their drinking and joking, seeming to forget all about her. Looking over her shoulder at the group, she smiled once again. Such a fun bunch of folks. Unusual, sure, but also warm and embracing. Their unquestioning friendliness was like a comfort blanket around her heart. And that was something she really, really needed.

She pushed through the doors and blinked against the cold bite of the air. Icy wind shot up her nose and stung her brain. Sandy had said it was spring and she wasn’t wrong, calendar wise, but the weather up here was not any kind of spring that Lucki had ever experienced. Even in Canada, where the winters could get brutal, May usually came with milder temperatures, even at night.

But today was only May first, she reminded herself. Beltane. The familiar stir of longing rattled through her. In years past, Beltane was always a night she’d enjoyed with others. With him. Marking the coming of spring, Beltane was a celebration of new growth and fertility, and usually involved a night of ritual, song and dance, bonfires and, in her adult life, a lot of sexual exploration. This was the first time in many years that she would be alone.

But the past is the past, and it’s better to be alone and happy than with someone and miserable.

“Blessed be,” she said with a sigh.

She let her eyes adjust to the night then looked up at the impossibly bright stars overhead. She’d never seen so many in her life. She scanned the sky, hoping to see the Northern Lights, which she’d read about when she had been trying to research what to expect in Alaska, but the only light was from the stars and the moon, which was near full. Beautiful. She took in a deep breath, ignoring the burn of the cold air as it ripped up her nose again, freezing her nostrils. Refreshing, sure, but also painful. She chuckled to herself then took a few steps off the porch.

The gritty earth crunched under her feet. It was a strangely comforting sound that broke up the silence of the night and gave Lucki something to focus on other than the shadowed buildings.

The town consisted of a main strip with all the old ghost-town amenities—a barbershop with its candy-cane stripe, a hotel down the road, grocery store, shoemaker, blacksmith and even a church. There was a carriage without its horses and bundles of hay off to the side. It was so old-world and yet not. There were modern amenities as well—like the streetlamps, which were a little too far apart for Lucki’s liking, and a few cars parked here and there.

She flipped up her hood, suddenly feeling the cold worse as it whipped down the back of her neck, making her shiver right to her bones. Lady Clover’s Cat House was at the other end of the strip. The lights of the mansion shone from almost every window, a guiding beacon, so it would be impossible to not find her way there.

My new home. Hard to really fathom. It was three stories of old-world charm. Painted yellow like the sun, it had stained-glass multicolored windows with white shutters to frame them and a wraparound porch that could fit a hundred people with no problem. There was even a swinging chair there for her to lounge on in the warmer months, and she so looked forward to reading a few books out there with some cats on her lap. It was a house she could only dream of living in one day, and here she was walking down a dirt road, on her way to spending her first night in a castle of cats. Bliss.

Although this particular bliss included a pretty frosty walk. The cold bit at her cheeks and stung her eyes, so she walked faster. The noise from the partiers dimmed behind her. The silence of Alaska greeted her with each step she took toward her new home. She could fall in love with a place like this. It was so peaceful. So simple. She didn’t miss the buzzing white noise that she’d grown accustomed to back home or the constant urgency to check her phone for messages. She was unplugged. Calm. At peace.

“Meow.”

Lucki stopped in her tracks. Ohhhhhhh, one of the cats? She hadn’t met any of them yet, but she was eager to.

“Kitty?”

“Meeeeeow.”

She shifted her hood so she could look all around. “Here, kitty. Come here, kitty. Let me see you!” She felt no shame in her excitement over meeting the cats. She looked forward to bonding with each of them. She’d been warned it was quite a large colony, a hundred at least. “Here, kitty!”

“Meow!”

She felt a nudge against her boot and shifted her hood to look down. The coat was so bulky that she could hardly see her own feet.

“Mr. Whiskers?” she said, as she swooped down to pick up her own cat. “What are you doing out here all alone, baby?” The only cat to have survived the fire was one of her favorites, a mangy brown tabby she called Mr. Whiskers. She’d brought him with her to Alaska but had left him safe and sound in the house—or so she’d thought. “How’d you get out here?”

“Muuuuurrrrow!” He purred like an engine and nuzzled into her arms as she stroked him.

“Well, you silly boy, let’s get you back inside where it’s warm.”

She walked, the crunch of her feet on the gravelly dirt road a distraction again. She pulled her attention from the ground and scanned the buildings around her.

“It’s awfully dark.” In between the streetlights was pitch black, and unusual shadows had collected in those places, keeping just out of reach from the lights. In each of those in-between spaces were alleys that were so opaque that they were impenetrable without a flashlight.

Creepy. The sobering reality of being completely alone in the middle of a town where she didn’t really know anyone slithered down her spine. If she called out, would anyone hear her?

The faint sound of music from the tavern drifted toward her. Nope…probably not.

She also kind of felt like she was being watched. Paranoia? Maybe. The tickling at the back of her neck had her scrunching her shoulders, and she picked up her pace all the same.

“Where’s this Reuben guy everyone is talking about?” she whispered to Mr. Whiskers, but he didn’t say anything back. He just purred in his contented kitty way. No fucks given.

The cat house was only about thirty feet ahead, if that. The urge to bolt the rest of the way poked her from all sides, but she was scared that if she did that, she’d drop the cat or freak him out enough to make him claw his way over her face.

Just one more alley to cross. She moved a little to the center of the street, putting some distance between her and the black maw of nothing on her left.

As she crossed the alley, she heard a noise. Low and quiet at first, it was a rumble of sound that she didn’t know quite how to place. It froze her in her tracks, though. There was definitely a menacing tone to it, like a warning. A growl.

“Do you hear that, Mr. Whiskers?” She couldn’t keep the quiver out of her voice. Keep walking.

Mr. Whiskers stopped purring. In fact, he stopped moving and was frozen in her arms, his body rigid as he stared down the alley, a murmur of a hiss growing in his belly.

The growling from the alley came again. It was definitely not friendly. Oooooh nooooo…

Something dazzled, a blink of light, then twin orbs of blue appeared to be floating in the darkness. So pretty. The slow grind of gravel under foot, deliberate careful movements, didn’t bring Lucki any comfort. “What is that?”

She unlocked her knees then took a step back. Then another. The sound got louder. The growl grew in strength with each step toward her until it was a warning she couldn’t ignore. She moved back quickly, almost stumbling on her own feet. Out of the shadows came a giant dog, its teeth bared, eyes menacing.

No, not a dog.

A wolf!

“H-h-holy shit,” Lucki stammered.

The wolf crouched, ready to pounce.

I’m going to die.

Mr. Whiskers hissed a growl of his own then leaped from her arms and she, the stupid fool, chased after him—right up to the wolf, within feet of the menacing beast. Mr. Whiskers stood between them, his fur fluffed out and back arched. He gave a hiss of warning with a paw raised, ready to strike.

“Mr. Whiskers, are you nuts?” Her voice was barely loud enough for anyone to hear. It was a croak instead of a scream. No one would come to her rescue. “Help!” Her voice failed her once again, coming out as a half whisper, strangled by her fear. The wolf watched her, its eyes searing deep inside. It ignored the cat completely.

What is the right move? Why didn’t I research this?

What to do if a wolf stalks you…yeah…that.

The wolf took a menacing step in her direction, its predator glare never wavering. Lucki’s legs shook with an alarming sway. Her knees were literally knocking together. If she tried to run, she’d fall flat on her face for sure.

Running with a predator giving chase was probably not a great idea anyway.

The cat launched itself, jumping toward the wolf.

Her voice unlocked. “Mr. Whiskers, no!”

But it was too late. The cat struck a clawed paw against the wolf’s muzzle, causing it to growl and lower its head. Lucki thought for sure Mr. Whiskers was gonna lose all nine lives in one go, but Mr. Whiskers didn’t get the memo on that. He struck again, quick and determined, a claw swipe against the wolf’s nose.

Lucki quickly calculated the odds of snatching the cat up as she ran. It didn’t look good. She was not that coordinated.

She sucked in a deep breath, then opened her mouth to scream.

The wolf took a step back, its head bowed…in…submission?

What the…? Her scream died on her tongue.

Mr. Whiskers, still all puffed out, still defending his human, was no longer on the attack. He even seemed to have a smug grin as he tossed a glance in Lucki’s direction. The wolf stayed down, muzzle lowered to the ground, its eyes blinking rapidly.

“Get outta here if you aren’t going to be civilized,” a booming voice said from behind.

The wolf flicked its eyes up, looked behind Lucki for a moment, then it bolted away into the darkness of the alley.

“Sorry, hon. Got caught up in a conversation and didn’t realize you were leaving so soon.”

Lucki glanced behind her, then did a double take. A huge, burly man stomped toward her. He had to be at least six-five, six-six. He wasn’t wearing a coat, just a blue lumberjack shirt, rolled up at the sleeves, that showed some impressively muscled forearms. His brown hair was parted to the side and his soft eyes crinkled with what kind of looked like amusement. The lower half of his face was covered with a beard, close cropped and well kept. This guy was a bear—a huge, lumberjack bear. He had an easy smile and a dimple, and he was so disarming that Lucki smiled back, that and her panties melted right then and there.

“I’m Reuben.” His voice had the kind of husky depth that stroked her soul.

Her legs quivered.

She cleared her throat to get the lusty lump of drool out of the way. “There’s a wolf…” She turned her head to the alley, but the wolf was definitely gone. Mr. Whiskers nudged her to be picked up.

“Yeah, I saw.” Reuben radiated heat. It literally steamed off him. He came up next to her then placed a firm hand on her back, which instantly steadied her legs. “Let’s get you to the house before you freeze to death.”

“A wolf, though…” She turned her head from side to side, scanning the area as she bent down to pick up the cat.

“He’s gone now. Don’t worry about him.” Reuben’s voice was so sure, so confident, so soothing. “Happy to finally meet you,” he added.

“Was that real?” The adrenaline that had coursed through her body crashed out of her in a whoosh. She took a step but her legs crumbled out from under her.

“Whoa there!” Reuben swooped in and held her upright. “They been pouring drinks into you? Those beasts don’t ever learn.”

Her head was clear. Any buzz she’d had from the booze had burned through her. It had to be shock that was making her dizzy and disoriented now. She could have died. Mr. Whiskers had done his best, but really, that wolf could have eaten her in a few bites.

“I got ya.” Reuben picked her up then cradled her and the cat in his arms.

She gasped, more to herself, as she looked up at him. “You’re a big guy.” She was in the arms of a mountain.

He chuckled. “I am.” He hitched her up higher. “Let’s get you home, shall we? Then we can properly introduce ourselves. It’s Beltane, you know, a good night for introductions.” He smiled, his dimple popping and his eyes glistening.

His wink to follow undid her completely.

Buy Links

Choose Your Store
First For Romance

About the Author

Angela Addams

Angela Addams is an author of many naughty things. She believes that the written word is an amazing tool for crafting the most erotic of scenarios and likes telling stories about normal people getting down and dirty and falling in love. Enthralled by the paranormal at an early age, Angela also spends a lot of her time thinking up new story ideas that involve supernatural creatures in everyday situations.

She is an avid tattoo collector, a total book hoarder, and loves anything covered in chocolate…except for bugs.

She lives in Ontario, Canada in an old, creaky house, with her husband, children and four moody cats.

Sign up to Angela’s newsletter and check out her blog and website. You can follow Angela on Instagram and Pinterest, and find her at Amazon, Bookbub and Books & Main.

Giveaway

Enter for your chance to win a $50.00 First For Romance Gift Card!

a Rafflecopter giveaway


Notice: This competition ends on 5TH October 2021 at 12am EST. Competition hosted by Totally Entwined Group

Book Blitz & Excerpt: The Renascent Effect + Giveaway

The Renascent Effect Banner

The Renascent Effect, by Carryn W. Kerr

Word Count: 99,566
Book Length:  SUPER NOVEL
Pages: 412

Genres:

 ACTION AND ADVENTURE
CLEAN AND WHOLESOME
DYSTOPIAN
ROMANCE
SCIENCE FICTION
YOUNG ADULT

Add to Goodreads

Book Description

Of all possible outcomes, I never thought I’d say goodbye to you like this.

After the murder of Cassidy Jones’ mother and the sudden illness of her best friend Harriet, Cassidy must leave the safety of Petriville and brave the unknown both to find a cure for Harriet and the peace she’s struggling to achieve. Plus, only then will Gina release Eric from prison.

It’s a new time for the world and for Petriville. Cassidy yearns to find the truth behind her mother’s murder and to understand why Eric betrayed her to Gina Petri. Without these answers, she cannot move on. But for Harriet and many others, the longevity drug fails, and they age rapidly.

Gina, who’s in prison for the murder of Cassidy’s mother, knows more than she’s letting on. But neither she nor her daughter and successor, Susan, give Cassidy the truth. No matter how Eric tries to explain why he made a deal with Gina, Cassidy won’t listen. In her heart, she knows it was to keep her safe, but to admit that betrays her mother’s memory.

However, if she is to keep Eric out of harm and to help Harriet, she must leave Petriville and find the antidote. With this in mind, Cassidy, her brother Liam and friend Jonas head out to find what they need. If they fail, fifty-two lives are at risk and Cassidy will never find the peace she’s seeking or ever tell Eric that she still loves him.

Reader advisory: This book is best read as a sequel to The Renascent World. It contains violence, attempted murder, reference to murder and an emotionally abusive parent/grandparent.

Excerpt

I peered through my bedroom window at the dark, oppressive thunder clouds rolling across the sky. They seemed to mock me—a personalized manifestation of the cold vise gripping my heart. I slithered into the glossy black dress and smoothed the silky fabric. Ignoring the tingling sensation in my hands, I squinted into the dresser mirror, fingering bits of hair from my up-do and coaxing them into fine ringlets. When I lowered my vision to my face, an icy, haunted chill slid down my spine. But this wasn’t Mom—not her oval face or her deep blue eyes. No, it was me. Red lines mapped the whites in the mirror, the blue irises shimmering like the glistening black fabric of my dress. Except phantom-liquid glossed the dress, not tears. And those fell thick and fast. No matter how I swiped at them, more fell. On top of that, I kept fixating on the sixteen silver sparkle bangles Mom and Dad had presented me with two years earlier, and on my other wrist where Grandma’s wrap-around bracelet pen clung. Too many memories came with both, so I slipped them off and sealed them in my dresser drawer.

After composing myself enough, I left my room but halted on the stairs. Liam was waiting near the front door with Achilles and Yvon lying at his feet. My brother’s sleek outfit glimmered on the polished dark wood floor. He flashed one upward glance but refused to look at me. As I descended the stairs and crossed the hall to him, new tears blurred my vision. “Please don’t do this, Li.”

His otherwise-bright-green eyes dulled, and like mine, red lines streaked the whites.

He didn’t meet my pleading gaze, nor did he reply. I couldn’t leave it at that. “How long are you going to carry on blaming Eric and me for Mom’s murder?”

When I’d left the cage to face Gina, he’d said it wasn’t our fault—only because he’d thought Gina had meant to kill me. Since she hadn’t, he’d gone back to sticking Mom’s murder on us.

He finally spoke, but his voice had turned to stone. “It’s no different from how you blame Eric.”

A few days ago—in fact, the day after Gina had murdered Mom—Eric had broken my heart. “But it is different. Eric confessed to making a deal with Gina.”

Liam glanced upstairs and cleared his throat as Dad descended to join us. Dad wore a dazed expression, a black tie dangling around his neck.

I gulped a lump down my throat and gestured at the tie. “Can I help you with that, Dad?”

He managed one slow nod.

I approached him, raising his collar. “You’re looking thin. When did you last get something into your stomach?”

He gaped at me as if I’d asked the strangest question, and after a long pause murmured a simple, “I ate.”

My fingers trembled as I constructed the Windsor knot and patted it flat. I studied my father’s troubled eyes—the same vivid green as Liam’s. It brought a burning lump to my throat.

He touched my shoulder, his voice flat and neutral. “Mom would be so proud of you, Cassidy. Now please don’t cry. It rips my heart out.”

The pleading in his voice made me swallow the lump, but my harsh words burst out before I could stop them. “I don’t want Mom’s approval. I want her here.”

Dad jerked back, a hoarse whisper grinding from his chest. “My girl, I didn’t mean—”

Liam glared at me, his Adam’s apple bouncing. His words gushed. “Don’t snap at Dad, Cassidy! This is your fault.”

Our father amplified his voice to a broken grate. “Liam!” He blinked. “Please, guys. We can’t go on blaming each other. Gina took Mom from us, not Cassidy. In all fairness”—Dad directed his gentlest tone to me—“neither did Eric. Can either of you tell me in all honesty you’d have done something different in Eric’s place?”

Liam’s Adam’s apple continued to bounce, but fury burned through me. “Eric made a pact with the devil. He betrayed us!”

Dad shook his head in slow repetition, as if he wasn’t disagreeing, just sad I saw it that way. “Now, I think you know very well that he tried to protect you in the best way he knew how.” He laid an arm around both Liam’s and my shoulders. “We shouldn’t entertain those thoughts. Rather, let’s get through today, okay?” Then he let our tan-and-black Dobermans out through the back door.

I didn’t want to fight with my father. He needed us to stand together. Sucking my disagreeing words back, I nodded. Liam must have been thinking along the same lines, because an empathetic frown tugged at his forehead. After heading through the front door…he froze.

Mourners crowded the park over the curved walkway beneath waterproofed, Kaleidotonium umbrellas, which floated over their heads like a thousand black mushrooms. Kaleidotonium was Graham’s discovery and the reason we were alive. The indestructible shell had protected Petriville while we’d lived in Earth’s orbit. Regardless, I hated everything about this place and Gina. I was glad she wouldn’t be here today. Susan Petri had imprisoned her mother for Mom’s assassination, but even though she was imprisoned, I still loathed Gina.

I forced my mind to the present. Graham, the Winters and the Carter families waited on our front lawn. I found my attention flicking to the tall figure at the back of our party of friends. With gritted teeth, I swiveled away. This wasn’t the same as Liam blaming me. Eric had betrayed us all. I wanted to head over to him and tell him he should leave right away—demand that he never return. Not now, not in front of Dad. I’d do it later.

Liam laid a palm over Dad’s shoulder. He matched Dad’s height now. His rapid-fire speech emerged only a tad slower than normal, but as soothing as a melody. “Dad, would you like to lead the procession? Are you up to it?”

A vacant expression glazed our father’s features as he tilted his head at Liam, confused. “Do you think your mother would wish that?”

Liam didn’t skip a beat. “I do, Dad. Mom would like that very much.”

I smiled at Liam, grateful that he treated our father with such tenderness. He didn’t return it. I hung back and trailed them along the walkway. Mom seeped into every memory, looping through my mind, like when we’d arrived home together after Gina had discovered my friendship with Eric, her warm smile whenever I’d walked through our front door, how her ankles had stuck out below the hem of her jeans. Yesterday I’d gripped her beige cashmere turtleneck to my face and recalled my absolute contentment when she’d cuddled me against her. The wool still smelled of her. It broke me.

The nearest transparent intersection footbridge glowed in its reflection of rainbow colors. Behind Dad and Liam, I made for the inbound of the dual conveyors. As we rode the gentle upward slope, I scanned our hometown. Every digital billboard dotted along the conveyor from here to the town square showed images of Mom. Etched beneath her photo were her name, date of birth and date of death—of her murder, more like it.

Even more black umbrellas lined the dual conveyor than filled the park. Their wards stood in clusters between lollipop trees and Victorian street lanterns, while the rain beat a steady rhythm against the Kaleidotonium shells.

From behind, our closest friends ushered us toward the town center—something like a date extending his hand to the small of one’s back, offering support and encouragement. The rest of the funeral procession joined in after they passed.

We drifted beneath several glowing footbridges. The conveyor-ride left me alone with my thoughts for far too long, but finally the town square—or rather, circle—came into view. The large, shiny number two marked the end of the line. If I thought too many mourners had trailed us on conveyor two, even more poured into the town plaza. Thousands dismounted the twelve conveyor streets that, like the hands of a clock, cut wedge-shaped sectors into the area.

Crowds milled about the cobbled paving and the grassed areas, speckling the town center, only avoiding sitting on the wet park benches.

In silence, people cleared a path. We made our way to the far side of the square. I looked over my shoulder, landing on sector five—on Mom’s old-style stone office building. We’d spent many hours together there when she’d taken me on as an intern. Who will teach me now?

As we neared the glossy number seven, I looked up and right toward Dad’s office. Like with every building edging Petriville’s central circle, old-style stone bedecked the walls. I couldn’t recall the last time I’d visited him there.

Behind Dad, Liam rounded the large number and boarded the conveyor beyond. He didn’t turn to see if I’d kept up—my brother who professed to love me so much. I wasn’t sure which cut worse—me hating Eric or Liam hating me.

We sailed toward the graveyard on Petriville’s outskirts. After what felt like forever, I exited the conveyor onto sodden grass. Until now, only a single grave had occupied it. One! It wasn’t right that we were burying Mom in the second gaping wound, scarring Petriville’s soil. The realization hurt as if someone had ripped my soul through my chest.

A bleak, gaunt and hunched-over version of Dad faced the world these days. No longer did he hold his tall, lean physique with calm, erect confidence. Lines of wretched agony raked his prominent forehead.

After we spread out around Mom’s grave, Harriet moved beside Liam. She clung to him and offered me a heavy blink. At least my friend wasn’t siding with my brother in hating me. Her blonde waves hung limp and tears gushed down her face.

A Taiwanese priest from sector four stepped from the crowd, then faced us. He directed his sermon to Dad, Liam and me, humming Mom’s story in a gentle tone. Digital billboards around Petriville broadcast the sermon to those too far away to hear his words. “We gather here today to celebrate the life of Emily Jones, adored by her husband Peter and children, Liam and Cassidy.”

I surveyed the mourners and found Susan Petri. She lingered beneath a tree with Amanda and Gregory, her teenage daughter and son. I scowled, but Susan averted her gaze. Although my reasoning lacked logic, I detested her too.

And because I loved him despite his betrayal, I searched for Eric. He stood with Graham in a clearing. As he trained his gaze on me, I angled away. But I couldn’t keep from looking back. He shuffled his feet, dropped his chin to regard his shoes and wrung his hands. Black circles ringed his aquamarine eyes.

The priest continued. “The strength of an attachment formed over a hundred and thirteen years is incomprehensible. Our equestrian veterinarian, Marissa, can attest to bonds formed over fifty…uh…sixty years”—he surveyed the crowd for Marissa before going on—“having lost her husband, James.” He frowned and fumbled with the sheets of paper in his hand.

Liam glanced at me for the first time in days, and my mouth dropped open. Not because I thought he’d forgiven me, but because none of us had known that Marissa’s husband was the man who’d died all those years ago. No wonder she always looked sour. Harriet and I had still been attending junior school when the rumors had circulated about how he’d died in a kitchen accident.

The priest pressed the microphone into Dad’s hand.

With a long blink, Dad frowned, light creases raking his forehead. He looked so frail as he parted his lashes, skimming from person to person. “Emily,” he murmured, “my wife, my soul, Liam and Cassidy’s mother—gentle, kind, loving. Those words best describe the woman I adore.” He spoke about her school-life, her energy and savvy, her many academic and sporting awards and how a room sparkled when she walked in. He added things about my mother I hadn’t known. Had I neglected to learn about her life while I’d had the chance to discover who she’d been? Dad ignored the crowd and spoke to Mom in the softest croon. “I will love you forever, my most incredible and beautiful Emily.”

Tears streamed down his face and mine. I filtered my attention through the haze. Streaks marked the faces of Liam, Harriet, Jonas, Roger, Megan, Joshua, Caroline, Samantha, Paul and…Susan. Susan crying? It’s probably from guilt.

Dad handed the microphone back to the priest, who cleared his throat and gave Dad three roses—one red and two white. As the sermon concluded, Dad passed a white rose each to Liam and me. A soft whirring jerked the straps holding Mom’s coffin into slow motion, lowering my mother into the ground.

We approached and Dad let the red rose fall, his expression impassive. Liam followed, letting the flower waft out of his fingers. It landed with its stem crossing Dad’s, but when I freed mine, it set down several inches away. My head spun with something like vertigo, and before Liam had the chance to spin from me, I clasped his hand. Until that moment, I hadn’t planned on defending Mom’s honor.

My voice emerged thick, but my tone sounded resolute, giving me the courage to go on. “Our mother didn’t deserve to die. She did nothing wrong!” I fixed on Susan, who never looked away this time. “I want to know why Gina killed my mother, and not the rubbish you fed me about Gina thinking my mom had led the rebellion. As much as I hate her, Gina is not that stupid. I want the real reason.”

Susan’s face reddened as she averted her gaze. Liam released my hand, tears rolling down his cheeks. I thought he’d abandon me to my own embarrassing declaration. He didn’t. Instead, he hauled me to his chest, arms around my body and head, keeping me safe and warm. “Not now, Cass. Not now, little sister. Think of Dad.”

I focused on the priest as he proceeded with his closing words. Numb sadness took hold of me. I never noticed people dispersing. Once more, Eric fixed me with a look. Then he returned his attention to Graham as Susan, Amanda and Gregory joined them.

Liam didn’t pull away from me as we retraced our route along conveyor seven, though he opened a gap and encouraged Dad to fit in between us. I slipped my arm through my father’s and looked up at his fair, sculptured features. My heart fractured. Yes, for Liam and yes, for me, but more for the wonderful man between us. “Dad, tell me you’re going to be okay. Please tell me you’ll get through this.”

Dad blinked and angled his face toward me. “We must, my daughter. We have no choice.”

Susan held Mom’s wake in the town square. Although I didn’t want to, I couldn’t stop myself from scanning the thick flagpole rooted beside the wide Roman stairs. The tall spire rose toward the sky. At its pinnacle, the bright orange Petrician Enterprises flag wafted in the breeze.

I grimaced at the twisted morbidity, the memory slamming into me with the force of a wrecking ball—the scene of Mom’s murder.

When Petriville’s mourners finally dissipated, dusk settled. The antique-like stone of the municipal building which spanned sectors eight to ten awoke, the eerie glow of the amber lights growing brighter.

As Liam, Dad and I made our way home, wrapped in each other’s arms, new tears surged down my face. Drawing a breath, I wiped them away and made myself a pact. From that moment forward, I’d save my tears—for Mom and the few others who mattered.

Buy Links

Choose Your Store

First For Romance

About the Author

Carryn W. Kerr

Carryn W. Kerr is a young adult fiction author. She has a deep love for all things relating to the English language and considers stories as the rainbows of a sometimes cruel world. Rather than creating characters, she believes they always existed. Hers was the privilege of meeting them. When writing their stories, words flow through her fingertips like a gushing stream. She finds pleasure in escaping to fictitious realms as they develop and grow in her imagination.

Carryn began the adventure of life in a small South African village in the province of Kwa-Zulu Natal. When she isn’t writing, she can be found working out in the gym, running, or trying not to fall off her horse as they train and compete in dressage.

For many years she worked in IT. Carryn lives with her husband and son in Johannesburg, South Africa. Her married daughter is on the beautiful island of Zanzibar.

You can find more about Carryn at her website and follow her on Instagram.

Giveaway

Enter to win this amazing gift package from Carryn W. Kerr!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Notice: This competition ends on September 7th, 2021 at 12am EST. Competition hosted by Totally Entwined Group.