Book Blitz & Excerpt: Ryld’s Shadows + Giveaway

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Ryld’s Shadows

by Angel Martinez & Bellora Quinn

Book 4 in the AURA series

Word Count: 74,271
Book Length: SUPER NOVEL
Pages: 277

GENRES:

CONTEMPORARY
EROTIC ROMANCE
FANTASY
GAY
GLBTQI
PARANORMAL

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Book Description


Ryld must learn to control his dangerous shadows before they kill someone he cares about or someone unscrupulous learns how to control him.

AURA’s offices have been quiet since the mage tower incident—as quiet as they can be for an agency dedicated to policing holes in reality—and the department heads have been free to turn their attention back to mundane matters. The return to quiet bureaucracy gives AURA’s Director of Research, Kai Hiltas, the time to turn his energy to a new issue—a young drow with unusual and dangerous powers named Ryld.

Though his shadows always lurk at the edges of his vision, Ryld does his best to live peacefully and not let them hurt anyone. He has his work, his apartment and a succession of minders assigned by AURA who are, ostensibly, there to keep him safe in his new world and to prevent him from causing any scenes with his shadows. Most of the time, the arrangement works. But one disastrous incident causes Ryld’s minder to leave him unattended and lost—the precise thing he was hired to prevent.

To replace the faithless minder, Kai suggests Hank, a half-goblin accountant recently in the middle of a string of terrible luck, while Kai works out how best to get Ryld the magical training he so desperately needs. For his part, Hank truly likes Ryld and insists he would be happier working as Ryld’s companion rather than as a controlling minder.

As Hank and Ryld slowly come to terms with sharing space—and eventually more—Kai’s search for a teacher for Ryld takes them out west on the invitation of the Elvenhome’s aelfe queen and right into the lap of inter-elven feuds, ancient prejudice, conspiracies and trafficking rings. What should have been a pleasant visit soon turns into more than even forever-scheming Kai can handle.

Reader advisory: This book contains references to past trauma and PTSD, kidnapping and kidnapping of a child.


Excerpt

“I thought you guys were supposed to be more…buff.”

“Buff?”

“Stacked.”

Ryld looked at the man blankly.

“Bigger. Muscular.”

“Oh. Yes. Most of the aelfe are, as you say, buff. My kind, the drow, are as tall, but usually lighter in frame.”

The man took a sip of his beer. “So what happened to you? Did you miss the call when they were handin’ out the tickets for the tall and ripped lottery?”

Ryld processed that for a moment. None of that made much sense. Nothing had happened to him, he’d missed no calls as far as he knew, and he wasn’t sure what gambling had to do with anything. He wasn’t sure how, but his best guess, given the previous question, was the man was asking why he looked different from other elves he must have met.

“Simple genetics. I was bred for certain characteristics. My coloring. My…ability with magic.” Ryld took a sip of his own beer. “Those genetic traits also carry markers for a smaller height and build.” And madness. But Ryld had already learned humans had a deep fear of madness, so he kept that to himself.

“Yeah, no shit. You can’t be mor’n five and a half feet and a buck fifty, if that.”

Ryld blinked again. Five and a half feet was an Imperial measurement, presumably of his height, which, while accurate, was terribly inefficient. Since they were discussing his size, the other observation should have been about his weight, but instead he spoke of money.

“I have more than a dollar and fifty cents with me. The drinks here are known to be expensive. I made sure I brought enough.”

His drinking companion laughed. “Never mind. You’re a funny one.”

That was odd. Usually, he didn’t understand human humor and they could be more uncomfortable with his presence than amused by it.

“It’s time to go, Ryld.”

Ryld looked up from the human he’d been studying into the face of someone who had exactly the elven characteristic the human had commented Ryld lacked. Tall and broad shouldered, with dark, ash-blond hair, and a countenance that made sure all but the most inebriated of bar patrons stayed well out of his way. Ryld sighed and set his drink down half finished.

He stood without argument and bid the human good night, as was their custom, and followed his minder outside. As he crossed the threshold, a small flicker of dark caught his eye, but he ignored it and kept moving.

“The establishment isn’t closed for the evening yet,” he pointed out as they walked down the row of vehicles in the parking lot.

Cress gave his own sigh. “No, but it will be very soon. We’ve been over this, Ryld. You don’t have to stay until everyone else has gone, and they kick us out.”

“But…there were still a few humans I hadn’t spoken to.”

“Nor do you need to speak to everyone in the place in one night.”

“Oh. Did I transgress? Make a mistake?”

“I know what transgress means, and no, you didn’t. They don’t have a rule dictating how many people you should or should not speak to.”

Ryld stopped. “How do they know then? How many is appropriate? Without a rule, how do they know?”

Cress stopped too and turned to look at him. Ryld managed to meet his eyes for a moment, then shifted his gaze to a spot over Cress’ shoulder. Better to look at a point over the other person’s shoulder than drop his eyes, he’d learned. A downward-cast gaze was viewed as subservient, rather than simply respectful.

“When there isn’t a rule, they decide for themselves how many people they speak with, and who.”

Ryld caught another flicker out of the corner of his eye and swallowed. “If there were a rule, it would be so much easier to know.”

“I know, but that’s how it is. Sometimes there are rules, and sometimes there aren’t.”

Cress spoke in a low, soothing tone. The one he used when he was being extra patient. When he wanted to avoid a scene. Ryld didn’t want there to be a scene either. His head would ache for days after, and sometimes he couldn’t even get out of bed if it had been particularly bad. It wasn’t as if they hadn’t had this conversation about rules before. There was no reason to get upset.

“Okay.”

“Okay? Are you ready to go now?” Cress asked.

“Yes.”

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About the Author

Angel Martinez

The unlikely black sheep of an ivory tower intellectual family, Angel Martinez has managed to make her way through life reasonably unscathed. Despite a wildly misspent youth, she snagged a degree in English Lit, married once and did it right the first time, (same husband for almost twenty-four years) gave birth to one amazing son, (now in college) and realized at some point that she could get paid for writing.

Published since 2006, Angel’s cynical heart cloaks a desperate romantic. You’ll find drama and humor given equal weight in her writing and don’t expect sad endings. Life is sad enough.

She currently lives in Delaware in a drinking town with a college problem and writes Science Fiction and Fantasy centered around gay heroes.

You can take a look at Angel’s Website and follow her on Facebook and Twitter.


Bellora Quinn

Originally hailing from Detroit Michigan, Bellora now resides on the sunny Gulf Coast of Florida where a herd of Dachshunds keeps her entertained. She got her start in writing at the dawn of the internet when she discovered PbEMs (Play by email) and found a passion for collaborative writing and steamy hot erotica. Soap Opera like blogs soon followed and eventually full novels.

The majority of her stories are in the M/M genre with urban fantasy or paranormal settings and many with a strong BDSM flavour.

You can take a look a Bellora’s blog and find her on Facebook and Twitter.


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Book Blitz & Excerpt: Cold Blood + Giveaway

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Cold Blood by T. Strange

Book 2 in the Bound to the Spirits series

Word Count: 86,043
Book Length: SUPER NOVEL
Pages: 350

GENRES:

BONDAGE AND BDSM
CONTEMPORARY
CRIME
EROTIC ROMANCE
GAY
GLBTQI
PARANORMAL
THRILLERS AND SUSPENSE

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Book Description


Ghost wards are failing. Mediums are vanishing. Someone—or something—is stirringup the ghosts of Toronto. It’s up to psychic medium Harlan Brand to find out why.

After defeating a serial killer who could control ghosts, psychic medium Harlan Brand is feeling much more confident in his abilities working for the Toronto Police Service with his partner, Hamilton, as they protect the city from dangerous spirits.

He is expanding his social circle, however reluctantly, to include the other police mediums and Morgan Vermeer, another graduate from the Centre—a school for training psychic children.

Harlan and his boyfriend, Charles Moore, are continuing to explore BDSM, their relationship and Charles’ strange ability to shield people from ghosts.

Hoping to find answers about Charles’ power and the serial killer, Harlan returns to the Centre only to find that one of its ghost wards—magical symbols that spirits can’t cross—is broken, and it’s a mystery as to how and why.

The calm and order that Harlan has been building up in his life are shattered when wards start failing across the city and mediums begin to disappear, including one of his new friends and a student from the Centre.

Someone—or something—is stirring up the ghosts of Toronto.

Reader advisory: This book contains scenes of violence and murder. It is best read as part of a series.

Excerpt

Hamilton sighed as he lowered himself into the driver’s seat of their police cruiser, settling in much more heavily than usual. “Matthew wants to meet you.”

Harlan was relieved that he was already struggling with his seatbelt. It gave him a moment to think about what Hamilton had just said.

Matthew? Do I know a Matthew? Hamilton’s—and, by extension, Harlan’s—sergeant was named Matthews, but Harlan had already met her.

The seatbelt clicked into place. He was out of time.

Hamilton sighed again, this time with an edge of laughter. “Matthew is my…” He mumbled something Harlan couldn’t make out. “You haven’t met him,” he added in his regular speaking voice.

Harlan waited, hoping Hamilton would elaborate, repeat himself or that the words would finally click into place as he ran them over and over in his mind.

Silence. Silence that he had to break if he was going to get anything else.

“Sorry… I didn’t quite—”

“Boyfriend!” Too loud this time, loud and sudden enough that it startled Harlan. “Matthew is my boyfriend. He wants to meet you.” Hamilton slid his gaze over to Harlan, a sly smile on his thin lips. “You can say no,” he added, making it clear he would prefer that.

Harlan would prefer that as well, so it worked out nicely.

Before Harlan could assure him that he was, of course, in complete agreement, Hamilton shook his head and sighed for a third time that morning. “Nah, I think we’re past that. At this point, it would just be a delaying tactic. He’s made up his mind.”

Harlan glanced sideways at Hamilton. Is Hamilton actually blushing? He hadn’t thought Hamilton was physically capable of doing that, never mind imagined that it might actually happen.

“And I’ve met your boyfriend,” Hamilton shot back, even though Harlan hadn’t spoken.

Technically true, but they hadn’t exactly met over dinner or another social event. Did life-and-death situations count more or less than sitting down for a meal together?

“And, by the way”—the blush Harlan had probably imagined was gone, and Hamilton was definitely smirking now—”I knew I recognized him from somewhere.”

Shit. Harlan had been dreading this conversation, hoping it wouldn’t happen. He’d hoped that Hamilton wouldn’t connect Charles, Harlan’s ghost-repelling boyfriend, to Mr. Moore, owner of Rattling Chains, a formerly haunted BDSM club. Apparently, that had been too much to ask for.

Hamilton opened his mouth, started to say something then seemed to reconsider when he saw Harlan’s pained expression. “I’m glad you’ve got someone,” he said, just as gruffly as usual, but with a hint of genuine fondness and even warmth. “You don’t have a lot of people.” He looked away while he took a left-hand turn, then laughed. “Of course you’d meet someone on the job.”

Harlan looked down at his lap. Yeah. It was pretty pathetic. Sure, he’d started going to the occasional police-medium group—basically a coffee klatch, not everyone sitting in a circle sharing their feelings the way he’d been dreading—but that was still connected to the police. He hadn’t even realized that Charles had the same connection. Fuck. Somehow, without realizing it, he’d become one of those adults who only lived for his job.

He blinked. Maybe it isn’t just me.

“What does Matthew do?” he asked, fully expecting he already knew the answer.

He was wrong.

“He’s an advertising consultant.” Hamilton shrugged. “I don’t know what that means, either.” He paused, then added, as though he’d read Harlan’s mind—more likely his expression—“I did meet him through a case, though.”

Harlan wasn’t sure if that made him feel better or worse. He didn’t know exactly how old Hamilton was, but he guessed his police partner was at least a few years older than he was. Was that what he had to look forward to—all his personal connections coming from his work for the rest of his life? He wasn’t sure why it bothered him, but it did. Maybe it was like that for everyone, and he just didn’t know—not that there was anyone he could ask.

Maybe Charles… He’d met a few of Charles’ friends, more or less in passing. He certainly hadn’t sat down and had dinner with any of them, the way Hamilton seemed to be proposing that he do with Matthew. He’d always assumed it was because he and Charles were still fairly new as a couple and—knowing Harlan—Charles hadn’t wanted to overwhelm him with a bunch of people all at once—but maybe he’d been wrong. Maybe he just didn’t want to introduce Harlan to anyone else in his life.

Knowing he was starting to spiral, he was relieved when Hamilton continued.

“I told him you don’t do phone calls and you wouldn’t want to text someone you don’t know”—Wow, Hamilton really will make a great detective one day—“so you can just let me know when you decide. Here.” He fished a piece of paper out of his breast pocket and handed it to Harlan. “This is Matthew’s number so you can give it to Charles. He’s invited too, if he’d like.” His smirk was back. “I think he still has a choice, unlike you.”

“Where are we going today?” Normally Hamilton didn’t tell him, and he didn’t ask, but it was the only change of topic Harlan could think of. “Is it another one of Samuel’s ghosts?” Killing the warped medium and serial killer Samuel Harkness had released most of the spirits under his control, but even eight months later they were still finding stragglers, like the ones that had led Harlan to their killer in the first place.

Interestingly, Harlan and Hamilton had found—and freed—almost three times as many wanderers as the other three medium pairs put together. It was as if even though he’d never met them, these spirits felt a connection to him for killing the man who had been controlling them.

This part of the job was a lot less glamorous when the ghosts they worked with weren’t leading him to a serial killer.

Kid,” Hamilton had laughed after a sweaty, dusty and frustrated Harlan had snapped something along those lines after a very long, hot day crammed in the crawlspace of an old house, trying to coax an especially nervous ghost close enough for him to either grab or calm it down enough for it to cross over on its own, “that’s the job. It’s not bringing down bad guys and epic showdowns. It’s…this. Hey, you’ve got a cobweb on your face.”

Harlan couldn’t help feeling that he’d peaked too soon, experienced more police-medium excitement than most of his colleagues got in a lifetime.

Crucially, he’d survived. Most police mediums didn’t live long enough to retire.

He still liked his job and found it fulfilling, rewarding and blah blah, but he couldn’t help feeling a little…let down. Restless, maybe. Not that he wanted to face anything like Samuel ever again! But…something. Something more than finding ghost, freeing ghost, next. Day in, day out, week after week. Just a little.

“Nah. Well—not as far as I know,” Hamilton amended. “Though apparently this is kinda a weird one.”

Harlan couldn’t help brightening, sitting forward in his seat a little. In light of what he’d been thinking, ‘weird’ was good. “Really?”

“Yeah, yeah, keep it in your pants.” Hamilton laughed.

“You gonna tell me or is it gonna be a surprise?” Even a few months ago Harlan wouldn’t have dared ask for information about the scene they were going to, and he certainly wouldn’t have expected an answer.

Now, it was almost like a game between the two of them—if Harlan really wanted to know, Hamilton would tell him, and if Hamilton really wanted to keep him in the dark until they got there—and Harlan was beginning to think that, sometimes at least, walking in without any preconceptions was helpful—he wouldn’t. And, occasionally, Hamilton himself knew very little or nothing about the haunting situation. Harlan was starting to suspect that was one of the reasons Hamilton hadn’t filled Harlan in ahead of time in the past. Hamilton didn’t like admitting when he didn’t know something.

“Mmm, this time I think I’ll let you see for yourself. Besides, we’re almost there.” Hamilton pulled up beside a record store, one of those hipster places that had been popping up in the most gentrified parts of the city. He got out, coming around the other side of the car and opening Harlan’s door when he didn’t get out immediately.

Harlan stepped onto the sidewalk to take a better look around. Hauntings—the ones not related to violent crime, which he doubted was the case here—tended to be in residential buildings. People died where they lived, not where they bought vinyl.

He glanced across the street—more shops, and they didn’t look like they had apartments over them. Neither did the record store or the others around it.

“There’s a haunting here?”

“I can double-check the address if you’d like,” Hamilton offered, smirking a little.

“No. That’s fine.” As far as Harlan knew, Hamilton had never got an address wrong.

Maybe the dispatcher had been wrong?

A young white man stepped out of the shop, waving at them. “Are you with the Graveyard Crew?”

It was a nickname for Toronto police mediums that Harlan didn’t really like—and, by the look on Hamilton’s face, he didn’t care for it either.

Hamilton pointedly glanced down at his uniform and badge. “We’re with the police.”

“Oh, good! C’mon in. We’ve been expecting you.” He turned and disappeared into the shop.

Harlan shot Hamilton a questioning glance.

Hamilton shrugged one shoulder, extending a hand to say after you.

He was suddenly hit by a barrage of noise—apparently the door was surprisingly soundproof. Harlan always thought the music in these types of places sounded bad, but this was bad.

Hamilton, never one to fuck around, headed straight to the man who’d welcomed them. “Can you turn the music down? Or off, maybe?” He had to raise his voice to be heard over the din.

The man shook his head. “No! That’s the problem.” He didn’t have Hamilton’s loud ‘cop voice’ and he was practically screaming.

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About the Author

T. Strange

T. Strange didn’t want to learn how to read, but literacy prevailed and she hasn’t stopped reading—or writing—since. She’s been published since 2013, and she writes M/M romance in multiple genres, including paranormal and BDSM. T.’s other interests include cross stitching, gardening, watching terrible horror movies, playing video games, and finding injured pigeons to rescue. Originally from White Rock, BC, she lives on the Canadian prairies, where she shares her home with her wife, cats, guinea pigs and other creatures of all shapes and sizes. She’s very easy to bribe with free food and drinks—especially wine.

Find T. Strange on Instagram.


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Book Blitz & Excerpt: Demon’s Game + Giveaway

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Demon’s Game by Xenia Melzer

General Release Date: 25th January 2022

Word Count: 58,464
Book Length: NOVEL
Pages: 277

Genres:

ANGELS AND DEMONS
COMEDY AND HUMOUR
CONTEMPORARY
EROTIC ROMANCE
GAY
GLBTQI
PARANORMAL

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Book Description

 

For a demon, finding a mate is a difficult, anxiety-inducing process. Or he might just accidentally bite his gaming buddy during a bout of experimental sex and bam—mate found!

During a book club meeting where The Witcher is discussed in its entirety, meaning books, series and games, Barion again meets Jon, the zombie, who lives in Sammy’s basement, and the two bond over their mutual love of the game.

They begin gaming together, doing videos for Jon’s YouTube channel where he tests games that are to be released to the public. During one of the videos, they are asked what their ideal game would look like, and the idea for Demon Wars is born. Working together on the game brings Barion and Jon closer together and their friendship deepens every day, which worries Jon’s Grann, a zombie like himself and the witch queen of New Orleans. She wants Jon to come back home, while Jon realizes he loves spending time with Barion.

After some friendly—and oh so subtle—prodding from friends and family, Barion and Jon decide to explore the potential of their relationship. They have sex, and Barion bites Jon in the heat of the moment, marking him as his mate. They’re both over the moon, even though they now have to visit Grann in New Orleans because the family and the ancestors want to check Barion out.

They quickly realize that something is wrong there, and it turns out Grann has been challenged by a voodoo priest who practices the blackest of magic. Barion will do his best to save the day, Grann—and his relationship.

Publisher’s Note: This book is best read as book two in the Demon Mates series.

Excerpt

“I still think it would be better if you came home, ma cheré. I don’t like you being so far away.” Grann sounded worried through the phone, and Jon felt bad about that—not bad enough to return home to New Orleans, but bad enough to try to placate her.

“I’m happy here, Grann, I swear. Sammy is a fantastic landlord and friend, and I have my book club.”

“I know. I’ve seen it.” There was a pregnant pause that Jon knew better than to disturb. “The pictures I’m getting now are all blurred, though, and the zanset yo are restless. They don’t know what to make of the situation.”

Jon suppressed a sigh. It was the same problem as always—or the same two problems. The first one he could address easily enough, even if his words didn’t have a lot of impact on either Grann or the ancestors. Come to think of it, that was the case with everything he did since he’d moved from New Orleans to Beaconville some five years before. And he was getting distracted.

“I already told you that Dre is super nice and also Sammy’s mate. He would never harm me.”

Wi, wi, I know. I can see the threads of his love for his mate and everybody and everything his mate holds dear. It’s the only thing I can see clearly.”

“I told you… I asked Dre and he’s not doing it on purpose.”

“He doesn’t have to.” Grann’s voice had taken on a dark quality, a tone she usually reserved for everything occult she thought Jon wasn’t ready for or strong enough to hear. “He’s chaos personified. It’s his natural state. I wonder how your witch friends cope with it.”

Jon thought of Maribel and Mavis, the two witches in their book club. “I think Mavis once mentioned it to Dre shortly after he and Sammy had become mates. He said to give the magic some time, and they haven’t complained since.”

“I see.” Grann was mulling this over, shortly side-tracked by the magical possibilities Jon would never understand. Like a heat-seeking missile, though, she returned her attention to the matter at hand. “You really don’t want to come back home? Just yesterday I saw the obituary for a Silvery Sugar Fox. I could wake him for you, and I would, to make you happy.”

Jon rolled his eyes. He knew Grann meant well—the whole family, alive and dead, did—but Jon had finally drawn the line when Grann and the others had started mentioning obituaries like they were the last rave in dating sites. Funnily enough, they hadn’t batted an eye when he’d told them he was gay, after having lived with them for more than ten years, long enough for them to become his new family, one he dearly loved, even if they annoyed the ever-loving hell out of him sometimes. Coming out to them back in 1932 had been terrifying, but he hadn’t been able to keep lying to them and himself any longer.

It had taken them fifteen more years to decide he should start looking for a husband, and they had managed to be relatively subtle about it—casually mentioning deaths of eligible men over breakfast and, in the case of the ancestors, sending him dreams of newly deceased men—until the Internet had taken on steam in the nineties. Subtlety had died like a roach under the heel of a vicious housewife then.

First, they had tried to set him up with the living, presumably to get him into the swing of things, whatever that was supposed to mean. Jon just couldn’t do it. He had gotten used to not being alive, had arranged himself with the prospect of seeing eternity if he so desired. He was also comfortable with his enhanced abilities that didn’t make him cool and smooth like a were-creature or a vampire but were enough to distinguish him from humans, thus making it impossible for him to go out with one of them.

What he couldn’t stand—not to this day—was feeling the warmth of another being while he himself was always cold. It was a brutal reminder how he shouldn’t be there anymore, even though Grann had assured him that Papa Legba always had a plan for whatever he did. If said plan included having Jon living celibate, it had worked. His sex drive had apparently not woken with him. He still could appreciate masculine beauty, and he even knew what he would want in a man, if he would want a man. It was a strange state of being, caught between wanting intimacy and not being able to pursue it, made even worse by his family’s meddling. For some time, he had thought he might be asexual, but while he was still alive, his sex drive had been a prominent part of his life and he didn’t think his sexual orientation had changed with death.

After he had finally gotten it into his family’s thick skulls that a living man wasn’t what he was looking for, not even for the sake of sowing his wild oats, they had swung back to their initial MO and the thing with the obituaries had taken on new momentum.

Jon had dealt with it as best as he could, aka ignoring his family by keeping himself busy with staying on top of every new computer development and diving deep into the world of video games, making himself a part of their evolvement from Pong to Space Invaders to Pac-Man. From there it went on with SimCity, Final Fantasy and Castlevania in the second half of the eighties. By the time real-time strategy games like Dune II or Warcraft: Orcs and Humans started their triumphal march in the nineties, Jon was already a veteran in the scene and a sought-after game tester and advisor for all the huge companies. Strictly speaking, he was several veterans, because being a zombie meant he would be around long enough for people to notice, so he took some precautions until he realized that nobody in the gaming business gave a damn about suspicious longevity, because people simply assumed the person behind the alias, in his case PLM—Papa Legba’s Miracle—changed while the alias stayed on. He’d been PLM ever since, abandoning his other virtual personalities. He was proud to say his name was linked to quite a few legends in the world of gaming, and his fame was paying off nicely. It also helped him to bury the confusing feelings he was having regarding his life under an avalanche of pretend worlds where reality was simply a nuisance.

But no matter how deeply he immersed himself in the world of virtual reality, no matter how much money he gave Grann and the family to prove to them what a successful and fulfilled undead life he was leading, they wouldn’t stop poking their noses into his business, namely his nonexistent love life.

One day, Jon had had enough. He’d hung a map of the US on a wall, taken a dart and thrown it. He’d never heard of Beaconville before, but that had been where he’d be living from then on. After much complaining and endless discussions about how the Midwest was too far away from New Orleans and that the snow would kill him, not to mention what he did to his poor family, leaving them behind, Grann finally caved and gave her blessing. Because she was the undisputed matriarch, nobody dared contradict her, and some of his younger cousins even helped him move his stuff to the only hotel in the small town, ‘M&M’s B&B’. Meeting Mavis and Maribel had been a stroke of luck, the witches immediately knowing what he was. They’d introduced him to Sammy, who was open and friendly without being nosy and who happened to have an empty basement he didn’t know what to do with. It was perfect, and until the incident where he’d forgotten to eat some brain and his body had reminded him loudly how important that was everything had been fine. Luckily for him, Sammy didn’t spook easily and had managed to distract him with some leftover apple pie while he’d made a dash for the butcher to buy Jon a whole pig brain.

After that, he’d gotten another call from Grann, telling him in no uncertain terms that if he didn’t take better care of himself, she would personally drag him back to New Orleans and Mavis and Maribel had explained to him that he needed to get out at least once a month for his ‘mental hygiene’, as they called it. Jon was well versed in understanding subtext, the message being he would be playing with way less than a full deck of cards if he didn’t start forming some bonds outside his virtual realities.

Sammy had just started his book club, which seemed as good a reason as any to come up for air from his beloved basement. By now, Jon wouldn’t miss the regular meetings with his friends and he even left the basement once a week to chat with Sammy or Milo in the bookstore. When Dre was there, they would read mangas together on one of the couches Sammy had renovated, while they drank hot chocolate or Frappuccino’s.

Jon thought he was making great progress regarding his social life, while Grann thought it was time for him to come back home, which was the other bone they regularly discussed heatedly.

“It’s Silver Fox or Sugar Daddy, Grann. And I want to get to know the man I’m hooking up with, which is difficult when he’s already dead.”

“Now you’re just being stubborn.” Grann chuckled. “Fine… I’ll leave you to your games. Perhaps I’ll wake him for myself. His picture does look good, and I could do with some action, pa kwe?”

“Grann! I don’t need to hear that!”

“It’s only natural, cherie. And just because you refuse to live—”

“I’ve heard enough. Do what you must, but leave me out of it. And don’t tell me about it.”

Now Grann was laughing out loud. “I love you, cherie. Take good care of yourself.”

“I love you, too, Grann—and I will.”

She hung up on him, leaving Jon wondering what she was cooking up in her brain to let him off the hook so quickly. Usually her rantings about him coming home lasted a lot longer. He shrugged, knowing he would find out sooner than he would like and determined to enjoy the time until the boot dropped on his head. He had a book club meeting about The Witcher to attend.

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About the Author

Xenia Melzer

Xenia Melzer was born and raised in a small village in the South of Bavaria. As one of nature’s true chocoholics, she’s always in search of the perfect chocolate experience. So far, she’s had about a dozen truly remarkable ones. Despite having been in close proximity to the mountains all her life, she has never understood why so many people think snow sports are fun. There are neither chocolate nor horses involved and it’s cold by definition, so where’s the sense? She does not like beer either and has never been to the Oktoberfest – no quality chocolate there.

Even though her mind is preoccupied with various stories most of the time, Xenia has managed to get through school and university with surprisingly good grades. Right after school she met her one true love who showed her that reality is capable of producing some truly amazing love stories itself.

While she was having her two children, she started writing down the most persistent stories in her head as a way of relieving mommy-related stress symptoms. As it turned out, the stress-relief has now become a source of the same, albeit a positive one.

When she’s not writing, she translates the stories of other authors into German, enjoys riding and running, spending time with her kids, and dancing with her husband. If you want to contact her, please visit either her website, or write her an email.

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