Book Blitz & Excerpt: Finding Home + Giveaway

Finding Home Banner

Finding Home by Megan Linden

Book 6 in the Harrington Hills series

Word Count: 33,036
Book Length: SHORT NOVEL
Pages: 142

Genres:

CONTEMPORARY
EROTIC ROMANCE
GAY
GLBTQI
PARANORMAL
WERESHIFTERS

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Book Description

With a beginning as rocky as their pasts, it’d be easier if they stayed away from each other. They didn’t.

Leo Tomilson has come back to Harrington Hills after a fire that changed his life forever, and all he wants is to be left alone. No longer being a firefighter is something he might learn to live with, but there are days when he doesn’t even feel like a proper werewolf anymore. That cuts deeper than anything else.

Charlie Dewitt is as reliable as they come in Harrington Hills. Ever since he put down roots in this town, he’s never wanted to leave. His brother is here, his pack is here and so is his life. He has everything he needs. Not everything he wants, perhaps, but that’s fine.

Their first meeting is a mess because they clash over a series of misunderstandings. But Charlie is a patient man, Leo sees in him what most people miss and neither of them are good at taking the easy way out, so maybe there’s a chance for…something, after all.

Reader advisory: This book is best read as part of a series but can be read as a standalone. The book contains a scene of public sex.

Excerpt

Leo woke up to the sound of knocking, but he refused to acknowledge whoever it was. They would leave eventually.

He rolled over and put his face into his pillow, but the knocking turned into pounding.

“Open the door, LJ!” Sylvia. Of course. He should’ve known.

“Go away,” he said, loud enough so she could hear him. “I’m sleeping.”

“I don’t care.” She pounded on the door again. “Let me in before somebody calls the cops on me.”

“Ha-ha,” he grumbled but sat up. Given their foster father was the sheriff, the joke had been funny once, but that time had long passed. “Maybe they should.”

“Yeah, yeah, whatever,” Sylvia said through the door, but at least she wasn’t attacking it anymore. She’d probably heard him getting up.

It wasn’t until he was halfway down the hallway that he realized Sylvia wasn’t alone. Damn it. Damn his fucked-up senses and damn his siblings for ambushing him like this first thing in the morning.

Or afternoon, he figured, glancing at the clock near the door.

A big part of him wanted to turn around and go back to sleep, but since he was already out of bed, he might as well get on with it. Sylvia wasn’t going to let up now, anyway.

He opened his door with a “What?” in a matter of greeting and almost closed it a moment later when he saw the small crowd on his porch. Along with his annoying sister were Damien, Luka and Beatrice.

“Hello to you, too, brother,” Sylvia told him and moved forward. When Leo stepped back on instinct, she nodded at him and entered the house. She went to pat his chest, but he sidestepped that in the guise of capitulating and making room for the rest of their little group to come in.

Out of everyone, only Beatrice had the good graces to look vaguely apologetic for the invasion.

“I love what you haven’t done with the place,” Sylvia said as she looked around, but Leo just rolled his eyes. The house was furnished enough to be lived in, and that was what he was doing—living in it. Sure, it had been furnished by a company he’d hired and further accessorized by his mother—their mother—who wanted to make it more ‘homey’, but it was a perfectly fine living space.

Sylvia made it sound like he was living in a shack in the woods.

Which he wouldn’t mind, actually, as long as it had a comfortable bed, but he’d known better than to freak out his family like that. So he’d purchased a house remotely before he’d even moved back to Harrington Hills—and here he was.

Yet his family still found a reason to freak out anyway.

“Give me a minute,” he muttered and went back to the bedroom. He put on a pair of jeans and the first T-shirt he pulled out of his drawer, barely avoiding the temptation to just lie down again. He made a stop in the bathroom without so much as a glance at the mirror then forced himself to return to the living room.

The four of his siblings had sat down on the couch and one of the armchairs, leaving the other empty for him. How nice of them, he thought dryly, and for a second considered ignoring the seat altogether, but finally he sat, putting his hands on the armchair’s sides and resisting the urge to pull his legs up.

“Did you need something?” he asked.

“We needed to talk to you.” Sylvia looked at him then, pointedly, at the rest of their siblings, who nodded.

“We’re worried about you,” Beatrice said, and Leo opened his mouth to tell her there was no need, but Sylvia didn’t let him.

“You haven’t been out on a Full Moon Run since you got here. You’ve skipped all but one of the pack gatherings—”

“Two,” he corrected her. He’d been roped into that second one because he’d bumped into his mother at the store and she’d insisted he help her out, but it still counted, nevertheless.

“Fine, two.” Sylvia seemed to struggle not to roll her eyes—or maybe get up and smack him over the head. Either one or both, really. “In the almost three months since you’ve been back.”

“So what?” He raised his eyebrows. There was no law that said he needed to attend the gatherings. He’d done what was required. He’d gone to see the Alpha once he’d been back and he’d attended one get-together soon after. Then he’d decided to do what he preferred, which was to stay home and not bother with people.

His mood was definitely not suited for interactions with others, which this conversation perfectly conveyed.

“What do you mean, ‘so what’?” Luka frowned. “You’re a part of the pack. We gather as a pack.”

“It’s not mandatory,” he pointed out the obvious, but it looked like it was only obvious to him alone.

“It’s not mandatory to attend every gathering,” Sylvia told him. “It’s unheard of to attend none. And,” she added quickly when he opened his mouth, “yes, I know you attended two, but that’s beside the point.”

“What is your point, then?” Leo dug his hands into the armrests. “I did attend two gatherings, so it’s not like I’ve attended none. I’m not going more because I don’t want to. What’s so bad about that?”

“What’s so bad is our mom, who makes your favorite pie every time the pack gathers at the house because she thinks you’re going to be there,” Damien spoke up and, damn it, he’d always been the best at guilt-tripping.

None of them had ever wanted to disappoint their mom, the woman who had opened her heart and arms for them even before she’d opened her home.

Leo might feel like a monster some days, but he’d never purposefully hurt the most important woman in his life.

“I never promised her I’d come,” he said, but even to his own ears the excuse was a weak one.

“Yeah, because that makes it all better,” Damien muttered.

“You don’t have to promise anything. She’s always going to be waiting, and you know it.” Sylvia sagged in her seat as if she were a balloon that had lost all its air. “Seriously, what did you expect, moving back to Hills?”

He’d been looking for a place to survive. Somewhere to hide in, to forget his old life, forget—

Forget everything.

So he’d returned to the last place he’d felt safe, the place he’d called home long before Chicago. But even here, nothing felt like it once had, because the memories had come back home with him.

He’d been trying to bury them all, but they refused to let go. They kept him up at night, trapped him in his nightmares and suffocated him until he ran, and ran, and ran for miles through the forest surrounding the town—and farther, too. He’d caught himself more than once outside the Harrington Pack grounds.

He’d never run far enough to outrun his head, but sometimes his thoughts had quieted for a while, at least.

He couldn’t do it on the pack runs, not really. Someone would notice he wasn’t shifting or running for pleasure, and he never wanted to have to admit to anyone—his parents, his Alpha, his siblings—that he was running for his life these days.

“LJ?” Sylvia’s voice penetrated his thoughts. It sounded softer than anything she’d said so far today, and when he looked up, he met her worried gaze.

He forced himself to let up his grip on the armrests. At least he hadn’t extended his claws.

“I expected some peace and quiet,” he said after he remembered the last thing she’d said before he’d gotten lost in his head. “I get that you like to gather until there’s a crowd, but crowds are the opposite of what I want.”

“How about we organize a family dinner, then?” Beatrice spoke up and he turned to her. She seemed…sad, and Leo didn’t have to guess why. That had been a part of why he’d stayed away—not wanting his family to worry. “Not the whole pack, just the Tomilsons? We hadn’t had one of those in a while.”

Leo wanted to protest—‘just the Tomilsons’ still meant close to thirty people, including all the significant others and the kids—but he figured it was actually a compromise he could live with. He would sit through the family dinner, make his parents happy and hopefully get his siblings off his back.

“Fine,” he said with a sigh when he saw Sylvia opening her mouth. “Let’s do that.”

Sylvia narrowed her eyes. “Really?”

“Yes, really.” He shot her a glare that hopefully conveyed ‘don’t push your luck’. He got up. “Now, is the intervention over?”

She shook her head but got up as well.

“This wasn’t an intervention,” she said, and the trio on the couch looked from one of them to the other and back, staying silent. “It was a warning. We’ll settle for a family dinner now, but you skip the next after-the-run barbecue and we’ll be back. And that’s going to be an intervention.”

He wondered briefly what she considered the difference between the two but dismissed the thought quickly. He’d worry about it later. Now, he just wanted them out of his house, so he could go back to bed.

Or maybe eat something.

He should probably eat. It had been a while.

“Is that all?” he finally asked, since everyone’s gaze was now stuck on him.

It was the politest ‘get out of my house’ he could come up with, and he hoped it would work, because he truly didn’t want to fight with them. He just wanted to be left alone.

Sylvia looked from him to their siblings on the couch before nodding slowly. “Yes,” she finally said with a nod. “I’ll text you about the family dinner, so don’t pretend you’ve lost your phone or I’ll come here and drag you out myself.”

Leo pushed his suddenly sweaty hands into the pockets of his jeans and forced himself to swallow through his tight throat.

There was no smoke, no fire, no pain.

Sylvia was just being Sylvia.

“Fine,” he said slowly, carefully, making sure his voice would hold. He walked to the door and opened it. “Bye now.”

Beatrice and Luka sighed, Damien rolled his eyes and Sylvia looked like she wanted to say something but closed her mouth and walked out without another word.

Soon, Leo was alone again, with only the fading scent of the pack and his family members lingering in his house.

Maybe he should actually invite his family over one day to make the whole place smell like them?

He snorted to himself. Yeah, right.

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About the Author

Megan Linden

Megan is one of those people who dreamed of being a writer since they were a little kid and then didn’t do anything about it for years. Then as a teenager she was introduced to fandom and… well. She fell head first into it and never looked back. At some point she decided to try writing her own characters in her own stories. And that’s where she is today.

When she’s not writing, Megan works as a psychologist and continues to learn the hard way that she can’t give all her clients their happy ending (she truly believes everyone can save themselves, though). That’s why she makes sure to give it to her characters, always.

She loves TV shows, books, fanworks and pizza (not necessarily in that order). But there’s nothing like getting messages from readers who enjoy her stories, so if you’re not sure it’s okay to contact her—yes, it is.

You can take a look at Megan’s website here. You can also follow her on Facebook and Twitter.

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Megan Linden Finding Home Giveaway

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Book Blitz & Excerpt: Unlikely Harmony + Giveaway

Unlikely Harmony

Unlikely Harmony by Lily Michaels

Book 3 in the Improbable Bonds series

Word Count: 32,368
Book Length: SHORT NOVEL
Pages: 140

Genres:

BONDAGE AND BDSM
CELEBRITIES
CONTEMPORARY
EROTIC ROMANCE
GAY
GLBTQI

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Book Description

In the middle of his darkest moment, Sebastian finds an unexpected light.

Since his immense gift was first discovered, Sebastian Chevalier has led a life of blissful indulgence—crisscrossing the globe to perform to thousands of adoring fans and garnering international attention for putting a modern face on opera—that is until a vocal cord injury steals Sebastian’s most prized possession.

While he rehabilitates, he turns his focus to composing an opera and hires Jasper Lorde to join as his accompanist to help turn his written music into a living creation. Although Jasper is the polar opposite of everything he is normally attracted to, Sebastian finds himself with an overwhelming desire for the man and as he slowly regains his ability to speak, the two men explore the passion building between them.

Once the opera is complete and Sebastian has been cleared to sing, he books a debut at the prestigious LA Opera House. But this decision releases a Pandora’s box of demons for Jasper that threatens their tentative connection.

Reader advisory: This book includes the impact of PTSD and anxiety and reference to a car crash with multiple fatalities.

Excerpt

Just standing in front of the imposing oak door soothed the part of my soul that had been scattered, erratic and unsettled. A two-hundred-city tour could easily do that to a person. I missed home. I missed my bed. And damned if I didn’t miss this.

Instead of falling into the comfort my two-thousand-thread-count sheets afforded, I was waiting in the cool, late summer night air for the host to swing open the door and welcome me in…because I needed this.

At any point during the tour, I could have—and probably should have—made a few phone calls and found a similar club in Luxemburg, Paris or New York, but none possessed the familiarity and anonymity Sergio insisted upon for Devour.

In the way that only Sergio could, he—not a designated attendant—opened the door with a flourish and a wicked grin. “Did you miss me, darling?”

I leaned forward and kissed each of his cheeks, as had become our custom over the years. “Terribly, but not quite as much as your dark room.”

His slate-colored eyes glimmered with mischief and knowing all melded into one. “It is your favorite place in Devour.” He stood to the side and held out one arm. “We’ve had a new visitor over the past couple of months while you were gone. He memorized the vocabulary of the dark room with freakish speed. He’s here tonight and I think he may be right up your alley.”

Never in the three years I’d known Sergio and frequented his club had he drawn my attention to anyone in particular, even though he knew I had a very specific type. “What makes you say that?”

He tipped his head to the side, his devious grin melting into a much more serene smile. “You’ll see, cupcake. He’s the only one in the dark room not currently paired up.”

In a familiar routine that soothed some of the aching remnants of my tattered nerves, I handed my leather coat to the clerk, slid the ticket into the pocket of my tight black denim pants and made my way to the room I’d spent the entire flight home from London thinking about.

I’ve lived my life on overload and typically loved every minute of it. Crisscrossing the globe, performing, recording, giving interviews and personal appearances… Every second of it fed my already admittedly healthy ego. It was impossible to not be rather enamored with yourself when men and women from twenty to sixty-five threw themselves at you. About half only salivated over me because of my singing abilities, the others because of my appearance. Either reason was okay with me.

But in the dark room everything stilled, quieted and was at peace. I was wanted for who I was at my core, the most authentic part of me. Hell, no one I’d ever encountered within those four walls had known my name, much less my public identity, and I adored that fact.

Just outside the door I slid on the required half-mask and closed my eyes, giving them a moment to transition from the low lights in the hall to the black lights minimally filling the room. I stepped inside and didn’t open them again until the click of the mechanism closing sounded behind me.

As Sergio had indicated, there were several couples paired up in various positions and stages of play throughout the dimly lit space. A solitary figure stood swirling a drink no more than a dozen paces from me. The black light, which tended to toy with and distort a person’s vision, flashed off the silver mask covering half his face. His body was a little on the lanky side, but the fitted tank top he wore showed off lean muscles on his upper arms and a modest bulge to his chest. He had a thick mop of curly hair that appeared dark in the room, although I was well acquainted with not only the tricks the lights played with appearances but also the lengths to which some people went to keep themselves from being recognized when they came to Devour.

I closed the space between us and reached for his hand. The dark room was about feeling and immersing oneself in the moment, all while keeping the interactions anonymous. Everyone was required to conceal their face, and the ultraviolet bulbs assisted in making the players unrecognizable.

Most important to me, however, was the ‘no talking’ rule. Sergio had set up a system of tracing letters and a few basic symbols on the hand of whomever one wished to partner with for the night as the way to communicate and confirm consent, but no words were ever spoken. And based on his little disclosure, the newbie had caught on quickly and would be able to follow along.

Sub? I moved my index finger just below his knuckles and my heart rate kicked up a notch at his responding nod.

From what I could tell, he was certainly my type physically, but the confirmation that he was submissive was truly what ticked my box. Play? I drew each letter painstakingly slow to be certain he understood what I was asking. I loved embracing my Dominant side and certainly was a fan of a little rough play, but only with both partners fully on board.

He nodded again and I led him to the wall where Sergio had created a handful of signs that would help us outline what we wanted for the night without the long process of spelling it out and possibly creating a misunderstanding. I held out my hand to the papers on the wall, indicating he could choose. I had been too-long deprived and was ready for nearly anything, as long as I could flex the muscles of authority that had lain dormant.

And as much of an arrogant asshole as I was in my daily life, nothing meant more to me than meeting the needs of the submissive under my control, even if only for a night. I needed to know what he wanted from me, what he needed.

The other man pointed at the ‘sadist’ sign and himself simultaneously, then tapped his finger on the points below that said, ‘nipple clamps’, ‘paddle’, ‘flogger’. He then slid over to the list of sexual acts identifying ‘blow job’, ‘bottom’, ‘rimming’.

Once more, for my own peace of mind, I grabbed his hand and traced Play? Sure?

Instead of a response, he grabbed the back of my neck and pulled me in for a kiss. Sparks ricocheted through my entire being from the point where we were connected. I reached beneath his top, which was damn near a second skin on him, and pinched each of his nipples simultaneously as I plundered his mouth with my tongue. He whimpered and the sound shot confidence directly into my spine.

The moans and gasps from the three other couples in the room faded into the background. An unusual charge of energy I couldn’t define passed between us, and within seconds, I was desperate to get the man naked and discover if the fine muscles hinted at beneath his clothes were as enticing when exposed to the minimal light the room offered. It took longer than I wanted to free him from the form-hugging material. Once he had been, I drew in a very necessary lungful of air. The man was gorgeous.

I leaned down and sucked on one nipple for the briefest moment before sinking my teeth into the tender flesh. He swayed a little and I quickly held his back to keep him upright as I moved to repeat my ministrations on the other side.

My aching cock was pressing painfully against the fly of my jeans and desperate for freedom. I disentangled his fingers from where they’d knotted in my hair and wrapped them around his own hard dick before turning him around and pushing him against the wall.

Once I’d shed my own clothes, I rummaged through the tall wardrobe a few feet away and came back with a bottle of lube, a condom, nipple clamps and a flogger. I moved to the man’s side, hooked a finger around his chin and turned him so he faced me. I held up the items and nearly exploded with gratitude at his affirmative nod to accept the various forms of play.

First I affixed the clamps and I traced, OK? on his hand again. My breath was trapped in my lungs for the half a second before he answered. At his affirmative response, I turned him to face the wall again then trailed the tips of the flogger over his shoulder and down his spine. I rotated my wrist a few times before delivering the first strike, followed quickly by two more. Even in the low light, he visibly stiffened beneath the three blows.

OK? I drew once more. This time he shook his head, grabbed my still-extended finger, and wrote More on my palm. The plea sent a jolt of unnecessary extra desire straight to my dick, and I happily obliged, landing another four hits to his backside, which was now brightly reddened, visible even under the ultraviolet rays.

Normally my willpower was damn near infinite, but everything about the brief interaction with the man was unusual. Sooner than I’d have preferred, I was sheathing my cock with the latex barrier and lathering it, as well as his ass, with an excessive amount of slippery lubricant.

Once more I broke many of my own rules when I spun the man around and pressed his back and hands to the wall, lifting him against the wooden surface, hiking his thighs over my hips and sliding inside him easily. Perfectly. Our dual moans mixed and mingled to create a beautiful harmony.

I was never so thankful for the dogged insistence of my personal trainer to make me lift and work-out hardcore, even while on tour, as I was when I was easily holding him with one arm and removing one clamp with my free hand, quickly replacing the metal with my lips. I repeated the action on the other side, licking and sucking the tiny pebble until he gave me the whimpering response I wanted…needed.

I pulled back and crashed my mouth into his, gripping each of his ass cheeks firmly, the knowledge that I’d leave him with reminders of me much more thrilling than it should be.

Two more strokes inside and a shudder ran through his entire body as liquid lava erupted between us. The proof he’d met his release gave me permission to launch myself from the precipice I’d been dangling from into the warm, welcome abyss of ecstasy that beckoned me.

He leaned forward and planted soft kisses on my shoulder. New threads of pleasure wove around every cell in my body because of him, every part of him—his hands, his lips, his hot breath on my skin.

Damn, what I wouldn’t give to know his name.

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About the Author

Lily Michaels

Lily MichaelsCoffee, chocolate, and books make up Lily’s world, often all three at the same time. Whether reading or writing she is a sucker for an over-the-top happily ever after… only following an appropriate amount of pain, of course.

When she is not writing or reading (which is not very often) she enjoys exercising her right brain in non authorly ways such as creating mosaics, crocheting, knitting, scrapbooking, and taking one man’s trash to create something new. But never, ever ask her to draw something. That is a beast best left alone.

You can find Lily on her website here and follow her on Pinterest.

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Lily Michaels Unlikely Harmony Giveaway

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Book Blitz & Excerpt: The Captain and the Father of the Bride + Giveaway

The Captain and the Father of the Bride Banner

the captain and the father of the bride

The Captain and the Father of the Bride

by Catherine Curzon & Eleanor Harkstead

Book 8 in the Captivating Captains series

Word Count: 66,464
Book Length: NOVEL
Pages: 256

Genres:

CONTEMPORARY
EROTIC ROMANCE
GAY
GLBTQI

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Book Description

If Leo marries his best friend, they’ll inherit a fortune. The only trouble is, he’s already fallen for her father.

Yacht captain Leo’s never stayed in one place long enough to fall in love. That all could change when he’s left £1,000,000. But there’s a catch. Leo can only inherit the money if he takes a bride before the year is out. And Leo’s the kind of man who’s only interested in taking a husband.

So Leo and his best friend hatch a plan. She’ll be his pretend bride, and he’ll use his new-found wealth to support her animal sanctuary. What could possibly go wrong?

Archie’s the closest thing to perfect that Leo’s ever seen. Dashing, mature and sexy as hell, after one hot night in a London hotel, Leo can’t stop thinking about the legal eagle who’s stolen his heart.

When Leo meets the father of his bride-to-be, he’s in for the shock of his life. Can Archie and Leo join forces to give themselves and a stricken seal pup a second chance, or will a grasping lawyer with a chequebook in place of his heart scupper the happiness of the captain and the father of the bride?

Excerpt

Leo held Liv’s hand as he watched the solicitor flick through the file on his large mahogany desk. Leo had never been to the reading of a will before, never been inside a solicitor’s office before, and Liv had gamely agreed to come with him for moral support.

He was amazed to see the green-shaded lamp on the solicitor’s desk, as Leo had only seen them in films, yet it seemed that here they were a perfectly normal part of real life. The room was so quiet, all sound muffled by the thick carpet that ran through the wood-paneled offices. Leo’s breathing and his own heartbeat sounded twice as loud, and although they were in the middle of London, he could barely hear the traffic or pneumatic drills that had been so ear-piercing when he was outside.

The solicitor shuffled some papers. It wasn’t even as if Herr Schreiber, captain of Cologne industry and the most colorful man ever to leave North Rhine-Westphalia for a life on the ocean waves, had been Leo’s relative. He had merely been a client whose yacht he had skippered around the Mediterranean. A very rich, rather eccentric client, but a client nevertheless. And in his own way, a friend.

Gunther Schreiber’s death, coming as it did in the arms of his cabaret-singing lover in the eighty-first year of his life, hadn’t been unexpected. In fact, rarely did the platitude he died doing something he loved ring so true, but for Gunther Schreiber, being in the arms of his latest muse was exactly how he would have ended his own final chapter. Leo had no doubt about that, and for the same reason, his sadness at the death of his late client was tempered with a sense of satisfaction at a life well-lived and filled to the brim with the fizz of champagne and the hum of the super yacht’s engine.

The last thing Leo would have expected was to find himself sitting in this vast office with its scent of leather and wood polish, his best friend at his side as they waited for the last attendee to arrive. What could possibly be in the will of Gunther Schreiber that would concern Leo Maxwell? Perhaps a little token to mark their happy sailing. One of the handmade yachts from Gunther’s salon, or perhaps one of the paintings that had decorated the walls. Leo hoped it wasn’t that, because he doubted he’d be able to afford the insurance premiums to protect those priceless works.

This is probably a mistake. Or he’s left me something completely random, one last prank to send me on my way.

Yet Mr. Brockett of Brockett, Brockett and Holliday had been very clear in his letter that Leo should attend the meeting in person. A meeting to discuss the last will and testament of Gunther Jost Schreiber, said the neat type on the thick ivory paper with its green and gold lettering, at which you will learn something to your advantage.

Mr. Brockett tapped his pen on the cover of a buff file on his desk. He looked over his half-moon spectacles to the door and pursed his lips. Leo was surprised by the frames of his glasses as well—was the office furnished entirely from the contents of an antiques shop?

Telling himself the experience was fun and not terrifying, Leo grinned at Liv.

“All right?” he whispered, his voice absorbed at once by the deadening effects of the muffling carpet. She nodded, the high brunette ponytail on top of her head bouncing with the motion. Then she smiled and squeezed his hand.

“I am sorry,” Mr. Brockett offered. “I’m sure Mr. Beaucock will be here very soon. I understand he’s a very busy man. A fellow solicitor, you know.”

Beaucock? Seriously?

Trying to avoid laughing, Leo asked, “Is he Gunther’s nephew or…? He told me he’d never had any children.”

“A very distant connection,” he replied. “Herr Schreiber’s only living relative.”

Leo nodded. “I see. Are any other of Gunther’s friends coming? Those ladies on the yacht…”

Leo hoped Mr. Brockett would know what he meant by that. The ladies came and went, and Gunther had always been very fond of them. Surely at least one of them would trot in on their patent-heeled shoes and inherit Gunther’s villa in Cannes?

“I’m not at liberty to disclose any details, but I can assure you that Herr Schreiber has been most generous in his provisions. He stipulated that the parties each be informed in a strict order and according to strict instructions.” Brocket chanced a thin-lipped smile. “I’m sure you understand.”

Liv gave a little snigger and murmured, “So all of Gunther’s girls don’t bump into each other?”

Leo put his hand over his mouth, trying not to laugh. “I’ve seen that happen! Someone called Heidi threw someone called Marisol into the sea!”

“Oh God, we saw it all when we were crewing for Gunther,” Liv told Brockett. “He got more action than any of⁠—” She was silenced by the sound of the door opening, the gesture ushering in a cloud of potent aftershave ahead of the new arrival.

“Jesus Christ, this place is out in the bloody boondocks!” a voice announced. “Hardly the beating heart of legal London, is it? Beaucock. Pleasure to meet one of the real old guard!”

Leo turned in his seat. There before him was a man dressed in pinstripes, a sneer taking up most of his long face. Leo instinctively held Liv’s hand tighter. He gave the new arrival a polite nod, even though he would much rather have run away. He’d met people like Beaucock before, monied pillocks who would hire him to skipper their eye-wateringly expensive yacht and treat Leo with contempt as the hired help.

“Morning,” Leo said to Beaucock. “How do you do?”

“I’ve had a hell of a morning in the very best way.” Beaucock planted his feet a shoulder-width apart and held out his hand to Leo. “Let’s just say that’s one more Premier League player whose license won’t be snatched away by the so-called forces of law and order for a tiny bit of harmless speed. They see a Ferrari and they think it’s payday. Well, not today!”

“Mr. Beaucock specializes in motoring cases,” Brockett explained as Conrad waited for Leo to take his hand. “High-profile ones.”

“Teflon Con,” Beaucock said with obvious pride. “Conrad Beaucock.”

Leo shook Conrad’s moist hand. “I’ve never met one of Gun’s relatives before. Nice to meet you. I’m Leo Maxwell, but some people call me Max.” Leo grinned at Liv. Some people being Liv. “And this is my friend Liv.”

Conrad gave Liv the sort of look a man might give a new car, appraising her in one glance.

“Good to meet you, Leroy.” He released Leo’s hand. “And great to meet you, Liv.”

“It’s Leo,” he prompted. Yes, Conrad really was that type, the kind who consigned people to a bin marked inconsequential human being within seconds of meeting them. And Leo had bought a smart tweed three-piece just for this meeting. His oilskin jacket and wellies hadn’t seemed quite the thing to wear. He didn’t even have to look at Liv to know that she wouldn’t be impressed. Men like Conrad were all too easy to come by in the yachting world, and they were as far from Liv’s cup of tea as it was possible to get.

“Capricorn,” Conrad replied as he took a seat. “Don’t tell me you’re into that bullcrap?”

“Leo is my name.” Is this guy for real? “I can’t even remember what my star sign is. I don’t particularly care.” Leo glanced at Mr. Brockett and the file on his desk. Conrad rubbed his hands together, then looked at his watch with such theatrics that Leo knew he was waiting to be asked what was on his wrist.

So Leo wouldn’t ask.

“Let’s get this baby read,” he told the solicitor. “My Rolex tells me I can give you an hour.”

A Rolex. More like a load of Bolex.

Leo shook his head. Conrad Beaucock, you are a tosser. “I’m sure Gun would be over the moon to know you’ve managed to squeeze the reading of his last wishes into your busy schedule. It’s not very respectful to the old boy.”

“It’s not like he’s here to complain, is it?” Conrad sniggered. “Get over yourself. Who are you anyway?”

“Mr. Beaucock, this is Mr. Maxwell. He skippered Herr Schreiber’s yacht around—” Brockett began to explain.

“So you’re a taxi driver without a taxi, yeah?”

“I’m RYA Yachtmaster Offshore certified, actually.” So there. “And, more importantly, I was Gun’s friend.”

“We both were,” Liv said, taking Leo’s hand again. “And we miss him.”

Leo grinned at her, the days of larking about in the sunshine rushing back to him. “Life’s going to be a lot quieter without Gun around!”

“Not mine, mate.” Conrad sneered. “My life’s going to be a lot louder once I bank that check!”

“Why, are you buying a drum kit?” Leo quipped. Was that a childish riposte? Oh, tough titties, I don’t care.

Brockett cleared his throat and opened the file.

So this is the moment, then.

The mystery of the meeting was about to be solved and Conrad Beaucock was about to inherit everything Gunther hadn’t given to his girlfriends. And after five minutes in his company, Leo knew that he didn’t deserve a penny of it.

Gunther had kept an exquisite ship in a bottle on board. He’d spotted Leo admiring it and had waxed lyrical about it. Maybe that was Gunther’s bequest?

“Now,” Brockett began, “this is a rather complicated matter. Herr Schreiber’s posthumous wishes have been carried out by a will, as you might expect, and a trust. Due to the sensitive nature of some of the bequests, it’s been necessary to be rather…exacting. To ensure that the documents could be sealed, as Herr Schreiber wished. I hope you’ll understand?”

Leo glanced to Liv, who gave him an encouraging smile. He listened intently as Brockett began to read, the will and trust documents a dense tangle of legalese and arcane wording that soon had Leo lost. Conrad, Teflon Con, looked as though it was all old news to him, the flash lawyer in his pinstripes and pointed shoes. He was a world away from Gunther, white-bearded and lounging in kaftans and silk slippers, like a cross between a hippy and Father Christmas.

“And now we reach the bequests,” Brockett said eventually. “There’ll be time afterward for questions, but I’d appreciate it if you would allow things to proceed. The ladies were somewhat ungoverned during this portion, but do try to cooperate.”

“Of course,” Leo said.

Heidi, Marisol, Anook and Tjitske came to his mind in a flurry of big hair, long nails and metallic bikinis. They had always been ungoverned on the deck of the yacht, so Leo couldn’t imagine them being any different in Mr. Brockett’s office. What a scene that must’ve been.

Brockett reached down beneath his desk and, to Leo’s surprise, produced a laptop. He lifted the lid and danced his fingers across the keyboard, then turned the screen to face his audience. There was Gunther again, large as life and beaming with happiness on the deck of the Aphrodite. Behind him Leo could see the crystal-blue ocean, a horizon stretching off into infinity.

Leo sniffed back a tear. He missed that wide smile. He glanced at Liv, knowing she would feel the same. “There he is, Gun the man!”

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About the Authors

Eleanor Harkstead

Eleanor Harkstead likes to dash about in nineteenth-century costume, in bonnet or cravat as the mood takes her. She can occasionally be found wandering old graveyards. Eleanor is very fond of chocolate, wine, tweed waistcoats and nice pens. Her large collection of vintage hats would rival Hedda Hopper’s.

Originally from the south-east of England, Eleanor now lives somewhere in the Midlands with a large ginger cat who resembles a Viking.

You can follow Eleanor on Facebook and Twitter

Catherine Curzon

Catherine Curzon is a royal historian who writes on all matters of 18th century. Her work has been featured on many platforms and Catherine has also spoken at various venues including the Royal Pavilion, Brighton, and Dr Johnson’s House.

Catherine holds a Master’s degree in Film and when not dodging the furies of the guillotine, writes fiction set deep in the underbelly of Georgian London.

She lives in Yorkshire atop a ludicrously steep hill.

You can follow Catherine on Facebook and Twitter and take a look at her Website.

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