Spotlight & Excerpt: Catnapped + Giveaway

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by R.J. Blain
(Magical Romantic Comedies, #14)
Publication date: May 11th 2021
Genres: Adult, Comedy, Urban Fantasy

When someone steals Diana’s cat, a former lab animal rescued from death’s door, she calls on one of the most dangerous beings in the universe for help. Cutting a deal with the devil isn’t the smartest move, but there’s no way in hell she’ll abandon Mr. Flooferson the Magnificent to his fate.

Teaming up with the son of a demon, an angel, and one hell of a woman might push Diana to the limits of her courage and sanity. Unless she wants to sell her soul to the devil, she must cope with her new partner, make the most of a bad situation, and find out who stole her cat and why.

What she learns will forever change humanity–and lead to a battle destined to forever change the heavens and the devil’s many hells.

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Chapter One

Someone had taken Mr. Flooferson the Magnificent, and when I got my hands on the culprit, they would know the true meaning of fear. As my cat was terrified of the outdoors, strangers, and anything that reminded him of his former life as a lab animal, there was no way in hell he would’ve left the comforts of home without the use of force. I couldn’t even convince him to meet me at the door. He cried pitifully from the safety of the couch, some ten feet away, until I came into his domain and he could reassure himself I hadn’t left him like every other human in his life.
No, unlike every other human in his life, I showed him love without pain. In the shelter hosting the retired lab cats, he’d been the saddest of the lot, so terrified of everyone and everything that the shelter operators had considered putting him out of his misery. No one wanted the scared ones, the ones who couldn’t charm unsuspecting humans into adopting them.
Mr. Flooferson should have been on the couch waiting for me, but my door had been kicked in, the lock broken beyond repair. Worse, someone had torn the place apart and left with my cat and his fleece-lined carrier.
Had the bastard left my cat’s carrier, I might have believed my baby had run out of fear.
I cracked my knuckles one by one, scowled, and considered my options. The police would need to come over and check everything over. After the police flailed about and accomplished little, for they had more important things to do than investigate the loss of my cat, I would begin using every contact I could. While I was only a secretary within the CDC, secretaries held power.
Every day, I talked to the big wigs, the wealthy, and the powerful, and I earned their respect so I could smooth paths for my bosses, who needed to work with people all around the world.
I had the Devil on speed dial, and I wasn’t afraid of using his wife to get what I wanted. While I wouldn’t cut a deal with the Devil, I’d find a way to make him do my bidding.
Well, maybe I’d cut a deal with the Devil, but I wouldn’t bargain away my soul.
Nobody, and I meant nobody, would hurt my cat and get away with it.
I retrieved my cell from my purse and called the non-emergency line for the police, explaining that my home had been broken into and the thieves had stolen my cat and his carrier. My concern about my pet made the cop laugh, but he said he’d send a patrol over as soon as there was one available.
I’d been around the block often enough to understand nobody would be available any time soon.
All right. If the cops wanted to play games, I’d play.
I dialed the Devil, and if Satan gave me a hard time, I’d go straight to his wife and show him his little layer of hell had a new owner until my cat was safely home.
“Good evening, Diana. It’s after hours, and you never work from home unless the world is at a literal risk of ending. We aren’t scheduled for the End of Days at this moment. As I’m far too lazy to peek right now, what can I do for you?”
“You can help me find who stole my cat, flay the flesh from their bones, toss them into the nastiest pit of your hells, and give me a fiery whip so I can have some fun with the fuckers.”
I gave the Devil as much time as he needed to realize he spoke to a crazy cat lady on a mission to murder some thieving assholes.
“Have you forgotten who I am, Diana?”
“I absolutely called you fully aware of who and what you are, and if you could put Darlene on the line if you’re not willing to help me find my cat, it would save me making a few other phone calls and knocking on your door in an hour. If I have to knock on your door in an hour, I’m going to redefine misery through hellfire for you. And if someone, and by someone I mean you, says it’ll be a cold day in hell first, I’ll come there and break all of your windows.”
Thanks to Darlene, I’d learned the Devil enjoyed his air conditioning, his hells followed a disturbing number of scientific rules, and only some serious magic on his windows and walls kept the heat outside where it belonged.
“That’s harsh for my electric bill.”
“As if you actually pay it. Assistance or put Darlene on the phone, Lucifer. Jack shit is up for negotiation today. Someone stole my cat.”
“This is the most fun I’ve had in a week. Since I call my daughter Cupcake, you’re just going to have to be Cookie.”
“No. I will have Darlene kill you if you start calling me Cookie. And once I send Darlene after you, I’m going to call Kanika and tell her. Once I’m done with her, I’ll go through every single one of your brothers until one of them agrees to help me put you in your place.”
“Don’t ruin my fun,” the Devil complained. “I need some fun today. Darlene made me clean up the dungeon this morning.”
“I will ruin every part of your life if you don’t help me find my cat.” I meant it, too. Maybe I was only a secretary, but I had three of the Devil’s brothers on speed dial, and I’d play the hardball. I would play so hard the entire planet tilted on its axis if necessary.
Nobody fucked with my cat.
The Devil laughed at me. “You know the rules, Snickerdoodle. I can’t fiddle much with mortal affairs, and the thieves are mere mortals. I’m sure you can handle them.”
Well, Snickerdoodle beat Cookie, so I’d ignore his idiocy in favor of rescuing my missing cat. “Does it look like I give a flying shit about the rules? The cop I called laughed at me and claimed he’d send someone over if they had somebody available. I live in fucking Miami. Do you know what that means? There’s nobody available, and there’ll be nobody available until the End of Days, and we’ll all be fucking dead then. They aren’t going to do jack shit about my trashed house, they aren’t going to investigate my missing cat, and Mr. Flooferson the Magnificent will be gone forever. I want my cat!”
“Mr. Flooferson… the Magnificent?”
I gave credit where credit was due; the Devil didn’t outright laugh at me. “Yes. That is my cat’s name.”
“Why did you name your cat that?”
“He’s a former lab animal, and the shelter was going to euthanize him because he was scared of people. He had good reason to be scared of people. That’s not his fault. He’s a beautiful long-haired cat, and it took me six months, but he lets me hold him now. He’s terrified of large spaces, and he won’t go within ten feet of the front door. I have to bring a vet to the house because I can’t stand the thought of taking him somewhere that might remind him of a lab. They could be torturing my baby. Why would they break into my house and take my cat?”
I didn’t give a shit if the Devil thought less of me for the waver in my voice. Focusing on my breathing, I lifted my chin and prepared to wage war against the ruler of some ridiculous number of hells.
“I would suggest you look into what sort of lab studies he was involved with. If they were testing new drugs, for example, someone might want to recover him to observe long-term consequences of drug exposure. There are many reasons why someone might want to recover a former lab animal. Alternatively, why might someone want to steal your cat? You have many contacts, myself included. It could be less about your cat and more about manipulating you because you love your cat.”
“Damn fucking straight I love my cat, you cat-spanked devil!”
“I would accuse you of leveling a low blow at me, but I do very much enjoy being spanked by my cat. She’s a most lovely feline, and one of my favorite hobbies is playing with her spots. If I’m really good, she might even come out as her natural form.”
“I will beg her to never let you see one of her prized spots ever again.”
“I should recruit you to become one of my generals. You would whip the chaos right out of my hells within a week. My hells would be immaculately run. I should demand you run my hells for a while in exchange for recovering your cat.”
“I have no interest in going to hell as a resident or a visitor, thank you. Now, about Mr. Flooferson the Magnificent. Which is more probable? That someone wants him because of what he went through as a lab animal, or that someone wants to manipulate me?”
“In my most humble opinion, I believe that either is equally probable. Was your cat part of a reputable lab?”
Since when did the Devil think of himself as humble? I almost laughed. Instead, I cleared my throat to buy myself a moment to regain my composure. “I have no idea. I just saw there were lab animals in need of loving homes, and I decided my home would be the most loving of homes. I will hurt you if you disagree with me.”
The Devil laughed at me. “If someone took your cat because of its history as a lab animal, it would have been rescued from an illegal operation. The legal operations are under regulations to keep the animals happy—and as healthy as possible. Those labs would not try to reclaim an animal. The government has been phasing out animal testing in favor of cutting large checks to humans with the appropriate conditions. They have also been clearing off criminal records in exchange for some pain and suffering, too.”
“This is an excellent reminder to maintain my record of being a law-abiding citizen.”
“You’re disgustingly law-abiding, yes. You should indulge in some evil. We’d have a great time.”
“No, but thank you for your most generous offer, Lucifer.”
“Are you sure? Your soul would provide me with decades of entertainment. I would convert you into one of my most prized devils. A general who would take over most of my hells by storm and sometimes answer to me when it’s truly necessary.”
I considered his offer. “What do you call a female devil, anyway?”
“A devil.”
“That’s lame. Demonesses are better named.”
“I’m sure I could come up with an appropriately feminine title for your enjoyment.”
“I’m sure you could, but I must refuse your most generous offer at this time. Now, about my cat. Are you going to help, or am I going to be having a long talk with Darlene?”
The Devil heaved a sigh. “You’re almost as bad as my daughter. Must you, Diana?”
“I must. Someone stole my cat, the police aren’t taking me seriously, and if I don’t figure out what I need to do to get my cat back, I’ll take over your realm, and then I’ll storm the heavens if I must.” It would take more work to access the heavens, but I could make use of some other contacts—or twist the Devil’s arm into helping me somehow.
“I’ll beg, but please storm the heavens. It would be spectacular. My darling thought about storming the heavens once, but then He got the bright idea of inviting her for tea and dainty little sandwiches, and she loves it. Worse, she makes me go with her.”
“It’s not like I want to keep the heavens. I don’t even want to go there. Come on, just get your ass over here and make the police take me seriously. Bring Darlene, so when I start crying, she can yell at you while I’m coming to terms with my inability to kill you or get my hands on the fuckers responsible for taking my cat and destroying my house.”
“Any other requests?”
“My cat!”
“I can’t do that, Diana. You know I’m not permitted to interfere with mortal matters outside of a bargain, and I have no bargain allowing me access to this matter. You would have to bargain with me.”
I loved my cat, but I also didn’t want to lose my immortal soul for my cat. “Can bargains be for something other than my soul? I like my soul, Lucifer.”
“I’m very aware of your possessiveness over your soul. You would deny even Him.”
That I would. “I like my soul precisely where it is, in my possession, where no nasty beings, yourself included, can meddle with it. But I’ll bargain if you can come up with something that does not result in the loss of my soul.”
“You will accept a partner of my choosing for this venture. For however long it takes you to recover your cat and bring the catnappers to justice, and we’ll define precisely what justice means as a part of our bargain. Until I have declared justice has been secured, you will work with this individual of my choosing. You will spend a minimum of two hours a day with this individual, who likewise owes me a favor and was wise enough to safeguard his soul from me and my rather evil activities.”
I rolled my eyes, as the Devil talked loud and often about his evils but rarely dished them out. I’d met convicts who’d sinned far worse than the Devil on a bad day.
“Rude,” the Devil complained.
“But true. Why do you want me to spend time with this individual?”
“Both of his fathers have severely annoyed me, and it will be highly entertaining if I can force him to live up to a bargain.”
Shit. The Devil had bargained with the son of a triad? Trouble was the Devil having anything to do with a triad at all. “Demon?” I asked, contemplating tossing up a few prayers to mitigate some of the issues the child of a triad brought around when they showed up.
Damn it. “You seriously let one of your devils out to go on a fling with an angel?”
I already regretted calling the devil. “You have got to be fucking kidding me.”
“If only. The devil in question, who happens to be one of my generals, begged. I hate when they get to the point of begging. The archangel, well, that was a poorly chosen promise in a moment of weakness.”
“A poorly chosen promise in a moment of weakness?”
“He claimed if that specific general happened to ever be brought low by a woman, that he would demand proof. Somehow, that became the foundation of a triad.” The Devil laughed. “I’ve stopped worrying about when the heavens and my hells mix. We’re one big, demented family. He approved, so that’s that. Watching one of my generals be brought low by a woman? Truly delightful—especially after he’d spent time mocking me about Darlene. To sweeten the deal? He fell for his bride shortly after Darlene stormed my gates. The best of women storm gates to places, I’ve noticed. Their son is younger than you are, but not by much, and thanks to his genetics, he matured early.”
I snorted at that, almost pitying the son of a high-ranked devil, an archangel, and someone who likely classed as one hell of a woman. “Only an idiot mocks you or your wife.”
“I thought about putting him in time out for a few thousand years, but him being brought low by a woman worked out for the better. And anyway, he likes Darlene, but he does enjoy when he gets to be a pest. He’s become even bolder, as Darlene likes him. Darlene would prefer if he sticks to a humanoid form while wearing a suit, which has basically become his dress code. Darlene being happy means everyone has a much higher chance of being happy. Anyway, your partner is thirty-two, he takes after his human mother too much for your good, and he’s rather determined.”
“The last thing I need is a determined man in my life, Lucy.”
“I’m aware, which is part of what makes this so much fun. Will you bargain, Diana?”
“I will discuss the idea of a bargain with you, but I will not agree to any bargain until I hear all the details. And I’m expecting a bribe of you making the police take this seriously in order to open negotiations once you’re here.”
“Excellent. Do expect company within an hour, and I will bring your new partner with me so you have all of the fine print you so love in front of you—and if you’re particularly unfortunate, I’ll bring his parents as well.”
“You’re an asshole, Lucifer.”
“I really am. Wear something nice.” The Devil hung up on me, leaving me all by myself to scream my frustration over the situation.
After screeching a few curses, I drew in some calming breaths, decided to ignore his commentary about my clothes, and waited for trouble to come knocking at my door.


Author Bio:

RJ Blain suffers from a Moleskine journal obsession, a pen fixation, and a terrible tendency to pun without warning.

In her spare time, she daydreams about being a spy. Her contingency plan involves tying her best of enemies to spinning wheels and quoting James Bond villains until satisfied.

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Spotlight & Excerpts: The Calling + Giveaway

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The Calling
The Calling Book 1
by M.D. Neu
Genre: Urban Fantasy


Being a nobody isn’t Duncan Alexander’s life goal, but it’s worked for him. He has a nondescript job, a few good friends, and overall he’s content. That’s until one fateful trip to San Jose, California, where he is “Called” to meet the mysterious Juliet de Exter. Juliet is a beautiful, wealthy, powerful Immortal who is undertaking The Calling—a search for a human to join her world of Immortals. Inexplicably, Duncan’s calling is more dangerous than any of the Immortals, even Juliet, ever thought it would be. 

There is more to this nobody, this only child of long-deceased parents, than anyone thought. When Duncan experiences uncontrollable dreams of people he doesn’t know and places he hasn’t been, Juliet and the other Immortals worry. Soon, his visions point to a coven of long-dead witches. The dreams also lead Duncan to his one true love. How will Duncan navigate a forbidden romance with an outcast Immortal? How will he and the others keep the balance between the Light and Dark, survive vicious attacks, and keep the humans from learning who they truly are? More importantly, who is this implacable foe Duncan keeps seeing in his dreams?

Get 25% off of orders $40 or more from the author’s website HERE!
Use coupon code THECALLING25
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the calling mdneu - excerpt

What is death?
I once believed there was only one definition: your body stops functioning, your soul leaves and what’s left turns to dust. That was what I thought, until it wasn’t.
I’ve discovered when you’re a nobody, the world can be an amazing place if you want it to be. Your life can change in a heartbeat and not make the least bit of difference to anyone but you, or so it would seem.
That was my case.
I’m by no means whining or complaining. I had a job, a small place to live, and friends, but no real family, and that was something I desperately missed and wanted. My life wasn’t bad and I was happy. However, I was just a random person, one of the many faces you see on the street and never glance at twice. It was dull. Of course, as with me, the majority of society didn’t know our world had hidden secrets, unseen by most.
The other important thing I want you to realize about me is that before I met her, I wasn’t a lucky man, not with money and certainly not with love. I made enough to live on, but never enough to take fancy trips. My idea of travel was staying at home and watching movies. That was my price range. And as for love, it was forgettable.
The day my life changed was like all the others, until it wasn’t. It was August 19. The year isn’t important. But we had finished celebrating the Olympics, and in a few short months, the country would be picking between the lesser of two evils for president.
I sat at an outdoor café in Santana Row. I’d spent the afternoon going on a tour of the Winchester Mystery House. Once my stomach had started to growl, I decided to grab a bite to eat.
I had come to San Jose, California for a vacation that I couldn’t afford and didn’t particularly want to take. Why San Jose? Why not San Francisco or Monterey or Vegas or Yosemite? To be honest, I don’t know, but it’s like everything inside and around me pulled me there. Out of the blue, I got emails from the San Jose Visitor Bureau. My dreams were filled with images of the city and the surrounding hills and mountains. It seemed that old song, “Do You Know the Way to San Jose” by Dionne Warwick constantly played. Still, San Jose isn’t the place most people consider for a ten-day vacation, especially someone alone who had never been to the Bay Area before.
Despite my apprehension, from the moment I arrived, I immediately felt at peace. I’d never been this calm or relaxed anywhere before, not even at home. There was another reason for me coming here, one I didn’t understand yet, at least not on a conscious level.
I would find out why soon enough.
I don’t want to get things out of order, so back on point. I sat at this Italian-style outdoor café watching people walk by, enjoying the scent of roses and vanilla that filled the air. The aroma tickled the back of my brain. I smelled it everywhere, which should have been my first clue that something was different.
After enjoying my Italian-style chicken marsala, and while I sipped my strawberry lemonade, I felt a sharp pull in my brain. It wasn’t like I heard voices—it was more like vague images filled my head: a house, a woman, gardens, a gate, hills covered in trees, and a pair of eyes. My hands shook, and my glass fell to the floor and shattered. An intense pressure grew between my eyes, and I pinched the bridge of my nose to ease it.
When the tug came, three things happened to me at once.
First, I had the realization that I had an important meeting in Los Altos Hills. I had never heard of Los Altos Hills and even had to look it up on my phone to see if it was real. I would have to check my GPS when I returned to my rental. I knew the address of the house and who I was going to meet. She had blonde hair and mysterious eyes. I knew her, but I didn’t understand how.
Second, the waiter came to my table.
“Sorry about the drink,” I said.
He gave me an odd look and informed me my meal had been paid for and to enjoy my evening. Flabbergasted, I stared at the server.
I glanced around the café and wondered who paid the bill and why. I wasn’t even done yet.
“Mr. Alexander, are you all right?” The waiter scanned me up and down. “Do you need me to call someone? You look pale.”
“No.” I shook my head. “I’m fine.”
How did the waiter know my name? Stranger still, when I checked the table, my drink sat there and nothing had fallen to the floor. I wasn’t sure what was happening.
“Are you sure?”
“Yes. Sorry. Just a headache,” I said.
“All right. I hope you have a pleasant afternoon.” He smiled and started to walk off but turned back. “Oh, I almost forgot. I’m supposed to remind you about your meeting tonight.”
A lump stuck in my throat, and I nodded. It was spooky, but I wasn’t scared.
The last thing: I got a text from my closest friend, Cindy Martin. Good luck tonight. I’m sure it’ll be you.
I remember thinking, What does she know that I don’t?
I’ve known Cindy for years, and for her to say anything that short and sweet was rare. In fact, I don’t suppose I ever got a message from her without any emoticons.
As bizarre as all of this was, I realized that no matter what, everything and everyone I cared about would be okay. Clearly, there was something more to this trip and my being here. I didn’t know what. But it wasn’t just some free meal. It was bigger than that. If I was selected for what? I had no clue. And if I wasn’t, then I would get to see them again. There would be no questions.
Part of me wanted to worry, but I wasn’t bothered, which in itself surprised me. I’ve been a pessimist for as long as I can remember. It probably had to do with the strange death of my father when I was a kid. A death never fully explained. So, for this not to make me worry was one more mystery. What was about to happen was something that would just be. Instead of freaking out and worrying, I was calm and accepting of whatever adventure or fate awaited me.
Even though I was short on time to get to the house in Los Altos Hills, I wanted to enjoy my lunch. Reflecting on it now, I’m pretty sure that was the cynical part of my brain trying to exert some kind of control. I took my time, finished my meal, and when I was done, I tipped the server and left.
I walked back to my rental car. I wanted to take in as much of the classical European architecture and lush landscaping of the outdoor mall as I could. I managed to get a few decent cell phone pictures of the place.
I stopped my lollygagging and got moving. I had someplace to be and what appeared to be no choice in the matter. Before you go crazy, understand this wasn’t like one of those stupid movies that you watch, shaking your head, yelling at the screen for them not to go into the dark forest or spooky house or whatever. It wasn’t like that.
I’d like to hope I’m explaining this well enough so you don’t sit there and think, “Oh this is stupid. I’d never do anything that dumb.” It wasn’t like I had a choice. I had to go—something compelled me to her. I had to meet this woman, calling me. It was hard-wired into me, no matter how much I tried to slow down or stall, I moved forward.
I moved toward her.
When I finally got in the car and took a breath, I wasn’t clammy or shaky, and my heart wasn’t pounding in my chest. I should have been anxious, but I wasn’t. I was fine.
Knowing without understanding what I had to do, I headed to the freeway.
If I had seen into the future, I would have taken a different route, but I didn’t. An accident backed up the freeway. Sadly, I found the onboard GPS wasn’t as helpful as I’d hoped. It led me straight into bumper-to-bumper traffic. It was a nightmare, and not something I was used to. I sat in four lanes of cars and not a single one moved. What should have taken no more than half an hour was going to take an eternity.
“I’m going to be late,” I chanted as I anxiously tapped along to “You and Me” playing on the radio.
A silver Rolls-Royce cut me off, causing me to stop abruptly. My heart skipped a beat. When my breath returned, I tried to find the Rolls, but it seemed to vanish into the traffic.
“Not possible,” I grumbled. The radio stopped for a news break.
I hated being late.
The drive along 280 had lush trees and green hills once I got out of the valley, with attractive homes scattered here and there. It was one of the nicer freeways I’d ever been on and nothing like what I saw in Reno. Well, not until you got into the mountains. I took the S. El Monte Avenue exit and headed up into the hills past a junior college. Who knew there’d be a college out this way?
The road curved and turned till I found the house. To call my destination a house is an understatement. Even from the gate, it was a remarkable size. At least two stories, possibly three. It was an architectural masterpiece situated on perfectly landscaped grounds unlike anything I’d ever seen, not even on TV.
At the massive security gate, I pushed the call box button and waited.
“Mr. Alexander, welcome. Please, drive through,” a female voice instructed as the iron gates lazily opened.
I briefly questioned how she recognized me, but I figured there was a camera embedded in the call box.
Before me lay a flawless, recently raked gravel drive hedged by lush beds of orange, red, violet, and yellow flowers, all manicured to perfection. Cherry trees lined the drive and added more color and height.
I drove carefully up the drive and pulled into a circular parking area that surrounded a giant fountain. Spiraling topiary shrubs in massive stone containers invited me to the enormous wood doors sheltered in the portico.
I got out, taking in the sight of the house. It was a cream-colored Tudor-style mansion surrounded by what I thought was an English garden filled with hedges and red and white roses. This estate’s upkeep had to be more than I made in a year.
There were several other cars parked near mine. It would seem I wasn’t the only one invited to this party. I sensed I was the last to arrive and that bothered me. A few cars had rental tags like mine, and the vehicles that weren’t rentals were older with dings and dents. Clearly, none of them fit the surroundings of the estate.
A part of my brain screamed at me, “Leave and run away. You don’t belong here.” But the rest of my mind and my body overruled this impulse and pushed me forward to the main door. I wanted…no I needed to be there.
I was examining the beautiful gold inlaid carvings, perhaps ancient writing with intricate shapes and patterns on the doorframe, when the door opened and a lovely woman stood there. I was awestruck. She had flawless hair and nails, no more than forty years old, and wore a big welcoming smile, revealing a dimple on her left cheek. She was dressed in an expensive, knee-length dark gray skirt with a light blue cashmere sweater emphasizing her breasts. All of it appeared to have been made to her exact measurements.
“Welcome, Duncan. I’m Amanda Sutherland. You’re the last to arrive. Please, follow me.” Her tone was gracious but tight. I found it annoying because of its implied attitude.
I mumbled an apology and followed her. My annoyance quickly vanished as I crossed the threshold and a wave of peacefulness filled every part of my body, as if I were a crystal glass.
Still, I wanted to redeem myself for being tardy.
I followed Miss Sutherland and was dazzled by what I saw around me. The floors were highly polished wood with marble inlays, and on the walls were old original paintings, not prints. I could see the brush strokes. They were amazing, like something from the middle ages. Very gothic.
They should be in a museum.
Subtle scents of roses and vanilla caused me to inhale deeply as I followed Miss Sutherland deeper into the house. We arrived at a large reception room where there were three men and two women, all of us about the same age and all wearing similar expressions of puzzlement.
Why are we here?
“Madame de Exter will be with you shortly. Please, enjoy some refreshments.” Miss Sutherland pointed to a tray of wineglasses held by one of the uniformed house staff. As the server moved around, she offered each of us a smile with the wine. When finished, she put the tray on the sideboard and walked out of the room.
Our reception room was at the back of the house and anything but simple. It would be like calling Hearst Castle another beach house along the California coast. This one room could probably encompass my entire apartment, bedroom and all. The floors were made of a polished stone I didn’t recognize, and the walls had wood moldings and trim. Of course there were more original paintings. The furniture appeared modern and comfortable, not the antiques you would imagine for the space. There was a wall of french doors that opened onto more of the perfectly manicured lawn and another fountain. Tucked away in the back of the yard was a smaller house of a similar style to the mansion along with a swimming pool.
It only took Miss Sutherland’s absence for us to start talking, trying to pump each other for information.
“Do any of you know why we’re here?” A petite Asian woman asked in a stage whisper as she held up her glass of white wine. Her gaze danced around the room and focused on each of us in turn.
I wouldn’t call her pretty, but she wasn’t ugly either. Then I noticed that the others were all of an average type.
“No clue,” a guy replied. He sniffed the wine and hesitated before taking a small sip. “I’m Doug, by the way,” he said with a polite nod to the others. Doug was a bit rough-looking with a scruffy face, and dull brown hair that was thinning on top. He was dressed more for manual labor than a party.
“Duncan,” I said as I shook his callused hand. He was definitely in construction work.
It’s funny the things you remember. How calm his voice was, and that he wore a blue and green flannel shirt, which seemed a little out of place for the time of year.
“Chui.” The Asian woman then sipped her wine.
I nodded at her politely. I don’t really remember anything more about her, other than her name, and that she was shorter than Doug and me.
“Janis,” the other woman said, glancing at the last two men, who hesitated.
Janis had the best looks and the nicest clothes. Her blouse was silk, and the bag she held was older but it had a Gucci label on it. I do remember her eyes, like pools of water that you could get lost in. Not that I did.
“Hi. I’m Juan,” a dark-haired, brown-eyed man said.
The last man was taller than any of us. He was also probably the best-looking guy in the room. Ruggedly handsome with a strong chin and perfect jawline. The rich dark tones of his skin made his eyes pop.
“I’m Erik.” He waved a hand toward us as his voice lowered. “If you don’t mind, where are you all from?”
Erik, it seemed, had noticed what I saw in our unique group. None of us were dressed in what one would consider proper attire for such a house… mansion… whatever.
“Reno,” I said, holding my wineglass but not drinking from it. Even though I felt safe and at ease, still part of me was a tiny bit suspicious. I doubted it was drugged, but I wasn’t quite comfortable drinking it.
“Here. The Bay Area,” Janis said in a tight voice. She continually scanned the room and the doors. That answer was deliberately vague.
“Morgan Hill. Just south of here,” Chui said. She didn’t seem to mind sharing or drinking the wine. Her glass was already empty.
“I’m from LA.” Erik sipped his wine and made a face, then put it down and didn’t touch it again.
“Portland.” Juan turned to Doug.
“I guess I win. I’m from Denver.” Doug smiled. He had an easy grin and perfectly straight and blindingly white teeth. Smiling seemed to come natural to him. “That still doesn’t explain why we’re here. I don’t recognize any of you, and I haven’t been to Reno, LA, or Portland.” He chuckled. “Hell. I don’t know anything about this place or our elusive host, and yet I feel like I’ve seen this house and this room before.”
There were a few nods from the others.
“We’ve probably all seen homes like this on TV. That’s why it seems so familiar,” Janis said with a dismissive wave of her hand. “There are a lot of homes like this in the area. It’s not that great.”
Erik rolled his eyes as he turned to me.
“I don’t know. This place is pretty impressive, and that wonderful scent of roses and vanilla…” I commented.
“The what?” Janis asked with raised eyebrows.
“That scent. I’ve smelled it all day,” I said, glancing around the room at the others.
“I can’t smell a thing,” Erik said.
Chui looked at me. “I think it’s the arrangements in the house. I’ve smelled it since I got here.”
Juan shook his head. “I don’t know. I have a bad sniffer so I don’t smell much.”
“I’m with Duncan here,” Doug said. “I started smelling the scent on the drive up here, and normally I don’t notice that stuff. It got stronger the closer I got to this place.”
“What’s that have to do with the house and where we’re all from?” Erik asked.
“Nothing, I suppose,” I said. “Anyway, I’ve never been to Denver, and this is my first time in San Jose.” I tried to figure out what connected us to this place. “Do any of you work in non-profits?” It was a shot in the dark, but one worth taking. I asked, because that’s what I did. It wasn’t a big non-profit, with only an annual budget of $8 million, but then Reno isn’t a huge area, not that it doesn’t have its problems. It does, and the need is great. Like everywhere.
Our group of strangers spent the next several minutes talking and trying to connect the dots. The only things we had in common were: we were all single, none of us were particularly important people when it came to our work or social circles—No CEOs or A-Listers among us, not even Janis— and none of us came from large families. In fact, most of us were only children whose parents had passed on. And lastly, we were all simple folk, meaning none of us were wealthy. Janis was the closest to being rich. At best, she was middle class, thanks to her executive assistant job in High Tech, and as I remember, she was fond of throwing around names of designer labels she enjoyed and made a point of pointing out her Gucci bag.
Why were Chui, Doug, and I the only ones to notice the roses and vanilla? Better question, why was I the only one who had smelled the scent all day?

The Called
The Calling Book 2


The world is changing quickly for Chris now that he’s part of the Immortal Community. With the events of his past finally behind him, he’s still having visions and true magic is gradually taking hold in the world. Chris is still new and has no real standing in the Immortal Community, but he is learning that nothing is what he thought. 

Old enemies must work together and longtime friends may not be trustworthy. With Juliet, Amanda, and Kirtus by his side, they have to prevent the immortal and witch community from being exposed.

New friendships are made, and longtime alliances are called into question. How will The Called defeat these latest threats, and what does it mean for the world?

Get 25% off of orders $40 or more from the author’s website HERE!
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the calling mdneu - excerpt
Kirtus and I sat at the table in the back of the seafood restaurant. We were at this place on the Santa Cruz pier called Stagnaro Brothers. We had the most amazing view of the lighthouse and the ocean. Outside the rain continued to fall, which was both good and bad. On the positive side the rain kept the fog away, but on the negative side the ocean was more active than normal. Every once in a while the building and the pier shook. Kirtus assured me there was nothing to worry about, emphasizing his lack of concern with a gentle chuckle.
So, I tried to put all my worry away and enjoy our night. There were the fresh scents of the sea and the rain as well as chowders and pastas. I would be lying if I said I wasn’t hungry.
The restaurant had a special vampire menu for people of our ilk. The manager, Alfonse, or Al as he went by, was an acquaintance and client of Kirtus’s. According to Kirtus, Al had only been an Immortal for barely over a hundred years. When I asked if he was one of the original owners, Kirtus only smirked and shrugged. Regardless our dinner was wonderful. The soup, as promised, was a blood clam chowder highbred that had the most scrumptious mouth feel. They also had a huge selection of bottles of red. But the real selling point of the restaurant had to be the view as my gaze continually shifted the window.
“So?” Kirtus’s eyebrows raised.
I turned from the window to see him beaming at me with a slightly raised right eyebrow. He held a wine glass filled with red.
“This was really nice. Thank you.” I forced what I hoped to be a sincere expression.
“It doesn’t do you any good to worry.”
“I know.” I picked up my glass of red and took a deep sip. This red tasted more like oak and had an odd woodsy tang to it. Much to my surprise, the red went perfectly with the chowder. “This place is amazing and the view.” I peeked out the window.
“During the summer when there are boats out on the water, it’s breathtaking. They have some places to sit upstairs where you can see the boardwalk, but I like this view better.”
“I wish the weather was nicer. It would be fantastic to walk down the pier and over to the boardwalk.” I took another sip of my drink. “I’ve never been.”
“No.” Kirtus’s eyes were large, and there was a slight shake to his head as he spoke. “I’m shocked. You mean you’ve never been to the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk in the entire six months you lived here? What kind of monster are you?”
“Oh, har-har. Don’t be a dick.”
Kirtus’s laugh brightened the whole room.
The knot that had been digging into my neck was starting to lose ground.
“Does Juliet realize you talk like that?” Kirtus joked.
Laughter rolled from my lips as a warmth filled my body that I didn’t know had been missing. Despite everything I, we’d, been through, it was so nice to relax and be ourselves. “Has it only been six months?”
Kirtus nodded.
We fell into comfortable silence again. I was transfixed by the rain and the ocean outside; the glint of light from the lighthouse hypnotized me. The conversation with Victor prior to my vision played in my head. How much both he and Juliet risked so Kirtus and I could be together, to share moments like this. How much danger did our relationship put us in? A Light vampire and a Dark vampire in a relationship was something the Immortal community was not pleased with. Why? Our relationship surely couldn’t have been the first; there must have been other Dark and Light Immortals who got together. Luckily, everyone had been focused on the witches and the trouble they were causing to give us much of a thought, but now. Who knew?
“Do you know what Victor wants to meet with you about?” I asked after a moment’s pause. I wanted to tell him about the offer to come, but this news wasn’t mine to share and telling him was not my place. I hated it. However, if he knew and he told me, then I was not withholding anything or having to lie to him.
“No.” Kirtus turned from the window, he had been as transfixed as I had. “Probably something to do with magic and what happened.” His expression soured. “Or his and Sahin’s taxes. They are always trying to work some tax angle.”
I chuckled. I imagined Victor and Sahin trying to get Kirtus to bend, if not fully break, some tax rules.
I changed subject. “Have you been told that true magic had somehow seeped into our world?” I asked, trying to figure out how much he knew. I was hoping he would be more informed than me.
“Sadly.” He rested his hands on top of the table. “I was in downtown San Jose at one of my clients in the KQED building, and we spotted a lightning spirit.”
“A what?”
“I don’t know; that was the best name I came up with. I had to convince her the energy was ball lighting, rare but not magic.”
“That couldn’t have been easy.”
“Nope, especially when I swear the lightning spirit—thing—stopped and stared right at me. It hovered there for a few seconds and watched me.” He shuddered. “Creepy as hell.”
I sipped my drink. The faded taste and scent of oak tickled my nose and my throat. I wasn’t used to the muted flavors of bottled blood after having fresh for the last few weeks.
“Anyway, after that happened I stopped by Victor’s and reported the incident. He told me there had been a few other reports but nothing as overt. I guess.” Kirtus continued to watch me. “I don’t think it’s anything to worry about.”
“We don’t know.”
“No, we don’t, but like I mentioned earlier, whatever this new situation is we’ve got this. We’ll face it together.”
“I hope so.”
“Hey.” Kirtus reached out and took my hand. “We can do this.” He squeezed my hand, offering me his reassurance. “What do you think after we finish here, we walk up to the candy shop; they have this red taffy you’ll love.”
I gulped down his wonderful sandalwood scent, allowing the aroma to wash over me. Every part of my body tingled. “That sounds nice.”
“Good.” Kirtus finished the rest of his glass of red.
I turned to mine. “I’ve gotten spoiled.” I tapped my glass.
“It’s annoying how Victor is right about how fresh is best.”
“How does any of this even work?”
Kirtus blinked several times, his jaw working.
“The bottles and—” I lowered my voice. “—and the feeding.”
“The bottles are enchanted with Immortal blood. Juliet will teach you. I was lucky to have both Victor and Juliet train me in that regard. As for the other, that is something up to Juliet, but I promise you it’s not what you see in the movies…” He paused and glanced around the dining room. “But it’s part of our dark nature.” His head shook. “That’s why a lot of the Light have staff and Keepers. So, they don’t have to hunt and risk going into Bloodlust.”
“You mean what happened with Ben, and my test is based in reality.” That night returned to me. Watching Juliet feed from Ben, feeling a need so deep within me I was sure it was embedded in my DNA, not to mention my groin. I wanted to be in the middle of the experience, but I had managed to keep my cool, despite how hard it was. Both figuratively and physically.
Kirtus leaned back.
“Fuck.” I shuddered at the memory of the darkness.
“Remember, you are in charge and you hold all the power in those cases. You can make feeding as pleasant as you’d like.” He frowned. “I get it’s not what you want to hear, but Juliet will show you and teach you the right way.”
I finished the last of my red.
“Feeding doesn’t have to be awful,” Kirtus added. “But it doesn’t have to involve sex either.”
Our server returned with our check.
“My treat.” Kirtus took the bill from the server.
“Okay, I get next time.”
“You got it.” Kirtus pulled out his wallet and handed the server cash with the bill. “Tell Al we had a great meal and I’ll see him next week at the office.”
“Will do,” the male server said with a polite nod.
“Keep the change,” Kirtus added with an ease of charm.
“Thanks.” The server headed off.
“Shall we go?” Kirtus stood and grabbed his jacket. “Plus, it looks like it stopped raining.” He pointed out the window.
“Sure.” I joined him, standing. “I can’t wait to try this taffy you spoke so highly of.”
Kirtus beamed and waited for me to pass as we headed out of the restaurant and into the cool damp air. I was momentarily blinded by the bright lights on all the rides across the pier and the water at the boardwalk. I drew in a deep to allow the scents of ocean mist and rain to chase away the last of the knot in my neck.


M.D. Neu is an award-winning inclusive gay Fiction Writer with a love for writing and travel. Living in the heart of Silicon Valley (San Jose, California) and growing up around technology, he’s always been fascinated with what could be. Specifically drawn to Science Fiction and Paranormal television and novels, M.D. Neu was inspired by the great Gene Roddenberry, George Lucas, Stephen King, Alice Walker, Alfred Hitchcock, Harvey Fierstein, Anne Rice, and Kim Stanley Robinson. An odd combination, but one that has influenced his writing.

Growing up in an accepting family as a gay man he always wondered why there were never stories reflecting who he was. Constantly surrounded by characters that only reflected heterosexual society, M.D. Neu decided he wanted to change that. So, he took to writing, wanting to tell good stories that reflected our diverse world.

When M.D. Neu isn’t writing, he works for a non-profit and travels with his biggest supporter and his harshest critic, Eric his husband of twenty plus years.



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Book Blitz & Excerpt: Viken Command + Giveaway

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Viken Command
by Grace Goodwin
(Interstellar Brides Program #18)
Publication date: October 28th 2019
Genres: Adult, Romance, Science Fiction

Danger and desire…for one Interstellar Bride, they prove an irresistible mix.

Whitney Mason is the daughter of a Wall Street con man. When he is sent to prison and her family’s name is destroyed, she is eager for a new life on a new world. Anywhere but Earth. Tested by the Interstellar Brides Program, she is matched to a strong Viken warrior. What she doesn’t know is that her mate and the other two warriors waiting to claim her are on a secret and dangerous mission for the Coalition Fleet’s Intelligence Core. From the moment she arrives on Viken, they are forced to lie to her… about everything… except their desire.

For Alarr, Oran and Teig, the arrival of a bride is an unexpected complication. The timing couldn’t be worse, but IC command is thrilled. A bride is the perfect cover, giving the fighters access to every inch of the famous pleasure resort where they are working undercover. The males are eager to satisfy their new mate, but keeping her safe is their top priority, even if that means lying to her and using her pleasure to take down the enemy. But their sexy mate’s past will come back to haunt them all, for even if they survive the mission, the truth will be revealed and their beautiful, curvy female can forgive anything—except lies.

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“Get our mate a cloak. Now.” I turned at the sharp command and saw a fierce-looking male with military short blond hair and eyes that saw right through me. His look made me shiver again, my nipples hardened, and my body clenched with remembered pleasure.

It had not been him in the dream, but someone similar, a male whose voice demanded compliance. Dominance. And while I was on the other side of the universe, I’d woken up from my testing no more than thirty minutes earlier, the sounds and feelings from the testing still flowing hot and wild in my blood. And that voice? He was hot.

I met his gaze and shivered again. No. Cold. Like ice. Ice that burned.

Warden Egara knew exactly what she was doing to us brides, didn’t she? Get us hot and bothered with the processing dream, then ship us off to hot, virile alien warriors with lust in their eyes and bodies as hard as rocks.

Both Alarr and the blond male were not even trying to hide their interest. Nor the way their hard lengths bulged beneath their pants. And as much as the intensity from the blond male made my body clench, I was grateful to have Alarr’s hand in mine, his calm, firm staid assurance that things with the ice man wouldn’t go too far.

I’d never been pushed out of my comfort zone when it came to sex. But I knew that was going to change, and the thought both thrilled and terrified me.

Author Bio:

Grace Goodwin is a USA Today and international bestselling author of Sci-Fi and Paranormal romance with nearly one million books sold. Grace’s titles are available worldwide in multiple languages in ebook, print and audio formats. Two best friends, one left-brained, the other right-brained, make up the award-winning writing duo that is Grace Goodwin. They are both mothers, escape room enthusiasts, avid readers and intrepid defenders of their preferred beverages. (There may or may not be an ongoing tea vs. coffee war occurring during their daily communications.) Grace loves to hear from readers.

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