Book Blitz & Excerpt: The Fix Up + Giveaway

The Fix Up Banner

The Fix Up by Raven McAllan

Book 1 in the Happy Ever After at Romansa Castle series

Word Count: 81,552
Book Length: SUPER NOVEL
Pages: 301



Add to Goodreads

Book Description

Romansa Castle, where love is all around—if you dare to take a chance on it.

Arietta writes romance, she doesn’t participate in it.

A posh wedding? No thank you, not when it’s the wedding of an ex-but-not-for-long-boyfriend. And an ex-but-never-really-a-friend-flatmate.

Her brother has other ideas. He answers ‘yes’ for her and sends his friend to be her partner.

Moss Kirby, heartthrob film star.

Arietta reckons no one would believe he was interested in her…would they?

Is he?

She’s about to find out.


To add to the gloom of a storm where the end of the garden was hidden by mist, raindrops bounced off the terrace like golf balls. The pond overflow spout was akin to Niagara Falls in full spate and the postman brought bad news.

Two lots of bad news.

The first was a scribbled note, in a handwriting Arietta didn’t recognise. That got her wondering even before she opened the envelope. Who sent notes like that these days? When she checked the signature she understood. It was from a so-called friend who did not and now never would have Arietta’s phone number, saying she’d met Arietta’s ex a few days before in Mauritius. Wasn’t it fab, she gushed—if gushing in bright green ballpoint was possible—that he was loved-up and his partner expecting a baby in the very near future? As it hadn’t been that long since he and Arietta had split, and he’d always been adamant he hated flying and asserted even from Glasgow to London brought him out in hives, Arietta decided she was entitled to be upset. Especially as it now appeared that the bloke who’d professed she was the love of his life and had been pressuring her to move in with him—or was it him with her?—had been bonking someone else at the same time.

Thank God for condoms. Okay, it was time to forget him, but that was easier said than done. Not that she ever wanted to see or speak to him again, but the bugger had hurt her big-time.

Bye-bye, Stu.

If that wasn’t enough, she’d also received an invitation. A very unwelcome one.

What next? The roof to cave in? The electricity to be cut off? An alien invasion?

Dramatic or what? Enough already.

Arietta opened the other envelope, took out the contents, stared at the piece of very elegant, heavy and expensive card in her hands and grimaced.

“Mr and Mrs Arthur Berkley-Tong request the pleasure of Harriet Clare and partner to the wedding of their beloved daughter, Kristin Therese Maude, to The Honourable Tarquin Algernon Carstairs Kinsley Smith on November 13th at Pannerburn Castle…”

If she hadn’t realised whom the invitation was from, the way her name was incorrect would have told her. She’d never bothered to correct them that Arietta wasn’t and never had been a version of Harriet.

Honourable? Ha, not when I knew him. Tar…Tack for initials? Oh my, hahaha, that fits… Very tacky. Maude? She never mentioned that. Go to their wedding? Not in a million years. November? In Scotland? No chance, I might be stranded there in a snowstorm. Any Scottish snowstorm I’m stranded in is going to be here. The thirteenth, no way. That would be an unlucky thirteen and was a scary thought. Enough to make her shiver. Stuck with a load of people she didn’t know for however long, in a hotel, however sumptuous, wasn’t a scenario Arietta favoured. She’d have to look tidy, not wear jeans without non-designer rips in them, and remember to put on a bra.

Yuck, not to be considered.

Nor was the idea of seeing two people loved-up when her loved-up-ness was zilch. A big fat do-not-go-there zero. She’d sworn off men for the duration. Being dropped with no warning had hurt too much. Even if she’d found out afterwards he was a two-timing, two-faced rat fink.

The idea of a wedding was anathema to her. Especially that one.

She stared at the card again.

It had to be a joke. Was a bloke in tighty-whities going to jump out from behind the front door, take her photo and shout gotcha? She hoped not. Her current attire of a pair of leggings that had seen better days with a large bleach mark down one leg like an exclamation mark and a scarlet uni sweatshirt that had once read ‘writers do it the right way’, and since faded to a dark pink—with splotches of something unmentionable—wasn’t the sort of look she wanted captured for posterity.

Arietta dropped the card onto her desk, just missed her cold cup of coffee—she had been carried away with her writing and forgotten all about it—and caused three pencils and a toffee to rattle off the surface and onto the floor.

Request the pleasure indeed. Pull the other one. That was called rubbing her nose in it, big-time—or it would have been if she’d been bothered. Which, she ruminated, she wasn’t. Ten years was a long time to get over the non-event of a short and not-so-sweet romance, and a barely begun friendship. Strange how it mattered to other people, though.

Nevertheless, why the invite? Just to show what they’d got up to? Perhaps, but seriously, she was not bothered. Life was too short, and she had a book to write.

“Hey, what’s this?” Thomas, her twin and, as she often said, the annoying ten-minute-older half of their twinship, came into her study unnoticed. He picked up the discarded card and whistled. “Whew… Posh place. Who do you know who can afford to get hitched there?”

“I don’t, not really.” Arietta plucked the card out of his fingers and dropped it back on her desk. This time the corner dipped into her coffee mug. “Someone’s being funny—not. It’s a snarky attempt to rub my nose in something. It won’t work.” She might have been upset—for all of half an hour—at the time, but she could honestly say she had not given the two people concerned a thought in the past years. In fact, she could probably pass them by in the street and not recognise either of them. “I don’t give a monkey’s these days. Over, done with, and the proverbial T-shirt burnt almost immediately.” She flicked her finger at the now getting-soggier-by-the second card. “Overkill.”

Thomas tutted at her handling of the card. “You can’t treat it like that. I bet you need to take it with you to get into the place. Think how downmarket you’ll look with it covered in coffee stains.” He took it out and wiped it on his T-shirt. “Mind you, November… Maybe it’s winter rates and cheaper?”

Arietta shrugged. “No idea. Knowing the bloke, it could well have a lot to do with it, but then I’d bet he’s not dipping his hands in his pockets anyway. Not big on sharing his coffers. Or he wasn’t. It’s a long time since I knew ’em.” She pointed to Thomas’ T-shirt. “You’ll need to rinse that or it’ll stain.” Gah, she was conscious she sounded like their gran. She’d be suggesting a blue bag—whatever that was—next.

“The card?” Thomas, an up-and-coming actor and well on the way to becoming the teenagers’ latest, or next, heartthrob, perched on the edge of her desk and swung his legs. As ever, his jeans were ripped in places no jeans should be and still be worn, and his T-shirt with a hole under one armpit was a hand-me-down from when their dad had gone to concerts and had been three stones lighter. In faded black it proclaimed ‘Iron Maiden’.

“No, twerp, your shirt.”

He winked and she growled. He held his hand up in the universal peace gesture.

“Just makes it look distinguished.” He plucked at the faded material. “Actually, could you tell it was stained? It looks part of the pattern to me. I guess if it was still proper black you’d not see it at all.”

Arietta shrugged. “If that’s what you think.” The T-shirt was ready for the ragbag anyway. “Who am I to argue.”

She saved her work on her laptop and pushed her chair back from her desk. From past experience, she accepted she would get no more written until Thomas had gone home, and as he announced he was stopping for lunch, that wouldn’t be any time soon. “What would your fans think if they saw you now?”

“I’m retro cool?” Thomas hooted with laughter. “The shirt’s not a problem, it’s my car mending one.” He housed his elderly MG in Arietta’s garage and tinkered with it whenever he visited. “I do have another one with me. And it’s not even one of Dad’s, just plain boring blue.” He picked up the card again. “You’ve got to go, you know. Apart from seeing how the other half live, or whatever, it will do you good to get out and about again. I worry.”

“Nope, and what do you worry about? I’m fine.”

“Hmm.” Thomas tapped the card on the corner of the desk. “If you call sitting here writing for ninety percent of your time, not socialising, and ignoring your friends fine, I don’t.”

“Honestly what a load of cobblers,” Arietta said defensively. “I do get out, and I do mix. I’ve got lots of friends and I do see them.”

“Nope,” Thomas corrected her. “Who you rarely see. Not since… Okay.” He held his hands up in a ‘peace’ gesture. “I won’t mention it again, but that arsehole isn’t worth your thoughts.”

“And I don’t give him any,” Arietta assured him. But it stung to be so gullible. Stu with his, ‘Oh I’m away for work’. “I don’t know about him being a good screw salesman, but it seems he was a great one for screwing. Ach.” She dusted her hands together. “I’m just a bit wary now. Okay?”

Thomas nodded. “If you say so, no problem. But I can sense a mystery. C’mon, spill. What’s with the Harriet bit?”

Brothers. How on earth had she thought she could put him off? He was like a truffle hound on the scent of truffles. Arietta pushed him off her desk as she walked to the door then turned to look at him with exasperation and affection.

“The people concerned never ever bothered to get my name right. It annoyed me then, it doesn’t now. It’s not a problem, for either of us. Any of it. What do you want for lunch, or are you off before then?”

“Here’s your hat?” Thomas said wryly as he followed her into the kitchen. “It’s not eleven o’clock yet. I can smell a good story when I see it.”

Of course he could.

“Mixed metaphors, love.”

“So?” He put every ounce of incredulity possible into that one word. “Stop trying to change the subject. Come on, tell your lovely brother all about it. I’m a good listener, and I promise not to share it…unless it’s juicy and I can get one of the ghastly rags that dog me for an interview to print it for mega millions. Then all deals are off. I can retire on the money, and lotus eat.” He opened his eyes wide and blinked theatrically. “Er, what does that mean? It sounds uncomfortable.”

“Idiot.” It was just as well she loved him.

“That’s me. Look, on a serious note, this is one fancy deal,” he said earnestly. “I’ve heard it’s at least two to three tho’ a guest, and that’s without a meal, bed or booze.”

“Two or three thousand pounds?” Arietta said, aghast. “What for?”

“A seat in the chapel, exclusive use of the place—the chapel, not the whole kit and caboodle. There’s cottages to rent in the grounds, and if someone’s got in first, tough luck—and a bun fight I guess.” Thomas stared at her. “Without the buns. At the venue of the decade, and I mean the. Where the oh-so-beautiful go to be seen and talked about and are prepared to pay the big bucks. No press, or at least not without prior notice and invitation. The rooms start at five k a night, and that’s for a shoebox. You can however add many noughts on for a suite or a cottage.”

“Sounds pretentious.” Arietta observed. “And you know all this how?”

“Because Rob Toleman, a fellow actor, enquired about renting one for his parents’ golden wedding and his mum told him if he wanted to waste his money, would he waste it on flying lessons for her instead.”

“What about his dad?” Arietta asked, fascinated by the insight into the life of someone Thomas associated with. As an up-and-coming actor he was, as he said, “happy rubbing shoulders with the good and great, but not quite on a par yet”. “What did he do?”

“Bought his mum the lessons and gave his dad his dream.”

“Which was?”

“An allotment.” He paused for effect. “With a shed, a bench, a coffee maker, comfy chair, radio, iPad and a generator. And Netflix.”

“Oh I love it.” That sounded amazing. Sometimes Arietta wished she had somewhere like that—well, she wasn’t bothered about Netflix or any streaming gubbins. As long as no one except her knew where the allotment was. Why did people assume because you were at home you weren’t doing anything important? She’d lost count of the number of times someone assumed she’d do whatever, because “you’ve nothing on”. However, as she rarely told people what she did, she guessed she only had herself to blame. Goodness knew what they thought she lived on. A private income? A sugar daddy? One day she’d have to try to find out. “Were they pleased?”

“Oh yes, and back to the subject in question.” Thomas waggled his finger at her. “There has got to be a good reason why you don’t want to go. Apart from being anti-social and anti-weddings, and not over that arsehole Stu, I sense a mystery.”

He was like a truffle hound on the scent.

“I am so over him,” Arietta said indignantly. The note she’d got that morning had been for her information only. Thank goodness she’d thrown it in the shredder. Why did some people enjoy being bitchy?

There was no answer to that.

“Earth to Arietta.”

She jumped. She’d forgotten she was having a conversation with Thomas

“This is me, you’re talking to, love,” Thomas said. “He who knows you as well as he knows himself. Well, almost. The sod hurt you, and you wouldn’t let me hurt him back.”

“Yes, okay, he did, but that was then, now I’m just wary and off men. Present company apart…as long as you stop this interfering.”

“Stopped,” Thomas said hastily. “But spill the deets over why the invitation and why the antipathy.”

“No mystery,” Arietta said, resigned to telling him everything—almost everything—as she spooned coffee into her stovetop coffee maker and slid it onto the hot plate of her Aga. “Just someone trying to be superior, and I’d guess they think they’re rubbing my nose in it. Which they aren’t, but I bet my next royalty cheque they wouldn’t believe that even if I swore it on oath.”

“I need more.” Thomas sat on top of the work surface, as close to the Aga as he could without burning. “Lots more. What’s better than coffee and gossip?”

Arietta rolled her eyes. It didn’t matter how many times she complained about his preferred seat, he just grinned and carried on doing it. One day he’d burn his bum and it would be his own fault.

“Bride or groom?” he asked as he began to juggle the salt and pepper pots. “As I have no idea what it’s all about it is still a mystery to me”—he began to sing It’s a Mystery in a very tuneful voice—“spill the beans. Who?”

“Both, sort of, but I suspect it’s the bride.” Arietta grabbed the condiment set before all the contents ended up on the floor and put them down out of his reach. Then she handed him a cup of coffee and sighed. “She was a bit of a bitch, and that’s doing bitches a disservice. Ditto if I said a cow, to cows.”

Thomas raised his eyebrows and rolled his eyes. “Ooh…you’re not usually spiteful. Tell me more, sister mine.”

It was Arietta’s turn to roll her eyes. “Oh all right, Mr Nosy. Let’s sit in the conservatory and I’ll give you chapter and verse.”

“Done.” He jumped down and tweaked Arietta’s nose. “Let’s go.”

“Anyone would think it’s the story of the century and it’s really not,” Arietta said as they settled in the sun-warmed room. She watched two robins eyeing each other up with suspicion and smiled. Her garden wasn’t large but she loved it. This room and her study both overlooked the lawn, pond and bird table. Contrary to popular belief, she was never distracted from work by the view. It gave her inspiration. Many a hero in the historical romantic crime stories she wrote had had his complicated love life resolved as she’d stared out of the window.

Thomas coughed ostentatiously. “Earth to Ari.”

“Don’t call me that,” she said automatically. He always made it sound as if he’d deliberately dropped the “H”. “Okay, well, you remember when I first went to St Andrews, to uni? I shared a flat with four other people?”

Thomas nodded. “Yeah, you, Jan, Daisy, Helen and someone I don’t remember. Long hair she tossed around at every opportunity and over-plump lips. Do you think she’d had them done? She definitely needed her roots done.”


Thomas laughed. “Got the claws out,” he agreed. “She had to be a cat to upset you. What was her name again? I can’t keep calling her trout lips.”

“Kristin, who called herself Krystal, and regarding her lips, who knows? Her roots, yup, always two-tone but not by style. Several years older and evidently she’d swanned around, ‘trying to find herself’—that’s a direct quote by the way—before she chose to go to uni. She wasn’t with us for many weeks. She got a feller, got fed up of actually having to work and got a better offer from Daddy. Went to live the life of a…well, a well-heeled lady in London, I guess.”

“It’s her wedding?”

Arietta nodded. Thomas whistled. “And you’ve kept in touch?”

“Oh no, never heard from her since she left.” Which Arietta decided was a plus. “Weird or what?”

“Then why now?” Thomas sounded as puzzled as she felt. “‘Weird or what’ is about right.”

“Ah, that’s the rest of the story.” Arietta sipped some coffee then put the cup down. It must had been her mood because the best Kenyan blend tasted like cardboard. Soggy, cheap cardboard. That was annoying. She was limiting the amount of full strength, full flavour, full-on caffeine coffee she drank every day, so for one not to be up to par didn’t seem fair.

“You remember for a few weeks back then, in the first few weeks of my first year, I said I was sort of seeing a bloke?” she asked. “He was a post grad. I wasn’t sure about him, but was prepared to give him a chance? He had… I dunno, something about him that was appealing. Up to a point, I guess. He had an appalling taste in socks. Anyway, we had a barney and I told him to sling his hook? You were in Spain filming that TV series where you played an alien, so all my angst was by phone and email?”

“Oh yeah,” Thomas said fervently. “When I got back all fired-up and ready to kick ass, you told me to calm down, it was well over and done with. I’ve never seen you so…so disgusted, I guess. You never did say why, though, and I was too much of a gentleman to pry.”

Arietta laughed. “Get it right, love. You were too much involved with that pretty blonde who called you Tommy. Or was it the one who lisped and called you Th…hom…uth and kept sending you pouty kisses?” She mimed blowing him a kiss with her bottom lip stuck out. “And cwoowtie pie.”

“Susie and Loretta,” Thomas commented with a reminiscent smirk. “I’d forgotten them. Ah, to be young and have stamina. Actually, it was neither then. They came, they went, I was gutted. Until it was Maybelle Fortune. Lovely Maybelle. She married a vicar and has six kids at the last count. Even one named Thomas. Lives in Cumbria. I get a Christmas card every year. And stop changing the subject.”

“I wasn’t,” Arietta said indignantly. “Well, not very much,” she added with honesty. “And it’s boring, the old, old, story. I met him in my first few days at uni. He tried to monopolise me and didn’t take kindly to me not letting him. Then, after only a couple of weeks, he wanted to have sex. I didn’t. Too much, too soon. I mean, you and the parents had drummed into me…be sure, and I wasn’t. We were having a heated discussion about it in the communal lounge when Kristin walked in and said, well, if I didn’t want sex with him, she did.” She smiled at the memory as Thomas let out a long whistle. “Not good.” With hindsight it was humorous, but it hadn’t been at the time. Kristin had sent her a malicious smirk as she had spoken. It had been obvious by her snarky comments she’d been smitten by the guy and most annoyed he’d chosen Arietta to ask out.

“Oh…my… And?”

“He said, ‘last chance, babe’, to me. I said not interested, too much too soon, and I didn’t realise he was that desperate, so he shrugged, said my loss.” She snorted. “I said not really, plenty more fish in the sea, less needy, not much of a loss.

“He said I was well named—he’d thought my initials were HRC and said it was short for hah-archaic. Then he said to Kristin, ‘yeah, why not’.

“She said to me, ‘All’s fair in sex and war’ and they walked out of the room together. I laughed loudly, well, it was laugh or throw things and I wasn’t stooping to that. Not wanting to be around to hear anything—the walls weren’t that thick and we already knew she was a screamer—I went down to the union.”

Thomas spluttered his coffee. “Oh my a…” He shook his head in mock sorrow. “Look what I missed. Luckily.”

“You better believe it. Anyway, I met up with the others, had a good slag-off fest and lots of dodgy cocktails. Eventually we meandered back, slightly mellow, shall we say, and her room was empty. Just a toothbrush and a packet of contraceptive pills on the bathroom floor. Mega oops there, we reckoned. Even so, that was the last we saw of her in the flat. We were told she’d changed halls. For a while after that you’d see the pair of them arm in arm, or tonsils against tonsils all over the place. The term ended, and then… No one saw her again. Nor him.”

“But it’s over, what, fourteen years since then,” Thomas pointed out. “Nothing since then?”

“Not a lot. I did hear third or twentieth hand about six or seven years ago that he was working for her father, who has a multi-million-pound company recycling rags, and that she was modelling.”

“The rags?” Thomas said and almost fell over as he snorted. “I’d love to see it.”

Arietta punched him. “Idiot. I never saw her name mentioned anywhere afterwards, so who knows. Anyway that’s it. A non-story. I don’t half know how to pick ’em.”

“I don’t get it.” Thomas ignored her woe is me remark, picked up two pencils and began to juggle with them. “Why has she suddenly decided to ask you to her wedding?”

“I’m guessing that’s got a lot to do with her groom,” Arietta said and sniggered. “All those years and…” She did the ‘da…da…dah daaah’ out loud.

“You mean?” Thomas smiled, very wickedly. “You mean…”

Arietta nodded. “Whatever the pair of them have been up to in the meantime, the bloke I ditched is the groom to be.”

Thomas howled. “Ohh, the cat she is. You have to go, you cannot miss it. Don’t you have a handsome, hot-as-hell bloke tucked away? Someone to make her drool? Someone you can ask to be your partner?”

Arietta rolled her eyes. “Nope.” Droolworthy men in her orbit were few and far between, as in zilch, none she wasn’t related to. “The only one of those is you. Stop grinning, you sod, I was going to add allegedly, though I can’t see it myself and frankly you’re too well-known for anyone not to know you’re my brother. Plus you’d be mobbed and I’d be stuck in the corner as Ari-no-mates.” She couldn’t stand the thought of Kristin’s smirk if she turned up alone. “I’ll send my apologies and say I’m at some writer’s convention in Ulan Bator or somewhere.” That sounded sort of plausible, and she had a mate who could mug up some tweets if need be.

“Tut, tut.” Thomas shook his head in mock sorrow. “What is that our dear mama always says about liar, liar, pants on fire?”

“She also says if you have to lie, do a big one,” Arietta pointed out. “And I’m doing that. Mega big. Though I might say Hong Kong and go visit Jan. She’s still out there.”

“Ah, the lovely Jan. Still refusing to admit I’m the love of her life?” Thomas patted his heart. “Gutted, I am.”

“’Fraid so.” Arietta looked at him curiously, struck by the wry note in his voice. “Would you like to be?”

“Gutted? Nah. The rest? Who knows,” Thomas said in what Arietta decided was a cryptic manner. “Dammit. I really wanted to find out what Pannerburn Castle was like, even if it’s second-hand. You’re cruel, love.”

“That’s me.” She didn’t mention his change of subject. On the odd occasion that Jan and Thomas were in the same vicinity, sparks flew, and Arietta had long wondered why, made her own conclusions and decided never to interfere. “When you get your Oscar, you’ll just have to treat yourself,” Arietta said, unmoved by his ‘woe is me, poor deprived male’ expression. He was a bloody good actor and used that at his convenience. “Or just be brass-necked and go and have a look around. It’s only on the other side of the loch. Not far as the crow flies.” Although a lot longer by road. “Now make yourself comfy with the paper or something while I write my sorry, but thank you note and sort out something to eat for lunch.”

“I’ll need to slip into the village and buy a paper.” Thomas patted his pocket. “Wallet in place. You write your scaredy-cat note and I’ll pop it into the post box for you. Anything else you need?”

“Nope.” Arietta nipped back into the study, found an appropriate card and scribed her apologies. She handed it to Thomas with a flourish. “Are you happy with my pâté and stuff for lunch?”

“Well, duh. Look, my last attempt. Are you sure you’re not letting what happened with them and that bloody Stu cloud your judgement? I mean, you should go and say sod ’em all.”

“I shouldn’t go and be miserable. Which I would be. To say nothing of bankrupt and not able to feed you when you visit. Now are you going to give it a miss and give over, shut up and let it be and stop for lunch, or have me throw a hissy fit and chuck you out?

“Shutting up. Lunch, please.”

“Great. It’ll be ready when you get back. Here you go.” She handed him an envelope. “I’ve even found a stamp for it.”

Buy Links

Choose Your Store
First For Romance

About the Authors

Raven McAllan

After 30 plus years in Scotland, Raven now lives near the east Yorkshire coast, with her long-suffering husband, who is used to rescuing the dinner, when she gets immersed in her writing, keeping her coffee pot warm and making sure the wine is chilled.

With a new home to decorate and a garden to plan, she’s never short of things to do, but writing is always at the top of her list.

Her other hobbies include walking along the coast and spotting the wildlife, reading, researching, cros stitch and trying not to drop stitches as she endeavours to knit.

Being left-handed, and knitting right-handed, that’s not always easy.

She loves hearing from her readers, either via her website, by email or social media.


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

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Book Blitz & Excerpt: Demon’s Game + Giveaway

Demon's Game Banner

Demon’s Game by Xenia Melzer

General Release Date: 25th January 2022

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



Add to Goodreads

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.


“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.

Buy Links

Choose Your Store
First For Romance

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.


Enter for the chance to win a $50.00 First for Romance Gift Card! Competition hosted by Totally Entwined Group.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Book Blitz & Excerpt: Sarah’s Secret + Giveaway

Sarahs Secret Banner

Sarah’s Secret, by Katherine E. Hunt

Book 3 in the Mended Hearts series

Word Count: 12,166
Book Length: SHORT STORY
Pages: 55



Add to Goodreads

Book Description

Sarah has a secret. She’s on the run from some very nasty men. Can she find love—and herself—before her past catches up with her?

Sarah has recently bought a home in Winchester Drive. As is customary for the widows on the street, she has been invited to join The Winchester Widows Sex Club. Beautiful and seductive, she is a popular new addition.

But Sarah has a secret. Her name’s actually Beth, she’s in hiding—with some not-very-nice people on her tail—and she’s not even a widow.

Her estranged husband Marco is an undercover FBI agent, and when he turns up on her doorstep, that can only mean one thing…danger.

Beth is tired of running. She longs to make friends and find love again, which she does when she makes Paul’s acquaintance and finds herself smitten with him. Bonding over romantic TV shows and jigsaw puzzles, they fall deeply for each other.

But the hitman is still out there, and Paul, a law student of a nervous disposition, is not exactly ready for a life on the run.

Beth has to work out what she really wants from the men in her life, move on from her past and allow herself to finally be true to who she is.

Reader advisory: This book contains scenes of violence. It is best read in order as part of the Mended Hearts series.


At the scent of his skin, I released the hilt of the knife that was under my pillow.

He’d snuck into my bedroom first thing in the morning, stripped off and gotten under the sheets with me. The man had a death wish.

Marco was a passionate man. Our marriage—short though it had been—had been a never-ending festival of love. When he hadn’t been in bed with me, he’d been by my side, never far away. In retrospect, he’d feared the worst. My background and his were such that eventually, something was going to have to give.

Thus I knew his scent, intimately. It triggered a sensation of tranquility, something I didn’t experience very often while alone in my bed. Just for a second, we were home again, before it had all happened—the calm before the storm.



His breath hitched as he snuggled in closer to me. “I don’t have much time.”

Can’t we pretend, just for five minutes, that we are simply husband and wife? A little hot and heavy lovemaking before popping to the shops then spending the afternoon in front of the TV or gardening—or anything that doesn’t involve murderous gangs and guns? That everything was as it had been before I’d come here. “It’s seven a.m. No bad guys are going to drag us screaming from my home during the peak morning rush hour, with school buses and people leaving for work.”

“I have twenty minutes tops.”

Pushing my butt up against his rock-hard dick, I shimmied a little. “Twenty minutes should be enough.” The tiny moan that emanated from his lips was all I needed to know that he agreed.

Despite his brutish appearance, Marco was a sensual lover—Italian. There was nothing like that fiery Latin blood to get me hot, even at this time in the morning.

“Your body haunts my dreams. The thought of holding you once again is the only thing that keeps me going in this stupid life.” He explored every inch of my skin with his warm hands, entering and caressing me with his fingers. It took little action on his part to get me wet for him. Just his presence in my bed was enough to make me need him inside me.

He brushed the back of my neck with his lips, his rough, unshaven skin sending a frisson down my spine.

Parting my legs, he entered me, filling me entirely and reminding me of why I’d married this man. I arched against his body with my head tilted back onto his shoulder. He moved his hand to my chest, holding me tenderly as he fucked me from behind—every stroke, every movement more exciting than the last.

“Il mio amore.” The accent was more Long Island than Lake Garda, but he knew what those words did to me.

“More,” I whispered.

He circled my hardened clit with his fingers, clasping my body to his as the rhythm of his thrusts increased. “Mia cara, ti desidero,” he growled.

I gasped as the orgasm rocked me, and Marco still held me to him. Can he feel every beat of my heart, every flicker of my body?

His thrusts were ferocious, animalistic, and he pounded into me as he came, obviously releasing a need that he’d had for so long.

While I had moved on from our marriage, Marco had never let go of the idea that one day we would be together again. He respected the vows that I had long since chosen to ignore. There was only one woman in his life, and he intended to keep it that way.

But I had had enough.

“I’m not going with you.”

“What?” He pulled out of me then rolled onto his back.

“I have a life here, just like everywhere else. You take me somewhere, leave me to pick up the pieces, make new friends, then just when I get comfortable, you swoop back in and make me leave again.”

“They will kill you.”

“They were your problem, not mine.”

He rolled me around to face him. “Beth, we both know that they will find you. I can’t let that happen.”

Marco. Sweet Marco. A teddy bear wrapped in the body of a heavyweight boxer—big, tough and strong, filled with cotton candy.

“I can handle myself. You know that. In fact, I was doing pretty well before you came along. Why are you here? What have you heard?”

“Enough to know that you’re in danger.” He scratched his ear. The man had a tell. He could convince the entire criminal underworld that he was part of their gang, but I knew when he was lying at twenty paces.

“You’re working for them again.” He fidgeted, looking away. “Fucking hell, Marco, why? After everything that happened.”

“They sent someone here to kill you, Beth. I don’t know who. Someone here is not who they seem.”

I’d met an awful lot of people recently. None of them had struck me as the contract-killer type. Then again, when I’d met Marco, he’d turned out to not be everything he’d purported to be, either. I would have noticed a cold-hearted killer, though. Won’t I?

“This is just another ploy.” I got up from the bed and turned away from him. I didn’t need to look to know that he was checking out my body, probably memorizing every dimple and curve. “We made a choice, Marco. You said you would honor my decision to stop running. You were the one who wanted to give us up. You were the one who left.”

“Beth, I can’t live without you. I thought I could move on, but it’s impossible.”

“Then stay.”

“You know that I can’t do that. It kills me, but I have to bring these guys down.”

“You can’t live without me, but you can’t stay. If it’s so difficult for you to make up your mind, Marco, then you know where the door is.” I left the room. My heart broke a little bit more every time he did this. I’d conceded too many times, agreed to let go of another life and another name—sometimes even a chance at love.

This time it was different. This time I was finally settling in somewhere, making friends. I wasn’t giving up any of this because of another of Marco’s stupid whims.

Fight for me, Marco. Show me I mean more to you than the life you lead, the job you have to do. I went into the bathroom, shut the door and clicked the lock—then I waited for him. Kick the door down. Show me how much you love me. Tell me you’re staying.

I held my hand up to the door, lowered my forehead onto the cold white wood and waited for signs of life. It juddered as he slumped against the other side. Sinking to the floor, I sat in silence…waiting.

I unclicked the lock. There, now it’s even easier for you to come charging in on your white horse. Nothing.

He wasn’t even going to say goodbye. We’d said it a million times before, but this time was definitive. After a while, I could no longer hear him on the other side.

His heart would always beat for me, but for now, it would beat elsewhere.

I lifted my hand instinctively to my mouth as I started to cry, as if to silence myself. I traced my lips. Not even a kiss. My husband had come to me for the very last time, and he hadn’t even kissed me goodbye.

I lifted a loose tile and removed a large box. Marco might be gone, but I had another fight to contend with. The battle was over, but the war was not won, not by a long shot.

Buy Links

Choose Your Store
First For Romance

About the Author

Katherine E Hunt

Katherine E Hunt ran off with a Frenchman twenty years ago. She now lives on a French mountain with three children and two dogs. When she isn’t writing contemporary romance she can be found huddled up in front of a roaring fire, with a glass of Chardonnay in one hand and a book in the other.

You can find out more about Katherine on her website.


Enter to win a fabulous gift package from Katherine E. Hunt!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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

Scroll Up