Book Blitz & Excerpt: Starting Over in Cedarwood + Giveaway

Starting Over in Cedarwood Banner

Starting Over in Cedarwood, by Megan Slayer

Book 15 in the Cedarwood Pride series

Word Count: 50,247
Book Length: SHORT NOVEL
Pages: 195

GENRES:

CONTEMPORARY
EROTIC ROMANCE
GAY
GLBTQ

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Book Description

Starting over might just bring them the love they deserve.

Shaun Fallows came to Cedarwood to start over. He wants to be done with dating, but the moment he sees Kevin, the sparks are off the charts. He can’t get the sexy man off his mind. So much for not wanting to get involved. Kevin is the man of his dreams. Can he convince Kevin to give him a try or will the romance end before it gets the chance to begin?

Besides, there’s the small issue of Kevin’s cat…

Kevin Keiser did the dating thing and ended up burned. One of the few bright spots in his life is his cat, Leo. The animal might be a bit prickly, but he’s been a good meter for who Kevin should date and who he should avoid. He wants a boyfriend who isn’t put off by his pet. Shaun sure seems to fit the bill. Is he just another man or the love Kevin’s been waiting for?

Reader advisory: This book contains mention of emotionally abusive exes, homophobia, and financial crime.

Excerpt

“What a great day to visit the ballfield,” Shaun Fallows said. He breathed in the fresh air and scent of freshly cut grass. “The weather’s perfect, there’s a slight breeze and just the right amount of clouds and sun.”

Warrick rolled his eyes. “You’re too invested in this already. We’re just here for the newspaper. If old Mr. Nicholas weren’t so busy playing house, he’d be here, too.”

Shaun shrugged to hide his excitement. He’d been to ballfields before and had even covered a couple of games for his high school paper as well as his hometown paper, but those had been small fields and tiny teams. This was the Cedarwood Wildcats. This was the bigger time. Besides, he didn’t give a shit if Mr. Nicholas, the head of the paper, was home with his husband. More power to them.

“Sucks. Mr. N should be here and directing this, not us.” Warrick pointed to the luxury boxes. “We’re up there.”

Shaun whipped his card out and showed the attendant, then strode through the gate to the executive level. The ballfield wasn’t that big, but he didn’t care. He’d arrived. “We’re supposed to be enjoying ourselves.” He drank in the view. The manicured field stretched out before him and the seats were filled with fans. Flags waved out beyond centerfield and the scent of bread lingered in the air. “We must be near the bakery.”

“The bun warmer,” Warrick grumbled. “If Mr. N wanted to treat us, then he could’ve given us a bonus, not made it newspaper day at the ballfield.”

“You’ll complain about anything, won’t you?” Shaun wandered up to the glass windows facing the field. “This is fantastic.” He shoved his hands into his pockets and listened to the noise from the crowd as well as the pregame announcements. Once he heard the jingle for the newspaper, his heart swelled.

Ever since he’d nabbed the advertising head position with the paper, his life had seemed to turn around. He had a stable job, a decent apartment and his man trouble wasn’t so bad—granted, he didn’t have a man, but so what? He’d worry about dating later.

“Everyone.” Remy Nicholas, the infamous Mr. N, clapped his hands. “Everyone.”

Shaun turned his attention to his boss. Unlike Warrick, Shaun liked Remy. He appreciated Remy’s unconventional approach to the paper, printing and having the main version online. Remy had instituted audio versions and pdf versions sent to the schools. He’d even created a video channel for special content.

Remy clapped his hands again. “I know this wasn’t the newspaper appreciation day you were all looking forward to, but I wanted to do something different. This year, we’ve managed to improve circulation and add jobs. Hits on the website are up and the feedback we’re getting is off the charts. Thank you to those who helped with the school supply collection. That went so well. The kids of Cedarwood will appreciate your hard work. For those who are assisting this Tuesday with the food drive, know your help will make the difference. People are paying attention to the social media posts and the little live events, so keep it up.”

Shaun applauded. He hadn’t been able to donate time to the school supply drive, but he’d signed up to help with the food one.

“Now, the reason for having the newspaper appreciation day here at the field was to give back. I want you to have a nice day at the ballpark, but also to get us into the community. Enjoy yourselves. The bar is open and food is ready. Thank you for being the best staff and for continued great times with the newspaper,” Remy said. “Thank you.”

“God, he gets long-winded,” Warrick said. He applauded, but sighed. “I hate baseball.”

“I don’t care.” Shaun wasn’t a fan of negative people. He’d had enough of that in his relationship with Jonah. No matter what he’d done, Jonah hadn’t been happy. Never the right clothes, the right shoes…his hair wasn’t cut properly or was too long…and the arguments. He didn’t miss the arguments.

Two men in black shirts and trousers wheeled a cart into the room. One man took his position behind the hot dog stand and the other wheeled the empty cart out. The man pushing the cart caught Shaun’s attention. He had a thing for tall, dark and handsome men. The way the guy’s brown hair flopped over his brow and his eyes glittered sent a shiver along Shaun’s spine. The man turned and, when he smiled, the dimple in his cheek became more prominent and Shaun noticed the beauty mark along his jawline. Warmth enveloped Shaun. He hadn’t had a reaction like this in so long.

“Who is that?” Shaun murmured. “The guy with the cart.”

“That?” Warrick chuckled. “That’s Kevin Keiser. He runs the food service center here at the ballfield. Quiet guy. I think he’s single and I’m fairly sure he’s gay.” He elbowed Shaun. “Are you gay? I never asked.”

“It wasn’t your business, but yes, I am.” Shaun swept his gaze over Kevin again. Kevin looked trim in his food service outfit, but strong, too.

Cara, one of the girls from the accounting department of the paper, sidled up to Shaun. “Are you eyeballing Kevin?”

“Maybe.” He bowed his head to stop gawking. “Is that bad?”

“Other than you look like you want to eat him, you’re staring so hard?” She laughed. “No, it’s not bad. He’s a nice guy.”

“I hear he’s quiet.” Shaun managed to get through the food line, but didn’t see Kevin again. Instead of sitting with Warrick, he ended up at the table with Cara. “Do you know Kevin?”

“Went to school with him.” She nodded and settled next to Shaun. “He doesn’t talk much. Never did. I think it’s because he got teased so mercilessly in school. Everyone but him knew he was gay and teased him, then it got worse once he came out. It was bad, but he seemed to keep his head up, especially once he admitted he was gay.”

“I see.” Shaun watched the baseball game, but stole glances over at the service stations in case Kevin came back. Shaun nudged Cara. “Do you think he’d give me the time of day if I asked him for his number?”

“You?” She coughed, then sipped her water. “Honey, you’re sexy. If he doesn’t, it’s because he’s scared.” Once she cleared her throat and finished her water, she nodded. “I mean, he’s shy, so he might not say ‘yes, I want your number’, but he’d be crazy if he turned you down. You’re handsome.”

“Handsome doesn’t mean much sometimes.” Shaun finished his hot dog and toyed with his fries. He managed to smear ketchup on his fingers. “Do you have a napkin?”

“Nope. I forgot to grab one.” Cara groaned. “And I need one. Please?”

“Sure.” He left the table and headed toward the service station. “Hi, I could use some napkins.”

The teenager offered up a stack. “Sorry. They stick together and don’t clean up much unless you have five.”

“Thanks.” He accepted the bundle, then glanced over his shoulder. Kevin still hadn’t come back. Maybe he’d been an apparition. Shaun settled at the table with Cara and divided the napkins. “Good?”

“Very. Thank you.” She blotted her mouth, then groaned again. “Not today.”

“What?” Shaun balled his paper, then glanced about the room. “What’s wrong?”

“Warrick’s being a pain in the ass.” She massaged her forehead. “He’s complaining about the food.”

“There’s nothing wrong with it,” Shaun said. “Standard ballfield food, but it’s not bad.” That said, his coworker wasn’t a happy man and could find something wrong with a perfect twenty-four-carat gold ring.

“Excuse me. Do you have soggy buns, too?”

Shaun froze, then looked at Cara, who’d gone pale. She hadn’t been the one to ask the question and the speaker didn’t sound like Warrick. Shaun turned his attention to the one who had spoken. Kevin. Shaun’s breath lodged in his throat. The man was even more handsome up close. Shaun noted the sprinkling of hairs on Kevin’s cheeks and the lines crinkling at the corners of his eyes. Were those flecks of silver at his temples, too?

Kevin cleared his throat. “I’m sorry. The other table is complaining about the buns being subpar. Are your dining choices up to your standards?”

“Uh…” Shaun had to sound intelligent, not silly, but he couldn’t manage to form a normal sentence.

“They’re great,” Cara said. “Thank you.”

“Are you sure? We’re here to provide a fine dining experience,” Kevin said. “At decent prices.”

“You sound like you’re a walking advertisement,” Shaun managed. He balled his hand on his thigh under the table and drew in a deep breath to center himself. He’d never had problems talking to guys before now. “I don’t think our buns are soggy.” He smiled and met Kevin’s gaze. “But I would like to ask you a question.” Christ. Confidence, don’t fail me now.

“Do you need more ketchup? Some of the bottles are low.” Kevin shook his head, then reached across the table to retrieve the bottle. “I let Buzz handle it and he only filled about half of them.”

“No.” Shaun touched Kevin’s forearm, stopping him. The move also sent tingles along Shaun’s nerve endings. His synapses stood at full alert. “I… Would you like to grab a beer sometime?”

“Oh.” Kevin froze and confusion clouded his eyes. “You want to go out with me?”

“I do.” Shaun mustered his confidence. “I know it’s a strange time to ask you that, but I wasn’t sure if I’d get to see you again. It’s just beers or coffee, but I’d like to go out sometime with you.” Christ. He’d managed to stumble over everything he’d just said.

“Uh, sure.” Kevin stood at his full height and clasped his hands together. “But you’re sure you’re happy with the food?”

“Very.” Shaun scrawled his number on a piece of paper. “Call me when you’re free. I’d like to buy you that beer or coffee.”

Kevin tipped his head and a slight smile curled on his lips. A crooked smile. “I will.”

When Kevin walked away, Shaun considered what he’d done. “I asked him out.”

“You did.” Cara elbowed him. “Good for you.”

“I asked him out,” Shaun repeated. He hadn’t wrapped his mind around what he’d done. Holy shit.

“It’s the crooked smile, isn’t it? He is adorable.” She collected the trash on the table. “He got that smile when he was a kid. Auto accident, I think. It messed up his jaw and he’s got a scar. I think he had surgery to have the damage made less visible.” She stood. “I’m going to toss this then sit along the window. Care to join me?”

“Sure.” He picked up his beer and followed her over to the window. The game was already in full swing. “Who’s winning?”

“We are, by two.” She settled on one of the chairs. “If I wasn’t neck-deep in kids and getting mine through junior high, I’d toss my hat into the dating game, but I have no time.”

“Give it a shot.” He sat beside her. “So you went to school with Kevin? Has he been single long?”

“A year, I think.”

“That’s a shame. He’s cute.” No, he was fucking hot—not that he’d tell Cara as much. Most of the cute guys he knew were already married or in long-term relationships.

“The shame is that he’s too picky.” Cara laughed. “Not that I can complain. I’m forty-one and not remarried or even dating.”

“You don’t look your age.” So Kevin was roughly forty-one, too? Only a year or so younger than him. Good. “What do you mean, he’s picky? Being selective is good.”

“He doesn’t date anyone who isn’t approved by his cat,” she said. “You hate cats, so you’d better just have one beer with him and cut your losses, now that I think about it.”

“I don’t hate cats.” He hadn’t found one that liked him, but that was beside the point. “Are he and the cat that close?”

“Very.”

Shaun shrugged. Cara was probably exaggerating. She tended to when she discussed something dramatic. The car accident was always the worst she’d ever seen or her kid scoring a goal was always the best goal ever in the history of eighth grade hockey. “I’ll give him a chance.”

“Who?” Warrick found them and sat beside Shaun. “Dave? Don’t date Dave. He’s full of himself. Plus, you’ll smell like you’ve bathed in his cologne.”

Shaun shrugged again. Their co-worker, Dave, did tend to wear his aftershave a bit on the thick side. Everyone who hugged him tended to smell like him.

“Shut up,” Dave said. “I heard our Shaun gave Kevin Keiser his digits.”

“Keiser? He’s so quiet,” Warrick said. “He’s gay? Oh wait. I knew that. He had a guy…Kyle someone or another. I guess they had a falling out.”

“Over the cat,” Cara said.

Shaun gritted his teeth to keep from speaking. Kevin’s personal life wasn’t their business. “You need to leave him alone.”

“Why? He had a fight with a guy over a cat. The critter hated Kyle, I think,” Warrick said. He shrugged, then downed some of his beer. “If I can’t find a woman to get along with Patrice, then it’s a nonstarter.”

“Your dog?” Dave snorted. “It’s just a dog.”

“Might be to you, but she’s a good dog,” Warrick said. “She’s more loyal than you’ve ever been.”

Shaun snorted. “You two.” He ignored the rest of the conversation in favor of the baseball game. “Kevin seemed nice and I went out on a limb. It might not work, but I won’t know unless we go out, so there.”

“You should give him a shot,” Cara said. “You’d be good for him. You’re quiet and smart like him. Maybe you’d bring each other out of your shell.”

“Maybe.” His thoughts turned to Kevin. He hadn’t felt sparks like that in ages and he liked the rush. He missed the delight of being with someone and being wanted. Hell, he liked being part of a relationship.

Besides, he was tired of the one-night stands and pretty boys who only wanted him to pump up their ego or be their sugar daddy. He was only forty-two, but sometimes he felt ancient. He worked hard for his money and the paper. Could Kevin be the one he’d been looking for?

He hoped so.

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About the Author

Megan Slayer

Megan Slayer, aka Wendi Zwaduk, is a multi-published, award-winning author of more than one-hundred short stories and novels. She’s been writing since 2008 and published since 2009. Her stories range from the contemporary and paranormal to LGBTQ and BDSM themes. No matter what the length, her works are always hot, but with a lot of heart. She enjoys giving her characters a second chance at love, no matter what the form. She’s been the runner up in the Kink Category at Love Romances Café as well as nominated at the LRC for best author, best contemporary, best ménage and best anthology. Her books have made it to the bestseller lists on Amazon.com.

When she’s not writing, Megan spends time with her husband and son as well as three dogs and three cats. She enjoys art, music and racing, but football is her sport of choice.

Find out more about Megan on her website, and sign up for the newsletter here. You can also check out her Blog, Amazon Author Page, Bookbub and Instagram.

Giveaway

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Book Blitz & Excerpt: The Drumbeat of His Heart + Giveaway

The Drumbeat of his Heart Banner

The Drumbeat of His Heart, by M.C. Roth

General Release Date: 20th July 2021

Word Count:  69,584
Book Length: NOVEL
Pages: 246

Genres:

CELEBRITIES
CONTEMPORARY
EROTIC ROMANCE
GAY
GLBTQI

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Book Description

A brush with death delivers Ian into Trent’s life, but there’s more to Ian than he shares—a hidden life, a hidden career and secrets that may tear them apart.

When Trent is almost hit by a swerving Corvette, he has no idea that the driver will change his life forever.

Freezing cold and soaked, Trent pulls the strikingly attractive Ian from the wreckage. Ian is everything Trent has been looking for in a man—beautiful, sexy—and he needs a place to stay for the weekend.

Trent is out and proud, and he prays he can keep his hands to himself with the gorgeous man under his roof. But Ian is the one who follows Trent into the shower, shows him things that Trent never imagined and takes the final thread of Trent’s virginity.

After a weekend of passion, Trent finds himself falling for Ian, even though they live a country apart. But there is more to Ian than what he says. A hidden life, a hidden career and more lies than Trent can imagine.

Ian’s secrets may tear their hearts to pieces—or transform their desires into something more.

Reader advisory: This book contains scenes involving drug use and homophobia. There are references to an alcohol problem, public sex and voyeurism.

Excerpt

Rain splattered against the slim fabric hood that was pulled over his head. The water leaked through the flimsy fabric and pressed into his hair, making the strands clump and drip down the back of his shirt. The sky was the colour of dusty ash left too long in the fireplace and the air was thick with ozone.

Trent shivered and pulled the hoodie closer as he tried to keep some semblance of warmth against his skin. The forecast had predicted a beautiful, sunny spring day with a temperature of twenty degrees centigrade. The sun had lasted until he’d stepped out of the office to go home after a nine-hour shift trapped behind a dusty window. He’d touched the pavement and the clouds had loomed in as a virtual monsoon opened above his head.

Walking to work was as much of a blessing as it was a curse. He had no car payments, but he was stuck walking through any storm that decided to roll in. Clouds had a habit of waiting until he left the safety of the building before they unleashed their wrath.

The cracked sidewalks were stained dark with pools of water gathering in every dip and cranny. The few buildings around him were lit up bright against the grey sky, and their signs beckoned anyone who happened to be passing by. Their brick was antique, with lines of grout that had crumbled over time. It gave them more character than the new-builds in an actual city. Their bleached Christmas lights, that were meant to be spring decorations, were charming and the most modern thing about them besides the updated espresso machine in the café.

A burst of yellow swerved along the slim street, and its tyres splashed through the puddle of a blocked storm drain. Water burst up like the landing of a flume ride and smacked against Trent. Gravel and bits of sodden leaves struck him, sticking and clinging to every light hair on his naked shins. A trail of sand curled down his forehead and dripped into his eye.

“Dammit,” he spluttered as thick mud trailed down into his mouth. The taste of tainted water and decomposition made him gag and he spat into the swirling mass around his feet that was searching for a way through the cracked sidewalk. He stopped to watch as the yellow Corvette straightened and swerved back away from the kerb where it had struck the puddle that had completely drenched him. It was a manoeuvre he might expect out of a teenager who might deliberately try to soak unsuspecting pedestrians.

Instead of pulling straight along the thin road, the Corvette kept turning as it lost control on the plane of water. It looped back to the other side of the street and directly into oncoming traffic. There was no squealing of tyres or frantic running as doom approached, only the patter of rain on his soaked hood.

A rusty feed truck, tracking towards the light in the opposite lane, cleared the Corvette by a few centimetres, blaring its horn as the car crossed its path. The yellow machine swerved again, its tyres finally catching and squealing as they threw off bits of black rubber. Trent could just make out the frantic movements of the driver through the dark, tinted windows. His stomach clenched and the hairs raised on the back of his neck as he watched the scene unfold.

Sounds gurgled together as metal struck metal. The pop of tyres burst against his eardrums, accompanied by the squeal of aluminium and the snapping of glass. The muffled thud of airbags joined the fray a second later, then a shout as the bumper of the Corvette crumpled into a parked suburban van.

Trent was moving before he’d fully registered the crash. The mud and leaves were forgotten as his hood fell back and the rain pounded against his face. One of his sandals, slick with slimy water, slipped from his foot, nearly sending him down in the middle of the road. He managed to recover, running lopsided with one foot aching as it slapped against rough pavement.

The vibrant yellow handle was slick beneath his hand as he pried at the passenger door. The cracked window blurred his view so that he could only make out the shape of a person pressed between a white air bag and a black seat. There was no movement inside, not even the frantic flailing he’d seen just before the car had crashed. The handle was locked tight, resisting every pull that he made.

Trent leapt over the hood of the car, neatly avoiding where the two vehicles were entwined in an angry embrace. The adrenalin coursing through his veins gave him the boost to make it almost all the way across before his naked calf snagged on the car’s wet surface. He fell over, narrowly managing to keep from falling to the pavement on the other side.

Despite the terrible noise that the crash had made, the hood of the Corvette had hardly any damage, except a pressed curve along one headlight that folded both the fender and the hood. Shattered glass was strewn along the road, hidden beneath the murky puddles. The suburban had been crushed where it had been struck along its broadside. It was one of the only weak points in the gas-guzzling tank.

Trent stumbled as he found his balance on the other side of the car. There was a coffee shop only a few feet away, and people were gathering at the window and pressing their curious faces against the glass. A handful of customers made it outside, shouting questions over the din of pouring rain. Phones were up, hopefully calling the police and not taking a video of his failed leap.

The pounding of his heart washed away any more sounds of the gathering crowd and their calls from behind the window. The handle of the driver’s side was slippery under his hand and it took two pulls to realize that it too was locked tight. Luckily, the window on this side was broken and scattered like a thousand glistening waterdrops. Rain poured through the gap and onto the driver, spreading across the seat and floor of the vehicle.

Trent’s gaze flickered back and forth as his senses pulled in every detail in a quick assessment. Sleek black leather was polished to a perfect finish, and the smell of sweet, smoky cologne mixed with just a hint of copper. A song was humming on the radio, dark and thick with the promise of love. In the seat was someone who made his staggered breathing come to a halt.

The man looked nearly crushed beneath the wide, white airbag that was pressed to his chest. His eyes were closed, with his head tilted back to reveal a split lip that was quickly swelling. A drop of blood smeared down his lips to a sharp chin that was shaved clean except for a few stray hairs just under his lower lip. His head was as smooth as his chin, with the dark outline of ink against his skull.

The driver fluttered open his blue eyes, dazed and staring as he gazed slowly around the inflated interior. They settled on Trent before going wide with panic.

“Are you okay?” the stranger asked him, his voice strained with his chest still tight to the airbag that was slowly starting to deflate.

“You’re asking me if I’m okay?” asked Trent. “Buddy, you were just in a car accident. Is anything broken?” There was blood on the man’s forehead, but just a small smear. He could just be concussed and confused.

The man paled until he was almost the same white as the airbags. “I lost control and almost hit you,” he said as he looked around the interior of the ruined car, apparently taking in the pierced leather and damp veneer. “I swerved, then I don’t know what happened.” He pushed at the airbag and it sprang back like a child’s bouncy castle at the local fair.

Trent reached through the broken window, trying to avoid the prickling glass that stuck up from the ruined frame. He grasped the door lock from the inside and opened it with a quick jerk.

“Can you stand? We should get you out of there,” said Trent as he pulled the door open. There was no smell of gasoline, only ozone and fresh rain, but he still expected that the car might explode at any moment. The airbag now hung like a shrivelled grape, revealing that the man was still buckled into his seat. His legs were folded, even with the spacious legroom, and his body was thick, filling every bit of available space.

“I think so.” The guy took in the gathering crowd as he finally managed to get free from the airbag. He reached for the seatbelt buckle, but his shaking hands skimmed uselessly off the button.

“Here… Let me.” Trent moved in close and hooked his hand around the belt, sliding down until he met the buckle. The scent of cologne and something else masculine filled his nose as he pressed close enough to feel the heat of the driver through his sodden clothing. His stomach flipped and his face flushed hot as he looked away from blue eyes. He felt for the little red button on the buckle and pushed hard. It was stiff in his trembling fingers and resisted his thumb.

He took a deep breath and couldn’t suppress the shudder that made its way up his spine. The man smelled so good that it was going straight to his groin and shutting down what was left of his thoughts. His body responded against his will and he became aware of the press of his peaked nipples against sodden fabric, so sensitive and ready.

A second shiver wound up through his shoulders. His hand slipped from the buckle to touch the smooth fabric of the man’s pants. It was soft and sturdy under his fingertips and looked more expensive than his entire soaked ensemble.

“You okay?” the stranger asked into his ear, so soft that it made his hair stand on end. He met blue eyes, watery and streaked with red, along with the strain of fear. It was the fear he saw that gave him the strength he was missing from his fingers.

“Just soaking wet and freezing. Sorry.” He finally found the clasp again and the man was free with a persistent push. Trent drew himself out of the car and back into the beating rain. The heat left him as he pulled back, and he shivered in earnest this time.

“Yeah, sorry about that.” The stranger grimaced and leaned forward as he grasped the yellow roof to pull himself out.

The car must’ve been sitting lower on the road than Trent had first realized. The man was absolutely massive. Trent was just under six foot himself, but he was still half a head shorter than the hulking figure. The stranger wasn’t skinny either, but thick and broad like a football player who still had his pads on. Trent couldn’t believe he’d managed to fit into such a fancy vehicle at all.

“I called the cops. They should be here soon,” called one of the onlookers who had managed to wiggle in closer. Trent turned to the voice, giving her a nod of thanks when he recognized her as a local.

The stranger cursed as he looked back at his car. “This is why I shouldn’t get new cars,” he said with a shake of his head. He smoothed his hand over the hood, down to the crinkled corner that now looked more like an accordion than a fender. There was nothing of the headlight left except for a shell of plastic lined with metal and a shattered bulb.

“I really don’t know anything about cars, but it doesn’t look as bad as it sounded,” said Trent as he followed him to look at the damage. Bits of glass dug into his bare foot as he made his way around. He glanced down to find his sandal floating just a few meters away, slowly making its way down the road in the streaming puddles. After he scooped it up, he slid it back onto his bruised foot.

“You’re really lucky, though. I thought that feed truck was going to cream you,” said Trent. Other than the dented corner, broken windows and smashed headlight, the car was in good condition. The SUV looked okay too, with just a hefty chunk out of the side.

“Is that what that was?” the stranger asked as he looked back along the road. The feed truck had pulled over to idle on the side of the road just before the light. The driver was already making their way back towards the Corvette.

“Shit.” The stranger glared at the approaching driver. The man was short and round with a coat that was much too thick for the weather. The colour of his jacket ran dark from the rain.

“Everybody okay? I can’t stop that quick with that old truck. New brakes, but the tyres are shit.” The driver stepped closer. There was the underlying scent of wet cigarettes clinging to his clothes and his meagre hair was flecked with bits of unidentifiable soggy fluff.

“We’re all good,” said Trent. He looked at the Corvette driver, expecting a reply, but the man was silent. His hands were clenched into fists behind his back and he had drawn up to his full towering height.

“Okay, well, I’ll take off then if everyone is fine. I’m already behind as it is.” The driver took a step back as he looked between the two. Trent offered a weak smile before taking a half-step towards the group of gathering people.

“Yep, no problem. Thanks for stopping,” said Trent as the driver turned away. He looked up to the man who was still bristling beside him. “Are you sure you’re okay?”

The stranger deflated and turned to Trent with a grimace. “Yeah. I was expecting a fight.”

“What? Why would he want to fight?” Trent looked around in confusion, then back to the retreating truck driver. He hadn’t seemed threatening in the least. The stranger shrugged.

“Some of the places I’ve been, there’s usually a fight when something like this goes down.” He smoothed his hand back down the car and frowned again at the crushed light. He was completely drenched now, with every inch of black fabric clinging to his chest and biceps as if he were wearing nothing at all. Trent forced his eyes away from the clinging cloth.

“You aren’t from around here then, I guess. Small town folks don’t really care much for a fight unless they’re getting paid for it.” Trent looked to the license plate, noticing the strange image and lettering for the first time. “Wow, you really aren’t from around here. Did you drive the whole way?”

“Three of the best days of my life,” the man said with a smile. “Name’s Ian. Thanks for your help, man. I appreciate it.”

“Trent,” he replied as he grasped the outstretched palm. Ian’s hand felt so warm against Trent’s, which was slippery from a mix of rain and a sheen of sweat. He was sure that his face was beaming red, hopefully hidden by the downpour.

“I’ll stick around until the cops show up, just in case they ask any questions,” said Trent. He leaned back against the side of the suburban and winced as his freezing shirt pressed against the only remaining warm spot on his back.

“Do you know any place I can get this baby fixed up?” asked Ian. “She’s a custom, so I usually wouldn’t let just anybody work on her, but I’m a bit out of my area here.” Blue eyes glanced around and his lips pulled into a frown at the sight of the meagre buildings, looking from the cracked grout to the crumbling brick.

“There is an auto shop about one block that way.” Trent pointed to the other side of the street. “It’s after six o’clock now, though, and I don’t think they’re open again until tomorrow.”

“Shit.” Ian cursed and kicked the thin rubber tyre. “Any hotels then? I don’t exactly know anyone around here either.”

“Uh no, no hotels. No taxis either,” Trent added. He crossed his arms and stuck his freezing hands under his armpits.

“I could just call a ride share.” Ian reached back into the car to withdraw his phone from where it was stashed in the centre console. Trent risked a quick peek—just a peek—as the man bent over from the waist. His pants had started to cling as they soaked through as well, and they left very little to the imagination. Trent bit back the noise that tried to escape and forced his gaze away.

“Yeah, good luck with that,” said Trent after quietly clearing his throat. “Welcome to the middle of nowhere. This coffee shop”—he pointed at the glass window that had mostly emptied of its patrons since the bustle had died down—“is the best one for fifty kilometres. I can say that because it’s the only one within fifty kilometres.”

Ian groaned and sank down along the side of the car until he was hunched on the kerb. “I think I took a wrong turn about two hours ago. I was supposed to be checking into the Marriott tonight.”

Trent couldn’t honestly think of the closest hotel that wasn’t a small operation instead of a chain. Even they were few and far between. Most were closed until the summer began to ramp up.

Ian looked utterly defeated, and it was pulling at Trent’s heart strings uncomfortably. His car was trashed, his body was bruised and his lip was still dribbling slow drops of blood. Ian’s eyes closed and he leaned back against the car, thunking his head into the side.

Trent shifted from foot to foot before shoving his hands deep into his pockets. He could hear his mother’s voice in his ear, telling him to make the situation right.

“You can stay with me for the night if you want,” said Trent with a shrug as he tried to downplay how much he liked the idea. The eye candy alone could last him for a decade. Christ, he would have to give Ian some of his pyjamas. That ass inside of a pair of too-small track pants would be drool-worthy.

Trent shook his head and tried to clear the image from his mind before it could spiral out of control. “I’m just a few blocks away. It’s only a one bedroom, but I can pull out the old air mattress.” He would happily sleep on the air mattress and give up his bed to Ian. Christ.

“You don’t have to do that. I mean, I almost hit you with my car,” said Ian as he stared at Trent like he had sprouted a few extra limbs.

“But you didn’t, and it’s kind of my fault that you hit the suburban.” Oh God, he sounded eager…way too fucking eager.

“That’s a bit of a stretch,” said Ian. His eyebrows couldn’t get any higher at this point, and he had started to lean back with a touch of caution.

Trent shrugged, glancing away and trying to play it off as much as possible. “It’s up to you.” He sighed as he had the strangest craving for a cigarette. Stress and excitement did strange things to him, especially brief grazes with his mortality. He hadn’t smoked since a one-week stint as a teenager. Every once in a while the need struck when the situation called for it.

“You know what? Sure. I’ll take you up on that.” Ian nodded.

Trent couldn’t stop the smile that went wider as Ian smiled back. That simple gesture made the man’s face light up in a way that went straight to his eyes. What was Trent thinking? A sexy hunk of a man in his house for the night? He’d never be able to keep his hands to himself. Well, he would, because consent was sexy, but it would be the hardest night of his life…literally.

“I’m gay though,” said Trent. He blushed as soon as the words left his mouth. “If that’s a problem, no big deal. I just don’t want you to feel awkward.”

Trent saw the sudden blanch, even as Ian tried to hide it, and it made his gut clench. Trent was out and proud of it, but every so often someone had a reaction to the news. Most people didn’t care, but a select few did. Those few always managed to get under his skin and keep him awake at night.

“You don’t have to stay with me. I’m sure you can find other arrangements,” said Trent, backpedalling quickly to avoid any sort of awkward confrontation.

“No, sorry… I didn’t mean…” Ian trailed off as he pushed himself off the kerb. “You just surprised me, that’s all. Most places, you don’t really say that to a stranger.”

Trent opened his mouth, not really sure what he was going to say. Where the hell had this guy been where he fought random truckers and people had to hide six feet into the closet? He couldn’t judge too harshly, though. The population of his tiny town was miniscule, and there were four churches smashed into it. Up until twenty years ago, no one would’ve announced it here either.

His thoughts were cut off by a piercing flash of lights as a police cruiser came around the corner and headed their way. He held out his hand to help Ian the rest of the way to his feet. The contact sent a wave of heat up his arm and under his jacket.

He bit back a sigh and turned to greet the officer.

I am so screwed.

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About the Author

M.C. Roth

M.C. Roth lives in Canada and loves every season, even the dreaded Canadian winter. She graduated with honours from the Associate Diploma Program in Veterinary Technology at the University of Guelph before choosing a different career path.

Between caring for her young son, spending time with her husband, and feeding treats to her menagerie of animals, she still spends every spare second devoted to her passion for writing.

She loves growing peppers that are hot enough to make grown men cry, but she doesn’t like spicy food herself. Her favourite thing, other than writing of course, is to find a quiet place in the wilderness and listen to the birds while dreaming about the gorgeous men in her head.

Find out more about M.C. Roth at her website.

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Book Blitz & Excerpt: These Small Hours + Giveaway

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These Small Hours, by Gloria Herrmann

General Release Date: 20th July 2021

Word Count: 86,701
Book Length: SUPER NOVEL
Pages: 322

Genres:

CONTEMPORARY
CRIME
CRIME AND MYSTERY
EROTIC ROMANCE
MYSTERY
THRILLERS AND SUSPENSE

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Book Description

Keep writing…or die trying.

Charlene Vanderberg is a bestselling author whose world is turned upside as she experiences writer’s block for the first time. She now faces a deadline to redeem her career after her last book, a sappy romance, flopped. Charley had only wanted to try her hand at a different genre, one with a little less murder and mayhem, but had ended up creating some disgruntled fans. That’s when the words disappeared, and Charley found herself unable to write a single sentence.

After being plagued with crippling writer’s block for months and about to hang up the towel, Charley’s agent Pamela has convinced her that a change of scenery would help get her creative juices flowing again. She sends Charley off to a cozy lake resort and has enlisted some protection for her in the person of Nick Capra, a detective who is running from his own demons, has no desire to babysit the famous author but finds himself unable to stop developing feelings for his charge.

Famous for writing chilling tales, Charley isn’t prepared for the nightmare in store for her. The sleepy lake community where nothing bad ever happens begins to see a string of grisly murders. Charley discovers these murders were meant to inspire her to write her next novel. A copycat killer is reenacting scenes from her bestsellers. No one is safe from this killer—not even Charley.

Reader advisory: This book contains incidents of alcohol use, violence and murder.

Excerpt

“You can’t possibly be serious?”

“I am, and it will be good for you. I promise. You need to trust me on this.”

Charley—also known as Charlene Vanderberg, a bestselling author—was currently experiencing writer’s block for the first time. The words were there, locked somewhere in her mind and refusing to come out when she sat down every night to free them. Nothing. Just a blank page staring back at her, taunting Charley with the blinking cursor of where words should form. It had been months since Charley had written anything that hadn’t ended up on the wrong side of the delete button. At this rate, she feared there might never be words again.

“It’s the perfect solution,” Pamela beseeched.

Her agent was a force of nature and had the manipulative power of getting her way. That’s why Charley had agreed to sign on with Pamela Mansfield once her second manuscript had been complete. Charley had needed someone fierce to land her a book deal and steer her career in the right direction. Rejection letters didn’t help her fragile writer’s ego, and it was challenging enough to be recognized by any publisher without an agent. That’s why she needed one like Pamela. That woman knew her way around the publishing world and had seen something in Charley.

Her advice and encouragement had pushed Charley and ultimately launched her into the success she was now enjoying. Over the years, they had become good friends, almost like family. Charley had learned a great deal from this tiny woman who was set on building a brand and empire with the clients she represented. Pamela only worked with the best, most talented people in the industry, and Charley still couldn’t believe she was among them. She didn’t want to disappoint Pamela and worried that if those words didn’t start making an appearance soon, there would be some ugly consequences. They both had reputations to uphold.

Charley eyed Pamela curiously from across the table, half-hoping to break her agent’s resolve. It wasn’t going to happen, and they both knew that. The unwavering but tender stare as Pamela held her ground on what a great idea this was showed Charley that it truly was in her best interest.

“So, you honestly think by shipping me off to some lake resort in the middle of nowhere, I’ll really get this book done? That magically all of my creative juices will start to flow again because you’ve got me locked up in some hillbilly cabin?” Charley scoffed. “Sounds like all the makings of a Stephen King novel, and we both know how those go,” Charley teased as she poked her straw at a bobbing ice cube in her sweaty glass of water.

“Not just any cabin, Charley. My nephew owns the cutest little resort in Crescent Lake. The best part is that it’s only a few hours from here. Just imagine, all these quaint cabins around that gorgeous lake. Besides, you know very well that you give Stephen King a run for his money.” Pamela winked and turned her attention to the plate in front of her. “I thought nature was sort of your thing? Aren’t you some kind of country girl?” Pamela countered playfully as she stabbed her colorful salad of varied bright leaves and vegetables.

“It was. I mean, I like it well enough, but I’m hardly a country girl,” she answered with a touch of sophisticated sass.

“That’s right. You’re a famous writer now and living in your fabulous apartment with a perfect view of the Seattle skyline.” Pamela smirked with her fork to her lips. “Too good for the great outdoors?”

“What I meant was that I haven’t done anything remotely outdoorsy for years.”

“Then you’re long overdue.”

“I just don’t see how it will help.” Charley shook her head and looked away. The restaurant with its elegant lighting and décor was filled with patrons all sipping wine and dining on extravagant dishes. Her writing had afforded her this lifestyle. Maybe I’m a little out of touch. The years of success and landing movie deals had pampered her with opportunities she’d never dreamed possible, especially for a girl who’d grown up on a rural farm town in the middle of Washington. She gazed back and saw a peculiar flicker in Pamela’s hazel eyes.

“What?”

Pamela squirmed ever so slightly in her seat and bit her mauve-painted bottom lip. All the playfulness abandoned her face and was quickly replaced with something else. Charley studied her and tried to figure out exactly what it was. She could sense her agent’s nervous energy.

“They want that book before fall,” Pamela stated bluntly as she gently placed her fork down.

“And if they don’t get it by then?” Charley asked. Her belly began to do anxiety-induced flip-flops. So many what ifs ran through her mind that her sense of reason started to trip over them.

She clasped her hands together in prayer form. Pamela exhaled but kept her eyes locked on Charley. Through a forced smile, she calmly replied, “Let’s just focus on getting this book done.”

“Nothing like a little pressure to add to my already-growing problem.” Charley nibbled on a dry piece of skin on her bottom lip.

“You need a change of scenery and a little quiet inspiration then that ridiculous writer’s block will be gone. Every author goes through this at some point,” Pamela reassured Charley but nervously twirled a strand of her chestnut hair between her fingers. “I’ve had clients who’ve been down this road before.”

“I haven’t ever had this problem,” Charley confessed in a near whisper. “I’ve never had an issue with writing—like…ever, Pamela.” Charley’s heart beat a little faster with a sudden pang of anxiety. “The stories always kept coming, the characters made their demands well known and now poof, they’re gone. Writing is what I do—what I did.” As the words left her mouth, Charley realized the severity of her problem. If she didn’t pull it together and find a way to get her writing mojo back, Charley didn’t know what would become of her career. By the look on her agent’s face, it definitely wasn’t good. “Fine… I’ll go to your nephew’s little resort.” Charley defiantly speared the lemon wedge that rested on her perfectly cooked salmon. She no longer had an appetite as her brain developed images of her impending failure. She could lose it all—her swanky apartment, ridiculously expensive SUV and her famous name. It could all be gone.

Pamela smiled. “Don’t worry. We’ll get this book done and you’ll be back on top again. Everyone wins.”

Charley hoped Pamela was right.

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About the Author

Gloria Herrmann

Gloria Herrmann is a contemporary romance author originally from California but now lives in the Pacific Northwest with her family and pug Rizzo. Her stories are a reflection of the love she has for family, friends, and real-life moments.

You can follow Gloria on Instagram here

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Gloria Herrmann These Small Hours Giveaway

GLORIA HERRMANN IS GIVING AWAY THIS FABULOUS PRIZE TO ONE LUCKY WINNER. ENTER HERE FOR YOUR CHANCE TO WIN A LOVELY GIFT PACKAGE AND GET AND YOUR FREE GLORIA HERRMANN ROMANCE BOOK! Notice Notice: This competition ends on 3rd August 2021 at 5pm GMT. Competition hosted by Totally Entwined Group.