Book Blitz & Excerpt: Splinters of the Heart + Giveaway

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Splinters of the Heart
by Alyssa Rabil

Word Count: 83,220
Book Length: SUPER NOVEL
Pages: 349



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Book Description


Love finds a way.

Aaron Beaumont is a mess. Life has never been easy, so why did he think bondage would help? While he solved the problem of making some quick money, it came at a price he wasn’t willing to pay. To his great relief, he’s rescued by Silas Anderson. Silas, a doctor, takes him home and treats his physical injuries, but his gentle touch and reassurance can’t touch Aaron’s internal turmoil.

When Aaron tries to return home the next morning, the worst has come to pass. He suddenly finds himself with nowhere to go. Once again, his world collides with Silas’.

With the future uncertain, a friendship blossoms into something neither Aaron nor Silas has experienced before, and they know it’s something they may never experience again.

However, happiness is just out of reach, and before they have a happily ever after, they must face a demon from the past.

Reader advisory: This book contains scenes of verbal and physical abuse, consensual pain, parental abuse, drug use, homophobic language, mentions of anxiety, suicide and drug dealing.


Aaron sat on the edge of the bed with his hands in his lap. The man behind the camera clicked something and a red light blinked to life.

“Shy?” asked the man.

“Cold,” answered Aaron.

“Shy plays better for the camera,” said the man. “But I can also work with stubborn denial.” There was that smirk again. “Introduce yourself.”

“Aaron. Do you need my last name?”

The man rolled his eyes. “No. And you’ve ruined the take.” He took a breath. “Introduce yourself.”


“Good boy. I’m Farley. Your Dom will be in shortly. You will call him ‘Sir’ or ‘Master’.”

“Okay.” Aaron shifted on the bed. He wanted to move his hands—make a point and prove he wasn’t afraid—but that would probably just earn more snide comments from Farley. He didn’t like being the only one naked. Then again, he wasn’t sure how much better it would be once the other naked guy joined them.

Will he be naked? Aaron wondered. Please be naked. Or don’t. Maybe he won’t show up.

It wasn’t too late to run. He hadn’t signed a contract or anything. The money was still in a bag in the corner of the room. He could bail at any time.

“Why are you here?” asked Farley. He nodded to the camera.

Aaron wasn’t sure where to look. He settled on Farley, who rolled his eyes. “I need the money,” he answered.

“Is this your first time doing porn?”

“Yeah.” Aaron glanced at the camera. “I mean—I’ve been filmed before, but—”

“Shut up.” Farley held a marker up to the lens. “I’ll cut that out later. Don’t elaborate.”

Aaron sighed. He could leave, drive home as fast as possible, take a long hot shower and forget this ever happened.

“Are you gay?”

“No,” answered Aaron.

“Then what brought you here?” asked Farley.

“Money,” answered Aaron.

Farley held another marker up to the lens. “Is it even remotely possible for you to look less like an angry mountain gorilla and more like a virginal twink?” he asked. “I understand your IQ may only extend to that of a mountain gorilla, but surely you can follow basic instructions.”

Aaron glared. “What’s a twink?”

“Christ,” said Farley. “Fine. Never mind.” He paused again. “Why do you need the money?”

“Uh—” began Aaron. “It’s—that’s personal.”

“Girlfriend?” asked Farley.

“No,” answered Aaron.

“Just say it’s for your girlfriend.”

“It’s for my girlfriend.”

Farley rolled his eyes. “Ever sucked a cock before, Aaron?”


“Ever thought about sucking a cock before?”

Aaron glanced between Farley and the camera. “Yes.”

“Tell me about that.”

“It—it was a long time ago.”

“Care to elaborate?”

“I got curious back in high school,” answered Aaron. “It wasn’t a big deal.”

“Man of few words,” said Farley. “That’s fine. You won’t need to do much talking today. Ever thought about having a cock in your ass?”

“I guess.”

“Any idea what you’re in for?”

“I googled some stuff.” Aaron had spent the entire week leading up to today scouring the internet for advice. He’d taken seven showers in the past three days and hadn’t eaten for two days. He’d told himself he was just being thorough—that it wasn’t because he’d lost his appetite or because he’d felt dirty after hanging up the phone to confirm the meeting. He’d told himself it was just sex. Men liked sex. Sex wasn’t a big deal.

Farley pulled a sheet of paper from the desk behind him. “Do you know what makes my business such a special production company?”

“Your warm and fuzzy personality?”

Farley grinned as he looked down. “Authenticity,” he said. “Everything is consensual, of course. Men like you come in for whatever reason—overcompensating for their nerves with masculine bravado—but they don’t leave until all parties have been thoroughly satisfied.”

“Yeah, you need a money shot,” said Aaron. “You said that in the email.” He’d found these guys online. The ad had been vague, but had promised a shitload of money for two hours’ worth of work. Aaron had emailed them, called them, then showed up in person. Farley had even flashed him the money before Aaron took his clothes off. It wasn’t a high-class setup by any means, but it was about what he’d expected from a vague ‘call for adult actors’. He probably should have told someone where he was in case things went south—but then someone would know he was here doing this.

“No fake orgasms,” continued Farley. “Our audience likes to know what you’re feeling is real.”

“Okay,” said Aaron.

“Your safe word for this Dom is ‘grace’. Use it wisely. If things are not going well, I’ll switch out for someone I think will be more successful.”

Aaron nodded. He felt a little nauseated and closed his eyes for a moment.

“You read my mind,” said Farley. He crossed the room and tossed Aaron a piece of fabric. “Tie that tight over your eyes, and no peeking.”

Aaron bit his lip, but did as he was told. “Like this?” Suddenly something soft hit him in the face. “What the hell?” he shouted. He fumbled with what felt suspiciously like a pillow and threw it away from him.

“Just making sure you can’t see.”

“Dammit,” muttered Aaron. He heard the door open. He heard Farley return to his position by the camera and heard another set of footsteps approach the bed.

It’s not too late. Fuck this and go home. No one has to know I was here. I can find the money somewhere else.

“Hello, Aaron,” said a deep voice. A firm, calloused hand ran through his hair. “Do you have any idea what you’re doing?” asked the man—Master.

“No,” breathed Aaron.

Farley coughed.

“No, Sir,” corrected Aaron. He could feel his body shaking, but he told himself he was just playing along. Farley had told him to be a virginal twig or twing or something. He was acting. He wasn’t scared.

Master thumbed over Aaron’s lips. “Open your mouth,” he said. Aaron obeyed.

Master nudged his leg between Aaron’s knees, forcing his legs open. “Hands behind your back,” he said.

Again, he obeyed.

Run. It’s not worth it. Sell a kidney. Sell sperm to a rich lady. Learn to juggle and join a circus.

Something warm and wet touched Aaron’s lips and he jumped. Master ran his fingers through Aaron’s hair again, and pulled him back. A kiss. The Dom was kissing him. He trailed a line of kisses to Aaron’s ear.

“Are you all right?” whispered the Dom.

Aaron leaned his face away from Farley and the camera. “Yeah,” he answered. “Sorry.”


“Let me know when you feel uncomfortable,” he whispered. He nibbled at Aaron’s neck.

“Safe word is ‘grace’, right?” asked Aaron.

“Right.” Master kissed Aaron again and breathed against his lips. “I promise, I won’t hurt you.” He stood up, fingers once again entangled in Aaron’s hair. “Open wide,” he said.

Aaron did as he was told, and this time he was about ninety percent sure the thing he tasted was a dick. A quick thrust from the Dom confirmed his suspicions. Master was slow at first, keeping his movements steady and shallow. One hand had a vise-like grip on Aaron’s hair while the other caressed his cheek.

Considering the many awful ways this decision could come back to destroy him, Aaron was surprisingly relaxed.

Suck him off. Then you get off. Then you go home. It’s not that bad. Just an hour and a half more to go.

Suddenly, Farley snapped something. “Cut,” he said.

Master pulled away from Aaron. “What could possibly be the problem? You’ve been rolling for under a minute.”

“His sad little deflated cock is the problem,” said Farley. “No one wants to see that.”

“Give him some time,” said the Dom. “He’s nervous.”

“Sorry,” said Aaron, sensing his paycheck might be on the line. “I can get hard.” He gripped his dick in his hand and gave it his best shot.

They’re watching me. Get hard. Get off. Get paid. Get out. Get the money to Daniel.

Aaron felt nauseous again. If his little brother had any idea where this money was coming from, he’d probably never speak to Aaron again.

If Dad knew—

If Robert Beaumont knew, he’d make sure Aaron never saw Daniel again. “This is pathetic,” said Farley.

“Let me try,” said the Dom. “Aaron, lie on your back.”

“What are you going to do?” asked Farley.

“This is a lot to take in,” said Master. “We need to ease him into it.”

“I don’t want to waste your time,” said Aaron. “I can do this.”

“And yet here you are, wasting my time,” said Farley. He sighed. “Silas, give us a moment, won’t you?”

“No. We can figure— Who are you calling?” asked Master.

Farley must have picked up the phone. He shushed the Dom. “Send in Regina. She has the edging equipment. Tell her we need Ralph.”

“This isn’t an edging scene,” said Master.

“Don’t get your panties in a twist,” said Farley. “Regina knows what she’s doing. Now get out.”

Master ran his fingers through Aaron’s hair again. It was pleasant, but it didn’t stop Aaron from trembling.

“I can do this,” mumbled Aaron.

Master untied Aaron’s blindfold and knelt down between his knees. He placed a hand on Aaron’s thigh and rubbed small circles into the muscles with his thumbs. Master was also naked. He had dark, messy hair. His eyes were icy blue and beautiful. He was beautiful.

“This line of work isn’t for everyone,” said Master. “There is no shame in leaving if you’re uncomfortable.”

“No,” said Aaron. “I can do it.”

“For God’s sake,” said Farley, “get up. I should have paired him with Ralph in the first place.”

“Don’t put him with Ralph. He’s too rough,” said the Dom.

Farley rolled his eyes. “You can’t fall for some doe-eyed little virgin.”

“I told you we shouldn’t work with amateurs,” said Master. “It’s too risky.”

Farley muttered something that sounded like ‘savior complex’ and put his phone into his pocket. “New rule,” he said. “Every time you hold up a scene to have a little heart-to-heart with the actors, I’m taking a nickel from your paycheck.”

“That’s not fair,” said Aaron.

“Ignore him,” said the Dom. “He has to be petty to stay alive, the same way a shark must keep swimming.”

The door opened. A woman entered carrying a large duffle bag. A tall man with a scruffy beard followed her.

“The cavalry has arrived,” said Farley. “Silas, leave.”

“No, I—”

“You want to cost this young man his money?” asked Farley. “He needs someone more forceful.”

“Then why partner him with me in the first place?” asked Master.

“I was being kind,” snapped Farley.

Master turned back to Aaron. He looked scared. “You can still say no.”

“Leave now, or you’re fired,” said Farley.

“Go,” said Aaron. “I’ve got this.” He tried to force a smile. Master searched his eyes.

“How about this,” said Farley. “You can stay and slow down production and make sure we don’t hurt this precious boy, and I’ll just cut his pay in half and you won’t get paid at all for today.”

“No,” said Aaron quickly. He shoved the Dom away. “Leave. I know what I’m doing.”

Master got to his feet and stepped back.

“Go,” said Aaron. No contract. No witnesses. Of course these guys could cut his pay. He wasn’t exactly a member of the amateur porn worker’s union.

Master clenched his jaw. He turned, jabbed a finger at the new man in the room and whispered something.

The man ignored him. Master left, slamming the door behind him.

“Lock it,” said Farley. He turned to Aaron. “Sorry about all that. You weren’t what I expected. Normally a two-hour shoot only takes two hours.”

Aaron glanced at the clock on the bedside table. “It’s only been forty-five minutes,” he said.

“And of those forty-five, I only have three usable minutes, and those are all your bumbling interview.”


“So how much longer?” asked Aaron.

Farley glanced at his watch. “Two hours. Maybe less. Don’t worry. Ralph is very good.”

The new man, presumably Ralph, approached Aaron. “Do you want this done fast or do you want to enjoy it?” he asked.

“How fast is fast?” answered Aaron.

“Two hours. Maybe less.” The man echoed Farley.

“What if I want to enjoy it?” asked Aaron.

“No guarantee that you will.”

Aaron took a deep breath. “Fast,” he said.

“Good. I’m your new Dom. Call me ‘Sir’. You’re allowed to talk, but you must show me respect or you’ll be punished. Understand?”

“Yeah,” answered Aaron.

Ralph grabbed him by his hair, flipped him onto his stomach and slammed his face into the mattress. He slapped Aaron’s ass so hard, he was sure it had left a welt.

“Son of a bitch,” shouted Aaron. “Yes, sir. Fuck.”

Ralph hit him again, harder.

“God dammit,” said Aaron. “What did I—”

Ralph hit him again.

Aaron bit his tongue. After a moment of silence, Ralph pulled Aaron’s face out of the mattress. “Do you know what you did wrong?” he asked.

“Yes—sir,” said Aaron.

“You are worthless. Understand?”

“Yes, sir.”

“You are mine.”

“Yes, sir.”

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About the Author

Alyssa Rabil

Alyssa has always had a love for fiction. She read her first romance novel from her mother’s collection. Her first love story was about a tiger that fell in love with a zebra.

Alyssa lives in a wild west with her cats. She loves cooking and writing. Follow Alyssa on Facebook and Twitter.


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Book Blitz & Excerpt: Electra Rex + Giveaway

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Electra Rex
by April C. Griffith

Word Count: 68,269
Book Length: NOVEL
Pages: 269



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Book Description

Electra Rex, self-appointed ‘galaxy’s greatest starship captain’ and last known human, is going to save humanity or get rich trying!

Electra Rex, the last human in known space, is broke—worse than broke, deeply in debt and out of options. After a desperate, drunken attempt to fix her faltering life, she finds herself in a deeper hole after stealing the most stylish starship she’s ever seen, but it comes with a massive lien.

She’s left with a fast ship, a nearly indestructible debt-enforcement robot named Letterman watching her every move and a lead on a lucrative job with the mysterious organization known as Bi-MARP, which is set to rebuild Earth on the two-thousand-year anniversary of its destruction.

Across two galaxies, she struggles to stay one step ahead of space pirates and creditors, all while trying to catch the eye of a beautiful, vivacious bisexual clone named Treasure, who was recently rescued from a top-secret university lab run by academic squids.

She succeeds in seducing Treasure—or perhaps it’s the other way around—while they run scams to find earthling relics like the original formula for Coca-Cola, a 1968 Volkswagen Beatle, a mostly complete Monopoly board game and a largely accurate, if not small and green, clone of an elephant. All the while, Electra has to hide the fact that Treasure is actually the most valuable item on the Bi-MARP list—a fertile human female.

When the truth of humanity’s demise and the goals of Bi-MARP are uncovered, Electra, the galaxy’s foremost transgender hero, decides that the riches and fame aren’t worth the sacrifices, and she turns on her former employer to rescue Treasure a third time, completing her search for money, what it means to be human without the rest of humanity and, most of all, love.


“I am the last of my kind, and I suck,” Electra mumbled to herself, throwing back another drink. On the first night of a planetary holiday, Electra Rex was drunk, scorned and looking to buy a gun. She couldn’t recall exactly which holiday it was, though, since there were so many. The planet took time off constantly to celebrate a googolplex of different accomplishments, important figures and momentous occasions across hundreds of alien species. It was a wonder anyone did anything but observe holidays. She sat in a window booth, watching ships both large and small land at the valet pad while she waited.

Little of her Embarker pedigree remained after years away from the flotilla. Endless toil and nomadic life marked her people’s existence, even if it didn’t describe her life. She’d lived in an apartment in Authrillia’s largest northern city for more than a year, which should have made her itchy to get back to spacefaring, but she wasn’t. In fact, she wasn’t much of anything. Apathy had settled heavily over her and it had made her careless—at least, more careless than she’d already known herself to be. To pay the bills, she engaged in the least Embarker type of work she could find—being a professional party guest. ‘Come see the last known human woman, drink with her, maybe even…’ But that was over. She’d frittered away too much money on fleeting things, another Embarker no-no. A job meant to replenish her account at the last moment and save her apartment, her precious creature comforts and allow her reckless lifestyle to continue for another month hadn’t paid out. Now she had only the clothes on her back and the cash in her pocket. Enough to buy a gun, she hoped.

She’d given the DJ of the club a copy of Margaritaville, promising a transcendent experience. Jimmy Buffet sang while a dozen different species of aliens attempted to dance on the multi-tiered dance floor to the ancient Earthling music. Electra’s dad had loved Jimmy Buffet. ‘The finest music in the galaxy,’ he’d said. Even with great effort and a good deal of booze in her system, she couldn’t hear what he’d heard. She must not have inherited his ear for classical music. What the hell is a flip-flop anyway?

Normally leering over spacecraft cheered her up, which was why she’d selected a window booth near the landing pad. She wasn’t into the functional caravan freighters that comprised Embarker fleets. She liked the chic, silky, beautiful spaceships that focused on form over function. The bleak, unrepentantly crappy mood that had clung to her throughout the day lightened an iota at the arrival of her dream ship in the valet station directly below her window. An oval saucer body, three hundred feet long, sleek and stylish, with three classic fins off the back, it was—it had to be—a Cadillux 1959 Dorado edition. And it was pink, the brightest, most beautiful pearlescent pink trimmed in the shiniest of chrome. Electra stood on her knees on the booth’s bench and pressed her face drunkenly against the glass. She wanted to lick it. She didn’t care that the thought was absurd. That ship was so gorgeous that it deserved to be licked.

The transparent arrival tube extended to the ventral port while a valet-bot lowered onto the dorsal spine above the cockpit that sat directly in the middle of the oval. Electra wanted to see what wondrous creature possessed such a magnificent spaceship. After several agonizing moments, the owner of the ship passed from beneath the edge within the arrival tube and Electra’s elation turned to fury—Weisella. Fucking Weisella. Her need to buy a gun redoubled, not to begin a life of mercenary work—which was the Embarker way after going bust—but for murder, satisfying revenge on the woman who had thoroughly screwed her. The fact that such a heinous, underhanded creature could own such a glorious ship was a crime on par with regicide in Electra’s inebriated mind.

Weisella was a Panaeus, a vaguely humanoid alien species with advanced telekinetic and telepathic powers. She was only a little taller than Electra’s five-and-a-half feet. Her heart-shaped face had two enormous black, almond-shaped eyes, no nose or mouth. Frilled spines replaced what could be called hair. A cluster of five ephemeral tentacles stood in the place of an arm on each side, and instead of legs, she had what looked like a jumbo, curved shrimp tail. Indeed, the only attractive features Electra saw in Weisella were her money and her strangely perfect breasts—three of them across the center of her chest, prominently displayed since Panaeus didn’t wear clothes. Weisella liked jewelry, though, and she was sporting a shiny new metal ring on her tail that was probably just brimming with expensive tech.

Electra’s memory of the night before was fragmented at best. She’d been hired to attend Weisella’s gala for the Panaeus New Year, partially as the spectacle of having a human in attendance and partially as Weisella’s date. Electra didn’t mind the escort portion of the work. Weisella was rich, enchanting, well-traveled and she’d paid extra for the pleasure. Except she hadn’t actually paid. The transfer had bounced back in the morning when Electra had tried to use the money to get the foreclosure lock off her apartment door. The timer on her lien had expired and everything in her apartment had gotten incinerated while she watched through the little glass window on the door. Everything her parents had ever given her, every keepsake from Transition Island, every souvenir she’d collected in her travels was gone in a flash of white fire and a quickly ventilated puff of smoke, all because Weisella had ripped her off.

Electra had done her part. She’d danced, charmed and been better than presentable in her skin-tight Utopalex pants, knee-high go-go boots and a black corset that made the most of what she had. The Panaeus guests had loved her. Weisella had loved her. By every measurement, Electra had performed perfectly. They’d retired to Weisella’s bedroom at the end of the night to continue the festivities. Things hadn’t gone as smoothly behind closed doors. Electra had been intoxicated from drinks, a few drugs she wasn’t familiar with and the high oxygen environment created in the penthouse, plus she’d never slept with a Panaeus before. The swell of Weisella’s backside, what looked like a delightfully curvaceous butt? Nope, that was a nose and ‘Please stop fondling it.’ Okay, the breasts were breasts, right? Close enough. Fondle those, lick them and fall asleep face-first in them. Was that why Weisella had bounced back the payment? Failure to consummate? It was explicitly stated in Electra’s contract that sex was not a guaranteed part of any escort arrangement. It was her prerogative. Besides, she’d tried. There simply weren’t obvious sex organs on a Panaeus—at least none Electra could find in her sloppy groping.

The valet-bot guided the Cadillux away after Weisella entered the club a couple of floors beneath Electra’s booth. The little bot was flying the beautiful ship toward the stacks. Not the stacks! That was where someone parked a junker that nobody would want to steal. The stacks were for heaps with so many scratches and dents that a few more might go completely unnoticed. The Cadillux could be scraped, dinged, stolen or breathed on wrong in the stacks. Only the worst kind of philistine would park such a beautiful vessel in the holding pen for pig ships!

“That tight little butt could only belong to the Electra Rex,” a gravelly voice sounded behind her.

Electra sat back down and glared at Fizan. Her underworld contact was a Gromphra, essentially an eight-foot-tall cockroach in every despicable sense. Fizan was too large and inflexible to actually sit in the booth, so she stood at the end of the table, inspecting Electra with her dead bug eyes. It wasn’t that Fizan was a particularly vile example of the species—all Gromphra were lecherous and blunt. It was considered a badge of honor to gross out other species—at least, that was what Fizan claimed.

The seemingly transparent shell on the front of Fizan’s torso opened up like a flasher’s raincoat. It was clothing and body armor mixed and wasn’t actually transparent. Within the shell, guns, knives and a dozen other nefarious items were concealed behind the projected image of her chitinous trunk.

“See anything you like?” Fizan asked.

Electra had enough cash on hand to afford a decent gun. A carbine worked best for mercenary work, although a small pistol would be ideal to assassinate Weisella on a crowded dance floor. Shooting anyone or anything wasn’t really her style, and the reality of what she was doing rolled over her in an unpleasant manner, accompanied by a wave of nausea. Electra scrunched her nose while she considered the weapons until she spied something entirely different.

“How much for the ID-clone?”

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About the Author

April C. Griffith

April Griffith is a lesbian, a rogue academic, and a giant nerd. She’s from Oregon, but calls San Diego her home. Her passions include LGBTQ+ political activism, creating safe places for women in Dungeons & Dragons, and writing the books she wanted to read when she was a kid. April worked on the Amazon Gladiator series (Anaxilea: Amazon Princess and Anaxilea: Gladiatrix) under a pen name.


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Book Blitz & Excerpt: Destined Prey + Giveaway

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Destined Prey
by Bailey Bradford

Book 1 in the Wild Ones series

Word Count: 43,119
Book Length: SHORT NOVEL
Pages: 178



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Book Description


The call of the wild has never been so hot.

All Jack Tucker wanted was to come home for a little while and try to figure out where his life had gone wrong. Moving from Wyoming to New York didn’t turn out the way he’d thought it would, and a bad breakup has left him bruised—emotionally and otherwise.

He doesn’t expect to be glad he’s back on the Double T Ranch with his brother, Rhett, and he sure doesn’t expect to find the place crawling with coywolves, wolves and coyotes. There seems to be some kind of animal warfare going on, and he and Rhett are caught in the middle of it.

Coywolves—the hybrid of wolves and coyotes, hated by both, and more predatory than either. Add in the fact that all the battling species are shifters, and there’s bound to be trouble.

Ben Akers is part of his brother’s pack. The only coywolf shifters in existence, they find themselves under constant attack from wolf and coyote packs determined to make the Akers pack extinct. But coywolves don’t die out so easy, and when Ben’s life takes a surprising turn in the form of one sexy human named Jack Tucker, they’re both in for surprises, danger and the chance at the kind of love most people—and shifters—can only dream of…

Reader advisory: This book contains references to the main character’s abusive relationship, scenes of fighting and death in shifted form.

Publisher’s Note: This book was previously released elsewhere. It has been revised and reedited for release with Pride Publishing.


Jack Tucker watched his brother retrieve the rifle from the gun cabinet in the office. “Um. Rhett? What’re you doing?”

Rhett didn’t even glance back at him as he loaded the gun. “What does it look like I’m doing? You been living in the city so long you forgot how a Wyoming rancher lives?” Then he did look over his shoulder at Jack, and Jack kind of wished he hadn’t.

He hated seeing that judgment in his brother’s eyes, and knowing he’d never be good enough for Rhett, never be the man Rhett was. “No,” Jack mumbled, “I didn’t forget.”

Rhett sighed and turned until he faced Jack. “Look, that was uncalled for. I’m… I’m sorry, okay?”

Jack was so startled by the apology that he gulped and couldn’t think of a word to say.

Rhett grimaced. “Yeah. Well, okay. Gotta check on some tracks Eddie said he found leading from his property to ours. I’ll be back in a few hours.” He left, striding from the room without seeming to hesitate.

Jack groaned and closed his eyes. Of course Rhett didn’t hesitate—he never had. Rhett always knew what to do, and how to do it, and who he was and that he was right… Except, he apologized to me, and it screwed my head right up.

“Worse than it already is,” he muttered. Jack couldn’t stop himself from touching his left side, where his bruised ribs throbbed as the pain meds wore off. He was lucky, very lucky, that Rhett hadn’t pushed him on the accident that had sent Jack running home from New York, and possibly into the unemployment line. His boss hadn’t been happy with Jack taking off, even with a medical note as an excuse. Jack hadn’t told Rhett much about any of that. As far as Rhett knew, Jack had fallen down some icy steps, and that was all he was going to ever know about the incident.

Jack replayed his brother’s apology in his head and somehow it mingled in with Alex’s. Cold fear trickled down Jack’s spine and his gut cramped hard enough to make him worry about the dinner he’d just eaten.

After several minutes of trying to calm himself down, Jack stood and left. He’d wanted to sit and talk with Rhett about finances and try to decide if he should offer to let Rhett buy him out. Jack wasn’t made to be a rancher. He wasn’t made to be a New Yorker, either.

Jack didn’t know what he was supposed to do in life, and at the age of twenty-seven, he kind of thought he should have an inkling.

His cell phone rang as he stepped into his bedroom. Without looking, he knew it was Alex calling. “Who else would it be?” he huffed. It wasn’t like he had any friends left.

Rather than check to see how many times Alex had called and how many texts he’d sent, Jack turned the phone off, then stuck it in the nightstand. He eased himself onto the bed, then took a couple of pain pills and washed them down with the rest of the water he’d brought in earlier.

The glass was old and familiar, and he felt a pang of regret as he looked it over after he set it down. Green glass, nothing special about it, yet it brought back so many memories.

He could see his mom in the kitchen, fixing a pitcher of tea, talking to him and listening as he told her about his day at school or the chores he’d had to do around the ranch. She’d always been so kind and understanding that Jack had to believe she’d have been fine about him being gay. He’d spent many afternoons in the kitchen, helping her prepare meals or just basking in her presence. Losing her had almost broken him.

For a few more minutes, he let his mind go back to happy childhood days. His dad wasn’t in nearly as many of those good memories, but Chauncey Tucker hadn’t been a bad man. His dad had been more like Rhett—stoic, focused on the ranch and less on the people around him.

Jack ran one finger around the rim of the glass. He was surprised, really, that there were any of the old things left.

The sound of gunshot startled him so badly he jerked and nearly sent the glass flying.

“Shit!” He winced, then stood as quickly as he could manage.

Another shot rang out, then a third, and fear quickly overtook every other sensation he’d felt until then.

Rhett had always been an ace shot. If he’d had to use three bullets, then there was something bad outside—a bear or a whole pack of wolves.

Jack didn’t like guns, but he went and got one from the gun cabinet anyway. He loaded it as he walked to the front door, and hoped like hell Rhett wasn’t hurt.

As soon as he stepped outside, the fine hairs at his nape seemed to stand up and vibrate, like some kind of primitive survival instinct. Jack froze, his back to the door and his heart slamming hard against his ribs.

Another shot sounded, and it jolted Jack into action. “Rhett! Rhett!” He rushed down the steps and toward the direction the shots had come from. “Rhett! Are you okay?”

When Rhett didn’t immediately answer, Jack ran, aware that he was being careless with his gun but had all his attention on finding his brother as soon as possible.

“Rhett!” He stumbled over something on the ground and almost fell before he managed to flail enough to keep himself upright.

Pain tore down his injured side, but he ignored it, calling out for his brother yet again. He cursed himself for not thinking to grab a flashlight. The sky was overcast and there was no moonlight to assist him in his search, and once he was past the barns there was no light coming from the house or other structures, either.

The cattle in the closest field were making enough noise to drown out his voice or Rhett’s, making it impossible for them to hear each other—the sounds of the gunshots must have scared them. Jack worried about a stampede, but he’d never seen any of the critters take out a fence, so he dismissed the idea.

“Rhett!” His throat burned as he hollered again.

Lightning streaked across the sky, blinding Jack for a moment, then thunder followed and he couldn’t contain his startled yelp as his ears rang from the sound.

Or his shriek when six pairs of glowing yellow eyes appeared between him and the fence line.

“Shit!” Jack skidded to a halt, hoping he could steady his hands, and force himself to do what he had to do.

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About the Author

Bailey Bradford

A native Texan, Bailey spends her days spinning stories around in her head, which has contributed to more than one incident of tripping over her own feet. Evenings are reserved for pounding away at the keyboard, as are early morning hours. Sleep? Doesn’t happen much. Writing is too much fun, and there are too many characters bouncing about, tapping on Bailey’s brain demanding to be let out.

Caffeine and chocolate are permanent fixtures in Bailey’s office and are never far from hand at any given time. Removing either of those necessities from Bailey’s presence can result in what is known as A Very, Very Scary Bailey and is not advised under any circumstances.

You can follow Bailey on Facebook here and Twitter here.


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