Book Blitz & Excerpt: Cold Blood + Giveaway

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Cold Blood by T. Strange

Book 2 in the Bound to the Spirits series

Word Count: 86,043
Book Length: SUPER NOVEL
Pages: 350



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Book Description

Ghost wards are failing. Mediums are vanishing. Someone—or something—is stirringup the ghosts of Toronto. It’s up to psychic medium Harlan Brand to find out why.

After defeating a serial killer who could control ghosts, psychic medium Harlan Brand is feeling much more confident in his abilities working for the Toronto Police Service with his partner, Hamilton, as they protect the city from dangerous spirits.

He is expanding his social circle, however reluctantly, to include the other police mediums and Morgan Vermeer, another graduate from the Centre—a school for training psychic children.

Harlan and his boyfriend, Charles Moore, are continuing to explore BDSM, their relationship and Charles’ strange ability to shield people from ghosts.

Hoping to find answers about Charles’ power and the serial killer, Harlan returns to the Centre only to find that one of its ghost wards—magical symbols that spirits can’t cross—is broken, and it’s a mystery as to how and why.

The calm and order that Harlan has been building up in his life are shattered when wards start failing across the city and mediums begin to disappear, including one of his new friends and a student from the Centre.

Someone—or something—is stirring up the ghosts of Toronto.

Reader advisory: This book contains scenes of violence and murder. It is best read as part of a series.


Hamilton sighed as he lowered himself into the driver’s seat of their police cruiser, settling in much more heavily than usual. “Matthew wants to meet you.”

Harlan was relieved that he was already struggling with his seatbelt. It gave him a moment to think about what Hamilton had just said.

Matthew? Do I know a Matthew? Hamilton’s—and, by extension, Harlan’s—sergeant was named Matthews, but Harlan had already met her.

The seatbelt clicked into place. He was out of time.

Hamilton sighed again, this time with an edge of laughter. “Matthew is my…” He mumbled something Harlan couldn’t make out. “You haven’t met him,” he added in his regular speaking voice.

Harlan waited, hoping Hamilton would elaborate, repeat himself or that the words would finally click into place as he ran them over and over in his mind.

Silence. Silence that he had to break if he was going to get anything else.

“Sorry… I didn’t quite—”

“Boyfriend!” Too loud this time, loud and sudden enough that it startled Harlan. “Matthew is my boyfriend. He wants to meet you.” Hamilton slid his gaze over to Harlan, a sly smile on his thin lips. “You can say no,” he added, making it clear he would prefer that.

Harlan would prefer that as well, so it worked out nicely.

Before Harlan could assure him that he was, of course, in complete agreement, Hamilton shook his head and sighed for a third time that morning. “Nah, I think we’re past that. At this point, it would just be a delaying tactic. He’s made up his mind.”

Harlan glanced sideways at Hamilton. Is Hamilton actually blushing? He hadn’t thought Hamilton was physically capable of doing that, never mind imagined that it might actually happen.

“And I’ve met your boyfriend,” Hamilton shot back, even though Harlan hadn’t spoken.

Technically true, but they hadn’t exactly met over dinner or another social event. Did life-and-death situations count more or less than sitting down for a meal together?

“And, by the way”—the blush Harlan had probably imagined was gone, and Hamilton was definitely smirking now—”I knew I recognized him from somewhere.”

Shit. Harlan had been dreading this conversation, hoping it wouldn’t happen. He’d hoped that Hamilton wouldn’t connect Charles, Harlan’s ghost-repelling boyfriend, to Mr. Moore, owner of Rattling Chains, a formerly haunted BDSM club. Apparently, that had been too much to ask for.

Hamilton opened his mouth, started to say something then seemed to reconsider when he saw Harlan’s pained expression. “I’m glad you’ve got someone,” he said, just as gruffly as usual, but with a hint of genuine fondness and even warmth. “You don’t have a lot of people.” He looked away while he took a left-hand turn, then laughed. “Of course you’d meet someone on the job.”

Harlan looked down at his lap. Yeah. It was pretty pathetic. Sure, he’d started going to the occasional police-medium group—basically a coffee klatch, not everyone sitting in a circle sharing their feelings the way he’d been dreading—but that was still connected to the police. He hadn’t even realized that Charles had the same connection. Fuck. Somehow, without realizing it, he’d become one of those adults who only lived for his job.

He blinked. Maybe it isn’t just me.

“What does Matthew do?” he asked, fully expecting he already knew the answer.

He was wrong.

“He’s an advertising consultant.” Hamilton shrugged. “I don’t know what that means, either.” He paused, then added, as though he’d read Harlan’s mind—more likely his expression—“I did meet him through a case, though.”

Harlan wasn’t sure if that made him feel better or worse. He didn’t know exactly how old Hamilton was, but he guessed his police partner was at least a few years older than he was. Was that what he had to look forward to—all his personal connections coming from his work for the rest of his life? He wasn’t sure why it bothered him, but it did. Maybe it was like that for everyone, and he just didn’t know—not that there was anyone he could ask.

Maybe Charles… He’d met a few of Charles’ friends, more or less in passing. He certainly hadn’t sat down and had dinner with any of them, the way Hamilton seemed to be proposing that he do with Matthew. He’d always assumed it was because he and Charles were still fairly new as a couple and—knowing Harlan—Charles hadn’t wanted to overwhelm him with a bunch of people all at once—but maybe he’d been wrong. Maybe he just didn’t want to introduce Harlan to anyone else in his life.

Knowing he was starting to spiral, he was relieved when Hamilton continued.

“I told him you don’t do phone calls and you wouldn’t want to text someone you don’t know”—Wow, Hamilton really will make a great detective one day—“so you can just let me know when you decide. Here.” He fished a piece of paper out of his breast pocket and handed it to Harlan. “This is Matthew’s number so you can give it to Charles. He’s invited too, if he’d like.” His smirk was back. “I think he still has a choice, unlike you.”

“Where are we going today?” Normally Hamilton didn’t tell him, and he didn’t ask, but it was the only change of topic Harlan could think of. “Is it another one of Samuel’s ghosts?” Killing the warped medium and serial killer Samuel Harkness had released most of the spirits under his control, but even eight months later they were still finding stragglers, like the ones that had led Harlan to their killer in the first place.

Interestingly, Harlan and Hamilton had found—and freed—almost three times as many wanderers as the other three medium pairs put together. It was as if even though he’d never met them, these spirits felt a connection to him for killing the man who had been controlling them.

This part of the job was a lot less glamorous when the ghosts they worked with weren’t leading him to a serial killer.

Kid,” Hamilton had laughed after a sweaty, dusty and frustrated Harlan had snapped something along those lines after a very long, hot day crammed in the crawlspace of an old house, trying to coax an especially nervous ghost close enough for him to either grab or calm it down enough for it to cross over on its own, “that’s the job. It’s not bringing down bad guys and epic showdowns. It’s…this. Hey, you’ve got a cobweb on your face.”

Harlan couldn’t help feeling that he’d peaked too soon, experienced more police-medium excitement than most of his colleagues got in a lifetime.

Crucially, he’d survived. Most police mediums didn’t live long enough to retire.

He still liked his job and found it fulfilling, rewarding and blah blah, but he couldn’t help feeling a little…let down. Restless, maybe. Not that he wanted to face anything like Samuel ever again! But…something. Something more than finding ghost, freeing ghost, next. Day in, day out, week after week. Just a little.

“Nah. Well—not as far as I know,” Hamilton amended. “Though apparently this is kinda a weird one.”

Harlan couldn’t help brightening, sitting forward in his seat a little. In light of what he’d been thinking, ‘weird’ was good. “Really?”

“Yeah, yeah, keep it in your pants.” Hamilton laughed.

“You gonna tell me or is it gonna be a surprise?” Even a few months ago Harlan wouldn’t have dared ask for information about the scene they were going to, and he certainly wouldn’t have expected an answer.

Now, it was almost like a game between the two of them—if Harlan really wanted to know, Hamilton would tell him, and if Hamilton really wanted to keep him in the dark until they got there—and Harlan was beginning to think that, sometimes at least, walking in without any preconceptions was helpful—he wouldn’t. And, occasionally, Hamilton himself knew very little or nothing about the haunting situation. Harlan was starting to suspect that was one of the reasons Hamilton hadn’t filled Harlan in ahead of time in the past. Hamilton didn’t like admitting when he didn’t know something.

“Mmm, this time I think I’ll let you see for yourself. Besides, we’re almost there.” Hamilton pulled up beside a record store, one of those hipster places that had been popping up in the most gentrified parts of the city. He got out, coming around the other side of the car and opening Harlan’s door when he didn’t get out immediately.

Harlan stepped onto the sidewalk to take a better look around. Hauntings—the ones not related to violent crime, which he doubted was the case here—tended to be in residential buildings. People died where they lived, not where they bought vinyl.

He glanced across the street—more shops, and they didn’t look like they had apartments over them. Neither did the record store or the others around it.

“There’s a haunting here?”

“I can double-check the address if you’d like,” Hamilton offered, smirking a little.

“No. That’s fine.” As far as Harlan knew, Hamilton had never got an address wrong.

Maybe the dispatcher had been wrong?

A young white man stepped out of the shop, waving at them. “Are you with the Graveyard Crew?”

It was a nickname for Toronto police mediums that Harlan didn’t really like—and, by the look on Hamilton’s face, he didn’t care for it either.

Hamilton pointedly glanced down at his uniform and badge. “We’re with the police.”

“Oh, good! C’mon in. We’ve been expecting you.” He turned and disappeared into the shop.

Harlan shot Hamilton a questioning glance.

Hamilton shrugged one shoulder, extending a hand to say after you.

He was suddenly hit by a barrage of noise—apparently the door was surprisingly soundproof. Harlan always thought the music in these types of places sounded bad, but this was bad.

Hamilton, never one to fuck around, headed straight to the man who’d welcomed them. “Can you turn the music down? Or off, maybe?” He had to raise his voice to be heard over the din.

The man shook his head. “No! That’s the problem.” He didn’t have Hamilton’s loud ‘cop voice’ and he was practically screaming.

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About the Author

T. Strange

T. Strange didn’t want to learn how to read, but literacy prevailed and she hasn’t stopped reading—or writing—since. She’s been published since 2013, and she writes M/M romance in multiple genres, including paranormal and BDSM. T.’s other interests include cross stitching, gardening, watching terrible horror movies, playing video games, and finding injured pigeons to rescue. Originally from White Rock, BC, she lives on the Canadian prairies, where she shares her home with her wife, cats, guinea pigs and other creatures of all shapes and sizes. She’s very easy to bribe with free food and drinks—especially wine.

Find T. Strange on Instagram.


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Book Blitz & Excerpt: Honor + Giveaway

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Honor by January Bain

Book 3 in the Sin City Wolf series

Word Count: 66,315
Book Length: NOVEL
Pages: 255



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Book Description


Never run from a wolf!

Isadora Champagne is a witch on a dangerous mission—to take down Lucius Luceres. That bad boy alpha billionaire doesn’t deserve to have it all his way. Thinks he can dump her baby sister and get away with it! But now that she’s met the shifter, keeping her heart safe from him is going to take more than the curse she laid on him…it just might cost her a pact with the devil himself.

Lucius of the House of Luceres is an alpha werewolf, secure in his bad-to-the-bone reputation. But when confronted by the beautiful Isadora one fateful night, even he can’t ignore the extreme attraction that instantly ignites between them. But what he hadn’t counted on was how useful her magic gifts can be to the House of Luceres when one of their own goes missing.

Will he be able to set aside the centuries of mistrust between witches and shifters and allow her special brand of courage and caring to heal even the most jaded heart?

Reader advisory: This book contains scenes of mild violence, fated mates and references to inadequate parenting.



“Look! There’s a halo around the moon tonight, Lucius. You know what that means?” Veronica purred. Her mouth was coated in far too much red lipstick for my liking, though I more than appreciated her luscious body and adventurous spirit.

“What do you think it means?” I asked, not particularly interested in her take on it. I couldn’t imagine the notorious party girl having done much digging into mythology or history.

If I wanted facts, my twin brothers, Maximus and Alexandro, would be the ones I’d call on. One of the things I did like about Veronica’s type though—easy to forget. I didn’t need any complications as enforcer for the House of Luceres beyond those necessary to protect my pack.

“It means something momentous is on its way. Could be good. Or evil. It depends on the intentions of the spirit.” Veronica shivered for effect in a dress that barely covered essentials. She looked up at me, her eyes huge, reflecting not only the light of the roaring bonfire kept alight for the entirety of the Lupercalia festival, but I swear I caught a glimpse of myself.

Easy to look at, I’ve been told. Like all my pack brothers, I kept my GQ looks highlighted with exercise and good grooming. And all the Luceres were blessed with good genetics and lots of money.

The howling of a lone wolf in the distance cut short the woman’s unexpected announcement and I went on high alert. In the desert, on a clear night such as this, sound was deceptive. The interloper could be miles away…or nearby.

I glanced around the firepit, checking out the pack members milling about. Emily, one of the cousins, was dancing with wild abandon. I frowned. Wasn’t she a bit young for this? The festival was notorious for events that would curl a human’s hair. Rumors abounded and things that probably should not happen…happened.

Case in point, headed right toward me was a former one-night stand, her finger pointed at me like she had something to say. Something I was certain I would prefer not to hear. What was her name again? Serena, Simona, Sawyer…

Before it came to me, she was right up in my face. “Lucius Luceres, I got some…thing to say to you you’re not go…ing to like.” She poked at me with a sharp red fingernail, her words slurring and her body language suggesting something vastly different.

“Step back, if you know what’s good for you, cur!” Veronica yelled at her.

“What you go…ing to do about it?”

Right, Simone, one of the more jealous ones. Why was one night never enough for them? Not like I ever promised anything more. I stepped back. Let them have at it. A gorgeous female standing farther from the fire winked at me, her eyes taking in the foolish provocation with obvious interest. I gave her my patented cool-billionaire smile.

She replied with an air kiss, pulling me forward with all the magnetic pull of true north. Just the way I liked it. And man, those curves, highlighted in a tight dress that leaves nothing to the imagination.

“Hey, where are you going?” Veronica quickly noticed my mental desertion…soon to be followed by a physical one.

I turned back and sighed. The two women had each other by the hair. Soon they’d shift, by the look of things. I didn’t want the hassle, but after all, I had caused it, even though they’d both been warned that I never dated.

“Come on, ladies, the festival is almost over. Wouldn’t you rather be having fun than fighting?”

“This is fun! I’m going to beat her ass!” And with that Veronica shed her clothes and shifted, one second vanishing through the otherworldly portal in a shimmer of light, and in the next back again as a blue-eyed gray wolf. It had been explained to me by my scholarly brothers that the dimension was only one of the eleven that create the multiverse. Whatever. I was just satisfied it worked.

I mean, who doesn’t want to be wolf?

One second later, Simone followed Veronica, her leaner and meaner wolf appearing in a flash of light. Of course, she was the more perturbed of the two, giving her the edge. The pair squared off. Simone growled as she lowered her head to bully her opponent, the thick ruff on her spine fully erect.

Instantly, others picked up on the change of energy. Bodies began streaming in from everywhere, surrounding the two females in mere seconds. This was what the pack wanted. Craved. The music shifted, became a louder drumbeat that stirred the blood.

I gave a nonchalant shrug to the gorgeous female on the sidelines watching the antics as if to say, What can I do? Females will be females. She rolled her eyes.

Turning back to the action, I decided not to intervene in the fight, not unless they began to inflict real damage. These kinds of fights could be more about posturing than anything else, useful for ratcheting down minor disagreements and aggressions. Which was why this festival was held in the first place. It allowed pack members time to listen to their wolf, step away from the imposing limits of civilization. Freedom, baby.

But I had apparently misjudged the level of anger and animosity between the pair. Claws and fur flying, they lunged at each other, rolling in the desert sand and sending a blanket of dust into the air.

The crowd roared their approval. Someone had appointed themselves the holder of the bets and numbers were being tossed around the ring like confetti. Eager faces, alight with the excitement I’d imagine rather common to the Colosseum of ancient days, began to holler loudly for their favorite. Seemed that Simone was holding sway, her anger the most apparent to the catcalling crew. Hell, half of them were half undressed now, probably looking to take a turn.

Great, a bloom of blood had appeared on Veronica’s fur. Now I had to shift. Not really a bad thing, as I loved to be wolf. The power, the freedom, the pure sense of being removed from this world—it didn’t get any better.

I shucked my clothing, knowing I was being checked out by the new female. Have at it. I’m choice. I jumped into the fray and in seconds, had Veronica by the scruff of the neck, subjecting her to dominance, forcing her to give over to her alpha. She whined, then lay down. Simone stood on four stiffened paws, her tongue lolling, still defying me.

I flew at her, catching her by the throat, taking her down to the ground. Not hard enough to break the skin, but enough to inflict some pain. She needed to learn her place.

When she gave me proper respect, I let her slink away, then dusted myself off and redressed. The interested female was still watching, and I nodded at her. She sauntered over, her spectacular hips swaying to the rhythmic beat of the snare drum one of the pack members was pounding on, her smile coy.

The crowd clapped and stamped their feet loudly, naked breasts bouncing to the delight of the males who watched with approval, obviously having enjoyed the show. Money was paid out to the victors and backs were slapped. Just another night at the Lupercalia. And mild compared to some events I won’t get into.

“Nice moves,” she said, getting closer enough to pick an imaginary piece of lint from my jacket.

“I aim to please.”

“I take it you’re not worried that a rare witch moon is causing chaos this night?” The new female pointed at the night sky. A dark cloud was now creeping across the luminous surface, lending an even more eerie appearance to proceedings.

Witch moon? Where did you hear that?” A cold finger traced my spine. I shook the odd sensation off. An old wives’ tale.

“Big strong wolf like you—you have nothing to fear.”

Never trust a witch.

The warning from an elderly Italian relative came to mind. Well, not like I had any in my pack or knew of any in my round of acquaintances. And I certainly wouldn’t bed one. Now, the wolf throwing herself at me at the moment, sure.

I’m partial to blondes and easy tail…

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About the Author

January Bain

January Bain has wished on every falling star, every blown-out birthday candle and every coin thrown in a fountain to be a storyteller. To share the tales of high adventure, mysteries, and full-blown thrillers she has dreamed of all her life. The story you now have in your hands is the compilation of a lot of things manifesting itself for this special series. Hundreds of hours spent researching the unusual and the mundane have come together to create a series that features strong women who don’t take life too seriously, wild adventures full of twists and unforeseen turns, and hot complicated men who aren’t afraid to take risks. She can only hope the stories of her beloved Brass Ringers will capture your imagination as much as they did hers when she wrote them.

If you are looking for January Bain, you can find her hard at work every morning without fail in her office with two furry babies trying to prove who does a better job of guarding the doorway. And, of course, she’s married to the most romantic man! Who once famously replied to her inquiry about buying fresh flowers for their home every week, “Give me one good reason why not?” Leaving her speechless and knocking her head against the proverbial wall for being so darn foolish. She loves flowers.

If you wish to connect in the virtual world, she is easily found on Facebook, Twitter and writes a weekly blog about her journey on Blogger. Oh, and she loves to talk books…


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Book Blitz & Excerpt: Antiques + Giveaway

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Antiques by Bailey Bradford

Book 2 in the Intrinsic Values series

Word Count: 53,479
Book Length: NOVEL
Pages: 214



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Book Description

Elliot Douglas lived his life on the sidelines—until Drew Harrington smashed front and center into it…

Since rebuilding his life, Elliot Douglas has led a quiet existence, hiding behind a routine and the old-fashioned clothes and behavior that make him seem older than his early forties. Now he’s taking one step at a time toward creating a more fulfilling life…one in which his sexual needs to submit are met.

However, baby steps are left behind when he meets Detective Andrew Harrington.

A driven—some say obsessed—Scotland Yard detective, Drew lives by compartmentalizing, focusing on his work and, as a Dom, enjoying BDSM sex as a stress relief. On the track of stolen paintings, he’s traced them to San Antonio, where he’s distracted from the case by an infuriatingly handsome antiques trader who’s not as predictable or fuddy-duddy as he wants the world to think.

Intrigued, Drew’s drawn to that mystery as much as the one he’s there to solve, which blindsides him.

Elliot and Drew’s attraction is instant, and their feelings strong, especially when Drew poses as Elliot’s boyfriend to infiltrate the local antiques scene. But nothing is what it seems—not the case, not Drew…and not even Elliot. With deception all around them, what hope do two men unused to trust and commitment have of a relationship?

Reader advisory: This book contains a scene of on-page stabbing, assault and the threat of sexual assault.


Elliot Douglas knew he should have been hurrying. He detested being late for anything, considering it disorganized at best and impolite at worst, when he prided himself on being neither of those things. In addition, he was very much looking forward to this appointment. No—he very much needed this appointment. While those undeniable facts made him lengthen his stride a tad, his interest in the architecture and design of the houses on the midtown streets he was walking along meant he kept glimpsing things that grabbed his attention.

As the proprietor and manager of San Antonio’s Intrinsic Value antiques shop, his wide-ranging interest in art and design had him taking in everything from the houses’ building styles to their colors and trims. He’d been to many well-known interactive museums and ever since his first visit to this area of San Antonio had thought of it as a living architectural gallery.

His whimsical feeling that he should have a chart or worksheet so he could tick off examples of the different building types all around him made him smile. Maybe he should make something along those lines, some mini poster to be labeled and even colored in? Edwardian, Victorian, Tudor… His quickening steps echoed the rhythm of his thoughts that listed the design styles he passed. I would design that, yes, if I could draw.

Should he have chosen this neighborhood to settle in? The question surged whenever he came here to Tobin Hill, where his love of collectible objects and period pieces had him slowing down to appreciate details of everything from lawn or porch furniture to hanging lanterns or even lampposts that caught his eye. If his pace slackened, it was because of that and nothing to do with him being in his forties. Forty-two wasn’t old, no matter how old-fashioned he was or even how he might feel at times, and Elliot kept his six-foot-plus frame fit and in shape.

But the visual appeal of this community, and the location, so convenient for his store, had him second-guessing yet again the area he’d actually bought real estate in. Well, too bad. With all the work he was putting into his property, he couldn’t see himself moving. And besides, he really liked his house, his refuge from the world.

His destination was in sight, and he hurried up the short drive and onto the small porch of the square ranch-style house, smiling anew as always at the realtor description of these nineteen-seventies stucco properties as “California bungalow style”.

There would be no need to lift the brass knocker, so Elliot raked both hands through his light-brown hair to settle the slightly long waves that sprang from his temples, trying not to think that he’d combed his fingers through where his hair had started to silver. He even went to polish his wire-framed glasses before remembering he didn’t wear them in the daytime any longer…which of course had him blinking, aware of his relatively new contact lenses.

“Lars.” Elliot greeted the man who’d opened the door for him and who now stood back to usher him in with his usual pleasant, welcoming expression.

“Elliot.” Lars was discreet, never saying Elliot’s—or anyone’s name—until the front door was firmly closed. He tended to blend into the room, tasteful yet unremarkable, and was now unobtrusively noting Elliot’s arrival on a slim handheld tablet, the dark-gray cover of which he flipped open and immediately flicked closed again.

The computer equipment had grated on Elliot at first. He wasn’t at all a fan of technology, but he knew he couldn’t expect people to keep track of appointments in ledgers or books these days. And goodness, he had a cellular phone—as he still called it—himself nowadays. A friend from the club where Elliot exercised and swam worked in IT and had helped him choose a sleek, slimline model. Nothing big or bulky or flashy, and Elliot was still in the forgetting it in his office or kitchen phase of coexistence with it.

Karl, the man he was here to see, came out into the waiting room and regarded him. “Good morning, Elliot. Do come on in…or do you need another minute yet to look around and think how you’d decorate and furnish the place?”

He’d told Karl about that silly habit of his, something he did in homes or stores or restaurants, and Karl had found it charming, always remembering it. Elliot gave a rueful nod of acknowledgment and, casting his eyes down, walked past Karl into the next room, where there was calm and peace and barely audible soft music playing. He waited for Karl to enter behind him, close the door and sit, then nod toward a chair for Elliot to seat himself.

“You walked here?” Karl asked, his steely blue eyes catching the light. The morning sun made his neatly groomed dark hair, short beard and mustache shine. He probably chose to sit where he was on purpose and his stillness ensured he’d remain in the light. “Elliot?”

“Oh, excuse me. Wool-gathering. Yes. I like the walk. It’s part of coming here, for me. A warm-up.”

He knew what he meant. The distance was nothing from Intrinsic Value, in the city’s cultural Pearl District, but more of a stretch from his home in Lavaca.

“And you came from home? I’d hate to think you were at work so early.” Karl gave him an assessing once-over. “Help yourself to water.” His short, sharp chin jerk indicated the jug and glasses on the small table. “Have you been overworking since your last visit?”

“Well…” Elliot hedged, pouring himself a little water that he didn’t want and wouldn’t drink.

“Elliot. You know better than that.” Karl sharpened his tone a little. “Tell me.”

He hadn’t gone into recent…incidents in any great detail with Karl but had shared some of what had been happening at the store and with his employees lately. Now he caught Karl up on how things had finally settled down again after the events that had been set in motion when Elliot had purchased items from the Buckman sale.

“I swore off them, but I did go to another estate sale last week actually. There’s the local art and antiques fair coming up soon and I have a list of items to look out for there,” he finished.

“With most of them being for your house, on which you’re still working nonstop,” Karl surmised. Elliot dropped his gaze. “But you’ve found time to relax, to exercise? You look in great shape.”

Elliot’s face heated at the kind words. “Swimming most evenings, and I took up squash again.” More like he’d forced himself. But…

“Excellent. And we’ll have you switching to racquetball soon!” Karl’s eyes gleamed and he stood, motioning Elliot to his feet with a quick crook of his fingers. “It’s time. Go on through.”

Through into what Elliot thought of as the real room, after he’d showered and prepared, of course. Elliot was used to older mirrors, in the store and his house, and tended to avoid modern ones, but the full-length bathroom mirror here didn’t give too stark a reflection. The recessed lighting made his eyes seem more tawny than brown when he peered at his irises, checking on his lenses. Towel tucked around his waist, he walked into the treatment room. The real room.

“Elliot.” Karl coming in the other door caught him by surprise. “You’re not lying down.”

“Sorry,” Elliot muttered.

“Don’t be sorry. Be more obedient.” Karl took off his suit jacket, leaving him in his shirt and vest. He rolled up his sleeves, revealing his muscular forearms. He was powerfully built, with quiet, contained strength.

It was starting, frissons whispering down Elliot’s spine. Nodding, he lay on the table, swallowing at the snick of the door being locked, then the splat of the oil being pumped. The noises, the scents, were familiar, as were Karl’s hands smoothing his upper back and shoulders. Him pressing strong thumbs up the nape of Elliot’s neck had Elliot holding in a moan.

“Head to the side on the rest…hands on the wings…” Karl ordered, a second before the table’s mechanism popped out the armrests either side for Elliot to hold on to. In seconds, a padded strap snaked across his neck, holding his head in position and leather straps were buckled around his wrists, keeping his hands in place.

Buckled by Lars, who Elliot hadn’t even heard come in or lock the door again after him, although Elliot knew he would have, just as he knew Lars would now position the flat mirror to the side of the head of the table, angling it in such a way that Elliot could see what Karl would be doing to him. Everything Karl would be doing to him.

Karl paused, even after Lars finished, making Elliot shiver and ask, “Now what?”

“You know what.” Karl whisked Elliot’s towel away, leaving him naked. In seconds, the table’s end section was extended and widened, spreading Elliot’s legs to Karl’s satisfaction, and further straps secured his ankles to the corners. He peeped in the mirror—he was fully bound, as pulling at his bonds showed him.

“The ball gag, I think,” Karl said.

Elliot shook his head.

“Hmm. I’ll let you have that…” Karl’s voiced faded as he appeared to think. A quiet command had Lars offering him a tray from which Karl made his choice of the selection of bandannas it held. He twisted the cotton cloth into a strip and made a knot in its middle, tying another on top of the first to make it bigger. Big enough to gag Elliot, when placed in his mouth and the fabric tied around the back of his head.

“I like the look of over-the-mouth on you,” Karl reflected. “And it soaks up the saliva. But it’s the ball gag next time.”

The hard edge to his voice had tiny tremors rippling Elliot’s skin and his rapidly filling balls had him shifting on the table.

“Although I do like to hear you,” Karl commented, drawing a sharp fingernail down Elliot’s spine.

Elliot, eyes wide, struggled around the gag.

“You struggle so prettily,” Karl told him, watching his face.

Elliot didn’t think he looked pretty at all. He thought he looked like the thickset, almost middle-aged man he was. But here, at Karl’s, he felt pretty, perhaps, and loved the sensation. He thrilled at all the different feelings that each part of the appointment provided, and underlying them all was pride in himself for having taken this stride toward what he needed. Another step out from behind the wall I built around myself.

Karl’s “Ready?” had hardly reached Elliot’s ears before Karl delivered the first blow, an open-handed spank to one ass cheek. Although Elliot knew what was coming, the first strike was always a jolt, a blow he felt radiate out from the point of impact to his toes in one direction and his head in the other—Karl hit hard. Elliot breathed out around the cloth in his mouth, riding the sensations in the few seconds Karl allowed before he followed the initial smack with a second to the other cheek, one that made Elliot pant through the gag.

More powerful, meaty smacks followed, Lars’ quiet voice counting them. Having Karl’s sub witness what his Dom, Karl, did to Elliot was part of the process.

“Ten. And that’s the warm-up.”

Elliot was almost relieved. He was already burning, tears slipping from his eyes. He turned slightly to catch Lars’ impassive expression and that added to the sensations buffeting him. He turned back to see Karl in the mirror, shaking out his hand.

“Now, sting or thud?” Karl watched Elliot’s hand and repeated, his voice harsher, “Elliot, sting? Thud?”

On the second choice, Elliot curled his fingers twice, their agreed signal for yes. Everything they practiced was always pre-negotiated.

“Good.” Karl took a wooden paddle from the flat box Lars held out to him. He motioned to Lars to loosen Elliot’s gag a little. “How many?”

“U…up to you, sir,” Elliot managed before Lars replaced the gag again.

“Is the correct answer.”

Elliot thought Karl rewarded him for it by hitting extra hard.

“Five, I think…” The blows Karl, pro-Dom, landed were precise. He’d never once come anywhere near to striking Elliot’s hip or tailbones. The impact of each tightened every nerve in Elliot’s body and fired heat through every vein, intensifying with each hit.

Ai’ive,” Elliot counted, as well as he could around the soaked cloth in his mouth.

“And now the other…” Karl murmured, and selected a new paddle for Elliot’s other butt cheek.

No!” Elliot implored through the gag, trying to struggle. “Nuff. Can’t take more…”

Karl waited a few seconds then bent low to speak next to Elliot’s head. “Oh, you’ll take it, Elliot. And any more protest, and I add strokes to the tally.”

That extra bite, that element of being forced that inch beyond what he said he could handle—thought he could handle—was everything to Elliot. It had started with being strapped down—he still remembered his struggles—then having another person witness his play… All things Elliot had barely understood deep down in the recesses of his psyche that he craved. But he was starting to understand more and more…and act on his needs.

Karl straightened and began again, and there was only the impact, the blows, and Elliot’s soul vibrating to each one, to take him soaring. Heat burning through him, he was shaking and sweating when Karl finished. He had his eyes closed, but felt hands undoing his straps, then Karl was helping him to turn over. He cried out when his abused ass made contact with the table.

“Look at you.” Karl’s voice held admiration for Elliot’s straining cock, the head wet and shiny with pre-cum. “How badly do you need to come?”

This was another Karl question that didn’t need an answer. “You’re going to wait a full minute. Do not touch yourself until I say. Understood? Say the word.”

“Understood.” It came out in nothing like his usual cultured tone.

The second hand on the large wall clock had never moved so slowly. Elliot, desperate, was just beginning to suspect something was wrong with it or that Karl had rigged it, when Karl nodded. “Do it. Let me see you.”

It didn’t take Elliot long. A few pulls at himself, a loud moan and he climaxed over his stomach and chest, his body a rigid arch off the table. His eyes on Karl, basking in the warmth on his face and the praise he loosed, Elliot milked his cock to the last drops. He accepted the soft tissues Karl held out to him to dab at himself. It didn’t matter, because the session always finished with another shower.

His after-shower always felt totally different from the one before, and now Elliot was less keyed up, he could appreciate the finer details, such as Karl having ready the bergamot and sandalwood soap Elliot liked, which he used at home. Elliot lathered his body, wondering as he always did if he’d ever have someone do that for him, in the same ways as he’d soap that person, both of them caring for the other.

He made himself wait until he was toweling himself dry to examine his ass cheeks. What he saw had him grinning, and not just at the reddened color—the paddles Karl had used on him had been imprinted.

He’d tried to glimpse the words or designs on them during the session but had been unable. Now, though, he stared at his right cheek, with its new image of a heart, right in its center, and at his left, which bore the word love. He did love it, every aspect of coming here, the service Karl provided, the careful way he ran his business, how it didn’t feel like a transaction…

As much as Elliot thrilled to the anticipation and thrived on the acts themselves, he also loved the winding down. The final stage was always out on the back porch with Karl, for light chat and the herbal tea they both enjoyed…and Elliot forced himself not to wince at how sitting on his recently paddled ass felt.

“Do you get to the club much?” Elliot thought to ask. The place they’d met, where Karl played as a Dom.

“Not as much now.” Karl put his cup down. “And I know you don’t either. The atmosphere’s a little different in there recently. I think there are some changes on the horizon—I heard it’s getting a little harder-edged, more extreme, and maybe new management? But we’ll see if the changes are for the better. Some can be.”

Elliot’s preference for a routine was a half-joke between them. When he stood to go, Karl looped a hand around his upper back to bring him close. “Take care,” he murmured.

Elliot started his walk to the store. He felt good, lighter, as he always did after a session with Karl, yet heaviness was creeping in sooner than it usually did. He reviewed the progress he’d made. Trying to come out from behind the barricades he’d shuttered himself behind, he’d gone for coffee with a couple of guys from his sports club and even a drink once, but there’d been no spark.

Then, when he’d come to understand that rough, submissive sex was what he craved, he’d gone looking for it in Caress, where there were plenty of Doms. But as much as he might crave to play in public, the idea of subbing to someone he didn’t know, who didn’t know him, and who Elliot didn’t know if he could trust, made him freeze up.

He’d found a good compromise in Karl and his behind-closed-doors service. He liked the kind of man Karl was, and also their arrangement, but couldn’t help envying what Karl and Lars had.

What must that be like, that sort of relationship? To be with someone he could give all of himself to, voice all his needs to, and for that person to act on them with him…because they met his needs too? And all of them, including companionship, domesticity… He’d never had that and doubted he ever would.

Wishes and dreams, maybes and moonbeams.” It was a silly expression of his grandmother’s, one he hadn’t thought of for years, and it came to him out of the blue.

No. Elliot focused on the day ahead, on his schedule, what he’d be doing and when. He planned to order something different for lunch—that was the next brick he was going to topple from the wall around himself. Maybe one day, in the future, he’d be ready to take bigger actions, but for now…

Now was longing, as tenuous and as strong as a moonbeam, slipping through the cracks.

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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.


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