Irresistible Indigo

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Book Title: Irresistible Indigo (D’Vaire, Book 9)

Author: Jessamyn Kingley

Cover Artist: LJ Anderson, Mayhem Cover Creations

Genre/s: M/M Fantasy Romance, M/M Paranormal Romance

Heat Rating: 3 flames

Release Date: November 15, 2018

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Blurb

A young wizard, a noble duke, and the potion that changes D’Vaire forever.

Since arriving at the Draconis Court of D’Vaire at the age of sixteen, Idris has done everything he can think of to make his new family proud of him. After five years of challenging work, he is finally poised to reach the highest rank within the Spectra Wizardry. The only glaring thing missing is his mate. While he may be young, Idris wants to share his heart with his other half, so he asks Fate to send him a nice dragon who will be kind to him and his familiar. He does not want to be demanding but Idris knows without him he won’t be complete.

Duke Macardle “Mac” Stenetdraconis’s days are centered around his amazing grandparents who raised him. When his grandfather suggests he apply for a new duke position at Court D’Vaire, he is intrigued. It is a place that has opened its doors as a sanctuary and he’s drawn to the idea of helping others. When he arrives, he finds himself with a small dragon familiar on his lap. Minutes later, the owner of that familiar saunters through the door and Mac’s heart is instantly hooked on the irresistible wizard. Determined to make Idris his, the pair soon find themselves tested by life. Their love turns out to the anchor Mac cannot do without while Idris opens the door to a new future for his family.

Excerpt

“Does anyone have a ball or anything?” Mac asked.

Idris lifted a hand and within seconds, an indigo sphere appeared. He tossed it to Mac, who bounced it in Greggory’s direction. When the familiar used his head to return it, Roger flew off his shoulder and landed on the floor, so he could play too. Two of the young men Mac was sworn to protect were sitting at a round table placed in the office designed for Delaney and Idris. The sorcerers were painstakingly going through the two boxes of warlock books and scrolls found in the Arch Lich’s library. Dra’Kaedan insisted the two get first crack at everything since they were still seeking research ideas. Duff was presumably in his room working on his own studies.

It left Mac with barely anything to do. When Mac discovered how little he knew of sorcery, he went to Aleksander and explained his problem. He wasn’t content to spend his days sitting around. If he was going to oversee the protection of two wizards, he needed to be able to assist them in some way. Aleksander agreed and called the Prism Wizard. Vadimas was receptive to the problem, and Mac was expecting his own box, full of basic magic books, to arrive soon. He might not be able to cast but he could learn, and he was determined to be an asset to Delaney and Idris. If they weren’t trying to reach the pinnacle of their education and power, he would’ve asked them for help, but Mac wasn’t going to get in their way.

In the meantime, Mac could be close to them and entertain the cute dragons who were taking to playing with the ball Idris provided with enthusiasm. He tossed it again and cringed as the two familiars crashed into each other and wiped out. “Sorry, guys,” he offered. Growls were hurled in his direction, but they allowed him to help them off the floor and both waited patiently until he threw their toy again.

“I think I might’ve found something interesting,” Idris announced.

“What is it, sweetheart?”

“It’s written in archaic warlock. I need Dra’Kaedan to translate some of this. It’s a language I’m still learning, but what I can read is really intriguing.”

“Are you going to tell us why?” Delaney inquired.

“Not until I’m sure I am reading this right,” Idris remarked as he stood. “I’m going to go find him.”

“I’m coming too,” Delaney said.

“We’ll play ball later,” Mac told his scaly friends. Roger soared up to his shoulder as soon as Mac was on his feet, and Greggory flew behind them all as they headed toward the office down the hall which housed the Coven of Warlocks. Inside they found Dra’Kaedan, his twin, and his familiar.

“Do you have a minute, Dra’Kaedan?” Idris asked with the scroll held protectively in his hand.

“For you guys, always. What’s up?”

“I found something I can only read parts of. Can you translate the rest?”

Dra’Kaedan took it from Idris’s hand. The small blond’s eyes grew wide with shock as they moved down the parchment in his grasp. When he was finished, he handed it to his brother. Dre’Kariston’s reaction was the same as his twin’s; then it was passed to Renny.

“This can’t be real,” Renny declared when he was done. “I mean really. This can’t be fucking real. How’s this possible? Because if it is, my brain’s going to explode.”

About the Author

Jessamyn Kingley lives in Nevada where she begs the men in her head to tell her their amazing stories which she dutifully writes it all down in what has become a small mountain of notebooks. She falls in love with each couple and swears whatever book she wrote last is her absolute favorite.

Jessamyn is married and working toward remembering to start the dishwasher without being distracted by the scent of the magical detergent. For personal enjoyment, she aids in cat rescue while slashing and gashing her way through mobs in various MMORPGs. Caffeine is her very best friend and is only cast aside briefly for the sin better known as BBQ potato chips.

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Shift & The Last Valkyrie

Title: SHIFT
Author: Karina Espinosa
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Cover Designer: Laura Hildago
Editor: Daniella Brooks
Publisher: Black Quill Publishing
 
Blurb:
It’s hard enough being an undergraduate student, an intern at Downtown Manhattan’s police station, and a bouncer at a local bar. Add her now ex-boyfriend who recently dumped her for the school’s resident bimbo—oh, and she’s a werewolf.
Mackenzie Grey meets her match when she is kidnapped by the Brooklyn Pack and tossed between Sebastian and Jonah—the Alpha and the Beta. Being a lone-wolf in the city is dangerous, and now that the Pack has found her, so can every supernatural being in the Tri-State area. And not even her sarcastic, smart mouth can get her out of this.
When a string of kidnappings involves Mackenzie in supernatural politics, she questions her new acquaintances and finds unlikely allies. Can she escape Pack law and keep her freedom—or will she be condemned to an unwanted path?
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Title: The Last Valkyrie
Author: Karina Espinosa
Genre: Adult Urban Fantasy
Cover Designer: Orina Kafe
Publication Date: August 3rd, 2018
 
Blurb:
Raven Romero is a washed up Valkyrie who is unable to return to Valhalla, spending her days in a haze of sex, drugs, and alcohol.
When she is wrongfully accused of murder, Raven has two options: run or clear her name. With a laundry list of enemies, she has no idea who could be framing her. One thing is for sure: they know what she is and they’ll stop at nothing until she’s behind bars or dead.
With no choice but to delve into the supernatural underground she tried so hard to avoid, Raven seeks aid and learns what it means to be human.
The world believes her kind no longer exists, but Raven Romero is The Last Valkyrie.
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Karina Espinosa is the Urban Fantasy author of the Sins of the Fallen series and the Mackenzie Grey novels. Infatuated with travel, pop culture, and the need to write everything down, she spends much of her days in front of a computer working on her next book, shopping online, and listening to music. With nomadic tendencies, she is currently resting her head in South Florida until the itch to move strikes again. You can usually catch her on Facebook, Instagram and live-tweeting during episodes of Game of Thrones, The Walking Dead, and Orphan Black. Follow her on social media!
 
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The Beguiler

Title: The Beguiler
Author: Jo Michaels
Genre: Urban Fiction/Apocalyptic Fiction
Editor: Tia Silverthorne Bach with INDIE Books Gone Wild
Publication Date: November 5th, 2018
Blurb:
It’s one year until the apocalypse of 12.21.12 is supposed to take place.
Burning buildings, screaming babies, and death will surround us.
It will be the end of the world.
That can’t be allowed.
When six powerful women come together with one goal—to save humanity—they’ll get much more than they bargained for. They join forces and learn to use the gifts hidden within themselves to battle a monster feeding off something too many of us feel in our souls: Hate. But they must first learn how to forgive—themselves as well as others.
Hate is birthing a creature dwelling under Central Park in New York, and the fiend is eager to burst forth and sink his fangs into the Earth.
The Fury, The Visionary, The Beguiler, The Siren, The Prophet, and The Mystic are our last hope, and even they aren’t sure if they can win.
The end is coming, but with it, there may be a new beginning.
 
 
Buy Links:
The Visionary: https://amzn.to/2RXtH4W
Jo Michaels is…
Hi, I’m Jo. Let’s forget all the “Jo Michaels is blah, blah, blah” stuff and just go with it. I’m a voracious reader (often reading more than one book at a time), a writer, a book reviewer, a mom, a wife, and one of the EICs at INDIE Books Gone Wild. I have an almost photographic memory and tend to make people cringe at the number of details I can recall about them and/or their book(s). My imagination follows me around like a conjoined twin and causes me to space out pretty often or laugh out loud randomly in completely inappropriate situations.
I have a degree in graphic design, and my journey to the end was one few students who begin that program ever complete. However, this was one case where my memory and OCD tendencies helped me. Graduation was one of the most amazing days of my life. But, my most amazing day was when my now husband proposed. Every little girl dreams of being Cinderella someday, and he pulled off the proposal of fantasies.
At the risk of sounding cliché, I’m going to let it out there and say how much I absolutely adore the man I’m married to. Along with my children, he’s my whole world.
I’ve lived in Louisiana, Tennessee, and Georgia, but I’ve had my feet in almost every state. Traveling is something I adore, and have plans to someday see the Mongolia I’ve written about in Yassa.
One of my favorite things is hearing from fans! You can find me on social media most any day of the week. Connect! I’d love to hear from you.
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Chapter One ~ Mom and Dad
Little Shelia Morgan stood in her living room, using her chubby, six-year-old arms to hold her teddy bear while she cried. Recordings of her dad’s violin music played in the background and people kept walking through the room and hugging her. It was making her more scared than she was when Aunt Ivy told Shelia she’d have to go live somewhere else because her parents wouldn’t be coming back again.
Aunt Ivy and Uncle Melvin didn’t come around very often. Shelia didn’t know why, but she’d been to visit them once and didn’t like it there. Their house smelled like old people, and Aunt Ivy hated kids. As Ivy sat in Shelia’s mother’s favorite recliner and chatted, the child watched with intensity. Aunt Ivy never smiled at anyone coming in and hadn’t shed a tear since the news of the deaths had come. Shelia couldn’t figure it out; even the police officer had cried when he’d given them the terrible news. She knew her mother and Ivy were sisters but had no idea why she wouldn’t be crying. It all seemed wrong somehow. All Shelia knew was, she did not want to go live with her Aunt and Uncle—not ever.
A nice lady from Child Services showed up after everyone left and offered to help Shelia pack her things. They chose seven outfits, two pairs of shoes, and a few photographs to put into the tiny suitcase. When the locks clicked, Shelia began to cry in earnest. It all felt so final, and the “click” seemed to lock it into place in a way nothing else had. She launched her little body at the social worker and cried into her shirt.
The woman pet Shelia’s hair and whispered, “It’s okay, baby. I know you’re scared. You’re gonna be okay. Shh…”
Shelia jerked back and looked the lady in the face. “I don’t have to move with Aunt Ivy and Uncle Melvin, right?”
“No. I found you a really nice place to go where you’ll be very loved.”
“But Mommy and Daddy won’t know where to find me as angels,” Shelia said, stepping away and wiping her nose on her sleeve.
“They always know. But if it makes you feel better, we can leave them a note, okay?”
Shelia’s head bobbed up and down.
“Do you have paper and pencil?” the woman asked.
Racing around the room, Shelia gathered her drawing paper and crayons. She sat down, and the lady helped draw a picture telling the angels where to find their little girl.
The lady held Shelia’s hand, and they walked out to the car where she was put in the back seat and buckled in. Aunt Ivy watched from the porch as they drove away but never lifted her hand to wave.
After a time in the car, Shelia saw they were turning up the driveway of a little blue house with a swing set in the yard. She was hustled out of the car and brought to the door.
The lady that answered was thin, tall, and pretty, wearing a flower-pattered apron over her t-shirt and jeans and no shoes. There was flour on her nose, and the scream of a baby could be heard from the depths of the house.
She smiled and squatted down so she was Shelia’s height. “Hello there, Shelia. I’m Mary Alice. It’s nice to meet you.”
“Hi,” said Shelia. She turned and grabbed the other lady’s pants, feeling shy.
Mary Alice stood up to talk to the social worker. “I’m sorry to hear about her parents. We’re happy to take her in. I’m so glad you called me.”
“Yes, it’s a tragic story. Poor kid. She’s too little to even understand what’s going on. You have my number; call me if you need anything.”
“I will.”
Turning and looking down at Shelia, the social worker said, “You’re going to stay with Mary Alice. She’s really nice, and there are other kids here you can play with, too. Don’t be scared, honey. We told your mom and dad where they could find you.” She peeled the child off her legs, turned Shelia and the suitcase over to Mary Alice, and left.
Shelia stood on the porch and cried, her teddy bear dangling from her hand.
“Sweetheart, why don’t you come on in, and I’ll introduce you to the other kids.”
Tilting her head back, Shelia looked up into the twinkling eyes of Mary Alice before taking her hand, sniffing, and nodding.
“There’s a good girl.”
In the kitchen, there was chaos. The baby was still crying, and two kids around Shelia’s age were running around, whooping and hollering.
“Janet, Michael! You two stop that! You’re makin’ Cleo cry!” Mary Alice said. She snatched the two mid-stride and deposited them in front of Shelia. “This is Janet; she’s eight. This is Michael; he’s five. That,” she said, gesturing to the baby in the highchair, “is little Cleo; she’s just seven months. My husband’s name is Herb, and he’ll be home later. You can meet him then. Do you want somethin’ to drink?”
Shelia shook her head and clutched her teddy bear to her chest.
Janet narrowed her eyes at Shelia and the bear.
Michael smiled.
Cleo wailed.
Mary Alice threw up her hands and said, “Okay. Ya’ll go outside and play. I gotta get this baby to stop screamin’ or I’m gonna tear out my doggone hair.”
Janet and Michael bolted for the door, but Shelia hung back. Instead, she curled into a corner of the couch where she cried into her teddy bear’s fur until she fell asleep.
Sometime in the middle of the night, someone moved her, and she woke up in a bed with bright, colorful sheets on it. When she opened her eyes, she began to cry again until she remembered where she was and why. Those thoughts made her want to snuggle back under her covers and go back to sleep. Maybe forever.
Instead, she got out of bed and went in search of a bathroom. She did her business and was on her way back when she found her path in the hall blocked by Janet.
“What?” Shelia asked.
“How come you sleep all the time? You sick or somethin’?”
“No, I’m sad.”
“How come?” asked Janet.
“Because my mommy and daddy went to stay with God, and they didn’t take me with them,” Shelia answered, her voice faltering.
~~~~
Shelia relaxed into the buttery leather of the couch and closed her eyes. A voice that seemed too far away was like a mosquito buzzing in her ears, and she just wanted to shut out the woman’s words. Shelia took a deep breath and let it out in a rush.
“Now, Shelia, you need to remember what happened when you were little. Hypnosis has never hurt one of my patients, and it might help us unlock what’s in your head, making you sad.”
“Look, lady, I’ve been to countless shrinks like you. They all say they want to help me fix this and help me fix that. Nothing’s wrong with me.” Shelia lifted herself into a sitting position. She adjusted her too-tight shirt and squirmed.
“That can’t be true. You’re battling some kind of personal demon. The problem is: you won’t tell anyone what’s really making you sad. Is it moving out of your aunt and uncle’s house?”
She snorted. What a ridiculous thought!
Dr. Candy sat forward in her chair and leaned forward. “Why did you snort like that? Did I ask a stupid question?”
“Um, because those two treated me like a slave? I cooked and cleaned and mowed and washed my whole life while I lived under their roof. I was happy to be out of there! I thank God every day Ivy didn’t spend the money from my parents’ house being sold.”
“But there must be something you’re repressing or you’d be happy now,” said the doctor.
Repressing, my ass, thought Shelia. She knew damned good and well what demons she was battling. Sinner! For the previous few months, she’d been trying to work off the weight she’d put on since her twelfth birthday. Seven years of overeating in an attempt to disgust Melvin had taken its toll.  A lot of good that did. That bastard still came after me. She hid her thoughts with a smile. “I am happy. Why would you think I’m not?”
“Your posture, the way you never have a kind word to say about your relatives, and the look on your face right now,” answered the doctor.
“So I’m uncomfortable in my skin. Big deal. I’ve been working out.”
“I’m not talking about your weight, Shelia. I’ve read in your file that you were in a foster home after your parents had their accident. Can you tell me what happened there?”
“Nothing. I cried in bed for a day, and then I was taken away and given to that pair of vipers that call themselves my family.” Shelia bit her bottom lip at the memory of Janet and her fear of being taken away from Mary Alice; that little girl had obviously seen horrors Shelia couldn’t even have begun to imagine at that age. She thought she’d learned just how the girl had felt and why. Thinking about anyone doing something to Janet like Melvin had done to Shelia made her shudder.
Dr. Candy pressed for more. “Tell me about the years you spent with your aunt and uncle.”
“What are you pushing me for? You have everything in your stupid file, right?”
“I want to hear what you felt, not read what your papers say.”
“Fine! I got taken away from a real nice lady and put into the hands of slave drivers. I cleaned, cooked, and took care of the house from age six to age eighteen. Never did they give me anything I wanted. I wore second-hand clothes and got a haircut once a year. Because of them, I couldn’t even make a friend and keep one. Is that what you want to know?” Shelia was breathing hard as she finished her speech and hoped like 

From the Grave

Title: From the Grave
Author: Karina Espinosa
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Cover Designer: Orina Kafe ArtWorks
Editor: Beyond DEF
Publication Date: December 13th, 2018
 
Blurb:
Secrets don’t stay buried forever.
Mackenzie Grey is a lone wolf who’s earned her fair share of battle scars from the past, but that’s all over now. Or so she thought.
Known as the Freedom Princess, her heroic deeds have come with a heavy price when a mysterious new villain emerges, one who’s intent on killing Sebastian. As a new breed of danger lurks on the horizon, secrets between Bash and Kenz pile up and her worst nightmare is realized.
Mackenzie spent the last three years learning who she was in Origins. Now she will face her greatest challenges in Trials …

Karina Espinosa is the Urban Fantasy author of the Sins of the Fallen series and the Mackenzie Grey novels. Infatuated with travel, pop culture, and the need to write everything down, she spends much of her days in front of a computer working on her next book, shopping online, and listening to music. With nomadic tendencies, she is currently resting her head in South Florida until the itch to move strikes again. You can usually catch her on Facebook, Instagram and live-tweeting during episodes of Game of Thrones, The Walking Dead, and Orphan Black. Follow her on social media!

 
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*Disclaimer* While it’s not required to read Mackenzie Grey: Origins before From the Grave, it is recommended.

 

Box Set: https://amzn.to/2SbSkuX

 

Blackened Magic

Title: Blackened Magic
Author: Emily Cyr & JoJo Bartlett
Genre: Urban Fantasy/Paranormal Romance
Cover Designer: Lori Gundy
 
Blurb:
Sawyer’s in big trouble. Lord knows, she’s never been a great student, but she never expected to be an inch away from flunking her economics class this close to graduation. Failing is definitely not an option and she’s running out of hope. That’s when her roommate suggests contacting a warlock who will sell her an oh-so-illegal spell to help her pass the final.
Kane is almost a free man…er warlock. He has one last job to do for the magical cartel, and then he’s out of here. He’s tired of them taking all his money when he knows he can make more cash out on his own. But before he delivers the cartel’s spell to them, he takes a call for a side job– to deliver an outlawed spell to a desperate college student. Only, he screws up. Big time.
Both Kane and Sawyer must dodge the magical police, the cartel, and enemies neither of them knew they had. If they don’t fix Kane’s mistake, it will cost them more than Sawyer’s life; it will cost them everything.
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Emily Cyr is a stay-at-home mom turned writer. She holds a degree in middle grades education with certification in English and social science. She has always had a love of all things paranormal and fantasy, but it wasn’t until Emily’s husband said the words, “Why not?” that she considered putting her thoughts and ideas into the book, The Lightning Prophecy. This trilogy was just the start for Emily. It seemed to open a creative door that had been locked.
Emily has always been an avid reader. Through reading came her love of writing. The more she read, the more she knew she wanted to create her own world. Many of her first works were fan fiction.
Emily and her family currently reside in San Antonio, Texas. She has an incredibly supportive husband, who is also an officer in the United States Air Force. They have three sons, ages 6, 5, and 2. Somehow, even with the demands of being a parent to three little boys, she finds time to escape to her fantasies and write them down.
Currently, Emily has two urban fantasy series out, but stay tuned via her web-site, http://www.EmilyCyr.com, for more!
Author Links:
Instagram: emilycyrauthor
 

JoJo Bartlett loves soft blankets, the color blue, and laughing so hard she snorts. She’s never met a chocolate chip cookie she didn’t like. If you ask her husband or two kids, they will tell you she considers being called “weird” a compliment. Should the opportunity to participate in shenanigans with JoJo ever be presented to you… seize it, with both hands (or however many you have).

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Retribution

Title: Retribution (Outliers Saga, 3)
Author: Kate L Mary
Genre: Adult Dystopian
Publisher: Twisted Press
Editor: Lori Whitwam
Publication Date: November 9th, 2018
 
Blurb:
With the Outliers united and the Fortis eliminated, Indra thought she was nearing the end of her journey. Instead, Asa went into the city only to be captured and the Sovereign decided to unleash the full power of their technology.
Now, bleeding and separated from her husband, facing a traitor and an uncertain future, Indra finds herself wondering if she united the Outlier tribes simply so the Sovereign could destroy them more effectively.
With vile characters, brutal conditions, and vicious creatures, the final chapter in the Outliers Saga will take readers on an unforgettable journey. Follow Asa and Indra as they fight to start a life together while facing impossible choices that will test their limits and show them what sacrifice, forgiveness, and love really mean.
Kate L. Mary is an award-winning author of New Adult and Young Adult fiction, ranging from Post-apocalyptic tales of the undead, to Speculative Fiction and Contemporary Romance. Her YA book, When We Were Human, was the 2015 Children’s Moonbeam Book Awards Silver Medal Winner for Young Adult Fantasy/Sci-Fi Fiction, and the 2016 Readers’ Favorite Gold Medal Winner for Young Adult Science Fiction.
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Beauty’s Cursed Beast

 

Title: Beauty’s Cursed Beast
Author: Mary E. Twomey
Genre: Fairytale Retellings/Paranormal Romance
Publication Date: October 2nd, 2018
 
Blurb:
When you push everyone in your life away, sometimes they stay gone.
Going from being Avondale’s Sexiest Bachelor to becoming hideously deformed turns Adam Fontaine into an angry shut-in. Though he’s doomed to mutate into a growling member of the Lupine when his thirtieth birthday comes, he wants nothing to do with enjoying what’s left of his sentient life.
When his last remaining friend hires a nurse to look after him, Adam realizes there’s more to his life than just his impending curse. Soon Adam has to decide how far he’s willing to go to keep the woman he loves by his side, hoping she’ll stay with him through his last days.
Mary E. Twomey lives in Michigan with her husband and three adorable children. She enjoys reading, writing, vegetarian cooking and telling her children fantastic stories about wombats.
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Chapter Three.
A Word from the Sheriff
The musty basement hadn’t been used in at least a decade, and even then, it hadn’t been for the traditional purpose most would associate with dungeons. Adam’s gaze flitted over the first cell, where he recalled engaging in raucous sex with a woman who’s name he couldn’t recall. He remembered the fire in her eyes when she’d asked about his dungeon, and her wild screams of ecstasy when she got to fulfill her daring wish of defiling a dungeon. Before then, Adam guessed perhaps his great-great-grandfather had used the space for its intended purpose.
The brass two-foot tall candelabra lit the way, casting shadows that made Fabrice jump with trepidation. Fabrice didn’t fight him, but Adam didn’t lessen his jerky movements as he threw the old man into the dank, cold and dark cell. “You should know better than to pull one over on me.”
With arthritic fingers, Fabrice brought himself to his feet and held tight to the bars. “Please, Mr. Fontaine. Sheriff Aston does stuff like this all the time. He’s angry that I won’t give him what he wants, so he abuses his power to try and twist me. If it was anything else, I might bend, but not this.”
“Save your stories for someone who cares.”
“You should care!” Fabrice cried out when Adam turned his back. “You should care because it’s your business that suffers. The sheriff makes up tariffs and takes money we don’t have. Then we’re late on paying our mortgage to you. If it doesn’t affect your conscience, then you should at least be upset that he’s gouging your bottom line. How many homes have you foreclosed on in the past year in the West Village?”
Adam paused, and turned his chin to glance at Fabrice over his shoulder. “Too many. But I always abide by the contracts. I wouldn’t force an eviction on your home if you were only two months late. No sheriff would enforce it if I did.”
Fabrice nodded, now that it seemed they were finally getting somewhere. “Yes, but a notice was posted on my property, and you’ll see I was only two months late. And we wouldn’t have been late if we hadn’t had to pay four thousand dollars in an unexpected bridge tax this year. No one can keep up. As soon as we pay the tax, another comes. I’m telling you, many are losing their homes and their reputations because the sheriff is taking money that’s rightfully yours.” Fabrice’s fingers tightened on the bars. “I’ve only been able to keep up because he didn’t give me the newest tariff. Everyone else in the village had to pay, but we didn’t.”
Adam didn’t like being in the dungeon, but he turned to face Fabrice and folded his arms over his chest, resolving himself to hear the man out if it affected his business, as Fabrice claimed. “And why is that?”
Anger flashed in the old man’s eyes, causing Adam to take a step back. “Because Gabe Aston wants my daughter! He’ll do anything, including throwing me in jail, to get at her. When the newest tariff came about, she went to him without my knowledge and agreed to take him up on his bribe.”
“What bribe?”
Fabrice’s voice shook with palpable pain. “He said he would drop the tax on our family if she agreed to go away for a weekend with him.” Fabrice cringed as he gripped the bars, his eyes squinching tight. “I hope you never have to know what it feels like to have someone you value more than anyone else in the world allow herself to be traded like trash and trinkets to a violent swine like the sheriff.” He sniffed, his wet nose running and red. “The eviction notice was just to scare me. The false charges for arrest is what’s truly dangerous, though. If he takes me away and locks me up, then my daughter will have no one, and he’ll win.”
Adam gaped at the old man, wondering how he’d stumbled into such a tangled web that had apparently been going on right under his nose. All he’d seen were the numbers. The annual household income, and the average mortgage price. He hadn’t understood why the people in the West Village couldn’t pay their rent. On paper, it certainly looked like they had the means. He’d assumed they were lazy, uneducated or frivolous, but apparently it had been something else entirely.
For the second time that day, Adam’s doorbell rang. “That’ll be the police. Faster than I was anticipating. Stay here, and I’ll get it all sorted.” He pointed at the old man with a menacing finger. “Never come to my house with this much drama again.”
It was the humble, “yes, sir,” that made Adam cringe. Had Fabrice been petulantly silent or begged for more time to make his case, Adam wouldn’t be able to justify the gruff behavior he’d never hesitated to heap onto strangers. Adam clenched his fists but didn’t say anything. In fact, just for the man’s sweetness, which had no real place here, Adam shut the door without turning on a single light, taking the candelabra with him, and shrouding the old man in darkness.
Adam’s steps were heavy as he stomped up the stone steps. The chill in his house was far more unforgiving in the basement, making the drafty main floor feel like a heated sunroom by comparison. He stalked over to the front door and flung it open. “Sheriff,” he greeted the dark-haired officer, but didn’t invite him inside.
From a single look, Adam had a hard time finding holes in Fabrice’s story. He’d never seen a cop wearing fine leather shoes before. Gabe’s black, coifed hair was perfectly done, and his face was shaved so closely, it looked like a barber had recently done it. He wore four gold rings, each of them shiny, jeweled, and something to stare at.
It wasn’t the opulence that put Adam off – he himself had plenty of baubles in the safe upstairs – it was the bawdy impracticality, and the obvious display of wealth that didn’t seem befitting with the “servant” aspect of “public servant” all cops usually adhered to.
“Do you have the suspect inside?” Gabe adjusted his gold name badge and flashed a perfectly white-toothed gleaming grin at Adam. His uniform shirt was two sizes too small, which allowed him to show off his musculature with the simplest flex.
“Depends. I do a lot of entertaining. You’ll have to be more specific. Who are you looking for, and what’s he being charged with?”
Gabe’s smile fell, and the squat, portly cop standing on the stoop behind him shoved his hands in his pockets. The deputy had part of his shirt untucked, his pants were too big for his shorter frame, and he had a clubbed foot. “You were the one who called in the tip. Surely Fabrice is here. His old beater is still in your driveway.” He jerked his thumb in the direction of the car.
Adam grimaced at the hideous vehicle, and silently marveled that it had made it all the way to his home from the West Village. “What’s he being charged with?”
“Public disturbance.”
“Well, as you can see, he’s not in public, and he’s only disturbing me. I’ll not press charges for that. Show me the warrant, and then tell me why you posted an eviction notice on his property. I’m the mortgage holder. You can’t carry through that process unless I initiate it, and I haven’t.”
The deputy shifted nervously, and scratched an itchy spot on the back of his head. His brown hair was messy and didn’t look like it had seen the inside of a barber in months. “You saw that, did you?”
Gabe didn’t waver, but Adam could see the lie blooming in his haughty eyes as it curled his upper lip. “Must’ve been a paperwork mix-up, then. I’ll remove the notice. I know he’s late on his payments, though.”
“And how would you know that?” Adam folded his arms across his broad chest, not holding back his stature that towered still a couple inches over the strapping Gabe.
At this challenge, Gabe shrank marginally. “Word around town spreads.”
Adam’s puffy upper lip coiled in a sneer. “You posted an eviction notice on hearsay?”
Gabe backpedaled quickly. “I was over their house. I’m dating Fabrice’s daughter, you know.” He adjusted his belt, as if to brag to Adam about the prize he’d nabbed. “Anyway, I saw the late notice in the mail on the table. Thought I’d do you a favor and start the process for you.”
Adam scoffed, understanding enough of the story to realize Fabrice had been telling him the truth. “How about this: if Prince Henry looks into your dealings with Fabrice and his daughter and finds anything shady, I’ll have you throw in your own jail. How does that sound?” He snarled as he fisted the doorknob. “I don’t need a crooked cop doing me any favors, and I certainly don’t need him breaking the law and blaming it on my company.”
Gabe’s jaw clenched as he took a step back, bumping into his partner, who fell backwards off the cracked concrete dais. “I can have the charges dropped, if that’s what you need.”
“I need you to do your job. If you’re not capable of doing that, Prince Henry will replace you.”
Gabe raised his hands, his sneer juxtaposing with his humble words. “Consider the charges dropped. And I’ll remove the eviction notice first thing.”
Adam was about to slam the door in his face, but the cough of an old red sedan caught his attention. He frowned, wishing the outside world would just leave him alone already, but paused his impending tirade when the squeaky car door opened, and its owner stepped out.
Adam hadn’t seen any woman aside from Rory in so very long. She had long legs, which she put to use stomping toward Gabe with a steadiness that belied the tremble in her slender fingers. With a look of brazen determination on her heart-shaped features, she beelined for the porch with an angry story on her face. “Gabe, how could you? Where is he?”
Gabe hopped down the steps and offered her a cocky smile he produced out of nowhere. It had a sideways tilt, and his voice carried a note of bravado that Adam found off-putting. “Here I am, tasty cakes.”
Adam’s face soured at the term of endearment. He didn’t need to know the woman to understand that the nickname didn’t suit her – or anyone, for that matter.
“Where is my father?” she clarified with a ripple of disgust marring her beauty. “He left a note that he was coming here. Why are you here? Where is he?”
Her hair was the color of pure maple. Despite the bun it had been fashioned into, several bits had fallen out, and blew back with the bite of the wind. The snow was deep enough that her jeans would be wet at the ankles, which for some reason bothered Adam. Her gloves were just as tattered as her father’s, but the holes in her winterwear made him irate instead of indifferent, as he had been with Fabrice.
“Belle, calm down. You’re always so tense. Let me give you a ride home. Your face is positively red with the cold.” Gabe leaned toward her with a smarmy grin that made Adam recoil. “Or perhaps that’s a little blush I see.”
Adam felt as if it could be seen from space how much she loathed the man who was clearly making a pass at her – and badly, at that.
Belle didn’t address Gabe, but made her way past him up the porch. When she took in Adam standing in the doorway, her big brown eyes grew impossibly wider. She seemed to forget her mission at the sight of his beastly features, but finally her shrunken voice found the words. “Sorry to bother you, sir. Have you seen a man around here who answers to Fabrice?”
Adam hadn’t been addressed by a beautiful woman in ages. Sure, the kingdom was enamored of Rory’s delicate features, but he’d known her since they were children, and didn’t appreciate her beauty the way the public did. He straightened his posture and wished he’d changed into proper clothes that morning. Or showered. “You’re welcome to come in and wait for him here.”
Gabe spoke for her the moment she opened her mouth to respond. “I’m sure she would rather wait in my squad car. Come on, Belle. We’ll make Rufus ride in back.” He let out a haughty laugh that Rufus joined along with halfheartedly.
Adam held open the door for her and jerked his head to indicate the choice was hers.
Despite her obvious reluctance to be near the deformed man in pajamas whom everyone knew was a gruff shut-in with mental health issues, Belle braved the unknown rather than stay another second in Gabe’s presence. She would take a chance on the monster who used to be a man, rather than stand another second next to the man who was truly a monster. “Thank you, sir.”
The moment she stepped inside, Gabe moved to follow her. Adam stood in the doorway, his barreled chest blocking the path and proving to the arrogant sheriff that he would not be intimidated. While Gabe was powerful in his village, Adam had deep pockets and even deeper connections. “You don’t step inside without a warrant, Officer. You can call to confirm that the eviction notice has been removed, and then I never want to hear from you again.” He slammed the door and locked it, wondering how his day had gone so very off the rails.

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