Wrought Iron Roses

Title: Wrought Iron Roses
Author: Elizabeth Kirke
Genre: NA Paranormal Romance
Editor: Squid and Ink
Cover Designer: Najla Qamber Designs
Publisher: Siren Press
Publication Date: March 21, 2019
Blurb:
Sisters Rachel, Angie, and Jo may have survived their first encounter with a curse, but hundreds more are lurking within their aunt’s antique shop. There’s just one problem: Peter, the apprentice, has no idea how to start teaching two untrained rune-casters and keep them safe at the same time.
Naet
It isn’t fair to Jo that she has no magic, but her sisters both do. She feels useless and left out. Worse yet, she knows that she’s a liability. She would leave but something in the shop is calling to her, reaching out … and she won’t leave until she finds it.
Ail
Every night, Angie’s dreams are haunted by a man who claims he was cursed, and she’s the only one who can save him. When she starts to get sick, Peter and her sisters are sure the cause is her mysterious dreams. How can they convince her that the person she’s determined to help could be the one killing her?
Eles
Rachel never expected to get a magic power and a boyfriend when she inherited the antique shop. Better yet, she’s actually good at curse-breaking. It seems as though she’s found exactly what she was meant to do. But, when a curse strikes two people she cares about, Rachel is faced with the harsh truth that she might only be able to save one.
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Elizabeth Kirke wanted to be an author before she even knew what an author was. She used to say that she wanted to be an artist, but that was only because she was too young to write and had to tell stories with pictures instead. She hasn’t stopped writing since she learned how. It wasn’t long before she dreamed of becoming an author and couldn’t be happier now that that dream is a reality.
If she isn’t writing…well, let’s be honest; if she isn’t writing she’s probably on Facebook thinking that she should start writing. But, if she isn’t writing or on Facebook, she’s probably doing something involving books, baking, gardening, or yarn. In an ideal world, she’d be reading and knitting while something from the garden is in the oven. Then again, in an ideal world, she’d have a flock of ducks and a couple of goats.
Like most slightly-nosy, avid readers, Elizabeth can’t resist trying to catch a peek at books she sees people reading when out in public to see if she can figure out what it is. While doing just that one day, she realized that it would probably be the coolest-thing-ever if she caught a complete stranger reading one of her books. That’s her new dream.
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The dim, dirty, scattered light bulbs hanging from the ceiling did almost nothing to help illuminate the back rooms of the antique shop. Angie wondered if anyone had ever bothered to try dusting them. Probably not, considering everything was covered in several inches of dust. Then again, the light bulbs probably weren’t cursed, whereas dusting anything else could be dangerous.
Angie made her way to, in her opinion, the creepiest room of the shop. Of course, every room was creepy. Each one was a huge, cavernous space, filled to capacity with piles and piles of antiques. None of the lights reached into the dark corners, which only added to the unnerving factor. The air itself felt stale to Angie, heavy somehow. Oppressive. She wondered if it was the dark magic.
But this room, which Peter jokingly called The Louvre, made Angie uncomfortable even before she’d known everything in it was cursed. Every inch of considerable wall space was covered with paintings, masks, and sconces. The floor was equally packed full of statues and sculptures. Angie could see outdoor furniture and birdbaths too, like some freaky garden supply store. The first time she entered the room it felt like the statues were staring at her. Now she wasn’t entirely sure some of them weren’t.
“Be careful,” Peter warned, as he and Rachel continued through the room. Rachel had volunteered to help him look for something about dreams, even though she wouldn’t have much luck reading the actual tomes.
“We will,” Angie promised. Jo nodded in agreement.
Angie turned her attention to one wall of paintings. She traced the rune ail three times and looked around. Everything had a muted aura with a distinctly pink tinge. It was nothing like the vivid red light of an active curse, but there was no mistaking the malicious magic clinging to everything. Angie suppressed a shiver and began scanning the paintings, hoping to spot one that looked different.
“What are you looking for exactly?” Jo asked.
“I’m not sure,” Angie admitted. “I was hoping ail would show me something, but nothing stands out. I thought maybe the curse affecting Ethan wouldn’t be sealed like the rest of these.”
“Can you tell the difference?”
“I think so. The trunk was bright red when it was cursing Rachel. Everything in here looks pink.”
“I wish I could see it,” Jo said sadly.
Angie knew there was nothing she could say to make her sister feel better. She doubted that pointing out Peter and Rachel didn’t have the same power would help. And even with the danger of being a rune-caster she knew Jo would rather have magic than not.
Instead, she flashed Jo a weak smile and moved closer to the paintings.
Jo followed. “Can I help anyway? Somehow?”
“Actually, yeah,” Angie said. Jo’s eyes lit up eagerly. “Since I don’t see anything different in the magic, I was thinking maybe we could tell which painting it is based on what it looks like.”
Jo caught on immediately. “You mean you think the painting might be of Ethan?”
“Exactly.”
With a nod, Jo started wandering toward another wall of paintings. “So, we’re looking for portraits, then?”
Angie nodded back and headed to a corner. Slowly, she made her way along the wall, studying each portrait, waiting for the moment she felt a sense of recognition.
“Hey, what about this one?” Jo called.
“What does he look like?” Even as she asked, Angie realized she couldn’t quite recall him. Her gut told her blond.
“It’s hard to say. It’s a big farmhouse, but there’s a guy standing in the doorway.”
Angie wrinkled her nose. “That’s not a portrait.”
“I know! I was thinking of that book we read when we were little. Remember? There was a girl who went missing and her parents found her in a painting and she kept moving around it?”
The plot sounded familiar. “That’s right… damn that means he could be in any of these that have people.” Angie went back to the corner and started over again, squinting at each tiny figure. And then, up high, she spotted one that caught her eye. She had dismissed it before for not being a portrait. It was a man sitting in a chair in a room. But something about him seemed strange. Almost like he was trapped there. She stretched up on her tiptoes trying to get a good look.
“Hey, An?”
“Yeah?” she said.
“What if these are all people?”
Angie frowned in the direction of her sister’s voice. “They’re not all people!” She looked back at the wall and pointed, even though Jo couldn’t see. “This one is a basket of fruit.”
“No, I mean these are all cursed, right? What if there’s a person trapped like Ethan in every one.”
The thought made Angie step back from the wall in alarm. Her eyes roved over every painting, taking it in. What if Jo was right? “That’s… horrible. There must be a hundred.”
“I’ve seen more in other rooms.”
Angie sighed. This was going to be a nightmare. And if people were somehow trapped in them all… “We’ll have to ask Peter. Maybe we need to start breaking the curses on these as soon as possible.”
“Agreed.”
Angie backed up a few more steps, craning her neck at the highest paintings. Why even hang them so high? It’s not as if they were on display for anything or anyone. It would have been easier to just stack them all together somewhere. She bumped into something and jumped. After turning to see what it was, she nearly jumped again. It was one of the statues.
“Ugh!”
She started to turn away, but paused and studied the statue. It was a young, handsome man. He had a sad expression and Angie decided it was exactly what she was looking for in a painting. The statue no longer had arms, and Angie wondered how old it was and what it had looked like in its prime. Something drew her eyes to its face again and she frowned. She reminded herself it was cursed, and forced herself to turn away.
Right next to it was a chair. In fact, it was a sturdy, metal garden chair and Angie was confident it would hold her weight. Giving the statue a wide berth, she made her way over to the chair, dragged it to the wall and climbed up, face to face with the painting of the man in the room.
Up close, it was clear he was in distress. His face and his posture screamed for help. And yet, Angie could just feel that he didn’t look like Ethan.
She climbed down with a sigh and moved on to examine more paintings. Eventually she made her way to the far corner, so dark that Jo was shining her phone flashlight up at the paintings.
“Anything?”
“Nothing. Not that I know what he looks like. You?”
Angie shook her head. “I found one that looked weird, but up close I don’t think it was him.”
“There’s a stack over there,” Jo pointed. “But I wasn’t sure if we can touch them.”
“As long as we’re careful not to cut ourselves, Peter said we’re okay,” Angie said. “But if you feel funny or anything, let me know and we’ll set aside the last one you touched.”
Jo nodded. “Same to you.”
They turned their attention to the stack of paintings leaning up against the wall. After only a few, Angie heaved a sigh.
“You okay?” Jo asked.
Her sister nodded, but blew out another heavy breath. “I’m starting to feel a little light-headed.”
Jo immediately cast a worried glance at the paintings. “Light-headed or… cursed?”
“I’m… not sure.”
“Let’s go get Peter.”
Angie nodded in agreement. The two carefully separated the last painting they examined from the pile and headed out of the room. An uneasy feeling crept over Angie as she followed her sister out. She paused in the doorway and looked back, reluctant to leave.
 
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Unbound Spirits

Title: Unbound Spirits
Author: Christine Pope
Genre: Paranormal Romance
Cover Designer: Christian Bentulan (Covers by Christian)
Editor: Katherine Tomlinson, Story Authority
Publication Date: March 20th, 2019
Blurb:

Are they the hunters…or hell’s hunted?

With the troubling aftermath of Project Demon Hunters’ first investigation still heavy on his mind, Michael Covenant awaits Audrey Barrett’s arrival in Tucson to film the second episode.
Except she never shows up.
Michael’s sense of foreboding is confirmed when his psychic gift pinpoints the exact spot outside the airport terminal where her panic and terror have left an indelible impression. Someone has taken her against her will, and it’s anyone’s guess where she is now.
Audrey can’t believe her eyes. Her kidnapper is a demon wearing a dead man’s face — a demon furious that she and Michael closed the portal he’d been using as a direct connection to hell…a demon who’ll stop at nothing to take his revenge.
Like a homing beacon, Audrey’s very soul reaches out for the man who broke her trust but still holds her heart — Michael, who fears that even if he reaches her in time, their fight with this particular demon has only just begun….
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USA Today bestseller Christine Pope is the author of the paranormal romance Witches of Cleopatra Hill series and the Djinn Wars series, among many other books (sixty and counting!). Researching UFOs brought her to magical Sedona, Arizona, where she now makes her home. Find out more about her books at christinepope.com.
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Unquiet SoulsUnbound SpiritsUnholy Ground

They headed toward the space where Susan had left her Subaru. However, they’d only gone a few yards when Michael stopped, his entire body going cold, as if he’d just been pushed into an unheated swimming pool.
“What is it?” Susan asked, pausing as she looked at him with some concern.
“I don’t know,” he replied. His teeth wanted to chatter, and he clenched his jaw. “Something dark. Something evil.”
“Here?” She looked around in bewilderment at the parking lot, at the rows of cars shimmering under the bright sun.
He could see that sun, but he couldn’t feel its warmth. Even though he felt as if his legs couldn’t move, they were so numb, he somehow managed to force himself to take a step forward, then another one. Slowly, the icy feeling dissipated until it was gone entirely.
Just to be sure, Michael began to retrace his steps. At once the cold surrounded him again, so tangible, it was like walking into a wall of ice. It seemed to emanate from a single parking space they’d passed. He went to it, and experienced a sharp shock of horror and surprise, gone quickly but still somehow thrumming in his bones.
Those weren’t his emotions, however. Somehow he knew he was experiencing what Audrey had experienced in this very spot less than an hour earlier.
“Michael?”
He turned and looked back at Susan, who stood at the edge of the parking space, her expression a study in confusion. Clearly, she couldn’t feel anything, was only responding to his own reactions.
“I don’t know where Audrey is,” he said slowly. “But I’m fairly certain she’s in very grave danger.”
 

First Love

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First Love
by Gillian Jones
 
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Series: Winning at Love; Book 2
Genre: RomCom / Contemporary Romance
 
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Kami Sutherland is gorgeous and – if the rumours are true – a virgin.
 
That – and the fact she’s my sister Eastlyn’s best friend – should be enough to keep a guy like me from crossing any lines.
 
However, our glances, subtle touches, and feelings are evolving beyond just friendship and being running buddies.
 
Despite my sister’s attempts to keep us apart, I only want Kami more. 
 
I know I shouldn’t crave her like I do, but she’s too damn hard to resist.
 
Kami has an infectious smile, one I look for whenever she’s near, one I want all to myself. 
 
And as the years pass, it’s all clicking into place: Kami wants me, too.
 
So, all bets are off.
 
There’s no way I can resist making her mine.
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Wife, mother, shoe collector, pun lover, and proud Canadian. Teach by day, pantser of words by night.
 
Connoisseur of red wine, and a lover of a good IPA.
 
 A firm believer in that forever kind of love.
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Missing In Action

 

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Missing in Action
by K.L. Donn
 
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Genre: Contemporary Military Romance
Series: Task Force 779; Book 1
 
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Ryder Morrison is a man of loyalty. To his country, his family, his team.
 
After joining the Navy, he was secretly recruited to Task Force 779, a specialized unit that infiltrates dangerous situations when no one else can – or will. As the communications expert, it’s his job to clear the way for a smooth mission. He knows where the enemy is hidden at all times and when his team can enter a zone safely.
 
When things go wrong and he’s captured, declared dead before a search can truly begin, Ryder knows that when he makes his way home, his life will be different … his way home, his life will be different … better. He’ll live for himself from now on, instead of following where duty takes him. 
 
Enter his elusive neighbor …
A woman of mystery and fear.
 
Codie Ray is a woman filled with pain. Afraid of life and locked away.
 
She counts to soothe the anxiety. She watches her neighbor because he’s her only lifeline to the outside world. He’s a commitment she doesn’t have to worry will break her. Until the unthinkable happens and her solace is intruded upon. Ryder comes to the rescue and barges his way into her life, pushing past her barriers, causing Codie to rethink her reclusive lifestyle. Slowly being tormented with mind games from an unknown predator, she battles her better judgement and trusts Ryder to do what he does best … hunt down the perpetrator.
 
Their connection is instantaneous. Two broken people yearning to be loved but afraid to reach for it. Codie fears Ryder will leave when he discovers just how damaged she is. Ryder worries Codie will remain locked away in her mind, unable to break free. 
 
A surprise mission brings both of their fears to life, and when the walls crumble, Ryder is Missing in Action while Codie is just … missing. Will they find each other again or will they disappear, existing only in a memory?



Photographer: Paul Henry Serres
Model: Simon – Instagram
Designer: Sensual Graphic Designs

 
 
 
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An Extra Alpha

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Book Title: An Extra Alpha: An Mpreg Romance, Pine Wood Falls Book 2

Author: Sarah Havan

Publisher: Self-Published

Genre/s: e.g. Contemporary M/M Romance, Mpreg romance

Trope/s: e.g. threesome

Themes: e.g. self-acceptance, trust

Heat Rating: 4-5 flames

Length: 72 000 words/ 365 pages

The story is part of a series but can be read as a stand alone

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Tagline

They didn’t realize they could both get him pregnant.

Blurb

Thomas escaped his ex and has settled in at Pine Wood Falls. He found himself a nice job, has a cute little house, and his twins are now five months old. The last thing he wants or expects is to go into heat again so soon. He tries to fight the urge but can’t hold off any longer.

Campbell catches the scent of his fated omega. He finally found the one and can’t wait to start a family. So he goes to one of Pine Wood Falls get togethers to do what nature wants of him, what he wants–to mate with his fated one, but the situation gets turned on its head when there’s another alpha there that wants his omega.

All Griffin wants is a good time. He doesn’t believe he’s fated for anyone, that’s all in the past. He just wants his needs met, but another alpha stands in his way. Luckily, they all come to an agreement. The three of them together.

They don’t think they can both get the young omega pregnant. Thomas doesn’t think he’s fated for either of them, but when he ends up pregnant with quads, they all have some things to work out.

 

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Excerpt

Chapter One

Campbell

My time for a family had finally come. For days, the scent of my fated omega lingered in my nose. A smell so sweet and intoxicating. He was on the verge of going into heat, and now there he was, right across from me in the very place I first picked up his scent — The Pine Wood Falls Welcome Center.

“Can I help you with something, sir?” he asked. I took in a sharp breath as he looked up at me with his amazing green eyes. He swiped a strand of his light-blond hair out of his face and stood up, shuffling some papers on his desk. I had about a good foot on the omega in height. He was small and precious, and even though he didn’t know it yet, my future.

“I’m supposed to meet with Mr. Jones.”

“Okay, I’ll let him know you’re here.” His eyes then darted around the office. “Mr. Jones usually meets with everyone out in the dayroom.”

“All right. I’m Campbell. Campbell Vallejo,” I said, holding my hand out for a shake.

“Thomas,” he said, shaking my hand. He gasped when our palms met. Neither of us pulled our hands away.

“Nice to meet you, Thomas.” I gave him a smile, and his cheeks flushed bright pink.

He nodded and glanced down.

“Campbell, good to see you.” Mr. Jones walked into the small office and clapped me on the back. Thomas let go of my hand and dropped his arms to his sides.

“Hello, Mr. Jones.” Mr. Jones was a tall, attractive man with dark brown skin and a happy smile. His omega passed away years ago, so he now focused all of his attention on Pine Wood Falls. The very community his family started.

“I see you’ve met Thomas.”

“Sure have.”

“He’s our newest hire. Pine Wood Falls is growing, and we needed someone to help things run smoothly. He’s going to be a great administrative assistant.”

“Just start?” I asked.

“No, it’s been a couple months. I’m just not very good at my job, I guess.” Thomas’ face fell, and he fiddled with a file folder he picked up and held in front of his pants.

“I should reword that. You are a great administrative assistant.” Mr. Jones smiled and put his hands on his hips.

“Thanks,” Thomas whispered.

“Thomas,” Mr. Jones said.

He glanced up.

“You are. Now, Campbell, let’s go out to the dayroom and have our strategy meeting.” Mr. Jones led me out from the office, through the foyer, and to a table in the corner of the dayroom. He waved at a chair for me to sit in.

“I don’t think I’ve seen Thomas around before. Is he new to the community?” I glanced over my shoulder, hoping he’d be standing there. One omega knitted in the corner with a couple of baby carriers at their feet, and an alpha/omega couple sat on the back couch, but no Thomas.

“Newish. He showed up here about five months ago on the verge of having his babies, and we took him in. He’s been a little wary of others, so he doesn’t venture out much. Up until about a month ago, he worked from home.”

“And his alpha?” I asked because if he already had children perhaps somehow my senses were off. Maybe I was just smelling the part of him that was about to go into heat and not the part that would be mine.

“Gone, and we’re glad of that, bad news, but I shouldn’t talk too much about the poor boy. I’m sure he wouldn’t appreciate it.”

“Of course.”

Mr. Jones and I got down to work. He wanted to use my skills as a creative director at an advertising firm to help reach alphas and omegas who are new to Pine Wood Falls or hadn’t found their way there yet.

“I can make up some nice informational booklets for those who just arrive.” As with any new project, my mind whirled with tons of ideas.

“And for those who have just found out.”

“Of course, I can do that.”

“Some come to our meet and greets, but it would be nice to give them something they can take home and read, and some don’t want to talk to others yet.” Mr. Jones said.

“I could imagine if you just found out you had the alpha or omega wolf gene, it would be a lot to process.”

“Yes, it is a lot, but we’ve been lucky to have you here since you were born.”

“And I love it here and would never leave.” I did go away to college, but returned to live, working in the city not too far away. My dream was to find my fated omega and live the life I only hoped for. I lost family when I was younger and raised by a widowed omega.

“Now how much is your going rate?” Mr. Jones clasped his hands together on the table in front of him and gave me a smile.

“I’m not going to charge you. It’ll be my way of giving back.” That was how Pine Wood Falls kept going after so many years. We all did our part.

“That’s so kind. Now, what do you know about websites?”

“You want to take us public?” We were proud of who we were but knew the reality, how the general population would more than likely react negatively to a group of people with wolf genes and how a large portion of them, the ones with the omega gene, were intersex who can carry and give birth to children. Slowly, men (not all omegas identified as men, but many did) having children was becoming socially recognized, but most the omegas didn’t like the attention that it brought. We mainly wanted to keep our way of life quiet.

“No, but I wish there was some way for people who look online for information to have a way to reach us or to learn more, but without having a site saying what we are. And that sounds pretty impossible.”

“Would a site with an email and phone number do?” I asked.

“But how would they know they found the right thing?” Mr. Jones waved to a young couple that had walked in. One of them being a very pregnant omega.

“Keywords. People search by keywords, so if someone searched up male and pregnant, your site would come up, but it wouldn’t have to say any of that on the site itself.”

Mr. Jones smiled. “That sounds perfect.”

“I’ll get right on it.”

“Thank you so much, Campbell.”

“No problem. You and Pine Wood Falls have done so much for me. It’s about time I gave back.”

“You donate plenty.”

“It’s about more than money. Anybody who has it can donate it.”

“You’ve contributed so much to the community. You just don’t realize it.”

“Thanks, and I’ll get started on this all as soon as I get home.” As I left, I took in a deep breath, the scent of Thomas lingering in my nose, making me so hard.

 

 

 

About the Author

Sarah Havan grew up in the Midwest and still actually lives there. She has an appreciation for having all four seasons. She writes all kinds of romance, but most recently has focused on gay romance in her writing.

She is also the author of Falling Into Trust, One Night Alone, and the Pine Wood Falls series.

 

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Calendar Men Series – July

 

Being the Worthington Heir means one thing: relinquish your balls to the board. I’ve known this since I was a kid, but twenty-one seemed so far away, and I always thought there was a way out of my prison. Instead, the closer I got to my sentence, the more I realized the unlikelihood of breaking free. I’ve been granted one more year of freedom, I have to choose between honoring my family commitment and accepting the inheritance, or my football dreams and the girl I’ve loved since I was fifteen.

This is Book 7 in Calendar Men Series.

Each book is a complete stand alone connected only by the fact they each have a relevance to a particular month.

 

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About the Author

Sonya’s a nerd—a cool nerd—who loves science, books, make-up and unicorns. She even has unicorn slippers and unicorn plushes adorn her office. It’s not obsession (or so she says), it’s simply an ode to her imaginative side.
She believes in fairytales and in the beautiful things a mind can conjure. She’s a firm believer of empowering the crazy fictional ideas, putting them down on paper (figurative paper because she’s not a fan of writing in notebooks), and letting them flourish into a story.
Don’t believe me? Ask her in any of her social media. She’s all about those connections.

 

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★‿¸.•*´´*•.¸(*•.¸¸.•*)¸.•*´´*•.¸‿★

 

 Men in the Series:

January – Jude Ouvrard

February – Scarlett J. Rose

March – Susan Horsnell

April – Aleisha Maree

May – Cheryl Wright

June – C. Renee

July – Sonya Jesus

August – Cari Robe

September – Heather Osbourne

October – RaeAnne Hadley

November – Margaret Tanner

December – DL Gallie

Join the group to find out about the authors, this series and the upcoming Calendar Gals Series

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Irresistible

Title: Irresistible
Author: Tara Vasser
Genre: Adult Paranormal Romance
Cover Designer: Dawn Til Dusk Designs
Models: Chase and Mandy Borst
Publisher: Winter Musings LLC
Publication Date: April 11, 2019
Hosted by: Lady Amber’s PR
Blurb:
Buried as punishment for a crime he didn’t commit, Endre has nothing but time to plot revenge on his betrayer. Salvation arrives when an archaeology student unwittingly exhumes his coffin and provides him with the first blood he’s tasted in nearly a century.
Upon awakening from an attack by a creature she never imagined actually existed, Nora discovers she is now his hostage. Forced to accompany Endre from Italy to Paris on a quest for vengeance, she is thrust into his dark and forbidden world where she finds herself inexplicably drawn to the Vampire. Lust runs rampant throughout the course of their journey and Nora begins to question if the irresistible connection between them is more than mere biology.
Tara Vasser is a wicked writer who lives in the frozen north in Minnesota with her wonderful husband and two rambunctious little dudes. She is an engineer during the day, a crazy mom in the afternoon and a writer at night. She enjoys spending her time playing in the dirt when her gardens aren’t covered in snow and listening to a wide variety of music that inspires her writing – sometimes doing both at the same time.   

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PROLOGUE
1923 – Italy
Endre sat beneath the shadow of a massive cork tree in his garden, reading the newspaper as he watched the first rays of sunshine peek over the hills to the east. It was a pity he could not give his full attention to the beautiful view, his mind burdened with the troubling headlines. Folding the paper with a deep sigh, he pushed the paper and his thoughts of Mussolini’s latest moves to overtake parliament to the side. Perhaps it was time to leave Italy and move on to greener pastures. There was an ominous scent in the wind, and it spoke of the death and destruction on the horizon.
Endre was no stranger to war and chaos, having been born a warrior. When conflicts arose in the world around him, his hands always itched to take up sword and shield. But of course, those days of ending wars with steel were over. Now, the weapons of choice were guns and bombs. There was no honor in that. No promises of glory or feasting in the halls of Valhalla when so little skill and preparation was involved.
Valhalla or no, the political climate of this region was no longer hospitable to his research. Secrecy was completely necessary, and the alliances Gregor had forged to provide Endre with supplies for his lab would not stand the threat this new breed of fascism posed. Glancing over at the horizon, he frowned. He had been out here long enough; it was time to retire for the day, and he would allow his dreams to conjure his next moves and put new plans into place when twilight fell. Endre picked up his paper and made his way toward the door when the noise of automobile tires crunching over the gravel drive and shouting stilled his movement.
“Back here! In the garden!” a voice hollered from the garden entrance.
A man dressed impeccably in a suit with a homburg gracing his head stood at the entrance of the sanctuary. Endre did not recall his name, he only knew the man as one of Lorenzo’s bodyguards. The man gestured wildly in Endre’s direction.
Several more of Lorenzo’s bodyguards filed in behind him, posturing menacingly.
Confused, Endre watched the men as they lined the perimeter of his garden, violating his last few moments before the sun crested over the hill. “What is this? Where is Lorenzo?” he scoffed, standing his ground when they surrounded him where he stood, preparing to fight if the need arose.
“I am here,” Lorenzo’s French-accented voice called leisurely from the garden entrance as he strolled forward and casually buttoned his suit jacket.
Sighing with relief, Endre relaxed at the sight of his friend.
Lorenzo sauntered into the garden lazily, stopping to inspect a blossom before meandering his way through his men to stand in front of Endre.
“And to what do I owe this honor?” Endre questioned suspiciously, watching Lorenzo carefully. It was much too close to dawn for them to be conducting business.
“Endre, you have been charged with murder,” Lorenzo recited in a bored voice, placing his hands in his pockets and rocking back on his heels.
Endre’s head jerked back as if he had been struck. Murder? He was being charged with murder? “And who is it exactly that I am supposed to have killed?” Endre demanded, outrage making his voice boom through the still morning air.
“Count La Rossa.” Lorenzo sighed sadly. “Why did you do it, Endre?”
“You cannot be serious.” Endre balked, sure this was some prank. “Gregor is dead?”
The men surrounding him took a step closer, as if of one mind.
“I did not kill Gregor,” Endre protested, though he found himself falling back on his training from another life and crouched into a fighting stance.
Several more men joined the mob, men from Gregor’s guard, flanking Endre now with more than a dozen men. At most, he could take out half of them before they would bring him down, leaving another half dozen to beat him mercilessly and likely kill him in the process—merely for resisting. Any defiance would be futile, but he would not go down without a fight, especially for a false charge.
Lorenzo shook his head sadly at Endre’s change in demeanor, as if his instincts of self-preservation condemned him of the crimes for which he was accused. Lorenzo raised his voice loud so all the men could hear him. “Endre, you are hereby charged with the murder of Count Gregor La Rossa. Your brothers here will serve as judge, jury, and executioners of your sentence. The traditional punishment for such a crime, as you are well aware, is burial. Your death by starvation will serve as justice by the old laws laid forth by The Council. Guards, seize him and prepare him for his punishment.” Then, turning back to Endre, he taunted, “I think we will bury you here in your beloved garden.”
Several of the guards pulled out pistols and made moves toward Endre.
Cowards, of course, they would not face him without firearms.
Endre lashed out, but he had only his fists. He managed to knock two of the guards to the ground before they had him pinned to the moldering leaves in the dirt.
Fists were no match for bullets.
Watching with one eye—the other caked in blood and dirt—three men began digging his grave beneath the large tree and another two hauled a plain coffin through the garden gates.
At the sight of the coffin, Endre redoubled his struggled to break free. “Lorenzo, this is nonsense. Gregor was my oldest friend and confidant. He was like a brother to me, just as you are. I would never harm him. What is the evidence against me? I demand a trial with The Council. It is my right,” he spoke around the dirt in his mouth.
Scowling down at him disapprovingly, Lorenzo approached slowly. He stooped and picked up Endre’s fallen fedora, brushing dirt from the fabric.
An entreating glance at Lorenzo earned Endre naught but a kick to the face. This man was no friend. Endre wondered if he had ever been. Blood from a gash above his eye poured down his face, but healed almost as quickly as it occurred, leaving dried blood caked to his eyelashes. Through crusted lashes, he watched as Lorenzo stood above him and removed his own hat, placing Endre’s atop his head instead.
Smiling, Lorenzo gave a nod of approval at Endre’s taste in men’s fashion and tossed his hat to one of the men standing guard, inciting a round of chuckles from his henchmen.
Fury boiled in Endre’s veins as his ‘friend’ betrayed him and made light of the unlawful punishment he dealt. How could Lorenzo believe Endre capable of such a crime? It was unlike Lorenzo to dole out consequence without following proper protocol.
Unless Lorenzo had something to hide. Something he worried The Council would unearth if the matter were brought to trial.
Realization sunk like a stone in Endre’s gut as he put the pieces together.
When the guards finished digging the grave, the men casually tossed the coffin into the pit at Lorenzo’s gesture. The dull thud sent a chill through Endre. He continued to struggle against his captors, but with three of them now detaining him, he received nothing but a pistol whip to the head and kicks to his ribs.
With a nod from Lorenzo, the guards hauled Endre to his feet and dragged him toward the yawning opening of the coffin awaiting him. At the foot of the open box, two of the guards held his arms while one bound his hands in front of him with thick rope. Endre let out a shout when one man grabbed his hair and held his head back so he gazed directly into the lightening sky. From the corner of his eye, Endre watched Lorenzo pull a wicked-looking dagger from a sheath at his hip. The blade glinted with the light of the rising sun, a shining omen of Endre’s imminent demise.
“Lorenzo, please,” Endre spoke to the man before him, the man he had considered a friend until this day, “I—”
Lorenzo only gave Endre a devious grin and prevented any more words from escaping his lips with a quick slash of his blade across Endre’s neck. Blood cascaded from his neck and he choked as it drained into his throat. Within seconds, the wound had already begun to heal itself, the blood flow stanched. Lorenzo’s blade dashed out again, performing the same motion across the nearly-healed laceration. Again, Endre choked and sputtered on his own warm blood and any words he wished to speak.
Light-headed from the blood loss, Endre fell to his knees. The guards holding him stepped back and left him with Lorenzo glowering down at him. Endre’s head lolled to the side and he was barely clinging to consciousness. All it took was a well-placed kick from Lorenzo and he fell backward into his new prison.
Several of the guards made a move to place the lid on the coffin, but Lorenzo stayed their movement with a wave of his hand. “Leave us. I want to speak to this murderous traitor alone before we leave him to the worms,” Lorenzo ordered, his eyes never leaving Endre’s fading ones.
Several murmurs went through the small crowd. That was not the way. Tradition and adherence to the old laws stated the sentence must be carried out before an amassing of the people, so all could witness what fate befell a murderer of his own kind.
“Leave us!” Lorenzo roared, turning to stare down each man in turn.
The guards filed from the garden, leaving Endre with Lorenzo and his bloody blade.
Lorenzo couched so his face was close to Endre’s.
Endre only wished enough blood had still flowed in his veins so he could reach out and relieve Lorenzo of the triumphant smile gracing his lips.
“Endre,” Lorenzo whispered with a sigh, “I warned you not to approach Gregor to back your research, and yet you did. Not only that, expressing wishes to distribute your cure at no cost?” Lorenzo tsked and shook his head. “He would have done it, too. Threatened to expose me for lack of loyalty to our people. Unfortunately, he miscalculated. The man was too much of a philanthropist for his own good. He never did understand the power his money held. Such a waste. And here we are. Someone has to take the fall for Gregor’s death and justice must be served. It might as well be you. His blood is on your hands as much as mine, all because you could not follow simple directions. We could have profited from this together, you and I. I would kill you now if it would not upset the delicate sensibilities of our people. But alas, I cannot. Perhaps in a century or two, I will come check on you and finish the task when everyone has forgotten your existence.”
Endre glared up at Lorenzo, the lack of blood preventing his wounds from healing and allowing him to foil his new enemy’s plans.
“But do not worry,” Lorenzo continued, brushing dirt from his trousers. “I will not let your research go to waste. I still have plans for the work you have done, but perhaps an adjustment here and there to suit my own needs.”
Endre only had the faintest inkling of what kind of dastardly plans Lorenzo was concocting, but the malicious smile gracing his lips was indication enough that it would not be good.
Rising to his feet, Lorenzo glanced down impassively at Endre once more. “You should have listened to me, old friend. Now, you will have plenty of time to think on your cure and the error of your ways while you rot in your grave,” Lorenzo spat out with a maniacal laugh. Bending over, he slashed out with his blade one last time.
Endre felt the slightest trickle of blood ooze from the cut, so little of the liquid remained in his body.
At a shouted order from Lorenzo, the guards all marched back into the garden.
Endre attempted to alert them to Lorenzo’s treachery, but the only sound from his mangled throat was a pained moan. The lid of the coffin was lowered, blocking out the dazzling sunshine of the new morning, and hammers pounded out the finality of his death sentence. The last glimpse Endre had of Lorenzo was a mocking tip of the hat, his hat.
This box would not hold Endre forever, and when he rose, he intended to rain down retribution, and when he came for Lorenzo, it would be all-out war. The last thing he could hear between his own thoughts of revenge and each shovelful of dirt falling on the wooden box was Lorenzo whistling happily with the belief he had gotten away with his crimes.

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