Apple Boy

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Book Title: Apple Boy (The Quiet Work #1)

Author: Isobel Starling

Publisher: Decent Fellows Press

Cover Artist: Valentine Pascadian (Lennel)

Genre/s: Fantasy, M/M Romance

Heat Rating: 3 flames

Length:103 600 words/ 556 pages

Release Date: February 15, 2019

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Blurb

After a traumatic event, Winter Aeling finds himself destitute and penniless in the backwater town of Mallowick. He needs to travel to the city of Serein and impart grave news that will bring war to the Empire, but without a horse, money, and with not a soul willing to help him, he has no choice but to line up with the common folk seeking paid work on the harvest.

As wagons roll into the market square and farmers choose day laborers, Winter is singled out for abuse by a brute of a farmer. The only man who stands up for him is the farmer’s beguiling son, Adam, and on locking eyes with the swarthy young man Winter feels the immediate spark of attraction.

Winter soon realizes there is a reason he has been drawn to Blackdown Farm. The farmer possesses a precious item that was stolen long ago from Winter’s family, and he determines to retrieve it. He also cannot take his eyes off the farmer’s son, and as the young man opens up Winter can’t help wondering if Adam is just kind or his kind!

Excerpt

“Apple Boy” by Isobel Starling

CHAPTER 1

MARKET SQUARE

“You boy, aye, YOU. Ain’t never seen ye round ‘ere before,” The farmer directed his bellow at me.

It was sunrise, and at last, I’d found the courage to step out of my hiding place and join the common laborers who gathered in Mallowick market square. We were waiting for the farmers’ carts to come by and choose their day workers. I’d watched this ritual each morning for the past three days, peeking out from shadowed doorways, or while crouching behind barrels.

It was harvest time, and it appeared to be routine for peasants to walk from the surrounding hamlets before dawn and assemble in the square to seek work on the farms. There was wheat, barley, root vegetables, and tree fruits to be gathered before the weather turned. I was informed by a ruddy looking fellow in the tavern that anyone could get work on the harvest, and so, with my pride cut to ribbons and my pockets empty, I’d stepped out of the safety of my hiding place and joined the commoners.

“Does ye wants work or no’? Look at me when I’m talkin’ to ye. What’s yer name?” The burley farmer roared. I looked up, stunned to be singled out from among all of these strapping men and hardy looking women, for I felt invisible. Four carts had already passed and taken their pick of the young, strong peasants, but none of those farmers gave me a second glance. I should have known something was afoot, for when this particular wagon turned up the women in the square shrank back into doorways, and men sidled away to lean against buildings. On the side of the wagon, writ-large in bold off-white letters were the words BLACKDOWN FARM. There were around thirty of us left on view, like cattle.

I had never partaken in manual labor or any kind of work before. I was a gentleman and far more familiar with spending my days relaxing, reading, attending social events in the city, or taking a horse for a gallop in the country. But my life had changed since I’d become stranded here in the Pasturelands provincial town of Mallowick two weeks earlier. Now I was living on my wits. Each day was a fight for my life, and I’d sold all of my fine belongings, intending to pay for passage on the stagecoach from Mallowick to the city of Serein. But I had not thought things through, and it did not happen that way. My body’s needs took precedent. I’d become so ravenous, and therefore the meager coin I’d gathered from selling my finery was spent on what I could afford—basic rough barley bread and ale, just enough to stave off the gnawing pangs of hunger in my belly each day. Now, I had no belongings, and the money was all but gone. I was no thief, and the only thing I had left to sell was my body. Looking like a wretch, I did not believe I could earn even a copper that way! Before I left on my travels, I was warned that the province of Erias had strict rules about men bedding other men and I did not want to tempt fate. I was at a loss—hard labor or starvation were the only choices available to me. Gods, if my father could see how far I’d fallen in such a short time, he would be thoroughly ashamed. I was living hand-to-mouth, and if I dared to seek out my reflection and observe my disreputable state of dress, I was sure I would see I was no longer a gentleman at all.

I assured myself that all would be well as soon as I could get to the city of Serein. There I would attend my father’s depository and obtain funds from his account—as had been arranged, and then, I could find my way to my uncle’s residence and attend to a much grimmer business.

So, with no other choice, I was here, standing in Mallowick market square with a bunch of rough-looking fellows and ruddy-faced women with just the ragged clothes I stood in to my name. I wondered if my visage had taken on the same gaunt, starved, haunted look some of them wore.

“WELL?” The farmer roared.

“Leave him be Pa; I think he’s a mute. P… p… please don’t—” A swarthy young man urged, stepping to the farmers’ side. The man appeared to be in his early twenties, with broad angular shoulders, slim hips, and wavy jaw-length hair that longingly reminded me of Montestein tea. When the morning sunlight broke through the clouds and caressed him, the strands of his hair revealed all the shades of autumn. It was beautiful. His eyes were bright emerald green, and his skin bore the wind-burned tan of a man who spent his days working the land. I met his gaze for a second that seemed to stop time, and I felt a flutter of longing erupt in my gut. I found myself mesmerized by him. He appeared a little embarrassed, for himself or for me, I wasn’t quite sure. The farmer turned to his son.

“Shut that filthy mouth o’ yours, apple boy!” he spat. His large meaty hands twitched. He sneered and glared at his son in such a wicked way I knew it should have been followed up by a sharp slap. I worried that the young man would endure further public humiliation at the hands of his father, but the farmer moved his disdainful glare back to me. I shuddered with fear. I had a feeling that he was saving his son’s punishment for later—away from the prying eyes of the townsfolk. I did not like that thought, not one bit. I did not know why the farmer was drawn to me, but he sized me up with a sweeping glance of consideration, then wrinkled his nose as if he’d sniffed a revolting stench—I hadn’t bathed in two weeks, so maybe I did smell a tad ripe!

“Is ye a mute?”

I shook my head. I would say, if anything, I was deeply traumatized by the unfortunate circumstance I’d found myself in, but no, I was certainly not a mute. I just wasn’t used to a lowly man speaking to me so roughly. Generally, men who dared to address me knew their betters and behaved appropriately. But here in Mallowick, in the province of Erias, I was no better than a beggar on the street. There was no one I could call on for favors, no one who, on hearing my family name, would loan me coin for the stagecoach or a horse to ride to the city and send word to my father.

When I’d first arrived in Mallowick, telling the truth of my station had gotten me dragged down an alley where my finger and earrings were stolen, and I’d received a beating. This farmer from Blackdown Farm had no idea who I was, and I would not make the same mistake again.

I took a breath and stepped out of line. “Master Irwin Harding, sir. You may call me Win.” I winced at hearing my own soft, well-spoken voice, with my accent, the clipped tongue of Thorn. I had not used my real name and wished I had not used my true voice either. The fact that I was the son of the Duke of Thorn meant nothing here. Thorn was west of Erias, on the other side of the Silua Montis Mountain range, and I doubted any of these illiterate souls in Mallowick knew anything other than that folklore passed around by storytellers.

The farmer stepped to stand in front of me. He was a big, bulky bastard of a man and stank of stale sweat and baccy. He had a grizzled podgy face and thick dark hair shot with strands of silver pulled into an untidy tail. The tension grew between us, and I worried I’d spoken out of turn. I looked down and watched my bare, filthy feet as if they held endless fascination. I’d seen men like him before. He had hands like shovels, and I’m sure they’d done damage in their time. My father would have used a man like him well, probably as muscle to intimidate the city folk while the Royal Chancellor did the rounds collecting taxes.

Afraid and sweating with anxiety, I glanced up and away, unable to look at the farmer directly and meet his fierce piggy eyes. Instead, I looked left and caught the eye of his son. I felt another flutter of attraction. I was grateful for it because it dampened my fear a little. The glance the farmers’ son sent me back was sheepish, apologetic. He shrugged and put a finger to his lips, signaling for me to hush. I’m sure now he knew what was coming.

Master, is it?” The farmer gave a raspy malevolent chuckle. “Well, well, well aren’t ye an uppity little scrote. Such a pretty voice an’ all. Have your balls dropped yet, lad?”

The townsmen men standing around me shuffled on their feet and snickered uncomfortably. I could tell from the tentative laughter they were afraid of this man too. My chest tightened with fury, and I felt the flare of heat rush to color my cheeks. If in Thorn I would have put this fellow in his place, but as directed by the farmers’ handsome son, I held my tongue.

I dared to look up as the farmer scratched his grizzled chin and consider me. It was then I saw it. A chill iced my bones. On his chubby right index finger, he wore a gold ring set with a large red gemstone that I was aghast to see held the intaglio engraving of a rose thorn—my family’s seal. How had this disgusting Pasturelands farmer come upon my family’s ring? Anger curdled my gut, but I forced myself to focus and fixed my features so as not to alert the man to what I was looking at. That ring was more precious than I could say. It was not set with any common gemstone, oh no, the setting was Star-fall. The legend was that mortal tools could not cut the rich-red Star-fall stone. The gemstone was shaped by sorcery, and the power that carved into the gem was stored inside it as if the Star-fall was a reservoir for the magic. It was illegal for any other than the Twin Kings of Osia to own Star-fall. The king’s men had scoured the Empire to remove all traces of the priceless gem from common and aristocratic hands and possessing it was a death sentence. Did this ruffian have any idea what he wore?

Not getting a rise from me, the farmer stepped yet closer and found out for himself if my balls had dropped. He reached for my privates and squeezed.

Ahh, ye got some big stones de’re al’right, boy,” he said with a filthy sneer.

“Done any labourin’ before, lad?” My eyes watered. I shook my head and winced as the pressure on my most sensitive parts rose. I wanted to shout and push him away, punch him in that bristly pug face. I’d trained in hand-to-hand combat and swordplay, but that was of little use to me now that I had no sword and was cast as naught but a commoner myself. I stood frozen to the spot with fear, my cock, and balls in the hand of this brutish man. I was sure that clutching my nethers was not the best way to test if I would be a good apple picker.

The farmer let go, stepped back, and looked me over again like he was sizing up a prize pig. I wanted to keel over, hold my sensitive parts and howl, but, with my eyes watering, I kept my back ramrod straight and looked past the farmer, using his son’s regretful, pretty green eyes as my focus.

I appeared to be a boy, but I am nineteen and about to make my majority. I have a tall, willowy frame, and little muscle to show for my near twenty summers. Weeks before, I was clothed in the silken garb of a lordling, but all I wore now were my stinky silk britches and a once-white linen shirt. I’d even had to sell my fine leather boots. My flaxen hair hung loosely to my shoulders and was bedraggled. My mother had always told me my hair shone like a golden halo. I guessed that was no longer the case. I had not seen my reflection in two weeks so I could only imagine how frightful I appeared to onlookers. My circumstance was terrible, but I refused to let it defeat me. I was a son of Thorn, I was a gentleman, damn it, and I was prepared to do whatever it took to do to find my way to my destination and seek justice for all the ill-luck that had befallen me.

“Right, scrote, up on the wagon,” the farmer declared. “We can always do wit a few extra scurrier’s fer the windfalls.”

I had no idea what that actually meant, but strangely relieved to be selected, I nodded subserviently and then, ducking my head to avoid the farmers’ glare, I scurried to the wagon where I surreptitiously gave my aching intimate parts a gentle rub.

I’d heard from a fellow in the tavern that harvesting wheat at Robinswood Farm was backbreaking, as was digging root vegetables at Windy Oakes Farm. He advised that apple picking was easy work and if I could get employment at Weatherby’s or Blackdown Farm, they paid good coin. He said the mistress at Blackdown was particularly well-liked and always gave laborers a bread and cheese luncheon with last season’s cider. I was so hungry that bread and cheese sounded like a banquet. The fellow had neglected to tell me that the farmer was a brute!

The farmers’ son met me by the wagon and offered to help me aboard. For a moment, from the look of consideration in his eyes, I thought he could see past the disheveled state of me to the gentleman I’d once been. But that was ridiculous. The farmers’ son hopped up onto the back of the wagon with dexterous athleticism, and then offered me his hands. I took them without a thought. His warm touch and the strength in those work-roughened fingers twisted my gut into uncomfortable knots. He fixed my gaze as he gripped both of my hands and tugged me up as easily as if he were lifting feather down. He pulled me closed and pressed me to his hard chest.

“Don’t back chat him or it’ll be the worst fer you,” he whispered the warning to my ear. Alarmed, I eased back from him and cautiously met his eye for a split second. In the look he gave me I saw that the warning was well-meant. Bewildered, I nodded in thanks and understanding. I had no idea why this stranger was looking out for me, but the fact he was warmed my heart. I choked back a tear. No one had looked out for me over these past weeks, and I had been so terribly lonely. I’d learned some hard life lessons on this leg of my journey, and I’d come to understand that here my title was irrelevant, and without money I was suddenly invisible; therefore small kindnesses meant more than I could say.

My adventure into the provinces had been made to appease my father for my supposed ‘lack of direction.’ I’d become bored with my easy life in Thorn, and not intending to marry; I’d told my father that in-light of my upcoming twentieth Bloomsday I wanted to tour the Empire. If I were to one-day become Duke of Thorn, I needed to know a little of the politics of each province and so, pleased with my initiative and happy to be rid of me for a while, he’d set me on my way. I’d toured the provinces of Terria, Corvay, and Reuss and then continued to the province of Osia, spending time in the capital city Altea, at the court of the Twin Kings, Kristoff, and Fabian Von Harte. With this journey to Erias, I was to have the full set of provinces under my belt. But fate was not on my side.

On benches affixed to either side of the farmers’ wagon sat fourteen men morosely staring at their bare, filthy feet, not a word of chatter between them. They each owned a small pack of belongings and a wrapped blanket that each had stowed beneath the bench. At this moment they were better-off than me, for I did not even have a blanket to my name. There was space for me and five more, totaling twenty men. The farmer chose from the remaining laborers with less consideration than I had been afforded.

“Right… I’ll take Allin, Jed, Arthur, Bartram, and Matty, that’ll do me fer the week,” he hollered decisively.

The week? I thought I’d promised myself for a hard day’s labor? But then again, I considered the harvesters who were sitting in the wagon, and yes, they appeared to have prepared for an overnight stay. Confused, I sat down as the other laborers were pulled up onto the wagon by their comrades, and then we shuffled along the benches until we were all seated. I noticed the shoulders of the remaining men in the market square sag a little in apparent relief as if some mighty weight had lifted from them. I didn’t understand it. I thought they’d wanted to work?

The farmers’ son clambered over into the front of the wagon. His father climbed on, the man’s bulk shaking the timbers of the rickety wagon as he settled on the bench beside him. The son handed his father the ribbons, which the farmer greedily snatched up, and then with a fearsome bellow of “Geddup” and a thunderous whip crack, the large mottled grey workhorse began its cumbersome trot down the main street and onto the dusty road to Blackdown Farm.

About the Author

Isobel Starling spent most of her twenty-year professional career making art in Ireland. She relocated to the UK and, faced with the dreaded artist’s creative block, Isobel started to write and found she loved writing more than making art.

Isobel is currently working on her nineteenth book.

“As You Wish” (Shatterproof Bond#1) narrated by Gary Furlong won the Audiobook Reviewer Award for Romance 2018. It is the first M/M Romance audiobook to win a mainstream audiobook award.

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The Bitching Tree

The Bitching Tree

by Scott Hungerford

An urban fantasy novel about a very small crow.

Available on Amazon Kindle for $3.99

Set in the modern-day world of the Corax Chronicles, The Bitching Tree is a story about a very small crow named Cobb.  A crow that loves to fly, he lives in Seattle as a member of the great flock that congregates around the majestic Bitching Tree. Serving both as a site of governance and a place to cast grievances, the tree is the center of Seattle crow society – and also a potent source of nature’s primal magic.

But when news arrives that an ancient enemy named the Red Crow is coming to claim the tree for his own, Cobb is given the task of journeying all the way from Seattle to Cordova, Alaska, in order to meet his new mentor and undergo the training he will need to both protect his flock and keep the Bitching Tree from falling into the hands of evil. But the quest will require Cobb to maintain a delicate balance between the crow he is – and the hero he needs to become.

Opening Pages of ‘The Bitching Tree’

Dawn rises over the Seattle skyline, painting rose over gray at the beginning of an early October morning. Bands of color warm the sky, spreading out across the sleeping city, warming cold brick and chilled metal with the first rays of day.

Hungry, desperately so, he keeps moving along the edge of the rooftop, ticking his way alongside the gutters, scraping along the tar paper, occasionally stopping to check out a glistening tidbit or morsel stuck in the old metal edges. Hunched shoulders, bent back, intent eyes—a wriggling bug becomes another tasty, crunchy snack. It doesn’t satisfy his hunger, but it’s an early morning start. Other crows taw and fly by in the distance, on their way to meeting points and secret breakfast spots they keep to themselves. By the sound of their calls they’re nobody he knows, but they’re kin nonetheless.

Hopping down, he makes an outstretched landing on the edge of an open garbage dumpster below, then conducts a hurried, quick series of motions along the rim, trying to mimic grace, balance, and dexterity. But just as he’s about to reach the center, without fluttering or flailing even once, he slip-slides off the slick metal. Instead of falling in, he falls out—and makes a hard landing on the pavement five feet below, a crash hard enough to clack his teeth, rattle his bones, and leave him sitting sprawl-legged on the sidewalk with pebbles and grit stinging his palms.

“Fuck!” he yells at the world, at the rose color already starting to fade out of the morning sky. Hungry and wet and exhausted, he’s tired of being tall, of everything being so out of proportion, so giant, so skewed. He knows that after the long trip on foot up the hill from the University he’s almost to his roost. It’s just up there in the square of glass and concrete situated above the alley, in the place his body knows deep down as his home.

He. He calls home.

“Fuck!” he yells again, frustrated, dragging it out, making his displeasure known. A dirty gray gull on the wing, feathers ruffling with the sound of its passage, flies over the alley and steadfastly ignores his plight. His eyes follow the scavenger to make sure it isn’t going to circle around and pick a fight. When he is sure that the gull is gone, the man looks back at the ladder that led up to the roof of the three-story tenement—the accursed ladder that got him nowhere but standing above where he lived, and most certainly not within it!

Reaching into his jacket pocket, he pulls out the ring of metal bits, shiny and jagged. He remembers the fluid feeling of key in lock, of long appendages wrapping around a protrusion and clenching hard to open the portal wide. Getting up from the concrete, regretting the pain in his tailbone, he limps around the building to the glass entry at the front. He fumbles with the ring of puzzles until he finds the one he thinks he needs.

Following the man’s memories, he manages to insert the metal bit and deceive the door into opening for him. Once inside, he intuitively sprints up the carpeted stairs and down the hallway to his own scratched white door, number fourteen, as if he’s running for his life.

This door yields for him as well. Inside, it’s warm and safe. He knows he’s alone, in a small number of rooms with nowhere to hide anyone but him. After a lifetime under open sky and living at the roosting bridge by the University, the empty, low-ceilinged set of chambers seems impossibly vast and impossibly cramped all at the same time. Pictures, drawn with lead and charcoal and chalk, are displayed on the walls, showing people and places from all around the city. The bed is a mess. Clothes are scattered across the floor and the laundry basket is full to overflowing. The sink is filled with dishes that stink. The bag in the plastic bin beneath the sink smells of metal and spoil.

Taking off his coat, he drops it on the floor by the edge of the bed. Struggling, he manages to wrest off his shoes without untying the laces, mostly by standing on the heels and shoving down with his misshapen feet with all his might. When he is barefoot he feels better, he feels—

—like his mind is breaking. Wriggling, naked white toes instead of talons. His beautiful feathers are gone and his face is ripped apart, delicate beak replaced with brittle teeth that feel like they would break if he accidentally chewed a stone. Panicked, his body reacts, and he flees by instinct into the tiled room off the hallway. Presented with a low bowl of water and an empty knee-high basin partly protected by a hanging sheet of plastic, he chooses the latter to vomit and splatter into, not wanting to foul any water he might need to drink later. He messily throws up all of the bits and bugs he’s eaten since it happened last night at dusk. He is shocked at the fluid feel of his body giving up precious sustenance so easily.

When the spasms cease and he has the strength to stand again, he rises and washes his face in the sink. Cold water numbs his fingers and the skin of his face. He looks up, and that’s when he sees himself for the first time. Ridiculous rounded ears and brown hair and slight nose, the curve of his jaw and the strange hollow depression resting between his nose and mouth. He touches the weird spot, the inversion, marveling at its distinction, its lack of purpose, even as his wide brown eyes dart back and forth between his hands and the mirror, trying to make sense of his reflection’s naked truth.

Eyelashes are ridiculous, he decides, then looks away, unable to take the shame of his visage. No one would recognize him now, no one he knew and loved. He is a human now, with feet and hands and a history. He is a crow, too, lost in this skyscraper of a body, looking out through twin round-lensed windows at the ground far below, without wings to carry him and prevent him from falling. Just useless hands and elbows and knees, a featherless automaton that moves and repeats and remembers without being told.

Drying his face on a towel, he staggers into the kitchen looking for something to clear the taste of sorrow out of his strangely shaped mouth.

On the countertop he finds bread, a whole dark loaf of it, filled with cracked bits of grain and seeds. Stunned, never having seen such a cornucopia unguarded before, he messily tears open the plastic bag and lets the pieces of bread fall and tumble to the floor. Dropping to his knees, he begins to eat, cramming in mouthful after mouthful with both hands, ripping at the soft fabric of the food, stunned at the taste of freshness and softness that fills every bite. He resists the nearly primal urge to call out, to alert other crows to what he’s found so they can share the meal and safety in numbers together, proof from jays and gulls and whatever other thieves are nearby. But he manages to keep silent, to keep his mouth stuffed with bread, preserving the prize all to himself.

When he’s had his fill, when most of the loaf is gone, he lays down among the torn, yeasty remainders to make sure that no other crow gets his feast. There, half tucked beneath the sink, his head resting on a fallen hand towel, he looks at the art-covered refrigerator. He looks up at the early morning clouds moving slowly outside the window and feels a strange calm coming over him.

He remembers himself for a moment, from back when he had feathers instead of fingers. Amid all the noise and words and images that are in constant tumult within the human mind, he grasps a fleeting memory of why he is here in the human world, lost and alone. Of how it all started for him yesterday morning beneath the canopy of the Bitching Tree, a great sprawling oak with branches reaching high enough to meet the sky.

Protected by Old Thom, the sacred tree is the center of every crow’s world for three days’ flight in every direction. It is where the flocks that live throughout the vast human city come to argue disputes and serve justice upon one another with all the authority the tree offers. The old oak is the heart, their sanctum, the shared place where the old power rises up to aid those who seek wisdom or waking dreams within its sheltering branches.

But he knows the Red Crow is coming. He knows their most ancient enemy is coming to claim the Bitching Tree as its own, with a winged army big enough to blot out the sky. That is why he is here now, in this body. He must find the two-in-one who will teach him to fight. Not just as a crow, but as a man, before all he knows is lost to war and death.

But as terrifying as this knowledge is, he is exhausted. He lets himself fade into sleep, gently, bit by bit, until he makes himself dream of interlaced branches and the smell of warm feathers. But that soon changes and fades as the sacred tree vanishes from beneath him, from around him. Then he is gliding silently down into the unknowable darkness, with only the cold, wailing wind beneath his wings.

About the Author

Hello, there! My name is Scott Hungerford, and I’ve worked as a professional game designer and storyteller over the last twenty+ years of my career.  While by day I currently work as a virtual reality game designer on game apps for medical therapy and training, by night I’m an urban fantasy novelist, an improvisational piano player, and a board and card game designer who just likes to build neat stuff for other folks to enjoy.

Beyond writing tons of short stories, novellas, novels, and all manner of game-related stuff, I’ve worked as a professional game designer and storyteller for the twenty-five+ years I’ve worked in the game industry, even running story for brands like Magic: the Gathering and Mage Knight. Through the course of my career I’ve worked on more than thirty published computer game titles, written for more than fifty board/card/RPG products, and have touched the lives of more than ten million people with my creativity!

While I’ve been publishing books since 2013, the first few fantasy novels I launched on Amazon are pulled down for the moment, as I want to do some rewrites and let my new book editor take a crack at them. But back in the day The Fire Cage landed #1 in Amazon’s YA Steampunk category, Goblin Girl landed #3 in Amazon’s YA Fairy Tales, and Wish landed in Amazon’s Top 20 Sword and Sorcery. With the recent success of Crossroads in August 2018, hitting #2 on Amazon’s Urban Fantasy lists, I’m really looking forward to seeing how my current series is going to play out over the next twelve months!

Care to follow?

You can follow me on Facebook on my author page at @ScottHungerfordAuthor, or use the following link to jump directly to my page: https://bit.ly/2DaOITm

I accept invites to my author page all the time – but know because of Facebook’s policy, I don’t mix my personal page and my business page at all. So, if you want to see information about my books, sign up on my author page, as I rarely post anything about the books on my personal page to make sure Facebook doesn’t get cranky with me!

Also, if you want to know a little more about who I am professionally, or read the occasional essays I post, you can also check out my full presence on LinkedIn at: https://www.linkedin.com/in/scotthungerford/

 

 

Blackout

 

 

.•´✶BLACKOUT¸.•´✶

 

Add to your TBR on Goodreads: http://bit.ly/2GhPAtn

 

Available for preorder at universal link: http://bit.ly/2GjD8Ju

 

Release day: 3.26.19

 

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.•´✶COVER CREDITS¸.•´✶

Cover Designer: Jennifer Bosco Cover Design

Model: Nick Bennett
Photographer: FuriousFotog

 

#blackout #leatherandlace #blackiesback #janineinfantebosco

 

 

.•´✶Blurb.•´✶

 

After years of struggling with alcoholism and drug abuse, I got clean and put my best foot forward. I became the man worthy of Lacey Parrish’s love and made the girl with the sad brown eyes my wife. But I’m not the only one in our marriage with demons. Diagnosed a manic depressive, Lacey struggles daily with her mind, never willing to succumb to the stigma of mental illness.
The odds have always been stacked against us, but the stakes have never been this high. Pregnant with our child, Lacey is forced to choose between her mind and the baby we wished for.
I can take pain, but I can’t take hers.
Helpless and at the mercy of her illness, I turn to my past.
It’s always our favorite sins that do us in.
Leather.
Lace.
Me.
Her.
Suffering through hell, hoping love is enough for us to survive one more blackout.
*A Satan’s Knights MC Standalone*

 

 

 

.•´✶Excerpt-More Than Anything•´✶

Blackout ©Copyright 2019 Janine Infante Bosco
Panting, she falls on top of me. Her perky tits press against my chest as she buries her face in my neck and whispers my name once more. Enjoying the high, I breathe in her sweet scent and wrap my arms tightly around her small frame. It doesn’t matter that I just came or that my dick is still swollen, pulsing inside of her, I’m already looking for another fix. Overdosing on Lacey wouldn’t be the worst thing to ever happen to me. Hell, I can’t think of a better fucking way to go.
“Blackie,” she calls softly, running her fingers down my arm.
“Hmm,” I murmur, flattening my palm against the small of her back.
“We didn’t…” Her words trail as she lifts her head and turns her eyes to me. “You know,” she finishes, worrying her bottom lip between her teeth. Her gaze drifts to where our bodies are still joined, and the weight of her words penetrate through my haze filled head.
I wait for regret to replace my high. For panic to fill her eyes. I wait and wait and none of it happens. She doesn’t scramble off me and I don’t move to lift her either. There is no mad dash to the bathroom to wash my seed from her. There’s just us and the possible promise of something beautiful hanging heavy in the air.
“Blackie, say something,” she pleads.
Lifting my hands to my face, I comb my fingers through my long hair, pushing it away from my eyes. With nothing obstructing my view of her, I take her in. I’ll never understand what the fuck she sees in me. She could have had her pick of men and yet she still chose me. Demons and all, the girl married me and took my name. Took a beaten down drug addict and gave him a purpose. A will to live and a goddamn future.
Reaching out, I cup her chin. The pad of my thumb caresses her lower lip as my gaze trails down her body, settling on her flat stomach. For a second my imagination carries me away and I picture her pregnant. My throat clogs with a mixture of emotions as I let myself entertain the idea a little longer and it isn’t long before I’m envisioning her with a baby in her arms.
My baby.
I don’t deserve Lacey and I sure as fuck don’t deserve the honor of being anyone’s father. I’m a fucking criminal with a rap sheet that spans as many years as my wife has been on this earth. These hands of mine have been covered in blood and aren’t worthy of holding an innocent child.
I’m a fucking addict too.
So, I’m clean—big fucking deal.
All it takes is one time.
One fucking slip.
Being an addict isn’t a choice. Addiction doesn’t go away because you got a woman thirteen years younger than you loving on you, wanting to give you a child. You’re not miraculously healed because you’ve done a stint in rehab and have a sobriety coach on speed dial. It’s a beast that lives inside of me and every day I open my eyes, I struggle to starve that fucking animal. Some days are worse than others.
Like today.
Today, I wanted to tie a tourniquet around my arm and shoot my veins from here to kingdom come. Instead, I came home and abandoned the weight of my burdens by sinking between my wife’s legs. I got lost in her sweet body and ignored the fact that the day I’ve been dreading is fast approaching. That day being the one when Jack Parrish loses his mind altogether and I take his place as the president of the Satan’s Knights MC.  
He’s been grooming me for years. Instilling all his wisdoms and beliefs, sharing his vision for the club and making me lead in situations when he’s more than capable of leading himself. If you ask Jack Parrish if I’m ready to take his place, they’ll be be no hesitation, only conviction as he says yes.
But no one ever asks me if I’m ready.
Just like no one ever asked if I wanted the role in the first place.
For as long as Jack has had the gavel, I’ve been his V.P., the man who sits at his right. The guy who stands between him and any loaded gun. I’ve sacrificed myself on the sword more times than I care to admit. I’ve thrown my sobriety down the toilet and have done more stints in jail than any other motherfucker with a reaper on his back. Loyalty, respect and honor—I’ve got it all in spades. I just don’t have a lick of it for myself.
Focusing my attention back to Lacey, I draw out a ragged breath and lift my eyes to hers. Hope radiates from her dark irises and I swallow the lump in my throat.
When Jack first took office, people called him a liability. They said a mentally ill man couldn’t possibly lead, that he’d act on impulse and recklessly get us all killed. Over the years, he proved himself. He took the hopeless pessimists and made them believers. If a deranged man can lead, then surely a recovering addict can follow in his footsteps.
Maybe I can lead my brothers.
Maybe I can be the man my wife needs me to be.
Maybe I can be someone’s father.
“You want a little Petra running around this house?” I ask hoarsely, tucking a strand of hair behind her ear.
God, if we have a baby, I hope she looks just like Lacey.
Cocking her head to the side, she splays her palm against my cheek and smiles at me.
“I want ten little Petra’s running around this house,” she replies softly.
A laugh escapes the back of my tight throat.
“How about we start with one?”
Her eyes light up at the suggestion and the smile that spreads across her face makes me fucking feel invincible. Then again, drugs will do that to you. They’ll erase your pain and make you think you can conquer the world.
“Yeah?” she questions, pushing her fingers through my hair. “You want to make a baby with me?”
I want so much more than that. I want to give her the whole world. Every dream, every desire. I want to tie a perfect bow around them and give them to her. I suppose a beautiful baby is good place to start.
“Yeah, girl,” I whisper hoarsely. “I want it more than you could ever know.”
More than drugs.
More than power.
More than anything.
 

 

 

.•´✶ABOUT AUTHOR JANINE INFANTE BOSCO¸.•´✶

Janine Infante Bosco lives in New York City, she has always loved reading and writing. When she was thirteen, she began to write her own stories and her passion for writing took off as the years went on. At eighteen, she even wrote a full screenplay with dreams of one day becoming a member of the Screen Actors Guild.
Janine writes emotionally charged novels with an emphasis on family bonds, strong-willed female characters, and alpha male men who will do anything for the women they love. She loves to interact with fans and fellow avid romance readers like herself.

She is proud of her success as an author and the friendships she’s made in the book community but her greatest accomplishment to date would be her two sons Joseph and Paul.
¸.•´✶CONNECT WITH JANINE¸.•´✶

Website: http://www.janineinfantebosco.com/
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Zombie Apocalypse Love Story Novellas

Title: Zombie Apocalypse Love Story Novellas
Author: Kate L Mary
Genre: Post-Apocalyptic Romance
Publisher: Twisted Press
Sale Dates: February 11th-14th
Regular Price: $2.99
Sale Price: $0.99
 
Blurb:
“A wonderful, quick read…”
Like a little steam with your apocalypse? Then celebrate Valentine’s Day with some apocalyptic love stories! Seven novellas on sale February 11th-14th for only $0.99 each. “I found that some good can come out of a zombie apocalypse…”
More than Survival
Fighting for a Future
Playing the Odds
The Key to Survival
The Things We Cannot Change
Surviving the Storm
No Looking Back
Find love during the zombie apocalypse with these quick, entertaining, and steamy reads.
“I think these books just continue to get better, and surpass my expectations with each one!”
 
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, and her dystopian novel, Outliers, was a Top 10 Finalist in the 2018 Author Academy Awards for Sci-Fi/Fantasy, and the Winner in the 2018 Kindle Book Awards for Sci-Fi/Fantasy.
Author Links:
 
Buy Links:
More than Survival
Fighting for a Future
Playing the Odds
The Key to Survival
The Things We Cannot Change
Surviving the Storm
No Looking Back
 

Stained

Title: The Crane Diaries: Stained
Author: Apryl Baker
Genre: NA Horror/Paranormal
Cover Designer: Deranged Doctor Design
Publication Date: February 12th, 2018
Hosted by: Lady Amber’s PR
 
Blurb:
I Am Death.
I Am Darkness.
I Am Creation.
These are the simple truths Emma Rose Crane, AKA Mattie Hathaway, has run from for the last two years, but the situation she finds herself in will not let her flee her past anymore. It’s barreling toward her at the speed of a bullet.
Mattie finds herself back in Charlotte, North Carolina, for the trial of Dan’s mother. She’s determined to see this ordeal through for Dan, even though his vindictive mother uses the situation to try to tear them apart.
If that weren’t enough, she lands on a supernatural hit list and has to rescue a woman who’s close to death—and survive the psycho who took her to begin with.
But just when things start to go right, the unthinkable happens.
Three gunshots.
Three truths.
But in the end, will her past save her future…or will it take everything she cherishes from her?

So who am I?

 

Well, I’m the crazy girl with an imagination that never shuts up. I LOVE scary movies. My friends laugh at me when I scare myself watching them and tell me to stop watching them, but who doesn’t love to get scared? I grew up in a small town nestled in the southern mountains of West Virginia where I spent days roaming around in the woods, climbing trees, and causing general mayhem. Nights I would stay up reading Nancy Drew by flashlight under the covers until my parents yelled at me to go to sleep.
Now, I live in a small town in West Virginia where I entertain my niece and nephew and watch the cats get teased by the birds and laugh myself silly when they swoop down and then dive back up just out of reach. The cats start yelling something fierce…lol.
I love books, I love writing books, and I love entertaining people with my silly stories.
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Homecoming:
Dirty Blood:
Stained:

Hidden Hearts

 
Presents : New Release
 
Hidden Hearts
by Angela Nicole


AMAZON
 
Series: Mastered Hearts; Book 4 – Short Story
Genre: Contemporary Romance
 
GOODREADS
 
 
** This short story should be read after Avenged Hearts, Book 3 in the Mastered Hearts Series as Hidden Hearts is a continuation.**
 
My name is Vinny and for the last year I’ve been living in Witness Protection with a new name and a new career. Things have been quiet until now.
 
But when the woman I love finds me, will that love be enough to heal the lies?




 
Follow the Author
 
 
About the Author
 
Angela Nicole resides in Upstate NY with her husband, William. With two graduate degrees in both education and business, Angela spent the last 23 years working in higher education. Wondering what to do with all of the conversations that were going on in her heard, she put pen to paper and fingers to keyboard and wrote. 
 
Writing is quite a change but a change that she loves. As an avid reader, Angela fell in love with romance novels that feature alpha men with hearts of gold. If you love them as much as she does, check out her Mastered Hearts series. 
 
 
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Read Review Repeat
 

Saving Penny

Title: Saving Penny
Author: Ariel Marie
Genre: Adult Fantasy/Romance
Narrator: Cole Baechler
Audio Producer: The Audio Flow, LLC
Blurb:
Billionaire CEO of the Imperial Knights security empire, Drake Ransley spends his days in full control of every element of his life. By night, he’s a man plagued by a mysterious dream about a brown coin. As time passes, the frequency of the dream increases and the penny morphs into a beautiful woman that Drake can’t stop thinking about.
Penny Berkey has just discovered that she has won the largest payout in lottery history, but it might not be enough to keep her away from danger. The promise of a major payout awaits. Danger lurks in the shadows. A stalker looms at every turn. Unable to elicit help from the police, she turns to the best security team money can buy – the Imperial Knights.
Drake knows the moment he lays eyes on her that she’s the woman from his dreams. His wolf instantly recognizes her as his mate. With danger lurking at every corner for her, he’s all the more determined to keep her safe by any means necessary.
 
Audio Buy Link:
Ariel Marie is an author who loves the paranormal, action and hot steamy romance. She combines all three in each and every one of her stories. For as long as she can remember, she has loved vampires, shifters and every creature you can think of. This even rolls over into her favorite movies! She love a good action packed thriller! Throw a touch of the supernatural world in it and she’s hooked!
She grew up in Cleveland, Ohio where she currently resides with her husband and three beautiful children. Want to know more about her and her books? Sign up for her newsletter –> http://eepurl.com/clg-H1

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