Book Giveaway: How to Cross a Marquess by Jane Ashford

How to Cross a Marquess

by Jane Ashford

Publication date: August 27, 2019

 

“A refreshingly different, sweetly romantic love story [readers] will long remember.”—Booklist for Brave New Earl

The Marquess of Chatton and his neighbor Fenella Fairclough have known each other all their lives. They refused to marry each other years ago when their parents demanded it, and they won’t concede now—even if circumstances have brought these former enemies much closer than they ever could have anticipated…

The Way to a Lord’s Heart:

Brave New Earl (Book 1)

A Lord Apart (Book 2)

How to Cross a Marquess (Book 3)

Praise for Jane Ashford:

“Absolutely delightful…strong characters and interesting obstacles… a must read.”—Night Owl Reviews for Brave New Earl

“Wonderfully diverting…I give Last Gentleman Standing an enthusiastic recommendation.”—Fresh Fiction for Last Gentleman Standing

“Expertly crafted…another triumph of nuanced characterization and sparkling wit.”—Booklist for Nothing Like a Duke

“Vivid characters and lively plots . . . Conveyed with warmth and tenderness.”—Publishers Weekly for Lord Sebastian’s Secret

Jane Ashford

Jane Ashford discovered Georgette Heyer in junior high school and was captivated by the glittering world and witty language of Regency England. That delight was part of what led her to study English literature and travel widely. She’s written historical and contemporary romances, and her books have been published all over Europe as well as in the United States. Jane has been nominated for a Career Achievement Award by RT Book Reviews. Find her on the web at www.janeashford.com and on Facebook. If you’d like to receive her monthly newsletter, you can sign up at either of those sites.

 

Author Website: www.janeashford.com

 

Purchase Links:

Amazon: https://amzn.to/2UKzXlM

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IndieBound: http://bit.ly/2PeemMk

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Kobo: http://bit.ly/2ZXaNyL

 

EXCERPT:

The warmth in his expression left Fenella shaken. She’d been braced for blame. She knew how to dismiss unjust accusations, taught by those her father had been tossing at her for as long as she could remember. But not to have to. That was another matter entirely. Relief was a pale word. Her throat thickened with tears.

She looked away to hide them, blinked them back. Their horses had ambled along at their own direction while their riders talked, and she saw that they’d veered closer to Clough House. Before them lay a dip in the land that was filled with bushes. “The raspberry thicket,” said Fenella. “I used to come here and pick berries whenever I could sneak away. How Mama scolded me for spoiling my dresses! But I couldn’t resist. I love raspberries.”

“I’ll pick some for you.”

“The thorns will tear your clothes.”

“No, they won’t. You can sit in the shade over there.” He turned his horse toward a cluster of saplings at the side of the thicket, grinning over his shoulder. An antic mood seemed to have overtaken him.

The breeze carried the scent of sun-warmed raspberries. Fenella’s mouth watered. “I could pick my own,” she said.

“Please allow me.”

He spoke like a knight offering some perilous feat of chivalry. She decided to let him.

They dismounted, leaving their mounts to the rich grass on the side of the hill. Fenella settled in the shade and watched Roger plunge into the raspberry bushes. He pulled out his handkerchief and began to fill it with ripe berries. Stains spread over the linen as he added to his haul. She saw the thorns catch at his coat sleeves and riding breeches. They scratched his glossy boots as well. His valet wouldn’t appreciate that. But Roger didn’t appear to care. He moved deeper into the thicket, until only his hat was visible above the arching canes. And then that too vanished. “Are you all right?” called Fenella.

“Dashed briars snatched my hat,” he replied. “Just a… Got it.” The crown of his hat reappeared above the branches. He was near the center of the thicket, at the bottom of the dip. It was much harder to get out of that little valley than to go in, Fenella remembered. The slant of the bushes seemed to push one back down.

Roger’s face showed above the vegetation. He must be standing on tiptoe. “There you are,” he said. “I got turned around.”

He moved slowly toward her, obviously having to fight his way out. His head, and then his broad shoulders, came into view. He held one arm in front of his face to stave off the thorns.

“Hotter in there,” he said when he finally emerged. Sweat gleamed on his face. He came over to her, bowed, and set his bundle of berries beside her as if they were indeed the result of a knight’s quest. Fenella noted an angry scratch across the back of his right hand. At least it wasn’t bleeding. She took a raspberry and ate it. The fruit was warm from the sun, sweet and tart at the same time. It melted on her tongue, utterly delicious. “Berries picked here are always better than any others,” she said.

Roger sat down in the grass beside her.

“You must have some, too. You did all the work.”

He ate one. “Very good.”

“Better than that,” Fenella said. “Luscious.” She held out a berry. He bent a little forward and took it, his lips brushing her fingertips, light as a butterfly’s wing, and still it stirred her.

“Luscious,” he agreed.

The word vibrated between them, expanding out to encompass far more than berries. The air was heavy with the hum of bees and the scent of fruit under the heat of the August sun.

They were hidden from the world here, Fenella noted. Even the horses would not be easily visible, due to the dip in the land and the height of bushes. They might have stepped outside of time. Her everyday life seemed far away.

Roger took a raspberry and held it out to her. Fenella leaned forward and opened her lips. He put the berry on her tongue. She bit into it, the intense flavor filling her mouth—piquant, delicious, another dart of pleasure. She held out a berry. He followed her example, bending toward her. She set the crimson fruit in his mouth without touching him. He held her gaze as he bit down.

The sultry atmosphere went to her head—the languorous warmth, the rustle of leaves overhead, the soft grass beneath her, Roger’s lips red with berry juice. Hers must be as well, Fenella thought. The same hue, the same taste. The idea seemed to pull her forward, and the next time he held out a berry, she leaned past it and kissed him.

He did taste of raspberries. But the kiss was so much more than that. The sweet taste of the fruit slid slowly into a melting of her whole body.

Strong arms came around her and pulled her close. She put hers around his neck and let herself sink with him onto the grass. The world contracted into a kernel of dizzying sensation.

What kisses, she thought. She’d known she was drawn to Roger, but she hadn’t realized it would be like this. His touch set her vibrating with desire. She wanted to give him all he could ask, to take everything he could offer. She pressed up against him. Their kisses wove a tapestry of longing, begging to be unraveled. He murmured her name.

“It went this way,” shouted a boy’s voice from other side of the thicket.

“Into the brambles?” replied another.

“Right under, the cunning little devil.”

“I ain’t desperate keen to crawl in there.”

“It’s John and Tom,” whispered Fenella.

“Deuce take them,” replied Roger.

“Perhaps it will come out the other side,” said John. “We can go around.” Footsteps pounded along the edge of the thicket.

Roger pulled her closer as if to protect her from this intrusion. But his instinct was wrong in this case. They couldn’t be found embracing. Fenella pulled away and sat up. Her hat had fallen off. She retrieved it and set it on her head, plucking and pinning stray strands of hair into place.

“Must speak to you,” Roger whispered.

“Shh. Not now.”

“Must.” He couldn’t stay silent. He had to tell her. This was the tricky bit, where he could win her, or lose everything. If only he could make his damnable tongue form the right phrases, and in a hurried whisper, no less.

***

Excerpted from How to Cross a Marquess by Jane Ashford. © 2019 by Jane Ashford. Used with permission of the publisher, Sourcebooks Casablanca, an imprint of Sourcebooks, Inc. All rights reserved.

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Book Giveaway: Handle with Care by Marie Harte

Handle with Care (Veteran Movers Book 3) by [Harte, Marie]

Handle with Care

by Marie Harte

Publication date: August 27, 2019

 

Evan Griffith has had a hell of a day…

And that was before he met the stunning, sexy woman having a meltdown.

Evan Griffith has had many careers in his life. But who knew working for his family’s moving company would hold just as much action as his stint in the Marine Corps? On an unforgettable job, Evan finds himself taken by a teenage conman and confronted by a woman wielding a knife—and promptly falls head over heels for her.

Kenzie Sykes is doing her best to raise her little brother and keep him out of jail—all while dealing with her own broken heart that just hasn’t healed. She doesn’t have time for romance. He’s not asking… Until he is, and she finds herself saying yes.

Veteran Movers series:

The Whole Package (Book 1)

Smooth Moves (Book 2)

Handle with Care (Book 3)

Praise for Marie Harte:

“With a protective alpha hero that stole my heart instantly, The Whole Package was sexy, sweet, and thoroughly satisfying.”—LAUREN LAYNE, New York Times bestselling author, for The Whole Package

“Marie Harte at her best! The Whole Package delivered everything I love—hot alpha, a strong woman, and amazing writing!”—DONNA GRANT, New York Times bestselling author, for The Whole Package

“Terrific. I absolutely loved this story.”—Night Owl Reviews, TOP PICK for The Only Thing

“Another exceptionally red-hot romance by Marie Harte with a strong yet sweet hero!”—Fresh Fiction for Just the Thing

 

Caffeine addict, boy referee, and romance aficionado, New York Times and USA Today bestseller Marie Harte is a confessed bibliophile and devotee of action movies. Whether biking around town, hiking, or hanging at the local tea shop, she’s constantly plotting to give everyone a happily ever after. Visit marieharte.com and fall in love. She resides in Oregon.

 

Author Website: marieharte.com

 

Purchase Links:

Amazon: https://amzn.to/2KXLfhM

B&N: http://bit.ly/2GlHkpF

Apple: https://apple.co/2PgLMtQ

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Kobo: http://bit.ly/2YQTYbu

NEWSLETTER: AMAZON | B&N | INDIEBOUND | KOBO | APPLE | BAM

 

EXCERPT:

Funny, he’d said. Evan had been set up. Again. Daniel Sykes needed some discipline, something the Corps, or a foot up his butt, might just provide. Then again, should Evan be upset at another opportunity to see Kenzie up close?

Damn, but even angry she turned him on. Yeah, that was it. He wanted her. Physical desire. That he understood. And if he ignored the quickening of his heart and the need to sigh just looking at her, he’d believe his own bullshit. Because falling for a woman he didn’t even know made no sense. And Evan was nothing if not rational.

“What are you doing here?” she asked, biting out each word.

“I’m supposed to meet your brother to discuss financial matters. He had a legitimate question about tax penalties, and since I was already in the area, I told him I’d meet him.”

Kenzie clenched her jaw.

“So he was lying?”

“No. I am having some issues with my books, but I’m not sure why Rachel’s moving guy is qualified to help us.”

Evan smiled. “I’m an accountant. I was, I mean. Well, I still am. I’m just working for myself now.”

“Why?”

“So much suspicion.” He grinned, not telling her how adorable she looked in her pique. Women didn’t like hearing that they were cute when trying to appear serious. “I wasn’t fired for any wrongdoing. I left the firm because I couldn’t handle the hours. But I’m still consulting for them, and I have a few clients staying with me who left Peterman & Campbell Accounting when I did.”

She blinked. “I know that firm. One of my clients uses them. They’re big money.”

“Yep.” Evan wanted to stroke her cheek, to see if she felt as soft as she looked. So he tucked his hands in his pockets.

“What was with lying to Rob about your clients using me? Or me being overbooked?”

He shrugged. “I know Rob. He’s competitive. The thought of him not getting to use your services because you don’t have time for him would annoy the crap out of him. Plus it never hurts to make people think you’re more than you are. Perception is everything, and before you know it, you will be overbooked.”

“Oh.” She gave him a tentative smile. “Thanks.”

“Mind if I grab a coffee and wait with you for your brother? It’s getting crowded in here.”

She nodded, her gaze thoughtful.

Evan picked up a coffee and a few pastries and returned to Kenzie. “How about some sweets as a peace offering? I had no idea I was interrupting a meeting.”

She accepted an apricot Danish. “Thanks. It’s not your fault I couldn’t snare Rob Talon on my own.”

He didn’t know about that. Rob had seemed pretty smitten when Evan had seen the pair sitting together.

“How do you know him anyway?” Kenzie asked.

“I knew his sister from a long time ago. She and I dated briefly in college. Rob is a good guy, and he and I became friends after Kayla and I broke up.”

“Really? Kayla is amazing.”

“She is. But I was the problem.” I was too boring for Kayla. And I really hate that word. “She wanted to see the world, and I had responsibilities.” He sipped his coffee, remembering the past and wondering where the time had gone. “Well, actually she wanted to go to India for some technology conference, and I wanted to go to Miami for a wild spring break. We parted ways after I joined the Marine Corps and she moved to Bangalore.”

“You were a Marine?”

Am a Marine.” He smiled with pride. “You’re never an ex. You become a ‘prior’ or ‘former’ Marine. It’s always with you.” Even though he hadn’t enjoyed many of the aspects of the military, he missed the camaraderie, which explained why he loved working with the gang at Vets on the Go! It felt like a mini-Corps of likeminded individuals.

“So if you don’t mind me asking, why are you moving furniture for a living? Because you burned out doing accounting?” She sounded disbelieving.

He couldn’t blame her. “Actually, I’m a partner in our moving business. My cousins and I own Vets on the Go!, and one of our guys is out due to a broken arm. So I’m helping out until he’s back. But to be honest, it’s been enjoyable using my muscles more than my brains for a while. I got tired working eighty-hour weeks for Peterman & Campbell.”

Her eyes softened. “That makes sense. I love my job, but I get tired too. I worked all weekend in between cleaning my house and running errands.” She sighed. “And today was a bust.”

“Sorry to hear that. I’ll make sure Rob calls you back since I interrupted you.”

“No, please don’t. I can handle my business myself.”

He sensed a little bit of tension there, but he understood the need for independence. “No problem. At least finish the Danish.”

She shoved half the pastry in her mouth and grinned at him. “Happy now?” she asked, her mouth full, and he laughed.

“You know, I can see where your brother gets that attitude.”

She managed to swallow the ball of dough and groaned. “Now I should be apologizing to you. I can’t believe he tricked you into coming here.”

“So you’re not having a problem with your taxes?”

“Yes, but—” The buzz of her phone interrupted her. She read a text and blinked. “Daniel just told me he’s on his way here to meet with you and not to be freaked out if I see you because you’re not stalking me, you’re doing him a favor.”

“Wow. He texted all that?”

“Mostly in abbreviations and emojis, but I understand teen-speak.”

Evan laughed. “Better you than me. I couldn’t even figure out how to change my name back.”

“What did he change your name to?”

“Well, my ringtone became ‘Dancing Queen.’ And my name became Sexy Moving Man with a Fine Ass.”

She couldn’t stifle her mirth, and he saw it.

***

Excerpted from Handle With Care by Marie Harte. © 2019 by Marie Harte. Used with permission of the publisher, Sourcebooks Casablanca, an imprint of Sourcebooks, Inc. All rights reserved.

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Book Giveaway: Wonderland Academy: Book One Melanie Karsak

Wonderland Academy: Book One
Melanie Karsak
Publication date: August 27th 2019
Genres: Fairy Tales, Fantasy, Retelling, Young Adult

Welcome to Wonderland Academy. Don’t lose your head.

Getting into Wonderland Academy is easy:

You must be a little mad.

You must follow the white rabbit.

You must find the key to enter Wonderland.

You must not be named Alice or risk being beheaded by order of the Queen of Hearts.

We might have an issue with that last one.

My name may be Alice, but Wonderland Academy is everything my real life isn’t. Who wouldn’t want to learn how to ride a jabberwocky, train with a vorpal sword, cast spells using a teacup, or shapeshift into a fairy? As long as no one figures out my real name, I should be fine.

The only problem? Aden, the Queen of Hearts’ son, is quickly becoming my best friend. And then there’s Corbin. Brooding, surly, tattooed, and definitely not my type, I can’t stop thinking about him. But Corbin has secrets of his own, and Wonderland and secrets don’t mix.

How I’m going to pass my classes and protect my secret like my life depends on it is beyond me. But I better find a way. Because in Wonderland, no Alice is safe.

Wonderland Academy re-imagines the fantastical world of Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland for a fresh, new adventure. Combining whimsy, magic, and a splash of steampunk, New York Times best-selling author Melanie Karsak invites you into this beautifully re-envisioned fairy tale adventure.

* * *

Wonderland Academy is a college-level academy novel. It contains a slow-burn (not rh) romance. The novel is clean aside from mild language. This is Book 1 in a planned trilogy. Book 1 ends on a cliffhanger (Frodo didn’t reach Mount Doom in a day, after all).

Trigger Warning: This novel also includes references to a school shooting.

Goodreads / Amazon

EXCERPT:

Setting my bag in a chair by the window, I pulled on my coat. It was pouring. Drops rolled down the windowpane, distorting the view of the sidewalk below. As I pulled my jacket on, however, I noticed someone on the sidewalk below. He was looking up at the window. I couldn’t make him out clearly, but from what I could see, he was wearing some kind of period costume and a top hat. He had long, pale blond hair that almost looked white.

“You all think I’m a lunatic? There’s some guy standing outside in the rain in a Victorian get-up and top hat.”

“What?” Mom asked. “What are you talking about?”

“I don’t know. Just some rando guy standing in the rain,” I said then turned, zipped up my coat, and grabbed the bag.

Nurse Gilman stepped to the window and looked outside. “It’s really coming down,” she said, eyeing the sky. She then strained her neck to the left and right. “Your mystery man must have gone back inside.”

“He was right there,” I said.

A sick feeling rocked my stomach. No, no, no. He was there. Dammit, he really was there. I edged toward the window and looked outside. I was right. The man was standing right there, looking up at the window.

He waved at me.

“Where?” Nurse Gilman asked, looking up and down the sidewalk.

“There,” I said, motioning hesitantly.

“I must have missed him,” Nurse Gilman said with a shrug.

I stared at the man.

He waved again.

Dammit. Dammit. Dammit.

“Yeah,” I said. “Maybe they’re doing a show in the children’s wing or something,” I muttered then turned from the window.

I didn’t want Nurse Gilman to see my face.

Mom, however, caught my eye. Her eyebrows scrunched together as she gave me a hard look.

I dropped her gaze.

I absolutely, positively, did not want to have that conversation on the way home.

“I’m ready,” I told Mom.

“Good. Let’s get you the hell out of here.”

“Be well,” Nurse Gilman said. She motioned to the nurses’ station. The door to the waiting room unlocked with a click. Nurse Gilman motioned to us that we were free to go.

Mom and I headed down the dim hallway of the fifth-floor psych ward. The narrow hall felt like it was a million miles long. It wasn’t until we were safely inside the elevator that I finally exhaled.

“Your phone,” Mom said, handing it to me.

I had a few missing calls, messages from old friends, but there wasn’t anyone I wanted to talk to anyway. I stared at the screensaver, which had a picture of Nicholas and me. The photo had been taken just before homecoming, before everything went to shit. We’d gone for a hike that day. The autumn leaves in the background were bright orange and burnt red. We were both bundled up, our cheeks red, faces pressed together. We’d spent the entire hike planning a future that would never come to pass.

I turned off my phone and stuck it in my pocket.

Mom punched the elevator button for the ground floor.

I kept my eyes on the lights above the door, praying Mom wouldn’t ask anything.

It wasn’t until we’d passed the second floor that Mom whispered, “Lacey, are you seeing—”

“I’m fine. Really. I’m fine.”

She didn’t answer, which told me she knew well-enough I was not fine.

They’d been popping up in my periphery more frequently for the last two weeks. People who were there then not there. Flickers of light. Shadows that whispered. Otherworldy shapes. Their presence wasn’t anything new to me. While I was more prone to see them during times of stress, they’d been there all my life. I knew that if I really looked, I’d see them. It was better to ignore them.

A mermaid had taught me that.

Mom and I headed to the front of the hospital. I couldn’t wait to get away from the terrible hospital smell. A weird mix of the scents of bleach, chrysanthemums, green beans, and Band-Aids perfumed the place. It was enough to make a person gag.

Raining or not, I was relieved when the hospital doors opened. I inhaled the sweet scent of the rain-soaked air. Mom’s rusted-out Mustang sat waiting just outside.

“Okay. Let‘s run for it,” Mom called, and we sprinted to the car.

Holding my plastic bag above my head, I ran, flinging open the door of the vehicle. But just before I climbed inside, I cast a glance down the sidewalk.

The man was still standing there. He pulled something from his pocket and tapped on it. He waved to me, a broad smile on his face.

“Lacey, you’re letting the rain in,” Mom yelled.

I slipped into the car, slamming the door behind me.

Mom revved the engine then drove off, her nineties rock springing to life. I leaned forward and clicked off the music. The last thing I needed was the dulcet tones of Nirvana shouting at me post suicide watch.

Sighing, I leaned back into the seat and closed my eyes.

Why was I seeing them again?

The white-haired man had been pointing at a pocket watch. A pocket watch.

What in the hell did that mean?

I hadn’t meant to kill myself.

Not this time.

It figured. On the morning I’d been discharged from the psych ward, I was beginning to lose my mind.

 

Author Bio:

New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Melanie Karsak is the author of The Airship Racing Chronicles, The Harvesting Series, The Celtic Blood Series, Steampunk Red Riding Hood, and Steampunk Fairy Tales. The author currently lives in Florida with her husband and two children. She is an Instructor of English at Southern New Hampshire University.

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Swag Giveaway: DawnSinger By Janalyn Voigt

 


On Tour with Prism Book Tours

Book Tour Grand Finale for
DawnSinger
By Janalyn Voigt

We hope you enjoyed the tour! If you missed any of the stops
you’ll find snippets, as well as the link to each full post, below:

Launch – Note from the Author

Dear Friends,

Welcome to this book tour of DawnSinger, an epic medieval fantasy adventure. Fantasy will always be my first love, although I’ve become a multi-genre author. That’s a fancy term for a storyteller. If I could turn the clock back to the Middle Ages, I’d be a bard. Author Linda Windsor, an endorser of DawnSinger, named the story bardic fiction. I consider that high praise indeed. . .

Colorimetry – Excerpt

Now for a stormy moment in flight…

A crosswind caught Kai’s wingabeast as lightning flared too near. Shrilling, the winged horse tilted in flight, and Kai’s stomach lurched. A gust snatched the hood from his head and roared in his ears. He blinked to clear the stinging rain that drove into his eyes. Thunder boomed like a timpani, shaking the air. Flecht shuddered beneath him, and Kai placed a calming hand on his wingabeast’s straining neck. He did not like this long flight through the wild night any better than did Flecht.

Paper Ink & Lizard – Review

DawnSinger is an epic tale that unfurls in a world that is different, yet so familiar. A high fantasy world with flying horses, spirits, and mind magic, Janalyn Voight was able to create a world that is fresh and new in the fantasy genre. . . . Overall, DawnSinger is a satisfying read, and has a subtle message at the end that will leave the reader thinking afterwards.”

Heidi Reads… – Excerpt

Shae put up her hood and left the shelter of the stronghold to follow the graystone path. A chill wind rippled through the folds of her cloak, and she shivered. Overhead, clouds unfurled in a pearling sky. She passed into green scented shadow, where notes of damp moss and ripe humus met her.

She shouldn’t have yielded to temptation and escaped into nature unescorted. In earlier days, she had roamed the grounds in freedom with no one caring. She couldn’t get used to the strictures placed on her now that she’d grown older. When would she learn to be more like Katera? She couldn’t remember her winsome twin ever causing their mother concern.

Remembrancy – Review

“Jannalyn [Voigt] vividly paints a picture of her fantasy world with descriptive words and phrases. It’s not challenging to imagine this land filled with wondrous beauty and creatures as well as barren and desolate places. Shae, kai, and a handful of others undertake an epic quest to save their beloved people and king. I enjoyed both of these elements of the story. . . . Now that I’ve gotten the cadence of this mystical, magical world, I’m not ready to leave it yet.”

Jessica Belmont – Review

“Epic Christian Fantasy? Yes, please. DawnSinger is an inventive novel with beautifully descriptive prose and dialogue. I absolutely love the imagery and symbolism woven through the book. . . . I highly recommend checking out this original and inspiring novel.”

Uplifting Reads – Excerpt

Flecht quivered under Kai’s hand. Shae must have communicated to the beast the tension he read in her face. Why did she stare at the naked branches of the small, white tree? He drew his brows together but didn’t speak. Her eyes, so green they reminded him of deep shadows in an old forest, told him nothing. As she settled the cloak upon her shoulders, burnished tangles cascaded down her back. She looked beautiful and far too grown.

Something had upset Shae—that much seemed obvious. Equally obvious was her desire for privacy in the matter. Well, he didn’t question such things. He already held enough secrets to quell any desire for more.

Bookworm Lisa – Review

“The story is a war between good and evil. Shae is guided by the light of the God she worships. She has companions who will do anything to protect her and keep her from fulfilling an ancient prophecy. There is plenty of action and adventure that will thrill fantasy lovers. . . . I am now invested in the story and look forward to having good prevail.”

Library Lady’s Kid Lit – Review

“The plot shows the draw of evil and the difficulty even the good have of resisting its pull. Voight did an excellent job of creating an alternate universe and having things remain consistent within that world. The book does have a bit of a surprise ending and I look forward to seeing how that surprise plays out in future titles in the Tales of Faeraven series.”

Hearts & Scribbles – Excerpt

He smiled. “Your heart speaks truth. I am a wayfarer…and I am more.” He stroked the tears from her cheeks, feather-light, like the touch of a draft.

“Peace.” The whispered word brought infinite comfort.

Shae closed her eyes and breathed deep.

“Remember, Shae, you must look to the light.”

She opened her eyes, ready to ask how he knew her name.

She knelt alone in the Allerstaed.

JeanBookNerd – Guest Post

Funny how childhood memories embed themselves in your mind, but only parts of them. I can still feel the rough paper as I turned another page in a novel from my parent’s bookcase. A precocious reader, I’d advanced long ago into adult books. I don’t remember this one’s title, but the story followed the journeys of Sir Francis Drake, an early explorer. Specific phrases are lost to me, but the vivid imagery remains. I can still hear the ship’s creaking, bask in sunlight breaking through the clouds, and taste sea salt on my lips. . .

jypsylynn – Review

“I became invested in the outcome because I cared about the characters. I see their quest as allegorical to some biblical tales and symbolic of the eternal good vs. evil battle. . . . The plot is thrilling with action and drama at every turn leaving readers wanting more. Overall, Dawnsinger is a well written adventure steeped in thoughtfully planned fantasy that fans of the genre will surely enjoy.”

Tell Tale Book Reviews – Review

DawnSinger is the first book in the series and in true fantasy fashion there is an epic quest, terrible dangers, betrayal, a taste of forbidden love, and even more importantly the story gets darker as the conclusion draws nearer. . . . I enjoyed DawnSinger, its characters and strange creatures, and I look forward to returning to the land of Faeraven in the next book in the series…”

I’m Into Books – Excerpt

Shae landed in Flecht’s saddle with a thump as Kai deposited her with more speed than grace. He bent and then straightened, and she caught the glint of metal.

Kai pressed something into her palm, and her fingers curled around a knife’s hilt. “They’ll need to dismount to attack with swords. I’ll defend you, but if things go badly, take Flecht and follow the weild to the inn. You’ll see it just back from the banks. You can trust the innkeeper.”

Kai strode from her before she could point out that she had no idea how to fly a wingabeast. His sword rasped as he drew it from its sheath.

Teatime and Books – Review

“Oh wow, I really loved this book! . . . If you love a good fantasy with loads of adventure, then this is the book for you!”

Faithfully Bookish – Excerpt

“Only the cold and weariness that comes at such altitudes—and wind shears. But I know the passes well.”

He didn’t mention the possibility of encountering wingabeast riders bent on killing them, but she knew it existed. Even now, the dark riders might track them.

She closed her eyes to pray with zeal but soon fell into the languor of warmth and drowsiness. “My thanks,” she said, her tongue thick with sleep.

“Thanks?”

“You protected me this night.”

“Sleep, Shae.” She heard the smile in his voice. “Tomorrow’s journey will try our strength.”

The Caffeinated Bibliophile – Review

“The biggest factor in whether I like a Fantasy book is the world building. Janalyn gets it right. She creates such a beautiful and interesting world. She definitely made the world of Faeraven unique filled with interesting creatures and characters. . . . I really liked Shae and Kai’s characters. I felt that we could relate to them. . . . Overall, I really enjoyed the story. Suspense, murder, drama and action were just around the corner in every chapter. . . . I think this book would also be great for teens as it read more like a YA book. Great for adults and teens alike.”

Reading On The Edge – Excerpt

“Kai.” A voice rasped from the carved bed that dominated the room. “You have brought her?”

Shae started. In a combination of weariness and awe of Torindan, she had all but forgotten the purpose of her visit.

The musician came away from the window, and light slanted across him to reveal a lithe figure and features of surpassing beauty. Vibrant hair of gold sprang above a well-formed brow. Fathomless eyes held her. Shae caught her breath, and her hand went out in a blind motion.

Jorie Loves A Story – Spotlight

J. L. Mbewe – Excerpt

A foul wind breathed over Shae, and the hair on the back of her neck raised in warning. A hissing from the broken stairway sent prickles walking over her skin. Eyes gleamed in the shadows, and long shudders traveled her spine.

Somewhere, something shrieked.

Shae stumbled on the stone stair suspended between a dark void and a wall of living stone. She called for Kai, but her voice made no sound. Where was he?

“Find the light and be saved…” The whispered words stirred the air.

Daughter of Increase – Review

“This was a beautifully written Christian fantasy. I enjoyed the bits of scripture thrown into the story, it really made them come alive in a more action-packed way. The writing was interesting and the characters kept me hooked. I also enjoyed the world and different places in the world. . . . Such a fantastic read and can’t wait to read that sequel!”

Don’t forget to enter the giveaway at the end of this post, if you haven’t already…

DawnSinger
(Tales of Faeraven #1)
By Janalyn Voigt
Fantasy, Christian Fantasy
Paperback & ebook, 342 Pages
June 29, 2012 by Harbourlight Books

The High Queen is dying…

At the royal summons, Shae mounts a wingabeast and soars through the air to the high hold of Faeraven, where all is not as it seems. Visions warn her of danger, and a dark soul touches hers in the night. When she encounters an attractive but disturbing musician, her wayward heart awakens.

But then there is Kai, a guardian of Faeraven and of Shae. Secrets bind him to her, and her safety lies at the center of every decision he makes.

On a desperate journey fraught with peril and the unknown, they battle warlike garns, waevens, ferocious raptors, and the wraiths of their own regrets. Yet, they must endure the campaign long enough to release the DawnKing and the salvation he offers into a divided land. To prevail, each must learn that sometimes victory comes only through surrender.

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About the Author

Janalyn Voigt is a writer and professional speaker with a photography habit and a passion for travel. Her unique blend of adventure, romance, suspense, and fantasy creates worlds of beauty and danger for readers. Tales of Faeraven, her epic fantasy series beginning with DawnSinger, carries readers into a land only imagined in dreams. She is represented by Sarah Joy Freese of Wordserve Literary.

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Tour Giveaway

One winner will receive a fantasy-themed basket, hand-painted Pegasus mug, hand-crafted beaded votive candle bowl, dark chocolate bar, and a Tales of Faeraven bookmark (US only)

Ends August 28th, 2019

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$25 Amazon Giveaway: Sapphire Flames by Ilona Andrews

Sapphire Flames
A Hidden Legacy Novel, Book 4
by Ilona Andrews
Genre: Urban Fantasy, Paranormal Romance
From #1 New York Times bestselling
author Ilona Andrew comes an enthralling new trilogy set in the
Hidden Legacy world, where magic means power, and family bloodlines
are the new currency of society…
In a world where magic is the key to power and wealth, Catalina Baylor
is a Prime, the highest rank of magic user, and the Head of her
House. Catalina has always been afraid to use her unique powers, but
when her friend’s mother and sister are murdered, Catalina
risks her reputation and safety to unravel the mystery.
But behind the scenes powerful forces are at work, and one of them
is Alessandro Sagredo, the Italian Prime who was once Catalina’s
teenage crush. Dangerous and unpredictable, Alessandro’s true
motives are unclear, but he’s drawn to Catalina like a moth to a flame.
To help her friend, Catalina must test the limits of her extraordinary
powers, but doing so may cost her both her House–and her heart.
Excerpt:

Chapter One

I was swimming through the warm water of the Gulf when someone knocked on the sky. The bright little fishes following me scattered, the crystal-clear water vanished, and I landed on the sand.

The sky above me shuddered. Boom, boom, boom.

The dream tore like wet tissue, and for a disorienting moment I didn’t know where I was. Slowly the familiar contours of my bedroom came into focus through the gloom. The alarm clock on my nightstand glowed with bright red. 2:07 a.m.

Someone was pounding on my door.

“Catalina!” my sister yelled. “Get up!”

Panic pierced me. I jumped out the bed, sprinted across the bedroom, and flung the door open. “Did the plane go down?”

“What? No!”

I sagged against the door frame in relief. Our older sister, Nevada; her husband; and her mother-in-law were flying to Spain for a funeral. Over the ocean. It caused me no end of anxiety.

“The plane is fine,” Arabella told me.

“Then what is it?”

Arabella’s face was flushed, and her blond hair stuck out from her head in weird directions. She wore an old, stained Sailor Moon T-shirt, and her basketball shorts were on backward.

“Augustine is downstairs.”

“Augustine who? Augustine Montgomery?”

“Yes!”

I snapped out of my relief back to full alert. “Why?” Why in the world would the Head of House Montgomery be downstairs, in the middle of the night?

“He wants to see you. He says it’s an emergency. Hurry up before Mom shoots him.”

She turned around and ran down the stairs leading from my loft suite to the rest of the warehouse we used as our home and place of business.

Augustine was absolutely the last person I expected at two o’clock in the morning. Something terrible had happened.

I looked at myself. I wore an oversize grey T-shirt that came to my knees and said “I ♥ Sleep.” No time to change. I took the stairs barefoot and followed my sister into a wide hallway. The light in the media room was on, casting a warm electric glow and illuminating the way just enough to see.

The hallway led to a door on the left where a small section of the warehouse was designated as the Baylor Agency’s office. The entire family congregated in front of the door, all except Mom.

Grandma Frida, thin, tan, with a halo of platinum curls, looked worried. Bern, my oldest cousin, resembled a bear awakened halfway through his hibernation—big, muscular, his dark blond hair disheveled, holding a tablet that looked too small for his hands. Next to him, Leon, his younger half brother and complete opposite, leaned on the wall, totally awake. Lean and dark-haired, Leon was a ball of wiry energy. And he still wore the jeans and T-shirt I had seen him in last night. Either he fell asleep in his clothes, or he felt the need to be fully dressed at two o’clock in the morning for some nefarious reason. Leon didn’t have any other kind of reasons.

Ahead of me, Arabella darted up the stairs and into her bedroom and emerged with a huge Texas A&M sweatshirt. She threw it at me. “Boobs.”

Bern woke up enough to roll his eyes.

“Thanks.” I pulled the sweatshirt on, hiding the fact that I wasn’t wearing a bra. “How did Augustine get here?”

At night, access to the warehouse was blocked by concrete barriers. Only one road remained open, guarded by a checkpoint staffed with our security people, who were supposed to prevent exactly this sort of thing from happening. Augustine was ruthless. He could have killed us all in our sleep.

“Did our guards let him in? Did anyone call and say he was coming?”

“Funny thing,” Leon said. “We have this lovely footage.”

Bern turned the tablet toward me. A view from the surveillance camera inside the security booth showed two guards, a Hispanic female in her forties and a white man in his mid-twenties with dark hair. Lopez and Walton. A silver Bentley Bentayga pulled up to the booth. The passenger window of the car rolled down, revealing me.

“Hello, Ms. Baylor,” Walton said.

The fake Catalina nodded.

“Check the log, check the log . . .” Leon sang out.

The log of arrivals and departures lay right there, on the counter. It would show that I was already home.

The guard reached over, his hand passed above the log to the switch attached to the barrier mechanism.

“Epic fail!” Leon announced.

Walton flipped the switch and a heavy metal clang announced the spiked barrier retracting. The window rolled back up and the armored vehicle slid forward and out of view.

I couldn’t even. My ability to even was severely compromised.

Lopez frowned. “When did they get a Bentley?”

The male guard shrugged. “Who knows? Maybe it was a birthday present.”

“Dumbass,” Arabella said.

Augustine Montgomery was an illusion Prime. He could look like anyone, he could sound like anyone, and he could pass both fingerprint and retinal scanners. And he just breezed past our security like it was nothing.

“We’re in trouble,” I said.

“No shit,” Leon said.

“Catalina,” Grandma Frida said, “your mother is in the conference room with that ass and a Desert Eagle. Get in there before she puts a .50 round between his eyes.”

I opened the door, walked into the office hallway, and shut the door behind me. This part of the warehouse with its high-traffic beige carpet, a drop ceiling, and glass walls looked just like any regular work space. The three offices on my right and the break room with a kitchenette on my left lay shrouded in gloom. Only the conference room, just past the break room, was brightly lit, and the electric light shone through the glass into the hallway.

I took a step and stopped. As of three days ago, when I officially turned twenty-one, I also became the Head of House Baylor. We were a brand-new House, formed only three years ago. Our grace period, a reprieve which shielded us from attacks by other Houses, was about to expire. I had dealt with magical heavy hitters before in the course of our business, but this would be my first interaction with another Prime as the Head of a House. And Augustine was a shark in a four-thousand-dollar suit, a sleek, deadly great white with razor-sharp teeth.

I had to do this right. I couldn’t just barge in there. Emergency or not, I had to act the part.

My stomach fluttered.

Think Prime, Head of the House, Victoria Tremaine’s granddaughter, confident, dangerous, not afraid, woken up in the middle of the night . . . annoyed. Definitely annoyed.

I walked into the conference room with a slightly irritated expression.

Augustine pivoted toward me in his chair. Louis Auchincloss, who wrote novels about polite society and old money, once famously said, “Perfection irritates as well as it attracts, in fiction as in life.” Augustine was deeply irritating.

Being an illusion Prime, Augustine crafted his appearance the way one would paint a masterpiece. His face was beautifully sculpted with defined cheekbones, a square jaw that communicated masculinity without implying brutishness, a straight nose, and a broad forehead. His cheeks were slightly concave, just enough to communicate maturity. A virtuoso barber had turned his blond, nearly platinum hair into a masterpiece. A thin pair of glasses was the only imperfection Augustine allowed himself and it wasn’t enough. There was something ageless and cold about him. He was about as alive as a marble statue.

At the other end of the table my mother sat watching him like a coiled cobra. Her right hand stayed under the table, most likely touching the Desert Eagle .50, the largest legal caliber for a handgun in the US. It was the closest thing to handheld artillery Mom could conceal under the table. It could send a round through a full refrigerator and kill a person on the other side.

My mother spent almost ten years as a sniper and her magic guaranteed that she didn’t miss. If she killed Augustine, Montgomery International Investigations, the firm Augustine owed, would crush us. If he miraculously survived, he would kill her. As happened often in life, there were no good options. I had to get him out of here.

I made my tone cold and annoyed. “Mr. Montgomery, while you’re always welcome in our home, it’s the middle of the night.”

“I apologize,” he said. “It’s an emergency.” He reached into his pocket, pulled out a phone, and showed it to me.

On the screen, an adolescent boy smiled into the camera. Bright red hair cut short, grey eyes, pale skin, and the smug grin of a teenage boy who has just gotten away with mischief. He looked vaguely familiar, but I couldn’t for the life of me remember where I saw him before.

“This is Ragnar,” Augustine said. “He’s fifteen. He has a dog named Tank. He likes detective books and the Sherlock Holmes show. He plays a Ranger in Hero Tournament. Two days ago, his mother and sister died in a fire.”

“Why are you telling me this?”

“Right now he’s standing on the roof of Memorial Hermann Hospital. He’s thinking of jumping and he’s a Prime, so nobody can get to him. If we don’t hurry, his broken body will be the leading story on the morning news.”

Alarm rolled through me in an electric rush.

“Augustine, you know that’s not what I do. I’ve never pulled someone off a roof before. If I fail, I’ll be responsible for his death . . .”

“But you can do it. It’s within your power.” He looked straight at me. “Your sister asked me for a favor once. I’m now asking you for assistance, one Head of House to another. He has one sister left. Right now, she’s at the hospital praying he doesn’t fall to his death.”

And if I tried and failed, there would be a grief-stricken Prime who could turn all of her agony and rage onto me. This was beyond reckless.

“I don’t know if I can help you. I may make this worse.”

Augustine’s composure cracked, and a human being looked back at me through his eyes. “He’s just a child, Catalina. He already lost so much. He’s in the worst pain of his short life and he has no idea how to contain it. He just wants to stop hurting. Please try.”

I opened my mouth to tell him no and thought of a boy standing on a ledge, all alone in the dark. So desperate and hurt that he was willing to end it in the most painful way possible.

My father had stood on a ledge like that, except his ledge was cancer. We had tried so hard to pull him from it. We fought for every minute. We sold the house and moved here, into the warehouse, to pay for his medical bills. Then we mortgaged our business to Augustine to pay for experimental treatments. My dad had built Baylor Investigative Agency from the ground up. He viewed it as his legacy, a business that would feed and clothe us, and we had used it as collateral to borrow money. It felt like a betrayal, and we hid it from my father, because it would have killed him faster than any cancer. In the end we only delayed the inevitable by a few months, but it was worth it. I would give anything for one more day with my dad. Anything.

Ragnar was only fifteen years old.

“Yes. I’ll try.”

“Are you sure?” my mother asked.

“Yes.”

“Take Leon with you,” she said.

“No.” If this situation turned ugly, I didn’t want him getting hurt.

“I’ll bring her back safe and sound,” Augustine promised.

My mother gave him her sniper stare. “You do that.”

 

Augustine’s silver Bentley sped south on Gessner Road. It was after 2:00 a.m. and even the Houston roads lay empty. The chauffer squeezed every drop of speed out of the heavy armored car. Normally, the trip to Memorial Hermann would’ve taken at least fifteen minutes. We would make it in less than half of that.

Augustine rode in the front passenger seat, presenting me with a view of his blond head. I really wanted to reach over and smack it. If someone told me this morning that I would end up in the backseat of Augustine’s car in the middle of the night wearing a sweatshirt over my sleep T-shirt and a pair of sneakers without socks, I would’ve asked them what they were smoking and told them to seek professional help.

I missed my weapons. It made me feel naked.

Augustine was right though. Nevada did owe him a favor.

My father was born into House Tremaine, a small House consisting only of him and my grandmother Victoria. A truthseeker like Nevada, Victoria could wrench information from a person’s mind against their will. My father had no magic and Victoria was a terrible mother, so when he turned eighteen, he had escaped and started a new life under an assumed name. In her search for him, my grandmother had rampaged through the Houses all across the continent. Just mentioning her name made powerful Primes back off.

Three years ago, before we became a House, Victoria came looking for us. Augustine knew Nevada’s identity. He could’ve shared it with my grandmother and benefited from it, but instead he had allowed Nevada to mess with his mind, so Victoria left empty-handed. I hated debts of any kind. It would be good to get this one over with.

It didn’t change the fact that I had no idea what I was doing.

“How do you know the family?” I asked.

“Ragnar’s sister contacted MII in regard to her mother’s and sister’s deaths. She doesn’t think the fire was an accident.”

“Was it?”

“I’m not at liberty to discuss the details.”

Right. “Did you take the case?”

“She knows our rates.”

“You turned her down. Augustine! She came to you and you turned her down, and now her brother is going to kill himself.”

He looked in the rearview mirror, his expression iced over. “If I’m going to put my people in danger, I have to properly compensate them. I’m not running a charity, Catalina. You of all people should know how much can be at stake when one looks into a Prime’s death.”

Oh, I knew. When a team of hired killers stormed your home, sending tornados of fire and summoning monsters into the slaughter, it tended to leave a lasting impression.

I glanced out the windshield and saw the futuristic crown on top of the Memorial Hermann Tower, outlined with glowing red, white, and blue triangles shining against the ink-black sky from the height of thirty-three floors. Almost there.

“Did you at least tell his sister what to expect if I have to use my magic?”

“I told her the boy would have to be sedated.”

The car pulled into the parking lot. A Hispanic man, his face frantic, ran to the car and swung my door open. A blast of January air hit me. Winter in Houston tended to be mild, but a cold front had come through and the temperature had dropped to below thirty. My bare knees shook.

“Did he jump?” Augustine barked.

“No, sir.”

“Come on.” Augustine jumped out of the car.

I scrambled out of the vehicle. Wind tore at me with icy teeth.

Augustine and I hurried at a near run to the doorway. The glass doors slid open, letting us pass, and the warm air of the hallway bathed me. A group of people waited by the bank of elevators, some in scrubs, others in professional clothes, and all wearing the same panicked expression. They saw us and scurried out of the way, leaving behind a young woman with red hair. She turned. Recognition punched me.

“Runa? Runa Etterson?”

Her tearstained eyes widened in recognition. “Catalina?”

Three years ago, at Nevada’s wedding, an enemy of House Rogan poisoned the wedding cake. The only reason any of us were alive now, Augustine included, was because Runa purged the toxins before the cake was served. She was a Prime Venenata, a poison mage. She could kill everyone in this room in seconds. And the boy on the roof was her brother. Oh my God.

Augustine strode past me into the open elevator. “Catalina, there is no time.”

I had come this far. Poison mage or no, Ragnar was still a fifteen-year-old boy on the edge of a skyscraper’s roof. If I didn’t try to save him, I wouldn’t be able to sleep at night.

I hurried into the elevator. The doors slid shut. The last thing I saw was Runa looking at me like I was the answer to all her problems.

 

The elevator hummed, carrying us upward, brightly lit and perfectly normal. I caught my reflection in the mirrored wall. I looked like I had just rolled out of bed. There was a touch of surreal in it all: me in my sweatshirt, standing next to impossibly perfect Augustine in an elevator of mirrors and electric lights and soft music. Maybe I was dreaming.

Runa’s mother and sister were dead. And Augustine must have quoted her an impossible price. I had planned to simply walk away if I managed to get the boy to safety, but this changed everything.

“You didn’t tell me he was Prime Venenata.”

“I told you he wouldn’t let anybody on the roof.”

Dread washed over me. “Did he kill anyone?”

Augustine sighed. “He’s a gentle child. He made them sick enough to turn back, but he didn’t inflict permanent damage.”

“What did he do?”

“Don’t worry. You’ll smell it.”

The numbers in the elevator’s digital display crawled up.

“When the doors open, turn left,” Augustine said. “Go to the door marked exit, and up one flight of stairs. There will be a metal door that will give you access to the roof.”

“That’s a terrible plan,” I told him.

“Ragnar will hesitate to hurt you. If he does, I’ll be there, and I’ll help.”

“If he sees you . . .”

“He won’t see me.”

The elevator doors swung open with a soft chime. I made a left and followed the hallway to the exit door and up the stairs. My hands shook.

The air stank like acid and vomit. A trail of chunky stains marked the steps. I didn’t want to look too closely at it.

The ice-cold metal door handle burned my fingertips. I pushed it and stepped onto the roof. The dark sky unfolded above me, impossibly huge and black, with the crown glowing against it. The frigid wind pierced my body, going straight through me all the way to the bone.

Ragnar stood on the very edge of the roof, a thin figure in faded jeans and a hoodie, balancing on a concrete ledge. He seemed so very small against the night, like an ant on a skyscraper.

He turned and looked at me, his face lit by the neon glow of the crown. I saw certainty and relief in his eyes. He wasn’t relieved to see me. He was relieved because he’d made up his mind and decided to jump. I had no time.

“Tell Runa I’m sorry—”

I hit him with everything I had.

When the Keeper of Records named my magic, he called me siren, which fit me well, because like the sirens of legend, I called people to me and they couldn’t resist. And like ancient sirens, I had wings, beautiful magic wings nobody could see unless I let them. They snapped open behind my back now, as the focused torrent of magic drenched Ragnar.

He froze. His heels protruded an inch over the ledge. One slip and he would die.

“Ragnar,” I called him, turning his name into a singsong lure.

He licked his lips nervously. “Hi.”

“Hello. I’m Catalina.” Magic stretched from me to him and I wove more and more of it around him with every syllable.

“You’re so pretty,” he said.

“Thank you. It’s cold and dark. Do you think we could go inside?”

He nodded, fascinated.

I held out my hand. “It’s scary up here. Will you hold my hand?”

He moved, stumbled, teetering on the edge, his arms waving . . . My heart jerked, trying to leap out of my chest.

Augustine materialized out of thin air next to Ragnar, grabbed a handful of his hoodie, and yanked him back. Runa’s brother landed on the concrete roof.

Holy crap. My knees almost gave out.

Ragnar righted himself, walked over, took my hand, and offered me a shy smile.

I smiled back. “Let’s go inside.”

We went through the door and down the stairs with Augustine bringing up the rear. I scanned him. Clean. None of my magic had hit him. I had focused all of it in a laser-tight beam on Ragnar. Augustine could turn himself invisible. Nevada would lose her mind when I told her.

We boarded the elevator. Sweat glistened on Augustine’s flawless forehead. He was breathing like he’d run up all thirty-three floors to the roof. Ragnar held my hand very gently, as if my fingers were made of glass. It wouldn’t last.

Most magic users had to put some effort into doing magic. I was the opposite. I had to hold mine in. When I was born, a nurse tried to kidnap me. She paid for it with her career. In the years that followed, before I learned to control my power, perfectly normal people did insane things to hold on to me. My elementary teacher attempted to smuggle me out of her classroom and into her car. My classmates tore out chunks of my hair so they could keep a piece of me.

Other kids were encouraged to be cute, to perform for adults. If I smiled, the adults became mesmerized, and if I wanted them to like me, they would love me with obsessive intensity. Their children would cry hysterically when I left the playground.

Right now, Ragnar loved me, madly, beyond all reason. Soon touching me wouldn’t be enough. He would want to hold me, crush me to him, rip out a lock of my hair to smell and taste. He’d want a piece of me to stroke and to bite.

The Keeper might as well have called me Orpheus. Sooner or later those who tasted my magic would want to tear me apart and they would love and worship every precious drop of my blood and shred of my flesh as they killed me. Only my doctor was immune; we didn’t know why. And my family. I didn’t need to magic them. They already loved me.

The elevator stopped. The doors swung open and Runa lunged to hug her brother. Her arms closed around him, breaking Ragnar’s hold on me.

Ragnar screamed as if cut. It was a raw animal sound. His sister let go, stunned, and he dived at me and clamped my hand in his.

A man shouldered his way through the crowd, carrying a small medical case.

“Ragnar,” I called.

He gazed at me with adoration in his eyes. I knew it was temporary, but even so, it made me cringe.

“That gentleman is going to give you a shot. I’m scared of shots. Are you?”

“No.” He shook his head. “No, I’m brave.”

“Will you show me how to be brave, Ragnar?”

He held his arm out, his gaze fixed on me. Runa hugged him. I watched the needle go in. “You’ll feel a little sleepy in a minute. It’s okay to fall asleep.”

“Don’t leave!”

“I won’t leave,” I promised. “I’ll stay here and hold your hand.”

Ragnar’s hold on my hand slipped. He sighed happily, closed his eyes, and sagged in his sister’s arms.

I turned to Augustine. “I need you to transport him back to the warehouse.”

“He needs to be under observation,” Augustine said.

“No, he needs to be back at the warehouse, so I can purge my magic from him. If he wakes up and I’m not here, he may escape and try to find me. And this time, people will die.”

Augustine turned to Runa. “It’s your call.”

I met her gaze. “You know me. You’ve seen what I can do. Please trust me on this.”

“Let’s go,” she said.

 

The trip home was taking considerably longer. The chauffer seemed in no hurry, and the Bentley all but crawled up the dark street. Runa’s rented Nissan Rogue had no trouble keeping up. She had insisted on following us with Ragnar in her car.

I sat on the backseat next to Augustine. The adrenaline had worn off, leaving behind a soft fatigue. If I wasn’t in the vehicle of a dangerous Prime, I would have closed my eyes and gone to sleep.

“Well done,” Augustine said.

I didn’t need his approval. “Nevada’s debt to you is paid in full. We’re even.”

“Agreed. Although technically it was a favor to House Etterson.”

“Your dealings with House Etterson are between you and Runa. I’m surprised you cared enough to get involved tonight.”

“I know what it’s like to be responsible for a younger brother.”

Oh. Humanity from Augustine. Unexpected.

Augustine tilted his head. “House Etterson may prove a valuable ally for you, if they survive. They now owe you a favor they can’t refuse. You need allies, Catalina. The reprieve granted to your House is about to expire. People will be coming for you and yours. You’re powerful but inexperienced, and because of your sealed records, you are an unknown. Unfortunately, being an unknown isn’t enough of a deterrent.”

“What are the terms?” I asked.

Augustine raised his eyebrows.

I counted off on my fingers. “You separated me from my family. You’re aware that my older sister and my brother-in-law are out of the country and are unable to advise me at the moment. It’s the middle of the night and I’m tired from expending magic. You’ve complimented me, you’ve mentioned the danger facing my House, and we are driving at barely fifty miles per hour. You have an offer for me. Let’s hear it.”

Augustine cleared his throat. “Good. Skipping extended explanations and hand holding makes things easier.”

I waited.

“I offer a strategic alliance between House Montgomery and House Baylor. Occasionally, cases which are uniquely suited to the talents of your family cross my desk. I’d like you to handle them. In return, I offer generous financial compensation, access to MII’s resources within the scope of those particular investigations, and the benefits of an association with my House.”

He was offering protection and guaranteed income. More, he offered contacts and data. The MII maintained an extensive network of informants and observers. Very little took place in Houston without Augustine knowing about it. He hoarded sensitive information, holding on to it until someone paid or threatened him. Access to that database was truly priceless.

Augustine was also a master at determining precisely what people needed most. It didn’t take a genius to recognize that our most urgent need was security.

I had to make a decision.

“House Baylor is flattered by your generosity. However, at this time, we must regretfully decline.”

Augustine chewed on it for half a minute.

“Why?”

“You have made a similar offer to Nevada three times. I’m aware that she declined, and I share her reasons for it.”

“Indulge me,” Augustine said.

“Very well. The real value of this partnership for us wouldn’t be in money.” Although we could certainly use it. “It would be in the connections and the elevated profile that comes from working with a Prime clientele. A way for us to enter Prime society and forge relationships and alliances that would anchor our House.”

And of course, the database and access to the MII surveillance agents, who were legendary. We both understood that, so there was no need to mention it.

I kept going. “I want to underscore that I fully understand the value of your offer. However, currently there is a massive power imbalance between House Montgomery and House Baylor. I have seen how MII operates. If we agree to your proposal, you’ll expect us to abide by your contract, which may require us to compromise our ethics. We’re a family business. All we have is our name and our reputation. We follow only three rules. First, we try not to do anything illegal. Second, once bought, we stay loyal to the client. And third, at the end of the day we have to be able to look our reflection in the eye. Those are the principles my father laid out for us, they are the rules my older sister followed, and I will follow them as well. If we have an alliance with House Montgomery, we’ll enter this alliance as equals, not as vassals or subcontractors, and we will adhere to our own norms of behavior.”

The silence stretched out between us.

Augustine opened his mouth. “We’re not equals.”

“Exactly. House Montgomery is a behemoth and we’re small and new. As you have said, we may or may not survive. But we must stand on our own. We worked very hard to move out of House Rogan’s shadow and I won’t trade that independence for an easy paycheck.”

Augustine’s face was impassive. “Thank you for your honesty.”

“There may be a time I’ll come to ask for your help,” I told him. “If I do that, I’ll be sure to bring information of equal or greater value.”

The Bentley turned onto our street.

“Then I’ll leave you with this piece of advice,” Augustine said. “It’s free. Do not become involved in the Etterson case. I know exactly what you’re up against, and the price I quoted her was a gift. Sometimes when you search the night, you’ll find monsters in the dark. You’re not ready.”

“I’ll keep it in mind,” I told him.

 

“Ilona Andrews” is the pseudonym for a husband-and-wife writing team.
Ilona is a native-born Russian and Gordon is a former communications
sergeant in the U.S. Army. Contrary to popular belief, Gordon was
never an intelligence officer with a license to kill, and Ilona was
never the mysterious Russian spy who seduced him. They met in
college, in English Composition 101, where Ilona got a better grade.
(Gordon is still sore about that.)
Gordon and Ilona currently reside in Texas with their two
children and many dogs and cats.
They have co-authored several NYT and USAT bestselling series. They are
currently working on urban fantasy of Kate Daniels, the paranormal
romance of Hidden Legacy, and their independently published series,
Innkeeper Chronicles.
Follow the tour HERE
for exclusive content and a giveaway!

 

Book Giveaway: I’ve Got You, Babe by Lynnette Austin

I've Got You, Babe (Must Love Babies Book 2) by [Austin, Lynnette]

I’ve Got You, Babe

by Lynnette Austin

Publication date: August 27, 2019

“Powerful chemistry that makes this a winning page-turner.”—Publishers Weekly for Must Love Babies

Where do you go when you’re at the end of your rope?

Former Marine Tucker Wylder wants nothing more than to work with his brothers in their vintage car restoration business and be left alone with his nightmares and regrets. The last thing he needs is to take on someone else’s troubles…

Then Elisa Danvers and her young daughter arrive in Misty Bottoms, Georgia. Elisa has reached the end of the line—flat broke, engine trouble, sick in body and spirit. Tucker steps up to the rescue and finds himself reluctantly taking care of a feisty preschooler and her independent mother, who doesn’t seem to want his help. And Tucker isn’t sure he’s ready for the way precocious little Daisy and headstrong, beautiful Elisa herself capture first his bachelor household and finally his carefully guarded heart…

Must Love Babies Series:

Must Love Babies (Book 1)

I’ve Got You Babe (Book 2)

What People Are Saying about Lynnette Austin:

“Austin is a talented writer with a gift for capturing the charming…dynamic and interesting.”—Kirkus Reviews for Must Love Babies

“Austin’s sweet small-town romance hits all the right buttons.”—Booklist for Must Love Babies

“Readers will be drawn in most of all by the sweet Southern romance.”—Publishers Weekly for Picture Perfect Wedding

“Romance that has it all… A beautifully written tale of romance, friendship, and learning to trust.”—Fresh Fiction for Every Bride Has Her Day

Lynnette Austin

Lynnette Austin has been a finalist in Romance Writers of America’s Golden Heart Contest, PASIC’s Book of Your Heart Contest, and Georgia Romance Writers’ Maggie Contest. Having grown up in a small town, that’s where her heart takes her—to those quirky small towns where everybody knows everybody…and all their business, for better or worse. Visit her at http://www.authorlynnetteaustin.com. Lynnette splits her time between the beaches of Florida and the Blue Ridge Mountains of northern Georgia.

 

Author Website: http://www.authorlynnetteaustin.com

 

Purchase Links:

Amazon: https://amzn.to/2UqJcT3

B&N: http://bit.ly/2Xnr6Dm

Apple: https://apple.co/2Phg280

IndieBound: http://bit.ly/2PjeUkf

BAM: http://bit.ly/2PkjmPS

Kobo: http://bit.ly/305dcY9

EXCERPT:

A cup of hot, black coffee in hand and a well-earned—and desperately needed—weekend fishing trip on his mind, Tucker unlocked the front door of Wylder Rides. The smell of oil and new tires welcomed him like an old friend. He liked the peace and quiet of the early morning, the solitude before his brothers arrived.

When a breeze drifted in through the open bay door, he thanked the stars the calendar had finally flipped to October. This summer, his first in Misty Bottoms, Georgia, had been hotter than Hades. With the onslaught of autumn, though, temperatures had dipped to a less humid mid-seventies.

Still, even the Georgia low-country summer had been a hell of a sight better than the sweltering heat he’d suffered during his Middle East deployment. There the July temperatures hovered above the hundred-degree mark. Add in the blistering sun, and the place could turn a man’s hide to shoe leather in no time. Don’t even get him started on the never-ending sand that found its way into every crack and crevice on the human body and scoured exposed skin raw.

A tough place to live. A worse place to die.

Involuntarily, his hands clenched into fists. Taking a deep breath, he relaxed them. Not today. He dropped to the creeper, slid partially beneath the ’Vette, and got busy replacing the brake lines.

Southern rock blasted from his stereo. Over the magic of Charlie Daniel’s fiddle, Tucker heard a car slow, then pull in out front. Its muffler was shot. The engine knocked, coughed and sputtered, then shut down with a rattle.

Seconds later, a totally different sound caught his attention—high heels on the garage’s concrete floor. Tucker slid a sidelong glance toward the front of the bay and almost swallowed his tongue. Framed in the narrow window between the floor and the car’s bumper were a pair of legs that would have any red-blooded man drooling…and they crossed slowly toward him. Laying the wrench on the floor beside him, he gave a push with his foot and slid the creeper from beneath the car.

Flat on his back, he let his gaze travel up over a body that matched the legs beat for beat, then on to a face only angels could have created. The heart-shaped face, with its sensuous lips and the biggest, bluest eyes he’d ever seen, sent a shockwave rocketing through him. Long, pale blond hair had been caught back in a ponytail.

An illusion? Maybe he’d breathed too many gas fumes and was hallucinating?

Nope. This woman was real and, from the expression on that stunning face, in trouble.

“My car—” She waved a hand toward the front of the building.

“Could use some work,” Tucker finished, slowly getting to his feet. Wiping his hands on a grease rag, he moved toward her. “Look, we’re not a repair shop, but I can probably figure out what’s wrong. If it’s minor—”

She swayed and reached out toward the wall.

“You okay?” Even as Tucker spoke, he saw those mind-blowing eyes go blank. Dark lashes fanned her cheeks.

With a muttered curse, he lunged, barely reaching her before she hit the floor. Heart racing, he held her against him and swore again. Out cold.

“Hey, can you hear me?” He tapped her cheek but got no response. “Wake up.”

Sweat broke out on his brow. Where were his brothers? They should be here by now. What was he supposed to do with an unconscious woman? He leaned his head close to hers, relief flooding him when her breath whispered against his cheek.

A high-pitched wail split the air. Panicked, his head whipped up, and he glanced toward the beater parked out front. The driver’s side door hung open; in the back, strapped into a child’s seat, sat a little girl with her mama’s pale blond hair—a little girl winding up for one hell of a crying jag.

And the day just got better!

He shook the limp woman gently, noticed the sheen of perspiration on her face. “Come on, sugar. For God’s sake, open those baby blues.”

She didn’t.

Kneeling and taking the woman down with him, he spread an old garage blanket and laid her carefully on it, straightening the short skirt of her flower-print dress.

With his forearm, he swiped the sweat from his brow. “Hey, wake up.”

She didn’t.

Okay. Time to tackle the second half of this double-feature horror show.

Edging toward the used-up Ford Escort and its young occupant in much the same way he’d approach a suspected sniper’s nest, he pulled out his phone and hit 911.

The sheriff answered on the first ring. “Misty Bottoms Police Department. What can I do ya?”

“Jimmy Don, it’s Tuck Wylder. I’m out at my shop.” Opening the sedan’s back door, he stared at the young child, at her tear-covered face and runny nose. He’d guess her to be maybe two or three years old. An opened bag of pretzels lay on the seat. Leaning in, he grabbed one and handed it to her. She raised it to her mouth and chewed, her cries dying to quiet whimpers.

Thank you, Jesus.

“Tuck? What’s goin’ on?” the sheriff demanded.

“A woman pulled up in front of our place, and, well, she’s passed out.”

“Been drinkin’?”

“I don’t think so, but she’s hot.”

“I don’t care how good lookin’ she is.”

“No, Jimmy Don. Not hot hot, hot! As in sweating.”

“Well, why didn’t you say so?”

“I did!” Who’s on first? he thought.

“Do I hear a kid?”

Exasperated, Tucker raked fingers through his short hair, his gaze travelling over the woman. She still hadn’t moved. What a friggin’ mess!

“Yeah, you do. She came with the woman who’s passed out on my garage floor.”

“She okay?”

Tucker raised his eyes to the heavens and rubbed at his forehead. “Which one?”

“The kid.”

“How would I know? Nothing wrong with her lungs, I can tell you that.” The nagging beginning of a headache bloomed into a full-fledged whopper.

“You need an ambulance or you gonna take the gal in to see Doc Hawkins?”

“What?” Tucker pulled the cell away to stare at it. Bringing it back to his ear, he asked, “Are you serious, Jimmy Don? You want me to pick up an unconscious stranger, toss her in my car, along with the baby, and drive them into town?”

“So I guess you want me to send the town’s ambulance out there.”

“Bingo.”

 

***

Excerpted from I’ve Got You, Babe by Lynnette Austin. © 2019 by Lynnette Austin. Used with permission of the publisher, Sourcebooks Casablanca, an imprint of Sourcebooks, Inc. All rights reserved.

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