Monday, November 28, 2022

Release Day Blitz Martyr by Linda Robertson Reinhardt


Martyr     
The Immanence Series
Book Three
Linda Robertson Reinhardt

Genre: Dark Fantasy
Publisher: Igni House Publishing
Date of Publication: Nov 28, 2022   
ISBN:   9781685440091
Number of pages:  635
Word Count: 148,000 
Cover Artist: Linda Robertson Reinhardt

Series Tagline: A renegade angel once changed human society forever… now a new angel will change it again.   

Book Description: 

Jovienne’s quest to understand her power and claim her freedom leads to a shocking discovery--one that will shake the foundations of modern society and sends her straight to Hell.

Listen to the Immanence Soundtrack



About the Author:

Linda Robertson Reinhardt is an internationally published novelist and her short stories have appeared in several anthologies. In 2022, she released The Immanence Series, a dark fantasy trilogy for which she created the covers and all the interior artwork. A life-long musician, she’s also an award-winning composer, so it’s no surprise she also wrote and produced a 72-minute original orchestral score to accompany the new books. She has even scored a few short, independent films. Her music is available on most streaming channels. She is also a graphic artist and a painter, and her artwork is available through Redbubble. If that’s not enough, she makes jewelry and hand-blends/hand-bottles fragrances that she sells on her Etsy store. A mother of four boys, Linda is married and lives in Ohio.
 







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Wednesday, November 23, 2022

Bewitching Book Tours Holiday Sale



 Bewitching Book Tours Holiday Sale

20% Off Any Virtual Book Tour Package

Reserve a Tour Now for Any Time in 2023

This offer cannot be combined with any other discounts, sales, or special offers.

This sale ends on December 1

Sign up here: http://goo.gl/dNgqXv

Use Code HOLIDAY22

#HolidaySale #VirtualBookTour #HolidayBookSale #BookPromotion #BookMarketing 

Monday, November 21, 2022

The Art of Always by Patricia Friedrich



The Art of Always
Patricia Friedrich

Genre:  Women’s Fiction/Historical
Publisher: The Wild Rose Press
Date of Publication: Jan 19, 2022
ISBN: 978-1509237791
ASIN: B09KQY4W8L
Number of pages: 372
Word Count: ~ 90K
Cover Artist: Diana Carlile

Tagline: The biggest mystery is why we lie to ourselves

Book Description:

Art history student Darcey Mendes needs a new topic for her thesis in order to graduate, but time is against her. Family debts are pressing. She fears she must give up all hopes of an academic career. Yet, without her degree, would she earn enough to provide for her secret daughter's future? 

Archie Northwood, rich and from a privileged family, suddenly reappears in her life to offer the chance that could save her--the story of his Brazilian great-grandmother. His ancestor was Modernist painter Ana Eça, who, on the verge of stardom in the 1920s, mysteriously vanished from public view forever. 

Choosing to unveil Ana's story is a complicated proposition for them both. How will they be able to work together to resolve the decades-old mystery when Darcey cannot allow Archie to guess her secret?

Amazon     BN     Google

Excerpt:

A thin mist had covered the city. Inside the fog, cobblestone pavers and streetlamps gave the streets a dreamlike feel, which Ana experienced from the other side of her window. Watching the movement of neighbors hurrying to catch a train or walk to work, she knifed a small wedge of butter and slathered it on a piece of toast. The flavors of the morning, fresh coffee and jam, delighted her. It was a moment of perfection, a fleeting one, full of ideas about art and success, so she took full notice of it. But soon the pleasure of warm French bread and sweet coffee was replaced with worry. Her morning with Joaquim and the strange intuition she had about it kept her heart prisoner and made her attention falter. The strange prophecy and the knot in her stomach alerted her to be careful. As she fell asleep the night before, she had made up her mind that the recent encounter would be their last time together. She reminded herself that no matter the powerful hold Joaquim had on her, she could do whatever she wanted.

About the Author:

Patricia Friedrich is a Professor at Arizona State University, having received her Ph.D. from Purdue University. She teaches courses in composition, linguistics, peace, and culture. She writes non-fiction about the intersection of those areas. Her non-fiction work has appeared in eight books and in over 40 book chapters and journal articles. Her fiction has been published in several literary magazines including Eclectic Flash, The Linnet's Wings, and Birkensnake, as well as in the anthology Flash in the Attic. Her novel The Art of Always was awarded first place at a regional RWA competition, was the winner of a National Indie Excellence Award, and was published in 2022 by The Wild Rose Press. She is also an author of historical romance under the pseudonym Eliza Emmett. All the Parts of Your Soul, her next novel (with Jen Jensen), is forthcoming. She lives in Arizona.











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Wednesday, November 16, 2022

Beta Test by Karenna Colcroft


Beta Test
Real Werewolves True Mates
Book Two
Karenna Colcroft

Genre: Paranormal Romance
Publisher: Vegan Wolf Productions 
Date of Publication: November 10, 2022
ASIN: B0BKQLY5RN
ISBN: 978-1-958346-03-7
Page Count: 344
Word Count: 100,671
Cover Artist: Kim Ramsey-Winkler

Book Description: 

Tareth McConnell has learned not to count on anyone other than herself. She definitely is NOT in the market for a relationship. But the first time she sees the man with the long braid on the subway, she’s drawn to him.

The first time Justin Ruel speaks to Tareth, he knows there’s something special about her. Something that calls to him as clearly as her beautiful voice. If he didn’t know better, he would swear she was his mate–but that’s impossible. Justin is the Beta of City Pack, the largest werewolf pack in the United States, and he absolutely cannot have a human mate.

As their connection grows and they begin to act on their attraction, Justin hides the truth from Tareth. But when a series of attacks on members of the two Boston werewolf packs occurs, Tareth’s life is endangered. To protect her, Justin has no choice but to tell her what he is–even if it means losing her forever.


Excerpt:

She knew Justin wasn’t anything like Max. He didn’t seem at all fazed by his discovery.

If anything, he’d been amused. She hadn’t seen that at first. To her, the situation had been anything but amusing. It wasn’t until he’d threatened to leave that she’d realized she was overreacting.

At least we got the arguing out of the way on the first date. Maybe that means our relationship will be smooth sailing from now on.

That wasn’t exactly a logical thought either, but it made her feel better.

She rummaged through the pile of menus and mail on her kitchen table until she found menus for the three nearest Chinese restaurants. Justin could decide which one he wanted to order from, since he was insisting on paying. For once, she was grateful for the clutter. Having to search for the menus gave her a little more time to calm down and think rationally.

When she returned to the living room, Justin was at the window looking out at the street.

“You have a great neighborhood here,” he said without turning around.

“It is pretty nice.” She’d entered the room quietly, or so she thought. How had he known she was back?

He turned and smiled at her. “I just wanted to tell you how great today has been so far.

I’m glad we’re continuing the date. To be honest, I didn’t want to leave yet.”

“To be honest, I don’t know if I’m going to want you to leave at all. At least not until morning.”

The words seemed to drop out of her mouth without consulting with her brain. Of course she’d considered spending the night with him. She would have had to have been dead not to be attracted to him. And despite the way she’d reacted to his finding her toy, a tiny part of her found it arousing that he knew she’d used it on herself. Maybe he even knew that she’d been fantasizing about him.

No matter what her libido and body wanted, she hadn’t intended to let him know that she might let him stay. They’d agreed to come back to her place and kiss. Maybe more. She’d laid down her ground rules at the beginning. First date, no sex.
Neither of them had said anything about his staying the night, but that was exactly what she’d just suggested.

She bit her lip and managed to look him in the eye. He smiled, and something in his eyes let her know that she could say anything she wanted to him and he would be fine with it.

“I don’t want to leave either,” he said softly. “I’ve already told you I want you. It doesn’t have to happen tonight. If it does, I’m not going to complain about it, and I’m not going to think any less of you.”

It was an odd thing to say. Not something Tareth had ever heard from a guy. And it was exactly what she needed to hear.

“I won’t think less of you either,” she said, trying to make a joke of it.

“Good.” He held out his hand. “Let’s take a look at those menus. Lunch was way too long ago.”

They chose a restaurant and placed their order, then sat on the couch again to wait. Justin held her hand, and for several minutes they sat there together in silence, as they had on the boat. The silence now was just as comfortable as it had been then.

Justin’s touch was just as much a fuel for desire as it had been earlier.




About the Author:

A writer since childhood, Karenna Colcroft delved into the world of romantic fiction in 2009 and brought numerous novels, novellas, and short stories into the world until 2016, when various circumstances combined to enforce a hiatus. Now Karenna is resurrecting herself and some of her previously-published books along with new books set in the same universe.

Karenna lives just north of Boston and has been in love with the city since childhood, though she has yet to encounter any werewolves, vampires, or other paranormal beings in her travels. (At least none that she knows of.) Though since in her non-writing life, under another name, she offers services as a channel and energy healing practitioner, it could be said that she herself is a paranormal being. The jury’s still out on that.

Karenna is a polyamorous, nonbinary human who splits time between the home she shares with her husband and the one she shares with her committed partner. She also has two adult children and a bonus son, three grandchildren, and two and a half cats. (Half in terms of time the cat lives with her, not in terms of the cat itself…)








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Tuesday, November 15, 2022

A Haunting at Marianwood by E.M. Munsch


A Haunting at Marianwood
Dash Hammond 
Book Six
E.M. Munsch

Genre: Mystery
Publisher: Mystery and Horror, LLC
Date of Publication: October 18, 2022
ASIN: ‎B0BJ4GYGD2
ISBN-10: ‎1949281213
ISBN-13: ‎978-1949281217
Print length: ‎217 pages

Book Description: 

Life is good for Dash Hammond. He's recently remarried his childhood sweetheart, Dr. Maevis Summers, and together they're raising his four-year-old son, T.J. in the Hammond family homestead in Clover Pointe, Ohio. A retired Army colonel, Dash now keeps himself busy fixing everything from a leaky faucet to an unsolved murder.

It is no wonder that his cousin Billy McCafferty calls on Dash for a road trip to Kentucky when  his oldest sister is in trouble. The president of a religious order, Sister Miriam Patrice, Miri Pat to those who knew her before she took the veil, has been hearing things, seeing things and misplacing things. A very competent woman, she refuses to accept an unearthly reason for all this.

Marianwood, the motherhouse of the Sisters of the Blessed Mother of God, is located on an old plantation thought to be haunted by its original inhabitant, Miss Victoria Harris, who is rumored to prowl the grounds and cemetery in search of her murdered beau. 

When the Ohio contingent arrives, they discover that things are not as simple as your ordinary haunting. 

In a battle of wits, will the victor be supernatural or a very corporal retired Army colonel?


Excerpt:

A HAUNTING AT MARIANWOOD

Sister Miriam Patrice slid back from the kneeler. The quiet of the church soothed her as it wrapped its velvet cloak of serenity around her. She sat, hands folded, once in prayer but now to stop the trembling. Glancing at the sunlight streaming through the stained-glass windows casting a rainbow on the empty pews, she drew in deep slow breaths. She looked at the watch pinned to her tunic. Time to get back to work. She rose to leave the church, her place of refuge, a place free from the distractions of the running the community and the new retirement home the sisters established to help make ends meet.

The members of the Sisters of the Blessed Mother of God found their numbers dwindling. New recruits, as Sister Miriam Patrice called them mimicking her cousin Dash Hammond’s military jargon, were very rare. The teaching congregation once had more than a hundred sisters. Vocations, callings to either the religious or the educational side of the community, had fallen to less than a handful each year.

As she walked down the aisle to the back of the church, she heard it again. Tap, tap, tap. She stopped to listen, making sure she wasn’t mistaken. That sound sent shivers down her spine. Squaring her shoulders she walked to the doors next to the church exit. One led up to the choir loft, the other down to the cellar. In days past she had gone up the stairs; today she would go down.

Pulling the doorknob, Miriam Patrice met the resistance of a locked door. She pulled out her keys and unlocked it. She struggled with the door, suggesting to her that no one had gone to the cellar in a while.

The stone steps were worn but sturdy. She moved cautiously into the darkness, one hand on the wall to steady her nervous knees, the other searching for the handrail. Her hope was that the security guard forgot to close the door one day and some critter, not two legged, was trapped down here and making the tap, tap, tap sound. Logically she knew this was wrong, but the alternative could be worse.

Decades ago they discovered one of the newer buildings constructed during a period of rapid expansion had been built on an underground spring. It wasn’t long before the building tilted, as did their finances. What a waste of time and money. Fearful that what she would find was a tell-tale pooling or bubbling of water, she moved forward slowly. She said a silent prayer that she would not stumble into a puddle, a precursor of the inevitable unwelcome news.

Her trek seemed unnecessarily slow though reason told Miriam Patrice she should alert one of her sisters where she was just in case she lost her footing. But her reasoning had not been the sharpest of late. She blamed her sleepless nights, not because of an uneasy conscience but an overabundance of concern for her congregation and its uncertain future, both financially and individually.

After spending a half an hour poking into the corners, searching for the origin of the sound, Miriam Patrice gave up. She needed a flashlight if she wanted to do a proper search. Next time she would be prepared. Next time, she told herself, she would be less skittish, more confident that she could deal with whatever sprung up from the tap, tap, tap. After deciding this, she nodded to herself. At least she didn’t hear a drip, drip, drip.

The sound had stopped so she returned to the church. As she locked the door behind her, the tap, tap, tap began again, louder this time. If she permitted herself, she would have said damn.


About the Author:

Elaine Munsch is a native of Cleveland, Ohio, but has spent her adult life in Louisville, Kentucky.  She graduated from Nazareth College of Kentucky located outside of Bardstown and attended The Ohio State University for her graduate work. She has been a bookseller for fifty years working in both large and small, chain and independent bookstores. She opened the first Barnes & Noble in Kentucky where she set up a mystery reading group which is still active today. She also taught classes in the mystery genre for the Veritas Society and joined the local chapter of Sisters in Crime.
  
With Susan Bell, she co-edited MYSTERY WITH A SPLASH OF BOURBON, an anthology of bourbon related stories.

As E.M. Munsch, she writes the Dash Hammond series set on the shores of Lake Erie. The latest title, A HAUNTING AT MARIANWOOD, is set to be released at the end of October.






Release Day Blitz A Raven Remix Paranormal Penny Box Set by Sarah Hualde


A Raven Remix
Paranormal Penny Box Set 
Books 1, 1.5 and 2 
Sarah Hualde

Genre: YA Paranormal Cozy Mystery
Date of Publication: 11/15/22
ISBN:  9781736756645
ASIN:   B0BKFLD85D
Number of pages: 550
Word Count: approx 80,000
Cover Artist:  OlivaProDesign

Book Description:  

Most people run from death,
But not Penny.
She chases it down.

Penny's premonitions put her friends in peril. Join her as she stalks the bird of death by following the musical clues he leaves behind.

Will she and her cheeky cat, Spades save the day?
Or will the Raven be one step ahead?

This Paranormal Penny Boxset features books 1, 1.5, and 2 in the Paranormal Penny Mystery Series.

Join Penny and Spades as they thwart murderers before they strike.


Amazon     Kobo     Apple     BN

Excerpt:

It wasn’t life that flashed before my eyes as Betty Fae thwacked me between the shoulder blades. It was death and disaster—replays of all the faces of shock and sadness worn by acquaintances of my past. Death of one sort or the other followed that stupid Raven.

I remembered them all. Vividly. The writer, the homeschool mom, the surfer, the politician. They were among the near-strangers I’d encountered and endangered.

Following their faces came the really painful pictures. The friendly child advocate, the sweet boy next door, and losing my aunt and uncle. After them, but always above them, followed the loss of my sister and father.

All because of the same intolerable bird. Gracious enough to give me a glimpse of their perils before nudging them to the brink. Impending doom sat, staring at me, from the cup of the only friend I had in town- Janice Rockland. It lingered there amid the froth bubbles, telling me Janice Rockland had twenty-four hours, at most, left to live.

My eyes watered. My throat closed all the tighter. Even after it dislodged my Belgian waffle. Air battled past my suffocating emotions. I gulped it down, despising myself and fearing for my boss.

Janice and Betty Fae offered me a glass of water and napkins, thinking they’d saved the day. Little did they know. Trouble had just landed in their small town.

Janice watched me through the rest of the meal. If I told her she was about to die, would she be able to eat? I sipped my coffee and avoided conversation.

Long ago, I’d explained my weird glimpses to one of the Raven’s victims. Instead of believing me, my friend grew increasingly sarcastic about my confession. He mocked me. I didn’t blame him. I’m not sure I would’ve believed me, either. In the end, his sarcasm killed him.
Laughing and gesturing like a mad bird to make fun of my premonitions, he’d lost control of his bicycle and collided with a garbage truck just as it was lowering its load.

No, I wasn’t about to tell Janice about her Raven. I’d keep watch. Stay sharp. Once the bird made an appearance, he wouldn’t leave until his prey was dead. Accidentally or with malice aforethought.

The next song, movie quote, television commercial, or anything ominous could clue me in on how to save her. At least I could give it a shot. If I didn’t keep a constant eye on Janice, her death would be on my head.


About the Author:

Sarah lives in California, in a home that brings her happiness and hay fever. She loves God, loves her family, and loves freshly brewed coffee. She has a husband who cooks, a son who stop animates, a daughter who loves animals, a dog that follows her everywhere, and a turtle who scowls at her condescendingly.

Her mother raised her on Mary Higgins Clark, Diane Mott Davidson, and Remington Steele. Her grandmother shared True Crime stories with her as they plotted how to get away with the perfect murder. It's no surprise that Sarah became an award-winning spinner of suspenseful tales brimming with quirky characters. Mysteries are in her blood. Not that she could survive one of her own stories. She confesses, "I'd be snuffed out by chapter two."











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Monday, November 14, 2022

A Taste of Alien Tale with Melody Johnson




Extra-terrestrials might not seem drool-worthy if you’re thinking about the traditional portrayal of aliens in some of my favorite blockbusters—Aliens, Independence Day, and MIB—but as Katy Perry well knows, sci-fi and romance are not mutually exclusive. In fact, I argue that her lyrics in the song E.T., although descriptive of an alien romance, can be applied to any “forbidden love.” 

“They don't understand you.
You're from a whole other world,
A different dimension.
You open my eyes.
And I'm ready to go, lead me into the light.”

That’s the beauty of romance. It’s relevant to every genre and fantasy, so whether you’re looking to fall in love with the boy next door or next galaxy, you can find something to satisfy your craving.Torek, the hero in my sci-fi romance, Beyond the Next Star (Love Beyond, Book 1), is an alien from a galaxy far away. He lives on a different planet with a very different culture than Delaney, my human heroine, and sportsbody fur over his muscles, ram horns on his head, and claws instead of fingernails. But Torek exhibits an essential “humanity,” for lack of a better word, with fierce morals, tender empathy for Delaney, fears and flaws, deep loyalty to his planet and family, and passion for his career. Through his personality, I strove to bridge the distance his physical differences might create, developing a sexy alien readers would hopefully fall in love and lust with. Despite the body fur.

And I’m not the only person to realize that aliens don’t always need to be gray and dripping slime. As Marvel and DC comics consistently show us, aliens are often actually the heroes! Thank you to those comic book classics and the actors who bring them to life for our viewing pleasure. 

Below are my top five favorite alien heartthrobs: 

1. Chris Hemsworth as Thor: Technically a god in Norse mythology, but from the perspective of non-believers… an alien. Rippling biceps, a Shakespearean accent, and a big hammer: what’s not to like? But in addition to his indisputable physical attributes, Thor has (and continues to have) a dramatic character arc. Falling in love matures him, joining the Avengers helps him become a team player (sort of), losing his love makes him vulnerable, and losing against Thanos breaks him. It’s wonderful to witness such increasing character depth throughout a series – and Hemsworth delivers it beautifully. 

2. Henry Cavil as Superman: It’s a bullet! It’s a plane! No, it’s a 6’ 1” flying man in a red and blue unitard! Excuse me—not a man, a Kryptonian. Sometimes it’s easy to forget that Superman isn’t just a super man; he’s an alien, and he’s captured our hearts for decades. There have been fantastic portrayals of him throughout the years, but my favorite is the most recent, darker, more conflicted version that Cavil embodies. 

3. Zachary Quinto as Spock: In terms of general “sex appeal,” there wasn’t much contest back in the day between William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy, but Zachary Quinto manages to depict a character we all know and love for his stoic, dry, near sterile personality in a way that somehow also emotes undeniable magnetism. He not only gives Captain Kirk a run for his money in the looks department, but combined with the delicious complexity of his brain and conflicted personality, I can’t help but love to love him. 

4. Tom Hiddleston as Loki: If I love to love Spock then I certainly love to hate Loki. So much so that I don’t really hate him at all! Where Thor is everything light and forthright, his brother is everything dark and twisty—and Tom Hiddleston wears that look so, so well. His wit is razor, and combined with that mischievous grin, I can’t help but laugh along as he makes everyone around him play the fool, even at the expense of the lovely Thor.

5. Sam Worthington as Jake’s Avatar: This one is a stretch, I know, considering that Jake himself is human, but Sam Worthington is a beefcake and his Avatar is alien, so… I’m willing to turn a blind eye if you are. What is more moving than a hero’s heart within a body that can’t live up to his/her strength of will? And Jake’s character arc as he becomes more sensitive and ironically more self-aware during his out-of-body experiences makes him even more swoon-worthy.


Beyond the Next Star 
Love Beyond 
Book One
Melody Johnson

Genre: Sci-fi Romance
Publisher: Incendi Press, LLC
Audio Date of Publication: September 13, 2022 
Date of Publication: June 23, 2020 
ISBN: 978-1-7351499-0-5 
ASIN: B0897S23JN 
ASIN: B0BF6126L4 


Runtime: 10 hours and 52 minutes
Word Count: 91,815
Cover Artist: Robin Ludwig Design Inc. 
Narrator: Michelle Sobeski 

Tagline: An intolerable order. A desperate charade. A deadly secret.

Book Description:

“She wasn’t dreaming, in a coma, having a mental breakdown, or in hell. She was abducted by aliens.”

Before Commander Torek Renaar can return to active duty, he’s ordered to purchase an animal companion to help relieve his PTSD symptoms. But having been a caretaker for and lost a loved one, keeping even one little human alive is a challenge he feels doomed to fail. It doesn’t help that his animal companion is the newest, most exotic breed on the market, demanding constant attention, daily grooming, and delicate handling. If she doesn’t die first in his incompetent care, she’ll be the death of him.

After witnessing the murder of her domestication specialist, Delaney McCormick allows her new owner to treat her like the pet he believes her to be. If anyone suspects she’s more intelligent than a golden retriever, her murder would be next. She endures the humiliation of being washed, the tediousness of being trained to “sit” and “come,” and the intrigue of hearing private conversations. But in Torek’s care, she finds something unexpected on this antarctic planet, something she never had in all her years on Earth while house-hopping between foster families: a home.

As companionship grows to love, must Delaney continue the charade, acting like an animal and hiding from the murderer waiting on her misstep? Or can she trust Torek with her secrets, even if the truth threatens everything he holds dear—and both their lives?

Amazon      BN      Audible      iTunes

Book Trailer: https://youtu.be/DYbFY4LAQ8I  


Audiobook Sample: https://youtu.be/mbmkievDPbU   


Excerpt:

When the lorienok abducted Delaney—after she’d finally accepted that she wasn’t dreaming, in a coma, having a mental breakdown, or in hell—she’d given them a fake name: Jane Smith. Not an exceptionally creative or unique pseudonym by any stretch of the imagination, but having come to grips with the fact that she’d been literally abducted by aliens, her imagination was stretched dangerously thin. Intergalactic kidnapping wasn’t a chronic illness, but for a time—a longer time than she was comfortable admitting to now—wasting away had seemed a preferable fate.

She didn’t accomplish much by hiding her identity. She didn’t have any blood relatives to protect, a criminal record to hide, or a trust fund to safeguard. Delaney Rose McCormick had about as much value associated with her name as did the fictional Jane Smith and left nearly as small a void on Earth. But all Delaney had in those early days directly following her abduction was her name and the hope that everything—the abduction, the tests, the training—was just a big mistake. Which, as it turned out, it was. Her abduction had been the biggest technological mistake in lorienok history, but that didn’t change her circumstances. Days turned to weeks turned to months turned to the abandonment of tracking time. Hope died. She had nothing to her name, but her name, at least, was her own, and she would keep it for herself.

By the time her domestication specialist, Keil Kore’Weidnar, discovered Delaney’s capacity to learn and taught her Lori, his native language, the issue of her name had become moot. He’d already renamed her Reshna, a spiral-shaped handheld tool used to drill into ice. He’d shown her a hologram of it, pointing to the spiral and then to the wild frizz of her unconditioned curls. They had a similar-looking tool on Earth, but they used it to open wine bottles. He’d named her “corkscrew” for her crazy hair.

She’d been called worse names in high school.

She couldn’t say she’d lived in worse places, though. Most of her foster families, with the exception of the Todd household, had been decent people who’d given her clothes, a bed under a roof, and regular meals. Besides clothes, those basic necessities were still being met, so a little gratitude was probably in order. But only just a little, because she also had a cage. And a collar. And if she’d just translated the words and growls of the pet store manager correctly, she had a new owner.

Like most lor, her owner had thick, curved ram horns jutting from his head, and like all lorienok regardless of gender, he was covered head to toe in brown fur. Sasquatch did exist after all; he just wasn’t native to Earth. He was roughly the same size and shape as a human bodybuilder, and in addition to the horns, his nose and mouth protruded slightly into a blunt muzzle, two rows of sharp predator teeth filled his overly large mouth, and pointy bearlike claws tipped each finger and likely each toe on his boot-shod feet.

Unlike most, this male wore his hair long. His locks were tied back from his face in a messy bun with a forest-green elastic band. His beard was also long and came to a point at the end, hanging a few inches below his chin. But his eyes were his most striking feature, assuming that one had already become accustomed to the ram horns, claws, abundance of muscle, and close-cropped body fur. His left eye was the same doe brown common to all lorienok—a smidge rounder and larger than human eyes, like calf eyes with those thick lashes and soul-deep stare—but his other eye was ice blue. A thick scar bisected his right brow, eyelid, and upper cheek, slicing directly over that unique, penetrating gaze.

His bearing was regal and confident, the sharp cut of his jawline proud, but his eyes betrayed him. He was sad—horribly sad—and he glowered at Delaney through the wire door of her cage like he was the Greek king Sisyphus and she his boulder, resigning himself to an eternity of labor over an impossible, futile undertaking.

Or maybe Delaney was just projecting because she couldn’t imagine anything more impossible and futile than her current existence. I am not a pet! she wanted to yell. But after witnessing Keil’s cold-blooded murder, she knew to keep her mouth firmly shut. If anyone suspected her more intelligent than a golden retriever, her death would be next.

Accomplishing impossible feats while enduring debilitating injury and sensory deprivation were challenges both expected and anticipated by the young cadets training to enter the combat and strategic intelligence division of the Federation. Qualifying exams were brutal. Training was rigorous. But for the few who didn’t fail, drop out, or obtain an infirmary discharge, the rewards were astronomical. Torek Lore’Onik Weidnar Kenzo Lesh’Aerai Renaar had certainly reaped those rewards many times over, as evidenced by the four property titles bestowed to his name. He’d never been one to flinch when facing a challenge, but this order—the court-mandated appointment of an animal companion to “facilitate mental recovery”—was the challenge that finally made him flinch.

Torek stared at the human—at the beautiful, riotous hair that sprang like coils from its head and would obviously need continual cleaning and grooming, at its tiny stature and lean form that probably couldn’t lift its own weight, at the lovely gray eyes and smooth, bare skin that would need layers upon layers of protective coverings to keep it warm—and he seriously considered the merits of simply retiring from the Federation.

No one would blame him after what had happened. He could return to his home in Aerai and resume the quiet, peaceful, unappreciated toil of plant cultivation he’d abandoned so many seasons ago along with his dreams of filling that home with a family.

The store manager hefted a bound book from the counter and plopped it into Torek’s unwilling arms.

“What’s this?” A tingle of cold dread crept across the back of Torek’s neck.

“Why, it’s your owner’s manual, of course.”

“Of course.” The Federation’s policies and procedures manual was the thickest book Torek had ever had the displeasure of memorizing, and it wasn’t even half the size of this tome.

“You’ll be the envy of all Lorien. The first to purchase a human, our newest species.

She’s the pilot for her breed, of course, but her domestication is progressing fabulously. They dispatched a harvester while she was still in transit, so until the next shipment arrives, she’s the only human we’ll have for a while yet, six kair at the least. You must be thrilled.”

As Torek flipped through a few of the manual’s pages and skimmed the table of contents, the tingle of dread that had started at his neck devoured the rest of his body and intensified to nausea. An entire chapter was dedicated to heating and insulating the human’s living quarters. If her rooms dipped below a specific temperature—Torek brought the book closer and squinted, but no, his eyes didn’t deceive him—and the human didn’t have tailored, fur-lined coverings to retain heat, she would sicken and die. If he didn’t provide her with private sleeping quarters, she would become lethargic and depressed, then sicken and die. If he didn’t feed her three meals a day, complete with a cooked protein, vegetables, and some grain, she would sicken and die. She was even allergic to ukok, a simple seasoning. If consumed, her throat would swell, cutting off her air supply, and she would immediately die.

He would kill her.

Not intentionally, of course, but despite the wild popularity of owning foreign domesticated animals, he’d never even owned a zeprak let alone something as exotic, delicate, and temperamental as this human. She wouldn’t survive a week in his care.

His throat tightened. His breath shortened. His chest ached, and suddenly, black starbursts shadowed his vision.

Not now. Not in public. Not again.



About the Author: 

Melody Johnson is the award-winning author of the “out of this world” Love Beyond series and the gritty, paranormal romance Night Blood series published by Kensington Publishing/ Lyrical Press. She graduated magna cum laude from Lycoming College with her B.A. in creative writing and psychology. 

Earning the 2021 Maggie Award of Excellence, Beyond the Next Star (Love Beyond, book 1) is an exciting branch from Melody's paranormal romance roots, keeping the dark grit from her Night Blood Series and taking it to new worlds. Her first published novel, The City Beneath (Night Blood, book 1), was a finalist in the “Cleveland Rocks” and “Fool For Love” contests. 

When she isn’t writing, Melody enjoys swimming, hiking, reading, and exploring her new home in southeast Georgia. 

Stay in touch with Melody on social media or her website: http://authormelodyjohnson.com/ 



 

 





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