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Coup de Foudre – A Guest Post by Justine Elyot (@justineelyot @sinfulpress) #giveaway

Hi, I’m Justine Elyot and I’m here today to talk to you about my new BDSM menage romance, The Story of Jo.

Drifting aimlessly through the romance community on Twitter and the like I sometimes see references (usually scathing) to ‘insta-love’ but I prefer the French term coup de foudre, which amounts to the same thing but in a sexier, Frencher way.

There seems to be a view that it’s unlikely for love to strike in that kind of way – instantly and forever – and I have some sympathy with that view. You can’t look into a stranger’s eyes and know that they are the one who will be with you till death do you part. You can’t know that you won’t ever grow apart, or drive the love away from each other, or meet somebody else after the shine has worn off.

All the same, it can happen and sometimes it does. Perhaps disproportionately in romance novels, but we aren’t dealing with kitchen sink drama here. (Which I just mistyped as kitchen kink, hmm, interesting…) And it happens to Jo when she meets Emmett.

When this kind of immediate, overwhelming attraction strikes, followed rapidly by emotional entanglement, it says a lot about the characters involved. Why are they such catnip to each other? They push each other’s buttons without even trying to, because there is an affinity between them that demands to be explored.

In Jo’s case, she is drifting and longs to drop anchor in a safe harbour. In Emmett’s, he is unconsciously looking for his ‘other half’, to prove to himself that he isn’t a complete misfit. Brought together at the right time and place, they create their own thunderstorm of desire.

Here’s an excerpt from their first meeting:

“Come on, mermaid,” said Emmett, unlinking from me and bending to remove his shoes and socks. “Come into your element with me.”

“Oh my God, are you serious?” I said, half-laughing as he took a step down towards the water’s edge, tiny wavelets lapping against the fading yellow-painted shore.

“Come on,” he repeated, in the water now, turning around to gesture me forwards. “It’s not cold.”

I dithered for a moment, but I was committed now, and still aching for Emmett’s approval, so I kicked off my high-heeled courts and basked in the pleasure of their loss, standing on the sun-warmed concrete slope and stretching out my toes.

Emmett had rolled his trousers up to the knee and was wading through the dark waters, throwing back his head to get the last good rays of the sun on to his sun-starved face.

I pattered down the hill after him, wincing and squealing as the water washed around my feet.

“You bloody liar! It’s freezing!”

He laughed and held out his hands.

“I’ll keep you warm,” he offered.

The temptation to run straight back out and shiver on the bank would ordinarily have won this battle, but Emmett’s force was stronger and I found myself impelled towards him, the water climbing ticklishly up my ankles and beyond while I cut a path through draggling pondweed and floating cigarette butts.

“Why did you say it wasn’t cold?”

“Why did you say I lived on a houseboat?”

I drew near enough for him to seize my hands and pull me in close. Our shirt buttons clashed and cotton met cotton, the warmth and promise inside pressing tight.

“I don’t know. It just popped into my head.”

“Your first thought was about where I lived, and you placed me in your own element – water.” He bent and whispered the words in my ear. “You wanted me, little mermaid. Don’t try and tell me otherwise.”

“I…”

He hushed my mouth with a kiss, sending the words back down inside me. I stood in the tight clasp of his arms and did what I never did. I opened up to him. I parted my lips and let him inside.

Hazily I wondered Is this me? Josephine Price, so hesitant, so reticent, standing here in a strange man’s arms, knee deep in brackish boating lake water, kissing down the sun.

We stood there, lip to lip, tongue against tongue, hands sliding under jackets in heated exploration, until a gust of chill rippled the water around our legs. My cheeks and chin were sticky and sore with stubble burn; my lips were swollen and chapping. But I still wanted more.

“Actually,” he said, pressing his forehead to mine, “I do live on a houseboat.”

“Oh, you don’t,” I gasped.

“Well, I might and I might not,” he said. “Do you want to find out?”

(Spoiler: she does!)

*****

Blurb:

I met a man called Emmett, and now I belong to him.

Twenty-something Jo meets Emmett on a team-building course, and her initial disdain for him soon turns into attraction.

With Emmett’s strong but loving hand to guide her, Jo unleashes her inner submissive and they embark on an intense voyage of sexual discovery.

Their mutual fascination sees them exploring bondage, spanking, toys and more, and their romance is as perfect as Jo could hope for, until another man appears on the scene.

She knows that Emmett hero-worships his former boss and mentor, Charles, but when she finds out that Charles is the man who introduced Emmett to the art of domination, she has no idea how to feel.

With fierce desire growing between the three of them, can they find a way to explore this new dynamic without destroying what they already have?

If you want read more, the book is available now from:

Amazon | KoboiTunes | Barnes and Noble

*****

Author bio:

Justine Elyot is the author of best selling erotic novels On Demand and The Business of Pleasure, as well as enough short stories to fill several anthologies.

She can often be found moaning about stuff on Twitter as @JustineElyot

*****

GIVEAWAY!

Make sure to follow the whole tour—the more posts you visit throughout, the more chances you’ll get to enter the giveaway. The tour dates are here: http://writermarketing.co.uk/prpromotion/blog-tours/currently-on-tour/justine-elyot-3/

Enter for your chance to win a £20/$20 Amazon gift card and a paperback copy of The Story of Jo.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

 

Before We Fall: New from Grace Lowrie

 

Before We Fall Blurb:

When quiet Cally, an amateur ballet dancer, is suddenly diagnosed with cancer she runs away from her boyfriend Liam, her job in a call centre and her safe life in Wildham – in order to experience ‘real’ life in London. Taking a job as a stripper and flat-sitting in the top of an office tower she meets her obnoxious neighbour Bay; a tattooed, drug-taking, suicidal artist, haunted by the death of those close to him. Despite their differences, the two strike up a friendship – Bay pushes Cally to try new things while Cally provides Bay with a muse – and they fall in love. But their secrets threaten to tear them apart and time is running out…

 

 

Before We Fall Excerpt:

Bay took his time setting up – righting his easel, re-securing a canvas, arranging the low lighting and organising his supplies. Retrieving our vodka Martinis from the kitchen, he set them by the bed before switching off my playlist and putting The Fragile album on repeat. This time he stripped off his trousers and settled on to the stool butt-naked except for his wristwatch; a paintbrush in hand, and his expression all business.

 

I watched him as he worked, his gaze shifting constantly between me and the canvas, even while he was mixing up new colours or incorporating a gel medium to alter the texture. My eyes feasted on the parts of him that the easel didn’t block from view – his sexy feet; his long, athletic, hairy legs; his impressive private parts relaxed and weighty against his thigh; the bulge of his inked biceps; his black unruly hair, sticking-up in great tufts where I had pulled it – my fingers tingled at the memory – and his eyes; that dark, intense steady gaze, that turned me inside-out with longing.

 

‘Tell me what you see,’ I said.

 

He kept painting as if he hadn’t heard me, and I started to wonder if I had ruined things between us. Shamelessly, ruthlessly, I had taken what I wanted. Would he forgive me? Or would I live to regret it? Abandoning his brush in a jar of water he took up another, kneading the bristles in his palm and then into fresh paint. At length he returned his impassive gaze to me, as welcome as the sun.

 

‘I see the gentle slope of your shoulder…’ he said, applying brush to canvas, ‘…the elegant line of your neck and the way the light burnishes the tips of your knuckles beneath you cheek.’

 

His measured words physically stirred me, as if he were actually reaching out and caressing my skin. I swallowed. ‘What else?’

 

‘I see the shadows captured by your collarbone; the way your breasts rise and shift with each breath, and the deep, wine- red splashes of your nipples, which pucker and harden under my scrutiny.’

 

I shivered at his words, an aching heat unfurling inside me and pooling low down in my groin. ‘Cold?’
‘No.’
‘Move your right hand up and cup your left breast.’

 

I did as he said, as if in a trance, and my fingers didn’t feel like my own. My skin thrilled at my touch as if it was his.

 

‘Now rub your nipple with your thumb,’

 

My breath caught in my throat as sensation zinged through me. I had become Bay’s willing marionette; in his thrall and at his mercy. Calmly he returned his attention to his painting while I continued to pleasure myself. But I wanted more. ‘What else do you see?’

 

‘The gentle swell of your stomach… the feminine curve of your hip… and the soft, dark nest of curls between your thighs, still damp with my come.’

 

I was breathing harder now, my face felt flushed and I unconsciously squeezed my thighs together to ease the throbbing there.

 

‘Slowly move your hand down your body – slowly,’ he repeated. His eyes followed as my fingers began their torturous descent. Despite his stern expression, his steady voice, and his determination to paint, Bay was hard again; his impressive shaft restrained in his left fist. Every part of me yearned for Bay to give in, to lose control and take me again. But we said only once – that was the deal – and I didn’t want to be the one to break it.

 

‘Raise your thigh and touch yourself there,’ his voice was lower and rougher than before.

 

Sinking my fingers between my legs, I quietly moaned as a shudder of pleasure rolled through me, but I fought to keep my eyes fixed on Bay. His paintbrush now hovered ineffectually in the air, his gaze ensnared by my body, his left hand slowly working his length.

 

‘Taste it,’ he said and I withdrew my fingers. They glistened with moisture as they caught the light and I sucked them slowly and deliberately.

 

I no longer recognised myself at all. But it did the trick.

 

With a groan of defeat Bay abandoned his work and strode towards me. Nudging me over onto my back, he leaned down, pressed the flat of his tongue to my lower belly and licked all the way up to my neck in one long, slow sweep. I instinctively spread my legs for him as he crawled onto the bed and kissed me on the mouth, tasting our combined desire on my tongue. It was a much gentler kiss than before – soft, warm and probing – a proper long, drawn-out, bone-melting snog. I was so relaxed that it felt entirely natural when he eased inside me – the most sublime feeling in the world.

 

 

About Grace:

Having worked as a collage artist, sculptor, prop maker and garden designer, Grace
has always been creative, but she is a romantic introvert at heart and writing was, and is, her first love.

Before We Fall, the second novel in The Wildham Series, is published by Accent Press, who also released her debut contemporary romance novel, Kindred Hearts, in
2015.

A lover of rock music, art nouveau design, blue cheese and grumpy ginger tomcats,
Grace is also an avid reader of fiction – preferring coffee and a sinister undercurrent, over tea and chick lit. When not making prop costumes or hanging out with her favourite nephews, she continues to write stories from her Hertfordshire home.

 

Find Grace Here:

Facebook – /GraceLowrieWriter

Twitter – @GraceLowrie1

 

Lynne Shelby Launches The One That I Want

 

 

The One That I Want Blurb:

When Lucy Ashford lands a top job at a leading theatrical agency in London, work mixes with pleasure, as she literally falls into the arms of Hollywood heartthrob Daniel Miller.

Handsome, charming and irresistible, Daniel is just what unlucky-in-love Lucy needs, and she is quickly drawn into his glittering celebrity lifestyle. But can she tame the A-list bad boy or is she just one more girl in Daniel s long line of conquests?

And then there’s up-and-coming actor Owen Somers, fiercely talented but as yet uncast in a starring role. After she takes him onto the agency’s books, Owen and Lucy’s friendship slowly grows. If she looks closely, Lucy’s leading man might be right before her very eyes…

 

The One That I Want Excerpt:

This extract takes place early in the book after the theatrical agency’s Christmas party, when Daniel invites Lucy to continue the evening at a nightclub.

 

As I followed Daniel to one of the leather sofas, I was aware of faces turning towards us, the sudden absence of talk as we approached, and renewed chatter once we’d walked past. With so many eyes on me, I was relieved that I made it to the sofa without falling over my feet. Daniel sat next to me, leaving very little space between us. A waiter immediately materialised beside us and asked what we’d like to drink. Daniel promptly ordered champagne.

 

‘Did you notice everyone looking at you?’ I said to him when the waiter had gone.

Daniel shrugged. ‘Since Fallen Angel came out, I get recognised all the time.’

 

‘Having total strangers watching your every move must take some getting used to.’

 

‘I’m an actor,’ Daniel said. ‘Being the centre of attention kind of goes with the territory.’

 

I thought of the numerous articles about Daniel’s amorous exploits in Ireland that I’d read in the gossip columns. And the photos of him glued to his co-star’s face.

 

‘But you must find it irritating to be continuously stalked by the paparazzi,’ I said.

 

Daniel smiled. ‘I don’t mind them. I rather enjoy seeing photos of myself in the tabloids. It’s free publicity.’

 

The waiter returned with our champagne, poured two glasses, and left the bottle within easy reach in a bucket of ice.

 

When we were alone again, Daniel said, ‘I waited a long time to become famous. Now that I’ve had a taste of what it means to be a star, I want more. I want the Hollywood mansion and the Malibu beach house. I want the private jet and the yacht in the south of France. And if getting them means I have to pose for a few photographs outside a nightclub, I really don’t see it as a problem. But I’m glad there weren’t any paparazzi around tonight. It would’ve been hard to make you run a gauntlet of flashing cameras when we’re only on our first date.’

 

‘Is this a date?’ I said.

 

‘Well, there’s you, me, and a bottle of champagne,’ Daniel said. ‘I’d call that a date.’

 

I was on a date with film star Daniel Miller. The thought made me feel light-headed.

‘What would that actress you dated in Ireland think about you being here with me?’ I said.

 

Daniel looked taken aback. ‘She wouldn’t think anything. I was never in a relationship with her. DCOL.’

 

‘What?’

 

‘Doesn’t Count On Location.’

‘I see.’

 

About Lynne:

Lynne Shelby was the winner of our Accent Press/Woman magazine writing prize with her debut novel French Kissing.

She has worked in a variety of day jobs from stable girl to legal administrator. She also had a very enjoyable vicarious career as a stage mother, which has given her a love of the theatre that inspires a lot of  her writing.

She lives in North London with her tall, dark and handsome husband, her son, her two daughters and a lot of books.

 

Twitter: @LynneB1

Website: https://www.lynneshelby.com/

Instagram: lynneshelbywriter

 

 

 

My Writing Journey – A Guest Post by Tanya Jean Russell (@TanyaJRussell) #giveaway

I have been a bookworm my whole life and can often be found wandering the house, attempting to do my chores without looking away from whatever I’m reading, but I only began writing about five years ago. When I started I honestly thought I could just sit down and bash out the story that was swimming around in my head. Unsurprisingly, it turned out that it wasn’t actually that easy. Apparently writing is a craft and like any craft you need to actually learn what you’re doing.

So I took some courses and joined the Romantic Novelists’ Association (a real must for any budding romance writer – they and their local chapters are amazing). I have also spent the last few years working out where I sit on the planning or writing by the seat of my pants spectrum.

As someone who is notoriously organised (I love a list), I had expected to be a planner. I was wrong, very, very wrong! The one time I tried to plan a full novel, I was so bored with the story when it came to writing it that I totally ran out of steam and it remains unfinished on my computer to this day.

So I then tried to just write without planning. It started off great but I ground to a halt at around 30,000 words and I spent weeks feeling completely stumped as to how to proceed.

It turns out, I like to do a bit of both. When I write now I let the ideas float around in my head for a few weeks before I try putting pen to paper, or more accurately, fingers to keyboard. During that time I make notes in one of the many notebooks I carry everywhere. They are never very coherent but they let me capture the mental images I have of my characters and settings.

When the itch of ideas grows too strong I start writing and keep going until I get stumped, at which point the Post-its and whiteboard come out. I use them to corral my thoughts and spot where more work is needed. It’s the perfect blend of just getting the story out creatively, and planning.

The one thing I’ve really taken away in all of my learning is that I love to get advice and listen to everyone’s ideas and trying them all on for size. You never know which ones might fit!

*****

Shadows of Our PastBlurb

Jackson Halland has spent ten years running from a mistake that cost him everything, including Amory Parker, the woman he loved. With his gut-wrenching response to her reappearance, he realizes that if she will forgive him, then maybe, just maybe, he can forgive himself.

After ten years of working undercover Amory agrees to one final mission. Vowing to get justice for the woman she promised, and failed, to protect, nothing will stand in her way, not the prolific criminal she’s determined to bring down and certainly not coming face to face with the man she fell in love with on her very first undercover assignment, even if he has no idea who she really is, or the part she played in his past.

Buy Links

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Shadows-Past-Tanya-Jean-Russell-ebook/dp/B07B9SNHYN/ref=asap_bc?ie=UTF8

https://www.amazon.com/Shadows-Past-Tanya-Jean-Russell-ebook/dp/B07B9SNHYN/ref=asap_bc?ie=UTF8

https://www.evernightpublishing.com/shadows-of-our-past-by-tanya-jean-russell/

*****

Excerpt

Amory was so engrossed in her thoughts she didn’t hear the approaching sound of bare feet, padding on the smooth wooden floor, until a deep groan broke through them and she looked up to see Jackson. His mussed, dark blond hair was shot through with strands of gold in the overhead lighting.

The man was incredibly made. His arms stretching up and behind his head caused the bottom of his t-shirt to lift a few teasing inches, revealing a tantalizing glimpse of a tanned, rock-hard stomach. They weren’t the sculpted lines that came from the gym, but powerful, solid muscles. A fine trail of hair led the way to the top of his loose navy shorts. As he reached the bottom of the stairs, her gaze was transfixed.

His legs were long and thick, every muscle rippling as he moved down the stairs into the hallway. A rush of heat shot through her body, setting every nerve alight. Her stomach rolled as she absorbed the sight while a little lower everything tightened and tingled. She’d hoped that her memory had been flawed, tinted by the rose-colored lenses of what she had long since accepted was her first love. That clearly wasn’t the case. Rather than letting himself go he had become more impressive. The slenderness of youth had filled out, living up to the promise of overwhelming masculinity.

His lean muscles had broadened, and whilst the softness of youth had faded from his features, it had left a strong profile in its wake. Jackson had grown up all man. She gulped, heat flooding her.

The good feeling from her run was replaced by a more base desire to touch every inch of his perfect body. To pull it hard against her own and feel those muscular planes mold against her. She unconsciously licked her lips as she watched him.

As she met his eyes, the feeling of heat evaporated, replaced by a harsh chill of dread that sank through to her toes. His emotions were playing across his face and it was clear that, despite her DCI’s reassurances, Jackson had joined the dots and figured out who she was. The recognition clearly shocked him as his whole body jolted abruptly to a stop.

Unable to move, she stared helplessly as he began to walk toward her, his face a mix of unreadable emotions. As he reached out, her body began to respond to the heat that rolled off of him. The scent of his skin washed over her, but she moved back defensively. It was a tactical mistake, giving away that she knew who he was, that she had known all along.

“Amory?” he whispered, hope shining oddly through that one word.

Almost imperceptibly shaking her head, all her professionalism flew out the window, and with her heart sinking she managed a stuttered whisper, “N-n-no… No, you’re wrong. I’m Olivia.”

No amount of training was going to get her through this. Despite her only half-admitted hope that he’d see who she really was, Amory knew too much was at stake for this to happen, but it had. Now she had to endure the awful consequences of him recognizing her, the hatred that would follow this moment.

*****

Bio:

I live in England and am married to an amazing Elvis & Neil Diamond tribute artist, thanks to whom I have a house full of jumpsuits & trophies. This, of course, is a source of much embarrassment to our two teenage children!

I am a little obsessive about books and have an embarrassingly huge and ever growing pile of things that I just ‘have’ to read next to my bed.

I squeeze my daydreaming … ahem … ‘writing’ around my family and my day job in HR, and am convinced that chocolate & diet coke should be considered a well-balanced diet!

Author Links

https://www.tanyajeanrussell.com/

https://www.facebook.com/TanyaJeanRussellAuthor/

https://twitter.com/TanyaJRussell

*****

GIVEAWAY!

Make sure to follow the whole tour—the more posts you visit throughout, the more chances you’ll get to enter the giveaway. The tour dates are here: http://writermarketing.co.uk/prpromotion/blog-tours/currently-on-tour/tanya-jean-russell/

Use the Rafflecopter to enter for your chance to win an eBook copy of Tanya’s previous book, Broken Trust.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

 

Wolf Around the Corner Tour and Giveaway

 

 

Wolf Around The Corner

By Aidee Ladnier

 

 The Giveaway!

Aidee is giving away a $5 Amazon GC, $10 Amazon GC, Ebooks from her backlist, print books from her backlist. The winners will be chosen by Rafflecopter. Please use the RaffleCopter below to enter. Don’t forget you have a chance to enter every day so be sure to visit all the stops on this tour. You may find those locations here.

 

About Wolf Around the Corner:

 

Frank’s family taught him that his wolf was dangerous, unwanted. Now his best friend’s brother wants him in bed and on stage. But giving into his wolf’s need for love could risk the quiet life Frank has created for himself—and his heart.

 

Settled in the small town of Waycroft Falls, Frank is content to be a lone wolf among the white picket fences and dollar book bins until he finds himself sniffing his best friend’s brother. Tom smells like hot apple pie and his Broadway smile has Frank lolling his tongue. But when the visiting actor learns Frank’s secret and plies him with hot kisses to get him to star in his play, Frank can’t help but wonder if Tom is only acting.

 

Tom ran away from family obligations to be a Broadway star. If he could make it there, he could make it anywhere…but he didn’t. Trudging home to Waycroft Falls to open his sister’s new performance space brings him face to face with a werewolf—a werewolf that would be perfect for Tom’s shoestring production of Beauty and the Beast. Staying in Tiny Town USA would be worth it if he can somehow convince the sexy wolf to expose his furry condition on stage and howl privately in Tom’s bed.

 

Wolf Around The Corner, a paranormal semi-finalist in Passionate Ink’s 2017 Sexy Scribbles Contest, is a full-length fairytale romance with a side of wolf shifter. If you like your romance with gorgeous men, humor, and small town magic, you’ll love Wolf Around the Corner! Buy your copy now and settle in to watch the drama unfold!

 

Genre: M/M Paranormal Shifter Contemporary

 

Buy Links:

Amazon  | B&N| iBooks| Kobo| Smashwords| 24Symbols| Indigo| Angus & Robertson| Mondadori

Wolf Around the Corner Excerpt:

 

The first thing he always did was take a large lungful of air. It reoriented him to the outside. His animal cataloged the smells—car exhaust, grass, tree pollen, and wait, a mouse skittering in the Dumpster out back. Frank’s urge to run built. He circled the apartments, looking for the storm drain near the landscaping wall. Inside him, his animal wiggled in excitement at the prospect of being freed. Frank shucked his clothes behind the wall and tucked them into the shelter of the pipe, out of view. Then he shifted, his hands lengthening, hair sprouting, and muzzle growing. His point of view shortened, now three feet from the ground as he blinked through the eyes of his wolflike animal. Frank couldn’t stand still any longer. He sprang into the woods.

 

Frank ran, crashing through the underbrush and into the darkening shelter of the trees. He leaped over a shrub, felt the give of a sapling as he plowed through the brushwood. The animals and birds quieted at his loud, headlong dash, knowing he wasn’t of the forest, only disguised and playing at being a creature of the wood.

 

His paws skidded on a pile of old leaves. Frank almost lost his balance as he skipped up and over a fallen log. Around him, the scents of the forest all pushed in on him. Here a whiff of mold, there an astringent sniff of decay, everywhere the menthol of evergreen sap and wild herbs growing scattered on the forest floor.

 

Dry twigs snapped beneath his paws. His tongue lolled from his mouth, the fresh taste of the woods painting the back of his throat. The sun dipped below the horizon, the sky inking the tops of the trees. And Frank ran on until his limbs stopped, shaky and trembling. He collapsed onto a blanket of pine needles and leaves, moss and fungi cradling him as he panted.

 

As he caught his breath, the sounds of the woods lapped back around him. Insects and birds first. A harsh caw from a crow shrieked a hundred yards to his right. The chirp of a cricket sawed a few feet away. The rat-a-tat of a woodpecker echoed above. And the still of twilight calmed him.

 

When he’d rested enough that his legs would support him again, Frank began the slow jog back to the apartments, letting his nose guide him through the darkening visibility of the woods. He could smell Mrs. Reynolds’s nighttime cocoa, and Mr. Reynolds’s liniment that stank of capsaicin. The lighted windows of the apartment building led him the last few feet, and he scurried up to the storm drain.

 

But his clothes weren’t there.

 

The sky darkened into night.

 

Frank knew Mrs. Anderson was out, but he could try to get the elderly Reynolds couple to buzz him inside. And hope they didn’t ask why he was naked trotting up the stairs.

 

Or he could stay in wolf form without a tag, which meant a night outside running from animal control and/or dodging every human that would mistake him for a stray dog.

 

Or wait, a third option. There was an oak that almost reached the ledge of his apartment window on the second floor. He never bothered to lock the window. Frank shifted back to human and sprinted across the yard.

 

He leaped for the lower boughs of the tree, grunting as the bark dug into the flesh of his palms. Frank swung himself up to straddle a branch, regretting it as the rough wood scraped his thighs. He crouched in the tree, awkwardly trying to shield his more delicate parts from the smaller whiplike twigs. He skirted around the trunk, grimacing as a low branch brushed a little too close to his groin. There. He was now on the side that faced the apartment house.

 

Frank balanced upright, his arms pinwheeling until he caught another branch higher up to steady himself. The leaves around him shivered on their stalks, the rustling loud. Please don’t let Mrs. Reynolds look out her window.

 

Using the taller branch as a guide, Frank placed one bare foot in front of the other and inched away from the security of the trunk. The limb beneath his feet shook as his weight tested its strength. He slid a foot farther out on the branch. It dipped, the leaves at the tip brushing against the side of his window. Just a few feet more.

 

An ominous crack sounded beneath him, and Frank froze. The branch popped again. It wouldn’t hold. He could make a jump for it. Frank swallowed hard. He should make a jump for it.

 

Frank jumped. And missed the house, falling into the azalea bushes.

 

Just as his hunky new neighbor from across the hall walked out of the apartment building and down the front steps.

 

Frank had seen Tom in the hall that morning, carrying boxes. Trying to be neighborly, Frank had introduced himself and offered to help. Tom had turned Frank down but flashed the whitest, most even teeth at him. Frank had seen nothing whiter outside of a movie theater big screen. They’d exchanged pleasantries, commented on the weather, and then gone their separate ways. Or rather, that was what Frank wished had happened. What went down was:

 

“Need help?” Frank barely got the words out when his new neighbor turned in the doorway. Frank froze. God, the man was gorgeous.

 

“Naw, man. I got it.” Tom shifted the box in his arms to hold out his hand. “I’m Tom Davidson.”

 

Frank wiped a clammy hand on his jeans and shook Tom’s hand. “Hot.” And Frank knew his mouth had disclosed the exact thing his brain was thinking. Idiot. Who said that to a guy he’d just met? A guy like Tom already knew he was hot.

 

Tom tilted his head as if he hadn’t heard Frank right. “Yeah. The temperatures are a little warm for this time of year.”

 

Frank didn’t dare correct him and kept his mouth shut, afraid he’d say something worse.

 

“Okay, well then, see you around, Frank.” Tom chuckled and continued into his apartment.

 

Meanwhile Frank beat it down the stairs, unsure how he managed not to walk into traffic as his mind ran over the exchange fail again and again.

 

So yeah. That was the less than stellar first impression he’d given Tom this morning. And now Frank followed that up by hunkering down naked in the azalea bushes.

 

“Are you okay?” The gleam from the safety light caught Tom’s dark gold hair as he tilted his head to peer over the shrubs. The shadows sank into his chiseled cheekbones. He looked like a brooding movie star ready to sweep a celluloid damsel off her feet.

 

Too bad Frank was a naked man trying to keep from exposing himself. Frank crouched down farther, making himself as small as possible, hoping the azalea’s pink blooms would distract Tom from looking at his hairy backside.

 

“I’m fine.”

 

“Are you sure?” Tom leaned closer. “Are you… Do you have any clothes on?”

 

Frank racked his brain for some reason he’d be naked and hiding in the bushes. “Um, I, uh, just got out of the shower, and I leaned too far out my window.”

 

“Oh my God. Did you fall from that height?” Tom glanced up to the second floor, to Frank’s closed window and then back down. “Do you need an ambulance?”

 

Frank sighed. This conversation was only getting worse. Cupping his hands over his privates, Frank rose from behind the bushes.

 

“I’m okay. Just need to get back inside. I have a hidden key if you can get me past the front security door.”

 

Tom’s eyes widened when Frank stood. Frank winced, sure he looked like one long scrape covered in leaves. He blew at the hair in his eyes. A twig dangled, caught in an auburn strand, but Frank was unwilling to expose himself to yank it out.

 

“Sure. Sure.” Tom fumbled for his key and opened the door. Frank half hopped over the acorns and chestnut burrs to slide past Tom. Tom wrinkled his nose as Frank passed. Good old wet dog smell. It always clung to him after a run in the woods.

 

Frank took the stairs two at a time to escape.

 

After a shower and shave—why did going furry always lead to needing a shave? The rest of his hair receded. Why didn’t his beard?—Frank spent thirty minutes in front of his bathroom mirror, trying to psych himself up to knock on Tom’s door and invite him over the next day for coffee or to watch football. He scratched behind an ear, feeling the healing scab from a graze he’d gotten when he’d fallen into the azalea bushes. Staring at his reflection, he tried to look earnest and approachable. He could do this. He had game.

 

“Hey, I know you don’t know many people in town, and I’m a loser, but would you like to spend time with me?” Frank made a face at himself. Probably shouldn’t label yourself as a loser.

 

“Yo, you want to watch football? No, how about basketball? Baseball? No? What about Mexican wrestlers?” Oh God, what if Tom doesn’t like sports?

 

“I ordered two large pizzas by mistake tonight, and I could use some help, or I’ll be gorging on pepperoni for a week.”

 

Lame. Frank’s own gaunt features stared back at him from the mirror. Who was he kidding? He’d always be the guy who lost the genetic lottery and ended up with the family curse.

 

Galen’s syndrome was rare, only affecting about one in 2,000, but well-known enough that most people had at least heard of it. The Greek surgeon Galen had coined the word lycanthropy to explain the shape-shifting curse that traveled down through a family tree. Like most recessive gene disorders, it only manifested when two genes were passed down to a child, leading early scholars to think the afflicted had been re-cursed or spared for a generation due to divine providence. It was only with modern medicine that curses were found to be attached to DNA, breaking and molding chromosomes like magical radiation. But despite better understanding of the disorder, the stigma remained, not helped by the occasional local television feature linking the disorder to werewolf mythology.

 

All Frank knew was the recessive curse gene made him even more different from his family. He’d already been pushing it when he came out as gay. Turning into a wolf at sixteen had been…well, more than his father and stepmother could handle. She wanted to protect the kids, she told him. He loved his half siblings, didn’t he? It wasn’t safe to have a wild animal around children.

 

It had gutted him. They turned him out of his own home. He’d been angry. He’d done something stupid, lashing out, snapping at his sister Robbie. It still hurt, remembering the tears on his baby sister’s face, her eyes wide and scared. Of him. It was then he knew his stepmother had been right. Dangerous animals didn’t belong in a family. So he’d left, traveling all the way across the state until he landed in Waycroft Falls. It had been hard that first year. There were a lot of adult things he still hadn’t figured out.

 

Like how to ask out a guy who he hadn’t known his whole life. Moving from one small town to another had been a bad idea. Frank bonked his head against the mirror, gazing down into the white porcelain sink. He rubbed at a stray hair that clung to the side.

 

But on the plus side, small towns meant he rarely needed a car. And he could shift and run if he needed. He should take his clothes with him

 

About Aidee:

Aidee Ladnier, an award-winning author of speculative fiction, believes that adventure is around every corner. In pursuit of new experiences she’s worked as a magician’s assistant, been a beauty pageant contestant, ridden in hot air balloons, produced independent movies, hiked up a volcano, and is a proud citizen scientist. A lover of genre fiction, Aidee’s perfect romance has a little science fiction, fantasy, mystery, or the paranormal thrown in to add a zing.

 

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The Romance Reviews

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