Friday, July 19, 2019

#Cover Reveal - Confessions of a Sex Kitten by Mila Rossi


Confessions of a Sex Kitten
Mila Rossi
Publication date: August 30th 2019
Genres: Adult, Contemporary, Romance
Striving to be the sex kitten Avery Taylor portrays on her blog is a lot harder than she imagined, but having a hot, new neighbor move in next door sure gets her imagination going. His green eyes alone would give a girl the vapors. And yet, getting involved with someone so close just isn’t in the cards for Avery, even if her inner kitten is telling her that all rules are meant to be broken once. Or twice. Or as many times as it takes to get familiar with James’s one billion abs.
James Mardin moves to NYC to focus on family and work. Quirky Avery just plops into his life out of nowhere. She’s the last thing he needs, and yet, he can’t seem to stay away from the damsel down the hall, especially after he stumbles upon her secret blog. A sexy goofball lusting after him? It just wouldn’t be proper if he didn’t make her fantasies come true.
With views to die for, neighborly favors to return, and secrets to uncover, James and Avery are in for a treat. The attraction is evident, but is it enough to get them through snarky family remarks, burning buildings, and the heat of a typical New York summer?


Author Bio:
Mila Rossi is a contemporary romance author who writes feel-good stories - no angst here. She creates heroines who don't back down, stand up for themselves and insist on freedom and independence until the right man comes along. Then all rules are thrown out the window. The heroes must be clever, generous and able to throw a girl over their shoulder.
Mila has seen the world and loves to write about it. She also loves to paint vintage anime characters, belly dance, try new foods and perfect her archery skills. She wishes she could partake in extreme sports but only allows her characters to tempt fate. Her own chances of causing disasters are just too high.
Mila also writes historical romance under the name Alice Lake.

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His Sweetest Sin by Fiona Murphy Blitz and #Giveaway


His Sweetest Sin: BBW Romance
Fiona Murphy
Publication date: May 25th 2018
Genres: Adult, Contemporary, Romance
I can’t believe it. Christopher Baldwin, the baddest boy in baseball, wants me. Amelia Bishop…I was maybe a solid seven before an accident changed my life, leaving me fat, broken, and avoiding mirrors. If he hadn’t said it with a stare hot enough to melt brain cells, I would never have believed him when he told me my curves are what he wants.
An arrogant a$$hole with tattoos, a diamond glinting in his ear, and a dirty mouth promising wicked things, Chris Baldwin is no boy. Chris is all man, and a lethally gorgeous one at that. With dimples flashing as he invites me to sin in a slow Southern drawl, I’m trying to remember I don’t swoon, sin, or—wait, what? I forgot not to stare directly at his dimples, and those bright blue eyes aren’t safe either. Sorry, as I was saying.
As appealing as the idea of sinning with Chris is, there is no doubt in my mind I would fail miserably at it, even under his expert tutelage. Chris has been on a steady diet of strippers, women who have all the right moves. Me, I have no moves at all. Chris is major league; I would get laughed out of little league.
I’m also his lawyer, at least until my brother, Ethan, comes back from vacation. Getting involved with clients is a huge no-no, no matter what primetime television might show. As gorgeous as he is, Chris isn’t worth the possibility of hurting my career or losing the hard-earned respect of my boss and brother.
Only I can’t deny he makes being bad sound so good. Once Ethan is back I’m no longer Chris’s lawyer and it’s open season on all my good intentions. Being with him is still dangerous, as his fame attracts all sorts of trouble. Who knows what complications could tear us apart?
***While this novel is a standalone, Holly and Ethan from His Under Contract make an appearance. You need not have read His Under Contract to enjoy His Sweetest Sin. ***
***Warning***
I don’t like to watch sports, although I do enjoy watching beautiful men sweat. I’ve never read a sports romance before. Chris Baldwin isn’t just a bad boy, he’s a man falling in love with a sassy, damaged, curvy woman, and he also happens to play baseball. When I started writing, I did do my research. I watched the winning series that inspired the story. I watched a bunch of movies and spent hours on Wikipedia. Then I scrapped the paragraphs waxing lyrical about the love of the game and stuck with what I know. My billionaires don’t lay out the inner workings of their deals. I figured less is more. So, please be aware the focus is not on the love of the game—it’s on the love story.
His Sweetest Sin is FREE for a limited time only!
EXCERPT:
Chris runs his fingers over the back of my hand, fracturing my breath. “I don’t like seeing you smile at other men while you tease them. Even if you don’t mean anything by it.”
Excuse me? “Tough.” I spit the word out. “I didn’t ask for your interest. If you have a problem with me chatting with someone even though you know I don’t mean anything by it, then fuck you.”
His breath is a slow release, then he smiles. I’m hit in the chest by the heat in his eyes. “Amelia.” It’s that slow drawl again, wrapping around every letter. “I love the way your eyes go from hazel to a glittering green with anger. They do that when you’re aroused, too. All I can think of is what color they’ll be when I’m inside you. And it’s exactly why I want you so badly. You appear sweet and soft, only you hide a core of steel. It makes me wonder what else you’re hiding under your sweet, good girl façade.”
Exasperation with him, with what he’s doing to me has me rolling my eyes. “You want me because I didn’t fall at your feet the moment you said you wanted me. I’m a glitch in your Matrix, so you’re fascinated by it. Once I fold you’ll find something else shiny and new to play with.”
Tilting his head, he laughs. “Damn, you have a mouth on you. A glitch in my Matrix? I like that, I’m going to steal it. Yeah, you’re right, a huge part of your appeal is that a woman hasn’t made me wait longer than a few days in so long I can’t remember. I’m also not looking for anything more than fun for maybe a few weeks. But while I’m in it, I don’t fuck around with anyone else.” He pulls out a piece of paper from his back pocket. I open it and damn it, I’m blushing again. It’s the results from a panel of STI tests taken this morning, all negative. “I haven’t been with someone since before Christmas.” He laughs when my eyebrows go up in surprise. “Why is it hard to believe?”
“Because you said sex is like food, as important an appetite that should be fed with as much variety. I’m having a hard time believing you really went hungry for long.”
“It’s only been about two weeks. I was also twenty-five when I said that. The last few years I’ve been more into a nice sit-down meal, with a view toward quality over fast-food quantity.”
Right. “Pregnancy scare or STI scare?”
He laughs as he leans back. “Pregnancy scare. I’ve had a few rubbers break over the years, but this one was a total setup. The weeks waiting to see if she was pregnant were not good ones. I would have liked to think I was selective before then; I was wrong. Ever since, it’s only my condom every time. I also make sure she has more to lose than gain by getting pregnant.”
“So you think I have more to lose than gain by getting pregnant?”
“Hell, sugar, I don’t care if you have every intention of me knocking you up, if that’s what you want then I’m down. I think we’d make adorable baby girls.”
We both freeze as he says it, then he smiles as if the idea truly appeals to him. My stomach flips a dozen times before it stops. “I want boys, with dimples like yours. Girls are a pain in the ass.”
“Since they’ll be yours, I wouldn’t expect anything less than them taking after their mama. I figure by the time they get here I’ll be used to putting up with you and able to take them on. They can have my dimples as long as they have your smile and pretty brown hair.”
Asshole. “You are insane. Have you been checked out by a qualified mental professional?”


Author Bio:
Due to commitment issues I have lived in many different cities and my favorite is Chicago but I have managed to settle into Austin and perhaps my commitment issues are behind me.
I have enjoyed reading from a very young age and it wasn't long before the children books bored me and I read the books my mother enjoyed Stephen King and Dean Koontz and I didn't sleep without the light on until I was about ten.
I came across my first Harlequin by accident and it was love at first read, no one died and happy endings? It was a whole new world and I loved it.
I wrote my first story at eight and everyone died, of course. Since then I would like to think I've gotten better and now I'm writing the happily ever afters I first fell in love with, with some hot sex thrown in along the way.
As a plus size woman myself, I have started writing the stories I always wanted to see myself in but never did. And now I'm ecstatic to give BBWs the happily ever afters with hot Alphas they so rarely get.

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Hell on the Highway by Stephanie Nichole Tour & #Giveaway


Hell On the Highway
The Raven Boys Series Book 2
by Stephanie Nichole
Genre: MC Romance 

Jude is used to doing everything on her own. There are two people that she knows she can rely on, her father and best friend Kai. However, her father’s failing health has her barely managing financially. Between nursing school, medial bill co-pays and everyday life she’s struggling. Her only saving grace is racing. When she gets an inside invite to the elusive Brody Raven drag races she knows she can’t refuse.
Brody Raven is the youngest and wildest of the Raven brothers. They own and operate a local bar as well as the Raven MC. However, Brody loves to drag race and it’s no secret that he runs an illegal drag racing set up behind the bar.
Brody isn’t prepared for Jude and his cocky, undefeated attitude catches up to him behind the wheel of his car. However, losing is the last thing on his mind once he lays eyes on Jude but she has a secret, a big secret, that could completely tear them apart.

**read as a standalone **





Twin Flames
The Raven Boys Series Book 1
by M.A. Lee

Ivy Allan left home and never looked back. Ivy believes she has enough distance between her dark past to be able to live as the new Ivy- the girl no one knows. However, when she arrives at college and befriends wild-child Lacy, her journey to a new life is distracted by a Raven Boy. 
Jameson Raven only loved one thing; his motorcycle. Being every girls wet dream, Jameson  is a legend in the motorcycle club world. Never taking life too seriously, this cocky bad boy didn't care about anything or anyone other than his clubhouse. But, that all changed the day he met Ivy. 
 After a chance encounter with Ivy, Jameson finds himself intrigued by the mysterious girl who seems unaffected by his appeal. Only, Jameson won't take no for an answer when it comes to Ivy. 
What begins as a troubled friendship quickly evolves into a wild and steamy romance. With an enemy of the Raven Boys set out to destroy the Raven Clubhouse Jameson and his brothers will stop at nothing to save their clubhouse and their family name. With Ivy's help, Jameson discovers what is really worth fighting for. And both Jameson and Ivy are willing to get burned in the process of finding love. 

**read as a standalone! **



**Book 3, Entangled Rivals releases in July and Book 4, Burning Hearts releases in August!!**


Stephanie Nichole lives in a small town with her family in New Mexico. She graduated college in 2010 with a degree in business and accounting. However, her true passion is all things book related. As a student English and Literature were her favorite subjects. Weekly library trips with her mother also helped instill her love for books. Stephanie would look forward to summer most of all, not because she was out of school but for the summer reading groups at her local library. After a friend's encouragement she started her author journey in 2016.



Stephanie is an avid book, music and old Hollywood movie lover. When she's not busy reading or writing she's probably binge watching Netflix or PassionFlix. Some of her favorite authors are: Edgar Allan Poe, Abbi Glines, Colleen Hoover, Alessandra Torre, K. Bromberg, Tarryn Fisher, Nicholas Sparks and F. Scott Fitzgerald.

Stephanie also loves to connect with her readers on social media.






Follow the tour HERE for exclusive content and a giveaway!

$20 Amazon Gift Card
1 eBook 
Ends August 8, 2019
a Rafflecopter giveaway





Honeycomb: Boljelam Tour & #Giveaway


Honeycomb: Boljelam
by Junior Sokolov
Genre: SciFi Action, Adventure

After a life lived for parties, sex and drugs spiraled into grief, she went to selling herself  and fighting for survival.

Now one Boljelam's angry rebels, she leads a cheapened life on one of the most unjust space station in the universe. Then, she finds an unexpected way out.

An escape from a life of abuse and hardship in the form of a ticket on a ship set for Honeycomb. Taken from a dead woman's purse, it's a one way ticket to a new pristine planet, to heaven.
Will she be able to pull it off and get out alive?
Or will two rabid cops, a zombie AI and a level full of monsters in her way keep her escaping?
And what about that bio-engineered murderer dogging her steps. He wants out as bad as she does!






Reclusive writer from the Pacific Northwest. Hates peanut butter loves Mojitos (sin alcohol, por favor). Sometimes found around 60 feet (ca. 18 m) underwater in the Puget Sound or at about the same depth in the blue and clear waters of Cozumel hovering over a coral reef and hoping to see a shark or a large majestic green turtle.
"I love thinking of the intersection of new science and horror, the future haunted houses could be space stations or our own scientifically enhanced and hacked bodies,"






Follow the tour HERE for exclusive excerpts, guest posts and a giveaway!

Ends August 8, 2019
a Rafflecopter giveaway





Thursday, July 18, 2019

Urban Aviary: A Modern Guide to City Birds by Stephen Moss, Illustrated by Marc Martin

Urban Aviary: A modern guide to city birds

My Rating:

Written by: Stephen Moss
Illustrated by: Marc Martin
Hardcover: 160 pages
Publisher: White Lion Publishing (August 6, 2019)
ISBN-10: 1781318409
ISBN-13: 978-1781318409
Genre: Nature | Birds
Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Urban-Aviary-m...
Barnes & Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/urba...
A unique guide to the unusual and often surprising birds that soar above our cities around the world.

From frigatebirds wheeling over Rio de Janeiro to bowerbirds displaying in the suburbs of Canberra, penguins in Cape Town to pelicans in San Francisco, and huge flocks of starlings roosting around the Colosseum in Rome, the world’s cities are home to a remarkable array of feathered citizens.

Through Stephen Moss’s expert knowledge and insight, Urban Aviary provides a beautiful guide to some of the most extraordinary species of city birds that have become native, including helpful spotting hints and fact boxes for each bird, all of which are brought to life by Marc Martin’s distinctive and beautiful watercolours.
Urban Aviary: A modern guide to city birdsUrban Aviary: A modern guide to city birds by Stephen Moss


Urban Aviary: A Modern Guide to City Birds is a unique bird "guide book". The illustrations are done in water color and the descriptions include where they are found, diet and some really interesting facts about the birds. The details about each animal precedes the watercolor representation.

I would use this book more for the art then a guide book. The paintings are beautiful, the facts are interesting and might give you insight to look for birds where you don't expect to see them. But overall, I found this to be a coffee table type book that showcases the art of each bird more than the title describes it as a guide book which I would relate to mean identifying a specific bird you saw.

I received this ARC copy of Urban Aviary from White Lion Publishing. This is my honest and voluntary review. Urban Aviary is set for publication August 6, 2019.



The Kooky Kinkajou by Tracey Hecht, Illustrated by Josie Yee

The Kooky Kinkajou

My Rating:

Written by: Tracey Hecht Illustrated by: Josie Yee
Age Range: 6 - 8 years
Grade Level: 2 - 3
Series: Grow & Read Early Reader, Level 3
Paperback: 64 pages
Publisher: Fabled Films Press (September 3, 2019)
ISBN-10: 1944020241
ISBN-13: 978-1944020248
Genre: Childrens Fiction
Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Kooky-Kinkajou...
Barnes & Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-...
In The Kooky Kinkajou, Tobin, a sweet pangolin, Bismark, a loud-mouthed sugar glider, and Dawn, a serious fox, are bored. There's nothing to do! Dawn suggests the brigade play a game just as Karina the kinkajou walks up. Karina wants to play too, which is great because Karina is one kooky kinkajou! Together the brigade and Karina use their imaginations to cure their boredom.

Includes bonus Nocturnals fun facts and animal glossary.

Visit the Nocturnals World online to download printable activities including makerspace crafts, sight word games, The Nocturnals kindness game, language arts educator guides, and more!
The Kooky KinkajouThe Kooky Kinkajou by Tracey Hecht

The story is cute, with quirky characters and some really great facts about the animals, known and not well known, in the story. There is also some craft and project ideas to help keep your little reader busy.

I received this ARC copy of The Kooky Kinkajou from Fabled Films Press - Consortium Book Sales & Distribution. This is my honest and voluntary review. The Kooky Kinkajou is set for publication Sept. 3, 2019.



I Love My Dragon by Jodi Moore, Illustrated by Howard McWilliam

I Love My Dragon

My Rating:

Written by: Jodi Moore Illustrated by: Howard McWilliam
Age Range: 2 - 4 years
Grade Level: 1 - 2
Series: When a Dragon Moves In
Board book: 24 pages
Publisher: Flashlight Press
ISBN-10: 1947277308
ISBN-13: 978-1947277304
Genre: Child Fiction
Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Love-My-Dragon...
Barnes & Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/i-lo...
With a little free time, some hands-on play, and a big imagination, magical things can happen. In I Love My Dragon, a dragon-loving boy shares the many ways he and his dragon have fun together. Babies and toddlers will love seeing the pair play together at home, in the pool, at the beach, and more.
I Love My DragonI Love My Dragon by Jodi Moore

I Love My Dragon is for everyone, you and young at heart, who love dragons.

I Love My Dragon depicts a small boy’s adventures and the dragon who goes everywhere with him. They go to the beach, read books and play with their new sibling together and more.

I Love My Dragon has lots of vivid illustrations that are highlight a basic-reader based plot. Perfect for new readers who are more interested in pictures and just learning words.

I received this ARC copy of I Love My Dragon from Flashlight Press - Independent Publishers Group. This is my honest and voluntary review. I Love My Dragon is set for publication August 1, 2019.



Are You My Monster? by Amanda Noll, Illustrated by Howard McWilliam

Are You My Monster?

My Rating:

Written by: Amanda Noll
Illustrated by: Howard McWilliam
Howard McWilliam (Illustrated by), Amanda Noll
FRONTLIST | On Sale Date: August 31, 2019
9781947277328, 1947277324
Board Book
Juvenile Fiction / Social Themes / Friendship
26 pages
Series: I Need My Monster
Genre: Children's Fiction | Educational | Interactive
Amazon:  https://www.amazon.com/Are-You-My-Monster-Need-ebook/dp/B07S95TJX9/
Barnes & Noble:  https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/are-you-my-monster-amanda-noll/1130315706

In Are You My Monster?, the monster-loving boy from I Need My Monster tries to find his monster. He compares his drawing—showing a green monster with a long tail, pointy nails, and big teeth—with an assortment of amusing monsters, until he finds the perfect match. This turns out to be his beloved STUFFED monster toy. Children will love comparing colors, checking if tails are long or short, if nails are pointy or round, if teeth are big or small until they, too, find the monster who is a perfect match.
Are You My Monster?Are You My Monster? by Amanda Noll


Are You My Monster is about a little boy who is searching for his favorite monster. He has drawn a picture of his monster and is comparing the monsters he finds with the monster of his drawing. It was well written, colorfully illustrated and encourages children to compare things, with even though they may be similar do they match concept.

Are You My Monster creates a playful adventure any young child would love to explore.

I received this ARC copy of Are You My Monster from Flashlight Press - Independent Publishers Group. This is my honest and voluntary review. Are You My Monster is set for publication August 1, 2019.



The Sin Soldiers by Tracy Auerbach Blitz and #Giveaway


The Sin Soldiers
Tracy Auerbach
(Fragments, #1)
Publication date: July 23rd 2019
Genres: Fantasy, Science Fiction, Young Adult
Red compound makes them angry. Yellow exhausts them. Blue drives them into a state of ravenous addiction. The thief Kai knows about the chemically controlled soldiers of the Eastern forces and their savage, deadly nature. When a robbery attempt at Club Seven goes wrong, Kai is captured by a handler and his bestial soldier-boy. She wakes up inside the military base with no idea what happened to her twin brother, Dex.
Things go from bad to worse when Kai is started on a drug and training regimen, and forced to take injections of blue compound. The scientists in charge plan to make her into a working soldier who will mine the mysterious power crystals beneath the desert. Kai becomes a victim of the bully Finn, a handsome but nasty soldier whose years on red compound seem to have erased his humanity. Still, she begins to pity the Seven Soldiers, including the monstrous boy who tried to rip her to shreds at the club. They appear to be nothing more than genetically enhanced, drug-controlled teenagers.
On the outside, Dex and his tech-savvy boyfriend try to crack the soldiers’ chemical code to find a weakness that will break the system. But Kai has already been drawn deep into her new world. Strong feelings for the soldiers she’s come to know have started to cloud her judgment. Can she escape and find Dex without becoming a monster herself?
EXCERPT:
The strobe lights and blaring music made Kai’s pulse beat along to their frantic rhythms. She and Dex had worked for Leo before, but never on a hit this big. To steal the night’s earnings from Club Seven took more than the kind of finesse that she and her brother were famous for; it took balls. She looked over at Dex, who squatted in a small patch of shadow by the three steps leading up to the club’s first marble floor. Only he could make squatting look graceful. She strained to see him clearly while the blue-white lights flashed like a detonated bomb with a pause button. The strobes were replaced by a dim red glow, and she held up two fingers to signal the all-clear.
Dex responded instantly, their timing down to an art form. He hoisted himself onto the cold marble and did a quick military crawl to where she was lying flat on her stomach beside the liquor bar, propped on her elbows. His long, spiky hair brushed against her. He smelled like hair gel, but his closeness brought her comfort. No matter what sort of situation Kai found herself in, Dex made her feel safe. He looked up and smiled broadly, showing off teeth so bleached, they nearly glowed in the dark. She narrowed her eyes in warning, and he quickly closed his mouth. He could always tell what she was thinking. Twin power or something like that.
It was important to stay out of sight until they had scoped out the whole scene and gotten a lay of the land. The small service entrance they had used to access the club was situated directly across from the longer of two bars, which ran the length of the club on one side. This bar wrapped neatly along the perimeter, hugging the large entryway’s shiny black walls. It slunk down two steps and kept going all the way across the dance floor. With its white, rounded stone finish and polished glass casings to hold bottles upon bottles of alcohol, it looked pristine. But where Kai was lying at floor level, its façade was shattered by thick patches of dust and some unpleasant-looking stains.
The crystals that powered the club, bringing it to life in all its pulsing, deafening glory, were housed in a nest of wires under the polished stone. They glowed through a transparent square in the bar’s surface with a soft, pale light that somehow stood out even in the midst of the chaotic strobes. Those crystals were the reason this club existed. The ongoing campaign for power over those precious fragments had made Seven Soldiers necessary. Sevens were the front line of the Eastern Forces; the heavy hand that held the public in place and kept all opposition at bay. At Club Seven they were paraded around as spectacles for citizens to gawk at. Kai glanced up toward the enormous body of a soldier walking by the bar, held tightly by his handler as they shoved through the raucous crowd of inebriated revelers. He was so large, he obscured the light from reaching down to where she lay in wait.
Kai shoved herself closer to the bar as a group of giggling women approached the protruding marble above her hiding spot. They surrounded the soldier and his handler, and she squinted up to see them running their hands all over the Seven’s body before leaning close to the bartender to shout for drinks. Kai pulled her hands out of the way of their high heels as they swayed and stepped in rhythm to the hypnotic movement, gyrating against the zombie-like Seven.
Dex reached a hand into his pocket and brought out the tiny camera he treasured. The crystal shard within it was no larger than a pebble, but it had worked for years. He edged his body along the floor away from the people around them and waited for the strobes to give way to red darkness again. When they did, he launched himself from the ground to his feet, fired off a round of pictures, and sunk back down. His movements were so quick, and so well-timed with the lights, that unless one of the clubgoers or bartenders who stood mere feet away were staring straight at him, they would miss his presence completely. Kai knew that from his vantage point, the arc of his leap gave him a clear shot of the club’s raised central stage. On the dance floor, a mass of writhing bodies clamored for a better view of the soldiers above them.
Kai glanced around to make sure nobody had noticed. In the clear, she gave him a thumbs-up to take another round, this time to the left of the club stage where a smaller bar wrapped around a mirrored pole. Lastly, he took some quick shots of the right side’s wooden buffet tables and then crawled back to the shadows of the entryway steps. Kai joined him, and they opened the heavy stone door just a crack before slipping back out into the night.
“I think you got some good ones,” Kai whispered when they were safely outside the club and leaning against the exterior wall. She could feel the vibrations of the music through the stone, and her hearing seemed to have taken a beating as her ears throbbed. But her pulse relaxed as the cool night air and sky of the desert took the place of the stifling sights and smells of the club’s interior.
“Let me have a look first.”
She studied the open plains before them while she waited for him to check out the shots he had taken. The halo of light that surrounded the throbbing stone edifice grew dimmer and dimmer until it faded into total darkness. The silhouettes of desert plants near the light’s border looked like shadowy sentries guarding the empty expanse of sand. Huge saguaros and short, thickly clumped agave cast a parade of midnight black shadows onto the scarcely-lit areas of sand beyond. Further in the distance, Kai could just make out the dimly twinkling lights of Eastern Pless. It was a few miles away, and night lights were a luxury that most couldn’t afford, but being the only other light for miles gave it the illusion of closeness. Above them, millions of stars blinked in and out of existence; only the small red moon and large orange moon remained constant. She shivered—a mixture of the cold air drying the sweat on her skin, and the thought of what could be lurking in all that darkness.
“Hold on a second,” said Dex, keeping the camera out of her reach as she tried to take it. Only a few inches taller, he was still skilled at taunting her by holding things just out of grabbing distance. He continued casually going through the pictures, one by one.
“I’m serious,” she said with a frown. “Give it to me.”
“Not yet,” he snapped. “I’m in man-candy heaven.”
She rolled her eyes.
“You disapprove, sister?”
“They’re Seven Soldiers, Dex. Barely even human.”
“That doesn’t mean they’re not fun to look at,” he protested. “I’m not going to date one. Just having a nice, long stare.”
She tried to glare disapprovingly at him, but he gave her the innocent grin that had always managed to keep him out of trouble. His big, dark eyes seemed to glow in the reflection of the moonlight, and the spikes of his hair cast a funny-looking shadow over his brow. Although they both bore the darker coloring of Northerners, their hair and eyes were so close to true black that their skin paled in comparison. Dex finally relinquished the camera, and she peeked. He wasn’t joking that the soldiers were hot. He nudged her, seeing her expression, and wiggled his eyebrows. She laughed. The two of them very rarely had the same taste in men, thank the Lord, but this was one of those times that it was hard to argue.
“Yeah, well I think the really attractive part of the scene is all the money being thrown at said man-candy,” she retorted. “It looks like the timing will work out in about five minutes. The collection crew should come through to get most of the crystal money out of the way of the dance floor. Clear enough path, right? And dark, so we should be able to blend.”
“Sure,” he agreed.
It was ladies’ night, and the whole thing was super creepy. Kai had known about the club scene forever, but she preferred to stay away. Not that poor-looking thieves like her were allowed in by the bouncers anyway, but it would’ve been easy to pass as a wealthy citizen and have a night out. Dex had done it often, and offered to give her a ‘Club Seven makeover,’ but the whole concept gave her the shivers. Her experience tonight served to confirm her instincts. There was a disturbing aspect to the pictures that sent chills up her spine. She couldn’t decide if it was the predatory, animalistic glare on the faces of the soldiers themselves, or the indifferent smirks of their handlers that unnerved her more.
“Let’s just get this over with,” she sighed. “I don’t like it here.”
“Alright,” agreed Dex, getting serious. He was a great thief because, in the end, he easily shed his usual air of arrogance and got down to business. “Just like we planned with Leo. I’ll go around the side of the smaller liquor bar, and you sneak around to the other wall by the food. That’s likely where a lot of the swept crystals will accumulate since the collection crew hovers around there.”
“Got it,” she said as they slid back through the side door and into the awaiting sensory overload.
This time, Dex walked casually across the stone floor and down the two steps to the dance area. Upon reaching the back of the dance floor, he waited for the strobe lights to give way to dim redness, and ducked into a crouch. He skittered across the last few feet of polished wood, situating himself between the club’s back wall and the smaller, circular bar. Kai watched him disappear behind the smooth rock before she ducked and ran along the nearest wall, cutting close to the guarded front entryway on the right. She slithered through the undulating crowd of eager ladies, and toward the stage.
She paused for a second to look at the young men being held there like circus animals. She had never seen actual Seven Soldiers this close before, and her curiosity got the best of her. Yes, they were attractive; perfectly built and handsome as hell. But they were dauntingly huge, and their eyes were empty; unseeing and unfeeling. Each one had a thick collar around his neck, buzzing with pale blue electrical energy. They were powered by a different sort of crystal, she assumed. Those collars were supposedly the only thing that could keep them docile. She shivered again.
Their handlers, who ranged in appearance from mildly attractive to downright ugly, had a wider range of facial expressions; some attentive and at-the-ready while others were apathetic and bored. The huge throng of screaming women threw small, flat crystals at the performing soldiers on stage, doling out more money than Kai had ever seen just for the chance to interact with a monster. The money they spent allowed them to climb up and pour a glass of liquor down a soldier’s throat or feed him food from the long table to the right of the stage. They could also have a dance with a chained, brain-dampened soldier, or do even less savory things in private rooms upstairs.
Supposedly the young men couldn’t resist the offerings. They were Seven Soldiers, which meant they were sinners, and this was a place to witness their unleashed gluttony. They opened their mouths each time, indifferent but accepting of the food and drink that gorged them through the course of the evening. Their rage, too dangerous to be put on display, was kept in check by the handlers, so supposedly they were as complacent as puppies in this state only. No sex, though. That was too much of a liability. That was the club’s cover story at least, but Kai knew that handlers could be paid off. She had even heard of women scoring tickets for backstage passes to the Eastern Fortress where the soldiers were kept.
She shimmied along the perimeter of the club beside the stage, shaking her hips to the music’s frantic beat, trying to blend in. She darted under the long, beautifully decorated food table once the strobe lights started up again. With quick, fluid movements, she settled herself centrally under the table, where a hanging silvery cloth obscured her from view. She saw Dex across the way, sweeping up handfuls of the crystals that had fallen to the floor, putting them into his cloth sack. Perfect timing was critical, because there had to be enough money to be worth Leo’s while, but not so much that the club collectors noticed something wrong when they came through to bag it up. She pulled out her own sack and started brushing in money that had fallen or been swept under the table by the collectors. Simple.
As she was shoveling the crystals into her take-away bag, the smell of the food on the table above hit her nostrils and her mouth began to water. The soldiers really did get the good stuff. What a waste. There was fresh fruit, cakes and chocolates, and platters of meat and cheese. She couldn’t remember the last time she had eaten something besides dry bread, and even that had been scarce lately. She continued to absentmindedly shovel money into the sack, but now her eyes were focused on a spot where the tablecloth had accidentally gotten tucked up in the corner, affording her a crooked view of the tabletop. There sat a huge piece of cake that hung precariously over the side, shaking as dancing women jostled by. Her breath caught in her throat as it slid off and landed on the floor about a foot to her left.
As her hand seemed to instinctively reach out and grab for the fallen treasure, she saw Dex shaking his head frantically out of the corner of her eye. She felt a boot-clad foot slam down hard on her hand seconds later, and a wave of pain shot through her body. Her head hit the underside of the table and food spilled all around her. Terror gripped her insides like a live wire, and she froze. Quickly, she shook herself out of it and tried to reclaim her hand, but it was too late. The black boot held tight, and she saw a hand reach under the tablecloth, getting ready to lift it and expose her completely. She had to think fast.
Kai shoved herself sideways, toward whoever was standing on her left hand, and bit into the person’s calf, right above where the boot ended. Her teeth sunk easily through the thin cotton uniform into skin and flesh. She didn’t hear any scream over the blasting music, but the booted foot slid sideways just enough as a hand clasped it defensively. That was all she needed. She saw the face of the person who had caught her for only a second. He was young and gaunt, with pasty skin and pointy features. A handler. He must’ve been in the process of escorting his soldier past the front of the stage when he had spotted her fool attempt to grab the damn cake. She could beat herself up later. Now, she had to run.
She darted past the table and away from the stage, choosing the back door across the dance floor as an exit point. She shoved around several club-goers, knocking a few to the floor as she fled through the crowd. She didn’t dare to glance at Dex as she practically jumped over him on her way out. The last thing she needed was the guilt of getting him busted, too. They could reunite back at the rendezvous point. She slammed into the door in her panic, frantically felt around, grabbed the exit bar and pushed, then bolted out into the night.
She was at least twenty yards from the building, sand rising to resist in slow, messy heaps with each crunch of her shoes, when she stole a glance behind herself. Her heart jumped into her throat. Not only was the handler chasing her; he had brought his soldier, too. The man-beast couldn’t have been more than seventeen or eighteen years old, but he was huge. He had to be at least seven feet tall and almost as wide, with muscles popping out everywhere as he bounded soundlessly after her. Taut muscles rippled over his entire body, highlighting the contrast of his distended stomach, and making him appear even more savage as he darted across the sand in his bare feet. He was clothed only in the gold loincloth that was his club outfit, but the blankness in his eyes had given way to something far more primal, his snarling face letting her know that the party was definitely over. Whatever the mental switch was that kept him calm—it had been flipped.
“Get back here, you biting little bitch!” yelled the handler.
She froze for a second, hoping his limping from her bite would slow both him and his monstrous soldier-boy down, but to her horror, the glowing chain slipped out of his hand. He cursed and made a grab for it as Kai screamed. She picked up speed as she headed across the desert sand in the direction of the outer wall of the city. Eastern Pless would hide her in its cesspool of overcrowded streets. She could go back to Leo’s place. The soldier might get his hands on a citizen or two, but he would be stopped. They were always taken down if they got loose inside the city’s walls.
Kai still had her heart and eyes set on the safety of the city’s distant lights when the snarling soldier dove and grabbed her around the legs. She screamed as she fell, and tried to claw at his arms, but he didn’t seem to notice. His fingernails ripped her skin as he flipped her over and dragged her toward his waiting mouth.
He’s going to eat me alive.
His face was very close to her now, and even in this dim light, she could see that he had the pale skin of a southerner, and ear-length blond hair. She was surprised again by how very young he looked. Then she saw his eyes. There was no humanity in the heavily dilated pupils; only death. His open-mouthed roar exposed a straight line of teeth, with four unnaturally sharp, piercing incisors. Now face to face, she saw that the tiny rings of iris around his pupils were light brown, but the pupils themselves weren’t black the way they were supposed to be. The spot in the middle of the brown glowed with an odd blue tinge that lit his face.
Flinching, she prepared to be ripped apart. Instead, a huge jolt that rattled through her body, from the base of her spine to the top of her head, making her teeth clamp down on a shriek. Her eyes flew open, and she saw that the handler had regained control. He grabbed the chain leash around his charge’s neck and pressed a button. Waves of electricity rocked the giant, sending his body into spasms. Kai breathed a sigh of relief, even as she felt the power surge pass through him and into her own body. The last thing she thought before she lost consciousness was that it was far better to be electrocuted than to be torn to shreds by that monster.


Author Bio:
Tracy Auerbach is an author of science fiction and fantasy for teens and adults. As an avid reader with a vivid imagination, she chose to study film, English, and education, and went on to teach and write STEM curriculum for the New York Department of Education. This helped to polish her writing skills and ignite her passion for science fiction and fantasy.
Her first scholarly article, published in Language Magazine, was about the value of active, creative learning in science.
On the fiction side, Tracy’s work has been featured in the online literary journal Micro-horror, The Writing Disorder fiction anthology, and the “(Dis)ability” short story anthology, in addition to her novels.
When she is not teaching or writing, Tracy is usually reading or spending time with her family. She lives in New York with her husband and sons.

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