Friday, November 24, 2017

Release Day Review: Tried and True by Charlie Cochet #Review #Giveaway





Author: Charlie Cochet
Book: Tried and True
Series: THIRDS # 10
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Cover Artist: LC Chase
Publication date: November 24, 2017
Length: 254 pages

Reviewed by Erin


Synopsis

Sequel to Darkest Hour Before Dawn

When THIRDS agent Dexter J. Daley met Team Leader Sloane Brodie, he couldn’t have imagined how slamming into his new partner—literally—would shake both their worlds. Now four years later, they’ve faced dangers, fought battles both personal and professional… and fallen deeply in love. Now their big moment is finally in sight, and they’re ready to stand up together and make it official. Unfortunately, as the countdown to their big day begins, an enemy declares war on the THIRDS….

With their family in danger, Dex and Sloane are put to the test on how far into darkness they’ll walk to save those they love. As secrets are unearthed, a deadly betrayal is revealed, and Dex and Sloane must call on their Destructive Delta family for one last hurrah to put an end to the secret organization responsible for so much devastation.

Dex and Sloane will have plenty of bullets to dodge on the way to the altar, but with happiness within their grasp, they are determined to get there come hell or high water….



Buy Links




Review


Now that the turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce, and pumpkin pie has been devoured--leftovers, yum!--let us also take a moment to give thanks for the awesome that is Charlie Cochet's THIRDS series. For Sloane Brodie and Dexter J. Daley. For Ash, Cael, Seb, and Hudson. For the Destructive Delta team. For Sergeant Tony Maddock. For every single character, whether good or evil. The THIRDS series is one of a kind. It's been a long and twisty, often hilarious, sometimes heart breaking, road to get to this point. We're not at the end, yet, but we are wrapping up one adventure before moving on to the next. 

And what better way to end on a high note than with a wedding? I mean love and happily ever after, is there anything better? However, this is the wedding of Sloane and Dex we're talking about so you know things are bound to go haywire. Boy does it ever! A kidnapping, bad guys, flying bullets, and more. Gah! Tried and True was a roller coaster from beginning to end. 

Sloane and Dex have come so, so far. From the beginning when Dex was tripping into Sloane and Sloane was mired in guilt and grief until now, when they are true partners, mated, madly in love, and about to be married, it's been a hell of a journey. In this book, Charlie gives our guys one last mission before they head off to TIN. I don't want to give anything away, but suffice it to say, Destructive Delta kicked some serious ass. This is the action I've been dying for Charlie to get back to and she really delivered. It was action packed and nail biting and I loved every moment of it. 

Not to be outdone by the guys and girls being the badasses they are, there is still a wedding that needs to happen. There were many quiet, tender moments between Sloane and Dex that are guaranteed to melt your hearts...and the sexy times to melt other things. Emotional moments between Tony and Dex and ones with Ash and Sloane. Don't worry, there's also plenty of shenanigans, hijinx, and all the laugh out moments you've come to love and expect. 

Charlie has given her fans some of everything in Tried and True and it is the perfect ending to this part of the Sloane and Dex saga. Some lingering questions are answered, loose ends tied up, while leaving the future wide open for our favorite THIRDS agents. I am really excited about what Charlie has in store for our dynamic duo (and their merry band of partners in crime) and can't wait to see what happens next!




Giveaway

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Contest ends November 30th
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Flashback Friday: The Christmas Throwaway by RJ Scott #Review #Giveaway






Author: RJ Scott
Book: The Christmas Throwaway
Publisher: Move Lane Books LLC
Publication date:  (December 2010) 
Reviewed Edition: November 29, 2012
Length: 172 pages

Reviewed by Meredith


Synopsis

Christmas is a time for giving - what do you do when no one gives a damn? 

For Zachary Weston Christmas means sleeping on a churchyard bench in the freezing snow with nothing better in his future. Thrown out of his home for being gay, he is left without money or, it seems, anywhere to go. 

Until a stranger shows him that some people do give a lot more than a damn.

Ben Hamilton is a rookie cop in his small home town. He finds a young throwaway, fresh from the city, sleeping on a bench in the churchyard on a snowy Christmas Eve. Can he be the one to give Zachary his own Christmas miracle?







Review

This is always the time of year I gravitate toward the holiday stories. The Christmas Throwaway kept getting recommended to me. Everyone said, “read it, you have to.” And so I did.
Where to begin. The first page was like cold water being splashed on my face. A 17 year old boy, Christmas eve, frigid temperatures, sleeping on a bench. Alone. Thrown out of his home because he’s gay. 
Sadly, this happens more than you think. Of course unlike RJ’s book, there aren’t always happy endings. For Zach there is and it was a beautiful thing to watch unfold. Ben, his savior, his love. That man earned his wings simply by being a decent human being. 
This is a perfect holiday story not just because it fills you with the warm and fuzzies that great Christmas tales do, but because it makes you aware how horrible it is for LGBT youth and how one person makes a huge difference.
Wonderful must read book!

That was my review back in 2012. It hasn't changed. Every year since that one I have read this book and every year it fills me with Christmas spirit and joy. This book makes me believe that there is still good in the world and that miracles happen. This time of year we all need that!



Giveaway

Enter the Flashback Friday Giveaway below!



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Release Blitz: Living on the Edge by Taylor V. Donovan #Excerpt


LIVING ON THE EDGE
TAYLOR V. DONOVAN
GAY ROMANTIC FICTION
RELEASE DATE: 11-24-17


BLURB
Damián Laporte Ortíz is an expert at leading a double life. Most people know him as a war veteran and highly decorated cop working for F.U.R.A., a specialized police unit in Puerto Rico. Others know him as a crook. His family sees him as an honorable man and an exemplary single dad. The truth is he’s morally ambiguous and willing to bend rules. His peace of mind, happiness, long-term relationship, and survival depend on keeping his worlds apart. It isn’t until his professional career takes a series of unexpected turns that he’s forced to reconsider his priorities and stance.

Gay rights activist Gael Cisneros Beltrán dedicates his life to representing the marginalized LGBT community in a place he otherwise considers to be paradise. Fighting for their rights consumes his days. Going home to his closeted boyfriend replenishes him at night. Balancing their needs, goals, and responsibilities is a complicated act, but their commitment to each other continues to stand.

No challenge is too great to overcome. Nothing can tear them apart. Not until the past comes knocking and their carefully built parallel lives finally collide. Now they must decide what matters more—the common good or their love.




EXCERPT
Leaning closer to Alexis so that he could be heard over the music without having to yell, Gael asked, “Did Frankie mention any particulars about the incident he wants to discuss?” He closed his fan and took his Sidekick phone out of his small black leather satchel bag. He had no messages, so he sent one to Frankie telling him to hurry up, all caps and twenty exclamation points.
“No idea, but my bet is another instance of police brutality, because you know they always feel provoked.” Alexis shook his head, then his delicate features twisted in rage. “It could be anything from gay guys merely existing and breathing the same air as the cops, to getting caught having sex. Sodomy might’ve been decriminalized, but you know some of those homophobic pricks don’t give a fuck.”
Gael clenched his jaw. “No, they don’t.”
Corruption, widespread abuse, and brutality with zero accountability were major problems within the PRPD. Many cases arose out of illegal searches and arrests, but the matter was much worse between the gay community and cops, especially during rallies. Gael ought to know. He’d gotten pepper sprayed, tear-gassed, suppressed from exercising his rights, “moved out of the way” with excessive force, handcuffed, stomped on, and tasered more times than he cared to remember. The mostly young, tall, muscular officers in the Tactical Operations Division, or “la fuerza de choque,” as everyone called the impact unit, were the worst.     
Then there were the cops that actively accosted gay men at cruising spots. They harassed them, roughed them up, humiliated them and even arrested them on prostitution and drug possession charges for heroin and cocaine they’d planted themselves. Civil Liberties Advocates, the legal association Gael did pro bono work for, had its hands full with abuse cases against law enforcement officers whose bigotry was sanctioned by the police department. Literally. A disciplinary rule existed prohibiting Puerto Rico police officers from associating with lesbians and gay men, and way too many cops had taken it as their marching orders to eradicate homosexuality from the island.
For Gael and his colleagues at CLA, that regulation of the PRPD disciplinary code was a challenge. It violated First Amendment rights, prevented queer cops from coming out and forming a local affiliate of the Gay Officers Action League in Puerto Rico, and made gay and lesbian citizens pariahs to their own police force. Over at CLA, they’d been working their asses off to get it struck down. If they won their case, cops would be forced to treat the LGBT community with respect, which would do wonders for their battered morale. Their day in court couldn’t come soon enough. Gael hated the Puerto Rico Police Department as a whole.
Eager to find out if he had another potential case against the PRPD on his hands, he put his phone and fan away, glanced at his watch, then scanned the red lit club. “What in the world is taking Frankie so long?”
“Maybe the guy left, and Frankie went looking for him,” Alexis said into his ear. “I heard he really isn’t into the Homme crowd. He came tonight for Mr. Gay, but he usually hangs out at The Beehive. That’s where Frankie knows him from.”
The Beehive, located across the street from Homme in the Santurce Arts and Culture District—aka the Gayborhood—was one of the drag clubs where Frankie performed four times a month, super popular with the general public. Gael adored the place. It was fun, top notch, and he was close with all the girls. In fact, The Beehive’s Queen B’s had been the first volunteers to work at Puerto Rico Diverso when Gael started it in 2002 to fight for inclusion and equal rights. Their outreach program was one of the more effective tools the center had to get non-queer volunteers and donations. He could never repay them for their efforts.
“Should we go to The Beehive, then?” Gael asked as his gaze swept over the dancing crowd, the people waiting by the bar, and the short hallway leading to the main entrance one more time, then his shoulders stiffened, and a tingling sensation spread across his back.
He twisted his head right and left like a man possessed, frantically searching every dark corner of the club for— There. Next to the passageway to the backroom and the basement, dressed in dark clothes that blended with the shadows, a baseball cap pulled down low over his face.
Next to him, Alexis asked, “You okay?”
“I need a moment,” he rasped. “He is here.”
Alexis grinned. “Hooked him good during that brief conversation yesterday, didn’t you?”
“I hope so.” Gael swallowed hard. “Have Frankie and his friend wait for me when they come back.”
Mouth dry and heart hammering in his chest, he made a beeline for the object of his desire, then almost tripped over his own feet when Damián’s gaze collided with his.
The previous day, when they’d talked for the first time, Damián was guarded—hyperaware of his surroundings. That caution was nowhere to be found. Tonight, he was a gay man in his element. Someone who took up as much space as humanly possible, and knew what he wanted and how to get it. He oozed confidence, and the expression on his face took Gael’s breath away.
That was unadulterated hunger and intent shining in his striking hooded hazel eyes. He looked at Gael as if he was mentally stripping off his clothes…as if he was thinking something dirty…as if he was imagining Gael on his knees, lips wrapped around his cock and cheeks hollow from sucking him off.
Gael readjusted the erection threatening to rip through his slacks.
Damián licked his lips.
Gael had no idea how a such a simple gesture could be so quick and filthy at the same time, but his body ignited at the sight and a shock of desire surged through his veins, making him feel feverish and a bit out of his mind.
He couldn’t wait a second longer to get his hands on that man.
He had never needed sexual gratification so badly in his entire life.
He was two steps away from dropping to his knees and doing what they both so clearly wanted when Damián reached out, hooked his fingers around Gael’s belt loops, and tugged him flush against his muscled body.
“It took you almost seven minutes to realize I was here,” Damián said into his ear in a sultry voice. “You’re off your game tonight.”
“You’ll have to cut me some slack.” Gael placed his hands over Damián’s buff chest and swallowed a whimper. He had hard, slightly rounded, and perfectly contoured pecs under his skin tight long sleeve shirt, complete with fully erect nipples that poked at Gael’s palms. “I didn’t want to socialize, so I blocked everyone to avoid sending mixed signals and keep people from approaching me.”
“Did I interrupt anything important?” Damián backed into the dark passageway, pulling Gael slowly until the music wasn’t as loud and they were secluded from curious eyes. “You seemed to be pretty engrossed in your conversation with your friend.”
“It can wait a few more moments.” Thankful for their similar heights, Gael aligned his body to Damián’s. “What are you doing here?”
“Dance with me.” The inner fire burning in Damián’s eyes made him look primal as he clutched Gael’s hips and started swaying to the music in the way only natural born dancers could. “I love this song.”
Gael followed his lead and rhythm in a daze, his heart beating in tandem with ‘Búscame’s’ bass, the sexiest tune written to date.
Reggaetón music lyrics were usually steamy but Luca Jay, the Puerto Rican singer and composer currently caressing everyone with his voice, was a master at combining emotion and innuendo, and could write sultry songs with his eyes closed. Adding perreo to the mix made everything ten times sexier, as the steps to the dance called for total inhibition and lack of restraint, and had the sole purpose of turning one’s partner on. Gael couldn’t think of a single thing he’d rather be doing at the moment.
In a husky voice, he asked, “Are you a B-Unit fan?”
“I am. Yours, too.” Touching his forehead to Gael’s, he added. “Rabid.”
Gael wasn’t sure what startled him most—the way his heart swelled at Damián’s words, or the realization that his reactions to him were beyond his self-control. “Why mine?”
“I can only imagine what it must be like to fight for the rights of guys that won’t stand with you, but you keep doing it every day.” One corner of his mouth lifted in a self-deprecating smile. “And even though I have zero intentions of coming out, I appreciate what you do for us. In my opinion, you’re the rock star of the local gay rights movement.”
Gael nodded, his mouth too dry to speak.
“What are you doing here?” he repeated seconds later, nuzzling Damián’s smooth cheek and inhaling his woody, sharp, heady scent. And then, because he couldn’t help himself, he nibbled at his earlobe and jaw. It was a natural thing to do—almost automatic, as if somehow, he was convinced he had every right to touch this man any way he pleased. “Didn’t you say you don’t do Homme on Saturdays?”
“I don’t, and I can’t stay long.” Damián thrust his hips forward, giving Gael a taste of the massive bulge in his pants for the first time. “But I couldn’t wait to see you again.”
Weak in the knees, Gael latched his arm around Damián’s wide shoulders, holding on for dear life as his emotions and thoughts spiraled out of control.
What was it about him that made Gael act like they’d known each other their entire lives? What was this…thing he recognized when he looked into Damián’s eyes that he didn’t dare to name because it made no sense after only two brief encounters? Gael didn’t understand the reason for his monster-sized attraction, and he certainly couldn’t comprehend why he felt like he’d been swept away and was only noticing now.
He was a logical guy. Shit like this never happened to him, so why now? What was different from all the other times he’d hooked up with a guy? What, exactly, was happening?
Was he simply flattered that a hot closeted guy had broken his own rule just so that he could see him tonight? Was it chemistry? Lust? And for the love of all that was good and holy, what the hell was up with the fireworks exploding in his head?
What Was. Happening?
“You look like a deer caught in the headlights.” Damián’s gaze darted from Gael’s eyes, down to his mouth, and back. “Did I read you wrong? Are you not interested in seeing where this might go?”
“You meant it, didn’t you?” Gael cupped Damián’s cheek with his hand and brushed his thumb over his bottom lip. “You really want to get to know each other.”
Damián stopped dancing. “Don’t you?” he whispered, their lips a breath apart, sounding uncertain for the first time.
Gael traced his cheekbones with his fingertips, connecting the faint freckles he couldn’t see in the dark and learning the shape of his nose as he said, “Yes.” No hesitation, no two ways about it. “But I still want you in my bed as soon as possible.”





Taylor V. Donovan is a compulsive reader and author of m/m romantic suspense. She is optimistically cynical about the world; lover of history, museums and all things 80s. She is crazy about fashion, passionate about civil rights and equality for all and shamelessly indulges in mind-numbing reality television.

When she is not making a living in the busiest city in the world or telling the stories of gorgeous men hot for one another, Taylor can be found raising her two daughters and two terribly misbehaved furry babies in the mountains she calls home.

Blog Tour: Came Upon A Midnight Clear by Katie Porter~ Exclusive #Excerpt #Giveaway





Author: Katie Porter
Book: Came Upon A Midnight Clear
(Part of the 2017 Holiday Charity Bundle)
Publisher: Riptide Publishing
Cover Artist: Natasha Snow
Publication date: November 20, 2017
Length: 291 pages



Synopsis

Up-and-coming film producer Kyle Wakefield lives in the closet rather than risk the wrath of his influential, conservative parents. The only time he took a chance on love was a tempestuous teenage affair with Nathan Carnes. But when Nathan proved himself hell-bent on self-destruction and wound up in prison, Kyle closed off his heart.


Almost a decade later, Kyle’s production partner hires Nathan’s stunt company, Second Chances, to work on a big-budget action film in London. Nate is floored by his explosive reunion with Kyle. But he sure as hell isn’t surprised that Kyle still treats their mutual needs—and Nate—like dirty little secrets.


As the London holiday season casts its dazzling spell, the two men find themselves falling in love again. Kyle is one breathless kiss away from declaring himself to Nate—and to the world—but they cannot ignore secrets borne of youthful mistakes. To protect their bright new future, Kyle and Nathan will need all their passion and trust . . . and a little Christmas magic.

Publisher's note: This is a lightly edited reprint of a previously published novel.



Buy Links



Exclusive Excerpt

At intermission, he led Nate around a spiraling ramp to the concession area. That Nate stood shoulder to shoulder with him, their hips near enough to flirt, was making Kyle feel younger and more relaxed than he’d felt in years. Steph had always said he was the oldest twenty-eight-year-old on the planet, but he hadn’t realized how right she was until right then. Nate breathed life into him.
“What, popcorn or something?” Nate asked.
“Better.” Just then, his cell phone buzzed in his pocket. He pulled it out to see the display. His stomach took a sickly flip, but he pressed the red button to reject the call.
“Who is it?” Nate asked.
“My mother.” Two swipes later and his phone was on airplane mode. Once she got it in her head that it was time to talk to Kyle, she would call six times in a row. Literally and exactly. Then she’d do it at the same time the next day, then the next, unceasing, until she got a response. No distance seemed far enough. He pushed away thoughts of them and made himself smile. “Come on. We’re going to miss our snacks.”
Ten minutes later, barely in time to make the purchase before the lights dimmed again, Kyle came away with his prizes.
“You are insane.” Nate tossed his gaze around the massive concession area as people filed back around the ramp toward the body of the theater. “No, these people are insane.” He took one of the small white containers Kyle handed him. “I mean, ice cream? Are you serious?”
“And tea.”
Nate trod behind Kyle, still wearing his mixed expression of confusion and amusement.
They settled back in their seats and proceeded to hiss and boo and laugh with the rest of the crowd. It was damn difficult to eat ice cream off a little wooden spoonlike paddle while in a darkened theater, but they managed. Then came tea with milk and sugar. It was all so British that Kyle grinned in wonder. Two countries separated by a common language . . . and a few weird-ass traditions.
“You missed some,” Nate whispered.
“Hmm?”
There was no mistaking what he meant when Nate licked a dribble of ice cream off Kyle’s lower lip. They kissed softly, almost hesitantly, even as the raucous story amped toward its conclusion. Kyle no longer thought to resist that public display. The dark helped. The distraction helped too. But mostly he wanted Nate to kiss him. There was nothing better. Not even the sex compared to giving and taking on such a heartfelt level.
A remembered stab of jealousy and want nearly ruined the moment for Kyle. Since being released from prison, Nate had lived with men, had kept up long relationships with men. That meant he’d shared mundane routines and taken-for-granted moments, such as exchanging quiet kisses that had nothing to do with amping up for a good fuck.
The part of Kyle’s soul he’d thought closed off—kept busily distracted with work and silenced by fear—was pushing free. He wanted mundane and taken-for-granted and quiet. He’d never let himself experience that level of closeness.
Nate licked his lips, his voice hushed. “You taste good.”
“You smell good.”
“I want to feel you up.”
Kyle glanced to his right where a sandy-haired boy of six laughed and pointed at the man in drag. “Some other time.” He caught Nate’s chin, forcing their gazes to lock. The spotlights were aimed at the stage, but enough light remained to see one another clearly. “But it’s not because I don’t want you to.”
It’s because I want you too much.
Lost in that unexpected limbo, he looped his arm through Nate’s and nestled as close as he could manage. Heat and breathing and heartbeats. Nate, Kyle, and the whole audience continued to play along with the panto as the hero and heroine came together for a melodramatic hug.
Kyle knew it wouldn’t last forever. Eventually the curtain would fall, the lights would come up, and he and Nate would lose each other in the crowd. That thought pinched genuine pain under his ribs. The clock was ticking. Christmas Day was the last day of shooting.

Maybe it didn’t have to be that way.




About the 2017 Holiday Charity Collection


20% of all proceeds from this title will be donated to the Russian LGBT Network.


Each year, Riptide Publishing releases a holiday collection in support of an LGBTQ charity. Twenty percent of the proceeds from this year’s collection will be donated to the Russian LGBT Network.


The Russian LGBT network was founded in April 2006. It is an interregional, non-governmental human rights organization that promotes equal rights and respect for human dignity, regardless of sexual orientation and gender identity. They unite and develop regional initiatives, advocacy groups (at both national and international levels), and provide social and legal services.


To learn more about this charity or to donate directly, please visit their website: https://lgbtnet.org/en.


This collection would not be possible without the talent and generosity of its authors, who have brought us the following holiday stories:



Pre-ordering this collection will allow you to download each story two days prior to its official release date, as well as save 20% off the list price of the individual books.





About Katie Porter


Katie Porter is the co-writing team of Lorelie Brown and Carrie Lofty, friends and critique partners of six years. Both are multi-published in several romance genres. Carrie has an MA in history, while Lorelie is a US Army veteran.


Generally a high-strung masochist, Carrie loves weight training but she has no fear of gross things like dissecting formaldehyde sharks. Her two girls are not appreciative.


Lorelie, a laid-back sadist, would rather grin maniacally when Carrie works out. Her three boys love how she screams like a little girl around spiders.


Connect with Lorelie and Carrie:






Giveaway

To celebrate the release of Came Upon a Midnight Clear, one lucky winner will receive a $10 Riptide credit! Leave a comment with your contact info to enter the contest. Entries close at midnight, Eastern time, on November 25, 2017. Contest is NOT restricted to U.S. entries. Thanks for following the tour, and don’t forget to leave your contact info!

Blog Tour: Desperately Seeking Santa by Eli Easton ~ Exclusive #Excerpt #Giveaway


Exclusive Excerpt: Gabe’s first sight of Mack

By Eli Easton


Happy almost-December! I’m looking forward to a good six weeks of Christmas books and movies. How about you? ?? I can hardly believe this is my fifth year releasing a Christmas novella. I hope you’ll give it a read and that it brings a little sparkle to your holiday season.

The protagonists in “Desperately Seeking Santa” are Gabe, a journalism student at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, and Mack “the Mountain” McDonall, a 6’10”, 285-pound star college wrestler. Gabe first sees Mack (and drools over him) when he attends a wrestling match with his friend, Jordan. Jordan sets Gabe and Mack up, but it doesn’t go too well at first, thanks to Gabe’s callous-sounding remarks about how he intends to “out” a mystery Santa who performs at a local charity dinner. Of course, eventually Gabe convinces Mack that he’s not a Scrooge and deserves a chance.

I’m sharing an exclusive excerpt from the book here. This is the first time Gabe sees Mack. In the scene, Mack is fully in his element at a wrestling match. Let’s take a look at this unusual guy through Gabe’s eyes…

EXCERPT – Introducing Mack “the Mountain” McDonall

Owen walked over to the team bench below us and dropped to the seat just as the announcer came on again. “And, finally, the only undefeated wrestler in Badger history, weighing in at a massive 285, and ranked number one in the Big Ten, it’s Mack ‘the Mmmmmmountain’ McDonall!”

The crowd noise had died down after Owen, but now it ratcheted back up to maximum decibels. I barely heard it. Because… fuuuuck. What the hell was I seeing? Into the arena jogged the biggest guy I’d ever laid eyes on. Not just big, the man was huge. He had to duck his head to come in through the double doors from the hallway. He slapped hands with the coach as he went by, and the coach looked like an insignificant twig.

Tall? He had to be close to seven foot, like one of those pro basketball players. Big all over? Dios, yes. His thighs looked like pillars, with thick slabs of muscle veeing over his knees. His shoulders were massive, his biceps and forearms sculpted, and his pecs and six-pack stood out clearly under the thin fabric of his red singlet. The guy was not just big, he was ripped.

Naturally, my eyes drifted to a certain area. Hey, it’s not every day you see a male specimen like this one. I was curious. He appeared to be wearing compression shorts under his singlet. Even so, there was a considerable lumpiness in that region that said the guy was proportional everywhere.

Jordan reached over with two fingers and gently brought my jaw up to close my mouth.

“Homina,” I said.

Jordan snorted. “Pretty sure that’s not a word. Wanna try again, Socrates?”

I ignored him, caught up as the crowd began to chant, “Mountain! Mountain! Mountain!”

Mountain? Indeed. The massive land formation in question raised his arms. He did a slow circle to the crowd, flexing his ginormous biceps and baring his teeth. It was like a scene from Mad Max, where the super-scary villain comes into the death-match arena. I swear to God.

When the Mountain turned toward us, I got a good look at his face. His short curly brown hair stuck out around a black head guard. His face was tough and a bit plain, like you’d expect a boxer to have. Heavy jaw. Clean shaven. Flattish nose. It was a strong face, a super masculine face, not unattractive but sort of hard and off-putting. Then his eyes swept over us and paused briefly on Jordan. His look softened for a moment with recognition, and, Dios, my knees went a little weak.

Also? Having him look in our direction made my stomach squoosh in anxiety, as if I was in the crosshairs of a predator.

Or something like that.

The announcer started explaining the rules, and the wrestler called “the Mountain” loped over to the team bench. He plopped down to sit next to Owen, who looked very small by comparison. I swear I felt the bleachers shudder when he dropped.

Jordan waved a hand in front of my face.

I blinked and looked at him. “Who the hell is that?” My voice sounded awed.

“Oh look, it can talk,” Jordan said wryly.

I elbowed him. “Come on. Dish.”

“That’s Mack. He’s crazy big, huh?”

“That’s not a man, that’s a zip code,” I breathed. A really, really intimidating, yet fascinating zip code.

“He’s not really like that.”

“Huh?” I shook my head and gave Jordan my attention.

“Mack. He acts like a Neanderthal for the fans, but in person, he’s sort of quiet and serious.”

That seemed unlikely to me. “How do you know?”

Jordan gave me an incredulous look. “Um… because he’s on Owen’s team? They’re not besties or anything, but Owen usually rooms with him on away matches. He prefers Mack because he’s not up late goofing off. He takes wrestling as seriously as Owen does.”

“Oh.”



The clock headed toward 9:00 p.m. and things picked up. The last few wrestlers were of a better caliber, even I could tell. And then… then they called Mack “the Mountain” McDonall. Weight class 285.

His weight had slipped by me when he’d been introduced the first time, I’d been so dazzled by the sight of him. But two hundred eight-five mother-fucking pounds. Holy Godzilla. He was literally twice the man I was!

The Mountain got up and walked to the center floor, shaking out his muscles and rotating his neck. I could not stop staring. Even his butt was huge, and not fat either. Just… massive meatiness. The guy he was wrestling got up from the Maryland team’s bench. He was big too, though not in the same way as Mack. The Maryland wrestler looked like a football player. He was at least a foot shorter and thick all around with a big neck and a definite gut.

Jordan leaned in. “Two eighty-five is the highest weight class in college wrestling. These are the big boys!”

“No shit,” I muttered.

The two wrestlers arranged themselves in the center of the red circle, staring at each other from about two feet apart. Intimidation wafted off them like a miasma. The Maryland guy put in a mouth guard and rubbed one fist with the open palm of his other hand, as if polishing off the head of a hammer. Mack clenched and unclenched his fists. He ground his feet on the floor like he was trying to screw them in place. Like: No way are you gonna move me, bitch! A thrill of tension went up my spine, and I grabbed Jordan’s thigh and squeezed.

“Ow,” Jordan complained.

And then, before I was ready, if I’m honest, the whistle blew and they were on each other. At first, they plowed into each other’s chests, thighs straining, arms wrapping around anything they could grab. The Maryland guy was considerably shorter but aggressive. They looked like two steam locomotives running into each other on the tracks, each one trying to push the other out of the way. Irresistible force meets unstoppable object.

I couldn’t even imagine how much strength it would take to hold against the Mountain, but for a moment, the Maryland guy did.

His face showed the strain, though, turning red. Maybe trying to hasten things along, he grabbed the Mountain’s waist, digging in with his fingers, his biceps bulging as he tried to twist. But the Mountain never moved. He let the guy try for a few humiliating seconds. Then Mack reached over the Maryland guy’s back with those big hands, grabbed the guy’s hips and lifted his feet off the ground.

Lifted him. Off. The ground. By reaching over his back and pulling up.

Damn. That was… how could he lift at that angle? And the guy was so heavy too. But somehow, The Mountain did, his biceps straining, mouth grimacing.

In a heartbeat, there was a flip and a wham! The Maryland guy was on the mat on his back with Mack on top of him. Maryland struggled, moving this way and that, rocking his body to keep his shoulders up. He wrapped a calf around the back of one of Mack’s knees and it looked like he was trying frantically to scoot out from under him.

But Mack pressed that massive chest down over the guy’s head, and pinned one of his arms, not letting him move an inch. Dios. It looked like he’d suffocate the Maryland dude!

I squeezed Jordan’s thigh harder. He punched me in the arm. I ignored him.

It wasn’t the sight of Mack dominating the other wrestler that was so exciting. I’ve always been a super independent, mouthy guy. I don’t like being told what to do and can’t imagine enjoying being shoved around. In your dreams, bravucón. No, that wasn’t it. But seeing the strength of Mack, seeing that massive body work so smoothly and gracefully and powerfully like that, the sheer size of him….

Homina. Homina.

The ref dropped to his belly to peer under Mack’s body. He looked for what felt like a long time, but was probably only a few seconds, while Mack dug in his feet. Then the ref blew his whistle and slapped the mat. It was over. The whole thing had probably taken under a minute, but it had been the most exciting minute of my life. My heart was going loco.

The crowd went mad, cheering and whooping. Someone started a chant: Mountain. Mountain. Mountain. Mack rose off the poor, squashed Maryland wrestler with a light hop and offered his hand to help his opponent up. The guy accepted and was pulled to his feet.

Jordan poked me in the ribs, hard. I released my death grip on his thigh. “Sorry,” I said sheepishly.

He gave me a stern glower. “Next time, I’ll bring a pillow for you to grab. If I’m going to get bruised thighs, I’d prefer to have fun while doing it.”

I heard his complaint, but my blood was still pumping too high to pay much attention. I jumped up and chanted “Mountain!” with the crowd, continuing until I was practically the last one standing. Finally, I dropped to the seat and gave Jordan a wide-eyed look.

He cracked a smile. “So Mr. I-Hate-Sports has gotten smacked by the wrestling fairy.”

“No.” I snorted. Hardly. Right. Like I really cared about wrestling.

But I couldn’t stop staring at the Mountain as the ref held up his arm. He did the whole slap his chest and bare his teeth thing. But then a genuinely pleased smile flickered across his face. I blinked. Like in that moment when he’d spotted Jordan, that softer look was as incongruous on him as pink bows were in a wolverine’s mane. But… sort of nice?

Then he did a few more angry fist pumps for the crowd before going back and dropping onto the bench. This time, I anticipated the slight shudder of the bleachers when he sat down and it gave me a thrill.

“He’s undefeated,” Jordan said.

“Huh?” I was still watching as Mack took a long drink of water from a bottle, those massive shoulders flexing.

Jordan flicked my ear with his middle finger.

“Ow!” I glared at him, rubbed the spot. “That hurt, cabrón!”

“I think you need an oil change in there. Your gears keep getting stuck.” Jordan sniggered. “Lube on Aisle 10!”

I rolled my eyes. “I’ve never seen anything like that. I mean, not in real life.”

Have a very merry Christmas and enjoy “Desperately Seeking Santa”.

Eli Easton



Buy Links: Amazon US | Amazon UK

Length: 50,000 words approx.

Cover Design: Reese Dante

Blurb

Journalism student Gabe Martin gets his first professional assignment—to write about a Christmas charity dinner that benefits a children’s home. It sounds like a total snooze-fest until Gabe learns that the event’s Santa is a mystery man. He shows up in costume and no one has a clue who he is. Uncovering Santa’s identity sounds like the perfect angle to turn a fluff piece into serious journalism.

Mack “The Mountain” McDonall, at 6’10”, is University of Wisconsin-Madison’s enormous star wrestler. When Gabe first claps eyes on him at a wrestling match, it’s lust at first sight. Gabe’s friend, Jordan, sets up the pair on a date. But when Gabe chatters on about his plans for outing Santa, Mack goes cold, and their first meeting becomes an epic fail.

As Gabe researches the children’s home, he learns that Mack has secrets a guy famous for being a brute wouldn’t want the world to know. Can Gabe find his holiday spirit, write a killer article, win the heart of a surly giant, and give everyone a very merry Christmas?





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November 24 - Diverse Reader
November 27 - The Novel Approach
November 29 - Alpha Book Club


Author Bio

Eli Easton has been at various times and under different names a minister’s daughter, a computer programmer, a game designer, the author of paranormal mysteries, a fan fiction writer, an organic farmer, and a long-distance walker. She began writing m/m romance in 2013 and has published 27 books since then. She hopes to write many more.

As an avid reader of such, she is tickled pink when an author manages to combine literary merit, vast stores of humor, melting hotness, and eye-dabbing sweetness into one story. She promises to strive to achieve most of that most of the time. She currently lives on a farm in Pennsylvania with her husband, two bulldogs, several cows, and a cat. All of them (except for the husband) are female, hence explaining the naked men that have taken up residence in her latest fiction writing.

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