'I love you' is just the beginning of the story.

Two Day Sale at Dreamspinner Press!

header_bannerDreamspinner Press has a 25% off everything sale today and tomorrow only! Time to fill up your e-reader or your bookshelves! Do you have a Kindle? You can have Dreamspinner email your book directly to your device. You can find all my books here, but there are tons of other great books by great authors on sale too!

Happy summer everyone! -Shira

Cover Reveal: Grace Duncan’s “Acceptance” (Forbes Mates Book 3)

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Dr. Miles Grant acknowledges that his destined mate could be either gender even though his bisexuality cost him his family and his pack. Luckily he found the Forbes Pack, who happily accept him just as he is. What he never counted on was finding his mate in Pittsburgh or for his mate to be another species entirely—a cat!

 

Quincy Archer isn’t just any jaguar shifter. He is the heir to the leadership of his pride. Destined mates are nothing but legend to the nearly extinct and generally solitary jaguars, and Quincy certainly never expected to find one for himself, much less a male… or a wolf.

However, finding each other and coming to terms with their species is the least of their worries. Quincy is expected to select a proper female mate, father a cub, and take his place as heir to the pride. Except Quincy refuses, having no interest in women or leadership and knowing he isn’t right for it. But his father will stop at nothing—not even attempting to kill Miles—to get his way. Quincy and Miles must overcome many obstacles to stay together as the destined mates they’re meant to be.

Preorder – June 8, 2016 at Dreamspinner PresseBook & Paperback

Release date – July 8, 2016

Excerpt:

Miles flopped down on the end of the couch in the tiny break room and rested his head on the back. His eyes closed on their own before he could tell them to. He didn’t have long—maybe twenty, if he was lucky.

He was seriously regretting taking on so many shifts. But he’d been missing Quincy and needed something to occupy his mind, to distract him. It was ridiculous, he knew that; they’d met twice. But they were mates, destined, and their bond had already started forming. His wolf had been driving him crazy, pushing him to try to find Quincy and mate.

The problem was, whether he liked it or not, he didn’t doubt for a moment Quincy spoke the truth about why they couldn’t be together yet. He’d talked to Chad and Jamie a little and got the gist of the problems Quincy was having, though Chad wasn’t in good enough shape to do much talking yet. He was still recovering from the change, still learning how to filter sounds and light, still learning how to be a wolf.

But Miles’s wolf didn’t understand, didn’t give a shit about any of that. In fact, he was pushing Miles to protect Quincy, which was more than a little laughable. He’d been truthful—he wasn’t afraid of a cat—but he had no knowledge whatsoever of the jaguar world. It still killed him that Diana had given him a cat. He’d been ready for his mate to be either male or female; he would have been content with either, even if his family and former pack had other ideas about that. But no, he had to get a different species altogether.

And a species he didn’t know a damned thing about. He didn’t know how far someone like Quincy’s father would go to get his way. And Miles was a healer, not a fighter. He could fight—all shifters learned how—but that didn’t mean he relished it, so he wasn’t as good as most others.

He needed to see Quincy again, even for a little while. He could appease his wolf a little, make himself feel a little better, and maybe find some patience to wait more.

Quincy had sent a few messages since he’d seen his mate last—in the emergency room waiting area two months ago—mostly texts and a couple of e-mails to let Miles know he was still alive and still in hiding. They’d exchanged little bits about each other, but Quincy hadn’t wanted to say a lot lest it was intercepted. It wasn’t much, but at least knowing Quincy was okay helped keep Miles from going completely insane. He’d like to think he’d know if Quincy was killed, but he wasn’t sure how far their thin bond went, for something like that. When he’d asked Chad how Quincy had gotten his contact information since he’d never had a chance to give it, Chad had told Miles not to wonder about it. But Miles knew at least part of what Quincy did and wasn’t worried. He didn’t think for a moment Quincy would use it against him.

The last two months had been pure hell. He had no idea how Tanner had managed to keep Finley at arm’s length for two years. Granted, they’d been able to date, hang out together, that sort of thing, and he hadn’t so much as glimpsed Quincy in two months.

So he’d spent most of it working. A few times he’d been told point-blank to go home, that he’d been working too much. Whether he’d liked it or not, they’d been right. He’d been so tired he’d barely been standing. But after getting a few hours’ sleep—filled with some very vivid dreams of Quincy—he’d needed to do something.

Since he couldn’t go back to work, he decided to do the other thing he was good at: learn. He’d gone down to the Carnegie Library in Oakland and begun reading up on all things Ancient Egypt, starting with Bastet. He had no idea how much of it was accurate to the jaguars and how much was pure myth, but he figured having a basis to start from wouldn’t hurt.

Miles sighed and sat up again, eyeing the coffee machine in the corner. It was clear he wasn’t going to get any sleep, so he might as well get going the only other way he could. But as he stood and turned to the counter, he got hit with a huge tangle of emotion that wasn’t his. Anger seemed the primary emotion, though there was fear mixed in. And pain. Too much pain.

Quincy?

Miles raced out of the room, not thinking about how it would look—not thinking much at all. If Quincy was close, something was very, very wrong.

Just as he rounded the corner near the ambulance entrance, one of the nurses ran up to meet him. “Dr. Grant! Your pa—”

“Partner,” Miles interrupted, then stopped himself when the nurse simply blinked at him. He’d never told them about a partner—because he hadn’t actually had one, as far as he knew—but he’d deal with that later. “A friend called me,” he said, thinking quickly.

“Oh. Okay. They’re bringing him in now.”

“Thanks. How bad is it?”

Just then the doors opened and the paramedics pushed Quincy in on a stretcher. He was naked except for a sheet, his normally pale skin way too light. He had long gashes on his chest and stomach, but the rest was covered by the sheet. It looked like the scratches—probably caused by shifter claws, if he was any judge—had already started healing, though plenty more still looked wrong with him.

Miles had to take a quick breath, then a second as Quincy’s scent hit him hard—the hint of graphite and paper that overlaid a sweetness incongruent to Quincy’s outer personality. Miles had to shove hard on his wolf. He wanted out and wanted to go after whatever or whoever hurt their mate. Not now. We’ll help our mate, but not now.

With another breath through his mouth, he went into professional mode, falling back on his training and knowledge so he could make sure Quincy healed properly and didn’t raise too many eyebrows in the process.

* * *

Title: Acceptance

Author: Grace R. Duncan

Published: Dreamspinner Press

Genre: M/M Paranormal

Release date: July 8, 2016

If you haven’t read it yet, now would be a great time to check out the Forbes Mates series.  Find out more about Devotion (Tanner and Finley’s story) and Patience (Chad and Jamie’s story) here: http://www.grace-duncan.com/books/out-now-2/forbes-mates-2

About Grace

Grace Bio Pic (1)Grace Duncan grew up with a wild imagination.  She told stories from an early age – many of which got her into trouble.  Eventually, she learned to channel that imagination into less troublesome areas, including fanfiction, which is what has led her to writing male/male erotica.

A gypsy in her own right, Grace has lived all over the United States.  She has currently set up camp in East Texas with her husband and children – both the human and furry kind.

As one of those rare creatures who loves research, Grace can get lost for hours on the internet, reading up on any number of strange and different topics.  She can also be found writing fanfiction, reading fantasy, crime, suspense, romance and other erotica or even dabbling in art.

Find Grace here:

Website  ◊ FacebookTwitterYoutubeGoodreads

Elizabeth Noble’s Sentries: Exclusive Excerpt!

RingedLove_postcard_front_DSPPlease welcome the wonderful Elizabeth Noble who is visiting to share an excerpt from her Sentries series! Have I mentioned that I LOVE this series? Yep. I have now! – Shira

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Hello and thank you Shira for hosting me today. The first chapter of Ringed Love is posted on Dreamspinner Press, so over the next two weeks I’ll be offering the first one hundred or so words of each subsequent chapter.

Today’s excerpt is from chapter 13, the final chapter. Thank you to everyone who has joined along during this tour!

Excerpt:

Nick stood quietly to the side and watched the scene before him. Todd had a map spread out on the big table in Nick’s clinic. That was the best place to gather the area sentries when they all had to meet.

“Listen up, boys and girls, here’s the plan.” Todd pointed to different areas on the map as he talked.

“There were three bad earthquakes in less than two weeks, and things are getting bad down there.”

He nodded to one group of three people. Kids, really. When had Nick gotten so old that young men and women in their twenties and early thirties with families of their own seemed like kids?

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Blurb: New Colorado Protectorate fell with the assassination of Chancellor Clarke. Like many others, Todd and Nick Ruger left the land of their birth and made a home to the north in Yellowknife. Their world was ever changing. The time came to say a sad farewell to some of their friends and loved ones, but they were taken in with open arms by others and in turn offered shelter to yet more. Through the years they remained steadfast in their duty as sentries to protect and defend those that needed it the most.

Time marches on but through it all they hold each other dear and cherish the love they’ve shared. There are still angry ghosts, Windigos and water spirits to contend with. Their lives change, offering them new roles. When the time comes, they do what sentries have done for generations prior and teach others the skills to carry on as sentries. The Rugers lives were rich and their hearts full with their devotion and love for each other. The tradition of the sentries lived on forever. It was the legacy of Todd and Nick Ruger. That was the way it was always meant to be.

Buy Link: http://bit.ly/1pVSbMl

nerw logo EN 61915 copyBio: Elizabeth Noble started telling stories before she actually knew how to write, and her family was very happy when she learned to put words on a page. Those words turned into books and fanfiction that turned into a genuine love of M/M romance fiction. Being able to share her works with Dreamspinner is really a dream come true. She has a real love for a good mystery complete with murder and twisty plots as well as all things sci-fi, futuristic, and supernatural and a bit of an unnatural interest in a super-volcano in Wyoming.

Elizabeth has three grown children and is now happily owned by an adorable mixed breed canine princess and her sidekick, tabby cat.  She lives in her native northeast Ohio, the perfect place for gardening and winter and summer sports (go Tribe and Cavs!) and stargazing all year long. When she’s not writing she’s working as a veterinary nurse, so don’t be surprised to see her men with a pet or three who are a very big part of their lives.

Elizabeth received several amateur writing awards. Since being published two of her novels have received honorable mentions in the Rainbow Awards. Her novel Jewel Cave was a runner up in the 2015 Rainbow awards in the Gay Mystery/Thriller category.

Website:  http://www.elizabeth-noble.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/elizabeth.noble.77

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/4781553.Elizabeth_Noble

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Tour Stops:

May 16 Kris Bethke

May 17 Susan Laine

May 18 Meg Harding

May 19 Jamie Lynn Miller

May 20 Charlie Descoteaux

May 23 Grace R. Duncan

May 24 Sarah Madison

May 25 Rick R. Reed

May 26 Skylar M. Cates

May 27 Lou Sylvre

May 30 Ki Brightly

May 31 Shira Anthony

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

He Needs a Hero: Tali Spencer’s “Victory Portrait”

Victory Portrait_Rough Draft 7I’ve been a huge fan of Tali Spencer for nearly as long as I’ve been reading and writing gay romance. Her writing is beautiful and has a poetic touch that reminds me of one of my all-time favorites, Marion Zimmer Bradley. Her worlds, whether contemporary, fantasy, sci fi, or historical, are beautifully drawn, with wonderful world-building. And her characters… What can I say but that they capture my heart, hang on for dear life, and won’t let go!

Did I mention hot sex? My favorite sex scene ever in gay romance is from another book in her Uttor series, Dangerous Beauty. *swoons and fans self*

So when she asked me to beta read the latest Uttor book, I jumped at the chance. Victory Portrait is as wonderful and wonderfully sensual as the other series books. I highly recommend all of them. Two are heterosexual romance (Captive Heart and Adored), the other two are gay romance (Dangerous Beauty and Victory Portrait). Although the storylines are intertwined, if you don’t read het romance, you can skip those, although I loved them in spite of my lack of interest in het. Whatever you do, don’t skip the other two!

So with that recommendation, please welcome my good friend Tali! I can’t wait to read what she has coming up next. -Shira

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Thanks so much to Shira for hosting me and letting me talk about how hero-worship is at the core of my new book, Victory Portrait.

hero-worship: a feeling of extreme admiration for someone, imagining that they have qualities or abilities that are better than anyone else’s.

Idolizing an older, successful man—sight unseen—might seem foolish, but a young gay male otherwise lacking for role models can be excused for creating one. The fourth Pride of Uttor book, Victory Portrait, tells the story of the youngest captive Sebboyan prince, Peta, and what happens when he encounters his dream man, the Uttoran general Darius Arrento.

Both characters have appeared in the previous Uttor books. In the opening chapter of the first book, Captive Heart, Peta declares his admiration for Arrento. Soon after, readers meet the great general for the first time. But he’s not a main character in that book and we mostly glimpse him through Peta’s infatuation. Peta has followed Arrento’s career and mapped every battle. After Sebboy’s royals are taken to Uttor to be imperial captives, Peta bemoans to his sister that he alone of his family has not met Darius Arrento. To which she answers:

“I saw him. He’s tall and built like a castle wall.”45114ec83980289053703fe7586f71b7

That description only serves to anchor Peta’s impression of Arrento as bigger than life.

In Victory Portrait, Peta at last gets a chance to see his hero face to face, although he must do so as a slave serving the artist who is painting the great man’s portrait. Although he has misgivings about how this is happening, Peta leaps at the opportunity. Can Arrento possibly live up to Peta’s expectations?

Even the greatest heroes are just men. They get cranky. They make mistakes in judgment. They get ill, tired, hungry, sentimental, fixated, stubborn, proud, and a hundred other human frailties. Even so, great men are thought great for a reason and they bring those virtues to the table.

As moralist Thomas Carlyle so eloquently put it: “We all love great men; love, venerate and bow down submissive before great men: nay can we honestly bow down to anything else? Ah, does not every true man feel that he is himself made higher by doing reverence to what is really above him?”

Peta reveres Arrento for being what he himself wants to be: loyal,fc3ce755341aab24b338211cee728e02 respected, and fearless. Their meeting will decide whether he can accept that his hero possesses other, less heroic qualities—and also reveal Peta’s own best qualities as well.

 

Blurb: Imperial captive and former Sebboyan prince Peta Kordeun has one great wish: to meet Darius Arrento, conqueror of his country and a man he has idolized since childhood. That wish comes true the day the Uttoran emperor assigns Peta to assist the artist who will be painting the great general’s official portrait.

General Darius Arrento would rather take a crossbow bolt through his flesh than sit for a portrait, until his friend the emperor forces his hand. The notorious artist, Brazzi, uses semen and other sexual fluids to bind his colors—and Arrento is captivated by the artist’s pretty helper. Before long he is driven to possess the gorgeous young man who draws battle maps and whose naïve charm has won more hearts in Uttor than Arrento has won battles.

When Arrento learns that Peta, the slave he covets and wants for his own, is one of the despised Kordeun princes, he storms from Uttor toward a far corner of the empire—where he quickly finds himself embroiled in a plot to tear Uttor’s empire apart. His emotions and loyalties frayed, the great Arrento is in the battle of his life…and Peta may hold the key to his survival.

Buy Links:

Amazon

AllRomance

Resplendence

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Excerpt:

“The emperor has given General Arrento permission to use you. I received word. The message bore the emperor’s seal.”

Though his skin goose-pimpled, Peta nodded. That the news was not being delivered in person did not surprise him. He and Gaspar had agreed their contact would by necessity be minimal, and they had already discussed the issue of his consent.

“I understand. I did say I would agree to it.”

The furrow on Brazzi’s brow brought his bushy eyebrows down a few notches. “Yes, well, my contract with the emperor pre-dates the general’s oral one, and mine states you must be returned to His Imperial Majesty in good condition. Which means I have a legal interest in how this matter will be conducted. My first term is that any using happens here, in my work room, and nowhere else. I’ve fucked slaves in this room and so can he.” Brazzi pointed across the room to a silk and pillow-covered couch. Its four golden lion paws crouched upon a costly rug. Draping of gold, red, blue and green velvet hung as backdrops. The artist had props for every occasion.

Peta flushed at the sight of the bed. “Shouldn’t you be telling Arrento this?”

“I will. Letting you know what I will allow won’t hurt anything.” Brazzi pulled over a rough-hewn stool and sat upon it. His long face looked grim. “I’m not convinced by this decision—yours or the emperor’s. Teasing a man with a little hands-off foreplay is a mild provocation, yes, but it isn’t personal, not truly…and if my process feels personal in any way, it’s more so for you than it is for him.” The artist’s jaw clenched. “Fucking, though…there is nothing more personal. Even for the great Arrento. I’ve made love to countless women, slaves and royalty and everything female in between, and what was beautiful about those trysts…what was sublime…was that all parties were of the same mind. We knew what we were doing.”

Peta swallowed against the dryness tugging his throat. What he wanted from Arrento, and what Arrento wanted from him, was pretty clear. “I agreed.”

“To a notion. To an idea.”

“To having sex with another man. To having sex with him. Do I have to tell you how much I want…Brazzi, I’ve dreamed of that.”

“I believe you, yes, but I’m not convinced you want the man…not yet. The gods know you don’t even see him. At least you know who he is. But Arrento doesn’t have that same consideration, does he? Blind, both of you. All you see is a war hero and all he sees is a beautiful boy.”

Peta sought to deny this, even though he knew what Brazzi said was true. “Maybe that’s changed. Maybe Gaspar told him about me.”

Brazzi considered. “He didn’t say he had, but if he did I’m sure we will know the moment the general shows up for his session tomorrow…if he shows up at all.”

Peta wasn’t sure whether to hope for that or not. If Arrento knew who he was, and hated him because of it, and fucked him anyway…he’d not thought of that possibility. “If he doesn’t know, don’t tell him. I beg you.”

“I won’t have to tell him. He’s bound to find out.”

But not right away. Not until after. Not until Peta had fulfilled the greatest fantasy he’d ever held secret. A fantasy that—since seeing the man and feeling his touch—had grown into a firestorm of hope. If Arrento would only see him and learn to know him, who knew what might be possible.

“Please.”

After a long moment, Brazzi conceded. “If General Arrento comes for the sitting, I will paint him. Only that. After all, you and I are the emperor’s servants. I promised the emperor a portrait and I foresee a masterpiece. So paint I will. Do whatever you and the emperor have worked out between you. It’s not my place to interfere. I’m just pointing out that you are young and haven’t thought this thing through. I must trust that our emperor has. One way or another we will all play out our parts.”

They would…and if Arrento didn’t know by now that Peta was not just any slave, he would find out one day—and soon. He would see Peta at Gaspar’s wedding to Julissa. Or Arrento would spy him one day in the Imperial Villa or elsewhere in town and ask about him—and when he did, someone who had no reason to hide the truth would reveal all…

What was he thinking? That Arrento would forgive all?

I’ll have to go away, Peta realized. Now that he thought of it, the solution to the problem was clear as day. He was the least of King Lukacz’s heirs, the youngest of three surviving brothers and known to be a lover of men. He could never be king of Sebboy or any Koth land. In political terms he was practically worthless. Once the sittings were finished and the portrait certain to be finished, Gaspar could easily send him elsewhere to serve out his captivity, someplace Arrento would never visit. He could not imagine a more terrible sentence.

******

About the Author:

Author Bio:

Tali Spencer delights in erotic fantasy and adventure, creating worlds where she can explore the heights and shadows of sexual passion. A hopeful romantic and lover of all things exotic, she also writes high fantasy and science fiction. If you would like to see inspiration pictures for her characters, or glimpse how she envisions her worlds, check out her Pinterest boards.

When not writing, Tali reads everything from sweet goofy romances to medical research, manages her fantasy football team—go Gekkos!—and takes long walks with her loving, if slightly neurotic, poodle.

Tali’s other books include the three preceding Uttor books: Captive Heart, Dangerous Beauty, and Adored, all with Resplendence. Her gay male high fantasy stories, Thick as Thieves, Sorcerer’s Knot, and The Prince of Winds, are published by Dreamspinner Press. She often posts free stories and excerpts on her blog.

Visit Tali’s blog at http://talismania-brilliantdisguise.blogspot.com
E-mail: tali.spencer1@gmail.com

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/tali.spencer

Pinterest: http://pinterest.com/talispencer/

 

 

Release Day! Tharros by C. Kennedy is Out!

  Tharros-600x900Release Day! Thárros by C. Kennedy is Out!
Θάρρος
Thárros. Greek. Meaning courage
Courage. n. /ˈkərij/
1. The ability to do something that frightens one.
2. Strength in the face of fear, pain, or grief.
~*~
Courage is resistance to fear,
mastery of fear,
not the absence of fear. ~Mark Twain
High school senior Michael Sattler leads a charmed life. Almost. He has great friends, parents who love him just the way he is, and he was a champion hurdler until someone took out his knee when they kidnapped his boyfriend. Yet, Michael is determined to make the USATF tryouts in spite of his injuries.

Christy Castle is Michael’s entire world. Healing from years of abuse, his abduction by a predator has left him hiding a new secret as he tries to start his life again. Together, Michael and Christy work to recover from their wounds Tharros - Quote - Michael would make sure they wonin time to make prom and graduate high school. To complicate matters, Christy is astonished to learn a fellow victim from his native Greece has survived. Christy will stop at nothing to bring him to the US to keep him safe.But the prosecution of Christy’s kidnapper looms large in their futures and the struggle to return to normal only worsens. Christy’s past continues to haunt them and, when the prosecution turns ugly and Christy’s new life is torn apart, only their unrelenting courage and determination can save them from the nightmare that threatens to destroy their future together.

 

Add Thárros to your Goodreads and BookLikes Lists!

Read Chapter One or Read en français

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About Cody

Cody is an award-winning author who lives, most of the time, on the West Coast of the United States. Raised on the mean streets and back lots of Hollywood by a Yoda-look-alike grandfather, Cody doesn’t conform, doesn’t fit in, is epic awkward, and lives to perfect a deep-seated oppositional defiance disorder. In a constant state of fascination with the trivial, Cody contemplates such weighty questions as If time and space are curved, then where do all the straight people come from? When not writing, Cody can be found taming waves on western shores, pondering the nutritional value of sunsets, appreciating the much-maligned dandelion, unhooking guide ropes from stanchions, and marveling at all things ordinary. Among many other awards, Omorphi was a runner up in the 2014 Rainbow Awards, and Slaying Isidore’s Dragons was a finalist in the 2015 Rainbow Awards. Cody does respond to blog comments and emails because, after all, it is all about you, the reader.
Find Cody on Facebook, Twitter @CodyKAuthor, Pinterest,
Booklikes, and read a free serial story, Fairy

Cover Reveal: What About Now by Grace Duncan!

WhatAboutNowFSWhat About Now
Dreamspinner Press
Cover by Reese Dante
Release date: 5/9/2016
100k words
Preorder:
Ebook: http://bit.ly/1q9U75b
Paperback: http://bit.ly/1SsdMDx

 

Blurb:

Five years ago, everything went wrong.

Braden Kirk and Rafe Jessen’s long-term relationship started unraveling. They stopped talking, fears mounted, then Braden walked in on Rafe and another man, completely misreading the situation. Without giving Rafe a chance to explain, Braden walks out. Out of their home, their relationship, and the game development company they started together in college.

After months of therapy to deal with the attempted rape Braden walked in on, Rafe begins to understand that his dominant tendencies in the bedroom aren’t a bad thing and that Braden’s submission is likely what scared his partner into silence. But Rafe isn’t ready to let go of the man he loves more than life itself. He arranges for himself and Braden to end up on the same charity cruise, knowing Braden won’t let his phobia—terror of vast, deep waters—rule him.

With a plan and twenty-eight days, Rafe is determined to get Braden back, make him see there’s nothing wrong with being submissive, and find a way to get Braden to stay with him when they get home to LA.

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Excerpt:

Braden stared at the monstrosity that was to be his home for the next four weeks. He shifted his weight from foot to foot as he tried to remind himself this was a good idea. He was helping a charity he felt strongly about. He really did need a vacation.

He kept telling himself that as he moved forward with the rest of the passengers along the ramp to the gangway. He’d heeded his cruise-veteran mother’s advice and arrived after two so he could go straight to his room. She’d mentioned if he went earlier, he could eat while on the ship, but Braden was delaying boarding as long as possible. Since they were set to depart at four and it appeared most of the passengers had already boarded, Braden had gone from curb to gangway in what he felt was much too little time.

He didn’t know if he was ready to step on that ship.

Braden shook his head at himself, went through the open doorway, smiled at the uniformed lady on the other side, and nodded at something she said. He had no idea what it was, possibly directions to somewhere. He was a bit too overwhelmed at the moment to worry about it. He figured there’d be maps. He could handle that.

He didn’t know if he could handle being trapped in a ship, even one as huge as this one. In the middle of the ocean. For four weeks.

He was committed now. Braden blinked when he was offered what looked like a glass of champagne. Deciding alcohol could only help, he took the offered drink. He half expected to hand over his card—his mother told him they sometimes charged for drinks—but the lady simply smiled. He managed to say “thank you” and moved farther down the hallway, hoisting his backpack, the only carry-on he’d bothered with, a little higher on his shoulder.

But before he got too far, he stopped dead again. He knew he probably looked a bit like a fish, his mouth gaping, but he couldn’t help it. He looked up, then up, and farther up still as he took in the huge atrium.

Plants, marble, wood, glass, and gold seemed to be everywhere. Glass-backed elevators rose to his right, with a white grand piano nestled between them. Groupings of chairs set around glass tables created cozy chatting areas, scattered around the space. Across from him, he could just see the front of a shop, and off to the other side, what looked to be a florist. A three-story fountain poured along still more marble off to his left. And a pair of glass-and-gold curved staircases led to the second and third floors.

Someone bumped into Braden and he shook his head again, cheeks reddening. “Sorry,” he mumbled, moving out of the way. He remembered the glass in his hand and downed the fizzy drink in one long gulp.

He needed to get out of public for a few moments and collect himself. He was being ridiculous and he knew it. With another head shake, he looked down at the paper he’d been handed when he checked in and saw a map—or more like a series of maps of each of the decks. In the upper right, he found the ship name and a list of abbreviations below it that made no sense to him. He ignored those and looked at the tiny maps. A big red arrow pointed to the center of the right-most map. Braden guessed that was this atrium.

He scowled at his boarding pass, then at the map, and squinted at the ridiculously tiny numbers. He had good eyesight but could barely make them out. Where the hell was he supposed to go?

He went back to his boarding pass and found his room listing. Emerald Deck, stateroom E519. Well, he could find the deck, then worry about his room. According to the map, he had three flights up to go, so he headed for the curved stairs in the middle of the room. He paused long enough to leave the glass on a table, then started up the closest set of steps.

It didn’t take him long to find the right deck. They were, at least, clearly marked by big brass plaques between the elevators on each floor. So, a moment later, he was walking along the hallway toward midship on the correct deck and was counting down numbers. He breathed a sigh of relief when he finally stood in front of the correct door.

Braden’s first impression was that his parents had spent an absurd amount of money for him to live in a closet for a month. It seemed impossibly small, despite the queen-sized bed—or perhaps because of it. Braden didn’t know, but there was barely enough space to move around the bed. The tiny desk didn’t look deep enough to hold his laptop, and the LCD television mounted to the wall was even smaller than the pictures made it look.

His luggage wasn’t there yet, but he’d been expecting that. His mother had told him it wouldn’t show up until a few hours, at least, after he got there. He set his backpack on his bed and slipped around it to peer out the window.

He’d agonized over that decision for what felt like forever. He had no wish to look at the vast deep waters, but he wasn’t much fonder of being closed in. Then he’d discovered the obstructed-view rooms and was relieved to find he could have light without having to look at the water.

When he pulled the curtain aside, he was happy to see lots of blue sky… and a huge red lifeboat. If he stood on tiptoes, he could just glimpse the water, but that was fine with him.

Braden let the curtain go, and turned back to his room, dropping onto the side of the bed. He rested his face in his hands and forced himself to breathe deeply. Inhale. Exhale. Repeat. He hated big bodies of water. Well, hated seemed… mild. He was, in a word, terrified.

But he’d agreed to go. He’d accepted the ticket his parents wanted to buy him, especially when they’d explained it was to benefit the house he’d been helping raise money for, to provide shelter for homeless LGBT youth. He’d seriously considered buying the ticket himself and just not going on the cruise, but his mother convinced him he was letting fear rule him and the vacation was more than needed.

She was right about that. Braden had spent more of the last nine months quite literally at his office than in his apartment. As the lead developer on a new game his company was finalizing, he’d put in upward of eighteen hours almost every day. Once the game went live and their first update completed and released, he had no more excuses. He’d earned plenty of money, which he hadn’t spent while practically living at work. His boss had pretty much ordered him to take a month off. When the cruise came up, he knew there was no reasonable reason for him to not accept.

Braden didn’t like the idea of letting his fears rule him. His terror of deep waters had bothered him for years, but he’d managed to avoid the ocean for the most part, despite living in Los Angeles. He’d once had help with that, but that help was gone and it was up to him to face his fear, now, alone.

His mother had pointed out that he didn’t need to spend a lot of time at the railings. He could stay in the lounges, read his Kindle at the pool—which didn’t scare him—or in any of a dozen inside places, work out in the gym, or watch shows in the inside theater. He didn’t need to expose himself unnecessarily.

What he hadn’t told his mother was there was another reason he didn’t necessarily want to go. Exactly the same one, he was sure, she had for pushing him so hard to go on this cruise in the first place. The charity group functions on the ship focused on gathering LGBT singles. And while Braden knew there were more than a few lesbians on the ship, the coordinator had told him the larger portion of their group of more than three hundred was made up of gay or bisexual men. It didn’t take Sherlock Holmes to deduce his mother wanted him to find someone.

Braden loved his mother and would do almost anything for her, but he had no interest in that whatsoever. He’d avoided relationships for the last five years and had no intention of breaking that record. When he’d walked out of the last one, he promised himself he wouldn’t make the same mistakes again. He refused to admit his insistence on not dating had as much to do with the fact that he still loved the man.

He rubbed his face hard and took a deep breath, then sat up. For good or ill, he was on the ship and staying. He’d be damned if he let his fears dictate his actions—whether that was his fear of the ocean or of getting hurt, it didn’t matter. They would not rule him, neither of them.

He stood up and snatched up his bag, opened it, and pulled out the information sheet from the group coordinator. He found the location for the group welcome reception, consulted the map, then stuffed it in his pocket. After stowing his wallet and money in the safe, he snatched up the card that served as identification, payment, and key while on board and headed out.

With any luck there’d be an open bar. The champagne in the atrium hadn’t been nearly enough.

 

 

Rafe Jessen stepped quickly into an alcove and waited for the man to pass. He hoped he wouldn’t be seen or at least recognized. After all, the man had no idea he was even on the ship and thus wouldn’t be expecting to see him. Which was exactly what Rafe wanted. For now, anyway.

When he was sure it was clear, he stepped out and walked along the same hallway. A couple flights of stairs and a few turns later, he found a quiet corner of the Explorer’s Lounge where they were holding the welcome reception. He held a slightly weaker rum and Coke than he usually liked—but didn’t much mind, since it was free—and settled in to watch the man he’d been waiting to see again for what felt like forever.

He didn’t look happy. That was the first thing Rafe noticed. The brown hair was a bit longer than he remembered and currently disheveled, as if he’d run his fingers through it a lot. Rafe smiled. Braden had been guilty of doing that quite a bit when something didn’t work in the game he was developing.

The blue eyes looked a bit sadder. Well, maybe not than the last time Rafe saw them. The last time he’d seen them, they’d been spitting the blue fire of Braden’s rage. Now, they were sad. But Rafe remembered when those eyes crinkled at the corners with humor. He remembered heat and want. He remembered love. All for him.

Rafe hated that he was the one to put that sadness there. And as it had for five long years, that knowledge still pierced him. He finished the rum and Coke and waved at the bartender for another, never taking eyes off the man he’d never stopped loving. Braden stood barely thirty feet away and didn’t know he was there. Rafe’s heart thudded, his throat closed, and he reminded himself to breathe. Take air in. Let it go.

As he started in on his second rum and Coke, he drank in the lean frame he knew hid muscles and strength—both mental and physical. He ate up the quick smile Braden flashed at their charity coordinator, Janie, who’d made a joke. And he reminded himself he was on that ship for a reason, and with any luck, the plan he had would work.

It had to. He’d been without Braden for far too long.

Five years. Five years that felt like an eternity.

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noh8Grace Duncan grew up with a wild imagination.  She told stories from an early age – many of which got her into trouble.  Eventually, she learned to channel that imagination into less troublesome areas, including fanfiction, which is what has led her to writing male/male erotica.

A gypsy in her own right, Grace has lived all over the United States.  She has currently set up camp in East Texas with her husband and children – both the human and furry kind.

As one of those rare creatures who loves research, Grace can get lost for hours on the internet, reading up on any number of strange and different topics.  She can also be found writing fanfiction, reading fantasy, crime, suspense, romance and other erotica or even dabbling in art.

Find Grace here:

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Release Day: “Al cuor si comanda” (First Comes Marriage)

Today is release day for the Italian translation of First Comes Marriage: Al cuor si comanda! The book is now available for download from Dreamspinner Press, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and other booksellers. I’m so excited to see the book in Italian!

For those readers who may not already know, First Comes Marriage is the second book in the brand new Dreamspun Desires line and is an honest to goodness “category romance.” The term comes from the old tradition of publishing a certain number of books on a monthly basis in a certain category. You remember these. When I was a kid, they were the Harlequin and Silhouette romances that were shipped, 4 books a month, on subscription.

Category romances were sweet, sometimes funny, standalone stories with a yummy happy ending. These were romances that made you feel good. For me, I remember being an angsty teen and reading these books. They made my heart pound, made my arms ache, and gave me that rush of “oh yeah!” at the end of the story that made me want to devour more romances.

When I was working on First Comes Marriage, I did a lot of thinking about what makes a classic category romance make me feel so damn good. I read a few of the old romances, and I really thought about what makes them work for a reader like me. My husband, the scientist, would call that “reverse engineering.” It was a bit like eating a really good piece of cake and figuring out what ingredients went into it because you don’t have the recipe!

So what’s the recipe?

Take two main characters and ratchet up the heat. I’m talking a very slow burn that builds until you are fanning yourself and ready to scream, “Tell him you love him already!” Or at least, “Tell him you want to have sex with him already!” Stir in something that presents a bit of a sticking point for both characters and threatens to keep them apart. Nothing too angsty here, just something they have to overcome separately or, even better, together. Add a secondary character or two who just might derail the budding romance or help it happen for our main characters. Add doubts and stir again. Little niggles or fears. Maybe sprinkle a little misunderstanding in while you’re at it.

Pour all the ingredients into a pan and bake it at high temperature. What do you get? Sexy, sweet, and spicy romance that tastes as good as tomato soup and a grilled cheese sandwich on a cold day, or maybe some really good mac ‘n cheese. We’re not talking prime rib that you eat with expensive French wine, but the kind of meal that leaves you satisfied and smiling. Simply fun and feel-good fare. -Shira

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Il loro matrimonio doveva essere solo una questione d’affari…

Quando Chris Valentine, scrittore in cerca di editore, incontra Jesse Donovan, è interessato a un contratto letterario o magari a un appuntamento. L’ultima cosa che si aspetta è una proposta di matrimonio dallo scapolo d’oro di New York!

Jesse è nei guai. Per mantenere il controllo della sua compagnia deve sposarsi, perciò offre a Chris un accordo: dovrà vivere nella sua splendida villa per un anno e recitare la parte del marito devoto. In cambio avrà tutto il tempo per scrivere e, al termine del contratto, se ne andrà via con un milione di dollari. Chris ce la può fare. Sì, ce la può fare a vivere con l’uomo più bello e affettuoso che abbia mai incontrato, un uomo che lui desidera disperatamente e non può avere. Perché, quando serve, al cuor si comanda. O forse no?

Dreamspinner Press, Amazon, Barnes & Noble
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Excerpt from Chapter One

MENTRE LA folla applaudiva la sua seconda lettura, Chris Valentine fece un profondo respiro. Non era rimasta neanche una sedia vuota e almeno una dozzina di persone era rimasta in piedi in fondo alla sala, mentre lui e altri due scrittori leggevano degli estratti dai loro libri. Ora, mentre lo stormo irritato di farfalle nel suo stomaco si calmava, pensava meno all’esito della lettura e più a quanto fosse incredibilmente affamato.

 

Chris aveva perso il conto delle volte che aveva letto brani della sua trilogia fantasy-fantascientifica al Baker’s Literary Café, ma quella sera si era sentito particolarmente nervoso poiché il libro a cui stava attualmente lavorando, Avventurieri del tempo, era completamente diverso da ciò che aveva scritto in precedenza. Non ne aveva parlato nemmeno con Val, la sua coinquilina, e non sapeva spiegarsi come mai, sull’onda del momento, avesse deciso di leggerne un breve passaggio. Non gli era mai piaciuto correre rischi.

 

“La sua lettura mi è piaciuta molto.” Una donna si alzò dalla prima fila di sedie e tese la mano a Chris. “Rhonda Wexler.” I suoi riccioli rosso vivo ondeggiavano mentre parlava con labbra colorate da un rossetto nero. Dietro di lei si era raccolta una piccola folla che aspettava paziente di salutarlo. Chris riconobbe alcuni volti nuovi e la solita folla del martedì sera.

 

Sorrise e strinse la mano della donna, e quel contatto l’aiutò a sciogliere un po’ della tensione che ancora gli restava. “Piacere di conoscerla, Rhonda.”

 

“Ho letto il primo volume quando era disponibile come lettura gratuita. Ha intenzione di auto pubblicare anche gli altri volumi o venderà la trilogia alle case editrici di New York?” chiese Rhonda porgendogli il suo biglietto da visita, spostandosi da un piede all’altro nelle sue Dr Martens.

 

“Ne ho contattate alcune, ma finora non ho avuto fortuna.” Il primo volume non aveva venduto male su Amazon, ma al di fuori della crescente cerchia dei suoi ammiratori non aveva avuto molto seguito e i diritti d’autore non l’avevano aiutato granché con l’affitto.

 

“S-Signor Valentine?” chiamò qualcuno alle sue spalle. Chris si voltò e tese la mano al nuovo arrivato. “Jesse Donovan.”

 

Dopo una rapida occhiata, Chris si chiese se l’uomo non fosse per caso venuto ad ascoltare le letture degli altri autori o se non fosse entrato nel locale sbagliato. Poco più alto di lui, con capelli castano-rossicci e una leggera ombra di barba sulla mascella, Jesse appariva del tutto fuori posto in quel mare di goth e steampunk. Vestito con una camicia perfettamente stirata, un cappotto sportivo e un paio di jeans, guardava Chris da dietro un paio di occhiali dalla montatura color borgogna. I suoi brillanti occhi azzurri gli fecero accelerare il cuore.

 

“Piacere di conoscerti, Jesse.”

 

Il leggero imbarazzo negli occhi dell’uomo sorprese Chris, ma svanì non appena Jesse gli strinse la mano con fermezza. “Hai fatto un ottimo lavoro stasera,” disse togliendosi gli occhiali e riponendoli nel taschino del cappotto. “E il nuovo libro mi è piaciuto molto.”

 

“Credo che tu sia stato l’unico,” replicò lui. Non si aspettava che il suo ultimo romanzo avesse successo tra i suoi lettori abituali, per cui non era rimasto molto deluso dall’applauso di cortesia. Il realismo magico poteva essere popolare nei circoli letterari, ma non era di certo ciò per cui i suoi lettori amanti del fantasy andavano matti.

 

“Non fraintendermi, mi piacciono le Cronache di Valhron,” continuò Jesse con entusiasmo, “ma il nuovo lavoro è qualcosa di unico. Non vedo l’ora di leggerlo, appena sarà completato,” concluse con un sorriso caloroso.

 

Jesse aveva letto davvero i suoi libri, il che rese Chris ancora più curioso. “Grazie.”

 

Dopo un attimo di esitazione, aggiunse: “Mi piacerebbe aiutarti a far arrivare il tuo lavoro nelle mani giuste.” Gli porse il suo biglietto da visita. “Chiamami. Possiamo incontrarci per un caffè o per quello che preferisci.”

 

“Grazie.” Quindi Jesse era l’agente che si diceva avrebbe partecipato alla serata. Chris avrebbe certamente accettato la sua offerta, se non altro per capire come far pubblicare i suoi libri a New York.

 

In quel momento, due donne abbigliate in vestiti da passeggio vittoriani si fecero largo tra la folla e si scontrarono con Jesse. Chris l’afferrò per un braccio giusto in tempo per evitargli di cadere; il profumo di bergamotto e agrumi della sua acqua di colonia gli solleticò il naso quando l’uomo si aggrappò alla sua spalla. Jesse incontrò il suo sguardo e lo fissò quasi con sorpresa. Chris desiderò per un attimo che Jesse non fosse un agente e che l’invito non fosse stato fatto per discutere di affari.

 

“Scusaaate!” esclamò una delle donne con una risatina.

 

“Nessun problema,” disse Jesse ritrovando l’equilibrio e ritraendo la mano dal braccio di Chris.

 

“Carmine era così ansiosa di vederti che ha spinto con troppa foga,” spiegò l’altra donna, mentre Carmine guardava Chris esterrefatta.

 

“Ti lascio ai tuoi fan adoranti,” disse Jesse con un mezzo sorriso. “Chiamami appena puoi.” E sparì prima che Chris potesse replicare.

 

 

 

 

 

DUE BRACCIA muscolose avvolsero Chris in un forte abbraccio non appena rientrò nel suo appartamento. “Sei stato fantastico!” esclamò Terry stringendolo con tanta forza da farlo restare senza fiato.

 

“Terry, amico, lo sai che ti voglio bene, ma…”

 

“Anche a Val è piaciuto,” continuò Terry lasciandolo andare e sorridendo alla fidanzata, che stava sistemando a tavola delle pizze.

 

Val sorrise a Chris attraverso la frangia troppo lunga e annuì. “Hai fatto un ottimo lavoro. Non riuscivo più a reggere Terry. Era così entusiasta della parte sul mago perduto che c’è mancato poco che si perdesse anche lui.”

 

“Non avrei mai dovuto dirtelo che mi sono ispirato a te. Ti sei montato troppo la testa.”

 

“Accettalo per quello che è,” replicò Terry con un ampio sorriso. “Riconoscenza per l’immensa fantasticità del tuo coinquilino.”

 

“Coinquilini,” lo corresse Val.

 

“I migliori coinquilini del mondo,” convenne Chris. “Soprattutto perché non mi avete ancora cacciato di casa.”

 

“Si diceva in sala che stasera sarebbe stato presente un importante agente,” disse Val addentando la sua pizza alla diavola.

 

“E c’era,” confermò Chris estraendo dal taschino il biglietto da visita di Jesse e mostrandolo ai due amici.

 

“E questo era quel tipo alto, attraente e dai capelli ramati?” chiese Val guardando il biglietto. “Quel tipo sexy col quale stavi parlando prima dell’arrivo delle due sorelle steampunk?”

 

“Esatto. Ha detto che vuole mettermi in contatto con qualcuno a…”

 

“Ma questo non è un agente,” disse la ragazza leggendo il nome e spalancando gli occhi.

 

Chris lanciò un’occhiata a Terry, che si limitò a scrollare le spalle. “Cosa?” Addentò un boccone di pizza e si accigliò.

 

“Questo Jesse Donovan è l’amministratore delegato della Windview Enterprises,” spiegò Val, sperando che il nome suonasse familiare all’amico.

 

“Mai sentito nominare.”

 

“Davvero? L’anno scorso era sulla copertina di New York View, sul loro numero dedicato allo scapolo d’oro dell’anno. Era in tutte le edicole.”

 

Chris scoppiò a ridere. “Il fatto che io sia gay non significa che compro tutte le riviste con uomini attraenti in copertina.”

 

Val diventò fucsia. “Non intendevo dire… Cioè… Non è perché…”

 

Terry sbuffò e diede il cinque a Chris. “È gay, Val,” intervenne Terry, “e questo non significa che voglia attaccarsi foto di uomini attraenti sulle pareti della camera. Anche se, Val, mi pare di ricordare che tu avessi un poster di Chris Pine in camera tua al coll…”

 

“Stai zitto,” lo interruppe la ragazza dandogli una spinta che lo fece finire sul divano, mentre l’altro rideva fino a tossire.

 

“Ammettilo, Chris,” disse l’amico ansimando. “Quest’uomo è proprio il tuo tipo.”

 

Terry aveva ragione. Jesse era proprio il tipo con cui lui usciva di solito: alto, atletico e sicuro di sé, ma non in modo arrogante. Non che a Chris interessasse fare sul serio. Anche se nel Paese erano tutti in preda all’isteria per i matrimoni, a lui non interessavano una casa col recinto bianco e un gregge di bambini.

 

“Ed è totalmente etero,” aggiunse Val scuotendo la testa. “Di recente è stato sulle pagine di gossip per via di un’ereditiera. Due miei amici hanno scommesso che la sposerà, ma io ho scommesso cento dollari che resterà single.”

 

Terry sollevò lo sguardo al cielo, guadagnandosi un’altra occhiataccia da parte di Val.

 

“Di cosa si occupa la Windview Enterprises?” chiese Chris, più curioso di quanto volesse ammettere. Non gli interessava molto il motivo per cui Jesse Donovan fosse famoso, ma voleva indagare.

 

“Yacht,” rispose Val. “Molto grandi. Quelli su cui scorrazzano le star nei loro microscopici bikini.”

 

Figurati.

 

“E anche hotel. Case di lusso per le vacanze nei Caraibi e cose del genere. Oh, e hanno anche una linea commerciale che costruisce superpetroliere.”

 

“Come fai a sapere tutte queste cose?” chiese Chris.

 

“Le ho lette su People,” ammise Val, arrossendo sotto lo sguardo interrogativo di Terry. “Be’, devo pur leggere qualcosa quando sono in metropolitana.”

 

“Non è esattamente il genere di letture per una dottoranda in letteratura del XIX secolo,” osservò Chris.

 

“Lo chiamerai?” chiese Terry sbadigliando.

 

“E perché no? Anche se non è un agente, potrebbe essere in grado di mettermi in contatto con uno.” Chris prese il biglietto dalla mano di Val e se lo rigirò tra le dita. In quel momento notò, sul retro, un numero scritto a mano e l’annotazione numero privato.

 

“Vuoi un’altra fetta?” chiese Val.

 

Chris scosse la testa. “Sono pieno. E domani devo fare il turno del pomeriggio,” disse radunando i piatti e dirigendosi verso la cucina.

 

“Mi racconterai tutto, vero?” domandò Val mentre lo aiutava a lavarli.

 

“Certo. Probabilmente è uno stronzo.” Chris rise.

 

“Tanto meglio. E guarda che ci conto!” ribatté con un sorriso Val.

 

Her eyes grew wide. Had she expected him to just roll over and play dead? “I… I prefer not to. It’s a waste if it’s only me.”

This doubly surprised Chris, that she’d consider the expense and that she’d admit it. “Sounds reasonable.”

“You’re not what I expected,” she said.

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About Shira

Shira Anthony is a complete sucker for a happily-ever-after, and rarely reads or writes a story without one. Never a fan of instalove, Shira likes to write stories about real men with real issues making real relationships work.

In her last incarnation, Shira was a professional opera singer, performing roles in such operas as “Tosca,” “i Pagliacci,” and “La Traviata,” among others. She’s given up TV for evenings spent with her laptop, and she never goes anywhere without a pile of unread M/M romance on her Kindle.

Shira is married with two children and two insane dogs, and when she’s not writing she is usually in a courtroom trying to make the world safer for children. When she’s not working, she can be found aboard a 36’ catamaran at the Carolina coast with her favorite sexy captain at the wheel.

Interested in hearing Shira sing? Here’s a link to a live performance of Shira singing an aria from Puccini’s “Tosca”: http://www.shiraanthony.com/wp-conten…

You can subscribe to Shira’s monthly newsletter for updates, free fiction, and subscriber-only contests here: http://www.shiraanthony.com/newsletter/

Where to find the author:

Facebook | Facebook Author Page | Twitter | Pinterest | Goodreads | Google+

 

Birds Do It, Mermen Do It – Merman Sex 101 NSFW

Back by popular demand! Now that the Mermen of Ea Series is complete both in book andMermeanofEa2 audiobook formats, I thought it would be fun to revisit one of the most popular posts on my blog. Yep. You got it. The merman sex blog post.

When I’m at conferences or even online chatting about my books, the question of how mermen “do it” invariably arises. It’s a question I spent some time answering, and, believe it or not, researching.

I haven’t read a lot of “shifter” books, but I started writing the Mermen of Ea Series, I knew I wanted the two main characters, Taren and Ian, to have sex in their shifted form. Because at its core, the Mermen of Ea Series is a love story and, well, people in love do have sex. (I know you’re shocked!). I’ve never been very shy about writing explicit sex in my books. Frankly, it’s no surprise that men in love (or lust) have sex. In all of my books, I write explicit sex, in large part because IntoWindI see it as a way to develop the emotional relationship between my characters. Rarely will I write a sex scene just for the titillation factor. So when I decided to write merman sex, I knew it needed to be more than just “insert tab A into slot B” sex. It needed to have a visceral connection to the characters and to the ocean they inhabit when in their shifted forms.

The mermen of Ea (Ea, pronounced “Ey-ah”, is the name the mermen give their race), are powerful beings in their shifted forms. Broader and more muscled than when in their human forms, they are also highly sexual when they transform. For the two main characters in the Mermen of Ea Series, Ian and Taren, the sex comes out of their deep, enduring connection (they are reincarnated lovers who find each other again).

So, let’s get down to basics. How does merman sex work? I based my mermen not on fish (let’s face it, fish just aren’t that sexy!) but on dolphins, since they’re mammals like StealingTheWindFShumans. So the sexy bits are really the same, regardless of their form. The difference is that, in their mermen forms, Taren and Ian have sheathed penises, rather than external ones. Just like dolphins, a little arousal coaxes the penis from its fold in the merman’s tail (dogs are similar in this way). So that’s the basic premise. But the fun part (in my opinion), comes in the way mermen have sex.

Mermen, much like dolphins, have a mating dance or ritual. Yes, I studied dolphin sex videos on the web! You’ll find lots of them because dolphins really like to have sex, and parents like to video their kids at aquariums (which can make for some awkward moments when Little Johnny points and says, “Mommy, what’s that thing that just popped out of the dolphin’s tail?”). Here’s a link to one of the videos, in case you’re interested. Back to the dance, though….

Mermen, like their dolphin cousins, swim in circles around each other in a mating dance. They nip playfully at each other, brush their lips against each other’s skin, and even use RunningWithTheWind-colorsREVthe sharp barbs at the end of their wrists to gently scrape at each other and arouse their mates. And, my favorite part, borrowing a bit from whales: mermen sing. Yes, sing. Their heartsong can’t be heard above the water, but it’s a beautiful and haunting melody that adds to the romance of their sexual contact.

One last bit to share about merman sex? Mermen communicate telepathically under the water, since sound doesn’t travel easily there. And added benefit of this? When one merman climaxes, his partner experiences the orgasm as if he himself is climaxing. Double the fun.

I’ll leave you with a partial NSFW merman sex excerpt from Chapter 2 of Into the Wind, the sequel to Stealing the Wind (yes, there’s more to the scene, but you’ll have to read the book to see how it ends!). In this scene, Taren and his soul mate, Ian, play underneath the water in a moment of calm before the storm.

The Mermen of Ea books are high fantasy and high romance set on the high seas (and beneath them!). I hope you’ll join me on the epic journey of Taren and Ian, as they fight for their own future and the future of their people, the mermen of Ea. –Shira

StealingtheWind_headerbannerExcerpt from Into the Wind (Mermen of Ea #2)

Taren flicked his tail to propel him around so that he and Ian swam toward each other, arms extended, then moved upward as they laced their fingers together and floated perpendicular to the sea floor. They kissed and their tongues entwined. Ian tasted of the ocean and of the promise of Taren’s new life. Their former incarnations, Treande and Owyn, had been equals in everything. Partners, friends, lovers. Taren both relished and feared the power of his connection to Ian and the unexpected turn of fate that had brought them together, as well as the revelations of their past.

With a grin, Taren spun around so that he faced Ian’s tail. He rotated his arm so that the sharp tines that ran from his fingers to his wrist grazed the slick surface. He’d learned how to retract the barbs so they would not injure; he’d also learned that if used properly, the gentle scrape of the barbs was a sensual treat Ian could not resist.

“Goddess!” Ian shouted in his mind. “Is it your wish to render me completely helpless with lust?”

Taren repressed a chuckle as he continued to stroke Ian’s body. He might not be able to best Ian with his physical prowess, but he knew he held a stronger power over Ian. He relished the thought that he possessed Ian’s heart and soul, for it made his own uncontrollable hunger to be near Ian bearable.

Ian moaned as Taren slipped a finger inside the opening at the base of his tail to coax forth his member. When it emerged, hard and proud, Taren took it in his mouth, ran his tongue over its veined surface, then swallowed it until his lips met the base. As he pulled and teased, he pressed a finger in Ian’s other fold. Ian keened to meet the intruder and begged Taren for more as Taren slipped a second finger inside to Ian’s stuttered gasp. Taren knew Ian loved it when he directed their lovemaking, although Taren preferred to take a less aggressive role. It sometimes surprised Taren, though, how Ian was able to cede control to him.

For Taren, the balance of power between them felt familiar. Taren guessed that he and Ian had tangled like this before, shifted in and out of dominance in their relationship as well as in their mating. Taren knew his prior life guided him, but much of what he shared with Ian still felt new and exciting. As he often did, Taren gave himself over to the memory and allowed his body to dictate his movements. He reached around Ian and clasped the place where his buttocks would have been had he been in his human form. The skin there was smooth and slippery, so Taren dug in his nails just deeply enough to maintain his grip. Ian’s rumbled pleasure was an added incentive.

“Taren!” Ian writhed under Taren’s ministrations, his movements propelling them forward and making them spin.

Tiny bubbles effervesced over Taren’s sensitive skin, tickling and caressing, adding to the hypnotic mating dance, stirring his desire. He sucked harder and slipped a third finger inside Ian.

Ian’s climax washed over them both. With each gasp, with each shudder of Ian’s body, Taren felt the thrill of Ian’s release as if it were his own. He wondered if he’d ever get used to the sensation of sharing in his lover’s climax or if it would remain one of the great wonders of his dual form.

“Fuck me,” Ian gasped as he convulsed once again. “Do it now.” Rarely did Ian ask Taren to take him, although this also felt familiar.

Taren caught his breath and pinned Ian against the sand by his wrists. Ian’s eyes were glassy from his release, his breathing shallow. Taren sucked and bit at his nipples, then smiled broadly as he felt Ian’s heart race at the contact.

“Please. Taren,” Ian begged. “Take me.”

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First Comes Marriage: Cooking up a Classic Category Romance

FirstComeMarriageFSWe’re well into the final week of the First Comes Marriage book tour, with the giveaway wrapping up about a week later on January 31st. The book is now available for download from Dreamspinner Press, Amazon, All Romance Ebooks, Barnes & Noble, and other booksellers.If you haven’t already, be sure to comment on this or one of the book tour posts for a chance to win a dozen red roses for you or your sweetheart.

For those readers who may not already know, First Comes Marriage is the second book in the brand new Dreamspun Desires line and is an honest to goodness “category romance.” The term comes from the old tradition of publishing a certain number of books on a monthly basis in a certain category. You remember these. When I was a kid, they were the Harlequin and Silhouette romances that were shipped, 4 books a month, on subscription.

Category romances were sweet, sometimes funny, standalone stories with a yummy happy ending. These were romances that made you feel good. For me, I remember being an angsty teen and reading these books. They made my heart pound, made my arms ache, and gave me that rush of “oh yeah!” at the end of the story that made me want to devour more romances.

When I was working on First Comes Marriage, I did a lot of thinking about what makes a classic category romance make me feel so damn good. I read a few of the old romances, and I really thought about what makes them work for a reader like me. My husband, the scientist, would call that “reverse engineering.” It was a bit like eating a really good piece of cake and figuring out what ingredients went into it because you don’t have the recipe!

So what’s the recipe?

Take two main characters and ratchet up the heat. I’m talking a very slow burn that builds until you are fanning yourself and ready to scream, “Tell him you love him already!” Or at least, “Tell him you want to have sex with him already!” Stir in something that presents a bit of a sticking point for both characters and threatens to keep them apart. Nothing too angsty here, just something they have to overcome separately or, even better, together. Add a secondary character or two who just might derail the budding romance or help it happen for our main characters. Add doubts and stir again. Little niggles or fears. Maybe sprinkle a little misunderstanding in while you’re at it.

Pour all the ingredients into a pan and bake it at high temperature. What do you get? Sexy, sweet, and spicy romance that tastes as good as tomato soup and a grilled cheese sandwich on a cold day, or maybe some really good mac ‘n cheese. We’re not talking prime rib that you eat with expensive French wine, but the kind of meal that leaves you satisfied and smiling. Simply fun and feel-good fare.
You can buy it First Comes Marriage as a single book, or you can subscribe to the Dreamspun Desires line and get two books a month at a significant discount (ebook and paperback). Read down for an excerpt and don’t forget to enter the giveaway! -Shira

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Their marriage was supposed to be all business….

When struggling novelist Chris Valentine meets Jesse Donovan, he’s interested in a book contract, or possibly a date. The last thing Chris expects is a marriage proposal from New York City’s most eligible bachelor!

Jesse’s in a pinch. To keep control of his company, he has to marry. So he has valid reasons for offering Chris this business deal: in exchange for living in a gorgeous mansion for a year, playing the doting husband, Chris gets all the writing time he wants and walks away with a million-dollar payoff. Surely Chris can handle that. He can handle living with the most handsome and endearing man he’s ever met, a man he immediately knows he wants in the worst way and can’t have. Or can he?

Dreamspinner: Amazon: All Romance: Barnes & Noble
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Excerpt from Chapter Thirteen

That night Chris settled for yet another dinner alone in the Red Room, the smaller of two dining rooms at the estate. The day before, he’d asked Marcie to join him, but she’d flatly refused. “After his grandfather died, I told Mr. Donovan that if I was going to stay on, I wanted him to keep things the way they’d always been.” In spite of this, she’d still ended up chatting with him over coffee after she served him a delicious dinner of freshly caught bass and vegetables she’d grown in the garden on the side of the house.

Tonight, however, after Marcie cleared what was left of Chris’s meal, it was not she who walked into the Red Room ten minutes later but an attractive middle-aged woman with a shoulder-length blonde bob. Dressed in a well-tailored linen pantsuit that wore its myriad wrinkles well, she looked as though she’d just flown in from somewhere tropical. Which, apparently, she had, since Marcie came chasing after her, saying, “Mrs. Donovan, you must be tired from the flight. I’d be happy to serve you some dinner in your rooms, if you’d—”

You’re the wife?” the woman said. Chris knew she had to be Jesse’s stepgrandmother, Wenda.

“Wrong plumbing,” Chris joked, hoping to ease the tension.

“Was that supposed to be a joke?” Wenda countered.

Not much for humor. “Chris Valentine.” Chris stood and offered her his hand. “Husband.”

She didn’t shake his hand but took her measure of him, eyeing him from head to toe. The scrutiny made Chris want to squirm, but he schooled his expression and willed his face not to twitch. “I didn’t know Jesse had any interests outside the usual,” she said. “Then again, you’re far easier on the eyes than the usual.”

Chris chuckled. “Thank you. I think.” So maybe she does have a sense of humor. Dry as the Sahara, but….

She narrowed her eyes and turned to Marcie, whom Chris had nearly forgotten was still standing there. “I’d like some dinner, unless that’s a problem.”

Marcie squeaked, “No, of course not, Mrs. Donovan,” then skittered off to the kitchen.

“Long flight?” Chris asked and pulled a chair out from the table.

Wenda raised a questioning eyebrow, then sat heavily. “Missed my connection in Puerto Rico. I should have taken the company jet.”

“Why didn’t you?”

Her eyes grew wide. Had she expected him to just roll over and play dead? “I… I prefer not to. It’s a waste if it’s only me.”

This doubly surprised Chris, that she’d consider the expense and that she’d admit it. “Sounds reasonable.”

“You’re not what I expected,” she said.

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About Shira

Shira Anthony is a complete sucker for a happily-ever-after, and rarely reads or writes a story without one. Never a fan of instalove, Shira likes to write stories about real men with real issues making real relationships work.

In her last incarnation, Shira was a professional opera singer, performing roles in such operas as “Tosca,” “i Pagliacci,” and “La Traviata,” among others. She’s given up TV for evenings spent with her laptop, and she never goes anywhere without a pile of unread M/M romance on her Kindle.

Shira is married with two children and two insane dogs, and when she’s not writing she is usually in a courtroom trying to make the world safer for children. When she’s not working, she can be found aboard a 36’ catamaran at the Carolina coast with her favorite sexy captain at the wheel.

Interested in hearing Shira sing? Here’s a link to a live performance of Shira singing an aria from Puccini’s “Tosca”: http://www.shiraanthony.com/wp-conten…

You can subscribe to Shira’s monthly newsletter for updates, free fiction, and subscriber-only contests here: http://www.shiraanthony.com/newsletter/

Where to find the author:

 Facebook | Facebook Author Page | Twitter | Pinterest |  Goodreads | Google+
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Giveaway!

First Comes Marriage is all above love and romance, and the book tour grand prize is a dozen red roses for your sweetheart (or whoever you think deserves it!). First prize is a $10 Dreamspinner Gift Certificate.

(Just click the link below)

Shira Anthony Rafflecopter giveaway!

(Ends 31st January 2015)
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Check out the other blogs on the blog tour

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Release Day & 2 Giveaways for “First Comes Marriage”!

Book Tour

Today is release day for First Comes Marriage! The book is now available for download from Dreamspinner Press, Amazon, All Romance Ebooks, Barnes & Noble, and other booksellers.

The First Comes Marriage Book Tour is wrapping up its first week with an exclusive post at My Fiction Nook, where you can enter to win a gift certificate for a dozen red roses for you or your sweetheart. First prize is a $10 Dreamspinner Press gift code.

Today, you can also enter a special giveaway contest over at the Dreamspinner Press Blog. I’ve got a special post for Dreamspinner Press readers.

First Comes Marriage is a modern take on the classic “category” romances I used to read as a kid. You remember those Harlequin and Mills & Boon stories that used to ship, 4 to a box, every month? First Comes Marriage takes a few of the classic romance tropes andFirstComeMarriageFS turns them on their head. Marriage of convenience? Check. Billionaire playboy? Check. Conniving stepgrandmother? Check. Two sexy men? Check. Slow burn? Check. HEA? Check.

Jesse Donovan, the billionaire heir to his grandfather’s boat building business, must get married or he’ll lose control of his company under the terms of his grandfather’s will. Chris Valentine is a struggling novelist working as a barista in New York City. When handsome, charming Jesse proposes, Chris thinks it’s a joke! Chris finally gives in and marries Jesse. But the more time they spend together, the more Chris comes to genuinely care for New York’s most eligible “straight” bachelor. But this marriage is just business, isn’t it?

If you love sweet, sexy stories with a happily-ever-after that will leave a smile on your face, you’ll enjoy the Dreamspun Desires line of gay romances from Dreamspinner Press. I love them so much, I have a subscription to the line. I’ll leave you with a taste of First Comes Marriage. Hope you enjoy it. -Shira

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Excerpt from Chapter One:

CHRIS VALENTINE took a deep breath as the crowd applauded his second reading. No seats remained, and at least a dozen people stood at the back of the room as he and the other two featured authors read from their books. Now, as the flock of pissed-off butterflies in his gut gave up the ghost, he thought less about how the reading had gone and more about how incredibly hungry he was.

Chris had lost count of how many times he’d read from his sci-fi/fantasy trilogy at Baker’s Literary Café, but this time he’d been a nervous wreck. His current work-in-progress, Venturing Backward, was entirely different from anything he’d written before. He hadn’t even shared it yet with his roommate, Val. Why he’d decided on the spur of the moment to read a short passage, he couldn’t explain. He’d never been much of a risk taker.

“Loved your reading.” The woman who’d been seated in the front row thrust her hand out to Chris. “Rhonda Wexler.” Her dragon-red curls bobbed as she spoke through black-tinted lips. A small crowd had gathered behind her, waiting patiently to greet him. Chris saw a few new faces amid the usual Tuesday night crowd.

He smiled and shook her hand, the contact helping to dispel the rest of his body’s coiled tension. “Good to meet you, Rhonda.”

“I read the first installment when you had it up as a freebie. Are you going to self-pub the rest, or are you thinking of shopping the trilogy to the New York houses?” Rhonda asked as she shifted from one Dr. Martens–clad foot to the other and handed him her card.

“I’ve tried a few,” he answered, “but so far no luck.” The first book hadn’t done poorly on Amazon. But outside his growing cult following, it hadn’t gotten much traction, and the royalties had barely made a dent in his rent.

“M-Mr. Valentine?” someone said from over Chris’s shoulder. Chris turned and offered the newcomer his hand. “Jesse Donovan.”

A quick glance at Jesse made Chris wonder if he’d come to hear one of the other authors read, or just wandered into the wrong café. A few inches taller than Chris, with reddish brown hair and a hint of shadow on his jaw, Jesse appeared entirely out of place in the sea of goth and steampunk. Dressed in a crisp button-down shirt, sport coat, and a well-fitted pair of jeans, Jesse gazed at him through burgundy-trimmed glasses. His bright blue eyes made Chris’s pulse quicken.

“Good to meet you, Jesse.”

The hint of awkwardness in Jesse’s gaze surprised Chris, but it vanished as Jesse shook his hand with a firm grip. “You did a great job tonight,” Jesse said as he pulled off his glasses and shoved them into his jacket pocket. “I especially liked the new work.”

“You may have been the only one,” Chris quipped. He hadn’t expected the new novel to be a hit with his usual readers, so he hadn’t been too disappointed with the polite applause. Magical realism might be popular among the literary set, but it was hardly the stuff his fantasy readers would get excited about.

Jesse responded enthusiastically, “Don’t get me wrong. I love the Valhron Chronicles, but the new work”—he offered Chris a warm smile—“is something unique. I look forward to reading it when it’s completed.”

Jesse had clearly read his work, a realization that made Chris all the more curious about him. “Thank you.”

Jesse hesitated for a split second before saying, “I’d like to help get your work in the right hands.” He handed Chris his card. “Give me a call. We can meet for coffee, or whatever works best for you.”

“Thank you.” So Jesse was the agent rumored to be attending the reading. Chris would definitely be taking him up on the offer, if only to learn more about how he might break into the New York publishing scene.

Two women dressed in Victorian walking suits erupted through the crowd and collided with Jesse. Chris caught Jesse’s arm in time to keep him from falling forward, the faint scent of bergamot and citrus from Jesse’s cologne tickling Chris’s nose as Jesse grabbed his shoulder to steady himself. Jesse met Chris’s gaze and held it as something like surprise flickered in his eyes. Chris half wished Jesse wasn’t an agent and that the invitation to coffee wasn’t to discuss business.

“Sooorry,” one of the women said, giggling.

“No problem,” Jesse said. He straightened quickly and withdrew his hand from Chris’s arm.

“Carmine was so excited to meet you,” the other woman gushed, “she pushed a little too hard.” Carmine stared at Chris, clearly dumbfounded.

“I’ll leave you to your adoring fans,” Jesse said, the edges of his mouth quirking upward as he spoke. “Give me a call when you have a chance.” He disappeared before Chris could thank him.

TWO BEEFY arms swallowed Chris in a powerful embrace the second he stepped through the doorway to the apartment. “You rocked!” Terry shouted as he squeezed Chris so tightly, Chris had to push away from Terry’s chest to breathe.

“Terry. Man. You know I love you, but—”

“Val loved it too,” Terry said, releasing Chris and smiling at his fiancée, who was setting several pizzas on the kitchen table.

Val smiled at Chris through her too-long bangs and nodded. “You did a wonderful job, Chris. I thought I’d have to restrain Terry,” she said with a half snort, half giggle. “He was so excited when you got to the part about the lost mage, I thought he was going to lose it.”

“I should never have mentioned you were my inspiration for him.” Chris shook his head in mock disgust. “Your head is already too big.”

“Accept it for what it is,” Terry answered, grinning broadly. “Recognition of my immense awesomeness as a roommate.”

“Roommates,” Val corrected.

“Best roommates ever,” Chris agreed. “Especially since you haven’t kicked me out yet.”

“Rumor is that there was a hotshot agent there tonight.” Val snagged a piece of pepperoni pizza.

“There was.” Chris pulled Jesse’s card from his pocket and waved it around.

That was Mr. Tall, Auburn, and Handsome?” Val asked as she snatched the card from his hands. “The gorgeous man I saw you speaking with before the steampunk sisters decided to set up camp?”

“Yep. Said he wanted to put me in touch with someone in—”

“Whoa, whoa. This guy isn’t an agent,” Val said, eyes wide with recognition as she stared at the card.

Chris glanced at Terry, who just shrugged. “What?” Chris took a bite of his pizza and frowned.

This Jesse Donovan is the CEO of Windview Enterprises,” Val said, as if the name might trigger some sort of understanding.

“Never heard of him.”

“Seriously? He was on the cover of New York View last year. You know, their annual Most Eligible Bachelor issue? It was all over the newsstands.”

Chris burst out laughing. “Just because I’m gay doesn’t mean I snag every trash magazine that has good-looking men on the cover, you know.”

Val blushed fuchsia. “I didn’t mean… I mean… it isn’t because—”

Terry snorted and high-fived Chris. “He’s gay, Val. That doesn’t mean he wants to tape photos of hot men on his wall.” He grinned at Val and added, “Although you know, Val, I seem to remember you had a poster of Chris Pine over your bed in coll—”

“Shut up.” Val pushed Terry, who fell sideways onto the couch and laughed until he coughed.

“Admit it,” Terry said between wheezes. “This guy’s totally your type.”

Terry had a point. Jesse was exactly the kind of man Chris dated: tall and athletic, confident, but not overly so. Not that Chris was interested in anything but a quick hookup. The country might be marriage-crazy, but he had no interest in a white picket fence and a passel of kids.

“And totally straight,” Val put in with a shake of her head. “He’s been all over the gossip pages recently with some heiress. I’ve got a couple friends at school who have a pool going. They say he’s going to marry her.” She snorted, then added, “I’ve got $100 that he stays single.”

Terry rolled his eyes, garnering another glare from Val.

“What does Windview Enterprises do?” Chris asked, more curious than he cared to admit. He didn’t care what Jesse Donovan’s claim to fame might be, but he’d still follow up on the lead.

“Yachts,” she said. “Really big ones. You know, the ones they show movie stars cavorting around on with the itsy-bitsy bikinis?”

Figures.

“And hotel properties,” Val continued. “High-end resorts in the Caribbean, that sort of thing. Oh, and they have a commercial group that builds supertankers.”

“How do you know all that?” Chris asked.

People magazine.” Val’s cheeks flushed, and Terry shot her an inquisitive look. “Well, I have to read something when I’m on the subway.”

“Not your typical fare for a doctoral candidate in nineteenth century literature,” Chris said.

“You gonna call him?” Terry asked with a yawn.

“Why not? Even if he’s not an agent, he might be able to put me in touch with one.” Chris took back the card from Val and flipped it around in his fingers. For the first time, he noticed the handwritten number on the back and the scribbled notation there: personal cell.

“Want another slice?” Val asked.

Chris shook his head. “I’m beat. And I’m supposed to work the afternoon shift tomorrow.” He gathered the plates and headed for the kitchen.

“You’re going to tell me all about it, aren’t you?” Val asked as she helped him wash the dishes.

“Sure.” Chris laughed. “He’s probably a jerk.”

“Even better,” she said, grinning now. “I’m gonna hold you to it!”

 

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You can purchase First Comes Marriage at Dreamspinner Press: http://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/store/product_info.php?products_id=7302

You can subscribe to the Dreamspun Desires line at Dreamspinner Press: http://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/store/product_info.php?products_id=7224&cPath=1583

 

 

 

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