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

Guest Blogger Brandon Shire: The Power of Music

Summer Symphony_600I can’t tell you how honored I am to have Brandon Shire join me here! He’s a supremely talented writer and his new release, Summer Symphony, is truly a beautiful novel. For those of you who have enjoyed the Blue Notes Series and love music as much as I do, I highly recommend this story of love, loss, and self-discovery amidst the ruins.  Bittersweet and moving, there is no easy ending here, but it’s well worth the tears.

Thank you Brandon for a gorgeous book, for the opportunity to be part of this amazing story, and for joining me today! -Shira

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What is the most devastating thing you could envision as a parent? It’s not a quick jump to realize that most parents would consider the loss of a child to be foremost among their greatest fears.

If the child has yet to be born, what then?

And what if you are the father and your worst fear comes true? How do you grieve after holding that small precious bundle in your hands?

We don’t often consider men when it comes to grieving for a child lost to miscarriage or stillbirth. In fact, male grief is dismissed (almost uniformly) throughout the world in these situations. The physical bond between mother and child can’t be denied. But you would think that in this day and age, we would have dispensed with the antiquated notions of how grief reflects on masculinity. Unfortunately, that’s not the case. Male grief is to be hidden, closeted.

Google “music and grief” and you will quickly learn that music therapy models have been found to be the most successful in treating grief and bereavement. But what happens when music is already the focus of your life? What happens when you can’t turn to the one thing that might help lift you from despair?

These are the topics I explored when I started writing Summer Symphony. Frankly, it shocked me to find such a dearth of information and support for grieving fathers. It was as if they didn’t matter. As a parent, I found this utterly absurd. My first question was: How can you support your spouse if you can’t grieve yourself? You can’t. That’s the answer. You can’t.

I won’t tell you this novel has an HEA, it doesn’t. It’s a tearjerker about music, love, romance, grief, and how a father finally learns to cope.

Very special thanks go to Shira for allowing me to pick her brain. Without her knowledge of music, I couldn’t have written this book. Thanks, Shira!

 

Book Blurb:

Martin Zoric had vivid dreams of fatherhood, of a small hand pressed to his, of pink dresses and girlish laughter. Then his wife had a stillbirth and his world fell apart.

He listened to the unwanted apologies, stood by his wife as was expected of him, and kept his façade strong and firm for the entire world to see.

But does he have the strength let go and really grieve?

When Ren Wakahisa landed in Croatia he was hoping to escape the cultural pressures put on him to conform. His family wanted him to forsake love for duty. They viewed his happiness as secondary to familial prosperity.

Does he have the courage to be who he wants to be? Or, will he yield to their wishes?

Summer Symphony is the story of how two men find their answers and what they learn about strength, and grace, and the endurance of love.

 

Summer Symphony is available for pre-order from Amazon, iTunes and Smashwords. (Other sites are coming soon.)

 

Author Bio:

Award winning writer BRANDON SHIRE is a distinct voice in contemporary fiction. Mr. Shire was chosen as a Top Read in 2011, Best in LGBTQ Fiction for 2011 & 2012, and garnered several Honorable Mentions, as well as a Rainbow Award for Best Gay Contemporary Fiction.

Connect with Brandon at BrandonShire.com or on Goodreads.

10% of the proceeds from the sale of any of Brandon’s books are donated to LGBT Youth charities combating homelessness.

 

“Blood and Rain” Contest, Excerpt, and Cover Tease #2

Blood and Rain Part 2I know I’m a tease!!! And if you want another tease, check out the next excerpt from the book below.

Meet Nicolas Lambert, one of the main characters in Blood and Rain, which will be released by Dreamspinner Press on December 15th! Nicolas is an “ancient” vampire – born a vampire, not created from a human. As the younger brother of the head of the Lambert clan, Nicolas offers himself as the price of peace between his clan and the rival Rousseau clan. He agrees to a marriage of political convenience to Rosina Rousseau, whom he’s never met. Worse still, Nicolas has fallen in love with the vampire hunter who agrees to escort him to Paris for the marriage: Adrien Gilbert.

Blood and Rain is the first of three books in the Blood Series, which features three MM pairings. It’s both a contemporary and an historical supernatural romance, spanning more than a century from 1895 to the present day.3621890092_4175cd8c60_z

Each week for the next 3 weeks, I’ll be teasing you with a bit more of the gorgeous cover from Dreamspinner Press cover artist Reese Dante, as well as a long excerpt from the book. I’m also running a cover reveal contest that will end at midnight on October 11th, midnight after the day the full cover is revealed. The Rafflecopter giveaway is here: http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/cf0ba9496/ Or you can enter by clicking directly on the Rafflecopter widget below.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Below is another excerpt from the story, the beginning of Chapter Two. This follows the excerpt I shared last week which you can read here. Also today, I’m sharing the official Dreamspinner Press blurb. Have a great weekend! -Shira

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Blood Series: Book 1

Adrien Gilbert has spent several lifetimes searching for the love he lost. Born in the 1800s into a clan of fabled vampire hunters, Adrien once wanted nothing more than to tend his family’s vineyard in southern France or read a good book. But Adrien’s peaceful existence ends abruptly when his older brother, François, is murdered. Bound by his hunter’s oath, Adrien sets out on a path that will forever change his life when he agrees to execute his brother’s killer, the vampire Charles Duvalier.

After months chasing the elusive Charles, Adrien reluctantly makes a bargain with Nicolas Lambert, an ancient vampire. Adrien will escort Nicolas to Paris for his marriage to a rival clanswoman, and Nicolas will help Adrien find Charles. Nicolas’s quiet strength and gentle heart soon convince Adrien that Nicolas is nothing like the vampires he has sworn to destroy. As the wedding date draws nearer, a force intent on destroying the fragile peace between the vampire clans threatens to tear apart both the vampire realm and the world of the hunters. To secure both past and future for those he loves, Adrien must find a way to stop the looming war between hunters and vampires. But first he’ll have to let Nicolas go.

Note: This is the first in a series of three anticipated novels tentatively entitled Blood and Rain, Blood and Ghosts, Blood and Eternity. The series it set in France in 1895 and in the present, and features three MM pairings. Books in this series must be read in order.

Tentative Publication Date: December 2014-January, 2015

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Chapter Two: Blood and Rain

Saint-Gervais, France, 1896

Rain fell on the dirt streets, creating rivulets of muddy water that ran unimpeded into the already clogged gutters. Small pools of water and mud had accumulated on the grass surrounding the immaculate houses. It had rained off and on for weeks, ever since Charles Duvalier had arrived in Saint-Gervais.

Charles found comfort in the overcast sky. The chill in the air was an old friend whose welcome would never wear thin. In spite of the beauty of the French countryside and the warmth of the townspeople, the hunger he despised was still there. It clawed at his soul like death come to claim an old man, waiting until he grew too weak to resist.

He would leave before the hunger overpowered him, before his humanity was consumed by the primal urge against which he could not defend. He could smell it everywhere: blood, the thing that brought him so much pleasure and yet threatened to devour all of his humanity, everything he valued, and everything he held dear.

Time to leave. He waited for the cobbler to bring his horse.

There was much about Saint-Gervais that had tempted him. Nestled between the mountains and the river, this small hillside village reminded him of the time when he was human and his heart and soul were still free to dream of a happy future, unencumbered by darkness. The longing for that time returned, unbidden. Charles pushed the memory away.

Nostalgia is for the weak.

Nostalgia alone hadn’t kept him here. Handsome, clever François was the other reason. François, the beautiful man who awakened a desire Charles thought dead forever. The oldest son of the centuries-old Gilbert clan of hunters, François had begun to earn a reputation as a fine swordsman for the Council of Hunters. Charming, powerful, and anxious to know more about the world outside the town where his family worked their hillside vineyard, François had wanted to accompany Charles when he moved on. Charles had been sorely tempted. François’s heart was brave and pure. Over the long centuries he’d wandered, hoping to exorcise the guilt, Charles had forgotten what it felt like to genuinely crave knowledge. François had reminded him. With François, Charles felt truly alive again. Happy.

Old fool! The moment you touch him, you will kill his soul. He’d long since learned that everything he touched turned black. This was no different. He clenched his jaw and tied his bags to his saddle, patting his mare for good measure and whispering in her ear. He was just about to lead her outside when a young man emerged from one of the nearby stalls.

“Monsieur Duvalier?”

“Adrien. I hadn’t expected to see you here.” Charles secured his cloak around his neck and smiled at François’s younger brother. Adrien, with his mother’s pale skin, blue eyes, and hair the color of a wheat field at sunrise, looked nothing like his brother. François had once explained that Adrien had been a sickly child and that after their mother’s death, he had nearly died of a fever that had lasted weeks. So different from François in appearance and personality. They’d been inseparable. Until Charles had come to town.

Adrien did not return Charles’s smile. “You’re leaving without speaking to him.” Not a question. Adrien judged him. Charles knew he deserved this.

Vampires and hunters were not sworn enemies, but many vampires deeply resented the hunters’ interference in their affairs. Millennia ago, the ancients asked the hunters to enforce our law, Charles’s creator had once explained to him. But there are those of our kind who do not recognize the pact between our races. They fancy themselves resistance fighters in a war of their own creation.

François and Adrien’s mother had been a victim of the heretics. And although the ancients and hunters had swiftly punished the vampires responsible, Charles guessed that Adrien had taken their mother’s death particularly hard.

Charles had known Charlotte and Jacques Gilbert well. He’d attended their wedding. He too had grieved Charlotte’s death. After she’d died, he’d seen little of Jacques, who’d been left to care for François, Adrien, and their younger sister, Isabelle. Three small children and a struggling vineyard would keep a man well occupied.

Charles repressed a sigh. “It’s better this way. Surely you know this to be true.”

Adrien narrowed his eyes. “Perhaps now he’ll see you for what you truly are. Heartless and cruel. You used him.”

Charles wouldn’t quarrel with Adrien. Better that François believe Charles had rejected him than follow him and truly be hurt.

Adrien watched as Charles tied his belongings onto his saddle. Charles led the animal onto the muddy street.

“Good-bye, Adrien. No doubt our paths will cross again.”

“Blood and Rain” Contest and Cover Tease

Blood and Rain Part 1I have a new series coming very soon! Blood and Rain will be released this winter (December or January). It’s the first in the Blood Series from Dreamspinner Press. Yes, it’s about vampires (and vampire hunters). No, these vamps don’t sparkle, but they do have some unusual abilities you’ll discover as the series unfolds.  Yes, it’s definitely a romance! But it’s also an adventure with plenty of action, much like my Mermen of Ea Series.

Each week for the next 4 weeks, I’ll be teasing you with a bit more of the gorgeous cover from Dreamspinner Press cover artist Reese Dante, as well as a long excerpt from the book. I’m also running a cover reveal contest that will end at midnight on October 11th, midnight after the day the full cover is revealed. The Rafflecopter giveaway is here: http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/cf0ba9496/  Or you can enter by clicking directly on the Rafflecopter widget below.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

The Blood Series takes place in both the present day and in France in the late 1800s, and features three couples. The main focus is on Adrien Gilbert, the youngest son of a French vampire hunter family, and Nicolas Lambert, an ancient (born a vampire, not created) vampire.

So please join me in some fun in welcoming 3621890092_4175cd8c60_zmy sexy hunters and vampires! The first excerpt and unofficial blurb are below. Enjoy! -Shira

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Blood Series: Book 1

Adrien Gilbert is a vampire hunter sworn to avenge the murder of his brother, Francois.  When the ancient vampire, Nicolas Lambert, offers to help Adrien locate his brother’s killer in exchange for Adrien’s protection, Adrien agrees.  Nicolas has pledged to marry the daughter of a rival vampire clan for the sake of peace between their warring clans. But when Adrien begins to fall for the gentle Nicolas, Adrien’s mission becomes one of both self-discovery and heartbreak.

What Adrien and Nicolas don’t know is that there is another force at work, intent on destroying the fragile peace between vampire clans.  That same force threatens to tear apart the world of the hunters.  Adrien must put aside his feelings for Nicolas and stop a full-blown war between Hunters and vampires. He’s just not sure he’s willing to let Nicolas go forever to do it.

Note:  This is the first in a series of three anticipated novels tentatively entitled Blood and Rain, Blood and Ghosts, Blood and Eternity. The series it set in France in 1895 and in the present, and features three MM pairings. Books in this series must be read in order.

Under contract to Dreamspinner Press. Tentative Publication Date: December 2014-January, 2015

******

Chapter One: On the Edge of Forever

Miami, Florida

Sunset wove fingers of purple and red through bands of clouds and vapor trails that crisscrossed the sky. The scent of exhaust from trucks and cars mingled with the tang of salt from the ocean. People scurried about as they returned from work, trying to finish last-minute errands before dinnertime, all oblivious to the lone figure perched atop the high-rise at the edge of the Miami River.

Adrien Gilbert gazed down at the tiny figures below, vaguely aware of their presence. For more than a century, he had seen generations of humans be born, reach adulthood, start families, grow old, and die as their loved ones watched, helpless to slow time. He had grown numb to the cycle of life—a cycle to which he was immune. He was an immortal, a hunter who had shared the soul of an ancient vampire. His beloved soul.

He closed his eyes, trying to picture that perfect face. It had grown strangely difficult to remember over the years, and yet he could still easily remember the face of his mother, who had been killed when he was just a child.

I won’t forget you… Nicolas.

It would have been far easier to give in, to erase Nicolas from his memory forever. Certainly far less painful than knowing Nicolas was out there somewhere, unable to find the way back to him. Less painful, too, than admitting he couldn’t find his way to Nicolas. He would suffer the pain of knowledge; it was a small price to pay to preserve the memory.

I’m sorry.

The irony that a hunter sworn to protect humankind would suffer the loss of a vampire so keenly was hardly lost on Adrien. He’d believed that in spite of the treaty between hunters and the hunted, vampires were not to be trusted. He’d believed his duty as a hunter was simple, straightforward: kill those who threatened humanity, tolerate those who did not. But that had been before he’d met Nicolas. Before he’d lost his heart. Before Nicolas had given him immortality.

Adrien had everything a human might wish for. The small transportation business he’d started when he moved to the United States over a hundred years ago had blossomed into an international empire with cargo ships, airplanes, trucks, and dozens of storage facilities around the globe. He owned homes in Europe, Thailand, Japan, the US, and a dozen other places he rarely visited. Despite his prosperity, the men with whom he shared his bed—human, vampire, hunter—rarely stayed long. He had seen to that, with his aloof manner and his cold heart. One man had ever touched his soul.

 

 

The evening had started, as it always did, on a far better note. Adrien had stopped by one of his favorite haunts, an upscale martini bar not far from the city center. He’d developed a penchant for gin over the past few decades, enjoying the quick work it made of his long-term memory. Three or four martinis and he could forget, even if only briefly.

The bar was small and full of people. A Sinatra song played in the background as he walked over to the stainless-steel bar, filled with men, some of whom he’d already discarded, others new faces. Eager, all of them. He sensed their eyes on him and felt the hunger they didn’t understand. He understood that hunger. The scent of his blood created it in them. The same irresistible scent that had lured many a human to fall prey to the vampires now drew them to him.

He sat down at an empty barstool and nodded to the bartender, who set to work making the driest martini possible with his most expensive gin, dropping in a tiny bit of lemon peel instead of an olive. He handed Adrien the drink without saying a word, and Adrien brought the glass to his lips.

“Nice,” a male voice said from behind him.

The man was beautiful, tall, with shoulder-length black hair and deep green eyes. He wore pair of tight-fitting jeans and a crisp button-down shirt that emphasized his muscled chest and narrow waist. Late twenties, perhaps. A new face, but a familiar presence.

“It’s not bad.” Adrien took a sip of his drink and pretended not to care. It was easy.

“I wasn’t talking about the drink.” The man lifted his drink to his full lips but watched him intently.

“I wasn’t either,” Adrien replied without missing a beat.

“I’m Cole.”

“So you are.”

They left the bar together for his apartment, where his housekeeper had already set a table for two. A bottle of Puligny-Montrachet chilled in a cooler by the table. Between them, they finished that bottle, although Adrien drank very little. Alcohol affected immortals far more than humans or vampires.

After dinner Cole stood and walked over to the railing, looking out over the river below. “You know what I am.” Cole’s voice was as smooth as the wine.

“Yes. I know what you are.” Adrien had sensed Cole was a vampire the moment he’d seen him. No self-respecting hunter would have missed the subtle electricity in the air or the scent of mingled blood. He lifted Cole’s hair off his neck, then trailed his lips over his silky skin. Cole smelled good—an earthy and primal scent that caused the bloodlust to rise in Adrien. Once, he had embraced his lust for blood.

When he’d first become an immortal, Nicolas’s blood had done far more than sustain him. They had shared their bodies, their blood, and their souls. The blood had been their bond, the bloodlust a welcome reminder of Adrien’s love for Nicolas. Now the lust for blood had nothing to do with Adrien’s heart. It was another bitter reminder that his body would not let him perish, even though he cared nothing for living.

It’s been too long.

Cole moaned. The deep, throaty sound made Adrien’s mouth water in spite of himself. Adrien despised his body’s response, but he’d long ago learned he couldn’t fight it. Once, he had gone nearly twenty years without giving in to the call. He’d been weak, pathetic, barely able to think. He’d prayed he would die. He’d lost consciousness, but he’d awoken to find himself drinking his fill. He’d come perilously close to killing the human whose blood he’d feasted on, but he’d managed to stop. However miserable his existence, Adrien would only feed on vampires—he’d not break the oath he’d taken to protect humans when he’d become a hunter.

Adrien licked the skin of Cole’s neck, feeling the blood pulse there, hearing it call to him. Cole tilted his head in anticipation, opening himself to Adrien.

Adrien buried his teeth in Cole’s skin. Blood flooded his mouth and danced on his tongue, sweet and salty. Too long. His body was far more vampire-like in its craving for blood than when he’d first been given the gift of an ancient vampire’s soul. He wondered if it was the same for other immortals.

Adrien tried to ignore the images that flashed through his mind—the sound of silvery laughter, a mother’s loving caress. Cole’s memories. Adrien despised this forced intimacy, but he’d come to see it as the price of blood. Something to be tolerated.

It hadn’t always been that way. When he’d shared Nicolas’s blood, Adrien had experienced great joy. He’d seen himself through Nicolas’s eyes and felt the depth of Nicolas’s love. Each drop of that precious liquid had opened new doors. Each taste offered insight into Nicolas’s heart and soul. A beloved memory. A mystery—the mystery of Nicolas—unfolding with every swallow.

Adrien drank his fill, then claimed Cole’s mouth. This kind of contact he could stomach. He didn’t need sex to survive, but he enjoyed the release. Cole unbuttoned Adrien’s black silk shirt and his cock swelled against Adrien’s thigh. Adrien moaned as Cole skated his fingertips over his chest.

“I have never known a hunter to crave blood,” Cole whispered in his ear. “I thought only we experienced the bloodlust.”

“You were wrong,” Adrien said as he pulled Cole’s shirt over his head and mouthed a pretty pink nipple. Sex was always better after he fed, and Adrien’s cock was already hard at the thought of fucking such a lovely ass. He drew Cole’s body against his, walked backward into the living room, and pulled Cole with him onto the rug. Soon they were naked and he was no longer a hunter or an immortal, he was simply a man, seeking release, seeking pleasure.

 

 

Adrien lay there afterward, only partially satisfied. Nothing new. Sex was like the bloodlust—it always left him wanting more. Cole brushed his fingers over Adrien’s chest, then his neck. He licked Adrien’s earlobe, then ran his tongue over Adrien’s Adam’s apple.

“May I?” he asked.

“No.” He would willingly share his blood with only one person.

“Too bad.” The vampire was clearly disappointed. “I would have liked to have known the secrets of your blood.”

Adrien watched Cole dress but said nothing.

“Perhaps another time, then.” Cole turned and smiled at him before he walked out the door.

For at least an hour after, Adrien lay on the floor and allowed the night air to caress his bare skin. He closed his eyes and dozed.

“Adrien.”

The voice awakened him. Nicolas’s voice again. Why sleep if it only served to reawaken the pain he sought to suppress?

He stood and pulled on his jeans. He walked onto the balcony in his bare feet, then climbed to the roof of the penthouse.

Pathetic.

Having reached the edge, he spread his arms. He leaned forward and fell unimpeded, riding the wind like a sigh. The glass of the building sailed by him, the breeze buffeting his face. He hit the water and sank into the cold blackness. He wished he could die.

 

 

 

 

Covers, Covers, Covers! Vote for Covers!

Dissonance-build-full-r2Happy September everyone! I just wrapped the Dissonance Blog Tour this past week. Congrats to the winners. You can see who won by clicking here. There were so many entries, I decided to throw in a second subway cuff. Thanks everyone for the great response!

Now that Dissonance has been published, I’m already looking forward to my next release. No, it’s not musicians this time. It’s not mermen, either. This time, it’s vampires. Blood and Rain is the first in a three book series (Blood Series) from Dreamspinner Press. The series takes place both in the present day and in the past (1890s, to be precise). Anticipated release of the first book is December or January, with the second book following soon after.

So to get the ball rolling on the new series, I’ll be sharing glimpses of the gorgeous cover ofIntoWind Blood and Rain with you, as well as excerpts. Each week, I’ll be posting a new bit of the cover, along with some more of the story, until the entire cover is revealed in week four. I’ll also be running a pre-release contest for a $10 Dreamspinner Press gift certificate in the lead up to release day. So stay tuned!

In the meantime, Into the Wind, Dissonance, and Encore are all up for voting at the 2014 Rainbow Awards! The easiest way to vote is to first search all five pages of covers (the link to do so is at the top of the post) and make a list of your favorite covers by number and title. Of course, if you’d like to vote for my amazing covers from Catt Ford and Anne Cain, here’s the list:

#395 Into the Wind
#397 Dissonance
#412 Encore

Encore-BuildOnce you have compiled your list, go to the bottom of the post and hit REPLY. The post will refresh, and you’ll need to scroll to the bottom and fill out the reply form. Then click “anonymous” and enter your choices AND YOUR EMAIL ADDRESS in the body of the reply. ALL REPLIES ARE HIDDEN so you won’t be disclosing your votes or email address. Then hit POST REPLY. And you’re done! Make sure you receive notice that your post was successfully made! Here’s the link to the voting: http://reviews-and-ramblings.dreamwidth.org/4429374.html

More to come about GayRomLit in October, where I’ll be performing with my good friend and former accompanist. I can’t wait – it’s going to be a great fall! -Shira

Care and Feeding of Authors

CareAndFeedingOfAuthors_RLLWow! The last week has been a whirlwind, truly. Blue Notes was free on Amazon for 5 days, during which time it sat at #1 on the gay literature free books list. That totally blew me away. Then Dissonance was released to amazing reviews from Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words (Melanie named it one of her “Best of 2014″!), Rainbow Book Reviews, Smoocher’s Voice, and Love Bytes. But there was something even better than all that. Something that made me just want to sing! You. You the readers contacted me.

I have never had so many personal messages, emails, and posts about my books before. I heard from long-time readers and brand new readers about how they–you–loved my books and my characters. Particularly moving for me were the comments from survivors of child abuse who, like me, saw a lot of themselves in the character of Cam in Dissonance (who is based on a compilation of true stories). Those messages of love and support mean the world to me. More than you know!

I would never share a personal email or message without permission, of course. But those messages reminded me that readers can do a great deal to support their favorite authors. So I’m writing this post not just for myself, but for all of the authors you enjoy. I’m writing to ask that if you feel inclined to do so, please share that love with the world! The meme says it all: the care and feeding of authors depends on readers.

Please considering reviewing on Amazon, Goodreads, AllRomanceEbooks, Barnes & Noble, and anywhere else you buy and discuss books. Reviews don’t need to be long, they just need to be honest and hearfelt. A few sentences about what a book made you feel may be the inspiration for another reader to read a book you loved. Word of mouth makes all the difference to authors. It helps sell books, and more books sold means more books written. A win-win.

Thanks again, everyone, for your support! And thanks for considering reviewing and sharing the love! -Shira

 

“Dissonance” Release Day and Blog Tour Contest!

Dissonance-build-full-r2I can’t tell you how excited I am to finally be able to share Dissonance with you! Today, August 8, 2014, is release day for the newest addition to the Blue Notes Series from Dreamspinner Press. Like the other novels in the series, Dissonance is a standalone story, although it shares characters from some of the other Blue Notes books (including one of my all-time favorites, conductor David Somers). And, even better, it’s 25% off as part of Dreamspinner’s end of summer sale. You can pick up a paperback or ebook copy here: http://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/store/product_info.php?products_id=5291

Today also is the first day of a month-long blog tour featuring a giveaway with cool prizes (I love finding cool stuff to give away!). Here are the details of the tour:

8/8 -Prism Book Alliance

8/11 – Scattered Thoughts & Rogue WordsNYC-Metro-Cuff_40216-l

8/12 – Smoocher’s Voice

8/13 – Fallen Angel Reviews

8/14 – The Hat Party

8/15 – Amanda C. Stone

8/18 – Tara Lain

8/19 – The Novel Approach

8/20 – LeAnn’s Book Reviews

8/21 – Kimber Vale

8/22 – Full Moon Dreaming

8/25 – Love Bytes

8/26 – Book Reviews, Rants, and Raves

8/27 – Hearts on Fire

8/28 – Wicked Wolves and Dreaming Dragons

8/29 – Velvet Panic

9/1 – Decadent Delights

9/2 – Rainbow Gold Reviews

9/3 – My Fiction Nook

9/4 – Emotion in Motion

9/5 – MM Good Book Reviews, Book Suburbia

Here’s the Rafflecopter giveaway information. Prizes include a really cool unisex NYC subway cuff, books, and gift certificates. So be sure to enter. Here’s the Rafflecopter link: http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/cf0ba9495/

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Stay tuned for excerpts, blog posts, and lots of other Dissonance chatter. Also, don’t forget that Blue Notes, the original book in the series, is free on Amazon until the 11th. So pick it up if you haven’t already. And if you have the 1st edition, you might want to replace your copy with this, the 2nd edition, which features a bit more of Jason’s background, and a brand-spanking new edit!

Happy reading! -Shira

#Freebie “Blue Notes” is Free on Amazon Right Now!

Dissonance-build-full-r2So after my little mixup on Tuesday, I’m happy to say that, for the next 5 days, the 2nd edition of Blue Notes is free in ebook format from Amazon.com. Even better? Tonight at midnight, Dissonance will be released by Dreamspinner Press! And with that release, the pre-release contest I’ve been running wraps, so be sure to enter below! You can’t win if you don’t enter!

Blue Notes was inspired by a trip I took about five years ago to Paris. I’d lived in France as a teenager and studied violin at a conservatory there. For me, the Paris trip was a bit of an escape, and that thought was with me when I imagined a disillusioned lawyer leaving his not so happy life behind, at least for a short time, and spending a few months in Paris. In the winter. Blue Notes is definitely one of the most romantic books of BlueNotes[2ndEd]LGthe series, and much of the main character’s background is based on my own experiences living and going to high school in Grenoble, France.

Here’s the blurb: Blame it on jet lag. Jason Greene thought he had everything: a dream job as a partner in a large Philadelphia law firm, a beautiful fiancée, and more money than he could ever hope to spend. Then he finds his future wife in bed with another man, and he’s forced to rethink his life and his choices. On a moment’s notice, he runs away to Paris, hoping to make peace with his life.

But Jason’s leave of absence becomes a true journey of the heart when he meets Jules, a struggling jazz violinist with his own cross to bear. In the City of Love, it doesn’t take them long to fall into bed, but as they’re both about to learn, they can’t run from the past. Sooner or later, they’ll have to face the music.

Already have a copy of the 2nd edition of Blue Notes? You can pre-order Dissonance now at Dreamspinner Press and download it early Friday morning! Here’s the link to the Dreamspinner Press website: http://bit.ly/1qLEVHc

And don’t forget to enter the pre-release contest, because it wraps up Friday morning when the clock strikes 12:00 a.m.! You can enter more than once (in fact, you can enter every day!). You could win a cool Blue Notes Series swag bag filled with paperback books of the first 5 novels in the series (or ebook copies if you live outside the US). Here’s the link to the Rafflecopter giveaway: http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/share-code/Y2YwYmE5NDkzMTY4MjgyZWNiMzcwNjVhODk2ZTBjOjQ=/

a Rafflecopter giveaway

I’ll leave you all with an excerpt from the first chapter of Blue Notes. Enjoy! -Shira

******

IN A dim alcove only a dozen or so feet from the musicians, Jason sat nursing his drink, transported by the sound of the violin. It wasn’t jazz in its purest form—it was more of a hybrid, combining the traditional jazz rhythms of the fifties with a modern yet classical approach. But whatever you might call the music, he found it transcendent. Between pieces, Jason glanced around the room to discover the group’s name but found no mention of it anywhere.

The set ended and the club erupted in applause. The musicians nodded, their manner casual, aloof, even a bit embarrassed. The violinist met Jason’s eyes and, for a brief instant, lingered there. Jason’s face heated. Breaking their eye contact to look down at his empty glass, he told himself that the heat in his cheeks was from the alcohol and the lack of sleep. He motioned to the lone waiter for a refill. When he turned back toward the stage, he found himself sitting face-to-face with the violinist.

“May I join you?” the violinist asked, a coy grin on his delicate lips. Jason figured that he might be nineteen, tops. As his companion brushed a stray lock of shoulder-length black hair from his eyes, Jason realized that he had one brown eye and one green. He was a waif of a kid, his face uniquely French, from the slightly pronounced nose to the sharper edge of his jaw. Even seated as he was, Jason could see that the kid’s body swam in a large pair of jeans that hung low on his hips, exposing blue plaid boxers. On top, he wore a body-hugging black T-shirt with the word “Quoi?” splashed across the front in bright red.

“Be my guest,” Jason replied in French, still unsure of what to think about the kid. “Seems as though you’ve already invited yourself.”

“You’re French-Canadian?” the newcomer inquired, grin widening.

“American.” Jason noted the rough edges of the uneven tattoo on the kid’s right forearm. Homemade, no doubt.

“Really? Your French is excellent.”

“And your music’s good,” Jason countered playfully. “What’s your trio called?”

“Dunno. We haven’t named it yet—we don’t play that much. Wouldn’t have played tonight except the group Maurice booked canceled and he couldn’t find a replacement. My roommate’s the dishwasher here.” He gestured at the drummer, who was watching them with interest from the edge of the small stage. “So, do you live in Paris?” he added after a moment’s pause.

“Visiting.”

The waiter deposited two drinks on the table and winked at the violinist.

“My name’s Jules. Jules Bardon.”

“Jason Greene.”

“Enchanté.” Jules took Jason’s hand across the table. The gesture was far too friendly. Flirtatious. Jason pulled his hand away and raised an eyebrow. Jules appeared unfazed. “Here on business?”

“No.”

“Pleasure, then?”

“No.”

Jules laughed—a soft, almost girlish laugh. “Do I make you uncomfortable?” He fixed his gaze on Jason.

“No,” lied Jason, finding Jules’s gaze a bit too intense.

“I could make this a pleasure visit for you.” Jules absentmindedly traced a long finger across his own lips.

“I don’t bat for that team.” Jason borrowed the American expression wholesale as his French failed him at last. It was not the first time he’d spoken the words, although it was the first time he’d spoken them in French. They were also not entirely true; it was simply that the right opportunity had never presented itself.

Jules looked at him for a moment, clearly uncomprehending, then laughed again.

“What’s so funny?” Jason demanded, noting a hint of licorice on the air as his companion replaced his drink on the table.

“Oh,” Jules said, “I understand.” He laughed again. “Sorry. I’ve just never heard it put that way before. At first I thought you were asking me about baseball.” He took a swig of his drink and shrugged. “Too bad. You looked like you could use a good—”

“Jules!”

“I have to go.” Jules sighed and appeared disappointed. “Time for the next set. It was nice to meet you, Jason.” He tripped over the name, and it came out sounding something like “Jah-sohn.” Jason chuckled in spite of himself, reminded of the various ways in which his name had been mangled by French speakers through the years.

Jules sucked down the rest of his drink in one swallow and stood up. “If you change your mind…,” he began, but the drummer grabbed him by the arm and dragged him back toward the stage.

Not likely, kid. Jason chuckled again. He had enough shit to deal with.

#Freebie Correction! Blue Notes Freebie Starts Thursday 8/7!!

BlueNotes[2ndEd]LGBig OOPS on my part! Ditzbrain diva here messed up the date for the Blue Notes 2nd Edition freebie over at Amazon.com. My apologies! The freebie starts on Thursday, August 7th, the day before Dissonance releases! So please bear with my major face-palm, and stop over at Amazon on Thursday. I promise I’ll remind everyone!

Thanks for your patience! Promise I’ll make it up to you on Thursday. In the meantime, don’t forget to enter the Dissonance pre-release contest, because it wraps up early Friday morning (midnight EST!) You can enter more than once (in fact, you can enter every day!). You could win a cool Blue Notes Series swag bag filled with paperback books of the first 5 novels in the series (or ebook copies if you live outside the US). Here’s the link to the Rafflecopter giveaway: http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/share-code/Y2YwYmE5NDkzMTY4MjgyZWNiMzcwNjVhODk2ZTBjOjQ=/a Rafflecopter giveaway

-Shira

#Freebie! Counting Down to “Dissonance” – 3 days left!

Dissonance-build-full-r2All week, I’m counting down the days to the release of Dissonance by Dreamspinner Press! Today, to kick things off with the proverbial seventy-piece orchestra (okay, so I’m a music geek, what do you want?), I’m offering up the first book in the Blue Notes Series for free! For the next seven days, the 2nd edition of Blue Notes is free in ebook format from Amazon.com.

Blue Notes was inspired by a trip I took about five years ago to Paris. I’d lived in France as a teenager and studied violin at a conservatory there. For me, the Paris trip was a bit of an escape, and that thought was with me when I imagined a disillusioned lawyer leaving his not so happy life behind, at least for a short time, and spending a few months in Paris. In the winter. Blue Notes is definitely one of the most romantic books of BlueNotes[2ndEd]LGthe series, and much of the main character’s background is based on my own experiences living and going to high school in Grenoble, France.

Here’s the blurb: Blame it on jet lag. Jason Greene thought he had everything: a dream job as a partner in a large Philadelphia law firm, a beautiful fiancée, and more money than he could ever hope to spend. Then he finds his future wife in bed with another man, and he’s forced to rethink his life and his choices. On a moment’s notice, he runs away to Paris, hoping to make peace with his life.

But Jason’s leave of absence becomes a true journey of the heart when he meets Jules, a struggling jazz violinist with his own cross to bear. In the City of Love, it doesn’t take them long to fall into bed, but as they’re both about to learn, they can’t run from the past. Sooner or later, they’ll have to face the music.

Already have a copy of the 2nd edition of Blue Notes? You can pre-order Dissonance now at Dreamspinner Press and download it early Friday morning! Here’s the link to the Dreamspinner Press website: http://bit.ly/1qLEVHc

And don’t forget to enter the pre-release contest, because it wraps up Friday morning when the clock strikes 12:00 a.m.! You can enter more than once (in fact, you can enter every day!). You could win a cool Blue Notes Series swag bag filled with paperback books of the first 5 novels in the series (or ebook copies if you live outside the US). Here’s the link to the Rafflecopter giveaway: http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/share-code/Y2YwYmE5NDkzMTY4MjgyZWNiMzcwNjVhODk2ZTBjOjQ=/

a Rafflecopter giveaway

I’ll leave you all with an excerpt from the first chapter of Blue Notes. Enjoy! -Shira

******

IN A dim alcove only a dozen or so feet from the musicians, Jason sat nursing his drink, transported by the sound of the violin. It wasn’t jazz in its purest form—it was more of a hybrid, combining the traditional jazz rhythms of the fifties with a modern yet classical approach. But whatever you might call the music, he found it transcendent. Between pieces, Jason glanced around the room to discover the group’s name but found no mention of it anywhere.

The set ended and the club erupted in applause. The musicians nodded, their manner casual, aloof, even a bit embarrassed. The violinist met Jason’s eyes and, for a brief instant, lingered there. Jason’s face heated. Breaking their eye contact to look down at his empty glass, he told himself that the heat in his cheeks was from the alcohol and the lack of sleep. He motioned to the lone waiter for a refill. When he turned back toward the stage, he found himself sitting face-to-face with the violinist.

“May I join you?” the violinist asked, a coy grin on his delicate lips. Jason figured that he might be nineteen, tops. As his companion brushed a stray lock of shoulder-length black hair from his eyes, Jason realized that he had one brown eye and one green. He was a waif of a kid, his face uniquely French, from the slightly pronounced nose to the sharper edge of his jaw. Even seated as he was, Jason could see that the kid’s body swam in a large pair of jeans that hung low on his hips, exposing blue plaid boxers. On top, he wore a body-hugging black T-shirt with the word “Quoi?” splashed across the front in bright red.

“Be my guest,” Jason replied in French, still unsure of what to think about the kid. “Seems as though you’ve already invited yourself.”

“You’re French-Canadian?” the newcomer inquired, grin widening.

“American.” Jason noted the rough edges of the uneven tattoo on the kid’s right forearm. Homemade, no doubt.

“Really? Your French is excellent.”

“And your music’s good,” Jason countered playfully. “What’s your trio called?”

“Dunno. We haven’t named it yet—we don’t play that much. Wouldn’t have played tonight except the group Maurice booked canceled and he couldn’t find a replacement. My roommate’s the dishwasher here.” He gestured at the drummer, who was watching them with interest from the edge of the small stage. “So, do you live in Paris?” he added after a moment’s pause.

“Visiting.”

The waiter deposited two drinks on the table and winked at the violinist.

“My name’s Jules. Jules Bardon.”

“Jason Greene.”

“Enchanté.” Jules took Jason’s hand across the table. The gesture was far too friendly. Flirtatious. Jason pulled his hand away and raised an eyebrow. Jules appeared unfazed. “Here on business?”

“No.”

“Pleasure, then?”

“No.”

Jules laughed—a soft, almost girlish laugh. “Do I make you uncomfortable?” He fixed his gaze on Jason.

“No,” lied Jason, finding Jules’s gaze a bit too intense.

“I could make this a pleasure visit for you.” Jules absentmindedly traced a long finger across his own lips.

“I don’t bat for that team.” Jason borrowed the American expression wholesale as his French failed him at last. It was not the first time he’d spoken the words, although it was the first time he’d spoken them in French. They were also not entirely true; it was simply that the right opportunity had never presented itself.

Jules looked at him for a moment, clearly uncomprehending, then laughed again.

“What’s so funny?” Jason demanded, noting a hint of licorice on the air as his companion replaced his drink on the table.

“Oh,” Jules said, “I understand.” He laughed again. “Sorry. I’ve just never heard it put that way before. At first I thought you were asking me about baseball.” He took a swig of his drink and shrugged. “Too bad. You looked like you could use a good—”

“Jules!”

“I have to go.” Jules sighed and appeared disappointed. “Time for the next set. It was nice to meet you, Jason.” He tripped over the name, and it came out sounding something like “Jah-sohn.” Jason chuckled in spite of himself, reminded of the various ways in which his name had been mangled by French speakers through the years.

Jules sucked down the rest of his drink in one swallow and stood up. “If you change your mind…,” he began, but the drummer grabbed him by the arm and dragged him back toward the stage.

Not likely, kid. Jason chuckled again. He had enough shit to deal with.

Giveaway and Countdown to “Dissonance” – Playlist

Dissonance-build-full-r2This Friday, August 8th, Dissonance will be released by Dreamspinner Press! And midnight if release day is also the last chance to enter the pre-release giveaway (enter below using Rafflecopter!). You can pre-order Dissonance in ebook and paperback at the Dreamspinner Press website! Just click on the book title or on the cover to find the pre-order link.

Today is Monday, and I usually do a “Music Monday” gig where I share music I love on social media. Today, I’m sharing the Dissonance playlist: http://www.shiraanthony.com/books/dissonance-blue-notes-6/#extras. These are all the songs and pieces that appear in the novel. I chose each of them to capture an emotion or a mood in the story. And if you listen to them, you’ll realize they are mostly introspective, melancholy pieces. Not a coincidence. For me, they mirrored Cam’s sense of loss and grief as he struggles to hang onto the shreds of his former existence. From trumpeter Galen Rusk’s lonely trumpet in the New York City subway, to Cam himself playing the piano, each piece echoes the emotions of the story.

So if you’d like, queue them up on YouTube, grab a glass of wine, and close your eyes, because this music is meant to be savored slowly, and it’s meant to linger even after it’s over. Just as I hope Cam’s story will linger with you as well.

Don’t forget to enter the pre-release contest, because it wraps up in a week! You can enter more than once (in fact, you can enter every day!). You could win a cool Blue Notes Series swag bag filled with paperback books of the first 5 novels in the series (or ebook copies if you live outside the US). Here’s the link to the Rafflecopter giveaway: http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/share-code/Y2YwYmE5NDkzMTY4MjgyZWNiMzcwNjVhODk2ZTBjOjQ=/

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Here’s the blurb and an excerpt from Dissonance. Enjoy! –Shira

******

Blurb: British lord Cameron Sherrington has hit rock bottom. The love of his life, opera sensation Aiden Lind, is marrying another man, and Cam knows it’s his own fault for pushing Aiden away. Then someone tries to set him up and take away his family business. Facing arrest by US authorities on charges of money laundering and with no money to return to London, Cam decides to run. But with no money and no place to stay, it’s not exactly the Hollywood thriller he’d imagined.

When Cam hears Galen Rusk play in a lonely subway station, he’s intrigued. But his assumptions about Galen are all wrong, and their unusual relationship isn’t exactly what Cam bargained for. Add to that the nightmares that dog him nightly, and Cam’s world is shaken to its core. Cam figures he had it coming to him, that it’s all penance due on a life lived without honesty. He just never figured he might not be able to survive it.

Buy Blue Notes Series books on Dreamspinner Press, Amazon,Barnes & Noble, and AllRomanceEbooks

******

EXCERPT:

Late September

New York, New York

“NOT HAVING breakfast this morning, my lord?” Luisa asked as she turned from the mirror she was diligently cleaning.

Cameron Sherrington cringed inwardly as he breezed into the foyer. He’d come to abhor the title with a passion. And although he could hardly deny that the money that came with the title paid for his life in New York, he felt a bit removed from all it represented. He loved spending time in the penthouse towering high above East 57th Street. It was his escape from days spent in long meetings arguing with board members over transactions they shouldn’t even bat an eye over.

He knew Luisa liked using his title. She liked to brag to her friends that she worked for royalty, which suited him just fine. Though he did have noble blood, it wasn’t worth shit. He’d met the queen once when his father had dragged him to some gala fundraiser, but it wasn’t as if he could simply ring her up on a whim and ask her to join him for tea. But Luisa didn’t need to know that.

“Not today. I need my cashmere scarf,” he snapped.

She immediately dropped what she was doing, opened the coat closet door, and reached for a scarf.

“Not that one, the beige one,” he snapped again as he snagged it from the shelf above her head.

She closed the door softly and stepped back as Cam checked his reflection in the mirror. He worked his fingers through a particularly stubborn curl that insisted on flopping into his eyes. He frowned at his reflection. He was meeting friends for lunch at a restaurant downtown and needed to look his best. He’d chosen a pair of D&G jeans, a button-down Armani shirt, a light blue hand-knitted Burberry sweater that matched the startling blue of his eyes, and a tweedy Fendi jacket he’d picked up in Italy a few months before.

“Very nice, Lord Sherrington,” she said politely.

Cam shot her an irritated look. What the bloody hell would she know? “Where are my Oliver Peoples?”

She opened the drawer in the small cherrywood table that stood sentry in the foyer and handed the sunglasses to him. “Will you be dining in tonight, sir?”

“No. But make some of that leek and potato soup before you leave for the weekend. I’ll have it for lunch tomorrow.”

She nodded timidly as she waited to return to cleaning the mirror. “Of course, Lord Sherrington. I’ll see you on Monday.”

He finished fiddling with his hair, donned the sunglasses, and pressed the call button for the private lift. “You will. And make some of that greek salad.”

He paid her well—Sherrington Holdings paid her well, more accurately—even paid her when he wasn’t staying at the penthouse, just to keep it up and water the plants. The least she could do was make enough food for the weekend.

“Certainly, Lord Sherrington.”

He stepped onto the lift without a word, exiting into the lobby a minute later as his mobile buzzed. He pulled the phone from his breast pocket, glanced at it, and tapped the screen.

“Uncle. So good to hear from—”

“I’m late to a meeting,” Duncan Sherrington said with obvious irritation. “You asked for an update.”

The clipped response stung. Since Cam’s father’s death, Duncan had been like a father to him, and Cam had tried to make the man happy. Make him proud. But no matter what he did, he never met Duncan’s expectations. He was never good enough, never smart enough, never dedicated enough. He was yet another annoying gnat his uncle was forced to deal with, and lately it seemed an entire swarm of gnats dogged Duncan’s every move.

“Calling with good news, then?” Cam said.

“If nothing new is good news.” In many respects, Cam appreciated Duncan’s forthrightness. Blunt was always better than bullshit. Still, the only interactions he had with Duncan were in the form of verbal swats. Cam stifled his disappointment and bucked up.

“Might be.” Cam waved at the doorman and strode into the bright sunlight.

“I’ve had Henry contact his friend. Nothing more about rumors of an investigation here. Seems Revenue and Customs has better things to do with its time.”

Cam figured as much. He could handle rumors, or ignore them, if he chose to. “Glad to hear it.”

“Are you staying in New York until the end of the month?” Duncan asked.

Cam got the distinct impression that Duncan would be pleased if he stayed. One less irritation. He’d originally planned on staying a week, maybe two. He’d used the excuse that he’d pay a visit to their US subsidiary, Raice Corp., headquartered in New Brunswick, New Jersey, when he’d actually come for Aiden’s Metropolitan Opera debut. He supposed he’d need to make an appearance at Raice’s offices before he headed home. Not that he was in a hurry to return to England—Duncan was more than capable of running Sherrington Holdings. Best damn decision his father had ever made, to appoint Duncan CEO of the company should anything happen to him. And there was no better time to be in New York City than late September. The days were warm and the evenings cool and breezy. Cam had been for a run in Central Park that morning, and the trees were a riot of color. Perfect.

“Possibly,” he answered at last. “Next board meeting isn’t until October. Unless you think you might need me to—”

“We have things under control here. Take your time.”

“Thank you. I will.” Fine. If that was how Duncan felt, he’d stay. Duncan clearly didn’t need him. He tried to brush off the deepening insecurity. What did it matter if Duncan or anyone else at Sherrington Holdings didn’t need him? He liked the idea of staying in New York a few more weeks. Maybe by the time he got back to London, his mother would have fled to warmer climes and he’d spend a peaceful few weeks at his family’s estate in Surrey before the board meeting. Time spent with Lady Vanessa Baines Sherrington anywhere, especially at the estate, which his ex, Aiden, had affectionately referred to as “the castle,” was downright grueling.

Cam heard the sound of rustling paper through the phone and a woman’s voice in the background.

“Good. We’ll speak later, then,” Duncan said curtly.

Duncan disconnected the call before Cam could respond.

Happy bloody birthday to me. Had he really thought Duncan would remember? Fuck him. When had his life become a fucking cliché? Poor little rich boy—no one remembers his birthday. No doubt his mother would forget as well. She usually did. He’d enjoy himself more without a lecture about what he should be doing with his life, anyhow. Maybe turning thirty wouldn’t be so bad. He would rather have celebrated with Aiden, of course, but he’d spend the evening at an impromptu party at a friend’s instead, and he hoped he wouldn’t be going home alone. Aiden would be spending time with Sam. As it should be. After cheating on Aiden—on several occasions—Cam couldn’t expect Aiden to stick around, could he?

A quick glance at his watch told him he had time to take the subway to the restaurant. He loved the subway. He’d ridden it for the first time when he’d visited New York City with his mother twenty years ago, on a school holiday. Not that his mother had known about it. He’d managed to escape his mother’s grasp (which wasn’t all that tight since she preferred to spend as little time with him as possible) and he’d slipped under a turnstile and ridden the Lexington Avenue subway for hours by himself. Before then, he’d ridden the London Tube with his father a few times. His father had preferred it to negotiating London traffic when he stayed in the city. He’d enjoyed that, but riding alone had been far more exciting.

As it always was this time of day, the 42nd Street subway station was filled with people headed in a dozen different directions. Cam had always thought of this station as the heart of New York. The first time he’d come here, he’d gotten lost in one of the underground passages and ended up on a train to Brooklyn. Since then, he’d learned his way around the twisting tunnels so well he could navigate them in his sleep.

He headed for the Uptown platform, mixing in with the stream of people coming from Grand Central and managing not to get jostled. The woman ahead of him wasn’t as fortunate. She pivoted to avoid a couple of schoolchildren and fell, dropping her shopping bags on the dirty concrete floor right in front of him.

Cam didn’t have time for this. He looked around, hoping someone would come to her aid. No one did. Bloody hell. “Are you all right?” He offered the woman his hand.

She smiled at him with blue eyes and a face full of wrinkles, took his hand, and got to her feet. “Thank you,” she said with a self-deprecating laugh. Cam helped her straighten her coat, which was open and had fallen off one shoulder. “I’m not much of a ballerina.”

“Not a problem.” He gathered up a few stray grocery items that had fallen out of the bag when she’d taken her tumble, waited until she dusted herself off, and handed the bags back to her. “It’s a bit like entering a race course,” he said as he reciprocated her smile.

“You’re English, aren’t you?” she asked.

“Indeed, I am.” He glanced at his watch. He’d be late for lunch at this rate.

“I visited London a few years ago with my husband.” Her expression grew wistful. “Before he died. We always said we’d make the trip.”

Cam stifled his rising impatience with the woman. “Did you enjoy it?”

“Very much so. We saw the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace and spent a few afternoons at the British Museum. We took a train to—” She stopped herself. “I do babble on sometimes.”

He offered her a false smile. “It’s quite all right.”

“Thank you, young man,” she said. “My son says I should take the bus, but I like the subway. There’s music too.”

“Music?”

She nodded. “Listen.” She inhaled, pressed her lips together, and began to hum “Ain’t No Sunshine.” For the first time, Cam heard the sound of a trumpet through the noise of the passengers and squealing brakes of an incoming train. He vaguely remembered seeing someone playing for loose change not far from the passage to the S train.

“Oh, but I shouldn’t keep you,” the woman was saying as Cam came back to himself. “I’m sure you have somewhere you need to be.” She patted him on the arm. “You’ve been very kind to an old woman.”

“It was my pleasure.” He wanted to make his escape. He’d wasted enough time with the woman, but she’d piqued his curiosity. Instead of rushing to catch his train, he walked over to where the musician was playing and stopped to listen.

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