Showing posts with label Book Spotlight. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Book Spotlight. Show all posts

May 24, 2016

In The Spotlight! Banished Threads, Threads #3 by Kaylin McFarren

A valuable art collection disappears turning a treasure-hunting duo into crime-stopping sleuths committed to vindicating family members in Kaylin McFarren's action-packed suspense novel, Banished Threads.

While vacationing at the stately Cumberforge Manor in Bellwood, England, Rachel Lyons and Chase Cohen attend an elegant dinner party hosted by her uncle, Paul Lyons, and his aristocratic wife, Sara. Before the evening ends, a priceless collection of Morris Graves's paintings are stolen from her uncle's popular gallery, throwing all suspicion onto his wife's missing granddaughter. Determined to clear Sloan Rafferty's name and, in the process, win Paul's favor, Chase scours the countryside looking for answers. In his absence, the police accuse Rachel's uncle of an unsolved murder and secrets surrounding her grandmother's death and the deaths of Sara's former husbands turn his wife into the most likely suspect.

With the true villains hell-bent on destroying Paul Lyons and his family, solving both crimes while ensuring her uncle's freedom not only endangers Rachel's life but that of her unborn child. Will Chase save them before the kidnappers enact their revenge or will the ultimate price be paid, as predicted by a vagabond fortuneteller? 

First place - 2016 Hudson Valley RWA Hook, Line & Sinker Contest

A lone figure stood in the estuary lookout nestled in the trees above the North Sea on the Holderness Coast, waiting with restless anticipation as Gwen Gallagher approached the cliff's edge. A quick adjustment to the night-vision binoculars allowed the watcher a closer view of the twenty-eight-year-old secretary as she savored the last autumn sunset she would ever see. The crisp, cool air picked up speed, leaving her long black hair sailing like a ghostly pirate's flag behind her. It lifted the hem of her black skirt slightly, exposing her white shapely legs and black suede booties to the wintry elements. Her pale blue eyes swept across the landscape, appraising the beauty surrounding them. She raised her chin toward the darkening sky and smiled, obviously believing the note she had received, inviting her here, had come from her married lover.

As Gwen moved even closer to the edge, the watcher inhaled a deep breath. All that remained between this ludicrous woman and the vividly blue ocean was two meters of solid rock. From the lookout vantage point, there was barely enough light to confirm that she was staring down at the tossing sands and churning water, mesmerizing in the early evening breeze. All it would take was one push, and she would feel the rush of wind through her hair and see the crystal-blue sea one last time as she slammed headlong into the jagged rocks below.

The watcher's heart was fluttering erratically now as Gwen stood balancing on the brink of extinction. The sky darkened, and gray waves slammed into the rocks, blasting sea spray high into the air. By all appearances, she had become preoccupied by the black storm clouds collecting overhead and the hard-hitting raindrops striking her cheeks. The wind was whipping now and had started to voice its howling rage. Meanwhile, the watcher climbed down from the lookout and stepped hurriedly across the uneven ground, arriving only six yards away from the scene where Gwen now remained frozen in place. The soles of her shoes held her stoically to the uneven mafic rock as the rising wind whipped and swayed her body like a frail willow. For a brief moment, the watcher was uncertain of what to do next. Then Gwen turned around suddenly and stared back in a trancelike state. Another step forward resulted in waking her.

"What are you doing here?" she called out. "What do you want?"

The watcher remained silent and took another step forward before pulling out an engraved, freshly sharpened steak knife. A look of fear crossed Gwen's rain-streaked face, making it impossible not to smile.

"Go away! Leave me alone!" she screeched. She took a final step back to distance herself, just as a massive wave hit. The spray washed over her and sent her plummeting fifteen meters down. The watcher dropped on all fours to maintain a protected position on the slippery, stony ground. Minutes later, the surge passed, and it was now safe to stand. A quick assessment confirmed the dangling binoculars were safe and in excellent working order, but the engraved knife had been washed away. After stepping down to a new viewpoint, it was easy to ascertain that Gwen had been injured from the fall and was now trapped in the jagged rocks below. She looked up at the watcher and called out for help, screaming at the top of her lungs.

Bloody idiot. If someone should hear her, they could interfere, and that would ruin everything.

Five minutes passed as poor Gwen continued to scream. Then, as good fortune would have it, the wind rose again. With the crush of another wave, she was pulled under and swept out to sea.

The watcher smiled and was about to leave when a tiny fraction of light picked up something on the ground. Careful inspection confirmed it was a gold hoop earring, plucked from its owner—a marvelous souvenir to add to the prized, growing collection. After the watcher slipped it into a pocket in the yellow hooded slicker and removed the binoculars, a pleasant thought came to mind. Since it had become a moral right and obligation to dispose of the unworthy and undeserving in the Cumberforge Manor, it wouldn't be long before Gwen's lover would be joining her and the rest of the moneygrubbing fools who had been personally escorted to the bowels of hell.

Kaylin McFarren is a California native who has enjoyed traveling around the world. She previously worked as director for a fine art gallery, where she helped foster the careers of various artists before feeling the urge to satisfy her own creative impulses.
Since launching her writing career, McFarren has earned more than a dozen literary awards in addition to a finalist spot in the 2008 RWA Golden Heart Contest. A member of RWA, Rose City Romance Writers, and Willamette Writers, she also lends her participation and support to various charitable and educational organizations in the Pacific Northwest.
McFarren currently lives with her husband in Oregon and visits her second home in California once a month. They have three grown daughters and two grandchildren, and look forward to having more.
Her latest book is the romantic suspense, Banished Threads.

March 24, 2016

In The Spotlight! From Ashes Into Light by Gudrun Mouw

From Ashes into Light is a transpersonal tale of epic tragedy, spirituality, family, and personal redemption. It is told through three distinct voices: the hauntingly tragic story of Ruth, a Jewish adolescent during Kristallnacht in Austria, Saqapaya, a stalwart Native American from coastal California during the time of the Spanish conquest, and Friede Mai. 

Friede is born during World War II to a Bavarian soldier and a East-Prussian mother. As those around her struggle with the inevitable chaos and paradox of war, Friede opens her heart to gruesome enemies, at times saving herself and family members from atrocities. 

With war behind them, the Mai family immigrates to the US, where Friede, her veteran father and ex-refugee mother, struggle with the reverberations of trauma. Friede is unable to find inner freedom until she meets her spiritual guide, a Rabbi, who helps her see that the voices from the past are teachers and the horrors of history are also beacons of light. 

The three electric characters weave a narrative of raw consciousness, a moving example of transforming the ripple of suffering through the incredible strength of vulnerability.

November 10, 1938, Kristallnacht, night of shattered glass, broken bodies and broken faith. We are propelled into a chaotic world. Our Salzburg home has been torn apart.

I stare at drawers emptied on the floor, papers thrown about, clothes everywhere and my 12-year-old mind cannot comprehend. 

“Papa, where are Oma Gutherz and Onkel David? Did they go to the doctor? When will they be back? Who made this mess?”

We have just returned from visiting Stefan and Anna Richert, and Papa wants to go back to the Richerts and make inquiries. Mother nearly yells, “Josef, they should be taken away? An old woman taking care of her son sick in bed? This I cannot believe.”

“Esther, believe it. Haven’t we been trying to convince you, Stefan and I? The Nazis have no mercy. We are lost.”

The pain in my father’s voice shocks me. I think, how can Papa say lost? Grandmother Gutherz and Uncle David must be somewhere.

“What are we going to do? Josef, we have to do something!” Mother stands in the midst of our ransacked apartment. Forgetting danger, she begins to cry loudly.

“Quiet. Please, be quiet,” Papa whispers. Mother chokes back sound. “What do you think we can do, Esther? Don’t you understand what’s been happening since the Nazis took control?”

Before returning to the Richerts’, Papa warns, “Keep it dark, stay still, don’t open the door.” He points to an overturned lamp and pictures from the walls smashed on the floor in a pile of splintered glass. “The place has been well gone over. It’s unlikely anyone will be back here tonight.”

Mother and I huddle on the divan, afraid to talk. I hug my knees tightly. Forehead presses bone. Mother makes suppressed noises, and her thick body heaves. How can I help? What can I say? 

When Papa returns, he whispers, “Stefan went to the Gestapo. He said he wanted to report breaking and entering and destruction of property. The Gestapo told him they already knew and not to bother about it. To cover himself, he pretended to be pleased saying. ‘Good, good, they got what they deserved.’ Then, he heard someone give an order to send a telegram to Vienna about ‘Salzburger Jews taken in protective custody.’ Stefan thinks Vienna is their immediate destination, but someone else told him that those arrested would eventually be sent to a camp in Germany near Munich. He and I agree. We need to leave as soon as possible. He will take care of the business and send us money.”

We wear extra clothes, bring food and a few valuables that hadn’t been found. We walk inside dark pockets of night, hiding in the shadows of tall buildings. We peer in every direction as we hurry over cobblestones and past street lamps that glare down from building fronts. At the plaza, I linger by the bronze horses that rear up from the fountain’s base. I have always loved the one on the right with his back to the cathedral. His forelegs kick above the water, head pointing up, mouth open as though about to make a loud, defiant noise.

I reach into the pool, trail fingers in the water, touch a smooth leg. “Goodbye, be brave,” I whisper, echoing the words of my classmate, Rolf, who told me more than once, “Ruth, be brave.” Mother grabs my arm.

“It’s not safe,” she says.

We arrive at the edge of town where Stefan Richert leads us inside the back of one of our Gutherz trucks, loaded for Vienna deliveries. He directs us to the right of a dresser, beyond tables and chairs and behind a bookcase. Mr. Richert has taken over our family’s furniture business because of the Nazi requirement that all Salzburger enterprises be judenrein, free of Jews. Jews are no longer allowed to own businesses.

“You know the work and the customers,” Papa had said to his friend and partner as they shook hands over the change of ownership. “You are an honorable person who will carry on the business with its tradition of quality now that my family and I have become one of the displaced.”

We conceal ourselves in the space Mr. Richert created at the back of the truck bed. He will drive us to Papa’s sister’s house in Vienna himself. Will we ever see him again, I wonder, after tonight?

Gudrun Mouw was born in East Prussia (formerly part of Germany) in 1944. At the age of 7, she arrived in the United States as a displaced person. Mouw moved many times in the US before ending up in California in the 60s. There she studied at San Jose State University, receiving her Master’s Degree in English Literature in 1969. Mouw has worked as a college English teacher, a Stanford librarian, a columnist, a California poet-in-the-school, as well as a yoga and meditation teacher. She lives in Santa Barbara County, California and has for over thirty years.
Mouw wrote From Ashes Into Light beginning with a research trip to various locations in Eastern Europe, Germany, Austria and Switzerland (in the 1990s). Her research took her places like Dachau, the concentration camp, a Jewish graveyard in Prague, and the streets of Salzburg.
Mouw is a prolific and award-winning poet and her poems have appeared in literary journals such as Praire Schooner, Practical Mystic, The Chariton Review and others. Her collection of poetry called Wife of the House was published in April 2014. Mouw won first place in a short fiction contest at the Santa Barbara Writer’s Conference in 1992. From Ashes into Light will be her first published novel.

January 5, 2016

~In The Spotlight! The Sutherlands Anthology~

Pre-Order The Sutherlands For Only 99¢ & Help The Reach Out & Read Charity

Looking for a way to do good and read hot? Check out The Sutherlands, a sexy contemporary romance anthology that tells the story of one family with 11 brand-new, full-length novels and novellas for only 99¢. Twenty percent of the royalties earned from each sale will go to the Reach Out & Read charity, which incorporates early childhood reading into well child doctors’ visits.

Inside The Sutherlands you’ll find:

Shadow Ranch by USA Today best selling author Robin Covington - Passion and secrets thrive in the dark…

Wrecked by Wall Street Journal best selling author Terri Osburn - Revenge is always personal…

Bound To Do Damage by Avril Ashton - When protecting you heart is no longer an option…protect your neck.

Foolish Expectations by Alison Bliss - Forever is the last thing they expected…

Under the Evening Star by Shyla Colt - They must choose between the past that hunts and a love that can heal…

Brazen by Avery Flynn - This bad boy boxer just met his match…

Screwed by Kelly Jamieson - The only time losing is more fun than winning is when you’re fighting temptation…

Stripped by Abby Niles - She’s going to strip him bare…

Not the Marrying Kind by Julie Particka - Faking it never felt so good…

Lust and Loathing by Joya Ryan - Sometimes loathing your boss turns into the best kind of lust…

Sweet Surrender by Naima Simone - The price of surrender is passion…

Twenty percent of the royalties earned from each copy of The Sutherlands sold will go to help Reach Out and Read, a non-profit organization that gives young children a foundation for success by incorporating books into pediatric care and encouraging families to read aloud together.

This year, over one million children in the U.S. will enter kindergarten without the language skills they need to learn and succeed. As these children progress through school, they are more likely to fall behind, and stay behind. When families read aloud to their young children, they can give them a better start to life. With unparalleled access to families with young children, Reach Out and Read medical providers give books to children at more than 10 well-child visits from infancy until they start school. More importantly, they encourage families to read aloud and engage with their infants, toddlers and preschoolers every day.

Reach Out and Read currently serves 4.5 million children across the U.S., half of whom are from low-income families. Children like Ruby, a seven-year-old girl who faced significant challenges in her early childhood. Fortunately, Ruby’s pediatrician is a Reach Out and Read doctor, who has encouraged her mom to read aloud to her every day, and given her books of her own to keep. He says, “With Ruby’s background, I would have expected her to struggle at school, but at her last checkup, her mother told me that she is in advanced reading and attributed her success to the Reach Out and Read program.”

Research shows that Ruby is not alone – our program results in more frequent reading at home, accelerated vocabulary and critical brain stimulation. And because over 21,000 medical providers voluntarily integrate Reach Out and Read into pediatric checkups, it costs only $100 to support a child for the full 5-year Reach Out and Read program.

iBooks - Coming Soon!

December 6, 2015

In The Spotlight: The Other Woman: A Betrayed Wife takes on a Mistress with Scandalous Results by Eve Rabi

Meet Scarlett Smyth. She’s drop-dead gorgeous, has a rocking body and has an above average IQ. She brags that she can ensnare any husband or taken male, and …she often does. She also is ambitious and has a penchant for anything expensive. 
When the shrewd and ambitious temptress lays eyes on Bradley Murdoch, she believes she has found her dream man and a ticket to the high life she’s entitled to. There are just two problems: 
1) Bradley is married to Rival. Happily at that. 
2) They have children. Adorable little girls. 
Do those facts deter Scarlett in any way? No, not at all. She is determined to steal Bradley, smoothly replace Rival in his life and show him how to really live life. 
In a calculating move, the seductress (she is so good at seduction, she is even penning a book on it) befriends the quiet and unassuming Rival and seduces Bradley. 
There’s more: To expedite things, Scarlett engineers a way to wipe Rival out of the picture and sends her away on a “vacation”. 
But Scarlett may have underestimated her opponent. When Rival realizes the extent of the betrayal, she decides, even though she lacks Scarlett’s genius IQ, not to turn the other cheek. In fact, she is determined to win back her husband, believing that he is a good man who is simply mistaking lust for love. She believes that someone like Scarlett has to have skeletons in her cupboards and she begins to snoop around. 
What Rival doesn’t understand is: no one crosses Scarlett and gets away with it. As a result, the betrayed wife and the other woman collide and results in this romantic, suspense-filled thriller.

I stare at him, all my fingers threaded through my hair, my mind muddled and trying to make sense of everything.
“This is not happening,” I mutter. “Can’t be happening!” Then I notice Bradley holding her hand. My best friend’s hand. With both of his. It’s happening. 
At this point, I should be furious with him, with her, with the entire deception. I should yell at her, hurl abuse, even threaten to kill her. But I’m numb with shock and disbelief. I sink deep into my hospital chair, and fight the urge to rock. “Where…do…I go with the children?”
“Well, that’s been taken care of. They will stay with Scarlett and me. But you can see them –”
I leap to my feet. “No!” 
“—whenever you want to.”
“I will not let you take my children, Bradley.”
“Rival, it’s all done.” His voice – he’s using the same tone he uses on our little girls when they’re being unreasonable.
“Done?” I feel a stab of panic. “What do you mean by done?”
“Oh, for crying out loud!” Scarlett interrupts, “Rival, the courts –”
“Don’t speak,” I warn, my index finger raised in the air, my eyes fixed on Bradley’s face.
“—have appointed—”
“Don’t SPEAK!” I repeat.
Bradley quickly stands in front of Scarlett, his arms outstretched in a protective gesture. 
“Rival, listen: the court have appointed me sole custodian after you were charged with child negligence. All your visits have to be supervised.”
“What!” I blink rapidly. “Supervised visits? Me?”
“Well, Rival,” Scarlett says in an irritated voice, “you’ve a drug habit—”
“Shut UP, Scarlett!” I snarl.
“—and the last thing we want to do is to endanger—”
Everything happens so quickly. One minute I’m asking Scarlett to shut up, the next I have her on the floor, beating her head with the heavy-duty stapler from my doctor’s desk. There’s blood all over the floor and all over me. 
Both Bradley and the doctor are unable to pull me off Scarlett and it takes six men in white to pull me off the woman who stole my husband, my children, my life.
“Let me go!” I yell. “I need to speak to my husband!”
They won’t let me. I scream and kick at Scarlett’s rescuers. When they restrain my hands, I bite them – sink my teeth into their forearms, chest and legs. Where I get my strength from, I have no idea, but I am suddenly so strong, it takes nine men, including two security guards in the end, to physically restrain me.
“BRADLEY!” I scream. “Don’t do this to me!”
I get no response from my husband. Frustrated, I spit on the men.
That’s when they place a lace hood over my face, a strait jacket over my body and throw me into a padded cell where no one can hear me scream. That doesn’t stop me from screaming and hurling abuse. But when I start to bang my head against the door, they re-enter the room, surround me, and inject me. The last thing I see before my eyes shut is the image of my husband holding my best friend’s hands. With both of his. Don’t do this to me, Bradley. Please don’t do this to me. Please …


November 19, 2015

In The Spotlight! Excerpt & Giveaway: Jesse's Diner, Hope #2 by Cardeno C.

Two men with a shared history and a mutual attraction must be honest with themselves and each other so both their dreams come true.

Quiet, unassuming Tanner Sellers spends his time running a diner in Hope, Arizona. Not particularly social, twenty-two-year-old Tanner keeps to himself and enjoys his simple life, but he longs for someone to call his own. In his most secret fantasy, that someone is sexy Steve Faus. But Steve is his friend’s father and mentor’s widower and therefore off-limits.

Despite some challenges, thirty-nine-year-old Steve Faus has had a good life. He’s extremely successful at work, has a great relationship with his college-age son, and lives in a wonderful town. Eighteen months after losing his partner, the one thing Steve lacks is someone to share his life. If Steve is honest with himself, that someone is the young man he has known and cared about for years. Steve and Tanner want one another, all they need is a little push in the right direction to make both their dreams come true.

Smashwords Coupon: YT92D
Chapter 1

“Tanner, Mike’s on the phone for you.”

“Thanks, Miranda.” I set down the knife I was using to julienne peeled broccoli stems, wiped my hands on my apron as I walked into the tiny office off the kitchen, and then picked up the phone handset. “Hi, Mikey.”

“Hey, Tanner. Did I catch you at an okay time?”

“Yeah.” I dropped into the beat-up leather chair. “Lunch crowd is gone and the dinner rush won’t start for another couple hours yet.”

“What’s for dinner?”

“Your pop’s broccoli coleslaw. Jared McFarland had a great crop this season so he gave us a bunch.”

“Still using Pop’s recipes at the diner, huh? You know you don’t have to.” He paused and lowered his voice. “Same with his name.”

Mike’s father had opened Jesse’s Diner thirty years earlier and everyone in our small town of Hope, Arizona had loved the food almost as much as they’d loved the man. Jesse had been a father figure to half the town, myself included, and a year and a half after he died, we all still acutely felt his loss.

“This will always be Jesse’s Diner,” I said firmly. “I’m just taking care of it for him.”

“He left the diner to you, Tanner. No conditions or strings. He wanted you to run it, not turn it into a mausoleum.”

Unsure of how to respond to the reminder that Mike’s father had left his business to an employee instead of his son, I cleared my throat and wriggled uncomfortably.

“I’ve told you a million times that I have no issue with it. My pop knew I’d never move back to Hope to run the diner and my dad has more than enough money to put me through school.”

Both true statements. Shortly after high school graduation, Mike had moved to Las Vegas for college and immediately proclaimed Sin City as his forever home. His fathers weren’t surprised because Mike had always wanted to live in a big city, and frankly, they were just thankful his new home was only a three and a half hour car ride away. Plus, while the diner had brought in enough money for Jesse to get by, his partner Steve Faus had been the primary bread winner in their family.

“Don’t go silent on me, Tanner. The whole town knows you love that diner as much as my pop did and they’re glad he left it in your hands. Quit feeling guilty about it and doing everything exactly like he did. He would have wanted you to make it your own.”

“I, uh, changed the way we deliver the checks,” I admitted quietly.

After a pause, Mike asked, “The way you deliver the checks?”

“Yeah. You know how we had those black plastic trays?” I rubbed my lips together.


“I replaced them with old books.”


“Old books.” I nodded even though Mike couldn’t see me. “I picked a couple dozen of them up at Second Hand. Now we tuck the check into the book, bring it over with a pen, and encourage the customers to write a note inside. Everyone’s been having fun sharing comments and reading what other people wrote. It’ll get even better as the years pass and the pages get filled. People can see what they said when they were younger. Kids can see what their parents wrote, someday even their grandparents.”

I loved the idea of ongoing connections through generations. It was something I’d missed in my own life, that sense of being part of something. Living in Hope helped because the community was exceptionally tightknit, but I’d moved there as a teenager so I didn’t have the same ties as many others.

“That’s a…charming idea. Very Hope.”

Exactly. “Thanks.”

“What else do you have planned?”

“What do you mean?” I clenched my jaw.

“Come on, Tanner. I’ve known you since you were sixteen. You have other ideas for the place.”

Intentionally misunderstanding, I said, “Your pop was a great cook. His recipes are perfect.”

“Yes, he was.” Mike sighed wistfully. “And you make them really well. But I meant the diner itself. You can’t let all those hours you spend watching HGTV go to waste.”

“I don’t—”

“Six years, Tanner. We’ve been friends for six years.”
Which meant he knew me better than anyone. I’d met Mike in high school when I was a scrawny junior trying to get away from a couple of seniors who loved to tease and torment me, and Mike was a giant freshman who had no trouble stepping in front of them and putting a stop to the problem. I had been equal parts grateful and surprised. Grateful because nobody had ever stood up for me before then. Surprised because Mike nonchalantly told me he had two dads and anyone who had a problem with gay people would have a problem from him.

I knew I was gay before I reached my teens, and the school bullies probably picked on me because they suspected it, but nobody had ever said it out loud until that moment. And I’d reacted to Mike’s casual proclamation with the same knee-jerk, shame-fueled fear as I did to his observation that I enjoyed decorating shows.

“Fine. I like remodeling shows. So what?” I said defensively.

Admitting I watched television programs marketed toward women played into a stereotype I wasn’t quite willing to embrace and yet couldn’t escape. My mannerisms were too effeminate, my voice too soft, and my body too underdeveloped. Jesse had always said men came in all shapes and sizes and there was nothing wrong with how I looked, but that was hard to believe when I was attracted to guys with larger, hairier bodies, deeper voices, and more rugged features. For that matter, so was Jesse if his partner was any indication. I had nearly swallowed my tongue the first time I’d seen six foot, five inch, two hundred twenty pound former college football player Steve Faus, and six years later, my reaction to the older man was only slightly less humiliating. Thankfully, Steve either didn’t notice my obsession with him or he was too polite to mention it.

“So nothing,” Mike said. “Watch whatever TV shows you like, man. I’m just pointing out that the diner walls probably haven’t been painted in thirty years and the booths are just as old. Don’t pretend you’re fine with the duct tape holding the tears in the vinyl together. You keep that tiny guesthouse you rent from the sheriff shiny enough to do surgery on the floor so I know you’re itching to update the diner and I say go for it.”

I squirmed again, this time because he was right—I wanted to fix those problems and more. “I might freshen a few things up. We’ll see how the money pans out at the end of the year.” And if I had the nerve to push aside Jesse’s memory and truly take his place. “Anyway, I doubt you called me to talk decorating tips. What’s up?”

“My dick,” Mike said and then immediately snorted and giggled.

“That joke wasn’t funny when you were fourteen, and it’s gotten progressively less funny over the years,” I said dryly.

“I think it’s hilarious.”

“That makes one of us.”

“Whatever, dude. You’re too uptight. You need to get laid.”

“I can’t believe girls are actually willing to go out with you when you talk like that.”

“I’m hot.” He lowered his voice and suggestively said, “Besides, I do other things with my mouth they really enjoy. Like Naomi, this girl I’m seeing now, she goes wild when I—”

“Don’t tell me about your sex life, Mikey. I don’t want to know.” It was the truth. Mike was the closest thing I had to a brother, so I’d never had so much as an ounce of attraction to him. Or maybe that was because I’d used up all my attraction tickets on my unhealthy obsession with his dad.

“Hey, man, I’m doing you a favor. Hearing about my action is as close as you are to getting any.”

“For all you know, I’m getting plenty of action but I’m too much of a gentleman to talk about it.” Lies. My sex life was embarrassingly non-existent and my personal life was just as lonely.

Mike scoffed disbelievingly.

I didn’t bother to push the point because, frankly, there was no way he’d buy it. “What do you want, Mikey?”

“I need you to do me a favor and check in on my dad.”

“Your dad?” I squeaked. Lovely. Now Mike would either think I was going through a second puberty or notice my inappropriate reaction to the mention of his dad. Hoping he hadn’t been paying close attention, I cleared my throat and spoke again. “What’s, uh, going on with your dad?”

“The vice president of his company called me. She said he isn’t himself and they’re making him take time off.”

Jesse’s death had come as a shock to all of us—pancreatic cancer that hadn’t been detected until Jesse lay in the hospital unconscious. Two days later, he was dead at the age of sixty-seven.

“He’s mourning the death of his partner. Of course he isn’t his old self,” I said defensively. “And by the way, calling someone’s kid to talk about his job issues is completely unprofessional.”

“My dad’s worked for that company forever and they’re worried about him. His boss and I get along. She didn’t have anyone else to call.”

When Mike still lived in town, I hadn’t known Steve as well as I’d known Jesse. Some of that was because of how frequently he traveled for work—the man was an unrepentant workaholic. But I’d also limited our interactions because I’d been uncomfortable with my reaction to him. After all, it takes a special kind of pathetic sleaze to not only lust after a friend’s father, but also the partner of a man who had taken me under his wing. But now that Mike had moved away and Jesse had died, Steve lived alone, so when he wasn’t traveling, he stopped by the diner for dinner and I always made sure to say hi to him and chat for a little while. That meant I now knew Steve well enough to realize how much he enjoyed his work.

“If they’re so worried, they should talk to him, not you. And your dad loves his job! Why would they take that from him when he already lost…” I didn’t need to finish that sentence because Mike knew exactly what his dad had lost. The whole town mourned Jesse’s passing but only Steve had shared his home and his bed for decades. I couldn’t begin to imagine his pain.

“Arguing with me won’t change anything, Tanner. I’m not his boss.”

Realizing my reaction was over the top, I drew in a deep breath and said, “Sorry.”

“It’s okay, but a company doesn’t bench its star sales guy and lose tons of money unless something’s wrong. I have classes and tests, but I’ll drive down there if you can’t help my dad.”

“Of course I’ll help him,” I snapped. After everything Jesse and Mike had done for me, I’d never turn my back on their family. Even if this particular family member had fueled countless inappropriate fantasies and guilt-inducing dreams.

“Cool. Call me after you see him and let me know what’s up. If he needs me, I’m there.”

Seeing Steve Faus meant I’d be up. That much was certain. I mentally smacked myself for using Mike’s bad humor. “I have to go, Mikey.”

“Later, Tanner.”


After getting through the bulk of the dinner rush, I filled takeout containers with the daily special, broccoli coleslaw, and a wedge of chocolate cake, and left the diner in Miranda's and Joe’s capable hands. Founded in the late 1800s, Hope was a mix of new and old construction sprinkled in an area just under eight square miles in size and, as always, I enjoyed strolling through town. I used the quiet time to remind myself that I was doing my friend a favor by helping my mentor’s partner; I was not going to ogle a hot guy.

Unfortunately, the half-mile walk from Main Street to Steve’s mint green Victorian didn’t take long enough to accomplish what six years of the same internal lecture had failed to do. So with a resigned sigh, I adjusted my dick in a way I hoped would hide my inevitable arousal, held the bag of food in front of myself for the same reason, and rang the bell.

The house was two levels, each a decent size, so I patiently waited for Steve to answer the door, but as the minutes ticked by, I began to wonder if Mike was wrong about his father being on a break from work. I walked across the wraparound porch and peeked into the windows, not quite sure what I was looking for, but unwilling to abandon Steve if he needed help. Everything looked the same as it had when I’d last been there, which was before Jesse’s death. No lights were on, no shoes or jacket left out, nothing to indicate someone was home.

I stepped off the porch, walked backward across the lawn, and peered at the upstairs windows. The drawn curtains prevented me from seeing much, but the master bedroom light was on and I caught a flash of a silhouette through the glass. If Steve was home, why wasn’t he answering the door? A pang of worry hit me. Maybe Mike was right to be concerned. With a deep breath, I squared my shoulders and marched back up the porch steps.

“Steve,” I said in a volume I hoped could be heard through the wood door but not by the neighbors. “It’s Tanner Sellers.” I rang the bell and knocked. “I brought dinner.” After waiting for a full minute, I knocked again. “Steve, I know you’re there. Can you open the door?” I swallowed thickly. “Please?”

A few beats later, the lock clicked and the door swung open, revealing a disheveled, but still gorgeous, Steve Faus. “Hi, Tanner.” He sighed and dragged his fingers through his thick, black, and currently unruly hair. “Sorry. I was on a work call. What’s going on?”

A string of thoughts raced through my mind.

How do you always manage to look so damn hot?

I know you’re not working right now, so you couldn’t have been on a call for work.

Do you bite your lips or are they naturally full like that?

What happened at work?

Can I bite your lips?

Are you wearing underwear under those sweats?

Mike’s worried about you.

Please don’t be wearing underwear.

Thankfully, I had years of experience curbing my brain-to-mouth reflex when it came to Mike’s dad so instead of any of those things, I said, “I brought dinner,” and pushed the bag forward.


“Lasagna.” I bobbed my head. “It was today’s special. Broccoli coleslaw too.”

“Thanks, but I have a ton of work so—”

Not wanting him to brush me off, I said, “And chocolate cake. You love chocolate cake.” Which I knew because it had been served at Mike’s fifteenth birthday party, and when Steve had taken a bite, closed his eyes in bliss, and moaned, I had nearly ejaculated in my pants.

“Chocolate cake?” Steve flicked his gaze to the bag.

“Uh-huh. Just made it this morning so it’s still fresh.” I glanced down to make sure the bag still blocked my groin, the memory of those moans and that expression still affecting me five years later. “Do you have milk? I forgot to pack some but I can run over to Smitty’s and—”

“You don’t need to go to the store. My fridge may be bare, but I keep the essentials on hand.” Steve reached for the bag and then stepped to the side to make room for me to enter. “That pretty much consists of salt and vinegar chips, coffee, and because I can’t drink my coffee black, milk.”

I blinked, my surprise over that statement eclipsing my concern about having a noticeable hard-on. “That can’t be enough for a guy your size.” I cringed at my own comment, bit my lip, and hoped the heat in my cheeks wasn’t visible. “It’s a, uh, good thing I brought you dinner.”

“That was nice of you.” Steve put his hand on my back, urged me forward, and then closed the door.

The touch was simple, casual, fleeting, but it still set me on fire. Being around Steve without Jesse, Mike, or a diner full of people as a buffer gave me nowhere to escape. I closed my eyes and breathed in deeply, willing myself to calm down. So what if Steve Faus tripped every single one of my buttons? I was twenty-two, not sixteen, and a hot guy shouldn’t scramble my brain into oblivion. Not even a guy with a tall, muscular body, thick black hair, piercing blue eyes, and a deep soothing voice.

Oh, who was I kidding? I was sunk.

“Do you want to eat in the kitchen or the dining room?” Steve asked.

Bedroom, I thought. God, I was incorrigible. “Either one’s fine by me. Wherever you’re most comfortable.”

“I’ve been working so much lately that I’m almost never here, but when I am, I tend to eat on the couch or over the kitchen sink.” Steve smiled softly, his expression at once self-deprecating and endearing. “It’d be nice to sit down for a real dinner.”

My heart ached. “Dining room it is then.”

“Thanks, Tanner.”

I nodded, my throat too thick to speak. Resisting Steve was a challenge in any setting, but seeing the normally strong man vulnerable without reaching out to touch him was unbearable.

“I’ll get the plates.

“Okay,” I croaked. I swallowed hard and walked into the dining room as Steve went to the kitchen.

Closing my eyes, I took deep breaths to calm down. I could do this. I could be Steve’s friend. We’d both lost someone important to us when Jesse passed and we both missed Mike since he’d moved away. There was no reason we couldn’t be there for each other. I was an adult now, a business owner. I was mature and responsible and perfectly able to keep my libido in check.

“Is everything okay?” Steve’s deep rich voice was tinged with worry.

I opened my eyes, ignored my uncooperative libido, and forced a smile onto my face. “Yes, fine. Sorry. I was, uh…”

“Daydreaming?” Steve grinned. “You’ve always done that.”

“I have?” I blinked in surprise.

“Uh-huh.” Steve nodded and set the plates and silverware on the table. “I remember when Mike first brought you around, you used to get this far away look on your face all the time, and when you saw us notice, you’d get embarrassed and blush.”

My cheeks heated. I knew exactly what Steve was describing and they weren’t daydreams. Well, maybe they were, but they were very specific daydreams, the kind people categorized as fantasies, and they were always about Steve.

Needing a change of topic, I said, “Do you want me to dish the food out?”

“Sure. I’ll get placemats.” Steve stepped over to the antique buffet. “Too fancy?” he asked, holding up placemats and cloth napkins.

“No, that’s nice. I can’t remember the last time I used a real napkin.” I opened the bags of food and dished portions onto each of the plates. “It was probably Christmas dinner when my grandmother was still alive.” Which was over three years earlier.

“Same here.” Steve put the placemats down across from each other on the long wood table and then ran his hands over them, making sure they were straight. “Jesse had so many people over for the holidays that we used paper plates and plastic forks. I bought these placemats at least five years ago, but I don’t think we ever used them.”

“I remember those dinners.” I had been one of the many guests at their Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Easter meals. “Jesse was good about giving us strays somewhere to be.”

“He was.” Steve sighed sadly. “I’ll go get drinks. I have coffee, milk, water, and beer. Pick your poison.”

On the one hand, beer usually helped me relax. On the other hand, I barely held myself in check sober, so combining alcohol and Steve was probably a recipe for disaster.

“I’m good with water.”

Quickly dipping his chin in acknowledgement, Steve left the room. When he returned a couple of minutes later, he had a glass of water in each hand and a Heineken tucked under his arm.

“It won’t bother you if I have a beer with dinner, right?” he asked as he set my water glass down.

He was leaning over my shoulder, his body heat warming my back and his breath ghosting across my cheek. If we had been naked, the scene would have been straight out of my fantasies.

“Not a bother,” I rasped. I bit my lip and held my breath, waiting for Steve to move to his side of the table. Looking at the square-jawed face and crystal blue eyes all night without leaping across the table would be an exercise in restraint, but if I had to inhale Steve’s scent and stay close enough to touch him, I’d pass out from sheer desire.

“The food smells great.” Steve straightened and inhaled deeply. “Did you hear that growl?” He patted his stomach as he walked to his chair. “I must be hungrier than I realized.”

“No, uh, I didn’t hear.” The sound of my heart pounding in my ears had drowned out everything else. “But I brought plenty of food.”

“Thanks.” Steve sat down, picked up his silverware, and arched his eyebrows. “You’re eating too, right?”

I glanced down at my plate and then picked up my fork. “Yes.”

“Good.” He ate a bite of coleslaw and then raised his beer bottle to his mouth. “When I’m traveling, I either eat alone in my hotel room or with a bunch of clients so I’m on all night. One of the things I liked best about being home was having a quiet dinner and just talking. But now…” He loudly breathed out, shook his head, and then took another bite. “Thanks for coming tonight, Tanner. This was just what I needed.”

Right then and there, I made a silent promise to bring Steve dinner the following night. And the night after that. And the night after that too. I couldn’t do much to make up for what he had lost, but a hot meal and company I could provide. And I’d find a way to keep my leering and drooling to a bare minimum.

Cardeno C. - CC to friends - is a hopeless romantic who wants to add a lot of happiness and a few "awwws" into a reader's day. Writing is a nice break from real life as a corporate type and volunteer work with gay rights organizations. Cardeno's stories range from sweet to intense, contemporary to paranormal, long to short, but they always include strong relationships and walks into the happily-ever- after sunset.
Cardeno's Home, Family, and Mates series have received awards from Love Romances and More Golden Roses, Rainbow Awards, the Goodreads M/M Romance Group, and various reviewers. But even more special to CC are heartfelt reactions from readers, like, "You bring joy and love and make it part of the every day."

November 17, 2015

In The Spotlight! Exclusive Excerpt & Giveaway: Hidden Shifter, Fated Date Agency #7 by Abraham Steele

“I’m sorry, Mr. Hillwell. Your fated mate is dead.” 

Samuel Hillwell is in mourning for a man he's never met. The handsome alpha waited too long to contact the Fated Date Agency. There was always a stock trade or a trip to Europe that seemed more important. His mate passed away just days before he reached out. As he goes into a downward spiral, questioning everything he's based his life on, he can only wish he'd had one night with his deceased omega. 

Caden Grey is on the run. After surgically altering his face and travelling across the country, the former kindergarten teacher still can't stop looking over his shoulder for the people who want him dead. Now that he's arrived in Clover Grove, he should finally be able to take a breath. But he's just starting to get settled there when a dazzling man runs up to him. A man who knows Caden's previous name. 

Will Samuel figure out the truth about the tormented omega? And if he gets into Caden's heart, will either of them be safe? 

Hidden Shifter is Book 7 of the Fated Date Agency series. It also stands alone as a complete 200-page gay shifter romance novel with steamy content and male pregnancy. 

Guaranteed HEA ending with no cheating and no cliffhangers!

“I’m sorry to be the bearer of bad news.”

I’d already been sitting on the edge of my leather couch waiting to hear who my fated mate was. Now I pressed the phone to my ear as if it would make an explanation come faster. “Bad news?”

“I’m sorry, Mr. Hillwell,” Praya said again. “Your fated mate is… dead.”

The phone fell out of my suddenly-limp hand. I slumped against the couch, unable to move. It sounded like the woman was still talking, but I didn’t have the strength to pick the phone up and hear what she was saying. She’d already told me everything I needed to know.

My fated mate was dead.

For a moment, I just let my mind wrap around the facts. My fated mate was gone before I’d even had a chance to meet him. I’d never known him – and now I would never know him. Still struggling to breathe, I pushed myself to wrap my fingers around the handset.

“Mr. Hillwell?” the matchmaker asked. “Are you still there?”

Was I? It was a good question. “I’m here,” I finally said. “There… there must be some mistake. My mate can’t be dead.”

“I know this must be shocking for you,” she said. “I can call back later and give you your mate’s information, if you’d like. I think you could still make it to the funeral.”

A fist seemed to squeeze my heart. Going to my fated mate’s funeral would be bad enough if I’d actually lived with the man. To go without having known him felt even worse. I didn’t know if I could take it.

This definitely was a shock, and I was about to ask Praya to call me back as she’d suggested. Then it hit me. If I could still make it to the funeral…

“When did he die?” I asked.

“I’m so sorry, Mr. Hillwell,” she said quietly. “He died yesterday.”

A strangled sob came out of my lips. If I’d just written to the agency earlier, I would have met my mate. It had been open for years now. Practically every alpha and omega I knew had been written in, been matched, and fallen in love. Shifters across the country had already found happiness.

But me? No, I was always too busy. My work was more important than finding the man of my dreams. The money was stacking up in my bank account, and there was no time to feel lonely. When I did think about the coldness of my bed at night, I just put off writing to the agency. There was always more time.

That time had run out.

Somehow I managed to speak. “How did it happen?”

“He was in a car accident,” Praya said.

She sounded sympathetic. I tried to picture her – she sounded middle-aged, but what did she look like? Was she behind a desk? In a white lab coat? Her hands would definitely be folded, and her lips would be pursed. It probably wasn’t every day that she had to deliver this kind of news. Well, it wasn’t as if it mattered.

“You can look up the details, if you’d like,” she said. “His name was Idris Greene.”

The name alone sent a rush through me. Idris, Idris… They said names could influence your personality, and in this case I thought it was true. Knowing his name brought me a tiny bit closer to him. I could almost feel the man I’d been meant to spend my life with.

“I’ll… I’ll look him up,” I murmured. “Thank you.”

I walked with heavy steps through the halls of the home I’d made for myself. The elaborate furnishings and expensive tapestries seemed to mock me. The two men with arms intertwined in a five-thousand-dollar painting shook their heads. I had bought myself a yacht – a yacht! – yet I hadn’t found time to write to the agency. What was all of this worth if I had no mate?

Praya should have matched me earlier. She should have reached out to all the unmatched shifters. There were so few of us left at this point – I was sure she could have done it easily. If she’d put in some effort, done her job, I would have had some time with my mate. Maybe he wouldn’t have died if he’d been here with me.

How could fate have done this to me? Why give me a mate just to take him away? Stopping short in the middle of the hallway, I clenched my fists and screamed up at the sky. My cri de coeur was raw, primal – a howl of suffering.

When I could scream no more, I dropped my hands to my sides. Doing it had given me a kind of relief, and I saw my situation with new clarity. I had done this to myself. I couldn’t deny that. Praya had operated her business as expected. The stars had given me the same treatment as everyone else. It was me who had held off on writing to the agency.

I took in harsh breaths, knowing that I could only blame myself. Why had I waited so long for the right moment? When was the right moment supposed to be? I’d finally done it now that I was closing in on thirty. I’d done it calmly, as if writing to the agency was no different from ordering take-out. I’d only been mildly curious about what I was going to get. If anything, I’d worried slightly about how finding my mate would screw up my current life. I had it pretty good – or I’d always thought I did.

What good were all my stock trades now? They’d seemed so urgent before, and yet I’d never thought the few extra dollars in my bank account from each time I’d said “later.” Love had been waiting for me, and I had shoved it aside...

Abraham Steele writes smoking hot romantic stories about gay men, whether human or shifters. Subscribe at to get a FREE book and to hear about new releases. Become a fan at for even more live updates!