Review: PHOENIX REBORN: An Alpha Pack Novella by J. D. Tyler

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PHOENIX REBORN: An Alpha Pack Novella by J. D. Tyler

Publication Date: March 15, 2016

Genre: M/M Paranormal Romance

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imageFrom USA Today Bestselling Author J.D. Tyler comes a sensual, moving tale of the Alpha Pack–a top secret team of former Navy SEALs with supernatural abilities…

Wolf shifter and Firewalker Phoenix “Nix” Monroe has finally met his ultimate Bondmate–Alpha Pack nurse Noah Brooks. Unable to accept his own sexual identity, Nix rejects Noah despite the intense attraction he feels towards him.

By the time Nix realizes he has cast aside the love of his life, it may be too late to save Noah from a terrifying enemy…

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Donna review 4.5 stars

I loved this sexy novella about Nix and Noah and will say it was about time that Nix claimed his mate. I also appreciated that their love story was just that, a love story with the threat of an old enemy adding the pulse pumping action. I only wished it had been longer than a novella so that some of the action could have been fleshed out more. But no matter what, I can never get enough of the Alpha Pack.

*Review copy provided by Berkley/NAL in exchange for an honest review.

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KindleB&N | Kobo | iBooks

AMAZON SERIES LINK

✦THE ALPHA PACK SERIES BY J.D. TYLER✦
✦ Book 1 ~ Primal Law
✦ Novella ~ Black Magic
✦ Book 2 ~ Savage Awakening
✦ Book 3 ~ Black Moon
✦ Book 4 ~ Hunter’s Heart
✦ Book 5 ~ Cole’s Redemption
✦ Book 6 ~ Wolf’s Fall
✦ Book 7 ~ Chase the Darkness

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imageNational Bestselling Author J.D. Tyler is best known for her dark, sexy paranormal series Alpha Pack, and the popular Firefighters of Station Five and Sugarland Blue series under her pseudonym Jo Davis. PRIMAL LAW, the first book in her Alpha Pack series, is the winner of the National Reader’s Choice Award in Paranormal. She’s also been a multiple finalist in the Colorado Romance Writers Award of Excellence, a finalist for the Bookseller’s Best Award, has captured the HOLT Medallion Award of Merit, and has been a two-time nominee for the Australian Romance Readers Award in romantic suspense.

Social Media Links: Website | FacebookTwitter | Book List

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Blog Tour, Excerpt & Giveaway: As Lost as I Get by Lisa Nicholas

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As Lost as I Get by Lisa Nicholas

Genre: Romantic Suspense
Release Date: August 18, 2015
Publisher: Berkley Intermix
Print Length: 72k
Format: Digital ONLY

IMG_3306 imageFrom the author of The Farther I Fall comes an action-filled romance in which two lovers discover that the best thing about being lost is having someone find you…

CIA operative Lee Wheeler is glad to be back in the field, even if the assignment is at a backwater station in Colombia—what he considers punishment for crossing lines in an attempt to save his brother’s life. Either way, he’s ready for action. But he never could have predicted the action he’s about to get…

Doctor Zoe Rodriguez is in charge of a clinic in a tiny town on the edge of the rain forest. She’s still dealing with a traumatic experience she had in Mexico—a trauma she wouldn’t have survived if it weren’t for Lee. So when they unexpectedly cross paths again, unresolved wounds rise to the surface, and their mutual passion flares to life.
But when a new threat reveals itself, Lee and Zoe’s reunion takes on echoes of the past that may ruin their chance for a future.

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$2.99 Kindle | B&N | Kobo | iBooks

image As soon as the guards left the room, the man rose to his knees and leaned over, shaking the hood off. He was definitely a tourist. His dark hair was cropped close and gleaming; she couldn’t tell if it was dark brown or black. He had the same expensive look as his jeans. His fair skin was clear and clean shaven with just a hint of shadow, and he had the sort of profile she’d only ever seen on a movie or television screen. He wouldn’t be here long. Either he had a family with money or he worked for a company that would want him back.
She realized he was giving her the same level of scrutiny, and felt a small rush of fear. They were both bound, so surely he couldn’t hurt her, but there was something dangerous in his eyes.
Which is why she didn’t expect them to soften the way they did. “Zoe Rodriguez?”
She was too startled to answer, but just nodded.
He glanced toward the locked door and pushed himself to a crouch, the movement oddly graceful. She fought not to flinch when he came over to her. “My name’s Lee Wheeler. I’m with the CIA. I’m going to get you out of here.”
The sudden lump in her throat caught her by surprise. She tried to keep her face schooled as she studied him. There was no trace of anything but sincerity in his blue eyes. “How do I know you’re telling the truth?”
“You don’t.” He flashed a quick, humorless grin. “I’m not precisely carrying my credentials at the moment.” Another careful look over his shoulder. “Trust me until we’re out of here, and I promise I’ll show you all the proof you need.”
Zoe’s throat ached and her eyes were stinging. She would not cry in front of a stranger, but the relief was threatening to overwhelm her. “Why?” she said. “I mean, I’m nobody.”
“Médecins International doctor, working as an emergency surgeon in a refugee camp in Oaxaca—that doesn’t sound like nobody to me.” He started to say something else but froze, then threw himself over to where the guards had initially pushed him.
The hood.
Talks With Fists came in with the filthy bucket that served as a toilet, then dropped it, cursing and yelling at Lee to close his eyes. Lee did, but the guard cuffed him across the cheek before pulling the hood over his head again.​

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Other Books from Lisa Nicholas:

THE FARTHER I FALL 

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imageSometimes when you fall, you land just where you need to be…

Gwen Tennison got out of Afghanistan alive but scarred–and then got stuck on her sister’s couch. When she’s offered a job managing the U.S. tour for rock music’s hottest, most troubled star, it seems like just the thing to snap her out of her post-injury funk. Her instructions are simple: start the shows on time, and keep him clean.

But Lucas Wheeler may be more than she can handle. Though he’s drug-free, he still feels the need, and his gorgeous, capable new tour manager is a challenge he can’t ignore. Fame and infamy have forced Lucas to protect his heart, but soon he finds himself craving Gwen’s touch, and yearning to give her control. And Gwen might feel the same way.

But it’s not just the mutual heat between them that is keeping Gwen on her toes. Someone is following Lucas from city to city. With more than just her job on the line Gwen must decide how much she’s willing to risk to keep Lucas safe.

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imageLisa Nicholas is the author of The Farther I Fall. If she’s not writing, she’s feeding her story addiction any way she can: raiding Netflix, pillaging her local bookstore and library, and (most recently) tearing her way through the comics archive at Marvel.

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Social Media Links: Website | Blog | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

Blog Tour, Excerpt & Giveaway: YOURS ALL ALONG (The Loving on the Edge Series) by Roni Loren

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YOURS ALL ALONG

(The Loving on the Edge Series)

by Roni Loren

Genre: M/M Erotica Romance

 Publication Date: June 16, 2015

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The new Loving on the Edge romance from the New York Times bestselling author of Nothing Between Us turns on the heat between two men who wonder how much they’re willing to risk in the name of love.

Four years after an accident tore their friendship apart, Hunter and Devon are living separate lives. Hunter is now the all-America hero—a congressman’s son and a pro pitcher in Houston preparing to marry his beauty-queen girlfriend. Devon is in Dallas running a new restaurant.

But when Hunter unexpectedly shows up in Devon’s bar, Devon can’t turn him away. Damn it if the man isn’t still gorgeous. But engaged? Hell no. All he’s doing for Devon is bringing back memories of their college-roommate days, and the night their relationship went too far. Turns out Hunter has never forgotten it either.

Now Devon can’t help but be drawn in all over again by the only guy who’s ever gotten close enough to break his heart. Maybe one more night together would be enough for both of them to finally move on. Or maybe one night will change everything…

  

“But first . . .” Phil said, wincing a bit. “I have one more customer who requested to see the manager.”

“Ah, fuck.” One more complaint tonight and Devon might lose it. “Where?”

Phil pointed to a booth near the front window. “Big guy in the baseball cap. He’s nearly polished off a bottle of cabernet, so be warned.”

Great. Only thing worse than an unhappy customer was a ranting, drunk one.

Devon swallowed another sip of his own drink, then headed toward the corner booth. The guy’s back was to him, and he seemed to be staring out the window at the cars passing by on the downtown street. The flatbread he’d ordered was sitting mostly untouched in the center of the table.

Damn, Bryce couldn’t have managed to screw up a simple pizza, could he? Devon squeezed between two empty tables and straightened his suit jacket before stepping around to face the man, an apology poised on his lips. “Sir, how can I help—?”

But the question died in the air as the man looked up from beneath the bill of his ball cap. Dark, soulful eyes stared back at Devon from a face he knew better than his own. Any cogent response melted right out of his ears. “Jesus Christ.”

Hunter looked Devon up and down, his brows knitting in that way that indicated alcohol-blurred thoughts. “Wow, you look . . . important.”

Devon couldn’t help taking his own eyeful. Shaggy black hair peeking out from beneath the cap, tight T-shirt spread over shoulders and pecs honed for top athletic performance—a body Devon had ogled way too many times when he and Hunter had shared a room in the frat house.

“And you look . . .” Fucking amazing. Perfect. Even better than on TV. “Drunk. What the hell are you doing here, Hunt?”

His grin was lazy, lopsided. “I’m on vacation.” He raised a finger to his mouth. “Shh, don’t tell anyone. Top secret.”

Devon braced his hands on the table and sank onto the bench seat on the other side of the booth, not sure his legs were going to continue to hold him up. “Vacation?”

Hunter lifted his glass. “You know I haven’t had alcohol in four years.”

Four years. Which was exactly how long it’d been since Devon had last seen him. He tried to take a breath, but the room seemed to have less air in it than a moment before. He ran through the reasons why Hunter could possibly be here right now. Drinking. In his bar.

The guy had become the poster child of clean living after college. And over the last few years, the sports media had nearly canonized him for the turnaround. The congressman’s son. The stellar pitcher. The all-American guy with the beauty queen girlfriend.

Not that Devon had been paying attention. Or recording every game he pitched.

God, he was pathetic.

He cleared his throat, trying to come up with something to say. “Why are you drinking now?”

Hunter pointed at him, his finger wavering. “Good question.”

He followed up with a sage nod like he’d explained everything.

Fuck. The guy was hammered. The waitress probably hadn’t blinked at letting Hunter order a few glasses. He was big and broad—a guy who looked able to handle his liquor. But Hunter’s tolerance had always been low, and if he’d been sober for four years, that would only have made it worse. Devon grabbed the stem of Hunter’s half-empty glass, moved it to the side, and then replaced the spot in front of him with the flatbread. “You need to eat something, big man.”

The old nickname rolled off of Dev’s tongue before he caught it, and Hunter stiffened. Sober awareness flickered in his dark eyes, as if the words had snapped him temporarily from the wine haze. He shook his head. “Need to go.”

He shifted as if to stand, but Devon jumped up and put a firm hand on Hunter’s shoulder, pushing him back down. Their gazes locked for a moment, Devon looming over Hunter, the position dragging him back to memories he didn’t want to access right now, fantasies he’d conjured since. He shook them off and cleared his throat. “No way. You’re not going anywhere.”

*******

You can also read Chapter 1 on Roni Loren’s site here: http://www.roniloren.com/yours-all-along

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$2.99 Kindle | B&N | Kobo | iTunes

$25 Gift Card (Amazon or Barnes & Noble)

a Rafflecopter giveaway

 
 Roni wrote her first romance novel at age fifteen when she discovered writing about boys was way easier than actually talking to them. Since then, her flirting skills haven’t improved, but she likes to think her storytelling ability has. Though she’ll forever be a New Orleans girl at heart, she now lives in Dallas with her husband and son.

If she’s not working on her latest sexy story, you can find her reading, watching reality television, or indulging in her unhealthy addiction to rockstars, er, rock concerts. Yeah, that’s it. She is the National Bestselling Author of The Loving on the Edge series from Berkley Heat.

Social Media Links: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

Review: Hard To Be Good (Hard Ink Novella) by Laura Kaye

 

Hard to Be Good

(Hard Ink Novella)

by Laura Kaye

Publication Date:  April 14, 2015

Genre: M/M Contemporary Romance


 

SYNOPSIS

Hard Ink Tattoo owner Jeremy Rixey has taken on his brother’s stateside fight against the forces that nearly killed Nick and his Special Forces team a year before. Now, Jeremy’s whole world has been turned upside down–not the least of which by a brilliant, quiet blond man who tempts Jeremy to settle down for the first time ever.

Recent kidnapping victim Charlie Merritt has always been better with computers than people, so when he’s drawn into the SF team’s investigation of his army colonel father’s corruption, he’s surprised to find acceptance and friendship–especially since his father never accepted who Charlie was. Even more surprising is the heated tension Charlie feels with sexy, tattooed Jeremy, Charlie’s opposite in almost every way.

With tragedy and chaos all around them, temptation flashes hot, and Jeremy and Charlie can’t help but wonder why they’re trying so hard to be good…

 

REVIEW

Reviewed by: Reading In Pajamas/ Donna
4.5 Stars

I really enjoyed this romantic love story that involved one of my favorite characters in the series.  Jeremy is fun, flirty and irreverent which I love. Meanwhile Charlie is sweet but a bit introverted, more comfortable with computers than people. They make a great couple and find that they are not so different after all. Fun, romantic and sexy but way too short. I loved it.

 

BUY LINKS $1.99

Kindle http://amzn.to/1FumL2i 

B&N http://bit.ly/1A3X0Ba 

Kobo http://bit.ly/1HgWt4M

 

✿The Hard Ink Series by Laura Kaye✿

✦Book 1: Hard As It GetsKindle | Amazon PBK | B&N | Kobo 
Review 4 Stars: http://wp.me/p3d0RZ-QY

✦Book 2: Hard As You CanKindle | Amazon PBK | B&N | Kobo
Review 4.5 Stars: http://wp.me/p3d0RZ-138

✦Novella: Hard To Hold On ToKindle | B&N | iTunes
Review 4.5 Stars: http://wp.me/p3d0RZ-1wB

✦Book 3: Hard To Come ByKindle | Amazon PBK | B&N | Kobo 
Review 5 Stars: http://wp.me/p3d0RZ-1Ox

✦NOVELLA: Hard To Be Good Kindle | B&N | Kobo

✦Book 4: Hard to Let Go (Releasing June 30, 2015) ➢ Kindle | Amazon PBK 

imageABOUT LAURA KAYE

Laura is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of over twenty books in contemporary and paranormal romance and romantic suspense. Growing up, Laura’s large extended family believed in the supernatural, and family lore involving angels, ghosts, and evil-eye curses cemented in Laura a life-long fascination with storytelling and all things paranormal. She lives in Maryland with her husband, two daughters, and cute-but-bad dog, and appreciates her view of the Chesapeake Bay every day.

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Release Blitz, Excerpt & Giveaway: Out in Time by Grey Cole

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Congrats & Happy Release to Grey Cole!
Out in Time is LIVE!
Meet Wade and Heath in this sexy stand-alone novella!

Today we’re featuring this new M/M Romance release because it caught my attention. I originally thought it was a M/F erotica romance. I rarely read M/M unless they’re part of a series I’m invested in, but this one sounds great so I decided to grab a copy and share the release on our page. Check it out and grab a copy if it grabs your attention. Only $0.99 for a stand-alone novella.  There’s an excerpt and a giveaway below. /Cori 

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ONLY $0.99

Amazon US: http://amzn.to/1xTSIld

Amazon UK: http://amzn.to/1yCCVab

Amazon CA: http://amzn.to/14raPl5

Goodreads Link: http://bit.ly/13m1b2p

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Blurb

A closeted football star. An out and proud photographer. And a road trip.

Wade Truman had grown accustomed to admiring Heath Taylor from afar. Now, years of denying himself and the irresistible Heath are wreaking havoc on Wade’s resolve. The odds are stacked against them … they’re graduating college soon. Wade just signed a multimillion dollar football deal—thrusting him even further into the spotlight. Not to mention, what would the gorgeously refined Heath want with a small town jock boy like himself anyway?

Heath grew up privileged, accepted, and out. And the two hells he swore he would never put himself through—crushing on a straight guy and being anyone’s dirty little secret—have presented themselves in one sweet talkin’, dream hauntin’ package. One weekend with Wade, and Heath’s sure the devil himself has come a-knockin’.

Warning: Contains Southern accents wielded like weapons of desire, a snarky, do-gooder Pennsylvanian, and two boys deserving of true love.

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EXCERPT

“Dare,” Wade ventured.
“Nope, my turn. Dare,” Heath demanded. “I dare you to show me something embarrassing. Something stupid you do that no one knows about.”
Wade thought for a moment. He didn’t do anything stupid. Well, he didn’t think he did. “Like what?”
“Hmm … well, you can’t use this against me later, but something stupid I do is dance around in my room. Wearing just my underwear.”
“A lot of people do that. That’s not stupid.”
“To One Direction?” Heath added with a wry grin.
Wade burst out laughing. “Uh, maybe not.”
“Shut up. They’re fun. Makes me feel good.”
A lock of that soft, brown hair fell across Heath’s forehead, and Wade longed to brush it away. “See, that makes it not stupid.”
“You’re deflecting. This is your dare. Not mine. Whatcha got?”
He thought about it for a moment and then nodded. “I have to show you? Can’t tell you?”
“That’s what makes it a dare.”
“’K.” Wade heaved his large frame from his comfy spot and moved to the space between the beds. Heath sat up quickly and spun around, sitting Indian-style with a huge grin on his face. “I don’t want to disappoint you. It’s not all that impressive.”
“Go on, quarterback. Show me what no one else has ever seen,” he taunted.
“Fine. I’m too buzzed for this to be graceful. Just remember that.”
“Do your worst.” Heath lifted his glass, toasting Wade before slamming back another shot.
Wade turned and faced the nightstand that divided the room. At least he wouldn’t have to look into Heath’s face as he did this. He took a deep breath and released it slowly as he bent at the waist and dropped his arms to the floor to support his upper body. He let his feet slide back and his head dangle before rotating it side to side between his arms, slipping into what had become second nature for him over the years. “Downward dog,” he announced. Wade stared at his feet for a moment before breathing deeply again, bringing up his head, dropping his hips and forearms, and rising onto the tips of his toes. “Plank.” He started to feel a little weirded out since Heath hadn’t made a peep. So, he moved quickly by dropping the rest of his body to the floor but arching his spine and neck toward the ceiling. “Cobra.”
“I can’t believe you do yoga. That’s fucking awesome. Show me some more,” Heath finally encouraged. Wade could hear the awe in his voice, so despite how ridiculous he probably looked, he found himself complying. He did a couple more poses on the floor before moving into a standing position.
Then, he did his favorite. He figured out why that was long ago. It made him feel graceful, at a time in his life when his size made him anything but. He balanced himself on one leg and brought the other up to rest one foot on the inside of his thigh. Now, he was facing Heath, so he grinned a little at the wide-eyed look he was giving him. Finally, he brought his arms over his head much like a ballerina would do but kept moving his hands until his fingers locked together. He opened his mouth to speak, the self-deprecating comment that had sprung to mind died on his tongue, though, as Heath launched himself at Wade.
Before he could move to defend himself from the incoming fingers, Heath wedged them into his ribs and wiggled them hard. Wade’s breath whooshed out of him, and he lost his balance, throwing his arms around Heath to catch himself from falling. Instead of steadying him, Heath’s momentum sent them both toppling backward onto the other bed.
Wade grunted when Heath’s elbow came down to hit him in the stomach. He tried to laugh at their suddenly awkward position, but it ended up coming out like a bark. Heath didn’t stop tickling him, so instead of letting him go, he squeezed his arms tighter around Heath. Heath’s entire body rested against his—their chests, their stomachs, their hips, their—oh, lord, help him—their crotches, even Heath’s toes stretched out on top of Wade’s bare feet.
Heath finally exhausted all his laughter and relinquished the torturous tickling, although he made no move to extract himself from Wade. He finally looked up at him, and his eyes practically glittered with mischief. “I’m sorry,” he laughed. “I couldn’t resist.”
“You don’t look sorry,” Wade mock-complained.
“You’re right. That was a lie.” Heath grinned, and his eyes darted to Wade’s lips.
“Dare me,” Wade blurted before he could doubt himself any further.
Heath gave a nervous laugh before asking, “Dare you to what?”
“Dare me to kiss you.”
Heath’s green eyes widened and shot back up to Wade’s before tightening at the corners. “Why would I do that?”
“Because I know you want me to,” Wade boasted before swallowing hard. “More than that—I want to.”
All rights reserved. Copyright Grey Cole 2015.

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Author Information
Grey Cole
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Grey Cole always dreamt of a book that featured hot male-on-male action that grew to encompass one lucky woman. Okay … maybe Grey really dreamt of this scenario playing out in real life and then decided to purge all those dirty thoughts onto the page.

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Cloak & Silence (The League) by Sherrilyn Kenyon

Cloak & Silence (The League) by Sherrilyn Kenyon
Publication Date: July 8, 2013

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Book Description:

One of the fiercest soldiers the Phrixians have ever produced, Maris Sulle has been an outsider the whole of his life. He grew up with a secret that cost him everything- His birthright, his family and his military career. In all his life, he’s only had one love and he has sacrificed his own happiness to see his best friend reunited with the woman he loves. But now that his good deed is done, he feels lost and adrift. Even though they do their best to include him in their new family, he’s once again on the outside looking in.

Ture has spent his life hiding from everyone around him while trying desperately to fit in. His family, the world, you name it. Badly hurt by everyone he’s ever known, he trusts no one except his own best friend. And honestly, he can’t understand why he trusts her. Nor can he believe her when she describes a loyalty between friends the likes of which he’s never seen.

But when he is in his darkest hour, he’s saved by a hero he thought only existed in novels. A man who is every bit as scarred and mistrusting as he is. One who has no interest in being dragged into another relationship with anyone.

Having spent his life as a living study of doomed relationships, Maris is well aware of the courtship and fiasco that invariably follows. Still, there is something about Ture he can’t resist. Something that won’t let him walk away when he knows he should.

But when old enemies return to threaten them both, they either have to stand together or die alone.

Buy Links:
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EXCERPT from Cloak & Silence by Sherrilyn Kenyon

But this wasn’t about the freedom of people who wouldn’t spit on them if they were on fire.

This was about their own survival. They had already killed her once. Next time, they might not revive her.

He brushed the bloody hair back from her face. “You need to think of your baby, honey. You’re lucky you haven’t miscarried already.”

Still, she held on to a blind hope he couldn’t even begin to fathom. “Darling will come for me. I know he will.”

Ture ground his teeth at her childish devotion. Not once since they’d been taken had it faltered. She honestly thought her boyfriend would come risk his own life and free them from this hellhole.

How he wished he could believe it, too. But he knew better. “Heroes aren’t real. They don’t come charging in to save their damsel. Trust me. They vapor trail off at the first sign of trouble, leaving you behind to face the invading army all by yourself, hoping they’ll burn the house down on top of you so they don’t have to see you again.”

“No, Ture. Those are selfish assholes. A hero doesn’t give up or give in. Ever. Darling told me he would crawl naked through hell, over broken glass, just to hold my hand, and I believe him.”

“Men will say anything to get into your pants, love. They don’t mean a word of it.”

She took his hand into hers and held it tight. “I’m sorry that you’ve never been in love with a man who really loved you back, Ture. But I’m telling you… I have seen what Darling and Maris have gone through for each other and they won’t leave us here. They won’t rest until they’ve rescued us. I know it.”

Ture opened his mouth, then closed it. There was no need in arguing. She had her belief and he had his. Maybe there had been a time in his life when he’d been so blinded by love that he, too, believed such bullshit. But too many years of being bitch-slapped by selfish dicks had taken its toll on him.

Not even his own family had ever been there when he needed them. So why should a stranger?

But in spite of his past, he wouldn’t take away the only thing that gave her comfort. Let her have her delusions while she could. He tightened his grip on her hand as his heart broke from the fear of losing her. Just like his sister.

Her interrogators had killed her today during her torture and then brought her back just so they could continue on with it.

Damn them all for it.

“I hope you’re right, sweetie,” he breathed against her hair. The last thing he wanted was for her to learn the harsh lessons that had been rammed down his throat. He wept for the loss of anyone’s innocence, especially when the loss was brutal. And deep down in a place he hated, was that last vestige of his own hope that she was right. That maybe, just maybe, there were people in the world worth something. Someone who could stand by you even in hell and not betray you.

“Zarya?”

“Mmm?”

“Tell me what it’s like to be held by someone who really loves you.”

Zarya swallowed hard. His request wrung her heart. While almost everyone she’d ever loved had been brutally murdered, Ture’s family had abandoned or disowned him. Because of that, he’d had an even harder time trusting people than she did. No matter what, he expected the people around him to turn on him.

The saddest part?

They always had.

“It’s the most wonderful thing you can imagine. There’s truly nothing like it.”

He sighed wearily. “I don’t know how you can take such a beating and still protect him.”

How could she not? Darling would do the same for her, and then some. She had no doubt. He really was that kind of man. “Did I ever tell you what my mother’s last words were to me?”

He shook his head.

“It was the morning when she went to confront my father’s killer. I asked her why she wouldn’t let one of the soldiers or gerents handle his rescue. And she said to me that all little girls, regardless of what they say, dream of a prince to come in and sweep them off their feet and save the day. But what no one ever mentions is that all little boys dream of a princess to do the same thing for them. But the problem with princes and princesses is that they’re spoiled and self-absorbed. They act in their own best interest. They don’t go after their loved ones to rescue them so much as they do it for their own vainglory, and to serve themselves. While she’d had many princes try for her hand, it was a king who claimed her heart. Unlike princes, kings take responsibility. They think of others instead of themselves and they will risk everything, even their very lives, for those they love. It is never about them, but rather about the ones they cherish most. They love to such depth that they would sacrifice all just to see their family smile. For every thousand princes, there is only one king. And such rare men do not deserve a useless princess who sits on her duff and orders others to worship her and do her bidding. Kings deserve queens- rare women who never flinch to do whatever it takes to keep their king safe. Women who have the courage to face any attacker and to rally to whatever challenge life throws at them. I will not sit here, she said to me, and let your father suffer while I hide in comfort. He risked his life to keep us safe and I will do no less for him. If it means my life, so be it. After all, he is my life and I don’t want to live without him. He deserves only my best and that’s exactly what he’s going to get, no matter the cost.”

Ture drew a ragged breath as the tears welling in her eyes choked him. “Though I never had the pleasure of meeting her, I love your mother. You know that, right?”

She squeezed his hand. “I love her, too. And I’ve tried every day of my life to do her proud and to be the queen she wanted me to be.”

He kissed the side of her head. “Sweetie, you are better than any queen. You’re a freedom fighter for our people and if your Darling is the king you think him to be, you will live to be an empress.”

“Then I shall be an empress. You will see.”

Ture smiled at the sincerity of her tone. How she could still believe in fairytales after everything life had tossed in her face, he had no idea. “Fine then. Just make sure when you’re empress, you find a queen for me.”

“I will.”

Ture tightened his grip on her as she went limp in his arms. Fear seized him until he assured himself that she was still breathing.

Thank the gods she wasn’t dead.

But she wouldn’t be able to survive much more. For that matter, neither would he. Every day got harder. They couldn’t break him because he knew nothing. They couldn’t break her because she was the most stubborn creature alive.

He admired that even though it made him want to wring her neck.

His one greatest hope was that her king was the man she’d convinced herself that he was. In his world, such men didn’t exist. They were fables and lies.

Still, he couldn’t stop imagining a world where people didn’t disappoint each other. A world where you could put your life and heart into the hands of another and not fear betrayal or hurt. A universe populated by people like Zarya…

You sound like an old woman.

He felt like an old man. Jaded. Cold. Aching. He licked at the blood on his lips and forced his thoughts away from things he knew were lies. Things that were impossible. People sucked. They were users and no matter how much you gave, they never stayed.

Closing his eyes, he prayed for death. And why shouldn’t he? He had no reason to live. Nothing to live for. Life just was.

And he was so tired now…