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Fantastic #BookReview The Audition and Torn Avenger @LeaBronsen



THE AUDITION & TORN AVENGER
2 separate books
by Lea Bronsen

The Audition

Genre: Dark Erotic Crime Ménage
Release Date: October 20, 2017

Ruthless drug lord Ricardo “El Loco” Ferrer launders his black money by investing in movie productions. As a teen, he learned to enjoy blow jobs in jail. Now a man of power, his favorite pastime is checking out new acting talent…and convincing them to “please” the team of producers.

Young wannabe actor Jaden Moore comes to a shady side of town to audition for a movie part. He longs to shine, wants to walk the red carpet with cameras flashing and a crowd cheering. He assures the film director and the investors he’ll do anything to reach the top, but is he willing to comply with their dirty fantasies?


BOOK REVIEW

This is a quick and gritty read. Definitely not for the fainthearted or for those seeking a fun and fluffy read.

Jaden is a budding actor who gets to audition for crime boss Rico and his gang of movie producers. Except this is not like any ordinary audition and soon turns into an erotic encounter as the young man is tested to see his potential.

Rico is surprised at the emotions that rise within him because of Jaden and he's tempted to take the encounter beyond one night. But the evening's activities goes from desire to disastrous when Rico's past catches up with him in Jaden's presence.

Can Rico save the day, clean up his act and get his man? You'll have to read it to find out.

This is a great erotic short. My only beef with this story is with the ending but that's just the romantic in me wanting a different outcome.


Reviewed by

Disclaimer: I volunteered to review this book.





Rico flashed Jaden his best playboy smile and opened his shirt button by button. It usually had the effect he wanted. He took great care of his body. The other job demanded he stay in tip-top shape, and the result came in handy during this part of the audition. Most young people found difficult to resist a tanned, well-built, and slightly sweaty chest.

Indeed, the more buttons he popped, the more Jaden stared, as if fascinated.

Rico grinned. Once the shirt hung loose, displaying his neat washboard of a stomach, he palmed his crotch. This part of the game, he savored. Closing his eyes, he rubbed the outline of his stiff length through his pants, up and down, slowly. “Do you have any idea what you’re doing to me?” He drew an exaggerated breath.

No answer.

Was the kid going to refuse playing, now that they’d gone so far? It would be a shame. Rico liked him. Jaden had proven worthy. A wide range of emotions boiled in him, and it didn’t take much coaxing to have him spill them out with raging honesty. That, Rico respected. “El Loco” may be a heartless son of a bitch, but he recognized uprigthness and integrity. He would never hurt someone fighting tooth and nail for noble values.

More, Jaden triggered something in Rico that he wasn’t unwilling to explore, given the right circumstances. He’d spent the past two decades a lonely man, and to be honest, it began to wear on him. What the terms for changing—improving—a part of his life were, he didn’t know yet. And it wasn’t without risk: he’d spent those years building a shell so no one could touch him. There were certain things guns couldn’t protect him from.

He reopened his eyes.

At the same time, Jaden flicked his gaze up, searching Rico’s. “I thought you said I got the movie part?”

“You got it.” Rico grinned. “This is a bonus.”

“Oh,” the kid said, in a choked tone that almost tore a laugh out of Rico. That, and his reddish complexion, told Rico he could continue playing.

In one swift move, he zipped down his pants to let the beast loose. “Look,” he said, voice tight, grabbing his swollen cock at the base and making the entire length swing from side to side. “You see this, Jaden? You’re the one doing it to me.” He moved forward, stroking his hard shaft, until mere inches separated them. Jaden’s warm breaths blew on his face. “Do you like what you see?”




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Torn Avenger

Genre: Dark Viking Romance
Release Date: September 20, 2017

As the second son of a Viking earl, Alv Gunnulfsen wasn't meant to inherit a throne or avenge a murder. But when his brother is slain during a raid and their father dies of grief, Alv is expected to take command and claim the killer's death. In a world of ruthless retaliation and strict social codes, he must also maneuver cleverly to protect a troublesome secret: his attraction for men.

Roeland van Dijk, a wealthy Dutch merchant settled in Norway, has done the unthinkable to protect his family — hacked off the head of a Viking rapist. The wrath of the blond savages will cost him his freedom, and possibly his own head… Unless he's willing to accept the love of another man.



BOOK REVIEW

What a fantastic story. I worried about how to write this review to give this book its due justice and in this end I'm going to do a kind of analysis and I hope you see where I'm going with this.

First let me start by saying this story is marked as a dark Viking romance. In my opinion, dark romances are gritty and shocking, with heroes/heroines that push the boundaries of expectations in romance novels. With that in mind I would consider Torn Avenger to be on the mild end of the dark romance spectrum.

Are there gritty scenes? Sure. But that is more down to the fact that it is a Viking story and therefore brutality, gore and Viking warriors kind of go hand in hand. It is to be expected.

Do the heroes push the boundaries? Are they dark enough? Alv certainly pushes the boundaries. His character is described as half-man and half-woman, and regarded with amusement by his fellow Norsemen. In 11th century Norway when his fellow men were fearless Vikings, macho and brutal, ready to strike first and talk later, Alv was the opposite, gentle and kind. He wanted to heal people instead of kill them. How much more subversive can one get?

As for Roeland, when a Viking raiding party invades his village to pillage and plunder, he does what needs to be done to protect his family and kills one of them. Unfortunately the man he kills is the first son of an earl and his death has to be avenged, which is the crux of the story. Roeland tries to keep his family safe in hiding but he is eventually captured by Alv who takes him captive.

I'll admit I expected some savagery in the form of revenge from Alv. But aside from taking Roeland as a captive, he continues to wrangle with his conscience about what had gone on and what to do. In the end Alv falls in love with Roeland. So the question becomes, how does he keep Roeland alive when everyone else in his clan seems to want him dead.

This story has layers. Suspense as we wonder if and how Roeland will get his freedom. Mystery as we try to unravel a poisoning. And of course romance as we watch Alv and Roeland develop feelings for each other.

Do I believe that Roeland, a man who had been in love with his late wife could be attracted to Alv? Yes. We know that people who have been through an intensely stressful experience can come out of it with different perspectives than they had previously.
Considering the upheaval and distress he'd been through, it is quite plausible that Roeland would fall in love with the man who saved his life and took such care of him, especially when said man was effeminate.

I'm also intrigued by Elke and Torsten's storyline and hope the author will write a companion novella of sort. I would love to read about Elke's ordeal from her perspective and having to marrying into a tribe of the person who assaulted her and having a child. How does a woman in that era cope with that kind of trauma?

Overall, this is a fantastic, sensual and emotional M/M historical romance. The characters are well drawn and the storyline had me hooked right from the first page to the last. I would've loved more on the page interactions between Alv and Roeland, but that's just me wanting more steam.

Seriously, if you enjoy M/M historicals, you have to read this and don't be put off by the 'dark' label. Alv and Roeland are too good to ever have the 'dark hero' label on them.


Reviewed by

Disclaimer: I volunteered to review this book.




After a moment, Alv looked up again and almost gasped from the erotic vision in front of him. While shaving Roeland, he’d only seen his wet, hairy chest and stomach, but the handsome man moved to a kneeling position in the basin and washed his lower body. His stunning maleness made Alv hot and bothered. They had discussed, argued, shared personal details, and apologized to each other, but now, the seriousness of their conversation faded. The sight of Roeland’s cock bathing in white foam between his legs had Alv’s own cock jolt and press painfully against his pants.

Oh, Roeland attracted him on several levels—mental, emotional, and physical—and Alv longed to discover and develop more of everything with him. Hedin was an exciting lover, but nothing like what Roeland had the potential to be.

Speaking of Hedin, it’d been a surprise to see him again this morning, right after Elke left. He’d arrived in a terrible mood and refused to excuse his disappearance act. It was outrageous of a slave to come and go like that, but Alv had too much on his mind to think of punishing him.

For one, he worried about Roeland’s future. He’d inherited part of Father’s wealth, but not his title. After returning to Eðni, he’d claimed to be the only one who could decide of what to do with his brother’s murderer, but it wasn’t true. He had no standing, no support from his fellow citizens. They could choose to kill Roeland if they wanted to—all it took was a word from Mother. It made her idea to have Alv marry Elke and adopt the community’s natural heir that much more important to push through.

“There’s something we need to talk about,” he said, hoping Roeland wouldn’t oppose to the plan.

“What?”

“Normally, I would ask you, but since you’re not in a position to make decisions, I’m just going to tell you.”

“About what?” Roeland frowned.

“I’m marrying your sister.”

Roeland stood so fast in the basin, water splashed to all sides. He stepped out and leaned into Alv’s face. “Don’t you dare to touch her!”

“But I’m not…”

“Hasn’t she suffered enough?” Roeland bellowed, his dark eyes slit with anger.

By Thor, he was insanely sexy, standing naked and wet, so near Alv could feel his damp bodily heat, water drippling from his hair and rolling alongside his tanned, chiseled cheeks. Alv couldn’t help hardening more, and needed to focus on the words that came out of Roeland’s luscious mouth to be able to answer. “She has already accepted.”






Award-winning author Lea Bronsen likes her reads hot, fast, and edgy, and strives to give her own stories the same intensity. After venturing into dirty inner-city crime drama with her debut novel Wild Hearted, she divides her writing time between psychological thriller, romantic suspense, and dark erotic romance.

She's signed with Evernight Publishing, Decadent Publishing, and Insatiable Press. She has also self-published some of her works and participated in the making of several anthologies.


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Misadventures of the First Daughter @miamichellebook @wildmeredith #bookrelease




Misadventures of the First Daughter
by
Mia Michelle & Meredith Wild
Releases 30th October

GOODREADS

#misadventuresofthefirstdaughter 

SYNOPSIS
Charlotte Daley is the daughter of the newly elected POTUS. An only child, she’s both spoiled rotten and entirely neglected by her powerful family. She’s been forced to eat with the right forks, smile at all the right times, and be the picture of perfection for months. Now that her father is in office and too busy to know she exists, she’s determined to exercise her new freedom before she heads back to college in New York. 


Ex-SEAL Zane Parker has one job to protect the President’s daughter, all day, every day. But she’s been on a partying spree since the inauguration, heading down a dangerous path that threatens to ruin her reputation and cause a major scandal for her father. Zane will lose his job if he can’t get her under control. Except he wants to sleep with her as badly as he wants to set her straight. She needs discipline. And he might be just the one to give it to her. 

When unexpected circumstances tie Charlotte to D.C. for the foreseeable future, Zane makes her an offer that’s anything but honorable. He’ll give the first daughter all the thrills she’s seeking in exchange for one thing… Her obedience. Fascinated by Zane’s dark promises, Charlotte agrees. Submission has never felt so good. But as Zane brings her deeper into his forbidden desires, enemies surface and danger lurks.

BUY LINKS
Amazon ➜ http://amzn.to/2mlFSce
iBooks ➜ http://apple.co/2lJFQgp
Barnes & Noble ➜ http://bit.ly/2sZmng2
Google ➜ http://bit.ly/2lJPdN3
Kobo ➜ http://bit.ly/2lJPxvi


MEET THE AUTHORS
Meredith Wild is a #1 New York Times, USA Today, and international bestselling author of romance. Living on Florida’s Gulf Coast with her husband and three children, she refers to herself as a techie, whiskey-appreciator, and hopeless romantic. She has been featured on CBS This Morning, The Today Show, the New York Times, The Hollywood Reporter, Publishers Weekly, and The Examiner. When she isn’t living in the fantasy world of her characters, she can usually be found at:

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/meredithwild
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/meredithwild/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/wildmeredith



Mia Michelle fell in love with the world of books the very first time she stepped inside of her small hometown library. Growing up, she loved to spend time losing herself in the world of make believe by creating her own imaginative stories. The gift of a leather journal for her eighth birthday inspired her dream of one day becoming a writer. Though she kept most of her writing private over the years, a childhood best friend read the first draft of Rose of Thorne and encouraged her to take the leap of faith to bring her dream to life.

Mia fully admits to having a hopeless infatuation with her Kindle, and suffers from a one-click book addiction. (No intervention required). When she isn’t shuttling her two kids between cheerleading and football practice, or folding a massive pile of laundry, she can be found curled up in her favorite cozy chair with a pen in one hand and an adult beverage in the other.

Mia currently resides in a quaint little southern town in Tennessee with her husband, two children, and fur baby.

http://miamichelleauthor.com/
https://www.facebook.com/authormiamichellefanpage/
https://twitter.com/miamichellebook



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How much is he prepared to bend his own rules #MMRomance @lauranandrews91 #Giveaway


Title: Trusting Him
Series: Bromley Brothers, Book 1
Genre: Gay Romance
Release Date: October 28, 2017
Cover Designer: Claire Smith
 Add to TBR


 Buy now for half price! 




Event coordinator Trey Bromley is the youngest of three brothers and is out and proud. The last thing he’s looking for is a man who doesn’t know what he wants.

After a chance meeting with David Rossi, a security guard who has recently discovered his bisexuality, Trey begins to question exactly what he wants and how much he’s prepared to bend his own rules.

 Buy now for half price! 





Canadian born Laura N. Andrews moved to Australia when she was three years old. When she finished high school, she successfully completed her studies in law enforcement. Since then, she's been working for over five years as a pharmacy assistant. When she's not working or spending time with family and friends, you can find her either curled up with a book or writing one of her own.



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Captor becomes lover. Unintended @GeorgiaCates #Romance




RELEASE BOOST
Title: Unintended
Series: The Sin Series #5
Author: Georgia Cates
Genre: Standalone Contemporary Romance
Release Date: October 20, 2017

BLURB

Captor becomes lover…

I’m a marksman. Mobster. Deadly assassin.
My job is to protect my brotherhood, but that isn’t my only responsibility.

I’m Kieran Hendry, the up-and-coming leader of The Order, and a new duty calls. I must take a wife.

A wife I don’t know.
A wife born into a position at the top of The Fellowship hierarchy.
A wife who will forge a strong alliance between her brotherhood and mine.
A wife I don’t want.

I knew next to nothing about Westlyn Breckenridge when I abducted her, but I quickly discover that she’s intelligent, strong, defiant, selfless. And beautiful.

One night with her is all it takes for me to see that she is no typical Mafia princess. I’m hopeful this arranged marriage won’t be the miserable union I imagined it to be. But convincing my intended to give us a chance won’t be easy when she sees me as the enemy. The brute who kidnapped her. The vile fiend who threatened to do as he wished with her body.

It’s true. I am all those things. I had cruel intentions. But everything has changed. My affection for her is unexpected. My love, unintended.


GOODREADS LINK: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/35925953-unintended


PURCHASE LINKS

US: http://amzn.to/2ezJisB
UK: http://amzn.to/2vCqZdz
CA: http://amzn.to/2vVkr5h
AU: http://amzn.to/2wyGh0q


EXCERPT

Kieran Hendry makes me feel like a woman. A desired woman. His words, the way he looks at me, his body language. Everything he does is a huge turn-on. Yet I hate this man. Loathe him. But damn, he has a way of touching me that makes me forget every logical thought in my head. It doesn’t make sense to me how I can despise him and at the same time respond so strongly to his touch.
It’s my body reacting to him, not my head. It must be hormones and sex drive. Those two things combined have the power to make people do things they wouldn’t normally do.
“You’re trembling.” He grazes the back of his fingers down my cheek and my stomach does some kind of flip. “Do I frighten you?”
I look away because I can’t tell him that it isn’t fear giving me the trembles.
He grasps my chin and forces me to look at him. “Do. I. Frighten. You?”
“No.”
He rubs my bottom lip with his thumb. “Then what is it?”
I shake my head.
He leans in for another kiss but stops before his lips touch mine. We’re so close I can feel his breath on my mouth. Just like last night when my body turned to mush.
I’m quivering and my breath has become more rapid. I may even be a little lightheaded.
His bottom lip grazes mine, but he still doesn’t kiss me. “I’ll back off right now if it’s what you want.”
I don’t want him to back off. I also don’t want him to know that I don’t want him to back off. Feels too much like giving in to something I’m not supposed to crave.
“I’m going to kiss you.”
I’m his captive. We made an agreement. I must submit without a fight per our deal to maintain Ellison’s safety.
Yeah. Keep telling yourself that, Wes. Maybe if you say it enough, you’ll start to believe it.
His fingers lace through my hair and he holds me prisoner when he lowers his mouth to mine. I open, giving his tongue an invitation to come inside. The two meet, and together they become erotic dance partners with Kieran taking the lead.
I’ve only had one very forgettable kiss in my life. But this kiss… I could live a million years and never forget it or the way I feel right now.
He stops, his lips hovering over mine. His breath warm against my skin. “More or stop? Your decision.”
He’s asking me to venture further with him. My body says yes, but my head tells me that one more step will take me to a place I shouldn’t go with this man. I’m twenty-three and being kissed for the second time in my life. I don’t want this to stop. “More.”


ALSO AVAILABLE

A Necessary Sin – The Sin Trilogy #1

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The Next Sin – The Sin Trilogy #2

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One Last Sin – The Sin Trilogy #3

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Endurance – A Sin Series Standalone

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AUTHOR BIO

Georgia resides in rural Mississippi with her wonderful husband, Jeff, and their two beautiful daughters. She spent fourteen years as a labor and delivery nurse before she decided to pursue her dream of becoming an author and hasn’t looked back yet.

When she’s not writing, she’s thinking about writing. When she’s being domestic, she’s listening to her music and visualizing scenes for her current work in progress. Every story coming from her always has a song to inspire it.


AUTHOR LINKS

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/GeorgiaCatesAuthor
Twitter: https://twitter.com/GeorgiaCates
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/authorgeorgiacates/
Tumblr: http://authorgeorgiacates.tumblr.com/
Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Georgia-Cates/e/B005RQM69U
Bookbub: https://www.bookbub.com/authors/georgia-cates
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/5228869.Georgia_Cates
Website: http://georgiacates.com/
Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Georgia-Cates/e/B005RQM69U
Bookbub: https://www.bookbub.com/authors/georgia-cates


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#BookReview #MMRomance Til Death Do Us Part and From This Day Forward





Narrated By: David Gilmore 

'Til Death Do Us Part - Amazon US | Amazon UK | Audible US | Audible UK

Length: 8hrs 3 mins

Henry and Sam Miller-Greene are living the dream. They love their careers — which afford each of them opportunities to travel to exotic locations — they love their home, Sam’s caring family, and each other. They disagree on the subject of adoption, but are fully committed to each other in marriage … ’Til Death Do Us Part.

The dream is shattered when Henry’s plane crashes, and he’s presumed dead. But four people — Henry, two other men, and a child — survive undetected on a remote, small, and insignificant island. Will Sam and Henry’s love be able to survive as well?

Henry fights to endure in harsh conditions, never knowing when disaster will strike. Sam struggles with his loss, but with help moves on with his life. Will Sam be able to put aside his new love when he reunites with Henry?



BOOK REVIEW

Henry and Sam's story is told in dual timelines with a mix of flashbacks and present day scenes. Henry is on a business trip alone when his plane crashes and he ends up stranded on a deserted island with other survivors for five years. In the meantime Sam has grieved and fallen in love with another man, Nash, while Henry is on the island raising a young boy whose parents died in the crash. Buddy gives Henry the strength to keep going even when their situation seems hopeless. But will they ever be rescued and what will happen at the reunion with Sam?

Although there are flashbacks to how Henry and Sam got together, for a huge chunk of this story they were apart. We saw Sam with a new man, Nash, who  so obviously cared for Sam.
Honestly, I really struggled with the ending of this story. I was heartbroken and it overshadowed any feelings of joy I had for Henry and Sam's reunion. It's just my opinion and I'm sure there are others who will feel differently.

As for the audio production, the narration was good and helped to bring the story alive.





Reviewed by



Disclaimer: I volunteered to review this book


From This Day Forward - Amazon US | Amazon UK | Audible US | Audible UK

Length: 1hr 19mins


Revisiting the characters from ’Til Death Do Us Part, Henry and Sam Miller-Greene are enjoying life in the summer after Henry’s rescue from a small South Pacific island, where Henry and three others were marooned.

Henry and Sam thought adopting Aiden—a child with whom Henry’d been stranded—would be smooth sailing. Matters are complicated by the public nature of their rescue that has turned the survivors into overnight celebrities. Anti-gay fueled animus rears its ugly head in the blogosphere, causing concerns over the impact libelous rumors might have on Aiden.

Their nightmare separation behind them, Henry and Sam are anxious to renew both the intensity of their former intimacies—now hampered by having a curious and still apprehensive child sharing their home—and their commitment to one another.


BOOK REVIEW

This story follows on from Til Death do us Part and continues with Henry and Sam's story. Now they are trying to get their lives back together while dealing with homophobic outrage about their relationship in the aftermath of Henry being marooned in the island for years. It was lovely seeing them together as they rediscover each other and form a family with Aidan.

This is a quick listen and a lovely addition which makes Henry and Sam's story a more complete ending. 



Reviewed by


Disclaimer: I volunteered to review this book.




October 27 - Love Bites & Silk Ties, The Geekery Book Review
October 30 - Reading In Sarah's Corner
November 1 - Dog-Eared Daydreams, Making It Happen, BFD Book Blog
November 3 - Gay Media Reviews, Rainbow Gold Reviews, Bayou Book Junkie




Author Bio

Addison Albright lives in the middle of the USA with two peculiar cats. Her stories are gay (sometimes erotic) romance, and tend to be sweet man-love in contemporary settings. Her education includes a BS in Education with a major in mathematics and a minor in chemistry. Addison loves spending time with her family, reading, popcorn, boating, French fries, “open window weather,” cats, math, and anything chocolate. She loves to read pretty much anything and everything, anytime and anywhere.

eMail: addison.albright@gmail.com
Website/Blog: https://authoraddisonalbright.com
Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/AddisonAlbright
Facebook Profile: https://www.facebook.com/addison.albright.profile
Twitter: http://twitter.com/AddisonAlbright
Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/addisonalbright/
BookBub: https://www.bookbub.com/profile/addison-albright
Queeromance Ink: https://www.queeromanceink.com/mbm-book-author/addison-albright/


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One of the last of a powerful but vanishing bloodline @LSmithAuthor #PNR



RELEASE BOOST

Title: Grigori: A Royal Dragonshifter Romance
Series: Brothers of Ash and Fire
Author: Lauren Smith
Genre: Paranormal Romance
Release Date: October 3, 2017

BLURB

He’s one of the last of a powerful but vanishing bloodline …

Grigori Barinov is the eldest in an ancient line of dragon shifters and the guardian of his family’s lands and fortune. Sworn to protect their history and magic, he won’t rest until he neutralizes any threat to their existence. When he discovers an ancient manuscript that exposes his family and their dragon lineage has fallen into a mortal woman’s hands, he knows he must get the book back by any means necessary. If that means seducing a nosy American woman with an intoxicating scent, he is more than willing to carry her off to his palatial home deep in the heart of Russia.

She’s the one woman who could expose him to the world…

Madelyn Haynes has never fit in. As an adopted child she grew up in a loving home but never felt as though she belonged. Plagued by mysterious dreams she’s had of a silver scaled beast ever since she was a little girl, she is convinced dragons are real. While in Russia working on her PhD in mythology in order to escape the ridicule from fellow professors, she unexpectedly crosses paths with the sexy and dominating Grigori, and after just one night with the man whose eyes seem to burn, she starts to change inside. Isolated in the Russian wilderness Grigori calls home, Madelyn can’t help but fall under his sensual spell, yet something deep inside her calls out that she can’t trust him. She has to show the world dragons are real to salvage academic reputation, even if it means costing her the heart of the dragon she’s falling in love with.


GOODREADS LINK: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/36044124-grigori


PURCHASE LINKS

US: http://amzn.to/2yof9Ue
UK: http://amzn.to/2giXUxi
CA: http://amzn.to/2xF7Ow6
AU: http://amzn.to/2gG2q6j
B&N: http://bit.ly/2wVGji6
Kobo: http://bit.ly/2wUwT6z
iBooks: http://apple.co/2yj1Q8i
Google Play: http://bit.ly/2xFri3H


EXCERPT

Madelyn woke slowly, the memories of parents she didn’t know and the life she never had a chance to live fading to intangible presences at the back of her mind until they were half-forgotten dreams. Her eyelids were heavy and her tongue felt like sandpaper. She blinked slowly as the leaden feel of her limbs dissipated and the fog in her head lightened. She sat up, a thick blanket of white fur dropping down to her waist.
Fur? She stared around at the master bedroom she was in.
“Oh my . . .” The tall four-poster bed was made of dark black wood, a midnight blue bedspread beneath her and a mountain of feather-soft pillows behind her. She caught her reflection in a large mirror on a dresser table. Her face was ashen and her lips pale as she sat in a mountain of expensive white furs. Her hair was in wild disarray. She threaded her fingers through the messy mane and took a few steadying breaths. Where was she? She struggled to remember anything before she’d woken up here.
The elevator, the man following her, and then Grigori . . . in her hotel room.
Oh my God. I’ve been kidnapped.
She curled her arms around her chest for several seconds, just trying to calm her panicked breathing. They had kidnapped her and brought her here. A thousand horrible scenarios ran through her head of what they might to do with her . . . human trafficking being the worst. The thought of it brought bile up to her throat and she swallowed, gagging.
Just calm down. Just calm down . . .
Her body froze, and her heart stopped for a painful second before it jolted back into a steady beat. She summoned the scholarly side of herself to analyze her surroundings again. She needed to figure out where she was and what they wanted from her. Then she could plan her escape. Beside her on the table, was a leather bound book she was all too familiar with. James’s Barrow’s journal.
Heart still pounding, she pushed the furs down and slid off the bed. Her sock-covered feet sank into a creamy white carpet. Madelyn grabbed the nearest bedpost, her fingers gripping the spindle carved wood as she walked around the king-size bed. She moved through the room and caught a teasing sense of something dark, pine and masculine. A scent she’d recognized when she’d been standing close to the man in the suit who’d looked just like Grigori from the journal. He couldn’t be Grigori. She didn’t know his name, so she might as well call him that until she figured out who he really was.
Grigori. He was everywhere in this room, from the elegant furnishings to the clothes hanging in the closet. Madelyn wasn’t sure how she knew it was his room aside from the lingering scent, but it just felt like this was part of his world. She couldn’t explain it. She’d never been in a man’s bedroom before and it was exciting and scary.
Why had he brought her here? How had they knocked her out? And why did he want to know why she’d been interested in James Barrow’s book? She had a thousand questions and no answers. The smart thing would be to find her shoes and coat and get out of here . . . no matter how intrigued she was with the mystery of Grigori Barinov.
She bent down and looked in the closet and under the bed for her boots but couldn’t find them. She had a sneaking suspicion he had hidden them to keep her from escaping. She approached the beautifully carved bedroom door, gripping the antique glass doorknob. Would it be locked? Was she a prisoner? She turned the knob and it gave beneath the pressure.
The door opened and she entered a small corridor, passing a lavish master bathroom with a large tub and an oversized glass shower. Whoa. The next room she entered opened into a huge library and an office. Then the apartment gave way to a large living room with the kitchen at the back and a dining room. A roaring fire in a square pit in the center of the living room sparkled over crystal stones. A wing backed chair facing the fire creaked slightly and a masculine hand extended past the arm of the chair as it swirled a glass of wine.
Someone was sitting there . . .
Madelyn held her breath, listening to every sound from the antique grandfather clock in the hall ticking away to the sounds of the man in the chair turning the pages of his book. The hand holding the glass suddenly disappeared and the chair creaked again as the occupant stood and turned to face her.
It was Grigori. He looked too damn sexy, and intimidating, in that expensive suit. His light hair fell across his blue eyes and he gazed at her with an unreadable expression. Her heart was racing again, and blood roared in her ears as she watched him, afraid of what he might do.
“You’re awake,” he noted. He moved slowly, setting the wine glass on the table beside his chair.
“Why am I here?” She was careful to keep a safe distance between them. They were facing each other, like two animals measuring each other up before they decided to fight or not. She wouldn’t hesitate to throw anything at him within her reach to escape.
“You’re here because you checked out a book.”
His cryptic reply made her bristle. The last thing she should be was argumentative, but she suddenly wanted to be brave in front of him.
“Is that against the law?” she asked, tilting her chin. She may have been scared out of her mind, but she was not going to let him see it.
Grigori’s lips twitched. “No, but that book belongs to me.”
She stiffened. “Then why did you leave it in a public library? You do understand that’s how libraries work, right?” How she had the nerve to be snarky, she’d never know.
He placed one hand on the back of the leather chair, his finger slowly tapping a pattern as though he was channeling all of his energy into the movement.
“A fiery creature,” he murmured. “I like that.” This was uttered so softly she thought she’d imagined it.
“So you have the book back, you can let me go. I can leave, can’t I?” Her eyes darted around the room, seeking out the front door. She inwardly groaned when she realized the only way out was behind him. She’d have to get past brooding, sexy, and scary Grigori.
“No, I’m afraid you cannot leave. I have questions that require answers.” He took two steps toward her. It took everything inside Madelyn not to retreat. She sensed that any sign of weakness would trigger his animal instincts. He was an aggressive predator who looked too intense to be in this lush apartment.
“Ask your questions and then let me go.” She wanted to curl her arms around herself, but instead planted hands on her hips.
Grigori arched one eyebrow, calmly removed his coat and laid it on the back of the chair. His gray wool vest showed off his muscular chest and his tapered waist. She licked her lips, nervous and all too aware of him and in way she shouldn’t be given that he had kidnapped her. The image of his face in the journal, the sketch dated 1821, haunted her. It couldn’t be the same man. That was impossible. But the likeness . . .
“Who sent you after the book?” Grigori asked as he rolled up the sleeves of his crisp white shirt. It revealed muscular forearms, which were also sun-kissed. Her skin prickled and she tried to swallow the lump of fear in her throat.
“No—no one sent me. I came here on my own.”
Grigori nodded to himself, smiling a little as he walked over to the kitchen and opened a cabinet.
“Would you care for some wine? It’s a fine vintage.” He held up a bottle and a glass.
“Did you seriously just offer me a drink? You’ve kidnapped me! For god knows what reason. You’d better let me leave right now or—”
“Or what?” Grigori was studying her through hooded eyes. “Ms. Haynes, I understand you are frightened, but I’m not planning on harming you. We’re merely going to have a discussion. Once I have learned all that I need, you shall be free to go.”
“You . . . you promise?” She had no reason to trust him if he did make such a promise, but part of her wanted to trust him. Part of her was still fixed on the man in the journal, the one she felt she knew somehow from dreams within dreams.
“I promise. I have no intention of hurting you. I merely needed a chance to speak to you privately. On my honor.” He touched his freed hand to his chest with his fingers curled into a fist. The motion was archaic, like something a knight from the Middle Ages might do as he pledged himself to the lord of a castle.
Madelyn weighed her options—not that she really had any. If she was trapped here she wasn’t going to make a fool of herself trying to escape until she had a real chance. She wasn’t sure if she believed him, but part of her wanted to. She’d never felt so torn in her life. All logic and basic instincts were screaming to run away from the man who kidnapped her, but there was a deeper part of her, whispering to her to stay and trust. It was like she was staring at his picture in the library all over again and she couldn’t look away, couldn’t leave.
If I play along, it might help me buy some time to figure out a real plan of getting out of here.
Grigori waved the bottle in the air. “Well?”
“Sure. One glass,” she finally replied. God, please don’t let me trusting him a little be a huge mistake.
“Good.” He walked over, setting a glass directly in front of her on the black granite countertop. They were only inches apart now. His body so tall and intimidating compared to hers. A nauseating pounding started in her head and her skin tingled like it had in the elevator with that other man.
She closed her eyes, steadying her suddenly shaky legs. How was it that this man could rattle her? Was it because he’d kidnapped her and she was freaking out . . . or was it something else? She’d been scared plenty of times, but it had never been like this. This felt . . . different. She didn’t feel right, like her body was trying to change inside. It didn’t make sense.
A hand, his hand brushed a lock of her hair back from her face, leaving a sizzling sensation behind wherever he touched her. As she opened her eyes, she saw him lean close to her and inhale deeply.
“Are you sniffing me?” she asked in a shaky whisper.
He exhaled slowly, his full lips suddenly in a firm line. “You smell good. Too good,” he growled softly. His hand reached up again, but it stopped inches from her. And that was when she felt it. A faint breeze ruffled her hair, playing with the strands. Grigori stayed motionless, his eyes narrowed. And just like that, the unexplainable breeze vanished.
Madelyn held her breath, hoping he would move first. He finally stepped back.
“Did Damien MacQueen send you?” he asked as he turned and walked away from her, back to the fridge. The distance growing between them seemed like a vast chasm. It should have been a relief, but it wasn’t.
I am going nuts. Seriously nuts.
He opened the door and stared at the contents before shutting it and frowning.
“Who is Damien MacQueen?” she asked. The name was one she didn’t recognize. Grigori stared at her for a long moment as though discerning whether she spoke the truth.
“So the brotherhood didn’t send you.” He placed his palms on the counter, leaning forward slightly as he stared at her. The man had that intense gaze down to a T. She was frozen in place, unable to look away from him as he watched her. She tried to study him back, analyzing the way his jaw seemed to be cut from Italian marble and his straight nose gave him an air of distinction. He was gorgeous—for a kidnapper.
“You are a professor?” Grigori asked.
“Yes, at Ellwood University.” She lifted her glass of wine and tried to take a sip. The wine was soft and dark on her tongue. A truly expensive wine without any bitter aftertaste. The floral bouquet hit her taste buds and finished with a hint of smoky wood.
“You like to research?” he asked.
Weirdly, it almost felt like she was on a date. These were like the usual questions: Who are you? What do you do for a living? Do you like it? But this wasn’t a date. It was the farthest thing from it.
“I do . . .” she hesitated, trying to figure out what to do.
“And you enjoy history?” he asked as he sipped his wine, his blue eyes still fixed on her in a way that made her uncomfortable.
“Yes,” she paused, trying to focus on answering him but also staying alert. “History is steady. You know it’s always going to be the same, no matter how much you look back on it. I like the predictability.”
“But you fear the future,” he mused.
She bristled. “I don’t fear the future, I just . . . I just don’t trust things to happen the way I want them to sometimes.” She’d expected her visit to Russia to be a safe one instead of getting kidnapped by someone like him.
“You have nothing to fear in your future,” he promised again. “At least not from me.” There it was, that solemnity in his gaze that almost seemed to beg her to trust him.
The hanging lamps in the kitchen illuminated Grigori’s golden hair as it fell into his eyes again. Madelyn had the desire to brush those gold strands away from his face with her fingertips. And that was a crazy desire, because this man had kidnapped her and she shouldn’t want to be touching him.
“God, I’ve got a bad case of Stockholm Syndrome,” she muttered. She lifted her wine glass to her lips and took another sip.
“Look, I don’t know any Damien and I have no idea what the brotherhood is. You have your book back so I see no reason for you to keep me here.”
He ignored her as he pulled out his cell phone. “Are you hungry? I believe I’ll have dinner brought up.”
“I’m not—” her stomach rumbled treacherously and he had to hear it because he smirked. He was smirking at her . . .
“Dinner, then we talk.” He dialed a number and spoke in rapid Russian to the person on the other end of the line. She had thought it was a rough language before but listening to him speak it sounded musical.
I really need to take more Russian classes. Her two semesters of Russian in graduate school didn’t help her understand a word of what he’d just said.
“Will you please tell me who you are?” she asked as he pocketed his phone in his trousers. He retrieved his own empty glass to refill it with some wine. He poured the burgundy liquid into the glass and she stared at it before looking at him again.
“My name is Grigori Barinov.”
Madelyn bit her lip. He could not be the Grigori from James Barrow’s book. He had to be a descendent of the other man, maybe a great-great-grandson.
“Okay . . .” she whispered. “So you’re descended from the man in the book. The one in the sketch?” She thought again about man’s face, the melancholy smile and the almost indulgent gentleness. That man was a mystery, just as this man was, but this Grigori’s features were harder, colder. She still had a strange longing to meet the man in the sketch.
“No. I am not descended from the man in the sketch. I am that man.”
Madelyn laughed. “That’s funny.” She had plenty of people make fun of her over the years for dragon research.
“I do not jest, Ms. Haynes. You have stumbled into terra incognita. Do you know what that means?”
Madelyn swallowed thickly. “It means ‘territory unknown.’ I’ve seen it on old maps.”
“Very good,” Grigori praised.
He lifted his wine to his lips and took a slow sip, those blue eyes of his piercing her, pinning her in place. “And do you know what else those maps said exactly?” The clink of his glass on the counter was the only sound in the room because neither of them dared to breathe.
And then she said the words, the ones that had been stirring like a serpent in a dark cave at the back of her mind since the moment she brushed her fingertips over the sketch of his face in the book. Surely he couldn’t be suggesting what she’d always been too afraid to even contemplate . . . The words hovered on the tip of her tongue as she stared at him, hypnotized.
“Here there be dragons,” she whispered.
The words drifted between them and although she and Grigori stood six feet apart, that space ceased to exist. His eyes were no longer blue, but a molten gold color, the pupils sliding into reptilian slits. That was impossible . . .
“Here there be dragons,” he echoed in a husky whisper, and Madelyn screamed.


AUTHOR BIO

Lauren Smith is an Oklahoma attorney by day, author by night who pens adventurous and edgy romance stories by the light of her smart phone flashlight app. She knew she was destined to be a romance writer when she attempted to re-write the entire Titanic movie just to save Jack from drowning. Connecting with readers by writing emotionally moving, realistic and sexy romances no matter what time period is her passion. She’s won multiple awards in several romance subgenres including: New England Reader’s Choice Awards, Greater Detroit BookSeller’s Best Awards, and a Semi-Finalist award for the Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley Award. To connect with Lauren, visit her at www.laurensmithbooks.com


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