New Release From Mara Mcbain

  Title: Strays
By: Mara McBain
Publication Date: July 7, 2017
Genre: Romance
Cover Designer: Q Design Cover & Brand
#straysblitz

They were just strays … lost souls no one wanted.

It can always get worse.

Ripped away from her addict mother at eight only to be thrust into a new hell, those words have become etched on Cali’s soul. Life in the system has only reinforced them. Now, getting ready to step out on her own, she’s making plans and hoping against hope to break the cycle. Running for her life in a thunderstorm isn’t the way she’d expected to start.

Keep your head down and work hard.

It was the grown-up version of, out of sight, out of mind. It was how he had survived the hell of foster care. That, and running, but Jarek is done running. Finally, he has a place to call his own. Working construction, he builds things for strangers all day. At night, he renovates his dream home one piece at a time. He never expected to find the most important piece hiding under a wet tarp.

Can Jarek show Cali that it can get better? Can two damaged souls learn to love and trust enough to build a life together?

AMAZON UK – https://goo.gl/WuHJLg
AMAZON CA – https://goo.gl/np6cEG

Mara McBain grew up in rural Indiana where she still lives with her husband of twenty-five years. Even in a population of under three thousand, she is an introvert that prefers quiet over crowds, and often only leaves the house under protest. Reading and writing are her escape and passion. Last year, her other passion graduated from High School and joined the Army. ♥ Being an empty nester and an Army Mom has been a new experience, but one she is slowly settling into.

If you take a peek, you will find a range of genres in Mara’s bibliography. One book is not always like the next. She writes the story the characters whisper. So, she encourages you to look at the pretty covers, read the blurbs and find the tales that speak to you. ♥


Social Media Links
Website – www.MaraMcBain.com
Twitter – @MaraMcBain
2 GIVEAWAYS

Mara’s Facebook Giveaway!

1) A signed paperback copy of STRAYS
2) A signed set of The Trinity Falls Series
3) A Lords of Mayhem t-shirt
4) A $20 Amazon Gift Card
5) Your choice of a signed Paperback copy of any of Mara McBain or Anneliese Brand’s current Bibliography!

Enter Here – https://www.facebook.com/mara.mcbain

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Mean Girls Audiobook by Lucy Felthouse

meangirls_audiownarrator

Mean Girls by Lucy Felthouse Now Available in Audiobook Format! #audiobook #audible #romance #BBW #Rubenesque

Lucy Felthouse’s Rubenesque erotic romance novella, Mean Girls, is now available in audiobook format. Narrated by voice artist Xanthia Bloom, you can now listen to this sweet and sexy curvy girl tale on the go!

Mean Girls Blurb:

Adele Blackthorne is a big girl, a curvy chick. She knows it, and she’s been picked on all her life because of it. But she’s gotten to the stage where she doesn’t care. She may be Rubenesque, but she’s healthy, too. Much healthier than the mean girls at the leisure center that point and stare and say spiteful things about her. Adele rises above it all, and simply enjoys her secretive glances at the center’s hunky lifeguard, Oliver.

As the bullying of Adele becomes worse, Oliver finds it increasingly difficult not to intervene. He doesn’t want to get into trouble with work, but equally he can’t stand to see Adele treated in such a horrible way. Especially since he doesn’t agree that she’s fat and unattractive. He thinks she’s a seriously sexy woman, and would like to get to know her better. Much better.

Audio links:

Amazon UK: http://amzn.to/2sFENhc
Amazon US: http://amzn.to/2szphZ8
Audible UK: http://adbl.co/2spsB4I
Audible US: http://adbl.co/2tIoBQX
iTunes UK: http://apple.co/2tpm9vW
iTunes US: http://apple.co/2upu64o

eBook available here: http://lucyfelthouse.co.uk/published-works/mean-girls/

*****

Author Bio:

Lucy Felthouse is the award-winning author of erotic romance novels Stately Pleasures (named in the top 5 of Cliterati.co.uk’s 100 Modern Erotic Classics That You’ve Never Heard Of, and an Amazon bestseller), Eyes Wide Open (winner of the Love Romances Café’s Best Ménage Book 2015 award, and an Amazon bestseller), The Persecution of the Wolves and Hiding in Plain Sight. Including novels, short stories and novellas, she has over 160 publications to her name. She owns Erotica For All, and is one eighth of The Brit Babes. Find out more about her writing at http://lucyfelthouse.co.uk, or on Twitter or Facebook. Sign up for automatic updates on Amazon or BookBub. Subscribe to her newsletter and get a free eBook: http://www.subscribepage.com/lfnewsletter

 

Release blitz hosted by Writer Marketing Services.

Stacey Johnston Book Tour

 
Title: The California Dreaming Series
Author: Stacey Johnston
Genre:
Romantic Suspense
 
 
  

 

  HEROES
& VILLAINS 
 
Two
lives entwined in secrets…
 
Secrets
that threaten to tear them apart before they even begin…
 
Sophie
Valentine was a girl living a privileged life, in the tranquility of Solana
Beach until she was forced to move to Brooklyn under questionable conditions.
 
In a
quiet Brooklyn neighborhood, Benjamin Sinclair was a troubled boy, leading a
secret life.
 
When
he met Sophie on the steps of his apartment building the day she moved in, he
never envisioned how chaotic and turbulent his life would become.
 
A
battle between the forces of good and evil awaits… one that could leave a
de
vastating effect or be the start of new beginnings.
 
How
will it end?
 
 
 
 
 
 
Smiling to myself, I head into
the hallway to join the others when I feel a hand quickly grab my elbow. It is
no surprise to find Ben standing in front of me, gently guiding me backward. He
places me so that my back is flat against the wall with his face mere inches from
my own. With his hands resting on either side of me on the wall, he uses his
hip against mine to hold me still.
Moving in closer so that I can
feel his breath on my neck, he whispers in my ear,
“I hope you have something sexy
on underneath those clothes, sweet one.” His voice is husky and raw as he
continues. “Because, you see, the images that I have going on in my head right
now are nothing less than sinful.”
Whoa! It is
so not right how easily these words seem to roll off his tongue.
The blush creeping up my neck to
my face is only getting worse as he resumes talking.
“If I get my way later tonight,
I’m going to peel off every layer of those clothes. I plan to act out a fair
few of the dirty things that you have had me dreaming about since you moved
in.”
Now I’m done for. My mouth has
suddenly gone dry, and my breathing is erratic. I am literally frozen.
“I see I have got you at a loss
for words, Soph,” Ben whispers as he steps back to run the back of his hand
along my cheek. “But that’s okay.” He chuckles when my body shudders under his
touch. “Because the only word I want to hear from that mouth of yours tonight
is my name over and over while I’m making you come.”
Grabbing my hand, he slides it in
between the two of us and rests it on the front of his jeans. His breathing
hitches at my touch, and I can feel the hard bulge pulsing under my hand.
Continuing, he says, “Can you feel what you do to me, Soph? I always seem to be
hard when you are around.”
With that, he lowers his hand
from my face and slowly backs away from me. Still stunned, my hand drops from
where it has been resting. I watch as he slowly turns around to head out to
where Sean and Mom were waiting for us.
 
SINS OF
THE FATHER 
 
If there is anything Sherlyn
has learned, it’s that the past is a cruel reminder of a life that can no
longer be lived. But as her quest for answers attracts the attention of one of
her father’s former associates, her life is once more thrown into turmoil, and
she can’t help but wonder if everything she ever knew was a lie.
 
With the threat of a menacing
hitman now eliminated, Stephen is finally free from the prison that was his
life for the past four years. But it doesn’t take long for him to question what
the definition of his new-found freedom really is.
 
Until tragedy strikes.
 
A girl struggling to find her way.
 
A boy trying to
control his demons from the past.
 
Can a shy girl
curb the controlling nature of the boy she loves, and will either of them
survive the sins of the father?
 
 
 
 
 
The day my father walked away from us, my mom became a
different person. Somewhat harder – I would have to say. She became obsessed
with making me a success, until I turned ten, and pulled the plug on those
dreams for good. When she lost that as well, she also lost a part of herself.
It was as if she had lost all sense of herself, and her place in the world.
Therefore, at the tender age of ten, I suddenly learned how harsh life actually
could be – being forced to grow up quicker than I should have ever had to.
In the four years leading up to that moment, I only spent
limited time with my dad. In all fairness, it was no different from when he
lived with us. Whatever was going on between him and my mother was not good.
Most nights you heard her crying herself to sleep. When I was younger, I didn’t
understand what was going on. As I got older, it became apparent I was now
going to be gifted with the added responsibility of caring for my mother. So,
there I was, a ten-year-old girl struggling to take care of herself with the
added worry, of the care and wellbeing of my mother as well.
For those first ten years of my life, I wanted for nothing,
I had no chores, nothing. My mother did everything and then one day, without
warning, it all came crashing down around me like a dam breaking.
I was no longer her little princess; I was now her servant.
I
wished for nothing more during those years after dad left, than to compare my
life to that of Cinderella’s. A child’s story, none the less, but one I related
to. One with any similarities to my own. Granted there was no evil stepmother
or sisters, but my own mother had turned cold and heartless during that time.
Our roles were now reversed, and I had to cater to her every need instead.
 
AFTER THE DUST SETTLES 
 
 
I’m not your average
seventeen-year-old boy.
 
What other teenage boy do you
know of, is working alongside their father in a top-secret government agency,
and has been since they were fifteen?
 
Unheard of? Yes probably.
 
After spending years searching
for my place in this world, I jumped at the opportunity to help my father. What
I didn’t expect was the possibility that our work could flow over and harm our
family.
 
Yet that’s exactly what
happened…….
 
I thought I’d found, and then
lost the girl who would forever hold my heart – until a sexy ass stranger
crossed my path under the Brooklyn Bridge.
 
I want this girl, like I’ve never
wanted anyone. She makes me feel things that I should feel guilty about, that I
shouldn’t be needing as desperately as I do.
 
Only there’s a catch …………. She
has secrets, ones that could have a devastating impact.
  
 
 
 
 
 
There is a lot of
curse words spewing from my padre’s
mouth, but at least he’s given up trying to get free. It’s hard to explain
where I have gone, what my brain has created to allow that deep dark evil to
escape. It’s as though I’ve stepped through a mirror and am watching from the
other side. Hearing and seeing everything that is going on around me, without
the ability to do anything. All I can do is watch as my padre continues to shout at us both, yelling obsenities which he
thinks will help his cause.
“No point in
speaking, padre,” Gerrick tells him.
“You’ve done the one thing I have been trying to avoid.”
This grabs our padre’s attention. “The evilness you’ve
released from inside your figlia has
no concious. She’s as nonna would
describe it – a soulless being who lacks the ability to feel.”
A hideous laugh
escapes my throat and all I can do is watch as Nereza uses my body to walk
around my padre in circles. The blade
I had secured is now twirling in my hand, as though she’s using it to threaten.
As we continue our path around the chair, Gerrick continues talking from his
place at the foot of the stairs.
“You see, the girl
circling you feels nothing, except the thirst for blood.”
As my body comes
full circle, through this mirror, I’m watching as padre’s eyes bulge. He is finally aware what is happening and how
he no longer has any control at all.
“Make no mistake,”
my fratello explains. “The only way
this is going to end, is when Nereza here satisfies her taste. Only then will
my precious Hadley be allowed to return.”
What does he mean,
only then? Has he seen this happen to me before? Why don’t I remember?
“Do what you will,
I have made my peace,” an exasperated man sighs.
The realization
that he will not escape has finally set in, but the question burning my lips is
how do I escape this room when Nereza has finished what she is here to do?
‘Relax Hadley, I’ve got you,’ her
voice filters through my brain.
What am I
thinking, of course she knows my thoughts, we are one person – split by our
demons.
   

 

 
Stacey Johnston resides in one of the southern suburbs of
Perth, Western Australia with her husband, four children and a lovable Alaskan
malamute called Storm.
At one time or another, each of us has wished that our lives
reflected those of the characters we read in books, or watched on our
television screens. As a child, Stacey was no different and found she could
create stories in her head. Stories where her characters could come alive and
she could escape when life around her became difficult.
Leaving home at 17, she moved from family member to family
member trying to find her place. During those early years, alcohol became her
closest friend, and her characters and stories in her head really started to
blossom. It was not until she met the man who would become the father to her
oldest two children that she started to settle down.
For the next twelve years, Stacey dedicated her life to her
partner and their two beautiful children. Her stories were continuing to grow,
but so was her desire to put them on paper and share them. Tragically, after
losing her partner to a heart attack her grip on reality started to slide and
it was during this time that her characters evolved.
During her time of need, Stacey found a soul mate who would
later become her husband and give her two more equally beautiful children. With
his love, support and encouragement Stacey finally found the courage to put her
characters and stories onto paper. 
Stacey’s hope is that other readers love her characters as
much as she does. Her wish is that they are caught up in their stories,
experiencing their joy and pain just as she has over the years.
 
Facebook
Reader Group
Stacey’s Starlettes:
Stacey’s
Starlette’s Reviewer Group:
Stacey’s
Starlets Street Team Group:
 
 

 

Michelle Dare Excerpt Reveal

Title: Where I End
Author: Michelle Dare
Genre: NA Romance Standalone
Editor: Karen Hrdlicka
Proofreader: Tiffany Landers
Cover Designer: Amy Queau
Blurb:
Eve
Pretentious. Arrogant. Condescending. Cruel.
All words I’d used to label him. Exactly what I’d always believed he was. All that changed one spring morning when I realized I didn’t know the man behind the facade at all.
Angry. Desperate. Broken. Mine.
All words I’d use to define him after I interfered. Once our eyes locked, I was all in. There was no turning back. He tried to push me away, but I refused to let him go. I was determined to save him. What I didn’t expect was that he would save me, too.
Cy
I was so close to ending my misery. Mere seconds away. Then she stumbled upon our argument, and I changed my plans. She wasn’t supposed to be there. She knew too much. Even with my entire world burning down around me, she wouldn’t walk away.
I’ve always been on my own. No one had ever fought for me before. Why should anyone start now? But she did, no matter how much I tried to stop her. I knew I was nothing, unworthy of her, but she was persistent. Once she got under my skin, I couldn’t let her go, because where I end, she begins.
Michelle Dare is a romance author. Her stories range from sweet to sinful and from new adult to fantasy. There aren’t enough hours in the day for her to write all of the story ideas in her head. When not writing or reading, she’s a wife and mom living in eastern Pennsylvania. One day she hopes to be writing from a beach where she will never have to see snow or be cold again.
Author Links:
Newsletter Sign-Up: http://eepurl.com/bt14zX
Buy Links:
Google Play: http://bit.ly/2rqQn3v
I close the distance between us but don’t touch her, no matter how badly I want to. What should I do? Lead her outside to the chairs on the deck, where we can watch the sunset? Or do I drag her into my bedroom and spend the rest of the night cherishing her body?
She makes the decision for me by taking my hand in hers and walking us outside to the deck. I sit in a dark green Adirondack chair and bring her down to my lap. Her back to my chest; her head on my shoulder. The sun is lowering on the horizon. The mountain is at our back, and the dense forest is spread out before us. Pink and burnt orange hues light the sky, but all of it pales in comparison to the woman with me.
She turns her face toward mine and leans slightly away from me to allow room for my lips to press to hers. And they do. I have to grip the arms of the chair to keep my hands off her. Our tongues touch as a fire ignites in my veins, calling for me to take her—all of her—and make her mine. To claim her and let the world know she’s off-limits.
She pulls back and stands, then turns around to face me. Her slender legs straddle my lap, slipping beneath the armrests as she settles on top of me. I can’t resist touching her now. My hands glide up her thighs to rest on her ass, each hand palming her, pushing her into my hardening length.
Her hands find my shoulders as she tips her head back to rub her center against me.
“Fuck, baby. You have no idea what you do to me.”
She leans forward, her lips hovering over mine. “I think I do,” she says breathily. “When you’re in front of me, it takes all my willpower not to touch you. Not to run my hands down your chest and stomach. There are so many parts of you I know nothing about. I want everything you have to give me. I want to know you on every level. I want to be the one you confide in. I want it all.”
My hands work under her shirt to the soft skin of her back. “I’m yours.” It’s all I can say without revealing how deeply her words affect me. Everything she wants, I’ll give her. Maybe not all at once, but over time.
It’s a constant struggle for me to confide in others, when for so many years, I was told I was lying. I quickly push those thoughts from my mind. Now isn’t the time. Not when I have Evie like this.
My fingers make quick work of the clasp of her bra. Once it’s unhooked, I skate my fingers from her back, over her ribs, to her breasts. She moans, then captures my lips with hers. I can’t believe I’m finally going to have her. For years, I’ve thought about what it would be like. How she’d react to me. If she’d want me as badly as I want her. Her nipples pebble when my fingers gently pinch them. Our tongues are exploring one another. God, I want to sink so deep inside of her and never leave.
The feel of her fingers working open my jeans has me practically coming in anticipation of her touching me. Her hand slips inside my jeans, inside my boxers, and grips me. My hips jerk forward at her touch. She shifts back a little on my lap to make room to stroke me from base to tip. Fuck. My body tenses at her touch, trying hard not to end this before it begins. She’s my undoing. Every other woman took work for me to get off.
I need her naked. I need to taste her skin. Quickly, I break our kiss to lift her shirt and bra from her. Finding the taut peak of her breast with my lips, I suck on her, swirling my tongue along her skin. Her grip on my dick tightens, her movements faster now. I start unfastening her jeans. I can’t wait anymore. I need to be inside of her.

 

New Release from Kiru Essiens

Title: Freddie Untangled

Series: The Essiens #7, Freddie Duology Part 2

Author: Kiru Taye

Genre: Adult, Romantic Suspense

Published: July 7, 2017

Kike has struggled for years to break out of the chains of her marriage to Lekan. After moving out of the Ogun estate, she has to cope with condemnation not just from family and friends but from unseen followers as the story of her relationship with Freddie becomes media fodder. She’s finally free to love a man who loves her but is she about to lose everything else that matters to her?

Freddie has a new family—Kike and the kids—and he has to pull out all the stops if he is to outwit a powerful sociopathic pastor as well as and deal with ghosts from his past that come to haunt him. He will do whatever it takes to keep the woman he loves safe but the price might be his sanity and his life.

Lekan is not about to give up on a woman he sees as his property and uses every weapon in his arsenal to get Kike back, including following through on the threats he made.

With the odds stacked up against Kike and Freddie, is a happy future together even possible? Will they ever be out of Lekan’s reach?

This story unravels in two instalments—this is the second part and not a standalone.

The first part, Freddie Entangled is out now.

Freddie Untangled Excerpt © Kiru Taye 2017

Apprehension knotted Kike’s stomach as she showed Freddie around the house she planned to rent. The estate agent had arrived ten minutes earlier with the keys. Kike had asked the woman to wait outside while she showed Freddie the place.

“Have you already seen this house previously?” Freddie asked as they headed up the stairs to the upper level. He probably wondered how she knew her way around the property.

“Yes. Tolani used to live here before she moved to Lekki. She’s just finished refurbishing it ready to let it out,” Kike replied.

“So it’s a three-bedroom house?” Freddie asked as he strode into the large master bedroom.

The space lay empty aside from the built-in closet and an en-suite bathroom.

“Four—bed. Three up here and a guest room downstairs. Ranti and Yomi need separate rooms. They can have the other two and I’ll have this one.” Kike replied.

On her single income, she couldn’t afford a huge house like the one she shared with her husband. Leaving Lekan meant walking away from the ostentatious lifestyle. A price she would happily pay for her peace of mind.

“Is there an annex for the security team?”

“Yes, there’s a 2-bed boys’ quarter at the back.” She sashayed to the large window overlooking the back courtyard and pointed at the single-level building close to the back wall. “There.”

“Okay.” Freddie came to stand beside her, his right arm brushing her left.

Her skin tingled at the contact as her heart raced. The man took her breath away just by being around her. His presence in her life had reawakened her as a woman.

“But I’m hoping you’ll spend more time in here with me than out there.” She swallowed and held her breath, her sweaty palm clenched around the leather handle of her tote.

Although they’d shown their attraction to each other, he hadn’t done anything to indicate he wanted to become her lover, or a live-in one at that. He remained restrained in his interactions with her.

There had been the moment in Rebel Studios earlier today when he’d given her an orgasm in the most delicious way. But that could have been the result of his frustration at her because he’d found her in Lekan’s room a week ago.

She’d hurt Freddie and, in all honesty, she hadn’t been expecting him to forgive her so readily. So he had the right to reject the invitation to her bed.

He turned, leaning his side against the cream wall. A slow smile curled one corner of his lips. “You want me to share your bed?”

Warmth bloomed through her chest at seeing his smile, easing some of the tension in her back muscles. “Yes. I’d love to have you in my bed. Every night if possible.”

He reached out and cupped her cheek. She leaned into his touch, relishing his callused palm and the tingles spreading out on her skin.

“You know I want you, more than I’ve ever wanted any other woman.”

The mixture of his raspy voice and coarse hand sent bolts of desire piercing through her and melting her core.

“But the only way I’m going to make love to you is if you choose me as your Dominant. You are my kitten and that’s the way I want you in bed.”

Kiru is the award winning author of His Treasure. She writes sensual and passionate multicultural romance stories set mostly in Africa. When she’s not writing you can find her either immersed in a good book or catching up with friends and family. She currently lives in the South of England with her husband and three children.
Hosted By: 
 

 

Now Live!!! Girls & Boys by M.B. Feeney

It’s LIVE!!!

 

 

Girls and Boys, the 90s based coming of age New Adult novel by M. B. Feeney is now live on Amazon and in KU.

 

Grab your copy now!

 

Jack Robinson and Andy Stone are best friends, navigating their way through life in 90s London with a soundtrack of Britpop. Jack’s in his final year at university and still has no idea about what he wants to do with his life, while Andy’s a mechanic by day, a bit of a man-whore the rest of the time.

Adapting to a new place to live in a big city isn’t easy, especially when girls, alcohol, and hard work get in the way, but having your best friend with you every step of the way makes it that much easier… well, when you’re not ignoring each other.

Filled with laughter and heartache, Jack and Andy’s story is for everyone. A hint of romance, a solid friendship, and plenty of stupid mistakes. But, will they learn from them?

 

Check out the Britpop playlist on Spotify

Facebook Post:
Girls and Boys, the 90s based coming of age New Adult novel by M. B. Feeney is now live on Amazon and in KU.
Only Available on Amazon and KU: http://mybook.to/GirlsandBoys
The Blurb:
Jack Robinson and Andy Stone are best friends, navigating their way through life in 90s London with a soundtrack of Britpop. Jack’s in his final year at university and still has no idea about what he wants to do with his life, while Andy’s a mechanic by day, a bit of a man-whore the rest of the time.
Adapting to a new place to live in a big city isn’t easy, especially when girls, alcohol, and hard work get in the way, but having your best friend with you every step of the way makes it that much easier… well, when you’re not ignoring each other.
Filled with laughter and heartache, Jack and Andy’s story is for everyone. A hint of romance, a solid friendship, and plenty of stupid mistakes. But, will they learn from them?
Check out the Britpop playlist on Spotify: http://spoti.fi/2symLhU

New from Thom Collins

anthemofthesea_9781786515681_email

Out Now—ANTHEM OF THE SEA By Thom Collins (@thomwolf @realthomcollins)

anthemofthesea_800[10312]Blurb:

An ocean of possibility. For love, revenge and murder.

Daniel Blake, a handsome young singer, boards the Atlantic Anthem in Portugal for the final voyage of her maiden season. The state-of-the-art ship is the jewel in the Royal Atlantic cruise fleet. For Daniel, a one-time boy band member and TV talent show winner, it’s an honor to perform aboard such a vessel. Daniel loves the freedom and adventure of the sea. He began his solo career as a cruise ship entertainer and returning to the ocean as a headline act brings him full circle. He isn’t looking for love.

Neither is comedian Elijah Mann. Working at sea has given Elijah’s career the boost it desperately needed. Often considered too good-looking and sexy to be funny, work has been hard to come by since his TV show was canceled. With a potential new career opening up, he must remain focused. But when Elijah meets Daniel the attraction is mutual and instant. As the ship sets sail for England they have three days to get to know each other. Elijah can’t let that opportunity pass.

The voyage home is far from smooth. Also on board is a figure from Daniel’s past. A man who’s been holding a grudge for years, waiting for his moment. As a storm builds in the North Atlantic, Daniel and Elijah discover that the trip of a lifetime could be their last.

LINKS:

Pride Publishing: https://www.pride-publishing.com/book/anthem-of-the-sea

Amazon UK: http://amzn.to/2rvgeTr

Amazon USA: http://amzn.to/2rh1Bnt

Kobo: https://www.kobo.com/gb/en/ebook/anthem-of-the-sea

Barnes and Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/anthem-of-the-sea-thom-collins/1126384702?ean=9781786515681

 

EXCERPT:anthemofthesea-outnow[113568]

The taxi collected Daniel Blake from the hotel on time. He liked that. Punctuality, efficiency and professionalism—three things he valued in all areas of his career. Be on time and be prepared—that had been his motto since he was fourteen years old. Fifteen years later, he continued to live by it.

He helped the driver load his gear into the trunk. There wasn’t much of it. When on the road, he traveled light with just a medium-sized case, a holdall and a suit carrier. He’d arrived in Lisbon the previous morning, disembarking from a cruise ship, where he’d performed for two nights. His shirts would need washing and his suit pressing before his next show. There was plenty of time.

He gave the driver directions to his designated cruise terminal and climbed onto the back seat. Thankfully, the air conditioning was running. Though it was late October, the outside temperature remained in the mid-eighties and it wasn’t even eleven o’clock. Last night he had heard some of the hotel staff complain about the weather turning cold, but for a boy like him, born and raised in the northeast of England, these climates were well above average. Back home, this would be a hot day in June or July.

It was a short drive to the port. Early in the day, but the streets were busy. Three massive cruise ships were anchored in the harbor, discharging thousands of eager tourists into the city. British, American, German, Japanese, they scurried through the streets, clutching backpacks and maps, keen to explore as much as they could of the historic Portuguese city in the few hours they had here.

Daniel smiled at their faces as they zipped by.

Lisbon, his last stop before home.

The car arrived at the port and within ten minutes Daniel stood beside the gangway with his luggage, waiting for the necessary security calls to be made that would allow him to board the ship. The enormous vessel towered above him, casting a huge shadow across the dock. The Atlantic was one of the biggest and most spectacular cruise ships in the world.

There were a lot of criticisms for super ships such as this. He’d heard them described as floating shopping malls, grotesque monstrosities and budget hotels at sea, but for Daniel there was something quite majestic about the craft and its design, to say nothing of the engineering that went into the construction of such a huge vessel.

“Those things are so top heavy,” a jobbing magician once had told him in a bar. “I hear they roll right over in high seas.”

Daniel had laughed at the man’s ignorance. “And when did you last hear of that happening?”

The man had floundered. “I’m just saying that something so uneven can’t be safe, can it? You won’t ever catch me on one of them things. Mug’s game, isn’t it?”

“It’s your loss,” Daniel had told him cheerily. He felt safer at sea, even in the roughest weather, than he ever had on a plane. Motorways too. It might not be the quickest, but without a doubt it was the most luxurious and extravagant way to travel. He loved being at sea.

Waiting for the security guy to return with his passport, Daniel realized he’d drawn some attention.

A slow stream of passengers was returning to the ship. They couldn’t have seen much of Lisbon, coming back already. Among them was an English family. While the parents lit cigarettes before joining the embarkation queue, the daughter, who looked around fourteen, stared directly at him.

“Hi.” He smiled. “Good day out?”

The girl was plump and pretty with wavy brown hair that fell around her shoulders. She wore a sweet, flowery sundress and red Converse shoes. She blushed as she realized she’d been caught gawking.

“Are you…? Oh, my God, you are, aren’t you? You’re Daniel Blake.”

He raised his hands in mock surrender. “Guilty as charged. Don’t shoot me.”

The girl nervously stepped forward, looking at him with wide, hazel eyes. “What are you doing here?”

“I’m waiting to join the ship. I’m performing on board.”

Her jaw fell. “The Anthem? You’re coming on the Anthem?

He nodded. He didn’t mind being recognized like this. Daniel was famous enough in the UK, but not so much that it ever became an inconvenience. His fame came from a TV talent show. The public had made him and he appreciated all the support he got.

“Oh my God.” The girl’s face became highly animated. “Mam! Dad! Come here. Oh my God, you won’t believe it. Daniel Blake. It’s actually him.”

Her bemused parents stubbed out their cigarettes and came over. They were an attractive-looking couple of around forty. The girl looked a lot like her father.

“I hope she’s not bothering you,” the dad said, looking cautiously between Daniel and his daughter.

“Not a bit,” Daniel assured him. “It’s a pleasure.”

“Daniel is going to be singing on the ship. Can you believe it? How cool is that?” She grinned a mile wide.

“Starting tomorrow,” he said. “Make certain you get yourselves a great seat down front. I can use all the support I can get.”

“I will, I will. I voted for you every week on The One. You were my favorite from the start.”

“So it’s you I need to thank for winning. What’s your name, sweetie?”

“Julieann.”

“Well, thank you, Julieann. Your votes changed my life.”

The girl blushed violently.

The security officer came back to escort Daniel onto the ship. Before boarding, he posed for photographs with Julieann and her family.

“The girls at school will have a fit when they see these on Instagram,” Julieann said proudly as they took a selfie together.

“See you at the shows,” Daniel said as he walked on board. “And don’t forget—front row. Be there. I’ll look out for you.”

“We’ll definitely be there.”

Once on board, he passed his luggage through the security scanner and was equipped with his sea pass ID, the plastic card that would enable him to move around the ship, access his accommodation and run a tab in the bars and shops. He was greeted on the far side of security by a young woman in a blue shirt and khaki shorts. Her soft blonde hair was tied back from her round, attractive face. She was vaguely familiar from his engagement earlier in the season. He checked her name badge to refresh his memory. Belle Hodges, entertainment crew, from South Australia.

“Hi,” Belle said cheerily. “It’s wonderful to have you back on board.”

She extended her hand and he shook it. “It’s great to be back. Honestly, I’ve been looking forward to this since I left in May. How has your maiden season gone?”

“Over too quickly and totally ace. I can’t believe it’s been that long since you were here. Yikes, the time has flown. Let me give you a hand with your stuff.”

“That’s okay. I can manage. Just point me in the right direction and I’ll find my way.”

Ignoring his protests, Belle took up the suit carrier.

“You’re in real luck,” she said. “You’ve been allocated a large stateroom on one of the passenger decks. Balcony and all.”

“You’re joking? Wow. Am I sharing with the house band or a football team?”

Belle giggled, wrinkling her nose. “Silly. You’ve got the whole place to yourself.”

“Seriously? What gives? I never get accommodation like that.”

Belle looked around cautiously and lowered her voice. “We had a family thrown off the ship in Gran Canaria so you’ve got their room. They caused a fight in the martini bar and punched an officer who tried to intervene. Captain Rassimov put them off at the next port. No second chances.”

“Good to know we’re in such firm hands.”

“Captain Rassimov is the best,” Belle gushed.

Daniel didn’t doubt it. He’d met the dashing captain on his last trip. Tall, dark, handsome and extremely charismatic, he sent hearts beating fast among the passengers and crew. If he wasn’t so straight, Daniel would fancy him too. Rassimov was the perfect man to master such a grand vessel.

Launched in May, with a rumored cost of over one-point-five billion, the Atlantic Anthem was coming to the end of its inaugural European season. It was the newest and biggest vessel in the Royal Atlantic fleet. Daniel had spent two nights on board when he’d performed a headline set on the maiden voyage. He’d worked for cruise companies all over the world, but he couldn’t fail to be impressed by the Anthem. It was billed as the ship with everything. From his own experience that was certainly true.

As he walked through the decks with Belle, his sense of excitement increased. The interior was truly splendid. Not a penny had been spared, from the lush carpets to the paintings and sculptures that graced every deck. Before coming on board, he’d read all the specs—about the spa and fitness center, two swimming pools and a solarium, the Royal Theater with nine-hundred-sixty seats, the bars—eight of them across the ship—the main dining room plus three specialty restaurants and a twenty-four-hour café. Several public entertainment areas were situated on Decks Four and Five around a jaw-dropping central staircase. Knowing all of that in advance, he still had been blown away when he’d came upon the ship for the first time. And he felt it now, all over again.

Only the most jaded, spoiled and hard-to-please traveler could fail to be inspired by the Anthem.

They rode one of the glass elevators to the tenth floor where Belle led him down a long corridor to his stateroom in the forward section of the ship.

“Last time, I had an interior cabin in the crew quarters.” He laughed.

“Yep, that’s where they like to cram us in. But now you’ve got this.”

Daniel swiped his sea pass card to enter the room. A major step up from crew class, the room was bright and contemporary, to the standard of any good hotel. He had an enormous double bed all to himself and a sitting area with a long, cream leather sofa. There was a dressing table, minibar, TV, private bathroom and balcony.

“I hope I don’t get lost in here,” he joked, dumping his luggage by the wardrobe.

“As long as you’re on stage for your shows tomorrow night, no one will mind what you get up to in here,” Belle said.

“You can put your mind at ease on that count,” he said. “I’ve been performing since I was fourteen and I’ve never missed a show in my life.”

Belle left him to settle in. Daniel unpacked his clothes first and filled a plastic bag with stuff that needed washing immediately—shirts, socks and underwear. Another great thing about working on a luxury cruise liner—everything was to hand. If he left the bag out today, all the items would be washed, ironed and returned by tomorrow.

He went into the bathroom next, laying out his razor, toothbrush and skincare products. He brought everything with him when he traveled. Though he wasn’t particularly vain, it was important to look good in public.

He didn’t have to worry. At twenty-nine years old—five months shy of thirty—he was in prime condition. He’d never looked better. For years he used to hate the way he looked. Everything about him had been out of proportion, especially his face. Eyes, teeth, nose, chin, they were always too big. But throughout his twenties, the rest of his body had caught up. He’d filled out and gained muscle and his face, which had seemed so awkward in his teens, had developed an extraordinary handsomeness. He had a strong jaw with a cowboy cleft, while his mouth was wide and masculine. With sky-blue eyes and thick brown hair, he had become a good-looking man. Very good-looking.

His confidence hadn’t grown to match his looks. A part of him would always be that skinny, peculiar kid. But only he could see it.

Finally unpacked, he relaxed and walked onto the balcony. He had a great view of the city and the people below, streaming like ants around the port terminals. Daniel took a moment to enjoy it all. He loved just about every part of the cruise experience.

Every ship, every voyage, was a new adventure.

The Atlantic Anthem promised a greater adventure than any other.

He couldn’t wait to get started.

Thom Collins Bio

Thom Collins is the author of the novel Closer by Morning, with Pride Publishing. His love of page turning thrillers began at an early age when his mother caught him reading the latest Jackie Collins book and promptly confiscated it, sparking a life-long love of raunchy novels.

The novellas Gods of Vengeance and Silent Voices were published by Pride in early 2017, followed by the novel Anthem of the Sea, the first book in the Anthem Trilogy. He has recently finished writing the second book in a series and is working on the third.

Thom has lived in the North East of England his whole life. He grew up in Northumberland and now lives in County Durham with his husband and two cats. He loves all kinds of genre fiction, especially bonk-busters, thrillers, romance and horror. He is also a cookery book addict with far too many titles cluttering his shelves. When not writing he can be found in the kitchen trying out new recipes. He’s a keen traveler but with a fear of flying that gets worse with age. Since taking his first cruise in 2013 he realized that sailing is the way to go.

Links:

Blog: http://www.thomcollinsauthor.blogspot.co.uk/

Twitter:   @thomwolf     and  @realthomcollins

Email: thomcollinsauthor@aol.com

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