Valentine’s Week kicks off here at the Book Bellas with three EXCLUSIVE TEASERS from Lisa Henry, Andrea Speed, Amelia C. Gormley nd Reesa Herberth! Plus don’t forget to enter our giveaway!
We want to say a massive THANK YOU to the authors for participating!
Treasure for My Treasure by Lisa Henry
For Valentine’s Day, I’ve written a missing scene from KING OF DUBLIN, my upcoming release with Heidi Belleau. In this scene, Boru, the king, is presenting his slave, Ciaran, with a gift. They don’t celebrate Valentine’s Day in post-apocalyptic Dublin – partly because they don’t know what the date is, but mostly because, even if they did, Boru is a psychopath.
“Treasure for my treasure,” Boru said in a soft voice.
Ciaran’s breath caught. He ran his fingers over the gold torc, imagining the ends resting above his collarbones. He lifted it to test its weight.
“I am unworthy of such a gift, your Majesty,” he said.
Boru’s dark eyes glittered. “You are my treasure.”
Ciaran shuffled forward on his knees. He shifted, and settled so that his head was resting against Boru’s thigh. He stared at the floor, closing his eyes as the king toyed with his hair.
His throat ached.
Outside, the sounds of revelry drifted up from the street. Boru’s men were celebrating. Glass smashed and a woman screamed.
Ciaran suppressed a shudder.
“Pretty, pretty Boy,” Boru said.
Ciaran closed his fingers around the torc.
Boru made a fist in his hair, and tugged his head back. “Let me see how it looks on you, Boy.”
Ciaran straightened up, lifting his chin. He passed the torc back to Boru, and Boru held it up to the firelight.
“Did you ever think you would wear such finery, Boy?”
“No, your Majesty.”
“No.” Boru reached out and gripped his chin tightly. “No, you didn’t. And why would you? You were worthless, weren’t you?”
“Worthless,” Ciaran echoed.
“And now you are the slave of a king.”
“You honor me.” A hoarse whisper.
Boru released him abruptly. “Put it on.”
Ciaran took the torc back. There was no hinge on it and Ciaran was absurdly afraid he would break it. It was a museum piece. He struggled to separate the heavy ends. A warrior must have worn this once, or a chieftain. Not a lowly slave. The gold scraped his skin as he forced his neck through the gap. Then it was done, and he tugged it around so the ends were at the front of his throat.
“Mmm. It suits you,” Boru said. He arched his brows. “There’s more gold than most people could dream of hanging around your neck now.”
Ciaran raised his hand to feel it.
Boru narrowed his eyes. “And how does my Boy repay my generosity? I gave you a present, Boy.”
Ciaran heard more screaming from out in the street. He forced a smile and licked his lips. “Then let me give you one too, your Majesty.”
“Whore,” Boru said, his voice low with amusement. “You’re a real slut for gold, aren’t you?”
Gold. The word meant nothing here.
A gold collar was still a collar.
A chain was still a chain.
Ciaran shuffled toward Boru on his knees, fighting back his tears, to give thanks for the king’s gift.
KING OF DUBLIN by Heidi Belleau and Lisa Henry is published on February 24 from Riptide Publishing
About the Authors:
Lisa likes to tell stories, mostly with hot guys and happily ever afters.
Lisa lives in tropical North Queensland, Australia. She doesn’t know why, because she hates the heat, but she suspects she’s too lazy to move. She spends half her time slaving away as a government minion, and the other half plotting her escape.
She attended university at sixteen, not because she was a child prodigy or anything, but because of a mix-up between international school systems early in life. She studied History and English, neither of them very thoroughly.
She shares her house a log-suffering partner, too many cats, a dog, a green tree frog that swims in the toilet, and as many possums as can break in every night. This is not how she imagined life as a grown-up.
Connect with Lisa:
Heidi Belleau was born and raised in small town New Brunswick, Canada. She now lives in the rugged oil-patch frontier of Northern BC with her husband, an Irish ex-pat whose long work hours in the trades leave her plenty of quiet time to write.
She has a degree in history from Simon Fraser University with a concentration in British and Irish studies; much of her work centred on popular culture, oral folklore, and sexuality, but she was known to perplex her professors with unironic papers on the historical roots of modern romance novel tropes. (Ask her about Highlanders!)
When not writing, you might catch her trying to explain British television to her newborn daughter or standing in line at the local coffee shop, waiting on her caramel macchiato.
Connect with Heidi:
Josh of the Damned
Josh Caplan is your average late-night convenience store clerk, but the Quik-Mart where he works is nothing like normal with that hell vortex in the parking lot. Waiting on zombies, demons, and other things that go bump in the night might scare some, but they’re actually more polite than the stoners, and Josh welcomes the break in the monotony—especially when he acquires himself a sexy new boyfriend with a deadly secret.
Will Josh survive this retail nightmare? It’s a Big Gulp of a chance, but between the hazard pay and the hottie with a sweet tooth for Josh’s candy, it’s a chance he’s willing to take.
Andrea Speed was born looking for trouble in some hot month without an R in it. While succeeding in finding Trouble, she has also been found by its twin brother, Clean Up, and is now on the run, wanted for the murder of a mop and a really cute, innocent bucket that was only one day away from retirement. (I was framed, I tell you – framed!)
In her spare time, she arms lemurs in preparation for the upcoming war against the Mole Men. Viva la revolution!
Connect with Andrea:
For Valentine’s Day, I’ve written a scene between Josh and Colin from the Josh of the Damned series. What is Valentine’s Day? That shouldn’t be a hard question to answer, but when Josh tries to explain it to his vampire boyfriend Colin, he finds himself a little stumped.
“Are you seriously telling me you don’t know what Valentine’s Day is?” Josh asked.
Colin, standing on the opposite side of the checkout counter, scratched his head. “It sounds … vaguely familiar, but I can’t actually place it.”
Josh sighed. It was weird enough having a vampire boyfriend you only saw at night, but this “human amnesia” of his caused strange problems. He was human once! Why couldn’t he remember it?
Josh picked up one of the small candy hearts off to the side of the register. To be fair, the Quik Mart didn’t go all out on Valentine’s Day, possibly because Mr. Kwan didn’t seem big on holidays, and also, with most of the night customers coming from the hell dimension behind the store, they didn’t have Earth holidays. Or if they did, they didn’t advertise that fact. Except for Halloween. Everybody loved Halloween. “It’s a half-assed holiday where you give candy or flowers or tacky underwear to people you love.”
Colin took the candy heart and studied it. Colin loved candy, so this was at least speaking his language. “Why?”
“Umm … yeah, okay, you got me. I don’t know. I think, like, some guy named Valentine died? ‘Cause he was trying to help a couple elope or something.”
“I know, it doesn’t make sense to me either. I’m pretty sure I missing something, but I was told that basic story.”
“By whom?” Colin wondered. He ripped the cellophane off the heart.
“Umm … school, I think?” Josh suddenly realized why Colin might have human amnesia. Josh never had it, and yet he still couldn’t remember half the shit you’d think he was supposed to know. Forgetting must have been part of the human condition. He wasn’t even a stoner like his roommate Doug. He had no excuse.
Colin popped off the heart shaped lid, revealing four chocolates inside. Wow, you’d think with a box this size, there’d be more candy. Colin sniffed, and asked, “You like coconut, right?”
Colin plucked out a round chocolate, and handed it to him. Colin wasn’t a fan of coconut, or really any fruit “interfering” with his candy. As he liked to say, if he wanted fruit, he’d eat that. Josh popped the candy in his mouth and chewed it. It wasn’t bad.
Colin had to step aside so Josh could ring up a lizard man, who brought his three bags of potato chips up to the counter. The lizard man eyed Colin somewhat warily – did vampires and the lizard people not get along? – but then Colin greeted him/her in the buzzing, clicking language of the lizards, and it relaxed. Like always, it let him keep the change, then gathered up the chip bags and waddle stomped out of the store, leaving him and Colin all by themselves. “You know, I just don’t get why this is a holiday,” Colin said, chewing on the last remaining caramel. Somehow, he’d already eaten all of them.
“Neither do I.” Josh glanced out the store windows. It looked really dead out there tonight, save for the werewolves running around the parking lot, hoping for a car to pull in so they could tear off the bumpers. What werewolves loved about bumpers he would never know? He could figure out why they got into the garbage, but why were they attracted to chrome? “Wanna fool around in the back?”
Colin stopped eying the candy on the display rack, and turned his hungry gaze on him. “I thought you’d never ask.”
Just because you didn’t understand a holiday didn’t mean you couldn’t celebrate it.
In a world with little hope and no rules, the only thing they have to lose is themselves.
Rhys Cooper is a dead man. Cut off from the world since childhood, he’s finally exposed to the lethal virus that wiped out most of the human race. Now his only hope for survival is infection by another strain that might provide immunity. But it’s sexually transmitted, and the degradation he feels at submitting to the entire squad of soldiers that rescued him eclipses any potential for pleasure—except with Darius, the squadron’s respected, capable leader.
A Strain ficlet
Joe isn’t sure when they stopped talking about the past. It hadn’t been a deliberate thing. Somewhere over the years the people of Delta Company had quit looking back, quit remembering, until none of them mentioned their lives before anymore. Darius is one of the few who still uses both first and last names. The rest go by their first names, nicknames, or call signs. They have shed half their identity as if denuding themselves of the past with it.
Usually it’s the family name they lose. Family is irrelevant now.
All gone. All dead. All lost.
They’re a people without history.
It was Toby’s notion to maintain a calendar. Joe thinks it’s wiser to let the seasons pass by unmarked. He has relied mostly on Titus’s hooch to help with that endeavor, and he’s been largely successful. When he catches sight of his bare chest in a mirror, he can blur out the scars there, words carved by a man long gone. A man who had met his death at Joe’s hands while they stared at each other with love in their eyes.
But Toby’s record-keeping is relentless, and no one speaks against it. Toby’s need to track time is no less valid than Joe’s need to lose it.
Because of this, he knows it’s been over five years since they became Jugs.
And it’s been fifty-five days since the winter solstice.
Toby refills his cup from the water filtration unit, not Titus’s hooch. His eyes are clear and sober, and dance with a wicked gleam. He only recently joined Darius’s squadron, when most of his own had been lost in Texas. Since then, he’s been eyeballing Joe a lot. “You know what thatmeans don’t you?”
“Valentine’s Day, man!” Kaleo enthuses.
“Schuyler’s out on patrol.” Gina smirks, her head in Lucy’s lap. “Have fun celebrating with Rosy Palm and her five little sisters.”
Kaleo flashes the longest of those sisters in her direction.
Xolani is lying on the floor like Gina, with a blunt between her fingers and her head pillowed on Titus’s thigh. His fingers are carding through her insanely thick hair, which is loose from its braid for once. He tugs playfully at it. “I could use some Valentine’s nookie.”
Xolani quirks an eyebrow. “You going all cave man on me, Titus? Think you’re gonna drag me off to our bunk by my hair?”
He snorts. “Hell no, I like my ’nads where they are.”
“Guess I’ll have to drag you, then.” She springs to her feet with more energy than seems right for someone who’s been toking. “Come on, old man.”
Joe takes what’s left of her blunt, and then they’re gone. Others drift off in the same manner. Kaleo looks satisfied, and Joe realizes that was his intent. To give them something fun.
Joe finishes the joint and goes to find someplace that isn’t surrounded by the sound of people fucking. Here on base, there is no dust, no cobwebs, no signs of decay or abandonment. The mirrors in the barracks are unfortunately spotless. He can see the broad expanse of his own pale skin as he strips off his shirt, and the letters etched there.
No one remarks on the scars, but few of them play the way he and Chip had. They don’t get that these are words of love. They had taken him to a place he desperately needed, removed him from not only his body but from his pride, his very self. Sent him flying. He has no interest in trying to explain it.
Tonight, his fingers trace the bumpy, uneven lines of the scars, and for once he looks back. He tries to remember the rapture he’d felt when Chip’s knife had cut them, but all he can feel is the pain of the moment when he slit Chip’s throat and gave him merciful release. That’s a pain Joe doesn’t want, can’t handle. It will bring him no bliss.
“You miss it, don’t you? The pain?” A soft, low voice murmurs behind him, and Joe recognizes it and turns. Toby. He stands a full head shorter than Joe, slight and wiry where Joe is broad and massive. His eyes are sympathetic, but also sure. Of himself. Of what he’s doing. He expects compliance.
Joe is surprised to realize he wants to give it.
“Yeah, I miss it.” He keeps his voice level, and looks away from that steady gaze. “But I got no interest in replacing my husband.”
“Good, because neither do I.” Before Joe knows it, Toby’s hand is around his throat, pushing him back against the edge of the sink. He offers no fight. Toby’s sharp teeth sink into his pec just above his scars. Bruising. Scraping. Damn near drawing blood. Joe groans. His dick stiffens, and he feels himself start to slowly untether from the physical world, from reality. He goes slack and gives himself over to Toby and to the sweetness of agony untainted by loss.
He’s a man without a past, but he has a present, and for the first time, it feels as though he might even have a future.
Thanson Nez thought his career as a Discretionary would take him to the stars, not strand him on a space station at the ass-end of the Empire. Thanks to his last client, he’s carrying a secret he can’t get rid of fast enough, but his oath to the guild means a swift, painful death if he shares it. Already desperate for help, he runs into yet more trouble: his ex, and an explosion that paralyzes the station moments after their uncomfortable reunion.
Kazra Ferdow, Station 43’s communications officer, is almost as blindsided by the return of his first love as he is by the sudden loss of power and life support. The station is a floating graveyard in the making, and something is turning its inhabitants into savage killers. Fighting human monsters and damaged tech, Kazra and Thanson must put aside their past long enough to try to save everyone.
The more light they shine into dark corners, the more Thanson realizes how many people might die for the secrets locked in his head—and what he’s willing to sacrifice to make sure Kazra isn’t one of them.
Reesa Herberth grew up in Hawaii, tried Arizona for a few years, and eventually settled in the D.C. area, where they have trees and rain.
She’s held a variety of crazy writer jobs, including book and video store manager for a defunct chain of music shops, office goddess for an artisan ice cream maker, cheese-cup scrubber at an organic goat dairy, high school secretary, and dye-stained proprietress of a small yarn and fiber business.
When not writing, she can usually be found reading, gardening, cooking, or spinning yarns of another sort entirely. She often resents her need for sleep.
With Michelle Moore, she is the author of the Ylendrian Empire books, including The Balance of Silence, the award-winning space opera caper, The Slipstream Con, and Peripheral People, a sci fi thriller with psychics and squishy feelings, coming soon.
Connect with Reesa:
Website: michelleandreesawrite.com, and ylendrianempire.com
I tried. I really tried! As it turns out, neither Kazra or Thanson is any good at loving mush. You’d think Thanson would be better at faking it, but he informed me that he was “off the clock”, and suggested several (physically impossible) ways that I could occupy myself.
I couldn’t leave you all hanging, though. So I thought about the kind of Valentine these two might exchange. You know, if Valentine’s Day was a Thing in the Ylendrian Empire. I went the practical route, but I think you can still feel the love. (Feel free to print them out, if you’re into that sort of thing. We don’t judge here.)
If you’d care to read more about love in the time of not!zombies, you can find Kazra, Thanson, and their awkward reunion at the worst possible moment in my latest, In Discretion.
Enter to win an ebook of your choice from Lisa Henry, Heidi Belleau, Andrea Speed or Reesa Herberth. All you have to do is leave a comment to enter.
The giveaway will run until midnight EST on Feb 16.