Thursday, March 22, 2018

#GiveAway ~ Vegas Gambler by Adriana Kraft ~ @adrianakraft

Vegas Gambler
Meghan’s Playhouse Series
By Adriana Kraft

Vegas Gambler will be on tour from March 5 through April 5, and we’re giving away one free download from the Publisher’s Website to each of two winners. Winners may select from books One through Four in our Meghan’s Playhouse Series. You can find all series books at this link: Remember you may increase your chances of winning by visiting the other tour stops. You may find those locations here

About the Book: 
He’s fifty-one, they’re in their twenties. Can Jack Hawthorne keep up with two women? How will he protect his heart?

Fresh with success from a recent stint in a musical on the Las Vegas Strip, Meghan Keenan takes some time off to play with her current flame, Jack Hawthorne, professional poker player. She’s delighted to add her petite masseuse Tia Minh to the mix and even more thrilled when she learns Tia’s relationship with her boyfriend Tony Sanders is on the skids. It’s the perfect challenge!

Tia has different ideas – she thinks Tony would be perfect for Meg, and she conspires to throw them together any way she can.

Ever the gambler, Jack catches on to her game quickly and keeps the ruse going behind Meg’s back. Who knew his heart was up for grabs?

This is a Contemporary Erotic Romance.

Buy Links:
Amazon | eXtasy Books

Jack cocked his head to the side. “You sure you won’t stay beyond the summer?”
Meg shook her head. They’d been over this ground before. “You know I need to get back to New York. I need to get on with my life.”
“Sorry I’m such a drag on you.” He gave her a wicked smile. “And you always say my age doesn’t matter.”
“Fifty-one doesn’t make you ancient.”
“I have my days,” Jack said, flipping over a card. “But I know what we have is transitory. Don’t worry about me getting carried away.” He smirked. “But you have been a breath of fresh air for me.”
“Cripes, the way you hang out around poker tables, anyone would provide a breath of fresh air.” Meg smiled and purposely softened her tone. “And you’ve been very good for me, too. I don’t know how I would’ve made it through the hectic pace of the last six months without your steady influence. You’ve always been there, and with few demands.”
“Perhaps,” Jack began wistfully, “I should’ve been more demanding.” He must’ve seen her nostrils flare, because he lifted a hand, forestalling her response. “You’ve renewed my faith in life.” He grinned devilishly. “Even in love.”

About the Author: 
Winner of the 2014 Bisexual Book Award for erotic fiction, author Adriana Kraft is a married couple writing Sizzling Romantic Suspense and Erotic Romance for Two, Three, or More.
One man, one woman, danger and intrigue – always a happy ending, but oh, what a ride! Readers can count on our Romantic Suspense line for gutsy characters, hot sex, and breathtaking intimacy as our hero and heroine battle outer threats and inner demons to stay alive and fall in love.
A man, a woman (or two), or another man, threesomes, foursomes—what’s your fantasy? We write our Erotic Romance stories to entertain, of course, but most of all we write them because we believe in happy endings for all who fall in love, whatever their gender, sexual orientation or numerical combination. Here you’ll find multiple partners, three-way, four-way and more, swing lifestyle, lesbian, bisexual, ménage and polyamory, in both contemporary and paranormal settings.

Together we have published over thirty-five romance novels and novellas to outstanding reviews. We love hearing from readers at, and here is our website:

When It’s Time to Heat Things Up

Author Links:

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Wednesday, March 21, 2018

#SpotLight ~ Get Me Through by Cedric Nelms ~ @cjnministries @pauletteharper

Hello! This is one of my tour stops during my one month book tour for Get Me Through by Cedric Nelms. This virtual book tour is organized by Write Now Literary Book Tours. This tour runs March 5-30, 2018. Follow the tour here.  Book your own tour here WNL.

About The Book:

Get Me Through....The Makeover of My Life is a book for all seasons of life. It will lead you through getting out of the places that you are stuck, picking up the pieces after disruption, and releasing yourself to dream again my the future. Get Me Through is path through life's most questionable moments.

ISBN-10: 1979321361
ISBN-13: 978-1979321365
Genre: Non Fiction


The title of the book is purposely open-ended and ambiguous because most people are trying to get through. From Kindergarten to College, people are trying to get through school. Whether you are a high paid executive, entrepreneur, or occupying a cubicle, the daily grind of work and handling life issues is a reality. Still others are trying to get through the seasons of a relationship; the harsh winter or the warm summertime feel that relationships bring. 

On the other hand, the death of a loved one or the death of one’s self-esteem may seem like, to some, as trying to wade through a cloud of never-ending darkness. Ultimately, getting through is a part of the human experience. At some point, trying to get through is a part of everyone’s process, the only difference is each person’s process is tailor made. Even so, no matter what you are struggling to figure out, you are just trying to get through it with your character and sanity intact.

About The Author:

Cedric Nelms was born and raised in Los Angeles, CA. He graduated from St. Bernard High in Playa Del Rey, CA. He attended Morehouse College, where he majored in Biology, with a minor in Psychology.

Cedric has been in the ministry for 18 years and has been working in different areas of ministry, from youth ministry, men’s ministry, teaching, community development, social justice, and civic engagement. He was also the radio host of the Chosen Generation Ministry Radio Show, an internet program/podcast that deals with the intersection of culture, life, and faith. He is the lead pastor of Chosen Generation Fellowship Church, in Long Beach. In addition to that, he is the newly appointed Los Angeles City Director for World Impact, where he is actively working on being a bridge builder between Los Angeles and the Faith Based community.

Cedric has been married to Karen, for 18 years and they have been together for 20 years. They have 5 beautiful children, Erika, Jonathan, and a set of triplets, Isaiah, Khalid, and Courtney. He loves to spend time with his family, reading, watching sports, traveling, going out to eat, writing, and just having a good time!

Connect Socially:

#GiveAway ~ Guarding Her Heart by Jade Webb ~ @authorjadewebb @GoddessFish

Guarding Her Heart
by Jade Webb

Jade will be awarding a $30 Amazon or B/N GC to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour. Please use the Rafflecopter below to enter. Remember you may increase your chances of winning by visiting the other tour stops. You may find those locations here

Trust me, even though I’ve had a silver spoon in my mouth since I was a fetus and have a world-famous pop diva as a sister, there is nothing I want more in the world than to fade into the background and live out my Law & Order fantasy of becoming a public defender.

The only problem is my dad won’t bankroll law school unless I spend the summer following my older sister on her arena tour, keeping her out of trouble and making sure she doesn’t have yet another embarrassing public meltdown. Now relegated to a glorified babysitter, I am stuck lugging my ten-pound LSAT prep books through hotel lobbies and taking practice tests in my sister’s dressing rooms.

Then I find myself caught in a love triangle with my sister’s arch nemesis, bad boy popstar Jordan James and Liam, my sister’s confusing and irritatingly gorgeous Scottish bodyguard. Too bad I’ve sworn off love after seeing my own parent’s train wreck of marriage end with heartache and misery.

I’m tired of living under my family’s careful rules and law school is my way out. I won’t let anything get in my way. I won’t let anyone close enough to break down my walls. I have to guard my heart.

GENRE: Contemporary Romance

Guarding Her Heart is available exclusively on Amazon and Kindle Unlimited.

$0.99 during the tour.



When I hear my name, my eyes pop open and I feel the rush of blood to my cheeks. Jordan has stopped playing and is looking right at me. Dear God, I must look like such a stalker.

“I’m so sorry,” I manage to stammer out. “I heard you playing and it was so beautiful." I turn to leave, offering him an apologetic smile. "You know, I’m just going to go.”

“Wait!” Jordan calls out and I turn back around, pushing the door to the room open. I take a deep breath and slowly enter the room, taking a seat on the couch opposite his chair.

“Well, did you like it?” Jordan asks, his stunning blue eyes looking at me.

I find myself nodding. “It was beautiful, but…”


“Well, to be honest, it felt a little sad.”

He doesn’t respond right away, but instead looks at me thoughtfully before chuckling. “It’s my ode to Hollywood,” he responds dryly.

I look at him curiously. “Jordan, why don’t you record songs like that?”

Leaning back in his chair, he moves the guitar off his lap. “No one wants to hear songs like this. They want to hear about pretty girls and fancy cars. They don’t want to hear how I really feel.”

I let out a long sigh. “That’s so sad, Jordan.”

Catching my eye, Jordan smiles. “Do you feel sorry for me, Gabby?”

“No!” I answer instantly before admitting, “Well, actually, maybe a little.”

He leans in, closing the distance between us. “I like that you’re always honest with me. That’s something I don’t get a lot.” He smacks his palms on his thighs and winks at me before continuing, “And since I’ve got you feeling sorry for me, how about you let me take you out to dinner?”

AUTHOR Bio and Links:

I am a lover of romance novels that feature strong heroines who know that the loves that may come into their lives are always the icing, and never the cake.
I have loved romance novels since I was a teen, sneaking them into my Bible studies at my all-girls Catholic school. I love strong heroines who know that the men that may come into their lives are always the icing, and never the cake.
Thanks to my own marriage, I have learned that the challenges of life can only help to make love stronger and I am grateful to my partner for embodying all the magic that love can offer.
When I am not writing or dreaming up new love stories, I am working in a retirement community outside of Boston that provides me with enough writing material for ten lifetimes.
You can find me at:

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Tuesday, March 20, 2018

#GiveAway ~ Lies and Solace By Jana Richards ~ @JanaRichards_

 Lies and Solace
Love at Solace Lake Series (Book 1) 
By Jana Richards

Jana is giving away some wonderful prizes during this tour. Please use the Rafflecopter below for your chance win Ebook First and Again, Ebook There Goes the Groom, Ebook A Long Way from Eden, $10 Amazon gift card, or $5 Amazon gift card. Remember you may increase your chances of winning by visiting the other tour stops. You may find those locations here

Blurb for Lies and Solace:

She can’t live with one more lie. He can’t tell the truth.
Harper Lindquist is convinced she’s found the answer to her financial prayers. Unless she pours cash into crumbling Solace Lake Lodge, she’ll lose her family’s legacy. Her would-be savior arrives in the middle of a Minnesota blizzard and she’s determined to prove to her reluctant, and trapped, financier the lodge is a sound investment. But Harper isn’t completely honest with him. And she has no idea the lake is hiding secrets of its own.

Ethan James is a liar, but his money is very real. He isn’t convinced a broken-down inn is a smart investment opportunity. But the more he understands Harper’s dreams and desires, the more he wants to be the man to make them come true. The trauma in both their pasts means neither can fully trust the other. They must find the courage to love, to trust, and to accept, or yesterday’s sorrows will keep them apart.

Genre: Contemporary Romance, small town romance
Keywords: contemporary romance, small town romance, mystery, touch of paranormal, murder
ISBN: Ebook ISBN 978-0-9952791-0-0
Length: Novel
Heat Level: Spicy, fully described love scenes
Release Date: March 14, 2018
Cover Artist: Angela Waters
Lies and Solace
Book 1 Out Now
Excerpt, Lies and Solace:
As she stared into his dark eyes she realized how much she trusted him, and relied on him. That was something rare for her. The only people she trusted as much were her sisters.
I’m in love with him.
The thought blasted through her brain with the force of a tsunami. The tension of the last few weeks, the insecurity, the mistrust, the fear, slipped easily from her shoulders. For the first time, her mind was clear. She was in love with Ethan and she didn’t want to wait anymore. She wanted him. She wanted him to be her first, her last.
Finding courage she didn’t know she possessed, Harper slid off the stool and walked around the island. She plucked the wine glass from his hand and set it on the counter, then placed his hand on her breast. “Make love with me, Ethan.”
A fire lit in his eyes, telling her he wanted her, too. But there was a question there, a hesitation. “Are you sure?”
She’d never been more sure of anything in her life. “Yes.”
“Shhh. Let’s not talk anymore.” She placed one finger over his lips, then stood on her tiptoes and kissed him.
Ethan’s reaction was lightning swift. He wrapped his arms around her and brought her close, his mouth descending on hers in a wild, warm kiss. Their tongues tangled, slid over each other. She’d missed his touch, his taste. She moaned, and in the sound she heard thirty-two years of longing.
For this. For him.

Secrets and Solace
Book 2 Coming March 21, 2018

Series Blurb:
Love is worth the risk…
When their grandfather dies, the Lindquist sisters, Harper, Scarlet and Maggie, inherit the northern Minnesota fishing lodge that had been in their family for three generations. The inheritance is bittersweet. They were raised at the lodge by their grandparents. The natural beauty of the place hasn’t changed, but the building itself is crumbling and desperately in need of repair. The lodge also reminds them of what they lost. Twenty-two years previously, their parents died there in what was ruled a murder/suicide.
As the sisters struggle to breathe new life into the failing lodge, old fears and questions rise to the surface even as new love presents itself. Why did their father murder their mother? What truths did their grandparents keep from them? The sisters must fight to keep the wounds of the past from putting their futures, and their fledgling relationships, in jeopardy.

Truth and Solace
Book 3 Coming March 28, 2018

About Jana Richards: 

When Jana Richards read her first romance novel, she immediately knew two things: she had to commit the stories running through her head to paper, and they had to end with a happily ever after. She also knew she’d found what she was meant to do. Since then she’s never met a romance genre she didn’t like. She writes contemporary romance, romantic suspense, and historical romance set in World War Two, in lengths ranging from short story to full length novel. Just for fun, she throws in generous helpings of humor, and the occasional dash of the paranormal. Her paranormal romantic suspense “Seeing Things” was a 2008 EPPIE finalist.
In her life away from writing, Jana is an accountant/admin assistant, a mother to two grown daughters, and a wife to her husband Warren. She enjoys golf, yoga, movies, concerts, travel and reading, not necessarily in that order. She and her husband live in Winnipeg, Canada with their Pug/Terrier cross Lou and several unnamed goldfish. She loves to hear from readers and can be reached through her website at

Social Media Links:
Newsletter Signup:

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Monday, March 19, 2018

#SpotLight ~ Undone by You by Kate Meader ~ @KittyMeader

Undone by You
by Kate Meader

Book description:
Dante Moretti has just landed his dream job: GM of the Chicago Rebels. And screw the haters who think there should be an asterisk next to his name because he’s the first out managing executive in pro hockey. He’s earned the right to be here and nothing will topple him off that perch—especially not an incredibly inconvenient attraction to his star defenseman, Cade “Alamo” Burnett. Cade has always been careful to keep his own desires on the down low, but his hot Italian boss proves to be a temptation he can’t resist. Sure, they both have so much to lose, but no one will ever know...

As Dante and Cade’s taboo affair heats up off the ice and their relationship gets more and more intense, they’ll have to decide: is love worth risking their careers? Or is this romance destined to be forever benched?

On sale March 5, 2018
ISBN: 9781501182907
Pocket Star

About the author:

Originally from Ireland, Kate Meader cut her romance reader teeth on Maeve Binchy and Jilly Cooper novels, with some Harlequins thrown in for variety. Give her tales about brooding mill owners, oversexed equestrians, and men who can rock an apron, a fire hose, or a hockey stick, and she's there. Now based in Chicago, she writes sexy contemporary romance with alpha heroes and strong heroines (and heroes) who can match their men quip for quip. Visit her at

#NewRelease ~ Eye on the Ball by Francine Beaton ~ @RoanePublishing

Eye on the Ball
Playing for Glory #1

About the Book:

What would prove stronger? Love or Loyalty?
Top professional rugby player Jakes du Plessis desperately wants to keep his team's vow of celibacy in order to win the new International Rugby Club Competition, but he didn’t count on meeting ethereal artist Angie Summers.  Even a promise to his friends and teammates, demons from his past, and a distance of more than 9000 miles, could not stop Jakes from falling in love with Ange.  In the end, it took teamwork, perseverance and a whole lot of grovelling from Jakes’ side for them to overcome these obstacles, and find their Happily Ever After.
Publisher: Roane Publishing
Contemporary Romance Novel

Release Date: March 19, 2018


She took the envelope from uncle Bob in silence. She would not grovel for this job. She had to make another plan. She grimaced, “I guess you want me to leave now?” she asked.

Bob nodded, “Yes, I’m sorry Ange.”

Ange didn’t reply. She turned around to walk to the room next to the kitchen where she stored her jacket and bag. On the way to the door, she picked up a pitcher with ice water and walked towards the table where Jakes now sat with her brother, her fiancé, and a couple of their teammates.

Ange did not even glance at her brother or Chris when she stopped next to their table. She heard Jesse’s voice when he asked the others if they wanted more beer, and they all turned to her expectantly. Even Jakes lifted his head to look at her. Did he look guilty, or embarrassed, Ange wondered. Well, it didn’t matter anymore. He got what he wanted, she guessed.

His voice was gentle when he asked for another beer, so much different from his angry tone of voice when he spoke to her every other time. Her mouth almost dropped open, but he was not going to fool her. Her face was set when she spoke.

“You can fetch your own beer.”

She saw his frown and confused face, but she did not care. He caused her to lose her job and her only way to help Clara. She glared at him again, “I’ve got something else for you.”

Ange lifted the jug and poured the ice-cold water over his head. She heard his sudden indrawn breath, and her brother and his friends’ shocked protests, but she didn’t wait. She turned around and walked out of the clubhouse, suddenly calm. She was aware the place was quiet, apart from the South African’s soft muttering. She heard her brother’s voice, but she did not care. She felt so much better for it.

While she walked back to her car, Ange realized it was not fair to Jakes. Maybe she should have saved some of the water for Chris. He might need it to cool down in a place where he needed it most.

* * * *

When Jakes managed to cool down…, no not cool down. That ice water cooled him enough…but when he felt calm again, he’d had more than enough for one night. He did not know what he’d done to make the woman so angry, but he didn’t care anymore. She’d caused him enough damage already.

“What did you do to my sister to make her so angry?” Jesse asked him.

Jakes stared uncomprehendingly at Jesse, and shook his head, “Your sister?” he asked, confused.

“Ange?” Jesse asked patiently. “The one who poured a jug of water over your head?”

Jakes stared at Jesse. “She’s your sister?” He was shocked. Jakes noticed Jesse’s nod, then he sighed, “Hell, I hadn’t done anything. I should be angry. She was the one who damaged my leg again last week. The first time I saw her she spilled water on me. Why she’s angry, I don’t know.”

The other men at the table glanced at each other. To Jakes’ surprise, they burst out laughing.

“What the hell?” he exclaimed, standing up. “I can’t see what’s so funny,” he grunted while he threw money on the table. “Just keep your sister away from me,” he said to Jesse before he stalked away as fast as he could. This was becoming a total frustration, he thought, while he walked the couple of blocks to the apartment.

It was freezing cold, he was away from home, and somehow he’d managed to get on the wrong side of the most beautiful woman he had ever seen. The fact she was apparently engaged to the biggest asshole on the team should have given Jakes enough signals to make sure he stayed away. Without making too much noise, he let himself into the apartment he shared with Michael, with the realization that his own pep talk did not help. He still thought she was beautiful that she had a fiancé was enough warning for Jakes to stay away. That reason, together with the rest of the list why he should not even think about her, was as long as his forearm.


Born and brought up in Pretoria, South Africa, Francine had no choice but to fall in love with rugby at a young age. With three older, rugby-playing brothers and a father who was a fanatic supporter of the local team and the Springboks, Francine adopted the motto, If you can’t beat them, join them. After trying to play one game, Francine gave up the idea to play rugby. She opted to watch the boys from the side.

At the tender age of ten, she discovered the romance section in the local library and that was it. She was a fan. By fourteen, she had read all the ones in the Afrikaans section and switched to the English section. There was a time when Francine briefly abandoned her favourite genre to lose herself in crime novels, but as they say: you never forget your first love.

Rugby, romance and writing is not all that keep Francine busy. If she does not spent time with her Scottish husband and teenage daughter either at home or travelling, Francine loves to read, or dabbles in photography and painting.

She is a member of the Romance Writers Association of South Africa (ROSA).


#Interview ~ Balec by James Austin McCormick ~ @jimbomcc69

By James Austin McCormick

Interview with James Austin McCormick:

Crystal: Today I have the pleasure of hosting James Austin McCormick. Welcome, James. I'm so excited you are here to visit today. Would you share a little bit about yourself with us today?

James Austin McCormick: I'm a college lecturer from England and a fan of all types of speculative fiction, most notably science fiction, horror & sword and sorcery fantasy. Where possible I try to blend these elements together in my own writing. In total I’ve been writing for about twenty years.

Crystal: Do you have a favorite scene you would like to share with us?

James Austin McCormick: One scene I especially like is the prologue to my horror novel, Balec. I always imagined it like a movie, that’s how the story played out in my head. The prologue is very much in keeping with this, a gripping initial scene which gives us a glimpse of what’s to come yet leaving so many questions unanswered we’re left dying to know more (hopefully anyway).

Crystal: Where did you come up with the idea for your latest release?

James Austin McCormick: The last work I published was a short novella by the name of Long Scratchy Toenails. It was inspired by a scary story my father told me and my cousins when we were little. The eponymous figure was an old, crazy man, locked in one of the rooms of an old house. From time to time he would escape during the night, unleashing toenail slashing violence on anyone unlucky enough to be staying in the house at that time. And how was this crazy, long toenailed lunatic eventually dealt with? His toenails were cut. I changed the story, and turned “scratchy” into a good fairy instead of a mad old man in my young adult fantasy version, but my dad definitely earned himself a co-writing credit for inspiring me with his early version.

Crystal: What are you currently working on?

James Austin McCormick: I am currently re-writing a steam punk/ dark fantasy. It’s tentatively titled The Rift Makers. It actually began as an attempt at a young adult fantasy but just got darker and more surreal as I worked on it. I’ve no idea when it will eventually be ready to publish though. There’s so many ideas in it, I have to make them all fit together, or not as the case may be.

Crystal: Do you have any special routine that you follow when you are writing?

James Austin McCormick: None at all. I write something most days, but in short bursts of about ten to thirty minutes. I tried the 500 words a day method but it isn’t for me. My unconscious is always working on ideas though, even if my output isn’t exactly prolific.

Crystal: Did you have to do a lot of research for this book or any other? If so do you have a fascinating fact that you have learned you would like to share with us?

James Austin McCormick: I’d like to say yes but the truth is part of the enjoyment of writing my stories is world building, I like my settings to come entirely from my imagination. So, unfortunately, I don’t have any interesting facts to share. Sorry.

Crystal: Who are some of your favorite authors that you like to read?

James Austin McCormick: Robert E. Howard and H. P Lovecraft are way, way up at the top of this list and have been the biggest influence on my own writing. Next would be Clive Barker, then Stephen King for horror, whilst Frank Herbert, Bob Shaw, Larry Niven are my favourite science fiction writers. In fact, Dune is probably my favorite novel of all time.

Crystal: Is there a genre you haven't written that you would like to try?

James Austin McCormick: Without a doubt a thriller. The problem is though whenever I try to write anything ‘grounded’ my imagination takes over and I end up writing something entirely different.

Blurb from Balec:
Adam Chance, a divorced, world weary PI has his life shaken up when his son goes missing in mysterious circumstances.

What begins as a missing person investigation soon turns into an exploration of the supernatural as Chance finds himself lost in a world of the undead, demons and modern-day sorcerers.

Buy link:

Excerpt from Balec:

Tyler was scared, real scared. He’d been running for a long time through the dark, rainy Bronx streets. He knew it was after him, something terrible that haunted the night and traveled on the wind. All he hoped was if it did catch him it would kill him quickly. There were a lot worse things than death. He knew that now.

Although he was only sixteen his chest felt as if it were on fire. He’d been a heavy smoker these last couple of years and was paying the price for it now. No discomfort could make him stop, however. Not until he knew he was safe.

A sound made him look up. He couldn’t be sure amidst the noise of the driving rain but he thought he could hear wings beating overhead. He stared into the night sky but could see little apart from the drops of rain glowing under the streetlights.

He turned a corner and finally came within sight of his goal. It was funny. He’d never before thought of Stevie’s place as anything more than a dive where he could hang out while they smoked dope and got wasted. Now it was his only hope of getting out of the city alive.

He stopped, breathing hard as he pressed himself against a crumbling brick wall, listening. He stayed that way a long time. Apart from the rain he could hear nothing, no giant wings, no inhuman cry. If there had been something there, now it was gone.
For the moment he was safe. He pushed himself away from the wall and raced once more into the open. He ran until he made it to the dilapidated apartment block where his friend lived. Ignoring the cuts and scratches to his arms and legs, he scaled the creaking fire escape to the third floor, jumping onto the rusted, caged veranda outside.

He stooped, peering into the grimy window and with relief saw the flickering light of the TV. He grabbed the lower part of the frame and tried to lift it. It was shut tight. He rapped a couple of times on the glass.

“Stevie,” he yelled. “Open up.” He waited some moments, then hammered on the pane with the flat of his hand. The TV continued to flicker but there was no answer. His friend was probably out cold on the couch, a can of beer in one hand and a joint in the other.

In desperation he picked up the trash can close by and prepared to break his way in. He was mid-swing when a gaunt, fatigued face appeared at the window. When the figure saw what his friend was planning his eyes went wide and he held up a hand,

“Wow, you crazy son of a bitch,” he shouted. “Calm down. I’m letting you in okay?” The moment he undid the lock, Tyler flung it open and dove inside.

The apartment’s inhabitant stepped back and scratched his head. He looked his younger friend up and down. “What’s going on man?” he asked. “Can’t you let your buddy chill out on a Friday night?” He saw the anxiety on his visitor’s face. “Don’t tell me we got a job to do. No way, not at this hour.”

His anxious guest took a deep breath. “Listen to me,” he began. “I don’t have time to explain but we got to get out of here, fast.”
Stevie frowned, “What’re you talking about? You spaced-out or something?”

Tyler shook his head. “Something happened today. Something made me realize how we’re all being used. Think, Stevie. Is what we’ve been mixed up in these last few months normal? Are the things we’ve seen normal?” He placed his hands on his friend’s shoulders.

“I don’t know,” Stevie answered. His fingers crept their way to the snake pendant at his neck. As they did, the serpent’s ruby eye began to pulse softly. The man’s eyes clouded over. “It’s so hard to think.” His voice was slurred.

Tyler shook his friend roughly. “Fight it,” he told him. “The fog that comes over you when you try to think, the one you’re feeling right now, it’s how Darius controls us. We’re like frigging slaves.” He tore the necklace from his friend’s throat. “This is how he does it.” He waved the pendent in front of Stevie’s face before hurling it aside. “Think back, remember all the weird stuff you’ve seen, you know it ain’t right.”

     Stevie took a deep breath, trying to conjure up the memories. Slowly his expression changed,the strange haze falling from his eyes. “What the hell are we involved in?”
     “Evil,” Tyler replied, “and I’ll tell you what else, sooner or later we all end up dead. Remember Ben, Jason, Earl, Ray?
     As soon as they had that brush with the cops they disappeared.” He snapped his fingers, “Just like that. And those guys who crossed Darius. He sent his creatures for them. You saw what happened to their bodies, ripped to pieces.” An involuntary shudder went through him. “We got to get away before we get taken out, too.”

His friend gazed at him. “How did you get free?”
Tyler reached into his coat and pulled out a small, flat object covered in a red kerchief. “The Curator. The one Roland told me to steal this from. He did it.”

“How?” his friend shot back.

Tyler frowned. “I don’t remember. Somehow he broke the spell. He also told me what this is really for.” He pulled part of the kerchief back revealing a computer disc. “I’ve seen what’s on it. We’re in league with the devil.” He ran a nervous hand through his hair. “I can’t drive so we’ll need that beat-up old Chevrolet of yours and some cash. How much you got?”

“About two hundred dollars,” the other man answered.

He indicated the wallet lying on the arm of the couch.

“That should be enough,” Tyler said. “I got my mom’s credit card in case we need more.”

Stevie was silent for some moments, lower lip between his teeth as his mind raced with the recent revelations. “Okay,” he said finally. He went to the table, picked up the wallet and then the car keys off the arm of the couch. “Let’s go.” He turned to leave but at that moment the phone rang. He instinctively went to answer it.

“Don’t,” Tyler cried, turning so fast he almost overbalanced. “It’s Darius. I know it.”

Stevie shrugged. “So, I’ll just bullshit him.”

Tyler shook his head. “He’ll know by your voice.” Stevie pulled his hand away as if the
receiver were suddenly too hot to touch.

Tyler looked out the window, his fear rising. “He suspects I’m here. Which means it won’t be long before his creatures come here as well.” His eyes fell to the disc still in his hands. “He can’t get hold of this.” He glanced at his friend. “You have to destroy it. I’ve tried, but somehow I can’t do it.” He held it out.
Stevie stepped forward to take it but something made him hesitate. “Why not?” Fear flickered in his eyes.

Tyler shrugged. “Something stops me. It’s like there’s a kind of spell on it or something.” He flung the disc onto the table and picked up the baseball bat laying under the window. He threw it to his friend.

Stevie nodded, twisting the grip in his hands. He lifted the bat, nervous eyes fixed on his target. His arms wouldn’t move. If he’d tried to explain it he would have said there was a whisper in his mind preventing him. He looked at friend. “It’s no good.” He shook his head, letting the bat drop from his fingers.
His companion nodded. “We’ll find a way.” He snatched up the disc, wrapping it up again. “Let’s split, while we still can.”

They were heading for the door when the sound of beating wings outside made them freeze.

“You hear that?” Stevie hissed.

Tyler fingered the kerchief. “Darius can’t get his hands on this.”

His friend pointed to the TV. “Next to the set, there’s a loose board I use it to stash my gear.”

Tyler dove for the board and pulled it loose. He hurled the disc inside, then dragged the TV over the area.

“Now, for the love of God, let’s go,” Stevie pleaded. A winged shadow, huge under the
yellow street lights, appeared outside. Moments later there was a thud as something landed on the fire escape. Two red, glowing points stared in at them.

Both yelled in unison. Stevie was the first to gather his wits and race for the door. As he reached the outside landing, he stopped. His companion came slamming behind him.
“Move, move, move,” Tyler cried, clawing at his friend. Stevie motioned to the stairwell.
      Something was coming up the creaking wooden steps, something that also had red


Behind them the window shattered.

About the Author:

James Austin McCormick is a college lecturer from Manchester, England and his free time enjoy writing speculative fiction, mostly science fiction, horror and a little sword and sorcery fantasy. He is also a particular fan of classic Gothic and Victorian horror tales and is currently in the process of writing updated versions of these with a science fiction spin.

Find out more about James at: