Sunday, February 28, 2021

Charity Sunday: A voice for every voter - #CharitySunday #Politics #LVW

Charity Sunday Banner

One hundred and one years ago, on February 14th, a group of dedicated suffragists in the United States founded the National League of Women Voters. This was a mere six months before the 19th amendment granting women the right to vote was ratified. The League was created to help the twenty million newly enfrachised female voters understand their new rights and their responsibilities, and to educate them about the democratic process.

More than a century later, LWV is still pursuing those objectives, though it has expanded its mission to incorporate every person with the right to vote, especially minorities and people of color. It’s a bit depressing to realize that even now, there are forces and factions working to deny registered, authorized voters of their voice at the ballot box.

You can read about LVW’s fascinating history here: https://www.lwv.org/about-us/history and their current concerns and campaigns here (https://www.lwv.org/elections) and here (https://www.lwv.org/other-issues).

The U.S. has just experienced a bruising and brutal election which illustrates clearly the need for the sort of non-partisan education and advocacy the LWV advocates. So today, I’m hoping my Charity Sunday will allow me to make a generous anniversary gift. For each comment I receive, I’ll donate two dollars to the LWV.

Meanwhile, I have a relevant excerpt, featuring women in politics, from my erotic thriller Exposure. Hired to provide Pittsburgh mayoral candidate Tony Pinelli with a private dance, stripper Stella Xanathakeos ends up being a witness to his murder. His ambitious and seductive widow decides to run in her husband’s stead, and to Stella’s surprise, asks the dancer to serve as her press secretary.

This bit chronicles Stella’s first foray into the political arena.



Together, we walk the short distance over to the site of the press conference. This is part of Francesca’s strategy; she wants to seem like a woman of the people, and arriving in her Mercedes wouldn’t fit that image. It has become a cloudy, blustery day. The wind cuts through my jacket, making me shiver. It teases a few curls from my neat twist, probably making me look poorly-groomed and unprofessional, but there’s not much I can do about it.

There’s a knot of people milling on the City Hall steps, with lights and other equipment. I notice vans with the logos of WQED and WPXI. The news people all have their backs to us, as if they expected us to come from the opposite direction. Francesca’s voice rings out, clear and commanding. “Over here, ladies and gentlemen.” We march up the steps, through the confused crowd.

Francesca waits quietly while the media people rearrange themselves and adjust their equipment. Then, when they’ve settled down, she waits a moment longer, scanning the crowd, looking elegant and serious.

I have to admire her showmanship. By the time she begins to speak, she has the attention of everyone, even the technicians squatting in the doors of the mobile studio vans.

Ladies and gentlemen. Thank you for taking the time to join us on this raw and stormy afternoon. I won’t keep you long.

As you all know, my husband Anthony Pinelli wanted to serve this city as its mayor. Pittsburgh was his birthplace. It nurtured him, educated him, made him wealthy and successful. It gave him opportunities and benefits that he could not have found anywhere else. Tony Pinelli wanted to give some of this back to the city he loved. That was his most cherished dream.

Tony’s tragic death has shocked us all.” Francesca allows a quaver into her voice. I’m impressed. She really knows how to work the crowd. She pauses and swallows hard, as if resisting tears. Her voice is calm and forceful when she continues. “As his wife and partner, I am determined not to allow his dream to die with him. That is why, today, I am announcing my own candidacy for the position of mayor. I am determined that, even though Tony has left us, the next person to preside over the administration of this fine city will be Mayor Pinelli.”

The crowd erupts in enthusiastic applause. I find that I’m clapping myself. The hubbub continues for quite a while. Francesca holds up her hand, asking for quiet.

During the remaining weeks of the campaign, I will be sharing with you my vision—Tony’s vision—for this city. Assisting me with this task will be my press secretary, Ms. Stella Xanathakeos. Like Tony and me, Stella was born here. She knows the problems and the aspirations of the ordinary people of Pittsburgh. She will help me to explain why a vote for me is a vote for a bright, secure and prosperous future—for all of us.”

Francesca turns to me. “Stella, would you like to say a few words?” Expectantly, the cameras and microphones swing in my direction.

I’m not entirely unprepared. It was reasonable that Francesca would want me to speak. Still, I have a moment of panic. I’m a performer, but words are not my usual instrument.

I pause for a moment, take a deep breath and survey my audience. They are mostly male, though I recognize the blond bob and creamy complexion of Teresa Kelly, the Channel 5 news anchor. I remind myself that in this situation, my sexuality is a liability. Just in time, I remember not to lick my lips. I clasp my hands in front of me to keep them out of trouble.

Ladies and gentlemen, I’m proud to be standing here today, next to this brave woman. When you lose someone you love, your first impulse is to just give up. You want to crawl into a hole and die yourself. I know this, from my own experience.” I pause, looking out over the attentive faces. I hope that they’re not just paying attention to my tits.

Francesca Pinelli isn’t giving up, though. That’s not the sort of person she is. She was her husband’s closest aide. She understands his goals and his plans for Pittsburgh. And she’s determined to turn those plans into reality, regardless of her personal pain.

As for me, I’m just an ordinary person. My mother died when I was six. My father was an immigrant who worked hard all his life to support me. He had to fight against discrimination, and sleazy bosses, and government by the rich for the rich. I’ve worked hard, too. It’s an uphill battle for most of us in this city. I believe that Francesca Pinelli wants to make that battle easier. What’s more important, I believe that she can.”

I am startled when people begin to applaud. Francesca face wears a broad smile as she steps forward and reclaims the attention of the crowd.

A few questions, Ms. Pinelli!” shouts someone from the crowd. “Don’t go yet!” echoes another voice. “Give us a chance!”

The crowd presses toward us, waving microphones in our faces and effectively trapping us on the stairs. Somebody opens an over-sized umbrella and holds it over our heads.

Very well, we can take a few questions. No more than five minutes, though, or we’ll all be drenched.” A few more umbrellas open. The media people push closer to hear us against the wind.

Ms. Pinelli.” The question comes from Terry Kelly. “Pittsburgh has a reputation as a rough city. We’ve got the unions, the old industry barons, the mob. Do you really think it can be run by a woman?”

Francesca stands erect, looking taller than usual. “Don’t you think, Ms. Kelly, that it is time a woman had the chance to show what she can do?” There is scattered applause. “You probably know that Tony was a tough guy. He wouldn’t have chosen me as his partner if I couldn’t be just as tough, when the need arose.”

A skinny reporter in dark-rimmed glasses steps forward with his tape recorder. “Graham White, your opponent, has headed the City Council for more than five years. You have no political experience. Why should the voters choose a novice like you, over a seasoned politician like Mr. White?”

Francesca laughs. “No political experience? I was married to Tony Pinelli for more than ten years, including his two terms on the council. Believe me, I know about politics!” The audience chuckles. “On the other hand, I don’t think this city needs a politician, as much as we need a leader.”

Ms. Xanathakeos!” I’m startled to hear my name. It’s coming from a chubby, balding guy who’s grinning unpleasantly. “I’m sure that we all appreciated your homily to the working class. But isn’t it true that for the past six years your primary employment has been as an exotic dancer?”

Gasps and snickers come from the audience. The questioner looks pleased with himself. So there it is. I glance over at Francesca. She looks perfectly calm and untroubled. I straighten my back, so that my tits thrust out a bit, and look the bald guy in the eye. I know what you like, I think to myself. You like to dress up in your wife’s lingerie when she’s working the late shift. That’s what I see, though it might be my own imagination. Still, as I stare at him, he begins to squirm and finally has to look away.

Quite true, Mister...?”

Rostropovitch,” he answers reluctantly.

You’ve done your research, Mr. Rostropovitch. I am indeed an exotic dancer, as you put it. A perfectly honest line of work, and believe me, not an easy one. Do you have some problem with that?”

Well, it hardly seems appropriate for a mayoral candidate to be associating with hookers...”

Now I am really annoyed. “A stripper is not a hooker, Mr. Rostropovitch. In any case, I am what I said I am, a woman born and bred in this city, who knows the problems working people here, particularly women, face. I’m also a voter. I am definitely qualified to give Ms. Pinelli advice and insight into these issues.”

I give him a long cold stare that I hope makes him feel naked. “In Francesca Pinelli’s Pittsburgh, everyone will be entitled to fair treatment and respect—even reporters!”

The crowd breaks into raucous laughter and applause. I sense that Mr. Rostropovitch is not well-liked by his colleagues.

~ ~ ~

Don’t forget to leave a comment. And please, visit the other bloggers who are participating in today’s Charity Sunday event! You will find their links below. 

 

Friday, February 26, 2021

Uncovering the Unknown – #VegasWedding #BoyNextDoor #SmallTownRomance @VickiBatman

Finding Vivian Maier movie poster

By Vicki Batman (Guest Blogger)

Several years ago, Handsome and I went to our favorite indie theater and saw an interesting documentary, “Finding Vivian Maier.” (Link to Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Finding_Vivian_Maier ) The documentary follows a young man who bid on a storage locker and found trunks filled with negatives, pictures, and mementos of Vivian. The find evolved into a quest to discover more about this woman.

From analyzing her things, he uncovered people who knew her, talked about her background and her final days. Vivian worked as a nanny. People interviewed said she went everywhere with her twin-lens reflex.

The young man printed photographs and asked professional photographers their thoughts. They believed Vivian had a good eye for photography. Most images were of the children she watched over and the everyday life and people in Chicago.

The movie made an impact on Handsome and me. So much so, when an exhibit of her black and white work traveled to a nearby suburb, we went. The showing rounded out the whole mystery of Who Was Vivian Maier, bringing the pictures featured in the documentary to life.

Then, a few months ago, I read another exhibit came to the same museum, this time featuring her color work. I’m hoping to see this one soon—another continuation of Vivian Maier’s story.

So why speak of a newly discovered photographer/nanny? Many of us have creative pursuits we share with family and friends. I like my crafts, and I’m a writer and have been one of romantic comedy short stories and mysteries for seventeen years. I may not go on to famous glory, but I contributed my creativity and am proud of myself. So many of us are stymied by criticism. I learned what I needed and what I didn’t. Isn’t it better to try than not at all? The learning experience is very enriching.

 

About Temporarily Out of Luck

Great job. What man? And murder.

Newly employed at Wedding Wonderland, Hattie Cooks is learning the industry from a woman she greatly admires. When her former brother-in-law is found dead in his luxury SUV, all fingers point to Hattie’s sister, who is planning her own I Dos.

Detective Allan Wellborn is caught between a rock and a hard place—Hattie’s family and investigating the murder of a well-connected Sommerville resident, the same loser who was once married to Hattie’s sister. Determining who’s the bad guy—or gal—isn’t going to be easy and sure to piss off someone.

Can Hattie beat the clock to find out who murdered Tracey’s ex before she is charged with the crime and her wedding is ruined?

Excerpt

Failure’s not a choice. Try again, and if that doesn’t work, again. Are you a quitter?”

No.” Until I resembled an idiot. I snagged the towel to wrap my torso, feeling indignation root in my tummy. Standing, I adjusted the ends under my armpits and maneuvered the curtain to one side to step over the rim. I opened the hall door. “If only his cell phone wouldn’t interrupt us.” I smiled. “He would probably like the binding part.”

With a grin, Jenny bounced her brows. “I hear police handcuffs are the way to go.”

I laughed. “Funny. What else did he want other than the ride offer?”

Here.” She plucked my phone from the counter next to the toothpaste tube and a glass jar filled with cotton swabs. “Push one.”

I stared at my phone, utterly amazed. “You assigned a number…on speed dial…on my phone? Without telling me? When did you do this?”

Jenny shrugged. “Long time ago. Seemed prudent.”

Find Temporarily Out of Luck at:

https://www.amazon.com/Temporarily-Luck-Hattie-Cooks-Mystery-ebook/dp/B08T7YSSRJ/

About the Author


Funny, sweet, and quirky, Vicki Batman’s stories are full of her hallmark humor and romance, and will delight all readers. She has sold many award-winning and bestselling romantic comedy works to magazines and most recently, three humorous romantic mysteries. An avid Jazzerciser. Handbag lover. Mahjong player. Yoga practitioner. Movie fan. Book devourer. Cat fancier. Best Mom ever. And adores Handsome Hubby.

Find Vicki Batman at:

Web and Blogsite: https://www.vickibatman.blogspot.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Vicki-Batman-sassy-writer-of-sexy-and-funny-fiction-133506590074451/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/VickiBatman/

Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/author/vickibatman/

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/4814608.Vicki_Batman/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/vickilbatman/

Bookbub: https://www.bookbub.com/profile/vicki-batman


Thursday, February 25, 2021

Nobody does hot, horny guys like Lucy Felthouse (@cw1985) #mm #gay #erotica #eroticromance

Magnificent Manlove cover

If you enjoy testosterone-filled tales of men getting it on, then check out this collection from the pen of award-winning author Lucy Felthouse.

From stranded soldiers to submissive virgins, sexy firemen and second chances to shifters, and even some unexpected ménage, this book has variety galore. There’s something for everyone, and will have you eager to turn just one more page.

Enjoy six steamy stories, over 46,000 words of magnificent manlove.

Please note: The stories in this anthology have been previously published.

Available from: http://books2read.com/magnificentmanlove

Excerpt

Nathan closed his book with a very final slap and put it on the coffee table in front of him, then leaned back in his chair. Stretching languidly, he said, “Bloody good, that was. Though, admittedly, I thought it’d last me all week. Wasn’t expecting to get through it on day one.”

Raising an eyebrow, Lee shot Nathan an amused glance. “Not far off myself. Fucking storm. Stupid us, eh, going on holiday in the UK in summertime—not like you can guarantee the sodding weather, is it? Should’ve gone to the Canaries.”

No, we can’t guarantee the weather, but…” Nathan gave the window a sidelong glance, “I do have some good news.”

Yeah?”

Yeah. The torrential downpour has stopped.”

Seriously?” Lee slammed his own book closed and scurried over to the window. “Oh, wow, it’s cleared right up, and I can see a rainbow. Wanna head out? Just a little wander down to that pond we saw on the way here, maybe? Get some fresh air. We’ve got loads of daylight left, haven’t we?”

Nathan checked his watch. “Plenty. Especially if we’re only nipping to the pond. It’s probably only a fifteen-minute walk.”

Fantastic. I was going a bit stir crazy in here. I’ll grab our coats and shoes.”

Lee had disappeared into the hallway of their rented holiday cottage before Nathan had the chance to reply. Shaking his head with a smile, Nathan collected their empty mugs from the coffee table and took them into the kitchen, then got a bottle of water from the fridge. He doubted they’d need a drink during their short trek along the road, but he could just shove the bottle in his coat pocket and forget about it. At least it’d be there if they wanted it.

When he returned to the living room, Lee was just about to tie up his laces.

I got water,” Nathan said, brandishing the bottle.

Cool. Shoes are there.” He nodded to the chair Nathan had been sitting in. Sure enough, his trail shoes were waiting on the floor in front of it.

Thanks.”

Within a few minutes, they were headed out of the door. Nathan locked up, pocketed the key, then checked the handle. He doubted very much the place would get broken into—they were in the middle of nowhere, after all. There were farms nearby, but the closest village was about a mile and a half away. So any thieves would have to make a considerable effort to get to the cottage in the first place, never mind attempt to break into it. Rolling his eyes at his own paranoia, he turned and followed Lee, who’d already started ambling along the road in the direction of the pond.

After falling into step beside Lee, Nathan pulled in some deep breaths, enjoying the fresh air after being cooped up in the cottage. It was beautiful, and cosy, but it was supposed to be a base for them to go walking—somewhere for them to eat, sleep and shower, not to be stuck in for hours on end, staring at the walls. Or climbing them.

He admired the rainbow as they walked, its vivid colours painted across the watery sky. It seemed the clouds had literally exhausted themselves—only occasional wispy streaks of white now interrupted the never-ending blue. The sun beamed down, heating up the ground and beginning to evaporate the huge puddles. It would take some doing—one such puddle stretched across the width of the road, and they had to skirt around its edge to avoid getting wet feet.

Nathan smiled. Though the storm itself had been grim, the washed-out aftermath made everything feel fresh, clean somehow.

You look thoughtful,” Lee said, breaking into his reverie. “A penny for them?”

Mmm. It’s one of those things that sounds better in your head than said out loud.”

Try me.”

Shrugging, Nathan replied, “Nothing major. Just admiring the rainbow, the sky, the clouds… thinking how everything looks so fresh and clean after a good storm. Like it’s been purified or something… Ugh, it’s stupid.”

Lee stopped and reached for Nathan’s hand. His green eyes were wide and filled with wonder. “No, it isn’t. Not at all—I was thinking something similar myself. It’s kinda romantic, isn’t it? Purification, rebirth, and all that.”

In a roundabout way, maybe. I dunno.” He shrugged again.

Lee’s eyes narrowed, and his lips curved into a wicked grin. “We could make it romantic.”

How so?”

Come here and I’ll show you.” Still gripping Nathan’s hand, Lee tugged him close and moved in for a kiss. Nathan went into the embrace willingly, the smile on his face soon smothered by Lee’s hot lips.

About the Author

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), Eyes Wide Open (winner of the Love Romances Café’s Best Ménage Book 2015 award), The Persecution of the Wolves, Hiding in Plain Sight, and The Heiress’s Harem and The Dreadnoughts series. Including novels, short stories and novellas, she has over 170 publications to her name. Find out more about her writing at http://lucyfelthouse.co.uk, or on Twitter or Facebook. Join her Facebook group for exclusive cover reveals, sneak peeks and more! Sign up for automatic updates on Amazon or BookBub. Subscribe to her newsletter here: http://www.subscribepage.com/lfnewsletter

 


 

Release blitz organised by Writer Marketing Services.

Wednesday, February 24, 2021

This could be your lucky day! #Contest #MailingList #VIP

Your lucky day!

Image by Karin Henseler from Pixabay

I’m running an exclusive giveaway for members of my VIP email list, with multiple winners. Prizes include bookstore gift certificates and free books.

It’s really easy to enter – but you need to be a member of my list. Join today by clicking here.

https://btn.ymlp.com/xgjjhmhugmgh

I’ll send you the details about the contest right away.

Don’t wait, though. The contest ends on Tuesday the 2nd of March.



Tuesday, February 23, 2021

Sign up for Charity Sunday - 28 February 2021 #CharitySundaySignup #Altruism #GivingBack

Charity Sunday means love

Image by Ben Kerckx from Pixabay

February’s such a short month! It seems as though we just did Charity Sunday, but this Sunday’s the last in February – so let’s do it again!

Let me explain, in case you’re a new visitor. Charity Sunday is a meme designed to give us authors a chance to give back to the world—as well as, hopefully, attract new readers.

How does it work? Each participant selects a favorite charity. Before Charity Sunday, you should prepare a blog post that: 1) talks about the charity and why you support it; 2) provides a link to the charity; 3) includes an excerpt from one of your books; 4) includes the code to show links to other participating blogs.

It’s fun if you can make the excerpt relate somehow to your chosen charity, but this isn’t required.

For every comment left on your post, you commit to giving some amount to the relevant charity. The specific charity and the amount to donate are up to you. The posts stay open all month, to maximize the amount of donations. You can set an upper limit to your donation if you want.

If you’d like to participate in the next Charity Sunday, just sign up using the Linky List below. Please be sure that the link you enter will lead directly to your Charity Sunday post, not just to the home page of your blog.

You can get my Charity Sunday banner here.

For an example, check out last month’s Charity Sunday post:

https://lisabetsarai.blogspot.com/2021/01/charity-sunday-for-next-generation-of.html


Monday, February 22, 2021

Review Tuesday: Magic Means Books 1-3 by Damon Rains -- #ReviewTuesday #Magic #WorldBuilding

Magic Means cover


Magic Means Books 1-3 by Damon Rain

January, 2020

Imagine a world where magic is real – but not absolute. There’s a constant struggle between the Light and Dark forces, humans who have or want power, not to mention other myths and monsters, who are just as real. Succubi and incubi. Demons. Elves. Fairies.

Imagine that sex provides an important way of channeling power, a surge of energy that can heal or connect – or enslave.

This is the world of Damon Rain’s Magic Means series.

I grabbed this three-volume boxed set when it was on sale, partly because I was curious and partly because I personally do believe that sex is magic. I’d never heard of the author before, but he seems to have a loyal following, based on the reviews and the ranking of this book. It took me a long time to read – it’s over 800 pages – partly because I couldn’t take in too much at one time, or I’d get confused. There are many different characters, and it’s a little difficult to keep track of their relationships.

I loved certain aspects of this series, while finding other aspects deeply annoying.

Damon Rain has done an excellent job at building a world of real but imperfect power. Power isn’t interesting if it’s total. That’s why every superhero needs to have a nemesis or a weakness like Kryptonite. In Rain’s Old Town, the struggle between Light and Dark magic is ongoing, and the balance shifts back and forth. Victory for the Light cannot be assumed. Furthermore, there are creatures who stay on the sidelines, whose needs and desires don’t particularly align with either side. The complexity of these relationships is fascinating.

In the universe of Magic Means, magic exists in many forms and underlies many talents. Each of the main characters in Magic Means has certain strengths or abilities. Scott is a Seeker, who instinctively knows what people need and how to find it for them. Izzie is a Healer; she can literally rebuild people's bodies and repair near-fatal damage, though the process severely drains her energy. Chuck is a Traveler, with the ability to create and use portals between distant locations, in this universe or in others. Inez, Izzie’s twin sister, is a scholar, with a deep knowledge of magical tomes, artifacts and rituals. At the start of the series, she’s serving the Tate family, power-hungry Dark mages who want to obliterate the remnants of the Light Enclaves, but her love for her sister plus a confrontation that exposes the deep evil of the Tates convinces her to switch sides.

Probably my favorite character in the series is Mack, Scott’s old friend who joins him in opening an occult store in the historic Van Veld building. At first Mack’s talents seem very mundane: he can fix anything, from broken cell phones to cash registers. He instinctively understands electronic and mechanical things. Then it turns out that, unlike most humans, he can also see fairies. And he’s fated to be the lover that sweet succubus Lilith has been waiting for all her life.

The Van Veld building, with its secrets and its wonders, is almost a character in its own right. It’s wonderfully imagined, the sort of place that might show up in one of my dreams. Dozens of levels, dozens of rooms, each one resonating with the power of Light.

Another aspect I enjoyed was the lively and varied portrayal of sex – and its power. Many of the sex scenes involve Scott. His talent as a Seeker makes him hyper-aware of his lover’s desires. The author shows us, in vivid detail, how this works. I found this convincing and arousing.

I was less enthusiastic about the treatment of casual sex. Orgies seem to be very popular among both Light and Dark magic practitioners. Don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against orgies, but sex to scratch an itch of this sort seems shallow and silly compared to the magic sexual connection between Scott and Izzie or Mack and Lilith.

The books have an episodic quality, almost like a TV series. There’s no single narrative arc, but instead many small crises and resolutions, though the story does progress and the characters change. I was reminded of the many years of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Just as with that series, it’s hard to remember what happened in the earlier episodes.

Probably the most annoying aspect of these books was the author’s persistent grammatical errors. The books are full of run-on sentences (comma splices) that drove me crazy. Of course, I’m an editor and an author, so I am hyper-sensitive to this sort of issue, but that’s another reason why it took me so long to finish the books; after a while, I just found the mistakes too aggravating.

It’s clear from the author’s notes that for him writing this series is a labor of love. You feel that when you’re reading, too. The story feels genuine, honest, an emanation of the heart, not the mind.

I’d consider reading more of the series – especially if Damon Rains hires a decent editor.


Sunday, February 21, 2021

The fairy princess of online deceit -- #Thriller #EnemiesToLovers #Giveaway

Hack cover

 

About Hack

An online criminal craves real-life danger, but her flawed instincts may cost her new crew everything.

Rafael Santos didn’t get the nickname ‘Goldie Locks’ for his shimmering blond curls. His hair is as black as his criminal heart. No, it’s his Midas touch. His ability to earn—coupled with a love for theft and technology—has gained him the coveted Number Two position in the Covington Heights crew. The problem is…after a murder that sent their regular clients packing, even his numbers are down. Now, finding new sources of illegal income is his number one priority.

Marigold Pfeifer is the fairy princess of online deceit. She can slip her computer viruses into a system at the blink of an eye and steal personal information in a twinkly flash. And that’s exactly what she does when screen name ‘GoldieLocks’ slides into her instant messenger. What’d he expect? A gift card?

But when the naïve hacker rides the train uptown to check out mysterious Covington Heights, she’s approached by the leader of the crew and forced to think fast on her feet. A hate-filled rivalry sparks between her and Rafael—and with it a deviously sinful attraction.

Will real-life criminals and the danger they breed be enough to wise up the goth-pixie with zero street smarts when she must navigate dark waters—or will her flawed instincts burn all she’s worked for to the ground?

Reader advisory: This book contains scenes of violence and drug use.

Excerpt

Rafael

The gym we shared on the third floor in Covington Heights was haunted by the spirit of our former crew member Leo. I was sure of it. As I circled around the blue sparring mat trying to find my next move, I could almost hear him whisper in my ear.

Where’s the weakness?

The problem was that the man opposite me didn’t have very many soft spots and his steel-blue eyes were like the tip of his sword. They pierced before anything else. As he narrowed his gaze ever so slightly, he would land his next punch. His brick fist slammed into the cheekbone just below my left eye. Pain slapped the side of my face, but I wouldn’t let it spread to my ego. It wasn’t personal, that I knew. Anton was pissed and working out his frustrations. Hell, we all were.

Ooo…” He jogged backward. “You okay there, Goldie Locks?” His fake sympathy was followed by a proud smile but he wouldn’t get any complaints or signs of weakness from me.

You know I like it rough.” I winked and walked over to the small fridge at the back of the gym where my boy Jackson and I had started keeping ice packs. Shit happened. Anton wasn’t as good a teacher as Leo, but practicing was the only way to get better, stronger.

Since Leo’s abrupt departure, Anton had been a miserable prick. He’d turned into the crankiest bitch I’d ever seen. And he had a serious alpha complex. His physical dominance wasn’t only a reminder that he was a better fighter. It was the exclamation point that our asses belonged to him…or else.

Leo had gotten away with too much, and those who were still around were paying the price. I shot a knowing glance to Jackson, who looked away and continued to do his bicep curls on a bench near the door.

Anton wrapped a towel around his bare shoulders and said, “Jackson, meet me in fifteen at my place. Scooter’s bringing the numbers from Bradford South.”

I dug out the frozen bag of blue gel then sat on the side of the treadmill as I pressed it into my cheek—bitter cold relief for a festering wound of the bossman’s frustration. No one could spar like Leo. Message received. No one was going to be allowed to get away with the same disrespect. Got it. But penance for other people’s sins was getting old quick. Unfortunately, all was fair in crime and crews. Did I like taking a blow from time to time? Honestly? Yeah, I did. I wanted to be better, wanted to learn. I craved more respect and was plotting ways to get it.

Anton tipped up his chin and winked at me. It was his way of checking in. That was also part of his management technique or whatever-the-fuck way he kept us down but happy. Show the power first, then a hint of giving a shit. I’d seen it before. I actually didn’t mind it. The familiarity was somehow comforting.

Let’s make some fucking money today.” Anton looked us over one last time before leaving, his glare emphasizing that it was a command, not a request.

I walked over to Jackson, my former roommate and literal partner in crime. We’d bonded over not having fucked-up families, just fucked-up circumstances, Xbox and both refusing to become adult enough to drink coffee. Plus, we liked the idea of belonging somewhere. And the money… We liked the money.

Jackson set the weights down on the gray concrete floor. “He needs to get laid.”

More like I needed to get laid. I’d given up on banging girls from our neighborhood. There was nothing interesting about being worshiped. Besides, they only did it in hopes of making their lives better. None of them really ever bothered to get to know me, not to mention that half of them were customers. That was more trouble than it was worth.

I shook my head. Anton had no problem there. “He needs to make more money.” It was true that since we’d knocked off Mac, who had been a regular patron at our backdoor gambling racket, attendance had gone down to zero. No one liked the idea of tempting Anton’s quick fuse and ending up in the river—not that we’d thrown Mac in the river, of course.

Lucky for us, the police had written off the Bradford murders as a drug deal gone wrong and hadn’t cared to search much further. Our sources at the precinct said there had been mild rumblings of it seeming like a professional hit because of the precision, but, in the end, it was a criminal-on-criminal crime and they tended not to waste too many resources on shit like that.

Jackson stood and put his hands on his hips. “What are you up to later? I’m moving my stuff to Lisa’s and could use a hand.”

Aww. You all lonely and shit since I moved out?”

Jackson rolled his dark brown eyes. “Nah. I’m all horny and shit since she finally let me tap that ass. Besides, I like showing Junior what a stable woman looks like.” He held my gaze for a brief second.

There was no need to explain. I’d seen Jackson’s baby-mama Bridget at our bench in the courtyard too many times in the last month. Selling drugs was a lot less fun when it was to the mother of one of your favorite kids, which brought me full circle to the money problem. We were a small operation. Sure, we had gained territory since the Bradford Towers crew had taken the hit. But with the game numbers down, I was pretty sure that the money decline was tainting Anton’s mood more than the loss of his previous sidekick. The bossman wasn’t exactly sentimental.

I pressed the cool into my cheek. It had thawed a little and was losing its original stiffness. “I’m working on something…a new business venture. Just waiting on a contact.”

Jackson rubbed his jaw. Maybe he’d taken a couple of hits I hadn’t seen. “Well, get fuckin’ crackin’.” He gave me a little salute and was gone.

I reached for a hand towel and wiped the residual sweat off my arms and chest. I hadn’t always wanted to be a law-breaking shit who sold people poison. It was just that I’d been bored—bored in school, bored in life, bored everywhere except in my own head. There, everything spun. It was like other people’s brains were funnels catching raindrops and all the information came to one eventual stream of thought. Mine? A constant downpour where I wanted to see every single bead of water and analyze it. That was what my high school computer teacher had said, anyway. He’d also said that was why I would be great in IT. Yeah, that ‘career path’ had taken an odd but predictable turn.

Breaking into people’s computers calmed me—and had earned me my first trip to juvey. When I’d gotten out and met Anton… Well, it all just seemed like destiny. But Anton was hard, from his jawline to his inability to show compassion. I didn’t have that darkness inside. Not that it mattered… I’d made my choices. A life in a suit and a picket fence with a puppy wasn’t going to happen for me.

I left the gym and went across the hall to the apartment I’d shared with Anton since Leo had moved out. The spray of his shower echoed down the hall that led to his room. I headed in the opposite direction, crashed on my bed with a thud and reached for my laptop.

I logged in to my favorite online chat for hackers and it only took a second for my idol to send me a direct message. Bingo.

Majel213: Going live in five. Glad you finally decided to show up, Goldie.

As if I would miss it. Majel213 was my Internet spirit animal. I typed my response.

GoldieLocks: Highlight of my day. You know I’ve been itching to see what you’ve been scheming.

I always tried to up my nerd and downplay my street vibe whenever she and I chatted. The tech geek in me wanted her to respect my brains, as fucking stupid as that was. Online, I could be anybody. The idea of someone liking me for my intelligence was an out-of-body experience. In the six months since I’d found Majel213 and her wicked tutorials, we’d somehow become friends. Well, maybe not friends—but more than online strangers. It was just that we’d never actually seen each other. I’d never offered a profile pic in our chats and she did all her videos without showing her face.

I was sure that if she knew I was just some street criminal who’d never really carried out an impressive hack, I would lose the connection we’d built. And I needed her. Getting my hands on her malware was a way to keep my Midas touch.

The nickname ‘Goldie Locks’ had evolved over the years from ‘Golden Boy’, neither of which had anything to do with my hair. That was pitch black. It was because I was a good earner and I’d gotten the light-eye gene from my Brazilian heritage. The fact that the name had turned into a fairy-tale character didn’t bother me. In fact, when I’d first starting using it online, I’d catfished quite a few idiots.

Buy Links

Choose Your Store: https://books2read.com/u/bzg9oG

First For Romance: https://www.firstforromance.com/book/hack

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/56229245-hack


About the Author


Deanna Birch was named after her father’s first love, who just so happened not to be her mother. Born and raised in the Midwest, she made stops in Los Angeles and New York before settling in Europe, where she lives with her own blue-eyed Happily Ever After. Her days are spent teaching yoga, playing tennis, ruining her children’s French homework, cleaning up dog vomit, writing her next book or reading someone else’s.

Newsletter: https://info@deanabirch.com/

Website: https://www.deanabirch.com/

Books + Main: https://bookandmainbites.com/DeanaBirch


 

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