Sunday, August 14, 2022

Squeezing a story into the middle – #RomanticSuspense #Series #Giveaway @AmberDaulton1

Ryan's Temptation teaser
 

By Amber Daulton (Guest Blogger)

Ryan’s Temptation was a blast to write, but squeezing it into the middle of an already written series was no small task.

As I was writing Arresting Mason, book one in the series, I fell head over heels for a couple of secondary characters who were demanding stories of their own. I wrote a few more novels, and two other secondary characters put their foot down and told me I still wasn’t done, that I also needed to write two novellas.

If only I’d known how much potential book one had, I would’ve done things differently, like plotting all the additional stories before I started them. That would’ve saved me lots of time and stress in rewriting to make sure all the books fit together. I also probably could’ve published them faster too.

You see, Ryan’s Temptation was one of the last books I wrote for the series, even though it appears early in the lineup as book 2.5. All the Onyx books include the men’s names, but I chose a different format for the novellas to help readers differentiate between them and the full-length novels.

I’m happy to announce Ryan’s Temptation is now available for download. I hope you enjoying reading Ryan and Chanel’s sexy romance as much as I did writing it.

Blurb

Wrong place, wrong time. Now she’s running for her life.

Beautician Chanel Leroc can wield a pair of scissors like nobody’s business. After she witnesses a murder and lands on a serial killer’s hit list, she has to figure out how to protect herself—and fast. The killer tracks her down, but her sexy new neighbor, Dr. Ryan Naylor, drives the brute off.

The police dump the pair in a witness protection program, which doesn’t last long. Either the killer has a connection to the police, or he’s far more intelligent than they realize. All Chanel wants to do is get back to her safe life and get to know her neighbor better. Instead, she and Ryan hit the road and try to survive on their own.

How will they stay alive and keep their blooming romance intact with the killer hot on their trail?

 

Excerpt

Ryan!” Chanel thrust up her arms. The pillow. Suffocating. Hard hands pushing down. Breathe! Her throat clogged, fear lancing through her. Were knives tearing at her flesh?

Baby. It’s okay. Calm down.”

The soft masculine voice seeped through the ringing in her ears. Warm hands grasped her flailing arms. Firm lips feathered over her eyebrows and cheeks before caressing her lips and pushing minty air into her mouth. Heat curled through her body. She breached the veil of sleep and gasped into her lover’s mouth.

Oh God, Ryan.” She twisted her fingers into his hair and deepened the kiss. His mouth, his taste, everything he was—she needed it, craved it. “Make love to me. Make me feel good. Help me forget.”

Ryan lay flat and drew her on top of him so that she straddled his waist. His thick erection tented his pants, pressed against the center of her plaid bottoms, and brushed her clitoris. Ooh, nice. She rolled her hips and curled her fingers in his coarse chest hair. When had he taken off his nightshirt? The faint slivers of light streaming from the window blinds streaked across her man, plunging him in bands of light and shadow. Damn right. Her man.

Every nerve ending in her body sizzled. She grasped his hard pecs, grazed his taut nipples, and lightly scraped her nails across his torso. The hair on his stomach rose like miniature trees. The muscles in his abs bunched under her palms.

Take control. Do as you want.” Ryan rasped the words, arched his back, and gripped her hips.

Her confidence skyrocketed. How did he know what she needed? Could he read her mind, or did his compassion come from his gift of understanding? If all physicians were like him, maybe she wouldn’t detest them so much.

She licked a wet trail up his left biceps and nibbled the hard expanse. A fine sheen of sweat coated his skin—salty and sweet. Delicious.

He groaned, twisting his head from side to side, and thrust his sheathed cock across her thigh. “Why are you torturing me?”

Because I can, and you like it.”

Goddamn it, I do.”

Butterflies took flight in her belly. She yanked off her top, shifted sideways, and stripped off her bottoms and panties. Pleasure shot through her as he thumbed one of her taut nipples.

Condom. My wallet.” Ryan tugged down his pajama pants and boxers.

She scurried from the bed and grabbed his jeans from the floor. After finding her prize, she knelt back over him and gripped the thick rod jutting from a nest of curls.

Fuck, yes. Harder, Chanel.”

She rubbed up and down, drawing throaty gasps from his mouth. A pearl drop moistened her hand and aided the slide. She ripped open the packet and eased the latex onto his erection.

Let me ready you.” He leaned up and grasped her leg.

Shh. I can’t wait another minute.”

Buy Links

Universal link - https://books2read.com/RyansTemptation

Amazon - https://amzn.to/3ajZ6MT

Barnes and Noble - https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/ryans-temptation-amber-daulton/1141713344?ean=2940186609674

Apple/iTunes - https://books.apple.com/us/book/id6443054102

Kobo - https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/ryan-s-temptation

Google Play - https://play.google.com/store/books/details?id=5R54EAAAQBAJ

Add it to Goodreads - https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/58601725-ryan-s-temptation

Check it out on BookBub - https://www.bookbub.com/books/ryan-s-temptation-by-amber-daulton

Official Trailer:  https://youtu.be/iuDwwCxD_vA

About the Author

Amber Daulton is the author of the romantic-suspense series Arresting Onyx and several standalone novellas. Her books are published through Daulton Publishing, The Wild Rose Press, and Books to Go Now, and are available in ebook, print on demand, audio, and foreign language formats.

She lives in North Carolina with her husband and demanding cats.

Social Media Link

Universal link – https://linktr.ee/AmberDaulton

Exclusive Newsletter (free ebook to new subscribers) – https://bit.ly/amberdaultonnewsletter

To celebrate the release of Ryan’s Temptation, I’m giving away two prizes.

First place prize: $50 Amazon or Barnes and Noble gift card

Second place prize: $25 Amazon or Barnes and Noble gift card



Contest runs from July 15 to August 16. You only have a few hours left to enter!


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Thursday, August 11, 2022

What flavour of awful did you want? -- #GayRomance #Humor #Giveaway

Horribly Harry cover

Book Description

Bad Boyfriend, Inc—when you can’t find a good boyfriend, why not hire a bad one instead?

To supplement his income while he’s completing his Early Education degree, Harry Townsend hires himself out as a terrible date—for a set fee, he’ll horrify parents and family members in all sorts of interesting ways. But when it comes to actual relationships—and sex—Harry doesn’t get the appeal. He doesn’t get the same tingly feelings everyone else seems to when they meet someone attractive, and he’s fine with that. He’d rather spend his evenings watching TV anyway.

Jack Windsor abandoned his uni degree to do an apprenticeship as a mechanic, much to his parents’ dismay. He’s happy with his choices, but leaving uni meant losing his accommodation, and now he’s crashing on his sister Mia’s couch. It isn’t ideal, but it’s only until he finds something else—which is proving difficult in Sydney’s brutal rental market.

When Jack almost kills Harry with a strawberry smoothie, he discovers that not only was Harry’s disastrous date with Mia a set up, but that Harry is looking for a roommate. Moving in with Harry is great, if only he wasn’t so distractingly cute—and totally uninterested in Jack. Except as they grow closer as friends, for the first time in his life, Harry tells Jack he’s developing feelings for him—tingly ones.

But how can Harry and Jack be together when Jack’s family thinks that Harry is the worst human being in the universe? And how can Jack convince them that his Bad Boyfriend is the best boyfriend he’s ever had, without admitting that Mia hired him to be terrible to them? When an approaching family event brings everything to a head, Jack’s going to have to step up to prove to Harry that he wants him in his life. And it might just take some bad timing, some good luck and the ugliest suit known to mankind.

Excerpt

Hello, Beryl,” Harry said through clenched teeth as he slid the garish Hawaiian shirt onto the counter.

Beryl narrowed her one good eye at him. “Mr Townsend. I believe you’re banned from this shop.”

Harry stared her down as he lifted his chin. “No. I spoke to Agnes, and she said that you’re not in charge so you can’t ban anyone. And she said, ‘looking at someone funny’ wasn’t grounds for a ban anyway.”

A flicker of fear passed through her good eye and, he thought, something almost like admiration, too. She clearly never would have thought he’d have the balls to go above her head to Agnes, but she’d underestimated him and his need for this incredibly ugly Hawaiian shirt. It was blue, with a typical background of islands and boats and palm trees and flowers, but what made it truly terrible was that, at one time, it had been someone’s custom gag gift. Harry had no idea whose grinning face it was that had been printed all over the fabric, but the second he’d seen it hanging in the slightly grimy front window of the Newtown Op Shop, he’d known he had to have it. The guy on the shirt had a combover. It was perfect!

Beryl’s mouth pressed into a thin, wrinkled line as she tugged the shirt over and inspected the tag. “Twenty dollars,” she announced.

It says five.”

Beryl reached up and adjusted her not-even-close-to-flesh-coloured eyepatch. She told people she’d recently had cataract surgery, but Harry suspected she was hiding an evil eye. The sort that would melt people’s faces off if she looked at them. “Agnes might be the manager, but I’m in charge of pricing, and this shirt is twenty dollars.”

She picked up a pen from the jar beside the cash register and changed the price.

I need that shirt!”

Her sour mouth turned up in a grin. “And you can have it, for twenty dollars.” She tapped the handwritten sign taped to the side of the register—No arguing with staff.

That sign wasn’t there last week.”

Beryl’s grin widened. “I wrote it when I saw you at the door.”

Harry gasped. “But I really need that shirt, Beryl! Please!”

She unpeeled the sign from the register, wrote Or begging on it, then stuck it back up.

Harry drew a deep breath, then wished he hadn’t, because, like all op shops, this one smelled musty and weird. He pulled his wallet out of the pocket of his jeans. It was depressingly thin. He tugged out a twenty, watching Beryl’s eye light up with victory, then hummed and put it back. “Actually, I think I’ll save my money.”

Beryl glowered at him.

Yeah,” Harry said, even though she hadn’t asked him anything. “I came past the bakery on the way here, and they were just icing the coffee scrolls. I might have to buy a couple. They’re so good. They always sell out really quickly, don’t they? Like, there probably won’t be any left at all in about twenty minutes, once word gets out on the street.”

Beryl’s sweet tooth was legendary, and it was the only sweet thing about her. She looked at her watch.

Oh, well,” Harry said. “I guess I’ll just…browse some more. Maybe find something in my price range.”

He stared at her and she stared back at him.

He sighed. “It’ll probably take me a while. A good, long while.”

Beryl vibrated with murderous rage.

Four minutes later and five dollars poorer, he was stepping outside the op shop with the ugly Hawaiian shirt in his backpack.

When he wore it, it was going to feel like victory.

* * * *

Harry met Angie Lau outside the old geology building where she was sitting with a group of friends. She was short and button-nosed, and wearing a bright pink sweater with a cat on it. Harry was tempted to show her his amazingly ugly Hawaiian shirt, then thought he’d better not, just in case she wasn’t wearing the sweater ironically.

Hi, I’m Harry.”

Angie’s friends looked him up and down speculatively. Angie sighed and shoved her lunch containers into a tote bag before climbing to her feet. “I’m Angie. Let’s go talk over here.”

Harry walked with her to the shade of a large tree. “When we talked on the phone, you said you were interested in a lunch date? With your parents, right?”

Angie chewed on her bottom lip and bobbed her head in a nod.

Tell me about them,” he suggested. “What are you looking for out of this? Do you have a boyfriend they don’t approve of?”

Her eyes grew large. “No! I don’t have a boyfriend. I don’t want a boyfriend. I want to do my Master’s, but my dad is super old-fashioned and thinks that if I study any more my womb will shrivel up and fall out, and my mum agrees with him, and last week we were arguing and I said I was sick of them trying to set me up with every nice Chinese boy they meet, and Mum said that wasn’t true, and they’d be happy with literally any boy I dated, as long as I found one.” She stopped at last and drew a breath. “I’m babbling, aren’t I?”

It’s fine,” Harry assured her. “So you want to test that theory?”

Angie rolled her eyes. “It’s so stupid! But they’re driving me nuts, and my friend Anna said she knew this girl who hired this fake boyfriend who was a theatre kid, and…” She shrugged. “And here I am.”

That would be Ambrose,” he said. “I took over from him. Okay, so basically you want to turn up to lunch with a boyfriend who is so awful they’ll be happier you’re single, right?”

She flashed him an anxious smile. “Right.”

Okay,” he said. “So, the deal is, you pay for my lunch and also my fee on top of that. I have like a sliding scale thing, depending on how big you want me to go, or if I have to get anyone else involved.”

Her brow crinkled. “Anyone else?”

Yeah, for an extra fifty my housemate will turn up and say he’s my parole officer and remind me that I can’t be within two hundred metres of a school.”

Angie’s eyes grew even larger.

For an extra hundred, he’ll pretend to be a detective and arrest me on a warrant.”

Oh, wow. I don’t think any of that is necessary.”

Okay, then. What flavour of awful did you want? Ambrose specialised in ‘hot but an asshole’ but, well”—Harry gestured to his distinctly un-muscled physique—“I’m built in a way that lends itself more towards awkwardly terrible. Bad clothes, bad past, ‘society’s out to get me’ kind of thing. Would you prefer me to be unemployed, or working at something really questionable?”

Angie gave a grin that was ever so slightly evil. “Definitely unemployed. And if you could turn up late and drunk, that’d be ideal.”

Easy done.” Harry nodded. “I do a great sloppy drunk. Now, let’s talk rates.”


Buy Links

Book 2 in the Bad Boyfriends, Inc. series - https://www.firstforromance.com/series/bad-boyfriends-inc

Choose Your Store: https://books2read.com/u/mg76Gq

First For Romance: https://www.firstforromance.com/book/horribly-harry

Add to Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/61295243-horribly-harry

About the Authors 

Lisa Henry - https://www.firstforromance.com/index.php?route=product/author/info&author_id=11797

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.

Lisa has been published since 2012, and was a LAMBDA finalist for her quirky, awkward coming-of-age romance Adulting 101, and a Rainbow Awards finalist for 2019’s Anhaga.

Find out more at Lisa's website and blog. You can follow her on Bookbub and sign up to her newsletter.

Website: https://www.lisahenryonline.com/

Blog: http://lisahenryonline.blogspot.com/

Bookbub: https://www.bookbub.com/profile/lisa-henry

Newsletter: https://lisahenryonline.us9.list-manage.com/subscribe?u=89f76ac7a4e6e0e202f27b3f8&id=103da83ac0




Sarah Honey - https://www.firstforromance.com/index.php?route=product/author/info&author_id=11796

Sarah started life in New Zealand. She came to Australia for a working holiday, loved it, and never left. She lives in Western Australia with her partner, two cats, two dogs and a life-size replica TARDIS.

She spends half her time at a day job and the rest of her time reading and writing about clueless men falling in love.

Her proudest achievements include having adult kids who will still be seen with her in public, the ability to make a decent sourdough loaf, and knowing all the words to Bohemian Rhapsody.

Awfully Ambrose will be her fifth published novel in collaboration with Lisa Henry.

Giveaway

Enter for the chance to win a $50.00 First for Romance Gift Card! Competition hosted by Totally Entwined Group.


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Wednesday, August 10, 2022

An Interview with Patricia Leavy – #WomensFiction #Romance #Giveaway

Celestial Bodies cover

Welcome to Beyond Romance, Patricia! I’m delighted to have you as my guest. So here’s a few questions for you, to introduce yourself to my readers.

What is the sweetest thing someone has done for you?

Enthusiastically reading my unpublished books and showering them with praise. I’m lucky that my husband, my father, and my closest friends are always eager to read my manuscripts as soon as I finish them. Giving their time is so generous and it means a lot to me.

How would you spend ten thousand bucks?

On vacation in New York City. Theater, restaurants, and shopping.

Where do you get your best ideas?

It’s always different, which is why I’m still so in love with writing. Sometimes I’m curled up on the couch watching a TV show or movie, other times I’m at a museum, other times I’m traveling, and other times I’m just trying to fall asleep.

What comes first, the plot or characters?

Characters.

What does your main character do that makes him/her special?

Tess Lee is a world-famous novelist and generous philanthropist. But what really makes her extraordinary is her ability to see the humanity in each person, the grace and humor with which she treats her incredible group of friends, and the way she vulnerably and fully loves her beloved Jack.

Blurb

Heart-warming and wonderfully romantic, written with the sharp wit of Candace Bushnell and the sensitivity of Meg Donahue, comes best-selling author Patricia Leavy’s tour de force about learning to balance darkness and light in our lives.

Celestial Bodies is a series of six novels that follow the epic romance of Tess and Jack: Shooting Stars, Twinkle, Constellations, Supernova, North Star, and Stardust. An exploration of the power of love, each novel focuses on love at the intersection of another topic: healing, doubt, intimacy, trust, commitment, and faith. While external threats occur in each book, this is ultimately a story about internal threats—the audio playing in our own heads.

Tess Lee is a world-famous novelist. Her inspirational books explore people’s innermost struggles and the human need to believe that there is light at the end of the tunnel. Despite her extraordinary success, she’s been unable to find happiness in her personal life. Jack Miller is a federal agent who specializes in counterterrorism. After spending decades immersed in a violent world, a residue remains. He’s dedicated everything to his job, leaving nothing for himself. The night Tess and Jack meet, their connection is palpable. She examines the scars on his body and says, “I’ve never seen anyone whose outsides match my insides.” The two embark on a beautiful love story that asks the questions: What happens when people truly see each other? Can unconditional love change the way we see ourselves? Their friends are along for the ride: Omar, Tess’s sarcastic best friend who calls her Butterfly; Joe, Jack’s friend from the Bureau who understands the sacrifices he’s made; and Bobby and Gina, Jack’s younger friends who never fail to lighten the mood. Along the way, others join their journey: the female president of the United States, with whom Tess bakes cookies and talks politics; the Millers, Jack’s childhood family; and many others. Celestial Bodies is about walking through our past traumas, moving from darkness to light, learning to live in color, and the ways in which love—from lovers, friends, or the art we experience—can heal us. Written as unfolding action, this collection moves fluidly between melancholy, humor, and joy. It can be read for pleasure or selected for book clubs.

Excerpt

At the end of the evening, they all bundled up and stumbled out of the bar.

A homeless man standing on the sidewalk asked, “Can you please spare anything?”

The group stood around awkwardly, but Tess walked right up to him. “Hi. I’m Tess, this is Jack, and these are our friends.”

Jack stepped directly behind Tess in a protective stance.

What’s your name?” Tess gently asked the man.

Henry,” he replied.

She smiled, pulled a twenty-dollar bill out of her pocket, and handed it to him. When he took the money, she held his hand. Surprised, he looked at her and said, “You’re very kind. Thank you.”

Getting kind of cold out,” she said, still holding his hand.

Sure is.”

She took off her cashmere scarf and held it out. “Here, please take this and try to stay warm.”

Wow,” Joe muttered.

Oh, I couldn’t,” Henry said.

Please, I insist.”

Thank you,” he said, taking the scarf. “Someone must have taught you to do unto others.”

No, someone taught me there are no others. Good night, Henry.”

She turned to her friends, their mouths agape.

Henry looked at Jack, who hadn’t moved, and quietly asked, “Is she some kind of angel?”

Yeah, something like that,” he muttered.

Tess walked over to Omar and hugged him. “Our usual breakfast on Thursday?”

Yes, Butterfly.”

Good night, guys,” she said to her friends.

They all said goodbye. Jack took Tess’s hand and walked her to his car. He opened her door and she got in. When he closed the door, he looked back at Henry, who was wrapping the scarf around his neck and smiling.

About the Author

Patricia Leavy, Ph.D., is a bestselling author. She was formerly Associate Professor of Sociology, Chair of Sociology and Criminology, and Founding Director of Gender Studies at Stonehill College in Massachusetts. She has published over thirty-five books, earning commercial and critical success in both fiction and nonfiction, and her work has been translated into many languages. Patricia has received dozens of accolades for her books. Recently, her novel Shooting Stars won the 2021 Independent Press Award Distinguished Favorite Contemporary Novel, her novel Film won the 2020 American Fiction Award for Inspirational Fiction, the 2021 NYC Big Book Award for Chick-Lit, and the 2021 Independent Press Award Distinguished Favorite Chick-Lit, her 3-novel set Candy Floss Collection won the 2020 American Fiction Award for Anthologies and the 2021 NYC Big Book Award for Anthology, and her novel Spark won the 2019 American Fiction Award for Inspirational Fiction, the 2019 Living Now Book Award for Adventure Fiction, and the 2021 National Indie Excellence Award for New Adult Fiction. She has also received career awards from the New England Sociological Association, the American Creativity Association, the American Educational Research Association, the International Congress of Qualitative Inquiry, and the National Art Education Association. In 2016 Mogul, a global women’s empowerment network, named her an “Influencer.” In 2018, she was honored by the National Women’s Hall of Fame and SUNY-New Paltz established the “Patricia Leavy Award for Art and Social Justice.” She lives in Maine with her husband, daughter (when she’s not away at college), and her dog. Patricia loves writing, reading, watching films, and traveling.

Website: www.patricialeavy.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/WomenWhoWrite/

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

Buy Link https://www.amazon.com/Celestial-Bodies-Tess-Miller-Novels-ebook/dp/B09WZGRGML/

One randomly chosen winner via rafflecopter will win a $50 Amazon/BN.com gift card.

 



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Tuesday, August 9, 2022

Like sparks in a Leyden jar... #AmWriting #Steampunk #MFRWHooks


I’ve been slogging away at my WIP The Master’s Mark, the third and final book in my Toymakers Guild series. I’m making progress, but I’m frustrated by how slowly!

To cheer myself up and rekindle my inspiration, I went back to reread the start of the series. Here’s the first two pages of The Pornographer’s Apprentice, Book 1 in the series, in which we meet  precocious Victorian engineer Gillian Smith. Note that the series is steampunk erotica with romantic elements, but this bit is pure steampunk.

Enjoy!

Blurb

She wants to build sex toys... if they'll let her.

In prudish, patriarchal Victorian England, nineteen year old prodigy Gillian Smith finds a secret society dedicated to the erotic arts. She’ll need both her intellect and her physical charms to earn the permanent position she craves.

If you like steam punk erotica with a kinky feminist bent, you'll love The Pornographer's Apprentice.

Prologue (The Hook)

Only when faced with the stout oaken door to Randerley Hall did Gillian Smith’s considerable resolve fail her.

In the dead of night she had fled her Aunt Martha’s London townhouse, mere hours before her diabolical guardian planned to denounce her as a deviant and a thief. She had endured the seven-hour rail journey to Tavistock crammed into a reeking third class carriage, struggling to remain awake in order to guard her meagre possessions. Upon arrival, she’d been tempted to take a room at the inn and sleep for a few hours, but she didn’t want to deplete her limited savings. If the Guild rejected her, she knew she’d need every farthing to survive. So she had waved off the gig driver who’d accosted her and set out to walk the five miles to Randerley Hall.

In truth, the fresh breeze off the moors felt welcome after the stuffy misery of the train. Her spirits rose as she left the town behind, following the winding road that climbed and dipped among the grey-green hills. She reached the manor gates before the house itself was visible. Although vicious iron spikes marched along their top edges, they stood open, as if beckoning her to enter a new phase of her life.

She paused when she caught sight of Randerley’s grim bulk, huddling among tall poplars. With its dark turrets reaching toward the cloudy sky and its mullioned windows like blind eyes, the ancient building could hardly be called welcoming. Still, Gillian knew her future lay within those stern stone walls.

Her carpet bag on her shoulder and Uncle George’s precious catalogue clutched under her arm, she strode up the steps to the pillared porch and considered the massive door. It towered above her, easily eight feet high, a single, solid plank of age-blackened wood studded with iron rivets. Finding neither bell-pull nor knocker, Gillian rapped her knuckles against the oak.

Excuse me,” she called. “Hello? Is anyone there?”

The wind sighing in the trees was her only answer.

She knocked again, so hard that her fingers stung, to no effect. Losing patience, she banged upon it repeatedly with her fist. The door must be exceptionally thick; despite the force of her blows, she could discern no echoes of them from within.

Damn it to hell,” she muttered. “Now what?”

Stepping back, she scanned the fa├žade of the building. She saw no light in the windows, no movement. Was her information obsolete? Could it be that the Guild no longer occupied Randerley?

The house didn’t appear derelict, despite its obvious antiquity, and the grounds were well-kept. She approached the door once more, searching for some hidden mechanism she might use to gain entry.

The door itself was featureless, but about two feet to the right she noticed a panel of brass. An exquisitely detailed image of a chambered nautilus decorated the top. Below this figure she found a column of seven brass tumblers, with a bevelled push button at the bottom. She rolled a fingertip across the surface of one cylinder. It turned smoothly, under the slightest pressure, exposing engraved digits from zero to nine.

An entry code! Gillian was impressed. This mechanism was far more effective than bolts or locks. Only those who knew the correct combination of digits could enter the Guild’s sanctum.

But how was she, an outsider, to gain access? Her heart sank as she automatically did the calculations. Seven tumblers, with ten options each, meant there were ten million possible codes. Impossible to guess. Nevertheless, she had to try.

She doubted the code was random. Seven random numbers would be too difficult to convey or remember. There had to be some pattern, some system. But what was it?

Feeling lost and desperate, she twirled the dials to the sequence 2, 4, 5, 1, 8, 1, 9. Everyone knew Her Majesty the Queen’s birth date. Holding her breath, she depressed the button.

The spiral design flashed red. “First error,” announced a mechanical voice. “Two attempts remaining.”

Tears pricked Gillian’s eyes. Her limbs felt leaden; she swayed and almost fell. Her long walk over the moors, her sleepless night, the fear that had driven her to escape, all combined to overwhelm her. Had it all been for nothing?

No. She would not give up, not while there was any chance at all. Perhaps the passcode was something deceptively simple. People were, after all, typically lazy.

She reset the tumblers: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7. Her finger hovered over the button for an instant, then gave a firm press.

Second error,” the irritating mechanism chided. “One attempt remaining.”

A hot surge of anger temporarily banished her exhaustion. Bloody engineers, she raged silently. They think they’re so clever. Well, she was clever, too. She would not let them best her.

She filled her lungs with the grass-scented air and willed her pulse to slow. As her father had taught her, so long ago, she raised an imaginary lens to her mind and focused on the problem at hand. The world became brighter, more sharply delineated. Her thoughts turned like well-oiled gears.

Gillian scrutinised the entry panel. There had to be a clue. A stray sunbeam broke through the clouds, making the nautilus gleam. The engraved spiral drew her gaze, pulling her into its centre…

Of course! Inspiration blazed like the sparks in a Leyden jar. Working with quick confidence, she set the values a third time: 0, 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8. Without hesitation she pushed the button to register her choice.

Sparkling green flooded the lines of the spiral. With a soft click, the lock released, and the heavy door swung open on silent hinges. “Welcome,” proclaimed the disembodied voice, “to the Toymakers Guild.”

Jubilant, Gillian gathered her bag and her book and stepped inside.


Ebook Buy Links

Kinky Literature https://www.kinkyliterature.com/book/8424-the-pornographers-apprentice-the-toymakers-guild-book-1/

Amazon UShttps://www.amazon.com/dp/B08MWMZZGP

Amazon UKhttps://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B08MWMZZGP

Smashwordshttps://www.smashwords.com/books/view/1053072

Barnes and Noblehttps://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-pornographers-apprentice-lisabet-sarai/1138144978?ean=2940164724573

Kobohttps://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/the-pornographer-s-apprentice-1

Apple Books - https://books.apple.com/us/book/x/id1539184541

Add on Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/55857159-the-pornographer-s-apprentice

Audio Buy Links

https://www.audible.com/pd/The-Pornographers-Apprentice-Audiobook/B09933BG3L

https://amzn.to/3wJZgCq

Be sure to visit the other authors joining today’s Book Hooks hop!