COMING SOON: TO STAND CLOSE BY FAITH ASHLIN

Blurb:

Can love grow and survive for two men on opposite sides of the deepest of chasms—slavery?

In this world, one country has cut itself off and is closed and mysterious to everyone else. What’s the secret it’s hiding? Magic? Monsters? No, just the cruel reality of slavery. But inside its borders life goes on as normal, and it competes with the rest of the world at sport just like everyone else, just to prove that it’s the best.

Nicky accepts that and is happy in his own small, simple life as a gymnastics coach. He accepts it because he’s never known anything else, but he stays as far away from the brutality of slavery as he can, until he’s given a present he doesn’t want and isn’t allowed to refuse.

As for love? Well, he loves his sport. Isn’t that enough?

One Perfect Wish by L.M. Brown

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amazon.com: amazon.co.uk: totallybound.com

Blurb:

Playing the part of another man’s husband to fulfil a wish is easy, but what happens at midnight when the magical day is over?

Scott Baxter is a workaholic with no time for love, until a djinn pulls him out of his life and deposits him into the bed of Cameron Kirk. Cut off from his life, Scott isn’t happy about the idea of being forced to help the djinn grant an unspecified wish, but he soon finds he has no real choice in the matter. The djinn, who has turned his life upside down, has powers that prevent Scott from leaving and ensure he does nothing to ruin Cameron’s day with his ‘husband’.

Reluctant at first, Scott finds that as the day progresses he starts to enjoy playing the role of Cameron’s husband. He connects with his unexpected lover in a way he never has with other men.

Scott searches for clues to help him track down Cameron after the day is over and he returns to his own life. He doesn’t want the day to end, but the wish is out of his control and when the magic is finished his time with Cameron may be over too.

Excerpt:

Scott Baxter woke with a strange feeling something wasn’t quite right. Half asleep and with his eyes still closed, he tried to figure out what could be different. The bed seemed too soft and far more luxurious than the cheap hotel mattress he vaguely recalled crashing on the night before. A thick duvet covered him and he could feel warmth similar to the heat that usually came from another body close up against him. He couldn’t recall ever waking in a hotel with such contentment as he felt this morning.

After working nearly forty-eight hours straight, he had flown back to England on the red eye, practically sleepwalked to a taxi, and had finally fallen into bed exhausted. Long overdue for a break, he told himself he’d take one after his latest consulting project had been completed. He told himself the same thing every time, even though he knew his boss would have another job lined up for him before the final work had been finished on this one.

“Morning,” a sleepy voice murmured into his ear.

Scott froze. His unexpected bedmate moved and Scott noticed he had some serious morning wood pressed against his arse.

He opened his eyes. Only his companion’s arm wrapped around Scott’s chest stopped him falling out of bed from the shock. Had the relentless pressure of his job finally caused him to snap?

The hotel room had vanished and instead he appeared to be in someone’s house. The drapes over the patio doors had been pulled back and a snow-covered garden stretched toward a frozen pond. Light snow fell from the cloudy sky. The landscape outside the doors seemed more like January than May.

“Scott, are you okay?”

Scott didn’t know what to say. Had he been drugged and kidnapped? And if so, why? He wasn’t anyone important and his family didn’t have the money to pay any ransom.

“Ah good, you’re awake,” a second voice said. Like the first, this voice also belonged to a man, though he seemed to have a slight accent Scott couldn’t place.

Scott wondered how many men he had climbed into bed with last night, before he saw the second speaker stood at the end of the bed with his arms folded across his bare chest. With baggy silk trousers and golden metal cuffs on his wrists, he could have stepped straight out of Arabian Nights.

“What the hell is going on?” Scott shouted as he tried to untangle himself from the arms of the man sharing his bed. His companion wasn’t exactly helping him and instead seemed to be frozen in place like a statue. He poked the man with a finger. His skin felt normal, yet the other man didn’t react at all.

“You’re here to fulfill a wish,” the man at end of the bed told him. “I’m a djinn and I’m here to explain your present situation.”

Scott stopped contemplating the statue man beside him. “Excuse me?”

The djinn nodded. “I’m sure you’ve heard of my kind. We grant wishes to those who summon us. Well, I’m here because someone wished for you.”

A headache started behind Scott’s eyes. He didn’t have time for this nonsense. “I don’t believe in magic.”

S.A. Meade: Tournament of Shadows

Congratulations, S.A. Meade, Tournament of Shadows has received an Honorable Mention from the Rainbow Awards.

Confessions of a Speshul Snowflake.

I’ve always vowed not to be one of those authors who get precious about their books. Honestly, it’s true. I’m always telling others that, once a book is written and published, that’s it. It’s out of the author’s hands. It’s out there for readers. Finito. Goodbye. But I have a confession, I have a favourite book.

It’s Tournament of Shadows.

The setting fascinates me, the sad, tragic tale of Stoddart and Connelly stuck in my head long after I first heard it. For years I’d been struggling to come up with a story to set in Central Asia at the height of the Great Game. Tournament is that story. It has everything—two strong characters, an exotic backdrop, all set during a game that is still being played today, albeit with less glamorous characters and with more sophisticated weaponry. If you’d like an historical romance which is just a little bit different, give it a try.

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Buylinks: Totally Bound: Amazon.com: Amazon.co.uk

Blurb

In a shadowy game where defeat can mean death, a deal with the enemy can change things forever. 

In 1842, Captain Gabriel O’Riordan of the 8th King’s Royal Irish Hussars is sent on a mission to Bukhara. His task—to try to free two of his compatriots from the clutches of a mentally unstable Emir. On his way, he encounters Valentin Yakolev, an officer in the Russian Army, who is also on a mission—to persuade the Emir that an alliance with Russia would be in his best interests. Gabriel, disguised as a holy man, is not happy to be the object of Yakolev’s intense scrutiny. After all, he’s working for the opposing team in the Great Game being played between their two nations. When Gabriel realises that his mission is little more than a forlorn hope, a game he has no chance of winning, he’s desperate enough to turn to Valentin to help and offer him anything in return. What he doesn’t expect is to have his plans to return to Calcutta scuppered by events.

Instead, he and Valentin flee north, fighting off bandits, their desire for each other and the hardship of desert travel. Their travails bring them closer together until a secret from Valentin’s past tears them apart.

Can they set the past behind them and move on together?

Excerpt

I had more important things to worry about than whether the man who trailed several miles behind me was a coincidental traveller or someone with a far more sinister purpose. My horse was hopping lame and I needed to find somewhere to rest. The prospect of dealing with potential trouble in a country ripe with dangerous possibilities did not appeal to me. I patted the animal’s warm neck and kept walking, trying my best to ignore the dust and discomfort of the desert.

A hopeful patch of green glimmered in the distance, distorted by the heat. It was promise enough. I urged the horse on. I cleared my mind of everything but becoming the travelling scholar once more. A harmless fool immersed in research for the sake of it, not a paid fool sent to rescue two other idiots. The May heat left me bad tempered. I just wanted to find a place to rest for a day or two, perhaps lie in wait for my unwanted travelling companion. I knew there was a caravanserai on the road ahead but I didn’t want the crowds, the braying camels, persistent hawkers. I just wanted peace and quiet.

I talked to myself in Uzbek. I talked to the horse. His ears twitched at the sound of my voice and he let loose a long, flubbering sigh as he hobbled along beside me. The oasis drew closer, rising out of the scorched earth in a cluster of trees and earthen buildings. The horse quickened his step and I hurried alongside him, desperate for cool, green shade and a place to rest, even if it was just a rug laid out beneath a tree. I needed all the rest I could get in preparation for the impossible task ahead.

* * * *

The furnace wind kicked up dust and dead leaves, hurling them across the road. I was glad to leave the desert behind and reach the refuge of the village. I searched for the closest thing they had to an inn—a small, mud-walled building beneath a canopy of trees. The proprietor, a wizened old man with skin like creased, oiled leather hobbled out into the courtyard and offered me a toothless smile. There were a few cots scattered beneath a wood-shingled awning. One or two were already occupied by weary, dusty travellers sleeping in the shade. I chose the bed at the far end, desiring as much peace and quiet as possible, not wanting to be bothered by conversation or company.

The horse came first. I led him to a stable.

“Your horse has a bad limp, sir.”

I bent down and examined the injured leg. “I think it’s his foot.”

The horse shuddered when I reached for his hoof. It was hot to the touch and a close study of the sole revealed a tell-tale black line, which told me that he had an abscess. “Can I have some warm water?”

“Yes, sir.” The innkeeper smiled, nodded then walked away.

I searched my saddle pack for the small bags of things I kept for medicinal purposes including Epsom salts, then pulled the knife from my belt. The innkeeper returned with a basin of water and stood watching when I dug my knife into the animal’s hoof. The horse groaned and snorted but remained still as pus streamed from his foot. I dropped Epsom salts into the water, then dunked an unrolled bandage into it. Once the cloth was soaked, I wrapped it carefully around the horse’s hoof, all under the watchful eye of my host.

“You are a clever man, sir.” His grin was brilliant in the seamed leather of his face.

I straightened my back and patted the horse’s warm neck. “No, just one who has learnt to care for his horse.” I didn’t much care for such close scrutiny and hoped the innkeeper wasn’t one of those talkative sorts who need to know the life story of each of his guests.

He stooped to retrieve the basin and flung the water onto the dirt. “I will leave you to rest. I will bring you some food later.”

“Thank you.” I salaamed, made sure the horse was settled then sought refuge on my bed.

It was cool enough in the shade to be comfortable. I lay down on my bedroll and fell asleep to the warbling of a bird in the dusty trees.

* * * *

The sun slipped beyond the walls of the inn. My host carried a tray across the yard and set it on a small table beside my bed. “It is but a simple meal, sir.”

I glanced at the bowl of aromatic stew, the cup of cloudy white rice, the pickles and slab of flatbread. “It is a feast after days of traveller’s fare. Thank you.”

He left me to eat in peace, which I did, until the bowl was empty, wiped clean by the last wedge of warm bread. I washed the repast down with the lukewarm tea he’d provided. It was more than enough to satisfy me. I returned the tray to the house then went to see to my horse.

The gelding dozed, resting his afflicted foot. I removed the bandage and poultice, pleased to note that the wound had finished draining. There was still some heat in the sole, which meant I faced a day or two of enforced rest.

“It’s all right, my friend,” I murmured into his ear. “A day or two isn’t going to make much of a difference.

I wasn’t sure I believed my own words but I needed a sound horse more than I needed the firearm hidden in my saddlebag. The gelding nudged me, then rubbed his head against my shoulder, seeking relief from some hidden itch. I obliged by scratching his cheek and offering up prayers to every god I could think of to speed his recovery.

S.A. Meade Day: Giveaway of Tournament of Shadows

It’s S.A. Meade’s day on ukgayromance. Those of you who know will know my all-time favourite book is Stolen Summer but I have to say Tournament of Shadows runs a close second. I am not often privileged to read a story before it is published but I got a chance to read Tournament of Shadows as it was written.  

S.A Meade has kindly offered a copy as a giveaway today. Leave a comment below to enter the draw with your email. The giveaway closes Tuesday 8th April at midday BST.

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Tournament of Shadows by S.A. Meade

Totally BoundAmazon.comAmazon.co.uk

In a shadowy game where defeat can mean death, a deal with the enemy can change things forever. 

In 1842, Captain Gabriel O’Riordan of the 8th King’s Royal Irish Hussars is sent on a mission to Bukhara. His task—to try to free two of his compatriots from the clutches of a mentally unstable Emir. On his way, he encounters Valentin Yakolev, an officer in the Russian Army, who is also on a mission—to persuade the Emir that an alliance with Russia would be in his best interests. Gabriel, disguised as a holy man, is not happy to be the object of Yakolev’s intense scrutiny. After all, he’s working for the opposing team in the Great Game being played between their two nations. When Gabriel realises that his mission is little more than a forlorn hope, a game he has no chance of winning, he’s desperate enough to turn to Valentin to help and offer him anything in return. What he doesn’t expect is to have his plans to return to Calcutta scuppered by events.

Instead, he and Valentin flee north, fighting off bandits, their desire for each other and the hardship of desert travel. Their travails bring them closer together until a secret from Valentin’s past tears them apart.

Can they set the past behind them and move on together?

Excerpt

I had more important things to worry about than whether the man who trailed several miles behind me was a coincidental traveller or someone with a far more sinister purpose. My horse was hopping lame and I needed to find somewhere to rest. The prospect of dealing with potential trouble in a country ripe with dangerous possibilities did not appeal to me. I patted the animal’s warm neck and kept walking, trying my best to ignore the dust and discomfort of the desert.

A hopeful patch of green glimmered in the distance, distorted by the heat. It was promise enough. I urged the horse on. I cleared my mind of everything but becoming the travelling scholar once more. A harmless fool immersed in research for the sake of it, not a paid fool sent to rescue two other idiots. The May heat left me bad tempered. I just wanted to find a place to rest for a day or two, perhaps lie in wait for my unwanted travelling companion. I knew there was a caravanserai on the road ahead but I didn’t want the crowds, the braying camels, persistent hawkers. I just wanted peace and quiet.

I talked to myself in Uzbek. I talked to the horse. His ears twitched at the sound of my voice and he let loose a long, flubbering sigh as he hobbled along beside me. The oasis drew closer, rising out of the scorched earth in a cluster of trees and earthen buildings. The horse quickened his step and I hurried alongside him, desperate for cool, green shade and a place to rest, even if it was just a rug laid out beneath a tree. I needed all the rest I could get in preparation for the impossible task ahead.

 

* * * *

 

The furnace wind kicked up dust and dead leaves, hurling them across the road. I was glad to leave the desert behind and reach the refuge of the village. I searched for the closest thing they had to an inn—a small, mud-walled building beneath a canopy of trees. The proprietor, a wizened old man with skin like creased, oiled leather hobbled out into the courtyard and offered me a toothless smile. There were a few cots scattered beneath a wood-shingled awning. One or two were already occupied by weary, dusty travellers sleeping in the shade. I chose the bed at the far end, desiring as much peace and quiet as possible, not wanting to be bothered by conversation or company.

The horse came first. I led him to a stable.

“Your horse has a bad limp, sir.”

I bent down and examined the injured leg. “I think it’s his foot.”

The horse shuddered when I reached for his hoof. It was hot to the touch and a close study of the sole revealed a tell-tale black line, which told me that he had an abscess. “Can I have some warm water?”

“Yes, sir.” The innkeeper smiled, nodded then walked away.

I searched my saddle pack for the small bags of things I kept for medicinal purposes including Epsom salts, then pulled the knife from my belt. The innkeeper returned with a basin of water and stood watching when I dug my knife into the animal’s hoof. The horse groaned and snorted but remained still as pus streamed from his foot. I dropped Epsom salts into the water, then dunked an unrolled bandage into it. Once the cloth was soaked, I wrapped it carefully around the horse’s hoof, all under the watchful eye of my host.

“You are a clever man, sir.” His grin was brilliant in the seamed leather of his face.

I straightened my back and patted the horse’s warm neck. “No, just one who has learnt to care for his horse.” I didn’t much care for such close scrutiny and hoped the innkeeper wasn’t one of those talkative sorts who need to know the life story of each of his guests.

He stooped to retrieve the basin and flung the water onto the dirt. “I will leave you to rest. I will bring you some food later.”

“Thank you.” I salaamed, made sure the horse was settled then sought refuge on my bed.

It was cool enough in the shade to be comfortable. I lay down on my bedroll and fell asleep to the warbling of a bird in the dusty trees.

* * * *

The sun slipped beyond the walls of the inn. My host carried a tray across the yard and set it on a small table beside my bed. “It is but a simple meal, sir.”

I glanced at the bowl of aromatic stew, the cup of cloudy white rice, the pickles and slab of flatbread. “It is a feast after days of traveller’s fare. Thank you.”

He left me to eat in peace, which I did, until the bowl was empty, wiped clean by the last wedge of warm bread. I washed the repast down with the lukewarm tea he’d provided. It was more than enough to satisfy me. I returned the tray to the house then went to see to my horse.

The gelding dozed, resting his afflicted foot. I removed the bandage and poultice, pleased to note that the wound had finished draining. There was still some heat in the sole, which meant I faced a day or two of enforced rest.

“It’s all right, my friend,” I murmured into his ear. “A day or two isn’t going to make much of a difference.

I wasn’t sure I believed my own words but I needed a sound horse more than I needed the firearm hidden in my saddlebag. The gelding nudged me, then rubbed his head against my shoulder, seeking relief from some hidden itch. I obliged by scratching his cheek and offering up prayers to every god I could think of to speed his recovery.

Author Bio:

S.A. Meade has recently returned to England after 8 years in Arizona, where she learned to love air conditioners and realised that rain wasn’t such a bad thing after all. She lives with her husband, son and two cats in one of the most beautiful villages in Wiltshire and is partial to gin and tonic with loads of ice and lemon.

 

 

Book of the Day: Letters to a War Zone by Lucy Felthouse

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Letters to a War Zone

When lonely insurance broker, Bailey, gets himself a new hobby, he ends up exchanging letters with a war zone. But he’s not expecting what happens next…

Bailey Hodgkiss is lonely and dissatisfied with his boring life as an insurance broker. In an attempt to shake things up a little, he signs up to a website to write to serving soldiers. He’s put in touch with Corporal Nick Rock, and over the course of a couple of letters, the two of them strike up a friendship. They begin to divulge things that they perhaps wouldn’t have said in person, including their preference for men.

Nick encourages Bailey to add more interests to his life. As a result, Bailey picks up his forgotten hobby, photography, and quickly decides to team it up with his other preferred interest, travel.

Booking a holiday to Rome is his biggest gesture towards a more exciting existence, and he eagerly looks forward to the trip. That is, until Nick says he’s coming home on leave, and it looks as though their respective trips will prevent them from meeting in person. Is there enough of a spark between them to push them to meet, or will their relationship remain on paper only?

Author Bio

Lucy Felthouse is a very busy woman! She writes erotica and erotic romance in a variety of subgenres and pairings, and has over seventy publications to her name, with many more in the pipeline. These include Best Bondage Erotica 2012 and 2013, and Best Women’s Erotica 2013. Another string to her bow is editing, and she has edited and co-edited a number of anthologies. She owns Erotica for All and is book editor for Cliterati.

Excerpt

After clicking all the available links on the website to find out more about it, Bailey decided to go ahead and sign up. He’d never know what it was really like unless he gave it a go.

He’d read about the site in an article somewhere, about how it linked people with serving soldiers, pilots, marines and sailors in order to write to them. It had been proven that receiving mail—even from someone they didn’t know—improved military morale. It sounded like a damn good use of time to Bailey, and it would be interesting, too.

He began typing his details into the online form. Of course, the chances were that he’d be paired up with a man, given the ratio of males to females in the forces. It didn’t matter, though. He could still exchange letters with a guy, become friends. It seemed like such an old-school way to communicate with someone, given how technology had come on over the years, but at least it was different. Perhaps it would give him something in his life to look forward to, something other than getting up, showering, going to work, coming home, eating, watching television and going to bed. The watching television—and even the eating—were occasionally replaced by nights out with friends or seeing family. Weekends were spent cleaning, washing clothes, gardening and odd jobs. Dull stuff, in other words.

He had an utterly mundane life, and Bailey knew it. It wasn’t even as if his job was exciting. Insurance broking was hardly thrilling, game-changing, or going to save the world. He didn’t expect having a pen pal to change his entire life, but it would certainly break the monotony. Hopefully.

He went through the various steps to fill in his details and create a profile, then continued right through to the information on actually writing and sending the letters. It looked straightforward enough.

His mind made up, Bailey immediately went in search of a pen, some nice paper and an envelope. Armed with a print out of exactly what to do when the letter was finished, he settled down at the kitchen table. Instantly, his mind went blank. What the fuck was he meant to say? He didn’t know any soldiers or other military personnel, didn’t know anything about their lives, other than there was a great deal more to it than shooting people and being shot at. His own existence was so fucking boring that he didn’t want to write about it. Unless there were any insomniacs in Afghanistan—telling them about his day would solve that particular condition right away.

After chewing on his biro until it broke, covering his lips and chin with ink, Bailey replaced it, resolving to try harder. He’d tell his pen pal the bare essentials about himself, then ask lots of questions about them and their work. That was bound to rustle up some conversation.

That decided, he began to write, absentmindedly swiping at his inky skin with a tissue. He’d have to scrub it off when he was done with the note. His wrist and hand had begun to ache before he was halfway down the page. He rolled his eyes. He sat on his arse at a desk all day, using a computer. As a result, even writing something short by hand was hard work! There was no way he was going to divulge that particular piece of information to someone that was willing to lay down their life to protect their country.

He just about managed to fill a single side of the A5-sized paper. And that was only because he’d formed large letters and spaced his words and lines out plenty. But he tried not to worry—at least he’d finished it, his first letter to a war zone.

He read through it carefully, relieved to find no mistakes. He’d forgotten how much more difficult—and messy—errors were on the written page. Computers let you edit and rewrite to your heart’s content. No correction fluid or crossings-out necessary.

Finally, he addressed the envelope. It felt like the longest address ever. The area and country was bad enough, even without including the soldier’s name and BFPO address. But it was done—Bailey Hodgkiss had penned a missive to Corporal Nick Rock, currently stationed at Camp Bastion, Helmand Province, Afghanistan.

Now he’d just have to post it and wait for a reply. The website had said his missive would take between one and three weeks to reach Corporal Rock. Then he had to allow for time for him to read it and send a reply. It could be around six weeks before he heard anything. If he heard anything at all.

Book of the Day: Taxes & Tardis by N.R. Walker

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Taxes & Tardis by N,R. Walker

Brent is a jock, Logan a geek, these men are a world apart.  But if opposites attract, maybe it’s the differences between them that make it worth the fight.

Brent Kelly is a laid-back tradesman whose only concerns are drinks with friends and which man to bed next. In need of a new accountant to sort out his nightmarish shoebox of tax receipts, he’s referred to Logan Willis.

He doesn’t expect to be intrigued by the science fiction-loving, geeky guy with dark-rimmed glasses and a TARDIS blue shirt. So his fascination with the soft-spoken Englishman surprises him, and their mutual attraction is completely unexpected. He most certainly never expects to fall in love.

One a jock and the other a geek, both men know the differences between them are vast and could cause problems. But in this opposites-attract erotic drama, maybe it’s the differences between them that make staying together worth the fight.

Author Bio

Who am I?

Good question…

I am many things; a mother, a wife, a sister, a writer.

I have pretty, pretty boys who live in my head, who don’t let me sleep at night unless I give them life with words.

I like it when they do dirty, dirty things…but I like it even more when they fall in love.

I used to think having people in my head talking to me was weird, until one day I happened across other writers who told me it was normal.

I’ve been writing ever since…

Excerpt

Traffic on a Friday afternoon in the central business district was hell. After two laps around the block, I finally found a parking space. I pulled my truck into the too-damned-small spot, grabbed the old shoebox off the front seat and walked quickly back to my intended destination.

It wasn’t very often I ventured into the business district. And as I walked into the building fronted by glass, I remembered why. My reflection was a stark reminder of just how underdressed I was. Compared to the expensive suits walking around filled with their own importance, my work boots and plaid overshirt were somewhat outclassed.

Following the signs, I walked down the expensive hall to the expensive office with the expensive desk. “Brent Kelly,” I said, introducing myself to the receptionist. “I have a three o’clock appointment.” I looked at my watch. “Which I’m a little late for.”

I smiled apologetically at her, hoping my scruffy blond hair, dark blue eyes and three-day growth would come off as rugged charm. I knew my looks could work in my favour with most women. Not my usual intended target, but hey, whatever worked.

She looked at me, my clothes, and the box in my hand, and she smiled. “Take a seat, Mr Kelly,” she offered kindly. “Logan will be with you shortly.”

Logan. My new accountant.

I hadn’t believed it when I’d phoned my old accountant to make my annual tax appointment and been told she’d been taken ill. I’d used the same accountant for years—she understood that I was hopeless, and now I had to explain that I was accounting-challenged to someone new. All her clients were being referred to new accountants downtown. Well, they weren’t new—they were just new to me. They were quite old and reputable, and I could just picture this Logan as a bean-counting dinosaur.

My accounts were a shambles. I knew that, and so did my old accountant. I’d gone to her for years. I’d hand over my shoebox of receipts and tax invoices with a warm smile, and she’d just do it all for me. Now I’d have to start from scratch, explaining everything to this new guy.

I was going to be there for hours.

“Mr Kelly?” I looked up to see the receptionist now standing in front of me. “Logan will see you now,” she said with a professional smile. She walked towards the open door at the other end of the room, and I presumed I was to follow.

She led me down the dark mahogany hall and about halfway down the corridor, she showed me into a dark office with a wall of books where a guy sat behind the desk, scribbling in a file. With another professional smile, and not another word, the receptionist turned and left, and there I was standing in front of a desk and a guy who still hadn’t even looked up.

I cleared my throat nervously. “Um…”

Only then did he look at me. “Yes, Mr Kelly, please take a seat.”

I noticed his English accent first. Then the fact that he wasn’t old like I’d presumed he would be. In fact, he didn’t look any older than me, maybe twenty-four, twenty-five. He had short, dark brown hair, pink lips and blue-grey eyes behind dark-rimmed glasses.

He looked at me for half a second, blinked, and looked back down at his paperwork. Typical pen-pusher. Typical bean-counter.

Nerd.

Geek.

I rolled my eyes in frustration, took a seat across from him and put my shoebox on the seat next to me. “Sorry I was late. I got held up at work then traffic into the city was bad. Took forever to find a parking space.”

He looked up from his desk at me. “That’s okay.” Then he cleared his throat and shook his head. “I’ve been going through your files sent over from your previous accountant,” he said casually, pushing his glasses up his nose. “I thought the shoebox might have been an exaggeration.” He smiled, as though he found me amusing.

I sighed. “Uh…no. It’s been my filing system for years…”

“Yes, that’s what it says here,” he said, tapping the file in front of him.

“Oh.” I couldn’t help being a bit embarrassed. “Yeah, um… Accounts are not my forte.”

He pulled out a clean piece of paper, pushed his glasses back up on his nose, and looked at me. “So, Mr Kelly—” he started.

“Please, call me Brent.”

B

Book of the Day: Tournament of Shadows by S.A. Meade

tournamentofshadows_800 (1)

Tournament of Shadows by S.A. Meade

Totally Bound: Amazon.com: Amazon.co.uk

In a shadowy game where defeat can mean death, a deal with the enemy can change things forever. 

In 1842, Captain Gabriel O’Riordan of the 8th King’s Royal Irish Hussars is sent on a mission to Bukhara. His task—to try to free two of his compatriots from the clutches of a mentally unstable Emir. On his way, he encounters Valentin Yakolev, an officer in the Russian Army, who is also on a mission—to persuade the Emir that an alliance with Russia would be in his best interests. Gabriel, disguised as a holy man, is not happy to be the object of Yakolev’s intense scrutiny. After all, he’s working for the opposing team in the Great Game being played between their two nations. When Gabriel realises that his mission is little more than a forlorn hope, a game he has no chance of winning, he’s desperate enough to turn to Valentin to help and offer him anything in return. What he doesn’t expect is to have his plans to return to Calcutta scuppered by events.

Instead, he and Valentin flee north, fighting off bandits, their desire for each other and the hardship of desert travel. Their travails bring them closer together until a secret from Valentin’s past tears them apart.

Can they set the past behind them and move on together?

Excerpt

I had more important things to worry about than whether the man who trailed several miles behind me was a coincidental traveller or someone with a far more sinister purpose. My horse was hopping lame and I needed to find somewhere to rest. The prospect of dealing with potential trouble in a country ripe with dangerous possibilities did not appeal to me. I patted the animal’s warm neck and kept walking, trying my best to ignore the dust and discomfort of the desert.

A hopeful patch of green glimmered in the distance, distorted by the heat. It was promise enough. I urged the horse on. I cleared my mind of everything but becoming the travelling scholar once more. A harmless fool immersed in research for the sake of it, not a paid fool sent to rescue two other idiots. The May heat left me bad tempered. I just wanted to find a place to rest for a day or two, perhaps lie in wait for my unwanted travelling companion. I knew there was a caravanserai on the road ahead but I didn’t want the crowds, the braying camels, persistent hawkers. I just wanted peace and quiet.

I talked to myself in Uzbek. I talked to the horse. His ears twitched at the sound of my voice and he let loose a long, flubbering sigh as he hobbled along beside me. The oasis drew closer, rising out of the scorched earth in a cluster of trees and earthen buildings. The horse quickened his step and I hurried alongside him, desperate for cool, green shade and a place to rest, even if it was just a rug laid out beneath a tree. I needed all the rest I could get in preparation for the impossible task ahead.

 

* * * *

 

The furnace wind kicked up dust and dead leaves, hurling them across the road. I was glad to leave the desert behind and reach the refuge of the village. I searched for the closest thing they had to an inn—a small, mud-walled building beneath a canopy of trees. The proprietor, a wizened old man with skin like creased, oiled leather hobbled out into the courtyard and offered me a toothless smile. There were a few cots scattered beneath a wood-shingled awning. One or two were already occupied by weary, dusty travellers sleeping in the shade. I chose the bed at the far end, desiring as much peace and quiet as possible, not wanting to be bothered by conversation or company.

The horse came first. I led him to a stable.

“Your horse has a bad limp, sir.”

I bent down and examined the injured leg. “I think it’s his foot.”

The horse shuddered when I reached for his hoof. It was hot to the touch and a close study of the sole revealed a tell-tale black line, which told me that he had an abscess. “Can I have some warm water?”

“Yes, sir.” The innkeeper smiled, nodded then walked away.

I searched my saddle pack for the small bags of things I kept for medicinal purposes including Epsom salts, then pulled the knife from my belt. The innkeeper returned with a basin of water and stood watching when I dug my knife into the animal’s hoof. The horse groaned and snorted but remained still as pus streamed from his foot. I dropped Epsom salts into the water, then dunked an unrolled bandage into it. Once the cloth was soaked, I wrapped it carefully around the horse’s hoof, all under the watchful eye of my host.

“You are a clever man, sir.” His grin was brilliant in the seamed leather of his face.

I straightened my back and patted the horse’s warm neck. “No, just one who has learnt to care for his horse.” I didn’t much care for such close scrutiny and hoped the innkeeper wasn’t one of those talkative sorts who need to know the life story of each of his guests.

He stooped to retrieve the basin and flung the water onto the dirt. “I will leave you to rest. I will bring you some food later.”

“Thank you.” I salaamed, made sure the horse was settled then sought refuge on my bed.

It was cool enough in the shade to be comfortable. I lay down on my bedroll and fell asleep to the warbling of a bird in the dusty trees.

* * * *

The sun slipped beyond the walls of the inn. My host carried a tray across the yard and set it on a small table beside my bed. “It is but a simple meal, sir.”

I glanced at the bowl of aromatic stew, the cup of cloudy white rice, the pickles and slab of flatbread. “It is a feast after days of traveller’s fare. Thank you.”

He left me to eat in peace, which I did, until the bowl was empty, wiped clean by the last wedge of warm bread. I washed the repast down with the lukewarm tea he’d provided. It was more than enough to satisfy me. I returned the tray to the house then went to see to my horse.

The gelding dozed, resting his afflicted foot. I removed the bandage and poultice, pleased to note that the wound had finished draining. There was still some heat in the sole, which meant I faced a day or two of enforced rest.

“It’s all right, my friend,” I murmured into his ear. “A day or two isn’t going to make much of a difference.

I wasn’t sure I believed my own words but I needed a sound horse more than I needed the firearm hidden in my saddlebag. The gelding nudged me, then rubbed his head against my shoulder, seeking relief from some hidden itch. I obliged by scratching his cheek and offering up prayers to every god I could think of to speed his recovery.

Author Bio:

S.A. Meade has recently returned to England after 8 years in Arizona, where she learned to love air conditioners and realised that rain wasn’t such a bad thing after all. She lives with her husband, son and two cats in one of the most beautiful villages in Wiltshire and is partial to gin and tonic with loads of ice and lemon.