Friday, March 23, 2018

Release Blast: The Backup Plan by Jen McLaughlin

I’m beyond help...

I threw a football before I could walk. Everything in my life revolved around football–and I loved every second. I was a star. Until, suddenly...I wasn’t. Now everyone thinks I’m the monster who killed his best friend. I’m an outcast on campus, silent and alone. Then Taylor Selmer walks back into my life. When will she learn–I’m beyond saving.

I need to save him...

Chase and I used to be friends. But after the accident, nothing was the same. We used to have something special–until we didn’t. But he doesn’t smile anymore. Doesn’t talk. Doesn’t play. It hurts me to see him this way, and I will do everything I can to get him back in the game. Whether he likes it or not.

The door opened...making me fall backward into Chase’s pitch-black room. When I landed against something hard and naked, arms closed around me without hesitation.
A palm brushed my right breast, sending a wave of awareness shooting through me. I tried not to think about that, though.
Guys were nothing but trouble.
I had bigger plans than falling for a smooth talker with bright eyes and a fake smile who would do nothing but distract me. Once I managed to regain my balance, I spun on my heel and looked at him.
The room behind him was dark, but the hallway illuminated his hotness. And once it did? I wished I hadn’t looked at all.
He stood in the doorway, looking completely unfazed by the fact that he’d basically just felt me up, and glowered at the guy in the hallway. He was shirtless, and wearing nothing but a pair of black sweats. His chest was hard and chiseled, and his abs...yeah. I wasn’t gonna touch upon those for the sake of my own sanity.
Waxing poetic over his abs wasn’t part of my job description.
“Uh, hey...” the guy in the hallway said, trailing off after a feeble attempt at pretending he hadn’t been talking crap about him moments before.
Chase’s green eyes met mine before focusing on the guy in the hall again. His sharp cheekbones were the same as I remembered, and so was his short brown hair. He used to have dimples in his cheeks when he smiled, which had softened the harsh lines of his face and given him a softer appeal, but I had no idea if they still existed since he hadn’t smiled at me yet. anyone all day. Had he forgotten how?
He said nothing. Just stared the other guy down.
Even I had to admit his stony silence was impressive.
Of course, he kind of reminded me of his dad right now, something he probably wouldn’t like. Or would he? I had no clue.
“I didn’t mean to...” The guy backed up, his face pale, and looked back at me. “She a friend of yours?”
Chase didn’t answer him. He just motioned me inside, his jaw ticking ever so slightly. When I didn’t move fast enough, he shot me a look with those gorgeous eyes of his, and I jumped slightly. “Um. Yes, I am.” I swallowed hard and inched past him, making sure I didn’t brush against his bare chest in the process.
Chase slammed the door behind me. I blinked across the inky blackness of the room, my heart hammering away in my ears. He’d been sitting here in the dark this early in the night? Had he been napping before hitting the books?
I’d learned college kids napped more than one year olds—and much more enthusiastically.
“Do you have something against lights?” I asked, forcing a little laugh at the end.
Dead silence met my joke. In all fairness, it was a pretty lame attempt. For a second I wondered if he was even in the room with me, but I heard him breathe. I turned my head, trying to figure out where he was. To my left, maybe.
“Okay. No lights, then. That’s fine. It’s cool. I’m not scared of the dark.” I paused. “Were you taking a power nap? I could use one. I got an hour of sleep last night.”
Still nothing.
I sensed him there, right next to me. He wasn’t touching me, but I swore he was thinking about it or something.
That makes no sense, Taylor.
I shivered, anxious and excited, all at the same time. “I don’t know if you remember me, but I’m—”
Without warning, Chase moved close enough for me to feel his heat. I backed against the wall until I couldn’t back up anymore. It wasn’t that he scared me. He didn’t. I just...
I just backed up, okay?
“You’re Taylor Selmer. Of course, I remember you. Why are you in my room?”

Jen McLaughlin is the New York Times and USA TODAY bestselling author of sexy books with Penguin Random House. Under her pen name, Diane Alberts, she is also a USA TODAY bestselling author of Contemporary Romance with Entangled Publishing. Her first release as Jen McLaughlin, Out of Line, hit the New York Times, USA TODAY and Wall Street Journal lists. She was mentioned in Forbes alongside E. L. James as one of the breakout independent authors to dominate the bestselling lists. She is represented by Louise Fury at The Bent Agency.

Though she lives in the mountains, she really wishes she was surrounded by a hot, sunny beach with crystal-clear water. She lives in Northeast Pennsylvania with her four kids, a husband, a schnauzer mutt, and three cats. Her goal is to write so many well-crafted romance books that even a non-romance reader will know her name. 

Jen’s Media Links:
Author Website:
Author Blog:
Author Street Team/Facebook Group:
Author Instagram: @jenmclaughlin66

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Review: Rescued by the Cyborg by Cara Bristol

Title: Rescued by the Cyborg
Author: Cara Bristol
Genre/Age: Sci-Fi Romance/Adult
Series: Cy-Ops Sci-Fi Romance (Book 5.5)
Publisher: Self-published
Format: ebook via Author
Rating: ✺✺✺
SynopsisA cyborg with haunted past, a woman with a clouded future…

Battered and broken, hostage and sole survivor Solia waits for death at the hands of vicious predatory aliens when Cy-Ops agent Guy Roarke disobeys orders, charges in, and rescues her. A former medic, he initiates emergency medical procedures before rushing her to Cybermed, in hopes of saving her wing so she can fly again. He’s taken with the delicate, brave Faria, but his best intentions result in unfortunate consequences that place her in greater jeopardy. Can he overcome the guilt of past mistakes in time to save her life? 

Publisher's note: Rescued by the Cyborg was originally published in the anthology Embrace the Romance: Pets in Space 2. It has been re-released as a single title novella. Rescued by the Cyborg is Cy-Ops Sci-fi Romance 5.5 and fits between book 5 (Claimed by the Cyborg) and Book 6 (Hunted by the Cyborg). However, all the series books are standalones with an HEA and no cliffhanger. You can read them in any order.

**Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy of this book.**

When your knight in shining armor is a cyborg with a spaceship...

Related image

Solia is trapped. No, literally. She has been abducted along with a group of others by a vicious rival alien race who are picking their hostages off one by one. It's a cruel death and Solia has had to watch almost all of her companions being tortured and killed. The worst part of it all is that she can actually understand the language of their captors. Hearing their vile plans, Solia is sure she is about to meet her untimely end.

Guy isn't about to let a potential rescue go to waste. He knows the beasts have prisoners and if he can save even one person, it will make the risk of the mission worth while. Finding the beautiful yet battered Faria is almost a blessing. He feels drawn to her and an urge to protect the woman with everything he has. But knowing how strenuous his job can be on a relationship, he isn't sure if he'll ever find someone to give his heart to.

This entire month has been insanely busy and super stressful. Reading is my usual way to relax, but it was even difficult to find time to crack open a book, a.k.a. 'turn on my Kindle'. But I knew this book would be an easy read and I was right. I've yet to be disappointed by this author's work. And this book came at a time when I really needed a good pick-me-up.

After reading the other books in this series, which were centered around the fight against a particularly wicked group of villains, I've been wondering if we were going to get a glimpse of some new bad guys. And oh boy, do we. These monsters might be even more cruel than the others, especially paired with the alien/human traffickers. I love when I can really hate the villains.

But I also enjoy rooting for our good guys. And Solia was a great heroine. She was intelligent and courageous. I think she was a great match for Guy, who brazenly rushed into danger to save her. They were an interesting pair. And the chemistry between them was really sweet. Guy didn't stand out as much as some of the other male leads in the series, but I did find his relationship with the cat to be adorable. So that angle did make the story more unique for me.

This story had everything I've come to expect from a book in this series. There was action and suspense, some mystery and a twist or two thrown in. And of course, a couple of lonely hearts who find happiness with each other. The bad guys were wicked and gave me chills. The action was easy to follow and the pacing was perfect. No complaints here.

In closing...
Looking forward to seeing what happens next. Five suns!

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Excerpt & Tour: To Discover a Divine by Tessa McFionn

Title: To Discover a Divine
Author: Tessa McFionn
Genre/Age: Sci-Fi Romance/Adult
Series: Rise of the Stria (Book One)
Publisher: Fiery Seas Publishing
SynopsisWhen Kahlym cal Jhuen, freedom-fighting leader of the Chandar Stria, breaks into a prison ship controlled by the Rimmarian Thrall, he only expected to rescue two of his crew. But when he discovers a terrified female during his escape, he is immediately captivated by her unique beauty and makes a snap decision to take her with him. However, his good deed backfires when he learns he has stolen the Thrall Emperor’s prize.
Down to her last dollar, Evainne Wagner expected nothing out of the ordinary when she stepped out of her Boston apartment. Instead, she found herself in the middle of an intergalactic firefight, complete with strange soldiers with deadly weapons pointed directly at her. Salvation arrives in the nick of time in the form of a mysterious leather-clad warrior, skidding in and whisking her away. Trusting her heart, she follows, hoping to find answers as well as a way home.
Safely on board his ship, he learns more about her and her rare skills, triggering the memory of a half-forgotten prophecy spoken at the time of his cursed birth. Outcast because of a cruel twist of fate, he finds unexpected acceptance, even affection, from his new passenger.
Could she be the one who holds the future of his people, as well as his own heart, in her tender hands?

Kahlym knelt down to better study the terrified female before him.

“Are you okay?”

Her eyes flared wide and she scooted further away from him. He raised his hands, hoping to ease her fears.

“Don’t worry. I’m not going to hurt you.”

“You wanna step this up, Kahl? Things are getting dicey down here.” Brel’s normally calm voice shouted over the blasts echoing through the link.

“Working on it,” he muttered. He turned his focus back to the cowering female. Even in her fear-stricken state, she fascinated him. Everything about her was unlike anything he had seen in all his travels throughout the Dantaran galaxy. Her wide brown eyes transfixed him until all he wanted to do was pull her into his arms and kiss away her alarm.

Without warning, his frozen ward grabbed one of the guard’s discarded weapons at his feet and fired a quick volley over his shoulder. Spinning, he drew his own gun, but not before the Thrall soldier crumpled in a mangled heap.

Holy crap. He rounded his gaze back to her, the blaster held out before her with trembling arms. This mysterious female just saved his ass.

In another unexpected twist, she flipped the blaster in a flourish, offering the handle to him. Panic continued to bleed from her shivering body. A smile warmed his lips behind the protection of his visor. Shaking his head, he patted her hands, wrapping his fingers around hers to cradle the pistol. Still with the hopes that she understood his body language, he pushed the gun back to her before he stood. His gentle embrace guided her to rise next to him. Yet, she reached her full height long before him, the crown of her head barely reaching his armpit.

“Kahl! Now! We can’t hold them off much longer!”

Explosions and loud voices poured down the hallway. Together, they looked toward the billowing smoke as it rounded the corner. Time to get the hell out. Her head swung back to face him and, to his surprise, she grabbed a hold of his gauntleted hand.

Kahlym wrapped his fingers around hers and gave her a sharp nod before he took off.

“We’re coming in hot, Dhaer. Make sure the door is open and for the love of Ishtanti, don’t shoot us.”

The pair ran in complete synchronicity, his gun trained on any obstacles in front of them while she handily guarded their flanks. Soft, exotic murmurs fell from her lips like a litany and blasts ricocheted off the walls while they raced on. Never once did she tug his arm to slow his breakneck pace. Alarms blared in angry pulses as they turned the last corner.

“Oh, c’mon,” Dhaerin chuckled over the comm link. “It was just that one time and you survived, so what are you whining about?”

Macintosh HD:Users:mistywilliams:Desktop:Authors:Tessa McFionn:Tessa McFionn author pic.JPG
Tessa McFionn is a very native Californian and has called Southern California home for most of her life, growing up in San Diego and attending college in Northern California and Orange County, only to return to San Diego to work as a teacher. Insatiably curious and imaginative, she loves to learn and discover, making her wicked knowledge of trivial facts an unwelcomed guest at many Trivial Pursuit boards.

When not writing, she can be found at the movies or at Disneyland with her husband, as well as family, friends or anyone who wants to play at the Happiest Place on Earth. She also finds her artistic soul fed through her passions for theatre, dance and music.

A proud parent of far too many high school seniors and two still living house plants, she also enjoys hockey, reading and playing Words With Friends to keep her vocabulary sharp. She is currently the treasurer of the San Diego chapter of Romance Writers of America and loves spending time working with such amazingly intelligent and creative writers.

Social Media: 

Buy Links:

Book Blast: Guarding Her Heart by Jade Webb

This post is part of a virtual book tour organized by Goddess Fish Promotions. Jade will be awarding a $30 Amazon or B/N GC to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour. Click on the tour banner to see the other stops on the tour.

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

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

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

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

Enjoy an Excerpt 


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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

About the Author:
I am a lover of romance novels that feature strong heroines who know that the loves that may come into their lives are always the icing, and never the cake.

I have loved romance novels since I was a teen, sneaking them into my Bible studies at my all-girls Catholic school. I love strong heroines who know that the men that may come into their lives are always the icing, and never the cake.

Thanks to my own marriage, I have learned that the challenges of life can only help to make love stronger and I am grateful to my partner for embodying all the magic that love can offer.

When I am not writing or dreaming up new love stories, I am working in a retirement community outside of Boston that provides me with enough writing material for ten lifetimes.

You can find me at:


Guarding Her Heart is available exclusively on Amazon and Kindle Unlimited - $0.99 during the tour:

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Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Excerpt: Toxic Desire by Robin Lovett

Title: Toxic Desire
Author: Robin Lovett
Genre/Age: Sci-Fi Romance/Adult
Series: Planet of Desire (Book One)
Publisher: Entangled Publishing
SynopsisNemona can’t believe she’s crash landed on the planet Fyrian with the brooding, golden-skinned alien who destroyed her ship and scattered her crew. She should want to kill him. But everything on Fyrian is an aphrodisiac. So she just wants to have him. Now.

Revenge. That’s all commander Oten has wanted against humans for more than a century, ever since they tried to destroy his kind. He never thought he’d end up in bed with one. But the desire the sex planet stokes for this human female is eating him alive. Keeping his hands, his mouth, and his vampiric fangs to himself proves impossible—especially when she’s begging him to touch her.

Nemona has no idea what endless sex with a Ssedez will do to her. But Oten knows all too well. They need to get off this planet. Before their coupling stirs an alien mating bond that neither of their hearts can withstand.

“The leather holsters crisscrossing his massive pectorals contain knives of varying lengths, sheathed and available for him to grab.

He stretches his shoulders and flexes his chest. “There is a reason why your entire species is afraid of my kind.”

“Fairy stories.” I don’t care how bright gold and incandescent his skin. It’s penetrable. No matter what the tales tell about his kind being unkillable. I’ve got a laser gun.

He steps toward me. “Go ahead. Try it.” His accent is strange, his tongue rolling over the consonants in a thick burr.

I should shoot. Now. But my trigger finger hesitates.

I don’t want him dead yet. I need to find out, how did he do it?

How did he and his band of brutes get onto my ship without my knowing? How did he accomplish what no other army or species in the Ten Systems has managed to do—catch me?

I have to know. “How did you get on board this ship?”

He pauses. “You invaded our sanctum airspace. You must have expected retaliation.” His dark eyes narrow into slits so menacing they send shivers down my spine. I don’t know what species he is, but he fits the stories I heard in childhood: the Ssedez descended from serpents, glowing like sphinxes, with fangs dripping in venom capable of making someone a slave to their desire in one bite. Well, thank God, his teeth seem normal enough, so that last part is likely myth.

Something odd happens to me that has never happened and isn’t supposed to happen.

Not only am I not afraid of him, but I become aware, physically, that he is male, I am female, and that I haven’t had sex since…

I can’t remember.

It shouldn’t matter. I’m a general, a ship captain, a career soldier, with ambitions that leave no time for personal anything. Physical desire serves no purpose in my life.

But the ruthlessness in him, the ferocious gleam in his eyes—it excites me.

The symmetry of his bone structure alone is blinding. The ferocious angles of his cheeks and jaw are paired with an otherworldly elegance in the gold sheen of his complexion. I’m glad my helmet hides that my eyes are wide in fascination.

His hair gleams, too, like it’s laced with gold flecks. The strands hang to his shoulders, unbound, a contradiction. He’s an untamed beast formed with siren-like beauty.

He moves, his lethal muscles stirring inside that gloriously brilliant body.

“Don’t come any closer,” I warn, grateful for the scrambler that hides the shaking in my voice.

His body is physically distracting. Hard, like metallic hard, and big. He is all brawn and possession—the epitome of conqueror in strength as well as deed. And it’s not just his chest and arms. Even his thighs, outlined in black leather, are thickly muscled and bulging. It has me hungering for a glimpse of what is no doubt equally impressive between them. And wondering if what’s between his thighs is as godlike as the rest of him.

Apparently, despite decades of denying it, there’s enough hetero-female left in me to know if I wasn’t supposed to kill him, I would want him to fuck me. Now.”

Robin Lovett enjoys trips to alien worlds to avoid earthly things, like day jobs and housework. When not reading romance with her cat or spending time with her husband, she’s busy writing sexy books, which may or may not involve anti-heroes, aliens, or both. Her favorite surprise in the world, or the universe, was finding out other people like to read the same kind of stories she loves to write. You can reach her on Twitter @LovettRomance or on Facebook @LovettRomance to chat or share ideas about what to put in her next story

Robin’s Scoial Links:
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Author Street Team/Facebook Group: Robin Lovett’s Romance Lovers

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Excerpt & Tour: Storm Raven by K. Hanson

Title: Storm Raven
Author: K. Hanson
Genre/Age: Fantasy/YA
Series: Storm Raven (Book One)
Publisher: Self-published
SynopsisYA Fantasy with Pirates!

Captain Nereyda and her first mate, Brynja, lead a band of pirates as they seek out grand adventures and loot vulnerable merchant ships. However, when they attempt an overly ambitious raid, Nereyda and her crew are captured by Commander Erhan of the Imperial navy and separated. Nereyda is pressed into service aboard a ship to patrol the treacherous waters of the Shattered Sea. Meanwhile, Brynja and the rest of the crew are sent to a life of hellish labor deep in an Imperial mining prison camp.

While serving her sentence, Nereyda is shipwrecked on an unknown island. As she explores it, she stumbles into some ancient ruins and finds…something. Whatever it is, it wakes a part of Nereyda that she had not felt before. Something that could help her free the rest of her crew and return to life on the sea, if only she can learn to control it. Unfortunately, Commander Erhan is also on the island. Nereyda must escape him, get off of the island, and rescue her crew before the commander can stop her and before her crew withers away in the oppressive mines.

Read the first three chapters here:

The scent of treasure floated in the ocean air as it breezed through Nereyda’s black hair. She gazed across the water at the largest cruise ship she had ever seen, which would be carrying some of the wealthiest lords and merchants from the Empire. She didn’t see any armed passengers aside from the personal bodyguards that were along for the ride. Just as importantly, no cannons were visible. The ship didn’t even have any gun ports. Easy prey.
Pirates never dared strike so close to the mainland. The high level of naval activity, along with a large number of ports from which reinforcements could sail, made it dangerous. However, Nereyda felt confident that they could slip in and hit one ship before escaping into the open ocean.
“Send them a warning,” she said to Brynja, her first mate.
“Aye, aye,” Brynja said as she relayed the order.
It wasn’t even really necessary since the huge ship couldn’t possibly flee or outmaneuver the Storm Raven. Still, they should at least give their target a chance to surrender.
The shot splashed just aft of the cruise ship. A minute later, the cruise ship’s crew had furled their sails and run up a white flag. As they drifted, the Storm Raven pulled alongside them. Nereyda’s crew tossed hooks to link the two vessels. Due to the height of the cruise ship, they extended ladders across the gap.
Nereyda mounted one of the ladders and climbed to the deck of the Luxura, followed by the rest of the boarding party. As she vaulted the railing at the top of the ladder, she looked around the deck. The passengers remained seated at tables strewn about the area, apparently enjoying their afternoon tea. All of them wore terrified expressions. All except for one bodyguard who walked toward her, drawing his sword.
“How dare you interrupt our journey!” he asked, pointing his blade Nereyda. “Get back on your ship and leave at once.”
Nereyda smirked at him. “Or what?”
“I’ll run you through myself,” he threatened.
Nereyda smiled, her amethyst eyes twinkling. “Go ahead,” she said as she drew her own cutlass.
The bodyguard stepped forward with a thrust toward her stomach.
With a swipe of her blade, she knocked his sword to the side. Nereyda stepped forward and struck him in the gut with the pommel of her weapon.
As the guard bent over to clutch his belly, Nereyda knocked the sword out of his hand and kicked it up to her free hand. She pointed both blades at him and said, “Are you finished? Go back to your seat and shake it off.”
“You’re not going to kill me?”
“Is there a reason I should? Sit down like I said, and you’ll get through this just fine.” Nereyda handed the guard’s sword to one of her crew members and patted the guard’s back before she turned back to the travelers. “Anybody else feel like fighting?” She opened her arms in a welcoming gesture.
Nobody stood up. “Now that we’re done with that, surrender any gold, jewelry, or other valuables you have, and we’ll let you keep going on your nice little journey. My friends here have some convenient bags. Just toss your things into them as they come around.”
Her crew scattered about the deck, holding up their canvas sacks as the wealthy passengers surrendered their possessions. As the crew worked on collecting these treasures, Nereyda spotted a table with an open seat where some fluffy-looking merchant or lord or whatever sat with his wife and a young man who appeared to be their son.
“Is this seat taken?” she asked. They just stared at her as she plopped down into the available chair.
“Is now, I guess.” Nereyda reached across the table for the teapot and an empty cup. After she had poured herself some tea, she pushed aside the teapot, leaned back in her chair, then lifted her legs to rest her boots on the table.
“Having a nice trip so far?” she asked in a bright voice, looking around the table.
They gave her no answer other than looking away from her, avoiding eye contact.
“Come now, what happened to all of those manners you rich people spend a fortune to teach your kids? I asked you a question.”
Still no answer from the couple, but the young man leaned forward. “Why should we treat you with any sort of manners?”
“I’m a guest at your table, aren’t I?” Nereyda flashed a smile. “We don’t have to let this be unpleasant.”
The boy’s eyes narrowed as he scowled at her. “You call robbing our ship pleasant?”
“That depends on how you look at it,” she said. “I may be taking some of your things, but you should look on the bright side. You get to leave with your clothes on. I’m not taking your food. And, best of all, you get to sail away from here, alive.” She leaned in. “I’d say that’s a pretty good deal.”
“You talk as if letting us live is some kind of favor.” He jabbed a finger toward her. “I’ve seen what your kind of people do, falling on ships and villages alike, taking what you please and killing whoever gets in your way.”
“You actually missed the part about how we snatch children away in the night to eat them.” She winked at the young man. “Wouldn’t want our reputation to suffer. But really, we’re just making a living like everyone else. May I ask how you earn your place on a ship like this?”
“Lesser people pay us nobles for the privilege of working our land, and we provide them with protection.”
“And what if they stop paying?” Nereyda asked.
He rolled his eyes. “Then we run them off our land and take what they owe us, of course.”
Neryeda tilted her head. “So they’re paying you for protection from…you? At least we’re honest about being criminals.”
“You mock us, wench!” The young man jumped to his feet, knocking aside his chair and sending it clattering to the deck. He drew a sword from his hip and pointed it at Nereyda. “I will not let you leave this ship.”
The pirate captain chuckled. “Tsk, tsk, tsk. You brought a sword to tea? That’s not very gentlemanly. It’s a pity those etiquette lessons didn’t stick.”
“Who are you to talk about etiquette? You sit at our table with your weapons, drink our tea, and laugh at us. Do you even know who my father is?” He glanced over at the older noble at the table. “He’s High Judge Aydin of the Imperial Court.”
Nereyda shrugged. “I’m a pirate. I do what I want. And I don’t particularly care who your dad is.”
“Stand and face me, coward.”
She sighed and rolled her eyes as she lazily eased her feet from the top of the table. With the young man’s blade following her, she pushed herself to her feet and looked into his eyes with her purple gaze, but did not draw her own weapon. “Do you know how to use that thing?”
He drew himself up straight and puffed out his chest. “I’ve had lessons since I was a child. I know what I’m doing.”
“Oh, I’m sure you know how to swing it around with all the right moves. Maybe you even know where to stick it. But have you had to use it for real?” She took a step toward him and held his gaze with her own. “Have you ever had to kill a man?” she asked. “Have you ever been one wrong move from losing your own life or one right one from taking someone else’s?”
His eyes flicked away for a moment. He swallowed but did not respond.
Another step. “Have you ever looked into a man’s eyes as the life flickered out from them, just after you spilled his blood and guts from his belly?”
The blood drained from his face, leaving him pale, and he shifted uncomfortably on his feet, as if he wanted to retreat but held his ground out of pride. His grip loosened slightly, and the sword dipped lower.
A third step, and the tip of his blade pressed against the leather armor over her sternum, resting between her breasts. “Now is your chance. You can get your first taste of blood right here, right now. I’d be honored to be your first,” she said as she stroked the length of his sword with her fingertips. “All it takes is one little thrust or a big one depending on the sword, and you can bring me to my knees. What do you say, boy? I hope you don’t disappoint me.”
The young man dropped his sword arm to his side and slouched his shoulders.
“Don’t worry. Even the best sometimes have trouble keeping it up.”
He looked down at the deck, refusing to make eye contact. “Just take what you want and get out of here.”
“I think my crew is just about done anyway. You’ve been a great date. Thanks for the tea!” Nereyda strutted past him and slid her hand over his shoulder. She looked around and saw that her crew had indeed almost finished collecting the passengers’ valuables.
Nereyda ordered her crew to set about hauling their seized goods from the cruise ship to the hold of the Storm Raven. When all of it had been loaded, the crew of the Raven hauled in the boarding lines and cast off from the cruise ship.

K lives in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, where he works as a software developer. In his spare time, when he isn’t writing, he enjoys reading, working out, playing video games, and spending time with his wonderful fiancee, Bobbi. Some of his favorite authors are Tom Clancy, George R. R. Martin, and Sarah Maas.

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