QSFer EJ Russell has a new paranormal MM book out:
What price would you pay to rescue a friend from hell?
For Logan Conner, the answer is almost anything. Guilt-ridden over trapping his college roommate in a ghost war rooted in Portland’s pioneer past, Logan has spent years searching for a solution. Then his new boyfriend, folklorist Riley Morrel, inadvertently gives him the key. Determined to pay his debt—and keep Riley safe—Logan abandons Riley and returns to Portland, prepared to give up his freedom and his future to make things right.
Crushed by Logan’s betrayal, Riley drops out of school and takes a job on a lackluster paranormal investigation show. When the crew arrives in Portland to film an episode about a local legend of feuding ghosts, he stumbles across Logan working at a local bar, and learns the truth about Logan’s plan.
Their destinies once more intertwined, the two men attempt to reforge their relationship while dodging a narcissistic TV personality, a craven ex-ghost, and a curmudgeonly bar owner with a hidden agenda. But Logan’s date with destiny is looming, and his life might not be the only one at stake.
Comment on this post for a chance to win the e-book version of my first novella, Northern Light (also a M/M romance with ghost accompaniment).
The lobby of Portland’s Vaughn Street Hotel seethed like a skirmish between rival armies: the hotel staff versus the invading Hollywood barbarians. Judging by the glassy stares of Team Hotel, the TV production crew was winning this round.
“Sorry.” Riley Morrel dodged one of the other production assistants barreling through the doors with a giant box of cables in her arms, and glanced down at his own empty hands. Everyone knows what to do except me.
Sure, Riley wore the show uniform—a black North Face jacket with the Haunted to the Max logo blazoned across the back in jagged neon-green letters—but he secretly identified more with the beleaguered hotel employees. Ever since his best friend, Julie, the show’s unit production manager, had browbeaten him onto the crew, he’d been in a perpetual state of WTF.
Today, though, was a triple-header of F. The equivalent of Cerberus simultaneously slobbering down his neck, growling in his ear, and nipping at his ass. Because after almost five months on staff, today marked his first time on location with the show, the first time the showrunner had agreed to film one of his story treatments, and his first time back in Oregon since Julie had rescued him from his spectacular crash and burn.
At the moment, Julie was standing at the concierge’s desk, scowling at her cell phone, the thwack of her ever-present clipboard against her thigh audible from across the lobby.
She met Riley’s gaze through the shifting chaos of HttM staff jockeying overladen luggage carts, hand trucks stacked with production equipment, and armfuls of carryout Thai food, and her eyes narrowed.
Uh-oh. Cue the emergency broadcast alarms. Riley knew that look, although in the ten-plus years of their friendship, it had never been directed at him before. He ran a quick conscience check, but couldn’t come up with any reason he’d be on her shit-radar. Nevertheless, he needed a diversion, or failing that, a barricade. Empty hands won’t cut it.
He intercepted one of the grips passing with a luggage cart stacked with black nylon company duffels. “Hey, Wes. I’ve got this. Why don’t you take a break?”
Wes grinned and wiped the sweat off his forehead with his bandana. “Appreciate it, man. Pad Thai and microbrew are calling my name.”
Riley angled the cart until it blocked him from his dearest friend in the world, now charging toward him like a Valkyrie on meth.
Julie executed a neat end run around his luggage fortress and backed him into a corner between a faux-marble column and an aquarium with a single morose betta.
Riley blinked, gaping as if he belonged in the water alongside the fish. “What?” Julie never mentioned his ex-boyfriend’s name without adding at least a pair of profane epithets.
“Logan, that dickhead douche-rocket. He’s from Portland.”
“So are a lot of people. Over half a million within the city limits. Over two million if you count the surrounding counties that are part of the designated metro area and if you include—”
“Don’t try to blind me with statistics. Explain this.”
She thrust her cell phone at his face, so close that Riley had to rear back and adjust his glasses in order to focus on the screen. His heart dive-bombed the floor. Logan, behind a bar, silhouetted against shelves of liquor. In the harsh downlight, his forearms, decorated with Celtic ink, looked exactly as sculpted as Riley remembered, and his tight white T-shirt seemed to glow.
Riley swallowed against the sneaker wave of want and loss. “He’s a bartender. So?”
“I know that, doofus. But this particular bar is here.” She sliced the air with her cell phone as if it were a battle ax. “In Portland. This picture was taken last night.”
His heart leaped and dropped again. God, in his determination to put Logan out of his mind, he’d missed the obvious. Logan was a native Portlander. Most of the people he knew were here, so it was natural he’d return. But when they’d met, Logan had been heading south, away from Portland, and Riley had assumed he’d continued in the same direction after his bolt.
“How did you find him?”
“Do not doubt my superpowers. Remember I herd Max Stone for a living.” She whirled and pointed at two of the hotel’s bellmen who were unwisely approaching the abandoned luggage cart. “Don’t touch that,” she barked, and they bounded away like frightened deer.
Okay. Wrong question. “Jules, why did you bother to look?” Although Riley had been tempted, he’d never given in.
Her forehead bunched, brows drawing together. “Somebody has to watch out for you.”
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E.J. Russell — certified geek, mother of three, recovering actor — lives in rural Oregon with her curmudgeonly husband, where she splits her time between her left-brain day job and her all-the-rest-of-the-time romance writing gig. She enjoys visits from her wonderful adult children, and indulges in good books, red wine, and the occasional hyperbole.