ANNOUNCEMENT: The Charlatan’s Conquest, by Vivien Dean

The Charlatan's Conquest

QSFer Vivien Dean has a new MM paranormal book out:

With love and ghosts, the challenge is figuring out what’s real.

Software engineer Cruz Guthrie needs money for his sister’s cancer treatments. He needs it so badly he’s willing to stand in for a ghost hunter friend and investigate a millionaire’s supposed specters. It should be an easy gig—after all, nobody thinks the haunting is real.

Neurological researcher Brody Weber is furious that Cruz would take advantage of Brody’s father. But his mind changes when spirits manifest—and he realizes Cruz genuinely wants to help. When they learn the paranormal activity centers on Brody, Cruz is willing to fight to free Brody from the entities determined to make his life miserable. With a little help from friends and family—both living and dead—they must figure out why Brody is attracting spirits and how to banish them. Only then can they pursue a future together.

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Excerpt

Brody stared out the window at the morning mist curling over the front lawn. Regardless of the time of year, temperatures dropped low enough around the house during the night to turn the weather absolutely Dickensian. He’d always hated it, the way the fog slithered through the wrought iron bars of the low fence lining the drive just to bleed onto the travertine paving. Philadelphia got fog too, but the constant traffic kept it from crawling through the streets like a plague trying to find new victims to infect. When he’d been in high school, he’d insisted on leaving before the sun came up, because at least then he wouldn’t have to see it. Out of sight, out of mind worked well enough for creepy weather patterns. Not so much for everything else.

He’d slept poorly. The air between him and Cruz had been cordial enough after their tour of the grounds, but he’d been preoccupied during dinner, unwilling to engage every time his father tried shifting the topic to some aspect of Brody’s life. Cruz had been right about one thing in his analysis. Brody didn’t trust Loren’s decisions. He hadn’t since the year after his mother’s death, when Loren insisted Brody get into therapy to deal with his grief issues. Loren had refused to listen, because he’d already decided what the problem was, and literally nothing had changed in the decades since. The last thing Brody needed to cope with during the next two weeks was his father’s ideas about everything Brody was doing wrong with his life.

That tension had prevailed in the evening, when Cruz tried again to coax him into being a part of the sweeps he would conduct today. “I’m the outside perspective,” Brody had finally said. “You’re not going to suck me in so it’s easier to sell your snake oil.”

Cruz had backed off, but not before Brody saw the hurt he then successfully squelched. In fact, the more Brody witnessed, the harder it became to believe Cruz had ulterior motives. His demeanor was direct and generous, his answers to all of Loren’s queries logical. He respected every boundary Brody had thrown in his way. The only time he’d seemed less than forthcoming was when his phone rang and he excused himself for the rest of the night to take it.

Brody would’ve loved to have heard that conversation. Anything that could shed light on this astounding man might help him understand how Cruz could be so certain his ghost hunting techniques would work.

When he went to bed, Brody spent ten minutes ransacking the bathroom in search of medication that would knock him out. He hadn’t anticipated spending the night, and the sleeping pills he sometimes counted on to get any surcease were in his nightstand back in Philly. The best he could find was some out-of-date cough medicine with codeine in it.

It worked. For a while.

At two, the sensation of tickling along his arm woke him up. He cast one baleful look at the light spilling through the open en suite door and muttered, “Leave me alone.” Pulling the blanket over his head, he rolled over into a ball and went back to sleep.

Well, he tried to. Between the bathroom light flickering on and off, the extractor fan on the shower getting turned on, and the kicks from underneath the bed, he finally had to give up around five thirty.

The irrational part of his brain blamed his bad night on his father for not letting this whole mess go. But then the image of the inimitable Loren Weber cowering in fear squelched it. Brody wouldn’t wish the disturbances on anyone, let alone someone he loved. Loren was only looking for ways to find peace again. Nobody understood that mentality more than Brody.

Thirty minutes of body weight exercises, twenty minutes of personal grooming, and a lukewarm shower later, here he was, standing sentinel at his bedroom window, wondering how much more time he had to kill before going downstairs for coffee wouldn’t look weird.

A soft knock came at his door.

Brody gritted his teeth and ignored it.

When a second knock came, he closed his eyes and imagined his lab, breathing in through his nose and out through his mouth like he’d learned in his yoga class. Calm. Focus on anything else. It’ll stop.

“Brody?”

Cruz’s low voice shattered the peace. Brody jerked away from the window, then chastised himself for thinking the worst. He crossed the room in long strides and opened the door to find a freshly showered Cruz standing on the other side.

His hair was a mess of damp curls, making him look even younger. The baggy sweats and the backpack slung over his shoulder didn’t help with that image either. His wash-softened black T-shirt boasted a slogan that would’ve been just as home on his Volvo—Instant geek: just add coffee—but Brody was more interested in the way it stretched over his surprisingly broad chest. Why did Cruz have to be gay? It was hard enough not to fall for his charm without thinking about what he might be like under other circumstances. Brody needed to keep a clear head as far as this ghost hunter was concerned, but like the rest of his life often proved, reality wasn’t nearly so simple.


Author Bio

VIVIEN DEAN is a firm believer that love doesn’t care about gender. That’s why her titles encompass both GLBT and het, erotic and sweet, as well as a wide variety of genres. After growing up in the snowy and isolated Midwest, she went off in search of her creative muse. She performed on stage, wrote and directed indie films in Orlando, then met her British soulmate online. One wedding, two children, and ten addresses later, she resides in the Bay Area where it’s easy to indulge in her favorite pastimes—good theater, great movies, and amazing food.

Vivien is a four-time EPIC eBook Award winner and collaborated with Pepper Espinoza to write as Jamie Craig for five years.

CONTACT VIVIEN

Website: www.viviendean.com

E-mail: vivien_dean@yahoo.com

Facebook: www.facebook.com/vivien.dean.3

Twitter: @VivienDean

 

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