Release Blitz and Series Review Tour - The Looking Glass By Penny Brandon
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Book One - Choices
Choices (The Looking Glass 1) 44,000 words/130 pages
Marc was straight, always had been and always thought he would be, but when shown his true love in a magic mirror he was shocked to find out his true love was a man. Not only that, it was up to him to convince his true love they were meant to be together. All bad enough, but after finding Liam, the only way he's able to persuade Liam to go out with him is to offer him sex – even though that was something Marc was definitely not ready for.
Liam thought Marc was crazy. Marc was straight and he was talking about true love and making a life together, but Liam didn't believe in love and he certainly wasn't going to fall in love with a crazy straight guy regardless of how sexy he was. But he hadn't reckoned on Marc's pushy attitude or his offer of sex which, no matter how much he knew he should, Liam couldn't turn down.
Simon glanced up from his incessant paperwork as the light tinkle of the bell above the door announced the arrival of a customer. Glad of the respite, he pushed the bundle of inventory notes to the side. He stood and slipped out from behind the vintage walnut desk that functioned as his service counter, and approached the man.
“May I help you?” he asked, smiling.
The smile the customer attempted to give back was filled with confusion. “I’m not sure. I don’t actually know what I’m doing here; I was on my way for coffee…”
The silence that followed the bemused confession was interlaced with the loud and continuous ticking of the antique grandfather clock situated at the far end of the shop. Sometimes soothing, sometimes irritating, never unnoticed, it ticked off a few seconds while the customer grew more confused, especially when he looked around and saw where he was.
Simon nodded slowly and brushed a dark strand of hair from his face. He was familiar with these types of customers; those searching for something though they had no idea what it was. He was going to have to show him.
He looked the guy over. Youngish, around mid-twenties, neatly dressed, suit and tie, smart haircut. Not his type, though cute if you went for the office look, but if the man was here for the reason Simon suspected, being his type would not have made the blindest difference in the world. The customer belonged to someone else.
Inwardly smiling this time, Simon inclined his head and took off his glasses, tucking them into his shirt pocket. “I think you may find what you’re looking for over there,” he said, indicating the back of the store.
“But I’m not looking for anything.” The tightly voiced remark only confirmed Simon’s thoughts.
“Then maybe something is looking for you.”
He motioned for the customer to follow as he headed toward the rear of the shop, noticing light brown eyes narrowing before the man reluctantly trailed after him, though he kept pausing and his eyes kept darting to and fro. He seemed more confused than ever, which was no less than Simon now expected. A lot of his clients were confused when they came here, but they all had a compulsion to find out what it was Simon offered to show them. That was what Simon was here for.
As they walked through the antique furniture and collectibles, the customer occasionally brushed his fingers against the larger, more opulent pieces. At one point he stopped and picked up an ornate frame, his fingertips caressing the heavily carved wood. Sensual, Simon noted, and smiled wistfully. Not my type, belongs to someone else, he reminded himself. Yeah, but it had been years.
The monotonous ticking got louder as they neared the far wall. The antiques here were older, bigger, heavier, and had been in the shop a long time—as had the piece Simon needed to show the man. At the further expression of bewilderment on the man’s face, Simon guessed he didn’t go for antiques; that his tastes ran toward a more contemporary look. That was okay. Simon wasn’t trying to sell him anything.
“Perhaps you’ll find something of interest in that corner,” he said, pointing. The man looked at him, his expressive eyes full of speculation. “Trust me,” Simon added, indicating the corner once again.
The man took a step toward the dark recess that housed the shop’s oldest piece. His steps were hesitant at first, but at a glint of reflected light, he moved closer.
The mirror stood six feet tall, its scratched and dented teak oval frame plain and simple while the glass surface was speckled and dusty. It did appear old, but not as in ancient, just neglected and unwanted. In reality, it didn’t even look like it should be in a shop like this. Maybe in some secondhand junk store with the bargain-basement pieces, but unlike the rest of the items in the shop, the mirror was priceless; its worth immeasurable.
“Do you see anything?” Simon asked, holding his breath slightly in anticipation.
The man glanced back at him, then stood in front of the mirror and gasped.
Some found the mirror on their own. Others, like this one, needed to be shown. All of them reacted the same way.
“What is it?” the man asked, his hand outstretched, his fingers a hairbreadth away from touching the surface. He wouldn’t touch it. No one did.
Simon smiled again. He always liked this part. It made all the years he’d been here tolerable.
“It’s your one true love.”
Book Two - First Kiss
First Kiss (The Looking Glass 2) 47,000 words/154 pages
The second Brenn saw Joey’s image in the magic mirror, he was hooked. The moment he saw him in real life, Brenn knew Joey was going to be his forever. Joey was flirty, and fun, and he had the most gorgeous smile, but then Joey told him he was dying. Though devastated, Brenn didn’t want to give up on Joey, so he offered to look after him and make his last few days as comfortable as possible, but was that going to be enough when all Brenn really wanted was for Joey to live?
Brenn was everything Joey could have wished for; strong, built, and with the most amazing eyes. Also, Brenn was in love with him. That would have given Joey something to live for, if it hadn’t been too late. He had about three weeks left, but that didn’t seem to matter to Brenn. Brenn wanted to take him home, and Joey was willing to go with him, but on two conditions. He wanted Brenn to make love to him before he died, but no kissing.
“Joey Singleton.” Joey put out his hand and Brenn took it. A tingle started from where their hands touched and traveled through Brenn’s body with lightning speed, igniting heat in his balls and cock. Instantly, he knew this was right, that what the mirror had told him, shown him, was exactly how it should be. Joey was his, now and forever. He smiled.
“Brendon Collins, but my family and friends call me Brenn.”
Joey’s hand remained glued to his until someone, Brenn suspected the dark-haired man, cleared his throat. Joey let go but not without a warm, knowing smile. He leaned in close, enough so the other men could still hear. “Don’t mind Paul. He thinks he’s my keeper.”
“Damn straight I am!” Paul scowled again as Joey laughed.
Brenn’s groin tightened, and he hoped no one was going to ask him to stand up anytime soon because he guessed his erection might raise a few eyebrows. But then, if Joey laughed like that again, an erection wouldn’t be a problem; he’d come in his pants.
“I noticed you from across the room.” Oh, that was cool. Brenn almost groaned as he realized what he’d said.
Joey’s open smile told him Joey didn’t mind. “I noticed you too. I mean, it’s pretty hard not to, being as you’re so big.” His smile changed, and Brenn could have sworn he saw something lewd in the tilt of Joey’s lips and in the unexpected gleam in his eyes.
Suddenly feeling awkward, Brenn glanced at the other two men at the table. Paul was still scowling, and Brenn wondered what he’d done to deserve it. Did Paul have a claim on Joey? Unbidden possessiveness had Brenn scowling back until he noticed the man sitting next to Paul put a hand on Paul’s arm. The touch was intimate and instantly recognizable as one between lovers.
“Leave him be, Paul.”
The man turned to Brenn and held out his hand. “I’m Dave, Paul’s partner.” Dave’s tone was calm, his smile warm.
Brenn shook Dave’s hand and then offered his hand to Paul. Paul took it with a little show of reluctance. Brenn wondered what his problem was. Paul was obviously with Dave, so what was it with Paul and Joey?
“Would you like a drink, Brenn?” Joey’s light voice broke into Brenn’s thoughts. Brenn turned back to him. “No, I’m fine. Thank you.”
“Well, I would. Paul, can you get me a beer?” Joey’s request was both a question and a demand, and it surprised Brenn to hear the authority ringing in his tone. It also intrigued him.
“Paul.” The warning note in Dave’s voice stopped Paul from saying any more—so did the grip Dave had on his arm. Paul grumbled but got up. Joey looked at Dave.
Dave grinned. “I’ll go with him.”
Joey watched as both men left the table; then he sighed in relief. “Now that they’ve gone, we can talk. So, how big are you?”
“Big?” Brenn pulled a face. “Six-three, why?”
“No, I mean how big are you?” Joey held his hands apart and indicated a length. The lewd look was back and so was the sparkle in Joey’s perfect blue eyes.
“Oh.” Now that wasn’t a question Brenn had expected to be asked, not so soon anyway. “Um, nine inches.”
“Nine! Are you kidding me? That’s huge!” Joey’s eyes widened, and some color rushed to his cheeks. “How do you cope with something so big?”
Brenn quickly looked around. There was no one within hearing distance. “I’ve never had any complaints.”
“I’m sure you haven’t. Shit, I don’t know if I could take nine inches.”
Not certain where this was going, Brenn smiled. “Well I wasn’t asking you to, but I’m sure you could if you tried.”
Joey’s smirk had Brenn’s dick jumping to attention again. Damn, and he’d only just got it down.
“Pity, ’cause I’d love to try.”
“Are you flirting with me?” Brenn couldn’t help grinning. He hadn’t been sure what Joey would be like, but this cocky attitude was something he found fascinating.
“Flirting? I thought I was coming on to you thick and strong.” Joey leaned even closer and winked. “So where to? Your place or mine?”
“You want to come home with me?” Fuck! Had Joey picked up how Brenn felt about him, or was this how he acted with everyone he met?
“Yeah, I know. Stupid idea, but it was worth a shot.”
Stupid? No, Brenn didn’t think it was stupid. “I’d love to take you home, but don’t you think it’s a bit sudden?” he asked, trying to work out where Joey was coming from. He wanted Joey, but he wasn’t sure if Joey was joking or not. There was something off about this conversation, as if Joey was making fun, but of himself.
“Yeah, I guess so. And I don’t think Paul would let me. He really takes looking after me far too seriously.”
“Looking after you?” That was a strange turn of phrase.
Joey nodded, his smile slipping slightly. “You didn’t notice the wheelchair?” He tapped the arm of the chair he sat in.
Brenn hadn’t noticed it; he’d been too busy gazing at Joey’s face. He peeked down and eyed the wheelchair. Standard hospital issue. “What did you do, break your leg?”
Joey shook his head slowly. “No.”
Brenn glanced back up to Joey’s eyes. They were clouded in sorrow now. “What is it?” he asked, sudden dread filling his heart.
Joey stared at him for a moment as if unsure Brenn was for real, but then he smiled again, though it was twisted with apology and regret.
Book Three - His Heart's Desire
His Heart’s Desire (The Looking Glass 3) 51,000 words/161 pages
As the keeper of a magic mirror that shows those lucky few their one true love, Simon dreams of the day it will show him his, but he never dreamt of a punk-assed kid with ripped jeans and rainbow colored hair. Devastated, Simon tries to push Alex away, refusing to tell him they were fated, but Alex keeps coming back, showing all the signs of a man drawn to his soulmate. Realizing he’s made a terrible mistake, Simon figures the only way to fix it is to be the man Alex wants because Alex is the man Simon needs if he’s ever to have a future.
Never before has Alex fallen so hard for a man who obviously doesn’t like him, but Alex is sure there’s a passionate man beneath Simon’s prickly exterior. Peeling away Simon’s layers is like ripping off a bandaid, but it’s worth it when Alex finally has Simon in his arms. The problem is, though he may have Simon’s body, he doesn’t have his heart, and that’s the part Alex wants most. Until he finds out Simon has lied to him.
SIMON CLOSED THE door, and before he could stop himself, he sank to his knees, all composure gone as he watched his chance of happiness walk away. A small sob erupted from his throat as the pain of loss bit deep. He’d never get another chance now, and the sense of betrayal felt like a stab to the heart.
Not once in all the years he’d been the mirror’s keeper had he imagined he wouldn’t be the one to see his one true love, his soul’s other half. It was what Simon had yearned for with every cell of his being, a decade long obsession, but instead of being given his heart’s desire, he’d been relegated to someone else’s.
Curled up into a ball on a cold floor, Simon couldn’t believe how everything had gone so appallingly wrong. He’d undertaken everything asked of him, everything his job entailed, but he must have royally fucked up if Alex was his reward.
Alex was the absolute opposite of who Simon had always imagined his ideal partner to be. Simon had always wanted someone older than him, someone with experience, someone who knew how to treat a man. Alex was young, brash enough to be intrusive, and the way he was dressed… Simon groaned as disappointment shot through him like a double-bladed knife. It wasn’t as if he’d expected to meet someone with impeccable taste in clothes, but he most certainly hadn’t anticipated someone who didn’t give a shit. Unless Alex thought his ripped jeans and stained T-shirt were a fashion statement.
It took a moment for Simon to realize he was not just being a snob, but an ungrateful snob. He should have been rejoicing in the fact there was someone out there for him. Instead he was bemoaning the how and the who. Did it matter? Shouldn’t he just accept the mirror’s gift like all those other men before him? Simon winced as he remembered the way Alex had blithely walked into the apartment without regard to privacy or etiquette. Also the way Alex had grabbed Simon’s arm. Feeling the echo of that unwanted touch, Simon shuddered. No, Alex was not a gift. He was a bloody nightmare.
Cold eventually seeped into his consciousness, exacerbating his misery but at least forcing him to come to his senses. He blinked, noticing the darkness outside his windows. Having no idea how long he’d been lying there but guessing it had been several hours, Simon slowly pushed himself into a sitting position. His limbs groaned in protest, but it was the crushing pain behind his eyes that had Simon moaning.
He took a deep breath to clear his head a little and then wiped away the wetness on his cheeks. Moping wasn’t going to help him sort out this situation; he knew that. However, he had no idea what would. He could very well be released from duty as the mirror’s keeper because he had refused to tell Alex the reason behind the image, or he could be forced to stay here as punishment, forever showing other men their heart’s desire while knowing he’d never have his.
Right then neither of those possibilities were something Simon wanted to consider. He had nowhere to go, not from here. The shop had not only been his place of work, but also his home. It had provided food, clothes, and a roof over his head. It had also given him a purpose over the years, one he’d been happy to fulfill until he’d become jealous and impatient.
Castigating himself for being such a fool, Simon got up off the floor, then automatically locked the door before making his way to his apartment. He bypassed the mirror, ignoring the pull that had drawn him toward its darkened face every night since he’d been its keeper. He used to stand before it, his heart filled with hope, with expectancy, waiting for his chance to be shown a glimpse of his soul mate. That had now been stolen from him, and never again would he allow himself to be mocked by the mirror’s blind cruelty.
Though The Looking Glass is a series of three books, each one can be read as a standalone, however, there is one character (The Mirror's Keeper - Simon) who is a part of the first two books, and his story is told in the third. So those reading His Heart's Desire (The Looking Glass 3) may want to read the first book Choices (TLG 1), and then the second book First Kiss (TLG 2) if they want to get the whole of Simon's story. But those reading Choices or First Kiss don't need to read either of the others.
Penny is a complete romantic who believes everyone can fall in love if only they’ll open their heart to the possibility, which is why she writes those hot, erotic stories that will always have a happily ever after. However, it doesn’t mean she’ll necessarily make it easy for her men to get there. A lover of things that go bump in the night, Penny’s imagination can sometimes run riot, so magic mirrors and evil dolls is only the beginning.
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