Today I am so pleased to welcome Elizabeth Varlet to Joyfully Jay. Elizabeth has come to talk to us about her latest release, Dark & Dazzling. She has also brought along an exclusive excerpt and a tour wide giveaway. Please join me in giving her a big welcome!


One of the comments I hear the most about Fierce & Fabulous is that the characters have amazing chemistry. Their love scenes sizzle on the page and the tenderness between them melts hearts.

I love that readers feel that way. It is one of the best compliments.

But how did I do it?

Honestly, there’s no magic formula, but I’ll tell you what I did for Dark & Dazzling.

I took one pain-in-the-ass brooding dancer and tied him to a stubbornly-honest dead-sexy cop. I stuffed them in a pressure cooker and I shook them—hard.

Stupid, no? I mean, any normal, sane person would see the explosion coming a mile away. But did I duck for cover? Did I run? No…

That would have been smart.

What I did was let them tear my heart out and stomp on it over and over again. And unfortunately, they will probably do the same to you. I’m sorry for that. I really am. But, I promise it will be worth it.

Not only do Connelly and Z have great chemistry, their story is a real love-conquers-all tale. They will make you laugh, they will make you grit your teeth in frustration, and they will definitely make you cry. But in the end, you will be glad for it all because we appreciate the good stuff so much more when we’ve earned it. Don’t you think?

So, okay, that’s not really a how-to as much as a cautionary story but I hope you’ve enjoyed it anyway and maybe you’ve learned something?

Like, stay away from sarcastic characters that wear too much black and have a shoe addiction.

It’s for your own good, trust me.


Connelly stayed late at work that night, doing his best to distract himself with the 911 reports and witness statements. He’d gotten into it again with Hopkins that afternoon and had been tense ever since.

He’d focused on the one case where they had leads, the shooting. Everything pointed to a gang recruitment. He was just waiting on the DNA and fingerprint report from CSU. A security camera had captured a male teenager running away from the scene right after reports say the shots were fired. Even with that footage circulating all local news outlets, no one had come forward with a positive ID. If the shooting was connected to gang violence like he suspected, the kid would have a record, but there wasn’t much more he could do tonight.

He straightened the papers on his desk and checked the time on his phone just as he’d been doing every five minutes. As distractions went, police work wasn’t having much success. His mind continued to drift because Azariah was dancing at The Vibe.

The same place he and his partner suspected drugs were being sold. Images of Azariah grinding the laps of strangers and letting them touch him for tips wouldn’t stop bombarding his mind. Just as Azariah had predicted, those thoughts did drive him crazy.

He had no trouble imagining all the worst scenarios.

In his mind, Azariah kissed dozens of other men. In his mind, Azariah brought them all home and fucked them. In his mind, Azariah and Keller laughed while they shared a needle and tag-teamed blow jobs of old bloated queers with wads of cash.

But in his heart, all he saw were the scared onyx eyes of a man who needed something to believe in. In his heart, there was only Azariah’s aching vulnerability and the certainty no one else had ever seen it—because if they had, they never would have let Azariah go.

In the face of that, all his ridiculous imaginings and the jealousy they spurred seemed petty and cheap.

Their brief conversation that afternoon had made Connelly realize how cowardly he was being. He might not have meant to ask Azariah out, but as soon as the words had left his mouth the rightness of them had calmed his anxious heart.

He counted down the seconds until Azariah would be finished for the night. Trying not to think too much about the future. Nothing was certain. His father’s death had taught him that. He just had to take one step at a time, and if he continued to follow his instincts, he’d always be headed in the right direction.

He spent the next hour dissecting the information he and Raoul had gathered about The Vibe and Keller. It wasn’t much. They were restricted to working during their personal time and Raoul wasn’t as motivated as Connelly. He still pushed for handing it over to the proper authorities. But there was no point in giving them a big pile of nothing, was there? Besides, Connelly was invested now. If someone was using the club where Azariah worked to sell drugs, he would be the one to put that person behind bars, no one else.

By the time he finished and shut down his computer, it was close to last call. It didn’t take him long to drive home, one benefit of living near the station. He stowed his gun and badge then watched the clock.

As soon as he was sure The Vibe was closed, he picked up his cell and dialed the number he’d already memorized. It didn’t even ring once fully before Azariah answered.

“Why are you still awake? Shouldn’t you be getting your beauty rest?” There was such acceptance in his tone, such hope, that Connelly breathed a sigh of relief. Until that moment, he’d believed there was a chance Azariah would change his mind.

“I wanted to hear your voice before I fell asleep so I can have good dreams.”

Azariah’s wicked chuckle lit all Connelly’s nerves up like fireworks.

“Naughty boy. I know what you’re really after, but you’re going to have to wait a little longer for that. I’m still in transit.”

“No, that’s not what I—”

“Uh-huh, sure.”

Connelly laughed. “Not saying it wouldn’t be fun because I’m pretty sure your mind is enticingly dirty, but I really just called to talk.”

“Enticingly dirty? Damn it, Hot Fudge.”


“My mind is a gutter, nothing enticing about it. Trust me.”

“Agree to disagree, a dirty mind makes everyday life interesting. So, where are you now?”

“On the bus.”

“Oh, I can call back.”

“Nah, there’s only one other passenger and he’s passed out.”

“Okay, so, how are you?”

Azariah’s tone was teasing. “Really?”


“Well then, I’m fine.”

Connelly sighed. “We’re really not good at this small-talk thing, are we?”

“Let’s skip the small talk and go right for the jugular.”

“You sure? That could get messy.”

“If it’s not messy, what’s the point?”

“I admire your bravery. We’ll play twenty questions. Honest answers only, ask anything you want.”

Azariah hummed in appreciation. “All right, but not twenty. How about five?”

“Fifteen. I’d actually like to have a conversation.”

“Ten, because I’d actually like to sleep tonight.”

Smiling up at the ceiling, Connelly said, “Deal.”

“I’ll even let you go first.”

Generous of you.” Connelly thought for a moment. There was so much he wanted to know about Azariah, but after talking to him that afternoon one thing stood out. “Okay, tell me about your first love.”

“Jack Kerouac.”

“I’m serious. We said honest answers only.”

“That was honest. He’s the only man I’ve ever loved. His words are full of pain and truth—the bad, the good, the ugly and the beautiful.”

“No wonder you’re such a dark soul.”

“Well, yeah. Plus, he was hot as hell.” The laugh that followed was tense so Connelly didn’t reply.

Eventually, Azariah continued, “He inspired me when I really needed inspiration. On the Road was my bible when I finally grew the balls to leave the house I grew up in.”

Connelly wondered at the phrasing. Why didn’t he just say home?

“I would recite his words at night when it got so cold I couldn’t sleep for the shivering, huddled in a flimsy cardboard box with nothing but the week-old newspapers and my switchblade. Jack kept my mind straight. ‘The only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars,’” Z quoted.

Even though Connelly was still stuck on the image of a young Azariah freezing in a box, the quote struck his chest. “That is pretty epic.” It explained so much of the explosiveness that was Azariah Hayes, the broodiness and the poetry of his spirit. No wonder he’d been drawn to Kerouac.

“Right?” The wistfulness in Azariah’s tone made Connelly long to see his face.

Would those dark eyes swirl like they had that afternoon? Would they be sparkling? He closed his eyes, trying to imagine.

“‘Nothing behind me, everything ahead of me, as is ever so on the road.’”

“A good motto for life,” Connelly said.

Azariah didn’t say anything and Connelly was content to let the moment last, thinking maybe he was lost in his own memories, maybe Azariah was recalling something he’d forgotten, something necessary. Maybe he was trying to understand why he’d shared so much with a man he barely knew.

In the quiet, the screech of brakes signaled another stop. The swoosh of the doors was echoed by the rumble of tired voices until finally the distinct sound of raindrops hitting pavement carried through the phone.

“Fuck, it’s raining,” Azariah said. “I’m gonna run for it. Call you back.”

And the line was disconnected.


Dark & Dazzling Cover

Z doesn’t need a hero…

Azariah “Z” Hayes is a diamond. Equal parts strength and sparkle, he’s more than capable of standing on his own stilettos. So if waiting tables and stripping at The Vibe are what it takes to keep a roof over his head, well, there are worse ways to earn a living.

Connelly is a white knight with a badge…

For NYPD detective Connelly Reid, to serve and protect is just another day at the office—even if that means protecting himself from his own true desires. He’s been curious about Z, his waiter, for months, but it’s not until he sees him in his makeup and heels that the curiosity becomes a fierce attraction. Z, despite all his over-the-top dazzle, might just be the man Connelly has been waiting for his entire life.

But when Connelly investigates underground porn and drug activity with ties to The Vibe, one thing becomes very clear—acting on what he knows is going to hurt Z, financially and emotionally. And though Connelly would love nothing more than to fix all of Z’s problems, no amount of mind-blowing sex can make Z comfortable becoming dependent on his lover. Yet if there’s one thing Connelly knows from his years on the force, it’s this: when things go bad, you need a trusted partner to have your back.


Elizabeth Varlet Author Pic

Elizabeth Varlet is a thirtysomething newly married world-traveler who devours books like they were candy. A nerd at heart, she spends way too many hours binging on episodes of her favorite television shows and dreaming of the day she can adopt a dog—whom she’s already named.

She started writing stories in high school and hasn’t stopped. Now her characters like to get frisky under the covers. Or the stars, or in a car, or up against the wall—they’re not picky.

Elizabeth believes in love of all shapes and sizes and wants nothing more than to share the beauty in the form of stories.


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