Today I am so pleased to welcome Ari McKay to Joyfully Jay. Ari has come to talk to us about her latest release, Herc’s Mercs: Where Angels Fear to Tread. She has also brought along a great giveaway! Please join me in giving Ari a big welcome!


Hello, everyone! Ari here, of the PushMe-PullYou beastie known as Ari McKay. A big thank you to Jay for hosting us for our release day of the latest Herc’s Mercs story. When we started the series in 2014 we didn’t know they would end up being, by far, our mostly widely read and popular works, and it’s been so much fun writing each and every one of them.

We’ve tried to give a unique spin to the bodyguard trope in each book, and Where Angels Fear to Tread is no exception. For this one, we have our merc having to balance his mission with the needs of his new lover, and we decided to throw a little bondage into the mix. McKay and I are both fascinated by shibari, and it is the thread which binds (if you will pardon the pun) our MCs together. 😉 This one has a lot of action and danger in it, and we hope you enjoy reading it as much as we enjoyed writing it!


Geo headed toward the backdrop, then turned to face Lee. He unfastened the clasp of his cloak and cast it aside. Underneath he wore a pair of black, wide-legged pants, the kind Lee had seen in martial arts movies. Above the snug waistband, Geo’s sculpted abs and chest gleamed as though he’d coated his bronzed skin with oil, and he wore a net-like knotting of red cords that enhanced the definition of his muscles. It was intricate enough that he couldn’t have tied it himself.

Lee’s mouth went dry as he stared at the shibari design. As he looked closer, he realized the rope must have been tied by an expert, because it was twisted rather than knotted, which would make it easy for Geo to remove the binding himself. The photographer in him was already noting how well the red popped against the black backdrop, but that professional thought was overwhelmed by the pure lust washing over him.

“Holy shit…” Lee knew he ought to stop gaping like a horny teenager, but he couldn’t remember the last time he’d seen such sexy artwork – and that was after all the photoshoots of hot, dangerous men he’d done lately. None of them could hold a candle to the man in front of him. “I don’t think it’s too much,” he said at last. “Jon wanted edgy, and he gave me free rein, so I say let’s go for it. If he doesn’t like it, we’ll do something else later.”

“I was hoping you’d say that,” Geo drawled, his eyes gleaming with approval. He drew a long, wickedly sharp-looking katana out of the sheath strapped around his waist. “Jon said we should be ourselves in the photos, and both the katana and the ropes are… me.”

“Then I think you and I would get along just fine.” Lee moved to get his camera, reminding himself that he had a job to do that didn’t involve licking the patches of Geo’s skin outlined by the red rope.

“Oh, really? Here I was thinking the only interest we might share is photography.”

“I’m no stranger to shibari,” Lee said as he clicked the shutter to capture the intense look Geo was giving him. “I’ve tied people up. I’ve been tied up. I prefer to be the one who’s tied up.”

“I prefer to be the one who does the tying.” Geo raised his katana and struck a combat pose with fluid grace. The studio lights gleamed on his skin.

“See? We’d get along fine.” Lee gave him a lascivious smile before taking refuge behind the camera and lining up the shot. “Looks good so far. Go ahead and strike whatever poses feel comfortable. Just be sure to hold them for a few seconds.”

“All right. I’ll run through a traditional kata slowly.” Geo thrust the katana directly toward the camera and held the pose with a stillness that spoke of practice and discipline. He obviously knew what he was doing with the sword, and the result was stunning.

Lee tried to view the flex of muscles beneath smooth, bare skin and rope as an artist rather than a man and to focus on admiring the perfection of Geo’s form, but he couldn’t detach that much. Not when his libido had already been shaken up by the parade of sexy men in front of his camera lately.

“We’re getting some good stuff here,” he said, offering encouragement as Geo moved through the kata.

“Tell me if there’s anything more you’d like to see.” Geo struck a predatory pose, as though he was stalking Lee. He waggled his eyebrows. “I have no body modesty to speak of.”

“If you’re asking me, I’d like to see it all.” Lee removed his camera from the tripod so he could get some different angles. “But Jon said no full monty for the calendar.”

“I’ll give you a choice, then,” Geo said, and he shifted his pose again, this time holding the katana horizontally over his head. “If you want to try to hide the naughty bits with camera angles, I’m game, or I could give you a private show of your own afterward.”

A flush of arousal prickled Lee’s skin, and he licked his lips as he studied Geo. Once the photo shoot was over, he didn’t have to be a professional anymore, and it sounded as if the attraction was mutual.

“Why can’t I have both?”

“You can.” Geo straightened and sheathed his katana. He gave Lee heated smile as he unfastened the knot at his waistband. “You seem to be a man who knows what he wants. I like that.”

Once the knot was free, Geo unwound the tie, which acted like a belt. There was another knot, and he untied that as well, and then the fabric fell to the ground in a dark puddle. Geo’s legs were as well muscled as the rest of him, and he did nothing to hide the fact that he was aroused.

“I definitely see what I want.” Lee took a moment to let his gaze roam up and down the length of Geo’s body, all lean, hard muscle and precise grace. “Let’s leave the pants there. It’ll be titillating to see your clothes on the floor. You strike whatever pose you want, and I’ll walk around and find an angle that makes it work.”

There was a smoldering heat in Geo’s gaze, and his focus was on Lee as he drew the katana again and struck an aggressive pose. “How’s this?”

“Perfect.” Lee grinned wickedly as he began circling Geo. He tried different angles to get a pose that was suggestive without revealing too much. “The pose is nice too.”

“May I assume I’ll get to admire your form as well?”

“You’ll get to admire whatever you want.” Lee moved closer and met Geo’s gaze. He couldn’t resist reaching out to run his hand along Geo’s arm, savoring the feel of warm, bare skin. “I believe in give and take.”

“As do I.” Geo’s eyes were molten gold, and he brushed his fingertips in a feather-light caress over Lee’s cheek. “I also want to touch. And taste.”

“So do I.”


Herc's Mercs: Where Angels Fear to TreadMercs rush in where angels fear to tread…

Lee Albright is a photojournalist who loves traveling and the challenge of his job, but when he’s asked to shoot a calendar for charity, he can’t resist — especially since the models are the men of Hercules Security, some of the sexiest hunks he’s ever seen. Things get even better when he meets Mr. July, Geo Kensei, and the instant spark of attraction between them quickly bursts into an all-consuming flame.

Geo is exactly the kind of intense, dominating top Lee needs to fulfill all his fantasies, while Lee’s sensitivity and artistic soul tempt Geo to bind the gorgeous man to him with more than just ropes.

Unfortunately their careers force them to part ways, though they’re both anxious for a quick reunion. But in the midst of a war-torn city they meet again, and now Geo, the merc everyone calls “Saint”, must use every tool and skill he possesses to get both Lee and his client out of danger. Meanwhile Lee has a hard time finding the comfort he needs in Geo’s cold, hard pragmatism in the face of danger. Geo’s intense focus on the mission is all that’s keeping the three of them alive, but will it also end up costing him any chance to be with Lee?


Ari McKay is the professional pseudonym for Arionrhod and McKay, who have been writing together for over a decade. Their collaborations encompass a wide variety of romance genres, including contemporary, fantasy, science fiction, gothic, and action/adventure. Their work includes the Blood Bathory series of paranormal novels, the Herc’s Mercs series, as well as two historical Westerns: Heart of Stone and Finding Forgiveness. When not writing, they can often be found scheming over costume designs or binge watching TV shows together.

Arionrhod is a systems engineer by day who is eagerly looking forward to (hopefully) becoming a full time writer in the not-too-distant future. Now that she is an empty-nester, she has turned her attentions to finding the perfect piece of land to build a fortress in preparation for the zombie apocalypse, and baking (and eating) far too many cakes.

McKay is an English teacher who has been writing for one reason or another most of her life. She also enjoys knitting, reading, cooking, and playing video games. She has been known to knit in public. Given she has the survival skills of a gnat, she’s relying on Arionrhod to help her survive the zombie apocalypse.


Ari has brought a copy of the first five stories in the Herc’s Mercs series to give away to one lucky reader. Just leave a comment at the end of the post to enter. The contest ends on Friday, January 6th at 11:59 pm EST.

  • By entering the giveaway, you’re confirming that you are at least 18 years old.
  • Winners will be selected by random number. No purchase necessary to win.  The number of eligible entries received determines the odds of winning.
  • If you win, you must respond to my email within 48 hours or another winner may be chosen. Please make sure that your spam filter allows email from Joyfully Jay.
  • Winners may be announced on the blog following the contest. By entering the contest you are agreeing to allow your name to be posted and promoted as the contest winner by Joyfully Jay.
  • Prizes will be distributed following the giveaway either by Joyfully Jay or the person/organization donating the prize.
  • All book prizes are in electronic format unless otherwise specified.
  • By entering you are agreeing to hold Joyfully Jay harmless if the prize or giveaway in some way negatively impacts the winner.
  • Readers may only enter once for each contest.  Duplicate entries for the same giveaway will be ignored. In the event of technical problems with the blog during the contest, every effort will be made to extend the contest deadline to allow for additional entries.
  • Void where prohibited by law.
FILED UNDER: Excerpt, Giveaway, Guest Post
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