EU Tax Laws and Dreamspinner Press

January 26, 2015

Dreamspinner Press is proud to be international publishers of quality gay romantic fiction. Currently in addition to English, Dreamspinner Press publishes books in German, Italian, French, and Spanish. Dreamspinner Press books can be purchased around the globe.

Some of our international readers have recently commented on higher tax rates on ebooks purchased at the Dreamspinner Press store. The reason is as of January 1, 2015, the European Union (EU) changed the tax law regarding the sale of digital goods, including ebooks. All retailers, including Dreamspinner Press, are required to track the location of buyers and apply the appropriate VAT tax based on that country’s specific VAT rate. The collected VAT tax is sent quarterly to each of the 28 EU countries with a VAT return. Companies selling digital goods, like Dreamspinner Press, are required to maintain records for audit for ten years. Click here for more information on VAT taxes.

We truly value our international readers as part of the Dreamspinner Press family.  We want to continue offering quality gay romantic fiction to our international readers and must therefore comply with local tax laws.

As always, Dreamspinner Press will continue to offer frequent discounts and coupon codes to help stretch all readers’ book budgets. The Dreamspinner Press weekly newsletter often has coupon codes so subscribe here to receive yours.

If you have further questions please email contact@dreamspinnerpress.com.

Happy reading!

The Thrill of Magic by Kate Pavelle

January 26, 2015

Title: The Thrill of Magic

Author: Kate Pavelle

Pairing: Wyatt and Jack from Zipper Fall

Prompt:   celebration

Jack turned on the dishwasher, rinsed and dried his hands, and glanced toward Wyatt’s bedroom. Wyatt had never formally moved in with Jack, and Wyatt still had his old, cheap apartment, but he’d never made the commitment to living together, for better or worse. Moreover, Wyatt had been spending more time in his bedroom—one that Jack had set up and decorated just for him only half a year ago—almost every day.

The door was closed.

Damn.

Jack poured himself a bourbon on the rocks and crossed into the living room, where he slid behind his computer. The seat hugged him in its perfect, ergonomic way. The screen woke up, the unfinished spreadsheet opened.

Fuck!

He bit his lip and reached for the crystal tumbler. The ice chinked through its thin walls and the coolness of ice felt soothing and familiar as Jack tried to fight down a swell of panic. He sipped, feeling the sweet and woody notes, the smoke and the tannin and the sharp sting of alcohol on his cheek. The scent of adventure.

Adventure!

That was the problem. Adventure. Wyatt, the love of his life, was an incorrigible adrenaline junkie. Just the way they’d met, Wyatt rapelling into Jack’s bedroom, with burglary in mind, showed a lot about the sort of adventure that scratched Wyatt’s itch. It’s been about six months since Wyatt had done something like that, and the need within him must have been immense. Spring was in the air, newly awakened blood must have been coursing in his veins, and all those unattended houses, just waiting to be infiltrated….

Jack took a swig and broke into a bout of cough.

Dammit.

Wyatt’s restlessness had been getting worse and worse until right after Valentine’s Day when he had begun to regain a sense of inner calm. Jack had thought Wyatt had been blown away by their weekend getaway, but even though that might have helped, Jack knew that wasn’t it. His mind drifted to the ways in which Wyatt could get a fix. None of them were safe. All of them threatened the unity and the comfortable home they had both worked so hard to build.

His eyes began to water from having been glued to the screen for so long, and Jack realized he hadn’t done a smidgeon of work. He had been sitting there, staring at his spreadsheet, drinking bourbon.

Unhealthy. No shit, Sherlock.

He was tempted to burst into Wyatt’s room and demand explanations. He wanted Wyatt to account for his time alone. Wyatt’s room had a fire escape. Suppose he’d been sneaking out, going on a prowl, committing a quick home invasion here and an adventurous lock-picking there just to keep sane? He knew such action would have destroyed any trust they had built between them. The soft, comfortable nights with Wyatt’s head on his arm. Wyatt’s unruly hair in his face, making him sneeze. Wyatt’s passion, and the trust in his eyes as Jack took him and loved him and possessed him until the air got thin, the world receded, leaving just the two of them.

For that, Jack would keep controlling his temper. For that, he’d stay his hand and not intrude upon Wyatt’s privacy. He walked to the kitchen and reached for the bourbon.

Unhealthy.

Water. What he needed was water, and water he got.

 

Wyatt’s door opened, and Wyatt stepped out wearing jeans, a dress shirt, and a blazer over it. The look he gave Jack was cagey, as though he was hiding something. A shiver passed through Jack. So Wyatt had been hiding something—something that had scratched that wild, adrenaline itch of his. He considered Wyatt’s flushed face and wide eyes.

Drugs?

He couldn’t imagine Wyatt on drugs. That would be even worse than burglary, or risky rock-climbing stunts on the downtown office buildings.

“Would you like to go out?” Wyatt’s voice had a determined edge to it. “You look stressed. I think we need to get out of here for a little while.”

“I already had a  bourbon.” If Jack disclosed he’d had a drink, his coping mechanism wasn’t a problem. Or was it?

“There’s always ice cream,” Wyatt said. “Although I wanted to hit the South Side. Just walk around, y’know… take in the sights of crowds of rowdy party-goers.”

“Vicarious thrills?” The words were out of Jack’s mouth before he knew it.

“Maybe, maybe not. You comin’?” Wyatt’s eyes softened. He wanted Jack’s company. A sudden curiosity flamed within Jack. Wyatt was up to something.

“Sure. Gimme a minute to change.”

 

East Carson Street was the wild, bar-hopping part of Pittsburgh where bad things happened. One of the crowds of college kids roving the street spilling out of a beer bar and made a right toward Margaritaville. Careless and loose with drink, the guys joshed and elbowed one another while the ladies hustled to keep up in their high heels.

“Check this out,” Wyatt said, leaning in close so only Jack could hear. “Hey, girls, you lost something!”

As they turned around, Wyatt bent to the sidewalk. When he straightened, he had a five-dollar bill in his hand.

The three girls stopped. One called out to the guys, and the guys stopped to wait.

“Here,” Wyatt said and handed the bill out to them. Jack looked on. He didn’t quite know what was going on. Did someone really drop some money? They were right under a streetlamp, and Jack figured he’d have noticed.

“Not mine,” a short blonde said. The second girl shrugged and ran her hand through her hair in what seemed to be a habitual gesture. The third one, though, nodded. “Oh, thank you! How nice of you!”

Jack frowned. Something was off. A glint in her eye, a hint of a smile that tugged on Wyatt’s mouth. Wyatt offered the five dollar bill, and the girl reached for it, not looking down, smiling prettily into Wyatt’s face.

She screamed.

Jack looked down. Now everyone was looking at her hand, a hand with a writhing snake in it. She screamed again and shook her hand, trying to shake it off, but the snake wrapped its body around the warmth of her wrist.

One of her girlfriends took a few steps back while the guys guffawed with laughter, but the blonde stepped forward. “Don’t move,” she said in a level voice.

“Yeah, don’t move,” Wyatt said and moved forward.

He stepped back toward Jack again. Jack stood there dumbfounded. The girl had a five-dollar bill in her hand, all crumpled. The snake was gone.

“How did ya do that?” The blonde girl asked, giving Wyatt an accusing look.

“Do what?” Wyatt shrugged.

“Where’s the snake?” One of the guys was looking Wyatt up and down. “You better not be messing with them.”

“I can’t even return someone’s money anymore,” Wyatt said with a sigh. “Here, check my pockets. No snake!” He spread his arms out. The guy approached him as though on a dare, and Jack felt a pang of sudden sympathy. He knew this couldn’t end well. The guy gave Wyatt a polite, cursory patdown, apparently keeping his distance in case the snake made a reappearance.

“See, no problem,” Wyatt said in a soothing voice Jack knew all too well. He bit the inside of his cheek in an effort not to grin as he saw the guy step away.

“Shit,” the guy swore. “I figured… oh, whatever, man.”

“Yeah,” Wyatt nodded. He turned to Jack as though they were about to go, when he looked back at the group of college kids. “Oh, here. I almost forgot. I believe this is yours.”

Jack was amazed and appalled when Wyatt proferred an expensive-looking watch in the college kid’s direction.

“Shit, man!” The kid felt his wrist—empty—and grabbed the watch out of Wyatt’s hand. He then looked at his friends. Jack saw they were torn between outrage and laughter.

Wyatt cleared his throat. “Oh, before you go… you have something of mine in your pocket.”

The guy dove his hand in, only to pull it out and rip his jacket off. “Snakes! Shit, fuck, snakes!”

The blonde girl picked his jacket up, extracted the snake out of his pocket, and handed it over to Wyatt. “Be nicer to your friend,” she said in an amused voice. “I wouldn’t want to see him get stepped on!”

“Thanks.” Wyatt reached for the snake—and she ended up with that old, crumpled, five-dollar bill in her hand. Then he turned to Jack. Had it not been for the fine flush and slightly widened eyes, Jack would have assumed Wyatt was entirely calm and casual. He wasn’t, though. Wyatt was high as a kite, riding on a wave of adrenaline comparable to the ones he used to get from burgling a house, or free-climbing a rocky face.

Happy and exalted, Wyatt met Jack’s searching gaze with his playful one. “Can I treat you to a drink?”

Did you enjoy Kate Pavelle’s story? If so, check out the rest of her books and take 25% off at checkout with the code KatePavelleFlash2. Coupon code is good for one order per customer through February 22, 2015.

Nights Like These Pre-Release Party: Wrap Up and Thank You

January 25, 2015

Thank you to everyone who spent part of their Sunday with me to celebrate my first novel. The giveaway will be open until 10pm ET when I’ll be drawing a random winner to win a copy (or something of their choice from my back list).

If you missed out on the giveaway, the discount code Scully0125 is good through January 26, so you can still get a great deal. Or check out any of the stops on my upcoming blog tour for another chance to win a copy of Nights Like These. See www.pride-promotions.com for dates and blog listings.

I’ll leave you with a final excerpt. This is from the first meet scene:

 

“Why don’t you watch where you’re going, dumb—” I managed to sputter before my mouth stopped working entirely and dropped open. The ability to speak, to think, deserted me at the first sight of the hunky stranger standing in front of me, his face contorted with apology as he tried to mop up my sodden jacket with a handful of napkins. He was a few inches taller than I was—closer to six feet—and on the stocky side. His broad shoulders filled out a nicely tailored suit, and he projected an air of confidence that I’d never be able to pull off in a million years. He was clean-shaven too, with a dark buzz cut that made me long to run a hand over his head simply to feel the texture. And gorgeous. Did I happen to mention that?

In short, he was the kind of guy you’d want to be stranded with on a desert island; the kind you could count on to save you. If you were so inclined. Me? I didn’t need saving.

A pair of friendly, light-colored eyes now stared back at me, bemused. Odd that his lips were moving, but no sound was coming out.

“What?” I asked, blinking back to attention. I couldn’t remember the last time anyone had literally made me speechless. Me, Miles Koprowski, who never met a silence he didn’t want to fill.

Hell, I couldn’t recall the last time I’d been on the receiving end of a full-body pat-down either. At least not so quickly. His hands were still drifting over my chest, wiping up the last drips of coffee, and the simple touch was doing alarming things to my heart rate.

“Are you okay?” he demanded. “Did you get burned?” Before I could react, he seized my wrist and held my hand up for inspection. Strong, lightly calloused fingers, I added to my mental list. Working hands. Dumbly, I looked down. The skin on the back of my right hand was red and stung like a son of a bitch, but it wasn’t blistering. I did flinch slightly when he skimmed his thumb over the sensitive area, but not from pain, more from the touch itself. My entire body lit up, as though I’d stuck a finger in an electrical socket. “It doesn’t look too bad. I think you’ll live. Put some aloe on it when you get home.”

“Doctor?” I croaked, because really, that would be too perfect.

Nights Like These is available January 26 in ebook or paperback.

Nights Like These – Art 101

January 25, 2015

Chris Scully here with my last planned post of the day. I’ll be hanging around for a bit in case anyone wants to chat or get in on the comments. And I’ll be doing my giveaway draw at 10pm ET and contacting the winner directly. A reminder if you’re not a winner today, the discount code (use Scully0125 at checkout) is still valid all day Monday, January 26 as well.

As mentioned in an earlier posting, the office building in Nights Like These where Miles goes to work as a security guard is closely modeled on a place I spent many years in and know well. Right down to the detail of the corporate art collection. Without revealing any spoilers, art plays a big role in this novel, although I’ve tried to work it in so that it’s not too boring if you’re not really into the subject.

Once upon a time (think Mad Men) it was common for major corporations to build an art collection; not only was it a prestige thing, but many thought of themselves as patrons of the arts and even went so far as to commission original artwork and murals for lobbies and boardrooms. This was the case in the company I used to work for.

With the focus turned to corporate bottom lines, those days are long gone. As Miles learns, maintaining a collection is expensive and the trend toward open-office environments has killed the need to hang art on the walls. Sadly, my former employer, who was one of the last remaining corporations to boast a collection, recently announced they were auctioning off a large part of their collection for charity. But while I worked there, the walls were crammed with contemporary Canadian art—much of it lesser known and of limited value. Still, for an art lover like me, it was literally like being in an art gallery every day.

The Canadian art scene is fairly vibrant—but only within the country. With some exceptions, our artists are not well known on the world market, so I thought some readers might be interested in seeing some of the art and artists mentioned in the novel.

Jackson Beardy print

Jackson Beardy print

lemoyne2

Serge Lemoyne-Bleu, Blanc, Rouge

morriseau_sm

Norval Morriseau print

tomthomson_sm

Tom Thomson oil sketch *This is the painting hanging in Colton’s office

riopelle

Jean-Paul Riopelle print

 

Nights Like These – Exclusive Excerpt

January 25, 2015

Chris Scully here again, reminding you that my giveaway will be open until 10pm ET, so comment on any post up until then to be entered in my draw. The winner will be notified by email.

And now for an excerpt you won’t find anywhere else. One of the unexpected bonuses was the way Miles’ and Colton’s easy banter took off as I wrote. In this scene, Miles discovers he has a flat tire and his boss Colton comes to his rescue:

As I was feeling sorry for myself and wondering what to do next, I heard the thudding bass of a car stereo, belatedly recognizing the tune right before a sporty Mazda mini van pulled into the spot opposite me. A bright yellow sticker with the slogan “My kid goes to Malvern Collegiate” was plastered on the rear bumper. Silence fell as the driver cut the engine. When I raised my head and peeked over the hood of my car, I saw Colton Decker swing his long legs out of the vehicle and stand, stretching, before he reached into the backseat and withdrew a laptop bag and sport coat.

Slowly I stood up, grinning. The car beeped twice as he locked it and then swung around. He froze when he noticed me there. “You just lost about a hundred hotness points, my friend,” I said without thinking. What was it about this man that unhinged my tongue so quickly? Even I knew better than to poke fun at the boss.

Colton glanced back at his minivan and then simply shrugged. “What? It’s practical. I’m a hockey dad.”

“Are you carting the whole team around in there?”

“Sometimes. Are you mocking my minivan, Miles?”

“Oh, I’m not mocking your choice of vehicle. I’m mocking your choice of music. One Direction? Really?” I teased, unable to keep a straight face. I couldn’t resist needling.

I could see the dimples in Colton’s cheeks even from ten feet away. “My daughter’s in charge of the stereo.”

“Uh-huh. And I suppose she forces you to sing along too.”

Mr. Perfect’s perfect lips twitched. At least he had a sense of humor. “Saw that, did you?” He walked toward me with a confident swagger that did crazy things to my stomach. He was someone’s dad, and dads just weren’t sexy—I needed to keep reminding myself of that. “So, how many did I have?”

“How many what?”

“Hotness points.” I felt the back of my neck warm. Fortunately I was saved from answering when Colton drew close enough to see my problem. “Looks like you’ve got some trouble of your own.”

“Yeah, I’ve got a flat. Don’t know how that happened. It was fine last night. I must have picked up a nail or a piece of glass somewhere.”

“Are you waiting for roadside assistance?”

“Er….” I glanced down at the pavement. I’d let my membership expire several months ago, but Mr. Perfect didn’t need to know that. “I was going to do it myself.”

He looked me up and down doubtfully. “Have you ever changed a tire before?”

“Yeesh, talk about being stereotyped.” He just stared expectantly, one brow arched. “No, Mr. Macho Hockey Dad,” I conceded finally. “I haven’t.”

“If you have a spare, I can help you.”

I hesitated, glancing over my shoulder. “Maybe that’s not such a good idea.”

“Why not?”

“We shouldn’t be seen together.”

He cracked a smile. “This isn’t exactly Watergate, and you’re not Deep Throat. Ah, I just heard the way that sounded.” I stifled an immature giggle. To my utter amazement, the tips of his ears were turning pink. But with embarrassment or because his thoughts had taken the same turn as mine? I was suddenly dying to know. He coughed. “So, do you want my help?” he asked. “If it makes you feel better, I’d do it for anyone.”

Use the code Scully0125 at checkout to get 15% off this and any other title in my backlist. The coupon can be combined with the existing DSP ebook sale, for a whopping 40% off the ebook price.

Nights Like These Pre-Release Party: Behind the scenes

January 25, 2015

Nights Like These is a work of fiction, but it’s inextricably tied to my own experiences.

At the end of 2013, I lost my job. So did my entire department. It was a shock, but not entirely unexpected. Like Miles, I was in a job I no longer loved, but after fifteen years there, I’d become complacent and used to the perks. Rather than mope, I decided I would use my severance period to write a novel while I job hunted. Nights Like These was born. It became both a way to cope and my way to say goodbye to the place and the people I had spent so many years with. The whole thing affected me in ways I never expected. After a year of unemployment I am working again, but essentially starting from the bottom.

Is the novel gloomy and depressing you might ask? On the contrary—it is humorous, upbeat and irreverent. Given the state of my life, it had to be light: no dark and depressing topics, no angst, no deep emotion–in short, nothing that would make me cry. A mystery seemed like just the thing.

With the exception of the main characters themselves, almost everything you read is based in reality. The Tokui Business Systems Toronto head office where Miles works is a low-rise office building in a suburban business park. It’s seen better days. It’s also modeled on the place where I spent many years of my career. From the too-basic security system, to the gym in the basement and the Tim Hortons down the street, it’s all real.

Ninety Winston Drive was located in a tired business park in what had once been the suburb of Willowdale, back before the greater Toronto area amalgamated in 1998 into one sprawling, dysfunctional megacity. It was a quiet neighborhood off the Don Valley Parkway, or DVP as it was commonly known, and the street was home to a number of low-rise office buildings all dating from the seventies, a period not known for its stellar architecture. Back then, buildings were designed for function, and no one really cared if they were pretty or not. Like its counterparts, number ninety was unapologetic in its postmodern ugliness—four stories tall and constructed of concrete and drab brown brick. Four narrow bands of windows wrapped around the squat, square building, delineating each floor and breaking up the stark expanse of brick. There was no signage to identify it other than the street number over the front entrance, but it was currently the regional head office of a company called Tokui Business Services. They distributed photocopiers. The only reason I knew that was because I looked it up on my first night.

To Miles’ surprise, the walls are lined with original art of all kinds. Again, this is taken from real life, although I have taken liberties with some of the artists (more on the art in an upcoming post). For Miles, who was once an Art History major, this is an unexpected bonus, and it leads him to the heart of the mystery. Even the art storage room is real. I was privileged enough to see it once. And the mystery itself, while never actually happening, would definitely be feasible—I spent many hours watching and investigating and determined how easy it would be pull it off.

For anyone who hasn’t worked in an office environment, some things may seem absurd, but I assure you they’re not. Offices are absurd, almost surreal, places, populated with a host of characters ripe for fiction. Have you ever worked real scenarios into your writing? Had an experience that was stranger than fiction? Or wished someone would fictionalize a certain time or place in your life? What would it be? Remember, anyone commenting today will be entered in a random draw for a giveaway of any of my titles.

 

Nights Like These – Meet Chris Scully

January 25, 2015

Now that we’ve kicked things off, let’s get to know each other better. Who am I? If we’ve never crossed paths before, I’ve been writing for Dreamspinner since 2012 and have several novellas under my belt, but Nights Like These is my first novel.

My approach to this genre may be a little different than some others. I write stories that just happen to feature two men falling in love. Rarely will you see coming out stories from me, or characters struggling with their sexuality. That’s a given for me. If I had to describe myself in one word, it would be “eclectic”. I like to try new things; my writing varies depending on my mood. Sometimes I’m ooey, gooey romantic and emotional; other times I may be more plot based (like Nights Like These).

Regardless of tone, there are common threads in my writing. Several years ago I wrote a mission statement for myself as a writer. So here’s a bit of what you can expect from me.

Style: My writing style is sparse, with minimal exposition and an emphasis on showing character through actions, dialog etc. and not through a lot of back story. I’m big on showing, not telling. Point of view can vary but I tend to favor first-person because it makes for a more intimate story.

Characters: ordinary, everyday “Joes”—no millionaires, models, guys with 6 packs; generally older 30+ because I’m tired of all these young men who have it together and generally act like they’re a decade older than they are (not like any of the twenty-somethings I know). I don’t really write alpha males, even though I occasionally read them. Sarcastic characters feature prominently. My characters are the kind of guys I’d like to be friends with.

Subject matter: No dark and heavy subjects like rape, incest, hate crimes etc. There are plenty of other writers who do angst far better than me so I’ll leave them to it.

Plot: I gravitate more to “slices of life”, character driven stories, but I have also been working on trying to incorporate more plot. I hope to eventually do both. My stories are reality-based with no fantasy elements.

Heat level: Generally sex is not the focus for me as a writer. It’s not because I have a problem writing sex scenes (I did self-publish a very erotic romance); rather it’s because I feel it needs to fit with the tone of the story. Sometimes I feel sex scenes are so overdone. It’s like porn—five minutes in and they’re already f—ing. There’s lots of other hot stuff to do, people! I don’t write BDSM or anything that focuses on power dynamics; my characters are equals in the relationship.

Endings: Always a happily ever after (or a happy for now). I generally leave endings a bit open, which I know can frustrate readers, but it’s always an implied happy ending.

Enough about me? What about you? What do you look for in a writer of m/m romance? What drew you to your favorite author? Are you open to reading new things? Do you have hard limits?

Nights Like These Pre-Release Party

January 25, 2015

Hi there. I’m Chris Scully and I’ll be spending the afternoon with you to kick off the launch of my first novel, Nights Like These (releasing Monday, January 26 in paperback or ebook). Dreamspinner has kindly provided a 15% coupon (use Scully0125 at checkout) for use in the DSP store today and tomorrow. That’s on top of the existing 25% off sale on ebooks. It’s also good for anything on my limited backlist.

Now that we’ve got that taken care of, let’s get this pre-release party started!

Meet Miles Koprowski. Miles is prickly, sarcastic and occasionally a bit of a diva. His entire life has been turned upside down. He’s lost his cushy corporate job, his gold-digging boyfriend has left him with a mountain of debt, and now the only employment he can find in these hard times is security guard in a suburban office building.

NightsLikeThese_sm2Starting over sucks. At forty, Miles Koprowski thought he had life all figured out. He had a nice car, a hot young lover, and a cushy job… and then he didn’t. Call it fate, or karma, or a downturn in the market, but this opinionated cynic is now forced to play rent-a-cop in a dying office building in the burbs just to make ends meet. Throw in an unhinged ex, a coworker who hates him, and a hot new boss, and suddenly everything is uncertain.

Miles doesn’t plan on liking the night shift or becoming embroiled in a mystery that reawakens old passions and puts him in danger. And he certainly doesn’t plan on falling for the overbearing head of security, Colton Decker, former soldier and doting dad. But nights like these can change a man, make him start to believe there’s more to life than a high-paying job and a warm body in his bed. With a thief on the loose and his new job in jeopardy, Miles will have to decide what’s truly important. He might discover things he never knew he wanted… as long as he makes it through the night.

 

Excerpt:
I was a last-minute replacement, called up when the regular guard had an accident and couldn’t work. In fact, I’d had my license for less than a week. If I had known it would be this easy to get hired, I would have lowered my standards a lot sooner rather than waste my time sending out resumes to the big firms.

All kidding aside, I was grateful Bryck Security Services had found me an office job because there was no way anyone was going to find a five-foot-eight, 162-pound—okay, closer to 170 these days if I’m being honest—soft-around-the-middle security guard intimidating. I’m not the least bit butch. I’ve been told I have a very effective glower, but I doubt that would deter the criminal element when sometimes it doesn’t seem to work on my nephews. Even if I were the buff, action-hero type, there is no way in hell you would ever catch me in the back of an armored van, with a gun on my hip, waiting to be somebody’s target practice. These days I’m not looking for excitement. Not even if it did pay more.

 Miles is prepared to hate his job. But then Colton Decker, the gorgeous Head of Security, asks him to do some snooping, and Miles finds himself embroiled in a bit of a mystery. But perhaps the bigger danger is to his heart, because he can’t deny his attraction to dedicated family man, Colton.

This is a light, romantic mystery, so if mysteries aren’t your thing, don’t despair. P.D. James this is not. The emphasis is on the characters and on Miles learning that sometimes starting over may not be such a bad thing. Have you ever had to “start over”? I certainly have (more on that later). What did you learn from the experience? Did it work out for the best? Tell me about it. Anyone commenting today will be entered in a random draw to win an e-copy of Nights Like These or a title of their choice from my backlist.

 

Hopeful Beginning by Serena Yates

January 25, 2015

Title: Hopeful Beginning

Author: Serena Yates

Pairing: Grayson and James from Fighting for Hope

Prompt: library

Dedication

 

To all fans of the Modern Battles series.

Thank you for loving Grayson and James of Fighting for Hope as much as I do!

 

 

Author’s Note

 

This short glimpse into Grayson and James’s lives is set right after the end of Fighting for Hope. It is the day of the first fundraising concert for the new Oxford Children’s Hospital, which takes place at the castle restaurant north of Oxford where James has taken Grayson on a previous date. During the intermission, James and Grayson are taking a walk in the gardens and end up at a hidden bench in the back.

James has just asked Grayson to marry him. Grayson has said yes, and both men are having a hard time keeping their hands off each other—but since they’re at a public venue, it looks as if there isn’t much they can do…

 

 

Chapter One

 

Grayson pulled back from the hottest kiss he had ever shared with James, but reluctantly, and only when he needed air more desperately than to feel connected to his fiancé. Gasping for breath, he leaned his forehead against James’s shoulder and focused on controlling his raging libido. With their groins still pressed tightly together as James straddled the bench in the back of the castle restaurant’s garden, and Grayson’s legs draped over James’s thighs, Grayson’s attempts to rein in the need to come came very close to being less than successful. Finally, when he believed he had a handle on his lust he looked up.

“You’re so hot.” James’s blue eyes blazed with a fire Grayson hadn’t seen in them since the first and last time they’d made love weeks and weeks ago.

“You’re not so bad yourself.” Grayson smiled and lifted his hand to caress James’s face. Touching the man he loved made him realize how much he’d missed this physical closeness when they’d drifted apart while professional fighting took over and they lost sight of what they meant to each other.

James quietly leaned into Grayson’s hand cupping his cheek, and Grayson marveled at the satisfaction he felt from seeing the normally serious, logical man so emotional. Grayson still couldn’t quite believe James had given up his fight for a theoretical research center and was now supporting Grayson’s idea of building a new Children’s Hospital. But he was grateful the obstacle no longer stood between them and determined to make sure James never regretted that decision.

“You have no idea how much I want to make love to you right now.” James grinned ruefully. “Do you think people would mind if we left the concert early?”

“Shit, the concert.” Grayson sat up and looked toward the castle, just visible over the treetops between them and the sandstone building.

“You forgot about that?” James laughed and pulled Grayson even closer.

“It’s not difficult, with you distracting me like you did.” Grayson held out his hand, admiring the simple gold ring James had placed on it just minutes earlier.

“You like it?” James held his hand next to Grayson’s.

“I love it.” Grayson smiled. Seeing the matching ring on his man’s finger did all kinds of interesting things to Grayson’s heart—as well as farther south. “It’s like a promise for a new beginning. And I’d love to celebrate that in style, but….”

“Not out in the open?” James looked around them, assessing the bushes as if deciding which one to drag Grayson behind.

“Definitely not! What if some reporter wanders out here, bored with whatever people are talking about during the intermission, and we end up splashed across the front page of some tabloid or other?” Grayson shuddered at the thought. “Not the kind of publicity we want for the Children’s Hospital.”

“I agree. But I don’t think I can make it home, not in this condition.” James stopped staring at the vegetation and pushed his hips forward, reminding Grayson how hard they both were. “We may need to improvise.”

“How?” Grayson really wanted James inside him, but doing it in the men’s room wasn’t any less risky than going at it out here, and definitely a lot less romantic.

“Hmm, come with me, I may have an idea.” James’s eyes twinkled as he carefully scooted back on the bench, untangling their legs in the process. He rose slowly, adjusted himself with a wince, and pulled Grayson up to follow him

Grayson got up, copied the gesture of adjustment, and followed James back toward the castle. But instead of walking up the steps toward the door of the former ballroom where the concert was taking place, James turned to their left and followed the castle’s outline until they found a ground-level entrance.

“Aha!” James looked triumphant and made a beeline for that door.

“The kitchen?” Grayson narrowed his eyes to try to peer into the room. Surely the door would be either locked or guarded. The caterers bringing the drinks sold during the intermission might have set up on the upper floor, but they must have left someone behind if this was where they kept extra stock. But, much to Grayson’s relief, he couldn’t detect a single soul in the whitewashed basement room with vaulted ceilings, a huge hearth, and dark wooden cupboards and cabinets.

“Yep. I figure it’s a way in that may allow us to enter without being seen.” James winked, then took the last few steps, practically dragging Grayson with him, and pressed his hand on the antique door handle.

It opened with a slight squeak, then James pulled open the door and peeked inside. “The coast looks clear.”

With a huge sigh of relief, Grayson followed his adventurous fiancé, closing the outside door behind them before turning his attention back to James. What now?

“Let’s find the servant stairs. All castles have them, and they’ll be perfect for getting upstairs.” James started looking around.

Grayson automatically did the same even as he wondered what had gotten into James. His fiancé, and God how he loved being able to refer to James that way, had always been determined and stubborn, but to see him apply it to finding them a hidden spot so they could seal their new beginning was a heady feeling.

“There!” James pointed at one of the back walls, a triumphant grin gracing his handsome features.

A wooden door stood slightly ajar, two rows of servant bells, neatly labeled with room names, nailed onto a wooden board right next to it. Grayson raised his eyebrows as he realized the implications. The open door probably meant someone was upstairs, but there was no way to know where that person had gone, or why. Not that it mattered. They’d just have to be even more careful.

“Come on.” James tugged on Grayson’s arm and started to walk in the direction of the mysterious door.

Yup, it appeared they were going upstairs.

James led the way and paused only briefly to allow Grayson to pull the door into the same position they’d found it in. They slowly ascended the stairs, James’s tux and Grayson’s charcoal suit an odd contrast to their burglar-like behavior. They passed a door labeled “ground floor” with a neat little wooden sign at eye level, telling them this was the story containing the restaurant and the ballroom, as well as all the guests. After another set of steps, there was another door in the wall, this one’s sign pronouncing it to be the “first floor.” The servant stairs continued to ascend, but James stopped.

“I really think this odd British way of numbering floors is very confusing.” James grinned and moved toward the door. He put his ear on the wood, probably listening for signs of people on the other side. “Sounds like there’s nobody there.”

“Are you sure this is a good idea?” Grayson nodded toward the door. “What if there are guards out there? They wouldn’t make any noise to warn us.”

“We can always say we got lost.” James waggled his eyebrows, then turned serious as he pulled Grayson into his arms. “We can go back right now if you want. I just really, really want to make love to you, right now, and not have to wait until we make it home. And I don’t want it to be somewhere we might get caught, you know? And I sort of like the thought of sneaking into one of the castle rooms, don’t you?”

“I….” Grayson swallowed. James’s enthusiasm was getting to him. And what was the worst that could happen? No, no, that was the wrong thing to think about. He took a deep breath. “Oh, what the hell. Let’s do it. You only get engaged once.”

James raised his eyebrows, his lips twitching a little.

“Well, I certainly have no intention of letting you go.” Grayson gave James a quick peck on the mouth. “So, we better make this good.”

“You don’t have to convince me.” James kissed him back, then turned his attention back to the door. “Here goes nothing…”

James pulled open the door slowly, looking left and right as soon as he could stick out his head, while Grayson held his breath. When nothing happened, he exhaled and started breathing normally as he followed his fiancé out onto the landing at the top of the majestic staircase leading to this floor from the huge entrance hall below them. They moved carefully along the wall, the soft carpet dampening their steps. The first door to their right was closed, but another neat little wooden sign, this one with a golden border, informed them they had reached the castle’s library.

“Perfect.” James carefully opened this door, checked the room with all the aplomb of a professional criminal, and walked inside quickly, pulling Grayson with him.

Grayson followed and closed the door, looking for a lock and finding it. He turned the huge metal key to secure them inside the room and turned around to check the details. The room was lit by windows on two of the walls. The other two walls, and all the space between the windows, were covered in bookshelves. Made from white oak, they made the room feel less oppressive than darker wood might have. There were two groups of leather sofas and easy chairs in two corners, as well as a large antique desk in front of the windows. Expensive looking rugs covered the stone floor.

“Wow, it’s beautiful.” Grayson took James’s hand and twined their fingers. “Very romantic.”

“Glad you like it.” James smiled and pulled Grayson into his arms.

The kiss that followed started out slow and tender, but quickly got Grayson going again. His excitement rose as he pressed himself as close to James as he could get, sliding his arms around his fiancé’s neck so he wouldn’t fall as his knees weakened. And this time, now they were behind a closed and locked door, Grayson hoped to be feeling what it was like to have engagement sex. A bit illicit, and not in a bed, but the adventure of it all didn’t exactly deter him from becoming hard enough for his cock to push against the confines of his suddenly much too tight pants.

“I want you, James.” Grayson panted as he pulled back. “Make love to me?”

 

Chapter Two

 

James couldn’t believe his luck. After all the fighting they had gone through on a professional level, the misunderstandings that had developed in their personal lives, and Grayson almost losing his life in that horrible car accident almost two weeks ago, he was holding the man he loved in his arms. Better yet, he had asked Grayson to marry him and had not been rejected.

“James?” Grayson stared at him with a small frown on his forehead. “Where did you go just now?”

“I’m here.” God, was he ever. He’d never believed in all that hippie mumbo-jumbo about living in the moment, but he had to admit, they had a point. “Just thinking how lucky I am to have you back in my arms and wanting to spend the rest of your life with me. I’m not going anywhere without you from now on.”

“Good. The feeling is mutual.” Grayson nodded and looked around the room as if to figure out the best place in the library for them to finally make love. “I’m about ready to explode, and those couches look awfully comfortable…”

“Then again, the desk has a certain appeal.” James eyed the antique piece of furniture a little more closely. “Does it look sturdy enough to you? I mean, for what we have planned?”

“Do you have a desk fetish I should know about? Or fantasies about bending me over one?” Grayson grinned and winked. “I have to admit, the thought appeals to me, but I’m not so sure this one was built for what I have in mind. And can you imagine what would happen if we destroyed it in the throes of passion?”

“I’d rather not.” James shuddered. It was all well and good to play with the thought of getting caught, but he did not want to find out what it felt like to be confronted with others finding him and Grayson in a compromising position. He might be a bit of an adventurous soul when the occasion arose, but an exhibitionist he was not.

“I’m glad you agree.” Grayson nodded toward the couch farthest from the window. “Is that one good for you?”

“Lead the way.” James followed Grayson, watching his fiancé’s ass move in his deliciously tight slacks. Yum! James slid his arms around Grayson’s middle when he stopped and kissed the side of his neck.

Grayson moaned.

“You like that?” James smiled and continued his soft assault on Grayson’s slightly sweaty skin.

“Oh God. You have no idea what this does to me.” Grayson held on to James’s hands and leaned back, tilting his head for better access.

“I’m beginning to figure it out.” James licked and nibbled his way down Grayson’s throat, moving around him until they were facing each other and he was stopped by Grayson’s shirt collar.

Grayson’s eyes were bright with lust, and he reached up to take off his tie. He aimed it at the closest easy chair, then unbuttoned his shirt. James followed the movement of Grayson’s fingers, enjoying each additional square inch of pale skin appearing as the shirt was pulled aside. Suddenly, the shirt slid off Grayson’s wide shoulders and followed the tie onto the chair. And Grayson didn’t stop there. His pants, shoes and socks followed quickly, but then he stopped.

“What?” James was mesmerized and hadn’t moved a single muscle during the sexy strip tease.

“You too.” Grayson’s voice sounded raspy.

“Oh.” James had rarely been this tongue-tied, but Grayson was taking his breath away with his perfect proportions and hidden strength. James began to move on autopilot, divesting himself of his tux and carelessly adding each piece of clothing to the growing heap on the chair. When James looked up, finally naked, Grayson had taken off his briefs and stood right there, gloriously erect and clearly ready to go.

“Oh shit.” Greyson frowned. “We don’t have condoms or lube.”

James blinked, trying to clear his brain from the fog of lust preventing him from thinking clearly. Then he bent to retrieve his pants and pulled the foil packet and sachet from a pocket, holding it up for Grayson’s inspection.

“Always prepared, huh?” Grayson laughed.

“I was hopeful.” James shrugged.

“I’m glad.” Grayson opened his arms and James walked right into them.

It brought their hard cocks into contact and Grayson arched his back, putting more pressure on James’s erection and making him hiss with the sudden intensity. He slid his arms around Grayson and kissed him while rubbing their lengths together slowly so he could enjoy the friction. James slowly pushed Grayson until they hit the sofa, then followed him down, careful not to crush him as they settled. With Grayson on his back, legs spread so James would fit, and their cocks aligned, things heated up really quickly.

“Hot.” Grayson gasped for air, but never stopped pushing upward to meet James’s thrusts. “More.”

James grinned. Lack of coherence was a good sign. He reached for the condom and sheathed himself. When he opened the packet of lube, Grayson sighed with relief and spread his legs farther apart.

“I need you inside me, James.” Grayson kneaded James’s asscheeks hard enough to make James lose his train of thought again.

“We’ll get there. Just let me make sure you’re ready.” James pulled back into a kneeling position, opened the sachet, and slicked his fingers. When he touched Grayson’s hole, they both moaned, and Grayson pushed upward so fast, James’s index finger slid in to the first knuckle faster than he could blink.

“Yes!” Grayson hissed and wiggled his ass. “More.”

James slid his digit deeper, watching for signs of discomfort or pain, but there were none. He added a second finger and began to spread them, and Grayson whimpered. When James hit his prostate on the first try, Grayson howled as he threw back his head and shook with need.

“Now, please, now!” Grayson reached for his cock, but James batted his hand away.

James distributed the rest of the lube on his cock and put the tip against Grayson’s waiting hole. When James started to push in, as slowly as he was able to go, the tight heat almost made him come right then and there. He stopped and focused on unsexy thoughts until he regained some measure of control.

Grayson, apparently, wouldn’t have it. He grabbed James’s ass and pulled until James bottomed out. Overwhelmed with the need to fuck, he groaned and grabbed Grayson’s shoulders so he had something to hold on to. Grayson slid his legs around James’s hips and tightened his muscles. The increase in pressure was excruciatingly wonderful, but it didn’t help him stay in charge.

“Move,” Grayson hissed.

“Grayson. Fuck. You make me crazy.” Beads of sweat pooled on James’s forehead as he fought the need to come. “Please, slow down. I want to make this good for you.”

“Then move and make me feel it.” Grayson lifted his hands to James’s shoulders and pulled him down for a scorching kiss. “I love you, but I need you to move.”

“Okay.” Who was James to fight what they clearly both wanted?

Holding onto Grayson’s shoulders to stop him from falling off the sofa, James pulled out and thrust back in quickly enough to make Grayson’s eyes widen.

“Yes! Yes, that’s what I need.” Grayson moved away when James pulled back and pushed toward him when he thrust forward, increasing the intensity of their coupling.

James began to thrust in earnest and kept his strokes long and deep as long as he was able. He saw stars every time Grayson clenched around his erection, and within minutes, James was thrusting in and out of Grayson with such speed and force it made the leather creak. Grayson’s moans and small whimpers encouraged James to keep going, and his fiancé’s wide green eyes staring at him with love and trust added an intimacy to their lovemaking that made James want to howl with joy.

The scent of Grayson’s sweat mixed with that of the leather, wood polish, and old paper of the books was the best aphrodisiac James could think of, and all sensations combined, finally drove him over the edge. James came in long bursts of ecstasy that filled the condom and must have set Grayson off. His fiancé’s come added spurts of heat to the sweat between their bodies and made them slide against each other even better.

James’s breath came in ragged gasps as he captured Grayson’s lips for another passionate kiss that didn’t exactly help to calm them down. But finally James pulled up and out to deal with the used condom by wrapping it in a handkerchief. He used a second one to clean Grayson a little, then sank back onto the sofa and took Grayson into his arms.

“I love you.” Grayson still sounded out of breath.

“I love you too.” James smiled at his fiancé. “Thank you for giving me a second chance.”

Grayson smiled and snuggled closer. James closed his eyes for a few moments, but the need to make sure they weren’t discovered soon got the better of him.

“We should probably get dressed and get back to the concert.” James didn’t sound convinced to his own ears.

“Yeah, best not to tempt fate any further.” Grayson chuckled. “I’m sure Danny has figured out what we were up to, but we can always distract him by showing our rings.”

“Good idea.” James smiled. He really liked Danny, and was glad Grayson had such a loyal supporter.

“All right, let’s go.” Grayson rose and began to sort out there clothes.

They dressed in silence, then sneaked back downstairs and outside. When they approached the stairs leading up to the ballroom level, Danny was already standing there, a wide grin on his face. Robert stood right next to him, staring at James with wide eyes that twinkled with mischief.

“Time to face the music, right?” Grayson looked at James with such love and trust in his eyes, James wanted to return to the library as fast as possible.

Instead, he tightened his grip on Grayson’s fingers for support and smiled at him. With Grayson beside him instead of fighting him, James could face anything. Their life together was just beginning, and having Grayson by his side filled him with enough love and hope to last a lifetime.

Did you enjoy Serena Yates’s story? If so, check out the rest of her books and take 25% off at checkout with the code PearlLoveFlash2. Coupon code is good for one order per customer through February 25, 2015.

Monopoly by Jameson Dash

January 24, 2015

Title: Monopoly

Author: Jameson Dash

Pairing: Aaron and Zach from Home Team

Prompt: monopoly

“You’re giving me the wheelbarrow?”

“Well, you’re not getting the dog. The dog is mine.” Aaron said this with Rocket’s head pillow on his thigh, the two of them curled up on the couch together.

“Yeah, I can see that.”

Zach hadn’t played Monopoly since he was a kid. Aaron explained that it was a ploy he and Rosie invented, a way to convince their parents to let them stay up late. A game of Monopoly could go on forever, and it was easy to beg for a few more minutes after bedtime.

“Let me say again that I don’t approve of you being the banker,” Zach said.

Aaron nodded. “Your protest has been noted for the record.”

He suggested Monopoly when Zach asked what he wanted to do for New Year’s.

“Seriously?” Zach had asked. “I thought you retired from hockey, not from life.”

But Aaron promised him a good time, even if it was going to be a good time at home. He promised Zach he would cook dinner, which was usually enough to get Zach to say yes to anything. But Zach didn’t tell Aaron that. Aaron had too much power over him already.

Aaron came home on the afternoon of the 31st with a grocery bag and a bottle of champagne. Zach was sneaking a look at his work email, in his pyjamas on the couch, but he looked up guilty anyway when Aaron stomped his boots at the front door and announced his arrival.

Dinner was a lazy affair. Zach drank wine at the kitchen table while he watched Aaron dance around the kitchen. Staying home meant they didn’t have to dress up, and it also meant Aaron was wearing sweatpants. Zach watched his hips twitch as he rolled out the pasta, leaning over the counter.

They ate on the couch, Zach’s feet up on Aaron’s lap. When their lips were red and buzzing from the spicy tomato sauce, they kissed, hours before midnight, but not caring at all.

And then Aaron pulled out the Monopoly board.

“I don’t even remember how to play,” Zach told him.

“Of course you do. It’s like riding a bike.”

“No,” Zach said. “You’re thinking of a bike.”

“You buy things, Zach. That’s how you play Monopoly.”

He busied himself with starting a fire while Aaron set up the board, shuffling the cards and counting out the money. It was dark and cold outside, but still early. Zach wasn’t even sure he would make it to midnight tonight.

Last year, it had been a lot like this. Zach had the warm house, the cuddly dog, and champagne chilling in his fridge.

But he didn’t have this man sitting on his couch, brow furrowed over brightly-colored money, teasing Zach with a smile as he waved the tiny wheelbarrow in his face.

“I’d give you the shoe,” Aaron said, “but I know you’d never wear anything that looked like this.”

Zach left the warmth of the fire behind and climbed on Aaron’s lap. They didn’t make it to midnight, but Zach had nothing to worry about.

Their new year was going to be just fine.

 

Did you enjoy Jameson Dash’s story? If so, check out the rest of Jameson’s books and take 25% off at checkout with the code JamesonDashFlash2. Coupon code is good for one order per customer through February 24, 2015.