May 27, 2015
Aiden’s Angel by Aundrea Singer
Cursed as a portal to bring an ancient evil to earth, Aiden must die to prevent tragedy. But his angel loves him too much to end his life.
Aiden Lobo is a graduate student in a world where magic, gods, and demons are part of everyday life. After a terrible betrayal, he is cursed with a Crack in his heart, turning him into a living doorway for an ancient demon of war to come to Earth and kill millions. Aiden is rescued by his guardian angel, who seals the Crack with his own Light. As a servant of the divine, the nameless angel was supposed to kill Aiden to prevent the growing cataclysm inside him. But he loves Aiden too much to end his life, even to save the world.
Aiden falls for his guardian and names him Eskandar, but then learns to his horror that because Eskandar was created for him, when Aiden dies Eskandar will too. Aiden will do anything to keep his beloved angel safe. But with no choice except to sacrifice himself to prevent the apocalypse, he only has one option: a terrible betrayal of his own.
Length: Novella (147p.) | Genre: Urban Fantasy, Paranormal, Angels and Demons
Release Date: May 27, 2015
Buy as eBook ($5.99 ISBN: 978-1-63216-983-9)
Enforcing Emory by Mickie B. Ashling
Former figure skater Emory and enforcer Nik face the pressures of career, separation, and Nik’s father’s ruthless homophobia.
Olympic figure skater Emory Lowe falls in lust the moment he lays eyes on his new neighbor, hockey player Nikolai Vetrov. On the surface, Nik is a typical badass enforcer, intimidating and dangerous, on and off the ice. The only son of Ukrainian immigrants, Nik has been groomed from childhood to fulfill his father’s dreams of seeing him in the Hockey Hall of Fame. Igor guides his son toward that goal with a controlling—and abusive—hand, steering him clear of anyone who might ruin his chances.
Although Emory is the US National Figure Skating champion, he’s in-your-face gay, and his audacious persona rubs Nik and his family the wrong way. Raised by supportive and loving parents, Emory is Nik’s polar opposite in every way but one—his desire to succeed. Underneath the fluff and glitter beats the heart of a fierce competitor, and this side of Emory’s personality begins to close the distance between the two athletes.
While the attraction is one-sided in the beginning, Nik finds himself responding to Emory’s flirting. But before the incongruous pair have a chance at any sort of relationship, they must survive the pressures of career, separation, and most importantly, Igor’s ruthless homophobia.
Length: Novel (226p.) | Genre: Contemporary | Release Date: May 27, 2015
Evac by Michael Murphy
Benji’s been a soldier so long he doesn’t know how to be a civilian, and he turns to self-destructive behavior. Will he find help in time?
While on a mission in northern Afghanistan, Benji’s helicopter is shot down. Benji went in with a band of brothers but comes out with a stack of body bags, including one for his partner, Blade.
After recovering physically in Germany, Benji is sent home to San Diego. He’s been a soldier so long he doesn’t know how to live as a civilian. The loss of his brothers and his partner weighs heavily on him. Benji’s body might be healed, but he is still a very broken man. Unable to find work, Benji turns to drinking, bar fights, risky sex with anonymous men, and striking out at everything. As he spirals out of control, he even tries volunteering in a BDSM club as a sub for demonstrations and private scenes.
Despair drives Benji to action, and he meets Nick, a young man in desperate need of hope. With his options and his money running out, the only question is if Benji will find his way in time.
Length: Novel (200p.) | Genre: Contemporary, BDSM | Release Date: May 27, 2015
Spell Bound by Jacob Z. Flores
If only Mason didn’t find himself inexplicably spellbound whenever he’s with Drake, they might find out what danger hides in the shadows.
Mason Blackmoor just can’t compete with his brothers, much less his father. They represent the epitome of black magic, strong, dark, and wicked, and though Mason tries to live up to his respected lineage, most of the spells he casts go awry. To make matters worse, his active power has yet to kick in. While his brothers wield lightning and harness the cold, Mason sits on the sidelines, waiting for the moment when he can finally enter the magical game.
When a dead body is discovered on the football field of his high school, Mason meets Drake Carpenter, the new kid in town. Drake’s confident demeanor and quick wit rub Mason the wrong way. Drake is far too self-assured for someone without an ounce of magical blood in his body, and Mason aims to teach him a lesson—like turn him into a roach. And if he’s lucky, maybe this time Mason won’t be the one turned into an insect.
Not surprisingly, the dislike is mutual, and Drake does nothing to dispel Mason’s suspicion that the sexy boy with a southern drawl is somehow connected to the murder.
If only Mason didn’t find himself inexplicably spell bound whenever they are together, they might actually find out what danger hides in the shadows.
Length: Novel (216p.) | Genre: Paranormal, Vampires, Urban Fantasy | Release Date: May 27, 2015
May 26, 2015
Since I’m here today to talk about my book, Evac, that releases tomorrow, I thought I’d share the first chapter so you can get a sense of the intensity of the story.
Only the Good Die Young
“EVAC! EVAC! We need emergency evac now!” Benji shouted at the top of his lungs into his radio for the umpteenth time. “We’re getting slaughtered out here.”
If anyone on the other end of the radio couldn’t pick up on the emotion in Benji’s voice, all they had to do was listen to the barrage of gunfire that served as background noise.
“Bravo Six. This is Bravo Two Three. Request immediate medevac. Repeat. Request immediate medevac. Situation FUBAR. Do you copy?”
Over crackling noise from the radio, Benji thought he heard someone, but whatever they said wasn’t clear. Too much static made it unintelligible. And with gunfire all around them, it was nearly impossible for Benji to hear the person beside him, let alone someone’s voice coming faintly over a weak radio transmission.
So many damned valleys all over Afghanistan made radio communication difficult at best, so Benji kept repeating the call for evacuation over and over and over again. He wasn’t convinced his messages were getting out of the valley, much less to someone who could make anything happen.
He kept repeating his call for help, pausing briefly after each attempt, hoping against hope a response would come through crystal clear.
“Evac! We need emergency medevac. We’re getting mowed down out here. Chopper down. Wounded on board. We’re taking heavy fire. We’ve got wounded and casualties. We need emergency evac. We’re surrounded by hostiles. Over.”
WHEN THEY’D climbed aboard the chopper less than an hour ago, they’d been a happy-go-lucky band of brothers out to do a day’s work. The only difference between them and anyone else was that their workplace was a war zone with inhospitable terrains and really pissed-off hostiles. Benji and his buddies were good at their jobs, and they had an excellent record.
They’d been gossiping and joking and teasing for the first part of the flight before growing quiet as they neared their drop-off point. They might have acted like adolescents, but they were trained soldiers, and when they went into a potential combat situation, that situation had their laser-like focus. It all came down to context. When they had to be hard-ass killing machines, that’s what they were. When they could relax, they joked and played and gossiped like school kids.
On their flight in that morning, the chief focus of their gossip had been one of their own. Mark had taken one of the nurses out on a date the previous day—as much as one could go on a date while eating, sleeping, living, and breathing in hell. Despite nearly nonstop teasing and taunting, Mark wouldn’t tell them what the two had talked about during their time together. When he’d returned to their shelter with a smile on his face, they were all happy for him. They wanted details, but he was a gentleman who wouldn’t kiss and tell. Hence the nonstop jabs.
Benji didn’t think he’d ever forget Mark’s smile. It had been so adorably cute it was burned into Benji’s memory, probably forever. As Benji watched his buddy die early on, when their mission started to go to hell via the express lane, all he could think of was that smile from the previous night. Benji was overwhelmed with anger that such a good guy had been mowed down. He wanted to make someone pay. He redoubled his resolve to pull something worthwhile out of the hellish mess in which they found themselves.
They’d been ready. Benji and his guys knew the drill. They’d been focused and ready to move into action the second their chopper touched down. But they didn’t get the chance to put their training to work.
Benji had been looking out the open doorway, preparing himself like all the others. He’d been unconsciously flexing his muscles, getting ready to push up and out of the chopper and onto the ground so he could run while staying low. It wasn’t an easy thing to do under the best of circumstances, but doing it wearing eighty pounds of gear, including body armor and helmet and weapons, made it ten times harder.
But it was what they did. Every day the same thing. They took their mission seriously, even when it didn’t make sense. But they weren’t paid to make policy; they were paid to carry out the mission, and they did that whether or not they agreed with why they were there. They’d all heard the shots striking their helicopter as they came in. At about twenty feet off the ground, a bullet hit some vital part of the helicopter’s propulsion system. Like an angry wild beast, their chopper whipped around violently. The machine took on a life of its own, independent of the pilot and copilot’s control—no pilot in his right mind would make a chopper do what theirs had done.
The first casualty was Benji’s buddy with the smile. Benji watched, horrified, as Mark lost his balance and his grip on the handrail when the chopper whirled around so fast. He was flung through the open doorway twenty feet above the ground. Mark screamed, but so many things were happening simultaneously, Benji and his team could barely process them fast enough to keep up.
But there could be no mistake about what happened next. Gunfire hit Mark almost immediately as he seemed to hang in midair just beyond Benji’s reach. Since Benji was next in the jump sequence, he was closest. He didn’t hear gunfire, but he felt the splash of warm wetness on his face and saw the look of surprise on his buddy’s face before an utterly blank expression replaced it. And then he was gone.
Mark plummeted to the ground, which was actually a good thing. The way their chopper was spiraling crazily in the air, if he hadn’t fallen, he would have impacted the outside of their ride.
The only good thing that particular day was they didn’t have far to fall. The chopper tried to rise as it spun wildly, so the twenty feet rapidly turned into thirty, maybe more. Benji couldn’t be sure. It didn’t matter really, because the chopper suddenly went silent. It seemed to hang in the air for a second, and then it fell from the sky.
Funny thing about helicopters: if their engines stop, they don’t glide down gently like an airplane—they drop like a rock.
Thankful the spinning had stopped, Benji was dizzy from the rapid whipping motion. Then he felt the crash. No way anyone could miss the fact their ride had just hit the ground.
The chopper came down on its right side, which unfortunately had the open door. Benji saw the chopper skin crumple beside him—or more accurately beneath him, given their new orientation to the ground. All Benji knew for sure was the side of a helicopter—up or down or sideways—wasn’t supposed to do what the part he was lying against had done.
In the moments after the crash, Benji heard moaning amid the various creaking noises the dead machine was making. He knew their first priority was to get out before the thing potentially exploded. It would take only one lucky shot for someone to send them all to hell in one group.
Benji wasn’t the commander of their unit. He couldn’t figure out why their leader wasn’t, well, leading. The leader was supposed to lead in all situations, even the unexpected ones, especially the unexpected ones, and this certainly fit the bill as unexpected. So why wasn’t he leading?
It took a moment for Benji to push himself up a little and then shove something aside enough so he could move. One look at their unit leader’s broken body told Benji the man wasn’t going to lead anyone anywhere. Benji wasn’t sure how Major Evans had become impaled on someone’s automatic rifle, but it must have been fast to drive it all the way through his torso.
Someone had to take charge immediately. No one else was together enough to do it, so pecking order be damned. They needed to live.
Benji automatically shouted out, “Who can move?”
Jumbled answers came from the wreckage. Some guys just moaned, which told him they would need to be carried out because they weren’t going anywhere under their own power.
Although it was difficult, Benji pushed himself free and started to crawl toward an opening in the chopper. It had probably been part of the cockpit; he didn’t know, and it didn’t matter. He needed to find a way to get his buddies out of the death trap before it blew up or some local showed up and started shooting them like fish in a barrel.
He remembered his grandfather using that phrase a lot when Benji was little. He had asked the old man why anyone would have their fish in a barrel anyway. He couldn’t remember whether or not his grandfather had ever answered his question, but the phrase had stuck and somehow seemed appropriate at that moment.
The rest of the helicopter was a twisted mass of metal. The former windshield seemed to be the most logical way out, if Benji could get the shattered glass to give way. It wasn’t easy, but he braced against something and started kicking at it. He’d expected, given its condition, it would rapidly pop out, but despite two or three kicks, the windshield remained stubbornly in place.
A couple more attempts and some of it loosened. Anxious to get his guys out of the dead bird as fast as possible, Benji kept kicking, pulling on inner reserves of strength and determination. This was for his guys, his brothers, his buddies. He’d do anything for his guys, just like they’d do the same for him.
When it finally released its hold, the windshield simply fell away from the chopper in a less than dramatic fashion. After all that effort, he’d almost hoped for something big and impressive, but he’d settle for plain and boring as long as it meant out.
The way clear, he shouted, “Come on, guys, haul it out. We need to get clear. Move it. Follow me.” One of his buddies crawled toward him. Benji flung his rifle over his shoulder and reached back to pull the guy out of the wreckage.
Something wet dripped down onto his neck. What is that smell? He recognized it, but his brain wasn’t at peak efficiency. What the hell is it? Jet fuel! That’s it. It smells like jet fuel. That isn’t good. No. That’s very, very bad.
He had to move them faster. “Fuel leak. Haul your asses out of here now!” he told them. A couple of them scrambled toward him, each helping an injured guy who couldn’t make it on his own.
Benji did a quick scan of the area, looking not only for bandits but also for cover. He needed to find shelter for them, some place from which they could fight and protect their wounded. He began putting the injured against a large boulder about twenty feet from where they’d impacted the ground.
He tried to radio for help after getting the first of the injured on the ground behind the boulder. The damned landscape of northern Afghanistan made radio communication so difficult. He tried and tried to get word out. He moved another injured comrade to safety, then tried once again to radio for help.
OUT OF their group of eighteen guys, only Benji and two others were able to move about without any problem—mostly. Ten had injuries of some sort, most serious enough to make their condition critical. The rest were dead. Benji made a mental note of who was where so he could direct their rescue party to recover the bodies of the dead.
Dead. Benji used the term in his mind, but it was just a word, a descriptor that didn’t carry any special meaning. It didn’t mean anything to him in terms of individuals. It was a logistical term. He was still pushing on adrenaline so he could make plans and carry out actions, but he couldn’t process emotions. Those were luxuries that would come later, if they survived. Surviving was first and foremost.
Huddled behind the boulder, Benji felt something hit the ground near his leg. “Son of a bitch!” he cursed aloud. The bandits had found them and were getting close enough to their position to start firing on them. Benji started to move, but his left leg seized up. “Fuck. I don’t have time for a fucking muscle cramp,” he muttered to himself.
“Pull in, guys,” he ordered, not that his buddies could do much more pulling—they were packed in fairly compact already.
Benji looked to his right to repeat his order in time to watch Blade, the other uninjured guy, get hit. One shot and he was dead, his death nearly instantaneous. It hadn’t been dramatic. One minute he was living, looking at the guy next to him, starting to look at Benji to say something—he’d lifted his head and opened his mouth—and then he was dead. Welcome to god-fucking-damn Afghanistan. Benji’s heart clenched at what he had just witnessed. He wanted to weep, to wail, to curse the universe, but he did not have the luxury to feel anything. Feelings would have to come later. Grief would have to come later. First he needed to survive. Soldiers compartmentalized things, which was exactly what Benji did. Put it away and deal with it later.
For what felt like an eternity, Benji and his fellow soldiers tried to fight back. Anyone who wasn’t unconscious was fighting. Even those who couldn’t sit up still aimed their rifles or handguns and fired at hostiles, or they helped by reloading when someone’s weapon ran out of ammo.
Only Benji and one other guy were upright at that point, and the other guy was wounded. They were doing the bulk of the fighting, trying desperately to locate where the hostiles were hidden so they could try to take them out. The only problem was there seemed to be a whole lot more of them than of Benji’s unit, and the hostiles had the upper hand.
He smelled it before he saw it. The air was thick with the stench of fuel of some sort. The closest he could come to identifying it was jet fuel, probably from their wounded bird. He quickly looked at the broken body of their helicopter and saw that what had been drops of fuel was now a constant trickle. The breeze shifted, so the smell of the fuel reached him now where it hadn’t before. While not good, it wasn’t the worst of his problems at the moment.
Something impacted the boulder inches from where they huddled. It caused pieces of the rock to break off, dust and grit falling on them as they tried to make themselves the smallest targets possible. The worst wasn’t the grit. Hell, they could handle that. The problem was that the impact of the bullet had caused an explosive sound at what seemed like mere inches from Benji’s head. The loud noise deafened him for a few moments and left him with a horrible sense of disorientation. He put his head down for a second and then shook it, trying to clear the blockage in his ears, not that there was much hope of that happening.
The silence was replaced by a ringing in his ears that got louder. That ringing was replaced eventually by a low-level sound of gunfire from the surrounding area. Everything sounded muffled, as if someone had thrown a really thick blanket over his head, only he knew they hadn’t, because he could still see everything and everyone—he just couldn’t hear shit.
He swiveled his head left and then right. Without his hearing, he had only his sight to check on his guys. Again his look was timed so he had to watch another of his brethren mowed down by hostile fire. Things were not good if the unfriendlies were so close they could get a shot off like that one. This was bad. This was really, really bad.
The only good Benji could find at that split second in time was that the smell of fuel was gone. The problem was, the gas smell had been replaced by the odor of blood. Before coming to Afghanistan, Benji had never realized that blood had a smell. But he knew now from experience that blood most definitely did have a distinctive odor, almost a metallic smell, as odd as that seemed. And that day, in that place, the ground was soaked with blood, American blood, the blood of his brothers.
May 26, 2015
To share some mid-day entertaining eye candy.
This is Aleks. I’ve had the great pleasure of working with him three different times and I loved each and every one of them. He is so manly and yet so comfortable acting vulnerable or giddy. He can project so many different emotions so easily. He’s originally from Bulgaria. I think he’d look great on a book cover some day.
May 26, 2015
Sometimes I wonder who I am. One of these days I need to decide what I want to do when I grow up because the years seem to keep rush past all to quickly. During the week I spend my days working at a small organization in downtown Washington, DC. My office is a block or so from the White House so we’re right in the heart of the city and most days I hear motorcades rushing past just outside my window.
In the ideal world I wouldn’t have to go to the daytime job but could stay home and write, take pictures of hot men for use on book covers, and yes, even clean the house occasionally even though the dog hates the vacuum cleaner. But instead I’m sitting in a demo of a new piece of software. My job is to help people find technical solutions to problems they have. In other words, I help people spend money.
Right now I’m helping some folks find the right software to host their large and complicated website. Since they’re looking at spending more than a quarter of a million dollars they are eager to get it right. I’ve done this for years and I’m good at it, but I’d still rather be writing, even though writing doesn’t earn most people much money. So I go to my office to pay the mortgage and keep the dog in treats.
When not working, I love to read, write, photograph handsome men, and even occasionally travel. My goal is to see as much of this world of ours as possible. So far I’ve been to 29 countries and 46 of the 50 US states. I love meeting people even though I’m fairly shy and reserved. So in a nutshell, that’s me.
May 26, 2015
When we started the editing process for Evac, I had not realized that it would be released on the week of the Memorial Day holiday. What a fitting time for this story to be published. Evac is the story of Benji, a soldier stationed in Afghanistan. One morning he and his band of brothers board a helicopter for a flight north. It is a standard mission until it all goes to hell in a heartbeat. Snipers bring down their chopper. Those who were not killed outright in the crash are slowly picked off one by one as they try to get away from the fuel leak and smoldering remains of their chopper.
Benji does his best to keep his men safe and to fight back, but they are seriously outnumbered. He tries desperately to radio for help, for medical evacuation, but the valleys of Afghanistan make radio communication difficult. When help does finally come and the Marines mount a rescue mission, there are more body bags than anything else. When Benji wakes in a hospital in Germany he learns he is the sole survivor of his unit. All of his men, all of his brothers, all of his buddies are gone.
This book traces Benji’s journey as he tries to return to life as a civilian back in San Diego. Survivor’s guilt, PTSD, and lack of understanding of how to be anything but a soldier make his reintegration to civilian life next to impossible. He is driven from one wild extreme to another in attempts to atone for surviving while everyone else died.
Reviews and Feedback
Early reader reviews of this book have been uniformly and overwhelmingly positive:
“This one has a lot of power.”
“This is a heart-breaking story about a very realistic character. I really sympathized with Benji and his circumstances. It is so sad what happens to many of our veterans, and you’ve done a really nice job portraying that here. I’m glad you wrote this—it will bring attention to an important issue. I was so glad when Benji met Nick, and I hope they continue to be good for each other.”
“Wow! I loved this one; it is quite a powerful story and Benji is wonderful and well-developed.”
“I was riveted throughout”
“This has been one of my favorite stories this year. Thank you!”
The cover art for this book is taken from a beautiful piece by the gifted artist Michael Breyette. I adore his work and am honored to be able to use one of his works as the cover for Evac. The image he has produced is so absolutely perfect for Benji and the desperation he comes to feel. I could not have asked for a more perfect cover than this one.
May 25, 2015
Billy Goat Stats by John C. Houser
Between a relationship with Jonah and the basketball program at Hoosier State, Billy needs depth of character as much as physical endurance.
Back from summer basketball camp and starting at Hoosier State on an athletic scholarship, Billy is looking forward to playing basketball free of pressure from his overbearing, bigoted father. Too bad he’s trading one set of problems for another. His boyfriend Jonah dumps him, expecting he’ll want to spread his wings now that he’s away from home, and the basketball program at State proves harder to navigate than he imagined.
Despite his hurt at Jonah’s treatment, Billy is not ready to give up on a relationship with the out-and-proud musician. Their geographical distance isn’t Billy’s biggest problem, since it makes it easier for him to stay in the closet. In fact, when the press starts sniffing around the basketball team, it turns out he’s not the only one with a secret. Every member of the team must choose where, and with whom, they stand. The success of Billy’s season may depend as much on the depth of his character as his physical endurance.
Length: Novel (246p.) | Genre: Contemporary, New Adult | Release Date: May 25, 2015
Stranger at the Door by J.S. Cook
Calvin Amos always imagined himself in possession of some great love or other. He didn’t know he had to die to find it.
South Carolina lawyer Calvin Amos is confident he can gain Thomas Basinger his freedom on appeal. Thom was convicted of a murder during an armed robbery gone bad. But Basinger’s case proves more difficult than Cal anticipated, and the battle he assumed he’d win turns into a devastating failure. Remorseful over the personal defeat, after Basinger is executed, Cal throws himself out of his office window.
Bizarrely, the fall doesn’t kill him. Even stranger, Thom Basinger rings Cal’s doorbell looking for a job. Both men are drawn to each other. Before long, the two forge a unique, heartfelt connection that transcends the boundaries of life and death.
Calvin Amos always imagined himself in possession of some great love or other. He didn’t know he had to die to find it.
Length: Novella (87p.) | Genre: Historical: Americas, Paranormal: Ghosts/Spirits
Release Date: May 25, 2015
Buy as eBook ($3.99 ISBN: 978-1-63476-035-5)
Fire and Ice by Andrew Grey
Ex-lovers Donald and Carter reluctantly come together to care for orphaned Alex, and Alex’s secrets might be their key to happiness.
Carter Schunk is a dedicated police officer with a difficult past and a big heart. When he’s called to a domestic disturbance, he finds a fatally injured woman, and a child, Alex, who is in desperate need of care. Child Services is called, and the last man on earth Carter wants to see walks through the door. Carter had a fling with Donald a year ago and found him as cold as ice since it ended.
Donald (Ice) Ickle has had a hard life he shares with no one, and he’s closed his heart to all. It’s partly to keep himself from getting hurt and partly the way he deals with a job he’s good at, because he does what needs to be done without getting emotionally involved. When he meets Carter again, he maintains his usual distance, but Carter gets under his skin, and against his better judgment, Donald lets Carter guilt him into taking Alex when there isn’t other foster care available. Carter even offers to help care for the boy.
Donald has a past he doesn’t want to discuss with anyone, least of all Carter, who has his own past he’d just as soon keep to himself. But it’s Alex’s secrets that could either pull them together or rip them apart—secrets the boy isn’t able to tell them and yet could be the key to happiness for all of them.
Length: Novel (200p.) | Genre: Contemporary | Release Date: May 25, 2015
May 25, 2015
I love cruises. For years Dominic and I took great vacations. We went to South Dakota to see the monuments, we spent a week in New York and saw everything we could want. We’ve been to Vienna, Munich, Amsterdam, Berlin, Schwabish Hall, Freiburg, Baden Baden. We always had a great time and we always ended up arguing over where we were going to eat. Dominic wanted to find someplace interesting and fun, so he’d go up and down each street to find something that caught his eye. Me, I was hungry and wanted to eat now!!!! There were times I swore I was going to eat the bark off the trees we passed before I got any food.
Then we discovered cruising and our problems were solved completely. We’ve been to Aruba, Curacao, Bonaire, Antigua, St. Lucia, St. Croix, St Thomas, Cozumel, Barbados, Haiti, Mexico, and many other places with no arguments about food at all. The ships make it so easy. I don’t want to sound like a cruise commercial, but there’s the buffet, the main dining room, specialty restaurants, cafes, hot dog stands, ice cream, salad cafes, served lunches, buffet lunches, and enough sweets to tempt a saint. I was happy as Louie Anderson at an all you can eat buffet. Included in the price of the cruise were enough food options that Dominic was happy and I was thrilled because I never have to wander around wondering where we were going to eat.
Before we leave on any cruise, Dominic knows the menus, what will be serves each night and even what he wants to order. Or if there is nothing, what he can do to get them to make something special. (We’ve been on enough cruises now that they really want to make us happy) Cruises are my dream vacation. I get to write, relax, and never, ever wonder where in the heck my next meal is going to come from. Because let me tell you, the time we were in Munich, it was two o’clock in the afternoon, and he still couldn’t find anything he wanted to eat… was dang near grounds for divorce. And we were on our honeymoon. Not anymore. We’re both happy, well fed, and we love every minute. We embark again in January.
Find Andrew Grey at the Dreamspinner Press Author Arcade here!
May 23, 2015
Denise and Puppymama. ONE of you has to get Walking Wounded – you both can, if you like. Please email me at lee.rowan@yahoo (dot) com.
Thanks, everyone! Have a great Memorial day weekend!
May 23, 2015
Of course life is never as easy as we’d like. The guys are just settling into their new place together when Keven gets a call from his old CO. The renegade mercenary who killed two of his men has apparently set off on a vendetta against everyone who got him fired. He’s already eliminated the commander who scapegoated Kevin, and another man… and Kevin is likely next on the list. And the SAS doesn’t know anything about the killer’s whereabouts–except that he is somewhere in England.
* * * *
“What’s going on?” Johnny asked. “You’re not leaving again.” It wasn’t a question.
“I can’t talk about it yet. Not here. Let’s go for a ride, Johnny.” He dug out his car keys and tossed them over. “You drive.”
He knew it was most likely his imagination that made a spot between his shoulder blades itch when they went out onto the street. And he knew he looked like a fool when he raised the bonnet, and even more so when he got down to check beneath the car before taking the keys and starting it himself. That didn’t matter. He wasn’t about to take chances with Johnny’s life. He left the keys in the ignition and climbed into the passenger side.
“Kev, where are we going?” John asked, once they were clear of the car park and rolling down the road. “What the hell is going on?”
“I need to get out of the house for a little while. Let’s go grocery shopping.” That wasn’t just a way of killing time either, come to think of it. If this was going to turn into a siege, now was the time to lay in provisions.
“Bear with me, please.” Kevin put a hand on Johnny’s thigh, felt the tension in his body. It wasn’t fair to throw him into this. “I’ll explain everything, I promise.”
John put his hand over Kevin’s. “All right. Mind if I switch on the radio?”
“No, go ahead.” They drove another ten minutes to the sprightly but incongruous melodies of a Strauss waltz festival while Kevin checked the number now programmed into his mobile phone, noted it on a page of his pocket notebook, then pulled the back of the phone off and disconnected the battery. While he had the notebook out, he started a grocery list.
Halfway through “The Blue Danube,” John turned into the car park at Tesco’s and stopped the car at the edge of the lot, far away from the building. “All right, now can you—”
Kevin put a finger to his lips and got out of the car. John followed, frowning. When they were a few yards away from the vehicle, Kevin stopped. “Johnny, I’m sorry. I couldn’t be sure the car isn’t bugged.”
“Never mind apologizing, I can see it’s not your idea. Just tell me what’s going on.”
Kevin outlined the situation, with a few heartfelt expletives thrown in for good measure. “And they’ve taken it upon themselves to add an emergency number to my phone.” He tore out the page and gave it to John. “Keep this. If anything happens to me, or if we get separated and you see anything suspicious, call that number.”
John tucked the page in his pocket. “What did you do to your mobile?”
“I took the battery out. That shuts off the fucking GPS and keeps them from eavesdropping on us.”
“Think about it. Mobile phones bounce their signals off satellites—that’s how global positioning works, right?”
“Yes. Oh.” John’s eyes widened. “Damn! That’s right—remote location for emergencies. Last year some lost hikers were rescued because one of them had a mobile phone.”
“Right. Most people don’t realize that their handy little mobile can also be switched on remotely and used as a transmitter by anyone who’s got an override code. That means emergency services—and the military. The only way to make sure they can’t do it is to take out the battery. No power, no signal. You don’t have a cell, do you?”
“No, just the landline.”
“All right. One thing we’ll do here is buy one of those pay-as-you-go units and have it activated on-site. I can get around the registration codes so it won’t be traceable to us. We’ll use that to call Pat and Tess, then I’ll switch on this one to call my parents—no point in leaving the thing dead for too long. Now, if Shaney’s death was murder rather than just an accident, we know where our renegade merc was last night, so with any luck he won’t know anything about your connection to the ladies. The next thing….” He took a deep breath and tried to consider where they were most vulnerable.
It was so damned easy to slip back into the mindset of being at war with the whole world. Too easy. Kevin knew it was possible that they’d already been followed, that John and his circle of friends were already in danger—but even if there was more than one enemy hunting him, it only made sense for them to be working together, not scattering their forces.
“Johnny, the next thing I’d say is let’s leave the animals at the vet and see if Pat would be willing to pick them up and take them to my mother for safekeeping. I don’t believe my parents are in danger. The Colonel didn’t say anything about Shaney’s family being attacked, and my father has a pretty impressive security system on the house. He’ll see to it that the rest of the family is covered.”
John nodded. “Are you sure all that’s necessary?”
“No, I’m not. But—Johnny, we’re dealing with people who killed two of my men rather than wait ten minutes for an all clear. They’re the kind of bastards who’d shoot a stray dog, or even a stray kid, just because they had loaded guns and a moving target—so long as they wouldn’t be held responsible. There’s no telling who they might go after. What I probably ought to do is take you home and let the outfit set me up somewhere as bait.”
“No.” John closed the distance between them, moving so close Kevin could feel the warmth of his body. “You are not going off on your own to make a target of yourself.”
“I said that’s what I ought to do. But the problem is, if our side has found me, maybe the enemy has, too. It may already be too late.”
“So you’ll stay?”
“What would you do if I didn’t?”
He wasn’t prepared for the sheer pain that shattered Johnny’s face. Then John took a deep breath and got control of himself—obviously with an effort. He turned without another word and strode off toward the store’s entrance.
Kevin trotted to keep up. “Johnny!”
Another deep breath. “Look, Kev, I don’t mean to put pressure on you. I really don’t. But if you went off and got killed….” John stopped and turned to face Kevin, his eyes filled with tears. “I could only hope the fuckers would find me too, as soon as possible.”
The words felt like a punch. “John—”
“I’m sorry. That’s not rational, it’s not fair, it’s probably emotional blackmail, but—” Johnny threw up his hands helplessly. “You’ve got to understand something. When I had no choice, I made myself learn to survive—learn to keep myself together, make new connections, all the things they say make life worth living. But it’s all bullshit, Kev. What makes my life worth living is having you in it. In terms of being an emotionally healthy, self-sustaining, self-actualized human being, I’m a net loss.”
“Johnny—” Kevin was at a loss himself. He’d known John wouldn’t want him to go, but he hadn’t expected anything this heavy. “John, I’m not leaving, damn it!”
“You fucking should! I wouldn’t blame you if you did—I’m not exactly the man to have at your back. I wouldn’t even mind if you left me for somebody else—it would be the smartest thing you could do. I could handle that. But I can’t handle your going off to get killed because you think I need—”
“—protecting,” John finished, and stopped. He dragged a sleeve across his face, sniffed, and took a long, unsteady breath. “Damn. Sorry, love. PTSD crap. You have nightmares, I have these sodding waterworks.”
Kevin ached to hold him, but here in a car park, he just couldn’t. “Are you all right? To go in the store, I mean.”
“You’re not going to run off and get killed?”
“No, I won’t.” He hated to say it. Clearing out still felt like the one sure way he could protect Johnny, and that was more important than anything else. Well… more important than anything but keeping Johnny’s trust, and apparently he couldn’t do both. “I give you my word—whatever it is, we’ll see it through together.”
John put his hands on Kevin’s shoulders, his body relaxing. “Thank you. And I’m sorry, Kev. I am not trying to be a fucking drama queen.”
“I know.” Kevin slapped him on the arm. “It’s all right. You’d look like hell in sequins. Especially in Brighton, this time of year.”
“No, I’m just throwing out a name. But we might want to put some distance between us and Portsmouth—make ourselves moving targets so our team can see who follows when we move. My instinct is to get this bastard as far from our home as we possibly can. That is—” He stopped for a moment, distracted, as a car pulled in off the road. He kept an eye on it as he finished his sentence. “That is, if this is for real. People do die in traffic accidents, and national security types do tend to see enemies around every corner. The trouble is, some of the time they’re right.”
“How long do you think it’ll be before we find out for certain?”
That was the real question, wasn’t it? Never mind the unfairness of it—the fact that they would be living in fear because someone somewhere had neglected to arrest a war criminal, and that murderous bastard had decided to hold a grudge against one of his victims who had been so inconsiderate as to survive the initial attack. The real problem was that they were potential targets and would be until the renegade merc was caught.
If he was caught. If he was even out there at all.
“I don’t know, Johnny. There’s just no way to know.”
May 23, 2015
This is the sort of thing I imagined waking past-life memories for the boys — the old HMS Warrior. It was England’s first iron-hulled warship, and would have been the New Big Thing in naval vessels when Will Marshall and David Archer were very, very old men.
And of course, there’s HMS Victory, Lord Nelson’s ship–built for a crew of 800 and bigger than a lot of buildings of the era:
Here’s a street in Portsmouth, the sort of building that Kevin and John wound up living in. Some of the older places look unchanged, from the outside, while some are obviously modernized:
And this is just a picture I enjoy. It’s the time of year when the story’s set – late November, just the start of the holiday season but before the tourists come in. Grey and moody…
I hope you’ve enjoyed the tour!
One last excerpt, and I’ll be signing off. I’ll wait an hour or so and then pick a couple of winners of a download — Walking Wounded or Sail Away, winner’s choice!