A Spartan Love Excerpt

December 8, 2014

“Andreas! Get in here right now. How many times do I have to tell you that the kryptes will kill you if they catch you outside after dark? He could hear his mother’s voice as if she were still alive, calling to him from the safety of their house.

“I’m trying, Mother!” he muttered to her shade. He would never forget that one of the Spartan warriors had slain his father for nothing more than being a helot. Andreas crossed his fingers and flicked them away from his heart in an attempt to ward off a similar fate.

Andreas scanned his surroundings, his gaze veering between his home and the tree line beyond the goats’ enclosure. The mud-brick hut with its tidy little garden dominated the otherwise smooth grounds. Silhouetted against rosy clouds, safety beckoned. However, the encroaching darkness under the trees drove a shiver up his spine.

He was all alone. Or hoped he was.

A spur of the forest behind him jutted between his house and his nearest neighbor. Petros lived on the far side, his dwelling hidden from Andreas’ sight. Petros’ family would already be safely bundled under their roof, locked up tight as twilight approached. No helot was foolish enough to brave the dark and risk death.

Even though the hut didn’t look like much, Andreas wanted to be within the shelter of his home.

But Pan, the aptly named offspring of mischief, had other ideas. For some reason, when Andreas brought his flock home, the big buck had resisted entering the enclosure. The rest of the goats were milling about, following his obdurate example as the last of the daylight bled from the sky and Andreas grew more desperate.

“Curse you, Pan! If you don’t get in there, I’ll have you for dinner. How would you like that?” Knuckles white, he raised his staff and shook it.

Almost as if he understood, Pan bolted inside the lean-to with a startled bleat, his harem quick on his heels. Not a moment too soon. Nerves pushed to the snapping point, Andreas might have been willing to leave them to fend for themselves. He muttered imprecations as he shoved the brambles into the opening, blocking their exit. Though disgruntled, he was glad he hadn’t been forced to choose between their well-being and his life.

Leaves rustled in the nearby forest despite the lack of so much as a breath of wind, and Pan bleated uneasily. Andreas strained to hear anything else, anything at all. What was out there? A rival buck? Wolves? One of the kryptes?

Andreas shivered as cold sweat covered him. Please don’t let it be one of the deadly kryptes stalking me, intent on proving himself. The young warriors, the best Sparta could produce, killed helots for sport and to hone their skills.

The final rays of sunlight faded, leaving muted colors and hushed twilight in their wake, weighing down his heart with apprehension. Andreas hoped the kryptes who had been haunting the area didn’t consider sunset to be the definition of “after dark.” By decree, the warriors killed any helot they encountered at night, holding the subjugated population in check and using terror to quell any revolts before they started.

Glancing warily around, Andreas wondered if he could reach his home before being attacked. It isn’t dark yet. I can be inside before the last light fades. He couldn’t see anyone, but a good kryptes would be nigh impossible to spot. Drawing a deep breath, he sprinted toward the hut, his heart pounding.

Nearly there! A branch snapped, and he lost his footing as he attempted to look over his shoulder. He scrambled to get on his feet and back inside before….

In his mind’s eye, a red-cloaked figure strode calmly up behind him, a sword held in one fist. “Theos save me!”

Andreas made the last bit on his hands and knees, too shaken to regain his feet. The statue of Priapos with its obscenely large phallus jutting before him guarded his doorway. The god stood ready to protect this boundary against any trespassers, wielding his prodigious cock like a club. Having never been in this position before, Andreas had no idea if the deity would be able to protect him.

He clawed at the door for a moment before he managed to slip inside. Back pressed to the thick mud-brick wall, he forced himself to draw one deep shuddering breath after another.

The sound of another twig snapping came through his open window.

Oh Hades! Someone is out there.

Andreas fought to quiet his breathing as his bowels turned to water. Had the kryptes come to wreak judgment on him as they had on his father?

A faint scrabbling at his door had Andreas attempting to wedge himself into the much too narrow space under his cot. The wooden frame scraped across the floor, the sound muffled by the packed dirt. Hiding there had been so much easier when he’d done this as a child at his mother’s insistence. He barely fit now.

If the warrior was desperate enough to enter the one-room house, Andreas couldn’t risk being seen. The young man wouldn’t draw the line at murdering a helot.

He tried to convince himself the youth merely wanted something to eat. Everyone knew the boys in the Spartan agōgē were kept on the sharp edge of hunger to encourage theft; although, if anyone caught the young man at it, he would be flogged. They trained to be effective warriors, capable of foraging while on campaign, not common thieves.

Andreas might have reached the relative safety of his home, but he still wasn’t out of danger. The kryptes might yet kill Andreas to spare himself a beating for being observed. Not that Andreas would dare report him.

A breath of wind entered his home along with the intruder. Priapos’ threat hadn’t deterred the man. A shudder tore through Andreas as the door closed with a faint thump against the frame, trapping him inside with a killer.

A Spartan Love

A Spartan Love-final

Body Language

December 8, 2014

I have a free short story, Body Language set in the Apollo’s Men world, available for download from Smashwords. It takes place more than a decade before the events in A Spartan Love.

Body Language takes place in Lydia—a kingdom in Asia Minor (now part of modern Turkey) that was conquered by Cyrus the Great during the 6th century BC and became part of the Persian Empire.

Years later, Lykos, the son of the king of the Thracian city-state, Aenus, is travelling incognito through the conquered province. To avoid arousing questions as to why he is there, he is only accompanied by the Persian, Narses, a friend of his father. Hearing cries for help, the two men intervene. They are too late to save a merchant and his slave, but they arrive in time to prevent bandits slaying the third member of the party.

Kas recently lost his family and was grateful to be travelling under the protection of Tahmasp. Now the merchant is dead, his future is once more under threat. He would like nothing better than to remain with the handsome warrior, but how can he explain that to a man who speaks little but Greek?

body language cover

The House on F Street by Christopher Hawthorne Moss

December 2, 2014

When I woke that morning, I was alone in the bed.  This was not unusual as Rufus often got up early to take his “customary constitutional on Constitution”, but I was sorry anyway.  Last night had been lovely, sweet and passionate at the same time.  After nights like that I always wanted to wake up in his arms.

I heard the door to my bedchamber open slowly and twisted my head to see if it was he.  “Oh, it’s you, Annie.”  Out of kindness to the girl, I hoped she did not hear the disappointment in my voice.

“A good mornin’ to you, Senator,” she replied in her brogue.  Annie is our maid of all work and came straight to Washington from somewhere near Limerick.  “I am here to open your curtains and to see if you’ll be after comin’ down for breakfast or want to have a tray brought up.”

I sat up in bed and made sure my nightshirt wasn’t a scandal.  “Is the Senator at home?” I asked her hopefully.

“Himself is not, sir,” she answered, grasping the heavy curtains and thrusting them apart with a clatter of the curtain rings.  “Senator King went out quite early this morning.”

I sighed.  It was a special day, you see.  It was St. Valentine’s Day, and I so wanted to spend it with, well, my paramours is a word I have heard it called.  I am sure the wags in Congress have unkinder terms than that.  I had hoped to breakfast with Rufus on this special day of all days.  I knew he had not forgotten, as he had made reference to the occasion when we lay together in my bed last evening.

“I shall take my meal in here then.  Will you be a dear and hand me my dressing gown?”

A neat and prim little woman, no older than 25, Annie was a country girl and seemingly blessedly ignorant of the ways of the world.  I once overheard her speaking with the boy who delivers produce talking in low tones.  He appeared to have been telling her how my old friend Andrew Jackson called me “Miss Nancy” and my dear Rufus “Aunt Fancy”.  She must have expressed some confusion as I saw him lean to her and whisper something in her ear.  She drew back with a look of horror on her face and exclaimed, “Jack, no!  Senator Buchanan is a very respectable statesman, so he is.  He and Senator. King are just housemates.  I never heard such a shameful thing in all me days,” she went on.  “I am thinkin’ you have a filthy mind, Jack Hamilton.”

I was loath to believe that she was that innocent, I must tell you.  But then so young and just off the boat, who knows?  I saw to it she got a stern talking to by our cook, Mabel, who impressed upon the girl the importance of not sharing tales with the likes of delivery boys.

I had breakfasted and dressed and decided to go into my study and read up on two bills that my party would bring to a vote in the afternoon.  I took my seat by the small fireplace to read when I happened to look up at the mantelpiece.  I sat and stared for a moment, sensing something missing.  I realized with a start that the empty place on the wall was where my painting of Mr. Jackson, Old Hickory, should be. It was a gift from him.   “My stars!” I exclaimed.  I shot up from my chair and flew to the door.  When I was in the hall I shouted, “Annie!  Come here this instant!”

In a moment the girl was standing before me, her eyes wide and her hands twisting anxiously in her apron.  “Whatever be amiss, sir?” she asked.

“That!” I said, pointing to the bare spot on the wall.

She peered in the direction I indicated.  “Sir?”

“See for yourself!” I accused.

She crept past me, crossing the room to peer closely at the wall.  She carefully looked all around, her nose no more than a few inches from pressing against the wallpaper.  She reached up a pale finger and touched a spot.  She finally turned to me with a perplexed expression.  “I be that sorry, Senator, but I’m not findin’ anything amiss.”

Making an impatient harrumph, I stated, “That is just what I mean, girl.  You don’t see anything amiss… because what should be there is missing.”

She turned back and looked, then threw up her hands and said, “Saints preserve us!  Why this is where that picture of that disagreeable looking old gentleman should be.  What happened to it?”

“That ‘disagreeable old gentleman, as you describe him, my dear, is the seventh President of these United States, Mr. Andrew Jackson!  The painting was a gift to me from that august personage.  And how should I know where it’s gone?  I called you in here to have you tell me that.”

Her look of chagrin quickly shifted to hurt feelings.  With her fists on her narrow hips she muttered something in what I assume was Irish and then, in what passes for English through her lips, she said, “Senator, you cannot be suggestin’ that I should take the old thing, now, would you?”

I realized she was right, that I had not taken care to be clear that all I wanted to know was if she had removed the portrait.  “I beg your pardon, Annie.  I was intemperate.  I merely wanted to know if the picture had been removed for some reason.”

Giving me such a look of “Are you simple?” she shook her head.  “Well I am that certain that it has, Senator.  By whom and why I cannot tell.”

Now I was annoyed that she should take such an insolent approach to my obvious wish to learn where my treasured portrait of Old Hickory had been removed to.  Impatiently I demanded, “Then go ask cook what she knows.”

Annie put her proud shoulders back and an imperious nose in the air and whisked out of the study.  “Aye, sir, that I shall.”

I followed her to prevent her from sharing her less flattering thoughts about me with the cook.  When I arrived at the kitchen just behind her I heard her ask, in a manner of utmost asperity, where the portrait of Mr. Jackson that was hung on the Senator’s study wall above the mantelpiece might be.

The cook looked up at me then and bobbed a respectful curtsy.  “Senator Buchanan, I cannot say.”  She turned towards the scullery door and called out, “Jack, come in here.”

From the scullery emerged the tousled headed befreckled face of the young scamp, Jack Hamilton.  “Ma’am?” he squeaked.  He had a partly consumed piece of cake in his grubby hand.

I took over the questioning.  “Young man, a very valuable picture is missing from my study.  Do you know anything about that?”

The boy looked from me to Mabel and then to Annie, the look on his face bespeaking a readiness to make up a story turned into genuine puzzlement.  “Why, no, sir.  I never even seen it.”

Annie said smugly, “It’s a paintin’ of the seventh president of these United States, it is!”

The boy looked back at me, wide eyed.  I headed off whatever he was going to say.  “Never mind, boy.  I shall no doubt have to summon a policeman to look into the matter.  Would be so kind as to find one and send him to this house?”

He had gone pale, making me wonder if I had been hasty in exonerating him from guilt, but with one look at Mabel, he stuffed the rest of the cake in his mouth, said something no one could have understood, took his soft cap from a back pocket, and exiting quickly, pulled it onto his head.

It was clear when no officer of the law arrived at my front door within a half hour that Jack had not made the effort.  I called for Annie to fetch my coat, gloves and hat.  I shall go to the Senate for the rest of the day.  If I see a policeman on the way, I will enlist his assistance.”

In the foyer, she helped me on with my coat.  I asked, “Is Senator King expected to take his supper at home, do you know?”

“I do not, sir.  The Senator left so early this morn that I did not see to speak to him”

I went out the door onto F Street where carts and horses clattered by and natty young gentleman strode with purpose on some business.  I had no eye for them at the moment, intent as I was on getting to the Hill.

I did let myself become distracted from time to time as I made my way to Constitution Avenue and the Capitol for I was anxious to spy Rufus along the way so I could inform him of the missing portrait.  I was not far from my own destination when I caught sight of him, head to head with a most attractive and elegant young man, laughing and sharing a pleasant moment together.  I was about to call to him when I saw him put his arm about the younger man’s shoulders.  I quite simply froze.  I did not call out.

Rufus is an extremely handsome and well turned out fellow.  I on the other hand am plain and what some would call dumpy.  I should lie if I did not say it had puzzled me these several years that a man as fine-looking as my Rufus should want to be with me, to live with me, to be my one and only.  The result of this uncertainty has been a sort of vigilance where my love’s attention might turn, if that attention is to another quite good looking fellow.  I am quite sure some day I shall lose Rufus to such a one.  I shall be the pathetic abandoned lover, pitiful in all men’s eyes.

I sighed and turned to walk quickly away.

Seeing a policeman as I approached the Capitol, I waylaid the man and described my loss, the portrait of Old Hickory and not, of course, the future loss of my dearest one, nor of my heart and present peace of mind.  He promised to go to my house straight away to look into the matter.

I spent a dispirited day, I can tell you, feeling as if everything I cared for was slipping through my fingers.  Rufus was not at luncheon in the Senate dining hall, and as a result I was quite unapproachable and some of my colleagues made some quite common remarks that should not be spoken of in the presence of the fairer sex.  Fortunately there were none about in the Senate.

As I wended my way home to our house on F Street , I lacked an appetite for my supper.  I fully expected to find my portrait still gone, no news from the policeman, and no Rufus awaiting me with a glass of whiskey and a cigar.

Annie, it seemed, was no more cheerful with me.  With no syllable of her lilting speech, she took my hat, gloves and coat.  When I asked if the Senator was at home, she gave me a tight-lipped shake of the head and left me standing there quite alone.  I proceeded into the parlor with the newspaper which I had taken from the hall table and found my own whiskey and cigar, feeling most misused.

I had despaired of companionship at supper when I heard the front door open and close.  I heard Rufus’s voice, shushing Annie as he divested himself of his coat and the rest.    My heart beat faster waiting for my love to come into the parlor, then it fell when I heard his footsteps pass the door and head up the staircase.  I sat for a while trying to decide what to do.  Why had he shushed Annie?  Was there someone with him?  Someone he took up to his rooms?

I had had enough.  I threw down the paper I was reading and stormed out of the parlor and up the stairs.  I went to Rufus’s bedchamber door and without announcing myself, I reached for the doorknob.  I was surprised when it turned and the door opened.  I had half expected it locked, to prevent discovery of whatever indiscretion my Rufus was involved in.

“Jamie, dear!” he called, obviously startled.  He spun to face me, and I could not help but stare, admiring him, his slender but manly form, his fine features, his dapper apparel.  I found myself thinking, whatever you have done to break my heart, dear boy, I shall forgive you.  What I said aloud however was “What are you hiding, Rufus?”

The look he gave me then shook me to the core.  He looked embarrassed, sheepish, and guilty.  I thought, Here it is.  The death of the idyll. 

I had to sit down.  I stumbled to a chair and planted my backside heavily.

“Oh Jamie, I wanted it to be a surprise.  I was going to give it to you at supper.”

I looked up sharply at Rufus.  “You what?”  I gazed into his eyes to see them twinkling, so full of love and happiness.

He slowly turned and lifted a package wrapped in brown paper and tied with twine.  “Since you caught me with it, I suppose I shall just give it to you now.”  He came towards me, and I stood to face him.  He held the package out to me.

“Happy Valentine’s Day, dearest Jamie,” said in that soft warm voice of his with its Alabama drawl.  “I love you.”

I must have looked like a trout, standing, holding the package and staring into his eyes open-mouthed.  “I-I love you too, my darling Rufus,” I managed to get out.  “What is it?”

“Open it.  Here, I’ll cut the string with my pocket knife.”  He proceeded to match his actions to his words.  The twine felt to the floor and, meticulous as he always is, he crouched to pick it up and tuck it in his pocket.

I turned over the package and unfolded the brown paper with which it was wrapped.  I could see at once that I was looking at the back of a frame.  The wire for hanging it was attached.  I turned the gift over as Rufus carefully refolded the paper and set it aside to reuse.  He is as frugal as he is meticulous.  Well, except for fashions.  Those he spends what he must on.

He looked at me expectantly as I gazed back, then I lowered my eyes and was confused.  What I held in my hands was my portrait of Andrew Jackson.  The portrait that Jackson himself gave me.  I stammered, “W-why, Rufus, it’s wonderful.”

“What a silly man you can be, Jamie.  Look at it.  There is something different.  That is your gift.”

I looked again, perplexed.  Then I realized what the difference was.  “It’s the frame. It’s new.”

Rufus gave me one of those patient indulgent looks he often gives me when I am being obtuse.  “Yes, but you don’t see it, do you.  The wood.  It’s hickory!  Old hickory!”

My Rufus was the one who had removed my treasured portrait of Old Hickory and had a new frame made of old hickory wood.  I was speechless with wonder and gratitude.

Rufus went on chattily.  “I was on Constitution today as I was going to pick this up at the woodworker.  I ran into Simon Beauregard.  Do you remember him?  That very tiresome fellow from Tuscaloosa.  I was so excited about seeing the new frame I could not get away from him fast enough.  He is a pretty man, to be sure, but all I could do was pretend to laugh at his jokes and get away as soon as I could manage.”

He reached to take the portrait away from me and set it down on a table.  He walked the short distance to the door and bolted it.  He came back, took me in his arms, and pressed his sweet lips to my own thin ones.  I relaxed into his embrace.

“I do so love you, Jamie,” he said softly when we ended the kiss.  “These past years have been such golden ones.  Promise you will never leave me for some younger, more handsome man.”

I could only lean back in for another of his delicious kisses.

“Take me to bed, Jamie,” he sighed against my lips.

“But what about supper?” I reminded him.

“It can wait.”  His hands were already at my cravat loosening it as he applied the firm but gentle pressure to my chest to guide me through the door and into his bedchamber.

_______________
Author’s note:  Was President James Buchanan gay?  He and William Rufus King lived together for many years and their colleagues in the Senate called them “Mr. and Mrs. Buchanan”.  Their nieces burned all their letters.  Let’s just say we don’t really know if he was, but then again we don’t really know that he wasn’t.

 _______________
Christopher Hawthorne Moss wrote his first short story when he was seven and has spent some of the happiest hours of his life fully involved with his colorful, passionate, and often humorous, characters. Moss spent some time away from fiction, writing content for websites before his first book came out under the name Nan Hawthorne in 1991. He has since become a novelist and is a prolific and popular blogger; he is the historical fiction editor for the GLBT Bookshelf, where you can find his short stories and thoughtful and expert book reviews. Moss is transgender, having been born with a female body but a male heart and mind. He lives full time as a gay man in the Pacific Northwest with his partner of over thirty years and their doted upon cats. He owns Shield-wall Productions. Moss welcomes comment from readers via email and can be found on Facebook and Twitter.

Love & Loyalty by Tere Michaels – Release Day Excerpt!

November 14, 2014

TERRY GOT to the squad room two hours after Jim—and still five minutes early for their shift. Polite man that he was, he didn’t ever mention the early hours—or late hours, if one counted how many times Jim just didn’t leave—or the sludge coffee Jim was drinking. He just sat down with his tidy Starbucks grande tea and sighed.

Jim suppressed the urge to roll his eyes. “Morning.”

“Morning,” Terry said, turning on his computer. “You want my bagel? It’s an onion—they got my order wrong.”

Jim tilted his head until he could see around the low gray cubicle walls to Terry’s desk. “Again? Third time this week. You should say something.”

Terry shrugged and reached into his backpack for the brown paper bag. “They’re busy—it’s no big deal. I gotta watch my girlish figure, you know.”

Jim took the bag and went back to his stack of paperwork with a grunt. Terry was transparent and about 165 pounds soaking wet, and his figure was just fine—not that Jim made a habit of mentioning that.

“Mimi wants to know if you can come for dinner Friday night. Nick and Heather are coming too.”

Heterosexual Power Cabal Monthly Dinner Party—Jim’s favorite. Right after root canal but slotted in just before dinner with his father in the assisted-living dining room.

“Wow, that’s this Friday? Man, that sucks. I have a date,” Jim lied, peeling the paper off the bagel.

“Uh-huh. Why don’t you bring him?” Terry said almost sweetly, and Jim balled up the wax paper to toss over the divider between their cubes.

“He’s shy. And he doesn’t like straights.” Jim talked with his mouth full to annoy Terry, then realized it annoyed him too, so he stopped.

“Dating a bigot, Jim? That does not seem your style. Oh wait— dating a person… that seems even less your style.”

Jim heard the familiar chime of Terry’s cell phone being opened and groaned inwardly. The chime was followed by hushed, whispered Korean; then, as expected, Jim’s phone rang.

“Oh, come on now—it’s too early for this,” Jim groused, picking up the line. “Hey, Mimi.”

There might have been a triumphant “ha” from the cubicle next door, but it was drowned out by Mimi’s cheerful voice.

“If you do actually have a date on Friday, you should bring him,” she said with the exaggerated patience of a kindergarten teacher. “I can pretend to be enthralled by Heather’s breasts if that helps establish a more gay-friendly vibe.”

Despite himself, Jim laughed. “She does have excellent breasts….”

Mimi snickered. “Even gay men notice breasts—why is that?” “I don’t know. I’ll call the Gay Council and let you know.”

“Good, you can tell me the results on Friday.”

“Mimi….”

“James. You have to come when I tell you who the fourth couple is.”

“I’m almost afraid to ask.”

“Ben and Liddy are driving down for the weekend to visit her parents, so they’ll be there. It’s supposed to be a surprise for you, but I’m changing my tactics because you’re being impossible. So bring wine and some beer and let me know if your date has any food allergies.”

Ben, his ex-roommate and “best friend.” The guy he had a long- standing, unrequited, nonreturned, intense crush on. Of course he and his new wife would be the fourth couple! Jim had that sort of luck these days.

“Well, I can’t say no now,” Jim said, feigning excitement. “I’ll be there, and I promise to pretend to be surprised.”

“Great. Thank you, James,” Mimi said, clearly feeling triumphant. “We’re having vegetarian sushi and tempura.”

“What’s that you said? Steak and lobster?”

“Is your date vegan?”

“You’re funny, you know that?”

“Is your date real?”

“Bye, Mimi. I have to go now. Some of us work for a living.” He ignored her last question and made kissy sounds over the line until she said something rude in Korean and hung up.

“Your wife curses like a sailor,” he called to Terry.

“It’s hot, isn’t it?”

And the Winner is…..

November 11, 2014

RoyalStreetHeist[The]_FBbanner_DSP

Hello Everyone,

Beau, Tollison and I want to thank you for following along today and for taking the time to look up and answer all our questions. The questions and answers are below:

“What’s another name for the French Quarter?”

The Vieux Carre’ is the other name for the French Quarter.

“What streets and landmarks define and border the French Quarter?”

The most common definition of the French Quarter includes all the land stretching along the Mississippi River from Canal Street to Esplanade Avenue (13 blocks) and inland to North Rampart Street

“All other states in the country are divided by counties. What divides Louisiana?”

Louisiana is made up of “Parishes.”

“There are four other nicknames for the city of New Orleans in addition to The Big Easy. Give us any one of them.”

NOLA, The Crescent City, The Birthplace of Jazz, Mardi Gras City and The Big Easy are just some of the other names for New Orleans.

“There are nine historic plantations in Louisiana. Name any one of them.”

Destrehan Plantation, Evergreen Plantation, Houmas House Plantation, Laura: A Creole Plantation, Oak Alley Plantation, Ormond Plantation, Poche Plantation, San Francisco Plantation, and St. Joseph Plantation are the nine major plantations in Louisiana.

 

So without further delay, here are the winners:

1. Jen CW

2. Sula

3. Trix

Please email me at scottycade@gmail.com with your DSP bookshelf and I’ll have the books downloaded ASAP. Thank you so much for playing along and I look forward to our next time together.

Scotty

Release Party – The Royal Street Heist by Scotty Cade Contest

November 11, 2014

The Royal Street Heist 400x600Hey guys,

Scotty Cade here with Tollison Cruz and Beau Bissonet from my latest novel “The Royal Street Heist.” I hope you enjoyed meeting these two genius crackpots in the earlier posts. Crackpots yes, but as you will learn, they are brilliant at solving their first case together, not to mention a few other things but they can be a little hard to manage sometime. Beau’s ADD and Tollison’s OCD make them a great team, but man, keeping them focused is like herding cats.

Those of you who know me and follow my work probably remember that I grew up in New Orleans. The Big Easy was my home until I was twenty-eight when my career took me to Atlanta. I lived in Georgia until I was forty-five when Kell and I bought the Inn & Restaurant on Martha’s Vineyard. So I’ve spent over half of my life in New Orleans and she will always be my home.

Because of the many years here, I am intimately familiar with the city and like most who live here are forever touched by the charm of the French Quarter, the beauty of the Garden District, or the quaintness of the Irish Channel, just to name a few. She never fails to amaze me and I revel in being here each and every time I visit. As a matter of fact, I’m here as we speak for the release of “Heist” enjoying the mild fall weather and spending a little time with my two new stars working on their next adventure. I thought I’d do a little Q&A just to help you get to know my guys.

Scotty:  So Beau. Tell everyone how you go about solving cases in you line of work.

Beau: For starters I look at the facts. I put them all up on what I call my “Fact Board” and see if I can find any links or connections to any of the potential suspects or “persons of interest” as we call them in the biz. Secondly, my motto is if it barks like a dog and fights like a dog, then its probably a dog. And in most cases I’m spot on.

fashion business man looking over shoulder to his sideScotty:  Interesting. Tollison?

Tollison:  Pretty much the same. But I add the element of logic. Without giving away too much of the book, believe me when I tell you I’ve seen some highly intelligent and brilliant criminals whose styles don’t always make sense, but sometimes they get away with it. But in Beau’s defense, his line of work is a little different then mine.

Beau:  (Rolls eyes) Thank you. iStock_000048950382Small

Tollison: Sure man. Anyway, I don’t usually deal with murders, only recovering valuable property that was stolen or at least pretending to be stolen. It’s my job to decide which and then follow every lead until I hunt down the stolen property, wherever it may be.

Scotty:  What makes you guys work so well together?

Tollison:  (Raises hand) Me. Me. Me. Oh please let me answer this one.

Beau:  Fine! But I get the next one.

Tollison:  Okay. Okay. Baby. So I think Beau’s and my magic lies in our passion for our jobs. We are both extremely passionate about our work. And as you said, my OCD and Beau’s ADD make us an especially good team. He goes off on tangents and is hard to stay focused but that trait lets his mind go in places my mine would never attempt. For me this is very valuable, but very painful at the same time. When he embarks on something in outerspace its my job to bring him back and start working every detail of his digression. We may  kill each other one day, but in the end the job gets done and with each case we solve independently or together, we’re better at what we do.

Beau:  (Hangs head with wounded eyes) Oh come on Tol? Am I that bad?

Tollison: (Reaches over and squeezes Beau’s knee and winks) Hell yeah! But I wouldn’t change a thing.

Beau: (Heartwarming smile with those adorable pouty lips) Thanks Man. Me either.

Scotty: Okay Beau. Here’s one for you. (beau sits up straight and listens intently) What did you think of Tollison when he barged in on your investigation and tried to take over?

Beau:  (Throws head back in laughter) Take over? I think not! No way was that going to happen. I work my cases. But man I’ve got to tell you, he was and still is some kind of easy on the eyes. He had me forgetting all about the case for a split second.  I mean one minute I was eyeing that tight ass and imagining what I’d do to it if I got the chance and the next I was saying, “Who the fuck does this guy think he is? He’s trying to take over my case.” Then when the Chief made us work together, that was the kicker. But in the end (winks at Tollison) it all worked out. We make a great team and now I don’t have to imagine what to do with that tight little Latin American ass. (Tollison lets Beau have it in the arm) – Fuck Tollison, that hurt.

Tollison:  Serves you right. Don’t forget I’ve worked that ass of yours over a few times.

Beau:  You don’t have to remind me of that. (Winks)

Scotty:  Okay you two. Let’s keep this clean and save a little for the book.

Beau & Tollison in unison:  Sorry.

Scotty:  Okay boys? What do you think we should do to give these nice people some free books?

Beau:  How about we ask them questions about the excerpt?

Scotty: Nice, but its been done a million times before. Let’s try something new.

Tollison: How about so some simple questions about New Orleans so people can easily Google the answers.

Beau: Yeah, that sounds good. That’s a little different.

Scotty:  Okay go for it. Let’s come up with five questions.

Beau: How about “What’s another name for the French Quarter?”

Scotty:  That’s a great one.

Tollison: Let’s do “What streets and landmarks define and border the French Quarter?”

Scotty:  Another great one.

Beau: (Raises hand) Oh I have one. “All the other states in the country are divided by counties. What divides Louisiana?”

Scotty:  Perfect. Good job guys. Now lets do a couple about the excerpt of the book. How about this one? “What are the names of the civil war paintings stolen from the Royal Renaissance Gallery?”

Beau” Nice.

Scotty:  Now each of you give me one more and we’ll be done.

Tollison:  Okay. Here’s mine and I just learned this from Beau. (Winks at Beau) “There are four other nicknames for the city of New Orleans in addition to The Big Easy. Give us any one of them.”

Scotty:  Great. Beau?

Beau: So you were listening Tol!

Tollison: I hang on your every word. You know that Beau. (Rolls eyes)

Scotty: Beau?

Beau:  Don’t rush me. I’m thinking… I’m thinking… Oh okay. Here’s one. “There are nine historic plantations in Louisiana. Name any one of them.”

Scotty:  Good one. Okay boys. Think we’re good on questions. Great job by the way.

Beau & Tollison:  Thanks.

So there you have it folks. I’ve numbered the questions below so you can just place your answer by the corresponding number and all the correct answers will go into a drawing for three copies of “The Royal Street Heist.”

  1. “What’s another name for the French Quarter?”
  2. “What streets and landmarks define and border the French Quarter?”
  3. “All other states in the country are divided by counties. What divides Louisiana?”
  4. “There are four other nicknames for the city of New Orleans in addition to The Big Easy. Give us any one of them.”
  5. “There are nine historic plantations in Louisiana. Name any one of them.”

 

I’ll be back with the winners at 6:00pm EST. But in the meantime here’s my bio for you newbies and a buy link to the book.

 

ScottyCade2_001  Scotty Cade Bio:

Scotty Cade left Corporate America and twenty-five years of Marketing and Public Relations behind to buy an Inn & Restaurant on the island of Martha’s Vineyard with his partner of seventeen years.   He started writing stories as soon as he could read, but just five years ago for publication.  When not at the Inn, you can find him on the bow of his boat writing gay romance novels with his Shetland sheepdog Mavis at his side.  Being from the south and a lover of commitment and fidelity, most of his characters find their way to long healthy relationships, however long it takes them to get there.  He believes that in the end, the boy should always get the boy.

 

 

Buy links:

http://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/store/product_info.php?products_id=5666

http://www.amazon.com/Royal-Street-Heist-Scotty-Cade-ebook/dp/B00P7HSHQ0/ref=sr_1_8?ie=UTF8&qid=1415635549&sr=8-8&keywords=scotty+cade

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Release Party – The Royal Street Heist by Scotty Cade Excerpt

November 11, 2014

fashion business man looking over shoulder to his sideHello there,

Beau and Tollison here again, stars of the latest Scotty Cade novel called “The Royal Street Heist.”

Its killing Beau, but I’m the man in charge for this post. I’m Tollison Eduardo Braga Cruz, by the way. And yes, I know Beau said it’s a mouthful, but hey, he’s one to talk right? Montgomery Beaumont Bissonet. Please…That name doesn’t just roll off the lips with great ease.

“Ouch Beau! Stop it Beau. I swear I need hazard pay working with this guy.”

Since Mr. Pouty lips went on and on about himself in the first post, I won’t bore you with as much detail about myself but I will give you a little history. “Damn it Beau. Punch me in the arm one more time and I’m gonna flatten you right here.” (Eyes glaring.)

So where were we? Oh yeah me. Okay so I’m the old guy in this partnership at thirty-seven years old. I stand about 6’1” and weigh in at one hundred and ninety iStock_000048950382Smallpounds. Unlike Beau, I work out on a regular basis trying to stay ahead of gravity, since well you know, I’m knocking on forty’s door. As you can probably tell by my name, I’m of Latin American decent, Portuguese to be exact and came to the United States when I was just a baby. I have black hair and brown eyes and what I like to call mocha colored skin. It’s like having a permanent suntan. Man do I look good in yellow. But I digress.

Anyway, I’m and insurance investigator for Lloyds of London and reside in Atlanta Georgia. But…I spend more time on the road trying to recover stolen property then I do at home. I too am an openly gay man with one or two relationships under my belt, which much like Beau’s didn’t end well. Some might say I have a bit of a sketchy past, but hey, we all have our past’s right? But also like Beau, I’ll let you read about my past in the book and you can make up your own mind.

“Shut up Beau.” He’s laughing at me right now and really starting to piss me off.

Anyway, so we promised you an excerpt and here it is. In the next posts Scotty will make an appearance to tell you a little about how he embarked on this book and what’s coming up next. Enjoy!

RoyalStreetHeist[The]_FBbanner_DSP

“What do we have?” Lead Detective Montgomery Beaumont Bissonet asked, walking up to the bathroom door with his partner, Detective August Hebert, right behind him. Bissonet looked at his partner and frowned when he saw the investigating detective already at work on the crime scene.

Detective Bruce Jenkins offered him a weak smile. “Meet Anthony Le Moyne, Esquire,” Jenkins said. “A two-bit attorney. No. More like an ambulance chaser than an attorney.”

“Looks like he lost one too many cases,” Detective Hebert said.

“Any idea why this happened?” Bissonet asked.

“My guess is he walked in on another crime being committed here tonight.”

Bissonet gave Jenkins a questioning glance.

“Follow me,” Jenkins said as he led the two detectives down the stairs and into the main parlor. He walked up and stood in front of the empty wall where the two paintings had previously hung.

“A couple of hours ago, two original paintings from the Civil War era hung in this very spot. They were called General Robert E. Lee at the Battle of Chancellorsville and The Little Solider.”

“Anyone checked Ulysses S. Grant’s house?” Hebert teased.

“How much were they worth?” Bissonet asked.

“Combined, a little under two million,” Jenkins replied.

Hebert raised an eyebrow.

“Yep,” Jenkins said. “The kid was worth about eight fifty and Lee about a million,” Jenkins explained. “The gallery owner acquired them about six months ago from the estate of Le Moyne’s late mother. He apparently got them for a steal, and Le Moyne wasn’t happy about that. He showed up intoxicated at the gallery a few days ago during the opening, caused a scene, and even threatened the gallery owner.”

Bissonet looked around. “It appears this place has motion detectors. Did the alarm sound?”

“Yes,” Jenkins said. “But only motion detectors. No exterior sensors were disturbed.”

“How did the thief get in?” Hebert asked.

“There was a gala fundraiser event here earlier this evening. The thief could have been a guest who snuck upstairs and hid until the event was over.”

“And how did he get out with the paintings?” Bissonet asked.

“We think through a rooftop deck and the fire escape of the adjoining building.”

“And the alarm didn’t sound?” Bissonet asked.

“Apparently the first floor is the only area secured by the alarm system,” Jenkins explained.

“That’s odd,” Hebert said.

“Not according to the owners,” Jenkins explained. “The owner said there is only one way to the second and third floors, and that’s the route up the main stairs you used earlier.”

Detective Bissonet looked back over his shoulder in the direction of the stairwell. “Apparently they were wrong.”

“Apparently,” Hebert agreed.

“I’d like to talk to the owner,” Bissonet said.

“He’s upstairs in his office with his wife, daughter, and son-in-law. They all seem to be in shock, so you might want to take it easy on them.”

Bissonet looked Jenkins directly in the eye. “Don’t tell me how to do my job, Bruce.”

“Come on, Beau,” Jenkins said. “Have things deteriorated so badly between us we can’t even work together?”

“Oh, I don’t know, Bruce,” Bissonet said wryly. “Why don’t you ask the teenager you cheated on me with?”

Jenkins cringed and Bissonet smiled.

“He wasn’t a teenager and you know it, Beau,” Bruce said. “And maybe if you would have spent a little more time at home, I wouldn’t have turned to someone else.”

“Fuck it, Bruce. We’ve been over this a million times,” Bissonet said. “I’m tired of beating a dead horse. Now tell me where the owner is again?”

“Upstairs in his office with his family,” Bruce said in a defeated tone.

Bissonet turned and headed for the stairs with Hebert by his side. “Sorry you had to witness that, Auggie,” Beau said. “I still can’t stand to look at the guy.”

“I get it, man,” Hebert said. “If my wife cheated on me, I’d be in prison for murder.”

“Yeah, but I’ve gotta get over it. I still have to work with him.”

Auggie raised a hand to Beau’s shoulder. “Just give it a little more time, man.”

Bissonet approached the door to Crymes’s office. In shock seems to be an understatement, he thought, glancing at Hebert. The two women were crying openly, and the older woman was also trembling and white as a sheet. The men were doing their best to console the women, but they didn’t appear to be succeeding.

Bissonet knocked lightly. “Excuse me,” he said. “I’m sorry to intrude, but I have some questions.”

“Can this wait?” one of the men said.

Bissonet shook his head. “I’m sorry, it really can’t. Which one of you is Mr. Villerie?”

“I’m Crymes Villerie,” the older gentleman said.

“I’m Lead Detective Bissonet, and this is my partner, Detective Hebert.”

Mr. Villerie nodded. “This is my wife, Charmaine Villerie, my daughter, Harper Villerie Hayes, and her husband, Jamison Hayes.” He paused and then asked, “Detectives? What in the hell happened in there?”

“For starters,” Bissonet said, “we think the victim interrupted a robbery in progress.”

Crymes put his hands on his hips. “So let me get this straight. You think Le Moyne was attempting to steal my paintings, but someone beat him to it and then killed him?”

“That’s what the evidence is showing so far,” Hebert said.

“But who?” Harper asked. “After the way Le Moyne acted when he was here, I would have bet my life if anyone attempted to steal the paintings, it would have been him.”

Bissonet made a few notes and then looked up. “You would have probably been right if he’d been a couple of hours earlier.”

“I understand he came into your gallery and threatened you?” Hebert asked.

“That’s right,” Harper said. “He threatened my father on opening night.”

Bissonet looked at his partner. “Mr. Villerie. Can you tell me the circumstances surrounding your interactions with Mr. Le Moyne?”

The detectives listened as Crymes explained how he’d received the anonymous call, how he’d come to purchase the paintings, and Mr. Le Moyne’s actions and threats when he came to the gallery. “I purchased those paintings fair and square from an estate manager,” he said. “I made the man an offer and he accepted. At the time I had not confirmed the origin of the paintings, nor had I determined if they were even originals or just very good reproductions.”

“Of course, we’ll need the name of that estate manager,” Bissonet said.

“And I assume by the price they were indeed both originals?” Hebert asked.

Crymes nodded.

“Do any of you have an idea who might have stolen the paintings? Enemies? Competitors? Etcetera?”

They all seemed to be contemplating the question. “I’m afraid not,” Crymes said. “But they were worth a lot of money. It could have been anyone.”

Bissonet looked at Harper. “No. Not that I can think of,” she replied.

Charmaine and Jamie both shook their heads.

“What about a gun? Do you have a gun on-site?”

Crymes opened his desk drawer and froze. “It’s gone,” he said. “I always keep my .45 right here in case of an emergency. This is the French Quarter, after all.”

Beau nodded and looked at Hebert. “Get CSI in here to check for prints.”

“One last question,” Bissonet said. “Detective Jenkins tells me there was no security system on the second and third floors. Is that correct?”

“Yes,” Harper said. “All of the artwork is kept in our vault or downstairs on display. Our offices are up here, as well as a guest suite we use for customers who come into town to preview artwork.”

“It appears the thief exited through a rooftop deck with the paintings in hand,” Hebert informed them. “And… escaped by hopping onto the adjoining building and down the fire escape. I don’t think your building is as secure as you thought.”

“Evidently,” Crymes said.

“Before you leave,” Bissonet said. “I’ll need all of you to give statements to Detective Jenkins about the night Mr. Le Moyne came to the gallery.”

“And… we’ll need a list of everyone who attended the gala this evening,” Hebert added.

“I’ll send Detective Jenkins right up. And thank you for your time. I’ll be in touch.”

Bissonet and Hebert turned to leave, but Bissonet stopped. “Oh, and I almost forgot. Are the paintings insured?”

“Yes,” Harper said. “By Lloyd’s of London.”

“And for how much?”

“Two point two million,” Harper replied.

“I see,” Bissonet said. “Has the insurer been notified?”

“As a matter of fact, they have,” Harper said. “As soon as I arrived, I reported the stolen paintings.”

“Good,” Bissonet said. “Is it common to insure artwork for more than the retail value?”

“Detective,” Harper explained, “with paintings as rare as these are, the value can increase on a daily basis, and also because of the value, they may not sell overnight. We just want to make sure we’re protected. And besides….”

Beau listened as Mrs. Hayes explained the very small rate difference between the actual value and the policy amount and her rationale for overinsuring.

“Thank you very much for your time. Detective Jenkins will be up shortly.”

Beau and Auggie walked down the stairs and into the parlor. Auggie found Jenkins and told him the owners were ready to give their statements, and Bissonet paced back and forth in the gallery in front of the blank wall.

“What gives, Beau?” Auggie asked.

“I don’t know, but I’ve got a stinking suspicion something is not adding up here.”

“Let’s go over it,” Auggie said. “The owner gets a mysterious call and buys two paintings from an estate for a couple of hundred grand, and the paintings turn out to be originals worth a couple million dollars. The owner has them restored or conserved, whatever they call it, hangs them in his gallery, and attempts to sell them at the appraised value.”

Bissonet took over. “And somehow the heir to the estate finds out they were originals, is majorly pissed off, and shows up drunk, threatens the owners, and promises revenge.”

“Meanwhile,” Hebert added, “the owners overinsure the paintings by a couple hundred grand, and three days later they are stolen and someone is dead.”

“Stolen just after a gala where someone sneaks upstairs,” Bissonet said, “hides until the gallery is closed, and then steals both paintings. Gets surprised by the heir to the estate, also intending to steal the paintings, but instead, the original thief kills the heir and escapes through a rooftop deck and down a fire escape with the paintings.”

“But…,” Hebert said. “There wasn’t enough time after the alarm sounded for the thief to kill Le Moyne, drag him into the bathroom, and still get the paintings out before we show up.”

“Which means,” Bissonet explained, “the thief must have killed Le Moyne before he came downstairs and set off the motion detectors.”

“Exactly,” Hebert said.

“None of that is likely! This was an invitation-only gala, and all guests were business associates or personal friends of the board of directors for the charity,” a strange voice said.

Bissonet turned to see an extremely handsome, tall, dark-haired man snapping a rubber glove onto his right hand. Damn, he’s hot was Beau’s first thought. Wait! Who in the fuck does this guy think he is?

“Excuse me?” Beau said.

“Odds are the thief came in through the french doors leading to the rooftop deck.”

“I’m sorry?” Bissonet asked. “Who in the hell are you?”

“I’m Tollison Cruz. I’m the insurance investigator for Lloyd’s of London, the gallery’s insurance company.”

Beau frowned. “So just for shits and giggles, if he got in through the rooftop, how did he get out?”

“Either through the courtyard or the same way he came in,” Cruz said.

“But none of the exterior sensors were disturbed,” Hebert objected.

“As I understand it,” Cruz explained, examining the display wall and running his fingers along the wall’s edge, “the security alarm was set off by the motion detectors, and that’s what the security system reported. The courtyard door could have been disabled after the alarm was already sounding, at which point the security company would have already done their job by calling the account contact and/or the police.”

“That’s all well and good, but what about proof?” Bissonet asked.

Cruz stopped and pulled off his rubber glove. “I don’t need proof to know I’m right. It’s my job. And if you like, I can help you with yours.”

“How so?” Bissonet asked.

“I get a twenty percent finder’s fee for recovering stolen objects in addition to my already exorbitant salary. I want that money, and you want your murderer. We have common goals. I could consult on your case and share my insight and years of experience.”

“Sounds like a great idea,” Hebert said. “We can always use—”

“No,” Bissonet said. “That won’t be necessary.”

“Can’t blame a guy for trying,” Cruz said, looking Bissonet up and down and smiling. “Good to meet you, detectives,” Cruz said over his shoulder, walking up the stairs.

Bissonet wiped the drool at the corner of his mouth as he watched Cruz take the stairs two at a time, the muscles in his ass flexing with every step and his round cheeks filling every millimeter of his black wool slacks. He shook his head. It’s been way too long. I need to get laid.

“What gives?” Auggie asked. “We could have used him.”

Beau waved his hand through the air. “He’d just get in the way.”

“Really?” Auggie asked. “And what if he’s onto something?”

Beau rolled his eyes when he saw Bruce coming down the stairs.

“Jenkins!” he yelled.

“What?”

“Check the courtyard door and see if the security sensor has been tampered with, and also see if there’s an escape route from the courtyard to the alley and beyond,” Bissonet instructed. “I know this guy wasn’t brazen enough to carry two stolen paintings down Chartres Street at three thirty in the morning.”

Auggie smiled at him. “Now, was that so hard?”

Bissonet smirked and looked at Auggie. “Are you coming with me, or are you gonna stay here and investigate with Mr. Cruz?”

 

 

Back at the precinct, Auggie was on the phone getting more details from Jenkins while Beau talked through the case again out loud.

“So,” Beau said, “Le Moyne breaks into the gallery and attempts to steal the paintings he feels were stolen from him. But… he interrupts someone who beat him to it, either on the way down to steal the paintings or on the way up with the paintings in his hand. More than likely, from the location of Le Moyne’s body, on the way down. Then he brings the paintings back up two flights of stairs and then carries them down the fire escape of the adjoining building.”

“Except, as it turns out, that’s not how it happened,” Hebert said, hanging up the phone. “It appears the courtyard door sensor was tampered with, just like Cruz said.” Auggie smiled.

“A very lucky guess,” Beau mumbled, looking shocked.

“It appears the two screws securing the top sensor to the doorjamb were unscrewed, and the sensor was simply placed on top of the sensor on the door. That way when the door opened and closed, the connection wasn’t broken, and the security company didn’t see any exterior entrances breached. And… that’s how the thief exited the building.”

“And what about his escape?” Beau asked.

“There is a straight shot through the courtyard, down the alley, and onto Chartres Street, where Jenkins found tire marks, quite possibly when the getaway car burned rubber when they left.”

“Damn,” Beau hissed. “I want all the neighbors interviewed to see if they saw or heard anything, and see if you get your hands on any surveillance camera footage.”

“Jenkins is already on it,” Auggie said.

“Bissonet?” Captain Trenchard yelled. “In my office. Now.”

“Yes, sir,” Beau said, jumping to his feet and rolling his eyes at Auggie.

Beau crossed the precinct, stepped into the captain’s office, and almost spit when he saw Tollison Cruz sipping on a cup of coffee.

“Detective. I believe you’ve already met Tollison Cruz,” the captain said.

“Hiya,” Cruz said with a nod and a coy smile, his leg casually crossed at the knee.

“What the f—” Beau mumbled. “What are you doing here?”

Captain Trenchard interjected. “I received a call from the mayor earlier, and apparently this has turned into a very high-profile case. Mr. Villerie is a personal friend of the mayor’s, and he wants this crime solved as soon as possible. And… by using every available asset,” the captain explained. “To that end, Mr. Cruz has presented me with a very compelling proposal.”

“Yeah,” Beau said. “I’ve already heard one proposal, so I can’t wait to hear this one.”

Cruz smirked.

“Well, I like what I heard,” the captain said.

“Captain Trenchard, Please tell me you’re not putting him on this—”

The captain cut Beau off. “He has expertise that can help us solve this case. I’m putting him on as a consultant.”

“Sir,” Beau said. “With all due respect, I prefer working with my team.”

“I believe Mr. Cruz will be an asset to this case.”

“But—”

The captain held up a finger. “This is no longer up for discussion.”

Beau cursed under his breath, but smiled and nodded.

“I look forward to working with you,” Cruz said wryly, offering his hand.

Beau hesitated, then accepted. The big, tanned hand was warm, and Cruz’s grip was extremely strong. Beau cursed himself for where his thoughts went from there.

He turned and walked out of the captain’s office with Cruz on his heels.

“I’ll give you this,” Beau said when they were out of earshot of the captain. “You’ve got some gigantic balls.”

“Thank you,” Cruz said with a raised eyebrow. “I didn’t think you’d noticed. But let’s save the bedroom talk for later. Over a drink, maybe?”

Beau ignored the comment and poured himself a cup of coffee, not offering Cruz one.

“My theories about the thief?” Cruz asked. “Was I right?”

Beau took a sip of his coffee and smirked without answering.

“I do my job very well, Detective Bissonet,” Cruz said. “This is the quickest way for both of us to get what we want. Think of it as a merger of sorts.”

“More like a hostile takeover,” Beau grumbled. “I’ll have Detective Hebert bring you up to speed.”

 

 

“And that’s about where we are,” Detective Hebert told Cruz while Beau looked on with a scowl covering his face.

“So what’s our next move?” Cruz asked.

Bissonet stepped up. “The Major Case squad sent in a list of collectors who might be interested in Civil War history, and so we are looking into that now to see if anyone has tried to contact them regarding the paintings.”

“These paintings are too hot to handle now that’s there’s a dead body on them,” Cruz said. “The thief knows that and won’t do business with anyone on your list for fear of being discovered.”

“Okaaay?” Beau asked. “Do you have a better idea?”

“From my standpoint,” Cruz said. “I’m only interested in recovering the missing paintings, so my plan is to start with the gallery owner and his family.”

“Insurance fraud?” Hebert asked.

Cruz nodded. “Accounts for about fifty percent of my investigations.”

“What about the estate manager?” Hebert asked. “Something doesn’t seem right to me there. And Villerie’s wife? She seemed overly upset over the death of someone she’d only seen once and who, while in an intoxicated state, embarrassed her husband.”

“I didn’t see the wife, but I agree with your summation of the estate manager,” Cruz said. “If this guy even suspected he had originals, he wouldn’t have let them go for such a small amount of money. And normally these estate companies do their homework.”

Beau sipped his coffee and listened. Now Auggie was conversing with Cruz like he was one of the team, and Beau was getting more and more pissed by the minute.

Before he could put a stop to it, Jenkins walked up with a folder. “Yo! Guys. I think I found something.”

Beau watched as Bruce stopped and did a double take when he saw the tall, dark, and handsome stranger sitting on the corner of Beau’s desk.

“Bruce, meet Tollison Cruz,” Auggie said. “He’s working with us on this case.”

Bruce nodded and smiled.

Beau gave Auggie a nasty look and then looked up at Jenkins. “Let’s hear it.”

“It appears our Mr. Crymes Villerie is in debt up to his eyeballs. The bank has already started foreclosure proceedings on his home, gallery, and vacation property in Charleston, South Carolina, and he’s sinking fast.”

“Bingo,” Cruz said. “If I’m lucky, I might be able to wrap up my end of this case by dinnertime.”

“You mean if I’m lucky,” Beau said under his breath.

Cruz looked down at Beau and smiled. “Am I that hard on the eyes?”

Cocky fucker! Beau stood, ignoring the question. “Let’s go and pay Mr. Villerie a visit.”

“Wait,” Bruce said. “That’s not all.”

Bruce shuffled folders and opened a second one. “It also appears that Jamison Hayes, Mr. Villerie’s son-in-law, has quite a gambling problem. Horses, to be exact, and he’s in deep to a couple of very ruthless bookies.”

“Well, well,” Beau said. “In a matter of a few minutes, we now have a person of interest and two suspects.”

“And I’m still working on their phone records,” Jenkins added. “Should have those by late this afternoon.”


Chapter Four

Crymes was seated at his desk in the gallery, still in a daze. He and Charmaine hadn’t slept a wink when they’d finally made it back home, and she’d been an absolute wreck, hysterical almost. He’d done his best to try and comfort her, but Harper finally managed to slip a Xanax in her tea, and that had settled her down a good bit before he and Harper left the house.

His phone buzzed, startling him out of his thoughts. “Yes, Harper,” he said into the receiver.

“Detectives Bissonet and Hebert are here to see you.”

“I’ll be right down,” Crymes said.

Crymes walked down the stairs and saw Harper talking to a stranger while Bissonet and Hebert were standing off to the side.

“Detective Bissonet,” Crymes said as he stepped off the landing. “Please tell me you’ve found my paintings.”

“I wish I could,” Bissonet said. “But we do have a few questions. May we speak in private?”

Before Crymes could respond, Harper walked up. “Crymes, this is Tollison Cruz. He’s the insurance investigator Lloyd’s of London sent over.”

“Nice to meet you, Mr. Cruz,” Crymes said, shaking the man’s hand.

“I’ll be working with Detectives Bissonet and Hebert to try and recover your paintings,” Cruz explained. “Is there some place private we can talk?”

Bissonet rolled his eyes. “I’ve already asked that question, Mr. Cruz.”

“Oh, I’m sorry,” Cruz replied.

“Yes,” Crymes said. “Let’s go up to my office.”

Crymes led the way with Hebert, Cruz, and Bissonet pulling up the rear.

The three men took seats on the couch in Crymes’s office while he sat on the corner of his desk.

“I’ll get right to the point, Mr. Villerie,” Bissonet said. “It has come to our attention that you are in quite a bit of debt and the bank is foreclosing on this very property, as well as your home and vacation home. Is that correct?”

Crymes felt his knees weaken. He gripped the ends of his desk for support, sighed, and dropped his head. “I’m afraid so.”

“Mr. Villerie,” Cruz said. “I’m sure you can imagine how this looks to me and my insurance company. It reeks of insurance fraud.”

Crymes thought about what Cruz was saying. It had never occurred to him before now he might be a suspect. He stood. “You aren’t actually insinuating I may have been the one to steal my own paintings?”

“It’s a definite possibility,” Cruz said. “You would be the one who stands to profit the most from the insurance settlement, as well as the sale of the paintings.”

Crymes straightened his shoulders and tried to stand as tall as possible. “Well, gentlemen, I can assure you your suspicions couldn’t be further from the truth,” he said adamantly. “I was here at the gallery until the fundraiser was over. I then took my wife home and went to bed. You can check my phone records and anything else you want. I assure you I did not arrange for those paintings to be stolen.”

“What about your daughter?” Detective Hebert asked.

Crymes felt the hairs on the back of his neck stand at attention. “I can also assure you Harper had nothing to do with this crime either.”

“How can you be so sure?” Bissonet asked. “The way I see it, if you lose the gallery, she loses her job and her legacy.”

“First of all,” Crymes pointed out, “she has no idea we are about to lose the gallery, and secondly, I know my daughter, and she would never get involved in anything illegal. Foreclosure or no foreclosure.”

“Desperate times call for desperate measures,” Cruz said.

“Mr. Villerie?” Bissonet asked. “What about your son-in-law?”

“Jamison?” Crymes asked. “Out of the question. He’s a fine young man from an upstanding New Orleans family, and he’s about to make partner in his father’s law firm. He wouldn’t chance being disbarred and embarrassing his family for something so ridiculous.”

“He stands to lose as much as your daughter does,” Cruz pointed out.

“Yes, gentlemen,” Crymes argued. “That might all make sense if I thought either of them knew about the foreclosures. But they had no way of knowing. I… I was just notified myself a few days ago. I picked up the foreclosure papers from the bank personally to avoid being served here at the gallery so I could tell them when I found the right time.”

“Are you aware your son-in-law likes the ponies?” Hebert asked.

“I’m aware he goes to the track occasionally,” Crymes said. “Hell! I’ve even gone with him a few times.”

“And what about his bookies?” Hebert asked. “Our sources tell us he’s in pretty deep.”

Bookies? “What bookies?” Crymes asked, unable to hide the shock in his voice.

“Mr. Hayes is very heavily indebted to two well-known and fairly ruthless bookies.”

Crymes felt like all the oxygen had been sucked out of the room, and he could no longer breathe. His throat was closing up, and his vision was fading in and out. He felt his way around the edge of his desk and collapsed in his chair, unable to support his own weight. He rubbed at his eyes and covered his face with his hands. “I had no idea,” he forced out when he could finally speak. “I had no idea.”

“Just so you’ll know,” Bissonet said. “We’ll be looking closely at your daughter and son-in-law, as well as your wife, as we proceed with our investigation.”

“Charmaine?” Crymes asked, feeling weaker by the minute. “But she knows nothing about the foreclosures either.”

“That may very well be,” Hebert said. “But we’re not as convinced about all this as you are.”

“Thank you for your time, Mr. Villerie,” Bissonet said. “We’ll be in touch.”

Crymes nodded and leaned forward in an attempt to stand.

Hebert held his hand up. “Please don’t get up. We’ll show ourselves out.”

Mentally and physically exhausted, Crymes leaned back and closed his eyes. Harper, Jamie, and now Charmaine. What is going on around here?

 

 

Bissonet gestured for Hebert and Cruz to go ahead of him, and he watched Cruz’s broad, muscular shoulders and tight little ass as the man walked down the stairs in front of him. The guy was a pain, all right, but he was a good-looking pain just the same! If Beau had to guess a nationality, he would go with Latin American. Cruz’s mocha-colored skin, rich brown eyes, and jet black hair were dead giveaways. Combine that with the slightest bit of an accent, and he figured Cruz was from Brazil or maybe Portugal.

When they got to the bottom of the stairs, Cruz looked over his shoulder, smiled, and winked at Beau, which pissed him off immensely. “Fucker!” he said under his breath as he passed him by.

“Now, now, Beau,” Cruz said wryly. “No need for obscenities.”

Beau smirked and stepped out onto Royal Street, letting the door shut behind him. The heat and humidity hit him like a ton of bricks, and he crossed the street to get out of the direct sunlight. Cruz and Hebert caught up to him just as his cell phone rang. Beau looked at his phone and frowned when a picture of Jenkins’s smiling face filled his screen.

Beau flashed back to the day he’d taken that picture—on the balcony at the Bourbon Pub during Mardi Gras a little over four years ago. It had been his and Bruce’s second anniversary, and his heart hurt a little, seeing the twinkle in Bruce’s eyes and remembering how happy they were then.

They’d broken up a year and a half ago, and he was still so angry at Bruce for cheating on him and fucking it all up that he had a hard time dealing with him. He’d had to maintain a certain amount of professionalism because they still had to work together, but he’d be damned if he was going to forgive and forget and make the whole thing easy on Bruce.

Both of them had been uniformed officers when they’d met, and after their shifts they’d had lots of time to spend together, in and out of bed. But everything had changed when Beau was offered a detective position. Their time together started to lessen, and after a year, when Beau had been promoted to lead detective, everything started to fall apart.

His caseload had been extremely heavy, and Beau had been working eighteen-hour days. In Beau’s mind, though, he’d been trying to prove himself and secure his job to ultimately make a better life for the both of them, but Bruce hadn’t exactly seen it that way.

In an attempt to save his relationship, Beau had called in a favor, unbeknownst to Bruce, and Bruce had been offered a detective position. Not that Bruce needed his help. He was a damned good detective and would have been promoted eventually, but their relationship wouldn’t have made it until then. Things started to get better, and Beau thought they were going to make it until he found out about the affair.

Once Bruce fessed up, there was no way Beau could go back. He couldn’t be with a man he couldn’t trust, and everything had ended right then and there. Beau knew he shared some of the blame by neglecting Bruce, but it was his job, and if the shoe had been on the other foot, he would have never cheated. Auggie and his wife, Jenny, had been his saving graces; they had been his shoulders to lean on and had literally coaxed him back to the land of the living.

So here they were. A year and a half later, they were still working together because of a promotion Beau had arranged, and both of them were miserable doing it.

The phone rang again, startling Beau out of his thoughts, and he accepted the call. “Bissonet.”

“Beau, it’s Bruce.”

“I’m listening,” Beau said with no emotion in his voice.

Beau heard Bruce sigh and momentarily felt sorry for the guy, but it didn’t take him long to recover. “Talk?” he said.

“I got the phone records back for Harper Hayes, Jamison Hayes, Crymes Villerie, and Charmaine Villerie,” Bruce explained.

“And?”

“Besides the bookies,” Bruce said, “Jamison’s phone records are clean, and so are Mr. Villerie’s and Harper Hayes’s.”

“And Charmaine Villerie?” Beau asked.

Bruce cleared his throat. “That’s a very different story.”

“I’m still listening.”

“Her phone records show that the day after the paintings were first displayed at the opening, and in the days leading up to the robbery, Mrs. Villerie placed a half-dozen or so calls to a number we traced back through our database to a convicted felon named Emanuel Della Penna, who served time for that heist at the New Orleans Museum of Art ten years ago. He got five years, did his time, and up until now, he hasn’t resurfaced.”

Beau smiled and wiped his forehead with his coat sleeve. “I think it’s time we pay Mrs. Villerie a visit. And bring Della Penna in for questioning. We’ll be there as soon as we can. Is that it?” Bissonet asked.

“For now,” Bruce said, disconnecting the call.

Beau looked at his phone just as Bruce’s smiling face disappeared and the call was ended. “Cheater.”

“Are you always that rude to your coworkers?” Cruz asked.

“Stay out of it,” Bissonet said.

Hebert gave Cruz a sympathetic look. “Long story.”

Beau glared at Auggie as he shared the information about the phone records with him and Cruz. They got in Beau’s car and headed to Esplanade Avenue.

Bissonet parked on the street and walked up to the house. He leaned on the intercom at the gate until an unsteady voice finally answered. “Yes?”

“This is Detective Bissonet with the NOPD,” Beau said. “I’d like a few words with Mrs. Villerie, please.”

“This is not a good time,” the voice said.

Bissonet sighed. “I apologize for the intrusion, ma’am, but I must insist.”

There was silence for a few seconds. “Fine, then,” the voice said rather curtly. They all grabbed their ears when a screeching sound escaped the intercom speaker and the gate started to open. “I’ll meet you at the front door.”

When they walked up the steps to the porch, the door opened, and an exhausted-looking Charmaine Villerie appeared in the doorway.

“How may I help you, Detective?”

“I have a few questions for you Mrs. Villerie,” Beau said. “May we come in?”

Charmaine stepped back and opened the door farther, inviting them in.

“This is Detective Hebert and Tollison Cruz,” Beau said, gesturing between the two men. “Mr. Cruz is the insurance investigator sent over by Lloyd’s of London.”

Charmaine nodded. “Can we get this over with, gentlemen? I’m a bit under the weather today.”

“I can only imagine,” Bissonet said. “I’m sure it is quite a shock to have your husband’s paintings stolen and someone murdered in your gallery all in the same night.”

“Indeed,” Mrs. Villerie agreed.

“I’ll get right down to it, Mrs. Villerie,” Hebert said. “What was your relationship with Mr. Emanuel Della Penna?”

Beau watched the blood drain out of Mrs. Villerie’s face, and she became ghostly white. Her head rolled to the side, she stumbled back, and Cruz caught her right before she hit the ground.

 

 

 

 

Release Party – The Royal Street Heist by Scotty Cade

November 11, 2014

Good Morning!iStock_000048950382Small

 

My name is Montgomery Beaumont Bissonet. Yeah I know it’s a mouthful but blame my grandfather on my mother’s side, I inherited it from him. Well at least the “Montgomery Beaumont” part. But have no fear, you can call me Beau, everyone does.

And since we just met, I must tell you I’m one of the main characters in the latest Scotty Cade novel called “The Royal Street Heist” which is published my Dreamspinner Press and just happens to release today. I’m here with my costar Tollison Cruz and Scotty asked us if we wouldn’t mind spending a little time with you today and hosting the Dreamspinner Press Release Party Blog. And…since we’re intimately close to this novel, we jumped at the chance. But we’re gonna ask you to please be patient with us though as were both a bit nervous. You see I’m a Lead Detective with the New Orleans Police Department and Tollison is an insurance investigator for Lloyds of London and hosting blogs are just not in our job description.

fashion business man looking over shoulder to his sideBut with that said, We’d like to thank Scotty and Dreamspinner for having faith in us and allowing us to visit with you today in celebration of the very first novel of which I am the star. What Tollison? Oh yeah, costar. Anyway I say the “very first” because Scotty has promised us this is going to be an ongoing series and to tell you the truth, we’re excited as hell about that part because man, do we have lots of wonderful weird cases tucked away in our memories to share with you in the coming months.

Now Tollison is already rolling his eyes so I guess I need to tell you about him too. You’ll formally meet him in the next post, but his full name is Tollison Eduardo Barga Cruz, talk about a mouthful, and as I mentioned he’s an insurance investigator. Anyway, he get’s his nose all up in my case and we get off to a really rough start, but I finally get a clue (yes that’s a cop joke) and realize he’s one of the good guys. Unlike me though, I’m sure you’ll enjoy meeting him from the get go. So enough rambling, let’s talk about me and my roll in the book.

For starters, I’m thirty-four years old and stand about six feet tall. I weigh about two hundred and ten pounds, on a good day, have sandy blonde hair (like my mother) and sometimes blue, sometimes gray eyes (like my father). I don’t work out, but I think I’m in pretty good shape for a man my age. My partner Auggie and fellow detectives give me a lot of shit for what they call my “pouty” lips, which still to this day I can’t seem to shake, but hell, I’ll give them that. Hey! There mug isn’t on the cover of a novel. Right? And I always say, as long as they’re picking on me, they’re leaving some other poor soul alone. But the most important thing about me is that for as far back as I can remember all I’ve ever wanted to be was a cop. I worked my way up from patrolling a beat to detective to lead detective and I pride myself in my strong work ethic and integrity. Yeah I’m cocky, but I’ve earned that title. Also like most cops, I can be guilty of thinking I’m always right, but hell, most of the time I am, so you’ll have to get used to that.

Okay so I grew up in the Garden District of New Orleans near St. Charles Avenue where I still live today and yes; I’m an out and proud gay man. Not very common in my line of work, but who the hell cares. It’s my chosen career, I love it and I’m damn good at it. And yes…for a lot of years I was usually the butt of some pretty raunchy gay jokes and I took a lot of ribbing, but now things have settled down and are a little different. Most of the guys respect me and treat me no differently because I screw guys, well one guy in particular. It was my one and only relationship, which ended badly, but I’ll let you read about that in the book.

So now that you know a little bit about me, I’d like to give you some information about the book. Of course it takes place in my hometown of New Orleans and surrounds a case of art theft that we solved over a year ago. So without further delay, here is the blurb:

The Royal Street Heist 400x600

When a valuable piece of Civil War art is stolen from a popular New Orleans gallery, NOPD Lead Detective Montgomery “Beau” Bissonet and his partner set out to solve the crime. When the gallery’s insurance company sends Tollison Cruz to the Big Easy to conduct their own independent investigation, personalities clash and battle lines are definitely drawn. 

The heist quickly becomes a politically driven high profile case, and Detective Bissonet is furious when he’s ordered to work along side Investigator Cruz to assure a timely arrest.  The heat index soars to new levels when the two investigators discover they have a lot more in common then originally thought.

With the tension between them temporarily sated, Bissonet and Cruz finally start to work together, on more then just a professional level. But everything comes to a screeching halt when Beau discovers his cohort in crime has been withholding information regarding the investigation and has been concealing a very questionable past. What happens next rivals the scorching summer heat.

 

 

So there you have it.

Tollison and I will be back in a couple of hours when Tollison will be at the helm and he’ll tell you a little about him, give you an excerpt from the book and tell you about how you can win you’re very own copy.

See you soon!

Beau and Tollison

“If This Were a Movie” Free Read by Kate McMurray

November 5, 2014

Kyle’s life flashed before his eyes as the huge bear of a dog galloped toward him with alarming speed. The beast was all brown fur and teeth and slobber, and it was barreling toward Kyle so quickly, he couldn’t manage to move his feet.

“Oh my god, oh my god, oh my god….”

Kyle didn’t understand at first that the breathless invocation of a deity was coming not from him but from the lips of the man running at top speed behind the dog.

Was this a stampede?

Then Kyle was on his back, the heavy weight of this bear on top of him, with a face full of tongue.

Dirt flew as the guy chasing the dog caught up and skittered to a stop.

“Tiny, no. No, Tiny. Get off the nice man.”

The dog seemed immovable.

Kyle gathered his faculties enough to swat at the dog’s tongue with his hands, not connecting as the dog lifted his head away but otherwise settled on top of Kyle’s body as if Kyle were a large velvet pillow and this giant dog were a dainty princess. Kyle sighed and let his head fall back to the grass. He looked up.

Well, hello. The owner of the bear was a tall, dark-haired, slightly scruffy guy with a gym-sculpted body. His muscles flexed as he tugged on the dog’s leash, though the dog seemed determined not to go anywhere.

“Come on, Tiny,” the guy said.

If the weight of the dog hadn’t been crushing his lungs, Kyle might have found the fact that this freakishly large dog was named Tiny funny enough to laugh about, but as it was, Kyle worried his sternum was about to cave in.

“I’m so sorry about this,” the guy said. “He’s not usually like this. I don’t know what’s gotten into—”

Just as quickly as Kyle had been flattened into a pancake on the grass, Tiny the Bear lost interest, stood up and walked away.

Kyle pulled in a deep breath.

“Uh, you need help?”

Kyle looked up and saw the cute guy who owned the bear reaching down with his hand. Kyle briefly indulged in a fantasy wherein the sun shown directly behind this man’s head like a halo, and the clouds parted, and the angels sang. None of those things actually happened, but the man was quite lovely. Kyle reached up and allowed himself to be helped to his feet.

“So, um…” Kyle tried, struck speechless by the handsome man. Who smiled. Lord, he had a gorgeous smile.

“I’m Chris,” the guy said. “And this is Tiny, but you probably got that already.”

“The most logical name for a bear on a leash is Tiny.”

Chris smiled. “That’s what I thought. He’s a chow, actually. Aren’t you, boy?” Chris reached over and scratched Tiny between the ears. “And I think he likes you.”

“I guess.” Kyle looked at the dog, feeling puzzled, not understanding what just happened.

“So. Do you live around here?” asked Chris.

“Yeah, I was just cutting through the park to get home from work. You?”

“Yep, Tiny and I just moved here. A few blocks west.”

Kyle was at a loss for what to say. He was still rattled from getting knocked over by a dog, but Chris was so handsome that Kyle wasn’t ready to let him go just yet. Chris pet his dog and smiled and had that nice line of stubble on his chin and the slightly disheveled hair, and he really looked yummy. Kyle tried not to stare.

“I really am sorry,” Chris said. “I’ve never seen him do that before.”

“I seem to be okay.” Kyle dusted off his butt and the back of his thighs. He tugged on his shirt to get any residual dirt and grass to fall off. He smiled at Chris. Who smiled back.

Their eyes met for a moment.

“You know,” Kyle said after he let the moment pay out. “If this were a cheesy romantic comedy, this would be the scene in which the couple meets cute. Sure, there will be a big misunderstanding or something that will separate the pair down the line, but they’ll end up together in the end. The dog knew all along that they were meant to be, after all.”

Chris laughed, which was good. Kyle didn’t know if he was gay—he suspected, based on how snug Chris’s tee-shirt was, but that was hardly an accurate indicator of anything—but he’d made the joke without thinking. He blamed getting jumped by a dog.

A dog who sat obediently at Chris’s feet now and waved his tail while his mouth hung open. Kyle didn’t think dogs smiled, but this one seemed to be.

“But with dudes,” Chris said.

“Huh?”

“If we starred in a romantic comedy in which my dog orchestrated the meet cute, which I’m pretty sure is what just happened, it would be a romantic comedy with two dudes.”

“Who cares?” asked Kyle, still feeling dazed.

“Well, I don’t. You’re cute. You want to go get a cup of coffee with me?”

Years later, when poor Tiny had arthritis, Kyle spent a good ten minutes trying to get a little pouch affixed to the dog’s collar.

“Hold still, boy. I just need you to…”

“Babe?” called Chris, rapping on the door. “Are you ditching me?”

“No. Still trying to get this…”

Tiny huffed out a breath and sank to the floor, pushing his paws out in front of him. Of course. Kyle finished the task and stood up.

He opened the door to a concerned-looking Chris.

“Not sure we’re supposed to see each other,” Kyle said.

“Don’t care. What are you doing?”

“Getting the ring bear fixed up.”

Tiny trotted over and whuffed at Chris.

“Ring bearer?”

“Nope, bear. I was right the first time.”

______________________________

Kate McMurray is an award-winning romance author and fan. When she’s not writing, she works as a nonfiction editor, dabbles in various crafts, and is maybe a tiny bit obsessed with baseball. She is active in RWA and has served as president of Rainbow Romance Writers and on the board of RWANYC. She lives in Brooklyn, NY.

Last First Kiss by Cardeno C.

September 28, 2014

I stumbled into the kitchen and rubbed my bleary eyes. Caffeine. I needed my fix. The coffee machine was my first stop, but when I knocked over the carafe and dropped the grounds, I was forced to concede defeat. Apparently, I wasn’t awake enough to brew a pot. No worries. I was prepared for these types of emergencies. I pulled the refrigerator door open and fumbled inside until I had a bottle of Diet Coke in my grasp.

I had the bottle tipped all the way back and the last of the caramel-colored elixir flowing into my throat when I heard a voice.

“It’s nice to know some things don’t change.”

Seeing as how I lived alone, I found the question disconcerting. Particularly because I recognized that voice: Preston Shultz, the man who had disappeared from my life ten years earlier. Was I still asleep?

I reluctantly lowered the bottle and blinked until I could see clearly. Yup, that was Preston. Older, a bit less hair on top, a bit more hair on his face, but the crystal-blue eyes were just as bright, the crooked smile just as warm.

“Uh,” I grunted.

He put his arm around my shoulder, led me to the table, and pulled out a chair. “Sit,” he said as he deposited me on the wooden surface. Then he walked over to the coffee maker, picked up the carafe, and started pouring water and measuring grounds. “I’m assuming you still take it strong enough to wake the dead?”

He didn’t wait for my answer. Good idea because the only thing I seemed capable of saying was, “uh.”

Eventually, he came to the table holding a giant mug. I instinctively reached for it and he smiled at me, the sides of his eyes crinkling. I’m pretty sure I stopped breathing.

First my brain, now my lungs — I was down two major organs.

As I took a sip, Preston sat next to me and pulled his chair so close that his knees touched mine. I moaned. Strong and sweet, just how I liked my coffee. And my men.

“Good?” he asked.

I nodded. “What …” It was a step up from “uh” but still not coherent. I raised the mug back up to my lips. By the time I finished the coffee, some memories from the night before had started surfacing.

Preston knocking on my door, saying he missed me, asking me to take him back. Me yelling, and then crying, and then collapsing in his arms.

He was back. We were back.

I darted my gaze over to his still-handsome face. “You didn’t kiss me last night.”

He leaned in and cupped my cheek. “You were so tired. I wanted to make sure you’d remember our first kiss.”

“We’ve kissed lots of times,” I corrected him.

“Not like this.” His voice was barely a whisper. “This will be our last first kiss.”

His lips met mine and my heart stuttered. That was three organs down. I needed more caffeine.
_______________________
Cardeno C.—CC to friends—is a hopeless romantic who wants to add a lot of happiness and a few “awwws” into a reader’s day. Writing is a nice break from real life as a corporate type and volunteer work with gay rights organizations. Cardeno’s stories range from sweet to intense, contemporary to paranormal, long to short, but they always include strong relationships and walks into the happily-ever-after sunset.