Friends With Benefits by Sue Brown

January 29, 2015

Title: Friends With Benefits

Author: Sue Brown

Pairing: Liam and Sam from The Isle of…Where?

Prompt: benefits

Liam was missing—again. Sam swallowed down the anxiety roiling in his stomach as he received phone call after phone call from Wig because he’d missed a shift, Paul because he was fed up with Wig calling him, and the old lady two doors down from Rose’s cottage who’d been expecting Liam to drop in for a cuppa. Liam had promised never to leave him again after going missing in America, but he’d been gone for hours and Sam didn’t know where the hell he was.

No one had seen Liam since Sam had left him tucked up warm and snug in their bed that morning. He wasn’t there; Sam had checked. Even though he knew it was ridiculous, he checked the drawer where they kept their passports, breathing out a sigh of relief when he saw Liam’s blue American passport nestled next to his maroon one.

Hoping that his last guess was right, Sam drove down the wooden boards of Ryde Pier and parked the car in a car park at the very end. He walked through the coffee shop and out the doors to the tables around the edge. “Liam?” He swallowed hard against the lump in his throat, his relief bubbling over as he spotted the coat-wrapped figure of his lover staring out over steel-grey waves. “We were worried. I was worried about you. No one’s heard from you since this morning.” He tried to keep the chiding tone in his voice to a minimum.

Liam didn’t speak for a moment. “I needed to think.”

“About what, babe?” Sam leaned against the rail next to Liam and placed his hand over Liam’s. He felt so cold and his dark hair lay damp against his cheeks in the perpetual drizzle.

“I came here to hear him,” Liam said quietly.

After four years together, Sam didn’t need a translation. “Alex?”

Liam nodded, his jaw locked and Sam knew he was close to tears. Sam sought for something to say that would comfort Liam. How could he say ‘I’m sorry your dead best friend doesn’t speak to you anymore?’

“I thought if I came here, where… where….”

“Where we sprinkled his ashes,” Sam said.

“Yeah. I thought he’d be here.” Liam sighed again and rested his head on Sam’s shoulder.

“Has it helped?”

“No. I’ve been standing here for hours, and I’ve heard nothing. He used to talk to me all the time, and the last few months, nothing at all. It feels so empty.”

Sam hugged Liam closer to him. “When did he stop talking to you?”

“I don’t know. I didn’t even notice. I just realised today I haven’t heard from him in such a long time.” Liam wiped his eyes with the back of his hand. “You must think I’m insane.”

“Don’t worry,” Sam soothed. “I’ve always known there’s been three of us in this relationship. Hell, there’s only one of Alex. You’ve had to cope with my entire family interfering all the time.”

“They’re alive,” Liam pointed out. “You’re not listening to a dead man. I’m surprised you don’t want to commit me. Except I’m not even listening to him now.”

Liam sounded so despairing. Sam turned Liam to look at him, holding him by his shoulders. “I know you were friends, but you loved Alex and he loved you. Maybe the reason you don’t hear him is that you’re busy thinking about something else.”

“Or someone. You fill my mind and my body. You’re my life.”

Not giving a toss who was watching, Sam kissed Liam on the cheek. “You’re my life, my love, and my friend.” He paused. “With benefits.”

Liam furrowed his brow. “Benefits?”

“Oh yes, there are many benefits to being friends with me.” Sam smirked at him, and Liam’s eyes widened.

“Take me home, Sam. Show me the benefits.”

Sam held Liam closer. “Can you let Alex go now, babe?”

Liam looked over the grey waves. “I have no choice, do I?”

“He’ll always be here, Liam. He’ll never leave you completely. Alex loved you too much for that.” Sam gathered Liam in his arms again and kissed him gently, then he led him into the coffee shop. “I need a coffee and you need to get out of the rain.”

They sipped lattes as they headed towards their car. Liam held out his hand as Sam took out the keys.

“There’s no way you’re driving us home,” Liam said. “I want to get home in one piece to enjoy the benefits.”

“I’m not that bad,” Sam protested but he handed over the keys and walked around to the passenger seat.

Before he got in the car he looked out to the gloomy horizon. “Thank you for giving him to me, Alex.”

Maybe, just maybe, he heard a “You’re welcome.”

Did you enjoy Sue Brown’s story? If so, check out the rest of her books and take 25% off at checkout with the code SueBrownFlash. Coupon code is good for one order per customer through February 28, 2015.

Black Feather by B.G. Thomas

January 28, 2015

Title: Black Feather

Author: B.G. Thomas

Pairing: Hound Dog and Bean from Hound Dog & Bean

Prompt: feather

Dean “Bean” Alexander thought about buying H.D. the ring. It was beautiful, Black Hills gold—all leaves and vines and clusters of grapes, and made with not only yellow gold, but green and pink as well. Not standard, not screaming “wedding ring!” It would look gorgeous on Hill’s hand, and every time Dean saw it, he would have a symbol of how generous the Universe had been to put the man in his life.

But then Dean would remember those horrible weeks that H.D. had left him. Left him in that big house alone, taking his love with him.

And it happened because Dean had made Hill feel trapped. Had scared his lover, and in the great decision of Nature—of fight versus flight—his beautiful man had chosen flight.

Dean hadn’t known what had made Hill come back to him—not for months and months. He’d only been deeply grateful.

So in the end, he’d left the ring where it was, in the glass case at the store.

The last thing he wanted to do was make Hill feel trapped. Would a ring do that?

No. Marriage, even though it was legal at last for two men to marry in Missouri, was not something for which he and Hound Dog would ever claim their right.

It was enough that Hill was in his life.

And wasn’t it enough that H.D. was taking him to meet the only person alive that he could call family, a mysterious old woman named Ezzie Borchardt?

 

 

“Stop!” cried Hillary “Hound Dog,” and Dean did. Slammed his foot down on the brake, too hard, and his Smart car slid on the gravel and close to the ditch. Luckily, close was as far as it got. It would be a bitch getting the car out. Who would they even ask for help out here in the country?

“H.D! What is it?” Dean looked over at his lover. He wasn’t saying anything, only staring out the passenger window at the small house at the end of the road. “Hill? What’s wrong?”

H.D. sighed and turned, his mane of blond dreadlocks shifting in a wave. “God, Dean. Suddenly I’m scared.”

“Of what, baby?”

He didn’t answer right away. Dean could only guess. “Of me meeting Ezzie?”

Dean watched as H.D. gave a single nod. It made his stomach flutter. “You don’t think she’ll like me?”

“Oh no!” H.D. bit his lower lip. “It’s not that. It’s just….” He looked back out the window. “I’m suddenly nervous. Ezzie… she’s the only family I’ve had since… Mom died. I never expected to be bringing a man to… to… I don’t know what!”

Dean smiled and reached out and touched H.D.’s cheek. “Home?”

H.D. gave a little shrug, making those beautiful locks shiver. “About the only home I ever had… until now.” He blushed.

H.D. blushed.

Wonders never ceased.

“You do have a home now. Now and forever.”

“My forever home,” whispered H.D.

 

 

They pulled in to the dirt driveway just as Ezzie walked out onto the porch, letting her old screen door bang shut behind her. She came to the top of the steps, hands on hips, and gazed down at H.D. through the windshield of the car. She looked pretty much the same as she did all those years ago when he’d lived with her that year as a teen—old enough to have known Moses personally.

H.D. took a deep breath and got out.

“Well, it’s about time you got here,” Ezzie said and leaned against the porch railing.

Yeah. Sure. Start that shit again, and right off. Pretending she knew they were coming. And she couldn’t know. Couldn’t. It wasn’t even like he could call and tell her. No phone. He’d even called the local town hall to see if anyone knew if she was okay.

“Well, I don’t know if anyone would call Ezzie Borchardt ‘okay,’” the woman on the other end of the line had told him this past week. “But she’s still kicking. I suspect she’ll be around when my grandchildren breathe their last.”

Ezzie started down the first step. “Oh, come here, you ol’ hound dog,” she said, reaching out with the hand that was not gripping the railing.

“Don’t!” H.D. said. “We’ll come up to you.”

She laughed. “I can still walk, don’t you worry none about that. She pointed past him. “Is this your man? Ha! Of course it is!”

“Dean Alexander, ma’am.” Dean went to her and held out a hand. “My friends call me Bean.”

“Of course they would.” She took his hand and gave it a single shake. Had she winced? Arthritis? “You’re the coffee man. Handsome fellow too. Ooooh, what you two must look like when you’re rolling around in the sheets!”

“Ezzie!” H.D. cried and watched as Dean turned red. Even his ears!

“And bald,” Ezzie continued. “Just like I said. Didn’t I say, Hillary?”

Had she? H.D. didn’t remember.

All he remembered was the old woman sitting down one afternoon and doing one of her crazy witchy readings. “Readings” like he’d seen her do countless times for people who came from far and wide, wanting her to tell their fortunes or work spells or cures.

Crazy!

Crazy, except….

….except sometimes she knew things she couldn’t know.

And here I am, bringing Dean to meet her….

For one second, H.D. wanted to jump into the car and shout for his lover to get him out of here and now.

But then she smiled and gave him a wink, and then she was somehow in his arms, and he was hit with a rush of nostalgia and good memories and echoes of the only real love he could remember while wandering the long roads between Losing His Mother and Finding Dean.

She pulled back and blinked at him. Were those tears in her no-nonsense eyes?

“I got a big roast ready to eat if you two are hungry. I even made leather jackets. Stink to high heaven when they’re a-cookin,’ but my oh my, aren’t they good to eat? Especially with a good old pork bone thrown in?” She shook her head. “Cornbread’s ready to go into the oven, and good thing I waited, huh? Been wonderin’ what was taking you two so long. Were you lollygagging? You should have been here at least an hour or more ago. Hope you didn’t stop to eat.”

There she goes again. Pretending to know things she can’t. H.D. turned to Dean and saw him gaping at her.

I warned you about her, H.D. thought. I warned you.

 

The meal was wonderful. The old woman—not even five foot five, with snow-white hair, wrinkles lining her face, and perhaps twice the weight of their Sheltie—had made enough food for a dozen people. The cornbread exceeded the expectations Hill had given Dean—perhaps the best he’d ever had in his life. Leather jackets turned out to be something that looked a lot like green beans but were brown and had so much flavor Dean’s salivary glands practically ached. And the roast! So tender it fell apart, it was laden with at least a dozen different herbs that had come, according to Ezzie, fresh from her garden. When they finally pushed back their plates, Dean was almost sick, he was so full.

“I guess we can wait on the cobbler?” Ezzie asked and chuckled delightfully.

“Please!” Dean leaned back in his chair and petted his extended tummy, trying to soothe it.

“Growing men need to eat,” she stated empirically.

“I just don’t want to grow in the wrong direction,” Dean said, pantomiming a growing belly.

Ezzie sat up straight and let out a long squeaking laugh. “I doubt that you have to worry about that. ‘Sides, do you think we eat like this all the time ’round here?” She pointed at Hill. “If we had’a, our old hound dog there wouldn’t be the sleek thing he is.”

“Ezzie!” H.D. sighed dramatically.

Dean could only smile. Sleek and more described him.

“Since you were coming, and I was going to meet Hillary’s forever lover-man, I wanted to fix something special. I knew Jimmy Garret had slaughtered a cow last week, and I also know his gout was acting up again. I made him some of my tart cherry remedy, and he gave me a roast.”

Dean raised an eyebrow. Ezzie was claiming she knew they’d been coming? Funny. How would she know that? Unless the lady from the courthouse had told her they’d called. But that wouldn’t have told her they were coming, and certainly not today. Nor to have a big meal waiting for them. He shook his head.

“By the way,” Ezzie said, getting up and walking over to an ancient china cabinet, with very little “china” inside. “Where are the children?”

“Children?” Dean asked.

She nodded and, standing on her tiptoes, started moving jars around on the top shelf. “Yeah. The shepherd dog—black, I think. And the little fur ball.”

Dean sat up. Rammstein, their Sheltie, and Sarah Jane, the dachshund-Yorkie mix? Now how did she know about them?

“We left them with their Aunt Elaine and Aunt Mara,” H.D. said, acting nonplussed. “Dean has a Smart car. There would have been room for Sarah Jane, maybe. But Rammie’s gotten big. It would have been way too crowded.”

Ezzie continued to fumble with the jars, and for a second there, Dean was afraid one would fall. Or she would.

“Ezzie,” he said, standing. “Let me help you with that.”

She stopped and turned around. “I was hoping Hillary would get off his butt and give an old lady a hand.”

“Well, shit,” H.D. said, jumping up. “I didn’t know what you were doing.”

“Don’t swear,” she snapped. “You know I don’t like it.”

Dean laughed, and H.D. went to the cabinet.

“It’s there on the top,” Ezzie directed. “But a few jars back. Clear. Looks like water.” She winked. “It’s not.”

“This one?” H.D. held out a mason jar that indeed looked like it was filled with water.

Ezzie cackled—a genuine cackle. “That’s it!” She took it from him, sat down, and pointed to his seat. “Just wait till you try this.”

“What is it?” Dean asked.

“It’s my rheumatoid medicine,” she answered and cackled again. She sat down, unscrewed the lid, and took a sip. Her face scrunched up, and she crowed out a “Whoo-whee!”

Once more Dean was curious. What in the world?

“Moonshine,” H.D. explained and took the jar.

His brows shot up. “Moonshine?

“You bet your sweet bippy,” Ezzie exclaimed. “Every spring I put a charm on Gary Sutton’s still to keep the law from finding it, and he pays me in a few jars.”

“You do what?” asked Dean. Moonshine? A charm? He looked over at Hill, who only shrugged and then mouthed, “I told you.” And indeed he had.

What would his conservative parents—his father, a retired Missouri prosecuting attorney, and his mother, a bank president and socialite—think of this old lady? This woman who could have been anywhere from sixty to a hundred years old, with her wild white hair and her clothes that might have been older than she was. Her home, no bigger than his parents’ pool house. And her mason jar full of moonshine….

He swallowed hard and managed a smile. “A charm, huh?”

Ezzie nodded. “Yup.” She turned to Hill. “What do I put in it, boy?”

H.D. shrugged.

“Come on. You know. For protection. And to drive undesirables away?”

H.D. sighed. “Patchouli?”

Ezzie smiled. “And?”

“Sage?”

“Yes,” she whispered. “And basil and cloves. And what do I sprinkle around the whole thing?”

“Salt,” Hill replied and rolled his eyes.

Ezzie laughed and pushed the jar across the table to H.D., who grabbed it and took a good swig. He started to cough, and his eyes went wide, and she started to laugh all the harder. When he was finally able to stop coughing, he drank again but took a smaller helping this time.

Then he passed it to Dean.

Dean stared at it for a moment and then looked at the two sets of eyes that were focused on him expectantly.

What the hell, he thought. And took a drink.

It went down like fire, and when it hit his stomach, it rolled out in hot waves through seemingly every inch of his body.

Ezzie giggled, threw her head back, and her giggling turned into a loud guffaw. “Oh,” she cried and laughed some more. “I think the coffee man isn’t used to a drink like this!”

Indeed he wasn’t. But damn…. A nice warm feeling was filling his whole world.

He shook his head and watched as she took her turn with the mason jar. What a character, he thought. He’d read about people like her. Seen shows. They were experts on human nature. They somehow read expressions, body language, listened to every single word and studied every nuance—without appearing to—and then made you think they had powers and otherworldly insights. She’d make a hell of a subject for one of those shows. What would Houdini have made of her?

But somewhere along the line (­was it the fifth time the jar was passed to him? The sixth?) he quite suddenly realized something.

He didn’t care what his parents would think of Ezzie. He didn’t care she was so eccentric. He liked her. Weird as she was, he liked her a lot. For lots of reasons. But number one among them all was that she loved Hill. He didn’t need to be psychic to see that. So, so what if she was a little odd?

So what indeed.

 

Ezzie put them in Hill’s old room.

“Now don’t you two do anything I wouldn’t do,” she said, and snorted. Then before H.D. could say anything, she shocked him by leaning in and kissing his cheek. Then she blinked at Dean, touched his arm, nodded, and finally turned and headed down the hall to her own room.

H.D. closed the door and faced Dean, wondering what he would say. What was he thinking?

Dean smiled. “She’s a character, all right. You were right about that.”

“I’m sorry,” H.D. said but then wondered why. Ezzie was who she was. He’d warned Dean. Many times. But his lover had insisted he wanted to meet her.

Lover.

Wow.

Would he ever get used to that word?

“Why are you sorry?” Dean asked. “You don’t have anything to be sorry about. She is who she is. And she loves you. How can I not like her?”

H.D.’s heart skipped a beat. Oh, Dean, he thought and then pulled him into his arms. I love you. My God, I love you.

They undressed then. H.D. watched Dean’s every step as he removed each article of clothing. He never tired of seeing his lover’s body slowly revealed to him. Those muscles. His skin that begged to be touched, kissed. His cock, glorious, his ass more so. And Dean was watching him in that way of his. It always amused H.D. the way Dean seemed always caught up in some weird seesaw of timidity and boldness, which, impossibly, made H.D. shy and at the same time caused him to revel at Dean’s hungry eyes.

The two men were hard in seconds, and H.D. pulled Dean down to the floor.

“What are you doing?”

“The bed springs,” H.D. explained. “They squeak. A lot. I couldn’t even jerk off as a kid without her knowing.”

Dean smiled as H.D. pulled a tiny tube of lube from his discarded jeans. “You don’t think she knows what we’re up to? She knows everything else.” Then he gasped as H.D. applied the slick lubrication with a tight grip.

H.D. straddled him and, with a long sigh, took Dean deep into himself.

“Not everything,” H.D. whispered, and began lifting and lowering himself on Dean’s cock.

Then he wasn’t thinking of Ezzie. He was thinking only of the glory of being with Dean and how it never ceased to amaze him that he never tired of him. All his sexual life he’d made it a point to avoid having sex with a man more than once (and occasionally twice if it was very good sex). Now? He couldn’t imagine being with anyone else. Dean had asked him if he wanted an open relationship, and for a second he’d been startled that the question had actually hurt. But then Dean explained that he knew H.D. had enjoyed a life of men and had expressed never wanting to be tied down. “I don’t want you to be bored with me,” Dean had said. H.D. realized that Dean was just as afraid of losing him as he was afraid of losing Dean, and he loved him for the offer. And then he saw clearly and totally that he was through with being a sexual gypsy. Somehow, in some way, the impossible had happened. H.D. wanted to be with only one man.

Only Dean.

“I love you,” H.D. said, the words out of his mouth before he knew he was going to say them.

Dean’s eyes widened, just a bit. “You… you do?”

“I do,” H.D. replied. He watched Dean’s eyes fill with tears, and then he bent to kiss them away. There was fear in those eyes as well. He’s afraid I’ll leave. Still. Can I blame him?

But H.D. knew he wasn’t going anywhere. And how incredible was that? He’d been afraid for so many years of getting close to anyone. When you did that, they went away. They left you or fell out of love with you or denied you their love altogether.

Or they died.

“You don’t tie a hound dog down,” he’d been saying forever.

But now? Now the idea didn’t seem so frightening. Like it wasn’t being tied down but bound together. Forever? Hell! He’d accept gladly every day he was given with Dean.

Then H.D. sped up his rocking motions, letting them forget, for a moment, anything but pleasure.

After, when they were in bed together and the lights were out and Dean was softly snoring, H.D. thought once again of the wonder of it all. Of Dean. Of them.

Forever, he thought. I’m with you forever. Then he pushed away any fears he had, snuggled tightly against his man, and slipped into lovely dreams.

 

They stayed for two days, helping Ezzie around the house—fixing the back screen door, clearing the gutters for the rapidly approaching winter, harvesting the last of her garden: squash, a few stray cucumbers, and—damn!—tomatoes the size of grapefruit.

Dean found himself falling into a happy, comfortable timelessness. The chores weren’t difficult or boring. It was just time with Hillary and a funny old woman named Ezzie Borchardt.

That last night she fixed them another wonderful meal. Home cooking, she said. This time it was chicken (Dean had never seen one plucked before!) home-canned green beans, sweet potatoes, fried pickles (he’d never heard of those, and they were delicious), and of course tomatoes.

While Dean was contemplating getting up and packing for home—luckily it would take but a few moments, but God, he was so full—Ezzie announced it was time for their reading.

Reading? Did that mean Ezzie was going to tell his fortune? No, their fortune? Something with chicken bones and arrowheads?

He smiled. He couldn’t help it. Hill had warned him about this too. And before they got here, he’d vowed to be polite and nod and keep his mouth (mostly) shut. But now? Now he was curious. Why, maybe even a bit excited. Because he’d come to find the old woman fascinating. She did seem to know things. He knew it was a trick. But just because she didn’t have “the sight” didn’t mean that she wasn’t insightful. And she was doing this reading for them—for him and Hill.

Funny….

The idea made his heart race.

So he and H.D. cleared the table, and just as they were wiping it all down, she came back and sat down, laying a brown leather pouch on the table in front of her. It was about eight inches by eight inches and extremely worn—it looked to be as old as she was. Ezzie was humming a tuneless little tune, no rhyme or reason that he could see to the notes, as sharp and flat as they were. She looked up at him and pointed to one of the seats across from her. He sat.

“Hillary?” she called, and with a sigh, H.D. sat beside him.

Ezzie closed her eyes and rocked in her chair for a moment, the tune forgotten and then remembered. Then she gave a little shudder, opened her bag, and dumped the contents onto the table between them.

What Dean saw was an eclectic collection of objects. An old bottle cap, a thin and frayed piece of rope—not much thicker than twine—what looked like a chicken bone. A tarnished ring of undetermined metal, a piece of glass that must have been smoothed by a river or ocean waves, a piece of gnarled wood. There he saw a little fossil with the imprint of a fern, and a buffalo-head nickel (his father would love that; he collected coins). Look, there was the arrowhead Hill had told him about, and there a bolt with a nut screwed on about halfway. He also saw what he thought was probably a piece of antler, and was that a bear claw? There were several other objects as well, including an acorn, a cowrie shell, and a single black feather.

“That’s new,” H.D. said, pointing to the feather Dean had noted.

“It is. It was left by your spirit guide before she left and went to the Other World.”

H.D. scoffed. “Other world. Sure.”

“Don’t be rude,” Ezzie replied. She looked up at Dean. “One of his guides is a blackbird,” she said. “And a dog, of course. But then, so is one of yours—a dog.”

“Guides?” Dean asked.

“Animal guides, from the Great Mother. To help you find the way.” She closed her eyes. “Most people have seven, and some nine. I think you have at least that many.” She opened her eyes, studied him. “And a ram…. Or a goat. Hmmmmm…. Do you know why that would be?”

“Don’t you know?” H.D. said with a sarcastic tone.

“I told you not to be rude,” she snapped.

H.D. sighed.

A goat, huh? Interesting. “I suppose because of my coffee,” Dean said, humoring her. “Legend says goats discovered coffee.”

Dancing goats,” she added.

Which was true. How did she know that? But then the story wasn’t that uncommon. A woman her age could easily have heard it and filed it away.

“Hermit crab was one of your guides, because he carries his home on his back. Home was wherever he went.” She nodded. “Yes. But not anymore. You have made a permanent home now.”

He raised an eyebrow despite himself and looked over at H.D., who only shrugged. Did you tell her that? he wondered.

“Spider too. Because—well, in your case—because she creates. Are you an artist, Dean?”

That one got him. He was. He’d painted a series of pictures telling the story of the goats discovering coffee and then dancing when they were filled with caffeine. He’d painted them all along the ceiling of The Shepherd’s Bean, his coffee shop.

Ezzie closed her eyes again. Just when Dean wondered if she’d slipped off to sleep, she began to speak.

“I see two men. Two who have been separate and alone. For too long. For miles and miles they have wandered and finally found what they didn’t even know they were looking for.” Her eyes popped open wide, showing her faded blue irises. “You two.”

Dean glanced over at Hill and saw his lover’s Adam’s apple bob hard. They locked eyes. H.D. bit his lower lip.

She pointed at the green piece of glass. “See? This was once sharp. It had edges that could cut you. But it has been worn smooth. Like the two of you. What was once sharp is now ready to be something beautiful and new. See how something so common can be so lovely?”

She touched the bone. “This points to your future. It says, ‘walk away from each other at thy peril.’”

“Peril?” H.D. said, his voice breaking like a teenaged boy’s. “Peril? Really, Ezzie? Peril?

“The peril that you will both walk the world alone. You two are meant to be.” She indicated the bolt and nut. “You fit.”

“I thought you always say that that means something halfway done or half still to do,” H.D. said.

Ezzie raised a thin white brow. “Are you the reader, or am I?”

H.D. sighed, and Dean reached out and took his hand. “I think we fit, Hill.” He interlocked his fingers with H.D.’s, liking the sameness and differences of their hands. His were thicker, blunter. Hill’s were thinner and longer. Yet both were obviously men’s hands.

Dean looked into H.D.’s eyes and smiled. Let her have her say, he thought at H.D. I like that she says we fit.

Now Ezzie was running her finger along the black feather. “See how it goes through the ring? And how the ring touches the horn?”

“Horn?” asked Dean. Not an antler?

“Bird and goat. And the bird is Hill’s mother. She watched over him for years but pointed him to you. It’s your job to watch over him now.”

A warmth spread throughout Dean’s chest. “I can do that.” I would love to do that.

“And this….” Ezzie picked up the piece of rope. “Frayed and done. A fear of being tied down can now be set aside.”

H.D. gasped, and Dean looked over at him again. Hill’s face was unreadable. A host of emotions seemed to be swirling in those eyes.

“The leash is broken,” Ezzie said. “This man will not tie you down. You can chose to walk by his side or go your own way, like any hound dog.” She looked over at Dean. “You want to ask him an important question. One asking him to be yours forever. But you’re afraid he will leave you.”

An important question. A ring. He wanted to ask Hill to marry him. And yes. He’d been too afraid….

Wait! Was he finding himself believing that this woman knew things?

She reached out a hand and laid it on theirs. “Of course I know things, Dean Alexander. I know all kinds of things. I’m as old as Moses, right? How could I not?” She chuckled.

“My advice is to take on the handfasting.”

“Handfasting?” they both chorused.

She nodded. “The old way. To be bound together for a year and a day. And then at the end of that time, the lovers decide whether to stay forever bound—”

“Bound,” H.D. whispered.

“—or to go their separate ways.”

And then she stood and left the room, leaving them alone. Together.

 

 

They were halfway home when they decided to turn around and go back.

“You’re sure?” Dean asked.

“I…. Damn.” H.D. smiled. “I am.”

“You know she can’t possibly know the things she says she knows, right?” Dean asked, hoping to convince himself more than Hillary.

H.D. laughed. “I guess I really don’t care.”

Dean realized that neither did he.

So they went back and found her on the porch, and of course she said, “I was wondering when you’d get back.”

She took them out into the remnants of her garden under the light of a brilliant and full moon. There she called on those that have no names, who came before there were names. She called on the North and East, South and West. She called on Dog and Ram, on Spider and Black Bird. She called on Love to be their witness.

She took their hands and tied them with a gold cord, and she said, “Do you take each other in heart? In mind. In life and love?”

“I do,” said Hill, before Dean could even answer.

Dean repeated the words, feeling his heart race and tremble in wonder.

“Know then that you both do this willingly, and you go forth from this place as two men, and one man, at the same time.”

The nodded, waited….

“Kiss, you fools!” she cried.

And they did.

Then she had them jump over a broom, telling them that they had left separate halls and now lived together in one home.

They hugged her then and decided to stay one more night.

What the hell.

They decided they didn’t care that the bed springs squeaked.

Did you enjoy B.G. Thomas’s story? If so, check out the rest of his books and take 25% off at checkout with the code BGThomasFlash. Coupon code is good for one order per customer through February 28, 2015.

Double Indemnity Release Party: Wrap-up and Excerpt

January 27, 2015

That about wraps it up for the blog party! Thank you again for joining me today in celebrating the release of Double Indemnity. Please come say hello tonight during the Twitter takeover from 8-9 p.m. EST! For a full list of guest posts from my blog tour, as well as reviews of the book and giveaways, visit my website.

Here’s a final taste of the book before I go. Enjoy!

SAM MADE good on his promise. He showed up the next night, and the next. Most of the time, Nathan swam and they didn’t talk. It became a strange routine, the peaceful evening turning into night with only the sounds of gently lapping water and crickets to break the stillness. Out here in the country, millions of stars appeared once the sun set, and Sam wondered why he’d never given much thought to their beauty before. There was probably something to be said for looking up once in a while, instead of straight ahead, but Sam didn’t feel inclined to delve more deeply into the thought.

After the first night at Nathan’s, Sam made sure to bring his trunks. He never swam as long as Nathan did, but he did laps and then lounged by the pool’s edge, feet dangling. They spoke very little, except for passing comments about the weather or sports. But on the fourth night, Nathan seemed different. He smiled when Sam arrived and continued his lazy backstroke. “I was wondering if you were coming.”

“Of course.”

Sam nodded and went into the house to change. When he came back, Nathan was still idly circling the pool. Sam took a running leap, cannonballed into the cool water, and popped up only a couple of feet from Nathan.

“Quite an entrance.”

“Yeah, well, what can I say? I’m a drama queen.” And then, for no reason whatsoever, he splashed Nathan right in the face.

Nathan wiped the water from his eyes, which he then narrowed dangerously. “You splashed me.”

“Hell yeah, I did. And I’ll do it again.” So he did.


“Do you seriously want to play this game?”


Sam shivered, and not because of the coolness of the water, which had warmed considerably. Nathan’s predatory smile grew.

“You better swim fast.”


Sam dove to get a head start, but Nathan had the advantage. Before he knew it, Sam was trapped in Nathan’s strong arms and dragged toward the deep end of the pool. They wrestled, laughing, until Nathan finally got the better of Sam and dunked his head. Sam grabbed Nathan around the waist to pull him under as well, but the water made everything slippery. Their bodies slid together, and Sam suddenly realized he’d wrapped his leg around Nathan to get a firmer hold and had wound up in a very compromising position. His cock was hardening against Nathan’s thigh. Nathan exhaled against his cheek.

The struggle continued for a moment before Sam froze and, with a laugh to cover up his increasing embarrassment, pushed himself away. Nathan let him go without protest. Sam swam to the other end of the pool and then hoisted himself out, deciding to pretend nothing had happened.

author pic alby large

You can also find me at any of the following links. I’m especially active on Twitter: 

Web
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Double Indemnity can be purchased at Dreamspinner Press  with this one-time use coupon code for 15% off today/tomorrow: (Kavanagh0127). If you use it combined with the 25% off sale today, you’ll receive 40% off your total purchase!

Last, there is an ongoing Goodreads Giveaway for 2 copies of the signed paperback. Enter to win here!

Again, thank you for taking the time to stop by.  I enjoyed chatting with you and hope we can continue the conversation. -MK

Double Indemnity Release Party with Maggie Kavanagh

January 27, 2015

Hi, this is Maggie Kavanagh here to talk to you lovely folks about my new novel, Double Indemnity, which released yesterday. Thanks so much for joining me to celebrate (and don’t forget to refresh the blog for later posts).

First, business: I’ll be on the Dreamspinner blog today from 12-5 p.m. EST and then I’m heading over to Twitter for a takeover of the Dreamspinner account from 8-9 p.m. EST. You can find a full schedule of guest posts and giveaways on my website. Later today, I’ll be doing an eBook giveaway here, so keep checking back for that post! Dreamspinner has also graciously provided a one-time-use per customer coupon code for 15% off either of my books on the DSP site. Simply enter Kavanagh0127 at checkout. The code will be good for today and tomorrow. Now, because DSP already has a 25% off eBoooks sale going on today, that means you’ll get 40% off the total price! What a steal!

Now, let’s party! Double Indemnity is a murder-mystery/romance set in the fictional town of Stonebridge, Connecticut. The book is filled with sexual tension, danger, and plot twists, with occasional comic relief provided by my self-deprecating and sarcastic hero, Sam Flynn.

The story is told from a limited third person point of view, which means as a reader you’re very closely aligned with the Sam’s thoughts. Sam is a bit of a mess, but I loved writing him. He’s in his later twenties, working a landscaping job to stay afloat on hospital bills, as he’s the primary caretaker of his comatose brother, Tim. He drinks too much, has a lot of causal sex, and he also likes to stick his nose where it doesn’t belong. A born investigative reporter, Sam finds himself intrigued by a series of unexplained deaths in Stonebridge and soon finds himself on a dangerous journey to uncover the truth.

Nathan Walker, long an object of Sam’s fantasy from afar, is a more enigmatic character, since we only see him filtered through Sam’s perception. Eight years older than Sam, he’s a married, well-established professional with a seemingly perfect life. He’s also got some deeply buried secrets that readers will discover along with Sam.

Now, the most important part: the romance. I like to ratchet up the sexual tension between the main characters before they finally get together, mainly because I enjoy lots of UST as a reader. While an immediate romp in bed can be fun, I always find the emotional payoff greater after a good dose of tension. At the same time, it has to make sense in the context of the novel. I don’t like to delay sex just to prolong the inevitable—it has to fit with the characters and story. In this novel, there are a multitude of obstacles to any relationship between the two main characters, some which are more obvious than others. I love a hard won HEA or HFN, and that’s exactly what you’ll find in this novel.

DoubleIndemnityCoverBlurb:  Sam Flynn dreamed of being a journalist until a car accident killed his parents and put his brother into a long-term coma. Now Sam spends his days as a landscaper toiling in the New England sun and his nights drunk in bed with the closest warm body.  In his limited spare time, he writes about Stonebridge’s local crime and politics on his blog “Under the Bridge.”

Then Sam’s favorite client is found dead in her home—shortly after telling him someone has betrayed her trust. Sam can’t believe her grief-stricken husband Nathan would be a suspect, but the investigation hones in on him. Sam has always admired handsome Nathan from afar, but now he puts his libidinous feelings aside to help clear his name. However, the closer he gets to Nathan, the more he’s told to keep away from him and the investigation—by the fatherly police chief, by an officer on the case who’s hated him since school, and by Nathan himself.

Sam’s determined to expose the real reason his friend died and clear Nathan’s name—even if it’s the last thing he does. Which, considering how fast the death toll is increasing in Stonebridge… it might be.

******

Excerpt: The drive from downtown to the suburbs of West Stonebridge took around twenty minutes. Houses turned into estates and then grew fewer and farther apart, and eventually gave way to farmland and wilderness. The contrast never failed to make him a little sorry for Stonebridge, which, despite the pretty name, was a huge dump of a port city. Most of it, anyway. Out here the air got fresher, the colors brighter, the people richer.

Sam cranked up the A/C in his truck and stopped for a coffee to wash down a couple of aspirin to kill his hangover. His first stop was the Walkers’ place, an old converted farmhouse on acres of land, most of which was covered with trees. Sam had often wondered what it would be like to live with nothing but bears and bunnies for neighbors. It might get lonely, but at least the water temperature would always be just right. He parked his Ford flatbed on the gravel driveway and hopped out. Because the job was only a weekly mow and maintain, Sam hadn’t bothered to ask any of the other workers to join him. And Yuri had taken the day off, Sam remembered, so he wouldn’t see his partner until the next day. At least it would avoid another awkward morning after.

Emma Walker’s cruiser was still parked in the drive when he pulled in, and next to it, her husband Nathan’s sleek black Mercedes. Sam’s pulse quickened like it always did, but the butterflies in his stomach reached swarm proportions when he noticed Nathan getting out of the driver’s side.

With his black sunglasses and trendy suit, the cut of which showed off his powerful shoulders and trim waist, Nathan couldn’t have looked less rustic in front of his country home. His dark hair gleamed in the morning sun.

He had a few inches on Sam, and Sam had often admired his swimmer’s build on the occasions Nathan was home while Sam worked the yard. The guy could do laps for hours as Sam mowed and raked and tried not to marvel at the way he cut through the water like a hot knife through butter. An attractive man, but a very heterosexual, very married, man, Sam reminded himself as he returned Nathan’s wave. He pulled something out of his trunk—a suitcase—and vanished into the house. Sam often wondered where Nathan disappeared to on all of those long trips. He could have been a government agent or some kind of contractor. Even a hit man.

******

I’d love to hear from you now! What sort of narration do you prefer in reading a M/M romance (first person, third person limited, omniscient, etc.)? Does it depend on the writer or story? As far as sexual tension, do you like gradual buildup or does it again depend on context?

 

Perfect Timing by Chris Scully

January 27, 2015

Title: Perfect Timing

Author: Chris Scully

Pairing: Adam and Joe from Inseparable and When Adam Kissed Me

Prompt: baby

I heard the screaming the minute I set foot on the front porch.

What the hell? Joe’s sisters had popped out enough kids over the years that I recognized the sound of a squalling infant when I heard it. The question was, what was one doing in our house?

“Joe?” I called as I entered. I dropped my laptop bag on the floor in the foyer and followed the ear-splitting wails to our cozy living room. There I found my best friend and the love of my life, bare-chested and uncharacteristically frantic, bouncing an irate, red-faced and equally bare-chested, baby in his arms. “Okay, I know we didn’t have one of those when I left for work this morning.”

Joe spun around at the sound of my voice. Although how he could possibly hear anything with that crying, I don’t know. “Hey, babe,” he said with a grin.

“I leave you at home to wait for the window installer and somehow you end up with a baby?”

“The stork brought him.”

“What?” I shouted, pretending I couldn’t hear him over the din.

“I said—”

I waved him off and ventured a step closer to peer at the noisemaker. “Is that Julian’s kid?” Our friend Julian and his wife Sara had just had a baby four months ago. We’d visited once. “Brady, right? What’s he doing here? Don’t tell me you kidnapped him.”

“Sara’s mom is in the hospital. They didn’t want to take the baby, so I volunteered….”

“Of course you did,” I muttered under my breath. “What happened to your magic touch?”

“It’s not working. He hasn’t stopped crying since they left.” Two creamy rivers of snot flowed from Brady’s nostrils into his open mouth. Joe produced a tissue and tried to wipe his face, but the kid twisted his head and it ended up smeared across his cheek. Ugh.

“Do I want to know why you’re both shirtless?” I asked. “Maybe that’s the problem—he thinks he’s being attacked by a sasquatch.” Joe just stuck out his tongue in response to my dig. My beautiful bear of a boyfriend knew exactly how hot I thought he was.

“The little guy was screaming so hard he upchucked down my back.”

A sudden silence made us both look at Brady in shock. Then he made a choking sound and with a loud gurgle, frothy milk erupted from his mouth and spilled down his chin to drip onto his pudgy Buddha belly. “You mean like that?” I asked drily.

Joe started laughing. Brady screamed louder. Me? I wanted to hide. I had nothing against kids, but I preferred them older—when they developed personalities. Babies were so helpless and needy. Mostly though, it was the idea of being responsible for another person that freaked me out. Unlike Joe, I didn’t exactly come from a loving family. My parental examples were indifferent at best.

I’d known Joe most of my life. He was surprisingly traditional about some things. Even before we’d become a couple, he’d made no secret of wanting to get married and start a family. I knew what I was signing up for, but we hadn’t talked about it in a while, concentrating instead on getting the house fixed up and just enjoying being together the way we’d always wanted to be.

The silence was his way of letting me adjust to the idea. He was waiting for me. I knew this the same way I knew he’d already scoped out schools in the district, and envisioned a swing set in the backyard. By mutual, unspoken agreement we’d chosen this fixer-upper instead of the new condo I’d originally wanted. Now I couldn’t help wondering if he’d been reading my thoughts lately, and this whole thing was a setup.

“Are you sure you want one of these?” I asked.

“One? Try two or three.” Joe held up his left hand and wiggled his fingers. “But you’ve got to put a ring on it first. I’m Catholic, remember.”

I bit the inside of my cheek to keep from laughing at his wide-eyed, innocent expression. “That’s convenient. You don’t seem so worried about all the pre-marital gay sex.”

“Oh, that I’m willing to go to Hell for.” Joe flashed that sexy grin of his. “Here, take him for a sec. There’s a change of clothes here somewhere.”

Before I could protest, Joe thrust the squirming, squalling baby into my hands. I held him up and out from me, his chubby little legs churning in the air. Then Brady blinked once and stopped crying. We stared at each other warily, like two unknown species meeting for the first time.

“What did you do?” Joe demanded.

“Nothing. I swear.” Cautiously, I settled Brady against my chest. He heaved a sigh, shuddered and rubbed his wet face into my shoulder. “He must have cried himself out.”

“Hmpf.” Joe thrust a blue onesie at me. “You dress him then. I’ve got cannelloni in the oven.” He tried to hide it, but I saw that little smile as he walked away

“I think someone’s jealous,” I called after him.

I stared down at the tufts of dark hair on Brady’s head with a mounting sense of panic. What to do now? He sneezed, blowing snot bubbles from his nostrils. Oh yes, clean up. I took Brady into the bathroom Joe and his dad had tiled, and cleaned him up as best I could with a damp washcloth. He grinned up at me the whole time, trying to stuff the cloth into his mouth.

Being a parent was not something I had ever envisioned for myself, but then, I had also never dared imagine having someone like Joe at my side to help me. I’d thought about this a lot. There was no doubt in my mind that I would spend the rest of my life with Joe—I didn’t need a piece of paper to tell me that. But it was important to him. And making Joe happy made me happy.

Now that I’d made up my mind, I’d been waging an inner struggle the past few weeks on how to actually do this. The idea of staging some stupid, romantic, YouTube-worthy proposal terrified me. That wasn’t me. Hell, I wasn’t even sure if I was supposed to buy an engagement ring or not.

I looked down at Brady in my arms. “I’m overthinking this, aren’t I? I should just do it.” His round face scrunched up in concentration and began turning pinker by the second.

The thunderous rapport as Brady filled his diaper made my jaw drop. He grinned, mighty pleased with himself. I would have laughed too, except the smell hit me then, and all my concentration went to keeping my stomach in check.

Several gag-inducing minutes later, Brady and I—him freshly diapered and dressed, and me with hands scrubbed until they were nearly raw—stood in the doorway and watched Joe move about the kitchen getting dinner ready. Brady gnawed on my tie, but otherwise seemed entirely content in my arms. He wasn’t so scary, really.

This felt right.

“Hey, Joe,” I began, taking a deep breath. “Can I ask you…?”

“Diapers are in the bag in the hallway,” Joe finished.

My laugh was nervous and freakishly high-pitched. “Yes, I know. Actually, my question was a bit more serious than that.”

Joe straightened as he drew the bubbling dish of cannelloni out of the oven and set it on the stovetop . “Oh.” He looked closer, reading me. He must have liked what he saw because his eyes widened slightly, and hope flared to life in the chocolate-brown depths. Once again we had  no need for words. “Oh?” His lips kept twitching into a smile. “Now? You’re going to do this now?” His excitement was palpable. “Do I need to sit down?”

“You might.”

At that moment, Joe’s cell phone rang. We both glared at it where it lay on the table.

“Want to get that?” I asked.

“Hell, no,” he exclaimed. “Keep going.”

“It could be Julian with an update.”

He groaned and snatched it up. “Hold that thought, okay?”

But it wasn’t Julian. Even halfway across the kitchen, I heard the unmistakable squeal of Joe’s younger sister. He jerked the phone away from his ear. “Jesus, Maria, I think I’m deaf now,” he complained.

I watched his face fall for a split second as he listened. I could hear Maria’s voice, but not what she was saying. My stomach tightened when Joe’s eyes met mine. It wasn’t good. “Adam’s here. Let me put you on speaker,” he said dolefully.

He held the phone out and Maria’s excited voice burst from the speaker. “I’m getting married, Adam,” she cried. “Kevin proposed.”

Brady’s little head jerked about searching for a body to go with the phantom voice. I shared a look with Joe, seeing my—our—plans evaporate. I knew he wouldn’t want to overshadow any of Maria’s happiness now. He shrugged silently, but his eyes were sad. “That’s… uh… great,” I said. “Congratulations.”

“Wait until you see the ring. I’m going to send you a picture,” Maria babbled, unstoppable. “Oh and Joe, I want you to be my man of honor.”

“Mar—”

“I’ve got to call Toni now. But we’ll talk soon, okay?”

We both said goodbye.

“My timing sucks, doesn’t it?” I asked as soon as Joe had hung up. It wasn’t the first time I’d messed things up by waiting too long.

“It could be better,” he admitted with a bittersweet smile. Then, “I’m just kidding.”

This was awful. When he hurt, I hurt. “We could do it now. Just the two of us.” That’s all I wanted anyway. Something small and intimate. “And then we could tell the family later.” Of course, we’d catch hell later, but I’d worry about that then.

Joe stepped close and laid a hand on my cheek. “It’s okay, Adam. Really. It’s enough that you’d offer. There’s no rush, right?”

I searched his face to make sure he meant it. He did. That was my Joe—big hearted to a fault. Thinking of everyone else’s happiness but his own. “Right. I mean it’s not like we can just make one of these in nine months. It’ll take some planning.” I shifted Brady to my hip. “We… uh… could start looking into it, though. If you want.”

“And you’ll hold on to that question a bit longer?”

“As long as you promise not to change your answer.”

Joe smiled. “I think you know what it is anyway.”

I leaned in to kiss him. “I do.”

Did you enjoy Chris Scully’s story? If so, check out the rest of her books and take 25% off at checkout with the code ChrisScullyFlash2. Coupon code is good for one order per customer through February 27, 2015.

The Thrill of Magic by Kate Pavelle

January 26, 2015

Title: The Thrill of Magic

Author: Kate Pavelle

Pairing: Wyatt and Jack from Zipper Fall

Prompt:   celebration

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

The door was closed.

Damn.

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

Fuck!

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

Adventure!

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

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

Dammit.

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

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

Unhealthy. No shit, Sherlock.

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

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

Unhealthy.

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

 

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

Drugs?

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Sure. Gimme a minute to change.”

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

She screamed.

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

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

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

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

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

“Do what?” Wyatt shrugged.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hopeful Beginning by Serena Yates

January 25, 2015

Title: Hopeful Beginning

Author: Serena Yates

Pairing: Grayson and James from Fighting for Hope

Prompt: library

Dedication

 

To all fans of the Modern Battles series.

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

 

 

Author’s Note

 

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

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

 

 

Chapter One

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yup, it appeared they were going upstairs.

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

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

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

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

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

James raised his eyebrows, his lips twitching a little.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Chapter Two

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Grayson moaned.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Always prepared, huh?” Grayson laughed.

“I was hopeful.” James shrugged.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Move,” Grayson hissed.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monopoly by Jameson Dash

January 24, 2015

Title: Monopoly

Author: Jameson Dash

Pairing: Aaron and Zach from Home Team

Prompt: monopoly

“You’re giving me the wheelbarrow?”

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

“Yeah, I can see that.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And then Aaron pulled out the Monopoly board.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Their new year was going to be just fine.

 

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

Wally’s Orphans by Andrew Grey

January 23, 2015

Title: Wally’s Orphans

Author: Andrew Grey

Pairing: Wally and Dakota from A Chaotic Range

Prompt: Marzipan

“Wally!” Dakota called at the top of his lungs.

He looked up toward the barn door where snow blew past, creating a curtain of white. Wally gently patted the goat he was examining. “Don’t worry. You’ll have your babies soon.” He stood and pulled his coat closed around him. The early spring snow storm had begun in the night and didn’t show any signs of letting up.

“What is it?” Wally asked as he reached the door. Dakota appeared out of the white and entered the barn, stamping off his boots. “I thought you were plowing the drive with the tractor.”

“I was, but I saw something in the snow.” Dakota opened his coat and Wally gasped. “There were two more, but they were already dead. The mother seems to have curled into a snowbank. She must have been injured because she was gone as well.”

Wally lifted two of the pups out of Dakota’s arms and let him keep the other two. “You poor things.” He whispered. “They’re cold, but warming up. Let’s get them in the house so I can look them over and then get the poor things something to eat.” He was already out the door and on his way to the house before he turned around. “What are you waiting for?”

“Shouldn’t we leave them in the barn?”

“No we shouldn’t. Now hurry up before you catch your death.” He turned and marched to the house. Inside, he waited for Dakota and got him to sit in one of the chairs. “Take these two and hold them all close. I’ll be right back.” Wally hurried to the back pantry and got a box. Then he raced upstairs and got two old towels and a heating pad. When he was back downstairs, he lined the box with the towels and heating pad, plugged it in, and turned it on. Then one by one, he placed the small brown puppies inside.

“I wonder how they got there. I nearly ran over all of them,” Dakota said softly. “The plow blade passed right next to them. If I’d been a foot to the right….”

Dakota was a huge man, but he had such a wonderful heart that he’d stolen Wally’s a number of years earlier. “I’m going to look each one over. Would you warm some milk? I have some droppers in the clinic that I can use to feed them. They’re going to need food quickly.”

“All right. I’ll run out to the barn and then I’ll be back to help you feed them.” Dakota took off and Wally picked up each of the puppies and gently looked them over. German Shepherds by the look of them, or at least in part, and they seemed about four weeks old. Their eyes were open and they seemed responsive.  “Are they okay?” Dakota asked after stomping in and closing the door.

“Yes. What about the plowing?” Wally took the droppers and syringes that Dakota brought.

“It’s taken care of.” Dakota took off his coat and sat down on the floor next to Wally. “What do you need me to do?”

“Get me some milk to start with.  I’ll make up a formula once we’re done that will be better for them longer term.”

Dakota nodded and got back up. He strode into the kitchen, and Wally heard the refrigerator open and close and then the microwave run for a few seconds. Dakota returned with a mug and sat back down. Wally got a dropper and picked up a puppy. He pulled some milk into the dropper and gently placed it on the puppy’s tongue. It licked it up and was ready for more. Dakota got another of the puppies and did the same.

“They’re hungry little guys aren’t they?”

“Yeah, that’s a really good sign. I’d say you got to these little ones just in time. I wonder why they survived.”

“They were in the middle and all curled together. The others were on the edges and more exposed to the snow. But you’re right. They wouldn’t have lasted much longer.” Dakota continued feeding the puppy. After five minutes, they switched puppies, placing the fed ones back in the box and picking up the others.

They switched back and forth until the puppies curled in a pile in the box and seemed ready to go to sleep. “We’re going to have to feed them often, but they’ll be okay.”

Dakota got up and stretched his back, then he pulled on his coat. “I’m going to bring in some wood and start a fire. We’ll all be warmer.”

“Thanks,” Wally said and sat next to the box, watching the pups. They snuggled in a little puppy pile. With the next round of feeding, he’d try bottles to see if that would work.

The back door opened and closed. Dakota trudged in with an armload of wood and began building a fire. It didn’t take his very capable partner very long to have a fire warming the room. Once he was done, Dakota hung everything up and made some hot chocolate for them both before settling on the sofa. Wally joined him, curling close. “You’re warm,” Dakota whispered.

“So are you,” Wally said as he wound his arms around Dakota’s middle.

“What are we going to do with them?”

Wally lifted his gaze. “They’ll make great ranch dogs. We can keep one or two. Milford will probably take one, and as soon as Phillips sees them, he’s going to want one.” Wally angled for a kiss. “Don’t worry. We’ll only keep two at the most, and I’ve already picked them out. See, I want the little boy with the honey coloring. He’s going to be Marzipan, and the one with the Black head and tawny ears is Sasha.”

“You’ve named them already?”

“Of course. How else do I get you to agree to add to our menagerie?” Wally chuckled and sipped from his mug before setting it on the coffee table.

“You know I’ll do whatever you want,” Dakota whispered.

Wally shifted closer. “And you know I love you for it.” Wally kissed Dakota hard, crawling on top of him and pressing Dakota back on the sofa.

“I love how you show your appreciation.” Dakota drew him down into a kiss, sliding his work-calloused hands under Wally’s shirt and up his back.  “Lock the door and pull the curtains.” Wally jumped up and did just that before rejoining Dakota on the sofa.  They showed each other their appreciation, deep and slow, not once, but twice, and ended up curled together as warm and comfortable as a pile of puppies in a box in front of the fire.

 

Did you enjoy Andrew Grey’s story? If so, check out the rest of his books and take 25% off at checkout with the code AndrewGreyFlash2. Coupon code is good for one order per customer through February 23, 2015.

The Scariest Halloween Ever by Pearl Love

January 22, 2015

Title: The Scariest Halloween Ever

Author: Pearl Love

Pairing: Reggie and Charles from Juicy Bits

Prompt: costume

“Come on, babe! The party starts at eight, and I promised to help Sam and Jen with set up.”

Charles ignored Reggie’s bellowed request as he held up his costume, or rather, the two strips of cloth that made up nearly the whole of his costume. He would honestly rather walk out in the black boxer briefs he had on than this questionable ensemble Reggie had forced on him. The final item, a large plastic bone, lay on the bed. He glared down at it balefully.

“Charles,” Reggie called out again, his voice getting louder as he approached the bedroom door. “I’m usually the one that takes forever to get ready, so what’s the hold up? Jen will kill me if we’re late.”

“What in the bloody hell is this?” Charles held up one strip of cloth in either hand as his husband stuck his head into the room.

Reggie blinked innocently. “It’s your costume, silly.” His body remained out of view, but a bone slightly smaller than the one laying on the bed was perched jauntily atop his head, held in place by an elastic strap. Charles thought he had no business throwing about the “silly” label with respect to anyone else.

“This is not a costume,” Charles sighed. “It’s at least a misdemeanor in several states.” He could hear his accent reach Colin Baker’s Doctor levels of crankiness. Reggie chuckled, his bright grin flashing against his dark skin. He came fully into the bedroom to display his own homage to Samhain. Charles blinked as his jaw fell open. “What in the bloody hell are you wearing?”

“Two ‘bloody hells’ in five minutes? You know I love it when you talk dirty British to me,” Reggie crooned unapologetically. He made a beeline for the bed and threw himself on it so he bounced on the firm, but not too firm, mattress. He picked up the forsaken bone and waggled it at Charles. “Don’t you dare try to get out of this. You promised you’d come. Jen is my boss—”

“No she isn’t,” Charles scoffed.

“Jen is in charge of payroll, so without her, my half of the bills don’t get paid. So, get with the dressing, and let’s go!”

Charles groaned, knowing he was fighting a losing battle, but unwilling to give up without at least trying to salvage his dignity. “What is this thing even?” He tossed the larger strip of cloth, which was orange and bore some odd pattern of large, triangular polka dots, toward the bed while waving the longer swath of dark brown cloth he held clutched in his other hand for annoyed emphasis. A small surge of petty victory rose within him when the orange fabric landed on Reggie’s head.

Undaunted, Reggie flipped up his new headgear and raised his eyebrows. “What, you’ve never heard of the Flintstones? The modern stone age family with their dino-dog, their adorable daughter, and her super strong toddler boyfriend?”

Charles stared incredulously. “What are you talking about.” He paused as a memory sparked. “Oh, wait. The old cartoon show, right? I think I’ve seen an episode or two, but I don’t remember the main couple or their neighbors having children.”

“Ah.” Reggie held up a finger. “Then you haven’t seen the latter part of the show. Yeah, Fred and Wilma have a daughter—” He lifted up the hem of his green top, which had the same triangular dot pattern as the fabric currently on his head. The motion revealed the scandalously tight blue shorts he wore underneath. “And Barney and Betty had a son. That’s you,” he added, pointing toward Charles.

“Hmmmm.” Charles pondered the explanation, seeking and failing to find a way to poke a hole in Reggie’s now obvious idea. “You’re dressed as the daughter, right?” he asked for clarification and reassurance.

Reggie chuckled. “Yeah. I figured I’d pressed my luck enough by asking you to come to this costume party with me without also making you play the girl. Besides,” he said in a slow drawl, “your abs will look way better in the Bamm Bamm costume than mine ever could.”

“Bamm Bamm? Seriously?” Charles felt a throbbing in his temple heralding a headache.

“Pebbles and Bamm Bamm.” Reggie sighed and shook his head. “You’ve been in the U.S. for years now. It’s past time you caught up on the pop culture. I’ll show you some clips of the show when we get home.” Before Charles could politely decline, Reggie hopped up from the bed. He whisked the orange fabric off his head and approached Charles with a menacing grin. “But now, it’s time you got ready for this party.”

Six minutes later, Reggie was stepping back with a self-satisfied smirk on his full lips. “Oh, yes. I was so right about that costume.” He abruptly grabbed Charles’ arm and angled him toward the full-length mirror standing in the far corner of their bedroom. “There, see?”

Charles stifled what he really wanted to say in favor of “Well, I guess it’s a good thing one of us stayed out of the candy stash.” The orange cloth was secured around his hips and the brown piece was draped over his left shoulder with the bone secured at his waist so it appeared to be holding the brown fabric in place.  “I feel ridiculous.”

“Well you looked hot.” Reggie bit his lip. “In fact, why don’t I call Jen and tell her we’re going to be about a half hour late—”

“Oh no.” Charles spun around and speared Reggie with his best glare. “If I have to wear this…thing, then I refuse to let you enjoy it any more than you absolutely have to.” He caught Reggie’s grin before he turned to stalk out of the room.

“We’ll see.”

Charles laughed despite himself as Reggie’s taunt followed him down the hall toward the front door of their condo.

 

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