July 17, 2015
“Dangit!” Cyrus winced in pain when a splinter broke the skin on his index finger. Man, don’t be a pussy. It’s just a little—fuck! Knew I should’ve worn gloves! You just gotta be the tough guy, Cy. Cyrus shook his hand and hopped around like his pants were on fire. He only wanted to get the cattle through the gate and onto the fields to begin his chores for the day, and he’d be damned if he allowed a tiny piece of wood to stand in the way of him making some money. After all, this was his only means of paying the bills and keeping food on the table. Cereal graining was honest work even for a not-so-honest bastard like Cyrus Abrams.
Still in pain and grimacing from the discomfort, Cyrus sucked on his finger and continued to work with one hand. He needed to get a move on so he’d be able to have everything ready when the truck arrived to pick up his offerings. If he wasn’t ready, the driver would leave without a second look back. He couldn’t have that happen if he wanted to keep beer in the fridge and the utilities paid for the month.
“Eeeee… eee….” The pigs behind him continued making a fuss to get out of the pen.
“Wait your turn, ya hogs! Those bitches right there are my other prime source of income.” For some ungodly reason, nobody really liked buying pork in Great Falls. Beef, on the other hand, was a huge seller, and Cyrus was more than happy to contribute to the market. Money from cereal grain farming could only go so far. He needed cash for spankovision and the whiskey he liked to drink, as well as wages for his assistant.
Cyrus’s eyes narrowed when he glanced at his watch, knowing young Brian Daystar was late… again.
Where is that sonofabitch, anyway?
If only the kid could be as serious about work instead of bedding everybody, Cyrus knew he’d have a model employee. Once Brian got to work, he was a big help, so instead of complaining, Cyrus cut Brian some slack.
If only he were a little older?
Just thinking about the hot Native American babe with long brown hair and beautiful eyes made him hard as nails. He smirked and gave himself a little tug. Whacking off in his dreams of Brian was as far as things would go for Cyrus. He wasn’t interested in long-term relationships with anyone after losing Danny to a gunshot wound to the head.
Instantly, Cyrus’s thoughts of arousal changed to grief. He sucked in a breath and closed his eyes a moment, reliving the whole ordeal.
I’ll never love again.
Nope, he didn’t need anyone after seeing such a horrific event unfold in front of his eyes, and then, to make things worse, they charged him with the murder and sent him to jail for five years until someone finally wised up and acquitted him.
“Falling in love means hurting, and I’m too old to hurt!” Cyrus slammed the gate closed and stalked to the pen where the pigs were bunching up in front, ready to get out. He slipped on his gloves to protect the nick on his finger and shoved the door wide, allowing them to roam free in their part of the yard.
Watching the hogs, he leaned back against the fence and flicked the tip of his Stetson from over his eyes. Looking up into the skies, he squinted from hot sun bearing down on him. Drops of sweat formed on his brow, but he didn’t bother to wipe any of it off.
A little perspiration never hurt nobody.
Cyrus wrinkled his nose and turned his attention to the mud under his feet. He still couldn’t believe how many years had passed since his lover had been mercilessly taken away from him. Attempting to keep from crying, he sniffed and choked back tears. “Danny, sometimes I get lonely, but I know no one will be able to take your place.” Cyrus plucked a toothpick from his shirt pocket and jammed it between his lips. “No one wants me, anyway. I’m too set in my ways and I need my space. I’m better off alone, taking care of the cows and graining cereal, my man. Besides, nothing’s gonna come close to what I had with you.” And they wouldn’t, knowing how picky he was about the men he wanted to bring home with him. Cyrus knew he held them up to a standard that most likely couldn’t be reached.
Although Cyrus knew this to be a fact, he never stopped any man from keeping him company temporarily, but once he got his fill, Cyrus kicked them out without so much as batting an eyelash. He knew it was wrong as hell to force people out of his life, but again, it was for the best.
Cyrus tossed the toothpick away and headed for the barn. With the pigs playing in the mud and the morning chores started, he’d check on the horses. And since he couldn’t find Brian, he’d even collect eggs, things Brian should’ve been doing for his first duty at eight-thirty.
Cyrus stomped through the mire in the other direction. Just as he began walking, Brian rushed from his car, slamming the door behind him. “Cyrus, shit man, sorry I’m late. Just came from… ah… never mind. I’ll get to work!” Brian stumbled to keep from slipping in the muck. He inhaled deeply, pulled his ponytail from out of his jacket, and slapped the white cowboy hat atop his head. “No need to do anything irrational, Cy. I’ll even stay a little later without pay if you like.”
Cyrus shook his head and smirked. “Naw, man, it’s all right. I know you got a life outside this ranch. Just ’cause I’m miserable don’t mean you have to be.” Cyrus handed him the basket.
July 17, 2015
A strange beeping echoed around Zane Ashford in that moment between complete, dreamless sleep and being painfully awake. Then his body awakened and he felt his left eye hurting. Not the kind of pain from sitting at a computer too long, or even the sting from accidentally dripping shampoo in the eyes.
Panic set in. His body went rigid and the beeping around him went haywire. Hands held him against the bed, and Zane struggled to get away, to get free. Why wouldn’t they let him go, and why couldn’t he see through his left eye?
Zane surged upward, shouting for help. His mind was screaming I can’t see, but for some reason, something blocked the words from escaping.
His chest heaved, his heart slamming, as someone screamed at him to stop freaking out. But he couldn’t see. One eye was completely covered and each time he opened the other everything was just a blurry mess and that sound was starting to give him a migraine. Two hands clutched at his shoulders, pushing him backward, but he didn’t want to go back.
Please! I just want to see!
“Come on, Big Daddy. Snap out of it. If you don’t stop struggling, they’re going to sedate you!” The hands shoved hard against Zane’s shoulders. “Is that what you want?”
Zane gasped and opened the one good eye he could see through. Everything was a little blurry. Slowly, he came around from his daze and instantly felt like crying. There was no mistaking the tube down his throat. His brain kept telling him to swallow, but he couldn’t and he only panicked more. He snapped a hand from the person holding him and reached for it.
“Zane Alexander Ashford! I swear to God, I will knock you out myself if you touch that tube!”
Still, he reached for it, but the moment he began tugging, there was a nick at his arm. At first surprise stopped him from taking the tube out, then the world crashed in on him, spun, and went dark.
There was no telling how long he was out, but the world swam in on him like a bad movie, shaking horribly into focus. The pain was there again, but this time he remembered what had happened. He could hear the doctor speaking over him as though he wasn’t even there.
“…80 percent vision loss….”
Once again Zane drifted into a quick sleep, but the beep woke him.
“…I don’t know if he’ll ever carry a badge again… physical….”
The memory of the heated char of a bullet from a perpetrator’s weapon burned in his mind, the pain unlike any other.
He’d gotten his man at a terrible cost.
“Ash?” a familiar voice called. “Come on, Big Daddy, open your eyes.”
“What for?” Zane’s throat felt rough and he coughed. He wasn’t sure which he preferred yet, the tube in or out. Either way his throat still felt as if he’d swallowed sand.
“So you can see my beautiful face.”
Zane tried to harrumph but failed.
“Because there is a whole world out here!”
Zane wanted to tell Renford to kiss the blackest part of his ass, but he was concentrating on the dryness in his throat. He cleared his throat, trying to be less of a burden than he knew he already was and not ask for something to drink. “How long have I been under?”
“Three days,” Renford replied. “You were in a coma because there was some swelling. They were worried you might have had some damage, but it seems your brain is working just fine.”
Renford reached for a cup on a nearby desk. Zane wanted to take it and drink on his own but he could barely sit up. Renford must have noticed and helped Zane ease forward so he could drink from the straw. He pulled greedily from it.
“Hey, slow down there.”
Zane ignored the warning and sucked until he could barely breathe before releasing the straw. He eased away from Renford and flopped back to the pillow. The hospital smell made him nauseous, and every sound was reason enough for him to worry. Detective Zane Ashford had been in too many hospitals when a perp or a victim was dying. He knew the sounds.
Someone crashed, and a loud alarm with an animated voice screamed code blue! Hurried voices and footsteps charged down the corridors. Someone was hollering for a cart as a voice boomed over the intercom.
The noise was almost too much to bear, but the darkness inside his own head was worse.
“… it really isn’t as bad as it could be,” Renford was saying.
“What?” Zane shook his head to clear it. “Sorry—all the chaos outside kind of distracted me.”
“I know this may be boring, but pay attention! The doctors say you will have to wear that thing for about six months.”
Zane lifted a hand to touch the patch and couldn’t help feeling like a pirate—a horrible one who should no longer be a pirate but cannot give up the life. “Well, shit.”
“I know you don’t want to hear this.” Renford’s voice was raspy, like he hadn’t used it in a very long time. “But it could have been worse.”
“And how could this possibly have been worse?”
“You could be dead.”
July 15, 2015
Hi, everyone! Jack Byrne here. I thought I’d share an excerpt from ‘Ace’ and some of the things that have been said about the book so far!
Jake sat up. “I was fine.”
“No, you were not fine. You were coping. You were coping with me doing that. Like someone copes with—” Damien sat up too, but he broke off and looked away.
There was a long silence, then Jake whispered, “I’m sorry.”
“It was my fault.”
“Nothing’s your fault!” exploded Damien. “Don’t you see that?”
“I’m not sure I know what you mean.” Jake’s voice sounded flat and worried even to him.
Damien closed his eyes. “Oh Jesus, Jake, I must be a nightmare for you to deal with.”
Damien turned to take Jake in his arms and hug him, stroking his hair. “Only because what?”
“Only because you matter.”
Jake said, “Only because you noticed.”
Damien looked at him. “You need a safe word.”
“I need what?”
“You need a safe word. Something you can say if it’s not okay, what I’m doing, you know?”
“We’re not doing anything that bad.”
“Oh? And tell me, how do you feel right now? Relieved?”
“Er, yeah, but—”
“Right. Relieved because I stopped. Which meant that you were uncomfortable about where it was going. Come on, Jake. Think of a safe word.”
“No. I can’t.”
“Because I’d use it every time, before we started.”
So, asexuality. It’s a complex topic, and not one that’s yet well understood. One of the first (outraged) reviews I received about this book was that ‘you can’t have a gay asexual.’ (This was from someone who hadn’t read the book btw.) Well, you CAN have a gay asexual. Because asexual people are not always aromantic, and some asexual people are homoromantic. If you find this confusing, there’s a wonderful place called AVEN (The Asexual Visibility and Education Network) which has ALL the resources: www.asexuality.org/en/
What is the book ‘Ace’ really about then?
Jake Tanner is asexual, but he’s never heard the term and doesn’t understand why he doesn’t feel sexual attraction to others. He’s had sex in the past, but not really enjoyed it. When he meets highly sexualized Damien Jamieson, he is expecting their relationship to end disastrously, just like every other relationship Jake has had. But Damien surprises him by listening, putting his desires aside and trying to get to know Jake. This gives Jake a breather, and he has time to get to know Damien in turn. What Jake discovers however, will shock him and make him reassess his assumptions about Damien.
July 8, 2015
Immutable isn’t just my first none HEA story, and my first non-anthology story with Dreamspinner Press, it’s a first in lots of ways. It’s my first ever fantasy story. I’ve done a zombie novel before now, called Patient Z, but they were very much science fiction zombies. It’s my first shifter story. It’s my first set in a historical fantasy setting. It’s not quite my first story in First Person point of view, but it’s the first of those longer than a short story that I’ve sold. So because of all of those firsts I’m just dying to see what people make of it.
Here’s an excerpt from chapter 1, to see what you make of it! Keep going and at the end there’ll be a chance to enter to win a copy.
The wind was cold that morning I found him. I remember. I’d come down to the beach when the sky was barely light. Fine rain misted my hair and clothes as I scrambled down the cliff path onto the sand.
I carried a basket on my back and began filling it with driftwood as I walked. Driftwood burns with a strange blue flame, but there were so few trees on the island it was the only type of wood we ever had to burn. Those who could afford it bought coal shipped over from the mainland. Me, I pick up the sea coal that washes ashore from the coal seams exposed under the water. I always pounced on a piece of that when I saw it, as if it were a diamond. Winter wasn’t far away. Ma wouldn’t make it through the winter if I didn’t keep the cottage warm enough.
I threw those thoughts off and continued along the beach, shoving driftwood in the basket, watching among the seaweed and pebbles for the precious sea coal. With my gaze glued to the sand, I didn’t spot the body until I was close enough to see instantly that it was a man. He lay on the wet sand, pale, almost gray in the morning light.
I ran, hoping—praying—not to find him dead. He was naked, but that didn’t surprise me. The sea can strip a body bare. I dropped the basket off my shoulders as I fell to my knees beside him. It toppled, spilling out its load.
The man lay facedown, his legs still in the surf, the waves breaking over them and ebbing as if trying to pull him back into the sea. He had skin as pale as ivory—not the skin of a sailor or fisherman exposed to the sun on deck all day. His exposed back was smooth and unmarked, without the tattoos or scars from the lash sailors often had. Hair as black as anthracite lay across his shoulders, a few strands of seaweed caught in it.
I laid a hand on him, fearing I’d find him cold and dead. But he was warm. I turned him onto his back. Nobody I knew. My island, Sula Skerry, was so small I knew the face and name of everyone who lived here. This face I’d never seen. This face… I’d never seen a face like it. Not even in schoolbooks about the legends of changelings and fair folk. For he was fair, God forgive me. I’d never seen a man so fair.
He lay against my arm, eyes closed, thick black lashes brushing cheeks marred only with wet sand. I touched his chest to feel if he still breathed. He did. I left my hand there, on that warm skin, as pale as the rest of him, one dark nipple under my palm.
I gasped at the sound of a voice and stared down at his face. He’d opened his large and dark eyes. So dark I couldn’t say they were any color at all, like I can say mine are blue. They weren’t merely dark brown; they were black. He’d spoken, and his mouth, his well-shaped lips, moved again. “I’m cold.”
The wind on his wet, naked skin must have been sucking the heat from him. I had to get him somewhere warm. I pulled off my jacket and wrapped it around him. But his long legs were still naked, and his…. I tried hard not to look at his member, for that’s a sin.
“Can you stand?” I asked him, grateful we understood each other. Sailors had been washed ashore here before, who spoke languages none among the islanders understood. I helped him up, but he sagged against me and I had to catch him in my arms to keep him from falling. I’d never get him up the cliff path to the cottage in this state. If I ran for help, he’d be dead of cold before I got back. I had a better idea.
“Hold on to me.” I hauled him toward the cliff face, a hundred feet or so along the beach, dragging my basket behind me. Good thing I’d been coming down here since I was a boy, when Ma was the one collecting the driftwood, and I’d followed behind her, barefoot, searching for shells or stones with holes in them—those were lucky—and always the precious sea coals.
With him lolling against my side and leaning heavily on me, I reached the mouth of a small cave. I’d first found it when I was eight years old. I’d hidden in it, listening to Ma calling me. “Callum! Callum!” A game to me, frightening to her the first time, fear in her voice that I didn’t understand. The cave seemed huge then, like a cavern. Fifteen years later I had to stoop over as I went into it, and I could reach the back in only a few steps.
It lay well above the high tide mark and only the worst storms ever reached into it, so there was little on the floor but dry sand. Some lichen grew on the walls. Nothing else lived here since it got sunshine only at dawn, as the sun rose over to the east and lit this cave low in the cliff for little more than an hour.
I lowered the man to the floor of the cave and he lay there shivering, despite having my jacket wrapped around him. What should I do? Go to the cottage and fetch him some clothes? Go to the village and fetch the constable or the doctor? I felt a strange reluctance to bring anyone else. I wanted him to myself.
“What’s your name?” I asked him.
“Breen,” he said, voice shaking as he spoke. “B… Breen.”
Breen? Where was that from? For all he spoke our language, he had a foreign look to him, with that coal black hair. Some of the shipwrecked sailors who washed up on the island before had skin browner than the most tanned and leathered of the shepherds and fishermen. This man had skin as pale as a highborn lady who’d never ventured out without a shady hat or parasol.
A fire. Yes. I could make a fire for him to warm himself by. I emptied my basket and built a fire at the mouth of the cave. Dried seaweed served for kindling, and I made a spark with the flint I had in my pocket. I blew softly on it until it caught and flames licked up. The wood ignited and the fire began to crackle. I hauled Breen closer to the mouth of the cave. A little smoke came in, but the wind was blowing from the north, down the beach, not from the sea, so most of the smoke blew away from us.
Breen sat up after a few minutes warming by the fire, pressed close against my shoulder. I didn’t know if the touch warmed him, but it sent a flush through me. Heat pooled low in my belly. I tried to ignore it. Mustn’t think on it. I could have left him then, gone up to fetch him some clothes from the cottage. He was out of the wind and had the fire and my jacket. He wouldn’t freeze in the time it took me to get there and back. But I didn’t want to go. I had a strange fear that if I let him out of my sight for even a minute he’d disappear.
“What’s your name?” he asked me suddenly, rousing me from a daydream, my mind full of… sin.
“Callum. Are you a sailor, Breen? Were you wrecked?”
“Wrecked?” He asked it as if he didn’t know what the word meant. He had an accent, not local, not even like the men who sometimes came from the mainland.
“Were you on a ship? Did it sink?”
“No. No ship.”
No ship? So how’d he come here? For he’d surely come out of the sea.
“A fishing boat?”
“It doesn’t matter,” he said. “I am here for you, Callum.”
“What?” I turned to him, thinking I’d misheard, or he’d misspoke, not knowing our language so well after all. His eyes were huge and so beautiful. Looking into them felt like falling into a tarn, or looking up into the night sky, at the velvet blackness.
“I have heard you call me,” he said, voice low, a dark, throbbing edge to it. He reached for me, his long fingers touching my face. Shock made me want to pull away. But the thrill down my spine at his touch—fingers still cold despite the fire—kept me riveted. I could no more stop him than I could fly. He leaned close. I thought he was speaking. His lips formed words, or perhaps my name, but my ears were full of the crashing of the waves and the crackle of the fire. His lips touched my mouth.
I closed my eyes. A kiss. He was kissing me. I’d never… not with a man, not a kiss. Some… fumbling with other lads, and a kiss with a lass or two, because they expected it, and because other people expected it, and it kept them from talking about me. But this… nothing had ever felt like this. His mouth slanted across mine, lips soft, but something hard behind them. No, not hard. Strong. His skin was smooth where mine was rough. I hadn’t shaved before coming to the beach.
His tongue—hot, wet—touched my lips. It should have been disgusting. Sin should feel disgusting, make me want to stop him, push him away, drag him out and toss him back in the sea that brought him. But instead it thrilled me. I wanted his tongue inside my mouth, and I opened my lips to him. It pressed in and found mine. Oh, God, to feel that for the first time. Like his tongue was a flint and mine was kindling. A spark and then flame.
If you’d like to read more check out the buy link below, or enter the contest to win an ebook copy. Comment and tell us about a memorable reading first. Maybe the first time you tried a genre you thought wasn’t your thing—and loved it. Or your first M/M book. Did it change your reading habits forever?
Answer by Friday 10th, 18:00 BST (that’s UK time) and you’re in with a chance to win.
Contest now closed. Thanks for entering and congratulations to the winner JJ.
July 6, 2015
Thanks for hosting me.
I’m Anne Barwell and Family and Reflection is my 9th release with Dreamspinner Press. I live in New Zealand, and in my other job I work in a library. Family and Reflection is also book 3 of The Sleepless City, an urban fantasy series which is a joint project with Elizabeth Noble.
When we started discussing ideas for The Sleepless City we soon realised that it would need more than one book to tell the story. As our writing schedules and styles are quite different, we decided to alternate writing the books. I’ve written book 1, Shades of Sepia, and book 3, Family and Reflection. Elizabeth has written book 2, Electric Candle, and book 4, Shifting Chaos.
One of the reasons I love writing series is that it gives the opportunity to explore characters and their world in much more depth. With each book I learn something new about these characters, and given that several of them are vampires, there’s a lot of history to catch up on. It reminds me in a way of peeling an onion, in which each new layer reveals itself when something triggers a memory or relates the past to the present. Also, with the focus of each book on different characters, although keeping the ensemble feel of the series, it meant that all the characters had the chance to grow as the overall story progressed. Several minor characters also demanded more air time, and turned up with hints of interesting back stories. It’s a good thing we’re both writing spin off series after The Sleepless City arc is finished.
The other reason is that a series lends itself to a much more complicated plot. While each book has closure in regard to the immediate crisis/mystery, strands from earlier books come together with each subsequent part of the story to give a more complete picture. Continuity is really important when the series is an arc rather than stand alone stories set in the same universe, so many of the story elements were plotted out before book 1 was even written. Then, as things happened when we wrote our parts of The Sleepless City, we added to our already extensive series and character notes.
Most of my other books are part of series too… Who am I kidding? They all want sequels or have sneaked into a series by becoming a prequel to something I haven’t written yet. I can’t write a standalone story to save myself, although I like to leave my characters in a good place at the end of each book and tie up the immediate storyline. I also like to include enough information so new readers can read out of order and still follow the plot, although there are references to things that have happened in previous books too.
My current WIP, One Word, is a good example of this. This story is a side novel to my first book Cat’s Quill—it’s Donovan and Ethan’s story as to what happened while Tomas and Cathal were… oops sorry, spoiler for those who haven’t read the series. Anyway, it’s a fun juggling act, so that readers who haven’t read my Hidden Places series can follow this story, but not info dumping to the point that others have to re-read what they already know. One of my beta readers has read all my books, while another is new to this series and deliberately hasn’t read the others so between them they can make sure I’m getting that balance right.
Do you like stories which are told over several books, or do you prefer everything to be tied up in a neat bow at the end of one book? I’d love to know which, and why, and am offering a free ebook from my backlist to someone who comments on this post. DSP will draw the winner after 48 hours.
Family and Reflection
Book 3 of The Sleepless City, Sequel to Electric Candle
For as long as Lucas Coate can remember, werewolves have been taught to mistrust vampires. Lucas is an exception—he has close friends who are vampires. The werewolf pack in Flint—and their leader, Jacob Coate—have made it clear that Lucas’s association with vampires is barely tolerated, and another transgression will be his last. When Lucas finds out about the plague of werewolf deaths in the area, he wants to help even though his own life may already be in danger.
Declan has been away from Flint for ten years, but he isn’t surprised to learn that the internal politics of the Supernatural Council haven’t changed for the better. When a series of burglaries hit close to home soon after he arrives, Declan—a vampire and professional thief—is their prime suspect, although for once, he isn’t responsible. With the council keeping secrets, no one is safe. Time is running out, and for Lucas and Declan, everything is about to change.
“Someone has stolen from the council, Mr. Declan,” Hillary said. “Are you denying you’re responsible?”
“That depends. Are you accusing me?” Declan replied, giving her the incredulous look her comment deserved before continuing. “I’m sorry, Mrs. Lassiter, but if I was a thief, I wouldn’t be stupid enough to steal from the council. My friends work for you, as do I on occasion. We have no argument with you.”
At least they hadn’t lately, Declan added silently. Anyway, just because he could break into the council vault, it didn’t mean he had.
“The items stolen did not belong to the council itself. This is personal.” Hillary stood. She sounded angry. “Someone broke into my home last night and stole something from my bedroom while I slept!”
“Well, it wasn’t me,” Declan said. No wonder the council was upset. Whoever was doing this either had a death wish or was trying to make a point. He shrugged. “You need to read up on vampires. You’re human. I can’t enter your home unless you invite me in.”
“Some of your kind don’t need to follow that rule,” she said.
Jacob cleared his throat. “Declan isn’t old enough, Hillary.” Only a very old vampire could enter a private home uninvited. “There are ways around that rule, however, and we are not sure this burglar is working alone.”
“What if he had already been invited in?” she said, ready to argue the point. “My husband’s family has owned the house for over twenty years. It was robbed fifteen years ago, the day after we’d had a tradesman there to fix the phone. People invite tradesmen in all the time. I checked the council records. Declan was in Flint then too.”
“That still doesn’t mean it was me,” Declan pointed out. He thought back. Lassiter. Lassiter. Oh, right. No wonder her name seemed familiar. That robbery fifteen years ago probably had been him. He’d burgled a few homes in Flint around that time by posing as a tradesman a few days beforehand. Once he’d been invited in, it was forever, or at least while that particular human was still living there.
“It doesn’t mean it wasn’t, either,” Jacob said. He steepled his fingers, his brows creasing in thought.
“Mrs. Lassiter implied this meeting was because I needed your help,” Declan reminded him.
“I don’t. Don’t accuse me of something unless you have proof.”
“Do you have an alibi for last night?” Jacob asked.
“Yes,” Declan said. He took a deep breath and blew it out. Jacob was going to love this one. “Lucas. Your son.”
Jacob didn’t seem surprised at the revelation. Was he keeping an eye on Lucas despite telling his son he wanted nothing more to do with him? Perhaps he still cared. For all their differences, Lucas was family, and that was important to the pack.
“All night?” Jacob asked after everyone else in the room had turned their heads to stare at Declan.
“No,” Declan had to admit. He wasn’t sleeping with Lucas and wasn’t about to imply he was. Lucas had enough family issues without them thinking he was involved with a vampire. Which he wasn’t. “We got home about three this morning.”
Coffee Unicorns: http://coffeeunicorns.wordpress.com/
Dreamspinner Press Author Page: http://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/AuthorArcade/anne-barwell
July 3, 2015
So, people must be wondering a lot about all this talk about starting college when it’s July-and tomorrow is the 4th!
I figured I’d go out with a figurative bang and talk about vacations, since summer vacation—and vacations from work—are a grand part of life, whether it be school life or work life. At the end of the day, no matter one’s worries about work and school, what really matters is one’s family and loved ones. What with the landmark victory last week for gay marriage and the coming celebration of America’s birthday, I figured it would be good to talk about partying!
In Freshman Blues, people party before vacations with enormous frat parties and celebrations, complete with showing off superpowers. In college, I can’t count the number of random parties, Thirsty Thursday celebrations, and Friday night celebrations that happened for very little reason other than to have fun. I worked a lot of my own fun or funny college experiences into the book. After all, a huge part of college life is goofing off!
But how do you guys celebrate? Will your fourth be spent by the pool, at a barbecue, or out on a lawn, watching fireworks? For those outside the U.S., what sort of vacations do you take when you have the chance—or what would your dream vacation be?
Let’s talk about partying as I leave my last post for the day! Thank you all so much for participating!
I’m going to leave you all with one last cover shot, blurb, and an excerpt! Thanks again everyone, and I’ll be around to chat in the comments until midnight!
When Chris is invited to prestigious Creekville University, he discovers he is part of an experiment by the mysterious Professor Faran. There’s no other way a C student like him would have been accepted into a college where academic mastery results in unique powers like levitation or empathy. But if Faran is right, even below-average students can get special abilities and a good job after graduation. Chris just has to work hard.
Chris isn’t the only one, either. Frederick has worked for Faran for years, and Chris is intrigued by the aloof and sexy older student. But Frederick is too terrified of life after graduation to pursue romance. As they work together, Chris tries to help Frederick out of his depression, all while juggling friendship, classwork, dating, and trying to carve out a place he can belong.
But funding for the experiment is running out, and Chris has to acquire an ability—any ability—soon, or he’ll lose his opportunity at Creekville, and any chance with Frederick, for good.
Chris took a deep breath. Then another. The Isaac Newton dormitory loomed over his head.
The engine of his parents’ car gunned, and he gave a weak wave to his mother. The last thing he saw was her proud smile as the car began to pull away, leaving him on the sidewalk with his two enormous suitcases by his feet. The car rushed past the faded sign proclaiming “Creekville University, 1891,” and then was gone.
Chris turned back to the double doors and took another deep breath, the butterflies in his stomach threatening to spill out of his mouth. He took a crumpled paper out of his pocket.
“Are you lost?” He jumped at the voice. A girl with long blonde hair smiled at him, her teeth bright white. “Need help with your bags?”
“Uh….” He cleared his throat and started again. “I’m Chris Taklo. I’m, uh, a freshman.”
She smiled wider. “I figured as much. What floor are you on?”
“Fourth floor. Reed Hall.”
“Great!” She stuck out a hand, and he stared at it for a moment before shaking. “I’m Krystal, and I’ll be your RA this year. Welcome to the Newton dorm.”
Chris took a breath, his stomach calming. “Thanks.”
“Parents aren’t helping you move in?” When Chris shook his head, she nodded. “That’s fine. What room number are you? No, wait. Let’s get your bags first. You’re sure it’s Reed Hall, right?”
“Right. Room number….” He glanced at the paper in his hand. “Four-oh-nine.”
“Okay. Here we go!”
She began to recite something, and tension fizzed on Chris’s skin. He tried to pick out the words and numbers, and figured it out just as his bags began to levitate off the ground.
It was a physics equation, and it rattled off her tongue so fast he could barely make out the pronunciation of big G and little G, mass and velocity. The bags soon floated over his head, and then up toward the window of the fourth floor. Krystal changed the recitation, rattling off variables related to momentum, and the bags floated through the window.
“There.” She took a breath, then broke into another large smile. “That should lighten your load.”
Chris kept staring at the open window where his bags had disappeared. This was college. He hoped he could make it through even one semester. “Thanks.”
“Don’t look so down. You might be able to do that one day, if you decide to major in physics.” She patted him on the shoulder, then hopped up the cement stairs. “C’mon, let’s get you to your room. Do you know what you want to major in yet?”
Chris’s mouth twisted. “Not yet.”
“That’s okay.” The interior was plain, the walls a smoky yellow. Fire doors marked exits down long hallways, but Chris didn’t get the chance to explore before Krystal hit the elevator button with a well-manicured fingernail. “A lot of freshmen come in not knowing what they want to do. I’m sure some of the older students will give you suggestions, though.”
“Right.” The elevator dinged, and Chris stepped inside. A blue tarp stretched across the interior, and he peeked over. There was nothing on the other side.
“That’s for researchers transporting animals,” Krystal said. Chris blinked. “And here we are—Reed Hall.”
The doors swung open to the Reed Hall of the Isaac Newton dormitory, fourth floor. Chris’s new college home.
Green carpeted hallways led to two lounges on either side of the elevator lobby. His bags lay on the floor of the lounge to the left. A guy with a buzz cut was currently using them as a footrest. A football game blared on the television.
“Derric!” Krystal shouted. The buzz cut guy raised an arm in a lazy wave. “Get off the new student’s bags!”
Derric lifted his legs, Chris’s suitcase falling on its side. “Sorry,” he said with a shrug.
Chris sighed, then walked over and pulled the bags away from the chair Derric sat in. “You a freshman?” Derric asked, his gaze swiveling from the TV mounted on the wall. “That’s all you have?”
“Yep.” Chris grunted as he lifted the bags.
Derric shrugged again, then went back to watching the game. Well, fine, then. He wasn’t someone Chris would bother with much.
Reed Hall stretched down past the two lounges, a row of closed doors on either side. The first one he passed was decorated with colorful letters spelling Krystal R.A.
“This is my room.” Krystal had followed him. “There are sixteen people in Reed Hall, though I haven’t met all the new arrivals yet. Can you manage from here?”
Chris nodded. He certainly hoped so.
“Great! We have a hall meeting tonight at eight where you’ll meet all your hallmates. Let me know if you need anything at all. The two guys in the room next to mine are also seniors, and I wouldn’t ask Frederick, but you can ask Kiefer anything if you can’t tell me.” She winked, and Chris’s face heated. “Also, your roommate is a sophomore, so you can ask him whatever you want too. Welcome again!” She waved, and Chris waved back before heading on down the hall. He wondered who Frederick was, and why he shouldn’t speak to him.
Most of the doors he passed were closed, including the one next to Krystal’s, where she’d said the seniors lived. There were two bathrooms—one for males and one for females—and finally he passed another open door.
Paintings covered the entire room. Some were modern—splotches of bright color on white canvas—and others depicted stick figures. A few were more detailed, showing women in colorful dresses dancing in a brightly lit ballroom. A girl with long dark hair sat behind a desk, sketching something. She lifted her hand from the pencil for a moment, the utensil staying aloft and continuing to sketch. Almost certainly an art major, Chris thought.
Chris kept moving, staying aware of the numbers on the doors. His room was last.
He passed another open door, but the room had no occupant. A giant football jersey was spread across the doorway. Must be Derric’s room.
Finally, he stopped outside room 409, a bright red exit door down the hall to his left. He set down his bags and fumbled for his keys a moment before swinging open the door.
“Don’t move!” someone shrieked. Chris froze.
Two enormous computer towers met his gaze, and parts littered the floor. A guy with slicked black hair and glasses stood, a pair of tweezers in his hand.
“You’re my roommate, right?” he said. “Okay, give me a few seconds to get this stuff off the floor.”
“Uh… what are you doing?” Chris asked. His new roommate turned one of the computer towers, the interior gutted.
“Making some adjustments.” He began picking up electronic bits from the floor near the door, waving a hand. “Sorry. I wasn’t expecting you. My roommate from last year never showed up, so I guess I kind of… forgot.” He grabbed wiring that lay near the empty bed on what Chris guessed would be his side of the room. “Come in, come in. I’m Gene. Short for Eugene, but… just call me Gene. You?”
“Chris.” He stepped carefully into the room, arms straining as he lifted his suitcases onto the bed. He wished he knew a few physics equations at the level Krystal did.
“Nice to meet you.” Gene shoved one of the computer towers back under his desk with a foot. “I guess, um, tell me about yourself. Where you’re from, all that stuff. We’re roommates now!”
“Uh… I’m from California. I’m nineteen.” He gave a weak smile. “Not really interesting.”
“Nineteen? Same age as me. Old for a freshman.” When Chris didn’t elaborate, Gene shrugged. “Then again, I was young in my year, so whatever. What are you going to major in?”
“Uh… no idea.” Chris set his suitcases on the now-clean floor and sat on the bed.
“Figures. Not many people know. And even the ones who do know as freshmen don’t always know exactly what their abilities will be, even in their field. I don’t know yet, either. I’m majoring in computer engineering, though. Isn’t it obvious?” He gestured to the gutted computer tower.
Some of the tension went out of Chris’s shoulders. “You don’t know your abilities?”
“Nope. Maybe by the end of this year, after a few more classes. Or maybe I’m in the wrong field, and I’ll find out I have amazing skills in basket weaving.” He chuckled, sitting down in a plush computer chair. “Is that all you have, by the way? Where’s your computer?”
“I thought I’d rent one…?”
Gene’s eyes widened. “Wow. Okay, though. I’ll come with. We can go over to ITS, and I’ll help you get something good. Otherwise, you’ll end up with some piece of crap, trust me.” His chair creaked as he stood. “Put your things away. The sooner we go the better, or the good stuff will be gone.”
“Okay.” Chris unzipped one of the bags, thinking for a second. “Let’s just go now, then. All that’s in here are clothes and bedsheets.”
Gene raised a dark eyebrow. “Wow. Light packer, aren’t you?”
“I… don’t have much.”
“Well, let’s go, then. Don’t forget your keys. Unless you’re majoring in locksmithing, of course.” He grinned, and more of the anxiety left Chris’s muscles as he smiled back.
So far, college didn’t seem so bad.
Chris just wished he actually belonged here.
July 2, 2015
Thanks for joining me today for the Tower of the Ice Lord release party! I’ll leave you with an excerpt from the story. I’m also doing a giveaway of a free copy of the ebook – details at the end of this post!
The tower stood at the edge of the northern wastes, casting its long shadow upon the frozen landscape. Ancient beyond the memory of man and forged from the ashes of a fallen star, it thrust spikes of iron into the sky. Whispered legends told how sorceries guarded the gates and warded the walls. Winds howled through the turrets like the voices of the damned. They called it the Tower of Lost Souls, and Arius was its master.
He lived alone. All sorcerers did. He had taken and tamed this wilderness, and consequences befell those who dared trespass in his domain. For he had been sworn to the service of Gaia: set to war against the lords of Evernesse, all his purpose bent toward their doom. He had long ago buried the desire for human comfort and human company.
But that solitude was fractured on the night the ice wolves brought the stranger. Arius heard their baying across the distant miles and knew their patrols had found an enemy. From the battlements, he watched them herd their prey into the shadow of the tower.
The ghost owl watched with him, drifting on silent wings to settle on his shoulder. Its warm weight allayed his stirrings of unease.
“Well, Ghost,” he said, “shall we see what our friends have fetched us today?”
The ghost owl slanted its pale gaze on him, but made no answer.
Arius stroked its head and descended the hundred steps of the spiral stair. Before exiting the tower, he donned his ice wolf mask: cool ivory calming his blood, narrow slits sharpening his gaze. Armor against the distractions and delusions of the world.
He waited before the gates as the ice wolves drew to a halt, white flanks heaving, tongues lolling between teeth. Their kind had brought down mammoths in ages past, but Arius commanded them now. When he advanced, they yielded way, revealing the man they escorted between them.
He had slipped to his knees in the wet snow, soaking his trousers and boots. But he pushed himself doggedly back to his feet. His eyes were green as new leaves, hair gold like summer sun. Startlingly young for an aspiring champion, he stared at Arius in open curiosity when seasoned warriors quailed to face him.
“No invader has ever breached these walls,” Arius said. “Did you think you would be the first?”
“I’m not here to fight, Ice Lord,” the man said steadily. “I’ve come to offer myself to you.”
Arius suffered several moments of thunderstruck silence before he found words. “You’re hardly pretty enough to tempt me.”
The man flushed, staining his cheeks a becoming shade of rose. “Not like that. I know your god demands royal blood to end this war. Take me as your sacrifice.”
No words seemed adequate. “What mockery is this? Who do you think you are?”
“I’m the son of the king of Evernesse,” said the young man in the threadbare cloak. “And I mean what I say. If I trade myself to your god, will you call off your vendetta?”
His earnest tone roused only ire in Arius. This could be nothing save madness or trickery, and he would not be so easily deceived. “You are mistaken if you think to play games with me. Only a fool would believe your tale.”
The man regarded Arius with serious eyes. “Don’t you believe someone can love enough to die for another?”
Arius was thankful his mask concealed any reaction. Suppressing his disquiet, he answered, “You’ll die indeed. The only question is swiftly or slowly.” With a snap of his fingers, he summoned the ice wolves to attention. He felt savage satisfaction at the panic that flashed across the man’s face. “Take this prisoner to the dungeons.”
Arius stalked into the tower without a second glance, trusting his servants to carry out his wishes. He needed to commune with his brethren. He ascended the spiral stair, to the highest level of the tower, the Moon Chamber.
Eight arched windows cut into the walls, at cardinal and intercardinal points. Prisms of glass hung suspended in long chains, catching and refracting every sparkle of light, so that Arius walked through a frozen waterfall.
He angled them with care and precision, and though the waning moon was a mere sliver in the sky, its beams focused and refocused as they bounced between the prisms, until they shone bright silver in the round mirror at the center of the chamber.
Arius bowed over the Moon Mirror, calming his mind. “Ixia. I would speak with you.”
The mirror shivered, like wind rippling water. The shape of a face emerged from the brightness: a mask of carnelian, sculpted in the form of a hawk. She was guardian of the south, as he was guardian of the north. To the east and west, there were others, standing their shared vigil over the centuries.
“To what do I owe this rare occasion?” said the blood hawk to the ice wolf.
“Sister of mine,” Arius said, “I have had an unexpected visitor.” He relayed the encounter to her. “Never have I seen the like. Armies they have sent against us, and archmages, and assassins. All have failed. And now this, an ordinary man alone.”
The mask gave nothing away, but her amber eyes flickered with interest. “Perhaps he comes because they have failed.” She shook her head. “All these centuries hurling ourselves against the might of Evernesse, and here comes this gift fallen into your palm.”
“Gift or curse? Surely you do not trust it.”
“Then kill him and be done with it. But I trust in the wisdom of Gaia, against whom even the Eternal Mountain must crumble. Perhaps the king remembers the pact he betrayed. Perhaps he is ready to fulfill the bargain his ancestors made.”
“Not the king,” Arius said. “A prince.”
“Lord or heir, it is all the same. They pledged themselves in exchange for power, and now they owe the blood price. Or the land will suffer.”
“I know how the land suffers.” They both did. The blood hawks flew over deserts, and the ice wolves roamed through desolation, while the lords of Evernesse lived in their mountain paradise.
“Then you know your path already. You have no need of my counsel.”
Perhaps. And yet, “It has been too long since we spoke face-to-face.” It was a small jest; he had never seen her face.
“Indeed. Fare you well, brother of mine.” The blood hawk mask faded from the mirror, leaving Arius to contemplate his own reflection.
His path lay clear before him: the god called for a sacrifice, and the prince came to offer it. But there remained the question he had not asked Ixia, the question that troubled his thoughts.
Don’t you believe someone can love enough to die for another?
For your chance to win a free copy of the ebook, comment with what you like seeing in fantasy romance. After 12pm EST on Friday, one commenter will be randomly drawn to win.
June 22, 2015
Serious topic here. Scary topic. PTSD—post traumatic stress disorder. We all hear about it on the news. The statistics are scary. One in three will experience it upon returning home from active duty, but less than 40% will seek help. Military personal take their own lives by the hundreds each year because of the illness. It’s very real and I’ve encountered it myself.
My brother’s best friend fought it for a couple years. I remember him before he left to serve our country. He was a good kid. Kind of goofy and had an easy smile. He always had good grades and treated people with respect. When he came home, he was no longer that goofy, smiling kid. Instead he was a very quiet, stoic man who jumped at fireworks and dogs barking. He married the first girl who would have him, but ended up divorcing her less than a year later because he would fly into uncontrollable rages caused by PTSD and the resulting lack of sleep.
He did go to rehab. I watched him struggle. I watched my brother struggle to support him though he didn’t understand at all what the problem was. We walked on eggshells for years. He’d come out of rehab and for a few months be fine, then he’d go back again. He’s remarried now and has a baby girl. They’ve found some normal in their life. But to this day that goofy, fun kid is gone. He watches the world with wary eyes and has to fight every moment of every day to control his anxiety, anger, and pain.
How many people could live with this every day without help? Why do they have to? What happens if we don’t help them? We lose them, of course. And I think one of the biggest misunderstandings about PTSD is that it only shows up in combat vets. Not true. Anyone who’s had a very traumatic experience in their life can have PTSD. Though combat is certainly among some of the worst events people can experience in their life.
“Have you spoken to a therapist?”
Kade frowned and blinked in confusion for a few moments. “About?”
“You’ve seen a lot of active combat. That changes a person. PTSD is a pretty big problem and often goes undiagnosed for years.” I looked away, feeling my heart give a warning ache again as it did any time I thought of anything related to Nathan.
“I don’t have PTSD.”
“You didn’t watch friends blown up, see children with their heads shot off, or watch militia gang rape girls too young to be considered women?”
Kade sighed. “How is any of that relevant to the job? Yes, I’ve seen some of the worst of humanity. But I’m here and still kicking.”
I flinched then shoved the papers back across the table. “Thank you for coming in, Kade. I think Will can help you find something that is a better fit for you than PHI.”
Ollie is hurt by Kade because he feels like he’s saying that Nathan just wasn’t strong enough. That’s why he died. Of course that’s not what Kade is saying. But Ollie is so traumatized by the death of his older brother that everything relates back to Nathan. And putting Kade, who survived, in Nathan’s role at PHI feels like betrayal to Ollie.
Have you been touched by PTSD? Someone in your life maybe? Or yourself? Have you reached out to them just to offer some peace? An ear to listen? What more can we do to help them? Stories are pain are okay. Stories of recovery even better.
On the Right Track (Harmony Ink) Sam Kadence
Unicorns and Rainbow Poop (Harmony Ink) Sam Kadence
June 15, 2015
That’s a Good Question. Ha! See what I did there? I’m closing out my time here at the DSP blog with an excerpt from the novella that started Lonnie and Jamison’s love story.
“Don’t say that,” Jamison said.
Torp looked around for Lincoln and, not seeing him, asked, “Why the fuck not? He is.”
“You don’t know that.”
Torp snorted and then choked, prompting Jamison to slap him hard on the back a couple of times until he’d regained his ability to breathe properly. “Uh-huh, y-yeah I do. I’d have to be blind not to notice that.”
Jamison opened his mouth to argue, but suddenly he noticed the music above them had stopped. Did he hear us? From deep in the house he heard someone running down the stairs. He turned to look over his shoulder and saw the art student stumble into the hallway, pause, and turn their way, spotting them. Shit. Jamison turned back around quickly and sipped his tea, his gaze riveted on the grass.
“Hey, fellas. I’m done for today. Got a late afternoon class. See ya tomorrow.” Jamison felt some tension drain out of him, but then the young man gave an exasperated sigh and a chuckle. “Sorry. Introductions?”
Jamison sensed the man come closer, and to his left Torp leapt up, quickly wiping sandwich crumbs off on his jeans. “I’m Theodore Machado III, but most folks call me Torpedo.”
“Uh… really? O-okay. Good to meet you, Torpedo”—Jamison smirked at how carefully the man repeated his friend’s name, as if trying it out on his tongue—“I’m Lonnie Bellerose. The very pregnant lady of the house is my sister.”
“Good to meet you, Mister—”
“Lonnie. Just call me Lonnie.”
The silence that followed brought some tension back into Jamison’s shoulders as he realized they were waiting on him, probably staring at his back. He began to sweat just as his eyes caught sight of a parade of ants moving across a worn, brown patch in the yard to his right. They looked hell-bent for the grass forest on the other side of their tiny clearing. Take me with you.
“He don’t talk much,” Torp explained, then smacked the back of Jamison’s head. “Jam, introduce yourself, man.”
Jamison took a deep breath and slowly stood, turning to face them as he did. Lonnie’s gaze followed him, his eyes widening as Jamison continued to rise above him. Lonnie’s lips parted slightly, almost gasping when he had to tilt his head back a bit to look Jamison in the eyes.
Green. His eyes are green, Jamison noted. He almost stepped closer, almost revealed the pull he felt, but he stopped himself, fearing the same reaction from Lonnie that he’d gotten since his first growth spurt. When you don’t smile much and you’re big and you’re black and you’re tattooed and you’re silent, people—strangers—all react the same way.
It had served him well growing up, carrying him safely through adolescence in a rough neighborhood and keeping bad influences—and even some good ones—at a distance. But as he looked into Lonnie’s bright green eyes, it suddenly hit Jamison that the last thing he wanted from this man was distance.
A smile slowly spread across Lonnie’s beautiful face—full lips, narrow nose, long dark lashes, and high cheekbones. Yum. He was almost as pretty as a girl, but so very much a man.
“My… you’re… you’re—”
“I’m Jamison Coburn.”
Lonnie slowly extended his hand, and Jamison took it. “I’m… I’m….”
Jamison allowed himself to grin. “You’re… Lonnie Bellerose.”
Lonnie barked in laughter, snorted, and smacked himself in the forehead. “Ha! Yeah, yeah, I’m Lonnie. Sorry.” He shook his head, his curls bouncing. “Spaced out a bit there. Nice to m-meet you, Jamison.”
“And you, Lonnie,” Jamison said softly. “Enjoy your class.”
“Right,” Lonnie almost whispered, nodding, staring, grinning. “Thank you.”
They stared at each other for several more heartbeats, and then Lonnie turned on his sockless but sneakered feet, juggled his drawing pad and art bag, and walked right into the closed half of the French doors. He stumbled backward, but Jamison grabbed him and steadied him by the shoulders, aiming him properly at the open door.
Lonnie looked back at him and laughed again. “Thanks f-for that.”
Jamison simply nodded and pointed at the doorway, silently urging him to watch his step. He watched Lonnie walk through the kitchen, all the way down that long hall to the front door, heard Lonnie’s noisy VW grind to life, and caught a flash of purple as he drove away.
“You can’t see that?” Torp asked, shaking his head and shooing a fly from the remainder of his sandwich before taking another bite.
I saw it, all right, Jamison thought, smiling.
I hope that was fun. Setting it up for this post made me smile again.
Thank you all for joining me today, and if you take a chance on my novel The Answer Is, I hope it’s an entertaining read for you.
Remember, you have until 11 a.m. EST, Wednesday, June 17, to leave a comment on the giveaway posts in this release party for chances to win.
Take care and have a great week, people!
June 15, 2015
It’s time for Lonnie’s introduction.
Lonnie sighed and hugged himself, trying to appear at ease as the crowd moved around the room. After all, he was an artist standing in a gallery that displayed some of his best work to date. He should be all smiles and charm and wit. Instead, he felt as though he stood out like a two-headed goat, afraid to move, all hooves and confusion, bleating above the conversations.
On top of that, Lonnie had the distinct impression of being watched. He couldn’t shake it. He looked to his right and his left, then settled again on examining the campus beyond the wall of windows at the gallery’s entrance. He searched the mist-shrouded grounds for any sign of Jamison, but he was nowhere to be seen.
“Here, have a drink, Mr. Bellerose.” Professor Eloise Bink smiled and sipped her champagne, urging him to do the same from the flute she’d provided. She taught several art history classes, and Lonnie had been her assistant while earning his master’s.
He took a sip, then said, “Just call me Lonnie, please. I’m not your TA anymore.”
She smiled and tossed her short and sassy new haircut out of her eyes, the silver-gray strands catching the light. “I’ll call you Lonnie when you call me Eloise.”
He frowned in thought. “I think I can handle Bink but nothing more casual. Will that do?”
They sipped in unison, the bubbles nearly making him sneeze.
“You appear agitated. Waiting for someone?”
“Jamison’s coming, though he should be here by now.”
He shook his head. “Parents in France, Amber birthed a new human being, and brother-in-law is hovering, so… no. No family tonight.” A chill ran through him, so he took another sip of his champagne. It didn’t warm him, and this time he did sneeze, loudly, causing a few heads to turn in fright. His face heated, and he nodded his apologies before depositing the flute on a passing tray.
He turned to the entrance again and gasped softly. Through the floor-to-ceiling windows, he caught a glimpse of a tall, broad-shouldered silhouette hurrying toward the building. The campus lights along the path reflected off what little fog lingered above the lawn, giving the approaching figure a mysterious, superhero-like quality. To Lonnie, he seemed to be moving in slow motion and to his own soundtrack. Lonnie’s heart soared, and he excused himself from Bink to cut through the crowd and meet his man at the door.
“Hi,” he said, beaming up at Jamison as he walked in looking all kinds of gorgeous.
The worried frown on Jamison’s face vanished as he smiled down at Lonnie. “Hi, yourself.”
“You look fantastic.” He stood on tiptoes to give Jamison a peck on the lips, but Jamison pulled back, the frown returning, his gaze darting around the gallery. Lonnie sighed, took his hand, and tugged him deeper into the room. “I have someone I want you to meet.” He paused to look over the faces surrounding them, and when he spotted Bink again, he resumed his tugging.
Glancing around as he followed Lonnie, Jamison asked, “Isn’t your fam—?”
“No,” Lonnie said, “but they sent their congratulations.”
“Ah, Lonnie, back so soon?” Bink said, turning to face the two of them as they reached her. She blinked up at Jamison, her expression remaining warm and friendly. “Whom do we have here?”
“This is Jamison Coburn. Jamison, this is Professor Eloise Bink. I’ve mentioned her before. I was her teaching assistant.” His words rushed out as he gripped Jamison’s big left hand tightly. Mine.
“Yes,” Bink said. “I’m certainly going to miss you in that capacity. Perhaps I’ll find something else for you.” Lonnie laughed at that.
Jamison’s hand swallowed hers. “Good to meet you, ma’am.”
“And you, Mr. Coburn.” She grinned at Lonnie before continuing. “Anyone who can make him daydream at his desk is definitely someone I want to get to know.”
Lonnie gazed up at Jamison and caught the embarrassment as it crossed his handsome features. His chest filled with joy and pride that Jamison was here for him.
“Oh… I don’t know about that, ma’am,” Jamison said.
“Bink, Mr. Coburn. Please call me Bink.”
“If you’ll call me Jamison.”
She grinned. “Agreed. Champagne?” she asked, grabbing fresh flutes from a passing waiter. She handed them each a glass, and they clinked them in a toast to Lonnie’s accomplishment.
I think Lonnie is more delightful than annoying, but he walks a fine line. What do you think?