December 11, 2013
Today is the release of Gingerbread Palace at Dreamspinner, but I wanted to share a little taste of my last DSP release. I didn’t get a chance to do a blog party for JADED, since I did a Facebook chat.
JADED is book 3 in my Precious Gems Series. It’s “Indiana Jones Meets Romancing the Stone–only gayer.” If you like some mystery/suspense, adventure and globetrotting, this one is for you.
Precious Gems: Book Three
Sequel to Italian Ice
Gay-romance writer Trent Copeland finds his life in a rut while his boyfriend, Special Agent Reed Acton, is away on an undercover mission. After attending a special course at FBI headquarters in Quantico, Trent’s eager for another challenge. He jumps at the opportunity for a trip to Japan to oversee appraisals of two art collections to be sold at the gallery he co-owns. But the trip isn’t all cherry blossoms and Hello Kitty. When one of the collectors he meets—rumored to be the head of a Yakuza gang—turns up dead, Trent is accused of the murder and thrown in jail.
Reed drops everything to help find out who really committed the crime. He’s in unknown territory in Japan, forced to navigate Tokyo’s sex underworld to unravel the truth and save Trent. He poses as a “host” at a seedy late-night club. When Reed’s undercover activities place him at a ruthless Yakuza leader’s sex party, he must be willing to go to any lengths to secure Trent’s safety and freedom. But trusting the wrong people brings both Reed and Trent to the Yakuza leader’s attention. If they’re ever to have a happy ever after, they’ll first have to call on every skill just to stay alive.
“Ready for breakfast?” Trent called from the kitchen.
“Yeah.” Reed rubbed a towel over his wet hair and hung it up in the bathroom. He didn’t bother to put on any clothes for breakfast. It was part of their routine when he came home. First twenty-four hours were clothing free, unless they were going out.
He walked into the kitchen and was greeted by the sight of Trent’s bare ass as he stood in front of the stove. The ties of an apron around his waist curled down over the pale globes of flesh.
“Mmmm,” he half growled as he came up and pressed himself to Trent’s back.
“Apparently you didn’t take a cold shower. But I like that.” Trent turned his head and met Reed for a wet kiss. “Sit down, it’s almost ready.”
“I’m hungry.” Reed didn’t want to let go of Trent, but he sat at the table.
Trent flipped pancakes from the skillet onto plates and set them down.
“Smells great. But you know the rules.” He pointed to the apron. It was pretty small, just enough to protect from the dangers of cooking while nude. He liked the way Trent’s cock pushed it out and away from his body. Trent hadn’t had a cold shower either.
Trent presented his back to Reed and bent over just enough to tease. Reed slipped his hand between Trent’s legs and cupped his balls with one hand and untied the apron with the other. “Now you can eat.”
“Thank you.” Trent sat and put a dab of butter and a drizzle of syrup on his pancakes.
Reed looked down at his plate and noticed the pancake had a little smiley face. A sort of smiley face. The mouth was crooked. “I think this guy needs to go to the dentist.”
“Oh, you do? How does it taste?”
“Delicious.” Reed chewed and smiled.
Trent ate his pancakes in silence.
“Can you make some more? Reed asked.
“More? You want more?” Trent stood up.
“Yes, please?” Reed pulled him in with an arm around his waist. He kissed Trent’s navel and intended to move lower when Trent disengaged himself. He went back to the stove, sans apron. Reed enjoyed the scenery.
“Here you go.” Trent brought the skillet over and flipped the pancake out onto Reed’s plate.
He stared. It was shaped like a dick, with two smaller round pancakes at one end. “That’s cute.”
“That’s for you, you dick. Complaining about my smiley pancake. Dick!” Trent dropped the skillet in the sink and it sizzled as it hit water. “That’s the only dick you’ll get in your mouth this weekend. Enjoy it!” He strode out of the room.
“Trent, I’m sorry. It was cute. I liked it. Thank you.” Reed got up and followed Trent. He was in the bedroom putting on underwear. “That’s against the rules.”
“Those rules don’t count when you’re being a dick.” Trent turned his back to Reed.
“I don’t remember that, Trent. Dickery doesn’t cancel out the no-clothes rule.” He heard a muffled sound. Trent was trying not to laugh. He put a hand over his mouth, and Reed spun him around. Trent’s eyes betrayed his mirth. “You’re going to have to take them off, Trent.”
“Don’t worry. I will.” Reed grabbed for the waistband and Trent moved out of his reach but fell onto the bed. He put up a token amount of resistance, but Reed got the shorts off. The struggle had Trent panting slightly and he was half-hard. Reed leaned down and took Trent into his mouth, completing the process. “Delicious.”
“Please, sir, may I have some more?”
“Do you deserve it?”
And he did, so Reed obliged.
* * * *
Use coupon code LynleyBlog for an extra 25% off December 11 and 12.
December 11, 2013
As I mentioned earlier, I loved writing about firefighters and especially about Kevin and Alex. When I finished this story it felt to me like the beginning of something new for these men.
So, I would like to offer a special FREE BONUS story if you purchased Gingerbread Palace by Friday 12/13.
I’m writing a New Year’s story for these boys, and I’ll email you when it’s ready.
How to collect your free BONUS story:
- Buy Gingerbread Palace from Dreamspinner or any distributor by 12/13. (Pre-orders qualify too, but I need the date of the transaction)
- Forward by email a copy of your payment receipt to firstname.lastname@example.org
- Wait for the e-mail from me at the end of the month to collect.
Email me if you have any questions.
December 11, 2013
Gingerbread Palace by EM Lynley
Delectable Series Book #4
To celebrate the release of Gingerbread Palace, Dreamspinner Press is giving a special coupon code to get an additional 25% off any of my titles. Use coupon code: LynleyBlog (case sensitive) when you checkout from the Dreamspinner Website on December 11 and 12 only. See all of my DSP titles.
Both engines were called out on an early morning run when Kevin arrived early for his shift the next morning, and he was the only one left in the house. He wanted to make progress with paperwork for the rest of the Bancroft Buns employee statements, hoping if he got it done before the new shift was due to report the captain might let him out of the doghouse. A kids’ tour of the firehouse was scheduled for later that morning, and Kevin had been assigned the task since he was still riding the desk.
As soon as he walked in the door, he was bombarded with the distinctive aroma of gingerbread. Cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, and a few other mouthwatering notes he couldn’t quite place. He went into the kitchen and discovered dozens of cookies cooling on metal racks. The night shift had been busy baking before they’d been called out. He glanced around before remembering he was alone. Then he grabbed a cookie off a rack. It was still warm to the touch.
He broke off a foot and popped it into his mouth. Ginger exploded on his tongue, unexpectedly spicy. There were chewy chunks of crystallized ginger in each cookie too. The sweet and spicy balanced perfectly, and the cookies were so crisp. Alex Bancroft might be a public nuisance, but he was a damn good baker. This cookie was worth a few extra minutes on the treadmill, and he couldn’t leave half a cookie, could he? He munched on the rest of it and headed for the bathroom. He wanted to brush his teeth. Wash away the evidence and eliminate the desire for another cookie.
He went into the bathroom and heard the shower running. He wasn’t alone. Now he remembered, they’d let Alex stay while everyone was helping bake cookies. The water stopped and before Kevin could leave, Alex came out of the shower area and headed for the sinks where Kevin stood.
“Hi, Kevin,” Alex said. The guy was always smiling, even though his business had burned down. No one could be that cheerful, especially at six thirty in the morning.
He had a towel slung loosely around his waist, and his hair was still wet, bangs falling into his eyes. He looked far too much like that shower dream Kevin had had—more than once.
“Morning.” Kevin tried not to stare at the firm, smooth chest and the nipples that haunted his daydreams. Alex didn’t have a gym physique, but clearly he got a decent workout from all the lifting and carrying he must do in the bakery. His pecs were nicely shaped, and he had some definition in his shoulders and biceps.
“You’re here early.” Alex’s hand was still bandaged, with a big Baggie over it. He pulled the plastic off and grabbed a can of shaving cream from the counter and turned toward Kevin. “Not talking? That’s okay. I like the strong, silent type.”
That got Kevin’s blood boiling. Why was Alex being such a tease? “Will you cut that shit out? I’m not interested in you.”
“Don’t worry. I won’t tell anyone your secret. Stay in the closet.”
“I’m not—” Kevin’s hands balled into fists before realized it, and he tried to pull himself together. He didn’t look at Alex. As if not seeing him would make him go away. Why didn’t he just leave? In the mirror he saw Alex shake the can of shaving cream. The towel slipped off his hips. Kevin couldn’t help staring. Alex’s cock, which hung down past his balls, was worth staring. Five inches now? What would it look like hard?
Alex didn’t pick up the towel. “Go ahead. I don’t mind if you look. Like I said, I won’t say anything. But I don’t believe your protests.” He put the shaving cream down on the counter and walked up close to Kevin. “Tell me again you’re not interested.”
Kevin pushed Alex back a pace, intending to leave, but once his fingers grazed Alex’s warm, damp skin, his brain stopped communicating with his feet. Alex put a hand on Kevin’s belt buckle, and all hell broke loose in his shorts. He couldn’t stop the erection, and he felt the blood filling his cock until it almost hurt. It would be completely obvious in the fitted uniform trousers.
Alex looked in that direction and smiled. “At least part of you isn’t lying. The important part.”
Thank God no one else was around for this. Kevin grabbed Alex’s wrist off his belt, and instead of pulling it away, he pulled Alex in close and Kevin’s other arm went around his waist, almost of its own accord. With Alex’s body pressed against his, Kevin leaned in for a kiss. Alex opened his mouth and let Kevin in. He tasted like toothpaste and smelled woodsy from the station’s body wash. His lips were soft, yet firm, and his tongue danced around Kevin’s.
Leave a comment with your impressions of the excerpt for a chance to win any e-book in the Delectable Series
October 27, 2013
Hello to all! This is Bell Ellis, the author of “Swiftsilver” which appears in Dreamspinner’s Steampunk Anthology, Steamed Up. I’ve written a few other stories over at the site, but this would be my first steampunk story.
I was absolutely positive that I was doomed as I wrote it, because a) I know almost nothing of steampunk, and b) I wanted to bring Science(!) into the story, and Science(!), as we all know, is difficult to fake. I was fortunate in being able to consult a few friends who think more about these things than I do.
Here is an excerpt from my story:
One day, Thio was playing with a small square of it (enameled to a piece of flannel), when he sat up. “Seamus, look at this.”
“What is it?”
“Take this patch of swiftsilver and wave it back and forth in the air.” Seamus did so, waving it haphazardly, and Thio shook his head. “Not like that; keep the flat side facing the push of the air. Like this.” He held Seamus’s hand and helped him move the patch from side to side, pushing it against the air as though waving a fan. Seamus could immediately tell what Thio had noticed: on the silver side of the patch, there was intense resistance to the air, but on the flannel side, there was very little. The effect was baffling. When one waves a fan, the air resistance is equal on both sides. To have it feel so dramatically different….
“What the devil kind of substance is this?”
Seamus said, “It’s… a semipermeable membrane, Thio. Air passes through one side more easily than the other. Thio, that would be perfect for a wing. You would resist the air beneath on the downswing, but not the air above on the upswing.”
The idea of swiftsilver’s particular properties came to me when a friend of mine mentioned the thought experiment of Maxwell’s Demon. Maxwell’s Demon is basically a powerful little creature that opens a door between two chambers and allows hot molecules into one, and cool molecules into the other, to artificially create a temperature difference and defeat entropy. Apparently some demons need hobbies.
I thought, what if a substance could do that?
The same friend of mine went on to talk about vacuum airships, and the technical aspects of the story unfolded from there. Then I had to throw a bucket of cold water over my friend to get him to stop talking about technical constructs so that I could go and write the Glandularly Meaningful bits.
I’ve begun to read the anthology myself, and I’m delighted to see that I wasn’t the only person to focus heavily on technology (some of them even involve math, but don’t be frightened, it’s just a story); but that just betrays my basic ignorance of steampunk. Of course it would all contain technology and inventions and near-miraculous science (sorry, Science(!)). But that’s what makes this collection of stories special.
Are you a technically-oriented reader? Does it drive you crazy when writers get things wrong, or make you stand up and applaud when they get things right? Leave a comment and tell me all about it.
If you ever want to natter at me about my other stories, writing in general, dogs, pie, contortionists (I’m doing research for another story), or anything else that inspires you, please feel free to poke at me on Twitter, where I exist as EllisTales.
October 27, 2013
Hi. I’m Amy Rae Durreson, and I’m joining Mary, Eli and some of our fellow authors to talk about the Steamed Up Anthology. My story, “The Clockwork Nightingale’s Song” is the second story in the collection. It’s about an engineer, an inventor, a flying pleasure garden, and a clockwork nightingale with a broken heart.
I’ll be talking a little more about my historical inspirations later today, but to get us started, have a little taster of the story. Here Senior Engineer Shem Holloway and his apprentice are at work in the Vauxhall Flying Pleasure Gardens when the nightingale’s inventor Lord Gabriel Marchmont arrives to demand their attention, much to Shem’s annoyance.
That night, Shem found it hard to concentrate on his rounds. He was distracted by the thought of a brass nightingale that refused to sing and, more and more as the evening underwent its daily transformation from charming to wild, of its creator, his unguarded smile, the arrogance Shem wanted to slap off that pretty face, and his fine hands.
“Should we check the fountain, Mr. Holloway?” the boy asked, breaking him out of his daydream.
Shem glanced at Neptune’s fountain, currently occupied by three very drunk young men: one sitting in the water up to his waist and the others, shirtless, copying the pose of the great statue for the benefit of a squealing crowd of women who were clearly no better than they ought to be.
“Have some sense, boy.”
The boy’s eyes were wistful, and he wet his lips a little before venturing, “But they might need our help, Mr. Holloway.”
Like that, was it? Shem could see they were pretty, for drunken louts, the water slicking across their bare, muscled chests, and the colored lights which hung in the surrounding trees washing them with a gold-and-purple glow. Still, anyone who stripped off in a fountain on a June night in England deserved to get pneumonia, and he wasn’t going to let his apprentice lust after buffoons. “The constables will be along in a moment to help them all the way to the dock.”
“But, Mr. Holloway….”
“Come along, boy.” Shem firmly steered the boy away.
He wasn’t expecting a firm clap on his shoulder and an all-too-familiar posh voice to say, “There you are, Holloway. Must say the entertainment’s changed in tone a little since I was last here.”
“I can assure you that the management does not….” Shem started and protested as Marchmont plucked the key from his hand and unlocked the gate in the hedge. “My lord, the paths are for employees—”
“I’m on a retainer,” Marchmont said cheerily, pushing them through the gate. He was still in evening dress, but there was a lot more ink smudged across his cuffs.
A loud splash and a roar of jeering laughter sounded behind them, and both Marchmont and the boy craned in that direction, as if they could see through three inches of dense laurel hedge. Irritated, Shem said, “We weren’t expecting you quite yet, my lord.”
“Oh, I couldn’t stop thinking on it. I’ve revisited all my notes, and the standard reference texts, and now I must see the bird in situ. You’ve restored it to its post?”
“Some hours ago, sir.”
The boy was quivering with curiosity, so Shem said to him, “Nightingale No. 48. Show me that you can find the way.”
The boy darted ahead a little, and Marchmont commented, “It’s a veritable maze behind the scenes. You could make a fortune opening this up to the public. Mazes are all the thing, you know. I designed revolving hedgerows for the one at Blenheim.”
“We do try to keep undesirables out of the staff areas, sir,” Shem remarked. Marchmont seemed to have relaxed considerably since the afternoon, and Shem eyed him suspiciously. Was he drunk?
“Luckily, I am considered quite the catch,” Marchmont said as a money capsule went rattling through the pneumatic tube attached to the side rail of the path. “I say, what do you do about rust?”
This little snippet contains my favorite line in the entire story. It’s a throwaway remark, so I’m very glad it made it through the editing process intact. Anybody want to guess what it is?
October 27, 2013
My name’s Mary Pletsch and I’m the author of Ace of Hearts, one of the stories in the Steamed Up Anthology. It’s my pleasure to be here chatting with all of you today. I’m looking forward to showing some excerpts from Ace of Hearts, sharing some bits of real-world history that shaped the story, and enjoying some conversation with other romance lovers.
Prepare for takeoff! Here’s a little teaser from Ace of Hearts:
The flight leader was the spitting image of Dirigible Captain James Hinson, two-time winner of the Distinguished Flying Bar.
William felt his jaw drop. The man looked exactly like Hinson’s newspaper daguerreotypes—strong chin, chiseled features, a tousled lock of hair tumbling over his forehead—except that his hair was sandy brown. Funny how William had imagined him as a ginger, like William himself. William had spent a lot of time in the past year fantasizing about the famous ace Captain Hinson, but he’d never dared dream he’d get to meet the man himself.
William blinked, revised his personal image of Captain Hinson, and then dared to look again. He had to be mistaken. But when he opened his eyes, the newcomer was still the spitting image of the famous dirigible pilot, and he was standing in front of his purple-striped aircraft. The buried memory dislodged itself and swam up to the surface of William’s thoughts. Hinson’s dirigibles’ baskets had always been marked by distinctive purple stripes, just like the lead Gryphon.
What business would a hero like Captain Hinson have in a heavier-than-air squadron?
Captain Hinson is William’s ideal for a steampunk hero – what’s yours?
The Steamed Up Anthology is available now:
http://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/store/product_info.php?products_id=4267 for the eBook or http://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/store/product_info.php?products_id=4324 for the paperback.
Saving Sonny James: the X-excerpt you never expected to see (and the final contest! win book money!)
October 22, 2013
All you have to do is comment in reply to this post, anywhere in this release party, with the words “book money” somewhere in the comment, and you’re in the running for $20 on your account at Dreamspinner to spend as you like and Saving Sonny James paperback or ebook.
THE night after Luki talked to Kaholo was the first one in a couple weeks that found him struggling to find sleep. Finally, he allowed his thoughts to drift toward his husband and his fingers to drift toward his restless sex.
Once he started remembering and imagining his tall, dark, lithe lover, he couldn’t stop. And once Sonny’s beauty entered and filled his aching, sweet, waking dream, his hands wouldn’t stop. His neglected penis thickened and leaked and begged, and though Luki couldn’t remember the last time he’d masturbated, he got right with the program.
Not content to jerk off quickly in a half somnolent fashion, he sat up and stripped his lower half naked, switched on the small light next to the bed, and spread his legs wide, knees up, so he could see. Smiling at himself and thinking of Sonny, he ran his palm over the wide, glistening head of his cock and gathered a little reservoir of precum, then brought it to his mouth and dragged his tongue through it. He chuckled, then bit his lip. He wasn’t sure what he’d expected, but of course his own product, though tasty, wasn’t nearly as sweet as Sonny’s. Briefly he wondered why he could remember Sonny’s flavor so clearly, but he couldn’t remember the particulars of any other man he’d tasted—and of course there had been a few.
Knowing the experience wouldn’t come close to sex with beautiful Sonny,
Luki decided nevertheless to take it slow, make a feast of the masturbation experience. He handled his hardening testes, running his hands over the silky skin, watching the motion, pretending they were Sonny’s long fingers, pretending the balls he cradled in his own hands were Sonny’s. It didn’t quite work—the differences in anatomy meant Luki really had to work at the imagining, but he persisted, and if it wasn’t perfect, it was good. Next, using spit and precum for lube, he let his fingers wander over his perineum and straight into his ass. All other considerations aside, Luki liked getting fucked, had liked it from the very first time. Other considerations meant he craved the top role more than the bottom, but sometimes Sonny….
“Oh, Sonny,” he whispered, feeling Sonny’s long, straight erection rather than his own two digits. The fingers weren’t quite adequate, but they were a passable substitute as long as he doggedly kept his fantasy in mind. He drew his fingers out then slammed them back in, rough, speeding up and finding a rhythm, relishing the burn and—even though it was a bit of a reach—managing to tap his prostate, stimulating the deep pleasure the little gland had to offer.
He could have come to orgasm with just that, but he didn’t want to, so he gentled the motion and slowed the rhythm almost to a stop. He reached for his cock with his other hand, stroked it once, twice, but stopped that too and instead pinched first one nipple then the other. He made it hurt, made the nipples red and puckered, hard nubs standing out like markers, which was so pleasurable that again he thought he might come. He stopped, wet his fingers in his mouth, and soothed the same nipples he’d just tortured.
Again he said, “Oh, Sonny,” and now he started to stroke, twisting a bit, running his thumb over the slick head. In no time—too soon he thought—he felt his orgasm begin to insist, to rise, to gather force, and then he exploded, groaning out Sonny’s name over and over in a tortured, raspy cry.
He felt mildly strange when it was over, laughed at himself a little, even. But after he cleaned up, he slept well, and he dreamed only of his love. It was good.
Saving Sonny James excerpt two: Meet Jesse Douglas–Luki’s sexy ex (yes, really) and another informal poll (decisions…)
October 22, 2013
Poll question: Do you think a spin-off starring Jesse shoud be forthcoming, or is he too… risky? (I’d sincerely like your feedback.)
Long before Sonny James Luki had a bit of a romance with a ginger man named Jesse Douglas. Jesse is sexy, quiet, capable, and a bit of a badass himself. He doesn’t look like Rupert, or Prince Harry, or this:
(Although some of us may wish that he did.)
This little excerpt is the by-chance, surprise meeting after many years between Jesse and Luki, on the plane heading for France, where Luki is determined to rescue his husband from whatever evil has befallen him.
Luki glanced up in time to see a man who had turned in his seat three rows up and across the aisle, looking at him—a man with brilliant green eyes.
Maybe the eyes distracted him, forcing his attention for no reason except their color. For too long an instant, he didn’t recognize the owner of those startling irises. But the man continued to walk toward him, smiling, and Luki knew him. The real memory finally overcame imagination.
“Jesse,” Luki said when the tall, slender ginger-haired man was close.
“Hey, Luki! Been a long time, eh? Too long.”
Luki couldn’t decide if it was too long or not long enough. Jesse had been part of his life—an anomaly—before Sonny, even before Luki had decided to forego attachments and keep solitary and safe with one-night stands done his way. In his youth Luki had twice tried to have a more significant relationship. One was with a guy in college, Graham Kennedy, whom Luki had dated—for real, dated—for a couple of months until Graham had decided to aim for the Catholic priesthood. Jesse, this mellow and still attractive green-eyed agent standing in the aisle on the flight to France, had been the other. They had trained together at FLETC—the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center at Glynco, in Georgia. Jesse had been a new hire with the State Department, and Luki had been new to ATF. That put them in the minority among FBI newbies and cops from various parts of the country, and they gravitated together when they had downtime. Sharing meals and movies and jokes started them talking. Serious study and skills practice started them touching.
Jesse was a likeable guy, adventurous and sexy. But he’d wanted things Luki couldn’t give. He’d wanted to be equals. He’d wanted to be in love. He’d wanted commitment. Luki couldn’t give any of that, then. And after that he didn’t let anyone get close enough even to think about such things.
Until Sonny. Sonny proved to be the one of a kind, sole contender for Luki’s devotion.
Still, Luki held no ill will for Jesse—he even had good memories, and maybe what he felt could be called fondness. So when his old, once intimate friend came up to him smiling his soft smile, Luki patted his extra, empty seat. “Join me for a bit?”
Jesse accepted the offer, and once he was seated said, “Damn, Luki, you look good!”
Luki started to deny that, then gave himself a mental shake. He did look good—or at least he looked like himself. He was groomed and well-dressed, and his body was in almost top shape. His eyes—he knew—had lost the glazed absent look they’d worn since Umatilla, and he’d gotten enough outdoor air for his skin to look its best, hate-scar down the left side of his face and all. And this man sitting next to him had rather liked that scar, even though—until Sonny—Luki had always thought it made him ugly. So instead of arguing, Luki just said, “Thanks. You too, Jesse. How are you? Still working for State?”
“Yeah, I am—moved out of the field agent ranks, though. Now I’m a pencil pusher.” His smile was wide and sincere, as it always had been, but he’d collected some deep lines around his eyes. His hair had some whitish streaks among the ginger too. It wasn’t a bad look on him. “You’re still with ATF, or no? I’ve heard different things….”
“Yes. I haven’t been working since last summer. I… well, it’s a long story. But I’m active duty now.”
“Are you official, then? I mean, is your trip to Europe connected with a case or something? Seems kind of unusual for ATF.”
Luki recognized the slight shift in Jesse’s voice, the minute narrowing of his eyes. Those little changes told him Jesse had switched from personal interest to professional. He was trying to gauge whether Luki’s visit was going to spell trouble for the State Department. Luki answered to set the man’s mind at ease. “No, Jesse. It’s personal. I’m on vacation leave.” For a change of subject, he asked a question even though the answer was evident. “Your duty station is in Europe?”
“Yeah, gay Par-ee.” He laughed, but it wasn’t entirely in mirth. “Hey, listen. I could see the sparkle off those rings clear over across the cabin. They’re on your left hand. Do they have the usual meaning?” Jesse dropped his gaze and pushed his hair back off his forehead. It changed nothing—the heavy forelock flopped right back down over his brow—but his posture and that nervous swipe of his hair was full of meaning. It told Luki the question held emotional impact for Jesse.
After all this time, Luki mused, but out loud he just said, “Yes.”
“I thought you…. Has it been long?”
“No, not really. We met last year, married this past summer.”
Jesse stared at Luki for a few minutes, as if he were trying to tunnel through his eyes to reach his brain and read what he found there. He tilted his head sideways, shaking it and laughing in disbelief. “You’re in love, Luki Vasquez! I can’t believe it!”
It wasn’t unkind, though faintly colored with old frustrations, Luki thought. He watched his friend, marveling that he could still read his old flame so well. Jesse had leaned forward, elbows on knees and hands clasped, his long, straight spine stretched but his shoulders slightly hunched, fighting with himself over something. Finally, he spoke in a breathy voice that told Luki how hard he had struggled not to ask, not to tread this path. “Have there been a lot of men since me, Luki?”
Luki’s long habit of privacy, of playing everything close to the vest, made him hesitate. But he thought it was a fair question, and Jesse was a good man, and though Luki would never have expected it, apparently for Jesse the end of their brief foray into coupledom remained unresolved. “No,” he said softly, but then he corrected himself. “Well, yes, but out of them all, you were the only one that mattered in any way, until Sonny—my husband.”
Clearly Jesse had been hanging on the words. Immediately he responded, “I mattered.”
Biting back a bit of his own frustration now, Luki spoke as kindly and honestly as he could. “Yes, of course you mattered, Jesse. The time we spent together was fun and sweet for what it was, and you helped me know myself. I remember only good things about you, and after we split I missed you.”
“Why didn’t you ever call?”
“Or even e-mail?”
“Jesse.” Luki let his voice take on a note of warning. As much as he held no ill will for his long-ago lover, he just wasn’t inclined to have this discussion. He’d already gone above and beyond, as far as he was concerned. “Stop,” he said.
Jesse visibly shook off his tension, sat up, and sat back in the seat. “Okay,” he said. “Sorry. Sometimes I get unreasonable.”
Luki said, “Yes, yes, you do. I remember.”
At first it looked as though Jesse was going to take offense at that, but then perhaps memory struck, because he laughed. “I’d bet you’ll never forget,” he said. “But okay, change of subject. Why are you going to Europe? Are you stopping in Paris?”
“Yeah. Paris. I think that’s as far as I’m going.” He allowed himself a sigh as today’s reality sank over him. What to say, though? He wasn’t prone to giving out a lot of information, but it crossed his mind that he had no allies lined up on the far shore, and Jesse might be in a position to help. So, “Um…. Well, it’s where Sonny is, my husband.”
“Do I detect a note of… I don’t know, trouble?”
“Probably. So what do you do, these days—for State, I mean. If it’s not classified.”
“Some classified, but generally I work on various problems around US citizens abroad—they get arrested or stranded or whatever. Why did you ask? Is there something you need help with?”
“Maybe. I don’t really want to lay everything out right here, right now, but Sonny’s sort of… missing.”
Jesse’s whole demeanor changed, taking on his professional persona, which
Luki appreciated. “I take it you’re sure he’s not evading?”
A swift wind of self-doubt swept over Luki—would he want to leave me?—but it passed, leaving him only slightly shaken. Truth was, it didn’t matter. Harold Breslin was anything but trustworthy, and as long as Sonny was in the same country with him, he wasn’t safe. But deep in his heart, he knew Sonny would never walk away from him, from their love, their marriage, their home. Never would he disappear on purpose. “Not evading,” he said.
“I’m afraid maybe so.”
October 22, 2013
Informal poll question: What’s your take on humor in romance and suspense fiction? (a) detracts, stop it, bugs me; (b) love it, should be more; (c) some, carefully placed and balanced helps show humanity in the characters and makes the tough stuff easier to get through; (d)some other answer; (e) plead the fifth.
“WHY not, Luki?” Sonny had sent Harold on his way quickly and come upstairs while Luki was still finishing his shower. Luki, groggy again after standing a long time with hot drops pelting his skin, sat on the stool afterward, and Sonny dried his hair with a fluffy towel. The two of them barely fit in Margie’s tiny, feminine, neat little bathroom at the same time, but that didn’t prevent Sonny from attacking Luki’s head with real vigor. At the same time, he was trying to convince Luki to fly to France with him and Harold. “I’ll make sure you get first class, and I’ll have them tow a giant brick of sugar under the plane so the flight attendant can swoop down and pick up a ton of granules whenever you want coffee.” He felt gratified when Luki laughed—never easy to make that happen, and especially not lately.
“I guess I never told you,” Luki said, and then he pulled Sonny down for a kiss. “But since I met you, sometimes I don’t add the sugar.”
“See! I’m good for you. I’ve convinced you to fix that bad health habit.”
“Not exactly. Besides my sugar is probably not as bad for me as that flavored chemical creamer is for you! No, the reason I forget the sugar is because everything already tastes sweet when I’m with you.” Anyone else would have probably punctuated that with a cheesy grin, Sonny thought, but Luki just bobbed his eyebrows and it had the same effect. Sonny laughed, hard, which finally resulted in a slow smile from his husband. Luki said, “I love that, you know. When you laugh really hard like that? You sound like Woody Woodpecker.”
With a supreme effort Sonny stopped laughing, or at least almost, put his hands on his hips, and said, “I do not!”
“No really, you do babe. If I can figure out how, I’ll record it on my phone so you can hear yourself.”
Luki kept an almost completely straight face, but Sonny could see the gleam of fun—joy, maybe—in his eyes, and it was like clean water and fresh air, reprieve. Perhaps unfortunately, the feeling overwhelmed him. And tears stung his eyes, though none fell, and his lip twitched, and the whole damn good mood was broken. How could he explain that he was falling apart because he felt so good? “I’m sorry….”
Luki stood up and wrapped his big, strong arms around Sonny, and then pulled him tight against his chest, stroking his back, kissing his hair. “No, baby. I’m sorry. For how I’ve…. What I’ve become.”
“I love you, Luki—no matter what. And… just now, you were like you are… usually… with me.”
“Yeah,” Luki said. “Today’s a good day. I haven’t had many lately. They’ve just been getting worse and worse, and yesterday… I was so scared, baby.
How can I make you understand? I’d never want to hurt you, and I didn’t have any way to control it! Shit, I didn’t even know I was doing it.” He shook his head, punished his lip with his teeth, then very quietly added, “I couldn’t stay there, sweetie. If it happened again, if I ever hurt you, that would be worse than dying, worse than anything.”
Sonny felt a surge of anger. He growled, “But if you did die, Luki! Like at that fucking place! Like when that man…. That green-eyed guard you can’t seem to stop worrying over was going to fucking shoot you dead! If you’d died then, Luki….” By now Sonny’s rage had turned into sobs, and he just that moment realized how badly the whole situation was fucking with his own head. “I wouldn’t have wanted to live, either. Fuck… Luki. You didn’t do anything wrong. Can’t you just… I don’t know.” His flame had spluttered out, and now he sat down on the edge of the bathtub feeling defeated.
He half expected Luki to be pissed that he’d spoken to him—yelled at him—like that. Amazingly, Luki’s humor resurfaced instead, and he sat on Sonny’s knee. He whispered into his ear, “And for Christmas, Santa—or sooner, if you can make the extra trip south—I’d like to get my big-boy badass pants back.”
September 26, 2013
It’s no surprise that, given their history, Kelly and Cooper have unresolved issues between them. So when Kelly needs Cooper’s help (if anyone has read Floods and Drought, you know what he needs him for!), Cooper isn’t too eager…
KELLY found his way to the woodshed by walking toward the bright yellow light shining from its open door. When he walked in, Cooper was sweeping the last of the woodchips from the back of the tractor trailer. Despite the quickly cooling autumn air, he looked sweaty and hot.
“What are you doing here?” Cooper asked gruffly after letting Kelly wait for several long seconds.
“Looking for you. Can we talk somewhere? Privately.”
“What is this about?”
Kelly couldn’t help hearing the unspoken dismissal. Cooper clearly had no desire to talk to him. He decided to cut to the chase. “It’s Rory McCown. He broke his parole this afternoon, and he needs your help.”
“That’s what public defenders are for,” Cooper replied as he continued to sweep the floor.
“And his public defender is Sean Goddard,” Kelly said without further explanation.
“Norm’s son? Is he even out of diapers yet?”
Kelly chuckled, more out of nervousness than because he found what Cooper had said funny. “Just passed the bar. You know his dad, right?”
Cooper nodded. “Sure I do. He was my biggest competition when I first came to town. Big shark of a small-town lawyer, but he was gracious enough to not fight me over my piece of the pie.”
“Well, Sean’s a little out of his depth against Emmett Love.”
“Jeezus,” Cooper replied. “Emmett Love? Carries the name, but doesn’t know what it means. He used to hold the record for the most parolees returned to prison. Don’t suspect he got any more lenient in his old age?”
“Nope,” Kelly replied. “And he’s got it in for Rory’s hide.”
“Rory needs your help, Coop.”
“Can’t do it. I’m not a lawyer anymore.”
“You’ll always be a lawyer, Coop. You were the most amazing legal mind I’ve ever met.”
Cooper looked at Kelly from under his hat. “The emphasis on ‘were.’ They disbarred me, Kelly. Stripped me of my rights. I couldn’t represent Rory if I wanted to. And I don’t want to.”
“You don’t need to represent him. He just needs some advice. And to know someone is on his side.”
“We’re all on his side,” Cooper was quick to reply, standing tall, his broom by his side. “He’s Tim’s man. He used to work here. I like him. But I don’t see what I can do for him.”
Kelly smiled. If his memory didn’t betray him, the sparkle he saw appearing in Cooper’s eye was the first sign of Cooper becoming excited about something, although the rest of his body still dismissed him. “He needs someone to show him he’s worth fighting for. And he needs someone to talk Emmett Love under the table. According to your reputation, you’re the only guy in this town who can do that.”
“Naah,” Cooper said, putting his broom aside. “I was never interested in him enough to talk him under a table.” Cooper wiggled his eyebrows, and Kelly was transported back to the law library, their study group, and their favorite place for sex. On top of or under the long tables.
“Pretend,” Kelly ordered. “Just this one time and just for Rory’s sake. Love is hell-bent on sending him back to state prison for a year. I’ll settle for him serving the remainder of his parole, not his prison sentence, in county jail.”
“But it’s not your call, is it?”
“No, that’s something the county prosecutor has to decide, but he’ll listen to Love. If Love recommends the shortest possible sentence, he’ll follow, and then all Sean Goddard needs to do is agree with it. The judge will follow the prosecutor. You know that.”
“I suppose it’s worth a shot.”
Kelly had the overwhelming urge to wrap Cooper in his arms and kiss him senseless. He thought he could smell Cooper’s sweaty, manly scent from where he was standing, but considering the overwhelming woodsy aroma emanating from everything else in the shed, he figured it was just his imagination. When he took one step toward Cooper, the man tensed up, though, so he decided a butch punch to the arm would be enough. “I knew I could convince you.”
Cooper shrugged. “Emmett Love probably won’t even let me in.”
“Don’t know if you don’t try. And if he doesn’t, at least Rory will know you support him.”
“Fair enough,” Cooper said. “What time do you want me there?”
If you’ve read Floods and Drought, you know how this ends!