Excerpt (NSFW) from Spaghetti Western #newrelease @emlynley

September 17, 2014

cowboy8r

 

 

 Spaghetti Western by EM Lynley

 

Cordon-Blue trained pastry chef Riley Emerson arrives in Aspen, Colorado for a summer season at the best restaurant in town, only to discover his jerk of a boyfriend has dumped him, leaving his heart and his summer plans in tatters. Doubting himself and longing for a change of pace, he takes a low-paying position as chef at a guest ranch, the Rocking Z. The scenery is gorgeous, but he expects that nature up close and personal can’t hold a candle to his exciting Paris lifestyle.

 

When born-and-bred cattle rancher Colby Zane spots a newcomer letting himself be pawed at by a passel of horny cowboys at Aspen’s Club Rawhide, he doesn’t think twice before rushing in, throwing the guy over his shoulder, and rescuing him from the volatile situation. Sober, Riley Emerson turns out to be sweet and sexy, but not interested in more than a one-night stand with Colby. Initially disdainful of the guest ranch side of the business, Colby’s over the moon when Riley late arrives as the new cook on his family’s ranch.

 

But all’s not well at the Rocking Z. Unsurmountable financial problems force them to rely on a cash infusion from an outside investor, Fitz Wellington. Only Fitz is hot for Colby, and he won’t sign on the dotted line without some very personal incentives. The future of the ranch is at stake, and Colby’s just desperate enough to go along, but saving the Z might mean losing Riley.

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Excerpt:

Let me set this scene up: Chef Riley and cowboy Colby have started a relationship on the ranch. Colby thinks Riley just wants to be friends with benefits, but Colby wants a real relationship. So Colby’s trying to avoid spending time with Riley. Only today Colby has to drive Riley and the chuck wagon out to a remote spot on the ranch.

 

chuckwagonTwenty minutes later they passed the spot where they’d spent the night on their first date. First and last. Riley bit his lip and pretended his heart wasn’t aching. He couldn’t forget how sweet Colby had been that night, riding behind him on Granite, holding him close, and how they’d started out fucking, but ended up much more intimate and tender.

 

The spot was still on the horizon behind them when the wagon hit a rut and the whole thing shifted sending Riley into Colby’s lap again. Worse, something inside shifted and crashed as the wagon righted itself.

 

“What the—?” Colby stopped the horses and hopped down. He hooked the reins on a prong. “You better get down here too.”

 

Riley carefully climbed down, but tumbled the last step and landed at Colby’s feet. Colby helped him up ungraciously.

 

“Something’s busted in there.” He unlatched the door and opened it cautiously. Nothing came flying out, but when Riley peered in he saw one cabinet had come undone and tubs of marinating meat had come free. An upper cabinet door had also popped open.

 

“I’ll take care of it.” Riley pushed Colby out of the way and climbed inside, bending so his head wouldn’t hit the low ceiling. Luckily none of the tubs had opened up or broken or there would be a tidal wave of marinade sloshing around on the floor. Colby climbed in behind Riley and together they stowed the tubs of meat, hands and arms and legs bumping as they worked to secure everything in the cramped quarters.

 

sexy cowboyRiley didn’t know about Colby, but every time their hands came into contact, the temperature in the little wagon spiked. He couldn’t breathe in the cramped, almost airless space. Colby was so close, not exactly smelling like he’d just showered, but arousing all the same. It was torture being so near him again and knowing the body snatchers had turned Colby into a bastard almost overnight.

 

There was one cabinet still open, and Riley stood up to reach it. He moved too quickly and overbalanced, flailing around for something to stop his fall and taking down a container of flour. It scattered like white rain, all over the counter, the floor, Riley, and Colby, making the smooth surface of the floor slippery. Riley went down again, knocking Colby on his back. He broke Riley’s fall perfectly, and now they were face-to-face, Riley spread out over Colby.

 

Colby stared up and Riley reached for anything to help him get up. He thought Colby might punch him.

 

He never expected for Colby to put a hand behind his head and pull him down for a deep, hungry kiss.

 

 

palominoColby wasn’t sure what came over him when he crushed Riley close and took that kiss he’d been fantasizing about practically since he’d seen Riley that afternoon, especially after he’d changed into shorts that showed off his shapely calves. Damn Riley and damn Marcus all to hell for breaking Colby’s two days of staying away. One smile from Riley, the way his pretty blue eyes widened when he saw Colby, and Colby was doomed. He wondered how long he could keep up the bastard routine because it hurt like hell to see fear in Riley’s eyes.

 

Colby almost lost it right then and there when Riley landed face down in his lap. It would have been so easy and so enjoyable to thread his fingers through Riley’s soft hair and let him unzip Colby and—

 

Now, Riley lay sprawled on top of Colby, their mouths still pressed together, pouring passion and loneliness into a kiss as mind-blowing as the first one they’d shared up on the ridge not five minutes back on this same trail.

 

“Colby,” Riley gasped the word as he sucked in air. “What…?”

 

“Later. Later.” The last thing Colby wanted was to stop and talk—or think. He wanted Riley bad. Not for himself, but to apologize. “Right now, let me make it up to you.” He rolled over so they were facing each other on their sides, still on the flour-covered floor of the old chuck wagon. He pushed Riley’s shirt up and kissed his smooth, flat abs. Any doubts about whether Riley was into this flew out the window when Riley shuddered and moaned.

 

“Mmm. Yeah.”

 

Colby unzipped Riley’s shorts and boxers, then slid them down so he could get some of Riley’s cock into his mouth. He liked the way Riley clutched at his hair and lay back, letting Colby do what he wanted. Using hands and mouth, Colby had Riley hard as a rock in no time. Colby’s cock was painfully stiff too, had been practically since they’d both come in to the wagon. Ignoring his own desire, he did everything he knew Riley liked, flicking his tongue across the slit, sucking his balls one at a time, and gripping the shaft of his cock tight while taking him in deep so he pressed against the back of Colby’s throat.

 

“Good, Colby. Slow down. Gonna come real soon.”

 

“Okay,” Colby said around Riley’s huge dick, then he started humming, the way he learned from a guy he’d met at Rawhide, and rubbing the spot just behind Riley’s balls.

 

It worked like magic and Riley made a sweet little whimper and shot his load down Colby’s throat, leaving him choking and nearly gagging. He had to concentrate to keep breathing and not embarrass himself.

 

“God, that was quick and dirty. Really dirty.” Riley wiped Colby’s face and his hand came away with a fine dusting of flour. “You look good enough to eat. Get your pants down.”

 

“We don’t have time. You have the dinner.”

 

“I wish I could just say forget the dinner and do something filthy to you. I missed you so much. What time is it?”

 

“Almost four thirty.”

 

Riley frowned. “I can take care of you fast.”

 

Colby shook his head. He didn’t want it to be like that. Riley deserved more. “Later. Tonight. Can I come by after the dinner’s over?” Colby helped Riley get his pants back up. “I owe you an apology and an explanation. A lot’s been happening and—”

 

“Yes. That’s fine. Come over later and tell me everything.” Riley kissed the top of Colby’s head, so forgiving Colby felt like even more of a cad. A quick blowjob was no way to make up for the kind of dick-headed behavior he’d been guilty of the past few days. It wasn’t Riley’s fault that Colby was a coward and would rather run from a wonderful guy than get his feelings hurt.

 

“Let’s clean up in here and get over to North Point.”

 

“Maybe it was North Paddock after all.”

 

Colby messed Riley’s hair up, sending clouds of flour floating around them. “You.”

 

“You sure you can’t stay for the dinner?”

 

Colby had forgotten he’d done everything to avoid the chuck wagon dinner and Riley. “Well—”

 

“Cause I have a nice piece of meat with your name on it.” Riley winked.

 

“How could I turn that down?”

 

“You better not or you’ll owe me more than a quickie in a chuck wagon.”

 

“I already do.”

 

“Damned right. And I’m going to make sure you pay up.”

 

Colby knew he had a dumb grin on his face. Why did Riley make him so happy one minute and so freaking scared the next?

 

* * * *

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EM at GRL book signingEM Lynley writes gay erotic romance. She loves books where the hero gets the guy and the loving is 11 on a scale of 10. A Rainbow Award winner and EPIC finalist, EM has worked in high finance, high tech, and in the wine industry, though she’d rather be writing hot, romantic man-on-man action. She spent 10 years as an economist and financial analyst, including a year as a White House Staff Economist, but only because all the intern positions were filled. Tired of boring herself and others with dry business reports and articles, her creative muse is back and naughtier than ever. She has lived and worked in London, Tokyo and Washington, D.C., but the San Francisco Bay Area is home for now.

She is the author of Sex, Lies & Wedding Bells, the Precious Gems series from Dreamspinner Press, and the Rewriting History series starring a sexy jewel thief, among others.

Visit her online WebsiteBlogFacebookTwitterNewsletter

 

 

 

A Matter of When – Excerpt 2

September 15, 2014

In A Matter of When, lead singer Henri suffers a meltdown in which he fears joining the “Twenty-seven Club, after which he must rebuild his life:

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THE ENCORE, the reporter gauntlet, the picture taking and autograph signing went by in a blur. Then Henri took the limo ride from hell.

“What’s got into you tonight, Henri? You seem a little down. Or should I be asking, ‘What hasn’t gotten into you?’” Ricky snickered. “Oh, maybe you want to go down.”

“Did you notice that big-titted chick down front?” Giles chimed in. “Oh, wait, of course you didn’t.” He lowered his voice so only Henri could hear. “You would if she had a dick.” He paused long enough to suck up a line of coke off a tray he’d found in the limo’s bar.

Fucking assholes. Thank God their manager wasn’t here. Henri could better handle their homophobic slurs than their kissing up to Marguerite and laughing behind his back when she treated Henri like a four-year-old. Lord knew she babied her moneymaker, even if her hovering did cock block him. He had to play the straight boy for the fans.

“Fuck off,” he told his band. Hell, at least they hadn’t invited groupies along for the ride this time. The last thing he needed was Giles pounding into some half-naked woman right next to him.

But if they dared use the n-word, by God, he’d have to kill somebody.

He stared out the window. Buildings seemed to merge together as the limo whizzed by, their features further blurred by darkness and window tint. The car slowed to a stop at a red light. What if he simply jumped out and ran? Never stopped running, never looked back? Found a place to hide where no one could ever find him?

Oh yeah. Think of all the people depending on you, he heard in his manager’s voice. Stop being selfish. One cancelled show cuts into a lot of paychecks. Roadies, vendors, the band…. Not to mention herself.

He squeezed his eyes shut. A hamster on a wheel. A damned moneymaking hamster. No one gave a shit about him, just the money. One more concert, one more town. C’mon, Henri, get up on that stage. Think of your fans, Henri. Think of your family, Henri. Think of the band, Henri.

The next time the car stopped, the band crawled out into chaos. More fans, more grasping hands. A security guard guided him into the hotel, through a crowded atrium, and into a private, invitation-only party. At least his tormenters scattered, finding better amusements than “bash the closeted lead singer.”

In the background, Henri’s recorded voice wailed through the playback of tonight’s show, jacked up high to compete with the revelry of a crowded club. Wasn’t anyone tired of hearing him yet? “Great show, man,” a fan gushed, pumping his hand and grinning into his face.

“If you say so,” he replied once they’d left.

His bandmates took full advantage of their A-list reputations, Ricky throwing a quick wave to the crowd before departing, a blonde clinging to his arm. Giles tossed back his and someone else’s share of drinks from the open bar, occasionally rubbing his nose. Yeah, probably pretty damned numb by now. Vince held court at one end of the room, yet Henri, trained singing automaton, kept to the shadows. Maybe folks would forget him, letting him quietly sneak away. Margo, no, “Marguerite” trained eagle eyes on him. The rest of the band was free to do as they pleased, but the lead singer, the star in her eyes, had damned well better stay until she said otherwise, for once he left, the party would end, as would her evening’s networking.

“Buy you a drink?”

Henri spun around. A handsome man offered a glass. “No, thanks.” The pounding behind his eyes didn’t need any alcohol-fueled assistance to split his brain in two, and his anxiety meds hadn’t kicked in. The driving music and gyrating bodies surrounding him certainly didn’t help. After parties sucked, big-time.

“Aww… c’mon. Have a drink with me.”

A beguiling smile lured him in. Normally, he’d arrange a discreet meeting later in his hotel room, but something about the fan’s creepy smile said, Leave this one alone. He had “I kiss and tell” written all over him. Henri didn’t need another leaked sex tape. It had taken a lot of spin-doctoring and a look-alike claiming responsibility—for a price—to clean up the mess the last time he’d chosen the wrong bed partner.

He gave what he hoped passed for an apologetic smile. “No, really. I can’t.” Where was his manager when he needed her to chase off the undesirables who couldn’t forward his career, or at least dispel the latest bout of gay rumors?

Tall, Dark, and Won’t Leave replied, “I came all the way from New Jersey to see you. The least you can do is drink with me.”

All the way from New Jersey? Where the hell were they now? Oh. Right. Anaheim. Or was Anaheim last night? They were still in California, weren’t they?

Liquid swirled in a glass a few inches from Henri’s nose. “It’s your favorite,” the guy crooned. “Jack and Ginger.”

Oh, how Henri regretted letting slip such a factoid in an interview—about five years ago, when he actually had liked Jack and Ginger. Hell, to get rid of the moron, he’d pay any price at this point, then go back to his brooding. Floor-to-ceiling windows afforded a breathtaking view of the city—whatever its name was—his scowling manager reflected in the dark glass. Would everyone go the fuck away and leave him alone? If she wouldn’t come run this asshole off, Henri would do it himself. “Fine!” He grabbed the glass and swallowed half the contents. Anything to get this fuckwad gone.

The guy’s grin widened. “I’m your biggest fan.”

I bet you say that to all the rockers.

“You have millions of fans, but no one understands you like I do.”

Where had Henri heard that before? Oh yeah, Sacramento, LA, Portland, Seattle…. Name a town and someone there had spoken those same words.

His manager approached. Finally! “Henri, this is Lisa. Lisa, Henri.” Marguerite pushed a buxom brunette his way. “Lisa here is your biggest fan.”

Henri read between the lines: You need to be seen with a woman if you ever hope to dispel those nasty rumors. No way to dispel the truth, though.

The woman was pretty, but her maniacal grin didn’t bode well for protecting Henri’s privacy either. She could be the sister of the admirer he was currently attempting to fend off.

“Go away, bitch. I got here first,” the would-be suitor snarled. Okay, no relation, or possibly a highly dysfunctional, competitive sibling rivalry.

The woman snapped an angry retort. Marguerite waded into the fray. Henri beat a hasty retreat. Damn but his head pounded double-time now. The world fuzzed around the edges of his vision, and whatever he’d eaten before the show threatened to reappear.

Bodies blocked his way, but he lowered his head and soldiered on. Puking in front of two hundred witnesses wouldn’t win him any support from his manager. Hell, he couldn’t fucking belch without making headlines.

“Sir, are you okay?”

Henri glanced up at a broad chest, the word “Security” stamped across a tightly stretched T-shirt. No use lying. “I don’t feel too good.” Nice, broad arms. The guy who’d broken his fall earlier. I owe him a car or his own island or something.

“Would you like me to escort you to your room?” Nothing sinister or even suggestive peeked out of the man’s eyes. Just concern. Henri hadn’t gotten concern from anyone in a long time. Too tired to come up with a smartassed retort, he merely nodded. Maybe he could fall again and earn himself another inadvertent cuddle.

The security guard tapped his earpiece, spoke a few garbled words, and wrapped a hand around Henri’s biceps. “Not now, please,” the man said to anyone who stepped into their path. He hustled Henri to the exit.

Henri’s chest filled with lead. Why the fuck couldn’t he breathe? Too many people. The air cleared a bit near the elevator. His knees buckled. What the fuck? “I’m not drunk, I swear.” He grabbed at the wall and missed.

The guard steadied him. “I’m not judging, but maybe you’d better let me hold your drink.”

What? Henri was still holding the damned thing?

Without realizing quite how he got there, Henri leaned back against elevator walls. The coolness felt good against his skin. “Room 1216.” It was 1216, wasn’t it? Or 1218?

“May I have your key, sir?” The guard released Henri’s arm and held out his hand.

Shuffling, being pulled, the snick of the key in the door, followed by the sweet relief of his room. Hey! Room 1216! Got it in one.

Standing by the window of his penthouse suite, Henri stared out at the night. A string of red taillights marked a mass exodus from the arena down the block. His stomach rolled. Did anyone at the party downstairs miss him yet? Thank God his manager wasn’t hovering over him like some overzealous fruit fly claiming dibs on a piece of rotted apple. Henri snorted. My, how well the description fit him. Something within had died long ago, leaving emptiness within.

He took his glass from the guard, raised it in silent toast to his reflection, and tossed back a mouthful, a bitter brew to kill his pain. Haunted eyes blinked back at him. Tired, so tired. Concerts wiped his energy, and every song came from his heart, taking a piece of him that never regrew. A shriveled prune of a thing, his soul must be now. He needed his pills. The ones the doctor prescribed for emergencies. He hadn’t already taken one yet, had he? His head pounded.

He fumbled his way to the stereo and pushed the play button. Trent Reznor moaned about hurt. “I know exactly what you mean, man.”

“Would you like me to stay?” Arms folded across a well-formed chest. Bulging biceps. Blond buzz cut. Huh? Oh, yeah. Security guard. Asking to stay. But no invitation lurked in his eyes. Mild alarm, maybe.

“Would you? I mean, for a little while?” Henri staggered away, the need to sleep bearing down on him, an oppressive hand forcing him toward the turned-down bed. Slowly he peeled his T-shirt off, wincing at the stench of sweat. Maybe he should have taken a shower first. Too late now.

The guard’s eyes widened, likely taking in the skinny torso and the ink decorating what many viewed as a rock god. Henri was merely himself. If only this man didn’t know who he was and saw Henry, not Henri, the product of an imaginative manager. Ah, I’ve grown maudlin in my old age. Old at twenty-seven. Ancient.

An idea crawled to the surface of his muddled thoughts. “Sleep with me.” Had Henri actually spoken those words out loud?

“Fraternization with clients goes against policy. Besides, I’m straight.” No anger. Just business as usual. How many rock gods had propositioned the man?

Henri giggled. “So am I, if you ask my manager. No, I don’t want sex.” He didn’t. Really. “Hold me.”

“You want me to hold you?”

“I feel swimmy-headed. Need an anchor.” Nice line. He should use it again for something. Oh yeah. Maybe put it in a song.

“I could lose my job.”

“No, you can’t. I’m the boss, no matter what my manager says.”

The crisp sheets felt cool against his heated flesh, and if his bedmate noticed his slightly sweat-ripe scent, he gave no clue. The fully clothed guard arranged himself beside Henri, the image of adorable confusion when Henri didn’t attack. Henri had been fucked enough for the time being, and fucked over once too often. Tonight he’d lie in the arms of a stranger, Henri Lafontaine, a publicist’s creation. Tomorrow, he’d take his fucking life back, gold record be damned.

He cuddled into the stranger’s too-limp embrace. “Once I’m out, you can go.”

“You really don’t look too good. Is there someone I should call?”

Henri barked a humorless laugh. “No one gives a shit. Trust me.”

The man grabbed Henri’s wrist and raised his other arm to his face to better see his watch.

“What are you, a doctor?”

“I’m studying nursing. And your pulse is slow. Your breathing is shallow too. I think I should call somebody.”

“No, really. I’m fine.” Henri snuggled more firmly into his human pillow. Hell, physical contact was physical contact. He would take what he could get.

Something loosened in his chest, and he closed his eyes, imagining a lover’s attention, someone who cared about Henry the man, and not Henri, the rich rock star. He conjured up his own bedtime story: they’d met at a party, fallen in love, shared a house, a life. They’d gone out to dinner, made love, and were now settling in for the night. In the morning they’d…. Well, there wouldn’t be a morning for him and Nameless Guy, would there? Nameless Guy would be gone; Henri would wake alone, like he did every morning, even those mornings when he woke to find his bed filled to capacity with naked bodies.

A tear slipped beneath his eyelid, blazing a hot trail down his cheek. The aching inside flared anew, his heart bursting into a million crystalline shards.

The guard lay stiffly on the bed and wrapped an arm around Henri. Fingers stroked his forehead, brushing hair out of his face. Well, he’d be damned. One lucky woman had landed this guy.

But holy hell was it hot in here or what? His stomach rolled. Oh shit. How much had he drunk again? He glanced around the room. Where the hell was he? On the third try he managed to hoist himself out of bed. Where was the bathroom?

“Sir, are you all right?” came from behind him.

Sir? Who the fuck had he brought home? Henri’s stomach lurched again. Why wouldn’t his damned legs hold him? “Oh fuck!” The floor rose up to meet him.

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After a really horrible night, Henri retreats to the Colorado Rockies to regroup, and place I adore. If you could go anywhere in the world to relax, where would you choose?

A Matter of When – Excerpt 1

September 15, 2014

Although A Matter of When centers around a lead singer’s search to redefine himself and his music, there are a few scenes that embrace his performance onstage. Like this excerpt from the first chapter:

“I’VE GOT a date with a bullet, got a date with a gun….”

Every word ripped out of Henri Lafontaine, taking pieces of his soul. He pleaded with the audience, tuning out the pinch of tight leather against his knees, and knelt on the edge of the stage. Pain meant he lived, he breathed, he felt.

“No matter what I do, one day it’s gonna come.”

Frenzied fans reached for him, too far away to ease his cloying loneliness. A vise gripped Henri’s innards—more than sweat poured from him with the fatalistic lyrics. One misstep, one leap from the stage, one dive into the pit of sycophants, and the arms reaching for him, the clutching, grasping hands, would hold him close. But not close enough to melt the numbness inside.

“You say that you love me, but you only speak in lies.”

He raised his voice, keeping the tempo pounded out by the quartet of musicians behind him. Not the kind of folks he wanted at his back. Hookers and Cocaine. A stellar name for a group. Most of the members lived up to the title.

“But I do love you, Henri! I do! I do!” A young woman with a tomato-red faux hawk shoved her way closer. Henri beckoned. Security would rip him a new one for violating protocol. Oh well, better to ask forgiveness than permission.

He crammed his whole heart and soul into belting out:

“Put me down every minute, and I gotta say good-bye.”

Images of his manager, his bandmates, critics, and certain members of his entourage flashed behind his closed eyelids. Pressure built in the back of his throat, sending his voice out wavering. Dampness trailed down his cheeks, accompanying a desperate plea for help, which the masses likely understood as merely the lyrics to a top-forty hit.

Aching, longing, isolation, fear—his constant companions.

He panted for a moment, letting the guitar solo wash over him, and swept a sweaty curtain of ebony out of his eyes with one hand. Damn but Ricky played like a maniac. Too bad about the “unmitigated asshole” thing. The guitar for hire coaxing ethereal melodies from a six-string bordered on miraculous, but could be better if he played from the heart and not for the money, the groupies, and the fame. Ditto the drummer, Giles, whose cocaine habit stifled true talent, and doubly so for Vince on the keyboards, “reducing his art” for the paycheck, when he’d bragged often enough of contemporary rock and roll lying far beneath his master’s degree in music.

While the rest of the band wanted the trappings of rock stardom, Henri wanted one more breath. One more inhale, one more exhale. And a little less pain.

A bass beat throbbed, charmed to life by a traitor who’d sold out his brothers to a tabloid. Tomorrow’s headlines would rip the band apart—if they managed to last until dawn. Serpents. He’d surrounded himself with serpents. Or rather, his manager had, someone else with dollar signs in her eyes, blinding her to the golden goose’s swan song.

The fan fought her way forward through a sea of writhing bodies, and Henri extended his hand, signaling “come hither” with wriggling fingers, animating the image etched on his wrist. Fanciful creatures entwined with ivy trailed up his arm, disappearing under his T-shirt sleeve. Before the girl answered the call, the mob closed in, grabbing, clinging, tugging Henri half off the stage. The world turned upside down. He hung over the platform’s edge. Oh shit! He grabbed at an amp and missed. Falling, falling.

“I’ve got you.” Arms around him, but not in the way he needed. A scowling security guard clamped on tight. Great. Just what he needed.

As though he’d not been denied his greatest wish of human contact, Henri started in on the chorus while the guard shoved him back on stage.

“’Cause I’ve got a date with a bullet, got a date with a gun.”

Rising to his feet, head bowed, he cried out for rescue, from thousands who heard the words but not the message.

“And every day that I stay with you, the closer that day comes….”

The band wound down, the drummer dropping back, the bass and keyboards quieting. The lead guitar softened to allow Henri to deliver the final words in what passed for a whisper during a live show.

“It’s just a matter of when.”

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While Henri sings, his heart is breaking. What one song can bring you to tears every time, and why?

More Excerpts from Matters of Courtship

September 8, 2014

Hello once again!  C.M. Jackson here, for Matters of Courtship’s release party. It comes out today, and you can get it in paperback or eBook.

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And here’s another round of excerpts from the book!

From Chapter Four

Nodding his head in mute understanding, William tugged Lucas with him as they reached the Lincoln Memorial. He let Lucas wander, reading the information William had memorized completely. It was almost sad how little freedom Lucas had in his life. He had the liberty of what he chose to eat, and obviously to continue his schooling, but it seemed as though everything else was dictated to him. How to act, how to speak, sit, and stand, even his manner of dress, were all guided by age-old rules. Lucas was a modern, living example of ancient empire. He was duty bound, and lived and breathed by the rules his parents and his familial monarchy set down—even if he disagreed with something on a personal level. William had to act that way in public, but he’d never had that crap forced on him when the cameras were off. The idea that Lucas didn’t have that freedom made his stomach turn.

It made William wonder just how much of Lucas’s personal attitude was his own, too. How much Lucas actually liked him and how much of it was a stoic act.

The thought coiled unpleasantly in William’s chest. The idea of not being liked by Lucas while he prepared to marry him didn’t sit well. Still… Lucas seemed to be enjoying himself today. It was almost as if he were opening up, even if the movements were still hesitant.

“Well, are you coming or not?” Lucas called from the top of the steps, waving his camera phone. “I have to admit, I still don’t fully understand your monarchy. Your kings changed because of your civil war, correct?”

Jolted out of his thoughts, William nodded and moved to stand in front of the monument. “Yeah. Lincoln took over as king after the war.

Nearly got shot in the head for it. Only lasted a few years after that, but at least he didn’t die all of a few months into his kingship, right? What an example. Then his firstborn got the throne, and then the husband of Robert’s daughter, and a few generations along you have me.” He froze in a pensive, dramatic pose, hand thoughtfully resting on his chin. When Lucas broke into laughter, he couldn’t keep the pleased grin off his face, further ruining the act. William heard the soft, digital click of Lucas’s phone as he snapped a few shots. He came back to William and fiddled with the touch screen.

“What’cha doing?”

“Making this your caller ID,” Lucas murmured quietly, smiling at William and rising up on his toes to kiss William’s cheek. “Now I have a truly historic photo to display your complete lack of shame.”

“I resent that. I have a historic presence.”

“I think you mean histrionic presence.”

William plucked the phone from Lucas’s hands and pulled up the image. It was taken just as his composure from the “serious” persona started to crack. His eyes were squinted and his mouth was open in a laugh, but his arms were still raised and his fingers were splayed over his chin. It was a good, funny shot. He approved. He slipped the phone into the pocket of Lucas’s jeans, leaning in close and letting their lips ghost over each other. Finally he closed the gap in a chaste kiss, less for any of the other tourists and more because he wanted to.

From Chapter Seven

William’s cheer didn’t last the night. He kept waking up with bad dreams, where the smell of kerosene and smoke haunted him. The bodies of the victims stayed at the front of his mind, and he kept having futile, repetitive dreams of digging through rubble and pounding at crushed steel, watching as fire bubbled over windows and the faceless victims were replaced with familiar features.

By four in the morning, he’d officially given up hope of sleep. The kitchen was empty, and William scowled at the coffee machine and jabbed the start button as though it had offended him. After a moment the machine ground through the first bit of sleepiness and the smell of coffee wafted up. The silence and stillness made William want to bang around noisily, but he knew that would only rouse his parents, because they had creepy bat ears and could hear him from the other side of the house.

Why the fuck did they have six different kinds of bagels? What the hell was the difference between a harvest-grain and a seven-grain bagel? Annoyed, William grabbed the open packet of everything bagels, because they had everything. Simple. In the name. No nonsense. At this time of night, cutting the bagel seemed as if it needed surgical precision. How the fuck was he supposed to…? Grumbling at the bagel, which was too thin on the top and too fat on the bottom, he shoved it into the toaster and glared at it.

“You’re up too? Oh, coffee, good.”

William swore loudly and spun around. “Christ, did you take stealth lessons from a cat? Jesus.”

“I didn’t mean to scare you. I couldn’t sleep. I’ve spent the last three hours debating my great need to purchase infomercial products.”

The toaster popped and William retrieved his bagel, spread the butter over the inside, and squished the two halves together before taking a bite. “It’s a trap.”

“Thank you for that sound advice, Admiral.” Lucas drawled, pouring a mug of black coffee and drinking deeply. He leaned his hip against the countertop and rubbed at the back of his neck, looking as strung out as William felt. “I just keep seeing their faces everywhere. I’ve heard about bombings in London before, but….” He shook his head and took another sip. “I wasn’t as directly involved. It was mostly my cousin and his family.”

Nodding his head, William poured his own coffee, adding way too much sugar. “Yeah. I keep seeing it over and over. Having these dreams where I try to save them. I was fine when I went to bed, but it was like… I don’t know. It didn’t last.”
Lucas paused, eyes searching his face. The moment seemed to drag on for a long time, until William started to fidget. Then Lucas closed the gap between them and wrapped his arms around William’s middle, bringing him into a tight grip of a hug.  William remained stiff for a second, then relaxed into the touch and closed his eyes, some of the tension in him unknotting just a little. Lucas’s pajamas smelled like fresh linen and the faintest hint of his soft cologne. William couldn’t help but nose lightly at Lucas’s shoulder. For a long moment, Lucas’s expression seemed unreadable, but then he turned to gather his coffee, nodding as though he’d come to a decision. “You are doing well, aren’t you?”

Shrugging, William nodded. “Yeah. I will be once I get some sleep, anyway.”

“I should go and attempt some more sleep. Try and get some rest, Highness.” Lucas turned to leave, and something in William’s chest twisted. The ache in his chest was better when he wasn’t alone.

William watched him for a moment, stomach churning, before he finally spoke. “Why do you do that?”

“Do what?”

“Use my title. You use my name when you’re angry with me, I’ve noticed that. But you stop being so damn proper when you’re upset or flustered, and… I don’t know, it just seems weird. I mean, I call you by your name.” Playing with his bagel, William took a sulky bite.

Lucas didn’t quite meet his eyes. “I’m well aware. I do it out of respect for you. You’re of slightly elevated status from me, and I don’t feel right addressing you directly when in close company. It’s intimate.”

Scratching at his cheek, William watched Lucas with curiosity. “So we’re intimate when we’re fighting?”
Lucas’s mouth opened in shock, and he turned a deep shade of pink before covering his mouth with one hand and stifling a cough. “No. I think in those moments, I drop everything and break my own rules.”

William took the few steps to Lucas and cupped his cheek with his slightly buttery fingers. Lucas’s nose crinkled in a way William’s sleep-addled brain found adorable. “I’d like it if you used my name. Um, please. Unless you say no, in which case I’ll order you.”

Nodding once, the movement jerky, Lucas made a soft, frustrated noise. “You…. All right. I was going to go back to my room and lie down to attempt some sort of sleep. If… If you want to keep me company, and keep your hands above the covers, you’re welcome to join me.”

It seemed like there was something a little more welcoming about that offer, but William was too sleep deprived to figure it out. With a wordless nod, he let Lucas lead them both back to his room. Lucas put his mostly empty cup on his night table, removed his dressing gown, and draped it over a suitcase. Then he climbed into bed and pulled the covers over himself, peering in the direction of the TV, which was playing an infomercial for some food-dicing product. William climbed into bed behind Lucas, pulling the covers over his own hips and wordlessly declaring himself to be the big spoon.

Lucas was still for a long moment, but then he pulled William’s arm across his chest. He threaded their fingers together, and William watched as Lucas closed his eyes. He kissed his cheek, and when Lucas’s lips curled up, so did his. William eventually settled on resting his cheek on Lucas’s shoulder. There, that was comfy. “Sleep well.”

“You too, William.”

And that’s all you get from me!  Question of the hour:  What do you do when you can’t sleep, for serious reasons or just restlessness?  I, personally, am I big fan of cooking TV shows at strange hours.

Excerpts from Matters of Courtship

September 8, 2014

Hey, all.  I’m C.M. Jackson, still here for Matters of Courtship’s release party!   It comes out today, and you can get it in paperback or eBook.

Here’s the summary again, and the gorgeous, lovely cover by Paul Richmond

Crown Prince of the United Kingdom of America, William Samuel Davis, has recently been outed by the press. Worse yet, he’s been thrown into an arranged marriage with one of the stuffiest people he knows—one Lucas O’Malley-Hamilton. It’s a match made in hell, and William fully intends to make everyone see the error of their ways and send Lucas back home on the first available flight.

But things quickly get more complicated than William had thought possible as the Anti-Monarchy crowd uses his outing against him. As he is forced to face the realities of his position, he finds himself drawn to sides of Lucas he hadn’t known existed. Tensions rise throughout the country and in William’s world. While the situation absolutely refuses to improve, it can and will get worse.

MattersofCourtshipLG

And now for what you came here for – the story itself.

From Chapter One

THE LOOKS William’s parents were giving him were not necessary. Maybe he hadn’t answered their summons quickly, but he was there and he was even wearing a shirt. What else could they want from him? Judging from the way his mom’s eyes were narrowed and his dad’s shoulders were set, nothing good.

He flopped down in the chair in front of them, his posture not at all appropriate to his princely station, and shot them his most charming smile. It hadn’t worked for years, but it was always worth a shot. Predictably, they weren’t moved. Ah, well. “Um, hi? Did I get dragged here to be stared at, or what?”

“William,” Henry rumbled, in that way that meant William was pushing it, which he kind of was. “Do you have anything to tell us?”

Did he? Well, yeah, but nothing he particularly felt like sharing. “Nope, nothing at all. Glad we had this talk. I’ll just go back to bed now.”

As he started to stand, his mother’s lips pursed and William stilled. That was not a good sign. Did he have time to make a tactical retreat here? Probably not. Dammit. But instead of starting to yell, Alice just sighed and picked up a rolled-up newspaper from the table. For a moment, William was absurdly afraid she was going to smack him across the nose like a misbehaving dog, but instead she just handed it to him. Glancing between them, William opened it up.

“THE GAY PRINCE: WILLIAM COMES OUT!”

Oh, yeah. That.

Licking his lips, William glanced up at them. “Would it help if I said I’m not gay? There are shades here that they’re completely ignoring. The term is bisexual, actually, and—”

“William.” This time his name was just a groan. His father gave up his stiff posture to lean forward and rub the bridge of his nose. “You are never allowed to have another interview without someone else there to keep an eye on you ever again. Ever.” Offering to simply avoid all interviews probably wouldn’t help, so William just nodded. His military service had taught him how to go along with orders, if nothing else. “What on earth possessed you to do this? Before you’d even told us?”

William looked between Alice and Henry and shrugged. Both of them looked strung out, and he was starting to think that maybe this hadn’t been the best plan. But at the time, it had seemed like a good way to come out, since it wouldn’t involve a face-to-face talk with his parents about his sexuality. That, and it had been at least half a joke—but the paparazzi never were good with that sort of thing. “Well, it distracted from the other scandal, right? There’s not so much talk about me going out to bars anymore. And it was the interviewer who asked about birth control. I was just honest.”

The sigh his mother let out sounded almost painful, and William only barely managed not to wince. “This is not how you deal with a scandal, William! The situation is serious! Not only have you been sneaking out and putting yourself in danger, but now you’ve made yourself a political target.”

William frowned and looked away. “Okay, yeah, the sneaking out wasn’t the smartest thing I ever did, but it was harmless. I’m twenty-six, and if I were anyone else, then no one would care. It’s not as if being prince means something anymore. No one even knew it was me, so it wasn’t…. Look, that’s not the point right now.” They’d been over that part a hundred times already, and everyone was thoroughly sick of the argument. “I’m bi, and no one ever asked until now, but if they had, then I would have told them. I’m not gonna lie about it. It’s something that I am, and if people have problems with it, they can come up and look me in the eye and tell me they’re bigots.” Swallowing hard, William pointedly met his parents’ gaze.

His father frowned back. “Don’t you dare. You did this before you so much as told us, and you cannot fool me into believing this was on purpose.”

“All right, I should have run it past you two first. Sorry. If it helps, Walter knew.” Okay, no. That didn’t help. But at least his brother was in trouble too now, so all this love could get spread around. William was going to owe him. “It was just a good lead-in, so I went for it. And if nothing else, it’ll get all the gay marriage and gay-rights stuff sorted out much faster, right?”

Shaking his head, the motion aggressive and scarily quiet, Henry jerked his hand toward the door. William recognized the dismissal, popped up from his chair, and started for the door. Before he could get there, Alice spoke. “You’re to be engaged.”

 

From Chapter Two

Lucas nodded and squeezed their fingers together. The gesture was kind of nice in a way that had nothing to do with the charade, and that more than anything knocked William out of being casual and back into prince mode. Scooting a little closer so they could share a meal menu, he hummed a little and leaned into Lucas’s personal bubble. Nice and intimate looking for you, brunette with a camera phone. “I recommend the lobster, personally. It’s my favorite here.” He let his voice drop into something just shy of a purr—it was something he’d practiced with Evan, who called it William’s “bedroom voice.” That was probably kind of much, but it did seem to make people more inclined to go along with him.

“If you recommend it so highly,” Lucas replied. This time he didn’t seem as irritated by the theatrics as he was after the press conference. Maybe because this was more low key. William still had no idea what was going through his head, to be honest. Twisting, Lucas moved so he was whispering into William’s ear, and the puff of air from his voice made him shiver just a little. “Shall we order the oysters as well? They certainly set a mood, don’t they?”

Hot damn. When had Lucas turned into someone fun? “Only if I get to feed them to you.” He turned a little as well to face him properly. As close as they were, it would only take a slight shift before they were kissing. Holding that for one achingly long moment, he finally pulled away to hail one of the waiters hovering nearby, and mentally cackled when the brunette reporter dropped her phone and cursed. Ha ha. Served her right for being a shameless vulture.

It was late enough that their appetizers arrived quickly—though that might have been the royal influence again—and William pulled an oyster out of the bottom shell with his fork and held it up for Lucas to take. He did, dragging it off the fork with deliberate slowness, and William could have kissed him for playing along. He’d been wrong before about the lines, because jerking reporters around was the best part of being famous. When Lucas did the same to him, William wrapped one of his own hands around the one holding the fork and took the oyster gently between his front teeth, yanking it off and then licking the fork clean.

The game was so much fun, William nearly forgot about Brunette’s camera phone, and it made the oysters last until the lobsters came out. At that point William switched modes, because he really did enjoy lobster and wanted to eat it rather than play with it. But at least the periods of silence between them weren’t nearly as awkward as they had been, aided by Lucas’s red wine and William’s scotch.

By the time they decided against dessert and made their way back to the car, William was feeling warm and full and more than a little bolstered by the alcohol. He kept close to Lucas, even when they were driving and no longer in danger of being watched. “That was fun. How come you’re not always this fun?”

“Perhaps you just haven’t been paying attention,” Lucas offered, eyeing William critically. In the warm glow of the passing streetlights, his eyes looked green. William counted off the time between green and dark blue. “You weren’t being fun either.”

Snorting, William waved a dismissive hand at him. “I’m always fun. I do Christmas addresses in superhero pajamas. That can’t be it.”

Lucas’s lips twisted, but he didn’t seem quite as affronted as he usually did. Either William had too much alcohol to tell, or Lucas had had enough to not be so uptight. “I’m not sure we have the same definition of fun, then.”

As they pulled into the driveway and climbed out of the limo, William finally shook his head. “Nah, you were cool today. Putting on a show and all that. That one lady with her camera. Oh man, it was priceless.”

Inclining his head, Lucas frowned just a little, eyes narrowed. “I didn’t notice her specifically. All of that was for her benefit?”

“Well, yeah. Her and the other ones. But she was the most obvious, and she had funny expressions.” Oh, whoops. William had taken them down the wrong hall. Oh, well, they could still get to his wing this way. It’d just be the scenic route. “Who else’s would it be for?”

The way Lucas huffed made William think that was the wrong answer, but he couldn’t imagine what the right one would be. He must have been mistaken. “Who else, indeed.”

Lucas’s words caught up with him, and William frowned. “Wait. Dude. If you didn’t notice, then why did you want the oysters and play the game with me?”

Huffing, Lucas shot him a short look. “I only said I didn’t notice that woman specifically. Besides, it’s the principle of the thing. We acted our roles, regardless of the audience.”

Okay. Yeah, that made sense. But William was still in the mood to tease, and Lucas had been such a good sport all evening that he couldn’t help but slide in closer until he could feel the heat coming off him. “Aww, I thought you were seducing me for a second. Now I’m disappointed.”

“Oh? You want me to seduce you?”

William chuckled. “Nah.” For a second Lucas’s eyes flashed again, but then William grabbed his shoulder and spun him around, the move controlled despite the alcohol. “You don’t have to try that hard. Haven’t you heard from the papers?”

Leaning back against the wall, Lucas blinked at him. He must have had more wine than William remembered, because his cheeks were pink. It looked good on him. “Heard what?”

A slow smile crossed William’s lips. “I’m an easy lay.”

More to come later!

Question of the hour:  Would you be for or against an American Monarchy?  Even if their influence on politics was mostly limited, do you think it would be a positive or negative influence?  Or, perhaps a neutral one.

Yeah, political questions with your romance novels, exactly what you came here for

 

Newsletter Quickie: Hug by Clare London

September 5, 2014

“Hug,” said Harry, arms thrown wide.

“What?”

“Hug!” Harry demanded, his head tilted to one side, his eyes wide. “That’s what you need! Come here and make it happen.”

“For God’s sake.” Spencer grumbled. “What am I, your kid brother? It’s not like a hug is going to make any bloody difference.”

“You know that for a fact, do you?”

Spencer frowned. Harry was always so … bold. So challenging. “You know what I mean. Look, it’s just been one of those days. I can sort things out myself.”

“Let me help, Spence.” Harry took a couple of steps forward. His arms were still wide open, there was sympathy in his eyes. He was close enough for Spencer to feel the warmth of his body heat. “Don’t be the stupid arse everyone else thinks you are.”

Spencer opened his mouth to protest and in that moment Harry slipped his arms around him and hugged him firmly. His head rested against Spencer’s temple and he sighed, gently. “That’s better, see?”

Spencer stood rock still for a second. Harry was such an idiot. Such a play actor. Such a … Spencer’s frustration gave a small shudder inside him and morphed into something very different. Very deliciously different. Harry’s chest was tight against him and he could feel the steady heartbeat. Harry’s arms were strong but surprisingly comforting. His breath was brushing at Spencer’s ear.

Then Spencer lifted his own arms and slid them around Harry. He wasn’t sure why he did that, but it seemed the right thing to do. It seemed to make them fit better. And it felt really, really good.

“Spence?”

“Mm?”

“There’s no way I think of you as a kid brother.”

Harry’s voice was muffled but Spencer felt the tension in his shoulders, heard the hesitancy in his voice. He smiled. “I know.”

“No way.” Harry seemed to think it needed more emphasis. “Never. In fact …”

“I know.” Spencer repeated. He smiled again, though now his head was nestling into Harry’s shoulder and knew his friend couldn’t see it. His best friend. His much-more-than-best-friend. Turning his head, Spencer pressed his lips to Harry’s neck and felt the goose bumps rise under his touch.

“Spence?”

“Yes,” Spencer whispered in answer to an unspoken question. As Harry turned his head as well, Spencer kissed him on the mouth. It was a bit clumsy, it was a bit crooked, but … oh God … it was the best thing ever.

“You’re right,” he murmured. “This is better.” And he tightened his arms around Harry.

________________________

Clare London took her pen name from the city where she lives, loves, and writes. She’s written in many genres and across many settings, with novels and short stories published both online and in print. She says she likes variety in her writing while friends say she’s just fickle, but as long as both theories spawn good fiction, she’s happy.

A Tooth for a Fang Release Party: Excerpts of doom

September 4, 2014

…Aaaand I’m back. Missed me, huh? :D This is Liv Olteano, spamificating you all *mwahaha*

Today we’re talking about A Tooth for a Fang, my first novel out with DSP just yesterday :D

Three days. Three dead bodies. One newly turned, broken-hearted lycan tracker to figure out the connection.

The one summer Rick Barton takes a vacation, all hell breaks loose. Running from an abusive relationship leads him into the arms of hard-nosed lycan Travis Chandler, who gives him little choice but to become a lycan too and join the Paranormal Bureau of Investigation. Out of options, Rick joins the weird organization, expecting some two weeks of training and an adjustment period. Tough luck, he doesn’t get either. On his first day, his new partner offers to promote him to field agent if they get mated—less time wasted on training, more time on the field, and considering Rick is the only tracker the Bureau has on hand when a wave of strange murders hits the community, time is of the essence.

Someone’s killing the leaders of the paranormal world and mutilating the bodies. Investigating and tracking clues is enough of a challenge, and Rick must contend with an impatient Council, Travis’s advances, and actually adjusting to being a lycan. Only one thing is certain: Rick’s new life promises plenty of interesting adventures—as long as he can survive.
ISBN-13 978-1-63216-037-9
Pages 216
Get it from DSP: ebook | paperback
Cover Artist AngstyG

a Rafflecopter giveaway
Not seeing the Rafflecopter form? Click here to see it in a new window :)

Now, I thought I’d introduce Rick and Travis by giving you guys a few sneak peeks into their interaction :D Are you ready? Here we go… Oh, beware, some casual cussing ahead, lol.

Excerpt from Ch 6:
” I followed Travis through the bowels of the building until we finally reached the parking lot.
“We’re gonna drive? I thought we’d do something cool, like run in super-speed or something.”
He turned around with one eyebrow high up. “You’ve been reading too many comics, baby.”
I snorted. “Whatever. So what do you drive, a bike?”
He slapped the back of my head. “You might end up running behind the car if you keep that up.”
He picked a direction and started walking. I scratched my nape and followed, a pattern that was starting to get on my nerves. He slid into a black Spider and popped open the passenger door for me. Well damn, the man drove something almost as hot as he was. I got in and closed the door just in time for him to drive off like a madman.
“Dude, you’re gonna break the Spider‘s legs,” I muttered clutching the seat.
He snorted. “Don’t be a pussy, Ricky boy. I don’t like pussies.” He grinned and looked at me sideways. “And no worries, I take good care of what’s mine.” ”

Excerpt from Ch 7:
” Travis reached out and grabbed my elbow, pulling me against his body. “Hey, you okay?”
I groaned. “Sensory overload.”
He dragged me in some random direction and I followed with complete trust that he’d save me. It wasn’t a thought but pure instinct that led me to have such trust. And my instincts were proven right, too, when I found myself in a dark room with him holding me, running a hand up and down my spine and rubbing his lips against my temple. It worked to calm me down a lot, so I leaned into him and took all the comfort I could get. I sure as hell needed it.
“Feeling better?” he whispered against my temple.
I nodded and leaned my nose into his throat, greedily inhaling his scent. “God, this feels good.”
He sighed. “Yeah, it does. I’m sorry. It’s my fault. I shouldn’t have gotten you out on the field so soon. You’re a tracker, by definition sensitive to scents. I’m a total dick, sorry.”
I chuckled. “But a great dick, I’m sure.”
I trailed my nose and lips over his throat, barely touching. The space between us felt electric, hot enough to burn. I wanted to close that space, to make it disappear. I pushed myself into him, felt my heart throb at the simple contact.
He groaned. “What are you doing, pup?”
“Taking advantage of the privacy to settle my nerves. Which you rattled, Mr. Chandler.” ”

Excerpt from Ch 10:
” Travis slid out of the driver’s seat and strode by my side. “So you’re gonna meet our coroner. She’s… special.”
“Unique snowflake and all that shit, yeah, I get it.”
He shook his head as we got into the building. “No, I mean she’s gonna be really special, particularly to you. Try to not offend her.”
We got into the elevator and went down. I turned my head to look at his strangely serious profile. “What makes her so special?”
“She’s a troll.”
“You’re shitting me.”
He snorted. “Trolls are, well, it’s not politically correct to say it, but butt ugly. And they smell. Like, stink. Badly. Real, real bad for you, I’m guessing.”
I groaned. “My head is already pounding, don’t fuck with me.”
He sighed. “Just try to, you know, not be too outspoken about your… first impression.”
I rolled my eyes, pretty sure he was shitting me. “Didn’t you smell the scents on the scenes? That dark spices, thick but not obnoxious, smell?”
He shook his head. “Out of my whiffing range, I guess. Nobody but you picked up on them, or they would’ve mentioned it. That’s why having a tracker out there is so important.”
“Meaning it’s why you cut my training short to about a second.”
He shrugged. “Best way to learn how to swim is to get in the water.”
Also, the best way to get drowned, but I didn’t share the thought. The elevator doors dinged open. When we got off, we went down the
corridor and then took a left. The most revolting stink crawled up my nose and made my eyes water.
“Shit, don’t you people use freezers around here?” I muttered holding a hand to my nose.
Travis whipped up a small box out of his pocket. He flipped the lid, took some cream looking stuff, and smeared it under his nose. Then he extended it to me.
I took a whiff and cringed. “I can’t decide if this is better or worse as far as stinks go.”
He grinned. “Much, much better, trust me. Just smear a good dollop of it under your nose.”
I figured the evil I knew was better than the one I didn’t, so I did it. Then Travis pushed open a door and I almost fell back on my ass. The stink was impossible to describe, just a stinging, raging, torturous degree of revulsion that I couldn’t even fully encompass in words.
I took a step back, shaking my head. “Hell no. I am not going in there, man.”
Travis shook his head. “Don’t be a dick. Come on.”
I narrowed my eyes. “I’m not supposed to be a pussy, now I can’t be a dick. What else is there?”
He shrugged. “Switzerland?”
“I think I’m gonna pass out.”
He shook his head. “Just take small, shallow breaths and try not to focus on the smell okay? Come on.”
I tried, God help me, but it didn’t do much good. We went through the doors and came into the morgue, metal tables, and some bodies around. Some were human looking, others animals and a few lycans. Then there were the ones stuck in-between. Seeing them bothered me more than the others, which was silly. It was too soon to be playing favorites already, and yet it seemed I was.
“Were they all murdered?” I asked looking around.
“Two of them are agents who died on the job last night. The third one is their killer,” said a sweet female voice.
I shook my head and turned around toward the source of that voice. And my mouth went agape, eyebrows fully up on my forehead.
She was about four feet high, a mix of toxic green and crusty shit brown. Her skin looked as if it was bubbling, little blisters that now and
then burst open emanating the most revolting stink in the universe. It came off her in horrible waves. Her eyes were an almost warm chocolate brown, wide mouth with jagged teeth opened either in a smile or a menacing show of teeth, I couldn’t decide. I ran a hand over my face trying to get a grip on.
“I’m Dr. Lora Pane, nice to meet you,” she said reaching out.
Travis cleared his throat. “He’s my mate, Doc. No touching, you know the rules.”
She giggled, I think, though it sounded like a mix between hysterical barfing and a cat mewling in its death throes. ”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

What do you guys think, how does it sound? :D
Now, since you’ve seen them in action a bit, I thought we could do something fun together :D I’d love your help with it. In a couple of hours, I’ll come back with a playlist for these guys.
After “meeting” them too, how about you help me with some suggestions? Pretty pwease? Hehe.
Then we can compare notes when you see my ideas. Your suggestions are making it into the complete A Tooth for a Fang official playlist, btw :D
Sounds like gun? Awesome, fire away! *prepares to take notes*

See ya in a couple hours!

Secrets Excerpt

September 3, 2014

secretsdraft

Chapter One

Chris pulled out his phone for the hundredth time, checking for messages. He grinned as he read the text and quickly typed in his reply. Ethan had remembered, or so it seemed. He’d asked when Chris would be off work.

“Nelson!”

Startled, Chris looked up over the wall of his cubicle. He shoved his cell back into his pocket and pushed his chair back then rose to his feet. “Yeah?”

The sergeant made a quick movement of his head, motioning toward his office. Straightening his posture and resisting the urge to release an irritable sigh, Chris followed his boss into the office and closed the door behind him.

Marcus Harvey ignored him as he plopped his oversized behind into the swivel chair. Without looking up, he scrubbed a hand across his bald head while rifling through some paperwork on the desk. “Got an assignment for you, Nelson.”

“Sarge, don’t do this to me…”

The sergeant finally looked up, establishing eye contact, and extended his arm, offering the paperwork to his subordinate.

Chris held up both hands and shook his head. “Look, you promised me. You said I’d just be pushing some paperwork today so I can skate out early. You know what today is.”

Marcus looked over the bridge of his glasses, unimpressed. He shook the papers, thrusting his arm out a little further. “Just take it,” he said, his voice gruff and unyielding. “I want you on this case.”

At last Chris sighed and resignedly snatched the papers and photos from his boss. “Can’t it wait till Monday?”

“I just want you to look it over.”

Chris slid into the chair in front of the sergeant’s desk as he began to read through the details of the case. “Oh fuck,” he whispered, and then he looked at the pictures.

“Fuck is right,” the sergeant agreed. “I don’t wanna toss this one to anyone.”

Chris didn’t know whether to take his supervisor’s remark as a vote of confidence or a homophobic slur. The lead suspect in the case had already confessed, admitting to a homosexual relationship with the victim. Chris shrugged and tossed the paperwork onto the desk.

“Open and shut case,” he said resolutely. “You don’t need to assign it to anyone. The perp already confessed to Banks.”

The sergeant leaned back in his chair and raised his eyebrows. “Banks is a bigoted asshole. This so-called confession don’t mean shit, and you know it. God knows what he said or did to that kid to get him to confess.”

“Marcus, it’s not my problem. It’s not yours either. Hand it over to the D.A. If he determines the interrogation wasn’t ethical, he’ll throw it out.”

“The kid’s seventeen.”

“Damn it! It’s my anniversary, and I don’t give a shit.”

Marcus, still leaning back in his chair, pointed to the papers. “Take the case, Chris. If you don’t, you’ll regret it.”

“Fuck you. I won’t regret shit. Me and Ethan are headed out of town at three o’clock when he picks me up. We’re going to the Bahamas, and our plane leaves at six. I’m taking a sick day Monday.” Chris lied through his teeth.

Marcus laughed. “You’ll be lucky if Ethan even remembers. Look over the case, and take the weekend off. You can get on it Monday morning. Top priority.”

Chris scowled. He hated when Marcus pulled this shit. Marcus had to know the details of this case would plague Chris, and he wouldn’t be able to just push it aside for the weekend. Knowing the details of this case would completely derail his plans for a relaxed, romantic, anniversary weekend with his husband.

“Fine, but I’m not touching it till Monday.”

Marcus nodded. “Agreed.”

“I’m not even gonna read the rest of it. As far as I’m concerned, I don’t know a God-damn thing about this fucking case.”

“Fine.”

“Fine!” Chris pushed himself up from the chair and snatched the paperwork from the desk. He huffed as he stomped toward the door.

“Have a good weekend, Chris.”

“I will!”

He slammed the door behind him.

 

 

* * * * *

 

 

 

He looked at the kid’s mug shot one last time before shoving the file back into his attaché. The dinging of the elevator door told Chris he’d arrived at his floor. He glanced up and stepped out into the parking garage. Fuck, he’d parked clear in back, in the far corner of the floor, as far from the door as possible. It hadn’t seemed like a big deal when he headed into work that morning, but now he was on his way home and just wanted to get the fuck out of there.

Long week. Chris heaved a sigh of relief, knowing it was behind him. He pulled out his phone to check the time. 3:15. He couldn’t remember the last time he’d gotten off so early, and he wondered why Ethan put up with his demanding schedule.

Ethan! God, had they really been married three years already? Chris had still been on the beat when they met. Prior to his promotion to detective, he’d been assigned to the city’s least desirable neighborhood. The Ghetto—the very place Ethan hung out. He ran a soup kitchen and food pantry, volunteered for the church or some shit. His day job consisted of trying to teach those inner-city thugs. Yeah, Chris had married a public school teacher. Go figure.

But damn, Ethan wasn’t your average, everyday do-gooder. Ethan had spunk, and the passion he felt for his job and for the kids he helped on a daily basis quickly became his most endearing quality. Chris fell hard and fast, in a way unlike anything he’d previously experienced. He knew Ethan was the one, and three months after they met, he proposed.

He smiled as he remembered the scene. Ethan liked to brag about his sexy cop boyfriend. He liked Chris’s uniform, and so Chris wore it that night. He showed up at the food kitchen to find it packed. He dragged Ethan out of the kitchen in front of all the volunteers and homeless people, dropped to bended knee, and popped the question. As he expected, Ethan dissolved to tears and immediately accepted. When they kissed, the room erupted in cheers and applause.

Now, nearly four years later, they’d become a boring, far too domesticated couple, both slaves to their professions. Chris wasn’t complaining. God, he understood why Ethan’s work was so important to him. Chris possessed a passion of his own for his job. But he felt guilty sometimes. He wondered if the long hours and stress would be worth it in the long run, if one day he’d look back and regret not working harder to be a good husband. Shouldn’t they be thinking about starting a family? Adopting kids, maybe?

As he rounded the final corner, he spotted his car and hauled out his keys. Just as he placed his thumb on the remote to unlock the doors, he spotted the pair of shoes on the other side of the car. He saw them underneath the car’s body and realized someone was crouched down, hiding in the corner. His heartbeat quickened as he slowed his pace and reached for his weapon.

Quietly, he leaned to the side and allowed his attaché to fall to the ground, then began to inch closer to his vehicle. He extended his arms and leveled the weapon, aiming it just above the trunk of the car where the suspect was hiding.

“I know you’re there!” he shouted. “This is the police. Put your hands in the air and come out slowly, or I’ll shoot!”

Two arms shot into the air, and a slender man about five foot eight slowly rose to face Chris. Chris stared at him, now aiming the weapon directly at the suspect’s head. They looked at each other, and Chris took a deep breath. “Hands on the car and spread em! You heard me! Now!”

“Please officer, don’t shoot me,” the man pleaded. “I’ll do anything…”

“Shut up!” Chris barked as he stepped briskly toward the trembling assailant. “What the fuck were you doing? Tryin to break into my car? Huh? Answer me, boy!”

“N-no, sir! I’m sorry.”

Still holding the gun with one hand, he used his other to push the guy forward, pressing against his neck in order to bend him all the way over. “Stay there, and don’t move. I’m gonna pat you down.”

“I don’t have anything…”

“No weapons? No drugs?”

“No, sir. I swear!”

“Shut up!” Chris reached around him and ran his hand across the young man’s hard chest, then slowly worked his way down, patting his abdomen. He’d stepped real close, his crotch now pressing against the perp’s denim-clad bubble butt. Nice!

When Chris reached lower, just beneath the young man’s waist, the suspect gasped. “S-sir…are you supposed to be…”

“I said, Shut the fuck up!”

The man was trembling, but the bulge he’d discovered suggested excitement more than fear. He gave it a squeeze and slid his weapon onto the trunk of the car. He then grabbed hold of each of the suspect’s wrists and pulled his arms back behind his back. Within two seconds he’d cuffed him.

“You were tryin to break into my car, weren’t you, boy? Answer me!” He pressed his face against the side of the blond’s head, speaking directly into his ear.

“N-no, sir,” he answered timidly. “I swear!”

“Then why you acting so nervous. Huh? And why were you crouched down, hiding?”

“I…uh…I don’t know. Can’t we, ya know, work this out?”

Chris wrapped an arm around the slender man’s chest and held him against his body. “You tryin to bribe me or something?”

“No, uh, no sir. I’m just, uh…I don’t wanna go back to jail. Please!”

Chris couldn’t help himself. He laughed, then grew instantly sober and spun the man around to face him. “On your knees, boy!” He pressed down on the suspect’s shoulders and guided him down to a kneeling position. “Yeah, maybe we can work this out after all.”

“Thank you, sir.” The young blond smiled as he looked up at Chris. His eyes shone a brilliant blue, nearly taking Chris’s breath away. He throbbed excitedly and immediately reached down to unfasten his belt. “But sir, do we have to do it right here? It’s so…risky.”

“Exactly!” Chris said, then laughed. He knew no one would be coming clear back to this corner of the garage, and even if they did, he’d see them as they rounded the corner. He and the blond would be concealed by his car. “You’re gonna take it. The whole thing! And you’re gonna like it and thank me for it. You understand?”

“Y-yes, sir!”

Chris’s cock sprung from the tight confines of his jockeys as he pulled down the waistband of his underwear, tucking it beneath his ball sac. The suspect stared directly at it, and his mouth dropped open. He opened his mouth wide and leaned forward, instantly devouring Chris’s entire steel-hard cock.

“Oh God! Fuck yeah!” It felt like silk as it slid around his rigid pole. “Oh man, you’re a natural, boy. You’re a natural born cocksucker.”

The suspect moaned, then began to bob on it. Chris reached down and took hold of the young man’s head, gently raking his fingers through the blond hair. “Oh yeah, just like that. Slide on it. Take it all. Take every fuckin inch.”

Still handcuffed, the expert cocksucker used only his mouth, plunging all the way down, taking Chris balls-deep. He seemed to know just how to do it, almost as if he already had Chris’s cock memorized. The tongue action. The suction. Oh God! Oh fuck!

“You gonna take my load?”

The suspect moaned and kept sucking, even harder.

“Oh yeah! Oh God! Here it fuckin comes! Take it, boy! Oh Ethan! Ethan!”

Chris’s body convulsed as the orgasm sent his body into spasms. He released Ethan’s head and grabbed hold of the car to steady himself. Ropes of steaming hot cum launched from his cock like a volcanic eruption, and Ethan eagerly gulped every drop. Chris moaned as his body trembled, and then he half-laughed, half-cried as he slid down to his knees in front of his husband.

He grabbed hold of Ethan’s face, framing it with both palms, and kissed him passionately. “Baby, I love you! That was so fucking hot!”

“Happy anniversary.” Ethan smiled and stared into Chris’s eyes.

Finally Home Release Party: Excerpt

August 29, 2014

As I mentioned earlier, Finally Home is the sequel to my short story, Krung Thep, City of Angels, where we first met novice backpacker Marco and culinary travel writer Chris in Bangkok, Thailand. Not to spoil too much, but Finally Home picks up shortly after the story left off, with Marco and Chris enjoying their last dinner together in Thailand before they part ways, possibly forever. Here, have a peek:

Thai food

Bangkok, Thailand
July 2011

Marco’s mouth was on fire.

Scratch that. His entire body was on fire, a searing burn radiating from his mouth all the way down to his toes. Buds of sweat bloomed over his already sticky skin, and the lazy fan mounted above the table did nothing to cool him. He stuck his tongue in his glass of beer, hoping the remains of the ice cubes floating inside would soothe it, but the fizz just seemed to aggravate the burn. A tormented whimper escaped Marco’s lips.

Across the scarred Formica table, Chris’s normally tanned face had gone red beneath his shaggy blond hair. However, his shoulders quaked with barely contained laughter rather than pain, his ice blue eyes filled with a mix of compassion and mirth.

“Thith isn’th funneh!” Marco cried. It was hard for him to make himself clear with his tongue hanging out of his mouth, which made Chris laugh all the harder.

“Yes it is!” Chris wiped his eyes with the back of his hand. “I warned you, the waitress warned you, but you didn’t listen!”

Marco scowled at Chris through watering eyes. The dish had seemed harmless enough on the menu, just some glass noodles tossed with prawns and minced pork. He hadn’t counted on the strength of the chili-lime dressing dousing it, though. Marco had figured that by now, after two weeks in Thailand, his spice tolerance would have increased enough to graduate from the farang level of spicy to that of the locals. How wrong he’d been.

Chris passed a small plate of cucumber slices toward him. “These should help.”

As Marco crammed two into his mouth, Chris motioned to the waitress. All he had to do was point at the sweating, panting Marco and she nodded in understanding. What seemed like an agonizing amount of time later, she plopped a small plastic bottle of milk on the table. Marco was in too much pain to care how foolish he looked, and he wrenched off the lid in one pull. As the milk bathed his tongue, the burn subsided to a dull, throbbing ache.

“Better?” Chris asked, his blue eyes twinkling with humor.

Marco simply scowled at his travel companion over another slug of the sweetened milk. Embarrassment kicked in as the pain subsided. It would have been one thing if Chris were just some random travel buddy he’d met at a youth hostel, another green twentysomething out seeing the world for the first time. But Christopher J. Springer was a noted culinary travel writer, who made his living sampling what the world’s food carts and hole-in-the-wall joints had to offer. Marco had watched Chris sample chili-studded soups and grilled crickets with equal amounts of gusto. Marco couldn’t even handle a plate of noodles.

“Hey.” Chris’s voice grew suddenly tender, drawing Marco’s gaze away from the offending dish. “It’s okay. We all get burned sometimes.”

Chris reached out a hand and placed it over Marco’s with a squeeze. Marco’s heart skipped a beat, the solid warmth of Chris’s calloused fingers soothing away some of his shame. That was the other, more important reason Marco had been so eager to show Chris he’d absorbed some of his adventurous spirit: Chris was the first real lover that Marco had ever had.

Chris had appeared out of the blue three days after Marco had arrived in Bangkok, materializing like some khaki-clad guardian angel to guide Marco through the convoluted streets, sois and canals of the city. It had only taken them a day to fall into bed together, though it had taken a bit longer to figure out that they made a good traveling pair. Now, after ten days of trekking side by side across Thailand, Marco was having a hard time imagining what life was going to be like once he boarded his plane back to Los Angeles tomorrow.

“Really, it’s okay!” Chris said. “You don’t have to look so sad, Marco. We’ll order something else.”

Marco tried to shake off his melancholy and offered Chris a weak smile. “Can we get that one dish—‘the catfish exploded’?” He remembered the crispy-sweet seafood salad he’d fallen in love with during their two days in the beach town of Hua Hin. Best of all, it was flavorful, yet barely spicy.

Yam pla dook foo?” The Thai syllables rolled off Chris’s tongue with enviable ease. “If they have it.”

Chris gave Marco a smile that spread a different type of heat through him. As Chris waved down the server to order, Marco couldn’t help but study him, struck again by how he’d managed to attract such an intensely good-looking traveling companion. Chris’s physique was wiry and toned from years of constant travel, not too built, not too thin. He had a smile that stood out like pearls against sand on his lean, tanned face, which time had only begun to line. Marco’s gaze drifted from Chris’s face, down the long column of his throat, to the wide triangle of bare flesh peeking out from his unbuttoned collar.

As Marco watched, Chris’s fingers fluttered unconsciously against the spot, quick as a hummingbird, before falling back to the table. Marco felt a pang, as he always did when he saw Chris’s tic. When Marco first met Chris, that spot had been decorated by a worn silver St. Christopher’s medal, a talisman of protection that had been with him on all his travels. Now it hung around Marco’s neck, a testament to the bond they had forged in such a short time. Marco wondered if he should return it to Chris before he left, seeing as it had been so precious to Chris, but part of him didn’t want to let it go. After tomorrow, it would be all he would have to remember Chris by.

While they waited for their dish, Marco pulled his smartphone out of his pocket and snapped a picture of the offending noodles. Within a minute, he’d posted the picture to his Facebook account, the caption reading: “I think I just ate noodles made out of the sun.” When he finished, he noticed Chris watching him with equal parts bemusement and disdain.

“You know your phone bill is going to be huge when you get back home,” Chris said.

“Maybe, but it’s worth it. I’ll have a record of my day-to-day trip.”

“A travel journal would work just as well. Cheaper, too.”

“Nowhere near as fun,” Marco scoffed. His phone made a cheerful bleep. His older sister, Angela, had already commented, most likely from her office computer, seeing as it was around 11:00 a.m. back home in Culver City.

“You kids and your constant need to share everything,” Chris griped cheerfully. He leaned back in his seat, gnawing on a piece of cucumber. “Back in my day, we used postcards and e-mails to keep in touch.”

“Okay, Grandpa,” Marco snorted. “You’re only nine years older than me!”

“Might as well be twenty, the way things are speeding up these days.”

Chris’s tone was light, but there was a new crease across his brow. This wasn’t the first time their age difference had come up, though the gap didn’t bother Marco in the slightest. In fact, he liked that Chris was older, even if it meant having arguments like this again and again.

“You know, for a travel writer, you’re an awful Luddite,” Marco said.

Chris shrugged. “I have my laptop—”

“That thing is older than I am!”

“And I have my camera. You can’t tell me that little phone takes better pictures than my Nikon D3.”

“No,” Marco conceded, “but at least I can upload them to the web right away.”

“See, I don’t need that.” Chris took a sip of his beer. “Why bother putting things online for free when you can find a magazine or a website to pay you for it?”

“Because sometimes it’s not about the money.”

Marco was getting exasperated. They’d had this argument almost every day. If only Chris would understand how using social media could expose him to new readers and boost sales of his photography books and travel guides. Sometimes Marco thought Chris deliberately didn’t want recognition, despite his awards and high-profile articles. At least Chris had finally taken Marco up on his offer to let him help by recording video footage of Chris’s street-food encounters. It wasn’t high quality, but Marco figured it would help give Chris reference materials, if nothing else.

“Social media is about being connected,” Marco continued, “sharing your experiences.”

“Who would I want to stay connected to?” Chris rolled his eyes in irritation. “The marketing manager pretending to be Anthony Bourdain on his Facebook? My roommate from college? Anyone I want to stay connected with, I do, on my own terms. I don’t need a face-twit-blog-whatever.”

“What about me?” It came out before Marco could stop himself. “After tomorrow how are you going to stay connected to me?”

Finally Marco had asked the question they’d both been avoiding. Marco knew he’d been a rare exception to Chris’s usual rule of not mixing business and pleasure, a lover who had become a travel companion and assistant. The color drained from Chris’s face, and his cool gaze slipped away from Marco to study his half-empty beer glass. For a long moment, the only sounds at their table were the clink of melting ice in their metal bucket and the whir of the cheap plastic fan above.

“All right,” Chris said slowly, “I’ll set up a Facebook account.”

“Really?” Marco’s eyes went wide. “You serious?”

“Maybe you’re right.” It seemed like it physically pained Chris to admit it, which made Marco smile. “It wouldn’t kill me.”

A little side note, if I may, the picture at the top of the page is a meal very similar to the one Chris and Marco shared. The “catfish exploded” dish is on the upper left, and beside it are the “noodles made out of the sun.”

How about you? Have you ever had a dish so spicy it made you cry?

Finally Home
When novice backpacker Marco and seasoned travel writer Chris parted ways in Bangkok, they thought it was the end of their summer romance. Three months later, though, a change of assignment reunites Chris and Marco, and the pair embarks on an adventure greater than ten days trekking through Thailand—forming a real relationship amid family drama, coming out fears, career woes, and personal demons.

Now available from Dreamspinner Press in eBook and Paperback!

Finally Home Blog Tour and Giveaway

Finally Home blog tour banner

Join me on my blog tour (August 29-September 12) and enter to win an autographed book bundle of Finally Home and Two Tickets to Paradise!

Soul of a Merman excerpt

June 25, 2014

So you can’t have a release party without a story excerpt. Or at least that’s what I think. Anyway, the excerpt on the DS website doesn’t show the meeting between my main characters so I decided to post it her. Enjoy and tell me what you think!

SoulofaMerman_FBbanner_DSP

STEFAN LEANED against of the bulwark of the boat and idly watched his brother diving again and again into the depths of the ocean. Just like Rick had wanted, they’d come here to attempt to find the nonexistent Little Mermaid doppelganger.

It was a waste of Stefan’s time, but since he’d agreed to it, he allowed himself to relax and enjoy the pleasant sea breeze.

The ocean had become silent and peaceful after the storm. Stefan loved these quiet times, when he could take in the smell of salt and freedom, when he could look out into the distance and see only water. From the corner of his eye, he caught sight of motion next to the boat, but it was only a dolphin, performing one of its amusing but highly intelligent dances.

Hey there, guy,” Stefan greeted the dolphin with a chuckle.

It said “hi” back by shooting a stream of water through its blowhole and making a few whistling noises. As the dolphin approached him, Stefan leaned slightly over the rail. He knew all too well that dolphins were wild predators, but this particular one had come to him of its own accord. It seemed friendly, and if Stefan had to guess, it must be accustomed to humans, at least to some extent.

Stefan petted the dolphin’s snout, and the sea creature released a sound that Stefan could have sworn was laughter. Unfortunately Rick chose this exact moment to interrupt them and emerged from the water.

What are you doing, Stefan?” he asked as he removed his scuba mask. “Help me look.”

The dolphin whistled in protest and dove back into the water, splashing Rick’s face. As Rick spluttered and gave the sea mammal the finger—and wasn’t that an interesting gesture to make toward a dolphin—Stefan shook his head.

I said I’d come with you, but I never agreed to playing along with your ridiculous game.”

You’re just being stubborn,” Rick pointed out, disregarding the dolphin that was now porpoising in the distance. “You know as well as I do that I can’t go too deep, even with the scuba gear. We need the diving suit.”

Stefan resigned himself to the inevitable. The sooner he proved to Rick his idiotic merman didn’t exist, the faster they could go back home. He was loath to use the Newtsuit for such purposes, since he couldn’t afford making repairs to it if something broke. However, Rick wouldn’t have asked him along at all if he hadn’t anticipated the possibility of needing it, and he wouldn’t give up even if Stefan refused.

Fine. One hour. After that we’re going home, and in the morning, we’ll get you scheduled for a psychiatrist visit.”

He was about to retrieve his atmospheric diving suit from the depths of his boat when the unlikeliest thing happened. A head covered in moist, blue-green curls emerged from the water. Stefan froze, simply staring, his world going a little fuzzy around the edges. It couldn’t be…. Could it? The blue-eyed beauty had to be some unlucky swimmer, one with a very interesting hairstylist, yes, but definitely not a merman.

His knees kind of went weak when the body attached to the head emerged as well. The new arrival lifted himself up to the deck of the boat using just the strength of his arms. Even if he simply leaned against the protective railing of the deck without actually progressing past it, his actions still revealed an emerald green fish tail. Stefan had the urge to take off his glasses and wipe them clean—because he really couldn’t be seeing this.

At first no one spoke. The strange creature looked from Rick—who remained in the water—to Stefan, holding on tightly to the railing of the boat like he was trying to keep himself anchored there. Stefan had no idea what had prompted the beautiful being to come to them, but God, he wished…. He really wished he could touch him. No. He needed to get a grip. This was not the time for Stefan’s neglected libido to nudge him, especially not toward someone of a different species. This was the discovery of a lifetime. And really, given that the merman had just propped what would have been his ass against the deck, he could slide back into the water at any moment, at which point Stefan would lose him.

If another civilization existed in the depths, they might have a solution to the problems Stefan had been fighting for three quarters of his adult life. Toxic waste pollution, oil spills, garbage dumping—the oceans were suffering, and Stefan knew it. As an oceanographer, he’d tried to do his part in controlling it, but he wasn’t the Captain Planet his brother accused him of being, and his insistent efforts had proven to be uncomfortable for his bosses—who had their own, more “practical” interests.

He had to be careful so as not to startle this marvel of nature. Obviously his brother didn’t have such qualms, because he exploded at Stefan. “See, I told you I saw a merman.” He glowered at Stefan, then swam back toward the boat, approaching the merman—shit, the merman!

Hello. I’m Rick.” When the creature just watched him warily, Rick brought his hand to his chest and repeated his name more slowly. “Rick. Me. That’s. My. Name. Rick.”

Stefan had the distant thought that his brother looked like an idiot while trying to talk to the quiet merman. The creature didn’t seem very impressed, either, and didn’t mimic Rick’s words like Rick undoubtedly wanted.

With a tremulous smile, Rick insisted, “Me. Rick.” Pointing to the merman, he asked, “You? What’s your name?”

The merman didn’t display any interest in communicating with them. At last Rick appeared to lose his patience and reached for the merman’s tail—that lay dangling over the edge of the deck, within Rick’s reach. Rick seemed fascinated with it, as his gaze had gone to the shining green scales more than once.

Before Rick could reach his goal, Stefan’s dolphin friend appeared out of nowhere, slamming straight into Rick and keeping him from touching the merman. Rick fell back, and Stefan cursed, more than aware that angry dolphins could and had killed people before. The dolphin released threatening clicking noises, no longer seeming all that friendly.

It’s okay, guy,” Stefan tried to say as he leaned over the edge to help his brother. “I’m just going to get this idiot out of your hair. All right?”

A soft whistle came, not from the dolphin, but rather from the merman. The dolphin backed away, taking position next to the still watchful merman. The interaction fascinated Stefan, and it made him want to ask a million questions, which would probably be ignored.

For the moment what mattered was that he managed to retrieve Rick from the water successfully. His brother spouted curses and insults—vicious ones directed at the dolphin and its mother. Stefan guided him to sit down and peeled off his scuba suit to look him over. “I’m fine,” Rick grumbled at him, wincing. “Dolphin didn’t hit me all that hard.”

Stefan palmed his brother’s ribs, watching his face closely as the man took a couple of deep, shuddering breaths. He found no protruding bones, so his brother’s injury was unlikely to be life threatening. Nevertheless, cracked or bruised ribs were still something that needed to be dealt with carefully, lest it grow into a more serious affliction. “Be that as it may, you might want to lie down for a while. I’ll get you some painkillers and ice, and you can go below deck for a while.”

Are you kidding me?” Rick glowered at Stefan and shot to his feet. “I always knew you blamed me for your own failure to hold on to the best thing that happened to your ungrateful ass. But I don’t care about that. I’m not going to allow you to—”

A soft melody filled the air, more beautiful than any symphony that had graced human halls. Rick’s eyes rolled in his head, and he swayed on his feet. He’d have undoubtedly fallen, but Stefan managed to catch him at the last moment. Stefan grunted, making a mental note to tell his brother to lose some weight if he planned to swoon a lot in the future. Not that he could blame him. The song…. That beautiful song. It was simply spellbinding. Stefan wanted nothing more than to lose himself to it forever. Maybe he’d have done exactly that, but it would have been unpleasant and embarrassing if he’d dropped his already unconscious brother.

Slowly, carefully, Stefan set Rick down on the deck chaise longue. He took a couple of deep breaths and removed his glasses, then wiped them clean with his shirt. When he put them back on, he looked back at the spot where the merman had been. Still there. Thank fuck.

All right, Stefan needed to find something, anything he could tell the creature. Any moment now the beautiful being would leave, and Stefan would lose his chance. First of all he had to learn if the merman’s voice had something to do with Rick fainting. After all, he couldn’t risk Rick’s dizzy spell meaning he had internal bleeding.

You have my apologies,” Stefan began, “for my brother’s idiotic behavior. I gather it’s rude for someone to try to touch your tail? Did you knock him out with your voice?”

The merman didn’t answer, simply looking at Stefan with eyes so blue Stefan could easily get lost in them.

I appreciate you calling off your dolphin,” Stefan continued. Still faced with silence, he asked, “Can you give me a sign if you can understand? I feel like an idiot, rambling here without knowing if I’m even getting through to you.”

When the reply came, Stefan almost thought he’d imagined it.

Phil,” the merman said softly.

His speaking voice was like the whisper of the waves on a particularly calm evening, the mating call of the whales, and the laughter of the wind put together in a package that would be understandable for the human mind. By some miracle, Stefan managed to suppress a moan at the sound. Focus, Stefan. This is important. You have to give this beautiful creature a good impression of the human race. Rick’s rant had obviously upset the merman, so Stefan needed to fix it. Of course, that would have been easier if Stefan had actually understood what the merman meant.