THE SENSUALIST & THE UNTOUCHED Release Party #3: Characters & Excerpt & A Giveaway

December 19, 2014

As usual, I’m Susan Laine. I’m hosting a release party here today, Dec 19, starting from 2:00 p.m. EST for my latest release, The Sensualist & the Untouched.

How to describe Corey and Lucian?

Corey is a rational kind of guy. He sees a problem and he tackles it head on. He over-analyzes too, which makes him hesitate whenever the opportunity to be close to someone presents itself.

Here’s an image I had in mind when writing Corey:

Gray Sweater

Lucian, however, is more instinctive that Corey. He’s unafraid to try new things, and he’s a great lover of both men and women. In fact, due to his family, Lucian has made a conscious choice to have his whole life revolve around sensual issues.

Here’s an image I had in mind when writing Lucian:

White Suit

Here’s a scene to show Lucian and Corey learning more about one another in an intimate—and pitch-black—setting at Boudoir:

———-

“Am I your first frigid man?” Corey wondered briefly if that were true. Statistically he couldn’t be the only one in town.

“You’re not my first enigma” was Lucian’s cryptic reply. That seemed so like Lucian that it made Corey laugh. “You want to dance, Corey? No one would see. Not even me.”

Corey bristled. “I happen to be a good dancer.” Then he cleared his throat. “Not that that’s the point or anything.”

Lucian let out a merry sound. “I’d love to dance with you. I bet you lead very well. I must confess the notion of your hand on the small of my back is enthralling.”

Corey swallowed nervously in the blackness. He wasn’t sure what it was about the idea of dancing with Lucian that made him anxious and jumpy. His confused mind still reeled and refused to provide him with clear-cut answers. And his body was so deep into the land of confusion, Corey wondered if it would ever get unlost again.

The rising pace of the “Boléro” changed to a new piece then. A lone saxophone began to play, a blues tune so soft and melancholy it stirred something in Corey’s chest. A heavy weight shifted, an ever-present reminder of the pain he carried. And yet, the notes of the sax held a certain erotic charge that tingled on the edges of Corey’s awareness and in his gut, this time showing him how a single instrument could depict his condition so accurately. The sad longing for sensuality.

Would it be so bad if I danced with Lucian?

Corey threw caution to the wind. “We can try that. One dance.”

Lucian let out a surprised, gleeful gasp. “Really?” Corey heard chair legs scrape on the floor as the man rose and then soft footfalls as he approached. “Take my hand.”

Corey knew that if Lucian had used an endearment right then, he would have changed his mind so fast his head would have been left spinning like in those old time cartoons. But Lucian’s voice sounded gentle and kind and even somewhat yearning, so Corey stood up and fumbled to find his host’s hand in the dark.

How Corey wished he could have felt passionate sparks and colorful fireworks as their hands touched. Alas, all he felt was a hand smaller than his own with delicate bone structure, long, svelte fingers, soft skin that carried the scent of passion fruit, and the feel of luxuriously manicured nails.

———

Time to announce today’s giveaway! As the above excerpt shows, this is Corey’s first time dancing with someone, and is therefore profoundly meaningful for him.

So I pose you this question: What do you remember from the first time you danced with someone?

I’ll answer to get the ball rolling.

I was a teenager, thirteen or fourteen. My Mom had taken me and my sister on a cruise, just a short two-day trip. I wore a blue silk blouse I’d borrowed from my Mom when a man came to ask me to dance. I did, though I’d never done that before and was feeling a bit nervous. I don’t recall his face, only that he was a lot taller than me and he had a spicy cologne. We never really spoke and I never learned his name. Yet I remember the experience well. I’ve danced with other men since then but that moment has stuck with me.

The prize for this giveaway is an e-book (your choice of format) of The Sensualist & the Untouched—or if you already have it, one from my backlog.

You can find me at Dreamspinner Press and at my website.

THE SENSUALIST & THE UNTOUCHED Release Party #2: Themes

December 19, 2014

Hi again! I’m Susan Laine. I’m hosting a release party here today, Dec 19, starting from 2:00 p.m. EST for my latest release, The Sensualist & the Untouched.

I have a couple of themes that take center stage in this book.

The first is sexual inexperience and how detrimental the effect of that can be on a person’s self-esteem, especially if you are an adult. The emotions connected to that state of being are the same for both men and women: Poor self-esteem, shame, embarrassment, and feelings of inadequacy. Last but not least, there is loneliness, which is another central theme.

The physical aspect in a relationship may not be key but it is important. As social beings, we all have an instinctive need to connect with people, to see and to be seen by others. Our modern society is over-sexualized. Sex sells, as the saying goes. You can see it everywhere, not just on the pages of a porn magazine, but in huge billboards around big cities. Women with big boobs and butts, men with thick muscles and ripped abs. The imagery radiates sex.

It seems as though everyone is having sex everywhere, all the time, with anyone and everyone.

But… what if you’re not? What if you’ve never felt the touch of another, never been kissed, never been seen as desirable, never even been brushed against by someone who isn’t part of your immediate family?

That is where Corey comes from. No sex. No touch. No intimacy. No sensuality. Nothing.

He is fundamentally alone and lonely, and he’s tired of it. He’s an adult, in his thirties, and he has no practical knowledge of what it takes to be intimate with another human being. Loneliness is his best—and worst—friend.

Here’s a tiny excerpt to show how loneliness effects Corey:

Corey had never realized, not with the total awareness of this moment, how much he ached to be touched. His raw, palpable loneliness permeated his whole body, from skin to soul. Perhaps the constant solitude had fried his brain, making him mad, delusional, and wanting impossible things. But in his heart, he had more than an inkling it was this isolation that left him hollow and hurting, touch deprived and in desperate need for contact.

“Fuck. I’m sorry.” Corey was glad his face was hidden by the cushion, but he wasn’t stupid enough to believe or hope that Lucian hadn’t noticed.

Loneliness

How about a realization that others seem so capable of love—while Corey is not?:

Love….

Funny how Corey could recognize it, though he had never felt it or sensed it aimed at him. Perhaps it was instinctual and universal and undeniable.

If so, why couldn’t he reciprocate? Why could he not… feel… those better emotions, the ones that didn’t make him feel like a loser, despondent and bereft of hope? Had it been nothing more than… gasp… a fluke?

As I’m sure you can imagine, this is an emotional ride. Corey has a lot to deal with throughout the story, and because of him, so does Lucian.

Lonely Heart

And now, a question for you all: Do you find it easy or hard to talk about loneliness?

If you feel the topic is too intimate and private, there is absolutely no obligation to answer.

As I wrote, at times I almost choked on the heaviness and hollowing feeling as I experienced it through Corey. Many find it hard to admit they ever feel lonely, even in company, while others find comfort and safety in solitude. Our society labels poorly those who have the courage to admit their loneliness, as though they were abnormal or freakish somehow. That is the place where Corey’s loneliness stems from, the unwillingness to vocalize it, burying it under the condition of frigidity.

My books can be found through my website.

THE SENSUALIST & THE UNTOUCHED Release Party #1: Intro for Today’s Event

December 19, 2014

Hi! I’m Susan Laine. I’ll be hosting a release party here today, Dec 19, starting from 2:00 p.m. EST for my latest release, The Sensualist & the Untouched. This is a standalone contemporary M/M erotic romance.

I’ll be around for four hours to offer excerpts, a giveaway, a picture or two, and answers to any and all of your questions. I might even spring up a few myself. I’ll do a post once in an hour or so, to give everyone a chance to stop by here at DSP’s blog.

Here’s the cover by the talented Bree Archer:

SensualistAndTheUntouched[The]FS

This novel is set in contemporary New York City, and tells the tale of Corey Paige, an adult male who has never experienced any kind of sex first-hand. Corey is introduced to Lucian Allard, an eccentric man with a large cache of sensual wisdom ready to be imparted on a sexual novice like Corey. A sensual journey begins.

You can find the book HERE.

Here’s the blurb:

“Being over thirty is not an issue for Corey Paige. Being frigid and a virgin, however, is a huge problem for the only son of a newspaper magnate. No matter the risk, Corey’s intent on resolving both problems in one go.

Enter Lucian Allard, a wealthy hedonist with a notorious reputation at club Boudoir—and an unconventional sexual mentoring program for those who suffer from dysfunctions. As the two men begin a sensual journey to awaken Corey’s libido, Corey’s frigid body isn’t all that begins to melt. His untouched feelings also spark to life.

Though a family emergency puts a halt to awakening Corey’s senses and desires, Corey and Lucian grow closer as friends. Then an unexpected kiss from Lucian in Corey’s most desperate hour changes everything. Now Corey must decide if the program is still an aid or an obstacle to two lonely men trying to maintain a professional detachment but falling hopelessly in love.”

As I said above, I’ll be around from two to six EST to offer excerpts, giveaways, pictures, and trivia tidbits. So please, if you’re interested and/or have some free time, stop by at the DSP blog.

Question for you all: Are you familiar with my work, or would The Sensualist & the Untouched be your first story of mine?

You can find more about me and my books at my website.

Love & Loyalty by Tere Michaels – Release Day Excerpt!

November 14, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Mimi….”

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

“I’m almost afraid to ask.”

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

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

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

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

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

“Is your date vegan?”

“You’re funny, you know that?”

“Is your date real?”

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

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

“It’s hot, isn’t it?”

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.

MattersofCourtshipLG

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

 

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.

 

THE BREAK-IN Release Party: Goodnight Excerpt from Aidee

June 18, 2014

Hi!

Well, it’s been fun, but I’m signing off for the night. I hope you all entered my Rafflecopter giveaway. If not, click here.

To send you off, here’s one more excerpt from my new novella, THE BREAK-IN. I hope you enjoy it.

worth excerpt

 

THE BREAK-IN Release Party: And Now For An Excerpt From The BREAK-IN

June 18, 2014

I thought you might like a short excerpt from my novella, THE BREAK-IN.

gun excerpt

There’s also a Rafflecopter giveaway. Check it out!