Wrapped Up in Chains Release Party!

March 14, 2014

Hi! I’m Cindy Sutherland and I’m here with you today celebrating the release of my latest book and first full length novel, Wrapped Up in Chains. I’m so glad to be here, and I’m really excited because I’ve never done anything like this before. I’m going to be hanging out throughout the day, chatting and answering any questions you might have. I’m actually have the day off because the flu has been running rampant through my house and it’s finally my turn. At least it waited until everyone else was over it!

I’m going to be giving away a copy of the ebook version of the novel and you can win by commenting below and answering this question:

Would you rather spend an hour as a sub or as a Dom…no judgements, just for fun! I’ll tell you my answer at the end of the day.

I’m going to start by sharing the blurb with you.

Devon West is a professional Dom who runs his own club, doesn’t believe in romance, and had never been in a long-term relationship. All this changes when he rescues Chase Mackenzie.

Chase is a runaway who has been kept as a slave since he was sixteen. Now twenty-three, he’s still innocent and sweet despite being severely abused and left behind by his Dom.

When Devon finds out that the man who held Chase hostage is the same man who hurt him terribly when he started learning about the sub/Dom lifestyle, he knows he has to keep Chase safe.

Spoiled rich boy and sociopath James Kingston is obsessed with Devon. He’s convinced Devon would be his perfect sub and Devon only thinks he’s a Dom because he needs proper discipline. Losing Chase to Devon is like rubbing salt in the wound, and he’s determined to get them both under thumb. This time, Chase may need to rescue Devon.

You can get Wrapped Up in Chains here. It’s also available here in paperback and the first twenty copies of that are autographed by me!

I look forward to spending the day with you all and lets have a little fun! I’d love to answer any questions you might have.

 

Contest!

January 9, 2014

Tell me what your favorite cupcake is for a chance to win a copy of Cupcakes! (Recipes are not necessary, but encouraged.)

I’ll pull a winner tomorrow after noon so all time zones get a chance to comment.

Sean Michael

smut fixes everything – www.seanmichaelwrites.com

Gingerbread Palace Release Day Author Q&A with @emlynley

December 11, 2013

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I  probably should have posted this a lot sooner!

Since I need to take a break for an evening class for a few hours, here’s your chance to ask me any questions about me, my books at Dreamspinner or anything about writing.

A comment here will also get you an entry for my second giveaway. I’ll be back later to answer questions.

 

Since I also did not do a proper self-introduction before, here’s a bit about me and my writing.

I’m EM Lynley, and everyone calls me “Em,” which is easier to say than “E M,” right?

I write only m/m erotic romance, and have been with Dreamspinner since 2009. Most of my work is contemporary, and just about all of it has a mystery/suspense element, since that’s my favorite genre to read.

Italian Ice by EM Lynley Paperback

I am trying some new things and expect to be writing some paranormal/fantasy in the future!  I recently finished a BDSM mystery/suspense novel for Dreamspinner. I can tell you the research for that was fun!

I am a former economist, so many of my books have a financial element too. Now I’m living near San Francisco, and I’ve worked in London, Tokyo, and Washington, D.C.

Some of my guilty pleasures: 80′s music, the TV show White Collar, and just about anything that has coconut or watermelon in it.

What are some of your guilty pleasures? Got a question you want to ask about or any of my series or characters? If you’ve read any of my stories, I’d love to know what you thought of them.

 

Gingerbread Palace: It’s all about the firefighters! #gayromance #giveaway @emlynley

December 11, 2013

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So, why firemen?

The real question is why not?

I’ve enjoyed reading stories about firefighters for years (Chris Owen, Damon Suede, Andrew Grey, among others) and I realized there were plenty of great storylines to use between a chef and a firefighter. Once I decided to set the story at Christmas, it was so easy to find just the right story.

Firefighters are well-known in the United States for doing charity work, fundraising, almost anything that helps kids. If my chef is also big on working with a kids’ charity, it was the perfect place for them to find their interests overlapping.

I didn’t think much about the research before I started writing. I admit I don’t know much about firefighters, but I definitely wanted to understand what these men and women think and feel when they are doing their jobs.

A couple of years ago there was a terrible fire here in San Francisco and two firefighters were killed. It may not seem like much, but losing two men the same day greatly affected the entire area—the whole state. A huge funeral was held with 5,000 people in attendance. Friends, family and fellow firefighters spoke about the two men for hours.

What struck me most about the funeral—which was shown on live TV because it was a huge event for the city—was the kind of stories told about the men. Little anecdotes about how they helped people at a fire, or what they said while rescuing someone, or examples of how dedicated they were to their jobs. I realized I had a special glimpse into their world through the eulogies and stories.

 

When working on Gingerbread Palace, I watched firefighter training videos, read first-hand accounts of fires and injuries, and had a firefighter beta the story. I still don’t think I got enough into the mind of Kevin Flint to know how he thinks, but I do feel an even greater sense of respect for the dedication and sacrifice that firefighters make to help keep others safe.

I enjoyed the research and it affected me so much, I intend to write another story with firefighters. It may be more about Kevin and Alex, or another completely different set of characters, but firefighters are in my brain and I want to explore their world in much more detail.

Leave a comment to be entered in the giveaway

Do you enjoy firefighter stories in general? What are your favorite books about firefighters?

Did you want to be a firefighter when you were a kid?

Saving Sonny James: the X-excerpt you never expected to see (and the final contest! win book money!)

October 22, 2013

All you have to do is comment in reply to this post, anywhere in this release party, with the words “book money” somewhere in the comment, and you’re in the running for $20 on your account at Dreamspinner to spend as you like and Saving Sonny James paperback or ebook.

THE night after Luki talked to Kaholo was the first one in a couple weeks that found him struggling to find sleep. Finally, he allowed his thoughts to drift toward his husband and his fingers to drift toward his restless sex.

Once he started remembering and imagining his tall, dark, lithe lover, he couldn’t stop. And once Sonny’s beauty entered and filled his aching, sweet, waking dream, his hands wouldn’t stop. His neglected penis thickened and leaked and begged, and though Luki couldn’t remember the last time he’d masturbated, he got right with the program.

Not content to jerk off quickly in a half somnolent fashion, he sat up and stripped his lower half naked, switched on the small light next to the bed, and spread his legs wide, knees up, so he could see. Smiling at himself and thinking of Sonny, he ran his palm over the wide, glistening head of his cock and gathered a little reservoir of precum, then brought it to his mouth and dragged his tongue through it. He chuckled, then bit his lip. He wasn’t sure what he’d expected, but of course his own product, though tasty, wasn’t nearly as sweet as Sonny’s. Briefly he wondered why he could remember Sonny’s flavor so clearly, but he couldn’t remember the particulars of any other man he’d tasted—and of course there had been a few.

Knowing the experience wouldn’t come close to sex with beautiful Sonny,
Luki decided nevertheless to take it slow, make a feast of the masturbation experience. He handled his hardening testes, running his hands over the silky skin, watching the motion, pretending they were Sonny’s long fingers, pretending the balls he cradled in his own hands were Sonny’s. It didn’t quite work—the differences in anatomy meant Luki really had to work at the imagining, but he persisted, and if it wasn’t perfect, it was good. Next, using spit and precum for lube, he let his fingers wander over his perineum and straight into his ass. All other considerations aside, Luki liked getting fucked, had liked it from the very first time. Other considerations meant he craved the top role more than the bottom, but sometimes Sonny….

“Oh, Sonny,” he whispered, feeling Sonny’s long, straight erection rather than his own two digits. The fingers weren’t quite adequate, but they were a passable substitute as long as he doggedly kept his fantasy in mind. He drew his fingers out then slammed them back in, rough, speeding up and finding a rhythm, relishing the burn and—even though it was a bit of a reach—managing to tap his prostate, stimulating the deep pleasure the little gland had to offer.

He could have come to orgasm with just that, but he didn’t want to, so he gentled the motion and slowed the rhythm almost to a stop. He reached for his cock with his other hand, stroked it once, twice, but stopped that too and instead pinched first one nipple then the other. He made it hurt, made the nipples red and puckered, hard nubs standing out like markers, which was so pleasurable that again he thought he might come. He stopped, wet his fingers in his mouth, and soothed the same nipples he’d just tortured.

Again he said, “Oh, Sonny,” and now he started to stroke, twisting a bit, running his thumb over the slick head. In no time—too soon he thought—he felt his orgasm begin to insist, to rise, to gather force, and then he exploded, groaning out Sonny’s name over and over in a tortured, raspy cry.

He felt mildly strange when it was over, laughed at himself a little, even. But after he cleaned up, he slept well, and he dreamed only of his love. It was good.

Saving Sonny James contest #1 (Yeah, it’s easy)

October 22, 2013

Quick question: Who is the fab artist responsible for all the wonderful Vasquez and James covers?

Answer can be found here at the Dreamspinner Store.

A comment here with your answer enters you for a signed paperback of Saving Sonny James (or an ebook if you prefer).

Next, an excerpt.

Spark: Two Stories in One

September 2, 2013

When I set out to write North Star and Spark in particular, I knew one of my challenges was making it believable that Hugo Thorson and Kevin Magnus could have such a strong connection once they see each other again after their high school romance ended. I could’ve easily written a paragraph or two about how they’d been hot for each other as teens, but I knew that would create a paltry connection for readers compared to what the characters’ emotions truly were. I wanted readers to see how intensely these men loved when they were boys, so my path was pretty well set up for me. I have basically written two love stories in one book between the same men.

About a third of Spark is the coming-of-age story of Hugo and Kevin. I wanted readers to understand the foundation these men will eventually be building on. They meet in high school and start out as friends. Eventually it becomes more, but that doesn’t mean things go smoothly for them. At all. There are several challenges they have to navigate, and the issues that arise are challenging for adults, let alone sixteen-year-olds.

Another reason I wanted to explore these two men as boys was to see where they started. Family is very important to this story and these characters, and their history certainly affects them for the rest of North Star, from interpersonal dynamics to what they value.

Then Hugo and Kevin meet again years later, and they both feel their attraction almost immediately reignite. That doesn’t mean there aren’t doubts or real-life obstacles to get in the way. There certainly are, because life at thirty-five is often more complicated than it was at sixteen. At least for the weekend at the lake when they meet again, they try to make it as simple as they can. They’re just two men attracted to each other. After that weekend, they need to figure out how a relationship could possibly work.

Here’s a little taste from Spark, Chapter 4 of Hugo and Kevin’s first conversation after a seventeen-year separation. You can read it, or you can listen to me reading it by clicking the link below. Or you can even read and listen at the same time. I apologize ahead of time for not sounding like a sexy man at all.

Listen to Posy Read.

Kevin laughed deep and warm in his chest and stopped walking, pulling Hugo to a stop with him. “God, Hugo. I missed you. You always did know what to say to make me feel better. How the heck did we ever lose track of each other after everything we discovered together?”

Hugo shrugged, not knowing how to answer after their gradual drift from talking on a regular basis during their first month in college to nothing by the time winter break came. Hugo’s mom and sister had moved to the Twin Cities mere months after Hugo left for college, and that certainly hadn’t helped matters. But it was more, he realized.

“We just had different lives, I think,” Hugo said with a shrug. “We went our separate ways after I said good-bye to you in your driveway.”

“I still regret not kissing you that day. I should have just said ‘screw it’ and kissed you like I wanted to, even if my dad was right there.”

Hugo looked up the few inches to meet Kevin’s gray eyes and tried to smile, but it probably came across more as sadness than a smile. He couldn’t believe Kevin still thought of that day too. He wondered if Kevin’s mind ever drifted to the kiss in the wooded meadow when he was bored in a meeting or like Hugo’s had that very afternoon in the car. Slowly, he felt the corner of his mouth turn into something akin to flirty, and he asked, “Oh?”

“Yes,” Kevin said as his warm thumb trailed across Hugo’s jaw toward his chin. “I’ve thought about that day a lot, about our last kiss and how I wish it never would’ve ended. Damn the rain. Would you mind if I showed you how I’ve always imagined that moment in the driveway would’ve happened? Or are you with someone?”

“No. I mean, yes, you can show me,” Hugo stammered, his heart beating hard against his chest.

Kevin’s smile lit up his face, and he looked so young just then, the careworn lines that had appeared between his brows while talking about his father smoothing.

“Okay, so maybe this isn’t exactly like I would have said things back then, but this is how I wish I would’ve done it. Ready?”

Hugo nodded and licked his lips, drawing Kevin’s attention to his mouth.

“So pretend we’re standing next to my open trunk,” Kevin directed as he led Hugo near the tail end of a car parked in a driveway close to the roadside. Kevin tilted his head left and right, shaking his hands out loosely next to his body as if trying to get into character.

“Hugo,” he started, somehow pulling youthful nervousness into his voice, “we should plan on getting together in a few weeks.”

“Sure,” Hugo answered, ready to play along with the conversation he barely remembered. He recalled the feelings he’d had, though: excitement about leaving Austin but sadness about leaving Kevin. “I can get a ride down to St. Peter, or you can come up to Minneapolis. It’s not that far.”

That drive never ended up happening for either of them because Hugo auditioned for a play in the U’s theater department and got a lead role as a freshman, something unheard of. He had no time to get together on weekends because he had homework to do and lines to memorize and blocking to learn and sets to help build.

“Seventy miles or so.”

That’s where Hugo vaguely remembered Kevin’s dad clapping his big hands and telling Kevin he’d better hit the road. Now there was just the sound of far-off waves and traffic from the highway on the other side of the trees peppered with exploding fireworks.

“I’d love that,” Hugo said, regretful he hadn’t taken the time to find a ride and just go. “I’ll make it happen,” he promised, and he wished he’d kept it.

Kevin looked at Hugo with such intensity; even in the darkness surrounding them, Hugo could see how blown Kevin’s pupils were.

“It’ll happen this time,” Kevin whispered against Hugo’s mouth, lazily closing his eyes as he spoke.

Hugo tasted Kevin’s breath on his tongue, remembering it, even with the faint scent of lemon lingering. A silvery thread of his memory seemed to actually weave this moment to the moments in his past, pushing Hugo back into that world, filling him with all those emotions he had for Kevin when they were just boys. Kevin was the only man Hugo had really and truly been in love with. He was the ruler every single boyfriend since had to unwittingly measure himself against. And none, not a single one, had ever gotten anywhere near.

Hugo took in a quick breath and pushed forward, capturing Kevin’s mouth with his own as his fingers threaded through thick blond waves and shorter razor-cut strands; his hands landed on Kevin’s neck. Hugo thumbed over Kevin’s ears, allowing the pads of his fingers to tease the fine hair along his earlobes.

They fused their mouths, opening and closing with lips caressing, teeth nipping, and tongues pushing against each other in an attempt to taste the familiarity that was new again.

Kevin trailed his hands down Hugo’s back, kneading his fingers against Hugo’s ass once he got there, then pulling them closer. Hugo felt Kevin starting to firm up beneath the thin material of his shorts, and he wanted so badly to thrust. He barely restrained himself.

They stood on a darkened road and kissed how they both wished they would have years ago, giving to each other more than they took away. But by doing it that way, Hugo felt more content than he had in years.

“Come back to my place?” Kevin panted against Hugo’s temple. “Please, Hugh?”

Hugo nodded as he tried to catch his breath and then nodded again.

You know those moments when you see someone after years and years? They can sure be awkward. Or they can be great! What sorts of experiences have you had? For the record, I’ve avoided high school reunions for this reason. If you share, I’ll enter you in a drawing for one of three free eBook copies of Spark.

Oh, and just for the heck of it, click here to listen to me read another clip from Chapter 4 that I lovingly call buttboy1978.  :)

~Posy Roberts

Aria Release Party: Excerpt #3 and Giveaways!

December 24, 2012

Here’s the last excerpt from my brand new Dreamspinner Press release, Aria (Blue Notes #3) ! I’m running a bunch of giveaways to celebrate release day.  Enter by leaving your name and email on my blog.  I will draw a name from the comments for each of the drawings tonight. So comment once, and you’re entered into all the drawings!

One of the drawings is for a t-shirt with the gorgeous cover of Aria (art by Catt Ford) smack dab center. I’ve got a pretty good selection of sizes, too. XD The photo, by the way, features the incredible interior of the La Scala opera house in Milan, which appears in a few of the Blue Note Series books, including Aria and The Melody Thief. It’s probably one of the most beautiful opera houses in the world, and along with Covent Garden in London and The Metropolitan Opera/Lincoln Center in New York, is one of the ultimate performing venues for an opera singer. Not surprisingly, opera sensation Aiden Lind, one of the main characters in Aria, sings in all of these amazing places. I guess in that sense, Aria is a bit of my own fantasy come true.

Ever wonder how opera singers manage to be heard in these huge venues that seat thousands of patrons? It’s a combination of things, really. First, the accoustics of these opera houses are amazing. They were built so that a human voice could fill the space without amplification. But not just any human voice. Big human voices (yes, that’s the term for loud voices in opera speak). The kind of voices that sing in large houses like these are ones you could hear from a mile away (not that much of an exaggeration!). How do you “get” a big voice? Most of it is genetics–the way your jaw, mouth and throat are made. But there’s also technique that you can learn to help project your voice, most of which has to do with breath support (singing over the breath, much like a violin bow vibrating across a string). Do it wrong, and you can hurt your vocal chords and end up with vocal “nodes,” which are a bit like a callous and interfere with the vibrations of the voice (and make you sound hoarse or raspy).

Interested in reading a bit more of Aria? Here’s another excerpt for you, from Chapter Two. Hope you enjoy it! -Shira

*********************

Blurb: Five years after a prestigious scholarship jumpstarted his opera career, Aiden Lind has it all: fame, choice roles, and Lord Cameron Sherrington to share his life with. Maintaining his façade takes effort, but under his poised, sophisticated mask, Aiden is still the insecure kid from rural Mississippi. Then he walks in on Cam with another man, and the illusion of perfection shatters.

Philadelphia attorney Sam Ryan never moved on after his partner died, though he tried. Instead of dating, he keeps himself busy with work—but when he unexpectedly runs into ex-lover Aiden while on a rare vacation in Paris, he’s inspired to give their love a second chance. First, though, he’ll have to get Aiden to forgive him. Because when Sam was still grieving five years ago, he broke Aiden’s heart.

When rekindled lust blossoms into a true romance, it seems like the start of something wonderful. But Aiden’s career has him on the road much of the time, and the physical distance between him and Sam starts translating into an emotional disconnect. If Aiden and Sam can’t learn to communicate, their separation may prove more than their love can bear.

**************

Chapter Two

London

“MR. LIND!” the reporter shouted at him as he walked out the side door from Covent Garden. “Do you have a minute?”

Aiden had just finished rehearsing for his London debut in a new production of Mozart’s Don Giovanni. He was exhausted and looking forward to a hot shower back at his place. He pulled up the collar of his wool coat and tucked his scarf a bit tighter around his neck. With all the insanity that seemed to swirl around him recently, the last thing he wanted was to get sick and have to cancel a performance. He could see the headline now: Lovesick Opera Star Misses Opening Night.

Deep breath. I can do this. He turned and flashed his best, most confident smile at the woman. Opera singers never got much press attention, but ever since he’d met Cameron Sherrington, Aiden had been on the radar screen. Cam wasn’t only the outrageously wealthy heir to a global hotel conglomerate, he was also a sometime impresario who financed Broadway-bound productions and even a movie or two when it struck his fancy.

“Mr. Lind, I’m Janine Thomas, from the Sunday Press,” the woman said as he shook her hand. “I was hoping to ask you a few questions.”

“Sure.”

He had been expecting the usual “Did you know that the queen will be attending your debut?” or “Are you and Lord Sherrington planning another vacation aboard his yacht this summer?” So he was entirely unprepared when she asked, “Is it true about Lord Sherrington and Jarrod Jameson?”

“What?” He stared at her for a split second, then swallowed hard and fought to regain his composure.

He knew Jarrod. Cam had invited him and about a hundred other guests to a party a few months before at “the castle,” as Aiden liked to call Cam’s family’s sprawling estate about an hour out of London, at which he and Cam sometimes spent the weekend. Jarrod was an Olympic swimmer and recent gold medalist in the European games held only six months before. Lean, muscular body, model good looks. Gay.

The reporter—Aiden had already forgotten her name—thrust a large glossy photograph into his hands. He knew he should hand it back to her, but he was so rattled he couldn’t think straight. The photo was grainy, obviously taken at night. It showed two men entwined and kissing behind a tall iron gate. The kiss was not chaste.

Aiden’s mouth went dry. He knew that gate—the gate in front of the London home he and Cam shared in Bloomsbury. One of the men looked a lot like Jameson, although he couldn’t be sure. And the other man… Aiden was pretty sure he recognized the familiar high cheekbones, the short brown hair that was always stylishly mussed, and the lean, athletic frame that looked so striking in an expensive suit. And well he should. He’d been living with the man for nearly a year.

He shoved the photograph back at her. “No comment.” His jaw tensed as he strode quickly over to the curb and flagged down a taxi.

“Mr. Lind!” she shouted as he ducked into the cab and shut the door. He ignored her and gave the driver his address.

AT NEARLY two in the morning, Aiden heard the front door open and close. He had spent the better part of the past three hours making a serious dent in the contents of a cut crystal carafe filled with expensive scotch. He was drunk, but not so drunk that he didn’t care. He wished to hell he was. He didn’t want to care. It hurt too much.

It was still so surreal, living in this incredible Edwardian house in one of the most expensive London neighborhoods. He had grown up in rural Mississippi in a three-bedroom ranch on his grandfather’s farm. The house had been comfortable but small, built in the late 1960s, when his father married his mother. A wedding present. Aiden had always wondered how his mother must have felt, having her front door a few hundred feet from her in-laws’ home. But if it had bothered her, she’d never mentioned it. Elizabeth Lind was the perfect wife and mother, attending church, cooking and cleaning and raising her two children. His mother’s world was far removed from the one into which Cameron Sherrington had been born—one of wealth and privilege. Aiden still felt like a usurper, a pretender to his current circumstances.

“Waiting up for me, sweetheart? I told you I’d be at the gallery opening late. Lady Billingsley insisted we go out for drinks afterwards, and you know how she is.” Cameron laid his coat over the back of the loveseat, walked over to Aiden, and bent down to kiss him on the head.

“I looked online,” Aiden said, his voice a monotone. “The gallery opening was last week.”

“Checking up on me?” Cam laughed and kissed Aiden again. “I’m sure you’re mistaken.” He walked over to the buffet and poured himself a glass of sherry. “I hardly imagined the party tonight. And it was a dull one, frankly. If Sarah hadn’t been there, I’d—”

“Was he good, Cam?” Aiden got up from the couch and stood in front of the fireplace.

“What on Earth are you talking about? And who is he?”

“Jarrod Jameson.”

The slight twitch in Cam’s cheek told Aiden everything he needed to know.

“Jameson? You mean the swimmer? What would I know about him?” Cam refilled his glass and waved it in Aiden’s direction.

“I know you’ve been fucking him.”

Cam raised an eyebrow. “You’re drunk.”

“Don’t change the subject.”

“We can talk about it in the morning, when you’ve sobered up a bit.” Cam gave him a long-suffering look that made Aiden feel like he was six years old again.

“Cam. Shit. You promised you wouldn’t—”

“Shhh.” Cam took Aiden in his arms and ran his hands through Aiden’s hair.

Aiden wanted to pull away, but he couldn’t do it. Instead he melted into Cam’s arms.

“You know I love you. What happens out there, it’s not us. This,” he continued, “here, this is who we are.”

The fire spit angrily, and Aiden watched it with calm detachment over Cam’s shoulder. Cam was right. This was home. He loved this old place with its creaky stairs, wood paneling, painted doors, and beautifully worn oak floors. They had picked out the furniture together, shopping the antique stores of Portobello Road until they found the perfect pieces.

“Cam, I—”

“You’re being paranoid, sweetheart,” Cam interrupted. He ran a thumb over Aiden’s mouth, tracing his lips until Aiden closed his eyes. “You worry too much. You always do.”

Aiden took a deep breath. Maybe Cam was right. Maybe he was being paranoid. The photograph had been taken at night, after all. And he hadn’t been sure it was Cam.

“Come to bed, Aiden,” Cam purred as he licked a line from Aiden’s chin to the sensitive spot under his ear. “And let me show you how much you mean to me.”

“AIDEN?”

Shit. He had missed his entrance. Again.

“Sorry, David. I don’t know what’s wrong with me today.”

David Somers peered at him over the rim of his reading glasses and frowned. “It’s about time for lunch anyhow,” the conductor said as he stood up from the piano. “How about it? My treat.”

“I… ah… sure.” Aiden had eaten with David before, but he still felt supremely awkward around the superstar conductor whose old-world grace and sophistication were so far removed from Aiden’s humble upbringing. David was classical music royalty, and Aiden was the hick kid with the incredible voice.

They’d met three and a half years before, not long after he’d arrived in Germany. David had taken Aiden under his wing, gotten him work in the larger European houses, introduced him to the best European conductors. David was the reason Aiden was making his Covent Garden debut; in the terms of his contract, he had insisted on Aiden singing the title role. David had even sent Aiden to a friend who had his own line of clothing with one of the largest European fashion houses for a “bit of polish,” as David had put it. David had taught Aiden about good wine and good food. Aiden’s best friend, Cary Redding, loved to tease Aiden that David was his fairy godfather.

When David’s driver let them out in front of a small fish and chips place near Piccadilly Circus, Aiden was more than a little surprised. He’d been expecting something a bit more posh. David was clearly amused to see Aiden’s reaction.

“Fish and chips is an art form in its own right,” David told Aiden in his upper-crust New England accent. “Not everything on your plate needs to be haute cuisine.”

Ten minutes later, settled at a table near the back of the tiny restaurant, Aiden nodded in hearty agreement as he bit into a delicately battered piece of fish that melted on his tongue. “This is incredible.”

David’s response was a knowing but reserved smile. David never laughed, as far as Aiden could tell, and right now, Aiden was thankful for it.

“Something’s on your mind, Aiden,” David said. He never did beat around the bush.

“It’s nothing.” Aiden wiped his lips and tried not to blush.

“I’ve never seen you this distracted.”

Aiden was utterly embarrassed. It wasn’t as if he was going to discuss his love life with someone like David Somers. Why would David even care?

“I am not entirely oblivious to your situation,” David continued, apparently unfazed by Aiden’s silence. “I knew Lord Sherrington’s parents quite well.”

Oh God, Aiden thought. Can it get any worse? He waited for the other shoe to drop. David would fire him now, wouldn’t he?

“That’s interesting,” Aiden said, knowing he looked like a complete fool and reminding himself that there were other jobs to be had. Of course, none of the other jobs he’d gotten since coming to Europe were anywhere near his current gig: performing at the best opera house in Great Britain with the best conductor around, singing the title role in Don Giovanni.

“I simply wanted you to know that if you need anything,” David continued, “I’m here to assist. I have several spare bedrooms at my London flat.”

Aiden’s mouth fell open. Was the man offering to put him up if he left Cam?

David offered Aiden a warm smile. “I put very little stock in the gossip rags,” he said as he tore a piece of fish off with his bare hands, “but I am not so naïve as to believe that there is never a grain of truth to be found between their covers.”

“You… you would do that?” Aiden stammered as David’s words began to work their way to his fuzzy brain. “Put me up?”

“Of course. Aren’t we friends?”

Aiden coughed and choked on a piece of fish until tears appeared in the corners of his eyes.

David handed him an extra napkin with casual aplomb. Does anything ruffle this man? Aiden wondered. Friends? Me and David Somers?

“It would be my pleasure.”

“I… uh… I mean… that’s very kind of you and all, but….”

“Aiden.” David’s face was serious now, his expression sympathetic and kind. “You have far too little faith in your own abilities both on and off the stage. It isn’t my place to give you advice as to your private affairs, but I feel it’s my duty as your friend to remind you that I am here should you ever need my help.”

“I… uh… thanks, David. I’m honored. I mean, I’m—”

“There’s no need to thank me. And no need to speak of it further.” He gestured to Aiden’s plate. “By the way,” he continued, “the fish is far better consumed hot.”

Aiden nodded dumbly and went back to work on his food, knowing the heat in his cheeks was visible to his companion but unable to do anything about it. There was no doubt in his mind that David’s offer was entirely genuine.

David Somers wants to be my friend? It seemed so improbable, so surreal. And yet, there it was.

“YOU were splendid, darling,” Cam gushed as he met Aiden in the front entrance of his family’s estate and planted a kiss on his lips. “Not that I expected anything else, of course.”

Cameron had invited the entire Don Giovanni cast back to the castle to celebrate iden’s London debut. And the orchestra. And the stage crew. Half of London, really.

Cam guided Aiden into the grand ballroom of the estate to a round of applause from the guests. Aiden caught David Somers’s eye, and the conductor raised his glass and smiled.

The place was magnificent. Glittering chandeliers cast flickering slivers of light on the polished marble floors. The ceiling was painted with tiny stars on a deep blue background, the walls paneled in well-oiled wood that shone and reflected blue and white with the crystals overhead. Toward the back of the ballroom, enormous arched doors led out onto a patio running the length of the room. Aiden was reminded of the dizzying effect of a disco ball, only far more ethereal.

A jazz orchestra played at one end of the high-ceilinged room as women in ball gowns danced with men in tuxedos. Aiden had begged Cam for a little party at their own home. He was entirely out of his element here, amidst the titled guests and local celebrities. Cam, however, had insisted that Aiden deserved the lavish celebration, and Aiden, knowing it was useless to argue, had finally relented.

For nearly two hours, Aiden smiled politely as guest after guest congratulated him on his performance. Finally, at the end of his patience and feeling the usual exhaustion that followed an evening of singing, he walked onto the patio and into the damp evening air. The midwinter chill on the breeze helped clear his mind.

It was quiet here, overlooking the formal gardens. Beyond, Aiden could barely make out the copse of trees he and Cam had often picnicked under. Beyond that were the woods where they’d ridden on horseback—where Cam had taught Aiden to ride. Even now, as winter began to weave its tendrils throughout the countryside, it was still lovely. In spring, the trees and flowers would burst into a frenzy of color, each plant painstakingly placed for maximum visual impact. Aiden wished his mother could see this. She’d always loved to tend her garden.

Overhead, a plane made its way to parts unknown, but the only thing Aiden could hear was the wind as it moved through the trees and shrubs. He wondered what it must have been like for Cam, growing up in this beautiful but formidable place. They often spent weekends here in the spring and summer, but it never felt like home to Aiden. He couldn’t get used to the servants who pressed his clothing and turned down the bed at night, or the elaborate breakfasts that greeted them in the mornings with food enough for ten people.

In all his stays at the castle, Aiden had never once met Cameron’s mother. He once asked Cam how often he saw her, but Cam only laughed and pointed out that Aiden hadn’t seen his own parents or his sister in more than two years. Funny, thought Aiden, how he still missed his parents sometimes. But then again, John Lind had made it abundantly clear that he wanted nothing to do with his only son. Aiden’s mother wouldn’t defy her husband, although she wrote to Aiden regularly by e-mail. His sister, Deb, had also made the effort to stay in touch, and he saw her once a year at most.

“Aiden!” he heard Cam call from the glass doors behind him. “You must meet Lord Cook and his wife, Audrey.”

With a sigh, Aiden turned and walked back into the ballroom.

AT NEARLY three in the morning, Aiden climbed the back stairs to the enormous bedroom he and Cameron shared. The room, as the rest of the house, was decorated in antiques. The bed was the only compromise in the room. Made of reclaimed wood Cam had told him once made up a wall-sized cabinet, it had been crafted to resemble the other pieces. Mahogany, finely detailed carving. Outrageously expensive. Cam had told him it was French and several hundred years old. Oil paintings of the English countryside hung at perfectly placed intervals on the damask-covered walls.

The party still continued below. It would go on until sunrise, Aiden guessed, but Cam would forgive him for turning in early. Not that Cam would hesitate to tease him mercilessly about being an early bird the next day. Aiden had a difficult enough time keeping up with Cam’s seemingly boundless energy, but after a long day and performance, Aiden knew it was a lost cause even to attempt it.

Aiden shed his tux, slipped into a heavenly pair of silk pajamas Cam had given him as a gift—one of many gifts—and washed his face in the spacious bathroom attached to their room. He reached for the toothbrush, neatly laid out on the glass shelf above the sink, when his stomach rumbled loudly enough for him to hear. He laughed. In all the chaos of the evening, he had forgotten to eat.

He never did eat much before a performance. He was loath to admit it, but he desperately feared burping when he was on stage. Not that he ever had. Still, it was a bit like a good luck charm for him, not eating. But afterward….

Damn. The servants would all be helping out at the party, so it wouldn’t be easy to find someone to bring him a snack. He didn’t want to get dressed again, he was too comfortable. He’d have to get the food himself without being noticed. Aiden smiled at the thought that he knew his way to the kitchen without descending the main staircase. He and Cam had sneaked down to the kitchen by way of the servants’ stairs more than a few times to snag leftovers after a particularly athletic round of sex.

He pulled on a pair of slippers and tied a warm woolen robe around himself. He made his way down the long hallway that joined the east wing of the house with the west, past the enormous staircase that led to the front entry, and toward the back stairs. He had nearly reached the stairs when he heard it—the sound of voices from a sitting room that joined a pair of bedrooms.

“Right… oh, yes… right there. That’s it. Just a little more. Oh… fuck!”

Aiden laughed to himself. He wasn’t all that surprised that some of the guests had made their way up here for a little added entertainment. The servants had been instructed to make the guest bedrooms available to Cam’s “good friends,” which in Aiden’s experience meant anyone who asked to stay.

He quickened his pace, not wanting to eavesdrop. The door to the sitting room was slightly ajar, so he kept his eyes focused on the stairwell so he wouldn’t be tempted to look inside. But then he heard a second voice, and he froze where he stood.

“Damn, but you’re tight tonight, sweetheart. Have you missed me? Have you been saving yourself for me? Because that tight little ass of yours is too delicious—”

Aiden’s gut roiled. He stormed over to the door and kicked it open with such violence that the sound echoed down the hallway. What he saw inside made him sick.

Jarrod Jameson was bent over an overstuffed settee. Naked. Cam, fully dressed, was ramming him from behind, his hands grasping Jarrod’s waist. Later, Aiden would realize that his gaze hadn’t focused as much on the men as on the antique sofa, with its beautiful carved scrollwork and hand-embroidered upholstery. Cam had taught him to appreciate the delicate beauty of just such an antique.

“Get the fuck out of here!” Aiden shouted at Jarrod as the two men abruptly separated.

“Aiden, sweetheart, I—”

“Shut up,” Aiden snapped at Cam as Jarrod picked up his scattered clothing from the Persian rug and ran out of the room, still naked. It was a good thing Jarrod left so quickly, because Aiden’s hands were balled in fists and he was having a hard time restraining himself from punching Jarrod’s face in.

Cam opened his mouth to speak, but Aiden didn’t give him the opportunity. “Don’t fucking try it, Cameron. It won’t work this time.” He turned and left, slamming the door to the sitting room behind him.

Back in his room—their room—a minute later, Aiden threw off his pajamas, pulled on a pair of jeans and a cashmere sweater, slipped on a pair of moccasins and a wool jacket, grabbed his wallet, and headed down the main stairway. He’d get his things later. He couldn’t stay a second longer.

Several guests were milling about the front door, drinks in hand, laughing. They barely looked at him in his street clothes. Maybe they didn’t recognize him.

Or maybe they don’t give a shit.

“I’m taking the Jag,” Aiden told one of the servants. The man looked at him with surprise but complied, returning a moment later to let him know the driver would be bringing the car around. Aiden was on the road back to London a few minutes later.

WHEN Cameron returned from the castle the next morning, Aiden had several suitcases spread around the bedroom and was packing his belongings. Aiden had tried to sleep but had given up in the end, deciding instead to get his things together. He couldn’t do this anymore. How could he have been so naïve? He had stupidly believed the man the first time. But the second….

What’s the old expression? Fool me once, shame on you… fool me twice, shame on me?

God, his chest hurt. His eyes were red from lack of sleep and tears. Ironic that the biggest night of his career would be the worst night for his heart.

“Darling,” Cam said as he looked into the bedroom at the array of suitcases on the floor and on the bed, “don’t do this.”

“Do what, Cam? Because last time I checked, I wasn’t the one doing anything. It was you, doing it to us.”

“Darling, please!”

“Don’t you fucking call me that! You don’t deserve to call me that.”

“Dar—Aiden,” Cam began again, “let’s talk about this. We can straighten this out.”

“Sure. We can straighten it out. I’ll forgive you again and you’ll go on doing what you want, won’t you?”

“You’re jealous. You always were.”

“Cam, for God’s sake! Of course I’m jealous. We live together, and I just caught you fucking some—”

“Sweetheart. Aiden.” Cam walked over to Aiden and took him in his arms. “Don’t do this.”

Aiden did his utmost not to respond to that touch, to the touch that had once sustained him through the ups and downs of his career. It was one of the hardest things he had ever done, not to melt into Cam’s arms as he loved to do.

“It’s over, Cam. I can’t live like this. It’s not what I thought we were about.” Aiden’s voice cracked.

“I’ll never speak to Jarrod again.” Cam’s tone was reassuring. “I promise you.”

“It’s not him. Don’t you understand? You’ll just find someone else. I’m obviously not enough for you.”

There. He had said it. And it was true. Because no matter how much he told himself he deserved better, it all seemed to come down to his own failings. He, Aiden Reuben Lind, hadn’t been able to keep Cameron happy. It didn’t matter how he looked at it. He had failed. It was time to admit it. Time to leave. Time to move on.

“I want you.”

Aiden pulled out of Cam’s arms and walked silently to the bathroom, grabbed his toiletry bag, and tossed it into the suitcase he’d been working on. “It’s over, Cam,” he said as he latched the case and pulled it off the bed.

“What will you do without me?”

The question scared Aiden to death. “I’ll be fine,” he said under his breath. He hoped he sounded more convinced than he really was.

“You need me, Aiden. You need what I can give you. Money. Better name recognition. Work.”

Work. Aiden hoped to God Cameron wouldn’t interfere with his work. Would he do that?

“I’ll be fine,” he repeated.

“You’ll regret this, Aiden. I assure you.”

Was that a threat? He didn’t dare ask. “Good-bye, Cam,” he said. He picked up the suitcase and headed out the bedroom door. “I’ll send someone around to pick up the others.”

Cameron said nothing.

“DAVID,” Aiden said an hour later as he stood on the doorstep of David Somers’s London flat, “it’s good to see you. I hope I’m not coming at a bad time.”

David smiled and opened the door for Aiden, took the suitcase over Aiden’s protests, and led him inside. “The offer to stay here didn’t have an expiration date.” He gave Aiden’s shoulder a reassuring squeeze. “You can stay as long as you like.”

Aria (Blue Notes #3) is at the Dreamspinner Press website.

Aria Release Day: Giveaways and Excerpt #2

December 24, 2012

Welcome to the release party for my new novel, Aria, the third in my Blue Notes Series of classical music themed gay romances!  I’m running a bunch of giveaways on my blog, so stop by and comment to be entered into all of them.  I’ll be drawing winners at midnight tonight!

One of the today’s giveaway is for a paperback copy of Blue Notes, the original book in the series. Loosely based on my experiences growing up in France, Blue Notes is the story of former pianist, now lawyer Jason Greene, and jazz violinist Jules Bardon. The two meet in a Paris jazz club after Jason runs away from his life in the US when he catches his fiancee cheating on him.

Like Blue Notes, Aria is a story about a musician and a lawyer. In fact, Sam Ryan from Aria and Jason from Blue Notes almost end up in bed together at one point in the original story. They’re former courtroom rivals who meet after Jason’s heart has been broken. Instead, the two men become close friends and when Sam visits Jason in Paris, Sam runs into former lover and international opera sensation Aiden Lind. So begins their rekindled romance.

Aria is at times sad, at times sweet and funny, and of course, there’s a happily ever after (no spoilers here – I only write books with happy endings!). In fact, the HEA in Aria is probably my favorite so far in the series. But that’s all I’m saying!

Aria has a bit of the backstage world of opera. From the wigs, to the pancake makeup that tends to run down your face when you sweat under the hot lights (the heavy costumes don’t help much either), it’s really hard work. They say singing an opera is a bit like running a marathon. Not sure about that (I’ve never run a marathon!), but I do know that it’s a physical career. And no, in this day and age, most opera singers are not fat. In fact, the thinnest I’ve ever been was when I was singing. You really do have to look the part! Tosca, by the way, was supposed to be a sexy opera singer. ;-) Want to see what I call sexy when it comes to opera singers? Check out this excerpt from Bizet’s “The Pearlfishers” – the operatic equivalent of a bromance. That would be Aiden (the baritone) on the right in the clip. Yummy! See, opera singers can be hot!

I’ll leave you with a NSFW excerpt from Aria. This is the scene where Aiden and Sam first meet, five years before present day action. It’s a long and hot one. Enjoy! -Shira

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Blurb: Five years after a prestigious scholarship jumpstarted his opera career, Aiden Lind has it all: fame, choice roles, and Lord Cameron Sherrington to share his life with. Maintaining his façade takes effort, but under his poised, sophisticated mask, Aiden is still the insecure kid from rural Mississippi. Then he walks in on Cam with another man, and the illusion of perfection shatters.

Philadelphia attorney Sam Ryan never moved on after his partner died, though he tried. Instead of dating, he keeps himself busy with work—but when he unexpectedly runs into ex-lover Aiden while on a rare vacation in Paris, he’s inspired to give their love a second chance. First, though, he’ll have to get Aiden to forgive him. Because when Sam was still grieving five years ago, he broke Aiden’s heart.

When rekindled lust blossoms into a true romance, it seems like the start of something wonderful. But Aiden’s career has him on the road much of the time, and the physical distance between him and Sam starts translating into an emotional disconnect. If Aiden and Sam can’t learn to communicate, their separation may prove more than their love can bear.

**************

Chapter Five:

New York, New York

The SoHo bar was crowded when Sam arrived a few minutes after eight o’clock. Some of his friends had recommended it to him, but he had never been inside. Typical of many establishments in the area, the walls were stripped bare of years of paint. Modern canvasses in various sizes and shapes broke the monotony of the ancient brick. Italian track lighting hung from the drop ceiling illuminated the artwork and the tables. Sam could make out the strains of classic jazz over the low drone of conversation. The smells of alcohol, aftershave, and musk hung in the air.

Sam realized his hand rested on his briefcase. He thought briefly of the metal cookie tin inside, which inevitably made him think of Nick. He and Nick first met in a bar, but Sam had never liked them much. As a couple, they had mostly socialized with friends, alternating hosting get-togethers at their loft apartment and spending weekends upstate in small B and Bs.

Sam felt overwhelmed as he sat down at the end of the bar and ordered a drink. He reminded himself that he was just here for the alcohol, but the Manhattan gay scene loomed frighteningly on the horizon, and he was woefully unprepared. Even now, a year after Nick’s death, he knew he wasn’t ready, though he’d already received a few appreciative looks in the few minutes since his arrival. He wasn’t sure he’d ever be ready for it again—it had been intimidating enough the first time around.

“Vodka tonic,” he told the bartender. Tonight he needed something stronger than his usual beer. Running a hand through his hair, he took a look around the bar for the first time. There was no dance floor, so the action was subtler. Men filled nearly every seat at the long bar, chatting in undertones over drinks. He fought the urge to leave. When the bartender placed a drink in front of him, he thanked the man and took a long, desperate swallow. The comforting effect of the alcohol began to kick in.

What am I doing here?

The man seated to his left got up and threw a twenty down on the bar, then waved to the bartender and the other men at the counter. Sam finished his drink in one long swallow and looked up again, this time into a pair of warm brown eyes framed by long lashes. The newcomer smiled affably at him. Sam managed to return the smile before quickly looking back down at his empty glass.

This was a mistake. He pulled his wallet out of his jacket and rummaged for a twenty.

“I hope you’re not leaving on my account,” said the man next to him. And, God, what a voice! A resonant, sexy-as-fuck baritone that went straight from Sam’s ears to his cock.

“Aiden Lind,” he said more formally as he offered Sam his hand.

“Sam Ryan. Nice to meet you.” Sam’s hand was warm, his grip firm.

Aiden gestured to the bartender. “Two more. On me.”

“I was just about to leave.” Sam didn’t want to be rude, but he needed to get out of the place. Coming here had been a mistake.

“Sure I can’t convince you to stay?”

“No. But thanks, Aiden. It was good meeting you.” Sam forced a smile and picked up his satchel before heading for the door. A moment later he stepped out into the chilly night air, taking deep breaths to calm his racing heart.

He wasn’t ready. He pulled his jacket collar up, then started for the subway station.

“Sam!”

Sam turned around to see someone running after him down the street. What was his name? Aiden.

“Look, Aiden,” Sam said as he caught up with him, “I’m tired.”

Aiden blinked. “Oh. No. It’s not like that.” He reached into his jacket pocket and pulled out a wallet. Sam’s wallet.

Shit. The guy was being nice, and Sam had tried to blow him off.

Sam took the wallet and their fingers brushed. Sam’s cheeks warmed as their eyes met. Uncomfortable, he shifted his briefcase from one hand to another. “Thanks. Damn good thing my head’s attached to my body tonight.”

“No problem.” Aiden shoved his hands back into his pockets.

“It was good meeting you.” Sam was hard-pressed not to like the man.

“You too, Sam.” Aiden hesitated a second longer, then turned and waved as he headed back toward the bar.

It’s only a drink. No strings. It’s not like you have anyone waiting at home.

“On second thought,” Sam called after Aiden, “I think I’ll have that drink.”

“Great!” Aiden turned around and beamed at him, and Sam’s initial hesitation evaporated in the warmth of Aiden’s smile.

A few minutes later, they walked back into the bar. Aiden motioned to a free table. “This okay with you?”

“Sure.” Sam set his briefcase back down and settled into one of the metal chairs.

“What are you drinking?” Aiden asked.

“Vodka tonic.”

“Great. I’ll be right back.” Aiden headed for the bar before Sam could offer to spring for the drinks.

Now that they were back inside in the light, Sam got his first good look at Aiden. He hadn’t noticed when they were sitting down, but Aiden was nearly as tall as he, probably around six feet. He’d already noticed Aiden’s curly hair, high cheekbones, and the strong line of his jaw. Now, Sam couldn’t help but notice the black jeans that hugged Aiden’s firm ass and the long-sleeved Henley that fit his upper torso tightly enough to hint at the muscle beneath. Casual but undeniably sexy.

Back a minute later, Aiden sat facing Sam, and Sam noticed Aiden’s foot tapping the leg of his chair.

He’s nervous too. That surprised Sam. The guy was good-looking, friendly. Trying to quell his own anxiety, Sam took a deep breath. “Thanks for the drink. And thanks again for the wallet.”

Aiden seemed buoyed by Sam’s change of heart. “Long day?” He brushed a stray lock of hair from his eyes.

“You could say that.” Sam shook his head and exhaled audibly. If only you knew….

A waiter brought their drinks. “Cheers.” Sam held up his glass and Aiden touched his beer against it.

“Cheers.”

They drank in silence for a few moments until Sam realized he must have been staring, because Aiden leaned in and gazed at him—a gaze that held more than a whisper of lust. For the past year, Sam hadn’t even considered how he looked to the world at large. He donned his expensive suits like the uniforms they were, shaved, and combed his unruly hair, but he’d just gone on living, nothing more. He’d had a few blind dates friends had set him up on, but none of them had gone anywhere and he hadn’t cared. Now he was suddenly self-conscious, his suit rumpled after a long day bent over piles of documents, his hair undoubtedly sticking up in odd places as it liked to do.

When did it get so hot in here?

Sam pulled off his jacket and draped it over the back of his chair. As the second drink went straight to his shoulders, he felt his old confidence return. “What do you do for a living, Aiden?”

“Musician.”

“Really? What kind?”

Aiden appeared uncomfortable, almost apologetic. “I’m a singer. An opera singer.”

“You’re serious?” Explains the voice of God vibe.

“Yeah.” Aiden shifted in his seat.

“That’s cool,” Sam said enthusiastically.

“You think?”

“Yes, definitely.”

Aiden laughed—a warm, rumbled laugh that made Sam melt like a puddle into his seat. Aiden Lind was a handsome man, even more so when he laughed. “I get a lot of flak from my family about it.”

“Really? Why?” Sam finished his drink and flagged down the waiter for another round.

“They think it’s queer. I used to sing rock and gospel. That was okay with them. But opera? And shit, if they knew I liked men and women….” He laughed again, but Sam heard an edge to the sound this time and saw a flash of something like pain in Aiden’s eyes. “So what do you do, Sam?”

“Compared to singing opera? Just boring stuff. I’m a lawyer for a firm near Wall Street.”

“I sort of guessed. Nice suit, briefcase ’n all. Nice tie too.” Aiden wasn’t looking at Sam’s tie, though; his gaze never left Sam’s.

Maybe it was the booze, but Sam wasn’t in the slightest bit tempted to look away. Instead, he loosened his tie and undid the top button of his shirt.

“So what kind of law do you practice?”

Shit. What was it about Aiden that made everything he said sound like an invitation to do something sexual? The voice. Definitely the voice.

“Personal injury. Not my first choice.” Sam had rationalized taking the job for many reasons, but one in particular topped the list: the prospect of going home to Tennessee and back into the same dark and claustrophobic closet he had come out of was too horrible to contemplate.

“What would you rather be doing?”

At that moment Sam could think of a few things he’d rather be doing that had nothing to do with practicing law. “Employment law. Plaintiff’s work. You know, the underdogs?”

“Nothing wrong with that, is there?”

“No. Nothing at all.” The job had been a compromise: it hadn’t been what Sam had wanted, but it hadn’t been part of Samuel Stetson Ryan III’s “plan” either. It had been a huge disappointment to the old man that Sam didn’t return to Memphis to work for his firm.

Sam shifted in his seat, brushing Aiden’s foot by accident. At least he thought he’d done it by accident. “So.” Sam changed the subject and tried to focus on something other than Aiden’s foot rubbing against his own. “What’s it like, singing opera?”

The waiter came with another round of drinks—Sam lost count of how many he’d downed. Was this three already? It was hard to focus, and Sam was pretty sure it wasn’t the alcohol that was turning his brain to mush.

Aiden leaned back in his seat with his legs slightly apart. It was an inviting pose. Aiden held his beer in his right hand and gesticulated with it as he spoke. As Aiden’s leg pressed against Sam’s, Sam did his utmost to keep his eyes focused on his companion’s face. His own face felt warm.

“It’s great,” Aiden replied. “I’m planning to go to Germany soon, maybe do a few auditions there.”

“Sounds exciting. What would you be auditioning for?” Laughter erupted from the bar, and Sam moved his chair closer to better hear Aiden’s answer.

“Most of the larger German cities hire contract singers for their opera houses. It’s better than in the States. Here, you mostly just string gigs together to make a living. There, you have a steady job for a year at a time, do stuff in repertory. Beats waiting tables.”

“I didn’t realize it was that tough getting work.” He and Aiden were only about a foot apart now. From this distance, Sam could see the hint of Aiden’s hard nipples beneath the close-fitting Henley. It was difficult to focus on the conversation when his mind was busy imagining how he might take one of those nubs between his teeth.

“Once you get an agent, it gets better. I only graduated from school a few years ago, and it’s hard to get hired for big roles right away.”

“Kind of like getting stuck doing the grunt work right out of law school.” Sam knew the feeling well. He’d only made partner last year, and he’d done his share of shit jobs before that.

“Yep.” Aiden finished the rest of his beer, lingering over the mouth of the bottle before giving Sam a smile.

Sam swallowed hard and tried to ignore the renewed jolt of sexual heat he sensed in Aiden’s gaze. He looked down at his drink. It definitely wasn’t only the booze talking. He got hard just thinking about kissing Aiden, tasting him. “Are you from around here, originally?”

“Nah. I’m from Mississippi. Little town named Fenton, right outside of Jackson.”

“Really? Hell, I grew up in Memphis.”

“No shit.” Aiden laughed. “I thought I heard a little Tennessee in you.”

“You had me fooled. I figured you were from up north.”

“Comes with the territory. Good ear. Had to study French, German, and Italian in school. You lose the drawl fast or they beat it out of you.”

They talked about growing up in the South for a few minutes. Comfortable, easy conversation. How long had it been, Sam wondered, since he’d had a conversation like this with someone other than Nick?

Too long.

“Listen,” Aiden began as he stared awkwardly at his beer, which was now clearly empty, “would you like to get out of here?”

Since Nick died, Sam had said no to anything but casual hints at dating. This was much more of an offer.

“I’d like that,” he heard himself say.

Aiden looked surprised and pleased, but no more than Sam. Had he really said yes?

“I live over in Alphabet City. It’s not much, but….”

“That’d be fine,” Sam reassured him. He might be ready to spend the night with someone, but he sure as hell wasn’t ready to take a man back to his own apartment—the apartment he and Nick had shared. Not yet, anyhow.

Maybe never.

After a short cab ride, Sam followed Aiden up the stairs of a third-floor walkup off Avenue C and into a small two-bedroom apartment. The living room appeared to double as a third bedroom. Pots, pans, and cooking utensils hung from every inch of the high-ceilinged walls of the tiny kitchen. An electronic keyboard sat atop a cardboard box, and piles of music filled the built-in shelves. In spite of the clutter, the apartment was clean and smelled vaguely of lemon.

“I live with two other singers,” Aiden said. “Mark works nights, and Rob is out of town at a gig, so we have the place to ourselves.”

Sam put his briefcase down and tossed his coat onto the couch. He turned to find Aiden only a few inches away. In the shadows of the semidarkness, Aiden’s high cheekbones were more defined, his body backlit by the light from the streetlamp outside.

A moment later they were kissing. Rough, hungry lips met with equally awkward eagerness, teeth tapping against each other as Sam and Aiden found their bearings. Sam ran his tongue against Aiden’s lower lip and gained entry before pressing inward to find the warmth that waited there. Aiden’s mouth tasted good, with a hint of dark beer that lingered from the bar.

“Bed?” Sam asked.

Aiden’s answer was a low growl with the same deep resonance of his speaking voice. Sam had never realized the sound of someone’s voice could be such a turn-on. His body was thrumming now, and he knew there was no going back. He’d waited so long, denying himself in silent penance for circumstances over which he’d never had any control. Now he would let that final piece of Nick go and give his body over to someone new.

You know he would have wanted this for you.

Aiden put his arm around Sam’s waist as he led him down the short hallway, then pushed the bedroom door open with his foot. Sam felt the bed at the backs of his knees as Aiden pushed him down on top of the ragged comforter. The bedding smelled clean, though. Sam didn’t have a chance to take in the rest of the room before they were kissing again. Sam scrabbled for purchase on Aiden’s shirt, reaching to pull it over his head. He needed to feel Aiden’s chest, to feel someone else’s skin beneath his fingers.

Aiden’s body was as finely honed as Sam had imagined it to be back at the bar. Lean—not the overly sculpted abs that graced Times Square billboards—but just the way Sam liked them, with more than a dusting of dark, curly hair between his nipples. He pressed his hand to Aiden’s enticing skin. He wondered what it would be like to feel that chest vibrate when the other man sang. The thought led him to a renewed jolt of desire, and he pinned Aiden to the bed before pushing down Aiden’s dark jeans along with the gray boxer briefs to reveal the purple tip of a sizeable cock. It took only another minute before Aiden was completely naked on the bed. The fact that Sam was still fully dressed only served to arouse him more.

He didn’t need any encouragement to take Aiden’s erection in his mouth; he had to taste it. God, but the man tasted so good! Sam swallowed Aiden’s long cock down, pulling back the foreskin as he went and grabbing the base with his hand, slicked up with saliva. For a man who made his living with his voice, Aiden remained remarkably silent, but the upward arch of his body was tacit reassurance. Sam licked with abandon at the underside of Aiden’s hard width, then tightened the suction until he was rewarded with a gasp.

Sam’s ran his teeth and lips over Aiden’s cock as he moved upward to the tip, then nibbled his way around the crown and probed the leaking slit with his tongue, sucking to milk the salty essence there. He could feel his own hard-on pressed against his pants, which only served to intensify the experience. Denial for now. But later….

“Shit, Sam,” Aiden murmured in a distant rumble. “So good. So fucking good….”

Sam smiled wickedly, happy to have finally coaxed a sound from Aiden’s lips. He reached his free hand underneath Aiden’s balls, rolled them in his palm, then licked them, all the while fisting Aiden’s hard cock. He swallowed it again, skating wet fingers to find the clenched ring of muscles between the tight asscheeks. The press of his finger against the tight opening was rewarded with a low drawn-out groan, so he teased it again.

“Lube?” he whispered as he released Aiden’s cock for a moment.

“Don’t want any,” came the tense response. “Just push your finger in.”

Sam hesitated.

“Nah, Sam. It’s good like that… I like it like that sometimes.”

The words shot through Sam like fire. He pressed his saliva-slicked finger inside and felt Aiden’s big hands grasp his shoulders and pull him closer, encouraging him to push deeper. Sam hollowed his cheeks and increased the suction, pulling and licking until he could feel Aiden’s balls pull tight against his forearm.

“Shit… Sam… gonna… come,” Aiden warned.

Sam released Aiden’s cock from his mouth but continued to rub his lips and hand over it until he felt the warmth of Aiden’s come on his cheek. After Aiden stopped shaking, Sam met his warm brown eyes and smiled.

Aiden reached up and wiped Aiden’s cheek with the sheet, then leaned back against the pillow and inhaled long and deep. “Good God,” he said in an impossibly low, sexy voice, “that was incredible.”

Sam’s face warmed at the compliment, and he fought the urge to protest. Even after so many years of living in New York as an openly gay man, he still felt the stirrings of shame from time to time, his Southern Baptist roots too well ingrained to ignore. But the moment of embarrassment was short-lived, eclipsed by his own unsatisfied need.

“I want to fuck you,” he whispered. “If that’s okay….” He had never been hesitant before, but he felt like he was seventeen all over again, doing it for the first time in the woods behind the cabins at summer camp.

“You’re joking, right?” Aiden laughed. “Hell, yeah.” He reached under the mattress and pulled out a box of condoms and a small bottle of lube, then tossed them within Sam’s reach.

The tension in Sam’s shoulders relaxed until he felt his companion’s hand rubbing at the crotch of his pants. His breath caught in his throat. Too long. Way too long. He started to loosen his tie, but Aiden stopped him.

“Fuck me in that suit. It’s so damn hot.” He rolled onto his stomach and lifted his ass in blatant invitation. “I want you to fuck me in your clothes.”

“Damn,” Sam hissed as he unzipped his fly and pulled his cock out. There was something thrilling about the way Aiden had taken control, something about the way Aiden’s words had sounded almost like an order that made Sam shiver. And, oh God, the globes of Aiden’s ass beckoned, tight and smooth. Sam began to stroke him while he uncapped the lube and slathered his fingers with it, then reached around to press at the hole he had only barely breached before.

“No prep,” Aiden rumbled. “Lube it up. I like it when it hurts a little.”

What the hell do I say to that?

Sam knew the feeling himself, although he had never admitted it to Nick. He and Nick had been tender lovers—the kind of lovers who explored every inch of each other’s bodies with gentle fingers and tongues. Their lovemaking had never approached the rough animal sex Sam had often fantasized about. That hadn’t been Nick’s style; he had been as laid-back and slow in bed as he was in life, and Sam had loved that about him. The sex had been great. Better than great, but now….

Sam rolled the condom over his erection and greased it well, then leaned over and spread Aiden wider. Aiden’s low laugh was an invitation, and Sam looked up to see Aiden’s eyes filled with a mixture of need and playfulness. He pressed the head of his cock against Aiden’s hole, inhaling sharply as the outer ring of muscle gave way and he felt the warm tightness nip at his sensitive tip.

“Come on,” Aiden urged him. “I want it all the way inside.”

He pushed harder, Aiden’s inner muscles gradually releasing with some resistance until Sam was seated up to his balls. Aiden was half-hard again, and Sam grasped his thickening flesh with one hand as he pulled out. Then he pushed in once more, making sure he brushed against Aiden’s prostate. He felt Aiden’s shudder and saw the look of pleasure on his face.

“Harder, Sam. Need it harder.”

“Oh God, yes. But it’s been too long. I won’t be able to….”

“I don’t care.” Aiden’s voice was now rough, husky with need. “Do it like you know you want to.”

The realization that Aiden had guessed at something Sam himself had long denied only served to intensify the urge to pound Aiden senseless. “Fuck,” he panted. “You’re so tight.”

The bed shook as he picked up speed, pistoning back and forth, letting go of all of his repressed desire. His shirt clung to his skin, his pants rode up his ass, but that only increased the pleasure that ran from his cock up his spine and pulled his sac tight. He came with a shout and a series of shudders, then leaned down so his face was only inches away from Aiden’s.

Their eyes met. For Sam it was like diving into dark water—he didn’t know what he might find, but he was caught in the siren song. Aiden’s lips met his, and something deep inside Sam’s heart let go. A door he had closed when Nick died opened just a crack. It stayed open for a brief instant before he felt ice in his veins as fear seeped back inside.

“Stay?” Aiden offered hopefully.

“I….” Sam hesitated. “Okay.” He knew he should leave, that he wasn’t ready for this, but he couldn’t do it. He was so raw, so hungry for Aiden’s touch. He wanted more.

Aiden smiled at Sam and began to unbutton his shirt.

Release Day: Aria (Blue Notes #3)

December 24, 2012

I’m getting the release party started today, counting down to Christmas Eve, when Aria will be released by Dreamspinner Press! Each day, I will have a different contest for goodies. Enter by leaving your name and email on my blog. On Monday night, 12/24, I will draw a name from the comments for each of the drawings. So comment once, and you’re entered into all the drawings! You can purchase Aria here.

For those of you not familiar with the Blue Notes Series, each of the novels in the series is a standalone story that can be read in any order. Secondary characters in one story often become the main characters in another. Aria is no exception.

In Aria, we meet Sam Ryan from the original Blue Notes, a year after he’s lost the love of his life and his longtime partner, Nick Savakis. To say Sam is floundering is an understatement. He goes through the paces of everyday life as a Manhattan attorney, does his job well, but he’s forgotten how to live. On the night he finally gathers the courage to spread Nick’s ashes over the water at New York Harbor, Sam goes to a gay bar for a drink. He’s not looking for anything except maybe a one-night stand–something to make the pain go away. The last thing he expects is that he’ll meet someone he really likes: struggling opera singer Aiden Lind.

Aria is a story of love, loss, and moving on with your life. It’s also the story of the very real challenges of a long-distance relationship. Based in part on my experiences when I was traveling and singing, Aria gives the reader a taste of what isn’t as glamorous a life as you might expect. I hope you’ll enjoy it!

I’ll leave you all with a little taste of the first chapter of Aria, the bittersweet scene at the beginning of the book as Sam tries to say good-bye to Nick in Battery Park. More excerpts to come throughout the day today, including a few NSFW I promise will warm you up, so check back later! -Shira

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Blurb: Five years after a prestigious scholarship jumpstarted his opera career, Aiden Lind has it all: fame, choice roles, and Lord Cameron Sherrington to share his life with. Maintaining his façade takes effort, but under his poised, sophisticated mask, Aiden is still the insecure kid from rural Mississippi. Then he walks in on Cam with another man, and the illusion of perfection shatters.

Philadelphia attorney Sam Ryan never moved on after his partner died, though he tried. Instead of dating, he keeps himself busy with work—but when he unexpectedly runs into ex-lover Aiden while on a rare vacation in Paris, he’s inspired to give their love a second chance. First, though, he’ll have to get Aiden to forgive him. Because when Sam was still grieving five years ago, he broke Aiden’s heart.

When rekindled lust blossoms into a true romance, it seems like the start of something wonderful. But Aiden’s career has him on the road much of the time, and the physical distance between him and Sam starts translating into an emotional disconnect. If Aiden and Sam can’t learn to communicate, their separation may prove more than their love can bear.

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Excerpt from Chapter One:

THE ashes flew from his fingers the moment he lifted his hand to the wind. Weightless, ephemeral, they caught the stiff breeze and vanished over the water. The sky grew darker; a sunset painted in bands of fuchsia, orange, yellow, and dark purple streaked the clouds. Lady Liberty stood sentinel against the vibrant backdrop as a ferry made its way toward Staten Island.

Goodbye, Nick.

Sam looked down at the now empty tin in his hands. He replaced the cover and sat down on one of the benches at the edge of Battery Park, smiling to see the words Macadamia Chocolate Chip printed on the top. How many times had he seen his lover toss his tubes of oil paints into the battered cookie tin as they headed to the park for a Sunday afternoon picnic? Even after Nicholas Savakis had made his name as a rising young painter, he never replaced that metal tin.

“Who needs all the bullshit?” Nick said when Sam suggested they buy him a new box for his paints. “This works fine.” So when the funeral director tried to sell Sam a fancy urn, he refused. Instead, he took Nick’s ashes in the hard plastic box and transferred half of them to the tin. He gave the rest to Nick’s family.

It’s what Nick would have wanted.

Sam had decided on this spot even before the funeral, but it took him more than a year to gather his courage to come here. This had been Nick’s favorite place to sit and paint. Sam had often met him here after work during the six years they lived together.

Sam loved to watch Nick’s dark hair blow about his face as his lean hands moved with careful precision over the canvas, his long brushstrokes capturing the multilayered colors of the water and sky. To someone unfamiliar with Nick’s work, his paintings might seem only an enticing blur of paint and texture. But over the years, Sam had come to see the world through the eyes of the lanky, slightly awkward man whose stained jeans echoed the blue and turquoise he favored in his art. The paintings were whispers of Nick’s soul, the beautiful soul Sam had cherished. Sam had hoped to spend the rest of his life with that perfect soul.

He inhaled the salty air and closed his eyes. In the distance, he could hear the drone of traffic. The air was warm for mid-November, but as the sun set below the water, he shivered. The lightweight coat over his suit jacket did nothing to stop the biting wind. Sam had planned to do this the summer after Nick’s death. Nick would have laughed at him; he’d have told Sam he always took too long to decide things.

“S’only your fault you’re sitting here freezing your ass off,” Sam could almost hear him tease.

I love you, Nick. Wherever you are.

He opened his eyes once more, realizing he still held the cookie tin in his hands. He stood up and slipped it back into his briefcase, then slung the strap of the case over his shoulder. He needed a drink; he wasn’t ready to face the empty apartment yet. Not tonight, of all nights.

You purchase Aria on Dreamspinner Press!