Big Backlist Weekend with Jessica Scott & Tara Lain #2giveaways #Romance

Welcome to Big Backlist Weekend! This is a special event I post every month or so where I ask a wonderful author to come and join me in giving away a copy of an ebook from their backlist.

My guest today is author Jessica Scott. She’s giving away 1 paperback copy of the Before I Fall (Falling Series, bk 1), a contemporary romance

I’m giving away an ebook copy of Fast Balls

Here’s your chance to win one or the other of our books. Just enter on the Rafflecopter below and watch for Big Backlist Weekend with special guests every month.

 

Before I Fall 
(Falling Series, Bk 1) 
by Jessica Scott

Blurb:
Stay focused. Get a job. Save her father’s life.
Beth Lamont knows far too much about the harsh realities of life her gilded classmates have only read about in class. She’ll do whatever it takes to take care of her father, even if that means tutoring a guy like Noah – a guy who represents everything she hates about the war, soldiers and what the Army has done to her family.

Noah Warren doesn’t know how to be a student. All he knows is war. But he’s going to college now to fulfill a promise and he doesn’t break his promises. Except he doesn’t count on his tutor being drop dead gorgeous and distracting as hell. One look at Beth threatens to unravel the careful lies Noah has constructed around him.

A simple arrangement turns into something neither of them can deny. And a war that neither of them can forget could destroy them both.

 

 

Excerpt

Chapter One

Beth

My dad has good days and bad. The good days are awesome. When he’s awake and he’s pretending to cook and I’m pretending to eat it. It’s a joke between us that he burns water. But that’s okay.

On the good days, I humor him. Because for those brief interludes, I have my dad back.

The not so good days, like today, are more common. Days when he can’t get out of bed without my help.

I bring him his medication. I know exactly how much he takes and how often.

And I know exactly when he runs out.

I’ve gotten better at keeping up with his appointments so he doesn’t, but the faceless bastards at the VA cancel more than they keep. But what can we do? He can’t get private insurance with his health, and because someone decided that his back injury wasn’t entirely service-related, he doesn’t have a high enough disability rating to qualify for automatic care. So we wait for them to fit him in and when we can’t, we go to the emergency room and the bills pile up. Because despite him not being able to move on the bad days, his back pain treatments are elective.

So I juggle phone calls to the docs and try to keep us above water.

Bastards.

I leave his phone by his bed and make sure it’s plugged in to charge before I head to school. He’s got water and the pills he’ll need when he finally comes out of the fog. Our tiny house is only a mile from campus. Not in the best part of town but not the worst either. I’ve got an hour before class, which means I need to hustle. Thankfully, it’s not terribly hot today so I won’t arrive on campus a sweating, soggy mess. That always makes a good impression, especially at a wealthy southern school like this one.

I make it to campus with twenty minutes to spare and check my e-mail on the campus WiFi. I can’t check it at the house – Internet is a luxury we can’t afford. If I’m lucky, my neighbor’s signal sometimes bleeds over into our house. Most of the time, though, I’m not that lucky. Which is fine. Except for days like this where there’s a note from my professor asking me to come by her office before class.

Professor Blake is terrifying to those who don’t know her. She’s so damn smart it’s scary, and she doesn’t let any of us get away with not speaking up in class. Sit up straight. Speak loudly. She’s harder on the girls, too. Some of the underclassmen complain that she’s being unfair. I don’t complain, though. I know she’s doing it for a reason.

“You got my note just in time,” she says. Her tortoise-shell glasses reflect the fluorescent light, and I can’t see her eyes.

“Yes, ma’am.” She’s told me not to call her ma’am, but it slips out anyway. I can’t help it. Thankfully, she doesn’t push the issue.

“I have a job for you.”

“Sure.” A job means extra money on the side. Money that I can use to get my dad his medications. Or, you know, buy food. Little things. It’s hard as hell to do stats when your stomach is rumbling. “What does it entail?”

“Tutoring. Business statistics.”

“I hear a but in there.”

“He’s a former soldier.”

Once, when my mom first left us, I couldn’t wake my dad up. My blood pounded so loud in my ears that I could hardly hear. That’s how I feel now. My mouth is open, but no sound crosses my lips. Professor Blake knows how I feel about the war, about soldiers. I can’t deal with all the hoah chest-beating bullshit. Not with my dad and everything the war has done to him.

“Before you say no, hear me out. Noah has some very well-placed friends that want him very much to succeed here. He’s got a ticket into the business school graduate program, but only if he gets through Stats.”

I’m having a hard time breathing. I can’t do this. Just thinking about what the war has done to my dad makes it difficult to breathe. But the idea of extra money, just a little, is a strong motivator when you don’t have it. Principles are for people who can afford them.

I take a deep, cleansing breath. “So why me?”

“Because you’ve got the best head for stats I’ve seen in a long time, and I’ve seen you explain things to the underclassmen in ways that make sense to them. You can translate.”

“There’s no one else?” I hate that I need this job.

Professor Blake removes her glasses with a quiet sigh. “Our school is very pro-military, Beth. And I would consider it a personal favor if you’d help him.”

She’s right. That’s the only reason I was able to get in. This is one of the Southern Ivies. A top school in the southeast that I have no business being at except for my dad, who knew the dean of the law school from his time in the army. I hate the war and everything it’s done to my family. But I wouldn’t be where I am today if my dad hadn’t gone to war and sacrificed everything to make sure I had a future outside of our crappy little place outside of Fort Benning. There are things worse than death and my dad lives with them every day because he had done what he had to do to provide for me.

I will not let him down.

“Okay. When do I start?”

She hands me a slip of paper. It’s yellow and has her letterhead at the top in neat, formal block letters. “Here’s his information. Make contact and see what his schedule is.” She places her glasses back on and just like that, I’m dismissed.

Professor Blake is not a warm woman, but I wouldn’t have made it through my first semester at this school without her mentorship. If not for her and my friend Abby, I would have left from the sheer overwhelming force of being surrounded by money and wealth and all the intangibles that came along with it. I did not belong here, but because of Professor Blake, I hadn’t quit.

So if I need to tutor some blockhead soldier to repay her kindness, then so be it. Graduating from this program is my one chance to take care of my dad and I will not fail.

 

Available for purchase at

Direct from Author | Kindle | Amazon Paperback | iBooks | B&N | Google Play | Kobo

 

About The Author

Jessica Scott is the USA Today bestselling author of stories set in the heart of America’s Army. She’s an active duty army officer and holds phd in sociology focusing on status and morality. She has 12 years prior service, earning the rank of SFC prior to commissioning in 2007. She commanded at Fort Hood twice and deployed as part of OIF/New Dawn in 09 with 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team, First Cavalry Division.

She has written for the New York Times At War blog, War on the Rocks, Modern War Institute, PBS Point of View Women and War and has been featured in Esquire Magazine as an American of the Year in 2012. She has published 14 novels and novellas about soldiers returning from war.

She has compiled two nonfiction projects about her time in Iraq and the return home. She holds a Ph.d & Masters Degree in sociology from Duke, a Masters Degree in Telecom Management from University of Maryland University College, and a BA in Cultural Studies from State University of New York.

Fast Balls
(Balls To the Walls Series, #5)
by Tara Lain

Blurb:
Can two men with skewed self-images see their true reflections in each other’s eyes?

Jerry Wallender—firefighter, surfer, and occasional nude model—knows he’s no rocket scientist. So why does he keep choosing intellectual guys who make him feel dumber? He worked his buns off to overcome his reading disability and pass the firefighter’s test, and he loves everything about the job. Well, except for Mick Cassidy, the big, blond, hunky homophobe who harasses Jerry for being gay. But Jerry is smart enough to realize it’s not hate driving Mick, but the pain of a very unhappy upbringing.

Mick Cassidy, Firefighter Assist and Search Team, fights fires, but he can’t fight his attraction to the kindest, most generous—and sexiest—guy he’s ever met. Does that make him gay? If it does, he just might get himself killed by his gay-hating preacher father—and take Jerry down with him.

Grab your copy at
Kindle | iBooksNook | Kobo | Dreamspinner


Excerpt

Mick wrenched the bag from
Straight’s hands. The guy tried to pull back, but he was so off base. No one,
certainly not this pipsqueak white trash, was keeping Mick Cassidy from trying
to save the kindest, best man he knew.

Mick threw an arm toward
Straight, and the guy fell backward on his ass. Get out of my way.

He crouched, focused, breathed
deeply, and hurled himself through the flames. It felt like a mountain of fire.
Please God, let there be another side.

And there was. The solid wall
of burning hell thinned, and Mick fell through.

Jerry.

Quiet, still, broken like a rag
doll. One of his long legs lay at an odd angle.

No.
No. No.

He scrambled to Jerry’s side,
pulled the respirator from the bag, and pressed it over his face.

“Breathe. Breathe, Jerry.”

A new hot spot flared up beside
him. Damn!

He looked over his shoulder,
back the way he’d come. Wall of flame. No exit. Embers rained and a chunk of
the ceiling fell a foot away. He leaned over Jerry’s still body to shield him
and felt the heat closing in. So this is
it.

He stared down at the closed
eyes of the man he had rushed to save. No question. No hesitation. Funny. It
felt like a choice. A choice that had been no choice.

He looked up. Was God up? Up in
that flaming ceiling? Up in the roof that now opened to the sky?

He took a deep breath and bowed
his head. Okay, God, I spent my whole
life hearing what you love and what you hate. According to my father, you hate
the man who’s lying here, and I should hate him too, and leave him here to die.
If he’s not already dead.

He looked up, and sparks lit up
a disintegrating beam. It would fall real soon.

The
thing is, God, if you hate this man and love my father, your priorities are
screwed up. And if that’s true, I guess I don’t care so much about dying
because I’ll be going to hell, and I know it will be full of people I like.
People like Jerry.

I
sure wish I could have saved him, though. The world is better with him in it.

He looked down at the man who
had said he cared about him. That and being a firefighter were about the only
things he could think of that amounted to much in his life, but they were a
lot. He lowered his head to Jerry’s chest.

 

Big Backlist Weekend with Molly Harper & Tara Lain #2giveaways #Romance

Welcome to Big Backlist Weekend! This is a special event I post every month or so where I ask a wonderful author to come and join me in giving away a copy of an ebook from their backlist.

My guest today is an author I’m a huge fan of, Molly Harper! I’ve grown fangs and run with many a naked werewolf in her company. Her newest series Southern Eclectic is awesome!! She’s giving away 1 paperback copy of the first book in the series, Sweet Tea And Sympathy!

I’m giving away an ebook copy of Return of the Chauffeur’s Son! This is as close as i get to romantic comedy. I call it champagne romance.

Here’s your chance to win one or the other of our books. Just enter on the Rafflecopter below and watch for Big Backlist Weekend with special guests every month.

Remember to grab your copy of Molly’s SWEET TEA AND SYMPATHY at Kindle | Amazon Paperback | Audible | Nook | Kobo

 

Sweet Tea and Sympathy
(Southern Eclectic) 
by Molly Harper

Blurb:

Nestled on the shore of Lake Sackett, Georgia is the McCready Family Funeral Home and Bait Shop. (What, you have a problem with one-stop shopping?) Two McCready brothers started two separate businesses in the same building back in 1928, and now it’s become one big family affair. And true to form in small Southern towns, family business becomes everybody’s business.

Margot Cary has spent her life immersed in everything Lake Sackett is not. As an elite event planner, Margot’s rubbed elbows with the cream of Chicago society, and made elegance and glamour her business. She’s riding high until one event goes tragically, spectacularly wrong. Now she’s blackballed by the gala set and in dire need of a fresh start—and apparently the McCreadys are in need of an event planner with a tarnished reputation.

As Margot finds her footing in a town where everybody knows not only your name, but what you had for dinner last Saturday night and what you’ll wear to church on Sunday morning, she grudgingly has to admit that there are some things Lake Sackett does better than Chicago—including the dating prospects. Elementary school principal Kyle Archer is a fellow fish-out-of-water who volunteers to show Margot the picture-postcard side of Southern living. The two of them hit it off, but not everybody is happy to see an outsider snapping up one of the town’s most eligible gentleman. Will Margot reel in her handsome fish, or will she have to release her latest catch?

Excerpt

 MARGOT CARY LEANED her forehead against the warm truck window as it bounced along the pitted Georgia highway. She closed her eyes against the picturesque landscape as it rolled by. Green, green, green. Everything was so effing green here.

GREEN WAS NOT her lucky color. It certainly hadn’t blessed the opening of the botanical garden’s newly completed Wesmoreland Tropical Greenhouse. Maybe it had been a mistake to carry the green theme so far. Green table linens, green lanterns strung through the trees, down to emerald-green bow ties for the catering staff. Weeks later, she still remembered the terrified expression on one waiter’s face when she caught him by the arm before he carried his tray of crudités into the party space.

Despite her glacial blond beauty, the younger man practically flinched away from her touch as she adjusted his tie. Margot would admit that she’d been a bit . . . demanding in organizing this event. She had taken every precaution to make sure that this evening’s black-tie opening was as smooth as Rosaline Hewitt’s recently Botoxed brow. She’d commissioned a silk-leaf embroidered canopy stretching from the valet station to the entrance to prevent the guests’ hairstyles and gowns from being ruined by the summer rain. She’d researched each invitee meticulously to find out who was gluten-free or vegan and adjusted the menu accordingly. She’d arranged for two dozen species of exotic South American parrots to be humanely displayed among orchids and pitcher plants and a flock of flamingos to wade through the manufactured waterfall’s rocky lagoon.

She was not about to have all of that preparation undone by a cater waiter who didn’t know how to keep a bow tie on straight.

“Go,” Margot said, nodding toward the warm, humid air of the false tropical jungle. He moved silently away from her, into the opulently lit space.

Margot turned and tried to survey the greenhouse as it would appear to the guests, the earliest of which were already filtering into the garden, oohing and aahing. Calling it a greenhouse seemed like an understatement. The glass-paneled dome reached four stories into the sky, allowing the tropical plant specimens inside plenty of space to stretch. Carefully plotted stone paths wound through the flower beds, giving the visitor the impression of wandering through paradise. But knowing how much Chicago’s riche-est of the riche enjoyed a nice soiree, the conservators had been smart enough to add a nice open space in the middle of the greenhouse to allow for a dance floor. She’d arranged elbow-high tables around the perimeter, covered in jewel-tone silk cloths. Gold LED lights cast a hazy sunset glow over the room, occasionally projecting animated fireflies against the foliage. And since society’s ladies would never do something so inelegant as visit a buffet, the waiters had been informed to constantly circulate with their trays of canapés in a nonobvious, serpentine pattern around the enormous shrimp tower in the middle of—

Wait.

“No,” Margot murmured, shaking her head. “No, no, no.”

She snagged the next waiter to walk through the entrance and took his tray. The sweet-faced college kid seemed startled and alarmed to have the chief planner for this event grabbing him by the arm. “You, get two of your coworkers and very quickly, very quietly, very discreetly get that shrimp tower out of here. If anyone asks, just tell them that you’re taking it back to the kitchen to be refilled.”

The poor boy blanched at the brisk clip to her tone and said, “But—but Chef Jean was very specific about—”

“I don’t care what Chef Jean was specific about,” she said. “Get it out of here now.”

The waiter nodded and pulled away from her into the gathering crowd.

Margot stepped forward into the fragrant warmth of the greenhouse, careful to keep her expression and body language relaxed. She was aware that, while professionally dressed in her black power suit, she was not nearly as festive as the guests in their tuxedos and haute couture gowns, but she was perfectly comfortable. She’d attended hundreds of events like this growing up. She would not be intimidated by some plants and a pretentious wannabe Frenchman. She pressed the button of her earbud-size Bluetooth and whispered, “This is Margot. I need to speak to Jean.”

She could tell by the way her words were echoing in her own ear that the head chef of Fete Portable had taken his earpiece out—despite Margot’s repeated requests to keep a line of communication open with her—and set it on the stainless steel counter in the makeshift kitchen. She blew out a frustrated breath. Jean LeDille was not her preferred caterer for high-profile events, but the de facto hostess of tonight’s opening—Melissa Sutter, first lady of Chicago and head of the botanical garden conservators’ board—had insisted on using him. So far he’d been temperamental, resistant to the most basic instruction, and a pain in Margot’s Calvin Klein–clad ass. And when she was done with this event and had secured her partnership at Elite Elegance, she would have Jean blacklisted from every Chicago party planner’s contact list. Theirs was a close-knit and gossip-driven circle.

Someone in the kitchen picked up the earbud and said, “Ms. Cary, he says to tell you he’s unavailable.”

Margot gritted her perfect white teeth but managed a polite smile to the head of the opera board and his wife as they passed. Jean wouldn’t be able to get a job making a clown-shaped birthday cake by the time she was done with him.

“So I guess I’ll just have to make myself available to him, then.”

Margot’s assistant, Mandy, a sleek brunette who reminded Margot of a Russian wolfhound in four-inch heels, fell in step behind her. “Make sure that tower is gone. You have two minutes.”

“On it,” Mandy snapped, and peeled off after the hapless waiters.

Margot pushed through the heavy plastic curtain that separated the greenhouse from the kitchen tent. Far from the muted music and golden-green light of the greenhouse, the tent was ruthlessly lit with fluorescents and heating lamps. Jean’s shouts filled the air, demanding that the canapé trays be restocked tout de suite.

Jean was a stocky, balding man with thick, dark eyebrows and an unfortunate mustache. His chef whites were splattered with various sauces and he sneered—actually sneered—at Margot as she walked into his kitchen.

“What are you doing in ma’ kitchen?” he demanded in an exaggerated French accent. “I tell you before. No outside staff when I am creating.”

“Jean, would you explain to me why there is a shrimp tower in the middle of my venue?”

“I was overcome by the muse this morning. I decide to build you a shrimp tower. Only four hundred dollars extra. I do you favor, eh?”

“Wait. Is that shrimp salad on the crostini?” Margot asked, stopping a waiter before he left with his tray of appetizers. “Because we agreed on poached quail eggs. Mrs. Sutter, the hostess of tonight’s event, whom you’ve cooked for on several occasions, is allergic to shrimp. As in, she can’t even be around people who are eating shrimp because she might come into contact with the proteins. I wrote it on everything. Everything.”

Margot motioned to the field refrigeration unit where she had taped a neon-green sign that read PLEASE REMEMBER THAT MRS. SUTTER IS HIGHLY ALLERGIC TO SHRIMP.

Jean waved her off. “I do not read the cards. My sous chef reads the cards.”

“Jean. Drop the French accent that we both know is about as real as that ridiculous hairpiece and tell me what you are feeding the mayor’s wife.”

The chef, whose real name was John Dill, shrugged and in his natural, Midwestern voice said, “The market didn’t have enough quail eggs, so I took the shrimp. It’s not a big deal. If she’s allergic, she’ll know not to touch it. People make too much of their food allergies anyway.”

“It’s just lovely to know that someone with that attitude is making food for innocent bystanders,” Margot snapped. She called out loud enough for the entire kitchen staff to hear, “Eighty-six the shrimp crostini. Throw them out and take the bags out of the tent. All of you wash your hands—twice—and any utensils that have touched the shrimp—also twice. I need one uncontaminated staff member to make a special shrimp-free plate of food for Mrs. Sutter so we can feed her tonight without poisoning her. Get it done, now.”

Jean was seething, but Margot didn’t give a single damn. Mandy popped through the plastic curtain, a stricken expression on her angular face.

“There’s a problem with the tower,” she said. “It’s too heavy to move. But they’re working on disassembling the shrimp trays to bring them back in before people notice.”

“I don’t care if it’s made of concrete. I need it—” Margot’s response was cut short by a strange honking ruckus from the greenhouse, followed by screams and crashing . . . and running?

One of Margot’s golden eyebrows rose. “What is that?”

Mandy grimaced. “Don’t flamingos eat shrimp?”

Margot dropped her clipboard and her headset to the ground and scrambled through the plastic curtain. “Oh, no.”

The flamingos were making a run at the shrimp tower, pink wings flapping, pecking at the waiters who were attempting to remove the shellfish. The guests were falling all over one another trying to get away from the shrimp-frenzied birds and in the process had knocked over several cocktail tables and the votive candles on top. Those candles had set fire to the tablecloths, which set off the greenhouse’s sprinklers and alarms. The parrots did not appreciate the clanging alarms or the sudden scramble of people. They broke free from their perches and were flying around the greenhouse, leaving “deposits” on the guests in protest. Oh, and Mrs. Sutter was purple and covered in hives.

Margot gave herself ten seconds to surrender to the panic. She let her stomach churn. She let her ice-cold hands shake. She allowed herself to hear everything and nothing all at once. In her head, she saw her career going up in flames with the tablecloths. The promotion and partnership she’d worked for were disappearing before her eyes in puffs of smoke. Everything she’d planned, everything she wanted in life, was slipping out of her fingers because of some misplaced shellfish.

And then Margot put a lid on her anxiety and did what she did best. She put out fires metaphorical and literal. She called an ambulance and the fire department, grabbed the EpiPen from Mrs. Sutter’s purse, and jabbed her in the thigh. Hell, she even took off her pumps and wrangled the shrimp-seeking flamingos back into the lagoon.

But the damage was done. The news photographers who’d prepared themselves for a boring evening shooting glamour poses gleefully snapped photos of society matrons in soaked designer gowns and runny makeup dashing for shelter from the sprinklers. A guest who happened to be a member of PETA started screaming at Margot for mistreating the flamingos while trying to herd them away from (attacking) the guests. And a conservators’ board member handed her an invoice for the thousands of dollars in rare orchid species that had been trampled in the melee.

The next morning, an exhausted Margot sat slumped in the offices of Elite Elegance as her boss, Carrington Carter-Shaw, slapped newspapers with headlines like FLORAL FIASCO and REAL-LIFE ANGRY BIRDS! on her desk. One particularly cheeky tabloid had printed a picture of Margot beating the smoldering remains of a matron’s hairpiece with a wet napkin under the headline FLOWER POWER F***-UP!

“How could you let this happen?” Carrington cried, her carefully blown-out dark hair dancing around her heart-shaped face. “We’re the laughingstock of the Chicago social scene. Guests from last night are trying to stick us with dry-cleaning bills, medical bills—Michelle Biederman claims a parrot flew off with her two-karat diamond earring! The mayor’s office has contacted us—twice—to call our business license into question. I had to move three guys from the mail room just to handle the incoming phone calls. Margot, you’re my star! My rock! You can make a backyard potluck birthday party look like a black-tie gala. You’re the planner I call when it’s clear in the first meeting that the client is absolutely batshit insane. What happened?”

Margot wanted to blame the untested Chef Jean and his “inspired” impromptu shrimp, but ultimately the fault rested with her. She’d lost control of the party. She’d lost control of the food. She’d lost control of two dozen species of birds.

“I don’t know,” Margot mumbled, shaking her head. She took a prepackaged stain wipe out of her Prada clutch and dabbed at a questionable blotch on her lapel. “It all happened so quickly. I—I know, at this point, the partnership is off the table—”

“Partnership?” Carrington scoffed. “Honey, I can’t even keep you on staff. You’re professional poison. I’m going to have to fire you and do it in a very public manner—I mean, picture the polite urban equivalent of putting you in stocks in the town square and pelting you with rotten fruit—so people know that our company is safe to use again.”

Margot let loose a breath she didn’t know she’d been holding. She nodded. In some way, she’d been expecting this. She knew it would be rough for a while and she would have to put off some bullet points in her five-year plan, but she could handle this. She had contingency funds and a secret contact list of important people who owed her favors.

Margot cleared her throat and tried to straighten her rumpled suit jacket. “And what, you’ll shuffle me out to one of the branch offices in the suburbs and I’ll organize bar mitzvahs until this all blows over?”

Carrington frowned. “No, Margot. Fired. As in employment permanently terminated. The partners are willing to give you a three-week severance in recognition of the work you’ve done for us. And I’ll write you a positive recommendation letter. But that’s it.”

“But I’ve worked here for almost ten years. I’ve put in eighty-hour weeks. Ninety during the holiday party season. I don’t have a social life because I’m always here. I haven’t been on a date in more than eight months.”

“Yes, I know. That’s why you get the third week of severance pay. Really, Margot, I think we’re being more than generous here, considering the fallout from this fiasco.”

As Margot walked out of Elite Elegance’s plush offices with a banker’s box full of her belongings and a severance check in hand, she told herself that it would be okay, that this was what backup plans were for, that this situation couldn’t possibly get worse.

It got worse.

Stage one of Margot’s plan had been to retreat to her apartment to regroup, polish up her résumé, and compose a list of companies she could apply to, but her unit’s new tenants kept stopping by to measure for new flooring and curtains. Just a week before the “Floral Fiasco,” she’d given up her lease in preparation to move to a newly purchased condo in Wicker Park. Between the down payment she’d saved and the raise she was supposed to get with her promotion, she would have been able to afford it. But the day after she was fired, she’d gotten a call from the mortgage officer handling her condo loan. Mrs. Meade had seen the news about the greenhouse incident and her firing, and informed Margot that without a job, the mortgage company could not guarantee her loan. The only good news was that the mortgage company was willing to return 70 percent of her down payment. So now, with her lease running out and her condo being sold to someone else, Margot was effectively homeless.

And still, it got worse.

Without a job, she couldn’t get an apartment in a decent building. And the buildings where she could get an apartment were not places where she wanted to live. And she could not find a job. Anywhere. Receptionists laughed and hung up when she called the best event-planning companies in Chicago. Receptionists from second- and third-tier event-planning companies in Chicago also laughed at her. She couldn’t get the companies in New York or Los Angeles to call back. Hell, she couldn’t get companies in St. Louis to return her calls. She still had her savings, but thanks to Mastercard and her monthly expenses, they were dwindling quickly.

Her friends weren’t returning her calls or messages, either. And she couldn’t turn to her adoptive father for help. Gerald hadn’t spoken to her since her mother’s funeral three years before. And she’d promised herself that she wouldn’t take a dime after her parents made their last tuition payment. She still had the shreds of her pride.

The shreds were costing her. She was three days away from living in the storage unit where she’d moved her stuff, sitting at her breakfast bar—because it was the only table space she had left—actually filling in a JobLink profile, when a Skype notification popped up on her laptop. The message said it was from “hotsy-totsy45.”

Margot frowned. She used this account for after-hours and long-distance consultations with clients. She definitely would have remembered a client nicknamed hotsy-totsy45. Leaning back from the screen, she clicked decline.

Blowing a long breath out through her nose, Margot continued to fill out the JobLink form. Another notification from hotsy-totsy popped up.

“Still a ‘no,’ creep,” she muttered, clicking decline again.

But hotsy-totsy would not be denied. And given the amount of chardonnay Margot had consumed just for the sake of not having to move it out of her apartment, it wasn’t surprising that her hand slipped a bit and she clicked accept.

“Damn it!” she grunted, trying to close the chat window before it opened. She did not want to witness the latest in creative junk shots currently being embraced by the Internet’s weirdos. But instead of the expected random nudity, Margot’s screen was filled with the face of an adorable little granny lady with a cloud of snow-white hair and Dalmatian-print reading glasses balanced on the tip of her nose.

“Hello?”

A brilliant smile lit up the granny lady’s face, showing teeth too white and too even to be original parts. “Well, hello there! It took me a little while to track you down, but here you are!” the lady crowed in a Southern drawl so pronounced that Margot had trouble processing what she was saying at first. “You look just like I thought you would. A lot like your mama, mind, but you got a bit of your daddy in there, too. Of course, I thought you’d be a little more polished up, but I’m guessing you haven’t left your house in a while.”

Margot caught sight of her appearance in the little preview window in the corner of the screen and winced. She looked like someone who was unemployed. She was wearing a grubby Northwestern sweatshirt. Her carefully highlighted blond hair was piled into a haphazard topknot. She was wearing her thick-rimmed black glasses, making her hazel eyes look owlish and too big for her face. She hadn’t worn makeup in days, so her skin had taken on a cheesy appearance in the blue light of the computer screen.

“I’m sorry, do you know my parents?” she asked. As friendly as this lady might be, she didn’t exactly look to be Linda and Gerald’s speed. Linda McCready, a nobody from nowhere with traces of a Low Country accent and a toddler daughter in tow, had managed to snag Gerald Cary, MD, while she was working as the records clerk in the hospital where the handsome British expat practiced surgery. She had spent considerable time and energy clawing her way into the upper middle circles of Chicago society. Linda Cary would have gone blind before she wore Dalmatian reading glasses.

“Well, your mama and I were never close, but your daddy is my nephew, so I guess you could say I know that sad-sack face of his pretty well,” the woman said with a chuckle.

Margot’s jaw dropped. Her stepfather had adopted her when she was four years old. But considering that he was from just outside London, it was unlikely he had relatives in Georgia. “You know Gerald?”

“No, honey, your daddy. What do you young people call it—your ‘biological father.’ Stan McCready. I’m your great-aunt Tootie.”

“Beg pardon?” Even Margot couldn’t be sure which part she was questioning—the “biological” bit or the ridiculous nickname. Even in the South, people knew better than to name their children Tootie, right?

“I’m Stanley McCready’s aunt, honey.”

Stanley McCready. Margot slumped on her bar stool. She’d never met her father’s family. Linda had made no secret of her “unfortunate” first marriage to a man named McCready, but she’d referred to it as a youthful mistake she’d corrected when Margot was barely three years old. Stanley was a heavy drinker, Linda had insisted, a train wreck of a man who couldn’t provide for them. After Linda left, he’d almost immediately given up his rights to his daughter without so much as a court motion.

Margot didn’t know where he lived. She couldn’t remember what he looked like. Her mother had never even shown her a picture, insisting that it would be disloyal to Gerald. Neither Mr. McCready nor his family tried to contact her in thirty years, which was fine with Margot. She didn’t have room in her life for an irresponsible drunk who couldn’t be bothered to send so much as a birthday card. And frankly, she resented the idea that her father’s family only reached out now, when she was at her lowest.

And it wasn’t even her father, just some wacky great-aunt with a ridiculous name.

“You know, I thought you’d have that nasal-sounding Chicago accent, but you sound like you should be having tea with the queen. So proper and prim. I suppose that’s your mama in ya. Did she make you take those diction lessons?”

“No, I just like using all the letter sounds.”

The woman snorted a bit and said, “My point is, honey, I’ve been looking for you for weeks now, after I saw the video of your party on YouTube. I spotted you and knew you had to be Linda’s daughter.”

“YouTube?” Margot winced. “How many hits did it get?”

“Hundreds of thousands! Honey, you’re your own meme!” Tootie exclaimed. Suddenly, a window popped up in the corner of Margot’s screen, showing one of the press photos of Margot herding the flamingos away from the shrimp tower with giant print reading NO CAN HAZ SHRIMP, FLAMINGOZ! NO CAN HAZ!

Margot buried her face in her hands. She’d spent most of her twenties carefully policing her own social media posts so as not to damage her professional reputation. And now this. Also, her great-aunt seemed to be awfully tech savvy for a woman who looked to be in her eighties.

“Well, thanks for contacting me and mocking me with age-appropriate Internet humor . . . and dredging up a bunch of unresolved emotional issues,” Margot muttered. “But I’m going to have to sign off now.”

“Oh, sure, honey, I’m sure you’re busy with your job search. How’s that going?”

“I’ve submitted quite a lot of résumés,” Margot said, trying to sound casual.

“Any interviews yet?” Tootie pressed.

Margot floundered a bit while searching for an answer. “It’s still early. You don’t want people to think you’re too eager.”

“Not one callback, huh?”

Margot pursed her lips. “Not one.”

“Well, that’s just fine, because I have a proposition for you.”

Margot’s instinct to say no right that second was quelled when the bank paperwork that showed her checking account balance caught her eye. “What sort of proposition?”

“We need an event planner here at the family business. We’d be willing to provide room, board, and a generous salary.”

“How generous?”

“Well, now, you’ve got to remember that the cost of living is much lower here as opposed to the big city,” Tootie cautioned.

“How generous?” Margot asked again, and Tootie’s blue eyes sparkled behind those reading glasses.

“Here, I’ll send you the compensation package the family put together.”

Another box popped up on Margot’s screen. She clicked on the file and grimaced at the salary, which was about one-quarter of what she’d made at Elite Elegance. “How much lower is the cost of living there? Also, where is ‘there’?”

“Did you notice that the package includes health insurance?” Tootie asked. “When does your coverage run out?”

“Soon,” Margot grumbled. “Also, I noticed you didn’t answer the question about location.”

“And I’m guessin’ from the packing boxes in the background that your lease runs out pretty soon, too. So really, I could see why you would want to stay where you would be homeless and at risk of huge medical bills, in a city where you could be mugged or run down by a taxi or have a windowpane fall on you from twenty stories up. That’s far preferable to coming down to Georgia, to a town where the crime rate is next to zero.”

Margot had never passed the Mason-Dixon Line, not even to Florida. Her mother had always insisted on family vacations to Lake Geneva, to New York, to France. Anyone could go to Disney World, she’d told Margot; Linda was trying to give Margot the world. Margot didn’t know how well she would function in a rural environment, much less a place where she would constantly hear the banjo music from Deliverance in the back of her head.

“But my life is here. My friends are here. I need to stay where the jobs are. And right now, that’s in Chicago.”

“So you lay low for a few months in God’s country, get to know your kinfolk, get that city air out of your lungs, and then relaunch yourself at people who will have forgotten your foul-up once someone else messes up worse. It will be good for you,” Tootie told her.

Margot stared at the offer. Tootie had thought of everything: financial compensation, meals covered, a clothing allowance, and health insurance. She’d even attached a picture of a small cabin on the edge of a lake, labeled housing. And another photo of a huge family posed in front of a lakeside dock. Tootie stood with an older man, holding his hand. Two couples in their fifties stood behind them next to a man with deep frown furrows barely touched by his lopsided smirk. His arm was thrown around a twentyish girl with purple-streaked hair in pigtails wearing a black T-shirt with a pink radiation symbol on it. Another couple stood on the far left, a man in his thirties with curly reddish-blond hair hugging a laughing blonde. The sun was setting behind the family and they looked so happy together, so at ease with one another. And it felt like a punch to the chest. These people didn’t miss her at all. They didn’t feel a Margot-shaped hole in their family, they’d just moved on without her. It shouldn’t have hurt as much as it did. She’d spent a lot of time on visualization exercises so it wouldn’t hurt. And yet . . .

She cleared her throat. “The whole family put this together? Even my . . . even Stan?”

“Everybody,” Tootie said emphatically.

Margot skimmed the top of the document and caught sight of the letterhead, which read McCready Family Funeral Home and Bait Shop.

“Funeral home? Wait, you run a funeral home? And a bait shop?”

“Well, it’s more of a full-service marina, but yes! For four generations now! You’re part of a Lake Sackett institution, hon.”

“Why would a funeral home–slash–bait shop need an event planner?”

“Well, the baby boomer generation is dropping like flies around here, so we’ve got more business than we can handle. We’ve needed to add another planning consultant for a while now, and when I saw your video and looked up your background, I knew you’d be perfect.”

“I’m an event planner. For major society parties, galas, charity balls, that sort of thing.”

“Well, a funeral is a kind of event. And some of the considerations are the same—timing, speeches, music, food, and such.”

“Oh, I just don’t think I could—”

Suddenly, the lights flickered out and her refrigerator died with a whine. Because she’d shut off utilities in preparation for the move to the condo that was supposed to have taken place the week before. But she had nowhere to go. And no health insurance.

She pursed her lips. “When can I start?”

AUNT TOOTIE—MARGOT was still refusing to call her that out loud, on principle—had been very helpful in organizing her immediate move to Lake Sackett. Using her above-generational-average tech skills, Tootie arranged for a local company to ship the few belongings Margot was bringing to Georgia. Tootie booked a flight from Chicago to Atlanta and then assured her that she’d have a car pick her up at the airport and drive her the two and a half hours to the lake country.

Tootie was just so efficient.

Three days later, Margot’s flight was taxiing down the runway at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport and she was clutching her cell phone to her chest. Margot had no idea what she’d face when she deplaned. She’d intentionally avoided reading up on the funeral home or her new base of operations because she was afraid that additional information would convince her to cancel the whole agreement.

Margot managed to find her bags without problems, but she couldn’t find the car service at the arrivals terminal. She scanned the little signs held by the handful of drivers near the exit. Not one of them said Cary. Maybe Tootie hadn’t sent anyone, she thought. Maybe she could take the airport transit system to the departures terminal and book a flight back to Chicago. She didn’t believe in signs, but maybe this was an omen. Maybe she wasn’t meant to meet her father’s family. Maybe she wasn’t supposed to live in Georgia. Maybe she should step back on the sidewalk before that enormous green truck barreling through the pickup area squashed her flat.

The battered early-model truck skidded to a stop in front of her. The side door was marked MCCREADY FAMILY FUNERAL HOME AND BAIT SHOP—LAKE SACKETT, GA in bold gold print.

Margot murmured, “Oh . . . no.”

Tootie hadn’t arranged for a car service. She’d sent a family member to pick Margot up. A stranger in a pickup truck. Everything inside of Margot seemed to tense at once. She’d thought she’d have at least a few more hours to pep-talk herself into the right frame of mind to meet any of her extended family—not to mention the little bottle of vodka she’d purchased on the plane to help prepare her to meet her father. But here it was, spewing exhaust at her, while the driver’s-side door opened. The windows were tinted too darkly to allow her to see the driver. Would it be Stan McCready? Was she ready for that? Was it too late to run back into the airport and hide behind the baggage carousel?

A man in his thirties—the man with curly reddish-blond hair from the family photo she’d studied relentlessly for the last three days—popped his head over the truck frame and grinned at her. His eyes, the same ocean blue as Tootie’s, glowed with amusement as he held up a poster-board sign that read WELCOME HOME, COUSIN MARGOT! in bright red glitter letters. The sign had been decorated with balloons and glittery star stickers. He waved it madly and yelled, “Hey!”

Definitely not her father, then. Margot stepped back, eyes wide, and in a move natural to someone who spent most of her life in a major city, pulled her purse closer to her body.

The bearded man scampered around the front of the truck and threw his arms around her. “Hey, cuz!”

“Who . . . are you?” Margot whispered as he squeezed her tight. His T-shirt smelled of citronella and sunscreen, a pleasant combination, but she generally liked her personal space bubble to be a little more . . . bubbly.

“Oh, I’m sorry! I’m Duffy McCready, your cousin. Well, my grandpa is your grandpa’s cousin, which always muddies the waters with third cousin and once-removed and all that. So we’ll just keep it simple and say ‘cousin.’?”

“And Tootie McCready sent you?” she asked, just in case there was some other half-wild McCready picking up his long-lost cousin at the domestic arrivals terminal.

“We’re so excited that you’re here,” he drawled in his heavy Georgian accent. “I’m sorry I’m late. I had this nightmare customer, refused to give up the search for Billy the Mythic Largemouth Bass. And then Atlanta traffic is always awful.”

“You’re still hugging me,” she noted.

“Sorry,” he said, detaching himself from her. He was a pleasant-enough-looking guy, thin but nicely muscled, with a cheerful face. He was dressed in well-worn jeans, work boots, and a plaid shirt over a forest-green T-shirt that read MCCREADY FAMILY FUNERAL HOME AND BAIT SHOP.

He attempted to take her Vuitton suitcase from her and she held firm to the handle, shaking her head. “I’ve got it.”

After he realized that she was not, in fact, going to let go of her luggage, he raised his hands in surrender. “Suit yourself. I just can’t believe I’m finally getting to meet you,” Duffy said, opening the passenger door for her. “Everybody’s excited that you’re comin’ back home.”

“Everybody?” Margot whimpered.

About The Author

 

Molly Harper is the author of two popular series of paranormal romance, the Half-Moon Hollow series and the Naked Werewolf series. She also writes the Bluegrass ebook series of contemporary romance. A former humor columnist and newspaper reporter, she lives in Michigan with her family, where she is currently working on the next Southern Eclectic novel. Visit her on the web at MollyHarper.com.

You can find Molly at

 

 

 

 

Return of the Chauffeur’s Son
(Movie Magic Romances Book 1)
by Tara Lain

Blurb:

Luca McGrath may be returning to Napa Valley, California, as a promising chef with dreams of starting his own restaurant and winery, but his heart still lives with the bad-boy son of a billionaire, James Armstrong. Luca spent his childhood playing games with the golden boy of California society, so blinded by James he barely noticed the dark, quiet lure of his conservative older brother, Dylan Armstrong.
But now Luca’s home, and his own powers of attraction are enough to make James question his dedicated heterosexuality and his promised marriage to a wealthy and powerful businesswoman. The obvious attraction between Luca and James spurs Dylan into action—but he’s fighting a huge secret. While Luca dreamed of James, Dylan dreamed of Luca. When Luca gets caught in the struggle between the brothers and gets accused of culinary espionage he’s ready to chuck the fairy tale—unable to even imagine Dylan’s power to make his dreams come true.

Grab your copy at
Kindle | Amazon Paperback | Audible Nook | Kobo


Excerpt

That soft, deep voice slithered up his spine and filled
his brain with even more fog. He turned and watched Dylan amble toward him
across the grass, dressed in black jeans and a black long-sleeved T-shirt. He moves like a cat. “I’m not sure I’ve
ever seen you in anything but a suit before.”

“It does happen—occasionally.” Dylan half smiled.

“They should star you in a movie about a panther that
turns into a human.”

Cat People?”

 Luca cocked his head. “You know that old movie?”

 “Yes. Movies are a passion of mine.”

 “Seriously. I thought you just worked all the time.”

 “Surprise.” His light green eyes sparkled.

 Luca leaned back against the fence. “What are some of your
favorites?”

Dylan stepped to the fence and leaned against it too,
about two feet from Luca. Do I really
feel heat coming off his skin?
 Luca took a deep breath.

 Dylan looked up at the stars. “I love No Country for Old Men.”

 Luca barked a little laugh.

 Dylan glanced at him. “Funny?”

 “It’s just the stereotype of the powerful businessman
taking out his enemies wholesale. Sorry.”

 “Okay. Well, I love The
Notebook
.”

 “You’re kidding?”

 “Nope. I don’t think it’s a great movie, but I do love
the chemistry between the young couple.”

 “Yeah, the old couple’s story was even too sappy for me.”

 “I love Michael
Clayton
.”

 “No shit!” Luca chuckled. “One of the least appreciated
movies ever. Love that film.”

 “But I’ll see almost anything with Tilda Swinton in it.”

 “Me too.” He shook his head. How could they have so much
in common?

 “I also love My
Fair Lady
.”

 “Now you are joking.”

 Dylan smiled and gazed at Luca. “No, I’m not joking. I’m
gay. Remember?”

 The word felt like a karate chop to the windpipe. “Uh,
right. Sometimes I forget.”

 “So, how’s the new job?”

 “Uh, wonderful. They really want me to develop new
recipes and dishes. It’s what I love—along with wine making.”

 “Oh? You’re interested in viticulture?”

 Luca nodded. “Part of my degree is in winery management.”

 Dylan pushed away from the fence. “You’re a man of many
talents, Luca.”

 What the fuck did
he mean by that?

 Dylan strolled a few feet toward the house.

 Luca said, “By the way, I wanted you to know that James
invited my dad and me to your party and polo match this weekend.”

 That got his attention. He looked back with a crease
between the beautiful eyes. “Oh? When did he do that?”

 “Earlier tonight, when he and Nila had dinner at the
restaurant. She seconded the invitation and, since it’s kind of her party, I
figured it would be okay.” Did that sound like he had a chip on his shoulder?

 “Then I’m sure it must be okay.”

 Luca stared at the grass. “If you ever want somebody to
watch a movie with, just holler.” Crap!
He wanted to bite off the tip of his tongue.

 Dylan looked equally astonished. “I’ll keep that in
mind.” He turned and walked into the shadows.

 Why the hell did I
say that?
 The sound of the big house door opening and closing carried
across the quiet space.

 Dylan just looks so
lonely.

 And so damned
beautiful.

 

Extended! Act Fast! Win 20+ Romances, E-reader & Tara Lain’s Fire Balls! #Booksweeps

Hi. If you didn’t get the chance to enter Booksweeps for a chance to win 20+ LGBT and Diverse romances plus an ereader, nows your chance! The drawing has been extended to July 6th! There will be 2 grand prize winners! Just go to this link to enter.HERE. I’ve teamed up with more than 20 authors to give away a collection of LGBTQ romances. And you get a collection of FREE ebooks just for entering! My book in the Giveaway is Fire Balls. Enter the giveaway by clicking here:  http://bit.ly/lgbtqdiverseromance Have fun and good luck!! : )

Big Backlist Weekend with Lisa Kessler & Tara Lain #2giveaways #Romance

Welcome to Big Backlist Weekend! This is a special event I post every month or so where I ask a wonderful author to come and join me in giving away a copy of an ebook from their backlist.

My guest today is my friend, Lisa Kessler! She’s awesome and has a brand new release, Dance of the Heart! To celebrate her release of the sixth book in the Muse Chronicles Series, she’s giving away the ebook of The Muse Chronicles Box Set Books 1-3!

I’m giving away an ebook copy of Cataclysmic Shift, the third book in the The Aloysius Tales Series.

Here’s your chance to win one or the other of our books. Just enter on the Rafflecopter below and watch for Big Backlist Weekend with special guests every month.

Remember to grab your copy of Lisa’s DANCE OF THE HEART at Kindle | Kobo | Nook

 

The Muse Chronicles – Books 1 – 3
(The Muse Chronicles Set) 
by Lisa Kessler

Blurb:
Set includes Lure of Obsession, Legend of Love & Breath of Passion

“Another beautiful series from an unbelievable author. She gets me every time.” #1 NYT Bestselling Author Sherrilyn Kenyon

Lure of Obsession –

Melanie Jacoby is the human vessel for the Muse of Tragic Poetry, but she isn’t prepared for the tragedy of finding her roommate dead at the bottom of the stairs.

Nate Malone is the detective assigned to the case, but as the evidence points to an accidental fall, the visions begin. He sees a killer in a gold Kronos mask.

Mel is the next target, but Nate’s determination to protect her is almost as strong as his desire for her.

And tragedy isn’t part of his plan.
~~~~~~~~
Legend of Love

Callie O’Connor’s life has never been the same since the Muse of Epic Poetry came alive inside of her. Now she’s on the other side of the country, working as civilian psychologist for the Navy.

Her newest patient, Hunter Armstrong, is a Navy SEAL. Driven, confident, and dangerous, and he plans to do more than just protect her.

The gods couldn’t have picked a better Guardian. But as Hunter soon discovers, loving Callie could lead to his destruction.
~~~~~~~
Breath of Passion

Erica Sterling owns her curves, and inspires passion in every person she meets. It’s the curse of having the Greek muse, Erato, lurking in her soul. After a hot night with a firefighter, she struggles to keep her distance from him. The gods have other plans.

No one understands fire and heat like firefighter, Reed McIntosh. After meeting Erica, a new ability is awakened inside of him, along with the desire to keep her safe.

When a stalker’s threats turn up the heat, Reed will put his life —and his heart— on the line. But when the ashes settle, will love be too late?

Step into the danger, passion, and happily ever afters of The Muse Chronicles…

Available for purchase at
Kindle | Nook | Kobo

Excerpt

 Excerpt from LEGEND OF LOVE:

Desire pooled low in her belly. She swallowed, unzipping the wetsuit the rest of the way. “We need to talk first. Then you’ll understand.”
He pulled off his wetsuit and turned around to rinse it out. Oh shit. He looked even better in those board shorts than she’d imagined. His calves were chiseled, and his ass… Damn. His shorts hung low, teasing her with the two indents just above the waistline. He turned around to face her again, and she forced her eyes off his chest and up to his face.
“No matter what you tell me—” his lips curved into a sexy smile “—I’ll still want you.”
“But you’ll at least understand why it’s a bad idea.”
He tipped his head back under the water. “Oh, Doc…” He ran his hands through his hair and met her eyes again. “I’m the king of bad ideas.”
Excerpt from BREATH OF PASSION:
Erica woke up sore in all the right places. She’d delivered Reed back to his truck at the bar in a rumpled dress, with bedhead and no underwear.
Damn, that was an amazing night.
With her muse now sated, maybe she could focus on writing a few more songs for Trin’s next album. The cantina was just their test ground for new material. These days, Trinity could sell out a two-thousand-seat concert venue, and if this album sold well, that number would go up, too.
Erica ventured out to the kitchen in her sweats. She grabbed a cereal bowl and spun around when Trin cleared her throat.
Her roommate was at the table with a grin that was all trouble. “So you’re not going to tell me about last night?”
Erica rolled her eyes and went about getting her breakfast. “You saw Reed. How do you think it went?”
She chuckled. “Being hot doesn’t mean you’re good in bed.”
Erica peered over her shoulder. “We never even got to the bed.”
Trin’s eyes widened. “Oh gods! I eat at this table!”
“Please. We weren’t on the table.” Erica grinned.
“So are you going to see him again?”
Erica’s smile faded as she poured her milk. “We agreed it was a one-time thing.”
Trin shook her head. “You know, if you never let a good man into your life, then Jack wins.”
Erica sat across from Trin, poking at her food. “It’s different for me and you know it. The rest of you have muses to inspire music, laughter, dance, epic stories, even tragedy, but me? I inspire sex-obsessed stalkers. One was enough, thanks.”
Trin leaned back in her chair. “You don’t know that for sure. And if you limit yourself to no-strings-attached sex, you’ll never find out. Besides, Reed is Hunter’s best friend; he’s got to be a good guy. There’s no way Hunter would be friends with an abusive jerk.”
Suddenly, Erica wasn’t hungry anymore. “Reed seems like an amazing guy. Spend a few months with my insatiable muse, though, and all that could change.” She shuddered. “No thanks.”
“Fine.” Her roommate got up. “But you deserve more than just one night.”

About The Author


Lisa Kessler is a Best Selling author of dark paranormal fiction. She’s a two-time San Diego Book Award winner for Best Published Fantasy-Sci-fi-Horror and Best Published Romance. Her books have also won the PRISM award, the Award of Excellence, the National Excellence in Romantic Fiction Award, the Award of Merit from the Holt Medallion, and an International Digital Award for Best Paranormal.

Her short stories have been published in print anthologies and magazines, and her vampire story, Immortal Beloved, was a finalist for a Bram Stoker award.

When she’s not writing, Lisa is a professional vocalist, and has performed with San Diego Opera as well as other musical theater companies in San Diego.

You can find Lisa at
Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Goodreads | Amazon | Audible 

Cataclysmic Shift
(The Aloysius Tales Series, Bk #3)
by Tara Lain

Blurb:

Super cat, Aloysius, may be the most powerful witch’s familiar in the world, but when he takes a blast at the hand of an evil witch he loses it all — power, memory, and his feline form — to become the ethereal human beauty, Alain Bellarose. When Alain wakes up naked on the floor surrounded by dogs and cats, his eyes first set upon Luke Elliott, the handsome and mysterious veterinarian. Suddenly, the prospect of being human doesn’t seem so bad.

Luke has a lot to hide and he likes animals way more than people, but he can’t resist the flamboyant boy who washes his face with the side of his hand and tries to lick his own privates! The loss of Aloysius depletes the power of the Witch Master, Killian Barth, and that of his “secret weapon” Sammy and leaves their coven sitting ducks for two very nasty females. When Alain discovers that he’s really a powerful cat, he’s faced with the ultimate choice. To protect his community, or stay with the man he loves.

Available for purchase at


Excerpt

Quiet. He opened his eyes. Dark. His back hurt. It was sorely cramped in here.

He pushed some towels aside and scooted closer to the door. Quietly, he pulled the lever down and opened the door a crack. Nobody. Good. He pushed it farther and looked into that plastic-and-metal room.

Odd. He recognized all the things in this room—an examining table of some kind, chairs, paper towels—but not what the room was for. He stepped out into the dim glow coming in from a streetlight outside the window.

He padded softly across the room and peered out into a short hall, also dark and quiet. To the left, the hall ended at a door. Light came from under it and a low noise, like maybe music or voices. Someone must be in there. To the right were several more doors. He went right.

Hmmm. Restroom. He opened the door. It was very dark, but his eyes seemed good. He looked in. A mirror on the opposite wall reflected the dim light of the hall and what must be… him. He stepped closer and peered at his reflection.

He closed the door. Until he knew his situation, best not to alert anyone. He ran his hand on the wall and flipped on the switch. Light blazed harshly in the tiny room. Holy gods.

He stared. Huge eyes, bluer than blue, stared back at him, surrounded by hair—long black hair down to his back. He turned and looked. The middle of his back. And pale skin. That was him. Truly?

What had he expected?

Not sure, but not this… boy.

He looked down at his bare body. Boy. Or man, for certain. His eyes widened. And quite a man. Look at those couilles.

But not just man. He cocked his head. Hu-man.

Now why was that strange?

He shook his head. This was so peculiar. He wasn’t afraid, exactly, but he didn’t feel at home in this skin. He shivered. There were important things he was forgetting, and he must remember them. He took a deep breath. Lives might depend on it.

He flipped off the light. The dark felt more comfortable. What should he do? That was the frightening part. He didn’t know. Not an idea where he should go, and yet he felt certain he had a purpose he must fulfill.

There was a person out there. Should he go speak to them? He peeked down at his lean body. Probably not like this. Humans were strange about nudity and such things. Wait. He was human, wasn’t he? This was very confusing.

 

Win 20+ Romances & E-reader & Tara Lain’s Fire Balls! #Booksweeps

There’s a great book promotion going on and i want you to know about it. You can win 20+ books by some of your favorite authors and maybe even win an ereader. There will be 2 grand prize winners! Just go to this link to enter. HERE. I’ve teamed up with more than 20 authors to give away a collection of LGBTQ romances. And you get a collection of FREE ebooks just for entering! My book in the Giveaway is Fire Balls. Enter the giveaway by clicking here:  http://bit.ly/lgbtqdiverseromance Have fun and good luck!! : )

Release Day: Love You So Madly! #TaraLain #SuperRomance


Its finally here!! LOVE YOU SO MADLY,  the second book in the Love You So series! I hope you love this super romantic story of unlikely lovers — my very favorite kind. And be sure to enter on the Rafflecopter.

Will Ben give up a lover who drives a Ferrari for one who rides the bus?

Blog Tour Stops

May 29, 2018
Bayou Book Junkie
book review virignia lee
Mainely Stories

May 30, 2018
Stories That Make You Smile
V’s Reads

May 31, 2018
My Fiction Nook
Wicked Faerie’s Tales and Reviews

June 1, 2018
Making it Happen

June 4, 2018
Book Lovers 4Ever
books are love
Rainbow Gold Reviews

Love You So Madly

(Love You So Series, Bk 2)
By Tara Lain

Blurb:

Ben Shane has it all… and he’d like to give some of it back. While he loves his job heading a foundation that funds worthy causes around the world, his engagement to one of America’s wealthiest men leaves him feeling more like a trophy wife than a valued partner. The first warning that his relationship might not be designed to last is his irresistible lust for Dusty Kincaid, the golden-haired, bright-eyed handyman for his company.


Though Dusty is odd for a twenty-three-year-old—no liquor, no sugar, and he can’t even drive—the more Ben gets to know Dusty, the more he admires him. But is Ben going to give up a guy who drives a Ferrari for one who takes the bus? He must be mad. Dusty knows he and Ben can never work. 


After all, Ben’s perfect… and Dusty isn’t. But Ben might surprise everyone with proof that he’s only madly in love.

Available for purchase at at 
Excerpts
In the car Dusty said, “Can we listen to that nice music again?”
He’d noticed. “Sure.” Ben flipped on the Chopin.
For a few minutes, they rode in music. Ben cleared his throat. “Dusty, do you mind if I ask how old you are?”
“Oh sure. I’m twenty-three. How old are you?”
Ben almost laughed. As an executive in a top firm, nobody ever asked him that. But turnabout was fair. “I’m twenty-nine.”
“Wow. You’ve done a lot in your life.”
“Thank you.” Ben glanced at Dusty.
“I haven’t been able to do so much, but I’m working at it.”
“That’s what counts. Keep moving toward your dreams.”
“I like that idea a lot.” He leaned his head back and closed his eyes.
“So your dad doesn’t live at home?”
“No. Never has. My mom’s taken good care of me, though.”
“Has she always been a nurse?”
“No. She had to work so hard. She was only sixteen when she had me, but she never gave me up, no matter what anyone said.” He took a deep breath and let it out in a long exhale. “And no matter how hard it was.”
“She sounds amazing.”
“She is.” He looked out the window. “It’s hard for her to, you know, let me do stuff, but she’s the best mom.”
“So you’re not married?” Ben chuckled.
Dusty mirrored the chuckle. “Not yet.”
“Have a girlfriend?” Oh, very subtle, Shane.
“No.”
“Not yet, huh.”
“Not ever. I’m gay. But I don’t have a boyfriend yet. I’d like to, though.”
Well, okay. Ben swallowed. “You would?”
“Sure, wouldn’t you?”
“I’m, uh, engaged.” Shit. Shit. ShitWhen did I decide to become Mr. Purveyor of Truth?
The passenger seat became deeply silent.
Ben glanced over. Dusty’s eyes were closed, and he seemed to be breathing deeply.
“You okay?”
“What?” His eyes fluttered open.
“Sorry. Just asking how you’re doing?”
“Good, thanks. Just drop me on the curb over there.” He pointed to one of the entrances to Orange Coast College.
“How will you get back to my place?”
“Bus.” He smiled, but his glance scampered all over the place as he opened the door. “Have a great day.”
Ben couldn’t stop. He put a hand on Dusty’s arm—his sinewy, muscled, hot-as-fuck arm. “Dusty, what’s wrong? Come on, tell me.”
“Nothing, honest. Just sometimes it’s hard not to wish I was somebody else.”
“What happened? When you came out, I mean?”
“Some friends dropped me. Some didn’t. I got quietly pushed off the baseball team, even though I was a really good player.” He felt his lips turn up. “But I didn’t care. My folks had already guessed, so little drama there, and the boy I liked, liked me back. Oh yeah. He had a fair amount of experience for a sixteen-year-old, and he spent the summer teaching me what all my adolescent hormones were for. I didn’t mind at all.” He looked up at Dusty, who gazed at him with glassy eyes. He slowly wet his lips. Ben cleared his throat. “Uh, what about you? When did you come out?”
“Oh.” He raised his shoulders and dropped them. “Never, I guess. I always knew, so I just told people and that was all.”
Ben mimicked Dusty’s words from earlier. “Did you have a really tough time in high school?”
A look of pain crossed his face. “Not because I was gay, really.” He sucked a breath. “Back to work?” He pushed away from the counter.
“All right.”
In the bedroom, Dusty grabbed the bucket and carried it out, returning a couple of minutes later with clean water smelling like vinegar.
Ben wrinkled his nose. “You made a salad?”
“White vinegar’s great for cleaning wood floors. I found a bottle in your pantry and added a little to the water. You shouldn’t use much regular chemical stuff on these nice floors.”
“Anything you say.” He flashed his teeth again at Dusty, turned the music back on, and they went to work.
A few strokes in, Dusty glanced over at Ben and sped up his mopping. Ben got faster to match Dusty, and then added a little more speed.
Dusty started mopping like crazy, and Ben copied him, stroke for stroke. Dusty giggled as he wrung out the mop with super speed and went back to his mad moparama.
Ben gritted his teeth, slopped some water on the floor, and spread it around at double time.
Dusty yelled, “No fair. You can’t splash water on this floor!”
“Okay, okay.” Ben grabbed a cloth and dried the floor as Dusty got ahead of him in the race to the door. Ben grabbed his mop, wrung it out, and went into overdrive, swiping like a Mr. Clean fanatic.
Dusty laughed, and Ben laughed with him as they backed toward the wall, angling toward the door.
Dusty yelled, “I’m winning.”
“Don’t even dream it!”
Adrenaline rushed through Ben as he cleaned his last few feet of hardwood. His butt hit something hard and soft at the same time that turned out to be Dusty’s perfect ass. Dusty yelped and spun, thrusting forward his mop like a rapier. Ben met him and they began to fence with crossed mops, howling like loons.
Aluminum handles clanked and beads of water sprayed all over them as they danced around the room.
“Oh!” Suddenly, Dusty’s foot hit a damp patch, his arms flew up as his feet slid out from under him, and he pinwheeled backward, arms and mop flailing.
Ben dodged the swinging cleaning device and grabbed Dusty just before his head hit the wall. Dusty fell forward and landed against Ben’s chest, throwing him off balance despite the size difference, and the two of them careened backward like the tree that fell in the forest when no one was listening. Ben reached out an arm behind him and managed to hurl his body, still holding Dusty, toward the bed that had been pushed against the wall.
His butt hit the mattress, legs still flailing, but he managed to keep Dusty from landing on the floor by hauling him against his body.
“Whoa! Holy crap, that was close.”
When Ben realized they were both okay, he started to laugh—until his current position soaked in, and in, and in.

 

 Love You So Series 

Available for purchase a
Kindle |  Dreamspinner | Kobo | Nook
About the Author
Tara Lain writes the Beautiful Boys of Romance in LGBT romance novels that star her unique, charismatic heroes. Her best-selling novels have garnered awards for Best Series, Best Contemporary Romance, Best Erotic Romance, Best Ménage, Best LGBT Romance,  Best Gay Characters, and more. Readers often call her books “sweet,” even with all that hawt sex, because Tara believes in love and her books deliver on happily-ever-after. In addition to writing dozens and dozens of romance novels,  Tara also owns an advertising and public relations firm. Her love of creating book titles comes from years of manifesting ad headlines for everything from analytical instruments to semiconductors. She does workshops on both author promotion and writing craft. Together with her soulmate husband and her soulmate Dog, she recently realized a vision to live where there were a lot more trees and a lot fewer cars by moving to Ashland, Oregon. She hasn’t stopped smiling since.
You can find Tara at Lain
Giveway

 

Presented by

 

Big Backlist Weekend with KC Burn & Tara Lain #2giveaways #Romance

Hi Everyone!!!!

Welcome to Big Backlist Weekend! This is a special event I post every month or so where I ask a wonderful author to come and join me in giving away a copy of an ebook from their backlist.

My guest today is my dear friend, KC Burn! I just got to hang out with her at RT and had such a good time. Kc is also a brilliant writer and one of her most popular books ever is North on Drummond. I think you’ll see why.

I’m giving away an ebook copy of Brush With Catastrophe, the second book in the The Aloysius Tales Series. I loved writing this book because it involves a geeky nerd, a favorite type of hero for me, and he’s an artist. Some of my most loved heroes are artists. I studied both painting and collage and love bringing those details to my stories.

Here’s your chance to win one or the other of our books. Just enter on the Rafflecopter below and watch for Big Backlist Weekend with special guests every month.

 

North on Drummond
by K.C. Burn

Blurb: 
Sandy Bottom Bay, Florida – Come for the Haunts, Stay for the Beaches! Drew Drummond might call himself a psychic tarot reader, but he doesn’t believe in the supernatural. The business was left to him by his grandmother, and seemed the best way to rise above the chronic criminal behavior of the Drummond family. Despite his efforts, few of the townspeople consider him a good romantic match. Being gay only makes finding love more difficult. When Cliff Garcia, Drew’s teenaged crush, moves back to town and joins the police force, Drew doesn’t think he has a chance. After all, the skeptical cop considers Drew’s profession on par with professional con men, and Cliff had spent his entire school career feuding with Drew’s volatile brothers. Despite the obstacles, Drew and Cliff begin a fiery relationship. Just when Drew starts to believe they might have a chance, he suffers a head injury and begins having visions of the future. If Drew tells Cliff the truth, he’ll lose the man he’s falling for, but keeping his new ability a secret is no longer an option. If he can’t convince Cliff he’s for real, a murderer will walk free.

Available for purchase at

Kindle | Amazon Paperback | Audible | Nooks | Kobo

Excerpt

 A rapping sound, subtly different than the constant throb in his head, caught Drew’s attention. Was someone knocking at his kitchen door?

“Is anyone here? Drew? Kyle?”

Ah, so Cliff was here. Drew waited a moment, but he didn’t hear Kyle respond.

Drew pulled in a deep breath and forced himself to project his voice. “Come on in. The door’s open.”

Or he assumed it was. When he was home, he didn’t usually lock the door. Not only did he have very little worth stealing, no one in town was that stupid. Despite last night’s fiasco, his brothers were very protective of him, and from the explanations he’d been given, his concussion was a result of that. An accident of timing. Probably a good one, truth be told. Brett Cavanagh with a broken jaw would mean jail time for one or both of his brothers, whereas Drew with a concussion had been able to keep them safe. Although he still suspected there would be some harsh words exchanged next time Cliff came across either of them.

A muffled thump and a squeak told Drew Cliff had placed something heavy on the floor next to the kitchen table.

“Where are you?”

It was a good question. Where was Kyle? How long did it take to get rid of a client?

“In here.” This time Drew’s voice was quieter.

Cliff peered into the bathroom like he was doing a perp check— was that even what it was called? He’d only ever seen it on Law & Order when the cops busted into some suspect’s home; he’d never seen firsthand what happened when any of his relatives had been arrested.

In seconds, the wary cop became the concerned cop as Cliff knelt beside Drew.

“Are you okay? Did you fall? How’s your vision? I can call an ambulance.”

The barrage of questions had Drew blinking in shock, unable to answer any questions fast enough, but he reached out a hand to stop Cliff from pulling out a cell phone.

“I’m fine.” Drew let out a chuckle but stifled it quickly. “I just stopped here to rest a bit in the cool, and then I guess I dozed off.”

“And Kyle left you here like that?” Anger made Cliff scowl, and like a flash of lightning, Drew had his first insight into Cliff the man. One he should have twigged to earlier, but morphine was going to be the scapegoat for a lot of things. Cliff had a temper. Drew didn’t recall seeing signs of it in the teenaged Cliff, nor did he feel at all threatened, but a temper. He’d have to remember that.

“Well, he can’t exactly lift me up.”

Cliff’s scowl eased up not at all. “Then he should have texted me instead of going off God knows where and leaving you here on the floor.”

Another laugh escaped, and this one didn’t feel like knives dancing in his brain, which was a big improvement. “God and I happen to know he’s just in the front room, getting rid of a walk-in client. He’s coming right back.”

“Oh.” This time Cliff’s angry expression faded. “A client. Funny, I guess I never asked what you do for a living.”

Drew had no trouble interpreting the odd grimace on Cliff’s face. He’d seen it more than once. What did a Drummond do for a living aside from lie around drinking beer, or stealing shit and causing trouble?

About The Author

KC Burn has been writing for as long as she can remember and is a sucker for happy endings (of all kinds). After moving from Toronto to Florida for her husband to take a dream job, she discovered a love of gay romance and fulfilled a dream of her own — getting published. After a few years of editing web content by day, and neglecting her supportive, understanding hubby and needy cat at night to write stories about men loving men, she was uprooted yet again and now resides in California. Writing is always fun and rewarding, but writing about her guys is the most fun she’s had in a long time, and she hopes you’ll enjoy them as much as she does.

You can find KC Burn at
Website | FacebookTwitter | Amazon | Goodreads | Newsletter

Brush With Catastrophe 
(The Aloysius Tales Series, #2) 

By Tara Lain

 

Blurb:
Sammy Raphael is a crappy witch, and on top of that, he can’t seem to get a boyfriend. Where other supernaturals can bring down lightning and manifest wealth, Sammy can paint. Granted, the “prophetic” paintings he creates at night always come true, but they never predict anything important. Sammy feels like a total loser with a worthless ability.
One night he paints a gorgeous guy who turns out to be his secret crush, the human Ryder, but Ryder’s changed so much he’s almost unrecognizably beautiful. Then Sammy paints an angel who turns out to be a witch. But is that witch also a devil—a devil who can bring down Sammy’s whole community and everyone he loves? And why the hell does Ryder keep changing? Aloysius, the black cat familiar, always backs a winner. So why is he backing Sammy?
This is a 2nd Edition of BRUSH WITH CATASTROPHE
Available for purchase at

Excerpt

 

Sammy looked down into the soup. “That’s the only kind of guy who would ever be interested in me. A cheating rat.”

“Sam, that’s not so.”

His voice shook. “Why the hell do you think he even bothered with me to begin with? What would he want with a stupid loser if he was planning on cheating with half the fucking college?” The tears squeezed out and started to drip down his cheeks.

Ryder put the tray on the dresser and wrapped Sammy in his arms. “You’re not a loser at all. You’re one of the finest people I’ve ever known. You’re kind and funny and so smart. You paint like a master. Even if you do pick strange subject matter sometimes.” Ryder chuckled and nodded toward the painting on Sammy’s easel.

“You saw that?” Sammy snuffled. Maybe if he didn’t move too much Ryder would forget to let him go.

“Hard to miss that painting in a room the size of most closets.”

Pretty embarrassing. But compared to having had your energy drained by a cheating pig and your neck chained by the selfsame bastard while you were blacked out, painting a picture was small potatoes in the shame department.

“Ready to sleep?”

No. “Yeah.” Sammy pulled the pillows out from behind him and lay back down. Al crawled up next to him. His eyelids felt weighted. “Thank you so much for taking care of me. I’ll rest tomorrow, and I should be able to go to school on Monday.”

“Yes, you’ll rest tomorrow, and I’ll see that you do. I’m not going anywhere. I want to make sure that asshole doesn’t come back. I’ll sleep on your couch and be here to take care of you in the morning.”

Sammy shook his head. “No way a human can sleep on that couch. Aloysius won’t even do it. It has lumps the size of Everest. I’ll be fine. Really.”

“Not leaving, so forget about it.”

Sweeter words were never spoken. I don’t want to be alone. He opened his eyes a slit. Ryder gazed down at him. That expression. He remembered it—from the painting. His deep eyes. So soft. So much like love.

A thick fog of exhaustion rolled over Sam, and his eyes wouldn’t stay open. “Sleep in the bed with me and Al. We don’t move much. Sleep here… prommmmissse….”

Giveaway

Rafflecopter Giveaway

 

 

 

Come See Tara at #RT18 in Reno! Signed Free Books

Hi — Are you going to RT in Reno? I am and look forward to seeing you there. Here’s where i’ll be.

Wednesday is my busiest day — 

11-12 in Naples 2 I’ll be giving a workshop called You Just Think You’re Marketing

12-1 I’ll be meeting readers at a Meet and Greet in the Tuscany Foyer. I’ll have print books to give away, first come, first served!

Thursday — 

10-11 — the Dreamspinner Press autograph Scavenger Hunt should be fun! Get there early to receive a copy of an autograph book.

Saturday — 

10:30 – -to 2:00 — I’ll be signing your books and giving away swag at the Giant Book Fair!

6-7:30 PM — Dreamspinner is having it’s FANtastic Day Party. I may be driving back to Orgon by then, but be sure to attend. Tons of prizes!

That’s it. Have a wonderful RT18. I plan to start driving Monday morning. See you in Reno!

Like Contemporary & Paranormal Romance? 35% OFF at #DreamspinnerPress #TaraLain

Hi — 

Another great Sale at Dreamspinner!  All Contemporary and Paranormal romances are 35% off through May 13th. So if you happen to like my books, you can get most of them in this sale. That includes the pre-order of Love You So Madly, my new love story releasing May 29th. Grab it HERE on SALE!

On all my books, here is the Link —

https://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/books/searchresults?q=Tara+Lain

Two of my most popular series are the Love in Laguna Series (5 books) and the Balls to the Wall Series (7 books). Both of these are contemporary, so are in the sale.

If you are a paranormal fan, I’m currently writing a new book in the same world as the Tales of the Harker Pack. You can get the first three books in that series in the sale. Or the Aloysius Tales that are all about witches in New York!

Of course, all of Dreamspinner’s great authors are on sale, so be sure to check them out.

Also, if you don’t have a copy of my Sample Book, you can download it for free HERE.

Big Backlist Weekend with Amy Lane and Tara Lain #2giveaways #Contemporary #Romance

Hi Everyone!!!!

Welcome to Big Backlist Weekend! This is a special event I post every month or so where I ask a wonderful author to come and join me in giving away a copy of an ebook from their backlist.

My guest today is my dear friend, Amy Lane! Keeping Promise Rock is the first book in the Promises Series and a romance classic. I’m giving away an ebook copy of Knight of Ocean Avenue, the first book in the Love in Laguna Series, and one of my most popular romances.

Here’s your chance to win one or the other of our books. Just enter on the Rafflecopter below and watch for Big Backlist Weekend with special guests every month.

 

Keeping Promise Rock
(Promises #1)
by Amy Lane

Blurb:

Carrick Francis has spent most of his life jumping into trouble with both feet. The only thing saving him from prison or worse is his absolute devotion to Deacon Winters. Deacon was Crick’s sanity and salvation during a miserable, abusive childhood, and Crick would do anything to stay with him forever. So when Deacon’s father dies, Crick puts his college plans on hold to help Deacon as Deacon has helped him.

Deacon’s greatest wish is to see Crick escape his memories and the town they grew up in so Crick can enjoy a shining future. But after two years of growing feelings and temptation, the painfully shy Deacon finally succumbs to Crick’s determined advances and admits he sees himself as part of Crick’s life.

It nearly destroys Deacon when he discovers Crick has been waiting for him to push him away, just like Crick’s family did in the past. When Crick’s knack for volatile decisions lands him far away from home, Deacon is left, shell-shocked and alone, struggling to reforge his heart in a world where love with Crick is a promise, but by no means a certainty.

Available for purchase at
Kindle | Amazon Paperback | Audible | Dreamspinner

Excerpt

 WHEN Carrick was seven years old, his mother dated a Bible-thumping bigot who had taken one look at Carrick’s straight, dark hair, liquid black eyes, and pale skin and subsequently declared that “the little Mex kid could pass for white, so he didn’t reckon it would be too much of a problem raising him right.”

“The little Mex kid” had promptly kicked the fucker in the shins and run out of the house. His mother married Bob Coats anyway, but thank the good Lord, he’d never forced Crick to take his name.

Francis was his mother’s last name—and he liked it. Wasn’t so thrilled with her—especially after she married Bob—but the name sounded good. Sounded a hell of a lot better than “the little Mex kid,” anyway.

They moved to Levee Oaks, which could loosely be termed a “suburb” of Sacramento but wasn’t. Levee Oaks was an odd sort of town—sweet little suburban neighborhoods sat cheek-by-jowl next to horse property. The high school was part of a larger Sacramento district that covered some of the less savory parts of the city, but the grammar schools were all part of an elementary district, and so they behaved like the high school and junior high were on Mars and not worth their consideration. The result was a whole lot of confused junior high students and a high school environment that was known for sending substitute teachers screaming for tequila and a gun permit.

A lot of the residents in Levee Oaks had jobs in the considerably larger city of Sacramento. A lot of the residents didn’t have jobs, period. A whole lot of the residents attended one of the churches that seemed to sit large on every corner. After Carrick lived through his first flood at the age of eight and a half, he’d figured that the churches were there to keep the water back.

After living through another levee break only one year later, Crick figured the churches were not doing their job and were therefore pretty goddamned useless. This was why he started ditching out of Sunday school, which was how he met Deacon.

Ditching out of Sunday school was not as much fun as it sounded. There were no arcades, no movie theaters—hell, there was barely a 7/11 to haunt, and besides, he didn’t have any money, anyway. Mostly what Carrick did, dressed in his threadbare khakis and striped polo shirt, was wander. He’d wander up one narrow road, down one tiny road, and along East Levee Road, and finally, he’d find his way to the levee.

One day, he found his way to the levee and followed it to Deacon’s father’s horse ranch and fell in love.

At first, he thought he was in love with the place, because it was everything his own home was not. The ranch house was big enough (whereas his mother’s house always seemed too small) and painted a whimsical blue, with a nice little patch of lawn and a U-shaped driveway that circled around to the back, where the spread opened up a bit. There was a barn four times the size of the house and two work-out rings, as well as enough sun-browned pasture-land for twenty horses to graze comfortably outside, and enough sun-scorched riding land beyond that so that not all the workouts had to be in the workout rings.

But the house, as nice as it looked, was just a house, so the next thing Crick figured he loved was the horse, because she was—as Deacon said for years—one of the prettiest little fillies he ever did raise. Her movements were liquid-silver, her gait smooth as lube, and her color was a fine, dark chestnut. As Crick grew to love horses he had to agree with Deacon’s assessment—even when he thought that ‘lube’ meant engine grease.

So Crick fell in love with the horse next, but then he found his final love, and that was the boy in the ring, the one guiding that pretty little mare through her paces. His brow knotted in concentration, his face lit with some sort of holy joy—well, he really made the poetry of muscle, sinew, hide, and motion come alive.

Crick looked around and saw that there were a number of folks hanging off the fence of the workout ring, so he wiggled between two kids his own age and stood up on the lowest rail of the fence, the better to look over the top rail and get a better view.

“Isn’t she pretty?” the boy next to him whispered, and Crick looked at the horse and thought of wind.

“Yeah,” he said.

“Deacon says that if they can breed Lucy Star here and produce a stud, The Pulpit will start rolling in money.”

“Deacon?” It sounded grownup but pretty too. In the years that followed, Crick never got tired of hearing Deacon’s name.

The kid—a plain-looking boy with straight brown hair and a rather aggressive brow—nodded to the boy in the ring, and Crick found out what real love was all about.

Deacon Winters had been beautiful his entire life. Crick would never see him acknowledge it, even once, which was fine. Crick could do all the appreciating of Deacon’s beauty all by himself.

The boy in the ring took off his blue ball cap and revealed brown hair streaked blond by the sun, slicked back against his head with sweat and falling across his brow from what had once been a buzz cut on the top of his head. His face was a very square-ish oval—he had a square chin and high cheekbones and a wide forehead, and wide-set green-hazel eyes that were remarkably pretty, even in the glaring sun.

His face and hands were tanned, but his upper arms under his T-shirt were pale, and even at thirteen or fourteen, he was showing long swathes of knotty muscle in his biceps, chest, shoulders, and across his back. His wrist-bones were wide, because he had a bit of growing to do, and his collarbones peeked sharply through his sweat-soaked blue T-shirt.

Deacon had always thought of food last and horses first—one thing among many that had made Carrick love him even more over the years. Even so, the seeds of that love started at that very moment, as Carrick watched those wide, capable hands carry that horse through her paces like a cloud carried water from the sea to the valley.

Carrick couldn’t hardly contain himself, and when he couldn’t hardly contain himself, he never could contain his damned mouth.

“Geez, that’s a pretty horse. Did you breed her yourself? How old is she? Do you get to ride her? Damn, I want to ride her—do you think I could ride her? Are you Deacon? This boy says your name is Deacon and mine’s Carrick. Deacon’s not anything like Carrick, but maybe your name is Irish, like mine. My name is Irish because my mom is Irish, even though my real dad was Mex. But we don’t talk about him, so if I am Irish, and you are too, we could be brothers, right? I wouldn’t mind a brother, because my mom’s pregnant again and it’s another girl…,” and so on. Anything—anything—to get that boy to look up at him, to get him to respond, to get someone that beautiful to notice that Carrick existed.

But Deacon ignored him for the next fifteen minutes. He was working the mare, and that was where his concentration went, and that was all she wrote. The two boys next to Crick shifted on the fence and gave him pitying looks before hopping down and going elsewhere. (Crick found out later that they were clients, waiting for their riding lesson, and they would eventually form the background haze of his miserable adolescence.) Carrick was left there—him, his mouth, and the boy of his dreams.

Finally the workout was done, and Deacon led the mare off for water and a good brushing. He looked up at the little nuisance on the fence and jerked his chin, indicating that Crick should follow him.

“You want to ride?” he asked as Carrick trotted up beside him, and Carrick nodded furiously, for once blessedly silent.

“You want to ride, I’ll teach you after lesson hours. But you gotta help muck out the stables, right?”

Crick thought that sounded fair. Besides, even horseshit sounded better than Sunday school.

“And another thing,” Deacon said, looking down at Crick from what seemed an impressive height. (Crick would grow a good four inches taller, but he didn’t know that.) “Please don’t talk so much. You’ll spook the horses.”

Please don’t. It was as harsh as Deacon ever got. He didn’t talk much—never did. Teachers thought he was stupid until he aced their tests. Riding clients talked at him continuously, trying to get him to break into conversation, but Deacon would blush and turn away. It took Crick years to get him to open his heart and spill it out, and even then didn’t realize how rare it was that Deacon would talk to anyone at all. But all that impressive silence had its perks.

If Crick wanted to know if he’d ever crossed a line, all he had to listen for were those words, please don’t… and he’d subside.

Deacon had that effect on a person.

In fact, Carrick would later reflect that Deacon’s effect on him was about the only thing that kept Crick alive and out of prison during the next eleven years.

That evening, Parish Winters drove Carrick home, Deacon on the other side of him in the big, steel blue Chevy truck. Crick liked Deacon’s dad—he had gray hair, a weathered face, and a sort of sweetness around his smile. Deacon might have had the same sweetness, but he tended to pinch his mouth closed, concentrating all the time.

It didn’t matter—Parish saw the heart of his son, and, in that first night, Crick could tell that he saw the heart of a lonely, angry boy as well.

“I reckon we’ll take the boy on Saturdays and Sundays,” Parish said after Crick’s stepdad had opened the door.

Bob Coats had made noises. “Sunday’s the Lord’s day! Boy belongs—”

“Wandering the levee, looking for trouble? I reckon the Lord would rather we kept him busy, you think?” Parish snorted, and Bob had opened his mouth to argue again, but one up-close-and-personal glare from Deacon’s father had shut him down.

“Now you listen here. This ain’t the first time I’ve seen your kid wandering the roads. You wanted to keep him in church on Sunday, you needed to spend some more time with him every other day.”

“He’s not my kid,” Coats denied hotly. “Little Mex bastard is Mel’s mistake. But we need him to take care of his sister….”

“Well, you’ll have to need him some other days, then,” Parish said, his implacable face a testament to his disgust.

“Why this kid, Winters?” Coats asked snidely. “He’s pretty enough—is that your thing?”

Carrick had looked up as though shot. It was like Bob Coats had seen directly into his heart and made note of the lovely glow that had surrounded it since he’d seen Deacon. But Coats was purely invested in pissing off Deacon’s father, and it worked. Parish grabbed Crick’s stepdad by the front of the sweat-stained T-shirt and shoved him against the door.

“You listen here, you ignorant bastard,” he growled. “My son is a good kid—he gets good grades, he works his ass off—and he don’t ask for nothing but the right to sit a horse. Birthdays, Christmases—that boy’s been neck deep in sweaters, because he doesn’t want a damned thing. Until today. Today he asked me for Carrick to work at The Pulpit two days a week. And since you don’t give a damn about that boy, I’m going to give Deacon what he wants and Crick here what he needs.” Parish punctuated this speech—one of the longest Crick would ever hear him make—with a shove at Bob’s shirt against the door.

“If you want him that bad you can have him!” Coats spat to the side then, and Crick barely missed getting snot in his hair. “But he damned better be here after school to watch the little one for his mom.”

“I will!” Carrick swore fervently. He actually didn’t mind sitting the baby—Bernice, Benny for short, was a sweetheart with a wicked smile. Until he’d talked to Deacon Winters, his two-year-old sister had been about his best friend.

And so it had started. Carrick’s lifelong love affair with horses—and with Deacon Winters—was well on its way.

The next weekend, when Crick was ass-deep in horseshit and still happier than he’d be watching television at home, he asked why. Why’d Deacon put him and his daddy out to rescue Crick from domestic misery?

Deacon had shrugged and grinned at him. His grin was a tight-muscled, sunshine-powerful thing that made Carrick’s stomach fly. “You’re as honest as a horse, Crick. Loud, but honest. That don’t come easy.”

So Crick had a quality—a virtue of sorts. He clung to it. There were some difficult years—some damned rough years, in fact—but Deacon had seen honesty in him, and Crick determined that Deacon would never see anything less.

Which was why, that very same weekend, when Deacon put him on the back of a horse and walked that placid, bombproof gelding around the circle with a gait as soft as a cotton ball on a cloud, Crick had grinned fiercely at his hero and laughed. “Dammit, Deacon, it’s awesome… but I want to go faster!”

Deacon tilted his head back and laughed. “All right, Speedy. Let’s try a canter.”

And Crick held on for dear life. He never realized that from that moment forward, so did Deacon—but Deacon did manage to drop him some hints.

The time Crick got busted for smoking weed under the high school bleachers in the sixth grade, Deacon had dropped a big one.

At Crick’s (panicked, tearful, shameless) begging, the school authorities had called Parish to take him in hand instead of his mom and stepdad, and Deacon had come with him.

If Crick had room for one more request, it would have been that Deacon would never have known about his complete idiocy. The kid who asked him had Deacon’s brown hair and eyes, only a little darker, and grooves in the sides of his cheeks, and he had… had smiled at Crick. Had let him in on the joke. Had copied off his math homework and given him some cookies from his lunch in return. It was as close as Crick would ever get to actual popularity—smoking weed hadn’t seemed like that big a price to pay.

Then he saw the fearsome look on Deacon’s face as Parish’s big blue pick-up drove up, and it had seemed like entirely too high a cost.

Parish had needed to deal with the school authorities—and from what Crick figured out, a whole lot of lying had gone on about how Bob and Melanie Coats would be the first ones to know and how a month’s worth of detention would be impossible for him to serve, since he was helping at The Pulpit to feed his family.

And while Parish was doing that, Deacon was making a month’s worth of detention sound like a dream come true.

“What. In. The. Hell.” It was all he could say. Crick stared at his hero as Deacon struggled with words, with breathing, and with the tremble of temper in his hands as he apparently debated whether to strangle Crick or turn him over his knee.

“I’m sorry, Deacon.” He tried to be stoic. Oh, he really did, but the tears were slipping out, and his nose was starting to run. Screw Brian Carter and his Oreo cookies—he’d trade them all just to have Deacon’s good opinion back.

“Do you know what happens if you smoke weed, get drunk, do stupid shit like this? Do you have any idea?” Crick’s back was to the school wall, and Deacon was looming over him, his fist pulled back and cocked like he was going to hit something. Crick didn’t quail. Bob tanned his hide at least twice a week—Crick could handle pain, and this time he deserved it.

“I’m sorry…. Please don’t say I can’t come over any more. Please let me keep working at The Pulpit….”

Deacon let his fist fly—straight at the wall above Crick’s head. He grunted at the impact, and Crick heard bones crunch, but Deacon just looked down at him, holding his blood-dripping hand and shaking his head.

“That shit can kill you on a horse. Horses don’t know drunk from mean, you don’t know a buzz in your brain from a tree in your head—you do that shit, you can’t come around no more. That shit’ll get you killed!”

Crick looked at the blood on Deacon’s hand and cried harder. Without hardly knowing what he was doing, he rubbed the abused knuckles with his thumb. “I won’t, Deacon. Please. Just… just please don’t be mad at me. Don’t….”

“Why’d you do it?” Deacon asked, shaking off the attention as he always did.

Crick hiccupped and yielded to the one virtue he’d ever been accused of having. “He was nice to me, and I was lonely.”

Deacon dropped his head with a sigh and carefully repositioned his baseball hat with his good hand. “You gotta hold out for the weekends, Crick. Just remember, you got friends and family from Saturday morning to Sunday night. Please don’t make me say you can’t come over. Please.”

Oh, Jesus. Deacon had said “please.”

Parish came out and got them then, and he took his son to the ER at Kaiser in the city without much more than a “Jesus Christ, Deacon—you couldn’t lose your temper on a pillow or something?”

When the hand and wrist had been stitched and set in a cast, he’d taken the boys out for ice cream. There had been no mention of school, detention, or the many reasons drug abuse was bad and horses were good. There was just the three of them, eating ice cream and asking Deacon how he was going to hold the reins with the awkward cast on his hand. Deacon shrugged. “That little gelding’s so sweet, I just gotta think in the right direction. We’ll be all right.”

And they were. Crick’s troubles were by no means over, but following Parish’s and Deacon’s examples, that was his last flirtation with substance abuse. Of course, three days later, after Deacon’s cast had been replaced with the waterproof fiberglass variety, Deacon took Crick on a trail ride along with Deacon’s best friend, wide receiver Jon Levins, and Deacon gave him another reason to never risk losing the best thing in his life.

The Sacramento River could be downright foul in some places, but in Levee Oaks, there were a few tributaries, mostly used for irrigation, that were both deep and clean. One of these ran through the far end of The Pulpit, complete with a big granite rock underneath a couple of oak trees. Deacon called it Promise Rock, and so did Jon, and Crick caught their excitement as they packed up the saddlebags with peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, apples, water, and towels.

The ride itself wasn’t long, but it was hot. You didn’t wear your swimming trunks on the back of a horse, and it was already in the nineties, even though it was only May. They didn’t care. Parish and Patrick, The Pulpit’s one permanent employee, were off showing Lucy Star, trying to get up points so Lucy Star’s babies could be sold with a pedigree. Deacon had been slated to show her until he broke his hand, so there were no riding lessons and no football practice and pretty much nothing but mucking out stalls and working the other animals until the damned cast got taken off.

Deacon had asked nicely, and he and Parish figured that taking three horses to the end of the property and back counted as working them. The result amounted to a holiday better than going to the zoo or the movies or anything else that Crick hadn’t been able to do because step-Bob hadn’t wanted to spring for it.

For one thing, Crick got to ride a horse just as far and as fast as he wanted. Ever since his first ride around the little circle, Crick had lived and died for that chance to be free, and the only thing different about this was that there were two other horses in front of him, going mach one with their tails on fire.

It was awesome.

Eventually, they had to slow to a canter, which was probably good, because the muscles in his legs were going to give out—it was hard work holding on to a horse in a gallop, even harder if you were going to ride him, help him with the lifting of your body and the guiding of your legs and hands and stomach. About the time Crick thought he was going to humiliate himself by asking for a sedate walk, the oak trees they were heading for became clearly visible over the scorched fields that Parish mowed once a year for hay.

A little more cantering and they were swinging off the horses and leading them to the sloped bank of the swimming hole for water, and Crick got a good look at the only place in his life he’d ever held sacred.

Promise Rock was nothing really—a stand of rocks above a wide, deep spot in something less than a river and more than a stream. The rocks were surrounded by oak trees, so the place was shady, and they were sentinel oaks, so there were no scorched grasses in their shade. But the air there, in the shade and by the water, was about fifteen degrees cooler than it had been crossing the field, and they were far enough away from the levee and the roads that the only sounds there were the jangle of tack and the boys’ rough, happy breathing now that the ride was done. It was pretty, peaceful, and secret, and for the first time in his life, Crick felt like he was in the center of things. Only this little group of people—and Parish, of course—knew about this swimming hole. There was no trash, no used condoms or soda cups, and no reminders about step-Bob or his little sisters or the classes he hated or the fact that the whole rest of his life seemed to be wrapped up and tied into this crappy little town.

Crick thought that if The Pulpit was his world and Parish was his holy father, then Promise Rock was the church where he’d come to worship.

Deacon had the saddlebags, and he rustled inside them quickly and then threw trunks at Jon and Crick and began to strip off his own clothes to put his on without ceremony.

Crick tried hard not to swallow his tongue.

He’d always known he was in love with Deacon Winters, but he’d figured that was a “normal” kind of emotion that every boy felt for a hero. The boys around him had been talking about girls, and as sixth grade progressed, Crick had assumed he eventually would want to look at them and talk about them too. He had been afraid of that time—because it would mean less of his soul was centered on Deacon—but he assumed it was an age thing and it would pass.

Deacon’s skin was pale—especially next to Jon, who was tanned and blond from days in his parents’ swimming pool—and he had scars from riding and playing ball and one across his stomach from an appendix surgery, so he was not perfect. But oh God and boy howdy, was that boy beautiful. The tight, knotty swathes of muscle he’d seen the first time he’d seen Deacon had massed out a little in the last two years, but he still didn’t eat quite enough. His collarbones stood out vulnerable and delicate from his defined chest, and the hollow between his neck and the slope of his shoulders seemed to be especially tender. He had a flat beauty mark next to his right nipple, and another one low on his collarbone, and Crick tried hard—very hard—not to stare at the same time he was memorizing their positions so he could claim them at some later date. He had to take off his own clothes anyway, or he’d look like a dork, so for a minute that broke his concentration.

He had just skinned off his underwear when Jon said something inconsequential and witty, making Deacon throw back his head and laugh, and Crick looked up instinctively.

Oh God. Deacon was naked, his trunks held out in front of him as he prepared to step in, and Crick got a clear view of him, laughing and nude and beautiful enough to make his heart break.

And his little pecker stood at attention with a rush of blood Crick swore came directly from his brain. He flushed—probably so badly it looked worse than sunburn—and threw on his trunks haphazardly. Without looking at either of the other boys, he gathered his clothes into a knot and dropped them in a little wad up on the rock, then looked up with the most innocence he could muster.

“Can we just jump right on in then?” he asked, and Deacon nodded with a slight smile.

Thank God the water was cold, or Crick might have tried to drown himself in it, just for form.

As Jon and Deacon ran up the rock and leapt in from the height to a shrieking splash in the swimming hole, Crick had time to come to a couple of realizations.

He was never going to start looking at girls.

And he would probably love Deacon Winters truly and deeply for the rest of his entire life, in the way that most men loved their wives.

And someday, because Deacon thought he was honest, he would have to take his balls in one hand and his heart in the other and tell Deacon himself.

But not on this day. On this day, he would laugh and splash with Deacon and Jon. On this day, he would laugh at Jon (who was as extroverted and witty as Deacon was not) and watch Deacon on the sly to see his eyes crinkle and his mouth open wide as he laughed.

On this day, he would listen to the older boys shyly talk about their girlfriends and try very hard not to break his heart over it. They were not flirting with each other—and a phantom girl that Crick could not see did not feel like much of a threat.

On this day, Crick would be happy, and he would be good, and he would strengthen his resolve to behave at school so that Deacon would never again have to see the worst of him, the way his mom and step-Bob did.

He managed to make that resolution stick for three years.

About The Author

Amy Lane has two kids in college, two gradeschoolers in soccer, two cats, and two Chi-who-whats at large. She lives in a crumbling crapmansion with most of the children and a bemused spouse. She also has too damned much yarn, a penchant for action adventure movies, and a need to know that somewhere in all the pain is a story of Wuv, Twu Wuv, which she continues to believe in to this day! She writes fantasy, urban fantasy, and gay romance–and if you accidentally make eye contact, she’ll bore you to tears with why those three genres go together. She’ll also tell you that sacrifices, large and small, are worth the urge to write.

You can find Amy at
Website | Twitter | Amy Lane Anonymous–Facebook Group

Knight Of Ocean Avenue
By Tara Lain

Blurb: 

How can you be twenty-five and not know you’re gay? Billy Ballew runs from that question. A high school dropout, barely able to read until he taught himself, Billy’s life is driven by his need to help support his parents as a construction worker, put his sisters through college, coach his Little League team, and not think about being a three-time loser in the engagement department. Being terrified of taking tests keeps Billy from getting the contractor’s license he so desires, and fear of his mother’s judgement blinds Billy to what could make him truly happy.

Then, in preparation for his sister’s big wedding, Billy meets Shaz—Chase Phillips—a rising star, celebrity stylist who defines the word gay. To Shaz, Billy embodies everything he’s ever wanted—stalwart, honest, brave—but even if Billy turns out to be gay, he could never endure the censure he’d get for being with a queen like Shaz. How can two men with so little in common find a way to be together? Can the Stylist of the Year end up with the Knight of Ocean Avenue?

Available for purchase at

Kindle | Amazon Paperback | Audiobook

 GAGA’S “EDGE of

Glory” played in his ear. Damn. Quit.
He reached out and pawed at the edge
of the coffee table until he finally felt the phone. His fingers found the mute
button and he clicked it. Peace. He tried to roll over. Heavy.

 “Merwaorwr.”

“Mewr.”

Claws dug into his
chest as the weight lifted, then disappeared. “Go back to sleep.” He rolled
over until his face and body were pressed against the back of the couch. Ouch.
His dick hurt. Sleep. Ouch.

Well, damn. Slowly
he rolled onto his back and stared at the ceiling. He glanced to the side.
Clancy and Yerby gazed at him like they could command him with will force alone
to open the tuna. “Hang in there, guys.”

Oh man. Not hung
over. He’d had half a beer. But here he lay fully clothed on his couch, aching
in his bones and feeling like someone had kicked him in the nuts. That would be
him. He’d done it to himself.

He swung his legs
over the side, sat up on the edge of the couch, and dropped his head. Four eyes
stared up at him. “Go open it yourself.”

Three times. He’d
wanked himself into oblivion three times while rewinding that frigging porno.
Was there one line he didn’t engrave in his brain? Every “unh, unh, unh. Fuck
me harder” was emblazoned in his memory. Jesus, Ballew. Yeah, Jesus was the
operative word. But if he was going to hell for jerking off, he’d be taking
every male in the world with him.

Of course, he didn’t
just masturbate; he wanked to gay porn. What the hell is that about? Truth?
He’d been kicked in the teeth so many times by so many women, the idea of
fucking a nice uncomplicated man kind of did it for him. Well, not seriously,
but the theory was attractive. And no, he would not be sharing this revelation
with the guys on the job site.

The bang on his door
about sent him into outer space. Who the hell? Nobody came here. He didn’t
share his address much. No poker with the boys or make-out sessions with the
girls. His place. His. Who was it?

The knocking came
again.

Shit!

He jumped up.
“Yeah?” The cats looked up at his loud voice.

“Billy, it’s Jim.”
The voice came through the door.

Jim. Billy looked
around, grabbed the laptop, closed it tight, and slid it onto the end table.
Lube. Shit. He shoved the open tube into the drawer, then staggered over to the
front door. How much did he smell like sex? Damn, his sweats were halfway to
his knees. He dragged them back up, then opened the door.

 “Hi. Sorry,
overslept.” He ran a hand through his hair.

Jim Carney was a
little older than him and a good guy, if a bit of a hound dog. He grinned.
“Sorry. My truck broke down. I was kind of close to here and remembered your
address. Thought I’d see if I could get a ride.”

“Uh, sure.” He
glanced over his shoulder. It felt strange having somebody here. “Come on in. I
need to feed my cats and take a quick shower, if you want to wait.”

“Sure. Too far to
walk and all uphill.” He stepped in. “You have cats?”

 Billy looked at Jim.
The guy had a tough face with a broken nose that some women liked. “Yeah, I got
two. You like cats?”

“No. Just think it’s
kind of funny that you do.” He smacked Billy’s shoulder. “You crazy cat lady,
you.”

Well, hell. “Make
yourself at home.” Kind of. He walked into the kitchen, the boys behind him,
and scooped out some cat food into both dishes. “Here ya go, guys.” He raised
his voice. “Don’t let feline haters make you feel bad.”

Jim laughed from the
living room. “This is quite a place you have. Jesus, man, what are you, some
closet decorator?”

Billy frowned and
walked into the living room. “No, I just like having a nice place of my own.”

“But you’re so
damned neat.” He was holding a glass globe Billy had found in a yard sale.

“So?” He took the
globe and put it back on the shelf.

“Nothing. No wonder
women like you so much.”

“I’m taking a quick
shower.” He started for the bedroom, stopped and grabbed the laptop, then went
into his room—small with a big bed.

He glanced at his
watch, still ticking on his wrist. Double shit. If he didn’t hurry, they’d both
be late for work. Saturday shifts were good for making extra cash, but not if
he didn’t get there.

 He stepped under the
water. Too cold. Shaved so fast he nicked himself and finally got some clothes
on and hurried back into the living room. Jim sat on the couch holding a book,
the two cats staring at him from across the room. He stared back. Billy laughed.
“Have they got you cornered?”

“Shit, man, those
two are scary. What are they, ninja attack cats?”

Billy sat and pulled
on his work boots. He nodded at the book. “What you got?”

Jim held out the
book. “This is heavy shit, my man.” The copy of Jane Eyre kind of weighed down
his hand.

Billy tried to keep
his brows from scrunching together. “I just like to read. I didn’t get to go to
school too long, so I read, okay?” He didn’t say he read because it was like a
fucking gift to finally be able to do it.

Jim set down the
book and stood up. “You really are different, you know?”

“Thanks a shitload.”

“I don’t mean it
bad. You’re just—not like most of the guys.”

 Man, was he tired of
hearing that.

Giveaway

Rafflecopter Giveaway