Special Guest: Mary Calmes with A Day Makes!

Hi. This is Tara. Thank you for stopping by the blog. I’m on vacation right now — the first longer-than-a-weekend vacay I’ve taken in years that didn’t include writing workshops. While I’m gone, I invited a bunch of my friends — some of your fave authors — to stop by and share their news and new releases. I know you’ll love it. Enjoy. Talk soon. : )

Please welcome author Mary Calmes

 

 

A Day Makes
By Mary Calmes

Blurb: 
First from The Vault

Mob enforcer Ceaton Mercer has killed a lot of people in a lot of different ways—he stashed the last two bodies in a toolshed belonging to a sweetheart marine researcher in an idyllic island community—but he’s really not such a bad guy. Over time he’s found a home of sorts, and he even learns he’s found a place in the hearts of the people he works with… at least enough so that they won’t put a bullet in his head because he’s outlived his usefulness to the boss.

But he never thought he’d find one day could change his life, and he’s about to discover how wrong he is.

Because in a single day, he meets the man who looks to be the one, the love of his life. It’s an improbable idea—a man who deals in death finding love—but it’s like it’s meant to be. That single day gets weirder and troubles pile up, forcing Ceaton to take a hard look at his dreary life and accept that one day can change everything, especially himself. His future might be brighter than he expects—if he can stay alive long enough to find out.

 

Available for purchase at
Dreamspinner | Kindle | Amazon Paperback | Audible | Nook | B&N Paperback | Kobo | iBooks

Excerpt

 

Chapter Two

BEING MOB muscle was probably not a lot of people’s idea of being safe and sound, but for me, it was grounding. There’s comfort in knowing exactly what you’re supposed to be doing at any given moment. It’s what I loved about being in the Marines, the lack of questions. Being on Grigor’s payroll was similar. I knew what to do when I got up, where to go, who to check in with, and that I was to follow up with Grigor if I found any issues.

What started out as me standing in the background, listening, watching, changed over the past eighteen months to me leading. Grigor grew to trust me to get things done without him having to be there with me or me having to check in with him. I was not a guy who needed to be micromanaged, and he appreciated that. Since he traveled almost exclusively with Doran Loncar, who was in charge of his protection, that left me, Pravi, Marko, and Luka Novak to do the things Grigor preferred not to dirty his hands with.

For instance, Grigor didn’t want to talk to the drug pushers. He had no interest in meeting them, handing out the product, or making sure that what was sold and the money that came in balanced. Marko wasn’t terribly patient with that either. I’d been surprised that there was a Russian in Grigor’s inner circle, once I figured out that everyone else was Serbian, and it turned out that Marko was just as amazed by my inclusion.

“How did you start working for Grigor?” I asked Marko one day, drunk enough that I was brave and sober enough to process the answer.

“Grigor and my old boss, they wanted to do business, but there was no trust.”

“Sure.”

“So they switched us, me for him. I would protect Grigor; Grigor’s man Todor, he would protect Bohdan.”

“But?”

He leaned forward on the table, looking at me, and I realized he was sloshed too. “Todor, he was no good, and Bohdan died choking on own blood.”

“What’d you do?”

“I gut Todor and killed man who came after Grigor in the night.”

“Did whoever took over for Bohdan want you back?”

He lifted his brows to indicate the yes. “But already, my loyalty was for Grigor. If I went back—with new boss there, I start at bottom.”

“That sucks.”

“Da.”

I blinked. “How come ‘yes’ is the same in Serbian and Russian?”

He stared at me.

“That’s weird, right?”

He tipped his head back and forth like, maybe.

“We’re bonding, am I right?”

The look I got told me the jury was still out, but that was okay. We were the two odd ducks, the two everyone else gave the side-eye to when they first met us, which, of course, made us closer. He was the one I ended up taking with me whenever I went to talk to club owners, another thing Grigor didn’t like to do.

Collecting protection money on a large scale was something Grigor approved of. Nothing small, no mom-and-pop gas stations, no diners, no quaint little bed and breakfasts. Big dance clubs, lounges, restaurants, and anyone who owned a string of something like car dealerships, food trucks, check-cashing places were fair game. He liked funds rolling in, but again, going to those places, showing his face, was not his bag.

Not that I blamed him. As the head of the Serbian mob in Las Vegas, making deals with drug cartel kingpins was more glamorous than collecting money from pimps, running down leads from guys who stole guns or product from us, or killing people. With me in charge of those efforts, Grigor drew further and further away from anything remotely criminal. And while no one was stupid enough to think that Grigor Jankovic was completely on the up-and-up, he couldn’t be directly tied to anything particularly illegal… at least on paper. The dirt had to be excavated, and since no one could get a warrant to do any digging, he looked really good from the outside.

He made huge real estate deals to buy and sell hotels as well as investments in startups, casinos he had his fingers in, and the stock market. He built a wing in the local children’s hospital that he got to do the ribbon cutting for when it opened. He donated a shit-ton of money to the symphony and got his own private box, and he really enjoyed flipping mansions. Not big houses, but actual mansions that sold in the millions. When he took over a strip mall that turned into an urban renewal project, he couldn’t be seen in public with me and the others anymore. Only his lawyer, his accountant, and Doran were allowed in photographs with him. The rest of us were a little too shady.

When he was invited to a fundraiser for the mayor, I thought Marko was going to choke on his laughter.

“What?” Pravi asked.

“Is so—” Marko looked at me, gesturing with his fingers, searching for the word in English. “How do you say—against what is right?”

“Hypocritical?”

“Da.”

Pravi nodded. “He doesn’t do his own killing.”

“That’s what we’re for,” I told him.

On his way out the following night, before he left in the limousine in his Armani tuxedo with his socialite tobacco heiress girlfriend on his arm, he stopped and passed me a box. I got a pat on the cheek, and then he was gone.

Inside, there was a nickel-plated Armscor Rock Island Armory M1911A1 with pearl grips. It was gorgeous, and just like the one he carried. I was very touched.

“Is pussy gun,” Marko said at dinner later that night after we’d made our runs. Luka Novak, who had joined the crew right before me, still lived at home with his mother, and when we dropped him off—or tried to—she always made sure we had a little something to eat before we went home.

At the moment, she was bustling around the table, having made goulash that smelled like heaven, cheese rolls, and Salcici—sort of a puffed pastry filled with jam—for dessert.

“She’s cooking too much for us,” I told Luka, smiling up at Mrs. Novak as she stopped behind me, put her hands on my face, and then pressed a kiss to my cheek.

“What about my nice nephew, Ceaton. He asked after you last Friday after Mass.”

I whimpered and looked at Luka, who pretended to be very interested in his roll.

“Oh, Ma, the cheese in here is so good.”

She was delighted and flitted off to get him a couple more.

“You should have never told anyone you were gay,” Pravi stated. “It was a mistake. Now all the mothers who have a son who doesn’t want to get married to a woman have their sights set on you.”

“Was mistake,” Marko agreed.

“At least they’re trying to get me laid,” I chimed in. “That’s nice.”

“They’re trying to get you married,” Pravi said, enlightening me. “Which is not so nice.”

The issue was, besides the occasional blind date, I wasn’t seeing anyone at all. There wasn’t time. Much like the other guys, if I had an itch, if the lack of sex went so long that I thought I was going to die, then I’d find some guy willing and able to help me out. I got the occasional fuck, but what I did couldn’t actually be classified as one-night stands because they never took that long.

I’d hooked up with men in bathrooms, in the backseat of cars, in alleys, and very rarely, in their apartments. It made no sense to follow someone all the way home and be leaving fifteen, twenty minutes later. It could have lasted longer, but I just wanted to get off and go. Kissing was a lost art with me; I had no interest, it took so much time. Fucking was about fast and dirty and hot and done.

I tried to want more from people, but no one held my interest at all. I never stopped dead in my tracks, overwhelmed by another person’s beauty or allure. I noticed men, but no one made my whole body go still in anticipation of the next words out of their mouth. I’d never stood transfixed in another person’s glow.

Not that I didn’t want to find a man who made me look at him twice. I had dreams of finding the one, the guy who would care as much about my mind as he did about my body. I had the whole lazy Sunday morning fantasy going on, where making love and talking were spread out through the entire day.

But my reality was guys hanging upside down on meat hooks while Marko carved pieces out of them so their boss or their friends didn’t fuck with Grigor. We had to intimidate and enforce, collect and distribute; it was a full-time job that did not leave a lot of time for dating. What I realized, however, was that despite all that, I was still a romantic at heart. And while it was difficult, surrounded by death, by the solitary existence I led outside of work, I still took every corner wondering if this was the turn that would lead me to the one.

It wouldn’t be easy, with the company I kept.

“You should not be married,” Marko said, interrupting my thoughts. “To leave someone behind to bury you is not kind.”

I shot him what I hoped was a pained look.

He scowled quickly. “Is true.”

“Wouldn’t it be worth it to find love?”

“For who?” He arched an eyebrow at me.

“And is it fair to drag a nice person into this life of guns and death?” Pravi posed. “I say no.”

Both fair points.

Marko tipped his head at the new gun in my holster. “You should not carry that. People will try and take it from you for no good reason. A man who carries that kind of gun has small dick.”

I smiled at him. “Grigor carries the same gun, asshole.”

He shrugged and leaned sideways, lifting a gun from his ankle holster and passing it to me. It was a Sig Sauer P226. “Take this.”

“I don’t need a new gun, M,” I assured him. “I have the one I got originally, and now I have one that’s really fancy.”

“Is too fancy,” he declared, using my word, enunciating it and making it sound stupid. “And this one I give you, I have Osprey silencer that fits it. You need this.”

I glanced over at Pravi, whose mouth was hanging open, and then at Luka, whose eyes were huge and round. I understood why. Marko didn’t hand out firearms to just anyone.

Leaning sideways, I bumped against him and was surprised when he didn’t let me straighten up instantly, instead curling his hand around my cheek and pressing me to his shoulder for a second. I had no idea he was capable of any sort of warmth at all, so really, I was as shocked as the others.

I told Grigor when I saw him the next afternoon how much I loved the gun but that carrying it would bring attention, even under my coat, and that wasn’t a good idea. The idea was to be forgettable, not memorable in any way.

“So the gun is too pretty?”

“Yeah.”

He squinted at me. “It’s the same gun I carry.”

“You seldom carry a gun anymore.”

“True.”

“And when you are strapped, I’m thinking you carry this one to be memorable. Am I right?” I asked, hoping it would make sense to him. I didn’t want to hurt his feelings over the fact that I wasn’t going to use his gift, but Marko was right. It was too flashy for me.

His nod, along with the smirk, made me laugh.

“You are not as easy to forget as you think,” he assured me. “You’re a handsome man, Ceaton Mercer. All the women ask after you.”

I grunted.

“You’re lucky you’re gay, or I’d have to get rid of you.”

“Oh?”

“No man wants to be in competition with his own, and I have enough problems already with Pravi.”

He was right about that. Pravi gave new meaning to the words “smooth operator.” The charm that oozed off that man was lethal. A few times there had been a woman on Grigor’s arm who had watched Pravi with the eyes of a huntress. And even as I thought about the ridiculousness of the conversation, I saw how flat Grigor’s stare had become as he gazed off into the distance.

He didn’t like being second in any area of his life, and that included being the best-looking of us. I hadn’t really considered the idea that his ego would extend to something so small and petty.

“Yeah, but you like your women classy,” I commented, going with the pretext that we were just shooting the shit and that this wasn’t, possibly, a life-and-death discussion for Pravi. “And your boy likes them easy.”

It took a moment, but my words sank in, and he turned and grinned at me. “Yes, that’s true. Pravi has a definite type.”

I snorted out a laugh. “And it ain’t the same as yours. Can you imagine Brooke Collingsworth looking twice at Pravi?”

She was Grigor’s latest socialite, her father worth a cool billion.

“No,” he replied smugly, “she would not.”

I shrugged. “So who cares.”

He nodded and gestured for me to sit with him.

I was about to do as he asked when the door opened and Jaja came rushing into the living room and over to Grigor. She grabbed his hand and told him that something was wrong with Sonya.

Normally Sonya, Jaja’s youngest daughter, called Grigor every Sunday while he was hungover and watching soccer. They had been raised together, and he thought of her as more of a sister than a cousin. Because it was his veg day and the one day a week she didn’t have classes or have to work, always, without fail, they spoke at some time between one and four. Now he looked at the time and saw that it was only three, so he told her not to worry.

“No,” she insisted, her grip on his hand tightening. “A mother knows. I know.”

He stared at his aunt for a moment and then turned to me. “Go check on Sonya.”

“Going now,” I agreed, getting on my phone and calling Pravi. “I’ll call when we get there,” I said to Grigor before I walked out the door.

Luka, Marko, Pravi, and I were on a plane for Boston two hours later.

 

 

About The Author

Mary Calmes believes in romance, happily ever afters, and the faith it takes for her characters to get there. She bleeds coffee, thinks chocolate should be its own food group, and currently lives in Kentucky with a five-pound furry ninja that protects her from baby birds, spiders and the neighbor’s dogs.

 

You can find Mary at

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads | Amazon 

 

Special Guest: KC Burn with Tea or Consequences!

Hi. This is Tara. Thank you for stopping by the blog. I’m on vacation right now — the first longer-than-a-weekend vacay I’ve taken in years that didn’t include writing workshops. While I’m gone, I invited a bunch of my friends — some of your fave authors — to stop by and share their news and new releases. I know you’ll love it. Enjoy. Talk soon. : )

Please welcome author KC Burn

 

 

Tea or Consequences 
By K.C. Burns

Blurb:
Riley Parker: temp, twink, geek… sleuth?

Maybe Riley isn’t living up to his full potential, but being a temp executive assistant suits him. He’s never bored at work, he’s got friends who let him geek out, and he’s got a carefully crafted twink exterior… which might be getting constrictive now that he’s on the other side of thirty. Life isn’t perfect, but it’s comfortable.

It all unravels when he takes a job working for a tea-obsessed cosmetics queen, the owner of Gautier Cosmetics. During the launch party for a new product, Riley finds his boss dead under suspicious circumstances, and the homicide detective is none other than Tadeo Martin, Riley’s high school obsession who never knew he was alive.

Tad drafts Riley to get the scoop on the inner workings of Gautier, and for Riley, it’s like a drug. His natural inquisitiveness is rewarded with more and more Tad. Unfortunately, his snooping puts him in the running for two other roles: suspect and victim. The killer doesn’t care which.

Available for purchase at

DreamspinnerKindle | Amazon Paperback |  Kobo | Nook | B&N Paperback |iBooks

Excerpt

 

Early Sunday morning Riley rolled out of bed, refreshed and mostly feeling good. He had vague memories of getting up late Saturday afternoon and spending several hours dozing in front of the television before returning to bed. The sleeping pill might have hit him harder than normal, but Riley suspected it was the stress of finding Gabrielle on top of the highly soporific effects of his sleeping pill that had kept him zonked for over twenty-four hours. Giving up a precious weekend day was well worth it, though, because it no longer felt like ants were running through his brain and over his skin.After plucking his phone off the dresser, he turned it on, pleasantly surprised by the lack of “WTF?” texts from his friends. Riley quickly shot off an email about bailing on gaming later that afternoon. For many things in his life, gaming was and had been a welcome distraction, but he’d never be able to concentrate.

Most importantly, he had no messages from his agency. Which meant that until further notice, he would be returning to Gautier Cosmetics. If nothing else, they might need some assistance redistributing Gabrielle’s files and fielding phone calls, keeping the lights on while the family mourned.

Thinking about redistributing files twigged a memory that had completely escaped him when faced with Tad while trying to recover from the shock of finding Gabrielle dead. Before he could enumerate all the reasons he shouldn’t or couldn’t talk to Tad, he retrieved the business card from the pants he’d stuffed into the laundry hamper—and dialed the number.

“Detective Tad Martin.” Tad’s words were alert and brusque, despite the delivery in a voice thick and rough like he’d just woken up.

A delicious shudder shook Riley as he imagined Tad naked in bed, hair mussed, a sheet barely covering sleek hips, and he manfully resisted the urge to palm his cock.

“Hi, it’s Riley Parker?” Riley grimaced. Between the breaking voice—again—and Riley saying his name as though he wasn’t sure who he was, Tad was probably silently laughing on the other end of the line. Embarrassment killed Riley’s burgeoning arousal. “Uh. From Friday. Gabrielle Gautier’s death? I’m sorry I woke you up.”

Tad cleared his throat. “Riley. Yes. It’s fine, you didn’t wake me up.”

Sure he didn’t. But there were more important things at stake.

“I remembered something else. Something unusual—or at least I think it was unusual—happened about a week before Gabrielle died.”

“Okay. Think you can meet me at the Golden Griddle on Carlton in an hour for breakfast?”

Stunned, Riley couldn’t reply. He’d remembered such a tiny tidbit of information, hardly worthy of an in-person meeting, and yet the temptation, however foolish, to see Tad again was irresistible. “Yes, I can do that.”

“See you in an hour.” Tad disconnected the call before Riley could second-guess himself. It wasn’t a date, but his fascination with Tad had already come roaring back when he’d thought he’d successfully buried it and salted the earth over those fruitless feelings.

 

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 connect with KC at
Website | Facebook | Twitter | Newsletter

Special Guest: Damon Suede with Lickety Split

Hi. This is Tara. Thank you for stopping by the blog. I’m on vacation right now — the first longer-than-a-weekend vacay I’ve taken in years that didn’t include writing workshops. While I’m gone, I invited a bunch of my friends — some of your fave authors — to stop by and share their news and new releases. I know you’ll love it. Enjoy. Talk soon. : )

Please welcome author Damon Suede

 

 

Lickety Split
By Damon Suede

Blurb:
Lickety Split: Love won’t wait.

Patch Hastle grew up in a hurry, ditching East Texas for NYC to make his name as a DJ and model without ever looking back. When his parents die unexpectedly, he heads home to unload the family farm ASAP and skedaddle. Except the will left Patch’s worst enemy in charge: his father’s handsome best friend who made his high school years hell.

Tucker Biggs is going nowhere. Twenty years past his rodeo days, he’s put down roots as the caretaker of the Hastle farm. He knows his buddy’s smartass son still hates his guts, but when Patch shows up growed-up, looking like sin in tight denim, Tucker turns his homecoming into a lesson about old dogs and new kinks.

Patch and Tucker fool around, but they can’t fool themselves. Once the farm’s sold, they mean to call it quits and head off to separate sunsets. With the clock ticking, the city slicker and his down-home hick get roped into each other’s life. If they’re gonna last longer than spit on a griddle, they better figure out what matters—fast.

Available for purchase at
Dreamspinner | Kindle | Amazon Paperback | Nook |B&N Paperback | Kobo | iBooks

Excerpt

 In this excerpt from Chapter Four, the day after their first awkward, intense sexual encounter, Patch takes a dip in the pond not expecting Tucker to show up.

 On the big rock near the pond’s center, Patch stood again and scraped the water from his wavy hair. He had a memory of his pa balancing him on a horse as a boy. Steady now. The sun felt like heaven through his closed eyes. He turned and dove back in.Even at its deepest, the water only came up to his chest and the carp in the weeds weren’t something he’d ever eat. The bottom was broken rock at one end and cool mud at the other.

Patch had learned to jerk off against those flat rocks, snuck beers, and smoked the only two cigarettes of his life too. Sophomore year, he’d fooled around on the rockier shore with teammates because it was private and navigable in the dark. Against that tree, he’d kissed his first girl (meh) and blown his first boy (yeah!).

“Afternoon.”

Patch stiffened and straightened, twisted to face the gravelly drawl with a cold twist in his gut.

Tucker stood on the opposite shore in Carhartt overalls and that straw work hat. His muscular arms looked tan and greasy against his white undershirt. “I guess we had the same idea.” He glanced at the sky, the water. “It’s hot as a whorehouse on nickel night.” He shifted his weight but came no closer.

A flicker of Tucker naked in the armchair, glittering eyes gazing down at him, the taste of his semen pinning them both in place… Patch blinked it away, hyperconscious of his wet, bare skin and the distance between them. He went no closer to the pebbly shore.

They eyed each other. One Mississippi, two Mississippi, three—

“So…. Uhh.” Tucker took his hat off with one hand and wiped his brow and mouth with the other. “We talking?”

Patch frowned, trapped by his nudity and the water.

“I mean, do we talk about what we done?” Tucker crouched at the water’s edge, his boots sinking into the smooth mud. No one had a right to look that good. “Last night. Or are you fixin’ to run off again?” He said run like a cuss word, painting Patch a coward for having some sense.

Patch started to snap back at him out of habit, but then he thought better of it. “Naw.”

“How you today?” Tucker seemed to be actually asking a legitimate question. “Better?”

He shrugged. “I guess. Sure.” Exposed and motionless, he let Tucker’s gaze rest on him across the water. Whatever had passed between them last night had not vanished in sunlight.

Tucker looked relaxed, and cautious.

Patch swallowed, his shaft fattening underwater. “I shouldn’t have done that.”

He crossed his arms. “Which part?” Tucker squinted. “Come to visit? Squirted the side of my trailer? Eaten my load?”

“None. All.” Knowing it was a mistake, certain he would regret it, he pushed through the cool water toward the one person he had no business wanting. He moved as he would’ve for a racy photo shoot, fucking the imaginary lens with his presence, demanding a reaction.

Tucker watched him warily from under the trees still, overalls hanging from one strap. “I guess we are.” A crooked smile bent the edge of his mouth. “Talking.”

The closer Patch got to the shore the more of his torso was revealed: nipples, navel, and gradually the darkened trail down to his pubes. His dick thickened and shifted in the water, swirling around his waist as he advanced. Now his body was clean but his thoughts were everything else.

Tucker stared as if hypnotized. He wiped his lower face, lip to chin, and swallowed. He was sweating now. Was that a boner in his overalls?

Patch strode in slow motion, stirring the calm pond water as if sleepwalking. He shouldn’t want this so much but couldn’t make himself care. Conscious of the picture he made, he crooked a sinful grin just for effect.

Eyes wider, Tucker stood and took a step back. “Well, okay, now. Okay.”

“You afraid of me now?” Patch paused one step before his erection broke the surface. Tucker stood as if rooted to the shore. “Or you gonna come for a swim?”

“I’m good.” Tucker swallowed and his tongue slipped out to taste his lips. He couldn’t seem to look at Patch’s face. “Fine. Y’know.” His hands squeezed and released beside his pockets.

So Patch took the step that brought his knob out of the water and his boner dripped between them. Way too much fun watching the big cowboy squirm. He’d come out here looking for trouble; Patch was happy to give it to him.

On the shady shore, Tucker rocked back on his heels and shifted his straw hat to cover the lump under his coveralls.

Patch couldn’t look anywhere else. Another step. The cool mud sucked at his toes in the water dripped from his skin with each step he shouldn’t take.

How had he gotten here? Naked on the family farm, thigh-deep in stagnant water, walking toward a bear trap. New York City and all its fancy bullshit seemed like the other side of the world. Hot wind pushed through the trees overhead; the kudzu hissed and the live oaks whispered above them.

Tucker stood waiting and wary now, a sexy, lazy no-account who’d only ever wanted to scare him straight. They both knew better, but now they stood a yard apart with disaster churning between them.

 

About The Author

 

Damon Suede grew up out-n-proud deep in the anus of right-wing America, and escaped as soon as it was legal. Though new to romance fiction, Damon has been writing for print, stage, and screen for two decades. He’s won some awards, but counts his blessings more often: his amazing friends, his demented family, his beautiful husband, his loyal fans, and his silly, stern, seductive Muse who keeps whispering in his ear, year after year.

Get in touch with him at
Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads | Amazon

Special Guest: Z.A. Maxfield With All Wheel Drive!

Hi. This is Tara. Thank you for stopping by the blog. I’m on vacation right now — the first longer-than-a-weekend vacay I’ve taken in years that didn’t include writing workshops. While I’m gone, I invited a bunch of my friends — some of your fave authors — to stop by and share their news and new releases. I know you’ll love it. Enjoy. Talk soon. : )

Please welcome author Z.A. Maxfield

 

All Wheel Drive
(Bluewater Bay #18)
By Z.A. Maxfield

Blurb:
Healey Holly is battered, depressed, and looking to go to ground in his childhood home. He wants to rent the garage apartment, but it’s Diego Luz’s place now, and the last thing Diego wants is to share it.

Diego is recovering too—from the accident that put him in a wheelchair and the death of his mother shortly after. The garage apartment is where he’s keeping his mother’s things, and as long as they’re up those stairs and he’s down on the ground, there’s no way he can deal with his loss. And that’s just how he likes it.

Healey believes in science. Diego believes in luck. It will take a blend of both, and some prayer thrown in besides, for these two to learn that it’s the journey and the destination that matter.

Available to purchase at

Kindle | Amazon Paperback | Nook | B&N Paperback |  Kobo | iBooks 

Excerpt

 

 

Chapter 1

Diego

The man at the door was a mess.

Diego’s first look through the peephole showed a sort of monster silhouette—a weirdly shaped humanoid dragging a wheeled duffel bag.

In the porch light’s acrid yellow glow, the very shape of him set off a boogeyman, stranger-danger skin-crawl. Ruthlessly, he suppressed any instinct for self-preservation and opened the door wide, but his visitor was just an ordinary man with a mass of healing facial wounds, one arm in a cast, and the haunted look of a recent combat veteran. Diego didn’t recognize him, but there was nothing to be scared of. Whatever had happened to him was potentially frightening, but he was only a guy.

“Can I help you?”

“I hope so. I called about the room over the garage?”

“And I told you when you called: I’m not renting it out. I need it for storage. How did you even know—”

“I’m still hoping you’ll change your mind. I grew up around here. I remember the family that used to live here, and I feel like—” The man stopped. Gathered himself. “I need a room for a little while, and if you’re only using it for storage . . .”

Sorrow limned what few features Diego could guess at behind the bandages, healing abrasions, and the shiny pink newness of burns. Dude had shaved his hair on the sides but the top was long, the result being a man-bun swirl of wavy brown hair that looked greasy. How was this guy even keeping himself clean? Despair, and something infinitely worse hung around him like a toxic cloud. Hopelessness.

Diego recognized the man’s helpless anxiety and anguish all too well.

“What’s your name?” he asked.

“John Smith.”

Irritated, Diego eyed him sourly. “I take it you ain’t filling out a rental application?”

“Sure. I’ll fill one out.” It was hard to watch a smile crack those dry, scabbed lips, but it was a nice smile. A friendly smile. Dude wasn’t using it very often, obviously. “I’m thinking of taking up fiction writing as a career anyway.”

“You make it so hard to say no.”

Diego started to close the door, but that soft cast shot out, and Diego didn’t have it in him right then to add injury to . . . injury.

“You want to try and convince me some more?” Diego asked sarcastically. “You want to add you’re also a known terrorist carrying small pox?”

“Two thousand cash a month. Six months tops. It’s a room with a toilet, a sink, and a shower, right?”

“How do you know that? How’d you even get my number?”

Dude’s eyes widened. Then narrowed. “Never mind how I know. My Uber driver left me, and I’ll have to walk all the way to the nearest motel. Where is that, anyway?”

“Three thousand,” Diego countered, “and you move whatever shit’s up there down to the garage.”

“Done.” The dude frowned. “Wait. What’s up there?”

Diego shrugged. “Stuff from my mother’s place, probably. I told the company that moved me to put whatever wasn’t marked for immediate use up there. And since I can’t exactly fly up there to take a look around”—he thumped the wheels of his chair—“I don’t give a shit. Haven’t missed a thing, so whatever’s up there can’t be too important. You move it, hand me thirty Benjamins, and we’re good.”

“Yeah?”

Was that relief on his face? Diego didn’t smile back. “Trial basis. For a month.”

“Fine.”

“Too much drinking, drugging, loud sex? Not fine. Loud parties? Not fine. No one better bother me, leave trash around, or even look at me askance. No redneck music. In fact, give me your number.” He took out his phone, opened the contacts, and let his new tenant type it in. “I control all of the music around here, or you can leave right now. I can’t walk up those stairs but I can light the place on fire from below and rebuild. If you piss me off, I’ll shoot you and tell the police you frightened my permanently-seated ass, and we’ll see who they blame.”

“Askance? Is that a thing now?”

Oh, there it was again. That elusive spark of humor. “It’s always been a thing.”

“I’ll be sure not to do it.”

“All right, then. I’ll get you a key.”

“No need.” Dude reached gingerly into the pocket of his leather jacket. He pulled out a fat wad of cash and a Costco card. “That lock’s always been a piece of shit.”

Diego took the cash, counted it out. “This is only two grand.”

“I’ll get you the rest tomorrow. I’m good for it.”

Diego nodded, wheeled backward, and gave the door a shove to shut it. It banged in the dude’s face, but that was partly the wind. Dude couldn’t blame him for the wind, could he?

So. Now he had a tenant for a bit.

He could have said no.

He could have said hell no.

As soon as the dude got a look at his room, he’d probably come back down. If he caused any trouble, Diego could give back the money and boot his ass. If John Smith gave him any attitude, Diego could call the cops. But that would be a lot of bother to go through, when spending the night in a dank-ass garage apartment with no bed, no food, and a single hanging overhead lightbulb was punishment enough.

A quick look at the time told Diego he’d better call it a night. While he went through the motions getting ready for bed, the part of his brain that remembered the haunted look in his new tenant’s eyes—the part of him that recognized and responded to and acknowledged the unfairness of things and the failure of good people to alleviate human suffering in the long run—listened with half an ear for the sound of boxes being shuffled around.

The man couldn’t move things in his condition. He’d have to ask for help, at which point Diego planned to drive him to the nearest bed-and-waffle-buffet motel. Such a thing would probably cost less than the three grand he’d promised Diego anyway, and sure as fuck nobody’d be feeding him here.

Diego definitely did not think about dust or spiders or other critters. He was not imagining a room he’d never even been in but could visualize from realtor’s photos—wood-paneled walls and vinyl flooring in sickly, faded shades of brown and orange and yellow. But he’d never wanted a tenant. He hadn’t sent anyone but the movers up there after he’d come to Bluewater Bay. Hadn’t cleaned the place. Hadn’t advertised it.

It was almost a public service letting the dude get his fill of it. Returning home after a traumatic event might seem like a good thing to a guy like that. There was a lot to be said for nostalgia. But an old childhood hangout wasn’t the place for someone so physically banged-up, and he’d soon realize it.

What he needed was his family. Friends. Tribe. What he was looking for was safety. Diego could tell him that safety was an illusion, but it looked like he’d already gotten the news.

Even as he grew sleepy, Diego kept an ear tuned for unusual noises.

John Smith’d be back if he couldn’t get the door open. He’d knock if sleeping on the floor beat to hell like that was as fucked up as it sounded.

Diego drifted off to sleep wishing he was the type of guy to treat a man’s pride like it wasn’t as important as his body.

 

About The Author

Z. A. Maxfield started writing in 2007 on a dare from her children and never looked back. Pathologically disorganized, and perennially optimistic, she writes as much as she can, reads as much as she dares, and enjoys her time with family and friends. Three things reverberate throughout all her stories: Unconditional love, redemption, and the belief that miracles happen when we least expect them.

If anyone asks her how a wife and mother of four can find time for a writing career, she’ll answer, “It’s amazing what you can accomplish if you give up housework.”

 

Readers can visit ZAM at her
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Special Guest: Charlie Cochet with Gummie Bears and Grenades! #THIRDS

Hi. This is Tara. Thank you for stopping by the blog. I’m on vacation right now — the first longer-than-a-weekend vacay I’ve taken in years that didn’t include writing workshops. While I’m gone, I invited a bunch of my friends — some of your fave authors — to stop by and share their news and new releases. I know you’ll love it. Enjoy. Talk soon. : )

 

Please welcome author Charlie Cochet! 

 

Gummy Bears & Grenades
(A THIRDS Novella, #9.5)
By Charlie Cochet

Blurb:
THIRDS agent Dexter J. Daley can’t wait to marry his fiancé, Team Leader Sloane Brodie, but first he’s looking forward to celebrating his bachelor party—which he intends to be a shenanigans-free evening of getting his groove on with family and friends.

Of course events don’t work out as planned, but for Dex that’s nothing new. One thing is for sure, dodging drug dealers and hired thugs amid booze, dancing—and even a bear costume—will guarantee it’s a night Dex will never forget. Now he just needs to survive all the fun.

Enjoy this bonus story from the THIRDS universe. These events occur between Darkest Hour Before Dawn and Tried & True in the series timeline. While reading this story would enhance your experience of the THIRDS series, it is not necessary to read before Tried & True.

Available to purchase at

Kindle | Amazon (Paperback Combo) | Kobo | iTunesDreamspinner Press

 Excerpt

 

Sloane let out a loud belch and laughed. “That tasted like lemonade.” He frowned as it struck him. “Fuck, I’m so wasted.”“I don’t care if you’re in a coma. You’re finishing this damn game.” Tony motioned to the air hockey table. “Move your ass, Brodie. You’re not winning this time.”

Wait. Sloane peered at Tony and thrust a finger at him. “You purposefully got me drunk so you could win. Dex told me I shouldn’t play air hockey with you.”

“Yeah, he also told his sixth-grade teacher that he couldn’t take his math test because numbers were against his religion.”

Sloane snorted vodka and lemonade through his nose and almost choked. He coughed and sputtered, wiping his nose and mouth with his arm as Tony laughed his ass off. “You couldn’t have waited until I’d finished drinking to say that?”

“And miss your impression of a sprinkler?”

“Why aren’t you drunk?” Sloane narrowed his eyes at Tony, who’d had almost as many drinks as Sloane had. Why was he so sober?

Tony shrugged. “Clearly I can hold my liquor better.”

“Bull. Shit.”

Tony arched an eyebrow at him, and Sloane marched over to him. He grabbed Tony’s glass off the edge of the table, sniffed it, then took a sip.

Sloane gasped. “This is just lemonade! I’ve been bamboozled!”

Tony reached into his back pocket and pulled out his wallet. He took a ten-dollar bill and held it up to Sloane. “I will give this to you if you say bamboozled again.”

“You are a crafty bastard.” Sloane snatched the bill from Tony’s hand.

“Bamboozled.” Ignoring Tony’s cackle, Sloane shoved the bill into his back pocket. He should have known the man would be sneaky. He was Dex’s dad after all. Sloane grinned smugly. “Doesn’t matter, I still kicked your ass. Like, eight times,” he said, glaring at his hands when he counted seven fingers. He put one more finger up. “Eight.”

Tony eyed him. “That booze is making you bold.”

Sloane nodded. “It is.”

“So you gonna put your money where your mouth is and play? Or you afraid you’re gonna get your tail whipped? I’m sure Dex will make it all purrrfect.”

Sloane eyed him. There was something Tony wasn’t telling him. “Why did you say it like that?”

“What?” Tony frowned. “I was just saying that Dex knows how to make it all better.” A wicked gleam came into his dark eyes.

Purrrfect.

Sloane’s jaw went slack. He shook his head. “No.”

Tony’s smile was terrifying. “Oh, yes.”

 

 

  About the Author

Charlie Cochet is an author by day and artist by night. Always quick to succumb to the whispers of her wayward muse, no star is out of reach when following her passion. From adventurous agents and sexy shifters, to society gentlemen and hardboiled detectives, there’s bound to be plenty of mischief for her heroes to find themselves in, and plenty of romance, too!

Currently residing in Central Florida, Charlie is at the beck and call of a rascally Doxiepoo bent on world domination. When she isn’t writing, she can usually be found reading, drawing, or watching movies. She runs on coffee, thrives on music, and loves to hear from readers.If you’d like to connect with Charlie, just drop her an email, or find her on Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, and Google Plus.