Category Archives: M/M romance

Gay Romance University 601—Once you have your scientist, keep him happy… and alive! (Course lessons drawn from Shadowboxing, first book in Anne Barwell’s Echoes series)

Please take your seats people, we want to get started…. What’s that? Boxer shorts? Certainly they’re allowed…. Yes, sir, briefs, certainly. Sure, speedos are not only allowed but encouraged. Be comfortable, but do pay attention in class.

Even though Kristopher Lehrer’s last name means ‘teacher,’ as we examine the early pages of our textbook, Anne Barwell’s novel Shadowboxing, it is Kristopher who is most in need of schooling. Oh, he is a learned man, it’s true—a physicist working on an important, possibly world-altering project. Unfortunately Very Important Projects often become the clouds where a scientist’s head is most comfortable. Kristopher’s attitude, as the novel opens, is reminiscent of the fearless forward motion of a horse with blinders.

To illustrate, consider this: Kristopher’s friend—the man that could have been his first true love if Kristopher had been honest—is Jewish, and in World War II Germany the yellow Star of David he must wear means that he is in danger every time he steps out in public. And, though David is a respected physician, he can no longer practice medicine for the same reason. Yet when Kristopher meets him for coffee he has no clue why his friend is upset, or scared. Read along in your text (or look over your neighbor’s shoulder if you haven’t yet picked up your text). We look at what happens with David challenges Kristopher’s naivety, beginning on page eight.

“Have you any idea what kind of people you are working for?” David spoke quietly, as always, but there was an underlying tone of fear in his voice that Kristopher didn’t remember hearing before. David’s emotions were always controlled; it was something that Kristopher had envied. “Have you any idea of their real agenda?”

Kristopher snatched his hand away, trying to ignore how fast his heart was beating. Why had David come to him? Surely he couldn’t have presumed to use the closeness they’d once had to further whatever agenda he had? “I’m a scientist, David, trying to make the world a better place, just as you are. We are working for the advancement of science and for the good of the Fatherland.” The last sentence came out sounding like the mantra it was. Any doubts that Kristopher had were always dealt with efficiently when he repeated those words. While he knew the potential danger of the device they were working on, the chances of anyone considering utilizing the catastrophic component of it were remote.

“You always were naïve, Lehrer.” David raked a hand through his hair and replaced his glasses, adjusting them when they slipped down his nose. “Wake up and take a look at what’s going on around you before it’s too late.” An edge of desperation and fear sharpened his voice as he lowered it to almost a whisper; it sounded as though he was talking about the end of the world.

“Too late? Too late for what?” His earlier fears of being used vanished at David’s tone. Kristopher’s voice rose in pitch, all attempts of hiding his conflicting emotions lost as he tried to desperately work through his rapidly escalating confusion.

David shook his head, unwilling to say more, his eyes darting nervously around the small Kaffeehaus before his gaze settled on the man who had entered several minutes earlier. “I have to go. I’ve said too much already.”

“Wait!” David was already halfway out the door before the word was out of Kristopher’s mouth. He pushed his chair back, ready to follow his friend, then hesitated, suddenly unsure as to what had just happened.

A week later, dining at home with his sister Clara (whom he loves and depends on) and his father (with whom he has a strained relationship), he is shocked to hear that David has disappeared, and clueless as to why such a thing had happened. What’s more, he is just as dumbfounded when Clara says (on page 11)…

“Poor Kristopher.” Clara rolled her eyes. “You’re so involved in your work that you haven’t noticed what’s going on around you.” There was no teasing in her voice now. Whatever this was about, it was something very serious. “It’s because he’s Jewish, of course.”

… as he is when his father says…

“They are Jewish, Kristopher. What other reason is needed? Better that they are rounded up and sent somewhere more suited for their place in the scheme of things. We must not lose sight of the fact that the Jews are nothing more than parasites interested in taking control of the economy for themselves.”

We, the readers can take our first lesson from this, and the downhill spiral of father-son relations that follow. Please take this down in your notebooks. It will be on the test:German_Experimental_Pile_-_Haigerloch_-_April_1945

The longer you keep your head stuck in the clouds of denial (about anything, really), the more it hurts to pull it out.

Our next unit of study follows Kristopher as he goes about his work the next day. The clouds around his head have been disturbed, but not quite dislodged. Feeling cranky and a little wooly due to a poor night’s sleep, he enters his boss’s office when the boss is out, and rather clumsily knocks a pile of papers on the floor, and reads this sentence on one of them:

Cue ominous music.

We look forward to putting these plans into reality. Such a device will ensure the continued success of the Fatherland during this war against our enemies.

Kristopher’s head falls from the clouds with a mighty thud, which hurts and can’t be ignored even by a dreamy physicist.

Gott im himmel, as my very German mother would have said. Here Kristopher had been, believing he was working on nuclear fission for peaceful purposes, and suddenly he realized he’d been living in a lollipop world.

For a number of minutes, our scientist is unable to think straight. He knows what he saw, but he’s unsure of what he might do about it, or even how to keep from getting in trouble for standing in his boss’s office with his pants down (figuratively of course, because that would be far too weird).

But a guard comes along, Obergefreiter (Sargent) Schmitz, and helps him organize his brain and move his body, thank goodness. Of course, at first, Kristoffer is afraid that Schmitz will actually contribute to his danger, but he soon realizes he was lucky the Obergefrieter came along. He leaves the office that day still waffling about what to do. Like most ordinary Germans of the day, he loves his country and has some significant blind spots about it—a phenomenon not unknown at any age of the world in just about any country, including all of those where readers of this blog might be living today. But you don’t become a leading physicist if you are slow-witted. Once Kristopher’s sight is forcibly cleared, he cannot escape the truth about the leaders of the Nazi regime and what their intentions are.

After much soul-searching, presumably some hand-wringing, and a few horrid nightmares, Kristopher Lehrer confronts his boss… and is told in no uncertain way to mind his own business. The encounter goes from bad to worse. (You can read about this in home study, chapter three of the text.) When he is discovered in the room with his dead boss by the same Obergefreiter Schmitz, he figures his number is up.

Thank heaven for pleasant surprises, large and small. When Schmitz asks Kristopher if, as smart as he is, he can come up with no better plan than to threaten the guard with broken glass, here’s what happens (at the beginning of chapter four).

“My plan? […] I don’t have a plan. […] Do you honestly think I would be standing here waving a piece of broken glass if I had a plan.”

“Good point,” Schmitz admitted.

[Text elided by blogger… er, I mean university professor Lou Sylvre. Kristopher says:]

“Have you come to hand me over to the Nazis?” Whatever happened he didn’t intend to go easily.

The corner of Schmitz’s mouth turned up in a half smile before he shook his head. “I’m here to help you, Herr Dr. Lehrer.”

“You expect me to believe you?” Kristopher wished the desk behind him would disappear into thin air, although it still wouldn’t be of much help as Schmitz was blocking the path to the only door. “I know you’ve followed me for the past week.” He noticed the slight look of surprise on Schmitz’s face with a degree of satisfaction.

“You need to trust me, Dr. Lehrer.”

You may guess that Kristopher isn’t so sure that’s the best course of action, but like people everywhere when they’re in danger and want to trust someone, he looks for a way to do so.

“Give me one good reason.”

“The Nazis will be here in, Schmitz said, consulting his watch, approximately ten minutes. Either you trust me, or you tell them what you’ve just told me. I doubt they will believe your story.”

His voice softened. “I do.”

Now, students, you may have guessed that the Obergefreiter isn’t really the Obergefreiter. His real name is Michel, and he’s not even German. And his interest in Kristopher, like Kristopher’s trust of Michel, soon weaves into a whole new feeling. After negotiating much hell and highwater together, Michel soothes a startled, overwhelmed Kristopher in his own native tongue.

“A l’aise, Kit. Je suis ici… Ssh, tout est bien.”

Yes, Michel is there and all is well for the moment. There’s a whole lot more trouble to face, more evil to evade, more heroes to meet—all kinds, German, foreign, soldiers, everyday people. But Michel does whatever he needs to do to keep Kristopher alive. And since this is Gay Romance University, it isn’t giving away secrets to let you know, that once Michel has WinterDuetLGseen to the matter of Kristopher’s continued existence, he gets the opportunity to use a little French term of endearment.

“It’s all right, mon cher. I love you. I’m not letting you go.”

That is the end of our lesson, today. If you are interested in learning more on the subject, click the cover image above for a link to the blurb and purchase links. (And while you’re there, check out the continuation of this beautiful story in book two of the Echoes of War series, Winter Duet.

I thank Anne Barwell, Kristopher, and Michel for the privilege of treating the serious story of one of the world’s most painful times with a bit of irreverence. Truthfully, the heroes in this story are a reflection of all the real life heroes on every side of that war and every other, especially the quiet ones not lauded in headlines. They all deserve our gratitude, and I take no such service or sacrifice lightly.

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Thanks for reading. Feel free to leave a comment!

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Because of Jade is live at the Dreamspinner Store! I have news and this beautiful graphic to share…

A grapic of Luki, Sonny, and Jade with a quote.

The new Vasquez and Jade novel is live for download at Dreamspinner Press, and I’m excited about events slated over the next few weeks. Today, release day, Monique Lehane at Sinfully Sexy Book Reviews will will post a review, and the first installment in my blog tour. This tour is themed, The Further Adventures of the Vasquez-James Family! Yes, I’ll be posting some mini-fictions at various places around the Internet, along with other stuff. You can find a calendar here in a goodreads blog post, and track me down as it happens to enter for prizes and join me for what I hope will be some fun. Or, read at your leisure, if you feel like adding a little extra Luki and Sonny to your day. 🙂

I hope you’ll join me, and maybe check out the book.
Oh yeah! There’s a discount: 20% off with code: JADEBOOK</strong. Almost forgot…
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Gay Romance University course 501: The rewards of exceptional service — Servitude by Rebecca Cohen

As advertised, Gay Romance University is delving into the ins and outs of the life of exceptional service to a well-endowed… er, I mean well-tended master, as experienced by Lornyc, in service to Methian, and recorded in tale well-told by Rebecca Cohen, entitled “Servitude.”

Lest you think this is just your average tale of loving service, let me assure you nothing could be farther from the truth. The person doing the serving is… well, exceptionally able.

Oh, I see a student has raised their hand. There in the back of the hall, did you have a question, sir?

Oh, my! Well, I’m not going to repeat the question, because I fear you simply meant it as an off-color joke. Those are not appropriate in a university class, unless it’s me telling them, so please refrain. But, since you asked, although Lornyc may indeed be exceptionally capable in that respect, judging from Methian’s inability to resist him, I refer to his capability in terms of intellect—perhaps mind-over-matter describes it well. Witness, on page 5, in the labarotory.

In a darkened corner, beside a rack of spare parts for machines long scrapped, was a large black curtain. He walked over to it and pulled the heavy cloth back to reveal a gray rectangle about the size of a standard doorway. Next to it, in a chrome-plated bracket, sat a ball. It was small enough to have been held easily in one hand, and was a cerulean color flecked with gold. When he pressed his hand to the surface of the orb, it began to glow, and with a gentle push, it began to spin in its bracket.

Accompanied by a low hiss, the gray rectangle came to life with a series of waves and swirls appearing across its surface. Lornyc cast a final glance over his shoulder and stepped into the portal.Man in portal from Stockvault photos

Stepping out into a tastefully decorated but obviously seldom-used room, Lornyc called out, “Are you here?”

A muffled reply came from what Lornyc knew to be his lover’s bedroom. With a decidedly wicked grin, Lornyc advanced toward the bedroom door, stripping off his tunic as he did so. “I thought,” he said to a figure reclining on the large bed, “I’d put in another long night in the lab—that’s if you’ve not got anything better to do.”

The sandy-haired man grinned and bounced to the end of the bed, holding out his arms in invitation. “You know I’m always willing to help with your studies.”

Lornyc laughed as he walked forward. “Your dedication, Methian, is touching.”

Methian’s strong arms wrapped around him, and the kiss they shared chased away his worries from the lab. Lornyc yelped in a most undignified manner as Methian pulled him forward onto the bed, but any further complaint was lost as he let his lover distract him fully.

Before any servitude comes into play, Lornyc has already managed to demonstrate a successful principle of gay romance—any romance, really. That is:

Access, access, access. Even if you must create a trans-dimensional portal to do it, make sure you can always reach your lover when need arises.

Self-explanatory, right? So I’ll say no more about that.

But even persons with exceptional ability and high station in life in very interesting (and well-realized, thanks to Ms. Cohen) alternate worlds will at times find that not all events are under their control. In order to keep within the time limits of this university course, I’ll summarize events:

Long before Methian or Lornyc were twinkles in their respective daddy’s eyes, Lornyc’s legendary, long-lived grandfather, Reagalos, signed some contracts. Possibly unbenownst to him, these contracts included interwoven magic that would bind a certain grandchild to fulfill them no matter what. One of them said that his grandchild would be servant to a descendant of the house of Hadral. Lornyc is that Reagalos grandchild, and Methian is—you guessed it—that Hadral. So while Lornyc and Methian where busy playing in-and-out-the-portal (yes, very tacky euphemism, I know), their parents were busy binding Lornyc to Methian as valet. Despite the fact that the men had a well-known history of indiscretion! Read along on page 17 of your text:

“Unfortunately, while it would be usual practice for my personal manservant to be housed within my suite of rooms, Tancorix vetoed that immediately. Apparently I’d be unable to control myself and would have my wicked way with you,” said Methian with a wry smile. “As I did when we were at College.”

“Your wicked way?” Lornyc leaned away with a bemused look on his face. “They’ve never thought that poor, sweet Lornyc could’ve possibly gone after Methian Hadral. The way I remember it was that I had my wicked way with you. The mighty Methian seduced by a seventeen-year-old virgin.”

The second lesson to be drawn from this text begins to come clear immediately thereafter, and it’s one to be remembered by all who are wise.

Methian had to work hard not to get distracted at the memory of that encounter. “But it doesn’t matter. You’ll be below stairs—with the rest of the staff. You should be grateful that she’s decided against making you wear Hadral servant livery.”

Lornyc raised an eyebrow in response. “Really? I thought that would’ve been a definite, fitting me out in that gaudy blue you Hadrals seem to like.”

“Careful, it’s not too late to reverse that decision,” warned Methian, pushing Lornyc backward so that he landed on the pillows. “That sort of cheek will have to be punished.”

“Promises, promises,” Lornyc said playfully.

Methian grinned and crawled toward Lornyc, stopping once his knees were either side of Lornyc’s hips and his hands rested on the pillows next to Lornyc’s head. Methian leaned down to kiss him.

A bolt of fiery pain shot through Lornyc’s arm. He sat up abruptly, his head connecting sharply with Methian’s with an accompanying sickly crack.

Methian growled in pain and sat back, clutching his nose.

“My arm! It feels like it’s on fire,” cried Lornyc. He grabbed his shirt, tearing away the sleeve.

Lornyc grunted in agony but seconds later was hit by a wave of ecstasy, which rolled over him, stripping away the heat and the pain.

The two men stared at Lornyc’s left bicep. There, in vibrant colors, was the Hadral family crest: a blue shield embossed with a golden H.

“Bloody hell,” whispered Methian, reaching out and stroking the newly adorned patch of skin.

Right. Simply put: Magic complicates everything.

When magic rears its ugly, controlling head, how does a lover cope? For answers, we look to dear Lord Methian. We find this little jewel of romance on page 34:

Lornyc sagged into Methian’s arms. “I have no choice but to treat you as my master when you command it.”

Methian cupped the back of Lornyc’s head with his hand. “If anything, you are my master, and have been since you were seventeen.”

So, as far as I’m concerned that is the most notable principle to be gained from these two men—loving is give and take. Love is kind, and love is… well, noticeable. See? (This is on page 52.)

“Your grandfather could do amazing things, and from what I felt, you’ll be able to do even more. He didn’t need to rely on muttered words and hand movements, the world yielded to him—and now we need to make it do the same for you.”

“But….”

“No time for buts, my boy. This contract will be fulfilled, and if what Tancorix has told me is true, we need to get you connected and up to speed as soon as possible. You don’t have the luxury of time to procrastinate. Sooner or later you’re going to be Katraman’s High Lord—and you need to be everything your father isn’t.”

“But the contract to the Hadrals….”

“From what I saw, Methian—that’s what you called him, didn’t you—seems to be willing to cooperate.” The mage grinned. “If you truly are his valet, then you’re doing things way beyond the remit of your job description.” Kat laughed at Lornyc’s expression. “I can see your imprint all over him. Valet, my ass!” Sexy naked guy posing in studio with roses

“My what?”

“Even though you can’t do much, you’re still projecting raw energy. One of my talents is to see an individual’s magical signature if it’s being broadcasted, and Methian is covered in yours.”

Oops. But hey, being marked is not always a bad thing, right?

In truth, the lessons to be learned from the interwoven lives of these two men go far beyond romantic words and a master being marked by his servant. They persevere through so many things: parents, politics, grief—even females. But we’ve reached the end of the course seminar, and the rest can be absorbed through home study.

If you’ve been working with a borrowed text book and want to buy it, click the (fabulous) cover image for the buy link at Dreamspinner Press.

Thank you Lornyc and Methian for allowing us to spy on your joys, sorrows, and bafflements. And thanks Rebecca Cohen for a unique and delicious romance.

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Expect the Unexpected: Free story coming soon! (Don’t Read in the Closet 2014, Love’s Landscapes)

Expect the Unexpected Cvr (2)

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by | May 13, 2014 · 1:15 pm

Gay Romance University 104: Important considerations regarding gingers and foxes (courtesy B. Snow, A Cunning Plan)

Hello everyone! Gay Romance University on my blog is back, this time drawing course material from a Regency romance of the male/male kind—A Cunning Plan, by B. Snow.

I said Regency, and perhaps that conjures a certain type of romance full of frilly girls, mostly filthy rich ones, attending lots of balls, waltzing in painful shoes, and each giving up her virtue to a marquess or a duke.

That romance is not this romance.

Though one of the characters is an Earl, and rather rich, and his virtue might be compromised. And his love interest might even where a frilly dress or two, under unusual circumstances. 

But let’s get down to brass tacks. The lesson, like the text, begins with strangers popping up in our Earl’s bedroom.

Note this; it will be on the quiz! If you are a titled, unmarried, heavy-drinking man with a cash-heavy wallet, post a man outside the bedroom when you crash for the night at your neighbor’s party. Consider poor Alec Ferguson, Earl of Whittlesey. A man pounds on his door, and he wakes to discover there’s a girl already in his room. Clearly, the man is up to no good. (The girl, his daughter is just as clearly mortified by her father’s shenanigans.) Yes, he wants to force you to marry the girl—no surprise there.

One of the most important points I’d like you to take away from this mini-course on gay romance, regency style is this: liquorgroup_medFortify, fortify, fortify! To illustrate, let’s peek in on Alec, beginning on page five.

Alec slammed the door behind them and then sagged against it. He wanted nothing more than to leave that room, escape from the house entirely, but the corridor was crowded with other guests eager for some gossip that would make it worth their while to have left London at the height of the season. […]

He lifted the bottle and drained it, then stumbled to the wardrobe and dug through his clothes until he found the other bottle he had hidden there in case of emergency. If having an unwanted engagement foisted upon one wasn’t an emergency, Alec didn’t know what was.

If you ever find yourself in such a situation, be aware that, whereas drinking and driving is illegal, climbing while drunk is not a prosecutable offense. Which is good, because sometimes you just gotta do what you gotta do. Once again, we look to our hero, the Earl of Whittlesey, to show us how it’s done safely without losing your supply of fortification.

Before we continue reading from page 6, however, I want to make one thing clear. You may think that in the modern world, you will never be confronted with a girl in your room, having been ordered there by her father in order to marry her to your money and title. Remember my motto (or one of them anyway: Never say never! Seriously. Could happen.

He corked the bottle and put it inside his shirt as he stepped out onto the balcony. The vines that grew up the side of the house didn’t bend when he pulled on them to test their strength, so now he had only to climb down them. As children, he and his brother had been quite adept at using vines to sneak out of their nursery on moonlit summer nights. At twenty-eight, however, he was decidedly less agile than he had been as a child, and the brandy he’d drunk would not improve his agility.

Grasping the vines, he swung one leg over the railing. After finding a foothold, he swung his other leg over and started downward. Stretch out one leg, find a foothold, let go with a hand—Alec repeated the process until he got within ten feet of the ground. There, he let out an oath upon discovering the vines narrowed to a single trunk. Holding on to the lowest horizontal branches, Alec slid his feet down the trunk, said a quick prayer, then let go, landing with a thump and falling backward onto his posterior. Not dignified, but he made it to the ground without breaking his neck or the bottle.

Now what?

Well, I don’t know how you would feel in such a situation, but Alec has become quite morose once he’s out in the cold. Inevitably, sneaking out in the cold middle of the night without your greatcoat will remind you of your childhood. Right? Here’s the earl on page seven:

The winter chill nipped at Alec’s skin, but he didn’t regret leaving his overcoat in the house; he had the brandy to keep him warm. Alec remembered how he used to fasten Hugh’s cloak for him. Even in summer they had needed to wear them, at least until they reached the lake, where they kept warm by running along its muddy shore. Alec had taught Hugh early on that if they could keep from laughing until well away from the house—no mean feat—they would have hours to play in the night.

But Alec’s memory turns dark when he remembers a mysterious visitation from a white fox one night when he and his little brother had snuck out to this very same lake. And then… there it is. That very same fox. (Bottom of page 10—)

The way it stared at him gave Alec the feeling the animal disapproved of his obviously drunken state. white_fox_by_mvelovesmusic-d5v4ac8[…] “You’d drink too, in my situation.” He looked down at the brandy he held loosely in one hand. “And if you could hold a bottle.”

All students of gay romance will recognize this truth: Being, threatened, drunk, cold, outdoors, alone, and lost in memories will cause you to become morose. And, can we not empathize with Alec? I mean, to use academic terminology, what a bummer!

Empathize or not, however, this is where I wish to caution you, class: Do not emulate the choice Alec Ferguson makes on page

As he lifted the bottle to drink again, he looked out over the lake, at its smooth, moonlit surface, and made a decision. Any man with one ounce of honor or courage would have dealt with his madness and his drinking long ago.

Well, better late than never.

He drank the last of the brandy and set the empty bottle aside. […] walked unsteadily down the bank, letting out a yelp when his foot touched the cold water.
An answering yelp came from a few feet away. Alec turned to see the fox still watching him, now with its mouth open in what looked like a canine grin. “Don’t you laugh at me,” he muttered

Clenching his jaw, Alec continued deeper into the lake, the water coming up to his ankles, then his knees. The mud on the floor of the lake was warmer than the water and soft against the soles of his feet. He stopped for a moment, shivering, watching the reflection of the moon on the water broken up by the ripples he had made. He didn’t need to go any further; he could do it from here. Just lean forward, put his face into the water, and breathe deeply.

drowning man goo ftuosDrowning wasn’t the easiest way to kill oneself, but it was undoubtedly the tidiest.

Luckily for Alec and for the future of M/M Regency romance, foxes have a knack for tricking drunken, depressed, earls out of the cold, cold lake. And… well… it turns out Alec is luckier still, because, a fox of another stripe altogether soon shows up in his life. A fox in the shape of a man, with flaming red hair and green eyes and freckles every-visible-where. A quick-witted fox, and an insolent one who nevertheless plans to be Alec’s friend—or more?

Alec stopped. “You will explain yourself, now. Who are you, and why have you come here?”

Villenie’s narrow, freckled face split in a grin. “I’m the man who’s going to solve all your problems.”

Of course that’s not quite the way it worked out, but the lessons in this course offering are complete. To prepare for the final exam, memorize the following and be prepared to recite:ginger nude muscles from hips up
The earl was not mad, and neither am I—I’m just a bit eccentric. If life is a mess, booze won’t fix it—but a hot, foxy ginger just might. Perhaps like this:

“On my honor as… as a Villenie. Whatever your illness is, I will try to help you fight it, and no matter the outcome, I swear not to tell a soul.” Some of the color had returned to Villenie’s face, though his eyes were still huge and dark with concern. He brought one hand up to Alec’s cheek.

Alec didn’t move away from that hand. Instead, he leaned into it, taking another deep breath and letting the beast uncoil. Villenie’s hands, the heat of his body, his breath on Alec’s face were all too much. Alec, who had struggled so long to cage the monster, could no longer hold it back. “You want to see my illness?” Alec whispered. “Take it all, then.”

He reached out, seized Villenie by the shoulders and pressed him back onto the seat, then leaned forward and kissed him. Just as he had feared he would, Alec lost all control as soon as their lips touched. Grasping at Villenie’s head and neck, he pulled him closer, sucking and biting his lips. Their noses, chins, and teeth bumped as Alec moved his mouth madly over Villenie’s, then down over a rough cheek to his throat, where he continued his frenzied attack with tongue and teeth. The taste of Villenie’s skin made his head swim, and he pulled Villenie’s cravat loose, laying bare more skin to feast upon.

Unfortunately, GRU will not offer the advanced course in Regency romance, but you may find further study helpful (or at least good reading). The whole of the text can be purchased by clicking on the cover image and following the link. Thanks, B. Snow, Whittelsey, and Mr. Villenie for allowing GRU to twist your words about. 🙂

Sexual muscular nude man posing over dark background.

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Gay Romance University 103: Charley Descoteaux’s *A Curious Sustenance*—Best Methods for Moving On if Your Ex is an Ass

Welcome back to Gay Romance University. The lessons in this course are drawn from the experiences of Ross and a man who, for now, we’ll just call Shaggy. Their tale is well-told in our text, Curious Sustenance, by talented author Charley Descoteaux. Thanks go out to Charley, Ross, and Shaggy for putting themselves at the mercy of Gay Romance U.

A little background: Ross’ former boyfriend Brad behaved like an ass, presenting the newly svelte Ross with chocolate. Okay, I see the shocked looks on your faces. How can a beautiful, rich, triple-layer chocolate cake adorned with a liberal covering of chocolate shavings be bad? Chocolate Cake Close UpTake my word for it, Brad’s so-called gift, was underhanded sabotage. For details, read the early pages of the text. For the course, our interest in the cake is that it leads to the first lesson, which is actually the one Ross had to learn after he discovered what a (fill in the blank) Brad was, and had always been. It’s really Ross’s best friend, Janet who provides us with this insight. On page 15, we are privy to a snippet of Janet’s wisdom, in a nutshell:

“Let him clean that up.”

“But—”

“I swear, if you start cleaning that up, I’m leaving.”

“He’ll be gone two weeks.”

“Tough shit for him, then. He should’ve thought of that before he acted like an idiot prick.”

Class, repeat after me: Say it, sister! Seriously, Janet is testifying, here, people. This first point in the lesson is one we should all take with us into a relationship: if the guy is an idiot prick, let him wallow in whatever is left behind when you hit the road.

Now, of course, if the lesson ended there, we could assume that life in general is kind of a sad affair. But there’s always another step, and if you’re like Ross, you take that step in the right direction. Of course before you can take a step in the right direction, you have to understand where you are. In the following passage, on page 17, Ross realizes that he is now in a ‘place’ he’s never before been, and while it’s not a particularly pleasant spot, it isn’t all bad.

Being dumped was exhausting. This came as quite a shock to the guy who’d watched romantic relationships from a distance most of his life. He didn’t want to admit it felt obscenely satisfying. Not only was he part of it in a whole new way, but the people he’d been jealous of all his life might not have had it as easy as he thought after all.

So where does a man go from there? If you’re Ross, you get yourself looking real good, like this, from page 19:

…he emerged in black silk from top to bottom. The buttons on his long-sleeved shirt gleamed silver, matching the small buckles on his black leather demi-boots. He felt almost as though he wore someone else’s clothes, but that was only because they were new. He’d worn the slacks the last time Brad had taken him out to the Heathman Hotel for drinks, but they’d been too tight. Now they hugged his ass perfectly…

Once you’ve donned clothes that make you look luscious, you go somewhere brand new. In this passage, beginning farther along on page 19, we join Ross as he steps out into a new chapter in his life. Oh, and we can also learn from this that it’s okay to be nervous. You look delicious anyway.

His stomach fluttered as he walked with Janet, about a half a block in the other direction, and then she opened a door Ross never would’ve noticed because it had no sign to attract attention. […]

“Where are we going?” Ross tried to hide his nerves, but after the last surprise, he wasn’t sure he wanted any more.

“It’s a private club. Don’t worry, I’m a member, and you’re my guest.” They stopped on the landing, in a little alcove. A red door stood at the end of a short hallway to his left. The street sounded very far away. “Tonight, you’ll be Hunter.”

“Pardon me?”

“You can stay anonymous. And since you have those luscious green eyes, you’ll be hiding behind the name Hunter.” Janet smiled and gently pulled his top button open before taking Ross by the hand and heading for the door.

On the other side of the red door was a foyer lined with red velvet curtains. Janet passed her coat and purse to a pretty young man on the other side of a counter. It was as if they’d stepped onto the set of an old porn flick. Brad had been on an oldies kick not long ago, and the fake potted palm in the corner, muted lighting, and shirtless boy behind the counter wearing a red bow tie the exact color of the curtains reminded him of one of those flicks. He backed toward the door.

Yes, it’s okay to be nervous, but don’t leave! Good things are bound to happen. After encountering a few surprising sights, Ross arrives at the right conclusion:

Artistic abstract pattern of rope twists on dark red background“This is a sex club.” Ross hissed into Janet’s ear. “You brought me to a sex club?”
She pulled him the last few steps to the bar and found them two empty stools. The stools were freestanding and a few didn’t match. It was like being in someone’s living room while they were having a theme party. Before Janet had time to answer, his eyes grew wide and he leaned in even closer.

“You’re in a sex club?”

Now, like many of us, Ross is not always terribly brave and ready to face the unknown. (Forgive me for saying that, Ross, but you know it’s true.) So, once he realized he was in a sex club, and furthermore, a mostly heterosexual-seeming sex club, he wants to leave—ASAP (Brad’s term). Fortunately, before he got a chance to make a getaway, he’s taken to Amethyst’s rooms, where he expects to watch a scene. But, oh, my. Lucky Ross, he sees something, or I should say someone, entirely different. Beginning on page 22:

The room looked like anyone’s living room. Anyone like Elvira or maybe Bela Lugosi. The couches and chairs were all covered in dark velvet that may’ve been purple, and the muted lighting made the candlesticks grouped in the corners gleam like old silver. Janet’s friend turned a dimmer switch and some of the candles brightened. She was speaking, but Ross couldn’t hear. His mind stopped processing everything except the man striding in his direction. He had to be six three, and when he got closer, Ross thought he probably had a Japanese grandfather. He was gorgeous, with his long black hair, simple black suit, and smoky gaze.jackie rope bondage shibari goo ftuos

“May I have a word?”

The man’s voice was even smokier than his gaze, and Ross already felt as though he were a heartbeat away from bursting into flame. He nodded, and a firm hand on his lower back guided him off to the side of the room. The man stopped in the center of an ornate oriental rug and looked Ross over appreciatively.

“I practice Shibari. You have heard of it?”

Ross nodded. He’d seen pictures of pretty young men bound with intricate knots on the Internet but hadn’t been tempted to approach Brad to try it.

“I am called Shaggy, and I would like to work with you.” The man palmed his shoulder, and his whole body warmed to the touch. “You are Scarlett’s friend?”

Ross nodded again, trying but failing to speak with his mind so full of the hand resting on his shoulder.

“Do you like pain?”

Ross gasped softly and shook his head.

“I will do nothing meant to cause pain. What is your safe word?”

The question woke Ross up enough to speak. He felt as though he’d stepped into a movie—the atmosphere, this gorgeous man’s extremely careful speech pattern, and his own shocking desire.

“My….” was all he could get out, but it was something.

Shaggy held his eyes for a long moment. The man was an excellent showman; he had the mysterious magician-vibe down. Ross felt himself falling into those dark eyes.

“We will use the traffic-signal colors.” Slowly but without hesitation, the man’s fingers began to unbutton Ross’s shirt. “If you feel any discomfort, use them. Yellow and I will slow down. Red and I stop immediately and cut the ropes. Do you understand?”

Ross nodded, and his shirt was unbuttoned. It wasn’t cold in the room, but he shivered as Shaggy’s fingers touched the bare skin of his chest. Shaggy walked around behind Ross and spoke in his ear as he drew the soft shirt away from his shoulders and down his arms.

“I want to hear you say the words.”

“Yellow is slow down. Red is stop.”

The man, who Ross found impossible to call Shaggy even in his head, smiled, and Ross worried he wouldn’t be able to remain standing much longer. Nobody had ever looked at him like that, as though he were beautiful and special and quite possibly delicious. The man draped his shirt over a small velvet chair and turned back to him.

“Yes,” he said softly, so only Ross could hear. He ran his palm slowly across Ross’s chest, from his left shoulder to just below his right nipple. “This will be beautiful.”

Mm-hmm. “Special and quite possibly delicious.” Sound promising? The rest of this passage is so much worth reading. I recommend it for additional study. Of course things go on from there, as they do in life and romance, but this is where we end today’s lesson.

I hope this GRU course has been enjoyable and informative, and I hope you can put Ross’s life lessons to use, or encourage a friend to do so, perhaps.

If you haven’t picked up the text yet and want to do so, click the cover image for the buy link. If you’d like to know more about Charley Descoteaux, try her website, CharleyDescoteauxwrites, or find her on twitter @CharlieDescote, or on her facebook author page.

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Gay Romance University 102: How to have a solid romance with a ghostly lover (Haunted, Brynn Stein)

Hello class! Luki Vasquez and Sonny James are on hiatus, resting up before their new book release in May—more about that soon. In their absence, this Gay Romance University course draws an all-important lesson from author Brynn Stein’s novella, Haunted.

(If you don’t yet have a copy of the text book, you can pick it up at Dreamspinner Press dirt cheap. 🙂 Just click on the cover image for the buy link.)

If you’ll open your text to page 11 (or read the brief excerpt below), you’ll find Lenard Blake has, after initial skepticism, come to believe ghosts exist and in fact one resides in his house (a ‘fixer-upper’, you might say).

He finally decided to assume the ghost existed and to try to make peace with it. After all, it didn’t seem to wish him ill will. It didn’t seem to be trying to get him to leave or frighten him in any way. It just seemed to want the house kept in good shape. Lenard figured he could help with that. abandoned house whirling stars iStock_000033218692Large

He made sure to return any books he started reading to their rightful places. “Is it okay if I leave a bookmark in this before I put it on the shelf?” he had asked the ghost he still didn’t completely believe in. When nothing happened, he figured it was okay to leave the bookmark in the book and replaced it on the shelf.

The first point of this lesson is contained in these brief paragraphs: If a ghost doesn’t want you to mess with the books, ask permission before placing your bookmark.

Oh… wait, no.

The first important point of this lesson is communication! As in all relationships, the first thing you must do if you want anything good to develop is find a way to get through to the other party. In this case, when the ghost said and did nothing, Lenard knew he had his reply. Well done, Lenard.

The second thing I’d like you to take away from this lesson is this: The “honey-do” list is a sure way to gain your ghosts appreciation, and if the ghost keeps fixing the screen door, it’s on the list.. Consider, further down on page 11:

He decided the reason the screen door kept falling off after the ghost had fixed it was because the screws were stripped in the rusty hinges. screen door google ftuos 8142836247_80aaca3c65_oThey had already pulled away from the wall, so just putting them back in the holes wasn’t really helping. So, Lenard bought new hinges and screws and new wood for the door facing. He wasn’t as good a woodworker as the original craftsman, and the door frame would be considerably plainer, but it would be new and solid and would hold the screws in the new hinges so the screen door wouldn’t fall off again.

iced tea google ftuos 2903455081_d4d851c5d1_o
Lenard cleaned up his mess and went into the kitchen to get a drink. There he found the pitcher of iced tea he had made earlier, and had put in the refrigerator to get cold—sitting on the counter along with a glass.
“I’ll take that as a ‘thank you’ for hanging the door,” he called to Jason and downed the drink. “And thank you for the tea.”

(Okay, so that’s not a ghost in the image with the screen door. It’s a zombie. Call it literary license.)

If a live man continues to develop his relationship with a dead man, he may be privileged to see him. In the middle of the night. Standing by the bed. Which of course would not be startling at all. We’re reading from page 16 of the text, here:

If Lenard still had any doubts about the existence of his ghost, it was finally taken away one night around two in the morning.
Lenard had come home from an abnormally troublesome day at the station and had stripped quickly and fallen into bed, practically asleep before he hit the mattress. As tired as he was, though, something woke him from a sound sleep in the middle of the night.

At first, he couldn’t identify what had awakened him, and then he saw it… or rather, him. male ghostly image by bed google ftuos 8135574517_8d185c393f_oA young man was standing in front of the ornate closet door. Just standing… hip cocked with his hands hooked in his pockets, but looking as if he had lost his last friend.

And then there is bound to come a day, if a man is patient with his ghostly lover, that he reaps his sweet reward, and a truly solid relationship can materialize (all puns intended) (page 33):

…One morning, Lenard decided to take the chance. He was awake enough, as Jason went to get out of bed, that he caught the ghost by the hand, still almost surprised—as he always was—that he could actually grasp his arm. “Stay, Jason.”

The ghost stopped his movement, neither leaving, nor coming back, also seemingly a bit shocked that they could maintain contact this long. “I wanted to have your breakfast ready for you, Barnaby.”

“I’d rather have you ready for me, old man.” Now that Len knew he and Jason could actually touch, he couldn’t help but want to explore thoughts he had been having for a while now. He positively leered at Jason and answered the age-old question of whether or not a ghost could blush.

Jason settled back down onto the bed, propped up on an elbow, and whispered, “Anytime, Len.” He reached out to cup Lenard’s face, enjoying the prolonged ability to touch. He ran his hand up Lenard’s cheek and into his hair.

Lenard took the invitation and brought Jason’s face closer until their lips met. He was pretty sure by then that they would, indeed, be able to kiss, but he still sighed in relief into Jason’s mouth. They both just savored the kiss. There was a promise of passion, but for right now, they kept it light. A brush of lips that had longed for each other… then another, longer contact… and another.

Lenard slowly pulled the ghost back down toward him, wiggling onto his back so that Jason could lie on top of him. They continued the kiss with a little more passion. Neither fought for control; they simply let it go where it wanted to. But they both knew it wouldn’t stay with just kissing for long.
male ghost in chair google ftuos 353807265_37832270f1_zLenard let his hands roam over the body he had admired… had wanted… for a long time now. He explored the powerful arms and traveled down the lean, but muscular back to settle on well-developed glutes. Len was pleased to find that Jason had been right. The only way the ghost looked nineteen was in his youthful face. In every other way, he was all man.

“Probably a good thing you’ve gotten the hang of being solid in the bedroom,” Lenard whispered as he nuzzled his lover’s cheek… blond hair mixing with dark brown.

Of course, there is more to loving a ghost than good times. Ghosts hang around because they have needs, right? So yeah, Lenard has his detective work cut out for him, but we can’t cover that in class. The remainder of the novella is recommended reading for inquiring minds.

Thanks for coming to class, and great big thanks to Brynn for allowing me to embarrass her characters in this way. If you’d like to offer your sympathy (or contact her about her writing) you can find her:

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New Vasquez and James coming May 2014—Because of Jade, from Dreamspinner Press

Yellow and red tulips with dark background

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by | March 21, 2014 · 6:05 pm

Gay Romance University—Vasquez and James 201: Stick to your lover like glue no matter what

Hello! I’m back with the second level course on Vasquez and James and our text this week is naturally book 2 in the series, Delsyn’s blues.delsynsbluesfs1.jpg

The romance lesson this week comes from Luki Vasquez. In chapter one, the poor man is far, far away from his sweet new love, Sonny James, because Sonny sent him away. He tries to stay busy with work and physical training, bruising his agents in sparring matches and driving his incredible office admin, Jude, absolutely crazy with his ineptitude at everything electronic. Looking out the window of his starkly furnished, high-rise, upscale condo, From page 6 of the text:

No amount of activity, violent or not, could drive away the big Sonny-shaped shadow that dogged along beside him.

Luki understands. Or no, maybe he doesn’t. And he’s lonely not only for Sonny but for Sonny’s wonderful world, so different from his own. He can hardly believe what’s happened, as we see on page 7.

Sonny had sent Luki away. When Delsyn lay impossibly still in that room at the rehab with tubes exchanging his fluids and instruments ticking off the seconds of his life, surely Sonny must have been glad for Luki’s love, his arms, his hand to hold. Yet just when Luki thought Sonny needed him most, that’s when he’d pulled back inside himself to be alone with his grief and fear. He’d sent Luki packing from the rainy Northwest forest and sea—to Chicago, of all places. Funny that Luki had never known how much he didn’t like Chicago until he’d lived for a few months in Sonny’s surprising and isolated home. Tasted the salt in the morning air, blown inland by the ever-present wind over the Juan de Fuca Strait. Watched Sonny dip naked into the frigid waters and rise up, sunlight flashing off his smooth, wet, brown skin like an aura of jewels. Sat before a yellow fire built of wood Sonny had cut and split, Sonny’s head on his shoulder, Sonny’s long hair falling over Luki’s bare chest—tickling, teasing, a promise.

Luki is so smitten he goes to great lengths to feel Sonny with him, even going to sleep at night dressed in the kind of haphazard clothes Sonny might wear—although he imagines Sonny would look a lot more appetizing in them. But when he tries to get Sonny on the phone—just wanting to hear his voice, have some connection—he can’t reach him. That, and a bad, bad dream, and then finally the news that Sonny’s beloved nephew, Delsyn, had died—these things convince Luki that Sonny needs him, and off he flies west to the rescue. And when he gets there, he finds a beautiful, achingly sad Sonny he’s never seen before. Check him out on page 9.

Black. Black shoes. Black socks, black jeans; calf-length, tailored, black wool coat. Sonny took the clothes out of their long-stored plastic shrouds, his eyes of their own accord seeking out the white silk strips across the chest and shoulders of his ribbon shirt, the short white streamers which would be anchored over his scapulae and left loose to flutter as he moved, or danced, or stood in a breeze. Not that they would move today—they’d be buried under the black coat. And Delsyn would be buried under the black ground.rick mora ia think

“Nephew,” Sonny whispered into the air that he’d let go cold, so cold indoors that he could see a faint shadow of his breath float into the room. So cold it hurt, which was one reason he’d let the fire die. The pain could replace the tears he would not cry. And then, too, the fire had no right to live, to crackle and sway, brighten and warm the day. No, if Delsyn had to die, then the fire would die too. Sonny would see to that.

He needed tight braids bound far back behind his ears, but braids like that are impossible to do for oneself, so he gathered his white ribbons and took his hair to Margie’s, resolving not to cry no matter how many times she tried to tell him it would be okay to do so, no matter how much she tried to comfort him.

Before minutes passed, or so it seemed, he stood at the grave, the cold March wind biting his face with sharp teeth like tiny arrows, with the man he’d called to say words at the graveside, a Lummi elder he knew from the few years he’d spent up north in Bellingham where frost was likely to coat the rooftops on a gray March day like today. Sonny knew the elder’s words, his prayers in four directions, the sage and cedar he kindled and passed to the small band of mourners around the grave—all of these things—were meant to help Delsyn’s spirit pass.

And to ease my pain.

Sonny couldn’t let that comfort happen. My nephew, my boy, is dead. And it’s my fault.

After that, through words and crazy, impossible events, Sonny tried to push Luki away, but only succeeded in convincing Luki that Sonny needed him—even more than he previously believed. So he persisted and insisted and stuck to Sonny like glue, and… well. It paid off, as you can see from this bit on page 29 of your text.

Luki refused to wonder if now, inside his studio, something bad was happening to Sonny—emotions, memories, dope, whatever. He told himself for the hundredth time it was about trust. Soon, his cigarette had come to its predestined seven-minute end, and he was starting to feel the bite of the cold. But instead of going in, he walked down to the edge of the water, dark as it was, with stars sprinkled in the quiet waves. At the edge of his vision, he noticed the studio light disappear from the ground, and moments later he felt, more than heard, Sonny coming out of the house, walking toward him. He didn’t turn around, but when Sonny reached an arm over his shoulder, Luki took Sonny’s hand and kissed it, not surprised at all, and led him back to the driftwood seat.

Sonny straddled the log next to Luki and leaned in to kiss Luki’s neck. Which tickled in a most seductive way. Sonny’s long legs grabbed hold of him like pincers, and he dragged his lean fingers over Luki’s chest, leaving heat trails on Luki’s night-chilled skin. The whole event felt like a stroke of better-than-luck to Luki because, though he refused to jump to conclusions, he was pretty sure Sonny was making sexual advances. And it had been a couple or a hundred months since any such thing occurred or even was hinted at. So if his response was a little too enthusiastic, a little too heated, he hoped Sonny would forgive him for that.

Better than forgiving, Sonny matched him flame for flame, and pretty soon hands were inside clothes and doing some exquisite touching, tickling, rubbing. But it wasn’t all that comfortable—cold and clothed—so Luki breathed, “Bed, sweetie.”

“Yeah,” Sonny answered, but he didn’t stop what he was doing…
1571f-malecouplekissingpreludetosex

Yeah, okay. The guys in that picture aren’t Luki and Sonny, nowhere close. But they apparently had a similar idea. After the idea, you will see, if you read on in Delsyn’s Blues (click on the cover image if you’ve a notion to buy it), the bad guys made themselves quite evident, and that led to a passel of dangers and crises, as well as some brand new ultimatums, proposals, and positions. Ahem… seriously. I mean, homework if you like, pages 48 through 53. Hot, much?

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Gay Romance University: Vasquez and James 101 (intro with excerpts and NquiteSFW pics)

gay couple in bed
Want to get your degree in Gay Romance Lit? Well, why not start by learning from the sweet and hot experts, Luki Vasquez and Sonny James. No, you’re right, the couple to the left is not Luki and Sonny, but they are sweet, and they are romantic, and I think they should have a book written about them. (I’m working on it.) Luki and Sonny are older (especially Luki) and more… well, I’ll get to that later.

As you may know, there are, to date, four installments to the Vasquez and James Suspense/Romance story. (If you wish to purchase the texts for home study, click on the image below. 🙂 )

VJ 4 covers by Monique

There is one more book about the couple, the novella Yes,, and another book in the series entitled Because of Jade,coming in spring 2014. For this introductory bit of GRU’s Vasquez and James course, however, we’ll focus on the first book in the series, Loving Luki Vasquez.

One thing you will note about Luki and Sonny is that although they were certainly always hot (and sort of sweet), they were definitely not always experts in romance. In fact if you’ll turn to page 3 of your text (or just keep reading here), you’ll find an account of the events when they first met, accidentally, on the streets of (fictional) Port Clifton, Washington. To set the scene, Sonny—who lived in the area—was walking down the street in a not very good mood…

Pt T main drag

Then he saw a man.

Which in itself wasn‟t unusual, but this man, an islander, maybe Hawaiian, by the look of him, lounged cool and beautiful in loose summer whites, half-sitting on the fender of an ice-blue Mercedes, a strip of sand beach and the blue straits for a backdrop. Dark chestnut curls shining; straight, white teeth softly teasing a lush, plum-red bottom lip. His eyes, startling pale blue against brown skin, roved all over Sonny; the islander made no effort to pretend otherwise, and besides, Sonny could feel them. Their touch trickled over him like ice water, exciting every nerve he had, even those he‟d never heard from before.

Which scared Sonny, a recluse by choice—and, he knew, because he‟d always managed to be socially… well, clumsy. So, he turned to the weapon that had been his first line of defense since adolescence, when all the reservation had noticed that their star young grass dancer didn‟t mind being gay: a smart mouth.

“What are you looking at?”

Groan with me now, class. Good Lord, Sonny James! Could you be any less romantic?

But… maybe it was fate, because minutes later, the heretofore icy-hearted badass Luki Vasquez took a most uncharacteristic chance. You’ll find this bit on page 4 of the text, and Sonny has just witnessed hardcore Luki sweetly pick up a fallen teddy bear and return it to a child.

coffee-love

Sonny, angry with himself for blowing his chance to meet this chill but beautiful stranger—who might be trying to hide a kind heart—pretended he hadn‟t seen. He turned his faux-stoic shoulder and walked away. A little shaky, perhaps; already sorry. Three strides and he heard a voice, unexpectedly scratchy, even hoarse.

“Hey.”

Sonny turned.

The man took a deep, lovely breath, flashed his cold-fire eyes at Sonny, and said, “I have coffee most mornings at Margie’s. In case you’re interested.”

Following that initial flubbed meeting and interesting invitation, Sonny and Luki met a couple of times on purpose and accidentally, with disastrous and somewhat humorous results, and on would think that would have been the end of it. Truth was, however, neither could forget the other. One day, they met by chance—and a kiss happened. Not love at first kiss, no, but a hint at what a romance between them might be. Beginning on page 16 of your book, Luki is disgusted with himself and decides a little tai chi practice on a mostly deserted beach would do him good…
Kiss: Sean Chappin + Juan Valdez / 20100117.7D.02119.P1.L1.SQ.BW

By the time he‟d finished, the sun had risen almost midway. With heat and exertion, he‟d broken into a profuse sweat. He turned his face into the breeze, let it riffle his curls, took his shirt off, and tossed it to hang on one of his targets.

A dot in the distance moving up the beach toward him. A person. Sonny, no flags in sight.

Crap.

Oh well, no problem. If there was anything he knew how to do, it was shut out emotional disturbance. He‟d just continue with his practice, maybe work another form first, as if Sonny weren‟t there. But with Sonny‟s long legs, he covered a lot of distance in a short time, and now he‟d come almost close enough for eye contact. My God, the man is beautiful.

“Hey,” Luki said.

“Hi.”

“Nice out, huh?” Oh, yeah. Great. Talk about the weather.

Sonny ignored the comment.

Thank you, universe.

“It‟s like dancing.”

The conversation seemed like some kind of mirror image of the last time they spoke, when Sonny was checking out colors, which certainly weren‟t all the same, or so Sonny informed him, leaving him to feel foolish. Nice thing was, now they were in his territory. But he had no taste for retaliation.
“It‟s been called that. Tai chi.”

“Oh. Yeah. I‟ve heard of it. Sort of dancing that can kill. Seems exactly right.”

Luki didn‟t know what he meant by that last remark, so he stayed silent.

“It‟s graceful, the way you do it.”

Luki remained at a loss for a response. Was that a compliment?

“I‟ve even thought about trying to learn it. But I could never get away from my studio—or maybe I should say get my studio out of my head—long enough for anything like that.”

Luki still said nothing, but now he subtly eyed Sonny from head to toe—a pleasant undertaking but one with purpose. “You‟re in good enough shape to do it well.”

“I suppose.”

Luki didn‟t know how he could speak and hold his breath at the same time, but it felt that way. “I could teach you a little,” he said, “right now.”

To his surprise and nervous delight, Sonny agreed after only a second’s hesitation. Soon Luki had him barefoot and mastering a perfect opening stance. From there, he taught him some traditional warm-ups—not part of the forms but a good way to get the feel of the art. Though his long, loose limbs gave him some trouble and made Luki want to secretly and fondly laugh, and though Sonny giggled—yes, giggled—at a few of the early warm-ups, he attended well and learned fast.

They‟d reached the last of the warm-up exercises: Pushing Chi. A little more complicated than the ones that came before, it took focused coordination. When Sonny could Push Chi with acceptable grace, Luki decided to introduce him to at least part of the Chen form: First, he revisited the simple but all-important Opening Movement. Then, Pound the Pestle, Lazy Tying Coat, and Six Sealing, Four Closing.

Single Whip led into White Crane Spreads Its Wings, the name of which made Sonny adorably… all right fine, adorably happy. The sequence involved motions that at first felt counterintuitive. Like probably every student in the centuries tai chi had been around, Sonny needed help with it. As he would with any other student, Luki stood behind him, using his own hands to guide Sonny through the move. He wondered if he could get away with teaching him all the rest of the moves in just that way. Perhaps for hours. Every day. For a long time.

As he was teaching and wondering and probably even almost smiling, a wind rose up, splashing spray and sand and whipping Sonny‟s long hair at Luki‟s face and right into his mouth. On the word “open,” appropriately enough.

Sonny spun around, gathering up his luxurious baked-earth red hair. Before Luki had a chance to close his mouth, Sonny kissed him. A passionate, seeking sort of kiss. A kiss that Luki instinctively returned, though kissing wasn‟t a large part of his intimate life, and especially not kissing on the beach.

Well! That is a nice development. After that, some very suspenseful things begin to happen, throwing Luki and Sonny together whether they (profess to) want it or not. One thing of course leads to another, and things heat up, leading to this, on page 48:

bigstock-Cropped-Image-Of-A-Nude-Africa-32140823

After a moment, that not-quite smile of Luki’s that Sonny had come to recognize appeared in his eyes. He laced his strong fingers into Sonny’s hair and rose up to meet Sonny’s lips in a long, soft kiss, keeping possession of his gaze all the while. “Sweet, so sweet,” he whispered. And then, his lips still moving against Sonny’s: “You can have my ass.”

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