Tag Archives: Tinnean

Tinnean on *Call Me Church*, creative titling, and the lack of unexpected pregnancies in gay fiction

Click on the cover to buy this book at the Dreamspinner store.

It’s the height of the Depression, and people are desperate for a distraction from their lives. Film director Church Chetwood wants to help them forget—and he manages it with his documentaries and travelogues. But when the saber-tooth tiger he captured escapes, Manhattan’s grave situation only worsens. Now Church is facing ten years up the river.

Black Tuesday left John Smith a homeless sixteen-year-old orphan, and in the past four years he’s survived as best he could. When his path crosses Church’s, Johnny’s looking for a meal, nothing more. Surely after all he’s done, no one could love him—especially not Church, who insists he isn’t “like that.” But Church does have a plan to get away. Maybe if Johnny’s lucky, Church will let him tag along.

Tinnean has been writing since the 3rd grade, where she was inspired to try her hand at epic poetry. Fortunately, that epic poem didn’t survive the passage of time; however, her love of writing not only survived but thrived, and in high school she became a member of the magazine staff, where she contributed a number of stories.

It was with the advent of the family’s second computer – the first intimidated everyone – that her writing took off, enhanced in part by fanfiction, but mostly by the wonder that is copy and paste.

While involved in fandom, she was nominated for both Rerun and Light My Fire Awards. Now she concentrates on her original characters.

A New Yorker at heart, she resides in SW Florida with her husband and two computers.

Ernest Hemingway’s words reflect Tinnean’s devotion to her craft: Once writing has become your major vice and greatest pleasure, only death can stop it.

She can be contacted at tinneantoo@gmail.com, and can be found on Live Journal and on Facebook. If you’d like to sample her earlier works, they can be found at http://www.angelfire.com/fl5/tinnssinns/Welcome1.html.

The Interview
Q: How important are character names, to you, and how do you go about naming them? What about titles?
A: This is an interesting question. I just did a blog on this very topic. Names are just as important a part of the character as eye or hair color. Yes, a rose would smell as swell, but would we be inclined to take a sniff if it was called stinkweed? I have links to naming sites online as well as the book 20,001 Names for Baby, which is really helpful in that I can find both first names and surnames from the book. What’s difficult is when names need to be changed because they’re too similar and there’s a possibility of confusing the reader. (i.e. Emma/Elle, Hughes/Hayward/Humphrey) I’ve had to come up with something else, and it takes a while to get used to the new name. One of the things I enjoy the most is playing with names. In a story I’ll post online, a character’s parents are Elizabeth and Bernard—Betty and Barney. And in another story a young woman calls her future father-in-law “Father Marcus”. After I’d written that, I wanted to change his name to William in the worst way. *g*

Regarding titles, I’ve found that I can’t write comfortably unless I have one of some sort, even something as lame as Looking for a Title. I get titles from lines of poetry (“Ah, Me! Full Sorely is My Heart Forlorn”) or songs (“Blue Champagne”, “Blue Velvet”, and “Blue Moon” and yes, that was a trilogy), although sometimes the stories name themselves, (Call Me Church for instance.) No matter how they’re named, once I’ve titled them, the title generally stays. However… (You knew there’d be a however, didn’t you?) On occasion the story itself will change its mind. A novel that will be out in February/March started life as Here Comes the Groom. From there it went to The Wedding Vow, Brown-Eyed Handsome Man, and finally settled on Two Lips, Indifferent Red, which is from Twelfth Night.

Q: In what locale is your most recent book set? How compelling was it to set a story there? Do you choose location the same way every time? How?
A: Call Me Church is set in Manhattan in 1933. This was the only locale where it could take place. And that’s how it works for me: the story chooses its own location, which in some cases becomes a secondary character. Lately, though, I’ve found it’s easier to create a city (as in Two Lips) or towns where I can come up with malls, streets, schools, and even beaches.

Q: How much power do you give your characters in steering the story line?
A: Seriously? I’m just along for the ride. They’ll let me write until there’s something they object to, and then they’ll drag their heels. It can reach a point where I’m no longer enjoying what I’m doing, so I’ll have to stop and try something else until we’re all happy. It can be as simple as introducing another character, but it can be as complex as tossing out an entire chapter and starting from scratch. But you know what’s the best? It’s not written in stone that I have to continue that plot thread. I can change it as often as necessary. (And believe me, there are times when it’s really necessary!)

Q: What is the most satisfying element for you in writing gay relationships, and why?
A: I read a lot of Harlequins back in the day, and what I find most satisfying about the gay relationships I write is: 1. There won’t be any unexpected pregnancies; 2. My characters are not simply gay, they’re people who just happen to love someone who’s the same sex; 3. I like to think that none of them are TSTL—too stupid to live; and finally 4. No unexpected pregnancies. *cough*

Q: Are readers involved in making your fiction—do they suggest stories or say what they’d like to read?
A: Yes, on occasion, although the decision as to whether to go their route or not remains mine. In one story, I mentioned Character A was going to take Character B home to meet his family, and because I was tired at that point, I left it at that. Sometime later, a reader wrote me and asked what happened, and since I’d had some time to recoup, I went back and fleshed out a whole ’nother chapter. I’ll also ask on LJ. I was giving a character ringtones for his phone for the people in his life, and I asked my flist what they thought of a selection of music. Their input is valuable in that it gives me something to consider.

Q: Describe the ideal relationship between author and readers.
A: For me it would be a matter of trust. I’d like my readers to trust me enough to know that I won’t lead them down the garden path, and as a result of that they’d be willing to give whatever I write—contemporary, sci-fi, historical, even f/f— a try.

Q: What do you find useful about reviews?
A: I found a review for Fifty Shades of Grey very helpful, in that it included a list of words that were repeated ad nauseum. This led me to realize that in Two Lips, people did an awful lot of smiling: I smiled, he smiled, she smiled. I went back and reworked the majority of them, thereby fleshing out the sequences.

Q: I’m well known for demanding to know an author’s opinion about which of their characters is the sexiest, and I’m making no exception for this group. Who, how, and why?
A: This is like asking a mom who her favorite child is. (Okay, okay, but if any of my characters ask, you have to promise you’ll tell them I think they’re all sexy.) I’d have to say Mark Vincent and Quinton Mann in my Spy vs. Spook series. These two men are adults in the prime of their lives, and being in the intelligence community, they’re both competent and willing to do whatever they have to in order to protect the other. There’s also the fact that while they haven’t said those three little words, (no, not “You’re a dope.” *g*) their actions more than show it.

Q: What are the fifty hottest words (approximate the word count) you’ve ever written, in your opinion. (Be sure to include citation).
A: Not sure if this is what you want, but in my own work I tend to prefer what’s hinted at, so I’d have to go with this, from Yours, Jason, a novella that will be out in December.

Ben looked so good in the black suit he’d chosen that Jason couldn’t help dropping to his knees, unzipping Ben’s fly, and blowing him there in the upper level hallway.
“Whoa!” Ben leaned back against the wall, trying to catch his breath.
Jason grinned up at him and caught a stray drop of come from the corner of his mouth.

Q: What are you doing now, what do plan to write next?
A: Right now I’m working on the fourth book in the Spy vs. Spook series, called Complications. The first chapter picks up immediately after the events in the Black Coffee chapter of Not My Spook! The second chapter goes ahead seven months, and then the rest of the book should be two years down the road.

I have an idea for a western that takes place in 1870, (I’d love to name this Green Grow the Lilacs, but since that’s the play Oklahoma was based on, I’ll have to come up with something else.) and I’m giving some thought to the back story. Then there’s what I like to call my gay vampire story. *g*

There’s also the sequel to Call Me Church, which begins with them in the South Seas. This is another one that has no title as yet, but maybe something like Johnny and Church and the Search for the Treasure of the Hidden Temple? *falls down laughing*

Exerpt from Call Me Church

Chapter 1

Life during the Depression was hard. There wasn’t much to be happy about, to entertain us, so when Church ‘Chet’ Chetwood, the renowned film director, returned from the South Seas with what he claimed was the most astounding find in ten thousand years… well, everyone wanted to see it.

No one expected a throwback to the Ice Age to suddenly appear on Manhattan Island, and people stormed the box office to buy tickets.

I’d wanted so badly to go see the creature that was supposed to be extinct, but I couldn’t afford it. Well, I could barely afford to eat.

For once God was on my side, although so many others weren’t as fortunate. I wasn’t there when “Chetwood’s Kitty” somehow managed to escape from the theater where it was being exhibited.

The buildings along 42nd Street still bore splatters of dried blood from the path the giant saber-toothed tiger had taken. It had torn apart dozens of homeward-bound workers. Bodies had been disemboweled, decapitated, literally torn limb from limb. Cars had swerved to get out of the path of the infuriated creature. They’d run over pedestrians and had crashed into buildings, into the beams of the el, into buses, into one another.

A few days later, while I was scrounging in an alley, I’d come across the torso of a woman that had been somehow overlooked in the cleanup. Razor-sharp claws had shredded the shirtwaist she’d worn and the flesh beneath it, and the expression on her face revealed her pain and terror. I’d wheeled around and thrown up, although there had been little in my stomach.

The sabertooth had escaped to Central Park, and for three days the city was under martial law. That hadn’t helped the people who lived in Hooverville, in the drained reservoir. Six of them had been slaughtered before the Army had tracked down the sabertooth and fired enough rounds into it to bring it down.

I followed the story whenever I came across a discarded newspaper. The Daily News, being just a step up from a scandal sheet, had the juiciest stories. Its reporters told in gory, minute detail all the carnage that had descended upon New York City in those three days.

The survivors, as well as those who had lost loved ones, were among the many suing Church Chetwood, along with the city, the state, and the federal government, which was out to get him for bringing an unlicensed animal onto American soil.
However, no one knew where Mr. Chetwood was.

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Author Tinnean’s *Bless Us With Content* (Dreamspinner Press)

Ashton Laytham came to Fayerweather, his uncle’s estate, as an orphan at the age of seven. Family and servants alike perceived Ashton as an unlovable child and shunned him; as an adult, the occasional illicit rendezvous aside, Ashton remains aloof and alone. When his uncle dies, yet more abuse falls upon Ashton’s shoulders: the estate is bankrupt and Ashton must make good on his uncle’s gaming debts.

With the family talisman stolen and the suspects fled, Ashton faces certain ruin until the arrival of Geo Stephenson, who holds all of Sir Laytham’s IOUs. Geo proposes a solution: Ashton will accommodate him in his bed, thereby paying off the debt. Attracted to Geo in spite of himself and desperate for any human kindness, Ashton agrees… never expecting to lose his heart to a man who claims he will never give his.

Tinnean has been writing since the third grade, where she was inspired to try her hand at epic poetry. Fortunately, that epic poem didn’t survive the passage of time; however, her love of writing not only survived but thrived, and in high school she became a member of the magazine staff, where she contributed a number of stories.

It was with the advent of the family’s second computer—the first intimidated everyone—that her writing took off, enhanced in part by fanfiction, but mostly by the wonder that is copy and paste. While involved in fandom, she was nominated for both Rerun and Light My Fire Awards. Now she concentrates on her original characters.

A New Yorker at heart, she resides in southwest Florida with her husband and two computers.

Ernest Hemingway’s words reflect Tinnean’s devotion to her craft:

Once writing has become your major vice and greatest pleasure, only death can stop it.”

If you’d like to sample her earlier works, they can be found at www.angelfire.com/f15/tinnssinns/Welcome.

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Meet the Author: Tinnean (Englishman on the one hand, Vampyrs on the other…)

Welcome, Tinnean, and thanks for being here. I’ve had a sneak peek at the excerpts we’ll be posting here, and I’m anxious to get started on the conversation, so here goes…

Q: Before talking about your work, I’m hoping you’ll share a little about you, Tinnean the author. I noticed in your bio you mentioned you transplanted from New York to Florida. Do you think the change in environment affects the way you write, or the type of writing you do? What made you turn your attention to M/M romance?
A: I think I’ll always be a Noo Yawk gal, but the writing seems to flow down here in Florida. Maybe it’s all this sun. (Although the ceiling fans help keep things cool.) I started writing M/M in 1999 when we were still in NY, so moving down here didn’t affect what I wrote. However, the majority of my work was produced down here, so that does leave me to wonder if I’d have been quite as prolific in NY.

It was actually an actor who started my journey into M/M, although Matthew Ferguson has no idea. He played the character Birkoff in the original La Femme Nikita on TV, and Kane in the movie Love and Human Remains. A friend challenged me to write the further adventures of Kane and David, and it just took off from there.

Q: Are you a morning writer, Tinnean, or do you burn the midnight oil? How do you get warmed up to the writing task when you sit down at your keyboard? Any rituals, good luck charms, other prerequisites?
A: I was able to retire earlier this year, so I’m able to write at any time, (of course taking sporadic breaks) starting in the computer room, segueing out onto the lanai, and then returning to the computer room after dinner. I keep the stories I’m working on, music that’s inspiring me (although it might have nothing to do with the story itself), and all manner of research on a flash drive. I’ll pick out one of the stories and try to add to it. If that doesn’t work, I’ll move on to another one. Sooner or later one of them has to give. It does help if I don’t watch television, since I find that really distracting. *g*

Q: Bless Us With Content strikes me as an unusual title, particularly for a romance. That piques my curiosity about the story, but I also wonder where the title came from. How did you choose it?
A: In order to get a story to begin, I’ve found that for me, I have to have a title, even if it’s nothing more than ‘Disclaimers in the Prologue’ or ‘gay vampire story’ (and we’ll get to that later. *g*). So it didn’t surprise me when this novel underwent quite a few name changes. I’d finally decided on No More A-Roving, in spite of the fact that I still wasn’t pleased with it — the more I wrote, the less that title seemed to have any connection with Ash’s story. During research into Robert Burns’ To a Mouse, I came across his A Grace Before Dinner. The last line called to me: Lord, bless us with content. This was Ash. So much had been denied him, but he still did his best to carry on, and eventually he was blessed with content.

Q: BUWC definitely has the standard historical, slightly dark, romance feel. Is this a sub-genre you particularly enjoy writing? What authors or novels influenced you in writing this style?
A: Actually, this is a tough sub-genre to write, simply because it calls for so much research; I want to keep it as authentic and accurate as I can, and I wind up exhausted. Having said that, I am toying with the idea of perhaps doing a novella from Geo’s POV, and maybe I’ll finally be able to use No More A-Roving as the title. *laughs* Contemporaries are easier; I can pretty much go by my own memories. (although the recent closing of Borders has caused a problem.) Georgette Heyer and P.C. Wren influenced me in writing this style, and Louis L’Amour in the researching: he said that when he wrote of a water hole, it would be there and the water would be good to drink.

Q: Ashton, an underdog but personally confident and experienced, with some sexy spectacles, is more than a bit of a heartthrob. In the excerpt we’ll post here, John’s fear, confusion, and longing come through very clearly, and make him quite an empathetic character as well—and Ashton clearly thinks all would be right with the world if only he had John. If you’re willing to share, I’d love to hear your opinion on which of these delicious men is the sexiest? The strongest? The most vulnerable?
A: John is Ashton’s first love, but John loves someone else and actually uses Ash as a way to punish himself for this forbidden desire. He’s blind in that he’d so used to seeing Ashton as ‘Awful’ that he doesn’t realize what’s there before him. Each is strong in his own way, but what makes them strong is also what makes them vulnerable. (Is that cheating? *g*) Ash stayed behind and cared for his land and his people, leaving himself at the mercy of those who hold Sir Eustace’s vowels, while John’s love for his brothers would have him willing to see his reputation in the dust to protect them.

Q: Your cover is quite sexy, too, fine work by artist Paul Richmond. Did you have much say in what went on the cover? Whose decision was it to have Ashton’s face not visible (except a hint of his spectacles), but Geo’s face—and much of his body—fully visible?
A: Thank you! I’m really pleased with what Paul Richmond was able to do for my cover. Yes, I had a good deal of input on the cover, which I appreciated more than I can tell. I’d originally wanted the two characters riding together with Laytham Hall in the background, but since that had already been taken, we went with this choice. It represents the scene where Geo is telling Ashton why he’ll never allow himself to love anyone. He’s sprawled comfortably on the bed, but Ash is at a distance. If you look carefully, you can just see the scars on Ash’s back, and there’s also the scar on Geo’s thigh. The hint of spectacles is sheer genius on Paul Richmond’s part, as is Ash’s fair hair. I’d originally seen him as a brunet, but this works so much better.

Q: The excerpt from Come By Night, your work-in-progress, appears as though it couldn’t be more different from BUWC. I’m curious to know what brings you to this sub-genre, and also if there were certain influences. Would you be willing to give us a little blurb? I’m wondering where the romance will come into play—if it does?
A: Remember what I said about needing a title in order to write? This started life as ‘gay vampire story.’ And as a matter of fact, the file is still called that. *g*

I’ll give any sub-genre a try. (I’ve even written F/F.) A call was put out for vampire stories that had a twist, and I came up with this idea that there was a symbiotic relationship between vampires and a specific type of humans who had delayed puberty and something like hemochromatosis, which is too much iron in the blood. To make things a little easier for them, they’re destined to fall in love with the vampire who comes to them. Of course that lasts only as long as they’re together, and they’ll love the next vampire just as much. The editor suggested I expand the short, something I’d intended because the entire tale couldn’t be told in 10,000 words or less, and so that’s what I’ve been doing. Oh, and just to let you know, it goes from 3rd person, as the reader will see in the excerpt, to 1st when Ty starts talking.

I’m still working on the blurb for Come By Night, but this is what I have right now. As it hints, Ty does find romance, although it isn’t exactly what he’s expecting.

Tyrell Small knew he wasn’t an ordinary kid. First off, there was that birthmark on his throat below his right ear – it looked like someone had cut his throat. Second off, he didn’t like to be touched, not by friends, not by his Dad. That was just the way he was.
He wasn’t thrilled by those first two, but they hadn’t freaked him out as much as the fact that while all his friends were now topping six feet, he hadn’t grown an inch or gained a pound since he was twelve.
Now, on his sixteenth birthday, his father was going to reveal the truth of Ty’s heritage to him. And no matter how much Ty objected to it, he wouldn’t be able to shrug it off. This was his destiny: he belonged to a race whose sole purpose was to feed vampyrs.
Well, not Mr. Small’s little boy! Ty intended to not only object but to run away!
But then he met Adam, who would one day be his vampyr, and suddenly his destiny didn’t seem quite so horrific.

Q: What’s coming up for your readers—do you have any details yet about the future of Come By Night? Anything else bubbling on the stove?
A: Although I know where I want Ty and Adam to go, it’s taking a bit of time to get there, and I’m still slogging away at it. (I blame the research. The Black Plague figures in this, as well as a villain who was turned in the fifteenth century, so I had to learn what I could of those periods.) I’m also working on my Spy vs. Spook trilogy. This was originally Mann of My Dreams, but if I can drum up some interest in it, I’d like to see it published.

Q: Final request: for your fans, a one line explanation of what makes you tic, as an author.
A: Actually, this is a quote by Ernest Hemingway:

“Once writing has become your major vice and greatest pleasure only death can stop it.”

Closing: Tinnean, thanks for being here and letting me ask these nosy questions. I’m sure readers will enjoy your answers as much as I have. Best wishes for your continued writing success.

Thanks so much, Lou! I always enjoying talking about my characters and what I’m working on, and this has been a real pleasure.

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Excerpt: Bless Us With Content (Rating is X, for readers 18 or older!)

Later that same evening, just before the supper tray was brought in, John came looking for me in the billiards room.

“Awful.”

I glanced up from where I was half-lying on the green baize of the table ready to make my shot, but I refused to say a word.

He shuffled uncomfortably, and I could not help but notice the bulge that again marred the smooth line of his trousers. I was sorely tempted to drop to my knees, unbutton his trousers, and free his prick. I wanted to know what he tasted like. Instead, I lowered my spectacles on my nose and observed him from over them.

“I… I want… ” He licked his lips and gestured helplessly, an action one seldom associated with a Hood.

“You will have to tell me what it is you want, John. I am not psychical.” Meanly, I decided that he would have to ask. For too many years I had been shunted aside in favour of his brothers, and I could not resist just a tiny bit of revenge.

His teeth worried his lower lip. It was obvious he was torn. He sent me a glance from beneath his lashes, but I waited patiently.

“What you were doing in the stable… ”

“Making love to Jemmy?”

Furious colour mounted his cheeks. Did he truly think I would denigrate the act, simply because my partner was a servant?

He avoided my eyes but nodded. “Yes. That.”

“You will speak to no one about what you saw.”

“NO! I would not!” Of course he would not. He swallowed. “I… I want… ” The smooth line of his trousers was still marred by the engorged shape of his prick. John might be embarrassed; he might be unhappy with the state of affairs, but he was still aroused.

He turned away, and my eyes dropped to the tails of his evening coat. I couldn’t help but imagine the firm curves that they covered. I’d seen them a time or two when as boys, he and his brothers would strip down to their drawers and go swimming in the pond near the folly. I’d joined them just one time, still with hopes they would befriend me, but I’d been wrong. After they’d very nearly drowned me, I’d never again made that mistake.

“You want to bugger me?” I gave a harsh laugh. No need to sugarcoat it. John would never see it as making love to me. “Why should what you want make a jot of difference to me?”

He shook his head, and seemed to have to force the words out. “Not… not that.”

It took a moment for his admission to sink in, and then I took pity on him. “You want me to… sodomize you, John?” I dared not call it making love, dared not bring up the word love at all.

He glanced at me over his shoulder and nodded jerkily, his face as pale now as it had been flushed. “Just this once, Awful. And… and you must promise me no one will ever find out! If Robin ever learned of this… ”

“You trust me not to reveal your dastardly secret?” He must want it – I would not permit myself to think he might perchance want me – very badly. “I do believe I am flattered. However, you need have no worry. This Laytham is honourable in his own way.”

Besides, Robert would kill me for touching his brother. Did John think I was unaware of that? Did he truly think me that witless?

I brushed how he must view me from my mind – there were better things to think of, such as how I wanted to crowd him against the wall, my fingers locked in his, keeping him motionless. How I wanted to rock my hips against his, allowing him to feel my arousal against his arse.

But perhaps he felt at a disadvantage, his delectable arse presented to me. As if he knew where my thoughts were travelling, he flushed once again and turned to face me.

I took a step toward him, and while he stood firm, his eyes widened and his lips parted. What would he do if instead of drawing in a breath, as he was endeavouring to do, he drew in my tongue instead?

I worried that any precipitate actions would spook him. I’d always been good with nervous animals, and John was no different. I smiled ruefully and approached him no further.

“No one will ever learn from me that you want to be in my bed, and I promise you will enjoy it very much.” In fact, I intended to make this so good that a single time would not be enough.

“Then let’s get this done… ”

I backed away from him, and it actually seemed as if he would reach for me, but then his hands fell, fisted at his side.

“I have a condition of my own though, John.”

“What?” he asked harshly. “I can promise you nothing… ”

“I am aware of that. Do you think I am desirous of a pledge of undying love? How missish,” I mocked. I would have wagered my soul for that, but I was not so foolish as to wish for what I could never have. “My condition is a simple one: you will cease calling me ‘Awful’!”

“That is all?” Again he bit down on his lower lip, although this time apparently harder than he’d intended, for he winced, and I felt the blood flow more heatedly through my veins, wanting nothing so much as to soothe that tiny hurt. “But how shall I explain that to Robin?”

I shrugged. “Tell him it is childish, tell him you have outgrown it, tell him what you will.” I turned as if to walk away.

“Very well,” he agreed. I faced him once more, an eyebrow raised, and he concluded reluctantly, “Ashton.”

“Shall we give supper the go-by tonight?”

“NO!”

I could have sworn in frustration, but I forced my expression to remain bland, inquiring.

“No,” he said in a more moderate tone. “Everything must appear as usual. We cannot be seen leaving at the same time.”

“Very well,” I conceded, “but know this, John. If you call me ‘Awful’ – ”

“I promised I would not, didn’t I?” His reply was surly, and for a moment he was not in the least attractive.

And yet I found I didn’t care. I was about to have my fondest desire fulfilled, and to that end he could be as surly as he chose.

He hurried from the billiards room, and I stared after him for a moment before I finished knocking balls into the pockets. Then I laid the cue aside, smoothed my hands over the placket of my trousers, tugged at the sleeves of my tailcoat, and left the billiards room.

The family was ensconced in the rose sitting room as I strolled in.

“Ah. Deigning to join us at last, Awful?” Robert raised his teacup to his lips.

“My word! Do you mean to say I’ve been missed? How remiss of me! Had I known, I should have put in an appearance much earlier!”

He scowled at me. On those rare occasions when I responded to his needling, I invariably succeeded in making naught but a fool of myself. But knowing I’d soon have his brother beneath me- The corner of my mouth turned up in a smirk, and his eyes narrowed.

“You’re in a jolly good mood.”

“And why should I not be? It’s my birthday, and I’ve received a splendid gift- ”

“Hell and the devil!” John’s cup had slipped from his fingers to land on the Savonnerie carpet. He was pale, and there was an almost frantic look to his eyes. Did he fear I’d say something aloud, gloating over his perceived weakness for a male lover?

“… from Uncle Eustace,” I concluded in all innocence.

“Really, John!” Aunt Cecily protested. We all knew better than to swear in her presence.

“I beg your pardon, Aunt Cecy, Arabella.” He scowled down at the broken cup.

“Well, enjoy the gift while you may, Awful,” Robert snapped as he went to the bell-pull to summon Colling, “for I’ve no doubt Sir Eustace will take it back when it best suits him!”

I knew that even better than he, for my uncle never gifted the Hoods or Arabella with anything, leaving that to his wife.

I ignored Robert’s hurtful words and turned to Aunt Cecily, who was offering me a cup of tea. “Thank you, Aunt, but no.” I had no desire for any of the tiny sandwiches or iced cakes on the supper tray either, for John would soon be mine. “I believe I’ll retire early.”

He began choking.

“John, what’s amiss with you tonight?” Robert pounded him on the back.

“Enough. Enough! You mean beyond me spilling tea all over my favourite waistcoat? Nothing, Robin.”

“Well, you do seem to be at sixes and sevens this evening.” William picked up the pieces of John’s cup and put them on the supper tray.

“It’s nothing I tell you!”

I swallowed a smile; John did seem disgruntled. Too often had I been the object of the brothers’ mockery, and in spite of my feelings for him, I couldn’t help but take a bit of mean pleasure in his mishap, for that was indeed his favourite waistcoat.

I retrieved a candle and walked out, of course unnoticed by anyone.

Colling was bustling toward me.

“Mr John’s spilled his tea. I’m sure you’ll deal with it in your usual competent manner.”

“Indeed, Mr Ashton.” He went on to answer the bell, and I made my way to the still room.

How much time would I have, I wondered, before John came to me? I took one of the bars of the soap Aunt Cecily had made from the receipt the first Sir Osburt’s lady brought with her from her homeland, and then strolled up to my bedroom. It wouldn’t do to appear as if I were in a rush.

Upon opening the door, I couldn’t prevent a sigh. My room was in darkness save for the faint moonlight that drifted in, for the curtains weren’t drawn, and the hearth was cold.

I set the candle on the nightstand and went to the windows. It was the work of only a moment to close out the night.

After I lit the oil lamps, I tugged the bell-pull. Usually I’d make do with chill sheets, but not this night.

Soon a fire was blazing in the hearth, warming the room. I knew it would be a while before a housemaid answered my summons, so I took the opportunity to have a quick wash.

Perhaps the spicy scent of the soap would be an additional lure to John. It was said to be an attraction to a lover.

I found a nightshirt that hadn’t been worn. It was uncomfortable against my skin – perhaps that was why I’d never worn it – but I didn’t anticipate wearing it for long.

There was a timid tap on my door, and I drew on my dressing gown before calling out, “Come.”

“Y-you rang, Mr Ashton?” It was a tweenie, one of the youngest maids on staff. Of course, none of the housemaids would stoop to answer my call, although if it was one of the Hoods ringing they would stumble over themselves to do their bidding.

“I want a bed warmer, Maggie.”

“M-me, sir?” She turned so white I thought she would fall in a faint.

“I want you to fetch me a warming pan,” I clarified.

“Oh! Yes, sir!” She scurried out as if the hounds of hell were on her heels.

I shook my head. What had they told her below stairs?

***

I paced from the window to the door.

Everything was in readiness. My bed was nicely warm and the little jar of lotion that Jem had given me was sitting on my nightstand.

All that was needed now was John.

I worried my lower lip. Should I have told him I would go to him?

But no, the possibility that Robert might see me entering John’s room would have resulted in his brother denying my attentions, no matter how much he might desire them.

I paced to the window once more, brushed aside the curtain, and stared out into the darkness beyond my window. There was nothing to see, but it was better than staring about my room, pondering if I should have had flowers brought from the conservatory, if I should have brought up some of the sweet-smelling candles Aunt Cecily favoured.

The door opened. I turned and all worrisome thoughts fled my mind.

“John,” I breathed. “You came.”

“I… ” He looked uncertain, nothing like the cocksure young man who’d been one of the banes of my existence, and I felt my heart melt.

“Hush.” I crossed the room and made sure my door was locked. “You won’t regret this.”

He gave a harsh laugh. “I already regret it.” His gaze travelled about the room, touching briefly on the fireplace, the armoire, the small table that held a basin and ewer, shying away from the bed, which was, or so I thought, invitingly turned down.

Well, no point in keeping him on tenterhooks. I removed my dressing gown, letting it puddle at my feet, and went to him.

“You’re overdressed.” Without giving him time to think, I began to strip him of his clothes, letting them lie where they fell.

“M-must I be naked?”

“You’ll be more comfortable.”

He stood there, not helping, but not hindering either.

And in spite of his apparent reluctance, his prick was engorged by the time I had him naked.

“Very handsome.” I reached out to run my fingertips along his length, to cup his testicles, to rub lightly the skin behind them, ghosting cross his fundament.

“Oh!” His eyes widened in apparent surprise, and a drop of liquid formed at the tip of his prick.

“Haven’t you done this before?”

“You know I haven’t!”

How would I know that? We weren’t the best of friends, indeed weren’t any sort of friends in the least. However, I kept those words unsaid.

“Have- er- have you?”

“You saw me in the stable this afternoon.”

He flushed.

“But yes, I’ve done it enough to know the ins and outs of the deed.” I smiled, but he didn’t seem to comprehend my little joke.

Oh, well. No matter. We were here to fuck, not to have a dalliance.

Still… I wanted him panting with need of me.

I caught the liquid on my thumb and brought it to my mouth. My eyes on his, I let my tongue sweep out and taste him.

He frowned. “That’s- ”

“Delicious. You taste delicious, John.” I could have got drunk on him, but that wasn’t something I was about to confide in him, not just then.

Perhaps one day?

“How… ” Tremors ran through his body, and he licked his lips. “How do you want me?”

“Lie down, please.”

He obeyed without further comment, and his legs fell open as if of their own accord.

I disposed of my nightshirt as quickly as possible, for fear he might change his mind.

His eyes drifted down my body, drawn to the spot where my prick rose thick and proud. He swallowed heavily, but didn’t seem inclined to bolt just yet.

“I won’t hurt you, I promise.” I kept my spectacles on, the better to see him with, and climbed onto the bed.

“Why not? It’s what I’d- ” He bit back the remainder of his words, not that that was necessary. I was no fool. I knew full well that had our positions been reversed, John would have taken great pleasure in – well, perhaps not hurting me, for he was a Hood and thus an honourable man – but in cowing me.

Conversation at a time like this was overrated. I leaned forward and took him in my mouth, pushing his foreskin back with my lips.

A keening wail emerged from him, and his entire body stiffened as he thrust his hips up, driving his prick deep into my throat. Had no one ever done this for him before? Oh, I believed him when he said he’d never lain with another boy, but surely the lasses of Harrow on the Hill hadn’t been blind to his many attractions!

I gripped the base of his prick, giving it a squeeze, and drew off.

“NO!” he wailed again. He reached for me frantically, attempting to push my head down, and if I weren’t so aroused myself I would have been amused by his neediness.

However, I knew it would be all over with him if I continued, and as much as I loved him, I was not about to let John achieve satisfaction unless I did as well, for I didn’t doubt he’d catch his breath, gather his clothes, and make a hasty departure.

He had said this was to be the only time, but I wanted more than one single occasion, and I intended to see that in the end, he did as well.

“Ashton, if you don’t stop larking about, I swear I’ll draw your cork!”

He hadn’t called me ‘Awful,’ and that gave me cause to hope.

I reached for the jar of lotion and scooped a goodly amount onto my fingertip.

I worked the lotion into his fundament, and he gasped and tightened around my finger. I made no move to press in deeper or to withdraw. Abruptly the grip loosened, and I pushed my finger in further until I found his sweet spot.

This time the sound he made was more like a desperate mewl.

I removed my finger, coated two with the lotion, and returned to preparing him for the invasion that was to come.

He gripped my shoulders, his nails digging in almost painfully, but he was thrusting back against my fingers, and this also gave me hope.

“Are you enjoying this, John?”

“Are you mad?”

I stopped rubbing that spot within his back passage.

He bucked against my hand, twisted and turned, but I didn’t give him more of what he was now desperate to have.

“Yes, I’m enjoying this! Dear god, what are you doing to me?” he whimpered. I withdrew my fingers, and he became even more frantic. “Please! Please!”

“Onto your side, if you please.”

He obeyed with alacrity, unwittingly raising his right leg, giving me access to what lay in the shadow of his buttocks.

“Yes, dear one.” As much as it had given me pleasure to hear him beg in my fantasies, now I found it degrading.

I coated my prick and settled myself behind him, entering him with a single, swift movement. The last thing I wanted was for him to stiffen and possibly cause himself pain.

It was fortunate that the rest of the family resided on the first floor, for he howled.

“John?”

“More!” he panted. “More!”

I slid an arm around his shoulders and gently stroked the curve of his Adam’s apple, all the while lazily making lo- buggering him.

“Harder! Harder!” he demanded.

I knew he was going to be sore in the morning, but I couldn’t deny his request. I curled the fingers of my right hand around his prick and stroked him to the rhythm of my prick pounding into him.

It didn’t take long after that. With another howl, he spent into my hand, and the clenching of his inner muscles pulled me over the abyss after him.

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Come by Night—sneak peek excerpt

Dr. Vargas came bustling into the delivery room, and Madeleine Small caught her breath and glared at him.

“And how are we doing?” he asked, a little too cheerfully.

“I don’t know how you’re doing,” she snapped, “but I’m ready to tear off Ben’s testicles and shove them down his throat if he ever comes near me again!”

“Oh… ah… Ha ha,” Dr. Vargas laughed weakly. He didn’t seem to know if she was making a joke or being serious.

“I’m not joking!”

“I know, sweetheart.” Ben Small, the tall, dark-haired man who stood beside her, took her hand and stroked it. “And I promise, I’ll never touch you again.”

She turned her glare on him, about to snarl that he’d better not be making fun of her, when another contraction hit her.

“All right, Mrs. Small, you can push now.”

She didn’t waste her breath saying it was about damn time. She began to push.

“I see the head! What a crop of curls! No wonder why you had such morning sickness.” Vargas’ voice suddenly became sharp. “Stop pushing! The cord’s wrapped around his throat!”

They’d had an ultrasound and knew this baby was a boy. They even had a name all picked out: Tyrell, after a character in one of Ben’s favorite books. She figured she could let him have this, since she’d named their other four children, good names from the Bible.

“Okay, I’ve got it! Now, give me another push.”

And just like that the intolerable pressure eased off as the baby slipped out of her and began wailing his head off.

“Here’s your son, Mrs. Small. He’s a little small for a full term baby. In fact, I expected him to weigh more, considering your gestational diabetes, but he’s a 10 on the Apgar scale.”

She angled up on her elbow, squinting to see him more clearly, but he was covered in vernix. And she was so tired it felt as if her eyes were crossing. This had been her longest labor, in spite of the fact that it was her fifth, and subsequent deliveries were supposed to go faster and easier.

This entire pregnancy had been difficult, from the morning sickness that wasn’t restricted just to mornings and lasted until almost eight months, to gestational diabetes, to the threat of pre-eclampsia. But it was worth it, having this latest edition to their family.

The baby boy had stopped crying and seemed to be watching her with his father’s beautiful blue eyes.

“Happy birthday, little boy,” she murmured around a huge yawn.

“You need to rest, Mrs. Small. You can see him after the nurse has taken him to be cleaned up.”

She didn’t hear anything more as she slipped into an exhausted doze.

**

How much time had passed? Madeleine dug her elbows into the mattress in an effort to raise herself in the bed. She was still tired.

“Here, Mom. Let me help you.” Matthew, their oldest, elevated the head of the bed with the control, then carefully helped her to a sitting position. He was only eleven, but he was more mature than most of the boys he went to school with, and she was so proud of him.

“Thanks, sweetie. The nurse should be bringing in your new baby brother soon.”

“We saw him in the nursery, but I can’t wait to see him up close. We men finally outnumber the girls in this family.” He gave her a saucy grin, and her heart turned over. Of course she loved all her children equally. She just loved Matthew a bit more.

“Are you upset you couldn’t go trick or treating?” Truthfully she was glad they had missed it. Pagan holiday!

“No. We had the party at school, and Dad let me go around for a little while with Andy. Mark went with his friend Tommy. Dad took Sarah and Bethany.”

She really shouldn’t complain. Ben was a heathen, as she’d discovered soon after their marriage, but he didn’t interfere with their children’s religious upbringing, and so she overlooked it, prayed for him, and hoped he’d see the light.

“Where are your brother and sisters?”

“They’re with Dad, down in the gift shop. The flowers are supposed to be from all of us, but this is from me.” He handed her a small, floppy little bear. “This is Brownie, and he’s just from me.”

“He’s lovely, Matthew. Thank you.” Just then her other children burst into the room, followed by their father, holding what looked like a virtual garden. Madeleine looked at the flowers and smiled at Ben.

“How are you feeling?” He crossed to the bed and leaned down to kiss her.

“Fine.” She knew by his expression that he didn’t believe her. “Better.” He still wasn’t buying it, and she capitulated, admitting in spite of herself that it was nice not to have to be strong all the time. “A little sore. Tired.”

“All right, kids.” He put the flowers on the bedside table. “Mom’s tired. Give her a kiss goodnight and go wait by the nurses’ station. I’ll be along in a few minutes. And behave! If I hear even a hint that the nurses had to send for security, I’m gonna sell you all to the gypsies!”

“And they’ll feed us squirrels. Sure, Dad.” They laughed at him. He’d been promising forever to sell them to the gypsies if they misbehaved.

Madeleine frowned. She didn’t like when he said things like that where other people might hear. They’d think she and Ben were bad parents, and they weren’t. Her children did as they were told – she was always pleased when people told her how well-behaved they were – and they excelled in school and sports and all the after-school activities they were involved in.

Matthew lingered at the door. “I’m glad you’re okay, Mom. G’night.”

“Goodnight, Matthew.” She waited until he was gone before turning to Ben. “So they’ve seen the baby. What do they think of him?” Tyrell hadn’t been planned. They were happy with their two boys and two girls and had been certain their family was complete. In fact, they’d given all the baby clothes and furniture to Goodwill. She’d felt so awful through much of this pregnancy that the task of getting new things for the baby had fallen to Ben. Maybe that was why this whole thing seemed so surreal.

“They weren’t too impressed. He was howling his head off.” Ben’s blue eyes crinkled with amusement, and her heart gave a little flip.

She loved him so much that sometimes it scared her. She’d married him against her parents’ wishes, but Ben had promised everything would be fine, and it was. He was such a wonderful husband. And he was so good with the children.

“Was he all right? I don’t remember any of the others doing that.”

“Dr. Margoles said everything is fine.”

She sighed in relief. Dr. Margoles had been the children’s pediatrician since Matthew’s birth.

“Ty’s weight is a little low, and Dr. M. wants to keep him here until he hits six pounds. The minute he does, we can take him home.”

“Will the insurance cover it?” Although she wasn’t really worried. Ben was a good provider, and his union offered excellent benefits.

“Sure.”

A nurse walked in just then, wheeling a bassinet. “Here’s the newest member of your family!”

Ben picked up the tiny bundle with competent hands. He wasn’t like some fathers who were only comfortable with their children once they reached the age of reason. He’d pitch in and help her, walking the floor at night if necessary.

And she could see from the besotted expression on his face that he was already hopelessly in love with their newest son.

Madeleine held out her arms. “Let me have him!”

Tyrell was swaddled from his neck to his feet, and a blue and white cap covered his head. A few black wisps of hair stuck out.

With the baby cradled in her arms, she lowered the front opening of her nightgown and put him to her breast.

“Ouch! He’s a greedy one!” She began to sing softly to him, and he opened his eyes, staring at her with seeming wonder. She ran a finger over his cheek – it was so soft – and smiled up at her husband. “He has your coloring, Ben, your eyes as well as your hair.”

“Do you think? All babies have blue eyes, don’t they? All the others did, but now they all have gray eyes, just like their mom.”

“No, I know this little boy will be the spitting image of his dad.” She burped him and put him to her other breast. “Ben, the children are going to get restless. You’d better take them home.”

“Are you sure you don’t want me to stay? The nurse won’t be back for a while. I can wait and put him back in his bassinet.”

“No, I think he’ll be eating for a while longer.” Besides, she wanted to have some time alone with this new baby. She would have been told if anything was wrong, but she wanted to reassure herself, just as she had with each of the others.

When he’d first asked her to marry him, Ben had assured her that things would work out for them, but a peek wouldn’t hurt. And he didn’t need to know she was worried.

She raised her face for his kiss and relaxed against him for a moment, then smiled at him. “Make sure the children brush their teeth and say their prayers.”

“I will, Maddie. We’ll be back as soon as visiting hours start tomorrow.”

“That’s right, there’s no school tomorrow.” It was All Saints Day.

“Goodnight, sweetheart.” Ben leaned down for a final kiss.

He walked out of the room, pausing, as his oldest son had, to gaze back at his wife. God, he loved her.

He’d made her a promise, not knowing if he could keep it. There was something that ran in his family line, and when Maddie’s parents had learned of it, they’d forbidden her to marry him. But he’d made that promise to her, and she’d agreed to go ahead and marry him.

He couldn’t believe how lucky he was to have her, to have their family, to have this wonderful life.

Thank God the kids were all fine. He knew with each birth the odds of that promise being broken grew, but they’d been fortunate and had escaped.

Tyrell hadn’t been planned, and the pregnancy had been a hard one, but already the little boy had Ben wrapped around his tiny, perfect fingers. Taking him out of the bassinet, holding him and breathing in the warm scent of a newborn – that was all it had taken.

This was the end, though. He couldn’t stand the possibility of another pregnancy. As soon as he could, he was making an appointment with a urologist and having a vasectomy. He wasn’t going to tell Maddie. Not that she would mind; they had the family they’d wanted, but there was no need to trouble her with the fine line they’d walked these last thirteen years.

He walked down the hall to the nurses’ station. Matt was keeping an eye on Sarah and Beth, his sisters, as they hopped from one floor tile to another, playing their own game of hopscotch. The boy was too responsible. Ben knew that made Maddie proud, but it worried him. An eleven year old shouldn’t be that mature. He should laugh and hang out with his friends and have fun, not worry about what other people thought of his antics.

Oh, well, there was still time for him to do all those things.

Mark, his second born, was hanging over the counter. “Do you really keep dead bodies in a fridge in the basement?” he was asking the ward clerk. Mark was going through a stage where anything related to death fascinated him.

“Yep,” the clerk answered laconically.

“But aren’t you afraid they might come out and try to get you?”

“Nope.”

“Why not?”

“Because they’re dead.”

“But suppose they really aren’t?”

“They really are. We make them sign a paper before we take them down to the basement.”

Mark’s eyes widened. “Whoa! That’s so wicked! But… ”

Ben hid a smile. “All right, Mark, that’s enough. We’re going- ”

Screams cut off the rest of his words, and blood drained from his face as he realized they were coming from the direction of Maddie’s room. Continue reading

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To find Tinnean—

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