Hi, and welcome to release day 1 for A Shot in Darkness, the 7th episode in the epic, suspenseful, romantic thriller that is the Vasquez Inc series. I call this release day 1, because today’s the day you can download the book from the publisher’s website (only!) at 15% off. Here’s a little about the book, a brief excerpt, and a couple links—1 to download now, 1 to preorder on Amazon. (Amazon and other major retailers release the book for download in just one week, and links to the stores can be found at the Publisher’s website—use the same link given here. That will be release day 2. 🙂 )
A Scotland honeymoon promises joy for a Dom and his sub, but a criminal’s revenge may prove deadly.
Sure the danger that dogged their steps in Los Angeles has finally passed, Brian and Jackie seal their hopes for a new beginning with a New Year’s Eve kiss. Though Brian’s trauma at the hands of criminals has left its mark, they do their best to leave troubles behind and enjoy a Scotland honeymoon. The ancient city of Glasgow offers nightlife, historic sites, long walks through snowfall, great Scotch whisky, a cozy fireside — and a blazing hot private encounter with a cool, cool ghost.
But every time somebody wins, someone else loses. When Brian helped State Department cop Jesse Douglas take down a crime ring, a rogue FBI agent lost everything. She blames Brian, and with the help of false identities and very good skills at disguise, tracking him and Jackie down in Scotland poses no problem. When a final encounter in the Highlands turns deadly, the key to keeping Brian alive lies in Jackie’s hands. With everything he loves at stake, can he call up love, courage and confidence in time to take that single, vital shot in darkness?
To most people, it might not seem possible that a month could go by while a newlywed couple hardly spoke to each other. But as Jackie sat in his great-uncle Kaholo’s Nebraska living room staring out the bay window while, outside, December shed snow all over its last abbreviated afternoon, he reflected that this was exactly what had happened to Brian and him.
That truth didn’t surprise him in the least. The last crazy weeks had only been a continuation of the chaos that had started long before their wedding. The events they’d begun by calling “the Espen case” and ended up calling “the mess with that asshole Vintner” had started weaving its sticky web in and around Jackie and Brian’s lives almost a full year earlier. The day Brian walked into Vasquez Security, Incorporated’s Los Angeles office to take on the role of branch manager, he’d walked into the first ropy but invisible strands of disaster.
If only Brian had known what was to come, maybe he would have turned back around and walked out.
No. He wouldn’t have.
Jackie almost laughed at the notion as soon as he thought it. Brian had been hired by Jackie’s uncle Luki, who owned the company, to do a job. He just wasn’t the kind of guy to renege on a commitment once he’d made it.
Probably why he stayed with me.
Yeah. Their love story hadn’t been a bed of roses either, even though Brian had a funny habit of bringing the fragrant blossoms home and sticking them all over their apartment in vases in an effort to romance Jackie, his chosen lover and submissive. And now… husband. He’d tried so hard to get Jackie to take his marriage proposal seriously, but Jackie had artfully dodged it for months. Perhaps that was understandable, in light of everything else that was going on.
Jackie had relocated to Los Angeles to be with Brian, and the city’s devil Santa Ana winds — and the memories and associations they held for a once-fragile Jackie — had assaulted him from day one. LA had not been kind to him when he was a homeless teen, and it continued its mean tradition now, almost a decade later. He’d witnessed a kidnapping, and the same day had an accident that set him back on his heels physically and mentally, then as soon as he recovered, another one. And then an amputation. The months and months of disbelief and hurting and healing and grief that followed remained in Jackie’s memory a strange nightmare, as if the time then had been a living thing.
And it hadn’t been an easy time for Brian either. But, even then, long before any vows were said, Brian had certainly made a commitment to himself to be the lover, the Dom, the man Jackie could count on. And he had stayed, remained steady at Jackie’s side even when Jackie had tried to shut him out. He’d cried, he’d loved, he’d cajoled and comforted. He had failed, at times. In an odd twist, sometimes broken Jackie had led Brian out of darkness.
But when Jackie’s chips were all in and he desperately needed a win, Brian had come through and played the best cards in his deck. He’d shown Jackie love, wrapped him in safe, careful knots, and set him flying in joy.
”Look,” he’d said. “You’re beautiful. I want you to see it. I want you to know.”
Jackie had seen, and his love for Brian, already spreading wide, had grown deep roots that, he liked to think, helped them both hold steady when the shit started hitting the world’s biggest fan.
The shit — the detritus of the Espen-Lieb-Vintner disaster — had been lying littered over their lives in Los Angeles. The Thanksgiving holiday break they’d taken in Colorado, complete with everything from a private night of fun kink, to a relaxed and joyful family dinner, was like fresh air. Maybe it made them a little high, because they got married while they were there.
Cue the giant fan.
The Colorado fairy tale ended, and the nightmare of the next few weeks began. Jackie hadn’t been with Brian — first his new leg needed fixing, then he’d been taken into hiding for safety. But Brian had almost constantly faced imminent danger, and Jackie’d hardly slept.
For weeks he’d worried, while Brian, on his own in LA, went undercover as an informer for the feds, at the same time pretending to work for Vintner, who could vie for the title of “nastiest piece of criminal shit Jackie had ever encountered.”
Then came the day the tide of trouble had turned to crisis, when Brian had been taken off the streets at gunpoint to be Vintner’s “guest.” The police sting went all wrong, but that same day Vintner’s organization imploded. Shot point blank and carrying the bullet in his abdomen, Brian escaped through LA’s network of tunnels. While Jackie’s uncle Luki helped the law bring down Vintner aboveground, Brian had hung on to consciousness in the hidden corridors underground and somehow done what was in front of him to do — bring a bad man out of the tunnels to face justice and shepherd a remnant of Vintner’s trafficking victims to safety.
That, Jackie thought, was courage.
But that hadn’t been the worst of it for Jackie. Because an ambulance took Brian away — in custody, as if he was the criminal, and Jackie waited for hours in what might have been the coldest, harshest surgical waiting room ever, at County-USC hospital. He got word that Brian was safe, out of surgery, recovering, and he breathed. But he couldn’t see him. Brian was in police custody — a jail inmate. Jackie hadn’t cried then, nor when Sonny hugged him and took him “home” to a hotel room. He’d figured he was just too tired and burnt to cry, yet his wet pillow and sore eyes told him he’d cried in the night.
As if he’d been keeping his tears secret even from himself.
It would have been difficult — impossible — to pretend all that hadn’t happened. If he could have, though, he would have jumped at the chance. Now that it was all over but the shouting, as they say, it felt impossibly heavy.
All of which was why tonight — New Year’s Eve — with its implied celebration of fresh starts, seemed like an extraordinary gift…
After too much time apart from his lover and sub, Brian Harrison is thinking kink, a cowboy hat, and one more marriage proposal. When Jackie Vasquez finally says “yes” to a wedding, he also says, “why wait?” But their vows and the toasts to the happy couple have hardly faded when a phone call reminds them that trouble still awaits.
Despite his best intentions, Brian broke the law in his efforts to stop a powerful criminal from harming those he loves. He could go to prison, or he could risk his life going undercover to help bring one of Europe’s most nefarious citizens to justice. Friends and smart thinking can help him do the right thing. But only love can supply the courage he and Jackie need to prevail against schemes and guns and, if they’re lucky, stay alive to enjoy a honeymoon.
An Exclusive Excerpt:
For Brian, Jackie’s unfaltering love and a quiet session showing him how beautiful he was in ropes had resulted in a settled mind and a good night’s sleep. By the time he sat at the table with his early morning coffee, though, he was worried again. His anxiety had taken a new tone. One good thing: Jackie loved him. Bad things: he was in trouble with the law and on mandatory leave from his job. The worst thing — or so it seemed at the moment: Luki probably didn’t trust him anymore, and he still hadn’t told him everything.
Jackie had gone out already, wanting to check in at school and with Dr. Holland, and maybe see Esi. Brian hadn’t wanted him to go, but Jackie understood the risks, and he was all grown up, and neither love nor Dominance, nor even marriage gave him the right to keep him from making up his own mind. He listened to Brian’s pleas to “be careful, don’t go places alone, and if you see something or someone that seems wrong, call me or the cops, depending.” And then he kissed Brian, said, “I’ll be careful,” and left.
As a result, when Luki arrived in LA and came up to the apartment, Brian was home alone.
He sat down on the couch looking exhausted. Brian felt bad, knowing he was about to lay some more trouble on him, but he was determined. He made coffee, poured two cups, and said. “Luki, there’s more. I meant to tell you all of it, but… well, I’m not sure why, but it just didn’t happen.”
Luki looked at him either forbiddingly or inquiringly — Brian wasn’t sure which.
“I’ve agreed to… work for Vintner.” Tempted to go on and pour out the whole story, Brian swallowed down the flood of words and guilt, and waited for Luki’s initial response.
Luki barely reacted. An eyebrow went up, and clearly gears were turning, but he didn’t ice down, and he didn’t snap. He didn’t even make one of his snarky comments. After a moment, he said, “I’m pretty sure I shouldn’t take that statement at face value.”
“Uh, well, there is more to it, yes.”
“Speak. No wait. I need more coffee. You?” Without waiting for a reply, he stepped into Brian and Jackie’s tiny kitchen retrieved the pot and the sugar bowl and brought them to the table. “Sit down here,” he said, while shoveling sugar. Once he’d taken his seat and fetched a toothpick from his pocket, he said, “Go.”
Brian picked up his cup and sipped, intending to stall and collect the right words but only succeeding in burning his lip, so that all he really said was, “Shit!”
Luki got him ice water.
“I am afraid of Vintner, which I already told you. Last thing I wanted was to end up like Espen, but he managed to blackmail me, I guess. He hired me… I mean, he came in pretending to be a customer — pretending either of us believed that — and wanted me to look into the hot cars he sold that were then stolen from his customers. I said no, but he let me know he could hurt people I loved. And well, I believe him Luki. Ruth and Jade, what happened to Lonny, that’s not coincidence.”
“No. It’s not. And you’re right to be scared of him. So you… agreed. You didn’t think of telling me.”
“It was the first thing I thought of, but that was part of his warning And I half-convinced myself I could just do it, and he’d let us alone. I know that was stupid.”
“That’s all there is. Except I went to jail…”
“Not that time. Before.” Brian told him about Jackie’s search for Esi, about the trip into the tunnels with Dr. Holland, and the weird fight with Roscoe Lieb, or Gerald Roscoe. “Whatever his name is. We both got arrested. I got released. Apparently there’s no record of it, because it didn’t turn up in the fingerprint match the other day.”
Luki stayed calm and cool, but there was a strained edge to it, and he said nothing until he’d finished his coffee and started in on the toothpick. “Anything else, Brian? Anything at all?”
“Um… I demanded data from him, info on his customers. Told him I couldn’t do the job without it. I thought maybe we… I… we could use it to… I don’t know. I got it. He sent files.”
Luki’s eyes widened and he nodded, but the silence was deep enough for Brian to count the muffled ticks of the clock on the kitchen stove.
“Just so you know,” Luki finally said, his tone casual, “He’s not blackmailing you.”
“It’s called coercion, not blackmail. Two different beasts. And you realize that by working with Vintner — even superficially — you’ve become at the very least an accomplice in his crimes, if perhaps a case couldn’t be made for conspiracy.”
Brian closed his eyes, part of his struggle to maintain his balance. Bullshit. I am not a criminal! He knew that, and he was convinced that Luki knew it too.
“You could try, as a defense, to point out that you were coerced — feared for your life, even. Unfortunately, while coercion can get you out of a contract, it can’t really get you out of a guilty verdict. So we’ll have to try something else.”
“Of course, Brian. Think about it. You are my nephew’s husband. If you get hurt, he’s hurt. And you’re my employee. If you get convicted my business is seriously fucked. And you’re my friend. Someone I care about. Love like family — you are family. I might not be happy with things you’ve done, but I’m not gonna hang you out to dry.”
“Uh, well. Thank you.” In reality, Luki’s kind words did more to undo Brian’s composure than any threat or angry snarl could ever have done. He couldn’t meet Luki’s eyes, so he drank coffee, then wiped an imaginary spill with the heel of his hand. “So then, you have a plan?”
“Yes. I’m going to disappear, at least as far as most eyes are concerned. I’m going to take some important people with me to keep them safe — including Jackie.”
Brian wanted to break down and cry. Everything he was facing was already overwhelming. The last thing he wanted to hear was that he’d be facing it alone, with no help, and no Jackie to claim his attention once he got home — and yes, to find comfort in, even shelter.
“No,” Brian said, and even though it came out like a poisoned breath, he meant it sincerely. He wanted Jackie safe above all else. And if Jackie was at the apartment behind VSI — or anywhere Vintner could find him easily — safe is what he would not be. After swallowing to try and fix his voice, Brian repeated, “No, Luki. Jackie being safe is the most important thing in the world. Hiding with you seems like a safe place.”
“Good. To be clear, he and Sonny and whoever else close enough to either of us to be in danger — if I can get them to join me — will be ‘hiding’ on vacation. And I’ll have some people around, keeping eyes out. People who know how to deal with bad guys.”
He stopped speaking, and when he caught Brian’s eye, smiled softly, his eyes kind and reassuring in an expression Brian thought wouldn’t have even been in Luki’s repertoire before Sonny, before the cancer.
Brian breathed a little easier, and smiled back, although truthfully it only made the desire to weep a little stronger. He still pushed it back, though. He didn’t want Luki to think he was caught up in self-pity.
“You won’t be alone in whatever’s coming your way. I’ll make sure you have a way to get in touch with Jackie, and possibly more important in the circumstances, me. I’ll help you in any way I can that doesn’t endanger our people more than necessary. I’m going to seem to disappear, but I’ll be around. Does any of that help?”
Brian nodded emphatically, almost knocked the chair down, getting up, and started viciously rinsing out his cup. “Though I’d feel even better if I was one of them.”
“One of who?”
“People who know how to deal with bad guys.”
“You are, Brian. Why do you think Vintner feels a need to make sure you’re handled?”
Luki brought his cup to Brian for a wash, leaned in, and said, “Anyway, I’m glad the measures I’m taking make you feel a bit better. Because, I now need to pull the rug out from under you.”
“I’m going to report it all to Jesse Douglas.”
At the word ‘report,’ Brian dropped the cup. Fortunately, nothing broke. “Jesse Douglas — State Department, they’ve already had me charged with a crime.”
“Yeah, well. I think we can stop that before it becomes a trend.”
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In 1605, Robbie Elliot—a Reiver and musician from the Scottish borders—nearly went to the gallows. The Witch of the Hermitage saved him with a ruse, but weeks later, she cursed him to an ethereal existence in the sea. He has seven chances to come alive, come ashore, and find true love. For over a century, Robbie’s been lost to that magic; six times love has failed. When he washes ashore on the Isle of Skye in 1745, he’s arrived at his last chance at love, his last chance at life.
Highland warrior Ian MacDonald came to Skye for loyalty and rebellion. He’s lost once at love, and stands as an outsider in his own clan. When Ian’s uncle and laird sends him to lonely Skye to hide and protect treasure meant for Bonnie Prince Charlie’s coffers, he resigns himself to a solitary life—his only companion the eternal sea. Lonely doldrums transform into romance and mystery when the tide brings beautiful Robbie Elliot and his broken harp ashore.
A curse dogs them, enemies hunt them, and war looms over their lives. Robbie and Ian will fight with love, will, and the sword. But without the help of magic and ancient gods, will it be enough to win them a future together?
Isle of Skye, June 1745
Ian woke with a start, his dirk already in his hand before his eyes were properly open. He glanced around, unable to shake the feeling that something was wrong, although if asked what or why he couldn’t explain it…
The harp was gone!
Memories of the evening before flooded his mind. He’d walked by the beach as he usually did, checking that all was well and there was nothing there that wasn’t supposed to be. Since his run-in with Campbell and his men, he’d made a point of keeping an eye on the area at least twice a day. The harp had caught his eye, the tip of the old wood caught on the white crest of a wave, not quite submerged, or belonging.
It had taken but a moment for Ian to make the decision to rescue the thing. Part of him identified with it, he suspected. It had been so long since he’d felt he belonged. Sure, this was an important task he’d been given, but it was so lonely, especially since Fergus had died. It wasn’t as though he and the old man had conversed much, but Ian had taken some comfort in the knowledge he wasn’t completely alone. When his uncle had bestowed the task upon him, it was understood he’d keep to himself and not have much to do with the locals. The Harp and the Sea
It was safer for both him and what he guarded as it didn’t take much for stories to travel and find the wrong ears.
He still regretted not having had the chance to tell his parents the truth behind his banishment. His parents might not have approved of their son’s relationship with another man, but they hadn’t turned their backs on him for it. However, it hadn’t stopped his mam from telling him it wasn’t natural. A fine young strapping lad such as himself should get himself a pretty girl and settle down.
Months spent in only his own company hadn’t stopped him wishing for what he didn’t have, and what he truly wanted. On a cold night, those dreams were both a comfort and a curse.
A firm thigh. A muscular arm. The scent of someone unmistakably masculine.
“Aye, because that’s going to happen,” he’d muttered as he waded out from shore to recover whatever it was stuck out there, neither a part of the sea nor the land.
The water was freezing, but he’d expected that. He’d shivered, but it wasn’t from the cold. One firm yank and the harp was in his arms. His breath hitched, his imagination caught in the same way the instrument had been trapped by the seaweed, a green slimy rope holding it to its watery prison.
The harp was still beautiful, despite the state of it. Once ashore, Ian allowed himself to run his callused fingers over it, marvelling at the smoothness of the wood. Amazingly, the strings were still intact. He plucked at one, and then another, wincing at the following cacophony. It needed a good tuning, but he didn’t possess the knowledge. He had no clue what song it should play, just the strong feeling it was missing something—that like him, it wasn’t complete.
His thoughts snapped forward to the present, his attention taken by the slightly open door of his stone cottage. He’d shut it the night before, he was sure of it.
Ian’s eyes narrowed. Some thieving bastard had been in his home while he slept! Fully awake now, he grabbed his sword and its sheath as he stomped out of the cottage, intent on capturing the culprit and at the very least giving him or her a piece of his mind.
At least it wasn’t Campbell or one of his men. If it had been, Ian would know it by now. Campbell wouldn’t have let him sleep but more likely held a knife to his throat and ensured his waking was a painful one.
“Not very clever for a thief, are ye?”
The tracks leading from just outside the door were clear as day, the red rays of the rising sun highlighting them as clearly as though the thief had left a sign-posted trail for Ian to follow. He didn’t need any further invitation. The harp needed to be kept safe, though if asked he wouldn’t have been able to say why. Still, he had to find it.
The footsteps led him to a clearing some distance from the cottage. A man sat huddled on the ground, clutching the harp to his breast. He seemed lost, afraid, yet for some reason very familiar.
Ian forgot to breathe for a moment, lost in the sight before him. The man was slim and blond, with long hair stretching down to almost his arse. He stared at Ian, his green eyes the colour of the deep sea. Neither of them moved.
And then the harp began to sing.
The sun finally rose, and Robbie Elliot felt its warm finger skim along his pale skin, seeking his bones to warm them. Every time this moment had repeated itself throughout his long life, for just that blink of time, his existence seemed worthwhile. To feel the sun caress and kiss his skin, to see it spark gold off the knotty locks of hair that hung before his eyes, this one feeling made his heaven. It would pass too soon, but for that instant, everything was perfect.
He looked out at the olivine sea. He loved her, gave thanks to her for the gifts she had given. She was his mother, but she gave with a cold breast.
Heavy footsteps approached; it would be the Highlander who’d been asleep in his cottage when Robbie snuck in to retrieve the harp. The man would be afraid of witchcraft, once he saw Robbie sitting before the harp, legs stretched on either side, leaning over the arc of its neck as if it were an ailing lover.
Robbie hadn’t made it to land yet from his most recent stint at sea when the ruddy Highlander had lifted the harp from the foam at the edge of shore, but he’d been aware. Even before Robbie left the surf and stepped on dry sand, he’d sensed the man who’d touched his harp and felt he’d known him a lifetime.
And the feeling had woken him quickly, completely, mind and body, had pulled him towards the beach as if he were a fish on a line. He didn’t fight it. For the first time in so many that he’d lost count, a man had found the harp! It was a man who’d been drawn to the magic, who’d touched it and touched Robbie, though he—this Highlander who’d found the harp—had no way to know what he’d done. Drawing his first harsh breath of air as he rose from the sea, Robbie had felt such hope that it stung his eyes.
Voice raspy from long disuse, he’d whispered to himself, or perhaps to the sea. “Can it be at last? Can this be the completion of the magic?”
For all he had tried, he had not been able to make the harp sing with any of the women he and the harp had met—be they ladies or housemaids, whether they wanted him or not. And he knew why. He was, despite everything, the same Robbie Elliot he’d always been, and they were women. How could that work?
Now, sneaking a glance as the finder approached him across the meadow, Robbie thought, But this is truly a man. A ruddy, huge Highlander, kilt-clad and bearing a hand-and-a-half sword across his back.
When the man found the harp, Robbie had still been roaming far out among the waves. But despite the distance, with all the senses of the sea at his disposal, he’d seen and heard with his mind’s eye—and no less clearly. The great bear of a man had hefted the sodden wood of the harp in one massive hand—a hand that Robbie could feel as if it grasped his own flesh—and carried the wounded thing to shore, whistling off-key some song of the Highlands.
And now the Highlander stepped into the glade where Robbie sat in the sun with the harp before him as if ready to coax a tune from her broken strings and warped neck. He strode across the sunlit ground, the red flush on his face and neck betraying his anger, his eyes on the harp, intent.
But when at last the tall, red-headed Scot raised his eyes to meet Robbie’s… Oh, wonder!
The harp began to sing.
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After a crash left him with new mental and physical scars, Jackie Vasquez has finally regained his focus, flair, and bright outlook. Though he’s letting Brian Harrison’s marriage proposal simmer, it’s not for lack of love. He’s set his sights on putting his life right first — a new job and a fresh start at graduate school. But Los Angeles — the city of devil winds — has new trauma in store for him. Another accident leaves him with the stump of a leg and defeated spirits, adrift despite Brian’s devoted attentions.
While Brian copes with his own emotional trauma, he hopes to break through Jackie’s apathy, but work at Vasquez Security takes more and more of his time and attention. Specifically “the Espen case,” which his boss — Luki Vasquez — has forbidden him to pursue. Help comes on all fronts from friends and family for both Brian and Jackie, but even as it does, danger mounts from outside. Can the two men find their way back to love as well as passion and fulfillment in their D/s roles? Can they survive the confrontation with danger that seems to loom closer and darker every time LA’s hot winds blow?
The morning after their stellar session, when Brian got out of bed, he discovered Jackie was already up. The fortune cookie was no longer on the night table. Brian walked out into the open front rooms of the apartment looking for his boy, eager to kiss Jackie soundly and get his answer to the marriage proposal.
Jackie had left three of four diagonally cut pieces of cinnamon-toast on a plate, two strips of bacon in a pan, and half a pot of coffee still keeping warm, but he was nowhere to be seen. Brian poured himself a cup of hot coffee and grabbed both bacon strips with his fingers. He sat down in his usual spot at the table, wondering if he should feel disappointed, worried, or perhaps unconcerned. Jackie had certainly demonstrated his feelings for Brian the previous night.
But the question Where the hell is he? kept popping up in his mind as he devoured the bacon and chased it down with coffee. Then, as he helped himself to Jackie’s toast leavings, the question evolved into Why the hell would he leave without a word?
Followed closely by Why hasn’t he answered about marrying me?
Shit. “No” would be better than silence…
Wait. No, it wouldn’t. But shit…
After he polished off the toast and talked himself out of putting a shot of J&B in his second cup of coffee, he remembered that phones and text messaging existed. Hopeful, he swallowed most of the coffee down and went to the bedroom to fetch his phone. Aha! A text awaited, and it was from none other…
— Good morning, Bri. I’ll be home soon. Before I forget. What happened to that broken drawer in the playroom? —
It took Brian a number of seconds before he could even make sense of the question, so far was it from what he’d expected — and desperately hoped — to see, but eventually he put it together. Annoyed, but glad Jackie had at least not forgotten him entirely, he texted back.
— It had a lock, no key, and I couldn’t pick it. I broke it. Where are you? —
Brian waited, sitting on the unmade bed in his skivvies, only vaguely aware of Marley head-bumping his arm hoping for a good scratch and not even noticing the sun blazing through the window and baking his left shoulder. He didn’t get an answer. He sighed very deeply, well aware of how piteous it sounded, and then he moaned, “Dammit, Jackie.” Sure the devil boy would be his undoing someday, he gritted his teeth, resolving not to worry until something clearly indicated he should.
He picked up his phone to send another text, but before he could do so, he got a mixed media message. As often proved to be the case with images, it had taken a long time to get to him, having been sent even before the text he’d already responded to. It was a selfie. Jackie looking very fine and dressed for success, wearing a blazer the same color as his eyes and a tie… one of Brian’s, he believed.
He texted back: You look good. Why are you wearing a tie?
He waited. No answer.
He waited some more. No answer.
He started to wait some more, said “Fuck it” out loud, and sent a final text. What did your fortune cookie say? And wherever you are, be careful.
Brian dressed, walked down to the office, and had already situated himself at his desk and powered up his PC when a reply came.
I love you, Brian.
Brian didn’t reply. He was already tired from the strange interaction. He just gathered up his things and, sighing again, turned his attention to work.
More and more he found he accomplished the tasks of management easily. He whipped through the morning’s e-mails before Livvy showed up, made a pot of coffee, assigned Lonny to manage a personal security situation for Korean corporate officers in Los Angeles for a wedding, and reviewed the latest financial reports with Ahmad. After a break, during which he tried unsuccessfully to reach Jackie by phone and then spent fifteen minutes crocheting with Livvy while she talked about her nephew’s latest musical triumphs, he worked on a plan he’d been putting together to point VSI-LA in a profitable direction over the next couple of years.
LA was rife with security companies, a good number of them with high level capabilities. It was why Luki had never concentrated his energies here — a big market with an even bigger pool of competition, and as successful and respected as Vasquez Security was, it remained a small- to- medium-sized fish in the large pond. That made it difficult to compete with the likes of Security Group International, and SGI’s office in LA was more than triple the size of Brian’s little group.
But he thought the office could do better than it had. The key was targeting the right niche. He’d researched, and he’d found two of the least monopolized areas to be security for transient high level corporate officials — like the Koreans in town this week — and event security for small to medium-sized posh gatherings. VSI was set up well to grow in those market areas, and his report included the necessary facts and figures for Luki to make a decision as to whether to invest in the additional personnel, training, equipment, and advertising to accomplish it.
Now he set his mind to propose one additional area of investment, one he wasn’t at all sure Luki would approve. For one thing, it involved privately dealing with things that technically should be the domain of law enforcement agencies. For another, it involved putting someone in the middle of very dangerous situations — negotiating with kidnappers and dealing with blackmailers — and nobody on staff at present in Los Angeles was qualified. But Brian knew Luki had done that type of work, and he had other agents in Chicago who could do it. Luki could do the training, and Brian really wanted to be trained and to do the work. He wasn’t sure why he wanted to do something so patently risky, except that he hadn’t studied what he’d studied and gone on staff with the London Metropolitan Police in order to spend all his time at a desk.
Whatever the reason, his brain got ridiculously excited at the idea. He’d need a partner, and he thought Amy might be a good choice. If not, they could hire someone. With Luki’s connections in the business, Brian had no doubt they’d pick up jobs if word got out VSI-LA was equipped to deal with them.
Interestingly, he’d found a file indicating Espen had been looking into the same field of operations a few weeks before his disappearance, but he hadn’t compiled any reports except a list of other security companies that offered the same services.
As that thought passed casually through his thoughts, a realization jolted him — as if lightning had struck and revealed Espen’s secrets. Two entries in the notebook had been different than all the others. Both had the letters RL, a date, and what was surely an amount of money. Only one had been crossed out.
Espen was a gambler, possibly an addict. Espen had been deep in debt to someone represented by the initials RL. He’d paid RL once, but not the second time. Around the same time, he’d compiled that list.
It clicked. He hadn’t been thinking of the business, he’d gone looking for help with a blackmailer.
It’s here, and it’s new! Released on the Changeling Press catalog a week ago, on 11/1 A Shot of J&B is let out into the wild—available for purchase and immediate download from Amazon and the other major retailers.
Reviewer Kitty Munday, who also read the 2015 edition of this title, said:“For those who, like me HAVE read the original:OMG I absolutely LOVE how Lou fleshed out the story here!” Noting that a lot of the exciting suspense action story will be told in book 2, as serialized by Changeling Press, she also asks, “And dang it Lou, how long will we have to wait?!”
The answer is: Not long! Vasquez Inc series book 2, A Shot of Fear is coming November 21! Watch for preorder news and a cover over the next week or so!
About A Shot of J&B
When Brian Harrison first met Jackie Vasquez at a Hawaiian wedding, Jackie was sixteen and troubled. Six years later they meet again; Brian’s career at Scotland Yard is budding with promise, while Jackie’s student days at the University of Nebraska are rolling toward a strong finish. Magnetic mutual attraction pulls them insistently toward one another, but the ocean separating their lives makes for a simmering romance.
When the waiting ends and they get together for a weekend in Denver, Dom Brian and sub Jackie both know they’ve tapped into something scalding hot, and much deeper than sharing an artful session. Shibari, lust, and love are all on the agenda — but for Brian, so is his police career, and a strange series of crimes seems poised to threaten their romance—and maybe their lives.
To set the scene, this is an email, one message in a string of them sent back and forth before they’ve had a chance to spend any real time on the same side of the Atlantic. They’re getting to know each other, and here you’ll get to know Brian—at least a little. A little extra? He works at Scotland Yard, a cyber-investigation expert who’s moving up to working in the field. He has a cat, a rescue fuzzball named Marley who’s not overly grateful, but loves Brian in his own way. (When Marley meets Jackie, it might be true that he loves Jackie even more.) So now… Brian answering some… personal questions. 🙂
Your e-mail has me smiling for a number of reasons. First, thank you for answering my questions so clearly and honestly. To be honest, I think for D/s we’re a pretty good match. I’m kind of unusual as a Dom. True story, some people think I shouldn’t call myself a Dom at all, because although I do want obedience during a session — I need it to keep my head focused right and even for safety — I don’t need or particularly want to test it, nor do I crave inflicting pain. I can use a flogger, paddle, riding crop, and I have, but I generally steer clear of the sub that desires pain for its own sake, because I’m not the right Dom for them.
I have a mentor, Tommy Fujimoto, an older man who has taught me a lot about Domination, and especially rope and knots. (Someday, I hope you can see his beautiful Shibari. I’ll go so far as to say, someday, I hope you can experience my Shibari. *grin*) But Tom has been a great role model in other ways, too, and he made me see that being gentler than a lot of Doms doesn’t make me less of one. He said, “The thing that makes a Dom is wanting submission and being able to take a like-minded sub where they need or want to go, head-wise.”
Are you familiar with rope bondage, Jackie? Shibari in particular is meant to be beautiful to the eye and the sense of balance and completion. For me, the most satisfying part is when a sub, deep in subspace, has a sort of forced epiphany that they are beautiful in my binding. Good Lord, Jackie. I hope it’s not forward for me to say I so much want a chance to do that for you.
You said you are a little embarrassed because you told me about imagining I was with you while you had that overwhelming orgasm, and you almost erased it. I’m so very glad you bit the bullet and hit send anyway.
Unable to resist, he ended the email with a mild caution.
Jackie, I hope you enjoy your weekend. On that geocaching outing, please be careful and don’t go alone.
And here’s a tiny snippet from the action packed book two, A Shot of Fear coming November 21:
“Fear,” Professor Hermans said. “Tell me why you have an interest in the subject.”
“Because…” the student said, but then she hesitated, seeming to choose the next words carefully. “Because it’s undeniably real. The only human emotion that is always genuine. Truthfully, I’ve wondered if it isn’t the $only human emotion, period.”
The professor sipped her tea and continued to watch the young person, who sat with apparent confidence, unflinching, across the low table from her. There was more to the student’s answer—she felt certain. “And?”
The student smiled, nodded, as if conceding a point. “And it’s beautiful.”
And book 3, A Shot at Living,” won’t be far behind—probably December-ish. Here’s a bit from that book:
Jackie’s red-gold lashes fluttered again and he opened his eyes. Brian could see them moving around, searching. After a second or so, Jackie’s gaze steadied, locking on his own. Brian had never seen a color as beautiful as the gray of Jackie’s irises at just that moment, just that angle, shining like life’s own magic in the dim light of that room in the ICU.
“Damn, Jackie,” he said. “Damn I love you.” He no longer cared that the tears he’d been fighting broke free with the words.
(Don’t forget you can get the whole story leading up to this kinky, sexy, suspenseful romance in the Vasquez and James series, available in Volumes 1 and 2 from Changeling Press, and at all major online book retailers. The stars of that series, Luki Vasquez and Sonny James, are reader favorites. And yes indeed, they do pop up in the new Vasquez Inc series from time to time… :))
Thanks for visiting the Book Blog! Comments are welcome and appreciated.
About Lou Sylvre
Lou Sylvre loves romance with all its ups and downs, and likes to conjure it into books. The sweethearts on her pages are men who end up loving each other — and usually saving each other from unspeakable danger. It’s all pretty crazy and very, very sexy. As if you’d want to know more, she’ll happily tell you that she is a proudly bisexual woman — a mother, grandmother, lover of languages, and cat-herder — of mixed cultural heritage. She works closely with lead cat and writing assistant, the (male) Queen of Budapest, Boudreau St. Clair. She lives in the rainy part of the Pacific Northwest, and hearing from a reader infallibly brightens the dreary weather. Find her through her links listed here, or drop her a line at firstname.lastname@example.org. http://www.sylvre.rainbow-gate.com https://www.facebook.com/AuthorLouSylvre/ https://twitter.com/Sylvre https://mewe.com/i/lousylvre https://www.instagram.com/sylvre/
The second half of the acclaimed Vasquez and James stories is out today from Changeling Press, following the release of Volume 1 last month. Vasquez and James Volume 2, sporting another brilliant cover, completes the long, flowing, beautiful love story of Luki Vasquez and Sonny James. Stick with them as they face suspenseful episodes, laugh with them as humor rears its marvelous head even in the toughest of moments, and rejoice with them as they come through the hardships stronger and closer than ever, with a happy ending any couple might envy. The sexy romance continues to blaze even while the suspense can chill you to the bone. Maybe that explains why Nadine said the novella Yes was “like some kind of magical incantation,” and the opening sentence of Nickie’s 5-star review of Saving Sonny James on Goodreads:
“What can I say about Lou Sylvre’s book Saving Sonny James? A veritable work of art. I laughed. I cried. I set on the edge of my seat. It was awesome.”
And here’s what Jules, of The Novel Approach review site, said in her review of the series’ final book, Because of Jade:
There is such a beauty about the way Lou Sylvre writes these characters. A pureness. A sort of reverence. If I had my way, there would be new Vasquez & James books until the end of time.
Get Vasquez and James Volume 2 today from Changeling Press and save 15% off an already great price. (And if you prefer buying through Amazon or another online retailer, the links are right there on the publisher’s catalog listing.)
About the books:
Troubles strike, Romance sizzles, Love endures, A family is made.
Saving Sonny James: The events of the last couple of years have begun to catch up with Luki — loving Sonny James and letting Sonny love him back have left gaps in his emotional armor. Sonny says yes to a European tour with Harold Breslin, a dangerously intelligent promoter whose obsessive desire for Sonny is exceeded only by his narcissism. When Harold’s plan for Sonny turns poisonous, Luki must break free of PTSD and get to France, fit and ready in time to save his husband’s life.
Yes (A Vasquez and James novella): Professional badass Luki Vasquez and textile artist Sonny James have been married for five years, and despite the sometimes volatile mix, they’re happy. From their first days together, they stood united against deadly enemies and prevailed. But now the deadly enemy they face is the cancer consuming Luki’s lungs. Sonny tries to control every thread just as he does when he weaves, but still Luki dances with cancer alone—until he gets a startling reminder of the miracle of life.
Because of Jade: Still cancer free after five years, Luki finds out his nephew Josh and wife Ruthie have met a tragic death. Luki and Sonny must help each other learn to parent an unexpected child, Jade, and still nourish the love that has kept them whole for the past ten years. A relative’s claim to Jade threatens the new family, and even if they prevail in court, they could lose their little girl unless they can rescue Jade from evil hands and true peril.
From Saving Sonny James
The cemetery lay quiet in heavy mist, autumn leaves breaking the gray with fiery shades. Sonny picked up some leaves and twirled them one by one in front of him, and Luki knew his mind was busy with ideas of color. They stood together at the foot of Delsyn’s grave, looked at the still new headstone with its simple engraving: a medicine wheel with eagle feathers in each of the four directions, and the name—Delsyn James Bull.
Luki said, “I didn’t know his last name wasn’t James.”
“He preferred James,” Sonny answered, shrugging. “He didn’t like his father.”
“So why is your name James?”
Sonny grinned, “I didn’t like my father either!” Then the smile disappeared but not the good humor, and he added, “And my stepfather, whose name I had on my birth certificate, didn’t mean anything to me. When my mother died and I was living with Melvern, I wanted his name—Melvern’s—and he got it changed for me. I’ve never been sorry. I don’t feel like any other name but James would have been mine.”
“I think you’re right,” Luki said. “You’re definitely Sonny Bly James, the most beautiful thing that ever happened to the world. And I love you.”
Sonny smiled and hugged Luki, then leaned his chin on his husband’s shoulder. “I love you, too, Luki Mililani Vasquez, the hottest badass that ever happened to the world.” He took a deep breath, held on really tight. “Why are you different, Luki?”
Luki’s wrapped his arms tighter around Sonny. He stayed quiet.
“Should I not have asked?”
Finally Luki found some words. “It’s fine that you asked, baby. I just don’t know how to answer…. Do you…. Are you asking why I’m different since I… since that kid—”
“Guard,” Sonny said. “He wasn’t a kid, he was a guard. No, I think I understand that, at least in theory. I’m asking why you’re different today. You’re… good. Have I blown everything by going there? Are you not going to answer?”
“No. You haven’t, and I will. Just not right this second.”
“Okay. Don’t worry, husband. No rush, and besides, I wanted to smudge over Del’s grave…. Damn, I hate saying those two words together.”
“Yeah, that’s hard. I’m sorry, baby.”
Sonny gave Luki a puzzled look, as though he could see something beyond those words that didn’t quite make sense. Luki thought, Please don’t say anything about it, Sonny, and perhaps Sonny was sensitive to that, because he said nothing more about it.
“Husband,” Sonny said, and the way he said it, Luki felt himself blush. He knew that was silly, but when Sonny called him that, in that certain way, it sort of made him tingle. He resisted a stupid grin, and Sonny went on. “Will you help me with the smudge?”
“Sure. What do I need to do?”
“Not a lot, really.” He reached into his backpack, fiddled with some things, and then held out an abalone shell filled with cedar and some other dried plant material Luki didn’t recognize. “Hold this,” Sonny ordered, “This is just sage, with the cedar. And a little sweetgrass.” He held a Bic to the mixture and set it to smoldering, making a plume of sharp but very sweet-smelling smoke.
Luki fought a smile again—almost lost the battle.
Sonny once again gave him the puzzled look. “This seems all mysterious, you know, but really it’s just a way of being clean. Body, mind, and spirit, so they say. I’ve never smudged all that often, nor did I go to sweat lodge or smokehouse to pray. But Delsyn did. Him and Melvern…. Watch how your holding that shell, Luki, it gets hot on the bottom.”
“Ouch! Shit, burn!”
Sonny took the shell from him, and Luki felt completely foolish. He’d been so distracted by the sweet smell of the smoke and crackle of the cedar, the pretty burn, he hadn’t even noticed the shell heating up. He looked up sheepishly to find Sonny peering at him through narrowed eyes, his lips pursed in a slight, pensive smile.
“You like this smudge, don’t you, Luki? That’s good. Put your hands in the dew.”
“Quick, honey!” Sonny sounded a little annoyed but obviously concerned for Luki’s welfare. “Put your hands in the dew on the grass—wet and cool, for the burns.”
“Oh, well, probably too late now. They’re not that bad, anyway. That was a really good idea, though.”
In answer, Sonny gave him another one of those bemused looks—this time, just out of the corner of his eye. Luki was trying to figure out what those looks meant at this point, but it didn’t appear he was going to be getting that information.
Sonny produced a medium-sized feather from the vest pocket of his leather jacket. “You know what I should do for you, Luki? I should have Jim Standing Bear come up and put you in a sweat with fifty-two rocks and a long-winded leader.” He chuckled. “Either fix you right up or put you in the hospital. Just kidding, of course. But to clean the grave—which sounds stupid but I think Del would like it—we have to be clean first. So I’ll do you and then you do me, okay?” Luki’s eyebrows went up.
“Smudging, Luki. We’re talking about smudging. Get your mind out of my pants!”
“Never, sweetie, but okay. Smudging. What do I do?”
“Just stand there mostly, while I get the smoke all over you…. Okay, lift up one foot… the other. Okay, you’re done. Smoke’s still going good. Do me?”
“Whoa, Sonny! Right here in the graveyard?”
Sonny laughed and smacked Luki’s bicep. “I meant the smudge, Luki. And you know it.”
“Oh, okay.” He knew a smile could be heard in his voice and he let it play there. He started to move the feather, washing Sonny down with the cleansing smoke. This whole thing, this day, this smudging as Sonny called it—it all felt so good. Luki didn’t want it to stop, ever, and he didn’t care if his beloved husband knew that. He hoped Sonny knew. He didn’t think he was well, cured, absolved. He knew he wasn’t, but just for now he felt brand new. He thanked Delsyn in his thoughts—this wasn’t the first time Delsyn had brought him and Sonny closer, or adjusted Luki’s focus. He’d done it more than once while alive, and it didn’t even really surprise Luki that he’d reach from the other side of the veil to wake him up.
Thanks for stopping by! I hope you’ll enjoy this second batch of Luki and Sonny’s adventures! Coming soon, a new series! Vasquez Inc, The J&B Stories, featuring the suspenseful trials, lustful heat, and poignant love story of Jackie Vasquez, Brian Harrison—with plenty of appearances by veteran characters Luki and Sonny! Feel free to comment on the blog—your thoughts are always welcome. Happy reading, everyone.
The Vasquez and James books that got such high praise from reviewers, readers, and fellow authors is back in a brand new format with a brilliant cover, courtesy of Changeling Press. Today, 6/28/19, the first three stories in this blazing romance between two extraordinary men comes out in an ebook box set, Volume 1 of 2, with the remaining 3 stories due out July 27. In each book Luki Vasquez and Sonny James meet danger in a thrilling episode of suspense, and despite it all their love grows a little bit stronger, glows a little bit brighter.
Get Vasquez and James Volume 1 today from Changeling Press and save 15% off an already great price.
Discover why author Kade Boehme said what he did in his Goodreads review of the first edition of book 1: “Luki is infuriating but god I love him. And Sonny… How appropriate is that name. He’s got a bad past hiding in there somewhere but he’s all light and “bubbles”. Just what that hard ass Luki needs. Lou Sylvre’s writing is also phenomenal. What chops. Very eloquent while still maintaining the masculine voices of her characters. Now THAT is talent. I’m smitten.”
About the books:
When badass meets artist, sparks and bullets fly. Blazing romance, chilling suspense, enduring love…
Loving Luki Vasquez: Renowned but reclusive weaver Sonny Bly James masters color, texture, and shape in his tapestries, but when he meets Luki Vasquez, an ex-ATF agent and all-around badass, his heart and desire spin out of control. The heat between them won’t be denied. United by danger, can Sonny and Luki put fear and anger aside, and fight together to save Sonny’s nephew and their own lives?
Delsyn’s Blues: Devastated by loss, Sonny James listens to a voice singing the blues from beyond the grave. Convinced he’s failed in an all-important life task, he tries to shut out Luki Vasquez and love just when he needs him the most. But when Luki finally breaks through Sonny’s fortress of grief, it’s just in time for the newly reunited couple to face a new, violent, escalating danger.
Finding Jackie: When Sonny James asked Luki Vasquez to marry him, Luki’s “yes” was accompanied by a request — a wedding in Hawaii. Months and many trials later, their hilltop island ceremony is poignant and funny, and every bit as beautiful as they’d hoped. The honeymoon is all sex, surfing, and sunshine… until Luki’s sixteen-year-old nephew is kidnapped by a sadistic killer. When it all comes to an ultimate showdown with evil, it’s not only love at stake, but their lives.
Excerpts (Beware of sexy hotness in the one from Finding Jackie):
From Loving Luki Vasquez
Oak Flats, Nebraska, 1982
A MUD-SPATTERED pickup in the front yard of a weathered house. Summer-gold hayfields rolling back farther than the eye could see. In the west, a sinking sun screened by a line of trees—cottonwoods and willows. Under those trees, a band of children just into their teens, whooping and laughing in that way that kids do in the summer when night is just on the edge of the next breath.
Luki ran faster than all the rest, and then looped back to taunt them. Excitement like electricity ran through him. Something about this day, this hour, this prelude to night, was special. “Maria,” he yelled. “I’ll race ya!”
It started a stampede, all seven of the boys and Maria, the one girl who always hung out with them, running as if they could fly, thrashing through brambles and over sticks and stones as if they couldn’t feel them. Out onto the Old Granary Road, onto the bridge, right over the rail and into the river, just as they’d done hundreds of times before.
Luki swam underwater for as long as he could hold his breath, which was longer than anyone, except maybe Maria. When he came up, laughing and spitting, and slicked his hair back out of his eyes, all of the other boys had gathered at the shore, whispering, or maybe arguing. Maria hadn’t even gone in, and now she was worming her way down the steep embankment from the road to the river.
The sun sank under the skyline, and the river turned dark, and Luki felt a chill run through him.
“Hey, Luki, c’mon over here, man.” It was Ronny Jemison, the boy that was a bit taller, a bit rougher, a bit meaner than any of the rest. Maybe the leader, if they had been a gang. “We’ve got something for you. C’mon.”
Ronny scared him when he was like this. Luki had seen the bully push Little Jimmy down the bank, yank Maria’s hair hard enough to put her on her knees, kill birds and frogs and rabbits—anything that lived—just to be killing. But, scared or not, Luki knew he had to choose: go and fight and maybe get hurt, or be deemed a coward and so get picked on—probably for the rest of his life.
So Luki went.
Before he quite made it safely to dry land, Ronny smacked him hard in the face with a balled up fist, and yelled one word, spit it at Luki as if it was made of acid and would flay him.
From Delsyn’s Blues
SONNY knew he should care a lot more about getting arrested for things he no way could have done, about people breaking in, about all of that. But he didn’t want to care. Luki—obviously—was thoroughly busy with the problem. Let him have it. Sonny had other things he wanted and needed to think about. Like Delsyn dying. Like Delsyn living.
Like Delsyn playing the blues.
He didn’t want to rush things, so instead of popping the cassette tapes into an old player, he took them to Port Angeles to a shop where they’d convert them to CDs. In the process, he discovered a 16mm tape he hadn’t noticed before. He had that converted to DVD. He successfully ignored Luki’s investigation for another twenty-four hours, then hopped in the ancient F-150 his uncle Melvern had left him as a legacy. After the key didn’t even crank the engine, he took it out of gear and hopped back out, gave the truck a push downslope, hopped back in and popped the clutch. On his way to P.A. to get the finished product, he didn’t think about Delsyn or various crimes. He thought about replacing the starter.
He drove through Port Clifton, which wasn’t quite on the way home, to stop at the store. He contemplated something alcoholic to help him through the hard parts. God help him, he once again contemplated dope, but he quickly discarded both ideas and settled for Rocky Road ice cream and a great big tin of Scottish shortbread cookies. Because, he freely admitted to the cashier, he was a little crazy. Making a last stop, he had a raspberry latte at Margie’s.
“So, Sonny, why are you driving that rusty bucket?”
“Mustang wouldn’t start,” he said, lying and pretty sure Margie could tell.
“Well, that’s kind of lucky, don’t you think? I mean, your Uncle Mel would have wanted to go along.”
Sonny laughed, and after that Margie found room in her freezer for his Rocky Road and chatted with him—or more accurately, at him—in the old way, not mentioning anything at all about death, murder, jail, dope, Luki, or anything else remotely related except her new PT Cruiser. But then at the end, she gave him another latte, free of charge. “You’re not the only one who misses him, you know. You’re certainly the one who has lost the most, but you’re not the only one who is sad, or hurt, or wondering how to fill up the hole in the world Delsyn left behind.”
“You miss him too.”
“I do, but I wasn’t talking about me. It’s good to see you in here again, by the way. I still wonder why you drink those silly coffees, though. See you soon, dear, and don’t forget to tell Luki I’ve always got a cup of coffee for him, black and sweet.”
Sonny parked the pickup in the yard, refusing the crotchety old thing the right to live in the barn with the Mustang, the Harley, and his auntie’s ridiculous but fragile ’72 Honda Civic. He wasn’t sure why his mood had lightened at least three shades, but he didn’t spend much time thinking about it. He wasn’t really the kind of person to get so very bogged down in misery, and now he had plans. He’d clean up the studio first—the rancid dyes had actually begun to smell up the rest of the house, and his fingers were starting to itch for the touch of silk and wool. Once he had his tools and space in order, he’d know what he wanted to weave. And what a relief.
Then he’d watch the DVD. See Delsyn again, he hoped. Hear his voice. Keep loving him, just as if he was alive. Maybe not, but better than nothing at all.
In the end, though, he didn’t deal with the studio at all. He let the screen door bang behind him as he ducked into the mud porch. Ignoring the strips of bark and thankfully dead but now useless cochineals, thankful that he’d at least dumped the smelly, spoiled dyes, he walked through to the kitchen to put the ice cream away and pried off the lid of the shortbread tin to eat a cookie. He thought about checking to see if it improved his fake Scottish brogue, but it never had before. The coffee pot was on, the coffee hot and smelling fresh, but Luki was nowhere in sight—not in the kitchen, the bathrooms, the bedroom, etcetera. Sonny thought about looking for him outside, or thought maybe he wasn’t there after all; maybe Rona had come to get him to figure out some legal thing that Sonny refused to notice.
But no. His shoulder holster was hanging on the back of the bedroom closet door. He wouldn’t have left it. Without having to think about it anymore, he knew where Luki was. Sonny could move almost silently, and he made it a point to be as quiet as he could on the way back to Delsyn’s room. It wasn’t that he wanted to surprise Luki. He only wanted to see him without the guard he would put up if he knew he was being watched. Maybe not nice, but Sonny didn’t care about that just then.
The door to Del’s room was open, the blue walls strangely aglow in the light that poured around the edges of the plywood he’d used to cover the broken window. The small lamp in the corner by Del’s bed had been switched on, and in the circle of light it cast, Luki sat in a T-shirt and striped pajamas, chewing his bottom lip and stroking the wood of Del’s old, now broken, guitar, tracing the scratches and scars on its surface as if reading it like Braille.
Of course, Luki became aware of Sonny instantly, and put the instrument down. It took him a minute to look up, and when he did, the look on his face gave away Luki’s feelings—a rare event in itself. Luki grieved. Sonny couldn’t understand now why he hadn’t seen that, expected it, even. The two of them had grown close—Luki and Del. Sonny had been happy for that at the time.
“He loved you,” Sonny said.
“You sent me away.”
“I’m sorry. I couldn’t help it.” Sonny thought of how lame that must sound, but he had no solution and just then he felt overwhelmed with all the things he’d done wrong—even if you just counted the last few days. But he tried to explain. “Luki, it was like… it hurt, but the pain was all I had of him toward the end. Stupid, I know, but I couldn’t share it.” He didn’t know what else to say, so after a moment’s silence, he added, “But I love you. And… will you watch Delsyn’s DVD with me? Want some Rocky Road?”
Luki sent him an almost-smile, nodded. “Sure. But hamburgers first. I’ll make ’em. You have to have something solid in your stomach before the shortbread.”
“You and your hamburgers,” Sonny said. “And I didn’t say anything about shortbread.”
“I need hamburgers to keep my strength up. You’ve got crumbs in your beard.”
“I don’t have a beard.”
“I know, but if you did, there would be shortbread crumbs in it
From Finding Jackie
LUKI and Sonny had checked into their hotel room before they went to the market, but they’d only had their bags placed inside the room; they’d never even gone in. They had decided to stay this time at a different hotel altogether, thinking the Fairmont was beautiful but the memories of their previous stay mostly not so good. At the Monaco, they’d been offered the Ambassador Suite, but Sonny had insisted the purple furniture would prevent him from sleeping, so they ended up with the Monte Carlo suite. They walked back to the hotel after their business and pleasure at the market was done, and Sonny sighed.
Luki said, “What?”
“Nothing,” Sonny said, sounding like a martyr. “It’s just… interesting wallpaper.”
“Baby,” Luki said, not understanding at all but willing to go to any lengths to please his man, “If you hate it—”
“No, no, I don’t. I mean, it’s not bad—it’s probably even good. I just need to get used to it. The colors in here are gorgeous, truthfully. And you know what?”
Luki’s eyes followed his husband, who paced from side to side, peeked around curtains and walls, opened doors. He made a sound, something like “Mm,” knowing Sonny wasn’t really looking for a response, but would appreciate knowing Luki was paying attention. He also smiled. Something about the quirky way Sonny settled himself into a space was too sweet for words.
“You know what I need to do, honey?”
Luki noted with glee that Sonny had begun to strip. This time, when he said, “Mm,” he didn’t have to feign interest.
“I need to get in that bathtub—do you see that thing? It’s like a swimming pool. I need to get in there and soak, all nice and relaxed, and take in that wallpaper until it seems normal to me.”
The man is fucking crazy, Luki thought, both disappointed and surprised. Sonny was already in the bathroom, fine-tuning the water temperature. Luki put his hands in his pockets—not a characteristic posture at all, but he was at a loss. He literally jumped when Sonny whooped and yelled.
“Yes! There’s bubble bath in here!”
Now, Luki was so nonplussed that he sat down on the couch, rather hard. When he tried to think of something he might be doing the only two things that came to mind were jerking off—which he dismissed immediately—and eating a hamburger. He considered the hamburger carefully, decided against, and got up to wander into the strangely wall-papered, thoroughly lavender-scented bathroom.
“This is a big tub, Luki.”
Luki stepped closer to Sonny and pushed a long strand of dark hair off his chest, letting it join its fellows falling down Sonny’s back.
Sonny grabbed Luki’s belt at the buckle and made as if to undo it. “Get in, Luki. There’s room. Look.” He lifted a foot out of the water. “See, my feet don’t even reach all the way to the other side. Not crowded at all.”
Luki stood silent, chewing his lip. He wasn’t one for shower play, which Sonny knew. It just reminded him too much of lonelier days. He never took baths, especially bubble baths. And, he really, really didn’t want to smell like flowers. But he loved his husband so much, and there the man was, asking for this simple, little thing.
“Luki, take a bath with me. Come on.”
Luki started to strip, tossing his clothes back out onto the chair in the bedroom. He was, of course, hard by the time he was naked, which was something Sonny certainly didn’t fail to notice, even though he said nothing. Luki stood there, feeling confused, never before having realized that deciding how to get into a bathtub and situate oneself was so difficult.
“Luki, you can just sit on that side, facing me so I can look at your eyes and we can talk. Okay? That way you won’t feel so awkward.”
“I’m pretty sure there’s something in that statement I should scold you for, Sonny Bly, I just haven’t figured out what it is,” Luki said while climbing in and turning around and sitting down as instructed. But once he settled, his hands found Sonny’s legs, and he couldn’t help but rub them. And then Sonny found his foot, and as Sonny well knew, Luki’s toes were really sensitive. And Sonny played with them. All the while they looked each other in the eyes.
“Luki,” Sonny said, finally, “you don’t play in the shower.”
“No. What’s your point?”
For answer, Sonny took Luki’s foot and laid it along his own erection, which was one of the sexiest things that had ever happened to Luki. Then Sonny took his size a-very-large-number foot, with its long, nearly prehensile toes, and not too gently stroked it up and down Luki’s cock, and Luki spent a few seconds catching his breath.
“This isn’t a shower,” Sonny said.
Luki nodded. “Right.”
Sonny let a little water out, added some hot to adjust the temperature. “We could fuck here, if we so desired, which I do.” Sonny actually looked hopeful, as if he was a little afraid Luki would say no, or maybe scoff.
Luki wasn’t about to do either one. Sonny was the most beautiful, lovable, eminently fuckable person on the planet, and Luki wasn’t about to fail him. As he’d explained to Sonny just the other day, fucking Sonny happy was his personal joy. He licked his lips. “Come here, baby.”
Thanks for stopping by! I hope you’ll enjoy Luki and Sonny’s adventures!
I’m excited. Luki Vasquez and Sonny James will be back in town in less than two weeks, June 28, 2019. Same stories so many readers gave and reviewers gave 5 stars. A new edit got rid of some of pesky little errors and updated a Camaro (no really), but the guys, their wild rides through suspense-land, and their loving romance is all there in a brand new bundle. Watch this space for links to the ebook market places. It will go up for preorder and release first on Changeling’s catalog.
In this Volume
Loving Luki Vasquez — the story that started it all!
Renowned but reclusive weaver Sonny Bly James masters color, texture, and shape in his tapestries, but when he meets Luki Vásquez, an ex-ATF agent and all-around badass, his heart and desire spin out of control. The heat between them won’t be denied, but love won’t come easy for beautiful but shy Sonny, and Luki wears his visible and hidden scars like armor against romance.
They try to run from lust and love, but soon it becomes clear they have bigger problems. An evil, violent stalker has targeted Sonny, and Luki’s protective instincts take over. When Sonny discovers his beloved nephew is at risk, he must choose to trust Luki’s strength and skills, even though he’d rather stay away and avoid loving Luki Vasquez. United by danger, can Sonny and Luki put fear and anger aside, and fight together to save Sonny’s nephew and their own lives?
Delsyn’s Blues — in which a (literal) cliffhanger is narrowly avoided.
Devastated by loss, Sonny James listens to a voice singing the blues from beyond the grave. Convinced he’s failed in an all-important life task, he tries to shut out Luki Vasquez and love just when he needs him the most. But when Luki finally breaks through Sonny’s fortress of grief, it’s just in time for the newly reunited couple to face a new, violent, escalating danger.
Tensions mount, and suspicion threatens to strain their newly mended love to the breaking point. But no matter what Luki fears Sonny might have done and how it might affect their future, he’s determined to keep the man he loves safe under his watchful eye. Together despite their fears and sorrows, they undertake a wild trip to find a madman, stop a crime spree, and save a friend. If they succeed, can they also save the deep passion and enduring love of their treasured, surprise romance?
Finding Jackie — what you do when a mob hit man is bent on revenge.
When Sonny James asked Luki Vasquez to marry him, Luki’s “yes” was accompanied by a request—a wedding in Hawaii. Months and many trials later, their hilltop, island ceremony is poignant and funny, and every bit as beautiful as they’d hoped. The honeymoon is all sex, surfing, and sunshine… until the shadow of death and danger finds them once again. This time, Luki decides a badge will help him deal with the threat, a choice that spells discord for the newlyweds. Passion shines through, but soon the darkness deepens: a former informant brings Luki a troubling message from a renowned Mob hit man. Then Luki’s sixteen-year-old nephew, Jackie, is catfished and kidnapped by a sadistic killer, and the honeymoon is well and truly over.
Luki and Sonny know love and family are far more important than their lingering disagreement. United in purpose, they struggle to unravel intertwined terrors and follow the threads that might lead them to finding Jackie. The hunt takes them from soup kitchens and leather bars to dusty desert back roads, and relies on all the strengths, talents, and allies they can muster. When it all comes to an ultimate showdown with evil, it’s not only love at stake, but their lives.
(And then, in July ride along with Luki and Sonny in volume 2 for more love and more edge-of-the-seat suspense.
Silver Dagger Book Tours has organized an amazing tour starting on Thursday, December 13, kicking off at their own site. Below is a list of the many blogs that are a part of the tour – make sure to check back often for updated links to each appearance.
In addition, there is also a giveaway through Rafflecopter, which you can find at the bottom of this post or here. The giveaway will run from December 12, 2018 through January 4, 2019, so be sure to enter for a chance to win an Amazon gift card!
Chenu stood while six Superior Commons heard his probation report.
“Replicator, male, 863. Bioengineered 2813, born 2814. Training 2829 – 2833, Polity Specials Institute.”
He withheld a smirk while the virtual voice summarized his education: behavior “poor”—meaning I dared have sex with Common men; training missions “excellent”—meaning I survived.
He listened to his distilled life while memories assaulted him. At auction, High-Corporate hadn’t cared about transgressions, only proven ability to traverse the Shatterwall…
It’s hard to believe the above snippet is just about a quarter of the whole story, but “Shatter” is the shortest piece I’ve ever written for publication—only 300 words! Small as the story is, it’s a feather in my cap. Not only did it receive an honorable mention, but it was given the special honor of being chosen as one of six judges’ picks out of over 100 stories included in QSF’s Impact anthology. If that wasn’t enough to put a smile on my face, here’s a little of what judge Carole Cummings said:
“… You built a full, vivid world in just 300 words, communicated its oppressiveness and questionable humanity, and compelled the reader to observe it, analyze it, and outwit it right along with Chenu. … The characterization was pretty damned adept. You managed to show the reader that Chenu isn’t much for exhibiting feelings—indeed, that Chenu is best off not having any—and yet at the same time, exposed him in a brilliant subtle fashion as someone who *does* feel and deeply, who deserves better, and man oh man, I for one was so glad he was going for it. The story was engaging, intelligent, and written beautifully. … Altogether, this story is quite an accomplishment… and I hope you take pride in it.”
(Thank you Carol, and yes, I do.)
And in more good news, the anthology is now available for preorder in paperback and ebook! Here’s the link: https://www.amazon.com/dp/1732307520/
I’m looking forward to getting my copy and indulging in a lot of quick but excellent reads. Let’s see… I could read one while my coffee warms up in the micro… while I’m waiting for a science video to load… while I’m waiting for my phone to buzz announcing a Pokémon… while I’m in the checkout line… while I’m on the john… What? It’s the perfect place for a little ‘little’ sci-fi.
Vasquez Inc #4—A Shot at Perfect (Click to preorder)
Vasquez Inc #5 A Shot of Trust—Cick to Buy
Vasquez Inc #6 A Shot of Courage—Click to Buy!
Vasquez Inc #7 A Shot in Darkness—Click to buy!
Vasquez and James Vol. 1—Click the cover to buy!
Vasquez and James Vol. 2—Click the cover to buy!
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