Lou’s Rainbow Gate Book Blog is happy to welcome Becca Seymour!
Becca Seymour has a new MM contemporary romance out: “Let Me Show You.”
When a veterinarian and a construction worker connect, it takes mishaps, mistakes, and a Rhodesian Ridgeback named Rex to show them they’re made for each other.
Dr. Carter Falon is content living a quiet life in a small town caring for his animal patients. That doesn’t mean he’s not looking for a distraction. After finding himself precariously wedged… naked and at the mercy of a drop-dead gorgeous construction worker, Carter hires his savior to renovate his home.
When Tanner Grady’s best friend and new niece needed him, he uprooted and relocated without a second thought. His life has since been centered on work and spending time with his family, but when he comes to the rescue of a cute vet, Tanner finds he’s a lot more interested in the homeowner than the house he’s renovating.
“Hey, baby boy.” I smiled. In my late twenties, I was far from a baby, but she’d once told me that even at fifty I’d still be her baby. “Good day?”
“Yep. Not too bad. Nothing too hectic or crazy. You?”
“A great one. Your dad’s booked a cruise for our anniversary.” Excitement lit her words. She’d been hinting at Dad for a while about a cruise. I was pleased he’d listened. It didn’t take a lot to make my mom happy; she found joy in the smallest of things,so that he’d organized it all was pretty impressive. Mom usually organized everything, so I knew him booking the vacation for them was a big deal.
“That’s terrific. Caribbean?”
She actually squealed down the line. I pulled the phone from my ear and laughed loudly. “Yes! Carter, I’m so excited.”
“Really? I’d never have guessed.”
“Oh, hush.” She spoke over me as I laughed again. “Don’t sass your mother.”
My laughter continued. “Never, Mom. You’d tan my hide. Wouldn’t dream of it.”
“I should think not. So anything new? Any dates?”
With a groan, I rubbed my face and then stepped further into the kitchen and pulled out a glass. “Mom…,” I sighed.
“What? I worry about you. You’re so far from home and are there all alone.”
I poured myself a glass of wine and took a sip. “I know you worry, but honestly, life’s good.” Admittedly it would have been nice to hook up, but one, I didn’t do casual and never had, and two, there was no way I’d tell my mom I was afraid my penis would drop off from lack of use. “There’s nothing new either, and that’s okay. I’m likingthe quiet life.”
“Hmm….” That was her tell for not being convinced. “You know, I was talking to Julie last week, and her nephew’s gay.”
“Mom,” I said with laughter, “honestly, no hookups. I do not need my mom fixing me up.”
She ignored me. “Well, he lives quite far away, but maybe a week of casual—” She cleared her throat. “—sex would do you good.”
“Jesus, Mom.” I spluttered on my mouthful of wine. Grabbing a towel, I wiped my face, catching the dribble of red wine on my chin, and wiped the countertop I’d sprayed. “Stop. I don’t need you arranging anything, okay? Please tell me you’re listening.” She was quiet. “Mom,” I said louder.
“Yes, yes, I hear you.” She sighed. “Grandbabies would be nice.”
Holy crap on toast! With wide eyes, I looked at the ceiling and counted to five. I then took a big gulp of wine before saying, “Mom.”
“Yes, baby boy?”
“I have to go. I need to grab a shower. I’m expecting someone.”
“Someone to fix the house up.” I’d heard the interest in her tone, the hope in that one syllable.
“Oh.” This time her voice dropped. I hated to kill her enthusiasm, but geez, I really needed to get off the phone.
“Love you, tell Dad I love him too. And I’ll speak to you guys later. Bye, Mom.”
“Will do.” Her tone was a bit brighter. “Love you too. Bye, honey.”
I disconnected quickly and placed my phone down. My mom, yeah, she was wonderful and drove me to absolute distraction. I knew how lucky I was. Every decision I’d ever made, my parents had always had my back. They supported me unconditionally. It was just that my mom could be a little extreme at times. I laughed into the empty room. I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Quickly finishing my wine, I looked at the time. I had just fifteen minutes until the contractor was due. I’d left it late to organize myself, still a little in a tizzafter the conversation with my mom and the mention of babies. I glanced around the room at the disorderly mess. Every time I did so, I regretted it.
I detested chaos,and that was what the house felt like. The place was still strewn with my moving boxes, but I had yet to see the point in unpacking. Not necessarily because I planned to move, but rather, the whole house needed a lot of work, so I knew I’d have to pack my things up for any work on the house to start.
I really hoped this Tanner guy would be the person who could finally help me out. I’d had two other quotes, one local and one from out of town. Both were crazy high,and neither would be able to start for another five months or so. I was running out of options. This guy had come recommended to me by one of my clients, but I didn’t want to get my hopes up.
I sighed in defeat as I looked around. I’d have to continue ignoring it all until I finally had the place fixed up. I headed upstairs, careful to miss the coupleof steps that had loose boards, and headed to the main bathroom. I had an en suite, but the shower didn’t work, so it was the pearlescent green suite I headed toward. The sickly porcelain made me shudder every time I laid eyes on it. It was clean though, so there was that.
I hopped into the shower, latheredmyself up, and quickly rinsed off. That was when I heard the knock at the door. “Shoot.” I quickly turned off the taps, stepped out and grabbed a towel. In my haste to get myself together and then answer the door, the dodgy floorboard didn’t even register until my foot slammed throughit, snagging my ankle and bringing me to my knees.
I yelled as I fell, and cursed. Wincing, I looked at my predicament, trying to yank my foot out as I did so. A loud groan slipped past my lips. This was no good. I was wedged, and it appeared I’d lost my towel in my fall. Just great.
Becca Seymour lives and breathes all things book related. Usually with at least three books being read and two WiPs being written at the same time, life is merrily hectic. She tends to do nothing by halves so happily seeks the craziness and busyness life offers.
Living on her small property in Queensland with her human family as well as her animal family of cows, chooks, and dogs, Becca appreciates the beauty of the world around her and is a believer that love truly is love.
Let Me Show You started from an idea of a meet cute, one that immediately had me grinning. There’s nothing I love more as a reader and a writer than that first point of contact. I love the possibility it offers, adore how one pivotal moment can set the tone and the course for the romantic development between characters.
With this in mind, the meet cute in Let Me Show You, which we find in chapter 3, essentially does that. Not only does it set the tone for the lightness and low-angst nature of the book, but it also introduces almost a whimsical chemistry between the protagonists, Tanner and Carter.
While we have two characters who are opposites on many levels, their journey, as sparked by their meet cute, soon begins to highlight their similarities. Both protective and honest, Carter and Tanner, show their determination to be positive and make the best out of a sometimes crappy situation. Their attitudes about family and loyalty are the same, as is their desire for a forever.
It’s this connection that we see immediately in their first meeting that follows them through the novel. And hopefully, it’s enough to keep you wanting to read on and cheer for this amazing couple.
Thanks OWI and Becca Seymour, for including the Lou’s Book Blog on your tour! Please come back soon! Readers, thank you for stopping by! Comments always welcome.
I’m excited to welcome to the Rainbow Gate Book Blog author Angel Martinez, with her new release Mage on the Hill.
Angel Martinez has a new MM fantasy book out: The Mage on the Hill.
Toby’s wild magic is killing him. The mage guilds have given up on him, and it’s only a matter of time before he dies in a spectacular, catastrophic bang. His only hope is an exiled wizard who lives in seclusion—and is rumored to have lost his mind.
The years alone on his hilltop estate have not been good for Darius Valstad. After the magical accident that disfigured him and nearly drowned Pittsburgh, he drifts through his days, a wraith trapped in memories and depression. Until a stricken young man collapses on his driveway, one who claims Darius is his last chance.
For the first time in fifteen years, Darius must make a choice—leave this wild mage to his fate or take him in and try to teach him, which may kill them both. The old Darius, brash and commanding, wouldn’t have hesitated. Darius the exile isn’t sure he can find the energy to try.
I don’t understand. He should be finding a minor channel at least. Something. He shouldn’t be at this level of physical distress and still be able to throw so much.
We can’t condone pushing on. Dangerous for him and for everyone in a five-mile radius. We’ll have another Darius situation on our hands.
You’ll tell him?
As soon as he’s able to hear it, yes.
Toby drifted from gray misery to scarlet agony, the voices floating to him in fits and starts. His instructors, the director—they were talking about him and they sounded done with him, just like the previous six guilds that had tossed him to the curb. Wild magic. Unplaceable on the web of Arcana. Unsustainable and eventually deadly. The only remaining bets anyone could make now were how many people he took with him when he went out with a catastrophic bang.
Hands lifted him. The familiar sensations of stretcher and rolling followed him down into the dark.
“What’s this?” Toby peered at the papers on the rolling tray, not quite up to focusing through his pounding headache.
The director pulled a chair close and cleared his throat uncomfortably. “We discussed that this might be a possibility someday, Tobias.”
“We’ve talked about a bunch of stuff.”
Director Whittaker let out a sharp sigh.
“Not saying it to be a smartass, sir. I can’t get my eyes to read this just yet.” Toby shifted on the infirmary bed. His fifth stay in this wing of the guildhall and the mattresses hadn’t managed to grow any more comfortable. “Couple hours I should be able to.”
“Ah. My apologies.” The director returned to a concerned parental pose, hands clasped between his knees as he leaned forward. “These are your separation papers from the Montchanin Guildhall.”
Toby swallowed hard. “You’re giving up on me? Already?”
“I’m so sorry, Tobias.” Director Whittaker patted his arm. “The Kovar method is nearly infallible—”
“Nearly. You said nearly.” Despite his pounding head, Toby sat up, hanging on to the director’s hand as hard as he could. “Please don’t do this. You said you’d help me.”
“We said we would do the best we could. Wild magic…. It’s unusual, certainly, but cases of unplaceable wild magic like yours aren’t unheard of. We should have seen some sign of channeling by now. Some directed trickle that would have let us help you find your place in the web.”
Toby let go to fall back against the pillows, hurting, nauseated, and dizzy. His uncontrolled magical explosions, each one harder on him than the time before, had only been getting more volatile and unpredictable. “I don’t have anywhere else to go. Can’t I stay here? Until, well, until….”
“It’s too dangerous for the other students. For the staff and other guild members.” Director Whittaker took his hand again. “Tobias, you blew a hole in the guidance room’s wall today.”
Ten feet of weapons-grade Kevlar and steel—that shouldn’t have been possible. Holy crap. “Did I hurt anyone?”
“Not today. But I can’t risk lives any further. It’s reached that point where we’ve tried everything we could. When you feel up to it, read the packet. There are several wonderful hospice options nearby. Beautiful places where you’ll be cared for and made comfortable. The guild will take care of you and cover any expenses.”
Drugged to the eyeballs so I won’t do any more damage. Allowed to starve to death in the nicest possible surroundings. Toby closed his eyes, his exhausted brain banging up against walls of possibility, trying to find him a way out. All this time he’d been sure one of the guilds would find a way. They were the experts. Now? Now he was terrified. The experts were telling him he needed to accept his impending death. No, no, no, fuck that. “Sir, who’s Darius?”
“Ah, you heard that, did you?” The director sat back and pulled out a microfiber cloth to give his glasses a meticulous cleaning before he went on. “Darius Valstad caused one of the greatest magical disasters in recent memory. He nearly destroyed Pittsburgh. He pulled magic too far from his channelings, the result much like a wild magic accident. The catastrophe was narrowly averted.”
“Oh. That sounds about as bad as it gets. What happened to him?”
“He nearly died. His guild status was revoked, his teaching of any more students forbidden.”
Toby turned that over a few times, his brain fumbling and dropping concepts along the way. “So, but he’s still alive?”
“As far as I know. He lives in isolation, oh, not far from here, with the promise that he will no longer attempt anything beyond personal magic.”
“But he was once like me? And he lived?” Toby knew it was conclusion jumping, but he was desperate enough to reach for anything.
The director’s sigh was slower this time, more melancholy. “Tobias, he found his channels long ago, both his major and minor Arcana. Yes, he lives because as long as he respects the web, his magic won’t tear him apart. He had some early success with teaching unplaceables, but Pittsburgh was the ultimate result of his unorthodox methods.”
“Yes, sir. Of course.”
Director Whittaker rose with one last pat to Toby’s shoulder. “Get some rest. We’ll talk again in the morning. Please keep in mind we’re not simply turning you out onto the street. We want to be certain you’re looked after properly.”
Toby nodded, no longer trusting his voice. He didn’t turn his head to watch the director leave, staring at the white ceiling tiles instead. Ugly ceiling tiles. Places where you have to lie in bed like hospitals and infirmaries should have nice ceilings with meadows and bunnies painted on them. I don’t want to die. Oh gods… I don’t want to die.
In the world of the Web of Arcana, mages live alongside normal humans, sharing most of their society. Groceries, real estate purchases, technology – for most things, a mage’s life isn’t any different from regular humans. But they have authorities and laws of their own in addition to regular human government and some parts of life are necessarily kept separate.
Birth, since magic can get loose during a mage delivery.
School, since mage children need to learn things not in a public school curriculum.
Death—since at the end of things, control can slip.
If you’re thinking that death has been on my mind a lot recently, as in the last couple of years, you would be correct. My mom, his dad, aunts, cousins, in-laws, the cat who had been my companion for twenty-four years, there’s been a bit of it to deal with. While some hit harder than others, when attending multiple funerals in a short space of time, you start observing how people react to death and dying.
That second part is a bigger piece of it than people are ready for. People talk about the stages of grief and funeral arrangements, executors and after-effects. I don’t think we talk enough about the process of dying.
My mom’s deterioration from Alzheimer’s took years, as it often does. For the most part, we kept her home except for a couple of hospital/rehab facility stays because of pneumonia and such. Eventually, she began to lose mobility and her doctor started making house visits and talking to us about hospice. Dad was very resistant to hearing about it. The old view of hospice is that you leave someone there to die. Of course, that’s not the case, and the doctor emphasized something that Dad and I both needed to have said. Alzheimer’s is a terminal diagnosis, even though it takes years sometimes.
There are a lot of hospice options and we opted for in-home. The hospice workers acted as support, physical help, equipment wranglers, and educators. They were wonderful. They helped us, all of us, through this process of dying every step of the way and cried with us when it was over. A few months later, the family opted for in-hospital hospice for my father-in-law, and again, the environment was one of quiet, gentle support and information.
Not everyone needs to or has the chance to go through this process, but it’s made a huge impression on me, as you can probably tell. So when I wrote The Mage on the Hill, I wanted to be sure there was a hospice option for mages at the end of their lives. While their hospice system is also used for another purpose, that’s not the fault of hospice. I wanted to have beautiful, well-run facilities available so that elderly mages and their families could have that choice, to be eased through the process.
Not the most lighthearted post – sorry about that. But when you encounter the hospice system in the story, I hope I’ve made it clear that the wonderful hospices themselves were not the problem.
The unlikely black sheep of an ivory tower intellectual family, Angel Martinez has managed to make her way through life reasonably unscathed. Despite a wildly misspent youth, she snagged a degree in English Lit, married once and did it right the first time, gave birth to one amazing son, and realized at some point that she could get paid for writing.
Published since 2006, Angel’s cynical heart cloaks a desperate romantic. You’ll find drama and humor given equal weight in her writing and don’t expect sad endings. Life is sad enough.
She currently lives in Delaware in a drinking town with a college problem and writes Science Fiction and Fantasy centered around gay heroes.
Thank you OWI and Angel for including the Rainbow Gate Book Blog as a stop on your tour. Congrats on the release, and best of luck. Readers, I appreciate you stopping by to read, and as always, your comments are quite welcome.
Romance Across the Rainbow welcomes Andy Gallo. Congratulations on the release of Better Be Sure, Andy!
Andy Gallo has a new contemporary MM romance out: Better Be Sure.
When the stakes are this high, you better be sure you can win.
Jackson Murphy lost his parents to a boating accident, but they’re never far from his thoughts. He attends the same university as his parents, joined the same fraternity as his dad, and even lives in his father’s old room, along with his adopted brother Marcus. Life brightens when he meets the man of his dreams.
Edward Knowles trades full-time college for working during the day and community college at night when his father’s factory closes. He intends to stay deep in the closet to keep his job in heating and cooling. But Jack pushes all his buttons.
Jack’s college rival challenges him to bring a date to the upcoming dance. He goads Jack into accepting even though failure means he and Marcus will lose their room and Jack must leave the fraternity.
Jack is falling hard for Ed, but Ed will never agree to go the dance. Ed—not knowing the stakes of the wager—has also made it clear that Jack taking another man will end their romance.
With pressure from friends and enemies alike, will Jack hold on to his legacy… or his heart?
We’re also giving away an eBook copy of (Un)Masked and one copy of Leo Loves Aries, by Anyta Sunday. Comment on the post below or a chance to win.
Jack’s phone buzzed, and he swatted the sound away. Too early in the damn morning. Another buzz. He drowsily pulled himself from sleep. Across the room, Marcus mumbled in his sleep.
Jack checked his phone, body surging to life at Ed’s name on the screen.
Ed: Oh, crap, it’s probably still too early for you.
Jack couldn’t type back quick enough. Ed writing to him this early in the morning, that had to mean something, surely.
Jack: Nah, I’m totally awake. Why?
Ed: Just finished a job. Am close to Harrison….
Jack was already scrambling out of bed, messaging one-handed while he emptied his drawers for a clean shirt.
Jack: Send me your location. I’m in desperate need of caffeine. Bet you could use some too.
Ed sent a grinning dog and his location. Eighteen minutes later, Jack walked into the local Starbucks. He scanned the almost empty store and caught Ed’s broad shoulders at the counter.
Jack strode over and clapped the guy on the shoulder, giving it a lingering squeeze. “I have an eerie sense of déjà vu.”
Ed’s warm shoulder shook as he chuckled. “I haven’t mowed you down yet.”
“No, no, that you haven’t.” Their gazes snagged, and Ed definitely swallowed. Probably too early—in the day and their friendship—to tease.
Jack rocked back on his heels, dug his wallet out of his pocket, and ordered.
When they both had their drinks, they sank into armchairs in the corner of the room.
Ed’s gaze kept dipping to his chest, and Jack’s lips tipped up behind his mocha. “How was your morning job?”
“I was extremely motivated to get the job done quickly.”
Jack’s grin widened, and an ill-timed sip ended up rolling down his chin. He swiped it off. “Do you often have jobs close to Harrison?”
“Not as much as I’d like.” Ed rubbed his palm over the arm of the chair.
“I mean, a lot of the time I have to drive out farther.”
“Well, any time you’re nearby….” He raised his cup.
Ed glanced at his chest again. “I like the look.”
Jack followed the sweep of Ed’s hand and—fuck. His shirt was inside out. “Right. Of course.”
Ed leaned forward in his seat, amusement lighting his eyes as he took in the rest of him. Shivers skittered through Jack, and he held his breath. “I totally woke you, didn’t I?”
The deep laugh Ed gave made it all worth it. “So you’re a high-ranking anchor in your fraternity?”
Jack snorted at the muff. From the way Ed stared at him, it was hard to tell if he’d done it on purpose or really had the term mixed up.
“We prefer to pronounce it ‘archon,’ but either way, I’m one of the fraternity leaders, yes.”
“Do you like it?”
“Which? Being in the fraternity or being an officer?”
Of course he’d want Jack to answer both. “Yeah, for the most part. I mean, there are a couple guys I wish weren’t my brothers, but that’s how it is.”
“How’d you pick that fraternity?”
“There wasn’t really any other option.”
Ed’s brow furrowed. “I thought Harrison had a lot of fraternities.”
“No, not like that.” Jack waved his hand and shook his head. “My dad, both of them were in Pi Kappa Phi. Marcus and I grew up hearing all the stories about their days in the house.”
“Wow, that’s cool.”
“Yeah, they met when they were freshmen and were friends until… well… until my parents died.” He thought he’d been ready to deal with the issue, but confronted with it, he froze.
Ed scooted up on his chair, leaning forward. “You okay, Jack?”
Jack rubbed the ring at the chain around his neck and drew in a calming breath. “Yeah. Yeah.”
Ed seemed to realize Jack needed a change in conversation, because he abruptly started telling Jack how his sister had woken him last night screaming murder. She’d gone to the bathroom at night, and when she walked back to her room, someone was in there, rustling the sheets.
Ed had launched into her room with a bat only to be confronted with their cat. The first time the cat decided not to be shy. In the middle of the night, rolling around Becky’s bed. They laughed so hard, they needed to make a cup of hot milk to settle down again.
“Sounds like you’re a good guy to have around… wayward cats.” And panicking… friends.
Ed sipped his coffee. “What about you?”
“I like to think I’m a good guy to have around too.”
“I’m sure you are.” Ed set his coffee down. “Look, about last night….”
Jack clasped his cup, muscles rigid. Here it was. “Yeah?”
Air blew into the café along with a group of rowdy hipster students toting stainless steel cups. Jack shuffled forward on the cushion to hear Ed better, but Ed’s gaze strayed toward group and his mouth flattened.
Jack cursed the interruption, but it was clear the moment had passed.
“What are your plans the rest of the day?” Ed asked instead.
“The rest of the day?”
Ed laughed, and Jack soaked it up.
“Class, bantering with Brittany—she’s awesome—frat meeting about the spring formal, messing around with the guys. Might squeeze some actual study in there.” A lot of study, actually.
“Messing around with the guys?”
That piqued your interest, did it? Jack smirked. “Play a bit of ball if the weather holds. Get out the PlayStation and hit the video games if it doesn’t.”
“What’s the spring formal?”
Jack groaned. “The bane of my life.”
How Much Is Real?
A Unique Post from Andy Gallo
Thank you, Lou for having me as a guest today.
One of the interesting facets of being a guy writing mm romance is when you’re asked, “how much of this is based on your life?” Some elements are easy to dispel, like parents are dead, billionaire (or hundred millionaire), professional sports player. But others aren’t so easy.
The main character is a top. Is that you? Um… well. The main character likes guys with long hair, or tattoos or drives a Harley. Yeah…. I mean. How much of that is anecdotal? Then there are those things like, pro sports player, billionaire, cowboy etc, where the questions are along the lines of, is that your dream job/guy/lifestyle?
For me, I tend not to use myself as an example. Sure for some things I draw upon my life experience, but no, I never had a crush on my best friend. No really, she wasn’t my type. Yes, there might be a few guys I thought were hot when I was in school, but honestly? I don’t remember who they were or what they looked like anymore. (Okay, maybe I do for a couple, but truly, not all of them.)
Yes, I wanted to be a pro baseball player, and you know what? I don’t write about closeted baseball players. The billionaire thing? Okay, yeah, I’ll cop to that. It was suggested that I ought to write about cops and prosecutors. Not together, but as subjects in a series. Nope, too close to home. If anyone I know reads those books I’m so sure I’ll get, “so you’re the prosecutor, but who are you crushing on?” No thank you.
So to clear it up, in Better Be Sure, there are no unfulfilled fantasies that are lived out in the pages. It’s just what it proports to be, a story. A good one I think, (hope?) but just a story.
Now, if you ever see a series set in a law firm, well then maybe.
In addition to the tour wide contest, at each stop on the blog tour, Anyta and I are giving away eBook copies of (Un)Masked – which we co-wrote – and Leo Love Aries – the first book in Anyta’s Signs of Love series. To be eligible, leave a comment below and tell us something that you and your parents/children do that connects you bond over. We’ll pick on winner for each book.*
Andy Gallo prefers mountains over the beach, coffee over tea, and regardless if you shake it or stir it, he isn’t drinking a martini. He remembers his “good old days” as filled with mullets, disco music, too-short shorts, and too-high socks. Thanks to good shredders and a lack of social media, there is no proof he ever descended into any of those evils.
Andy does not write about personal experiences and no living or deceased ex-boyfriends appear on the pages of his stories. He might subconsciously infuse his characters with some of their less noble qualities, but that is entirely coincidental even if their names are the same. And while Andy leaves the hard sci-fi/fantasy for his alter ego, Andrew, in his mind a touch of the supernatural never derailed a good relationship.
Married and living his own happy every after, Andy helps others find their happy endings in the pages of his stories. He and his husband of more than twenty years spend their days raising their daughter and rubbing elbows with other parents. Embracing his status as the gay dad, Andy sometimes has to remind others that one does want a hint of color even when chasing after their child.
Romance Across the Rainbow welcomes Don Travis with his new release, Abaddon’s Locusts Read to the end for an exclusive excerpt!
DSP Publications author Don Travis has a new gay mystery book out: Abaddon’s Locusts.
When B. J. Vinson, confidential investigator, learns his young friend, Jazz Penrod, has disappeared and has not been heard from in a month, he discovers some ominous emails. Jazz has been corresponding with a “Juan” through a dating site, and that single clue draws BJ and his significant other, Paul Barton, into the brutal but lucrative world of human trafficking.
Their trail leads to a mysterious Albuquerquean known only as Silver Wings, who protects the Bulgarian cartel that moves people—mostly the young and vulnerable—around the state to be sold into modern-day slavery, sexual and otherwise. Can BJ and Paul locate and expose Silver Wings without putting Jazz’s life in jeopardy? Hell, can they do so without putting themselves at risk? People start dying as BJ, Paul, and Henry Secatero, Jazz’s Navajo half-brother, get too close. To find the answer, bring down the ring, and save Jazz, they’ll need to locate the place where human trafficking ties into the Navajo Nation and the gay underground.
About the Series:
BJ Vinson, a gay former-Marine, ex-cop licensed private investigator tries to pick his cases carefully, but prior loyalties or his sense of justice or something always gets in his way. He finds himself traveling all over his beloved state of New Mexico with his companion Paul Barton to mend other people’s problems.
Don and DSP Publications are giving away a $10 DSPP gift card with this tour. For a chance to win, enter via Rafflecopter: a Rafflecopter giveaway
Direct Link: http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/b60e8d4751/?
Two men gazed down at the sleeping youth sprawled across the mattress. The older, his pleasant features blemished by a glint of cruelty in his dark eyes, smoothed silver wings of luxuriant hair at his temples before handing over a number of $100 bills to a young Hispanic almost as handsome as the boy on the bed.
Now fully clothed, Silver Wings exuded the authority of a player, of someone who counted. “Fucking beautiful. How old did you say he is?”
“Eighteen. Barely. Know that’s older’nyou usually like. But he’s a rare one, no? As lindaas a woman and as macho as a man. He took care of you, huh?”
Silver Wings rubbed his eyes as if remembering the last hour. “Fantastic. Must have worn himself out. Does he usually go comatose?”
“Ah, that is the drug. He claims he gets a bigger bang by charging up. But you benefit as well, no?” He eyed his companion. “He is yours for $25,000.”
Interest flickered and died. “Tempting. But my household isn’t set up for that kind of arrangement. I prefer to call when I feel the need. Even if that means sharing him.”
“You don’t take him, then we move him south.”
“South? To Mexico, you mean? Juárez?” That wouldn’t be too bad. El Paso was a short hop, and Juárez lay just across the border.
“At first, but then we gonna trade him up.”
Silver Wings understood the human trafficking language of trading up, but it was unusual to move members of the “family” out of country these days. “In Juárez? Sounds more like trading him down.”
“¡Órale! There’s some big money in Juárez. But a bigwig in the Middle East went apeshitover the kid’s pics. He wants him. And for a lot more than twenty-five. I only give you that price to let you know how much we ’preciateyour help.”
“Middle East, huh?” Silver Wings licked his lips. “Put off that transfer while I see if I can work something out.”
“Two days. Then I gotta move him. You know, easier to ship him overseas from Mexico than from the States.”
Silver Wings’ voice hardened. “You can do better than that. Give me a week to reorder my life. I’d like to visit him a couple of times. Usual fee, of course. That gives you reason enough to hold him here.”
“Okay, but not no more’n a week. I got people to answer to, you know.”
“I’d like him again tomorrow night, but it will have to be late. I have a dinner meeting.”
Hispano lowered his head. “As you wish. All you gotta do is call me.”
Silver Wings left the motel reluctantly. What would take place in that room now that they were alone? Just thinking about it raised a bead of sweat on his upper lip.
His mind returned to the offer he had received. The boy was expensive, and the economy was still struggling to recover from the Great Recession of 2008… but it was only money.
Monday, August 9, 2010, Albuquerque, New Mexico
I parked the Impala in front of my detached single-car garage and sat for a moment trying to figure out the cacophony on the radio. I’d failed to reset the station after Paul and I went for a rare game of weekend golf at the North Valley Country Club. Paul Barton was the sun in my sky, but I still struggled to understand my companion’s taste in music. Now something called “Alejandro” by a gal proclaiming herself to be Lady Gaga committed assault on my classical-music-loving ears. As I switched off the noise and stepped from the car, a high, uncertain voice snagged my attention.
“Yoo-hoo, Mr. Vinson. BJ!”
Mrs. Gertrude Wardlow, the late-afternoon sun catching in wayward strands of her white hair, waved at me from the foot of her driveway. She had lived in the white brick across the street for as long as I could remember. Mrs. W. and her husband, Herb, had been with the Drug Enforcement Administration from the time it was formed in 1973 until their retirement. Some ten years ago, Herb passed on to his reward—an urn on his widow’s mantelpiece. I walked out to meet her in the middle of Post Oak Drive.
“I’m so glad I caught you.” She fiddled with frilly lace at the neck of her lavender blouse. “A man on a Harley has been driving up and down the street. He stopped at your place twice. Rang the bell and then rode off.”
No doubt she was recalling the time when two thugs on another motorcycle attempted to gun me down. When she’d yelled to distract their murderous attention, they shot up the front of her house, scattering her husband all over the carpet.
I touched her shoulder. “Don’t worry, I’m not involved in any gang disputes at the moment. Not that I know of, anyway.”
Her smile turned impish. “That was an interesting day, wasn’t it? I just thought you should be aware someone was trying to contact you.”
“Thank you, Mrs. W. I’ll be on the lookout.”
After exchanging pleasantries, we parted. I mounted the steps to my front porch and paused to enjoy the welcoming aroma of tea roses my late mother planted. No evidence of a note on the door or in the mailbox. That meant the mysterious biker would probably return. I went inside and forgot the matter as I removed one of Paul’s casseroles from the fridge and got out a pan of rolls. I enjoyed their yeasty aroma almost as much as I liked their yeasty taste. Our household mantra was Paul Barton, freelance journalist, whips up gourmet meals; B. J. Vinson, formerMarineand ex-cop turned confidential investigator, burns toast.
We planned to stay home tonight and watch an episode of a new gumshoe program on the tube called The Glades. Matt Passmore, the guy who played the detective, was a way-cool customer who Paul claimed should be my role model. I’d no sooner set the dishes to heating than a rumble on the street caught my attention. A moment later the doorbell rang.
Exclusive excerpt Setting the scene Don Travis’s new release Abaddon’s Locusts is the fifth book in his BJ Vinson Mystery Series and follows the ordeal of Jazz Penrod, a mixed blood Navajo kid snared by sex traffickers. In the following excerpt, BJ and his significant other, Paul Barton, are attempting to help Henry Secatero, Jazz’s half-brother, make contact with an apparent contact with the ring.
That evening, Paul and Henry moped around our den at home while I tried to convince them any sex trafficker worth the name would be cautious about responding to an unsolicited Email asking about a guy he’d just kidnapped. But I had faith my partner’s sexy picture would be something Juan couldn’t resist. Henry struck out in his search for Jazz’s Jeep, but I hadn’t expected positive results. That was just to keep him busy.
Later that night while we were all staring at an episode of Breaking Bad without hearing or seeing much of it, Paul’s laptop beeped, signaling an Email. As he led an active social media life, that wasn’t meaningful—he’d received a dozen messages that day, none of them from Juan. This time, it was. Henry and I hovered over Paul’s shoulder as he opened the message.
Hey, man. How come you looking for Jazz? Ain’t seen him. But you a hunky-looking dude. Don’t need nobody else. You and me can get it smoking all by ourselves. Tell me more. Hell, show me more.
After settling down from the excitement of a contact, I analyzed the message. Despite the street grammar, I had the feeling this Juan was reasonably well educated. All by ourselves, was a giveaway for me. And while the Email inferred he knew Jazz, this Juanito denied seeing the missing man. Did it mean anything that he failed to send a photo of himself in return? Probably not. Paul’s original message acknowledged seeing a picture of him on Jazz’s machine.
“Come on, man. What we waiting on? Send a message back and tell him let’s get it on.” Henry was impatient for action.
I shook my head. “No. That’s pushing it. But we need something to speed up the process without spooking the guy. Paul, how far are you willing to go on this thing?” Bad question. Paul was always willing to help a lame dog.
“Whatever it takes. Jazz is one of the good ones. And he needs help.”
“Let me call Gene and see if he can cover what I have in mind. I’ll be back in a minute.
I left the two of them in the den and reached Gene at home. After a long conversation, I returned to Paul and Gene.
“Okay, I want you to send a message along the lines of what I’ve written on this page. But put it in your own words.”
Paul studied the paper I’d handed him for a minute, and then typed out his message on the laptop, pausing before hitting the send button so Henry and I could review it.
Juanito, Lucky you caught me at home. I usually go to the C&W for a little line dancing on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, but got lazy tonight. Probably make it tomorrow. Have a phony card that lets me slide in. Maybe I’ll see you there sometime, but in the meantime, here’s a selfie that shows a little more skin. Expect the same in return, okay? Keep in touch. And if you hear from Jazz, tell him I’m trying to get in touch with him. Going to Farmington at the end of the week, and would like to see him. He’s pretty cool in addition to being prime beef.
The selfie he referred to was a shirtless shot he took of himself a few minutes earlier. The reference to the C&W, a big nightclub out on East Central that attracts cowboys and wannabees, would allow Juan or one of his associates to see the prospect in the flesh. The bit about a phony card to get in the bar hinted at an underage minnow. Gene was confident he could provide protection in such a public venue. Even so, I hesitated before telling him to send the message. This was the man I loved above all others offering himself as bait to human traffickers… sex traffickers.
Don Travis is an Okie turned New Mexican. Each of his B. J. Vinson mystery novels features some region of his beautiful adopted state as prominently as it does his protagonist, a gay former Marine, ex-cop turned confidential investigator. Don never made it to the Marines (three years in the Army instead) and certainly didn’t join the Albuquerque Police Department.
He thought he was a paint artist for a while but ditched that for writing a few years back. A loner, he fulfills his social needs by attending SouthWest Writers meetings and teaching a free weekly writing class called Wordwrights at the North Domingo Multigenerational Center, an Albuquerque community center.
In a relationship that violates rules and expectations, Mayr and Tash have found their perfect match in each other. Despite their fears and difficult pasts, they hope for a shared future with security and a family. When Mayr’s secret first love, Arieve, proposes they create that family with her, it seems dreams could become reality.
But life is complicated, and so is the delicate balance between duty and love. While Mayr protects the Dahe family at all costs, Tash is determined to succeed as a priest. Both positions require sacrifice, forcing their relationship into painful choices. To make matters worse, criminals lurk in the shadows, seeking revenge on them and those they guard.
The life they want risks losing everything—including Arieve and each other. Even if they can have it all, keeping it may take more than they can give.
Warnings: “Soulbound” contains some explicit content, references to self-harm, suicide, and mentions of suicide-related behavior and intent. This story also contains instances of graphic violence, references to rape and domestic abuse, and depictions and mentions of depression.
About the Series:
With the right people and the right price, the Republic of Kattal can be brought to its knees. But for every line crossed, someone waits on the other side, ready to push back.
Armed and ready to defend their lives, these heroes are not afraid of the fight. They stare adversity in the eye and dance with the darkness within. But in their justice, there is wisdom. In wisdom, there is protection. In it all, there is love. Sometimes it’s a matter of saving a village; sometimes it’s a matter of saving the one they can’t live without. Sometimes it’s just about doing the right thing and learning to love oneself.
Magic may lurk in the shadows. Crime may never sleep. But love doesn’t back down.
Silence fell, deep with meaning conveyed by long gazes and soft smiles. Why had he expected Aeley to say anything different?
Three loud knocks rapped the door, scaring them both. Cursing under his breath, Mayr opened the door.
Every foul word tumbled back down Mayr’s throat. “Hey.” He leaned against the door, one arm sliding up the side.
In an instant, he tripped on his own feet and stumbled into the door, swinging it open further.
“You can’t possibly be drunk already.” The corners of Arieve’s eyes crinkled with her smile, her glossed lips painted pink like her cheeks. Dark curls and plaits cascaded over her shoulders, the firelight lending a golden hue to the white-blonde streaks in the fringe of hair across her forehead. She held a silver tray, presenting two glass goblets filled with a bluish-purple drink and fragments of gold leaf sprinkled on top. “Otherwise, this might be a bad idea.”
“What’s a bad idea?” Mayr grimaced, his mouth suddenly dry as if filled with pillow stuffing. Quick to recover, he smoothed his shirt, resettled his belts, and slicked back his hair, pretending he meant to be clumsy.
“Your after-dinner drinks. Lira was going to bring them, but I thought I’d save her the trip. She’s having fun trading stories with your mother.” Arieve cleared her throat. “I didn’t want to interrupt your conversation.”
The tray rattled in her hand. The drinks threatened to slosh over the rims.
Mayr steadied the tray. “Thanks for that. This. These.” He offered her an awkward smile and took the goblets. “I’ll let you get back.” So you won’t see me kick my own ass for being completely inappropriate.
“Thanks, Arieve,” Aeley called from her desk.
“You’re welcome.” Arieve hesitated as she lowered the tray. She swayed gently, the rich green layers of her tiered, ruffled skirts moving with her. “I’ll let you finish.”
Before Mayr could say anything else, Arieve hurried down the hall and around the corner.
“I wonder what the mix is this time.” Aeley snatched one goblet to sniff it. “Hint of gaffa nectar, soured pamolea extract, and a bite of fulore. Plus maybe, probably—” another sniff “—syrup from the Sailor’s Sweetheart bush.” She took a sip and nodded. Flakes of gold leaf clung to her top lip. “Not as fun as last night’s concoction, but I could get used to it.”
“That’s what you always say.” Mayr brushed the flakes from Aeley’s lips with his thumb.
Aeley wiped her mouth on her sleeve. “Not always, just a lot. Cook knows her stuff. To be fair, she’s known me since I was three, getting into her puddings and tarts anytime she turned around. I trust that when she serves up a hodgeypodgey drink, it’s got personality.” She tapped her goblet against his. “I’m heading back to our guests. You should, too, considering it’s yourparty. We can resume this conversation later.”
After a kiss to his cheek, Aeley flounced out the door and through the corridor, humming to herself.
Mayr stared into his goblet, watching the gold swirl in an abstract pattern. My stomach. My head. I can’t even…
He set the goblet on Aeley’s desk. He needed Tash’s forgiveness more than he deserved a fancy drink.
As he exited the room, questions assaulted him hard enough to drown the sound of the door latch as it caught. One question practically shouted above all the others: how much had Arieve heard of his conversation with Aeley?
His heartbeat faltered. He was mortified. The door was not impervious to sound. What would Arieve think of him had she heard…
Hey, stupid! It doesn’t matter.Mayr grumbled and hooked his thumbs around the back of his belts. It still comes out to you’re taken and happy, so shut up.Dragging his heels, he wandered through the corridor and turned into the next, towards the ballroom.
Around the corner, Arieve leaned against the wall, head bowed, with her face hidden by her hair. She twined the trailing black laces of her bright green tunic around her fingers and pulled taut, then released them only to repeat the process. The empty tray rested beside her, abandoned against the wall.
“Hey.” Mayr stopped, careful to leave two foot lengths between them. “I thought you went back?” He toyed with his marriage ring, twisting the band nervously. Memories of Tash surged forward, the airy weight of his kisses almost real enough to feel.
“I wanted to wait for you.” Arieve raised her head and offered a tender smile. “I probably won’t get a word in the rest of the night given the company, so I thought…”
She was in his arms before he could reply. Her hug stole his surprise, shredding it until all that remained was stunned.
“Congratulations,” she murmured, her forehead tucked beneath his chin. “He’s got a good heart, solid. You’ve found your match. If the Four could grant me one wish tonight, it’d be for you two to have everything you desire.”
Mayr hesitated, his hands hovering over Arieve’s back. Touching was a bad idea, especially while he kept Tash from the truth. “Thank you.” Quick as he could, he embraced Arieve and pushed her away, feeling worse than the coward he was. “Let’s go back. I need to stop my mother from revealing every baby story she has or everyone’s going to hear about my naked backside and trailing diaper crowns.”
Arieve picked up the tray and started up the hall. “I’m sure Tash is soaking them up as we speak.” She laughed, the joyous sound digging up a dozen memories.
Memories he needed to lock up and burn down.
He followed Arieve and cast his gaze to the ceiling. Please, Reverent Goddesses, get me through tonight. Then let’s talk about strength of will, because one of these days I’m going to have to confess everything and it’ll hurt more than scorching my pride.
Archer Kay Leah was raised in Canada, growing up in a port town at a time when it was starting to become more diverse, both visibly and vocally. Combined with the variety of interests found in Archer’s family and the never-ending need to be creative, this diversity inspired a love for toying with characters and their relationships, exploring new experiences and difficult situations.
Archer most enjoys writing speculative fiction and is engaged in a very particular love affair with fantasy, especially when it is dark and emotionally charged. When not reading and writing for work or play, Archer is a geek with too many hobbies and keeps busy with other creative endeavors, a music addiction, and whatever else comes along. Archer lives in London, Ontario with a bigender partner and rather chatty cat.
Hello readers! Romance Cross the Rainbow is happy to host Tucker McCallahan today, who’s touring the virtual world with her new release, The Boys of Summer.
Lead singer Ash Redvers needs a drummer. When Dustin Davis shows up, ready, willing, and able to play – not to mention gorgeous – Ash thinks it’s going to be the best season yet. But Ash has never had a boyfriend, and Dust isn’t willing to be a quick hook-up. As the summer heats up, they’ll have to decide whether all they can make together is music, or if there’s something more for them after the Boys of Summer are gone.
Hi! My name is Tucker McCallahan, and I’m the author of The Boys of Summer, the first book in the Dust & Ash Saga. I’m so grateful to Lou Sylvre for hosting me today! (From Lou: You’re welcome, Tucker! My pleasure.)
One of the reasons I ended up choosing to self-publish the saga was because it’s a little unconventional. The novels follow an ensemble cast (a rock band – The Boys of Summer) over the course of the summer of 2011, and every single aspect of the sexual spectrum ends up represented: straight, bisexual, pansexual, gay, lesbian, transgender, polyamory, monogamy, monandry… You name it, if it exists, there’s a character repping it in the Dust & Ash Saga.
I feel like that representation is very important. My sole exposure to LGBTQ+ anything while I was growing up was Clive Barker (and yes, I also write erotic gay horror – mostly because of that). I didn’t stumble onto LGBTQ+ fiction until I was in college, and then suddenly it was like the sun came out, the birds sang, and I knew I wasn’t alone. But in reading those early tales, it seemed like the LGBTQ+ world was somehow separate from the reality of my daily life. Like the things those novels encompassed – while being titillating and wonderful – also existed in their own little world, separate from work, school, and most of all, my family.
In The Boys of Summer, I explored the idea that the LGBTQ+ community didn’t have to ever be separate from any other community; that we could all live, work, and love side by side. I wrote it to be realistic, and chose to tackle some of the trope events of LGBTQ+ life: coming out, having a first relationship, and how friendship effects love.
From The Boys of Summer:
Two hours later Jared was pulling his shirt back on when he heard footfalls on the gravel. He turned to see Ash, wide-awake and his usual charming self, striding toward him.
“Hey, man, place looks good.”
“Thanks. You meet the new drummer?”
“Not yet. I saw you guys moving his massive drum kit and beat feet back to bed.”
Jared’s eyebrows shot up into his hairline. He crumpled the empty cigarette pack in his hand and threw it at Ash’s head. He missed by a mile.
Ash grinned at him. “What? No way was I moving all that shit in the hot sun. I needed my beauty sleep.”
“His name is Dustin. He has more bathroom junk than you do.”
Ash stared at Jared for a minute, slightly nonplussed. “Uh, okay.”
“I put him in Arden’s room, but there’s no bed in there except that mattress from—”
“Ugh, that’s nasty.” Ash made a face. “Okay. As soon as he’s done, uh, doing whatever it is he’s in there doing, we’ll go buy a new bed.”
“Cool. He seems like a nice guy. Kinda quiet.”
“He looked like a Marilyn Manson reject, but honestly, as long as he can play the drums, I don’t really care.”
“Well, hopefully I’ll improve your opinion of me over the course of the summer.”
The voice was deep and sultry. Ash instantly thought of Jim Morrison from the Doors growling “Break On Through” or crooning “Love Her Madly.” Ash hoped he wasn’t blushing as he turned around, but when he saw the vision of total fucking hotness on his front porch, he gave up. Ash’s face went as red as a chili pepper.
Dustin was a towhead, that uncanny, natural white-blond that some males were blessed with at birth and never escape with age. Even Dustin’s eyebrows and eyelashes were white, and of course, the very first thing that went through Ash’s filthy mind was that Dustin’s pubic hair would be that same wonderful white-blond too. That thought, and the accompanying mental image, gave Ash a raging hard-on. Fuck.
Aside from the gorgeous color, Dustin’s hair was cut in a skater’s asymmetrical shag, longer on top than it was in the back, and he used some kind of styling gunk to stand it up into an artful pile of spikes. His eyes were toffee brown and positively danced with mischief as he stood on the porch in tight, skinny jeans, an Affliction hoodie, and Chuck Taylor All-Stars.
Yup. Ash was hard as granite.
“Well, goddamn!” Jared said with feeling. “Where’s the little punk I helped with the drums a few hours ago?”
Dustin laughed and jumped off the porch. He landed in a graceful crouch, standing to stretch like a cat, which made his clothing ride up and showed off a sweet little six-pack, complete with a pierced navel.
Oh motherfucking hell. Ash was going to have to go inside and adjust. He contemplated the physical tightness of Dustin’s jeans and cocked his head, trying to decide if the hard-bodied little drummer wore boxers, briefs, or—groan—nothing at all.
“I washed him off. You’re stuck with me.”
Ash stared, filled with simple but intense desire. Everything about Dustin turned Ash on fiercely, right down to the multiple piercings in Dustin’s ears.
Jared laughed and looked sideways at Ash, who was unusually quiet. “Uh, Dustin, this is Ash, our singer. Ash, Dustin.”
Dustin’s gaze devoured Ash from the top down. The singer and leader of the Boys of Summer had skin the color of teak, a tawny dark brown that gleamed in the golden sunshine. Dustin had to put effort into not straight-up ogling the guy, because Ash looked like a hero from some romance cover, complete with long, windswept black hair, fiery dark eyes, and oh-so-kissable lips. “You look like a lead singer. Tall, gorgeous, pretty eyes…. Can you actually sing too?”
Ash’s mouth went bone-dry and his heart pounded like a bongo. Had he heard that right? Did Dustin just call him gorgeous? Ash mumbled something unintelligible.
Jared stared at him. “Ground control to Ash, you okay over there?”
Ash looked at Jared, slightly panicked. He could hardly admit to macking on their new drummer in front of the guy. Plus, there was the whole bit about being told he was gorgeous by somebody he wanted to knock down and fuck senseless on the front porch. What was he supposed to say? Tell Jared he was fine except for the massive erection that was currently preventing any blood from getting to his brain and causing a huge case of stupid? Oh yeah, that would go over great.
Ash managed a vague sort of nod and stuffed his hands in his pockets. He tried to keep his eyes glued to the ground, but it didn’t work. They kept flipping up to gaze at their new drummer. Ash jerked his head toward his SUV. “Guess I’ll drive,” he mumbled.
They were all headed in that direction when Jared’s cell phone rang. Ash’s Sketchers crunching on the gravel didn’t quite mask his growl as he glared at Jared’s retreating back and the phone plastered to his ear.
“Hey, I can sleep on the floor, if getting a bed is a problem.” Dustin’s concern was audible in his voice. “Or if the money’s the issue, a futon would be—”
Ash’s beleaguered brain finally clicked on and he turned his attention back to Dustin. “No. No problem. Sorry, man. I just got done with a killer semester. If I space out, or just kind of stare off or something, smack me. It’s totally posttraumatic stress.”
“If you say so.”
Ash furrowed his brows as he glared at Jared, still talking on his phone. Damn it, Ash needed a wingman here. He hooked his thumbs in his back pockets and cocked his head, pivoting on his heel before dancing from foot to foot as if music played somewhere. Dustin smiled, watching him. Ash’s hair swung around his shoulders as he came to a stop, facing Dustin once again as Jared finally came toward them with an apologetic look on his face.
“Sorry, guys, I gotta bail on the bed trip. I have to go see a… a friend.”
“Dealing during daylight hours?” Ash quipped. “Damn.”
Jared made a face, his voice taking on a very serious tone. “I suggest you tell Dustin that you’re merely attempting to be amusing, because everybody in our band knows that I have no sense of humor whatsoever about being referred to as something so onerous as a purveyor of narcotics.”
Ash abruptly stopped dancing about, straightened up, and nodded. “Right dude, sorry. So… you gotta go?”
“Yeah. That was Tracy.”
“Oh,” Ash said, surprised. “I didn’t know you guys were talking again.”
“On and off.”
“I didn’t know she’d finally gotten a divorce.”
Ash cringed. “Jared, man….”
“Stay out of it, Ash.”
“Yeah, okay. Just… be careful.”
“Have fun buying junior there a bed. Don’t embarrass him too badly.”
Jared jogged off to his ancient Bug, leaving Ash and Dust alone.
As they drove out toward the shopping mall on the edge of the county line, a comfortable silence filled the SUV. They used the time to size each other up, taking the first leg of the journey for some thorough studying. Dustin decided Ash was simply the best-looking man he’d ever laid eyes on. From his long black hair with its natural red highlights, to his rangy hard body that seemed full of childish, happy energy, the lead singer of the Boys of Summer was completely gorgeous. And firmly in his closet, Dustin was sure, which was a problem.
Ash, on the other hand, decided he was getting laid tonight. He was going to take a man home, alone, for the very first time. No girls allowed this time. He didn’t want anything distracting him from the unbelievable bounty that was Dustin the drummer. Ash had Plans (with a capital P) for this boy, and the more he thought about it, the more excited he got. Why the hell hadn’t he ever done something like this before?
“So… thought about what kind of bed you want?” Ash asked.
Dustin cocked his head and frowned. “The kind you sleep on?”
“Smartass. I meant, like, a queen, a king, a firm mattress, a soft mattress? You ever try one of those Tempur-Pedic beds?”
Dustin stared at him with his mouth hanging open. It was kind of cute. Ash wanted to lean over and suck on Dustin’s lower lip, which probably meant he was going to have a car accident if he didn’t stop thinking with his dick and pay attention to the road.
“What are you, like, the Jacques Cousteau of beds?”
“We spend a third of our lives asleep, Dust. It okay if I call you Dust?”
“Sure, I don’t care,” Dustin said, shrugging. Ash beamed at him.
“I happen to like sleeping, so I have a thing for comfortable beds.”
“Okay.” Dustin slowly nodded. “What kind of bed do you have?”
“At the farmhouse?”
“I have a king-sized double pillow-top that I roll a two-inch layer of memory foam over. It’s not ideal, but it does the job for the summer.”
“What’s ideal?” Now Dustin was interested, because thinking about how serious Ash was about his bed was kind of hot.
“The house I live in up in Pittsburgh? I have a California King up there, one of those Sleep Number jobs with separate adjustment areas on each side. It’s on a custom-built spring platform, and it’s fucking amazing. I sleep like a baby every night, even if I’m not wrapped in flesh.”
“Excuse me?” Dustin choked.
“Yeah, uh, I don’t like to sleep alone. It’s kind of a fetish. You’d have found out anyway, living with me. It’s not so much a sex thing as a skin thing. I just sleep better if I’ve got skin on either side of me.”
Dustin stared at him and decided to jump in with both feet and see where he landed. “Well hell, Ash. Why are we wasting money on a bed? Why don’t I just sleep in your room?”
Ash’s heart pounded, and he chose his speech carefully. “Uh, as much as I… appreciate… your offer, you’ll find out pretty quick that our band is really popular. Most of the guys pick up bed-warmers, whether they have sex or not.” At the look on Dustin’s face, Ash’s words spilled out. “I’m not making any assumptions, Dust. What you do is your business. I’m just saying, I don’t doubt you’ll have plenty of offers for—”
But Dustin interrupted him with the one thing Ash totally didn’t expect to hear. At least, not that way.
“I’m gay, Ash. I really don’t think I’m gonna be picking up anybody at a wedding and bringing them home for sex.”
Ash swung the SUV into the furniture outlet and shut the engine off. He pulled the keys from the ignition and turned to look at Dustin, who sat quietly, staring at him, obviously waiting for Ash’s reaction. “Just so you know, I haven’t had any problems picking guys up at weddings for sex. Hell, I ended up with the groom once.” Ash’s face flushed as Dustin’s eyebrows flew up in surprise. “And no, I’m not telling that story. Falling Banks may be a small town, but they aren’t stuck in the dark ages. There are gay couples. There’s even a gay bar.”
“So you expect me to discover the pleasures of hooking up with small-town gay guys?” Dustin’s voice had a hard, sarcastic edge Ash really didn’t like.
“That’s not what I said.” Ash looked decidedly uncomfortable. “I’m just saying, if you’re, uh, out, then you should have your own space.”
Dustin sat back, a contemplative look on his face as he eyed Ash. “I take it, despite your hookups and the fact that you ooze metrosexual all over the place, you’re not out.”
Ash flushed an even deeper shade of scarlet, but decided it was probably better to have this conversation now. He stuck the keys back in the ignition, started the engine, and flipped the air-conditioning on so they’d have both some air—and some cover—then leaned back and turned to his sexy new bandmate.
“No, I’m not. Not down here. Up at school it’s another story, but here at home? No. Jared knows because he lives with me and has seen who I bring home, but since I know he’s a fucking drug dealer, we keep our mouths shut about each other’s business.”
“You mind telling me why? I mean, no offense, but I knew the minute I saw you.”
“I’m not gay.”
“Yeah, okay, dude, whatever.” With a tired sigh, Dustin completely disengaged from the conversation and turned away from Ash to get out of the truck. God, this guy was so far in the closet, he couldn’t even see the door!
Ash reached over and grabbed Dustin’s arm before he could open the door. Strange electricity arced between them, pulling a gasp from Ash and stiffening Dustin’s spine. Reacting on instinct, Ash yanked, and Dust bounced across the seat like he’d been shot from a cannon right into Ash’s lap. Dustin slapped one hand against Ash’s chest to stop the singer from hauling him any closer, and it only made things worse. Unbelievable heat arced up Dustin’s hand into his arm, drawing a hiss from between his clenched teeth. Ash couldn’t think; he hummed with need. He wrapped his fingers around Dustin’s upper arms. Dustin shoved both of his hands into Ash’s chest with a sexy little growl. Their eyes locked, and the wrestling went from a surprised struggle to something downright erotic.
“Thought you said you weren’t gay,” Dustin said, a little breathless.
“Thought you said you weren’t out.” Dustin’s arms trembled and started to weaken. God, Ash smelled good, and he was so pretty….
“I’m not!” Four more inches. Just four more fucking inches, and Ash could devour that mouth.
“You kiss me in the front seat of your truck in broad daylight while they load that sofa, and you will be,” Dustin breathed.
Ash whipped his head around. Four men from the furniture store were loading a large sectional sofa into a 4×4 about twenty yards away. Ash immediately let go of Dustin, but couldn’t help raking his eyes over him again.
Dustin felt the heat of Ash’s gaze and knew he had scant seconds before Ash decided he didn’t care about having an audience. Dust had to stop this now; he just met this guy.
“Look, Ash, I don’t want there to be any problems between us, and I don’t want to cause any problems with the band.” Dustin scooted back over into the passenger seat. He tugged his hoodie down, and only then did Ash realize Dustin’s shirt had ridden up over his abs. Ash bit the inside of cheek to hold back the whimper.
“I’m not usually this—” Ash didn’t know how to say it. “Fuck.” He’d never wanted a guy like he wanted Dustin, but if he said that, it sounded stupid and purely physical—which, well, maybe it was. Damn.
Dustin watched the thoughts flicker across Ash’s face as clearly as if he’d sung them. Dustin had never met a man with a more expressive face. A bolt of lust stronger than anything Dustin had felt in a year struck and left him smoldering. Dustin’s chest seized with actual pain as he recognized the feeling and squashed it flat. He couldn’t afford to take any chances. He was in Falling Banks to play the drums, not find a boyfriend. He took a slow, deep breath to ease the ache in the center of his chest and gazed at Ash.
“Look, I felt it too, okay? There’s definitely some kind of crazy attraction between us, but I’m shambling here. I played an all-nighter last night, and we still need to buy a bed. Then, if you don’t mind, I need to get something to eat—something, you know, real. Not fast food. Energy drinks stop working after you’ve been using them for a few days, so—”
“Dude, when did you sleep last?”
Dustin rubbed his beautiful toffee-colored eyes and offered Ash an exhausted smile. “What day is it?”
“I am so sorry.” Ash turned the SUV back off and pocketed his keys. “Let’s pick out a bed. I gotta drop your contract and tax forms off at my parents’ house, but we can grab food after that. I promise not to make a run on your virtue until you can appreciate it.” Ash’s wink was downright lewd.
Dustin took a deep breath and climbed out of the SUV. He followed the tall, sexy singer into the large furniture depot and tried to focus on the rectangles made for sleeping.
I hope you enjoyed the excerpt. The Boys of Summer is the first book in the Dust & Ash Saga and is available now on Amazon and Smashwords. The second book is scheduled to come out in the spring; there are six books in all.
To celebrate the first release in the saga, I’m sponsoring a giveaway! There are three ways to enter: like my author page on Facebook, follow me on Twitter, or – if you’re already following me on FB and Twitter – leave me a comment about your favorite music to listen to at a wedding reception. I’ll be giving away three gift cards, and the winners will get to choose what they’d like to receive! Winners will be announced on my blog on September 30th.
Once again, I’d like to thank Lou for hosting me and the Boys today. Enjoy the end of summer! Thanks for being here, Tucker. Be sure to visit again!
About the author
Tucker McCallahan has been lots of places, seen lots of things, and is still learning new stuff on the regular. Multi-published, bisexual, polyamorous, and slave to a big black cat named Emperor Inka, Tucker is a long-time member of the LGBT community and a proud educator/activist.
Romance Across the Rainbow is happy to welcome Eric Allan Westfall today, touring with his new release, Of Princes False and True. Read on for buy links, an excerpt, and exclusive interview, and a giveaway.
A tennis match? Starting a war between the Duchy of Avann and the Kingdom of the Westlands?
Only in a fairy tale.
When Prince Henry hurts a young ball boy who told him Danilo’s ball was inside the line, Danilo’s response is automatic. Punch the prince’s face, pick him up left-handed, and break the royal jaw. Unfortunately, there’s another “automatic” at work: a death sentence for whoever strikes royalty.
King Hiram can’t—won’t—change the rule of law to rule of royal whim. But he grants the Heir of Avann fifteen days to find words that will allow Danilo to live.
In those fifteen days: Magick. The gods, goddesses and gender-fluid deities on Deity Lane. Kilvar, the assassin. A purse which opens in a bank vault. A mysterious old man. The Lady of All. The Magickal Hand writing, rewriting. A fairy tale within a fairy tale. A huge horse called Brute. And at the end…perhaps the right words and a most unexpected love. Plus a deity-supplied dinner with just the right amount of garlic.
All royalties will go to a local LGBT organization.
The Small Throne Room The King of Westland’s Castle Late Morning, the Day The Story Starts
“Sit,” King Hiram commanded. The young man, still head-bowed, didn’t move. The guards squeezed the prisoner’s biceps, half-marching, half-dragging to the chair at the opposite end of the table from the king. With four guard hands occupied by flesh or chains, the difficulty in moving the chair was obvious. The wizard’s spell removed the chains; they reappeared with a clunk!on the floor beside the table.
The guard on the young man’s left pressed a dagger-point against his throat. The other guard released him, stepped behind the chair and pulled it enough away for the young man to be maneuvered in front of it. Rough hands on shoulders forced him down. It was, of course, only happenstance the knifepoint nicked the neck, a drop of blood appearing when the blade was removed.
The recent command not to hurt the prisoner apparently didn’t apply to chairs in which the prisoner was sitting. The force used to propel it toward the table would have crushed the young man’s fingers if he’d rested them on the arms when he sat. Fortunately, his hands were in his lap. The young man’s head remained down as he was in effect caged by the chair and table.
He raised his head, looking straight ahead, but Hiram and his advisors could see he wasn’t seeing anything then present in the room.
Beneath the dirt, bruises, scrapes and crusted blood he was handsome. Sharp cheekbones, aquiline nose, thin lips, a faint cleft in his chin. Brilliant green eyes, flecked with gold. Unusual long hair tumbling near his shoulders, red-brown strands mixed with varying shades of gold. There was something almost familiar… The king chased a wisp of memory, but lost it.
The young man tilted his chin up enough to look at the king, apparently believing if cats could, so could he. There was no cringing in those eyes, no shame, no embarrassment. No anger or resentment. Perhaps, though, a tiny glimmer of…interest. As if this was some grand adventure and he needed to absorb everything happening to and around him for later remembrances.
Unfortunately, he wouldn’t be remembering anything again, in the not too distant future. A man doesn’t when his head has been severed from his neck, or he’s been hanged until a neck-snap or slow strangulation ends him. Hiram realized he didn’t remember what death the law required. He would, he knew, have to check.
In silence, the young man lifted his hands, and pushed the long, thick hair behind his ears, each movement telling a story of strain and pain. As did his face. One eye was swollen almost shut; a cut on his forehead still oozed blood; there was dirt on the bruising on cheeks and jaw; one lip was split.
“Did he resist arrest?”
“No, Your Majesty.”
“Did the prince do this?” The king refused to let himself display the tiniest glimmer of hope the answer was “yes.” The hope Henry fought back.
“Did he attempt to flee and have to be captured?”
“He is as the Guards found him on their arrival. I am—”
The young man interrupted with a laugh—a bright, beautiful baritone, filling the room with a joy entirely out of place in the circumstances.
The king’s low and angry voice in turn smashed the laughter. “You think all this is a joke?”
The young man blinked. “No, Your Majesty. I just thought it was funny someone thought I might run away. Only a coward runs, when he knows he’s done no wrong. I did what was right.”
“You struck my son.”
The young man shrugged. “I’ll strike any bully beating a child.”
Someone in the room gasped. The king merely thanked the Thirty-Nine it wasn’t him and pretended he hadn’t heard.
But as Hiram spoke he realized he was defending his son because of a father’s obligation, not from a belief in his innocence. “Prince Henry is my heir. He would never—”
“He did.” Kings do not flabbergast easily. Hiram was rendered so. Rogermight interrupt him in the privacy of the royal chambers, but elsewhere? No one dared. Until the young man.
Who had no idea what he was facing; had no idea of the inevitable outcome of his admission of guilt. Hiram did not need to hear more. The law was clear. The punishment was clear.
Yet if he was compelled to do as the law demanded, he would at least learn the truth first.
“Do you have any witnesses?”
The young man’s response was a scoffing, “Of course. Anyone there will tell you…” His voice faded away. “But they won’t, will they? He’s a prince, I’m a foreigner, and they’ll only tell you what a kingly father wants to hear: his son is as pure and innocent as the drifting…slush would be, in a kingdom where snow is possible.”
The chin-tilt this time was defiant. “So. What’s the penalty in this kingdom for saving a child from a beating which might have left him crippled?”
The young man paled, but didn’t flinch, and when he moved his hands to the table, there was no trembling.
Nor was there any in his voice. It was calm, almost matter-of-fact, and he didn’t avert his eyes from the king’s. “Interesting. I thought to rescue a child and instead I start a war.”
Old Moldy heard a threat and started to bluster. Hiram heard a statement of fact, or what the young man believed was truth. He told Old Moldy “No!” and the Chancellor slumped back in his chair.
“A man admits to a crime in my kingdom, for which the law demands the severest penalty. Why should anyone go to war over just punishment?” Everyone heard the silent question, “Who are you your death would cause a war?”
The young man’s bow—so far as he could in his seating situation—was formal. An objective observer might have called it regal.
“Your Majesty, permit me to introduce myself. I am Danilo ys Daeaen ys Cirill. I am the only grandson of the Duke of Avann.” The young man shrugged. “They call me the Heir of Avann.”
OF PRINCES FALSE AND TRUE
BLOG TOUR INTERVIEW
Is there a character in your work you feel especially connected to? Why?
Oh, yes. Yes, yes, yes.
Me. And my partner of 30 years.
It was March of 1965. Although I’d known I was gay since I was roughly five, it took me until I was 21 to come out to my parents, and truly admit it to “the world.” I was in my senior year in college, in a town with not much by way of gay bars, so I headed to the “metropolis” with a date. Or meeting a date at the particular very popular bar. (Can’t quite remember because that fuzziness isn’t all that important.)
We met in…let’s say…a most unusual way.
I ditched my date—wasn’t that a queer thing to do?—to go to an after-hours party with him. I traveled back and forth a lot until graduation, and moved to that city in June of 1965 to be with him. The pejorative “instalove” is tossed around a lot these days, which is sad for you all. Love at first sight exists. Always has, always will, if you let it. It happened to me.
We were together until his unexpected passing in August of 1995.
The main characters in The Warlord and the Bard meet the same way we did, though in a much more royal and imperial way in that fantasy world. So, yeah. Special connection, indeed.
What is the hardest part of writing?
I don’t have the drive that other writers do, the kind which keeps them writing every day besides having full-time responsibilities with family and day jobs. For the most part, over the years, I’ve had difficulty in starting up and keeping in a productive writing mode with any semblance of regularity.
Here’s a list of what’s in progress, from a page or two to sixty percent or more, from short story to novella to novel: Adam’s Other Rib, The Assassin’s Song, The Bartered Bridegroo, bloodLight, Christmas at the Baths, The Dragon Winked, Dragonne’s Lair, hrny 4 u, 3 Boars & a Wolf Walk Into a Bar, The Truth About Them Damned Goats, Little Red’s Riding a Hood, Hath Not a Demon, The Prince and The Redneck, Sranjir in an Odd Land, The Serpent Mark, Strathairn’s Warrior, Taren’s Tale, The Biter Bitten, and Without the Cask.
These are good ideas. Some of them are great ideas. (You may have noticed my opinions are not very humble.) And they ought to be finished.
Since I committed myself to finishing Of Princes, and no way out (a Regency set in Another England) by signing up for back-to-back blog tours, I’m hoping that will provide the impetus to keep going. So I can get at least 3 Boars and Damned Goats out in 2019…and maybe whittle down the rest of that list.
I can but hope.
Where do you look for inspiration for new stories?
Please, no! You saw the list above.
New ideas? I’m the guy who strings large cloves of garlic around the doors and windows of his house, and adds crosses, to keep the vampires out. New ideas are, I believe, just like vampires.
So to the greatest extent possible, I keep my authorial eyes closed, and have a finger in each authorial ear, all the while going “La, la, la, la, la! I can’t hear you” as loud as I can, whenever I’m in the vicinity of a new idea.
But the sneaky things…sneak in anyway.
I saw a gorgeous male dancer in tights and “tanktop,” stand on his right foot, and raise his left leg until it was vertical, nose pressed to knee, hands above to calf and ankle in an incredible display of flexibility. Which somehow became a serpent shifter in that position, and then other positions calling for serpentine flexibility. “The Biter Bitten” was born.
A while back I watched Adam’s Rib (Tracy/Hepburn) on TCM, and the next day, there was Mike the Manly Muse tapping on my shoulder, then yanking me into the office and forcing me into the chair when I balked. “Shouldn’t there be a gay version of this?” he asked, turning on the computer and monitor without my agreeing, putting my hands on the keyboard. That’s how “Adam’s Other Rib” got started.
Bottom line: New ideas? Nope. Not for me. No way, nohow. La, la, la, la, la.
Uh…what was that you said, Mike?
What are you currently wearing?
Really? What an inappropriate, intrusive intrusion into my privacy. (That’s properly pronounced PRIV-ah-cee.) It’s a good thing this was the last question. Had it been the first I might have walked out of this interview with a display of some degree of dudgeon. I give very good dudgeon.
Eric is a Midwesterner, and as Lady Glenhaven might say, “His first sea voyage was with Noah.” He started reading at five with one of the Andrew Lang books (he thinks it was The Blue Fairy Book) and has been a science fiction/fantasy addict ever since. Most of his writing is in those (MM) genres.
The exceptions are his Another England (alternate history) series: The Rake, The Rogue and the Roué(Regency novel), Mr. Felcher’s Grand Emporium, or, The Adventures of a Pair of Spares in the Fine Art of Gentlemanly Portraiture(Victorian), with no way out(Regency) coming out a month after Of Princes.
Two more fairy tales are in progress: 3 Boars & A Wolf Walk Into A Bar(Eric is sure you can figure this one out), and The Truth About Them Damn Goats(of the gruff variety).
Now all he has to do is find the time to write the incomplete stuff! (The real world can be a real pain!)
There’s a new queer romance anthology out that benefits RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network) – Summer Fair.
Summer festivals bring the aroma of popcorn, the excitement of rides, and the promise of real-life enchantment. Seven authors bring you original love stories, each set at a different summer celebration. You’ll experience the thrill of the Chicago World’s fair through the eyes of a plucky girl reporter and the quiet desperation of a teen working a summer job at a traveling carnival. Get whisked away on romantic journeys around the world from a sweet Texas Dewberry Festival to a lantern-filled temple celebration to a surprisingly rowdy New England Founders Day. Whether it’s the magic of a Renaissance Fair, the excitement of a Theater Retreat, or the pulse of a Music Festival, you’re sure to get geared up for all things summer with this delightful new collection.
Note: Most stories are fantasy, but this anthology also includes historical, paranormal and contemporary works.
She decided to do something bold. “Come up in the wheel with me.”
“I’ve been up in the wheel,” but Cathleen didn’t say no. “You don’t have to buy me a ticket.”
“But I want to,” Anna said. “I want to go up there with you. The line is long. It may be the last thing I get to do today, and though I’m terrified I can’t pass up the chance to do something that is once-in-a-lifetime.”
“No, I imagine you can’t.” Wiping her face, Cathleen finished her hot dog. Anna did the same, and they returned their glasses to the Pabst booth and then got into the long line for the wheel. Children bounced in line, excited to go up but bored with waiting. Men smoked and sent the wafts of smoke across all the people in line, and more than one person looked nervous about going into the sky in the steel contraption.
Anna and Cathleen bought tickets and, by virtue of space, were shoved together as they shuffled slowly to the front.
“Mercy, but it’s high.” Anna felt as if she might be sick.
“You don’t have to do it, you know.”
“But I’ve already bought a ticket.”
“Someone’d pay you for it.”
“But I’ve come all this way and I’m here standing underneath it. Besides, what’ll I do if I don’t—go look at the Fisheries?”
She felt a warm hand take hers and nearly fainted. Cathleen had taken her hand. “Don’t be afraid. It’s fun. It really is.”
“And if it collapses and we die, at least we’ll die together.”
Anna groaned but did not take her hand away. Hand in hand, they reached the front of the line and waited with a group of thirty others for the next car to come down and to board. Cathleen pulled them to a windowed corner where they could both press against the glass.
Still, they held hands.
And when the car started to move, Anna squeezed hard from nerves without thinking. Cathleen ducked her head in and put her lips to Anna’s. It was brief, just a momentary touch, but then she whispered into Anna’s ear. “Don’t be afraid.”
Anna wasn’t. Cathleen’s lips against hers had taken away all the fear she had felt about the Ferris Wheel, and then some. With Cathleen beside her, their fingers entwined, she rode the car that rose into the air and beheld the entire fair in all directions before her. She saw the Coliseum of the Wild West show, and the balloon in the sky, and all the trains, and all the people, and all the way back to the basin where she’d first entered the fair off the Lake. The sun was just beginning to go down in the sky. Soon, it would be evening, and Anna would need to get on her way—but with the incredible views and the hand of the lovely girl in hers, and Anna’s heart swelled about to bursting. She could have wept at it all, at this perfect day.
The car started to descend.
“We get one more loop,” Cathleen said.
“I wish it was a hundred,” Anna replied, turning to her friend. “I wish we could stay here forever.” It was an honest confession.
Cathleen smiled, but sadly. With the displays below, Anna felt as if she could see all the world ahead of her. And all the world seemed so small and unimportant.
About the Authors
The brain child of Chicago romance author Marie Piper, the StoryPenners is a collection of fiction and romance authors dedicated to producing independent anthologies to support charitable causes. The StoryPenners has members from the Midwest, the West Coast, New England, Canada, England, and Australia.
Original Members: Marie Piper, Harley Easton, CM Peters, S.B. Roark, and Sienna Saint-Cyr
Contributing StoryPenners: Randi Perrin, Annabeth Leong, Gregory L. Norris, R.L. Merrill, Katey Tattrie, R. Diamond, Arden de Winter
When I was younger, I’d kind of ‘shut off’ emotionally. Not much affected me by my teen years. I was depressed, into cutting myself (mostly because I wanted to feel something and that was something I could feel), and I ended up working for the local fair. While the fair was run by local folks mostly, the rides were brought in by another party. The folks that ran the rides referred to themselves as Carnies.
Many aspects of my story are real and likely have that feel for that reason. I’ve changed names and scenarios, but there really was a very sweet man running the Tilt-O-Whirl and my friend and I did indeed ask him to ride it with us. We were the first to ever ask him and it really did bring him to tears. I’ve wondered how he’s doing over the years but each year brought a new carnival and different crew, so I never found out. I was sad when I realized he was never coming back.
It’s true that the rules are different when you work for a carnival. I was only fifteen and constantly being hit on by older men. They’d slam cups onto the counter and say, “Do me,” and most of them were complete jerks. And worse, tolerated jerks. But not all were like that. The man that ran the Tilt-O-Whirl was good to me. He watched out for me (and my friend). I didn’t have visible cutting scars then because I mostly kept that to areas people wouldn’t see, but I suspect he saw pain in me, just as I have my characters experience in the story. I saw his pain to.
That’s why I wrote this story the way I did. He’d once told me that no woman could ever love him. I wanted to give him a better story than that. This stranger that I only knew as Carnie Nine was my inspiration for this story. I hope he’s still around, that he’s found someone to love him, and that he one day reads this story and remembers the teen girls that asked him to ride the Tilt-O-Whirl with him.
Sienna Saint-Cyr’s erotic fiction has appeared in the Love Slave books and Sexual Expression series; contemporary erotica in Silence is Golden and Goodbye Moderation: Lust, and romance in Melt, Haunt, and Summer Fair. She also writes nonfiction and flash fiction for several websites. Sienna owns and edits for SinCyr Publishing, an erotica company with a focus
on shifting rape culture one sexy story at a time. She also runs a nonprofit writing workshop and writes dark SF and literary fiction under her legal name.
Along with writing, Sienna speaks at conventions, workshops, and for private gatherings on such sex-positive topics as a healthy body image, using sexuality to promote healing, enthusiastic consent, LGBTQIA, CPTSD, and navigating diverse or non-traditional relationships.
Centenary Rhodes is an old soul with a well-traveled name, but she doesn’t know this yet.
Growing up in southern Appalachia wasn’t easy, so Cent left home as soon as she could, but the post-collegiate happiness she’d expected has never occurred. She can’t find a decent date, much less find that special someone and, after losing her job in a corporate downsize, she’s struggling to meet her most basic needs. Her car has been repossessed, her bills are piling up, and her questionable North Chicago neighborhood is dangerous to navigate.
Returning home to Hare Creek, Tennessee, never crosses Cent’s mind until her Great Aunt Tess contacts her with an offer she can’t refuse. The family’s southern Appalachian homestead must be sold, and Aunt Tess needs someone to clean it up. Cent will have access to Aunt Tess’ garden and truck and can live on the homestead rent-free for as long as it takes. A part-time job is waiting for her as well.
It’s a chance to solve some of Cent’s financial woes, but will her return be enough when evil sets its sights on Embreeville Mountain and the homestead?
Cleaning House is a carefully woven Appalachian tapestry of granny magic, haints, elementals, and the fantastic diversity of the human condition – served with a delicious side of fries and a generous quart of peach moonshine.
“Of all the— here!” Cent dropped her pack of Lucky Strikes onto the floor and kicked them under the outhouse door to Pyre. They’re almost gone anyway.It was the middle of the night, and she’d gone to the outhouse to sneak a smoke. One, that was all, and the rush felt so good. It was the best she’d felt in days, and—
“Drop that lit cigarette down the hole. Stowne’s on their way.”
“Dangit.” Cent took a long drag, exhaling as she rose. She couldn’t hide that she’d been smoking again, and—
“Centenary, please come out.” Stowne knocked on the outhouse door.
“We must discuss this.”
“I was just going,” Pyre’s light drifted away.
Coward. Cent tied her robe and stepped out the door. Fall had rolled in early and wet, setting her up for a rough bout of bronchitis that wouldn’t go away. “Fancy meeting you here at two in the morning.” She cleared her throat to stifle its perpetual tickle.
“Centenary.” Stowne folded their arms across their chest. “You should not be out here this time of night, especially in these cooler temperatures.” Stowne held out the quilt from their bed. “You should be inside where it is warm and dry.”
“I had to pee. It’s something Humans need to do regular.”
“There is a night bucket beneath our bed for you to use when the weather is bad.” Stowne caught her before she moved away, wrapping her in the blanket. “You gave Pyre the cigarettes, but where are the matches?”
“You already took my lighter.”
“And I am removing every pack of matches from the homestead.”
“But what if we need to light a new fire?”
“Centenary!” Stowne pointed to where Pyre hovered on the porch. “That is not a legitimate argument.” They lifted her into their arms.
“Put me down.”
“Please see reason.” They turned toward the house.
“Put. Me. Down!” Cent all but fell from Stowne’s arms before they turned her straight. “You and me, we gotta talk about this.”
“About what?” Stowne towered over her. “Your refusal to care for yourself?”
“About the elephant in the dang room!”
“El-e-phant?” Water ran off Stowne’s head as they stared at her. “Those large gray mammals you told me about? There is one in the house? Brownie or Birdie surely would have sounded the alarm if—”
“No, honey. I…” Cent shivered as the rain began falling harder. “Let’s go inside and talk.”
“That is what I wanted when we began this elephant-filled argument.” Stowne walked beside her up the hill, helping her at the slick spots until she was inside the door. “There. Safe and warm.” Stowne unwrapped her blanket and pulled off her rain boots. “Sit. I will stoke the fire and heat water for your tea.”
“Chamomile, please.” Nothing else agreed with her stomach anymore. “And do it over the fire so I can watch. Pretty please?”
“Such simple things bring you pleasure.” Stowne set her favorite earthenware mug on the table beside her chair and another blanket across her lap.
“Tell me a story from our pastlives together.” She watched as Stowne talked and worked, admiring the ever-changing lines of their body. Larger or smaller depending on what was needed, delicate as they poured water over the tea strainer but strong in the way they held the steaming cast-iron kettle without using a potholder.
“Cream and sugar?” Stowne peered up at her.
“Sugar, yes. But cream?” Cent blanched. “But I used to like it, didn’t I?”
“Until this life, yes. And you like it in your coffee now, along with lots of sugar.” Stowne slipped into the kitchen to get the sugar bowl and a spoon from the table, dropping three heaping teaspoons into Cent’s mug and stirring. “There. Now we discuss this elephant.”
“Sit down first, honey. You’re pacing.”
“I cannot help it. I worry.” Stowne turned their rocker to face her. “Tell me why you do not care for yourself like you should.”
“It’s hit the point of why bother.” Cent pointed to the medication bottles beside her. “I take something to sleep. Something for pain. Something for my stomach. Something for— Smoking calms me, all right? It helps with the— I’m afraid.”
“What are you afraid of?” Stowne seemed genuinely puzzled.
“This ain’t about dyingif that’s what you’re thinking.” She pulled the blanket higher on her chest and reached for her tea, cursing softly when her hands shook too hard to lift it without spilling it. “I’m afraid of hurting more, of leaving you with horrid memories before I go. Lung cancer is an ugly death.”
“What about the radiation your doctor spoke about?”
“It’ll only delay the inevitable and make me nasty-sick until then.” Cent smiled when Stowne lifted the mug to her mouth. “Thank you.”
“That is why I am here. Never forget that.” Stowne knelt before her. “I will be here the entire time.”
“You’ve never seen me like this.”
“I have watched you die from battle wounds, from Small Pox, and countless other ways. None were attractive, but I have been there every time to walk you across the veil. This will be no different.”
“But I don’t want to leave you alone.” She reached out to stroke Stowne’s face.
“I will wait for your return, same as always.”
“But this land…”
“Yes, there is that.” Stowne kissed her palm. “It must be handed down correctly.”
“I know.” Cent took Stowne’s face into her hands, pulling them up to kiss them firmly on the mouth. “All right. I’ll think on it.”
“Thank you. Does this mean the elephant is gone?”
“Not gone, but it certainly shrank. Take me to bed, baby.”
Writing Fantasy is a hard turn when you consider that I’ve been a LGBTQIA+ Science Fiction author for over a decade. Sure, Fantasy has its place in my reading life… J. R. R. Tolkien, Anne McCaffrey and Stephen R. Donaldson are among the authors I grew up reading, but I’d never attempted to write inside the Fantasy genre until last year because my mind didn’t run that direction.
It does now.
What prompted the change? Experience, returning home, road signs, and being queer, though not necessarily in that order.
Experience – I’ve experienced paranormal events and seen things I probably shouldn’t have, among them an elemental like being crossing the road as I was driving home after teaching a night class. I’ve also heard fae speak to me, telling me not to pick flowers from the garden of a property we rented (the entire property was magical, and all our images of the house show what’s called spirit smoke no matter the time or day or level of sun). And I experienced an active haunting when we lived in West Virginia. He wasn’t an evil haint. In fact, he was mischievous in a flipping on the overhead light at three AM sort of way, until we accidentally ticked him off. Even then he wasn’t bad, but he was certainly insistent. Perhaps my nature-based spiritual path has led to these experiences. Maybe it helped me see when others couldn’t. Whatever the reason, they happened, and those around me shared the experiences. The sight (intuition, ESP… call it what you will) runs in my family, and I know I have a bit, as does my mother. We know people, generally family, have died before we otherwise hear about it. We’ve dreamed of things that have happened soon after. I can tell if a house is haunted by looking at interior pictures. I’ve been inside a home and known for certain that it didn’t like my presence, an experience so unsettling that I immediately left. It wasn’t someone there (a ghost) or other sort of spirit. It was the house.
A good smudging was in order that day.
Returning Home – I’m from the Appalachian foothills of Northeast Tennessee, and there’s some ancient magic here. You’ll find fossilized shells on the mountain tops, bibliomancy and cartomancy are still being practiced (as is snake-handling, but I’ll not go there), and granny magic is on the resurgence (though in a modern context). These mountains hold 400 million-year-old secrets. I’ve lived other places – Connecticut, The Texas Panhandle, Charlotte, and Chicago among them, but none of those felt like the Appalachians. This is home. I’m bound here by my history and my blood, and now I’m hearing stories from the mountains in the form of delightful characters that I simply must share.
Road signs – Seriously, a road sign prompted the start of the Appalachian Elementals series. When I first taught in rural West Virginia, I drove back-and-forth to my home in Tennessee on a weekly basis. Each trip, I passed a sign for Centenary Road. I thought it’d be a great character name, and it is. Centenary Rhodes (Cent) is the protagonist of the Appalachian Elementals series and one of my favorite character creations.
Writers find inspiration in the strangest places.
On Being Queer – I am. I always have been, but Appalachia was a place where the term still meant odd or strange when I was young. Words like gay and lesbian were spoken in hushed voices and accompanied by the word “them.” I didn’t want to be a “them.” Who would? So I wondered through life, depressed, discouraged, and making a lot of mistakes until I reached my thirties, returned to college, and woke up to who I am. There’s comfort in knowing your identity and place in the world. I’m a queer Appalachian, a pansexual, a bit genderqueer (though not enough to prompt me to change my pronouns of she/her), an author, and a differently-abled woman married to another queer woman – a retired USMC Gunny who now calls Northeast Tennessee home.
And there’s nothing wrong with any of that.
Born and raised in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains, Science Fiction and Fantasy author Jeanne G’Fellers’ early memories include watching the original Star Trek series with her father and reading the books her librarian mother brought home. Jeanne’s writing influences include Anne McCaffrey, Ursula K. LeGuin, Octavia Butler, Isaac Asimov, and Frank Herbert.
Jeanne lives in Northeast Tennesee with her spouse, Anna, and their five crazy felines. Their home is tucked against a small woodland where they regularly see deer, turkeys, raccoons, and experience the magic of the natural world.
New Hopeland City may have been built to be the centerpiece of the technological age, but some remnants of the old world still linger. The tools of the trade have changed, but the corruption remains the same, even in the criminal underworld …
When PI Cassie Tam and her girlfriend Lori try to make up for their recent busy schedules with a night out at the theatre to watch the Tech Shift performer Kitsune, the last thing they expected was for Cassie to get a job offer. But some people are never off the clock, and by the end of the evening, Cassie has been drawn into a mundane but highly paid missing pet case. Unfortunately, in New Hopeland City, even something as simple as little lost dog can lead you down some dark paths.
Until now, Cassie wasn’t aware that there even was a rabbit hole, let alone how far down it goes.
“I’m sorry, but did you want to get changed before we speak? We’d be happy to leave the room while you get ready. It must be hard work performing in both the TS gear and a kimono thick enough to house projectors without them moving out of line with each other, even if they are the smaller, lightweight models.”
“You don’t know the half of it,” Kitsune sighs. “There’s a wireless motion detection system in each hand too,” they add, waving two metallic, clawed paws. “You’ll note that my tails are missing. They don’t yet make multi-tailed suits, you see, and the number is important within the folklore, so we had to find other solutions. The projector tucked under the obi sash keeps the back open nicely, and it allows movement, both in animation and in the actual device, but it’s a bit stronger than the main ones.”
“Meaning that it’s heavier,” I reply.
“Indeed. The way the system works is identical to the tail guidance in regular suits though.”
I frown and Lori clarifies, “Regular Tech Shift gear uses two small wireless touchpads to control tails, one for the bottom half, and one for the top half. They’re embedded in the hand rest of Ink’s front legs. For hybrid-style gear, they usually sit inside the thumb of each hand. It’s the same concept in each one, but animal-style gear allows for bigger movements, while hybrid gear measures micro movements.”
“Which would be rather fiddly, given the level of movement that I require. These are built into the paw pads and are set to register larger movements so that the tails can move in time with the different dance routines and my more flamboyant gestures,” Kitsune explains, demonstrating one of the hand flourishes from the show. They pause then and chuckle. “Ah, but I’m rambling. I am afraid that changing is, contractually speaking, impossible. Will my appearance be a problem?”
“No, I’m used to Tech Shifters…”
Lori laughs and cuts in with, “You are so not used to us yet.”
I laugh quietly, despite myself. The miserable old loner that still lives in my head says I should be angry about that; I’m working after all. But the part of me that was enjoying the evening is far more prominent and reminds me that this was supposed to be Lori’s evening too. I can allow her a small jab or two on that basis. “My early experiences with Tech Shifters were not positive,” I say, addressing Kitsune. “I’m getting better, though. What do you mean by ‘contractually speaking,’ if you don’t mind me asking?”
“Not at all. It is essentially as it sounds. The Kitsune brand is a joint venture between myself and Kevin, and there is a lot of paperwork involved dealing with how the whole thing is to be played out in every mundane situation that you could imagine. What it means is that I can boss Kevin about and make him my dogsbody as much as is required, but at the same time, I must respect his rather brilliant marketing strategies. Part of that means that the mystery of the Kitsune’s true identity is to be protected at all times. As such, I do not meet with anyone without my professionalface on. It seems a little strange, I know, but he was previously a historian of certain old-world sporting brands by trade and thought that applying a degree of what he called kayfabewould help give the whole thing a new edge. I can’t say that he was wrong.”
“So, are you Kitsune when you’re around family too?” Lori asks. “Or partners?”
“Oh, I have no time for partners, not with mytouring schedule. With family, I can be myself, though Kevin did insist upon them signing a gagging order to prevent them from revealing my identity to anyone who hadn’t signed a similar contract. You should have seen my mother’s face when he brought that up. I honestly thought that the rolling pin she was holding was going to be put to nefarious use. Outside Kevin, even my oldest friends do not know who resides beneath the mask.”
“That must be hard to maintain,” I say.
“Oh yes, I have cover stories and everything. It’s somewhat akin to witness protection if television is to be believed. As far as most know, I am simply a touring stagehand for the great performing fox spirit.”
I nod. “Kitsune, as pleasant as this is, I assume there was a reason that you wanted to see me?”
“Oh yes, of course. I saw the news coverage of your recent success with that Gary Locke character,” they say, and Lori flinches slightly. “As far as local detectives go, there are plenty of them about, but you are certainly the most well regarded. I have actually been in town for a week now, and I am due to remain here for a further two. I am afraid that, over that initial period, I was subject to a crime of the nature I am led to believe the police do not take overly seriously.”
“The police wouldn’t be happy about not knowing your identity, regardless of the crime. If it’s one that they won’t usually touch, that doesn’t leave many possibilities. What are we talking about?”
“It is rather lonely on the road,” they sigh wistfully. “A few months ago, we stopped in Toledo, and I was awoken from a post-performance nap by a clattering outside the tour bus. I wandered out, expecting to find a fan or two hunting autographs, and instead found this charming little thing skulking around the bins. I named him Fish.”
Kitsune produces a phone from their kimono, loads up a photo, and passes it over. It shows a snow white American Shepherd dog sitting on one of the tour bus seats and giving the camera a suspicious look. It’s too big to be a puppy, but certainly not big enough to be fully grown.
“You named your dog Fish?”
“It seems strange, doesn’t it?” Kitsune laughs. “There’s a reason, though.” They take the phone back and enlarge the picture, revealing that the dog’s tail is about half the length it should be. It was easy to miss at normal size because the single colouring made it seem like it was tucked under its legs. “When I was young, my parents had some rosetail betta fish. One of them was pure white, and it had a habit of nibbling through its tail fin. When we took Fish to the vet, they said that the tail damage, judging by the angle of the marks, was likely self-inflicted. I couldn’t remember what my parents called the fish, so I just stuck with Fish.”
I nod. “And I assume that Fish is now missing?”
“I am afraid so. It happened yesterday, during the early hours. I was woken by a loud bang and found that Fish was gone, and the tour bus door was open.”
“Could Fish have run away?”
“It would have been difficult for him to open the door, but not impossible. I don’t think that he would have run, though. We were lifelines for each other, you see. He kept me company during the day, and when he had nightmares, I comforted him. If he was spooked, he would usually run and hide near my bed. I heard something else too, a van door being slammed shut maybe? And then an engine.”
“So you’re thinking that he was stolen.”
“Honestly? I don’t know. Do you think that you could take the case? How much would it cost?”
Matt Doyle lives in the South East of England and shares his home with a wide variety of people and animals, as well as a fine selection of teas. He has spent his life chasing dreams, a habit which has seen him gain success in a great number of fields. To date, this has included spending ten years as a professional wrestler, completing a range of cosplay projects, and publishing multiple works of fiction.
These days, Matt can be found working on far too many novels at once, blogging about anime, comics, and games, and plotting and planning what other things he’ll be doing to take up what little free time he has.
This blog is not pornography, however it will from time to time include material suitable for adults. If you are not of legal age in the country where you live, please leave the site. Thank you. Others, proceed at your own discretion, and please enjoy!