Wheels and Heels

Book Cover: Wheels and Heels
Part of the Stories From the Hen and Hog series:
  • Wheels and Heels
Editions:Digital: $ 3.99
ISBN: 978-1-62649-702-3
Pages: 70,300
Print: $ 17.90
ISBN: 978-1-62649-703-0
Pages: 265

As a teenager, Ira Bedford fled a troubled home life and people who didn’t understand his penchant for feminine things. In the city, he fell in with Cedric, who found him work as an underage stripper. It took him years to escape Cedric’s influence and try to build a life of his own.

Now, he just wants to be left alone to create his art. But Cedric’s on-going harassment means Ira had to drop out of art school, is squatting in a friend’s apartment, and is still relying on his allure as a sexy, skirt-wearing exotic dancer to pay his bills.

Then he meets Jed. Part-time bartender and the apartment building’s superintendent, Jed is just the right mix of strong, kind, and protective to pull Ira out of hiding. He also welcomes Ira into his chosen family at the Hen and Hog Pub. But Ira yearns for more. Still, he doesn’t dare to hope that Jed will want him and his questionable past, his skirts and high heels, his hang-ups, and the profession he seems unable to escape. But Jed will do anything to prove him wrong.

Publisher: Riptide Publishing
Cover Artists:

Safe and Sound

Book Six

Overcoming past hurts and letting love back in sometimes means reinventing everything about yourself, and sometimes means loving who you already are despite the jagged edges.

Rikki’s past is ugly, painful and full of blood. Simon is getting over a lover who only saw him for his uses, but had no use for his heart. From the outside, they seem like a disaster waiting to happen.

From the moment Simon moves into the same house, they seem to be exactly what the other needs. Except for one small detail. Simon has never been—or wanted to be—the one in charge in the bedroom. And Rikki doesn’t trust himself to keep Simon safe. So when Simon demands independence in all other things, Rikki is sure he’ll have to accept a life of solitude and hold himself inside his cold shell.

Meanwhile, as Simon waits for Rikki to bring the heat, his old lover is still hoping to use him one more time. Rikki is going to have to trust his instincts—and all the deadly skills he’s grown to loathe and fear—to keep his Simon safe.

Publisher: Titles Currently Out of Print
Reviews:Beth Jumper on Open Skye Book Reviews wrote:

"I liked this story and will go back and look for the rest of the series."
4 out of 5 stars

Permanent Ink

Book Cover: Permanent Ink
Editions:Digital - Second Edition: $ 3.99
ISBN: 978-1-63477-779-7
Pages: 17,970

Beauty is only skin deep, but some marks—and what they represent—are impossible to escape.

Eric resents his comfortable college life and the restrictions his family’s expectations put on him. Dwayne, his best friend Angel’s cousin, is a pierced and tattooed ex-con trying to rebuild his life. Eric sees only the tattoos and the way Dwayne’s upbringing have dictated his future. It takes a surprising revelation from Angel to force Eric to see past Dwayne’s defenses to the generous heart beneath and to realize it’s time for him to break free of his own instilled beliefs. The men can’t keep apart, and they gradually learn that everything they thought they knew about each other might be wrong.

Opposites attract as two men from very different backgrounds move from enemies to lovers in a story of understanding, compassion, and redemption.

First Edition published by Pink Petal Books, 2011.

Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Cover Artists:

THE SLAM of the back door closing rattled the kitchen cupboards, jerking Eric out of the slug-like sleep of the overindulgent. A low, throaty “Fuck you too, asshole” in a voice he didn’t immediately recognize drove away some of the fog. The heavy snarl of a muscle car engine outside and the squeal of tires dissipated the rest. Still. He wasn’t ready to open his eyes. Not quite yet.

He grimaced as he rolled over. Even that amount of movement reminded him why he shouldn’t have gone to the bar with Angel after they’d lost the game by two stinking baskets last night. Why he’d agreed to crash at his teammate’s dumpy apartment was now far beyond him. He always ended up on the too short couch with his feet hanging over the arm. Rooms went to couples, and since Marcus had basically shut him down at Christmas, not only was he not part of a couple, he was done with guys. The whole scene no longer interested him.


His own bed in his own apartment, now that interested him. He’d give a lot for it right about now. His bed, his blackout curtains, and the nice, soft comforter that actually covered all of his extra-long frame defined heaven for him in his current agony. The ache of sunlight pressed on his closed eyes, warmed the air around his head, and baked his brain. His already pickled brain. He let out a low, miserable moan.

“Wakey, wakey.” A hard slap on his ass jerked him to sitting.

“What the fuck! Oh Jesus.” He doubled over and braced his head between his hands. That pain momentarily eclipsed the lingering smart of the slap.

His outburst and subsequent collapse earned a chortle from the interloper. Dwayne. He might be Angel’s cousin, but they were nothing alike. Angel was studious and determined. Dwayne had a part-time bike courier job and who knew what he did with the rest of his time. Angel was clean-cut, down-to-earth, and generous. Dwayne, covered in tattoos, was perpetually scowling and irritating, filling up Angel’s space with his there-ness.

Now, he plopped down on the couch beside Eric with a little wince. “Fuck me, my ass is sore,” he muttered.

Eric peered at him from between his fingers. “Why do I need to know that?”

A tiny leer played about Dwayne’s lips. He observed Eric from the corner of his eye, dark brown glittering at him from between lush black lashes. A gold barbell piercing through his eyebrow shone in the sunlight, and a shard of diamond in his nose, bright against his dark skin, blazed a spear of sunlight into Eric’s eyes.

Eric curled a lip and yanked the blanket he’d had wrapped around him out from under Dwayne’s ass. “Fuck off.”

“Baby. So hostile.” He grinned as he wrapped a strong, calloused hand around the back of Eric’s neck and squeezed.

Eric told himself the flash of white teeth from between those full lips was not what made his morning wood pulse in his loose boxers. The scrape of rough skin across his nape was annoying, not arousing. He balled the blanket up in his lap.

Dwayne yanked on him, and he almost toppled into his lap. “Little twinge just means I got some action.” He wiggled his tongue out and clicked the piercing in the tip against his teeth. “You got the couch again, I see.”

Eric shoved Dwayne’s hand off him. “Excuse me for having some fucking standards,” he snarled, scrubbing a hand through hair he knew would be standing out in messy blond spikes across his head.

“Oh, darlin’, you keep tellin’ yourself that.” Dwayne laughed.

“You are a fucking train wreck waiting to happen.”

“And you have a potty mouth this morning, Eric Sinclair. What’s wrong? Got a stiffy and no one to take care of it for you? Again? And here I thought all you had to do was bat those baby blues and people fell at your feet begging.”

“Eat shit,” Eric muttered. He would have gotten up, walked away, but why confirm Dwayne’s speculation? About the stiffy, not about people falling at his feet. He had his share of offers. Last night at the bar had been no exception. But unlike Dwayne, he wasn’t interested in a hookup who saw blond hair, blue eyes, and a bank account and didn’t care what went on in his head.

“Aw.” Dwayne patted his knee. “Pretty boy didn’t get any nibbles last night?” He waggled that tongue again, and his hand slid upward. “Maybe you just need to loosen up. Not think so hard. It can be a strain, using so many brain cells all at once.”

Was it less insulting that Dwayne at least mocked him to his face? His head gave a vicious throb, and he moaned.

Dwayne just grinned lasciviously with more tongue action. The piercing there did not make Eric wonder what else was modified, or curb his desire to palm himself at the images that popped into his head.

Seriously? Fantasies about this asshole?

“Go wash your john off. That’s disgusting.” Eric gave him a halfhearted shove, trying hard to ignore the zing of electric heat that shot up his arm as his palm contacted Dwayne’s sweat-slick bicep.

Dwayne sighed and shook his head. “Manners, darling.” He got up and sashayed off to the bathroom.

Eric groaned and flopped over into the empty space. Thank God the horrific smells of stale beer and old pizza overpowered the lingering scent of sex and Dwayne. Still, he kept his cheek pressed to the soft pillow and closed his eyes, letting his imagination go a bit. No way would Dwayne ever know Eric entertained even the slightest thought involving him, or what it might be like to run his fingers over his cornrows. Or how easy it would be to get into the sagging pants he always wore. Or what he might look like under them, because he didn’t carry himself like some of the other out-of-shape swaggering thugs in the neighborhood. But Dwayne never had to know he thought about those things. “Or his tongue. Or his cock. Fuck!” He swore into the couch cushions twice more for good measure.

“What?” Angel had entered the room in his customary silent fashion. He nudged Eric’s head. “Move over.”

“Nothing.” Eric righted himself and looked up Angel’s long, lanky frame.

Angel grinned down at him, one steaming cup of coffee in each hand. Somehow his smile, set against his dark features, was not quite as brilliant as Dwayne’s. “You got the couch again. I’m tellin’ ya, bro, your standards are too high.”

“No, they’re not.” Marianne, Angel’s girlfriend since high school, nestled herself in between Angel and the arm of the couch, her own cup of tea in hand. “Baby, his only standard is anyone he can’t have.”

Eric took the coffee Angel handed him and blew across the top. “That is not true.”

“It is.” She leaned forward to see him, and her long black tresses tumbled over her shoulder and into Angel’s lap. “You remember Annabelle Peters in twelfth grade?”

“She was hot,” Angel reminded her, earning himself a good slap.

“She was also practically married to Simon, even then. If I recall, you lusted after him too. I hear they just had twins. What does that make? Five now?” She picked up her tea bag by the string to dunk it up and down in the steaming water.

“He was hot too,” Eric mumbled, his bottom lip never leaving the warmth of his mug.

“What about what’s-his-name in first year that time?” Angel asked.

“Steven,” Marianne supplied. “Mmm-mm. Gor-geous.” This time she got the slap, which made her squeal.

“And so straight he made Indiana Jones look like a flamer,” Angel added. “And don’t forget Carrie-Anne.”

“Who was not straight,” Eric conceded.

“And then there’s Marcus….” The way Marianne trailed off made Eric wince. “Too soon,” she whispered, and sipped her drink.

“Too soon,” Eric agreed. If anyone ever asked, he’d say he wasn’t that invested in Marcus, so it didn’t matter that Marcus chose someone else over him. But Marianne and Angel didn’t ask. They didn’t have to because they knew him and knew the rejection had smarted more than he wanted to admit.

“You gotta pick someone who’s available, man.” Angel shook his head, then sipped his coffee as he sank back against the lumpy couch cushions. “That’s a disturbing pattern you got going on.”

“There’s no pattern.” Eric protested his friends’ assessment of his love life, but in fact, he had to wonder if maybe they weren’t at least a little bit right. He’d known Marcus was more invested in his ill-advised relationship with one of the professors than he was in his flirtation with Eric. Now Marcus had his teacher, and Eric had a hangover and Angel’s lumpy couch. But Marcus looked happy, which he hadn’t done in a long time. Eric had to credit that to something.

“You know,” Marianne said, once again peering at him around her boyfriend and drawing his attention back to the sun-warmed living room and his hangover, “there is someone I can think of who wants you bad. And he’s available.” She raised one manicured eyebrow over her almond-shaped eye and grinned a sharp, wicked little grin. “I hear his tongue isn’t the only thing he has pierced.”

“Oh fuck no!” Eric took a deep swallow of his coffee. It burned all the way down, but that didn’t stop his mind from shooting straight to the gutter and his heart shooting straight into his throat.

“She’s right.” Angel lolled his head around to look at Eric. “Dwayne’s got a major boner for you, dude.”

“That asshat gets a boner for anyone with a toy to shove up his ass. No, thank you. Pierced or not, no idea where that’s been. Ain’t gettin’ anywhere near me.”

Angel sucked in a breath between his teeth. “Harsh.”


“You aren’t exactly Mr. Upstanding, there, Eric,” Marianne pointed out. “The Marcus fiasco might have slowed you down some, but you’ve had your fair share.”

“Compared to him? I’m the fucking queen mother.”

“You don’t know shit about me.” Dwayne’s words dropped like tiny lead balloons from over the back of the couch.

“Fuck me,” Eric whispered, reluctant to turn around and face Dwayne. Angel craned around, and Marianne set her tea down.

“Dwayne.” She started to get up as Eric at last turned to face him.

Dwayne waved her back. “No, no, don’t get up, sweetness. You kids have a nice slagfest.” He was fully dressed and strapping on his bike helmet. “Some of us work for a living. Days like this”—he wiggled his ass—“being a bike courier just sucks, ya know?” He winked at Eric. “I’ll see you later, sweetcheeks.” He left out the kitchen door, closing it softly behind him.

“Jesus Christ.” Eric flumped back down the right way round on the couch.

“If it’s true,” Angel said quietly, bringing his coffee back to his lips, “no harm saying it, right? You’re just being real.”

Eric snorted. Angel always had a way to point out his mistakes without really saying he’d done anything wrong and still making him feel like shit about it. The last person Eric wanted to owe an apology to was Dwayne Sayer. “Look, Angel—”

“Don’t tell me, sweetcheeks.” He offered Eric his tightest, meanest grin. “Piercings and tattoos and fashion you don’t agree with don’t make a guy a thug.” He stood up and held his hand out to Marianne. “And liking sex doesn’t make him a slut any more than it does you.”

Eric wanted to glare at him, maybe tell him off. But he was right.

Angel shrugged. “Just sayin’.”

Marianne took his hand and got rather more gracefully to her feet. She smiled, leaned over, and kissed Eric’s forehead. “You’re all right, hon. Just apologize. I’m sure he won’t hold it against you.”

Trouble was, part of Eric wanted Dwayne to hold it against him and stay the hell away. Another part of him wanted Dwayne to hold that hot, hard bike courier’s body against his. He just wasn’t sure which part was bigger.

Reviews:Amy on Amy's MM Romance Revews wrote:

An interesting look into race, oppression, and misconceptions, Permanent Ink is definitely a short and worthwhile read.

See the link above for the full review.

Serena Yates on Rainbow Book Reviews wrote:

"...if you’re looking for a thought-provoking read about friendship, love, and redemption, then you will probably like this novella. "

For teh full review, see the link above.


Like Heaven on Earth

Book Three

Book Cover: Like Heaven on Earth
Editions:Digital: $ 6.99
ISBN: 978-1-63477-574-8
Pages: 68,160
Print: $ 14.99
ISBN: 978-1-63477-573-1
Pages: 204

Cobalt Winslow lost two loves when his ex-boyfriend, Calvin Denvers, infected him with HIV, taking his health and his place as principal danseur in their New York ballet company when Cobalt became too weak. Now dealing with the aftermath as best he can, Cobalt teaches dance in Toronto with the support of his oldest friends, Conrad and Peridot. The one bright spot in his life is Malory Preston, his brother’s driver and a man who is always there when Cobalt needs him. Kind and attentive, Preston embodies everything Calvin lacks, but Cobalt can’t let go of his unhealthy, long-distance relationship with his ex.

Calvin brings a messy and violent end to their affair, but offers a chance for Cobalt to return to New York—as Calvin's understudy—just when he's on the verge of a real and lasting relationship with Preston. Now Cobalt faces a choice between two loves: dancing and Preston. Preston must show Cobalt that he has the power and support to make the life he wants and deserves, no matter what he decides.

Publisher: Author - Jaime Samms
Cover Artists:

OUTSIDE THE community center, Preston paused on the steps to take in a lungful of fresh air. Despite the cold slush on the sidewalks and the scent of uncovered thawing garbage not yet cleared by the street sweepers, it felt like spring was well and truly on the way. The cold, dry bite of winter chill more and more often gave way to the sweeter, softer hit of damp spring air.


He smiled to himself. It would be good when that dampness evaporated. The sooner the better. It put an ache in his own crooked legs and a burden on Cobalt’s overworked system. At least here, with the lake effect off Lake Ontario south of the city, the Canadian winter didn’t last as long as it did out west, where he had last danced. He was glad Cobalt had come home for that reason alone. It didn’t hurt that he now had firsthand knowledge of how his boss’s younger brother was doing. Not knowing if he was staying healthy, looking after himself, had been… wearing.

“Hey, Preston.” The voice shook him out of his thoughts, and he glanced up.

“Adam. Hello.”

Adam’s happy grin widened. “You bring Cobalt his dinner?”

Preston gave a curt nod.

“Did he tell you off again?” Adam’s younger brother, Matt, clapped him on the shoulder, a wide, sympathetic expression on his face.

Preston grimaced and wasn’t quick enough to hide it. Something about Adam’s little brother made it impossible to keep his professional polish in place.

“Hang in there, Prest,” Matt said. “He’ll figure it out.”

Preston straightened. “Figure what out, sir?” he asked.

Matt only grinned wider as he hurried inside.

“Ignore him,” Adam advised.

“I’m sure I don’t know what he’s talking about,” Preston insisted, but Adam only gave him a knowing look. “I simply do as Mr. Azure requests and make sure Cobalt is looked after.”

“Okay.” Adam stopped on the top step, and suddenly Preston was eye to eye with the short dancer. “Correct me if I’m wrong, but you drive Azure Winslow’s limo for a living.”


“Since when does that include being on call for Azure’s baby brother 24-7, bringing him takeout from the organic deli, and spying from the lot across the street to make sure he has a ride home from every rehearsal?”

“I—” Preston cleared his throat, unable to stop his glance across the street to where he had parked the limo in an unobtrusive corner of the library’s parking lot. “It’s just that… his neighborhood is….” Preston stuttered to a stop.

Cobalt lived a few scant blocks from Adam’s own family home, and though these days Adam spent most of his time with his new lover in a much better neighborhood, it wouldn’t do to disparage the place he grew up.

“Sketchy?” Adam supplied.

Preston inclined his head a very small degree. “Sir.”

Adam nodded. “Yeah. I know. And I grew up there, so I’m not worried. But your Coby has no clue. It’s good you look out for him, but I think you probably should realize you’re not actually fooling anyone. Except maybe Cobalt, because clueless, like we mentioned.”

“As you mentioned,” Preston pointed out. “His… clues… perhaps lie in teaching foolish young men not to give up on a dream.” Pushing, he knew. But Adam was much closer to his station in life than Cobalt. And he had no right to bad-mouth Preston’s employer. Sort of employer. Whatever. Cobalt’s persistence in making Adam participate in the modern dance classes had helped to convince Adam not to give up dancing altogether when his dream of ballet had disintegrated. Preston felt a small amount of affinity for the younger man.

Preston knew what it meant to lose a dream the way Adam had. A different dream, perhaps, but the despair had surely felt much the same. It had been Cobalt, way back when, who had kept Preston from giving up, as well.

Adam nodded. “Okay. Good point. I’m just saying, I’m not the only one who sees how you look at him when he’s not paying attention.”

Preston said nothing. He knew Adam had caught him looking more than once. It had been kind of the young man not to rub his nose in it. At least, not until now.

“All I’m suggesting,” Adam went on, “is that maybe you try looking at him like that when he is paying attention. See what happens?”

“I’m sure it’s not my place to—”

“Yeah, well.” Adam winked. “I’m sure you’re wrong about that.”

“He comes from a very different world than you and I, sir.”

“Maybe. But he doesn’t live in that world anymore, does he? He gave all that up and chose to live a block and a half from the worst part of the city. Ever wonder why?”


“Think about it,” Adam said. “Give him a chance to look back at you. What’s the worst that can happen?” He punched Preston’s shoulder lightly and sprinted into the center.

Preston remained on the steps a moment more.

“What is the worst that can happen?” An intriguing thought.


Like You’ve Never Been Hurt

Book Two

Book Cover: Like You've Never Been Hurt
Part of the Dance, Love, Live series:
Editions:Digital: $ 6.99
ISBN: 978-1-63477-254-9
Print: $ 14.99
ISBN: 978-1-63476-991-4
Pages: 200

About to lose the only thing he ever loved, Adam Pittaluga is at a crossroads in a dancing career that has hardly begun. He always wanted to be a ballet dancer, but now that it’s impossible, he turns to Peridot for comfort.

Peridot has been rebuilding his life after losing his ability to dance professionally, his marriage, and very nearly his daughter. He has a lot of reasons to be leery of starting something new, especially with a man as young as Adam.

Adam and Peridot have to believe that starting again can lead to love and success and that sometimes, the strength needed to love like you've never been hurt can be borrowed from unexpected places for a while. But ultimately, they must find it inside themselves to be each other’s happy ending.

To avoid more hurt, they'd miss the chance to dance altogether.

Publisher: Author - Jaime Samms
Cover Artists:

Chapter 1


ADAM STOOD in front of the floor-to-ceiling mirrors and studied himself critically. What was it about him that he couldn’t manage to lead a girl through one simple ballet routine? None of the choreography had been challenging, much less beyond his capabilities. Yet he hadn’t managed to make anything of the dance.

And that had been over a year ago. He had to stop obsessing over it.

This was a new year, a new start. His own choreography during that graduating recital, with a willing male partner, had been well received. Conrad had gone out of his way to express how impressed he had been by what he referred to as Adam’s “hidden talent” for choreography, even going so far as to offer Adam an apprenticeship teaching while he saved up for school and auditioned for jobs.


A year later, the job was a godsend, slowly filling his bank account and keeping his toes on the dance floor as he nursed a ridiculously preventable injury. It helped that he still received plenty of compliments on that first dance. He attributed the lasting impression it had on people to the chemistry and connection he’d shared with his then dance partner, Landry. In their early twenties, they had both been a few years older than the other graduating students, and that fact alone had drawn them together. The chemistry might have been due to the copious amounts of sex they’d been having. Maybe not. But the summer had passed, and Landry had moved on to a university degree involving maths and sciences and come out the end of his first year of university with great marks and a shiny new boyfriend, complete with glasses and a pocket protector. Adam, on the other hand, was still here, wondering if he was, in the end, meant to be a dancer at all.

“I’m supposed to be here,” he muttered. “So what if one guy didn’t think I was worth his time. His loss.” He could ignore the stab of—whatever it was—that made his gut twist. Landry hadn’t even been his type. Not for the long term, anyway, and now he had a life elsewhere. Adam hadn’t wanted to follow him based on the strength of one summer’s worth of good sex and not much more. Now he had a year of learning to teach dance under his belt, the respect of his mentor, and the friendship of everyone in the rapidly growing school. He liked his life. He was ready for whatever this second year of teaching might bring.

He just had to keep up the mantra, and soon enough, it would be true.

Moving with careful deliberation, he placed his hands on the barre, making certain not to put any of his weight there. He shifted his right foot, moving from first to second positon.

His first ballet teacher had a little chant for this. When he’d been knee-high and eager, the singsong—shoulders, hips, heels—had been useful to help a little kid remember where each body part should line up. He used it with the little kids when he was teaching those same basic principles. But if he was going to make a name for himself or even have a career, he had to do better than the basics. He widened his stance so his heels were out just past his hips, then did a plié, studying every minute motion in the mirror.

Knees over his toes. Tailbone curved down. Ribs held up. Shoulders back. Tummy in. Core engaged. He pushed his heels into the floor and lifted with the backs of his thighs, straightening his knees. Plié and stretch, plié and stretch. Over and over.

This wasn’t hard. He stepped back from the barre, shook out his muscles, stretched the backs of his calves, and resumed the position, toes turned out a little more than before. More pliés, more careful attention to his body, then a slightly larger turnout. Another plié.

His hip popped.

“Fuck!” He shifted his weight to his good leg and straightened, ungraceful and sweating, to shake out the offending leg. His hip popped again and he cursed on the inhale.

“Are you all right?” The hairs at the back of Adam’s neck lifted. Peridot’s deep, quiet voice sent a shudder chasing a cascade of goose bumps down his back. The echo of excitement tingled through his balls. His fingers tightened involuntarily around the wood of the barre.

“Did you hurt yourself?”

Adam flicked his gaze up to meet the steady concern in a pair of eyes so changeable, they could appear green some days, or carved from pure amber, as they looked now. The studio’s newest dance instructor, Peridot Nascimbeni watched Adam closely. He’d arrived during Adam’s last year as a student, along with his prodigiously talented then-eight-year-old daughter, who had an attitude that outstripped her ability by half. Not that she wasn’t good. She was. She was just better at making a big deal of herself.

Peridot himself was a legend in Russian ballet. His career had risen like a rocket from nothing to overnight sensation, complete with a successful ballerina wife, Karen. He’d fallen from the public eye in a hail of rumor and criticism and all but disappeared until he’d arrived at the school to teach. Now, he was back, smaller, leaner, and one would never suspect from his demeanor that any of the rumors could be true. He was probably the most down-to-earth, soft-spoken instructor Adam had ever worked with. Over the year they had been teaching together, Adam had learned an immense amount from him about effectively nurturing young talent. It was interesting the lessons in teamwork hadn’t stuck as well with Peridot’s own daughter.

“I asked you a question, boy,” Peridot said, his voice still sliding through that low register. It now held an edge that Adam couldn’t identify and that was at odds with the concern in his eyes. The paradox sent slivers of intense interest through Adam’s gut. “Are you hurt?”

“I am not a boy,” Adam chose to answer, drawing himself back up, using all his training to get the last millimeter out of his height, which still only brought the top of his head to Peridot’s chin. He was twenty-four, but his height—or lack thereof—made people forget he’d been an older student, and probably the oldest to finally graduate from Conrad’s studio. He’d come late to Conrad’s instruction, only finding his home in the studio when he was eighteen. He’d had a lot of bad habits to unlearn before Conrad would give him his final pass, which he’d earned—at last—at twenty-three. He hadn’t complained one bit. Conrad had been the very best instructor he’d ever worked with.

“Then you should be able to answer a simple question, should you not? I saw you favor your right side. Did you hurt yourself?”

“No.” Adam set his right foot on the floor properly and balanced out his weight. There was no pain. There never was. Not after the initial shock of the joint popping. It was just an oddity of how he fit together that gave him trouble every now and then when he widened his stance too far and without care. It was the main reason for his abysmal turnout that gave him so much grief.

“Are you properly warmed up for class?” Peridot asked. “I’d like you to demonstrate some of the more complicated footwork so these students can see what we are building toward.”

“I’ll get ready,” Adam mumbled. He was halfway to his customary corner of the room when Peridot spoke again.

“If you want to be treated like an adult, perhaps you shall begin by acting like an adult, yes?”

Adam felt like sticking out his tongue at the older man. He only scowled.

“A professional adult warms up slowly, making sure he’s ready before he begins exercises he knows to be problematic, and he treats every opportunity to dance with the respect it deserves. You never know when the opportunity to do what we do will be taken from you.” He met Adam’s gaze in the mirror. “Dusty is a perfect example, right under your nose, that you never can be too careful, or get complacent.”

To that, Adam had no response. All the drama with Director Conrad’s new boyfriend, Dusty, over the past year and then some had been a wake-up call. Dusty, a former dancer who had been bashed to within an inch of his life when he was fifteen, had become a fixture at the studio over Adam’s first year of teaching. His childhood trauma had left him with a permanent brain injury and a ruined knee. He was proof. It took one incident beyond Dusty’s control, a matter of minutes, and his promising career had been stolen from him. The fact he could dance at all, ten years later, was a miracle. Adam hoped the miracle held and that the surgery Dusty had scheduled would correct that decade-old knee injury.

“Of course,” Adam said softly. No one made light of such possibilities after seeing Dusty’s struggle.

“Adam.” Peridot’s voice had softened again.

It stopped Adam in his tracks, making him turn with the compelling way it wended through his entire system. That voice was going to undo him. It made him shiver and want things he had told himself over and over he didn’t truly want. Couldn’t have. Should best forget all about, because he didn’t need that kind of distraction. This was his workplace, not a pickup joint. He would have to work with Peridot, hopefully for a long time to come.

“Adam,” Peridot said again, no raised voice, no change in tenor. Just the same inexorable insistence that he would not be ignored.

Adam sighed. “Yes?” He forced himself to meet Peridot’s gaze. Even across the room, those gold-green eyes were mesmerizing. This was a battle against his own will he was never going to win.

“I mean you no disrespect. I don’t belittle you. I speak out of concern.”

“I know.”

Peridot’s formal way of speaking grated on his nerves. The guy wasn’t so much older than Adam. Well, okay, fifteen years or so might be considered an age gap. But Peridot wasn’t from the Victorian age or anything, so why he couldn’t talk like a normal person only irked Adam more. Maybe because the formality of it, the politeness, the refined cant to his words, was just another thing to tingle against Adam’s skin, as if every word had invisible fingers with which to taunt him.

“Do you?” Peridot asked. “Because some days, I think what I say is better heeded by the walls than by you.”

“You’re talking to a wall, dude. Talking. To. A. Wall.” Adam found his fingers clenched to fists in an effort to forestall the creeping mixture of excitement and regret, want and annoyance.

Peridot raised one eyebrow and tilted his head to the side. “I believe I am sometimes, yes.”

“That’s the saying,” Adam snapped. “‘Sometimes I think I’m talking to a wall.’ That’s what you say to a person who’s being a dick and not listening to your good advice.” He snapped his mouth shut.

Peridot said nothing.

The silence stretched.

“I’m going to go warm up,” Adam said, losing the attitude and dropping his shoulders. “I’ll be ready for class.” He worked his fingers loose and shook out his cramped hands.

“Thank you.” Peridot’s own voice had dropped even lower, sounding defeated. “I appreciate that.”

When Adam glanced back over his shoulder, he caught only a glimpse of the older man’s back as he left the room.

What the hell was the matter with Adam? He’d volunteered to help Peridot with the adult ballet classes, so why was he so tense whenever Peridot spoke to him in so reasonable a way?

“Because you’re hot for him, you dumb fuck.” Adam pursed his lips, holding in further vulgarity. This space—the dance studio, the office, the building itself—was a sanctuary. He’d learned when he moved here as a teenager that Conrad ran a different sort of studio. A clean one. A family-oriented space where street talk and attitude were not welcome.

Adam hadn’t found it difficult to purge the blue-collar mannerisms from his speech or to clean up the street from his thoughts when he was here. Bending himself to fit the forms the people around him preferred had never been all that difficult. Not until Peridot.

Peridot Nascimbeni had changed everything, and Adam wasn’t sure he liked it.


Like No One Is Watching

Book One

Book Cover: Like No One Is Watching
Part of the Dance, Love, Live series:
Editions:Digital: $ 5.99
ISBN: 978-1-62380-729-0

One dancer. One cleaner. Two very different worlds.

 If Conrad isn’t good enough to be a principal dancer, at least he makes a stellar teacher, stern with the kids coming through his studio, but chatty with anyone else who stands still too long.

Dusty likes the quiet spaces between words. Since a brutal beating as a teenager, he’s content to go unnoticed, reconciled to his broken brain and a dance career lost before it ever began. Cleaning Conrad’s studio is perfect for a guy who doesn’t want to be the center of anything.

Convinced if Dusty comes out from the shadows, he’ll shine, Conrad can’t seem to leave him to his simple work—or stop talking. Because Dusty not only hears him, he also listens. It’s been a long time since anyone listened.

Far from being annoyed, Dusty is drawn to the man hidden behind Conrad’s babble. But Conrad has the life Dusty never got to have, and wanting someone from that world could shatter him all over again.

This book was previously published. The story has not changed, but this version includes the short story Out of Step, previously only available in the series print anthology.

Publisher: Author - Jaime Samms
Cover Artists:

VOICES PATTERED on the periphery of his attention, spreading ripples through the still, heavy air of the dance studio. Dusty glanced over his shoulder but saw no one. The room was empty, as was the office beyond, seen through the plate-glass windows.

He sighed. “Hearing things, are you?” he said. Not that that was a new thing. Sometimes he spent so much time on his own, the world in his head and the one outside it blended together. Giving his head a shake, he bent back to his task, shoving his glasses up his nose with the pad of one thumb as he focused. “Come on, now, pretty girl,” he crooned. “This is for your own good, after all.” He gently set the clean plastic juice cup on its edge on the floor and shooed with his other hand.

His quarry scurried away from his probing finger and scuttled into the cup. Quickly, he slapped the lid in place and picked it up.


“There you have it, darlin’. Safe and sound.” Rising off his knees, he peered past the cup’s logo to the eight-legged beauty inside as he hurried for the door. “Just put you outside where you belong and spare the little ones the trauma, yeah?”

So intent was he on his prize, he didn’t notice another person in the studio until he found himself nose-to-very-broad-chest with him.

“Is there a problem?” the man asked.

“Oh!” Dusty backed a step and looked up. “No! So sorry.” He pushed his glasses up his nose to see the man’s face better. Square jaw, aquiline nose, full, wide mouth, and lashes framing eyes that flashed, faceted and glorious, between them. “I wasn’t watching where I was going,” Dusty said, voice embarrassingly breathy. “Dusty… ah… Hatch.”

Holding out his free hand, elbow bent awkwardly in the tight space between them, Dusty scrunched his nose to keep his glasses usefully in front of his eyes.

The man didn’t seem to have a sense of personal space, but he nodded and tilted his head to one side, as though something about Dusty’s plain, acne-scarred face was incredibly fascinating. Dusty couldn’t imagine what, and the scrutiny forced heat upward to prickle at the edges of his hairline.

Then the man blinked, exaggerated, and shook his upper body as though he was about to spin off to music Dusty couldn’t hear, but he settled. Dusty noticed his eyes were actually starkly pale blue. Intense. And Dusty’s mouth went dry.

The eyes focused on the cup, tucked in close to Dusty’s chest. Sandy-brown hair flopped to one side as the man tilted his head the other way this time. “Conrad,” he said, gaze fixed on the cup. “What’s that?”

Conrad. Dusty jerked back, eyes wide. “Conrad Kosloff.” He gulped, mind filled with the endless hours he’d spent watching this man float across the ballet stage in school. He’d been a sensation even outside the ballet world for a brief time. His talent and his family’s high, moneyed profile had lit up the tabloids in Dusty’s youth, and Dusty hadn’t been immune to the beauty he embodied when he moved.

“I’m so sorry, sir,” Dusty blurted, pushing the images out of his head before his brain short-circuited.

Conrad owned this dance studio, and the last cleaner, Tiffany, had said he was a bear, all growly and prowling around the periphery while she worked, watching to make sure she did everything just so, or didn’t touch that pile, or made sure those things didn’t get moved. To Dusty, he seemed more cougar-like, all sleekly built muscle beneath a tank top and dance tights, tawny skin, and those eyes, focused on him, slightly narrowed, almost predatory. Dusty’s skin tingled. He clutched the cup until the plastic crinkled under his fingers.

Conrad crossed muscled arms over his broad chest. “Did one of the girls leave that in here?” The forbidding timbre of his voice vibrated the air.

“Oh! No. Not at all.” Dusty held it up. “You had a refugee. I’m just putting her outside.”

Two fast steps and Conrad was backed up almost against the stereo table. “I see.” His voice wavered.

“Just a spider,” Dusty reassured. “A small one.”

“Right.” A quick nod. A swallow that made his Adam’s apple bob deeply. “Good.” Another step back. The stereo table rocked, and a pile of CDs clattered to the floor. Bits of plastic casing shattered and shot over the smooth hardwood. “Oh damn!” Conrad’s expletive was colored with trepidation, though.

He was afraid. Dusty schooled the grin into hiding before it made it onto his face. “Just be one sec,” he said softly, holding up a hand and angling to leave the room.

“The floor,” Conrad blurted. “Class starts in twenty minutes. Is it done?”

They both stared a moment at the clear plastic shards sprayed out from the table and Conrad gulped. “Stupid question.”

Dusty pressed his lips together. “Almost. I—”

“I’ll take it.” He held out his hand, lifted his chin, squared his shoulders. His lips tightened. “The garden, I think?”

“I can—”

“Mop the floor.”

Dusty frowned. “Of course. You don’t have to tell me my job.”

That earned him a slow blink. “It has to dry.”

“And it will. Excuse me.” He tried to go around, but Conrad’s graceful, swaying movement cut off his exit.

“I can.” Conrad waggled his fingers at the cup. “Please.”

Please what? Let him deal with a creature he was clearly uncomfortable around? But ultimately, he was the boss, so Dusty held out the cup. Conrad took it between one long finger and his thumb and held it at arm’s length; then he hurried for the side door out into the yard.

Dusty hurriedly pieced together as many of the cases as he could and swept up the remaining bits, then went back to mopping the last section of floor. It took only minutes to finish, and he wheeled the bucket to the back door of the studio. Outside, a six-foot fence had been erected to wall off a gorgeous oasis in the city’s heart. Since the studio floor was washed with plain hot water, he’d been pleased he could empty the bucket out the back door. It kept any grit out of the studio’s aging pipes and saved him having to lift the heavy thing up to the sink in the kitchen. Plus, it benefitted the plants during the more arid parts of the summer.

He would pour the water carefully over the narrow rock garden that controlled weeds and grass in the space between the wall of the building and the fence. That offered the plants on the other side of the fence a source of sustenance as the water drained under the fence and into the garden. That way, water used every day to clean a floor people could probably eat off wasn’t wasted.

As he carried the bucket off the porch to dump now, a soft murmur caught his attention. Setting the full bucket down, he peeked through the fence rails to see Conrad still holding the cup between his fingers, arm straight out from his body, lips moving.

Dusty held his breath to hear what Conrad was saying.

“Not going to hurt you, because obviously, the cute cleaning guy likes you. Just do me a favor and don’t crawl on me. Please. Pretty please.” He squinted at the spider. “God. Take off the lid and dump. Not a problem.” He pulled in a deep breath. His chest rose and fell with it. Sweat glistened in the tiny divot at the collar of his shirt.

“Oh God,” he whispered. His cheeks were pale, and he seemed to be trying to divorce his hand holding the cup from the rest of his body. “No problem. Just.” He gulped. “Take off the lid and dump.”

His strategy had only one flaw Dusty could see. If the spider was quick, she’d spin a web as she fell from the cup, and the silk would let her hang. The breeze would carry the little critter right into its erstwhile rescuer.

Dusty stepped forward, hand on the gate, ready to interrupt, but then Conrad moved fast, ripped the lid free, and upturned the cup.

His scream split the afternoon, and he jumped, probably five feet straight back, dropped the cup, and minced on feet that barely touched the ground until his tight butt fetched up against the fence.

“Easy.” Dusty rushed forward, crouched, and flicked the errant spider free of Conrad’s leg. She landed in the grass and promptly disappeared.

“Ohmygodohmygodohmygod,” Conrad was chanting under his breath, fingers clenching around the wooden slats behind him, eyes closed tight.

“Okay.” Dusty had put a hand on the side of Conrad’s thigh, about to get up, to offer some sort of reassurance, when Conrad’s eyes flew open, luminous and wide, and fixed on him.

“Is it gone?”

Dusty smiled. “She’s gone.”

“Good,” Conrad whispered, gazing down at him, freezing him in place. A heartbeat later, Conrad’s hand came free of the fence and his fingertips brushed over the back of Dusty’s hand, still on his leg.

“S-sorry.” Dusty stood so fast vertigo tilted the earth under his feet.

Conrad’s hands, unyielding but steady and gentle, gripped his upper arms, and Dusty blinked. He’d barely drawn a breath when Conrad took a step toward him, lips parted.

Like gravity, the sight of Conrad’s soft expression drew Dusty to him until Dusty touched his lips to Conrad’s. Or had Conrad done the touching? It was impossible to tell, and it made Dusty sigh out a little breath of expectancy. Then there was no air to breathe, no space, and nothing but the pressure of the kiss.

Dusty closed his eyes, ran fingers over the sides of Conrad’s face, and pressed the advantage of the gasp that ran through Conrad at the touch. He pushed his tongue into Conrad’s mouth and moved them until Conrad was pinned against the fence. Dusty had to stand on his toes to reach properly, but that didn’t stop him until they both needed to breathe.

When he stepped back, lips tingling, breath short, Conrad’s eyes were wide, and his chest heaved. His lips, red and parted, curved in a bemused smile.

“Was that meant to make me forget I just screamed like a little girl?”

“I—” Dusty took a hasty step back. He’d just kissed a complete stranger. He’d had this job for exactly three hours, and he’d tripped over a spider and kissed the man who signed his miniscule paycheck. “Oh shit.”

Conrad’s smile grew. The hand that had come to rest at the side of Dusty’s face exerted a tiny amount of pressure, thumb pad ghosting over his cheekbone and back, like he had brushed away a bit of hair….

“I’m so sorry,” Dusty blurted. “I—I didn’t mean—sir—I—”

Conrad grinned then. “You kiss me like that and then call me sir?”

“Oh God.” Dusty broke away and moved back, out of reach. “I am so sorry.” He turned and fled back inside, through the studio, and out the front door of the building. He had hiked back to his own apartment and was letting himself inside when he remembered he never had emptied the bucket of dirty floor water.

Reviews:Amy on Amy's MM Romance Revews wrote:

Like No One is Watching is a sweet and touching romance. At it's heart it's about acceptance and healing.

See the link above for the full, four-star review!


Scars On His Heart

Book Cover: Scars On His Heart
Editions:Digital: $ 6.99
ISBN: 978-1-63216-180-2
Print: $ 16.99
ISBN: 978-1-63216-179-6
Pages: 260

After a disastrous five years away at college, Joe returns to his aunt's farm and finds his childhood sweetheart Cameron eager to rekindle their relationship. Joe has a hard time confessing that he didn't come home until now because he's only just managed to leave Andre, his controlling boyfriend, and has a harder time renewing his submissive role in his affair with Cam. Cam thinks he has to find a way to remind Joe how to be strong. But what Cam doesn't realize is that Joe is strong, strong enough to leave behind a life of shame—though he's terrified his past will catch up to him. Joe must confront his ex and take back his own life, on his own terms, before he's able to give Cam everything they both desire.

Publisher: Dreamspinner Press




AWKWARD. THAT’S what this was. Awkward and silent and slightly terrifying. As Joe walked, he listened for the crunch of Cam’s boots behind him on the path. They progressed in silence toward the pond where they had swum together as teenagers and to the beach covered in flat, smooth river stones. Those stones were the goal. They had been sent to collect some for the centerpieces for the reception tables for his cousin Katie’s wedding. He suspected the task had been his aunt’s way of thrusting him and Cam together. Alone. To talk. As they hadn’t done since Joe had left the farm five years ago. So far, there had been no talking.


Joe spent the walk from house to pond remembering what a spring breeze felt like on parts of him that had no business being bare to it. Old thoughts of wind and sun on his ass only made him wonder if today was going to be a replay of That Day. Not that he had been thinking it might be. Certainly every moment of That Day came back to his mind with sparkling clarity the instant Cam walked into Aunt Marie’s kitchen this morning and eyed Joe over the rim of his coffee mug.

Joe was home for his second-youngest cousin’s wedding. His aunt Marie had picked him up at the bus station and brought him back to the farm the night before. When they arrived, just after midnight, Cam had already gone up to bed and Joe had crashed out on the couch. He’d been grateful for the quiet homecoming. So much swam through his head, he’d felt he’d needed the time to himself before confronting Cam.

“You’re thinking again.” Cam’s voice cut through the cheerful nature sounds of the spring morning. He drew Joe to a stop long before they got to the clearing. “You’ve always been the thinker, huh?”

Joe shoved his hands into his jeans pockets. “So?” He wanted to pull free of the gentle graze of Cam’s fingers in the crook of his elbow. He wanted to pull free because the grip wasn’t powerful enough, and if he couldn’t have it all, he’d rather have nothing. He remained still, a deer under Cam’s bright, knowing gaze.

“So stop thinking,” Cam teased. “Just tell me what’s on your mind or—”

“You remember Maggie’s wedding day?” Joe asked, failing to block the events from his own mind. Not the wedding. That had been incidental to what had happened after the wedding, in the clearing just around the next bend in the path.

Cam studied him, stoic expression giving him nothing. “I remember soggy grass.”

So not what Joe remembered. Cam’s gaze remained steady and impossible to read.

“Come on.” Cam let his hand fall back to his side as he turned to follow the path. “We’re going to be late and your aunt needs those rocks.”

Joe watched Cam’s back for a count of ten but the calming mantra had no effect.

“Soggy grass?” All of a sudden it mattered. He didn’t want to let it go, because for whatever reason he’d thought they had come out here together, Cam was obviously only headed down to the pond to get the stones as he’d said. Nothing more. Joe’s memory of That Day was of something Cam either didn’t remember or chose to forget.

A breeze blew up, picking strands of silky hair from Cam’s ponytail. That had tickled, Joe remembered, and stuck in his sweat when Cam pulled him closer, draping over his back. He shivered.

“If you’d just hurry the fuck up, you wouldn’t be so cold!” Cam called to him.

“I’m not cold.”

The clearing was in sight now, and it kind of surprised him to see it wasn’t much different from his recollection of it, even years later. The grass was as green as in his memory and as soggy as Cam apparently remembered. It squished underfoot as they crossed. Around the edges, bright green moss climbed the trunks of the poplars. The scent of new growth, peculiar to the new buds of the balm of Gilead that made up this glade, filled his senses. His uncle had planted the fast-growing trees all through the farm’s back acres, and the smell was home to Joe. He breathed it in.

“Cam.” He stopped in the center of the open space. “Is that really all you remember?”

Cam had made it across the clearing. He thought his friend might just keep walking, disappear down the winding path through the trees on the other side, and pretend he hadn’t heard.

But he didn’t. He stopped, free hand in his pocket and the other tightening and loosening on the handle of the pail he carried. The clench and release made a rhythmic sound of the pail’s squeaking handle, as steady and unchangeable as Cam himself. His golden eyes fixed on the path, gaze following it into the shade of the new leaves as though he wished he could too. Something held him back.

“What do you want, Joe?” he asked. “To know I remember exactly how soft your skin is? How tight you are? How fucking perfect we should have been?” He turned around. “You want to relive a five-year-old dream like it’s something you can keep locked away in your head for a rainy day, and you don’t even get that for me it doesn’t work that way.”

“Then how does it work for you?”

For a number of heartbeats, Cam said nothing at all.


“Do you know how pale you are in the sunshine, Joe?” Finally, he actually lifted his gaze enough to look Joe in the eye. “How very white and pasty your ass is—”

“Fuck you.”

Cam grinned. “I remember. The difference between your hairy chest and your smooth back, and the noises you make. Oh yeah. I remember it. And, I remember the soggy grass because it left green smudges on your knees and a wiggly pattern of dents in your skin, and I always think….” He grinned wider. “Wouldn’t all those marks look better on your really pasty white ass.”

“God, you’re such a prick!”

But Cam only shook his head and sighed. “I’m honest, Joe. Which is a hell of a lot more than I can say for you.”

When he turned this time, there was no looking back. No slowing. No questioning or waiting to see if Joe followed. He was just walking away.



AUNT MARIE was pleased with the collection of river stones they brought back and much to Cam’s dismay, had cheerfully enlisted them both to help her arrange the sixty-odd centerpieces for Katie’s reception tables.

“You know, Auntie,” Cam said, “just because I’m gay doesn’t mean I have any sense of style. I could make the ugliest centerpieces poor Katie-girl ever laid eyes on.”

She tsked at him. “You’ll do just fine, sweetheart. Here.” She indicated a finished example. “Just do that.”

“Just do that,” he muttered with an indulgent grin.

“You too, sugar. Snap, snap.” Aunt Marie literally snapped her fingers in Joe’s face. “Pay attention.”

Joe had been paying attention. To Cam. Cam knew because he could feel the heat of Joe’s gaze on him as he joked with Aunt Marie. And he’d been acutely aware that no matter what he told Joe about That Day and what he might or might not remember, the thing that stood out most in his mind, always, was that Joe had left. They’d done what they had done—and Cam had really thought it meant something—and then Joe had run off to school and never come back.

Now, Joe blinked at his aunt, and Cam watched him fumble a thin smile onto his delicate features. Five years might have passed since that ill-fated Day of Disaster, but he could still read Joe’s expressions. That much hadn’t changed. He knew his friend was wondering if Aunt Marie had noticed his fascination. Difficult to believe she could have missed it but all she did was start on the next decoration and begin to hum “YMCA.” Cam grinned.

Joe scowled.

Cam refused to read anything into the expression.

It took them hours to get the pieces done. Cam’s back ached and his fingers were pricked raw from the wires in the ribbons, but he was pleased to see that his clumsy attempts weren’t terribly different from Aunt Marie’s or Joe’s, with his nimble fingers and confidence in his ability to get the bows just right.

It was so unfair that he was right there and so far away just on the other side of the table. It was doubly unfair that Cam had to watch him work and be reminded once again of how perfect his hands were. How delicate his wrists and fingers were and how very fucking strong he was even though he didn’t look it. And ironic that the candleholders he arranged were clearly the best of the bunch. As if that didn’t give him away. But no. No one in his family even suspected who he really was.

Cam shook his head. That was just sad.

“Cam, honey, be a dear and start on the flower arrangements,” Marie said. “I’ll get Joe to help with loading these into the boxes, and then I’ll be back to help you.”

There it was again. Joe was straight, so he got to do the easy shit. Cam was gay, so he had to figure out how the hell to make roses and daisies look right together in the same vase. Fan-fucking-tastic.

“You do know I’m a stableboy, right?” he asked her.

She smiled at him. “You know you’re much more than that, honey. Now”—she waved at the flowers and vases—“arrange.”

She left him to it and began directing the loading of the candle arrangements into the boxes for the short ride over to the tables set up in the barn.

She was back before long, though, and they worked together in silence.

“You’re not as bad at this as you seem to think you are.” She examined his first attempt, shifted a single bloom, and nodded approval. “Katie will be pleased.”

Cam gave a small nod and a smaller smile. “That’s all that matters.”

“What’s wrong, honey?” She came around the table, wiping her hands on her tan walking shorts. “You’ve had that long face on all day. What is it?”

“It’s nothing, Auntie. Not yours to worry about.” He smiled down at her, and it struck him that her eyes were the same changeable greeny-brown as Joe’s. Right now, they were clear and light—filled with happiness. Almost green to match the moss-colored golf shirt she had on. He envied Joe, suddenly, to have that family resemblance in common with her. With anyone, really. There was no one in the world whom Cam could look at and say, there, that’s where my gold eyes come from. Or his thick, ringlet-tight tan curls or his height or oddly crooked pinkie fingers and big toes.

She tsked again and slapped his arm. “You might not be blood, young man, but you’ve been mine to worry about for a long time.”

“Since the very first shovelful of horse shit I ever tossed out of your barn,” he agreed.

“Since before then, Cameron. Your daddy made sure of that. Now out with it.”

“Honestly. It’s nothing.” He hated the dark aura that clouded her gaze whenever anyone mentioned Cam’s vanished father. The man had left Cam, five years old, alone on the farm after working there for a season. Only a note, pleading with Aunt Marie and Uncle Albert to look after him, and the few clothes Cam had owned were left with him. No one had ever heard from him again. Uncle Albert tried for years to find out what happened to him, or who Cam’s mother might have been, but never had any success. Eventually, they’d stopped trying, and when legally allowed to, they had adopted Cam. They were his family now. He, one of their many strays.

“Don’t you lie to me, boy,” Marie admonished gently. “I know nothing, and this isn’t it. Talk.”

She never could let sleeping dogs alone. He offered her a pale smile, then sighed. “You don’t think he’s acting strange?” Cam asked, his gaze shifting from flowers to Joe’s back as he hefted a box onto the wagon.

“How did you expect him to act? Gone for years like he has been”—she shook her head, a quick motion of perplexed annoyance—“he’s no more strange now than he was when he came home for Albert’s funeral.”

But Cam wasn’t convinced. Joe had always been the quiet one. He brooded. Still, he wasn’t as happy to be home for his cousin’s perfect day as he should be. This was a wedding, not a funeral, and he was acting like something in his world had ended.

“He just seems so… sad. You think it’s just me?” Maybe it was. Maybe he was projecting what he was feeling onto Joe because he’d wanted his old friend, his almost ex-lover, to be more enthused about this reunion. He watched, frustrated and silent, as Joe loaded the last box and waved the hand on the tractor off toward the barn. Joe turned without a word and disappeared into the house.

“It’s the wedding,” Marie decided, letting the dark shadow pass. “You’ll get yours soon enough. You just have to find the right boy.”

That made him smile. The right boy. What would she say if she knew? “I suppose so.”

“I know so. Now, here come the girls. You go inside, get yourself a sandwich, and get yourself back to work.”

“Always more shit to shovel.” He kissed her cheek and took the opportunity to flee. He loved Joe’s family like he imagined he might love his own if he had one. The endless stream of female cousins had always been a reliable source of entertainment, hugs, and food. They’d also been shameless in their flirting, even knowing he was gay. He’d never made a secret of it, and it didn’t faze them in the least. Today, with thoughts of Joe so prevalent, hell, with Joe so very there, he was not in the mood to fend them all off.

Accepting Auntie’s offered escape, he made his run for the kitchen.



NOW THAT his gaggle of female cousins had gone outside, the house was very quiet, and Joe liked it that way. In his memory, the place was a hub of activity and chaos, but at the moment, with the women all out in the yard, gathered around the picnic tables to arrange flowers, inside, it was cool, quiet, and serene. He’d missed both sides of this place.

Closing his eyes, he ran his palm along the banister as he mounted the steps. Three on the right, two on the left, the sixth in the middle and skip the last. Only way to sneak up the stairs without making them creak. Many misadventures of his youth had taught him how to get from the door to his bedroom without making a sound. He could still literally do it with his eyes closed.

At the top he turned sharply right and followed the galley hallway to the end, keeping close to the railing until he got to the blue-painted door of his old room. For a second, he hesitated. The last time he’d been in there….

“You okay?” Cam pushed the door open and entered, closing it behind him.

“Funerals suck.” Joe kept his back to the room and his eyes on the pastures.

“Yeah. I’m sorry, man.”

Joe shrugged. “Why?” He wrapped his arms around himself. “You didn’t do anything.”

“I’m just sorry you’re hurting.”

He shouldn’t have allowed it, but when Cam circled his bulky arms around him, he didn’t move away. He didn’t protest. Every cousin and aunt had given him hugs, full ones, perfumed ones, soft, or bony ones. His uncles had patted his shoulder or done that weird guy handshake and half hug, pounding him on the back and mumbling something appropriately sympathetic.

Cam’s arms went around his waist, his chin rested on his shoulder, and good God, but it felt nice to have the strength there to hold him up if he felt like collapsing into it. He didn’t, but it was nice just the same.

The very best thing was that he didn’t say any of the kindly meant platitudes. No speech about how his uncle was better off after his long sickness, or how everyone could get on with things now, or how much he would be missed. Yes, all those things were true. It didn’t change the fact that now both his parents were dead, his sister too, and now Uncle Albert. No matter how many aunts and uncles, how many cousins, he was alone in the world. His blood family was gone, and he was all that was left. All there might ever be.


Joe about jumped out of his skin. Cam’s voice leapt out of his head to fill the room. He almost turned, but resisted. Because he didn’t want to look at Cam? Or because he wished with all his being for that same feeling of safety and belonging he’d felt with Cam’s heavily muscled arms holding almost too tight around his ribs?

“You okay?”

Joe marveled at how the man could fill all the empty space around him by just standing there.


“I’m fine.”

“Hiding out?”

He crossed his arms over his chest, thought better of the motion because it was a poor substitute, and pushed his hands into his pockets. “Maybe.” Immediately, the pull of tender skin on his back eased.


Honestly? He wasn’t sure, so he didn’t say anything. Behind him, the door latch snicked softly.

“What are you doing?” The way Joe’s heart pounded wasn’t right. The sweat suddenly dampening his palms and stinging his back brought a regretful lump to his throat.

A soft chuckle rolled through the room on the back of Cam’s sweet hay-and-horse barn scent. “Honestly?” The word sent a shiver up Joe’s spine. “I think I’m stalking you.”

“That’s awesome.” And in an unsettling sort of way, it was. Because it was Cam, and because he wanted it to mean something.

“You only have yourself to blame, you know. You’re the one who brought up That Day, and now I can’t get that image of you out of my head.”

“So….” Joe turned away from the window to look at his old friend. “I mentioned sex we had years ago and that means… what to you, exactly?”

“You want….” Cam lifted a shoulder and let it fall, sidling a little closer.

“No, I don’t.”

Cam snickered. “Right. Because you’re not gay. I forgot. Sometime when you were kneeling in the grass with your pants around your ankles and your ass in the air, I forgot the line about you being straight.”

“Who’s mad now?” Joe asked, edging toward the door.

“Don’t know why you think I shouldn’t be. You let me fuck you, then you ran away.”

“I went to school. Different thing.”

“Yes. Right. Went to college and in five years, only came home when someone died.”

Joe flinched because hearing truth, especially couched in nastiness, didn’t make it any less true. Just made its already sharp edges jagged as Cam pulled it out and plunged it in again with more barbs.

“And you spent all that time dating girls and what? Pretending what we did was an experiment?”

“For your information I happen to like dating girls.”

“But fucking boys.”

“Fuck you!”

“You keep saying that but I don’t think you really mean it.” Cam stalked closer to him, and somehow without his noticing, he’d been backed up until the window frame dug against his thighs.

“What are you doing?” he asked again, enunciating, because he still needed an answer and he was pretty sure Cam was being dense on purpose. He intended to shove Cam off, but Cam kiboshed that plan, grabbing him by the wrist and advancing that last step that left Joe’s shoulder blades pressed against the window. Cool glass countered the sharp sting of pain, and he managed not to flinch, but barely. “What are you doing?” His breath came faster now, and he arched to keep the tops of his shoulders against the glass and spare the rest of his back.

“What does it look like I’m doing?”

Joe should say something. Stop what was going on. Do something. But Cam lifted his arm, his knuckles impacted the window, and once again, the contrast of cold glass against the warmth of Cam’s grip distracted him for that critical heartbeat in which no would have been possible.

“Caveman,” Joe muttered, staring up into the intense, glittering gold of Cam’s eyes, unable to look anywhere else.

Cam grunted and pressed forward.

Joe’s head told him he should stop this, but a lot of the rest of him wanted to give in. “Cam.”

Cam smiled, a slow sort of expression that left the hairs on the back of Joe’s neck on end.

“What are you doing?” He put his free hand on Cam’s chest with some vague notion of pushing him away. And still, his friend said nothing.

Experimentally, he did push. He wasn’t sure what he expected to happen or if he was surprised when that hand joined the other against the glass. Not being surprised was maybe not the same as wanting it to continue. And yet he didn’t stop it.

And Cam didn’t say anything. He just stared, big, not-quite-brown eyes clear, focused, and demanding.

“What do you want?” A different question might get him an answer.

Cam smiled, but didn’t speak.

There went every little hair on Joe’s body, standing on end, making his skin tingle, keeping his focus on Cam completely.

“You know”—Joe had to swallow before he could continue—“when a person asks a question, it’s generally because they want an answer.”

“What am I doing? I’m getting you where I want you. What do I want?” He leaned so close Joe could smell turkey and mustard on his breath. “I should think that’s pretty obvious.”

It wasn’t as though the kiss could be a surprise at this point. Still, Joe gasped, and that parting of lips gave Cam the opening to push his tongue into Joe’s mouth. The pressure of Cam’s taking forced Joe’s head back against the window. He felt like a bug, pinned there, wrists, head, back cold against the glass, thighs aching with a pleasant throb where the lip of the windowsill dug in. His skin complained at the stretch over ribs and the bunching of muscles under its still raw surface. Cam trapped him where he wanted him and Joe did nothing. He let him, and despite the discomfort, he liked it.

It wasn’t as though Cam was taking what Joe didn’t want to give. Only that he was taking what he wanted. Nothing short of an outright refusal to go to this place would stop him, and maybe Cam knew it, but Joe wasn’t ready to make anything that final.

Some part of him knew anyone passing through the yard or pasture could easily look up and see him like this. The thought should have spurred him to push Cam away. It only made him groan because getting caught would be… final. A relief, maybe. A way to get out of the impossible situation. Out of his life.

Cam’s free hand that had been resting on one of Joe’s hips slid up until calloused fingers traveled along his throat, calling him back to the immediate sensations of his body, coaxing out another moan. Thick thighs pressed against Joe’s. Surely he’d have indelible marks on the backs of his legs where they were clamped to the windowsill. The pain was just enough to make his brain melt. Not so much he wanted it to stop.

If he twisted and squirmed, the pain would become real. The hold would become real. Or it would be let go. Either way was a step toward solid ground of one sort or another. Joe hung by Cam’s grip, suspended over the swampy mess of his own emotional wasteland and reveled in the fact he felt anything at all.

Cam glided his thumb along under Joe’s chin, fingers up under his hair, tightening, holding his head where he couldn’t get out of the kiss.

Not that he tried, but now Cam had him immobile, exposed, and helpless, and something about being that much under another’s control freed him. He gave. Everything Cam wanted in that moment, Joe gave. As in the grass That Day, everywhere Cam had led, Joe followed. Nothing between them had changed.

Joe squirmed. Cam’s grip tightened, the kiss deepened. He thrust his tongue farther past Joe’s teeth, and the squirming to get away turned to rubbing and grinding and then stillness as the silky power of Cam’s tongue in his mouth and the rough pressure of his hands on Joe’s skin overtook everything else, and all he knew was that Cam owned him.

He had no idea how that happened. But it was done, and just when he’d decided it was good, Cam moved away.

“The question isn’t really what I want at all, is it, Joe?” Cam asked. And he walked out, closing the door behind him.

Joe slumped, resting his ass on the windowsill, trying to find his brain cells that seemed to have flowed south, along with every ounce of blood in his body, straight to his traitorous dick. He palmed it once, twice, cursed, then popped open the top button of his jeans. Just for some relief.

Yeah, right. Relief came only when he slipped his hand inside, yanked his cock out, and began to stroke. He pushed his jeans down far enough for what he needed, and his ass contacting the window was a reminder of the contrast, cold to hot, Joe’s reluctance to Cam’s insistence. He didn’t need fantasies or have to close his eyes to call up images. All he needed was the knowledge that Cam could take away his autonomy with a kiss and a grip like iron, and Joe would let him.

Part of the arousal was in the terror of that thought, and he groaned, pushed his entire back against the window, just to feel the reminders of why it was a bad idea. Still, Cam’s possession sizzled through his memory, and the pain in his back faded to unimportant. Or, at least it was less important than even the memory of Cam. He jacked off in record time.

He found tissues to clean himself up, and when he passed the window again on the way out, Cam waved up at him from where he was leaning on the pasture fence facing the house. One of the yearlings nibbled at his hair, and he patted the horse, turning his back on Joe.

“You have got to be fucking kidding me,” Joe muttered, moving out of Cam’s line of sight. He rolled his shoulders and felt his T-shirt resist, sticking to his skin, then popping free. “Shit.” He reached around to feel the spot and felt dampness. “Goddammit.” He peeled the shirt off over his head and examined the fabric. A streak of red dots adorned it in a slanting line.

“Joe?” A sharp knock on the door accompanied the soft female voice saying his name. It made him jump, and he hastily balled the shirt up and crammed it into the trash bin.

“Be right out, Aunt Marie.”

“I need a few things in town, Joe. Do you think you can make a run?”

“Of course! Yes. I’ll be right down.”

The doorknob rattled, and for an unhinged moment, Joe was sure his aunt was about to walk in on him in the ultimate adolescent nightmare. And he was well past adolescence.

“It’s for dinner, Joe, so I’ll need you to hurry.” Her footsteps padded away toward the stairs, and he breathed out a sigh of relief. It really was as if he was back in that summer between high school and college. Because being eighteen apparently hadn’t been brutal enough the first time.

Gritting his teeth, he grabbed a new shirt, pulled it on, and hurried across the hall to the bathroom where he could examine the damage. The cuts weren’t that bad, but a day and a half was not enough for them to heal, and he’d aggravated the scabbing-over process so that they were bleeding again. Not profusely, but enough that if he didn’t cover them, he’d ruin another shirt. He went back to his room, retrieved the bloodied shirt and put it on under the good one, and hurried out to his truck. He could go to the clinic in town and have them bandaged.

If he wore a flannel overshirt, no one would notice the bulges. No one would ask him to explain.

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The Foster Family

Book Cover: The Foster Family
Editions:Digital: $ 6.99
ISBN: 978-1-62798-553-6
Print: $ 17.99
ISBN: 978-1-62798-552-9
Pages: 330
Audio: $ 24.95

Growing up in foster care has left Kerry Grey with little self-esteem or hope for his future. A college dropout, Kerry scrapes by on a part-time job at a garden nursery. His friendship with his boss and working with the plants are the only high points in Kerry’s life. He’s been dating the man who bullied him at school, but when his boyfriend abandons him at a party, Kerry wanders down the beach to drown his sorrows in a bottle of scotch.

Malcolm Holmes and Charlie Stone have been together for fifteen years. Despite Charlie's willingness to accept Malcolm's unspoken domination in bed,something is missing from their relationship. Early one morning, they rescue a passed out Kerry from being washed away by the tide and Charlie immediately senses a kindred spirit in the lost younger man. When Kerry’s roommate kicks him out, Malcolm and Charlie invite him into their home. As Charlie and Kerry bond over Charlie’s garden, Malcolm sees Kerry may be just who they have been looking for to complete their lives. All they have to do is show Kerry, and each other, that Kerry's submissive tendencies will fit their dynamic.

But someone is sabotaging Kerry at every turn. As he struggles to discover the culprit, he fears for the safety of his new friends. If Malcolm and Charlie cannot help, their lifelong search for their perfect third may not end with the happily ever after they imagined.

Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Cover Artists:

Chapter One



SO I crashed his celebration. It wasn’t like he didn’t want me there. Well. Okay, maybe he didn’t want me there there. On that night. At exactly that time. But he would have wanted me after. At the hotel. Or my place. Or hell, up against a convenient wall.

“Fucking bullshit, Kerry. You’re a jerk. A stupid, idiot jerk,” I said all under my breath to myself but got no argument. Because it was true. I was an idiot. How stupid could I be to come out here now, walk the beach, and talk to myself? Alone. Target practice for some punk to come and hit me over the head for fun.


That I’d ever decided the asshole in the party would admit anything about me and him in front of anyone, let alone the entire football team, was insanity. What idiot voice in my head had convinced me that just because he liked his dick up my ass meant he liked anything else about me? Two years of high school bullying should have been enough to get through even my thick-ass skull that a biology geek was utterly beneath him. And me actually being beneath him while he was unloading into a condom had nothing to do with anything, least of all me.

I’d made it to the boardwalk, but even here, couples who had snuck out of the party were so busy being romantic in the moonlight it made my teeth hurt. Veering to the left of the long wooden path as it meandered up the lighted slope, I headed for the darkness and the scent of the sea. Wrapped up in velvety black and the soft shushing of waves, I could pretend this was where I’d been headed all along. Eventually, the sounds of music and laughter faded. The soft slide of calm ocean over smooth sand filtered in to take their place.

The boardwalk rose in a series of steps and ramps to follow the edge of the bluff above my head as I skirted the base along the narrow strip of sand between ocean and rock. I knew it turned inland to join a network of paths through the park adjoining the golf club, and then, eventually, to the quiet streets of the expensive neighborhood along the bluff. Down here, though, it was just sand, surf, and quiet darkness.

“Stupid kid,” I muttered at the sand underfoot, unsure if I meant him, a year or three younger than me, or myself. I wasn’t really a kid anymore, but tonight, I felt like one. I lifted the mickey of Jack I was carrying to my lips and tipped my head back to drain the last drops from it. Sand shifted and almost spilled me on my ass for the effort. The bottle was dry. So what? Dropping it, I fished in my suit-jacket pocket for the second one I’d brought. One each was going to be enough to give us both a little buzz. But since he clearly didn’t want to share, now it was more than enough to obliterate the fact he’d not even bothered kicking me out of his party. He’d just ignored me.


Dress shoes on beach sand didn’t make for firm footing. The plastic shrink-wrap sealing the mickey of scotch hated me and my bitten-to-the-quick nails that couldn’t get under it to rip it away. Andrew Shelton-Bishop was a spoiled, rich, football jock prom king, and so gorgeous it hurt to look at him straight on. And he’d picked me to be his first gay fuck.

Four years ago, Andrew, a ninth-grade nothing from my not-so-illustrious childhood neighborhood suddenly reappeared out of nowhere at my high school, tried out for and landed a first-string spot in our high school football team. After I’d moved to a new foster home when we were kids, he and I had lost touch. I didn’t know until I saw him again in high school that his mother had remarried rich. Thanks to stepdad’s football uniform donation and his own precious right arm, Andrew flew straight to the top of the social heap. By some cruel twinkle in a god’s eye somewhere, he set his mocking sights on me. I spent two years ducking his attentions, his taunts, and his friend’s elbows and fists, mostly unsuccessfully. Then, just when I thought I might escape by hiding out in the biology lab, my senior year turned to shit the day I turned eighteen. For the first time in my life, I’d landed in a decent foster home, and suddenly, I was too old to stay.

Really, I should have known, the moment Andrew stepped onto that field, that I was doomed. It had been the perfect cap to a miserable high school career.

Then, with perfect timing, just when I got my college legs under me after freshman year, got my life together and myself on my own two feet, he showed up again. He’d won a scholarship to the same college I attended and appeared one day in the library, begging for a campus tour. He appealed to our long-lost childhood friendship, assured me all the high school crap was over and done, and we should stick together. Because we knew one another. Andrew had been scouted as soon as he made the age cut and was now halfway across the country from everything he knew. He was scared. Or so he said.

And I had been dumb enough to believe him. That night, he screwed me silly, and every time after that, when he called and told me I was the only one he could really be with, I bent over. More fool me. My preoccupation with the high school jock who had made my high-school career a living torment drove my grades into the toilet and flunked me out of my future.

Then tonight, he’d looked at me across the dance floor, smirked, and walked off with Jenny fucking Schlaz… Schlazinhoff—whatever. Fucking prom queen from hell. He hadn’t left any of his all-American privilege behind. Not even his pretty, blonde, fake girlfriend who had tossed me a frightening, triumphant grin over Andrew’s shoulder as he led her off. The college threw him a party for winning the game, and there she was, his beard, smirking at me, mean-eyed and spiteful. Nothing had changed.

Deftly enabled by the smooth underside of my dance shoes against the sand, I took an abrupt seat in the soft grit. The bottle dropped from my fingers—well, flew, really, since the sitting didn’t happen particularly gracefully and my arms pinwheeled just before I smacked down. I watched the bottle disappear into the night sky. A moment later, somewhere off to my right, the tinkle of broken glass reached me. So much for oblivion. I was stuck, halfway to nowhere. Again. I flopped onto my back, defeated.


Damp seaweed stink soaked into my suit pants. Probably served me right, having a soggy ass. Considering what lengths I’d gone to get it pounded the first time. Considering the idiocy of thinking, as it kept happening, that the situation had anything at all to do with me—that it might be a real, live relationship—I guess I deserved the seaweed soaking.

“My life sucks!” I shouted it up into the darkness after the bottle. The complaint fell back down around me in the same sprinkling of glittering shards. I covered my face with an arm, but it didn’t help. Virtual laceration was still bloody, even if I was the only one who knew I was bleeding out, alone in the dark, as I sank into alcohol-aided sleep.



FUCKING HELL, it was freaking cold. Matthew had been in my room again. He must have, the bastard. He liked coming in and opening all the fucking windows to “air the place out.” He’d even open the one right over my bed when he figured I was hungover or aching from a nighttime visit from Andrew. It must have rained all night this time, because I was soaked. “Worst. Fucking. Roommate. Ever. Goddamn hotshot grad student can fucking well buy me a new fucking mattress now.”

“I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone swear that much.”

“You think we should wake him?”

“What the fuck!” I jolted upright. Grit scraped against my palms. Light speared my eyeballs, and I shuffled back toward the cold wall. Only there was nothing there, and I tumbled onto my back again. Chill seeped up around my shoulders to swallow me.

“Careful, now.” A hand reached for me, inserting itself into my narrow view of the too-bright world. “You’re going to hurt yourself.”

“I fucking well am not! Who?” I finally pried my eyelids open and glared around. “Where the fuck am I?”

Two blurry men in shorts and sneakers and a lot of bare skin stood over me. They both had the right outline against the clear, torturous blue of the sky to be buff. Shirts trailed from the waistbands of their shorts. They both reached down big, tanned hands to within my nearsighted circle to steady me.

“These yours?” one of them asked, holding up a dark, squiggling blur.

“Gimme my fucking glasses.”

White split across both fuzzy faces.

“You have a special pair just for fucking?” One man tilted his head slightly. “That’s kind of kinky, isn’t it?”

“Charlie.” The other of the men glanced in the speaker’s direction. His voice was slightly admonishing, but not without humor. I just wasn’t sure if the amusement was being directed at me or not.

“Give me my fuc—” I let out a huff. “Can I please have my glasses?” I held up a hand, fully expecting it to get slapped aside and laughter to follow.

I knew how these things went. As soon as they realized I could see fuck all without the lenses, they’d keep them just out of reach to see how desperate I’d get to have them back. It was a common tactic, and a lot of experience with being on the wrong end of it reminded me that just sitting there being polite was the quickest way to get them too bored to continue the torment. Eventually they’d toss the glasses off somewhere and leave me alone.

Instead, a warm, strong hand gripped mine, and an even stronger tug encouraged me to scramble to my feet before I got my arm yanked out of my socket. As it was, my foot slipped again and I landed, face-first against a broad, sweaty, slightly hairy chest. I was not handed my glasses. They were gently set in place on my face, and once I had blinked the world back into focus, I found myself confronted by two very good-looking men, probably close to ten years older than me, arms crossed, faces almost stern as they studied me in turn.

“Missed the bus to the hotel, did you?” the one not named Charles asked.

I blinked at him again.

“The party last night, kid,” he said, indicating with a wave the golf course clubhouse down the beach. “You miss your ride home? Because I gotta tell you, sleeping on the beach, not such a stellar plan. Your suit’s toast, for one thing.” He gently straightened one of my lapels and pulled the drooping flower I’d stolen from a bouquet free of the pocket. He tossed it with a flick into the waves.

I looked down at myself and the three inches of water lapping around my feet.

“Tide’s coming in,” he went on. “I mean seriously. We’ve caught couples still necking on the boardwalk this early in the morning, but waiting to get washed out to sea? It was just a dance. Even if your girl left you on the dance floor, it can’t be that bad.”

“What the hell would you know about it?” I muttered.

They glanced at each other, then back at me as I patted my pockets for my keys and phone.

“You okay, kid?”

“I’m fine,” I muttered, going a little frantic when I found nothing but empty pockets. “Sorry I slept on your precious beach. Later.” I turned to go back the way I’d come the night before, hoping I’d find my missing life somewhere in the sand, but the way was impassable. The tide had devoured the beach right up to the stony cliff face that jutted out toward the sea about fifty feet off. It had claimed another inch of my pants as I stood there. My back was caked in saltwater and sand from lying on the ground, and my feet felt like ice inside my shoes.

“You’ll have to come up through the garden,” not-Charles said. “You can’t get back to the club along the beach now, and in another fifteen minutes, this section will be about six feet under water.” He turned to slosh through the ankle-deep water to a set of steps leading up through a carved-out section of the cliff. “Coming? Because you can stand there all day, but”—he tilted his head—“I don’t like your chances. You’ll be under the waterline.” He pointed to the evidence on the cliff face.

“I’m not short,” I protested.

They both smirked, but facts were facts. Six feet of water was about eight inches more water than I could comfortably stand flat-footed in and still be able to breathe, and since swimming in a suit was beyond stupid, I followed them up the steps.

Their lawn was a good six feet above the high-tide mark, and it was, indeed, a garden and not just a yard with flowers. They led me down a stone path bracketed on either side by a fresh spring emerging from well-tended evergreen shrubs. In about ten feet, the trail opened up onto a wide lawn. The grass had begun to turn from the yellow of winter to the new, bright spears of green poking through the thatch. Canvas and burlap still covered plants apparently a bit too tender for the local winter climate, but at their feet, daffodils, hyacinths, and tulips provided a riot of color against the rest of the early spring drab.

“Wow.” I couldn’t help it. Azaleas and lilacs perfumed the yard, showing off with bright-pink and soft-purple flowers. It smelled like growth and promise.

Both men grinned, one at the yard, the other at his friend.

“Charles is fond of his little project.”

“Fond of my little project.” Charles smacked the other man on the arm. “And Malcolm is an ass.”

“It’s a beautiful garden,” I said, because it was, and because I could appreciate the amount of work that went into it. If I was even remotely more financially stable, I’d still be deeply ensconced in the local college’s excellent botany program. As it was, I worked part-time at the local nursery, shared a tiny room in a house with a self-centered ass who had taken me in to reduce his rent, not because we had anything in common or because we got along. I dreamed of one day maybe having a yard I could experiment in, but the more time that passed, the farther off that reality seemed to get.

“Oh great. You too?” Malcolm groaned and turned toward the house. “Lord help me, he found another one.”

“Another one what?” I asked, pushing my glasses up my nose as I turned in place to take in the view.

“You really do like it,” Charles said.

“Are you fucking kidding me? I would kill to have a setup like this. Man!” I wandered to the edge of the grass and crouched. “These are romance daffs.” I cupped a delicate white-and-pink bloom between my fingers.

Charles crouched next to me. “Malcolm buys me a few bulbs every fall.” He touched the bloom with one finger.

“So….” I glanced over. “He doesn’t actually hate your garden or anything.”

Charles shrugged. “He indulges my joy.”

Glancing at the ring on his finger and then at him, I nodded. “Sounds sweet.”

Charles rose. “Almost as romantic as passing out drunk on a stranger’s beach after your first freshman party.”

“Fuck off.” I stood and stomped toward the house.

“I’m sorry!” he called, laughing as he spoke. “That was low.” He caught up to me and put a hand on my arm. “Really. I’m sorry.”

“It’s fine.” I shrugged him off. “When you’re right, you’re right.”

“So your girl go home with some other guy?”

Stopping on the threshold of their tidy-looking bungalow, I shrugged. “Sure. Something like that.” I was reluctant to drag my sandy, salt-encrusted self through their home. “I should go around.”

“Don’t be silly.” Malcolm reappeared carrying a tracksuit and towels. “There’s an outdoor shower over by the gazebo. It’ll be cold. We haven’t hooked up the solar”—he glanced at Charles—“gizmos yet, but you can wash the salt off and change, at least.” He handed me the clothing. “You can’t go traipsing around the city in that.” He indicated my soaked, ruined, only suit.

“Look, it’s fine.” I pushed the offered items back at him. “I was jackass enough to pass out on the beach. My problem. Not yours.”

“We’re only wanting to help,” Charles said softly. I wasn’t prepared for him ruffling my hair or the sand that tumbled down into my face.

I sputtered and stepped back. “It’s fine.” I flailed at his hand as he pulled it away.

“Are you being stubborn on purpose, or is this just a natural trait you have?” Malcolm asked, good nature glossing over the slight irritation in his tone.

“I’m not—”

Charles lifted both eyebrows.

“Being stubborn on purpose,” I finished lamely.

“Good.” Malcolm thrust the clothing and towels at me again. “Because believe it or not, everyone on the planet isn’t going to leave you standing alone on a dance floor. Go get cleaned up.”

I nodded. “Thanks.”

They both flashed smiles my way, and I headed for the gazebo as they reentered the house.

Gravatar image

My Rugby-playing Twink

Book Cover: My Rugby-playing Twink
Editions:Digital - Second Edition: $ 4.99
ISBN: 978-1-62798-507-9

Out and uninhibited Ian McVeigh has been playing the field for years, so he can't fathom the unexpected desire and feeling of protectiveness he experiences when he first sees rugby playing, unemployed David, his boss's newest and most delicious-looking squeeze. David Kelly is a hustler, and he’s way out of Ian's league. He’d never look twice at a guy like Ian, a guy with little means to woo the needy but to-die-for David.

Yet one day, David not only looks, but touches, flirts, and all but invites Ian to lure him away from his sugar daddy. But David can’t let anything break his carefully constructed walls. Ian doesn’t know much about David’s past, and what he doesn't know could hurt them both.

Ian says David's past doesn't matter, but when he sees David with another older gentleman, he immediately thinks the worst. Both men must embrace honesty or lose each other for good.

1st Edition published as Irish Lovers: Ian and David 1-3 by Loveyoudivine Alterotica, January 2011.

Publisher: Dreamspinner Press

Chapter One



BOTTLES CLANKED softly as I rearranged them for about the fortieth time. I couldn’t get it right. I don’t know why. Normally I didn’t have this problem, but today I just couldn’t seem to get my eyes on straight. Everything looked cocked up to me. The liquid didn’t look like liquor under the stage lights, and the stemware had spots even though I’d had one of my hands polish them. Twice.

“Ye have to move the tallest one from the end.”

The low voice rolled over me, raising goose bumps along my arms and setting other body parts twitching. The little hairs at the back of my neck tickled up, and I turned. “You a set dresser now, David?”


The man who’d spoken smiled at me, and I barely managed to stifle a moan as he stuffed a hand into the front pockets of a very short pair of denim cutoffs. His Northern Ireland accent wasn’t like everyone else’s around there, and it crawled over my skin like a lover’s teasing touch. It drove me crazy.

I leaned so my arse rested on the edge of the wobbly counter I had been trying to make look like something of an Irish pub from the fifties. The position let me disguise the growing bulge in my pants, at least.

“Just a bored hanger-on,” David said. “Want some help?”

“This is a union job.”

He nodded and climbed up onto the sound stage. Those short shorts hiked up his muscled thigh, revealing a mottled patch of skin, maybe a leftover from one of his rugby matches. The fringes of the cutoff denim mingled with his own dark hair.

I swallowed. Hard.

“Everything’s a union job,” he said, beginning to rearrange my bottles. To do that, he had to go up on tiptoe—he was almost a full head shorter than I was—and lean close because the space behind the fake bar was tight. He blocked my exit from the corner with his wiry, stretched-out self. “Everything is also behind schedule,” he went on, “and Ricky’s freakin’ out a bit. And when he freaks out, me arse gets more of a workout than it needs, ye ken?”

“Ricky.” Ricky was always freaking out about something or other. He was the station manager, and way too high-strung for the job if you asked me. But I was a set designer, and very little of what went on around there was subject to my approval. However, the reminder that this very hot, flirty guy was fucking my boss—or more likely, knowing Richard Cornwall, being fucked by him—settled my erection in a hurry.

“Did he send you to check up on me?” I wouldn’t put it past the weasel to send his boy toy to report back on things. Richard was not a nice man to work for. I couldn’t imagine what made him worth David’s attention.

“No. He sent me to find something.” David gave a half shrug that hiked his tank top up and bared a sleek hip bone—and another, fresher bruise.

I was sorely tempted to reach over and brush my fingers over the mark, as if I could soothe it somehow.

“And likely,” David was saying, “he wanted me out of his way.” A slight frown marred his expression as he settled back on both feet and turned to face me. It curled his full lips down into a pout I felt the sudden urge to suck away. His body heat clung to me, along with the scent of sex mingled with sawdust and set paint. The smell of another man on him shouldn’t have been a turn on. I was just that far gone and sure if I held my breath any longer, I’d pass out.

“’Scuse me.” I squirmed past him, rubbing against him in such a way that he’d know beyond doubt—if he’d ever had any—that I was completely without shame. I jumped from the stage, not looking back when I heard his chuckle.

I hurried toward Richard’s office. Maybe if I knew what David was supposed to be looking for, I could help him find it. Some twisted logic told me that would get him far away from me and my weak ability to resist temptation. And at the same time I hoped it would keep him close by while we searched. Normally I didn’t let my cock do my thinking for me. Normally I wasn’t confronted with eager, completely fuckable men with bodies like David’s just looking for an excuse to piss off their current, cranky lovers. I wasn’t under any delusion he wanted me specifically. I was just open, gay, and single. That made me convenient.

I rapped on Richard’s door and walked in. “Hey.”

“Did you find it?” Richard didn’t turn around. He was rifling his own office, obviously frantically searching for something, and I crossed my arms over my chest.


“Go look in the dressing room. We used it there. You said you were going to clean it before you brought it back. I swear, David, if someone else finds it, you had better keep your slutty mouth shut.”

I grunted, trying to keep my opinion of that comment to myself. This prick had less than no appreciation for what he had.

“I know. I know. It’s just a dildo. But it could get my ass fired if anyone knew about it and what we do. Besides, the shamrocks are just humiliating. No idea why you would want something that gaudy inside you.” He had moved on to the storage seat under the window and was practically half inside it. I didn’t want to know what kind of paraphernalia he might pull out of there. Nor did I want to risk the temptation to shove him the rest of the way in and close the damn lid. His contempt for the man he was supposedly in a relationship with made my stomach churn.

I turned to leave without speaking. That’s when I spotted it. Right there in plain sight on a bookshelf behind the door. A long, flexible rubber dildo with green glitter and shamrocks embedded in it. Unbelievable. I palmed it and left.

A short detour to the lunchroom where I kept my messenger bag let me deposit the toy where it couldn’t do anyone any harm. I made my way back to what I was supposed to be doing then, mostly in control of my temper over Richard’s complete disregard for his lover. I’m sure none of that anger stemmed from the certainty I’d treat David the way he deserved to be treated. No part of that treatment would have anything to do with calling him a slut.

David was still on the set pulling things out of boxes and dressing the shelves behind the fake bar with stacks of cardboard coasters and shiny silver drink mixers. I rejoined him and proceeded to slide wine glasses into the slots above the bar as he polished them.

“They were a might spotty, I think.”

I chuckled, grateful it wasn’t just me. “You know you don’t have to do this,” I told him.

“I know.” He smiled, showing perfect teeth. “It’s more fun to let Ricky think I’m doing what I’m told than actually doing it.”

“Do you even like him?”

David shrugged. “Rugby’s a good game. Doesn’t last forever.”

“And bruises you all to hell,” I muttered, brushing my fingertips over yet another blotch on his upper arm.

He winked at me. “That it does.” That wink clearly hinted that maybe rugby playing wasn’t to blame for all those bruises. “Doesn’t pay a lot o’ bills, though.”

“And ‘Ricky’ does?”

“Indirectly.” He set the last glass on the bar and turned to face me. “Does it chafe ya? Knowing I let him fuck me and buy me fancy dinners?”

“Not my ass he’s plowing,” I said, trying to be diplomatic.

I’d been wrestling with that very question for months. Ever since he first came mincing out of Richard’s office one night after everyone should have been long gone. I’d been putting final touches on one of the apartment sets, and I’d seen him scurry out of the office and down the hall to the men’s room, shorts in hand, looking like he’d been well used.

But he had a grin on his face then, and the banter he tossed over his shoulder as he went gave me hope, at the time, that maybe here at last was someone who might soften a few of Richard’s jagged edges.

More fool both of us for thinking that. I was beginning to see the tears where Richard’s edges were snagging at David, and I didn’t like it.

David nodded. “Sure, and that’s truth.” He went back to work, stacking plates and mugs in an artful approximation of an actual pub. I had to admire his eye for detail. And his ass. And wonder why it didn’t bother me more that he used it to pay his rent. Maybe because he wasn’t ashamed of himself for it. He didn’t pretend to be anything other than what he was, and that attitude was attractive, even if his employment was not.

“And so you must think I’m—”


“What?” David’s brow furrowed.

I pointed across the room to where Richard was emerging from his office. “Richard. He’s the wrong color. Red. Not such a good look for him.”

David watched him storm across the room. “He’s pissed, sure.”

“You know why?”

I figured he’d mention the missing dildo, but he swiveled away and offered a negligent shrug instead. “Because I’m talkin’ to another man?”

“You’re not sure…? That you’re talking to me, or that he’d care?”

He grimaced. False brightness split his face into a wide grin as he turned back to face me, but didn’t reach his lovely blue eyes or stop him from tugging on the pale-blue tank, which set them off so beautifully as it stretched across his abdomen. He followed Richard’s progress like he was waiting to be spotted. I couldn’t tell if he wanted Richard to look up and see him with me, or not.

It was painful to watch him. He wanted his lover’s anger to be about him. It was clear he knew it wasn’t, and I made another mental tick under the heading reasons Richard doesn’t deserve him.

“So, what next?” He snapped himself out of the moment and focused back on me.

Apparently we were going to ignore Richard until we couldn’t anymore. “Here.” I handed him a gaudy plaque with a clay leprechaun grinning at his pot of gold. “Up there, I think.” I pointed to the post above our heads. “You were going to ask me something?”

He climbed up on the rickety counter and looked down. “This is sure wobbly.”

I reached up to his waist to steady him, and he grinned.

“Better, Ian. T’anks.”

“Just on that post. Think there’s a nail there already.”

“There is.” He took his sweet time hanging the thing, though, and my lip was almost bit through with holding it between my teeth in an attempt to keep myself focused and my hand where it was, safely on his hipbone.

“Not mine,” I muttered to my dick. “Not touching. Shut the fuck up.”

“Sorry?” He crouched and put both hands on my shoulders to steady himself to hop down. For an instant, I had the best and worst view on earth. His very short shorts scrunched in his crotch, lots of thick thigh and hairy legs, and all right there for me to ogle. And that was terrible because looking was soon not going to be enough, and I had no right to touch. He was taken. Very, very taken.

“Did I say something to annoy you?” He leaned on me, jumped, and his hiking boots hit the stage with a reverberating thud. Then he stood in front of me, just stood with both hands on my shoulders and his breath warming my face. The scent of sweat and sex folded around us.

“No,” I croaked, and he—bastard—grinned.

He grinned! Crooked and lazy, his lips twisted up and he shifted his weight so his hips canted toward me. “And then what are ye not to touch, I wonder?”

Oh fuck me.


“Sure, and don’t forget it. Rules are made to be broken, yeah?”

I nodded. “You break a lot of them, I think.”

His grin slipped minutely, but his hands stayed.

“We should finish.”

I swear I thought he was going to touch my face. He leaned a fraction of an inch closer, but glanced over my shoulder and abruptly backed off. “Hey, Ricky!” He waved past me. “Find it?” His grin stretched a little bit past real.

Richard merely snarled and walked on, no doubt to scowl and bitch at wardrobe, since that’s the direction he headed.

My annoyance with Richard, who still held the attention of this man I was not-so-secretly in deep lust for, allowed me to calm my physical reaction. I moved over so David could reach the bottles I’d been trying to arrange. “You don’t have practice today?” I asked.

He glanced over, almost catching me eyeing his ass, and the false smile wavered into one more genuine. “Nope. Rugby season’s over. I am exclusively fuckable twink for now.”

“Jesus.” I backed off, stumbled over a box of set decoration, and landed on my ass on the other side. I might have gone right over the edge and off the stage if he hadn’t moved fast, grabbed my arm, and held on.

“You all right?”


He hauled me up with such strength I landed practically in his arms. Fuck, but he smelled good….

And twink he was not. Despite that he was probably a good five years younger than me—and a head shorter—nothing about his physical appearance said twink. He was too broad shouldered, too muscled for that label to fit. Too hairy. I suspected the self-labeling was due more to a perception of promiscuity and lack of means than to any physical image he had of himself.

“Ian!” Richard’s voice echoed through the huge vault of the building.

“Shit.” I almost tripped over the box again scrambling away from David as I answered. “Yes, sir?”

“I need this set finished before lunch, Ian.”

“Yes, sir.” I glanced at my watch. Less than an hour. Normally it would be a challenge, but one I would be able to meet. I was so far off my game now, I doubted the results would pass inspection.


The object of my lust turned his forced brightness on Richard. “Yes?”

“Come on. I have something for you to do.”

Did he sigh? Oh, let him have sighed in resignation. Please God.

“Sure thing.” He jumped down and hurried over, falling in beside Richard. Even he had to hold his sure strides in check so his shrimpy lover wouldn’t have difficulty keeping up.

“Where have you been?” Richard’s voice dropped. I didn’t think I was meant to hear him. “I’ve been looking everywhere for you. Didn’t I tell you to look in the dressing room?”

“I got bored.”

“Well.” Richard put a hand on David’s broad back and pushed him forward slightly, guiding him toward the narrow hallway to his office. “You can entertain me for a while. Ought to keep you out of trouble.”

David glanced back, looked right at me just before he disappeared down the passage. I didn’t imagine the resigned look on his face that time.

“Sure, an’ I could do that,” I heard him say in a falsely bright, overloud voice as the dimness of the hallway swallowed them up.

“Oh, and I could do him.”

For the second time, an unexpected voice made me jump. I turned to find Penny, my assistant, grinning up at me.

“I suspect he wouldn’t be interested in li’l ol’ me, though.” A devil light came into her eyes. “You, on the other hand….”

“Shut it.” I glared at her and she laughed.

“Lunch, boss?”

“Nope. Git your bum up here and help me. This has to be done by noon.”

She mocked me as she went round to the steps, but she pitched in after flipping on the stereo to play some rocking modern Celtic music. It helped the flow, and after a few minutes, I was back in my vision of what I wanted the set to look like. Around twelve forty-five, we stepped back to the last camera angle to admire our work.

“We done good, boss.”

“Cornwall hears you call me that, he’ll fire both our asses, Penny. Just be careful.”

“Cornwall’s a blowhard.” Penny was never one to mince words.

One of the cameramen snickered and glanced up from inspecting his equipment. He bobbed his head at the hallway to Cornwall’s office. David was just emerging. From across the room, I could see reddened skin on his bare knees and his overplump lips. “Don’t think Cornie’s the one doing the blowin’, you ask me.”

“Arsehole,” Penny spat in a stage whisper.

“You watch your mouth,” I growled, turning on the man. Jim, I thought his name was. “You don’t get an opinion.”

Penny took my fisted hand in hers and hauled me off toward the green room. “Who has to be careful now, Ian?” she asked as we entered. “Cornie sees you go ballistic on the help, he’ll wonder why. Sure an’ I don’t want to be the one to tell him you’re sweet on his fella.”

“Shut it.”

She rolled her eyes and went to the buffet to snatch up the last of the fruit and cheese, which she took to one of the small tables near the door.

The lunch table had been picked pretty clean. Only tuna salad and limp Caesar salad remained. I grabbed half a sandwich and sat down across from Penny. “You’d think they’d treat the techies with a little more respect,” I said, turning my nose up at the smell of the tuna. “Maybe leave us a few crumbs, you know?”

Like always, she had her attention buried in the Daily Mirror. After a minute she snorted and slapped the table.

“Some people really have too much time on their hands.” She flipped the rag around and pointed to a picture. “Apparently this looks like Bono.”

“It’s a potato.”

“Yup.” She chortled gleefully. “County fair in Donegal. Wanna go?”

“To look at a potato?”

“A potato that looks like Bono,” she corrected, pulling the paper back around to continue reading. “I hear David Kelly is from there.” She glanced up through her lashes with a wicked grin.

And damn it if I didn’t take the bait. “I’m guessing he doesn’t go home on weekends.”

“What would he tell his Ma?” she agreed, going back to her paper. “It’s just a day job, Ma. He keeps me in short shorts, and all I have to do is—”

I kicked her under the table. In the doorway behind her, David stood, staring right at me.

“Me Ma’s dead,” he said, his voice thin.

“Oh, Jesus. David, I’m sorry.” She turned to face him, horrified, turning white, then layer after layer of red.

For a minute he stared at her, his expression completely open and shocked. Then he grinned, wide, bright, and just as open. “Nah.” He waved a hand at her. “Live and well in Ballyshannon. I tell her I don’t let him fuck me without a condom, which is the truth.” He dug in his tight back pocket and pulled out a foil packet. “Don’t leave home without it.” He winked.

Penny lowered her head onto the table. “Arsehole.”

“A very tight one,” he agreed, and turned his devastating smile and wink on me. “And very much in demand, I hear.”

My turn to turn red, though it didn’t stop my cock jumping at the invitation in his eyes.

“I’ve got… shit.” My brain went offline as he whirled and swung his ass on swivel hips out the door, leaving me staring and drooling after him.

“You got shit?” Penny giggled from her flattened position on the table.

“Shut it.”

“You gotta hit that, I’m sure is what you meant.”

“Don’t be crude.”

“Don’t deny it.”

“I am not in lust with him.”

“Liar, liar, pants on fire.” She reached under the table and squeezed my hard-on. “Literally.” She wiggled her chair closer around the circular table and licked her lips. “I can… if you like.”

I squirmed and stuck my tongue out at her, afraid if I actually spoke, I might take her up on it. I wasn’t wearing my loose jeans.

“Ummm, guys?”

We turned to the door to find Richard’s personal assistant, Beth, shifting from foot to foot in the entrance.

“We’ve got a problem.”

“You mean Richard has a problem,” Penny muttered.

We both got up, though, and followed Beth out to the set. It was destroyed.

“What the hell?”

“Richard.” Beth looked like she might be on the verge of tears, poor thing. If I worked that closely with the enormous ego that was Richard Cornwall, I might shed a few myself. I glanced around to see if I could find him, but he was nowhere in sight. David was off in a corner, leaning on a stage monitor with his arms crossed over his chest and an unreadable look on his face. I thought he glanced away in hurry when I looked over, but he didn’t move a muscle, so maybe not. Maybe he hadn’t been watching for me in the first place. He pushed himself to his feet after a minute and headed down to Cornwall’s office.

“All right. Penny, hon, get started on this, please. I’ll go see what’s up with his assness.”

I stormed off toward the office, furious, unsure I would be able to keep my temper in check this time. Cornwall was getting on my very last Irish-American nerve. I heard the yelling long before I reached the room at the end of the hall.

“So find it!”

“Or what?” David’s voice remained placid, but Richard’s rose like banshee wail.

“Or everyone will know what you do in here. You think if someone finds it, they won’t speculate?”

“Seriously?” David chuckled. The low rumble rippled over me as I stood outside the doorway. “What d’ye suppose people t’ink now? I’m a rugby player, for pity’s sake. Ye didn’t hire me t’act.” I peered through the window just as David swung one hip out to the side. “I’m a slut. I know it, you know it, and they all know it.” His voice had gone from dulcet soft to gravelly hard. “They know what we get up to in here. They don’t care.”

I did. And I didn’t like the way his voice had changed from lazy, casual derision, to cutting sarcasm when he talked about himself.

“You shove yer sparkly green dildo up me arse because ye t’ink you have some power over me? You do it because I let you. Ye can’t keep track of yer toys, too fucking bad. It donna give ye the right t’undo all Ian’s hard work out of spite.” He pulled his hip back in, spun, and sauntered out of the room. He didn’t falter when he saw me standing there, but swept past without a glance or a word.

“If you would have found the damn thing like I told you, David, I wouldn’t have had to!”

The door was wide open and Richard stood facing it, fists clenched at his side, face livid. “What the hell do you want?”

No point mentioning the overheard argument. Just get on with business. “Someone trashed the set.”

“I was looking for something.”

Of course, I couldn’t really say anything to that. I couldn’t call him on it, and now he’d gone and trashed it to make David feel like shit for not doing what he’d been told. And I was party to it because I’d taken the damn thing. “You could have asked,” I said finally, stiffly, because what else could I be expected to say under the circumstances?

He grunted, picked a pen up off his desk, and tossed it back. “I suppose I could have.”

“What were you looking for?”

“Doesn’t matter now.”

Of course it didn’t, because he was a manipulative bastard and I didn’t have a leg to stand on. And no way could I admit that to him. Admitting I’d taken his toy would only fuel his ego and his temper.

“Go fix it.” He turned to his desk and yanked out a file folder. I doubt he even knew what was in it. “I have work to do. Go fix it.”

“Jackass.” I turned, walked out, and closed the door behind me. If Richard got this bent over a lost toy, it was time to fix a few things besides the ruined set.

I headed back down the hallway to find David, Beth, and Penny industriously cleaning up glass and gathering bits of set dressing in preparation for reassembling what was left of the set. I joined them, whistling a little tune between my teeth and with a bit of a gig in my step.

After only a half hour, David snapped. “Ah, would ye cut it out already, mate! Ya sound like a drunken leprechaun!”

I grinned at him. “Richard hates Irish music.” And I whistled louder. Penny started to hum along, and before long, the set rang with rounds of Irish drinking songs, hammers, and electric drills.

Fuck Richard if his ridiculous tantrum was going to ruin our day.

We were on round three of “Whiskey in the Jar” when Richard finally came out of his office, waving his arms, his face purple with rage. One of our longtime carpenters leaned heavily on the fake bar, wheezing out the chorus, and Richard yanked the stool he was sitting on out from under him to toss it off the stage. The guy must have been about sixty, and his legs nearly buckled under him.

“Is he having a heart attack?” Penny rushed over to the old guy, fumbling at her cell.

“Asthma,” Beth muttered. “He’s fine.” She went over and helped the old man find his puffer and straighten up, flinging a glare at Richard as she did. He ignored her.

“Did you find it?” Cornwall snarled at David, who glared, tight lipped, down on him.

“Didn’t look for it, did I? I told ye, I don’t care.”

“You will.”

“That a threat? Ye goin’ to tear the set apart again?”

And didn’t that make me feel like a complete heel, because he might have snarled out the question, but his eyes didn’t flash like they should.

“You have more to lose than I do, boy,” Cornie replied.

David tilted his head. “What’re ye gonny to do? Tell them all ye fuck me daily?” He flung an arm out at the assembled work crew. “They know!”

“You really are a little slut, aren’t you?” Richard muttered, the vicious words cutting into the silence.

“I’m not interested in hiding who I am, Ricky.” David ran a hand down the side of Richard’s face. “I like having a cock rammed up me arse. You don’t want to acknowledge you like doing it, not me problem.” He turned away, swaying his ass in a way that spoke volumes about who was never getting a piece of it again.

Was I the only one who noticed the stiffness in his gait, though? He put on a really good show. Maybe I’d just spent so much time watching him over the past few months that I recognized when it was a show.

Richard rushed after him, trying to force him to stop, to turn around. He only succeeded in stumbling into a painter’s ladder, bringing painter, paint, and ladder down with a crash. The only thing that saved the poor slob on the ladder from a cracked skull was David, who gracelessly tumbled down under him and the bright-green spill of paint.

“David!” I raced over, but he was already squirming out from under the painter. I knelt beside him, and a flash of white teeth burned through the green covering just about every part of him. “You okay?”

“Is that all it takes, then?” he asked.


“A—” He glanced at the painter stumbling to his feet. “—largish set painter tumblin’ down on me ’ead to get yer attention.”

“Are you hurt?” I asked again, to cover my confusion.

“Nah.” He held out a hand and I helped him up to find Richard standing there glaring at us both.

“Go get cleaned up,” he snarled, jerking a hand toward the men’s dressing room and curling his lip at David. “You look ridiculous.”

“Oh, I don’t know.” David lifted his chin. “I think green’s a good color for me.”

“I agree.” I had no idea what prompted me to speak up. David glanced my way and grinned. “This was your doing, Richard. You should be apologizing to them.” I waved my hand to where the cleanup crew approached with mops and buckets to clean up the paint. Beth brought the painter a stool and cup of water and he smiled gratefully at her.

“You.” Cornwall planted a finger against my chest. “Are fired.” He turned to David. Fierce, dangerous anger at having been made to look like a fool harshed all his soft, pudgy lines. It didn’t matter he’d done it to himself and everyone knew it. Or maybe that made it all the more dire. “Where the hell did you put it?” Richard’s voice carried through the hush.

David gritted his teeth. “You know, I don’t think I like it after all. So what does it matter if it’s gone missin’?”

“You came to me, remember?” Cornie gripped David’s arm and began to walk him off toward his office. “You wanted this. Now you’ll follow through.”

“Fuck you!” David pulled free of his grip and turned to face Richard, forcing him to stop. “Ye don’t get to tell me what to do, Cornie.” That was bad. Richard hated that nickname. But David’s voice rose with each word, and his eyes flashed. “So go fuck yerself. With yer own goddamn green fuckin’ glitter dildo.” He swiveled on his heel and stomped off across the room, stopping at the far side. Everyone had slowed to watch and listen. “If ye can bloody well find it with yer head so far up yer arse!”

I felt like applauding. Lord, but if the man was gorgeous strutting around in those fantastically ridiculous shorts, he was a force of nature with his Irish temper out. Even covered in green paint. I grinned and jogged after him.


He didn’t stop.


“What!” He whirled, and for

Gravatar image

Still Life

Book Cover: Still Life
Editions:Digital: $ 3.99
ISBN: 978-1-62380-102-1

When Allan Song’s ex, Mac, shows up to model for the life drawing class Allan teaches, he turns everything upside-down. Mac is still as infuriatingly attractive as when Allan first met him—and still trying to figure out where he fits on the gender spectrum. He’s more than a little out of control, and he’s taken some stupid risks that have come back to haunt him. If they’re going to get back together, Allan wants a real relationship—but for that, he and Mac will need to look below the surface.

Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Cover Artists:




“STOP!” Allen batted his roommate’s hand off his shoulder.

“You’re getting that look.”

Allen scowled at the textbook on the table in front of him. “What look, Mac?”

A finger pressed lightly to Allen’s forehead, just above the bridge of his nose and his glasses, prompting him to swat again.

“The one that puts this incredibly lickable divot between your brows, turns your lips down at the corners, and tenses your shoulders up until you get a migraine.”

“You sure you’re straight?”

Mac wrinkled his nose and looked away. “I was just trying to ease the tension.”

“Right. That’s why you had your hand over my shoulder and halfway to my chest. I told you to cool it with that shit, straight boy.”

“It’s only to ease the tension,” he insisted.


“Go find something to do, please. I have to get this paper done.” Mac’s bid to ease the tension was only causing more of it, and not in Allen’s shoulders either. It was getting very hard to ignore his attraction to his supposedly not-gay roommate, and that was just embarrassing.

Mac snarled softly. “I thought you handed that in yesterday.”

“I handed one in yesterday. This one is due on Monday, and I still have to get it in shape. And then type it up.” He sighed and once again pushed Mac’s hand out of his shirt. “I don’t have time for your brand of bicurious tension relief, dude.”

Mac blew a breath out as he trailed his hand off Allen’s shoulder. “I think you got that backward, but you know where to find me if you change your mind.” His hand lingered at the back of Allen’s neck, soft on the warm patch of skin.



Ten minutes later, Allen’s cell phone beeped. He reached into his backpack for it and glanced at the screen, texted a frowning face back, and hit “send” before dropping it onto the table. It beeped every five minutes until he turned it off.

“Since when don’t you answer your cell?” Mac called from the bedroom.

“Since my dumbass roommate is being a jerk-off and trying to distract me!” He tossed the phone back into his pack and reached for another textbook. He counted six paper airplanes landing on the table, one in his hair, and one in his lap. Probably there were a dozen more peppered over the living room floor.

Mac was a pathetic shot.

Allen ignored them all, though the pink one with the red lip prints smeared across the wings made him smile.

“Where’d you get the lipstick?” he asked, flattening the plane so the lips matched up again.

“My secret stash,” Mac rumbled, still from the bedroom.

Allen chuckled, not a bit surprised Mac would keep a souvenir from one of his conquests.

Sunshine streaked across the table by the time Allen looked up again. That meant it was well past lunch, and he still wasn’t satisfied with his draft, though his stomach growled, far beyond caring about anything but a meal.

“Who’s the dumbass now?” Mac asked, voice gentle as he dropped a plastic plate with a sandwich and handful of potato chips onto the last clear space of table and set a cup of coffee next to it. “Eat.”

Allen glanced over as he picked up half the sandwich. “Nice apron.”

“You like that?”

Allen nodded around the sandwich. “That shade of pink goes with your skin tones.”

“Okay, dude? That is so gay.” Mac stalked off, back toward his room, and Allen nearly choked on the bit of bread in his mouth as he got a luscious eyeful of Mac’s bare ass and long, deliciously muscled legs.

“And that isn’t?” he called after his disappearing friend. “What the fuck, dude?

Mac just laughed.

It took all the tricks Allen knew to get his mind back on the paper he was trying to finish. It was dry, boring fare.

Nothing like that glimpse of Mac’s ass. Mac’s straight, untouchable ass.

“Fuck.” Allen pushed his notebook away.

“Maybe not fucking the first time, yeah?”

“What?” Allen looked up from where he’d been contemplating the image in his mind to where Mac stood leaning on the door frame of his bedroom. “The. Fuck.”

Mac’s face pinked. His expression began to crumble. “You hate it?”

Allen’s brows shot up. “It. Is a dress.”

Mac straightened and ran his hands—decidedly delicate ones, Allen suddenly noticed—down the front of the blue sundress he was wearing. “You hate—”

“No!” Allen shot out of his chair. “I don’t.”

Did he?

“It… actually…” He nodded. “It looks good on you.” And it did. He never would have pictured his friend in a dress, but here he was in front of him—inescapable—and as objective as he could be about it in this moment, he had to admit Mac was suddenly so very, very Mac. More than he ever had been in the two years they’d known each other.


“Yeah. Strangely.” He took a moment to just breathe and look. “Yeah.”

Mac’s bright smile was as wide as ever, but somehow also shy. “Thanks.”

“Yeah.” Allen pushed his glasses up his nose. “Wait. You’re straight.”

Mac’s smile vanished. “I’m a lot of things, actually.”

“Clearly.” Allen took a few steps forward. “Clearly, I have not been paying attention.”

“Very clearly. Are you now?”


“Good.” Mac took the last few steps, and then took Allen’s face in both hands and kissed him in a way that definitely could not be ignored. Or mistaken for straight.

When he let him go, Allen’s glasses were perched crookedly on his nose. Mac carefully removed them and set them on the table. “You’re not freaked out.”


“Good or bad?” Mac studied him, eyes darting over his face, teeth biting inside his lower lip.

“Stop that.” Allen touched his mouth. “Two years, and you’ve been hiding dresses in your closet all this time?”

“Just the one.” Mac’s voice barely rose above a whisper. “Just in case, you know?”

Allen nodded. “You could pass it off as left behind by some chick if I found it.”

Mac gave a slight, nodding shrug. “Lame, I guess, but—”

“Practical.” Allen reached over and lifted a bit of the silky skirt between thumb and finger. This was new, this fascination about what was under the filmy material. Not that he hadn’t seen Mac swagger around the apartment enough times buck naked, but this was different. Allen liked men. Always had. Liked the way jeans hugged their ass and cradled their parts, and the way a sweater stretched across broad shoulders… And he liked the way this skirt flirted around Mac’s thighs and hid what Allen knew was under there.

He stepped a little closer, dropping the skirt. Laying his palm flat on Mac’s thigh, he slid it up slowly, watching Mac’s flecked hazel eyes for any sign of discomfort. His fingers encountered lace and a hard bulge beneath. He cupped the delicately wrapped package and squeezed.

Mac’s eyes dropped closed, and his breath sighed out. His hips rocked forward, pushing his dick into Allen’s palm.

“You ever been with a guy before?” Allen touched his lips to Mac’s throat and kissed his way up.

“Not seriously.”

Allen leaned back a bit to look into his eyes again. “You sure about this?”

“Very.” He sighed again and leaned into Allen’s caresses. “I’ve been sure about this for two years. I just didn’t know.” He stepped back and spread his arms. “I knew with you, it had to be all or nothing. I didn’t want to hide….”


“Now you’re freaked out.”

“I never thought a guy in a dress would turn me on like this.”

“Enough to do something about it?” Mac moved, boldly spreading his hand over Allen’s own erection, caged in his jeans.

“Not standing here.”

If anyone had told Allen a guy in a sky-blue sundress would ever drag him off to bed, he would have laughed. From the moment the dress hit the floor, Mac didn’t give Allen a chance to catch enough breath to beg for mercy, never mind laugh. And yet he couldn’t remember sex ever being so much fun as Mac laughed his way through trying to give his first blow job. Allen would have regretted coming all over his face if Mac hadn’t grinned so hard as he wiped it off with his fingers and licked them clean.

Allen wiggled down from where he was leaning against the headboard and pulled Mac against his side. “How did I miss this?”

Mac kissed him gently. “You didn’t. We’re here.”

“I guess so.” Allen breathed in Mac’s scent, closed his eyes, and just relaxed into the idea that this was real. He didn’t remember falling asleep.

Morning. Allen groaned and rolled out of bed. Mac’s bed.

“Oh shit.” Not morning. Sunshine brightening Mac’s western facing bedroom meant the sun was well past up and on its way down again, and he hadn’t even thought about typing his paper. “Shit!”

“Problem?” Mac appeared in the doorway, two cups of steaming coffee in one hand.

Allen half expected to see him in some sort of satin negligee, but he stood there in his familiar old grey track pants rolled up at the cuffs and hanging off his hips in a way that only made Allen want to push them the rest of the way down.

“Don’t even,” Mac warned, holding the coffee out with one hand and his pants up with the other. “You have work to do. Come on.”

Allen sighed, shuffled out to the table, and sat. “I don’t want this degree anymore.”

“Yes, you do.” Mac opened Allen’s laptop and tapped the mouse. “Better read it over. There might be typos. I’m told spell-check is really, really stupid.”

“Oh my God. You typed my paper.”

Mac grinned at him.

“You type with two fingers.”

Mac nodded.

Allen turned in his seat and gazed up at his… lover. “Last night you blew my mind, and this morning you got up and typed up my paper for me.”

Mac shrugged. “You didn’t laugh at the dress.” His grin softened to a less-certain smile. “You have no idea how huge that is, do you?”

“I just don’t know,”—Allen stood and reached for Mac’s hand—“how I never noticed.”

Mac punched his shoulder lightly. “You’re hard to distract.”

“Congratulations. I’m distracted.”

“You sure? Because I could put the dress back on,” Mac offered, pointing in the direction of the bedroom.

“I’m pretty sure all that would accomplish is you ending up naked again.”


“And….” Allen glanced at his laptop. “No idea what my point was.”

Mac handed him his coffee and picked up the computer. “Come on. You can read in bed.”



Chapter One



A BEAD of sweat gathered at the base of the model’s throat and quivered on the edge of falling for half a minute before it finally broke the surface tension and slid down between his pecs. The twinkle of Christmas lights caught the drop, and it sparkled against dusky skin, all the way down until it disappeared into the sparse dusting of hair. My mouth fucking watered and I glanced around. All my students seemed intent on their easels. Thank God none of them noticed me practically drooling.

I glanced back to the man on the dais to find him watching me, a half smile curling his lips and a sultry glare fixed on me through his lashes. He blinked slowly, once. He fucking knew. Heat flashed up into my cheeks.

Grin widening, he hummed along with “Santa Baby” playing on the radio in the background.

I stepped out of the circle of students and mouthed the word “asshole” at him. He didn’t move a muscle otherwise, but his eyes narrowed a tiny bit and he lowered his gaze. He’d caught me staring, and he knew what he did to me. When he lifted those long lashes again, there was no mistaking the amusement in his eyes.

God, he was a jerk.

Santa, baby, hurry down the chimney—” I hammered the off button on the staticky radio with a snarl. A chorus of complaints rose from the students.

“Wrap it up, people!” I said loudly.

Several students jolted with surprise, but they made hurried assessments of their work, compared it to the model, and made last second additions.

“Mr. Mackenzie, if you could just stay still another few minutes, I’ll grab some pictures and we can tape your feet. Make it easier to find the pose next week.”

“Sure.” The model grinned at me and winked. “Anything you like.”

A refrain of catcalls filled the room and I glared at him.

“Good. Don’t move.” I stalked off and took my time fetching my phone from my jacket pocket.

“You going to Facebook those, Mr. Song?” one of the students asked.

“Professionalism, Bradley.” I snapped a photo from the front and shot Mackenzie a dark glare while he smirked. “I’ll e-mail them to you.”

The class laughed.

Once I had taken the shots and placed dots of masking tape on the dais so Mackenzie could find his spot next class, I patrolled the circle once more, commenting as I went.

“Brad, this is life drawing. I think you’ve shaded the man’s ass to death. It’s not that pretty. Move on. Balance. That goes for all of you. Don’t focus on one single aspect of your subject. Quickest way to lose the big picture. Look at your composition as a whole and find what sets it apart.”

Brad tilted his head and frowned as his gaze roved from his drawing, over the model, back to his work, and finally, back over the model again. At least I wasn’t the only one drooling.

“Seriously, Brad?” I said, leaning closer so the rest of the class couldn’t listen in, “Not that spectacular.”

Brad looked at me like I was crazy. “Don’t get out much do you, Teach?”

I raised an eyebrow and pointed at his drawing, which focused very much on the model’s considerable assets.

“Fine, all right. I might have gotten a little….”

“Picture’s worth a thousand words, Brad. You’re good at likenesses, but there’s more to a person than what he looks like.” I moved on.

“Jenny, nice work. Your proportions are good. You’ve been practicing.” The girl grinned and nodded. “Now remember that people don’t float, darling. Give him some context, yes? You have the Christmas tree in there, but there’s no interaction between subject and setting.” Her face fell. “No one part of the painting is any more important than any other. If it doesn’t work together as a whole, it won’t matter if you managed to draw every wart and wrinkle. It will still look flat and lifeless.”

I moved away from her station and addressed the class. “People don’t come to see art for photorealism, folks. They want to see your soul ripped open and splattered on the canvas. If you can’t bare it all here, in this classroom where it’s safe, you have no business taking this course. Be brave. Show me something.”

I strode to another easel and picked up another girl’s drawing.

“Like this.” I turned the drawing around so the whole class could see it. “Alyssa, here, is not afraid to get in there and really see.”

“She only drew his eyes and lips!” Brad complained.

“But look at it, Brad. I grant you, he has a nice ass, but look at this.” I rotated the smudged charcoal drawing to fully face him. “Tell me what you see.”

“Eyes. Pretty lips.” He shrugged. “A guy holding a Christmas ball and looking at his reflection.”

“He wants something,” Jenny said. “Something really important. He just… wants.” She glanced from the drawing to the man and flushed.

To his credit, Mackenzie didn’t bat an eyelash, but stood motionless for the students still feverishly getting down the last lines and shades.

“Good, Jenny. What else?” I surveyed the students paying attention.

“What else, people? Look!

“Lonely?” Someone asked, voice tentative.

“What, Dillon? You’re not sure?”

The young man shrugged, his attention flitting around to his fellow students. “Okay, fine. That drawing looks pissed off and sad and scared.” He glanced to Alyssa and back to me. “Maybe….” He cleared his throat. “Maybe someone wants to be seen. Noticed. Someone’s angry at being overlooked. Like they feel invisible, and all they want is just someone to look at them.”


Alyssa grabbed the drawing out of my hand and banged it back on her easel. “Whatever,” she mumbled, crossing her arms in front of herself and scowling.

I smiled. “Good. Get mad, Alyssa. Get good and mad. Scream and shout, and then paint, because that’s when you’re going to do your best work. Do me a favor. Go back in your portfolio and juxtapose this drawing with the one you did the first day of class. Come back here next week, and we’ll get Mac—” I snatched the nickname out of the air and slammed it away in my head where it belonged. “Mr. Mackenzie to pose again, and I want you to draw the difference between then and now.” I motioned to him that he could relax, and he eased himself out of the pose as I turned to face the class.

“In fact, I have an even better idea. I want you all to do this over the holidays. Have a good look at where you were when you started this class, and think hard about where you think you want to go. Take everything you’ve learned over first semester and apply it to a new study and show me where you want to end up.”

“That isn’t even a real assignment,” Brad complained. “What are we supposed to draw?”

“You, Bradley. Draw a self-portrait.”

He nodded, a look of relief washing over his face.


Half the class groaned.

“Here it comes,” muttered Brad.

“No faces. No hands.” I caught Brad’s eye. “This isn’t about body parts and photorealism. It isn’t about your favorite teddy bear, your dream gallery opening, or all the tools of your trade. It’s about everything in between.” I pointed to Alyssa. “It’s about all the shit nobody knows about you. All the crap you never say out loud, the secrets you keep, and the ones that are killing you a little bit every day. All the bullshit you keep inside until it rots, and all the dreams and ambition and the most fragile bits of yourself you know you’ll never be able to protect, but that you try to anyway.” I pointed to Dillon. “And all the things you see and know that you aren’t supposed to see or know.”

“How?” Brad asked, a whine in his voice.

“I don’t know, Bradley.” I turned to him. “That’s what you have to figure out. Then bring it, show me, and if I believe you, you pass. You can fuck off the entire rest of the year. If you can pull this assignment off, nothing else matters.”

“No more life drawing.”

I shrugged. “That’ll be up to you. If you can convince me you have the guts to do this assignment, and do it for real, I’ll give you a gold star, and you can come join class or not, as you wish. I won’t force you to, and I won’t kick you out.”

“Are you daring me?” His eyes lit up with the challenge, and I puffed my chest out.

“Show me. Make me believe it.”

“Bring it,” he said. “You’ll see.”

“Okay, then.” I faced them all. “You have your assignment. Go forth and wreak havoc on the pub. I’m done with you miscreants ’til next week. It’ll be last class, so think about the assignment and make sure you have all the supplies you need, because I can’t guarantee I’ll be here to open up over the holidays if you forget something.”

“Oh, please.” Bradley snorted. “You aren’t going anywhere. You never do. You probably live here.”

The radio came back on, crooning Harry Bellefonte’s smooth tenor, spoiled by the scratchy static. He was soon nearly drowned out by the rag-tag stragglers chattering as they rinsed chalk and charcoal off their hands. Someone sang along, off tune, about half pennies and Christmas coming.

Bah, humbug.

I listened to the excited babble about holiday plans and drinking parties and tried not to show how eager I was just to have the lot of them out of there. Unobtrusively, Mackenzie hopped off the podium and made it to the washroom to change. I couldn’t help but agree, albeit silently, with Brad’s assessment of his attributes. He had a luscious ass. But then, I’d known that a long time before his first stint as my life drawing class’s model.

I was intimately familiar with the ass. Both the physical one and the man behind the body. My students didn’t need to know that, and I was at least grateful to Mackenzie for keeping that information to himself. Past was past, and I wanted it to stay there.

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