Saturday, January 31, 2015

An Angel Forbidden To Touch- Wings of Exile by Ellen Cross

Falling for someone isn't always easy, especially for an angel who has been forbidden to touch.

Half an inch. Roman's life has been taken over and destroyed by half an inch of poison-filled metal. Unable to deny the control Denzel now holds over him, Roman is no better than a puppet, controlled and used in however horrifying way the shadowkin leader orders. He longs for his freedom, an escape before he is forced to kill again, but without the ability to so much as lift a finger by his own choice, the most he can pray for is a merciful end.

Dorian is a Gregorian angel, tasked with witnessing the events of man, yet forbidden to interfere in any way. The consequences of breaking the Gregorian covenant are final, fatal, but something about Roman, the demon he finds imprisoned by the shadow elves, has him longing to break all the rules. Torn between duty and what his heart is telling him is right, Dorian chooses to fall, to touch the demon regardless of what the consequences will mean. He knows he has made the right decision and will happily live out the rest of his life with his choice, for however short that now might be.


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Thursday, January 29, 2015

Slow and Tender by Leah Blake. Book One in the Love Your Dragon Series

[Siren Everlasting Classic ManLove: Erotic Alternative Paranormal Sci-Fi Romance, M/M, shape-shifters, HEA]


Tallis Hynes knows he is different, but a dragon? After being kidnapped from his apartment during the night and locked in a cell with two strangers claiming to be his lost brothers, he is mercilessly exposed to secrets that had been withheld all his life. Unfortunately, their enemies want the power they possess, and won't stop until they get it, at any cost.

Zhett Rhiodan, chaos dragon by birth and fierce warrior of the Khoronian race, is on a mission to find the four lost Hynesin heirs and return them to the king of Khorone. Like everything in his life, his mission is complicated when he locates three of the four brothers and learns Tallis is his mate. 

When the threat to the heirs makes an appearance, the entire mission is at risk for failure. Can Zhett keep his mate safe when all hell breaks loose? Or will the Khoronian people fall into the hands of evil?


A strange swish kept him from curling around the pillow and humping it like a dog marking territory.

Heat crept along his cheeks. He peeled back his eyelids and stared at the dark wall directly in front of him. His flesh tingled along his naked back.

“You’re awake.”

Tallis swallowed down a whimper. He’d heard that same deep, velvety voice so many times since the fight in the forest. It belonged to a man that left him yearning for more than talk. The fierce onslaught of need was almost as crippling as the serum he’d suffered through again.

Slowly, trying to keep his wits about him, Tallis rolled over. His gaze landed on a tall, solid man with the most beautiful amber eyes. His hair was as jet as the leathers that covered him from throat to toe. The strands shone under the dim lighting. He had a cruel ruggedness about him, an air of “don’t fuck with me if you want to keep your balls” that thickened the air in the room. The gentle slant of his eyes, the enhancing arch of his dark brows, and the hint of whiskers that lined his strong jaw left Tallis breathless.

His heart beat in his throat. The burn along his shaft intensified the moment the man’s nostrils flared and a hunger that matched his own swallowed up his eyes.

The man who came around this bad boy rolled his eyes to the ceiling and motioned leather-man to a chair.

“Good afternoon,” this acquaintance greeted. Tallis spared him a glance before his attention returned to leather-man. He licked his lips and earned a low-resonating growl from his target. “My name is Doryan. I’m the physician on the Dalistine. Zhett brought you on board after you were injected with a neuromuscular control agent. How are you feeling?”

“Good,” Tallis whispered. God, he’d feel so much better if that lovely piece of manliness would help out with his growing—he wiggled against the mattress—problem.

“Wonderful. Do you recall your name?”

“Tallis Hynes.”

Leather-man scowled. “Tallis Castalline. Castalline is your birth name.”

Castalline.  Where had he heard that before?

Tallis finally managed to tear his gaze away from leather-man and look at the doctor as he pulled a penlight from his lab coat pocket. When he turned it on, an ice-blue light spread down the side of the pen and drew a hot path along his body.

“What is that?” Tallis demanded, shoving himself out from under the strange light, smacking his head against the wall. “Why is it hot?”

“I’m scanning your body for potential remnants of the agent.” Doryan patted the bed. “Lie down, son. It’ll take a minute.”

Tallis shook his head, scurrying away from the physician. “I’ve never seen something like that before and I don’t know you.”

“I understand, but I must check your systems to ensure the antidote worked. Your reaction to the injection was”—the man cast leather-man—Zhett—a shaded glance—“worrisome.”

A strangled sound rushed past his lips as his feet hit the floor at the foot of the bed. The doctor blocked his escape.

Zhett crossed the small space to the doctor and forced him aside, only to take his place. Tallis sank back until he stepped into the wall.

“Come to me,” Zhett said. Tallis stared at him, allowing the sound of his low, husky voice to unfurl throughout his body and calm the sparks of anxiety his doctor friend elicited. His feet moved without his consent, but he didn’t care, because they brought him to Zhett, a man who made his mind mush and his flesh tingle. A man who poured fire into his cool blood and who intoxicated his senses.

Tallis didn’t recoil at the man’s airy touch across the bone of his cheek. The faintest sensation of sparks followed the path he drew. His eyelids grew heavy, weighted down with both arousal and comfort. An alien breath coiled up his throat, a combination of hot and cold. It slid along his tongue and a faint plume of foggy vapor filled the immediate space beyond his lips as he exhaled.

“He will not harm you,” Zhett assured, his calming touch slipping down the side of his neck. Tallis fought to hold onto a clear image of the man as he swayed. “Doryan created an antidote when the Bhrykis attacked me a few months ago.”

Zhett pulled his hand away, severing their connection, and unfastened an intricate line of gold clasps along his neck. He tipped his head to the side and tugged the leather down, exposing a scar just above the juncture of his shoulder.

“I didn’t suffer the convulsions like you did, but it was a painful experience nonetheless.” Zhett smoothed up the collar of his suit and fastened the clasps. “The men you encountered in the woods launched an attack on your grandfather. Only by happenstance was I there discussing the final details of this mission with him.”

The mention of a grandfather whipped him right into reality. He stepped back, eyes narrowed, and shook his head. “I don’t have a grandfather. Living, at least.”

Confusion cut across Zhett’s devastatingly handsome face. Those gleaming amber eyes flecked with obsidian shot to Doryan and left Tallis to stare at his sharp profile.

God, he wanted to lick him. Maybe devour him if Zhett didn’t do the devouring first.


Zhett’s eyes pulsed with an unseen backlight, but the shape of his pupils stunned him. A vertical slit replaced the circular blackness. Several small, black scales lined his eyes. The man looked downright fierce and starved and passionate all in one. In that instant, Tallis saw the creature in his mind, a magnificent black image of fantasy come reality.

“My dragon,” he whispered, his knees falling open. The scales stretched over Zhett’s temples and Tallis craved to see his mate in his dragon form. When only a short time ago he balked at the idea of dragons, Zhett had made him a believer in his simple and tender deliverance of proof. “I want to see you.”

Zhett tipped his chin up and flicked open each fastening along his neck. “Let yours out, little mate. He’s prowling your mind, waiting for you to open yourself. Let me see him.”

Tallis’s eyes widened as the leather suit fell open behind Zhett’s fast-working fingers. The man was a powerhouse of hard, formed muscle, from the deep cuts of his pecs to the rippling terrain of his abs. Cords of honed muscle created the beautiful geography of his shoulders, his biceps, all the way down to his forearms. Zhett peeled the suit off his wrist.

Tallis gasped and fell flat on his back when Zhett came over him, laying his hips flush to Tallis’s. Those reptilian eyes held him in awe. He reached up and traced a finger along the path of the finer scales around his eyes.

“Let him play, precious,” Zhett coaxed in his riveting husk that honey-coated Tallis’s senses. Tallis moaned, biting his swollen lower lip and arching off the mattress. Zhett teased him with a slow, tight thrust of his hips, sliding their dicks together. Cream had already drenched the inside of Tallis’s pants. Zhett’s lips brushed along his throat. “Accept him.” Another airy brush of heat. “Don’t force him back.”

Zhett was inside his mind. Tallis crooned, absorbing the powerful presence that filled the voids inside him. He did not speak like Cyon and Tae had, but the very essence of his being connecting on this intimate level was beyond words. He guided the entity within him forward, bringing the unseen creature closer and closer to the surface of Tallis’s mind.

“Wear your scales, Tallis. Wear them for me.”

The sensation of hot and cold merged with his skin. The creature Zhett guided broke through the surface, releasing a rush of pure excitement and heightened pleasure.

“Ah, ah. Oh god.” Tallis’s eyes shot open. The clarity with which he stared at Zhett made him momentarily dizzy. He knew about his strange night vision gift, but this was different. It was him, but it wasn’t him, staring up at Zhett, whose black scales had climbed between his brows, split across his forehead, and disappeared into his hair.

A dark, hungry smile settled over his mouth. “Beautiful.”

The warrior didn’t give him a chance to speak before consuming him once more in a soul-penetrating kiss. Tallis writhed beneath the tender touch of his mate, his flesh on fire from each light pathway the man’s hand drew over his chest, his stomach, his side. His pants were inched lower, the tip of his cock finally released from its wet confines.

Zhett reared up with a low, rumbling growl. His gaze fell to Tallis’s waist. He licked his lips and took a deep breath.

“Gods, you smell like summer heat after a long winter’s eve.” Zhett tugged the pants down his legs until he freed Tallis completely. The room’s warm air kissed his cream, igniting a rippling of pleasure down his shaft. He fisted the base of his cock and stroked his erection, enamored by Zhett’s agility as he peeled off the rest of his leather. His eyes dropped to the jutting dick, glistening with moisture over a swollen, purple head.

But it was the potent aroma of earthy musk and the hint of sweetness that robbed him of thought.

Tallis sat up and grabbed Zhett’s hips, ignoring the pain in his own dick to wrap his lips around that bulbous head and suckle every drop of juice dribbling out of Zhett’s slit. He moaned over and over, urging more of the man’s flavor to slide over his tongue. Closing his eyes, he savored the texture of Zhett’s cock, every silky ridge and firm inch.

Zhett fucked his mouth. One of his strong hands laced in his hair and held him close. Tallis didn’t need the silent cue. He wanted more and more, and he swallowed Zhett back as far as he could. The man was large, like the rest of him. Tallis cupped the firm globes of his mate’s ass, kneading the muscled mounds, rocking the man into his mouth.

“Take me, little mate.” Zhett braced a knee on the edge of the bed beside Tallis. “Yes, precious. Gods bless, I’m going to bust.”

Tallis sucked hard, running his mouth up and down Zhett’s length. The man’s dick swelled over his tongue.

When the first wave of Zhett’s orgasm broke free, Tallis cried out, swallowing down the fierce jets of cum as his own body shuddered in delight. Zhett’s ferocious roar filled his ears, his chest, his heart, and he took every last drop of his salty-sweet cream with pleasure.

Zhett pulled him off his cock and stepped back, raking his carnal gaze over Tallis. The man was still hard, that sexy organ erect and wet from Tallis’s mouth.

“I’ll be right back,” Zhett said.

“Better be.” Tallis flashed him a smile when he cast another glowing look over his shoulder before disappearing through a door. He situated himself at the center of the bed, and waited for his mate to return and give him a little more than his stolen taste of sin.


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Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Paranormal Love Wednesdays- A Quick Look From At My New M/M Erotic Romance WIP

Okay, guys I happen to be the slowest writer in the history of writing but at least I'm always writing...yes?  

At any rate, the wheels are constantly turning and what I came up with lately is a juicy little male/male erotic romance that I hope to have out very soon!  This hasn't been proofread or edited so please forgive the errors.

From my untitled M/M work-in-progress...

His eyes sparkled like clear blue water.  Is that normal?  

Blair shook his head. He had to stop staring at the guy.  The last thing he wanted to be thought of was a stalker. Or some other kind of weirdo. The stranger was hot with a sprinkling of badass on the side.  Just like himself, the man drank alone at the bar. Yet unlike him, he had no interest in the happenings around him, save for the whereabouts of the bartender whenever his glass became empty from barreling down the shots of whiskey. 

Blair glanced at his club soda and wondered why he was in such a dive, drinking what was obviously more fit for a ladies luncheon than a hardcore place such as this. But then this being his first foray away from home, how else was he to learn the protocols of coolness until he experimented?  

The music blaring from the speaker's slowed to a gentle hum.  Suddenly the conversations around him seemed louder.  He inhaled paused then exhaled loudly.  

“Okay here goes nothing,” he said pushing himself away from the bar.  

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Dark Matter by C.S. Chatterly

Two weary veterans of an intergalactic war find common ground aboard an earth-based, interstellar cruise ship.


Captain Rorcan Darr fought in a galactic war lasting many years. Now that Armistice has arrived, he's taking a well-earned break aboard an Earth-based cruise ship. All he wants is to put the past behind him. But going home again isn't the pleasurable task he'd once believed. 

Because of his family's royal lineage, he's expected to take a mate of his father's choosing, and breed a family for political empowerment. Outwardly, he's always acted agreeable - the epitome of patriotic discretion. However, the war deeply changed him as much as it altered everyone else. His future behind a bureaucratic desk seems more like a prison than a life choice.

When he meets a beautiful songstress aboard the cruise ship — one who is a veteran like him and who shares so much sad history — Rorcan is torn between his duty and her lovely body. She's everything he's always wanted, all rolled into one desirable package. Now, all they need do is reconcile their differences. She's from Earth…he's from Vega. Though allied in war, neither planet's authorities will tolerate interspecies mingling. He must make the choice between his sworn duty and his family…or a life in deep space with a woman he craves.


“All right…your point is taken, but you are missing mine. And not for the first time.”

Rorcan wearily unbuttoned the front of his uniform jacket before responding. “I’m not missing anything, Dreyar. You have long heard about Earth women and have wanted to bed one, as many of our brethren already have. Why not be honest and just say so, forgoing the tedious philosophising about how we should ‘all just be friends’ now the war is over.”

“Rorcan…the Earthers died right alongside Vegans! Their blood mingled with that of our own warriors.” Dreyar persisted as he put down his beverage and finished his speech. “You may want to spend this Armistice celebration alone…spouting old, inane, bigoted garbage. As for me, I’m attaching myself to that little blonde. She’s lovely. And if I can find a way to woo said lady…well…do not come looking for me.”

“And what makes you think I will have the time?” Rorcan snapped.

“Because no man or woman who is not Vegan is good enough for you, old friend, and there are no other Vegans on this vessel so far. That means in six weeks, as this Earth ship measures time, I fully expect you will be sitting right here at this bar, just where I left you…alone, miserable and using drink to push your troubles into oblivion.”

“I am not…” Rorcan let his voice trail away. 

His best friend and second-in-command had already walked off, in pursuit of the blonde girl wearing an infantry uniform jacket. That she was an Earther was indisputable. The markings on her sleeves, if not her very human appearance, indicated that much. But his argument about Dreyar’s pursuit had less to do with his perceived bigotry and more to do with the other Earth males on the vessel who might take exception to a Vegan stealing their thunder. As he’d been told, there were roughly eight men on this ship to every woman. It had been a long war and many males hadn’t had the company of a female of any race in a very long time.

He looked over his shoulder, fully expecting the girl in question to turn up her nose at a Vegan suitor. But his brows rose in surprise when Dreyar’s introduction was not only accepted, but the girl smilingly looped her arm through his as he led her to a table, apparently to buy her dinner or drinks.


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Sunday, January 25, 2015

Merry 'Chris' Mas by Clare Dargin. Book One in The Love Play Matchmaking Service Series.

[Ménage Amour: Erotic Ménage a Trois Romance, M/F/M, HEA]

Jilly Reimers wants love but can't find it. Chris Spinell is a veteran of the war in Afghanistan who suffers from PTSD and a haunting feeling that something is missing in his life. Chris Poole is also an Afghanistan war veteran is ready to break out of his shell but is unsure how. 

With Christmas just around the corner, they decide not to spend it alone. Believing The Love Play Matchmaking Service to be just what they need for a night of fun and passion, they sign up. But when the guys show up and see that they've been set up on a menage, the only one happy about it is Jilly.  

Their consultant, called an Eros, assures Jilly that the service has a perfect track record but she's certain they'll be the first ones to get their money back. Will they have a very merry Christmas? Or will the three spend yet another one alone?

A Siren Erotic Romance


Jilly idly twirled a lock of her hair as she gazed at the fire. The meal was good, a bit awkward, but all right. Now with Chris S. in the shower, she and Chris P., who’d freshened up after her, sat beside her. She hoped she’d get a chance to know him a little better, now that they were alone.

Unlike Chris S., Chris P. was quiet, more reserved. His warm smile could melt ice. They’d spoken a bit about his life in Australia and how he met the other Chris when they were on Diego Garcia, a tiny atoll in the Pacific. It was there he garnered a better perspective on life, friendships and love. She reasoned that war tended to do that to a person.

She looked at him again, admiring what she saw. He was gorgeous. If only she were a femme fatale like her friends. She pictured grabbing him by the scruff of his collar and planting a long seductive kiss on his pouty lips. Anything to ease the tension between her legs and the moisture dripping from her swollen pussy.

Golden and sun-kissed like a surfer, he had a look impossible to have around this time of year in Michigan, unless he spent countless hours in a tanning booth. But at the same time he didn’t look like the type who’d go to one. He seemed too rugged. She glanced at his short, flaxen hair, which he wore pulled back in a stubby tail. It accentuated his keen facial features. His physique, like that of a gladiator, made her want to whimper. Built like a brick wall without being too thick, he was three words—supple, etched, steel. And his Australian accent added to his raw sexiness.

Whereas Chris S. was the perfect picture type of the all-American, boy-next-door type, with light brown hair and sandy-colored tips and eyes so blue they looked like the color of tropical water. He reminded her of the high school captain of the football team who’d gone into the military and become a man, except he had a sensitive edge that permeated his being. While Chris P., who looked like he could take on a few guys at once, was more lighthearted and outgoing.

Either way, she knew she hit the jackpot because both guys were like something out of a magazine called Hot Guys “R” Us. They were a perfect ten. It was best Christmas gift anyone could have ever given her. She hoped a Chris Sandwich was definitely on the menu for the night. But how to get past the talking stage, she had no clue. She wondered if all of her Love Play’s match ups started like this.

Wearing some leggings and a cami, and he a T-shirt and shorts, she suddenly felt overdressed. The art of seduction was not something they taught in any of the schools she’d attended, and she sure as hell never picked up any pointers from her so-called “friends.” And her exes never gave her any encouragement in that department either.

This date should have come with instructions. I think I’m in trouble.

She let out a long sigh.

“Did you say something?” Chris P. asked, stirring from his long silence.

“I was just thinking how beautiful this place is,” she lied. What? How lame is that?

“It is. I’ve never been to a place quite like this.”

“Love Play has quite a reputation.”

“You’ve used it before?” He perked up, facing her.

Heat burned her cheeks. “No. It’s what I heard from some of their clients.”

“So have you been married?” he asked.


“Neither have I. Never found anyone to get serious with,” he said, shrugging. “I don’t know. Maybe cupid’s arrow doesn’t work on me.”

“For me they’re defective. Or maybe his aim is bad,” she said, trying to suppress the memory of her ex-boyfriend.

“What do you mean?”

“My relationships, they never work out.” She shrugged her shoulders. “For whatever reason, they seem to choose my friends over me. Or it ends up that way once we get together.”

He shook his head. “Nah. They were bad blokes from the start. Believe me. I know. I’ve been around those types my entire life. The randier they are, the worse they will be. If a man wants you, he’ll stay.” His tone was soft, almost vulnerable.


“So tell me,” he said, turning to face her, “you ordered this hook up?”

Again, her face flushed. She imagined it turning its characteristic red when the blood rushed to her cheeks.

“Yes. But according to the guidelines, you would have either had to be open to it or requested it too. Right?”

He chuckled. “I see he also got the smart I asked for. Yes, I am open to a ménage.” His expression became serious. “Do you think me odd?”

“No. I’m glad we share that desire.”


Chris S. slipped her undies over her round hips. They slid down her baby-like skin, exposing her shaved mound. More blood flowed to his dick, making whimper.

“God,” he said, fighting tears.

Through gritted his teeth and clenched his eyes, he forced himself to maintain control. It was getting to be damn near impossible. Everything about her was fucking outstanding. Lips, breasts, skin and pussy. He was ready to fill her pussy with his thick, hard dick.

He slid his finger into the folds of her wet interior. The thin crease surrounded by supple labia oozed moisture from her tight and tiny hole. He slid a finger inside her hole, and her taut muscles quivered at his touch.

“You want it?” he asked.

She moaned “yes” before being silenced by the other Chris’s mouth. He inched her legs apart. Moving in just right, he tasted her. Explosions went off in his brain. She was pure, simple, clean and honeyed. He wanted to mark her as his own. Delving his tongue in and out of her tight hole, he held her still, allowing her juices to saturate his mouth.

Lifting her legs, he opened her wider, curling her upward, burying his face in her mound. His breaths increased as his heart rate grew frantic. His hard dick, standing at full scale attention, threatened to bust a nut if he didn’t stop.

Pulling away, he set her down gently. “Got to go get a condom.”

The other Chris looked up, his eyes equally as dazed as he felt.

She swallowed, seeming breathless. “My bag, by the wall.”

The time for being cool had passed. Quicker than he’d wanted and less suave, he dashed toward it, finally seeing the stash. Grabbing the entire lot, along with a bottle of lubricating gel, he opened the box and pulled out two, handing one to Chris and keeping the other for himself. Setting it aside, he removed his shorts, exposing his aching dick to the room’s cool air. He grimaced as he slid the latex over his shaft. It hurt with a pain that would only be relieved by what Jilly had to offer. He squeezed the gel, which had the scent of strawberries, onto his palm. He fisted his hand and soaked his condom-wrapped rod with the smooth, thick liquid. The mere pressure of his hand gave him some relief, albeit short.

“Me first,” he said, climbing onto the bed.

Calming himself, he lay down beside her and turned her on her side. Wrapping his arms around her, he pulled her close. He spread her legs apart as she tilted her pelvis back. She melded her body to his. There was so much of her he wanted, not only her body, but her soul, mind, and yes, even her heart.

He took a hand and placed himself at her entrance. Slowly he pushed inside. He grunted and made himself hold back, lest he spill at that moment.

She was so tight. No doubt about it. This was going to be a short run. Inch by inch, he slid inside of her, stopping at the root. His balls drew in tight. He shifted her close and moved in and out slowly. Each movement became stronger as his control slipped. He needed the release, the kind that would give his aching balls sweet relief. Back and forth his hips moved inside her. She wriggled and moaned in response. Their mouths met briefly, tongues swirling, causing his stomach and heart to flutter. He increased his thrusts. Finding his target, she keened her delight.

“Yes,” she moaned. “Don’t stop.”

She pushed her ass toward him.

“Baby, I’m going to come.”

“Come, honey. Come.”

He grunted, harder and harder. Sliding his hand down to her hard clit, he rubbed it as his panting increased. Pressure built up behind his eyes, his mind went blank as everything in the world seemed to fall away. He couldn’t stop. Harder and harder he pushed, holding her firm and tight.

With light speed, he cried out, “God!” His hips bucked upward while cum poured out of him.

Slightly dizzy, he held onto her before letting her go. “Are you all right?”

Her kiss eased the butterflies threatening to kill the moment. Sliding out of her, he sighed, relieved. He gazed into her eyes. Instantly he felt the completed connection he’d sensed along. She was the one. And he saw that she felt it too.

 * * * *

Jilly recovered her breath as Chris P. gathered her up into his arms. His musky scent was so spicy and inviting. She buried her face in the crook between his shoulder and neck. She was ready.

“On your back,” he said, holding her.

She nodded.

“Tell me if I’m hurting you,” he said, whispering in her ear.

From her tall Adonis, she was ready to receive all he gave her. Trust welled up within her heart. She knew he wouldn’t hurt her.

Placing her on back like she weighed nothing but a feather, he positioned himself on top of her. A lock of his blond hair obscured his face. She opened her legs. She felt his solid, round tip prod her hole. Panting, he pushed inside of her, his raw strength causing her pussy to clench. Each muscle spasmed to accommodate his thick and meaty cock. She cried out along with him. He braced himself.


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Author Bio

Clare Dargin is an author of Science Fiction and Romance and has been writing stories all of her life before being published in 2007. She’s a great fan of the two genres and loves promoting them.

An educator by profession, she possesses a Bachelor’s Degree in English from a major mid-western university. She presently resides in the Midwest and she hopes to expand her writings to include non-fiction, historical romance, and contemporary novels.

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Friday, January 23, 2015

Easy Super Bowl Recipe- Magic Cookie Bars!

So now that the holidays are over, it's time to focus on more important things-- like the Super Bowl! ;)  

No matter who you are rooting for the most important part is the food oh and the commercials. Well we know there will be some staples like buffalo wings etc, here are is one more item to add to your table: 

Magic Cookie Bars!

These are also known as seven-layer or Hello Dolly bars. They take 30 minutes of hands-on prep and call for just eight ingredients, making them the perfect dessert for taking, well, just about anywhere!


1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs (about 9 cookie sheets)
2 tablespoons butter, melted 
1 tablespoon water 
1/3 cup semisweet chocolate chips 
1/3 cup butterscotch morsels
2/3 cup flaked sweetened coconut 
1/4 cup chopped pecans, toasted
1 (15-ounce) can fat-free sweetened condensed milk 


1. Preheat oven to 350°. Line bottom and sides of an 8-inch square metal baking pan with parchment paper; cut off excess parchment paper around top edge of pan.

2. Place crumbs in a medium bowl. Drizzle with butter and 1 tablespoon water; toss with a fork until moist. Gently pat mixture into an even layer in prepared pan (do not press firmly). Sprinkle chips and morsels over crumb mixture. Top evenly with coconut and pecans. Drizzle milk evenly over top. Bake at 350° for 25 minutes or until lightly browned and bubbly around edges. Cool completely in pan on a wire rack.

Baking 101 Tip 

The bars can create a sticky mess in the pan, so it's crucial to line it with parchment paper. Because the milk needs to seep into the graham cracker crumbs, don't pack the crumbs too tightly in the bottom of the pan.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Muffins and Mistletoe by Deborah Dennis

Welcome to Starlight Hills! Mountain views, small town charm, and one little bake shop, where romance is always on the menu. 


Christmas is the best time of year to be in love in Starlight Hills. Cold nights perfect for snuggling, plenty of mistletoe to be caught kissing under, and an abundance of gingerbread muffins for sharing beneath the stars. But when Corinne Mackenzie turns down a proposal from the man she loves at the Thanksgiving table, it could be the worst time of year instead. 

Convinced the only way to fix the biggest mistake of her life is to enlist the help of the town's resident matchmaker, she's got a plan to make this the best Christmas ever. 

After his proposal is rejected in front of family and friends, Jimmy Crane knows his only chance of surviving the holiday is to avoid the woman who stomped on his heart. The only obstacle to his plan is his matchmaking mother and Corinne's knack for getting him under the mistletoe.


Corinne stood under the fresh pine roping that hung from the arched entrance to the main hall and took a deep, lung-filling breath. Fragrant real trees stood tall at each side of the arch, glittering with tinsel, white lights and red glass ornaments. She pulled off her gloves with a relieved sigh, letting the scents of Christmas surround her. She was determined not to give in to her personal despair and allow it to squelch a festive holiday mood. After all, she had a plan.

Mrs. Crane's blue eyes danced with merriment as she held out the signature yellow bag and gave it a shake. "Good morning, Corinne. Fresh from the oven—I know how you love them warm."

"You do know my weakness, Mrs. Crane." Corinne tried not to let her mind race ahead and think what a wonderful mother-in-law Bitty Crane would be. Then Corinne thought about her waistline and decided she might be better off without the permanent supply of the woman's irresistible carbs.

It was hard enough walking by the Itty Bitty Bake Shop every day on her way to work with the tantalizing smells of muffins wafting through the air—having it in the family would be way too tempting.

On the other hand, maybe it was all those carbs that gave Bitty her boundless energy. Always bobbing here and there, dark brown curls framing her cherubic face, her cornflower blue eyes filled with mischief and love. There were no frown lines on her sixty-year-old face, only laugh lines that reached up to her eyes when she winked.

Everyone agreed the annual Preservation Society Holiday Gala would never be the most talked-about event of the season if it weren't for Bitty Crane and her exuberant dedication.

Corinne looked away from the woman whose eyes reminded her so much of Jimmy's. While Jimmy had inherited his six-foot-one height from his father, there was no doubt those dancing, all-seeing, soul-searching eyes came from his mother.

She let Bitty take her by the elbow and lead her into the ballroom. "There's been a slight change in setup plans and so much to do before the gala tomorrow night."

"That's why I'm here," Corinne said with a sigh, trying not to smile as her little white lie slipped easily past her lips. She popped a bite-sized morsel of gingerbread heaven into her mouth while she followed Bitty to the stage. It was difficult to keep her mind off Jimmy when she was so close to his mother, and her mind raced in search of a way to get her to intervene.

Surely his mother had the power to make him listen, didn't she?

Corinne pulled another piece of muffin from the bag while Bitty pointed to her left. "The rest of the ladies will be here any minute, but why don't you get started moving these tables off to the side to make room for the—oh, good, Jimmy, you're here!"

Corinne turned her head so quickly it felt like her neck snapped.

She blinked and he was there, every tall, dark and sexy inch of him, and all she could do was stare. Her inability to speak was thankfully masked by her mouth being stuffed with gingerbread.

Though this was exactly the scenario she'd hoped for, she was grateful her mouth was full of muffin since she couldn't find the right words anyway. It wasn't every day one groveled for forgiveness.


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Monday, January 19, 2015

Gargoyle's Embrace by Lisa Carlisle

Fifth in the Underground Encounters series.


Tracy isn’t sure why she’s drawn to a particular gargoyle statue in the Goth club where she works. After the stone takes human form to protect her from her abusive ex, she brings the handsome, naked male to her apartment. It’s impossible to ignore the seductive appeal of a man sculpted like a Viking warrior.

Danton has only hours in human form to spend with the woman he has hungered for. He’s convinced what’s between them is more than hot sex, but he needs to convince Tracy of that before he turns back to stone.


Tracy brushed her fingers over the smooth stone of the gargoyle perched at the end of the bar of the Vamps nightclub.

“I’m stuck with the late shift tonight,” she said. “But at least I took in some good money.”

She stood over the crouched gargoyle and ran her hand over the smooth area between its two horns, down the back of its head and over its hunched back where its two wings connected. “Thanks for always listening,” she said, aware of how foolish she sounded speaking to a statue. If anyone saw her, they’d think she was stone-cold crazy. She bent to kiss its smooth, chiseled stone cheek in gratitude.

Over the last few months, Tracy had begun talking to the stone gargoyle as if it were a companion whenever she had a few moments alone in the bar. Why she gravitated toward this one gargoyle while several others were perched around the club, she didn’t know. She found something compelling about it, drawing her in, and she often confided her secrets to it.

Tracy rested her hand on the gargoyle’s shoulder while she scanned the club. Bottles and cups were scattered in every dark corner and under the other perched gargoyles. The scent of sweat and spilled beer still permeated the club.


Was it one of the guys out back? The guys she worked with were bringing out the trash and the bottles for recycling. The other bartenders had already settled up and left for the night. They rotated who could leave first and who had to stay to make sure they were stocked for the next night.

No, they knew better than to call her Trace.

“It’s Tracy,” she said, turning to face the intruder.

And stared into the face of her ex.

“What are you doing here, Brian?” The muscles in her body tensed as she gauged the distance between her and the pepper spray behind the bar should she need it.

She thought she felt a tiny movement under her hand.

No, she had to be losing her mind. As if stone could move.

She kept her hand on the stone like a security blanket, almost gripping it now that Brian had appeared.

“I came to see what you were doing tonight. Thought maybe we could hang out.” The way he slurred the words indicated he’d already had one too many, a bad sign.

“Definitely not. The restraining order should make that clear.”

“Babe, I was in a rough place and I took it out on you. Let’s put the past behind us and try again.”

The cold stone felt warmer beneath her hand. How strange. Was she so heated from the tension of Brian arriving that her palm could warm cool stone?

“No, Brian. I’ve given you too many chances and each time it ended worse than the time before.”

“Babe.” He approached her. “I would never hurt you again.”

“Don’t come any closer.” She moved away from the gargoyle to get to her purse behind the bar.

“Trace, you’re soooo dramatic.” He moved behind the bar.

Tracy was distracted by the gargoyle statue behind him. It was changing color, from gray stone to what appeared to be—flesh.

“Come on, we were good together. Don’t you miss the sex?”

The stone wings of the gargoyle statue unfurled into enormous sleek, black, feathered ones. The gargoyle reshaped itself, rising from a crouched position to stand on two legs to a full height well over six feet.

And its head. The horns sank back into the stone while light-blond hair sprouted to take their place, growing past its broad shoulders. Within a few seconds, the grotesque stone creature she found lovable had transformed into a breathtaking male with flawless bronze skin, long blond hair and the magnificent physique of a Viking warrior. Who stood before them stark naked.

“Holy shit!” she exclaimed, eyes widening.

“I know, babe. The sex was awesome.”

She fumbled for her purse, searching for the damn spray. She wasn’t even sure who she was going to direct it at now with two threats facing her.

It was too late. Brian had grabbed her wrists and tried to kiss her.

“Get off me!”

She attempted to knee him in his testicles, but he deflected the blow by turning his body to the side.

Enormous black wings surrounded Brian and a second later he was lifted off the ground. Brian exclaimed, “What the―” which was cut off as he was thrown over the bar onto the empty dance floor.

He scrambled to his feet on unsteady legs. The gargoyle stepped over to him in a few massive strides. While Tracy’s gaze paused on his sculpted buttocks, the gargoyle raised one of his sinewy legs and kicked Brian in the gut. Brian groaned and clutched his stomach. The gargoyle lifted a foot over Brian’s head.

Tracy screamed while Brian shielded his face with his forearm to brace against the gargoyle stomping on his head.


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Saturday, January 17, 2015

Don't Call Me Iron Man by N. D. Wylders. A Beyond Fairytales Novella.


Once upon a time...there was this guy. A man who had an IQ out of this world and was arrogant enough to give the legendary Tony Stark a run for his money. He had everything he could ever want—a good job, more money than he knew what to do with, and all the sex he wanted—no strings attached. But that all changed on one fateful night...

The last thing Ivan Chugunov expects when he drop by his favorite haunt for a few brews is to be entertained by a mysterious storyteller. But as he listens to the man's tale of a prince and an oddity that went by the name of Iron John, he finds himself lost in the story...only to awaken in another realm—one with a quest—for him. Repair the purifier vital to all those who lived and retrieve a medical unit. Seems simple enough and a small price to pay to return to his own time.

Well, until he finds out that said 'LT-1789 unit' is actually a reclusive cybernetic man. One who will demand his own price of Ivan—three nights of unbridled sexual bliss...with Ivan at his mercy. Only then will he return to the royal clutch.

Can Ivan, a man who relishes control above all else, submit to a man who may be more machine than human?


Ivan rolled onto his back, his limbs sprawled in a way so reminiscent of Vihaan, Lucero wasn’t sure if he wanted to cry or jump the man. “After losing your lover, there’s probably nothing I could offer to convince you to return to the royal clutch, is there?”

Lucero astonished himself when the words flew out of his mouth. “I want the tribus noctibus. Give me three nights of pleasure, and I will return with you.”

Ivan frowned and pushed up on one arm. “What do you mean three nights of pleasure? You’re demanding I sleep with you, in exchange for something you’ve done before?”

He gave a hoarse chuckle. “No, you’re asking me to return to a life of watching those around me die, of being under the thumb of a queen who cares more for land than those who live on it. Well, I won’t go back to that kind of hell without being compensated.”

“And forcing me to have sex with you is your way of being paid? How do you even know I’m into men?”

Lucero continued to rock but met Ivan’s gaze. “I’d never force you to do anything you didn’t want, Ivan. I’m designed to take care of others. The same thing telling me you’re approximately two-hundred-and-sixty-five pounds and six-foot-five assures me you are more than just attracted to me. When I get close, your heart rate accelerates, your breathing becomes faster, and your blood pools in your groin.”

Ivan sat up with a surge of powerful muscles, his face red. “You scanned me?”

“In a fashion. The same sensors allowing me to diagnose illness pick up things like elevated heartbeat and heavy breathing.” Lucero crossed his arms over his chest. “So it’s simple. You find me attractive, and I’ve been alone a long time. You need me to go back to the clutch, and I find myself yearning for what I’ve been so long without—a lover. Agree to this, and I’ll return to the clutch with you at the end of the three days.”


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Thursday, January 15, 2015

Midwinter Night's Dream by Whitley Gray



Two years ago, Joe Blake lost his secret lover, firefighter Bryce Marshall. Grieving, Joe left his job as a fireman and paramedic to become the spokes model for undergarment company Escalade. 

They lured him into the limelight and drove him deeper into the closet. Modeling doesn't provide fulfillment; Joe wants privacy and to feel useful again. A holiday at his mountain cabin outside Denver is the perfect escape. The last thing he anticipated, or wanted, was sharing his retreat with another man.


Joe squinted into the whirling flakes. A bad night to be out driving. He’d passed half a dozen cars off the highway before he’d gotten to the rural route that led to the cabin. Pine trees formed a dark wall beyond the road when the snow let up long enough to see. The windshield wipers could barely keep up, and with the drifting, the Jeep might get high centered. And that would be a disaster. At least he had enough food and supplies to last ten days if he got stuck inside the vehicle. It’d be unpleasant—not to mention a hell of a way to spend Christmas—but he’d survive. 

The headlights caught on the reflector post marking the drive, and Joe downshifted. Something was glowing by the side of the road, next to a clump of bushes. Not normal. There were no lights without generator power, and the only generator for miles was his. In any case, no one had ever installed a lamp down there. What would be the point? 

The Jeep rolled to a stop. Joe hoped to hell he didn’t get stuck. He yanked on a heavy watch cap and opened the door. Icy air intruded, filling the Jeep with winter, and he hopped down and slammed the door. The wind whistled through the trees and pushed the snow on the ground. It’d take a couple of seconds to check this out. He waded around the front of the Jeep through the snow. The headlights shone on the oddity, and the hair on his neck stood at attention. A flashlight, half-buried in snow. Next to the light was a black lace-up boot. 

Aw, fuck. Not on Christmas. Why are you out here? 

Joe knelt next to the figure partially covered in snow and began to dig. A pant leg, then the edge of an army jacket. A hand in a thin rag wool glove. And finally, a face. A young face, motionless, ice crusted over the eyes, nose, and mouth. The guy looked…dead. Joe closed his eyes. Golden hair sticking out of a fire helmet, and soot. 

My God… 

Stop. He opened his eyes and ran his gloved fingertips along the man’s cheek. A knit cap. Ice, not soot. The pale face in front of him was a stranger’s. It’s the holiday, the location preying on you. Shake it off. 

Joe shoved his hand down the man’s collar and found a slow and weak carotid pulse. The skin was warmer beneath the clothing. Letting out a steaming breath, Joe sat back on his heels. Not dead, thank God, but unconscious, hypothermic, and possibly frostbitten. 


Instinct kicked in. He had the knowledge and skills to save this guy. The snow pummeled him as Joe began scooping the drift off the man. It took a couple of minutes to free the motionless victim from the grip of the blizzard. Joe squatted and threw the man over his shoulder in a fireman’s carry. The guy couldn’t have gone over one hundred sixty pounds, and lay limp and lifeless. Joe headed for the Jeep, the snow squeaking beneath his boots. 

Fighting the wind, Joe opened the back door of the Cherokee, settled the ice man supine on the bench seat, and buckled him in. With the Jeep in gear, Joe headed up the drive. Monstrous drifts threatened to block the way, and he maneuvered around them, avoiding the rough on the sides of the road. If the storm kept up, he’d be snowed in by midnight. Snowed in and not alone. 

Merry Christmas and welcome home. 

* * * * 

Heat surrounded Errol’s body. The surface beneath him was soft, and he couldn’t perceive any light through his eyelids. His hands and feet hurt. He was exhausted and achy. Couldn’t open his eyes. A little more rest… 

Something ticked out a muted rhythm, and every click made his head throb. During his nap someone had taken a ball-peen hammer to his head, and his tongue had become glued to the roof of his mouth. Felt like the hangover from hell. 

Water. Water would be good. A hint of wood smoke filled Errol’s nose, mixed with a spicier smell—evergreen and clove, like Christmas. He must be dreaming. 

The featherweight web of sleep persisted, and he rubbed at his eyes and opened them a crack. Wait a minute. Where was he? 

Well, first of all, warm and cozy in an enormous bed. Not his; not by a long shot. The thing was heaped with sleeping bags and quilts, making the covers weighty. He squinted and peeked under the covers. Naked. The ache behind his eyes intensified as he absorbed his lack of clothing. Yikes. 

A dozen feet away, there was a fireplace made of river rock, flanked by bookcases. Banked embers glowed in the hearth, outlining walls made of logs in faint rosy light. A clock ticked on the mantel, the source of the tapping irritating his ears. A sweep of muted plaid framed the dark windows, and snow hissed against the panes, seeking entry. Okay, naked, in an unfamiliar bed, in an unfamiliar place. What the— 

Something rustled next to him, and he rolled over. A tuft of dark curls stuck up from the covers. Nothing else of his bedmate showed. Holy shit, make that naked next to an unfamiliar body. 

Oh, no. No, no, no. He couldn’t remember doing the sing-o-gram, but maybe he’d had a holiday drink and ended up sleeping with someone at the client’s house? Judging by the way his head felt, he had the mother of all hangovers, and if alcohol had been involved, who knew? Man, he’d be in such deep shit. Pour Vous had a strict no-sex-with-the-clients policy. If he’d broken the rules, Smitty would roast his chestnuts over an open fire and cut him loose. Without a job, he’d be out on the street in a week. He shivered. 

Smitty didn’t have to know. 

With a deep sigh, the bedmate rolled over, one arm pushing the covers down to the waist. Errol’s eyes widened. Whoops. Naked, muscular, and male. Dark curly hair, a shadow of beard covering his jaw, and a face like a model. Errol had never really understood the meaning of chiseled features before now, but this met the definition. Yowza. 

Wait a minute. Smitty had said the telegram recipient was a blond woman. This was very definitely not her. So who the hell was this guy? Had Errol slept with him? Like wild-monkey-sex slept with him? 

This had to be some crazy dream. Must be that convenience-store burrito he’d eaten for lunch. Guys like Errol didn’t wake up with guys like this. Errol pinched himself and blinked. The guy was still there. 

Errol covered his face with his hands and rubbed his eyes. Opened them. Still there. Must be real. What in the hell was going on? Where was he? What had happened? 

A job, out in the sticks. Snowing. Dark. Cold, very cold. No, not snowing, blizzarding—could blizzard be a verb?—and he’d walked away from the Volvo, into the snow, fifty paces. Sixty? At some point, he’d lost count. Walking had tired him out, and he’d stopped to rest. 

And that was where the recollection ended: stopping to rest. And now waking up God knew where, to this. 

A gust blew down the chimney, fanning the embers to life, and the guy stretched. Errol inched away toward the edge of the mattress. Mountain of a Man yawned, rolled his head on the pillow, and lifted his lids. In the low light, his eyes were as dark as his hair. Lifting up on one elbow, he flashed a boyish smile. “You’re awake.” 

He looked awfully happy about that. Did he expect something? Errol swallowed and clutched the covers to his nakedness. “Who are you, and where are my clothes?” 

The stranger’s smile faded. “I’m Joe. Your clothes are drying.” 

“What happened?” 

“I dug you out of a snow bank last night. Almost hit you with my Jeep. You were freezing…unconscious, slow heart rate. Hypothermia. So when I got you home”—he waved at the room—“I stripped off your wet clothes and put you in bed. I got in with you to warm you up skin to skin. It was the best way under the circumstances.” 

Errol froze. Skin to skin with a naked man. Uh-oh. A setup for potential disaster. 

Joe narrowed his eyes. “You okay?” 

Heart in his throat, Errol managed a bob of the head. Hopefully his dick had been hypothermic and unconscious too. 

“Hang on a minute.” The guy rolled away and got out of the other side of the bed, facing away. Firelight played along his muscles. All of him was magnificent curves and planes: shoulders, back, butt, legs. A couple of inches over six feet tall. Sexy as hell, like a magazine ad come to life. 

Joe headed for a door in the corner, pushed it open, and disappeared into another room. Errol glimpsed the edge of a claw-foot tub. 

“Wait—how long have I been here?” 

“About seven hours. It’s four a.m. on December twenty-third.” Joe emerged wearing a robe tied at the waist and tossed a flannel shirt on the bed next to Errol. “You can wear that for now. Ought to keep you warm. You should stay in bed.” 

“I’m awake now.” Staying beneath the covers, Errol shoved his arms through the sleeves of the shirt and did up the buttons. The tails would cover everything important. 

“And that’s great. I’m really glad to see you awake, but you need to stay warm.” Joe stood next to the opposite side of the bed, not moving. 

Errol cleared his throat. Gran would frown at him for his lack of manners. “Thanks, Joe, for”— cuddling naked—“warming me up. I’m Errol.” 

“Yep, I know.” Joe grinned. “Errol—like the actor Errol Flynn.” 

Here we go. That’s what came of having a mother with a twisted sense of humor. The fancy name his mother had saddled him with had done nothing for his fledgling acting career, that was for damn sure. Laughs and funny looks were the extent of it. “How do you know my name?” 

“Your driver’s license. Needed to see who I was taking care of. Errol Lockhart, age twenty-six. Five feet ten inches, 160 pounds, blond hair, blue eyes. Organ donor.” Joe shoved his hands in the pockets of his robe. “Your hair’s longer now, but I was sure it was you.” 

Hyperaware, Errol ran a hand over his head. Hairstyling hadn’t survived his personal budget cuts, and it had gotten shaggy. His fingers had a vague burning to them. Holding his hands out, he studied them. Holy cow, they were red. 

“Can I check your hands and feet?” Joe asked. 

Errol balled his fists against his chest. “Why?” 

“You have a touch of frostbite.” Joe ambled over to the couch and chairs by the fireplace. The furniture had the same chubby-nubby look of the stuff Errol’s gran had favored, old and comfortable. A rolled-up rug rested against one wall, unused, leaving the wood floor bare except for dust. 

Joe squatted and rummaged in a big duffel bag with some sort of insignia, gathered a few items before returning to Errol and laying them on the bed. 

Antibacterial wipes, a jar of hydrating ointment, and a thermometer. Was this guy a nurse or something? Who carried that kind of stuff with them? 

“Open wide.” Joe held up the thermometer. “Need to see if you’re warmed up.” 

Errol opened his mouth, and Joe popped the thermometer in. 

“Hold out your hands.” 

Meeting his gaze, Errol complied. Deftly Joe applied the cream, long fingers calloused but kind, running over Errol’s hands. No wedding ring. It had been a while since someone had touched him with kindness, and it felt good, even if it was somewhat clinical. Errol’s toes were next, and Joe squatted as he looked them over. 

“A good thing you were wearing boots out there.” Joe stood and cleaned his hands with a wipe. “Your feet look better than your hands. I’ll take the thermometer.” 

Errol slid it out of his mouth and handed it over. What would Joe propose if Errol’s temp wasn’t normal? More naked cuddling? Because now that he was awake, two hundred pounds of hunky man wrapped around him might awaken other parts of Errol’s anatomy, and that could get embarrassing. 

Or it might piss Joe off, and then what would happen? Errol shivered. 

He won’t kick you out. Joe pulled you out of a snow bank, for God’s sake. He rescued you. 

Joe squinted at the numbers and frowned. “Still a bit cold. We need to get some warm fluids in you.” 

Joe headed to an L-shaped kitchen in the far corner. The stove was like something out of the last century—four-legged, black cast iron, and chrome accents. It had round lids instead of burners, and a white enamel backsplash with two small doors above. Joe lifted a section of the cooking surface, dropped in some sticks of kindling, and lit them with a match. He filled a teakettle with bottled water and set the pot on the stovetop. 


Opposite the kitchen was the fireplace with a couch and chairs, and beyond that a door—presumably the front door, but who knew? The whole place couldn’t be bigger than twenty by twenty. This was pretty much a one-room cabin with a bathroom. 

Errol rubbed at his eyes, trying to get with the program. “Where are my clothes?” 

“By the fire.” Joe nodded toward a chair next to the hearth and smiled. “Do you always wear a metallic gold thong?” 

Heat rushed into Errol’s face. “I was on my way to a job.” 

Joe shook his head and opened a cupboard. “Must be some job.” 

Errol looked away. “It’s not what it looks like. I’m not a rent boy or a strip-naked stripper or anything like that. I do—did—singing telegrams.” For some reason, he felt the need to make sure Joe didn’t get the wrong impression. 

“They made you go out in a blizzard?” 

Images flashed of the Volvo rolling to a halt, and the interior cooling as snow gradually covered the windshield with a dull blanket. “No. I volunteered for the job, but on the way there Bessie broke down.” 

Eyebrows raised, Joe took a couple of mugs from a cabinet and set them on the counter. “Who’s Bessie?” 

“My car. I waited for a while, but there was no traffic. I decided to hoof it. I got cold and tired and stopped to rest. And now, I’m here. Wherever here is.” 

“My cabin. I think you must’ve taken a wrong turn on your way to sing your telegram last night, because there’s no one in this neck of the woods.” 

“Exactly how far from civilization are we?” 

“This time of year, the closest human civilization is twenty-eight miles. It’s mostly vacation homes in this area.” 

Errol’s gut tightened. “Do you think you can take me to my car?” 

Joe snorted. “Have you looked outside? It’s a blizzard, my friend. A good old-fashioned six-foot-drifts, downed-lines, can’t-leave-the-house blizzard.” 

“I can’t stay here.” I don’t know you. 

“You don’t really have a choice at this point.” 

Maybe he could call for a ride. The highway patrol or a snowplow or something. “Do you have cell service?” 


Nope? Where the hell was this place? “Internet?” 

Leaning against the counter, Joe lowered his chin and gave Errol a you’ve-got-to-be-kidding-me look before turning back to the stove. 

Errol swung his legs out of bed and tugged the shirttails down. His feet hit the floor. His toes were sore, but the floor was unexpectedly warm. 

The teapot whistled. Joe took a box of teabags from an open shelf, draped a teabag in each mug, and filled them with steaming water. “Sugar or milk?” 

“Sugar, I guess.” 

Joe shoveled a quantity into each mug and stirred. He carried the mugs over, offered one to Errol, and sat down next to him on the bed. Joe smelled faintly of wood smoke and pine. Errol blew on the tea and took a sip. Hot, strong, and sweet, just the way he liked it. 

“Do you live out here full-time?” Errol asked. 

“Nope. I…don’t live in this area.” 

“So, is this a summer home or something?” 

“Pretty rustic for a summer home, don’t you think?” Joe said it with a wry look and a crooked grin. 

“Hunting lodge?” No twenty-point buck mounted over the fireplace, but hey, not everyone went for the dead-deer look, right? In fact, the wall above the mantel was blank. Framed pictures graced the mantel, along with what looked like a collection of vintage toy fire engines. As a kid, Errol had had a modern version of a pumper truck, back when he’d wanted to be a fireman. Back before the acting bug bit. 

Joe said, “My great-grandfather built the cabin, mostly as a place to stay when he went fishing up here. In the spring, the lake is full of trout.” 

“There’s a lake?” The directions he’d been given hadn’t had a lake. 

“Yeah. Are you a fisherman?” 

The thought of stringing a squirming worm on a hook, followed by catching a slimy fish…and cleaning it? Fish guts—blech. Errol shuddered, and Joe laughed. 

“I’ll take that as a no. Anyway, the place passed to my Gramps and then my dad. And now me.” 

“Are you expecting company for the holiday?” 

“No.” Joe swirled his mug and stared into its depths, frowning. His hands were large and well formed. They looked strong. “No company.” 

Wrong question. Errol shifted on the bed, uncomfortable, sitting there with a stranger while wearing only a flannel shirt. Errol lifted the cup to his lips and downed the rest of the tea. Heat and the heaviness of fatigue spread from his chest out to his fingers and toes 

“Hungry?” Joe asked. 

“Not now.” He felt like he’d hiked for days, and a yawn got loose. “Tired.” 

“Okay.” Joe stood and took Errol’s cup. “Get some rest.” 

“Are you going to…warm me up?” Heat filled his face. God, that sounded bad. Errol slid under the covers. 

Joe gave that crooked smile. “I think you’re good on your own now.” 

“Okay.” He hadn’t been good on his own for months. Clamping his eyes shut, Errol dragged the covers up to his nose. He heard Joe sigh and pad away. 


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Whitley Gray