He stood in the doorway of the Bakery’s kitchen, belt dangling from his hand, watching his mate of forty years bustle about preparing refreshments for the library shindig about later that evening. As always, the sight of her had his heart doing that funny leap in his chest, his cock echoing the movement behind the zipper of his jeans. After all this time, it still only took a look, a whiff of his female’s scent to have him hard as a cactus spike.
Along with his surging lust came a powerful burst of love and he knew if prairie dogs didn’t mate for life, he’d still never let this woman go. He’d die without her. However, that didn’t mean he was blind to her faults.
His Reba was an incorrigible busybody, continually putting her finger in other folk’s pies. He understood her interfering tendencies were part of her caring nature and that would have been fine as long as she contained her meddling within the family.
He wasn’t mad at her. Edison’s smile was full of masculine anticipation. The punishment of her infraction was going to be intensely pleasurable for both of them.
This post is part of a virtual book tour organized by Goddess Fish Promotions. Megan Slayer will award a prize pack featuring a bracelet and necklace made by the author. Click on the tour banner to see the other stops on the tour.
Can a high school romance that never happened have a second life in a small town?
Tracey Baker got out of Blakes Creek to find her purpose in life. She found it in the theatre scene in New York, but after ten years, she’s ready for a change. Working for the community theatre in her hometown is just what she needs—until she sees Ryan Greene.
Ryan Greene crushed on Tracey Baker in school, but he never thought she’d come back to Blakes Creek. When he sees her at the theatre, he’s determined to win her heart. His daughter Maisey is just as determined. She likes Tracey and sets out to prove her dad is Tracey’s Prince Charming.
Love might conquer all, but with the eyes and ears of the town focused on their relationship, Ryan and Tracey will have to prove they can set the stage alight together.
Read an Excerpt
“Ryan?” Tracey held a clipboard and one of the glittery chorus girl dresses. “Do you have a second?”
“I do.” He’d rather run. “How are you?”
“I’m good. Busy. You seem busy, too.” She smiled. “You’re doing well with the sets. I can’t wait to see them in action.”
“Thanks.” Was he blushing? The tips of his ears burned. “The costumes looked good. I haven’t seen them all, but I bet they’re great.”
“Oh, they’re not done yet. I still have to get everyone fitted properly and figure out where to add more glitz like Derek wants.” She fiddled with the garment in her hands. “I wanted to talk to you about Maisey.”
“What did she do?” He steeled himself for her answer. Maisey could tell tales and made things seem worse than reality. She craved attention, too.
“It’s not anything she did.” Tracey left the stage and strode out to the audience. “Here. This is less invasive. No, it’s what happened.”
“What happened? Did she try to set us up? She thinks I need another wife.” Shit. He shouldn’t have said that. “Sorry.”
Tracey paled. “Another? How many have you had?”
“One. Carol. It didn’t work out.” He shook his head. “Honestly, I’m not looking to date anyone.” He could be convinced if the right woman asked him on a date—like Tracey.
“Uh…she didn’t say anything about a date or a wife.” Tracey fumbled with the dress and perched on one of the seatbacks. “No, she was wearing another girl’s costume because the other girl wanted Maisey to be able to dance in the performance.”
He wobbled onto the seatback one aisle behind hers. “Come again? Maisey did what?”
“Maisey wants to dance, and she’s in the class showing she can do it. One of the girls, a friend, gave her the wrong costume—the friend’s—so Maisey wouldn’t have to pay for it and could participate. I asked Maisey, and she said her dad couldn’t afford for her to dance.”
He had to be honest, but he hated the embarrassment. “I work two jobs, and I don’t have the time or money for dance. I barely keep us fed.” He tried to hide his shame. Tracey didn’t need to see him upset. If he hadn’t been saddled with Jessica’s debts, he’d be better off.
“Do you mind if she takes part in the recital?” Tracey asked. “I saw her practice with the other girls, and she’s good. She deserves to dance. She’ll have a costume, if you’ll let her, since I took her measurements. Actually, she’s already got one.”
“How much?” He’d have to shuffle a few things to find the money, but he had to give Maisey this.
About the Author:
Megan Slayer, aka Wendi Zwaduk, is a multi-published, award-winning author of more than one-hundred short stories and novels. She’s been writing since 2008 and published since 2009. Her stories range from the contemporary and paranormal to LGBTQ and white hot themes. No matter what the length, her works are always hot, but with a lot of heart. She enjoys giving her characters a second chance at love, no matter what the form. She’s been nominated at the LRC for Best Author, Best Contemporary, Best Ménage, Best BDSM and Best Anthology. Her books have made it to the bestseller lists on Amazon.com.
When she’s not writing, Megan spends time with her husband and son as well as three dogs and three cats. She enjoys art, music and racing, but football is her sport of choice. She’s an active member of the Friends of the Keystone-LaGrange Public library.
The Kingdom of Moorcondia and the Marshlands have been warring for years. Now a treaty has been negotiated, but it needs to be sealed by a marriage between the ruling families. But the bride has bolted, leaving her brother, Taryn, to fill the role. There is nothing in the law of either country that says a bride has to be female.
Forced to dress in his sister’s gown and marry Soren, Taryn faces his fate with anger, resolve and frightening anticipation. While the Moorcondians are flexible in their sexuality, the Marshers are more prudish, plus Taryn has learned the hard lesson that an attraction to men is unnatural and wrong. His desire for Soren frightens him.
As a prince, Soren knows his duty and executes it without hesitation. As a widower, he looks forward to a new marriage, and his unexpected bride is very fetching. If only he can convince Taryn to put aside his fears and accept the pleasures of the marriage bed.
Taryn struggles to fill the role of a wife in the royal family, even as everyone else tries to adjust to the notion of a male bride. As the days pass, Soren comes to appreciate his bride more, and Taryn tries embrace his new role with enthusiasm instead of resignation. But politics is a treacherous place to navigate, putting their blossoming love in jeopardy.
Reader advisory: This book contains scenes of dubious consent, homophobia and attempted suicide.
“I won’t do it!”
The slap was delivered with less force than typical. Taryn didn’t even try to avoid it. He’d learned long ago that any show of fear only fed his brother’s cruel streak. Nor did he back away as Hobart leaned into his face.
“You will do as you are told.” Flecks of spit flew from Hobart’s mouth, the smell of beer wafting on his breath. Fury showed in his expression, testament to how desperate he must be.
Taryn tried to maintain his resolve over this order being suddenly thrust upon him, even as he knew he had no control over his own fate. “I can’t marry that man.” It was hard to believe he had to even say those words.
“You can and you will. It’s the only way the treaty can go forward. If our sister hadn’t run away to the nunnery, we wouldn’t be in this predicament.” Hobart’s gaze shifted to a spot somewhere in the distance, and his lip curled in a sneer. “She’d already taken her vows by the time I’d caught up to her.” He refocused his attention on Taryn. “A child of the chieftain has been promised to the Moorcondian prince. With Alissa gone, it’s down to you, as you are well past being a child.”
Taryn balled his hands in frustration. “My age is not the issue. He was promised a bride, not another man.”
Hobart huffed. “You do yourself too much credit. Truth be told, you’re more of a girl than Alissa ever was. Prettier, too.” His brother didn’t mean those words to be a compliment, and after years of such taunting, Taryn let them roll off his back.
“Tell that to the prince. You can’t hide my sex from him. He’ll see me for what I am even before he takes that frock off me.” He flung his arm in the direction of the maid who stood awkwardly with what should have been his sister’s wedding gown.
“Those fucking Moorcondians are a decadent lot. Men lie with each other all the time, I hear. The fuckers probably bed their horses, for all I know. And the wiseman has looked at their laws and ours. There is nothing that says a bride has to be female. I imagine the stupid princeling will find plowing your ass just as sweet as Alissa’s dried-up cunt—more so, likely. And I’m sure it’s a dream come true for you,” he added with a look of disgust.
Taryn again ignored the baiting and struggled to contain the tears that threatened to leak out. He was angry and scared in equal measure. The whole idea of his marrying the age-old enemy of his people was intolerable. He couldn’t blame his sister for seeking sanctuary from her fate. He was merely the unlucky victim of her self-preservation. She couldn’t have known what it would mean for him and probably wouldn’t have cared if she had. Their father hadn’t raised them to be generous with each other.
Taryn also had to admit that his brother was probably right about the Moorcondian prince. It was a very different society than his own—decadent, as Hobart had aptly put it. Their prince had ridden in with a colorful retinue and much fanfare. They were nothing like the earthier and frankly poor people of the Marshlands. Taryn couldn’t imagine how he was supposed to fit into such a world. Being the child of a Marsher chieftain mostly meant he had cleaner clothes and more to eat. His presence among the Moorcondians would be like a reed finch flitting around peacocks. If he’d been reviled by his own people, the Moorcondians would undoubtedly treat him with even more contempt.
This is so unfair! Railing against his fate out loud was worse than useless. If he put up any more of a fight, he’d be going to his own wedding with a black eye and split lip. Hobart was being restrained at the moment, likely so that Taryn would be as appealing to his groom as possible. Testing his brother’s patience would only end one way, however. He knew he was powerless in this, as with all other things. He’d learned to survive his family’s brutality, and he could cope with anything these foreigners threw at him. Besides, he’d heard that the opulent Moorcondian palace contained a vast library. If he were lucky, his new husband would give him the freedom to explore it.
That’s more like it. Finding some silver lining in any situation was what kept him sane. He would survive this misery as he had so many others. There was also some deep part of him that dared to be intrigued by the idea of being bedded by the prince, lending credence to Hobart’s taunt, though Taryn had snuffed that spark as soon as he’d become aware of it. Those kinds of thoughts weren’t to be tolerated. He didn’t want sex of any kind. Before Alissa had beat him to it, he’d been considering taking his own vows and living his life at the monastery. Anything would have been more appealing than living under the harsh judgment of his father and brother, plus he would have had time for scholarly pursuits. Now his future would be held by another powerful man—and one he knew nothing about.
There was no hope for it. Squaring his shoulders, he stared his brother down. “Very well. I will don that gown and greet my groom to be. If he rejects me, it won’t be my fault.”
Hobart’s expression turned as nasty as it got. “You’d better hope he doesn’t. The ceremony has already been delayed because you were off wasting the day away. If this treaty fails, I’ll stake you to the execution hill myself and revel in your slow death.”
His brother strode out of the tiny room Taryn had managed to call his own. Then he turned to the poor maid, who obviously wished she were anywhere else. He recognized the woman as the one who had served his sister. No doubt she was already frightened that she would be punished for her mistress’ escape. Certainly the guard who’d let her flee must have known tremendous regret the moment before Hobart had severed the man’s head from his neck. Taryn wouldn’t be the cause of trouble for her.
“Will that even fit me?” The pale green dress was trimmed with lace, luxurious for his people. But Anissa was a voluptuous woman. He lacked the essential shape to wear such a thing.
The maid gave him a shy smile. “I took it in this afternoon.”
So, others in our tribe knew my fate before I did. No surprise there. His father and brother treated him like a piece of furniture—and a useless one at that. It must have enraged them to realize that they needed him to seal the treaty, and bringing him into the discussion would never have occurred to them. He pushed back the hurt and took what little control he could. “I’ll need a quick bath.” He’d spent the day riding, mostly to stay clear of the Moorcondians, but he couldn’t go to his groom smelling like horse.
“Of course, sir. Leave it all to me.”
With his heart still lodged in his throat, and his stomach churning, he was happy for someone else to take command of the situation. The story of my life. I should never have been born to a powerful family.
Samantha Cayto is a Boston-area native who practices as a business lawyer by day while writing erotic romance at night—the steamier the better. She likes to push the envelope when it comes to writing about passion and is delighted other women agree that guy-on-guy sex is the hottest ever.
She lives a typical suburban life with her husband, three kids and four dogs. Her children don’t understand why they can’t read what she writes, but her husband is always willing to lend her a hand—and anything else—when she needs to choreograph a scene.
Enter for the chance to win a $50.00 First for Romance Gift Card! Competition hosted by Totally Entwined Group.
Mila Young is a one-click author for me. I’m not as familiar with C.R. Jane’s work, but the cover alone would have made me buy this book. It’s gorgeous, and oh so sexy.
Blake has spent her life trying to please her parents, and toe the line. Until the day she sees something she shouldn’t have and ends up in an asylum. It’s not all bad though. There’s the charismatic, easy-on-the-eyes doctor after all. Sure, each day is full of dangerous pitfalls, but it’s nothing Blake can’t handle.
For the most part, I enjoyed Blake’s character. There were times I wanted to give her a kick in the rear, but overall, she stayed true to herself. At first, she comes across as weak. Always following orders, doing whatever she’s told (even if it’s detrimental to herself). It isn’t until later in the story she finds her inner strength and decides to fight back.
The monsters in the book were each intriguing in their own way. There were one or two scenes that might trouble sensitive readers, but for the most part, this one is smokin’ hot story! If you like your monster books full of sex (and an extra dose on the side), then Monster’s Plaything is a must-read!
Be warned.. it ends on a cliffhanger that will have you screaming and begging for the rest of the story… The next installment can’t get here soon enough.
*Disclaimer: The review above is only my opinion. The authors did not request a review. I purchased/borrowed the book from Amazon.
Her mysterious past holds the key to protecting his clan.
Between helping teens at an After-School Art Club and trying to publish her granny’s fairy tales, Chantelle’s life still feels somehow unfulfilled.
When his father and older brother died, Charles was forced into the role of Alpha. Three years later, he still hasn’t dealt with the loss. Now a rival pack is stirring up trouble in his grandmother’s hometown, and he must investigate.
But that is only where the mystery begins. There’s something else going on and it starts with the mysterious and beautiful Chantelle. The secrets of her past and her untrained magical abilities hold the key to the rival pack’s attacks. And when they discover that sorcery is behind the violence against women and children in the territory, they have to trust each other and forge a connection.
But is their bond strong enough to protect the pack and fulfil a Fated Mates prophecy, or will they lead the pack, and their love, to ruin?
Reader advisory: This book contains scenes of racism, violence and attempted/threatened sexual assault. There is reference to past memory modification and the off-screen death of a teen.
Chantelle Mizuki didn’t want to die today.
I’m wearing old underwear. With holes. Nobody is going to see them. No nurse, no doctor, no coroner. Nobody.
Chantelle’s footsteps crunched in the autumn leaves of the mountain forest. Night was falling. Wolves were howling.
Granny Ceci’s voice rang in her ears. “Don’t go in the forest at dusk, mon chou.”
Too late, Granny.
She hadn’t planned to be out this late. It was light when the After-School Art Club finished at the library. She had asked her student Alfonso to stay and talk about his application for art school. By the time they were done, the sun was low in the sky. Only after Alfonso had left did she discover she’d locked her keys in the car.
In the daytime, everyone used the path through the woods to get to the other side of the village in the Laurentian Mountains of Quebec. She loved the soft pine needles underfoot, tall trunks stretching their branches to the sky, soothing fragrances of moss and fern. During the day Chantelle expected to stumble across Snow White singing and dancing among the trees.
Night-time was different. Every noise was menacing, every shadow a predator waiting for her to stray off the path.
Chantelle kept to the darkened trail, wishing those howls and barks were getting fainter. The sounds of the forest were soothing when she was tucked into Granny Ceci’s gingerbread cottage—her cottage now. This evening, those sounds took on ominous undertones.
She remembered Granny Ceci telling her, “Ma cocotte, the Laurentian Mountains are home to many creatures, some fair, some foul. Be prepared for both.” Tonight, it was the foul creatures. Why couldn’t it be chipmunks or raccoons?
Another howl wailed over the tops of the trees. The hairs on the back of her neck stood up. One step in front of the other. You can do this.
Soon she reached the edge of the village. Only a quarter of a mile left. Past Marie’s big house on the hill, through the ravine, then up the path to the top of her street.
No problem. She had survived book signings with dozens of cranky children and their bad-tempered parents. She had run off her cheating no-good boyfriend. A wolf or two? No sweat.
She picked up her pace to a jog. Her legs were aching, her chest heaving. At the very least she’d have a funny story to tell Yvette and Kat. Well, it would be funny if she made it home in one piece.
The recent wolf sightings had everyone in town worried. The wolves were larger than usual, more vicious. They had even killed some dogs. Villagers were warned to stay away from the woods at night. She knew her woodcraft and carried her multi-tool at all times, but that wouldn’t be enough to stop a feral wolf.
Of course, today was the day she’d locked her keys in the car. She’d forgotten to take her ADHD medication. And her publisher called in the afternoon to say they were passing on her “passion project,” as they’d called it. Illustrating Granny Ceci’s stories and having them published were a way to honour her grandmother’s legacy. But her reputation as a children’s story illustrator was not opening doors for the collection of folk tales. Her usual collaborator hadn’t helped at all. He didn’t want his favourite illustrator distracted from his own book projects.
Was the howling closer now? Or was it her imagination? She crouched by a small cluster of sumac bushes. Her heart raced. The wind whistled through the treetops, clattering in the dying leaves.
There was a clearing ahead. What a relief! It was the small field behind her neighbour’s house. Marie, a dear friend of Granny Ceci’s, lived on the edge of the village. The little meadow divided the forest from her garden, which was enclosed by a stone wall.
There would be a large blue spruce at the northern edge of the clearing. The conical silhouette of the tree stood tall against the dying light. Three shadows, large and shaggy, skulked at the base.
She spared half a breath for one of Granny’s favourite curse words.
Could she make it to Marie’s house? She should move slowly, deliberately, not run. But rabid or savage wolves would still attack. If they came for her, she would have to run along the perimeter.
She was stuck. Sweat trickled down her back.
I need a plan. If she got out of this, she could move back to Montreal. There was nothing keeping her here. Granny had died last year. Why was she still here? Pull yourself together, girl!
The moon burst out from behind a cloud.
One of the wolves looked up, the cool light illuminating his outline. He cocked his head and looked in her direction. He howled, long and low. The other two wolves nosed him, turning towards her. Could they see her?
She sent a silent prayer up to Ceci. Wherever you are, please help me.
The wolves paced at the edge of the clearing, whining and sniffing the air.
She had to move. Maybe make a commotion once she got closer to the garden wall. Marie might hear.
She breathed in and out. Now. She took a cautious step.
One of the wolves inclined his head. Had he seen her? Another step.
He pointed his muzzle at her, his tail arching over his back. Two steps.
The lead wolf pushed off on his hind legs, padding towards her position. The others followed on his tail.
Ben l’on! Granny would have said. Oh, come on!
She sprinted towards the wooden gate in the middle of the stone wall.
They reached her in the clearing. The largest one growled, ears and tail erect. His eyes looked odd—orange, almost glowing. Impossible. It must be a reflection of the moonlight.
These wolves were big. And their faces looked funny—no, not funny, just strange. Almost human-like.
Heart racing, Chantelle took a step back.
The wolves advanced, circling her. They weren’t acting like regular wolves. What was going on?
The leader surged forward, snarling. She backed up and bumped into another wolf. The wolf behind her made a huffing noise that sounded almost like a laugh. Goosebumps broke out on her arms. Was this the end?
The largest one snapped at her leg. As she stepped back, her knees buckled and she fell to the unforgiving ground beneath her. Tears stung her eyes as she scrabbled in the grass and dirt. He descended on her and sunk his teeth in her calf. She batted at him, a shrill scream erupting from her throat. She had to get away.
The other wolves nipped at her arms as she pulled back, dodging their snouts and paws. She searched for purchase on the ground. They dragged her across the ground, away from the wall.
Fear churned in her stomach. Her heart beat fast as she struck at the wolves. Then something changed, fear turning into anger in her chest. Tingling sensations erupted into a warmth across her chest. Her ears buzzed.
What’s going on?
Some kind of energy bubbled from her middle. Rising up, it surged from her core out towards her arms and legs. It felt strange, yet familiar somehow.
The buzzing increased, changing into a burning sensation. A shooting pain in her leg snapped her attention back to the wolves. Sliding along the ground, she reached for the wolf attached to her leg. She smiled as she caught hold. His fur was matted, his bulk solid beneath her fingers.
The low droning made her ears itch and blocked out the growls of her attackers. Her field of vision telescoped into her hands, legs, and torso in front of her.
Anger surged within her. She pushed out from her diaphragm. Energy tingled and sparked, hot and strong. It poured down her arms and into her hands. When she shoved against her attacker, something blue zapped out of her palms.
The wolf let go when the blast hit him. Falling back a few inches, he shook his head and coat.
Growling, ears back, he pushed forward. The lights in his eyes glowed. The wolves regrouped and closed in.
I’m going to die here. With no one present to hear a snappy parting line.
A spotlight came on, almost blinding her. A rifle shot rang in the air and the creatures froze. Out from the garden gate stepped a small figure.
The ancient woman leaned forward, hefting a rifle that was almost as tall as she was. Her red plaid jacket was three sizes too big and hung down to her knees. She peered out from thick glasses beneath a dark green hunter’s cap.
“Allez-y vous, sales chiens!” The old woman’s Québécois accent was thick but her tone was unmistakable.
Chantelle sucked in a big breath. She shuddered and turned to her attackers. The larger brown wolf swung his head towards her.
Another shot grazed the attacker’s mud-coloured fur. Yelping, he jumped out of the ring of light. He whined, pawing the ground, the other wolves huffing beside him. He glanced over at the old woman.
A new growl, low and menacing, rumbled by the gate. Beside Marie was a large dog, ears back, tail up. They moved forward in unison. The wolves backed away from Chantelle.
The lead wolf slunk towards the trees with his two companions. Looking back, he howled once before the trio disappeared into the night.
Chantelle pushed up from the ground, relief warring with the fear and pain. She tried to stand but her leg throbbed. The bite marks oozed blood. Her feet shuffled forward as she held her elbow against her side. Had they bitten her arm too?
She reached towards Marie by the gate.
Then she was falling.
Strong arms wrapped around her. A low voice murmured and Marie’s voice answered. She was being lifted up, arms carrying her to warmth. The voices faded away.
Her fingers touched a soft blanket. How long had she been out? A fire crackled nearby. Gentle hands prodded at the bite.
Mimi B. Rose writes fantastic tales filled with steamy enchantment and tender-hearted fulfilment to thrill strong women. As a teen she read V.C. Andews’s Flowers in the Attic and Anne Rice’s The Vampire Lestat and she was hooked on fantasy romance and paranormal romance. Some of her favourite tv shows are Sleepy Hollow, Grimm, and Once–and the reboot of Beauty and the Beast starring Kirstin Kreuk (does anyone remember that series?).
She loves all kinds of shifters and vampires. Her all-time favourite authors are Faith Hunter, Ilona Andrews, Nalini Singh, and more recently Richelle Mead.
Mimi likes a sassy heroine who is independent but finds a strong hero who can keep up with her and treasure her for their uniqueness–including her flaws!
Ghost wards are failing. Mediums are vanishing. Someone—or something—is stirringup the ghosts of Toronto. It’s up to psychic medium Harlan Brand to find out why.
After defeating a serial killer who could control ghosts, psychic medium Harlan Brand is feeling much more confident in his abilities working for the Toronto Police Service with his partner, Hamilton, as they protect the city from dangerous spirits.
He is expanding his social circle, however reluctantly, to include the other police mediums and Morgan Vermeer, another graduate from the Centre—a school for training psychic children.
Harlan and his boyfriend, Charles Moore, are continuing to explore BDSM, their relationship and Charles’ strange ability to shield people from ghosts.
Hoping to find answers about Charles’ power and the serial killer, Harlan returns to the Centre only to find that one of its ghost wards—magical symbols that spirits can’t cross—is broken, and it’s a mystery as to how and why.
The calm and order that Harlan has been building up in his life are shattered when wards start failing across the city and mediums begin to disappear, including one of his new friends and a student from the Centre.
Someone—or something—is stirring up the ghosts of Toronto.
Reader advisory: This book contains scenes of violence and murder. It is best read as part of a series.
Hamilton sighed as he lowered himself into the driver’s seat of their police cruiser, settling in much more heavily than usual. “Matthew wants to meet you.”
Harlan was relieved that he was already struggling with his seatbelt. It gave him a moment to think about what Hamilton had just said.
Matthew? Do I know a Matthew? Hamilton’s—and, by extension, Harlan’s—sergeant was named Matthews, but Harlan had already met her.
The seatbelt clicked into place. He was out of time.
Hamilton sighed again, this time with an edge of laughter. “Matthew is my…” He mumbled something Harlan couldn’t make out. “You haven’t met him,” he added in his regular speaking voice.
Harlan waited, hoping Hamilton would elaborate, repeat himself or that the words would finally click into place as he ran them over and over in his mind.
Silence. Silence that he had to break if he was going to get anything else.
“Sorry… I didn’t quite—”
“Boyfriend!” Too loud this time, loud and sudden enough that it startled Harlan. “Matthew is my boyfriend. He wants to meet you.” Hamilton slid his gaze over to Harlan, a sly smile on his thin lips. “You can say no,” he added, making it clear he would prefer that.
Harlan would prefer that as well, so it worked out nicely.
Before Harlan could assure him that he was, of course, in complete agreement, Hamilton shook his head and sighed for a third time that morning. “Nah, I think we’re past that. At this point, it would just be a delaying tactic. He’s made up his mind.”
Harlan glanced sideways at Hamilton. Is Hamilton actually blushing? He hadn’t thought Hamilton was physically capable of doing that, never mind imagined that it might actually happen.
“And I’ve met your boyfriend,” Hamilton shot back, even though Harlan hadn’t spoken.
Technically true, but they hadn’t exactly met over dinner or another social event. Did life-and-death situations count more or less than sitting down for a meal together?
“And, by the way”—the blush Harlan had probably imagined was gone, and Hamilton was definitely smirking now—”I knew I recognized him from somewhere.”
Shit. Harlan had been dreading this conversation, hoping it wouldn’t happen. He’d hoped that Hamilton wouldn’t connect Charles, Harlan’s ghost-repelling boyfriend, to Mr. Moore, owner of Rattling Chains, a formerly haunted BDSM club. Apparently, that had been too much to ask for.
Hamilton opened his mouth, started to say something then seemed to reconsider when he saw Harlan’s pained expression. “I’m glad you’ve got someone,” he said, just as gruffly as usual, but with a hint of genuine fondness and even warmth. “You don’t have a lot of people.” He looked away while he took a left-hand turn, then laughed. “Of course you’d meet someone on the job.”
Harlan looked down at his lap. Yeah. It was pretty pathetic. Sure, he’d started going to the occasional police-medium group—basically a coffee klatch, not everyone sitting in a circle sharing their feelings the way he’d been dreading—but that was still connected to the police. He hadn’t even realized that Charles had the same connection. Fuck. Somehow, without realizing it, he’d become one of those adults who only lived for his job.
He blinked. Maybe it isn’t just me.
“What does Matthew do?” he asked, fully expecting he already knew the answer.
He was wrong.
“He’s an advertising consultant.” Hamilton shrugged. “I don’t know what that means, either.” He paused, then added, as though he’d read Harlan’s mind—more likely his expression—“I did meet him through a case, though.”
Harlan wasn’t sure if that made him feel better or worse. He didn’t know exactly how old Hamilton was, but he guessed his police partner was at least a few years older than he was. Was that what he had to look forward to—all his personal connections coming from his work for the rest of his life? He wasn’t sure why it bothered him, but it did. Maybe it was like that for everyone, and he just didn’t know—not that there was anyone he could ask.
Maybe Charles… He’d met a few of Charles’ friends, more or less in passing. He certainly hadn’t sat down and had dinner with any of them, the way Hamilton seemed to be proposing that he do with Matthew. He’d always assumed it was because he and Charles were still fairly new as a couple and—knowing Harlan—Charles hadn’t wanted to overwhelm him with a bunch of people all at once—but maybe he’d been wrong. Maybe he just didn’t want to introduce Harlan to anyone else in his life.
Knowing he was starting to spiral, he was relieved when Hamilton continued.
“I told him you don’t do phone calls and you wouldn’t want to text someone you don’t know”—Wow, Hamilton really will make a great detective one day—“so you can just let me know when you decide. Here.” He fished a piece of paper out of his breast pocket and handed it to Harlan. “This is Matthew’s number so you can give it to Charles. He’s invited too, if he’d like.” His smirk was back. “I think he still has a choice, unlike you.”
“Where are we going today?” Normally Hamilton didn’t tell him, and he didn’t ask, but it was the only change of topic Harlan could think of. “Is it another one of Samuel’s ghosts?” Killing the warped medium and serial killer Samuel Harkness had released most of the spirits under his control, but even eight months later they were still finding stragglers, like the ones that had led Harlan to their killer in the first place.
Interestingly, Harlan and Hamilton had found—and freed—almost three times as many wanderers as the other three medium pairs put together. It was as if even though he’d never met them, these spirits felt a connection to him for killing the man who had been controlling them.
This part of the job was a lot less glamorous when the ghosts they worked with weren’t leading him to a serial killer.
“Kid,” Hamilton had laughed after a sweaty, dusty and frustrated Harlan had snapped something along those lines after a very long, hot day crammed in the crawlspace of an old house, trying to coax an especially nervous ghost close enough for him to either grab or calm it down enough for it to cross over on its own, “that’s the job. It’s not bringing down bad guys and epic showdowns. It’s…this. Hey, you’ve got a cobweb on your face.”
Harlan couldn’t help feeling that he’d peaked too soon, experienced more police-medium excitement than most of his colleagues got in a lifetime.
Crucially, he’d survived. Most police mediums didn’t live long enough to retire.
He still liked his job and found it fulfilling, rewarding and blah blah, but he couldn’t help feeling a little…let down. Restless, maybe. Not that he wanted to face anything like Samuel ever again! But…something. Something more than finding ghost, freeing ghost, next. Day in, day out, week after week. Just a little.
“Nah. Well—not as far as I know,” Hamilton amended. “Though apparently this is kinda a weird one.”
Harlan couldn’t help brightening, sitting forward in his seat a little. In light of what he’d been thinking, ‘weird’ was good. “Really?”
“Yeah, yeah, keep it in your pants.” Hamilton laughed.
“You gonna tell me or is it gonna be a surprise?” Even a few months ago Harlan wouldn’t have dared ask for information about the scene they were going to, and he certainly wouldn’t have expected an answer.
Now, it was almost like a game between the two of them—if Harlan really wanted to know, Hamilton would tell him, and if Hamilton really wanted to keep him in the dark until they got there—and Harlan was beginning to think that, sometimes at least, walking in without any preconceptions was helpful—he wouldn’t. And, occasionally, Hamilton himself knew very little or nothing about the haunting situation. Harlan was starting to suspect that was one of the reasons Hamilton hadn’t filled Harlan in ahead of time in the past. Hamilton didn’t like admitting when he didn’t know something.
“Mmm, this time I think I’ll let you see for yourself. Besides, we’re almost there.” Hamilton pulled up beside a record store, one of those hipster places that had been popping up in the most gentrified parts of the city. He got out, coming around the other side of the car and opening Harlan’s door when he didn’t get out immediately.
Harlan stepped onto the sidewalk to take a better look around. Hauntings—the ones not related to violent crime, which he doubted was the case here—tended to be in residential buildings. People died where they lived, not where they bought vinyl.
He glanced across the street—more shops, and they didn’t look like they had apartments over them. Neither did the record store or the others around it.
“There’s a haunting here?”
“I can double-check the address if you’d like,” Hamilton offered, smirking a little.
“No. That’s fine.” As far as Harlan knew, Hamilton had never got an address wrong.
Maybe the dispatcher had been wrong?
A young white man stepped out of the shop, waving at them. “Are you with the Graveyard Crew?”
It was a nickname for Toronto police mediums that Harlan didn’t really like—and, by the look on Hamilton’s face, he didn’t care for it either.
Hamilton pointedly glanced down at his uniform and badge. “We’re with the police.”
“Oh, good! C’mon in. We’ve been expecting you.” He turned and disappeared into the shop.
Harlan shot Hamilton a questioning glance.
Hamilton shrugged one shoulder, extending a hand to say after you.
He was suddenly hit by a barrage of noise—apparently the door was surprisingly soundproof. Harlan always thought the music in these types of places sounded bad, but this was bad.
Hamilton, never one to fuck around, headed straight to the man who’d welcomed them. “Can you turn the music down? Or off, maybe?” He had to raise his voice to be heard over the din.
The man shook his head. “No! That’s the problem.” He didn’t have Hamilton’s loud ‘cop voice’ and he was practically screaming.
T. Strange didn’t want to learn how to read, but literacy prevailed and she hasn’t stopped reading—or writing—since. She’s been published since 2013, and she writes M/M romance in multiple genres, including paranormal and BDSM. T.’s other interests include cross stitching, gardening, watching terrible horror movies, playing video games, and finding injured pigeons to rescue. Originally from White Rock, BC, she lives on the Canadian prairies, where she shares her home with her wife, cats, guinea pigs and other creatures of all shapes and sizes. She’s very easy to bribe with free food and drinks—especially wine.
Genre: enemies to lovers, marriage of convenience, best friend’s brother, road trip, forced proximity, romantic comedy, high heat, erotic romance
Release Date: March 12, 2022
She needs arm candy, he needs her insurance, but first, they need to drive across the country without killing each other.
Since the first day of kindergarten, I have hated Alexandra Hartford.
And twenty-something years later that hasn’t changed.
But she has.
She’s still a tomboy with a chip on her shoulder, but now she’s a hot tomboy with a chip on her tattooed shoulder who can fight like a badass.
I’d still rather have a bath with fire ants than spend ten days in a car with her, but she has something I need.
Once the deal is done, we can go our separate ways.
That is … if I want to.
Eli Evans is my nemesis.
He blames me for his sister’s death, our parents’ divorces, and probably global warming, too.
Why on Earth would I help him?
Because he’s as easy on the eyes as he is the bane of my existence and I need a hot date to a wedding in San Diego.
Can we drive across the country without me leaving him at a truck stop somewhere? I doubt it.
But, I’m willing to try.
Ten days in a car, a wedding, and a marriage of convenience, then I’m done with him forever.
“An irresistible blend of emotion, angst, drama, heat, heart and humor was super enjoyable and made this book a true delight to read.”
– Gladys (Goodreads Review)
“There was certainly some emotional moments in Love to Hate You and a few times where I was on the edge of my seat whilst reading. This book is a little gem and one I thoroughly enjoyed.”
– Erin Lewis (Goodreads Review)
“Their story is intense and poignant at times but it also has a lighter side to it as well. The authors words draw you into a storyline that holds hard and fast to your heart. Love to Hate You is an exceptional love story.”
– Kylee (Goodreads Review)
“The sexy times between them are nothing to sneeze at either: hot, steamy, sensual and drool-worthy. This book made me laugh one moment and cry the next.”
– Silke (Goodreads Review)
The sound of the curtain in her changing room being pulled open echoed into my changing room, so I made sure my dick wasn’t visible, then pulled back my own curtain.
Jamie was zipping up Alexandra’s dress—the royal blue bandage strapless one—but she whipped around to face me when Jamie was finished.
Her eyes widened, pupils dilated, nostrils flared. It was a primal reaction that I would have to be an idiot to miss.
I had a primal reaction of my own—in my pants.
“Holy fuck,” I breathed.
She glanced away, but the smile that lifted one side of her mouth was dead sexy.
“You’re getting that one,” I said.
She smoothed her hands down the sides, turned on one foot, and glanced at herself in the mirror. “Yeah, I like it, too.”
“You can’t wear those two together, though,” Jamie said. “The blues are too close in color, but not close enough. If you know what I mean?”
Alexandra and I nodded.
“He should just wear a dress shirt and maybe dark gray pants when you wear that dress.”
“I have dark gray pants in the room,” I said, hooking a thumb toward my changing room and a stack of pants on the bench.
I stepped out and away from my room to get a better look at myself in the mirror outside the changing rooms. “What do you think?”
“I think it’s a perfect fit,” Jamie said. “Doesn’t even look like you’ll need tailoring.”
Alexandra nodded. “Looks good.” I caught her checking out my ass and grinned, but when she saw me see her, her eyes whipped up to the ceiling as if a flock of geese had just flown overhead.
“You guys got any brown wingtips?” I asked, focusing my gaze on Jamie.
He nodded. “Sure do. Size?”
I glanced back at Alexandra and smiled as I said, “Thirteen.”
I did not miss the flare of her eyes or the way they drifted down to the front of my pants.
“Eyes up here, lady,” I said, catching her gaze back in the mirror.
Startled, she ditched the surprised look and went with a glare before returning to her changing room and dramatically pulling the curtain closed again.
“What is the dynamic of your relationship?” Jamie asked, glancing back and forth between me and the closed changing room curtain.
“She’s my fiancée,” I said chipperly. “But she’d rather not be.”
A Canadian West Coast baby born and raised, Whitley is married to her high school sweetheart, and together they have two beautiful daughters and a fluffy dog. She spends her days making food that gets thrown on the floor, vacuuming Cheerios out from under the couch and making sure that the dog food doesn’t end up in the air conditioner. But when nap time comes, and it’s not quite wine o’clock, Whitley sits down, avoids the pile of laundry on the couch, and writes.
A lover of all things decadent; wine, cheese, chocolate and spicy erotic romance, Whitley brings the humorous side of sex, the ridiculous side of relationships and the suspense of everyday life into her stories. With single dads, firefighters, Navy SEALs, mommy wars, body issues, threesomes, bondage and role-playing, Whitley’s books have all the funny and fabulously filthy words you could hope for.
Her fetish cruise vacation started with a bang, literally, but fun quickly turned to terror when death came knocking at her door.
Cammie Sheppard, personal assistant to Sabine Cowan, is a capital-O-organized, type-A workaholic and, according to Sabine, in desperate need of a vacation. Despite the fact that her boss has explicitly forbidden her from touching anything related to work, Cammie has a plan for her forced five-day Dark Matter Kink cruise. One, schmooze and network on behalf of Cowan Enterprises. Two, product-test all the kink goodies available. Three, get laid as much as possible. Even a working girl needs a little release every once in a while, and Cammie has been saving up.
When she meets Zane Roberts, she finds a kindred spirit, so much so that their chemistry ignites, and Cammie checks off number three on her to-do list several times in the first few hours after departure. When she returns to her own cabin later that night, she discovers the body of a man—who is very much deceased—but when she goes to get help and returns with security, the body is gone. No one believes her, except for the mysterious Zane Roberts, who, it turns out, is conducting an investigation of his own.
Cammie thinks the dead man is connected to Zane’s case, but Zane isn’t convinced. Cammie might be a sub in Zane’s bed, but she’s anything but when she’s got a job to do. Right now, she’s determined to figure out how a dead man ended up in her cabin and stop a murderer from striking again.
Reader advisory: This book contains murder, a head injury, brief anal play and an instance of drugging.
Cammie didn’t do vacations very well, mostly because she loathed stepping away from the love of her life…work. But when the uber-powerful Sabine Cowan insisted on an all-expenses paid kink cruise, what she called “mandatory R and R”, what was a girl supposed to do?
A hardcore type-A like Cammie played to her strengths, so that’s what she did. She packed her bags and made a cruise ‘to-do’ list. One, schmooze and network more Kitty Cat connections—Gentlemen’s Club candidates, Kitty Cat hopefuls and new clients. Two, product test, because, come on…a kink cruise? A girl’s gotta have a little fun at work. Three, get laid…repeatedly. It is a vacation after all…even if it’s forced. It’d been a looong time since she’d found a man to crank her little kink-loving heart.
“This will be your cabin, Miss Sheppard. Your boss really loves you.” Ben, her steward, winked like they were already best friends. He’d been effervescent the entire way to her stateroom, bubbling with energy and peppering her with questions about where she’d traveled from and what she hoped to do on the five-day cruise. It had been impossible not to get caught up in his enthusiasm as he pumped up the various events that had been planned. “Shall I put your bags in the closet?”
A walk-in closet? In a stateroom? “Yes, please. Thank you, Ben.”
Of course, Sabine had spared no expense, so Cammie’s cabin was beyond luxurious. It was larger than her own bedroom at home in New York and big enough for a king-size bed, a lounge-dining area and a restroom that included an actual whirlpool tub. The view was spectacular as well. With floor-to-ceiling windows along one wall, Cammie would be able to see miles of ocean with no obstructed views. She also had a balcony and pictured herself having her morning coffee there while she checked email and knocked a few things off her ‘non-cruise to-do list’, of course.
“Is there anything else I can do for you, Miss Sheppard?” Ben stood at the door, his hands folded in front of him and his face clearly eager to please. His blond hair flopped over one eye, giving him an adorably disheveled look.
“Oh gosh, no. I’m fine.” She dug out some money from her purse then handed it to him. “Thanks for getting me here safe and sound. This ship is so huge. I think it’ll take me five days just to get the hang of where everything is.” Which was a total lie… Cammie had gotten the entire ship mapped out from bow to stern and everything in between before she’d stepped foot on board.
“I’m here if you need me. Just pick up the phone and I’ll answer.” Ben slipped the cash into his pocket with a nod and a grin. “Don’t forget about the sunset mixer on the Sky Deck.”
Cammie rubbed her hands together. “I’ll be there!” A sunset mixer sounded like exactly the type of place she’d find people to network with.
She had an hour to get ready, so she pulled out her sun-and-fun mixer dress—an orange, yellow and pink strapless that hugged her curves just right—then headed into the massive restroom for a dip in the tub. If Sabine wanted her to relax, she could at least make an effort.
It turned out that networking was easier than finding a nonalcoholic cocktail on the Sky Deck. Cammie had been offered no less than four umbrella-adorned drinks by four different scantily clad servers, and each time she’d asked if it was possible to get a soda or even water, she’d only been met with looks of confusion before a mumbled, “Of course! Let me get that for you.” She’d yet to find a cold drink in her hand, but she had met three very eligible men, who had been eagerly listening to what she had to say about the Kitty Cat Gentlemen’s Club. They hadn’t even balked at the fee range she’d hinted at.
“You can sign me up, little lady.” Mr. William Haversmith wore a huge tan cowboy hat on his big head. Everything about the man was larger than life, from his booming laugh and his ridiculously large cowboy boots to his long, curled mustache. “In fact, a pretty little thing like you can do whatever she wants with my assets.” He winked.
“Bill, don’t you know women don’t like to be spoken to like that?” Elm Stone also wore a cowboy hat and towered over Cammie in the same way his friend did, which wasn’t hard, considering Cammie was a whopping five foot three inches. He tried to come off as more gentlemanly, even though Cammie had witnessed him slip his hands over several of the servers’ asses as they passed by.
“I’m sorry. Can’t help myself. You’re a tiny, sexy thing, though. And on a naughty cruise like this to boot! You’re a firecracker, aren’t you? I can see it in your eyes.” He winked again, and Cammie had to wonder if he had a tic or if he really did think she—or any woman, really—was in to his kind of flirting. “And those dimples! So cute! I could just eat you up.” He leaned closer. “You don’t mind if I call you ‘little lady’, do you, sweetheart?”
Did she mind? Hell yes! But she’d never say that out loud. Working in an industry that catered to men, she’d become used to the ways that men behaved and the condescending things they often said. “Of course not, Mr. Haversmith.” She grinned, making sure her dimples popped for him. “I’m just going to charge you more for your membership.”
The men all laughed in their hearty way, not believing for one second that she would, in fact, give them the elevated price she reserved for special men like him. She laughed too, but hers—if a person listened closely—was edged with a ‘fuck you’.
“Well, you’ve got my contact information. Be sure to put it to good use, honey.” He didn’t wink again, thank goodness, but he did waggle his eyebrows like he was sending some kind of secret message.
Cammie laughed again then waved him off. “If you’ll excuse me, gentlemen, I’m going to search out a drink. I’m absolutely parched!” She didn’t stick around for another suggestive comment, but the men’s laughter and what could only be described as catcalls did follow her as she moved through the crowd.
“Oh, there you are!” A tall redhead wearing a super-flattering, black skin-hugging leather dress rushed to her on four-inch stilettos with a frosty glass in hand. “Soda water for you. I added a lime just in case you wanted a bit of flavor.”
“Thank you!” The timing couldn’t have been more perfect. Cammie really was dying of thirst.
“Soda water, huh?”
She turned toward the gravelly voice like a puppet on a string. “Yeah, I’m not in to alcohol.”
“Smart. Don’t want to get too drunk then end up tied down and at some Dom’s mercy.” The guy standing next to her checked all Cammie’s eye-candy boxes. He was tall and wide, barrel-chested, thick-armed and, like her, appeared to enjoy food. “That’s why I’m only sipping my beer.”
“Bound and at the mercy of a Dom is exactly how I want to end up.” A bold statement, sure, but Cammie had a to-do list, and this guy might be her way to check off one of those bullet points.
“Zane,” he said, one eyebrow raised.
Amused or intrigued? It was hard to tell. He tilted his pint glass toward hers.
“Cammie.” She turned herself toward him so she could take in his full size then clinked her glass with his. She liked men with meat on them. They complemented her curves and were usually hefty enough to hoist her into the positions she loved. “You here alone?”
His eyes crinkled and a grin tugged his lips. “Are you hitting on me?”
“Not yet.” Cammie grinned back.
“Oh…dimples, how very—”
“If you say cute, I’m leaving.” Cammie took a sip from her glass, watching him over the jutting lime. Her body heat had to be wafting off her with the way her pussy quivered and wept. Zane was exactly the kind of guy she could have some fun with.
“Enticing.” He gave her a spicy once-over, trailing a hot-as-hell gaze down, lingering over her double Ds to the curve of her extra-wide hips, then back up again. “Yes, I’m here alone.”
“I’m not looking for love.” Cammie would never be accused of beating around the bush, especially not when it came to sex.
Angela Addams is an author of many naughty things. She believes that the written word is an amazing tool for crafting the most erotic of scenarios and likes telling stories about normal people getting down and dirty and falling in love. Enthralled by the paranormal at an early age, Angela also spends a lot of her time thinking up new story ideas that involve supernatural creatures in everyday situations.
She is an avid tattoo collector, a total book hoarder, and loves anything covered in chocolate…except for bugs.
She lives in Ontario, Canada in an old, creaky house, with her husband, children and four moody cats.
Charlie didn’t believe in love…until he set himself free.
It’s 1922 and after his house guest Frank Harris ran away with the under-butler, Charlie Fitzwilliam has been summoned to face the music. With the vindictive butler Bennett now watching his every move and his father planning out his life for him, Charlie finally faces up to who he is and makes a bid for freedom.
Alone for the first time in his life, he meets Michael Leonard, a kind, caring bookseller. Convinced that sex with men is only for fun, Charlie experiences a summer of self-discovery that takes him to the English seaside, the doorstep of old friends and the arms of a lover who shakes his whole belief system.
But disowned by his parents and cut off from the life he knew, can Charlie make a future for himself…and will Michael be a part of it? Is this affair something that can be called love?
Reader advisory: This book contains instances of period-typical homophobia.
I threw the ball with the top spin that had sent our team to the top of the league last term. It flew past Mateus’ head and smashed into the wickets.
“Oh, well done, Charlie,” shouted my mother from the sidelines. Nothing would have persuaded her to roll up her sleeves and join in. I smiled across and waved.
“Time for a break,” said a breathless Tilly, my baby sister. She couldn’t have been any different from my mother if she’d tried and had instantly plumped for the back stop, tucking her skirts between her legs.
We wandered across to the table where mother held court to our host, Domingos Graça. He lapped up her brand of flirtation and would laugh uproariously every time she gave him a little bit of gossip from London.
I picked up a glass of whatever they had served and took in the view. Vineyards stretched as far as the eye could see, rolling down the hill to the river. We were in the Douro Province in the north-east of Portugal—Port was big business in these parts, and the Graça family were the kings of their castle.
Their villa loomed behind us, proclaiming to all the rewards of their labour.
“She put you to work immediately? Hard luck, old chap.” Agnes had sidled up next to me without any noise. She had always been able to do that, even when we were small.
“It’s good to see you, sis.”
“You too.” She planted a firm kiss on my cheek. “At least I’ll have some fun now. Mummy and Daddy’s crusade for cash is getting embarrassing.”
I turned to see my mother and Tilly regaling the Graças with yet another story.
“Tilly is doing the work for all of us.”
“She thinks she’s getting the youngest boy, the one you nearly decapitated with your demon bowl just now. She isn’t. He hasn’t given her a second glance. Poor soul.”
Tilly had always been the odd one out. Two years separated me and Agnes, but Tilly was a surprise after my parents had taken a boat to India. We’d been sent away to school by the time she came along.
“Where’s Father?” Agnes asked.
I couldn’t even bear to think about it. “He’s locked away in his room with Bennett. They’ve been in there ever since Bennett and I arrived this morning.”
It had been two weeks since I had thrown my schoolfriend Frank Harris out of our house in England after one of our maids had caught him in a compromising position with an under-butler. I’d spent that time skulking around the house, ignoring the whispers from most of the staff.
“And how did you find travelling with Bennett? Naughty Charlie can’t be trusted on his own,” Agnes said, a twinkle in her eye.
Bennett hated anyone in this world who wasn’t my father, and my uneasiness at him being a part of this trip had built as each day passed. He had been smugness personified, attending to my every need but always with an undertone of insolence.
“A bloody bore.”
We strolled along the edge of the lawn. Agnes took my arm, and I realised I’d missed my sister.
“Come on, then. What the hell were you doing?”
I absentmindedly kicked the head off a wildflower that had dared to invade this garden of order.
“I didn’t do anything. I stupidly invited Frank Harris to stay, and he ends up buggering the help.”
Agnes laughed. “And I suppose you were in bed reading your Bible.”
“If you must know, I was entertaining Elsie.”
Agnes stopped and scowled. “That common little tart from the shop? Oh, Charlie, you can do better than that, can’t you?”
“Of course I can, but you know, any port in a storm.”
We carried on walking. The breeze was a blessed relief as the sun grew high in the sky. I hoped there were more sedate activities planned for the afternoon.
“Port.” Agnes growled. “I’m sick to death of hearing about it, drinking it, examining it. You’d think it was sent by God himself.”
It wasn’t like Agnes to be so cranky. Mother and Father had impressed upon us the importance of this trip. If we didn’t get our hands on a sizeable share of the Graças’ business, we would struggle to keep our house in the Oxfordshire countryside. Since the war had decimated the workforce, farms were struggling to pay rents, meaning big country houses were closing at a rate of knots.
“Has it been so bad?”
She scowled. “Worse. Three weeks of rattling around here. Tilly sucking up like her life depends on it, Daddy laughing at jokes that simply aren’t funny and Mummy attempting to flirt is hideous.”
I glanced at mother and Domingos. He was telling her some tale, and she was all a-quiver.
“She’s doing fine.”
Agnes’ gaze darted to the terrace in front of the house. Mine followed and there stood my father. All six foot four inches of him with a face like thunder.
“Charles,” he boomed. Every eye turned to me.
“Uh-oh. You’re for it now,” Agnes said through gritted teeth.
“Here. Now,” Father commanded.
It felt like the longest walk of my life. I trudged across the cricket pitch and up the ridiculously long flight of steps to the terrace. Bennett stood at the top with that look he’d worn for the entire journey here. I wanted to wipe it from his face.
“He’s waiting for you in the drawing room.”
“He’s waiting for you in the drawing room…sir.”
I had no idea what rubbish he had fed to my father, but I would not be disrespected by him. I stood waiting for a response.
“Of course, sir.” The smugness never left him.
I found my father pacing in the lounge. In his early fifties, he had an imposing presence. Hardly any grey ran through his dark hair and moustache. I will admit that my stomach churned when I walked in.
He stopped pacing and glowered at me. “Homosexuality in my house? What are you trying to do, boy?”
“I had no idea what Harris was up to, and I threw him out when I discovered, along with that good-for-nothing Tanner.”
Frank would never understand the position he had put me in. I could have spit in his eye.
“Of course I don’t expect you to know what your friends are getting up to when your back is turned.”
My body relaxed a little.
“But as for you creeping up to the woods with Albert Brown…”
The room had started to spin. How did he know about Albert? “I don’t know what you’ve heard, but that’s a lie.”
Someone cleared their throat behind me, and I whirled around to see Bennett.
“I brought your post, sir,” he said walking past me and placing a bunch of envelopes on the desk.
“How dare you come in here when I’m having a private conversation with my father?” I cried.
“I asked him to come in. Now, Bennett, tell my son what you’ve just told me.”
With an audacity I would pay him back for one day, Bennett put on his best pitying expression for me. “My apologies, young sir, but I had to bring it to the master’s attention. I happened to overhear Mr Harris and his terrible accusations.”
Always sneaking around, listening at doorways. I was shaking with fear and rage.
“Naturally I had to investigate this for myself. Poor Albert had no choice but to indulge you in your…unusual requests. He said you threatened to have his livelihood taken from him if he didn’t.”
“That is a lie. I would never do that. Albert and I—” I stopped.
“Albert and you what?” asked my father “That will be all, Bennett.”
“Yes, sir.” He left the room.
“I asked you a question. Albert and you what?”
I took a deep breath. “Albert and I enjoyed some mutual time together.”
Out of nowhere, my father slapped my face, so hard it threw my head to the side.
“How could you do this to us? Get up to your room. I don’t want to see your disgusting little face until dinner time.”
I started to walk away, my face still smarting.
“By then I will have decided what to do with you. You will not bring shame on this family.”
I pulled open the door and walked straight into Bennett. I grabbed hold of his shirt and pushed him against the wall. He let out a little yelp.
“You may think you’ve won some game, but you will regret this one day. You will never be anything other than a pathetic little man who listens to other people’s lives.”
I let go of him and started to walk away.
“I am taking care of the family. I do care.”
I spun on my heel. “I do care…sir. Know your place.”
I have written for as long as I could write. In fact, before, when I would dictate to my auntie. I love to read, and I love to create worlds and characters.
I live in the English countryside. When I’m not writing, I like to get out there and think through the next scenario I’m going to throw my characters into.
Inspiration can be found anywhere, on a train, in a restaurant or in an office. I am always in search of the next character to find love in one of my stories. In a world of apps and online dating, it is important to remember love can be found when you least expect it.
Planning a wedding is hard enough without international politics, an assassin, your fiancé’s ex-boyfriend and your mother to deal with.
NYPD Detective Frank Schultt and his fiancé, FBI Agent Aaron Massey, have bought a new condo, adopted a dog and are planning their wedding. But when an international assassin starts killing people on the streets of New York City, Aaron and Frank must work together to find the killer before she strikes again.
Combine the assassin with the pressure of Frank’s jealousy when Aaron’s ex-boyfriend comes back to town, and can their relationship withstand the pressure? Will Aaron and Frank make it to the altar on time, or will the assassin and Frank’s destructive behavior stop their wedding before it ever heads down the aisle?
Frank stared around the pink office, wondering if a bottle of Pepto Bismol had accidentally spilled. He watched the perky blonde woman sitting in front of him, doing his best to pay attention. It wasn’t exactly how Frank liked to spend his Saturday mornings. But it was Aaron’s big day, so he’d promised to grin and bear it.
“With Central Park wedding locations, we are definitely somewhat limited. For example, the Bow Bridge only allows for ten guests and the Belvedere Castle Terrace only allows thirty. The North Garden, Southern Garden, Wisteria Pergola and Cherry Hill each allow for up to one hundred. What size are you two thinking?”
“Eloping,” Frank muttered.
“Twenty-five to fifty,” Aaron said, shooting Frank a sideways glance.
“I’m joking,” Frank reassured, patting Aaron’s leg and giving it a squeeze before turning to the woman. “Whatever Aaron wants, I want him to have.”
NYPD Detective Frank Schultt and FBI Special Agent Aaron Massey had met the previous year during a serial murder spree. The Twelve-Day Killer, as dubbed by the media, had terrorized NYC over the holidays. Aaron and Frank had put their lives and careers on the line hunting the bastard down. In the process, they had found each other.
Frank glanced over at the man he loved. God, where would I be without him? He reached up and rubbed the back of Aaron’s neck gently. From the top of Aaron’s head with his dark brown quaff haircut and his Caribbean ocean-blue eyes, to his lithe but fit body, Frank took in this man sitting beside him who was going to be his husband. Frank was still stunned at his good fortune in landing the affection of such an amazingly intelligent and gorgeous man.
Realizing his thoughts had drifted, Frank brought his attention back to the woman sitting in front of him, who was rattling on about Central Park weddings. He glanced down at her nameplate, ‘Amber Wethersfield’. The woman was in her late twenties. And judging by the giant diamond on her wedding ring, her husband was definitely wealthy. Frank glanced across the pink office looking for personal items and was surprised by the lack of photos. For a woman who sells marriage, where are the pictures of her happy day?
“So, do you have an officiant for your wedding lined up? If not, I have a list of great people who work with LGBTQIA+ people.”
“Huh?” Frank blurted before he could catch himself.
“Officiant…the person who will oversee the ceremony and the exchange of your vows,” Amber offered.
“No, you listed off a bunch of letters,” Frank said.
Dear God, that sounds like a gay BLT. Frank was about to make the snide comment, but a quick glance from Aaron told him that he’d better hold his tongue. Instead, Frank just nodded his head and gave a thin-lipped smile.
“Actually, we have a few people in mind,” Aaron noted. “Frank knows a judge who volunteered her services, and we have a couple of other names in the hopper as well.”
“Oh, good,” Amber said. “You’d be amazed at how many people totally forget the officiant until the last minute. I even have a license I got from an online church because I’ve had to step in at the eleventh hour when something went horribly wrong. I just don’t enjoy being in the wedding party, because it makes it harder for me to run things behind the scenes.”
Frank leaned back in the chair and watched as Aaron and Amber discussed the wedding. This wasn’t Frank’s first. He’d been married, but his husband had been murdered in a liquor store robbery on Christmas Eve over six years ago. As much as Frank loved Aaron, there was still a vast hole in his heart that had been left by Adam’s death. But Frank loved Aaron and was going to make sure their wedding day was every bit of glitz and glamour that Aaron desired.
“Well, if you have questions,” Amber said, bringing Frank’s attention back once again, “just let me know. You have my email, cell phone, home phone and office phone numbers, so never hesitate to reach out. I look forward to working with both of you on your big day.”
Amber stood up from her desk to usher the couple out of her office. She pushed herself up, exposing her pregnant belly.
“When’s the due date?” Aaron asked.
“Mid-March. But I swear she’s ready to come out any day.”
Frank stared at her belly and just thought, Are you sure there’s only one in there? But once again, he held his tongue.
“Don’t worry. I won’t miss your big day. When I’m out on maternity leave, my assistant will take over the day-to-day preparations, and he’ll be in constant contact with me. When I had my first baby, we were texting right up until they told me to push.”
“Well, it was really was nice meeting you,” Frank said.
“Likewise. And I just have to say, you two make such a cute couple.”
“Thank you,” Aaron said. “I think he’s a keeper.” Aaron gave Amber a little wink before turning to leave.
As Frank followed suit, Aaron’s hand rested in the small of Frank’s back. Frank leaned into Aaron in response.
“Earth to Frank!” Aaron said as they exited onto the sidewalk. The February chill immediately caught Aaron off guard, and he lifted the collar on the trench coat to protect his neck.
“I said, “Earth to Frank.” What’s going on inside that head of yours?”
“Overwhelmed, I guess.”
“The whole wedding planning is just bringing up some memories.”
Aaron squeezed Frank. “I hadn’t thought about that. I forget that you’ve done this before.”
“Yeah,” Frank said, scrunching his forehead. “It’s surreal. Don’t get me wrong, I’m excited to be marrying you. I hope you know that. It’s just that it brings up memories of Adam.”
“I get it,” Aaron said. “I would be surprised if it didn’t, to be honest.” Aaron hesitated for a second before adding, “Just know…I will never try to replace Adam. I know what you two had was special—”
“What we have is special too.”
“I know,” Aaron acknowledged. “I just want you to know that I love you and would never try to change you…warts and all.”
“God, I hope I don’t have any warts.”
“We all have warts. Some have them physically and others have them metaphorically.”
“Sure thing, professor,” Frank teased.
After dealing with the Twelve-Day Killer, Aaron had taken a teaching position part-time with the John Jay School of Criminal Justice. He was technically still on the FBI’s payroll, but his utility as an undercover agent had taken a hit after the amount of press the Twelve-Day Killer had received. And with the forthcoming publication of his new book about the case, Aaron and Frank both knew a fresh round of press attention was right around the corner.
“So, we didn’t have breakfast after the gym this morning,” Aaron said. “Shall we have a quick brunch before heading back to the apartment to get ready?”
“Do we have time?” Frank asked, glancing down at his watch. “It’s already ten a.m. What time is the car picking us up for the reading?”
“The reading’s at two o’clock, so the car is scheduled to pick us up about one-fifteen.”
“I guess we have plenty of time. Any suggestions on where we should eat?”
“How about 9Ten?” Aaron asked, referring to one of their favorite diners.
Jason Wrench is a professor in the Department of Communication at SUNY New Paltz and has authored/edited 15+ books and over 35 academic research articles. He is also an avid reader and regularly reviews books for publishers in a wide number of genres. This book marks his first full-length work of fiction.