Lionel, one of the last Unicorn Valley Gryphons, is forced to choose his mate from among other shifters. What he doesn’t count on is falling in love with the Werebitch Teema, who has a few needs and demands of her own.
Lionel’s foster brother Brolly falls for a shape — and gender — shifting Immortal, and Shadow, the future Unicorn Herd Stallion, loves an Elf.
As if things couldn’t get any stranger, their mercenary Unicorn uncle Jamir is falling in love with both Moontyger and the Dragon Li Chin — at the same time.
Not everyone loves everybody in Unicorn Valley, but they try.
Lionel brooded on that ugly fact from the ledge outside his nesting cave. It was good to be home where the air was clean and the pulse of magic strong, but that didn’t change the fact that he would die, alone.
He folded his long, bare legs until he achieved the meditative pose his foster mother taught him. However, instead of meditating, he put his elbows on his knees and rested his chin in his hands. The loneliness threatened to overwhelm him.
“Now there’s a dejected fellow!” The familiar voice eased the ache of loneliness. Lionel turned to see his foster brothers Brolly and Shadow make the final few feet of climb to the ledge where he sat. After a lot of masculine back pounding, Lionel invited his brothers inside. They sat on great cushions made dusty by the long months of disuse, but no one cared.
“No luck in finding a Gryphoness, old pal?” Brolly’s human form was of a brawny young man with brown hair and twinkling brown eyes full of mischief.
Lionel shook his head, and felt his shoulders droop with despair. Brolly put a comforting hand on his arm. Shadow looked on sympathetically, his horn knob flashing silver in the morning light.
Lionel shook his golden brown hair out of his eyes. “No, no luck. It was horrible outside our magical home! You’d think in the sky, and as high as I fly, I’d be safe.” He pointed to a wound on his shoulder. “They’ve become more proficient with their arrows than your father estimated. Everywhere, the evidence exists Gryphons once were Outside, in statues and artwork on cloth they hang from their homes.” He pounded his fist into his hand in frustration. “But no real, live Gryphons anywhere!”
Brolly put his hand on Lionel’s clenched fist. “Will you let me look at the wound?” As a healer, Brolly was always courteous enough to ask if his help would be accepted. It was perhaps the sole serious thing about him.
“If you insist. I packed it with the herbs you gave me. It shouldn’t need healing.” Lionel forced himself to stillness. “I did miss the familiar tingle of a decent healer, I must say. The arrow came out of nowhere. I swear it! Humans are everywhere! Like ants! I almost was a pretty Gryphon trophy or rug for the wall!” He shuddered and remembered how close the arrow came to his vulnerable chest.
Brolly’s brown hand was over the arrow wound in a flash. “Now, that’s a vile thought!” Brolly’s distracted voice still held a measure of disgust. “I’m sorry you’d no luck, brother mine.” The warm tingle of Brolly’s healing gift ceased, and Lionel breathed a sigh of relief. The constant ache was gone.
“Why must I be one of the last of my kind?” Lionel complained. He studied the talons on the end of his hand. “I need a mate, damn it. Not only just to ease a lusty moment, but I’m one of the last Gryphons here in the Valley. I must make cubs if Gryphons are to survive.” He looked around his shabby nest cave. A female made all the difference between a place to sleep and a home. In his mind’s eye, he could almost see it. A nesting Gryphoness purring, games of Pounce and Tumble with the whistling laughter of Gryphlets, and the proud joy of flight lessons.
“You’re handsome enough to get a Gryphoness, too, if there were one available,” put in Shad, in the low tones of his kind. All Unicorns were soft-spoken, but vicious fighters when need arose. “The fact is, Lionel, you must choose a mate from outside your own race,” Shad pointed out, his voice earnest. “A filly or Vampire bitch won’t suit. Fillies produce single offspring, and Vamps tend to throw too many females.”
“I don’t want a filly, old friend. You can keep them. I don’t want an herbivore cluttering up my nest growing plants to eat. The very thought makes me shudder!”
Shad chuckled. “In truth, a Werewolf bitch is best since they’re prolific enough to produce litters.”
“But I want a real Gryphoness! The purity of my line…”
“Won’t continue without a mate, Feather Wit,” Shadow interrupted sternly. “As you well know, what form you are, you become in all ways.”
Brolly jumped in. “All she’d need to do is stay in Gryphoness form until she gave birth, Lionel. You know that.”
Lionel grumbled, then sighed. “You’re right. I’m stooping at shadows. I must find a female willing to give up her form for me. That is difficult enough.” He grinned at Shadow. “I will look among the Werewolves first. I would prefer a carnivore.”
Shadow manifested three glasses of wine that floated near the hands of his brothers. Brolly and Lionel grabbed up their wine glasses. The sparkling pink stuff slid down Lionel’s throat like liquid gold. He toasted his elegant brother in appreciation. “May I find a bitch, queen, or flirtatious filly who can love me enough to fill my cave with joy.”
“That shouldn’t be difficult,” Brolly murmured into his goblet. “Since any female can be bitch, queen, or flirtatious while they bat their lovely eyes at us and make us simpering idiots.” The brothers roared with laughter at that truth.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Someone cursed Lena Austin with “may you have a life so full you’ll have many tales to tell your grandchildren.” Lena’s a “fallen” society wench with a checkered past. She’s been a licensed minister, hairdresser, Realtor, radio DJ, exotic dancer, telephone service tech, live-steel medievalist swordswoman, BDSM Mistress, and investment property manager. Not necessarily in that order. She never finished that degree in marine archaeology, but did learn to scuba — she’s got a lifetime of “Research material!”
Hey, why waste these stories on kids who won’t listen anyway? Writing them down is a nice way to spend her retirement. What? You expected an ex-BDSM Mistress to take up crocheting or something?
When desire and lust combine in the dark imagination of the sleeping mind, the results burn hot as phoenix fire and take us on a journey to meet two lovers who are anything but human. We may find ourselves deep in the woods where dryads have been waiting to offer seduction under the cover of leaves, or we may find a candy trail we simply have to follow.
These are nine stories of magic and magical things, of shapeshifters and fortune-tellers, of witches and their charms. Two women fall for one another even as two handsome vampires decide to share the woman they both claim, and a muse strikes inspiration in a dancer. Myth and dream meet love and lust in this collection of nine sensual stories which explore different worlds, different characters, and different constellation of lovers. Each story is a journey worth taking.
You want to know the details. You want to know how Sebastian came to be my gentleman.
Well, it is simple, really.
“So tell me, Bas (that’s what I was calling him by then), what makes you leave lollipop trails out there in the woods? “
He shrugged. “I guess… I dunno. I wanted to see who picked them up, who would go for the sweet stuff.”
“What if I had licked one of them?” I asked, and he blushed, just a little bit.
“You… would have come here, very eager… eager to lick something else.”
“So you put an aphrodisiac in the candy?” I asked him.
“Well, no,” he said. “I just enchanted them to encourage desire.”
Now, by then we were sitting on his loveseat by the fire. He had made tea, but I had stubbornly stirred mine without drinking any of it. After all, I still remember the taste of that poisoned apple our lovely, lovely sorceress queen offered me and I foolishly took. Aw, but she was unique, wasn’t she, our mirror-loving queen? How much you too could have enjoyed her if you had a taste for women at all. Wouldn’t you agree, Brother?
So when I tell you the impression I had of Bas by then, know that it was untainted by anything magical. He had lovely hair, golden I told you, but it was the really curly and sparkly soft kind that you want to run your fingers through, and my fingers, Brother, were itching to take a handful of that hair and pull, gently. Then there were his shoulders, quite a bit broader than you would expect to see in an enchanter. I mentioned his chest already, but being exposed to the sight for all our conversation, I wanted nothing more than to touch it, taste it with my tongue. His waist was narrow while his thighs and ass were wonderfully formed and muscular. A runner’s body really. (Yes, all right, he reminded me a little bit of our gingerbread man.)
So he sits there and tells me that he was basically trying to get laid, and being out there in the woods, he used some enchantment to attract potential bedmates because what else are you supposed to do, out there in the woods?
To his credit, he was being frank about it, and let us not pretend, Brother, that he is anywhere near as creepy or devious as half the things prowling that forest! Actually, in comparison, he did seem like one of the more gentlemanly kind.
“So you want to be licked?” I asked him unflinchingly. I crossed my legs slowly and made sure to pull my skirt up so he could see enough leg to make his mouth water.
“I would like that,” he said, rubbing those long-fingered hands of his. “But of course, I wouldn’t mind reciprocating either.”
We might have talked a bit more then, but it ended as you must have been expecting all along. I put my hand on his thigh, gently stroking, then stroking his hard length through his pants. I looked deep into his brown eyes and saw how his pupils went wide when my hand worked on him…
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Alexa Piper writes steamy romance that ranges from light to dark, from straight to queer. She’s also a coffee addict. Alexa loves writing stories that make her readers laugh and fall in love with the characters in them. Connect with Alexa on Facebook or Instagram, follow her on Twitter, and subscribe to her newsletter!
Prince Erilan is expected to do many things within Light Fae society. He is Captain of the Queen’s Guard, Queen Ivena’s advisor, and heir to the Light Fae throne. He’s always performed his duties — royal and familial — with unflinching loyalty. When he meets a Dark Fae scout, however, Erilan’s sense of duty wars with an unholy desire for the enigmatic Fae.
Lyren of House Kehru much prefers covertly spying from trees and shadows to jumping into the forays of the frontlines. He loves his job as a scout. Having far more magic than most of his Dark Fae brethren is a big plus. So when he’s ordered to do recon on the invisible borders of the Light Fae realm, he employs his magick to do just that. What he doesn’t count on is the insanely gorgeous Light Fae who nearly takes his head off with a sword.
Lyren ducked behind a tree, hidden beneath his cloak and the shadows. This close to the Light Fae border, his glamour wouldn’t matter. Light Fae saw through such things with ease. He peered around the trunk, eyes narrowing. Nothing. He let out a quiet breath and turned toward the woods. If he could get far enough away —
Bright, razor-sharp steel rested at his throat. Lyren didn’t dare move a single muscle.
The sword’s owner emerged from Lyren’s right, cloaked but practically glowing. There was a damn good reason why they were called “Light Fae.” “Who are you?”
Lyren couldn’t see the Fae’s eyes, but that voice made every nerve in his body tingle. Fucking figured he’d go weak-kneed for the enemy. “Lyren,” he murmured, wary of the blade still pressed neatly against his neck. One swipe, and he’d bleed out on the forest floor.
“Of what House?”
Grimacing, Lyren debated whether or not to simply deny any affiliation. Technically, he could. No one in House Kehru knew his true lineage, not even the Chamber or the Leader. “The truth? Or what I tell the rest of the Dark Fae?”
For a moment, the swordsman didn’t speak. Then, much to Lyren’s surprise, the sword lowered. “Both.”
Grateful he could still nod, Lyren did so. “They think I’m part of House Kehru, and I let them believe it. In truth, I’m one of the last descendants of the true Dark Fae. My family were the founders of the entire race. I belong to no House.”
The hood fell, and Lyren thanked every god he knew of for the tree supporting him. Snow-white hair framed a masculine yet soft-featured face. Eyes the color of pale blue crystals met Lyren’s gaze and never wavered. Lips he wanted to kiss until he died just remained pressed together, taunting him. Gods. He knew Light Fae were beautiful, but this one…
“And why should I believe a word you say?”
The question snapped Lyren out of his lust-filled daze like ice-cold water dumped over his head. “You shouldn’t. Hell, I don’t believe anything Dark Fae tell me.”
The Light Fae blinked, then smirked. Lyren’s stomach flip-flopped. Gods, he had it bad, and he didn’t even know the swordsman’s name. The Light Fae sheathed his sword and drew out a length of shimmery rope. Smart man. Regular rope wouldn’t hold anyone with a modicum of magick.
“How long before you’re missed?”
Nodding, the Light Fae grabbed Lyren’s wrists and bound them across each other. Lyren did his best to ignore the way the Fae’s touch lingered on his skin, even after the Fae stepped back. Lyren inhaled softly as the Light Fae stood close, but, apparently, it wasn’t quiet enough.
“Something you wish to say?” the swordsman murmured.
Lyren swallowed and shook his head, praying to the gods that his cock wouldn’t get any harder than it already was. All he had to do was lean a little forward, and they’d kiss. But he didn’t dare. He was pretty damn sure the Fae would lead him into the Light Fae realm, which meant he’d be the wolf amongst countless bloodthirsty sheep.
The man chuckled and tugged the rope. “This way. Stay close.”
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Myc has been writing professionally since 2005, solo and with Shayne Carmichael. Genres include pretty much anything (no steampunk yet), though Myc is well known for paranormal stories. When not writing, Myc is usually playing PC games, reading, watching Netflix, and spending way too much time on Facebook. Since the question has come up in the past, pronouns are not an issue. Myc is bio-female, mentally male, and 100% genderfluid, so any pronoun works!
Cocky American Ad Exec, Bradley Connors, and his courageous ex-RAF fighter pilot husband, Janes Garrett, are back in London and once again separated through the power of time. With James stranded in 1956 during a polio outbreak, a world of homophobia threatens to keep him from the man he loves. How will he talk himself out of the trouble he’s unwittingly creating? Who from his past can he rely on to help him get home to Bradley? Will they be able to save their friends from the deadly pandemic or will they too perish in the attempt? And can they do all this while reaffirming that nothing can tear their love apart, not even time itself? Time Cures is a love story like no other. It’s a romance through time.
“Considering the length of time he was unconscious, I feel it imperative that he remain in hospital for at least the next twenty-four hours for observation. Provided no other symptoms manifest, he can be released to his family at that time,” Dr. Donaldson advised.
James was relieved that the diagnosis wasn’t worse. He knew Bradley was still going to be angry at him for getting hurt. Again. At least he would be angry – once Bradley got over being relieved – when James finally got around to calling him.
“Pardon me, Doctor,” the nurse interrupted before the doctor could make his grand exit. “But, before ya came in, the patient was showing signs of confusion and talkin’ all sorts a nonsense. I’m thinking he mighta banged his ‘ead a bit harder than he’s lettin’ on.”
“Confusion?” That got the good doctor’s attention.
“Yes, Doctor. He was spoutin’ some nonsense ‘bout needin’ to ring his husband, an’ seemed to think he had a telephone in that kit bag of ‘is.” The nurse pointed to James’ messenger bag while giving the doctor a knowing look.
“Is that so . . .” The doctor turned back to his patient, one bushy eyebrow raised inquisitively, much more interested in the young blond man now than he had been initially. “Do you remember your name, son?”
“Yes, of course. It’s James Garrett.”
The doctor nodded and asked another question. “Do you remember the accident that gave you that bump on the head?”
James thought about it, but just came up blank. He started to shake his head to indicate ‘no’, only the gesture made the dizziness and nausea worse. He groaned and dropped his head into his hands. “No,” he moaned.
“Well, that’s not a good sign,” Doctor Obvious surmised, his eyebrows knitting together so closely that they now looked like one long, hairy caterpillar creeping across his forehead. “Now, what’s all this chit chat about a telephone and a husband?”
“I just want to call him and let him know where I’m at,” James offered, feeling and sounding pathetic even to his own ears.
“You say you have a . . . Husband ?” The doctor very clearly emphasized the word ‘husband’ in a disbelieving tone of voice.
“Yes! I want to call MY HUSBAND, okay?” James was losing patience with the proceedings and his voice had risen commensurately with his annoyance level. “His name is Bradley Connors. We’re here visiting from the United States; Bradley has business with a big client here. We’re staying at The Strand Palace. He’s probably waiting for me there and, most likely, has already called the police to help find me. If you’d just let me get my cell phone out of my bag I can call him and he’ll come down here and take me to a different hospital where they’ll stop asking me idiotic questions . . .”
The doctor interrupted him before he could continue his rant. “Do you know where you are right now?”
“You mean the hospital? The nurse said it was St. Bart’s. Or do you mean London?”
“Righteo. And what’s the date?”
“Um . . .” James had to think a little about that, his memory going a little fuzzy on him. “I think it’s still Monday, right? August . . . August 14th?”
“Close. You got the date correct but it’s Tuesday. What about the year?”
“2017 . . . ?” James answered, starting to get a funny feeling about where all these questions were leading.
“Hmmmm,” was Donaldson’s only reply. Then he turned to the nurse with more directions. “Clearly, this is a much more serious case than I previously suspected. We could be looking at Traumatic Encephalopathy or, perhaps, some type of advanced psychosis. I’m going to call in Dr. Abbott for a psychiatric evaluation. Change the charge order to note a seventy-two hour hold.” Returning his attention to the patient he added, “never fear, young man. We’re going to take good care of you. Hopefully, by the time we’re done here, you’ll be in tiptop shape once more, back in full possession of all your mental faculties.”
With that proclamation, Dr. Donaldson spun about and started for the door.
“Wait,” James shouted after the departing man before he could exit. “What year is it, really?”
TAG has been writing for almost a decade, starting out with a hesitant toe in the realm of fanfiction before venturing into the scarier world of self-publishing original works. With an eclectic background as a lawyer, microbiologist, all-around nerd, and adventurer, TAG brings that off-kilter sense of humor, unbounded curiosity, a love of details, and astonishing powers of research to all their writing. If you are looking for a griping story, with compelling characters that deal with real world issues, then you’re in the right place.
Lily has been writing close to for twenty years, but has only ever (until recently) dipped her toes into writing fan-fiction. Lily is a born and bred Londoner and loves nothing more than getting lost in a book – whether it be writing one of her own, or reading something from one of her favorite authors. In her spare time, Lily likes to think of herself as somewhat of a disability rights activist, helping to create change for those that may not have a voice to speak up or, like Lily herself, those that may have been too quiet to stand up for themselves.
Mara has a surprise for her men — she’s pregnant! But Aaron doesn’t seem as happy as he should be. In fact, he fears the baby’s life may be in danger depending on which of them is the father: Aaron, who was born to the ocean, or Chris, who was born half human.
Together, they visit the underwater city where Aaron’s people live to find out if his fears might be valid. With few answers, they await the arrival of their new family member, hoping the bond of their love will keep the baby safe as it enters a world above the sea.
Faith Talbot has been a body double, a prima ballerina, and a forklift driver. In her spare time, she likes to knit and play the zither. Sometimes she can be found at rock concerts not being the least bit stalkery at all.
Even at an allegedly gay-friendly high school, being out isn’t easy, not if you play a sport. Remy didn’t just play a sport, he lived for a sport. He bled crew and rowed with his best friend, Mikey. He’d known him forever but was a year ahead of him in school and crew, varsity to his JV. But then something changed. They were on the way to a regatta in San Diego and suddenly they noticed each other. Remy don’t know what happened. They’d changed in front of each other in the locker rooms all the time at school. But Remy’d never looked and suddenly all he could do was stare.
Remy thought Mikey felt the same, yet somehow Mikey didn’t want a relationship. Whatever, Remy didn’t have time for drama. They had a major regatta to prepare for. They make apps to help lonely young men to find temporary companionship, and let’s just say, Remy enjoyed the summer before his senior year. Then everything caught up with him and it all came apart.
Mikey was furious, but if he didn’t want a relationship, why was he angry? It turned out there was a price for playing around, and when Remy got sick, he had to wonder, where would Mikey be?
When all this started, my older brother Geoff didn’t know I was gay, at least not to my knowledge. I’d called him “Goff” when we were really young because I couldn’t pronounce his name. He’d called me “Germy” because he couldn’t say Jeremy. He still calls me Germy, even though everyone else calls me Remy. I still called him Goff, so I guess that was fair.
Goff was thirteen minutes older—we were twins of the fraternal variety—and he milked that older bit like a Holstein cow. Thirteen minutes, but you would have thought it was thirteen years. Anyway, he played football. He looked out for me, or at least tried, but he was and is straight as a plank. We wrangled a lot, still do, but he saved me from a lot of homophobic hassling, sometimes at the hands of his own friends, without even knowing I was gay, which was pretty cool of him.
“Teammates,” Goff would say. “They’re not my friends, not if they’re giving you shit.”
He was a good guy when he wasn’t being an asshole.
That said, Goff never understood a fundamental part of me, at least not until I came out to him. I guess that was my fault though. How could he when I’d never told him I was gay? But how could I when I couldn’t have borne losing my brother? He was my twin, the person I was closest to in the world. Losing him would’ve meant losing a part of me. We fought like cats in a gunnysack and it drove our parents crazy, but they never understood that we went to the trouble of irritating one another because we loved one another. We certainly weren’t going to tell one another that. We were (and are) teenage males. Dad was a shrink. Dr. Babcock should’ve gotten that but didn’t.
So anyway, Goff missed a major piece of who I was and everything that went along with it. Now I wouldn’t say all teenage boys were sex-obsessed, just every one I’ve ever encountered. But he had all the sex he wanted and had no idea what it’s like not getting it. For me, it was not being gotten. So, I was horny as hell in high school and about to burst. That was the start of all my problems, I guess.
Our family lived in Davis, an über-liberal organo-groovy college town about seventy miles from San Francisco. Davis had bought into Cesar Chavez’s grape boycott, which I read about in history class; it made itself a nuclear-free zone, which was kind of a joke when UC Davis boasted a particle accelerator of its very own. Besides, what good would the declaration of being a nuclear-free zone have done? Protect the city if the US and the USSR had nuked each other? There were three major Air Force bases around the city during the Cold War. There’d have been a bright-blue flash and then nothing. Good luck with that nuclear-free zone. The city was also a declared sanctuary for undocumented immigrants. I could go on, but why bother? A homecoming prince even brought his boyfriend to prom one year. As a gay kid, I should’ve been golden in a city and high school like this.
But someone forgot to send my parents that memo, or at least my mother. Mom was a smart woman—she majored in chemistry in college and went on to become a drug rep for a pharmaceutical company after she decided getting a PharmD wasn’t for her—but she was oblivious sometimes, especially where Goff and I were concerned. Of both our parents, she was the louder with the compulsory heterosexuality messaging, things like telling me I was morally obligated to take some unpopular (read: fat with braces) girl to the prom. She said it was my “gentlemanly duty” or some such bull, but Goff and I both knew it was because she herself had been fat with braces in high school. She wasn’t doing it deliberately—trying to make me miserable—but she succeeded admirably.
Women in Mississippi had taken their girlfriends to prom, or at least tried. Hell, even in Davis a few years ago, the aforementioned homecoming prince took his boyfriend, but my mom? She thought I had to make life better for every desperate and dateless girl out there, just to restore some cosmic balance because her life sucked during high school. Why didn’t she get that this was my life, my one-way ticket through high school, not her do-over?
When I said things like that, her response was, “I think you can take one evening out of your life to make a difference in someone else’s.” Given the essentially obligatory service hours necessary to get into college these days, I thought I already had.
My boyfriend could’ve plowed me on the table at Thanksgiving, and she would have still said that. If I’d had a boyfriend. Well, there was Mikey Castelreigh. He wanted to be my boyfriend. I thought of him more as a kid brother even though he was only a year younger. I felt like there was a big difference between a sophomore and a junior in high school, however. Mikey looked like he missed the puberty train. I had a left hand. What I needed was a close friend who was gay. Mikey fit that bill very well.
Even at good ol’ tolerant, GSA-sporting Davis High, it wasn’t easy being different. We were still teenagers. Being smacked on the ass with the gay wand when I was born didn’t change that. I wanted to think Mikey understood that. I think what Mikey didn’t get was why we couldn’t be friends with benefits. Uh…because it would have been like blowing my brother? If I had a brother who swung that way. But then, as has been pointed out to me many times, I also saw what I wanted to see and not always what was really there. Or boats. I saw rowing-related things very clearly. It was life that tripped me up at every turn.
But telling my parents? Like that would ever happen. Hear that flapping noise? That was the pigs flying out of my butt, which would happen right before I’d tell my parents I liked the cock. I never got the best vibe off them where that was concerned. Sure, they had gay and lesbian, even trans, friends, but it was different when it was their kid, you know? They were on a need-to-know basis where my life was concerned. Coming out? Survey says: No!
Goff told our parents about a lot of things that went on his life—whereas I told them very little—but then he and I had very different relationships with them.
“So how’s that working for you, Goff?”
I smiled, but it was really more of a smirk. “Still think having the olds know every single detail’s harmless?”
“You’re really kind of a dick sometimes, you know that?”
“Everybody has to be something, I guess.”
“Really? I thought you were more of an asshole.”
He had no idea what he was doing to me with this conversation. I mean, the homoerotic subtext was barely sub. Sure, Mikey and I were going to die laughing about it later, but right then I had to bite my tongue, and that was kind of painful.
I looked at him for a few moments, totally expressionless. Just long enough that he’d gone back to his homework. Just long enough to make him squirm. “What? You’re creeping me out.”
“I could’ve sworn I heard you say stop sleeping in your bed when you sneak out to see your girlfriend.”
Mom and Dad never checked on me. Ever. I never gave them a reason to. Goff? Too many. Neither of us was stupid enough to think pillows under the blankets would fool them, but me in his bed? Physically we were nothing alike, but at least I made breathing sounds. We had a Jack and Jill bedroom setup where our rooms met in a common bathroom. We locked the bathroom door leading into the hallway and put the pillows in my bed, I moved to his, and he was out of there. He always showed his gratitude.
“You… That’s harsh, man.”
“Times are hard.”
Goff threw down his pen. “Why’re you doing this?”
“Because it’s almost summer, which means fall’s not that far away, which means neither is the prom, and it’s never too early to present a united front.”
“You’re really twisted, you know that?”
I shrugged. “And you know she’ll try to get you to take someone besides your girlfriend, since you quote, unquote haven’t been dating that long.”
“They’re not that bad,” Goff said, sighing.
“Have it your way, but don’t come whining to me when Mom does exactly that.” It’s not that I was smarter than Goff. I wasn’t. But I was smarter in different areas, like sneaking. It was like he didn’t have an ounce of guile in him. Apparently, I received both our shares. Somehow, and despite getting him into endless trouble when we were children, he still trusted me. Maybe it’s because as we grew older, I got him out of scrapes, at least when I knew about them in time.
Maybe I shouldn’t have complained. Goff got the same kind of nonsense from our parents, too, and never mind that he had a girlfriend. She wasn’t even a cheerleader. She was supersweet and amazingly intelligent. He met Laurel because I brought her home to study for AP Biology I. It took him a few months of whining like an Irish setter, but they eventually took to studying each other’s biology. I knew this because Goff was too chickenshit to buy his own condoms, so I had to buy them for him.
Speaking of shit of whatever species, Goff was in it because a teammate was caught dealing molly. Goff’s friend slash teammate was busted by the cops at a team party. Oddly enough what our parents freaked out about was that Geoff had alcohol on his breath. He blew a 0.12 as a matter of fact. I think that was half again the legal limit. Yeah, hi, Mom and Dad, he was at a party where the host was busted for dealing Ecstasy. You maybe want to focus on the larger picture? Or maybe they were, because I knew for a fact my brother didn’t and wouldn’t take drugs. Anyway, Goff couldn’t fart without them breathing down his neck for a while.
But if I’d known about the party, I’d have told him to watch his step, because rumors of drug-dealing by members of the football team had been flying around school for weeks. At the very least, he might’ve limited himself to a beer or two instead of getting trashed. Then Goff could’ve told the olds, “Sorry, Mom and Dad, I know it showed bad judgment, but I planned to call Germy to come and get me.” And I’d have absolutely covered for him. For that matter, he could have gotten trashed, and I’d still have picked him up if he had warned me in time to cover for him.
Weirdly enough, they were totally permissive where I was concerned. They thought I was a late bloomer and hoped the talks they gave Goff about sex applied to me, too, because they made me sit down and listen to every single one of them, not that they contained anything I needed to know. But the last one? I couldn’t take it anymore and I cranked up the sarcasm. It bugged Dad, I knew that for sure, and I was pretty sure I managed to irritate Goff, and never mind the fact that he was sick of those talks too. Goff already knew not to get his girlfriend pregnant and to make sure he was in charge of his birth control.
Except for the condom buying. I was in charge of that.
“Could you maybe shut up, Germy? This is bad enough without your sniping.”
Dad nodded. “Please listen to your brother. I get that you may be too old for these, but you’re not making this easier on any of us. If you stop, I promise this will be the last one.”
“You’ve said that every time, Dad. Yet here we are, another ho-hum day in paradise listening to these riveting talks,” I said acidly. “I think we’ve got a lock on the prevention of premature grandparenthood. Not much else, but babies are definitely one sexually transmitted parasite we can rule out. Maybe someday we can move on to spirochetes.”
“Jeremy…” Dad said in that warning tone of his. It held a hint of a threat, but what did I care? I’d heard it all my life and it had long since ceased to have the desired effect. It was more proof that I was the changeling, the odd Babcock out.
These things were so stupid. Take today’s lecture. Please. Dad actually had the nerve to refer to the labia as a butterfly. How the hell was I supposed to keep a straight face when confronted with that? Dad was going on about female anatomy again, trying to help Goff—and presumably me—locate the G-spot. I would never need to know, and based on the noises issuing from Goff’s room of an evening, he already knew exactly where to find it. What I needed—what we both needed—was basic information on sexually transmitted infections. Anatomy had been covered in eighth-grade sex ed.
Yet this was vintage Dad, blithely charging ahead, with Goff in tow more or less willingly and me digging in my heels every step of the way. I could not say Dad never heard, if only because sound waves did stimulate his auditory nerves. It never changed his behavior, however, and trying to persuade Dad was like arguing with the wind for all the good it did, at least not once he had a notion fixed in his mind. Mom had some facility in managing him, but then, she had more experience. Goff and I were only teenagers, so what did we know? I was convinced that was how Dad’s thought processes ran. The bizarrissimo part of it all was that Goff was the good twin whereas I questioned everything, fighting anything I thought absurd with tooth and claw. I had even overheard Dad say as much when he thought he was unobserved. Yet Dad—both parents, really—kept Goff on a shorter leash.
I thought this different treatment was because of our different sports, I really did. Football? Sure. Everyone knew the deal or thought they did. What they really knew was the reputation that came from a bunch of idiotic movies. Goff sure wasn’t like that, and most of his football friends weren’t either. But crew? They had no idea about crew, not really, and never mind the stupid amounts of parental involvement my club required. No, when Mom and Dad were in college, rowers were pale, muscular gods and goddesses who walked the campuses, ate obscene amounts of food after their early-morning practices without gaining a pound, and stuck mainly with their own kind. They told me as much. That my club’s juniors program practiced in the afternoon must have thrown them off my scent, because I had a tan despite the sunblock.
Seriously, I got away with murder. Or at least I did the summer before my senior year, and the person I killed—or almost killed—was myself. After that? I lived on Cellblock Q.
Christopher Koehler always wanted to write, but it wasn’t until his grad school years that he realized writing was how he wanted to spend his life. Long something of a hothouse flower, he’s been lucky to be surrounded by people who encouraged that, especially his long-suffering husband of twenty-nine years and counting.
He loves many genres of fiction and nonfiction, but he’s especially fond of romances, because it’s in them that human emotions and relations, at least most of the ones fit to be discussed publicly, are laid bare.
While writing is his passion and his life, when he’s not doing that, he’s a househusband, at-home dad, and oarsman with a slightly disturbing interest in manners and the other ways people behave badly.
Christopher is approaching the tenth anniversary of publication and has been fortunate to be recognized for his writing, including by the American Library Association, which named Poz a 2016 Recommended Title, and an Honorable Mention for “Transformation,” in Innovation, Volume 6 of Queer Sci Fi’s Flash Fiction Anthology.
How much are you willing to give up for the man you love?
Best friends Nick Johnson and Tyler Jensen seem to have the world by the tail. The eighteen-year-old stars of their school’s hockey team are looking forward to playing in college and hoping for careers with the pros.
Nick and Tyler know a lot about each other, but there are a few important details they haven’t discussed. To start with, neither man knows the other is gay. Making things interesting, Nick has a massive crush on Tyler, something he’s kept to himself for a long time. And although he’s never said a word about it, Tyler has wanted to date Nick since they met.
On a cold Minnesota night after a big win, Tyler finds the courage to confess his feelings to Nick. When Nick admits his attraction to Tyler, their relationship turns on a dime. As they fall in love, they skate around the challenges of a secret romance in an all-male boarding school, but what will happen when the stakes rise dramatically in a sport not known for being gay-friendly? Will Nick and Tyler make the easy choice or the hard one?
The New Next One is a 20,000-word, new adult, friends-to-lovers romance featuring young athletes, plenty of steam, and a lot of emotion. The events of this book precede those told in the authors’ book Nice Catching You.
The two of us bundled up and walked south along the lakeshore. We talked about different things—school, what was going on in the NHL, and the big celebration of our championship that would happen the next week when everyone was back on campus. Ty reached for my hand after we passed the cabin. Even with both of us wearing mittens, it felt incredibly good to be out walking on a beautiful day, openly showing affection with my boyfriend. By the time you’re eighteen, holding hands with somebody you’re dating probably doesn’t seem exciting to most people; for me, it was huge, and I wanted to shout out loud. Instead, I pulled us to a stop and kissed him.
Afterward, he tweaked my nose. “I know everybody we play against thinks you’re a real bastard, but you’re actually a sweetheart.”
I gave it right back to him. “They all think you’re a bastard too. Haven’t decided where I stand on that.”
“What do you mean?” He turned his head to the side, looking very cute with tufts of hair sticking out from under his Penguins beanie. “I’ve always been nice to you.”
“I guess so.” I gave him another peck. “Why’d you make me wait all these years?”
I made you wait? Hell, I’m the one who finally worked up enough courage to do something about it.”
Turning him loose, I backhanded his arm and made a silly face. “I guess I’m glad about that.”
His jaw fell into an open-mouthed smile, and he shook his head. “Every man for himself, Johnson!”
He took off running, and I laughed hard as he bent over to pick up a fistful of snow. Quickly shaping it into a ball, he threw it at me and missed by a mile.
“You throw like a girl, Jensie!” I followed that up with a snowball of my own, hitting him in the middle of the chest.
“That’s it, you’re really gonna get it now!”
An epic snowball fight followed as we whooped and hollered, tossing chirps back and forth almost as fast as we volleyed snowballs. We worked our way into the woods as we ran. Ty was a good shot, and we played like little boys on recess after a hard morning at school. When we were both covered with snow and out of breath, Tyler stared at me until my heart raced with anticipation. Finally, he broke into a run. His hug was bone-crushing, and the hungry kisses were messy and delicious. The moment was all fire and promise, and I couldn’t wait to get back to the dorm. He pulled away from my mouth and mumbled, “You’re the most beautiful thing I ever saw, Nick.”
I huffed in cold air while my heart tried to hammer through my ribcage. “Not as beautiful as you.” I pulled him closer for a slow, deep kiss, and when that finally broke, he got a naughty gleam in his eye.
“We’re already covered with snow, so—” He pushed hard, and I tumbled backward into a snowbank. He jumped on top of me, and we wrestled around, making out while we laughed and played. My scarf slipped out of place, and Ty kissed my throat over and over, making me as hard as one of the trees surrounding us. After more rolling around, I was on top, and we lay humping in the snow. We had on heavy parkas, and it was too cold to take off any clothes, so our game was destined to end in frustration. All the better for a mind-blowing first time later that night.
We’d long since removed our mittens, and when we stilled, I wiped some snow off his cheek. “I don’t know what’s wrong with me. I’ve never felt this way before.”
“Nothing’s wrong, Nick. Everything’s right for once. We’ve got each other.”
Ryan Taylor and Joshua Harwood met in law school and were married in 2017. They live in a suburb of Washington, DC, and share their home with a big, cuddly German shepherd. Ryan and Josh enjoy travel, friends, and advocating for causes dear to their hearts. Ryan also loves to swim, and Josh likes to putter in the garden whenever he can. The romance they were so lucky to find with each other inspires their stories about love between out and proud men.
She needs an assassin.
They’re the best in the business.
Falling in love was never part of the deal.
Desperate to escape her abusive husband, Justine hires a contract killer. Campbell’s services come at a high price, and their dark, seductive charisma leads Justine right into their bed. Hiding an affair while Campbell designs the perfect murder has Justine walking a tightrope of stress, but each time the two of them sleep together, it’s harder not to get attached. Campbell struggles with their own traumatic past, convinced that the truth will drive Justine away.
There’s a faint hope that things could work, save for one problem: Justine’s husband wants her dead too.
Revenge is easy—heartbreak could cost both of them everything.
I always imagined hiring an assassin would go differently.
There would be at least one dark alley, a furtive phone call, an exchange in cash—of course it’s cash—and the curse of waiting afterward, whether for the police to arrive or finding out my money went to a fraud.
Instead, I’m sitting in Ortolana, one of the nicest restaurants in Chicago, trying to decide if ordering a rare steak is too on the nose. The server eyes me with refined impatience since my dining companion made their choice in a few brisk words: black coffee, the yellowtail collar, no appetizer.
If this is one of the last meals I ever eat because I had my husband killed, I’m indulging in the steak.
“Anything else for you, ma’am?” the server asks, mouth tight.
I smile. Better to be remembered as polite, if I’m remembered at all. “No, thank you.”
When he disappears with our order, they—Campbell—give a minute shake of their head, amusement a glint in gray eyes. “Not gunning for a tip, is he?”
“Maybe I don’t look like I have money.” To be fair, the fifty thousand dollars I’d spent a decade saving was about to go to the person across from me. “Or he thinks you’re the one who’s paying the check.”
From the outside, it must seem like a date. I’d delved to the back of my closet for a slinky black dress that’s been kissing mothballs since Richard and I attended his holiday office party. My makeup is just this side of sultry, but that isn’t for Campbell’s sake. Painting confidence on my skin with a nice red lipstick and dark eyeshadow is what I needed before I could walk out of the house: a sharp, composed mask.
Their suit is a breath away from black, but in any shift of light, the true cobalt of the linen shines through. Campbell eschews a tie, leaving the top two buttons of a crisp white dress shirt open without any adornment. It bares a triangle of sun-touched skin and the sharp edge of their collarbones.
I deal in paintings, but Campbell is more of a classic statue: sculpted jaw, full mouth, and cheekbones that could blunt a chisel. An aquiline nose adds to the effect, and Campbell’s chestnut hair is tamed in a professional cut. It’s an older style, with an understated elegance.
If we passed on the street, I would have let my gaze linger, but nothing about Campbell says “killer.” Maybe my assumptions are lost in that fictional back alley, chasing black leather gloves and silenced pistols.
“I’m not what you expected, am I, Justine?”
The question snaps me back to the present, and I’m not sure how long I’ve been staring at Campbell—or exactly when they caught me. “Sorry. I’m not doubting your…qualifications.”
A tease of blue plays across each shoulder when Campbell laces their fingers together. “What surprises you the most?”
I cut my teeth on a hundred answers, starting with the locale and ending with the fact that they look more like an executive than an assassin, but the devil is in the details. “The coffee, I think. It’s almost seven at night.”
Campbell’s smile is a half-inch flash of teeth. “I tend to operate at night, but I can rarely indulge in caffeine.”
Nights, of course. This dance around the obvious is practically a farce, but it’s not like I want to announce my true intentions to the Friday night crowd. Our booth is in the corner, but it’s not soundproofed. “Why not?”
“It can make your hands shake.” They gesture to punctuate the point. “Which is a problem when I’m working. For a business dinner, not so much.”
Our server returns with the drink in question, setting an elegant cup on a saucer in front of Campbell. Despite a kneejerk longing for wine, I’m glad I stuck to water. I need to keep my wits about me.
When Campbell brings the coffee to their lips, it’s a fluid movement, surgical in its precision. I wonder what those hands can do—will do—to Richard. A gun would be easiest, I guess, but that’s far beyond the only way to kill someone.
He’ll never hit me again. He’ll never cheat on me again. He’ll never treat me like an ignorant girl, oblivious to nights at the university getting longer and our bed getting colder. I won’t be trotted out like a trophy in front of his fellow professors, who chuckle at his brilliance without having the first clue that I funded both of his degrees. I might even have friends in the future, ones he won’t drive away inch by humiliating inch.
“You really are sure about this,” Campbell says softly, setting their cup back down. Porcelain touches porcelain without a sound.
“Of course I am.”
Acid clings to my tongue, eating at the accusation, but they take it in stride with another fleeting smile. “That’s part of the reasons I take my clients out to dinner, Justine. To make sure there are no doubts. Once I accept a contract, I don’t stop until it’s done.”
A wave of embarrassment douses me, tightening my throat. “Right. I’m sorry. It feels like I’ve been taking everything personally lately.”
At least, according to Richard.
“You keep apologizing, but you don’t have to.” The shine in their eyes isn’t amusement this time; it’s something else, unreadable. “At this point, I’m beyond being offended. And you’re paying me a considerable amount of money.”
“That doesn’t mean I want to offend you, no matter how impossible it might be,” I say.
What I want to say is that I can’t remember the last time I had a night out like this, or the last time someone looked at me as more than an accessory. Campbell is watching my every move, but what should be terrifying is only leaving me hungry for the attention.
They kill people for a living. Why doesn’t that scare me?
“I do appreciate good manners,” Campbell comments, but their gaze flickers over my shoulder. “Tuck your elbow in.”
“Why?” The question is instinctive, but I listen anyway, bringing my arm in against my side.
Out of the corner of my eye, the server reappears with a covered silver platter, swiftly delivering it to our table. He removes the polished lid, announcing our entrees with theatrical detail, but my eyes aren’t on the food. They’re on Campbell, waiting for an answer.
I don’t get one until the server is out of sight.
Campbell smooths a silken napkin across their lap, then takes the provided pair of chopsticks in hand with the ease of long practice. “Considering the angle he took from the kitchen, he wouldn’t have been able to see you there with the tray in the way. It’s a design flaw in an otherwise lovely restaurant.”
I raise an eyebrow, picturing a comedy of errors that ends with eighty dollars of wagyu beef in my lap. “He would have knocked into me?”
They hum in agreement, then turn their chopsticks to sharper purpose, peeling a portion of crispy fish clean from the bone. It gleams, white and bare. “I thought I’d save you the trouble.”
Unease coils in the pit of my stomach. Meeting Campbell hadn’t set me on edge, but something about them reading the server’s approach in a blink and warning me with casual detachment does. That kind of reflex hangs the word “danger” in my mind like a neon sign. They’re a predator, surrounded by unknowing prey.
I glance down at my steak, then summon the will to pick up my fork as if I eat with professional killers every night of the week.
“It’s normal to be nervous.” Campbell tucks a bite of yellowtail between their teeth. It vanishes quietly. “As long as you’re set on what you want to do, you can be as nervous as you like.”
I must be radiating anxiety, but it still feels like they read my mind. “Details would help me relax.”
Even on a twisting stomach, the steak is the perfect amount of decadence, butter, and salt. I cut into another piece, juices spilling free under the serrated edge.
“What kind of details would you like?” they ask.
“When is this happening?” My eyes fall on their near-empty cup of coffee. “Not tonight, I know, but when?”
“Depending on the complexity of his schedule, my window is three weeks.” Their chopsticks dart around a fragile fin, seeking a thread of meat hidden underneath. “That includes scouting, alibi, and execution.”
I pause with my next bite halfway to my mouth. Execution bleeds with meaning, visceral and full, but it’s not inaccurate. “Your alibi or mine?”
“Yours,” Campbell confirms. “It wouldn’t do for you to be too close to any accidents.”
An accident. That’s probably what they’ll put in the paper. Richard is well known enough to earn an article, if not a front-page one.
I nod. “Do you need anything from me?”
“Once payment is settled, a copy of any of his keys that you can get ahold of. The same with his schedule.” Their gaze pierces me through. My blood turns to ice, but my heart beats faster. “Is your husband predictable, Justine?”
What I hear is will it be easy?
A smile rises to my lips unbidden. “Very.”
The rest of dinner passes in silence, save for an occasional comment on the food. It’s nice enough that I almost forget why we’re here, snapping to reality as our plates are cleared and the check arrives. Campbell does pay, using a couple of large bills. Once our server is gone again, they retrieve an envelope from inside their jacket. It’s already open when they offer it to me, revealing a packet of papers.
“What’s this?” I frown, prying out what’s inside.
They keep the envelope.
“The contract for the painting you’re about to purchase, of course.” Campbell’s expression is open but empty, like a door leading to an elevator shaft. “Your money has to be invested properly.”
I unfold the packet revealing an agreement of sale contract, the same sort I see ten times a week at the gallery. As I scan each page, lines of familiar legalese jump out. It’s legitimate, or would be if Campbell actually had a painting that I wanted to buy.
“Don’t tell me you’re a lawyer too,” I say.
Campbell shakes their head. “No, but I have a very competent one. She keeps a lot in order for me.”
It’s perfect. There are a dozen other contracts like it in my desk drawer, and the number for an offshore account jumps off the page, waiting for my transfer to put it out of reach and otherwise untraceable.
“But how did you know I…” When we spoke on the phone, Campbell never asked what I did for a living. “This is too fitting.”
“I don’t show in person before looking someone up.” They produce a pen, handing it to me. “And I had to make sure you could actually pay me.”
If I had my way, I’d be making art and not selling it, but only the latter had made enough money to fund Richard’s master’s. His current salary isn’t enough for us to trade places, even with a shot at tenure approaching. My paints are stored in a cool, dry place, but I haven’t touched them in years. Almost ten.
My weekends might be free enough for a canvas or two soon.
“You’ll have twenty-four hours to deposit the money in the account listed there,” Campbell says. Did they take my quiet, bitter musing as hesitation? “If you don’t, I’ll assume you’re calling things off.”
My signature ends with a flourish, and I wait for the ink to dry before folding the contract again. “I’ll send it as soon as I’m home.”
“Excellent.” They rise to their feet, a signal to do the same. “It was a pleasure, Justine. Once everything clears, I’ll be in touch.”
Campbell extends their hand, and I offer mine, surprised they want to shake on it. Instead, they bring my fingers to their lips, kissing the top of them. Shock ripples through me, heat lingering on my skin when Campbell lets go.
“Thanks,” I answer, breathless.
With a step back, they establish a professional distance again. Campbell brushes a nigh-invisible wrinkle from one suit cuff. “Fortin is an interesting last name. Are you going to keep it?”
That’s a question I hadn’t considered. Instinct tells me I should, to play the part of the grieving widow. Fortin has gotten me a lot farther than Zhang ever did in the art world, even with how popular Chinese art is.
Anger spits out a thousand spikes and snarls. He’s already taken so much from me. The idea that I might stay beholden to Richard, even after he dies, throws a red veil across my vision. Then I breathe, and it’s gone.
“I’ll let you know when I figure that out,” I say.
Campbell holds my gaze, then nods before turning away. I check my purse for a split second to make sure I have everything, but when I look up again, they’re already gone.
I better send that money before they think I’ve lost my nerve.
Rien Gray is a queer, nonbinary writer who has worked in ghostwriting, TTRPGS, and video games. They have a treasured (and ever-growing) collection of LGBTQ+ history books as well as a deep, abiding love for Greek myth. Rien has an upcoming short story in Neon Hemlock’s Baffling Magazine. They live in Ireland.
My new job at the bistro is fun. The owners are good guys, and the staff is made up primarily of boisterous water polo players. I know nothing about the sport except there’s a Speedo involved, and Liam likes to wear his everywhere. Yes…Liam—the chatty, handsome, utterly charming waiter I can’t seem to stop thinking about. Ugh. Note to self—do not fall for another younger man.
Getting Drew to notice me hasn’t been easy. He’s a little intense, and he knows how to keep his distance. Something tells me he’s not immune—he’s just stubborn. Maybe a weekend of bonding on the ski slopes will win him over. And if I can get him to come out in winter, I might be able to convince him that we have a chance at something special.
Out in Winter is a low-angst MM, bisexual romance starring an oh so serious grad student, a goofball water polo player, and a little winter magic. This story is part of the Out in College series, but each book can be read as a stand-alone.
The stunning winter wonderland panorama was dotted with impossibly tall evergreens flocked with snow and the pristine hills glistening in the morning sun. It was so quiet, I could almost imagine we were alone in the world. That was precisely the kind of thought that freaked me out sometimes. But not today. Today the idea seemed…promising. Maybe even cleansing, like a new start.
“It’s beautiful,” I said reverently.
“This is one of the reasons I like coming out here early. The light is so brilliant. It looks like a postcard or the photo in the dictionary next to the word ‘hope.’ ”
“That’s a nice thought.”
We shared a smile; then he adjusted his goggles and inclined his head meaningfully. “Ready?”
“Yeah, but…you go first.”
“C’mere.” Liam crooked his finger.
I shuffled forward until I stood beside him with our skis pointing in the opposite direction, expecting him to impart some advice about the terrain or maybe remind me how to stop. Both might have been helpful, actually.
“What is it?”
“Hold on to my sleeve. Stay still. That’s perfect.” He stroked my chin before leaning in to press his lips to mine. “You taste like cherry ChapStick. I like.”
I grinned. “Thanks. So do you.”
He kissed me again, twisting his tongue with mine and leaving me breathless. “Mmm. I’m making it my personal quest to make sure you get down this mountain safely and that you have fun doing it.”
“Good luck with that,” I sighed, aware that my voice had taken on a dreamy quality.
“I don’t need luck. I’m an expert,” he bragged playfully. “I’m going to give you a couple of tips. Listen up.”
“Bend your knees and stay loose.”
“Like this?” I bent my knees and wiggled my arms like a rubber band.
Liam chuckled. “Something like that. We’re gonna take it slow, moving from side to side, making wide turns. I’ll go first. Follow me and remember to keep your gaze forward.”
“As opposed to?”
“Looking at your skis. You don’t look at your feet when you’re walking, so don’t look at your skis when you’re skiing. It’ll fuck with your balance. Ready?”
“Yeah.” I licked my lips and nodded.
Liam glided smoothly down the incline, veering sharply to the right. He stopped with a flourish, sending a plume of powdery snow skyward before raising his poles triumphantly. I snickered at the silly display. He made it seem fun and relatively easy. All right, then. I could do this.
I grasped my poles in a vise grip and dug into the snow, propelling myself forward. I aimed my skis in Liam’s general direction and honestly, it felt pretty damn good. I was in control, a cool breeze on my face, and a light wind at my back. Best of all, I appeared to be closing in on my correct destination. A hot guy was waiting for me in front of a huge pine tree with—
I couldn’t stop. I picked up speed and barreled forward, trying to remember his advice. Knees bent. Check. Don’t look at your skis. Check. Stay loose…
Nope. Not possible.
I was wound so tight my head felt like it might pop off. Every muscle in my body was rigid as I zoomed closer to Liam…and the tree. It occurred to me as my life began to flash in front of my eyes that if I turned downhill, I could avoid the tree and move in the right direction. I might not have control of my skis, but Liam seemed to know what he was doing. No doubt he’d catch up easily and offer tips on how not to kill myself along the way. A comical vision of him doing circles around me while I tumbled into a giant snowball flashed in my head.
And that might have been when things went sideways.
Lane Hayes loves a good romance! An avid reader from an early age, she has always been drawn to well-told love story with beautifully written characters. Her debut novel was a 2013 Rainbow Award finalist and subsequent books have received Honorable Mentions, and were winners in the 2016, 2017, and 2018-2019 Rainbow Awards. She loves red wine, chocolate and travel (in no particular order). Lane lives in Southern California with her amazing husband in a not quite empty nest.
A calculation or estimate of future events, especially coming weather.
See also: Liam “I’m Always Right” Wright.
Not your typical Daddy. Not your typical boy.
Not your typical fake relationship.
Hudson Madden looks like the kind of guy you don’t want to piss off—he’s a walking wall of muscle, brightly tatted ink up both arms, and low grunts. But underneath it all, he’s a gentle giant. One who can’t find what he wants because of the assumptions people make:
He must be an alpha.
He must be a dominant Daddy.
He must be looking for a sweet, passive boy.
The truth is more complicated. Haunted by memories of a former lover, and interested in exploring types of sex that aren’t easily defined, Hudson is happy to harbour his innocent crush on the local weatherman.
Until said weatherman crush walks into Hudson’s gym and turns his life upside down.
Liam “I’m Always Right” Wright. It might be a cute catchphrase, but when it comes to love, Liam is always wrong.
Liam hasn’t got time for love. He’s got his sights set on the big time, becoming a prime time meteorologist on a major national TV station. He’ll do anything it takes to get the promotion, even if it means entering into a fake relationship to improve his chances.
A quick-fix, no-mess solution.
So why does it feel so right when Hudson looks at him, spends time with him, and gets to know him in a way that no one ever has?
Will Hudson be able to break down his walls and let Liam in? And when forced to choose between his career and love, will Liam be able to make the right choice?
Forecast is a Daddy-lite fake relationship MM romance featuring a gentle giant of a Daddy, and an ambitious weatherman.
Come along for the ride and enjoy some crazy/sexy/cool shenanigans involving tantra, multiple orgasms, a heartfelt list of 18 favorite things, a crew of sassy friends, lots of LOLs, and all the feels on the way to a heartwarming HEA.
Forecast is the third book in the 99 Daddies series. Each book in the series will contain overlapping characters and storylines, so you may enjoy them more by reading them in order.
99 Daddies is a hilarious, entertaining, and heartwarming contemporary / new adult Daddy/boy MM romance series.
Escape to Daylesford, the (fictional) Daddy capital of America. If you love steamy and complex Daddy/boy dynamics, May-December gay romances with a twist, sweet and sassy MM age gap romances—and chasing those guaranteed HEAs—you’ll love it here.
So come along and meet the 99 Daddies of Daylesford. Who will be YOUR favorite?
My ears pricked up at the familiarity of that voice.
I snapped my head around and there he was, not on all eight TV screens as I was used to seeing him, but just one person standing right in front of me, on the other side of my front desk.
Liam “Am I Seeing This Right?” Wright.
“Oh, hey, look, Hudson, it’s that guy you always make us turn every TV screen over to wa—”
My elbow found Zander’s side, and thankfully, that just so happened to be where his shut the fuck up button was located.
“Hello,” I said in as normal a voice as I could muster.
What the hell was happening here? How was it that Liam Wright was standing right in front of me, looking all sorts of weatherman-gorgeous? He must have come directly from the studio, because he was wearing the same outfit he’d had on earlier in the evening.
Suddenly, I wished that the counter wasn’t so high so that I could look down and get a better view of his amazing…
I snapped myself out of that inappropriate, unprofessional thought by saying, “How—how can I help you?”
I tried to smile. I think I might have been smiling. I couldn’t tell. I couldn’t feel my face, or my feet, or my hands, anymore.
This was precisely the reason why I had avoided approaching him six times before. I was turning to mush.
“I’d like to join the gym,” he said. His voice just sounded so familiar, which I guess made sense, since I’d been hearing it every day on the news for the last eighteen months. “Oh, and I’ll need a personal trainer as well.”
Was it possible to be both floored and speechless at the same time? The answer to that question was a resounding hell yes. Trust me, it was coming from a guy who was on the floor, unable to speak.
“We can definitely arrange that,” I said after a much-too-long silence. My eyes were glued to him as my hand tapped around the counter, desperately searching for the paperwork and a pen.
“Here you go,” I said, once I had finally found them. I looked down and was surprised to see my hands trembling. I quickly pulled them back and placed them firmly on the counter.
Why the hell was I shaking?
I mean, I had seen the guy in the flesh six times before. Although now that I thought about it, every time I had seen him, I’d started to shake and feel a little light-headed. I’d just assumed that was because Porter was around, and he tended to have a mildly nauseating effect on people.
“Do you have a trainer available? I’d like to start as soon as possible. Preferably tomorrow morning, please,” Liam said as he looked up from the paperwork he was filling out.
“Yes, of course,” I said, and then my brain left my head because the next words out of my mouth were, “My name is Hudson Madden. I’m the owner of Elite Fitness, and I would love to turn you on…”