Phantom Lure by J. Hali Steele #paranormalromance @JHaliSteele

Phantom Lure (Phantom Lure 4)

Cover Art by Bryan Keller

When Lucifer tossed his favorite lover, Grange Stafford, out of hell, and tortured Heath Terran, it should have ended there. Instead, that was only the beginning — the creation of the Phantom Lures.

Driver: Phantom Lure Grange Stafford, the handsome man who drives the bus on Roman Curt’s route to work, appears in Roman’s unrealized fantasies. What would Roman’s girlfriend think of his wanton desires?

Captain: A Phantom Lure from northern Europe, Captain Gent Finway prefers Nordic weather and icy waters. Now he’s heading south to the Caribbean, captain of a cruise ship on its maiden voyage. His blood turns hot when he touches his new chief officer, Salvatore Martino.

Locomotive: Caught in Satan’s web of deceit, Heath Terran is the reason Phantom Lures exist. Grange sets a scenario in motion with other Lures to free Heath. Full of Lucifer’s power, Grange takes what he wants. In taking Heath, Grange changes Heath and their world forever.

 

Available at Changeling Press

Also in paperback

 

EXCERPT

All rights reserved.
Copyright ©2020 J. Hali Steele
Excerpt from Driver

The city streets teemed with a variety of people ripe for hooking. Providing a relatively safe haven, Philadelphia, the City of Brotherly Love, was a splendid place to exist and Grange Stafford anonymously canvassed the narrow, crowded streets searching for what he considered necessary. Excitement charged every sense as he thought of capturing someone new and educating him in boundless carnal pleasures.

At this moment, his catch was in sight.

The athletic, dark-haired man with a summer tan who boarded his bus thought his stolen looks at Grange went unnoticed, as the petite woman beside him talked on and on about a threesome. They didn’t. Grange caught every peek in his direction through the rearview mirror, even analyzed each glance. What Grange attempted to ascertain was when the handsome, blue-eyed male would come to the realization he’d relinquish his virginity to Grange. Hell, with confusion marauding through the man’s mind, he remained unaware his eyes begged the bus driver to take him. His name, Roman, rolled around in Grange’s head as he envisioned introducing him to the delights of same sex intercourse.

Grange wanted Roman badly.

Careful to mesmerize real bus drivers, steal their vehicles and appropriate designated routes only happened when Grange’s need grew so raw he couldn’t ignore it. Passengers were called catches, and though not every ride ended satisfactorily, he found mass transit riders not nearly as jaded or adventurous as those using other types of transport. Grange appreciated a catch fragrant with a bit of fear and apprehension over new sexual experiences. His favorites were normally couples he initiated into the joys of threesomes. Grange got off on watching a woman see her boyfriend impaled by him, the lovely way her mouth bowed in surprise when his penis sank so deep inside her man, his balls smacking the other’s ass. Performing fellatio on her lover with the same mouth was another turn on. The couple seated right behind him had his cock so damn hard Grange could come if he wanted to. Hold it, wait for the tight-assed man to conclude that until he let Grange have him, the visions he experienced would not dissipate.

Grange had done the necessary thing to make sure Roman’s satisfaction with his girlfriend or anyone else would remain elusive as long as the idea of Grange riding him to an orgasm played through his mind.

The woman, Paula Frame, hadn’t escaped Grange’s attention, neither was she aware participating in a threesome would have never entered her pretty little head without his prodding, though she did possess a wilder side. Her creamy skin glowed this evening as she animatedly stressed her desires to Roman. Not tall, she had shapely legs and a heart-shaped ass begging to be had, and after he took care of her boyfriend, Grange would see to it she got just what she believed she coveted — a menage where she’d be taken and cared for by two big men.

Nearing Race Street, Grange knew Paula’s stop fast approached. She wouldn’t disembark because she’d not only worked herself into a sexual frenzy, she’d pulled Roman in her wake. Shit! The thought of Roman fucking her tonight urged drops of cream to escape his ramrod stiff shaft.

“Twelfth and Arch,” Grange called out. Passengers exited quickly, but Paula remained seated. Pulling from the curb, he continued on his way until he came to Sansom Street, Roman’s stop. As Grange knew they would, Paula and Roman waited until the last rider vanished through the doors before climbing off. When Roman turned to glance at him, Grange smiled. “Enjoy your evening.”

Lips curved tentatively in his direction, and Grange sighed at Roman’s mind settling down. The relief Roman experienced as he came close to accepting his predicament sounded an audible snap in Grange’s head as the man stuttered, “To-tomorrow?”

“Tomorrow,” Grange replied. Tonight he’d go home alone and savor anticipating what he’d denied himself for two days — the longest a Phantom Lure could go without sexual contact and not begin to lose powers. Roman was a man who could provide unbridled sexual fulfillment. A man Grange was sure would embrace losing his virginity.

 

About J. Hali Steele

A multi-published author, J. Hali Steele wishes she could grow fur, wings, or fangs, so she can stay warm, fly, or just plain bite the crap out of… Well, since she can’t, she would much rather roam where her fictional big cats live — in the high desert of California. Discovering a new love of contemporary male/male erotica has flipped a switch she can’t turn off, so she hopes eventually it drifts back into her otherworldly realm.

When J. Hali’s not writing, she can be found snuggled in front of the TV with a good book, a cat in her lap, and a cup of coffee.

Growl and roar — it’s okay to let the beast out.

J. Hali at Changeling Press| Twitter

 

 

Inexplicable by Willa Okati #gayromance

Inexplicable (Roanoke River Omegas 2)

Cover Art by Bryan Keller

Deacon’s everything Kit wants. Kit’s everything Deacon needs — three days a month. Alpha and ex-jarhead Deacon’s an over-the-road trucker, always on the move, and he likes it that way. And Omega Kit’s… good with that. He’s not going anywhere. Not seeing anyone else. He’s promised himself he’ll never be like his parents — he won’t tie a man down when he doesn’t want to be tied.

What Kit doesn’t know is that he’s pregnant — until the night their son is born. Now everything’s changing. Babies do what they want, when they want. Just like Deacon.

Only Deacon’s not sure just what he does want… but he’s sure what he’s not willing to give up on, and that’s a future. And a family. His family.

Now all he has to do is convince Kit he’s in this for keeps.

 

Available at Changeling Press

 

EXCERPT

All rights reserved.
Copyright ©2020 Willa Okat
i

Deacon came home that night as the sun came up. Oh, not his real home, Kit supposed. Deacon’s only fixed address was the sleeper compartment in his eighteen-wheeler, and had been since the day he’d paid cash down for the truck. But if home was where the heart was, then when he came to Kit, Deacon was coming home.

And then coming, and coming again. And maybe just once more for sweet good measure.

Deacon hadn’t been expected, and that made his arrival all the more perfect. Kit didn’t care that he was dozy and wobbly and warm from a night in bed. Kit’s bed had been too lonely but now that would change because Deacon was here, right here at last. Hair ruffled, stubble on his cheeks and a cocky grin on his lips, Deacon looked like trouble in ragged blue jeans and good leather boots, ready for anything. His Marine Corps tattoo showed where he’d rolled his sleeves up and his eyes gleamed with a taste for playing as hard as he worked.

“Deacon. Deacon.” Not giving a damn about standing on his front stoop in a busy neighborhood just waking up to a new day, and which would have loved a show, Kit leapt at Deacon and wound both arms around his neck.

“Now that’s what I call a hello.” Deacon laughed, low in his throat and pleased, and held Kit up as easily as if he wasn’t a full-grown man with shoulders just as broad as the Alpha’s. He bent his head to nibble at Kit’s neck. “Need something, Omega?”

After all these years as lovers, he could still make Kit blush. Kit hid his face against Deacon’s firm chest and shook his head, not knowing what to say. I need you was obvious. I want you, even more so. I have to have you inside me

Kit peeked up from beneath his lashes, aware of just what that did to Deacon, and glad, because a look like that was all he could manage between breathless shudders of yearning. “I want you inside me,” he said, winding his legs as well as his arms around Deacon. “Come inside.” In all ways, he meant, and he knew Deacon understood him that way.

Deacon bit his lip hard and swore, dark and rough. “You’ll be the death of me.”

“A little death,” Kit promised, twining closer. “Make love to me.”

“Sweetheart, if you think you can stop me now…”

And oh, Kit liked the sound of that. He laughed as Deacon, strong as an ox, wriggled him loose and tossed him over his shoulder. A hearty smack on the ass and they were on their way up the stairs, taking them two at a time. Kit slid his hands down the back of Deacon’s jeans, kneading the fine firm flesh he found there.

Deacon popped his hip again, the sting sweet and sharp. “Not playing fair there, Kit.”

Kit rubbed his cheek against Deacon’s shoulder. “All’s fair.”

“God damn, when you purr like that you make me want to bathe you in cream and lick you clean,” Deacon said as he reached the top of the steps and set Kit lightly on his feet. He gave him a warm look, no less wild than his nature allowed, and tilted his head at the locked door. “Want a good fucking, Kitten? Let me in.”

And didn’t Kit just! He hadn’t seen Deacon in weeks, far longer than they usually went between visits — Deacon’s work had taken him to California for ages, and every time he’d planned to make his way back to the East Coast, another job opened up. Every time they put their plans off, Kit retreated to his bed with a toy or two specifically designed for Omega satisfaction, but they just weren’t the same.

They couldn’t kiss you. They didn’t have hands to run over your skin. They couldn’t whisper wicked things in your ears. They couldn’t…

Who cared? They didn’t matter. Not when he had his favorite Alpha in his arms. Kit hurried to let them both in, and turned quick as a wink to catch Deacon by the belt. He tug-dragged the man to his bed, both of them laughing, shedding clothes as they went — not in any particular order, and when they reached their goal Deacon still had his jeans on, if open, and one sock, and Kit still wore his pajama shirt.

Kit peeled that off with a thrill going through him at the way Deacon stopped to stare hungrily, then fell back onto his bed. He rested on his elbows, his legs splayed slightly apart with one drawn up a little to hide his cock from Deacon’s view. Deacon loved a show, and he loved being the one to draw out a performance. With him — only him — Kit could play that sort of a part.

Deacon, he trusted.

Though Deacon had paused to frown at the bed, taking in the unplugged heating pad pushed to one side and the uncapped bottle of ibuprofen on the nightstand, along with a mostly-empty bottle of water. “You all right, hon?”

Kit shrugged. Part of the reason he hadn’t slept had been a backache that just wouldn’t quit, but he’d spent the previous evening helping baby-sit his friend Jory’s new son, lifting and chasing and picking up after the exhausted new father. “Tweaked a muscle,” he said. “Nothing to worry about.”

“You sure?”

Kit clicked his tongue. A distracted Alpha wouldn’t give him what he wanted, what he needed. He reached out to tickle Deacon’s thigh with his bare toes and get him back on track. “You can’t do much with your jeans on, love. Take those off.”

 

About Willa Okati

Willa Okati is made of many things: imagination, coffee, stray cat hairs, daydreams, more coffee, kitchen experimentation, a passion for winter weather, a little more coffee, and a lifelong love of storytelling. She is definitely one of the quiet ones you have to watch out for.

Willa at Changeling Press| Willa’s Facebook Group

 

A Pack of His Own (Duet) on sale for $0.99 by Emily Carrington #LGBTQ #paranormalromance

IMG_0659

On SALE $0.99

📚📚🐺🐺Two excerpts from A Pack of His Own volume 1:📚📚🐺🐺

 

Excerpt from Hunter’s Claim: 

A strong, well-remembered hand closed around Charlie’s automatically outstretched right. Then the man before Charlie pushed that hand aside and grasped Charlie’s left, white cane and all.

Charlie laughed as lean, muscular arms pulled him close and tightened around his back. It wasLuis. His nose had been right.

“I was planning to see you here,” Luis whispered in Spanish, his voice richer than the thrum of the best-played bass. “But I didn’t think it would be so soon.”

Charlie drank in Luis’s scent, relishing how Luis held him. Then he pulled back slightly, though he was still safe in Luis’s embrace. “It’s good to see you.” That was an understatement, and he was hard-pressed not to resume the kisses he’d run from in March. He had no right to such a warm welcome, and for a breath his heart lodged in his throat.

Then another smell — a stench compared to Luis’s heady aroma — invaded the library, and Charlie stepped away completely. He held up one finger. “Un momento.”

Luis retreated several paces, and Charlie blinked at the psychic vampire’s discretion. Luis hadn’t possessed anything close to circumspection or respect for duty when they’d worked together in Tampa.

Charlie went to the library doors, meaning to close them, but the werewolf he’d smelled stood before him. He made the conscious switch to English, realizing he must be overwhelmed by Luis’s presence if the change needed to be willed rather than instinctive. Or maybe I’m intoxicated again. As he’d been when he and Luis had tumbled into bed for a single, blissful hour. Maybe it wasn’t the Lady Lavender drinks that got me drunk in March. It could’ve been Luis.

 

Excerpt from Tracker’s Fate:

Jeremy frowned as he put the first of the pans under the running water and squirted soap in. It would do no good to attempt inviting more information through silence; Ethan was an old hat at keeping things to himself. “What is a haint anyway? Besides a chicken-fried Southern ghost?”

“The words ghost, zombie, half-vampire, and weird distant cousin of the wendigo can all apply to haints.” Ethan slapped his palm down on the lid of one plastic container, producing a hollow click that strangely resembled the noise a handgun made when cocked.

Jeremy decided that probably had to do with the acoustics in the huge kitchen. “That is not helpful,” he answered in a dry tone he hoped would make Ethan laugh.

The SearchLight tracker snickered; the tension in the room dropped. “Thankfully we went in with our eyes a little open to the possibilities, or…” Another lid clicked into place.

Jeremy scented the air, searching out Luis Delgado’s unique aroma. He thought the psychic vampire was outside. Perhaps with Charlie. “Did this haint bite you or stab you?”

“Bite. I fell on her from above before she could claim another victim. But she twisted under me like a snake. I saw her eyes just before she showed her fangs. As we were told, she was starving.” Ethan approached the sink with slow, dragging steps. “I had to kill her.”

Jeremy considered the tense line of Ethan’s shoulders. SearchLight trackers were, by definition, spies, stalkers, information gatherers, and more than occasional executioners. Not a single one had been pressed into service. “Do you regret becoming a tracker?” he asked as he squirted soap into the hot water. He began dumping dishes into the mix almost indiscriminately, ninety percent of his attention being for Ethan. I could almost be attracted to this quiet-speaking werewolf with so much fire in his soul. Almost, however, was the operative word. Ethan could laugh as well as any other wolf, but his reticence sometimes annoyed Jeremy.

The two of us would not make a good match, Jeremy told his lonely heart.

Ethan opened and closed a nearby drawer, his movements gentle and slow. “I used to love it.” He flipped a towel over his shoulder. “Did your run help?”

Jeremy scowled. “You’re an ass.” He faced Ethan, forgetting the dishes. “How long, exactly, were you going to wait before telling me you’ve decided to follow my every movement?”

Ethan nodded toward the faucet. “Maybe you should turn that off.”

Snarling, Jeremy did so. “Well?” he demanded, his anger increasing when he saw Ethan wasn’t flinching. Not that I’m trying to scare him, but he’s a less dominant wolf. He should cower before me. Jeremy cursed, hating himself for wanting Ethan submissive to his will. He whirled back to the sink and plunged his hands into the nearly scalding water. He seized a pan and a sponge and tried to take out his building fury on something inanimate. “You are a tracker, but that doesn’t give you the right to spy on me.”

“Luis and I returned from Albion half an hour before dinner. Neither of us was in a position to hunt you.”

Jeremy thudded the still soapy but degreased pan into the second sink for Ethan to rinse. “Then how do you know I was running?”

“You smell of Queen Anne’s lace, a mix of wild grasses, and the exhaustion that comes from changing too quickly and too often from your human guise to that of the wolf.” Ethan rinsed off the pan and set it in the drainer. He did this with exquisite care. “Please don’t accuse me of treating a pack member like a rogue haint.”

Available at Amazon

 

 

Release Blitz: Thicker Than Water by Becca Seymour #urbanfantasy #LGBTQ

Title: Thicker Than Water

Author: Becca Seymour

Publisher: Rainbow Tree Publishing

Release Date: March 14th 2020

Heat Level: 3 – Some Sex

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: 65000

Genre: Romance, Fantasy, urban fantasy romance, shifter romance

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Outcast operative in the Supernatural Investigation & Crime Bureau (SICB) Callen Blackheath finds himself doing what he does best: defying orders and giving his boss a headache in the thick of an operation he shouldn’t be in. And there’s no way he’s walking away, not when the investigation has become deadly personal.

Needing to protect the only family member he has left, this wolf shifter will do whatever it takes to stop the blood farms and destroy the dangerous drugs the vampires will kill for. But he doesn’t expect Liam “Thatch” Thatcher, the head of a special task force team, to receive a bite that pulls him into the centre of Callen’s world.

Bonded by memories and blood, together they navigate the operation that has wider reaches than they could ever imagine. And when it comes to matters of the heart, Callen knows in order to win, he needs to risk it all.

Excerpt

Heat rippled over my skin. The singed scent of hair clogged my ability to track the way out, leaving me momentarily cursing my stubbornness for going this alone. My boss would never let me live it down if I got myself charred to a crisp or killed. At least the latter would mean I wouldn’t have to listen to his pompous spiel about following protocol. The dick had it out for me. He had since I’d joined this team three years ago, and despite my success rate on missions, he hadn’t taken kindly to the son of the Blackheath alpha joining the Supernatural Investigation & Crime Bureau.

Creaking beams followed by the crash of timber had me blinking hard against the blackening smoke. There had to be a way out. While Brent, my division leader, thought I was foolhardy—or perhaps simply a fool—I had studied the schematics of the lab prior to entering. What I hadn’t planned for was Jonas Cartwright to set the damn thing on fire with me in it.

Focussed on pushing my senses beyond the sound of the licking fire and groaning foundations, I closed my eyes, hoping for a ripple, something, anything that would get me out of this situation. Two beats, three, four… but nothing. I could either stay planted, hoping a miracle would happen, or I could act. Neither seemed like a smart move but staying put and being roasted was not an option. The raw heat travelling up my arms, removing my hairs along the way, cried out for my retreat.

Action it was.

In barely a split second, my eyes shifted. While the heightened sight wouldn’t help with the smoke, the electricity had been tripped by the fire, and I needed all the help I could get.

I cursed up a storm in my head as I raced the way I’d come. With a leap over a toppled cabinet, a swerve away from the licks of fire trailing along workstation dividers, I swore the whole time I would find Cartwright and put him to ground once and for all. The way ahead was blocked, and no barrelling through would solve that. I screeched to a stop. “Shit.” I looked left and right, thinking hard about the drawings I’d glanced at ten seconds before entering the lab. Screw Brent and his demands for being well-prepared. I had no doubt my name, Callen, was already a regular curse from him. This would simply give him more ammunition. It was better than him seething my surname, Blackheath, I supposed, but still, ten seconds of my eyes roaming over the layout was as good as studying in my world.

Before I could figure out my next move, a small scrape of metal to my left had me turning in that direction. I seriously hoped I wasn’t racing towards more flames, but the sound was distinctive, controlled.

On reaching a hallway I didn’t recognise, I stumbled. “What the hell?” At the end of the darkened hallway was a glass door. While smoke spiralled through the space, it wasn’t as black, the fire not yet having reached the area. I crouched low to avoid the white smoke, my eyes focussed on the hand scratching against the glass door. Blood smeared with every gentle swipe, the movement slowing down.

No one was supposed to be here. Ignoring the fact that Cartwright had blown my half-arsed recon out of the window and taken me by surprise, there seriously shouldn’t have been anyone else on site. An unfamiliar edge of panic flared to life in my chest. This was not good.

I charged towards the glass, stopping short of barrelling into it to try the handle. It wouldn’t have been the first time I’d broken down a door unnecessarily. I didn’t want to crash through a glass door unless I had to. While I healed quickly, shards of glass cutting through my skin still hurt something fierce.

Testing the handle with one hand, I hit the glass lower down, trying to get the attention of the person attempting to get out. Their bloody hand peeking out a white lab coat twitched at the loud thud. “Shit,” I grumbled. The door was locked. “Hey.” I beat against the glass panel harder. It was partially misted for privacy, and visibility was unclear. Unable to tell who was on the other side or whether the smoke had breached the room from another direction, for once, I considered my options.

“Hey.” I tried again, my hand smacking the glass harder, not yet intending to break through. “Can you hear me?” Steadying my breath took concentration, but I needed to listen carefully.

“Code.” The voice was gravelly. “P-Panel.”

I searched quickly and found a panel off to my right. “I need the code.” Each word came out calm and clear. Panicking now could possibly get us both killed.

“Five.” A cough wracked through him, loud and sounding painful. I squinted, wondering what the hell this guy had been through. “Two. Seven. Seven. Four. Nine.”

I hit the numbers as he said them.

“Hash,” he finished, and the door clicked, swinging open when the guy fell against it. He landed on the floor.

Unconscious at my feet, the man was sprawled on his front. I tugged him to the side. With no idea where we were, I couldn’t simply throw the guy over my shoulder and start charging around, hitting dead ends and burning doors wherever we went. Decision made, I cast a quick glance at the man. Wet blood covered his rich black skin, but his moving chest indicated he was breathing. Barely. Christ, I hoped he didn’t die on me. After a final glance, I rushed into the unlocked room. Just because it had been sealed from the inside didn’t mean I wouldn’t be able to get through another exit.

A door on the opposite side of the room was my target. I headed straight there, spotting vials and another room off to my right. Before I reached the exit, the scent hit me. Blood, and it wasn’t from the unconscious lab tech in the hallway. I took a tentative step in the direction the scent came from, bile already churning in my gut.

No. It couldn’t be.

Another step forward, and I held my breath, not wanting to believe it could be true.

Wide-eyed, I gasped for breath, then regretted the action immediately. Metallic, familiar, and dead. The combination of the three threatened to buckle my knees. Unable to look away, I stared hard, hating every second. But I had to do this. Flesh, torn muscle, mutilated claws; the image seared itself into my mind. Once there, a shockwave of pain ripped through me.

No.

This time I let my knees go and landed on the floor, my knee finding the blood the same shade of my own. It was her. Hazel. My baby sister.

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Meet the Author

Becca Seymour lives and breathes all things book related. Usually with at least three books being read and two WiPs being written at the same time, life is merrily hectic. She tends to do nothing by halves so happily seeks the craziness and busyness life offers.

Living on her small property in Queensland with her human family as well as her animal family of cows, chooks, and dogs, Becca appreciates the beauty of the world around her and is a believer that love truly is love.

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Release Blitz: Chaser by Rick R. Reed #gayromance #instalove

Title: Chaser

Series: Chaser, Book One

Author: Rick R. Reed

Publisher: NineStar Press

Release Date: February 24, 2020

Heat Level: 3 – Some Sex

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: 67500

Genre: Contemporary, LGBTQIA+, Insta-love, family illness, separation, perceived cheating, physical fitness, narcissistic character, betrayal

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Synopsis

Caden DeSarro is what they call a chubby chaser. He likes his guys with a few extra pounds on them. So when he meets Kevin Dodge in a bar bathroom, he can’t help but stare. As far as Caden is concerned, Kevin is physically perfect: a stocky bearded blond. But Caden gets tongue-tied and misses his chance.

When Caden runs into Kevin one night on the el train, he figures it’s fate offering him a second shot. Caden manages to get invited back to Kevin’s place for a one-night stand that turns into the kind of relationship he’s dreamed about.

But the course of true love never runs smoothly—Kevin and Caden’s romance is no exception. When Caden returns from a few weeks away on business, Kevin surprises him with a new and “improved” body—one that fits Caden’s shallow friend Bobby’s ideal, but not Caden’s. Caden doesn’t know what to do, and his hesitation is just the opportunity Bobby was looking for.

Excerpt

Chaser
Rick R. Reed © 2020
All Rights Reserved

Chapter One

“I like fat men.”

“You like big butts?”

“I cannot lie.”

Caden and his therapist laughed together over the song reference, both old enough to remember Sir Mix-A-Lot’s 1992 rap hit “Baby Got Back.” Camille D’Amico reined in her laughter abruptly, pushing her tortoiseshell glasses back up on her nose and fussing with her frizzy halo of brown hair. She adopted a serious expression. “So you’re attracted to heavier men. Is that a problem?”

“Not really a problem, I guess. It’s just that I wonder why. I mean, look at me.”

Caden stood up, turned around slowly, and sat back down in the comfortable overstuffed chair facing Camille. He knew what he was displaying—a very trim, tight five-foot-eleven frame upon which not even an ounce of fat rested. In the dictionary, if one looked up the word “lean,” there was Caden’s picture, the perfect illustration. He rubbed his hands over his black buzz cut and then brought one hand down to the stubble of his just-coming-in beard. Not only was he very fit, he was a very handsome thirty-year-old man.

“What?” Camille asked. “You think you’re too good for a guy with a few extra pounds on his frame? Think you’re slumming if you take a walk on the fat side?”

Caden shook his head and put up his palms in self-defense. “No, no, that’s not it at all. I don’t think I’m better, not by any stretch. I’m just wondering why, lately especially, I’ve been drawn to heavier men.”

“Is this something new for you?”

“Not really, but it’s only something I’ve been acting on in the past few months. I have this friend, Bobby, who I usually go out with and he’s, well, he can be kind of superficial…” Caden’s voice trailed off as he thought of his gorgeous friend, who looked a lot like the porn star, Dawson, with a trim build, cut abs, closely shorn auburn hair, and luminous gray eyes. The difference between Bobby and Dawson was that Bobby was much choosier than Dawson, although perhaps no less promiscuous—no mean feat when one considered one of Dawson’s films was entitled Dawson’s 50-Load Weekend. Anyway, this session was supposed to be about Caden, not Bobby. “And he always gives me a hard time about wanting to meet, as I said, heavier men.”

“And this Bobby’s opinion is important to you?”

“He’s my best friend.”

“Important enough that you would alter going after what you really want for him?”

Camille’s question stopped him short. He’d never really thought of it that way. Why did it matter what Bobby thought? So what if he didn’t approve of the bearded redhead he met online and invited over last week? And what business was it of Bobby’s if he liked to peruse the profiles at footballplayerbuild.com?

Obviously, it bothered him enough to bring it up here today with Camille, whom he had been seeing for the past three weeks. His visits to her were his thirtieth birthday present to himself. He hoped to figure out why, at age thirty, he had yet to find a relationship that lasted more than three dates.

He had begun wondering if there was something intrinsically wrong with him. He was a good catch—at least that’s what his mother told him—but on paper, he did look good. No one could argue with that. He was handsome, having inherited his mother’s Sicilian olive complexion, black hair, and eyes that ranged from amber to green. His nose was strong, patrician, some might say (his mom again, anyway). He wasn’t a bodybuilder, but years of running four to six miles four to six days a week, along with summertime lakefront bike rides, had given him a good, solid build.

And it wasn’t just in the looks department where he thought he had a lot to offer. He had a good head on his shoulders. That he got from his late father, who had been a fully tenured professor of English literature at Northwestern University in Evanston before passing away unexpectedly one morning in the bathroom of a heart attack. That same head on his shoulders had given him, if not a stellar job, a solidly respectable and reliable one as a copywriter at a medical association in downtown Chicago. He had been there since graduating from Northwestern nine years ago, starting out as an editorial assistant on one of their trade journals.

So why did he feel the need to try to apply the same standards Bobby applied to his own dates, standards that could be summed up by Bobby with the initials FG, which stood for “fucking gorgeous”? If a man was not FG, so Bobby’s rationale went, he was not worth fucking.

Sometimes Caden wondered why he had Bobby as a best friend. But he could be hilarious at times, and he could be a lot of fun. Caden on his own in a bar was a wallflower, but with Bobby, some of his charm and charisma, the devil-may-care attitude, rubbed off on Caden.

Plus, going out with Bobby usually meant he would hook up with one of Bobby’s FG prospects’ fucking gorgeous friends. Because, as Bobby always said, “The hot ones travel in packs.”

Caden shook his head and looked at the therapist, who was sitting patiently, waiting. “What did you ask me again?”

“I asked you if Bobby’s opinion was more important to you than getting what you want.” Camille cocked her head.

“No, no, of course not.” He answered too quickly.

“You know,” Camille said, “I’m like what’s in your own head. There’s no need in here to try and come up with what you think is the right answer. No need to censor yourself. Do I need to remind you there’s no judgment here?”

“No.”

“So, I won’t ask you about Bobby’s opinion again, but I do want you to think about your answer.”

“Why?”

“Because you brought up your attraction to heavy men for a reason.” Camille shrugged. “It doesn’t matter so much what the reason is, so much as it matters what you think about it. Look, people are attracted to other people for all sorts of reasons, and there’s no right or wrong way to be attracted. Take my mother—please!” Camille laughed. “Ever since my father passed away a few years ago, she’s been all about younger men. And I am not talking forties and fifties here. I’m talking about much younger, your age, Caden, and even in their twenties. Mom’s sixty, but she’s a knockout.”

“Cougar?” Caden asked.

“Use that word around her and you might get your eyes scratched out. Anyway, my point is that it’s what she likes, and even though I did question it at first, especially when she was having me meet guys who were younger than I was, it wasn’t my call to make. Attraction is subjective—totally.”

“You’re right.”

Camille laughed. “I’m not looking for affirmation. I just want to understand why you chose to bring up this particular attraction with your therapist.”

And Caden realized he’d like to know the reason himself. If he could only get a handle on it, a love handle, if you will. He shook his head, censoring his inner Kathy Griffin.

The therapy session failed to illuminate the rationale for Caden’s attraction, and he left Camille’s office with homework not on why he was attracted to heavy guys, but why he felt that mattered.

It didn’t matter, did it?

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Meet the Author

Real Men. True Love.

Rick R. Reed draws inspiration from the lives of gay men to craft stories that quicken the heartbeat, engage emotions, and keep the pages turning. Although he dabbles in horror, dark suspense, and comedy, his attention always returns to the power of love. He’s the award-winning and bestselling author of more than fifty works of published fiction and is forever at work on yet another book. Lambda Literary has called him: “A writer that doesn’t disappoint…” You can find him at http://www.rickrreedreality.blogspot.com. Rick lives in Palm Springs, CA, with his beloved husband, Bruce, and their fierce Chihuahua/Shiba Inu mix, Kodi.

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