After countless battles as an Oathtaker, Katya is about to face her hardest fight—one for her mind and soul.
Katya Greenleaf has given herself over to the thrill of combat countless times during her years as an Oathtaker. Alongside her mentor Shira, she has sought out evil—pirates, slavers, dark mages and demon hordes. Occasionally, she finds comfort in the company of other females she encounters in her travels, and despite her mother’s best efforts, she has no desire to settle for a traditional elven life and family.
After decades of taking joy from the fight, no matter the odds, Katya leads a group of Oathtakers into a disastrous battle, one which costs the lives of everyone around her, including Shira. Katya survives, but with neither body nor spirit intact, haunted by her life of violence and death in the name of her Oath.
Now, the red-haired warrior will find her greatest challenge in a battle against a different sort of demon—ones that live in her mind and haunt her sleep.
As she heals, Katya is reminded that there is more to life than blood and iron by a compelling human named Lili, who not only catches Katya’s interest, but forces her to re-think her life and her mission.
With Lili at her side, her beloved falcon Fayne on her shoulder and healers encouraging her, Katya sets out to re-discover the warrior she once was and finally confront the truths of what happened the day the world collapsed around her.
Reader advisory: This book contains scenes of violence and the death of a minor character.
The swamp went against everything Katya had ever learned about choosing a battlefield.
She stood in freezing knee-high water surrounded by small islands of reed-covered sand. Thick mist hung in the air, limiting her vision and rendering her favoured weapon, a crossbow, useless.
The fog was freezing and damp, and despite the enchantments on the leather armour she wore, a chill was creeping into her bones. In that, Katya wasn’t alone. The other members of her party were also complaining about the wet and frosty surroundings.
The swirling mist made sounds duller and flatter, but with her better-than-human hearing, Katya could hear the clicks and whistles that made up the language of the lizard men that were closing in on them. They were savage and bloodthirsty creatures, given to torture and enslaving defeated enemies, fighting to the last with massive clubs of wood and jagged stone axes.
Today it was Katya’s job to lead the fight against this party of lizard men, sending a message from local merchants and crafters’ guilds that it was time the lizards put a halt to their destruction of trade missions and killing of travelling merchants passing through the area, and that their immediate departure from the swamp would be appreciated.
The responsibility weighed on Katya, despite her eagerness to mix it up, and because of this, she was not happy with what was going to be a horrible place for a stand-up fight.
Still, neither weather nor terrain mattered to Katya. Oathtakers didn’t just head into battle when the skies were sunny and pleasant. Dead enemies were dead no matter where their bodies ended up.
The mist beside her parted and Shira appeared, his beard caked with frost. Katya knew her own long hair looked the same, even though she wore it tied back. Function over form was the warrior’s way.
The old ranger gestured with his chin towards the swamp.
“I’ve seen worse. That garbage pit on the coast? Blah.”
Shira laughed. “I’ll never forget that smell. Nor the rats.”
Katya suppressed the shudder that rolled up her back. Gods, the rats, she remembered. Vile and voracious monsters that had wiped out all the wild animals in a huge area around the garbage dump. When they had moved on to livestock, the farmers in the area were desperate for help. The Oathtakers had answered the call.
The rats had been the same size as large dogs, with yellow eyes and even yellower teeth—one of them had bitten straight through a party member’s leather gauntlet. When all was said and done, everyone in the fray had ended up with scratches and bites from the filthy beasts that needed to be well-cleaned before infection set in.
Their foul bloodstains never had come off Katya’s armour completely, no matter how often she scrubbed them.
“I think the lizards will give them a run for their money today.”
Shira’s face took on the more serious look that Katya was accustomed to—his war-face. “They may, aye. What did our friend in the sky say?”
Katya looked up, straining to see. “I haven’t talked to her yet. Do you want me to call her in?”
“May as well. She’ll have seen all she can by now. No sense in letting her freeze.”
Katya nodded. She pursed her lips and whistled, making an odd yet pleasant musical sound, then waited.
In a few seconds, a dark shadow, one of Katya’s most valuable weapons and allies, plummeted out of the misty sky.
J.B. Knowles has been a lifelong lover of works of fantasy, first creating Katya and the Greenleaf family in high school as roleplaying characters.
After a long career in the fields of justice and mental health, J.B. finally had a chance to build a full world on paper for Katya and to breathe new life into adventures started over thirty years ago.
J.B. is married and has two sons and three dogs who all share an stately old farmhouse in a quiet corner of Canada.
Enter for the chance to win a $50.00 First for Romance Gift Card!
Anthony Henson doesn’t do people. He prefers to be left alone with his paint, brushes and canvas. A world that allows his mind to be at ease, without the struggle to do what is right by societal dictates. His quiet universe is sent spinning, however, when a string of recent thefts brings a tall Irish detective into his circle.
Detective Liam Rourke has a hard, firm policy on not intermingling work and pleasure. Until now, it’s not been an issue to uphold it. Enter one painter and all he wants to do is spend more time around him. The lines between professional and personal are blurred.
When everything settles, what will happen to the straight-laced detective and the man whose own messy life doesn’t matter to him?
Reader advisory: This book contains instances of bullying, as well as mention of homophobia, adultery, and family/domestic verbal/emotional abuse.
“There’s a Detective Rourke here to see you, Anthony.”
Anthony Henson sighed, instantly agitated, and spun on the stool, away from the current painting he worked on. With a flick of his wrist as he got to his feet, he covered it. No one would see it until the time was right.
The words were the correct ones, even if the last thing he felt like he should be doing was entertaining another prick of a badge. Pressing the heel of his palm into his upper thigh, he sighed as he tried to work out the stiffness. When he finished on that side, he worked out the stiffness in his other leg. A sure sign he’d been immobile far too long without taking a break.
Supposedly this can be a good thing. I am getting up and moving around. This will serve as my break.
Truth was, he didn’t give a fuck if it was a good thing or not. He didn’t care. He had painting to do. The other things were naught but irritating intrusions of his time.
Marshall vanished without another word and in mere seconds, with his suit impeccable. While Anthony himself, on the other hand, looked like a day laborer. Paint staining his fingers, shirt, pants. Even his shoes.
Damnit. I forgot my shoes. Where did I leave them? In the back room? Beneath my stool?
There were two options. Go back and get them, assuming he could remember where he’d discarded them, or continue on like he was to this meeting.
It’s not like I called the cops to come out here. He’s interrupting my day. Why do I care if I’m wearing shoes? Why should I care? He may not even be a he. I suppose women can be detectives.
Somewhere in the back of his mind, he knew he should care. That would be the proper thing to do. Quite honestly, he didn’t give a fuck about social niceties. That’s what Marshall was for.
Pushing his hands into his pockets, he walked through the back of the studio to the front. Marshall pointed one finger off to his left and Anthony followed.
The man, and it was a man, stood before one of his favorite pieces. A scene in Italy, a seashore.
“Why are you here?”
Beside him, Marshall cleared his throat, softly. Anthony knew what it was, a reminder to be better behaved. Be polite. Sociable.
The man didn’t start, just slowly turned toward him, expression composed. Sharp green eyes lasered out from angular features. Deep red hair with a smattering of gray at the temples. The clothing was typical detective wear—a suit.
His voice rolled from him like a slow-moving wave, not anything to knock you over but you sure as hell knew it had been there.
“That’s who you asked to see. Why else would I be standing here?”
Marshall stepped between them. “I’m sorry, Detective. Yes, this is Anthony Henson. Anthony, this is Detective Liam Rourke.”
There was a look in Marshall’s gaze. It took him a moment before it clicked. Marshall was reminding him not to be so short.
“How can I help you?”
It grated he had to ask that, but Marshall smiled at him and that made it worth it. Being able to make Marshall smile and relax was something Anthony enjoyed doing. He didn’t have a lot of friends. There were people, acquaintances who pretended to like him because of who he was and his wealth and of course his connections, or at least those they thought would help them. But he wasn’t stupid, no matter what those same people said behind his back. He knew they were trying to use him.
The bottom line was, he didn’t give a fuck about them. But Marshall…he was different. The man had been his friend since they’d first met. He’d taken beatings standing up for Anthony and never got offended when Andrew’s bluntness had things falling from his mouth that should have been withheld.
So, no matter how he didn’t want to do something, if Marshall asked him, he would do it. He hid a smirk and tried to give the visitor his attention. It wasn’t easy. This detective was handsome.
“I’m here with a couple of questions about burglaries that have been going on at some of the local galleries.”
Anthony watched and waited, bare toes curling on the cool floor. The eyes held him. That shade of green wasn’t something he’d seen before.
He wanted to paint it.
I want to paint him.
Detective Rourke gave a small nod and pulled out a flip steno pad. “Has there been any trouble here? Any people in here that may be casing the joint under the pretense of looking at the art?”
With any movement, Anthony waited. As did the detective. The man didn’t speak, just held his gaze.
He figured it was a tactic to get suspects to talk, but personally, he didn’t give a fuck. This man didn’t intimidate him.
Arouse him? Yes, for sure.
A hint of impatience laced the man’s tone, even though it was very faint.
“Are those your only questions?” Anthony blinked, once. “Or do you have others?”
The man flattened his lips and gave a slow nod.
“I couldn’t tell you. You would be better served speaking to Marshall.” He looked away from the detective with the intoxicating green eyes. “Marshall, come answer the detective’s questions. I have better things to do.”
Without another word, he turned and walked back toward his studio.
“Wait a minute.”
He paused outside the room and looked over his shoulder. The man strode toward him, brow furrowed.
“We’re not finished.”
Anthony narrowed his gaze. “You told me you had no more questions. I am not the best equipped to answer this, Marshall is.” He cocked his head to the side as a thought struck him. “Are you good at your job? Because you seem to be having a difficult time digesting what I told you.”
Marshall cleared his throat again.
Anthony shrugged. “What? It is a legitimate question.” He waved his hand in the direction of the sexy detective.
I do not need to think of him as sexy.
“He is having a difficult time grasping my statement.” He faced Liam. “Or did something change and you do have different questions for me?”
Liam Rourke wasn’t sure what to make of the man standing before him. He didn’t shy away from eye contact and seemed absolutely shocked Liam wanted to speak to him again. But the blue eyes holding his called to a deeper part of him. One he’d thought he’d closed down, after—
There was scruff on his face, making his jaw shadowed. Messy dark hair fell haphazardly around his features. He’d noticed a limp while Anthony had moved away from him.
Two blinks and the man he’d come to speak with walked away, leaving him there. Dumbfounded.
“I’m sorry, Detective Rourke. Anthony doesn’t mean to be rude. He just—”
“No need to explain.” He had a feeling he already knew. “Why did he tell me to speak to you?”
“Mr. Henson prefers to keep to the back, doing what he loves. Painting. He isn’t one who comes out to mingle with the patrons.” Marshall stepped back and smoothed a hand down his suit. “I handle all of that for him.”
“Okay, let me ask you.”
Liam talked to Marshall for another couple of minutes before closing up his notepad.
“I’ll be by if I have any more questions. If you do see anything, please let us know. We’re trying to stop this group before someone gets seriously hurt.”
“Will do, Detective.”
He gave him a nod and pivoted to the door. All he wanted to do was go in the back and engage with Anthony once more. He shook his head. It had been a while since he’d had a man affect him like Anthony had, despite the brief time they were together.
At the door to Arm’s Hall Gallery, he slowed, at war with himself about whether to go back and see Anthony once more. Exhaling sharply, he pushed through and stepped out into the hot summer afternoon.
Liam slid on his sunglasses and tipped his head up to the glaring sun. His mind drifted back to the paint-splattered man who hadn’t been the slightest bit impressed with having a detective there, trying to help.
He snorted. No, impressed was definitely not the word to use. Annoyed, irritated, bored. So many other ones he could choose.
There had been something sexy about seeing him there, barefoot and a bit messy, which had kicked his senses, reminding him how long it’d been since he’d had a lover. Eyes on his car, he walked toward it, mind focusing ahead to the next stop on his list for the day.
So far the four places that had been burglarized hadn’t had any injuries. In his gut, he figured it was only a matter of time before their luck ran out with regards to that. What he’d not been able to piece together yet was a connection in the art. Other than the obvious—it was art. Something told him it was deeper than how it appeared on the surface.
Not even old art, at least not all. It was like the thief or thieves weren’t after Rembrandts, probably because they were afraid they couldn’t unload them. And he didn’t get the allure of some of what he’d seen. Some of the pieces that had been stolen he personally wouldn’t wipe his ass with, but he’d never claimed to be an art critic.
Now this most recent studio, he didn’t mind what was up on those walls. Not images he would consider all abstract, for there was a definite eclectic taste to what adorned the walls.
Landscapes. People. Animals. Buildings. Flowers. You name it, Arm’s Hall probably had it, and most of what Liam had seen made sense to his mind.
Snapping his gaze up when his name was hollered, he lifted his chin in greeting to another detective, Larson, who had been at a different gallery.
Larson jogged across the street and put his hands on his hips. “Anything?”
He shook his head and pulled his notebook back out, flipping it open. “Nothing that was worth the time it took me to put it down.”
Arms crossed, Larson grunted. “Same. Although, if I wanted a painted picture of a bikini bottom, it could be mine for a measly ten grand.”
Liam choked. “I’m sorry?”
“Yeah, that’s what it was like at the last place I was at. I either make far too little or I went into the wrong business. I mean, I could paint some ladies’ drawers and would be happy to sell it for half their asking price. Christ, what the hell is the draw for something like that? I couldn’t ever put it up on my wall, not if I wanted my wife to refrain from slitting my throat at night.”
Liam laughed, knowing full well Regina, Larson’s wife, would do exactly that, and find a way to blame him for it. Woman was scary and a freaking amazing attorney. He held up his hands and shook his head.
“That’s all you, man. I’m not buying any portion of women’s clothing on a canvas. Much less for that kind of money. We have the same job. I know I don’t make that kind of money.”
“Let’s get back, see if we can’t find a lead somewhere.”
They fell into step and walked in companionable silence to the waiting sedan.
Cambry is everything an omega shouldn’t be. He’s tall, muscular and attacks every alpha who approaches him, shifting into his wolf form before making sure they know their place—away from him.
Cambry’s father sends him to Feral Woods in the hopes that Cambry will return home too shattered to put up a fight against his next potential mate. If one alpha can’t tame him, then why not try two?
With two hundred supervised acres, Feral Woods is a couple’s therapy center run by Bryce and Jake—two massive alphas who could tear Cambry apart. It’s not long before Cambry finds himself drawn to them, his inner beast submissive for the first time in his life. But he is met with dismissive refusal instead of interest.
With his heart on the line and time running out, there is a chance he could remain broken forever.
Reader advisory: This book contains a scene of a shifter orgy.
Cambry grasped the curtain, pulling it away from the polished glass of his bedroom window. The fabric was soft and heavy in his hand—something from the latest designer his mother had fallen in love with. Instead of the previous indigo, it was now a deep blue that blended in with the softer tones of his room.
A fountain spurted beyond the window, its waters guarded by a black gate that matched the fence that surrounded the property. There were grass and trees, too, beyond those gates, not that he ever got the chance to enjoy them.
An alpha retreated along the concrete walkway, his back rippling under his thin T-shirt. Each movement was like a feral dance of instinct and desire. There was a streak of red across his shirt that hadn’t been there when he’d arrived. The alpha had been big, strong, attractive and sweet—everything a proper mate should be.
But Cambry’s plan had been disastrous, like a spectacular firework that had failed to launch and exploded in his face instead. The second the alpha had shown any intent that wasn’t exactly platonic, Cambry’s instinctive side had reared up and taken him out.
Sighing, Cambry let the curtain fall shut, the filtered light dimming to a sparse glow. Luckily, the alpha was only leaving with a scratch and a black eye instead of a broken arm like the last one—or the broken collar bone from the one before him. Maybe it was because Cambry had warned him?
Most alphas sneered at the warning—hence the broken arm and collar bone—but this one had seemed different.
“When you try to touch me, I’m going to react…badly.” Cambry couldn’t remember how many times he had said those same words. He guessed that the first few alphas had assumed that Cambry would react like any other omega was supposed to—with slick and a burst of pheromones.
They hadn’t been expecting violence.
Walking to his dresser, Cambry pulled the top drawer wide, fumbling with a pair of boxers and tugging them up his thick legs. The fabric was smooth and silken and clutched his soft package like a fitted glove. They were worth spending his tiny allowance on, that was for sure. Thank goodness for the little things in life.
The little things being both his package and the expensive underwear.
His old friend Aubrie had asked him why he always splurged on the things if he had no one to show them off to. He had his own mirror, thank you very much, which added ten pounds, even on the best of days. But it was always honest about the boxers, which looked a hell of a lot better than they did on most omegas.
“Why don’t you give up, Cambry? It kills me to see you like this. If an alpha hasn’t induced a heat in you by now, it’s not going to happen.”
Aubrie had probably had the best intentions when she’d said that, but it had pierced Cambry’s soul like a dull pencil crayon. Or maybe that was why Cambry’s father had chosen her as his friend…to wear him down a bit more.
There was only so much loneliness he could take before he tried to be with someone again, hoping that everything would finally work the way it was supposed to. It wasn’t the sex as much as it was everything else. He couldn’t hug someone or even hold their hand without his feral side acting out.
His skin prickled as his door slid back, light footsteps moving across the floor behind him. And there was that.
“Your father is upset,” said his mother, her meek voice slapping him harder than any blow. He couldn’t look at her and see the same disappointment that was in his soul.
He could hear her shaking, her teeth chattering softly as she stayed as far away from him as she could. He was surprised that she had even managed to step into the same room as he was in.
“I tried, Mom,” he said, pulling a second drawer wide and tugging a shirt over his frame. He had to get alpha sizes, seeing as nothing for omegas fit his frame. His father was upset about that, too.
The alpha sizes were shaped differently than he was, though—the shoulders a touch too wide and the waist not quite narrow enough. Nothing had fit him well since he’d hit puberty.
The steady thumps of his father’s steps approached, and he hurriedly pulled a pair of jeans over his legs. They at least fit a bit better, his thighs stretching the fabric to its brink as it cupped his ass. The only place with too much room was the crotch, but he was almost glad that nothing ever touched him there.
He looked at the mirror above his dresser, scowling at his reflection. Fellow omegas were terrified of him, and alphas treated him like he was a strange cousin to the human race who needed to be broken or beaten until he fit into a different shape than what he had been born into.
He sniffed, slamming the drawer shut before his father could step into his room. There was no use crying, no matter how frustrated he was.
“We’ve tried it your way, Cambry. These alphas can’t stand to get close to you, let alone allow you to bond with them,” said his father as he hovered at the edge of the door frame. He was a few inches shy of Cambry’s height and had lost his alpha muscling to his age long before Cambry had been born. Like most alphas, he never got too close to Cambry—just close enough to hurt with words.
Cambry wondered if he would ever forget his father’s way. The restraints had dug into his wrists as a strange alpha had approached him from behind. Guided by an overdressed and undereducated doctor, Cambry’s father had hoped to kick-start Cambry’s omega nature with some good ole fashioned alpha cock. They hadn’t counted on Cambry breaking his own arm as he shifted, turning on the alpha and ripping a chunk of flesh from his throat.
The alpha hadn’t died—thank goodness—but they had never tried to restrain Cambry after that. And they had finally listened to him and had let him try on his own terms by picking up an alpha from a bar. It was about as romantic as a one-night stand could have been.
But it had resulted the same way—minus the shifting and massive blood loss, at least.
“It almost happened, Dad. I was so close,” said Cambry, touching his belly. He’d been naked, which had been a first. And the alpha had managed to touch him once before Cambry’s beast had risen to the surface and socked him in the face. Biting the alpha’s gland to bond with them had been the last thing on his mind.
“Close isn’t enough,” said his father, the snarl in his voice enough to prickle the hair on the back of Cambry’s neck. He’d never attacked a family member, but he had come close enough times that his father rarely approached him without backup. It was probably why his mother was strategically between them, shivering with her eyes downcast.
“Your heat could kill you. You’re already so much older than you should be for your first one, and there’s no way you can manage it alone,” said his mother, the edge of a sob in her voice. Cambry turned, his heart falling as he watched the tears stream down his mother’s face. She, at least, cared for him. His father was more interested in seeing him out of the door in a different alpha’s house—with some financial benefits for himself, of course.
“I’d have to have a heat first.” Cambry turned away as his father’s dark eyes glared into him. Most omegas had their first heat when they were still in high school, the late bloomers sprouting by eighteen at the latest. Cambry had turned twenty-two three weeks before, and he still hadn’t experienced a heat. He was hardly an omega at all by some standards.
But his mom was right. Those that had monthly heats had the mildest cycle, still able to continue their day-to-day lives with only a mild fever and a bit of slickness. Some of Cambry’s classmates had been that way, and he’d scarcely been able to tell.
Those who had heats once a year had to isolate themselves for nearly a week, their scent and instincts so uncontrollable that they could kill any stranger who attempted to approach. They needed a mate to ease them through it, more with their presence than their knot, from what his mother had explained.
For Cambry not to have had a heat at his age meant that his first would reduce him to nothing more than a feral beast that would kill and fuck without conscious thought. The idea was terrifying, especially since he was already so close to feral that an alpha couldn’t touch him.
“I’ve tolerated this abnormality of yours for long enough,” said his father, his mother’s spine stiffening.
“Dear, you promised,” she said, her voice pleading.
“No, he’ll be going to them, and that’s final. That doctor wasn’t worth his degree, but a colleague of mine gave me the name of a facility that he swears by. If one alpha can’t handle him, then maybe two can snap him out of this phase.” He tossed a business card into the room and it fluttered end over end before settling upside down on the floor. Turning, he stormed from the entry.
Cambry finally took a breath as his father disappeared, skirting by his mother to grab the business card. It was deep forest green with the name Feral Woods inscribed along the middle with deep gold lettering.
He flipped it over, his eyes going wide as he read the services listed on the card. “Instinctive therapy? What is that?” It sounded terrifying and alluring at the same time.
His instincts were everything that was wrong with him, though. As much as he wanted to listen to the little whispers in the back of his mind, he knew if he did, he would be alone for the rest of his life. Therapy brought to mind cages and bindings, the hair on his arms and chest thickening at the thought.
If it had been his father’s idea, the latter was probably exactly what was involved. His colleagues weren’t much better in Cambry’s experience, either.
“I hear they are very good,” she said softly, her voice trembling as she took a step back. His heart broke under the weight of her fear.
His parents were terrified of him. Maybe he should be locked in a cage for the rest of his days until they found someone who could make him submit. Or two someones. He quivered.
“When do I leave?” He took a shuddering breath as he looked around his room. What would he be allowed to bring? His collection of rocks from his younger years? Probably not. His romance novels? He should probably give them a proper burial before he left, because his father would burn them and disown him if he found them hidden under the floorboard.
Just another layer of his abnormalities. His father would have a heart attack if he ever read one of them or even caught sight of the cover. They were the only things that Cambry had ever intentionally rebelled with, and they could cost him everything.
“Your father pulled some strings.” Because of course he did. She cleared her throat. “You’re leaving in an hour.”
So his father had expected his plan to fail.
“There are single omegas, Mom. Why can’t he just let me be?” Cambry sighed, drawing a hand down his arm as his fur retreated, prickling as it pulled back under his skin. Others described shifting as painful, and even his mother could hardly bear to do it. But to him, it was a release he only ever found when he was in that form—wild and without the presumptions of a society that hated him.
“You know why,” she said, not even looking at him. He hadn’t noticed the exact moment that she had given up on him, but it had been a long time ago—perhaps when he had matured into an omega, only he hadn’t stopped growing like he was supposed to or maybe when the first alpha had offered him a mating contract and Cambry had bitten clear through his hand.
“I’m sorry,” he said. The reasons were too long for her to list, and he knew them almost by heart. “Your father has so much pressure at work. People are wondering why you haven’t mated yet. People will talk, son, and your reputation will be ruined. We can’t let them know that you’re…unnatural. Your heat will kill you, and if it doesn’t, your father…”
They did have a slight point. He had no desire to die, especially since he hadn’t seen the world except for his tiny slice of neighborhood and the bit of lawn within the black gates. The unmated omegas he’d seen were considered strange anomalies in the circles his father traveled in and were best to be left alone and shunned.
As if they couldn’t function without a knot to drool over.
Cambry rolled his eyes. The idea of a knot made him a bit nauseous. He had no desire to bend over and take it like he was supposed to. His feral side agreed with toothy gusto.
“You should pack. I’ll give you space.” She set a duffel bag on the floor before she swept from the room, the loss of her presence barely palpable in the quiet house.
She was his polar opposite. His beast refused to be compliant and meek, even when he tried so hard to overcome that part of himself. He didn’t want to be his mother, who was a shadow of a human being ruled by society more than her education and emotions.
Sighing, he looked around the room before grabbing the bag. If he were lucky, he would have just enough room to pack his books under a thin layer of clothing. Then, at least, he could take everything that meant something to him.
He looked at the business card one last time. Alpha and omega instinctive therapy sessions. Two hundred acres of supervised development.
Well, on the bright side, he would probably get to see some hot alpha ass. A smile tugged at his lips. He could have a positive attitude. At least he was getting out of the house. And two hundred acres would give his beast a lot more places to run, even if he was supervised.
Checking to make sure the coast was clear, he lifted the floorboards just inside his closet. His collection of books that he’d spent years gathering barely fit in the space anymore. The pages were worn from being read so many times, the front covers smudged from his fingers. The covers gave away everything that his father didn’t need to know. Two men, bigger than even himself and twined in a primal embrace, painted a steamy picture that made his mouth water. Forbidden Alphas.
Heat flushed his cheeks as he packed them out of sight, zipping the bag shut with a hard pull. He balled up a pair of socks and underwear, jamming them into the side pouch to disguise the corners the books had created.
M.C. Roth lives in Canada and loves every season, even the dreaded Canadian winter. She graduated with honours from the Associate Diploma Program in Veterinary Technology at the University of Guelph before choosing a different career path.
Between caring for her young son, spending time with her husband, and feeding treats to her menagerie of animals, she still spends every spare second devoted to her passion for writing.
She loves growing peppers that are hot enough to make grown men cry, but she doesn’t like spicy food herself. Her favourite thing, other than writing of course, is to find a quiet place in the wilderness and listen to the birds while dreaming about the gorgeous men in her head.
The right cut, the right style and a dash of love.
James Mason has everything he could ever want—his salon is the most famous in town, and he’s got his health and his best bud, his dog Doob. But he’s lonely. James has a knack for pairing everyone up, except himself. He’s been interested in Paul, the sweet man who helps at the salon, but will Paul be interested in him, too? Then there’s the elusive JP Henderson, the owner of the salon building. James has created an image in his mind that this man could be the one.
Jonathan Paul Henderson has lusted after James since the moment he met him. James acts unaffected by wealth and seems drawn to character. He’s adorable, funny and welcoming, too. He also doesn’t seem to mind that Paul wears makeup. Paul feels the connection and knows he wants this man, but will James still accept him after he finds out the truth—that Paul’s his landlord?
Two men, one truth and so much attraction they burn up the sheets. Is theirs a love for now or one meant to last?
“Looks like it’s you and me tonight, Doob.” James Mason petted the dog and settled on the floor with him. Dye Hard Style had closed for the evening and he’d locked the doors, but he wasn’t ready to head home—not yet. He’d rather give the dog attention and listen to the silence.
Christ, he was worn out. He spent most of his days packed with appointments for his styling services. Opening to closing, he had someone wanting his attention. He’d worked hard for his reputation for excellence in hair styling, but that didn’t help when he wanted a break.
Other than his job, he had little else to show for his work. He had no social life outside of the salon. No boyfriend and few actual friends. He didn’t even have the energy to try to pair himself with anyone, not like he did with the guys who came in wanting dates.
The one thing he did have was Doob, his black mutt with a heart of gold. From the moment Doob had shown up at the salon, he’d become James’ constant companion. He’d been more loyal than most everyone else in his life. His ex-boyfriends certainly weren’t loyal.
But he wanted a date. James supposed he could leave Doob at home and call a friend to go out, but he wasn’t in the mood for drama. He’d have plenty of drama tomorrow when he met with Jonathan Paul Henderson, the owner of the salon building and the Annex next door. He’d never actually seen Mr. Henderson. When Lester McCann had sold the building and the one next door, he hadn’t asked James his opinion—not that he’d had to—and never bothered to introduce James to the new owner.
But that was Lester. If he could get away with doing nothing, he’d do even less.
At least James didn’t have far to go in his commute home. Having his apartment in the Annex next door meant all he had to do was walk through the door joining the two buildings. Sometimes living next to the salon did have some perks.
He left the floor and checked he’d locked the front doors, then turned off the main lights. The security ones came on, bathing the space in dim yellow glow. Once satisfied, he patted his hip for Doob, then collected the cash from the register.
The dog had been a lumpy, furry godsend. Doob stuck by him when his depression hit and knew how to make him feel better. The dog was the sweetest thing, too. Whoever had been his family had been lucky to have him.
Part of James wondered why no one had ever claimed Doob. He’d put out what seemed like a thousand fliers, letting the public know he’d found the lost dog. Surely, Doob was missed. He had his name on a metal plate on his collar—wouldn’t a family or someone who cared about the dog do something like put his name on an engraved plate on the collar? If Doob had run away, then why hadn’t anyone come looking for him?
What if they hadn’t wanted Doob? The dog was a good boy and so loyal. How could someone not want him?
If they didn’t want him, James did. He checked that the rear doors to the former theater building were indeed locked and secured, then returned to the salon portion of the building.
He clicked the leash onto Doob’s collar. “It’s been almost a year. If you haven’t been claimed by now, then finders keepers. You’re officially my dog.” He’d already bought Doob’s tags and had him to the vet for his shots. Unfortunately there hadn’t been a microchip in Doob then, but there was now.
Doob circled around James’ legs, catching him up in the leash.
“You’ll trip and kill me, you know. If I’m dead, then you won’t get puppy food.” James slipped the memory card from the register into the cash bag, then zipped it shut. He tucked the bag under his arm and allowed Doob to lead him to the door out of the salon. He appreciated being able to go straight from the salon to his apartment building without having to go outside with a cash bag.
He carried the money to his third-floor apartment, then locked the bag in the safe in his bedroom. He’d worry about the numbers later. Right now, he needed to feed Doob. He unfastened the leash, then added kibble to Doob’s bowl. When the dog settled for his evening nap, that was when James would wrangle the numbers on the ledger.
Doob greedily munched on his dog food and James admired his gusto. Doob never seemed lonely. Just happy to be loved. James wanted to be loved by the dog, sure, but a boyfriend would be nice, too.
“We’ll find someone, Doob. Someone we both like and who will like us as a package deal. Think we can manage as a threesome?” Saying it like that sounded odd, but whatever. Doob was good as a companion, but James needed someone human to warm his bed.
Once Doob finished his dinner and got a drink, half of which he seemed to leave on the mat around his water bowl, James clicked the leash on him again. He and Doob left the apartment for their evening walk.
Doob seemed to love the four laps they usually took around Norville town square and James liked the exercise. Some days he and Doob ventured away from the center of town to the park by the school. Although James liked the excitement of the salon, right now, he wanted peace and quiet.
Doob walked proudly in front of him and sniffed at whatever he found. Once he and James encountered other dogs, Doob fell in line beside James, but seemed to pay no attention to the canines. James wondered if he should socialize the dog more. What if he and Doob were becoming too solitary for their own good?
James stopped to let Doob do his business. As he waited, he considered his life. He loved doing hair and making people beautiful. Helping someone find their inner glam made him happy. But he didn’t want to be single forever.
Maybe he could visit Club Jester. He’d helped enough other guys find true love there. Why not try for himself?
He cleaned up after Doob and tossed the baggie into the receptacle for dog waste, then sanitized his hands.
His thoughts turned back to clubbing. Who would he meet at Club Jester? The same old-same old most likely. Those guys were good, but they were either in a relationship or never going to settle down.
He spotted a jogger coming toward them and stepped off the path to give the athlete space. As soon as the man grew closer, James recognized him. Pauly. He’d chatted more than a few times with Pauly at the salon when the man stopped for haircuts or just to hang out. He liked Pauly, but never got the feeling Pauly wanted a boyfriend. He seemed like too much of a free spirit. He was a whiz with makeup and always managed to make himself handsomely beautiful. James wished he had the same skills with foundation and eyeshadow.
Pauly jogged up to him and stopped. He mopped his brow with his shirtsleeve and grinned. How could one man, jogging no less, look so on-point all the time? Even now, he had makeup on, without smearing it much, and a slight beard. Unreal, but gorgeous.
“Hi, you.” Pauly took a swig from a small water bottle he had wrapped around his hand. “How are you?”
“Hi, yourself. You look fantastic.” He held on to Doob’s leash. “I haven’t seen you at Dye Hard Style in forever. Have you been working out to make yourself chiseled and handsome without telling me?”
“That’s partly true. I’ve always jogged, but I’ve been out of town.” Pauly smiled. “I missed seeing you.”
“Likewise.” A tingle ran the length of his spine and James wondered if the glint in Pauly’s dark eyes was because of him. He stared at the man’s lips and wondered what he tasted like…and when did he get such kissable lips?
“Are you planning on going to the Jester tonight?” Pauly asked. “I hear it’s singles night.”
Singles night could be good, but it could also be awful. “Oh?”
“They brought in a new DJ and are having games to get the singles to mingle.” Pauly rolled his eyes. “If you want to go, want to go together? Then we don’t have to play the singles games.”
He hadn’t wanted to go, but he also hadn’t considered going with Pauly until now. “I should take Doob home and change, but I wasn’t planning on going out.”
“No big deal. I need to finish my jog and would have to shower,” Pauly said. “If you want, I can pick you up. It was my idea, so I can drive. You’re in the Annex, aren’t you?”
James blanched. He didn’t tend to tell people where he lived and only a few people referred to the building as the Annex. “Yeah, I am. I didn’t think you knew that.”
“Oh, I’d heard it.” Pauly blushed. “Sorry.”
He wanted to go out tonight and with Pauly, but something about the situation made him want to hold back. “Why don’t we exchange numbers and I’ll text you when I’m free. We can plan a date for another day.”
“I’d like that.” Pauly offered up his phone. “Do you have yours?”
He patted his thigh. Shit. He’d left his phone at home. “I don’t, but I’ll give you my number.” When Pauly handed him the device, he inputted his work number, then offered the phone back to him. “See you around at the salon?”
“Sure.” Pauly slid the phone back into his armband holder. “I’m sorry if I came off too pushy.”
“Don’t take it personally. I get kind of funny when I go out. I don’t do it often. I’m not a clubbing kind of guy.” He wasn’t any longer. He had been when he was younger, but now that he’d been around…clubbing had lost its luster.
“I get it. You’re more of a stay-home-and-chill kind of guy.” Pauly nodded. “Can’t blame me for trying.”
“Nope.” And maybe one day he’d go out with Pauly. Just not today. “See you?”
“I’ll be around the salon here and there. Maybe next week we could try going for coffee.” Pauly tapped his phone and an album cover filled the screen. “See you.”
James waved and headed with Doob back to his apartment. Maybe he should’ve gone with his instincts and gone out. He’d just inwardly complained he spent too much time alone and the chance to be with someone arose, but he’d chickened out. Or maybe he needed to know Pauly a bit better.
Once in the apartment building, he checked that his car was still safe in the warehouse space, then went upstairs.
He herded Doob to their apartment and unleashed him. “I spent too much time with just you, but you’ve never cheated on me.”
Doob sneezed, then trotted off to his dog bed.
“You can ignore me like a champ, though.” Silly dog.
James removed his makeup and showered, then dressed in a pair of sleep shorts. He made himself a snack of yogurt and granola before turning on the radio. Almost everyone he knew listened to playlists. They curated the hell out of those lists, making the selections of music perfect.
Not him. He loved dance radio and the oldies channel. Why not let the spontaneity of the channel come through? He liked not knowing what would be playing next.
He sat on the window seat and watched the evening traffic below while eating and listening to music.
Tomorrow, he’d meet with JP Henderson finally. He’d explain why Doob needed to stay and probably accept his fate when reminded of the no dogs rule. The rule wasn’t subject to change, the landlord would probably say.
James didn’t like the idea of starting a new salon at another location, but he loved Doob. If he had to leave the old theater, then he’d do it for his dog. He loved the publicity Doob brought, too. People recognized the dog, the salon and his unique style.
Maybe the infamous JP Henderson would be willing to work with him. He had to give it a shot if he wanted to keep Doob.
He’d never met JP Henderson and finally learned his last name three weeks ago. Would the man be amiable? Curt? All business or friendly? Would he be an older gentleman or a sexy younger one? Maybe a sexy silver fox. What if he wasn’t gay, though? What if he was? What if he wasn’t interested in James? James’ imagination kicked into overdrive. What if JP Henderson secretly wanted to have a wild, torrid affair with him and was looking for the right moment to make a move?
Romances like that didn’t happen in Norville and they didn’t happen to him. He was a simple guy with simple tastes. Men of mystery didn’t fall for him.
He held on to his yogurt cup and let the Donna Summer song wash over him. Tonight, he had no cares. No worries, either.
Tomorrow was another matter, but first he’d enjoy tonight.
Megan Slayer, aka Wendi Zwaduk, is a multi-published, award-winning author of more than one-hundred short stories and novels. She’s been writing since 2008 and published since 2009. Her stories range from the contemporary and paranormal to LGBTQ and BDSM themes. No matter what the length, her works are always hot, but with a lot of heart. She enjoys giving her characters a second chance at love, no matter what the form. She’s been the runner up in the Kink Category at Love Romances Café as well as nominated at the LRC for best author, best contemporary, best ménage and best anthology. Her books have made it to the bestseller lists on Amazon.com.
When she’s not writing, Megan spends time with her husband and son as well as three dogs and three cats. She enjoys art, music and racing, but football is her sport of choice.
The Kingdom of Moorcondia and the Marshlands have been warring for years. Now a treaty has been negotiated, but it needs to be sealed by a marriage between the ruling families. But the bride has bolted, leaving her brother, Taryn, to fill the role. There is nothing in the law of either country that says a bride has to be female.
Forced to dress in his sister’s gown and marry Soren, Taryn faces his fate with anger, resolve and frightening anticipation. While the Moorcondians are flexible in their sexuality, the Marshers are more prudish, plus Taryn has learned the hard lesson that an attraction to men is unnatural and wrong. His desire for Soren frightens him.
As a prince, Soren knows his duty and executes it without hesitation. As a widower, he looks forward to a new marriage, and his unexpected bride is very fetching. If only he can convince Taryn to put aside his fears and accept the pleasures of the marriage bed.
Taryn struggles to fill the role of a wife in the royal family, even as everyone else tries to adjust to the notion of a male bride. As the days pass, Soren comes to appreciate his bride more, and Taryn tries embrace his new role with enthusiasm instead of resignation. But politics is a treacherous place to navigate, putting their blossoming love in jeopardy.
Reader advisory: This book contains scenes of dubious consent, homophobia and attempted suicide.
“I won’t do it!”
The slap was delivered with less force than typical. Taryn didn’t even try to avoid it. He’d learned long ago that any show of fear only fed his brother’s cruel streak. Nor did he back away as Hobart leaned into his face.
“You will do as you are told.” Flecks of spit flew from Hobart’s mouth, the smell of beer wafting on his breath. Fury showed in his expression, testament to how desperate he must be.
Taryn tried to maintain his resolve over this order being suddenly thrust upon him, even as he knew he had no control over his own fate. “I can’t marry that man.” It was hard to believe he had to even say those words.
“You can and you will. It’s the only way the treaty can go forward. If our sister hadn’t run away to the nunnery, we wouldn’t be in this predicament.” Hobart’s gaze shifted to a spot somewhere in the distance, and his lip curled in a sneer. “She’d already taken her vows by the time I’d caught up to her.” He refocused his attention on Taryn. “A child of the chieftain has been promised to the Moorcondian prince. With Alissa gone, it’s down to you, as you are well past being a child.”
Taryn balled his hands in frustration. “My age is not the issue. He was promised a bride, not another man.”
Hobart huffed. “You do yourself too much credit. Truth be told, you’re more of a girl than Alissa ever was. Prettier, too.” His brother didn’t mean those words to be a compliment, and after years of such taunting, Taryn let them roll off his back.
“Tell that to the prince. You can’t hide my sex from him. He’ll see me for what I am even before he takes that frock off me.” He flung his arm in the direction of the maid who stood awkwardly with what should have been his sister’s wedding gown.
“Those fucking Moorcondians are a decadent lot. Men lie with each other all the time, I hear. The fuckers probably bed their horses, for all I know. And the wiseman has looked at their laws and ours. There is nothing that says a bride has to be female. I imagine the stupid princeling will find plowing your ass just as sweet as Alissa’s dried-up cunt—more so, likely. And I’m sure it’s a dream come true for you,” he added with a look of disgust.
Taryn again ignored the baiting and struggled to contain the tears that threatened to leak out. He was angry and scared in equal measure. The whole idea of his marrying the age-old enemy of his people was intolerable. He couldn’t blame his sister for seeking sanctuary from her fate. He was merely the unlucky victim of her self-preservation. She couldn’t have known what it would mean for him and probably wouldn’t have cared if she had. Their father hadn’t raised them to be generous with each other.
Taryn also had to admit that his brother was probably right about the Moorcondian prince. It was a very different society than his own—decadent, as Hobart had aptly put it. Their prince had ridden in with a colorful retinue and much fanfare. They were nothing like the earthier and frankly poor people of the Marshlands. Taryn couldn’t imagine how he was supposed to fit into such a world. Being the child of a Marsher chieftain mostly meant he had cleaner clothes and more to eat. His presence among the Moorcondians would be like a reed finch flitting around peacocks. If he’d been reviled by his own people, the Moorcondians would undoubtedly treat him with even more contempt.
This is so unfair! Railing against his fate out loud was worse than useless. If he put up any more of a fight, he’d be going to his own wedding with a black eye and split lip. Hobart was being restrained at the moment, likely so that Taryn would be as appealing to his groom as possible. Testing his brother’s patience would only end one way, however. He knew he was powerless in this, as with all other things. He’d learned to survive his family’s brutality, and he could cope with anything these foreigners threw at him. Besides, he’d heard that the opulent Moorcondian palace contained a vast library. If he were lucky, his new husband would give him the freedom to explore it.
That’s more like it. Finding some silver lining in any situation was what kept him sane. He would survive this misery as he had so many others. There was also some deep part of him that dared to be intrigued by the idea of being bedded by the prince, lending credence to Hobart’s taunt, though Taryn had snuffed that spark as soon as he’d become aware of it. Those kinds of thoughts weren’t to be tolerated. He didn’t want sex of any kind. Before Alissa had beat him to it, he’d been considering taking his own vows and living his life at the monastery. Anything would have been more appealing than living under the harsh judgment of his father and brother, plus he would have had time for scholarly pursuits. Now his future would be held by another powerful man—and one he knew nothing about.
There was no hope for it. Squaring his shoulders, he stared his brother down. “Very well. I will don that gown and greet my groom to be. If he rejects me, it won’t be my fault.”
Hobart’s expression turned as nasty as it got. “You’d better hope he doesn’t. The ceremony has already been delayed because you were off wasting the day away. If this treaty fails, I’ll stake you to the execution hill myself and revel in your slow death.”
His brother strode out of the tiny room Taryn had managed to call his own. Then he turned to the poor maid, who obviously wished she were anywhere else. He recognized the woman as the one who had served his sister. No doubt she was already frightened that she would be punished for her mistress’ escape. Certainly the guard who’d let her flee must have known tremendous regret the moment before Hobart had severed the man’s head from his neck. Taryn wouldn’t be the cause of trouble for her.
“Will that even fit me?” The pale green dress was trimmed with lace, luxurious for his people. But Anissa was a voluptuous woman. He lacked the essential shape to wear such a thing.
The maid gave him a shy smile. “I took it in this afternoon.”
So, others in our tribe knew my fate before I did. No surprise there. His father and brother treated him like a piece of furniture—and a useless one at that. It must have enraged them to realize that they needed him to seal the treaty, and bringing him into the discussion would never have occurred to them. He pushed back the hurt and took what little control he could. “I’ll need a quick bath.” He’d spent the day riding, mostly to stay clear of the Moorcondians, but he couldn’t go to his groom smelling like horse.
“Of course, sir. Leave it all to me.”
With his heart still lodged in his throat, and his stomach churning, he was happy for someone else to take command of the situation. The story of my life. I should never have been born to a powerful family.
Samantha Cayto is a Boston-area native who practices as a business lawyer by day while writing erotic romance at night—the steamier the better. She likes to push the envelope when it comes to writing about passion and is delighted other women agree that guy-on-guy sex is the hottest ever.
She lives a typical suburban life with her husband, three kids and four dogs. Her children don’t understand why they can’t read what she writes, but her husband is always willing to lend her a hand—and anything else—when she needs to choreograph a scene.
Enter for the chance to win a $50.00 First for Romance Gift Card! Competition hosted by Totally Entwined Group.
Ghost wards are failing. Mediums are vanishing. Someone—or something—is stirringup the ghosts of Toronto. It’s up to psychic medium Harlan Brand to find out why.
After defeating a serial killer who could control ghosts, psychic medium Harlan Brand is feeling much more confident in his abilities working for the Toronto Police Service with his partner, Hamilton, as they protect the city from dangerous spirits.
He is expanding his social circle, however reluctantly, to include the other police mediums and Morgan Vermeer, another graduate from the Centre—a school for training psychic children.
Harlan and his boyfriend, Charles Moore, are continuing to explore BDSM, their relationship and Charles’ strange ability to shield people from ghosts.
Hoping to find answers about Charles’ power and the serial killer, Harlan returns to the Centre only to find that one of its ghost wards—magical symbols that spirits can’t cross—is broken, and it’s a mystery as to how and why.
The calm and order that Harlan has been building up in his life are shattered when wards start failing across the city and mediums begin to disappear, including one of his new friends and a student from the Centre.
Someone—or something—is stirring up the ghosts of Toronto.
Reader advisory: This book contains scenes of violence and murder. It is best read as part of a series.
Hamilton sighed as he lowered himself into the driver’s seat of their police cruiser, settling in much more heavily than usual. “Matthew wants to meet you.”
Harlan was relieved that he was already struggling with his seatbelt. It gave him a moment to think about what Hamilton had just said.
Matthew? Do I know a Matthew? Hamilton’s—and, by extension, Harlan’s—sergeant was named Matthews, but Harlan had already met her.
The seatbelt clicked into place. He was out of time.
Hamilton sighed again, this time with an edge of laughter. “Matthew is my…” He mumbled something Harlan couldn’t make out. “You haven’t met him,” he added in his regular speaking voice.
Harlan waited, hoping Hamilton would elaborate, repeat himself or that the words would finally click into place as he ran them over and over in his mind.
Silence. Silence that he had to break if he was going to get anything else.
“Sorry… I didn’t quite—”
“Boyfriend!” Too loud this time, loud and sudden enough that it startled Harlan. “Matthew is my boyfriend. He wants to meet you.” Hamilton slid his gaze over to Harlan, a sly smile on his thin lips. “You can say no,” he added, making it clear he would prefer that.
Harlan would prefer that as well, so it worked out nicely.
Before Harlan could assure him that he was, of course, in complete agreement, Hamilton shook his head and sighed for a third time that morning. “Nah, I think we’re past that. At this point, it would just be a delaying tactic. He’s made up his mind.”
Harlan glanced sideways at Hamilton. Is Hamilton actually blushing? He hadn’t thought Hamilton was physically capable of doing that, never mind imagined that it might actually happen.
“And I’ve met your boyfriend,” Hamilton shot back, even though Harlan hadn’t spoken.
Technically true, but they hadn’t exactly met over dinner or another social event. Did life-and-death situations count more or less than sitting down for a meal together?
“And, by the way”—the blush Harlan had probably imagined was gone, and Hamilton was definitely smirking now—”I knew I recognized him from somewhere.”
Shit. Harlan had been dreading this conversation, hoping it wouldn’t happen. He’d hoped that Hamilton wouldn’t connect Charles, Harlan’s ghost-repelling boyfriend, to Mr. Moore, owner of Rattling Chains, a formerly haunted BDSM club. Apparently, that had been too much to ask for.
Hamilton opened his mouth, started to say something then seemed to reconsider when he saw Harlan’s pained expression. “I’m glad you’ve got someone,” he said, just as gruffly as usual, but with a hint of genuine fondness and even warmth. “You don’t have a lot of people.” He looked away while he took a left-hand turn, then laughed. “Of course you’d meet someone on the job.”
Harlan looked down at his lap. Yeah. It was pretty pathetic. Sure, he’d started going to the occasional police-medium group—basically a coffee klatch, not everyone sitting in a circle sharing their feelings the way he’d been dreading—but that was still connected to the police. He hadn’t even realized that Charles had the same connection. Fuck. Somehow, without realizing it, he’d become one of those adults who only lived for his job.
He blinked. Maybe it isn’t just me.
“What does Matthew do?” he asked, fully expecting he already knew the answer.
He was wrong.
“He’s an advertising consultant.” Hamilton shrugged. “I don’t know what that means, either.” He paused, then added, as though he’d read Harlan’s mind—more likely his expression—“I did meet him through a case, though.”
Harlan wasn’t sure if that made him feel better or worse. He didn’t know exactly how old Hamilton was, but he guessed his police partner was at least a few years older than he was. Was that what he had to look forward to—all his personal connections coming from his work for the rest of his life? He wasn’t sure why it bothered him, but it did. Maybe it was like that for everyone, and he just didn’t know—not that there was anyone he could ask.
Maybe Charles… He’d met a few of Charles’ friends, more or less in passing. He certainly hadn’t sat down and had dinner with any of them, the way Hamilton seemed to be proposing that he do with Matthew. He’d always assumed it was because he and Charles were still fairly new as a couple and—knowing Harlan—Charles hadn’t wanted to overwhelm him with a bunch of people all at once—but maybe he’d been wrong. Maybe he just didn’t want to introduce Harlan to anyone else in his life.
Knowing he was starting to spiral, he was relieved when Hamilton continued.
“I told him you don’t do phone calls and you wouldn’t want to text someone you don’t know”—Wow, Hamilton really will make a great detective one day—“so you can just let me know when you decide. Here.” He fished a piece of paper out of his breast pocket and handed it to Harlan. “This is Matthew’s number so you can give it to Charles. He’s invited too, if he’d like.” His smirk was back. “I think he still has a choice, unlike you.”
“Where are we going today?” Normally Hamilton didn’t tell him, and he didn’t ask, but it was the only change of topic Harlan could think of. “Is it another one of Samuel’s ghosts?” Killing the warped medium and serial killer Samuel Harkness had released most of the spirits under his control, but even eight months later they were still finding stragglers, like the ones that had led Harlan to their killer in the first place.
Interestingly, Harlan and Hamilton had found—and freed—almost three times as many wanderers as the other three medium pairs put together. It was as if even though he’d never met them, these spirits felt a connection to him for killing the man who had been controlling them.
This part of the job was a lot less glamorous when the ghosts they worked with weren’t leading him to a serial killer.
“Kid,” Hamilton had laughed after a sweaty, dusty and frustrated Harlan had snapped something along those lines after a very long, hot day crammed in the crawlspace of an old house, trying to coax an especially nervous ghost close enough for him to either grab or calm it down enough for it to cross over on its own, “that’s the job. It’s not bringing down bad guys and epic showdowns. It’s…this. Hey, you’ve got a cobweb on your face.”
Harlan couldn’t help feeling that he’d peaked too soon, experienced more police-medium excitement than most of his colleagues got in a lifetime.
Crucially, he’d survived. Most police mediums didn’t live long enough to retire.
He still liked his job and found it fulfilling, rewarding and blah blah, but he couldn’t help feeling a little…let down. Restless, maybe. Not that he wanted to face anything like Samuel ever again! But…something. Something more than finding ghost, freeing ghost, next. Day in, day out, week after week. Just a little.
“Nah. Well—not as far as I know,” Hamilton amended. “Though apparently this is kinda a weird one.”
Harlan couldn’t help brightening, sitting forward in his seat a little. In light of what he’d been thinking, ‘weird’ was good. “Really?”
“Yeah, yeah, keep it in your pants.” Hamilton laughed.
“You gonna tell me or is it gonna be a surprise?” Even a few months ago Harlan wouldn’t have dared ask for information about the scene they were going to, and he certainly wouldn’t have expected an answer.
Now, it was almost like a game between the two of them—if Harlan really wanted to know, Hamilton would tell him, and if Hamilton really wanted to keep him in the dark until they got there—and Harlan was beginning to think that, sometimes at least, walking in without any preconceptions was helpful—he wouldn’t. And, occasionally, Hamilton himself knew very little or nothing about the haunting situation. Harlan was starting to suspect that was one of the reasons Hamilton hadn’t filled Harlan in ahead of time in the past. Hamilton didn’t like admitting when he didn’t know something.
“Mmm, this time I think I’ll let you see for yourself. Besides, we’re almost there.” Hamilton pulled up beside a record store, one of those hipster places that had been popping up in the most gentrified parts of the city. He got out, coming around the other side of the car and opening Harlan’s door when he didn’t get out immediately.
Harlan stepped onto the sidewalk to take a better look around. Hauntings—the ones not related to violent crime, which he doubted was the case here—tended to be in residential buildings. People died where they lived, not where they bought vinyl.
He glanced across the street—more shops, and they didn’t look like they had apartments over them. Neither did the record store or the others around it.
“There’s a haunting here?”
“I can double-check the address if you’d like,” Hamilton offered, smirking a little.
“No. That’s fine.” As far as Harlan knew, Hamilton had never got an address wrong.
Maybe the dispatcher had been wrong?
A young white man stepped out of the shop, waving at them. “Are you with the Graveyard Crew?”
It was a nickname for Toronto police mediums that Harlan didn’t really like—and, by the look on Hamilton’s face, he didn’t care for it either.
Hamilton pointedly glanced down at his uniform and badge. “We’re with the police.”
“Oh, good! C’mon in. We’ve been expecting you.” He turned and disappeared into the shop.
Harlan shot Hamilton a questioning glance.
Hamilton shrugged one shoulder, extending a hand to say after you.
He was suddenly hit by a barrage of noise—apparently the door was surprisingly soundproof. Harlan always thought the music in these types of places sounded bad, but this was bad.
Hamilton, never one to fuck around, headed straight to the man who’d welcomed them. “Can you turn the music down? Or off, maybe?” He had to raise his voice to be heard over the din.
The man shook his head. “No! That’s the problem.” He didn’t have Hamilton’s loud ‘cop voice’ and he was practically screaming.
T. Strange didn’t want to learn how to read, but literacy prevailed and she hasn’t stopped reading—or writing—since. She’s been published since 2013, and she writes M/M romance in multiple genres, including paranormal and BDSM. T.’s other interests include cross stitching, gardening, watching terrible horror movies, playing video games, and finding injured pigeons to rescue. Originally from White Rock, BC, she lives on the Canadian prairies, where she shares her home with her wife, cats, guinea pigs and other creatures of all shapes and sizes. She’s very easy to bribe with free food and drinks—especially wine.
Charlie didn’t believe in love…until he set himself free.
It’s 1922 and after his house guest Frank Harris ran away with the under-butler, Charlie Fitzwilliam has been summoned to face the music. With the vindictive butler Bennett now watching his every move and his father planning out his life for him, Charlie finally faces up to who he is and makes a bid for freedom.
Alone for the first time in his life, he meets Michael Leonard, a kind, caring bookseller. Convinced that sex with men is only for fun, Charlie experiences a summer of self-discovery that takes him to the English seaside, the doorstep of old friends and the arms of a lover who shakes his whole belief system.
But disowned by his parents and cut off from the life he knew, can Charlie make a future for himself…and will Michael be a part of it? Is this affair something that can be called love?
Reader advisory: This book contains instances of period-typical homophobia.
I threw the ball with the top spin that had sent our team to the top of the league last term. It flew past Mateus’ head and smashed into the wickets.
“Oh, well done, Charlie,” shouted my mother from the sidelines. Nothing would have persuaded her to roll up her sleeves and join in. I smiled across and waved.
“Time for a break,” said a breathless Tilly, my baby sister. She couldn’t have been any different from my mother if she’d tried and had instantly plumped for the back stop, tucking her skirts between her legs.
We wandered across to the table where mother held court to our host, Domingos Graça. He lapped up her brand of flirtation and would laugh uproariously every time she gave him a little bit of gossip from London.
I picked up a glass of whatever they had served and took in the view. Vineyards stretched as far as the eye could see, rolling down the hill to the river. We were in the Douro Province in the north-east of Portugal—Port was big business in these parts, and the Graça family were the kings of their castle.
Their villa loomed behind us, proclaiming to all the rewards of their labour.
“She put you to work immediately? Hard luck, old chap.” Agnes had sidled up next to me without any noise. She had always been able to do that, even when we were small.
“It’s good to see you, sis.”
“You too.” She planted a firm kiss on my cheek. “At least I’ll have some fun now. Mummy and Daddy’s crusade for cash is getting embarrassing.”
I turned to see my mother and Tilly regaling the Graças with yet another story.
“Tilly is doing the work for all of us.”
“She thinks she’s getting the youngest boy, the one you nearly decapitated with your demon bowl just now. She isn’t. He hasn’t given her a second glance. Poor soul.”
Tilly had always been the odd one out. Two years separated me and Agnes, but Tilly was a surprise after my parents had taken a boat to India. We’d been sent away to school by the time she came along.
“Where’s Father?” Agnes asked.
I couldn’t even bear to think about it. “He’s locked away in his room with Bennett. They’ve been in there ever since Bennett and I arrived this morning.”
It had been two weeks since I had thrown my schoolfriend Frank Harris out of our house in England after one of our maids had caught him in a compromising position with an under-butler. I’d spent that time skulking around the house, ignoring the whispers from most of the staff.
“And how did you find travelling with Bennett? Naughty Charlie can’t be trusted on his own,” Agnes said, a twinkle in her eye.
Bennett hated anyone in this world who wasn’t my father, and my uneasiness at him being a part of this trip had built as each day passed. He had been smugness personified, attending to my every need but always with an undertone of insolence.
“A bloody bore.”
We strolled along the edge of the lawn. Agnes took my arm, and I realised I’d missed my sister.
“Come on, then. What the hell were you doing?”
I absentmindedly kicked the head off a wildflower that had dared to invade this garden of order.
“I didn’t do anything. I stupidly invited Frank Harris to stay, and he ends up buggering the help.”
Agnes laughed. “And I suppose you were in bed reading your Bible.”
“If you must know, I was entertaining Elsie.”
Agnes stopped and scowled. “That common little tart from the shop? Oh, Charlie, you can do better than that, can’t you?”
“Of course I can, but you know, any port in a storm.”
We carried on walking. The breeze was a blessed relief as the sun grew high in the sky. I hoped there were more sedate activities planned for the afternoon.
“Port.” Agnes growled. “I’m sick to death of hearing about it, drinking it, examining it. You’d think it was sent by God himself.”
It wasn’t like Agnes to be so cranky. Mother and Father had impressed upon us the importance of this trip. If we didn’t get our hands on a sizeable share of the Graças’ business, we would struggle to keep our house in the Oxfordshire countryside. Since the war had decimated the workforce, farms were struggling to pay rents, meaning big country houses were closing at a rate of knots.
“Has it been so bad?”
She scowled. “Worse. Three weeks of rattling around here. Tilly sucking up like her life depends on it, Daddy laughing at jokes that simply aren’t funny and Mummy attempting to flirt is hideous.”
I glanced at mother and Domingos. He was telling her some tale, and she was all a-quiver.
“She’s doing fine.”
Agnes’ gaze darted to the terrace in front of the house. Mine followed and there stood my father. All six foot four inches of him with a face like thunder.
“Charles,” he boomed. Every eye turned to me.
“Uh-oh. You’re for it now,” Agnes said through gritted teeth.
“Here. Now,” Father commanded.
It felt like the longest walk of my life. I trudged across the cricket pitch and up the ridiculously long flight of steps to the terrace. Bennett stood at the top with that look he’d worn for the entire journey here. I wanted to wipe it from his face.
“He’s waiting for you in the drawing room.”
“He’s waiting for you in the drawing room…sir.”
I had no idea what rubbish he had fed to my father, but I would not be disrespected by him. I stood waiting for a response.
“Of course, sir.” The smugness never left him.
I found my father pacing in the lounge. In his early fifties, he had an imposing presence. Hardly any grey ran through his dark hair and moustache. I will admit that my stomach churned when I walked in.
He stopped pacing and glowered at me. “Homosexuality in my house? What are you trying to do, boy?”
“I had no idea what Harris was up to, and I threw him out when I discovered, along with that good-for-nothing Tanner.”
Frank would never understand the position he had put me in. I could have spit in his eye.
“Of course I don’t expect you to know what your friends are getting up to when your back is turned.”
My body relaxed a little.
“But as for you creeping up to the woods with Albert Brown…”
The room had started to spin. How did he know about Albert? “I don’t know what you’ve heard, but that’s a lie.”
Someone cleared their throat behind me, and I whirled around to see Bennett.
“I brought your post, sir,” he said walking past me and placing a bunch of envelopes on the desk.
“How dare you come in here when I’m having a private conversation with my father?” I cried.
“I asked him to come in. Now, Bennett, tell my son what you’ve just told me.”
With an audacity I would pay him back for one day, Bennett put on his best pitying expression for me. “My apologies, young sir, but I had to bring it to the master’s attention. I happened to overhear Mr Harris and his terrible accusations.”
Always sneaking around, listening at doorways. I was shaking with fear and rage.
“Naturally I had to investigate this for myself. Poor Albert had no choice but to indulge you in your…unusual requests. He said you threatened to have his livelihood taken from him if he didn’t.”
“That is a lie. I would never do that. Albert and I—” I stopped.
“Albert and you what?” asked my father “That will be all, Bennett.”
“Yes, sir.” He left the room.
“I asked you a question. Albert and you what?”
I took a deep breath. “Albert and I enjoyed some mutual time together.”
Out of nowhere, my father slapped my face, so hard it threw my head to the side.
“How could you do this to us? Get up to your room. I don’t want to see your disgusting little face until dinner time.”
I started to walk away, my face still smarting.
“By then I will have decided what to do with you. You will not bring shame on this family.”
I pulled open the door and walked straight into Bennett. I grabbed hold of his shirt and pushed him against the wall. He let out a little yelp.
“You may think you’ve won some game, but you will regret this one day. You will never be anything other than a pathetic little man who listens to other people’s lives.”
I let go of him and started to walk away.
“I am taking care of the family. I do care.”
I spun on my heel. “I do care…sir. Know your place.”
I have written for as long as I could write. In fact, before, when I would dictate to my auntie. I love to read, and I love to create worlds and characters.
I live in the English countryside. When I’m not writing, I like to get out there and think through the next scenario I’m going to throw my characters into.
Inspiration can be found anywhere, on a train, in a restaurant or in an office. I am always in search of the next character to find love in one of my stories. In a world of apps and online dating, it is important to remember love can be found when you least expect it.
Planning a wedding is hard enough without international politics, an assassin, your fiancé’s ex-boyfriend and your mother to deal with.
NYPD Detective Frank Schultt and his fiancé, FBI Agent Aaron Massey, have bought a new condo, adopted a dog and are planning their wedding. But when an international assassin starts killing people on the streets of New York City, Aaron and Frank must work together to find the killer before she strikes again.
Combine the assassin with the pressure of Frank’s jealousy when Aaron’s ex-boyfriend comes back to town, and can their relationship withstand the pressure? Will Aaron and Frank make it to the altar on time, or will the assassin and Frank’s destructive behavior stop their wedding before it ever heads down the aisle?
Frank stared around the pink office, wondering if a bottle of Pepto Bismol had accidentally spilled. He watched the perky blonde woman sitting in front of him, doing his best to pay attention. It wasn’t exactly how Frank liked to spend his Saturday mornings. But it was Aaron’s big day, so he’d promised to grin and bear it.
“With Central Park wedding locations, we are definitely somewhat limited. For example, the Bow Bridge only allows for ten guests and the Belvedere Castle Terrace only allows thirty. The North Garden, Southern Garden, Wisteria Pergola and Cherry Hill each allow for up to one hundred. What size are you two thinking?”
“Eloping,” Frank muttered.
“Twenty-five to fifty,” Aaron said, shooting Frank a sideways glance.
“I’m joking,” Frank reassured, patting Aaron’s leg and giving it a squeeze before turning to the woman. “Whatever Aaron wants, I want him to have.”
NYPD Detective Frank Schultt and FBI Special Agent Aaron Massey had met the previous year during a serial murder spree. The Twelve-Day Killer, as dubbed by the media, had terrorized NYC over the holidays. Aaron and Frank had put their lives and careers on the line hunting the bastard down. In the process, they had found each other.
Frank glanced over at the man he loved. God, where would I be without him? He reached up and rubbed the back of Aaron’s neck gently. From the top of Aaron’s head with his dark brown quaff haircut and his Caribbean ocean-blue eyes, to his lithe but fit body, Frank took in this man sitting beside him who was going to be his husband. Frank was still stunned at his good fortune in landing the affection of such an amazingly intelligent and gorgeous man.
Realizing his thoughts had drifted, Frank brought his attention back to the woman sitting in front of him, who was rattling on about Central Park weddings. He glanced down at her nameplate, ‘Amber Wethersfield’. The woman was in her late twenties. And judging by the giant diamond on her wedding ring, her husband was definitely wealthy. Frank glanced across the pink office looking for personal items and was surprised by the lack of photos. For a woman who sells marriage, where are the pictures of her happy day?
“So, do you have an officiant for your wedding lined up? If not, I have a list of great people who work with LGBTQIA+ people.”
“Huh?” Frank blurted before he could catch himself.
“Officiant…the person who will oversee the ceremony and the exchange of your vows,” Amber offered.
“No, you listed off a bunch of letters,” Frank said.
Dear God, that sounds like a gay BLT. Frank was about to make the snide comment, but a quick glance from Aaron told him that he’d better hold his tongue. Instead, Frank just nodded his head and gave a thin-lipped smile.
“Actually, we have a few people in mind,” Aaron noted. “Frank knows a judge who volunteered her services, and we have a couple of other names in the hopper as well.”
“Oh, good,” Amber said. “You’d be amazed at how many people totally forget the officiant until the last minute. I even have a license I got from an online church because I’ve had to step in at the eleventh hour when something went horribly wrong. I just don’t enjoy being in the wedding party, because it makes it harder for me to run things behind the scenes.”
Frank leaned back in the chair and watched as Aaron and Amber discussed the wedding. This wasn’t Frank’s first. He’d been married, but his husband had been murdered in a liquor store robbery on Christmas Eve over six years ago. As much as Frank loved Aaron, there was still a vast hole in his heart that had been left by Adam’s death. But Frank loved Aaron and was going to make sure their wedding day was every bit of glitz and glamour that Aaron desired.
“Well, if you have questions,” Amber said, bringing Frank’s attention back once again, “just let me know. You have my email, cell phone, home phone and office phone numbers, so never hesitate to reach out. I look forward to working with both of you on your big day.”
Amber stood up from her desk to usher the couple out of her office. She pushed herself up, exposing her pregnant belly.
“When’s the due date?” Aaron asked.
“Mid-March. But I swear she’s ready to come out any day.”
Frank stared at her belly and just thought, Are you sure there’s only one in there? But once again, he held his tongue.
“Don’t worry. I won’t miss your big day. When I’m out on maternity leave, my assistant will take over the day-to-day preparations, and he’ll be in constant contact with me. When I had my first baby, we were texting right up until they told me to push.”
“Well, it was really was nice meeting you,” Frank said.
“Likewise. And I just have to say, you two make such a cute couple.”
“Thank you,” Aaron said. “I think he’s a keeper.” Aaron gave Amber a little wink before turning to leave.
As Frank followed suit, Aaron’s hand rested in the small of Frank’s back. Frank leaned into Aaron in response.
“Earth to Frank!” Aaron said as they exited onto the sidewalk. The February chill immediately caught Aaron off guard, and he lifted the collar on the trench coat to protect his neck.
“I said, “Earth to Frank.” What’s going on inside that head of yours?”
“Overwhelmed, I guess.”
“The whole wedding planning is just bringing up some memories.”
Aaron squeezed Frank. “I hadn’t thought about that. I forget that you’ve done this before.”
“Yeah,” Frank said, scrunching his forehead. “It’s surreal. Don’t get me wrong, I’m excited to be marrying you. I hope you know that. It’s just that it brings up memories of Adam.”
“I get it,” Aaron said. “I would be surprised if it didn’t, to be honest.” Aaron hesitated for a second before adding, “Just know…I will never try to replace Adam. I know what you two had was special—”
“What we have is special too.”
“I know,” Aaron acknowledged. “I just want you to know that I love you and would never try to change you…warts and all.”
“God, I hope I don’t have any warts.”
“We all have warts. Some have them physically and others have them metaphorically.”
“Sure thing, professor,” Frank teased.
After dealing with the Twelve-Day Killer, Aaron had taken a teaching position part-time with the John Jay School of Criminal Justice. He was technically still on the FBI’s payroll, but his utility as an undercover agent had taken a hit after the amount of press the Twelve-Day Killer had received. And with the forthcoming publication of his new book about the case, Aaron and Frank both knew a fresh round of press attention was right around the corner.
“So, we didn’t have breakfast after the gym this morning,” Aaron said. “Shall we have a quick brunch before heading back to the apartment to get ready?”
“Do we have time?” Frank asked, glancing down at his watch. “It’s already ten a.m. What time is the car picking us up for the reading?”
“The reading’s at two o’clock, so the car is scheduled to pick us up about one-fifteen.”
“I guess we have plenty of time. Any suggestions on where we should eat?”
“How about 9Ten?” Aaron asked, referring to one of their favorite diners.
Jason Wrench is a professor in the Department of Communication at SUNY New Paltz and has authored/edited 15+ books and over 35 academic research articles. He is also an avid reader and regularly reviews books for publishers in a wide number of genres. This book marks his first full-length work of fiction.
Chris Novak is adjusting to his lieutenant being the first openly gay SEAL. Seeing the man’s obvious love for his husband gives Chris ideas—ones he has ruthlessly suppressed his whole life. Becoming a SEAL was his dream. Having the love and approval of his father remains critical to him. Acknowledging his sexual orientation would have jeopardized both. While the military has evolved, Chris fears that his father’s views have not.
Tanner Pac has been openly out and proud since high school, with his family embracing him as he is. He knows being gay is not a problem, but his dream of becoming a software engineer is. His parents expect him to carry on the family business of running a pizza parlor. He dares not disappoint them, fearing a loss that would crush him.
While visiting his father on leave, Chris goes out for pizza, not expecting to run into his old girlfriend’s annoying little brother. They could never ditch Tanner and now that he is all grown up, Chris finds he no longer wants to. Facing the strong temptation that Tanner presents is causing Chris to also face the truth about himself.
As Chris and Tanner struggle to meet their parents’ expectations, their attraction for each other cannot be denied. Their strength and courage grow in each other’s arms, but it may not be enough to break free of the weight of family expectations.
“Man, the way the lieutenant’s reunion is going, I’m not sure they’ll make it home. Know what I mean?”
Petty Officer First Class Christopher Novak did indeed know what his teammate meant. Scott Carpenter’s husband had jumped into his arms the second he’d seen Scott coming through the gates. At the moment, the guy’s legs were wrapped around Scott’s waist, and the two of them were going to pass out from lack of oxygen if that kiss didn’t end soon.
“Yeah, but we shouldn’t be staring. It’s not like they’re animals in a zoo.”
His teammate, Diego, had no filter. “I hear you, only it’s like…when have you ever seen a SEAL kiss another man? It’s a first for me.”
Chris slung his duffel bag over his shoulder. “It’s a first for everyone, and Scott’s already on the receiving end of some nasty reactions. We don’t need to add to them.” He walked away, breaking his gaze from the sight. He hadn’t been able to make the wedding the previous summer, so this was the first time he’d seen Scott in such an obviously sexual way with his husband. He couldn’t bear to watch, not because it disgusted him but because it was compelling in a way that disturbed him.
Diego stepped up to his side. “Wanna grab a drink? I’d like to find some female company myself, and I hear The Anchor has added a new heat level to their wings.”
Chris shook his head. “Sorry… I’ve got laundry to do, then hitting the rack. I have an early flight to Detroit in the morning.”
Diego groaned. “Seriously? Why are you so keen on freezing your balls off after what we just went through? I need a few days in the sun to thaw out.”
“I’m overdue visiting my father. If you think you can convince him to move away from his hometown, his extended family and the proximity of my mother’s grave and come to San Diego, have at it.” There was more bite to his words than he’d intended. Visiting his father always triggered conflicting feelings in him. Obviously, he loved the man, but the strain of meeting his expectations was beginning to wear on him.
“Dude, I’m sorry. I was only joking.”
Chris flashed him a smile. “It’s fine. I know you were. I’m tired, that’s all. Have fun tonight, and I expect a full report on how it goes with both the wings and the women.”
He peeled off when they reached his truck. As he tossed in his duffel and slid behind the wheel, he reminded himself that spending his leave with his father was a good thing. They would talk shop, as much as legally permitted, watch sports and pretend that everything was great—because it was, damn it all. There was no reason to believe otherwise. And yet, the vision of Scott devouring his husband’s mouth in front of God and everyone stuck in his mind, no matter how hard he tried to shake it away.
Samantha Cayto is a Boston-area native who practices as a business lawyer by day while writing erotic romance at night—the steamier the better. She likes to push the envelope when it comes to writing about passion and is delighted other women agree that guy-on-guy sex is the hottest ever.
She lives a typical suburban life with her husband, three kids and four dogs. Her children don’t understand why they can’t read what she writes, but her husband is always willing to lend her a hand—and anything else—when she needs to choreograph a scene.
Enter for the chance to win a $50.00 First for Romance Gift Card! Competition hosted by Totally Entwined Group.
When life is perfect, you know it’s gonna throw you a curveball…or four.
Nic and Vincent have been riding the high of a new romantic relationship that works so well they are on the verge of officially moving in together—but then the distractions begin. Their friend Daphne needs a temporary dungeon space, and Nic’s basement seems the perfect solution. Vincent’s gay seventeen-year-old cousin, Taylor, needs a safe refuge from his uber-religious parents. When Vincent suffers an unexpected injury, Nic asks Daphne to suggest someone to help with domestic duties around the house.
These combined circumstances lead to a less-than-ideal home life for Vincent and Nic, who struggle to find alone time. But life has a way of giving people what they need, and the arrival of Matteo to help with chores around the house sets into motion an opportunity the three must decide to follow to its logical conclusion or abandon in order to maintain the emotional safety of all the participants.
Reader advisory: This book contains scenes of food play, minor incidents involving a Domme and public sex There is reference to the abandonment of an older teen by religious zealot parents, puppy and kitty play, and a suggestion of suicidal ideation. This book is best read as book two in the Persuasions series.
Taking afternoon tea at Daphne’s on Sundays had become a regular event.
Vincent wore a pretty pair of panties beneath his clothes, either at my direction or of his own choosing, and Daphne had him strip when we arrived. We had agreed Daphne could take charge of Vincent while we were in her home. I didn’t mind. I enjoyed watching him respond to her. He’d told me it was much more exciting for him, now that I was involved.
The first few weeks, she’d made Vincent perform some relevant service in his lacy underthings, like setting up the finger sandwiches and cakes on her tiered stand or making the tea or coffee.
Now that this visit had become a weekly ritual, his duties had expanded into other, more delectable, areas.
We took turns feeding Vincent small bites of cake or bread, giving him sips of tea from our cups and otherwise treating him as our amusing and beloved pet. He grew more and more aroused, and I caught him eyeing Daphne’s magnificent tits more than once. He said he didn’t like the clichés of femininity but, honestly, who didn’t appreciate a great pair of boobs?
As if on cue, a piece of the cake Daphne was eating fell into her cleavage, and she giggled. “Oh dear!”
I raised my eyebrows. “Vincent, did you see that?”
Daphne refrained from digging the morsel out of her blouse as her cheeks heated. The woman could set off a fake blush on cue. She winked at me with a grin.
“Yes, Sir,” Vincent said, gazing at me with wide eyes.
“Would you like a taste of that delicious cake?” I asked devilishly.
Vincent made a small sound and nodded, licking his lips.
“I thought so. Why don’t you snuffle that crumb out from between Daphne’s tits? If you can find it, you can have it.”
Daphne giggled, pulling her blouse down and leaning toward Vincent. Vincent blushed and looked at me to make sure I knew what I was asking.
I nodded. “Go ahead. It’s all right.” I gestured at Daphne’s generous offering. “I’ve been there too, y’know,” I whispered, as if it were a secret between me and him.
Something flashed in his eyes, and he smiled, then turned to Daphne.
“Mistress?” he asked.
His utter politeness sent a jolt of desire through me. He was so well-behaved, as if I had trained him to this, when, really, it came so very naturally.
“Go ahead, Vincent. Hands behind your back, please. You’ll probably need to use your tongue.”
My eyes widened as I watched my sexy twenty-four-year-old boyfriend lean forward slowly, hands behind him as requested, and gently push his face into the tantalizing crease between Daphne’s breasts.
She made a small noise and looked at me over Vincent’s head as his velvet tongue darted and licked to find the morsel of cake.
“Oh, goodness.” She stroked Vincent’s cropped ash-brown hair while he cleaned her up. “What a soft tongue you have, Vincent.” She gasped. “I’d forgotten, my dear, how adorable you are.”
Vincent made whimpering noises as he chased the crumbs and no doubt inhaled Daphne’s particular scent of jasmine and roses.
I glanced at the black lace boy-shorts he was wearing today and noticed he was hard, which was par for the course with Vincent. The boy was a priapic miracle. A savant perhaps? He got hard at the drop of a hat and came on command. What more could a Dom ask for?
Lots more, it turns out.
When Vincent finally located the piece of cake and swallowed it, pulling reluctantly away from Daphne’s warmth, I smiled at him, pleased.
“Good boy. I’m sure Daphne is very relieved that her little accident has been rectified.”
Daphne looked anything but relieved. She looked like she’d like to tie Vincent to a chair and ride him for a couple of hours. But she’d had her chance with Vincent, and now the boy was mine.
I watched him stand and start to tidy the dishes, while flashes of memory came through of using the single-tail the previous evening. I’d strapped Vincent to the spanking bench and lashed his buttocks and thighs lightly, just enough to push his arousal to the brink of tipping over. Then I’d released him and sucked his cock until he’d come, howling, down my throat. He’d wanted to touch me, but I’d forbidden it, and I wouldn’t forget the sight of his fingers clenching and unclenching while I worked him furiously to orgasm.
“Are you finished, Sir?” he asked, and it took me a moment to realize he was speaking about the cake and not asking if I was done reliving our encounter.
I cleared my throat. “Yes, thank you, Vincent.”
He took my plate and I leaned back in my chair, checking the time on my phone. It was only four-thirty, but we needed to get home and have a light supper. We had a gallery show to attend this evening. My friend Juno was exhibiting their artwork for the first time, and I’d promised them Vincent and I would drop by.
AE Lister/Elizabeth Lister is a Canadian non-binary author with a vivid imagination and a head full of unique and interesting characters. They have published 10 books, one of which received an Honorable Mention from the National Leather Association – International for excellence in SM/Leather/Fetish writing.