Bugs and Hisses Free Fiction: Choosing to Live by Caitlin Ricci

October 14, 2015

To celebrate Halloween this month, some of our paranormal authors will be sharing with us some free fiction.

The wind was blistering cold on the high snow blown ledge. It whipped around him, lashing his long brown hair against his cheeks. Through the murky white sky he could just barely see the sun begin to caress the horizon. This was going to be a long night.

Adrian groaned and tried to rise up to escape the blanket of snow that covered him where he lay sprawled out on a stony ledge. He rose unsteadily to his feet, dizziness and nausea washing over his in churning waves. Standing on his left foot though was instantly rewarded with white hot pain that shot up his leg until it stopped in his thigh. He collapsed gracelessly to his knees in the snow. Hot tears stung his eyes as the pain continued to surge through him. He gasped for air in the frigid climate, each breath causing him to cry out as it stung his lungs. He rolled over onto his side, adopting the fetal position as his best bet for the time being. He pulled his thin windbreaker tighter around his body, snuggling as far down into the thin material as he could manage until only the tips of his ears were visible around the wave of his hair. At least it was a little warmer.

How he ended up in this mess he couldn’t begin to understand. He remembered being in the small charter plane. That much he was certain of. But how he managed to get from his comfortable spot on the plane to this bit of snow covered earth was beyond him. He looked around wearily, trying desperately to find any hint of a landmark to tell him of where he was. But there was nothing. The snow was too thick to see through and what little he could see only resembled more mountains. This made no sense. They weren’t even supposed to fly through mountains today. Had the pilot gotten confused in the storm? Was he somewhere out here too?

Adrian spent close to the next hour yelling for the pilot or anyone else to no avail. Wherever he was, he knew that he was alone.

Running through a quick list in his head he soon concluded that everything he had ever been taught about wilderness survival was useless besides the obvious of try to stay warm and don’t fall asleep which were both quite unhelpful in the situation he had found himself in. He would make sure to do those amongst finding firewood to build a signal fire while also splinting his broken ankle. And of course he would hate to forget to do those while making tools out of stone and wood for catching something to eat. He really would hate to starve before he froze to death.

Adrian grumbled to himself and shrunk into a tighter ball. Like his father always said; sarcasm and a bad attitude will help no one. He had to stay awake. He knew this just as much as he knew that he had to keep breathing and that shivering was a good thing. But cold weather had always made him sleepy and it certainly was cold now. Adrian recited the laws of physics a few times to stay awake before his eyes finally closed and he succumbed to exhaustion.

Waking up when one hasn’t had nearly enough sleep is never a pleasant experience. Neither is waking up like that compounded with surely broken bones and an aching body screaming against even the smallest movement as Adrian soon realized. He shivered involuntarily before realizing that he was no longer cold.

Adrian opened his eyes fully and blinked against the brightness of the sun reflecting at him from the snow. The one dark spot near him was a fluffy bit of fur lying along his left side. He froze and tried not to even breathe as he waited for whatever kind of animal it was to leave him alone. But the beast only turned its big head and looked over at him with impossibly bright amber eyes. Then, because of course Adrian had to add hallucinations on top of all the pain he was in, the animal rose up on its four paws, then slowly shed his fur until a man crouched next to him. He was naked, save for the snow blowing against his tanned skin.

“I have a concussion,” Adrian said aloud. Pain plus hallucinations meant concussion. He was sure of it.

The man, the wolf, laughed. “Probably. You are pretty banged up. I’m Frost, by the way. Named for the winter night I was born on. I was scouting when I found you. When you’re ready to go get warm I’ll take you back to my pack. They’re expecting us but I was told to wait until you woke up to bring you to them, in case you refused our help.”

“Your… pack?” Adrian’s head was swimming wildly. If he hadn’t thrown up already he was surely going to soon.

Frost nodded enthusiastically. “My family. My brothers, my parents, my cousins. Everyone. Are you going to come with me?”

Did he really have a choice? “And if I don’t? Then what?”

Frost shrugged. “Ever hear of those people that get lost in the mountains and their bodies are never recovered? Well, that’s generally because they chose to join a pack. Or there are those people who their bodies are found months later. They likely refused our help. Or tried to go back to their families after we did help them. We’re all over the world and you’re not really in a position to refuse and still live so…”

In short, come with him and he got to live. Refuse and he would likely die a horrible, snow covered death where he froze and someone still would probably never find his body. Those were both such wonderful options. This was so freaking fantastic. Adrian sighed and made the decision to live. “Fine. Fine. Only one problem though, my ankle’s broken.”

“You’d give up your family to be able to come live with me and mine?” Frost seemed so surprised.

Adrian tried not to shiver as the thought of the quickest, and simplest, way to explain things to him. “Family isn’t something I exactly have a lot of. The only people that might miss me are my co-workers in the travel magazine I write for. Plus, my options aren’t exactly promising out here. How are you getting me to your pack with my broken leg?”

“You’re going to ride me.”

He grinned at Adrian, who instantly got the wrong idea with a good looking naked man crouched in front of him. “Sure. Let’s go with that plan.” But even as he said it Frost began to shift back into the form of the wolf, only this time he was twice the size he’d been before and now was much closer to the height of a small pony.

“Nifty trick.” Adrian got to his feet, with a lot of difficulty and hanging onto Frost’s shoulder for support. Frost bent down and Adrian managed to slide himself onto the wolf’s narrow back. He didn’t even spare a thought for the life he was saying goodbye to as Frost began trotting into the snow. This was a choice of survival, and when it came down to it he would rather live with a bunch of naked wolf shifters than die on some mountain he didn’t even know the name of. Being surrounded by men who looked as good as Frost did wasn’t even going to be a hardship.

Caitlin Ricci

Website: http://www.CaitlinRicci.com

Bugs and Hisses Free Fiction: Coffee Boys, Cops, and Werewolves, Oh My! with Ki Brightly

October 11, 2015

To celebrate Halloween this month, some of our paranormal authors will be sharing with us some free fiction.

Moonphoto

Steven, Mark, and Thomas are from The Shape of Honey

Steven Wright

I twitch the thick gray curtain back from the dark window. The bright face of the moon streams down onto me. The stars glitter crisply on this frigid night. “I wish Thomas wasn’t out.” I shiver, feeling ridiculous, and roll my shoulders. I’m a cop, for god’s sake. I’m comfortable in my own home on the edge of town. I want my gun, but I’m out of uniform and it’s locked away in its case. I let the curtain drop back. With a smile I go to Mark where he’s busy digging around in his backpack and wrap my arms around him, pull him close. My chin rests on the top of his blond head while he ignores me. The smell of coffee and a bright cologne he prefers wraps around me. “There’s just something about a full moon this close to Halloween that gives me the heebie jeebies.” With a shiver I drop a kiss onto his temple. His elbow smacks sharp pain into my hip as he digs deeper into his bag.

“Mark, what are you doing?” I step back and rub the spot. He grins apologetically over his shoulder, a quick tilt of his magnificent lips. I lean forward, grab them with mine for a few seconds. He chuckles and stumbles away from me, his arm still fumbling in his bag. With a triumphant yell he brings out a small mason jar of clear liquid.

“Checking to make sure I have my holy water.” He cradles it close and drops the bag. I smack my hand to my face and massage the bridge of my nose.

“What?”

“Thomas is a werewolf, no joke, right?” He bounces from foot to foot, jittery as usual. “So, game on man. And he’s not here tonight…so…” He shakes the jar around.

“What are you talking about?” With a smile I drop my hand and shake my head at him. “I’ll keep you safe,” I promise with a smirk as I go after him again. Bed is starting to sound pretty good. He’s fast though, and sidesteps me.

“Vampires. There have to be vamps. And mermen.” He shakes the jar around while he rambles.

“Mermen?” I try hard to hold back my snicker, but snort it out anyway.

“Yep. Watcha think, that he’s the only weird thing out there? Our wolf ain’t the only strange shit, guaranteed.” He’s so serious as he stalks to my front door and shoves the jar into his sneakers.

“There’s no such thing as vampires…he would have told us.” But now I’m not so sure. The werewolves sure are into their secrecy. Maybe they wouldn’t tell us something like that. I glance nervously at the front door before I smack myself mentally. Even if there are vampires, it’s not like they’re going to burst in here right now.  A loud thump from my front porch has Mark throwing himself at me. I’ll never mind having an armful of my boyfriend, but damn it I want my gun. I sit him on his own feet and go to the coat closet to get my gun out of its box. I’m a fucking idiot for letting Mark shake me up, but the smooth, cool metal is a better shot of confidence than anything else I’ve got. I go to the door and put my ear against it. Mark, wielding his holy water like it’s a moltov cocktail, snuggles up to my back.

“Did you hear that?” he mutters.

“No.” I lie. He nips the back of my arm with blunt teeth and I grunt. Thud. Thud. Thud. Thud. I tense. Feet across my front porch.

“Vampires!” Mark whispers. I glare at him and he smiles brightly. I snag another warm, sugar sweetened kiss from him, push him back and throw open the front door with more confidence than I’m actually feeling.

“They don’t exist. Stay behind me.”

We sneak outside, gun in advance. Mark hides behind me. I groan and drop my gun when a piece of white thin paper clings to my face. It’s a mess. A big, fucking, vampireless mess. The entire front porch is drenched in waving white toilet paper. There are giggles from the bushes. I step toward them. There’s a stampede of feet. A herd of kids scatter in all directions. Some take off down the sidewalk, some through my neighbor’s yard.

“Hey! You kids almost got shot. Get back here!” I yell, but I only get laughter in return.

“Fuck you!” one kid with a Nixon mask actually stops to yell at me. When I start down the front steps he runs for it.

“Gonna go get ‘em, Officer?” Mark snickers and I sigh. They got both the trees on the front lawn too. Son of a bitch. Better than vampires though. I join Mark and we both laugh.

“Be good or you’ll have to help clean up.”

“Make me.” I lunge for him and catch him in one arm. With a yelp he struggles, half-heartedly, but in the end I have him pressed to my chest, and I’ve caught those pretty lips with mine. We lose some pleasant time together while all the warm air leaks out the front door. A wet nose on my hand startles me so badly I almost drop my gun. The wolf is huge, and seems like he’s laughing with his tongue lolling out. I relax and my eyes almost cross for a second as I try to watch Thomas transform from an animal into our other loyal, loving boyfriend. Water smacks Thomas on the face and he sputters, wiping it out of his blue eyes, scraping it off his short beard.

“What?” he laughs. Mark scowls.

“Jesus, you scared the shit out of me,” he yelps.

“I missed you two.” With a quick grin he leans forward and presses a kiss to my cheek, then Mark’s.

“Don’t you need to…Ow…Ow…Owoo.”

Tom rolls his eyes at the attempted howl. I stop for a second to check for my neighbors, but I don’t have the porch light on, and the toilet paper mess is making a nice bit of camouflage for us. “I need something.” He says with a leer. My eyes flash downward and my entire body warms at what I see. Oh, man. Naked werewolf on my front porch. I steer my boyfriends inside and Thomas laughs loudly.

“Hey, are there vampires?” Mark asks as I shove them both inside and shut out the darkness.

“Um…Not really…” Thomas starts. “Let’s go to bed,” he says too brightly. Glee sparkles in Mark’s eyes.

Oh, no.

***

Website: www.brightlybooks.wordpress.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/kibrightly

Twitter: @KiBrightly

G-mail: kibrightly@gmail.com

 

Buy Links:

Threefold Love

http://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/store/product_info.php?products_id=6278

The Shape of Honey

http://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/store/product_info.php?products_id=6972

Bugs and Hisses Free Fiction: Not Forgotten by Ariel Tachna

October 9, 2015

To celebrate Halloween this month, some of our paranormal authors will be sharing with us some free fiction.

 

A Partnership in Blood interlude (takes place after Perilous Partnership)

 

“You seem pensive tonight.”

Marcel Chavinier looked up from his contemplation of the menu—he had it memorized, yet he looked at it every time they met—and smiled at Christophe.

“Do I? Perhaps I am.”

“Should I not have mentioned it?”

Marcel huffed softly in amusement. For a millennia-old vampire, Christophe frequently lacked basic social graces. Or he had decided his great age excused him from them. Either way, Marcel found it delightfully refreshing most nights.

Most nights.

Tonight, not so much.

“Few people care to notice and those who do dare not ask,” Marcel replied.

“All the more reason for me to ask,” Christophe replied. “I am not ‘few people,’ after all.”

Marcel chuckled this time. “No, my friend, you are not. No more than I am. It’s why we are here, is it not?”

“It is, but you have changed the subject. If you wish to drop it, say so and I will not speak of it again, but something troubles you.”

“Magic is an amazing thing. It can take people places they could never otherwise go. It can simplify difficult tasks and reveal secrets invisible to the mortal eye. In the hands of the right practitioner, it can mend blood vessels, keep a heart beating, stabilize all kinds of medical conditions long enough for healing to occur. I was married once, you know.”

“No, I didn’t know,” Christophe replied. “She must have been a remarkable woman to have caught your eye.”

“She was. I met her when I was helping the Résistance.” He caught the surprise on Christophe’s face. “Wizards age more slowly and live longer than most mortals, but I was young too. War came to Paris and age was no guarantee of safety. I had only come into my magic a few months before, not strong enough to be of any real use but young enough to pass unnoticed at times. She was a few years older than I was and shouldn’t have taken any notice of me, but war is a great equalizer. What were a few years age difference when we could die tomorrow at the hands of a Nazi firing squad?”

“I remember,” Christophe said. “Many a vampire met their end that way, out after curfew because it was feed or starve, or dragged out into sunlight when a building was searched. It was a terrible time.”

“By some miracle we both survived relatively unscathed, and a few months later, she agreed to marry me. We talked of having a family, but we were young. We had time. Less than five years later, a car accident did what the war could not and stole her from me. They told me I couldn’t have saved her even if I’d been there. Magic can do many things, but it can’t bring the dead back to life. Today would have been our seventieth anniversary.”

“I would say I’m sorry, and I am, but I know how little such words mean in the face of that kind of grief,” Christophe said. “You don’t live to be a certain age without learning to live with loss.”

“The words are easy to say,” Marcel agreed, “but you are the only one who has said them in many years. The others, Alain, Thierry, Raymond, they don’t even know. By the time I met them, I was already an old man. If they thought of it at all, they assumed I was a widower, but they were young and full of life and I was their teacher, not their friend. Not in the way that encourages asking about the past.”

“Alone in a crowd,” Christophe said with a nod. “I know the feeling well. I much prefer being alone in the solitude of my house. At least there, I can be done with all pretense. Mireille expects nothing from me except refuge against the sun and her salary.”

“She is as wrapped up in Caroline now as all the others are with their partners, I would imagine,” Marcel said.

“I rarely see them. Mireille is kind enough to shelter me from their happiness.”

“Does that help?” Marcel asked. “I look at my boys—for all that they are men grown—and I see hope for the future in the relationships they are building. I won’t be here to see the future they help create, but I have faith in them.”

“Ah, but there is the difference,” Christophe said. “I will be here to see that future, as I have seen the future for dozens of generations. A time comes when hope is no more consolation than memory.”

The expression on Christophe’s face spoke volumes about the memories inherent in that simple sentence. Christophe had revealed little of his past. Marcel had learned little more from Jean, but enough to hazard a guess.

“Were you together for long?” Marcel asked.

“No more than you and your wife. He was a soldier in Clovis’s army, taken captive by the invading Alamanni. We fought with his army, but we didn’t have the protection your wizards offered Jean and the others. Our numbers were decimated. I felt it the moment he died. There will never be another for me.”

“No more than there was for me,” Marcel replied. “You speak of him on occasion, but you never say his name.”

“It would mean nothing to those who hear it,” Christophe said with a shrug. “He is not even a footnote in time.”

“That’s not true,” Marcel said. “He is your Avoué, and that makes him part of all that you have done, up to helping us rescue Orlando and end the war.”

“Childeric,” Christophe said so softly Marcel could barely hear him. “Named after the father of the king he followed to his death.”

Marcel picked up his coffee cup and gestured for Christophe to do the same. “To Childeric and Joséphine.”

Christophe looked halfway between horrified and amused as he tapped his coffee cup against Marcel’s. “To all those who were loved and whose names have been forgotten.”

Marcel sipped his coffee with a smile, grateful that Joséphine’s name would live on in Christophe’s memory now too.

Ariel Tachna bio pic

Find Ariel at her Web site: http://www.arieltachna.com

On Twitter: @arieltachna

Or on Facebook: http://tiny.cc/29npd

 

Bugs and Hisses Free Fiction: The Dreamer by J.S. Cook

October 8, 2015

To celebrate Halloween this month, some of our paranormal authors will be sharing with us some free fiction.

 

Another_Full_Moon

October 31st. Samhain, according to the old calendar. The night when the veils between the worlds grew as thin as paper. Darkness had fallen. Soon, it would be time. Soon, it would be safe enough to go out, to go out there, where everything was…everything he wanted. Seth Corrigan smiled to himself. What game would they play tonight?

A huge, bloated moon pulled itself into the sky by degrees, and the stars were plainly visible. He took the old path down to the shore, walking slowly, reacquainting himself with his body’s innate tendency to movement, his arms swinging slightly by his sides. To be bound in iron chains and buried in the earth for three hundred years was punishment – punishment for sins he had committed, yes, but was he truly to blame? He hadn’t placed the curse upon himself. It was hardly his fault that the bloodlust ran hot in his veins on nights such as this.

At the highest point of the land he stopped, surveying the gentle undulations of the summer sea, his gaze traversing the horizon and settling, finally, on the beach below. There, lying mother-nude on a large, flat rock, was a young man – the estate’s groundskeeper, Jamie Randolph. The sight of him – gods forgive the blatant cliché – took his breath away. He was immediately reminded of the night he’d first tasted Jamie, drawing the young man close to him, holding that taut, youthful body next to his own and sealing his lips over sweet, flowing life. At first Randolph had resisted – they always did – but then the pleasure had taken hold and he had relaxed in the vampire’s grip, sagging back into the older man’s arms, compliant as an infant.

Jamie’s naked body was pale, pale as wax, nearly as pale as Seth himself, and lightly furred with hair about the chest and genitals. He was slender, not overly bestowed of muscle but it didn’t matter: he was beautiful. If he was any other mortal, Seth would have long since discarded him – a meal, that’s all he would have been, or a temporary dalliance, no more. But Jamie was different. Seth remembered their first time: the taste of him, the smell of him, the texture of his sweet, warm flesh as the vampire’s lips sealed around the wound. Seth slid his fangs into the young man’s vein, and Jamie had grunted softly, at first in pain and then…

And then. Seth sighed, remembering. The pleasure always surprised them and the ones he took all the way down died smiling.

Jamie stretched and sat up on his rock, his skin gleaming in the moonlight, but Seth turned back towards the house, pretending that he hadn’t seen.

*****

old_house

“Did you have a good look, Seth?” Jamie – fully clothed this time – stood leaning against the door frame. Seth was propped up on the bed, pretending to read.

“Look?” Seth didn’t raise his eyes from the book. “At what?” The boy’s temerity amused him. Jamie’s question was uncharacteristically bold – and potentially very, very dangerous – but this apparently hadn’t occurred to Jamie.

Jamie smirked. “You were there, on the cliff, watching me.” He stepped forward, into the room. “I saw you.”

Seth tossed the book away and got up. He moved to the window. “You’re imagining things, my boy. Why would I be watching you?” He turned and Jamie was right there in front of him, no more than a hand’s-breadth away.

“There’s no need to pretend.” The words were a mere breath of sound as Jamie leaned in and closed the gap between them, sealing his mouth over the vampire’s. His hand cupped Seth’s cheek, holding their heads together, long fingers slipping into the vampire’s dark hair. He drew away, smiling, and for a moment they gazed at each other – then Seth grabbed him by the back of the neck and pulled him in. The kiss, intended to be cruel, slid rapidly into a passion that surprised them both.

“Jamie.”

“Yeah.” Jamie kissed him again: a slow, burning caress that kindled dark fire in the vampire’s belly.

“You are taking dangerous liberties. You realize I could punish you severely for these infractions.”

“Uh huh.” Jamie’s talented hands slid under the vampire’s loose shirt, warming the cool, hairless chest. He swayed close and they kissed again.

“Because this is highly inappropriate.” Seth’s voice shuddered just a little as Jamie’s index finger rubbed a sensitive nipple. “I am your master, after all.”

“Yeah, you sure are.” He drew the tip of his tongue up the side of Seth’s neck, fastening to a spot just under his ear and sucking gently. “Seth – ”

The older man’s hands tightened on his upper arms. He grabbed the front of Jamie’s cotton shirt and, in one sudden movement, tore it to the waist.

Seth’s mouth was liquid heat, his lips tugging at Jamie’s, his tongue slipping into his mouth, even as his busy hands pulled the ruined shirt free. Jamie’s hands roamed until he found the hard bulge at the juncture of the vampire’s thighs. His touch was intimately, deliciously cruel as he wrenched Seth’s head back, sucking on his throat; he kissed Seth until he begged and shivered. He slid slowly to his knees in front of Seth, his hands on the older man’s thighs.

He was gentle with the vampire’s cock, palming it tenderly, licking his way up the shaft, circling the swollen head with his tongue. Seth’s thighs shivered when Jamie took him into his mouth, and he struggled to master himself. The tide of glorious sensation overwhelmed his senses, rendering him mute and blind and deaf. His legs trembled with the effort of holding him up; he reached out and stayed Jamie: “Bed.”

The warm breeze from the opened window played over their naked bodies as they lay together: kissing, caressing, each exploring the unfamiliar terrain of another body. Jamie touched the vampire’s mouth, the tip of his nose, his cheek; Seth’s lips opened and drew his fingers in, sucking.

A pulse of heat bloomed low in his belly and spread and he lay back on the bed, reaching out wordlessly. Seth’s body pressed him into the bed and Jamie arched up to meet him as they kissed deeply. He wrapped his arms around Seth’s waist and cradled the vampire’s long legs with his own. He was flushed and sweating, and his body trembled from somewhere deep within his belly. He held Seth tightly, and their bodies moved, the slow slide of skin on skin. His cock was pressed against Seth, and he was kissing Seth, and Seth was kissing him and he was warm, warm and safe. He had never – goddammit – been this safe before. His pleasure built slowly, rising up from the soles of his feet, flooding him like water until it reached his heart and he was drowning, crying out, fists clenched in the sheets as he spent himself in long, ragged bursts. Seth arched his back and groaned, and a hot wetness dispersed in the space between their bodies.

They lay side by side, the breeze cooling their sweating bodies.

 

J.S. Cook

Twitter @jsopercook

Facebook https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100009515087900

 

Lasting Friendships with Melanie Hansen + Exclusive Excerpt and Giveaway

September 28, 2015

lasting friendships

Hey, everyone, I’m Melanie, a frazzled and busy mom of two preteen boys (Lord, give me strength!). My little family is also about to face our 8th Navy move in 15 years, so things are a little hectic at the moment. But today I’m so excited to talk about my recent release with Dreamspinner Press, Signs of Life, the second book in my Resilient Love series! I love Kai and Jeremy with all my heart; they are very, very special to me. Sometimes, very rarely, a story just flows, and writing it is easy and natural; that’s how Signs of Life was for me. Despite the heavy themes of grief and loss, something I really want readers to take away from this book is the delight Kai and Jeremy both take in their friendship with secondary characters Loren and Jase. That’s what I would like to talk about today in this post, the dynamics of their friendship, and I’m also going to share a deleted scene and an exclusive excerpt with you.

Along with the romantic relationship enjoyed by the main characters in Signs of Life – Jeremy Speer and Kai Daniels – a major element of the story is their friendships with others. In real life no couple in a healthy relationship exists in a vacuum, and in my stories, I try to weave in secondary characters who are very important to the main couple. We all have friends who fulfill various needs in our lives separate and apart from our significant others, and my book characters are no different.

Jeremy and Jase
Jeremy Speer and Jase DeSantis (my romantic lead from Everything Changes) are high school friends and lovers who reconnected as adults. They have some history, but they hadn’t been all that close in recent years. When Jeremy’s husband is fatally injured in a car accident, Jase is the first one Jeremy thinks to call, and Jase, being the innate caretaker that he is, drops everything to be there for him at Brent’s death and the immediate aftermath.

This deleted scene gives you a glimpse into their relationship, and how important they are to each other. Their friendship is one of the foundations of Jeremy’s character development, and although this scene didn’t make it into the book for several reasons, I love it, and I wanted to share it:
Jeremy couldn’t even count how many times he’d stumbled out of the guest bedroom in the middle of the night to find Jase already up, wrestling with his own demons. Jase would never talk about the war with him, though, his eyes haunted and full of pain.

One particularly bad night, wanting and needing some physical forgetfulness, Jeremy made a clumsy sexual advance, pushing Jase back into the cushions of the couch and kissing him with a sort of panicked desperation. Jase cupped Jeremy’s face in his hands and responded briefly, letting Jeremy deepen the kiss, but when Jeremy reached between Jase’s legs to touch him, Jase caught his hand, kissing the palm and squeezing his fingers before gently pushing him away.
“Jase, please, I need you,” Jeremy begged, clutching at him. Jase disengaged Jeremy’s hands again and knelt on the floor at his feet, resting his hands lightly on Jeremy’s knees.
“No, babe, this isn’t what we need from each other right now,” Jase said softly. “Not like this.”
In an agony of embarrassment, Jeremy pushed Jase away and stood, bracing his hands against the nearest wall and breathing deeply, trying to find some control over his emotions and losing the battle. He felt Jase come up behind him and wrap his arms around his waist, anchoring him as Jeremy fell apart once again. He turned and buried his face in Jase’s neck as he sobbed, “I just miss him so much.”
Jase rocked him, rubbing his hands up and down Jeremy’s back, kissing the top of his head over and over as they rode out the storm together. Afterwards, weak with emotional overload, Jeremy let Jase lead him to his bedroom and pull him down onto the rumpled bed. Jase spooned up to Jeremy’s back and held him close as he whispered, “One day at a time, bud. One day at a time.”
Jase’s words, so simple yet so powerful, struck Jeremy like nothing else had. One day at a time. He didn’t have to worry about how he’d get through next month, next week or even the next fucking day. All he had to do was get through this day, and he needed to stop trying to use people, or drugs, or alcohol, to do it. If Brent could see him now, a sad, defeated and broken man, he’d be devastated.
For weeks Jase had been touting the benefits of yoga, so Jeremy tried it a few times, deciding it wasn’t for him. But running…running calmed him, focused him, quieted the noise in his head like nothing else could. He and Jase ran together as much as possible, and soon Jeremy was outdistancing him, running for hours, coming back to the apartment in a pleasant state of physical and mental exhaustion. He started sleeping better, and it was becoming easier to ride out the bad days.
Jeremy had learned to exist, and that was more than he could have hoped for a year ago.
When Jase got home from work one night, Jeremy told him that he was finally ready to move on. There was a flash of relief in Jase’s eyes, quickly masked, even as he protested that Jeremy could stay as long as he needed to.
“I have, Jase,” Jeremy said quietly. “I’ve stayed as long as I needed to. It’s time for me to make my own life and leave you to yours.”
“Will you move to your Coronado house, then?” Jase asked. They were sitting on Jase’s small balcony, sipping cups of coffee.
“No, I don’t want to live in San Diego anymore. Too many memories. I need a fresh start, a totally fresh start.”
“Where will you go? I assume back to Florida isn’t an option, for the same reason.”
Jeremy nodded. “I asked my realtor to look for listings in Northern California, and she actually stumbled across this.”
He pulled a folded piece of paper out of his jeans pocket and handed it over. Jase perused it with a raised eyebrow.
“Bend, Oregon?”
“Yeah. The city isn’t too big, but it’s big enough. And the running trails are supposed to be superb.”
“So you’re going to go up there and isolate yourself in this cabin in the woods – which is a fucking awesome cabin by the looks of it. ‘A Jacuzzi on the wraparound porch,’” he quoted from the listing using his best Robin Leach voice.
Jeremy shrugged, fighting a small smile despite himself.
“Fuckin’ moneybags,” Jase said without heat, tossing Jeremy’s paper back to him. Jeremy shrugged again. It was true enough.
“Jere,” Jase began tentatively. “I’m only saying this because I love you, man. I understand the fresh start, I do, but are you sure isolating yourself like this is the answer? How are you –“
“How am I ever going to meet someone?” Jeremy finished bitterly. “I don’t want to meet anyone, Jase. I had everything I ever wanted, and now he’s gone.”
“So you’re just gonna live the rest of your life alone, without companionship, without intimacy?”
“You mean without fucking? Oh, I expect that someday I’ll want to fuck. In fact, I already tried that once and got shot down.” Jeremy let his eyes travel with deliberate crudeness over Jase’s body, fury boiling through him.
“Jeremy,” Jase said earnestly, ignoring the insolent look, “you feel this way now, and I understand it –“
“Do you? Do you understand it, Jase? How can you possibly understand a goddamn thing about the way I feel? Stop shoving bullshit up my ass and let me live my life the way I fucking want!”
Now Jase was as angry as Jeremy had ever seen him, and he stood up and towered over Jeremy.
“And you don’t understand a fucking thing about me, Jere,” he hissed. “How I watched the man I love be blown into pieces right in front of my eyes, how I worked through my tears to keep him from bleeding to death right then and there. How I felt when I learned his heart had stopped twice on the way to Kabul. Fuck you!”
“But he’s alive, Jase, so fuck you!”
They were both breathing hard, staring each other down.
“Yes, he’s alive,” Jase finally whispered. “But he doesn’t want me. He’ll never want me. In a way he’s as lost to me as Brent is to you. I’ll have to watch him fall in love, and get married, maybe have children someday. I’ll have to watch him be happy with someone else. And that will fucking kill me.”
Jeremy watched the agony that suffused Jase’s face, and he set aside his own self-absorption long enough to come to terms with the fact that yes, maybe there were differing degrees of loss, but loss is still loss. He reached out and took Jase’s hand in his, squeezing his fingers.
“Jase,” he said gently. “I’m sorry. I truly am.”
Jase blinked back tears, then squeezed Jeremy’s hand in return and sat back down.
Jeremy blew out a breath. “I’m not ready for anything else, and I don’t know if I ever will be. If I even want to be, Jase. And besides, I don’t see you taking your own advice. Since I’ve been here, I haven’t seen you go on a single date.”
“I’m not ready either,” Jase said ruefully. “But at least I’m open to the possibility. I’m sorry I brought it up, but I’m worried about you. You’re just going to go stick yourself in BFE, man, and I don’t think that’s right.”
Jeremy opened his mouth to argue, and Jase held up his hand. “But it’s your life, babe. I’ll leave you to it. And I hope you know I’ll always be here for you.”
Later that night, Jeremy packed up his belongings as quietly as he could and stole out of the apartment, not before leaving Jase’s spare key on the counter along with a note: Thanks for everything.

Kai and Loren
Kai and Loren have a slightly different relationship than Jeremy and Jase do. They met as adults, each carrying some emotional baggage, and have been extremely close for eight years. They do most everything together, such as camping and hiking, or simply hanging out. Their friendship also contains an element of sexual intimacy, although Kai hates to classify Loren as a “fuck buddy” – he’s so much more than that.

They aren’t in love, but they love each other very much. Loren is Kai’s emotional support, the one he goes to when he has a problem he needs to talk out, or when he just needs a shoulder to cry on. When Kai first meets Jeremy, things are pretty rocky between them, so Kai turns to Loren more than once for a sympathetic ear and, yes, some plain talk. Loren isn’t afraid to call it as he sees it because he cares about Kai’s well-being. In this exclusive excerpt from Signs of Life, Kai has just had another upsetting encounter with Jeremy:

“You’d think he could have shared that little tidbit of info with you before he let you suck his dick,” Loren said caustically, looking up at Kai from his sprawl on Kai’s couch. It was a couple of days since the evening at Jeremy’s house, and this was the first time he’d been able to pin Loren down to talk about it.
He handed Loren a freshly opened beer and then plopped down beside him, taking a huge slug of his own.
“Honestly I think the whole evening took him by total surprise, from issuing the dinner invitation in the first place to the sex. I don’t think he’d planned it, Loren, in order to spring his ‘conditions’ on me after he got his rocks off at least once.”
“You’re nicer than I am, Kai. I’d have told him to get bent.” Loren drank some beer and then grabbed the TV remote, flipping on the TV and mindlessly scrolling through the channels so fast it made Kai dizzy.
“No, you wouldn’t have,” Kai retorted. “Jesus, the dude has suffered almost unimaginable loss. You can’t blame him for being closed off, cautious of letting anyone get close to him again.”
“He treated you like shit at the club, and what he did the other night wasn’t a whole lot better, Kai. Handing you your clothes and pushing you out the door like a john who was getting rid of a trick. Don’t let him use his loss as an excuse to be an asshole.”
“Would you turn that shit off?” Kai wrestled the remote away from Loren and clicked off the TV, throwing the remote into the chair the farthest away, knowing Loren was too comfortable and lazy to get up and go after it. “I want to talk to you about this!”
“The more you tell me, the more I want to go kick the dude’s ass,” Loren grumbled, but sipped his beer and looked at Kai expectantly. “So talk.”
Kai took a sip of his own beer, marshaling his thoughts. “He told me that the night at the club was the first sex he’d had since his husband died. When did we go, about two and a half, three months ago?”
“Something like that.”
“And he said his husband died more than two years ago. I’m the first one he’s even tried with since he lost his husband.”
“You think that makes me feel any better?” Loren asked. “To know you’re basically his rebound, his stepping stone from ‘unimaginable loss,’ as you said, back to the wild and wonderful world of dating and sex?”
“He’s got to start somewhere, Loren,” Kai said quietly. “You know I’m tough, and resilient, and obviously now I know the score. I think I can be good for him, and I won’t let him hurt me.”
Loren set his beer down on the coffee table and took Kai’s from his hand, putting it down next to his. “I know this will fall on deaf ears because you really can’t seem to help yourself, but you don’t have to save the world, Kai. You don’t have to be his little experiment boy.”
Kai sighed and leaned his head on Loren’s shoulder. “It’s not just that. I really like him, Loren. I don’t know why, exactly, but I do.”
“I know why. Because you want to fuck him,” Loren said.
Kai didn’t answer, and Loren heaved a sigh of his own. “Okay, have fun with that. Get laid, have a great time. But if he breaks your heart, so help me, I’ll break his goddamn face.”
Loren’s voice was fierce, deadly serious, and affection for him clogged Kai’s throat for a minute, making his own voice hoarse as he replied, “I know you will, man.” A short silence fell and then Kai asked, “Don’t you ever get tired of putting my broken pieces back together?”
Loren put an arm around him and hugged him close, kissing the top of his head. “Never,” he vowed in a whisper, then shoved Kai away and lunged for the remote, laughing at Kai’s curses, both of them letting the emotional tension relax into the comfort of easy friendship.

As a military brat and now a military spouse, building lasting friendships have been an ongoing challenge for me my entire life. My childhood and high school years were filled with transfers, both my family’s and my military friends’ families. Sadly, I’m not in touch with anyone from back then, even with the advent of social media.
During my 15 years as a Navy spouse, in each of our duty stations I’ve found that other military spouses hesitate to make friends with each other, because we’re eventually going to leave anyway. Oh, we’re friendly enough and we have our kids in common, but there’s nothing lasting about it. I think that’s partly why I’m fascinated with the idea of exploring close friendship in my stories.

More recently my online friends have become precious to me, because I can “take” them with me everywhere I move to. In fact, when we face another Permanent Change of Station within the next several months, and it’s such a relief to know that I don’t have to worry about losing touch with “my girls.” They’re always a tweet or a FB message away!

 

*Giveaway*

I’d love to hear about your experiences with friendship, the longest-lasting one you’ve had and why you’re so close. Please share in the comments! 2 lucky winners will be given a $10 Dreamspinner Press gift cards!

 

meljhansen@gmail.com

https://twitter.com/MelJoyAZ

http://www.melaniejhansen.com/

Signs of Life at Dreamspinner Press

SignsofLifeFS

Getting Real with BA Tortuga

September 4, 2015

Getting Real

Leans

Hey, y’all. How’s goes?

So, I feel weird doing the whole formal intro thing, but waves. I’m BA Tortuga, happily married redneck in the high desert mountains. Turn ons are quilts, coffee, and gluten free Cheerios. Turn offs are assholes, slugs and the word peculiar.

;-)

Seriously, I’m here to bounce about my newest Dreamspinner release and the second in the Release series, The Articles of Release. Insert happy squeal (a la Dolly Parton in Steel Magnolias): y’all, I’m a CHAIN! Eric is an injured soldier and battle buddy of Adam Winchester. He calls Win to ask for a place to stay and Win and Sage bring him into their lives, introducing Eric along the way to Sage’s trainer, Troy.

Instead of doing a lot more explaining, I’ll let the boys introduce themselves.

***

“Guess you didn’t serve, huh?”

“Oooh, tacos.” Sage peeled off and left him and Troy to check out the falafel rolls.

“No.” Troy gave him a look like he was totally out of his mind. “That’s never been on ye olde opportunity table.”

Eric bristled a little. “Yeah? You got something against soldiers?”

“Huh? Why would I? I’m spectacularly ill-suited for the job, that’s all.”

“Oh. Sorry.” He shrugged, his ears hot. “Still a little touchy, I guess. Sorry.”

“Dude, no worries. I’m cool. What looks good to you?”

“I think I want to try the falafel stuff. I always liked it when I was deployed.”

“Cool. I’ll get some hummus, I think. I have a client that wants me to try vegetarian for a few weeks, see what changes I see in my body.”

“You look like you’re doing pretty good.” Did he just say that? Maybe he had brain damage.

“It’s more for her graduate degree than any genuine interest in giving up brisket on my part.”

“Ah. Gotcha.” He was torn between liking Troy and being a little irritated at the earlier Army shit. Mood swings were hell. They managed to get a couple of little paper baskets of food, but Sage and Win were nowhere in sight. “Mind if I sit a minute?”

“Go for it.” Troy held out a hand to hold his falafel.

“Thanks.” He got settled, then nodded to the other side of the table. “Want to join me?”

“Thanks, but I’ll stand. Sitting’s a pain in the ass.”

Eric blinked. That was a new one. “Uh, did I piss you off? I didn’t mean to.”

“Huh? No. No, you’re totally good. Completely. How’s your falafel?”

He hadn’t even tasted it. What was it about this guy that got under his skin? “It’s fine. What, the trainer doesn’t want to be seen with the cripple or something?”

“Pardon me?” The asshole actually looked around, like he didn’t know what Eric was talking about.

“Well, it’s not like I wear a T-shirt, but the heavy limp is kind of a giveaway.” He could do sarcasm too.

“What the hell are you going on about, man?”

“I want to know why you would rather stand and hold your food than sit with me!” That came out loud enough to draw few stares, and Eric kinda felt as if he was having an out-of-body experience.

Troy’s cheeks went a dark red, and the man moved over and set his food down. “Sorry, man.”

Sage and Win were heading over, and Troy sat at the end of the table, sitting awkwardly at the edge, legs barely tucked under.

Eric tried to breathe, to calm the fuck down, but his fury hit him about the time Sage stumbled into the table and Troy damn near went ass over teakettle onto the grass. That was it. Seriously? Seriously, this motherfucker was going to treat him like a goddamn leper because he limped? Gonna fall onto the ground rather than sit with the crip like a decent human being? Fuck, the bastard was probably one of those liberal hippie types that thought every soldier was a fucking murderer and deserved what he got.

He’d just been doing his job, goddamn it!

“Jesus, just go, would you? Some trainer you are, being ashamed of a guy with a bad leg!”

“Huh?”

“Don’t you fucking pretend that you don’t know what I’m talking about!”

“What the hell?” That was Sage, who always managed to look vaguely confused, which pissed him off too. What? Did falling in love give you the magical ability to live in fucking lala land? Huh? “What happened?”

“Just fuck off.” He wasn’t sure who he was aiming the snarl at.

“What the fuck is wrong with you?” Troy was looking at him like he had two heads and neither one of them were speaking English.

“What’s wrong with me? I’m sick of people humoring me and pretending that it doesn’t matter that half my leg is missing when they’re grossed out by it.” Eric kinda lost his shit, right there, slamming his hands on the table.

“It’s not missing.” The words from Troy were flat, dead still somehow, and didn’t really make sense.

“What?”

Troy got up, stood like he was setting himself, then carefully pulled up the legs of his jeans, exposing metal rods disappearing into the motorcycle boots. “This is what missing looks like, just sayin’. Sage, Adam. Have some hummus. I got to go. See y’all Monday.”

And with that, Troy headed off, and with distance, Eric could see the odd gait, the way Troy held himself.

Sage stood there, staring like a goat looking at a new fence.

***

I was doing the promo work for The Articles of Release and one of the questions I keep seeing is “why”?

Why write a wounded warrior who hooks up with a double amputee?

Now, honestly? I’ll tell you my main truth. I don’t pick. I never feel like I choose these guys. They come to me and I write about them.

I know, y’all think I’m a nutcase and that’s not far from true.

I believe in ghosts. I believe in fairies. I believe in happy endings and I believe that the boys show up for me to write.

My second truth is way more personal and a little deeper. I write about people in challenging situations to work out my own shit. Seriously. I write about my love/hate relationship with Texas, I write about being scared and being angry and trying to figure out where the hell I belong in a universe that seems like a strange and dangerous world.

I write about losing things. I write about that a lot, because I’m worried.

You see, I’m losing my sight.

There, I said it. Out loud. In public.

I’m losing my sight.

I can’t drive anymore. I have special software for the computer. If it’s dark, you can’t trust me not to fall over things. I swear tinted glasses and huge sunglasses.

I can’t read my own paperbacks.

I don’t talk about it. I don’t talk about how goddamn scared I am. What do I do when I can’t see anymore and my wife needs me to do things for her? How do I work? Writing I can do, but what about edits? I don’t know how to deal with that and I’m scared to find out because that means it’s real.

See?

I write to work out the lump that sits in my heart and says, “you’re totally screwed, woman”. I write men like Eric and Troy so that they can teach me how to be brave and look at my wife and say, “no worries, babe, we got this”.

So, why?

I write a wounded warrior who hooks up with a double amputee because I had to.

There was a story that needed telling.

I’d love to hear all y’all’s stories, too. Honest.

Much love, y’all.

BA

 

 

ArticlesOfRelease[The]FS

Bowerbirds (Nested Hearts: Book Two) by Ada Maria Soto – Excerpt 3

August 26, 2015

I can’t help it, there’s nothing like a guy in a tux. I just had to get James and Gabe into formal clothes at least once. Then of course I had to get those clothes off.

########

The doors slid open. A Town Car was waiting at the curb. They didn’t talk as they made the short trip to Gabe’s building. They just held hands and watched the lights go past outside.

They didn’t even talk as the elevator took them swiftly and smoothly up to Gabe’s place. The lights automatically came on as they stepped out of the elevator, neither too fast nor too bright; a soft fade-up to a warm glow.

Gabe stepped close and pulled on James’s bow tie until it came loose and slipped from around his neck. He let it drop through his fingers; it fell to the floor without even a whisper. He put the tips of his fingers to James’s cheek next. James leaned into them, noticing the way two were rough and two were smooth. Gabe must have been chewing on them again.

He reached up and pulled on Gabe’s tie. It slid from its knot more easily than his had. The silk was cool on the ends and warm where it had gone around Gabe’s neck. He let it drop from his fingers as well.

Gabe took a few steps back, and James followed as if being led in a dance. And he followed where Gabe led. It was so easy and felt so right. He usually avoided the easy path. Easy was usually wrong.

Gabe changed directions, moving quickly behind James and slipping his coat from his body. James shivered at the sudden change in temperature, from being wrapped in the sultry jacket to having only the fine linen shirt between his body and the air.

The chill left as quickly as it had arrived. Gabe stepped in close, pressing himself to James’s back, putting out a powerful heat. He leaned back, still feeling like he was in a dance that had no music with a rhythm that was in constant flux. But still Gabe was leading perfectly.

Gabe stripped off his own jacket without ever taking his chest from James’s body. He let the jacket drop to the floor, not even bothering to toss it toward the hooks as he had with James’s.

He pressed his lips to James’s neck, right above his collar. James felt his toes curl and his body tingle. Gabe’s fingers were back, skimming along his cheek, and his thumb brushed across James’s lips. He flicked out his tongue to tickle it.

Gabe exhaled long and slow, his warm breath slipping under James’s collar. His fingers left James’s face and went instead to his throat, popping open the high collar buttons. James let out a long breath, unaware of just how constricted he had felt until that moment.

Gabe slid around him until they were once again face-to-face. He thought they might kiss, but instead Gabe just looked at him, eyes dark in the dim light. He felt his breath hitch and that tightening in his chest return. It was so much like the way Gabe had looked at him their first night. All those months ago now, standing so close that James had been able to smell the hint of peppers on his skin.

Now Gabe smelled faintly of fancy cologne that had nearly worn away.

He took Gabe’s hand and laced their fingers together as if they would dance. Gabe took his other hand, lifted it, and kissed his palm. James closed his eyes and nearly fell forward. Gabe kissed the heel of his palm next and then placed a kiss on the inside of his wrist. James whimpered softly. Somehow those three small kisses had his head spinning with greater pleasure than kisses in far more intimate areas.

Gabe stepped backward, leading them with just the knowledge of the dimensions of his own home.

He didn’t lead them to the bedroom, but rather to the large couch of cool leather draped with blankets of the same spun and woven silk as the one on Gabe’s bed. He sat on them and drew James onto his lap, giving James the height advantage for once.

James took it, tilting Gabe’s head back and into a slow, lazy kiss, their tongues just flitting around each other’s, chasing the flavor of champagne. Gabe’s arms went around his body, pulling him close. James’s fingers went into Gabe’s hair, tangling themselves in the dark curls, destroying the last of the control imposed by handfuls of hair gel that smelled slightly of mint and clashed with the cologne.

Gabe sighed into the kiss and held James tight.

He and Gabe kissed. He didn’t think about time; he didn’t think about anything beyond the feel of Gabe’s arms around him and the taste of Gabe on his lips, the sound of their tiny moans and sighs in his ears.

At some point Gabe pulled away from the kiss and took a deep breath. He leaned in, laying his head against James’s chest. James became aware of his own heart pounding strong and steady. Gabe looked up at him, a small soft smile on his lips. James kissed those lips, then stood. Gabe followed.

This time James took Gabe’s hand and led the dance toward the bedroom. There was no rush. He was content to keep kissing if that was all the night had in store, but he wanted to be lying down in Gabe’s arms while it happened.

######

Bowerbirds (Nested Hearts: Book Two) available through Dreamspinner Press. BowerbirdsSmall

Bowerbirds (Nested Hearts: Book Two) by Ada Maria Soto – James and My Dad + Excerpt 2

August 26, 2015

 

Empty Nests and Bowerbirds in an odd way is for my dad. He wasn’t a single parent and rumor aside not gay (I don’t think, there are days), but he did end up primary care giver the first couple years of my life. It was supposed to be my mother but my father got injured and lost his job just a few days before I was born. My mother was out of work and it became a matter of who could get a job first. This meant my mom going back to work when I was six weeks old and my dad left holding the baby.

This was in the early 80′s, long before the internet and easy access to stay at home dad groups. My dad was the youngest in his family so had no experience with kids. His family was an hour away and my mom was not on good terms with her family. Add in that my dad came out of a very machismo oriented background and he was left reasonably alienated.

I like to think (and it’s my opinion that matters in this) that he handled it pretty well. I think his sense of humor helped a lot. When my mom would tell him to go check the baby he’d get a pen and draw a little check somewhere on me. It’s funnier if you know my dad. I’m surprised with myself that I managed to get two years into doing the parent thing without giving into the temptation. By this point my kid would probably take it as permission to draw allover herself and anyone else. He delivered bottles as if he was a French waiter, rushed back to the park to retrieve forgotten stuffed animals, made up bedtime stories, and read Elephant Goes to School about fifty million times without going completely nuts.SimpsonsDad

He also took a lot of grief from other guys and didn’t get a lot of respect when he explained that two year gap in his resume. But he kept his chin up, pushed through, and I don’t think overly messed me up which in this day and age counts for a lot.

So James is for my dad and all of the dads who have stepped into what much of society still thinks of as a female role.

######

James bent backward and listened to his spine crack. Despite the noises, his back was in better condition, or at least a few decades younger, than Mrs. Gonzales’s, which was why he was helping her lug bolts of fabric up the stairs. It was her second granddaughter’s quinceañera in a couple of months, and she was sewing all the dresses, which meant stitching up about a million miles of pink satin and tulle.

At least Mrs. Gonzales’s granddaughter was shorter than he was. With Mrs. Maldonado’s granddaughter’s prom dress the previous year, he’d been roped into acting as a living dress stand while it was hemmed, instead of just helping with the hemming. Dylan still had the photos hidden somewhere. He didn’t actually mind helping out with things like hauling groceries, rolling tamales, or handstitching a million seed pearls onto white taffeta. The women of the building had acted as Dylan’s aunties and grandmothers over the years, providing babysitting, hand-me-downs, advice, and more than a few meals when he and Dylan got truly desperate.

Mrs. Gonzales let them into her apartment where the Virgen de Guadalupe stared at him from at least three walls.

“¿Dónde los quieres?”

“Con los demás.”

James put the bolts of fabric on the table with a half dozen others while Mrs. Gonzales went into her kitchen to make them both some coffee.

He followed her into the kitchen, which was identical to his, where she poured them both thick black coffee, then stirred in condensed milk until it was nearly white. “James, I’ve been seeing you with a man lately? The women are saying you have a boyfriend?”

He accepted a cup of coffee. “I might.” He supposed it had to happen sooner or later. Every other person had been the center of gossip in the building at one point or another. James had managed to avoid it, mainly by being the most boring person on earth.

“You might? I think you do. He looks handsome.”

James pretended to think about it. “I guess. If you like that type.”

“And he looks rich?”

James blew on his coffee. Mrs. Gonzales always made it nuclear hot. “He might be, a little.”

“Rich is good.”

“It’s not important.”

“Rich is good. Rich can take care of you and Dylan.”

James rolled his eyes. “I don’t need anyone taking care of me. I’m not looking for anyone to take care of me. And I take care of Dylan just fine.”

Mrs. Gonzales patted the air in front of James. “Of course you do, but it’s good to have help. If someone wants to take care of you, you should let them. If they’re also kind, and handsome…?”

James sipped his coffee, having no desire to respond to that comment.

“What’s his name?”

“Gabe. Gabriel. Juarez.” He figured the best thing to do with gossip was to feed it as much detail as possible. It seemed to burn out quicker once there was less to speculate on.

“And where’s he from?”

“He grew up in the Bay.”

“Have you met his family yet?”

That was something that hadn’t been brought up except for a quick mention of his sisters. He’d heard more about Gabe’s godchildren. “No, no I haven’t.”

Mrs. Gonzales gave a slightly disapproving squint. “Make sure he does that soon. A man who is ashamed of his family is not a man you should be associating with.”

“I will keep that in mind.”

“Good. Now, what does he do? He better have a good job. Rich without work is begging the devil for trouble.”

James took a deep breath. He was surprised Dylan hadn’t blabbed it around the building. He was as bad a gossip as the rest of them. “He’s the chief financial officer of TechPrim Industries.” He got a slightly questioning look. James pulled his phone from his pocket and showed her the logo on the back. “TechPrim.”

Her eyebrows went up. “He better be taking care of you, then.”

“I don’t need to be taken care of.” James tried not to raise his voice. “I am not a child. I have a job. I manage.”

“Doesn’t mean you should turn him away if he offers. It can be nice to have someone who wants to be helpful.”

“Fine.” He didn’t want to start a fight.

“And if he causes you trouble, you send him to me.”

James stuffed down a laugh. Facing Mrs. Gonzales was a proper threat. Every male under the age of eighty feared her disapproving gaze, which could leave even the most hardened soul squirming like a child.

“I’ll be sure to warn him.”

######

Bowerbirds (Nested Hearts: Book Two) available through Dreamspinner PressBowerbirdsSmall

Bowerbirds (Nested Hearts: Book Two) by Ada Maria Soto – Excerpt 1

August 26, 2015

Back in Ye Olden Days of text based roll playing computer games there always seemed to be that one peasant you ran into who just happened to know everything you needed to know about that castle north of the village and nothing else. I try to avoid that in my supporting characters. I have a great love for them and do my best to make them as well rounded as possible and give them a reason for existing other than just moving the plot. I’m particularly fond of Tamyra and rather tempted to write a couple of short stories staring her.

####

WHEN JAMES finally woke from his second nap, they ordered Chinese food, sat on the couch, and talked about nothing important. They made out on the couch, ate dinner, made out some more, then moved to the bedroom for some precarious lovemaking. It had been after midnight, and James had been fast asleep again when Gabe let himself quietly out of the apartment. He’d left a note by the bed, promising to call.

Now Gabe was using his sliver of a lunch break to query the almighty Internet on dating people with kids. Dylan had mostly come around to his side after he did his best to prove he wasn’t screwing with James, but if Gabe wanted to get James out of town, he was going to need Dylan’s backing. And any serious relationship moves would quite possibly need Dylan’s approval, or at least his advice. Gabe glared at his computer monitor. The all-knowingness of the Internet was failing him. He’d found plenty on step-parenting and a couple of blog posts about dating people with small children, but nothing that seemed to apply to his situation.

Tamyra came in and put a suspiciously healthy-looking sandwich on his desk before plopping herself down on the couch and tucking into a salad of her own.

“Tam, have you ever dated anyone with kids?”

“No. I’m not really good with kids.”

Gabe lifted the top piece of whole grain and seed bread on his sandwich and squinted at the sprouts under it. “Me neither.”

“My niece was about five when my sister started dating again. Seriously, though, James’s kid is practically an adult.”

Gabe shoved the sprouts aside to find dandelion greens. “I know. I just want to keep in his good books, and I don’t want James to feel like he’s losing time with Dylan to be with me.”

Tamyra shrugged. “My sister used to do these family dates every month or so with her, Julia, and her boyfriend. They’d go to the zoo. Stuff like that.” Gabe pushed aside the dandelion leaves to reveal grilled vegetables. “Stop playing with your sandwich and eat it.”

“Only if I find bacon on the bottom.”

“You have a meeting in fifteen minutes and you don’t have a free second between then and seven. Eat it.”

Gabe started chewing on the top slice of bread. “Why are you still my PA?” It was a question he asked himself regularly but only actually asked Tamyra a few times. He’d yet to get a good answer.

“Because you’d die without me.”

Gabe pushed aside the rest of his sandwich. He’d swing through marketing later. They always had good leftovers from some department party or networking lunch. “I’m serious. You were supposed to be in the job, what, a year? You have more degrees than I do. You know the fine minutiae of every deal we make. Anyone else would have quit or demanded a transfer after six months of putting up with me. You’ve never even asked for a raise.”

“And yet you give them to me.”

“Seriously. What are you doing here?”

Tamyra set aside her salad, which looked about as appetizing as Gabe’s sandwich. “Do you remember the state you were in when I started working for you?”

No, Gabe thought. “Vaguely,” he answered.

“Exactly. You’d had six PAs in five months. They were all either trying to get into your pants or were praying for your soul. My first day you’d had about three hours of sleep in three days. You were trying to shift around the budget so dependents of employees got free flu shots, in the middle of a bidding war for a half-dozen patents, you were fighting with Frank and Nate over if you should even be trying for the patents, and then a bunch of school kids were dragged in, and you were supposed to give them some sort of inspirational talk.”

“Was I inspirational?” Gabe had not a single memory of that day.

“No. You mumbled, babbled, threw in some analogies that made no sense whatsoever, and forgot the name of your own company. The impressive bit was that you pulled yourself up there in that state when any other executive would have just pawned the whole thing off onto someone further down the ladder. I figured at that point you needed someone who wouldn’t try to get into your pants, knew your soul was just fine, and would knock you on the back of the head with a two-by-four if that’s what was needed for you to get some sleep.”

“I wish I could argue with any of that.”

“You’re good at your job, you run a good business, you’re good to your people, but you are crap at taking care of yourself. I’ll move on when I find someone who can take care of you half as well as I can.”

“Or I shove you out the door.”

Tamyra laughed. “Like that’s ever going to happen.”

####

BowerbirdsSmallBowerbirds (Nested Hearts: Book Two) available through Dreamspinner Press

When Characters Surprise the Writer with CJane Elliott

August 21, 2015

When Characters Surprise the Writer

Hello all! I’m pleased to be back on the Dreamspinner Blog to talk about the release of the third novel in my Serpentine Series: Sex, Love, and Videogames.

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The Serpentine Series books are standalone contemporary novels set at the University of Virginia. Although many characters are in more than one book, each book can be read separately. Sex, Love, and Videogames features Jed Carter, who is the quiet nice guy Pete Morgan takes advantage of in Serpentine Walls. Its other main character is Charlie Ambrose, who is what U.Va. students call a “townie.” Charlie is biracial and grew up in a tight-knit African-American family and church community in Charlottesville. Besides the two main characters, the book is the story of Morocco Ambrose, Charlie’s cousin. She’s transgender and as extroverted as Charlie is introverted. Another extrovert, Jed’s best friend Myesha, rounds out the central cast of characters.

Writing Sex, Love, and Videogames surprised me. I couldn’t get a handle on Jed’s love interest. I thought it was going to be his older brother Kent’s college roommate, Tucker. But the story wasn’t going anywhere with that plot and I was having a hard time getting into Jed’s head. The light-bulb finally turned on when I realized I was again relegating Jed to the sidelines in favor of a more compelling character (Tucker), just the way Jed was relegated to the sidelines by Pete in Serpentine Walls.

With that realization, a character named Charlie emerged: a shy artist who isn’t part of the university crowd. Charlie was white when I first visualized him, but quickly he was in my head as biracial. And his amazing transgender cousin Morocco was right there with him. People think writers plan all this out in advance: “Aha! I know – I’ll have a biracial townie and his trans cousin in the Jed novel!” If I were to show you my first outlines of the story, Charlie and Morocco are nowhere to be found. But once they popped up, I went with it. And it turned out that Charlie and Jed are perfect for each other.

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I grew up in the DC area, which is quite diverse, and have had many close friends of other races and ethnicities. Still, I’m glad Dreamspinner has a Diversity Panel because even though I agree books need diverse characters, I live in fear of being unknowingly offensive or racist or whatever else I have unknowingly done. Members of the diversity panel read my draft and pointed out places where I put my foot in it, thus allowing me to withdraw my foot by hitting the delete button.

I struggled with how to write dialect without being too over the top. (For the record, we DO say y’all in Northern Virginia!) I was informed one of the terms I used to describe transgender was no longer welcome. I read books on being black and gay in the South and books on the transgender experience. I talked to people who live further South than I do about aspects of the culture there. (Did you know “bless your heart” means “screw you” in Southern?)

And all the while, Charlie and Morocco and their family were talking in my head and I knew them. I knew all about them and loved them. I want a Granny Myrt of my own. Or maybe not Granny Myrt until she evolves her beliefs about LGBTQ folks, but an Aunt Tawniece. I want Morocco and Myesha to be my besties and call me “girl.” I want to go out dancing with them and get our funk on.

Jed is still being outshined, because he and Charlie are never going to be as “out there” as Morocco and Myesha. But that’s okay, because Jed ends the story knowing who he is and where he wants to go in life, and having a great guy by his side.

Excerpt:

Jed made it out of the frat house and walked toward the dorm through the crowds of bid-night revelers. He hadn’t thought about how awkward things could get with him and Kent in the fraternity together. Frats meant parties, which meant alcohol and girls. Put Kent in the middle of that, with his “everyone follow me over the cliff” personality, and that was it. Jed was sunk. Dead meat. He’d either have to persuade Myesha to be his beard, or… come out?

Right. Get real.

As if summoned by the gay unicorn gods, Aidan Emery and his merry band of queers appeared, strutting down the sidewalk, laughing and singing. Jed’s insides contorted with jealousy. He wanted to stick out his foot and trip them for daring to be so openly gay and happy about it.

Coming out? To Kent and a bunch of Wahoos in SAE? To the rugby team? To the world in general? No way.

Jed changed course and headed to Lucky’s. He’d thought about going to lift weights at the university gym, but the truth was, he was tired of everything U.Va., with its fraternities, homophobia, and all the rest. He needed a videogame fix. Kent had told him Lucky’s had the best selection in town. The wind picked up, carrying with it a hint of snow. He pulled his coat closer around him and started a slow jog, relieved to be leaving the Grounds and the parties behind.

Ten minutes later, Jed reached Lucky’s, breathing hard but feeling more centered as he pushed open the door. He stopped to survey the scene, having never been there. The place was hopping—people eating, drinking, playing pool and pinball—and there against the far wall were huge screens and sofas for gamers. He went over to scope out the games.

“Let me know if I can help you with anything.”

A handsome black guy stood next to the counter. He gave Jed a shy smile, and Jed smiled back. Zing. Jed had never thought about having gaydar, but this guy set something off in him that said they were playing for the same team.

“Do you have any suggestions?”

“D-depends.” The guy came to stand next to him. He was a couple inches taller than Jed and he smelled nice. Plus he had striking greenish-brown eyes. His nametag read Charlie. “W-what’re you into?”

You. Jed’s cheeks warmed. Damn stupid blushing. “I like Halo, Mass Effect, stuff like that. But I also like fantasy games. I was way into Oblivion in high school.”

Charlie picked out a game and handed it over. “You’d l-like this if you haven’t p-played it. It came out a c-couple months ago.”

“Dragon Age: Origins. Cool. I’ve been wanting to try this one. Thanks.” He followed Charlie back to the counter. “You go to U.Va.?” Jed wasn’t usually this forward in striking up conversations, but something about Charlie—his obvious shyness, his slight stutter—made Jed want to put him at ease. To Jed’s dismay, his question seemed to embarrass him.

“N-no.” Charlie shut his mouth in a grim line as he rang up Jed’s rental.

“Oh.” Jed cast around for something else to say but a bunch of high school kids rushed up to the counter, clutching games. Charlie didn’t meet Jed’s eyes as he handed over Dragon Age and turned to his new customers. “Um, thanks.”

Jed left Lucky’s, puzzling over Charlie’s response. So he’s a “townie.” So what? Oh well. The guy hadn’t seemed all that interested in Jed anyway. He lost himself in reading the game jacket as he walked back to the dorm.

Near Alderman Library, he heard, “Carter, you are so busted!” Bud weaved toward him on the sidewalk. “Where the hell’d you go?”

“Nowhere.”

“Like hell you did. I—oh.” Bud lurched and Jed caught him by one arm.

“Someone’s wasted. You need help getting back?”

“Naw, ’m’fine. But don’t cut out on us like that, boy. I love ya, man!”

Jed watched fondly as Bud stumbled off into the night, then hoofed it to his dorm room.

Time for videogames.

Buy Link for Sex, Love, and Videogames:

http://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/store/product_info.php?products_id=6757

 

How to reach CJane Elliott:

E-mail: cjaneelliott@gmail.com

Website: http://www.cjaneelliott.com

Twitter: https://twitter.com/CJaneElliott

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/cjane.elliott

 

Contest:

Answer the question below for a chance to win any book from my backlist of novels and novellas.

Late teens and early twenties is the time when people start to figure themselves out, often breaking away from their family’s idea of them, or going outside of their childhood comfort zones. Jed and Charlie did all of these in Sex, Love, and Videogames. Now for the question:

What was one of your first experiences in your late teens or early twenties where you stepped beyond your childhood comfort zone and started to be an adult? And was it fun or was it depressing?