The Best Man by Rick R. Reed

May 8, 2015

I stare at the groom and hope it doesn’t show—the love I feel for him, the love I’ve always felt. I’m praying I can keep the ardor off my face, even though I know I’ve failed miserably to keep it out of my heart.

The best man obviously lusting for the groom would be, well, just wrong. Especially not when the groom has eyes only for his gorgeous bride, the blond and lovely Alana, in her Vera Wang wedding dress. Now, their eyes are locked on one another and I feel the old paradox I experience every time I look at them—a curious brew of jealousy and happiness at their having found the other.

Love is a rare thing in this world.

Yeah, you heard me right—I’m the best man. That groom up there at the altar? The gorgeous guy in the tux with the close-trimmed red beard, the green eyes, and the linebacker shoulders? That’s my best friend, Kevin. We’ve been together since we were in second grade. I’d lay down my life for the guy. And the sad truth is, I’d lay down for the guy. Period. With my legs thrown in the air. He knows this, yet he continues to call me his best friend, except he says, ‘best bud.’ He even proclaims he couldn’t live without me.

Sigh.

But shame on me for having such thoughts on Kevin’s wedding day! If the poor guy knew the wicked, lustful thoughts coursing through my brain as I stand here, smiling, but jealous as hell, with the other groomsmen, Kevin would be blushing as crimson as the rose in his lapel.

But God, he does look gorgeous! Edible. And I can’t help but think—unkindly, I know; inappropriately, I know—the thought gay guys have had about buff and beautiful straight men for millennia—what a waste!

I’m sure his bride, Alana, would beg to differ.

The music, Pachelbel’s Canon, has just ended and the crowd at St. Aloysius Catholic Church has grown quiet. There are only a couple of coughs here, a whisper there.

We’re ready to begin. Kevin turns to Alana. I can see he’s trembling and my heart gives a little lurch. A lump forms in my throat.

Alana beams beneath her lace veil, all smiles. I try not to think unkind thoughts about her. Jealousy is such an ugly emotion. And so is Alana, in anything backless. Stop it!

I let my mind drift back to a few months ago. A winter’s night when Kevin and I had traveled up from Seattle to the San Juan Islands. We had taken the ferry over on Friday afternoon to Orcas Island where we rented a small cabin at Doe Bay resort. The cabin was no frills and cold. It had rained all weekend. Even our trip to Mt. Constitution was doomed—the stunning vistas from its top blocked out by drizzling banks of low-hanging clouds.

So we had little to do but hang out in the cabin. There was no TV or Wi-Fi, so cards or reading were pretty much the order of the day.

And drinking.

A lot of drinking. See, Kevin had asked me to come away with him that weekend because he had acquired a severe case of cold feet regarding his wedding to Alana that summer. “She’s great,” he’d told me. “But suddenly I’m just not sure I’m ready. Maybe it’s like they say, you know?”

“No. I don’t know.” An evil little part of me just wanted Miss Alana to go away so I could have my Kevin back. I’d missed things like our early morning runs together on the Burke-Gilman trail, with the sun coming up and the world seeming to contain only the two of us. I missed Friday nights with Kevin at his condo in Wallingford, ordering in a meat-lover’s pizza from Pagliacci to go with a nice IPA I’d bought on my way over to his place, streaming old horror movies on his big-screen. We both loved Carnival of Souls.

“Like, maybe I love Alana, but I’m not in love with her. You know what I mean?”

I’d wanted to say that I knew exactly what he meant. For example, I loved Kevin and to my heart’s great regret, I was also in love with him. So yeah, I got the distinction.

I thought our weekend together, somehow, might change things between us. Magically. Maybe it was because I was reading a lot of books lately that featured some butch “straight” protagonist falling suddenly for his buddy and realizing that, while maybe he wasn’t strictly gay, he could be gay for this man he’d fallen for. Like that ever happens

And yet…those stories always had a happy ending. Why couldn’t ours?

Hey, if I read it in a book, it must be possible, right?

And I thought, on our Saturday night here on Orcas, drunk on beer and a good single-malt Scotch, that maybe, just maybe, the same could happen for Kevin and me. Magically. I mean, we’d been practically inseparable since we were kids. We’d played softball together, spent countless nights together, went through the trials and tribulations of high school as one, cheered each other on at our respective events at track meets and cried on one another’s shoulders as we each met yet another disappointment in love. As we grew, we grew closer.

And then Alana came along.

And spoiled everything.

Oh, Alana’s a wonderful woman—kind, sweet, funny. She can curse like a sailor, drink a man under the table, and arrange a bouquet of spring wildflowers like Martha Stewart. And, if you’re straight, she’s a knockout. Hell, if you’re gay, she’s a knockout.  She’s the kind of woman who turns both straight and gay men’s heads when she walks down the street, although the latter, I cheekily admit, might only be wondering if her bag is Prada or Ferragamo.

But that night, as the rain drummed down on the roof of our little cabin, it felt like Kevin and I were the only two people in the world. I remember how, after we finished with the cards, and me beating his ass three straight times at canasta, we relaxed together on the bed in Kevin’s room.

Now, don’t go thinking this was odd. As I said, Kevin and I had had countless sleepovers, starting at the age of seven. Although we didn’t often share a bed, we had fallen asleep next to one another on the couches at one of our houses. I never told Kevin how sometimes, during those nights, I would snuggle close and then, if he woke, pretend to be outraged by what I’d done in my sleep.

So it was not unusual we both were on his bed, our backs against the wall the bed was shoved up against, legs stretched out before us, dangling. We both had that one-too-many tumbler of Scotch in our hands, but we weren’t thinking about the headache and nausea surely waiting for us in the morning, but only how loose and warm it made us feel tonight.

Kevin babbled on and on, finally getting to the topic of our trip up here—his upcoming nuptials to Alana. He told me how he didn’t know if he was ready to give up his independence. He said that she could sometimes be controlling.

I told him these were all good points, worth considering.

He even told me how she wasn’t always so keen about going down on him and I just about lost it. I mean, really? Talk about casting pearls before swine! Was the girl crazy or what?

It just seemed natural to me then, with the lights low, the Scotch making our systems hum in a languid way, and with the rain’s staccato beat on the roof, to turn to Kevin and look into his eyes. I knew they were green, but in the dim illumination, they looked brown. And like wells I could fall into….

I thought something passed between us. A signal, maybe, an understanding.

And I did something I’d never done before. But, damn it, it felt right.

Yeah, you know what I did. I leaned forward and I kissed him. It wasn’t a playful little peck either, but a full-on kiss, with my tongue darting impetuously into his mouth. He was so surprised—and drunk—that, for a second, a delicious, life-altering, wished-it-would-go-on-forever second, he kissed me back. His hand even went up to the back of my neck for a moment.

And, in that tiny, tiny amount of time, I imagined that things could change, that this would be a scene like in one of those books I’d read where the straight guy magically turns gay—just for me.

For all time. Kev and I would have our happily-ever-after. It all flashed by, like they say one’s life flashes by in our final moments—our going back to Seattle and announcing to Alana that we were in love and always had been. The marriage with her could not take place because he was marrying me. The condo we would purchase together on Capitol Hill, overlooking the Space Needle and the Olympic Mountain range. All that stuff. And, of course, the more immediate—both of us hurrying to get out of our clothes, tossing them to the floor in our passion, in our yearning heat to feel the electric satin of a full body press of naked skin.

Except…

Kevin pushed gently against my chest and leaned back to break the kiss. He stared at me for a moment and I misinterpreted the stare as lust. I went in for another kiss and he pushed harder against my chest, holding me back.

He smiled and I’m happy to report there was nothing mocking or disdainful in it. “Dude,” he whispered. “You know better.”

And just like that, my dreams shattered, dropping on the floor in tinkling shards of regret.

I moved away from him, putting a few feet between us. I hung my head. “I’m so embarrassed. And ashamed,” I managed to get out.

He moved close to me and he laid a hand on my shoulder. “Look at me,” he said.

I did.

“I love you, man. I always have. As much I love anyone. You’re more than my best friend, you’re family. You know that, right?”

I nodded, feeling tears well up in my eyes.

He touched them away with his thumbs. “Now, I don’t want you to feel weird about what just happened. We were both a little drunk and we can always say it was the Scotch talkin’, but I want you to know I’m flattered. Hey, the fact that anyone finds a big lug like me, who farts constantly, attractive is a bonus in my book.”

We both laughed. Me, reluctantly at first, and then the giggles took over. I fell onto Kevin and soon, we were both short of breath, holding each other. He kissed the top of my head. “You’re my man. Always.”

The next day we said nothing about what had happened.

And now, well, you know the rest of the story. He’s up there, saying his vows to Alana.

And I’m happy for him.

Really I am.

But I can’t look at them. Not right now. It hurts too much. I turn away and let my gaze light on the crowd.

And that’s when I see him. And I’m not imagining it—he’s looking right at me. And when out gazes connect, he smiles.

I smile back and then glance down at the floor, a little embarrassed.

The priest is presenting the new married couple to the crowd. I join in the cheers and the applause.

And I turn to follow Kevin and Alana, the new husband and wife, in their processional out of the church.

He looks at me again as I pass his pew. He’s tall, with dark brown hair, almost black, and eyes so dark the pupils get lost in the irises. He has full lips that shift my mind into naughty mode. His five o’clock shadow gives me a visual cue to how it would feel against my face. His suit, dark blue, hangs perfectly on his lanky, yet broad-shouldered frame.

Our eyes connect in that way only two gay men can have (or two lesbians or a man and a woman who are hot for the other). The milliseconds pass and they cement us together. It’s just a bit longer than two strangers would glance at one another. It acknowledges interest, attraction—potential.

Outside the church, the drizzle that had come down earlier has been pushed away by a brilliant sun. Everything sparkles. There’s laughter, the chatter of a hundred happy voices, raised in celebration and excitement.

Someone taps me on the shoulder. I turn and it’s Alana. She’s beaming at me and her blue eyes project love. She hugs me and I feel just horrible for the thoughts I had about her new husband during their wedding. But hey, they were honest. At least I can say that.

She kisses my cheek and whispers in my ear, “I’m so glad you’re here. You really are Kevin’s best man.”

I have no words. I just pull her close to me.

At last, we pull away. There are too many others waiting to kiss this blushing bride. I step back, thinking to move away, when her hand on my arm stops me. “Hold on, there’s someone I want you to meet.”

She steps aside and it’s him. We grin at each other as though we share a secret.

“This is Ryan, my very best friend from college. He’s out here from Boston, but he’s thinking of moving to Seattle in the fall. He’s interviewing with Amazon.” She pulls me close and whispers in my ear once more, “And he’s dying to meet you.”

I reach my hand out and we touch. And it’s electric. There’s something about a wedding—all that concentrated hope and happiness. It makes me gleeful for the future.

“Ryan. I’m so happy to meet you.”

He winks. “Likewise.”

______________________

Rick R. Reed is all about exploring the romantic entanglements of gay men in contemporary, realistic settings. While his stories often contain elements of suspense, mystery and the paranormal, his focus ultimately returns to the power of love. He is the author of dozens of published novels, novellas, and short stories. He is a three-time EPIC eBook Award winner (for Caregiver, Orientation and The Blue Moon Cafe). He is also a Rainbow Award Winner for both Caregiver and Raining Men. Lambda Literary Review has called him, “a writer that doesn’t disappoint.” Rick lives in Seattle with his husband and a very spoiled Boston terrier. He is forever “at work on another novel.”

Rick’s latest novel is Dinner at Fiorello’s.

The stress of moving…. MOMENT OF CLARITY release party (post 3)

May 6, 2015

 

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The Moments In Time series features a couple in their early 20s and in the course of the three books one of the things they had to do several times was move—from their dorm to their summer residence on Fire Island, from Fire Island to one of the character’s brother’s house because their dorm room wasn’t ready, from the brother’s house to the dorm, from the dorm to an apartment. It’s been many years since my college days and until I wrote this book I’d forgotten how many times I moved house in my late teens and early 20s.

Moving is stressful. Putting your whole life in boxes. Remembering what you packed where. Physically packing, moving and unpacking. Waking up those first few nights exhausted and not entirely sure where you are. I don’t miss that! I’ve lived in my current house in New Hampshire for over a decade and that’s the longest I’ve ever lived anywhere. I don’t miss moving at all!

Now the closest I get to having to pack up a zillion belongings is conference time. Right now I’m packing to attend the RT Convention in Dallas next week. (If any of you are going, please find me and say hello—I love meeting readers in person!)

In addition to the stress that moving puts on Collin and Tanner, several of the places they live in the beginning of MOMENT OF CLARITY are not places where they have any privacy. Collin’s brother has three young children, the friend they crash with has a roommate who’s up till all hours partying—they are both longing for time alone together.

Here’s an excerpt from the time that they’re living with Collin’s brother…

Between classes, my work at Gino’s, Tanner’s shifts at the bookstore, and commuting back and forth to Sean’s house, Tanner and I were busier than we’d ever been. I always knew it was more convenient to live on campus, but I had no idea what a hassle it was to make the added drive daily. By the time we got to Sean’s, had dinner, spent time with the girls, and did some studying, we were exhausted.

I hadn’t touched Tanner for yet another week, and I didn’t think I’d last the day without changing that. Tanner must have felt the same. I’d seen the looks he’d been throwing me, particularly the night before while we were watching a movie together, but I wasn’t about to do anything with Sean and the kids in the house. I didn’t care that the doors locked. It didn’t feel right. And I didn’t trust either of us to be quiet enough. Especially since it had been so long.

Sean handed me the last dirty dish to load into the dishwasher while Tanner put the juice and milk in the fridge.

“I’m gonna run to the grocery store while the kids are at preschool. Any requests?” Sean asked, grabbing his wallet off the counter and shoving it in his pocket.

“If you get a can of crushed tomatoes and some spaghetti, I’ll cook.”

“Thanks. The kids loved that the other night. Anything else?”

I tried to think but couldn’t. All that registered in my brain was that Sean was going out. Tanner and I would be alone in the house. My entire body was totally onboard with this thought.

“I think that’ll do it. Tanner, you need anything?”

Tanner looked up from wiping off the kitchen tables. His pupils were huge. I knew that look. I loved that look. He was thinking the same thing I was. I twitched with anticipation.

“I’m good,” Tanner said, tossing the rag on the counter.

“Okay, then.” Sean headed for the door. “It’s my turn to drive carpool home, so I’ll probably take the kids to Mickey D’s for happy meals. Lock up if you both leave, okay?”

“Sure.” My heart raced as I watched Sean trot down the back porch steps. I held my breath, listening as the car door slammed, the engine revved, and the tires crunched down the gravel driveway.

I turned to look at Tanner, but before I could even focus my eyes, he was on me. Hands on either side of my face, body pressed up against mine, lips prying mine open, tongue—oh, God, I’d missed that tongue—swirling in circles with mine.

Groaning, I grabbed him and tugged him closer. I needed to feel as much of him as possible. All of him. Immediately, if not sooner.

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For another chance to win an ebook from me, tell me how many times you’ve moved in your life or the longest you’ve lived in any one place. I’ll announce winners in the comment section of each post at midnight tonight (EDT).

The Connection Between Food & Love with Rick R. Reed

May 1, 2015

Food & Love

 

Whenever I read a book and the author mentions that the characters are having a meal (or even a snack), I always, always, always want to know what they’re having. If the author just tells me that the characters just had dinner and gives no details, I’m disappointed. “But what did they eat?” I whine, before flinging the book at the wall.

So when I write a story, I never leave out that important detail. Why? Because what we eat matters. Eating and loving are probably two of the most significant, life-affirming, and joyous activities we can engage in as human beings.

So why on earth wouldn’t you want to know what our couple-about-to-fall-in-love had to eat on their first date?

In my latest, Dinner at Fiorello’s, it’s all about passion—whether that passion is for cooking, for eating, or for someone else, it’s the kind of universal stuff we can all identify with. In the book, I meld my main character, Henry’s, passion for food with him falling in love for the first time.

Through the lens of food and wanting to do something meaningful with his life, he discovers his first real, true love—Vito, the quiet chef with a secret who works at Fiorello’s. Henry aspires to being a chef just like Vito, yet he also comes to fall in love with him. But while he’s falling in love with Vito’s technique in the kitchen and the magical food he makes, Henry is also falling in love with the man. They’re inextricably linked.

There’s a certain alchemy that goes on when one makes good food. It becomes more than the sum of its parts. The same is true of two people in love. That’s what I tried to bring together in my new book. I hope that, just like when you take a bite of something delicious and you sigh and have the instinctive reaction of joy, you’ll have the same experience when you read about Henry and Vito’s torturous but ultimately rewarding path to love. Because, whether you’re cooking or falling in love (or even writing a book), to do it well, you have to do it with your heart.

In closing, I’d like to share with you a little taste from Dinner at Fiorello’s, this taken from when Henry interviews for his job working in the kitchen of Fiorello’s. You can see even at the tender age of eighteen, Henry Appleby understands what makes food—and love—good (here he talks about his family’s housekeeper and cook, Maxine):

“Well, she sees it as more than a means to an end, which is why I love her so much. She sees food as something that isn’t just about filling your belly, but filling your heart. She didn’t just feed me growing up, she nurtured me. She showed me that making food for someone can be a way of showing them you love them.” He looked at Rosalie, trying to make sure she was taking in, understanding what he was saying. “When I understood that, I knew that food can actually be a very powerful thing. I don’t know if I knew it right away on a conscious level, but I knew it. When I was about ten, I began asking her if I could help her make meals. My parents didn’t know what had gotten into me. My father said that I shouldn’t be helping her, because that’s what he paid her for. But I wanted to learn what she did to make her food not only good, but good for the soul.”

 

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BLURB

Henry Appleby has an appetite for life. As a recent high school graduate and the son of a wealthy family in one of Chicago’s affluent North Shore suburbs, his life is laid out for him. Unfortunately, though, he’s being forced to follow in the footsteps of his successful attorney father instead of living his dream of being a chef. When an opportunity comes his way to work in a real kitchen the summer after graduation, at a little Italian joint called Fiorello’s, Henry jumps at the chance, putting his future in jeopardy.

Years ago, life was a plentiful buffet for Vito Carelli. But a tragic turn of events now keeps the young chef at Fiorello’s quiet and secretive, preferring to let his amazing Italian peasant cuisine do his talking. When the two cooks meet over an open flame, sparks fly. Both need a taste of something more—something real, something true—to separate the good from the bad and find the love—and the hope—that just might be their salvation.

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GIVEAWAY!

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Share your most romantic meal, either eating or being served, in the comments below for a chance to win an ebook copy of my other romance that revolves around food, Dinner at Home!

 

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BIO

Rick R. Reed is all about exploring the romantic entanglements of gay men in contemporary, realistic settings. While his stories often contain elements of suspense, mystery and the paranormal, his focus ultimately returns to the power of love. He is the author of dozens of published novels, novellas, and short stories. He is a three-time EPIC eBook Award winner (for Caregiver, Orientation and The Blue Moon Cafe). Raining Men and Caregiver have both won the Rainbow Award for gay fiction. Lambda Literary Review has called him, “a writer that doesn’t disappoint.” Rick lives in Seattle with his husband and a very spoiled Boston terrier. He is forever “at work on another novel.”

Web: http://www.rickrreed.com 

Blog: http://rickrreedreality.blogspot.com/

Facebook: www.facebook.com/rickrreedbooks

Twitter: www.twitter.com/rickrreed

E-mail: jimmyfels@gmail.com

 

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BUY LINKS

Dreamspinner ebook: http://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/store/product_info.php?products_id=6333

Dreamspinner paperback: http://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/store/product_info.php?products_id=6334

Amazon (to come)

AllRomance Ebooks (to come)

 

 

A Midsummer Dream – Excerpt 2 Adult

April 22, 2015

A spicy taste!

Then he felt it. Donovan’s hand slowly slid up his thigh to his waist. Donovan rose above him. He could hear the audience murmuring as he was slowly stripped before their very eyes. He could hear Jasmine with her pretend moans,

and Henry with his loud growls as the two mimicked sex. Yet his attention was focused on the hands roaming over his naked flesh.

As Donovan kissed his way down Arik’s chest, Arik arched in pleasure. His moan was real. He couldn’t have stopped it, even though he’d wanted to. Arik didn’t want Donovan to know how much his touch affected him. Yet there

was no hiding his reaction. Then he was being rolled onto his stomach. He closed his eyes as Donovan covered him. The upper halves of their bodies were clear of the bower foliage. They rocked together, mimicking an act they had done one incredible night. Arik couldn’t stop himself from wishing Donovan would actually slide inside him. He couldn’t help but want Donovan to take him to that place again.

“Why does this seem so familiar?” Donovan whispered quietly in Arik’s ear as he rocked against him in a feigned dance of love.

“We’ve only been rehearsing it for weeks,” Arik panted as he dropped his head to his forearms.

“Then why do I know exactly what you’d feel like if I took you right now?” he demanded. “How do I know that if I bite you right here, you’ll scream with pleasure?”

 

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A Midsummer Dream – Excerpt

April 22, 2015

Here’s a little snippet for you!

“Don’t you give a shit about anyone but yourself?” Donovan asked. “Or is it all about Arik?”

“You’ve hit the nail on the head.” Arik’s voice had a chill to it as he turned, his long braid smacking Donovan in the chest with how close they were to each other. “It’s all about me. I don’t care about anyone else. If their performance is suffering, that’s not my responsibility. It’s theirs.”

“Why are you always such an ass?”

“I like it. Now if you don’t mind, I have work to do, and you’re preventing me from doing it. If you’re going to buy something, then do so. Otherwise, there’s no loitering allowed.”

“How someone as cold as you manages to play your roles with such heat is beyond me,” Donovan said quietly. “You have no heart.”

“That would be why they call it acting,” Arik said as he turned away and put a book on the shelf.

 

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When Opposites Attract… with Nancy M. Griffis

April 20, 2015

Nancy Griffis

Hello Hello! I’m Nancy M. Griffis and my novel, A Most Unusual Wedding, is out today! I’m very excited to be here talking about my latest release with all of you!

Wedding stems from a short story that was published in a charity anthology a few years ago. It centers around Lord Leo Harris and Master Leathersmith Gerald Smithson and their (if I may say so) adorable love story in an alternate Victorian London where magic, aka power, runs rife through the population. Most things in the book echo the real London of the time but to two major things: the power and same-sex pairings being nothing unusual. If you’ve read A Most Unusual Courtship (the prequel, available FREE at Dreamspinner), then you know why, but if not, back in Greek times, same-sex unions were blessed by the Gods and the world simply never went back on that.

Leo, god love him, is as fine a dandy as you’d ever want to know, and shows it in his extremely colorful wardrobe and rakish sense of humor. But he also has that steel of spine that comes from having gotten everything he’d ever needed. He’s a lord, he’s heir to the family fortune and political power, a middle child of three, and has great powers within himself. He could have turned out an absolute horror, but for a good heart, a lovely family, and incredibly inquisitive mind.

Gerald, on the other hand, is a quiet, sweet man who is as steadfast as the day is long in summer. He’s an only child raised by his grandfather, Daniel, after his parents were killed in a terrorist bombing when he was ten. He’s been significantly hurt by mages in his past and so distrusts them all and refuses to do business with any. The lone exception to this is his best mate, Harry Bickley, who’s away most of the time at sea in Her Majesty’s Navy.

I have a wee excerpt below from Courtship that shows the moment Leo and Gerald meet that I think you’ll enjoy.

A friend asked me how in the hell I came up with the idea for Wedding which cracked me up. It wasn’t that I so much came up with it that Leo started yammering in my ear about getting married. Incessantly. Right while I was in the middle of another project. And because he’s such a brat, he got what he wanted when I put down the other novel and started outlining Wedding. Why yes, all writers are crazy to a certain extent, if you didn’t already know that. ;o) Of course, it couldn’t just be about getting married - that would be far too sweet for one of my books – so I did come up with the plague to slow things down a bit and then, well, someone besides Leo was utterly taken with Gerald (he really is the sweetest man) and things kind of went downhill from there for the poor boys.

***

So here are a couple of questions for you readers out there…

What’s your favorite time period for a magic-based novel? Or for any novel, really. This is my first historical novel and the research was both intimidating and fascinating. I believe I’ve come down with the itch to do more novels in other time periods (not related to Leo & Gerald) but I’m curious if there’s a common zeitgeist time period.

When you read books with magic in them, do you prefer fully spoken spells, spells in other/made up languages, or does it not matter? I posted this question to my flist while writing and am wondering if the world at large echoes their responses. :o

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Alrighty! I’m going to head out now that I’ve taken up your precious time. I truly hope you enjoy Courtship and Wedding, because I just adore my guys and want everyone to love them. Oh! And in case you’re wondering, I’m hard at work on the sequel, A Most Unusual Honeymoon, (A murder mystery for the guys! wheeee!) and hoping to finish soon so as not to keep you all waiting too long.

Thanks for stopping by! This is Nancy, signing off.

 

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LEATHER ALWAYS felt and smelled like home. From the time Gerald was a small boy leaning against his father’s knee, he’d been surrounded by the crafting of it. Instead of learning his letters, he’d learned good cuts from bad. Instead of playing with boys outside in the busy London streets, he’d stayed inside and watched every cut his father had chiseled or sliced into. His education had eventually included basic reading and maths, but originally consisted of tanning and cutting and creating works of art from all forms of leather.

All his childhood memories encompassed leather in some form, but the most bittersweet had been witnessing his parents don butter-soft leather cuffs on their tenth anniversary. Gerald had peeked through the stairway rails as firelight cast a golden warmth over the room and his parents kissed gently, the cuffs shining and soft on each right wrist.

His childhood had come to a horrible end two days later when his parents had been caught in the blast of a terror attack on Her Majesty’s Theatre.

“Gerald! You done yet, lad?”

Gerald snapped out of the sad thoughts that were just as heartbreaking sixteen years later. He set down the anniversary cuffs he’d been working on and looked up. His grandfather was still strong enough at eighty-three to bellow from the third story of their London home, as annoying as the habit was. “Almost, Granddad! Be up in a few minutes!”

The shop door opened, jingling the bell above it, and in walked a dandy if ever Gerald had seen one. He had the strong features and perfectly straight teeth that were hallmarks of the gentry. He was handsome, no doubt, with lively blue-gray eyes. The fine cotton trousers, satiny shirt, perfectly creased morning coat, and elegant leather boots certainly completed the portrait of a gentleman. The cluster of red and black plumage on the man’s hat made Gerald want to roll his eyes at the puffery.

Before the man could do more than doff his hat to reveal honey-colored hair and smile in greeting, Gerald said flatly, “I serve no mages in this shop, my lord.”

The man paused, head canting aside as he asked, “How do you know I’m a mage?”

“The door was locked.”

“I see. Well, you don’t even know what I’m going to ask of you.”

“I need not know, my lord, to know that I do not serve your kind.”

“My kind?”

“Arrogant mages with no sense of obligation to pay for what they order.”

“I see.” A smile hovered again over the man’s mouth, and then he said, “So if I were to pay you ahead for the work, would that change your mind?”

“It would not.”

“Not even a little?”

The teasing tone prompted Gerald to frown. “My lord, there are many excellent leathersmiths in London.”

The lord walked closer and spun his hat between his palms. “Ah, but you are the best; everyone says so. I need the best.”

Gerald stood to his considerable height. As expected—like most men—the lord came to Gerald’s shoulders. Those blue eyes widened in surprise as the man craned his neck to look up and meet his gaze. Gerald said firmly, “I serve whom I wish, and those of power do not number among them. Good day, my lord.”

The man’s mouth twisted into a moue of disappointment, and he heaved an overly dramatic sigh. “Well. If you’re going to be petty about it and tar everyone with the same brush, then I’ve no choice but to go elsewhere. At least for now.”

Gerald didn’t reply, instead choosing to sit back down and wait for the man to leave. The man again twirled the hat between his palms and then set it atop his head before leaving. Mayhap it was painting all mages alike, but he’d dealt enough with them in the past to maintain his present loathing.

Untrustworthy sods, all of them.

As soon as the mage closed the door behind him, Gerald stood and walked over to lock the door again, then tugged on it to be certain. He returned to his work counter, packed away the anniversary cuffs, and swiftly tidied up the small shop before jogging upstairs to his grandfather’s apartment on the third floor. He reached the door just as it opened, and he intercepted his grandfather before he could descend a single step. If Daniel walked down three flights of stairs, Gerald might end up carting him back up, depending on Daniel’s mood.

Green eyes twinkled up at him and his grandfather said, “It’s about time you came up, you great lout! Where’s me tea?”

Gerald chuckled, then said, “Where it always is, Granddad, waiting to be made in your kitchen. Settle yourself down on the sofa, and I’ll get it started for you.”

Daniel Smithson hadn’t reached his great age without knowing how to take advantage of any kind of situation. That didn’t preclude him from being an excellent grandfather; it just made Gerald’s life a bit livelier. As the old man had taken him in at the tender age of ten without a single complaint, though, Gerald was more than happy to put up with his machinations.

“Saw a pretty thing leaving the shop just now.”

Except for his matchmaking ones, Gerald thought with a sigh. “He’s a lord and a mage, Granddad. I sent him packing.”

Daniel settled down onto the comfortable sofa with a groan and wagged a finger at him. “You’re too fussy by half, my lad. If a lord like that were t’pay me that sort of attention in my day, I’d have lapped at his silver spoon. I’m not getting any younger, Gerald. You’ll need lookin’ after, once I’m gone, no matter your independent ways. It’s not right, livin’ alone all yer life.”

Gerald set the kettle on to boil, slid the half-eaten meat pie into the oven, and turned the dial to warming. So convenient, these new ovens. A small bit of magic spelled to the item itself—no mages necessary—and baking was no longer a hazardous thing where Gerald could accidentally set the kitchen afire. “I need no looking after, Granddad. And besides which, you’ll outlive us all.”

Daniel cackled a bit. “There is that, my lad, there is that.”

 

***

Nancy M. Griffis: http://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/AuthorArcade/nancy-m-griffis

Buy A Most Unusual Wedding here!

Threefold Love-Curtis Landry

April 18, 2015

For anyone who wonders what was going through Curtis’s mind that first night-if any of you have burned through the book yet…

Curtis Landry

Last night, they were awful. Just fucking loud, and I can tell you, listening to my older brother have sex with his boyfriends? Not my favorite past time. Boyfriends. Plural. How does that even happen? I cheat once, okay, repeatedly, but I really have a problem saying no, and I get dumped. How’s that fair?…twice. Dumped twice. Because I was seeing two people.  At least one of them knew about the other. That counts for something, right?

Okay, maybe I liked listening a little. I’m pretty sure I heard Xavier at one point, this sound that crawled inside my stomach and just set everything throbbing in my groin. Maybe…maybe I pretended my brother wasn’t in there and…OH, fuck, this is so embarrassing. I’m not gross or anything, but Xavier’s…candy. He’s eye candy.

Whatever. Who cares? It’s not like anyone else really knows what I did. I could have been working it to anything. But they were so fucking loud and I could hear Duncan. I mean, I just know it was him. There’s no way it was anyone else.

There was moaning in the hallway. Moaning. And I’m not supposed to get, um…interested?

I couldn’t sleep the rest of the night. Not well, anyway. I kept wondering what it was like to have two people who actually…care. That’s…just unbelievable. I’m not jealous, okay? I just don’t understand why Andrew gets to do anything he wants. Everything he wants. And no one’s mad at him. No one tells him they never want to see him again, take his shit and get out. Mom doesn’t freak out on him the way she does me. Oh, no, he just gets to bang two dudes who think he’s the shit. And I just get screwed.

It’s not fair. Life is so unfair.

I’m not jealous.

 

 

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Threefold Love-Excerpt 2

April 18, 2015

Hi! I thought everyone might want another small peek into the book.

ThreefoldLove_headerbanner

Andrew Landry

I don’t know why I was so nervous about Duncan meeting Xavier. I mean, I know why I was, but Duncan seems to like him a lot. Hell, he seems to like him better than half our friends from our pagan group, and we’ve been friends with those people for years. And we promised Ger and Linda we’d help them move tomorrow. Ugh. Damn it. I probably shouldn’t actually drink too much tonight.

 

“So, Duke, what do you think?” I ask, sliding my arms around my boyfriend. He’s warm and fits comfortably in my arms. I can bitch all I want that he won’t go running with me, but I love the way he feels when I’m pressed against his back. He’s the perfect height to be the inside spoon. He’s busy mixing something in a bowl already. I have no idea how he gets things together so fast.

 

“He’s great! He seems a bit off, but most of the best people are. I vote yes for new friend.” He looks over his shoulder at me before going back to what he was doing.

 

“Yeah.” I kiss his neck and run my lips along his cheek. He’s so warm and comfortable. Having him in my arms is always grounding for me. I give him an extrahard squeeze and realize we haven’t actually had any sexy alone time together all week.

 

“And he’s easy on the eyes too,” he says on a laugh, moving out of my arms to the fridge for something.

 

“I know.” I stand there peeking into the bowl and it looks like gloop to me. If I didn’t know to have absolute faith in his abilities, I would be worried. I look up and he’s watching me. I can see the speculation there. My gut twists with guilt. Glasses. Wine. I came in here for booze. I move to the red wine on the counter and meticulously peel the foil away from the cork. I screw the simple pull corkscrew in and hold my breath.

 

“He reminds me a bit of you, actually. I think you guys could be really close,” Duncan says quietly while I struggle with the cork. The merlot hates me, I decide, giving the cork one more vicious yank. It pops and I spill some on the counter.

 

“Damn it. Yeah, me too,” I reply quickly, trying to mop up the wine and keep it from running onto the floor.

 

“We need more people like that in our life.” He’s quiet and serious. I turn to look at him, but he’s busy and I have wine dripping down my hand off the sopping-wet dish towel. I dash to the sink and rinse the cloth out.

 

“Yeah. I thought so too.” I pour three glasses and leave one next to Duncan on the counter near his work. He proceeds to douse the counter with flour and a white cloud puffs up around him. I back away and pick up the other two glasses.

 

“I’ll yell when I want some help. I’m going to get everything working first. You two do the salad?” He doesn’t stop to look at me, kneading dough and doing his version of dancing along to the radio. It mostly involves moving his shoulders around to the beat.

 

“Okay.” I nod even though he can’t see me.

 

“Give me a few minutes. Go chat. Maybe we can watch a movie after dinner?”

 

“I’ll ask him what he thinks about that. I love you.” I hesitate. My guilt is demanding that I should go back and kiss and grovel for even eyeing up the demigod in our living room, and more importantly, having the audacity to bring him here to eat Duncan’s food.

 

“I know. I love you too,” he answers with a smile. I’m almost into the dining room when he calls my name.

“Andy?”

 

“Yeah?” I answer and move back to stand near him. He tosses the dough out onto the floured counter and begins to divide it up into smaller portions.

 

“I’m not going to be angry about it, just so you know.” I hold my breath and he stares through me in that annoying way he’s been able to pull off since we first met.

 

“About what?” Should I play dumb and hope for the best? What does he think he knows?

He doesn’t answer, just keeps giving me “the look” and a half smile.

 

“I don’t know what you’re….” I fumble my words and can’t get my tongue to work properly.

 

“I love you, and that isn’t changing.” He stops looking at me and goes back to his work, hands moving almost in a blur as he massages the dough out into a long length. My eyes are stuck for a moment, but my feet know enough to back away toward the living room.

 

“I’m not… I haven’t… I wouldn’t….” But I want to. I wouldn’t, but I want to. I swallow. Are we about to have a huge fight? We don’t have them often, but I don’t want one now.

How close am I to fucking up the only relationship I’ve ever wanted? Before now.

———————————————————————————————————-

 

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Threefold Love-Exceprt 1

April 18, 2015

I thought everyone might be interested in an excerpt!

ThreefoldLove_headerbanner

***

Xavier Hobbs

“Didn’t mean to startle you.” Andrew smirks and takes a sip from whatever he’s ordered. “I’ve never seen you here before.” His glasses catch the overhead lighting, hiding his eyes, so they just look an ordinary brown again with stars dazzling at me. I know better, though. I have trouble making my brain work for a few seconds while he looks at me intently. Jesus H. Christ, I want to crawl across the table and devour him, inch by inch. It’s been too damned long for me and he’s perfection.

 

“I had the urge to bounce off the walls for a few hours.” My mouth works again and I pick up my mug to take a sip. It is cold now, but I don’t mind. I’ve drunk worse.

 

“Might hurt. The brick in here is rough,” he deadpans, eyeing the walls.

 

“Mmm… brick burn might be hard to take care of. Much worse than rug burn,” I agree. He makes a face.

 

“Yeah, rug burn is definitely bad enough. The last time I had it on my back, I couldn’t reach it by myself to put a bandage on it, and I sweat when I go running and then it would sting and burn, and I’m just going to pretend I didn’t say that to you,” he finishes into his coffee cup. While I watch the blush rise and fade on his face, my brain is 100 percent happy to supply several ways my fair friend could have gotten rug burn on his back. Silence seems like it would be the better part of valor here, so I dutifully ignore his embarrassment and use a napkin to hold my place in my book.

 

“So, how often do you find yourself here?”

 

“Only every day, except Sundays. I need the caffeine.” His lips twitch upward into a smile for a moment before they touch his mug again. As far as lips go, they are nice to look at. They’re a natural pink, not exactly full, but plenty enticing as he licks a bit of whipped cream off them.

 

“Why… why not on Sundays?” I ask, clearing my throat, looking down at my own mostly empty mug.

 

“For some reason I’m always busy on Sundays. I have trouble telling people no, so I end up doing stuff with my… religious group or helping someone move or raising money for something or other…. It never ends.” He chuffs out a small laugh. “During the school year between that and grading, I feel like I don’t have much of a life.” He shrugs.

 

“You and I seem to have opposite problems.” I lean back, getting as comfortable as I can on the metal chair.

 

“What do you mean?”

 

“I’m so new to town that I don’t have any commitments whatsoever. My days are wide open, more or less, after work, and especially the weekends.” I can feel my friendly smile trying to slip into something cynical, but I try to keep it where it is.

 

“In that case, there’s a dart tournament at One-Eyed Pete’s tomorrow night. I was going to go. Want to come?” He sits there looking interested and excited and sincere and I flounder. “Date!” my brain screams, but I try to ignore it. This is most likely just friendly. The chances of him being interested in me the way I am interested in him are slim to none, but I’ll never find out if I don’t spend time with him, and I won’t know if I don’t try. He has been flirting with me, sort of, and if nothing else, I will have a new friend or two from the adventure. He takes another drink from his mug and licks his lips again. My erection swells in my jeans as lust slams me in the stomach.

 

God, I’d love to take him home and strip him down and….

 

“Sounds like a plan.” I nod at him and he beams back, happy as I’ve ever seen anyone.

——————————————————————————————-

I hope you enjoyed your first peek into the book!

Anyone ever have that awkward “is this or isn’t this a date” moment?

 

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Series plan and another excerpt!

March 27, 2015

Find “The Serpent and the Angel” here! http://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/store/product_info.php?products_id=6201

 

Remember, while this might be Book 8 of my series, it is also book 2 of my Part 2 of the series. I have 5 parts planned and while the entire series should be seen as a cohesive whole, to make my life easier, I split the books into parts to make sure I stayed on track and told the story that needed to be told.

 

It’s certainly a struggle to balance the romance with furthering the overall plot, but I welcome the challenge. I feel that with every book I grow stronger in my writing skills (and research skills), and I really enjoying seeing my series unfold and reveal itself. Every single book offers me at least one surprising moment.

 

That is the struggle with these later books since the dominoes need to start falling as the series unfolds. Part one (Psychic Moon through Master’s Blood) was more of the introduction to my universe, and the characters and the groups I will be dealing with for the rest of the series. Now the rest of the parts will be focused on the various romances (of course) but also the workings of the villain Arcas and his allies. But the core of the series is still love and how each couple tries to save the day and prevent Arcas from reaching his goals.

 

Another excerpt!

 

 

The snake slowly slid out of the small hole it had been coiled in. Flicking its tongue, sensing no danger, it slithered and scraped over rocks and boulders, easily finding a path out of the rubble. It was hungry, but it didn’t smell any prey, which caused it to focus on finding an exit out of the tunnel. For some reason it didn’t want to hide and wait for prey, it wanted to find open air. Always going with instinct, the snake never questioned or doubted its senses. The long serpent easily made its way down the open tunnel, seeming to glide over the uneven ground and disjointed tracks. It wound around the mine carts, past the fallen pickaxes, constantly flicking its tongue.

It began to feel cool air over its scales and hesitated. Slithering to the side of the tunnel, the snake eyed the opening, flicking its tongue, again sensing no danger. It moved slower now, wary of the open air, the lack of protection. But something inside it urged it out, into the open; something seemed to push it forward. Keeping close to the side of the tunnel, it peeked out of the opening, into the dark. The moon was high, the stars shining, but the snake paid it no mind. All it saw was the wide expanse of land, and all it thought about was food and shelter.

But even as it was about to move across the darkened land, it sensed movement just outside the tunnel. Coiling into itself, the snake lifted its tail and lowered its face. Sound followed the movement, and the cause of that sound formed a shadow across the land. The snake flicked its tongue out, tasting the air, oddly familiar with the scent upon it. It wasn’t prey. It wasn’t predator. What was it?

A creature walked into sight. Again, there was an odd sense of familiarity. The known scent grew stronger as the creature seemed to notice the snake. The snake coiled tighter, muscles trembling. Its rattle shook louder.

“Never seen a rattlesnake as big as you before,” the creature said.

The snake didn’t understand. But Tobias did. It felt as though he surged upward, as if he was rising out of water toward the surface, straining for air. He saw through his snake’s eyes, smelled Angel’s scent. The snake fought, of course it fought, but Tobias knew he’d win. The snake wasn’t stronger than he was. It had never been stronger.

The snake shuddered as if in pain, and the rattle stopped moving.

Angel knelt in front of the snake, at a safe distance from a potential strike. Tobias stared into Angel’s face, using it as an anchor. He knew that face. He liked that face. When he’d changed, he’d been too scared, nearly panicked with the thought of death, that he hadn’t fully prepared himself mentally for the change. This caused his snake to take over fully, for him to lose who he was, his memories, his purpose, his personality. But now he fought, and he knew he would win. But he couldn’t allow Angel to see him change back. He couldn’t even allow himself to consider the outcome of that travesty.

Tobias took full control of his snake and struck out at Angel, never intending to bite, but trying to scare Angel away. Angel jerked back in shock with a yelp. Then Tobias turned and shot down the tunnel, into the dark. But even as he did, and as Angel’s scent faded, his snake began to fight back. Tobias held onto Angel’s face, his voice, his scent, and kept control. But he couldn’t hold the snake’s form as he kept remembering what it was like to be a human. He could only move past the first corner of the mine before the air shimmered. His skin rippled violently, and he fell to the ground, a human once more.

Gasping, shaking, Tobias’s skin flashed hot then cold. He was going to be ill; he knew he was, just like the first time. He curled into himself, his throat dry, his lungs heavy. He must have made enough noise to draw attention, because he suddenly heard someone running down the tunnel. It wasn’t long before Angel ran around the corner and skidded to a stop. They stared at each other for a long, humming moment before Angel dropped to his knees and yanked off his own coat, wrapping it around Tobias.

Then, to Tobias’s great shock, Angel pulled him into his arms and hugged him hard.

“Oh, thank the spirits. I knew it, I knew you had survived.” Angel’s voice was thick with tears as he rocked them both, his arms in an unbreakable hold.

Tobias didn’t know what to say. He still felt ill and was becoming more so by the minute. But right then, he closed his eyes and allowed himself to indulge for a moment. He took a deep breath, coughed, but still relished the scent of his deputy. Angel was so warm, the kind of warmth Tobias’s skin had never exuded. He curled into his deputy, remembering acutely the reunion with his parents so many years ago. It had been so different from this. He’d been slapped by his mother, yelled at by his father. His arm had been grabbed, and he’d been dragged to their carriage and berated the entire way home. There’d been no tears, no words of relief or joy.

He didn’t know what to make of Angel’s obvious affection or how to handle it.

Angel suddenly pulled back, and their eyes met again. Tobias’s eyes had adjusted to the darkness, and he could see his deputy’s face well enough to see something in his eyes that sent a spike of fear down Tobias’s spine.

“It was you,” Angel whispered. “You were the rattlesnake.”

 

 

Want to learn more? My website is here: www.mdgrimmwrites.com

 

Do you like long series (20+ books) or would you rather a short one (under 10?) or do you prefer trilogies?

 

-M.D. Grimm