Excerpt 3, Walking Wounded

May 23, 2015

Of course life is never as easy as we’d like. The guys are just settling into their new place together when Keven gets a call from his old CO. The renegade mercenary who killed two of his men has apparently set off on a vendetta against everyone who got him fired. He’s already eliminated the commander who scapegoated Kevin, and another man… and Kevin is likely next on the list. And the SAS doesn’t know anything about the killer’s whereabouts–except that he is somewhere in England.

* * * *

“What’s going on?” Johnny asked. “You’re not leaving again.” It wasn’t a question.

“I can’t talk about it yet. Not here. Let’s go for a ride, Johnny.” He dug out his car keys and tossed them over. “You drive.”

He knew it was most likely his imagination that made a spot between his shoulder blades itch when they went out onto the street. And he knew he looked like a fool when he raised the bonnet, and even more so when he got down to check beneath the car before taking the keys and starting it himself. That didn’t matter. He wasn’t about to take chances with Johnny’s life. He left the keys in the ignition and climbed into the passenger side.

“Kev, where are we going?” John asked, once they were clear of the car park and rolling down the road. “What the hell is going on?”

“I need to get out of the house for a little while. Let’s go grocery shopping.” That wasn’t just a way of killing time either, come to think of it. If this was going to turn into a siege, now was the time to lay in provisions.

“What?”

“Bear with me, please.” Kevin put a hand on Johnny’s thigh, felt the tension in his body. It wasn’t fair to throw him into this. “I’ll explain everything, I promise.”

John put his hand over Kevin’s. “All right. Mind if I switch on the radio?”

“No, go ahead.” They drove another ten minutes to the sprightly but incongruous melodies of a Strauss waltz festival while Kevin checked the number now programmed into his mobile phone, noted it on a page of his pocket notebook, then pulled the back of the phone off and disconnected the battery. While he had the notebook out, he started a grocery list.

Halfway through “The Blue Danube,” John turned into the car park at Tesco’s and stopped the car at the edge of the lot, far away from the building. “All right, now can you—”

Kevin put a finger to his lips and got out of the car. John followed, frowning. When they were a few yards away from the vehicle, Kevin stopped. “Johnny, I’m sorry. I couldn’t be sure the car isn’t bugged.”

“Never mind apologizing, I can see it’s not your idea. Just tell me what’s going on.”

Kevin outlined the situation, with a few heartfelt expletives thrown in for good measure. “And they’ve taken it upon themselves to add an emergency number to my phone.” He tore out the page and gave it to John. “Keep this. If anything happens to me, or if we get separated and you see anything suspicious, call that number.”

John tucked the page in his pocket. “What did you do to your mobile?”

“I took the battery out. That shuts off the fucking GPS and keeps them from eavesdropping on us.”

“What?”

“Think about it. Mobile phones bounce their signals off satellites—that’s how global positioning works, right?”

“Yes. Oh.” John’s eyes widened. “Damn! That’s right—remote location for emergencies. Last year some lost hikers were rescued because one of them had a mobile phone.”

“Right. Most people don’t realize that their handy little mobile can also be switched on remotely and used as a transmitter by anyone who’s got an override code. That means emergency services—and the military. The only way to make sure they can’t do it is to take out the battery. No power, no signal. You don’t have a cell, do you?”

“No, just the landline.”

“All right. One thing we’ll do here is buy one of those pay-as-you-go units and have it activated on-site. I can get around the registration codes so it won’t be traceable to us. We’ll use that to call Pat and Tess, then I’ll switch on this one to call my parents—no point in leaving the thing dead for too long. Now, if Shaney’s death was murder rather than just an accident, we know where our renegade merc was last night, so with any luck he won’t know anything about your connection to the ladies. The next thing….” He took a deep breath and tried to consider where they were most vulnerable.

It was so damned easy to slip back into the mindset of being at war with the whole world. Too easy. Kevin knew it was possible that they’d already been followed, that John and his circle of friends were already in danger—but even if there was more than one enemy hunting him, it only made sense for them to be working together, not scattering their forces.

“Johnny, the next thing I’d say is let’s leave the animals at the vet and see if Pat would be willing to pick them up and take them to my mother for safekeeping. I don’t believe my parents are in danger. The Colonel didn’t say anything about Shaney’s family being attacked, and my father has a pretty impressive security system on the house. He’ll see to it that the rest of the family is covered.”

John nodded. “Are you sure all that’s necessary?”

“No, I’m not. But—Johnny, we’re dealing with people who killed two of my men rather than wait ten minutes for an all clear. They’re the kind of bastards who’d shoot a stray dog, or even a stray kid, just because they had loaded guns and a moving target—so long as they wouldn’t be held responsible. There’s no telling who they might go after. What I probably ought to do is take you home and let the outfit set me up somewhere as bait.”

“No.” John closed the distance between them, moving so close Kevin could feel the warmth of his body. “You are not going off on your own to make a target of yourself.”

“I said that’s what I ought to do. But the problem is, if our side has found me, maybe the enemy has, too. It may already be too late.”

“So you’ll stay?”

“What would you do if I didn’t?”

He wasn’t prepared for the sheer pain that shattered Johnny’s face. Then John took a deep breath and got control of himself—obviously with an effort. He turned without another word and strode off toward the store’s entrance.

Kevin trotted to keep up. “Johnny!”

Another deep breath. “Look, Kev, I don’t mean to put pressure on you. I really don’t. But if you went off and got killed….” John stopped and turned to face Kevin, his eyes filled with tears. “I could only hope the fuckers would find me too, as soon as possible.”

The words felt like a punch. “John—”

“I’m sorry. That’s not rational, it’s not fair, it’s probably emotional blackmail, but—” Johnny threw up his hands helplessly. “You’ve got to understand something. When I had no choice, I made myself learn to survive—learn to keep myself together, make new connections, all the things they say make life worth living. But it’s all bullshit, Kev. What makes my life worth living is having you in it. In terms of being an emotionally healthy, self-sustaining, self-actualized human being, I’m a net loss.”

“Johnny—” Kevin was at a loss himself. He’d known John wouldn’t want him to go, but he hadn’t expected anything this heavy. “John, I’m not leaving, damn it!”

“You fucking should! I wouldn’t blame you if you did—I’m not exactly the man to have at your back. I wouldn’t even mind if you left me for somebody else—it would be the smartest thing you could do. I could handle that. But I can’t handle your going off to get killed because you think I need—”

“SHUT UP!”

“—protecting,” John finished, and stopped. He dragged a sleeve across his face, sniffed, and took a long, unsteady breath. “Damn. Sorry, love. PTSD crap. You have nightmares, I have these sodding waterworks.”

Kevin ached to hold him, but here in a car park, he just couldn’t. “Are you all right? To go in the store, I mean.”

“You’re not going to run off and get killed?”

“No, I won’t.” He hated to say it. Clearing out still felt like the one sure way he could protect Johnny, and that was more important than anything else. Well… more important than anything but keeping Johnny’s trust, and apparently he couldn’t do both. “I give you my word—whatever it is, we’ll see it through together.”

John put his hands on Kevin’s shoulders, his body relaxing. “Thank you. And I’m sorry, Kev. I am not trying to be a fucking drama queen.”

“I know.” Kevin slapped him on the arm. “It’s all right. You’d look like hell in sequins. Especially in Brighton, this time of year.”

“Brighton?”

“No, I’m just throwing out a name. But we might want to put some distance between us and Portsmouth—make ourselves moving targets so our team can see who follows when we move. My instinct is to get this bastard as far from our home as we possibly can. That is—” He stopped for a moment, distracted, as a car pulled in off the road. He kept an eye on it as he finished his sentence. “That is, if this is for real. People do die in traffic accidents, and national security types do tend to see enemies around every corner. The trouble is, some of the time they’re right.”

“How long do you think it’ll be before we find out for certain?”

That was the real question, wasn’t it? Never mind the unfairness of it—the fact that they would be living in fear because someone somewhere had neglected to arrest a war criminal, and that murderous bastard had decided to hold a grudge against one of his victims who had been so inconsiderate as to survive the initial attack. The real problem was that they were potential targets and would be until the renegade merc was caught.

If he was caught. If he was even out there at all.

“Kevin?”

“I don’t know, Johnny. There’s just no way to know.”

A bit of touristy background…

May 23, 2015

This is the sort of thing I imagined waking past-life memories for the boys — the old HMS Warrior. It was England’s first iron-hulled warship, and would have been the New Big Thing in naval vessels when Will Marshall and David Archer were very, very old men.

Portsmouth, HMS Warrior

And of course, there’s HMS Victory, Lord Nelson’s ship–built for a crew of 800 and bigger than a lot of buildings of the era:

HMS Victory, Portsmouth, England

Here’s a street in Portsmouth, the sort of building that Kevin and John wound up living in. Some of the older places look unchanged, from the outside, while some are obviously modernized:

Portsmouth on a wet day

And this is just a picture I enjoy. It’s the time of year when the story’s set – late November, just the start of the holiday season but before the tourists come in. Grey and moody…

Cloudy day in Portsmouth

I hope you’ve enjoyed the tour!

One last excerpt, and I’ll be signing off. I’ll wait an hour or so and then pick a couple of winners of a download — Walking Wounded or Sail Away, winner’s choice!

Excerpt: Proposal!

May 23, 2015

THEY WERE lazy again and had dinner out on the way home after dropping off the rental van. It was getting on to ten, a bit late, but Kevin picked the Spice Island Inn and said he was paying in a tone that brooked no argument. They were shown to a table on the second floor, right beside a big window with a view of the lights glittering on the water and the big liners gliding silently along on their way to warm, sunny places like Spain and Greece. They looked like floating Travel Inns, with tourists standing at the rails, gazing back at the lights of Portsmouth.

View from the Inn

View from the Inn

“Would you like to go on a cruise sometime, Johnny?” Kevin asked, looking up from the menu. “Something really posh, maybe for a honeymoon?”

John was considering the menu’s prices. “Not until I have a job, at least,” he said, and then what Kevin had said penetrated his awareness. “Honeymoon?” There weren’t many people in the dining room; John thought his voice had been terribly loud, but no one seemed to notice. “Kev,” he said, more quietly, “are you saying ‘like’ a honeymoon, or—”

Kevin looked up almost shyly. “Yes, I’m saying a honeymoon. Johnny, we can get a civil partnership now, make it official. We could even get married in London, if you like. My mother would be thrilled.” John was speechless, and Kevin hesitated. “Too soon, isn’t it? Sorry. You don’t need to answer right now. We ought to take it slow, live together for a while before we jump into it.”

Looking into Kevin’s eyes, John didn’t feel like waiting ten minutes. But he knew Kevin was right. And how many case studies had he read that showed the stupidity of rushing something this important? “I don’t feel it’s too soon, but I want to make it right. We have the rest of our lives. Kev. I know what I want. I suppose it does make more sense to give it some time, to be sure we can still make it work.”

“I know. But this is what I want, Johnny.” He looked calmer than he had that night he’d appeared on John’s doorstep, calm and content. “I want you. A sane life. A real home of our own. I’ve never been as happy, as complete, if you like, as I was those months we were together. I want that back, and this time I want to keep it.”

“So do I.” He wanted very badly to just lean across the table and kiss Kevin, but legal rights or not, he wasn’t ready to handle a shouting match with some drunken yob. He settled for reaching across the table, his hand partly hidden by the menu. “Whenever you want, love. But let’s take time to decide where we want to honeymoon. And I do need to graduate first.”

Kevin’s hand was warm. “Of course. We’ll have to sort out jobs, too. Will you need to do a term as a house officer?”

“Yes. I’m set up with a local counseling center. It’s scheduled to begin right after the holidays, though, New Year’s week. I could postpone it until the first of February, or even cancel if you get a position somewhere else, but it’s probably best if I go into one as soon as I can so I don’t forget everything I’ve learned.”

“So long as you remember the maths until Tuesday.”

“My God, it’s Sunday already, isn’t it? There’s only tomorrow to study—”

“And we’ll be sleeping in late,” Kevin said with an evil grin.

“We will?” That grin sent a message right down to John’s groin, and heat flushed through him. “If
we’d had anything more for lunch than a couple of apples, I’d drag you home right now.”

“Don’t we still have some leftovers?” Kevin asked.

But the waitress was already there with her list of the evening’s special dishes. She smiled indulgently at their joined hands and asked what they’d like for dinner. It was nearly two hours, a big meal, and a bottle of champagne later that they dragged each other up the stairs to their flat.
Their flat. “Who carries who over the threshold?” Kevin asked as John fumbled for the key. “Whom, I mean.”

“We carry each other,” John decided. “All for one, one for all.”

Horatio and Emma—they’d given up and gone historical—were squalling at them as soon as the door swung open, and they had their hands full keeping the kittens from escaping. Kevin made sure their water bowls and kibble were replenished while John dished up two saucers of canned kitten food.

“This having kits is serious business,” Kevin said, and snickered. “What happens when they grow up and ask for the car keys?”

“Doesn’t matter,” John said. “They won’t get far. No opposable thumbs, they can’t turn the ignition.” He tossed the cat food tin in the bin and wrapped his arms around Kevin, pulling his lover against him as he leaned back against the sink. “Damn it, Kev, I’m so fucking glad you came back.”

Kevin’s lips met his, and he lost himself in the kiss—such a strange expression, if you’d never done it, but he was just this side of drunk, and somehow it became easy to lose track of where he ended and Kevin began. Heat, warmth, closeness—the inexpressible safety of knowing that he could reach out and count on Kevin being there, that the edges of their separate, lonely selves would match and join into something bigger… and even more, the urgent hunger in his body meeting its match as their cocks rubbed together through their jeans.

He tried to draw back as Kevin rocked against him more urgently. “Bed?”

“Why?”

Good question. Why bother? They’d get there eventually, and he was so fuzzy with champagne and hot with this beautiful man in his arms that he just let it all flow. Kevin was back. He was staying. Forever now, thought you were dead, oh God I love you love you love you—

John slumped against Kevin’s shoulder and heard him say, “Looks as though it’s laundry time,” and startled Kevin by picking him up bodily and staggering off to the bedroom.

*****

The Spice Island Inn is real; my wife gave me a wonderful 50th birthday gift — a ticket to England. I spent 5 days in London, Bristol, and Portsmouth… and I wish it had been a month, because there was so much I didn’t have time to see. I have a few more pictures to share, next post!

Excerpt: Walking Wounded

May 23, 2015

“Johnny?”

For a moment John’s voice froze, and so did his hand on the telephone receiver. Then he asked cautiously, “Kevin?” It couldn’t be. He hadn’t heard that voice in years. Where had the time gone? But there was no one else who ever called him that. He had always been “John” to everyone else, or “Lieutenant,” or now just “Mr. Hanson.”

“Yeah, it’s me.”

The silence stretched out so long that he was almost ready to add audio hallucinations to the list of his afflictions. But then Kevin said, “Would… would you mind very much if I stopped by?”

John’s throat closed up at that and his eyes filled with tears. Damn the old emotional hair-trigger! He hadn’t had this strong a reaction to anything for longer than he could remember. “No,” he finally managed. “No, of course not. When?”
He heard a deep sigh at the other end of the line and realized this must be just as hard for Kevin as it was for him. Worse, maybe—Kev would’ve had to get up the nerve to make the call and risk being turned away.

“I can be there tonight,” Kevin suggested. “Say by eight? And if you could recommend a hotel—”

“Nonsense. You’ll stay here.” He bit his lip, wondering if he’d said too much, if the offer would be misinterpreted. Or not.

“I mean—there’s room enough, I have one of those futons. It’s not too lumpy.” He pushed aside the image of Kevin sprawled on dark blue sheets, relaxed and sleepy. No. Forget it. That was part of the past now. What they’d had between them was over.
But maybe there could still be friendship.

“Oh.” Was that disappointment, or relief? “That would be fine, thanks.”

“Right. Um… I’m in Portsmouth, you know. You found my number—do you need the address, or directions?”

“No, I can find you. Just thought I should ring first. But if you’d rather not be bothered—”

“No!” His vehemence surprised and embarrassed him. “No, of course, not, I—” Damn these tears too! “It’s… it’s good to hear your voice.”

“Yours too. I’ll be there soon, Johnny.” Such a world of promise in the soft tones—a ray of light, a lifeline.

John cradled the receiver gently, then dropped onto the sofa and closed his eyes. His mind flew back to that afternoon in officers’ training school, the first session of a class on biological weapons. It was just another class, one he really did not want to take and hoped he’d never have occasion to use. But he’d skimmed through the textbook; he had his notebook at the ready. He was good at the academic side of military training; this was just another class.

Until Kendrick, K. walked in and gave his name to the instructor.

There was something about the man, the way he carried himself, that caught John’s attention immediately. Then the new student ran his crystal-blue eyes down the row of desks and spotted the empty one just behind Hanson, J. He looked up, their eyes met—and John’s breath caught in his throat as his heart started beating wildly. It’s him. He’s the one. My God, of all places—it’s him!

He forced himself to look polite rather than pole-axed and gave a casual nod and smile. The new student blinked once, took his seat, and the instructor started his lecture before anything more could be said, while John thanked whatever deity was in charge that there were no students whose names fell between theirs.

How was this possible? All his life—since puberty, anyway—he had been attracted to people who fit Kendrick’s general description: fair, blue-eyed, trim and compact, exuding an aura of physical competence. In his teens he had dated a few sporty girls, to their mutual disappointment. When he got to university, he finally sorted out that what he was looking for was a man who fit that description. Who, in fact, fit the precise description of the young officer sitting directly behind him. It was uncanny, as though his deepest, most secret fantasy had taken shape and walked right into this classroom.

John didn’t hear a word the instructor said that day. From the moment his eyes met Kendrick’s until the bell rang to signal the end of class, his mind was full of that face—the lean angles of jaw and cheekbones, a squarish chin framing a perfectly shaped mouth, brows like two quick brushstrokes above those extraordinarily blue eyes, and a nose just a little too small for perfect balance and looked as though it might have been broken sometime in the past.

John wasted the government funds being poured into his education as he wondered how a set of relatively ordinary features could fit together to produce perfection. It took all his willpower not to turn around and stare. He was able to control himself only because he knew that if he turned around, he’d have to say something, and if he tried to do that, he would sound like an idiot.

Kevin admitted, later, that he’d been in the same state of numb astonishment, staring at the back of John’s head. Neither of them gave the slightest indication of interest, though, not right there in the classroom. Gay men were still extremely circumspect in the British Army—a man’s sex life was best kept private if it didn’t involve shagging any life-form in a skirt—and in any case, a class on biohazards was hardly a pickup bar.

John was so disconcerted that, as soon as class was over, he made a beeline for the men’s room and hid in a stall while he summoned his courage to talk to the new student. By the time he came out, Kendrick was nowhere to be seen.

It wasn’t until later, when John was frowning at the selections in the cafeteria vending machine, that a voice at his elbow said, “You don’t want to eat that—it’s leftover samples from class. Want to go find some Chinese?”

Kevin could have said, “Want to go find some fried earthworms?” and John would have accepted as promptly. On the way to the Chinese restaurant, he learned that his fantasy man, whose name was Kevin Kendrick, had a voice as low-key and attractive as the rest of him and a comfortable manner that would put anyone at ease. Although Kevin was from a military family, he was by no means certain he wanted to make it his life’s work as his father had, but he’d been willing to give it a try. He had only arrived the day before, to take a few specialized courses at this training center.

“And what about you?” Kevin asked. “Why the Army?”

John hadn’t really ever been asked that question; the recruiters had been happy enough to have him and were more interested to know that he spoke French and a little German.

“I suppose it sounds a bit antique,” John said, “but I thought a few years in the Service might teach me something. And it’s like jury duty, in a way. Someone has to do it, and if you only leave the dirty work to those too stupid to avoid it, I’m not sure that would leave me feeling all that safe. I’ve thought about going into police work, eventually—thought the military background would be useful.”

“Responsibility,” Kevin said. “You don’t think it’s a dirty word. That’s a nice change. Are you an oldest son?”
“Only son,” John said. “Only child. My parents died in an accident when I was twelve, and my grandmother raised me the rest of the way. She’s gone now, as well.”

“I’m sorry.”

John shrugged. “Thanks, but that was a long time ago. She was ninety-eight, so it wasn’t unexpected.”
“No other relatives?”

“Some distant ones somewhere, I think. No one close enough to come to her funeral. I suppose that’s another reason the Army looked attractive—I’m not a big joiner, but it’s nice to know I belong somewhere. What about your family?”

“The Brigadier—well, that’s what we all call my father—he’s retired from the Army. My mother has the kind of resourcefulness you’d expect for someone who’s raised three kids as a military wife. Older brother, younger sister, various cousins and uncles and aunts. Quite a lot of cousins, enough to spare. Would you like a few?”

“Not until I’ve met them, but thanks—Damn, it’s closed!” A sign hung on the locked door of the Chinese takeaway, printed in both English and Chinese. “This happens sometimes,” John explained. “Mr. Cheng’s an herbalist on the side, and sometimes he just closes the shop for no apparent reason.”

Kevin looked up and down the street and spotted the sign over the Indian restaurant a block down. “All right, then. What do you say to Indian?”

“I like it better than Chinese, actually, and Kandahar’s quite good. Usually crowded, though—would you mind takeaway?”
Kevin gave him a sidelong glance and a half smile. “I think I’d prefer it.”

They wound up taking nan, raita, matar paneer, and curried lamb back to John’s flat. The food was excellent, as it always was, and he had no classes until the following afternoon, so there was no time pressure.

The beer helped too, no doubt. But it wasn’t only that. John felt comfortable with Kevin, as he seldom had with anyone else, and it seemed to be mutual. Or possibly Kevin was one of those fortunate souls who were naturally gregarious, who could talk with anyone about anything. John found out later that he was only half right; as a military brat, Kevin had indeed learned to be personable and make friends easily, but not to the degree that they had clicked.

It had been so easy, so natural. They were sitting on the sofa, watching the late sports news—nothing important to either of them—and they talked over the news reader’s monologue. It was the usual caution at first, hints about pubs and films, the little signs and countersigns of establishing gay identity, until Kevin said, quite frankly, “Why don’t you just ask? I don’t have a girlfriend—have had, but probably won’t again. Don’t have a boyfriend either.”

The unapologetic challenge in those beautiful eyes captured John’s heart, then and there. He’d always been shy, never good at quick clever lines, but he heard himself say, “Mind if I apply for the position?”

And Kevin said, grinning, “Which position? Or are you versatile?”

“Side by side,” he’d answered, embarrassing himself again.

Kevin’s smile lit up the room. “I’d like that.”

John smiled back, reached up tentatively to touch Kevin’s face, and closed his eyes as Kevin leaned in for a kiss.

It had been like coming home. The taste of his lips, the warmth of that strong, muscled body, even his scent—it all held a faint familiarity, as though this were something they had done many times before. And as the weeks and months passed, it only grew better, unlike John’s other—admittedly few—liaisons. The fellow students he’d dated at uni had generally wanted nothing more than no-strings sex, and for John that was a turn-off. The other extreme—the sad but tenacious lad who might have become a stalker if he hadn’t been so pathetic—finally pushed John’s patience to the limit, and the break-up had been loud and acrimonious.

Kevin was different. The sex was wonderful, but so was all the time in between. They’d had fun together. Even a simple walk along the shore became something to look forward to. They were both signed up for extended training, so after a couple of weeks, Kevin had abandoned his bedsit and moved in, ostensibly to save money. John had become comfortable, had started thinking in terms of settling down.

And then it all went to pieces.

They had not seen each other since the day before John’s unit shipped out for Bosnia. And their parting had been—well, not quite what you could call bitter, more bewildered—each of them staring at the other, thinking his lover had gone mad. They had never properly discussed their choices of specialization. They had mentioned possibilities, each mildly derisive of the other’s ideas, and they’d simply stopped discussing the matter.

That, John knew now, had been the second-worst mistake of his life. His duty choice had been the absolute worst: he had chosen to sign up as a UN peacekeeper, with likely assignment to the Balkans. He was going to prevent war, to protect civilians. The best sort of work for a soldier.

He had been an idealistic fool. So many of them had, even high-ranking officers. How could anyone have foreseen that chaos? The whole society broke down and went back to the Dark Ages. Kosovo. The bloodbath.

He still shied away from thinking about it, for his own sanity’s sake. It had been years before the nightmares stopped.

But that choice, naïve though it was, had at least been consistent with John’s basic personality. He had gone into the military more out of a desire to protect the helpless than to strut around in a uniform and make guns go bang. Kevin’s choice was a total surprise. Calm, brilliant, rational, amiable Kevin had decided to apply for admission to that exclusive crew of trigger-happy, cloak-and-dagger maniacs that called itself the SAS.

If Kevin was still with that mob, he’d have access to all sorts of military information. He would have been able to learn of Lt. John Hanson’s nervous breakdown in the midst of that horror in Bosnia. Of his botched suicide, probably even of the months of medical leave and therapy, and the disability pension. And the fact that he was now back in university, studying psychology in a desperate attempt to find a way to weave his shredded soul back together.

Why would he come to see me now? I must be nine kinds of a security risk! One thing he knew about the SAS—it was one place where sexual orientation was still a major issue.

Which, of course, was why Kevin’s decision had come as such a shock. “The SAS,” John had joked, when Kevin first told him of his intentions. “Where men are men and sheep are scared. You can’t be serious—”

“It’s necessary,” Kev had said. His jaw was set and he was using the voice that said he’d already made up his mind. “Johnny, terrorists are real. Someone has to stop them. It’s like what you said the day we met—if everyone backs off because it’s a brutal job, then the only ones left to do it are the brutes.”

“It’s what the job will do to you that worries me. That kind of thing would eat you alive. It’s mad.”

“No madder than going into a war zone with orders against fighting. It’s not as though the UN is taking the Serbs’ weapons away, you know.” Kevin’s fair skin had been flushed with emotion. “You’ll be nothing but a helpless observer—there’s no peace to keep! That whole operation is a political farce, Johnny—an exercise in military impotence!”

They’d finally realized that no matter how readily they might agree on other things, this was one subject that would always divide them. So they dropped it, made love frantically for the few days they had left, and parted on more or less amiable terms.

The parting of ways didn’t change how John felt about Kevin, but time and distance had put an end to the relationship. They had exchanged a couple of brief, superficial e-mails—of course, they had never been indiscreet enough to write anything, anywhere, that might be considered compromising—but there had been so little left to say. I thought I knew you. I thought I understood you. Or, more truthfully, I thought you knew me. I thought you cared enough to stay with me.

And that brought John back to the mystery of the phone call. Why now, after all these years? What was there left to say?
Or was Kevin waiting for John to say, “You were right?”

No problem there. He had been right. Diagnosis: Delayed Stress Syndrome resulting from Military Impotence. Take two Viagra and a bottle of sleeping pills, call doctor in the morning if you’re still alive.

Yes, Kev, you were right. And if I know you, you’ll say, “I wish I’d been wrong.”

John jittered away a quarter of an hour,, trying to see the humor in a sitcom that was the least annoying offering, but finally gave up. The sole point seemed to be that no matter how bad your life was, this family was worse, and watching the actors snipe at one another was more painful than amusing. There was a football match on, too, but he could no longer tolerate that fierce conflict over something so meaningless as kicking a ball from one end of a field to the other. Not after watching that same us-and-them intensity turn ordinary men into genocidal monsters.

I liked sports, once.

I used to have a sense of humor.

But something else had not changed at all, despite all that had happened. One thing he had tried to forget, that now assumed enormous importance.

I still love him. Want him.

What the hell am I going to do?

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CONGRATULATIONS, IRELAND! (Oh, and Walking Wounded is back!)

May 23, 2015

Walking Wounded by Lee Rowan

John Hanson joined the military because he wanted to serve his country. Lacking a home and family of his own, the idealistic young man longed to be a part of something bigger than himself. He didn’t expect to find love in officer’s training—so when an assignment took him away from Kevin Kendrick, the love of his life, he sacrificed personal happiness and did his duty.

Kevin has made his own sacrifices. Career came first, and the impressionable Army brat, tired of living in his father’s shadow, pledged his loyalty to his country and followed his ambition.

Now, seven years later, when the Army Kevin so faithfully served has made him the scapegoat for their latest Middle East snafu, he can only think of one place to go, one man who can provide solace and heal his wounds—John.

Reunited, the two war-weary lovers once again discover their passion for life, love, and one another. But Kevin’s past isn’t through with him yet, and when an old enemy surfaces, the two men realize that they must face the nightmares of the past together if they are to have the future they dream of

WalkingWounded

I love synchronicity.

This book marks the last of my stories from Cheyenne that are now being published by Dreamspinner. And, as with Sail Away, this edition has something new in it—something absolutely wonderful–and the timing could not be better, because the change in the book came about because of the change in English law giving same-sex couples the right to marry. Today, Ireland has joined in!

Walking Wounded is my first contemporary; it originally saw print in 2007. I tend not to write contemporary because the world is changing so fast that what’s cutting-edge today might be old tomorrow – or completely turned around. In 2007, marriage equality for same-sex couples existed in Belgium, Spain, Canada, South Africa, and a few US states. The UK had ‘civil unions.’ (Such an odd term; if a couple can’t at least be civil to one another, they should stop cohabiting, no?) So when I joined Alex Beecroft’s “I Do” project as one of the editorial team, I wrote a little missing scene, “Wedding Announcement,” for John and Kevin, in which they were off to be civilly united. At the time, it was as close to a classic romance happy ending as they could have. (Let me put in a plug here for Alex Beecroft and her writing. She’s amazing, and her idea to put together a collection as a fundraiser for marriage equality in the US and worldwide was stellar. Considering my wife and I were married in Canada ourselves, and emigrated here, this issue is important to me both on a social-justice and a personal level.)

The story went in, the book came out. There was a second I Do a year later, with the same beneficiary. The I Do collections never hit a best-seller list, but they did send a few thousand $ to the legal eagles fighting for equality. Prop 8 was overturned. More and more states made equality legal – finally. Some bad news, too, of course – the idiocy in Uganda and other African countries, egged on by religious extremists from the US. But in America, polls show over 60% of the population now recognizes the right to marry the person of one’s choice.

Then .. the rainbow over Parliament. While I was working through the Dreamspinner re-edits for the Royal Navy series and Walking Wounded, England passed a law granting marriage equality to all its citizens, and “Wedding Announcement” became just a little outdated. So that short story was rewritten to fit today’s reality, and is now a part of the novel – a real HEA for the characters.

Another change – not in the story – is Dreamspinner’s editorial decision to let the past-life subtext out of the closet. Kevin Kendrick and John Hanson are two souls who were, a couple of centuries back, Will Marshall and David Archer. They’re still together – but this time, there’s no need to hide.

In “Only Love is Real,” past-life investigator Dr Brian Weiss describes the meeting of eyes as the way soulmates recognize one another. I wrote this story before I read that book, but it was fun to see I got it right.

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Testing? Release party for Walking Wounded

May 23, 2015

As it says above…

By Degrees with Taylor V. Donovan

May 22, 2015

TVD letters onlyHi all! I’m Taylor V. Donovan, author of gay romantic fiction and gay romance and suspense, and I’m here to talk to you lovely people about books, characters, inspiration… whatever comes to mind. :-)

To those of you who have no idea who I am I’ll say that I’ve been around the gay romance block for almost four years. I’ve written a couple of stand-alone titles and have two series in the works, “Bylaws” and “Caribbean Tales.” What I’m most known for, though, is ”By Degrees“, an ensemble serial featuring an FBI team in hot pursuit of a serial killer of gay men, and all the people in their lives who love and hate them.

ByDegreesLogo

If you’re familiar with my work, you’re probably thinking “about darn time she came out of the woodwork!” If you’re not, what are you waiting for? ;-) Intense characters and rich plots are my thing. If you’re into that as well, then I’m your girl, and this girl is super excited about her re-release, a totally improved edition of “Six Degrees of Separation“. I can’t wait for you all to check it out and share your thoughts.
Have any questions about the changes? About following installments? About Mac and Sam? Hit me up! I’m looking forward to sharing details with you all. :-)

xoxo

Taylor

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Cinema Craptastique – Join in on the Conversation!

May 12, 2015

CinemaCraptastique

Join host Damon Suede along with Laura Kaye, Amy Lane, Kate McMurray, and Tere Michaels as they kick off at the Romantic Times Convention watching The Legend of Hercules and snark-tweeting the whole through! Follow along with us as Poppy Dennison tweets from the Dreamspinner Press Twitter account (@dreamspinners)! Can’t attend the event in person? No worries, watch the movie from the comfort of your home and join in on the live-tweeting! Be sure to use #RTCC to see all the best tweets!

And the winner of the e-copy of Immortal is…

May 9, 2015

 

Anne Cain's Pretty Pretty Cover

Anne Cain’s Pretty Pretty Cover

Ineztey Garcia!

Huzzah!!!!!  C’mon down!  Contact me here or on Twitter or FB and we’ll get you your free copy!

Thank you everybody– I read all of the comments (although I forgot who has their copy and was just commenting to be nice– we may have to do this again!) and it was lovely of you all to show up and play with me.

I particularly loved A. How bloodthirsty so many of you were, and B. How you would give up your multiple sub genres when some idiot pried them from your cold, dead hands.

You’re all my kind of people!

Thanks so much for putting up with my madness, folks!

Amy

Immortal Blog Party: Post 5– The Terrible Choice

May 8, 2015

rumplestiltzkinSo, this about wraps up my blog post party for Immortal—and thanks for anyone who woke up at this ungodly hour to say hello!  (Five a.m… If I hadn’t been getting up early to see if anyone had already read the damned book, it would have felt like an assault, I swear!)

 

Anyway, the Sinfully blog reviewed this book and interviewed me, which was nice of them, and you can find the post here: http://sinfullysexybooks.blogspot.com/2015/05/release-day-review-immortal-by-amy-lane.html?showComment=1431051485520#c3779632948387976293

 

But one of the questions got me thinking—Macky asked me which subgenre I would write if I could only write one.  I chose contemporary—not because I loved it more than Alternative Universe, but because if I am writing AU, I get lost too easily, too sucked in.  Writing contemporary allows me to live my real life and not be lost in my writing world.

 

But nevertheless, it was a sort of cruel question!  I mean, choose one?  I just had a whole new logo made up to show that I have three “Lanes” to love—light contemporary, angsty contemporary, and dark and twisted AU.  That’s how dedicated I am to writing whatever crosses my squirrel brain when I’m choosing projects.

 

So I have to ask you now.  If you could only read one subgenre, contemporary m/m, alternative universe m/m/f—whatever floats your boat, really—which would you choose?  Which is your personal “lane to love”?

 

Don’t forget, I’m doing an eeny-meeny-miny-moe (or, you know, random number generator) on all the comments left here by the end of the day (8 p.m. or so, PST) I’ll have Hayley announce the winner in whatever way is best, and we can go ahead and upload an ecopy of Immortal to the winner’s account.

 

In the meantime—thank you so much for joining us, and for answering random questions, and generally for being here and interested about my “magnum albatross” as I called it while I was working on it.

 

If you do read it, drop me a line on FB or Twitter—I’m @amymaclane on Twitter, and I have a FB group called Amy Lane Anonymous, and I’m always thrilled to hear from readers!

 

Now have a nice day everyone! Imma go take me a nap before my aqua class!  Waves  Cheers!

 

 

Anne Cain's Pretty Pretty Cover

Anne Cain’s Pretty Pretty Cover