Free Equilibrium-related fiction

June 24, 2011

OK guys, apart from the post announcing the winner of the contest this will be my last post. I’ll hang around to answer any comments or what have you, and before I go to bed I’ll announce the winner of the contest – since that will be when most of the Northern Hemisphere is already asleep, that should give anyone who wants to enter plenty of time to do so. Thanks to everyone who stopped by to say hi, I really appreciate it.

I’m leaving you with some free fiction that I posted to my blog the other day. It’s a missing/alternate scene from Equilibrium, starting about a week before the book starts; this time we’re in Ryan’s head, so we get to see a little of what he thinks when he first meets Michael. :)

If you’re interested, you can find it HERE.

Equilibrium excerpt #3

June 24, 2011

The excerpt I’m going to post this time is a little more adult; it takes place just after Michael and Ryan have finally gotten their act together.


THE sun was setting as he drove out to the Mitchell farm, the bag of Ryan’s supplements on his passenger seat and his stomach full of butterflies. He drove up the driveway and skirted around the back of the main house, following the dirt road that led off the main driveway to Ryan’s little cabin out the back. Parking in front of the house, he mounted the steps and knocked on the door, but received no answer. Tucking the package under his arm, he stepped off the veranda and went around the back.

Ryan was in the practice paddock, taking Charlie through her moves, ducking and weaving around barrels and witches hats, turning and whirling on a twenty-cent piece. It was impressive, just as much as it had been the other day—more so, maybe, because this time the mare had on a different bridle, one without a bit, and Ryan wasn’t using a saddle. He looked relaxed, fluid, matching Charlie’s movements as if they were one, of one heart and a single mind. Again, he didn’t seem to be giving her any direction, although now Michael knew that he had to be, and it was only his untutored eye that couldn’t see it. Regardless, it was incredible.

It was also a massive turn-on.

During the next pirouette, Ryan saw him. He grinned and gave Charlie a command, making her stop dead right where she stood. He patted her neck and said something else to her, and then they were walking toward him. Michael moved then, too, stepping up to the fence as Ryan drew Charlie up alongside it.

“Well… this isn’t really a surprise,” Ryan said, smiling down at him. “I see you’ve got my supplements.”

Michael smiled and balanced them on a fence post. “Would it matter if I didn’t?”

“Not really, no.” Ryan was staring at Michael’s mouth again, but instead of hopping down like Michael expected him to, after a moment of silence he slid back a little, toward Charlie’s rump, then patted where he’d just been sitting. “C’mere, you.”

“Oh now, I don’t think that’s a good idea,” Michael said, shaking his head. “Why don’t you come down here instead?”

“I don’t think so. Uncle Michael said he’d try riding later. It’s later.” Ryan held out his hand, and when he spoke again, his tone was softer, intimate enough to give Michael the shivers. “Come on, Michael. I’ll make it worth your while.”

Michael hesitated a moment, then gave in, like there was ever going to be any question when Ryan used that voice on him. “All right, but you better.”

“Oh, I will,” Ryan said as Michael climbed the fence, awkwardly hitching himself over it and onto Charlie’s back.

“You better not let me fall.”

Ryan chuckled and moved forward, molding himself against Michael’s back and picking the reins up with one hand. “I won’t,” he said against Michael’s ear, and suddenly Charlie stepped forward.

“Holy crap!” Surprised, Michael jammed his heels into Charlie’s sides, and she jumped forward but then pulled up suddenly at a word from Ryan. Michael swayed and grabbed at Ryan’s thighs to get some purchase. “Oh, this is not a good idea at all. I’m going to fall off, and it’s going to be all your fault.”

Ryan laughed against the side of Michael’s neck. “No, it’s going to be all your fault, since you insist on jamming your heels into the sides of my horse.” Ryan’s feet insinuated themselves in between Michael’s feet and Charlie’s belly.

“Her skin moves, for Christ’s sake!”

“Of course it does, you bloody idiot. What did you think it’d do? God, if I’d known you were going to be such a frigging drama queen….” One arm snaked around Michael’s waist, holding him tightly against Ryan’s chest, and they moved forward again. “I’m not going to let you fall, all right?”

Michael remained unconvinced, but after a moment or two of relatively slow and stable movement, he relented a little. “All right. Just… no funny business.”

Ryan’s huff of laughter was warm against his neck. “No funny business, and no one’s falling off. Cross my heart and hope to die.”

Michael snorted. “Yeah, easy for you to say, Man from Snowy River. Shut up and drive.”

Ryan laughed again but made no sign of contemplating funny business. Once they’d completed a couple of sedate turns around the paddock, Michael finally began to relax, and Ryan loosened his hold a little, from vise-like to merely snug.

Michael had barely enough time to feel disappointed about that before Ryan moved again, but this time it was to press a soft kiss to the nape of Michael’s neck. At the same time, the hand resting on Michael’s waist moved lower, slipped under the hem of Michael’s shirt and began caressing the skin of his belly. Michael sucked in a shaky breath. “I thought you said there’d be no funny business.”

Ryan laughed softly, his breath tickling the side of Michael’s neck. “I lied,” he said, nuzzling at Michael’s ear.

Michael closed his eyes for a moment, trying to ignore how snug his jeans were beginning to get. “No one’s going to see us out here, are they?”

Ryan kissed the nape of Michael’s neck again as the hand under Michael’s shirt moved up Michael’s chest, the material rucking up on Ryan’s wrist as his fingers brushed over Michael’s nipple. “Nah. See over by the house there? Murphy’s hanging around, waiting to bludge some food. Good, loyal old Murph never tries to bludge off me if Dad and Andrew are home.”

“Oh. Good.”

Ryan kissed the side of Michael’s neck, grazing the skin with his teeth. Michael shivered, and felt Ryan’s lips pull up in a smile.
“I’ve thought about the other night a lot,” Ryan breathed, putting his head up and his lips to Michael’s ear, his nose in Michael’s hair. “Too much, probably. Can’t work, can’t sleep, and when I do sleep I wake up so hard… God, Michael….”

Michael could feel Ryan’s heart beating fast against his back. Ryan’s arm tightened around him suddenly, pulling him back against Ryan’s chest again, Michael’s backside fitting snugly against Ryan’s crotch. Michael gasped, his breathing quickening as Ryan bit his shoulder through his shirt, dropping the reins so he could run his free hand up the inside of Michael’s spread thighs, stopping tantalizingly close to Michael’s crotch. Michael’s breath hitched, and he shifted, trying to press back against Ryan some more. “Ryan….”


How mean am I, to stop right there? :) If you enter the contest you might be able to find out what happens next!

Campdrafting and tent pegging, what the…?

June 24, 2011

So. There are two main equestrian sports featured in Equilibrium. The first is campdrafting, which is, as Michael’s sister Jen says, “the thing where the horse cuts the cow out of the herd and then chases it around”. Which is a rather apt description as far as a  city person is concerned, but there is a little more to it than that, which the wikipedia link will tell you. And, through the wonder of the internet, I’ll be able to show you with a couple of videos that I’ve dug up. It seems that I can’t get them to embed, sorry! You’ll have to go to YouTube to watch them.

The first is a cute little introduction to a campdrafting DVD, which is very Australian, bless them:

Campdrafting 1

The second shows you just how quickly the horse can move when it’s trying to keep the cow from going back to the herd. This video is notable for the use of the word “strewth” by the person filming, which basically means that the horse and rider are doing really, really well (we don’t all sound like Steve Irwin, I promise):

Campdrafting 2

The third shows you just how quickly the horse can move when it’s herding the cow around the pegs:

Campdrafting 3

The second sport in Equilibrium is tent pegging, which is an old cavalry sport popular with cavalry regiments and mounted police in places like Australia, Pakistan and the UK. It doesn’t have anything to do with tents, or dildos, which is probably a good thing, all things considered. :) The video I’ve found for this one is very long; if you watch it all, you’ll see the full gamut of skill-at-arms equestrian sports, but if you just watch the first couple of minutes you’ll see the type of tent pegging that’s in Equilibrium:

Tent pegging

Equilibrium excerpt #2

June 24, 2011

I suppose if I’ve said good morning to you all while I was asleep that it’s redundant to say it now. I have another excerpt from Equilibrium for you – this one features Michael’s sister Jen and her two kids, Jack and Lilly, who’ve come to Burreela for a visit. Jack is horse mad, so Ryan’s invited them all to his place to look at his horses, with no ulterior motive whatsoever. :)

THEY took Jen’s car to the Mitchell farm, because it had car seats and the kids’ CDs in it. Within ten minutes Michael was considering throwing himself under the next truck that passed their way.

“I have no idea how you can put up with this music,” he said quietly as Jack shouted the lyrics to the incredibly repetitive and simpleminded kids’ song blaring out of the car speakers at the top of his lungs. “And I’m sorry to say, your son is never going to be a famous singer.”

Jen laughed. “You get used to it, the songs and the singing.” She paused a moment before she looked at him out of the corner of her eye. “So. This Ryan bloke. Have you and he got something going on?”

Michael’s stomach dropped, and he jerked his head around to look at her. “No!” He cast a look back at the kids, but they were happily oblivious. “What makes you say that?”

Jen shrugged. “I don’t know. You looked pretty comfortable together at the market the other day, and it seems to me he’s going out of his way to impress you, inviting us to his farm and all.”

Oh, God. Horror prickled down Michael’s spine at the thought that she’d picked up on that so easily. “Don’t be ridiculous. He’s not going out of his way to impress me. Why would he do that? He’s just being friendly, that’s all.”

Jen made a sceptical noise before shrugging again. “There’s friendly and there’s friendly. And I think he’s being the type of friendly that ends with sticking your hand down someone’s pants.”

“Jen! Jesus, not in front of the kids.” Michael looked back at the kids again as Jen laughed. “If Jack regurgitates that in front of Ryan, I will kill you.”

“Oh, what’s he going to say, Mikey? Nothing. He’ll be too excited at all the horses, anyway.” She paused. “Do you know if he’s gay?”

“No. No, I do not know if he’s gay.” Except, of course, he did know. But Ryan hadn’t actually told him that, and so for the purposes of this conversation, he didn’t. “And I’m not going to ask him, either. And don’t you ask him!”

“I’m not going to ask him,” she said, in the tone of voice that he knew meant that she would if she could get away with it. “But I’m going to be watching him. I’m going to watch him very closely.”

“Oh, God,” Michael said, scrunching down in his seat. “Just… just don’t embarrass me, Jen, please. I have to live here.”

She laughed and reached over to ruffle his hair. “Aw, little brother. When have I ever embarrassed you?”

Michael snorted. “There aren’t enough hours in the day for me to list them all, believe me.”

Jen laughed, then joined in a chorus of the song, smiling at him as she sang the words into his face. Michael groaned and sank further down in his seat, burying his face in his hands.

He’d perked up by the time they got to Ryan’s place, mainly because he had no desire to let Ryan see that the visit was affecting him in any way. Ryan was waiting for them in the main yard, with Murphy but no horses. When Jen slowed at the end of the driveway he approached them.

“See that offshoot of the driveway there?” He pointed at what amounted to no more than a dirt track snaking around the back of the main house. “Drive around there until you get to another house, and park out the front of it. I’ll meet you back there.”

They did as he’d instructed, Michael doing his level best to not give Jen any more ammunition by refusing to watch Ryan walk away toward the stables. The house they parked in front of was a cozy-looking wooden cottage, plain but well kept. Behind the house, Michael could see various fenced-off paddocks, a couple of sheds, and a building that looked like another set of stables, as well as a practice yard that was set up with various drums and flags, like an obstacle course.

They got out of the car, Jack almost vibrating with excitement. Ryan grinned at them. “I’ve got a couple of horses in the home paddock if you want to come around,” he said, leading them around the back of the house.

“Is this your house?” Michael asked him as they walked, Lilly balanced on his hip as Jen gripped Jack’s hand to stop him from running forward.

Ryan nodded. “Yeah. Before I joined the police force, I lived in the main house, but when I moved back, I thought I’d live out here. I was used to living out of home then, you know?” He grinned. “I was used to the privacy. I’m sure you know what I mean.”

Dimly, Michael was aware of Jen in his peripheral vision, smirking at him. “Ah, yeah. Yeah, I think I have some idea.”

“I thought you might.” Ryan chuckled and turned his gaze to Jen. Michael hoped against hope that she was quick enough to wipe the smirk of her face before Ryan looked at her. “So, Jen, Michael doesn’t talk about himself much. Got any embarrassing stories to share?”

Jen laughed. “Yes, but I’ve already been told not to embarrass him—”

“Jen!”

“—so I better not.”

Ryan made a disappointed noise and looked over his shoulder at Michael. “Spoilsport.”

Michael attempted to defend himself. “There’s not much to tell, so you’re not missing out on anything.”

“So you say.” Ryan glanced at Jen with a smile. “We’ll talk later,” he said in a stage whisper.

Jen grinned. “Okay.”

Why Australia?

June 24, 2011

Of course, when someone asks me why I set my stories in Australia, my first impulse is to say, “Why not?”. I am Australian, after all. But I suppose it’s a valid question since I live in New Zealand (see my DSP bio – yes, these first few posts are being posted while I’m blissfully asleep!), and you would think that I would write about New Zealanders since I’m in contact with them every day. But the thing is, I didn’t grow up here, I came here as an adult in my 30s, so I missed the early-adulthood indoctrination that would have happened if I’d lived in New Zealand then, the absorption of the cultural experiences that would have made me one of them. Even after almost 6 years I remain stubbornly Australian, and I suspect that will be the case even if I live here 66 years. So I accept that and continue to write about Aussies, even though it’s hell when it comes to visiting locations.

Speaking of location visits, I have a confession to make…Burreela is not a real town. Since I’ve had a couple of people try to Google it, it’s best that everyone knows that now. :) Originally, when I started writing Equilibrium, I did intend to set it in an existing place, but nowhere had all the things I wanted in it, and because I don’t live in Australia anymore I couldn’t go on a northern-NSW trek to find somewhere that was close enough to what I wanted. So, from the seeds of frustration over town planning, Burreela grew. Burreela is an amalgamation of several northern-NSW towns, some of which do in fact have family-run cattle stations and monthly fairs, and at least now I won’t ever have to receive an email telling me that the pub I used in my book actually got knocked down 2 years ago.

Sydney, however, is completely real. :) Sydneysider born and bred, that’s me; much of my misspent youth was spent in Kings Cross, so I know that strip like the back of my hand, and I don’t need Google Earth to help me remember it.

Equilibrium excerpt, plus a contest

June 24, 2011

OK, I’m back with the first excerpt that I’m going to post today. This scene is from the beginning of the book, when Michael’s still a newcomer to Burreela and he’s trying to find his feet. Just when he thinks he’s got a handle on things, Ryan Mitchell comes along and knocks him completely off balance. :)

Within this excerpt you’ll find the answers to the following questions:

What is Ryan’s horse’s name, and why do they have to call the vet out to see her?

Everyone who comments with the correct answer goes into a draw to win an ebook copy of Equilibrium.

—-

JANUARY

THE heat hit Michael like a ton of bricks as he opened the door of his borrowed ute, the stifling air heavy with the smell of dirt and animal. A yellow Labrador standing in the shade of the main house’s wraparound veranda barked at him, its tail waving. Where the house’s yard stopped and the farm began, a pair of black and tan working dogs slumped against the stable wall, snapping at flies and ignoring him completely. A scorching wind blew across the open ground, making little whirlwinds out of the dry topsoil and the branches of the big eucalyptus trees flanking the house creak and groan. It snatched at the brim of Michael’s brand new Akubra hat, threatening to send it tumbling into the dirt.

Michael’s stomach churned as he turned and walked toward the stables, adjusting his hat with an unsteady hand. He’d been in Burreela two weeks. Every day of those two weeks, his new boss, Bill, had been shadowing him, looking over his shoulder during his consults and his surgeries, taking him to farms out in the middle of nowhere, making Michael do all the dirty work while he leaned against the fence and chatted to farmers who pretended that Michael wasn’t even there. But apparently two weeks was some magic number, because this morning, when he’d been looking at the appointment book and finishing off his morning coffee, Bill had come into the back room and thrown the ute’s keys at Michael’s head, Michael just managing to catch them before they’d smacked him in the forehead.

“Leave that,” Bill had said. “Take the ute, and go up to the Mitchell farm. They’ve got a horse that needs seeing to.”

Michael had stared at him, his fingers wrapped tightly around the keys. “But I’ve never been to the Mitchell farm before.”

Bill had smiled. “Well, it’s about time you went then, isn’t it?”

“Yeah, but, Bill….”

“‘Yeah, but Bill’ nothing, Michael.” Bill had stepped into the room and taken the appointment book out of Michael’s hands. “Get your ass up to the Mitchell farm, and fix their horse.” He’d turned and walked out of the room with the appointment book tucked firmly under his arm, leaving Michael no choice but to finish his coffee in two huge gulps that burned his mouth and throat, grab his kit, and get in the ute.

When he’d first arrived in Burreela, Bill had given him a map of town and the surrounding countryside. He’d used the map to get to the Mitchell farm, feeling like a bloody tourist and wishing desperately for a GPS unit as he drove with the map spread out half in his lap and half on the steering wheel. Even with the map, he’d still managed to almost miss the farm’s entrance, but now he was here, with his guts turning to water and his legs like jelly, to cure a horse of only God knew what because he’d forgotten to ask.

As Michael got closer to the wide-open stable door, he could see a dark-colored horse in a stall a couple down from the entrance, and two men standing near the door of the stall: a young man, who looked a few years older than Michael’s own twenty-six, facing the stable doorway, and an older man standing facing the horse. They were both tall and broad, but lean, the older man, who looked about sixty judging from the gray in his hair, only just starting to get the belly to go with his age. The younger one nodded toward Michael as he approached the stable door, saying something to his companion, who turned to look at Michael with the exact expression of someone who’d just bitten down on a lemon.

“You’re not Bill.”

Michael tried for a smile, the expression feeling fixed and fake even to him. “No, I’m not,” he said, as cheerfully as he could. “I’m Michael, the new vet. Michael Stone.” He stuck out his right hand; the old man stared at it like it was a snake readying itself to strike. For several long, excruciating moments there was silence while Michael stood there with his hand stuck out like an idiot, but then the younger man stepped forward and shook it firmly.

“I’m Andrew Mitchell,” he said with an apologetic smile. “This is my dad, Greg. This is his farm.”

“Oh yeah, of course,” Michael said, smiling back without bothering to hide his relief. “Nice to meet you.”

Andrew nodded. “Nice to meet you too.”

Silence descended again, but Michael broke it this time, nodding toward the horse in the stall, which he could now see was a bay with a white stripe down the middle of its face. “Is this the horse that you’ve got a problem with?”

Andrew looked toward the stall. “Yeah, that’s her. Charlie. She got herself tangled up in some barbed wire in a back paddock overnight. She must have panicked and tried to pull away from it but just got tangled up more, and some of it dug in pretty deep. We’d take care of it ourselves, but she’s a valuable horse and we can’t afford to have it getting infected. Plus, she’s my brother’s horse, and he was all for getting the vet out.” He smiled again. “So here you are.”

“Here I am.” Michael looked toward the stall again. He’d done his equine placements just like everyone else in his year, but he hadn’t done much horse work since then, so what he knew about them was mostly from books. He steeled himself against his nerves; he could do this. “I’ll take a look at her.”

He gathered himself and headed for the stall door, but Andrew beat him to it, stepping around him and unlatching the door. “I’ll go in with you. She’s a good horse, but she has spent the night tangled in barbed wire. That’s enough to make anyone grumpy.”

“Of course,” Michael said, hoping his tone was implying that he was just about to suggest that himself. He stepped into the stall after Andrew, who’d clipped a lead rope to Charlie’s halter and was holding it with enough slack to give the horse freedom of movement, but not enough that she could turn and bite Michael while he was examining her, for which Michael was profoundly glad. To his relief, the horse didn’t bat an eyelash when he reached a hand up to pat her neck, murmuring some comforting words of nonsense to her as he did so. As he ran his hand slowly down her neck, he was acutely conscious of the attention of the two Mitchell men, whose complete silence told him they were watching him carefully. He could see the problem from where he stood, a length of nasty looking barbed wire wrapped tightly around the mare’s right foreleg, just above the fetlock. The Mitchells had obviously done some work, cutting away most of the wire protruding from her leg and leaving only what was deeply imbedded in her flesh. He squatted down to get a closer look, and when he reached out to touch the leg just above the wound, the mare flinched, shifting away from him so suddenly that he had to slam a hand against the side of the stall to stop himself from overbalancing and ending up on his ass. His Akubra tipped off his head and onto the straw covering the stable floor. He looked up, and Andrew Mitchell was looking down at him.

Andrew smiled. “Sorry.”

Michael attempted a smile and tried to ignore the flush he could feel creeping up his neck. “No worries.” He reached for his hat, brushing it off before standing up. “I’ll just go and get my gear, won’t be long.”

He let himself out of the stall and stepped around Greg Mitchell, slapping his hat back onto his head just before he headed back out into the yard, squinting against the too-bright sun. He hated the hat: it was hot and annoying, and he was sure he looked ridiculous in it, but he had to wear it. He’d inherited his father’s brown hair, but that was where any hints of swarthiness ended, because he’d also gotten his mother’s gray eyes and English complexion, the type of complexion that on her had been described as “porcelain” but on him was described as “glow-in-the-dark white.” He knew from the painful experience of his first two days in Burreela that if he didn’t wear the hat in the scorching summer sun his face and neck would go from snow white to fire-engine red in about five seconds, and he’d be using aloe vera on his blistered and peeling skin for the next week.

He went around to the covered bed of the ute and flipped up the hard top, reaching in for his bag and rummaging through it to make sure he had what he needed before heading back. He could barely see a thing as he entered the stables, struck blind by the bright sun, but as his eyes became more accustomed to the dimmer light, he realized that Andrew and his father had been joined by another man, one who looked so much like Andrew that it had to be his brother. The man looked at Michael as he approached and smiled. “Hi. I’m Ryan.”

Michael’s stomach dropped at the sight of that smile, and he could do nothing but stare at the man, stare into hazel eyes that looked almost gold against the man’s sun-browned skin. His gaze took in the high cheekbones and the square jaw dusted with a couple of days worth of reddish-brown stubble, the brown hair that curled around his ears and at the nape of his neck where it showed under his hat. The edges of the man’s—Ryan’s—hair looked damp, wet from the sweat that glistened on the nape of his neck. Michael’s mouth went suddenly dry.

Ryan raised an eyebrow, and Michael realized that he was waiting for Michael to speak. “Oh. Sorry. I’m Michael. I’m the new vet. In town.”

Ryan smiled. “Yeah, I thought so, what with you carrying a fancy bag and all.” He nodded toward the stall. “You going to go back in there, Doc, or were you going to use voodoo to fix her up?”

Michael’s face heated. “Right. Yes. I’m going back in.” He stepped toward the stall again, but this time it was Ryan who went in before him. He did his best to ignore Ryan’s presence as he crouched in the corner to fish out some syringes and vials from his bag, then stood and patted Charlie’s neck again before reaching out for her leg once more. She shifted again when he touched her, but this time Ryan kept her from shying away; Michael could hear him crooning to her under his breath, and that made Michael’s skin prickle with an almost painful awareness of the other man. He did his best to ignore it, concentrating hard on the horse instead. He gave her some local anesthetic around the wound, and a couple of shots of antibiotics and a tetanus shot while he was waiting for it to numb. Glancing up at Ryan as he placed the needles carefully out of the way next to his bag, he saw that Ryan was watching him. He cleared his throat and made an attempt at intelligent conversation. “Do you know how long she was wrapped up in the wire for?”

That got a reaction, but not one that Michael really wanted, as Ryan frowned, his expression dark and thunderous. “Too long.” He turned his head slightly and raised his voice, directing his next words over his shoulder at his brother and father. “Those back paddocks were supposed to be cleaned up ages ago. I never would have let her in there if I’d known they were still full of crap.”

“Hey, don’t look at me,” Andrew said from behind him. “I thought they’d been done. Otherwise I wouldn’t have let you put her in there.”

“Yeah, well,” Ryan said, his tone still harsh. “I better not find out who didn’t clean it up properly, or they’ll feel my boot up their ass.” He looked back at Michael, who turned away from him quickly, frowning down at the wound as he gently assessed it for numbness, trying not to show how the gruffness of Ryan’s tone had sent a shiver down his spine.

“Right, she’s ready,” he said, more to distract himself from Ryan than give a blow-by-blow account of what he was doing. He took the end of the remaining wire and gently pulled it out of the wound, then set about cleaning the damaged flesh. “Okay.” He glanced up at Ryan when he turned to get bandages out of his bag, feeling a bit more stable now that he had instructions to give. “It looks pretty clean, and even though there’s a bit of swelling there, it doesn’t look as if there’s any tendon damage, which is good. The cut’s deep but not wide, so I’m not going to stitch it up. I’ll dress it, and it can heal on its own. Happy with that?”

Ryan nodded. “Yeah. Do I need to do anything to it?”

Michael shrugged. “Just keep her somewhere where she’ll keep it clean.” He got out some antibiotic powder and puffed it liberally over the wound before starting to bandage it up. “I gave her an antibiotic shot, and now she’s got antibiotic powder on it, too, so it shouldn’t get infected. I’ve given her a tetanus shot as well. I’ll leave you some powder and fresh dressings so that if she does get it dirty, you can change it. In a few days, change it anyway. If it looks weepy or inflamed, give me—” He felt himself blushing again. “Give us a call, and we’ll come out to look at it, but it should be fine. The dressings can come off altogether in about ten days or so.” He tied the bandages off, pulled a packet of wet wipes from his bag, cleaned his hands, then packed up, gathering his bag and the used syringes as he stood. “Okay?”

“Okay,” Ryan said, smiling again and sticking out his hand. “Thanks Doc. Michael.”

Michael had to switch his bag to his other hand before he could shake Ryan’s hand, but as he gripped it, his heart skipped a beat, and he hoped desperately that he wasn’t blushing again. Ryan’s hand was warm, the skin slightly rough, and his grip strong. Michael suppressed a shiver and smiled, hoping he didn’t look as hysterical as he felt. “That’s no problem. Just doing my job, right?”

“Right.” Ryan held on to Michael’s hand for just a moment too long before letting it drop. He stepped to the side to let Michael out of the stall. “But thanks anyway.”

Michael left the stall, nodding to Andrew and Mr. Mitchell as he left. He walked all the way to his ute without looking back, but as he finished disposing of his syringes and stowing his bag in the back and went to climb into the cab, he couldn’t resist. Glancing back as casually as he could, he saw Ryan standing in the entrance of the stables, leaning against the door and watching him. Their gazes locked as Michael closed the ute’s door, and they stared at each other until Ryan moved suddenly, looking back over his shoulder as his brother and father came up behind him. He straightened, saying something to them as they walked past him, Andrew slapping him on the shoulder. All three men headed to the main house, Ryan lingering behind as Michael started the ute, touching the brim of his hat and flashing Michael a grin as he turned the car around and headed down the driveway. Michael watched the house in his rearview mirror until a bend in the driveway put it out of his sight, and he drove the whole way back into town with his stomach in knots.

Equilibrium release party

June 24, 2011

Morning everyone, and welcome to the release party for my new novel Equilibrium. I’ve got a few posts planned for you today, plus a contest or two, so hopefully it will be an interesting day. For now I’ll leave you with the blurb, so you can see what the story is (literally, ha!), but if you’ve got any questions, please don’t hesitate to comment. I would love to hear from you.

Welcome to Burreela, New South Wales. Population: more animals than humans. Although most (human) occupants are trying to get out of Burreela, the tiny town is the perfect place for veterinarian Michael Stone to break out of the bad habits that almost cost him the most meaningful part of his life: his profession.

Michael is struggling to regain his balance after hard personal losses and two years of promiscuity and drug abuse. He’s not prepared to meet Ryan Mitchell, a nice guy who won’t take no for an answer, whose patient pursuit leaves Michael less and less inclined to keep refusing. But Michael’s bad habits aren’t that far behind him. Can Michael hold himself together enough to be the man Ryan needs, or will he lose his equilibrium while trying to be man enough to hold on to the one he loves?

Equilibrium by Meredith Shayne

June 24, 2011

Can Ryan help Michael maintain his equilibrium or will he be the downfall of the man he loves? Equilibrium (m/m) by Meredith Shayne, available from Dreamspinner Press.

Welcome to Burreela, New South Wales. Population: more animals than humans. Although most (human) occupants are trying to get out of Burreela, the tiny town is the perfect place for veterinarian Michael Stone to break out of the bad habits that almost cost him the most meaningful part of his life: his profession.

Michael is struggling to regain his balance after hard personal losses and two years of promiscuity and drug abuse. He’s not prepared to meet Ryan Mitchell, a nice guy who won’t take no for an answer, whose patient pursuit leaves Michael less and less inclined to keep refusing. But Michael’s bad habits aren’t that far behind him. Can Michael hold himself together enough to be the man Ryan needs, or will he lose his equilibrium while trying to be man enough to hold on to the one he loves?

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Genre: Contemporary
Length: Novel

The Male Room by Carolyn LeVine Topol

June 22, 2011

Will an online dating service help Craig see the love waiting for him? The Male Room (m/m) by Carolyn LeVine Topol, available from Dreamspinner Press.

Craig just got fired from his dead-end job, and Jeff just got kicked out of his dead-end relationship. Frustrated with their unhappy lives, the two friends decide to let off some steam by going out to the Music Box, the town’s most notorious gay club. But after an unsatisfying night in the back room, Jeff decides there has to be something better for them out there, and he drags a reluctant Craig into starting a fledgling business called The Male Room, an online alternative for the gay dating scene in their area.

Jeff has another motive: Craig has picked up the pieces of Jeff’s broken heart more times than he can count, and Jeff has loved him forever. The Male Room is Jeff’s last hope that helping others find love might lead Craig to the one perfect match right in front of him.

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Genre: Contemporary
Length: Novella

Excerpt: Luki and Sonny——Hot and Sweet and Sexy (MATURE content—this post only. If you’re under 18 skip this and scroll down!)

June 20, 2011

Leaning back on the low balcony wall Luki gazed through the glass. Inside, an electric fireplace threw orange light and blue shadows over the room, casting Sonny’s shoulders in bronze. Luki found himself imagining the rest of Sonny’s bare skin glorified in that light. He went back inside and stood at the foot of the bed, couldn’t help it, stared at Sonny’s sleeping form, chewing his lip.

“What are you looking at?” Sonny asked, apparently not sleeping and always the jester. Luki almost laughed. Sonny seemed to be trying to find some moisture in his drug-dried mouth, so he took him a glass of water. Sitting on the edge of the bed, he watched him swallow.

Sonny managed to deposit the water glass on the night table without a major spill, then met Luki’s eyes again, more serious this time. “What are you thinking about?”

Luki waited, feeling his breath go scarce, his heart insisting on heating his blood. “You,” he said. After his treatment of Sonny that morning, speaking his mind now felt like a frightening plunge. “I’m thinking about putting my mouth all over you.”

Sonny returned his gaze. Faint, sober smile. No jokes, no words.

Luki leaned over and kissed his mouth, sweet and soft. “Yes?” he asked.

“Yes.”

Luki started with another kiss, sucking honey from Sonny’s lips. He visited tender, fleshy earlobes, dusted the lightest of kisses over fluttering eyelids. He feathered his lips and tongue over the line of Sonny’s jaw and down to the dip at the base of his throat. Sonny moved as if to participate. Luki held him back, gently pushed him down. With tongue and teeth and lips he paid tribute to every beautiful curve and hollow and rise of Sonny’s body he could reach without causing his wound to hurt. He kissed the hollows behind his collarbone, gently nipped taut nipples, poked his tongue into the dip of his navel. Then, the miraculous valley inside each hip—there he started at the fold of Sonny’s thigh and blazed a trail of kisses to the place that made Sonny dig his hands into Luki’s hair.

Once more, on the other side.

Sonny shifted again as if to participate, but Luki took hold of his hands and paused to meet his eyes. “No,” he said. “Be still.” Sonny’s belly clenched and he gasped, as if he thought the words, all by themselves, were sex play. His prick had hardened to the point that the tight skin pulled it almost flat against his belly. Luki ignored it, except to run his tongue beneath to collect the pool of pre-cum that had gathered there, brushing across the head of Sonny’s penis in the process. Downward again, inside the thighs, behind the knees, the sensitive toes and arches. Slowly, then up again, until he came once more to the center of Sonny’s excitement, pleasure, and despair, and began to address the heat arising there. He spread Sonny’s legs, burrowed his hands beneath his ass to hold him still.

Sonny grabbed at his hair again, said, “Luki, please.”

“No,” Luki said. “Wait.” Thick, wet lips, the flat of his tongue, a long, light kiss. He teased at the small, diamond-shaped tenderness just behind the head of Sonny’s penis, circled the smooth coronal ridge with his tongue, closed his mouth over the taut, curved head. Pleasuring. Or perhaps, judging from Sonny’s struggling breath, torturing.

“God, Luki, please,” he panted.

“Wait,” Luki said. He stroked the length of Sonny’s cock, squeezing, and with thumbs gathered the lubricant that emerged. Again cupping Sonny’s ass in his strong hands, he used the now slick thumbs to massage the sensitive rim of Sonny’s anus, sucking at his firm testes before moving his mouth once again to his erection. Sonny felt good to him, tasted sweet. Luki rejoiced in every touch he applied to Sonny’s gorgeous skin. But what drove him on his quest was a deep, unfamiliar desire to please at all costs. Luki applied all his experience and skill, relentless, merciless, demanding, but slow and sweet. Sonny’s breathing became ragged and his grip on Luki’s hair turned desperate, insistent, almost violent.

Luki dropped his mouth over Sonny’s shaft, opening his throat, and then sucked upward, slow and hard, at the same time pushing his two thumbs just inside, just past the pliant opening.

To Luki’s overwhelming pleasure, Sonny responded just as intended. He moaned long and low, almost silent, and the first hard pulse of orgasm shook him, splashing semen against Luki’s swollen lips.

After a while Sonny’s breathing calmed. Luki flared his nostrils to draw in the smell of Sonny’s sex, like saving it up.