Have You Gotten a Little HUNGRY FOR LOVE?

September 15, 2013
Well, whether you have or not, maybe you’re looking for something to read that warms your heart…and maybe a few other places. My latest book, Hungry for Love, not only hits romance and erotic buttons, it also provokes a little thought about who we are as people and the face, or faces, we choose to show the world.

Today, I’m dropping by the Dreamspinner Press blog to offer you a chance to see why Hungry for Love seems to be touching hot buttons with reviewers and readers alike in only its first couple of days of release. For the next couple of days, or so, when you enter coupon code Rick0915, you’ll get 25% off all my books, including Hungry for Love, plus all contemporaries.


What’s Hungry for Love about? Check out the blurb:

Nate Tippie and Brandon Wilde are gay, single, and both hoping to meet that special man, even though fate has not yet delivered him to their doorstep. Nate’s sister, Hannah, and her kooky best friend, Marilyn, are about to help fate with that task by creating a profile on the gay dating site, OpenHeartOpenMind. The two women are only exploring, but when they need a face and body for the persona they create, they use Nate as the model.

When Brandon comes across the false profile, he falls for the guy he sees online. Keeping up the charade, Hannah begins corresponding with him, posing as Nate. Real complications begin when Brandon wants to meet Nate, but Nate doesn’t even know he’s being used in the online dating ruse. Hannah and Marilyn concoct another story and send Nate out to let the guy down gently. But when Nate and Brandon meet, the two men feel an instant and powerful pull toward each other. Cupid seems to have shot his bow, but how do Nate and Brandon climb out from under a mountain of deceit without letting go of their chance at love?

REVIEWS
From LIVE YOUR LIFE, BUY THE BOOK
“I loved his writing style, I loved the flow of the book, I didn’t feel like there was anything missing by the time the end of the story came around and I was really able to love Brandon and Nate very easily…this story had romance, love, friendship, deception, jealousy, heartbreak…. Read the review.
From ON TOP DOWN UNDER BOOK REVIEW
“…overall, I really enjoyed this book…it was perfect…” Read the review.
From MRS. CONDIT AND FRIENDS READ BOOKS
“…written beautifully with humor, and love, and intelligence. Rick Reed has done a wonderful, wonderful job with this story!!” Read the review.
From AMOS LASSEN REVIEWS
“Reed has never been afraid to tackle the important issues of the LGBT community and here he looks at friendship, love, lies, heartbreak and jealousy while creating characters that we can identify with and grow to love.” Read the review.
From USA Today
I’ve gotten distracted reading a book before but never because I stopped to marvel at the genius of the author...sigh worthy….” Read the review.

BUY from Dreamspinner Press in ebook or in paperback

It’s A Release Party!: Like Fire Through Bone

September 13, 2013

Hello all!
I am E.E. Ottoman and I am here to talk about Like Fire Through Bone cones out on Friday 13th, today! I am so excited about this release party which will be going all day and include an awesome coupon code for 25% off all Angel and Demon stories at Dreamspinner somewhere along the way.

You can buy Like Fire Through Bone as an ebook here or as a paperback

First let me introduce myself. I am a graduate student in my late twenties, studying history and living in the greater New York City area. I am a cat lover and an avid home cook. I love menswear and fashion and try to dress as fashionably as possible. I adore all things history, am a big opera fan and love reading mythology. My idea of a perfect day out is a trip to a great museum or art gallery followed by a stunning meal. I am definitely a fantasy author and I love relationships between people and portraying them in all different varieties so romance is an incredibly exciting genre for me.

But enough about me, let’s talk about the book:

Like Fire Through Bone is my first full length novel, although I have written multiple short stories and novellas before this. This is also my first book working with Dreamspinner Press.

When I set out to write it I didn’t set out to write a full length novel. In fact I was aiming for 30,000 words.

I originally had something of a Byzantine/Roman Empire world in mind. I wanted to write a short fantasy adventure story so I came up with a demon who had been terrorizing the capital city stealing away children in the night. The demon was based on old Christian folklore from the Middle East. I came up with two main character Vasilios was a household eunuch who held a kind of secretarial position for a wealthy merchant and Markos who was a General in the Imperial Army.

My original plot outline was simple, they were going to exorcise the demon and then get together as a couple.

I knew Vasilios would have prophetic dreams about the demon and I assumed as soon as he went to Markos with the that information the story would pretty much wrap itself up.

Except it didn’t work like that.

As soon as I started writing Vasilios I realized he was a far more complex character than I had originally intended. I was going to have to deal with his trust issues, his relationship to his master, his relationship to his status as a eunuch, and most importantly the fact that he was a slave.

My outline expanded to deal with the question of Vasilios’ servitude and the real tough questions of portraying slavery in any story.

Then Aritê came into the story. She was originally supposed to be a character mentioned in passing but who never got any actual on screen time, as it were.

As soon as I wrote the scene were Thoefilos describes her though I knew they were going to have to go out into the desert to find her.  With her Aritê  brought the question of faith and the complicated role faith plays in the story.

Suddenly I found myself writing scenes with angels in them and realizing that in some ways the story was also about Vasilios’ faith journey and his relationship with faith, belief and surrender.

At this point the story was over 60k word, twice what I had originally set out to write and I knew they were going to have to out back out into the desert again but this time to a monastery in search of a half-snake monk …

What really surprised me the most about writing the initial draft of the story was how fast it came together. For all that it ended up being almost three times longer than the story I had set out to write, it only took a couple weeks to knock out the first draft.

I wasn’t really sure what to do with it after I had written the first draft though. Going back over and editing something of that length seemed too intimating to me and I had no real idea if anyone asides from me would like it.

The story dealt with some heavy issues like slavery and religion. It also starred a fully castrated main character. As an author I was pretty much unknown in the m/m romance genre and unsure about how much I could get away with.

So I let it sit in my edits folder and went on to write other shorter works. At some point though I mentioned its existence in passing to the amazing LJ LaBarthe who was, to my shock, excited about reading it. She offered to beta read it for me and do some historical facts checking which I desperately needed.

Her enthusiasm made me reconsider. I dug the manuscript out and read over it. I was shocked by how much I liked the story and set about editing it.

Originally my world building had been very Euro-centric. Reevaluating I went back and did some research widening my inspiration pool to include some amazing non-European civilizations and cultures. I also reevaluated my reasoning for making my cast white. “Did my characters need to be white?” I asked myself and discovered that they didn’t.

I also broke the story up into chapters.

When I was done going over it I sent it off to LJ who went over it with a fine tooth comb, doing an especially good job catching, correcting or adding historical details.

We had some great back and forth over different articles of clothing, some of which I made up and some of which are historical, different foods, and what the monitory system for my world was like.

When she was done I went over it again this time looking for consistency in overall tone and overarching themes. I added the second sex scene since I felt there were things that hadn’t been addressed in the first one.

Finally I submitted it to Dreamspinner Press and kept my fingers crossed that they would take a chance and accept it.

Which they did!

It might not be as related to my process of writing but I am genuinely curious, what do all of you love in fantasy? What attracts you to the sub-genre of fantasy romance? Or if you are not ordinarily into the sub-genre  what makes you interested in Like Fire Through Bone?

Win a Kindle or a Nook every Sunday during May!

May 3, 2013

Every Sunday during the anniversary month, we will give away two eBook readers of the winner’s choice! One will go to a customer who purchased books from us during that week. The other will go to one of the authors spotlighted that week.

Readers – Every Sunday we will draw one order from the orders placed that week, contact that customer, and they may choose a Kindle Paperwhite Wi-Fi or a Nook Simple Touch with GlowLight. (a $119 value)

Authors – Every Sunday we will draw the name of one of our authors featured during the previous week and they may choose a Kindle Paperwhite Wi-Fi or a Nook Simple Touch with GlowLight. (a $119 value)

May is the Dreamspinner Press anniversary month. Join us on Twitter, Facebook and Goodreads to take part of events, giveaways, and discounts.

Another excerpt from Tarnished Gold

March 25, 2013

Ready for another Tarnished Gold excerpt?

Here you go. This takes place in the early days of Jack’s career, before he met the love of his life.

Everyone Jack knew at the studio came to the fete at Herndon’s home, an exquisite palace in the Hollywood Hills. From the imposing colonnades that greeted their arrival, to the domed entrance hall, Jack marveled at the decadence in which the studio boss lived.

“Your home is amazing,” he told Herndon, as he cast his eyes at the painting of Saint Theresa, in a heavily gilded frame.

“The wife wanted a place that resembled the palaces in Rome. I can deny her nothing.”

Truly a palace.”

“Stocks, my boy. I’ve put my money in stocks. The market’s booming. You should consider investing some of your own money. I’m telling you, considerable return on investment.”

A newsreel cameraman stood before them, capturing the conversation for audiences across the country. The Starlight publicity machine was well greased and working smoothly.

“I’ve got my money in property, but I appreciate your advice.” In their investment discussion, Eric had convinced Jack to sink his money into real estate, something that would never devalue.

“If you ever decide to invest in stocks, come see me and I’ll steer you to my man. He’ll take care of you.”

“Thank you, I appreciate it.”

“I’d better see to the other guests. Enjoy yourself. This party’s for you.”

Jack mingled, drank more than was his custom, and eyed every man present for some discernible sign that they’d be interested in some alone time. As though possessed of some inner sense for such things, a man from across the room emerged from the crowd and sashayed his way toward Jack.

Jack leaned jauntily against the mantel, admiring the blond’s exaggerated hip action as he approached. The slim hips, long legs, and coy smile were all part of Dr. Jack’s prescription for curing profound loneliness.

“Mr. Abadie,” the handsome man said breathlessly, as he extended his hand with a flourish. “I’m Milo Somers. The studio has hired me to accompany you and Miss Hudson on the tour.”

Jack raked his gaze over the whole of Mr. Somers, stalling, quite deliberately, on the man’s burgeoning erection. “Really? Well now, that is the best news I’ve heard in some time.” Jack sipped his whiskey and let his remark foment sexy thoughts.

Milo rocked coyly for a few moments. “Might we go somewhere quiet? There are some things I’d like to discuss with you.”

Jack slowly pushed away from the wall, taking mental note of the things he’d like to discuss with the delicious Mr. Somers. “Follow me. I believe we’d find Oscar’s office much quieter.”

Follow the blog tour from now until April 8 (the badge says the 5th, but its the 8th.) Each comment you leave along the way, is an entry into the drawing for a Kindle, to be awarded on April 10.

Purchase Tarnished Gold on Dreamspinner Press, Amazon, and other third party outlets.

I have one more excerpt for you, so come on back from 9pm to midnight.

Oh, the Decadence of Hollywood

March 25, 2013

Oh, the Decadence of Hollywood

Each author’s project comes together in stages. Tarnished Gold was no different. The concept has probably fermented for years, given my intense interest in the Golden Age of Hollywood. I am a bit of a Hollywood trivia buff, old Hollywood, that is, so since I started to write seriously, this book has lived, in some form, in the back of my head.

I am a fan of silent movies, as well as those early talkies, but I have always delved deeper, into the people who created those films, as well as those who starred in them. In the early days of Hollywood, glamour was the byword. Never did stars appear in public without full makeup in the case of the ladies, and dressed to the nines for the gents. They appeared as ideal men and women, untouchables, someone each fan of the flickers wanted.

And that was the idea. Stars were carefully packaged and promoted. Most were given new names—Joseph Frank Keaton became Buster Keaton; Luis Antonio Damaso de Alsonso lived his life as Gilbert Roland; an Italian with the lengthy name Rudofo Alfonso Raffaello Pierre Filibert Gugliami de Valentina d’Antonguolla shortened it up to Rudolph Valentino. Let us not forget his wife, Natacha Rambova, who came from the very unglamorous Salt Lake City and entered the world as Winifred Kimball Shaughnessy Alla Nazimova started life in the Ukraine as Miriam Edez Adelaida Leventon and, be still my heart, Jose Ramon Gil Samaniego, was better known to the world as Ramon Novarro.

All who went to La-La Land sought something—stardom, the extravagance afforded stars, sex. The free-wheeling stars took the excitement seriously. Parties and drug use were commonplace, followed by scandals, public outcry, and morals codes, which guaranteed the studios control over not only their movies, but the lives of stars—on and off the screen.

Tarnished Gold tells the story of a star and the pressures he faced to live an authentic life—that of a gay man—and not compromise his belief that he should have the right to do just that.

Here’s a little taste of Jack as he begins his Hollywood career:

As the clock struck nine, Eric announced dinner was served. The guests followed him into the festively decorated dining room. They found their assigned seats marked by the calligraphically written place cards. The smell of pine from the sprays on the table combined with the delicious aromas of the food. A tree stood majestically in a corner, reaching ten feet to the ceiling, decorated with gilded violins and lutes. The tinsel twinkled in the candlelight from the elaborate silver candelabras and sconces, setting a decidedly merry tenor.

Upon each gold-rimmed plate, save Jack’s and Eric’s, lay a gold box wrapped in red ribbon. The gifts were a surprise to him, and the absence of one before him made him feel uneasy, and not a little left out.

“Everyone, your attention, please.”

The excited din settled into murmurs, then everyone turned their attention to Eric, who stood at the opposite end of the table.

“I’d like to welcome you to my home. This has been an especially prosperous year for us at Starlight, and to be able to share that with all of you is indeed my greatest pleasure.

“You’ll see a small token of my esteem in front of you. Please open the boxes.”

A dignified commotion ensued as the guests opened their boxes and the ladies oohed upon seeing the gold snowflake earrings, and the men aahed at the gold snowflake cufflinks. Jack glanced to his left, then the right and admired a set of each, while he sat empty-handed. He hoped no one would notice that Eric had forgotten him.

Appreciative thank-yous flowed from the guests, each acknowledged by the gracious host.

Eric remained standing and allowed a few more moments to lapse before he tapped his glass. “If you will indulge me, I have one more gift to present.”

A hush fell over the guests as a butler placed a beautifully wrapped box in front of Jack. He keenly felt the attention as the guests focused on him. With a barely perceptible nod, Eric signaled that Jack should open the gift. Jack removed the bow and lifted the lid.

You’ll find your copy of Tarnished Gold at Dreamspinner Press, in either ebook or paperback. For the first twenty readers who buy a paperback, you’ll find them signed by me.

Come back here from 12noon to 3pm central time, for another exclusive excerpt.

Tarnished Gold Blog Tour – You could win a Kindle

March 25, 2013

Welcome to the first stop on the Tarnished Gold Virtual Blog Tour. Follow the tour and you win a Kindle.

I’m Brita Addams and I write historical romance. I now have two titles with Dreamspinner, For Men Like Us and as of today, Tarnished Gold.

I’m very excited that Tarnished Gold is now in the hands of readers. My love for the Golden Age of Hollywood was the prompt for this novel. For all its faults, Hollywood has produced some memorable characters.

I’ll be at the Dreamspinner blog throughout the day, with exclusive excerpts and some background info about Tarnished Gold. You’ll meet the inspiration for my character, Jack Abadie and learn why he touched my heart so much.

From today through April 8, I will visit many blogs, giving information on the novel and talking with readers. Each comment you leave, is one entry in the drawing for a Kindle.

The blog tour schedule is located on my website.

For this post, please follow the link to read the long excerpt located on the Dreamspinner site. You can also purchase while there.

Here’s the blurb for Tarnished Gold:

In 1915, starstruck Jack Abadie strikes out for the gilded streets of the most sinful town in the country—Hollywood. With him, he takes a secret that his country hometown would never understand.

After years of hard work and a chance invitation to a gay gentlemen’s club, Jack is discovered. Soon, his talent, matinee idol good looks, and affable personality propel him to the height of stardom. But fame breeds distrust.

Meeting Wyatt Maitland turns Jack’s life upside down. He wants to be worthy of his good fortune, but old demons haunt him. Only through Wyatt’s strength can Jack face that which keeps him from being the man he wants to be. Love without trust is empty.

As the 1920s roar, scandals rock the movie industry. Public tolerance of Hollywood’s decadence has reached its limit. Under pressure to clean up its act, Jack’s studio issues an ultimatum. Either forsake the man he loves and remain a box office darling, or follow his heart and let his shining star fade to tarnished gold.

Read an excerpt and purchase the Tarnished Gold ebook or print, signed by the author (if one of the first twenty sold.)

Come back between 9am and noon central time, and I’ll have some dish on the Hollywood of yesteryear.

About Brita Addams:

Born in Upstate New York, Brita Addams has made her home in the sultry south for many years. Brita’s home is a happy place, where she lives with her real-life hero, her husband, and a fat cat named Stormee.

She writes, for the most part, erotic historical romance, both het and m/m, which is an ideal fit, given her love of British and American history. Setting the tone for each historical is important. Research plays an indispensible part in the writing of any historical work, romance or otherwise. A great deal of reading and study goes into each work, to give the story the authenticity it deserves.

As a reader, Brita prefers historical works, romances and otherwise. She believes herself born in the wrong century, though she says she would find it difficult to live without air conditioning.

Brita and her husband love to travel, particularly cruises and long road trips. They completed a Civil War battlefield tour a couple of years ago, and have visited many places involved in the American Revolutionary War.

In May, 2013, they are going to England for two weeks, to visit the places Brita writes about in her books, including the estate that inspired the setting for her Sapphire Club series. Not the activities, just the floor plan. J

A bit of trivia – Brita pronounces her name, Bree-ta, like the woman’s name, and oddly, not like the famous water filter.

Please visit me at any of these online locations:

Website

Blog

Twitter

Facebook

Fan Page

Goodreads

Bookshelf

Amazon Author Page

Pinterest

Aria Release Party: Excerpt #3 and Giveaways!

December 24, 2012

Here’s the last excerpt from my brand new Dreamspinner Press release, Aria (Blue Notes #3) ! I’m running a bunch of giveaways to celebrate release day.  Enter by leaving your name and email on my blog.  I will draw a name from the comments for each of the drawings tonight. So comment once, and you’re entered into all the drawings!

One of the drawings is for a t-shirt with the gorgeous cover of Aria (art by Catt Ford) smack dab center. I’ve got a pretty good selection of sizes, too. XD The photo, by the way, features the incredible interior of the La Scala opera house in Milan, which appears in a few of the Blue Note Series books, including Aria and The Melody Thief. It’s probably one of the most beautiful opera houses in the world, and along with Covent Garden in London and The Metropolitan Opera/Lincoln Center in New York, is one of the ultimate performing venues for an opera singer. Not surprisingly, opera sensation Aiden Lind, one of the main characters in Aria, sings in all of these amazing places. I guess in that sense, Aria is a bit of my own fantasy come true.

Ever wonder how opera singers manage to be heard in these huge venues that seat thousands of patrons? It’s a combination of things, really. First, the accoustics of these opera houses are amazing. They were built so that a human voice could fill the space without amplification. But not just any human voice. Big human voices (yes, that’s the term for loud voices in opera speak). The kind of voices that sing in large houses like these are ones you could hear from a mile away (not that much of an exaggeration!). How do you “get” a big voice? Most of it is genetics–the way your jaw, mouth and throat are made. But there’s also technique that you can learn to help project your voice, most of which has to do with breath support (singing over the breath, much like a violin bow vibrating across a string). Do it wrong, and you can hurt your vocal chords and end up with vocal “nodes,” which are a bit like a callous and interfere with the vibrations of the voice (and make you sound hoarse or raspy).

Interested in reading a bit more of Aria? Here’s another excerpt for you, from Chapter Two. Hope you enjoy it! -Shira

*********************

Blurb: Five years after a prestigious scholarship jumpstarted his opera career, Aiden Lind has it all: fame, choice roles, and Lord Cameron Sherrington to share his life with. Maintaining his façade takes effort, but under his poised, sophisticated mask, Aiden is still the insecure kid from rural Mississippi. Then he walks in on Cam with another man, and the illusion of perfection shatters.

Philadelphia attorney Sam Ryan never moved on after his partner died, though he tried. Instead of dating, he keeps himself busy with work—but when he unexpectedly runs into ex-lover Aiden while on a rare vacation in Paris, he’s inspired to give their love a second chance. First, though, he’ll have to get Aiden to forgive him. Because when Sam was still grieving five years ago, he broke Aiden’s heart.

When rekindled lust blossoms into a true romance, it seems like the start of something wonderful. But Aiden’s career has him on the road much of the time, and the physical distance between him and Sam starts translating into an emotional disconnect. If Aiden and Sam can’t learn to communicate, their separation may prove more than their love can bear.

**************

Chapter Two

London

“MR. LIND!” the reporter shouted at him as he walked out the side door from Covent Garden. “Do you have a minute?”

Aiden had just finished rehearsing for his London debut in a new production of Mozart’s Don Giovanni. He was exhausted and looking forward to a hot shower back at his place. He pulled up the collar of his wool coat and tucked his scarf a bit tighter around his neck. With all the insanity that seemed to swirl around him recently, the last thing he wanted was to get sick and have to cancel a performance. He could see the headline now: Lovesick Opera Star Misses Opening Night.

Deep breath. I can do this. He turned and flashed his best, most confident smile at the woman. Opera singers never got much press attention, but ever since he’d met Cameron Sherrington, Aiden had been on the radar screen. Cam wasn’t only the outrageously wealthy heir to a global hotel conglomerate, he was also a sometime impresario who financed Broadway-bound productions and even a movie or two when it struck his fancy.

“Mr. Lind, I’m Janine Thomas, from the Sunday Press,” the woman said as he shook her hand. “I was hoping to ask you a few questions.”

“Sure.”

He had been expecting the usual “Did you know that the queen will be attending your debut?” or “Are you and Lord Sherrington planning another vacation aboard his yacht this summer?” So he was entirely unprepared when she asked, “Is it true about Lord Sherrington and Jarrod Jameson?”

“What?” He stared at her for a split second, then swallowed hard and fought to regain his composure.

He knew Jarrod. Cam had invited him and about a hundred other guests to a party a few months before at “the castle,” as Aiden liked to call Cam’s family’s sprawling estate about an hour out of London, at which he and Cam sometimes spent the weekend. Jarrod was an Olympic swimmer and recent gold medalist in the European games held only six months before. Lean, muscular body, model good looks. Gay.

The reporter—Aiden had already forgotten her name—thrust a large glossy photograph into his hands. He knew he should hand it back to her, but he was so rattled he couldn’t think straight. The photo was grainy, obviously taken at night. It showed two men entwined and kissing behind a tall iron gate. The kiss was not chaste.

Aiden’s mouth went dry. He knew that gate—the gate in front of the London home he and Cam shared in Bloomsbury. One of the men looked a lot like Jameson, although he couldn’t be sure. And the other man… Aiden was pretty sure he recognized the familiar high cheekbones, the short brown hair that was always stylishly mussed, and the lean, athletic frame that looked so striking in an expensive suit. And well he should. He’d been living with the man for nearly a year.

He shoved the photograph back at her. “No comment.” His jaw tensed as he strode quickly over to the curb and flagged down a taxi.

“Mr. Lind!” she shouted as he ducked into the cab and shut the door. He ignored her and gave the driver his address.

AT NEARLY two in the morning, Aiden heard the front door open and close. He had spent the better part of the past three hours making a serious dent in the contents of a cut crystal carafe filled with expensive scotch. He was drunk, but not so drunk that he didn’t care. He wished to hell he was. He didn’t want to care. It hurt too much.

It was still so surreal, living in this incredible Edwardian house in one of the most expensive London neighborhoods. He had grown up in rural Mississippi in a three-bedroom ranch on his grandfather’s farm. The house had been comfortable but small, built in the late 1960s, when his father married his mother. A wedding present. Aiden had always wondered how his mother must have felt, having her front door a few hundred feet from her in-laws’ home. But if it had bothered her, she’d never mentioned it. Elizabeth Lind was the perfect wife and mother, attending church, cooking and cleaning and raising her two children. His mother’s world was far removed from the one into which Cameron Sherrington had been born—one of wealth and privilege. Aiden still felt like a usurper, a pretender to his current circumstances.

“Waiting up for me, sweetheart? I told you I’d be at the gallery opening late. Lady Billingsley insisted we go out for drinks afterwards, and you know how she is.” Cameron laid his coat over the back of the loveseat, walked over to Aiden, and bent down to kiss him on the head.

“I looked online,” Aiden said, his voice a monotone. “The gallery opening was last week.”

“Checking up on me?” Cam laughed and kissed Aiden again. “I’m sure you’re mistaken.” He walked over to the buffet and poured himself a glass of sherry. “I hardly imagined the party tonight. And it was a dull one, frankly. If Sarah hadn’t been there, I’d—”

“Was he good, Cam?” Aiden got up from the couch and stood in front of the fireplace.

“What on Earth are you talking about? And who is he?”

“Jarrod Jameson.”

The slight twitch in Cam’s cheek told Aiden everything he needed to know.

“Jameson? You mean the swimmer? What would I know about him?” Cam refilled his glass and waved it in Aiden’s direction.

“I know you’ve been fucking him.”

Cam raised an eyebrow. “You’re drunk.”

“Don’t change the subject.”

“We can talk about it in the morning, when you’ve sobered up a bit.” Cam gave him a long-suffering look that made Aiden feel like he was six years old again.

“Cam. Shit. You promised you wouldn’t—”

“Shhh.” Cam took Aiden in his arms and ran his hands through Aiden’s hair.

Aiden wanted to pull away, but he couldn’t do it. Instead he melted into Cam’s arms.

“You know I love you. What happens out there, it’s not us. This,” he continued, “here, this is who we are.”

The fire spit angrily, and Aiden watched it with calm detachment over Cam’s shoulder. Cam was right. This was home. He loved this old place with its creaky stairs, wood paneling, painted doors, and beautifully worn oak floors. They had picked out the furniture together, shopping the antique stores of Portobello Road until they found the perfect pieces.

“Cam, I—”

“You’re being paranoid, sweetheart,” Cam interrupted. He ran a thumb over Aiden’s mouth, tracing his lips until Aiden closed his eyes. “You worry too much. You always do.”

Aiden took a deep breath. Maybe Cam was right. Maybe he was being paranoid. The photograph had been taken at night, after all. And he hadn’t been sure it was Cam.

“Come to bed, Aiden,” Cam purred as he licked a line from Aiden’s chin to the sensitive spot under his ear. “And let me show you how much you mean to me.”

“AIDEN?”

Shit. He had missed his entrance. Again.

“Sorry, David. I don’t know what’s wrong with me today.”

David Somers peered at him over the rim of his reading glasses and frowned. “It’s about time for lunch anyhow,” the conductor said as he stood up from the piano. “How about it? My treat.”

“I… ah… sure.” Aiden had eaten with David before, but he still felt supremely awkward around the superstar conductor whose old-world grace and sophistication were so far removed from Aiden’s humble upbringing. David was classical music royalty, and Aiden was the hick kid with the incredible voice.

They’d met three and a half years before, not long after he’d arrived in Germany. David had taken Aiden under his wing, gotten him work in the larger European houses, introduced him to the best European conductors. David was the reason Aiden was making his Covent Garden debut; in the terms of his contract, he had insisted on Aiden singing the title role. David had even sent Aiden to a friend who had his own line of clothing with one of the largest European fashion houses for a “bit of polish,” as David had put it. David had taught Aiden about good wine and good food. Aiden’s best friend, Cary Redding, loved to tease Aiden that David was his fairy godfather.

When David’s driver let them out in front of a small fish and chips place near Piccadilly Circus, Aiden was more than a little surprised. He’d been expecting something a bit more posh. David was clearly amused to see Aiden’s reaction.

“Fish and chips is an art form in its own right,” David told Aiden in his upper-crust New England accent. “Not everything on your plate needs to be haute cuisine.”

Ten minutes later, settled at a table near the back of the tiny restaurant, Aiden nodded in hearty agreement as he bit into a delicately battered piece of fish that melted on his tongue. “This is incredible.”

David’s response was a knowing but reserved smile. David never laughed, as far as Aiden could tell, and right now, Aiden was thankful for it.

“Something’s on your mind, Aiden,” David said. He never did beat around the bush.

“It’s nothing.” Aiden wiped his lips and tried not to blush.

“I’ve never seen you this distracted.”

Aiden was utterly embarrassed. It wasn’t as if he was going to discuss his love life with someone like David Somers. Why would David even care?

“I am not entirely oblivious to your situation,” David continued, apparently unfazed by Aiden’s silence. “I knew Lord Sherrington’s parents quite well.”

Oh God, Aiden thought. Can it get any worse? He waited for the other shoe to drop. David would fire him now, wouldn’t he?

“That’s interesting,” Aiden said, knowing he looked like a complete fool and reminding himself that there were other jobs to be had. Of course, none of the other jobs he’d gotten since coming to Europe were anywhere near his current gig: performing at the best opera house in Great Britain with the best conductor around, singing the title role in Don Giovanni.

“I simply wanted you to know that if you need anything,” David continued, “I’m here to assist. I have several spare bedrooms at my London flat.”

Aiden’s mouth fell open. Was the man offering to put him up if he left Cam?

David offered Aiden a warm smile. “I put very little stock in the gossip rags,” he said as he tore a piece of fish off with his bare hands, “but I am not so naïve as to believe that there is never a grain of truth to be found between their covers.”

“You… you would do that?” Aiden stammered as David’s words began to work their way to his fuzzy brain. “Put me up?”

“Of course. Aren’t we friends?”

Aiden coughed and choked on a piece of fish until tears appeared in the corners of his eyes.

David handed him an extra napkin with casual aplomb. Does anything ruffle this man? Aiden wondered. Friends? Me and David Somers?

“It would be my pleasure.”

“I… uh… I mean… that’s very kind of you and all, but….”

“Aiden.” David’s face was serious now, his expression sympathetic and kind. “You have far too little faith in your own abilities both on and off the stage. It isn’t my place to give you advice as to your private affairs, but I feel it’s my duty as your friend to remind you that I am here should you ever need my help.”

“I… uh… thanks, David. I’m honored. I mean, I’m—”

“There’s no need to thank me. And no need to speak of it further.” He gestured to Aiden’s plate. “By the way,” he continued, “the fish is far better consumed hot.”

Aiden nodded dumbly and went back to work on his food, knowing the heat in his cheeks was visible to his companion but unable to do anything about it. There was no doubt in his mind that David’s offer was entirely genuine.

David Somers wants to be my friend? It seemed so improbable, so surreal. And yet, there it was.

“YOU were splendid, darling,” Cam gushed as he met Aiden in the front entrance of his family’s estate and planted a kiss on his lips. “Not that I expected anything else, of course.”

Cameron had invited the entire Don Giovanni cast back to the castle to celebrate iden’s London debut. And the orchestra. And the stage crew. Half of London, really.

Cam guided Aiden into the grand ballroom of the estate to a round of applause from the guests. Aiden caught David Somers’s eye, and the conductor raised his glass and smiled.

The place was magnificent. Glittering chandeliers cast flickering slivers of light on the polished marble floors. The ceiling was painted with tiny stars on a deep blue background, the walls paneled in well-oiled wood that shone and reflected blue and white with the crystals overhead. Toward the back of the ballroom, enormous arched doors led out onto a patio running the length of the room. Aiden was reminded of the dizzying effect of a disco ball, only far more ethereal.

A jazz orchestra played at one end of the high-ceilinged room as women in ball gowns danced with men in tuxedos. Aiden had begged Cam for a little party at their own home. He was entirely out of his element here, amidst the titled guests and local celebrities. Cam, however, had insisted that Aiden deserved the lavish celebration, and Aiden, knowing it was useless to argue, had finally relented.

For nearly two hours, Aiden smiled politely as guest after guest congratulated him on his performance. Finally, at the end of his patience and feeling the usual exhaustion that followed an evening of singing, he walked onto the patio and into the damp evening air. The midwinter chill on the breeze helped clear his mind.

It was quiet here, overlooking the formal gardens. Beyond, Aiden could barely make out the copse of trees he and Cam had often picnicked under. Beyond that were the woods where they’d ridden on horseback—where Cam had taught Aiden to ride. Even now, as winter began to weave its tendrils throughout the countryside, it was still lovely. In spring, the trees and flowers would burst into a frenzy of color, each plant painstakingly placed for maximum visual impact. Aiden wished his mother could see this. She’d always loved to tend her garden.

Overhead, a plane made its way to parts unknown, but the only thing Aiden could hear was the wind as it moved through the trees and shrubs. He wondered what it must have been like for Cam, growing up in this beautiful but formidable place. They often spent weekends here in the spring and summer, but it never felt like home to Aiden. He couldn’t get used to the servants who pressed his clothing and turned down the bed at night, or the elaborate breakfasts that greeted them in the mornings with food enough for ten people.

In all his stays at the castle, Aiden had never once met Cameron’s mother. He once asked Cam how often he saw her, but Cam only laughed and pointed out that Aiden hadn’t seen his own parents or his sister in more than two years. Funny, thought Aiden, how he still missed his parents sometimes. But then again, John Lind had made it abundantly clear that he wanted nothing to do with his only son. Aiden’s mother wouldn’t defy her husband, although she wrote to Aiden regularly by e-mail. His sister, Deb, had also made the effort to stay in touch, and he saw her once a year at most.

“Aiden!” he heard Cam call from the glass doors behind him. “You must meet Lord Cook and his wife, Audrey.”

With a sigh, Aiden turned and walked back into the ballroom.

AT NEARLY three in the morning, Aiden climbed the back stairs to the enormous bedroom he and Cameron shared. The room, as the rest of the house, was decorated in antiques. The bed was the only compromise in the room. Made of reclaimed wood Cam had told him once made up a wall-sized cabinet, it had been crafted to resemble the other pieces. Mahogany, finely detailed carving. Outrageously expensive. Cam had told him it was French and several hundred years old. Oil paintings of the English countryside hung at perfectly placed intervals on the damask-covered walls.

The party still continued below. It would go on until sunrise, Aiden guessed, but Cam would forgive him for turning in early. Not that Cam would hesitate to tease him mercilessly about being an early bird the next day. Aiden had a difficult enough time keeping up with Cam’s seemingly boundless energy, but after a long day and performance, Aiden knew it was a lost cause even to attempt it.

Aiden shed his tux, slipped into a heavenly pair of silk pajamas Cam had given him as a gift—one of many gifts—and washed his face in the spacious bathroom attached to their room. He reached for the toothbrush, neatly laid out on the glass shelf above the sink, when his stomach rumbled loudly enough for him to hear. He laughed. In all the chaos of the evening, he had forgotten to eat.

He never did eat much before a performance. He was loath to admit it, but he desperately feared burping when he was on stage. Not that he ever had. Still, it was a bit like a good luck charm for him, not eating. But afterward….

Damn. The servants would all be helping out at the party, so it wouldn’t be easy to find someone to bring him a snack. He didn’t want to get dressed again, he was too comfortable. He’d have to get the food himself without being noticed. Aiden smiled at the thought that he knew his way to the kitchen without descending the main staircase. He and Cam had sneaked down to the kitchen by way of the servants’ stairs more than a few times to snag leftovers after a particularly athletic round of sex.

He pulled on a pair of slippers and tied a warm woolen robe around himself. He made his way down the long hallway that joined the east wing of the house with the west, past the enormous staircase that led to the front entry, and toward the back stairs. He had nearly reached the stairs when he heard it—the sound of voices from a sitting room that joined a pair of bedrooms.

“Right… oh, yes… right there. That’s it. Just a little more. Oh… fuck!”

Aiden laughed to himself. He wasn’t all that surprised that some of the guests had made their way up here for a little added entertainment. The servants had been instructed to make the guest bedrooms available to Cam’s “good friends,” which in Aiden’s experience meant anyone who asked to stay.

He quickened his pace, not wanting to eavesdrop. The door to the sitting room was slightly ajar, so he kept his eyes focused on the stairwell so he wouldn’t be tempted to look inside. But then he heard a second voice, and he froze where he stood.

“Damn, but you’re tight tonight, sweetheart. Have you missed me? Have you been saving yourself for me? Because that tight little ass of yours is too delicious—”

Aiden’s gut roiled. He stormed over to the door and kicked it open with such violence that the sound echoed down the hallway. What he saw inside made him sick.

Jarrod Jameson was bent over an overstuffed settee. Naked. Cam, fully dressed, was ramming him from behind, his hands grasping Jarrod’s waist. Later, Aiden would realize that his gaze hadn’t focused as much on the men as on the antique sofa, with its beautiful carved scrollwork and hand-embroidered upholstery. Cam had taught him to appreciate the delicate beauty of just such an antique.

“Get the fuck out of here!” Aiden shouted at Jarrod as the two men abruptly separated.

“Aiden, sweetheart, I—”

“Shut up,” Aiden snapped at Cam as Jarrod picked up his scattered clothing from the Persian rug and ran out of the room, still naked. It was a good thing Jarrod left so quickly, because Aiden’s hands were balled in fists and he was having a hard time restraining himself from punching Jarrod’s face in.

Cam opened his mouth to speak, but Aiden didn’t give him the opportunity. “Don’t fucking try it, Cameron. It won’t work this time.” He turned and left, slamming the door to the sitting room behind him.

Back in his room—their room—a minute later, Aiden threw off his pajamas, pulled on a pair of jeans and a cashmere sweater, slipped on a pair of moccasins and a wool jacket, grabbed his wallet, and headed down the main stairway. He’d get his things later. He couldn’t stay a second longer.

Several guests were milling about the front door, drinks in hand, laughing. They barely looked at him in his street clothes. Maybe they didn’t recognize him.

Or maybe they don’t give a shit.

“I’m taking the Jag,” Aiden told one of the servants. The man looked at him with surprise but complied, returning a moment later to let him know the driver would be bringing the car around. Aiden was on the road back to London a few minutes later.

WHEN Cameron returned from the castle the next morning, Aiden had several suitcases spread around the bedroom and was packing his belongings. Aiden had tried to sleep but had given up in the end, deciding instead to get his things together. He couldn’t do this anymore. How could he have been so naïve? He had stupidly believed the man the first time. But the second….

What’s the old expression? Fool me once, shame on you… fool me twice, shame on me?

God, his chest hurt. His eyes were red from lack of sleep and tears. Ironic that the biggest night of his career would be the worst night for his heart.

“Darling,” Cam said as he looked into the bedroom at the array of suitcases on the floor and on the bed, “don’t do this.”

“Do what, Cam? Because last time I checked, I wasn’t the one doing anything. It was you, doing it to us.”

“Darling, please!”

“Don’t you fucking call me that! You don’t deserve to call me that.”

“Dar—Aiden,” Cam began again, “let’s talk about this. We can straighten this out.”

“Sure. We can straighten it out. I’ll forgive you again and you’ll go on doing what you want, won’t you?”

“You’re jealous. You always were.”

“Cam, for God’s sake! Of course I’m jealous. We live together, and I just caught you fucking some—”

“Sweetheart. Aiden.” Cam walked over to Aiden and took him in his arms. “Don’t do this.”

Aiden did his utmost not to respond to that touch, to the touch that had once sustained him through the ups and downs of his career. It was one of the hardest things he had ever done, not to melt into Cam’s arms as he loved to do.

“It’s over, Cam. I can’t live like this. It’s not what I thought we were about.” Aiden’s voice cracked.

“I’ll never speak to Jarrod again.” Cam’s tone was reassuring. “I promise you.”

“It’s not him. Don’t you understand? You’ll just find someone else. I’m obviously not enough for you.”

There. He had said it. And it was true. Because no matter how much he told himself he deserved better, it all seemed to come down to his own failings. He, Aiden Reuben Lind, hadn’t been able to keep Cameron happy. It didn’t matter how he looked at it. He had failed. It was time to admit it. Time to leave. Time to move on.

“I want you.”

Aiden pulled out of Cam’s arms and walked silently to the bathroom, grabbed his toiletry bag, and tossed it into the suitcase he’d been working on. “It’s over, Cam,” he said as he latched the case and pulled it off the bed.

“What will you do without me?”

The question scared Aiden to death. “I’ll be fine,” he said under his breath. He hoped he sounded more convinced than he really was.

“You need me, Aiden. You need what I can give you. Money. Better name recognition. Work.”

Work. Aiden hoped to God Cameron wouldn’t interfere with his work. Would he do that?

“I’ll be fine,” he repeated.

“You’ll regret this, Aiden. I assure you.”

Was that a threat? He didn’t dare ask. “Good-bye, Cam,” he said. He picked up the suitcase and headed out the bedroom door. “I’ll send someone around to pick up the others.”

Cameron said nothing.

“DAVID,” Aiden said an hour later as he stood on the doorstep of David Somers’s London flat, “it’s good to see you. I hope I’m not coming at a bad time.”

David smiled and opened the door for Aiden, took the suitcase over Aiden’s protests, and led him inside. “The offer to stay here didn’t have an expiration date.” He gave Aiden’s shoulder a reassuring squeeze. “You can stay as long as you like.”

Aria (Blue Notes #3) is at the Dreamspinner Press website.

Aria Release Day: Giveaways and Excerpt #2

December 24, 2012

Welcome to the release party for my new novel, Aria, the third in my Blue Notes Series of classical music themed gay romances!  I’m running a bunch of giveaways on my blog, so stop by and comment to be entered into all of them.  I’ll be drawing winners at midnight tonight!

One of the today’s giveaway is for a paperback copy of Blue Notes, the original book in the series. Loosely based on my experiences growing up in France, Blue Notes is the story of former pianist, now lawyer Jason Greene, and jazz violinist Jules Bardon. The two meet in a Paris jazz club after Jason runs away from his life in the US when he catches his fiancee cheating on him.

Like Blue Notes, Aria is a story about a musician and a lawyer. In fact, Sam Ryan from Aria and Jason from Blue Notes almost end up in bed together at one point in the original story. They’re former courtroom rivals who meet after Jason’s heart has been broken. Instead, the two men become close friends and when Sam visits Jason in Paris, Sam runs into former lover and international opera sensation Aiden Lind. So begins their rekindled romance.

Aria is at times sad, at times sweet and funny, and of course, there’s a happily ever after (no spoilers here – I only write books with happy endings!). In fact, the HEA in Aria is probably my favorite so far in the series. But that’s all I’m saying!

Aria has a bit of the backstage world of opera. From the wigs, to the pancake makeup that tends to run down your face when you sweat under the hot lights (the heavy costumes don’t help much either), it’s really hard work. They say singing an opera is a bit like running a marathon. Not sure about that (I’ve never run a marathon!), but I do know that it’s a physical career. And no, in this day and age, most opera singers are not fat. In fact, the thinnest I’ve ever been was when I was singing. You really do have to look the part! Tosca, by the way, was supposed to be a sexy opera singer. ;-) Want to see what I call sexy when it comes to opera singers? Check out this excerpt from Bizet’s “The Pearlfishers” – the operatic equivalent of a bromance. That would be Aiden (the baritone) on the right in the clip. Yummy! See, opera singers can be hot!

I’ll leave you with a NSFW excerpt from Aria. This is the scene where Aiden and Sam first meet, five years before present day action. It’s a long and hot one. Enjoy! -Shira

*********************

Blurb: Five years after a prestigious scholarship jumpstarted his opera career, Aiden Lind has it all: fame, choice roles, and Lord Cameron Sherrington to share his life with. Maintaining his façade takes effort, but under his poised, sophisticated mask, Aiden is still the insecure kid from rural Mississippi. Then he walks in on Cam with another man, and the illusion of perfection shatters.

Philadelphia attorney Sam Ryan never moved on after his partner died, though he tried. Instead of dating, he keeps himself busy with work—but when he unexpectedly runs into ex-lover Aiden while on a rare vacation in Paris, he’s inspired to give their love a second chance. First, though, he’ll have to get Aiden to forgive him. Because when Sam was still grieving five years ago, he broke Aiden’s heart.

When rekindled lust blossoms into a true romance, it seems like the start of something wonderful. But Aiden’s career has him on the road much of the time, and the physical distance between him and Sam starts translating into an emotional disconnect. If Aiden and Sam can’t learn to communicate, their separation may prove more than their love can bear.

**************

Chapter Five:

New York, New York

The SoHo bar was crowded when Sam arrived a few minutes after eight o’clock. Some of his friends had recommended it to him, but he had never been inside. Typical of many establishments in the area, the walls were stripped bare of years of paint. Modern canvasses in various sizes and shapes broke the monotony of the ancient brick. Italian track lighting hung from the drop ceiling illuminated the artwork and the tables. Sam could make out the strains of classic jazz over the low drone of conversation. The smells of alcohol, aftershave, and musk hung in the air.

Sam realized his hand rested on his briefcase. He thought briefly of the metal cookie tin inside, which inevitably made him think of Nick. He and Nick first met in a bar, but Sam had never liked them much. As a couple, they had mostly socialized with friends, alternating hosting get-togethers at their loft apartment and spending weekends upstate in small B and Bs.

Sam felt overwhelmed as he sat down at the end of the bar and ordered a drink. He reminded himself that he was just here for the alcohol, but the Manhattan gay scene loomed frighteningly on the horizon, and he was woefully unprepared. Even now, a year after Nick’s death, he knew he wasn’t ready, though he’d already received a few appreciative looks in the few minutes since his arrival. He wasn’t sure he’d ever be ready for it again—it had been intimidating enough the first time around.

“Vodka tonic,” he told the bartender. Tonight he needed something stronger than his usual beer. Running a hand through his hair, he took a look around the bar for the first time. There was no dance floor, so the action was subtler. Men filled nearly every seat at the long bar, chatting in undertones over drinks. He fought the urge to leave. When the bartender placed a drink in front of him, he thanked the man and took a long, desperate swallow. The comforting effect of the alcohol began to kick in.

What am I doing here?

The man seated to his left got up and threw a twenty down on the bar, then waved to the bartender and the other men at the counter. Sam finished his drink in one long swallow and looked up again, this time into a pair of warm brown eyes framed by long lashes. The newcomer smiled affably at him. Sam managed to return the smile before quickly looking back down at his empty glass.

This was a mistake. He pulled his wallet out of his jacket and rummaged for a twenty.

“I hope you’re not leaving on my account,” said the man next to him. And, God, what a voice! A resonant, sexy-as-fuck baritone that went straight from Sam’s ears to his cock.

“Aiden Lind,” he said more formally as he offered Sam his hand.

“Sam Ryan. Nice to meet you.” Sam’s hand was warm, his grip firm.

Aiden gestured to the bartender. “Two more. On me.”

“I was just about to leave.” Sam didn’t want to be rude, but he needed to get out of the place. Coming here had been a mistake.

“Sure I can’t convince you to stay?”

“No. But thanks, Aiden. It was good meeting you.” Sam forced a smile and picked up his satchel before heading for the door. A moment later he stepped out into the chilly night air, taking deep breaths to calm his racing heart.

He wasn’t ready. He pulled his jacket collar up, then started for the subway station.

“Sam!”

Sam turned around to see someone running after him down the street. What was his name? Aiden.

“Look, Aiden,” Sam said as he caught up with him, “I’m tired.”

Aiden blinked. “Oh. No. It’s not like that.” He reached into his jacket pocket and pulled out a wallet. Sam’s wallet.

Shit. The guy was being nice, and Sam had tried to blow him off.

Sam took the wallet and their fingers brushed. Sam’s cheeks warmed as their eyes met. Uncomfortable, he shifted his briefcase from one hand to another. “Thanks. Damn good thing my head’s attached to my body tonight.”

“No problem.” Aiden shoved his hands back into his pockets.

“It was good meeting you.” Sam was hard-pressed not to like the man.

“You too, Sam.” Aiden hesitated a second longer, then turned and waved as he headed back toward the bar.

It’s only a drink. No strings. It’s not like you have anyone waiting at home.

“On second thought,” Sam called after Aiden, “I think I’ll have that drink.”

“Great!” Aiden turned around and beamed at him, and Sam’s initial hesitation evaporated in the warmth of Aiden’s smile.

A few minutes later, they walked back into the bar. Aiden motioned to a free table. “This okay with you?”

“Sure.” Sam set his briefcase back down and settled into one of the metal chairs.

“What are you drinking?” Aiden asked.

“Vodka tonic.”

“Great. I’ll be right back.” Aiden headed for the bar before Sam could offer to spring for the drinks.

Now that they were back inside in the light, Sam got his first good look at Aiden. He hadn’t noticed when they were sitting down, but Aiden was nearly as tall as he, probably around six feet. He’d already noticed Aiden’s curly hair, high cheekbones, and the strong line of his jaw. Now, Sam couldn’t help but notice the black jeans that hugged Aiden’s firm ass and the long-sleeved Henley that fit his upper torso tightly enough to hint at the muscle beneath. Casual but undeniably sexy.

Back a minute later, Aiden sat facing Sam, and Sam noticed Aiden’s foot tapping the leg of his chair.

He’s nervous too. That surprised Sam. The guy was good-looking, friendly. Trying to quell his own anxiety, Sam took a deep breath. “Thanks for the drink. And thanks again for the wallet.”

Aiden seemed buoyed by Sam’s change of heart. “Long day?” He brushed a stray lock of hair from his eyes.

“You could say that.” Sam shook his head and exhaled audibly. If only you knew….

A waiter brought their drinks. “Cheers.” Sam held up his glass and Aiden touched his beer against it.

“Cheers.”

They drank in silence for a few moments until Sam realized he must have been staring, because Aiden leaned in and gazed at him—a gaze that held more than a whisper of lust. For the past year, Sam hadn’t even considered how he looked to the world at large. He donned his expensive suits like the uniforms they were, shaved, and combed his unruly hair, but he’d just gone on living, nothing more. He’d had a few blind dates friends had set him up on, but none of them had gone anywhere and he hadn’t cared. Now he was suddenly self-conscious, his suit rumpled after a long day bent over piles of documents, his hair undoubtedly sticking up in odd places as it liked to do.

When did it get so hot in here?

Sam pulled off his jacket and draped it over the back of his chair. As the second drink went straight to his shoulders, he felt his old confidence return. “What do you do for a living, Aiden?”

“Musician.”

“Really? What kind?”

Aiden appeared uncomfortable, almost apologetic. “I’m a singer. An opera singer.”

“You’re serious?” Explains the voice of God vibe.

“Yeah.” Aiden shifted in his seat.

“That’s cool,” Sam said enthusiastically.

“You think?”

“Yes, definitely.”

Aiden laughed—a warm, rumbled laugh that made Sam melt like a puddle into his seat. Aiden Lind was a handsome man, even more so when he laughed. “I get a lot of flak from my family about it.”

“Really? Why?” Sam finished his drink and flagged down the waiter for another round.

“They think it’s queer. I used to sing rock and gospel. That was okay with them. But opera? And shit, if they knew I liked men and women….” He laughed again, but Sam heard an edge to the sound this time and saw a flash of something like pain in Aiden’s eyes. “So what do you do, Sam?”

“Compared to singing opera? Just boring stuff. I’m a lawyer for a firm near Wall Street.”

“I sort of guessed. Nice suit, briefcase ’n all. Nice tie too.” Aiden wasn’t looking at Sam’s tie, though; his gaze never left Sam’s.

Maybe it was the booze, but Sam wasn’t in the slightest bit tempted to look away. Instead, he loosened his tie and undid the top button of his shirt.

“So what kind of law do you practice?”

Shit. What was it about Aiden that made everything he said sound like an invitation to do something sexual? The voice. Definitely the voice.

“Personal injury. Not my first choice.” Sam had rationalized taking the job for many reasons, but one in particular topped the list: the prospect of going home to Tennessee and back into the same dark and claustrophobic closet he had come out of was too horrible to contemplate.

“What would you rather be doing?”

At that moment Sam could think of a few things he’d rather be doing that had nothing to do with practicing law. “Employment law. Plaintiff’s work. You know, the underdogs?”

“Nothing wrong with that, is there?”

“No. Nothing at all.” The job had been a compromise: it hadn’t been what Sam had wanted, but it hadn’t been part of Samuel Stetson Ryan III’s “plan” either. It had been a huge disappointment to the old man that Sam didn’t return to Memphis to work for his firm.

Sam shifted in his seat, brushing Aiden’s foot by accident. At least he thought he’d done it by accident. “So.” Sam changed the subject and tried to focus on something other than Aiden’s foot rubbing against his own. “What’s it like, singing opera?”

The waiter came with another round of drinks—Sam lost count of how many he’d downed. Was this three already? It was hard to focus, and Sam was pretty sure it wasn’t the alcohol that was turning his brain to mush.

Aiden leaned back in his seat with his legs slightly apart. It was an inviting pose. Aiden held his beer in his right hand and gesticulated with it as he spoke. As Aiden’s leg pressed against Sam’s, Sam did his utmost to keep his eyes focused on his companion’s face. His own face felt warm.

“It’s great,” Aiden replied. “I’m planning to go to Germany soon, maybe do a few auditions there.”

“Sounds exciting. What would you be auditioning for?” Laughter erupted from the bar, and Sam moved his chair closer to better hear Aiden’s answer.

“Most of the larger German cities hire contract singers for their opera houses. It’s better than in the States. Here, you mostly just string gigs together to make a living. There, you have a steady job for a year at a time, do stuff in repertory. Beats waiting tables.”

“I didn’t realize it was that tough getting work.” He and Aiden were only about a foot apart now. From this distance, Sam could see the hint of Aiden’s hard nipples beneath the close-fitting Henley. It was difficult to focus on the conversation when his mind was busy imagining how he might take one of those nubs between his teeth.

“Once you get an agent, it gets better. I only graduated from school a few years ago, and it’s hard to get hired for big roles right away.”

“Kind of like getting stuck doing the grunt work right out of law school.” Sam knew the feeling well. He’d only made partner last year, and he’d done his share of shit jobs before that.

“Yep.” Aiden finished the rest of his beer, lingering over the mouth of the bottle before giving Sam a smile.

Sam swallowed hard and tried to ignore the renewed jolt of sexual heat he sensed in Aiden’s gaze. He looked down at his drink. It definitely wasn’t only the booze talking. He got hard just thinking about kissing Aiden, tasting him. “Are you from around here, originally?”

“Nah. I’m from Mississippi. Little town named Fenton, right outside of Jackson.”

“Really? Hell, I grew up in Memphis.”

“No shit.” Aiden laughed. “I thought I heard a little Tennessee in you.”

“You had me fooled. I figured you were from up north.”

“Comes with the territory. Good ear. Had to study French, German, and Italian in school. You lose the drawl fast or they beat it out of you.”

They talked about growing up in the South for a few minutes. Comfortable, easy conversation. How long had it been, Sam wondered, since he’d had a conversation like this with someone other than Nick?

Too long.

“Listen,” Aiden began as he stared awkwardly at his beer, which was now clearly empty, “would you like to get out of here?”

Since Nick died, Sam had said no to anything but casual hints at dating. This was much more of an offer.

“I’d like that,” he heard himself say.

Aiden looked surprised and pleased, but no more than Sam. Had he really said yes?

“I live over in Alphabet City. It’s not much, but….”

“That’d be fine,” Sam reassured him. He might be ready to spend the night with someone, but he sure as hell wasn’t ready to take a man back to his own apartment—the apartment he and Nick had shared. Not yet, anyhow.

Maybe never.

After a short cab ride, Sam followed Aiden up the stairs of a third-floor walkup off Avenue C and into a small two-bedroom apartment. The living room appeared to double as a third bedroom. Pots, pans, and cooking utensils hung from every inch of the high-ceilinged walls of the tiny kitchen. An electronic keyboard sat atop a cardboard box, and piles of music filled the built-in shelves. In spite of the clutter, the apartment was clean and smelled vaguely of lemon.

“I live with two other singers,” Aiden said. “Mark works nights, and Rob is out of town at a gig, so we have the place to ourselves.”

Sam put his briefcase down and tossed his coat onto the couch. He turned to find Aiden only a few inches away. In the shadows of the semidarkness, Aiden’s high cheekbones were more defined, his body backlit by the light from the streetlamp outside.

A moment later they were kissing. Rough, hungry lips met with equally awkward eagerness, teeth tapping against each other as Sam and Aiden found their bearings. Sam ran his tongue against Aiden’s lower lip and gained entry before pressing inward to find the warmth that waited there. Aiden’s mouth tasted good, with a hint of dark beer that lingered from the bar.

“Bed?” Sam asked.

Aiden’s answer was a low growl with the same deep resonance of his speaking voice. Sam had never realized the sound of someone’s voice could be such a turn-on. His body was thrumming now, and he knew there was no going back. He’d waited so long, denying himself in silent penance for circumstances over which he’d never had any control. Now he would let that final piece of Nick go and give his body over to someone new.

You know he would have wanted this for you.

Aiden put his arm around Sam’s waist as he led him down the short hallway, then pushed the bedroom door open with his foot. Sam felt the bed at the backs of his knees as Aiden pushed him down on top of the ragged comforter. The bedding smelled clean, though. Sam didn’t have a chance to take in the rest of the room before they were kissing again. Sam scrabbled for purchase on Aiden’s shirt, reaching to pull it over his head. He needed to feel Aiden’s chest, to feel someone else’s skin beneath his fingers.

Aiden’s body was as finely honed as Sam had imagined it to be back at the bar. Lean—not the overly sculpted abs that graced Times Square billboards—but just the way Sam liked them, with more than a dusting of dark, curly hair between his nipples. He pressed his hand to Aiden’s enticing skin. He wondered what it would be like to feel that chest vibrate when the other man sang. The thought led him to a renewed jolt of desire, and he pinned Aiden to the bed before pushing down Aiden’s dark jeans along with the gray boxer briefs to reveal the purple tip of a sizeable cock. It took only another minute before Aiden was completely naked on the bed. The fact that Sam was still fully dressed only served to arouse him more.

He didn’t need any encouragement to take Aiden’s erection in his mouth; he had to taste it. God, but the man tasted so good! Sam swallowed Aiden’s long cock down, pulling back the foreskin as he went and grabbing the base with his hand, slicked up with saliva. For a man who made his living with his voice, Aiden remained remarkably silent, but the upward arch of his body was tacit reassurance. Sam licked with abandon at the underside of Aiden’s hard width, then tightened the suction until he was rewarded with a gasp.

Sam’s ran his teeth and lips over Aiden’s cock as he moved upward to the tip, then nibbled his way around the crown and probed the leaking slit with his tongue, sucking to milk the salty essence there. He could feel his own hard-on pressed against his pants, which only served to intensify the experience. Denial for now. But later….

“Shit, Sam,” Aiden murmured in a distant rumble. “So good. So fucking good….”

Sam smiled wickedly, happy to have finally coaxed a sound from Aiden’s lips. He reached his free hand underneath Aiden’s balls, rolled them in his palm, then licked them, all the while fisting Aiden’s hard cock. He swallowed it again, skating wet fingers to find the clenched ring of muscles between the tight asscheeks. The press of his finger against the tight opening was rewarded with a low drawn-out groan, so he teased it again.

“Lube?” he whispered as he released Aiden’s cock for a moment.

“Don’t want any,” came the tense response. “Just push your finger in.”

Sam hesitated.

“Nah, Sam. It’s good like that… I like it like that sometimes.”

The words shot through Sam like fire. He pressed his saliva-slicked finger inside and felt Aiden’s big hands grasp his shoulders and pull him closer, encouraging him to push deeper. Sam hollowed his cheeks and increased the suction, pulling and licking until he could feel Aiden’s balls pull tight against his forearm.

“Shit… Sam… gonna… come,” Aiden warned.

Sam released Aiden’s cock from his mouth but continued to rub his lips and hand over it until he felt the warmth of Aiden’s come on his cheek. After Aiden stopped shaking, Sam met his warm brown eyes and smiled.

Aiden reached up and wiped Aiden’s cheek with the sheet, then leaned back against the pillow and inhaled long and deep. “Good God,” he said in an impossibly low, sexy voice, “that was incredible.”

Sam’s face warmed at the compliment, and he fought the urge to protest. Even after so many years of living in New York as an openly gay man, he still felt the stirrings of shame from time to time, his Southern Baptist roots too well ingrained to ignore. But the moment of embarrassment was short-lived, eclipsed by his own unsatisfied need.

“I want to fuck you,” he whispered. “If that’s okay….” He had never been hesitant before, but he felt like he was seventeen all over again, doing it for the first time in the woods behind the cabins at summer camp.

“You’re joking, right?” Aiden laughed. “Hell, yeah.” He reached under the mattress and pulled out a box of condoms and a small bottle of lube, then tossed them within Sam’s reach.

The tension in Sam’s shoulders relaxed until he felt his companion’s hand rubbing at the crotch of his pants. His breath caught in his throat. Too long. Way too long. He started to loosen his tie, but Aiden stopped him.

“Fuck me in that suit. It’s so damn hot.” He rolled onto his stomach and lifted his ass in blatant invitation. “I want you to fuck me in your clothes.”

“Damn,” Sam hissed as he unzipped his fly and pulled his cock out. There was something thrilling about the way Aiden had taken control, something about the way Aiden’s words had sounded almost like an order that made Sam shiver. And, oh God, the globes of Aiden’s ass beckoned, tight and smooth. Sam began to stroke him while he uncapped the lube and slathered his fingers with it, then reached around to press at the hole he had only barely breached before.

“No prep,” Aiden rumbled. “Lube it up. I like it when it hurts a little.”

What the hell do I say to that?

Sam knew the feeling himself, although he had never admitted it to Nick. He and Nick had been tender lovers—the kind of lovers who explored every inch of each other’s bodies with gentle fingers and tongues. Their lovemaking had never approached the rough animal sex Sam had often fantasized about. That hadn’t been Nick’s style; he had been as laid-back and slow in bed as he was in life, and Sam had loved that about him. The sex had been great. Better than great, but now….

Sam rolled the condom over his erection and greased it well, then leaned over and spread Aiden wider. Aiden’s low laugh was an invitation, and Sam looked up to see Aiden’s eyes filled with a mixture of need and playfulness. He pressed the head of his cock against Aiden’s hole, inhaling sharply as the outer ring of muscle gave way and he felt the warm tightness nip at his sensitive tip.

“Come on,” Aiden urged him. “I want it all the way inside.”

He pushed harder, Aiden’s inner muscles gradually releasing with some resistance until Sam was seated up to his balls. Aiden was half-hard again, and Sam grasped his thickening flesh with one hand as he pulled out. Then he pushed in once more, making sure he brushed against Aiden’s prostate. He felt Aiden’s shudder and saw the look of pleasure on his face.

“Harder, Sam. Need it harder.”

“Oh God, yes. But it’s been too long. I won’t be able to….”

“I don’t care.” Aiden’s voice was now rough, husky with need. “Do it like you know you want to.”

The realization that Aiden had guessed at something Sam himself had long denied only served to intensify the urge to pound Aiden senseless. “Fuck,” he panted. “You’re so tight.”

The bed shook as he picked up speed, pistoning back and forth, letting go of all of his repressed desire. His shirt clung to his skin, his pants rode up his ass, but that only increased the pleasure that ran from his cock up his spine and pulled his sac tight. He came with a shout and a series of shudders, then leaned down so his face was only inches away from Aiden’s.

Their eyes met. For Sam it was like diving into dark water—he didn’t know what he might find, but he was caught in the siren song. Aiden’s lips met his, and something deep inside Sam’s heart let go. A door he had closed when Nick died opened just a crack. It stayed open for a brief instant before he felt ice in his veins as fear seeped back inside.

“Stay?” Aiden offered hopefully.

“I….” Sam hesitated. “Okay.” He knew he should leave, that he wasn’t ready for this, but he couldn’t do it. He was so raw, so hungry for Aiden’s touch. He wanted more.

Aiden smiled at Sam and began to unbutton his shirt.

Release Day: Aria (Blue Notes #3)

December 24, 2012

I’m getting the release party started today, counting down to Christmas Eve, when Aria will be released by Dreamspinner Press! Each day, I will have a different contest for goodies. Enter by leaving your name and email on my blog. On Monday night, 12/24, I will draw a name from the comments for each of the drawings. So comment once, and you’re entered into all the drawings! You can purchase Aria here.

For those of you not familiar with the Blue Notes Series, each of the novels in the series is a standalone story that can be read in any order. Secondary characters in one story often become the main characters in another. Aria is no exception.

In Aria, we meet Sam Ryan from the original Blue Notes, a year after he’s lost the love of his life and his longtime partner, Nick Savakis. To say Sam is floundering is an understatement. He goes through the paces of everyday life as a Manhattan attorney, does his job well, but he’s forgotten how to live. On the night he finally gathers the courage to spread Nick’s ashes over the water at New York Harbor, Sam goes to a gay bar for a drink. He’s not looking for anything except maybe a one-night stand–something to make the pain go away. The last thing he expects is that he’ll meet someone he really likes: struggling opera singer Aiden Lind.

Aria is a story of love, loss, and moving on with your life. It’s also the story of the very real challenges of a long-distance relationship. Based in part on my experiences when I was traveling and singing, Aria gives the reader a taste of what isn’t as glamorous a life as you might expect. I hope you’ll enjoy it!

I’ll leave you all with a little taste of the first chapter of Aria, the bittersweet scene at the beginning of the book as Sam tries to say good-bye to Nick in Battery Park. More excerpts to come throughout the day today, including a few NSFW I promise will warm you up, so check back later! -Shira

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Blurb: Five years after a prestigious scholarship jumpstarted his opera career, Aiden Lind has it all: fame, choice roles, and Lord Cameron Sherrington to share his life with. Maintaining his façade takes effort, but under his poised, sophisticated mask, Aiden is still the insecure kid from rural Mississippi. Then he walks in on Cam with another man, and the illusion of perfection shatters.

Philadelphia attorney Sam Ryan never moved on after his partner died, though he tried. Instead of dating, he keeps himself busy with work—but when he unexpectedly runs into ex-lover Aiden while on a rare vacation in Paris, he’s inspired to give their love a second chance. First, though, he’ll have to get Aiden to forgive him. Because when Sam was still grieving five years ago, he broke Aiden’s heart.

When rekindled lust blossoms into a true romance, it seems like the start of something wonderful. But Aiden’s career has him on the road much of the time, and the physical distance between him and Sam starts translating into an emotional disconnect. If Aiden and Sam can’t learn to communicate, their separation may prove more than their love can bear.

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Excerpt from Chapter One:

THE ashes flew from his fingers the moment he lifted his hand to the wind. Weightless, ephemeral, they caught the stiff breeze and vanished over the water. The sky grew darker; a sunset painted in bands of fuchsia, orange, yellow, and dark purple streaked the clouds. Lady Liberty stood sentinel against the vibrant backdrop as a ferry made its way toward Staten Island.

Goodbye, Nick.

Sam looked down at the now empty tin in his hands. He replaced the cover and sat down on one of the benches at the edge of Battery Park, smiling to see the words Macadamia Chocolate Chip printed on the top. How many times had he seen his lover toss his tubes of oil paints into the battered cookie tin as they headed to the park for a Sunday afternoon picnic? Even after Nicholas Savakis had made his name as a rising young painter, he never replaced that metal tin.

“Who needs all the bullshit?” Nick said when Sam suggested they buy him a new box for his paints. “This works fine.” So when the funeral director tried to sell Sam a fancy urn, he refused. Instead, he took Nick’s ashes in the hard plastic box and transferred half of them to the tin. He gave the rest to Nick’s family.

It’s what Nick would have wanted.

Sam had decided on this spot even before the funeral, but it took him more than a year to gather his courage to come here. This had been Nick’s favorite place to sit and paint. Sam had often met him here after work during the six years they lived together.

Sam loved to watch Nick’s dark hair blow about his face as his lean hands moved with careful precision over the canvas, his long brushstrokes capturing the multilayered colors of the water and sky. To someone unfamiliar with Nick’s work, his paintings might seem only an enticing blur of paint and texture. But over the years, Sam had come to see the world through the eyes of the lanky, slightly awkward man whose stained jeans echoed the blue and turquoise he favored in his art. The paintings were whispers of Nick’s soul, the beautiful soul Sam had cherished. Sam had hoped to spend the rest of his life with that perfect soul.

He inhaled the salty air and closed his eyes. In the distance, he could hear the drone of traffic. The air was warm for mid-November, but as the sun set below the water, he shivered. The lightweight coat over his suit jacket did nothing to stop the biting wind. Sam had planned to do this the summer after Nick’s death. Nick would have laughed at him; he’d have told Sam he always took too long to decide things.

“S’only your fault you’re sitting here freezing your ass off,” Sam could almost hear him tease.

I love you, Nick. Wherever you are.

He opened his eyes once more, realizing he still held the cookie tin in his hands. He stood up and slipped it back into his briefcase, then slung the strap of the case over his shoulder. He needed a drink; he wasn’t ready to face the empty apartment yet. Not tonight, of all nights.

You purchase Aria on Dreamspinner Press!

Fire on the Mountain by P.D. Singer (2nd Edition)

June 22, 2012

A national forest is big enough to be Jake’s closet… or is it? Fire on the Mountain by P.D. Singer, available from Dreamspinner Press.

The Mountains: Book One2nd Edition

Take a break from academics, enjoy the Colorado Rockies, fight a fire now and then. That’s all Jake Landon expected when he signed up to be a ranger. He’ll partner with some crusty old mountain man; they’ll patrol the wilderness in a tanker, speak three words a day, and Old Crusty won’t be alluring at all. A national forest is big enough to be Jake’s closet—he’ll spend his free time fishing.

Except Old Crusty turns out to be Kurt Carlson: confident, competent, and experienced. He’s also young, hot, friendly, and considers clothing optional when it’s just two guys in the wilderness. Sharing a small cabin with this walking temptation is stressing Jake’s sanity—is he sending signals, or just being Kurt? And how would Kurt react if he found out his new partner wants to start a fire of a different kind? Jake’s terrified—they have to live together for five months no matter what.

Enough sparks fly between the rangers to set the trees alight, but it takes a raging inferno to make Jake and Kurt admit to the heat between them.

First Electronic Edition published by Torquere Press (2009).

Bonus Short Story: Into the Mountains

Long before he met Jake, Kurt Carlson climbed Yosemite with his best friend, Benji. But after a storm traps them halfway up the face of El Capitan, Kurt has to accept that their friendship isn’t what he thought.

Length: Novel
Genre: Contemporary

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