Stamp of Fate – Release Party

July 30, 2012

Hello everyone! I’m here to celebrate the release of my second novel, Stamp of Fate. This one’s a murder mystery with a mythological twist, and I’m really excited that it’s finally here. I had a lot of fun writing this and I can’t wait to share it with all of you. To celebrate, I’ll be giving away an e-book copy of Stamp of Fate. To win, you’ll need to comment on one of my Greek god trivia posts, so brush up on your mythology and enjoy the excerpt below.

Blurb:

A dead body is never a welcome sight, but it’s especially troublesome when Tadd Leventis and Declan Anagnos return home to find one in their foyer. Most people know the dead woman as a curator at the local museum, but Tadd and Declan recognize her as someone from their distant past—Athena, the Greek goddess of wisdom and strategic warfare. To Tadd and Declan, it’s more than a murder. It’s a threat to the mortal lives they’ve worked so hard to build—and a wakeup call that their immortal lives are in danger too.

At Zeus’s request, they once again don the mantles of Ares and Hermes, but when they start investigating their fellow Olympians, Tadd and Declan discover things are far more complicated than they seem. As the body count rises, tracking the killer becomes more dangerous, and the investigation starts to strain their relationship. Can they patch things up in time to catch the killer, or will the killer catch them first?

Excerpt:

Declan stalks inside when he gets home, snatches his car keys from the hook by the door, and catches Tadd’s eye. “Let’s go.” He’s in the car, garage door open and engine running by the time Tadd makes it out, and the moment Tadd’s door closes, Declan throws the vehicle into reverse and careens out of the driveway.

He’s halfway to his office before Tadd shifts in his seat and clears his throat. “So, Sofia didn’t know who killed her?”

“I didn’t talk to Sofia.” Declan jerks the car around a corner, making the tires squeal, and smiles slightly as the harsh noise eases his tension a little. “Hades has her locked in Tartarus and wouldn’t take me to her.” He yanks the wheel to the left, sending the car skidding around another corner. “I can’t challenge him on his territory. We have to do this the hard way.”

“We could—” Tadd starts, but Declan cuts him off before he finishes the sentence.

“No. He won’t let you leave if you come with me. That’s a last resort.”

“All right.” Tadd holds up his hands, clearly taken aback by Declan’s vehemence. “We’ll try the hard way.”

“Thank you.” Declan eases back on the gas a little as he merges with traffic. Most of his anger is gone now and he relaxes his grip on the steering wheel as he maneuvers the car into the pattern of moving vehicles.

Tadd fiddles with the radio, flipping through all of Declan’s presets before turning it off. “Can you tell me what he said? I’d rather be prepared if we have to go back later.”

“There isn’t much else, but sure.” They’re still a few miles from the office. Declan fills Tadd in on the entire conversation with Hades, answering all of Tadd’s questions and finishing just as he pulls the car into his assigned parking spot. “Perfect timing.” He climbs out, waits for Tadd to follow, and hits the remote lock as he leads the way into the building.

Rachel Chambers is sitting in her usual spot when they reach Declan’s office, an earpiece in her ear and her computer screen showing Declan’s calendar as well as the memo she was typing. A PowerPoint presentation is minimized to her taskbar, and Declan has a brief flash of worry before he remembers he asked her to edit the presentation he gave the board last month so it could be used in pitches to other companies. It’s nothing he has to do, which is good, because he strongly suspects he won’t be able to take much of a hands-on approach to running the business for the next few weeks.

“You’re late,” Rachel says, pointing her pen at him with one hand as she presses the disconnect button on the phone with another. “I’ve had to reschedule two appointments already, and I was starting to think I’d have to reschedule your lunch meeting too. Where have you been?”

“With me.” Tadd steps in before Declan has a chance to formulate a response. Rachel always manages to make him feel uncomfortable, like he’s the clueless mortal and she’s the god, and he’s never quite sure how he’s supposed to respond when she scolds him like that. She’s his administrative assistant, but Tadd hired her for him when they first orchestrated the switch from being their “fathers” to being themselves, and he’s not sure he can fire her. Tadd would probably just hire her right back.

“Mr. Leventis.” Rachel lets a small smile slip through before she directs her stern gaze at Tadd as well. “I should have known you’d be at fault here.” Her gaze narrows, and she purses her lips as she stares at him.

She looks so ridiculously serious that Declan has to step in. “He actually wasn’t. It was personal business. Something came up unexpectedly. I’m sorry.” Declan sits on the edge of her desk and directs his most winning smile and widest eyes at her. “Can you forgive me?”

“Is it over?”

“Unfortunately, no.” Declan’s reluctant sigh is only half-fake. “I’m not going to be able to be around much for the next several weeks, at least.”

“What should I tell your appointments? I can’t just ask them to keep waiting on their bids because you don’t know when you’ll be back. The business will go under. I’ll be out of a job!”

“Like Tadd would ever let that happen.”

Behind Declan, Tadd shakes his head, a small smile playing on his lips. “I’d find something for you to do, Rachel. I promise.”

“Well,” she huffs, “that’s better than him.”

“Hey!”

“Well, you wouldn’t find something for me, would you?”

“I wouldn’t have to, Tadd would!”

“Not the point.”

“Fine.” Declan assumes his most put-upon expression. “I would find you a better job than Tadd would. Happy?”

“I will be once you tell me what to do with all these meetings I have you scheduled for.”

Declan closes his eyes for a minute, trying to think. Running the business can’t take top priority right now, not with Bront expecting him to solve this mystery, but he can’t let the business sink, either. He and Tadd have worked too hard to get things the way they are. Declan Anagnos, CEO of Alpha Wing Communications, and Hermes, spy for Zeus, must remain separate entities. “Give as many of them to the directors as you can. If there’s anyone I need to handle personally, forward it to me, and I’ll find time.”

“Will do.” Rachel nods. “Anything else?”

“One thing.” Declan waits until he has her full attention. “Did you schedule me for a dinner meeting with Lukas Gallo last night?”

Rachel blinks twice and then her hand flies to her mouth. “Oh my God! I didn’t tell you!” She sucks her bottom lip into her mouth with a hissing noise. “He called yesterday while you were at lunch! I was going to tell you, but you had that conference call, and then you rushed out like your office was on fire. I’m sorry!”

“So he did have an appointment?”

“Yeah. That’s what I just said.” Rachel tilts her head to the side. “Was that wrong? You didn’t have anything on your schedule, and I thought….”

“It’s fine.” Declan flashes a smile at her and squeezes her shoulder as he slides off the desk. “I was caught up with this personal business last night and he surprised me, that’s all. I’ll call him to reschedule.”

“Okeie-dokie.”

Tadd laughs as he takes Declan’s hand. “Thanks, Rachel.”

“Bye, Mr. Leventis.” She wiggles her fingers in a tiny wave as they walk out the door.

As soon as the door shuts behind them, Declan turns to Tadd, a mischievous grin on his face. “Sometimes I think Rachel likes you better than me.”

“What can I say.” Tadd grins back at Declan. “I’m irresistible.”

“Good thing you’re mine, then.” They get into the elevator, and Declan pushes Tadd against the wall and pins him there with his slightly larger frame. He slides his hands up Tadd’s sides to cup his face and leans in to kiss him deeply. As the elevator goes down from the top floor, people start to get on but stop short when they see Declan and Tadd inside and universally decide to take the next car. Declan ignores them, instead concentrating on kissing Tadd, his tongue sliding between Tadd’s lips as he presses their bodies together.

When the elevator is close to the bottom, Declan pulls his keys from his pocket and uses one of them to override the elevator controls. Once it’s locked down, he yanks Tadd’s shirt from his pants so he can slide his hands under it.

“Careful,” Tadd murmurs, pulling back from the kiss just enough to talk. “Don’t pop the buttons.”

“I like popped buttons. They’re a good look on you.”

“You think everything’s a good look on me.” Tadd puts his hands on Declan’s chest and pushes firmly, making Declan take a step back. “We can’t, though.”

“Why not?”

“We’re in the elevator at your office building! While investigating a murder!”

“So I’ll be fast.” Declan leans in as close as he can with Tadd’s hands in the way and smirks. “I’m good at fast.”

“Oh, well, that’s just what I want.” Tadd rolls his eyes. “A quickie in the elevator. You’re almost as classy as Eros.”

Declan winces as he straightens. “Ouch. That hurts.”

“Truth often does.” Tadd pats him on the chest as he leans up and kisses him softly. “I still love you, though, classy or not.”

“Love you too.” Declan’s scowl transforms into a grin, and he kisses Tadd deeply before pulling back and turning the key to return the elevator to the ground floor. He kisses Tadd again as he tucks Tadd’s shirt back into his pants, and when the elevator doors slide open, they step out, their hands entwined once more.

——–

Stayed tuned for more posts about my novel as well as a giveaway!

Excerpt from *Yes*: The Diagnosis

July 18, 2012


LUKI tried to make it look as though he met the doctor’s eyes, but really, he looked out the fifth floor window to the Seattle city traffic. Downtown, lots of people in the street, though not as many as say, New York, or London, both places Luki had been. The opulence of the oncologist’s office held no power to impress Luki. He had means, and, before he loved Sonny, this was the kind of place he chose to live and work. Because it was cold, sterile, empty of connotations and implications.

He looked—surreptitiously, he hoped—from the window to Sonny, marveling at the way he looked beautiful in a new way in every setting. As if he wove himself into a scene the same way he wove shining ideas into his tapestries. Would he, Luki, be here listening to the doctor drone if it wasn’t for Sonny? Probably. But it would mean less.

He registered the doctor’s voice: “Now, I’m not going to mince words….”

That sounded ominous.

“That would be dishonest, and unfair to you.”

“Yes,” Luki answered, because it seemed something was called for. The doctor, who was not, Luki thought, cold or empty, continued to drone. That was the only word Luki could think of for it. Blah, blah, blah. He’d already seen two doctors, had a bevy of pictures taken of his interior—like real estate—and endured poking and prodding that would stir the dead. But he inwardly admitted his reaction—or lack of reaction—to the doctor’s words might be less because of the doctor’s boring manner and more because he, Luki, didn’t want to hear a detailed description of the tumor in his lung.

Distracted, he gazed at the axial CT images, which was a view from the top down, and made his lung look like an almost egg-shaped hole, and the tumor look like a yoke splatted in the middle of it. Mr. Vasquez, I’m afraid you have a fried egg in your lung.

Luki didn’t realize he’d chuckled aloud until Sonny clamped a hand on his shoulder, and he saw a shocked look on the doctor’s face. “Sorry,” he mumbled. “I was thinking about… something….”

“I’m not sure how much you heard of my explanation, Mr. Vasquez.”

“Just call me Luki, please. I heard it all, I think. Apical tumor, right side, squamous cell, advanced, etcetera.” The doctor and Sonny both looked shocked, and Luki felt shocked too. He hadn’t realized that despite his efforts not to, he really had laid claim to the doctor’s words.

“Yes, well,” Dr. Zhvornak continued, “good, so now this is the important part, Luki.” He slid his stool closer. “There are both positive signs, in terms of what’s in store for you, and negative ones. Negative first: The location in the apex of the lung—”

Another shock, this one physical, coursed through Luki when the doctor tapped his chest to show him where the tumor was growing, rather than pointing to the images. If he was trying to secure all of Luki’s attention, it worked.

“—tends to suggest a less favorable prognosis. And the tumor is advanced, adhering slightly, from what we can see, to the chest wall, here. Understand so far?”

“Yes.”

“Some signs that are more positive: Despite the location of your tumor, you have no signs of Pancoast syndrome—which shows up when a nerve is sheathed in tumor. Though the tumor is large and adherent to the chest wall, I don’t believe it truly invades the tissue there significantly. And, believe it or not, it is favorable to you that this tumor is in your right lung, not your left. Very favorable, we found no evidence for metastases. Do you know what that word means?”

“Yes.”

“We can fight this aggressively if you want. It will most likely involve chemo, radiation, surgery, chemo, and radiation again. Then, either immediately or six months later depending on the signs, another round of chemotherapy. That last round is insurance if we’ve been successful. If we’ve not met with success, if the cancer is still active, then that last round will most likely be palliative. That means—”

“We know what it means!”

“Let him say it, Sonny.”

“Palliative means it’s offered to reduce pain and discomfort in the dying process, and it may possibly lengthen your life by months or maybe a year. I’ve outlined for you the most aggressive treatment, Mr. Vasquez—”

“Luki.”

“Luki, then. I have twenty years of experience treating cancers, and I can tell you yours is far from the least favorable scenario. This treatment regimen is my recommendation—leaving no medical stone unturned, so to speak. You will find the process painful, debilitating, and long. You may never recover your full strength. You will certainly lose part of your lung. You’ll have a new scar. During the process you’ll almost certainly lose your hair.”

Luki had no difficulty maintaining his cool exterior until those last three words. Lose. Your. Hair. His heart began to pound at the thought of grieving his carefully tended chestnut curls, which he considered a mitigating factor, making up in part for his frightening visage with its long, livid scar. When he tried to swallow, he coughed. Thankfully, it passed without becoming a spell. Sonny sat behind him and to one side, and now he lifted a hand to those curls as if to protect them.

“Statistics mean little in cancer treatment, Luki, but I like to be completely frank. Considering all the information we’ve gathered, the odds are one in three that you’ll survive for the next five years, if we fight with every weapon we have. Do you want to proceed?”

“Yes!” The word fairly burst from Sonny’s lips.

“Mr. James—”

“Call me Sonny.”

“I appreciate, Sonny, that you are invested in Luki’s welfare. Obviously, the two of you care deeply for each other. That commitment—if you two can make it last through the hell and high water you’ll face during treatment—is in fact another strong point in Luki’s favor. But Sonny, it has to be his choice. You can’t make it for him.”

Luki stood up. “Let’s go, Sonny. Dr. Zhvornak—”

“Dr. Z, please. We’ll get to know each other well, if you opt for treatment, and besides”—he smiled—“everyone massacres my last name.”

Luki laughed—which a few years ago would have been a miracle in itself—but Sonny looked horrified. “Luki, what do you mean, let’s go? We can’t just go. You have to—”

Luki gave Sonny a long, not too friendly stare, then looked over his shoulder at the doctor. “I’ll be in touch. It won’t be long. Thanks for your honesty.” Luki turned to walk out, but Sonny continued to stand in place, his dark skin visibly blanched. Luki raised his brows. “Sonny?” It was more an order than a question.

An Excerpt from Little Boy Lost: Sacrificed

July 2, 2012

About Little Boy Lost: Sacrificed

Reunited with his father but missing the one man he loves more than any other, Jamie Mayfield attempts to put his life back together amid rehab, seizures, and the gutting loneliness of Brian’s rejection. As he tries to cope, Jamie finds that relying on his friends isn’t nearly as difficult as he’d imagined, and soon he can once again stand on his own two feet.
While recovering from his addiction, Jamie starts a new phase of his life at college, working to become the man Brian needs him to be. Only one question remains: Can Jamie earn Brian’s forgiveness and win back his trust, or will their love be sacrificed at the altar of Jamie’s demons?
Brian and Jamie’s epic journey comes to a close in this thrilling conclusion to the Little Boy Lost series.

An Excerpt

(c) 2012 J. P. Barnaby

I finished the paragraph I’d been writing in the journal and then flipped over to my e-mail to see that I had just one, from Alex.

PIZZA and a movie sounds awesome. We haven’t done that in forever! Mike will be in SF this weekend, so can we make it a sleepover? I’ll bring my superhero jammies. We can get those weird chips that you like, lots of caffeine, and just talk.

Miss u like crazy!!

My laughter broke the eerie silence in the room. Apparently, lime-flavored tortilla chips constituted something weird. I logged in to the online grocery service that I’d started using to help my dad out. Grocery shopping was one of the few things that I could do to help out around the house. Two grown men who were hardly ever home didn’t make much of a mess, so there wasn’t a lot to clean. Because my seizures were still uncontrolled, my dad didn’t really want me to cook, so I’d just been assisting him in the kitchen. Adding chips, candy, and soda to the order, I scheduled the delivery and felt a little bit more in control of my life. At least I didn’t need to ask my dad to take me to store just so I could feed my friend.

After that, I fired off e-mails to my dad and Alex confirming plans for the weekend. I knew my dad wouldn’t have a problem. He’d been on me for the last two weeks to get together with my friends. What he didn’t really understand is that the one person I wanted to see didn’t want to see me. Brian hadn’t made any contact with me in the three weeks I’d been staying with my dad. Whenever I asked Alex about him, he just stalled and said that Brian was working some things out.

I lay back on my bed and stared at the ceiling, imagining Brian’s face.

The sound of a motor kicking to life startled me awake. My eyes opened against the late morning sunlight streaming in through the east-facing windows, and I blinked rapidly. The roar of the mower sounded close, so I went to my bedroom window to see where it came from. Three guys, naked from the waist up, worked in our backyard—mowing, trimming, and whatever else landscapers did. The guy mowing the lawn, clearly Hispanic, had a lean, muscular chest and a bandana holding back long black curls. My cock stirred just a bit, hopeful at the sight of such a beautiful guy in such close proximity. A second guy crossed my line of vision as he trimmed the hedges around the garage. Ebony skin glistened in the sun’s rays as they played across the perfectly defined shoulders and abs. A T-shirt, navy blue or maybe black, hung from the back of his jeans and looked dangerously close to falling when he squatted down to pick up a few small branches.

The third guy really got my attention as he knelt in the uninspired flowerbed along the back of the yard. I took a few steps closer to the window so that I could get a better look, my cock more interested by the second. By the time I could feel a chill from the glass, I was semihard. Short brown hair stuck up at odd angles, like he’d been running his hands through it, wiping sweat from his face as he worked. I couldn’t see his face, but if the body was any indication, the guy would be gorgeous. A sliver of guilt slid into my stomach because my dick got hard for some random guy in the backyard, but it wasn’t like I’d go out there and stand among the begonias and drop my jeans so he could suck me where he knelt. Though my cock strained at the crotch of my jeans, obviously very interested in that idea.

More from animal instinct than actual thought, my right hand strayed to my groin and rubbed lightly as I watched him transfer the last of the wilted plants into a lawn bag resting carelessly against his right knee. I rubbed my cock harder as the guy stood and stretched. My mouth actually watered at the sight of his long, lean muscles flexing and glistening in the soft light. Conflicting emotions swamped me as I thought about going outside to talk to him. My heart had ached for weeks without Brian, but a flurry of excitement caused my pulse to race. It was the only stirring I had felt since he walked out of my life.

When I considered opening my jeans to pull out my cock and stroke it in earnest, a horrible thought struck me. If my cock was in my hand when I started to seize, would my muscles tense around it, squeezing with brutal force? Almost as bad, I imagined the look on my dad’s face if he walked in and I was midseizure with my pants around my knees, cock in hand. I couldn’t even think about his horror if I were using some kind of toy. My hand moved away from my softening dick just as the gorgeous guy turned and I caught a glimpse of his face. I couldn’t stop the word that flew out of my mouth and reverberated against the window.

Fuck.

Mike glanced up from where he stood in the dying flowers and smiled when our eyes met. Fuck. Fuck. Fuck. I couldn’t believe I’d been drooling over the guy who’d made me feel like shit for the last few months, but I was honestly glad to see him. Mike felt like a link to Brian, and I needed one so badly right then. Even though we were in the same city, he seemed so goddamned far away that he might as well have been on the moon.

Release Party: “The Trust” – Excerpt Two (18+ excerpt, NSFW!)

June 18, 2012

This excerpt is a bit hotter than the last, so warning to all of you at work:  this one probably should be read at home!  Hope you like it.  -Shira

Blurb:   Eight years ago, Jake Anders was a college kid from the wrong side of the tracks. Then Trace Michelson recruited him into The Trust, a CIA-backed agency whose “executives” eliminate rogue biotechnology operations. Trace was everything Jake ever wanted in a man: powerful, brilliant, and gorgeous. But Jake never admitted his attraction to his mentor, and Trace always kept Jake at arm’s length.

Now Trace is dead and Jake is one of The Trust’s best operatives, highly skilled and loyal to the organization. But the secret agent has his own secret: six years ago, before he was assassinated, Trace designed a Sim chip containing his memories and experiences—and now that chip is part of Jake. It’s just data, designed to augment Jake’s knowledge, but when Sim becomes reality, Jake wonders if Trace is still alive or if Jake really is going crazy like everyone claims. He doesn’t know if he can trust himself, let alone anyone else.

To learn the truth about Trace and the chip, Jake embarks on a dangerous mission—except he’s not the only one looking for the information. Some of the answers are locked in his head, and unless he finds the key, he’ll be killed for the technology that’s become a part of him.

Now, more than ever, Jake wishes Trace were here to guide him. Too bad he’s dead… right?

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

Pre-publication Excerpt, final version may change!

Excerpt from Chapter Eleven:

He closed his eyes and imagined himself on a beach overlooking blue-green water. He could hear the sound of the surf hitting the sand; he felt the spray on his face and the warmth of the sun. He took a deep breath and followed the Sim’s instructions.

He felt a strong pair of hands on his shoulders, digging into the tense muscles there from above him, kneading at the stiffness. The surf pounded the shore, and a drop of salt water hit his cheek. For the first time during a meditation, he realized he could smell—the tangy scent of seaweed washed up on the sand, the salt on the breeze, and something else—the citrus aftershave he remembered from years before. Trace’s aftershave. It was deeply unnerving. It was as though Trace were there with him, beside him. The real Trace and not a simulation. He fought the urge to stand up and start pacing again.

“Relax.” Trace Michelson’s resonant voice was a surprising balm for the stress Jake could not seem to release. The voice was also different than before: warmer, perhaps. No longer in his mind, but right there, next to him. Real. Much like the difference between a painting of a beautiful sunset and the sunset as it paints the world with vibrant color, because you are there to experience it.

“You’ve never touched me before.” Jake marveled at the strength in those long, graceful fingers. He could almost hear the other man’s breath in his ear as he imagined Trace’s face above his own, looking down. He didn’t open his eyes for fear that the scene would disappear and he’d be back in his own apartment once more, alone.

“You’ve never let me touch you, not in this way,” the Sim responded. “Until now, you haven’t been comfortable letting me get this close to you.”

“Hell.” Jake sighed and gave in to the need to believe that it was Trace Michelson touching him, and not just a simulation. “It’s all in my head, anyhow. Why should I care what you do?” He began to relax into the warm sand, and all thoughts of what Grey might say if he told him his Sim massaged his shoulders on a Caribbean beach vanished.

“You will find the answers.” Trace began to work his way down Jake’s arm, kneading the muscles. “But you must be patient.”

“Easy for you to say,” said Jake with a laugh. Trace worked his fingers up Jake’s arms and lingered briefly at his shoulders, working through the tension, reaching around his neck to work the muscles of his upper back. Painful bliss.

“Relax,” Trace commanded after a few more minutes. Jake obliged as his head sank back further into the soft sand.

“God, that feels so good.”

“You’re fighting it,” Trace said, his face again close to Jake’s.

“Hell no. It’s just that I’m starting to feel like Jell-O.”

“I’m not talking about your body,” the Sim replied. “I’m talking about your mind, your spirit.”

“My mind?”

“You must open your mind, Jake, and see the infinite possibilities.”

A flash of color hovered on the periphery of Jake’s consciousness: the mandala. “What am I supposed to see in it?” he asked as Trace caressed his chest. “What am I missing?”

“The future. Your future is there.”

“Right now, I’m just seein’ myself dead,” Jake answered acerbically. “And that’s what I see, no matter which way I look.”

“You’re better than that—stronger. You’re capable of so much more than you’re willing to admit. This is no different from any mission you’ve been sent on in the past. Only perhaps there is more to be gained in the end.”

“Will you be waiting there?” Jake asked.

There was no answer. Trace followed a line to the sensitive skin under Jake’s ear, and he felt gooseflesh rise on his body.

“God, Trace,” he whispered, “what are you doing?”

“I’m merely responding to your wishes, to your desires.” Jake imagined Trace’s lips close to his ear. “It’s what I’m programmed to do.”

“My… desires?” Jake wondered aloud. “Trace… he programmed you to…?”

“My programming has never been completely static,” Trace replied as he ghosted a pair of silken palms over the muscles of Jake’s chest, and Jake’s body arched instinctively upward. “I’m only responding to your needs, your desires.”

“Have I desired this?” Jake mused. He was a sexual being, although he’d never found a man who could completely satisfy him. And yet, this man whom he’d worshipped from afar….

“You hesitate because you do not know what to believe of your unspoken need,” Trace explained calmly.

“I….”

“It’s your desire that guides me. And it’s your fear that holds you back.”

“I’m afraid,” Jake admitted.

“You’re afraid of being with me.” Jake knew Trace was right. Was it so unreasonable to be afraid of Trace? He was nothing more than a ghost.

“How did you know,” Jake asked, uncomprehending, “when I didn’t understand it myself?”

“I’m a part of you. I can’t be separated from you, nor can I fail to hear what’s in your heart.”

Jake moaned again. The feel of Trace’s fingers on his scalp made him want to….

“Open your eyes, Jake Anders,” that glorious voice now commanded. “Open your eyes.”

Jake obeyed, looking into the most stunning eyes he’d ever known, their deep blue now appearing almost gray in the bright sunlight. It was as if he were seeing those eyes for the first time—they were no longer the cold, controlled eyes of the man who had mentored him but the eyes of a lover, warm and deep. Trace was naked, his hair wet from the water. Jake realized that he was naked, as well.

“Trace,” he whispered as their lips met. He ran his fingers over the well-defined chest, the smooth pale skin that seemed to glow in the sunlight. “You’re so goddamn beautiful. I never knew….” His voice trailed off as he felt Trace run his hands through his hair with its ends now painted in sand. Trace licked his ear, and Jake gasped. Why did this all seem so real? And how hadn’t he understood what he’d felt all along? He smiled for a moment at the realization that Grey had correctly guessed at his heart, then silently cursed the man for it.

“Do you understand, now, what you’ve denied yourself all these years?” Trace whispered, biting the lobe of Jake’s ear and sucking it for a moment. “Do you understand why I always kept you at arm’s length?”

“You didn’t want to hurt me.” Jake was momentarily stricken by the thought that the real man behind the Sim might not have desired him in the same way. To Trace, he’d been just a kid, eager, willing, and yet unable to comprehend the adult whispers of his soul.

Jake couldn’t deny it any longer: after years spent with the Sim as his constant companion, he’d grown to love Trace. It was utterly absurd. But as he lay on the beach with the water lapping at his toes, the absurdity of falling in love with the ghost who inhabited his mind didn’t matter. Here, in this place, that love felt real.

“I wanted you to make your own choices.”

I want this now. I want him.

Jake pulled Trace on top of him, raking his back with his nails until he heard a low groan in response. Then, roughly, he drew Trace’s face back to his and found his lips once again, probing Trace’s mouth with an insistent and demanding tongue, relishing the warmth as it opened to him. He had never tasted anything as sinfully sweet.

“Jake, what do you want?” Trace wrapped his arms around Jake and pulled him closer.

“I want you,” moaned Jake, his hands grasping at the tensed muscles of Trace’s shoulders, feeling the power there.

Trace pushed Jake back onto the sand, his eyes hooded with lust. He sucked hard at the base of Jake’s neck, then moved lower, biting a nipple and laving the outline of it with his tongue. Jake growled as Trace took the pebbled flesh between his teeth and rolled it there, biting it again, just enough to sting.

“Oh, fuck… Trace!” he cried out. Where did a Sim chip learn to do that? The thought was quickly replaced by thrumming need. He went to push Trace over, to dominate him as he was being dominated, but Trace was far stronger than he remembered, and he remained pinned beneath the smaller man.

Trace’s eyes grew darker still as he pushed Jake’s wrists into the sand at his sides. Jake ceased his struggle, surrendering to his companion until he felt Trace’s hard cock against his. But the blissful pressure of that contact was quickly gone as Trace leaned down, then drew lazy circles on his abdomen with his pink tongue, making his way slowly downward to the point that Jake thought he might lose his sanity in the pleasure of the other man’s touch.

“God, Trace.” The sun-heated water lapped at Jake’s feet as Trace’s lips parted and he felt the warmth of Trace’s mouth, exploring the length of him, tasting and sucking there.

Now I’ve really lost my mind.

“Hardly,” murmured Trace, circling his tongue around the sensitive tip before swallowing it down until his mouth met the reddish curls at the base of Jake’s cock. “You’ve just found it.”

He could barely breathe to feel that warm heat. And that tongue! God, that tongue was at once both heavenly and sinful. Trace sucked in his cheeks, increasing the pressure—that incredible, perfect pressure that made Jake forget everything. Teeth, lips, and tongue combined in the most exquisite way.

Jake realized his lover no longer held his wrists when he felt lithe fingers scrape the sensitive skin of his perineum and a firm hand cup his balls, then roll them about. “Shit!” he cried out, the sound of his voice lost on the crashing waves. “Shit, shit, shit!” A finger pressed against his tight opening, and it was just too much for him. He came hard in Trace’s mouth, shuddering and clutching Trace’s hair in his hands.

The cell phone alarm buzzed, and Jake awoke with a start, panting. He was still on the couch, wearing the same pair of pants as before. The apartment was dark. He was soaked in sweat. He felt the sticky warmth of his release on his abdomen. He was half-hard just remembering.

“Helluva dream,” he muttered to himself. He got up and headed for the shower, stripped off his pants, and set the temperature as cold as he could stand it. “You are one fucked-up SOB,” he added, shaking his head and grabbing the shampoo.

That was a dream, wasn’t it? he wondered as he rinsed the shampoo from his long hair.

Release Party: “The Trust” – Artificial Romance?

June 18, 2012

Artificial intelligence (AI) is the subject of three of my favorite sci fi movies of all time:  “2001, A Space Odyssey,” “Blade Runner” and “The Terminator.”  All three movies involve self-aware computer “beings.”  Wherever you look, whether it’s in the toy store, on line communities, or science, AI is the big new thing.  My daughter just got a new iPhone that talks back to her (Siri).  So when my co-author, Venona Keyes, suggested a gay spy thriller featuring a microchip that is like a virtual hero, I said, “Way cool!”

The Trust” is the story of Jake Anders, who was recruited into a CIA-backed agency, The Michelson Trust, by Trace Michelson, the grandson of the agency’s creator and the agency’s current director.  The flesh and blood Trace trains Jake and ultimately asks Jake to participate in “Project Resurrection.”  Jake receives one of two prototype Sim chips, the “Trace Sim,” created using the life experiences and personality of Trace himself.  But when Trace is assassinated, all that remains of Trace is embodied in the microchip Jake now shares his mind with.   Or so it seems, until the Sim chip becomes Jake’s reality.

So what happens when you fall in love with the artificial recreation of a man?  And what happens when that artificial man becomes real?  For Jake, he begins to doubt that Trace is really dead, and he goes on a dangerous journey across continents to uncover the truth behind the legacy of Trace Michelson and, perhaps find Trace himself.  Along the way, Jake discovers that the Trace Sim is capable of far more than anyone ever realized.

Is there a happily ever after for Jake?  Yes.  Definitely.  It’s a romance!  How do we get there?  That’s the fun part.  You’ll have to read the book to find out! Interested?  Enter to win an ebook copy by commenting here.  Good luck! -Shira

Release Party: “The Trust” – Read an Excerpt (PG-13 Excerpt)

June 18, 2012

Hey y’all!  Here’s the blurb and an excerpt from my third release from Dreamspinner Press, “The Trust” which I co-authored with the lovely Venona Keyes.  It’s a sci fi romance/suspense thriller about a secret agent who races against time to learn the truth about the technology implanted in his body and the man he fell in love with ten years before. Not sure what that’s all about?  Think “gay James Bond with lots of cool gadgets.”  Oh, and a sweet HEA, of course!  Enjoy, and don’t forget to comment to be entered to win an ebook copy! -Shira

Blurb:   Eight years ago, Jake Anders was a college kid from the wrong side of the tracks. Then Trace Michelson recruited him into The Trust, a CIA-backed agency whose “executives” eliminate rogue biotechnology operations. Trace was everything Jake ever wanted in a man: powerful, brilliant, and gorgeous. But Jake never admitted his attraction to his mentor, and Trace always kept Jake at arm’s length.

Now Trace is dead and Jake is one of The Trust’s best operatives, highly skilled and loyal to the organization. But the secret agent has his own secret: six years ago, before he was assassinated, Trace designed a Sim chip containing his memories and experiences—and now that chip is part of Jake. It’s just data, designed to augment Jake’s knowledge, but when Sim becomes reality, Jake wonders if Trace is still alive or if Jake really is going crazy like everyone claims. He doesn’t know if he can trust himself, let alone anyone else.

To learn the truth about Trace and the chip, Jake embarks on a dangerous mission—except he’s not the only one looking for the information. Some of the answers are locked in his head, and unless he finds the key, he’ll be killed for the technology that’s become a part of him.

Now, more than ever, Jake wishes Trace were here to guide him. Too bad he’s dead… right?

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

Pre-publication Excerpt, final version may change!

Chapter One: The Hitman is Hit

Shit. Shit, shit, shit!

Blood gushed from his leg, and for just an instant, he watched it with growing anger. Watched it, that was, until the adrenaline kick-started his brain and he realized he would die if he kept bleeding like this.

Gotta stop the bleeding, he thought with desperation.

He dragged himself to the women’s bathroom, pushed hard on the door, and stumbled in. Between the sound of the door slamming against the wall and the sight of all the blood, the startled women inside screamed and ran out.

Blood coated everything he touched. He leaned against a stall door, and it swung open under his weight. One hand applying pressure to the gunshot wound, he elbowed the toilet-paper holder. He fell to the floor and the roll sprang free. He placed the cheap one-ply paper over the wound and pressed down hard—it only took a minute before the roll was a deep crimson.

He tapped the microphone on his chest and shouted, “Agent down! I need an extraction, now!”

“Who’s down?” came the calm, even voice in his earpiece.

“I am. Sandoval fucking ambushed me. Caught me in the leg. Hit an artery.”

“Anders, where are you?”

“I—” He broke off, looking up to see a slender man leaning casually against the stall door, grinning at him. The Silver Fox, Jason Sandoval. Sandoval wasn’t Jake’s target, but it seemed as though Jake was his. Jake had always detested Sandoval. Now he knew why.

“So… there you are. Thanks for leaving me a trail of bloody breadcrumbs to follow.”

“Agent Anders, where are you?” the voice in his ear persisted. He ignored it.

“Looks like ya got a bleeder there, Anders.”

They had never been friends, but they had been colleagues. Now, Jake wanted nothing more than to blow the smirk off the other man’s face.

Fucking traitor.

“I’ve had worse,” Jake lied. If Sandoval wanted him dead, he’d probably only have to wait a few minutes for him to bleed out. But that wasn’t Sandoval’s style—he had never been a patient man, and Jake knew it.

“Not sure that’s true, but I admire your bravado.”

Again, the voice in his ear. “Agent Anders, who’s there with you?”

“What do you want, Sandoval?” Jake asked. He’d pretty much always suspected Jason Sandoval was insane. Now he was sure of it.

Who the hell is he working for? Foreign government? Private concern?

They had come here as a team, their mission to intercept a scientist who was in town for a conference. But things had gone horribly wrong. It had been a setup, the entire scenario. Three of their own agents had turned their guns against him and his backup team. But why?

Fucking traitors. All of them.

“Well, I could watch you bleed to death. Or I suppose I could just end it for you now. Seems a shame, though. You really were a first-class ops guy, Jake. Now your life is fading away, and I get to witness it.”

Jake slowly reached inside his pants.

“Now, now, Jake,” drawled Sandoval, “no cheatin’. Take that hand out of your pocket.”

“I’m trying to stem the bleeding at the pressure point.”

“Like hell.”

Jake withdrew his hand and flicked his wrist faster than the other man could follow, impaling him in the right eye with a knife. Sandoval staggered backward and out of the stall without uttering a word. Jake reached for his gun, but it was missing. When had he lost it? He needed to finish Sandoval off before he was the one lying on the floor with his brains blown out.

He heard the distinctive muffled “pflnk” of a silencer. With the last scrap of his energy, Jake pushed the stall door open in time to see Sandoval fall backward, hitting the tile wall and sliding onto the floor. He was dead.

“Jake,” came a familiar baritone voice. “Reduce your heart rate, just as I taught you. It will slow the bleeding.”

Jake closed his eyes, and in spite of the ice that flowed through his veins and the drowsiness that threatened to pull him under, he forced himself to meditate. He envisioned the frantic beating of his heart slowing down, imagined the damaged artery closing, the blood clotting, and the wound beginning to heal. The thundering rush of blood in his ears began to ebb, and the dizziness subsided. He slowed his breathing, and his heart steadied.

“Good work, Jake,” he heard the soothing voice say. “It isn’t your time to be with me. Not yet.”

“Agent Anders! Agent Anders!” He wanted to swat the microphone away, but he didn’t have the strength.

He blinked, trying to focus his uncooperative eyes on the figure that stood before him. “Trace?” he whispered as he passed out.

“Fucking traitor Sandoval,” Ryan Roberts growled from nearby.

“If Jake hadn’t killed him, I’d’ve gladly done it myself.” John Carson—Jake recognized the voice.

“He’s a damn lucky bastard.” Ryan’s voice again.

“Un-fucking-believable. Got that tourniquet on and still had the presence of mind to write the time on his leg,” added Carson.

“I gotta hand it to ’im—got Sandoval once in the eye, then turned around and shot ’im to make sure he was dead—all while he’s fuckin’ bleeding to death.”

“Gentleman, Agent Anders needs to rest.” A woman’s voice this time: soothing, no-nonsense, and familiar.

“Sorry, Dr. Carroll.” Carson sounded embarrassed, but Jake could hear the note of concern in his gruff voice. “We just wanted to be here when Jake wakes up.”

“He will regain consciousness when his body’s ready. He’s lost a lot of blood, and he’s been in surgery.”

“We’ll wait,” Ryan replied. Jake almost smiled to hear the stubbornness in Ryan’s voice.

“Agent Roberts, Agent Carson, the director has called a meeting, and you both need to be in attendance.” Stephanie Carroll’s voice was now commanding.

Jake felt a strong hand squeeze his shoulder. “You better get your lazy ass outta here, Anders, or I’m gonna have to beat the crap outta ya.” The sounds of chairs scraping the floor and fading footsteps followed Ryan’s words.

“It’s all right, Agent Anders. They’re gone,” Jake heard a few minutes later.

The dim light of the room was too bright. Jake squinted, blinked several times, and slowly opened his eyes. He had a splitting headache.

“Welcome back to the world of the living, Jake.”

Jake attempted to smile back at the gentle-voiced doctor, but it came out more like a grimace.

“Are you in pain?”

“My head feels like it’s gonna explode.”

“I’ll give you something.”

Jake watched as the tiny woman took a syringe and injected it into the IV in his arm. He felt warmth radiate from the site of the line as his muscles relaxed and the pounding in his head began to lessen.

“Thanks. I think I feel less ‘vincible’ now,” he said, managing a lopsided grin.

She smiled at him. “Jake, I really can’t tell you how impressed I am with the skills you exhibited under the extreme pressure of the situation.”

“I had help.”

“Oh?”

“The Trace Sim. He told me to slow down my breathing and meditate. I imagined my artery knitting itself back together.”

“Impressive. I didn’t think the simulation microchips were so detailed in their programming.”

Jake shrugged. “Neither did I. It’s like he was right there in front of me.”

“When our bodies are under acute stress, we often imagine things,” she replied in a kind but patronizing tone.

Jake guessed that she’d heard the recording of his call for help and had wondered why he’d spoken Trace Michelson’s name.

“He seemed so real. Not like the usual Sim.”

Her answer was what he’d expected and hoped for: reassuring and kind. “The brain is an amazing organ. In times of severe stress, it can be a powerful tool to ensure survival.”

The tension in his shoulders abated with her words.

She’s right. It was probably a combination of the Sim and my own imagination. Either way, it worked, right?

She offered him a sympathetic smile. “You need to rest.” She checked the IV and made a notation on the chart at the foot of his bed.

She turned to leave, then paused as if considering something. “You know, Jake,” she said with a contemplative hand to her chin, “applying a tourniquet made from the toilet roll spindle and your torn shirt was quite remarkable, given the extent of your injury. But you didn’t really need it—the artery had already begun to heal on its own. It appears Dr. Michelson’s techniques are more effective than we originally thought. Quite fascinating.”

“Tourniquet?” It was the second time someone had mentioned it since he’d regained consciousness. But he didn’t remember a tourniquet, let alone applying one to himself in the heat of the moment.

“The one you placed on your leg before you lost consciousness.”

“I don’t remember that. The last thing I remember is Trace.”

“Writing the time you placed the tourniquet on your leg required true presence of mind, Jake,” she continued, undaunted. “We were able to quickly ascertain how long the circulation had been compromised.”

“I don’t remember that either.” He frowned.

She gave him another reassuring smile. “You really must get some rest now. I’ll be back to check on you later. Would you like something to drink?”

“Something more than ice chips?” he asked with a hopeful expression.

“I’ll see that you get some water.”

“Thanks.” He closed his eyes. He heard her walk out of the room and close the door behind her.

Tourniquet? Writing the time on my leg? And who killed Sandoval? I couldn’t have shot him; I didn’t have my gun….

It made no sense. An image of the man with dark hair and slate-blue eyes filled Jake’s mind. He’d seen that face many times while training with his Sim. He had known the real man himself years before—Trace Michelson had recruited Jake into the Trust. But for years, it had been only a virtual Trace who had inhabited his mind, training him, sharing his knowledge with his host as all Sims did.

This was different. He was so… real.

He forced his eyes open again and stared up at the ceiling. The gray acoustic tiles provided him with no answers.

“Idiot,” he muttered as he fought the overwhelming urge to sleep. “Of course he wasn’t there. He’s been dead for nearly five years.”

Excerpt – Thank My Lucky Scars by Tia Fielding

April 26, 2012

Just to change things up a bit, here’s a tiny PG-ish excerpt of yesterday’s release, Thank My Lucky Scars. I hope you enjoy it!


“Half now, half later? Please?” he asked and put on a puppy dog face that made me laugh and then surrender.

“Fine, but if I go all mushy and loopy and try to fondle your assets, it’s not me, it’s the drugs.” I huffed and held out my hand for the pill bottle. “I’m supposed to take two, so I’ll take one. Look.” I made a show of taking one pill from the bottle, placing it on my tongue, and then swallowing it with a sip of water.

I caught, just for a second, Brian watching my throat as I  swallowed,  but  then  he  walked  around  the  coffee  table  to sit down again.

“It’s an interesting song,” he said, listening with his head tilted a little, and then he grinned. “And you’re stating you wouldn’t want to, quote, ‘fondle my assets’ if you weren’t under the influence of some nasty medication?”

His  expression  was  so  teasing,  so  perfectly  what  I  had thought he was like, that I wasn’t sure if this was the real him or the Brian he usually showed to people he didn’t know. Fanboys like me.

“I wouldn’t go that  far, but I’ve pretty much resigned myself to the idea that I won’t be doing any… fondling, for a few months at least.” I rapped my knuckles on my cast.

“Oh, right, that does put a damper on things.” Brian nodded  and  gestured  at  my laptop.  “Can  I  show  you something?” he asked.

“Sure. And besides, I read the blog of that one porn fanatic guy—he said you don’t fondle your fanboys anyways,” I said as neutrally as I could while I settled a bit lower in the corner of the couch. I wasn’t getting loopy yet, but I was tired from the pain, and it was beginning to show.

The last contest-question and some rambling a bit later!

Music Inspirations for Coming Home

April 9, 2012

MJ back, talking about my book Coming Home, out today from Dreamspinner Press! This post is about inspirations — and as those who know me will tell you, my biggest inspiration is music.

 One of the things I nearly always do when I’m writing a book is I make a playlist on my iPod. I listen to those songs in the car, when I’m doing laundry, thinking and forming characters and scenes in my mind. Sometimes the music plays a more concrete role, like a title or a character name, but sometimes it’s all in the atmosphere. Coming Home is a warm, sleepy, small town story, that takes place in spring and early summer. The music I chose kind of molded the scene and the feel of the story. I thought I’d share a couple of the songs with you:

This is Star Anna and the Laughing Dogs. They’re a Washington Band that I was listening to around the time that I was working on the finishing touches. I like the sleepy melancholy:

watch?v=qgiiyKHx8uY

Both of these songs were on the original playlist. I can’t hear them without thinking of Lex and Tally:)

What if You – Joshua Radin

watch?v=wWSi3p3t5ak

Matt Nathanson All We Are

 watch?v=j1ZWxbm_9s4

And here’s an excerpt to go with my inspirational music:) In this short scene Lex is starting to realize  how he feels about his employee:

His family thankfully dropped the subject of Tallis Carrington for the rest of the meal. Lex could tell it was on his mother’s mind, though. Her face showed it. He was grateful that she’d let it rest but knew that a shop visit wasn’t far off. If there was one thing his mother was, it was protective, and she had a very clear memory of Lex’s year as Tally’s number one victim. He shook his head a bit at that thought. No, he was never Tally’s victim.

Tally was a different person than the dick who’d ruled the school with his gang of apes in lettermen’s jackets. Tally was… real and hardworking and interested in learning new things. Lex couldn’t believe how much the new Tally had superimposed itself in his mind over the old snarling image that had been imprinted there. Now all Lex could see was the way he smiled or how he went out of his way to help as much as he could… oh Jesus. It’s too late.

Lex excused himself soon after dinner was over, claiming early mornings and breakfast rushes as he backed hastily toward the door before another well-meaning intervention could start. In the peace and quiet of his car he admitted what he’d been avoiding all week, especially during the tenseness of Friday night.

“I want him,” he muttered, testing out the words to see how they felt in his mouth. “I want my straight employee who also happens to be the same guy everyone in town hates. Except me.”

Oh, God.


Just a Taste

April 9, 2012

Hey again, this is MJ O’Shea back, talking about my book Coming Home. I wanted to share a little bit more about the book and add a couple of excerpts:)

This book is driven by two characters who had different but equally rough childhoods. One came from a loving but poor home, and was tortured at school, the other, a rich home not exactly filled with love — he spent most of his teens living a lie…and being cruel to others in a misguided ploy to fit in.

We have Tally, or Tallis Carrington, former rich boy who has fallen on hard times and desperately needs to find a job in the town where he used to be practically royalty and a big bully at the local high school

And we have Lex, who was nerdy and soft, tormented by Tally and his gang of friends. He’s come back as a successful business owner, handsome, confident, but still harboring a grudge at the boy who’d hurt him so much in the past.

When the tortured and the torturer meet again years later, sparks fly — although not necessarily the good kind. Tally is clueless, Lex is angry, and, well, you’ll see the results:

The coffee shop was in one of those turn-of-the-century brick buildings that seemed to line the streets of small towns all over Washington. From the outside, the place looked cheery and inviting, nestled among the renovated lofts at the far end of Old Main. A good sign, Tally hoped. The door was flanked by two potted Italian cypresses and inlaid with stained glass. There was a quaint hand-painted “open” sign dangling from a hook near the top. The hinges squeaked when Tally pushed it open, but even the squeak was oddly homey.

Inside the shop was even better. Warm and fragrant, the air drew him in and enveloped him. The walls had been painted spring green and decorated with framed black and white photographs of the surrounding beaches. Miles of old woodwork and wainscoting gleamed glossy white, and the floors were stained a warm cherry color. He longed to sink into one of the soft, cushy armchairs and close his eyes for about a week. But he couldn’t. He had work to do—and at that moment, his work was convincing one damn business in his wretched hometown that he wasn’t the big loser they all seemed to think he was.

Tally heard a shuffling sound coming from behind the high granite-topped counter.

“Hello?” he called tentatively. “I’m here to fill out an application.”

There was a small crash and a muffled “shit.”

Tally leaned over the counter to see what all the fuss was. There was a man kneeling on the floor trying to hold a halfway slit bag of coffee beans together while at the same time balancing a stack of white plates with his knee so they didn’t crash to the floor and break. Tally fought laughter as he leaned over to right the stack of plates.

“Thank you so much!” came a relieved voice… a relieved voice that made Tally’s heart pound in his chest, throbbing and trying to be noticed as if it were saying “pay attention to this one.” The rest of his body responded in that one short moment, hardening, quickening, coming to life. Tally gave himself a mental slap on the wrist. Really. Not the best time for that.

The man started to stand, turning slowly with the slit coffee bag still balanced on his thigh.

“Hey, not a problem. My name is—” Tally’s voice stuck in his throat, like he was some little kid with his first crush. The other guy’s name must have been gorgeous—sandy hair somewhere between brown and blond, a little shaggy and curling at the ends, big hazel eyes with long curly lashes and a mouth that Tally could have spent hours kissing. Tally wanted to drool. He stuck out his hand and tried to repeat himself. “My name is—”

After one look at Tally, the stranger’s beautiful face had gone from friendly to scathingly irritated in a matter of nanoseconds. “Yeah, I know who you are. I don’t really think I need the help after all.”

Not another one. Tally started to panic.

“Listen….” He paused, hoping for a name.

“Lex,” the man supplied grudgingly.

“Listen, Lex,” Tally repeated. “I know everyone in this town hates me. Obviously even people I’ve never met. But I really need a job, and you wouldn’t have had an ad in the paper if you didn’t need someone to help you. Couldn’t it maybe be possible that you might put aside whatever it is that you’ve been told about me and my father and just take a chance that maybe I’ll be a good employee?”

Lex cocked his head to the side, regarding Tally silently. Talk about nerve-wracking.

“Everything I know about you tells me you won’t.”

Tally backed away toward the door. “It was a long time ago,” he mumbled. “People change. Even me.” Or maybe people were never really what they seemed.

Lex gave him one more long pensive stare, completing Tally’s humiliation. Everyone who remembered him hated him, and it seemed that his reputation had spread to gorgeous strangers as well. He wanted to crawl back to his grandmother’s house and hide in his room to lick his wounds. Was I really that bad? He reached for the handle on the paned- glass door.

“You know what?” Lex’s voice surprised him. He froze. “Fine. I’ll give it a try. Not like I’ve had any other takers.” The last part was mumbled, but Tally heard it just the same. “I start early. Five on weekdays, six on Saturday and Sunday.”

“That’s okay,” Tally said quickly, ready to agree with nearly anything.

“Do you know how to make coffee?”

“No, but I worked in restaurants for years.” Please let that be enough.

“I’m not going to want to tell you how to do things twice.”

“I learn quickly.” Tally hated to feel hope welling in his chest, but it was there—faint yet insistent. As grudging as beautiful Lex seemed to be, there was finally someone willing to give him half a chance.

“Then I’ll see you in the morning. Five. Not even a minute late.”  …

I don’t think I’ll be spoiling things too much to say that soon Lex starts to notice that Tally might not be the jerk he used to be…and not only that, but Lex is actually very attracted to him. And so the fun begins:)

He was foaming a latte, the fourth pumpkin spice of the night, when he felt Tally’s presence behind him, close and warm and looming. Tally brushed up against him and reached around Lex’s shoulder to grab the big cinnamon shaker that was sitting on the counter right in front of Lex.

“Sorry,” he muttered quietly, right up against Lex’s ear. “Molly wants cinnamon sprinkled on her muffin.”

Shivers burst across Lex’s skin. “It’s okay,” he tried to mumble back. His voice came out in a squeak.

He felt the warmth of Tally’s breath on his neck, and when he inhaled he could smell him, spicy and sexy and lingering in the air. Tally hadn’t moved. The moment stretched, excruciating and hot. Lex felt every single one of his crashing heartbeats. Why doesn’t he move? He has to know what he’s doing to me! And then Tally did move, but closer, just a small little movement, the difference barely perceptible other than from the wash of warmth that Lex felt deep in his belly. There were fingers brushing lightly at his hip, a touch that could be interpreted in so many ways, and then he was gone—back to chatting with Molly Bates, the girl who always wanted cinnamon sprinkled on her chocolate muffin.

Lex clenched his jaw. Get a grip, Barry! But he couldn’t. His pulse thundered, turning his face red, making his groin throb painfully. He had to stare at the counter and do multiplication tables in his head for long moments before he could even consider turning to place the drink on the counter without making a public spectacle of himself.

“You okay, Lex?” There it was again—that light touch, on his shoulder this time, and Tally’s voice so concerned against his ear. Lex’s stomach quivered and clenched in on itself.

“Yeah, just hungry I guess,” he lied. “Got a little lightheaded.”

“You want me to make you a bagel with cream cheese? You probably need to get some carbs in you.”

No, I need you in me. Or maybe me in you. I don’t care as long as I can fill my mouth with your skin.

“Sure,” Lex answered weakly. He’d have to choke the bagel down. Bread wasn’t even close to what he wanted to swallow.

Moron. That’s Tallis Carrington. Tallis jerk-of-the-century Carrington. Straight, asshole… well, reformed asshole. Maybe. Point is, hands off!

In the self-lecture department, Lex knew he’d get an A for effort. It was the follow-through where he failed. Couldn’t seem to talk his body into listening… or his mind, for that matter. They both kept screaming “I want him!”

“Here, eat this, Lex. You’ll feel better.”

A toasted bagel with cream cheese was placed in front of him, accompanied by another hand on the shoulder. Lex stood at the counter, breathing slowly and trying to slow his racecar libido down before it crashed all over the place.

“I’m good. Thanks.”

Lex was surprised by the sharpness of his voice. His lust and self-annoyance had come out of his mouth aimed at the undeserving Tally. He turned to apologize, but by the time he’d turned, Tally was on the other side of their space, taking an order from two giggly teenaged girls who made no secret of the fact that they were checking him out. Lex thought he might look a bit hurt, but he hid it with an open smile and flirtatious banter. The two girls ate it up, flipping their hair and applying lip gloss. Tally silently handed Lex the girls’ drink order, then turned to wipe off the counter.

“Hey, Tally. I’m sorry. It’s been a long week. I don’t want you to think I’m a big asshole, I’m just—”

“Really, don’t worry about it. I understand. No hard feelings.” Tally gave Lex a shy smile. “You better make those two girls their drinks before they eat me alive,” he whispered. “I think one of them tried to slip me her phone number.”

Lex returned the smile, glad that he could breathe again. “You should escape while you have the chance,” he whispered back. “I think I can take it from here if you want to get home.”

“You sure?” Did Tally look disappointed? No, more like you’re projecting your own shit onto him.

“Yeah, I’m sure. Go get some rest. I’ll see you Sunday morning.”

Tally untied his apron and gave Lex another one of those killer shy smiles. “Night, Lex. I’ll see you Sunday.”

Okay, that’s it for this post! Hope you’re enjoying the excerpts so far. I’ll be back soon with some more:)

:) MJ


“No Quarter” Day: Excerpt the Second.

April 3, 2012
A short excerpt this time, a quiet moment between Michael and Gabriel.
Gabriel rolled off him and onto his back, shifting to get comfortable. Tugging Michael into the curve of his arm, he smiled to himself as Michael curled up around him, a leg thrown over Gabriel’s and an arm slung over Gabriel’s chest as Michael rested his head on Gabriel’s shoulder.
“Comfortable?” Gabriel asked.
“Yes, thank you.” Michael let out a slow breath. “Gabriel?”
“Aye?”
“I… have not felt this for a very, very long time,” Michael said slowly, “and I do not want you to wonder or leave it unsaid. It is important to say it, I feel, especially as we do not know what may happen.”
“Oh?” Gabriel shifted a little so he could look into Michael’s eyes.
“Yes. Gabriel, I… I love you.” The last three words were said in a rush.
Gabriel smiled at that, running his fingers over Michael’s shoulder and arm, over the tattoo of the phrase “I am a shield and I am a sword, I protect and I serve” in Hebrew that stood out in black ink against Michael’s olive-hued skin. “And I love you, Michael.”
“You do not have to say—” Michael began, but Gabriel cut him off.
“Hush. I know how I feel, and I love you. Deal with it.”
Michael huffed at that. “Fine. I shall deal with it, as you say.”
Gabriel started laughing. “You’re adorable.”
“I disagree.”
“As is totally your right.” Still laughing, Gabriel pulled Michael even closer, so that Michael was half on top of him, and wrapped his arms around Michael, holding him close. “Get some rest.”
Michael hummed and nodded once. “I think I will. A short nap. You will be here?” The hopeful note in his voice was not lost on Gabriel.
“Aye, I’ll be here. I’ll always be here.”
Michael smiled at that. “Thank you,” he whispered.
Gabriel felt Michael stir a few hours before dawn. “Hey,” he said softly, slowly stroking his fingers through Michael’s hair. “I’m going to have to go soon, go and take care of my kids.”
Michael stretched and yawned, rubbing his eyes with the heel of one hand. It was an almost childlike action, and Gabriel couldn’t help but smile.
“As you say,” Michael agreed.
“I was thinking, though, that maybe you’d like to come with me back to mine? You could get to know my kids a bit better, and they could get to know you—and we could spend more time together?”
Michael smiled at that. “I would like that very much, Gabriel. Do we have time for a brief shower before departing?”
“Aye,” Gabriel leaned in to press a soft kiss to Michael’s forehead. “It’s not yet dawn. We got a few hours.”
“Good.” Michael stretched again, like a big cat. “Thank you for staying, da bao.”
“Da bao?” Gabriel raised an eyebrow. “Big treasure?”
Michael looked away. “It seemed fitting. You do not mind?”
“No. I don’t mind.” Gabriel kissed Michael’s forehead again. “I like it a lot.”
“As you say.” Michael sat up, running a hand down Gabriel’s chest. “Let us bathe, da bao.”
Gabriel smiled and nodded. “Aye.”
“Thank you both for staying with ’em,” Gabriel said, shaking Remiel and Samael’s hands.
“It was no trouble, Gabriel,” Samael said. “I enjoyed the opportunity to spend time with your children.”
“Shateiel and his bonded stopped by,” Remiel put in.
“Really?” Gabriel’s eyebrow shot up. “Why?” Shateiel was mute, but able to communicate telepathically with angelkind and those sentient beings who had the ability of telepathy.
“Shateiel only said to let you know he’s finished up with the assignments you gave him earlier, so he’s available if you need him for anything, and Agrat offered her services if you can think of a way they’d be of use. Then Shateiel got all stony faced grr-angel, and Agrat patted his arm a few times while he huffed in beatific silence, and then they left.” Remiel grinned. “It’s a good thing she doesn’t mind the silence. I teased her about that. She said he’s plenty loud in her head for her not to notice the silence, and then he blushed red like a tomato and stared at the ceiling.”
“Now, now, Shateiel’s a good officer,” Gabriel chided. “Although,” he added, grinning, “I ain’t never seen him blush, but now I think I have to. I’ll mention that when I see him.”
“He’s creepy sometimes.” Remiel shrugged. “Which I suppose is the point, seeing as he’s the Angel of Silence and Soldiers. How on earth he scored Agrat is still a mystery to me.”
“Mayhap Raziel can answer it for you.” Samael chuckled.
“Or mayhap we could cease gossiping entirely,” Michael said.