Book Review: “Escaping Solitude” by Sara Dobie Bauer.

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*It’s not just a pretty cover, folks.

This second instalment in Sara Dobie Bauer’s Escape Trilogy takes Andrew and his beloved Edmund to nineteenth century New Orleans, a setting rife with secret brothels and fancy vampire lairs.

Again, the writing is exceptional.

Sara’s portrayal of Edmund’s restless character and Andrew’s protective, yet deadly nature, are bang on and compelling. Her secondary characters, like Danys, Philipe and Michelle, are equally distinct and well-crafted.

I enjoyed the way Andrew was challenged in his attempts to reign in Edmund’s impulsive behavior, and resigned himself to dealing with him as a parent with an energetic and boisterous child. Edmund seems to run on adrenaline and curiosity, and it was enchanting to see him so distracted by Michelle’s giant library and the two male prostitutes at May’s brothel.

These novellas are fast-paced and enchanting and not your average vampire read.

Looking forward to the third and final book of the series!

*A free copy of this book was provided to me in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Pre-order links (October 29th release): Amazon.com, Amazon.caNineStar Press.

My review of Escaping Exile (Book 1)

Teaser – FANGS

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The youth shrugged, dark eyes quickly roaming over Gemini. He didn’t say anything, just looked at Gemini with a hopeful vulnerability that immediately touched something still alive inside the old vampire.

“You’re not dressed up,” Gemini said, leaning casually against the wall beside the youngster and propping a booted foot to rest against the wall at his back.

There was the hint of a smile that disappeared as quickly as it came. “Neither are you.”

Gemini nodded, still smiling. “True. Then we’re well matched.”

He ran his eyes slowly over the alluring creature, noticing the way the skinny jeans hugged the youth’s slender legs and hips. He leaned in, closing his eyes as he inhaled the sweet scent of the young man and whispered in his ear as if they were already lovers. “What’s your name?”

The young man shivered, and looked down at his feet. “Justice.”

Gemini resisted the urge to lick the shell of his ear. “Justice?”

The boy nodded, turning to face Gemini, his sweet young face only inches away.

“That’s a lovely name.”

“Actually, I hate it.” The young man laughed, drawing back slightly.

“Why do you hate it?” Gemini asked.

The boy shrugged, and moved in again so his response could be heard above the music. “It’s different. And weird.”

Gemini’s smile widened. “Hmmm. No. It’s unique. Like you.”

The young man laughed again. “I’m not unique. I’m like every other stupid kid here. Just trying to belong somewhere.”

Gemini was already charmed by this human and he felt a dangerous pull that he reigned in. He wasn’t going to kill an innocent human tonight. He wasn’t even going to seduce one. Still, he wanted to take Justice home. Feed him and put him to bed like a child.

It wasn’t anything he was used to feeling but he liked it. He wondered what Yvonne would say to him showing up with this young man. Looking at Justice, his soft skin and innocent expression, his full lips and his too-skinny form, Gemini didn’t really care what Yvonne thought. She would simply have to accept Gemini’s choice to bring home this waif, if that was what he decided to do. If Justice would go willingly with him.

Maybe she’d even see what Gemini saw in Justice’s deep brown eyes. Something frail and grasping that needed purchase. Something that needed saving.

Gemini knew what would happen if the boy stayed here, even if Justice didn’t. He would be just another nameless human used to satisfy the bloodlust and sexual hunger of a host of vampires and discarded at the end of the evening either dead or just a ruined shell of himself. Most died from the assault. The plain ones killed outright for strength and stamina while the pretty ones were violated over and over for sport and pleasure.

As usual, Gemini was not one to prevaricate. “I’d like to take you home with me.”

Justice stared at him, as if trying to come up with a reason to protest. “You just met me.”

“Yes.”

“What if I say no?”

“Then I will leave you here. But it will hurt me to do so. Very much.”

Justice’s eyes narrowed with suspicion. “How old are you anyway?”

“You wouldn’t believe me if I told you.”

Justice seemed to think about that, and about what Gemini had said about taking him home. “You can fuck me, I guess. If you want.”

Gemini blinked. “That’s not what I meant.” Although that thought did cross my mind.

Justice seemed confused and Gemini couldn’t blame him.

“Don’t you want to?” He asked with the saddest look on his face that perhaps Gemini had ever seen.

Gemini reached out and placed gentle fingers on Justice’s chin, turning his face this way and that, as if he were examining the youth’s face the way Yvonne would for the purposes of sketching it. Justice reacted to Gemini’s touch by visibly shuddering and licking his bottom lip nervously. Gemini tried not to show how affected he was.

“Of course I want to fuck you, sweet thing, and perhaps I will someday. But not today.” He brought the young man’s face around so that they locked gazes again. “Today I want to take you home, give you something to eat, and make sure you have a soft bed to sleep in.”

The young man hesitated, seeming to lose himself in Gemini’s ancient eyes, then shook himself free and forced himself to look away.

“Why should I trust you?” He said, but there was no conviction in it.

“Because I’m your only way out of this place tonight. And if you stay you won’t last until morning.”

“What?” Justice said, looking around him. “It’s just a party.”

Gemini shrugged. “Of course, that’s what it seems. Believe me or no, if you come with me you will be safe. If you say no I will leave you here. But I don’t want to. Please.”

Justice hesitated, looking at the many costumed patrons, then back at Gemini. “You promise?”

Gemini made a large X across his chest. “Cross my heart.” At least he still had a heart, even if it hadn’t pulsed for countless centuries. He held out his hand.

Justice reached out, wrapping his fingers around Gemini’s hand with relief as if now the boy had made the decision to trust him, he was ready.

“Okay.”

Book Review – “The Lurid Sea” by Tom Cardamone

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I have not read anything like this before.

A fantastic, Alice In Wonderland type journey through whirlpools as opposed to rabbit holes and mirrors, with its protagonist, the god-spawn Nerites, delighting in his curse/gift to wander the bathhouses of the world, meeting and enjoying countless strangers.

Tom Cardamone’s writing is a revelation – lyrical, raw, earthy, dark, fetid, glorious and depraved.

There is an innocence to Nerites that balances the evil incarnate of his half-brother, Obsidio. Nerites is propelled forcefully though willingly from encounter to encounter, joyously satisfying his relentless hunger and the lascivious requirements of a host of men, while Obsidio trails behind, leaving death and destruction in his wake.

Everything about this story revolves around fluid which is why I adore the title. The fluidity of space and time. Bodily fluids. Effluvia.

It is a Bacchanalian orgy of a book, a writhing verse of sex and spunk. The story drags you down and along at a breakneck pace through the damp reaches of multiple watery worlds, almost necessitating a towel-dry at the end.

But through it all are splashes of history and spurts of reverence and romance. This is a beautiful read, even though it touches on dark themes of death, disease and incest.

I simply cannot wait to read more of Tom’s work.

Buy Links: Amazon.com, Amazon.ca, Bold Strokes Books, Nook, Kobo

 

 

Book Review – “Escaping Exile” by Sara Dobie Bauer

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*Having followed Sara Dobie Bauer on Twitter, I was delighted when she PM’d me and offered to send me a copy of her new book, Escaping Exile, for free in exchange for an honest review. Since it was a sexy story about a male vampire and a human sailor, what the hell was I supposed to say? Yes, please!

I’m always a bit wary reading new authors because I have quite high expectations in terms of story and writing style. Also, summer is a busy time of year for me with my kids on their summer break and my husband taking vacation time as well. I don’t have as much personal time to read and write and I struggle to keep up with my own projects.

So I was only able to give this little beauty of a story the attention it deserved this morning while my fourteen year-old slept in and my eleven year-old watched Youtube on his computer with headphones on the sofa near me. Thank God for headphones.

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First person present is not a point of view I’ve seen often in stories these days, but I got used to Sara’s compelling style very quickly. Her beautiful words flow on the page, creating vivid imagery and enticing tableaus: A plain grass hut on an island filled with cannibals, a beautiful shipwrecked sailor, a lonely vampire who frets with lust and hunger.

I read this little novella in one go. It seduced and entranced me with its language and subject matter. I’ve long been a fan of Anne Rice and her early vampire novels, and yes, this story did remind me of them.

But Sara has her own vampire vision and I loved the way that Edmund (the sailor) was nothing like the traditional human victim to Andrew’s vampire cravings. His intelligence and reckless courage were just as fascinating as Andrew’s implicit strength and newly discovered self-control.

Such a juicy little treat for a lazy Saturday morning! I would recommend this story to anyone and look forward to the continuation of the series.

*A free copy of this book was provided to me in exchange for a free and honest review.

Buy Links: Amazon.com, Amazon.ca, Barnes and Noble, Kobo, Ninestar Press

Book Review – “Confessions: Priest” by Ella Frank

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*I think this is my favourite of all the covers in this series.

Joel Priestly is a fantastic character and one that Ms. Frank has taken pains to create and present as a stoic, intelligent survivor of intense trauma as a child. His early years were a haze of manipulation and violence, more of which she makes clear in this third book using flashbacks to his life with his mob boss of a father.

The delicate relationship that he is just beginning to flesh out with Robbie Bianchi, along with his husband, Julien, takes a big hit at the end of the second book (Confessions – Julien) and the first chapters of this book follow the three men trying to rebuild a level of trust with each other.

I like the way Ms. Frank writes about emotional issues like this. She seems to understand the psychology of people who are coming together – the doubts and fears that can plague us when we are getting to know someone new – and is able to communicate this through the thoughts and actions of her characters.

Honestly, I found this book to be my least favourite of the three, only because it deals with more angst and less “happy fun times”. I don’t write a lot of angst in my stories because I prefer to see people happy and dealing with the everyday challenges of a regular existence, rather than the less common trials of extreme violence and trauma.

I did like the way that Priest went out of his way to protect his loved ones in the face of the storm he knew was coming. It showed his strength and his faith that he could triumph over what had haunted him throughout his life.

I’m REALLY glad that Ms. Frank has promised to write a fourth book to give these guys a happier story together, now that their personal truths have been dealt with. Because when Joel and Julien and Robbie are relaxed and just enjoying their chemistry together? It’s perfection.

So yes, do read this book to learn the truth about Joel’s past and watch him protect his men, then keep your eyes out for Book 4 later this year!

*A copy of this book was provided to me in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Confessions: Priest, book three in the steamy contemporary MMM Confessions Series from Ella Frank, is available NOW!

Amazon US: https://amzn.to/2waxq4X

Amazon Worldwide: http://mybook.to/ConfessionsPriest

Add to GoodReads: https://bit.ly/2MbqMTy

Start the series with Confessions: Robbie today!
Amazon US:http://amzn.to/2HdQ7IU

Amazon Worldwide: http://mybook.to/confessionsrobbie

Add To Goodreads: http://bit.ly/2EWp3Aq

About Ella

Ella Frank is the USA Today Bestselling author of the Temptation series, including Try, Take, and Trust and is the co-author of the fan-favorite contemporary romance, Sex Addict. Her Exquisite series has been praised as “scorching hot!” and “enticingly sexy!”

Some of her favorite authors include Tiffany Reisz, Kresley Cole, Riley Hart, J.R. Ward, Erika Wilde, Gena Showalter, and Carly Phillips.

Connect with Ella:

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ella.frank.31/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/EllaFrank2012

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/ellafrank1/

Mailing List: www.bit.ly/1hEYtgn

Website: https://www.ellafrank.com/portfolio

Book Review – “Confessions: Julien” by Ella Frank

*Confessions – Elizabeth – I read this book in the throes of grief over my beloved pet Schnauzer, Bee Bee, who had to be put down last Thursday, three weeks shy of her 15th birthday.

Thank goodness I can rely on Ella Frank to tell a great story.

Confessions: Julien centres around Julien Thornton, master chef and one third of the romantic unit that encompasses him, the stern and quiet Joel Priestley, and the flashy and unstoppable Robbie Bianchi. They are all unique individuals with different and, in some cases, traumatic pasts who have come together in the name of sexual attraction and burgeoning love.

In this, the second book of Ella Frank’s Confessions series, we learn even more about Julien and Joel, who have been so good to our beloved Robbie but hide secrets from their pasts that have the ability to affect this new relationship. I love how Robbie’s naturally exuberant and intuitive personality provides a needed lightness and perspective to the other men, who’ve been struggling and really need an outside look at what is going on with them. Here we are confronted specifically with Julien’s backstory and how he suffers daily from vivid memories and crippling guilt.

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Robbie keeps underestimating his own abilities to react positively and intelligently to the emotional stresses going on around him, but both Julien and Joel know that he is becoming a needed counterpoint to their obsessive and controlling natures. As Robbie also discovers an intrinsic love of submission and service, specifically with regards to Joel, we observe two different personalities who just happen to click so perfectly that we cannot even imagine them being apart.

As always, the sex scenes sizzle. They resonate, too, with honesty and overwhelming emotion. Frank wields a deft hand at describing men in the throes of passionate lovemaking that doesn’t shy away from the grittier details. It’s not fluffy romance, but hard, rough, exciting moments of pure male sexual energy and satisfaction, underscored by a strong developing attachment.

I enjoyed this middle instalment of Robbie, Julien and Joel’s story and look forward to finding out more about the “Priest” of this ensemble in book three.

*A free copy of this book was provided to me in exchange for a fair and honest review.

*****

Confessions: Julien, book two in the steamy contemporary MMM Confessions Series from Ella Frank, is LIVE!

Synopsis:

People are complex.

Love a double-edged sword.

And when it comes to a broken heart, there are no rules, only time…

For the past eight years, Julien Thornton has been living with a secret. One that only a handful of people know about.

To the outside world, he has it all.

A thriving career. A loving husband. And a face that the American public fell for by the millions, on a reality show that inadvertently saved his life.

But behind the shine of celebrity, behind the easygoing nature, a crippling truth fills Julien with pain and self-loathing. It’s a truth that he fights to overcome daily with the help of his husband, Joel Priestley, and now their boyfriend, Robbie Bianchi.

But unlike Priest, Robbie doesn’t know what he’s helping Julien to fight. He doesn’t know what Julien did all those years ago. And with the anniversary of his sister’s death fast approaching, the time for explanations is running out.

And thus the question: will the princess be able to forgive the prick as the priest once did?

Only time will tell.

Download today or read FREE in Kindle Unlimited!

Amazon US: https://amzn.to/2LYB8Wq

Amazon Universal: http://mybook.to/ConfessionsJulien

Add to GoodReads: https://bit.ly/2HKj17D

Start the series with Confessions: Robbie today!
Amazon US:http://amzn.to/2HdQ7IU

Amazon Universal: http://mybook.to/confessionsrobbie

Add To Goodreads: http://bit.ly/2EWp3Aq

About Ella

Ella Frank is the USA Today Bestselling author of the Temptation series, including Try, Take, and Trust and is the co-author of the fan-favorite contemporary romance, Sex Addict. Her Exquisite series has been praised as “scorching hot!” and “enticingly sexy!”

Some of her favorite authors include Tiffany Reisz, Kresley Cole, Riley Hart, J.R. Ward, Erika Wilde, Gena Showalter, and Carly Phillips.

Connect with Ella:

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ella.frank.31/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/EllaFrank2012

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/ellafrank1/

Mailing List: www.bit.ly/1hEYtgn

Website: https://www.ellafrank.com/portfolio

Now I Lay Down

Coming in 2019!

Blurb: 

A beautiful creature pulls Troy McAllister back from a suicide jump off his apartment balcony one hot summer night.

Troy has lost everything – his job, his boyfriend, his family. He doesn’t have the money to pay his rent so he’ll soon lose his apartment too. What does he have to live for?

Shiloh is a Guardian who finds himself called to rescue Troy from himself. He doesn’t know why he was sent on this mission, he only knows that as soon as he gazes into Troy’s lost eyes he finds the one thing that has always eluded him.

Can a Guardian and a human fall in love? And if so, what does it mean that Shiloh’s feathers start to thin and his ethereal beauty begins to whither with each passing night?

The more he and Troy become emotionally invested, the more it becomes apparent that this love can’t last, at least not in its current form.

A story about transformation and sacrifice, finding the path to fulfillment and learning to live each day to its fullest.

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By AngelBlueArt

 

 

New Cover!

A couple of weeks ago, my thirteen year-old daughter, Gillian, opined that she was bored and I suggested she draw something since she loves art and she is very talented at it. She suggested that maybe she could draw something for one of my book covers. Most of my books already have book covers arranged by and paid for by my publisher. But the serial novel I’m writing on my website had a cover that I just kind of slapped together so I suggested she could perhaps try to draw the main character from that story, a photographer named Martin. I wondered how well she would be able to do it and I looked forward to seeing what she came up with.

The sketch looked pretty amazing from the start and she spent a week shading it and perfecting it. She drew the character to my specifications, asking about hair length, whether he’d have a bit of stubble, etc. I was very impressed.

When she showed me the final sketch, I was flabbergasted! It was amazing and just so perfect for a kick ass cover! I decided to pay her $40 for the rights to the image, which, luckily, she accepted. This sketch was worth at least that much and would have been worth more had she been an older, established artist. But I wanted to show her that she could make money off her art this way.

Anyway, without further ado, this is the cover I designed with her sketch:

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Cover art by Gillian Lister

White Balance is a long form free-to-read story available HERE.

Series Review – Oliver and Jack by Christina E. Pilz

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I just finished the sixth and final book in the Oliver and Jack series by Christina E. Pilz and am now in mourning that the story is complete.

Sometimes, in a lengthy series, the final books can seem lacklustre and underwhelming. Even if the writing continues on a level of excellence, the story can sometimes fizzle out and be less than comparable to the earlier books.

Well, not in this case.

The three books following Fagin’s Boy (which I reviewed here), At Lodgings in Lyme, In Axminster Workhouse and Out in the World, carried the story forward with the two main characters facing further challenges but feeling more and more affection for each other, both physical and otherwise and I found the final two books in the Oliver and Jack series – On the Isle of Dogs and In London Towne) – to be riveting, revelatory and supremely satisfying.

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Ms. Pilz’s unfailing ability to transport her reader to the streets and byways of 19th century London and environs is astonishing. She is able to convey the noise, the stench and, yes, the beauty of this unique setting with her eye for detail and the manner in which her finely drawn characters react to their surroundings. Her use of language, particularly, to show the difference between the social classes, is perfectly executed. Jack’s street-smart and profanity-laden dialogue contrasts beautifully with Oliver’s more polite turns of phrase in a way that keeps the characters quite distinct and beautifully contradictory.

I have to say that Pilz’s version of Jack Dawkins, the Artful Dodger, is one of the most vibrant and colourful character representations I have ever had the pleasure to read. I fell deeply in love with his expressive language, straightforward outlook on life, and ability to find pleasure and humour in even the most bleak of circumstances.

Pilz has a wonderful grasp of human psychology and how people react to traumatic circumstances. Her 19th century world is brutal in its veracity but the way these two characters struggle to survive and barely escape some horrible situations is a testament to the harshness of the Victorian reality and its rigid social structure. When addressing less-than-appealing events, Pilz manages to maintain a sense of delicacy and honesty that, while not shying away from important details, shows her characters’ great strength in the face of adversity.

In conclusion, a beautiful series written with a deft hand and sharp mind, presenting characters at odds with the times of their existence who nevertheless find love and laughter to carry them through until they can grasp their happy-ever-after, which is all the more special because of the trials they have endured to get there.

 

 

Book Review: Fagin’s Boy by Christina E. Pilz

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First, I must confess to putting off reading Fagin’s Boy, which I downloaded for free from Amazon several weeks ago, because I read a lot of historical literature like Dickens, George Eliot and Charlotte Bronte, and I was really worried that this book would not live up to my expectations of it. I’ve always loved the story of Oliver Twist and the movie musical as well. But the idea of a follow up story wherein Oliver and Jack (the Artful Dodger) grow up and fall in love made me giddy with excitement. But I was nervous about the writing.

When I finally began this story and immediately found myself transported back to Victorian London with all its period charm as well as its grime, brutality and criminal underbelly, I was thrilled.

I usually like my gay romance reads to be fast-moving, full of sexual tension and graphically described intimate scenes. This story read more like a literary novel with a leisurely plot and much introspection on the part of the central character (Oliver) which was absolutely fine because the quality of the writing and the author’s attention to period detail supported that. Indeed, I found myself entranced by her vivid descriptions of life in middle class London, then later by the squalid lifestyles of the lower classes.

Pilz does a wonderful job of navigating the subtle dance between two men who share an unstated obsession with each other but don’t fully understand where that obsession comes from or to where it might lead. When it gets there, her handling of Jack and Oliver’s acknowledgment of their physical attraction to each other is beautiful to behold and hotter than Hades.

I recommend this book for anyone who enjoys historical romances with strong, vividly depicted characters and setting and an undeniable passion between two people struggling to survive and thrive in a harsh and unforgiving world.

There are five more stories in this series and I look forward to enjoying each and every one of them, the next being Oliver and Jack: At Lodgings in Lyme.

Thank you to Christina E. Pilz for permitting me to combine my love for historic literature with my fondness for gay romance in her painstakingly researched and beautifully written series.

Call Me By Your Name – A Return to Eden?

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*Contains spoilers*

I have watched this film three times now, and it gets better at each viewing.

Luca Guadagnino’s Call Me By Your Name is a feast for the senses – an erotic buffet filled to the brim with symbolism, intellect and culture.

But most of all, innocence.

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Call Me By Your Name is the story of 17 year-old Elio’s sudden infatuation with 24 year-old graduate student, Oliver, one of a succession of yearly summer visitors brought to the beautiful Italian villa by his father to help with paperwork and for the chosen student’s own intellectual and spiritual enrichment. It is based on the book of the same name by André Aciman, which I read before viewing the film. In this case, the movie exceeded the promise of the book – which in itself was wonderful – by immersing the viewer in the lush Italian summer that Aciman writes about and by selecting Timothée Chalamet and Armie Hammer as the two lead actors.

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Their chemistry is palpable from the moment they first meet through the tentative attempts at flirting and seduction, through to the final moments at the train station when Oliver has to leave. Chalamet was deservedly nominated for an Oscar for Best Actor. Somehow, he is able to show every emotion and thought that crosses Elio’s mind as he tries to figure Oliver out and decipher his own confusing feelings of attraction.

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This is one of the most mature films I’ve ever had the privilege to watch. It is a story in which sex is as natural as breathing, as wonderful a part of growing up as anything else, where nothing is shameful about embracing one’s desires and enjoying the fruit of life. The peaches that ripen in Anella’s orchard are as full of promise and as sweet as Elio. They are innocent but sensual in their own right, just like him.

As Elio and Oliver bicycle through the Italian countryside growing ever more aware of their mutual attraction, the viewer is treated to such a natural growth of love and longing that it becomes a part of the landscape.

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The house in which Elio lives and where Oliver stays for the summer is a character in itself. Like Elio’s parents, the ancient villa is always welcoming, doors open wide to the sunshine, balconies overlooking vast expanses of grass and trees. But there are hidden passages and secret rooms too, where only the most loyal companions are taken. Elio’s private escape above back of the kitchen, where he brings Marzia to wile away the hours until his tryst with Oliver, is also the room where he has intimate relations with a ripe peach and later cries in Oliver’s arms over the fact that Oliver must soon leave.

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This film is a celebration of summertime, first love, sexual exploration of all kinds — opposite sex, same sex, solitary sex with a peach — beauty and desire. It is also a celebration of how a parent can let their child become an adult by sitting back and letting that child explore the world on his/her own terms. By understanding that sexuality is a natural part of living and that putting barriers around who we’re allowed to fall in love with or engage with sexually is a losing game, and why would we want to play it anyway?

Call Me By Your Name Movie

Call Me By Your Name Book

Jingle Balls – Friday Flash Fic., March 16

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Dear Lord, it was sweltering outside. How was I supposed to get in the Christmas spirit surrounded by palm trees, surfers and ancient volcanoes?

I’d jumped at the opportunity to move to Hawaii when the possibility of a transfer had come up within the company. It had been absolutely amazing for the first six months until I’d realized that nothing was changing. The weather was the same as it had been at the start of my stay.

Of course, that had been one of the major draws of moving here, but I hadn’t counted on the boredom of waking up to the same thing day in and day out. Sure, it rained sometimes. And some days the winds were stronger than others. But I had grown up in a climate that transformed itself on a regular basis. I had gotten used to the seasons changing and seemed to unconsciously have used them to mark the passage of time if nothing else. Here, on this island, I felt like I was trapped in a constantly repeating pattern. It was a pleasant pattern, there was no arguing that. Warm and sunny most of the time, with no hassles like shovelling snow, scraping car windows or trying to find a winter hat that looked half decent.

I couldn’t believe I was thinking this, but I missed winter. Actually, I missed the gradual change of Autumn to winter and the prospect of spring returning. Especially right now, with Christmas only a few days away.

The only good thing (and it was a really good thing) that made Hawaii feel like home was the fact that the man I’d met a month after setting down roots here had moved in with me and we shared a relationship that was astonishing in its honesty and passion.

As I pulled into the drive of our hilltop bungalow wondering how I’d get through the Christmas season without the things that made Christmas, well, Christmas, I knew that at least I had someone wonderful with whom to share my nostalgia and celebrate the season.

“Hey, Gorgeous, I’m home,” I said as I pushed open the door and dropped my parcels. “No peeking in any of these, by the way.”

“In here,” came Josh’s cheerful voice from the living room.

I toed off my flip flops and tossed my keys on the stand, then wandered towards the living area. When I got to the archway between the dining area and the living room I froze at the sight that greeted me.

“Josh? What the hall have you done? And holy shit, what the fuck are you wearing?” I said, staring open mouthed at my muscled boyfriend who stood in front of an artificial pine tree that was flecked with fake snow and decorated with white and blue balls and pretty paper snowflakes, in only a pair of tight white briefs embossed with the visage of the jolly old elf himself and the Aussibum logo.

He smiled and stepped back from the tree. “Ta da! What do you think?”

“I think,” I said, feeling the moisture collect in my eyes but fighting it back (it was just a fucking tree, for God’s sake!). “I think I love it.”

His smile grew bigger and the gratitude swelled inside me again. Then he gestured down to the tiny trunks he wore. “And these? Tell me what you think of these.”

My eyes drifted over the soft white cotton that contained his familiar package and outlined his beautiful, sexy ass.

I shook my head. “I can’t tell you that, Josh.”

He screwed up his features. “Huh? Why not?”

“Because my brain just exploded. Why did you get rid of the palm tree we decorated? I don’t miss it at all, but why?”

He shrugged. “Because I could tell you hated it. I wanted you to have something more reminiscent of Wisconsin. Something that would make your Christmas a little more enjoyable.”

I walked over to him and reached out to pull him in for a kiss. His lips were soft and welcoming and tasted of peppermint. “Have you been eating candy canes, Josh?”

He grinned. “Maybe.”

“You are the sweetest man I’ve ever known. Thank you for making my Christmas this year.”

“You’re welcome. Do you like the balls?”

“Oh Josh, I like them very much,” I said, staring down at his tiny white Christmas briefs.

He gasped in mock astonishment. “My goodness, someone’s in a better mood.”

“Thanks to you. Now let’s go pretend there’s a raging blizzard outside and we can’t leave the bedroom for three days.”

 

Scrabble – Nathan’s Flash Fic Challenge for March

My buddy, Nathan, runs a Flash Fiction challenge each month. He picks randomly from a selection of genres, objects, and locations and the results for March were: a Romance, with a VHS cassette, in a fire watch tower.

So I kind of played fast and loose with those guidelines because that’s how I roll.

Also, the stories are supposed to be within a 1000 word limit. Mine’s about 1500 words but I couldn’t bare to edit it down very much ’cause I like it the way it is.

I wasn’t sure what I was going to write but while researching fire watch towers I came upon this article about a guest house built as an authentic replica of a fire watch tower in Montana and my idea progressed from there. Especially when I read that it is occasionally used by fire fighters as an actual fire lookout.

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Photo by Heidi A. Long

SCRABBLE

After an intense hike to the top of Lion Mountain in Whitefish, Montana, I surprised my boyfriend, Michael, with the place we would be staying for two days and two nights to celebrate being together for six months.

“They wanted to recreate an old fire watch tower and went to pretty extreme lengths to make it authentic. And I found it on Air B&B. And now we are here.”

The wood-framed platform and cabin were perched securely on top of four wide flights of stairs that I had to force myself to ascend with the occasional encouragement from Michael who wasn’t afraid of heights.

The door was indeed unlocked and I was relieved to see the place looked just like it had on the website — the décor rustic and cozy. There was a small kitchen area, a tiny table with two chairs and a living space. I hadn’t yet told Michael that we’d have to climb down those steps whenever we needed to use the composting toilet.

“Wow,” Michael said as we looked at the panoramic view out the windows. The green and brown wilderness of Montana spread out in all directions. “This is beautiful.”

After staring for several moments we shucked our backpacks and collapsed on the banquet sofa, breathing heavily from the hike and climb.

Michael looked around the small cabin, taking it all in. I’d already seen the photos online but it was wonderful to see the place in person and know it was ours for the next forty-eight hours.

Finally, he turned to me. “But where do we sleep?”

I raised my eyebrows. As far as I was concerned, there would not be a whole lot of sleep going on this weekend.

He must have seen the desire in my eyes because he grinned and leaned closer, brushing my cheek with his nose and murmuring into my ear. “Let me rephrase that. Where is the comfortable but firm surface I can throw you on to have my depraved way with you? Please tell me there is one.”

His warm breath caused goose bumps to rise on me everywhere and my cock to thicken in my shorts. I almost couldn’t reply but when I found my voice I said, “There’s a pull-out bed in here.” I pointed down at the sofa we were sitting on.

“Oh good,” he said, nuzzling my stubbled cheek and nipping at my chin, which caused my mouth to drop open and my breaths to come more quickly. “Because I thought we might have to do it on the balcony.”

I pulled back and stared at him, eyes wide and my dick a steel rod.

“I think we may just have to now that you’ve put that idea in my head.”

He laughed softly and kissed me with increasing ardor, his hand finding its way past the waistband of my shorts.

Later, so much later, after we’d fucked on the pull-out bed AND on the balcony, and then again with me bent over the kitchen counter, we relaxed on the tangled sheets and enjoyed the peace of the dark forest surrounding us. It was so quiet but for the sounds of crickets and night birds and it made something deep inside me relax for the first time in a long while.

“This reminds me of something,” I suddenly realized and the words were out of my mouth before I could stop them.

“Yeah?”

I nodded, snuggling into Michael’s side and enjoying the smell of him and the lingering scent of our adventures. “This old movie I had way back in the day of VHS players. I can’t even remember the title of the thing and the cassette always came unwound but I remember there was this one scene where the lovers — they were straight of course— were chatting like us in a cabin in the woods with darkness all around, just like this, and it was so, I don’t know, evocative of something. Something important and valuable and beautiful.”

Michael stared down at me, breathing softly. “I like the way you say things, Mattéo.”

“You do?”

“Yes, I do. And I think that you are something important and valuable and beautiful.”

I swallowed, too overcome by what he’d said to reply. All I could do was lock onto his gaze and lose myself in the truth of his words.

A sound outside made me jerk in his arms.

“What the fuck was that?” Michael said as our quiet lover’s chat was interrupted by sounds of movement and talking below. We froze and listened.

A man’s voice, confident and deep: “I know. I just want to get a better look. Wait here.”

Soon we heard the sounds of booted feet on the steps below.

“Oh shit,” I cried out, scrambling to find my clothes. Michael did the same. But before we could get completely dressed the door to the cabin opened and a man stepped inside.

“Oh shit!” He exclaimed, his eyes flying over the scene of our debauchery with confusion and surprise. “I didn’t realize there was anyone in here.”

“Oh shit!” I said again, staring at the fully uniformed firefighter in his coveralls, boots and fire hat. “Is there a fire?”

The man stared at me, then at Michael as we continued to frantically dress ourselves.

He gave out a soft laugh and smiled. He looked back and forth between us again and I suddenly noticed he had the bluest eyes and a handsome goatee. “That’s what I’m here to find out. But nothing close.”

His eyes sparkled as he took off his fire hat and held out his hand. “I’m Officer Markholm. I’m so sorry to intrude but the owner lets us use this place as an actual fire watch tower when we need to. Unfortunately she neglected to tell us it was being used this weekend.”

Officer Markholm’s black hair was wet with sweat and curled charmingly around his ears. I didn’t realize I was staring until Michael told me to close my mouth. Officer Markholm laughed, apologized again and asked if he could just have a look out the back windows? He was just making sure a small fire that was miles away had been successfully extinguished.

Of course we said sure and moved aside, hoping the smell of the sex we’d had all over the place wasn’t as strong as it seemed. I suddenly noticed Michael’s jar of Boy Butter lube on the table by the window where Officer Markholm stood looking out. I nudged Michael and nodded toward it. He paled slightly. He moved quickly to the window beside the firefighter, blocking Officer Markholm’s view of the table.

“It’s so dark, what can you possibly see out there?”

I darted to the table and grabbed the bottle, whisking it out of sight. It was slippery, as lube bottles tend to get, and slid from my fingers, clattering onto the floor and rolling under the pullout bed as Officer Markholm said, “Fire. If there’s even a tiny fire, I’ll see it. But if we could switch the lights off in here, that would help.”

“Sure,” I said, backing up to do as he’d asked. At least the lube was out of sight.

We all stood there then, silently looking out the large windows, watching the forest for any signs of red or yellow or orange.

Officer Markholm scanned the distance and I tried not to imagine how hard his muscles probably were underneath that brown coverall. How it might feel to be picked up in his strong arms and carried down the steps. How comforting it would be to hear his voice in the middle of a crisis.

I noticed that Michael was watching him too. No doubt thinking the same thing I was. I grinned but I don’t know if he saw it in the darkness.

Finally, Officer Markholm turned and said, “Looks like it’s all clear. Thanks for letting me invade your love nest, boys.”

My breath caught in my throat. “Wh- what? We were just, uh, playing scrabble.” It was all I could think of.

Officer Markholm switched the light on and I could see his wry smile. “Okay. Sure.”

The blood rushed to my face. He obvious didn’t believe me.

“Who’s winning?”

“Him,” Michael and I said together.

“Uh huh. And where’s the board? Same place as the lube?”

We were so busted. We said nothing, just stared at the handsome firefighter and choked.

Then his soft laugh floated through the small space again. “Anyway, looks like there’s no fire anywhere but in this room. Just play safe okay?”

And he was gone, closing the door and clomping down the wood steps, while Michael and I stared after him.

Baby Talk – Friday Flash Fic, March 9th

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“Thats … him?”

Cade nodded with a smug smile on his face. “Yep. That’s Mark. With little Jade.”

“Can the dog walk or is it missing its legs?” I asked.

Cade blinked and screwed up his forehead. “Huh?”

”He’s carrying his dog in a backpack. Don’t you think that’s a little … precious?”

Cade shrugged. “I think it’s kind of cute actually.”

“Really?”

Cade’s tone became a little pointed. “Dog and backpack aside, you gotta think Mark’s pretty hot, right?”

I looked at Cade’s phone again, holding it at all angles and trying to see what Cade was seeing. “Well…the dog kinda wrecks it for me. All I can think of is this hot guy talking baby talk to his precious little poodle or whatever the fuck it is.”

“It’s a yorkie, actually. God, you are fucking weird and cynical as shit,” Cade said, not even trying to hide his annoyance. “I don’t know why I showed this to you.”

He grabbed his phone back and shoved it in his pocket. “Mark’s the sweetest guy I’ve ever met and if you can’t get over the fact that he babies his dog, you’re alot more judgemental than I though.”

“Whatever.”

“Asshole.”

“Want to go get Subway?

“Sure.”

 

Book Review – “Confessions: Robbie”, by Ella Frank

Confessions ROBBIE AMAZON SBP

Robbie-ANIG

*I fell in love with the character of Robert Bianchi in Ella Frank’s fabulous Temptations series. While reading the final book in the six-book series, I was dying to know more about the “Priest” (Joel Priestley) and the “Prick” (celebrity chef Julien Thornton) who seemed to have an unconventional marriage and a private obsession with the young, extravagant Robbie. Luckily, Frank has decided to follow Robbie’s story with the first book in her new Confessions series. And, luckily for me, Robbie very quickly decides that he needs to know more about the married men who’ve shown an interest in him as well.

When I heard that Frank was accepting requests for ARC copies of the new book, I threw my name in and then promptly forgot I had done so. Wasn’t I thrilled and surprised when I received an email on Thursday promising an ARC copy in my inbox come Friday morning?

I started reading on Friday, tore myself away for a couple of hours to work on my own project, then continued, and finished this morning. I almost wish I’d read it a little more slowly to savour it, but I’m afraid that was impossible and, really, that’s what the reread is for, right?

Ella Frank has the innate ability to see into my head and write exactly what I want to see in her books. It is really quite rare for me to find an author that seems to think exactly like I do and writes a book that is perfectly what I want to read (usually, I have to write those books). She did that with the first half of the Temptations series and she’s done it again with Confessions: Robbie.

Because my own James Lucas Trilogy revolves around the development of a close and committed relationship between three different men, I loved the premise of this book. And Frank executed the resulting story perfectly. Ella Frank is able to write sizzling hot sex scenes AND scenes that cut through the bullshit of outward appearances and reveal the inner emotions of her characters, so VERY well. The entire first part of this book was a slow, delicious and tantalizing lead-up to what I knew was coming and what I was desperately waiting for. By the time I got it, the flames were licking up the sides of my Kindle.

Seriously. This book is HOT.

But it is also full of three dimensional characters who are all struggling with something and who find answers in each other.

I highly recommend Confessions: Robbie and look very much forward to the rest of the series. I was thrilled to read in the back matter that Confessions: Julien is supposed to be out by May of this year, because I so desperately want to read more about the Priest, the Prick and the Princess.

*A copy of this book was provided to me in exchange for a fair and honest review.

One-Night-Stand – Friday Flash Fic., March 2nd

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He stood looking out the glass walls at the small backyard. Concrete walls surrounded the tiny space but for a large cutout at the side that let in the bright morning sunshine and gave a soft blue tint to the stone. Lionel could see greenery and remembered the lush surroundings of the place that he’d seen the previous evening when he’d stumbled onto the dark grounds with their owner.

The owner of this beautiful home was still asleep in the large master bedroom, and Lionel wondered whether he should stay or call an Uber. He wanted to stay but he wasn’t sure if that was a good idea.

They’d had fun at the bar, he and the slightly older man whose name was Marcello and whose green eyes had pierced through Lionel’s defences and shattered his resolve. His resolve to never engage in one-night-stands for the very reason he was now standing in this glorious space wondering what to do.

But he wouldn’t regret it. Wouldn’t regret taking Marcello’s hand and following him to the alleyway, wouldn’t regret letting Marcello kiss him, wouldn’t regret nodding and sighing yes when Marcello asked permission to reach into his jeans.

Definitely wouldn’t regret spending the night making out and then fucking in Marcello’s four poster bed.

The problem, and this was always the problem with Lionel’s one-night-stands, was he wanted more. It took alot for him to fall hard enough for a guy that he was comfortable becoming physically intimate. Usually it took more than one evening of flirting and penetrating looks, but sometimes it did not. And once he’d stripped himself of everything and opened up to another man, Lionel couldn’t help feeling bereft.

A sound behind him and a soft reflection of movement in the glass caused Lionel to startle and turn.

“Good morning,” Marcello said, blinking in the bright sunlight and giving Lionel the wide smile that had seduced him so easily. He was wearing only boxer briefs and Lionel couldn’t help that his gaze swept over the attractive man as if it might be the last time he could do so.

“Morning,” Lionel mumbled. “I, uh, I’ll make some coffee and then I guess, well, I guess I’ll go.”

Marcello yawned and shook his head. “I’ll make coffee, Lionel. You’re my guest.”

Lionel nodded, still not sure what the expectations were this morning. He hated not knowing what to do.

“Sit down. Relax,” Marcello said with a grin. “You must be tired.” he waggled his eyebrows, referencing how late they’d stayed awake, exploring each other and enjoying each other until the small morning hours.

Lionel felt the tightness in his chest loosen and he smiled in response to Marcello’s good humor. He sat in one of the soft chairs at the round breakfast table.

Marcello went about getting the coffee ready.

“Are you hungry, Lionel?” he asked.

Lionel cleared his throat. “I, uh, well, yeah.”

“Would you like to stay for breakfast?”

Lionel nodded, relieved. “Yes. Yes, I’d love to.”

Marcello batted his eyes and smiled again. “You know, I don’t do this very often,” he said softly.

Lionel felt a glimmer of hope in his chest. “Um, eat breakfast?”

Marcello laughed and shook his head. “No, I mean, I don’t drag home gorgeous men from bars.”

Lionel blushed. Gorgeous? Him? He let himself smile. “Really?”

Marcello nodded. “Really. I don’t usually go this far with someone I’ve just met.” He laughed then, shaking his head. “God, I sound like a high school girl. But it’s true.”

Lionel felt the tension drain from him and said, almost too quickly, “Me neither. Really, I don’t. I don’t know what came over me.” He realized what he’d said as soon as it had exited his mouth.

Marcello met his gaze and they both burst out laughing.

“Oh my God,” Lionel said, blushing furiously. “I’m such an idiot.”

Marcello shook his head again, placing the carafe on the burner and pressing the start button. “You’re not an idiot,” he said softly, eyes shyly glancing at Lionel’s and darting away as if he were nervous. But how could he be? Lionel was the nervous one.

“Stay for breakfast,” Marcello said quickly. He bravely met Lionel’s surprised gaze head on and held it. “Stay for lunch…”

Lionel felt the smile spread across his face this time, and he nodded. “Okay.”

The relieved and happy smile that spread over Marcello’s face then washed away all the doubt from Lionel’s mind. This was more than a one-night-stand. It had to be.

Is It March Already?

Whew, is it really March??? Winter flew by incredibly fast this year!

We just celebrated my son’s 11th birthday and spring weather is upon us a little early. I know that the snow and cold will make a reappearance before this month is over but I’m really enjoying it right now.

I only have one work week left (Sunday, Monday, Tuesday) before getting 11 days off for March Break. Three years ago when I got this job I spend part of the March Break training but every year since I’ve taken the week off to spend time with the kids. Usually we travel somewhere nearby but this year we are staying in town. We plan to visit a couple of museums, go bowling, out for lunch and dinner, maybe a movie. It’s really nice to be able to spend a week together as a family once a year.

In February I read two really good books that I want to recommend:

The first is a book called Priest by Sierra Simone.

I don’t often read MF anymore because I love MM so much, but every once in awhile a blurb will call out to me and I’ll give it a try. This one got me with the whole conflicted young priest thing and the author’s very straightforward disclaimer that this book represented her own interpretation of the way sex and religion can go together.

Anyway, the sex was smoking hot, the angst bearable and appropriate to the story. I liked both characters very much and felt the writing was excellent.

 

The book I just finished reading is Verismo, by E.M. Lindsey. This one is MM and a slow burn which I also tend to not read as often as other sorts of stories, because I am obsessed with well written sex scenes – in my own work and in others’.

But I found the story entrancing from the start and loved all the classical music and piano references. It was fairly obvious how the story would play out and it was lovely going along on that ride. Again, both central characters were compelling and fascinating. I especially loved Cedric, the young, formerly blind pianist who I couldn’t help visualizing as being played by Thimothée Chalomet (Call Me By Your Name) in the movie that was running in my mind. The writing was outstanding and I will definitely read more by this author.

 

Anyone else read anything good lately?

 

Sorrow – Friday Flash Fic., Feb. 23

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We’d walked three miles to get there, so by the time we reached the sand and the water I was completely exhausted. I collapsed to the sand and stared out at the waves and the clouds.

But Noah just stood there, looking out at the grey water, watching the water lap at the shore, his chest rising and falling, eyes shining with moisture. He blinked it back but said nothing.

After awhile, when I’d caught my breath and felt like I wasn’t at risk of passing out anymore, I stood and walked over to him.

“You okay?”

He looked at me briefly, then back out at the ocean. “Not really.” His voice was unsteady.

I stood close by him, wondering if I should touch him or just listen. I held back.

“Jordan?” he addressed me finally.

I nodded, watching him carefully but saying nothing.

“I honestly don’t know if I’ll ever be okay again.”

His eyes glistened with the tears that wanted to, needed to fall. I tried to convey in my gaze how much I understood, how much I cared. I didn’t know what to say.

He let out a strange noise, a kind of half-sob that was just the cusp of what was waiting behind his fierce reserve.

And at that point I knew that words were not the answer. I reached out and pulled him against me, gathering him close and cradling him in my arms.

“I know, man. I know.” I said softly. “She was your little sister.”

And he broke. His forehead rested on my shoulder and his body heaved with silent sobs as the tears coursed over his cheeks, wetting my face and my shirt, combining with the salt water spray from the sea.

Noah’s little sister had killed herself a week earlier. She’d been bi-polar and stopped taking her meds. Noah had found her.

He was probably right. He might never be okay after that. But I would stand by him, with him, and help him any way I could.

“It’s going to be okay,” I lied. “You’re going to be okay.”

Craving – Friday Flash Fic., Feb. 15th

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I was on the treadmill at the gym when I got an idea for this flash fiction prompt.

I realized that these guys could easily be two characters from my Vampire erotica WIP, Diamond Dogs.

Theo Matowski is a devoted lover to my protagonist, Gemini (a bisexual, androgynous female vampire who keeps Theo and his male lover, Justice, as human pets/companions). However, when an older male vampire, Kristofer Vallespi, comes to Ottawa seeking excitement, Theo finds his loyalties tested.

Craving

Theo waited restlessly on the park bench, eyes glancing furtively about and hands in his jeans pockets.

Kristofer Vallespi had texted him the night before, requesting that Theo meet him here at noon because he needed to ask him something.

Theo knew he shouldn’t have replied. Shouldn’t have texted Kristofer that he’d come. Shouldn’t have thought about Kristofer all evening and all morning.

Gemma had told him that Kristofer was dangerous. She’d said Kristofer was not like she was. He’d want to take advantage of Theo – use him for sex or food and then toss him away like spoiled fruit.

But Theo didn’t believe her. He didn’t think she was lying. He believed Gemma supposed Kristofer to be like that. But from the moments Theo had spent in Kristofer’s commanding presence, he couldn’t believe it.

And now, as he glimpsed Kristofer approaching along the gravel path in his pea coat and jeans, looking so very human and yet not-at-all human, he wondered if perhaps Gemini was right. Theo knew vampires had powers he didn’t yet understand even though he’d been sharing Gemma’s home for seven years. Perhaps he shouldn’t have come.

But it was too late now.

Theo straightened as Kristofer approached. Even though he knew very well that most vampires could walk about during daylight hours, it still made him uneasy. These creatures were supposed to be night dwellers. But maybe that was what people believed in order to feel some kind of partial security.

Theo knew better.

Kristofer stopped in front of the bench. He looked Theo over with a frank and obvious hunger.

“Theo,” he said in greeting, offering a small smile and a glint of fang. So he was hungry. Hungry for either sex or blood, or his fangs wouldn’t have descended.

Theo shuddered in the face of such desire. “K-Kristofer. I wanted to see you.” This was the truth.

Kristofer nodded, sitting down beside Theo on the bench. “I know. I wanted to see you too. Needed to.” His vibrant blue eyes drifted over Theo, consuming him on the spot.

They locked eyes and Theo felt that connection, the same one he experienced with Gemma but even stronger here, now, with Kristofer. Was it because Kristofer was male, or because he was an older vampire?

It didn’t matter.

“Theo, I need to taste you. Now.” Kristofer’s voice felt like smooth amber covering him as if Theo were a tiny insect who would soon be trapped and paralyzed.

Theo nodded, his desire ramping up in Kristofer’s intoxicating presence. “I know.”

No sooner had Theo said those words than Kristofer’s cold hands slid along his neck and the handsome vampire pressed his lips to the younger man’s mouth.

A bomb could have gone off nearby and Theo wouldn’t have cared. Kristofer’s cool lips on his, the vampire’s soft tongue pressing inside Theo’s mouth, the fingers pressing against his pounding jugular – this was everything.

Theo opened his mouth and let Kristoffer have his way, loving how the vampire savoured his taste. He hadn’t taken blood yet, only kissed Theo like any man or woman would. But Theo knew it was coming. He moaned into Kristofer’s mouth and gripped his coat.

But Kristofer didn’t bite. Instead he pulled away and swore softly. “You do this to me, Theo,” he murmured, licking his red lips and gripping Theo’s neck tightly enough to alarm him. But just as Theo noticed, Kristofer’s fingers loosened and he let go. “You make me want you.”

Theo just sat there, trembling, cock hard and full of blood from that kiss and from Kristofer’s nearness.

“I want to really taste you,” Kristofer breathed, eyes drilling into Theo’s.

“Yes,” Theo replied without question. It was too late for any other answer.

“Do you know what I’m asking?” Kristofer said carefully.

Theo nodded. “Yes.”

Kristofer smiled, slowly, with genuine pleasure and relief. “Then come with me.”

Theo nodded again and stood, taking Kristofer’s offered hand.

He would go. He had to. He needed to experience everything that Kristofer was, everything that Kristofer had to offer him, if he was ever to sleep again.

Delilah – Monday Flash Fic., Feb. 12

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This wasn’t the way it was supposed to happen, Paul thought, staring at the tiny infant beside him in the double bed he shared with Aiden.

They’d discussed the idea of children. Although there wasn’t anything lacking in their relationship they’d at least visited the idea of adding a child to it. And then summarily rejected the thought.

They liked their freedom, their financially stable lifestyle. Bringing a child into it meant uncertainty at the very least. What if they didn’t like being parents? There was no going back once the deed was done, even with adoption. The commitment scared the hell out of them both.

But now parenthood had been forced upon them. The infant in the bed was Aiden’s two month-old niece, Delilah. A gift from the will of Aiden’s thirty year-old sister, Mary and Mary’s husband, Gabe. Two incredible people who’d perished in a car crash only three weeks ago.

Aiden had been wracked with grief at the loss of his sister, but he’d manned up to the challenge of taking on Delilah, since it was Mary’s wish that the child be with him and Paul. Paul admired Aiden’s courage and his commitment to his sister’s wishes but, truth be told, he was scared to death.

He gazed at the tiny, diapered baby in the bed beside him. Where had Aiden gone? When would he be back? Paul knew nothing about babies.

Delilah burbled, her tiny fists moving, her chest going up and down. She stared with wide blue eyes at the ceiling, then at the wall, then at Paul, her head jerking with the unsteadiness of her new reflexes. She reached out an arm and placed her small hand on Paul’s open mouth, her tiny finger reaching bumped his nose. Her eyes fixed on his and she moved her mouth as if she were trying to say something, but all that came out were puffs of air and tiny little chirps.

He loved Aiden. More than he’d every loved anyone in his life before. If this was what had come unbidden into Aiden’s life then Paul had a responsibility to rise to the challenge, as intimidating and all-consuming as it seemed.

As he stared into the baby’s limpid gaze he felt a small stirring of something inside him. Was it love for Aiden transferred to this flesh of Aiden’s flesh? This child was a part of Aiden, as much as any child would ever be a part of Aiden. Paul could see his partner in this small child and his heart expanded, in wonderment and fascination.

They would be okay — he and Aiden, and Delilah. They would be a family, whatever that might mean.