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NEW RELEASE and GIVEAWAY: Patrick’s Savior by Nic Starr

Patrick’s Savior is LIVE!

It’s the third book in the Heroes series but if you haven’t read those books, you can still read Patrick’s Savior as it stands alone.

Blurb

How do you find love when someone doesn’t want you to be happy?

Patrick Edwards is dealing with a double whammy. Unwanted attention from his housemate’s boyfriend is making him feel uncomfortable in his own home, and he’s facing uncertainty with his employment as an administrative assistant at the local elementary school. He finally breathes a sigh of relief when a friend puts him in contact with Simon, who has a vacant room.

Simon Dawson is a paramedic who doesn’t hesitate to help Patrick. After all, no one should live in a house where they don’t feel safe. Simon develops feelings for Patrick, but doesn’t act on them—Patrick’s moved from a bad situation and doesn’t need his new housemate hitting on him. However, a weekend away changes everything when Simon realizes Patrick returns his feelings.

But someone doesn’t want Patrick and Simon to be happy. A series of strange letters arrive at the house, and things will get a lot worse before the two men get their happily ever after.

Patrick’s Savior is a novel of approximately 69k words. It is part of a series but can be read stand-alone.

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Click here to see the book on Amazon

Initially Patrick’s Savior is available exclusively to purchase from Amazon or FREE with a Kindle Unlimited subscription. If you don’t already have a subscription and you sign up for a 30 day free trial.

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Susan Mac Nicol Revival Blog Tour: Stripped Bare with excerpt & giveaway

Revival Tour

Title: Stripped Bare
Author: Susan Mac Nicol
Release Date: July 22nd 2013
Published by: Boroughs Publishing
Genre: Contemporary MM Romance

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BLURB

After two years, Matthew Langer is still getting over the death of a loved one. He’s steered clear of serious relationships, but when he meets the irascible, dirty mouthed and tempestuous Shane Templar that decision has never been harder. Shane is sexy, warm and funny, and Matthew finds himself trying like hell not to care about him. Especially when Shane, with his quick wit and hacking skills, is quick to stand up for justice and avenge wrongs. Then Shane strikes at the wrong target, and Matthew realises just how far gone he already is. At the threat of losing for good yet another man who’s broken through his armour, Matthew finds his heart stripped bare. He must face the demons of his soul or a future without love.

Stripped Bare on Goodreads

Purchase: Amazon US | Amazon UK | Boroughs Publishing

Matty and Shay Jen

EXCLUSIVE EXCERPT

Matthew left Shane’s flat, took the lift down and soon found himself on the street. He started walking back toward his home in Chelsea. It was a couple of miles, but the walk would do him good. He could get rid of all the frustrations and guilt he was carrying.

How the hell could he do something like that to Shane?

He could still see the hurt in the man’s eyes as he’d put the money down on the table. He’d truly thought he’d get decked.

Even in that Shane had been the better man. Matthew felt a shame in his soul the likes of which he’d never felt before. He stopped, considering whether to go back and apologise. He decided things were too raw. Better to wait until both of them were less emotional. Matthew stood against the railing on the river bank, staring out across the water at the twinkling lights of the other side. He’d had the best night he’d had in a long time. He’d got laid by a man who had taken his needs into consideration, he’d had the best couple of orgasms he could remember, and then he’d treated another human being like dog shit.

He wanted this whole thing to stay superficial, non-committal. And somewhere deeper he knew it might not end up being that way with this man.

GIVEAWAY: Win a SIGNED copy of Saving Alexander by Susan Mac Nicol

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About the Author

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Susan Mac Nicol is a self-confessed bookaholic, an avid watcher of videos of sexy pole dancing men, geek, nerd and in love with her Smartphone. This little treasure is called ‘the boyfriend’ by her long-suffering husband, who says if it vibrated, there’d be no need for him. Susan hasn’t had the heart to tell him there’s an app for that…

In an ideal world, Susan Mac Nicol would be Queen of England and banish all the bad people to the Never Never Lands of Wherever -Who Cares. As that’s never going to happen, she contents herself with writing her HEA stories and pretending, that just for a little while, good things happen to good people.

Sue is a PAN member of Romance Writers of America and is a member of the Romantic Novelists Association in the UK. She’s also Editorial Manager at http://www.divinemagazine.biz, an online LGBTQ e-zine, and she’s a Charity Board trustee at http://wwwbeingmecampaign.com in London.

She’s passionate about research for her books and has stayed in a circus, taken lessons from a blind person on how it feels to be non-sighted, and travelled to a lighthouse with maintenance crew to see first-hand what it’s like inside. She’s also writing a screen play with a Hollywood actor named Nicholas Downs, with a view to taking her latest release, Sight Unseen, to the big screen.

All in all, she’s happy with her lot and loves that you love to read her books.

You do, right?

Links: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Pinterest | Goodreads

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EXCERPT & GIVEAWAY: One Plus One by P.A. Friday @penelopefriday @GoIndiMarketing

Title:  One Plus One

Series: Maths, Book Two

Author: P.A. Friday

Publisher:  NineStar Press

Release Date: 7/31/17

Heat Level: 4 – Lots of Sex

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: 40400

Genre: Contemporary, gay, bi, age gap, friends to lovers, grief, slow burn

Add to Goodreads

Synopsis

James Cape has been in love with his mother’s best friend Laurie since James was sixteen and Laurie an inaccessible twenty-six. When he’s turned down flat by the older man just after his nineteenth birthday, James’s best friend Al encourages him to forget Laurie and find someone else. And James tries, he really does. But can he cope with his feelings for Laurie, his best friend’s home-life problems, and the deteriorating health of his father, all at the same time? And will Laurie ever notice the young man who’s right in front of him?

Excerpt

One Plus One
P.A. Friday © 2017
All Rights Reserved

Chapter One

James Cape was fourteen years old when he realised he was gay, fifteen when he came out to his best friend, and sixteen when he realised how he’d recognised he was gay in the first place. He’d thought he’d ‘just known’ until his mother’s friend Laurie came over one day with his new boyfriend, Kieran—the first boyfriend he’d ever bothered bringing round—and James had felt his heart explode with jealousy and rage. Kieran couldn’t have Laurie. Laurie belonged with him.

The longed-for relationship wasn’t—quite—as inappropriate as it might have sounded. Laurie was his mother’s friend, yes, but he wasn’t his mother’s age. Gillie, James’s mum, was thirty-nine; Laurie, twenty-six. They’d met online when James was about nine and had made friends over the next year, despite the age gap. When Gillie had discovered that Laurie was a student at the university she herself taught at, she’d invited him over, and he’d become a regular visitor. To start with, James hadn’t been much interested—the gap between ten years old and twenty was a big one, and James had been more interested in playing with Al, his best friend both then and now. Between them, the pair had teased and hassled and joked around with Laurie, treating him as something between a friend and an older brother; but as the years had passed, James’s feelings towards Laurie had changed. He just hadn’t realised quite how much they had changed until Laurie turned up with Kieran by his side.

It wasn’t as if Laurie had never had boyfriends in the past. He had. But he’d never brought them over to James’s house before, and that made all the difference. When Laurie had been at James’s house, he hadn’t belonged to anyone else. He’d been theirs. With Kieran there, the dynamic was different—spoilt. Al, also over for the weekend—as usual—cocked a knowing eyebrow at James’s moodiness and dragged him out for a long walk.

“You don’t like the boyfriend,” Al said when they were in the woods and miles from anywhere. Trust Al to get straight to the point.

James shrugged. “Bit of a wanker, that’s all. Laurie could do better.”

“Mm.” Al didn’t sound convinced. “D’you remember telling me that you weren’t interested in Laura Fielding because Mary MacDonald had bigger tits?”

“What?” James looked at his best mate in bewilderment. “That was nearly two years ago. Why are you bringing that up again?”

“You weren’t interested in Laura Fielding because she was a girl, and you weren’t interested in girls,” Al said bluntly. “By the way, I’m still pissed off it took you nearly a year to tell me you were gay. You can’t have thought I’d give a toss.”

“You’re still the only person who knows,” James pointed out.

James and Al’s school was not the sort of place where it was safe to be ‘out’. James had no intention of telling anyone else about his sexuality until he’d left. Telling Al was different—Al was Al. And he was quite right; James knew he could tell Al anything and Al wouldn’t care. You could say what you liked about Al—and most people did—but he was intensely loyal. To James, at any rate. When it came to relationships, it was a different matter. Unlike James, Al liked girls and had a steady stream of girlfriends, but none of them lasted longer than a month before he got itchy. Usually it was considerably shorter.

“They get so clingy,” Al had complained. “They want stuff.”

“That’s called dating,” James had told him unsympathetically.

He was amazed anyone still agreed to go out with Al, but there was something about his best friend. He had a strange sort of manic charm, and his very unpredictability seemed to draw people in. However, that was a different matter. Why Al had gone back to harping about old news, James couldn’t imagine.

“Thing is,” Al said, scuffing the last of the autumn leaves with his shoe—the woods didn’t seem to have cottoned on to the fact that it was March, “it didn’t have anything to do with Mary MacDonald.”

“Al, you’ve lost me.”

Al—so very like James to look at in some ways: dark-haired, regular features, similar body shape, albeit several inches shorter—looked seriously at his friend.

“It’s not Kieran you don’t like,” he said. “It’s Laurie having a boyfriend.”

“He’s had boyfriends before,” James said defensively.

“Ah. Hasn’t brought them home, though, has he? Different thing altogether.”

James shrugged petulantly. “I just think Kieran’s an idiot, that’s all.”

Al knew when to stop—usually. “Whatever you say, mate. Just…don’t piss Laurie off by being too rude to his guy, you know? Probably a bad plan.”

Which, as James admitted and worked by, was a sensible idea. But when Laurie turned up a fortnight later alone, James couldn’t help his heart lifting.

“No Kieran?” he asked, hoping Laurie would say that they’d broken up.

Laurie gave him a lazy smile. “No, not this time. I wanted you lot to myself. Any objections?”

“Nope.”

The weather was nice, and they were all sitting out in the garden, drinking beer. James and Al—who spent considerably more weekends at James’s house than at his own, to the point that Gillie and Terry, James’s dad, had assigned the spare bedroom as belonging to him—had been told that one was their limit, to Al’s laughing protest. James had his guitar out and was strumming it from time to time. He had a passion for music and already knew that he wanted to study it at university; it was just a case of getting through GCSEs (now only a few months away) and A levels first. Al was more interested in drama and films, which gave him something in common with Laurie, who was currently working on a PhD in Film Studies, focusing on bringing books to life as films, with particular emphasis on the Lord of the Rings trilogy. The trilogy was special in another way—Gillie and Laurie had met via an online discussion board about the films and had found they got on well, moving from there to talking about everything under the sun. “And some things not under it,” Gillie usually added at this point, as science fiction and astrophysics had also been discussed. James joked that his mum was a science geek on the quiet.

“Just surprised you could bear to be parted from him,” Al added cheekily.

Laurie took a gulp of beer and shook his head sadly at Al. “We’re twenty-six, not sixteen, Al. We can manage to be parted for an entire afternoon without dying of angst. You might be like that, but we’re not.”

James snorted. “Al? Seriously? God knows why he has girlfriends because he seems to spend all his time hiding from them once he’s dating them.”

“An interesting approach.”

“I like snogging them and suchlike,” Al said cheerfully. “It’s just the rest of it which is a bother. Is it like that with you, Laurie, then? You’ve only got your bloke for the snogging? And the suchlike,” he added thoughtfully.

James tried not to blush at the thought of Laurie doing ‘the suchlike’ with Kieran. It seemed Laurie was having a similar problem as he choked back a laugh.

“I can’t say I object to that side of things, but no, there’s a little more to it than that, thanks.”

“Al, are you teasing Laurie again?” Gillie called from where she was chatting animatedly with James’s dad. Terry was having a good day today; the wheelchair was at the side of the garden, and he was managing to potter round to check on his vegetables with just the aid of a stick. James was pleased—his dad had had too few good days recently. Multiple Sclerosis was a bugger. “I’ll have to get you a muzzle.”

“Just showing a friendly interest,” Al said, blinking would-be innocent green eyes at his friend’s mother, who unfortunately for him knew quite how much to trust that particular look.

“That’s what they’re calling it nowadays, is it?” Laurie riposted, and James and Gillie both laughed. Laurie smiled at James. “So, what are you up to, James? Apart from studying for GCSEs, that is.”

James rolled his eyes dramatically, though he was secretly pleased that Laurie cared enough to ask. “Nothing, really. Study, study, study.”

“Liar,” Al said mildly. “You spend all your time with that guitar. I reckon I’m losing my place as your best mate to that thing.” He looked across at Laurie. “I think he goes to bed with it, you know. A love affair like no other.”

“Oh, shut it, you,” James said, taking one hand off the precious guitar to give his friend a shove. “Anyway, I’m working on my composition, so it’s not like it’s not work.”

“The best sort of work is work you actually enjoy,” Laurie commented. “Al’s clearly just jealous. But you’re still loving the guitar as much as ever then.”

“God, yeah,” James said fervently. “It’s like… I dunno. It feels right, somehow—do you know what I mean? When I’m playing, it’s like my fingers know what they should be doing. Bit like Dad and the garden, I guess. He just seems to know what to plant where and what to do to make things grow, and I’m hopeless. But my teacher shows me things on the guitar, and it makes sense.” He flushed, embarrassed. Trying to explain how he felt about his instrument made him self-conscious. Al hadn’t laughed at him, as he’d feared, when he’d said a bit about it to him—but then Al was his best mate. Laurie was…well, something different. And if Laurie laughed or teased, James didn’t think he’d cope.

“That’s brilliant,” Laurie said, though, his expression genuinely delighted. “It sounds like you’ve found what’s right for you, and there’s nothing like that feeling. Trust me, I know.”

Al ruffled James’s hair. “See, it turns out you’re not a weirdo. You’re talented. Bastard,” he added, laughing.

James was grateful for Al’s interjection. It stopped the conversation getting too heavy. Talking with Laurie like this, after realising just how he felt about him…it was almost too much, in some ways.

“I wish,” he said instead. “Just obsessed.”

“Obsession got me a long way,” Laurie assured him, looking around the garden with an expression of affection on his face. “My obsession with Lord of the Rings, for example, found me my best friend—and her family,” he added, smiling at James, “and now my PhD. Don’t knock obsession.”

“I’ll bear it in mind,” James said, smiling back. “Speaking of which, how’s the thesis going?”

Laurie sighed. “Well, it’s going. I just had my last chapter ripped to shreds by my supervisor, but that’s pretty much always the way. Apparently, this time, I’ve put in too many examples. Last chapter, it wasn’t enough.”

“Still searching for the pleased psychic?” James teased.

It was a long-time joke between them: at twelve, hearing the phrase “happy medium” for the first time, James had been merely bewildered, his mind quite seriously running on the idea of the paranormal. Laurie had patiently explained and had the courtesy not even to crack a smile as he did so, though they’d all laughed about it since—and the alternative term had become a standing gag.

Laurie laughed. “Apparently so. The annoying thing is my supervisor is always right. I went away and looked back through what I’d written, and every third line was an example. But still. On the plus side, I’ve had an article accepted by a journal this week.”

“Really?” Gillie, who had wandered back to the table whilst James and Laurie chatted, settled herself comfortably in a chair and leaned across. “Which one? That’s fabulous!”

Gillie was an academic herself, lecturing in English Literature, with a special interest in fantasy and science fiction, hence the shared love of the Lord of the Rings in both book and film version. The conversation got a bit technical for a while; James tuned out as phrases such as ‘peer reviewed’ and ‘on the e-library catalogue’ got thrown about. He concentrated instead on his guitar. He was writing a piece for his GCSE composition, and there were a few bars he wasn’t happy about.

Once he settled down to music, he was lost to the world and barely noticed as Al wandered off, only registering when Al shouted, “Oh, hey, there’s a bird stuck in the netting here.”

“What?” demanded Terry, fired to interest as James put down his guitar to look over towards where Al was standing. “Are they after my brassicas again? I knew I was right to put those nets up.”

“Its wing’s all caught up, poor thing,” Al said, trying to get closer to it and making the bird flap more wildly.

“Serve it right,” said Terry firmly. Easy-going about most things, James’s dad was undeniably overprotective when it came to his vegetables.

Laurie got to his feet and cast a laughing glance at Terry. “Probably so, but we can’t just leave it there. Here, Al, move back a bit. I’ll have a go.”

“You?” Al looked at him doubtfully. “Aren’t you a bit…big?”

Laurie stood a couple of inches over six feet and was broad-shouldered with it. Compared to Al, who was a skinny five foot six and impatiently hoping for a growth spurt which showed no sign of coming, he was definitely sizeable. And, James thought wistfully, bloody gorgeous, with his muscular physique and lazy, lopsided smile.

“Oh ye of little faith,” Laurie said genially.

James watched as Laurie went carefully and quietly over to the bird, murmuring to it in an undertone. It still flapped and tried to escape, but not as manically as it had done for Al. Laurie caught it up in big gentle hands, stilling its movements with ease with one hand as he untangled the netting with the other one. It was less than a minute until he had freed the bird, which looked dazed and scurried into the undergrowth, leaving a couple of fawn-coloured feathers behind it.

“Collared dove,” Terry said. “They’re the worst. Still, I suppose you’re right. Couldn’t have left the little bugger there. Thanks, Laurie.”

Gillie went over and gave Laurie a kiss. “My hero,” she said. “Well done.”

Laurie turned to Al. “Too big?” he asked, raising an eyebrow.

Al threw his arms up in a dramatic display of defeat. “I admit it. I was wrong. Apparently not too big at all. Having enormous hands is a great thing for rescuing small fragile creatures. Who’d have thought?”

Only James said nothing. He hated the way it had made him feel, watching Laurie concentrate so carefully on the bird. All fluttery inside, like a girl or something. Wondering what it might feel like if Laurie put those hands against him. He blinked and looked away, back at his guitar, back at anything else, and the moment passed. It didn’t help him get over his crush on Laurie, though—anything but.

Still, in retrospect, that had been the best afternoon of the entire year when it came to Laurie. Most of the other occasions on which he visited, he did indeed bring Kieran. James reluctantly had to admit to himself that there was nothing intrinsically wrong with the other man except the sin that he was Laurie’s boyfriend, and James was insanely jealous.

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Meet the Author

P.A. Friday fails dismally to write one sort of thing and, when not writing erotica and erotic romance of all sexualities, may be found writing articles on the Regency period, pagan poetry, or science fiction. She loves wine and red peppers, and loathes coffee and mushrooms.

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RELEASE DAY! READ THE ENTIRE FIRST CHAPTER HERE! As the Sun Sets (Love for the Seasons, 3) by RJ Jones

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RJ is back with the third installment of her Love for the Seasons series.

This story is about Scott (who features briefly in book one) a paediatric oncologist who burns out watching kids die in his care. He’s been celibate for a year. He’s emotionally broken and takes an A&E position in Brighton hoping a sea change is what he needs to get his life back in order. What he didn’t expect was to meet Ben, a childhood nurse with a clinically depressed dog. How does Ben help Scott pick his life up? Just how much of Scott’s history influences his day to day life? You’ll have to read it to find out.

Here’s the blurb:

A sea change could be just what the doctor ordered.

Doctor Scott Penney used to be a Paediatric Oncologist—until he burned out. Watching children suffer and die took its toll on his mental health. To cope, he used anonymous sex as an emotional crutch, thinking it was better than hitting the bottle. But that inevitably destroyed his relationship with the man he loved.

With his tail between his legs and a year’s worth of celibacy under his belt, Scott accepts a position as an Accident and Emergency consultant, leaving his career in oncology and London behind.

Ben Jenkins is a paediatric nurse who loves his seaside city, his job, and his faithful old Labrador, Happy. When he meets the new doctor, Ben falls for Scott’s kind-yet-reserved personality—not to mention his good looks. Scott is great with the children who come to the hospital, but Ben senses there’s more to Scott than meets the eye.

Scott tries to resist Ben’s sunny charm—Scott’s not boyfriend material, after all—but it’s impossible not to fall in love with the sad looking old dog and his charming owner. As Scott and Ben get closer and the weather heats up, tragedy strikes and Ben is left wondering how much of Scott’s history he actually knows.

For them to move forward, Ben must show Scott that no matter what happened in the past, a beautiful day can always start after the sun sets.

**This can be read as a standalone**

(Keep scrolling to read the entire first chapter)

 

Books #1 and #2 are now available on Kindle Unlimited.

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Buy links:

As the Leaves Fall   As the Ice Melts   As the Sun Sets

 

Chapter One:

HOW DO you know if you’ve made the right decision? What tells you to go left instead of right? Is the devil you know really any better, or is he just as fucked up as the other guy?

I could stay in London, stay in paediatric oncology—even though it sucked the life from me—and continue living a half-life. I had no partner and no desire. My sex life had become non-existent by choice. My passion for my work had been flushed down the toilet along with my relationship with Noah.

On the other hand, I had an offer to move to Brighton and start a new role as a consultant paediatrician in the Accident and Emergency department at the children’s hospital. Would I be happier there? Dealing with kids who had been in a car accident or unwittingly drank a bottle of cleaner didn’t mean I wouldn’t have to deal with kids dying. I may see less of it than I did in oncology, but…

Should I run away and start a new life by the sea? Was it running or knowing when to move on? Could it be as simple as taking an offer to get out of a city that was sucking my soul to the point I didn’t recognise myself anymore? Wasn’t the ocean supposed to be healing?

When I first received the offer from Brighton, I’d thought about telling Noah, but after the last time I saw him, I thought better of it. I didn’t know if I still loved him or not, but we’d been good together, and I missed the closeness, the intimacy, and the company. You couldn’t call what I’d done at the sauna intimate. It was fucking. Pure and simple. Well, maybe not so pure. But I had used anonymous sex like a drug to get out of my head after a bad shift the same way some people used drugs or alcohol.

I’d become addicted to the endorphin rush sex could bring, and I kept telling myself it was a better form of therapy than illicit substances or booze. Anonymous sex meant I went home to Noah feeling better about my day and not dwelling on the fact I had just told a young couple that their beloved child wasn’t responding to treatment and there was nothing else I could do. I was a doctor, for fuck’s sake. Unless they counted on a miracle, I was their last hope, and to watch that hope sputter and die in front of me killed a little part of my sanity each time.

Maybe drinking would have been less damaging, but I vowed to never touch alcohol.

Looking back—hindsight is a wonderful thing—I couldn’t even say I enjoyed the sex at the sauna all that much. I’d been safe, always, but the men I’d been with—and God knew there were many—had been nothing but substitute hands. Which, when I thought of Noah and how much we’d been in love, made my infidelity all the more foolish and shortsighted.

When Noah kicked me out for the last time, I hit rock bottom. Unless I wanted to end up like my parents and self-destruct, I knew I had to reassess my life and stop going to the sauna. My inability to distance myself emotionally while working in the paediatric oncology department still sucked the life from me, but I had stopped using sex as a distraction. Instead, I cried. I got angry at the world and threw things around my flat in frustration and cursed God for giving babies cancer their little immune systems had no chance of fighting. Then I cried some more, retreating into myself. After all that, I got up the next morning and prayed it would be a good day.

But there were some happy times in amongst all the crap. My job could be rewarding and fulfilling. Not every child I saw succumbed to the disease, and I revelled in the way some patients seemed to take on the world, as well as the cancer, and win. Those were the times that made me look forward to going to work, knowing I could help save a life and save the parents from the heartbreak of burying a child.

That was what drove me.

I’d always wanted to work with kids, had always understood them. They could be brutally honest and innocent as hell at the same time. I hadn’t yet met a child I couldn’t talk to. When I was initially offered the position in oncology four years ago, I jumped at the chance, keen to get my hands dirty and kick cancer’s arse. I was ambitious—if a little naïve—and ready to take on the world. It was almost an obsession to give the patients the best chance of survival I could. I did everything I could to stop cancer ravaging their little bodies. I studied new treatment methods, researched what alternative medicines other countries were trialling, and subscribed to every relevant medical journal I could.

But despite doing everything humanly possible, sometimes it wasn’t enough.

It wasn’t just the loss of young lives that had sent me over the edge. It was the loss of my chosen career. As much as I hated cancer, I also loved it. I loved the complexity of it and how it seemed determined to outsmart the medicine I threw at it. Sometimes I won, which made me feel like I’d not only saved a life, but saved the entire world. In the eyes of the parents, I had. I’d saved their world, and to me, there was no greater joy.

So, when I stumbled upon the A&E position at the children’s hospital in Brighton advertised through the BMA website, I thought why the fuck not? I could still help kids, maybe save a life or two. Because God knew, trying to help kids with cancer was slowly killing me.

Maybe trying to save a kid’s life and actually succeeding more often than not would enable me to be me again. I may be able to have a taste of that same joy once more. Maybe the salty air and wide-open ocean would do me some good. Maybe I could have sex again. Then again, maybe not. It’d been close to a year since I’d been touched by another man. I wasn’t sure I knew what to do anymore.

Decisions. Which was the best one?

Stay or go?

London or Brighton?

Only time would tell if I’d made the right choice, I guess.

I signed the contract.

I wondered briefly if Noah was still with that guy with the long hair.

I shook my head. It no longer mattered.

I couldn’t go back now anyway.

 

I FOUND a small flat not far from Brighton Marina and a short walk to the hospital. After spending most of the day unpacking, I took a walk along the beachfront, sure I’d find a chippie nearby so I could grab some dinner. I had unpacked most of the kitchen items but had yet to come across the crockery. I’d find that box eventually.

I walked almost all the way to the pier before I came across some shops. Most of what I’d seen on my walk so far were mansions and upmarket apartments overlooking the beach. As summer was fast approaching, the weather wasn’t too cold but I still needed a jacket and scarf, and I hoped the nearest chip shop had the heat going. I must’ve walked into the gay part of town, as a few rainbow flags flew proudly from the odd flat window and storefront. I should’ve done some research on the area before I committed to the move, but my head hadn’t been in the right place. When I signed the employment contract, I didn’t care where I went, as long as I left London and oncology behind.

I truly hoped the wide-open spaces of the coast was what I needed.

After paying for my fish and chips, I took my meal down to the beach and sat on the edge of the promenade wall. I wasn’t far from Brighton’s famous pier, and I made a mental note to explore the area more thoroughly after I settled into the flat. I didn’t start work for another week, which gave me plenty of time to check out my new neighbourhood and surrounding area.

Tearing open the chip shop paper, a waft of salt and vinegar threatened to knock me over. It was heaven, and my stomach rumbled loudly after not eating all day. I had lost weight over the last year. There were a lot of days I couldn’t bear the thought of food, and I hoped this was another aspect of life I would be able to eventually enjoy again. I was a mess, but I knew how to fix myself and get back the old me, and as I sat on the beach, dinner in hand and the breeze making sure summer stayed away for a little bit longer, I was confident this was the break I needed.

Closing my eyes, I breathed in the fresh salty air, filling my lungs and mentally purging everything that was my old life in London on an exhale. I opened my eyes, stared out at the churning waves, then dug into my dinner.

I’d nearly finished eating when I saw a guy running along the beach with his dog. There weren’t that many people about, the cold obviously keeping them at bay, but this guy seemed to revel in the wind as he ran. I couldn’t see his features. He wasn’t running fast but his dog appeared to be slowing down. The guy coaxed his dog along with the odd pat on his leg and an encouraging “come on, Happy” but Happy was having none of it. With a final lurch, Happy flopped on the beach, all four limbs spread out as he panted into the pebbles. The guy waved at his dog and kept running. Was he just going to leave his dog on the beach? What if Happy decided to wander off? Surely he was about to turn around and come back for his companion? But, no. He kept going and Happy continued to lie on the pebbles.

With my dinner finished, I should have started the walk back to my new flat, but I didn’t want to leave Happy alone, scared he’d be left behind or roam up to the road and into traffic. My mind wandered. What would I do if the guy didn’t come back? Where could I take Happy? Was there a shelter nearby? I couldn’t have him in my flat, the lease didn’t allow it. Happy got up and sniffed around, occasionally digging then rolling in whatever he’d managed to dig up while I tried to come up with a solution for him. He lay on his back in the pebbles, his feet in the air, and I thought he was about to start rolling in something again, but when he didn’t move, I realised he must’ve fallen asleep. About ten minutes later, Happy rolled over and sniffed around once more. He seemed calm and content to stay in roughly the same spot his owner had left him. It was only a few more minutes before Happy’s tail started going ten to the dozen. I glanced up the beach and saw Happy’s owner running back, minus his shirt, which I could see swaying from the back of his shorts where he’d tucked it in the waistband. Happy didn’t move—except his tail was still wagging madly—till his owner ran past and Happy trotted beside him again. The guy reached down and scratched the dog’s ears while he loped along.

I watched until they ran out of sight.

 

THE FOLLOWING day, after finishing my unpacking and sorting out my flat, I walked along the beach again. This time I found a kebab shop and I sat in the same spot I had yesterday while I ate. Today was a bit warmer but the breeze was still cool, and I huddled in my jacket as I devoured the garlicky goodness. It was lucky I didn’t have someone to go home to. My breath would be awful.

Just as I was about to head home, I saw Happy running beside his owner again. Sure enough, the large dog came to a slow halt and spread out on the beach as his owner continued running. I watched Happy for a while. He seemed a cheerful sort of dog as the occasional passer-by stopped and gave him a pat. That was probably how he got his name. I had always wanted a dog, but my working hours were long and unpredictable. Still, it’d be nice to go home to someone again.

After throwing my rubbish in a nearby bin, I wandered over to meet Happy. When I got closer, I could see he was an old Labrador. His golden coat was matted with the grit he’d been rolling in and his muzzle showed a hint of grey. When I approached, Happy looked up at me with large, sad brown eyes and a droopy mouth. Now I wondered how he got his name. He looked downright miserable.

I scratched his ears. “Hello, Happy. I see you’ve been rolling around getting dirty again.” Happy pushed his head into my hand and thwapped his tail before rolling onto his back. “Does that mean you want a tummy rub?” I took his muffled grunt as a yes and knelt down to rub the soft fur of his belly. Happy lapped it up. He may have looked clinically depressed, but his wagging tail and soft grunting told me a different story.

A few minutes later, Happy rolled over, got to his feet, and stared up the beach. I was being completely ignored, so I guessed he had had enough of me. When Happy’s tail started swishing, I looked up to see Happy’s owner returning from his run. He was still a fair way off, but I could tell it was him just by how excited Happy had become. That was my cue to leave.

I scratched the old Lab’s ears and gave him a pat on his rump. “See you next time, Happy. Be good.”

I headed towards the road for the walk home. I’d been in Brighton for two days, and it didn’t escape me that the longest conversation I’d had so far was with a dog.

The following day I walked along the beach a little earlier and explored that part of the city. Brighton Pier was bustling with late-April tourists.

From a distance the pier was huge, but it wasn’t until you were on it that you realised just how large the wooden structure was. There were roller coasters and fun rides, games arcades and restaurants, dodgem cars and a carousel. It was a kid’s dream and a parent’s budget nightmare. Standing against the railing, I watched kids of all ages run about, driving their folks crazy. I spotted an elderly couple sitting on a bench eating ice cream. There were people holding hands as they ambled around, arms heavy with bags full of their purchases and winnings. Everyone was smiling and laughing, and I couldn’t help but feel… not happy as such, but more relaxed and content as the late sun warmed me. I vowed to come back to the pier when the weather was a little better and spend the day.

Yes, moving to Brighton had so far been a good thing. I could breathe a little bit easier.

When I stepped off the pier, I saw Happy lying on the beach in his usual position; his owner was far off in the distance still running the other way. I knelt down beside him and said hello before rubbing his belly. Happy stood and licked my hand, his rough tongue scraping over my skin, before nuzzling his snout in my chest then lifting up to lick my face. He still looked miserable, though. Maybe it was just his way. Happy sat next to me and we looked out at the ocean together as I ran my hand down his back and over his fur. Before long, Happy stood and moved away, his focus directed down the shoreline. I knew his owner was returning from his run, and again I took that as my cue to head home. With a light scratch of Happy’s ears, I said goodbye, then walked home feeling lighter than I had for months.

Happy and I continued our routine for the next three days, then it was time for me to start my job at the A&E department at the children’s hospital.

I told myself I wasn’t nervous.

 

 

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RELEASE DAY! Blueprint (Out of the Blue, #4) by RJ Jones

Hi everyone, RJ here!

Just a quick reminder that Blueprint, #4 in the series is out today!

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For those of you that have read the series, this is the one you’ve been waiting for – Jet’s story! He’s so adorable and quirky, I can’t wait for you to read it. Here’s a quick excerpt:

 

“Again?” Gray’s voice penetrated Kylie’s and I removed my earbuds. I hadn’t expected them home so soon. “You can’t still be thinking about him.”

I played dumb. “Who?”

“Who were you thinking about?” Kris stepped up behind Gray, who stood on the other side of the breakfast counter, a knowing look in his eye. “Ooh. You made cupcakes!”

I slapped Kris’s hand away before he had the chance to steal one. “They’re not for you.”

“Jet got laid a couple of weeks ago, and he’s been mooning ever since,” Gray grumbled.

“Cool. Who was it? Anyone we know?” Kris didn’t seem to have a problem that I’d had a date, unlike my brother, who said he didn’t but really did. “Are you seeing him again?”

Gray glared at Kris.

“What?”

“I didn’t get his name,” I said before they started arguing about my love life. “I wish I had, though. His jaw could, you know—” I waved my hand around as I sought for the right word but came up empty. “—cut stuff.”

“Stuff?” Gray raised his eyebrow. “You’re a teacher, for God’s sake, and all you’ve got is ‘stuff’?”

“Hey. It’s drama. I teach people how to be fabulous, not fucking Hemingway.”

Kris snorted. “He’s right, you know.” He turned his attention back to the cupcakes cooling on the counter. “So why all the treats?”

“I’m making them for the new neighbors.” I turned off the oven as I talked, then wiped my hands on my apron. Yes, I wore an apron, but instead of something boring like ‘Kiss the Cook,’ mine had an arrow and said ‘Deliveries in the Rear.’ “Do you know who it is yet? I poked my head out the door a little while ago, but all I saw were big beefy men carrying furniture and I didn’t want to interrupt. Well, I did, but I forced myself not to. I hope it’s a nice couple.”

 

For those of you that haven’t started this journey yet, here’s the blurb:

If only building the foundation for a lasting relationship was as easy as drafting the blueprint.

Jet Black doesn’t date. Even if he wanted a man beyond sex, his ever-watchful identical twin scares potential suitors away. Jet lives with his brother, but since Gray fell in love with Kris, Jet feels like a third wheel. Despite their bond, Jet knows he needs to move out and experience life for himself, whether Gray likes it or not.

After his father dies in a boating accident, Ethan Nichols is devastated. As the last survivor of his family, he realizes the need to put down roots. He leaves Australia and returns home to San Francisco and his old architectural firm. But there’s more to building a new life than simply moving house.

Jet and Ethan’s first encounter is brash and anonymous, but when Ethan moves across the hall, their lives become irrevocably linked. Jet is quirky and fun loving, while Ethan is rock steady and dependable. There’s no denying the passionate spark between them.

But Ethan is looking for a more solid foundation than Jet is ready to offer. Until Jet learns to spread his wings and trust Ethan with his darkest secrets, building a life together will be impossible.

**This can be read as a standalone, however it is best enjoyed reading the series in order as side characters play a major role.**

If you want to read the first chapter for free, head on over to my blog here.

Links:

Goodreads   Amazon   All Romance   Smashwords   iBooks

 

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COVER REVEAL: Soaring Hearts by A.L. Boyd

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Title: Soaring Hearts
Author: A L Boyd
Release Date: October 2016
Genre: MM Romance, Contemporary

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BLURB
Will hearts soar when pigs fly?
Alex’s job working for his family-owned radio station once took him all over the city reporting on major events—until the accident. His scars, both physical and emotional, cause him to withdraw into a self-imposed, semi-reclusive lifestyle. When his dad requests that he go to the world’s largest hot air balloon festival, he has to find the courage to break his isolation. Now he needs to find the courage to trust and love again.
Jeff had already been planning a move to Albuquerque when he lost his home, parents, and dog to a wildfire in California. To begin his new life, he agrees to help his sister and brother-in-law with their balloon at the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta. Now he’s seen pigs fly and bees kissing, but will he find the love he’s been searching for?

Goodreads Link: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/30039749-soaring-hearts

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About the Author
A cartographer by day, A.L. Boyd spends most of her free time with her horses, gardening, or reading. She never intended to be a writer, but stories like this one sometimes just pop into her head. The writing came about as a way to get the stories out. Her first story for the Goodreads M/M Romance DRitC event Crest Ridge Vacation was expanded to the novella titled Crest Ridge.

Contact Links: Email | Goodreads | Facebook

Other works include:

Crest Ridge (Novella): Amazon

The Dawn of Darkness (Free Short Story): Amazon

And a short story included in the Anthology Kickass: Amazon
(written and donated to help fellow author Eric Arvin with his medical bills).

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RELEASE DAY! As the Ice Melts by RJ Jones

Two weeks ago saw the release of book #1 in RJ’s Love for the Seasons series, As the Leaves Fall which is getting some rave reviews. Today, we here at Two Men are so excited to announce the release of the second in this wonderful series set in England. If you haven’t checked out book #1 yet, you can purchase As the Leaves Fall here.

Amazon   All Romance   Smashwords   iBooks   Barnes & Noble

 

But today we are here to celebrate the release of the second in the series, As the Ice Melts. Isn’t the cover gorgeous? Keep reading for the blurb and exclusive excerpt.

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Blurb…

As hearts begin to thaw, a betrayal of trust threatens to put out the flames.

When Marcus McDonald receives a formal warning from his employer, he knows it’s time to tuck tail and head home to Manchester. His medical condition forces him to keep people at arm’s length, and it wouldn’t be the first time his temperament has landed him in trouble.

All Adam Radney wants is some time to paint, but his father’s death, leaving Adam and his mum up to their ears in debt, means taking on two jobs. Working at the family’s run-down Manchester fish and chip shop, Adam is confronted by a new, surly face in town and instantly dislikes the icy newcomer. So what if he pushes all of Adam’s hot buttons?

When the ice melts and things heat up between Marcus and Adam, Adam thinks all his dreams have come true. With Marcus’s help, new customers arrive and the chip shop starts to flourish, easing Adam’s mind. But when Adam puts all his trust in Marcus on the busiest night the shop has seen in years, thing go awry and it leaves Adam with more questions than answers.

Excerpt…

When we got downstairs and out into the freezing cold, I bundled Marcus awkwardly into the passenger seat of my old banger. His arms and legs didn’t seem to want to move properly. While I drove, his head fell against the window.

“Where can I take you?” I asked.

Without lifting his head or opening his eyes, he mumbled, “I can crash at Colin’s place till morning. He won’t mind.” He jerked upright then and grasped his head in his hands, presumably to stop it spinning. “Shit. They’ve gone away for the weekend. I knew there was a reason why I picked tonight to drink. I’ll have to go home.”

“Will Gran be awake?”

“No, but it won’t matter. I’m not capable of being that quiet. Oh God, she’s going to kill me. If it wasn’t for my mother, I’d be able to get away with this shit.”

I wondered why he lived with his gran and not his parents. “What’s wrong with your mother?”

“She’s an addict,” Marcus stated simply.

I whipped my head towards him so quickly I nearly passed out. “What have you taken?” I demanded, trying to keep my eye on the road.

“Fuck. Nothing. I swear. I had a few cocktails. That’s all. I know better than to take anything else.”

I raised an eyebrow. “Really? Why are you so out of it if you’ve only had a few drinks?”

“I… I’m on medication, and I’m not supposed to drink. I haven’t had a drink in nearly two years, okay?” His tone turned bitter. “Sue me; I just wanted to get out of my head for a bit.”

“God. You’re stupider than I thought.”

Marcus flinched and turned away from me, hunching in on himself against the door. I could see his reflection in the window, and although he had his eyes closed, a lone tear slipped down his cheek. I felt like an arse.

“Where am I taking you?” I asked after a while. I was nearly home, which was just around the corner from Gran’s so I could have taken him there, but it didn’t seem to be the option he wanted.

Marcus blew a short breath through his teeth. “I don’t know. Just let me out. I’ll walk around until I’m better; then I’ll head home.”

“Do you know how cold it is?” I wouldn’t let a cat out in this weather, let alone a drunk and very fuckable young, gay man. “You can sleep on my sofa. Just don’t vomit.”

Marcus turned and faced me, gratitude shining in his baby blues. “Thank you.”

After parking on the street, I helped him up the three flights and settled him on the couch. I untied his boots, and when I handed him a pillow, he grabbed my wrist and pulled me down. Suddenly his face was right there, his lips an inch away from mine, soft, plump, and a little rosy from the cold. I watched as his tongue darted out to wet them a little. Just when I was about to pull away and go to bed, Marcus closed the distance and moved his mouth hesitantly against mine. A brush of warm lips sent electrifying signals to my dick. He tasted sweeter than I thought he would. He opened and I let myself fall in, but only briefly. I straightened and moved away, pulling my shirt down to cover the skin his fingers had brushed just a second before.

“I want you to fuck me.” Marcus looked up at me from his position on the couch, his eyes hooded with lust, or meds and alcohol. I couldn’t tell which.

“I’m not fucking you,” I stated.

“Why not?”

“Because I don’t like you.”

Marcus cringed a little, but his features quickly straightened. “You don’t have to like someone to fuck them.”

“No, you don’t, but it goes a long way to actually wanting to.”

“You know, my arse is so tight, if I squeeze my butt cheeks together I could rip your dick off.”

I huffed. Could this guy be any ruder? “That’s good to know. Not making me want to fuck you any more. Now go to sleep. I want you out of here before I wake up.”

As I stomped down the hallway to my room, I swear I heard Marcus mumble, “And I’m not stupid.”

Amazon   All Romance   Smashwords   iBooks   Barnes & Noble

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COVER REVEAL AND DISCOUNT! Black & Bluhe by RJ Jones

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RJ Jones

Today we unveil a gorgeous cover by RJ Jones. This is the second in the Out of the Blue series and will be released in July/August 2015.

Blurb: 

(UNEDITED AND SUBJECT TO CHANGE)

Grayson Black has never forgiven himself for not being able to save his identical twin brother, Jet from a savage beating. Gray was usually the target of his father’s wrath so he shoulders the blame for Jet’s near death. He has sworn to protect his brother ever since. Gray can’t afford a distraction, the type of distraction provided by a gorgeous blond who has been showing up at their gigs.

Kris Larson is a firefighter with the San Francisco Fire Department. Since the split from his girlfriend he’s spent time watching the Black Brothers play in the bars of San Francisco. It’s not until the brothers are left homeless after a fire at their apartment building that he realizes just how much he’s attracted to the brooding guitarist.

Before Gray and Kris can have a lasting relationship, Gray must learn to forgive himself, let go of the past and lay more than one demon to rest.

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To celebrate, RJ is offering the first book, Out of the Blue for only $.99 for the entire weekend. See below for buy links.

OutOfTheBlue_150dpi4pdfOut of the Blue will be on sale for 2 days for only $.99. So if you’re looking for something to read over the weekend why not pick it up?

The Blurb:

When everything happens Out of the Blue…

Lt Cameron Cooper has been with the San Francisco Fire Department for fifteen years. He’s seen and dealt with a lot of horrifying situations. He’s always considered himself mentally tough, but when he attends a multi-vehicle accident and sees a dead boy with features remarkably similar to his long-time boyfriend, his mental health takes a hit.

All Jake Montgomery wants is to propose to his boyfriend on their ten-year anniversary. He’s already bought the perfect rings, but when Cameron struggles to look at him after a tragic accident, he has doubts about their future. Cam is withdrawing, and Jake doesn’t know why.

With heated arguments and cold shoulders, Cam and Jake’s life starts to fall apart. Just when Cam thinks he can overcome his issues and finally talk to Jake, memories from Jake’s past threaten to push them apart forever.

Buy Links:

Amazon   ARe

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INTERVIEW: Stay With Me by A.L. Lamb

Today we’ve been joined by our good friend Lily who is celebrating the release of her first story. She has kindly provided us with an interview.

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Blurb

It has been weeks since Curtis first saw the young waiter with the haunted eyes. No matter how often he went to the café watching him and to find the right opportunity to introduce himself, that moment simply did not come. Joseph was aware of the gentle giant who quietly came to have his lunch and then left. Fearing his father’s wrath and under his ever watchful eyes, he made no moves nor overtures. Until one day…

Interview

Congratulations on the release of your first book! I know what a wonderful and terrifying journey it is. I was hoping you could share a little of your experience with your new fans.

Firstly the cover. The cover, with its pretty Frangipani’s is eye catching, and obviously gives a clue to the characters. Can you share with us a little about the cover design process, and how difficult it was to capture the essence of the book?

I was lucky to meet with Melissa Bell, who is the cover artist because she was so patient with me. Frangipani played a big part at the beginning of the story for Joseph but I couldn’t picture it in my head to reflect how important it then was…Melissa is one of those artists who can truly feel the empathy and then reflect what the writer imagined in their mind and voila! Choosing the models was also hard because in my head, I visualized both Curtis and Joseph when I was writing, so meanwhile Melissa had to look for them. We went through many photos, but for both of us these two models stood out and looked good together.

Where did the inspiration for the story come from?

I love the site “intergaycial” on Facebook and follow their posts religiously. The happy stories on that page and the sad news that we often read in the newspapers about how the gay community is marginalized inspired me.

Can you tell us a little about your characters, Joseph and Curtis?

I love reading romance stories about characters who feel real to me and I always thought that is really what love is about… loving someone with all their quirks, and humanness. Curtis is that person to me. He is slightly overweight, introvert and a little insecure about his body shape because of his previous experience. He worked hard and lived  an honest life, whereas Joseph was a  downtrodden underweight waiter who was struggling to get out of the rut that he was living in. His character is inspired by the current issues that happen around the world and sadly we read about them in the newspapers. I wanted to dream a happy ending story for them.

Are there any secrets from the book (that aren’t in the blurb), you can share with your readers?

Oh….I would love to tell you, but do not want to spoil the story because it is a short one… I tried to write it in a way that everything flows and takes the reader along with them … but you know it has a happy end.  

What do you have planned next? Are there more stories in the pipeline?

I wrote a very short story for “Queerromance” Anthology but finished it late, so  I am finishing that one to add it to the one I am actually writing. That story is again about two wounded heroes. I personally love the plot so I am studying and doing some research for the characters’ backgrounds. I hope to publish those two stories together. This should be in about two months time.

I’m sure your readers would love to get to know a little more about you. How do you spend your time when you are not reading, reviewing or writing?

My motto is books are a girl’s best friend and it was never the diamonds so I read every day. My other passion is sewing my own clothes and making gifts. I get a lot of joy out of surprising people with little handmade gifts that are made with love and care. I think that that is my purpose in life; doing something meaningful for others. I am also a serial café crawler. I love sitting in cafes wearing my quirky designs and sipping a cup of good coffee whilst day dreaming. Did I tell you, I love day dreaming?  I am also very vocal about Human Rights issues.

Thank for joining us, Lily. All the best with your book.

About the Author

A.L. Lamb is a philanthropist by day and an Indi Gay Romance writer by night. She is happily married to a very patient and loving man. They have a furry Maltese X who is human-like and arrogant with a hypnotic gaze.

She is a daydreamer of happy endings and is against bullying in any form. She is actively involved with Marriage Equality and stands by the same sex couples who want to have children. She believes that all a child needs is a loving, protective home.

A.L. Lamb’s biggest regret is not studying English formally because writing stories take much longer but she still gets there, thanks to her friends.

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Buy Link

Amazon

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Excerpt and Giveaway! Godsend by Sloan Johnson

Title: Godsend
Author: Sloan Johnson
Genre: Adult, Gay Romance
Release Date: February 4, 2015
You can’t choose who you fall in love with. Despite knowing from a young age that he was gay, Scott Murphy couldn’t imagine life without Shelly. He threw away the labels and had eleven amazing years with her, but now, he feels even more lost trying to figure out how to move on after Shelly’s death. After nearly a year of watching Scott fade away, Shelly’s father forces him to start living again.
As much as Chris loathes the idea of attending a bereavement group week after week, it’s one of the only places he can go in this town, other than the bar, to not feel so alone. When there’s nothing to distract him or dull his senses, he spends too much time obsessing over how he should have been able to help his sister. When Scott shows up at his group session, Chris decides that maybe some good can come out of his sister’s death.
There’s no denying that Chris is the first man to catch Scott’s attention in a long time, but how can he move on when just thinking of Shelly sends him to his dark place?
The road to recovery won’t be an easy one, but Chris is determined to help Scott see that life is still worth living. But before Scott can allow himself to admit what he feels for Chris, he knows he has to reveal the full truth about Shelly’s death.

I promised Ma that I wouldn’t drink my dinner every night, but some days, it’s impossible to keep that promise. I tell myself that it’s different on days like today because I’m not drinking to forget how much I miss Jill, I’m drinking to forget how miserable some people choose to make one another. Today, I just about lost it and told one couple that there’s no point in them even trying to get along. Unfortunately, my partner frowns upon me telling couples that sometimes two people just aren’t meant to be together, as was this case with this pair.

It takes a minute for my eyes to adjust to the dark atmosphere of Brewster’s after walking around for thirty minutes trying to tell myself I didn’t need a drink. I find an empty seat at the end of the bar and signal the bartender for my usual. Okay, so maybe Ma had a point since he simply nods and has a tall whiskey sour sitting in front of me in less than a minute.

I look around, the same way I do every night, wondering if this town will ever start to feel like home. It’s a nice enough place, but there’s a definite divide between those who are from here and those who move here at some point in their lives.

I sit a bit straighter when I see Scott, the quiet, broody guy from group, sitting at one of the high top tables in the center of the room. He looks absolutely miserable. When I catch a glimpse of his date for the evening, Adrian the annoying twink who thinks he’s God’s gift to all gay men in town, the annoyance radiating off Scott is understandable.

I nurse the first drink, rather than down it as quickly as possible. I’ve wanted to talk to Scott the past few weeks, but he’s ducked out as soon as the official meeting ends, even though Jim hangs around for a while. I’ve considered following him when he leaves, to see if I can talk to him, but then I tell myself that he must have his reasons for not wanting to deal with people and I have to respect that.

I feel like a creep, watching Adrian and Scott eating dinner, but I can’t help it. A few times, I’ve thought Scott was checking me out the same way I have been him and this is the first confirmation I have that I might be right. Scott excuses himself from the table and Adrian reaches out for him as he walks away. I laugh when Scott practically jumps back to keep from being part of an awkward and unwelcome embrace.

Once he’s in the restroom, I order another drink before putting a five-dollar bill in the jukebox. I don’t give a shit about the music, but it’s the closest I can get to Scott without following him into the bathroom, which is a level of creepy that I can’t imagine stooping to.

Sloan Johnson is a big city girl trapped in a country girl’s life. While she longs for the hustle and bustle of New York City or Las Vegas, she hasn’t yet figured out how to sit on the deck with her morning coffee, watching the deer and wild turkeys in the fields while surrounded by concrete and glass.
When she was three, her parents received their first call from the principal asking them to pick her up from school. Apparently, if you aren’t enrolled, you can’t attend classes, even in Kindergarten. The next week, she was in preschool and started plotting her first story soon after.
Later in life, her parents needed to do something to help their socially awkward, uncoordinated child come out of her shell and figured there was no better place than a bar on Wednesday nights. It’s a good thing they did because this is where she found her love of reading and writing. Who needs socialization when you can sit alone in your bedroom with a good book?
Now, Sloan is a tattooed mom with a mohawk and two kids. She’s been kicked out of the PTA in two school districts and is no longer asked to help with fundraisers because she’s been known to lose herself with a good book and forget she has somewhere to be.
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