Sunday, January 11, 2015

Starcrossed by Suzanne Carroll

Title: Starcrossed
Author: Suzanne Carroll
Genre: Young Adult Romance
Release Date: January 9, 2015
Publisher: WDA Publishing
Cover Design: Manuela Cardiga
Fish and chips on the pier.  Art.  Music.  Moonlit walks along the beach.  For the busker and the art student it’s the perfect summer romance. Until it ends suddenly with a savage thunderstorm.

A heartbroken Georgia thinks she’ll never see Tom again.  But Tom doesn’t give up easily and months later they find each other in the most unexpected place…

In the days before search engines and social networks, what lengths would you go to, to find the love you lost?

     It was one of those days.
     The traffic was impossible and the weather miserable, all grey skies and a drizzle that reflected Georgia’s mood. The afternoon’s meeting had gone on way too long; the clients wanted to change the floor plan again, she’d have to re-do all the drawings, completely re-work the kitchen, and the Project Manager had brought the deadline forward a week.  But right now Georgia didn’t want to think about all that.  All she wanted was to get home, and find a few minutes to have a glass of wine, and put on some music.  Mozart, she thought, would be nice.
     The endless line of red tail lights gradually broke up and the roads cleared as she finally made her way out of the city, and deep into the suburbs of London.  The train would have been so much quicker. Some days, having a designated parking space at the office didn’t seem worth it.  But a little while later, Georgia smiled and her body began to relax as she pulled into her driveway and switched off the engine.  Leaning back against the headrest, she took a moment, breathing and deep. She let her mind wander, taking her away from meeting rooms and peak hour gridlock, down a different path.  Her thoughts led her back to the art exhibition she’d snuck out to see during yesterday’s stolen lunch break and she smiled as she revisited that precious half hour of luminous colour and subtle shadows in the small gallery next to the wine bar.  And that took her to thoughts of her old easel, tucked away in the attic, collecting dust.  It had been so long since she’d painted anything except her fingernails...
     Georgia stared down at her perfectly manicured hands and remembered when they used to wear smudges of oils and inks.  Back in the days when her auburn hair was long, and her skirts were short.  Now it was the other way round.  Though her sapphire eyes still held the fire they had always had.
     Georgia’s thoughts scattered, and she looked up quickly. The front door was open and Sophie stood on the top step with her panic face on, twisting her dark curls with one hand, laptop clutched to her chest with the other.  “Mum, help! I need you!”
     Georgia sighed and climbed out of the car, bracing herself for whatever new drama had befallen her teenage daughter. 
     “What’s up, sweetheart?”  She kissed Sophie’s forehead before hanging up her coat and dropping her bag onto the hall stand.  “Something happen at school?”  
     “You were alive before the internet, right?”
     Georgia bit back a smile.  “It wasn’t that long ago, Soph.”  Although, Georgia knew that, at forty-three, she probably seemed almost elderly to her seventeen-year-old daughter.  “Why?  What’s happ…”
     “You’re not going to believe what my English teacher, Mr Gormsby, has done,” Sophie interrupted, then paused, taking a deep breath before announcing, “He’s set us an assignment and we’re not allowed to use or refer to the internet or social media, at all.  In any capacity.  Apparently, according to him, my generation is too dependent on search engines and social networking, can you believe it?” 
     Actually, Georgia could believe it.  Sophie’s head was almost permanently bent over her phone or laptop and it was the same with her brothers, Alec and Max. Though this afternoon it sounded like the fifteen-year-old twins had their video games fired up; the faint sounds of a zombie apocalypse floated down from upstairs. But Georgia kept her traitorous opinion to herself and hid another smile before calling out hello to her sons and asking if they’d had a good day.  They called hello back, and yes they had.  Then Georgia suggested she and Sophie go to the kitchen for a cup of tea and a chat.  Mozart and wine would have to wait.  
     While Georgia filled the kettle and got out the mugs and teabags, Sophie pulled up a stool and set her laptop and her phone on the counter, glaring at them like they’d offended her somehow. “You know,” Georgia said,  “Your father and I survived school and university without the internet.  It’s not that hard.” 
     “Oh!  I nearly forgot.”  Sophie looked up suddenly and glanced at the phone on the wall.  “Dad called a while ago.  He’s going to be late tonight, but he’ll pick up a curry for dinner on the way.” 
     Georgia paused at the fridge, milk carton in her hand, and wondered why her husband had rung the home number, and not her mobile like he usually would.  “Did he say why he’ll be late?”
     “Something about…I can’t remember. Picking something up?”
     “Something apart from the curry?”
     “I think so.  I don’t know.  Maybe.”
     “Sophie…” Georgia shook her head as she moved to the counter and splashed a small amount of milk into each cup.  “How hard is it to take down a simple message?”
     “It’s not my fault he was so vague.  If it was important he would have texted.”
     Georgia rolled her eyes.  That was the way with Sophie; if it wasn’t in a text, it wasn’t worth remembering.  Mr Gormsby definitely had a point.  “What’s the assignment about?” Georgia asked.  Her question was answered with another dramatic sigh.
     “Short essay on popular culture in modern fiction.”
     “Without using the internet for research?  That shouldn’t be too diffi…”
     Sophie held her hand up sharply.  “Wait, that’s not all.  We also have to write a short story about searching for something and it has to be set before 1995, so the characters can’t turn to the internet for help. No Google, no Facebook, no Twitter.”
     “Searching without search engines, huh?  Actually, that sounds like fun.  And you like writing, you’re good at it.”
     Sophie groaned and rubbed her hands over her face.  “I know but this is…ugh.  Jenn’s doing a detective piece.  Rex is writing about someone looking for their birth parents and I have no clue what to do.”
     Georgia chuckled as she passed Sophie a steaming cup and stirred some sugar into her own.  “And I suppose that’s where I come in?”
     Sophie gave her a hopeful smile.  “Yes, please,” she said eagerly.  “Tell me what it was like before the internet. Did you ever have to search for something?  Or someone?”
     Georgia stopped stirring.  Goosebumps prickled her skin as memories began to stir, taking her back over twenty years, to a boy on a beach. She wondered how different things might have been, if they’d had smart phones and Facebook back then.
     “Actually, I did try to find someone, once,” she said quietly, staring down at her tea. Even now, her heart fluttered as she remembered.  “But my search started with a necklace.  And a TV talent show.” 
     Sophie’s eyes widened, and she leaned forward. “Oh my God, really?  Who were you searching for?”
     “A boy.”  Georgia hesitated a little.  “He…he was called TJ.”
     “TJ.”  Sophie tried out the name.  “Who was he?  What necklace?  What show?”
     “It’s a long story.  And you’d have to turn your phone off while I tell you.”
     Sophie’s face reflected a brief internal struggle, but she did as her mother asked.  “Okay, phone’s off, and I’m listening,” she said.  “When was this?”
     “In 1991.  It started on a Sunday night, when I was supposed to be studying...”

Author Bio:
Suzanne lives in Sydney with her husband and children.  By day she works in an office where she quietly scribbles story ideas on yellow sticky notes and hopes they don’t accidentally end up on the departmental monthly report.  After hours she enjoys time with her family, and tries to turn those sticky notes into something readable.


Brought to you by:

Sunday's Safe Word Shelf: Special Delivery Series by Heidi Cullinan

Special Delivery #1
When your deepest, darkest fantasy shows up, get on board.

Sam Keller knows he’ll never find the excitement he craves in Middleton, Iowa—not while he’s busting his ass in nursing school and paying rent by slaving away in a pharmacy stockroom. Then Sam meets Mitch Tedsoe, an independent, long-haul trucker who makes a delivery to a shop across the alley. Innocent flirting quickly leads to a fling, and when Mitch offers to take him on a road trip west, Sam jumps at the chance for adventure. Mitch is sexy, funny and friendly, but once they embark on their journey, something changes. One minute he’s the star of Sam’s every x-rated fantasy, the next he’s almost too much a perfect gentleman. And when they hit the Las Vegas city limit, Sam has a name to pin on Mitch’s malady: Randy.

For better or for worse, Sam grapples with the meaning of friendship, letting go, growing up—even the meaning of love—because no matter how far he travels, eventually all roads lead home.

***Warning: This story contains trucker fantasies, threesomes and kinky consensual sex.***
**This book has been previously published and has been revised from its original release.**

Hooch & Cake #1.5
Where there’s a Randy, there’s a way.

Mitch Tedsoe isn’t expert on many things, but he’s pretty sure getting married shouldn’t be this hard. A justice of the peace, some hooch, some cake—all Mitch wants is to walk down the aisle with Sam Keller, have a party, and live happily ever after. But every day of wedding planning brings a new set of handicaps, legal, logistical, and emotional…until he brings in his best friend, Randy Jansen.

Randy loves being the third point in Sam and Mitch’s kinky triangle, and nothing would give him more pleasure than to thumb his nose at small town snobbery and give Iowa the most fantastic gay wedding it’s ever seen. But as his plan comes together and his friends prepare to sail off into the sunset, Randy Jansen begins to consider the unthinkable: that maybe, just maybe, he wishes he could have a little hooch and cake of his own.

***Warning: This novella contains gratuitous three-ways, shameless sentimentality, Delia Biehl, and the return of Keith Jameson.***

Double Blind #2
Know when to show your hand…and when to hedge your bets.

Randy Jansen can’t stand to just sit by and watch as a mysterious man throws money away on the roulette wheel, especially since Randy’s got his own bet going as to the reason this guy is making every play like it’s his last day on earth. The man’s dark desperation hits Randy right in the gut. Half of him warns that getting involved is a sucker’s bet, and the other half scrambles for a reason—any reason—to save the man’s soul.

Ethan Ellison has no idea what he’s going to do with himself once his last dollar is gone—until Randy whirls into his life with a heart-stealing smile and a poker player’s gaze that sees too much.

Randy draws Ethan into a series of wagers that leads to a scorching kiss by midnight, but he isn’t the only one with an interest in Ethan’s vulnerability. Soon they’re both taking risks that not only play fast and loose with the law, but with the biggest prize of all: their hearts.

***Warning: This story contains high-stakes poker, gangsters with a weakness for kittens, foursomes, and kinky consensual sex.***
**This book has been previously published and has been revised from its original release.**

The Twelve Days of Randy #2.5
Sometimes the grandest stunt is the simplest one.

Randy and Ethan are ready to enjoy their first Christmas at home together, but of course, Crabtree can't resist the chance to cause trouble. When the gangster ropes Randy into wily holiday antics, Ethan feels left out in the cold. But when Herod’s new owner discovers his husband only plays at being an imp to hide a Christmas spirit bigger and tackier than Las Vegas, Ethan vows to find a way to have his cake and eat it too. Especially if Randy’s the one jumping out of the middle.

***Warning: This short contains naughty elf costumes, chronic one-upmanship, and surprise guests.***

Tough Love #3
Crescencio “Chenco” Ortiz pulled himself up by his garter straps after his father’s will yanked the financial rug from under his spank-me pumps. He doesn’t need anyone, yet when Steve Vance steps into his life, the prospect of having a sexy leather daddy on tap begins to take on a certain appeal.

There’s a hitch when he learns Steve is friends with Mitch Tedsoe—the half-brother Chenco never knew except through his father’s twisted lies. Despite his reservations, soon Chenco is living his dreams, including a performing gig in Vegas. Now if only he could get Steve to see him as more than just a boy in need of saving.

Steve’s attraction to Chenco is overshadowed by too many demons, ones he knows his would-be lover is too young to slay. Yet as he gets to know the bright, determined young man whose drag act redefines fierce, Steve’s inner sadist trembles with need. He begins to realize Chenco’s relentless tough love might be the only thing that will finally set him free.

***Warning: This story contains glamorous drag queens, exhibitionist secondary characters, and no-holds-barred BDSM play, including watersports. Readers advised they may well leave this novel feeling uncharacteristically fierce.***

Special Delivery
In the deserted men’s restroom at the back of Middleton Community College, Sam Keller knelt on the tile, braced his hands against Keith Jameson’s thighs and broke his mother’s heart.

It didn’t matter that Sharyle Keller had passed away four years ago. Sam knew his mother would consider what Sam did in the handicapped stall a complete and total mockery of everything she’d ever taught him. Sam being gay wouldn’t have made her upset, and she wouldn’t have cared that he was about to give a blowjob at school and risk expulsion for having sexual congress on campus. What would have upset his mother was how Sam wasn’t at all attracted to his partner, that to be perfectly honest, Sam hated him.

“Sex is beautiful,” Sam’s mother had told him. “Sex is a union between two people. Sex is a merging of souls, a holy connection. Sex is sacred, and it should only be shared with those you love.”

When Sam’s mother had said this, he’d been twelve and horny, but he’d also been scared to death of sex, so when his mother told him he should wait for someone who loved him, he’d nodded eagerly. Yes, he would reserve his body for those who knew the worth of it. Yes, he would learn from her mistakes. He’d signed on for it all, trusting in his mother’s wisdom, wanting to be safe and wanting to please her too. After all, wasn’t he lucky to have a mother who looked forward to meeting his boyfriends? His mother had hoped he’d want to adopt or hire a surrogate to have his child someday because she’d be more than happy to babysit. It seemed such a little, easy thing for him to promise her he would give himself in love.

However, even before he’d realized what an incredible dearth of loving male partners there were in Middleton, Iowa, Sam struggled with his vow. His mother found him gay support groups and sex-tip sites online, but Sam found the porn. He’d lost days in the images of beautiful, slender men bent in submission and sometimes degradation, and to his quiet horror, he realized this was his fantasy: he wanted to be used. He wanted to be loved and cherished, yes. But he also wanted to be fucked. Sometimes he didn’t want it to be about love. He wanted it to be about sex, and about semen, and about not quite exactly being in control. He didn’t want to get hurt, no. But he admitted to himself he wanted to come really, really close.

As he swirled his tongue around Keith’s shaft and looked up at the blond boy’s unshaven chin, Sam acknowledged he’d have been a lot happier if he could have found a Keith at sixteen instead of twenty-one. He’d fucked Darin Yarvin his senior year of high school, but that was nothing more than a weekly appointment to kneel on a pizza box in Darin’s dirty apartment and take it up the ass. Blowing Keith flirted with so many taboos, Sam got himself off just thinking about upcoming encounters.

Keith was straight. He wasn’t bi. He wasn’t in the closet. He wasn’t even curious. He simply enjoyed having his dick sucked as much as Sam took pleasure in doing it. He was a big, buff boy, a small-town Iowa ideal, and it was Sam’s fondest wish for this ideal young man to bend him over one of the toilets and bury himself so deep inside Sam he’d see stars. Sam didn’t want to kiss him. He didn’t want to hold him or take him on a date. In fact, outside of arranging their sexual appointments, they didn’t speak to one another. The only conversation they had was the one they were having now, where Keith asked Sam if he wanted him to shove his big fat dick into his throat, to fuck his mouth, and Sam agreed yes, very much please, and thank you.

“You like sucking my cock, don’t you, bitch?” Keith would say, and Sam would nod, and shut his eyes, and let the incredible sluttiness of the experience wash over him in dark, beautiful waves until he thrust himself onto Keith as hard as Keith pushed into him, sucking so intensely he hurt his cheeks, moaning along with Keith as he cried out and exploded, hot and thick and salty into Sam’s open, waiting throat. Sometimes Keith kneaded Sam’s hair as he swallowed, which Sam enjoyed, but it was an unconscious gesture, and if Keith caught himself doing it, he stopped and pushed Sam away.

This more than anything else would have upset his mother, that he would know only such a fleeting bit of tenderness and from such a crude, cruel partner.

Keith’s abrupt removal today had left one last trail of semen to drizzle over Sam’s chin, and he wiped it away with his fingers and reached for some toilet paper. Keith watched him, but when Sam met his gaze, Keith looked away as he buttoned himself up.

Sam waited, remaining on his knees. This part was always the trickiest, and he held still, lowering his eyes, letting Keith decide when they were finished. If Keith had more abuse to hurl, he’d take it, because the last thing he needed was Keith nervous. Keith had to feel strong and satisfied and a little superior so he would want to do it again, which was what Sam wanted him to want. It wasn’t ideal, but in its own way, it worked. So he waited, docile, until Keith spoke.

“You gonna suck it next Wednesday?”

Sam kept his head ducked to hide his smile, and he nodded. He held still until Keith exited the stall, and he stayed on his knees until Keith left the restroom altogether. Then he rose, adjusted his own erection in his pants and went to the bathroom sink to wash his hands.

Sam regarded his reflection in the mirror as he lathered soap across his palms. His mother’s face stared back at him, slender and pretty, brown hair tousled around large, dark eyes. The only differences were the length of his hair and the shape of his jaw and his chin, which in addition to being slightly more defined than his mother’s, sported the tiniest spattering of beard stubble. In his own face, he saw the face he loved so much, the face he had assumed, naively, would be around for a long, long time. He looked into its echo now, remembering what he had done. He acknowledged what she must think of him, and his heart grew heavy.

“Sorry, Mom.”

He wiped the last bit of Keith’s semen from his chin and went to class.

Double Blind
The man at roulette table number three on the main floor of Herod’s Poker Room and Casino played like a fool, and it drove Randy Jansen crazy.

Randy lay sprawled across the plush leather sofa in Billy Herod’s office, making occasional “Yes, I’m listening to you” noises as his employer launched into one of his monologues, but mostly Randy watched the security feed from the casino floor.

Though it was money in the bank for the house, this guy’s stupid playing made Randy itch. With the grimness of someone marking out a plot for his own burial, the somber-looking and meticulously clean-cut man laid out his chips and bet on black, over and over again. He lost every single time.

A nudge to his foot startled him out of his voyeurism, and Randy glared at Billy. “What?”

“Quit scanning my floor for dates, and tell me what you think of my brilliant plan.” Billy planted himself in front of Randy, his paunch rolling over the waistband of his expensive trousers. “Go on, I dare you to tell me it won’t work. I dare you.”

Randy glanced across the room to the other occupant of the office. Billy Herod’s godfather, Crabtree, was round and soft and tricked out in a massive head of white hair like Santa. He even had Santa’s laugh, and the sound rumbled out of him now, his blue eyes twinkling as he took in the byplay between Randy and Billy.

The fuck if Randy would give Crabtree the satisfaction. He turned to the television screen.

The man’s sweat wasn’t actually visible through the feed, but enough of the tells were there for Randy to read perspiration. The money, which could never have been much and was absolutely more than the guy should have been gambling with to start, was almost gone. The man’s shoulders rounded, and he watched the chips go as if sending his children out to slay monsters.

This time the nudge came at Randy’s shoulder. “Randy.”

Randy glanced at Crabtree, whose whole body trembled with his mirth, and yes, it did look like a bowl full of jelly. Randy wondered how many people had let themselves be distracted by this image right up until the moment the knife went into their belly, Santa’s eyes still dancing as he bled their life away.

“Randy.” Billy tried to poke again, but Randy rolled onto his back at the last second, escaping the jab.

He looked up at Billy. “It won’t work.”

Billy beamed and hitched his thumbs in his belt loops. “Oh, it will. See—”

“Just because you hire a bunch of twinks to walk around shirtless, it does not automatically follow that rich gay men will come in here to gamble. It’s a possibility, yes. But it’s also a possibility there won’t be enough rich men for you to make back what it’s going to cost.”

Billy sneered with imagined superiority. “It will work, because more and more of you gays are coming to Vegas, and I read a magazine that said gay men have money to burn. And it makes sense—no kids, and you’re even more oversexed than regular men. Rich gay men will come in droves when they see what I offer every Tuesday night.”

From the other side of the room he heard Crabtree’s chuckle.

Randy covered his face with his hands and shook his head. “God, they hit you with the stupid stick way, way too hard.” Randy ticked his objections off on his fingers. “First of all, Junior, you’d have to hire all these cute young men to be your sugar-daddy bait, and cute twinks willing to work for your cheap-ass wages are not as thick on the ground as you might be assuming. They can get more working on the street. Which brings me to point two—if you get anyone in here, you will get street boys, which means you will also get police. As I recall, you and Crabtree don’t care for that kind of attention. Third, no matter how oversexed gay men might be, we aren’t idiots, and if you treat us like fools you’re generous enough to bilk every Tuesday night—”

He stopped as he realized his employer wasn’t listening, already lost in his latest wild hair. Crabtree’s laugh rumbled, and the old man occasionally slapped his thigh.

Randy tossed Crabtree a quick flash of his middle finger and settled into the couch. “Never mind. It’s a brilliant idea, Billy. Go for it. Just make sure I work that night, so I can watch.”

Billy rubbed his hands together as he stared at the faded 1960s photo of the Strip hanging above his godfather. “I’m gonna bring back the glory days, Randy. I’m going to be rich, and then—” He glanced down at Crabtree and briefly scowled. “Well. Then it will be good again.”

“You’re already rich.” Randy found his quarry on the cam. The man was still there because he hadn’t run out of money yet. He looked like somebody had beaten him about the head as once again the wheel failed to land on black. Randy threw up his hands. “Jesus, buddy. Switch to fucking red.”

“What?” Billy jerked himself out of his vision. He zeroed in on the screens with hawklike focus. “Is somebody cheating me?”

“God no.” Randy pointed to Roulette 3. “This guy keeps betting on black, over and over again. The wheel hasn’t hit black in six spins, but he just keeps at it.”

“Oh?” Billy smiled and leaned in closer. “Bet black again.”

Randy shoved him away from the camera. “No. I want him to go to his room, get drunk and watch some porn on pay-per-view.”

“You want him to be such a good boy, why don’t you tell him to call his wife?” Billy stage-winked at Randy. “Because I’m right, aren’t I? There’s a wife at home.”

“Shit, no. There’s no wife.” Randy grimaced as the man ran his thumb along the pitiful stack. “He doesn’t have kids. He wanted some, maybe, but he never had any. He’s sure as hell not married. There was somebody, but they’re gone now.” On the screen, the man’s thumb slid around the top chip reverently. Randy shook his head. “And the cash went with them.”

“You’re full of shit.” Billy shook his head. “You can’t know all that.”

Randy could, and he did. He’d been watching this guy for half an hour. The particulars might shift a bit, but he knew he was more right than wrong. “He’s been dumped and screwed out of money, and now he’s decided he’ll turn his life around by betting his last dollar on the goddamned roulette wheel—by betting on black on a wheel which hasn’t won black since he sat down.”

Crabtree ambled over to stand behind Billy. Blue eyes flickered across the screen as they took in tells, making judgments, assessments and predictions—all in a matter of mere seconds. Flattening his lips, Crabtree lifted his drink.

Fucking hell. Randy had really hoped he was wrong this time. Why, he didn’t know. Something about this guy got to him.

He returned his focus to the screen as Roulette Man slid another five-stack forward, all on black. Again.

Billy shook his head, mystified. “Why the hell does he keep doing that?”

“Because he’s an idiot,” Crabtree replied into his drink.

Randy cut a glare at the gangster. “Because he thinks the wheel owes him. He’s not an idiot. He suffers from delusional thinking. It’s been red too long. It’s due to go black, more now than ever. He’s thinking about laws of averages, and probably fate too. It has to fall to black. But the wheel isn’t ruled by averages or fate. It’s ruled by chaos. It’s completely random. It doesn’t owe him black. It doesn’t owe him anything.”

Crabtree grunted. “Which is a long way of saying he’s an idiot.”

Randy’s fingernails bit into his palms as the dealer called a halt on bets. The ball began to slow, getting ready to bounce itself into its final resting place.

“You do realize,” Crabtree said as the wheel continued to go around, “Billy Junior is not entirely wrong. The twinks will come because they will be thinking of the sugar daddies. The sugar daddies will come for the sex. And they’ll do the negotiating over these tables and the machines and at the bar, and they’ll finalize the arrangement upstairs in our hotel rooms.”

Billy turned to his godfather, surprised. “You really think it will work?”

Randy kept tracking the ball. “It’s tacky as hell, and I can’t believe you’re encouraging him, Crabtree.” Land on black, you fucker. Land on black.

Crabtree snorted. “Of course it’s tacky. Everything about this place is tacky now. I didn’t say it was a good idea. I just pointed out it would work. Except, as you say, for the police. Which will never do. But the fact remains, idiots are idiots and make us a lot of money.”

The ball landed. Randy swore, and Billy clapped his hands.

Crabtree sighed. “Ah, the dear, sweet lambs. They never disappoint.”

Roulette Man shrank farther into his chair. He had one stack of five chips left in front of him, and then it would be over.

“There’s got to be a way around the police.” Billy stroked his chin as he walked away from the camera screens. “I’ll have to work on that. Thanks for bringing it up, Randy.”

“You’re not welcome.” Randy thought the man at roulette might seriously vomit on the table. Over five fucking dollars. Goddamn, but Randy hated this. He hated how it bugged him as much as he hated watching. He should get up and forget about it, but for some reason he couldn’t.

Crabtree sat on the edge of the sofa and patted Randy’s foot. “People are people. They will be the card they were dealt to be.”

“This guy’s smart. Normally, anyway. He’s just got his head wrong.”

“Oh yes,” Crabtree agreed. “This one’s an ace.”

“You think?” Randy tilted his head and studied the man on the screen with new eyes. Then he nodded. And grimaced. “Fucking hell, he is. And stuck on playing himself low.”

Billy settled in at his desk. “You two and your aces and kings. You can’t figure people out just by watching them for five minutes.”

“It’s been half an hour,” Randy corrected him, “but yes. You can. And in a lot less than five minutes. It’s called a tell, Billy.”

“But you were so specific with this one,” Billy dogged, leaning forward now. “You think you’re right? This guy’s been dumped, cheated out of money and down to his last dollar?”

“Yes,” Randy snapped.

Crabtree looked amused. “And for some unknown reason you care about him.”

Randy glared at him. “Not everyone is as unfeeling as you.”

“No, but you usually aren’t this involved. You’ve been funny, in fact, ever since Mitch got married.” A smile played at the edges of Crabtree’s lips. “Randy Jansen, are you going soft on me? Do you wish you could go down there and sweep this sorry little sack off his feet, then console him and live happily ever after?”

Randy rolled his eyes. “Oh yeah, that’s it. I just wish I could go down there and save his poor, sorry ass. I’m dying for an excuse.”

Billy leered at Randy. “Bet you can’t.”

Randy snorted. “You want me to go down there and seduce this guy on a bet?”

“I want you to go down there, flirt with this guy and find out his story. See if he’s what you think he is. And if you aren’t one hundred percent right, and if you don’t get him into bed with you, I win.”

“You’re a sick fuck, and I’m not taking your bet.”

“Okay—go and see if you’re right. I want to know.”

“If he’s gay?”

“If you were right about what happened to him.”

Randy eyed Billy warily. “Why?”

“Because I’m curious.” When Randy snorted, Billy waved a hand airily. “I am. I want to know if you’re right or wrong, or even just close. I want to know if people can be pegged this well. It could be interesting.”

Which meant he thought it might be profitable.

Randy caught Crabtree observing him with an interest that unnerved him and forced his attention to the security feed. He thought of Crabtree’s blithe dismissal, of his own frustration. Maybe I can re-screw this one’s head on just a little. Send the ace to the top of the pack again. A sort of public service.

Besides, despite being a bit morose, Roulette Man was hot, and Randy enjoyed flirting. Probably would come to nothing, but it was always fun to mess with a hot straight man.

“Not that I’m taking it,” Randy said as the ball spun again, “but what would you want to bet for?”

“If I’m right, you’re one of my shirtless twinks on opening night for Gay Nite.”

Randy laughed. “I’m not a twink.”

“Then you’ll be whatever you are, but you’ll be in the sexy getup. Or at least something really embarrassing for you. But if you’re right, I make sure you get your own twink. Or whatever. Whichever one you like best gives you his full attention for the evening.”

Randy considered this. On the monitor, the roulette wheel went round and round. Randy knew with soul-deep certainty he wasn’t wrong.

Unfortunately Crabtree was also right. Randy had been feeling funny the past few months, and he didn’t like it. He was restless, irritated and sometimes even lonely. Were twenty dollars of drinks and several hours of conversational dirge worth potential, unspecified tail?

Would it make the restlessness and loneliness better or worse?

Crabtree sipped his drink again. “When an ace falls, he doesn’t get up easily. The only way aces go high after falling as hard as this one has is under extraordinary circumstances. The odds are bad, Randy.” He stroked Randy’s ankle. “You can make much better use of your time and talents.”

Randy paused. It’d been a while since he’d gotten kinky with Crabtree, and yeah, that’d do for a distraction.

On the video screen, the roulette ball went round and round and round, its final destination impossible to guess.

“How would you verify it?” Randy asked Billy. “How would you tell who was right or not? Would you take my word for it?”

Billy shook his head. “Has to be a witness. Someone neither of us could pay off. Who’s working bar tonight?”

“Scully.” Randy tracked the ball. Land on black, goddamn it.

“Scully will do nicely.” Billy threaded his hands behind his head. “So?”

Crabtree said nothing, but his massage on Randy’s ankle became more direct, his invitation quite clear.

Randy couldn’t take his eyes off the ball. It started to bounce, ricocheting wildly across the spines. Why would anyone bet on this, outside of masochism?

He had to find out what this guy was about.

“I pick the guy,” Randy said at last.

“That’s what I said.”

“No—I pick who you hire. And he understands the full-service nature of his employment.”

Billy shrugged. “Sure. Is it a deal?”

“Yes.” The ball had landed once more on red. “Fuck.”

Crabtree lifted his hand from Randy’s ankle. He studied the screen for a minute then finished off his drink before setting it on the edge of Billy’s desk. “Better get down there. If he really is out of money, he’s going to run away.”

Randy stood and slid into his shoes, wondering why he felt so disoriented and nervous.

“Remember,” Billy called as Randy headed for the door, “go to Scully to verify.”

“Give your fallen ace my love,” Crabtree called, as Randy pulled on the doorknob.

“Fuck you,” Randy replied.

“You turned me down, remember?” Crabtree called as Randy squared his shoulders and headed for the elevator.

Tough Love
On a steamy January afternoon deep in the rat’s asshole of south Texas, Chenco Ortiz opened the envelope taped to his trailer door and watched the last of his cobbled-together dreams turn to dust.

Had it come via his post office downtown instead of flirting at him in the afternoon breeze, the letter would have gone unopened into the laundry basket with the rest of his mail. The unorthodox delivery threw him off his game, but the handwriting sealed his fate. After a long day of bending out the window handing people their tacos to go and suffering the Rio Grande Valley’s perpetual irritation with a man named Ortiz who couldn’t speak Spanish, the lure of Crescencio penciled in feminine scrawl was too much to resist.

It reminded him of home.

When Chenco had still lived in his mother’s carefully manicured subdivision, she’d left notes on his door when their schedules didn’t match. Sometimes the missives had been to ask him to pick up his sister, but sometimes they were simply Carmelita Ortiz’s special brand of love.

You are strong and good, my son. God gave you to me perfect. I am so proud of you, and I love you just the way you are.

Intellectually Chenco knew there was no chance this particular letter was from his mother. He’d learned all too painfully just the way you are was code for so long as you stay the way I want you to be. But today he was hot and tired, and he stank of grease and failure. He wanted the note on the door to be from his mama, saying she forgave him and he should come home. Honestly, as grisly as things had been lately? He’d take an angry tirade, so long as she spoke to him again.

Chenco opened his mail.

The letter was from a lawyer.

Dear Mr. Ortiz: As executor of your father’s estate, it is my duty to inform you of the current status of your residence at 369 Charity Place in the city of Donna, Texas.

Ah, yes, the trailer. Chenco shut the door behind him, setting his keys down on the kitchen counter. He should have looked this lawyer up in Cooper’s papers and sorted things out himself instead of making the guy hunt him down. He had the deed in the safety deposit box at the bank, but he supposed he’d need to file it officially. Hopefully doing so didn’t cost a lot of money, because paying for the leathery old skinflint’s pine box had not been cheap, and Chenco hadn’t exactly started out with a trust fund.

It would be good to have the ownership settled at last. As castles went, it was a pretty pathetic one, but Chenco had clawed his way into this heap of rust, and he had nowhere else to go. He’d take any victory he could get right now, especially over the mean old son of a bitch he’d called father.

But as Chenco read on, he went cold to his core as Cooper Tedsoe, dead and buried these three weeks, stole triumph from his son’s trembling hands.

“He can’t do this.” Chenco’s whisper, raw and hollow, echoed inside his ringing ears. “This can’t be right. He said…”

Well, he’d said. When had Cooper ever told the truth?

How could he lie about this?

Setting his teeth, Chenco grabbed his keys and stormed to his Nova, letter in hand. By the time he drove into McAllen and parked outside the lawyer’s office, he’d so girded himself with inner steel he made knights in armor look pathetic and bulky. Before the politely smiling receptionist could say anything, Chenco slammed the half-crumpled paper onto her desk. “This is wrong.”

Her smile wavered. “I’m sorry, sir?”

Chenco poked his finger at the paper. “Someone taped this on my trailer door. It’s a mistake.”

A flicker of recognition and fleeting sense of sadness lit the receptionist’s eyes. Without looking up, she pressed a button on the phone system in front of her. “Mr. Cuevas, I’m sorry to interrupt your meeting, but Crescencio Ortiz is here.”

A whisper of sanity suggested to Chenco perhaps he’d done this badly, but as Cuevas emerged from a closed door behind the receptionist, the last dregs of control ran out of Chenco’s fingers. He shook the letter in the lawyer’s face. “This is horse shit.”

Cuevas held up his hands. “Mr. Ortiz, there is no need for such language. I’m in an important meeting right now, but in a half hour I can—”

“This says you’re giving my trailer to the—” Chenco choked and swallowed the rush of pain before switching tactics. “Is this some kind of joke? You think this is funny?”

The lawyer had the same look of pity on his face as his receptionist. “I would never joke about probate. I will point out also it isn’t I who gives or takes anything. Our office is simply executing our client’s directive. However, I understand why you are concerned. If you could wait twenty minutes—”

“Your directive is wrong. Even my father wasn’t that big of an ass. This whole thing reads like something out of The Onion. Really, the White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan? As if they’re heroes instead of racist, murdering assholes? Why them? What the fuck does the KKK want with my trailer?”

With a weary nod to the receptionist, the lawyer opened the door to his office and leaned inside. “I’m very sorry, Steve, but I need a few minutes. Maria will get you some coffee.”

“No worries, Luis. I’ll take a walk and get my own. I could use a chance to stretch my legs.”

A man emerged from the office—a white man, an inch shorter than Chenco but twice as broad and swelling with muscle. Sometimes men wore chaps and motorcycle boots as a fashion statement, but Chenco suspected there was a bike to go with this guy’s gear. His shaved head, tattooed arms and heavy leather said badass without so much as a stutter. The letter’s invocation of the KKK still ringing in his head, Chenco retreated, blind rage giving way to wariness.

The man met Chenco’s gaze and held it. He didn’t threaten, but at the same time everything about him said, Behave, boy.

Chenco wasn’t behaving. He was being an ass. Lowering his gaze in shame, Chenco loosened his posture.

He wasn’t sure, but he thought he heard the white man grunt quietly in approval.

“No need to rush,” Cuevas’s client said as he headed out the door.

The lawyer ushered Chenco into his office, shutting the door behind them. He indicated the chair across from his desk, and when Chenco sat, he found the leather still warm from the man whose appointment he’d interrupted, the one who’d silently scolded him. When Cuevas settled into his own seat, threading his fingers together over the desktop as he leaned closer with a grim expression, the last laces of Chenco’s defenses came undone.

“Mr. Cuevas. This can’t be right. I put money toward the lot fees for the trailer. I paid the taxes. I paid Cooper’s goddamned hospital bills.”

“I understand, and I’m truly sorry. Unfortunately this does not change the contents of your father’s legal documents.”

Behave, boy. “Sir, his will didn’t say this. I saw it. If he did write this, he did it after his stroke, and it can’t stand up to anything.”

“I’m sorry to tell you this dictate does in fact come from the valid legal will for your father, dated before his stroke.” The lawyer’s countenance brightened. “However, if you could produce this alternate document, and if it were dated after the copy we have on file, it might be possible to contest.”

Chenco had gutted the trailer and safety deposit box after Cooper went to the nursing home. He had no letter. “Maybe he filed it with a different lawyer.”

“No other will has been filed. I can provide you with the original copy, if you should care to verify this yourself, or I can provide one to your attorney.”

“I don’t have an attorney. I have the trailer.”

“Mr. Ortiz, I’m afraid you do not.”

Why couldn’t the lawyer yell at him, call Chenco names and threaten him? Why was he as grandfatherly as Mr. Flores at the funeral home had been?

How was Chenco supposed to fight back?

Chenco dug his fingernails into his leg. “Why would he do this? Why would he tell me he was leaving it to me, let me pay for everything and then…”

He trailed off, arrested as terrible recognition dawned, hollowing him out as if he’d been shot from the inside. When the lawyer passed over a box of tissues, Chenco pushed them away, dragging himself from the empty cliff of hurt and shame with a shake of his head.

“No.” The word felt like steel in Chenco’s mouth, and he clung to it. “I haven’t cried for him yet, and I’m not letting him have any tears now.”

Cuevas nodded and put the box aside. “I could put in a request for an extension, using your revelation of a potential additional will as cause. I doubt the other party is in a great hurry to claim a fifty-year-old mobile home in Donna, Texas.”

No, but they certainly wouldn’t grant any favors to a homosexual half-Latino, to say nothing of what they’d do when they found out about Caramela. “I won’t be able to find the will, sir.”

“You are upset, Mr. Ortiz, and grieving. I’m sure the court will allow you ample time to exhaust the possibility of an alternate will, especially when I speak up for you personally.”

Now Chenco felt like shit. “You don’t owe me such a courtesy, not after how I’ve behaved.”

Cuevas let out a huff and sat back in his chair. “I’ve been waiting to mitigate this damage for years. You didn’t make helping you very easy. I’ve sent you several letters, some registered, but from your reaction I’m taking it the one I had taped to your door in the flats is the first one you’ve opened.”

“I can’t deal with this. I don’t have any money saved, not after paying his—” Chenco stopped, not trusting himself to go on. His throat felt thick, his stomach raw. “I work two jobs already, but I don’t make enough money to pay rent on my own.”

“Do you have friends, perhaps, or other family where you can stay? Your father did have another son by his wife—”

“God no.” Chenco shuddered. “My older brother doesn’t know about me, I don’t think, but if he did, he’d kill me. If you thought Cooper hated a gay half-breed, wait until you get a load of this guy. He’s been in town since the funeral, and I’ve worked like hell to avoid him. If I have to stay with someone, it’s not going to be Mitch Tedsoe.”

“I don’t know the man, so I’ll have to defer to your judgment. As I said, I’ll file for an extension. Hopefully this gives you time to make alternative arrangements.”

Chenco’s stomach wasn’t raw, it was rancid. “I can’t pay you.”

The lawyer’s smile had dark edges. “Oh, you won’t. The estate and its beneficiaries will receive my bill, and I intend to be thorough regarding this matter.” He handed a card over the desk to Chenco. “Please leave your number at the desk in case we need to be in touch. In the meantime, don’t hesitate to call if something comes up. I wish you luck in your endeavors, Mr. Ortiz.”

Recognizing he was being dismissed, Chenco thanked the lawyer and returned to the main lobby, where he left his cell number with the receptionist. On his way out, he glanced to see if the man he’d interrupted was in the waiting area, but it was empty, which was a relief. All Chenco wanted to do was get out of McAllen, head back to Donna and soak in his tub. While he still had a tub.

The impact of what the lawyer had revealed closed over Chenco in a slow, choking fog. The trailer isn’t mine anymore. Cuevas would buy him some time before the inevitable, but there was no way out. Cooper had seen to that. First he’d bled his son dry, then he’d left the only thing Chenco wanted to an organization who would never in a million years do anything but kick Chenco hard and fast into the street.

Was Mitch’s return to the valley part of this double punch? Had he known what Cooper would do and was in town to hunt him down and finish the blow? What if Chenco hadn’t run off when he’d seen Mitch at the funeral? Would he be rotting slowly into the mesquite instead of wallowing over how badly their father had fucked him over?

The thought made his feet heavy, disorienting Chenco so much he inadvertently circled the block, landing on the street parallel to where he’d parked. Slipping into the alley, Chenco wrapped himself in the darkness, sliding down the relative coolness of the brick wall as he sat on the ground and hugged himself. Three stray cats scuttled from beneath a pile of newspaper, the smallest bearing a dead rat in its mouth. From the street, sounds of lazy afternoon traffic drifted into the alley, and above him an air conditioner whirred and complained in the heat.

He should call Booker, or Lincoln. Even in a month he wouldn’t have enough money saved to rent so much as a shoebox on the corner. He’d have to live in someone’s spare room or sleep on their couch. Except what was he supposed to do with Caramela’s things? Lincoln would let him store some stuff, but he had roommates, and Heide took up all his extra space. Was Chenco supposed to trust Booker’s boyfriend not to rip Caramela’s wardrobe up for fun some afternoon when he was high? Hope nobody went through his bins in the storeroom of the club?

What in the hell was he going to do?

Chenco rocked gently, taking slow, careful breaths as he soothed himself. He wouldn’t let the fucker win, not now when this was the final battle. He shut his eyes and imagined Caramela on the stage of a bright, beautiful hall, the best in the world, a thousand admirers roaring and screaming her name. Yes, he’d get there, and he wouldn’t let his asshole father stop him.

You are good. You are strong. You are perfect the way you are. You will figure this out, one way or the other.

Chenco murmured the words out loud when they failed to take simply by repeating them inside his head. He would beat this. He wouldn’t let anyone stop him. He’d claw his way into the sun. He didn’t know how he’d do it yet, but he’d find a way.

All those years. All the time, all the money, all the visits to the nursing home—he laughed at me. He never loved me. He never even liked me. He hated me so much he went out of his way to destroy me.

Swallowing, Chenco drew his bottom lip into his mouth and bit, sucking on the soft flesh until it hurt, until he could focus on the pain instead of the hollow wounds inside him. He wouldn’t cry. He wouldn’t cry. He wouldn’t—

“Are you all right?”

Chenco looked up, releasing his swollen lip as he stared at the mouth of the alley. The man from Cuevas’s office stood there, his shaved head silhouetted against the sun. Leather creaking, he closed the distance between them and crouched in front of Chenco.

Author Bio:
Heidi Cullinan has always loved a good love story, provided it has a happy ending. She enjoys writing across many genres but loves above all to write happy, romantic endings for LGBT characters because there just aren't enough of those stories out there. When Heidi isn't writing, she enjoys cooking, reading, knitting, listening to music, and watching television with her family. Heidi also volunteers frequently for her state's LGBT rights group, One Iowa, and is proud to be from the first midwestern state to legalize same-sex marriage.

I'm happy to friend you here, and will try to answer all questions eventually, but due to a high volume of authors spamming this account with "events," I can't be on Goodreads as much as I'd like these days, and replies to PMs will possibly take months. You can always email me or talk to me via the forum on my website.


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Hooch & Cake
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Double Blind

Twelve Days of Randy
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Tough Love

One Night Series by AM Willard

Series: One Night
Author: AM Willard
Release Date: January 11, 2015
Genre: Romance

***Warning: due to sexual situations, 
this series is not intended for readers under the age of 18***

One Night
Angela Stephens is happy isn't she? She's married and has the career she's always wanted. Traveling the world has always been Angela's dream, but what happens when the distance between her and Christopher is put to the test. Will Angela give in to one night of pure bliss with a stranger?

One More Night
Can Angela save her marriage? Does she want to? Will her one night with Logan Black be just that, or will he find his way into her heart? What secrets is Christopher keeping from her? Is it too late for Angela to have it all? Will she find true happiness and love, along with the family she has always yearned for? 

Forever Night
All Angela Stephens ever wanted was a career, a faithful husband and a family. When her heart was shattered, Logan Black swooped in to pick up the pieces. 

Does a marriage full of secrets and lies hold Angela back from her one true love? 

Logan Black has it all, but when he met Angela Stephens he realized what was missing. 
Will Angela be able to tame the ultimate playboy? 

Will Logan and Angela chose a Forever Night?


Author Bio:
A.M. Willard is an Indie author who released her first novella on April 12, 2014. It was the first in a series with One More Night, which released May 21, 2014 and Forever Night, which released August 2, 2014. The One Night series is adult romance with steamy scenes!

A.M. is an avid reader of all genres including but not limited to mystery, romance, and erotica. Her love of all thing's literature has helped her carry out her dreams of becoming a published author. A.M. is one of the luckiest ladies in love, marrying her high school sweetheart 17 years ago! Twelve years ago they were blessed with a baby boy, who about a year ago was diagnosed with Autism and Asperger's syndrome. A.M. and her husband have learned so much about life after looking at the world through their sons eyes. He has strengthened A.M. and is her inspiration and hero.

A.M. got her love of books and reading from two of her favorite authors Stephen King and Edgar Allen Poe. When she's not connecting and chatting with her fans and followers she can be found sailing with her friends and family. Her family fans and followers push her to write even more and keep her going! Look forward to future novellas from this up and coming author!


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Treasured Moments



Presented by the Crazy Lady Authors, a collection of the good, the bad, and the ugly side of relationships. Hold on to your seats. Some of our tales will have you doubled over in laughter, bring tears to your eyes, and some will make you thankful for the place you call home.
Box Set

Click on the book cover or author's name to be taken to their profile.

Kelly 2A Moment in Time - Kelly Cozzone Alexa Wright is a happily married mother. Her son, Eric, was born in a previous marriage and he struggles with his place in both families. She has vowed to make the best decision for her son. Eric wants to live with his dad. How can she possibly figure out what the right decision is?
HR CoverHaunted Raine - R.E. Hargrave Lorraine Morrissey let life pass her by. Her wake up call comes when she realizes that her husband is rarely home, and she's filling her days with trivial tasks. A crazy idea to save her marriage leads to a summer vacation unlike any she's ever taken; one that involves buying a haunted house.

Coming Home - Teri Riggs Abby, a young Navy SEAL's wife, must learn to cope after her husband dies in the line of duty. Hoping to learn how her husband spent his final days, she heads to Bethesda to sit with her husband's best friend, a soldier who remains in a coma caused by the same IED blast that killed her husband. But can anything mend Abby's broken heart?
AubreeBookCover5x8_BW_70 Kindle Cover15 W. Gibson - Aubree Lane Knowing Uncle Sam is about to come knocking, Jimmy Franks enlists in the Navy. Leaving Suzy is the hardest thing he's ever had to do. Left alone to deal with their feuding families, Suzy Franks is heartbroken when Jimmy ships out. Her husband's letters of love brings comfort, but 15 W. Gibson is a lonely place without him.

the agentThe Agent - Samantha Jacobey An author of dark tales is looking for someone to represent her. An agent who thinks all writers are the same wants the job. Will one lunch date be enough to convince him that she's different, or will her clouded past continue to overshadow her future?

The Bench - Nikki Lynn Barrett Ten years ago, Neil spent a summer with his grandparents when he couldn't deal with problems at home. That one summer led him to his first love, Amber, until a family crisis pulled him away. Now he's back in town and face to face with the woman he never could forget.   

Summer Song - Linda Lee Williams June Gorman might be imprisoned in a nursing home, but her mind roams free. In her private world, memories and melodies go hand in hand. Every day she embarks on a musical journey through her life, one filled with laughter, love, pain, and tears ... her summer song.
Crazy loveCrazy Love - Jayne Hyatt Will Meg be forced to resort to using the crazy family tradition, which she has spent most of her life avoiding, in order to win the man of her dreams?

TreasuredLegacy copy--v3The Treasured Legacy - Holly Barbo Leone uses the last of her strength to share important family history with her only relative: her grandson David. Despite her final wish not to sell the family heirlooms, David and his wife, Anne, look into it because of their desperate need for money. But the pieces have secrets and the young couple finds themselves in unexpected danger.

Ghost Connection: Lost - Jami Brumfield Ghost Connection is a series centered around Cassandra O'Grady and her unwanted ability to see spirits. In episode one, Cassie and her ghostly best friend, Abel, help a girl save her family from a jealous boyfriend.

poppyPoppy - Cherime MacFarlane A teenage girl learns that the father she adores is not her real father. From her friend's dad, Emma Kay learns her Poppy won her and her mother on the turn of a card. Wrecking her mother's car does not help.

Camael's Gift - Michele E. Gwynn In the heavenly realms, conflict and war are as routine as escorting souls to the other side. For Camael, his routine has just been disrupted as he finds himself drawn to a human woman he encounters while comforting her dying child.   

Life Storms - Terri Hubbard Carle Throughout life, you face many types of storms. Learning to trust, believe, have faith and stand strong, will help Carley and her family, as well as Carley and Chad grow closer and stronger.   

The Tree House - J.B. Yarbrough The day her brother is born, Izzy hears the words Down Syndrome for the first time. Frightened, she runs to the safety of her tree house.  


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On January 16 and 17, 2015, all 14 authors will be gathering at one huge Facebook Release Party. Questions answered, teasers of their upcoming books, visits from special guests and huge prizes available to be won.
Come join the's a BYOBB (Bring Your Own Book Boyfriend), but I'm sure these authors will have some available too.