Sunday, December 13, 2015

Sunday's Safe Word Shelf: Rated: XXXmas by Lisa Henry, JA Rock, & EF Mulder


Summary:
Fall on Your Knees by Lisa Henry and J.A. Rock
Asa and his longtime partner, Javier, are looking forward to a cozy, kinky Christmas together. But when Asa discovers his coworker Drew has nowhere to go for the holidays, he invites Drew home for dinner. His motives aren’t entirely pure: Asa and Javier are both dominant, and occasionally arrange one-night stands with submissives. Asa’s been hot for Drew for months, even though he has no proof Drew is kinky.

Drew has wanted Asa since the day they met. Drew could never come between Asa and his partner, but it doesn’t stop him from fantasizing about belonging to Asa. About letting Asa do filthy, painful, incredible things to him. He accepts Asa’s dinner invitation reluctantly, not eager to witness Asa and Javier’s domestic bliss firsthand.

When Javier discovers Drew’s profile on a BDSM site shortly before Drew’s arrival, the game changes. A bold proposition leads to Asa and Jav sharing a night of play and passion with a dinner guest who’s nowhere near as innocent as he looks. But as their not-so-silent night progresses, all three find themselves on shaky ground. Can they keep this no strings attached? Or is there a way for each man to get what he really wants for Christmas?

Shepherd, Wise Man, and the Little Drummer Boy by E.F. Mulder
They were as close as brothers but hadn’t seen each other in a long time. The moment Shep sees Zeke again, standing there in his army fatigues, he wants to strip him out of them. Shep's trying to salvage a toxic relationship, though, and giving in to his desires for Zeke doesn't feel right. And even with Shep’s abusive ex gone for good, he still wants to wait.

When he and Zeke meet CJ by chance, however, CJ’s bold, brazen attitude lead to a sexual invitation they can't resist. Before Shep can say “three-way” he's lying beside the two, naked in CJ’s bed. The next morning, there are four of them. It seems like nirvana at first, but several partners engaged in sex is one thing; more than two in a relationship turns out to be something else. Shep has feelings for Zeke, and when it became obvious Zeke and CJ have feelings for each other, Shep's uncertain as to where that leaves him. He finds out quickly, and very soon discovers, that three might just be his lucky number for the best Christmas ever.


Fall On Your Knees
“So.” Asa held the phone tighter and leaned back in his chair so he could see out to the office floor. From this angle--slightly perilous, though worth the risk--he could just make out the slump of Drew Harper’s shoulders. His very nice shoulders. Not too broad and not too scrawny. Just about perfect, from what Asa could tell from his avid studies over the past few months. Those shoulders tapered down to narrow hips and an ass that looked especially inviting when Drew bent over the copier. Asa had plotted most of his workplace fantasies around a combination of Drew’s ass, lips, and what, in his imagination, was a totally gorgeous dick.

“So?” The smile was evident in Javier’s voice.

“So Drew is having a really bad day.”

“Oh?”

Asa could hear the sound of eggs cracking into a bowl on the other end of the line. Tomorrow was Christmas Eve. Javier would be baking up a storm. “Mmm-hmm.”

“How bad could it be? Your office closes in...less than an hour.”

Asa watched as Drew lifted his phone and dialed a number. He bowed his head, and Asa could sense the misery coming off him in waves. “His flight got canceled. Snow.”

“It’s not even snowing!”

“It is in Minnesota. Blizzard of the decade.” Drew had spent at least half the afternoon trying to make alternate arrangements, but he was obviously having no luck. “Poor guy.”

“So?” The smile was back in Javier’s voice.

“So maybe I should invite him home.”

“Oh, mi coraz√≥n, how charitable of you!”

Asa bit back a laugh. “For dinner.”

“Just for dinner?”

“Hmm.” Asa thought back to every fantasy he’d had about Drew. Most of them had been office based. The men’s room had featured heavily, as had the stationery supply closet and Drew’s desk out on the shared floor space of the main office. Drew gagged with his own tie, his wrists bound behind his back with Asa’s, bent over his desk while Asa pounded him. And those fantasies were nothing compared to what Asa could do to him at home. “I’m pretty sure Drew swings our way, but I can taste the vanilla from here.”

“Have you asked him?”

“No, I haven’t.”

Javier’s voice rasped a little. “Then maybe you should.”

* * * *

“I’m sorry, Mom.”

“Oh, me too, sweetheart. Call us tomorrow, okay?”

“Okay.” Drew felt like he was eleven years old again, clutching the telephone at Camp Miserable Fucking Summer, desperately homesick and wanting his mom to keep talking to him forever. “I’ll see you in a few months, I guess.”

“You will. If you can’t make it home, Dad and I will come visit you there.”

It was on the tip of his tongue to demand she make it a promise. He closed his eyes and nodded. “Sounds good.”

“Just try to enjoy Christmas with your friends, won’t you?”

“Yeah.” He sensed movement by his desk and looked up to find Mr. Lindeman--”Call me Asa”--standing beside him. “Mom, I’ve got to go. I’ll call you tomorrow.” He ended the call. “I’m sorry, Mr. Lindeman. It was a personal call, but--”

Mr. Lindeman held up his hand, and Drew shut his mouth. This was all he needed--to have a team leader tear him a new one on top of everything that had happened today. And it would be worse coming from Mr. Lindeman, since Drew had been nursing a crush on the man ever since Drew’s first day at Henderson and Vantassel back in July.

Mr. Lindeman was tall. At least half a head taller than Drew’s five feet eight. He had close-cropped brown hair, dark eyes, and an easy, crooked smile that dug a dimple in his right cheek. Just the right. The left stayed inexplicably smooth. He was in his early thirties, Drew guessed, and according to office gossip, had been with his partner for eight years.

Eight years ago Drew hadn’t even been legal. He didn’t know why the math upset him, except it felt unfair, as though he hadn’t been given a chance. Like the day he found out Matt Bomer was married. Which was ridiculous. It wasn’t as though his chances had been any better when Matt Bomer was single, right?

“Two things, Drew.” Mr. Lindeman caught his gaze and held it in that effortless way he had.

Drew nodded, his mouth suddenly dry and his stomach tight with nerves.

“One--I’ve told you before, call me Asa.” Asa smiled. “And two--I heard your flight got canceled, so of course you can call your mother and let her know. You’re making me feel like Scrooge here.”

“Sorry...Asa.” Drew lowered his voice. “It’s just Mr. Matthews is a real hard-ass about personal calls.”

“Bob went to lunch at noon.” Asa looked at his watch. “That was over four hours ago. I think it’s safe to assume he’s not coming back.”

Drew grinned and felt himself flush. “I guess not.”

He’d noticed people had been disappearing pretty much all day. But the office didn’t close until five, so Drew wasn’t going to be one of them. He was nothing more than a glorified secretary at the moment, but he needed this job. Everyone had to start somewhere. He’d make it onto one of the creative teams eventually, where he’d be appreciated for more than his ability to remember a coffee order. Hopefully Mr. Lindeman’s creative team.

Asa’s.

Even in his head, that sounded wrong. Okay, so Mr. Lindeman made it sound like he was old, a generation older than Drew instead of less than ten years, which was probably why Drew didn’t like it. He just hadn’t figured out a compromise yet between what felt like being overly familiar and being overly formal. He’d spent six months avoiding calling Asa Lindeman anything. Avoided staring at him in meetings, or in the lunchroom, and especially that one time he’d walked into the bathroom to find Mr. Lindeman already standing at the urinals. Drew had pretended he’d forgotten something and run out again. Who did that?

A loser, that’s who.

The same guy who’d lived in the city for six months and was still nervous on public transport at night. The same guy who hadn’t hooked up since his senior year of college because he could hardly afford to go out and couldn’t bring anyone back to the apartment he shared with three other people. He’d just turned twenty-five, and moving to Sacramento and landing a job at Henderson and Vantassel was supposed to have been the start of his Brand-New Patented Exciting Life. A change in address would be a change in Drew Harper. He would immediately become more stylish, more confident, more attractive...and precisely none of that had happened.

Yet.

Or, most likely, it never would. Drew wasn’t that guy. He was the guy who’d run away from Asa Lindeman in the bathroom because there was no way in hell Drew could have walked up and whipped his dick out and discussed clients and meetings and deadlines while they pissed.

Mr. Lindeman--Asa--perched on the edge of his desk. “So what are your plans for the break now, Drew?”

“Um.” Drew’s mind went blank. God, Asa’s aftershave smelled so good. Who smelled that good at this hour of the day? “I’ll, uh, catch up on Game of Thrones, I guess.”

“You’re going to spend your Christmas break watching TV?”

“Um...yeah?” He really wished that hadn’t come out sounding like a question.

Asa folded his arms, his tailored shirt pulling tight across his chest. “That’s unacceptable. You don’t have any other family or friends in the area?”

“No.” Drew tried to fake a smile, but it was impossible to do with the Ghost of Christmas Immediate Future suddenly planting a vision in his head. Drew, curled up under his blankets, wearing crumb-covered pajamas, watching Game of Thrones on his laptop and desperately ignoring the fact that he was cold, and lonely, and it was Christmas. “It’ll be fine. It’s not a big deal.”

“Of course it is. It’s Christmas.”

Drew fought the urge to fidget. “Aren’t you Jewish?”

“My boyfriend’s Catholic. We celebrate Christmas and Hanukkah.”

“Oh.” That sounded incredibly...cool, actually.

“So here’s what’s going to happen, Drew.” Asa’s voice was calm but pitched lower than usual. It was demanding, and it stirred Drew in ways he didn’t care to examine. “You’re going to come over to my place tonight for dinner. If you and Jav and I enjoy one another’s company, you’ll come back for our big meal on Christmas Day.”

“Mr. Lindeman, I couldn’t--”

“Asa.”

“Asa.” Drew’s face felt hot. “That’s very kind of you, but I don’t want to intrude or anything.”

“And?”

Drew faltered. “And what?”

“Oh, I’m sorry.” That smile. That fucking dimple. “I thought you had more of an argument than that.” Drew’s jaw dropped. Asa smirked and looked at his watch. “Well, it’s close enough to five now, I think. Time to get out of here.”

“I don’t, um...” Drew shut his computer down. Opened his drawer and put his stapler in it. “I really don’t want to put you out. I’m sure you have plans, Mr. Lin-- Sorry. Um, sir.”

“Sir?” Asa’s eyes brightened.

Oh God. Drew was pretty sure he was about to die of embarrassment, and then it wouldn’t matter if he had plans for Christmas or not. “Asa, I mean. Sorry.”

Asa’s smile vanished. He leaned forward slightly.

Drew’s heart beat fast, and his dick hardened.

“Actually, Drew”--Asa’s voice was dangerously low--”sir is perfect.”

* * * *

Javier was rinsing out the mixing bowl and didn’t hear the front door open. He jumped at Asa’s “Feliz Navidad!” behind him.

“It’s a little early for that, isn’t it?” Javier shut off the water and set the bowl in the dish rack.

“Nope. You can start saying ‘Merry Christmas’ as soon as Thanksgiving’s over. That’s the rule.”

“Well, in that case, feliz Navidad.” Javier shook his hands dry and turned to kiss Asa. “What’d you do about Drew?”

“Invited him over. He went home to change.” Asa headed to the fridge and got out a bottle of water. Asa always drank bottled water, which Javier had never understood. Tap water did the job just fine. Asa uncapped the bottle and stared at Javier as he drank.

Javier knew the look in Asa’s eyes--Asa was dying to tell him something. “What?”

Asa set the bottle down and leaned against the counter. “I think he’s a sub.”

“You asked?”

“Well, no.”

Javier rolled his eyes.

“I can tell!”

Javier caught his wrists and pulled him close. “You think every hot boy is a sub.”

“But listen--”

“You live in a fantasy world.” Javier kissed Asa’s cheek, released him, and went to check on the doughnuts in the oven. “You think you’re some kind of mind-reading dom who can tell from a single glance across the grocery store that the boy standing by the Triscuits is a sub; he just doesn’t know it...”

Asa took off his coat. “That is not what I think.” He peered into the large stockpot on the stove. “Can I try the stew?”

“Not yet.”

“Don’t you even want to hear my evidence?”

Javier did, but he wanted to antagonize Asa a little more first. “You should be in one of those novels called, like, Man of Steele--handcuffs on the cover, dark background. You’d be a billionaire security systems magnate named Drace Steele, and you’d meet some innocent, trembling little flower of a boy who’s never so much as kissed with tongue. But you know--”

“Drace? Really?” Asa tossed his coat on a chair.

“You know he’s dying to get down on his knees and call you Master--he just needs you to awaken the desires he’s kept hidden even from himself.”

“Sounds about right.”

“Put your coat away. I won’t have your secret sub thinking we’re pigs.”

“You are a pig,” Asa said.

Javier smiled as Asa went to hang his coat up. There was a time, when he and Asa had first met, that he’d suspected Asa might have submissive tendencies. But he’d quickly learned Asa was all dom. Trouble was, so was Javier. It wasn’t a question of topping or bottoming. They were happy to switch, and any dom who thought bottoming equaled submission was doing both himself and his sub a disservice, in Javier’s opinion. It was the fact that when they tried to sub for one another it didn’t work, or at least not in the way they needed it to work. It felt too much like playacting, when they needed it to be real. So every few months, they found a third, a sub who wanted to do a scene, and got each other hot and bothered while they worked the sub over.

Asa returned. “He called me sir.”

Javier raised his eyebrows as he stirred the stew. “Oh?”

“Unprompted. I told him to call me Asa instead of Mr. Lindeman. And he called me sir.”

“Incontrovertible proof he’s a slave boy.”

Asa leaned on the counter again. “Look, I’m not saying I’m going to bend him over the second he walks through the door and find out.”

“Shame.”

“But he does have a thing for me, and if my kinkdar turns out to be accurate...” Asa shrugged. “Would you object to including him in the festivities tonight?”

Javier set the spoon on the spoon rest and stepped around the counter. Took Asa in his arms and kissed him. “You wanna hear something funny?”

“Always.”

He stepped back. “Your kinkdar is accurate.”

“What?”

He slapped Asa’s shoulder. “Your boy’s on Fetlife.”

“Wait, what?”

“Found his profile today.”

Asa’s mouth opened slightly. “We’ve never seen him when we’ve searched our area.”

Javier picked up his tablet. Turned it so Asa could see. TheSacramentoSlut. Age 25. The picture was an awkward, adorable selfie. Javier had only seen Drew once, fleetingly, when he’d visited Asa’s office, and they’d never been formally introduced. But Javier definitely remembered the face.

And the body.

The ass Asa was always going on about.

“He’s only been on a couple of months,” Javier said. “And we haven’t looked for a third in at least that long.”

“TheSacramentoSlut?” Asa glanced at Javier. “He sounds like some skanky cheerleader turned serial killer.”

“Or a newspaper for sex workers.”

Asa looked back at the tablet. “But holy shit. That’s Drew.”

“I know.” The oven beeped, and Javier went to take the doughnuts out.

“This can’t be.” Asa was still staring. “Drew’s so...so...innocent.”

“Hate to break it to you, Drace Steele.” Javier set the tray on the rack to cool. “But it looks like your trembling flower has a few thorns.”

Asa set the tablet aside. “Wow.”

“But that’s a good thing, right?” Javier turned off the oven and got out the powdered sugar. “Give me thorns over petals any day.”

“Well.” Asa came around the counter and got out the butter and vanilla. “I think dinner just got a lot more interesting.”

“Asa. Promise you’ll be nice to our guest.”

“Nice? I’m always nice.” Asa handed Javier the butter and picked up a wooden spoon. “You’re the one I worry about.”

“Me?” Javier feigned innocence. “I wouldn’t dream of trying to corrupt your little slut. Though for all we know, half of Sacramento has beaten us to it.” He saw Asa fighting a smile.

“C’mon.” Asa nudged him. “I’ll help you whip the icing.”

Shepherd, Wise Man, and the Little Drummer Boy
There were three official Lucas brothers: Shepherd, the eldest; Matthew, eighteen; and Gabe, fifteen. Anna and Joe Lucas had fostered each, then adopted them, one by one, from unstable, broken homes. Dave Goodwill, one of Anna’s trigonometry students, joined the clan at age sixteen, when his parents booted him out the house for getting his girlfriend pregnant. Dave’s look-alike best friend, Zeke Wise, hung around so much after that he might as well have moved in too. Weekend breakfasts at the Lucas home quite often consisted of six guys sitting around the kitchen table in their underwear, passing the cereal box and a gallon jug of milk. “Those were some of my favorite times,” Anna had recently commented. Now their home was broken as well. After thirty-six years of marriage, Joe announced he was leaving Anna for Mary, a woman he had been flirting with online. There had been no fights. There were no big blowups. Maybe Joe and Anna had just drifted apart. Maybe everyone eventually did, Shep figured. Maybe “happily ever after” was a big, stupid myth. The upshot was Joe and Anna were divorced now, and it was Joe’s turn to host Christmas.

“Things between Harry and me have been kind of...slow in the bedroom lately, Rusty. You see where I’m comin’ from?” Shep asked.

Rusty shook his head again--probably due to flies.

“The first couple of weeks, we fucked three or four times a day. That’s why I couldn’t ride you for a week there.”

Rusty flapped his horsey lips.

“Sorry. TMI?”

They’d met in late August. Harry, an NYU counselor, had brought an anxious freshman to the ranch for some equine therapy. Harry and Shep had gotten the kid to come out of his shell a bit by taking him and his dorm mate out riding. Once they’d put the duo on the train to return to the city, they’d immediately rushed back to one of the barns and stripped each other out of their clothes. Shep had moved into Harry’s Big Apple apartment within a couple of weeks.

“I have a whole week off over Christmas,” Shep told Rusty. “Harry has two. It’s a perfect opportunity to try and recapture some of that heat. When we’re not out doing Christmassy things, and coming to visit you, we’re going to be naked!”

Shep hit the Call button. “I’m going to ride Harry so hard Christmas week,” he said, “my ass’ll be hurtin’ till the Fourth of July. Oh. Hi, Dad.” Shep was surprised when his father answered.

“What about your ass and the Fourth of July?” Joe asked.

“Nothing. How are you?”

“Good. And you?”

Shep closed his eyes and summoned his courage, trying to create a perfect script on the spot.

“Sheppy?”

How long had he been silent? “I wanted to talk about Christmas.”

“What about it?”

Shep, still searching for just the right words, watched a bee flit from one brown wildflower to another. Following its flight, he lost his pluck and his train of thought.

“Shep?”

When the bee landed on his forehead, he shooed it. “Get!” It refused to take the hint. “Fuck!”

“I beg your pardon.”

“Sorry, Dad. Listen...” The bee finally buzzed away, and Shep persevered. “I know you want us all together for Christmas.”

“I haven’t seen you in months, Sheppy. Please don’t tell me you’re not coming.”

“Everyone’s coming down here for Thanksgiving--for the big parade. Why don’t you?” Shep asked.

“We can’t really afford a trip to the city. Not this year. No one is fixing anything. Two roofs right in my neighborhood have tarps on them,” Joe said. Tarps are cheaper than me.”

Joe was a contractor.

“Dave, Emma, and the kids are coming.” Dave worked with Joe. If Dave could afford the trip, why couldn’t he? “You could squeeze into their room, or with me and Harry. Maybe just come down for dinner at Mom’s. That’s free.”

“She’d love that.” The statement was delivered with a hefty dose of sarcasm. “Besides, Mary has to work. She can’t get out of it.”

“Come without her.”

“Shep!”

One word, one syllable, and Shep felt like a scolded brat. “It’s just that I kind of thought it might be time for me to start some traditions of my own with Harry.” Like anal sex in front of the Channel 9 yule log.

“Isn’t it a bit soon to be starting traditions? You’ve only lived together a matter of weeks. Is that enough time to even call something love?”

“I don’t know, Dad. How many weeks did it take you to go from sneaking around to divorce papers?”

Joe didn’t answer.

“Sorry.” Shep let out a frustrated breath. “That wasn’t nice. If you still lived in Westchester, though, I could visit for a while and then come back home the same day.” He wasn’t that sorry. “Drive time alone-- Fuck!” Shep spun around. “Oh my God!” The unexpected shoulder tap from the truly unexpected visitor had scared him half to death.

“Nice greeting, brah!”

“That’s what you get for sneaking up on a dude!”

“What’s going on?” Joe asked.

Zeke stood there grinning, in camouflage pants and an olive drab T-shirt. His return stateside was a huge surprise to Shep. If it was a surprise to everyone else, Shep didn’t want to spoil it. Can I tell him? he mouthed.

Zeke shook his head.

“Um... nothing. Someone’s here.”

“You’re coming to rely far too much on profanity, Son.”

“I’ll try to cut back on the cursing.” Shep flipped Zeke off. Zeke raised both brows and nodded. “Um...can I call you back?” Shep said into the phone.

“Call anytime. No one else is.”

“Things’ll get better.” Shep hoped he was right. “And...I’m sorry for what I said.”

“You’ll like Mary once you meet her,” Joe promised.

“Probably.” Shep doubted it. “Yack later.” He hung up and flung his arms around Zeke’s neck. “I missed the fuck outta you, man!”

Shep kissed the top of Zeke’s head and inhaled his scent. Though Zeke had started out as Dave’s best buddy, he had gotten quite close to the entire Lucas family over time. With his mother’s passing several years back, he had come to count them as the only family he had.

“What are you doing here?” Shep asked.

Zeke hadn’t been back to New York in eighteen months. With ten years of active military service, visits home were way too few and far between.

“I’m out. I’m home,” Zeke said.

“For good?”

“Yup. Just in time for Christmas.” Zeke turned his head slightly and kissed Shep on the cheek. “Hard to say what’s better, Shepster.” He held Shep’s face awkwardly to the side. “Seeing those green eyes or feeling your boner.”

“Jesus!” Shep pulled away. He pushed at his thickening dick. “Sorry.”

“Don’t be.”

“You hugged me too hard.”

Zeke laughed. “Want me to do it some more?” He reached for Shep’s cap and whipped it off his head. He didn’t have to stretch much to do it. He was just an inch or so off Shep’s six-two.

“Where the fuck d’all your hair go?”

“I wanted us to match,” Shep said.

They didn’t, not quite. Zeke’s crew cut was jet-black. His eyes were blue, and if Shep wasn’t mistaken, there were tears in them.

“What’s with the whiskers?” Zeke stroked them.

“Trying something new.”

“You look like a hot, giant leprechaun.” Zeke kissed him on the mouth.

“Am I your first stop?” Shep broke free and turned his attention back to grooming Rusty.

“Yeah. I wanted to make a whole holiday spectacle the night before the parade. Can you put me up till then?”

“Of course. Harry and I have a place in the city.” Shep stared at the bulge in Zeke’s fatigues that had poked him when they’d kissed.

“Guess you hugged me hard too.” Zeke’s smirk was endearing. “Or maybe the train vibrations got to me. It’s been a while.”

“No cocksuckers in your platoon?”

“Yeah. Me. But very few reciprocators.”

Shep lifted his gaze to Zeke’s as he continued to brush the horse. “You...do that now?”

“And more,” Zeke said. “Whadda ya think Joe and Anna’ll think about having two homos around the house?”

“They have different houses now, remember? And they’ll love you as much as ever.” Shep had to touch Zeke’s face again. “I still can’t believe you’re really here.” Shep kissed Zeke’s forehead and tried to ignore his engorged dick--and Zeke’s. “I’m so proud of you.”

“Don’t start that shit.” Zeke shoved Shep’s arm away. He lit a cigarette. “I don’t wanna hear it.”

“Hey.” Shep took his wrist. “What?”

“I didn’t do anything to be proud of.” Zeke shrugged. “I followed orders. I made it home. None of that’s worthy of praise.”

“I disagree.” Shep reached for Zeke’s chin. He tilted his head to find the eyes that purposely evaded his. “Enlisting at a time of turmoil is brave in itself. Going over there--”

Zeke shook his head.

“Okay.” Shep gently squeezed. “I’ll stop.” He patted Rusty on the backside and started him back toward the corral. “So...anyone special in your life?”

“It’s not like we haven’t talked, Shep. I’d have told you.”

“Would you? You didn’t tell me you were taking it up the ass.”

“No. I didn’t. But you didn’t tell me much about this Harry person either. Maybe I figured my major revelations were better saved for when I was out to stay.” Zeke sucked in and exhaled some smoke. “What’s your excuse?”

Shep shrugged. “Don’t have one, I guess. And you’re out to stay now. Tell me who you’re in love with.”

Zeke ignored the request. He ran his hand down the horse’s back and over his muscular thigh as they walked. “He’s beautiful...and hung.”

“Pig.”

“Hey, I told ya, it’s been a while.”

The drive down to Shep’s apartment took about an hour. Shep apologized for every red light. When someone cut in front of them, he said he was sorry for slamming on the brakes.

“Better than hitting the inconsiderate asswipe,” Zeke told him.

“Harry says I drive like a blind, ninety-year-old Asian.”

“That’s racist, ageist, and pretty fucking funny.”

Zeke sang along--off-key, mostly--to every song blaring out of the speakers of Shep’s MP3 player through the Jeep’s sound system. He kept tapping Shep’s leg, presumably to get him to join in. Shep never did. He was happy just to listen.

Shep had hoped Zeke might open up about his love life along the way. He hadn’t, so Shep told him all about Harry, including the argument that had ended with scissors and less hair. “He told me I needed a haircut. I said I didn’t. He won, and I woke up to this.” Shep rubbed under his cap.

“He cut your hair off while you were asleep?”

“Yup.” Shep chuckled.

Zeke didn’t.

“So, this is it,” Shep said as they entered the tiny apartment another ten minutes later. “I’d have sprayed something pumpkiny if I’d known you were coming.”

“It’s nice.”

“Eh. It’s a dump, but it’s close to Harry’s work.” Shep set down his duffel bag and the jacket he hadn’t needed by early afternoon. “So, tell me about your first guy. Was it in the barracks? Were you all hot and sweaty after a hard day in the field during basic training?”

“You think real life is like porn?”

“Isn’t it?” Shep smiled.

Zeke plopped down in a green, tattered chair. “My first time was with Dave. A very long time ago. We jerked off together.”

“Oh.”

“I blew him a few times. Eventually, he cut me off. I still offer. He still refuses. Dirty hetero.”

People had often mistaken Zeke and Dave for brothers. When Anna had first met them, she’d thought they might even be twins. They looked that much alike. Shep tried to picture them messing around, naked and hard. “Milk okay?” Once there, the image was difficult to erase. “Or you want a beer?” Shep grabbed a couple of glasses and tried to chase it away.

“Milk’s good.”

“You sure? I’ve been told milk and cookies are for babies, not grown men.”

“Yeah? By who? I’ve always fucking loved milk and cookies.”

“I know. Me too. And Dave’s married. So, technically, anything you two did now would be cheating.”

“Or a three-way.”

Shep barked out a laugh. “Or that.” He sat down with the milk and a package of Oreos.

“Dave would only let me do him when he and Emma were split up. On and off, on and off back in the day, ya know, like immature teenagers tend to be.”

“Yeah.”

“It’s cool they’re still together, after all these years. Solid now. How many high school sweethearts last forever?” Zeke asked.

“How many relationships, period?” Shep asked.

“True that. Though his fidelity leaves me one less option.”

“Poor you.” Shep faked a pout.

“How come you and me never did it?” Zeke asked.

Shep unscrewed his cookie. “Age difference?”

“Four years?” Zeke stuffed his in whole.

“When I left the house for college, you were younger than Gabe. Thirty-two and twenty-eight, no big. Eighteen and fourteen--eew!”

“I’d have done you the minute I learned what a blowjob was.” Zeke’s words were muddled with a mouthful of cookie, but Shep got the gist. “How old is Harry again?”

“Forty-seven.”

“I’d do a fifty-year-old...if he looked like, say, Johnny Depp.”

“Harry sort of does. Lucky for me, since beggars can’t be choosers.”

“You had to beg him?”

“Not really.”

“Hellz right. Dudes be beggin’ you.”

“Hardly.”

“Would you fuck me if I begged you?”

“Ha-ha.” Shep stood.

“I just wanna suck a cock.” Zeke’s body melted into the chair. “One attached to someone I like. I like you.”

Shep allowed the fantasy to percolate just a second or two. “So I’m your second choice?” he asked. “Because Dave won’t let you? That’s why you’re here instead of up north with him and Dad?”

Dave and Joe had gotten so close Dave had moved away with him. They’d created a family business upstate, Lucas and Sons Construction. Just because Dave didn’t legally have the Lucas last name, it didn’t mean he didn’t fit the bill. Joe was hoping some of the others would eventually come on board too.

“You know where home is for me, Shepster. Even with my mom gone, you, Anna, Matty, and Gabe--that house--all home.” Zeke offered a smile, not a smirk. “Sure, I wish Joe was still there, and Dave too, but...” Zeke shrugged. “And oh, by the way, you’re no one’s second choice.” He licked his full, pink lips, and then the smirk returned.

“I wonder if Matty is gay. You think so?” Shep asked.

“Shouldn’t I be asking you?” Zeke did more talking with his mouth full. “I was gone for ten years. If you really care, maybe you should fucking visit him more.” Unfortunately, Shep could still understand every word. “Gabe says you don’t even answer his texts half the time lately. He talked to me more than you the past few weeks, he says.”

“I’ll do better.”

“No, you won’t.”

“I’ll try.” Shep leaned on the counter between the living room and kitchen. He kept his back to Zeke, because he knew Zeke was right.

“And you’ll fail.”

Shep finally looked at him. “First you want to fuck me, and now you’re riding my ass? What’s your problem?”

“You’re the closest thing they got to a man in the house with Joe gone. ’Cept you’re never around either, ’cause you’re too busy fucking the asshole who cut all your hair off.”

“Zeke...”

“Which is kinda rapey, if you ask me.”

Shep shook his head. “It’s not that bad.”

“Is he some sort of sociopath?”

“Fuck you.” Shep grabbed the cookies. That’ll show him. “It was an argument. Relationships take compromise.”

“Gimme the fucking Oreos,” Zeke demanded.

Shep immediately did.

“Pussy. Did the dirtbag take your backbone with your hair?”

Shep said nothing. Neither did Zeke, until he’d eaten six cookies.

“Sorry. That was a shitty thing to say,” he finally admitted. “About you not getting up to Anna’s.”

“It’s shitty of me not to talk to my little brother every day,” Shep said.

“I guess we’re both shitty.”

Shep chuckled. “Guess so.”

Zeke held out the cookies, as an olive branch, perhaps. When Shep reached for them, he snatched them back.

“Jerk-off.”

“You want ’em, Shepster, come get ’em.”

Shep rushed the chair. He fell on top of Zeke. Zeke raised the cookies overhead. His manly aroma hit Shep hard, teasing him places other than his nose. They wrestled playfully until Shep felt Zeke’s arousal against his. He gave up then, afraid Zeke would notice he was aroused again as well.

“You win.” Shep moved to the counter. “Refill?” He held up the milk jug.

“How come you didn’t sing on the way over?” Zeke joined him. There was a noticeable tent pitched in his fatigues he didn’t bother to hide.

“I can’t wait to see the look on Mom’s face when she sees you,” Shep said.

“And then Joe’s.”

“His. Not hers,” Shep said, pouring.

“Mary’s not that bad.”

“We never met her!”

“Which speaks to my point.”

“Which speaks to my point,” Shep said in a put-on geek tone. “Doofus. When the fuck did you get so...?”

“So much smarter than you? When you started spending more time with horses than people, that’s when.”

“Fuck you.”

“I wish.”

“Harry and I will go out someplace for dinner.” Shep moved to the other side of the divider. It was waist-high, tall enough to hide his hard-on. He nodded toward Zeke’s, still quite evident. “You can have the place to yourself. Beat off wherever you want.”

“Better than nothing, I guess. Where’s your dirty laundry...for sensory stimulation?”

Shep laughed again. He raised a fist. “The US Army turned you into a freak!” He’d planned on a playful slug. He ended placing his hand over Zeke’s heart instead.

“You always think I’m kidding when I’m not.”

Shep looked at him a moment. He counted the beats. “I gotta hit the shower. Harry hates it when I smell like horse shit when he gets home.”

“Harry’s full of complaints.” Zeke grabbed Shep by the front of the shirt and pulled him close, almost right over the counter. With his face a fraction of an inch from Shep’s, he inhaled. “You smell like outside,” Zeke said. “It’s nice.”

“Thanks.” Shep kissed his cheek. He pulled away. “Harry will be home any minute. I’m running late.”

“The psycho have you on a schedule?”

Shep came around front and headed for the bathroom without comment. By the time he returned, barefoot, in just a pair of blue jeans, a rust-colored Henley in his hand, Harry was sitting on the counter with his dick out.

“Um...hi?” Shep kissed Harry. Harry didn’t kiss back.

“Soldier boy says he wants to three-way,” Harry said.

Author Bios:
Lisa Henry 
Lisa credits her love of reading to her grandfather, who had stacks of books in every room in his house, and to her parents, who couldn't afford a television when she was child.Lisa lives in Australia, and shares her house with too many pets. She still devours books today.She also has a television.

JA Rock
J.A. Rock is the author of queer romance and suspense novels, including BY HIS RULES, TAKE THE LONG WAY HOME, and, with Lisa Henry, THE GOOD BOY and WHEN ALL THE WORLD SLEEPS. She holds an MFA in creative writing from the University of Alabama and a BA in theater from Case Western Reserve University. J.A. also writes queer fiction and essays under the name Jill Smith. Raised in Ohio and West Virginia, she now lives in Chicago with her dog, Professor Anne Studebaker.

EF Mulder
I write with a partner, David Connor/David B. Connor. Most of my work goes uncredited, but I had a hand, or a foot, or another body part in all of his works, including "Quadruple Flip" and this year's "Christmas Spirit" and "Tidings of Comfort and Joey Down Under". We bounce ideas and dialogue back and forth. It's a trip. I have always been an avid reader. The idea of creating my own characters, plots, and romances finally became too overwhelming to ignore, and so I first piped in with "What if they...?" and then eventually opened the writing program and started something myself. David and I are both soap opera fans. There is a touch of soap opera in most everything we create. Human drama is, after all, at the core of every good story.

I have lived my entire life in the hills of rural New York, with the city just a long train ride away if the mood strikes, and trees, wild critters, mountains and solitude all around every other day. It is a lovely place, quite conducive to creativity. I think I shall get back to work.


Lisa Henry
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EMAIL: lisahenryonline@gmail.com

JA Rock
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EMAIL: jarockauthor@gmail.com

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Cover Reveal: Take Me Home by Stephanie Summers

Title: Take Me Home
Author: Stephanie Summers
Series: Take Me Duet #2
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Expected Release Date: January 4, 2015
Summary:
A romance with a rock star, not a rock star romance...

Ash London, front man for uber-successful rock band Ferrum, is happily living the life he always dreamed he could have with Lila Stephens. After working through Lila's traumatic past and Ash's trust issues, they've finally connected and life is good. One phone call changes everything though when Ash finds out the time off he was promised is being cut short. The stress of being on the road and away from Lila gets to Ash, and when a face from his past shows up, it turns his world upside down, dragging up past demons that he's chosen to keep from Lila. Would she look at him differently if she knew the truth? Will her love be enough to save him from himself?


Author Bio:
Stephanie Summers is a paranormal and contemporary romance author. She graduated from West Virginia University with a degree in accounting, though writing is her true passion. Stephanie seemed to always have a story or two or ten running around in her mind. At the ripe old age of 30, she finally decided it was time to put aside the thought that she didn't have what it took to write a novel and began writing her first story. 

She has since written her first paranormal series, The Willow Creek Vampires Series, with Craving (Book #1), Haunting (Book #2), Awakening (Book #3), and the short companion story, The Bludworth Chronicles: Origin, available now. Her short story, Love Forgotten, was chosen to be published in Stardust: A Futuristic Romance Collection, and another short story, Saved by the Bear, is available now. Her contemporary rock star romance, Take Me On, was released summer of 2015, with the sequel, Take Me Home, due out soon.



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Christmas in DC by CA Tibbitts

Title: Christmas in DC
Author: CA Tibbitts
Genre: Romantic Suspense
Re-Release Date: December 1, 2015
Publisher: Booktrope Entice
Cover Design: Nancy Colbert-Hardy
Summary:
While earning her degree as a paralegal, Naomi works as Will's assistant where he teaches law. After graduation, she learns that Will is transferring to Washington, DC to work for the Senator.

When Will asks Naomi to work with him in DC, it doesn't take her long to accept the offer. Now, no longer professor and student, the hidden attraction is unmistakable.

In her new endeavor Naomi learns a heartbreaking discovery that makes her question if she really ever knew Will at all.


Naomi cut him off, kissing the question from his lips.

He moaned and slid his hands down her back, cupping her ass to pull her closer. If she'd been uncertain of what he was going to ask, she would surely get the hint with it pressed snugly against her stomach and getting harder by the second. One moment her hands were on his chest, the next, his pants fell in a heap around his bare feet. Her hand cupped the bulge barely contained in his gray boxer briefs.

“Are you sure? Nay, we can't go back after this.” His forehead fell against hers as they both took a moment to breathe.

In a wordless answer, she freed her ponytail, sending her brown hair cascading down her back, and tugged her pink blouse over her head. Her skirt slid down next.

Author Bio:
Hi! I'm a New York Times Bestselling author from the Midwestern United States.  I'm an avid reader of anything romance! I've worked as a travel agent, nursing assistant, and a paralegal before chasing my dream of full-time writing.  I love to travel, swim, cook, and I'm more than a little addicted to a certain social media website...

Currently, I write paranormal and science-fiction romance.  My plan is to branch out in several romance sub-genres, but my books will always end in the infamous happily ever after.

Always hot, always sexy, my male characters will protect their women at all costs, and my female characters will be... I like to call it "feisty."  I believe every story and character should be unique, and it’s something I always strive to do.

Reading should be an escape from everyday life, so I hope you enjoy my version of a vacation for you!

Fun facts about me:
1.  I love birds!  I have one (a parakeet).
2.  I’m double-jointed, which led to teasing as a kid (which I also found funny)!
3.  I have a shoe addiction!  Mainly embellished flip-flops, but other kinds too (not heels, I’d break my ankles).
4.  I missed a college 4.0 GPA in the very last semester when one professor gave me a B (still upset about that!)!
5.  I am very OCD about certain things (see #6).
6.  I have an extensive DVD/Blu-ray collection and it has to be kept in alphabetical order!
7.  My favorite vacations involve a cruise.  I’ve been on 15 so far!
8.  I’m quiet and sort of shy until I get to know a person.
9.  I’m quick witted and believe sarcasm is my best friend.
10.  I hate hot weather.


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