Monday, December 26, 2016

Monday's Montage Mantlepiece: Cabin for Two

Snow, storm, transportation woes, gravity well mishaps - the list of disasters that might strand someone in the wilderness is endless. But what happens when two men are marooned together? Close quarters and intimate situations strike sparks, whether the men are strangers or lovers on the emotional rocks.

Stories Included:
A Bear in the Woods by Toni Griffin 
A bear shifter tries to convince his mate that he's not crazy while fighting threats against his own life.

Dirty Little Secret by Freddy MacKay
A geocaching trip goes horribly wrong, but the hiker's rescuer is the one person who may be able to save him in more ways than he can imagine.

Three Little Words by Mathilde Watson
Lifelong friends have returned from the Korean conflict and now need to fight their way through the feelings they've harbored for each other for so long.

Their Natural Habitat by Silvia Violet
A forest ranger and his lover just want a nice weekend away. The bear baiters have other ideas.

A Matter of Faces by Angel Martinez
A data privateer crash lands on a barely habitable moon where he's found by a research scientist who refuses to show his face.

A Bear in the Woods by Toni Griffin
Vincent Marsden didn't think he'd had a worse day in his entire life. He now understood exactly why he preferred driving over flying anywhere. It had all started three days ago with a conversation with his best friend, Mandy.

"You need a break," Mandy's usually soothing voice screeched down the phone line at him.

"No, I don't," Vincent replied.

"Yes, you do. I can do this all day until you finally give in and agree with me. I hope you realize this." The self-satisfaction in Mandy's voice was not lost on Vincent.
Vincent thought he might try a different tack. "I can't afford to go anywhere right now. I have to write." Vincent had hardly written a thing in the last month even though he had deadlines looming and edits he needed to return. He just couldn't seem to bring himself to do the work.

"Oh yeah," Mandy said in that tone that always made Vincent cringe. "Just how much have you written lately?"


"Yeah, that's what I thought. Now, as I said, you need a break."
Vincent knew Mandy could be stubborn when she got an idea in her head, but he could be just as stubborn. "Mandy—"

"Stop!" Mandy sighed. She sounded so put out it made Vincent smile. "As much as you might hate this, I know you, Vincent Marsden. You need a break. You're run down; you haven't had a vacation in three years, not since you caught that prick, Jamie, screwing the bellboy in your hotel suite." Oh yeah, what fun that had been. Vincent didn't want to think about that now, though.

"Mandy, I really can't afford to go on a vacation right now." Vincent thought he'd give one last-ditch effort to try and get Mandy off this subject.

"I know. That's why I've taken the liberty of booking your vacation for you." The smugness in her voice really wasn't very nice.

"You what?" Vincent asked incredulously.

"Look, you know I got a nice inheritance when my grandad passed away six months ago. That money's not doing anything at the moment but sitting in the bank collecting interest."

"Mandy I can't let you do that." Vincent sighed, exasperated. "God, you're a pain in my ass."

"No I'm not. I have the wrong parts for you."

"Eww. I don't even want to think about your parts. How the hell did we start talking about your girly parts?" Mandy laughed and Vincent smiled at the sound. As big a pain as his friend was, he did love her to bits.

"Just lucky I guess. Now back to the hot topic. Namely, you on a vacation." Mandy snickered at Vincent's groan.

"I'm not going to win this argument, am I?" Vincent asked, resigned.

"Nope. Now listen as I tell you where you're going and what you're doing." Mandy sounded so superior Vincent wanted to reach through the phone and strangle his best friend.

Mandy had booked him a cabin in the Smokey Mountains for a week of relaxation. Vincent wasn't sure how much relaxing he could do as a young gay man in the middle of Tennessee and told Mandy so. She told him to stop trying to find excuses not to go.

So, pulling up his big boy undies, Vincent got to McCarran airport bright and early for his six am flight to Houston where he would then catch a connecting flight to Knoxville. Well, that had been the plan anyway.

Dirty Little Secret by Freddy MacKay
Looking down at his phone, Erik Broden's brows drew together in confusion. The coordinates had to be wrong. The geocache should be located here. Well, not this exact spot, but where the green marker indicated it should be. He looked back up. Nope, not so much. He had spent the better part of the morning tracking down a multicache, moving from one location to another, interpreting clues, figuring out coordinates and spending a lot—a lot!—of time walking around this particular location in the Appalachian hills.

Except I must have screwed up the clue at the last cache.

Erik scratched the whiskers on his neck, annoyed and frustrated he would have to hike back down the mountainside to go over the last hint again. It irked him to no end to know he had gotten the clue wrong somehow. The clues were ridiculously difficult, and if he hadn't known some really random facts and had some interesting life experiences in different parts of the world with his friends, Erik wasn't so sure he'd have been able to solve the cache.

No wonder no one else had. He could see the average geocachers throwing their hands up in defeat after the first two hours of the find. Erik chuckled. He wasn't the average cacher though. He lived for cracking the challenging ones. He glanced back up.

A small cabin stood where his prize should have been. The geocache hadn't been found yet and the caretaker promised a 'rewarding prize' for the first find. But he couldn't claim the prize because he was in the wrong fucking spot, a spot that took him a better part of an hour to hike to.

He huffed, crossed his arms, and glared at the obtrusive house. For some reason it felt familiar but Erik shook off the déjà vu and resigned himself to the climb back down the mountain. Erik especially loved the problem-solving caches like this one. They were a challenge tailored made for him and he was particularly good at them. To have been stumped riled him.

I'm not going to be beaten. He narrowed his gaze at the house.

The structure wasn't huge, just a small log cabin with a front porch, a door in its center, and two windows on either side. But the green indicator clearly lay within the walls of the building, and not the area surrounding.

Some people had travel bug hotels in their front yards. They were a place for geocacher's travel bugs—a trackable tag a person could attach to any item with a particular wish or goal other geocachers collected, logged and then moved to a new cache—to rest and get repaired. Most geocachers didn't hide caches on private property other than the hotels though. Too many problems were involved… and trampled flowerbeds. Most people stuck to trails, parks, lampposts, and trees; basically they hid the caches in public places. In one case, a geocacher made a to-scale group of caches of the solar system starting at the Adler Planetarium in Chicago. You could find the Sun, Mercury, Venus, and the other planets exploring Chicago as you went. In another instance, a geocacher hid his caches in unique ways, like having the log sheet hidden in a hollowed out screw.

Yeah, try and find a cache on a highway sign and not look nuts.

Three Little Words by Mathilda Watson
Gary Williams clung to the edge of the bench seat, regretting his decision not to fasten the seatbelt, as Hugh Davis took the jeep around another sharp corner, driving much too fast. The tire hit a tree root and the truck jolted, bouncing Gary across the cab. He landed right next to Hugh, their knees pressed tightly together. Hugh laughed and reached between Gary's legs, grabbing the gear shift and slowing down to a safer speed. Gary blushed, trying to figure out a way to get back over to his side with Hugh's arm in the way. Hugh kept his hand on the stick, watching Gary out of the corner of his eye and smirking.


"You. God, it's good to have you back. This past year was hell without you." Hugh slipped his hand off the shifter and onto Gary's thigh, squeezing gently before returning it to the steering wheel. Gary stared at Hugh's profile until his common sense kicked back in. He laughed and threw his leg over the stick, scooting away from Hugh and hiding a blush.

Being pressed up against Hugh, being touched like that… It sent Gary's mind down a dangerous path, one that made his blood race and his penis stiffen.

"Well, now you know how I felt during the year after you left, waiting around for my turn to enlist," Gary replied, forcing a smile he didn't feel. The two situations were really nothing alike. A year younger than Hugh, Gary had watched, helpless, as his best friend shipped off to Korea in the middle of a devastating war—a violent conflict that ended just as Gary's orders came through.

"Oh, I remember. The last time I saw you, you were chomping at the bit, ready join up and get the hell out of here! You couldn't sit still for half a minute. And your letters after I left were more of the same…" Hugh's voice broke, and he blinked his eyes rapidly. The joy had fallen from his face, replaced by a wistful twist to his lips. Gary shifted nervously, about to say something—anything—to break the tense silence, when Hugh sighed and continued,

"Hell, there was a while there when I thought you'd make a career out of the army. I thought you'd never come back."

"What? Hell, no! No chance of that. I've had my fill of following orders." Gary snorted and balled his fist, punching his knee with enough force to sting. His eagerness to join the army three years ago had nothing to do with dreams of adventure. What he'd wanted was to be with Hugh.

"I hear ya, buddy." Hugh reached over and covered Gary's hand with his own, squeezing briefly and offering a quick smile before turning his attention back to the road. He changed gears and gunned the engine, propelling the jeep up a steep hill and around another sharp corner that led into a thickly wooded area. Gary jiggled his leg nervously, watching as the path got narrower and the foliage denser. They'd left the town far behind them, and the wilderness ahead promised a welcome change.

"Thank you. For letting me to stay with you—I… I, uh, well, Mom can be…"

"Hey, no need to thank me. I know exactly what you mean! I only lasted two months at my folks' place after I got back. They expected everything to go back to the way it was; they want to know where you're going and who with and when you'll be back… A hell of a lot changes in two years."

"Yeah. I mean, I know she loves me and she means well but… she was smothering me. And I know the town is growing—new houses, new people and new shops are going up everywhere—but it all feels smaller somehow."

Silence fell over the cab again and Gary closed his eyes, wiping his sweaty palms over his thighs.

"Too small?"

Their Natural Habitat by Silvia Violet
Chapter One

Dan Moore rolled over and reached for his lover, but instead of warm, furry man, he felt nothing but cool sheets. He sat up, rubbing his eyes. When he was awake enough to read the clock, he realized it was only five am. Where had Parker gone? Dan listened, but he didn't hear his lover moving around in the small cabin. Then he noticed the note on the nightstand, illuminated by a streak of moonlight.

Gone to track bears. Be back for breakfast.

He wanted to be the one tracking a bear, a tall, blond bear he intended to pound into the mattress. His dick wasn't happy with Parker's absence, but he tried to ignore it and go back to sleep. After tossing and turning for half an hour, he gave up.

If he couldn't sleep or enjoy Parker's delectable body, then at least he could enjoy the beauty of the Nantahala Forest. He'd taken vacation time because he was going out of his mind missing Parker, but the fact that he also got to see the Smoky Mountains at the peak of fall color was added pleasure.

He stumbled to the bathroom and relieved himself, then he glanced in the mirror. His dark eyes were bloodshot from lack of sleep, but they'd clear. His beard needed a trim, but Parker seemed to like him shaggy so he left it. He walked back into the tiny bedroom and pulled on jeans, a t-shirt, and a fleece jacket. The cabin was bigger than the camper he'd rented last summer, but he still felt like a giant moving around in the small space.

After tying his hiking boots, he grabbed a flashlight. The sun was starting to rise over the neighboring mountains, giving the ridgeline an orangey glow. But the woods were still quite dark, and he'd been warned that the bears were especially active that week.

Dan awakened more fully as he ambled along a trail, breathing deeply of the crisp morning air. Nothing smelled like fall in the mountains, the earthy scent of leaves piled on the ground, the sharpness in the air of winter on its way, and something that spoke of age and solidity and things remaining the same year after year.

When he reached the ridgeline, he stopped and took in the view, the valleys spread before him looked like a painting. For a moment he felt disoriented, as if he'd stepped into a book. The colorful leaves decorating the hillsides in bursts of yellow, red, and orange were a sight he would never tire of. He snapped a few photos with his crappy phone camera, wishing he'd brought along a better one. He vowed to walk up there with his sketchbook and watercolors before he left for home.

Dan took a last deep breath and hoped the day would go more smoothly than the one before. Despite the fabulous sex he and Parker had indulged in, things had been tense between them ever since he arrived. He couldn't seem to relax with Parker like he had during the summer. Dan had been nervous when they'd first met and embarrassed by how incompetent he seemed in the wilderness compared to Parker, but they'd laughed all that off, and Dan had been able to talk to Parker as if he'd known him for years.

Since Dan had gotten to the little town in the western tip of North Carolina where Parker lived, Parker hadn't been the easygoing man Dan had met a few months before. It wasn't just because Parker had been called into work when they'd planned to spend the weekend together. Dan was sure something else was wrong, but he couldn't figure out what had changed.

He turned his back on the lovely view and headed back down the path toward the ranger cabin. Maybe things would be better that morning. Parker should be back soon since most bears did their prowling at dusk and dawn, preferring to keep away from human activity in the daylight.

Dan was lost in thought as he approached the cabin, and he didn't notice the bear nosing around the fire pit until he was only a few feet away.

He froze, his heart banging against his ribs. The black bear rose up on its hind legs and stared at him. Its eyes were so expressive that for a surreal moment, Dan simply stared, taken in by the majestic creature. The bear was huge and bulky, but he could run as fast as a horse and climb a tree with the agility of a cat. The idea of someone wanting to lure a bear day after day with human food, then shooting it from behind while it ate sickened Dan. He was glad Parker was helping to stop such cruelty.

The bear snorted at Dan and his terror returned. What was he supposed to do when confronted by a bear? Running was out. Climbing trees was out. The bear was better at both.

A Matter of Faces by Angel Martinez
Any landing you can crawl away from is a good one.

Damn SK9000 pods. Pieces of junk. Sure, they were cheaper than the old 8's, with cushier insides, but the guidance systems sucked. Another degree off on the landing angle and even crawling away wouldn't have been an option.

Rhodi had no idea how long he had pulled himself along, maybe a few minutes, maybe a thousand years. His head threatened to split with the pounding, his injured leg dragged behind him like a sack of magnetic hammers. Research center… there's supposed to be a damn research center here somewhere…

Guidance had told him that much. Direction was another thing entirely and his guess seemed to have been wrong, crawling against the moon's rotation so he moved toward the night. If he had picked the other way, he might have had the light a few minutes longer.
The odd notion of being able to see the moon's curvature in the fading light dogged him. It had to be the head injury.

He'd gotten too cocky. Just that last bit of intel, the one to satisfy his curiosity, to be certain he'd turned over all the slimy rocks, and now he was paying for it. Mansour, you're an idiot.

His hands hit vegetation that sent searing, stinging pain from his fingertips to his shoulders. He jerked them back with a sharp cry. Wonderful. This was where his notorious career as a data swashbuckler ended. Curled up on his side in the swiftly cooling, thin-aired night, he felt consciousness slipping and wondered if the light in the distance was the one everyone said appeared when you died. He always thought that was a container full of crap, but either way, he was about to find out.

Author Bios:
Toni Griffin
Toni Griffin lives in Darwin, the smallest of Australia’s capital cities. Born and raised in the state she’s a Territorian through and through. Growing up Toni hated English with a passion (as her editors can probably attest to) and found her strength lies with numbers.
Now, though, she loves escaping to the worlds she creates and hopes to continue to do so for many years to come. She’s a single mother of one and works full time. When she’s not writing you can just about guarantee that she will be reading one of the many MM authors she loves.
Freddy MacKay
Freddy grew up in the Midwest, playing sports and running around outside. And honestly, that much has not changed since Freddy was small and throwing worms at other kids, expect worm throwing has been replaced with a healthy geocaching addiction. Freddy enjoys traveling and holds the view a person should continually to learn about new things and people whenever possible.

Freddy's contemporary LGBTQ book, Incubation: Finding Peace 2, won 3rd Place - Best Gay Erotic Fiction in the 2012 Rainbow Awards. In 2013, Freddy's story, Internment, tied for 3rd Place - Best Gay Fantasy in the Rainbow Awards. Freddy's steampunk/SF story, Feel Me, was a finalist and honorable mention in the 2014 Rainbow Awards for SF.

Mathilde Watson
What can I say about me? I am a work in progress. I don't much resemble the girl I was ten years ago. And ten years from now I guarantee I'll be somebody else again. I'm okay with that and wouldn't have it any other way.
Silvia Violet
Silvia Violet writes fun, sexy stories that will leave you smiling and satisfied. She has a thing for characters who are in need of comfort and enjoys helping them surrender to love even when they doubt it exists. Silvia's stories include sizzling contemporaries, paranormals, and historicals. When she needs a break from listening to the voices in her head, she spends time baking, taking long walks, and curling up with her favorite books. Keep up with her latest ventures by signing up for her newsletter.

Angel Martinez
Angel Martinez currently lives part time in the hectic sprawl of northern Delaware and full time inside her head. She has one husband, one son, two cats, a love of all things beautiful and a terrible addiction to the consumption of both knowledge and chocolate.

Angel's alter ego writes the all-ages science fiction - Sandra Stixrude.

Toni Griffin

Freddy MacKay

Mathilde Watson

Silvia Violet

Angel Martinez


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