Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Random Tales of Christmas 2016 Part 3

Mr. Popsalos by Lisa Worrall
Luke Fisher has been a single parent for six years. During those six years, he has become painfully aware that the moment you reveal that you have a kid, you immediately become less dateable. Rather than set himself up for the inevitable fall, he just doesn’t date. But it doesn’t matter, because he has everything he needs; a beautiful son, a good job, and a supportive family. He doesn’t need anything or anyone else…does he?

He doesn't think so until two weeks before Christmas, when he meets Jamie in a bar while out with some colleagues. The man is undoubtedly the hottest thing Luke has ever seen and one glance into Jamie's beautiful eyes tells him the feeling is mutual. But will the attraction fade once Jamie finds out about Reggie? After an amazing night together, Luke decides to pre-empt the heartache and throws away Jamie's number, thinking he will never see him again…

Careened: Winter Solstice in Madierus by Bey Deckard #3.5
A Baal's Heart short, following the events in Fated: Blood and Redemption

Plagued by terrible dreams, Jon begins to distance himself from Baltsaros and Tom. Perhaps a little holiday cheer is just the thing to help the three of them find common ground again.

Click Here to Check Out Baal's Heart Series

Overall Series Review April 2016:
If someone asked me to describe the emotion of Baal's Heart in one word, that word would be Gobsmacked!  On the surface, this is a story of Jon's self-discovery, coming of age amongst pirates but after a few chapters you realize that, yes it is a story of self-discovery but not only Jon's.  He may be the newest member of the crew but Captain Baltsaros and First Mate Tom also learn and grow, not always forward but life is that way, three steps forward and two steps back.

I'm doing an overall series review because this is not a tale where you can read just one, Baal's Heart is a package deal and trust me, it's a package you won't want to return.  Don't get me wrong, it is not all sunshine and roses, this is a tale of filled with darkness and grit but that does not mean there is no happiness and triumph because it is chock full of all of it.  This is not for the faint-of-heart, much of the boys' journey may be hard to take, good and bad, but for me it was worth it.

Jon, Tom, and Baltsaros' relationship is more than just a ménage or threesome, it is a complicated, messy at times, unsure, but a relationship from the heart for sure.  The sexy times are off the charts, the heat is just short of starting your Kindle or paperback ablaze.  This journey is a tale of so much more than just sex and passion, there is plenty of drama, violence, piracy, backstabbing, underhandedness, but there is also lots of friendship, compassion, and plain heart.  Bey Deckard is a new author for me but Baal's Heart will not be the only thing I'll be reading, can't wait to check out more of his work.  I went searching for tales of pirates when the newest season of Starz' Black Sails began back in January, there may be more fantasy than history in this series, I was not disappointed and highly recommend this series to anyone who looks for an amazing story with unforgettable characters, history fan or not, don't let this one pass you by.


Three Dates of Christmas by KC Burn
Dean Murphy hates Christmas a little more each year. His job as a pharmacy manager requires him to festoon his store with seasonal cheer, but his distaste for the lurid commercialism is only topped by his irritation with the syrupy sentimentalism. Being alone sucks, but he’s managed just fine without friends or family for years; why should December 25 be any different?

When the tattooed Tony Delvecchio walks into his store, Dean hopes that maybe Tony’s different. Maybe Tony’s the man who won’t be driven away by Dean’s Scrooge-like tendencies. But Tony loves the holiday season, and he challenges Dean to three dates. Three dates to change his mind about Christmas.

Despite knowing it will all end badly, Dean does the unthinkable. He agrees.

A sweet, warm, and fun holiday romance that will lift your spirits.  I wouldn't call Dean a Scrooge but he certainly has had his fill sense he works in retail, when Tony comes into his store his whole life is going to change.  Tony's love of the holiday season can be infectious but if it's enough to change Dean's views, well you'll have to read Three Dates of Christmas for yourself, trust me you won't be disappointed.


A Midnight Clear by Debbie McGowan
A story from Boughs of Evergreen: A Holiday Anthology

It's a cold, desperate December when a young girl flees home, in search of food, shelter and the real Santa Claus. Stranded in George and Josh's hometown, she discovers that the spirit of Christmas can be found in the most unexpected of places.

Includes the story of The Little Match Girl, by Hans Christian Andersen.

A standalone short story in the Hiding Behind The Couch Series.
Note: If you are reading the series in order, this follows from 'In The Stars Part II' and contains minor spoilers. 

Snowed In by Teodora Kostova
Be careful what you wish for...

Nate has been in love with Quinn, his brother’s best friend, for as long as he can remember. But when he finally gets the chance to show Quinn how he feels, his heart gets broken in the most unexpected way.

Second chances come when you least expect them...

Quinn doesn’t believe in miracles, especially not Christmas ones. When he decides to win Nate back he knows it won’t be easy. The last thing he expects is a health scare, a road trip and a vicious snow storm to work in his favor.

In the end, a cabin in the woods turns out to be not only the shelter they desperately need, but also Quinn's very own Christmas miracle.

Sometimes, to forgive, you need to get snowed in...

This is another new author for me and I'll definitely be checking out Teodora Kostova's backlist in the future.  You can't help but feel for both Nate and Quinn, not an easy task for an author to accomplish, especially in a novella.  Snowed In will certainly lift your holiday spirits.  As much as I love the whole holiday season between Turkey Day and New Year's, it's not always easy to put an extra smile on my face when it comes to holiday reading but this tale did.  Having said all that, Snowed In is not exactly all wine, roses, and Ho-Ho-Ho and maybe bits of it feel a little rushed but I found it to work and it ticked all my holiday romance boxes. This one somehow missed my reading radar last year which made it an even bigger treat to come across it this year. A great addition to my holiday shelf.


Random Tales of Christmas 2016 Parts

Part 1  /  Part 2

Mr. Popsalos by Lisa Worrall
Chapter One
LUKE TRIED to blink, but was prevented by the thumb currently holding his right eyelid open. He unstuck his tongue from the roof of his mouth and swallowed against the dryness of his throat before mumbling, “Hi.”

“You still sleepin’?” His son stared at him from beneath a mop of curls, his head tilted inquisitively.

Seriously? Luke cleared his throat. “Nope. I’m awake.”

“Me too,” Reggie replied. He tilted his head to the other side. “Wanna get up?”


“Cool.” Reggie continued to stare at him.

After a few moments of silence and a fleeting thought concerning how long it would take for his eye to dry out completely if Reggie didn’t let go of his eyelid, Luke raised his thumb-free eyebrow.



“Gonna need my eye back, dude.”

Reggie’s response was to let go of his eyelid so swiftly, Luke half expected it to roll up and down like a blind in a cartoon, then snap to the back of his head, never to be seen again.

Luke blinked and rubbed at his eye, then sat up and swung his legs over the edge of the bed. Now that he could see, he glanced at the digital clock on his nightstand. He mentally bit his tongue to stop himself from groaning out loud—5:17 a.m.

“Come on, Daddy,” Reggie urged, already at the bedroom door. “It’s decoration day. We can’t be late.”

“Late?” Luke mumbled beneath his breath. “School doesn’t start for another three frickin’ hours.”

“What did you say, Daddy?”

“I said, you’re right, we don’t wanna be late,” Luke said brightly, hoping his smile looked a lot more enthusiastic than it felt. Dr. Spock—or was it Mr. Spock?—had said a lot of things about parenthood, but neither had ever mentioned being awoken at the ass-crack of dawn by a school-obsessed kindergartner with a glitter and glue fetish three weeks before Christmas.

“Daaad.” Reggie drew out the word.

“I’m up, I’m up.” Luke scrubbed his hands through his hair, scratching his scalp. “I’ll meet you downstairs.”


“Dude,” Luke lowered his tone a little so Reggie would get the point, or this back and forth could go on for some time. “I need to pee. I’ll be down in a few minutes.”

“Okay, okay,” Reggie mumbled. “But you’re not gonna like it.”

“Like what?” Luke narrowed his gaze.

“The bathroom.”


Reggie shrugged and was already halfway down the hall when he shouted his reply. “Forgot to lift the seat!”

Luke closed his eyes and briefly considered climbing back into bed, but Reggie would never let him get away with that. Sighing heavily, he padded from the room in his bare feet before returning to pull on his ratty old sneakers. If Reggie had forgotten to lift the seat, he was going to need protection.

HALF AN hour, one dry bathroom floor, and one shower later, Luke trotted down the stairs, fully dressed, his tablet in his hand. He stopped in the kitchen doorway, inwardly cringing at the sight before him. Just smile and wave; he’s only trying to help. He pasted what he hoped was a look of happy surprise on his face and walked into the room.

“I made breakfass,” Reggie mumbled around a mouthful of Cocoa Puffs and waved a milk-covered spoon at the other bowl on the table.

“I can see that,” Luke said, ignoring the bomb site that used to be the kitchen counter as he sat down opposite Reggie. Cocoa Puffs littered the tabletop and there were puddles of milk surrounding the bowl. He bit the inside of his mouth to stop himself from laughing out loud and picked up the spoon. Crunching into his cereal, he held up his hand and made a circle with his thumb and forefinger. Reggie smiled brightly and returned his attention to his own breakfast, slurping milk into his mouth as though he were sucking it through a straw. Luke shook his head fondly, one thought echoing in his brain: God, I love that kid.


“Spaces, dude.” Luke pushed his chair back and stood up. He crossed the kitchen to grab the cloth from the sink and quickly wiped the table so he could safely put down his tablet without it exploding.

“Spaces are boring.”

“Spaces are necessary, otherwise I can’t understand you,” Luke pointed out. For the last three weeks, Reggie had been saying everything on a rush of breath, all his words merging into inaudible grunting sounds. The first week had been cute and funny, the second week had been cute, but this week had been neither cute nor funny. “Now what did you say?”

“I said,” Reggie spoke slowly as though Luke had dribbled on himself, “can… we… go… park… today?”

“Very funny, smarty-pants,” Luke replied with a smile. “And maybe. I have to see a client after lunch but it shouldn’t take too long. It’s my day to pick you up anyway, so if Mrs. Olsen tells me you finished your lunch today, the park is a real possibility.” Luke reached out to pluck a stray piece of chocolate-puffed rice from Reggie’s forehead. How the hell did he get it up there?

“But it’s bloccoli day,” Reggie whined. Luke raised an eyebrow and smiled as Reggie heaved a deep sigh, the likes of which only a six-year-old could pull off. “Okay,” Reggie mumbled and dove back into his cereal.

Luke opened up his e-mails and scrolled through them while he shoveled Cocoa Puffs into his mouth. It had been a while since he’d had cereal for breakfast, and right now he couldn’t think why not.

“I’m gonna put glitter on mine.”

Luke blinked and waited for his brain to catch up with Reggie’s topic change, but he had nothing. “I give up. Glitter on what?”


Nope—still nothing. “Huh?”

“Decoration day, Dad.”

“Ah, right, yeah.” Luke shifted uncomfortably beneath the weighty stare of a six-year-old who obviously thought, even though Luke must be at least a thousand, he knew nothing. “Decoration day.” He swallowed hard as he gazed at his son and felt a sudden pang, as though a hand had closed around his heart, making it ache in his chest.

Reggie looked so much like Sarah when he looked at Luke like he was an idiot. How many times had he seen the exact same look on her face? He couldn’t even hazard a guess. But it had been more times than he had liked, even though he’d give anything to see her standing there, with her hands on her hips, staring him down just as their son was doing right now.

Sarah had left a huge void in both his and Reggie’s lives, although the little boy hadn’t had the chance to get to know her. Reggie only knew his mother through the stories Luke told him. He’d promised Sarah he’d keep her alive for Reggie and that’s what he’d tried to do. The two of them would sit snuggled up together on Reggie’s bed and flip through the photo album Luke had put together for him, so he could look at it whenever he wanted. Reggie would ask him the story behind each photo, soaking up information about his mother as he stared at her face.

Luke and Sarah met in college and were joined at the hip from the moment he’d tripped over the books she’d dropped from her backpack while waiting in line outside the dining hall. Despite their differences—him being openly gay and she… well… not—their bond had started off strong and only grown stronger over the years.

Through countless boyfriends on her side and his, through graduation and beyond, that bond continued, although everyone had expected them to eventually drift apart and go their separate ways. They’d known that would never happen, and she’d often joked that, if she hadn’t found Mr. Right by the time she was twenty-five, she was going to make Luke jizz in a cup so she could have the perfect baby, with his beautiful green eyes and her sense of style. He had, of course, laughed, poured yet another glass of wine, and agreed he would be happy to, but only if the baby could have her determination and his ass. Neither of them knew at the time that she wouldn’t make it that far.

At twenty-two, Sarah was diagnosed with a brain tumor. He’d stayed by her side through all of the surgeries and the chemo, never more proud of her than when she’d held her head high and kept the smile firmly on her face, even when she’d been huddled over the toilet, her small frame wracked by the abuse of the chemicals they’d pumped into her body.

She’d been given the all clear and life had returned to normal, until three weeks before her twenty-fourth birthday, when Luke found her unconscious on the bathroom floor of the apartment they shared. The tumor had come back, twice the size. They’d been told that all they could do was attack the cancer with chemo and buy her some time.

Sarah had dried Luke’s tears and, during their Friday night ritual of wine, pizza, and cheesy movies, told him that she had had some of her eggs removed before her first surgery, just in case the cancer ever came back—so would it be okay if he jizzed in that cup now?

At first he wouldn’t listen to her, wouldn’t even discuss it. Discussing it would have meant acknowledging that a baby meant no treatment and no treatment meant no Sarah—and he hadn’t been ready to do that.

Not until she’d looked him in the eye and said, “Either way, I’m going to die. And I’d rather die knowing that a new life came out of this giant clusterfuck, and there is no one in the world I would rather make that life with and trust that life to than you.” She’d wiped away his tears and kissed him softly. “I know you’re up to the challenge, Fisher. I trusted you with mine.”

The doctors had told them they were insane; they probably wouldn’t even be able to get pregnant after all the chemo Sarah’s body had been subjected to. Luke had just smiled. They didn’t know Sarah like he did. There was nothing that woman couldn’t achieve once she wanted it badly enough.

He’d spent fifteen minutes in a sterile-looking room with a copy of GQ and filled his cup as he’d faithfully promised. Her egg had been inseminated in a petri dish and then implanted in her womb. On their first try, they’d both been huddled over the pregnancy test, staring open-mouthed at the two lines in the result window. Despite the doctor’s reservations, they were pregnant.

Sarah had hung on as long as she could, wanting to see their son just once before she let go. But she slipped into a coma at thirty-four weeks. They’d performed the C-section three weeks later, and Luke had been there to hold her hand. He’d stared in awe at his son when they’d placed him in his arms. Only a few minutes old, and a red-faced, wrinkled Reggie waved his fists angrily at the world, as if he’d known he was going to begin his life without his mother.

Two days later, while Luke had been feeding Reggie at Sarah’s bedside, she’d opened her eyes. He’d barely been able to see through his tears as she’d reached out a hand and smiled when the baby’s tiny fingers curled around one of hers, the expression on her face one of pure joy. Then she’d closed her eyes and, a few minutes later, gently slipped away with her son holding her hand.

He sighed inwardly. This time of year always made him especially maudlin. Not that he didn’t miss Sarah every day, but around the holidays, even when surrounded by their extended family, he wished there was someone Reggie and he could spend their own Christmases with. Someone with whom they could create new traditions and memories.

Not that Luke had any illusions of that happening anytime soon. His track record with men since Reggie came along hadn’t exactly been stellar. The list of bad dates definitely outweighed the good. He’d met some assholes before he’d become a father, but the ones he’d met since had redefined the word. As soon as he mentioned he had a kid, they got this stunned look in their eyes like a deer caught in the headlights and bailed. He even had one excuse himself to go to the bathroom and never come back. Not to mention the guys his best friend and boss, Chris, had set him up with. Considering Chris probably knew him better than he knew himself, why the moron had thought any of them were a good match for him was beyond Luke.

There’d been spits-when-he-talks, the sneezer, and the bathroom Houdini. Followed by the guy with more hair growing out of his ears than on his head, the excessive farter, the pig-snorter, and the foot fetishist. Not forgetting the one who’d offered Luke some of his steak at dinner, which he’d then proceeded to put on his own tongue and suggested Luke retrieve. Luke shuddered at the memory and shook his head.

Why couldn’t he be that guy? You know, the one who bounces through life, doing what he likes and taking what he wants. The kind of guy who wouldn’t think twice at having a casual hookup, no strings attached. ’Cause getting relief from a hand that wasn’t his own wouldn’t go amiss once in a while. But therein lay the problem. Luke wasn’t that guy. Had never been that guy. Not even in his youth, which wasn’t even the slightest bit misspent. Luke was the dating kind, the going-steady kind—the boring kind.

You’re not boring, you’re solid, dependable—there’s a difference.

Luke wasn’t in the mood for a pep talk at a little after 6:00 a.m., so he pushed his inner voice firmly into a closet at the back of his mind and locked the door. His cell vibrated in his pocket and he pulled it out to see his mom’s face smiling back at him. Accepting the call, he nestled the phone between his shoulder and ear before saying with concern, “Mom? Is everything okay?”

“Of course it is,” Karen Fisher replied, sounding confused. “Why wouldn’t everything be okay?”

“Because it’s six o’clock in the morning,” he countered.

“Oh, that,” she said, brushing him off. “I knew you’d be up.”

“Those crystal ball lessons working out for you then?” Luke drawled, opening an e-mail marked urgent.

“It’s decoration day, doofus, and I know my grandson.”

“Of course.” Luke rolled his eyes, glad she couldn’t actually see him. She’d been admonishing him for the habit his entire life. “He’s very excited. Should I be worried?”


“Because I’m beginning to suspect he’s sniffing the glitter rather than sprinkling it.”

“You know, I’d laugh—if you were funny.” He could see her in his mind’s eye, bustling around her kitchen, cell phone in one hand and dish towel in the other, a big grin on her face.

“I’m hilarious and you know it,” Luke scoffed, pointing to the dishwasher as Reggie got down from the table and forgot to take his bowl with him. “Dude, you know the rules.”

“Forget his bowl again?”

“Yep. Did you want to speak to him?”

“Yes, after I’ve finished with you.”

Luke’s stomach dropped. That could only mean one thing.

“We have a lovely new organist at the church and I was talking to him on Sun—”

He was right. “Stop right there, Mo—”

“Don’t interrupt me, Luke Fisher,” she said sternly. “I haven’t even gotten to the good part yet.”

“Let me guess,” Luke said, sighing heavily. “He’s my age, good-looking, financially sound and—drum roll please—single!”

“And he’s taking you to dinner tonight!” Karen trilled.

“What? No he’s not!”

“Oh yes he is.” Her tone brooked no argument. “He’s picking you up at seven and you’re going to have a wonderful time if it kills me!”

“What about Reg?”

“You can drop Reg here after school. He can stay over and his grandpa will take him to school in the morning. Everything is sorted.” She sounded very pleased with herself and Luke knew he’d been the victim of another one of his mother’s faits accomplis.

He sighed heavily. Her one saving grace was that her choices weren’t as bad as Chris’s. The guys she set him up with could at least usually manage to string a sentence together. “You know I hate you, right?” he mumbled.

“Yes, dear,” she replied brightly. “Now, pass me to my grandson.”

“DUDE, COME on, we gotta go.” Luke strode down the hall and into the living room. “Why haven’t you got your shoes on?” He frowned at Reggie’s socked feet, swinging casually over the end of the sofa.

“Can’t find ’em.” Reggie’s eyes were glued to the TV as Spongebob got himself into trouble—again. TV wasn’t usually allowed until after school, but then, as a rule, they didn’t get up three hours before they had to leave. Although Luke was beginning to regret saying yes.

He rolled his eyes heavenward. The ritual hunt for Reggie’s shoes was on. Of course, if he put them in the damned shoe box like I tell him to every night, we wouldn’t have to go through this farce every morning! Luke didn’t stop to point out to himself that, although Reggie had a habit of not putting his shoes where they were supposed to go, he had a habit of not checking that Reggie had put his shoes where they were supposed to go. Why would he? That would have been counterproductive and they were running out of time.

Glancing around the room, Luke mentally fist pumped the air as he saw the toe of one of Reggie’s sneakers poking out from underneath the armchair. He scurried across the room and bent down, grabbing the one he’d seen, and then hunted a little further for the other one.

“Here they are, come on.” Luke glared pointedly at Reggie, who had completely ignored him. Huffing, Luke walked to the TV and switched it off. “Shoes—now.”


“Decoration day, dude.”

That knocked the automatic complaint right out of Reggie’s head and he practically dove at Luke and snatched his shoes out of Luke’s hand. Trying not to laugh, Luke watched Reggie shove his feet into his sneakers and then pull down the Velcro straps firmly. He looked up at Luke for affirmation that he had them on the right feet and Luke smiled and gave him an encouraging nod. Some kids struggled over the alphabet, some over their numbers. Left and right were Reggie’s arch nemeses, but they were working on it.

“Okay, coat and backpack.” Luke clapped his hands and ushered Reggie from the room.

“Don’t forget yours, Daddy!” Reggie yelled as he hurtled out of the room and down the hall to the closet.

Luke followed Reggie out into the hall and grinned, his heartstrings getting that familiar tug once again. Reggie stood, coat sort of on, his backpack hanging off one arm, and Luke’s briefcase held out in front of him with two hands. Quickly closing the gap between them, Luke took the proffered briefcase before the weight of it had Reggie face-planting on the carpet and put it down on the floor. He took down his own overcoat and shrugged it on, then plucked Reggie’s scarf and hat from their peg.

Luke squatted in front of Reggie and wrapped the scarf around his skinny neck. “Forget something?” He grinned at the perfect imitation of his own eye roll that Reggie threw at him. Earlier he’d looked like Sarah; right now he was Luke’s mini-me. He pulled the matching beanie onto Reggie’s head and chuckled through their morning ritual. Him covering Reggie’s face with the beanie, while Reggie complained and Luke insisted he looked better when you couldn’t see his face, ending with Reggie grabbing Luke’s beanie out of his overcoat pocket and doing the same to him.

“Right, in the car, little big man,” Luke urged, pulling open the door and shaking his head slowly when Hurricane Reggie flew down the porch steps and sprinted to the car. The kid’s energy never ceased to amaze him. Locking the house behind them, Luke took the porch steps at a more sedate rate and opened the car, waiting for Reggie to climb in before he slid behind the wheel. “Okay… do we have everything? Backpack—check, lunch box—check, kid… aaah, I forgot the kid!”

Luke smiled to himself when the voice from the back deadpanned, “Daddy, I’m six.”

“Humor me,” Luke drawled, starting the engine. He pulled the car off the drive and eased into the steady stream of traffic heading toward downtown, then turned around and drove back to the house, running inside and grabbing the box of toys Reggie was donating to the Toys for Tots program. Luke groaned as he stowed the box in the trunk. He couldn’t believe it was only three weeks to Christmas. None of his shopping was done, and he still hadn’t booked the flight to his sister’s, not that Abbie would expect anything less than a last-minute panic attack from him anyway.

Reggie and he had spent Thanksgiving at his parents’ house, so they were all heading to his sister’s for Christmas, where hugs and cheek pinches would have to be borne by several great-aunts and great-grandparents only seen once a year—and that was just Luke. Luckily for both him and Reggie, Luke foresaw a lot of time spent in his brother-in-law’s den, where the XBox lived.

Climbing back behind the wheel and pulling off the drive for the second time, he sighed heavily. He’d planned to be mega-organized this year, but of course he’d failed miserably again. Oh well, thank God for the Internet and express delivery.

“I think his dad’s Harold.”

Luke glanced at Reggie in the mirror. “Harold?” He mentally groaned. This was going to be another moment when he needed every brain cell he had to figure out what tangent Reggie was going off on now.

“You know,” Reggie repeated. “Harold… in Harry Potter.”

“Hagrid,” Luke corrected automatically. “Whose dad?”

“Mr. Popsalos.”

“Mr. who?”

“Our new teacher helper,” Reggie huffed, obviously frustrated at having to deal with someone with Luke’s limited intelligence.

“Mr. Popsalos?” Luke repeated. He searched the annals of his memory and vaguely recalled the mention of a new assistant teacher, although he couldn’t remember when. Not that he cared, he was going with it anyway. He nodded sagely, as if he knew what the hell he was talking about. “Ah, yes, Mr. Popsalos.”

“Yeah, I bet his dad’s Harold.”

Luke brought the car to a stop at a red light and shook his head, wondering if he was brave enough to voice the question bouncing around his skull. He swallowed, knowing he was going to regret it, but knowing that not knowing would be even worse.

“Okay,” he said, pulling away as the light turned green. “Ya got me. Why do you think Mr. Popsalos’s dad is Haro—Hagrid?”

“Because Mr. Popsalos is really, really big,” Reggie said in his best “duh” voice, the tone of which sounded for all the world as though Luke had just dribbled on himself. “I think Mrs. Olsen is right.”

Oh God! “Right about what?” Luke asked, confused.

“Old people forget things.”

“I’m not old!” Luke said indignantly, steering the car into the street that housed the school.

“You’re older than me.”

“Well,” Luke spluttered, grasping for the right words. “Of course I’m older than you, you’re my son. But that doesn’t mean I’m old.” Luke parked in the closest space to the school he could find and set the brake. Turning in his seat to look at Reggie, he was almost afraid to ask. “How old do you think I am?”

“I dunno, seventy-twenty?” Reggie shrugged. “A bit more maybe.”

Luke’s mouth dropped open and he stared at Reggie for a few moments, aghast. Seventy-twenty? Maybe a bit more? He ignored the hysterical laughter of his inner voice. Dude, he thinks you’re like a hundred! Classic!

If he wanted to keep his dignity intact and not burst into little baby tears right now, Luke figured the best thing to do was to get Reggie into school as quick as possible. Seventy-twenty. I’m not that fucking old!

He turned off the engine, climbed out, and closed the door behind him so that not too much of the warm air from inside the vehicle escaped. Luke trotted around the hood and opened Reggie’s door, ushering him out onto the sidewalk. He cast a practiced eye over the back seat to make sure Reggie hadn’t left anything behind, then pressed the remote button on his key fob. Holding tightly to Reggie’s hand, they trotted along the street and up the steps into the school, rushing to get out of the cold December air. Once inside, they walked along the children-filled corridors, stopping outside Reggie’s bright red classroom door. Luke helped Reggie hang up his coat, unable to contain his smile when he saw the sprigs of mistletoe and strands of tinsel twined around each little peg. Making sure that Reggie’s hat and scarf were firmly secured in his coat pockets, Luke dropped to his haunches.

“Okay, dude,” he said, lifting a hand and slowly executing the handshake-fist-punch they’d perfected over the last three months—after a very serious six-year-old had declared that he was far too old to be kissed in public. As much as the statement had doubled him over like a knife had been plunged into his chest, Luke had swallowed his bruised pride. The cool handshake they’d devised, after many different combination tryouts, had become the compromise he’d agreed to. “Don’t forget. I’ll be asking Mrs. Olsen if you finished your lunch. No empty plate, no park, right?”

“I won’t forget,” Reggie said indulgently, lifting a small hand to pat Luke’s cheek. “I’m not as old as you.”

“No you’re not,” Luke deadpanned, then stood up and ruffled the soft golden strands curling around Reggie’s ear, much to his boy’s disgust. “Have a good day and I’ll see you later. And remember, the glitter is supposed to go on the snowflakes, not all over you!”

“Bye, Daddy!” Reggie yelled, opening the door of the classroom and throwing over his shoulder as an afterthought, “I’m gonna ask him if his dad’s Harold!”

Three Dates of Christmas by KC Burn
Right by the Christmas display, a man with short blond hair blocked the aisle, crouching in front of a small blond kid standing with his mom looking on fondly.

Tony really needed to get going, but he wasn't going to say a word to clear the aisle, because the ass attached to the blond man looked like a present designed just for him by the Christmas spirits. Taut, firm buttocks stretched charcoal dress pants. A silvery vest fit snuggly over a tapered torso. Pants and vest both perfectly complimented the lilac dress shirt, which looked crisp and freshly ironed.

A slight frisson of sexual awareness electrified him. If the guy added a tailored suit jacket and his face wasn't hideous, he could easily fit the bill for Tony's suit-porn fetish. He hated wearing staid business attire, hence the full sleeve tats, small ear gauges, and a job that didn't fuss too much about appearances. But, holy hell, he did like a lover who dressed well. And there wasn't any harm in looking at a hot, straight dad.

All too soon, the nicely built guy stood.

"Thank you. Merry Christmas, Mr. Murphy," the mom said and turned away, tugging her son with her.

Tony had a split second to process that Mr. Murphy wasn't her husband before the man whirled around, lips curled into a faint look of distaste, and nearly knocked Tony off his feet.

Raising his hands defensively, Tony barely managed to avoid a collision. The guy's disdainful expression disappeared lightning-fast, only to be replaced by a plastic smile that might have fooled Tony if he hadn't seen the first glimpse. Faked expression or not, Mr. Murphy was one serious hottie.

The mini candy canes hooked over the edge of both vest pockets appeared slightly out of place, but Tony wasn't complaining—he loved candy canes.

"I'm so sorry. Are you okay? I should have been paying attention to where I was going." Mr. Murphy's voice was rich and buttery, like freshly baked shortbread, and Tony wanted to listen to the man all day.

"No harm done." Tony couldn't keep his own voice from deepening, but he did manage to bite back the very suggestive "Mr. Murphy" that wanted out.

"Oh, good. I'm so glad." Mr. Murphy let his gaze flick from Tony's chest to groin, then back up to his eyes so quickly that a straight guy probably wouldn't have noticed. The Christmas spirits were favoring him, big time. Sexy Mr. Murphy was gay, no matter how discreet his perusal had been.

"Can I help you with anything?" The inflection came out with a slight suggestiveness and there was no hope. Tony was a goner. He was taking the opening, even though Mr. Murphy's suddenly pink cheeks indicated the slip may not have been entirely intentional.

"My name is Antonio—Tony—Delvecchio. I've recently moved into the area and I could use a companion for coffee later tonight." Tony hauled out his best smile because, damn, he wanted to get to know Mr. Murphy, purveyor of candy canes.

Snowed In by Teodora Kostova
“Sit down, make yourself at home. I can hear he’s in the bathroom,” Brandon said from the kitchen. He opened and closed the fridge door, then joined Quinn on the couch with a can of soda. “He got home late last night. I didn’t see him, but fingers crossed he won’t be too hung over to deal with...” He cast a look at Quinn, trying to find the right word. “This,” he said, waving his hand in Quinn's direction.

The shower turned off and Quinn's heart lurched in his chest. From where he was sitting he had the bathroom door in full view. Any second now Nate would walk out, his skin flushed and wet from the shower. Quinn smiled at the image in his head.

He heard the water running again, this time in the sink. Something fell to the floor and Nate swore. And then...

And then there was another voice, speaking softly. Nate laughed.

Quinn felt sick. He turned towards Brandon whose mouth was gaping as he stared at the bathroom door.

“I didn’t know he’d have... company,” Brandon said.

Why wouldn’t he have company? It was Sunday morning, Nate was a hot, single guy; why wouldn't he go out on a Saturday evening and pick someone up?

Brandon had assured Quinn that Nate wasn’t dating anyone. But whatever was going on in the bathroom probably wouldn’t be called dating, anyway.

The door swung open startling Quinn out of his grim thoughts. Nate walked out just as Quinn had imagined him a few moments ago – his skin was wet and slightly red from the hot water; his hair was dripping water and slicked back away from his face; a white towel was wrapped low around his waist. He was smiling, his green eyes sparkling as they met Quinn's.

The moment he realized who was sitting on his couch, Nate blanched, staggering a step back right into the arms of his companion.

“Whoa, you OK, babe?” The guy said, circling an arm around Nate’s naked waist. His skin was pasty white against Nate’s tanned skin.

“Yeah, I’m fine.” Nate said, his voice gruff. His eyes, sparkling with carefree joy just a moment ago, hardened to cold, cruel emeralds. “Thought I saw someone I knew. Turned out I was wrong.”

Author Bios:
Lisa Worrall
Thank you for reading and taking the time to review and/or rate. It's jaw-dropping to me that you would do either. I feel a bit like Sally Field in her famous Oscar speech "You like me - you actually like me"

I live in a small seaside town just outside London, on the South Coast of England that boasts the longest pier in the world; where I am ordered around by two precocious children and a dog who thinks she's the boss of me.

I've been writing seriously for three years now and love giving voice to the characters warring to be heard in my head, and am currently petitioning for more hours in the day, because I never seem to have enough of them.

I like nothing more than bringing together two people in interesting and sometimes bizarre ways, and hope that the readers enjoy the characters' journey as much as they and I do.

Bey Deckard
Born and raised in a small coastal town in northern Québec, Bey spent his early summers on his uncle’s boat and running wild on the beaches of the surrounding islands, lighting fires and building huts out of driftwood and fishermen’s nets. As an adult, he eventually made his way to university and earned a degree in Art History with a strong focus on Anthropology. Primarily a portrait painter and graphic artist, Bey sat down one day and decided to start writing.

Bey currently lives in the wilds of Montréal with his best buddy, a ridiculous, spotty pit bull named Murphy.

KC Burn
KC Burn has been writing for as long as she can remember and is a sucker for happy endings (of all kinds). After moving from Toronto to Florida for her husband to take a dream job, she discovered a love of gay romance and fulfilled a dream of her own--getting published. After a few years of editing web content by day, and neglecting her supportive, understanding hubby and needy cat at night to write stories about men loving men, she was uprooted yet again and now resides in California. Writing is always fun and rewarding, but writing about her guys is the most fun she's had in a long time, and she hopes you'll enjoy them as much as she does.

Debbie McGowan
Debbie McGowan is an author and publisher based in a semi-rural corner of Lancashire, England. She writes character-driven fiction, covering life, love, relationships - the whole shazam. A working class girl, she ‘ran away’ to London at 17, was homeless, unemployed and then homeless again, interspersed with animal rights activism (all legal, honest ;)) and volunteer work as a mental health advocate. At 25, she went back to college to study social science - tough with two toddlers, but they had a ‘stay at home’ dad, so it worked itself out. These days, the toddlers are young women (much to their chagrin), and Debbie teaches undergraduate students, writes novels and runs an independent publishing company, occasionally grabbing an hour of sleep where she can!

Teodora Kostova
Hi, my name is Teodora and I live in London with my husband and my son. I've been writing ever since I can remember, but it became my full time job in 2010 when I decided that everything else I've tried bores me to death and I have to do what I've always wanted to do, but never had the guts to fully embrace. I've been a journalist, an editor, a personal assistant and an interior designer among other things, but as soon as the novelty of the new, exciting job wears off, I always go back to writing. Being twitchy, impatient, loud and hasty are not qualities that help a writer, because I have to sit alone, preferably still, and write for most of the day, but I absolutely love it. It's the only time that I'm truly at peace and the only thing I can do for more than ten minutes at a time - my son has a bigger attention span than me.

When I'm procrastinating, I like to go to the gym, cook Italian meals (and eat them), read, listen to rock music, watch indie movies and True Blood re-runs. Or, in the worst case scenario, get beaten at every Wii game by a very inventive kid.

Lisa Worrall
EMAIL: lisaworrall69@gmail.com

Bey Deckard
EMAIL: bey.deckard@gmail.com

KC Burn
EMAIL: authorkcburn@gmail.com

Debbie McGowan

Teodora Kostova
EMAIL: t.t.kostova@gmail.com

Mr. Popsalos

Careened: Winter Solstice in Madierus

Three Dates of Christmas

A Midnight Clear
B&N  /  KOBO  /  iTUNES  /  ARe

Snowed In

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