Monday, October 31, 2016

Random Paranormal Tales 2016 Part 12


The Haunting of St. Xavier by Carol Lynne & TA Chase
Summary:
Justice comes to all in time.

Although empty for over fifty years, St. Xavier Monastery was still an awe inspiring structure and Jason Bentley thought he'd found the perfect location for his newest resort. Yet once construction begins to bring the magnificent building back to its former glory, odd events begin to occur. While the death of a stonemason shakes Jason, he decides to continue anyway. Everything changes the night Jason's confronted by a nun covered in blood on the fourth floor. Staring into the haunting eyes of a ghost rocks Jason's emotions. Unsure of where to turn, Jason seeks the advice of the local Catholic Church.

Deacon Ryan Christopher has decisions to make. While his mentor, Bishop Adler, presses him to commit fully to the church, Ryan has reservations. For years he's resisted his desire for male companionship and he can't take his vows until he makes a decision. Though struggling with personal issues, Ryan has also followed the events at St. Xavier in the papers. No stranger to things that go bump in the night, Ryan believes Jason and agrees to help him investigate the monastery.

The spirits that haunt St. Xavier have waited decades for justice and revenge, but who will be the recipients of their hatred?


With a murder scene out of an 80s slasher flick, a 40s style mystery, and ghosts that could give any haunted house a run for their money, The Haunting of St. Xavier will keep you on your toes from beginning to end.  Definitely one to read with the lights on in sun filled skies.  Ryan and Jason's connection may seem instantaneous and I know some don't find that believable but in this case, it fits and as they delve into the mystery deeper, their growing bond gives them and the reader a much needed dose of calming hope.  An incredibly eerie and entertaining read for any time of year but extra special for a Halloween treat.

RATING: 

The Ghost of Mistletoe Lock by Amy Rae Durreson
Summary:
After lonely divorcΓ© Isaac leaves his job as a banker to work as a conservationist on a country river, he gives up on finding the love he always wanted. Then he meets flirty jeweler Ryan and assumes Ryan's out of his league, but Ryan's just as lonely as Isaac. Ryan also has the housemates from hell, and when he storms out of the riotous Christmas party they forgot to warn him about, he soon finds himself lost in the snow.

Ryan passes out in front of the lock cottage where Isaac lives, and once Isaac brings him in from the cold, they finally have a chance to get to know each other. But when their insecurities get in the way, it's up to the ghost of Mistletoe Lock to ensure they give love a chance.


A beautifully written little holiday romance.  Some might not feel the insta-love between Isaac and Ryan but I did.  I found their connection very believable and enjoyable, afterall this is fiction and I'm not looking for a true to life story but even if I was, insta-love can happen so for me that is not an issue at all.  This is a just a wonderful holiday romance that is entertaining any time of the year but is a special treat this Halloween.

RATING: 

All Hallows' Eve by Annabelle Jacobs
Summary:
Will a centuries-old broken heart ruin the promise of new love?

Dominic Ashworth is descended from a long line of witches, although the family practice of witchcraft died out generations ago. Forever connected to a dark history, the house he grew up in remained in the Ashworth family for generations until his estranged father sold it.

On a mission to check out the new owners, Dominic runs into Caleb Jones and gives the gorgeous man his phone number—but getting a date should be the last thing on Dominic’s agenda.

Caleb and his best friend, Zach Briceworth, are oblivious to the heartache and magic tied to the foundations of their new home. When strange things start to happen, the truth emerges and surprises them both, especially as everything revolves around Caleb’s new love interest.

After a shaky start, Caleb and Dominic settle into an easy relationship, falling faster than either of them expected. But with Halloween approaching, the possibility of danger increases. The past is not always as it seems, and the ripples of a tragic event threaten to put an end to everything between them.

The Winter Spirit by Indra Vaughn
Summary:
Nathaniel O’Donnelly likes his life quiet, his guests happy, and his ghosts well-behaved.

Although a boyfriend wouldn’t go amiss. Someone to share his beautiful B&B with, even if it is in the middle of nowhere and he’s long past the wrong side of thirty. Problem is, Nathaniel's living with a ghost who thinks he’s cupid, and whose arrows fly a little too straight.

Gabriel Wickfield had the unfortunate luck of dying before his time, and now he’s stuck trying to make romance happen to earn his right to move along. Not that he’s bored in the meantime--Nathaniel is just too easy to tease. And also a little bit scrumptious…

With the curse reaching its expiration date, Gabriel needs to make this final match this Christmas. Without it, nothing but darkness awaits.

Love can conquer all, but can it beat death?


This tale's Christmas setting might make the heart tug a little more but the truth is this story would have wormed it's way in even without the Christmas element.  Gabriel's time may be nearing an end but he definitely seems to want to make the most of what he has left and Nathaniel is finally opening up to what is front of him.  The Winter Spirit has a little bit of everything but I won't lie, you will most likely want to have a box of tissues handy, I know I did.

RATING: 

Witchy Boys by Katey Hawthorne
Summary:
Just in time for Halloween! Two novelettes about men with magic—and the occasional demon.

Blood Magic and the Mini Zombie Apocalypse
Griff has a bad habit of getting talked into black magic he shouldn’t be using—but this time it’s even worse. His ex is bent on revenge in the form of a mini zombie apocalypse, and the only person who can help Griff is a hottie white magic practitioner named Blythe. The catch: one of Griff’s spells gone wrong left Blythe with a haunted apartment a year ago, and Blythe isn’t over it.

Still, Blythe agrees to work with Griff. As they unravel the ugly blood, sex, and death magic, they also discover surprising things about each other. Hopefully, it’s enough for the ultimate trust they’ll need to defeat a lot of zombies and a crazed witch, or their town will end up covered in corpses.

Præsidium
Six years ago, Thackeray agreed to let a demon haunt him in exchange for help hunting other demons. It's a lonely life, but worth it to be the best demon hunter possible -- to save families from the kind of evil that ruined his own childhood.

This Hallowe'en, Thackeray's dealing with an upstart coven. A powerful, pretty witch named Matt defects to help Thackeray stop their scheme to invite god-knows-what from the other side.

Demons are much easier to fight than the urges Matt's flirting inspires. But Thackeray can't hook up with a demon watching over his shoulder... can he?

Random Paranormal Tales 2016 Parts

Part 1  /  Part 2  /  Part 3  /  Part 4
Part 5  /  Part 6  /  Part 7  /  Part 8
Part 9  /  Part 10  /  Part 11



The Haunting of St. Xavier 
Signing his name with a flourish, Jason fought the surge of happiness threatening to overwhelm him. After six months of negotiations, he finally had his hands on what could be the biggest venture of his life.

“Here are the keys to the doors and to the gate.” The real estate agent’s tight smile spoke of relief more than happiness over the huge commission she’d just made.

“Thanks. I appreciate all the work you did to help me get this.” Jason took the keys and shook the lady’s hand.

“Well, you were very determined, and the building’s just been standing empty since the sixties.” She shrugged. “To be honest, I never thought I’d find a buyer.”

“Why?” He turned to study the large stone building standing rather forlornly behind the wrought iron gate. “It’s gorgeous and absolutely perfect for what I’m planning.”

“The problem isn’t how the place looks. I think it has more to do with what it was used for, the tragedy that took place here and all the rumours surrounding it.”

Frowning, he shot a glance over at her. “Rumours? About what?”

She waved her hand dismissively. “All the usual ones about it being haunted by the nuns who were murdered. Strange screams being heard when there’s no one around. I’m not sure anyone has actually spent any time on the property, except for the man you sent over to appraise it.”

Jason doubted any of the reports were true. Abandoned buildings, especially ones with twisted pasts, tended to get a creepy reputation after a while. He didn’t believe in spirits or ghosts. Hell, he didn’t want to think about hanging around this world after he died.

His real estate agent seemed to shake off her melancholy thoughts. “You never did say what you were going to use the property for.”

The woman must not have done her homework. The Bentley Corporation, of which Jason was CEO and founder, was the premier builder of gay resorts, but this venture was all about sex. He planned on creating the world’s foremost gay erotic resort.

“I’m going to open a resort. The original building is big enough to offer a bunch of rooms, plus I plan on building smaller, more private bungalows around the grounds. I love the English garden, and I’ll bring in landscapers to work on getting it back into shape.”

“Oh good.” She checked her watch. “Well, I need to be going if I’m to get these forms filed with the county clerk’s office in time.”

Jason hid his smile. He could get carried away with his visions, and not everyone saw them as clearly as he did.

“Thank you again. I’ll keep your office in mind if I’m looking to pick up more land in the area.”

He watched her drive away, barely managing to contain his excitement and eagerness to tour the property on his own. He waited until her car disappeared from sight before strolling up to the huge iron gate. He studied it for a second, tracing the scroll work with his gaze. ‘St. Xavier’ was spelt out in iron as well in the arch over the moving part of the gate. He would keep that, though the rust needed to be removed and the scroll work repainted. He liked the old-fashioned feeling it gave to the grounds.

Inserting the key into the lock, he paused and it was like the entire world froze with him. Almost like every living creature held its breath, hesitating while he thought about opening the lock. The strangest sensation washed over him and his hands trembled. Owning the monastery and stepping onto the grounds at this moment seemed like the most important thing he’d ever done. His life was going to change, Jason could feel that, but he didn’t know if it would be a good change or bad.

The sound of a car passing by on the road broke the spell and he laughed at himself. Foolish thoughts. It was just the joy of taking this next step in reaching for that elusive thing called happiness. If he achieved his goal of creating the world’s most exclusive gay resort, then maybe he could silence all those voices in his head telling him he wasn’t good enough.

The key turned in the lock, and he shoved the gate open. The metal hinges screeched like a woman being attacked. Jason cringed and frowned. The agent had sworn all the locks, hinges, and doors were in working condition, as had the appraiser Jason had hired to look at the property. He’d ask the contractors to take a look at the hinges. He would replace them if it looked like they would be more work than he’d thought.

He considered getting his car and driving up to the imposing structure, but he wanted to soak in the overall ambience of the place. The trees hung over the driveway, creating an oppressive feeling of being trapped as Jason wandered along. Those would have to be cut back. He pulled out his notebook and jotted it down. The driveway itself was in good condition, though the grass seemed to have taken over. Made sense considering there hadn’t been many visitors since the monastery closed down suddenly all those years ago.

The Ghost of Mistletoe Lock by Amy Rae Durreson
Prologue: Emily
EMILY had drowned on a day like this, when the snow fell softly from the steel-gray sky and the water roared through the weir. Her husband had pulled her from the ice-flecked water, the tears cold on his ruddy, honest face.

She still missed him, her Harry. When he courted her in the spring, he had been a laughing boy. He had married her in the summer as the happiest man she knew, and every barge on the river had escorted them home through the warm dusk. Their first son had been born in autumn the next year, dear solemn Alfie, and Mary the year after that, her pretty girl.

The baby had cried for hours while Emily floated in the water, on that long ago winter’s day when she had left her darlings forever. The echo of those tears still held her here, kept her wishing, hold my child, somebody hold my child, even now after Mary had grown and birthed pretty babies of her own, and aged and died and gone away.

“Love,” Emily sighed, over the cold water. There had been so much love in that little cottage by the lock, in her time and the years afterward. She had watched Harry grieve and heal, his sad heart given comfort by a bargeman’s pretty daughter. Mary had kissed handsome boys beside the sweeping willow and married the plainest and kindest of them all. She’d seen Alfie love a boy and let him go, and she’d witnessed the courtships of grandchildren and great-grandchildren for two centuries.

It was her only comfort, caught here above the cold water. Love, in all its forms, was all that mattered.

There were no more barges, and no one kept the lock. Her home was too small for families, the last keeper had said, even as she wept to see him leave, her tears dissolving into the swift water. It had been so lonely the last few years, until the new man came.

He was trudging home now, along the river bank with the snow catching in his dark hair. His shoulders were bowed and he looked so tired. So lonely, this latest man of hers. When would he bring love home?

“Love,” she reminded him, her voice thin in the quiet hush of falling snow. “You must find love.”


Chapter One: Isaac
AS HE stomped up the ironstone path, shaking the snow off his boots, Isaac felt even more remote from the world than usual. On the step of the old lock-keeper’s cottage, he turned and looked along the river, watching the snow sift onto the lock gates and the covered boats on the bank.

He’d wanted isolation, wanted to get away from everything that had made up his life before. Now he had it, he just felt even more tired and sad.

The surroundings suited his mood—the river was gray, its edges dull with ice. The snow was steadily weighing down the trees and blanketing the heavy, tangled balls of mistletoe that grew so abundantly here. In the distance, the sound more muffled than usual, he could hear the low groan of traffic heading into Guildford, but it seemed like a noise from another world.

Then, woven between the noise from the road and the whisper-soft sigh of the snow, he heard a woman weeping.

It came from the other side of the lock, where the water tumbled endlessly down the stepped weir. Shivering, Isaac squinted through the swirling snow, wondering if he’d see her this time. There was nothing out there, though, just snow and water and the sound of tears. The other lengthsmen who tended the river had told him stories when he first took the job. She had been a lock-keeper’s wife. Only children ever saw her, watching over them as they played.

She made the lock gardens flower for a wedding.

“Come inside, Emily,” he said softly. “It’s too cold for anyone out here.”

The sound of her tears followed him as he unlocked the door and stepped inside, shrugging off his heavy overcoat. It got thrown onto the polished wooden coatrack at the bottom of the stairs, and Isaac leaned back against the door, surveying his small domain.

He couldn’t blame the ghost for weeping at this time of year, not if this had once been her home. It was pristine, in his defense—he had polished the antique Aga range until he could see his face in its red veneer, waxed the old wooden floors, and spent long evenings bringing the brass fire surround and tongs back to their original sheen.

There was no sign of Christmas, though. He’d got as far as bringing the boxes down from the spare room, but his heart hadn’t been in it.

Last year his tree had been so huge that he’d struggled to get it into the lift of their expensive apartment building. He’d festooned every wall of the sleek flat with specially ordered evergreen garlands. Subtle lights had twinkled discreetly around the windows, and the tree had been laden with expensive ornaments. A playlist of cathedral choirs singing carols in soaring voices had played quietly in the evenings. He’d bought a mulled wine kit and spent Christmas Eve breathing in the rich scent of it, dreaming about Christmases yet to come. He’d even started thinking about children, about creating perfect memories for them.

It had been too soon, of course, only the first Christmas of their marriage. He had wanted that life, though. The thought of Amelia round with his child was somehow more attractive than any other thought of her.

He must have realized at some level, he thought bitterly now. Why try so hard to create the perfect fantasy Christmas if he wasn’t already aware that she was slipping away?

She’d been very nice about all his efforts, very kind. Then, on New Year’s Eve, she had asked for a divorce and told him about the other man, the soldier she thought she should have married in the first place.

He’d stumbled back to his parents’ house. There, in the bustle of their New Year’s celebrations, he’d sought solace in copious amounts of whisky and the boy next door, a pretty pouty-lipped undergrad who’d been only too willing to sneak into the garage and suck him off to the strokes of midnight.

Which would have been all very well, had his mother not walked in just as he was coming down the throat of a boy he’d once babysat.

As if the thought had summoned her, the phone began to ring.

He was a bad son, Isaac thought glumly. A good son wouldn’t be wishing this fervently for a double-glazing salesman. A glance at the caller ID told him he wouldn’t be that lucky.

“I’ve been calling all morning,” his mother said. “Where have you been?”

“Working,” Isaac said patiently. “We cut back the vegetation around the towpath in winter.”

“On a Saturday?” His mother’s tone conveyed her opinion of any job that required working, let alone manual labor, on weekends. “Right before Christmas too. Really, Isaac, there are better things you could be doing with your life.”

“It’s the National Trust,” he tried. Usually, that mollified her a little. She’d probably have disowned him if he’d started working for English Heritage. When it came to preserving the English countryside, after all, venerable charitable institutions were clearly more respectable than mere upstart government bodies, at least in the eyes of his mother’s cream tea and church fete set.

He could hear the sniff all the way down the line and closed his eyes in response. He loved his mother, he really did, her drive, sharp wit, and overprotectiveness. He just didn’t love failing to live up to her expectations.

“Now, about Christmas,” she continued briskly. “You’ll be here in time for Midnight Mass, of course. You should know that I’ve invited Amelia—”

“You’ve done what?” Isaac asked, startled into interrupting.

“Invited Amelia.”

“You’ve invited my ex-wife for Christmas?”

“You know I’m very fond of the poor girl, and her family is so far away—”

“She hates me.”

“Well, you can understand why, darling, given your lifestyle choices—”

“She left me first!” Isaac yelped. His mother always made him feel like he was twelve again. Making an effort to claw back the intervening two decades, he took a breath and said, as calmly as he could, “If she’s there, I won’t be.”

“Oh, be reasonable, Isaac.”

“I hardly think I’m the one being unreasonable, Mother.”

“You never do,” she accused and then took a breath. “Jonathan, speak to your child.”

Isaac heard his father grumbling in the background, but then he came on the phone to say, “I’m on your side, son. I told her it was a bad idea.”

So why didn’t you stop her? Isaac thought as his mother protested faintly. Then he reminded himself that wasn’t fair. Nobody could stop his mother once she had an idea in her head. Instead he said, “I’d really rather not see Amelia again. We’re never going to reconcile.”

“Your mother did hope,” Jonathan Cobbett began, and Isaac groaned.

“Never.”

“So are you bringing some chap along? That would set the cat among the pigeons,” he added with a slight chuckle.

“Don’t give the boy ideas, Jonathan!”

“Not this year,” Isaac said, and his father sighed. That made him feel worse than talking to his mother. Dad had been astonishingly supportive, even though he was the sort of vicar who winced faintly at the very word “reform.” He heard his father walking away and the click of the study door. “I’m sure your mother will come round. She wanted grandchildren.”

“I know,” Isaac said and tried to hide how that made him feel. He’d wanted children so much, enough that he ignored the way he liked the girls he dated well enough, but looked only at men as he sat on the Tube or walked down the street. No women had ever made him hunger for their touch.

“I’ll talk to her. A good present wouldn’t go amiss, either. Now, how’s the job? Any winter weather yet?”

The Winter Spirit by Indra Vaughn
I glared at the mirror of my en-suite bathroom, enhancing the crow’s feet fanning out from my dark grey eyes. A thick tuft of brown hair obscured my view, so I blew it out of my face. “Just this once,” I said, pointing a finger at my own reflection. “Behave yourself. Just this once.”

No reply, of course. There never was one when I really needed it. With a sigh of annoyance I turned away. Heading downstairs, I pushed the cuff of my checkered sleeve back and looked at my watch. Only six am. There were two guests at the Lake House B&B. Neither of them would be up before eight, so I had plenty of time to put some effort into my own breakfast.

On my way past the reception desk, I slowed and glanced at the check-in log. It was still handwritten, even though I did keep records on the computer too these days.

Owen Ashurst, arrival two pm. The booking had been made through the B&B website, not over the phone. But I just knew. I knew. I eased a long breath through pursed lips, hoping it’d settle the squirmy nerves in my belly.

“It’s fine, Nathaniel,” I told myself. “It’s fine.” I wanted to close my eyes and remember all the ways in which Owen and I had been best friends for life. Until life got between us.

I forced myself to walk on toward the kitchen and open the swinging door. Elisa Brown wasn’t in yet, and that suited me fine. I usually didn’t mind her bright and cheerful personality as she did the dishes and restocked the food pantry. But today I wanted a little peace and quiet to ease my whirling mind.

Without giving much thought to what I was doing, I set about making an asparagus and feta cheese omelet, toasted and buttered two slices of bread, roasted a couple of tomatoes and mushrooms, and slid it all on a plate with perfect timing. The old house with the white country kitchen was still quiet. I settled in the seat at the head of the huge wooden table with a sigh of relief. My nerves were ebbing. There was nothing to worry about. Owen was just another guest.

I scooped some egg onto my fork and aimed it at my mouth, when the pan I’d left in the sink rattled. I put the fork down again.

“Gabe, I swear, if you mess with me today I will cover every mirror in this place for an entire month. Don’t think I won’t.”

Silence.

Satisfied, I lifted my fork again. I opened my mouth. The pan gave a tiny rebellious rattle and I was about to say something else, when the door behind me opened. Elisa burst inside in a flurry of snow and…Christmas lights?

“Morning Elisa.” I knew better than to comment, despite the fact that the outside of the Lake House already looked like an exploded Christmas tree.

“Before you say anything, these are for inside. And morning, Nathaniel.”

“I wasn’t going to say anything.”

“I could hear you think it from here. It’s time for a Christmas tree in the house again.”

I gave her a long steady look. She shrugged out of the oversized winter coat needed in these Michigan winters. Her curly blonde hair drifted with static around her round, pretty face. “You do remember what happened the last time we had a Christmas tree, don’t you?” I still suspected Gabe, but innocent until proven guilty and all that.

“I do. That was five years ago. I got a fake one, so this one won’t catch fire. It’s still in my trunk.” She fluttered her eyelashes at me. “If you’d be so kind.”

Resigned, I shoveled eggs in my mouth as Elisa went to hang her coat away. When she returned she busied herself with tidying up the pots and pans I’d used. I’d feel bad about her cleaning up my mess if it wasn’t her job.

“So still just Anderson and Houzer? No stragglers wandered in last night?”

“No, but we do have a new guest coming in today at two.”

“I saw, yes. Owen something. I freshened up the Bear room yesterday.”

“Actually, I’d like to put him in the Superior room.”

Elisa zeroed in on me like a well-aimed missile and I mournfully stared at my empty plate. I had a vague idea a mouthful of food would come in handy any second n—

Two tiny fists planted themselves on a pair of well-formed hips just inside my field of vision. “Nathaniel O’Donnelly, is there something you have to tell me?”

The B&B had twelve double rooms, and each of them was named after a lake in Michigan. It’d make sense to put Owen in the Bear room because it was down the same hallway as the other guests’ rooms. Efficient, when it came to changing sheets and towels. Conflicting with my plans to keep Owen close to my own room, which was at the opposite end of the large old house.

Witchy Boys by Katey Hawthorne
“Nah, man, no fucking way.” Blythe tried to shut the door in my face, but instead he caught my steel-toed boot.

“Please,” I begged. “Ain’t no one else can help me.”

“Last time you brought your black magic shit up in here, I had to do a cleansing ritual every five minutes to get rid of it.” But Blythe opened the door enough that I got a good look at him. He wore a seventies-looking Star Wars tank top that displayed his copious arm and chest tattoos and a pair of running shorts. No one with legs that blindingly white should be wearing shorts, let alone shorts that showed most of his thigh. Nice thighs, don’t get me wrong, but that ain’t right.

“I fucked up last time,” I admitted. “I’m sorry about that. I didn’t know the spirit would attach itself to you.”

“This is why I don’t touch black magic, Griff.” Blythe narrowed his big, baby blue eyes and tried to look mean. Might’ve even worked, if he hadn’t reached into his shirt and plucked out the pentagram he wore around a chain, then rubbed it between his thumb and forefinger. He’d done it as long as I’d known him, any time he was conflicted. Nice to see some things hadn’t changed. “It always fucking backfires. Always.”

“No black magic this time,” I promised. It hadn’t been that black last time anyhow, just a little hint to make the summoning stronger so—

Blythe asked, “Then what? You got nothing else.”

That was not untrue, I admit it. “I know other—“

Blythe tried to shut the door in my face again. This time I grabbed it in one hand. “Hear me out, I’m begging you.”

Blythe cocked a dark eyebrow. His hair was shaved on the sides and long on top, like a floppy Mohawk, and bleached blond. It shouldn’t have worked with his dark eyebrows, but it did. The look he was giving me was full of innuendo. “Begging, huh?”

I tried to act offended. “I ain’t offering a trade.”

“Ass, grass, or gas.” Blythe snorted out a laugh that said he wasn’t even a little serious, though.

“Grass,” I suggested anyhow. I had some, if he really wanted it. Not that I’d mind—

“Shut the fuck up, man; I don’t want anything.” He sighed. “What do you want, Griff?”

“Can I come in?”

He stepped back and gestured for me to come in.

I did. His apartment always smelled like sage… but that might’ve just been from the copious cleansings. Was he still doing them because of that spirit summoning gone bad? That had been a year and a half ago.

Probably better not to ask.

“So,” I began the second he closed the door behind me, “you remember Cathy?”

“Dominatrix witch?”

Most of us magical types used the word “practitioner” and didn’t like the word “witch”. Bad connotations, Salem and the Inquisition and shit, and we weren’t organized enough to reclaim it. So we used it for people who… well, who did the kind of shit the Inquisition accused us of. “Witch” was one of those words that made the hair on my arms and the back of my neck stand up because it meant death to our kind—or had until recently.

That’s what Cathy was, though. She was a witch, and she meant to do bad things. And I’d be damned if I let her. “Yeah, that’s the one.”

“Sure.” Blythe led the way into his kitchen. It was decorated with empty whiskey bottles holding candles and flowers. Pretty cool, as aesthetics went.

I settled on a bar stool, and he started pouring large whiskies. After he handed me one, I took a deep breath, knocked back a long drink, and then admitted, “We did this ritual last year. To kind of—get ready for this one.”

“October full moon?” He sounded level enough, but there was a furrow between his eyebrows that said he already didn’t like where this was going.

“Yeah, exactly.”

“Let me guess: there was a lot of blood and sex involved in this ritual?” Blythe rolled his eyes.

I nodded. He could roll his eyes all he wanted, but that was some powerful magic.

“Okay, so she’s been gathering power all year, and now…?” He gestured for me to finish his sentence.

“Well, I thought it was because she wanted to summon her ancestors and get some answers. Like, she did this DNA test and it showed—“

“I don’t give a shit if she’s really 1/100th Cherokee or an Irish princess.” Blythe tossed his head to get his floppy hair out of his eyes. “Get to the real reason.”

I shifted in my seat and took another long swig of whiskey. “Mini zombie apocalypse.”

Blythe just looked at me for a long moment, his pale brow scrunched. Then, finally, he said, “You have the worst fucking taste in women.”

“My taste in men ain’t great either,” I admitted.

“Fuck a duck.” He facepalmed.

I figured it was best to get on with it. “So, you can see why I need a strong white magic practitioner—“

“And now I pretty much have to say yes or we get a mini zombie apocalypse.” Blythe scrubbed his hand over his face, then leaned a hip against the counter. It pulled up his shirt so I could see his pale belly and a dark happy trail disappearing into his shorts.

This was the source of my bad taste. I had a white trash weakness. Fuck.

“Describe this mini zombie apocalypse,” Blythe said.

“You know Hirsch Cemetery? The real old one? We did the ritual there last October on the full moon. She said it was just so she could gather her power and talk to her family this year. But then I found the spell we did, and it said it’s for waking the dead—like, corporeally.” I felt like such a goddamn idiot. My face heated. “And there’s a lot of dead in there. They ain’t gonna be happy if she wakes them up.”

“Why in the hell would you not read up on it before you agreed to something that—?“

“I know, I know, I fucked up.” I was always fucking up, was the problem. Always jumping in head first. Always following people I thought loved me off cliffs like a magic-happy lemming. “I just want to make it right, now. And I can’t do it alone.”

“No, you fucking can’t.” Blythe finished the rest of his whiskey in one shot, then slammed the glass down on the sink. “What’s her game, anyhow? Why would she even want that?”

“She, uh…” I blew out a long breath. “Cathy was writing this book called New Necropolis when we were together, about this woman who had an army of dead servants who went around fucking up everyone who ever did her wrong and built her this crazy city and... I thought it was just fiction.”

“But it’s an actual design for life?” Blythe was always pale, but now he was the color of milk. “Unreal. How does someone so stupid live to be thirty?”

“Are you talking about me or her?” I asked.

“Yes,” he said.

I couldn’t honestly answer. I wondered myself, sometimes. So instead I tried to explain: “Look, I just wanted her to be able to connect with her past. I thought I was doing a good thing for someone I—I loved.” I didn’t like admitting it, but it was true, and I didn’t mind groveling a little if it meant he’d help me fix what was fucked. “Black magic can be good, man, you know it can.”

“It’s a fucking shortcut, and shortcuts are dangerous,” he grumbled.

“Please, Blythe.” I sounded pathetic in my own ears, but whatever, right? “I’ll do whatever you want, seriously. I’ll owe you big time. I’ll—“

“No more blood magic,” Blythe said.

That drew me up short. “Like, ever?”

“Ever. After this is done, we’re gonna do a binding ritual to hold you to it, too.”

Fuck.

But since I was over a barrel here, what could I do but nod?

Author Bios:
TA Chase
There is beauty in every kind of love, so why not live a life without boundaries? Experiencing everything the world offers fascinates me and writing about the things that make each of us unique is how I share those insights. I live in the Midwest with a wonderful partner of thirteen years. When not writing, I’m watching movies, reading and living life to the fullest.

Carol Lynne
An avid reader for years, one day Carol Lynne decided to write her own brand of erotic romance. Carol juggles between being a full-time mother and a full-time writer. These days, you can usually find Carol either cleaning jelly out of the carpet or nestled in her favourite chair writing steamy love scenes.

Amy Rae Durreson
Amy Rae Durreson is a writer and romantic, who writes m/m romances. She likes to go wandering across the local hills with a camera, hunting for settings for her stories. She's got a degree in early English literature, which she blames for her somewhat medieval approach to spelling, and at various times has been fluent in Latin, Old English, Ancient Greek, and Old Icelandic, though please don't ask her to speak any of them now.

Amy started her first novel nineteen years ago (it featured a warrior princess, magic swords, elves and an evil maths teacher) and has been scribbling away ever since. Despite these long years of experience, she has yet to master the arcane art of the semi-colon.

Annabelle Jacobs
Annabelle Jacobs lives in the South West of England with her husband, three rowdy children, and two cats.

An avid reader of fantasy herself for many years, Annabelle now spends her days writing her own stories. They're usually either fantasy or paranormal fiction, because she loves building worlds filled with magical creatures, and creating stories full of action and adventure. Her characters may have a tough time of it—fighting enemies and adversity—but they always find love in the end.

Indra Vaughn
After living in Michigan, USA for seven wonderful years, Indra Vaughn returned back to her Belgian roots. There she will continue to consume herbal tea, do yoga wherever the mat fits, and devour books while single parenting a little boy and working as a nurse.

The stories of boys and their unrequited love will no doubt keep finding their way onto the page--and hopefully into readers hands--even if it takes a little more time.

And if she gleefully posts pictures of snow-free streets in winter, you'll have to forgive her. Those Michigan blizzards won't be forgotten in a hurry.

Katey Hawthorne
Katey Hawthorne is an avid reader and writer of superpowered romance, even though the only degree she holds is in the history of art. (Or, possibly, because the only degree she holds is in the history of art.) Originally from the Appalachian foothills of West Virginia, she currently lives in Ohio. In her spare time she enjoys comic books, B-movies, loud music, Epiphones, and Bushmills.


TA Chase
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Carol Lynne
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Amy Rae Durreson
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Annabelle Jacobs
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Indra Vaughn
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Katey Hawthorne
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The Haunting of St. Xavier
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The Ghost of Mistletoe Lock
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All Hallow's Eve
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The Winter Spirit
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Witchy Boys
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Monday's Montage Mantlepiece: Contact


Summary:
Since ancient times, humankind has looked into the night sky and wondered: Are we alone? Are there other civilizations beyond the stars? Will we ever encounter these beings? Who are they, what are they like, and what might they want with us?

These questions are about to be answered, but those who discover the truth might wish they had never asked. On the other hand, some might find salvation in visitors from other planets. For while some aliens are hostile, others are benevolent. Some have little in common with humans, but for others, the need for love and acceptance is universal. Lives will intersect and otherworldly passions will ignite as four acclaimed authors of gay romance explore first contact—and where it can lead.




Abducted
THE FARM wasn’t hard to find, even with Cody’s barely coherent directions, because there was literally nothing else along Brickyard Pond Road for almost two miles. At one time the farm had sprawled across the countryside, keeping its neighbors at bay. Now most of that acreage had reverted back to forest. I’d learned all that from a phone conversation with Cody months ago, when he first bought the place. Back then, he’d described the property as beautiful and peaceful—just what he’d been looking for, after living in Boston for years. But as I pulled into the cul-de-sac in front of the house, those words weren’t the first that came to mind.

The house itself was in decent shape, I supposed, though its gray paint was peeling and the porch sagged a bit on one side. Two of the lower-floor windows were boarded up, and the mesh in the screen door was torn. A bicycle I felt sure must have come with the house lay in a rusted heap on the overgrown front lawn.

Cody was a computer programmer—a private consultant—and he worked from home these days, so he could afford to live off the beaten path. Still, this seemed a bit much.

He must have heard my car pull in, because he stepped out onto the porch as I parked and climbed out of the car. My first sight of him in over a year was disturbing. He was pretty much naked, except for a tattered red flannel bathrobe, which hung open and did nothing to cover a body I’d once salivated over. Now he looked emaciated. I doubted I would have recognized his face at first glance, if I hadn’t known he was the only one living there. He’d always been clean-shaven and had kept his dark brown hair in a short, rather nerdy style reminiscent of a man in a fifties sitcom. Now he was bearded, and his hair was long and unkempt. I suspected he hadn’t bathed in a very long time.

“Marc,” he gasped, staggering down the front steps in his slippers.

I didn’t object when he threw his arms around me, despite the nudity. It was weird for a man who always dressed fastidiously, but even though our relationship had never really gone beyond friendship, we’d slept together a couple of times. And we’d shared a dorm room in college. I’d seen him naked often enough. Harder to ignore was the rather funky body odor. But I embraced him, anyway, disliking how thin and breakable he felt in my arms. Then I stepped back to examine him more closely. He looked pale, and his face was drawn. His gentle brown eyes blinked back tears, as if we hadn’t seen each other in a decade.

“Are you all right?” I asked. He’d told me next to nothing over the phone—just that he needed me, and please, please, please come.

His breath was foul. “Oh, Marc…. You have no idea….”

Then he burst into tears.

My Final Blog
I WASN’T expecting much from life to begin with. I wasn’t handsome in the traditional sense. I mean, I wasn’t terminal, but no one would stop on the street to give me a second glance. I wasn’t athletic. I wasn’t fat or too skinny, just average. I didn’t excel at school, didn’t join the basketball team or the swimming team or hell, even the chess team. I sort of faded into the background. I graduated 110th out of 180 students with about a C average. I blended into the background. And I was sort of fine with that.

I dreamed, sure, like everyone. I would imagine holding a microphone onstage and singing to thousands of adoring fans, or being in a recent Hollywood blockbuster, giving my thank-you speech on Oscar night. But truth be told, I was terribly nervous and sort of awkward in large crowds. Or medium crowds. Or, even worse, intimate gatherings where, in my nervousness, I had a tendency to say inappropriate things and tell stories people wouldn’t understand.

Everything about me was simply average. My height, my weight, the length of my penis when I measured it one night in a vain attempt to find something endearing about me. The only thing that made me stand out in any way, at least to myself, was that I was gay. And by “stand out,” I mean in a bad way. I was sort of effeminate. And people in school, mostly the jock types, smelled that on me like a shark smelled blood in the water. I received attention, oh yes, but it was the attention no one really wanted and as a matter of fact, sort of loathed. I wished I could just fade back into the shadows and be as invisible as my other features were.

Refugee
WALTER CLARK had hoped the sight of the ocean wouldn’t bother him. This was the Pacific, after all, not the same body of water he’d seen tinged red with the blood of his friends and comrades off the Normandy beach. But as soon as he turned south onto the Oregon Coast Highway and saw the vast expanse of roiling gray water, his heart sped and his breathing shallowed. He could hear the blasts of artillery and the screams of the wounded, could smell the metal tang of death mixed with the salt of the sea.

This was a mistake. He should have stayed inland.

Somehow he made it over the high Yaquina Bay Bridge without crashing his old Ford, and he was even able to continue a few miles farther south before his hands shook so violently he could barely control the wheel. Instead of the road before him, he saw red sand, gray landing craft, and green-clad men. When he found himself swerving to avoid an iron hedgehog that had existed six years earlier and five thousand miles away, he pulled to the side of the highway and tried to regain control.

Bitter tears of anger and frustration stung his eyes and ran down his cheeks, but he refused to acknowledge them by wiping them away.

He might have stayed there for hours, but the idling car hiccoughed impatiently. It was a ’37, a relic of prewar days, and although it had conveyed him all the way from Chicago, it could be temperamental. The last thing he wanted was to be stranded here, with the waves pounding like mortar shells so very close by. He carefully pulled back onto the road and drove slowly, like a nearsighted old man, his hands clenched painfully on the wheel.

He had no idea how much time passed before he spied a road leading inland through the trees. A sign said Kiteeshaa. Walter didn’t know what that meant but turned left anyway. Wherever the asphalt led, it was away from the ocean, and that was what he needed.

Unusual Attention
1
ADAM BROOKHART was driving home from the little town of Buckman when it happened….

2
HE’D BEEN visiting his new… well, he wasn’t sure what Shane was at this point. Boyfriend? Could he really be a boyfriend?

Adam mentally rolled his eyes as he drove through the dark.

Nah. Him? With a boyfriend? It was to laugh.

So what was Shane, then?

He had to be honest with himself. It was looking like Shane was more than a roll in the hay. Because Buckman was just over a three-hour drive from Kansas City, and he didn’t even like to drive the fifteen minutes to and from work. That he’d drive three hours to see Shane was saying something.

And a half.

Was it the sex? Surely not. Yes, he’d had a dry stretch for a while there, and his right hand (and even his left) had been getting pretty boring. So another human being was (hopefully) better than self-gratification. But if it was only sex, he could find a guy on Craigslist or E-MaleConnect or Grindr in far less time than it took to drive to hicksville Buckman, Missouri.

And of course there was no telling if a hookup from any of those sites or apps would be worth it—would be good sex—or if the guy who showed up would look (anything) like his picture.

So with Shane he knew he had a good-looking man—very good-looking, in fact. (Sometimes just a glance at the man would start the butterflies in Adam’s belly to whirling. How about that?)—and pretty damned good sex too.

But not the best he’d ever had.

Shane was pretty vanilla, and Adam had had just about every flavor Baskin-Robbins carried—Ben & Jerry’s too—and he liked variety. A lot. Yet while Shane wasn’t Raspberry Sinceri-Tea or Bourbon Brown Butter or Cherry Garcia, Adam had to admit he was very good vanilla. Not the Best Choice or Always Save brands either. Not even Blue Bunny. No. Shane was the seven or eight dollars a pint variety—like you got from GlacΓ© Artisan Ice Cream on Main Street—with the little flecks of real vanilla beans.


 

Author Bios:
Kim Fielding
I have lived in Illinois, Oregon, Nebraska, and Croatia, but for a long time now I've called the boring part of California home. I have a husband, two daughters, a day job as a university professor, and a passion for travel. I write in many genres--contemporary, fantasy, paranormal, historical--but no matter when and where my stories are set, I love complex worlds and complicated characters. I think that often it's a person's flaws that make him stronger and more beautiful.
FE Feeley Jr. 
F.E. Feeley Jr was born and raised in Detroit, Michigan and lived there for twenty years before joining the military. He is a veteran of the US Armed Services; having done a tour in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2002-2003, he turned college student, pursuing a degree in political science. He now lives in Southeast Texas where he is married to the love of his life, John, and where they live with their five year old German Shepherd, Kaiser.

As a young man, reading took center stage in his life, especially those novels about ghosts, witches, goblins, and all the other things that went bump in the night. His favorite authors include such writers as Stephen King, Dean Koontz, and Anne Rice, whose work allowed him to travel to far off places and meet fascinating and scary characters. As a gay man, he wishes to be able to write good fictional literature for those who love the genre and to write characters that readers can relate to. All in all, he is a cigarette smokin’, whiskey drinkin’, rock and roll lovin’, tattoo wearin’ dreamer of a man with a wonderful husband who puts up with his crap and lets him write his stories.

Jamie Fessenden
Jamie Fessenden set out to be a writer in junior high school. He published a couple short pieces in his high school's literary magazine and had another story place in the top 100 in a national contest, but it wasn't until he met his partner, Erich, almost twenty years later, that he began writing again in earnest. With Erich alternately inspiring and goading him, Jamie wrote several screenplays and directed a few of them as micro-budget independent films. He then began writing novels and published his first novella in 2010.

After nine years together, Jamie and Erich have married and purchased a house together in the wilds of Raymond, New Hampshire, where there are no street lights, turkeys and deer wander through their yard, and coyotes serenade them on a nightly basis. Jamie recently left his "day job" as a tech support analyst to be a full-time writer.

B.G. Thomas
B.G. loves romance, comedies, fantasy, science fiction and even horror—as far as he is concerned, as long as the stories are character driven and entertaining, it doesn't matter the genre. He has gone to conventions since he was fourteen years old and has been lucky enough to meet many of his favorite writers. He has made up stories since he was child; it is where he finds his joy.

In the nineties, he wrote for gay magazines but stopped because the editors wanted all sex without plot. "The sex is never as important as the characters," he says. "Who cares what they are doing if we don't care about them?" Excited about the growing male/male romance market, he began writing again. Gay men are what he knows best, after all. He submitted his first story in years and was thrilled when it was accepted in four days.

"Leap, and the net will appear" is his personal philosophy and his message to all. "It is never too late," he states. "Pursue your dreams. They will come true!"


Kim Fielding
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dephalqu@yahoo.com

FE Feeley Jr.
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BG Thomas
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EMAIL: bg_thomas@livejournal.com



Contact #5
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Stitch #1
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Bones #2
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Claw #3
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Spirit #4
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