Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Re-Readables 2018: RJ Scott


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I have never been one to do much re-reading, which is surprising because I can re-watch a movie or television show I love endlessly but books just never seemed to interest me for revisiting.  When they introduced audiobooks it gave me a chance to enjoy some of my favorites over and over.  The past few years I guess I've changed and there are some books that have become almost required re-reading, the summer wouldn't be complete without a revisit.

πŸ’•πŸ“šπŸ’™πŸ“šπŸ’šπŸ“šπŸ’›πŸ“šπŸ’œπŸ“šπŸ’•




Overall Series 4th Re-Read Review 2018:
I seriously have no idea what more I can say about Texas that I haven't already.  This is the series that brought me into the world of published M/M genre so Jack & Riley Campbell-Hayes and the Double D universe will always hold a special place in my heart.  No matter how many times I read this series, I always smile, cry, laugh, and just completely escape into their world.  I may never experience that first time adrenaline rush but it still gets my blood pumping and heart racing.  Texas is not just Jack and Riley's journey, yes they are the primary leads but we also get to see their children, their family, their friends all navigate life on and off the ranch.  The Double D has a way of bringing people together, giving them hope and purpose, a fresh start, a place to grow and become who they are meant to be, but at the heart of each story is just that: heart.  When RJ Scott wrote The Heart of Texas, I doubt she had any idea what she started, how far it would go or how many people it would touch but I'm just glad she gave life to Jack and Riley and everything that came from their love.  This is one series that isn't getting old any time soon for me.

Blogger Note: To see my original reviews be sure to click on the above post links.

RATING: 



Overall Trilogy 1st Re-Read Review 2018:
When RJ Scott wrote Liam's journey in Texas Christmas(#5) and the trial in Texas Fall(#6) where we first saw Kyle, Gabriel, and Daniel, I knew that when she wrote their stories they wouldn't be all unicorn and rainbows, they would be stories of hurt, abuse, with tons of angst.  But I also knew that they would be stories of strength, overcoming the past, and happiness.  Kyle, Gabriel, and Daniel are hard stories to read but they are stories worth reading, worth the tears, worth the heartache because at their core they are stories of rebuilding, finding one's self-worth, finding your place in the world, and discovering that no matter how evil the world has been it can also be pretty great.  This is my first time re-reading this trilogy(okay I just re-read Kyle and Gabriel as Daniel was just released this year) and although it may not make my annual re-read list, it won't be the last time I re-visit the boys at Legacy Ranch.

Blogger Note: To see my original reviews be sure to click on the above post links.

RATING: 


Saturday's Series Spotlight: Montana
Part 1  /  Part 2

Overall Series 1st Re-Read Review 2018:
This was my first re-read of Montana and life on the Crooked Tree Ranch(only the first four as Second Chance Ranch was just released) but it won't be my last.  This is another series that may not be a yearly re-read but it'll cross my kindle again and again.  There are so many people involved in these five stories and although each one centers on a new pair, its definitely one that needs to be read in order.  I love how the ranch seems to collect people and gives them a home but its the people already on the ranch that holds everyone together and makes it a loving home.  Some of the entries are pure romance, others hold an edge of mystery, but there's always plenty going on to keep me entertained and coming back.

Blogger Note: To see my original reviews be sure to click on the above post links.

RATING: 

Author Bio:
RJ’s goal is to write stories with a heart of romance, a troubled road to reach happiness, and most importantly, that hint of a happily ever after.

RJ is the author of the over one hundred novels and discovered romance in books at a very young age. She realized that if there wasn’t romance on the page, she could create it in her head, and is a lifelong writer.

She lives and works out of her home in the beautiful English countryside, spends her spare time reading, watching films, and enjoying time with her family.

The last time she had a week’s break from writing she didn’t like it one little bit and has yet to meet a bottle of wine she couldn’t defeat.

She’s always thrilled to hear from readers, bloggers and other writers. Please contact via the following links below.


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EMAIL: rj@rjscott.co.uk



Texas Series

Legacy Ranch Series

Montana Series

Blog Tour: Ride or Dye by Aimee Nicole Walker

Title: Ride or Dye
Author: Aimee Nicole Walker
Series: Curl Up and Dye Mysteries #6
Genre: M/M Romance
Release Date: September 12, 2018
Photographer: Wander Aguiar
Cover Design: Jay Aheer at Simply Defined Art
Summary:
Gabe and Josh Roman-Wyatt have been living life in the fast lane. Demanding jobs, precocious twin toddlers, an ever-growing circle of friends, and a menagerie of pets means their home is filled with love and laughter but very few quiet moments for the happy couple. Gabe’s solution is to plan a surprise vacation at a perfect hideaway where the two of them can slow things down and reconnect.

Tarlington House, a historic home located on Edisto Island in South Carolina, hosts an annual murder-mystery event which will allow Josh to use the skills he learned from his all-time favorite television detective to solve the case. The serene setting is perfect for fun days in the sun, passionate lovemaking under the stars, and a healthy wager between husbands to see who can plan the best date. But when the other guests arrive, the guys find themselves surrounded by liars and cheaters who will say or do anything to win, reminding them there’s no place like Blissville.

When a guest is killed during a vicious storm that knocks out the power and phone lines, Josh and Gabe’s murder mystery role-playing becomes a real-life whodunnit. Serve and protect will take on a deeper meaning for Gabe when he’s torn between upholding the law and protecting his husband from a ruthless killer.

Ride or Dye includes sexy sunrises, snarky banter, and swoon-worthy romance. It is the sixth and final book in the Curl Up and Dye Mysteries, which must be read in order. Ride or Dye contains sexually explicit material intended for adults 18 and older.


“THIS ISN’T THE CAR I rented,” I said to the agent at the front desk. “I requested a convertible Mini Cooper and was assured you would have one for me to pick up today. This,” I gestured to the Volkswagen Beetle, “is neither a Mini Cooper nor a convertible.”

“I’m sorry, Mr. Roman-Wyatt, there’s obviously been a mistake. Another agent got the orders mixed up and gave your Mini to someone else this morning. I did call and ask them to return the car since they didn’t pay for the upgrade, but they’re halfway to Florida already.”

I pinched the bridge of my nose and inhaled slowly through it, exhaling through my mouth. I’d never be the flexible pretzel Josh was, but I was learning yoga basics to help manage stress. “I understand mistakes are made, but I’d like to know how you’re going to make this up to me?” The Beetle was cute, but there was no way in hell I was driving it all the way to the coast of South Carolina.

“I’m prepared to offer you an upgrade. We have a brand-new luxury vehicle with two moonroofs, top-of-the-line leather seats, and a killer stereo system. I’m willing to let you drive it at no additional cost to you.” “I’ll take it,” I said proudly. I had hoped to surprise Josh with a convertible Mini for this trip, but he wouldn’t turn up his nose at a luxury car. My mind was spinning with all the possibilities as I waited for them to bring the car around. Cadillac? BMW? Audi? I glanced up as a shiny, black minivan pulled up to the door and stopped. I felt sorry for the poor sucker who had to drive it. I don’t care how convenient it would be; a minivan was never going to be in my future.

The young employee who drove the car around the building entered the lobby and made a beeline straight for me. Maybe I needed to spend more time in the weight room if the guy looked at me and instantly thought soccer dad. I’d set him straight as soon as he tried to hand those keys off to me. “Are you Mr. Roman-Wyatt?”

“I am,” I acknowledged, expecting him to say my ride would be brought around next.

“Here are your keys,” he said, holding them out to me. “Let me show you some of the unique features the Chrysler Pacifica has to offer you, sir.”

“Hold up,” I said firmly. “The agent,” I turned and gestured to the counter which was conveniently unoccupied, “told me I was getting a luxury vehicle upgrade since your company gave the car I wanted to the wrong customer this morning.”

“Yeah?” he asked. “That’s a bummer. What did you choose?”

“A convertible Mini Cooper,” I replied.

“A Mini?” He looked me up and down like it was the last car he expected me to rent.

“It was a surprise for my husband.”

“Oh, well, I’m sorry we made a mistake, but I can assure you the Pacifica is the most luxurious minivan on the road.”

“Both my mother and mother-in-law own one to drive our kids around in, so I’m very familiar with it.”

“You’re all set then,” he said with a huge grin, dangling the keys in front of me. “Thanks,” I grudgingly said when I accepted the keys.




Author Bio:
I am a wife and mother to three kids, three dogs, and a cat. When I’m not dreaming up stories, I like to lose myself in a good book, cook or bake. I'm a girly tomboy who paints her fingernails while watching sports and yelling at the referees.

I will always choose the book over the movie. I believe in happily-ever-after. Love inspires everything that I do. Music keeps me sane.


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Ride of Dye #6

Series

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Monday, September 24, 2018

Monday Morning's Menu: With a Twist by K Evan Coles & Brigham Vaughn


Summary:
Getting dumped is never easy. Even though Will Martin Will knows that Carter is the love of Riley’s life, Will is left nursing a broken heart when his relationship with Riley ends. In an attempt to distract himself, Will throws in himself into teaching at NYU and writing. An invite from Riley to a speakeasy called Under helps Will begin to heal, and he finds himself enjoying both the drinks and the company.

Soon after, he’s shaken by news of his father’s cancer diagnosis and Will reluctantly returns to Long Island to see the man who disowned him after he was outed.

Sparks fly when Will meets his father’s mentee, Republican Senator David Mori, who is both mixed race and openly gay. Will is looking for a no-strings-attached fling and David is leery of getting involved with his mentor’s son, so they keep their affair a secret.

As his father’s health worsens, Will elects to remain in Garden City and his relationship with David grows beyond casual sex. Now, both men must decide how to bridge the divide between them.

Reader advisory: This book contains expressions of homophobia and racism by multiple secondary characters, references to disownment, and descriptions of terminal illness and death of secondary characters.

Series Summary:
Media mogul Jesse Murtagh and bartender Kyle McKee decide to go into business together and open Under Lock & Key, a speakeasy on the upper West Side of Manhattan. The bar, with its secret passphrases and craft liquor cocktails, becomes a sanctuary for Jesse and Kyle’s circle of friends, who gather once a month to catch up with each other and share their experiences.

Under is both hang out and haven for the men who spend time within its walls and their friendships build family ties that are sometimes missing from their own lives. 

Each book in the Speakeasy Series can be read as a standalone novel.


When Will Martin gets an invitation to a new club called Under from his ex, Riley, he never expected to really enjoy himself or the company but he does.  Upon receiving news that his father has been diagnosed with cancer he reluctantly returns to the family home to help his mother and sister care for him.  David Mori has looked up to Senator Martin as a mentor and friend so when he learns of the senator's cancer diagnosis he wants to help.  There's no denying the attraction between Will and David but will they let it become more?  Can Will forgive his father before its too late?

I'm going to jump right out of the gate with this one by saying be sure you have a healthy supply of kleenex handy for this one.  I'm glad we get to learn Will's story.  When we met him in the author's Tidal duology, I can't say I really warmed to him but the deck was stacked against him as far as trying to find happiness with Riley Porter-Wright so I was excited to see his own journey to the HEA(if that's what he's destined forπŸ˜‰πŸ˜‰).  I was really intrigued to see the inner thoughts of an openly gay, mixed race Republican, I can't speak from personal experience but I think the authors were probably pretty spot-on with some of the attitudes David faced.

As my mother's 24/7 caregiver for the past 20+ years I have to say I was a little saddened that it seemed like Will was making all the sacrifices.  With a Twist may be Will and David's love story but I think it's more Will's journey of finding happiness with love, family, and friends.  So on one hand it seems likely that Will would be doing all the life changes but if I was him, I would have a seed of resentment starting in me from doing so, but maybe that's just me and my Irish-Dutch-German stubbornnessπŸ˜‰.  I know David's not really in a position to make the same level of sacrifices at this time but I do believe he is the kind of person who will when the time comes, that time just wasn't within the pages of the story.

Now, having said that you are probably thinking that I didn't like the story.  You could not be further from the truth.  Oh no, I loved With a Twist(and look forward to more adventures and journeys in the Speakeasy series).  Truth is that I was so pulled into Will's relationship with his dad that at times I forgot this was a love story between Will and David.  David is the kind of politician that I think we all want speaking for us: he listens to his constituents and not just the party hullabaloo.  Even though I may not have agreed with Will's level of sacrifice I do love that he grows and discovers that not everything is as we remember it to be, for a stubborn man he is open to learn(reluctantly at times).  I don't think there's any doubt where the couple will end up but the journey getting there is what Twist is all about and for that journey you'll need to read this one for yourself, no spoilers from meπŸ˜‰.

Vaughn & Cole bring to life a horribly mismatched couple that couldn't be more perfect for each other.  Shows us that it takes time and sometimes time isn't always on our side, it might seem cliche but "making the most of the time we have" is an important lesson we all need to be reminded about.  With a Twist is a heartbreaking tale of words we can't take back, regrets because we're too stubborn to step first, and time lost.  But its also a heartwarming tale of reaching out, discovering new friends, and making up for lost time.  Simply put, this is a remarkably entertaining read that will leave you completely enthralled from cover to cover. Truth is, I think that despite my feelings on Will's sacrifices, finding myself so sucked in to the story and not wanting to say goodbye to Will and David says more to the authors' talents than anything I can put into words.

RATING:


June 2014
Will Martin set down his empty mug and flipped to the next page of the New York Times. A familiar profile caught his attention and, despite his better judgment, he read the caption below the photo of two smiling and laughing men in tuxedos.

The year’s hottest gay couple cut a fine figure at the Met premiere last night. Riley Porter-Wright and Carter Hamilton are still going strong. The couple appeared oblivious to those around them as they talked during intermission. They were joined by the former Mrs. Hamilton, who seems to have forgiven Mr. Porter-Wright for stepping into her place. Also there was her new paramour, Robert… The ex-Mrs. Porter-Wright was nowhere to be seen. The couple have been spotted at—

Annoyed, Will threw the newspaper on the coffee table. Everywhere he turned there were reminders of his ex-boyfriend Riley’s happiness with his new love. Well, long-time love, really. Will had competed with Riley’s best friend, Carter, the entire time they’d been together.

But how could Will have competed with a man Riley had loved since college? Riley had left his wife to explore his bisexuality and Carter had ultimately done the same. Will had been foolish for thinking he could offer Riley more than a man who had known him for a decade and a half could.

Will scrubbed a hand through his hair and stood. I need a change of scenery right now, he thought and glanced around the living room of his stylish Manhattan condo.

His laptop screen glowed at him from his desk by the windows. He’d planned to take the morning off and enjoy the gorgeous early June weather, but with edits looming over him and reminders of Riley lurking around the edges of his consciousness, relaxation seemed out of the question.

“Fine, fine,” Will muttered under his breath. “Work it is.”

He filled his cup with coffee, doctored it with cream and sugar and took a seat at his desk. He pulled up his manuscript and scrolled to the place he’d left off—Bernard Schwartz’s appointment as Chief Counsel of the House Legislative Oversight Subcommittee.

Half an hour later, Will’s phone trilled on the desk and he blinked to clear the haze from his brain. Riley flashed across the screen. Speak of the devil, he thought, then immediately chastised himself. Riley wasn’t the problem. Riley loving Carter instead of Will wasn’t even the major issue. Will’s habit of falling for emotionally unavailable men then struggling to get over them was something he desperately needed to change.

Not wanting his ex to sense the turmoil in his head, Will made sure to keep his tone pleasant. “Hey, Riley.”

“Hey, Will. How have you been?”

“Good. Making solid progress on my book.” Will sat back in his chair.

“Oh, that’s right, you’re not teaching during the summer semester, are you?”

“No, I decided to focus on my writing. I’m in the midst of edits, so I’ll be spending the summer cursing at a computer screen while I try not to tear my hair out.”

“What a rewarding career,” Riley said teasingly.

Will chuckled and relaxed a little. He’d always enjoyed Riley’s sense of humor. “I must be a masochist for voluntarily subjecting myself to college students and editors.” Will taught legal history at New York University and had published a handful of well-regarded books on the topic. He suspected Riley hadn’t called to ask about his writing, however. “How’s work? Is your father still pretending you don’t exist at the office?”

“I think he’s hoping I’ll leave Porter-Wright Publishing, to be honest. He and Geneva were polite when Carter and I took the kids to the company picnic but I’m sure it’s only because they were afraid of looking bad.”

“Appearances above all else,” Will muttered. He and Riley had always had that in common. Although at least Will spoke to his mother occasionally and kept in contact with his sister, Olivia. Riley’s relationship with his parents was far worse. “How are things with you and Carter? And the little Hamiltons?”

“Really good.” Will could hear the smile in Riley’s voice. “We all spent last weekend in Southampton at the beach house.”

Riley sounded so happy every time they talked about Carter and his kids. Will’s heart ached, knowing he could never have made Riley that happy, but on the whole he was glad Riley had found the contentment he’d searched for.

“Anyway,” Riley interrupted his thoughts, “I called for a reason. You know Jesse Murtagh and Kyle McKee, right?”

“Vaguely. I met them at Carter’s birthday and Jesse again at your holiday party last winter.”

“Right. Well, they’re opening a speakeasy in a week or so.”

Will laughed. “A speakeasy? That’s intriguing.”

“It’s basically ready to go, and they’ve been inviting friends in to see it and try the cocktails. I called to see if you would like to meet me there tonight. I thought we could grab some drinks and catch up.”

“Just you?”

Riley hesitated. “No. Carter will be there with Jesse and Kyle. Along with six or eight of our friends.”

Will stifled a sigh. “Riley…”

“Hey, I know it’s going to be awkward. But it’s been six months. You and I are doing pretty well with our friendship. So, stop being a fucker and come.”

Will couldn’t prevent the laugh that escaped him. “Well, when you word it that way, how can I possibly resist?”

“No, I don’t mean to be glib. I know this isn’t easy for you, but I don’t want to lose you as a friend.” Riley sounded earnest. “I’m asking a lot, but I’d like for you to be able to hang out with all of us. And hey, maybe you’ll meet the perfect guy there.”

Will snorted. “I’m definitely not looking for the last part, but sure, I’ll come. What time and where am I meeting you?”

* * * * *

Later that evening, Will glanced around Lock & Key, a pub on the edge of the upper West Side in Morningside Heights, where Riley had arranged for them to meet. The floors were scuffed and slightly gritty under his feet and the tables and chairs had seen better days. The pub was entirely ordinary and not at all what Will had expected.

“Have dive bars become your thing?” he asked, mystified.

Riley laughed and clapped him on the shoulder. “This is not our destination for the night. Someone Kyle used to work with owns Lock & Key. The speakeasy is underneath.”

Will raised an eyebrow. “Under Lock & Key? Clever.”

“What can I say, my friends are punny.” Riley grinned. “Come on, follow me.” He strode to the end of the bar and opened an unmarked door. Will followed more slowly. At the end of a hallway was an old-fashioned phone mounted on the wall.

Riley picked it up and spoke. “Let me in, you fucker.” He fell silent for a moment then tipped his head back and laughed. “That is the passphrase, you jackass!”

Riley hung up the handset and turned to Will, merriment clearly written across his face. “Jesse,” he said, as if that was explanation enough.

In truth, it probably was. Jesse Murtagh was one of a kind. Part of a powerful media family in Manhattan, he was also pansexual and the biggest flirt Will had ever encountered. Not to mention charming and incredibly handsome—no wonder Carter had been attracted to him. Like Will, Jesse had been left in Riley and Carter’s wake once they’d decided to get together, but Will suspected Jesse had been far less affected.

“Are you coming down or what?” A door opened at the end of the hall and Jesse appeared, a smile lighting his face and making his bright blue eyes twinkle. He glanced over at Will and gave him an appreciative grin.

“Glad you could join us tonight, Will. You’re looking good.”

Will chuckled and stepped forward to offer Jesse his hand. “It’s good to see you too.” Irrepressible flirt notwithstanding, Jesse had a compelling presence. Broad shoulders capped off a tall, lean body and the closely-cropped beard he sported framed full lips. Not Will’s type, but easy on the eyes.

“Think you can manage to not storm off this time?” Jesse asked, raking a hand through his dark-blond hair.

Riley groaned. “Jes…”

Will smiled, despite his stab of discomfort at the reminder of the dramatic ending to his and Riley’s relationship six months prior at a Christmas party. Will had finally realized the futility of his feelings for Riley that night and caused a scene in front of a small group of their combined friends, including Jesse and Carter. Ugh. It hadn’t been one of his finer moments.

“I think I can behave tonight,” he said aloud. “So, a speakeasy, huh? What made you decide to open that?”

Jesse held open the door and allowed Riley and Will to precede him down another long, narrow hallway. “Why not? Kyle wanted to open a bar. We looked at a ton of locations and were bored by all of them, but when our friend Matt mentioned the space under Lock & Key, it all fell into place. Who doesn’t want to own an underground, secret bar?”

“I can’t say it’s ever crossed my mind,” Will admitted. They reached the end of the hall and Riley pushed open another unmarked door to reveal a stairwell. Although well-lit, the walls were painted black and totally bare.

“This is the problem with you, Will,” Jesse said. “You’re so buttoned up. You need to live a little.”

“Well I’m spending the evening at a speakeasy with you,” Will said as he followed Riley down the stairs. “Will that do for now?”

Jesse laughed. “TouchΓ©.”

Riley pushed open a door at the bottom of the steps and the sight of the bar rendered Will mute.

In sharp contrast to the run-down bar above, the speakeasy was stylish and welcoming. Open shelves on the walls were filled with bottles of liquor. Inlaid floors were topped with sleek leather and metal furniture, and candles in votives glowed on the tables. The mellow music and subdued lighting lent the space an atmosphere of sophisticated relaxation.

Astonished, Will glanced over at Jesse. “This is incredible. I’m impressed.”

“You have good taste, I’ll give you that.” Jesse grasped his shoulder and squeezed. “C’mon, let me get you a drink.”

As Will crossed the room to the bar, Riley slipped into a spot beside Carter on the leather sofa. Will tried to hide a wince as Carter reached for Riley’s knee and squeezed it without pausing in conversation.

“Wistful or vaguely nauseated?” Jesse asked as he took a seat on one of the bar stools.

Will glanced at him. “Excuse me?”

“Was the look because you wish you had that with Riley or because you’re grossed out by two people being disgustingly in love?”

“A little of both, I suppose.” Will had nothing against relationships, but they were starting to seem like a pipe dream for him.

A man appeared behind the bar and Will easily recognized him as Carter’s friend, Kyle.

“Will, right?” he said, holding out a hand. “Kyle McKee.”

“Yeah, hi. We met at Carter’s birthday dinner.”

Kyle smiled. “It’s nice to see you again.”

They shook and Will gave Kyle a once-over. Kyle was easily six feet tall, with broad shoulders, thick dark hair trimmed short on the sides, and heavy but well-groomed brows over dark eyes. Unlike Jesse, Kyle was very much Will’s type. Except for the suspenders he wore over his crisp gray shirt and his rolled-up sleeves. Kyle pulled them off better than most, but the look screamed hipster too much for Will’s tastes.

“Great place you have here.” Will glanced around. “I like it.”

“Thanks.” Kyle’s eyes crinkled at the corners when he smiled. “I’m pleased to hear it. A speakeasy wasn’t quite what I had in mind when I told Jesse I wanted to open a bar, but I’m glad I decided to go for it.”

Jesse grinned. “When will all of you learn my ideas are always brilliant?”

“Probably never.” Kyle turned back to Will. “So, what can I get you? We have a wide selection of beer, wine and cocktails.” He slid a leather-bound book in Will’s direction.

Will perused it for a moment before he closed the cover. “You know what? Surprise me. Make me a cocktail.”

“Hmm. I can do that. Anything you particularly dislike?”

“Anything too sweet. And Amaretto.”

Kyle scrutinized Will for a moment before his eyes gleamed. “Got it.”

Will watched with interest as Kyle pulled a glass out of the freezer and mixed together cognac, Cointreau and lemon juice in a shaker with ice. A few moments later, Kyle poured it into a glass, topped it with a twist of lemon and slid the drink across the bar to him. “Sidecar. Tell me what you think.”

Will raised the glass to his lips and took a sip. He found the drink refreshingly cold and a perfect blend of sour and sweet with a fresh citrusy taste balanced nicely by the cognac. “That’s delicious.”

Kyle grinned. “Excellent.”

“C’mon.” Jesse picked up a tumbler filled with amber-colored liquid and a large spherical ice cube. It clinked pleasantly as he moved. “Let’s go hang out with the guys.”

The majority of the patrons were part of Riley and Carter’s group, spread out across two leather sofas and a handful of chairs that made a square seating area around a finely crafted wood coffee table. Riley leaned forward and set his martini glass down. Will placed his own drink on a table and pulled up a chair.

“Everyone, this is Will Martin. Some of you met him at Carter’s birthday and a few of you met him over the holidays. I’ll introduce everyone, though.”

Will gave him a brief smile. “Thanks.”

“You know Carter, obviously.” Carter nodded in greeting and Will returned it. “Next to Carter is his sister, Audrey.” A tan blonde woman gave him a smile over a martini glass filled with something frothy and yellow. “And Audrey’s husband, Max.” An attractive, bearded man with brown hair and light brown eyes raised a pilsner glass in greeting.

Riley continued around the circle. “Gale, Jarrod, Henry and Miles are friends of Carter’s.” The men waved and murmured their hellos.

“You seem outnumbered here, Audrey,” Will said.

She grinned at him. “I’m not complaining. My brother has some very good-looking friends.”

Her husband elbowed her. “What am I? Chopped liver?”

“Never, darling. But I see you every day.”

Kyle seated himself at an empty chair across the group. “You’re a law professor, right, Will?”

Will nodded and took a sip of his drink. “Yes, at NYU. I’m spending the summer working on my latest book.”

“What do you write?” Max asked. “I’d love to hear about it.”

Will chuckled. “You may regret you asked, but I’m currently writing about the Chief Counsel of the House Legislative Oversight Subcommittee.”

“So, political law then?”

“I couldn’t totally avoid the family business,” Will said dryly.

Audrey frowned. “You have a family member who’s a politician?”

“My father.” Will made a face. “And a Republican at that.”

“How does that work at family dinners?” Audrey asked. “I thought my parents and Carter were bad, but at least they’re not pushing discriminatory legislation.”

“I haven’t spoken to him since college, to be honest.” Will took a fortifying sip of his sidecar. “I see my mother and sister on occasion, but never when he’s around.”

Riley shot him a sympathetic smile.

“Sorry to pry,” Audrey said with an apologetic glance. “I’ve been battling my parents about them shutting Carter out and that’s difficult enough.”

“Ancient history.” Will waved off her apology. “What do you do, Audrey?”

“I chair several philanthropic organizations. And I recently got involved with PFLAG.” She exchanged a look with her brother.

Jesse leaned forward. “Beautiful and socially aware? Be still, my beating heart. If Max hadn’t met you first…” Jesse took a sip of his drink. “That goes both ways, Max.”

Max chuckled and Carter rolled his eyes. “We’ve had this discussion before, Jesse. No hitting on my sister or my brother-in-law, please. And definitely not both at once.”

A chorus of laughter rose. Riley chimed in with a humorous comment as Will relaxed back in his chair and sipped his drink, enjoying the banter flying around the room. He’d been far too antisocial since the breakup and he was glad he’d taken Riley up on his invitation.

* * * * *

A few hours later, Will reluctantly excused himself. He’d had a wonderful time and had enjoyed the witty conversation. It had left him feeling lighter and more relaxed than he had in a while. “I’m going to head home. I have an early game of racquetball planned with Charles tomorrow. I had a great night,” Will said. “Thanks for inviting me, Riley. Carter.”

“I’m glad you came,” Carter said with a nod. He offered Will a sincere smile that crinkled the corners of his hazel eyes and Will grudgingly admitted he could see Carter’s appeal. His jealousy had blinded him too much to appreciate Carter’s broad-shouldered, long-legged build and handsome face before.

Will said goodnight to everyone and Jesse stood to shake his hand. “Please come back any time. I’ll add your name to the list, so even if Kyle and I aren’t here, you’ll be let in. We do have a seat limit of forty and try to keep private events on the smaller side, but feel free to bring a friend or two. Especially if they’re hot and single.” He winked. “And maybe save that for when I’m here.”

“Jesse!” Carter sounded exasperated and Will couldn’t hide his smile.

“I’ll keep that in mind,” he said.

“We’re trying to turn this into a regular thing,” Kyle said. “Riley and I had the idea of meeting here the third Thursday of every month. Nothing formal, and if you can’t make it, no problem, but it would be great if you could join us.”

“I’ll try to make it,” Will said. “And thanks for a great evening. You make a mean sidecar.”

“Any time,” Kyle responded.

Will turned to leave. “I’ll walk you up,” Riley said. He fell into step behind Will.

“Tell Charles I said hi,” Riley said as they walked up the stairs.

“I will.”

“How are he and Gabe doing?”

“Good. They’re both pretty busy right now. Charles is teaching classes this summer and Gabe is looking into opening another restaurant.” Charles was an ex of Will’s, and one of his closest friends and a colleague at NYU. Charles had married Gabe the summer before, and Gabe owned a high-end Vietnamese restaurant in Tribeca, not far from Will’s home.

“You’re welcome to bring them to Under anytime,” Riley said. “If you think they’d be okay with that.”

Will pushed open the door leading into Lock & Key. “I’m sure Gabe will be. Charles is still holding a bit of a grudge,” he said. Will and Riley’s breakup had rocked Riley’s friendship with Gabe and Charles.

Riley sighed. “I deserve it.”

“No, I should talk to him. You and I have mended some fences. There’s no reason he needs to continue to shut you out.” Will walked through the exit of the bar and turned to Riley when they stepped onto the sidewalk out front. “Thanks for inviting me tonight.”

“I’m glad you came. I know it was asking a lot but—”

Will cut off Riley’s statement. “I meant it when I said I wanted us to be friends. You’re happy with Carter and I’m happy for you. Honestly, it’s been great hanging out with you guys and your friends.”

“I’m relieved to hear it,” Riley said with a smile. He leaned in, then hesitated and Will closed the distance to hug him.

“Have a good night, Riley.”

“Night, Will.”

Riley disappeared back through the door of Lock & Key and Will sighed. Hugging Riley left him with a bittersweet feeling, but he was glad he’d come to check out the speakeasy. And he’d meant it when he said he’d try to come back on Thursday evenings in the future. He’d needed some time to lick his wounds and recover, but his self-imposed isolation only made his loneliness worse.

He glanced up and down the street. There wasn’t a cab in sight so he pulled out his phone and brought up the Lyft app. He leaned against the wall of the brick building while he waited and a few minutes later a car slid to a stop in front of him.

Will made small-talk with the driver as the car traveled from Morningside Heights back to Tribeca. When they got caught in a traffic snarl near Central Park West because of a protest, Will took out his phone to kill the time. He was scrolling through articles on a news app when his phone vibrated in his hand.

Mom flashed across the screen and he hesitated before he accepted the call.

“Hey, Mom,” he answered.

“Will.” Agnes Martin’s voice sounded strained, with none of the usual groomed sophistication it typically held.

He straightened. “Is something wrong?”

“Will, your father…” Her breath hitched. “I have some news. Your father has been ill lately.”

Serves the old bastard right, Will thought grimly. “Ill?” he said aloud.

“Tired, losing weight, stomach pain. At first, we blamed his stress. He’s been working so hard lately—”

Yeah, probably passing more anti-LGBT legislation, Will thought.

“But when we noticed some yellowing of his eyes, we got concerned. We were hopeful it was a gallbladder issue, but after some testing, we were referred to an oncologist.”

His breath caught. Oncologist? Shit. “He has cancer?”

“Yes. He has something called a—a non-functioning neuroendocrine tumor. Pancreatic cancer. It’s quite large and the doctors are concerned it’s spread to some nearby lymph nodes. It’s stage III and the—the prognosis isn’t good.”

Will took a moment to let the words sink in, but didn’t feel much of anything about the news. A wave of guilt washed over him. “I’m sorry, Mom,” he said gently. She loved his father and while Will had many, many issues with William Martin Sr. as a father and an elected official, he had always treated Will’s mother well. There had never been a hint of infidelity and after Agnes had suffered a serious car accident years ago, Bill hadn’t left her side until she’d recovered. “I know how hard this must be for you.”

His mother sniffled. “I can’t lose him. I know you and your father have your…differences but—”

“We don’t have differences,” he retorted. Any goodwill he’d felt dissipated. “He detests me. He thinks I am less deserving of the same basic human rights he affords everyone else. That’s more than an ideological difference, Mom, that’s a complete lack of respect for me as a human being.”

“Come to Garden City,” she blurted out and the words rang in his ear for several seconds before he could process them.

“What? You must be kidding,” he said. “You can’t think I’d come to Long Island to sit by his deathbed and hold his hand.” He winced. His cruel words served only to remind Agnes her husband was probably dying. “I’m sorry, Mom, but I can’t do it. I can’t pretend like everything is fine between us. We haven’t spoken in over ten years and it’s not only because I’m pissed at him. He’s the one who cut me out of his life, remember?”

“He wants you here,” she said softly. Agnes had used the same tone during Will’s years growing when she tried to get him to do something he didn’t want to do.

Will sat back in his seat. “Really?”

“I asked him if you could come home and he said yes.”

Well, that was more plausible than Will’s father specifically asking for him to come home. He sighed. “I-I don’t know. I suppose I could come for a long weekend or something. School’s out and I could work on my edits while I’m there.”

Agnes went silent for a moment. “I hoped you’d stay longer. Your father is undergoing surgery next week, but it’ll be exhausting for all of us. If the surgery doesn’t work, we may only have a few months left with him.” Her voice broke.

“You want me to spend the entire summer in Long Island?” he asked, incredulous.

“Please, Will. If you won’t come for your father, come home for Olivia and me. Your sister and I need you. We can’t do this alone.”

Will glanced out of the window, surprised the bright lights of the city were blurred by tears. He wasn’t sure who they were for.

“I’ll think about it, Mom.”





K Evan Coles
K. Evan Coles is a mother and tech pirate by day and a writer by night. She is a dreamer who, with a little hard work and a lot of good coffee, coaxes words out of her head and onto paper.

K. lives in the northeast United States, where she complains bitterly about the winters, but truly loves the region and its diverse, tenacious and deceptively compassionate people. You’ll usually find K. nerding out over books, movies and television with friends and family. She’s especially proud to be raising her son as part of a new generation of unabashed geeks.

K.’s books explore LGBTQ+ romance in contemporary settings.

Brigham Vaughn
Brigham Vaughn is on the adventure of a lifetime as a full-time writer. She devours books at an alarming rate and hasn’t let her short arms and long torso stop her from doing yoga.  She makes a killer key lime pie, hates green peppers, and loves wine tasting tours. A collector of vintage Nancy Drew books and green glassware, she enjoys poking around in antique shops and refinishing thrift store furniture. An avid photographer, she dreams of traveling the world and she can’t wait to discover everything else life has to offer her.

Her books range from short stories to novellas. They explore gay, lesbian, and polyamorous romance in contemporary settings.


K Evan Coles
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Sunday, September 23, 2018

Week at a Glance: 9/17/18 - 9/23/18




























Sunday's Steampunk Spinner: Clockwork Tangerine by Rhys Ford


Summary:
The British Empire reigns supreme, and its young Queen Victoria has expanded her realm to St. Francisco, a bustling city of English lords and Chinese ghettos. St. Francisco is a jewel in the Empire’s crown and as deeply embroiled in the conflict between the Arcane and Science as its sister city, London—a very dark and dangerous battle.

Marcus Stenhill, Viscount of Westwood, stumbles upon that darkness when he encounters a pack of young bloods beating a man senseless. Westwood’s duty and honor demand he save the man, but he’s taken aback to discover the man is Robin Harris, a handsome young inventor indirectly responsible for the death of Marcus’s father.

Living in the shadows following a failed coup, Robin devotes his life to easing others’ pain, even though his creations are considered mechanical abominations of magicks and science. Branded a deviant and a murderer, Robin expects the viscount to run as far as he can—and is amazed when Marcus reaches for him instead.

Original Review March 2016:
This is a great little novella that mixes magic, science fiction, and history with love and friendship thrown in for good measure.  Watching Marcus overcome what happened to his father and others to do the right thing is heartwarming and helps remind the reader that face value and on the surface is not the whole story.  Definitely worth reading by the very talented Rhys Ford.

Reviewer Note: I have to say that I don't really get the whole terminology of steampunk.  I know what it means and I know it is a sub-genre of science fiction but to me science fiction is science fiction, nothing more, nothing less.  As a reader, I will be putting this and others labeled steampunk on my science fiction library shelf but as a book blogger I will defer to the whole steampunk terminology labeling.  Just wanted to put that out there.

RATING: 


One
THE STINK of St. Francisco crept into Marcus’s nose and stayed there, an unwelcome sensory vermin plaguing him at every step. Fog hung in the alleyways, catching on the corners of buildings and shrouding Little Orient’s arcane-fueled street lamps. The faint orange glow they cast was barely enough to see by on a clear night, and once a heavy soup rolled in off the bay’s murky water, the ill-maintained orbs were dimmed to a pale-tangerine wash.

Definitely not enough light to see anything other than dark, slinky shapes at the edge of his vision but certainly bright enough to warn off any cutpurses lurking in the pea-soup thick shadows beyond. He’d been a fool to come down to Little Orient near dusk, but his grandmother had begged, something she rarely did.

Well, unless she thought she could get away with it.

“I thought I had enough.” Her soft, round face sported few wrinkles, and her cotton-floss hair was suspiciously bright gold, but the elderly woman wore her age well. “Please, Marcus. It would be such a disappointment if it wasn’t served.”

She’d been his only maternal influence after his own mother fled the Commonwealth to head back to London, and Marcus hated disappointing her. Hosting afternoon breakfasts for the West Commonwealth’s society were the highlight of his grandmother’s week, and if she needed a particular jasmine tea for it, he would damn well get it for her.

Now in the misty shadows of the district’s spice and sewer-perfumed air, Marcus wondered if he’d not made a mistake, and he would have been better off popping down to Woolworth’s Tea Emporium for a more mundane leaf.

“She would know,” he reminded himself, hefting his sword cane up and checking the fill of his pocket where his pistol hung heavy in his overcoat. “She always knows.”

The package of tea was light enough in his other pocket, not enough of a weight to trouble him, but it seemed to weigh him down with every step. Obligations. Family obligations. That was what the tea represented. The need to produce… to succeed in order to further the family line. Even if he was only the third son and a poor representation of the dukedom.

A chance quirk of filial bloodlines gifted him with a title, a viscount to put in front of his name, but it felt awkward hanging on his shoulders. He felt more at home in the boxing ring, schooling lesser men on the proper ways to defend themselves, or even riding with the hounds, chasing after a metallic gewgaw covered in rabbit fur rather than the traditional Reynard.

The industrialists made their mark in odd ways, filling the skies with bloated tick-like balloons strong enough to carry a man across oceans or steam-driven contraptions loud enough to frighten a sensible horse on the roads, but strangely enough, it was the faux fox that angered arcanists the most.

“It’s a violation of the natural order! They’ll be the death of us. The death of the British Empire!” His father harrumphed more than once as he read the Post at the breakfast table. He’d been a walrus of a man, bristling with a thick mustache and even thicker eyebrows, his ever-increasing belly popping more than a few buttons on his waistcoat when he blustered his opinions at the Commonwealth’s House of Lords.

In the end, the duke was right in his own way. It’d been a skitter that killed his father, a hand-sized mechanical leftover from the Society’s attempted coup against the newly crowned Queen. Hidden in the Lords’ Hall voting chambers, the spindly-legged mechanism somehow activated and attacked the man nearest to its hiding place, his blustering but large-hearted father. The Duke’s last words as he lay dying on the House floor were of his family and to curse the industrialists who brought doom to the British Empire.

His older brother Brent shared the old Duke’s feelings, having the smashed remains of the skitter cast into a glass paperweight so he could have a continuing reminder of the industrialists’ role in his father’s death. Marcus was kinder in his thoughts, although he’d be the first to admit, the mechanical simulacrums jerking their way through repetitive chores made his skin crawl and his belly clench.

If anything, he was as much of a violation of the natural order as any metallic thing the industrialists created in the name of progress. Knowing about his youngest son’s perversions would have killed the old man far quicker than any bronze, razor-edged spider, but the knowledge of his father’s ignorance was of little comfort to Marcus. He missed his gruff and affectionate father and treasured any reminder of him—including the old Duke’s elderly mother. So if tramping down to the dangerous climes of Little Orient for his gently raised paternal grandmother would make her happy, Marcus was more than willing to take on the task.

Still, he’d come armed. And a lucky thing that was when he turned down Grant Street and heard the sounds of something hard smacking flesh.

It was a sound Marcus knew intimately. And not just from the boxing ring.

Despite the early hour, there were few people on the street, and those he saw were Asian, keen on ignoring the mewling, soft cries of a man being beaten. Their involvement would only bring down trouble on them. If the man were Oriental, a local tong would step in, and if the man were Occidental, then the unfortunate soul would be relying on the infrequent bobby patrolling the unfriendly streets.

Neither sat well with Marcus. Action was bred into the Stenhills over the centuries, and his own father had hammered a single truth into his sons before he departed for the heavens. A man with power protects and serves those lesser than he. It is only the weak who use their power to do harm.

He drew his pistol and broke from the watery light keeping him weak company from above. The weight of the tea in his pocket was negligible, not enough to weigh down his gait, but Marcus was still careful with his footing. The cobblestones under his boots were wet from runoff and the creeping waters of overfilled sewers, but Marcus tramped through the mess, intent on locating the site of the beating.

It wasn’t very far. The alleyway he’d cut through opened up to a courtyard, one of many hidden in Little Orient’s warren, but surprisingly, the small enclosed yard was lit up by lanterns, their bright light casting deep shadows against nearby encroaching brick buildings. The shadows played out a macabre puppet theater, dancing marionettes wielding cudgels Punch would have been proud to own, but it was the casters of those inky echoes that gave Marcus pause.

There were four of them. Men from noble lines if the cut of their clothing and grooming gave him any clue and, alarmingly enough, they surrounded a man, his long body curled up on the yard’s unevenly laid aggregate pad. Their victim lay tightly wound, his arms up over his head to shield his temples, leaving his body largely unprotected.

Where the men gave Marcus pause, the blood seeping into the yard’s cracked ground did not, and Marcus raised his pistol, aiming for the largest of the attackers.

“Stand down!” He let his bulk speak for him as much as his booming voice. Marcus knew his face bore the marks of a man who made his living in the ring. Too many times his nose was turned this way and that before he’d mastered the sport, and if the ring wasn’t school enough, his older brothers had their hand in the shaping of his craggy face.

They were young. Something Marcus felt down in his bones when the men looked up. Barely two decades each, from the way fuzz dappled their cheeks, and a small part of him died inside, saddened by the callousness of arrogant youth. One took a step toward him, and Marcus cocked his pistol, a defining, menacing click signaling his intent.

“It’s Westwood,” one of the young men whispered to his compatriots.

“There’s four of us and only one of him.” One of the larger ones kicked at the man on the ground. “Not like this one is going to get up.”

It was a valid point and one they hadn’t thought of if the expressions on their drunken faces were anything to go by, so Marcus shot the largest of the attackers.

The ball went straight through the young man’s leg, possibly shattering the bone, but he’d aimed far enough away from a critical artery that Marcus was assured the boy would live.

He would definitely limp for the rest of his days, but it was a small price to pay to learn humility in the back alleys of St. Francisco’s Little Orient.

“Now.” Marcus tilted his head to regard the rest of the young men with a stern gaze. “This is a repeater. I have ten shots left. Who would like to be next?”

They fled. It was a near moment when they almost left their fallen comrade behind, but a short tsk of reproach from Marcus’s haughtily set mouth reminded them of their manners. Also, Marcus had no intention of nursing more than one man in the dank Little Orient alleys. It took them longer than he’d expected to gather up the whining young man, his screams nearly girlish when two of his friends hoisted him up across their shoulders.

If he’d been of a more benevolent mind, he’d have offered them a card to his gaming hell with a stern instruction to learn how to defend themselves. He felt less than benevolent. Especially since they didn’t appear to be the sort to learn from a near-fatal encounter after trying to beat a man to death.

He waited a breath before he pocketed his pistol, not trusting the booze-sodden youngsters not to double back and take revenge. When he was certain there were no stealthy footsteps coming at him through the fog, Marcus hurried over to the man they’d accosted and carefully turned him over.

And cursed himself for saving a man who sent a wave of desire down his belly and straight into his hardening cock.

The man wasn’t handsome, not in the way the ton leaned, but there was something about his face… his body. Even battered and bruised, the man’s long legs and strong face were enough to prick Marcus’s buried libido.

It was a crow of a face, with cheekbones sharp enough to cut glass and a Roman nose set firmly above a pair of full lips. The man’s long lashes curved up at the ends, the lights of the quartet’s forgotten lanterns casting shadowy stripes onto his cheeks. A line of blood trickled down from a wound to the man’s temple, its edge smeared into his too-long black hair. It fell straight from a widow’s peak at the center of his forehead, nearly pitch in color except for a thin silver streak starting from his part and leading down the length of his mane, cutting through the deep black like a vein of bright metal poured over coal.

“Are they gone?” Perhaps the huskiness of his voice came from screaming for help, but Marcus doubted it.

He’d not heard a whimper from the man as he lay still, and for a moment before he’d touched the youths’ victim, he’d feared the man was dead. Instead, he’d been playing opossum or perhaps even fallen unconscious from the blows. Either way, the raspy curl of the man’s honey voice was another blow to his control, and Marcus whispered a brief why to his Maker, wondering what he’d done to anger God enough to throw this man at his feet.

Then his fallen crow opened his eyes, and Marcus was lost, trapped in a gaze as silvery as the streak in the man’s inky hair.

“You must hate me so, God,” Marcus pleaded as he steeled himself to check the man’s injuries. Laying his hands on the man’s skin was the last thing he wanted to do. Or the first. He wasn’t quite certain, but in his mind, the fantasy did not involve being out in the open during a chilly evening in Little Orient.

“You were hoping I was dead?” The man struggled to sit up, but Marcus placed a hand on his shoulder.

“Stay there. I need to get a lantern and check your eyes.” There was one not far away, its punched-tin sides holding in a floating arcane globe nearly stronger than the district’s street lamps. Hooking his finger into a catch-loop at the top, he brought the lantern close to the man’s face. “Keep your lids open, and let me see if you have a concussion.”

“You’re a doctor?”

“No, I teach fisticuffs. I can do the basics, and I know when a man’s been knocked senseless.” He stared at the man’s pupils, not liking the disproportionate reaction of his irises. Marcus put the lantern down and held up two fingers. “How many do you see?”

“Of you or your hand? Because I see two of each.” The silver flash of his eyes was gone under the flutter of the man’s long lashes. “And I feel… sick.”

“You definitely are concussed.” Marcus patted at his coat, checking the tea package. “Do you live far from here?”

“Not far, but you don’t have to bother. I can….” The flutter returned. Then his eyes drooped, an uneven shuttering, before they stilled. The man went pale, something Marcus hadn’t thought possible considering he was already nearly bone white, but a creeping gray flush spread over his cheeks, and his breathing hitched, growing erratic.

“Shit.” It was a coarse word, one learned from the stable master when he’d been twelve, but it was fitting at this point in his life.

Dropping his head to the man’s chest, Marcus was encouraged by the steady beat of his heart beneath his bloodstained linen shirt. Sliding a hand up the man’s belly, he tried to concentrate less on the firm muscles under his fingers and more on the warmth of the man’s skin. He was growing cold, the chilled ground leeching away the heat of his body. Marcus would have to move him quickly, but it would have to be somewhere close. With his pate rattled, the long trek up to Great Richmond would do more harm than good, and Marcus still didn’t know if any of the man’s limbs were broken.

“Damn it, I need you to wake up, old man. I need to know where you live.” Marcus folded the man’s greatcoat around his shivering torso and pulled in his arms, telling himself not to look at the injured man’s long, delicate fingers and dream of them ghosting over his own chest. His cock certainly wasn’t listening to him. It was alert and sniffing like a dog with a bitch in the wind, and every twitch of his roiling balls was a reminder he was a sick man, perverted not just for his love of men but for raking up a desire when the man in question was clearly broken.

The lights of a low-flying zeppelin dappled the sky above him, the fog swirling about the enormous balloon’s cab as its rotary blades swished through the damp air. It was enough of a wind to blow a gust of cold down on them, and Marcus leaned forward, hoping to shield the unconscious man from the bluster. It passed quickly, driven to do better things than hover over the area on a dank night, and Marcus sighed with relief as it moved on.

His arms were certainly strong enough to carry the man, but he was loath to leave behind his walking stick. He grabbed the sword cane from where he’d let it fall earlier, tucked it into the man’s coat, and secured it beneath a row of buttons to hold the damp wool folds together.

The lanterns would have to stay, he decided. There was no way he could manage the man and a lantern both.

When he slid his arms beneath the man’s legs, he met resistance, and his fingers tangled through what felt like girders. Curious, he moved the man aside, careful not to jostle him too much, and stared in sheer amazement at what he found hidden beneath the thick woolen fabric of the man’s coat.

If anything, the contraption was small, barely two feet in length or height if Marcus parsed its construction properly. Resembling a pair of struts for a folding bridge, the device looked as if it could be secured around someone’s legs by the leather straps dangling along its lengths and the couplings attaching it to a thick cloth waistband.

“What in the name of the Nine Hells?” Marcus murmured in shock when the device slowly churned at a bend when he touched it at a jointure.

It folded up into a V, then stopped, moving only an inch before locking into place. From what he could see, it had no engine, not steam or gas, and the movement definitely had been powered by… something. A soft glow beneath the cloth was enough of a clue. The mechanism was powered by arcane, a clear violation of the factions’ philosophy against mingling science and magicks.

“Oh, my little crow, what the hell are you up to?” Marcus glanced at the passed out man. “Are you insane? They’ll throw you in New Bedlam for this.”

The shrill pipe of a bobby whistle broke Marcus from his thoughts, and he moved quickly, shrugging off his own overcoat to hide the mechanism beneath its heavy fabric. A red-faced man wearing the Queen’s Blues rushed into the yard, his blackjack at the ready to bash in any attacker he might see, but he pedaled to a halt at the sight of Marcus leaning over his rescued victim.

“Ah, just what I need. Help.” Marcus slid his arms under the man’s legs and back, then nodded over to the bobby. “This man was set on by ruffians. I need to get him to a healer. Is there someone in the area you know and trust?”

The bobby ducked his head, nearly solicitous in his bearing toward Marcus, but his face hardened when he took a good look at the man in Marcus’s arms. “Begging yer pardon, sir, but fuck ’im. ’E can rot there for all I care.”

“What do you say?” Marcus pulled himself up, hefting the man’s slender body into the cradle of his arms with ease. “He’s injured. And an innocent Englishman attacked by his own. He needs assistance.”

“Ye wouldn’t say that if ye’d recognized ’im, guv,” the bobby said, spitting on the ground as if to wash himself of a foul taste in his mouth. “That’s the bloody fucking Toymaker.”

Author Bio:
Rhys Ford is an award-winning author with several long-running LGBT+ mystery, thriller, paranormal, and urban fantasy series and was a 2016 LAMBDA finalist with her novel, Murder and Mayhem. She is published by Dreamspinner Press and DSP Publications.

She’s also quite skeptical about bios without a dash of something personal and really, who doesn’t mention their cats, dog and cars in a bio? She shares the house with Yoshi, a grumpy tuxedo cat and Tam, a diabetic black pygmy panther, as well as a ginger cairn terrorist named Gus. Rhys is also enslaved to the upkeep a 1979 Pontiac Firebird and enjoys murdering make-believe people.


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