Monday, June 20, 2016

A Frost of Cares by Amy Rae Durreson

Military historian Luke Alcott leaps at the chance to live in the seventeenth-century country mansion of Eelmoor Hall, home of the Royal Military School of Medicine, after being offered a job cataloging the school’s archives. Luke believes he chose the perfect place to start a new life and put his broken past behind him. But soon after settling into the old house, he hears strange noises—like footsteps—and he begins to suffer from terrible nightmares.

The only person Luke can turn to for help is the taciturn caretaker, Jay, a veteran of the Afghanistan war who carries an old battle wound. Together they try to understand Eelmoor Hall’s history and decipher what could be causing the haunting. As the weather grows colder and snow dusts the countryside, a child goes missing. Luke needs to deal with his own demons and learn to trust in love again if he hopes to face down the angry spirit and find the missing girl.

A Frost of Cares has a little bit of everything.  Paranormal, gothic, mystery, romance, history, ghosts, all tied together with a certain level of creepiness that will definitely keep you on your toes.  Halloween may be months away but it's a great read for any time of the year, however if you only read paranormal in October, you must put this near the top of your spooky TBR list.  I always find tales of mystery the hardest to review because I just do not do spoilers so I guess, I'll make this short and sweet:  I highly recommend this creepy romance!  This is the first Amy Rae Durreson story I've read but it most definitely won't be the last.  I know that not every one is comfortable when it comes to new-to-them authors but I find they fill me with almost as much anticipation as opening a new book and Durreson is no different.


Chapter One
IN A way this story begins with me standing by the window of my London flat on Boxing Day with a cricket bat in my hands, seriously considering smashing every bloody fucking pane of glass in the bloody fucking flat into bloody fucking shards. The thing that stopped me, in the end, was the handle of the bloody bat, wrapped in a fraying green grip. The end of the grip was peeling up, and that tiny imperfection, that little spike of lighter green, by being out of place, threatened to tear open the whole grip. Staring at it, I realized that I didn’t know whether the bat was mine or Danny’s.

Well, fuck, I thought. You’ll have to excuse the paucity of my vocabulary at this point in the story. Obviously I was drunk as the proverbial skunk, and several of its cousins as well, and I never was much good at talking about my (bloody fucking) feelings.

The bat could have been mine. For two brief summers as a gangling teenager, I had been a proud but somewhat unlikely member of my school’s second eleven. It hadn’t lasted, and I couldn’t remember if I’d kept any of that once treasured kit or whether it was in Mum and Dad’s loft with the other detritus of our childhoods.

Danny, on the other hand, was keen on every sport going: cricket, rugby, tennis, golf, football, anything that can be discussed in arcane and passionate depth with complete strangers —or as he used to put it, I like anything with a nice set of balls. And there was the dilemma. If this was Danny’s bat and I damaged it by using it on the windows…. It was unthinkable. What if he came home and found out I’d wrecked his stuff and so turned back round and walked away again?

Of course, by then I was 90% convinced that Danny was never coming home. He’d been missing for almost a decade, after all.

And that was why I didn’t break any windows. Instead I put the bat down, poured myself another drink, and decided to get the fuck out of London.

And by “another drink,” I mean the rest of the bloody pack, obviously.

Okay, maybe that wasn’t the best place to start this story, because I’m pretty sure right now you’re just thinking about what a sad and lonely fuckup this loser narrator is. Was. I’ve changed. Honest. Of course, I’ve no idea who “you” are. Who the fuck am I even writing this down for? I know what happened. I remember every moment of it. The only reason I’m trying to write this is because Jay thinks I’m clinging onto it a little too hard.

“Ten years ago, now,” he said to me yesterday, calmly challenging in that way only Jay can be. “You’re okay. Maybe, y’know, let it go? Let her go.”

“She is gone,” I reminded him. Of that, at least, I’m sure.

“Not if she’s still in your head.” He propped his chin up on his fist and looked at me, calm, steady, and analytical. (I still think of it as his “army face,” though I never knew him while he was still on active duty.)

“I hardly ever think about it.”

He smiled at me, wry and knowing. “Yeah? How many times this month have you slept with the light on?”

“Fuck off. Hardly any.”

“Twelve. I know because I’m in the bed with you.”

Hard to argue with that. “I can’t just switch bad dreams off.”

“You’re not going to be that guy.”

“What guy?”

“Never gets over seeing a ghost. Sits there in the old people’s home trying to scare all the nurses. I’m not letting you.”

“What am I supposed to do about it, then?”

“Get it out of your system,” he said and shrugged. “Write it down. Lock it away somewhere and stop thinking about her.”

I’m not convinced it’s going to work, but Jay asked, and since he did, I suppose I have to try. He doesn’t ask me for much. So I suppose I’m my own audience, or perhaps I’ll do the traditional thing and one day pass on a flaking and dusty, well, Word document to some eager young great-nephew.

Or not.

Jay has just leaned over my shoulder and asked why I’m writing about hypothetical nephews. Fair question, though he blatantly knows the answer as well as I do.

I do like the smell of procrastination in the morning.

Also coffee. I like coffee. Perhaps I need to make some to help me get started. Mmm, coffee. Or tea. A whole pot, brewed from the leaf, slowly strained and served with Rich Tea biscuits. I don’t think we have any Rich Teas. I could just pop out to—

Okay, and that was the point where Jay took my tablet away and made disappointed faces at me. No more procrastinating. I’ll be good.

I don’t want to write about her. What if it brings her back?

My husband is now trying to bribe me with filthy promises. Cheater.


Here goes, in proper ghost story style:

The professor first went down to E—— Hall on the 27th December 20—. At the time when he boarded the train at Waterloo, he had little apprehension that—

No, can’t do it. Bit too much of the M. R. James in that, and I never liked old Monty much. Too much prose, too little action, and far too many phobias of damp and hairy things lurking under the bed, poor closeted git.

Truth is, I wasn’t in a fit state to be apprehending anything that day, because I was as hungover as one of those aforementioned skunks would have been if they tried to sleep it off in the bottom of a hop kiln. It was late afternoon by the time I got to the station, and I had to wait ages for a train. I’d managed to stumble over to my estate-agent sister’s that morning, timing it for while Mum and Dad were out taking their Day After Boxing Day stroll across the common, and I’d tossed my key at Katie before I could change my mind. I’d told her to go ahead and do what she’d been begging me to do for years: shove my crap and Danny’s into storage and put the flat on the market.

I’d finally had enough of waiting.

I was regretting it bitterly by the time I got to Waterloo, but I resisted the urge to phone Katie and tell her I’d changed my mind. Enough was enough.

If Danny came back while Katie was there, she’d make sure he stayed around long enough for me to rush back up to town. I trusted her, even though it galled me to ask my little sister to clean up the mess that was my life.

I had enough self-awareness to know I couldn’t do it without help, though.

I actually had a good reason to be leaving London. “Professor” is a bit of a stretch, but I was already steadily on the academic career path. I was a Junior Research Fellow at one of the lesser-known London colleges, specializing in the nineteenth-century development of the British Army. I’d done a lot of work with military archives before, and my PhD supervisor, now my boss, had done considerably more.

At the time I went to Eelmoor Hall, the Army was in a state of quiet upheaval. After seventy years, it had just been announced that they would be withdrawing British troops from Germany. By the end of 2016, the Army claimed at the time, 11,000 troops and 17,000 support staff and family members stationed overseas would be back in the UK. To house them, there needed to be a vast reorganization of British Army bases. Barracks that had long stood empty were being spruced up, and regiments and organizations were being relocated all over the country.

One of the many changes underway was the relocation of the Royal Military School of Medicine from its traditional home in North Hampshire to a cheaper and more modern campus in the northeast. The RMSM had been housed in Eelmoor Hall, between the towns of Fleet and Aldershot, since 1923, and as part of the move, their CO had written to my supervisor to ask if he could recommend a keen young chap who might be interested in spending a few weeks cataloging and organizing their archives and small museum in preparation for the move. They were offering a decent wage, it would get me out of London for a few weeks, and they were putting me up for free in the now empty hall itself.

Jay says I’m waffling again, bloody backseat driver that he is.

Well, that got rid of him, though I’ll have to offer makeup sex later. So, where was I?

Eelmoor Hall.

It was dusk by the time the taxi drew up at the gates, the sort of dull winter dusk that is only the steady fading of a gray day into true darkness. There was supposed to be an on-site caretaker, one Sergeant McBride, who would let me in the gate. I climbed out of the taxi to hit the buzzer on the intercom and started to shiver. The air here was noticeably crisper than it had been in London, and my breath immediately rose in clouds.

Sergeant McBride took his time answering and was curt when he told me to wait until the gate opened. I shoved my hands into my pockets and took another breath of that cold air. It tasted cleaner than London air, and I squinted through the gates to see the grounds of Eelmoor Hall. There were lawns on this side, and a long drive running towards a pillared frontage. The old house had two wings that stretched back from the main front so the hall was longer than it was wide, and I knew there were a number of modern buildings in the grounds behind it—offices, accommodation and teaching rooms—as well as several assault courses and firing ranges. The archive was in the library, in the east wing of the old hall.

Standing there, gazing up at the stark lines of the hall, it looked as dark and tired as I felt, its redbrick frontage turned brown by the fading light. The windows were dark, but I could easily imagine that someone was standing in there, hidden behind the heavy curtains and watching my approach.

The gate whirred open, and I scrambled back into the taxi. When we finally drew up on the front drive, a man was waiting by the front entrance, leaning back against the base of the right oriel window with his arms crossed. He wore a khaki jacket and had a woolen cap pulled down low, although a few fair curls escaped around the back. He didn’t say anything as I paid the driver and lugged my case up the low steps. Only when I put it down at the top did he nod to me. “Dr. Alcott, I presume?”

“Luke,” I corrected him and held out my hand. “You must be Sergeant Mc—”

“Jay. Not in the Army much longer.” His voice was flat. “Was expecting you a little earlier.”

That explained his bad mood. In the emotional tumult, I’d forgotten to phone and let him know I was running several hours late. “Shit, I’m so sorry. It’s been a day, man. I didn’t mean to—”

“Library key,” he cut over me, handing an old brass key over. “Master key for bedrooms and kitchens, passcode for the gate and external doors, which changes on Saturday. You’re in Room 221. The corridor can be accessed from the main stairs or the library gallery. Crates and packing material are in the ground floor store cupboard by the main library door. If you get lost or need something, I’m on extension 445, unless I’m at work.”

“And then?”

“I’m at work. This isn’t my main job.”

“Then I’m even more sorry to have screwed with your day. Don’t the Army pay a proper wage for this?”

He lifted one shoulder in a slow shrug. “They just don’t want the place to sit here empty. I live here and keep an eye on things, and they don’t charge me rent.”

“Oh, the property-guardian thing. Couple of my grad students do that. Always thought it sounded like a bit of a scam, but this looks like a nice setup.” I was babbling, thrown by his grim, unresponsive face. He was handsome, now I looked properly, and that just made me want to talk more. “I mean, it must be good to have a whole bloody mansion to call your own. Or the Army’s own, I suppose, though—” I made a conscious effort to stem the word-dribble. “Um. So. I should be getting inside.”

He didn’t move, but a faint hint of amusement around his eyes salted the grimness. He had an accent, faintly underlaying everything he said with that peculiarly Ulster combination of musicality and muscle. “If you like.”

He clearly wasn’t going to come with me, and I bit back a little irritation of my own. Okay, so I’d inconvenienced him, but he didn’t have to be rude. “Point me in the right direction?”

“East,” he said and pointed. “Thataway.”

“Cheers,” I said and lugged my case inside. I glanced back to see him still leaning against the wall, scowling out over the now shadowy line of the drive where it curled back towards the gates and the lodge.

Look, I never claimed it was love at first sight.

Inside, the foyer had that odd mixture of institutional function and faded grandeur that seems to characterize old schools and posh hotels. It was dark, but lights came on as I moved forward, triggered by some motion sensor somewhere, and I was able to follow signs to the library, the lights rising and fading as I walked. I stopped for a moment at the bottom of a stairway, wondering whether it was a shortcut to my room or whether I should just carry straight on and find the way through the library.

I must have stood still too long for the motion sensors, because the lights went off. It was dark—country dark, not London dark—with no lights outside to shine through the windows, and suddenly the big house seemed even vaster and colder. I could hear a faint rattling in the wall, a distant electronic hum from somewhere, a creak of floorboards upstairs, all the normal sounds of an old and empty building.

And, as you sometimes do in old buildings, I suddenly felt that I wasn’t alone. I thought that someone else was there in the darkness, breathing in perfect time with me, so close that I could have reached out and touched them. I startled, and the lights came back on.

I was alone, of course, in an empty hallway filled with blank notice boards. It had just been my imagination.

I made my way to the library, and once I was there, I forgot all about the creepy hallway and Sergeant Arsehole McBride and got caught up in the work. They had records in there going back to the founding of the school, and the last catalog had been done back in the eighties, when they’d actually employed a part-time archivist and librarian. His neat little cabinet of index cards was still there, although one glance showed me they were hopelessly muddled. Some of the newer material had been added, but that effort seemed to fizzle out in the mid-nineties. There was a computer, a PC old enough that it still had a floppy disk drive and a dial-up modem. A faded Post-it note on the front told me that it was available for half-hourly slots only (“Please do not abuse your extranet privileges”).

So the first step would be to find out exactly what I had in here.

I’ll spare you the details. I find them fascinating, but in the end they’re not what this story is all about. What I do need to explain is what I was thinking about that first night in the library. Jay reckons, and I agree, albeit reluctantly, that if I had been any other type of miserable, I probably wouldn’t have caught her attention in the way I did.

Author Bio:
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.



Monday's Montage Mantlepiece: Unconventional in Atlanta

Seeing Him by Carol Lynne 
Physical and emotional scars drove Jonah to a life in the shadows, but Trevor is determined to draw him out of the dark and into his arms.

After spending months in a military rehabilitation hospital, Jonah returns from active duty only to find himself homeless. Jonah retreats to life in the shadows to hide his facial scars. He takes up residence in the parking garage of The Melia Hotel where he watches a striking black man come and go from his work inside the hotel. What Jonah doesn’t know is that General Manager Trevor Sharp is also watching him.

Trevor spends his days and most of his evenings at the Melia, working hard to prove he is the best man for the job. Unfortunately, between his hours and past heartbreaks, he doesn't have much time for love. When a handsome man comes out of nowhere to save him from an abusive ex, Trevor makes it his mission to find out who the man is.

Trevor eventually builds a friendship with Jonah and works to draw him out of the shadows and into his arms, but will he stay there?

Blown Away by Amber Kell 
Sometimes love finds you before you think you're ready. 

Chris Garland's love for glasswork encompasses his life. Between school and working as a concierge at The Melia Hotel, he doesn’t have time for anything else. However, when he sees the handsome stranger sitting in the hotel lobby, he can’t resist introducing himself.

Leo Abbott lost the love of his life two years ago and has yet to recover. Flying to Atlanta for his cousin’s wedding, he couldn’t help but think of his dead lover. When the hotel’s concierge checks on him in the lobby and introduces himself, Leo feels the first stirrings of attraction. Passions he thought long buried flare back to life.

Will two men from separate walks of life be able to find a common ground where they can be together?

His Last Client by T.A. Chase 
What happens when an occasional prostitute meets a client he can’t help but fall in love with? 

Gib Schultz works as a bartender at The Melia Hotel in downtown Atlanta. When Gib needs some extra cash, he sells his body occasionally. It’s not the best job in the world, but it keeps a roof over his head. When one of his regular clients asks him for a favour, Gib isn’t sure about the guy he’s supposed to meet. Yet at double his normal price, he’s willing to risk it. Within minutes, he discovers he’s risking more than just his body, he’s risking his heart.

Edwin Masters is back in the States after spending several months reporting in war-torn countries around the world. He's looking for a night or two of fun, and when he meets Gib, he's sure it'll be a great time. Then after spending time with Gib, he realises there's more to the guy than he thought, and his heart tells him it might be time to take a risk on loving someone.

They're both risking their hearts, and together, they have to decide if the reward is worth the risk.

Where Tomorrow Shines by Jambrea Jo Jones 
Be All You Can Be? 

Kasey Adams will show Quinn Nelson just what kind of man he is. After a couple of dates it’s been radio silence and Kasey wants to know why. He’s ready to settle down with just one guy and start his life.

Quinn is tired. He just wants to do his job and go home at the end of the day with an ice cold beer and something on the TV. He doesn’t have time for a happy shiny kid who wants to change the world.

Can Kasey convince Quinn they are meant to be?

Slippery When Wet by Stephani Hecht
When opposites attract, the passion ignites like nobody ever imagined.

Ever since Reno started working as the head coordinator for the kids' centre at the hotel, he'd been harbouring a not-so-secret crush on a lifeguard named Bruce. When he finally has a chance to talk to Bruce and Bruce doesn't even know Reno's name, Reno is crushed. Heartbroken, Reno is forced to admit that beauty is only skin deep and that Bruce is a jerk.

Bruce finds himself intrigued by the shy, yet cute Reno. He decides that he is going to pursue the man. But Bruce has the reputation as a man-eater. Will his reputation ruin any chance he has with Reno? Or will he be able to convince Reno that he really does care for him?

Out of Service by Devon Rhodes
Being the problem-solver of the hotel is Esteban's role, but when he breaks his rules to help a guest, things get complicated. Especially for his heart…

Esteban Parks is used to being the go-to-guy at the Melia. As the front desk manager, he's in a position to see everything that goes on—front and back of the house. Nothing fazes him, until he's confronted with an appealing guest and instinctively goes into rescue mode.

Jayden Yates has travelled to Atlanta with one goal in mind—to be himself for just a little while. His family and community already make his life miserable and he hasn't even come out yet. So he impulsively spends part of his savings to come to GayRomLit.

When he finds out that a simple mistake might derail his whole adventure before it even begins, he literally falls at the feet of the most handsome man he's ever seen. Esteban offers him more than help—there's an instant spark between them.

But can two men from such different backgrounds and stages of life find any common ground? Or will it be just a holiday romance for the memory books?

Seeing Him by Carol Lynne
With the office lights turned off, Trevor Sharp peered out of the window. From his position, he was able to see the broad-shouldered silhouette of the man he’d watched for over a week. He had no idea who the man was or why he slept in a nook of the Meliá parking garage, but there was something about him that continued to draw Trevor’s attention.

Security would have run the man out had they spotted him on their monitors, so evidently the small crevice was one of the few places their cameras didn’t reach. Interesting. Did his mysterious dark friend know he’d be safe in that particular spot or was it pure luck?

It had been a week ago that Trevor’s ex—Dickhead Danny, as Trevor liked to refer to him—had actually shown up at the hotel and waited in the parking garage for Trevor to leave work. Danny had immediately started the same tired argument about why they needed to get back together. When Trevor told Danny he had no desire to see or speak to him, his ex had snapped. Danny wasn’t articulate enough to fight with words—he’d always preferred to use his size and strength to win an argument. Danny had pushed Trevor hard against his car and had showered him with spittle as he’d screamed at him.

Then, from out of nowhere, a man wearing a faded, desert-style fatigue jacket had broadsided Danny, knocking him to the ground. Several punches had been thrown by both men, but it had been Danny who’d eventually run away with his tail between his legs. It had happened so fast, Trevor hadn’t even got a good look at his mysterious protector, but Danny had called the man a freak before he’d run off. When Trevor had tried to approach the man to thank him, the stranger had quickly turned his face away and nodded before disappearing into the shadows.

Instead of driving home that night, Trevor had turned around and gone back into the Meliá. He’d spent each night since sleeping in one of the unused hotel rooms or on the sofa in his office. Although the security at the hotel was a nice bonus, he’d discovered his invisible man only moved around once dark descended on the city of Atlanta.

Trevor sighed. Earlier that evening, he’d taken a to-go box, containing one of the hotel’s big hamburgers, Tater Tots and a bottle of water out to the garage and had left it near where he knew the man slept. He’d set the food in a spot just outside the shadows, hoping to get his first real look at the man he couldn’t stop thinking about.

Unfortunately, his plan hadn’t worked. The invisible man had stayed in the darkness of the nook that he’d made his home and had used his legs to retrieve the to-go that contained the food.

Why’re you hiding? Trevor should probably be afraid of the obviously homeless man instead of feeling a sense of warmth that the man’s proximity provided. He heard someone whistling and glanced over his shoulder. Keith, one of the security guards, was riding down the escalator that led to the Meliá offices.

"Mr Sharp?"

"Hi, Keith," Trevor greeted.

"Why’re you sitting in the dark?" Keith started to reach for the light switch, but Trevor stopped him.

"Leave ’em off. I’ve got a migraine and it helps to sit in the dark." It wasn’t the truth, but the guard didn’t need to know that. Trevor glanced at the keycard in Keith’s hand. "Where’re you going?"

"I saw someone messing around your car in the garage, so I thought I’d take a look," Keith explained. "Don’t worry, from the monitor it didn’t look like he did any damage or anything, but I thought I’d better make sure. I didn’t know you were down here. Are you spending the night again?"

Blown Away by Amber Kell
Christopher spun the blowpipe, slowly gathering up globs of molten glass from the bottom of the furnace. With practiced ease, he collected the proper amount of glowing material for the vase he visualised in his mind. The beginning of a piece always filled him with the tingle of anticipation, like meeting a sexy guy at a club and trying to calculate how quickly he could strip him down. When working with glass, his finished art never quite matched his initial idea. Sometimes the glass spoke to him and he had to follow where inspiration guided him. Humming happily, Chris watched the growing sphere at the end of his pipe. Now he was ready for the next step.

Despite the protective shield, the heat from the furnace set at around one thousand, one hundred and fifty degrees Celsius blasted across Chris’ face. Sweat poured off his body, soaking into his shirt as he smoothly slid his pipe from the searing heat. Mindful of the sudden weight, he carefully lifted the rod off of the stand and moved it to the next station.

He hoped his friend appreciated all the effort. With college tuition and fees for glass making Chris’ pockets lighter by the second, he didn’t have tons of money for gifts. However he knew Amanda loved his work and he wanted to make something just for her. He could’ve just grabbed one of his already finished pieces, but Amanda had helped him through a bad breakup a few months ago and he thought she deserved a special present.

Carrying his prize over to the metal table where he’d laid out the frit, Chris gently rolled his soft glob over the tiny pieces of coloured glass, embedding them into the material in one smooth motion. After covering all sides he smashed the bottom into the table to collect frit on the bottom. It looked a bit like a caramel apple rolled in sprinkles when he finished. Chris smiled at the analogy. He loved sweets.

Walking over to the glory hole, he settled the blowpipe in the metal support then opened the glory hole with one hand. Scooting back he pushed the quickly cooling glass into the hot oven and spun it around in a slow, steady rhythm, making sure to not leave it in one position for too long. If it overheated, the entire piece could melt off the pipe and end up a blob on the bottom of the unit. The shop owner hated it when that happened and Chris would prefer to avoid a lecture.

He kept a close eye on the glass until it glowed orange and became viscous again. Glancing behind him to make sure no one stood in his path, he slid the still spinning globe out of the glory hole. Walking fast, Chris propped the lower half of the rod on the edge of the steel table, making sure the glass cleared the surface and didn’t touch. Keeping the pipe in motion, Chris gave a hard puff into his end of the pipe. The injection of air caused a bubble to form inside the glass and enlarged the globe. After a series of additional puffs, the solid mass of glass had inflated like a balloon. Chris stopped when it had reached the size he wanted.

His Last Client by T.A. Chase
No matter how many times Gib stared at the balance in his checking account, the numbers didn’t change. He was going to be short for rent this month. Sighing, he rested his chin on his hand and frowned. He couldn’t ask for more hours at the Meliá, the hotel in downtown Atlanta that he tended bar at. They were already giving him as many as they could. No, he was going to have to make up the difference in his usual way. After picking his phone up off the table, he dialled a familiar number.

"Gib, you haven’t called in a while."

"I know. Do you have any work for me?"

His agent chuckled. "Funny you should call. One of your regulars called me. He has a friend coming into town, and wondered if you’d do him a solid. His friend is looking for a little fun for a night or two."

He chewed on his lips as he thought. After a bad encounter with a new client, Gib only went with men he knew. Silly that it took him almost five years of selling himself to figure out some people were assholes, and thought that just because they could pay him for sex, that gave them free rein to do whatever they wanted to him.

"Which client?"

Jake hemmed and hawed for a few moments, then said, "Mr Y."

For privacy reasons, Jake only used the client’s last initial to identify them. Gib didn’t care since he had no real interest in finding out who the men were.

After getting out of hospital, Gib had told Jake he would only work for certain men. He’d given his agent a list, and Jake had been good about sticking with it, even though Gib had been one of his most popular guys. So hearing it was one of his regulars made him consider doing the favour. Since Mr Y knew what had happened to Gib, he wouldn’t try to hook him up with someone who’d hurt him.

"He’ll pay double your usual rate." Jake dangled the carrot.

"Double?" Gib blinked. That was a helluva lot of money. He wouldn’t have to worry about rent for a couple of months after that. As much as he didn’t want to do it, he said, "Yes. I’ll meet him."

"Good. Mr Y said you could give him a call, and he can give you some information on the guy. If you wanted reassurance, I guess." Jake hummed, and he was obviously waiting for Gib to say he didn’t need to be reassured.

He couldn’t say it, but he could pretend to ignore what Jake said. "No problem. You know the drill. Have him meet me at Ashley’s."

Where Tomorrow Shines by Jambrea Jo Jones
Quinn Nelson finished making the bed, making sure the corners were tight. Being a maid wasn’t all bad. At least it wasn’t shooting insurgents and dodging bullets. Sure, there were some real skanky people out there who left the room in a way he wouldn’t even see in his worst nightmare, but he was happy with his job. It was something mindless that paid the bills. When he went home, he didn’t have to worry about explosions or how close to the enemy line he was. He had a beer or two and relaxed before bed only to start it all over again.

It was nice to be back in Atlanta. It had been years, but it was still home. The Meliá Hotel was a nice place and they treated their employees right. All he had to do was be on time and do his job. He could handle that in his sleep.

So what if he was a bit lonely? That was life. He’d spent the last thirty years with no significant other—he could last the rest of his life. Maybe he’d go out to eat at his favourite restaurant, Escorpion, after work. The tequila was great and so was the food. Mexican was his favourite.

Kasey Adams.

Just the name made Quinn hard. Fuck. Nope, no matter how much he wanted a goat taco it wasn’t going to happen. Kasey worked as a waiter at Escorpion. They’d met there one night and had really hit it off, but Kase was just too happy and shiny. Quinn was trying to avoid Kasey, not invite him back to his place for a fuck. Because if he saw Kasey, that invitation would be out of his mouth before he could think twice. Kasey was a sexy bastard and if Quinn laid eyes on him he wouldn’t hesitate to ask him over.

Kasey still thought he could fix the world. He’d once told Quinn that ‘everything is a path that leads us to where we need to go’. If that wasn’t glass half full, Quinn didn’t know what was. He was too old, too tired and the shine had worn off him at nineteen when he’d shot his first person in Afghanistan. He still had nightmares. They would be with him forever. He didn’t need to bring that baggage to a relationship, so he was walking off the path and wasn’t where Kase needed to be. Quinn would stick to one night stands. He was good at those.

After a month or so of dating, Quinn had to stop all communication. Kase deserved a younger guy who would be able to keep up. Someone who wanted to change the world with him, not a man with a busted leg who woke up screaming on a good night.

Quinn wasn’t that guy, no matter how Kase’s long, lean body looked in his bed. How his brown hair would stick up all over the place when he woke up. Or how his green eyes sparkled when he looked at Quinn. He’d done the right thing. He wasn’t meant for relationships and that was that.

Slippery When Wet by Stephani Hecht
He finally had the chance that he’d waited over six months for. Reno was going to have an excuse to talk to the man of his dreams, Bruce McCall. The man who had all the swagger of Jagger, the cool of Bond and the good looks of David Beckham.

It was really a shame that said man worked as a lifeguard at a hotel. But then again, for all David’s wonderfulness, Reno had to remind himself that David was just a normal, everyday guy. Besides, who was Reno to talk? He worked as the head coordinator for children’s activities at the same hotel. At least Bruce got to actually save lives. What did Reno do? He helped kids make macaroni necklaces and finger paint pictures to show off to their uncaring parents. So, as far as he was concerned, that put Bruce steps ahead of him.

Reno held his hand up to his mouth and huffed to make sure his breath didn’t stink, ran a nervous hand over his hair to smooth his cowlicks, brushed his fingers over his lips to guarantee he didn’t have any pieces of leftover dinner stuck to his face then checked his fly was all the way up. He wanted to be certain that he made a good impression. Taking a deep breath to steady his nerves, he pointed himself towards the pool area.

He found Bruce in his usual location on the fourth floor where the pool was located. He was sitting in the lifeguard chair, looking as gorgeous as ever. Reno paused a moment just to stare at him. With sleek, tan skin that covered a set of muscles to die for, dark, short hair and brown eyes that one could get lost in, he was every gay man’s wet dream come true and then some. That was before one threw in the cute set of dimples and the high cheekbones—they were just the bonus on the spank-bank cake of yumminess. And, damn it, Reno didn’t just want a big old slice of it. Hell, who was he kidding? He wanted the whole cake, icing and all.

It wasn’t until he’d been standing there for a good five minutes that Reno realised he was stalling. Not only that, but he was pretty sure he was doing a good impression of a stalker.

Taking in another deep breath, he said to himself, "Come on, stop being a wimp. You can do this. It’s not like he’s going to bite or anything. At the worst, he can just treat you like you’re nothing. Just like every other good looking guy in the world does. It won’t hurt—much."

Making himself put one foot in front of the other, Reno closed the gap between himself and Bruce. His heart pounded harder the closer he got. His throat grew dry and his breathing became so fast it was a wonder that he didn’t hyperventilate. Before he knew it, he was there. Bruce barely glanced his way before returning his gaze to the water.

Yeah, just the way Reno wanted things to start off. He could already feel himself wanting to crawl into a hole and die.

Out of Service by Devon Rhodes
Jayden couldn’t believe he was actually there at the Meliá Hotel. He shifted his shoulder bag, which seemed to be growing heavier by the minute, yet again as he waited in line in the lobby for check-in. He finally shrugged it off and rested it on the top of his rolling bag.

Excitement warred with nervousness in his gut, leaving him wishing he’d taken the time to grab a bite from one of the dozens of fast-food restaurants he’d passed before he’d eventually made his way through Atlanta’s airport to the transportation area to catch the shuttle.

He hadn’t done much travelling before… Well, to be honest, he hadn’t ever flown before. It had been a huge step for him to leave his podunk little town to come all the way to the East Coast to attend a conference where he didn’t know a soul. Registering had been an impulse, and once that had been done he’d faced the realisation that he was going to then have to buy a plane ticket, reserve a hotel room and actually get there. The planning hadn’t been as bad as he’d thought—it had been kind of fun to imagine being at the event—but that had been last winter and it had seemed so far off at the time.

Soon the day had come when he’d had to pack then drive himself to Denver for his flight. It had taken him way longer than he’d thought to get through security, so he hadn’t had time to eat in the terminal before his flight—it had already been boarding when he’d reached the gate.

He’d vaguely expected that there would be a meal served on the flight like they always showed in the movies. Instead, they’d been offered some undersized and insanely high-priced snack options for purchase. Hell, he could’ve picked up ten at the grocery store for what one would have cost him. In the end, he’d ignored his growling stomach and passed, savouring the free pretzels and going for juice instead of pop.

Now things were really getting dire, and he was feeling a bit lightheaded from lack of blood sugar. He wished the line would hurry up and move before his damn stomach decided to go on a rampage and eat all its neighbouring organs. He eyed the long counter with several computer stations…and one person working.

Seriously? One?

Jayden tried to be patient and looked at the people around him, seeing if he could pick out any other GayRomLit attendees. He didn’t know anyone who would be there other than a few people he had ‘online friendships’ with. A few small clusters of people stood here and there, but he had no way of knowing if they would be with the retreat or were just random travellers.

There was a sudden, piercing squeal as a petite blonde woman appeared out of nowhere to his left and grabbed the long-haired woman in front of him in a crushing hug.

"You’re finally here!" She grinned at her friend then met Jayden’s eyes briefly before scanning the rest of the line. "Have you been waiting long? There’s usually, like, four people working the desk."

"Yeah, we’ve been here forever. My luck, they have a staff meeting or something right when I get here." She laughed, sounding happy in spite of her words. "At least I’m standing up. My flight was lo-ong."

He could relate.

Author Bios:
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.
Amber Kell
Amber Kell has made a career out of daydreaming. It has been a lifelong habit she practices diligently as shown by her complete lack of focus on anything not related to her fantasy world building.

When she told her husband what she wanted to do with her life he told her to go have fun.

During those seconds she isn't writing she remembers she has children who humor her with games of 'what if' and let her drag them to foreign lands to gather inspiration. Her youngest confided in her that he wants to write because he longs for a website and an author name—two things apparently necessary to be a proper writer.

Despite her husband's insistence she doesn't drink enough to be a true literary genius she continues to spin stories of people falling happily in love and staying that way.

She is thwarted during the day by a traffic jam of cats on the stairway and a puppy who insists on walks, but she bravely perseveres..

She also writes under the name Mikela Q. Chase.

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.

Jambrea Jo Jones
Jambrea wanted to be the youngest romance author published, but life impeded the dreams. She put her writing aside and went to college briefly, then enlisted in the Air Force. After serving in the military, she returned home to Indiana to start her family. A few years later, she discovered yahoo groups and book reviews. There was no turning back. She was bit by the writing bug.

She enjoys spending time with her son when not writing and loves to receive reader feedback. She’s addicted to the internet so feel free to email her anytime.

Stephani Hecht
Stephani Hecht is a happily married mother of two. Born and raised in Michigan, she loves all things about the state, from the frigid winters to the Detroit Red Wings hockey team. Go Wings! You can usually find her snuggled up to her laptop, creating her next book or gorging on caffeine at her favorite coffee shop.

When she’s not running around like crazy, trying to get her kids to their various activities, she’s currently working on numerous projects. In the coming months, she has several books coming out with eXtasy Books in both The Lost Shifter Series and Drone Vampire Chronicles, plus a few additional projects that are still in the development stages.

Devon Rhodes
From top dog in business to out-of-control mom, I've been at home raising my girls for over a decade. And during that time, I've rediscovered--quite accidentally--the art of romance, specifically erotic romance. One day my muse whispered an idea in my ear, and I sat down at the laptop to try to do it justice. As they say, the rest is history!

Carol Lynne

Amber Kell

TA Chase

Jambrea Jo Jones

Stephani Hecht

Devon Rhodes


This is What Goodbye Looks Like by Olivia Rivers

Title: This is What Goodbye Looks Like
Author: Olivia Rivers
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary Romance
Release Date: June 17, 2016
Lea Holder watched a boy die in the same DUI accident that ruined Lea’s legs and threw her little sister into a coma. As the only eye-witness to the accident, if she tells the truth in court, the drunk driver will go to prison and the dead boy’s family will have justice.

But Lea lies.

If she had told the truth, Lea would have put her own mom in prison for causing the accident. With the trial over and her mom set free, Lea attempts to rebuild her shattered life as she waits for her little sister to wake from her coma.

When Lea transfers schools, she finds herself in the same senior class as Seth Ashbury, the brother of the boy her mom killed. As Lea gets to know the person buried underneath Seth’s grief, she quickly falls for his quick wit and passionate soul. But Seth remains completely oblivious that Lea is the same girl who robbed his family of justice.

As their relationship deepens, Lea finally gets a taste of the love that’s been missing from her life since the accident. But soon she’s faced with a choice: she can continue her lies and accept the comfort it gives them both. Or she can tell Seth the truth about everything, and risk destroying both her family and her newfound love.

“We should get back inside,” Seth says, his voice sounding exhausted.

“Why?” I ask.

“It’s starting to snow, and I’m not going to be responsible for you getting frostbite.”

“No, I mean, why do you want to get that degree for your brother? Seth, it’’s not going to bring him back.”

“That’s why I need to get the degree,” he says, his words suddenly desperate and rushed. “Because it was Parker’s dream for years, and he might not be around anymore, but that degree is. He deserves to have his dream survive, even if he can’t.”

“I’ll do it,” I say. The words slip from me before I can think them through, but as soon as they’re out, I realize I don’t even want to take them back. “I’ll help you with the project. Just tell me what to do, and, yeah. I...I’ll do it.”

Seth deflates then, his shoulders sagging and breath heaving from his chest. For a moment, I think I’ve said something wrong, but then he hoarsely murmurs, “Thank you. Really. It means a lot.”

I wonder if I’m finally helping Seth instead of hurting him. Taking a couple pictures will never, ever make up for what I did, but’s obviously a comfort. And I have absolutely no right to deny him any comfort I can offer.

“So are you going to tell me what this project is?” I ask.

He bites at the inside of his cheek. “It’s a thesis project, so it’s definitely not something I can explain quickly. But how about we meet in the library tomorrow and go over stuff properly. At eight-thirty, maybe?”

“Eight-thirty in the morning? It’s the weekend.”

He shrugs, but his tone is unapologetic as he says, “I like mornings.”

“Okay,” I say, giving a reluctant nod. “Eight-thirty it is.”

He nods and pats his leg, silently calling Koda. She comes bounding across the patio, skidding to a stop hardly inches from him. Then she trots over to me, licks my hand, and dutifully goes back to Seth’s side, looking up at him with adoring eyes and a lolling tongue.

I head back inside, leaving behind the cold and the snow, and Seth hovers next to me with Koda guiding him along.

“Sorry she keeps licking you,” he says, absently stroking his dog’s head. “She doesn’t usually do that, you know.”

“It’s no problem,” I say, reaching over to ruffle Koda’s ears. “I like it.”

“I knew you were a dog person,” Seth says, sounding almost smug.

“What’s that supposed to mean?”

He offers me a vague smile. “It means dogs have good taste.”

Brie waves at us as we step back into the main room, and the others toss out greetings like we’ve been gone for days instead of just fifteen minutes. Cameron suggests getting coffee across the street, and waves around a couple twenties, saying he’ll buy. Judging by Landon’s scowl, I get the feeling he just lost the cash over a pinball game. Everyone starts packing up their stuff and throwing coats back on, and we’re about to leave when a hand brushes my shoulder, the touch a strange mixture of strength and gentleness.

“Thanks,” Seth says softly as the others push past us, heading for the door.

I wait for myself to cringe away from his touch, but instead, a sense of warmth washes over me. “Like I said, it’s no problem,” I say, hoping I don’t sound as confused as I feel. “I’ll bring my camera tomorrow, and we can get started.”

“No, not that. Well, yeah, thanks for that, too. But thanks for not calling me crazy for wanting to finish Parker’s project.”

He offers me a small, soft smile that’s a thousand times more sincere than the one on my lips. If there’s anything insane about him, it’s that he still manages an expression that genuine when he’s in so much pain.

“You’re not crazy,” I say. “You just care.”

“Sometimes I think they’re the same thing,” he murmurs, his smile falling away.

I nod slowly. “Sometimes I think you’re right.”

Before he can make me explain, I follow the others outside, holding my breath as I brace against the inevitable surge of cold.

Author Bio:
Olivia Rivers is a hybrid author of Young Adult fiction. Her works include the independently published novels “This is What Goodbye Looks Like” and “In the Hope of Memories,” along with the traditionally published novel “Tone Deaf” (Skyhorse 2016.) As a certified geek, she enjoys experimenting with new publishing technologies, and her online serials have received over 1,000,000 hits on Wattpad. When Olivia isn’t working as a writer, she’s a typical teen attending college in Northern California. Olivia is represented by Laurie McLean of Fuse Literary, and nothing thrills her more than hearing from readers.


Brought to you by: