Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Random Tales of Christmas 2017 Part 6

Gifts Given by Marshall Thornton
Boystown #10
In the tenth installment of the award-winning Boystown Mysteries. it’s Christmas 1984, and Nick is busy juggling a couple of cases with his hectic personal life. Sugar Pilson has decided to marry and has asked him to check up on her fiancé. Meanwhile, he’s hired to investigate a shady financial planner at Peterson-Palmer. When the two cases begin to have too much in common, Nick searches for the link. Only to find out that he himself might be the link.

Boystown Series Goodreads

Through the Dark Clouds by Ada Maria Soto
In 1940 Quebec, Christmas Eve is a dreary affair for John. His lover, Robert, a bomber pilot, is stationed in Europe, and John is afraid to read his last letter too often for fear that the memories will fade. But even the darkest of times must end, and sometimes, for Christmas, miracles can come shining through.

This title is part of Dreamspinner's 2011 Advent Calendar: I'll Be Home for Christmas.

Such a lovely Christmas tale of love.  You can just feel John's fear of hope and yet an equal fear of what could be his future if he stopped hoping.  I won't say too much because Through the Dark Clouds is a short story but I will say it is so full of love that you can't help but smile.  Whether you read this tale now during the holiday season or you read it in the middle of a heat wave in July won't matter because the emotions you can't help but feel are needed every day.  The historical setting was just icing on the cake for me but if you don't read historicals, I still highly recommend giving this little gem a read because love and hope is timeless and sometimes we all need a reminder of such blessings and that miracles truly do happen.


Ballerina Dad by Amy Aislin
Attending his daughter’s holiday dance recital should be easy for pro hockey player Patrick Barnes. Showing up in a tutu, however, wasn’t exactly part of the plan. And yet the holidays get even more interesting when he bumps into Lee, the man he let get away years ago.

Ballet instructor Lee can’t believe who just walked into his studio. He also can’t believe how quickly the flare of attraction between he and Patrick resurfaces, despite the years that have gone by since they last spoke.

Once upon a time, they let opportunities get away. Is it possible they’ll now have the chance to pursue the spark that has come back to life after just one conversation?

Holidays are a time for giving, and neither Patrick nor Lee are about to take this particular gift for granted.

Vampire Claus by Robert Winter
’Twas the night before Christmas, but what’s stirring is a little more dangerous than a mouse.

Taviano is nearly two hundred years old and never wakes in the same place twice. Weary and jaded, the vampire still indulges in memories of childhood Christmases in Naples. He lingers in shadow, spying on mortals as they enjoy the holiday.

When Taviano spots a handsome young man in Boston loaded down with presents and about to be mugged, he can’t help but intervene. Soon he’s talking to joyous, naïve, strong-willed and funny Paul, a short-order cook who raised funds to buy Christmas presents for LGBTQ children. Before he knows what’s happened, Taviano is wrapped up in Paul’s arms and then in his scheme to get the presents delivered by Christmas morning.

A vampire turned into a Christmas elf… What could go wrong?

Vampire Claus is a 30,000-word standalone gay romance about a lonely vampire and a fearless mortal with no instinct for self-preservation. A heartwarming ending, no cliffhanger, and a young man who discovers he has a thing for fangs. Isn’t that what Christmas is all about?

A Lion in Tails by Andrew Grey
Larry Kincaid isn't ready to be a parent, but when his sister dies in an accident, he takes his nephew, Angus, into his home. The change throws Larry's life into limbo until he meets Joshua Langdon.

To Joshua, Larry is a lion: growly and strong, but too proud to ask for help. Joshua gets past his defenses and finds a place in Larry and Angus's family, but Larry's pride gets in the way. Can they turn their holiday romance into a relationship that lasts into the New Year?

A story from the Dreamspinner Press 2013 Advent Calendar package "Heartwarming".

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Random Tales of Christmas 2017

Part 1  /  Part 2  /  Part 3  /  Part 4

Through the Dark Clouds by Ada Maria Soto
The single dull lamp illuminating the room gave the ferns of ice crawling across the window glass a golden autumnal hue, out of place against the heavy fall of snow. John rolled another thin rag, greasy with coal soot, and carefully stuffed it along the edge of the window frame. He was trying to keep out the creeping chill of the Quebec winter. John kept telling himself that the storm had nothing on the howling wind that blew off the Hudson Bay back home, but that thought did little to warm his hands. 

He knew he should get a fire going in the little potbellied stove of his rented room, but the coal was running low and getting more would mean leaving his room and facing the holiday merriment downstairs. As it was he could hear Glen Miller and “Moonlight Serenade” coming up from the parlor below his room. It was underscored by the deep laughter of old men well into their cups. 

A heavy knock rattled his thin door. John knew it would be Mrs. Bruce on the other side. She always knocked the same way; two knocks loud enough to raise the dead, or at least drunks late on their rent, then a third little knock like an apology to the innocent. John managed to forgo his cane as he took the half dozen steps to the door. He opened it to Mrs. Bruce with her sharp blue eyes and her face cracked liked ice on a spring sea.

John forced a smile. He could feel the tiny pricks of an icy burn just where his cheeks touched the cold wire rims of his glasses. “Good evening, Mrs. Bruce.” 

“Hello, Johnny. I noticed you didn’t come down for supper.”

John knew his absence would be conspicuous but the very idea of the evening was just too much for him to handle. “I’m sorry. I’m not really in the festive spirit this year.”

Mrs. Bruce just nodded. John was sure she’d seen every permutation of humanity pass through her boarding house doors and would hopefully understand. “Well, I thought you might be having one of your moods so I brought you some rolls and a little ham.” She held out a dish wrapped in a thick linen napkin instead of the usual dishtowel. “You don’t eat enough the rest of the year; you should have a little something now.”

“Thank you.” John took the still warm plate and let the heat soak into his fingers. He knew Mrs. Bruce was expecting more from him. He was one of the “good ones” by her reckoning. “If the weather clears up a bit, I’ll walk you to the morning services,” he offered.

“You’re a dear boy.” She patted his cheek. “Any more word from Robert?”

John kept smiling despite the constant dull ache in his chest suddenly becoming a sharp pinch.

“Only that letter a few weeks ago.”

“Well, next time you write him, tell him he better come home safe and sound. He’s got the only strong back in this place and I need some help moving the sofa in the parlor.” John laughed, his breath turning to steam. “And you should light a fire in here. The cold can’t be good for your leg.”

John shifted his weight off the metal frame holding his leg in place. It creaked a bit, as stiff in the cold as the rest of him. “I was just about to light one,” he smoothly lied. “Merry Christmas.”

“Merry Christmas, dear.”

John shut the door and balanced his dinner on the mess of papers covering his desk knowing the food would be ice cold in minutes. He also knew he wouldn’t eat it. He dragged himself back to his bed and flicked on the small secondhand Bakelite radio that lived on his nightstand. He watched it begin to glow. He carefully twisted the knobs, straining to hear voices woven into the static. If he was lucky and there was just the right kind of weather over the North Atlantic and not too much aurora activity he could tune in the BBC. Not that the BBC ever broadcast the things he really wanted to know but he liked to think that just maybe he and Robert were listening to the same thing in the same moment.

As he slowly shifted through the bands, he traded one flavor of static for another. He caught the occasional burst of Christmas music or some girl singing in a husky voice about her boy overseas. He preferred the static. John finally flipped off the radio in disgust, the room becoming that little bit darker. There was still static in the sound of a billion dry snowflakes grinding away at the layers of boarding house whitewash and old rippled glass windows. 

He pulled open the drawer of his bedside table wiggling it so it wouldn’t stick. Without even looking, he pulled out an envelope and a single photo. He drew his finger along the scalloped edges of the photo and turned it a little toward the light. In it Robert stood straight and tall in his RCAF uniform with a half dozen other men in front of a British bomber. It had still been summer when the picture was taken and Robert had only been gone a handful of months with promises to be home before the next school term started. After all the war couldn’t last that long. That’s what he had said after their lips touched for the last time.

Of course, Robert shouldn’t have been in England to begin with. It wasn’t part of the Plan. The Plan was so old it deserved to be a proper noun. Worked out when they were just boys stealing sinful kisses behind Father Jeremiah’s smoke shed, the Plan stated that they would get the hell out of Nacknik and even right out of Manitoba. They would go to Quebec or maybe even Toronto, get a room and enroll in university together. Robert would study engineering while John would study the subtleties of the English language.

They were hardly a year into the Plan when everyone in the boarding house gathered around the tall radio in the parlor to listen to their newest king. It wasn’t long after that Robert was asked to do his part for King and country. No one asked John. With a leg that dangled half dead beneath him even much of the “women’s work” was kept from him. His mother always told him to count his blessing as far as his leg went, and he did. He still had nightmares of the other boys in the hospital trapped in iron lungs with their limbs strapped to boards. Instead, he was told to keep to his studies, and he did, while he tried not to think of Robert falling out of the sky every second of every day. If he was lucky, sometimes he’d get a full minute when that thought didn’t cross his mind.

John looked around perfectly aware that the room was empty of all life except his own then pressed the photo to his lips before setting it aside.

He ran his fingers along the edge of the envelope, just like he had the picture, but he didn’t open it. He knew every word the letter contained. It was full of banalities, one old friend to another, and contained no word of missions or postings. Still, John knew it was a love letter hidden under the most common language, and he had this strange fear that, if read too often, the words would somehow fade like the watercolor down in the parlor that always caught the afternoon sun. 

He put the photo and envelope away and flipped off the little bedside light. He waited for his eyes to adjust. Somewhere above the snow and howling wind was a full moon. After a minute he could see his breath begin to sparkle in the tiny hint of light filtering through the clouds.

He watched the little cloud of steam grow before him, breath by breath, until he realized his fingers were as numb as his nose. He heard the old clock in the hall strike eleven. He crawled under his blankets only stopping to peel off his grey canvas shoes. The blankets didn’t give much warmth, but like the fire, he didn’t care enough to take a spare from the linen closet down the hall. Instead he closed his eyes and tried to sleep. He didn’t want to be awake when it became Christmas.

Ballerina Dad by Amy Aislin
“Are we there yet?”

“Not yet, baby girl.”

Patrick glanced at his four-and-a-half-year-old daughter, Jordan, in the rearview mirror. Strapped into her booster seat, she clutched her well-loved stuffed bunny. Mr. Mutsy had been drooled on, vomited on, spat up on, and when Jordan was two, drawn on with a purple Sharpie. It was tattered and faintly smelly, yet she still refused to go anywhere without it.

She sang a song under her breath that sounded vaguely like “bee-boop-bee-bee-bah-boop-bo!” Her lyrics needed work, but he had to give the kid credit: she could lay down a sick beat.

“Daddy, now are we there yet?”

We’re about thirty seconds away from the last time you asked. In Jordan’s defense, she was excited because it was Parents’ Day at her ballet class.

“Five more minutes,” he said, exiting the highway. The wipers worked against the windshield, swishing away the wet snow falling from the slate-grey sky. Nine days until Christmas and it still wasn’t cold enough to snow properly in this bustling suburb of Toronto.

Parents’ Day was actually Moms’ Day at the ballet studio, but his ex-wife, Jordan’s mom, had been called away on a last-minute business trip, leaving Patrick as the sole parent to Jordan for the weekend. Jordan had been so excited to have him come to her ballet studio for the first time that he couldn’t say no, even though he was dead sure that he was about to have his non-ballet-dancing ass handed to him by a bunch of tiny four- and five-year-old girls in shiny pink tutus.

It was just his bad luck that his team skate today was optional.

They were a few blocks away from the studio when Jordan said, “Daddy, Ash said we can record and take pictures. Did you remember to bring the video camera?”

Ash was Ashley, Jordan’s ballet instructor. “I have it, honey.”

Said video camera sat ominously on the passenger seat next to him. Maybe the batteries were dead. Or the room would be too dark and the recording wouldn’t come out clearly. He could always “accidentally” drop it in a puddle.

“Good, ’cause I want Mommy to see our dance when she gets home. You’re gonna be one of the only boys, Daddy. Are you nervous?”

Nervous? He was a pro hockey player. A veteran pro hockey player. He didn’t get nervous. What he was was oh-my-God-if-word-of-this-gets-out-to-my-teammates-I’ll-never-live-it-down anxious. His nickname would go from Pattycakes to Pirouetting Patrick or Ballerina Barnes.

“No, I’m not nervous,” he replied, pulling into the studio’s parking lot. Jordan had unhooked herself from her booster seat and was out the door almost before he turned off the engine. “Whoa, whoa, whoa!” Patrick opened his door and stuck his head out to find Jordan already a row over, Mr. Mutsy tucked into her purple backpack, and a small gift bag clutched in her right hand—Ashley’s Christmas present. “Where do you think you’re going in such a hurry?”

Jordan huffed impatiently and dragged her booted feet as she made her way back to him. She was adorable in her white tights and purple winter jacket. The hem of her pink tutu peeked out from beneath her jacket. Her brown curls were piled atop her head in a sloppy, lopsided bun she’d insisted on doing herself. The mix of rain and snow had slowed, yet occasional drops still landed on her head and shoulders.

“Wait for me, please.” Getting out of this car may have been the last thing he wanted to do, but his kid was the most important thing in the world to him. She was the only one he’d brave this day for.

“Come on, Daddy.” Exasperated, Jordan grabbed his hand and pulled. “We’re gonna be late.” Actually, they were about ten minutes early. “We still have to put the sparkly glitter makeup on.” We? That puddle was looking more and more likely.

“I’m coming. I’m coming.” Patrick exited the car and pocketed his keys. As he straightened, the fluffy, bright-pink and purple tutu around his waist snagged against the seat belt.

“Daddy!” Jordan fixed the tutu so that the giant fuchsia bow was once again centred in front.

“Am I presentable now?”

“Yup.” Jordan nodded in satisfaction, grabbed his hand again, and started for the studio’s front doors. “Let’s go.”

They were halfway across the parking lot when Jordan gasped and stopped short, almost causing him to run her over.

“Daddy, the camera! You forgot it. We have to show Mommy and all your hockey friends our dance.”

Forget the puddle. It was going into the lake.

A Lion in Tails by Andrew Grey
Chapter 1
“UNCLE LARRY, can we get a real Christmas tree?” Angus asked pitifully from the backseat.

“Of course, but it’s too early to get one, and I have a party in a few days, so I’m hoping you’ll be willing to help me put up the big tree in the living room. When it gets closer to Christmas, we’ll put up a real tree in the family room,” Larry Kincaid promised.

“But Santa will come to the real tree, right?” Angus asked. “Does Santa know where I am? What if he comes to where me and Mommy used to live and I’m not there?” He sounded so plaintive it broke Larry’s heart.

“Santa knows where you live; I promise. But tonight when we get home, you can write him a letter, and I’ll help you mail it,” Larry said. He hoped Angus would ask more questions or talk about anything, but he simply sat in the backseat and stared out the window.

Larry’s older sister, Melanie, had died in a car accident on her way home from work four months earlier, and his five-year-old nephew Angus, according to Melanie’s will, was to be raised by Larry. Granted, they were the only family either of them had since Melanie never married and Angus’s father had never been part of his life and seemed to want nothing to do with him, but Larry still wondered what his sister had been thinking. His life was so not kid-friendly, but he had been trying and would continue to try for as long as it took. “What do you want for dinner?” Larry asked.

Angus said nothing. He did that a lot. Sometimes he asked questions, and Larry always answered them as truthfully as he could, but mostly he stayed quiet and withdrawn. So his questions about Christmas trees had caught Larry a little off guard. Angus mumbled something Larry couldn’t hear. “Nuggets,” he finally said a little louder.

Larry should have known. There were times when he thought Angus was going to turn into a chicken nugget—either that or a bowl of macaroni and cheese. “Okay. We’ll go through the drive-through and get you some. Then we can go home and you can eat.” No answer. “Will you help me put up the Christmas tree for the party?”

“Uh-huh,” Angus said. “Will there be kids at the party? Mama had a birthday party for me with all my friends. Will it be like that only for Christmas?”

“Not this party, buddy. It’s for grown-ups and the people I work with. But I promise there will be food you like, and you can watch a movie in the TV room.”

“I wanna be with you,” Angus said softly.

“Okay. You can be with me all night if you want. The women I work with are going to love you.” Larry paused for a few seconds. His Christmas party was always a big deal. He decorated the house lavishly and invited his colleagues and clients. It was an evening of glitter, glitz, and bling, with men in tuxedos and women in eveningwear and sparkling jewelry. How his party had become one of the social events of the year, Larry wasn’t quite sure, but it was. And because of that, he got a lot of extra clients who wanted him to manage their money. Larry pulled into the drive-through and placed the order for the food. Once he’d paid and received the bag, he handed it to Angus, who held it on his lap for the rest of the ride home.

When they pulled up and parked in front of the large Victorian painted lady he called home, Larry helped Angus out of his car seat and they walked inside. Angus knew he had to eat at the table, so Larry got a plate for him and poured a glass of milk. Angus climbed up into one of the chairs and began to pull out his dinner.

Larry helped him and then got himself some leftover pasta with pesto sauce out of the refrigerator and heated it in the microwave. He sat with Angus, but they didn’t talk much. Angus ate silently, and when he was nearly done, he offered a nugget to Larry. He took it and chewed, smiling as Angus ate the last one.

For the past four months, since Angus had come to live with him, Larry knew he’d only been existing. He hadn’t made any plans. Usually in the winter, he booked a cruise for a week of fun in the sun away from snow, ice, and wind. But not this year. Things felt too unsettled for him, like he expected everything to change at the drop of a hat, the way it had a few months earlier when he’d gotten a phone call that his sister was dead and he needed to drive from Carlisle to Pittsburgh to get his nephew. Now he expected everything to change just as rapidly.

“Finish your milk,” Larry said gently. Angus nodded and emptied his glass. Then Larry took care of the dishes. “I’m going to go up in the attic and start bringing things down for the tree. Do you want to help?”

Angus climbed down off the chair and followed Larry up the stairs and then to the third floor. When Larry opened the attic door, Angus peered inside and then stepped back. “It’s scary,” Angus said.

“I know, so I’ll get the things, and you can help me carry them downstairs,” Larry said with a smile. He retrieved the tubs of ornaments as well as a few small boxes that he gave to Angus to bring along. The two of them carried down the decorations as well as the huge tree he kept in prelighted sections.

Once everything was in the formal living room, he moved the furniture and set up the tree. After it was plugged in and the lights adjusted, he and Angus began hanging the angels—hundreds of them. Of course, Angus hung them all low, and Larry had to do the rest of the tree, but he didn’t mind. A few times he lifted Angus up so he could put some of the ornaments higher on the tree. But after about half an hour, Angus went to sit on the sofa, curled up, and promptly fell asleep.

Larry finished the tree and quietly packed everything up before tiptoeing up the stairs to put the tubs back in the attic. When he returned, he saw that Angus hadn’t moved, and the room glowed with the hundreds of lights from the tree. Larry watched the tree for a few minutes and then walked to where Angus slept. He gently picked him up. Angus rested his head on Larry’s shoulder, and Larry carried him up the stairs to his room.

Angus’s room had once been Larry’s guest room. He’d moved out the antique bed, dresser, and other furnishings, and moved in the bed Angus had had at his mother’s. Larry hadn’t had a chance to have the room painted, so Angus slept in a room the color of honeydew melon. “Brush your teeth and then get ready for bed,” Larry prodded. Angus went to the bathroom without argument, and Larry heard the water running. He made sure Angus used the toilet and washed his hands and face as well as brushed his teeth before helping him get ready for bed.

Larry tucked Angus in and then told him one of the stories Larry’s dad used to tell him and Melanie. Then Larry said good night and turned out the light. He went to his room and made sure everything was in order. Really, he was just listening in case Angus needed anything. Then, when he didn’t hear anything, he went downstairs and sat in the living room, watching the tree and wondering what in the hell he was doing.

“UNCLE LARRY.” He cracked his eyes open the following morning to find Angus standing by the side of his bed. It was just after six, according to the clock on his nightstand. “I had a bad dream.”

“Okay,” Larry said. “Do you need to use the bathroom?” he asked. Angus hurried away, and after a few minutes Larry heard the toilet flush. Then the patter of little rushing feet hurried toward him. Larry lifted the covers, and Angus crawled into bed with him. One of the little changes in his life had been the purchase and use of multiple pairs of pajamas. “Feeling better?” Angus nodded on the pillow. “Do you want to tell me about it?”

“There were monsters, and they took Mommy away,” Angus said, near tears, moving closer to him. Larry wasn’t sure what to do, but then he did what his dad had done to soothe away their bad dreams: he gently rubbed Angus’s back. Angus settled down. He did sniffle a few times, but thankfully he also fell back to sleep, and Larry managed to do the same.

He got up a few hours later. Angus was still asleep, but somehow Larry got out of the bed without waking him. Larry washed up and then tiptoed around, tidying the house. He made Angus’s bed and looked around the room while he was in there. This really needed to be turned into Angus’s room instead of just making do. There was so much to get done, and taking care of Angus wasn’t leaving him time for the things he would normally do around the house.

Larry got most of his chores done before he heard Angus get up.

“I’m hungry,” Angus said from the bedroom doorway, rubbing his eyes.

“We can make breakfast,” Larry said. “Do you want to help?”

Angus nodded. “I can make toast.”

“Okay. How about you get cleaned up and dressed, and then we’ll eat,” Larry suggested. Angus walked to his room, and Larry helped him pick out what he wanted to wear. Once the clothes were set out, Larry left him and got dressed himself. By the time he was dressed, Angus was mostly ready. Larry helped him finish, and then they went downstairs.

Breakfast was an easy affair. They sat at the table with their toast and scrambled eggs. “The party is next weekend, and I thought that we’d finish putting up the decorations and arrange for you to get some special party clothes.” Angus looked dubious, but he eventually nodded. “I can also call Kenny’s mom, if you like?” Kenny was the same age as Angus and in his class at school.

That got a smile and a nod. Larry checked the time and made the call. “Kenny is at his grandma’s today, but his mom said you can come over tomorrow afternoon to play.” Rose Martin, Kenny’s mom, was a lifesaver. They’d met when Angus had asked if Kenny could come over to play, and she’d turned out to be a godsend, always willing to help or answer some of his millions of questions. “Finish eating, and we’ll put on Christmas music while we decorate the rest of the house.” Larry figured they’d decorate the mantle today, and then while Angus was at Kenny’s, he could finish the rest.

The decorating went well. Larry got a stool and let Angus help arrange the gossamer and the white angels. It looked pretty good when they were done. “Let’s get our coats so we can go to the tuxedo store. When we get back, you can write your letter to Santa Claus, okay?” Larry helped Angus zip up his coat and get his mittens and hat on. Then they left the house.

The sky was gray and the clouds low. Larry had the feeling it might snow. Once they were in the car and buckled up, he started the engine and turned on the radio, hoping for a weather report while he made the twenty-minute drive from Carlisle to Mechanicsburg. Just as he was pulling into the strip center parking lot, he heard the report that they could expect up to six inches of snow. “We might be able to make a snowman tomorrow,” Larry said.

“Like Frosty?” Angus asked.

“Sort of,” Larry said. He got out, and by the time he got around to the other door, Angus was out of his seat. Larry waited while Angus jumped down, and then he locked the car. He took Angus’s hand, and they walked toward the formalwear store as the first flakes of snow began to fall around them.

“Can I help you?” a man said as soon as they stepped inside.

Angus was looking all around, and Larry had to stop him from running off. “Let’s get your coat and stuff off.” Larry bent down and took off Angus’s outerwear before standing up and looking into the brightest blue eyes he’d ever seen. He stilled and swallowed, momentarily forgetting why he was in the store. “We need a tuxedo for him,” he managed to croak out eventually.

“Is he in a wedding?” the man asked.

“No. My holiday party is formal, and he wants to attend,” Larry explained. “I’m Larry, by the way.”

“Joshua,” the man said as Angus took off around the corner to a rack of white jackets. Before Larry could stop him, he’d pulled one off the rack and started putting it on.

“I want this one,” he said with an excited grin Larry hadn’t seen since before his sister’s accident. Angus turned in a circle, the little tails flying up behind him. Then he ran to a mirror and looked at himself before breaking into a little dance. He whirled around again and then stopped, looking up at Larry.

How on earth could he say no? “Okay, buddy, but we need to get you some pants and the rest of the outfit.”

“That one looks a little small for you,” Joshua told Angus. “Can I get you one that’s a little bigger? I also need to measure you so I can get the rest of the things you need. Is that okay?”

“Yes!” Angus answered loudly. He let Joshua help him take off the jacket and then get him another one. Joshua also selected pants, a shirt, a red cummerbund, and a tie.

“You need to try these on,” Joshua said and looked at Larry. But Angus had taken Joshua’s hand, so Larry followed behind and then into the changing room with Angus.

“I can do it,” Angus said when Larry tried to help him, so he stepped back while Angus pulled on the pants. He needed help with the shirt and the other accessories. Larry let him put on the jacket, and then Angus raced out of the dressing room.

“Look, Joshua,” Angus cried as he hurried to the mirror. Once again he did his little dance and whirled around.

“You look good, little man,” Joshua said. “I bet you’ll be a hit at Daddy’s party.”

Angus stopped and turned. “That’s Uncle Larry. My mommy died and now I stay with him.” Larry walked over to him, and Angus seemed to realize what he’d said. Larry scooped him into his arms.

“I didn’t mean anything,” Joshua whispered.

“I know. He’s had a tough time. His mother died in an accident, and he’s been with me for about four months now.” Larry rubbed Angus’s back. “Are you okay?”

“Yes” came the muffled answer.

“You know, it’s okay to miss your mom,” Joshua said. “My mom died two years ago, and I still miss her.” Angus stilled for a few seconds and then motioned to be put down. He pressed close to Larry but watched Joshua, who knelt down. “It’s okay to cry if you want to. I did sometimes.”

“You did?” Angus asked, with awe in his voice.

“Yeah, but it will be okay. You have your Uncle Larry to take care of you.” Joshua seemed to know exactly what to say, because Angus stood up straight and moved away from Larry’s legs. “Will you stand up tall and still for me? I want to make sure everything fits.”

Joshua made a real show of fussing over Angus, and within a few minutes Larry’s quiet nephew was laughing and talking up a storm, telling Joshua about the Christmas tree they’d put up and the one they were going to get for his Santa presents.

“Uncle Larry says we’re gonna make a snowman tomorrow.” Angus ran to the window and peered out. He seemed as fascinated with the falling snow as Larry was dreading the cold and shoveling he would have to do. “Can Joshua come over and make a snowman with us?”

“I think Joshua has to work,” Larry said, turning toward the other man with an apology forming on his lips. But it never made it out of his mouth.

“Can he come to the party?” Angus asked with as much excitement as Larry had heard from him.

Larry went to his coat and rummaged in one of the inside pockets, coming up with a slightly rumpled invitation. He handed it to Joshua.

“You don’t have to do that,” Joshua said.

“No. Anyone who can get Angus that excited about anything deserves a party invitation.” Angus had gone back to stand in front of the mirror. “It’s been really hard for him. I think he’s talked more to you today than he has to just about anyone else in months.” Larry couldn’t help letting his gaze slide over Joshua. He was slim and tall, with what might have been a touch of gray at his temples. Joshua looked too young, but Larry knew looks could be deceiving. No one thought he looked like he was pushing forty. “So, if you’d like to come to the party, you’d be most welcome.” Larry smiled. “It isn’t like you can’t find anything to wear.”

Joshua’s gaze burned back at him, and Larry’s belly did a little flip. It had been a while since he’d been with anyone, and the interest in Joshua’s blue eyes was as plain to him as anything.

“I’d like that,” Joshua said. They spent a few seconds smiling at each other, and then a boyish squeal of delight pulled Larry out of his daze.

“Come on, buddy. We need to change back into our regular clothes. Then I can arrange for the rental.”

“The tailcoat is part of our preworn sale. It’s twenty dollars,” Joshua said. “We’re trying to clear out the inventory.”

“Okay. I’ll rent the rest, but we’ll buy him the coat.” Anything that made Angus that happy was worth twenty dollars. Larry turned back to his still dancing nephew. “Let’s get you changed.” Larry took Angus’s hand, and they walked back into the dressing room. Larry helped Angus out of the clothes and hung them back on the hangers. He hung the tailcoat separately and waited while Angus got back in his regular clothes.

“Are we going home?” Angus asked.

“Once I pay for everything,” Larry said.

Angus looked up at him. “But we aren’t going home home, are we?”

Larry knew what Angus was asking, and it broke his heart. “Your home is with me now.”

“What happens when you die, like Mommy?”

Larry stilled, about to open the dressing room door. He managed to catch the hangers on the hook before he lifted Angus into his arms and held him tight.

“Nothing is going to happen to me,” he whispered. “I’ll be here for you forever. That’s why your mommy asked me to take care of you if anything happened to her. She knew I was too ornery for anything to happen to. I promise you that.” He knew he had no right to say those things. The past few months had hammered home the lesson that the future couldn’t be predicted or counted on for much of anything other than surprises. He rocked slowly back and forth, trying to comfort his nephew as best he could. Angus clung to him, and it became apparent he wasn’t going anywhere. Larry opened the dressing-room door and carried the clothes in one hand while holding Angus with the other.

“I’ve got that,” Joshua said and took the clothes. “I have everything written up, and you can pick up the rest of the tuxedo here on Thursday.”

“Thank you,” Larry whispered and then sighed.

“I’ll wrap up the coat so you can take it with you.” Joshua put the white coat in a plastic sleeve and hung it on a stand. Then he showed Larry the bill, and Larry fumbled for a second before getting out his wallet and credit card.

“Hey, little man,” Joshua said to Angus. “Remember what I said.” Larry felt Angus nod against his shoulder.

“Come on,” Larry whispered. “Stand up and say good-bye to Joshua, okay?”

Almost to Larry’s surprise, Angus straightened up, and Larry set him on his feet.

“Bye,” Angus said. “Do you promise to come to the party?”

“I’ll do my best,” Joshua said and flashed him a smile. Larry got Angus into his coat, mittens, and hat before slipping his own coat over his shoulders. They walked to the door, and Angus stopped and waved to Joshua. Larry opened the door, and he and Angus stepped out into the swirling, thick snow and trudged toward the car.

“I’m hungry,” Angus said.

“Me too.” Larry put the coat in the car and then took Angus’s hand and walked him over to the Chinese restaurant just a few doors away. “They have chicken nuggets in all kinds of sauces here.”

Marshall Thornton
Lambda Award-winning author, Marshall Thornton is best known for the Boystown detective series. Other novels include the erotic comedy The Perils of Praline, or the Amorous Adventures of a Southern Gentleman in Hollywood, Desert Run and Full Release. Marshall has an MFA in screenwriting from UCLA, where he received the Carl David Memorial Fellowship and was recognized in the Samuel Goldwyn Writing awards.

Ada Maria Soto
Ada Maria Soto is a born and raised Californian, Mexican-American/WASP, currently living as an expat in the South Pacific. Writing is her day job for the two days a week her toddler is in daycare. The other five days a week her toddler is her day job.

A psychologist once told her she has a fantasy prone personality, but since she’s trying to be a writer that’s not a bad thing. She has dysgraphia and phonological dyslexia which means there is liable to be some exciting spelling around here.

Currently publishing with Dreamspinner Press but also taking on script doctoring work. Coming out of fandom she enjoys any direct feedback from her readers.

She is a sports fan dedicated to the Oakland A’s, San Jose Sharks, Auckland Blues, USA Eagles, New Zealand All Blacks, New Zealand Black Caps, and the Chennai Super Kings.

Amy Aislin
Amy started writing on a rainy day in fourth grade when her class was forced to stay inside for recess. Tales of adventures with her classmates quickly morphed into tales of adventures with the characters in her head. Based in the suburbs of Toronto, Amy is a marketer at a large environmental non-profit in Toronto by day, and a writer by night. Book enthusiast, animal lover and (very) amateur photographer, Amy's interests are many and varied, including travelling, astronomy, ecology, and baking.

Amy loves connecting with readers! You can find her on Facebook, Pinterest, Tumblr, and Twitter or sign up for her infrequent newsletter.

Robert Winter
Robert Winter is a recovering lawyer who likes writing about hot men in love much more than drafting a legal brief. Once upon a time, he went to Georgetown University law school. Upon graduation, he moved to New York to work in a large law firm, but later returned to Washington, DC. The legal work was entertaining and Robert spent a lot of time in bankruptcy court, usually representing either groups of creditor or the debtors themselves. But legal work didn’t satisfy the urge Robert felt to tell stories.

When he turned 50, Robert left behind the (allegedly) glamorous world of international law firms and bankruptcy court to pursue his real passion. Now he spends time in Washington, in Provincetown, in coffee shops and libraries and yurts (OK, he made that up). He finds those are better place to dream up ways to torment his characters until they realize they are perfect for each other.

Robert divides his attention between Andy, his partner of fifteen years, and Ling the Adventure Cat, who likes to fly in airplanes and explore the backyard jungle as long as the temperature and humidity are just right.

When Robert isn’t writing, he loves to cook Indian food. The aromas of the spice blends excite and challenge him. Although he’s never been to India, the food seems comforting and home-like. Add a trip to the Golden Triangle to the bucket list!

Andrew Grey
Andrew grew up in western Michigan with a father who loved to tell stories and a mother who loved to read them. Since then he has lived throughout the country and traveled throughout the world. He has a master’s degree from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and now writes full time.

Andrew’s hobbies include collecting antiques, gardening, and leaving his dirty dishes anywhere but in the sink (particularly when writing)  He considers himself blessed with an accepting family, fantastic friends, and the world’s most supportive and loving partner. Andrew currently lives in beautiful, historic Carlisle, Pennsylvania.

Marshall Thornton

Ada Maria Soto

Amy Aislin

Robert Winter

Andrew Grey

Gifts Given by Marshall Thornton
Through the Dark Clouds by Ada Maria Soto

Ballerina Dad by Amy Aislin

Vampire Claus by Robert Winter

A Lion in Tails by Andrew Grey

Review Tour: Deep Edge by RJ Scott & VL Locey

Title: Deep Edge
Authors: RJ Scott & VL Locey
Series: Harrisburg Railers #3
Genre: M/M Sports Romance
Release Date: December 1, 2017
Cover Design: Meredith Russell
One man’s passion, another man’s lies. Can love fix even the darkest of hearts?

Trent Hanson is a figure skating phenom adored by millions around the world. His whole life has been dedicated to the sport he loves even when the sport - and his own family - have turned against him. From the playground to the Olympics to his parent’s living room, Trent has fought against bullies and homophobes to be the out and proud gay man he is. But the constant fighting has left Trent tired, lonely, and skittish. All those fears will have to be shelved though when he’s hired to spend the summer working with the Harrisburg Railers ice hockey team. Who would have guessed that the man fate has decided to pair him off with is Dieter Lehmann, all-around sex god and a man who seems to have everything to prove and doesn’t care who he hurts to get what he wants.

Dieter has spent too many years languishing in the minors and a secret addiction to prescription painkillers means his career is in a downward spiral. His ex is blackmailing him and he’s close to walking away from it all. But when he’s called up in the run for the Stanley Cup to cover injuries he has a taste of what it’s like playing in the NHL and he realizes that a place on the Railers roster is what he wants more than anything. More than listening to his heart, and even more than caring for the infuriating figure skater who gets under his skin. When he crosses the line to get what he wants, he knows he has lost his way. He has to change, but is it too late for both his career and any chance he might have at love?

Olympic skater Trent Hanson lost nearly everything due to his stepfather's gambling debts so when a chance to keep his rink and his mother's home comes along he takes it, even if its a reality show involving hockey players.  Dieter Lehmann, the newest Railer is fighting an addiction of his own, painkillers so he can play but when the team is signed to do a reality show with a figure skater to learn some basics to improve their game, he's less than thrilled.  When Trent and Dieter meet on the ice, will they let the attraction that lingers grow or will their individual demons be too much to overcome?

I'm going to start out by once again saying that I am not a hockey fan.  I don't hate the sport but if all the hockey rinks were to disappear tomorrow I wouldn't miss them.  Truth is that my feelings on hockey and my love of this series speaks volumes as to the authors' ability to spin a yarn and give the readers a journey they can't put down.  Followers to blog/reviews know that I am a huge RJ Scott fan well after reading this series I am quickly becoming a VL Locey fan as well.  Their love of the sport is obvious within the pages of Harrisburg Railers series but their love of a good story with intriguing characters is even more apparent.

Dieter and Trent's attraction is pretty instant but its their ongoing connection throughout that really ignites the passion and had me hating to put my kindle down for such mundane chores such as eating and sleeping.  I love how they realize that they both need to face their individual demons before they can truly move forward.  Truth is, there is so many aspects of this story(and series) that made me smile, laugh, cry, frankly pretty much every emotion out there.  I know I use the words a lot in my reviews but it doesn't make them any less true, Deep Edge will warm your heart from page one till the end.

They may not be characters you would meet every day but Scott and Locey present Dieter and Trent in a way that if you ran into them in the grocery store or the gas station you wouldn't look twice.  In my opinion, creating characters that are definitely original and yet have that "every day" element to them takes talent and that is what you will find within the pages of Deep Edge and the Harrisburg Railers: talent and plenty of heart.


RJ Scott
RJ Scott is the bestselling romance author of over 100 romance books. She writes emotional stories of complicated characters, cowboys, millionaire, princes, and the men and women who get mixed up in their lives. RJ is known for writing books that always end with a happy ever after. She lives just outside London and spends every waking minute she isn't with family either reading or writing.

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

VL Locey
V.L. Locey loves worn jeans, yoga, belly laughs, reading and writing lusty tales, Greek mythology, the New York Rangers, comic books, and coffee. (Not necessarily in that order.) She shares her life with her husband, her daughter, two dogs, two cats, a flock of assorted domestic fowl, and three Jersey steers.

When not writing spicy romances, she enjoys spending her day with her menagerie in the rolling hills of Pennsylvania with a cup of fresh java in hand. She can also be found online on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and GoodReads.

RJ Scott

VL Locey

Deep Edge #3

Changing Lines #1

First Season #2

December 1 - Reading In Sarah's CornerUrban Smoothie ReadNerdy Dirty & FlirtyThe Smut-BrariansXtreme DelusionsMirrigold: Musings & MutteringsNautical Star BooksJessie G Books
December 6 - Making It HappenWe Three QueensMy Fiction Nook
December 8 - Scattered Thoughts & Rogue WordsSarandipityWicked ReadsJim's Reading RoomMM Good Book Reviews
December 11 - Wicked Faerie's Tales & Reviews
December 13 - Padme's LibraryBook Lovers 4EverThe Geekery Book Review
December 15 - Bayou Book Junkie 

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