Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Random Paranormal Tales of 2018 Part 3


Spirit by John Inman
Summary:
Jason Day, brilliant designer of video games, is not only a confirmed bachelor, but he’s as gay as a maypole. One wouldn’t think being saddled with his precocious four-year-old nephew for four weeks would be enough to throw him off-kilter.

Wrong. Timmy, Jason’s nephew, is a true handful.

But just when Timmy and Uncle Jason begin to bond, and Jason feels he’s getting a grip on this babysitting business once and for all, he’s thrown for a loop by a couple of visitors—one from Tucson, the other from beyond the grave.

I’m sorry. Say what?

Toss a murder, a hot young stud, an unexpected love affair, and a spooky-ass ghost with a weird sense of humor into Jason’s summer plans, and you’ve got the makings for one hell of a ride.


When Jason Day agreed to care for his four year old nephew, Timmy, while his sister and her boyfriend went on a month long vacation he had no idea what he was getting into.  Between the man in the basement Timmy meets and his uncle showing up from Tucson, Jason has his hands full.  Wait, what man in the basement?  In the middle of mystery, unexplainable noises, and Timmy's limitless energy will Jason find time for a little romance too?

How I haven't read Spirit before is beyond me, it's as unexplainable as the man in the basement first appears to be.  Who knew creepy ghost stories could be so lighthearted and humorous?   Grasping a child's limitless energy can be a difficult thing to write without them coming across as brats that need more than one timeout but somehow John Inman has made Timmy not only spirited, energetic, a handful, but he's also made him cute, adorable, and exactly what Jason needs.

Now I won't really touch on the plot of this incredibly fun, creepy, and wildly addictive mystery because so many little things give just too much away.  I will say that having read some of John Inman's work before, I knew it would be more than just an uncle caring for his nephew while the mother is on vacation and I wasn't wrong.  Spirit really does have a little bit of everything(okay there's no sci-fi), it may sound cliche to say its got so much going on but in this case it really does.  Jason is incredibly likable and Sam from Tucson has a secret or two in the beginning but he too is absolutely delicious.  As I said above Timmy is a rambunctious little boy who despite being a bit sassy at times he really is a sweet little guy you just want to protect.

Spirit has it all and more, it hooked me from the first paragraph and when I reached that final page I was not ready to close it down.  If you are like me and already a fan of John Inman than you'll love this story and if you haven't checked out his work before, than Spirit is a great place to start.  He has a way about his work that blends edgy, creepy, mysterious, humorous, and of course romantic in just about a near perfect way.  I may not get the opportunity to read all his work as it is released but he has certainly earned his place on my "Automatic 1-Click" list.

RATING:

Light by Nathan Burgoine
Summary:
Kieran Quinn is a bit telepathic, a little psychokinetic, and very gay—three things that have gotten him through life perfectly well so far—but when self-styled prophet Wyatt Jackson arrives during Pride Week, things take a violent turn.

Kieran’s powers are somewhat underwhelming but do have a habit of refracting light into spectacular rainbows for him to hide behind. Even so, it’s not long before Kieran is struggling to maintain his own anonymity while battling wits with a handsome cop, getting some flirting in with a hunky leather man, saving some drag queens, and escaping the worst blind date in history. It’s enough to make a fledgling hero want to give up before he even begins.

One thing’s for sure: saving the day has never been so fabulous.

Nor Iron Bars a Cage by Kaje Harper 
Summary:
First I was a sorcerer. Then I was a hermit. For so long—for years that seemed to go on forever—I couldn't bear to be touched. I put up not just walls but whole stone bunkers to keep everyone out, emotionally, and physically as well. I was protected from people, from ghosts, from specters real and imagined. Sure, I was alone. But I felt safe. Only, after a while, I wasn't sure any longer whether a totally "safe" empty life was really worth living.

Then Tobin came along. Out of the blue, out of my past, with a summons from the king that he wouldn't let me ignore. I tried to cling to my isolation, but he wouldn't give up on me. Tobin never believed in walls.

This story was written as a part of the M/M Romance Group's "Love Has No Boundaries" event. Group members were asked to write a story prompt inspired by a photo of their choice. Authors of the group selected a photo and prompt that spoke to them and wrote a short story.

Blessed Curses by Madeline Ribbon
Summary:
Though he’s a sorcerer with a talent for creating blessings, David can do very little with any other magic. He works the night shift for his cousin’s magical supply shop because he’s cursed—his brother did it when they were kids—and now people can’t stand to be near him since he inspires irrational fear. Many experts have tried to remove it, but the curse has proven completely binding. Then David meets Vaughn at his brother’s wedding. 

Vaughn works for the magical enforcers, picking apart complex curses and making sure sorcerers stay within the law. He loves solving supposedly irreversible curses, though his interest in David quickly turns into something more. David, however, is too afraid of getting hurt if he lets Vaughn get past his prickly outer shell...

Midnight in Berlin by JL Merrow
Summary:
One bad decision can change your life forever. 

It’s midnight in Berlin, and drifter Leon is hitchhiking home in the rain, covered in feathers after a wild festival in the city park. He can’t believe his luck when he’s picked up by a hot guy in a Porsche. That is, until he learns his driver is a creature from his worst nightmares—and plans to turn him into one too. He runs, but he can’t escape the werewolf’s bite. 

Christoph made one mistake, but he’s paying for it plenty. He took Leon for a rogue werewolf on his way home from a hunt, and by the time he realizes the truth, it’s too late to do anything but make Leon a monster to save his life. That doesn’t save Christoph from the pack leader’s harsh punishment. 

As Leon struggles to cope with his horrifying new reality—and his mixed feelings for the man who bit him—he’s desperate to discover not only what’s happened to Christoph, but the secrets their pack leader is hiding from them all. 

Secrets the pack will kill to protect.


Click to Check Out Previous
Random Paranormal Tales of 2017

Part 1  /  Part 2


Spirit by John Inman
Chapter One
SALLY’S SUITCASE was dusty rose with little Alice-blue primroses on it. Very pretty. It was also big and bulky and weighed a fucking ton. I grunted like a caveman and broke out in a sweat simply hefting it into the trunk of the taxi. I wasn’t sure, but I thought I felt a couple of sinews in my back snap like rubber bands.

“What do you have in here? A dead body?”

“Oh, pooh,” Sally said, slapping my arm. “You gay guys gripe about everything. Just suck up the pain and try to be butch. Fake it if you have to.”

Since butch doesn’t always work for me and since I was never very good at faking anything, including maturity, I stuck my tongue out at her instead. “Blow me, Sis.” Since I knew it irked her, I cast a critical eye at her ash-blonde hair. It was bleached to within an inch of its life, and it had been that way since high school. “And stop bleaching. One of these days you’re going to wake up bald.”

She flipped her long hair back off her shoulder. “I don’t bleach, I tone.”

“Whatever.”

“Jason, you’re such a brat.” She smirked, sticking out her own tongue and waggling it around in midair, just as she had when she was nine and I was six and she was trying to freak me out. My sister could even now, at the ripe old age of thirty-one, touch the tip of her nose with her tongue. I had always admired that remarkable ability. Being a gay man, I’ve used my tongue extensively over the years in a number of scenarios, and in a number of dark moist places, but I still haven’t acquired that skill.

“Bitch. Floozy. Slut,” I mumbled under my breath, making her smile.

During this exchange, the cab driver stood way off to the side glowering, smoking a cigarette, and looking worried that someone was going to ask him to lift something. Since I had dealt with cab drivers before, I knew better than to ask.

The driver was a stodgy old guy who peered out at the world through a perpetual squint, or maybe he was just trying to keep the smoke out of his eyes. In any case, he now made it a point to stare at his wristwatch and clear his throat as he stomped out his cigarette underfoot.

“Time to roll,” he seemed to be saying. “Things to do, places to go.”

Sally and I gave each other a perfunctory peck on the cheek, and only then did we gaze around, wondering where Timmy had gone. Mother of the year, and babysitter extraordinaire, we weren’t. I quickly realized I hadn’t seen the kid in over a minute. He could be in Texas by now.

With a sigh of relief, I spotted my four-year-old nephew on his hands and knees by the foundation of the house, trying to peer through one of the tiny ground-level windows that looked into the basement. He had his little hands on the glass, with his face stuck in between them to shut out the glare, and he was talking to himself and snickering.

“Look, Sally,” I intoned. “The kid’s insane already, and you’ve only had him four and a half years.”

She slapped my arm again. “Oh, shut up.” Glancing at her wristwatch, she said, “Where the heck is Jack? He said he’d be here by now.”

“Jack comes when Jack comes.” I rolled my eyes when I said it. I didn’t much care for Jack.

Sally gave me a devilish grin. “Don’t get pornographic.”

“What? I didn’t mean it that way!”

But Sally wasn’t listening. We were already traipsing across my tiny front yard to fetch the kid. Since I got there first, I scooped Timmy into my arms. His hands and face were muddy brown where he had pressed them against the dirty window.

Sally stuck her fists on her hips and scowled at him. “You look like a miner,” she said.

“He is a minor,” I said. “He’s only four.”

“Oh, shut up,” Sally said again.

Timmy stuck his dirty finger up my nose and laughed. “You guys are funny.”

Sally stared at the two of us as if wondering what she had been thinking, bringing us together like this. “You’re going to ruin him, aren’t you, Jason? When I get back in four weeks, I won’t know my son. He’ll be lost to me forever.”

I shrugged and snapped and snarled and tried to bite Timmy’s hand off, which made him laugh even harder. “That’s the chance you take, Sis. Free babysitters don’t come cheap, you know.”

Sally just shook her head and headed back to the cab, mumbling under her breath, “That makes a lot of sense.”

A car horn in the distance snagged our attention. It was Jack, barreling down the street in his stupid MINI Cooper with the British flag on the roof. Jack was about as British as an Ethiopian famine. He gave a cheery wave out the window and pulled up to the curb with the warbling of a coloratura wailing from his tape deck. Jack liked opera.

I set Timmy on the lawn, and Sally and I watched as Jack jumped from the car, suitcase in hand. Sally was smiling. Remember when I said I didn’t like Jack? Well, Sally did.

“Isn’t he gorgeous?” she asked the tree beside her. She couldn’t have been asking me. She knew perfectly well how I felt about the twit.

Although I had to admit, Jack was immensely easy on the eyes, with his tall, hunky frame and broad shoulders and wavy black hair. I also suspected he was a homophobe, though, since he couldn’t say two words to me without making a snarky comment about my being gay.

“Hey, Sally!” he called out to my sister. “Hey, Rosemary!” he called out to me.

He thought that was funny. I merely turned and scooped a surprised Timmy off the ground and held him in my arms so I wouldn’t have to shake Jack’s hand.

Did I mention I didn’t like Jack?

Jack tossed his bag into the back of the cab beside Sally’s, overflexing a few muscles while he did it just to prove he could.

He walked up to Timmy, who was firmly perched on my arm, and tweaked his nose. Me, he ignored.

Timmy said, “Ppffthh!” and turned away from the guy. He didn’t like Jack either.

Jack didn’t even notice. He gave Sally a smooch on the mouth and said, “Ready, babe?”

The driver tucked himself in behind the wheel and started the engine, all the while making a big show of buckling his seatbelt and fiddling with the meter like he was the busiest guy on the planet. He hadn’t even closed the trunk, so while Sally and Dipshit climbed into the backseat, I set Timmy down on the edge of the lawn for the second time, laid a finger on his nose, and told him to stay put. In a brilliant flash of insight, I realized he wouldn’t do any such thing, so I immediately snatched him up in my arms again. Then I slammed the taxi’s trunk lid closed myself—one-handed, I might add, since Timmy was dangling from my other arm like a wiggling stalk of bananas.

Jack’s hand came out of the window and pointed across the roof of the cab. He clicked his car keys at the MINI Cooper at the curb, which beeped in response and locked itself up tighter than a drum. Sort of like the Batmobile.

“Don’t tip the driver,” I whispered, as Sally leaned out the other window to give me a final good-bye peck. Timmy laughed. He had his finger up my nose again.

“Don’t worry, I won’t,” Sally said, stretching her neck out a little farther to give Timmy a good-bye kiss as well. Then she took one look at the kid’s filthy face and settled on a friendly pat atop his head instead. She wagged a finger in his face. “You be good. Obey your uncle while I’m gone.”

Timmy really laughed at that. “Yeah, right.” He giggled and, squirming out of my arms, he took off running back to the basement window, where he once again dropped to his knees and peered inside.

“Maybe he got my brat gene,” I said, not entirely joking.

Sally didn’t even pretend to find that statement untrue. “No maybes about it,” she said, ruffling through her purse, making sure she had her money, her plane tickets, and whatever else women scramble around for in their purses when they’re trying to be efficient.

I stepped away from the cab, molding my face to look trustworthy. “Don’t worry about the kid. I’ll lock him in the closet if I have to.”

“Just don’t scar him emotionally. I spend enough money on my own therapy.”

“Very funny.”

Then Jack chimed in with, “Don’t turn him gay either. We can’t afford all the makeup you boys use.”

I blushed. Had he noticed I’d used a cover stick on a zit that morning, or was he just talking out of his homophobic ass again?

I couldn’t help myself. I leaned back in the window and crooned, “Don’t worry, Jacqueline. I’ll try to restrain myself. And we won’t listen to opera. I promise. I read that a lot of closeted gay guys listen to opera. Oh, and we won’t use napkins when we eat either, and we’ll blow our noses directly onto the ground just by pressing our thumb to the opposing nostril and blowing the crap out that way. Either that or we’ll wipe the snot on our shirtsleeves. You know. Like you do.”

Sally giggled, Jack turned away unamused, and the driver gave the lot of us an odd look in the rearview mirror, which made me blush again. Sally didn’t give a crap what the driver thought, and Jack was too busy being a prick and trying to look important to notice. He was studiously ignoring me as he checked his airline tickets, plucking them out of his pocket, flipping them open, perusing the contents. They weren’t going to Mars after all. It was just a four-week vacation. After a week in New York to catch a few shows, enjoy a few restaurants, and gain a few pounds, they were then going to diddle up and down the Eastern Seaboard on a train. Several trains, in fact. Personally, I would rather set myself on fire than trap myself in a rumbling metal tube for three weeks with Dipshit; but hey, that’s just me.

Sally reached out, patted my head like she had Timmy’s, then poked it back out of the window with the heel of her hand.

“Stop causing trouble,” she said with a merry sparkle in her eyes. Then she turned to the driver and said, “Airport.”

I heard him mumble, “Well, there’s a surprise,” as the cab backed out onto the street.

I waved, watching the yellow cab hustle off into San Diego traffic, and when I turned to find Timmy, he was gone again.

Holy crap! The kid was a gazelle. What had I gotten myself into?

His disappearance was solved when I found him around the corner of the house in the backyard, peeking through a different basement window. Jeez, he was like Gollum, seeking out the world’s deepest, darkest places.

When I scooped him into my arms, he sang out, “Daddy!”

And I thought, Well isn’t that sweet.


I HAD toddler-proofed the house as best I could. The basement door was securely latched so the kid couldn’t tumble headfirst down the flight of stairs leading into the bowels of the house, snapping a myriad of youthful bones along the way. Electrical wires were safely coiled and taped up and tucked under furniture in case Timmy got the inexplicable urge to chew on them. Electrical outlets were covered. All breakable knick-knacks were raised out of reach and all dangerous objects securely stashed away—switchblades, rolls of barbed wire, plastic explosives, bobby pins. (Just kidding about the bobby pins. I’m not that nelly.)

My dog, Thumper, who was a mix of Chihuahua, dachshund, miniature poodle, and quite possibly a three-toed sloth, was no threat to Timmy at all. The poor thing was almost twenty years old and hardly had any teeth left. I hadn’t heard her bark in three years. She only moved off the sofa to eat and go potty, and once her business was done, she stood in front of the sofa looking up like the Queen Mother waiting for the carriage door to be opened until I scooped her off the floor and redeposited her among the cushions. Poor thing. (I mean me.) She lay there all day long watching TV: Channel 9, the Mexican channel. Don’t ask me why, but that was the only channel she would tolerate. Couldn’t live without it, in fact. The one benefit to this annoying habit of hers was that, while I didn’t understand my dog at all, I was pretty sure I was beginning to comprehend Spanish.

Timmy was at that happy stage of child rearing where he could pull down his own pants and climb onto the commode without any help from squeamish gay uncles. He had brought an entourage of toys with him that would have kept an orphanage entertained. The first thing I did after finding a trail of little black skid marks on my new oak flooring was to confiscate his tricycle, allocating the thing to outdoor use only, which Timmy accepted with stoic resignation, although I did hear him mumble something about chicken poop and peckerheads. I’m not sure if his watered-down-obscenity-strewn mumbling was related to the tricycle announcement but fear it was. While the kid might have gotten my brat gene, there was also little doubt he had inherited my sister’s sarcastic-foulmouthed-snarky gene. God help his teachers when he started school.

With his mother and his mother’s twit of a boyfriend safely out of the way, Timmy and I settled into a routine. The routine was this: he ran around like a cyclone, and I ran around behind him trying to keep him alive. It took my nephew a mere two hours to wear me out completely, and while I dozed for five minutes on the sofa to recoup my strength, using Thumper for a pillow (she did have a few uses), Timmy managed to find a screwdriver somewhere and proceeded to climb onto a chair in the kitchen and remove the back panel from the microwave. Don’t ask me why. What took him five minutes to take apart took me thirty minutes to put back together. I’m not handy with tools. Timmy, on the other hand, seemed quite proficient. If I hadn’t been afraid he might actually succeed, and consequently make me feel even dumber than I already did, I would have asked him to change the oil in my Toyota.

In the middle of the afternoon, Timmy and I found ourselves in the backyard picking oranges off my orange tree for the next day’s breakfast. (Well, I was picking the oranges. Timmy was stuffing them down his shorts. Who knows why?) He was squealing happily and running around with oranges dropping out of his trouser legs and rolling merrily across the yard. I was busy trying to be masculine like a proper hunter/gatherer, climbing up into the orange tree to get that one beautiful orange on the tippy-top limb that I couldn’t quite reach to whap with the broom handle, when I was suddenly stunned by the sound of silence. God, it was lovely. Lovely and suspicious. I peeked through the foliage toward the ground and saw Timmy sprawled out like a dead thing, sound asleep in the grass.

I could only assume it was naptime.

Being the ever-conscientious uncle, I climbed quietly down the tree, gently scooped the kid into my arms, and carried him into the house. The moment I laid Timmy on the bed in the guest room upstairs—since Thumper was hogging the couch—Timmy popped his eyes open and stuck his finger up my nose again. In two seconds flat, he was wide-awake, tearing through the house and screaming like a banshee.

Note to self. Next time the kid goes to sleep, no matter where it is, leave him there. Edge of a cliff? No problem. Middle of the street? Don’t worry about it. Just put up a couple of safety cones to redirect traffic and let him be.

Timmy was making so much noise, and his voice was so annoyingly high-pitched, that Thumper had buried her head under the sofa cushions. I longed to crawl under there with her, but being the adult in charge, God help me, I couldn’t. I rummaged through the mound of clothes Sally had supplied for Timmy’s four-week stay, hoping to find a tiny straightjacket and a soundproof muzzle in among the T-shirts and shorts and Daffy Duck underpants, but she must have forgotten to pack them, dammit.

For my headache, which was quickly blossoming into an epic doozy, I popped four aspirins and chewed them dry. How’s that for butch? And to distract Timmy from doing whatever the hell it was he was doing, I asked him if he’d like to help me fix dinner.

“What are we having?” he asked. There was a rope of snot dangling out of his nose that looked like a bungee cord. I watched, fascinated, as he sucked it back in. A moment later, it made another appearance, flapped around for a minute, then he snorted it back up again. It was a fascinating thing to watch. Fascinating and disgusting.

“Salmon and green-bean casserole,” I finally answered, trying not to barf.

He made a face. “Blechhh! I want hot dogs.”

“Hot dogs.”

“And ’roni.”

“What the heck is ’roni?”

“With cheese,” he said. “’Roni and cheese.”

“Oh. Macaroni and cheese. No way. Do you know how many calories are in that? I have to watch my figure.”

Timmy giggled. “Jack says you’re like a girl. He says you even like boys.”

“I do like boys. But not that one. Jack’s a twit.”

Timmy giggled again, but it was a crafty giggle. “If you make ’roni and cheese and hot dogs for dinner, I won’t tell him you said that.”

“Ever hear of extortion?”

“No,” he said, “but if you make hot dogs tonight, we can have ’stortion tomorrow.”

“Fine,” I said. I wasn’t a complete idiot. I’d serve him salmon tomorrow and tell him it was extortion. The kid was four years old, for Christ’s sake. He’d believe anything I told him, right?

With the uneasy feeling I was in over my head, I stuck the beautiful slab of salmon back in the fridge for another day and rummaged through the freezer until I found a package of hot dogs buried under the edamame and brussels sprouts. The hot dogs had been there since some long ago Fourth of July celebration. Wonder of wonders, I found a box of macaroni and cheese in the pantry off the garage. Gee. I didn’t even know I had it. Maybe the kid was not only annoying, but psychic as well. That was a scary thought. A prescient four-year-old.

Later, while sitting at the kitchen table consuming our 50,000-calorie dinner, Timmy didn’t shut up once.

“The man in the basement is nice,” Timmy said around a mouthful of hot dog.

“Don’t talk with your mouth full,” I said.

“He said to tell you he’s glad you live here.”

I rolled my eyes. “I’m glad he approves.”

“He hates Mommy.”

“Well, she can be annoying sometimes. Don’t tell her I said that.”

Timmy shrugged. “Can I have another hot dog?”

“You haven’t finished the one you’ve got.”

“I only like the middles. The ends taste funny.”

“That’s the dumbest thing I ever heard.”

“Thank you.”

“How’s the ’roni and cheese?”

“Good, but it needs more butter. Mommy uses two sticks.”

It was my turn to shrug. “It’s making my ass grow as it is. I can feel it ballooning underneath me in my chair even as we speak. Both cheeks. Mommy’s ass will be ballooning soon too. Watch if it doesn’t. One day she’ll wake up and she’ll be all ass. No head, no arms, no bleached-blonde hair, just ass, with maybe a few toes sticking out. And if you count the man she’s with, it’ll be two asses.”

Timmy giggled. “You’re funny.”

“And you’re nuts,” I said, building him another hot dog. “Mustard?”

“Ketchup.”

“Yuk.”

“It’s good. Here, try it.” He leaned over the table and squirted ketchup on my hot dog.

“Jesus, kid, you’re killing me here.”

“Eat it,” he said.

I took a bite of my ketchupy hot dog. Damn. I liked it.

Timmy grinned at my expression. “See?” he said. He scooped up a big ladle full of macaroni and cheese and glopped that on my plate next to the teeny pile I had placed there myself.

“Eat,” he said, sounding like every overworked mother of every finicky-ass kid that ever walked the face of the planet since the beginning of time.

So I ate. Every noodle. Every fat-saturated glob of cheese and margarine. Then I had another hotdog. With ketchup. And two glasses of chocolate milk. I hadn’t drunk chocolate milk for fifteen years. Damn. I liked that too. Blasted kid.

Tomorrow I’d diet.

When we were stuffed to the gills, Timmy stood on a chair and dried the dishes while I washed. I didn’t own a dishwasher. Timmy seemed slightly astounded by that fact.

“Is this how they did dishes in the old days?”

“Yes,” I said. “Later we’ll take the laundry down to the river and beat it on a rock.”

“Oh, goody. I like rivers.”

“That was a joke. I have a washing machine just like Mommy.”

“Shit.”

“Watch your mouth.”

“There’s a scary movie on TV tonight, Uncle Jason. If you’re good, I’ll let you watch it.”

“Screw you, kid. I’ll let you watch it.”

Timmy clapped his hands and almost dropped a plate. “Yay, we’re watching a scary movie!”

I stared at my nephew for about fifteen seconds. Had I just been tricked into telling him he could watch a scary movie? He wasn’t that smart, was he? Good lord, I’d have to be on my toes for the next four weeks or this kid would be leading me around like a poodle on a leash.

Speaking of which. “Wanna help me walk Thumper?”

Timmy’s eyes got big and round. “You mean the dog?”

“No, my pet anteater. Of course the dog.”

“Can she walk? I thought she was dead.”

“She’s not dead. She’s just old.”

“But she hasn’t moved all day.”

“Like I said, she’s old. One day you’ll be old and you won’t move all day either.” And God, wouldn’t that be a blessing.

Timmy craned his neck back and looked through the kitchen doorway into the living room, where even now I could hear Thumper snoring like a sawmill.

Timmy stood there on the chair, the plate forgotten in his hand, his face agape with wonder like one of the shepherd kids in Fatima, Portugal, eyeballing the Virgin Mary popping out of a stump. “I wanna see her walk. Are you sure she’s not dead?”

“Yes,” I said, molding my face into a phony smile, a la used car salesman trying to sell a clunker to anybody who’d listen. Shooting for camaraderie, I waggled a finger in Timmy’s ribs. “And just to make it more fun, it’ll be your job to pick up the poop.”

Timmy turned and stared at me. Then he guffawed. It’s a little disconcerting when a four-year-old guffaws. “She’s your dog,” Timmy said, his face scrunched up in concentration while he dug a booger out of his nose. “You pick up the poop.”

Damn. I thought I had him that time. I handed the kid a tissue, plucked the plate from his hand, and tossed it back in the dishwater in case it had a booger on it—and decided on the spot if Timmy ever managed to stay alive long enough to grow up, he’d probably be president. Two terms. Hell, even I’d vote for him. Both times.

Timmy seemed properly astounded that Thumper truly was alive. He even insisted on holding the leash as we traipsed out into the night. Of course, we were traipsing at a snail’s pace since Thumper’s arthritic joints were not conducive to scampering.

“She’s awful slow,” Timmy whined.

“When you’re old, you’ll be slow too.”

“Then I won’t get old.”

“Fine, Peter Pan. Just walk the frigging dog.”

The night was gorgeous and balmy. It was June, and June in San Diego is perfect. With a younger dog, we might have enjoyed the evening for hours, but with Thumper, we barely got around the block. In fact, we didn’t. We were halfway around the block when Thumper gave out and insisted on being carried the rest of the way home.

“Will you carry me too?” Timmy asked.

“No.”

“Can I wear the leash?”

“Sure,” I said. I unclipped the collar from Thumper’s throat and clipped it around Timmy’s neck. He followed along behind me on the leash like a good little puppy until we passed Mrs. Lindquist, who lives down the block. She was walking her Pomeranian, and when she spotted me with the kid on a leash, she felt it her duty to intervene.

She bent over Timmy and patted his head. “Is this man hurting you?” she asked.

“Woof!” Timmy said.

Mrs. Lindquist straightened up and nailed me with a piercing stare. “Is he normal?” she asked.

I smiled and said, “Define normal.”

Mrs. Lindquist simply shook her head and walked on, dragging the poor Pom behind her. Lucky bitch. At least her dog could walk.

Back at the house, we deposited Thumper in among the sofa cushions, and she promptly fell asleep, worn out completely by all the excitement. Timmy didn’t want to take the collar off, so I merely unhooked the leash and left the collar in place around his scrawny neck. He looked like a tiny submissive, waiting for his Dom to come along and whap him with a whip.

I ran a couple of inches of warm water into the tub and laid out a towel and my favorite rubber ducky. Don’t ask.

“We have twenty minutes before the movie,” I said, handing him his pajamas. “Go take your bath.”

“Mommy only makes me take a bath once a month.”

I narrowed my eyes. “Nice try, Timmy. Get in the tub.”

He glowered and snatched the pj’s out of my hand. “Don’t watch. I know you like boys.”

At that, I laughed. “Jesus, kid, just go take your bath, and I’ll make us some popcorn for the movie.”

He brightened up. “With butter?”

“No. I thought I’d just dip it in lard.”

“Oh. Okay.”

Timmy skipped off to the bathroom and closed the door behind him.

He skipped back out of the bathroom three minutes later. His hair was a little damp, but that was probably just for show. If any other body parts had seen moisture, he couldn’t have been long about it. Unfortunately, I was too worn out to care. His pajamas had little rocket ships on them. I found myself sort of wishing I had a pair.

We settled onto the sofa on either side of Thumper and tuned in to the movie, switching the sound from Spanish to English. Thumper raised her head and growled, so I switched it back to Spanish. Timmy thought it was funny, watching the movie in Spanish. We had English subtitles of course, but he couldn’t read them. At least I didn’t think he could. Still, he didn’t seem to mind.

The movie was so bad I found myself giggling halfway through it. Then it got scary, and I found myself chewing on a cushion and squinting through the gory parts, trying not to look. Timmy and Thumper both sat there wide-eyed and breathless, taking in every spurt of blood and every dying moan from the poor helpless citizens of Burbank being devoured by zombies on the screen.

The movie wasn’t yet over when Timmy doubled over like a pocketknife and fell sound asleep. This time when I oh so carefully carried him in my arms up the stairs and deposited him in his bed, he stayed there.

Praise God from whom all blessings flow.

I toddled downstairs, as happy as I had ever been in my life, poured myself a healthy dollop of scotch, and settled in to finish the movie. Thumper was still watching it. I guess she liked it too. Her tail was wagging. Or maybe she was just as elated as I was that Timmy had finally crashed.

“What did I miss?” I asked.

Thumper ignored me. Too wrapped up in the movie to respond, I supposed.

After three scotches and the demise of upwards of a hundred movie extras, all torn to shreds and devoured by the scary-ass zombies, I was ready for bed myself.

I peeked into Timmy’s room to make sure he was still sound asleep, and he looked like a little angel lying there in his rocket-ship pajamas. Of course, I had spent the day with him. I knew better.

I brushed my teeth, then switched on the newly acquired baby monitor I had bought myself before Timmy’s arrival and which now sat like a tiny guardian angel on the nightstand insuring me a little peace of mind that Timmy wouldn’t dismantle the house while I slept. The baby monitor exuded a comforting fuzz of sound, filling up the shadows quite nicely. I rather enjoyed hearing it. I tucked myself naked into my bed, since it’s the only way I can sleep, then tucked Thumper under the covers beside me like a hot water bottle. I lay there all snug and secure with the crackly sound of the baby monitor and those three or four scotch and waters coaxing me into dreamland. Thumper rested her chin on my leg and was snoring in less than a minute. It took me a little longer. Just before my eyes and brain happily shut down for the night, a thought hit me in the head like a line drive, jarring me awake.

I bolted straight up in bed, suddenly remembering what Timmy had said at dinner.

“The man in the basement is nice.”

I blinked.

What man in the basement?

Midnight in Berlin by JL Merrow
MIDNIGHT IN Berlin. Party time. Music pounded through the park. It seemed like half of Germany was dancing, and I was soaking wet and covered in feathers.

Seemed like as good a time as any to go hitchhiking.

See, I’d met these guys at a bar, and they said they were heading on down to the Tiergarten for some festival or other, did I want to come along? So I said yeah, because you know, why not? Plus I figured the best-looking one was kind of into me.

So I ended up in this massive tent on the Straße des 17. Juni, soaked to the skin—did I mention it was raining like the second coming of the fucking Flood? I kept looking around for some weird guy in a dress to come sailing up in a boat the size of Kansas and scoop up two of each animal, one male and one female, which is pretty damn heteronormative, if you ask me. The air was ripe with the odor of hot, wet bodies and alcohol.

We were drinking vodka straight out of the bottle and listening to—hell, I don’t know what you’d describe them as. A percussion band, I guess, except with a band, you’d expect some sort of musical instruments, you know? These guys had a car. Yeah, that’s right—a car. Which they were ripping to pieces and banging the shit out of with hammers and God knows what.

It was actually pretty good. Heavy. The kind of music you don’t hear so much as feel, deep in your sternum and in your soul. That makes your whole body vibrate, different parts to different notes, until you feel like some Stone Age tribesman banging rocks together. Like an artificial heart; as though if you got it just right, you could cheat death itself. It was… real, somehow. Intense.

Then some guy with a pillow climbed up on what was left of the hood. As he ripped the pillow in half, scattering feathers all over the crowd, we all jumped up to catch them, high on booze and that crashing beat. Though we didn’t catch many, we didn’t have to, because they fell right on down anyhow. And feathers? They meet wet clothes and stick like shit to a blanket.

So there I was, covered in feathers, watching the hot guy and hoping…. Well, hoping for a lot of things, but one of them sure as hell wasn’t what actually happened. Which was that he stuck his tongue down the throat of some anorexic Goth chick. Despite the fact anyone could tell just by looking at her she wouldn’t blow him without a condom in case she accidentally swallowed some and put on an ounce.

It kind of put a dampener on the whole thing, though I’m damned if I know why I let it get to me like that—hell, it wasn’t like I’d been looking for a relationship or anything. What’s the point? Everybody leaves you in the end. I’d learned that lesson the hard way when I was seventeen, and it hadn’t gotten any less true over the dozen or so years since then.

So anyway, that’s about when I started thinking it was time to head on home. Well, home for the duration, which was actually some bargain-basement hostel on the wrong side of Charlottenburg. It seemed a hell of a lot farther away than it had on the way over, and the rain hadn’t stopped any, so I figured, what the hell, I’ll stick out my thumb, see what happens. Did I mention the drinking-vodka-out-of-the-bottle part?

What happened was, a Porsche pulled up. Which kinda surprised me, because weather like this, it’s usually cheaper cars that stop. Your Porsche drivers tend not to empathize a whole lot with guys who have to walk home in the rain. Plus they tend to get pissy when you drip on the leather upholstery.

“You want a ride?” the driver asked in German.

I was thinking Duh, but I didn’t say that, obviously, because for one thing, he was doing me a favor, and for another he was kind of hot. More than kind of, I decided as I got a closer look. He was tall, at least as far as I could tell while he was sitting down. Lean and sort of wiry. Light brown hair, pulled back into a ponytail, like he’d been growing it since the Wall came down. Looked better on him than you’d think—he had the type of face you associate more with crew cuts, dueling scars, and maybe a monocle, probably going by the name of von-something-or-other. Like in The Prisoner of Zenda—not the Stewart Granger movie, that was just a rip-off. The other one. The one with Douglas Fairbanks Jr. as Rupert of Hentzau, throwing a knife at Ronald Colman. Damn, I love that scene. Good-looking and dangerous. Just how I like them.

And he was gazing at me like he’d been starving for a month and I was an all-you-can-eat buffet. Seemed like the night was looking up. I gave him my best smile as I climbed into the Porsche, where I buckled up and started shedding feathers.

“Thanks. I’m Leon,” I told the guy.

He nodded, and we shook hands briefly like we were in a business meeting or something. I didn’t snicker. Sometimes your good-looking guys can be touchy.

“Christoph.” His sleeves were rolled up, letting me admire the flexing of his tanned forearms as he turned the steering wheel with a firm grip, pulling away from the curb. “Had a good night in the park?” He sounded a lot more sympathetic than you’d expect, given what I was doing to his upholstery.

“It wasn’t so bad.” I let a little extra warmth seep into my voice. “Getting better all the time, I’d say.”

“Oh?” Christoph gave me a look slanting down across one sculptured cheekbone, like he knew what I’d been implying and he didn’t mind one bit.

I met his gaze and held it. “Oh, yeah,” I said, my voice deep with promise. “I’d say things are definitely looking up.”

A teasing smile hovered on his lips as he nodded. “It’s good to finally meet… someone like me.”

He’d been finding it hard to meet guys? I guess Christoph had never tried hanging around the Siegesäule on a summer evening. With his looks, he’d have been beating them off with a stick. He had to take his eyes off me to watch the road, but his gaze kept creeping back in my direction every time it got a chance. There was kind of a buzz about him, like suppressed excitement. Damn, this guy was seriously into me. I could live with that.

“What did you get, anyhow?” His eyes narrowed just a little. “Looks like duck.”

Which, when you think about it, is a weird thing to say, but right then I wasn’t listening to his words so much as his dialect. I’d lived in Germany before, and though I’d spent a couple of years not speaking the language a whole lot, damn if it didn’t come right back the minute I set foot over the border. Well, most of it, anyhow. Enough so I was pretty good at recognizing accents. East German, this guy was. Ossie. He had that clipped way of speaking, kind of old-fashioned. Like the difference between a British accent and a US one, you know? I’d spent the last year in Britain ’til the weather got me down, so I knew what I was talking about. It was kind of attractive. Suited him.

“Or goose, perhaps?” Christoph was saying. “I can’t tell right now.” He shot me a disapproving look. “You reek of alcohol and cigarettes.”

Way to burst my bubble. I’d been wondering why a guy this hot was all on his own on a Saturday night in Berlin. “You always tell guys they stink five minutes after you’ve met them?” And so I’d maybe spilled a little vodka down me, so what? Some asshole jogged my arm.

Christoph laughed, which punched the guts out of my irritation with him. He had a whole different look when he laughed. Less Rupert of Hentzau, more Dan Brewster in Joy of Living. I liked it. I liked it a lot.

“Only when it’s true,” he said. “You’re American?”

The last bit was in English, so I answered in kind, giving it my best corn-fed drawl. “Aw, shucks, what gave me away?”

He laughed again and switched back to German, which I appreciated. It pisses me the hell off when guys insist on using me to brush up their grade-school English. “Your accent is very good. It’s more a look you have about you.”

“Yeah? Most guys say I look Italian.” I’ve got dark eyes and curly dark hair, with the kind of beard that sprouts five-o’clock shadow around thirty minutes after I finish shaving. Which has always been my excuse for leaving it a day or three.

Christoph shrugged. “Superficially, perhaps. But you don’t dress like an Italian, and the body language is all wrong. The way you move your hands when you talk, and the way you sit, even.” Christoph’s gaze flickered over me again. Oh, yeah. This guy was all over me—or at least, he was damn sure he wanted to be.

I gave him a long, slow look so he’d know the feeling was mutual. “Uh-huh? Anything else you can tell by the way I sit?” I asked, letting a hint of suggestion sidle into my tone.

He took his eyes off the road long enough to give me a thorough once-over this time. “Should there be?” he asked, one eyebrow raised and that teasing smile back on his lips.

“Well, depends what you might want to know about me.” I let my legs fall open a little wider on the car seat.

That caught his attention all right. His eyes darkened, and he drew in a long breath as if he could smell my fledgling arousal—and he wanted more. “Where are you based?” he asked, like I was with the armed forces or something.

Hell, maybe he thought I was. Shit—if he was looking for the kind of guy who’d be into barking orders like a drill sergeant, he was out of luck. “I’m living in Charlottenburg at the moment. But I like to move around. Keep my options open, you know how it is.” That ought to take care of the GI Joe question without me having to admit I was just bumming around from one country to another, getting crappy jobs whenever I ran out of money.

Christoph frowned. “How many of you are there?”

I laughed. “What, you were hoping I come in six-packs? Sorry to disappoint, but you’re looking at the one and only.”

It was weird—one moment he was with me, and then all at once he wasn’t anymore. The light went out of his eyes, and Christoph just stared out the windshield at the road ahead, his smile gone like I’d only dreamed it. The warm flame that had been flickering in my belly stuttered and fizzled. Maybe he really had been looking for a guy who’d tell him to drop and give him twenty.

“You’re from the old East Germany, am I right?” I tried to put a little banter back in the conversation. “And I’m getting that from the accent. If there’s some special way you guys sit, I haven’t figured it out yet.”

It fell flat. Damn. “I have a house near the Wannsee,” Christoph said vaguely, like his mind wasn’t really on the question. Which wouldn’t have bothered me much, except I had a nasty feeling he wasn’t just distracted by my masculine charms.

“Yeah? Sounds like a classy piece of real estate.” I waited, but he didn’t take the chance to tell me all about the place, so I pressed on. “What do you do for a living?”

“I’m an architect.” Shit. My mom would love him. I opened my mouth to make some crack or other, but Christoph spoke again. “So, you are alone?”

Which was… kind of a weird way of putting it. Hell, I wasn’t even sure what he was asking. Did he mean, was I unattached and maybe interested? In which case, where the hell had he been for the last fifteen minutes? But if it was more along the lines of, will anyone miss you when I dismember your body and bury it in several unmarked graves, then okay, I was thinking this might just be my stop.

“I’m pretty good at making friends when I travel,” I hedged. “Hell, I was with some just now. Guys I met at a bar.”

“Verdammt!” Christoph actually thumped the steering wheel as he said it. Hard.

It kind of focused my mind on what else might get hit, and I was starting to think maybe buttoning my lip might be a damn good survival tactic. I mean, sure, I figured our weight was around even, but he had the reach, and crazy people don’t care about getting hurt.

“Hey, lighten up already! Jeez, touchy much?”

“You call them your friends, yet you’re willing to put them at risk—to put all of us at risk? You’ve been drinking, and you reek of people,” he snarled at me. I mean really, he snarled. His teeth were bared—and the thought hit my mind, obviously those Eastern bloc dentists weren’t as bad as they were made out to be, because those pearly whites were strong, even, and just a little too pointy on the canines. It made me wonder how far we were from Transylvania, as the bat flies—then I gave myself a mental shake because seriously, vampires? What the hell had been in that vodka bottle?

“Uh, yeah, sorry, that was real thoughtless of me,” I said soothingly. “Say, you, uh, you wanna keep your eyes on the road? In fact, you know what? I can walk from here. You can set me down anywhere now.”

“I don’t think so,” Christoph told me, his voice so damn cold I started to shiver. I also started to pay a bit more attention to the road signs. I didn’t get any warmer when I realized we’d driven all through Charlottenburg while I was checking out his damn teeth. We were passing through Grunewald, heading toward the Wannsee. I’d been there in daylight, so I knew it was a beautiful place with an ugly history, but all I could see right then were the shadows of the trees closing in overhead as we headed farther and farther off the beaten track.

“Where are we going?” I asked the madman behind the wheel, cursing my voice when it started to waver.

“Where you’ll be safe,” he replied curtly.

Funny how I wasn’t reassured. I was sobering up fast, so when we stopped at a junction, I took my chance and hit the door handle.

I didn’t get far. I didn’t even get out the fucking door. A hand shot out like a bullet from a gun and grabbed me, hard. Christoph’s steely fingers felt like a vise tightened painfully around my arm, but I was more worried about the way he’d hit the gas like all the hounds of hell were after him. We shot through a red light, the passenger door still swinging open. My right foot hung inches from the road. Horns blared. I nearly fell out as we swerved to miss a truck, only that iron grip on my upper arm keeping me in the car. Part of me was wondering how the hell he was managing to steer one-handed, but most of my brain was occupied with wishing real hard I’d paid attention when Dad told me hitchhiking was for idiots. I was thinking I was never going to see him and Mom again. I wanted to tell them I was sorry for all the grief I’d caused them over the years, and Dad was right, and I should’ve finished college and gotten a proper job. I was so sorry.

“Close the door!” my killer barked.

I did it. He let go of me finally. I sat back and rubbed my bruised arm with my right hand. The buzz from the vodka was a distant memory and a block of ice had settled in the pit of my stomach. I knew I should do something—anything—but I was frozen to the seat, my limbs too numb to move.

“You’re out of control,” Christoph told me, and I couldn’t help it, I started to laugh.

WE DROVE a ways through the forest before Psycho Guy turned down a bumpy track that had to be hell on the Porsche’s suspension. It damn sure wasn’t doing mine any good. With the way we had to go slower there, the thought of trying to get out crossed my mind again, but my limbs were too heavy to move and there was a sick feeling in my gut. While I was still swallowing bile, we pulled up outside a crumbling old villa.

“Get out,” he said, baring those damn teeth again.

The rain had finally stopped. I climbed out of the car, all stiff like my body had gotten rusty during the ride. I still couldn’t believe this was happening. Shit like this didn’t happen to me, only to sad losers who let themselves get picked up by creeps because they were so damn desperate for company.

Fuck. Dying for a ride home.

Would I see my brother in whatever afterlife I was headed for? Doubtful. If there was a heaven, Ben would be there for sure, and my chances of ending up in the good place were pretty damn slim. Funny how making something of your life never seems a real priority until you’re about to lose it. I looked up at the house, which was big, old, and tired. Shutters leaned off drunkenly like they were getting ready to jump ship, and the paint was stained with neglect. It looked like someplace Scooby-Doo and the gang might stay if they ever took a vacation in the Fatherland.

It was about then, though, that I noticed something else, which was a damn sight more cheering: I was free. I was out of the car, and there was the thickness of a Porsche between me and the crazy guy with the sharp teeth and the pincer grip.

I ran.

Not back down the track—that’d be too easy to follow. I lurched into the forest like the Terminator with metal fatigue, my wet clothes making it feel like I was carrying a dead man on my back. I breathed a sobbing prayer of thanks that the skies had cleared. There was enough cold light from the moon filtering through the forest canopy that I didn’t brain myself on a tree. Where there was one house, there were maybe more. All I had to do was make it to the next one whose inhabitants were actually sane….

I didn’t make it.

I didn’t hear Christoph coming after me—the thump of my blundering footsteps and the frantic pounding of my heart filled my ears. For a moment I was back there in the tent with the clash of metal upon metal, the brutal noise of destruction all around. Then there was a great weight upon my back, and I was falling. Suddenly I realized it was me who was the dead man, and the destruction was all mine.

“Verdammt noch mal!”

It was more of a growl than a curse as he rolled me over and pinned me down again. I was still winded from the impact, but that was okay because I didn’t reckon I could breathe anyhow. He wasn’t the guy who picked me up in the Porsche anymore. My mind flashed crazily to stories I’d read of Peter Stübbe, the werewolf of Bedburg. He’d met a gruesome death four centuries ago, but it looked like he might have left a descendant or two. I was pretty sure I was staring at one of them.

I was really going to die.

Christoph’s face… wasn’t human anymore. His nose and mouth had fused and distended to form a shape more like an animal’s muzzle, covered in fine, dark gray hair. His ears were too big, too pointed, and in the wrong place on his head. Those sharp little canines had turned into vicious long fangs; all the better to tear your throat out with, my dear. His eyes were pure amber, no white in them at all, shining with malice and flecked with hunger.

I looked at his hands, then wished I hadn’t. Hands aren’t that hairy, and they don’t have claws.

The worst thing—absolutely, gut-churningly the worst—was that he was still wearing the clothes he’d had on in the car. Still recognizably—well, not human, but there was no mistaking that’s where he was coming from. So I couldn’t even pretend to myself that this was some wild beast or some escaped pet. I’d fallen into a nightmare, an Albtraum. A fairy tale in the blood-soaked original, the version first written down by the brothers Grimm they don’t dare tell the kiddies anymore.

A strange, animal noise sounded between us. I realized it was me who’d made it, not him. I guess that’s all we are in the end, predator or prey, no shades of gray, only black-and-white certainty.

So I lay there beneath his body, waiting to die in pain and horror, and if I made a few more noises that might possibly have been described as whimpers, so what? Everyone craps themselves when they die, at least that’s what a med student I was with for a week or three once told me. You want to hang on to your dignity? Forget it. You’re human, so basically you’re screwed. Ashes to ashes; shit to fucking shit.

I waited, but it seemed to me that either he hadn’t read the script or I’d missed a cue, as the beast that’d been Christoph stilled suddenly, then lowered that wrong, animal face to me and sniffed, long and hard.

“You’re human,” he growled at me, his breath hot on my face but oddly sweet smelling, his voice so thick I could barely make out the words. The crazy thing was, it came out like an accusation. Hurt, and shocked, even, although what the hell he had to be shocked about I couldn’t begin to guess. It was as if he thought I’d betrayed him somehow. “You are not one of us.” His face changed; the hair receding and the nose flattening, shrinking. The teeth got way less scary until finally I was left staring up at Christoph. His hair had gotten loose from the tie and draped wild around his face, but you know what? He wasn’t any less terrifying that way.

It was about then that my mouth realized it could maybe be doing something more useful than mewling like a kitten.

“I won’t tell, okay? I’ll keep your secret. I swear it; you can let me go” came out of my throat in a stranger’s voice. I felt sorry for the stranger. He sounded like he was on the edge of blubbering like a baby. Me, I was thinking, Right, let’s talk our way out of here and then we can get the cops onto the psycho beast-guy, let them deal with the werewolf shit.

I guess I thought that a little too loud.

“I’m sorry,” Christoph said. The crazy thing was, I actually believed him for a moment, but then his face warped again and the teeth grew and his hot breath was on my face, and I was thinking, Oh God, Mom, I’m sorry—then he lunged to tear out my throat.


John Inman
John has been writing fiction for as long as he can remember. Born on a small farm in Indiana, he now resides in San Diego, California where he spends his time gardening, pampering his pets, hiking and biking the trails and canyons of San Diego, and of course, writing. He and his partner share a passion for theater, books, film, and the continuing fight for marriage equality. If you would like to know more about John, check out his website.

Nathan Burgoine
'Nathan Burgoine grew up a reader and studied literature in university while making a living as a bookseller. His first published short story was “Heart” in the collection Fool for Love: New Gay Fiction. This began his long love affair with short fiction, which has seen dozens more short stories published. Even though short fiction is his favorite, 'Nathan stepped into novel writing, and his first novel, Light, was a finalist for a Lambda Literary Award. Triad Blood and Triad Soul are available now from Bold Strokes Books, and more novels as well as works of short fiction are always under way.

A cat lover, 'Nathan managed to fall in love and marry Daniel, who is a confirmed dog person. Their ongoing cat-or-dog détente ended with the rescue of a husky named Coach. They live in Ottawa, Canada, where socialized health care and gay marriage have yet to cause the sky to cave in.

Kaje Harper
Kaje Harper grew up in Montreal and spent her teen years writing, filling binders with stories about what guys like Starsky and Hutch really did on their days off. (In a sheltered-fourteen-year-old PG-rated romantic sense.) Serious authorship got sidetracked by ventures into psychology, teaching, and a biomedical career. And the challenges of raising children.

When Kaje took up writing again it was just for fun. Hours of fun. Lots of hours of fun. The stories began piling up, and her husband suggested it was time to try to publish one. Kaje currently lives in Minnesota with a creative teenager, a crazy little omnivorous white dog, and a remarkably patient spouse.

Madeleine Ribbon
I began writing M/M romance in 2010, though publishing didn’t happen until June of 2012, once Loose Id picked up my debut novella, Falling Out of Fate. So far, I’ve put out six novels, four novellas, and four short stories, most of which are of a paranormal nature. I love stories with a hint of fantasy, paranormal, or sci-fi elements to them, although I’m most proud of my contemporary novella, White-Knuckled Moments.

When I’m not writing or working the day job, I homebrew, cook, and play a ton of video games. I love going to local Renaissance faires, anime conventions, and beer festivals on the weekends. I am a giant nerd.

JL Merrow
JL Merrow is that rare beast, an English person who refuses to drink tea. She read Natural Sciences at Cambridge, where she learned many things, chief amongst which was that she never wanted to see the inside of a lab ever again. Her one regret is that she never mastered the ability of punting one-handed whilst holding a glass of champagne.

She writes across genres, with a preference for contemporary gay romance and the paranormal, and is frequently accused of humour. Her novella Muscling Through was a 2013 EPIC Award finalist, and her novel Slam! won the 2013 Rainbow Award for Best LGBT Romantic Comedy. Her novel Relief Valve is a finalist in the 2015 EPIC Awards.

JL Merrow is a member of the UK GLBTQ Fiction Meet organising team.


John Inman
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EMAIL: John492@att.net 

Nathan Burgoine
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Kaje Harper
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EMAIL: kajeharper@yahoo.com

Madeleine Ribbon
TWITTER  /  WEBSITE  /  KOBO
B&N  /  AMAZON  /  GOODREADS
EMAIL: Madeleine.Ribbon@gmail.com

JL Merrow
FACEBOOK  /  TWITTER  /  WEBSITE
iTUNES  /  GOOGLE PLAY  /  AUDIBLE
KOBO  /  SMASHWORDS  /  AMAZON
B&N  /  DREAMSPINNER  /  GOODREADS
EMAIL: jl.merrow@gmail.com 



Spirit by John Inman
AMAZON US  /  AMAZON UK  /  B&N
KOBO  /  AUDIBLE  /  iTUNES

Light by Nathan Burgoine
Nor Iron Bars a Cage by Kaje Harper
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Blessed Curses by Madeleine Ribbon

Midnight in Berlin by JL Merrow

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