Sunday, September 16, 2018

Week at a Glance: 9/10/18 - 9/16/18

Sunday's Safe Word Shelf: Tales from Rainbow Alley by Jaime Samms Part 2

Neat Trick #5
Being 100 percent sure you know what you want is a sure-fire way to get exactly what you need. You just might not recognize it when you do.

Jacob has rebuilt his life inside Rainbow Alley after a vicious beating sent him to the hospital when he was a teenager. He’s strong again, and he knows what he wants from life. He just has to accept that he isn’t going to get it from Cliff Thatcher.

Aaron has discovered that life never offers handouts. He’s spent years paying other people’s debts and now he is indentured to Douglas, a man who won’t hesitate to use every ugly trick in the book to retain control over Aaron, his skateboard and his life.

When Jacob and Aaron meet, there is not an ounce of doubt in Jacob that he’s found what he wants. The young man might be a little rough around the edges, but he’s a safe bet, and Jacob knows he can control the thrust of their relationship. That is, until Aaron proves he can handle Jacob’s submissive side and pushes to take the dynamic out of the bed and into the rest of their lives.

Jacob’s hard limit, though, is the bedroom door. Only when Douglas makes it clear Fohe isn’t letting Aaron go without a fight, or a pay-off that he seems intent on taking in the form of Jacob himself, does Jacob begin to understand just how shaky his world really is.

If Jacob doesn’t believe Aaron can protect him, he’ll lose everything. Including what might just be his only chance at true freedom from his fear.

Reader Advisory: This books contains scenes of violence and references to past abuse and child pornography. It also contains one instance of sexual violence.

Safe and Sound #6
Overcoming past hurts and letting love back in sometimes means reinventing everything about yourself, and sometimes means loving who you already are despite the jagged edges.

Rikki’s past is ugly, painful and full of blood. Simon is getting over a lover who only saw him for his uses, but had no use for his heart. From the outside, they seem like a disaster waiting to happen.

From the moment Simon moves into the same house, they seem to be exactly what the other needs. Except for one small detail. Simon has never been—or wanted to be—the one in charge in the bedroom. And Rikki doesn’t trust himself to keep Simon safe. So when Simon demands independence in all other things, Rikki is sure he’ll have to accept a life of solitude and hold himself inside his cold shell.

Meanwhile, as Simon waits for Rikki to bring the heat, his old lover is still hoping to use him one more time. Rikki is going to have to trust his instincts—and all the deadly skills he’s grown to loathe and fear—to keep his Simon safe.

Neat Trick #5
The only redeeming feature of jogging was running until I couldn’t breathe or move or think then falling into bed exhausted. No tossing and turning all night replaying my aborted attempt to win Cliff Thatcher into my bed. Or dreaming about where it might have gone had I succeeded.

Not that I was pining after the guy. Handsome and built, strong, athletic, soft-spoken, Cliff was pretty much everything I craved in a Dom. Including, sadly, being honest enough to admit when he couldn’t give a guy everything because his heart already belonged to someone else. And he was honorable enough to say no when he knew he couldn’t settle for an affair that had no future.

I’d have settled for the affair. I prefer the sexy side of submission over the whole twenty-four seven thing that Cliff wanted. That just wasn’t me. I mean, I could picture it. Jacob Briggs—slave. But I had been there and done that for a guy who had been what I needed at the time. He’d known when I’d had enough and let me go. I wasn’t interested in doing it again. Kink in bed? Hell yes. The rest? Emphatically no.

“Just as well,” I huffed, pushing my legs to get me up the steep embankment near the park. I wasn’t going to be content in Cliff’s strict environment under which Jimmy Phillips—the man who had won Cliff—clearly thrived. They’d cheerfully gone about their lives in the months since Cliff had turned me away. If Jimmy didn’t wear a physical collar, there was still no doubt in anyone’s mind to whom he willingly belonged, heart and soul.

Perfectly okay with me. They were happy. I was happy. All good.

“Give your head a shake, Jacob,” I muttered. I attempted to train my mind to stillness and concentrate on the soft thumping of my feet on the grassy verge between sidewalk and road. Shin splints had already sent me back to Cliff. Well, his physiotherapy clinic, anyway. I’d gone in to ask him what was up with my legs and he’d admonished—oh hell, he’d told me off. Told me to be more careful, to stop running my heart out and potentially ruining my knees as well as damaging my legs.

“You’re too young to go wearing yourself out.” Just the sound of Cliff’s voice in my memory was enough to send me back to that moment in time when I’d almost had him.

“Like you care,” I muttered, then instantly regretted it. I didn’t get a chance to apologize, though.

“Of course I care.” Cliff cupped my face tenderly. “If I didn’t care, I would have fucked you into the wall that night and sent you home sore. I hope that isn’t the kind of man you think I am.”

I shook my head, feeling like a complete fool. “No,” I mumbled, then, more idiot me, tacked on a whimpering “Sir” for good measure.

“You’re a good boy, Jacob,” he said softly, patting my cheek then pulling his hand away. Denied. That wasn’t mine. I hadn’t earned it from him, and furthermore, I didn’t deserve it. And a moment later, he’d outlined why I didn’t deserve it. “And I don’t think you’re this petulant, either.”

Not usually.

“Enough is enough, now.” He straightened and spun his stool away from me. “You walked out my door, and you know that. Don’t make me regret inviting you in in the first place.”

God. Disapproval. From him. It had hurt more than it should, but I knew, in my heart, it was all I deserved from him the way I was acting. He wasn’t my Dom. He never would be. He didn’t share. I had to move on.

And because I knew Cliff was not an asshole was precisely why I had such a hard time getting over him. For pity’s sake, we’d never even slept together, barely kissed. Just a few dinner dates, and the feel of Cliff’s hard, strong hands on my ass was apparently enough to send me into a tailspin of wishful thinking.

“Get the fuck over it, already,” I admonished myself, picking up my pace and ignoring the warning twinges in my legs and left ankle telling me my body wasn’t ready for this amount of activity. I concentrated on the soft jangle of the bracelets around my wrist keeping time with my steps instead of thinking about Cliff Thatcher.

“Fuck, fuck, fuck!” I veered off to the left, over the sidewalk and down the slight hill into the park bordering the north end of Rainbow Alley’s limits.

Backed along the park were a series of tiny houses built between the park and a row of businesses fronting the street. The houses generally belonged to people who owned the businesses, and most of them had a dingy, used-up look to them. The yards were dry and patchy, the gardens either empty or weed infested. Clapboard siding sported fading paint, and porches hung crookedly in some cases, leading from cracked walks to dated front doors.

The narrow lane between houses and buildings was covered in cracked pavement with weeds and grass growing up through the broken lines. It all looked just a little bit desolate and sad.

I passed Doyle’s Garage first, the best of the lot with its new coat of paint and flower beds in front of the house that bloomed in a riot of overgrown color. Pretty, if unkempt. Then a gas station, whose house was long gone, burned down more than a decade ago and never rebuilt, followed by a convenience store and a florist. At that point, a small break in the row of old buildings opened onto a flower bed and benches next to the bus stop, with a path leading into the park. After that was a boarded-up deli with a house in ill repair behind it, a tiny Asian grocer, a used bookstore and a small shop that changed hands every six or eight months. Right now, it held the tacky remains of a souvenir shop with ugly rainbow-flavored novelties in one window, and the new addition of used skateboarding equipment in the other. Beside it, a chain coffee shop marked the edge of respectability as one entered into the Alley confines proper.

Construction had started on the house behind the bookshop, and there were signs that the deli would be next. Maybe someone was moving in. Maybe someone wanted to sell the dump. Maybe it was an attempt to clean up the tiny neighborhood. Who knew?

Not sure I was ready to move my jog back toward my sad little life or empty apartment just yet, I swerved deeper into the park toward the undulating concrete jungle of the skateboarders’ domain.

The loud swoosh and grind of wheels up and down the sides of the main bowl was a welcome distraction from self-pity, and I slowed to climb the hill leading to the entrance of the skaters’ park. I liked watching them. I’d stopped more than once to enjoy the fast swoop of bodies down the curves and back up the other side. It fascinated me how they hung in the air for just that split second, like breaking a moment out of time just for themselves. The twist and gyration of their bodies up there was like that infinite moment of bliss just this side of subspace, only they got to do it over and over, with every pass, while I rarely found that coveted hanging moment in time before I dropped into release.

A really good Dom could give me that, but I’d been told I had issues and barriers and an inability to really let go. I just think those guys didn’t know what they were doing. I was pretty sure Cliff could have done it for me if we’d had the chance to try.

Now I could only dream and watch the skaters and envy them their brand of freedom.

“Lucky bastards.” I scooted down the hill again to watch the show from the bottom lip of the largest half pipe where only one guy was practicing.

I’d seen him before, and had stopped to watch him. He was beautiful. He had a way of spinning gracefully at every turn, a snaking sideways twirl of his lithe body that got me interested. Just watching him, the way he commanded that board and bowl, the very air he sailed through got me hard every time.

I settled into a squat, eventually dropping onto my ass, run forgotten, knees up to hide my erection. The guy’s red hair was a flaming mass of waves hanging to his shoulders and across his face. How the hell he could see anything through the heavy layers was a mystery, but the burnished copper shone in the setting sun. One more facet to him that kept me watching him day after day. I’d never made it close enough to check, but I wondered if his eyes were blue, or that rare, highly coveted green. Did he have freckles? I wanted him to have freckles. And be gay. And dominant in bed.

“Hell of a lot better than thinking about Cliff,” I grumbled. Still, here I was, coveting something else I couldn’t have. Even on the off chance that the guy was gay, he probably wasn’t a Dom, and I was fairly certain he was a good few years younger than me. That meant he was probably barely legal. Not that age, as long as he was, in fact, legal, really mattered. Not with a body like that.

“Hey!” A deep shout echoed from the top of the pipe. The skater spun, mis-stepped a push-off and fumbled off his board.

I looked toward the source of his distraction.

The newcomer was easily in his mid-forties, clad in designer jeans and a sports coat over an expensive silk-screened T-shirt that didn’t quite hide a pot belly. And loafers. Really? Who wore loafers in a park? Definitely too high-class to be hanging here.

The boarder caught my attention when he stumbled, nearly falling as he tried to stop. Seconds before my redhead got there, the old guy hopped onto the lip of the pipe right where he planned to land. The board escaped Red’s grab and skidded back to the bottom of the pipe on its flat surface, wheels spinning in air.

Red dropped out of his headspace with a lurch that made my stomach turn over. His cheeks blanched as he stumbled to get his feet under him without taking his eyes from the jerk.

The guy grabbed the kid’s arm, keeping him on his feet, then hauled him forward until their faces were too close for anything but the deep kiss that followed. The older man’s hand tangled in all that red hair, holding the skater in the kiss.

“Answers the gay question, then,” I muttered, getting hurriedly to my feet and turning my back on the private display.

“What the hell do you think you’re doing, brat?” The older man’s harsh voice carried across the concrete, echoing into the dusk.

I froze, embarrassed that they’d caught me watching at all, and slowly turned to face their wrath.

But the man wasn’t talking to me at all. He still had a grip of steel around the younger man’s arm and in his hair, and he was shaking him. “I thought I told you that board was off limits until the tournament!”

Heavy-handed treatment for a small indiscretion. I quickly, quietly slipped down into the pipe to retrieve the board and used it as an excuse to get a little closer in case its owner needed some kind of assistance.

“Had to get used to it,” the skater argued. “I can’t go into a tournament on a new board and expect to get decent points on the first run. Need to know how it handles. Make sure it’s soft enough.”

“Those trucks alone cost more than you make a month in that idiotic shop you insist on keeping.”

The skater snarled and yanked ineffectually against the other man’s hold. “That’s why you’re my sponsor, Douglas. Fuck. You own the damn company. Not like you can’t afford it.”

“I can’t afford it if you screw up the prototype.”

I was close enough now to see the young man’s lip curl. “If it’s that good a product, nothing I do is going to wreck it. If it sucks, that ain’t my problem. Rather know that now, than when I got a thousand cameras on me, wouldn’t you?”

“Watch your mouth.” Another shake, a less than gentle slap across one cheek, and the young man subsided, but not gracefully.

“Fine. Let me go and I’ll go get the damn precious thing, but if I lose the tourney, it’s on you for being a stingy bastard.” He whirled around and I was caught in his sights, board in hand.

“Hey.” I offered a small smile. “Um. Here.” I held out the board.

Green eyes glared from his still pale face, cheeks suddenly infused with two high spots of color amid an incredible mask of cinnamon freckles.

Green eyes. Freckles. Gay. Check, check and fucking check. My attention wavered, caught by the glimpse of throat and a sliver of chest peeking from the loose collar of his T-shirt. That patch of skin was also covered in a sprinkling of pretty dots that had me wondering how far down they went. And he was young, but if the blazing expression in his eyes was anything to go by, not in the least bit cowed by the older man’s rough handling.

“Who the hell are you, and why you always watchin’ me?” the skater snarled in a sotto whisper as he snatched the board.

“Jacob Briggs. And I watch because…” You’re beautiful. “It’s impossible not to. Your hang time…” I trailed off but forgot to loosen my grip on the board.

Green eyes narrowed. “What do you know about it?”

“I just… Nothing. I’m not a boarder or anything. I jog. Just had to stop and watch.”

“Every day.”

I managed a small shrug. “Most,” I agreed, my tone practically daring him to make something of it. Please make something of it.

The red head tilted and hair splashed across one high cheekbone. It didn’t change his wary expression. “Guess I’ll see you around then.”

“Guess so.”

“My board?” He gave a tug on the skateboard making me flinch and I let go in a tinkle of silver bracelets and nerves.

“S-sorry.” I held up my hand as if he needed proof I’d let go. It shook slightly and he stepped closer, blocking my view of the guy waiting above. He closed long, calloused fingers around my wrist.


He wasn’t asking, but informing. Like I didn’t know that.

I fluttered my gaze down to his hand around mine and felt it. The unwinding that happened when someone stronger than me, more in control, took that power and control and displayed it. Like a red flag before a bull, it got my attention.

“Sorry,” I said again, unable to control the instinct to drop my gaze to the concrete.

Finally, though, I’d won a smile from him. I could hear it in his voice. “Don’t be. Nervous looks cute on you.”

Safe and Sound #6
Simon lay still. Past experience reminded him that sudden movement in the bed in the middle of the night led to bruises or worse. Rikki was a lot of things, but a peaceful bed companion was not on that list. The room was quiet around him. A woodsy aroma of cedar drifted from the scent warmer in the adjacent bathroom. The light from it spread a pale wash over the room. He listened but couldn’t figure out why he was awake.

Something winged and delicate made a bid for escape from his chest when a shadow passed over the foot of the bed. He blinked, but the vague impression was gone. Not a sound greeted his straining ears. He must have imagined it. Without thinking, he felt for the thin, comforting band of leather at his throat. Then he remembered. That collar was gone. The man who had bestowed it on him also gone.

And good riddance. He hadn’t deserved Simon’s submission in the first place. He’d betrayed everything, deceived Simon. Used him for more than just his pleasure in Simon’s body. God. Simon had been such a blind fool. He hadn’t seen how desperate Jason’s desire for access to his inner circle and his adopted family. It had never been about what Simon had to offer him other than that access. Not that he had declined the use of Simon himself, since that was free for the asking—or taking.

Because Simon was a fool.

Another shadow flickered and Simon flinched. Even after weeks of this new arrangement, he had yet to decide if he preferred this vague, almost-there sight from the scent warmer, or the pitch black he’d grown accustomed to with Jason.

“Please, please, please.” He moved his lips, but refused to give the plea voice. There was nothing to be afraid of here. Jason was gone. Rikki was safe. Rikki would never hurt him. How long would it take before he no longer woke in the night expecting Jason’s hands on him, rolling him over. Taking.

The bed shifted and Simon jerked upright.

“Nff.” A low grunt from the pillow next to his, and the blankets shimmied away from him. “You’re alligator-rolling again, Si.”

“Rikki.” Simon heaved out a long breath. Of course, it was Rikki. He knew that. He flopped onto his back with a soft whimper.

“Gimme some blankets.” Rikki yanked on the covers again and Simon was rolled against Rikki’s back. “Better.” Before Simon moved back to his own side of the bed, Rikki flopped around to drape a leg over Simon’s. “Y’r warm. C’mere.”

This was worlds away from waking to Jason lurking in the dark, ready to pounce. He’d seemed to enjoy the heightened fright Simon got when he hovered, watching him sleep until the sheer weight of the attention woke Simon, and Jason was right there, waiting to take, take, take.

Rikki offered shelter and warmth and Simon snuggled down against his chest. Maybe everyone thought Simon shared his space with Rikki for Rikki’s sake.

The two of them knew better.


Rikki had long ago perfected the art of breathing like a sleeping man. He held Simon close until the small, warm bundle in his arms had relaxed and his back rose and fell under Rikki’s hands in a steady, deep rhythm.

Snuggled, face to Rikki’s chest, was the only way his young, new friend slept soundly. It didn’t matter how uncomfortable Rikki might find the position. It mattered only that Simon felt safe.

Daylight overpowered the faint shine from Simon’s night light, the change going unnoticed at first. Perhaps Rikki had slept, as well. It was often hard for him to tell anymore. Much of his waking day passed like a dream, populated by the same people, performing tasks by rote. Most of his nights he drifted in a nether region of not-sleep. Tightening his arms around Simon’s middle, he closed his eyes and pretended he didn’t have to get up soon.

This was a new sensation for Rikki. He was the strong one here. He was the protector, but in a way that didn’t leave him clutching desperately at his own sanity. Simon didn’t need knives or blood or death to feel protected. He needed touch. Rikki liked to touch and be touched, even if most people who crossed his path thought he was too scary, too lethal, to get close enough to do so.

Hunkering down, Rikki tugged Simon closer. Probably too close for comfort, but the sensation of body heat mingling with his own, tangled legs, and Simon’s soft, measured breaths puffing against his chest, all settled his anxiety about facing another day.


In his arms, Simon stirred and Rikki rubbed his back in slow circles.

“Morning,” Simon mumbled.

“You don’t have to wake up.”

“Mmm,” Simon said again and snuggled deeper into their bubble.

Rikki closed his eyes and breathed in the sleep-sweet scent of Simon’s multi-hued hair. “What are you up to today?” he asked, hoping in the deepest part of himself that Simon was sticking close to home and not going in to work at the club. Spades was safe enough, even for a professional submissive, which Simon was, but Rikki didn’t like him being gone too long.

“Mmm.” Simon’s small purrs warmed Rikki from the inside out. “The usual. Put in the bar order and make sure the roster’s full for tonight.”

And are you on the roster? But he didn’t ask.

“Gotta go over some résumés for Gina, then make a schedule for the weekend. Check the kitchen has everything it needs.”

“That’s the chef’s job,” Rikki pointed out.

“Spades doesn’t have a chef right now. Rolly moved the last one to Black Alice. They need her more. And you know Rolly. He’s picky. I guess for now, we have a competent cook and a few, reliably stable recipes, and me.” He shifted to see Rikki’s face and it was all Rikki managed not to turn away. “Now if you—”

“I have to get up.” He didn’t quite dump Simon onto his back as he scrambled out of the bed. He rolled, landed and was across the room to the window in a fluid motion that left his blood rushing with satisfaction. He still moved that fast. It was something, at least.

“Not even going to let me get the offer out this time?”

Rikki had scooped up a worn cuff from the bedside table and now he wrapped it around his wrist. He fumbled with the buckles until Simon sat up and confiscated the thing.

“Come here.”

Rikki stared at him a split second, fighting refusal, then moved the few steps to stand before where Simon perched on the edge of the bed. After a short, stubborn staring contest, he held out his arm.

Simon buckled the cuff in place, fingers nimble and efficient. “It’s a good position,” he said, not even acknowledging what he was doing, but continuing the previous conversation. “Right up your alley.”

“I don’t leave the house,” Rikki reminded him.

“You could.”

“I’m dangerous.”

Instead of letting Rikki go when he finished with the cuff, Simon laced warm fingers through Rikki’s and waited for Rikki to meet his gaze. “I don’t think so.”

“You don’t really know me.” Rikki pulled free but did so gently, then cupped Simon’s face. “But it’s very sweet that you think that.”

Without giving Simon a chance to respond, he hurried to the bathroom that separated his room from Simon’s. He’d like to be the man Simon thought he was.

He shivered at the thought. Normal. That was what Simon saw in him. An illusion. Twisting the sink’s taps, he watched the flow of cold water splash into the sink. Wishful thinking never got him anywhere. He gave himself a shake, then cupped his hands to dunk his face into the liquid. As he straightened, the cool drops trickled down his throat and over his chest. He followed the path of the water with his palm. There were scars on his skin. These were not of his own making, at least.

And as soon as he thought that, his attention strayed to the ones he had made. Some on his forearms, on his biceps, just above his elbows, some on his thighs. He ran his fingers over those last, most recent. They had healed, now, but were still the reddest.

“You want me to put cream on those?” Simon asked from the doorway.

“They’re fine.” Rikki turned from the mirror, flashed Simon a brief smile, and headed for his clothes. He dressed quickly in white skinny jeans, a white T-shirt and a plain white button-up that he left hanging open. It was as close as he was going to get to a chef’s uniform.


Rikki bent and pecked Simon’s cheek. “I gotta go down. Get the coffee on.”

Simon sighed and crossed his arms over his chest. “This isn’t going away!”

It would. If he ignored it long enough Simon would be forced to hire someone else and he’d stop nagging.

Author Bio:
Jaime writes, romance, fantasy, urban fantasy, shifter stories about men, about life, about love. Her work is populated with mostly men, most of whom are into each other, and yes, we do mean into each other. You can find plenty of free reading on her website.

She also reviews for Dark Diva Reviews, mostly the same types of stories, and will happily spout her opinion on the books she reads to her kids, who she home schools. Finally, she's occasionally gainfully employed. She writes for the love it, and hopes to pass on that love to her readers, her kids, and anyone else who comes along.


Neat Trick #5

Safe and Sound #6