An Alisa Review: Corked by Brigham Vaughn


Rating:  4 stars out of 5


Originally published as the “Wine Tasting Series”.


Corked” is an expanded re-release with new editing and over 8,000 words of additional content!


Sean Powell is having a terrible day. When he walks into Bistro Argent, ready to unwind over a glass of wine with the sommelier, he’s stunned to discover his friend has been replaced by a hot young guy with big ideas. Lucas Spencer is determined to liven up the staid and stodgy wine list, but his brash approach alienates the wine distributor during their first meeting.


There’s no avoiding each other though and the more they butt heads, the hotter the tension between them gets. As they work together and their relationship progresses, they have to figure out how to blend their professional frustration and personal attraction without risking their careers.


Lucas is eleven years younger than Sean, and despite their sizzling chemistry and compatibility, Sean can’t quite believe the feelings are mutual. A wine tasting trip to Traverse City, Michigan threatens their fledgling relationship. Sean’s insecurities rise to the surface as Lucas’s fears of losing Sean lead to jealousy.


Does the relationship have legs or will they find out it’s corked?


Man did these two start out on the wrong foot but eventually got past their initial hostility. Lucas wants to prove himself in his new dream job and Sean rubs him the wrong way at their first meeting. Sean is really good at making assumptions and he makes some of the wrong ones immediately.


I liked seeing these two navigate the portions of their relationship we were shown. Once they actually sat and talked like adults they found out common interests and goals. I liked that we got to see them get together, after they have settled a bit into the relationship and in the future when they are getting their HEA. Though these are separated into separate stories they flow together with only some time gaps in between.


I liked both of these characters, while they could seem a bit self-important at times they really have some deep insecurities and want someone to love them. Lucas works hard to show Sean how important he is to him. Sean has trouble voicing his feelings without any hostility and needs some reassurance and though they can push each other’s buttons make each other happy.


I really like the cover art and the visuals of the characters in their elements.

Buy Links:

Amazon US

Amazon UK


Book Details:

ebook, 42,000 words

Published: April 28, 2018 by Brigham Vaughn

Edition Language: English

A MelanieM Review: Masc (Femme #2) by Marshall Thornton


Rating: 4.75 stars out of 5

Lionel and Dog are back in this follow-up to the Lambda finalist, Femme. Almost six months have passed and, after taking an online quiz, Lionel believes their relationship is doomed because they have nothing in common. To save their future together, the pair joins a gay bowling league and discovers that Lionel is an excellent, if somewhat eccentric, bowler.

Meanwhile, Dog gets profiled in a work newsletter. He’s excited that he’s out at work, but doesn’t immediately realize that by fawning over Dog’s masculine nature the writer was also putting down all femme guys. Lionel takes it personally, which leads the to a crisis in their relationship. Attempting to make it up to Lionel, Dog makes a grand gesture—which backfires spectacularly.

Will the two manage to put things right? And will a night in jail, a morning of drag bingo, an afternoon of day drinking, and a month of moping make things better or worse?

I just loved Femme, the first story that introduced us to Lionel and Dog, and their road to love and a relationship.  I wish I just had this one to sail right into.  If Lionel is the femme of Femme, than Dog is the masc of MASC.  It’s so fitting that we now get Dog’s perspective in Masc (Femme #2) by Marshall Thornton as we pick up the timeline where Femme left off.

Well, we still get Lionel’s too.  Happily, Marshall Thornton gives his readers this story from both Lionel and Dog’s points of view.  But the focus is on Dog, the idea of a masculine “gay”,  how that definition impacts Dog and others around him, including his relationship with the femme Lionel.

There are so many things about not only MASC but this series that stay with me.

Thornton has created a cast of characters, starting with Lionel and Dog that I have taken to heart.  I fell in love with Lionel first, then Dog.  Here Dog’s vulnerability really stands out.  I keep thinking about Dog/Doug the person…yes, he seems somewhat naive in some respects, but I know people like that.  That earnestness, need to want to help or fix things is “real” and believable.  Which makes what comes later in the story even more heartbreaking.   Because the author uses something that occurs in real life and applies it to Dog.  And it’s not only extremely timely, it’s also upsetting and disturbing because the reactions are ones I’m sure others in his circumstances are receiving as well.

Trust this author to take this series and story and include such serious elements such as child abandonment (Lionel), parental loss, male gender roles, physical abuse, and sexual harassment into a story that includes sparkling dialog, glittering humor, heartwarming romance and love.  That includes Dog’s entire family and Lionel’s family of friends…both of which collide when Lionel joins Dog’s bowling team with surprising results.

The only thing that keeps this from a five star rating (which it will get anyway because I will round up) is that it’s not a standalone story.  MASC needs Femme to lean on just as Dog needs Lionel as his support.  Not that their communication issues get resolved until later in the story. That also feels very real in a new couple.   No,  much of who these two are and how they came together rests in the first story (a must read anyway in my eyes).

I intend to go back and read them one right after the other for my pure enjoyment.  Hopefully, this is not the last of Lionel and Dog.  But even if it is, I’m so thrilled to have made their acquaintance.  I want to go bowling with them, play bingo with them, and just spend more time with them.  It’s time well spent in laughter, love, and maybe a few sniffles too.  That’s life and this story is full of it.  And characters  who you will never want to let go.

Yes, I highly recommend them both.

Cover art: Marshall Thornton.  Love the bowling shoes!  Yes, they also make me think of the other pair not pictured!

Sales Links: Universal Buy Link

Book Details:

Kindle Edition, 217 pages
Published April 28th 2018 by Kenmore Books
Edition Language English
Series Femme #2



A Barb the Zany Old Lady Audiobook Review: Smoldering Flame (Rekindled Flame #3) by Andrew Grey and Michael Pauley (Narrator)


Rating: 4.25 out of 5

This is a sweet story about a firefighter and his young son who has childhood cancer and the photographer who came into their lives just when both needed him most.

When Dean brings his son Sammy to Marco’s photography studio without an appointment one evening, it’s evident that Sammy is quite ill, but all Sammy wants is to meet the stuffed Dalmatian he’s seen in photos. Feeling sorry for the young man and his son, Marco snaps several shots and refuses payment. Then when the three meet again months later, and it’s evident Sammy is much better, they hang out for a while and get to know each other while enjoying Sammy’s favorite foods.

Typical Andrew Grey in that the characters, including the child, are sweet, kind, generous, and loving, I can always count on this author to uplift my mood. Michael Pauley brought their voices to life and I especially loved the voice he gave little Sammy, whose childish squeals of delight over the simplest things served to remind me of how it’s often the little things in life that bring the most pleasure.

As the story moves on, there’s danger from fires for Dean, self-discovery for Marco, and a second hospitalization for Sammy. There’s just the right mix of angst and happiness, and it’s definitely a family drama as Sammy is a major part of Dean’s life and would be for any future romantic partner. I also like the way the author brought past characters into the story—from several different series—and I enjoyed the way the romance finally played out.

This is definitely a book I recommend, especially to those who enjoy a story of men with children or one with gorgeous, sexy firefighters. And the audiobook edition is terrific due to Michael Pauley’s narration.


Cover art by L.C. Chase depicts a shirtless firefighter, set against a background of flames, his hand on his helmet as he places it on his head. Very attention-getting and appropriate to the story.

Sales Links:  Dreamspinner Press | Amazon | Audible | iTunes

Audiobook Details:

Audible Audio,Length: 6 hrs and 3 mins

Published March 28th 2018 by Dreamspinner Press LLC (first published February 13th 2018)
Edition LanguageEnglish
Series Rekindled Flame #3

A Lucy Review: And The Beagle Makes Three by Geoffrey Knight


Rating:  4 Stars out of 5

Stuart was married to Claire, someone he loved very much, and they had a son, Atticus (Atty).  Life was really good until the night Stu had to tell Claire his truth – he is gay.  It didn’t end well and now Stuart carries around so much guilt for what happened.  It’s been eleven months and they are coming up on the last weekend in autumn, a time they traditionally spent at Claire’s sister Bethany’s house at the lake.  Bethany, she raises my blood pressure. Stuart wanted to skip it all.  Bethany isn’t kind at the best of times and this will just be a reminder of who is missing.  But Atty forces the issue and off they go, with their dog, Digby.   The trip is just as awful as Stu was afraid it would be and maybe even a little worse.   Atty, Stuart and meddlesome Bethany (plus family) all have some adjusting and facing facts to do, all while dealing with something so painful.

The book begins with a class presentation by Atty.  His mom had been a videographer and when she died, her 8 mm camera went to Atty.  She had taught him how to edit and how to work with movies, so his presentation was a documentary.  The theme, The Story of My Life So Far, is a typical one for an eight-year-old’s classroom but Atty’s presentation was not typical.  After all, his mother died and he and his father are grieving.  Atty hasn’t cried, but he’s grieving nonetheless.   It shows in his presentation.

Mrs Duckworth, Stuart’s personal assistant.  I don’t even have words for this woman (and I originally gave the book 3.5 stars then had to raise it some just for her).  She is matronly and motherly.  She lectures Stuart about talking with food in his mouth, how he ties his tie and her quirk is ahhhh-mazing.   “I’m talking your ‘lingo’”.  Oh my, how I loved me some Mrs. Duckworth.  She lectures Stuart on being gay and “…made a point of educating myself on all things homosexual.” 

It should be noted that while there is a possible love interest in the person of Cain, this is definitely not a romance.  It is a journey of father and son, and extended family, through grief and being able to move forward.   The romance is very much in the beginning stage and we don’t even meet Cain until halfway through and he doesn’t show up again until nearly the end.  Because that isn’t what this book is about.

There were times when Atty didn’t talk like your average eight-year-old. I teach four to eight-year-olds and I’ve never heard one say “Duly noted.”   Or “perhaps”.  Even, “Thank you for an eventful weekend.”  He didn’t talk that way throughout the book, just at the end, which is probably why I noticed it there.

There are some hard truths that Aunt Bethany has to face as well.  Even after her epiphany, I didn’t like her.  She made some headway at the end but her theory that she was always trying to be perfect doesn’t jibe with the absolute meanness she shows, not only to Stuart and Atty but to her husband and children as well.  Hopefully, she had enough self-realization at the end to make a turnaround.

There was a twist I wasn’t expecting, although it made sense.  This was by turns sad and hopeful.   And when Mrs Duckworth was around, funny.  “Bare throat” indeed.  But mostly it was a hurting father and son sticking together.  And the beagle makes three. 

Cover art by Geoffrey Knight fits the book perfectly.  Stuart, Digby and Atticus, in the car on their road trip to the lake. 

Sales Links:



Book Details:

Published April 12th 2018
Original TitleAnd the Beagle Makes Three
Edition LanguageEnglish

Exclusive Excerpt Tour for Medley (Changing Lanes #2) by Layla Reyne (excerpt and giveaway)




Medley by Layla Reyne

Series: Changing Lanes #2

Will the race for gold cost them their hearts?

Publisher: Self-Publish

Release Date: April 30 (Print & Ebook)

Length (Print & Ebook): Approx 270 pages

Subgenre: MM Romance, Bisexual Romance, Contemporary Romance, Sports Romance, New Adult Romance

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Book synopsis:

Sebastian Stewart was never Mr. Dependable; he was more the good-time guy who only wanted to swim, party, and ink tattoos. Until he cost his team the Olympic gold four years ago. Bas is determined to do right this time around—by his medley relay team and his rookie mentee.

Jacob Burrows is in over his head. The Olympic experience—from the hazing, to the endless practices, to the unrelenting media—makes the shy nineteen-year-old’s head spin. He’s trying to be everything to everyone while trying not to fall for his gorgeous tattooed teammate who just gets him—gets his need to fix things, his dorky pirate quips, and his bisexuality.

When Jacob falters under the stress, threatening his individual races and the medley relay gold, he needs Bas’s help to escape from drowning. Bas, however, fearing a repeat of his mistakes four years ago, pushes Jacob away, sure he’ll only let Jacob down. But the only path to salvaging gold is for Jacob to finally ask for what he needs—the heart of the man he loves—and for Bas to become the dependable one.

“How can you be your best when you’re not sure if your best will measure up? That’s the dilemma facing Bas and Jacob, as they deal with the immense pressure of swimming for Olympic gold while also trying to sort out their tangled hearts.” –Layla Reyne


“Sebastian, wake up.”

His full name, in Alex’s captain-voice, roused Bas from sleep. Peeling his face off the wooden dining table, Bas stared up, into Alex’s dark, assessing eyes.

“So this is where you’re hiding now?”

The academy’s high-ceilinged mess hall was as good a place as any. The dining area was mostly deserted until evening, and today, owing to their team dinner out, the kitchen staff were also absent. He’d had an hour to kill before they left for dinner, and he hadn’t felt like socializing in the lounge or taking a walk outside in the ninety-degree heat. But he’d needed to get out of the room to give Jacob privacy and to save what was left of his good intentions.

The image of Jacob this afternoon, fresh from the shower, flashed behind his eyes again, and on its heels, blinding panic. For a split second, Bas feared his drawing of the memory, another reason he’d avoided the lounge, was displayed on his tablet screen for anyone to see. Including Alex.

A quick glance down and Bas sagged with relief. He’d turned the device over, hiding today’s sketch and the others. The one of Jacob’s lust-wrecked face in the tattoo parlor mirror, every detail Bas could remember from that night etched into his digital likeness. The one of Jacob backed against the alley wall outside Martin’s, eyes pleading and teeth digging into his full bottom lip. The one from today, Jacob’s Longhorn tattoo the center of a profile sketch, water sluicing down his muscled torso and disappearing beneath the low-slung towel.

Yeah, he was hiding—too many things to count, the number growing by the day.


About Layla Reyne:

Author Layla Reyne was raised in North Carolina and now calls San Francisco home. She enjoys weaving her bi-coastal experiences into her stories, along with adrenaline-fueled suspense and heart pounding romance. When she’s not writing stories to excite her readers, she downloads too many books, watches too much television, and cooks too much food with her scientist husband, much to the delight of their smushed-face, leftover-loving dogs. Layla is a member of Romance Writers of America and its Kiss of Death and Rainbow Romance Writers chapters. She was a 2016 RWA® Golden Heart® Finalist in Romantic Suspense.

Connect with Layla Reyne: Twitter | Instagram | FB Page | FB Group | Newsletter | Goodreads | Pinterest


Giveaway: win 1 of 3 ecopies and/or paperback any back catalog ebook and paperback, open internationally by Layla Reyne

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Release Blitz – A Love To Remember by Sarah Hadley Brook (excerpt and giveaway)




Length: 27,000 words approx.

Publisher: JMS Books


Graham Hayes decided long ago he’d never be in a relationship. It was better to stay single than to fall in love only to be left alone, which he was certain would happen to him. He’d seen Alzheimer’s ravage his family members all his life, leaving their loved ones to deal with the fallout. Some of them stayed, but some didn’t. Graham isn’t going to risk it.

When he hires nurse Sam Morgan to take care of his dad during the day, his pledge to stay single is put to the test. He soon finds it difficult to maintain a professional distance.

Graham’s guarded his heart for so long, but his resolve is crumbling. Will he be able to conquer his fear to give himself a chance at love? Can he trust Sam to stick around for better or worse?


The doorbell rang just as Graham took a seat at the table, preparing to try and get some work done. It had been days since he’d even opened his laptop. He groaned. Looked like it wasn’t meant to be for the moment. His dad had finished his granola cereal and was sitting on the sofa, reading a book. It was still early enough in the morning where he seemed to have most of his faculties.

Assuming it was the home health care aide the agency was sending over, he didn’t bother to check the peephole or the window next to the entrance and swung the door open.

Graham’s jaw dropped and he stood in place, his feet frozen to the ground. Was he hallucinating? What the hell was going on? He stepped out and pulled the door partially closed behind him so he could speak to the man on his doorstep. The man currently grinning down at him.

“What are you doing here?” Graham hissed. “How did you find me?” He glanced up at the man he’d met at the club and wondered if he should call the cops. Wasn’t this considered stalking? It didn’t matter that his body reacted in all kinds of weird ways. He could be dangerous. And compared to Graham, the guy was huge.

The man stepped back and held up his hands, palms out. “Hey, I had no idea you lived here.”

Graham’s eyes narrowed.

“No, seriously,” he insisted. “The agency sent me here.”

“Agency?” Shit. “You’re the … home health care aide?”

S.G. nodded and offered his hand. “I’m Sam Morgan. Nurse for hire.”

Graham stared up at him — probably a little too long at the man’s massive chest — and finally shook his hand, shaken by the jolt of electricity coursing through his arm. “Okay. Um, come inside?” His voice was trembling. Get a grip!

S.G. — Sam — followed him inside, ducking his head as he walked through the doorway.

His dad didn’t look up, so Graham led the man to the kitchen table, gesturing for him to take a seat. He wasn’t even sure what to say. Or ask. He felt awkward. And silly for thinking the guy was stalking him. Graham had only been a quick fuck at the club for Sam. A means to an end. Nothing more.

He sat across from Sam and stared. The man was even sexier in the daylight. Dirty blond hair cut close to the scalp, a little longer on top. In the light he could see his eyes were the color of caramel. Hazel, maybe? He fought the urge to reach across the table and stroke the stubble still covering his jawline. And shit, the man was broad. Huge. He’d thought of him as a warrior that night and he found himself thinking that was still an apt description.

“You’re a nurse?” he blurted out.

Sam frowned. “Hey, don’t stereotype me,” he said quietly. “I love being a nurse.”

Graham’s face heated. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean … I guess I’m just kind of shocked at seeing you here,” he admitted.

Sam’s frown turned into a grin. “Yeah, not exactly what I was expecting this morning, either.” He tilted his head toward Graham’s dad on the sofa. “I assume I’m here for him?”

Graham cleared his throat, tried to clear his head. “Yeah. That’s my dad. Thurston. Thurston Hayes.”

“So you must be Graham Hayes?” Sam’s voice was quiet, his gaze on Graham.

“Yes. I’m sorry. I should have introduced myself.” Shit. He was blundering this. He’d never felt so off-kilter when it came to a man. “Do you want something to drink?”

Sam shook his head. “No thanks. Right now, can you fill me in on your dad? Let me know what’s going on. I have some basic information, but it always helps to get specifics from family.”

“Sure.” Graham glanced at his dad and saw he was still engrossed in his book. He wondered if he’d even turned a page. Was he struggling with reading, too? Graham turned back to Sam, who was watching him, patiently waiting for him to continue. “I’m not sure what you want to know?”

Sam leaned back and offered him a small smile. “My job is to make your life easier and help the patient feel better. Why don’t you just tell me a little about your dad?

Author Bio

Sarah Hadley Brook lives smack-dab in the middle of the Heartland and is the mother of two wonderful young men, as well as two cats. During the day, she works in the nonprofit world, but reserves evenings for her hobby-turned-passion of writing, letting the characters she conjures in her mind take the lead and show her where the story will go. When not working or writing, she can be found reading, working on dollhouses, trying her hand at new recipes, or watching old movies and musicals. In her ideal world, Christmas would come at least twice a year, Rock Hudson and Doris Day would have costarred in more than three movies, and chocolate would be a daily necessity. She dreams of traveling to Scotland some day and visiting the places her ancestors lived. Sarah believes in “Happily Ever After” and strives to ensure her characters find their own happiness in love and life.


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BLOG TOUR for And The Beagle Makes Three by Geoffrey Knight (excerpt and giveaway)


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And The Beagle Makes Three

Geoffrey Knight

Genre: Gay Drama /Comedy

Length: 26,000 words

Release Date: 04.12.18

And The Beagle Makes Three Cover




When Stuart Summerfield finally realized he was gay, he knew that telling his beloved wife Claire would be one of the hardest, most heartbreaking things he would ever do. Unfortunately Stu’s coming out wasn’t simply heartbreaking… it had the most unexpected and tragic consequences imaginable.

Now, almost one year after the car accident that took Claire’s life, Stu has buried himself in his work to push through the pain and guilt while doing his best to raise, Atticus, their young son, who has himself handled his grief in his own unique way. While getting by one day at a time proves difficult enough, it never crossed Stu’s mind that the family’s annual weekend away at the lakeside home of his sister-in-law, Bethany, would still go ahead now that Claire was gone.

Atticus, however, has other ideas. With his loyal beagle Digby by his side, Atty makes a phone call to Aunt Bethany in an effort to keep the family tradition alive, no matter what chaos and calamity might ensue.

And so over the course of one weekend filled with commotion—and emotion—Stu and Atty are about to learn that healing can open up your heart, that grief can sometimes be good, and that nobody travels the road to recovery alone.

Beagle Promo Art


Atty sat on a chair outside the principal’s office. He turned his head when he saw a flash of daylight reflect on the well-mopped floors as the door at the end of the corridor opened and his father come running toward him.

Stu practically slid to his knees in front of his son, grabbing Atty’s arms, feeling his forehead, looking for any bruises from bullies or red marks on Atty’s knuckles on the off-chance he’d fought back.

“Atty? Buddy, you okay? What’s happened?”

Atticus gave his father a concerned look and said quietly, “Dad, I made the whole class cry.”

“What do you mean you made the whole class cry? Why? How?”

“I didn’t mean to. I don’t think they liked my presentation.”

“What presentation? You didn’t tell me you had a presentation.”

“You were busy, I didn’t wanna bother you. I’ve never failed an assignment before. What do you think it feels like to get an F?”

Stu gave Atty a tight, long hug. “It’s okay to get an F once in a while. Nobody’s perfect all of the time, Atty.”

At that moment, the door to Principal Parsons’s office opened.

“Ah, Mr. Summerfield. I thought I heard your voice. Would you mind stepping inside?”

Principal Parsons gestured for Stu to enter the office, but as Atty moved to follow his father the principal held up his hand. “You can stay here for the moment, Atty. We’d like to have a word with your father in private. We won’t be long.” The door clicked shut and Atty took his seat and waited.

Inside Principal Parsons’s office, Mrs. Tilbury was already waiting for Stu to join them.

“Mr. Summerfield, it’s nice to see you again.” Mrs. Tilbury shook Stu’s hand but had trouble looking him in the eye.

“Is this about the beagle again?” Stu asked, taking the spare seat as Principal Parsons gestured to it.

“Yes, and we’re concerned the problem isn’t going away,” the principal answered. “It seems to be in complete contrast with the way Atticus appears to be working through his issues creatively.”

Stu shook his head. “I don’t understand.”

Mrs. Tilbury sat forward. “A few weeks ago, the children were given an assignment. They were asked to put together a presentation in any medium or format they liked, so long as it covered the topic of ‘The Story of My Life So Far’.” She took a breath and lost eye contact with Stu once more. “Naturally, given the last year that

Atticus has had—”

“Eleven months,” Stu interrupted quietly. “It’s been eleven months.”

Mrs. Tilbury cleared her throat and continued. “Given the last eleven months that Atticus has been through, I gave him the option not to participate, but he insisted on putting together a presentation.”

“Was it bad? Did he do something wrong?”

Principal Parsons and Mrs. Tilbury exchanged glances before Parsons said, “Why don’t you see for yourself. If you wouldn’t mind turning your chair around.”

It was only then that Stu noticed the film projector facing the back wall of the office. Mrs. Tilbury switched off the lights and set the projector running, the rickety film of Atty’s presentation jerking into motion.


Geoffrey Knight is the author of more than 30 gay fiction novels, novellas and short stories, ranging in genre from gay adventure, gay romance, gay suspense and gay comedies. He is the recipient of two Rainbow Awards including Best Mystery Winner and Best Overall Gay Fiction Runner-up. His work has been featured in several anthologies including Best Gay Erotica 2013, and he appeared as Guest of Honor at the inaugural Rainbow Con in Florida, 2014.

Geoffrey has worked in advertising, politics and journalism, but nothing is as fun as telling stories. He lives with his partner, their baby daughter, two dogs and two cats in a rambling old house in North Queensland, Australia, where the paint is fraying and life is good.

Amazon Author Page




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Release Blitz – – Flowers For The Gardener by Sharon Maria Bidwell (excerpt and giveaway)



Length: 70,000 words approx.
Cover Design:
Publisher: JMS Books

A warm-hearted rich man’s son, Richard Gardener needs to overcome three obstacles: find a way the family business can run without him, help his mother cope with grief, and stop butting heads — and other parts of his anatomy — with the gardener.

Ethan Fields has worked for the Gardener family for many years. He’s struggling with debt and the desire to leave, and has loved Richard far longer than the man would believe. Ethan can cope with most things, but his anger with Richard’s mother won’t fade. Until that and his feelings for Richard are resolved, he feels trapped and, alas, the idea that sex will get Richard out of his system isn’t working.

To make the situation worse, both men assume too much and don’t say the right words, and Ethan’s offer of ‘just sex’ grows more complicated by the day. Can Richard and Ethan stop getting their wires crossed before their paths diverge?


Sounds of splashing made Ethan glance over his shoulder, witness to Richard’s ineffectual efforts to clean his hands. While the teakettle worked away making a noise in the corner, Ethan tore off a few sheets from a roll of blue paper, tougher than the type intended for kitchen use, and handed over the wad.

“Wipe yourself with this first and pull back those sleeves. I’ll change this.”

He took the dish of now dirty liquid and tossed it out. By the time he walked back, the pot — always so-called by his father — started the little familiar jig before clicking off. Time they got a new one but no point asking for these things. No one up at the house would pay for them while those who worked on the estate could ‘make do’. Ethan must wait until the appliance blew up or died. He made busy pouring out cold and hot water before handing over a small screwdriver.

“You might wanna dig out some soil if the brush don’t get rid of it all.” Not to say a little dirt on Richard Gardener wouldn’t be an improvement.

Much improved by the view of things. Those grey-green eyes were brighter than Ethan recalled. The boy now a man and broader in the shoulders, and … a quick glance to make certain and, yes, Richard filled out his trousers well. A number of people might find it strange Ethan noted Richard’s eyes before giving his body and crotch a once-over-many people believed a person’s eyes a female preference — but a bright gaze always attracted Ethan.

He set to making tea, including one for Richard, though he didn’t bother asking if his boss wanted any. The man needed brains more than tea. Damn fool to come out without a jacket in this weather, which … fine, so had Ethan, but he worked, built up a sweat, and he didn’t react to winter’s bite like the rich boy, more used to it. The reason Ethan gave Richard warm water was owing to how red his fingers were; so, too, his cheeks. Digging into the soil with bare hands … the idiot was a walking invitation for frostbite.

“Sugar? Or are you sweet enough?”

Well, damn. Richard flushed. Ethan tried to hide his amusement, unable to tell whether he succeeded. “You can sweeten it as you like, or not.” He put the mug near the other man who eyed it, gaze narrowed, lips pursed under a lowered brow. No doubt he suspected to find it laced with weed killer. Didn’t take it, but he was preoccupied, still cleaning his nails. Be no surprise, though, if the tea went untouched. All because Richard didn’t trust him. Might be worth his while to do something about the dislike.

“Remember last time you stood here?”

Richard became a statue, revealing he recalled, all right. So many emotions flittered over his face. Back then, the little Lord of the Manor washed more than his hands. The memory flashed vibrant, the clear sky on a chill afternoon transformed into the blistering heat of high summer by his father’s fury. Regardless of age, Ethan’s dad had dragged both of them in, one to clean up and one to wait until the other left, intending to give Ethan a hiding, or so Ethan had believed. Turned out his old man didn’t have it in him to hit his son, though the margin was narrow. Understandable, with his father afraid of losing his job and livelihood.

The promise — never to touch Richard again — Ethan kept, for the most part because of a lack of opportunity.

Last time when Richard stood in this hut, the boy wiped blood and mud off his face before running back to the house. This time, Ethan planned not to let Richard escape.

Author Bio

A writer from the UK, Sharon doesn’t get out much these days. She’s too busy creating vibrant worlds and characters to share with others. She writes fiction both light and dark in various genres. She has been approached on occasion to write articles such as reports and publicity material, though her focus will always be story-telling. She loves writing, reading, movies, the theatre, her garden, and seeing other parts of the world, but not the hassle of travelling. Wherever she happens to hang her hat, she lives primarily in a world of her own.

Head over to Sharon’s website for a fabulous giveaway here
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