A Barb the Zany Old Lady Audio Review: The Soldati Prince (Soldati Hearts #1) by Charlie Cochet and Manuel Pombo (Narrator)

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Rating: 4 stars out of 5

This was a fairly short audiobook but it was long on enjoyment.  A different take on shifters, Charlie Cochet brings us tiger shifters (of course—big cats are her favorites!), but they are from a different world—a world of magical creatures and warriors who defend humanity from the darkness. 

Riley Murrough is just a regular guy and as he’s going about his work one day he’s suddenly in a life or death struggle with demons. Who knew?  When the battle is over and he realizes he’s been helped by a group of tigers who shift to human form, he’s sure he’s dreaming.  But the tattoo that has appeared on his arm matches that of the king of these creatures—the Soldati King, and Riley is his Prince, his lifemate. 

No insta-love here, however, as Khalon, the king, denies his connection to Riley.  He has his reasons and though Riley finally faces facts and realizes he needs to accept the rejection, the magical realm has different plans for them. 

This was a lively adventure, a bit too short to get into a lot of detail, but certainly enough detail to whet my appetite for more.  I’ve already moved the next book in this series to my TBR.   

The narration was good, though it could have been better. Manuel Pombo had a very pleasing voice but his narration was quite fast—almost as if he was rushing to finish by a short deadline.  And the differentiation between the two MCs was sometimes noticeable, and other times not. I think over time, I will come to like this narrator, especially if the narrative is slowed down a bit.

The story itself was interesting and the characters engaging, including the secondary characters, two of whom will be featured in book two.  They were both very positive, upbeat and often humorous throughout this story so theirs is one I must read.  Overall, this was a nice treat and I recommend it to lovers of paranormal and fantasy romance. 

Cover art: L.C. Chase.

Sales Links:  Dreamspinner Press | Amazon | Audible | iTunes

Audiobook Details:

Audible Audio, 2nd Edition
Published January 10th 2018 by Dreamspinner Press LLC (first published August 25th 2015)
Original Title The Soldati Prince
ASINB078TLPLJ1
Edition Language English
Series Soldati Hearts #1

A Lucy Review The Replacement Husband by Eliot Grayson

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Rating: 4 stars out of 5

Goddess-blessed Owen Honeyfield is destined to enjoy perfect good fortune, and the arrival of handsome and eligible Tom Drake in his country town appears to be just the latest manifestation. Tom’s proposal is the fulfillment of Owen’s desires, but Owen is left heartbroken and at the mercy of Arthur, Tom’s disapproving elder brother, when his betrothal takes a disastrous turn. His reputation ruined and his bright future shattered, Owen must choose between loneliness and practicality.

Arthur Drake has taken responsibility for Tom’s scandalous behavior all their lives. He doesn’t think much of his brother’s engagement, knowing that even Owen’s sweetness won’t be enough to influence Tom for the better. When Tom’s impulsive selfishness threatens to ruin the lives of everyone involved, Arthur has only one honorable choice. He’ll need to repair the damage Tom has done and fight for his own happiness, knowing all the while he may never be able to take Tom’s place in Owen’s heart.

I am a huge fan of historicals and I was interested in this one because many of the social norms of, say the Regency era, were not present.  The Goddess worship, for one, as well as the acceptance of same-sex relationships and marriages and the acceptance of divorce .

Owen has been Goddess-blessed and this means he will enjoy good fortune and a good life.  This extends to those he cares about.  He meets the brothers after a fall on the moors and falls for Tom.  However, when his beloved turns out to be a cheating jerk, it is up to Tom’s brother, Arthur, to try to salvage the situation. In this way it was interesting – Owen’s reputation would be ruined for being jilted because he is Goddess-blessed, so how could this happen? Very reminiscent of true historicals where the female is ruined.

I adored Arthur.  So stoic and steadfast, wanting to make things right while battling feelings for a man (Owen) who was sort of forced into this marriage and who not only loves another, but loves Arthur’s own brother.  Arthur was the highlight for me. 

Owen I wasn’t so enamored with, if only because he comes across as a damsel.  His father wrote the marriage settlement, that Owen didn’t bother to read.  Then I questioned- why do two men need a marriage settlement?  Owen seems very young, very “let’s act stupid so as to not upset the men” which reminded me so much of females in Regency times. “Owen knew very well he was not wrong, but intelligent, confident men of the world were seldom pleased to be corrected by their pretty young husbands, as unfair as that was.”    Even some of the descriptions, “…his hands smoothest up, coming to rest around Owen’s waist, where they nearly spanned its circumference.”

There were times I wanted to shake Owen for not seeing what was in front of him and for pining for Tom.  Owen’s treatment of Tom’s wife was lovely, as was Arthur’s behavior after the “…not unprovoked pillow.” 

This was my first time reading Eliot Grayson and I look forward to more of his books. This twist on the historical worked very well for me.

Cover art by Fiona Jayde fits the style of the book, just a man dressed in era-appropriated garb.

Sales Links:  Goodreads  |   Amazon

Book Details:

ebook, 160 pages

Published December 28th 2018 by Smoking Teacup Books

ASIN B07MD3K885

Edition Language English

E.J. Russell on the second in their Enchanted Occasions series, Devouring Flame (guest post and giveaway)

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Devouring Flame by E.J. Russell

Dreamspinner Press

Cover Artist: Aaron Anderson

Buy links:

Amazon: http://ejr.pub/devouring-flame-amz

Other: http://ejr.pub/devouring-flame-b2r

Publisher: http://ejr.pub/fb-devouring-flame

 

 

 

Thank you so much for helping me celebrate the release of Devouring Flame! At the end of the tour, I’ll be giving away a prize—a $25 Dreamspinner gift card plus one of my backlist titles—to one commenter (chosen at random across all the tour posts), so please be sure to join the conversation!

Devouring Flame is the second book in my series centered around the employees of Enchanted Occasions Event Planning, where the word “enchanted” is quite literally, er, literal. The EO staff are all outcast from their supernatural home realms, most of them because they’re aitchers (short for half-and-half), part human and part other, and discriminated against by Pures of all races. But they’ve found a community with their EO co-workers, and job satisfaction staging magical events for their clients.

Of course, sometimes those events get… complicated. 🙂

The Vampire Conundrum

Until last year, even though I’d written a dozen books—three quarters of them paranormal—I’d never written one involving vampires. Then, by an odd coincidence, I ended up writing two at the same time.

Each was from a different paranormal romantic comedy series: my November release, Vampire with Benefits, is book two in my Supernatural Selection trilogy, and my current release, Devouring Flame, is the second Enchanted Occasions story. And the way I ended up treating the vampire mythos in each book was vastly different.

For one thing, in Vampire With Benefits, one of the main characters is a vampire, involved in a fake marriage scheme with an inactive beaver shifter. In Devouring Flame, however, vampires are side characters—treated as a group rather than individually—and are more of an annoyance and impediment to our co-heroes than participants in a love story of their own.

Consequently, I got to develop the rules for two different vampire worlds, which was great fun. The Supernatural Selection books belong in what I call my paranormal romantic comedy genre, but Enchanted Occasions veers more toward the screwball than just rom-com. Consequently, the Vampire With Benefits world is a little more serious than the one in Devouring Flame.

In VWB, all the vampires, with the exception of two who were Turned in America, are from Eastern Europe, and their society is still more or less feudal.

In Devouring Flame, the vampires behave more like a global corporation, with an annual conference (which Enchanted Occasions Event Planning has been hired to present), including sensitivity training sessions, officer elections, and bylaws review.

One of the things I felt pretty strongly about was that I didn’t want there to be any danger of a vampire population explosion. I wanted both series to have a limitation on creating new vampires, a moratorium, so that the population remained fixed. However, the reasons for the moratorium vary between the series.

In SS, the moratorium was imposed by the fae and druids, in exchange for evacuating the vampires from Europe after World War I.

In EO, the moratorium was instigated in 2007 with the publication of Twilight, because, to quote Smith, one of the heroes in Devouring Flame:

“Too many moony teenagers with unrealistically romantic notions about what it means to be undead. All the vamps started freaking out. They might be bloodsucking, egomaniacal sociopaths, but they’re not pedophiles. At least that’s what their PR team claims.”

For amusement, the SS vampires conduct themselves like the aristocracy they once were, attending sophisticated cocktail parties dressed in impeccable evening wear. The EO vampires, on the other hand, like vast, noisy costume balls, in which they cosplay as themselves—that is, as any version of “vampire” portrayed in human film or literature.

Another difference: the SS vampires can only smell and taste viable food sources (in other words, people whose blood will be appetizing and nourishing for them). They can’t taste or smell anything else, which means there’s little point for them to try. I sort of sidestep the issue of whether or not they actually could if they wanted to.

The EO vampires on the other hand… For one day out of every century, because of a spell in certain Interstitial sites, they can consume human food again. It’s their Centennial Feast, and Enchanted Occasions is staging that as well.

Since they have only twenty-four hours to eat—before waiting another hundred years—the vampires have a really, really, really long list of menu requirements. Because, as Mikos, Enchanted Occasions’ owner, says in response to Smith’s question about what vampires eat:

“When they’re only able to eat once every hundred years? Everything they possibly can.”

So what about you? If you had to pick a once-in-a-century menu, what would be on it?

Devouring Flame

An Enchanted Occasions story

Reunited and reignited.

While cutting through the Interstices—the post-creation gap between realms—Smith, half-demon tech specialist for Enchanted Occasions Event Planning, spies the person he yearns for daily but dreads seeing again: the ifrit, Hashim of the Windrider clan.

On their one literally smoldering night together, Smith, stupidly besotted, revealed his true name—a demon’s greatest vulnerability. When Hashim didn’t return the favor, then split the next morning with no word? Message received, loud and clear: Thanks but no, thanks.

Although Hashim had burned to return Smith’s trust, it was impossible. The wizard who conjured him holds his true name in secret, and unless Hashim discovers it, he’ll never be free.

When their attraction sparks once more, the two unite to search for Hashim’s hidden name—which would be a hell of a lot easier if they didn’t have to contend with a convention full of food-crazed vampires on the one day out of the century they can consume something other than blood.

But if they fail, Hashim will be doomed to eternal slavery, and their reignited love will collapse in the ashes.

Luckily Smith is the guy who gets shit done. And Hashim is never afraid to heat things up.

About the Author

E.J. Russell–grace, mother of three, recovering actor–writes romance in a rainbow of flavors. Count on high snark, low angst and happy endings. 

Reality? Eh, not so much.

E.J.’s paranormal romantic comedy, The Druid Next Door, was a 2018 RITA® finalist. She’s married to Curmudgeonly Husband, a man who cares even less about sports than she does. Luckily, C.H. also loves to cook, or all three of their children (Lovely Daughter and Darling Sons A and B) would have survived on nothing but Cheerios, beef jerky, and Satsuma mandarins (the extent of E.J.’s culinary skill set).

E.J. lives in rural Oregon, enjoys visits from her wonderful adult children, and indulges in good books, red wine, and the occasional hyperbole.

Contact info:

Email: ejr@ejrussell.com

Website: http://ejrussell.com

Newsletter: http://ejrussell.com/newsletter

Facebook reader group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/reality.optional

Facebook author page: https://www.facebook.com/E.J.Russell.author

Amazon author page: http://www.amazon.com/author/ej_russell

BookBub: https://www.bookbub.com/authors/e-j-russell

Twitter: http://twitter.com/ej_russell

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/ej_russell_author

 

Giveaway

The author is offering a giveaway prize—a $25 Dreamspinner gift card plus one of their backlist titles—to one commenter (chosen at random across all the tour posts) at the end of the tour

Marguerite Labbe on the Struggles with Addiction and her new story ‘A Whole Latte Sass (Geek Life #2)’

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A Whole Latte Sass (Geek Life #2) by Marguerite Labbe

Dreamspinner Press
Cover Artist: Kanaxa

Buy Links:  Dreamspinner Press  |  Amazon  |   Barnes & Noble 

Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words is happy to host Marguerite Labbe here today to talk about the next story in her Geek LIfe series, A Whole Latte Sass.  Welcome, Marguerite!

 

 

Hello everyone. It’s great to be back at Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words. When I write, I like a mix of the serious and the humorous. I like to touch on topics that have affected me personally. For years I’ve wanted to write a main character who was a recovering addict, but it was always either too close to home or I just didn’t feel as I could do my best by him at the time. Then Trask Briscoe came along and I knew he was the one.

Trask had a rough start in life. His parents were addicts and his home was not a safe environment to be in. He did have his Grandmother though. She’s the one who gave him love and discipline in equal measure. She is the only one from his home that he thinks of with affection and respect. But that didn’t stop him from starting to use too. And when he left home, running as far as he could to the east coast, that demon followed him.

Addiction is a fact of life in my family as it is in so many other families, though people often don’t want to talk about it. I was sixteen years old when my mom went into rehab for drug use. I attended Alateen sessions for years. There’s a condition called “dry drunk” that can persist even after a person stops using. It’s where they continue the same behaviors and attitudes they had while they were using. Living with that is as bad as living with the addict. Though, my mom got clean, she might as well have been using for many more years before her time in therapy, rehab, and AA meetings started to make a profound change within her. She’s so strong and even now with almost thirty years of being clean she still goes to AA meetings and she’s a much more happy and stable person than before.

Trask had his ups and downs too. His road to getting clean was not an easy one and it’s why he clings so hard to his rules and the path he’s on. He’s utterly committed to staying off the drugs and alcohol. He’s very aware of the dangers of having “just one” as that “just one” bit him on the ass after being clean for over a year. I’ve seen people in the AA rooms who had five years sobriety and that one drink sent them on a tailspin. And I’ve also seen them have the amazing courage to stand up and collect that 24 hour chip after using again. I’ve lost people to this disease and so has Trask and I’ve also watched people transform their lives for the better.

My sister drank for years, hiding it from everyone. All the signs were there, but it’s so hard to see it sometimes. I ask myself how I could’ve missed it as do my parents and other siblings. I knew her history as a teenager. I worked at a rehab center for years. I missed it. We all missed it until we couldn’t any longer. So we staged an intervention and she went to AA for two years claiming the entire time she wasn’t an alcoholic until she was ready to face it. Her husband at the time didn’t believe alcoholism was really a disease and that caused other problems. It’s hard to quit when your SO thinks it’s only a matter of control. During the divorce she didn’t start drinking again, but she started using like mom, sleeping pills, antianxiety pills, anything she could get her hands on, until she hit a bottom on that one and crawled her way back out of the pit. She has a new husband who supports her whole-heartedly and her life is going in a new direction.

I have so much respect for the both of them. And there were times when I wrote scenes with Trask that I just cried because I recognized his struggle. I wanted to get it right and even with as much as I know it’s not the same as having gone through it. My sister read his scenes for me and gave me her input and her and my mom’s permission to talk about it. They are two tough beautiful ladies and a constant reminder to me not to let the statistics take your courage away. There are here and today they are clean. They provide leadership within their NA/AA circles and have made lifelong friends who know exactly what they are going through.

So if you, or anyone you love is struggling with addiction, please know that those circles work. I’ve seen them work. I’ve felt the energy and love there as well as the kind of firm, no nonsense accountability that everyone needs from time to time. And if you ever want a non-judgmental ear, I will be blessed to answer any email. Blessings to you all this New Year.

Excerpt

*  *  *

“I don’t know why you didn’t tell them to fuck off,” Felipe fumed as they made their way to the truck.

Trask had been tempted. He hated being judged, hell, even when he deserved it. It got his hackles up every time. And times like this, when he didn’t deserve it, it dug under his skin even more, making his temper simmer. “What would it have solved other than drive a deeper wedge?” Dammit, he hated uncomfortable family situations, hated them with a holy passion. He slid behind the wheel and rested his head back against the seat. “And damned if I can’t see their point.”

“Don’t you fucking dare take their side.” Felipe twisted to face him. “All I asked was for them to give you a chance, not jump all over you. I don’t care about the twenty years between us. And dammit, your past has made you the man you are today. So yeah, it fucking sucked, and you put yourself in some shitty places, but you got yourself out of them too.”

Trask shook his head and started the truck. Felipe had his points, but if Trask was a dad, he was pretty sure he’d have serious reservations about a forty-year-old man hooking up with his son or daughter.

Felipe huffed out a breath and let out a few more choice oaths. His phone rang, and he ignored it. “So you said you inherited the money for the store. Who from? I thought you and your family didn’t get along.”

Trask sensed that Felipe was asking more out of a need to distract himself than curiosity, but he had to stop dodging the questions or giving only partial answers. Might as well tell all tonight. There was no reason to hold back anymore.

“My grandmother, but I had to be clean to collect on it. And man, I wanted that chance. I wanted her to see that I could build on what she left me. That I wouldn’t be like my parents. I wanted her to be proud of me. So I found myself a program, got clean, showed up back in Texas a year later with my paperwork, test results. Pissed my old man off to no end. He was hoping to contest her will and take the money for himself.” Trask sighed and scrubbed a hand through his hair.

“How long did you stay clean after that?” Felipe asked softly.

“Almost another seven months.” Trask shook his head, his hands tightening on the wheel. “Once I’d bought the place, got everything settled, inventory in stock and the initial flurry of activity was over, I convinced myself that one drink to celebrate wouldn’t hurt anybody. I could handle one damn drink. Goddamn, I was wrong.”

Trask had zero recollection of the next few nights. “All I know is that I finally came out of it several days later, naked in some damn flophouse, with a shit taste in my mouth, fresh track marks, and too many bruises.”

He glanced over to find Felipe watching him with wide, solemn eyes. “And a whole shit pile of shame and guilt?”

Trask nodded. “You nailed it, and I couldn’t face it, so I went right back to using. I couldn’t face her memory, knowing how upset it would make her if she saw me.”

Felipe caught Trask’s hand and lifted it, studying his knuckles before laying a kiss on them. “Maybe for a while, but you found the strength to fight it back again and again until you were able to say you have almost sixteen years clean. You ever think that your grandmother looked at you and didn’t see a man who kept failing but instead saw the man who kept picking himself up to wage that war again?”

Trask’s throat tightened to an unbearable ache. He’d never looked at it quite that way, but knowing his grandmother the way he had, yeah, he could see that. Felipe opened up such a wellspring in him sometimes, emotions that had been shunted aside so he could deal with the day-to-day, that the intensity of allowing himself those feelings almost physically hurt. He tugged Felipe to him. “You’re incredible, you know that?” he asked as Felipe wound his arm around Trask’s shoulder. “She would’ve loved the hell out of you.”

Blurb:

It’s no secret cosplayer Felipe Suero is looking for his happily ever after—in his love life as well as his career. He’s getting his degree so he can quit his miserable job and start his own costume business. Now he just needs to land the sexiest silver fox to ever attend a con.

Trask Briscoe’s life revolves around staying clean and sober, running the Magick Den, and attending local cons. His rules haven’t left much room for romance. But he can’t deny Felipe has caught his complete attention. He’s just not sure what he can offer a man so full of joy and sass.

When Trask finally accepts Felipe’s offer for a cup of coffee, he soon finds himself on a second date and a third. Between cosplay projects and roleplaying games, they discover a deeper connection than either of them expected. And Trask realizes that sometimes rules are made to be broken.

Now Felipe just has to convince his family—and Trask—that Trask has more love to offer than he ever dreamed.

About the Author

Marguerite Labbe loves writing stories about the beauty of love and the strength of family, whether it’s the family you’re born into or the one you create. She married her next-door neighbor and best friend, and they have one son, one dog, and two cats who rule them all. She has finally converted her Alabama born husband into being a Red Sox fan and now only needs to convince her son. She runs Apocrypha Comics Studio with her husband and they often trek off to comic book conventions on the weekend where they celebrate all manner of geek culture.

Social Media:

Author website: http://margueritelabbe.blogspot.com/

Twitter handle: @MargueriteLabbe

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/marguerite.labbe.3

New Release Blitz for Tea (A Cup of John #1) by Matthew J. Metzger (excerpt and giveaway)

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Title: Tea

Series: A Cup of John, Book One

Author: Matthew J. Metzger

Publisher: NineStar Press

Release Date: January 7, 2019

Heat Level: 3 – Some Sex

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: 76800

Genre: Contemporary, contemporary, British, trans, gay, age gap, blue collar, disability, ableism, body dysphoria, PTSD/mental abuse/self-image issues, family issues, #ownvoices

Add to Goodreads

Synopsis

John only went into the cafe to have a brew and wait out the storm. He didn’t expect to find love at the same time.

And it really is love at first sight. Chris is like nobody John’s ever known, and John is caught from the start. All he wants, from that very first touch, is to never let go. But John is badly burned from his last relationship and in no fit state to try again. When Chris asks him out, he ought to say no.

But what if he says yes instead?

Excerpt

Tea
Matthew J. Metzger © 2019
All Rights Reserved

Chapter One
“Fark this,” Rhodri said, “fer the ace o’ farking spades.”

John grunted, busy watching a Facebook slanging match unfolding on his phone. It had started to snow, which—despite Sheffield getting snow on a regular basis in the winter—ensured everyone promptly forgot how cars worked.

A fact that Rhodri backed up by leaning out of the van window and bellowing, “Who taught yer to farking drive, yer daft cunt!” at a middle-aged man in a BMW.

John snorted, grinning, and squinted out of the slush-smeared windscreen. They were nearly at the high street.

“I can walk from here,” he said. “Turn around and use the ring road, if you don’t want to be here all night.”

“Fark the ring road,” Rhodri grumbled in his thick, garbled accent. “It’ll fark the suspension.”

“You mean it’s not already?”

Rhodri snarled a defence of his beloved, twenty-year-old death trap of a van, but John firmly stuck by his assertion as the rust bucket was hauled over to the side of the road, and the handbrake screeched like a banshee in an opera house.

“Monday for the renovation?” John asked as he curled his coat collar up.

“Yeah. Gazzer’s looking fer a spring sale.”

“Have a good weekend, then.”

“Fark off.”

John grinned and slammed the passenger door on the pseudo-affectionate dismissal. The day Rhodri Campbell started talking nice to his friends was the day hell froze over.

Mind you, John thought, squinting at the black sky, that might not be too far off.

He was supposed to meet his older sister for dinner, but she’d be at least another hour. Grimacing at the weather, John decided to find a café and settle in to wait out the snowstorm. Hunching his shoulders, he broke into a jog, aiming for the first sign he saw, and soon shouldered his massive bulk through the glass door of a tiny, heavenly warm coffee shop.

It was busy inside. Everyone else had had the same idea. The floor was crowded with shopping bags, a buggy thoroughly blocking one aisle. John’s absurd size earned him some dirty looks that were hastily wiped away when he glanced back. Even the barista, when he asked for a large tea, sighed and popped her gum like it would be an enormous bother to cover her wide-eyed stare. The prickle of unease rose under his skin, and he forced it back down.

“Keep the change,” John told her as he handed over three pounds and folded his arms to wait, knowing that—even in Sheffield—a man with biceps like the steel ropes on a suspension bridge was not going to be left waiting for long. Especially if he folded his arms.

That was when he messed up.

He stepped back to glance around for a table, and in doing so, bumped the one directly behind him. A cup banged. Someone swore. And John felt the hot flush of shame flood his face, even as he spun on his heel to try to fix the damage.

“I’m so sorry. I—”

“It’s all right. I think it missed me.”

“Here, let me get you another—what was it?”

And then the man looked up from patting down his jeans and T-shirt with a napkin and smiled right into John’s face.

And John just stopped.

Staring.

The way the man smiled was…breathtaking. Literally. The air caught in John’s chest, his lungs seizing for a brief moment, when a crooked smile spread across narrow features, creasing a pale face from good-looking into gorgeous. It was like the sun bursting over a still sea, like the car dashboard when the ignition was first turned in the dark. A sudden spark lit behind an attractive face to make it utterly beautiful, and John stared.

The stranger was tall and lean, with a halo of messy black curls that surrounded his face and threw the ethereal beauty of that smile into sharp relief. The smile itself was formed out of the most ridiculously kissable mouth John had ever seen. And the face. God. It blazed with the brilliance of that beam, and above it lay the burn of eyes the colour of an endless summer sky.

Damn.

“A mocha with peppermint and a double shot of espresso.”

“A…what?” John asked, still staring stupidly.

The man chuckled, and John died. His soul ascended into heaven on the back of that sound. Jesus. Holy goddamned Jesus.

“Just ask for Chris’s regular.”

“T-that’s you, then?”

“Uh-huh.”

“Um. John. Nice to—nice to meet you.”

The touch of his hand was like a cattle prod. John felt it all the way up to his brain, and the most inappropriate parts of his brain too. He had to learn how to breathe again. His heart was pounding. He wanted—desperately, stupidly, urgently—to reel Chris in and kiss him as if they were the only two people in the room.

He didn’t.

Obviously.

He let go and ducked back into line to ask for the guy’s regular. Tipped double. And when he took it back to the table, John knew for his own sanity and safety he should apologise once more, take his tea, and go.

Instead, he said, “Mind if I join you?” and instantly hated himself for it.

And then didn’t, when Chris smiled a little wider and said, “Please.”

“I am sorry about that. I’m not usually that clumsy.”

“Just an accident. It sounds busy in here.”

“It…is,” John said slowly and frowned.

Then it clicked. That brilliant blue was as vacant as a summer sky too. And he’d never once looked John quite in the eyes. John glanced about. There was a cane leaning up against the table. A glint of a gold medical bracelet around one thin wrist. And the way Chris slid his hand across the table, heels together and fingers spread, until he found the coffee cup…

“Are you sheltering from the weather too?”

“Uh, yeah,” John said, snapping out of his reverie. “It’s snowing. I’m supposed to meet my sister for dinner later, but I’m stupidly early, so…here I am.”

“Lucky me.”

John blinked.

“What?”

“Sorry, sorry.” Chris waved a hand. “Ignore me. Big important family dinner, is it?”

“No, not really. She probably just wants to have a whine about our mum. Mum’s—well, Mum.”

“Let’s pretend for a minute I don’t know your mum…”

John chuckled, ducking his head. “Mum’s…she loves us, she wants the best for us, but her best and our best doesn’t always mesh, you know?”

“Ah, one of those. Yes, I know.” Chris raised his cup in a saluting gesture. “To parents running interference.”

“She’s very practical,” John said. “Very—you know, we ought to all marry well-off, well-educated folks with careers and good ankles. And Nora—my sister—she’s cocked that up a bit.” Then he winced at his crass phrasing and started to apologise.

Chris talked right over it. “Cocked it up how?”

“Well, she’s currently divorcing her well-off, well-educated, well-ankled husband for a bloke who makes sandwiches.”

Chris snorted and laughed. The coffee cup wobbled dangerously before he set it down to put a hand over his mouth and laugh a little harder, and John curled his toes in his boots. A warm flush spread from head to toe. God, he wanted to touch that. Wanted to reach out and curl his fist into that wild hair and kiss him like the world was ending.

John wanted him.

“Well,” Chris said when he’d recovered, “if your sister has a voice anything like yours, then that’s the luckiest sandwich man in the world.”

“Uh—”

“What about you? Ditching your missus for the maid?”

John’s stomach twinged. “There’s no missus.”

“Or mister?”

What?

“I—no.”

“Sorry,” Chris said again. “I guess I’m being a little too hopeful.”

Hopeful? What?

“I—are you…flirting with me?”

“Yes.” Chris raised both eyebrows. “Don’t tell me that doesn’t happen often.”

“Well…it’s been a while,” John admitted. “And not usually in coffee shops.” Or from men. John wasn’t exactly good-looking, and in his experience, it was mostly women who were into the huge and hulking thing rather than men.

“Where does it usually happen? I could always try doing it there, if you like.”

John barked a startled laugh. “Er—well—clubs. Here’s—here’s nice though. Here’s fine.”

“I refuse to believe it doesn’t happen often.”

“It doesn’t.”

“Really? Hm. Local clubbers need to open their ears, then.”

“I—thank you?”

“I’m making you uncomfortab—”

“No,” John interrupted quickly. “I just—I’m…not used to this.”

Chris turned the coffee cup around in his hands, biting his lip.

“You sounded…I don’t know. You sounded like you saw something you liked. And I felt something when you shook my hand.”

“You…you don’t want to be trying me out,” John said carefully.

Chris smiled.

It wasn’t the bright, beautiful smile. It was a slow smirk, devious and dirty. And John’s cock swelled fiercely in his jeans. His dick didn’t care about Daniel and his damage. His dick just wanted to have that incredible body around it, and to hell with the risks. Oh, God. That was a dirty trick, and judging by the way Chris lounged in his chair, pure sex, he knew it.

“You have a voice,” Chris said, “like the hot afterburn of whiskey.”

“I—”

“Smooth, liquid, and so easy to bask in. Like being drunk and not caring.”

John swallowed again. He was half hard. Chris spoke so slow and soft, so very deliberately, that it was turning him on even though he wasn’t saying anything filthy at all.

“I’m a dumb idea,” John croaked.

“So am I.”

John wanted to look away. But he felt incapable of not looking. He was spellbound, completely captured by this stranger’s wide smile and fluttering hands. They were large hands, but thin. John wanted to call them spidery. Long fingers, but narrow palmed. He wondered wildly what they felt like. John’s hand were rough from his trade, but Chris had a completely smooth paleness to his skin tone, and his face was impossibly young, not weather-beaten and wind burnt. His hands, John decided, would be just as smooth. They would be cool, too, like refreshing water against John’s calluses.

And then they slid over the table and hooked casually over John’s thumb.

John’s heart hiccuped and clenched again, and the flood of pure want was so powerful that his vision flexed, like a fisheye lens homing in on this stunning man. He wanted to kiss him, hold his hand, say yes, something. And yet he felt paralysed—moths to flames, deer to headlights, whatever. He was caught.

“If you’re really not interested, then that’s fine,” Chris said. “But—”

“That’s definitely not it,” John muttered.

“So—you want to get dinner sometime?”

The smile softened into something sweeter. More hopeful. More—

John’s dick softened. Because his heart tightened, his stomach clenched, and his throat opened.

He should say no.

He was still a mess from Daniel, still wounded after nine whole months, still unable to so much as flirt on Grindr without questioning himself, his motives, how he came off. There was no way this was a good idea. Not with anyone, and least of all this brilliant, beautiful, blind guy.

After all, if Daniel were right—

If Daniel were right, if there had been any truth in the things he’d said, then John was the last person who should be going out to dinner with a blind man.

John should have said no.

But he said yes instead.

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Meet the Author

Matthew J. Metzger is an ace, trans author posing as a functional human being in the wilds of Yorkshire, England. Although mainly a writer of contemporary, working-class romance, he also strays into fantasy when the mood strikes. Whatever the genre, the focus is inevitably on queer characters and their relationships, be they familial, platonic, sexual, or romantic.

When not crunching numbers at his day job, or writing books by night, Matthew can be found tweeting from the gym, being used as a pillow by his cat, or trying to keep his website in some semblance of order.

Website | Twitter

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