A Stella Review: Indulge Me (Kitchen Gods #4) by Beth Bolden

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RATING 4 out of 5 stars

Throughout the restaurant industry, Chef Bastian Aquino is a notorious control freak. For two very long years, Kian Reynolds has worked for Bastian as his special assistant, doing whatever he and his restaurant needs. The toughest part isn’t even all the impossible tasks he expects Kian to complete flawlessly—it’s the hopeless, endless love he feels for his older boss.

Falling for someone so far above him might be agonizing, but at least his feelings aren’t unrequited. Bastian fell in love right alongside him, but at the very beginning, they made the choice to abstain for logical, smart, professional reasons.

But love isn’t logical, it isn’t smart, and it definitely isn’t professional. It defies containment, even by Bastian. While he watches Bastian struggle with their attraction, Kian finally comes to the conclusion that he’s done.

He’s done standing off the side, done not getting any of the credit, done letting Bastian define the boundaries of their relationship. Most of all, he’s done waiting.

Indulge Me is an 85,000 word contemporary romance, featuring a boss/employee relationship, an age gap and very delicious risotto. It is the fourth and final book in the Kitchen Gods series, and to receive a fuller, more enjoyable reading experience, I would recommend reading at least one other book in the series first.

I was (not so) patiently waiting for this fourth title in the Kitchen Gods series by Beth Bolden since I first met Bastian and Kian in the previous books. I so wanted to know them better and discover their love. I think the author did a great job with their story, not just in this new release, but also with all the little snippets she gave me about tis couple in the other titles. I was so curious and eager, I couldn’t wait to have their story on my hands.

And I have to say I wasn’t disappointed, I loved this novel so much. I think it was well balanced, how much they wanted each other, how they were fiercely protective, how they waited for fear to ruin something important. Cause to me it was clear from the beginning they were deep in love, it was never just attraction. And then when they were finally together, it was really beautiful to see how Bastian truly wan not just “the Bastard” everyone called him, but a caring, sweet man.

I am a fan of books about chef and food in general, plus I like my MCs to have an age difference. Moreover Indulge Me took place over some years and following these men through the journey that brought them together, was a gem. And the epilogue was really lovely. Least but not last I was able to meet again some of the characters I learnt to love in the whole series.

I’m sad this is the last title but it was a very well done series and I feel pretty satisfied with it. I feel to recommend it.

The cover art by AngstyG is lovely as everything this artist does, she’s so good.

Sales Links:  Amazon

BOOK DETAILS

Kindle Edition, 363 pages

Published April 8th 2019

ASIN B07Q59CZZ3

Edition Language English

Series Kitchen Gods #4

An Ashlez Review: Outshined (Tall Thicket Tales #1) by Clancy Nacht and Thursday Euclid

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Rating : 3.5 stars out of 5

Fall 1993.

Well, it isn’t his Plan A…

At his surgeon father’s insistence, premed bad boy Cameron Lord transfers from the massive University of Texas to tiny Tall Thicket State University in small-town East Texas. After the scandal of seducing the dean’s son during their sophomore year in Austin and being diagnosed with bipolar disorder, Cameron needs a fresh start. Dr. Lord insists Cameron’s lucky any school still wants him, but Cameron’s more concerned with whether a certain gorgeous blond undergrad is interested.

After spotting Tim Sullivan through the plate glass window of Big Cheeser’s Pizza, Cameron can’t resist the opportunity to apply for a job there. Angelically handsome, Tim’s also frontman for popular local cover band the Angry Goats, proving there’s more to him than polo shirts and shy smiles. When Tim reveals he’s on Prozac for severe depression, Cameron’s convinced they understand each other. But with Tim’s evangelical upbringing, the terror of the AIDS epidemic, and the casual homophobia of Tim’s bandmate, will virgin Tim be brave enough to acknowledge his growing interest in worldly, reckless Cameron?

 

Overall this was a good read.  It had a lot more religious aspects than I had expected – it was homophobia centered which wasn’t bad it was actually very well done – though the mental illness aspect I was a little disappointed in – I feel like it was brief though talked about a lot if that makes sense.
Cameron – wild and crazy, free, I figure him to be just a free spirit doing whatever it is he feels like – which partially explains his faults – but his spirit is just so wild.
Tim – shy – I would put him as just very shy but his upbringing 100% explains this – their characters honestly balance eachother so well it’s awesome.
I think a lot of the book was good – some was a bit blah – but the last chapter – this was where the magic happened and I felt just so happy reading it – the band aspect of this book was awesome, I wish it was more focused on that though the relationship of Cam and Tim of course is forefront .. because the beginning of that last chapter.. whew I just felt amazing reading it!
Overall I’d say give it a read!  i’m curious how the rest of the series will pan out
Cover art: Thursday Euclid:  I’m a bit disappointed by the lack of piercings/tattoos on the cover, though it’s still hot and fits in a way – and those glasses with that jacket – so good!

Buy Links – Available on Kindle Unlimited

Universal Link 

Amazon US 

Amazon UK

Book Details:Kindle Edition, 226 pages
Expected publication: April 16th 2019
ASINB07Q6ZXSRN
Edition LanguageEnglish
SeriesTall Thicket Tales #1

Royal Blue on Writing Romance, Characters and her new story Kyle’s Reveal (author guest blog)

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Kyle’s Reveal (My Brother’s Keeper Collection Book 1) by Royal Blue

Dreamspinner Press
Publication: April 16th 2019
Cover Artist: L.C. Chase

Sales Links:

Amazon link Here>>>>https://amzn.to/2WV1P47

Order from Dreamspinner Press Here >>

https://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/books/kyles-reveal-by-royal-blue-10365-b

Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words is happy to have Royal Blue here today talking about her new release Kyle’s Reveal, and answering our author questions. Welcome, Royal!

✒︎

Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words Interviews Royal Blue

  • How much of yourself goes into a character?

I put a lot of myself in my books. Most times one of the characters is a strong representation of me or a family member or friend. I’ve placed a lot of my experiences into characters and stories.

  • Do you feel there’s a tight line between Mary Sue or should I say Gary Stu and using your own experiences to create a character?

It can be a tight line. However, I think I create a proper balance. I like to balance my characters with a voice of their own. While they may have pieces of me their journeys are never the same as mine.

  • Does research play a role into choosing which genre you write?  Do you enjoy research or prefer making up your worlds and cultures?

Research never influences my genre choice. My characters speak to me. Goodness gracious, yes, I’m the one that hears voices. LOL No, really. The characters show me what I’ll be working with. I like to say it’s like watching a movie in my head. It all plays out and then I start writing from there. When I’m done then I know what sub-genre I’ve landed in.

I love to researching for details to make the story come to life, but I also love the art of constructing their worlds.

  • Has your choice of childhood or teenage reading genres carried into your own choices for writing?

LOL. Absolutely! I had no business reading Danielle Steele at the age I started. Yet, I’d devoured those books anytime I could get my hands on them. I still remember the librarian that used to have to shoo me back to the Sweet Valley High books and I’d pout and give her the stink eye. Now, I write what I love and then I share it with the world, but it all stems from those days.

  • Have you ever had to put an ‘in progress’ story aside because of the emotional ties with it?  You were hurting with the characters or didn’t know how to proceed?

I often cry while writing. I think I tend to push through to get it out and then lick my wounds after. OMG! Kyle’s Reveal did this to me. I cried while writing it, I cried through each round of edits. Like, dude! You wrote the book! Seriously. Stop with the tears. LOL. Yup, needed a long nap at the end of this one.

  • Do you like HFN or HEA? And why?

It depends on the story. I tend to lean more towards HEA. We get to know them, fall in love with them and move on. Lost time I wrote a HFN book is was a three book series and I wrote them back to back. I need to fall out of love with the main character when I’m done. I don’t want to come back for a leading role once I’ve closed the book, know what I mean?

  • Do you read romances, as a teenager and as an adult?

I’ve read romance as both. I’ve been a sucker for love for a very long too.

  • Who do you think is your major influence as a writer?  Now and growing up?

My mother. I was able to read and write by the age of two. She made my brother and older cousins write with me and teach me what they knew. (She probably regretted that later. Mouth almighty I was.) She also told me I could do whatever I wanted. She fostered my vivid imagination and allowed me to tell her my stories. She would read my little picture books. That’s where it all started.

  • How do you feel about the ebook format and where do you see it going?

Ebooks are taking over the world. I’ll admit. I still purchase my YA titles in harder because of the beautiful artwork. Oh, and I always buy my craft books in paperback. However, my Kindle app is where I do most of my reading.

  • How do you choose your covers?  (curious on my part)

I usually go shopping for my stock photos once I have a sense of my lead character. I then hand it off to my designer and they create magic. Kyle’s Reveal was a different process. I presented a series I had and ask the designer to bring it in as close as they could. Voila! Magic!

  • Do you have a favorite among your own stories?  And why?

I think I love them all when I’m living in their worlds. At least once I’m done. I totally hate every single book while writing it. However, when I’m done and read it back I fall in love and want to hug them tight. LOL. My Brother’s Keep Collection is a series of books that are really taking a big place in my heart. I love Kyle’s Reveal, book one, but book two, Beau’s Redemption has stolen my heart in a whole new way.

  • What’s next for you as an author?

I’m loving writing as both Blue Saffire and Royal Blue. I have a ton of new releases coming in 2019 and 2020. You asked about building worlds. I so can’t wait to share a few paranormal world’s in the future. We shall see.

  • If you write contemporary romance, is there such a thing as making a main character too “real”?  Do you think you can bring too many faults into a character that eventually it becomes too flawed to become a love interest?

I believe creating character flaws is a part of the art and craft of writing. I love to create characters that you can’t help but love no matter what. Romance is the language of hope and love. A perfectly flawed character is the greatest way to create a wealth of hope through the experience of love.

  • What traits do you find the most interesting in someone? Do you write them into your characters?

I like to people watch and learn corky things about people. Yup, they sure do show up on page.

  •  Have you ever put a story away, thinking it just didn’t work?  Then years/months/whatever later inspiration struck and you loved it?  Is there a title we would recognize if that happened?

Yes, I’ve done this plenty. Where the Pieces Fall, under my Blue Saffire pen would be one of those.

  • Have you ever had an issue in RL and worked it through by writing it out in a story?  Maybe how you thought you’d feel in a situation?

So, I’m very open about the fact that I lost my mother in 2007 to cancer. I fell into depression and my life spiraled out. I crawled back out of the pit through my writing. I say all the time I write to breathe.

  •  What’s  the wildest scene you’ve imagined and did it make it into a story?

Assassins flying through the air so fast no one in the room sees them. They do their job and it’s done. Yup, share did write it. More than once.

  •  Ever drunk written a chapter and then read it the next day and still been happy with it?  Trust me there’s a whole world of us drunk writers dying to know.

I don’t really drink. Nooooo. Don’t run away. We can still be friends. You will see I’m naturally the friend that says stuff you only say drunk. ROTF! Sooo serious.

  •  If you could imagine the best possible place for you to write, where would that be and why?

Some place with water that’s nice and warm. Not too hot, the perfect temperature to chill. I’m dreaming of the day that I have Island Blue. LOL

  •  With so much going on in the world today, do you write to explain?  To get away?  To move past?  To widen our knowledge?  Why do you write?

I write for me. It’s my escape. It’s my healing. Writing brings me joy. You can find me typing away with a smile on my face at all hours of the day and night.

  •  What’s next for you as a writer?

I’ll be publishing another title in the My Brother’s Keeper Collection with Dreamspinner Press this year as Royal Blue and in 2020 I’ll be publishing four titles as Blue Saffire with Sourcebooks Casablanca. I’ll be signing at Book Lovers Con in NOLA in May and I’ll be at Shameless Con in October. In between, I’ll have a few indie releases and surprises.

Blurb:

Some scars are on the body, while others exist only on the heart. But together, two scarred souls can find healing, love, and family.

Professional basketball player Kyle Tyson is suffocating beneath the weight of his responsibilities and his past. Childhood abuse left its mark, as did Kyle’s guilt over his sister’s death. Now, he’s trying to raise his young nephew, pursue his career, and dodge a narcissistic and manipulative ex who wants to out Kyle before he’s ready.

Schoolteacher Andy Connor found a shield in food as a boy, but that shield nearly took his life. He now bears the marks of a botched skin-tightening surgery following the dramatic weight loss that saved his life. Unfortunately, Andy’s scars have left him insecure about his body, causing him to find a shield in his shyness. Andy can scarcely believe someone like Kyle could be interested in him. But as they get to know each other, Andy starts to see himself through new eyes. Now if he can just help Kyle learn to love himself as much as Andy is growing to love him.

About the Author

The color blue is known for trust and healing, as are the words of author Royal Blue. Blue started writing books to heal herself after losing her mother to breast cancer in 2007, followed by a miscarriage only eight months later. Books and words were one of the things that held her together.

As a young girl, Blue’s mother introduced her to the world of love and music through movies like Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, Bye Bye Birdie, and Neptune’s Daughter. Once she got her hands on books that sucked her into the magic that pages bring, an authoress was born. A story here, a few songs there, but she actually didn’t complete a manuscript until 2009.

However, books were piling up and collecting dust as fear clung and whispered evil thoughts. Yet, fear was silenced in 2015. Needing to write in order to breathe and wanting to share, Blue Saffire, Royal’s alter ego, rose from the ashes and entered the world.

The self-proclaimed hermit was born in Far Rockaway, NY, but is now a Long Island resident with her loving and supportive husband. The two work round the clock creating music and characters. There is no shortage of laughter or creativity in their home.

Never in a million years did she think the passion that saved her sanity would allow her to walk around with blue hair and spend her days dreaming of hot men to put on paper. After all, an MBA in Marketing and Project Management, as well as a MED in Curriculum Design and Instructional Technology, tell a very different story. Although, it’s safe to say Royal would rather be doing something Blue with her time.

Email: AuthorRoyalBlue@gmail.com

Website: AuthorRoyalBlue.com

Twitter: @authorroyalblue

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/authorroyalblue/

Instagram: @authorroyalblue

LaQuette on Second Chances and her new novel ‘Under His Protection’ (author guest post)

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Under His Protection by LaQuette

Dreamspinner Press
Publication: April 16th 2019
Cover Artist: Alexandria Corza

Sales Links:  Dreamspinner Press

Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words is happy to host LaQuette today on tour for her novel Under His Protection. Welcome, LaQuette!

The Second Time Around

Hello, I’m LaQuette and I’m visiting all the way from Brooklyn, NY! Thanks to the Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words crew for allowing me to talk to you about my favorite romance trope, second chance romances.
Have you ever thought, “If I could only do it all over again, I’d do things differently?”  Now, of course, since there’s no way to travel back in time, we don’t actually know if our different choices would yield different results.  But sometimes, especially where romance is concerned, it’s sure fun to think another chance could make all the difference.
In my latest release, Under His Protection, neither of the heroes want a do over.  Life and circumstances sort of forces that on them.  And even though they have to be brought to this realization kicking and screaming, they ultimately conclude another chance and a clean slate could bring them more happiness than they ever believed possible.
Blurb

They can escape their enemies, but not the desire between them.  Prosecutor Camden Warren is on the fast track to professional nirvana. With his charm, his sharp legal mind, and his father as chief judge in the highest court in NY, he can’t fail. Nothing can derail his rise to the top… until an attempt on his life forces him to accept the help of a man he walked out on five years ago.  Wounded in the line of duty, Lieutenant Elijah Stephenson wants to ride his new desk job until retirement—not take a glorified babysitting gig with more risk than it’s worth… especially not protecting the entitled lawyer who disappeared after the best sex of their lives.  The threat against Camden’s life is real, but their passion for each other might prove the greatest danger they’ve yet to face.

“This is a must-read for fans of tropey contemporary romances filled with snarky banter and steamy sexual encounters, topped off with an ending that will melt the hardest heart.” ~Publishers Weekly

Excerpt
Elijah sat back in his new, mostly empty office, trying to get his head right. Unfortunately, Camden Warren’s presence was an unavoidable distraction he couldn’t ignore.
“If this is your new office, I’d hate to see what the old one looked like,” Camden commented while he stood in the center of the small room and turned in a slow circle to survey the place.
 “The office is new to me, as in it came with my new rank and command,” Elijah responded.
“You’ve been promoted? I always knew you’d make something of yourself. What kind of unit are you being assigned to?”
Did this motherfucker just low-key insult me?Elijah threw the file Captain Searlington had given him onto the empty desk and leaned back in his chair. “Listen. There’s no need for the small talk. I’m here to do a job, and you’re here because someone is trying to kill you. If you haven’t been worried about my life enough to call over the last five years, my new promotion shouldn’t be of any concern to you now.”
Elijah returned his focus to the file as he heard Camden take the few steps to the seat in front of Elijah’s desk.
“Bitter much, Detective?”
Elijah pulled his nose from the papers in front of him and lifted a skeptical brow.
“Bitter? To be bitter, I’d have to care. We fucked. It was fun, but that’s all it was. I had no illusions it would be otherwise. The dick was good.”
A flash of memory zipped across Elijah’s mind, reminding him just how good Camden had been. Good didn’t accurately describe the way the lawyer made Elijah’s entire body burn with need that night.
It didn’t matter, though. Elijah for damn sure wasn’t about to share that bit of info and contribute to Camden’s already inflated ego. Nope, he’d just swallow the appreciation he had for Camden’s stroke game and keep it to himself.
“But just so you know,” Elijah continued, “I don’t make a habit of laying with bad fucks. You weren’t special. It didn’t mean shit then, and it has no bearing on how I do my job five years later. Get over yourself, and let’s get to work on your case.”
Camden’s Adam’s apple bobbed as the man swallowed.
He shoots. He scores.
The minor action told Elijah he’d stuck a pin in Camden’s “I’m better than everybody else” perspective of himself. With that settled, maybe they’d get some work done since their focus was off how sexy Camden was then—and now, if Elijah was to be honest.
“Executive ADA Warren,” Elijah stated with his matter-of-fact cop tone in play, “why does the Path of Unity want you dead?”
LaQuette is the 2016 Golden Apple Award Author of the year winner. She writes bold & sexy tales for diverse characters who are confident in their right to appear on the page. Represented by Latoya C. Smith of LCS Literary Agency.  Visit her at LaQuette.comand LaQuette@LaQuette.com

Looking for Something New? Check Out the Release Blitz for Outshined by Clancy Nacht and Thursday Euclid (excerpt)

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RELEASE BLITZ

Book Title: Outshined

Author: Clancy Nacht & Thursday Euclid

Publisher: Eine Kleine Press

Cover Artist: Thursday Euclid

Release Date: April 16, 2019

Genre/s: 90s (late 20th century) M/M Romance

Trope/s:  figuring out he’s gay

Themes: Mental illness, first love

Heat Rating:  3-4 flames

Length: 79 000 words/ 266 pages

 

Buy Links – Available on Kindle Unlimited

Universal Link 

Amazon US 

Amazon UK

 

Blurb

Fall 1993.

Well, it isn’t his Plan A…

At his surgeon father’s insistence, premed bad boy Cameron Lord transfers from the massive University of Texas to tiny Tall Thicket State University in small-town East Texas. After the scandal of seducing the dean’s son during their sophomore year in Austin and being diagnosed with bipolar disorder, Cameron needs a fresh start. Dr. Lord insists Cameron’s lucky any school still wants him, but Cameron’s more concerned with whether a certain gorgeous blond undergrad is interested.

After spotting Tim Sullivan through the plate glass window of Big Cheeser’s Pizza, Cameron can’t resist the opportunity to apply for a job there. Angelically handsome, Tim’s also frontman for popular local cover band the Angry Goats, proving there’s more to him than polo shirts and shy smiles. When Tim reveals he’s on Prozac for severe depression, Cameron’s convinced they understand each other. But with Tim’s evangelical upbringing, the terror of the AIDS epidemic, and the casual homophobia of Tim’s bandmate, will virgin Tim be brave enough to acknowledge his growing interest in worldly, reckless Cameron?

 

Excerpt

Tall Thicket, Texas. Home to Tall Thicket State and Woodpeckers football, for those who even fucking cared. Texans or not, most Thicketers knew the Woodpeckers sucked. No one with any talent came to East Texas to play ball, and honestly, the student body didn’t care. In 1993, they had other things on their minds.

Cameron Lord definitely did. Transferring junior year from the massive University of Texas hadn’t been his Plan A, but after the way he fucked up sophomore year in Austin, well, he needed a fresh start. His dad insisted he was lucky Tall Thicket wanted him, and Cameron had argued enough with his dad recently.

Besides, TTSU had a great psych department. So that worked out, probably. When Cameron had graduated high school near the top of his class, everyone figured he’d become a surgeon like his dad, but now…

Well. Fuck it. Just, fuck it, right? Psychologist was close enough, and it’d be less pressure, and he kind of knew about the field firsthand now.

What seemed entirely unfair, honestly, was that despite how much money Cameron’s dad was saving by sending him here, he expected Cameron to hold down a part-time job. On one hand, that was great. Cameron liked his independence, and he hated his dad, so not having to ask him for much suited him fine. On the other hand, if these meds didn’t pan out…

Ha.

If these meds didn’t pan out, Cameron would be losing a lot more than a part-time job. Like, oh, his mind?

After two months on them, he felt different. Not better, just different. More detached. Less moved by emotions. That was probably okay, but Cameron couldn’t tell otherwise.

Living off-campus would be nice, at least, right? He’d been in the dorms his two years at UT; at least now he had some space. His therapist, Lynette, had suggested to Dr. Lord that Cameron have somewhere to get away from over-stimulating social situations, so while he still had a roommate, he had his own bedroom with a lock on the door.

Of course, she’d also suggested he walk everywhere because he maybe shouldn’t drive on his current chemical cocktail, but Cameron refused to give up his chopper. He and his dad had built matching ones together when he was sixteen, and it was all he really had left of that part of his life, now he’d blown up their relationship. At least he still had a cool ride.

For all the good it would do him.

His apartment was a stone’s throw from campus, and walking would’ve been easier than driving a bike in the January-molasses kind of traffic moving across the sprawling grounds. By the time he’d done orientation, gotten his books, and settled in, he was convinced he should have bought sensible walking shoes instead of his heavy Doc Martens.

His dad was always telling him to choose substance over style, but what about when style had the most substance? Sometimes form followed function. Wasn’t that better than ugly practicality?

Which seemed to prove Cameron wasn’t cut out for a surgeon’s job. Psychology seemed like a better fit, personal understanding of mental illness aside.

To emphasize the point, Cameron had observed Tall Thicket was home to some improbably good-looking student bodies. The boy who’d been ahead of him at the bookstore had stolen his breath for a good ten seconds and left him light-headed. A girl who sat beside him at orientation had flustered him until he dropped his pencil. Overall, it was a pretty, pretty school—spectacularly landscaped grounds notwithstanding.

Too bad the meds he was on kind of killed his sex drive, along with numbing any other excitement he might feel. Some would argue that was for the best.

With classes starting next week, there was little for Cameron to do with his weekend besides hunker down and settle in, familiarize himself with the town. It wasn’t as dinky as the one-stoplight towns around these parts, but it was a lot smaller than Austin. He’d still been finding cool new spots there when he left. Here, a bike ride down the main drag would take him past just about everything that mattered.

Might as well get out there.

“Going out?” Mike, Cameron’s new roommate, asked as Cameron strode out his bedroom toward the front door.

Cameron grunted in Mike’s direction and shrugged. What did the guy want from him? They had to live together, and if Cameron had his way, that would mean a lot of ships-in-the-night action, not a buddy flick.

“Have fun.” Mike seemed untroubled by Cameron’s attitude and turned his attention back to his grainy recording of Seinfeld.

With two raised fingers, Cameron saluted briefly and headed out. Within moments he was pulling his long hair back into a low ponytail and settling a black helmet on his head. Then he was on his bike and pulling out of the parking lot, turning onto University and then blazing toward the four-lane highway with a roar. Within moments he’d left behind the landscaped campus for the endless rows of mom-and-pop shops intermingled with chain shops.

Clusters of students milled along the sidewalks and waited at corners to cross. Cameron watched them hungrily, the numbness inside growing teeth and gnawing at him. He longed for the belonging of kids hand-in-hand striding over the crosswalk at least as much as he despised it. Easier to dismiss it altogether, though.

Easier never to want what he couldn’t have. Better. Safer.

Lynette talked about comfort zones and stepping outside them, but Cameron wasn’t certain he could survive that much change all at once. Not right now.

Waiting at the stoplight, he caught a glimpse of golden hair through the plate glass window of a pizza place and his chest seized up. Was that bookshop guy?

Oh man, it was.

Bad idea, right? Such a bad idea. Cameron wasn’t hungry, and that guy was probably straight, and this was East Texas.

The NOW HIRING sign beckoned, and Cameron sighed and gave in. He had only so much willpower to get him through a day, and most of that was focused on basic human tasks like not driving into oncoming traffic and keeping his balls clean.

He eased across traffic and parked diagonally right in front. He wiped suddenly sweaty hands on his ripped jeans and plaid shirt and then hung his helmet from the ape-hangers.

So what if he was going to mix work and play a little?

So what if he was purposely attempting to get a job somewhere with a devastatingly attractive co-worker who’d fuck his head right up?

Self-destruction was in vogue. He’d wear it well. More to journal about, right?

Cameron wasn’t dressed for success, but what did it even matter? It wasn’t Wall Street. They probably weren’t picky, even if he could just hear his dad moaning over the situation.

Inside, the place was filled with customers. How had Cameron even spotted the golden boy from the road past all these people? Friday night dinner had to be prime time.

The blond man stood in front of the ovens, behind the counter. He held a metal spatula that he clanged against something metal above him before he shouted. “Bell, large supreme pie.”

He then slid a box on the counter in front of him. A woman, presumably Bell, joined the line at the cash register. The man squinted past the heat lamps into the lobby. Their eyes met and his brows rose briefly before he gave a quick nod and then spun around to retrieve another pizza out of the oven.

The place was slammed. As soon as one phone was answered, another rang. The woman answering the phones looked older than the rest of the staff, as if she was in charge. She handled putting people on hold with brutal efficiency, taking down orders on paper slips she stacked until someone came from the back to snatch them away, apparently to fulfill them.

For a second, Cameron considered backing out. Just turning around and walking out. He’d worked at the video store during high school, and Friday nights had been like this, but… Man, food service seemed like a whole other animal. Way more intense.

Though fewer shouting matches so far, at least.

As much as Cameron wanted to bail, the way the blond guy seemed to recognize him—had he, though, or was Cameron reading in?—galvanized him. He stood his ground, waited until he was at the counter, and then licked his lips, suddenly nervous. If he hadn’t been medicated, it would’ve been too much. As it was, he copped a swagger and grinned at the folks behind the counter.

“Saw y’all are hiring. Need help?”

“Oh, um.” The young lady at the front counter crouched down, shuffling papers. She pulled out a pad of job application forms with the company logo in the corner. Ripping one off, she handed it to him and gave him a wide, toothy smile. Her lashes fluttered over her pinkening cheeks. “Need a pen?”

The woman at the phones slung one on her shoulder as she leaned forward, squinting at Cameron. “Hey, kid, you eighteen?”

“Twenty,” Cameron countered with a smile he didn’t feel and a challenge he did. He took the application from the girl and held out his hand for a pen, although he had the sense the manager was inclined to skip to the part where she stopped being short-handed.

The metal clang rang out again as the blond man shouted another name and order. A box appeared on top of another. He paused, looking between Cameron and the manager, then whirled around to grab another pizza out.

“Can you start now? Wash a dish or fifty?” The woman smiled. There was a gap between her front teeth. Her hair was frizzy, probably with the heat and humidity. “Minimum wage, but all the pizza you can eat.”

The blond man dropped the pizza on the table, then ran a roller slicer through with lightning speed. His lithe muscles flexed under the fitted golf shirt. It was probably just the heat that made his cheeks rosy. Or was it?

“Yeah, sure, I can wash dishes tonight. I need a uniform for that?” Cameron tried his best not to stare at the hot boy, especially not in front of potential colleagues. What was he even doing?

Why was he doing this to himself?

He’d never even washed dishes, except at home. The video store had been more with the Be-Kind-Rewind and less with the suds.

“Nah, but you’ll want an apron. Tim, you got an extra apron back there for our new hire?” She glanced over at the blond guy who gave a quick nod before shouting another name.

He peeked into the back and then back to his boss. “Yeah, there’s one on the dough table. Might also need boxes later if this keeps up.”

“Shoot.” She grimaced but set the phone on the stand and then threw open the door to the right of the counter. “Well, you’re hired, um… What’s your name?”

“Cameron.” He stepped through the counter door and sized up the other employees. At least his dad couldn’t ride his ass about this now. He met the manager’s gaze and shrugged one shoulder. “Thanks, um…?”

“Nina. Cameron, great name. Don’t think you’ll need a hat for dishes, but we’ll get you one of those, and the shirt and apron. Pants are just plain black. Docs are good; anything with support will do for shoes.” She started toward the back, giving the phones a swift glance. “I’ll just show you the back quick.”

She pointed at the blond guy. “That’s Tim. At the counter is Lisa.”

She walked back to behind the ovens where a harried looking young lady was frantically making pizzas. “This is Heather. Heather, Cameron. He’s going to do dishes.”

Heather looked at Cameron briefly, went back to her pizzas and then looked back again, eyes roving more slowly. “Cool.”

There was a man facing the back wall shoving dough into a machine. It came out oblong. He ran it through again and the dough was round.

Nina scooted past him. “That’s John.”

John turned. His eyes were bloodshot like he’d been smoking not too long ago, but he seemed to be working industriously. “Great, someone else to suck up hours.”

Nina rolled her eyes. “He’s real fun.” She showed Cameron the bathroom, then the walk-in fridge, then around to the sink. Beside it stood a pile of pizza pans almost as tall as he was.

There was a clank from the front and Cameron caught a glimpse of Tim dropping another pan in a growing stack. He gave Cameron a brief smile and gestured with the metal spatula at a table against the wall where an apron lay. “There’s a dishwasher apron in the bathroom that’s more heavy duty. Just gets hot. Up to you. It’s clean.”

“Hot enough already. Thanks.” Cameron shot Tim a look, half-searching and half-bitter. He already kind of hated him. Tim. What a fucking wholesome sounding name. He was probably a real nice boy.

If Cameron had learned anything, it was to mistrust nice boys. You thought they were your friend. That you could trust them. Be real.

Then they freaked out on you and threw you to the wolves.

Turning his back on Tim, Cameron beelined for the apron and pulled it on before rolling up his sleeves and remaking his ponytail at the base of his neck to keep the wild, wavy strands under control.

“Great. Ask Tim if you’ve got questions. Soap’s up top. Sprayer powers out most everything. Don’t burn yourself. Gotta get back to the phones.” Nina flashed him a smile as she patted his shoulder. “Get you to fill out the paperwork later so we can get you paid. I’ll show you the time cards too.”

If Tim was offended by the cold shouldering, he was too busy to show it. He turned to the ovens and got back to work. A radio played the college radio station. It wasn’t loud enough to be heard in the lobby; it was barely loud enough for Cameron to hear over the sprayer.

What he could hear was the rhythmic clank of metal on metal when Tim pulled out a pizza, signaled he was calling a name, and the thump of another pan dropping into the pile. He could also hear Tim calling a name pretty clearly, which was surprising, given how loud everything was. Pretty good projection. Probably a jerk.

Jerk with a good voice though. Strong. Clear.

Cameron couldn’t help being a little intrigued, especially when he glanced over at every call to see Tim moving nimbly around his station, his muscles stretching and bunching under his uniform shirt. He looked way better in it than he had any right to.

 

About the Authors

Clancy Nacht
Clancy Nacht is a bisexual genderqueer person who lives in Austin. Clancy has published several bestselling romances. Many of her books have been honored with Rainbow Awards; Le Jazz Hot won for Best Bisexual/Transgender Romance & Erotic Romance. In 2013, Black Gold: Double Black was a runner-up for a Rainbow Award. In 2015, Gemini won an Honorable Mention for Gay Erotic Romance and in 2016, Strange Times won an Honorable Mention for Science Fiction. Wyatt’s Recipes for Wooing Rock Stars was a finalist in the highly competitive William Neale Award for Best Gay Contemporary Romance. The Phisher King won second place in the Rainbow Award for Romantic Suspense, 16th for Gay Book of the Year.

Thursday Euclid
The Thursday Euclid is a strange and elusive creature dwelling in the Texas Gulf Coast region. Frequently mistaken for Bigfoot, Chupacabra, or the monster of the week, he is, in fact, a 30-something black sheep with a penchant for K-pop, geekery, and hot and sour soup. When he’s not playing Dragon Age or SWTOR, he’s probably watching B-movies or talking to his best friend and frequent collaborator Clancy Nacht. You can find him on Facebook, Twitter, or email him at thursday euclid at gmail dot com.

 

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Love a Mysteries? Check Out the Release Blitz for Ace in the Picture by Jude Tresswell (excerpt)

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RELEASE BLITZ

Book Title: Ace in the Picture

Author: Jude Tresswell

Publisher: Rowanvale Books

Cover Artist: Billie Hastie

Genre/s: contemporary M/M/M/M, crime/mystery

Heat Rating: 2 flames

Length: 63 000 words/ 251 pages (paperback format)

It can be read as a standalone, but is also the third book featuring the County Durham quad

Release Date: March 31, 2019

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 An art fraud, a polyamorous suspect, an asexual detective…

Blurb

Polyamory and asexuality meet in this third tale about a north-east England quad.

The police suspect Raith Balan of faking a painting. So do money-launderers who sink profits into art. Mike, Ross and Phil, the three men in Raith’s life, must prove his innocence. They’re hampered by their certainty that a member of the Fraud Squad is corrupt.

The senior investigating officer is Detective Sergeant Nick Seabrooke. He knows he is asexual, but is he aromantic too? As Raith’s lovers struggle to keep Raith safe and find the fraudster, the sergeant struggles to understand why the quad is often in his thoughts.

 

Excerpt

Chapter 1

Raith stood in the kitchen in front of the calendar. His gaze shifted from the naked figure depicted on ‘October’ to the highlighted ‘Thursday 12th’ and back again. He pressed a fingertip to his lips, transferred a kiss to the mid-point of the figure’s shoulder blades and ran his finger down the spine—Mike Angells’ spine.

The real-life Mike walked into the room and filled the kettle.

“What are you admirin’?” he asked. “The model or the artist?”

Raith was the artist. “The artist,” he replied. “He’s classy. The model’s okay, I suppose.”

“Cheeky!” Mike admonished.

Changing the subject, Raith asked, “You know what day it is in two days’ time, don’t you?”

“In two days? Well, let’s see… difficult one… It must be Thursday. Aye, that’s right. It was Monday yesterday, so—”

“Stop teasing me! Do you think he’s forgotten?”

‘He’ was Phil Roberts, the man Raith had married 364 days earlier.

“Don’t be daft. Of course not. You know Phil. His middle name’s ‘No fuss’.”

“That’s two names.”

“And that’s two cups of coffee. One for you. One for me,” said Mike, handing over a mug.

“None for me?” asked a third man who, yawning, had entered the kitchen. He hugged the two men already there.

“Sorry, Ross,” Mike apologised. “I didn’t make you one. I thought you were still asleep.”

“No. Just dozy,” said Ross sleepily. “I heard Phil’s car. Is it an emergency, Raith?”

“Not exactly,” Raith replied. “He went in early to cover for a colleague.”  

Phil had helped to pioneer a form of rectal surgery that used nanocarbon patches to reconstruct torn tissue. He was a respected consultant at the hospital an hour’s drive away in Warbridge, County Durham.

“I’d better get sorted and get out myself,” said Ross. He was, amongst other things, a gallery proprietor in Gateshead, and his journey to work took longer than Phil’s. He yawned again.

“Are you feelin’ okay?” asked Mike, alert to Ross’s tone of voice. “It’s not like you to sound so unenthusiastic about work.” In fact, it wasn’t like Ross to sound unenthusiastic about anything. He was always lively—he personified keenness.

“I’m dead tired cos I didn’t sleep well. I had a strange text late on. You were already asleep. I don’t think you heard the phone buzz. Strange. Unsettling.”

“Oh?”

“How do you mean?” asked Raith. “We’re not going to get involved with more criminal activities, are we? I had enough of crime fighting last time!”

Even though Mike was no longer a detective with the Tees, Tyne and Wear Constabulary, the four of them were involved in a surprising amount of crime fighting. ‘Last time’ had involved an illegal immigrant, and the tensions that had arisen had threatened the survival of the quad.

That’s what they were: a gay, polyamorous quad. They lived in Tunhead, a hamlet in Weardale in the Durham hills. Once, Tunhead had rung to the sound of workers’ hammers hitting stone. In a way it still did: Ross had turned it into an arts centre full of smiths, sculptors and potters who wanted to escape the North East’s towns.

“Well, we’re not, are we?” Raith repeated.

“No.”

“Good. Well, my creations won’t create themselves. I’d better get off, too.”

In Raith’s case, ‘getting off’ simply meant walking twenty yards to his studio, a converted storehouse.

“You sure he hasn’t forgotten?” he asked Mike again before he left.

“I’m sure.”

“Okay then.”

“What’s that about?” asked Ross after Raith was gone.

“He’s bothered that Phil’s forgotten their anniversary.”

“He hasn’t.”

“I know he hasn’t. He’s takin’ him off on a trip sumwhere—but you know Raith. He needs everythin’ crystal clear and written in capital letters. And sumtimes, so do I. What was this message about?”

Ross pulled a face and explained. When he’d done so, Mike could understand his concern.

“He wouldn’t be so stupid, Ross… Would he?”

“Not stupid, Mike, but he’s gullible. He doesn’t always think. I just don’t know.”

***

The message stayed in Ross’s mind during the forty-mile drive to the gallery and he couldn’t forget about it once he was there. Some of Raith’s paintings hung on the gallery walls. They were mainly of Weardale’s waterfalls. After heavy rain, the falls transformed from gentle trickles into rushing, gushing powerful forces of nature that the four men knew could kill. They’d seen them kill.

Raith loved to paint the waterfalls. From a distance, his torrents looked alive. The effect was linked to his use of colour. Raith was a tetrachromat; he could see a host of hues in what, to most people, was a single shade. He painted for himself, though, not for fame or money—he had plenty of both, due to his skill with clay not brushes. Several of his wares were on show at the gallery, most tagged ‘sold’ with a price that would feed and clothe all four men for a long, long time. His sensually erotic sculptures, modelled on Mike and Phil, were always in demand and beautifully, lovingly executed. But today, Ross gave Raith’s erotica a miss. He stared, instead, at the waterfalls.

What might induce Raith to produce a piece of work “with intent to deceive”, as the legal phrase was?

That was what the worrying message had suggested. That Raith’s were the hands and eyes behind a painting that the police were interested in. They thought it was a fake. For the umpteenth time, Ross asked himself why?

Raith didn’t need fame and he didn’t need fortune, but did he need the challenge of outwitting the experts? Of copying another artist’s work so accurately that no one would notice the difference?

Surely not. Momentarily, Ross’s dark mood lifted. The only challenge Raith was likely to rise to was the one of finding ways to spice up the quad’s evening meals. Two nights ago, he’d ‘accidentally’ stumbled near the saucepan with a teaspoon of chilli flakes in his hand.

“Oh, look! They’ve fallen in,” he’d said apologetically.

Ross smiled when he thought about it, but anxiety soon returned. Could Raith be feeling resentment? Sometimes, that was the driving force behind a fraud. Failed artists whose work had been refused once too often. Failed artists who took I’ll show them! literally.

No. All Raith’s resentments were little ones that quickly blew over—feeling nagged for not doing his turn on the house-keeping rota, being yelled at for leaving clay-covered dirty washing on top of the pile of clean laundry. Raith took umbrage easily, but he’d be smiling again within the hour. And anyway, he wasn’t a failed artist. He was a very successful one.

He was a strange mixture though. That complexity was part of his attraction. It was part of what made him Raith. His skill was undeniable, but his mental health was fragile— ‘bloody unhinged’ was how Mike would describe Raith in less charitable moments. He could be unpredictable. He could be very violent. He had another side, though, and it was what Mike and Phil and Ross adored about him. Canny, clued up, an ex-con hard as nails… but at the toss of a coin, as loving, as sweet and as trusting as anyone they had ever met. Mike was as loving, and often as sweet, but trusting? No. Mike was ex-CID. It wasn’t in his nature to be trusting.

Which was why Mike was already making phone calls.

 

About the Author 

I’m not Nick Seabrooke, the ace in the picture, but there are some firsthand truths peeping through the fiction. Like Nick, I’m ace and happy with it, but also, like Nick, I’m wavery on that ro/aro line–and that can cause some soul-searching. If the picture painted in the story is a very narrow one, it’s because I didn’t want to stray too far from what I know. The quad, however, are totally imaginary.

I blog at https://polyallsorts.wordpress.com . There are posts about asexuality, polyamory, beer, tattoos, book covers, and many other story-related items. There are photos of the Durham countryside, the setting of the stories, too.  I’m always happy to receive and respond to comments. Well, if they’re friendly ones!

 

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