A MelanieM Release Day Review: To the Ends of the Earth by Michael Gouda

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Rating: 3 stars out of 5

What do you do when when your lover is out to kill you?

After university, Johnny dated a mysterious and influential man who never disclosed his profession. Now, following a quarrel, Johnny suffers a series of attacks—attempts on his life that his lover has the power and influence to perpetrate.

With nowhere else to turn, he must rely on his childhood best friend. But can Johnny trust him? With time running out and the world against him, Johnny must solve the mystery himself if he wants to survive.

To the Ends of the Earth by Michael Gouda is a novelette that works only in the end as a interesting mystery with a nice twist.  A lover of mysteries and romances I was really looking forward to this story but the narration in which everything is “as told to” which serves to remove any sense of action or liveliness from the characters or situations.  It just leaves this narrative lifeless and well, dry.

Johnny narrates his life history and that of his best friend through their childhood, teenage years and into adulthood.  All very quickly and it feels without much emotion.  Everything that happens to Johnny continues to be voiced in the same sort of even tone narrative.  Whether its finding out that he’s gay or that his life is in danger, there doesn’t seem to be much of a change in intensity in emotion.  How can a reader connect to that?

I certainly didn’t.

I never connected with anyone here.  So reading To The Ends of the Earth ended up being a matter of simply enjoying the mystery.  Who was trying to kill Johnny?  The revolution wasn’t exactly a surprise but still a neat twist that I enjoyed.  I wouldn’t call this a romance because little to no time is spent on one so simply call it a M/M Mystery and read it as that.

Cover art: Aaron Anderson.  Dramatic and eye catching, very nice.

Sales Links:  Dreamspinner Press | Amazon

Book Details:

ebook, 60 pages
Expected publication: May 31st 2019 by Dreamspinner Press
ASINB07NRYG9G7
Edition Language English

A Lucy Pre release Review :The Reluctant Husband (Goddess-Blessed #2) by Eliot Grayson

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Rating: 4.25 stars out of 5

Disowned, disgraced, and with nowhere to turn, Tom Drake is willing to barter anything — even himself — for a reprieve from starvation and despair. Years spent lying to protect his secrets have left him longing for someone to value him, even if it’s only for his body and the blessing of his patron goddess.

Mal Leighton’s cousin and heir is dying. Only a miracle can save him — and if a miracle doesn’t appear, Mal’s damn well going to create one. Marrying Tom for his blessing is his last desperate hope to preserve his family. And if Tom happens to be as irresistibly seductive as he is untrustworthy? Well, Mal can focus on more than one goal at a time.

Tom doesn’t fall in love, and Mal knows better than to believe he’s the exception. But when Tom’s blessing doesn’t provide the quick cure they’d hoped, it’s clear that the goddess expects them to have a marriage in more than name. To save Mal’s family and find their own happiness, they will both need to sacrifice their pride and risk their hearts.

This is the second book of the Goddess Blessed series, which is Regency with Goddess flair in a time where all marriage is the same – whether same or opposite sex – except for the goddess blessed, who bring all good luck to those they love.  In the first book, The Replacement Husband, Tom is a loathsome, awful person and I came into this book fully prepared to keep hating him because how could you not?

The book begins by showing where his behavior has taken Tom – he’s been thrown out of the family, disowned, broke and friendless. His secret, that he has been Goddess marked, is one even his brother doesn’t know because their father abused Tom for it.  So much was explained about his atrocious behavior in the first book here and it definitely made Tom more understandable.

Mal runs into Tom accidentally at a gaming club and Tom is desperate enough to offer himself out for money.  Except Mal sees the Goddess mark and has this surge of hope that his beloved cousin, who is more a brother than anything, can be saved by Tom and his Goddess blessing.  He needs Tom.  Mal is the reason I didn’t rate this 5 stars because he repeatedly is so mean to Tom that he fell from my favor more than a few times.

Mirreith, the goddess who’s mark Tom bears, grants good fortune to her chosen but at a price.  They are required to yield “…to another in body and soul.”  Since his father had tortured him with this fact as being disgusting, (and my heart broke for an eight-year-old Tom crying over the dictionary as he looked up the word his father called him, catamite), he has tried everything to not do so, to disastrous results (book one).  “If men or women with her blessing tried to marry one another, or anyone of either sex couldn’t subjugate their strength properly, their luck turned to a curse.”   He tried with both Owen and Caroline, to the pain of all of them.

Mal starts off right away being insulting. “Leighton has just relegated him to a status lower than that of a servant by presenting him to Preston, rather than the other way around.  It was a calculated insult. It was designed to put Tom in his place.”  I was very gratified to see that however low Tom might have fallen, he does still have some sense of self.  “Tom held his ground.  He had nowhere to go, and nothing to lose, and if Leighton strangled him here in the street it would matter to no one, least of all to him.

William, the cousin Mal is so desperate to save, is so very ill and yet is still gracious and sweet. He is so happy for Mal and Tom when he finds out they are married, although Mal doesn’t tell him why they married.  And Mal continues to hurt Tom.  Calling him a whore, putting him down and generally acting just like Tom’s father did.  “I’ll need to be convincing indeed when not even your own wife could keep up the pretense of loving you long enough to bear your child.”  For the life of me I kept wondering why this lovely man, William, was so close with someone who could be so mean.

Tom has so much respect for Mal’s love for William.  “No one in his own family would sit this kind of vigil for him, were he in William’s place. His own father had told him early and often how he wished Tom had died at birth…”   Tom grows close to William as well, reading to him on the sick bed, talking and willing to do anything to make William well.

The good fortune that comes to those Tom loves doesn’t happen because they are faking the marriage. So they have to move forward and try to make a marriage out of it.   Mal has the most distance to cross, as he is the most hurtful.  “…(Mal) could wonder why Tom offered such a generous ration of kindness to Will when he could spare not a whit of it for Mal.  But he knew damn well why.  It was Mal’s own doing.  He’d never given Tom the chance to be anything but the callous rake the world believed him to be, sneering at and berating him, seducing and mocking him….He had no one to blame but himself.”   Because he is good at knowing himself, Mal redeemed himself somewhat for me. “The knowledge that he himself had destroyed his own changes of any kind of happiness through his own cruelty brought him anything but satisfaction now.”

That it takes an act of honor on Tom’s part to turn things around seemed very fitting to me. By the end, honestly, I was astonished that this author was able to take a character I so loathed in the first book and make me love him and care what happened to him in the second.  To me, that is the sign of talent.

Cover art, showing a shirtless Mal? Tom? is a little too generic for me and didn’t do justice to the story.

Sales Links:  Amazon

Book Details:

Kindle Edition
Expected publication: June 7th 2019 by Smoking Teacup Books
ASINB07RWJVB3N
Series Goddess-Blessed #2

The Replacement Husband

 

An Ali Review: Out of the Shade by S.A. McAuley

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Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

The hardest battle is the fight to be yourself….

Jesse Solomona has always tried to be the perfect straight guy–a cocky sports fan capable of drinking more than he did in his fraternity days and an expert at one-night-stands. That he hooks up with just as many men as he does women is a secret Jesse’s been hiding for years, fearful of losing his family and tight group of friends. He’s a Kensington boy–a group of guys that grew up in the same neighborhood and somehow all ended up back in their hometown. They, and his family, are the only things that still matter in his otherwise soul-sucking life.

Chuck Dunn, a tattooed and pierced sports photographer, has refused to step back into the closet since he was disowned by his family, but he keeps choosing men who can’t fully be with him. Finally free from a long-term relationship he should’ve ended years ago, he quits his high-profile gig in favor of getting back to the art of sports photography–documenting a local boxing club that works with at-risk teenagers. He may not have the same swagger anymore, but he’s working to be happy with who he is.

When Chuck joins one of the Kensington boys’ community center sports leagues, Jesse’s self-imposed rules are systematically demolished. But there’s one barrier Jesse can’t find the strength to break through–coming out to the other Kensington boys. Chuck knows hooking up with Jesse is a bad idea. Falling for him even worse. But he can’t stay away.

Chuck is damaged by his past. Jesse is frightened about his future. But, together, they may just be able to come out of the shade.

This was an interesting book for me. I really struggled with it for the first half. I took an immediate disliking to Jesse and his dudebro friends. I actually disliked Jesse so much that I was ready to quit the book around 40%. I couldn’t see what Chuck saw in him.  I generally like this author’s work and I have a lot of reader friends who really liked this one though so I pushed through. 
The last half of the book was a lot better for me. Once Jesse makes some changes in his life I found myself liking him more. I didn’t have a problem with him being in the closet but I really hated the drinking and frat boy type behavior. For men in their mid-30’s it just seemed childish and immature to me. I intellectually know that there are different types of people in the world who have different lifestyles but I just disliked Jesse’s so much I was having trouble be tolerant. 
As I said, Jesse makes some lifestyle changes and becomes a person I liked much better around the 60% mark. I ended up liking the last part of the book quite a lot and I enjoyed the romance towards the end. Despite my personal qualms with Jesse, the writing was really good and the plot was interesting. Any negative vibes I had were personal and not in reflection to the author’s work. I also really enjoyed the author’s note at the end. I don’t think I’ve mentioned those in many reviews over the years but I thought this one was very interesting and I recommend you take a minute to read it. 

Cover art is terrific and works for the story.

Sales Links: Amazon

Book Details:

Kindle Edition, 1st edition, 368 pages
Published May 21st 2019 by S.A. McAuley, LLC
ASINB07QBNNR5N

Michael Gouda on Writing Mysteries and his new release To the Ends of the Earth (author guest post)

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To the Ends of the Earth by Michael Gouda

Dreamspinner Press
Cover Artist: Aaron Anderson

Publication: May 31st 2019
Sales Links:  Dreamspinner Press | Amazon

Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words is happy to host Michael Gouda here today to talk about his new story, To the Ends of the Earth. Welcome, Michael.

 

✒︎

Hi, I’m Michael Gouda and I was born in London, England at the start of WW2.

In my mid thirties after a disgracefully enjoyable time in the gay pubs and clubs of London I decided to take life more seriously, went to University, obtained a respectable degree and took up teaching in the Worcestershire town of Evesham.

I took early retirement to a limestone cottage in the Cotswold hills where I lived with a series of neurotic collie dogs, a domineering cat and a determination to write. Since then I have written over one hundred and fifty short stories and published longer works with Dreamspinner Press and M.L.R. Press.

I like to introduce incidents from my own deplorable past into my stories of crime and misadventure. Being a romantic at heart though I never allow a tragic ending, however downbeat may be the indications in between.

In ‘To the Ends of the Earth’ I wanted to write a story about quite a few emotions, betrayal was actually the one that as it were rose to the surface, though of course it isn’t the real one.

I intended to write a mystery. Someone is out to kill the narrator. Of course the narrator himself is a bit of a mystery for in fact we never know his real name. Not that that hasn’t been done before, notably in Daphne du Maurier’s, ‘Rebecca’.

Having decided on that I wanted to spin a web of characters, any one of which could prove to be the ‘villain’, some more obvious than others.

There was of course Lex Warrington, the handsome, super-attractive lover who himself is a mystery being forbidden by law (the Official Secrets Act 1989) to divulge his position/job whatever. It is interesting to know (to me at least) that the (mainly women) code breakers at Bletchley Park during WW2 were similarly bound, and some even went to their graves at advanced ages without telling anything. Others though did.

The second most important character in ‘To the Ends of the Earth’ is Jacob Levin, Johnny’s life-long friend with whom he shared so many ‘adventures’ in early life up to the time they were parted by the iniquitous 11+ exam which in England decided the fate and future of so many children, long before their potential could be realized.

Other suspects, in fact red herrings, were the terrorist whom Johnny photographs and could have identified him as his name was included in the byline of the newspapers and of course on the Internet.

I also hinted at the possibility that it might be Christian, Johnny’s sexual partner at University, aggravated by rejection, or even someone in the Police Force itself, though the motivation for this was unlikely.

Excerpt: The fire at the flat.

I stared at the ceiling, the light from outside percolated through the window and sniffed – and smelled a strange smell. Imagining it. I blew my nose and tried again. Yes there was a smell pervading. Smoke! And what was that other smell, almost hidden by the smoke? Petrol? Could it be? But that was daft. We had no open fires in this ultra modern house, unless there’d been some fault in an electrical appliance which had caused some minor conflagration. Switch on the light, go downstairs. Douse it with a wet towel. No, that was stupid, electricity and dampness don’t mix, or rather they mix too well.

Then I saw it, creeping under the bedroom door like an insinuating probe, a curl of smoke. Naked I rushed to the door and threw it open. A spurt of flame followed it, singeing my chest and face. I slammed the door shut but before I had done so I could see the whole staircase was alight, crackling with flames delighted to find so much flammable material. There was no escape there.

I ran to the window, already the smoke was filling the room, billowing round the ceiling as my movements created their own vortices. Keep as near to the floor as possible, smoke rises. The window. The window. Double glazed of course but surely openable. No, the only air intake was through a grid at the top which could be opened or shut as required.

I banged with my fists knowing that would be useless, tried with my elbow but only nearly broke my funny bone. Funny, I thought, inconsequentially. Find something heavy to bash it with. But what’s in a bedroom apart from a bed, chest of drawers, wardrobe. Couldn’t use those, couldn’t actually lift them.

Then I thought of the bedside lockers. Crawled my way back to the bed. I could scarcely see even with the light on, and then that flickered and died. Felt for a locker, Lex’s side, grabbed hold of it and crawled back to that barely discernible rectangle of light. Holding my breath I stood up, raised the locker above my head and brought it down with all the force I could muster on the inner window. It cracked but didn’t splinter. Damned toughened glass. Once more. More cracks but no hole. Third time lucky, I told myself and gave it all I’d got. Glass shattered all around me. I could feel several cuts but ignored them. The outside window was ordinary glass it shattered at the first blow and I gasped as fresh air filled my lungs. Bits of jagged glass stuck out from the frame as I tried to grip it. The smoke in the room was marginally clearer so I went to the bed, grabbed the duvet and used it to cover the glass. I was on the first floor which meant, if I could hang from the frame problem no more than a six foot drop on to … what was under the window? Concrete? No a narrow patch of garden with bedding plants. Well it wouldn’t do them much good but I’d probably be alright. I was halfway across the sill when the door suddenly crashed open and immediately the room was full of flames, licking over my left side. With a cry I flung myself out and I think knocked myself out on a stone or something for all went black and I knew no more.

Blurb

What do you do when when your lover is out to kill you?

After university, Johnny dated a mysterious and influential man who never disclosed his profession. Now, following a quarrel, Johnny suffers a series of attacks—attempts on his life that his lover has the power and influence to perpetrate.

With nowhere else to turn, he must rely on his childhood best friend. But can Johnny trust him? With time running out and the world against him, Johnny must solve the mystery himself if he wants to survive.

Lindsey Byrd on Designing the World and her new release On The Subject Of Griffons (guest blog and giveaway)

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On the Subject of Griffons by Lindsey Byrd
Riptide Publishing

Cover Art: L.C. Chase
Sales Links: Riptide Publishing | Amazon

Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words is happy to host Lindsey Byrd here today on tour for her new novel, On the Subject of Griffons.  Welcome, Lindsey.

✒︎

Lindsey Byrd on Designing the World

 

When I first started writing this story, I had a general idea of what I wanted the country to look like. I knew its borders and its main cities and I could see it very clearly in my mind. While I was considering what to write for this blog tour, my best friend suggested I finally draw what I had seen so clearly in my mind. It didn’t take long, and the results are in the image above.

I marked out every main city or stop that the protagonists mention or travel to. The Trent empire and Ruug are both alluded to in various parts of the book, but they aren’t locations that our characters physically reach. As mentioned in a previous blog post – the long lakes are based off of the New York finger lakes, and you’re welcome to go back and look at the pictures posted there if you’d like another reference.

Actually drawing the map itself wasn’t too difficult. I have an idea of how I’d like to expand the universe so I knew in advance what features I wanted to add. Some of them, like the island in the middle of the Great Sea, aren’t referenced in this book at all. I’m still looking forward to sharing it somewhere down the line.

The map on this blog post, however, is not my original drawing. One of my closest friends took my original sketch and made it the fancy, beautiful, version you see here. She flushed out the detail on the image and made sure that the rivers and coastline made some form of logical sense, and everything you see on the map above is the highly rendered version of her imagination.

As we worked on it together, we discussed the future of this world. One of the other concerns I had, was not showing what I hadn’t planned out. To this end, there are many cities, names, or other kinds of locations I haven’t added to this version of the map. There are other stories there, and hopefully interest and intrigue will inspire future readers to wonder what those possibilities are. But for now, we made sure to keep everything as simple as possible. This is On the Subject of Griffons’ world. And hopefully in the future I’ll be able to share what goes on in all the blank spaces you can’t yet see.

If you enjoy reading this book, feel free to send me a message and let me know what you’d like to see in this world. I’d love to hear what you have to say.

Blurb

They’ll do anything to save their children’s lives, even if it means working together.

Kera Montgomery is still mourning the sudden death of her husband, Morpheus, when her youngest son falls victim to a mysterious plague. With no medicinal cure, Kera must travel to the Long Lakes, where magical griffons capable of healing any ailment reside.

As an heiress unused to grueling travel, Kera struggles with the immense emotional and physical strain of her journey—one made more complex when she crosses paths with her husband’s former mistress, Aurora. Aurora’s daughter is afflicted with the same plague as Kera’s son, so despite their incendiary history, the two women agree to set aside their differences and travel together.

The road is fraught with dangers, both living and dead. Each night, old battlegrounds reanimate with ghosts who don’t know they’ve died, and murderous wraiths hunt for stray travelers caught out after dark. If Kera, Aurora, and their children are going to survive, they’ll need to confront the past that’s been haunting them since their journey began. And perhaps in the process, discover that old friends may not be as trustworthy as they once thought—and old enemies may become so much more.

Now available from Riptide Publishing and where ebooks are sold.

 

About Lindsey Byrd

Lindsey Byrd was brought up in upstate, downstate, and western New York. She is a budding historian of law, medieval, and women’s studies and often includes historical anecdotes or references within her works. Lindsey enjoys writing about complex and convoluted issues where finding the moral high-ground can be hard to do. She has a particular love for heroic villains and villainous heroes, as well as inverting and subverting tropes.

Twitter: twitter.com/TheLindseyByrd

Tumblr: tumblr.com/blog/lindseybyrd

Email: thelindseybyrd@gmail.com

Goodreads: goodreads.com/LindseyByrd

 

 

Giveaway

To celebrate this release, one lucky person will win a $25 Riptide credit! Leave a comment with your contact info to enter the contest. Entries close at midnight, Eastern time, on June 1, 2019. Contest is NOT restricted to U.S. entries. Thanks for following along, and don’t forget to leave your contact info!

Blog and Review Tour Out of the Shade by S.A. McAuley

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Out of the Shade by S.A. McAuley

Publisher: Self-pub (S.A. McAuley, LLC)

Release Date (Print & Ebook): May 21, 2019

Length (Print & Ebook): 332 pages (print), 103k words

Subgenre: Contemporary

Warnings: alcoholism, mentions of sexual and physical abuse, mentions of drug addiction, mentions of rape, attempted suicide by a minor character, violence, homophobia, closeting

Order now: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07QBNNR5N?ref_=pe_3052080_276849420

 

 

Book synopsis:

Jesse Solomona has always tried to be the perfect straight guy—a cocky sports fan who drinks more than he did in his fraternity days and an expert at one-night-stands. That he hooks up with just as many men as he does women is a secret Jesse’s been hiding for years, fearful of losing his family and tight group of friends. He’s a Kensington boy—a group of guys that grew up in the same neighborhood and somehow all ended up back in their hometown. They, and his family, are the only things that still matter in his otherwise soul-sucking life.

Chuck Dunn, a tattooed and pierced sports photographer, has refused to step back into the closet since he was disowned by his family, but he keeps choosing men who can’t fully be with him. Finally free from a long-term relationship he should’ve ended years ago, he quits his high-profile gig in favor of getting back to the art of sports photography—documenting a local boxing club that works with at-risk teenagers. He may not have the same swagger anymore, but he’s working to be happy with who he is.

When Chuck joins one of the Kensington boys’ community center sports leagues, Jesse’s self-imposed rules are systematically demolished. But there’s one barrier Jesse can’t find the strength to break through—coming out to the other Kensington boys. Chuck knows hooking up with Jesse is a bad idea. Falling for him even worse. But he can’t stay away.

Chuck is damaged by his past. Jesse is frightened about his future. But, together, they may just be able to come out of the shade.

Excerpt :

All-Stars was a dive. A worn-down shack on the literal wrong side of the tracks on the south side of James Bay. There wasn’t even a bouncer at the front door.

“This is my kind of place,” Jesse said as they walked into the bar. “Feeling those normal guy vibes.”

“Told ya.”

Tayshaun waved to them from a table at the other side of the packed room and Chuck acknowledged him before turning back to Jesse. “I’ll grab us a couple beers. Why don’t you go over and say hi.”

Jesse took a step, then hesitated.

Chuck raised an eyebrow as he surveyed one of the biggest, most physically intimidating men he’d ever met freaked over making conversation. “Just normal guys, Jesse, I promise.”

“The Bay’s quarterback is sitting at the table next to him.”

“Okay, so he’s kind of a dick. But you know all about dealing with those because of the Kensington boys.”

Jesse smirked. “Fuck you. Hurry up.”

Despite Jesse’s urging, Chuck took his time at the bar so Tayshaun and Jesse had a chance to talk. He chatted with a couple other Bay’s players who were seated there and by the time he made his way over to Jesse, Jesse was guffawing over something Tayshaun had said. Chuck slipped Jesse’s glass in front of him and took the seat next to him.

“We making friends here then?” he said.

“Your boy is sick, Chuckie. I like him.”

“No surprise there.” Chuck took a deep swig of his drink, the local craft beer rolling down his throat in a pleasant rush. “Did Jesse tell you he used to play in college?”

“Yeah, we were comparing notes on treatment for janky knees.” Tayshaun sat back and gestured between the two of them. “So how long you been together?”

Chuck froze just as Jesse’s eyebrows shot up and he gripped his glass with white knuckles, stammering, “We’re— Uh— We—”

Tayshaun thumped his beer against the table and winced. “Shit. I’m sorry. I assumed— And I— Shit. I should know damn well better, of all people.”

That brought stony silence to the table, but Chuck held his ground, waiting for Jesse to put the pieces together. While he hadn’t expected the topic to come up quite this way, he’d hoped Tayshaun would feel comfortable enough with Jesse to open up. Because Tayshaun was a regular guy, and….

Jesse leaned forward. “Wait. You’re gay?”

Tayshaun nodded. “My team knows, and so do the coaches. It’s an open secret as they call it. I don’t know if I’m ready to be the first out player in the league. Shitload of pressure.”

Chuck shrugged. “You’re a franchise player. It may be easier for you than others.”

“I ever decide to do it, then you’ll be the first I call. You’ll make my ass look like the masterpiece it is.”

“I’ll grab us another round.” Jesse excused himself and headed for the bar.

Chuck glanced at Jesse over his shoulder. He hadn’t outright denied anything between them, but he hadn’t confirmed it either. And even though he’d left the table, he wasn’t running for the door. How fucked up was it that Chuck considered avoiding a panicked exodus a win?

Chuck sighed.

It was also much too familiar.

“Sorry about that,” Tayshaun said.

All around that could’ve gone better, but he hadn’t been able to figure out how to broach the subject with betraying either Tayshaun’s or Jesse’s trust.

Chuck waved off the apology. He’d find a way to talk to Jesse about it later. “Your season’s going well.”

“Football is my life.”

“Guess that means you’re not seeing Nunez anymore?”

“We burned hot and sputtered the fuck out. Couldn’t find any time once he got traded. How about you?” Tayshaun tipped his head up. “You seeing anyone?”

Chuck downed the rest of his beer. “Yeah. And it’s—”

“Me,” Jesse finished for him, setting the beers down.

Chuck swallowed, the word complicated lodging unsaid in his suddenly dry throat. Had Jesse just…?

Jesse plopped into his chair, his gaze locked to Tayshaun’s. “We just met about six weeks ago, but I can’t seem to shake him. He keeps showing up in my bed.”

A distinct crimson stained Jesse’s cheeks and half of his beer had been drained even though he’d only been gone for minutes. Chuck grounded himself in those details as he stared disbelieving at Jesse.

“Chuckie’s tenacious,” Tayshaun said. “Like a dog with a bone.”

“Tell me about it,” Jesse responded. “Tenacious and loyal—even when I asked him to keep us quiet.”

Chuck’s head spun. With Tayshaun across the table there was little he could say to acknowledge what had just happened, but he couldn’t let the moment pass unrecognized either.

He didn’t have to scramble for the words though, because Tayshaun was already leaning across the table. “Aw hell. You’re not out either, then?”

Jesse shook his head.

“Well”—Tayshaun grinned—“then I guess we have more to talk about than knees.”

“Guess we do.”

Then Jesse set his hand on Chuck’s thigh and squeezed.

Chuck felt the echoes of that touch for the rest of the night. He nursed the beer Jesse had bought for him until the contents were flat and warm, then stuck with water after that—wanting to remember every second of unguarded conversation. Every rumbling laugh Tayshaun elicited from Jesse. Every knowing glance Jesse sent his way.

When the lights flipped on to full power at the end of the night, Chuck embraced Tayshaun and promised to come see him again, and Tayshaun embraced Jesse with just as much warmth, extracting the same promise from him.

Chuck was sober and yet punch drunk.

He started up his truck and stared out the windshield, unsure what to say now that he and Jesse were alone.

But it was Jesse who finally broke the silence. “You and Tayshaun…? He isn’t the pro you were with, right?”

“No. He’s like my little brother,” Chuck said, watching Jesse’s shoulders relax with that answer. “If you really want to talk about exes right now I will, but Jesse— What you did in there…?”

Jesse shrugged. “After how cool Emily was, and spending this weekend with you…. I didn’t want to deny it, and Tayshaun felt safe.”

“He is.”

“All good things start with one step, right?” Jesse smiled shyly. “Or something like that.”

“Yeah, something like that,” Chuck repeated. He set his hand on Jesse’s nape and ran his fingers over the back of Jesse’s head. Jesse arched into the touch, his eyes slipping closed. As emotionally shocking as tonight had been for Chuck, it had to have been taxing for Jesse. “What do you want to do? Grab a hotel or drive?”

“Let’s see how far we can drive,” Jesse mumbled around a yawn. “I really do need to get back to work on Tuesday and I’d rather not be exhausted when I go back.”

“Britney it is, then,” Chuck said, letting go of Jesse and turning on his playlist.

Jesse chuckled lowly and reached for Chuck’s hand as they pulled out of the parking lot. He entwined their fingers and rested his head against the window, snoring softly before they even hit the freeway.

Chuck hummed under his breath. The energy from Britney and the warm, powerful hand in his was enough to keep him going well through the night.

Author S.A. McAuley is a wandering LGBTQ author who sleeps little and reads a lot. Happiest in a foreign country. Twitchy when not mentally in motion. Her name is Sam, not Sammy, definitely not Samantha. She’s a dark/cynical/jaded person, but hides that darkness well behind her obsession(s) with shiny objects.

Connect with her:

Twitter: https://twitter.com/AuthorSAMcAuley

Website: https://www.samcauley.com

Tumblr: @authorquestionmark

Newsletter: http://eepurl.com/Ly9Rv

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

Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/authorsamcauley

 

Giveaway: Celebrate the release of OUT OF THE SHADE with author S.A. McAuley by entering this giveaway for a chance to win 1 of 3 $10 Amazon Gift Cards!

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Direct Link: http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/88d45f0393/