Release Day Blitz for Love By Number by DJ Jamison (excerpt and giveaway)

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Title:  Love By Number

Author: DJ Jamison

Publisher: DJ Jamison

Release Date: October 12, 2017

Heat Level: 3 – Some Sex

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: 31,000 words

Genre: Romance, LGBT, m/m contemporary romance

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Synopsis

Aidan doesn’t have the best record with relationships, but he’s had a lifelong love affair with baseball. Player stats and computer simulations make sense. People don’t. But when he needs a ride to the World Series, he must rely on another person: a sexy artist who is as spontaneous as Aidan is predictable.

Jesse doesn’t care about baseball. As an artist, he’d rather paint a player than watch him at bat. But his grandpa loves the Kansas City Royals, so he takes him to every home game. He has no idea a fender bender in the parking lot is about to deliver new inspiration in the shape of a man with a whole bag of quirks.

Despite their differences, Jesse and Aidan hit it off, and their sexual chemistry is fantastic. But when Aidan’s numbers betray him, Jesse isn’t prepared for the fall-out. If Aidan continues to put his passion for baseball stats above everything else, he could miss out on the most important numbers in life: the number of smiles, kisses and laughs they could share in a lifelong journey together.

Excerpt

Aidan clutched at his hair, heart hammering in his chest. The front driver’s side of his black Saab was crumpled. The wheel well took a direct hit, the force of the collision pressing it into the tire. He could tell from just looking that the axle must be bent, if not broken, by the way the tire tilted at the wrong angle.

It’s not drivable, he thought, and his heart hammered harder. He felt his hands trembling, and not as an aftershock of the accident. Well, not from experiencing the accident, at least. He was shaking because his plans had just been thrown in the blender.

“Hey, you okay?”

He looked up, gazing blankly at the figure approaching him. A man, but his features were lost in the shadows. Not that Aidan could focus on something like facial features right now. That wasn’t easy on a good day, much less in a moment like this.

“It’s not that big a deal,” he muttered to himself, as he’d learned from his therapist years ago. “It’s not. It’s not. But …” He groaned and clutched at his hair some more. “How am I going to get to the World Series now? I have to get there!”

He’d wrapped up so many hopes in getting to that series, in watching the Royals perform in high-stakes games. It was the perfect time to prove out his math. It might not be rocket science, but Aidan still wanted to watch his math come to life on the baseball field, in the most important series of the season. In person.

A hand touched his shoulder, and he flinched away.

“I’m sorry. Are you hurt?” a voice asked. A nice, mellow voice. He liked the raspy quality of it and the cadence of the man’s words. His tone calmed Aidan.

He managed to drag his gaze from the damage to the man’s face. “I’m …”

Sexy Artist Guy.

He faltered when he recognized the dark hair tinted with maroon highlights, dark eyes and sculpted lips — all coming together in a perfect symmetry. A perfect representation of geometry in nature, really. And the freckles splashed over his nose, highlighted now by the security lights overhead? They somehow added to his sex appeal instead of detracting from it.

Aidan had seen an open sketchbook on this man’s lap more than once when passing by on a bathroom break. He mostly drew portraits, from the look of it, but Aidan had only caught a glimpse. It made sense he was an artist since his entire appearance was like a work of art to Aidan’s eyes. He couldn’t imagine being so creative with his hair or his wardrobe or his skin, where Sexy Artist Guy had embraced both tattooing (his right bicep) and piercing (both ears and right eyebrow).

“I’m so sorry,” Sexy Artist Guy said again. “I saw an opening and went for it. I didn’t see you coming, but my grandfather was distracting me—”

“Blame it on the old man, why don’t ya?” a hoarse voice boomed loudly enough to make Aidan jump.

“Gramps, not now, huh? The guy is freaking out.”

“I’m not freaking out,” Aidan said sharply. The fascination with the stranger’s face faded as he remembered why he was in this situation. He gestured to the damage. “There’s no way I can drive that.”

“We can give you a lift,” the old man said, at the same time the handsome stranger said, “We’ll call you a tow truck.”

“But look at my car!” he said, not sure they understood the direness of the situation.

Artist Guy frowned, then glanced behind Aidan. Following his look, he realized they were blocking traffic. A line of cars snaked through the parking lot, headlights shining on Aidan’s personal disaster.

“I should move my car.” He glanced back at the bent wheel well, frowning. He hoped he could move the car.

“Jesse,” the old man spoke, “you help him push. I’ll get in and put it in neutral.”

They all took their positions, and with some work managed to push the car into an empty space next to the Lincoln Towncar that had so cruelly crunched the Saab. Aidan cringed at the scraping metal sound as his car rolled out of the lane of traffic.

Once off to the side, Jesse pulled out his wallet. He handed his license to Aidan, who stared at it. He took in all the details: 6-foot-1, 175 pounds, brown hair, brown eyes, born one year after Aidan, making him twenty-six.

Jesse cleared his throat, and Aidan glanced up.

“Aren’t you going to take a picture?”

Damn. He’d been staring. The old saying popped into his mind: Take a picture, it’ll last longer.

He flushed. “Sorry.”

He started to hand the license back, but Jesse looked at him as if he had a screw loose. Then it clicked. Take a picture. For insurance. Right.

He dug out his phone and clicked the pic of the license, and then of the insurance card that Jesse handed over. He was still rattled by the accident, thrumming with bottled-up anxiety.

“You okay? You’re pretty twitchy,” Jesse said. “I’m sure the insurance will cover the damage.”

“Yeah, but it’s my car.”

“Yeah?”

Aidan waved to his car, unsure how to make Jesse understand.

“It was reliable.”

“Um, won’t it still be reliable when it’s fixed?”

“The World Series is in two days.”

“So …”

“Jesse, stop being thick,” the old man interrupted. “Obviously, he was going to drive up to St. Louis, and a Saab is a foreign car. He won’t be able to get the parts locally. Maybe not even the mechanic. They don’t make those cars anymore. He can’t get it fixed in time.”

“Oh.”

“I have to go to that game. I go to all the away games within driving distance. I always do. And this is the World Series. I’m going to have to take a bus, and, oh God, I can’t stand to ride the bus—”

“Jesse will drive you.”

Aidan looked at the older man. He had a bushy head of white hair and enough wrinkles to give a Shar-Pei a run for its money, but his tone was confident, the kind of confident that brooked no nonsense. He’d heard that tone from his own mother too many times to count.

“He will?”

“I will?” Jesse echoed. “Gramps, I’m sure Aidan doesn’t want—”

“That would be great!”

Normally, Aidan wouldn’t want to ride long distance with a stranger, but when contrasted with a bus full of strangers, he jumped at the opportunity. Besides, Jesse and his grandfather had been at every home game. If Jesse were some kind of predator or bully, he’d have shown it by now. Right?

He’d only had one other interaction with Jesse. He’d walked up to Aidan once, when he was trying to quickly record the stats from the latest play and compare them against what he’d predicted for that player’s performance. Aidan had been too distracted to make conversation, especially small talk with a stranger. But he couldn’t help noticing his great smile. Jesse was one of those people who smiled with his whole being, not just his mouth. His eyes brightened, his cheeks dimpled and his body even seemed to vibrate with happy energy.

Aidan liked that because it was easy to see Jesse’s happiness. It wasn’t subtle, which would be lost on him, or confusing — like when people’s mouths smiled but their eyes stayed cold. He didn’t understand that. Was he supposed to respond to their mouth or their eyes? And then there were some people who just smiled all the time, even when they said mean things. What did that mean? Smiles could be confusing, but Jesse’s wasn’t.

“I have tickets to the games,” Gramps was saying now. “I was going to ask you to go, as a favor to me.”

“What? But you said in the car—”

“Hush,” Gramps said, a gleam in his eye. “I’m not up for that kind of travel. I want you to go in my place, so you can tell me all about it. You take this nice young man. It’s the least we can do. Watch the games for me, and tell me all about it when you come home.”

Aidan pulled out his phone to call the tow truck, watching the two men in a staring stand-off. He made arrangements for the tow and disconnected in time to see Jesse sigh and nod.

“Okay, Gramps. For you.”

“Good boy,” Gramps said, clapping him on the shoulder.

Purchase at Amazon

Meet the Author

 

DJ Jamison grew up in the Midwest and worked in newsrooms for more than 10 years, which came in handy when she began writing stories centered on a series of love connections between small-town Kansas newspaper staffers, their sources and their readers. It was the perfect entrance into the world of fiction, and she has since branched out into ERs, health clinics and other settings to tell the stories of characters who are flawed but loveable. She writes a variety of queer characters, from gay to bisexual to asexual, with a focus on telling love stories that are more about common ground than lust at first sight. DJ is married with two sons and two glow-in-the-dark fish that are miraculously still alive.

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads | DJ and Company | DJ’s Newsletter

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A Kai Review: Yanni’s Story (Spencer Cohen #4) by N.R. Walker

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Rating: 4 stars out of 5

When Yanni Tomaras is kicked out of his family home, his parents’ final words are religious insults and an order to never return. Homeless and desperate, he’s lured in by Lance, charming on the outside, an evil predator underneath, who abuses him until he finds the courage to leave.

After years of being trapped, Yanni should feel free, but by the time Spencer Cohen finds him, he’s resigned to being handed back to Lance, and once again being caged by fear.

Starting school and a part-time job, Yanni starts to reclaim his life. But a love for silent films leads him to Peter Hannikov, a man twice his age with a kind heart, and an unlikely friendship between them blooms into so much more. Neither man knows what he wants, at first. Finding out exactly what he needs is Yanni’s story.

I liked this story. Although it wasn’t as awesome as the previous books, it was a nice addition to the series.

It is standalone, but I think it will be more enjoyable if it read in order.

I loved Yanni and Peter. Yanni was so terrified at the beginner and the book was mainly about his recovery and psychology heal after a super abusive relationship.

Peter helped him in that process and was there for him. First as a friend and then- after much patience and time- as a lover.

I loved Peter for how much he was willing to wait for Yanni. I was truly cheering for them.

They have an age gap – Peter was 43 and Yanni was 21 – but even with that (maybe, because of) they were connected. I didn’t feel as the age difference was a big deal in their story. For them, the age didn’t matter. Their connection just felt natural.

And we have a daddy kink here, guys. That was really interesting and hot. Yeah yeah.

I liked the plot in general, but I missed a big conflict or something like that. The story had some little challenges, that was quickly resolved, so we can see Yanni’s evolution along the novel. But didn’t have a big conflict. Everything was smooth. Maybe a little too much. And so you know: I don’t like much angst or many dramas. So saying I missed a conflict means that really there wasn’t any.

The story was quite slow paced. I mean, really slow paced. One could say it would be better if it was a little faster, but I understood where it came from. I mean, after everything Yanni went through, he needed time to heal. And I really liked this the process wasn’t rushed.

I loved the supporting characters and their journey. Jordan was my Yanni’s roommate favorite. I was so touched by her story and loved her interaction with Yanni.

I also felt in love with the Landons. They were so great. Spencer and Andrew appeared a little bit as well. I was missing them, so it was awesome to revisit the couple. Even if a briefly.

In resume, I really liked this book. N.R. Walker sure did a great job in writing here. 🙂

The cover art by Sara York is so amazing and match with the other covers in the series. I love it.

Sales Links

Amazon

:

Book Details:

Ebook: 120,000 words

Expected publication: August 29th, 2017

Series: Spencer Cohen #4

Audra North On Favorite Themes, Inspiration, and her latest novel ‘Midlife Crisis’ (author guest post and giveaway)

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Midlife Crisis by Audra North
Riptide Publishing
Cover Artist L.C. Chase

Read an Excerpt/Purchase it Here at Riptide Publishing

Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words is happy to have Audra North here today talking about her release Midlife Crisis.  Welcome, Audra!

✒︎

 

 

One of the reasons I loved writing Midlife Crisis is because the story is about three things I love very much: 1. self-acceptance; 2. family and friendship bonds; and 3. Texas.

In Midlife Crisis, Cam McGhee—one of the main characters—is on a fifty-year journey of self-acceptance. Because of the time in which he was born and raised, because of his familial and community background, because of so many things that go into influencing a person’s sense of self, he has spend the first half of his life wanting to accept who he is and live fully as himself, but resigning himself to never being able to. When circumstances change, and the opportunity to change his way of living is presented to him, though, he realizes the shift is easier said than done…even for a man in his fifties.

Family and friends play a big role in the book, too. Cam’s family is a source of angst and support at the same time. Dave Montoya, the other main character, has a tight-knit group of friends that looks out for him, and a sister who always has his back. For this particular story, I didn’t want to write any characters who were directly trying to undermine Cam and Dave’s journey, especially when Cam’s biggest enemy is himself—his own fears.

Oh, Texas. The third thing I love very much, though I have a complicated relationship with the state where I was born and raised (I now live in New England). Midlife Crisis takes place in Texas because of the ease of which a person can travel between rural farm communities and big cities, but still maintain that fundamental identity of Texan (it’s a thing, if any of y’all are from Texas or know Texans or watch Texans on TV). It’s an anchor point for Cam as he moves through an emotional tumultuous time in his life, and the constant of “Texas” helps him explore a new life of self-acceptance with more security.

In the end, this book is about the things I love, but at its core it’s about love, itself. Love through the self, love through connections, and love of one’s home are all secondary to the ability to love, in the first place.

 

About Midlife Crisis

 

Cam McGhee grew up like any other small-town Texas farm boy: he played football, went to church every Sunday, and married his high school sweetheart. But thirty-five years after he said “I do,” Cam finds himself nursing a beer in a gay bar, thinking about what might have been.

 

Dave Montoya is confident, self-assured, and cautiously single. But when he meets shy, uncertain, and clearly-still-not-out Cam in a coffee shop in Austin, his reservations about getting seriously involved again disappear. Cam is everything he’s looking for in a partner . . . almost, anyway.

 

No matter how much Dave wants him, and how good they are together, Cam can’t bring himself to openly embrace the life he was meant to live. After all, when his secret finally gets out, he faces the very real possibility of losing everything that kept him going for the first fifty years of his life, just like he’s feared for so long. But with a little faith—and a lot of love—his dream of living fully, truly, as himself might finally be within reach.

 

Available now from Riptide Publishing. http://www.riptidepublishing.com/titles/midlife-crisis

About Audra North

 

Audra North is a contemporary romance author of more than twenty romances, including the Stanton Family series, the Hard Driving series, and the Pushing the Boundaries series. She is the owner and publisher of Pink Kayak Press, which focuses on the publication of diverse romance works. Winter Rain, a Pink Kayak Press anthology, won a gold medal in the 2015 Independent Publisher Awards.

 

Audra enjoys speaking to writing groups and at industry conferences. She is also an avid jogger and loves running marathons. She has three children and lives with her family outside of Boston.

 

For more about Audra, and to sign up for her newsletter, visit audranorth.com.

 

Connect with Audra:

 

Giveaway

 

To celebrate the release of Midlife Crisis, one lucky winner will receive a $25 Amazon gift card! Leave a comment with your contact info to enter the contest. Entries close at midnight, Eastern time, on September 2, 2017. Contest is NOT restricted to U.S. entries. Thanks for following the tour, and don’t forget to leave your contact info!

In the Spotlight: Sean Michael on The Dom’s Way (author interview and excerpt)

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The Dom’s Way (Iron Eagle Gym #5) by Sean Michael
Dreamspinner Press
Cover Artist: L.C. Chase

Buy links:

Dreamspinner Press: eBookand Paperback |

Amazon |  Barnes & Noble |Kobo  

 Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words is happy to have Sean Michael here today talking about books, writing and the latest in his Iron Eagle Gym series, The Dom’s Way.  Welcome, Sean.

✒︎

 

Thank you Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words for having me today.

  • How much of yourself goes into a character?

They live in my head, so there’s got to be some of me that goes into them. A lot of times there will be one or two little details about a character that comes from me. A favorite food, a habit, how they watch tv, that kind of thing.

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

I was, and still am, a huge sci-fi and fantasy fan. I tend not to write either of those. Maybe because that for me is entertainment? I don’t know, because I love writing and reading MM, too. Although, really, if asked I’d still say that sci-fi and fantasy are my favorite.

  • 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?

The more my characters hurt, the faster I write. Once I hit angst, I hate leaving them there and I write like a fiend until I get them through it.

  • Do you like HFN or HEA? And why?

I love HEA (and I’ll take HFN). Everyone deserves their happy ending. Besides, there’s so much terrible stuff in the world, it’s important to me that the books I write add happiness.

  • How do you choose your covers?

Each publisher is slightly different, but with Dreamspinner you fill out a form, and most of the time the artist manages to interpret what I’ve written down into a great cover. I’m especially pleased with the Iron Eagle Gym covers – they are all clearly a part of the same series.

  • What’s next for you as an author?

I have just submitted the next Iron Eagle Gym book – The Eager Boy. This one features Robin and Stack who make appearances in The Dom’s Way.

Sean Michael

smut fixes everything

Blurb

Neal and Way from The Closet Boy are back, only now they’re Dom and sub, and exploring their relationship through the lifestyle. Way is eager to learn everything, and more in love with his master every day. For his part, Neal can’t believe how lucky he is to have found such an innocent but sensual boy.

As they learn what works best for them both, Way has trouble obeying some of the rules Neal imposes. Like the no touching himself rule. Neal wants Way to learn control, but Way, after so long holding back, has trouble not indulging. The two men must work together to find the balance that brings them each the most satisfaction and happiness.

Excerpt

Neal stopped him in the stairwell, tilted his chin, and took a kiss, tongue slipping into his mouth. “I love you. And I want to know how the plug feels inside you.”

“It’s really there. Like pressing on my hole. I’m worried it’ll fall out.”

“You have underwear and jeans to make sure that doesn’t happen. But I think you’ll keep it in under your own power.”

“I can’t believe we’re talking about this. This is where I work.” He wanted to curl into Neal and hide.

“Well, there’s no one around, and this isn’t just any place.” Neal hugged him tight. “Given what goes on here, I don’t think a little conversation about a plug is going to shock anyone.”

Way gave in to temptation and snuggled in. How on earth had he ended up here—on the run from parents who believed he was going to Hell for kissing a boy to working for a gym with a gay BDSM clientele?

He knew his parents would say he’d lost his way entirely, but he liked to think he’d gotten lucky.

About the Author

Best-selling author Sean Michael is a maple leaf–loving Canadian who spends hours hiding out in used book stores. With far more ideas than time, Sean keeps several documents open at all times. From romance to fantasy, paranormal and sci-fi, Sean is limited only by the need for sleep—and the periodic Beaver Tail.

Sean fantasizes about one day retiring on a secluded island populated entirely by horseshoe crabs after inventing a brain-to-computer dictation system. Until then, Sean will continue to write the old-fashioned way.

Sean Michael on the web:

A Kai Review: Anything For You (A Middleton Romance #1) by Ethan Day

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Rating: 3,5 stars out of 5
 
Jason Miller was still in the closet and didn’t see himself coming out anytime soon (or ever). He was accommodated with his situation and just the thought of what his parents, sister, and co-workers could say about his sexuality put him hiding everything he was from almost everybody.
He had never found a reason to kick the door open, walk into the light of day, and tell the world he was gay. At least that’s what he kept telling himself — along with a multitude of other solid arguments.
When Jason met Chad Wellington, an ex gay-rights activist/coming out guru, he was immediately attracted. Chad was the one thing Jason never saw coming and like a moth to a flame, these two opposites ignited.  Jason didn’t count with the feelings he started to have for Chad. He was in love for the first time. How could he give up on it? But Chad wouldn’t hide forever, so would he man up and coming out? Would he do it for Chad?
Well, guys, I started hating Jason in this book. He was a nonsense bitch guy. I didn’t pick up on the the real reason he was in the closet. I mean, his sister was an out and proud lesbian and his parents loved her anyway. So, what was his problem? He was a coward. And the worse was that he bitched at gay couples who were out, just because he wasn’t. Can you understand that? I know he was jealous, but it was irrational and even he knew it.
Thankfully after he met Chad he grew a little on me. He was yet a coward, but he was also funny and became nicer through the book.
I loved Chad and his power. He knew what he wanted and he wasn’t shy about it.
When they first met I didn’t buy their connection. I felt like it had happened too fast. But along the story, I started cheering for them and connecting with them. Plus seeing them fighting for their relationship was great.
The story was centered around the coming out question and how it can affect a relationship.  I liked how it was written: fluid and with humor. I loved the funny parts, and I literally laugh out loud reading it.
Well, the only thing I really didn’t like about this book was how fast paced it was. I mean, it could have been more elaborate and a little more lengthy. I just wanted more. Lol
This book was a light, funny, and quick reading. It didn’t wow me or anything, but I really enjoyed it.
Sales Links  Amazon
Book Details:
Kindle Edition
Published February 19th 2017 (first published March 13th 2011)
Original TitleAnything for You
ASINB06X1F3WM5
SeriesA Middleton Romance #1

Blog Tour for The Rainbow Clause by Beth Bolden (excerpt and $50 gift card giveaway)

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Title: The Rainbow Clause
Author: Beth Bolden
Release Date: April 3rd 2017
Genre: MM Contemporary Romance, Sports

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Heisman winner. Member of the National Championship team. NFL Rookie of the Year. Quarterback Colin O’Connor knows he’s become the ultimate romance novel cliché: all the success he’s ever dreamed of but nobody to share it with. Too bad it’s not as simple as asking out the next girl who intrigues him – because the next girl to intrigue him probably won’t be a girl at all.

Unexpectedly, the solution comes in one neat package: Nick Wheeler, lead journalist for a leading sports and pop culture blog. Hired by Colin’s team, Nick comes to Miami to shine a spotlight on the NFL’s most private quarterback.

The heat in Miami rises when Nick discovers that Colin is nothing like the hollow personality he pretends to be in interviews and he’s even hotter in person than on his Sports Illustrated cover. Nick knows this is the story of his career, and after spending his teenage years as a bullied, closeted teen, it hits very close to home. What he needs is to help Colin share his story while keeping their growing relationship from boiling over in the press, but what he wants is to tell the world.

Purchase: Amazon US | Amazon UK

TRC teaser 1

EXCERPT

Nick went through the cupboards one at a time, finding an obscene amount of protein shakes and powder, and a lot of basic staples that proved Colin probably did know how to cook. That hadn’t been an act, though he was beginning to wonder how much of the Colin O’Connor he’d seen wasn’t. Probably almost none of it, and that was terrifying.

He had just poured milk into his Cheerios when Colin jogged up to the patio and into the house, wearing a pair of loose-fitting athletic shorts, a thin layer of sweat, and nothing else.

Nick choked on air. So much for his peaceful breakfast.

“Good morning,” Colin said with that annoying smile. All innocence with just the tiniest edge of something more. Like he knew exactly what he was doing and how effective it was.

“Morning,” Nick mumbled into his cereal.

“I was going to wake you up for my jog, well our jog, but you seemed to be sleeping pretty soundly.”

Nick tried not to think about what that sort of picture that made. Or that Colin had looked into his room and had seen him sleeping.

“Do you jog every morning?” Nick asked, even though he already knew the answer. Anything to abort that line of thinking.

“Usually about ten miles or so. Went fourteen this morning, felt really good.” Colin reached for his forgotten t-shirt hanging over a barstool and shrugged it on. It stuck to his skin in sweaty patches, which shouldn’t have been attractive but apparently, Colin O’Connor defied logic.

“Bullshit,” Nick mumbled.

“Tomorrow you want to join?” Colin asked like he hadn’t heard as he grabbed a water bottle out of the fridge.

“Not for a fourteen mile jog,” Nick said.

“Not even for ten?” Colin wheedled.

“Not even for ten. You could probably convince me to do about half that.”

TRC teaser 4

GIVEAWAY: WIN $50 Amazon Gift Card!!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

About the Author

beth-bolden-profile-pic

Beth Bolden lives in Portland, Oregon with her supportive husband and their beloved cat. She wholly believes in Keeping Portland Weird, but wishes she didn’t have to make the yearly pilgrimage up to Seattle to watch her Boston Red Sox play baseball. She’s a fan of fandoms, and spends too much of her free time on tumblr.

Beth has been writing practically since she learned the alphabet. Unfortunately, her first foray into novel writing, titled Big Bear with Sparkly Earrings, wasn’t a bestseller, but hope springs eternal. She’s published two novels, The Lucky Charm and Getting Lucky, and a short story, Eye of the Storm. Her next novel, Summer Attractions, will be released in August 2016.

Links: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Tumblr | Goodreads | Amazon

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Release Blitz for Seven Days by Cristina Bruni (excerpt)

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Cover: JM Snyder
 
Publisher: JMS Books
 
Length: 61,269 words
 

Blurb


During a golf tournament in Virginia, American golfer Reggie Weston meets Russell Lee, the British former world champion in the sport. The two men hit it off when Russell takes Reggie under his wing, teaching him the tricks of the game.


As their friendship deepens, Reggie finds himself falling in love with the Englishman, though he knows Russell doesn’t feel the same. He’s painfully aware of the fact that Russell isn’t gay.


But there’s more to Russell than meets the eye. He’s a troubled soul, plagued by monsters in his head telling him who he should be. He’s spent most of his life hiding his sexuality from the world so he won’t disappoint his homophobic mother.


Is seven days enough time for Russell to break through the years of hurt and accept the new direction fate has in store for him and Reggie?

Excerpt

The Englishman beat him at pool, winning both matches. Reggie wasn’t upset, though, as every moment of their evening together was delicious. Everything apart from the beers Russell drank one after another, until he got so drunk, Reggie decided it was time to return to the resort.

“Tomorrow you have a tournament to win,” Reggie reminded him, pulling him out of the bar with difficulty. The silvery rays of the smiling moon lit the boardwalk, giving it a magical atmosphere.

“I won’t win any tournament tomorrow,” the Englishman murmured, gritting his teeth as he stopped in the middle of the road.

Reggie pushed him across the same moment a car zoomed by, blaring music.

“If you don’t rest a little, you won’t win anything,” he admonished, like a brother. Then he nervously massaged his cheek. He wasn’t accustomed to feeling it covered with hair.

“You can’t wait to shave?” Russell asked.

“No, no. It’s just that…I’m not used to it. But do I look good, at least?” he wanted to know.

The Englishman chuckled. “I already told you I won’t answer until tomorrow.”

A second later Reggie found himself holding car keys. “And these?” he asked, giving them an interrogative look.

“You drive, if you want us both to play tomorrow,” the Englishman said.

“Oh…okay,” Reggie stuttered, as if it was the first time he saw a car key in his life.

Russell fell into the passenger side seat and completely opened the window, putting his elbow out, then resting his head on it. He remained in that position until they reached the resort.

From time to time, the notes of the Nickelback rock song “How You Remind Me” cradling them both, Reggie gave him admiring looks. His long hair, now free, danced in the wind. The way he sat made the veins in his neck tense like cords, and Reggie stared at his strong profile, his long, light eyelashes…

God, what he would do to lay his lips on that face and give it little kisses?

They stopped at a traffic light just before reaching the resort. Reggie kept his eyes fixed on the red light, because they had already strayed too much to Russell’s face.

“What was your parents’ reaction when you told them?”

Reggie turned, surprised. Russell had spoken without moving a muscle, apart from his lips.

“Told them what?” “That you’re gay.”

Oh, that…

“Not much,” Reggie explained with a chuckle. “My father pretended to be upset for less than ten minutes and then he hugged me. Mom told me she was a little sorry because she wouldn’t have any grandchild to take care of, but she could accept it if I didn’t bring home too many buff guys.” It was clear that binge drinking was making Russell ask strange questions…

Sitting back, Russell started, “When Daniel, the friend I told you about, came out…”

They entered the tree-lined resort path and Reggie hung on every word, waiting for Russell to finish his sentence.

“…my mother ordered me not to go out with him anymore. She told me she thanked God I wasn’t like him, or I could never return home.”

Reggie stopped the car in surprise. “Shit, Russell,” popped out of his mouth.

The Englishman gave him an inscrutable look.

“I mean,” Reggie continued, lightning his tone, “I don’t want to seem rude, but it’s just that…well, it seems your mother is a little, well…”

“Harsh?” Russell asked ironically.

“Let’s say that,” he agreed, driving again.

He’d have liked to add a thousand other things and ask more, but he felt scared. Russell had just given up a part of himself, a little window into his past that maybe not everybody knew, and Reggie felt intimidated. He wanted to know more, but at the same time, he feared reopening old wounds that needed to heal.

“I’m sorry,” was all he said. “Me, too.”

They parked behind the cabana and Reggie helped Russell get out of the car.

“I’m fine,” Russell murmured. “No,” Reggie said, “you’re drunk.”

Russell tried walking on his own but stumbled on the sidewalk as soon as he stepped onto it.

“Okay, maybe it’s better if you help me, Weston.” Supporting Russell, Reggie slid an arm around his side.

His body was warm against Reggie’s, and he hugged Russell in a sort of leaning embrace. It was a delicious sensation, and for a moment, Reggie dreamed of what it would feel like to Russell him again and again, maybe on a frigid winter afternoon in front of a fireplace, or on a hot summer night on the beach.

They passed in front of the tiki bar without caring what others might think. From the speakers around the pool blared Eminem’s hit song, “The Monster.”

At the door to Russell’s cabana, he searched his pockets to find his keycard. When he tried to insert it, he missed. He tried again, but he was too drunk. Finally he gave up and handed the keycard to Reggie without looking over. Reggie followed the silent order, like a good little soldier.

The cabana greeted them with silent darkness, lit only by the rays of the setting sun that shown through the open door.

Again, there was no trace of Danielle, not even her perfume lingering in the air.

Russell threw himself on the bed and toed off his shoes. “Do you hear this music, Reggie?” he whispered, rolling onto his back.

Reggie had remained by the door, not sure what to do. Go or stay? His mind suggested he leave, but his heart wanted to stay.

“Yeah, it’s Eminem,” he answered, putting his hands in his pockets.

“Open the window a little, please. I want to hear the words.” Reggie obeyed, closing the door and opening the window.

A light breeze roused him, adding melancholy to melancholy.

At the window, Reggie studied the bar and swimming pool, because looking at Russell, drunk and lying in bed, was unbearable.

Unbearable and wonderful.

 

Author Bio

Cristina Bruni lives in northern Italy with her husband and their child. She’s already published many M/M novels in Italy with Triskell Rainbow publisher. Since she was a young girl, her biggest wishes were being a mother and an author and now, after fighting for it for years, she finally succeeded in both. She loves travelling abroad, going to the cinema, reading Sherlock Holmes, luxury bags and playing tennis and golf. She’s madly USA-sick and UK-sick.

She made her debut writing fanfictions and, now, her new wish would be writing love Male-to-Male stories for the rest of her life and living on a beach in Hawaii.

Maybe dreams will come true again, sooner or later…

Blog https://cristinabruniauthorblog.wordpress.com/
Facebook https://www.facebook.com/CristinaBruniAutrice
Twitter https://twitter.com/Cristina__Bruni
Instagram https://instagram.com/cristina.bruni/
Goodreads https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7164783.Cristina_Bruni

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A MelanieM Pre-Release Review: There’s This Guy by Rhys Ford

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Rating: 5 stars out of 5

theres-this-guy-by-rhys-fordHow do you save a drowning man when that drowning man is you?

Jake Moore’s world fits too tightly around him. Every penny he makes as a welder goes to care for his dying father, an abusive, controlling man who’s the only family Jake has left. Because of a promise to his dead mother, Jake resists his desire for other men, but it leaves him consumed by darkness.

It takes all of Dallas Yates’s imagination to see the possibilities in the fatigued Art Deco building on the WeHo’s outskirts, but what seals the deal is a shy smile from the handsome metal worker across the street. Their friendship deepens while Dallas peels back the hardened layers strangling Jake’s soul. It’s easy to love the artistic, sweet man hidden behind Jake’s shattered exterior, but Dallas knows Jake needs to first learn to love himself.

When Jake’s world crumbles, he reaches for Dallas, the man he’s learned to lean on. It’s only a matter of time before he’s left to drift in a life he never wanted to lead and while he wants more, Jake’s past haunts him, making him doubt he’s worth the love Dallas is so desperate to give him.

What can you say about a book that opens up on the darkest moment of a man’s life, that point where he see’s no hope, no light and then carries you and him on a journey that see’s him safe, in love and with a future that burns as bright as the sun?  You say that you love it and cherish the man and couple you have been reading about.  That’s what you say.

Jake Moore is that man.  His life is one long night of pain, bloody beatings and unmeasurable sorrow.  And it hasn’t ended by any means.  The person most responsible is still barely alive, punishing Jake even from his dying bed.  The hell that this vicious man has made Jake’s life is brought vividly alive through Jake’s confused thoughts and memories of his past, his mother, conversations…his anguish bleeds off the page and into your heart.  He’s a welder by trade, also an artist which is where he pounds out his anger and confusion that he feels over his life and sexuality, welding pieces from the bits left over in the shop and things that he finds to bring home.

Then Dallas Yates and his best friend (and all around wonder) Celeste come into Jake’s life via the renovation of a Art Deco building across the street.  Between the two of them, Dallas who makes Jake yearn for everything he’s been told was evil and Celeste, flamboyant, feminine and proud of who she is (and how far she’s come), makes Jake think  past other boundaries he’s always been provided with.  It’s never downplayed how broken Jake is or that he needs professional help to recover, an important element I really loved here.  The relationship build is slow as Celeste questions Dallas on his ability to and his reasons for being attracted to Jake (there is a past element here for Dallas).  Layers upon layers here, like the detritus that has to be removed from the Art Deco building before she can shine, have to be peeled back before Dallas and Jake  can be a couple and have a future.

I almost gave this 4.75 stars over things as small as not seeing the opening of Bombshell, and other such things that really are extraneous.  Would I have loved them here?  Absolutely.  But were they necessary to the plot?  I don’t think so (although I do think they are in some cut pages somewhere on Rhys Ford’s computer).  I got the men, I got their love and their journey and that was deeply moving and so memorable.  I loved them so, and all..well, most of the secondary characters too.  From Celeste to the Yates family.

Want a story full of hope?  Want a story full of recovery, love and a journey towards a brighter future for a man who thought a future was something he didn’t deserve?  There’s This Guy by Rhys Ford is the story for you.  But let Rhys Ford put it better.  From Rhys Ford’s Foreword on There’s This Guy:

This book is for anyone who has stared into the abyss and wondered if they can or should go on.

You should.

Take that next step forward and go on.

And should you need help finding the strength for that step, reach out. There are people and places who will help you.

Keep walking until you find the sun on your face and until you can see the stars again.

You are worth that step. Worth that journey.

The world is a better place with you in it.

OK, I’m about to start crying all over again.  Probably will pick up the story and start reading it again as well.  Get the idea? Yes, I highly recommend it.  You’ll have to wait until March but trust me, the wait will be worth it.  How I love this author!

Cover art is ok, but honestly I don’t know what I wanted for such a complex story and character.  Color me confused.

Sales Links to be provided

Book Details:

ebook, 220 pages
Expected publication: March 17th 2017 by Dreamspinner Press
Edition LanguageEnglish

In Our Romance Spotlight: The Worst Best Man by M.J. O’Shea (excerpt)

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The Worst Best Man by M.J. O’Shea
D
reamspinners Press
Cover Artist: Bree Archer

Available for Purchase at

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Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words is happy to host M.J. O’Shea today.  M.J. O’Shea is here talking about her recent release, The Worst Best Man.  Welcome, M.J.!

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Hi! 

This is Mj O’Shea I’m here talking about my newest book, called The Worst Best Man.

One of my favorite parts of writing a romance is… well obviously the romantic couple. But another favorite is developing relationships between the two romantic leads and the people in their lives. I often end up liking the friends so much that I give them books of their own eventually.

In this book, August, my main character works at an event planner and his team partner and best friend Will is one of those characters that I love to death.

I thought I’d leave a bit of their banter… since I love writing it so much. And even more than writing it, I love reading it. It’s one of the things I look forward to the most in books romance or otherwise. Before I babble too much, here’s a bit of August and his best friend Will.

“Hey, mate, do you have the signed contracts for the Steinberg bat mitzvah yet?”

“I haven’t had a chance to deal with getting them yet. Why?” August had been slammed all day with work orders and phone calls. He hadn’t had time to hound customers for signed paperwork. August the enforcer had taken a backseat to a million more pressing matters.

“I just wanted to get started on the flower orders, and I can’t do that until we have a signature. Remember what happened with the Stout wedding?”

What had happened was nine hundred pounds’ worth of blush-colored roses and calla lilies, a cheating groom, and one very angry bride—also incomplete signed paperwork. Their company had to eat the cost of the flowers since there wasn’t anything holding the ex-couple to the payment. Not endearing to their boss, Helena, in the slightest, even if she did love Will and August. Usually.

August would never make that mistake again.

“Can you get on the Steinbergs?” Will asked.

“Will, you know I have a huge list on for today. I don’t have time to run a paper chase.”

Will started to make one of the signature pathetic noises that usually got him whatever he wanted. It was the blond hair and the big blue eyes. August wasn’t immune, even if Will was straight as a stick and practically his brother. Wasn’t going to work, though. Not today.

“It’s your fault I’m so busy.” Time to go for the guilt trip. “You’re the one who ‘didn’t want to deal with another society wedding full of posh wankers.’”

August knew Will hated the finger quotes. It was a surefire way of pissing him off.

“I hate the finger quotes.”

He said it every time. August enjoyed annoying him every single time as well.

“I know. But I’m still the one who got stuck with the Pritts-Shackleton wedding because you didn’t want to deal with them.”

“People like that always look at me.”

August sighed. “I know, I know. You’re Northern and not a blue blood, and they give you attitude about it. Well, a Northerner has to be better than an American in their eyes, and yet here I am about to meet with one of London’s premiere society couples. I think you can call the Steinbergs. It’s more than an even trade.” August raised his eyebrow and waited for Will to crumble.

“Fine.”

“What do you think our prince and princess will be like?” Will asked.

“Apparently it’s going to be our princess and her GBF,” August said with an eye roll. “Prince Shackleton is in the import-export business, and he’s quite busy.”

“This tosser’s really sending a stand-in?”

“You probably shouldn’t call our clients tossers.” August bit back a grin. “I guess the dude’s been friends with both of them since birth. Maybe it makes sense in their world.”

Will made a face. “Better you than me, mate. I don’t love weddings at the best of times. Give me a nice corporate golf tournament to organize any day. Maybe the girl’s mate will be hot. You need a shag.”

“Thanks for keeping track of my sex life.” AugustDignified gave Will another eye roll for that. He was far too invested in how often August got laid. “I’m sure this random gay man who walks into our office to plan his friend’s wedding will be up for it. Probably should just skip trousers altogether and tell Miss Pritts to take a hike.” August snorted loudly.

“Don’t sell yourself short.” Will shrugged. “I would be up for it if I was into dudes.”

August giggled. “I love you,” he said on a laugh.

“By the way, you sure you have to go home for Christmas?” Will asked. “My mum was looking forward to seeing you. I swear she loves you more than me. Plus, there isn’t a chance in hell I can make your sticky toffee pudding recipe for her.”

The holidays were coming up soon, and August had booked ten days off from the office to visit Boston. It had been two years since he’d gone back for more than a long weekend, and he actually missed the big, loud O’Leary clan. Will’s family was a close substitute, but it wasn’t quite the same thing.

“I can’t this year. I promised my mom I’d come home. She said you’re very welcome to come as well. Maybe our families can just do a son trade.”

There was something about Will’s down-to-earth rough-and-tumble personality that fit into the O’Leary family perfectly, maybe even more than August ever had. They loved him, and he loved them right back.

“I think that’s a solid plan. But we need another solid plan for tonight. One last lad’s night before you desert me for nearly two weeks.”

August looked out the window at the snow drifting down, a few lazy flakes at a time. The London streets were covered with thin, slippery black ice, and the snow had been falling slow but steady for hours.

“It’s cold as hell, mate,” he muttered. He had dreams of his cozy little flat and a book.

“Mate,” Will snickered. “We’ll make a Brit out of you yet. And don’t be a baby. After a few pints, you won’t even be able to feel the snow.”

August had about zero chance of getting out of the pub night. Will was a force to be reckoned with.

“Okay. Lad’s night. But No Weezy. He causes trouble.”

Weezy was Will’s best friend from Sheffield, who’d sort of followed Will to London and never left. He was a laugh when August had nowhere to be for the next three or four days and plenty of time to nurse a hangover. Not when he had to spend the day packing for an evening flight home.

“I might have already texted Weez. He misses you.” Will gave August his best puppy dog eyes.

August sighed. “Okay. I’ll be ready after my meeting with the wedding couple. Er, I mean, the bride and her best friend.”

It was weird. He’d had far weirder. August tried to wipe the memory of eye patches, parrots, and a whole lot of pirate hats from his head. It was best not to think of it.

“I’ll wait in my office with Louise. She’s coming too.”

“Louise? Who else did you invite?” It was starting to sound less like a quiet lad’s night at the pub and more like what Will called “A right piss-up.” Those rarely ended well for August. He still hadn’t found his trousers from the last time.

“You know she’s one of the lads,” Will said.

August wondered how long it was going to take Will to figure out that their sensible, no-nonsense assistant was desperately in love with him.

“One of the lads,” August echoed. “Shoo,” he added, making the motions with his hands. “I have to get ready for my meeting. And call the Steinbergs. I want to get properly started on that one when I get back from Boston.”

Will saluted him as he strolled backward out of the office.

That’s all for now! I hope you enjoyed a little bit of August and Will. I definitely had a great time writing them

I’ve left a blurb and some links below! I’m always available on social media for questions or comments.

Thanks for having me stop by ❤

Xoxo

Mj O’Shea

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About The Best Worst Man by M.J. O’Shea

It was her special day… but his worst nightmare.

Despite his American background, August O’Leary is the most sought-after wedding planner in London. Naturally, Libby and Edward come to him for a wedding the city will never forget. But Edward is an international businessman, so the details are left to Libby and her best friend – who happens to be the love of August’s life and the one who broke his heart eight years ago: Christopher Burke.

How’s August supposed to pull off the event of the year with Christopher distracting him and old feelings crashing the party uninvited?

Christopher has let money and status dictate his life, but no more. His failure to stand up to others’ expectations of him cost him his future with August – one he’d hoped would include marriage. Now he has to face August’s hurt and anger and prove he’s still the best man to make August happy.

About the Author

Hi everyone! I’m Mj O’Shea:) I grew up, and still live, in sunny Washington state and while I love to visit other places, I can’t imagine calling anywhere else home. I spent my childhood writing stories. Sometime in my early teens, the stories turned to romance. Most of those were about me, my friends, and our favorite movie and pop stars. Hopefully, I’ve come a long way since then.

When I’m not writing, I love to play the piano, dance, cook, paint pictures, and of course read! I have two little dogs who sit with me when I write. Sometimes they comes up with ideas for me too…when they’re not busy napping.

Killian B. Brewer on Writing, and his release ‘Lunch With the Do Nothings at the Tammy Dinette by Killian B. Brewer (author interview, excerpt and giveaway)

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Lunch With the Do Nothings at the Tammy Dinette

by Killian B. Brewer
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nterlude Press
Cover Design by C.B. Messer

Purchase Links

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Today Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words is very lucky to be interviewing Killian Brewer author of Lunch with the Do-Nothings at the Tammy Dinette.

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Hi Killian, thank you for agreeing to this interview. Tell us a little about yourself, your background, and your current book.

Hey, y’all! I’m Killian Brewer, though most people just call me Brew. I’m a Southern boy, raised in the land of peaches and peanuts. I grew up in a tiny little town in a house where we would entertain each other by telling stories. My father can spin a yarn with the best of them and taught me early to enjoy the fellowship of storytelling. I went to college and earned my degree in English Literature, mostly because of my love of a good story. Of course, like most English majors, I don’t use that degree at all in my day job, but it does come in handy for my writing.

My current novel, Lunch with the Do-Nothings at the Tammy Dinette, was inspired by the people I grew up around in South Georgia. I wanted to explore what life could be like for a young gay man who is suddenly transplanted in a small town with little understanding of the way of life there. In particular, I wanted to follow his search for love and a sense of family in a world where he feels like a fish out of water. I also wanted to write about older southern women, because I think they are awesome.

  • What is the biggest thing people think they know about your subject/genre that isn’t so?

I think a lot of people assume that most people in the South are conservative, close-minded and bigoted. While it is true that we have more than our fair share of people like that, I discover that the older I get the more people I meet who are not that way. One big area where this has changed is acceptance of LGBTQ people and issues. As a teenager, I never could have imagined living as an openly gay person in Georgia. But now I do just that. My very religious and conservative family and friends have come a long way and are now very open and accepting of me and my partner. I think the biggest reason for this change is that with more people being out of the closet, Southerners are discovering they already know and love someone who is gay. Once you realize you care for one gay person, it is easier to be accepting of all gay people.

  • What are some references you used while writing this book?

I really didn’t have to use too many references while writing this book since so much of it is based on my own life experience. The ways of small-town life are very familiar to me and these women in this book are all amalgamations of various women I grew up around. However, I did find myself on the web checking on diner slang. I knew a few phrases from many a late night cup of joe at the local diner, but I needed more to flesh out the story. I found a few websites that listed diner slang, and found myself laughing out loud at some of the funnier phrases. I also had to check the web a few times to make sure that references I made to some classic country singers were accurate.

  1. Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?

My family is a group of storytellers. Whenever we are together, eventually the conversation rolls around to everyone telling their favorite stories from our past and amusing anecdotes about people we all know. Humor is always an important part of these stories. We also love wordplay, puns and music. In college, I decided to take some writing classes and discovered that the storytelling I grew up learning from my family translated well into writing. I was always a voracious reader as well, but would sometimes find myself wishing a story had gone a different direction. From this I began to think of my own stories that I would like to tell.

  • What do your plans for future projects include?

I currently have several projects in the very early stages. Most of them are just ideas for characters and situations that I need to see what they can develop into. One is a much darker and less humorous story than I normally write. Another involves a paranormal element, which will be a departure for me in style as well. But mainly, I am working on a possible sequel to Lunch with the Do-Nothings at the Tammy Dinette that will focus more on the lives of the waitresses who work in the diner and one of the supporting characters, Skeet Warner.

  • Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?

Mainly that I hope they will enjoy spending time in the little town that I have created. I love my home state of Georgia and it pleases me to be sharing a(albeit fictionalized) piece of it with the world. I also encourage my readers to create their own Do-Nothing club. Find a group of people you really enjoy being around and set aside a little time each week or month to get together and do absolutely nothing. I think the enjoyment and fellowship it brings will be infinitely rewarding.

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Blurb

When Marcus Sumter, a short order cook with dreams of being a chef, inherits a house in small town Marathon, Georgia, he leaves his big city life behind. Marcus intends to sell the house to finance his dreams, but a group of lovable busybodies called the Do Nothings, a new job at the local diner, the Tammy Dinette, and a handsome mechanic named Hank cause Marcus to rethink his plans. Will he return to the life he knew, or will he finally put down roots?

Excerpt

The diner took up a quarter of the city block; its silvery siding glimmered in the morning sun. A metal bracket jutted over the diner door and held a bright neon sign that flashed The Tammy Dinette: Stand By your Ham and Eggs. Below the sign, two tall and wide single-paned windows showed the bustle of the crowd inside. Marcus could see that most of the booths along the windows were occupied, and a tall redheaded waitress stood next to one of the booths furiously scribbling on a pad and nodding her head.

“Let’s go,” Skeet said as he hopped to the door and yanked it open. He swept his arm across his body and said in a terrible British accent, “After you, my good sir.”

Marcus grinned at the boy and stepped into the diner. The sudden rush of country music mixed with the murmur of the restaurant crowd, the smell of greasy food and coffee, and the glare of fluorescent lights from the Formica tables and counter tops flooded Marcus with a sense of relief and comfort. The last bits of tension slipped from his shoulders as he watched the two waitresses in pink uniform tops and skirts scurry from table to table as different patrons raised their hands to get each woman’s attention.

**

“Now sign here.” Raff pointed out a line at the bottom of a paper. “Then initial here.”

Marcus scribbled his name where instructed, then set the pen gently on the table. He read the final paragraph of the will to himself one more time. To my grandson Marcus, I leave all my other worldly possessions, my assets and most importantly, my house, so that maybe, just once in his life, that poor boy can have a real home.

“So, it’s all mine?”

“Well, it has to go through probate and such, but yes. Basically, it’s all yours.”

“And I have to live in the house? I mean, she says she wants it to be my home.”

“Oh, good lord, boy,” Helen said and laughed. “Your grandmother was a former mayor’s wife, not the queen of England. It’s a will, not a proclamation.”

“My mother is correct. You can do with the assets as you see fit, once her few debts are paid off.”

“So I could sell it?”

“If that’s what you desire. As a matter of fact, my wife, Katie Nell, is one of the most successful realtors in Marathon. I’m sure she could sell it for you in a heartbeat if you want.”

“Raff, you quit trying to drum up business for that nitwit wife of yours.” Helen picked up the pen from the table and inspected it before opening her purse and dropping it in. “Marcus, you don’t have to decide anything right now. Why don’t you spend a little time here and see what you want to do with it? How soon do you have to be back where you came from? Back in…?”

“Um, Atlanta.” Marcus let his eyes wander off from Helen to the photographs on the wall behind her. “No rush. Nothing important waiting on me there.”

“Then it’s settled. You stay here for a few weeks at least and see what you want to do. The other Do Nothings and I have already gone through your grandmother’s house and got it nice and clean for you. Of course, there’s no real food in there, but we’ll get you settled, and I’ll bring over something for you to eat tonight. Tomorrow, we will run you up to the Piggly Wiggly and stock you up.”

“Well, I guess I can stay until the house sells at least.” Marcus looked at the table as Raff slid a manila envelope across the table to him.

“Here are your copies of all the paperwork. There are a bunch of things in there. Here are the keys to the house.” Raff pushed a key ring across the table. “And I wrote Katie Nell’s number on the front of the envelope so when you get ready to sell—”

If you sell it,” Helen interrupted her son. “You never know, little man, we might just charm you into staying.”

**

Over the course of the next month, Marcus fell easily into the rhythm of his new life in the diner. The black ring around his eye faded, and thoughts of Robert and his mangled car began to fade as well. Francine and he perfected their frenzied dance around each other behind the grill when the diner was filled to capacity. As he worked, the familiar tools of spatula, whisk, and knife once again became extensions of his hand, and the smells of bacon frying and eggs cooking made his appetite for food and life return. The silly names the sisters invented for customers made Marcus belly laugh, the sensation of it bubbling up in his chest an almost-forgotten pleasure. With each passing day, it grew easier to rise early in the morning and catch a ride to the diner with Francine or one of the girls.

The only part of the day he dreaded was life outside the diner and returning to a too-quiet house filled with photographs of people who shared his face and name, but who were complete strangers. The house was in theory his home, but it still seemed as if he was intruding on someone else’s space. He hadn’t bothered to unpack the few clothes left in his duffel bag or put away the clean clothes from the laundry basket on the bedroom floor. In the silence of his grandmother’s house, he would hear the ringing of Robert’s plaintive texts, the nagging thoughts about what to do with his wrecked car, and the haunting words of his mother, “Baby, it’s time to move on.”

More and more, he lingered well past the end of his shift at the diner to avoid going to the house. Usually he would end his day by wandering over to the Do Nothing’s corner booth to check on the latest town gossip or to see how preparations for the hoedown were going. Marcus would shuffle his way into the booth and tuck himself between Helen and Inez so that the women could explain to him who each person they gossiped about was. Most of the names meant nothing to him until he began to connect them with their usual orders, just as he had at the Waffle Barn. The more stories the Do Nothings told about the customers who hurried in and out of the diner daily, the more the citizens of Marathon seemed like friends. He would sit happily silent and let the women’s laughter and rapid-fire words sooth his work-weary muscles as he sank into the padding of the booth.

But not today.

He had finished cleaning the cooking area, flung his apron onto its hook, and headed into the dining room. He’d been tired but, for the first time since Robert had pressured him to quit working at the Waffle Barn in Atlanta, he’d felt useful again. As he’d reached the kitchen door, he’d caught a glimpse of himself in the mirror. Despite the hard work and grueling heat of the kitchen, he’d seen that he wore a pleased smile, a smile he wasn’t sure he had worn since the days after his mother and before Robert. He’d straightened his back and nodded at himself in the mirror. Hello, stranger. Where’ve you been? With the smile lingering on his lips, he had glanced through the porthole window in the swinging door and seen Hank Hudson standing at the counter.

**

About the Author

Killian B. Brewer grew up in a family where the best way to be heard was to tell a good story, therefore he developed an early love of storytelling, puns and wordplay. He began writing poetry and short fiction at 15 and continued in college where he earned a BA in English. He does not use this degree in his job in the banking industry. He currently lives in Georgia with his partner and their dog. Growing up in the South gave him a funny accent and a love of grits. The Rules of Ever After is his first novel.

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