Cover Art: Bree Archer
Sales Links: Dreamspinner Press | Amazon
Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words is happy to have Amy Lane back today talking about one of our favorite stories this month. Welcome, Amy!
A Manny Survival Kit
By Amy Lane
So in my last post, I admit that I was a sucktastic babysitter. But after teaching for eighteen years–and being a parent for twenty-five—I have to admit, my childcaring skills have gotten better.
As a promotional item for Romantic Times this year, I put together a couple big baskets—I called them Manny survival kids—and I thought I’d put together a list of things I’ve learned you need when you are caring for people who need you.
- Food. Yeah, I don’t care if the kid is past bottle time or no longer a toddler. Your fifteen-year-old can turn to you in the middle of walking the dogs and say, “Do we have anything to eat?”
- Drink. Water bottles. Everywhere.
- Entertainment. Before we leave the house for more than a half-hour we ask, “Do you have a book? Your phone? Knitting? Anything to keep you occupied if I have to talk to people you don’t know about stuff you don’t care about?” For littler kids, you have a different list—Doll? Car? Stuffed animal? Game? Yo-Yo? Bag of picture books? But trust me—it fills the same need.
- Tissues. For runny noses, runny eyes, and oh-my-God-what-is-that-bug-on-your-shirt!
- Baby wipes. Yes, when the kid is in diapers, this is a must. But I always carry them in my purse, even if my kids are older. Sticky hands, sticky faces, weird stuff on their clothes—it will all show up.
- Hand sanitizer. For you. Well, sometimes for them. But mostly for you.
- A plan. Is the kid sassing you? Have a consequence. Are they whining? Have something that will coax them out of it. Do they not liking changing what they’re doing? Remind them five minutes before you’re going to leave a place that they have five minutes to wrap up their business. A plan—a thing you can tell a kid will happen next—will make your day so much easier to get through.
- Books. No, not for them. For you. Because once they’re occupied, or watching cartoons, or doing homework, or asleep, you need a place to go in your head where you don’t have to worry about telling a kid they need to put down that unrecognizable animal because you promised their mother they wouldn’t have a disease when you got them home for lunch. Especially if you are their mother.
- A bag. Because seriously, you need a bag to carry all that in,
You need to carry all that around because you never know when you need it.
But you also need a few things you can’t fit in the bag.
Compassion, intuitiveness, quick thinking, and a sense of humor.
Especially that last one.
And maybe an extra dose of compassion.
So there you go—all the things you need to carry around with you in order to care for yours—or other people’s—children.
Hopefully you can find all these things and more when you read my Mannies series. I gave the guys all the things I frequently forgot in my first few years. Even the sense of humor.
A Fool and His Manny
By Amy Lane
Dustin Robbins-Grayson was a surly adolescent when Quinlan Gregory started the nanny gig. After a rocky start, he grew into Quinlan’s friend and confidant—and a damned sexy man.
At twenty-one, Dusty sees how Quinlan sacrificed his own life and desires to care for Dusty’s family. He’s ready to claim Quinlan—he’s never met a kinder, more capable, more lovable man. Or a lonelier one. Quinlan has spent his life as the stranger on the edge of the photograph, but Dusty wants Quinlan to be the center of his world. First he has to convince Quinlan he’s an adult, their love is real, and Quinlan can be more than a friend and caregiver. Can he show Quin that he deserves to be both a man and a lover, and that in Dusty’s eyes, he’s never been “just the manny?”
Seven Years’ Distance
QUINLAN GREGORY’S body hurt. All of it. Every molecule.
He hauled the last suitcase out of the Lyft and paid the guy, then started carting his luggage—and his trumpet case—gingerly across the driveway, avoiding clots of dirt and tufts of grass on the concrete as he went.
Jacob had told him during his last phone call that the dog had gotten out and brutalized the new sod, but Quinlan hadn’t believed what a massacre it was until now. Anybody else would have disowned the ginger-haired mutt—aptly nicknamed Hellhound by Belinda, one of their daughters—but not Jacob and Nica Robbins-Grayson.
Quinlan’s bosses had a knack for picking up people and animals and giving them a home and then thanking them for all their help.
He should know—he’d been their manny for nearly seven years.
Their youngest, St. Peter (or, well, Peter, but Jacob and Nica insisted on calling him St. Peter in the hopes that God would be appeased and might not create a holy miracle and bless them with a seventh child) was seven this year, and Quinlan was wondering when they were going to let him go.
This job had been sort of a dream for a musician who traveled during the summer and took classes and worked night gigs in jazz bars the other nine months out of the year—but Quinlan’s last college tour had ended four days ago in a miasma of pain and dysentery, and he was twenty-seven years old.
It was high time he grew up, became an adult, stopped living in Jacob and Nica’s garage apartment, and found something responsible to do.
But first he wanted his snug little rooms, with the paneling Jacob had put in before he moved in, and the hardwood floors, and the rug Quin had bought in Vancouver, and the bed he’d put on layaway until Nica had bought it for him as a surprise when he’d come home from his summer tour the first time.
His fish tank.
The fuzzy blanket the kids had gotten him for his third Christmas with the Robbins-Graysons.
The pictures of him and the kids and the whole family at birthdays, graduations, and three weddings, including Sammy’s.
God. His home. It was his home, and he felt like crap on a cracker, and he needed his home.
He hauled the luggage up the stairs, both bags with his trumpet case under his arm, and was going to use the key but the knob twisted under his hand. Uh-oh—somebody must have left it open when they were feeding the fish. Maybe Dustin.
Dustin had been in his apartment. For a moment that shocked him out of his misery, even though the kids had been in and out of his apartment since the beginning, but then his stomach cramped again.
Well, no worries. The couch and television seemed unmolested, although there was a dirty dish and a coffee cup in the sink.
Quinlan set his luggage down, relieved beyond words. He worked out and ran—normally he was pretty strong, but after the stomach bug kept him hugging the toilet for four days, well, he was about done.
So ordinarily he would have noticed that the air conditioner was on, and someone was watching something in the bedroom, and every light and ceiling fan in the apartment was running.
But he was busy stripping his sweat-soaked shirt over his head, so it didn’t really hit him that somebody else was in the house until he opened the bedroom door and saw….
“Quin?” Dustin’s voice would hit him later—gravelly and breathy from passion.
What hit him first was the sight of the tall, muscular young man lying naked in his bed, cock in his hand, as Quinlan opened the door.
“Holy God, I’m sorry!” Quinlan shouted, slamming the door behind him. “I’m sorry. I’m sorry, Dusty. I’m sorry.”
“Jesus, Quin, what the fuck are you doing here?”
“Got sick.” Quinlan leaned against the door, weak and shaky. “Came home early. I’m sorry—I didn’t—wait.” Oh hell, he was really losing his touch. “Dustin Matthew Robbins-Grayson, were you jerking off in my bed?”
“Shut up!” Dustin shouted hotly, and Quinlan fought a flashback to those charming teenage years when the man currently naked in his room had been a Class 5 adolescent prick. “Shut up! I thought you were gone for five more days! How was I supposed to know?”
Quin’s head was swimming. “You weren’t,” he said, feeling dizzy and off balance and… oh hell, aroused. Dustin was twenty-one—not a child anymore—and the vision of him on the bed, legs spread, erect, abandoned to his own touch, was going to haunt Quin for possibly the rest of his life. “You weren’t supposed to know I was home. But what are you doing here?”
“Forget it,” Dustin muttered. “Look, just move away from the door. I’m dressed now. Pretend this didn’t happen. And—oh Jesus, if you tell my parents, I’m jumping off a bridge.”
Tell his parents? As. If.
“Dusty!” Quin cajoled, trying to inject humor into what, well, should have been a humorous situation. “Dusty, please. Man, I feel like shit, and it’s hotter than ass outside. Just… just let me shower and lie down on the bed and get some rest, and you can couch and tell me what you were doing here later, okay?”
“Quin….” Dustin’s voice held a familiar note—but one almost forgotten. Quin, you don’t get it. You’ll never understand.
And Quin found himself panicking. They’d been okay when he’d left, right? Well, they’d been changing—but they’d been okay. Dustin’s texts, his persistent, grown-up, take-me-as-I-am texts had been more than okay. They’d even had Quin dreaming… hoping… because Dustin had grown up. Right?
Oh dear God yes, he’s grown up. His chest has grown and his nipples have grown and his cock has grown….
Quinlan whimpered, because his head hurt and his heart was starting to hurt. Dustin was an adult now, and he made plenty of money working for his father at Jacob’s garage chain. He had resources. He really could flit out of Quinlan’s life like a butterfly.
“Dustin,” he begged, on about his last nerve, “please, man. Don’t rocket out of here like this. Just… just let me cool off and drink some water and we can talk. We were there, right? We were… we were doing okay, right? Don’t… don’t tell me we have to start from scratch again.”
“Would you?” Dustin asked suspiciously. “Start from scratch?”
“Well, yeah!” Quinlan said, exasperated. “Dustin, I’ve been part of your life for seven years. Do you think I want you to just take off and cut me out? Because I walked in on you… uh….” Masturbating in my bed? He made a sound then—a weak, sad one—and Dustin spoke, sounding like he’d made a decision.
“We’ll talk about what I was doing later.”
The doorknob turned, and Quinlan moved away so Dustin could open it.
For a moment they were face-to-face, Dustin with his straight brown hair parted on the side and swept over his forehead. He had hazel eyes—an odd combination of brown and gray—and a bold nose with a short jaw and strong chin. He’d been cute as a kid, but Quinlan had noticed in the past couple of years that he’d grown into a stunningly handsome man.
“You look like death, Q,” Dustin said, letting go of the defensiveness of being caught pants down, so to speak. And then… then he rocked Quinlan’s world. He reached out and grazed Quinlan’s cheek with the back of his knuckles. “I’m sorry I yelled. Go shower. I’ll get you an ice water, okay?”
Quinlan nodded weakly. “That’s sweet. Thanks—”
Dustin stopped him with—oh God—a finger across his lips. Unbidden, another moment flashed behind Quin’s eyes, of Dusty’s touch on his lips. “Not sweet,” Dustin whispered. “You know me better than anybody else in the world. You know what I’m not?”
Dustin had been rambunctious, hostile, precocious, and irritating. But according to the people who loved him best, he’d never been “sweet.”
Maybe. Quinlan had seen—in the last seven years, he’d seen the other parts of him, parts that even his parents might not have seen.
“I don’t buy the bad press,” Quin said, smiling slightly and pretending Dustin’s work-roughened finger on his chapped, tender lips wasn’t trying to light fires on a sweat-sodden peat bog. “Here—” He moved sideways and stayed leaning against the door. “I… I really have to clean up.” He’d thrown up on the plane. Twice. His muscles were already trembling from hauling his luggage up to the door.
Dustin stepped out of the room, wearing a T-shirt and cargo shorts, and looked him over critically. “All right,” he said, turning to take Quinlan’s elbow. “Let me run a bath. Let’s get you in some cool water, I’ll get you some Gatorade and some salt tablets, and let me call Mom.” He pulled Quinlan to the bathroom beyond the bedroom and sat him on the toilet before he ran the water.
Quin leaned back against the back of the commode and tried to ignore the cramping in his gut, now that the excitement was over.
“Yeah,” Dustin was saying as he ran the bath. “I, uh, actually had permission to be here—Mom and Dad thought you were going to be gone for another few days, and my apartment was getting recarpeted. I, uh—I mean, not that I didn’t like sleeping in your bed and all—”
He peeked up at Quinlan over his shoulder, looking coy and boyish—two words Quin had never associated with him. Ever. It took a moment to put together what he was actually saying.
Quinlan frowned. “You were… uh… thinking of… uh….” Oh God. No. Not now.
He slid off the seat and landed on his knees and lifted up the lid. As the cramps shook him and he heaved, he was aware of Dustin’s cool hand on his brow, of his strong arms and chest keeping Quinlan grounded.
“Jesus, Q, you’re in bad shape,” Dustin muttered. “Of all the shitty times…. Here.”
Quinlan wasn’t sure how it happened. He stopped heaving fluid, and as he was panting and recovering, Dustin, the kid he’d helped raise from puberty on, hefted him up, stripped him down, and set him in a lukewarm bath.
Not cold enough to make him shiver. Not hot enough to make him sweat.
He lay back against the tub and caught his breath, closing his eyes. “Thanks,” he mumbled.
“Don’t thank me yet,” Dustin muttered. “I’ll be right back with water and salt and some carbs—and my mom.”
“Oh Jesus. Your mom’s gonna see me naked?” Quinlan whined. He respected the holy hell out of Dustin’s mom. He sort of wanted to die just thinking about it.
“I’ll call Dad, then,” Dustin snapped. “Whatever. You look like shit, and I’m worried. And if you say I’m sweet, it’s my turn to puke.”
“But you are,” Quinlan murmured to Dustin’s retreating back. “I remember. You think I don’t remember how sweet you are?”
“Fuck off, Quin.”
But Quinlan’s eyes were closed, and he was drifting in the tepid water. Back, back, back, seven years ago, at the park wedding of Taylor Cochran and Brandon Grayson. Back to a warm, bright September day seven years ago, when the red dust of the foothills seemed to stain the very air, and Quinlan’s friend—Dustin’s cousin, Sammy Lowell—was looking happy, if not healthy, and very much in love.
And Quinlan was fighting off a terrible case of woe-is-me.
About the Author
Award winning wool-gather, Amy Lane lives in a crumbling crapmansion with the children who are still growing, a fur-baby mafia, and a bemused spouse. She has too damned much yarn, a penchant for action adventure movies, and a need to know that somewhere in all the pain is a story of Wuv, Twu Wuv, which she continues to believe in to this day! She writes fantasy, urban fantasy, and gay romance–and if you accidentally make eye contact, she’ll bore you to tears with why those three genres go together. She’ll also tell you that sacrifices, large and small, are worth the urge to write.