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TiernanChrisBrown2

With the upcoming re-issue of the first four SoulShares novels (HARD AS STONE, GALE FORCE, DEEP PLUNGE, and FIRESTORM) and the upcoming release of the fifth (BLOWING SMOKE), and the fact that I’m about to leave on a week-long you’re-going-to-take-a-vacation-whether-you-need-it-or-not, I haven’t had a lot of time to craft a Valentine’s Day story for this year. However… I’m treating this as an opportunity to go back in time a couple of years and bring back one of my favorite Kevin and Tiernan short stories, about the first Valentine’s Day of their married life. (Sorry if that was a spoiler for anyone….!) And a word to the wise, this is definitely a love story for the 18-and-over set…

***********

Kevin eyed the plastic cup in his hand speculatively. Well, kind of a cup. A hollow hand grenade. And the bartender was watching him with an ill-concealed grin. Maybe I shouldn’t have admitted it’s my first time in New Orleans. Off to one side, the house band on the small stage was rocking out a zydeco song about what girls in the bayou they will do, won’t do.

Strange choice for Valentine’s Day. But, then, so was the Funky Pirate. Sighing, Kevin raised the cup, saluted the bartender, and took a healthy swig. Then, slowly, he set the cup back down on the bar, fighting the urge to cough. Holy shit.

The bartender laughed. “You let me know when you want another one.”

He moved off down the bar, stopping in front of what looked like a group of friends of the band, and Kevin’s gaze wandered. The front door of the bar stood open, and looked out onto the famous Bourbon Street. The street was closed to traffic, and was fairly crowded with pedestrians, most of them probably bar-hopping, carrying their take-away cups from one bar to the next. Probably nothing like it had been a few days ago, though.

The firm couldn’t have sent me here for Mardi Gras, no, they had to wait for Valentine’s Day. Kevin grimaced and had another go at the cup of death and delirium in his hand. Just let me get this down and I swear I’ll go back to civilized drinks. Nothing wrong with Jack and coke.

Nothing except the fact that he’d be drinking it alone. Damn, he missed Tiernan. Which was silly, because he’d be home in a couple of days. But he’d been looking forward to this Valentine’s Day, the first of his married life.

Almost on the thought, there was a pleasant buzz in his pocket. He pulled out his phone, saw the familiar number, and grinned as he slid the toggle to unlock the screen. “Hey, lanan.” He slipped off the barstool and looked quickly around; the Funky Pirate had a back courtyard, and he headed for it, phone in one hand and drink in the other.

“Hey, bodelafint.”

Kevin felt his cheeks flush even as he grinned. Only a Fae would turn ‘Elephant Dick’ into an endearment. “Are you at work?” He sighed with relief as he escaped into the courtyard; there was hardly anyone out here, and even though the music inside was being piped outside, it was a hell of a lot easier to hear.

“Hell, yes. Though I don’t know why, it’s not like there’s anything for me to do here.” Kevin thought he could hear the pounding bass of Purgatory’s sound system behind his husband’s voice. “Where are you? I hear music.”

“I thought I’d try the Funky Pirate. Great music, lethal drinks. I’m out in the courtyard now, though.” Kevin tried another pull at the oddly shaped glass, and this time there was no reason not to cough.

Tiernan’s laugh was pure wickedness. “You’re trying a hand grenade? When I’m not there to take advantage of you afterward?”

“You know the place?” A small staircase in a corner of the courtyard led up to a second story that was gated off; Kevin crossed to it and sat down on the stairs, balancing his drink on his knee.

“Yeah, I’ve been there a few times. I like the music. Though Bourbon Street Blues Company’s better for picking up guys.”

“Happy Valentine’s Day to you, too.” Kevin chuckled, but there was frustration in the sound. “I’d rather be at home right now. Especially considering that I wanted to dress to suit the day, but I don’t own anything pink, and the only red item of clothing I have is my red silk tie.” The tie that was his private signal to his husband that he was in the mood for breath play. Which he was. Damn.

“You don’t say.” The words were slow, drawn-out, and followed by a long silence. Then, just as Kevin was about to ask if the Fae was still there, “You say you’re in the courtyard?”

“Yes.” Puzzled, Kevin took another drink, held the peculiar glass between his knees, and rubbed the back of his neck.

“Send me a picture.”

“Of me?” I am so not unconfused.

Another low chuckle. “No. Of the courtyard. That back corner, by the steps.”

Kevin opened his mouth to ask how Tiernan knew the layout of the courtyard, but one glance at the corner beside where he sat answered that question very nicely, supplying him with all sorts of images of his husband putting the semi-privacy to thorough use with a woman, women, a man, men… All of which thoughts were making him horny as hell. “Hang on.”

Switching the phone to camera setting, he snapped a shot of the corner and texted it off, then returned the phone to his ear. “Was that what you wanted, m’lanan?”

“That was fucking perfect.”

Tiernan’s reply wasn’t coming from the phone.

Kevin’s head snapped around, and his eyes went wide at the sight of the Fae, shirtless under a denim jacket, in jeans so tight they looked like they’d been tattooed on, blond hair curling around his shoulders. And wearing a smirk that brought the lawyer’s cock to instant and rigid attention.

“I needed the reminder.” Then, in a murmur that should have sent up tendrils of smoke, “Happy Valentine’s Day.”

“Holy shit.” Kevin slammed down the last of his hand grenade, let the cup fall to the ground, and surged to his feet, to be caught up in Tiernan’s arms and turned and pushed back against the vine-covered brickwork, where the Fae’s mouth came down on his in a kiss that left him dizzy.

He felt one of Tiernan’s hands sliding up between their bodies, out of sight; long, strong fingers closed around his tie and slid up the silken length to fist just below the knot. “You weren’t kidding, I see.” Faceted ice-blue eyes held him spellbound, as his husband’s other hand undid his belt buckle, unbuttoned his trousers, and slipped inside to curl around his shaft. “Hold very still, lanan, and let me show you how much I’ve missed you.”

The only answer Kevin could manage was a faint moan, one that Tiernan kissed away before starting to twist the silken tie tight. Kevin’s pulse was like thunder in his ears; his breath came in soft, rapid pants against Tiernan’s lips, and his hips made little, tight jerks of their own volition as his cock was firmly, insistently stroked.

“You are so incredibly fucking hot.” He could feel Tiernan’s lips moving, breathed in his words, and shuddered in ecstasy from his touch. “I can’t get enough of you.” The Fae’s hot tongue traced a path back to his ear, probed; teeth nipped, and the tongue soothed. “Are you close? Are you ready?”

Kevin tried, and failed, to get a breath. And the failure sent liquid heat racing down his spine, to pool in his sac. He felt Tiernan’s hand tighten in anticipation – both hands, the hand twisting the tie as well as the exquisite vise around his cock. He had no voice to whisper with, all he could do was move his lips. “…don’t let me fall…”

Tiernan leaned into him, pinning him to the wall, as his knees buckled with the first thick white jet of his release. His eyes threatened to roll back, his hips jerked forward; darkness started closing in, his vision becoming a tunnel. Tiernan’s hand became slick, and the Fae was moaning now, too, along with him, with every pulse of hot fluid that welled up and spilled over.
And the joy. Oh, Christ, the joy. Pure bliss, the delight of being held, pleasured, cherished.
Scair-anam,” he whispered, as the last wave of pleasure rippled through his body.

Opening eyes he hadn’t realized he’d closed, he saw his husband nod. “So fucking beautiful you stop my heart.” Tiernan’s lips parted, he leaned in, in a kiss that was as close to gentle as he ever came. “I love you, m’lanan.”

And before Kevin could answer, the faceted blue of the Fae’s eyes heated with a smile. “Let’s go back to your hotel room so I can do it some more.”

ScheduleAnnouncement

Hey, it’s only taken me the first month of 2015 to figure out what I’m doing the rest of the year – not bad!

First, the biggest piece of news I’ve had in a while – the first four SoulShares books, HARD AS STONE, GALE FORCE, DEEP PLUNGE, and FIRESTORM, are temporarily unavailable (except, as of this writing, for the paperback versions still up on Amazon, but those will be coming down shortly). The reason? New editions are coming out through Riverdale Avenue Books, starting in April! With a few additions and corrections (it would have been polite of Conall to inform me that he was a true redhead rather than a strawberry blond sometime before the end of book three, for example), AND a new Fae glossary for each book. AND…. (yes, there’s more!) the fifth book in the series, BLOWING SMOKE, coming out in May! (Follow me on my Amazon page, http://www.amazon.com/Rory-Ni-Coileain/e/B009M8XQP2/ref=dp_byline_cont_book_1 and you’ll get updates when each one comes out!)

Here’s my publication schedule for the first half of 2015:

April 22: HARD AS STONE (SoulShares #1) – new edition
April 29: GALE FORCE (SoulShares #2) – new edition
May 6: DEEP PLUNGE (SoulShares #3) – new edition
May 13: FIRESTORM (SoulShares #4) – new edition
May 20: BLOWING SMOKE (SoulShares #5) – first time in print!

And while I’m being so gosh darn organized, here’s my schedule of conventions for the year:

CONvergence (Bloomington, MN) – July 2-5 (science fiction/fantasy)
Rainbow Con (Tampa, FL) – July 16-19 (LGBT media)
Midwestern Book Lovers Unite (MBLU) (Minneapolis, MN) – October 22-25 (romance writers/readers)

There’s something there for just about everyone, I think – come visit me! (And the Fae, and the Gille Dubh, and the oboroten’ – we’re a package deal!)

PeregrineKimJaeJoong2

Just a tiny taste (totally unedited, of course) of Chapter 19 of Flight of Fantasy (Broken Pattern #2). Blowing Smoke, Broken Pattern #1, will be coming to a Kindle near you on March 5th….

Washington, D.C.
August 12, 2013
3:25 a.m.

Perry leaned against the tiled wall of the shower and fumbled with the shower valve, wincing as the cold spray hit him and turning the valve as far left as it would go. Even when it warmed up all the way, the water in his apartment was barely tepid, which was a pity.

Hauling himself upright, he filled his palms with coconut-scented soap and started to gently clean his shoulders and upper arms. The bruises were nothing to worry about, they’d fade, but he’d need to be careful with the bites. And no strapless gowns for Falcon for a while.

He laughed, surprised by how normal he sounded. He’d show his marks off with pride tomorrow night. Tonight. Whatever. And then, with any luck, they wouldn’t matter any more.

Once he’d taken care of the ragged marks on his shoulders, he grabbed the shampoo and lathered his hair. He hissed, as much in startlement as in pain, as he ran his palm over the back of his head. Probing the lump with his fingertips made him queasy; he backed into the stream of water from overhead, and stared at the red swirling around his feet.

Lochlann’s going to be pissed. The boss was fine if any of his boys wanted to cater to a rougher trade, but it had to be consensual. He’d been adamant, when he’d hired Perry: he wouldn’t let Big Boy get a reputation as the kind of place where a client could get his rocks off with violence.

“Because then I’d have to deal with them, and I hate the paperwork when I kill a client,” Lochlann had explained. Perry was sure he’d been kidding.

Pretty sure.

Yeah, he should have put a stop to it when his last customer decided to “take the fight out of” him by throwing him against the wall. He could have.

But he hadn’t wanted to. He’d needed it.

PeregrineKimJaeJoong2

Enjoy this (completely unedited) excerpt from Chapter Two of my work-in-progress, tentatively entitled FLIGHT OF FANTASY!

Perry tried to relax back into the plastic chair. It wasn’t really made for relaxing in, though; the only way to sit in it was to slouch, in a posture that showed off a hell of a lot of leg and pretty much screamed fuck me.

A low chuckle came from across the tiny waiting area. A man who looked like Idris Elba’s younger brother was draped across an identical chair, right under the plasma screen that cycled through the price list for all the forms of massage theoretically offered at Big Boy Massage. Perry knew he could handle the shiatsu and could fake Thai, but in the unlikely event a client wanted anything else on the menu, he was screwed.

Which was, of course, the idea.

“You must be the new guy.” Idris Junior’s voice was even sexier than his smile. “Don’t worry, we don’t stay in the chairs long once things get busy.”

Perry nodded. “Boss explained the system to me yesterday when he hired me.” And what a job interview that had been, with Perry still kitted out as Falcon and carrying his stiletto heels because he hadn’t wanted to run up the stairs from Purgatory in them. “Three boys working at once, max, with the fourth out here to keep an eye on the screen.” Big Boy Massage had four small massage rooms opening off the waiting area, one for the boss’ exclusive use when he was around and three for business, two of which were presently occupied. And each of the massage tables had a kick switch built into one leg that would light up a telltale on the plasma screen if the masseur was in trouble with a client. Lochlann Doran wanted his boys to have each other’s backs.

Safety in numbers. That was how it was supposed to work, right?

Except when the one who has your back is a coward.

Long-Dark-and-Chiseled nodded, then treated Perry to the sight of a luxurious stretch, all the way from fingers interlaced overhead to bare toes pointed and curled hard, the mesh muscle shirt and leather shorts in between doing little to deter speculation about what lay beneath. And leaving Perry feeling decidedly underdeveloped by comparison. Though he doubted his companion could rock a mermaid hemline the way he himself could.

“Relax while you can, baby, pace yourself.” God, Perry could listen to that voice all night. “Something tells me it’s gonna be a long night–”

The street door opened, closed.

Sweet six-pound-nine-ounce baby Jesus.

Perry sat straight up in the loathsome plastic chair, ignoring the way his ass complained, and stared. The newly-arrived client had to be at least six-five. The first things he noticed were eyes that reminded him of pictures he’d seen of glacier ice, an uncanny shade of blue. Looking into those eyes felt like grabbing on to a bare electrical wire, and when the guy shifted his gaze to Idris the Younger, Perry wanted nothing more than to grab the wire again.
But at least now he could look at the rest of the guy without anyone noticing him going slack-jawed and stupid. The client–my client, please God, I promise to be good for as long as I can stand it, just let him pick me–had hair so blond it was almost white, just long enough to show a little wave, and wore a denim jacket over a plain faded blue t-shirt and cutoff shorts.

Now the Adonis in denim was studying the menu. Perry caught himself holding his breath.

“Do you do shiatsu?”

He’s looking at me.

“Sure do.”

The blond’s smile, and his trace of an Irish accent, combined to make Perry’s shorts feel much too tight. “Anything else?”

“We can talk about that once we get started.” The standard answer. Letting a john comparison shop in the lobby used up valuable time. Besides, Perry wanted to whisper the specials into this guy’s ear.

“Sounds good to me.”

Perry unfolded himself from the torture chair, and grinned as his co-worker gave him a surreptitious thumbs-up. Don’t wait up, he wanted to say.

He turned to oh my GOD he’s tall. His own five-eight was just right for Falcon’s five-inch stilettos, but looking up at six-five without them was going to give him a pain in the neck.

Good thing he wouldn’t be looking up much longer. Unless it was while he was lying on his back. That he could handle.

 

A New Year’s question was posed in a discussion group on Facebook which I greatly enjoy – namely, how will the fight for marriage equality change things here in the States, and where will all that energy go once we’ve achieved that goal? Well, that question immediately made my lawyer hat fly out of the closet and land on my head, and rather than subject my friends in that group to a legal brief plopped down in the Comments section, I thought I’d do a blog post. *winks*

Basically, I think the next level of the fight has to move away from challenging or passing individual laws, and concentrate on driving a sea change in the way courts look at laws which discriminate against LGBT people under the Equal Protection Clause.

All discrimination isn’t unconstitutional. Laws discriminate against classes of persons all the time – for example, a 12-year-old can’t get a driver’s license, while an 18-year-old can. This is a law that classifies on the basis of age. And when a law that allegedly discriminates is challenged in court, the court applies one of three frameworks to analyze it, depending on the group that’s being discriminated against and the interest served by the law in question.

First, there’s STRICT SCRUTINY; if this standard applies, then in order for the law to be found constitutional, the government is required to show that the challenged classification serves a compelling state interest and that the classification is necessary to serve that interest. In order for strict scrutiny to be applied, the law at issue has to either create a “suspect classification” (remember that one, it’s important and I’ll get back to it eventually) or place a burden on the exercise of a “fundamental right” (also important). The term “suspect classification” is carefully defined in law, and presently includes race, national origin, religion, and alienage; “fundamental rights” include the right to vote, interstate migration, access to the courts, and various other rights. Part of the struggle of the marriage cases that have come before the Supreme Court has been to get a judicial acknowledgement that marriage is one of these “fundamental rights”, such that any law purporting to restrict the right to marry has to pass the strict scrutiny test (serving a COMPELLING state interest, and being NECESSARY to serve that interest).

Second, there’s MIDDLE-TIER SCRUTINY, under which the government is required to show that the challenged classification serves an IMPORTANT state interest (an easier thing to show than a “compelling” interest) and that the classification is at least substantially related to (as opposed to “necessary” to – again, easier for the government to prove) serving that interest. Classifications that fall into this category are referred to as “quasi-suspect classifications”, and presently include gender and illegitimacy. In the marriage cases, specifically in Windsor, the U.S. Supreme Court indicated a willingness to include sexual orientation as a quasi-suspect classification, but most analysis has proceeded under the lowest tier of constitutional review, namely:

MINIMUM (OR RATIONAL BASIS) SCRUTINY. In this tier, all the government is required to show in order to defend a discriminatory law is that the challenged classification is rationally related to serving a legitimate state interest. This is where you get all the arguments about the necessity of restricting marriage to heterosexual couples because of the state’s interest in ensuring that accidentally conceived children will be raised by both parents. And when a court uses the rational basis test, it doesn’t even need to care whether the particular justification advanced by the state makes any sense – if there’s ANY rational basis for the law, even one the court comes up with itself, then under rational basis scrutiny, it’s okay.

Now, finally, to my point… there are plenty of arenas in which LGBT people have a long way to go to achieve equality. Taking as just one example, the right to work. In 29 states, you can still be fired for being gay. If you want to challenge the law which allows that in your state, right now all the state has to prove is that the law that lets your employer get away with it is rationally related, somehow, to a state interest the court is prepared to recognize as legitimate. In other words, good luck to you. If you live in a state that includes sexual orientation or gender identity/expression in its list of quasi-suspect classifications, at least the state has to prove that its interest in discriminating against you is important, and that the law is substantially related to that interest. But in order to hold the state to that highest standard, strict scrutiny, you have to either prove that the right burdened by the law is “fundamental” – which was the argument in the marriage cases – or that sexual orientation and gender identity/expression are suspect classifications. The right to work has not been, and is highly unlikely ever to be, classified as a fundamental right. Ditto the right to housing, medical care, or the vast majority of the other rights we’re fighting for. At the very least, we have to get LGBT status included on that list of quasi-suspect classifications; ideally, though, we need to push for the judicial recognition of LGT status as a suspect classification. Once that’s accomplished, once all the discriminatory laws can be held up to strict scrutiny, they’re going to start falling. That won’t be the end of the fight by any means (it certainly wasn’t for African-Americans), but it takes one of the biggest guns out of the fight against us.

Alarming legal precedent…

Let me just start out by saying that this is NOT the post I wanted to be writing right before Christmas! — but it has the potential to be important…

 

I read a federal appellate court this morning out of Vermont that contained language I find highly alarming. The case is United States v. (Benjamin H.) Weisinger (2d Circuit 2014). Mr. Weisinger was convicted of producing and receiving child pornography, involving photographs of his girlfriend’s minor daughter. The language in the opinion that I find alarming for people in our line of work is the following:

 

“Similarly, evidence of Weisinger’s online viewing of erotic incest stories, particularly involving stepfathers and stepdaughters, was probative of his intent to produce and receive pornography involving the minor daughter of his live-in girlfriend. See United States v. Brand, 467 F.3d 179, 197 (2d Cir.2006) (holding that evidence of prior acts is probative of intent to commit charged acts if there is ‘‘similarity or some connection’’ between acts (internal quotation marks omitted)).”

 

In plain English (or as plain as this lawyer can make it), what this case is holding is that the fact that this defendant searched for and read online fictional erotic incest stories involving stepfathers and stepdaughters constituted evidence of a “prior act” (which is legal shorthand for “prior bad act”, which can be a prior crime or simply a prior “unsavory” act), and that evidence was admissible in court to prove that the defendant committed the crime charged.

 

Let me repeat: the act of searching for and reading erotic incest fiction online was considered evidence of intent to commit the crime of production of child pornography, where the victim of the crime was in an “incest-like” relationship with the defendant. (I was unable to ascertain whether the particular story cited by the court was a published story, or something on a site such as Literotica.) Sex and pornography offenses involving children have their own separate body of law, so it’s possible that this precedent might eventually be held applicable only to cases involving child sexual abuse and child pornography. But I would venture to say that most of us who write erotic fiction (and definitely those of us who write same-sex, poly, BDSM, kink/fetish, etc.) write about acts considered by some persons, and in some parts of the country, “unsavory acts”. I’m not holding my breath.

Veterans’ Day at Purgatory

MacinNam

With your kind permission, I’d like to reprint an original Purgatory short story I first ran last Veterans’ Day. This young Marine is Mac McAllan; he served in Vietnam with Kevin Almstead’s father Thomas, and now he’s a bartender at Purgatory, where his partner Lucien is the bouncer. I’ll let you learn the rest as you read….

Mac carefully set the brimful pint glass of Smithwick’s in front of the customer who had ordered it, a thin, drawn guy in a faded camo jacket.
“Thanks, what do I owe you?” The man shifted on the bar stool and reached into his hip pocket, pulling out a battered wallet and opening it up, to reveal a wad of what looked like singles, and a very familiar blue identification card.
“Active-duty retired?”
The man looked startled, but nodded. “Desert Storm, Third Armored.”
Looking the guy up and down, the bartender made a quick decision. “Then you don’t owe me anything. The club’s buying for all veterans tonight.”
“No shit?”
“Least we can do.” Hell, yes. Desert Storm was pre-Don’t-Ask-Don’t-Tell. Which meant that this guy had served most or all of his career at risk of dishonorable discharge, if anyone had discovered the secret that made him one of Purgatory’s customers.
“Did I hear you right?” This from a balding bear in leather shorts and a harness, a couple of stools down the bar. “I did three tours, USMC, last one at Camp Fuji.”
“Semper Fi, what’ll you have?”
A small crowd gathered around the bar, as word started making it around the room that the house was buying for servicemen. Mac was more than a little surprised at the number of Purgatory regulars coming forward to claim drinks. Even Miss Mona, a drag queen who probably hadn’t missed a Monday night at Purgatory in forty years, turned out to have been a pilot in Korea. My paycheck’s going to take a beating this week. Mac laughed to himself. It’s worth it.
He looked up from pouring a martini – and grinned ear-to-ear, he couldn’t help it. “Sarge! – what the hell are you doing here?”
Thomas Almstead grinned back. “You turned down my offer of a beer tonight because you were working.” He glanced around at the men crowding his son-in-law’s bar – business is good, I see – and then reached across the bar to shake the hand of the man who’d saved his ass twice in Vietnam. “So I thought I’d come to you.”
“Did I hear him call you ‘Sarge’?” The speaker was an elderly man in a pink sequined mermaid gown and pink feathered headdress. “Then you can buy a lady a drink.”
Mac grinned at the drag queen. “You need to finish your creamy Sex on the Beach, Miss Mona, then you can pester Sarge for another one.”
“Oh, poo.”
Thomas laughed. Two years ago, if anyone had told me I was going to be spending Veterans’ Day 2013 in a gay nightclub run by my son-in-law, I would have… well, I’m not sure what I would have done. Questioning sanity would have been high on the list, though. Then he leaned across the bar, as Mac motioned to him. “Looks like they really needed you tonight,” he commented, before the bartender could speak. From what Thomas remembered from dinner conversations with Tiernan and Kevin, Monday nights were usually fairly quiet at Purgatory. Tonight was, apparently, an exception.
Mac’s gaze swept the group clustered around the bar. “Well, it’s my own fault. I decided to pick up the tab for any vets in the house tonight. Who’d have thought there were so many?”
“You decided to –“
“Hey, bartender!”
Mac rolled his eyes as a gaggle – there really was no other word for it – of boys who looked barely out of their teens waived at him. “Excuse me just a second, Sarge. I need to go card a few people.”
Thomas frowned in thought as Mac moved off down the bar, a slight spring in one step from the carbon fibre blade prosthetic leg he was sporting, then turned away from the bar and crossed the club, carefully skirting the edge of the pit full of black leather furniture and knocking on the nearly-invisible door on the far side of it.
Tiernan looked up, startled, from the computer monitor displaying his rotation of security cameras. “What the particular fuck?” Most people didn’t know his office door was there, and the ones who did generally didn’t bother to knock. He unfolded himself from behind the desk and went to the door, pushing it open. “Mr. Almstead!”
“I thought we’d agreed on ‘Thomas’, at least.” The human shook his head, chuckling briefly, before turning serious again. “I just wanted to let you know what your bartender’s up to.”
“Mac? Is something wrong?” Tiernan craned his neck to look past Thomas and over to the bar, but he couldn’t see the bartender over the unusual-for-a-Monday-night crowd.
“He’s picking up the tab for all the veterans in the club tonight. Even though he was discharged other than honorably himself.” Thomas shook his head, apparently at Tiernan’s confused expression. “An other than honorable discharge, back in our day, meant no benefits, no retirement, nothing. All because some rat bastard of a second lieutenant saw him holding hands with Lucien, off base, and Mac was too damned honorable to lie about it when they called him on it.”
Tiernan growled under his breath. He tended to do that, when reminded of what Mac had gone through. His husband had grown up on his father’s stories of his Marine Corps friend – hell, Kevin had been named for him, ‘Mac’ McAllan’s given name was Kevin – and the Fae tended to think of the bartender as one of the members of the extended family he’d managed to acquire when he SoulShared with Kevin. “Thanks for letting me know.”
“Mac. Over here.”
Startled, Mac, turned away from the group of just-barely-legals, to find his boss standing behind the bar, drumming the fingers of his gloved hand on the glass surface. “What’s up?”
“I’m told you’re buying for all these gentlemen.”
Mac cleared his throat. “Well, yes. It’s Veterans’ Day. Seemed only right.”
Tiernan frowned.
Mac wiped suddenly sweaty palms on his jeans. “It’s my own money –“
“What seems right to me,” Tiernan cut in, his voice raised, “is that your customers know that you served as honorably as any of them, you saved my father-in-law’s life, and you’re fucking well taking the rest of the night off.”
Mac felt himself turning bright red. On the far side of the bar, he caught a glimpse of Sarge, nodding at Tiernan, and customers staring. He’d never talked much about his service. Bartenders were supposed to listen, not talk, and most of the memories were still too painful. But looking into the eyes of one customer after another, he was sorry he’d kept it to himself for so long.
“Go on.” Tiernan made a shooing motion. “I’ve got the bar.”
A little dazed, Mac skirted the far end of the bar and made his way back to where Sarge and the others were waiting for him. He felt hands clapping him on the back and shoulders and Miss Mona tiptoeing to kiss his cheek as he shook Sarge’s hand. “You ratted me out.”
“Guilty.” The former first sergeant didn’t even try to look embarrassed.
“Look, I know this isn’t really your kind of place. If you want to go somewhere else –“
“Hell, no.” Thomas looked around at the men clustered around them. “None of you jarheads have heard any of my stories yet…”

SoulShares4

Two years.
It’s been two years since HARD AS STONE, the first SoulShares novel – and my first book – debuted on Amazon. And a lot of other places. Two years since I first fell victim to “check Amazon sales rankings every two minutes” syndrome – fruitlessly, as it turned out, since somehow HARD AS STONE had been classified as horror >> occult, and I at this point didn’t know enough to double-check the categories. To this day I wonder what might have happened, if a customer had sought SALEM’S LOT and found instead a very randy bad-boy Fae…
A lot of things have changed in two years. For one thing, my publishers now know where my books go. *winks* Basically, I’ve turned into one of the magicians I spent most of my life watching with awe…. an extremely junior sorcerer’s apprentice, mind you, but still a member of the same lodge.
Just for fun, I thought I’d share something with you that shows just how far this journey’s taken me. HARD AS STONE grew out of a very short story I wrote for a role-play writer’s competition on Facebook. “The Door” is how HARD AS STONE, and all the rest of it, started…. and here’s how “The Door” started, three years ago.

“Kevin, what the fuck are you doing?”
A low, throaty purr was all the answer I got, as my lover’s hand continued to twist itself into my long blond hair and draw my head back. Hell of a way to wake up, and I groaned as the other hand improved on it by gliding down my chest until it found my gold nipple ring and twisting. “Say the word and I’ll stop.” His breath was hot in my ear, his tongue hotter.
“Is the word ‘fuck you’?” I tried to turn my head, managed to catch a glimpse of dark eyes, sleep-tousled black hair, and a sexy smirk before my head was wrenched back around. I sucked in a breath as he flicked the ring with a fingertip. This was so not like my human…not that my cock had any objections, it was begging for someone to get a grip on it. I reached down, curled my hand around the rigid length, and started a slow stroking, rolling my palm over the head on the upstrokes.
“It kills me to watch you do that.” The hard tip of his tongue traced around my ear. “That’s why you do it, isn’t it?” His chuckle was low and rich; on the rare occasions when I heard it, it always reminded me of dark chocolate.
“No, that’s just a bonus, it’s really all about the orgasms.” My mouth curved up in a smirk of my own, one that became a gasp as Kevin twisted the ring again, harder this time. What the fuck was going on? One of the things I truly loved about this human was the way there was always a hint of reluctance when I took him in my arms, hesitation before every kiss. I’d been his first male lover, after all.
And what a piece-of-shit coincidence it was that the delectable arsehole virgin had held the other half of my soul. If I hadn’t been unable to resist a perfect arse and a sensual mouth that night, I’d still be both immortal and invulnerable, as a Fae evicted from the Other Realm should be. But no, I’d had to see all that Armani as a challenge, and now I had to live with the result…
“Well, fuck me blind.” Kevin was rolling me onto my back, kneeing my legs apart, with a grin that said I was going to need serious recovery time in the hot tub.
“Are you a mind-reader?” Kevin smiled…
And for an instant, there was something else in those dark eyes. A plea, wild, desperate –
But it was gone, whatever it was, as quickly as I thought it had come. And Kevin’s warm hand was wrapped firmly around my shaft, his mouth was busy at my throat, and the smooth hot head of my human’s cock was making preliminary inquiries between my arse cheeks. “Shite,” I breathed, my head falling back. Unusual my lover’s behavior might be, but fuck if it wasn’t perfectly suited to my mood.
“That’s in, lanan, let me in,” Kevin crooned, using the Fae word for “lover” that I favored as he gripped and positioned himself. “Let me in…”
I relaxed – as best I could when my whole body was tensed in anticipation of pleasure – hissed as the thick head of Kevin’s cock forced its way past my ring, dry except for a few of his own warm drops. My eyes tried to roll back in my head, but instead I looked up, meeting my lover’s dark eyes.
Too dark. Black. Flat, sullen black. And I was falling into them. Losing myself.

I was… someplace else. A sense of near infinity, and yet a prison cell.

Before a Fae’s instinctive reaction to imprisonment – blind panic – could take over, I heard a soft sobbing. Kevin. What the hell?

Now I could see. And it was obvious where I was. If I had given any thought to what the inside of Kevin’s mind would look like, I might have conjured something like this; a comfortable study, the walls lined with bookshelves, both law books and the lameass fantasy shit my lover kept trying to get me hooked on. Like that was ever going to happen.

But… there was an air of decay hanging over everything. As if the fabric of the place was rotting, and any minute now a shelf or a chair or the floor would split apart and reveal the corruption underlying the façade. And the sound again… I turned, and a shudder ran through me. Kevin sat huddled in a wingback chair, arms wrapped around himself. His skin was grayish and clammy, his face drawn, his eyes sunken, his dark hair matted. And he wouldn’t meet my eyes, turned resolutely away. “Kevin…”

A laugh came from the area of the fireplace, a cold dead laugh. “Your toy is brave, Tiernan Guaire. He thought he could fight the Mhionbhrú.”

A teaser from BOUND IN OAK

Muirfinn18

What with the uncertainties of life at a Certain Unnamed Publishing House, it’s been a very long time since my last release. So I thought I’d tease you all with just a little bit of BOUND IN OAK…. you’re welcome….

 

Muirfinn ran his fingertips slowly down Cass’ chest, watching their progress as if he had never seen anything more fascinating. I have never touched a man, nor been touched by one. Not like this. Not in the years I can remember, not in the centuries I have forgotten. Never.
“But your darag…”
Muirfinn laid a hand gently over Cass’ mouth. I have not forgotten my darag. I cannot. But I, too, have needs. Even if I am almost too late in discovering them. With his free hand, he caught Cass’ wrist, placed Cass’ hand on his chest, fair against the tanned skin. Cass could feel the strong, rapid beat of the spirit’s heart, the tickle of the dusting of fine dark hair.
Touch me. Learn me. Remember me.

 

 

Greetings from MBLU!

MBLU

In just a few more hours, I’ll be off to Midwestern Book Lovers Unite! Where I’m looking forward to putting a lot of faces to names I’ve only known online so far, and socializing with a few hundred other romance aficionadas! If you’re one of them, finding this page for the first time, welcome! — have a look around, check out the book links and my post library… and enjoy an excerpt from my current work in progress, Bound in Oak, the third novella in the Tales of the Grove series.

 

Cass Argall felt naked.
He wasn’t, of course. He was perfectly sensibly dressed for the weather BBC.com had told him to expect, in a black woolen pea-coat he’d dug out of a bin in a charity shop back home in Bridgeport last winter. He hoped he looked at least a little authentically Scottish, but he was willing to settle for not looking authentically like the fucking idiot who had been locked out of his own apartment and his own bank account, forced to scavenge other people’s cast-offs.
BBC.com, unfortunately, hadn’t managed to convey the entire experience of going for a stroll less than half a kilometer from the western coast of Scotland’s Isle of Lewis on a wet February morning. Cass was pretty sure pneumonia was going to be his next great adventure.
“Are ye sure ye’r a’richt?” The estate agent tilted her head as she looked at him, like a sociable bird.
“Fine.” Cass pulled the lapels of the jacket closer around his throat and tried not to sound surly. The weather wasn’t Ainslee MacDonald’s fault, and neither was his touch of agoraphobia. “I’m fine. Just a little jet-lagged still.”
The curly-haired young woman looked dubious, but seemed willing to take him at his word. “I dinnae ken how ye cuid hae done it, cooped up in a plane sae lang.” She glanced around, at the sullen grey sky and the tumbled, rugged landscape. The comforting bulk of Mealisval, a very large hill the maps charitably called a mountain, was behind them and their path was strewn with rocks, from boulder-sized to gravel.
Cass could already hear the sea, or he thought he could, and the thought of all that open space made him sweat despite the chill in the air. “I don’t see very many trees,” he blurted, grimacing as the wind caught his words and scattered them.
“That’s an odd thing tae be noticing.” Ainslee–Miss MacDonald, as she’d assured him with a flirtatious flutter of lashes when she’d turned up at the bed and breakfast a half hour ago. “But ye’r right, they dinna care tae grow against the wind.”
Either the estate agent’s accent was becoming less pronounced, or Cass was having an easier time understanding her. He suspected the latter, as she probably wasn’t toning down the brogue. Just the opposite, she was doing her best to be charming. In an innocent way he might have fallen hard for, had Miss MacDonald been a Mister.
Except, of course, that he would do no such thing. Never again.
“Then why did Uncle Eonan call his estate Last Oak?” He realized as he asked that he was genuinely curious. The phone call three weeks ago had been short on details–his mother’s uncle had passed away last summer, Cass was his only living heir, sorry for how long it had taken to find him, and would he be willing to come take a look at the property to decide whether it was to be sold?
“Estate?” Ainslee laughed delightedly. Cass tried not to flinch. “That’s far tae grand a word for an auld blackhouse, though I don’t doubt it would have pleased him to hear it called such.”
They both leaned into a sudden gust, and Cass found himself acutely nostalgic for the cozy comforts of his bed and breakfast. Even a car would have been nice, but he hadn’t dared to rent one and Ainslee had left hers at the bed and breakfast, pointing out that the road didn’t come close to going all the way to the sea.
“Even stranger, then.” Cass gave up trying not to gasp with the damp chill. Let Miss MacDonald think him a soft American. He was a soft American, one who avoided the cold winter winds off Lake Michigan whenever possible. “Why give a name to a–did you call it a blackhouse?”
“Aye, richt enough.” Ainslee’s sensible wellies crunched dirt and gravel underfoot. “An auld form of house in this part of Scotland, built of earth and stone and low tae th’ ground. Nae sense in standing up tae th’ wind.” She laughed again, as if she’d told a good joke. “And Eonan MacKinnon didnae give the name tae th’ house. Nor a’body else, for that matter. It’s always been such.”
Last Oak. Thinking about the name helped distract Cass from too much contemplation of the wide cold emptiness around him, and of the way it seemed to be getting wider and colder and emptier the closer he got to his destination. The name sounded…wild. Romantic. And from what little his mother had ever said, her uncle Eonan had been neither. He remembered a single photo in a family album, taken on his mother’s single childhood trip to Scotland to visit her kinfolk. Uncle Eonan had been a beanpole of a man, towering over the little girl beside him, one large hand resting awkwardly on her shoulder, as the two of them squinted into the camera. And hadn’t they been standing under a thick-trunked tree?He thought so, but it had been a long time since he’d been welcome in the house where that album sat on the coffee table.
“An’ thare it’s!”
Ainslee had reached the top of a slight rise ahead of him and was looking down the other side. Cass hurried to catch up to her.
And stopped, staring, the salt-smelling wind tugging insistently at his shaggy blond hair and his coat. The sea was still some way off, but the only thing between him and the vast expanse of it was a stone house, long and low to the ground, just as described, with a thatched roof and a chimney at either end. The mostly-bare branches of the crown of a tree were visible on the far side of the house. Cass’ heart raced at the sight, and he wasn’t sure why. It couldn’t have been the giant tree he remembered from the picture, and surely couldn’t be the oak the place had been named for.
Yet he felt drawn. He was winded by the time he reached the front door, set into the side of the house facing the sea and guarded by the young tree. He stopped to catch his breath, one hand on the doorjamb, waiting for the estate agent to catch up. From this side of the house, he could see how the land fell away to the ocean, the surf crashing against rocks and sending up spray. He even dared a look out across the water at the rows of white crests riding steel-gray waves to be broken on the rocks, one after another.
The whistle of the wind through the branches over his head called his attention back to the tree. An oak, a young one. Growing out of the split and weathered and rotted remains of a once-mighty trunk. Cass knelt, running a hand over one of the bits of greyed wood sticking up out of the stony earth like shards of wooden teeth, and smiling as a tingle ran up his arm. He loved working with ‘found’ wood for his sculptures. It was so easy to believe stories were buried in it, running with the grain, and all he had to do was set the stories free–
“I see ye’ve found the auld oak.”

 

******

CassArgall1

This, by the way, is Cass…

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