Tag Archive: Mac McAllan


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The Fae of the SoulShares would love to heat up your Valentine’s Day!

Start off with HARD AS STONE (Tiernan and Kevin), at Amazon (http://ow.ly/YidsD), Barnes & Noble (http://ow.ly/Yidzd), Kobo (http://ow.ly/YidF0), All Romance eBooks (http://ow.ly/YidPb), and Riverdale Avenue Books (http://ow.ly/YidZe)

and then move on to

GALE FORCE (Conall and Josh)
DEEP PLUNGE (Lochlann and Garrett)
FIRESTORM (Cuinn and Rian)
BLOWING SMOKE (Lasair and Bryce)
MANTLED IN MIST (Fiachra and Peri)

And while you’re shopping, don’t forget to pre-order WOLF, BECOMING, my Russian shape-shifter novella from Dreamspinner Press – available February 24, and on 25 percent off sale at Dreamspinner through February 15!

Amazon (http://ow.ly/Yi87B), Barnes & Noble (http://ow.ly/YieAl), Kobo (http://ow.ly/YievT), All Romance eBooks (http://ow.ly/YidSo), and Dreamspinner Press (http://ow.ly/YieDB)

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Rhoann3SergeHenir

Good afternoon, Snippetteers! — I sincerely hope it’s warmer where you are than it is where I am. My snippet for this week is from my work in progress, UNDERATOW (SoulShares #7). In this passage (seven sentences, again, an extra one for luck), Rhoann is swimming around his temporary home in Central Park, in seal form, trying to figure out what’s going on in his head. And other places. Rhoann’s lived alone for most of his life, and he’s been perfectly happy that way. But meeting Mac has been the catalyst for changes he doesn’t understand…

********

Desire was supposed to make a Fae stronger. It was making Rhoann confused.

Other strange emotions were rising in him as well, like deep-water dwellers rising out of the heart of the Domhnacht Rúnda, where nothing had lived until their rising. Being around Conall, and the other Fae and their humans, put Rhoann on edge, made him uneasy. But being with Mac was different. As much as Rhoann’s newly-awakened desires made him feel a stranger to himself, Mac’s presence was also… comfortable. Comforting.

********

Links for the week —

Rainbow Snippets, on Facebook — for many more LGBTQIA goodies — https://www.facebook.com/groups/RainbowSnippets/

And the pre-order link for “Wolf, Becoming,” my Russian shapeshifter novella at Dreamspinner Press, where it’s 25 percent off through February 15 — http://ow.ly/Yi87B

Welcome, Snippetteers! Today’s offering is another slice of SoulShares #7, UNDERTOW. And I managed to keep it down to six sentences this time! The POV character for this snippet is Rhoann, a Water Fae and a healer.

********

So what was this, that he felt for Mac, if not love or a desire he had never known? This emotion so strong, he was determined to spend whatever of his own magick it might cost to heal a stranger, because doing so would make Mac’s heart sing.

Yet he suspected his own heart might sing as well, were he to see Lucien’s eyes open. To learn their color, let them wake emotion in him.

The cost of that song? Spending magick for a stranger, the way his mother had once spent magick for him.

********

And a couple of links to wrap things up…

Rainbow Snippets on Facebook (for many more LGBT goodies): http://ow.ly/XJttm

MANTLED IN MIST (SoulShares #6) (so you can meet Mac and Lucien): http://ow.ly/XJrYe

Roann2

Hello, Snippetteers! Meet my muse for Rhoann, the Fae main character from UNDERTOW (SoulShares #7), my current work-in-progress. In this snippet (seven sentences again, sorry!), Mac McAllan, the Marine Corps vet who saved Kevin Almstead’s father’s life in Vietnam, is visiting the hole in the ground where Purgatory used to be; most of the site’s been cleared, but he’s just found a duffel bag in the remaining debris that belongs to his partner, Lucien de Winter, the club’s bouncer. Lucien’s been hospitalized since the explosion, in a coma.

********

The bag’s zipper still worked, kind of. Enough to let Mac get a hand inside. He reached in and closed his fist around something soft, worked it out through the gap.

The light attached to the pylon was enough to let him see what he’d grabbed. A t-shirt, ragged even before it had been put through the hell of a gas explosion and a collapsing building, the sleeves ripped out to accommodate a pair of biceps hard enough to deliver a knockout blow all by themselves and massive enough to need their own zip code.

Feel safe at night — sleep with a Marine.

Fuck, Mac hated to cry.

********

And a couple of links for you —

the Rainbow Snippets Facebook group, for more fabulous snippets of LGBTQ fiction: https://www.facebook.com/groups/RainbowSnippets/

And if you want to find out what happened to Purgatory, here’s the Amazon buy link for MANTLED IN MIST, last week’s snippet donor: http://ow.ly/XroXE

Flashback to 1979 — UNDERTOW

GM-500-x-604-NO-background

It feels so gosh darned good to be writing characters a little bit closer to my own age… in tonight’s (completely unedited but hopefully typo-free) excerpt from the WIP, we get to spend some time with a 20-year-old Lucien, whom we presently know as the barrel-chested, massive-biceped bouncer at Purgatory, and a 30-year-old Mac, Purgatory’s bouncer, who at this point in his life is still a United States Marine attached to Walter Reed Hospital. Enjoy!

*******

Lucien let tbe barbells drop to the floor with a thump that would have pissed off anyone living downstairs, if he didn’t have a basement apartment. His biceps were burning, his triceps felt like a couple of bags of dead mice, and his lats and his pecs weren’t speaking to him or to each other. But damn, it all felt good. And the aches wouldn’t last long, none of his aches and pains ever did. Though a shower would feel amazing right now.

His legs made a ripping sound as he stood up, sweaty skin peeling away from the cheap vinyl of what passed for his weight bench. It would be nice to be able to afford a gym membership, but there was no way, not on a part-time grease monkey’s wages. Small-time service station owners weren’t making the killing everyone thought they were, this summer of ‘crisis of confidence’. National malaise. Whatever. So until he could figure out how to print money, he was on his own, trying to keep up with Mac.

Just the thought of Mac made him grin like an idiot as he headed for the john. His boyfriend was getting some killer workouts lately, part of a new program he’d been assigned to. Mac had already been built when they’d met, and Lucien had always been hot for military types. But Mac was part of a team at Walter Reed that was working on ways to get amputees healthy and keep them that way. And Mac was incredibly fucking healthy.

Lucien shucked off his muscle tee as he headed for the shower. Wearing it in the first place was kind of a pain in the ass. Even below ground, D.C. was hotter than hell in August; he couldn’t afford air conditioning, either, and all the little fan in the corner did was move the hot humid air around. But he was just fastidious enough not to want to leave his short-and-curlies all over everything.

Fastidious. Hell. He was a fussy twenty-year-old queen. Furry cub. And wannabe gym rat.

Laughing, he reached into the shower. The rotating handle sounded like glass being raked down a chalkboard; tepid water sluiced over his hand.

A fist banged on his front door.

Lucien turned the water off, ignoring the screech. “Who is it?”

“It’s me, Lucien. Mac.”

He’d never heard his Marine boyfriend’s voice sound like that before. Like someone was trying to choke him. Lucien sprinted to the door — not like he had far to go, calling his place an ‘efficiency’ was dignifying it — unlocked it, and swung the door wide.

Mac stood there in the dank hallway, scalp gleaming under his regulation brush cut in the light from the crap bare bulb overhead, in what Lucien guessed were the uniform khakis he wore on duty. Guessed, because apart from the day they’d met, Mac hadn’t dared to be seen with him in uniform. Lucien understood. The facts of life were harsh, for a gay man in the United States Marine Corps in the Year of Our Lord Nineteen Hundred and Seventy-Nine.

And underneath a sheen of sweat, Mac was as pale as paste. “Can I come in?” It sounded like he was having trouble breathing.

What the hell? “Yeah, sure.”

Lucien headed straight for the kitchenette as Mac walked past him. He didn’t have much on hand in the way of food, but alongside the round cardboard oatmeal box and the green box of elbow macaroni in the cupboard was a half-full bottle of Jack Daniels. He grabbed it, and two glasses — Foghorn Leghorn and Pepe le Pew, courtesy of Jack’s Sunoco — and turned around.

Mac stood in the middle of the room, surrounded by the weight bench and the old armchair and the TV set on the chest of drawers and the mattress and box spring, both of them on the floor because Lucien had never been able to figure out why he should bother putting them on anything. And Mac looked as lost as anyone Lucien had ever seen.

Lucien glanced around; not seeing anyplace better, he set the bottle and glasses on the floor and went to Mac. To his boyfriend. As bizarre as that sounded to him. Hesitantly he reached up and rested his hands on Mac’s shoulders, and winced as the taller man flinched. “What is it? Did something happen?”

It almost seemed like Mac hadn’t heard him, for a few seconds. And when he finally spoke, it was like he was remembering how. “Major Rawlings called me into his office, right after lunch.”

Mac didn’t sound like he wanted to go on, and Lucien sure as hell didn’t want to say anything stupid like “And?” or “So?” So he gritted his teeth and waited, and wondered if maybe he should try to grab the bottle.

“He told me… that he had photographic evidence that I’d engaged in conduct unbecoming a member of the armed forces.” Mac’s voice was hoarse. Soft. Like he didn’t want to hear what he was saying. “That my court-martial will be convening the second week of September.”

Ad Campaign for Purgatory

This just HAS to be an ad for Purgatory. I think that’s even Mac behind the bar…

Purgatory Ad

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…”

Remember when summer was about sleeping as late as you could get away with, biking to the library once a week, and spending as much of the remaining time as you could curled up in your secret private reading nook, devouring one book after another at a pace that made the librarian assume you were the supplier for your entire family?

I wish that had been my summer. Really. Instead, mostly I just heaved a great big ol’ sigh of relief when I tore August off the calendar. Here’s why…

My original contract for the SoulShares was for four books — Hard as Stone, Gale Force, Deep Plunge, and Firestorm. And it specified that I had 15 months to turn in all four books. Now, if I were able to write full-time, that would have been no sweat. But between the Evil Day Job and my family obligations, I generally only have a few hours a night to write. So after four books in 15 months (plus a couple of novellas), I was a great big stressball. But I had a new publisher who really, really wanted the fifth SoulShares novel, so I kept pushing, and turned in the manuscript for Blowing Smoke at the beginning of June. Then there was a short story to write, to submit for a Dreamspinner Press anthology (look for “Ilya and the Wolf” in Celebrate! — the Dreamspinner Press 2014 Advent Calendar anthology, and also as a stand-alone story, the beginning of December!). (Yes, it’s shifters. *grins* You’re welcome.)

Then July happened. I had to move, and downsized from a house to an apartment in a suburb a half-hour’s drive away, chosen because it was close enough to my son’s college that he could commute by bus and because they would let me keep my elderly golden-retriever mix, Fiona, and my Cornish Rex kitty, Grace O’Malley. One (small) carload at a time, we moved that house, all through the month of July. Three days before the final move, Fiona died. (Needless to say, between being burned out and dealing with the move and my sweet girl, not much writing happened in July…)

Then August happened. I started writing again (Bound in Oak, Tales of the Grove #3). The publisher with which Blowing Smoke had been resting comfortably since June announced that it was terminating all its freelance editors, including mine, and that all outstanding manuscripts would be reassigned to its staff of in-house editors. Now, there’s a very good reason why I became a lawyer rather than an accountant, but some numbers even I can crunch, and I realized that I would undoubtedly be an old(er) gray(er) lady by the time SoulShares #5, which had not yet gotten as far as first edits, saw the light of day. So I exercised my contractual right to pull the manuscript… and on Labor Day I sent it off to another potential home. Any and all crossed fingers, good wishes, prayers, and the like will be greatly appreciated, and hopefully I’ll have good news to report in a couple of months!

Now it’s September. I’m still working away at Bound in Oak (which may end up being a working title only, as Ellora’s Cave only wants titles to contain the word “Bound” if they’re BDSM titles, which this definitely isn’t), which I hope to have done by mid-October. And come visit me at the Midwestern Book Lovers Unite Conference, September 26 to 28, at the Minneapolis Airport Marriott — http://midwesternbookloversunite.wordpress.com/ — I’m hosting a table at the Dinner with the Authors, and I know this really great Mongolian restaurant five minutes from the hotel….

And finally… you’ve been waiting so long, and so patiently, for Blowing Smoke, it would be remiss of me not to leave you with at least a taste. Enjoy! — and comment!

 

 

Chapter Four

Greenwich Village
New York City

The first thing Lasair saw when he opened his eyes in the human world was an ass. A very nice, scantily-clad ass, although he might have been more appreciative if his face wasn’t bumping into it every few seconds. And if he felt even a little less as if he’d just been run over by the King’s best racing chariot and its entire eight-horse team. Over the thunder of his heartbeat in his own ears, he heard a muffled thumping noise and occasional grunts.

And a whimper. Culin was somewhere nearby.

Tipping his head back, Lasair saw a staircase, dull grey wood. Arching back as far as he could–not far, thanks to the chains–he could see as far as the floor at the bottom of the stairs.

He blinked. The floor glowed faintly, in the auroral hue of pure unbound magick. Not possible.

“Great, you’re awake.” The baritone voice was slightly out of breath, and the speaker sounded more than slightly put out. “Would you mind holding still until I get you upstairs? I’d rather not drop you on your head, you’d probably pull me down with you.”

I beg your pardon for occupying space. Lasair bit his tongue, kept the words to himself, and let his head drop. He could feel an arm now, wrapped around his thighs.

The jarring stopped, and he heard the creak of a door opening. His own personal scenery remained pretty much the same, but with poorer lighting. Then another door. Light. Furniture half-glimpsed, and other doors.

“Oh, fuck. The one door I forgot about.”

The floor suddenly came a head closer, and Lasair got a glimpse of beautifully muscled calves as his bearer bent his knees. There was a click, and another door opening.

Then, suddenly, Lasair was lying on his back, with Culin at his side. On a bed, he presumed. He was getting tired of presuming. The chains were bad enough–truesilver chains were forged to burn in the presence of a channeling, and they surely did–but being trussed like a roast made it much worse. He strained to sit up, but the chains made it impossible to do more than raise his head and shoulders.

Which was enough to let him see where he was, and who had carried him up the stairs. He was in a small bed-chamber, lit by pale sunlight from a single window. The first human male he had ever seen looked down at him, wearing nothing but short trousers of some soft fabric and a deep frown. His hair was nearly dark enough to be chort-gruag, bark-hair, like the tree folk out of legend. But on this male, it was nothing to be scorned. It suited him. So did his mustache, a rarity among Fae. Eyes of dark green watched him warily, glancing every so often at Culin.

He must be ravishing when he smiles.

“Do you have a key to those chains, or do I need to cut them off?” The male’s voice was rough, almost harsh.

“If I had a key, believe me, I wouldn’t be in this situation.” Lasair winced. He didn’t remember most of his transition, other than the agony of the beginning of it, but whatever had happened to him after that had left his head feeling as hollow as the inside of a great bell. And any word, any sound from him was a mallet pounding on the bell.

“All right. Wait here.” The male’s stare raked him from his head to his feet; he put up a dark brow, turned, and left the bedchamber.

Culin whined softly.

“It’s all right.” Lasair murmured. “It’s going to be all right, tréan-cú.” He had called Culin strong, a strong hound, since the pup’s birth. Names channeled power, even names given by one with little magick of his own.

Now all I have to do is be right.

When the male reappeared, he was carrying a long-handled pincers with a metal beak. This he fitted to the chains, and started to bear down on the handles. Doing so brought out splendidly defined arm muscles and a thin sheen of sweat. I would give my left nut not to feel like I’ve been pounded flat and scraped up off the stable floor right now.

“These are stronger than they look.” The male checked the wicked beak of the pincers, running long, slender fingers over the cutting edges as if he expected to find them notched by the chain.

Humans were very different from the way Fae lore drew them, at least if they were all like this one. This male was as handsome as any Fae, in his way, and the measuring intelligence in his gaze was as exciting as his strange beauty. “They’re meant to be. But you ought to be able to cut them.” Now that the links had no magick running through them, and had been given no new purpose to know.

One dark brow went up as the male re-set the pincers. “Mind if I ask what you were doing chained up in my basement at six in the morning?”

“Yes.” Shit, I should have expected that. One thing the old stories weren’t going to tell him was what humans thought of Fae, several thousand years after their parting of ways. Even the most trusting Fae–assuming such an exotic creature existed anywhere–would be skeptical under the circumstances. And he had even less reason to be trusting than most.

Why had he forgotten that?

Veterans’ Day at Purgatory

Here’s a little story, with gratitude to all who have served, and who still serve. Including my nephew — I’m a proud Army aunt!

                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 on the house.”

                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…”