Dragon + Genie = Passion
Dragon + Genie + Crazy Ex = Fear/Triumph
Dragon + Dragon + Genie = Attempted Murder
Dragon + Genie + Genie = Immortality
Dragon + Genie = Passion
Dragon + Genie + Crazy Ex = Fear/Triumph
Dragon + Dragon + Genie = Attempted Murder
Dragon + Genie + Genie = Immortality
Please welcome Ash Penn.
What’s your latest release? Tell us about it.
My latest book is called Scarlet Stilettos and is available from Loose Id. It’s a romance between a trans woman and a gay man. Here’s the blurb:
Although Laine Lawson is physically male, she’s spent much of her life expressing the feminine side of her nature. She’s also well-skilled at hiding her romantic feelings for her best friend.
Life’s sweet for waiter and ex-stripper Tony Barton. He’s met a guy who’s everything he wants in a lover, both in and out of bed. Will Thompson isn’t the love of Tony’s life, but he’s fun and doesn’t take their relationship too seriously. At least, not until Will discovers Tony’s best friend isn’t quite as she seems.
When Laine’s ex-boyfriend contacts her about a past she’d sooner forget, and with Will’s jealousy threatening her friendship with Tony, the only thing she can do is run.
Her absence forces Tony into acknowledging his feelings for Laine aren’t entirely platonic. But Laine’s a woman, no matter what lies beneath her skirt. They might have shared one night together when they first met, but that was business. A relationship could never work, even if she hadn’t disappeared.
After Laine makes a major life-changing decision, she returns home to say goodbye. But Tony can’t say goodbye back. He can’t say much at all, not with Will doing the talking for him.
The novel is a follow on from the short story I wrote for my writing group’s anthology a couple of years ago. Trick of the Night is told from the point of view of Tony, a stripper dabbling in prostitution. I needed a first client for him, and Laine is the result.
Scarlet Stilettos carries on about a year where Trick of the Night left off. It details how Tony and Laine go from friends to lovers. It’s a long journey for them, and I wanted to show both characters’ vulnerabilities as well as their strengths. At the time the novel takes place, Tony is in a relationship with Will and Laine is coming to terms with the fact that the man she loves (Tony) will never see her in a romantic light. That changes as the story progresses, but it’s not until Laine goes missing that Tony realises he’s in love with her too, despite their differences. Both characters go through some pretty traumatic times before finally reuniting. I admit I put the pair of them through hell, but I’m hoping the result is a page turner. As the story is about 105k long, there are a lot of digital pages to turn.
What are the challenges and rewards of writing transgender romance?
First of all, when I was looking for transgender erotic romances to see how other authors wrote them, I found that there weren’t that many on the market. I found a few that involved crossing-dressing, which wasn’t really what I was looking for.
Initially, I intended Laine to be a gender-fluid character, but when I started writing her she had other ideas. Her gender is definitely female, but she chooses not to undergo surgery. She doesn’t outright reject her physical body, but she has no desire to be male. The problem is she tends to fall for gay men. Her first serious lover refused to accept her any part of her femininity, and Tony sees her as completely female. I wanted to bring the two characters together because of their love for each other, irrespective of gender. At first I wasn’t sure if it would be possible. I wasn’t sure if there were people out there whose gender and sex didn’t line up, but who could still find acceptance within themselves without hormones or surgery.
The greatest challenge was always being conscious of the ability to offend and obviously wanting to avoid that at all costs. Laine’s head was fairly easy to get into, probably more so than Tony’s.
Many authors write people different from themselves in so many ways. For example, when I started writing gay romance I talked to all my gay male friends for almost six months before I ever submitted a story. And whenever I start a story about a topic I don’t understand, I talk to those who do. How do you conduct your research?
I didn’t do any research into the transgender aspects of this story until after I’d finished writing. And only then did I check out various forums to see if I’d made any glaring errors. I was surprised by how many people don’t go opt for surgery, and that’s how I wrote Laine who has reconciled d her gender to her physical body. There was a reason I did my checks after I’d written the book, mainly because I didn’t want to turn Laine into a checklist, or textbook case. I wanted her to be an individual, and that her feelings and emotion and choices are hers. I didn’t want her (or me) to come across as preachy. And I didn’t want the transgender aspect to be the sole focus of the story.
Generally though, I don’t research people. My characters usually come to me most of the way fully formed so I have a good idea of who they are and what they want right away. The only research I tend to do will be information places, jobs and rules and regulations that sort of thing. Right now I’m researching the NHS (National Health Service) and issues concerning care funding for people with brain injuries.
How long have you been writing, and why did you start?
I’ve always written, for as long as I can remember anyway. I first started writing gay fiction in the early nineties. At the time I read a lot of paranormal and sci-fi, so that’s the kind of thing I wrote. I tend to write more contemporary fiction now, although I have dabbled with vampires. I also have an idea for a new paranormal book I hope to start later this year.
Writing provides a bit of escapism for me. I’ve always had quite an active imagination, and writing is the best way I know to indulge that side of my brain.
Do you have other hobbies or interests that influence your writing? (i.e. cooking, politics, 4-H)
I don’t really have time for other hobbies/interests. Writing takes up the majority of my time. If I did, though, I’d probably use those other interests as excuses not to write when a story gets difficult. I like to walk, just for the exercise aspect if nothing else. Walking helps me think, especially when I get stuck on a certain part of a story. In my case, it’s usually the end that takes a lot of working out. I’ve also been mulling over the idea of taking some painting classes, just to stimulate some other creative areas of my brain.
Where are you published?
I am published with Loose Id and Totally Bound. I have a new story coming out from Totally Bound called Chasing the Dragon, which is on early-release from 4th April and general release from 2nd May.
Come visit with Autumn Montague and her Regency, living vampires.
Autumn Montange says: Yes, I will give away a book to anyone who leaves a comment.
Blood Sworn: Salva Me blurb:
England, 1816. A nosferatu, a rogue vampire, hunts unchecked through Sussex. Jeremy Takeshi Colbourne is honor-bound by ancestral duty to find and destroy such madmen. Foremost among the vampires of England, he must find a way to ensure the safety of the English citizens and the Nosferii that live among them. Then Jeremy and his blood-host Morgan Holland discover a brutally savaged girl. With this latest victim of the nosferatu, Jeremy realizes the time has come to make Morgan aware of the Colbourne responsibilities. But the situation could not have come at a worse time.
For years, Morgan has served as Jeremy’s blood-host. Though Morgan adheres faithfully to his Contracted terms, he refuses to surrender to the sexual seduction that completes each feeding. He yields neither his body nor his heart, though Jeremy yearns for both. As nosferatu’s atrocities grow, Jeremy must ask everything of Morgan to gain the strength needed to fight the ravening monster. Will Morgan relent and give up body and heart to help Jeremy defeat their enemy, or will the battle destroy them?
What does “salva me” mean?
“Salva me” is Latin for “save me” or “rescue me”.
What inspired you to write a story about living vampires?
Well, I’ve always been in love with the idea of vampires. They’re just cool. And thanks to Hollywood, they’ve become really sexy. There are vampires or vampire-type myths in almost every culture, though they don’t always look like the ones we’ve become used to. When I started thinking about writing my own vampires, I wondered what if…vampires were actually a type of human, like vampire bats are a type of bat? There are plenty of species that live on blood, so why not humans? And I went from there. Besides, sexy undead vampires, even glittering ones, have kind of been done to death. Pun intended, haha.
What’s the science behind your living vampires? And tell us about the minore too!
Umm, how much science should I give? I went pretty deep here, relying on some tricky biology (that I might not have gotten right – I’m not a viral biologist). But in a nutshell, I built on the idea of compressed evolution over something like 20,000 years, centered on an isolated population almost decimated by a hemorrhagic fever. The survivors passed on multiple dominant genetic mutations that created the ultimate ‘vampire’ human. I tried to apply biology to the typical vampire tropes, giving them a bit o a twist. My vampires are not immortal; they do live longer than normal humans, around 5 to 6 centuries, but they do age, and they do die. Their extended life span comes from a faster cellular regeneration from a more efficient caloric process. They have greater strength than normal humans, which comes from enhanced blood flow and higher oxygenation across their muscle fibers. I kept the sexual attraction (hey, it’s erotic romance!), using the idea of enhanced sexual pheromones for safety – hey, if your prey lusts after you, there’s less chance for injury, right? Instead of fixed, longer than normal canine teeth, my vampires have retractable fangs like a snake for an in and out strike and no broken teeth (fangs don’t grow back.) To prevent the blood host from feeling pain, they have developed an anesthetic saliva. To keep the host from bleeding to death, they have evolved clotting agents – gotta keep your food source alive to breed successive generations, and civilized nosfera no longer consider their blood hosts as mere food sources. And finally, for self-defense, they have developed venom – actually, a really nasty, highly toxic bacterial goo (think Komodo dragon spit on super steroids) brewed up in a pouch like a second stomach.
The minore are basically minor vampires (nosfera minore). They are normal humans who have been turned after being bitten by a rogue vampire, or nosferatu, and only done to save a life. Unlike the traditional vampire stories, where the newly turned vampire has all the skills and physical attributes of a full vampire, a minore is essentially a normal human who has been infected by the mutated virus. It takes decades before they grow fangs or develop the specialized saliva. They never develop the venom, and while their lives are extended, its only to about half that of a full nosfera.
Why did you decide to write a Regency, gay, living vampire, erotic romance?
t started as a joke. Don’t you remember, Emily? My alter ego writes straight Regency, and we had been joking about me taking a walk on the wild side. I think that was about when Twilight first hit the shelves. And I said, “Maybe I should write a gay Regency vampire romance!” and you said “Go for it!” So it’s all your fault.
On a serious note, though, I decided to try my hand at gay romance after helping plot a number of gay romances, and reading countless yaoi manga. But when I actually started, I felt it would be best to stick to something comfortable. That meant Regency, at least for the time being. Stepping out of my comfort zone was probably the hardest thing I’ve ever done, but it was worth it. The vampire stuff, though, was strictly a rebellion against the time-worn vampire of yore. I wanted something different, so since I couldn’t find it, I wrote it.
Where did you do your research for the Latin and Japanese phrases found in Blood Sworn: Salva Me?
Google Translate (not always the best source when used alone), which I cross-referenced with several other sites. At the moment, I’m enhancing my Japanese with Rosetta Stone.
Many authors have a story behind their pen name. Do you? If so, tell us!
My pen name is an anglicized version of a Japanese name I chose, Akiko Aoyama, which means Autumn’s Child of the Blue Mountain. Essentially, it means I came to enjoy reading and writing gay romance in the autumn of my life. And no, I won’t tell you how old I am. That’s for your readers to guess!
What advice would you give to people who want to write fantasy?
The sky is the limit, because you make the rules. YOU are God for your mini-verse. But you must remember to keep your rules consistent. Just because you’re God, doesn’t mean you can break your own rules with impunity. Your readers will know, and hold you accountable.
What advice would you give to people who want to write gay romance?
Don’t be afraid! My biggest fear was writing male characters that were women disguised as men. To avoid it, I read gay romance written by men and women, researched the differences in behavior by reading a variety of social media, and generally wrote flat characters that didn’t interact until I threw caution to the wind and just wrote. The characters came alive after that. Hopefully I didn’t miss my mark!
Excerpt from Blood Sworn: Salva Me:
Blood. Sweet, sweet blood thickened with terror. The girl in his arms fought with weakening desperation, her life rushing away through the crimson tide pulsing from her with each frantic beat of her heart. Intoxicating copper heat coursed across his lips, suffusing him with its nourishing power.
Her moans grew fainter as his poison saturated her body. The exquisite torture of emptying his venom flooded his muscles with godlike power, and he tightened his hold, crushing her fragile, merely human form against him. Her gasp of pain drove a spike of lusty pleasure through him. He released her neck to watch her blood flood across her shoulders to stain her flimsy gown.
A waste perhaps, but he could find another. The silent, horrified plea in her dulling eyes spurred his lust, and he ripped the sodden dress open to bare her cotton stays. A hand batted feebly, a near-unconscious impulse to protect her vanished modesty.
Little whore. She’d no need for modesty with him. He had no interest in her person, not yet. Not until she was at the brink. Then he’d spread her legs and revel in her death throes.
Yes. Yes, that peak of ecstasy neared, her glazed eyes beginning to fade. She drew a hitching breath, and he dropped her limp body to the mud, reaching for the fastenings to his breeches.
The clatter of hooves and creak of heavy wheels broke his concentration, his anticipated pleasure vanishing.
Damn! With a frantic bound, he hurled himself into the velvet black shadow of the alley behind him. Frustrated desire boiled through him as he watched the carriage lurch to a halt. A murderous rage rose, urging him to attack the interlopers. He attempted to quash it, but the slavering beast of his hunger did not want to be assuaged. The girl was his rightful prey, and he would be damned if he would allow mere humans to drive him off. He readied himself, prepared to lunge when the correct moment presented.
The tiniest of breezes stirred the air as the passengers descended from the barouche. It carried the oh-so-faint scent of the intruders, driving him back into the shadows.
“Imbecile!” The word escaped him in a hiss. He peered around, forcing his eyes to see, his ears to hear. As if a veil had been drawn back, he realized he stood almost in the heart of London. How had he followed the girl so far without recognizing his danger?
At least one of the men in the carriage knew him by sight and scent. Worse, if they were to meet, his enemy was duty-bound to kill him without hesitation. He twitched, annoyed, uncertain—wanting his prize but unwilling to face his opponent at this moment.
His hunger stilled, replaced by an urgent need to flee. Later. The time would come, but that time was not now. With a last look at the shuddering girl behind him, he forced more venom to his muscles and shivered in delight as he fled into the night.
* * * *
Morgan Holland clenched his teeth against an impious curse as the carriage lurched to an unexpected halt, knocking his skull against the lacquered wooden panel behind his head. Inertial momentum pitched his companion face forward against the opposite seat with bruising abruptness. Morgan gave the trap door over his head a savage thump with his fist, even as he reached to help the Baron of Colbourne up off the floor.
“Blast it all, I’m fine, Holland,” Colbourne barked.
Morgan smothered a grin at his master’s temper over his bruised dignity. He gestured at the gaping tear across the knee of Colbourne’s superfine trousers. “Perhaps we should return home for a change of clothes before we continue to White’s.”
Colbourne scowled. “Damn. Weston just delivered these this week. I’ll have to commission a new pair.”
“As you say, my lord.” Amusement warred with Morgan’s ringing head as he fought to keep a smirk off his face. Colbourne’s penchant for fine clothes had been a constant source of humor between them.
“Don’t be smug, Holland. Just because you managed to maintain your seat is no reason for a swelled head.”
The dour tone proved too much, and a highly inappropriate snort evaded Morgan’s control. Jeremy Takeshi Yamakawa Colbourne, Fifth Baron of Colbourne, took great pains to appear neat and elegant for any evening revelry. Since his Japanese ancestry drew the derision of his peers, he always maintained a flawless nobleman’s appearance. Morgan felt privileged to be among those few who could jest about the habit without giving offense. Moreover, the unique circumstances of Morgan’s employment had built a bond between them, a bond closer to friendship than master and servant.
A sharp rap at the window halted Colbourne’s next salvo even as he drew breath for the words, undoubtedly to cast unmeant aspersions on Morgan’s ancestry. The words died at the sound of their driver’s frantic rap on the door.
It seemed the difficulty interrupting them was more than a mere rut in the road.
“This needs your attention, my lord,” Toby quavered, fear plain in his voice.
Morgan felt a chill worm its way down his spine, a chill having nothing to do with the damp air outside the carriage door. Colbourne’s handsome face tightened, his grave expression igniting an answering spark of alarm in Morgan. He followed his master into the dank night, and nearly choked.
“Plague of the ages!” Colbourne’s biting exclamation did not quite carry the weight of a bellow, but it might as well have been a shout.
The night air carried a familiar coppery tang, laced with the faint odor of bile. Morgan knew the smell, of tainted blood and death. When he’d first met Colbourne, the man had been covered in the same bloody aroma. Morgan could not see this poor soul, not yet, but the smell left no doubt.
“Nosferatu.” He’d never encountered one, only read in books what they were, what they did. Read, and seen what had happened to his master, the Baron of Colbourne, one of the preeminent nosferii nobles in England. Or anywhere else. The last nosferatu to hunt here had almost cost the country its most needed protector.
Colbourne cast a keen glance his way but said nothing, just stepped around the corner of the carriage for a look at what had bollixed their plans for the evening. Morgan followed, suppressing the urge to gag at the foulness of the air. He tried to keep his strides casual, as though he were walking into yet another evening entertainment, not around the carriage corner for a look at a shredded human being.
Colbourne quirked an eyebrow at Morgan’s calm facade. “No one would think twelve years ago you were a mere tenant farmer, untutored in such things.”
“Even a farmer faces death, my lord.” A true enough statement. After all, Morgan had tended to enough carrion when he was younger: dead livestock, headless chickens after foxes raided the coops. Yet none of his experience prepared him for the putrid aroma hovering over the slumped form in the road. The rank odor was fouler than the oldest carcass he’d ever cleared from his fields. With reluctance, he turned his full attention on the unfortunate victim.
“God!” The exclamation burst from him at the appalling sight that met his eyes.
The brown dirt of the road had turned to mud, glistening with the darkness of spilled blood. A young woman lay trembling in that crimson sludge, her neck savaged and raw. The gaping wounds reeked from the pungent slime coating them.
“Well, she lives, Morgan.” Colbourne sighed, as though the fact was unworthy of celebration. “At least for the present.”
“For the present? Is there nothing to be done?” Morgan could not tear his eyes from the girl. She couldn’t have seen more than sixteen, eighteen years at best.
“From the smell of things, the abomination emptied his venom into her.” Colbourne knelt in the mud, oblivious now to his appearance. “See?” He pointed to the ragged edges of the wounds on the girl’s neck. “There are multiple bites here, some more recent than others.” He laid a gentle, gloved finger near the deepest one. “This bite is hours old, and she is nearly exsanguinated. I am amazed she can still draw breath.”
“Is it too late for a turning?”
That caught Colbourne’s attention. His master stood, searching Morgan’s face for something. Then he sighed, perhaps finding no answer to what he sought.
“It is far too late. At this point, all we can do is ease her passing by treating the wound and dosing her liberally with laudanum. I doubt she’ll notice, but it should be done nonetheless.” He gave Morgan another cryptic glance. “I suppose it’s time to introduce you to the real meaning behind the existence of the Colbourne title. I’ll call you to my study after I have fed. In the meantime, you might want to do some research into turnings. The library has plenty of material for your reading.”
Research? Morgan felt the faintest flush of embarrassment warm his neck. It seemed he’d touched on a sensitive topic. He turned to the coachman. “Toby, get the lap blanket.” He considered for a moment. “And your long coat.” Between the blood, the sodden clothing, and the general mess, two layers should provide both warmth for the young woman and protection for the carriage.
Toby returned, and Morgan watched as Colbourne bundled the girl tightly in the coat, wrapping her head to toe in the blanket. When he lifted the fragile burden, Morgan attempted to assist him, only to receive a flat denial.
“This slime will eat through your hide,” Colbourne reminded. “Don’t forget your teachings, Holland.”
Morgan stepped back, feeling the Compulsion his master laid behind the words. He suppressed a sigh. When Colbourne used such a trick, it usually meant unpleasant instruction ahead.
They rode home at a rapid clip, carriage swaying on its springs at Toby’s urgent pace. Morgan could see the lax bundle in his master’s lap out of the corner of his eye, though he did his utmost not to stare. He focused instead on the adorning crest of the panel immediately behind Colbourne’s head, little good though it did him. Every time he relaxed his control, his eyes flew inexorably to the doomed girl. At some point, he glanced down again and discovered her hitching breaths had ceased.
Colbourne’s dark eyes were shuttered. Even in the dimness of their carriage, distress showed in the line between his brows and the bunched muscles of his jaw. Morgan reached across the gap separating them, called to soothe his master’s pain. Dark lashes lifted, revealing Colbourne’s grief at his failure.
Tonight’s enjoyments were meant to be a prelude in advance of Colbourne’s Contracted feeding; a bit of casual camaraderie to make amends for the awkward strain that had recently come between them. With this appalling discovery, the emotional toll on them both could hinder the process. Worse still, it might encourage Colbourne to postpone the feeding.
A tinge of red outlined those dark eyes. “Don’t worry, Holland. I’ll have myself under control by the appointed time.”
“I am certain you will, my lord,” Morgan answered, keeping his voice level. “I worry more for my control than for yours.”
A wistful smile touched Colbourne’s lips. “Your iron will? It will never waver, regardless of my desires.” The smile vanished. “Nonetheless, we will bury this poor child before we begin, Holland. I owe her that much, at least.”
Tell us about An Unintended Seduction. Where did the idea for this book come from?
Well, as a Regency author, I’m a passionate devotee of Jane Austen. My favorite Austen is Persuasion, a story of love denied and then renewed after many misunderstandings. It’s a theme I have taken to heart. An Unintended Seduction is just that – a story about a second chance at love. In many ways, it mirrored something that happened to me personally, though with a great deal more anguish for my hero and heroine.
How much research did you have to do for a Regency novel?
A lot, and a little! I’ve been reading Regency romances since I was sixteen. You could say I absorbed information about the Regency naturally. Nonetheless, there were plenty of aspects that required detailed research, particularly how the characters addressed each other and what they wore. In spite of the amount of information, you’d be surprised how much misinformation is perpetuated. I also had a few unique items in my novel that required specific research, such as the state of midwifery and what type of music was being played.
How is writing Regency different than other types of historical fiction?
Regency readers are EXPERTS on the subject. They’ve read most of the same authors I have, and can pinpoint historical inaccuracies easily. The Regency era is a very specific period of time. True Regencies take place only during the period of time when George III was alive but mad, and George IV was Prince Regent. Extended Regencies encompass George III’s reign through George IV’s reign. There is also a specific type of language and a generally accepted set of tropes that are expected to be used. Stepping outside those bounds can affect an author’s readership, unless they carry it off well. For example, my hero is deeply flawed. The reader learns early on that Julian not only broke Miranda’s heart, he cheated on his best friend out of anger and a sense of betrayal. Not the generally accepted type of hero for a Regency. He took a lot of redeeming!
How did you decide to have Miranda’s skills include piano playing and embroidery? Are these two of your skills or did you have to do research?
I’m blushing here… I chose those skills because I do play the piano, and I do enjoy embroidery (as well as cross-stitch!) This minimized my research, but did not eliminate it. The pianos of the Regency were a little different from modern pianos. They were called pianofortes, did not have three sound pedals, and did not have as much touch sensitivity as modern pianos. The music was also different, as were the composers whose music Miranda would be likely to play. The types of music, such as a waltz, were also different.
What’s the difference between needlepoint and embroidery?
Well, basically needlepoint is generally done with wool or crewel thread, and embroidery with cotton or silk, but that’s not the only difference. Embroidery is more about a variety of decorative stitches, including knots, half-stitches, and used for decorative purposes, such as designs on handkerchiefs, lace cuffs or collars, or small sections of cloth for display. Needlepoint generally involves straight, even stitches, and is used to decorate pillows, wall hangings, or other items where the decoration covers large sections or the entire display area (think pillows or cushions.) The two crafts are closely related.
What advice would you give to someone who wants to write Regency?
Read Regencies! Jane Austen, Georgette Heyer, Jo Beverly, etc. Do your research, particularly on forms of address, and become familiar with British English. Your readers will know…
Excerpt from An Unintended Seduction: (I need one!)
Julian held his breath against the abrupt longing that surged through him.
Madness had to be overtaking him. The night of the masquerade, Miranda Parkman had suddenly turned into a siren, tempting him with her innocent sensuality. Now, with her bare hand stroking the marble bench and the shimmer of moonlight creating mysterious shadows along the line of her neck, the siren call had returned. He fought to maintain a veneer of gentility.
She turned her head away from him, the movement tempting him to turn her head back toward his. He wanted to claim her lips in the kisses he had taken so liberally eight years ago. Instead, he took hold of her hand and placed a delicate kiss on the naked skin of her wrist. Her gasp of surprise sent shivers through him.
“Julian…please…” Her use of his Christian name revealed her disquiet.
Instead of releasing her, he kissed her wrist again, and then gently drew her closer. She gave no resistance, but moved toward him with a soft rustling of chiffon and satin. As the delicate scent of violets drifted up to his nose, he decided he wanted that kiss after all. His fingers were gentle but insistent on her chin, leading her mouth to his. At the very last moment, her lips moved against his, as they had done so long ago beneath a sunlit chestnut tree.
Hello, Readers! Welcome to a series of stories about renewed love and/or love happening during the renewing times: mid-winter or spring. This week’s visitor is Whitley Grey.
Tell us about Midwinter Night’s Dream and how you came up with this idea.
This is the story of a man who gets lost in a blizzard and the man who saves him. Errol delivers singing telegrams to eke out a living, and takes one last job despite the forecast of heavy snow. Joe is a model and former fireman, returning to his family’s cabin in the woods to deal with the loss of his lover two Christmases ago.
My extended family had a cabin in the woods when I was growing up, and those memories served me in creating the setting.
How much research did you have to do about firemen before you created Joe’s character?
It wasn’t too bad. A couple of firemen answered questions about the types of fire and rescue described in the book. The culture of the firehouse and the pressure of belonging to a family of firemen took addition research.
This story sounds complicated and fun! Two broken men seeking redemption. Is it one character’s story more than the other? Or do they both grow equally? And how do they grow?
I think it’s pretty evenly distributed. I love Errol’s personality—he’s somewhat quirky, and a survivor. Joe’s paramedic background and how he saves Errol resonates with my medical background. They both grow—Errol learns to trust, and Joe learns to let go of the past.
What advice would you give to anyone wanting to write romance?
Learn the basics of writing. Online classes are an excellent way to do this. Get the fundamentals mastered and then build from there. Join a critique group—these people can help you see your manuscript’s blind spots. Last, READ. A lot. In whatever subgenre you want to write. I read about 200 M/M books before writing the first one.
Heat surrounded Errol’s body. The surface beneath him was soft, and he couldn’t perceive any light through his eyelids. His hands and feet hurt. He was exhausted and achy. Couldn’t open his eyes. A little more rest…
Something ticked out a muted rhythm, and every click made his head throb. During his nap someone had taken a ball-peen hammer to his head, and his tongue had become glued to the roof of his mouth. Felt like the hangover from hell.
Water. Water would be good. A hint of wood smoke filled Errol’s nose, mixed with a spicier smell—evergreen and clove, like Christmas. He must be dreaming.
The featherweight web of sleep persisted, and he rubbed at his eyes and opened them a crack. Wait a minute. Where was he?
Well, first of all, warm and cozy in an enormous bed. Not his; not by a long shot. The thing was heaped with sleeping bags and quilts, making the covers weighty. He squinted and peeked under the covers. Naked. The ache behind his eyes intensified as he absorbed his lack of clothing. Yikes.
A dozen feet away, there was a fireplace made of river rock, flanked by bookcases. Banked embers glowed in the hearth, outlining walls made of logs in faint rosy light. A clock ticked on the mantel, the source of the tapping irritating his ears. A sweep of muted plaid framed the dark windows, and snow hissed against the panes, seeking entry. Okay, naked, in an unfamiliar bed, in an unfamiliar place. What the—
Something rustled next to him, and he rolled over. A tuft of dark curls stuck up from the covers. Nothing else of his bedmate showed. Holy shit, make that naked next to an unfamiliar body.
Oh, no. No, no, no. He couldn’t remember doing the sing-o-gram, but maybe he’d had a holiday drink and ended up sleeping with someone at the client’s house? Judging by the way his head felt, he had the mother of all hangovers, and if alcohol had been involved, who knew? Man, he’d be in such deep shit. Pour Vous had a strict no-sex-with-the-clients policy. If he’d broken the rules, Smitty would roast his chestnuts over an open fire and cut him loose. Without a job, he’d be out on the street in a week. He shivered.
Smitty didn’t have to know.
With a deep sigh, the bedmate rolled over, one arm pushing the covers down to the waist. Errol’s eyes widened. Whoops. Naked, muscular, and male. Dark curly hair, a shadow of beard covering his jaw, and a face like a model. Errol had never really understood the meaning of chiseled features before now, but this met the definition. Yowza.
Wait a minute. Smitty had said the telegram recipient was a blond woman. This was very definitely not her. So who the hell was this guy? Had Errol slept with him? Like wild-monkey-sex slept with him?
This had to be some crazy dream. Must be that convenience-store burrito he’d eaten for lunch. Guys like Errol didn’t wake up with guys like this. Errol pinched himself and blinked. The guy was still there.
What follows is a series of conversations that took place when I invited eight characters over for New Year’s Eve.
New Year’s Eve Chat
Part One: Preparations
Mark Tavery’s POV:
Mark had been stewing for the better part of an hour. Maybe once his husband, Luke, got home things would settle down. Luke always made things—explosions, pending staff get-togethers, argumentative dragon herds—seem less cataclysmic.
Thanks to Emily, he, Luke, and at least six others she called “characters” would attend a cocktail party. How did she expect Mark, a water dragon who loved his magical universe just the way it was, to make small talk with two men from post-World War II America, another two who lived and breathed the modern military life, and two kids?
Luke poofed into the condo he and Mark shared. He stood in the doorway between kitchen and living room.
Golden-haired and muscular, his very presence took Mark’s stress down a notch.
The genie bowed, proffering a bottle. “There are a dozen more where this came from.”
Mark smirked at the well-known label. “I assume you’re also bringing rum and Coke?”
Luke’s eyes twinkled. “To get you drunk? Is that what you want, my Mark?” He tried a severe expression, but it evaporated the moment Mark touched him.
“Maybe that’s a good way to get through the night,” the water dragon told his husband. And maybe everything will go all right. Luke’s a genie; how much can a simple celebration get out of hand? “In any case, we don’t need to worry for another couple of hours.” He put the bottle into the fridge. “We have a little time on our hands. What should we do with it?”
Luke laughed. Then he magicked both his and Mark’s clothes off.
* * * *
Will Jefferson’s POV
Will watched Don take the roaster out of the oven. “How long until we’re expected at this shindig?”
Don set the pan on top of the stove. Using a potholder, he took the top off the roaster and smiled. “This is done finally.”
“We have to bring food?”
Don shrugged. “Maybe it isn’t the custom to bring a dish to pass in whatever year Emily’s staged this party, but here and now, in 1946, we pay our respects.” He glanced at Will and raised an eyebrow. “Or do you have an issue with that, mister Southern hospitality?”
Will shook his head. “You’re never going to stop picking on me about my birthplace, are you?” he asked the white boy.
“Not until you treat everyone like they’re human first and of a different race second.”
He scowled. “Asking if this is a potluck occasion Ms. Emily Carrington has organized isn’t a black/white thing. It’s a politeness thing.”
Don grinned. “I know.”
Will stared. “Then why’d you say—”
“Because having you slightly annoyed makes for good sex.” He wrapped his arms around Will, pulling him into a kiss.
Mmm. Don always kissed like a randy private. Or a sex-starved sailor who’d finally hit dry land. Moaning, Will pulled his lover closer, trying to meld their bodies.
A minute or so later, Don pulled away slightly. “The chicken’s done. Shall we savor a little pre-dinner dessert?”
Will pulled him out of the kitchen, down the hall, and into their bedroom.
Part Two: First Encounters
Xander Tsoukatos’s POV:
The ride from Washington, DC seemed to take no time at all. Before Xander knew it, he and his husband, John, stood on the front steps of Emily’s house. It was a little place, much like their house on the air force base, but Xander noticed the elegant, well-built porch.
John rang the bell.
It wasn’t Emily who greeted them at the door, but a dark-haired man with intense ocean-blue eyes. He raised an eyebrow at them.
“John and Xander Tsoukatos,” Xander introduced them.
“Mark. Come on in. The party hasn’t started yet.”
They walked into a room with dark ceiling beams and a fireplace.
French doors led into another room. As John walked through, Xander paused to examine the delicate etching on the doors. Each pane was a scene: forest, mountain, beach. He was arrested by an etching of a tall oak free. He crouched and studied the tree more closely. By the leaves on the ground, it was autumn in that scene.
“I copied that earlier,” someone said behind Xander. “It’ll make a great carving for Aid’.”
Still crouching, Xander turned. He faced a young man—maybe still a teenager—who was even shorter than the man who’d greeted them at the door.
“I’m Mike,” the kid said. “And Aidan’s around here somewhere.”
He got to his feet and shook Mike’s hand. “I’m Xander.” He tilted his head, studying Mike.
The kid raised an eyebrow. “Yes?” He seemed both amused and curious.
Here’s someone who’s never been hurt. “I don’t mean to be rude, but how old are you?”
Mike grinned. “You’re the second person to ask me that. I’m twenty. So’s Aidan, for what it’s worth. We’re probably the youngest here by five years.”
There he went again, mentioning someone named Aidan. Probably his boyfriend. “I’d like to meet Aidan.”
Mike smiled. “I’ll introduce you.” He walked between the doors, and Xander followed.
* * * *
Luke Morrison’s POV:
The boy, Aidan, stood at one counter. He’d come to help Luke in the kitchen. He was competent, if opinionated. He mixed drinks with a practiced hand.
He was also blind.
Luke had never wished for the ability to change another’s nature more than he did when he saw disabled people. It wasn’t within his magical abilities to fix how someone had been born or how they’d become, but his heart went out to them.
“Stop staring at me,” Aidan said. “You have drinks to mix and food to make appear out of thin air.” He shook his head, and his voice was laced with wonder when he added, “Or whatever else genies do.”
Standing a few feet farther along the counter, Luke blinked in surprise. “How did you know I was looking at you?” So far as he knew, his and Mark’s universe was the only one where Emily had introduced elements of magic. And that included telepathy.
Aidan snorted. “Practice.” He felt along the counter to his right.
Luke frowned. “You are blind. But…”
The young man faced him. “But what?” He crossed his muscular arms and stared without staring at Luke.
It was as if, without sight, he could see Luke’s soul. Suddenly Luke craved nothing more than to have Mark backing him up. Protecting him from this self-possessed man who was probably no more than twenty-one.
He hunched his shoulders, aware that he was imitating what Mark did when the dragon felt exposed or uneasy. “You’re happy being who you are. That…” He searched for the right phrase. “That blows my mind.”
Luke expected Aidan to get in his face, but the younger man relaxed, dropping his arms. “How long have you been alive?”
“About a thousand years.”
“And I’m the first blind guy you’ve met? I find that hard to believe.”
“You’re not.” Luke shifted his feet. “But you’re probably the only person with disabilities I’ve actually talked to. Spared more than a moment’s pity for.”
Aidan stepped forward, his mouth thinned to a single line. He stood about two steps from Luke. “Can you put this kitchen back together if it’s messed up?”
Confused, Luke nodded. “I still have my magic.”
Aidan attacked him.
Luke didn’t want to hurt the blind kid by using magic. And got punched for his consideration.
Aidan followed the knuckle sandwich with a blow to the side of Luke’s neck that would have caused damage if Luke wasn’t a genie. Then the kid landed an uppercut in Luke’s side. The chaser was a snap kick as Luke doubled over.
Luke gathered his magic around him into a shield, ready to take the guy on, blindness or not.
But Aidan retreated several steps, bowed slightly, and said, “Don’t pity me. The ones to feel sorry for are the people who don’t have talent, love, good work ethic, and confidence.”
Luke stood straight and advanced, holding out his hand. “Thank you for the lesson.” He smirked as he and Aidan shook hands. “You must be lucky. If you’d tried that with Mark, my husband would have bitten your head off. Literally.”
“Yum,” said a voice from the doorway. “Tastes like chicken.” Mark crossed to join them, slipping an arm around Luke’s waist. He offered a predator’s hungry smile. “You’re not hurt?”
“No,” Luke said.
Aidan bowed again, more deeply. “I’ll keep my hands to myself from now on.”
He’s intimidated by my Mark, Luke thought in amazement.
“Not necessary,” Mark answered, and Luke was surprised to see his lover looking up at him with a touch of admonishment in his eyes. “You taught Luke a lesson he should’ve learned years ago.” He nodded toward the counter. “Do you two need a hand?”
Shaking his head and grinning, Luke tugged his husband in for a kiss.
Part Three: Trouble at the Table
Mike Delaney’s POV:
He watched Aidan chat with the two men from the magic-filled world as if all three were old friends meeting again after years apart. All three sat at the opposite end of the long table from Mike, but that was okay. Aidan could more than handle himself, and Mike was having too much fun listening to Xander’s stories to be unsettled by so many alpha types being in one room.
“There were fifteen of them,” Xander was saying. “Officers’ wives are sweet, at least in my humble opinion, but they’re also human.” He laughed. Then he scooted his chair closer to Mike’s and whispered, “If I’d never married John, I wouldn’t have met so many supportive women, but I miss my work in the clinic.”
‘What kind of clinic?” Mike asked, lowering his voice in response to Xander’s suddenly secretive behavior.
“The Fairy Clinic—” he smirked, possibly at the name—“deals mostly with AIDS, although they also help with Hepatitis C and a few others. Many of the patients there just need a steady, calm presence while they get their results or wait for appointments. They know me as Mister Chamomile Tea.” He smirked. “Or as the card sharp spotter. I don’t let one group of friends cheat another.”
Mike grinned. “I like it. You’re a guardian angel.”
“More like a pita angel.”
“Pita?” Mike asked, picturing the folded bread-like stuff from a Mexican restaurant.
“Pain in the ass.”
Mike laughed. “Did you come up with that? It’s a great acronym.”
Xander leaned back in his chair. “John’s air force buddies are the kings of acronyms, but that’s not mine or theirs.”
“Why aren’t you working at the clinic anymore?”
Xander closed his eyes. “John’s jealous.”
Mike squirmed. “I know what that’s like. Aid’ and I dealt with my jealousy within the first month of our relationship, but we came close to calling it off right there.”
Xander moved his chair nearer, and he was back to whispering. “What made you jealous? Didn’t you trust your boyfriend?”
“I do.” Mike bit his lip. “I did. But…it was a misunderstanding. I thought I was one of Aidan’s conquests, that he didn’t want a real relationship.”
“Hmm.” Xander scowled. “I wonder if that’s John’s issue.” He shrugged and sat up. “Well, this isn’t the time for talk like that.”
“Talk like what?”
Mike jumped. He stared up at the buff, intimidating man who wore some sort of military dress uniform. Shit. This had to be John. Mike slumped in his seat, hoping the man would ignore him.
Xander rolled his eyes. “With your creeping ability, you should’ve been a Vietnam-era spook,” he told his husband.
John sat down on Xander’s other side. “You can’t talk. You’re flirting right in front of me.” He shot a glance at Mike. “With a kid.”
Mike looked away, seeking help. Where was Emily? Hadn’t she created these guys to be in love? Why hadn’t she stepped in?
Xander shoved his chair back and got up. “Screw you.” He stalked out of the room.
The two men from the 1940s grabbed John’s arms as he stood to follow.
“Come on,” the black guy said. “Let’s find a cooling off place.”
“Or some beer,” his lover added.
Would it look suspicious if Mike went after Xander? Probably, he decided, but nobody else seemed inclined. So as soon as the two 1940s guys took John out of the room, Mike made for the French doors and the room with the fireplace beyond.
That was when Aidan called his name, softly, and urged Mike to sit back down.
“This is still supposedly the season of hope,” Aidan said. “Let’s get a game plan before we try talking sense into those two.”
John Tsoukatos’s POV:
“I don’t need any beer.” He jerked away from the hulking men. No slouch himself in the muscles department, he still felt uneasy around two men who’d supposedly gone through the same military training he had. Or at least the equivalents from sixty years ago. “I’ll talk to Xander myself. This just isn’t the time.”
The taller of the two men—white like John, but resembling a blond bear—laughed. “We saw how well you handled it so far. You need a few minutes to calm down. That’s what we’re giving you.”
“You’re so insecure in your love you don’t trust him?” the shorter, more muscular, black man asked.
John scowled. “You’ve never seen Xander in a dress. You’ve never watched people flock to him like he’s their god. It’s not him I don’t trust; it’s them.”
“Can he fight off the adoring throngs?” the blond bear asked quietly.
Given the way Xander had granted a black eye to the last one who’d made an over-aggressive pass at him… “Yeah.” John threw up his hands. “But that doesn’t mean I want him mingling with sex-crazed people on a regular basis.”
“Not everyone’s fuck-focused all the time,” the black guy said.
John opened his mouth, but then closed it. Both men were looking at him as though he had a stick up his ass. Unsure what to say, John grimaced, folded his arms, and ignored them.
Xander Tsoukatos’s POV:
Xander knocked on the doorframe that stood between the dining room and the small room where the escorts had taken John. He watched all three turn to face him, and he read their expressions easily: exasperation, confusion, and annoyance. John was the confused one. That might be a good sign. Xander walked in.
Before he could say anything, the room filled up behind him. Emily’s other guests were coming to see this showdown. What kind of “characters” had she invented?
“Jealousy’s natural,” the dragon, Mark, said without preamble or any indication that he was ashamed for intruding.
“We’ve all dealt with it in one form or another,” Luke said.
Aidan snorted. “That’s for damn sure.” He grinned. “And in case you’re wondering, Xander, it wasn’t just Mike.”
“So if the two of you are going to survive as a couple,” Don said, “you’ll have to learn to talk.”
John blushed, which made him look adorable. “Maybe we should.” He stepped forward, taking Xander’s hands. “I know you love me. Please give me another chance to prove I love you.”
“It’s not a question of love,” Xander answered, but he hugged his husband. “It’s not even trust, I don’t think.” He pulled back and met John’s earnest gaze. “It really is that we still don’t know each other well enough.”
“Does that mean I should send you home to get reacquainted?”
Xander turned, blinking when he saw the single woman among them. “Emily?” He cleared his throat, remembering she’d created him. “Ms. Carrington?”
She raised both eyebrows until they disappeared into her bangs. “Emily’s fine. And I definitely need to send you home.” She smirked. “Love and make-up sex fix almost everything.”
On Smutmas today, I’m presenting a short story about the couples from the Dragon in Training series, Heartwood, and Tell Me I’m Home. Join me!
Meet A. E. Lawless and her new book, “A Collar for Christmas.”
1. Tell us all about your exciting new release.
A Collar For Christmas is the story of Liam and Aaron, two friends and costars on a popular TV show whose relationship undergoes dramatic changes. They enter into a non-sexual BDSM relationship for the sole purpose of helping Liam control his panic attacks but the relationship and its boundaries continue to evolve as their feelings for each other grow and change.
I really wanted to play with the concepts of boundaries and re-negotiation as well as exploring the concept of kink without sex. It was fun to explore the questions of whether or not the solutions these characters find are right for them even if they’re working and to see where their constant pushing against each other took them.
2. When did you start writing, and what led you to write erotic romance?
I’m really not sure when I actually started writing anything down. I’ve been creating stories since I could talk, and I’ve putting them to paper as far back as I can remember. For all intents and purposes I’ve been writing since I’ve been physically able to, the subject matter has just changed considerably.
Bottom line, I started writing erotic romance because I wanted to get paid to write. It wasn’t something I’d ever tried before, but there was this porn website that was looking for a few authors to write short stories for them on a regular basis and I thought, why not. Hey, I like sex, I can do this. It’s a paying job right? All it took was the first story to get hooked. I was so fascinated by the concept of writing about why people enjoy the erotic experiences that they do that I threw myself headfirst into the genre and I haven’t looked back since.
3. Since it is the holiday season, please share with us one of your recipes, a funny holiday story, or a holiday-related joke.
The funniest holiday story I have is actually the story of the first time I officially met my in-laws. My husband and I had known each other for years before we started dating, and I’d been introduced to his parents in passing before so when things got kind of serious with us, we still hadn’t done the “official” meet the parents thing. And then he spontaneously proposed right before Christmas, so it became kinda urgent that we do that. So I decided to invite them over on Christmas Eve and cook dinner for them. Being extremely nervous, I decided to go with a dish I felt pretty confident in and something that was pretty easy so I didn’t stress too bad over the food and could focus all my stressing on what the heck I was going to say to them. I decided to go with a roast—just pop it in the oven and as long as you don’t overcook it you’re good. Or at least, that’s what I thought, but that’s getting ahead of myself.
So, roast is in the oven, the house is spotless, future hubby says I look gorgeous, and the in-laws show up. Everything is going great until the timer on the oven goes off. A little background info is necessary to really understand this next part. Fact one: I’m very short. As in under 5’ tall, 4’10” to be exact. Fact two: I also have really short arms. I’ve never measured them, but my hubby likes to call me t-rex, so that should tell you something. Fact three: at the time this story happened, I lived in a mobile home, so the oven was the kind that was stacked over the microwave, so it was up pretty high for me.
Okay, back to your regularly scheduled comedic interlude. So the timer goes off and I pop up and go to get the roast out of the oven. I open the door, grab my trusty oven mitts, stand on my tip-toes, stretch my arms way overhead and start to slide the pan out of the oven. And the tray tilts down, the roast slides right off the pan, hits the floor, and literally slides across the length of my kitchen.
Everyone was frozen in shock—me, my future hubby, and both of his parents. Of course I’m on the verge of tears at this point and no one has any clue what to do but my future father in law takes one look at my face and bursts into action. He jumped up, grabbed the roast, deposited it back on the tray, took it to the sink, rinsed it off, sliced it and was serving plates before any of the rest of us had even really moved. All of us ate that roast, no one said a word about it hitting the floor, and we laugh about it nearly every year. Good times.
4. How do you tackle the following: waiting for a contract to come in, rewrites, and rejections. And how do you celebrate when the answer is “yes”?
Celebrating is the easy answer—I get a tattoo. For every story I’ve had published, I get a literary themed tattoo. When A Collar For Christmas comes out I’m going to add on to my Edgar Allen Poe chestpiece.
As far as rejections go, they’re never fun but it didn’t hit me as hard as it could. I approached the submissions process from the angle of expecting to get rejected. So it really wasn’t all that disappointing when I was. Not because I didn’t think that I wasn’t good enough to be a published author, but because I knew I wasn’t going to get there until I proved that I was good enough and each rejection was nothing but a reminder that I hadn’t proved anything yet, that I just needed to keep working harder at it.
Rewrites are an easy thing for me. I have a fantastic editor that I trust completely. I pretty much do what she tells me to with a manuscript because she’s always right. Even when I think she’s not, all it takes is me stepping away and thinking about it for a day or two and then I realize that yep, she was right all along. Sometimes, I feel strongly about certain suggested changes and we talk it out and come to some sort of compromise. But of the two manuscripts we’ve worked on together, one we cut 2 chapters out of and the other we added 3 or 4 I think, and I never batted an eyelash at the suggestion. Both stories are infinitely better off for it. I think it helps though that I’m not really all that emotionally attached to my work in terms of needing it to be the exact way I imagined it. The only emotional investment I have in my stories is the desire for them to be the best versions of themselves that they can be. I’ve never looked at writing and thought of it as an art form, it’s not an expression of my inner self or anything like that. It’s a craft. It’s a skill. Rewrites are just a chance to hone my skills further, just a chance to elevate my craftsmanship to the next level.
Please also send me a buy link, an excerpt of around 750 words, a blurb, and a jpeg of your cover.
For actor Liam, anxiety and panic attacks are old friends, but they only get worse the more famous he gets. Nothing has ever worked to help him control the anxiety until his costar, Aaron, introduces him to bondage. Too bad Liam develops feelings for Aaron and ruins the only solution he’s ever found for his neuroses.
Aaron only wants to keep history from repeating itself. He’s already had one costar spin out of control, resulting in her tragic death, he can’t just sit idly by and watch another friend and colleague destroy himself from the inside out. He’ll do anything to keep that from happening–even enter into a non-sexual BDSM arrangement with him.
What starts out as a way to control Liam’s anxiety becomes so much more. At least for Liam. So, tired of pretending he doesn’t want Aaron in his life for good, Liam decides to give him the perfect Christmas gift. The kind that will show Aaron exactly what Liam wants from their relationship: the collar he’s been dreaming of Aaron putting on him for months.
Liam tried to stand, to not look quite so pathetic huddled on the floor and shaking uncontrollably, but he only got as far as lifting his backside off the ground a few inches before the urge to curl up and hide forced him back down again. He wanted to disappear and be invisible for a little while. He knew Aaron already knew about his anxiety, had in fact already demanded that Liam let him help out with it, but Liam was still deeply ashamed of being found this way. No one had ever seen him this bad except his family.
Aaron hurried inside and sat down on the floor directly in front of Liam, knees bent and feet on either side of Liam’s. He assessed Liam from head to toe, clearly taking in everything—the shake in his limbs, the expression on his face, the hands buried in his hair.
Liam looked up at Aaron and tried to speak, tried to say something, anything to explain himself, but all that came out was a distressed little whine. That had always been a part of what was so frustrating for Liam; everyone always wanted to know what was wrong, like they could magically fix it if Liam would just tell them. Liam didn’t know if they could or not; he’d never been able to pinpoint any specific cause for his anxiety, and if had been able to, he certainly wouldn’t have been able to verbalize it. That was just part of how a panic attack worked.
Face crumpling in concern, Aaron made a soft shushing noise and scooted closer to Liam on the floor.
Liam tightened his hands around the fistfuls of his hair in humiliation and anxiety, pulling painfully. More embarrassing little involuntary noises bubbled up in Liam’s throat, and he bit into his lip harshly to hold them in and keep from giving voice to them. He got that Aaron was a nice guy and that he just wanted to help, but Liam was so tired of always being the freak, of always being the one who needed help. Even though he had been in the last season, Liam was still the newest member of the cast, and he just wanted to fit in, not have his costar look at him like he was something broken and in need of a quick patch job before the next take.
Aaron shifted and wiggled forward until they were almost touching, legs on either side of Liam’s hips, bracketing Liam’s body with his own. He shifted his hold on Liam’s hands so that his fingers were encircling Liam’s wrists and drew both their hands down between them.
It was like a physical touch, the way Aaron’s body surrounded Liam’s. Aaron was a big guy. Liam wasn’t short, but Aaron was taller and more muscular and had the longest legs Liam had ever seen; the way he surrounded Liam felt like a buffer between Liam and the rest of the world. Aaron’s skin against his own was like a brand; it burned Liam and lit up his nerve endings in a bizarre combination of pain, physical awareness, and pleasure. The touch and the envelopment cleared more of the fog from Liam’s brain, and he was desperate to let Aaron know that it was working, wanted to urge him to continue. He swallowed a few times and tried to get words out. His lips opened and closed, but the only sound that emerged was his ragged breathing, the harsh pants echoing off the walls of the trailer. Frustrated, he let out a soft growl.
Fingers tightening, Aaron increased the pressure on Liam’s wrists. “It’s okay, Li. You’re safe here. Take your time and tell me what you need.”
The words washed over him like a wave crashing against the beach and rolling back out to sea, carrying tiny granules of gritty anxiety piled on the sandy shore of Liam’s mind when they went. Liam’s eyes slipped shut, and he focused on his breathing; it was easier to force it into a more regulated pattern—even if it was still too rapid and shallow—when he had Aaron’s touch to ground him. The harder Aaron dug in with his fingers, the more tethered to reality Liam felt. “What—” Liam’s words sputtered and died in his throat, so he shook his head and tried again. “What if I do something wrong?”
Aaron smiled and shook his head. His grip on Liam’s wrist eased enough for him to stroke his thumbs back and forth over Liam’s skin. “You won’t do anything wrong. I won’t let you.” His voice was soft and low, intimate and full of conviction.
Meet Draven St. James!
Fire and Mistletoe
Release Date: December 24th
Author: Draven St. James
For Mica, there was nothing better than starting the day watching Grey saunter shirtless around the kitchen, preparing him breakfast. Grey’s only clothes were a pair of sweats that hung so low on his hips Mica couldn’t help but be amazed they didn’t slide off. Hell, that was what he anticipated happening.
Such an event would truly be the beginning of a merry Christmas. Mica sat on a stool next to the island at the center of the room to continue his ogling.
“Stop objectifying me,” Grey said before looking over his shoulder and smiling.
“You like it,” Mica teased. The muscles of Grey’s back flexed each time he reached for a spice or stirred the eggs. His hair was wet from his shower and glistened with shades of gold and cinnamon in the overhead lighting.
“I may like it, but you need to eat, and then I have to work. If you’re lucky, when your double shift is over, I’ll entertain those dirty thoughts I know you’re having.”
“Oh, now that’s promising. How about we compromise for the moment? Drop your pants and bring on the food.” Mica leered comically at him. Grey’s face became an adorable shade of pink. He loved that even now Grey had his shy moments. There were so many things Grey did that made his life more complete, both at home and at work, because he was lucky enough to work and play with his lover. He’d met Grey when he’d made the best decision of his life and transferred over to Firehouse Six.
It also didn’t hurt that the man was a fantastic cook. He pivoted to stir the scrambled eggs, and Mica moved to stand behind him. With a deep inhale he breathed in the intoxicating, spicy scent that always clung to Grey, and nuzzled his face against Grey’s neck. He wrapped his arms around him, tracing his fingers along Grey’s abdomen before pulling Grey fully back against him.
“Are you sure you can’t fit me in before breakfast?” Mica whispered and nipped his ear playfully.
The vibrations from Grey’s moan resulted in an answering hardening of Mica’s cock.
“You are the worst tease,” Grey admonished.
“And you’re so damn practical.”
Grey shifted around in Mica’s arms and grinned. “That is one of the many things that you love about me.” He ran his fingers through the damp strands of Mica’s hair. “As it is, because of our shower time, I’m already going to be late.”
Mica trapped Grey against the counter and gave in to the temptation of Grey’s soft lips. Grey’s hands tightened in his hair and drew him away.
“Before you, I was always on time.”
“I exist to create fun chaos in your life.” Mica wiggled his eyebrows.
“I see evidence of the chaos,” Grey murmured with a pointed look. “Not just in my life either.”
“No, we settled this.” Mica framed Grey’s face with his hands. “You always work over the holidays. This year you’re mine.”
Grey sighed and looked to be gearing up for another long dialogue about how the guys depended on him to cover their shifts and how the holidays would be ruined if he didn’t.
Mica pressed his fingertip to Grey’s lips. “I want you with me for the holidays. My family will love you, and you’ll have fun.”
“Mica, I haven’t really enjoyed doing—”
“Babe, we discussed this, and I know it isn’t your first choice of Christmas options, but we will still be back to do all the volunteer activities. I promise.” Mica brushed his thumb over Grey’s lips before leaning in for a soft kiss. “Besides, if you’re good and do this for me, then maybe I’ll do something fun for you.”
“Is that right?”
“Of course, I don’t know how it will compare to the little surprises you have in store. I saw the bag this morning.” He pulled back to meet Grey’s twinkling amber gaze.
Grey shrugged. “I have no idea what you’re talking about,” he replied, his eyes wide with mock innocence. Any trace of annoyance seemed to vanish, and Mica hoped that was the last of it. Grey turned to finish scrambling the eggs that had begun to burn.
“I call bullshit. I saw what was in that bag. Looked like something from that adult store down the road,” Mica confessed. The store sold all things erotic, from videos to sex toys.
“Maybe it isn’t for you?” Grey countered.
“It had better be for me.” Mica jokingly glared at Grey.
“Have a smidgen of patience. Christmas is right around the corner.”
For your amusement, this is a post I made on FB and the resulting conversation.
The officers’ wives had invited him for tea. Not for a rousing game of basketball, tennis, or even chess. For tea. What was he supposed to do in a parlor, surrounded by delicate cups, tinkling laughter, and doilies?
Xander shuddered. “Doilies, John. You can’t be sending me into a battlefield that includes doilies.”
His husband of two weeks smirked at him from where he stood in front of the dresser. BDUs on halfway, John Tsoukatos masqueraded as a partial god, partial GI Joe standee. “I thought being part of the military community sounded like ‘all sorts of fun.’ Isn’t that what you said when you agreed to take up with me?”
Xander cast through his shirts, seeking one that wouldn’t look too “out there” according to the assumed military standards. Assumed by me, but confirmed by everything I’ve ever heard about the military. “I don’t regret making our relationship official”—never in life would he regret it—“but I didn’t realize all the required frills that would come with saying ‘I do.’”
“The officers’ wives aren’t harpies,” John said. Fully decked out in his everyday uniform at last, he sat down on the end of their bed to tie his boots. “They’re women. Good women, for the most part. Major Cassock’s wife is a gem. And the others will fall right in line today because this meeting’s organized by the Colonel’s wife, Nora, and she’s a piece.”
“A piece of what?” Xander asked, pulling his head out of the closet.
“A peach.” John smiled. “Relax, Xander. You’ll love them.” He grinned. “And look at it this way: with your long hair, you’ll fit right in. Keiko Armstrong’s hair isn’t even as long as yours, and she’s the queen of understated fashion.”
Xander didn’t respond. John was trying to be helpful, but beyond that Xander heard the familiar note of “I’m being patient in spite of your madness” tone creeping into his husband’s voice. Any further questions and John might snap.
Not that John’s testiness was bad on a day-to-day basis. It normally led to some pretty hot make-up sex. Or some plain old “rough for the sake of being rough” lovemaking that left Xander craving full-out BDSM.
Either floated Xander’s boat just fine.
John stood. “You can come home whenever you want.” He crossed to Xander, turned him gently, and kissed him. “Try? For me?” He laughed. “Besides, after six years of our long-distance loving and you moving whenever I thought I’d be staying in one place for more than six months, meeting a few women—and seeing their doilies—can’t be that bad.”
Xander nodded. “I know.” He swept his hair behind his right ear so it wouldn’t get in the way and resumed their kiss. Mmm. John tasted of coffee and something fruity. “What did you eat this morning?”
“Toast. With homemade raspberry jam.”
The jam Xander had made before their wedding.
John’s next words squashed the warm feeling in Xander’s chest. “I’ll eat a real breakfast at the chow hall.”
With all your buddies I haven’t gotten to meet yet. Xander shoved that thought to the back of his mind. Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell had been repealed for less than a year. He and John had been married for barely two weeks. There simply hadn’t been time for more than John going to work and Xander staying in the house they didn’t own, longing to paint the walls and redesign the landscaping in the front yard but knowing he wasn’t allowed to make any significant changes. Bases on the East Coast might be more accepting as a rule, but conformity was still strongly encouraged.
“You taste good,” Xander said, drawing on the raspberry-jam comment. He closed the distance again, grinning when he found John smiling into the lip-lock. “Yes?” he asked, pulling away half an inch.
John’s milk-chocolate eyes sparkled with humor. “I love you. Don’t worry so much.” He stepped back. “If the officers’ wives don’t love you, they’re crazy. I bet they’ll start a contest to see who can French braid your hair the most elegantly.”
“Oh God. Not that.” Xander grinned. “I’d better get going. They wanted everyone to bring a dish to pass for brunch, and I haven’t even started my famous sausage-and-peppers casserole.” Why had he been worrying about what shirt to wear in the first place? He should cook in an apron but without a shirt. As much as he enjoyed being in the kitchen, his fastidious nature wouldn’t allow for oil stains on his clothes. “Go on. You don’t want to be late. The chief will make you give him fifty.”
“That’s drop and give him fifty. Chief Ringgold’s not the BJ type .”
“Lucky for me. And ‘drop and give him fifty’ sounds wrong in the right context.”
“You’re only thinking that because your ‘erotica on the moon’ is due in three weeks and you just finished the outline.”
Xander blushed. “It’s only a short story. I’ll be done in plenty of time for the deadline.”
John pinched Xander’s cheek. “Don’t spend too much time trying to impress the ladies. You’re handsome just the way you are.”
“So are you, GI John.” Bare-chested and wishing he could drag his husband back to bed, Xander nevertheless shoved John toward the door. “Get going. Whether it’s push-ups the traditional way or the new, more creative variety, I don’t want you having to do more than necessary. Unless you’re practicing them on me, of course.”
Tell Me I’m Home: Blue Ticket and Adeste Fideles comes out from Loose Id on December 17.
Elizabeth I’m not a gay man but can I like it just for candy?
Elizabeth I have never read such a thing, but I like men and I like hot men, so. My husband might question my motives, but if I just tell him I’m secretly a gay man and married him for his hot bod, he will leave me alone. XD
Emily Carrington I have two gay friends, a couple, and they read my first book, Dragon Food, for two different reasons. Jeff read it for literary value. Allen read it for the sex. Considering they went at it after reading, I can only assume it’s…inspiring.
Elizabeth So 50 Shades of Grey for gay people. I can dig it. XDDDD
Emily Carrington Ummmm. Fifty Shades with a plot. Where the sex is secondary to the story.
Elizabeth (I didn’t read FSOG)
Elizabeth In fact, I haven’t read anything not a textbook in a very long, long time.
Emily Carrington I tried. It was full of bad grammar and cardboard characters. Drove me up a wall.
Elizabeth So Twilight but with S&M?
Elizabeth and Sans Glitter?
Emily Carrington Tell Me I’m Home will be good for you then. Each story is about twenty pages.
Emily Carrington Yes! No glitter. Although Xander (from Adeste Fideles, the second story in the book) is prone to long, flowing dresses.
Emily Carrington Do you mind if I post this conversation on my website? It makes me smile. I can black out your name if you want.
Elizabeth I like dresses. I approve.
Elizabeth Nope, not at all. If you could black out my last name, I’d appreciate it. <_< My MIL is one of the top rottweiler breeders in the country and I’ve found that the rest of us are easy to track down through her (creepilyyyyyy).
Emily Carrington Oooo! Puppies!
Emily Carrington (My guide dog is a Labrador.)
Elizabeth Yeah our last name…isn’t…really…common?
Emily Carrington Makes sense. I’m lucky I’m using a pen name. Of course, Pepper and Nick know who I am. I started writing shortly after meeting Pepper.
Emily Carrington There are more of us than people think. You can find my stuff on Amazon too.
Peace all, and good night!