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WIP Wednesday: “Prickly Business”

Hi, all! Prickly Business, the first book in the Portland Pack Chronicles series by me and Kenzie Cade, is currently under contract by DSP and entering the editing stage. It’ll be out some time in July or August and we’re currently hard at work on the sequel, Prickly By Nature. If you’ve never heard me mention Prickly Business before, it’s a paranormal shifter romance set in contemporary Portland with mystery elements and a healthy dose of snark. Here is a peek at the tentative blurb:

Some people might call Avery Babineaux a prick. He’s a hedgehog shifter from an old money Louisiana family with a penchant for expensive shoes and a reputation for being a judgmental snob. His attitude is why he and his fated mate are estranged. Not that Avery cares. He doesn’t want to be mated to some blue-collar werewolf anyway. Or so he keeps telling himself.

No werewolf likes to be looked down upon, least of all Dylan Green. He doesn’t need a mate, especially not some snotty hedgehog who sneers at his custom motorcycle shop and calls him a grease monkey. But when Avery gets into trouble with a shady loan shark,  Dylan can’t stand by and let him be hurt—whether he wants the brat or not.

Yet once Dylan steps into Avery’s world, he realizes it won’t be so easy to walk back out. There’s more to Avery than his prickly exterior, and that unexpected vulnerability calls to Dylan’s protective instincts. Not to mention Avery’s habit of landing himself in hot water. The sassy little hedgehog needs a keeper, and despite their horrible first impressions, Dylan starts to believe he just might be the wolf for the job.

sassyhedgie

And here is an (unedited) excerpt from the story. 🙂

Avery rolled his eyes and slid off his stool. The room went blurry, and he reached out to steady himself on the bar top. Whoa. Those four glasses of ale had snuck up on him. Maybe ordering another wasn’t the best of ideas.

Once his vision re-sharpened, he wove his way to the back of the pub, passing the pool tables as he went. Broderick had apparently missed his shot since his companions were heckling him about not being able to aim his stick. Avery smirked, slowing subconsciously. Had he been clearheaded, he wouldn’t have lingered, not wanting to draw attention. But even as he went to move on, his presence was noticed. One of the big, bearded wolves elbowed the one next to him and lifted his chin.

“Well, if it isn’t our favorite little prick,” Glenn called, his beer bottle dangling from his fingers.

The guy beside him laughed. “I thought I smelled a rodent.”

Avery narrowed his eyes. “Here’s a zoology lesson, Rover: hedgehogs aren’t rodents.”

Glenn shrugged one beefy shoulder. “I’m sure if I ripped off your quills, you’d look plenty like a rat. Wanna test the theory?”

Avery opened his mouth to respond, but Broderick’s rumbling voice cut in: “Leave him be, Glenn. You know the Alpha doesn’t like pack members harassing each other.”

Glenn scoffed. “He’s not pack.” He refrained from saying more when Broderick turned a disapproving look on him.

“He lives here under Alpha Odell’s protection. He might as well be pack.”

Avery bristled at Broderick’s assumption that he couldn’t handle himself in an argument with this overgrown asshat. “You don’t have to defend me. He’s right. I’m not pack. Hedgehogs aren’t pack animals. Another lesson for you.”

“How about I shove your lessons up that little prickly ass of yours?” Glenn snarled.

“Aiken!” Broderick rounded on him, the word grated out on a growl, his muscles seeming to swell as his anger flared. “One more time and I’ll take it as a personal challenge.”

Glenn instantly dropped his gaze and tilted his head, exposing his neck to his beta. Avery wanted to say something snide, but Broderick cut him a glare that sent a cascade of goose bumps along his spine.

Avery wasn’t predisposed to submit to a stronger shifter—there was no hierarchy in hedgehog culture, and males could be notoriously aggressive with each other when provoked—but he also knew when to pick his battles. He was too drunk to defend himself. Even if he hadn’t been drinking, well, not even a supernatural hedgehog stood much of a chance against a wolf in a physical fight. It wasn’t as if he’d shift into a man-sized powerhouse of spines, claws, and fur. He’d be the same size as any wild hedgehog—puny.

With a haughty lift of his chin, Avery stalked off toward the restrooms. He did his business and glowered at himself in the mirror above the sinks as he washed his hands.

What the hell was he doing here with these ignorant dogs? Jaden excluded, of course. He was the only respectable, intelligent wolf in the bunch. Much like the Cajun wolves Avery knew from back home in Louisiana, these were volatile, quick to anger and just as fast to laugh it off, except when it came to him. They reveled in every primal pleasure—feasting, fucking, and fighting.

To Avery’s family, werewolves were undisciplined heathens who ran the woods surrounding the bayou, terrifying the smaller shifters and keeping everyone awake with their howling during full moons. Avery’s parents despised wolves. His father had hated having to ask Alpha Odell permission for Avery to live on pack land. He’d done it because Avery wouldn’t let him rest otherwise.

Avery had fallen in love with Oregon when he’d visited the summer between his junior and senior year, but despite his fondness for the city of Portland and how it called to his soul as home, the Northwest was a veritable breeding ground for werewolves. Their numbers were concentrated here where there were forests aplenty and natural wolves to help disguise their presence from humans should they be discovered while in shifted form.

This was really no place for a small-species shifter like himself. Yet, regardless of his upbringing, he might have tried to make a place for himself in the pack, if it wasn’t for—

No. Avery shook his head. He wasn’t going to go there. He wasn’t going to think of him.

Avery paused at the dryer for a few seconds and left the restroom with his hands still damp. Distracted by unwanted thoughts, he collided with something hard and unmoving as he exited the hallway that led back to the main bar area. Avery stumbled back and nearly lost his footing, but even as he struggled to stay upright, the familiar scent struck his nose and made his entire body react. His skin heated, pulse quickened, cock filled, and that ache inside him—the one that longed for its mate—returned with a vengeance so strong it robbed him of breath.

Avery gaped as Dylan Green tossed him a glance over his shoulder.  The musky scent of this particular wolf burned in his nostrils, made the animal inside him stir. He both loved and loathed it in equal measure. His eyes greedily took in the broad back beneath the lines of Dylan’s leather jacket, the long legs encased in form-fitting denim, the strong, square jaw. Dylan’s light brown hair was wet from the drizzle outside and shorter than the last time Avery had seen him, but it worked with his high cheekbones and bold features, and his dark stubble emphasized his well-sculpted mouth.

Dylan turned away, dismissing Avery without a word. It was then Avery noticed he had his arm draped over the shoulders of another guy. A human from his scent. A good-looking human who looked mighty comfortable all snugged up against Dylan’s side, as if it were his right to be there.

Avery fought back a hiss. Fuck that. No one else had the right to—

He cut off that line of thinking. How dumb could he be? It was as though his thoughts in the bathroom had somehow conjured Dylan just to torment him.

Dylan, his destined mate. The wolf who’d rejected him and their potential bond two years ago. The one who Avery should most assuredly not be staring at or admiring because there was nothing between them and there never would be.

WIP Wednesday: “Hook, Line, & Sinker” – NSFW

Hey, all! Yesterday I finished Hook, Line, & Sinker, which is a spin-off of Wood, Screws, & Nails featuring Aaron’s best friend, Blake, and his love interest, Castor. The members of my FB group, Piper’s Peeps, asked for me to share a smutty excerpt today. So here goes! But, first, the (tentative) blurb.

When they were teens, Castor McCormick was the bane of Blake Kowalski’s existence. Their mutual animosity led to summers filled with rivalry. Now, nearly two decades later, Blake learns Cas is moving back into the neighborhood to live in his grandmother’s old house. Blake tells himself he isn’t interested in seeing how snarky little Cas grew up, but when his mother dupes him into visiting Cas, he finds out “pretty” can evolve into “sexy as hell” on the right man.

Cas didn’t think he wanted to see Blake again. No one has ever pushed his buttons like the god of a boy he remembers from their youth. Turns out, the adult version of Blake still gets him hot under the collar—and everywhere else. With Blake on leave from work to nurse his injured leg, and Cas taking time to move and unpack, they form a tentative friendship revolving around fishing and baseball, which quickly turns in to a sexual affair neither man can resist. But when Cas’s job sends him out of state to deal with a difficult client, their new relationship will be tested, and Blake’s broken leg might not be the only thing to come out scarred.

~*~

 

Excerpt

Note: This is unedited, so please forgive any typos. To set the scene, Cas and Blake are on a camping trip, sharing a tent for the first time…

 

Cas shivered, his body warming at Blake’s tone, low and seductive in the dark. For a while, he simply lay there staring at the tent’s domed ceiling, listening to the rhythm of Blake’s breathing as it slowed and deepened. Usually, Cas jerked off before bed, just something to take the edge off the day and lull himself to sleep. He hesitated to do it now, but with the scent of Blake’s skin all around him, and the visual of that sculpted chest so fresh in his mind, his cock was hard as stone. Cas cursed silently and turned onto his side, facing away from Blake, and reached down to pinch his balls through his sweatpants. He hoped the flash of pain would wilt his erection. Instead, it forced a quiet moan from his throat. Cas shifted onto his back again, then onto his side in Blake’s direction, but that only reminded him of how little space actually separated them and how easily he could close it.

Cas grunted and flopped to his back once more. All he could focus on was the pulse of blood in his cock. Not the discomfort of the rocky ground beneath his sleeping bag, not the lingering heat in the air, not the buzz of insects from the grass and trees around them. Just that persistent, throbbing ache.

He’d never fall asleep this way. No choice but to take care of it. He could manage it quietly enough. Or so he hoped.

Cas lay unmoving for another minute or two, listening. The rhythmic pattern of Blake’s breaths remained deep and undisturbed. Slowly, Cas crept a hand beneath the waistband of his briefs. He traced the length of his cock with one finger, helpless to stop a quavering moan when he encountered sticky wetness at the tip. Cas froze, his ears straining, but if Blake had heard, he didn’t stir at the noise.

Sighing, Cas started up a leisurely stroke, working his cock with a firm grip. His hips began to rock, and the motion of his nylon sleeping bag seemed excessively loud in the small space. Cas couldn’t bring himself to care anymore. He played his fingertips over the slit, rubbing and slicking the head with the moisture he found there. Oh God. It felt so good, and knowing Blake rested only a few feet away, oblivious, only heightened the sensation.

Cas caught another moan midway out of his mouth, ending with a choked sound. His eyes were shut tight, but suddenly the colors behind his eyelids changed as light flashed across them. Cas stilled with his hand fisted around his cock. He swallowed thickly and noted that the soothing pattern of Blake’s breathing had changed, sped. Blake was awake, and if Cas wasn’t mistaken, watching him. With a light on.

For a long moment, Cas couldn’t move. Any typical guy would’ve ignored what he was doing, would’ve pretended not to hear the rustling and simply feigned sleep until it was over. They might’ve given him some shit about it in the morning, or more likely, never mentioned the incident at all. Not Blake. Cas could feel Blake’s eyes on him—and it embarrassed him as much as it turned him on.

A flush rolled up his chest and over his throat, settling in his face. The silence stretched. Finally, when he could stand it no more, Cas forced his eyes open and turned his head.

Blake lay on his side, observing him with a hooded gaze. His phone sat face-down in the space between them. The light Cas had noticed through his eyelids was the beam from the phone’s flashlight, now aimed at the ceiling. Not as intense as the miniature lantern, but it illuminated the area enough for them to see each other clearly.

Cas couldn’t find the words to speak. Couldn’t bring himself to release his cock either. Despite his humiliation, it jerked in his grasp like it had a mind of its own, seeking more touch.

“Show it to me.” Blake’s quiet voice held no inflection. He spoke the words as calmly as he might have said “pass the salt” across the dinner table. But Cas found himself obeying anyway.

He tossed aside the top of the sleeping bag, and with the hand that wasn’t wrapped around his dick, pushed the waistbands of both his sweatpants and briefs down so they rested around his upper thighs.

Blake’s gaze raked from Cas’s face to his fisted cock. “Finish,” he said.

Cas whimpered, a small sound that brought Blake’s eyes back up to his. He started to stroke again, moving more quickly now that he wasn’t trying to hide.

“Get it wet.”

Cas nearly came at the low order. With effort, he managed to fight his orgasm down and released his cock long enough to coat his palm with drenched licks. Then he fisted it again, jerking the shaft with hard, slick tugs.

Blake nodded his approval. “Faster. Let me see you beat that cum out.”

Cas grunted and pistoned his hips, pushing his cockhead through the clutching circle of his fingers. Sweat sheened his body. Pleasure blazed a path from his taint to his balls to his sensitive tip. His asshole clenched and released, craving the girth of a large, thrusting cock. Frantic pants burst from his throat, the rough sound overshadowing the wet squelch of his hand as he followed Blake’s order and yanked at his dick. Lost in a haze of lust and sex, he didn’t stop to consider what was happening or why; he simply gave himself into it.

“Come.”

One word, but said in that commanding tone, in Blake’s voice, it held power. It reached into Cas’s body and ripped the orgasm right out of him.

Cas arched off the sleeping bag, his vision graying at the edges. He gave an agonized moan as streaks of cum burst from his tip, coating his fingers, dripping down onto his sac, each spurt another shockwave of bliss along the length of his dick. And through it all, he sensed the weight of Blake’s gaze on him, the heat of that stare prolonging his ecstasy.

After what felt like ages, Cas finally came back to himself. He turned his head to see that Blake had shoved his own shorts and boxer-briefs down. His thick, veiny cock lay hard against his lower abdomen, the foreskin drawn back far enough to reveal the shiny, plum-colored head. Cas’s mouth watered.

“Come here. Jerk me off with your cum.”

WIP Wednesday: HL&S

So, last week Wood, Screws, & Nails came out. Currently, I’m working on one of the spin-offs. If you read WS&N, this story features Aaron’s best friend, Blake, and Blake’s love interest, Castor. They were rivals as teens, but when they meet again as adults, they find that their explosive chemistry manifests into something a lot more fun than fighting (although they do some of that too). This is a peek at the scene when Blake finds out Cas is moving back into the neighborhood, about 19 years after they last saw each other.

Let me know what you think! 😀

~*~

 

“Are you listening, Blejkuś?”

Blake shifted again, unable to find comfort on a couch that was simply too small to accommodate his six-foot-two frame. Mila shot him an annoyed look and leaped gracefully onto the floor—but not before digging her claws into his chest in a show of feline displeasure. Blake winced and resisted the urge to toss a pillow at her. Damn cat would probably dodge it anyway. “What, Ma?”

“I asked if you remember Cas from across the street.”

Oh, that. Blake grunted. “Course I do.” How could he forget the little shit who’d made his summers miserable between eighth grade and senior year of high school? Bane of his existence, that kid.

“Well, he’s moving in this weekend.” Karina walked over and adjusted the cushion behind his back. Her apron was flour-stained, and she smelled like onions and sauerkraut from the pierogi she’d been making. The sharp, sour scent might not have been pleasant to anyone who wasn’t a fan of the fermented cabbage, but to Blake, it reminded him of his grandmother and yearly trips to the Taste of Polonia Festival in Jefferson Park. Of home. “It would be nice if you went over and said hello,” she added.

“Ma, I haven’t seen the kid in, what, nineteen years?” Not since the summer after his senior year, when his grandmother passed away of a massive coronary just a week before he and Aaron went into trade school. Had that really been almost two decades ago? He still missed her. “We don’t even know each other anymore.”

Karina smacked him lightly upside the head. “So get to know him again. It’s never easy moving into a new neighborhood. Most of the kids who grew up around here are long gone. And your babcia liked him, bless her soul. She always thought he was a good boy.”

Blake snorted. His grandmother had thought that about everyone. He couldn’t even recollect the number of times he’d been blamed for something that “good boy” had done. Dozens probably. Kid had the face of an angel back then and a Cupid’s bow mouth to match. Got him out of all kinds of trouble.

“What?” Karina asked. “Don’t tell me you’re still holding a grudge over that silly baseball thing? That was ages ago.”

“No. Not a grudge. But we were never really friends.”

Karina patted his head and moved away toward the kitchen. “Well, you’re not teenagers anymore. You can be friends now.”

“We’ll see,” Blake said to placate her, but he had no intention of playing head of the neighborhood welcoming committee. He’d leave that to the women on the block.

Much as Blake’s own parents had when he was a kid, Castor’s folks had also sent him to spend summers with his grandparents in Villa Park. They’d meant it as a preemptive measure to keep them from running wild through the streets of Chicago all day long. In that, the effort had only been partially successful. They’d both fallen into all sorts of misbehavior anyway, regardless of the change in location.

From the very first meeting, they’d clashed, despite being forced into the sort of reluctant camaraderie that came from boredom and a dearth of other similarly-aged kids nearby. True friendship had never existed between them—only rivalry and constant one-upmanship. Now that Blake had his own place and his own circle of friends, he didn’t need to play nice for the benefit of not being shunned by the locals. He doubted Castor had changed all that much from the smart-mouthed, know-it-all of their misspent youth. Why bother trying to find out if he might be wrong? As soon as the cast came off, Blake was headed back to his apartment in Wrigleyville. Besides, Castor probably didn’t hold the memory of Blake in fond regard either. The animosity between them had never been anything but mutual.

Blake tipped his head back and stared up at the ceiling. His mother really needed to let him replace that popcorn paintjob soon. He couldn’t stand the sight of the stuff, and it wasn’t difficult to remove—just tedious and time-consuming. Much like his healing process would be.

“Cas, Cas, pain in my ass,” he murmured, then chuckled to himself. He hadn’t thought of that old taunt in years. Castor always hated it. Blake remembered the way he would flush, his pale Irish skin going ruddy, clearly broadcasting the depth of his irritation. Blake had enjoyed riling him up back then. Pretty kid. Too bad about the attitude. They could’ve had a lot of fun those summers, if Castor batted for the same team Blake did—which Blake suspected was the case—instead of doing their best to piss each other off. For a moment, Blake wondered how that lithe, adolescent prettiness had translated to adulthood. Not that he cared enough to want to find out.

Nope.

Writing Update: Release dates, pre-orders, and more!

Hi, all! It’s been a couple of months since the last writing update, so here goes. 😀

Coming Soon

OneSmallThingDELG

Nur eine Kleinigkeit – Release date: March 25. The German translation of One Small Thing. Now available for pre-order.

Moonlight Becomes You 500x750

Moonlight Becomes You – Release date: April 7. This is the 2nd edition, approximately 60K/200 pages. (1st edition was 44K/139 pages.) Now available for pre-order in ebook and paperback. Cover by LC Chase.

Pic Monkey2

Wood, Screws, & Nails – with Kade Boehme – Release date: April 23. Cover by Paul Richmond.

~*~

Works in Progress

HL&S – A spin-off of Wood, Screws, & Nails. – Outlined. Starting soon.

S&S – In planning. My story for the Love’s Landscapes event in the M/M Romance Group on Goodreads. If you’re a member, you can see the prompt here

The Working Man’s Guide to Wooing a Blue Blood Prince (Clumsy Cupid Guidebooks #2) –  with Xara X Xanakas – Plotted and started. Temporarily on hold. Hoping to have this one released in the late summer/early fall, if possible. We’ll see. Wish us luck!

Simon’s Story – This is the as-yet-untitled contemporary story I started for NaNoWriMo.  It’s going to be a pretty angsty ride, and I had to put it on hold temporarily when one of my family members became hospitalized and the content started hitting a little too close to home. But I’ve been wanting to tell Simon’s story forever, so I certainly will be going back to it!

~*~

**Update on the One Thing Series** 

I know I’d said this series would be continued, but, unfortunately, that plan has now changed. The “One Thing” series will stand completed with One Small Thing and One True Thing. I thought long and hard about this, and it wasn’t an easy decision, but I think I’m ready to move on to something new. I apologize to the fans who were hoping for books for Josh or Archer. But there will be new and hopefully exciting things to come from me, both alone and with co-authors, so be on the lookout for those! 🙂 

WIP Wednesday – NaNoWriMo

Hey, all! So since I finally got going on my NaNoWriMo project, I thought I’d share an excerpt with you guys for WIP Wednesday. This is the very beginning of the story when my two MCs meet in a rather unconventional way.

Hope you enjoy it! 🙂

Bracelet

~*~

“Hey! Somebody call an ambulance!”

Gabe’s head jerked up at the shout. He looked over to see some type of commotion happening near the bar. A group of guys stood in a half-circle, staring down at something on the floor. Someone yelled for an ambulance again.

“Fuck.” Gabe chugged down the dregs of his beer and pushed back from his table. Didn’t it always fucking figure? His first day off in a week thanks to another paramedic quitting at the end of his shift last Friday, and he hadn’t even been at the bar for fifteen minutes before some schmuck had to go and get injured somehow.

Javier, the firefighter Gabe had come to the bar to watch the hockey game with, returned from the john just as Gabe pulled a pair of latex-free gloves from his inner jacket pocket. Carrying a few pairs was a force of habit after more than a decade working as a first responder. Shit happened when least expected and it always paid to be prepared, especially when the bodily fluids were flowing. Or, more likely in his occupation, gushing.

“What’s up?” Javi asked.

Gabe shook his head and started toward the group, knowing Javi would follow. As a firefighter who’d cross-trained as an EMT, Javier knew enough to lend a hand if it came to that. Gabe pushed through the gawkers without any pardons or excuse-me-pleases. Now was not the time for niceties. He could barely manage them on the best of days, let alone when he was exhausted after seven straight days of twelve-hour shifts.

A guy lay on his side in the middle of the circle, seizing, blood covering his mouth and chin. That in itself wasn’t totally alarming. Gabe had seen enough seizures to know if the tongue got bit, there’d be a mess. He glanced at the guy’s crotch, checking for urine, but saw nothing. It didn’t always happen, but it was second nature to check. The people who were pretending didn’t usually think to piss themselves to make it more convincing.

Another guy knelt next to Seizure Guy, his hands clenched tight at his sides, brow furrowed in worry. Gabe could tell he wanted to reach out to the one who was seizing, but he was either frozen in fear or he knew better than to try to hold someone having a seizure down. Gabe didn’t care which. He just hoped the guy kept his hands off.

“Got a clean towel?” he asked the bartender as he snapped on his gloves. The guy nodded, reached under the bar top, and tossed him a small, grayish towel. It had seen better days, but right then Gabe wasn’t expecting a sterile work environment. He just wanted to staunch the blood flow long enough to see if there were any serious injuries.

Gabe got down on his knees. The guy’s violent jerking had slowed to a few sporadic twitches. The other one whispered soothingly and reached out a shaky hand, smoothing dark hair off Seizure Guy’s forehead. “Come on, baby. Come on. Come back.”

Ah. Boyfriend, then. Gabe assigned him the label without another thought. It was what they all did in lieu of names in situations like these. Might seem cold or unsympathetic, but a trauma scene usually wasn’t the place for introductions and “how-do-you-dos?”. Nicknaming people based on their injuries made the most sense, and it kept things organized in his head.

Seizure Guy’s random twitches stopped. After a moment, his eyes blinked open, hazy and unfocused, one green, one hazel. The disparity was enough to make Gabe freeze for a moment before he snapped back into action. He took Seizure Guy’s shoulder in hand and gently turned him onto his back. Then he spared a quick glance at the boyfriend. “You know him, I’m assuming? This ever happened before?”

The guy nodded. “Yeah. He has epilepsy. Are you a doctor or something?”

“Medic. Anything else I should know?” Gabe briefly inspected the medical alert bracelet on Seizure Guy’s wrist. It was subtle, matte black and stainless steel, and stylish enough to pass for a regular piece of jewelry to the untrained eye, but Gabe had been in medicine long enough to spot the asklepian symbol at ten paces.

“Not that I’m aware of.”

Gabe reached for Seizure Guy’s chin and dabbed at it with the towel. The skin was split, the shine of bone visible underneath. He’d probably cracked it on the edge of the bar when he fell. A gruesome looking wound, and one definitely requiring stitches, but nothing life-threatening.

“Anyone call an ambulance yet?” Gabe asked as he slid his gloved fingers into Seizure Guy’s thick hair, feeling along his scalp for any other possible injuries.

There was a round of muttering and then someone shouted yes from the back of the group.

“Call it off. I’m a paramedic. Ambulance eleven. Last name Favero. Tell them we’ll get him to the hospital.”

The boyfriend looked at him in surprise, but Gabe had been a paramedic long enough to know that most experienced epilepsy patients would only be pissed and embarrassed at having an ambulance called and being carted off on a stretcher when this was something they dealt with on a regular basis. The postictal stage didn’t last very long, and as soon as the guy was fully cognizant again, he’d probably nix the ambulance idea with a vengeance.

Gabe didn’t bother explaining his reasoning. “What’s his name?”

“Simon.”

Gabe pressed the towel against the gash on Simon’s chin and held it there, peering down into his eyes, searching for signs of awareness. In his experience with epilepsy patients, he knew Simon should be conscious enough to answer questions by this point, even if he might not remember afterward. “Simon? Can you hear me? Do you know where you are?”

Simon blinked slowly, gaze still clouded by confusion. After a second, he spoke, his voice somewhat garbled. “Y-yeah. Hear you.”

“Can you tell me where you’re hurt?”

Simon’s forehead wrinkled. “Mouth…head…chin.”

“Yeah, you split your chin open. We’re going to need to get you to the hospital. It has to be stitched.”

Simon nodded groggily. “Okay. No ambulance.”

“Nope, no ambulance.” Gabe looked up to see Javi standing nearby. “You okay to drive to Northwestern or should we get a taxi?”

“I’m good. Didn’t even finish my beer. Advocate is closer, though.”

Gabe shook his head. “I don’t know the staff there. The bleeding’s already stopped on this. He’ll be good for the drive.”

“All right. I’ll pull around front.”

Javi took off back toward their table as Simon struggled to sit up. Gabe dropped the blood-stained towel and got a hand behind his shoulder blades to hold him steady. Most of the crowd had begun to disperse now that it was evident the guy wasn’t about to keel over dead or give them any more of a show.

“Hey,” the boyfriend said. “Thanks, but I can take him. We’ll grab a taxi. There’s no need for—”

Gabe arched an eyebrow at him. “You want to sit in the ER all night? I can take you in the back way, have him in a room in less than five minutes.”

After a second, the boyfriend nodded. “Fine.” He leaned closer to Simon and wrapped an arm around his waist. Gabe pulled his own hand away and stood, ready to step in and help if needed, but the guy got Simon up onto his feet without any mishaps.

“I can walk by myself, Marco,” Simon muttered as the boyfriend started ushering him to the door.

“He have a jacket?” Gabe called after them. It was mid-October in Chicago and Simon’s thin T-shirt wouldn’t offer much protection against the drizzly chill outside.

“Oh, shit.” The boyfriend—Marco—glanced over his shoulder and tipped his chin toward one of the bar stools. “Can you grab that? And mine’s right next to it.”

Gabe grunted as he stripped off his gloves. He shoved them into his pocket so he could pick up the jackets Marco had indicated. He knew Javi well enough to trust the guy had grabbed his own stuff from their table before he left. The bill they could settle later; they came to Rowley’s often enough. If Simon and Marco had started a tab, well, that was their problem.

He followed them to the door and waited while Marco took the jackets from him and pulled on his own, then helped Simon into his. There was a moment of tension when they got to Javier’s SUV and Marco tried to insist on being in the back with Simon. Gabe just sighed. “Look, man, we don’t have time for this shit. I’m the medic. I’ll sit with him in case something unexpected happens. We’re not at a club. I’m not trying to steal your boyfriend.”

Marco opened his mouth, but a beep cut him off as the driver waiting behind Javi laid into his horn. Javi gestured to them and Marco grudgingly got into the passenger seat while Simon and Gabe slipped into the back. Simon leaned against the seat and closed his eyes as Javi pulled out into traffic. He was clearly in pain and he still looked a little dazed.

“How’s your head?” Gabe asked.

“Hurts,” Simon answered, his voice slurring.  Swollen tongue, probably. “Always does after.”

“How long have you been having the seizures?”

“Thirteen years.”

Gabe wanted to ask more, but he knew better than to keep the guy talking when every movement obviously caused him pain. The gash on his chin was like something out of a horror flick with the bone showing through. Hurt like a bitch, no doubt, but it was a classic case of “looks worse than it is.” Maybe half a dozen stitches at worst, and if Gabe got him in to see Munoz, he’d barely have a scar to show for it.

Good thing, too. It would be a pity to scar up that face. Now that Gabe had a chance to take proper stock of the guy, he could acknowledge that much. It wasn’t a perfect face, no. Simon’s nose was a bit too wide at the tip. But high cheekbones, straight brows, and a strong, rounded chin complemented what was probably the prettiest mouth Gabe had ever seen. Full and somehow vulnerable with an intriguing little dip in the center of the upper lip. His hair was an indeterminate color in the dimness of the car’s interior—some shade of brown, Gabe thought—but the dark waves flopped over his forehead in a sexy, careless style, partially shading one eye. The green one if Gabe remembered correctly. And those eyes were as interesting as the rest of his features, fascinating in their lack of symmetry.

That mouth, that face, and the body Gabe had scoped out as Marco led Simon outside, it wasn’t a surprise his boyfriend was protective. Any other time or place and Gabe probably would’ve made a play. Dating didn’t mean exclusive. Gabe had fucked enough boyfriends, separately and together, to hammer that point home. But he’d never tried anything with a patient, and he wasn’t about to start now, despite how unofficial this was. He’d get Simon pushed to the front of the line at Northwestern and call his responsibility done. Maybe he and Javi could even be back at Rowley’s to catch the second half of the game, and Gabe could find someone young, willing, and bendable to help him work out some of the built-up strain after a week of back-to-back shifts. A perk of Rowley’s being the only gay sports bar in town, there was never any shortage of guys looking to get fucked. If he was lucky, his entire evening wouldn’t end up a complete bust.

paramedic mug

Excerpt: Wood, Screws, & Nails

So, it’s not WIP Wednesday, but since my website and blog just got a fab new redesign, I thought I’d share an excerpt from the story my coauthor, Kade Boehme, and I are currently working on.  We’re just about halfway through and this is a snippet from the chapter I just finished. Enjoy. ♥

~*~

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“You’ve been avoiding me,” Malachi said.

Damn. Not one to mince words, was he? Aaron swallowed hard but didn’t speak.

“I know it’s because of Julian,” Malachi went on. “I’m not sure what’s up with him. I’ve heard him mention this girl Beth a few times. I don’t know if it’s something with her or if…or if he’s sensed this thing between us.” He reached over and laid a hand on Aaron’s thigh. The touch burned like fire even through the thick denim of Aaron’s jeans. He tightened his fingers on the steering wheel to control his shiver. “Aaron. You feel it. I know you do. There’s obviously something between you and me.”

“I do feel it.” How could Aaron deny it? “But, Mal, Julian doesn’t even know about me. Maybe right now he’s suspicious. Maybe he’s just a little insecure, I don’t know. But imagine how he’d react if he found out there really is something going on between us.”

“He wouldn’t have to know.” Malachi’s hand crept a bit farther up Aaron’s thigh. “Look, all I’m saying is we could have something worth exploring. You’ve called Jules out for being careless and lazy, and he’s pissed off about it. But he’s been partying and having his fun. Why shouldn’t we enjoy the time we have together?”

“Mal.” Aaron risked a glance at him. The sky had finally begun to darken, but there was still enough light to make Malachi’s hazel eyes look luminous. Aaron wanted to kiss him. To taste him and touch him and hold him. But… “I don’t know if I can.”

Malachi withdrew his hand and turned away. Aaron peeked at him again and saw Malachi’s jaw flex as he stared steadily out the windshield.

“Mal…”

“Don’t. I get it. I really do.” The words trembled for a moment in the space between them. Malachi sucked in a shuddery breath. “And I care about Jules. But, man, I can’t take you ignoring me. If we can’t be more, we can at least be friends. I thought we were headed that way, and then the last few days, you’ve acted like I’m a total stranger. It’s been a few weeks, and I know we don’t know each other all that well, but I think I deserve more than being treated like I’m just some random guy who showed up to install your carpet or something.”

“You’re right. I’m sorry. I just…fuck, Mal, you’re my son’s age. You guys live together. You’re his closest friend. You think that doesn’t mess with my head?”

“I’m not trying to play mind games with you.”

“I didn’t say you were.”

“It trips me out, too, knowing you’re his father and I can’t stop thinking about you. I dream about you and I wake up coming and he’s in the room right next door. And, still, I wish I was coming while on your cock instead of in bed alone. Then I feel guilty as hell. So don’t think you’re the only one who doesn’t know how to deal with all this shit.”

Aaron didn’t reply. Couldn’t reply. The mention of Malachi’s wet dreams had him hard enough to pound nails. The pain in Malachi’s voice made him question his every decision. No, this wasn’t easy. Not for either of them. So what if Malachi was younger? They were consenting adults, and Julian wasn’t a child any longer. He could cope with finding out his father was gay. But finding out his father was gay and he was screwing around with his best friend? Even the most well-adjusted of men might not handle that very well.

Would it be selfish to give in? On the flip side, didn’t Aaron deserve a bit of selfishness after all these years? He’d grown up fast once Carrie got pregnant, and he’d worked his ass off to do right by his son. Why couldn’t he have just this one thing?

The questions came without answers. Aaron stayed silent the rest of the drive home.

My first live radio interview – Write on the Edge! with Piper Vaughn

Hey, all! So yesterday I had the honor of being interviewed by W.T. Prater and Mychael Black on their Blog Talk Radio show, Write on the Edge, produced by Marketing for Romance Writers. I was their first author interview, the interview was recorded live, and I was mega nervous. Hopefully, it didn’t show too much. 😉 For anyone who listens, I hope you like the interview! 😀

Write on the Edge w/ Guest Piper Vaughn

Six Sentence Sunday – LHNB

So in the spirit of Six Sentence Sunday, which I haven’t done in forever, here are six sentences from my active WIP, the “Love Has No Boundaries” story I’m writing for Kavisha. if you’re not familiar with this event, the story is being written in response to a picture prompt and “Dear Author” letter posted to the M/M Romance Group over on Goodreads.

~*~

He’d never told Ryan about that night, but he’d been careful in all the years since never to allow anything more than a brief hug here and there. Minimal contact to lessen the temptation. The want. Because, yes, it was there, had been for ages before he finally became aware of it, before he admitted it to himself, a secret so deeply buried it had taken a full-out emotional excavation to bring it to light.

Phillip wanted everything about Ryan. His smile, his vibrancy, and, yes, God help him, as much as it petrified him, Ryan’s love as well.

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