Monday, September 15, 2014

Forbidden Fruit: stories of unwise lesbian desire - Edited by Cheyenne Blue

“She’s off limits but the attraction burns so bright it’s impossible to resist” describes Forbidden Fruit, this collection of seventeen stories that chart the spectrum of unwise lesbian desire, gathering tales of women you should resist—but can’t. In Jean Roberta’s Shelter the bad girl’s back from prison. An upper-class lady seduces her maid in Laila Blake’s poignant story set in Regency England, while a Catholic nun is beguiled by a hooker in Lisabet Sarai’s powerful The First Stone.

These women are cops, slave owners, doctors, Dommes, and horse thieves, and you’ll find them at the pool, being seduced by older women, putting their job on the line for lust, or seducing the salt-and-pepper butch.

With stories from writers at the top of their game, including Sacchi Green, Erzabet Bishop, Beth Wylde, Harper Bliss, and Allison Wonderland, this collection is sure to thrill.

Table of Contents:
Our Woman by Rebecca Lynne Fullan
Hands Off by Ava-Ann Holland
Shelter by Jean Roberta
Ungodly Ours by Allison Wonderland
The Rules by Rachel O. Esplanade
The Further Adventures of Miss Scarlet by Emily L. Byrne
Sunset, Sunrise by Sacchi Green
The Clinton County Horse Thief Society by Axa Lee
Freedom by Harper Bliss
Ascending Amelia by Erzabet Bishop
Bachelorette Party by Beth Wylde
Thanks to Irene by Nicole Wolfe
Ash by Niki Crow
The Law of Reciprocity by Laila Blake
The Shallow End by L.C. Spoering
The First Stone by Lisabet Sarai
Out for the Count by Cheyenne Blue

Forbidden Fruit: Stories of Unwise Lesbian Desire
LadyLit (September 5, 2014)

  • Excerpt from the story Bachelorette Party by Beth Wylde:

We spend the next three hours drinking and dancing and having the time of our lives. Linda invited all of my friends in the community and, judging from the big stack of sex toys I got as presents, their credit cards really got a work out. Every time I look at the gift table I blush. I’m not a prude by any means but I have no idea what some of the items are used for and the size of two of the dildos are seriously intimidating. They must be meant as a gag because I’m not sure any woman can stretch that much. Some thoughtful person even included a huge pack of batteries. I may not need Mark after all.

I forgot how much fun going to a lesbian bar could be. No expectations, no judgment, just a building full of women looking to enjoy themselves without recrimination. It’s been months since I’ve been to Anna and Eve with Linda. Mark threw a holy hell fit the last time I went with her so I’ve ignored her recent invitations, preferring to avoid another big fight with my fiancé. I bet he’d be really pissed off if he knew where I was and who I was with right now. Tough shit. I don’t care. The more I think about the situation the madder I get. Why should I have to leave my friends, especially Linda, behind because my future husband is a homophobic asswipe? It’s not fair.

Linda slides in beside me on the dance floor, takes one look at my face, and frowns. “Oh no. No, no, no! None of that little missy. Tonight is all about having fun. Wipe that scowl off your face this instant. You can think about whatever has you so pissed off tomorrow.” The lights go down as a slow song comes on and Linda grabs me around the waist, pulling me close as she starts to sway to the beat. “Dance with me, babe.”

She smiles down at me as she wraps her arms around my neck. In reply I move my hands to her hips and hang on tight. Her eyes are glassy and her moves are kinda sloppy. She really wasn’t drunk earlier but I can tell she’s well on her way now. I’m pretty tipsy myself.

We kind of shuffle in place, turning slowly because neither one of us is very steady on our feet. Maybe it’s the situation we’re in, or the fact that the liquor has really loosened my tongue, but I feel the need to tell her exactly what she means to me and how thankful I am that she came to drag me out of my house today.

I plant my feet in place and our movement stops. She starts to pull away but I clasp my hands behind her back to keep her in place. Her eyes widen slightly and her breathing speeds up the barest bit. “You’ll probably never know how much this party means to me. Despite everything, you’ve hung in there by my side. I can’t imagine my life without you in it. I just can’t. I don’t even want to think about it. I need you.” My hands clench in the back of her shirt as the first tears start to fall. I crush my face into her shoulder and start to weep. “Don’t leave me. Please.”

She squeezes me, her glorious muscles enfolding me tight in her embrace. I’ve never felt safer or more loved. “Hey. I’m not going anywhere. Mark can kiss my ass.” She strokes my hair and rocks me gently. “Look at me. Jenny, I’m serious. Look at me.”

Her voice sounds shaky at the end and I find myself obeying her request instantly, wondering if the wavering sound means she’s as upset over this as I am. I lift my head and look into her face. The expression of fierce determination lights an answering fire inside of me. Suddenly the whole situation seems crystal clear. I know now why I said yes to Mark. It’s not because I’m in love with him. I’m not, and I’m not sure I ever was. It’s what he represents that made me accept his proposal.

If I marry Mark my parents will be happy, my life will be simple. My family expects me to marry a guy. To have babies. To do what society finds acceptable. I don’t want to settle for acceptable. Been there, done that, got the ring to prove it. There’s so much more out there that I refuse to settle for mediocre. I want adventure, excitement. I want to fall into bed with someone that can rock my world and everyone else be damned if they don’t find my choice proper.

I want Linda.

The realization is shocking in its clarity, but I finally decide to take the chance. I know I won’t regret it. I’ve made my decision, now I need to help Linda make hers.

Linda is still staring at me, the barest hint of hope and trepidation on her face. I hate the fact that I put that look of worry there, but I’m going to do my best to erase it. I lean forward, keeping my eyes open the whole time as I close the miniscule gap between us. Linda’s eyes go wide when she realizes my intentions and for just a second the look of shock is almost comical. Her gaze drops lower, locking on my lips and the fear is replaced instantly by a lustful look that makes my insides twist and my pussy wet. I want this. Oh God, how I want this. “Kiss me. Please just kiss me.”

Her lips finally touch mine and the kiss is horribly chaste and brief. Nothing like what I want, and I let her know it. “Kiss me for real.”

She licks her lips before she speaks, leaning her forehead against mine until we’re so close she only has to whisper. “Are you sure? Don’t do this with me if you aren’t one hundred percent positive because I don’t think I can take it. Losing what I never had is one thing, but if we do this, really do this, and you decide you can’t handle it, it just might kill me. I’ve wanted you for so damn long.”

“I’m sure. I’m sorry it took me so long to recognize what’s right in front of me. Now please, just kiss me. I want you so much it hurts.”

Linda doesn’t hesitate any longer. She gives me what I’m asking for and more. Her lips press against mine. There’s nothing chaste about what she’s doing to my mouth now. She uses everything at her disposal. Lips, teeth, and tongue. It’s brutal, primal, everything I expected and beyond.

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Monday, September 8, 2014

Accidental Contact and Other Mahu Investigations excerpt by Neil Plakcy

Neil Plakcy’s Accidental Contact and Other Mahu Investigations, coming this fall from MLR, is a new collection of mystery stories featuring openly gay Honolulu homicide detective Kimo Kanapa’aka.  Here’s an excerpt from the title story.

Accidental Contact and Other Mahu Investigations
MLR Press (August, 2014)
ISBN: 978-1-60820-9514 (print)
(MLR)1-02013-0286 (ebook) 


The longer I remained a homicide detective, the harder it got to contemplate the parade of victims, and surfing was the only way I could stay sane. Outside the breakers, I focused on watching the waves, choosing the one that would carry me to shore. I could forget the senseless deaths, the innocent and guilty victims, the pain of those left behind.

The beach was crowded and it was hard to catch a good wave, and as the sunset cruises began to leave with their colorful sails unfurled, I rode one last wave to the shore. I walked up the sand toward home, but like a homing beacon, I felt the Rod and Reel Club signaling to me.

You’d think I would stay away from the place, after the trouble I had run into there in the past, but it was the closest gay bar to my apartment, and the bartender let me run a tab. It was a friendly place, and the mix of gay and straight patrons made it easier for me as I took my first steps out of the closet. I’d met other guys there who felt the same way.

Still damp, I pulled up a stool at the bar and ordered a Longboard Lager. It was the tail end of happy hour, and the patio wasn’t too crowded. A couple of tourist clusters filled the round tables, and a smattering of gay men sat at the bar or lounged in small groups under the big kukui tree. I didn’t see anyone I knew, or anyone I wanted to know, so I finished my beer and went home.

Wednesday morning I was at my desk at seven. The DA’s office had prepared the subpoenas and gotten them signed late the day before, and then faxed them to the appropriate hospitals. Our department fax started ringing with their responses, and I spent most of the morning looking at Miguel Bohulano’s personnel records.

At each hospital, male patients had complained of inappropriate touching, often when they were partially sedated. And in each case, Bohulano had first been disciplined, then warned, then finally fired. But because of the confidentiality of personnel records, the next hospital down the chain knew nothing of his previous problems. At Queen’s, he was already on probation for two offenses. In one case, his statement read that his mouth had “accidentally” come in contact with the patient’s penis while Bohulano was changing a dressing on the man’s leg.

Thinking back on all my sexual experiences, I knew my mouth had never “accidentally” come in contact with another man’s penis, nor vice versa. I looked at the employee photos that had been faxed over as part of Bohulano’s records; he wasn’t a bad-looking guy. A bit skinny and ten years too old for my taste, but there were certainly enough rice queens—non-Asian men who preferred Asian male lovers—in Honolulu to keep him busy on a Saturday night. Or sticky guys—Asian men who liked Asians.

I sat back in my chair to contemplate Miguel Bohulano’s life. He grew up in Quezon City and went to nursing school in Manila. Had he been abused as a boy? How had he come to associate power with sex? Surely in jerking off male patients under their flimsy gowns, he was asserting his power over them. A clear abuse of his ethics as a nurse—as well as behavior that was unlikely to result in the patient asking him out on a date.

There was no way to find out what had happened in his childhood; the only person who might have a clue was his mother, and he probably never told her anything about it. He had left the Philippines ten years before, and I had no doubt that patient abuse had caused his departure. I didn’t know what privacy laws were like in the Philippines, but it was possible he’d been blacklisted for an incident, or else had simply seen the handwriting on the wall and left for Hawai’i.

In the last ten years he had worked for five different hospitals, each one passing him on to the next employer without a negative word. Indeed, the folders were filled with praise—he was skilled, caring, a patient favorite—except for those complaints.

Because I’m a cop, and I look for patterns, I went back over the incident reports. Had Miguel Bohulano picked a particular type of guy—by age, ethnicity, ailment? I couldn’t find one. A couple of the victims self-identified in their complaint as gay, while several others made a point of asserting their heterosexuality. Another group made no mention.

Shortly after noon, the ME’s report came in. It confirmed everything Doc had told me the morning before—Bohulano had been on his knees, and the knife blow to his back had come from above. The wallboard saw was the weapon, but the killer must have used work gloves, because there were no prints on it.

One fact stood out. Traces of dried semen had been found around Bohulano’s mouth. I picked up the phone and dialed the morgue. After I bantered for a few minutes with his merry receptionist, Doc came on the line. 

“The position of the victim and the murderer,” I said. “Is that also consistent with the possibility that Bohulano had just given a blow job?”

“I thought you’d come to that conclusion, detective,” he said. “That hypothesis is supported by the presence of dried semen at the edge of the victim’s lip. I put the DNA sample on ice in case you find someone I can match it to.”

“That’s cold,” I said. “I mean, what kind of a guy has an orgasm, then immediately plunges a knife into the back of the guy who gave him the pleasure?”

“That’s what they pay you to find out, isn’t it? Let me know if you find some semen for me to match.”

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Monday, September 1, 2014

Red Curry Summer excerpt by Jacob Campbell

Red Curry Summer by Jacob Campbell is a step back in time and place.  This short story about a summer love affair between two twenty-something gay guys is set in 1970. The Viet Nam war was a major factor in most of us going back to graduate school to avoid the draft, and we weren’t out as “out” really wasn’t a viable option then. Secret cruising, sneaking into bath houses, smoking weed, and having to wonder what a potential mate was thinking about you between meetings—no cell phones or email to break the tension—and lasting relationships were not an option for many. It’s an autobiographical first-person piece about a special guy in a special time in the protagonist’s life, markings in time, markings in memory, love’s indelible mark upon one’s soul, and having to say goodbye.  The eternal story about love and romance..
Red Curry Summer
JMS Books (August 30, 2014)


"Hey, man, where you been?" Curry asked as he walked briskly from his convertible to my car when I drove up in the parking lot of the Mental Health Center.
Oh, nowherejust out doing some chores around my place.
"Well, everybody sure missed you, man." Curry put his arm on my shoulder and hugged me discreetly, but overtly, in the parking lot. Two of the secretaries were coming into work and ducked their heads as if to giggle to one another. "This is my last week. I dont know where the summer has gone, Curry said. "I'm going to be finished on Thursday and then I'm leaving that night to drive straight through to New Orleans."
"You only have two days left?"
Yes. Two days. I was hoping that I could spend the night with you tonight to make it special.
All my dream-state resolutions to do away with this relationship went down the drain. The very thought of losing him in two days made my heart rate go up, and my skin was immediately covered with perspiration.
"Come stay the night. Well take off early and have a good time."
"That's cool, man," Curry said. "I've been looking forward to getting back into bed with you. Youre really amazing."
I thought about how insensitive he had been, standing me up, and there was not a mention of it, not even an apology. But I was so enamored of him that I just let it all go and only could think about what I could possibly do to extend our relationship, to make it last more than these few hours left allocated to us. However, I didn't know what to do. I wanted him to stay, but my mind was blank. We entered the building and the buzz of the Mental Health Center immediately surrounded us.
"I'll see you at 10:30 in the coffee room, let you know what can happen. If you can be free, we could leave by noon and that would give us all afternoon. I'll just call in sick tomorrow if you don't have to be here." I said.
"I don't have to be here tomorrow until about twelve o'clock because that's when teachers coming to give us our certificates for this summer. Curry said. I could actually spend the afternoon and night at your placeup until almost noon tomorrow."
So here it was. It was the final deadline. It was D-Day. I had no motivation to stay in the Mental Health Center and do any work at all. I made a few necessary phone calls, told Dwayne I was having a crisis, and asked if hed cover for me just two more days. I got back in my car and spun around toward the downtown shopping area in Chattanooga to the Sport Country Western Store where I had seen some leather pants with tassels on the legs. Leather pants something like Daniel Boone or Davy Crockett might wear. They were suede cordovan, colored, tight-fitting, sexy bellbottoms. The combination of tassels all up and down the seams on the side and the bellbottoms made them perfect for dancing. I thought Id get them for myself a month or so ago, but they were way too long. When I met Curry, I could picture him in them. I knew that Curry wood be going to the discos and dancing a lot when he moved to New Orleans, the Crescent City.
It was so important to get a special going away present for Curry. When the salesman told me the price of the pants, I couldn't believe it. It was more than I made in a week. I really didn't know what to do. I had a credit card that was relatively new and only was supposed to be used for emergencies, and I decided that this was an emergency. I charged the suede bellbottom pants with the tassels, a chocolate-colored paisley shirt that accented the pants, and a cowboy belt that looked like it would glitter in the disco because it was cordovan leather covered with metallic studs that acted like little mirrors all the way around. It went with the outfit.
I knew Curry had the boots to go with this. I knew that I would never see him wear these in the disco, but I wanted him to remember me. They were so beautiful. I never bought a present like this, even for my own self.
I raced to a Thai deli. Id been researching their menu, and so I knew what I wanted. There was an entire dinner, mostly shrimp and seafood, all based on red curry. I thought this would be cool. I wanted this to be a romantic evening, and I want to express my love to Curry. I thought hed get a kick out of the meal, and maybe it would make the evening more memorable.
I kept thinking and saying to myself under my breath, my mantra, Go Ahead, Dream Big! I repeated this over and over to myself. What did it mean? Go Ahead, Dream Big?
In my mind, I knew that I was hoping that I could convince Curry to stay and to live with me. I cried, thinking about this, about how he could live with me and not have to go to New Orleans. I would make him happy. He wouldn't have to work. He could pursue his artist dreams and paint in the hills and mountains around the apartment. But I knew that he was a local boy and probably all his life wanted to get away from this place. These were all the warring thoughts in my mind that made me nearly sick with anguish as I headed for my last encounter with Curry.
I smoked a joint and rolled several for the evening. Then I dropped the tab of acid that was supposed to be really mellow sunshine and it turned out to be an ecstatic kind of experience and I felt a lot of love. A lot of feelings of grandiose magnanimous affection and caring for every creature in the world seemed to emanate from somewhere in my solar plexus. When Curry arrived, I was more than ready for him. In the darkened apartment, curtains all closed, I had candles lit and the Moody Blues were playing in the background, his favorite song Knights in White Satin." The aroma of red curry and sandalwood incense filled the apartment. I had everything in the oven on warm.
"Come on in, I said to Curry.
I shut the door behind him and I threw my arms around him. He kissed me, and I kissed him. There was a moment of blissful unification that I experienced. Sunshine was rushing through my system, and I was feeling most intensely each touch, each emotion, each tiny thing as though everything were processed through some kind of life amplification system.
Curry was carrying his knapsack with his overnight stuff, and, in one hand, he had a blue foil box that was gift-wrapped with a red ribbon. I was very curious, but I said nothing. I indicated for him to put it down on the table over in the corner by the bookshelf. That's when he noticed the gift-wrapped boxes for himself.
We had our dinner by candlelight. Then we sat on the sofa and kissed and cuddled. There was no motion to go into the bedroom to have sex. Not yet.
We opened the presents.
"Wow!," Curry said. "I've never seen any pants so beautiful in my life."
"Try them on and see how they fit."
I was extremely anxious that they were going to fit, even though I knew they were his size. I watched in anxious anticipation as he unfolded them and took his pants off, exposing his long beautiful legs. He slid into the velvet-like suede pants. They came up to his low waist, below his navel, and they buttoned snugly for a perfect fit. The shirt was also a good fit. I did what I set out to do, and I was overjoyed
"Thank you so much for this. I can't believe you bought this. This is so beautiful. I don't deserve it. Curry was clearly pleased.
"You deserve this and more. I would like to say that this is a present that I give you, and hope that you would just stay herewhere Im I mean stay here with me from now on."
Curry ducked his head and said. He reached for the cubical blue box and handed it to me. For a moment, I felt hopefulhope that there was some object in this box that indicated that Curry loved me. I unwrapped the box carefully and slowly, letting the tension build within myself. Then I opened the inner paper and found a beautiful, three-inch-tall, antique jade Buddha. It was like red jade.
"Is this jade? It looks like red jade!
"It's red jade.  I got it because you love Zen so much and because you love the color of my hair. Everyone at the Mental Health Center says youre as compassionate as the Buddha, too.
Knowing how screwed up and insane I am, I kept my mouth shut and just made humming sounds of approval.
The Buddha was absolutely amazing. It was an antique but had been cared for lovingly. It must have been over a hundred years or more old, from the markings on the base. It was of the laughing Buddha. The one where he is fat-bellied and has breasts that sag and hang down. I wondered if I seemed like a laughing Buddha to Curry. He leaned over and kissed me on the lips.
Thank you for taking care of me this summer. Ill never forget you.
This made me feel extremely good. I was glad to get such a present from him. More than the gift, I appreciated the sentiment behind it. His acknowledgement of my support made me feel better, if not somewhat categorized as utilitarian, like a professor or teacher.
I caressed the cool jade. I felt such connection with the Buddha statue. It seemed like the perfect present. I had never thought of red so much as I had since meeting Curry. Some people call that color hair ginger, but I dont see that in his hair. I see gold and red.
I took the Buddha and placed it on my handmade study desk. The little statue joined my magnifying glass, a couple of books, and a few of my pens decoratively set out. I never moved that statue from my desk except to pack to move a few times. My study desk was its home.
One thing led to another, and we wound up in bed, naked, tangled up. We made love. We took our time, and as the night wore on, so did the intensity of our lovemaking. But a surprise awaited me. When we neared our explosive climax, a devastating telltale sign that everything was terribly changed forever appeared.
Curry worked my cock so intensely that I came first, unable to hold back any more under the sensual assault. I was limp and drenched in sweat as I collapsed in his arms.
I came as Curry manipulated me with his hand. After that, something new happened.
He withdrew from me, got a towel to wipe me off, and lost his erection without having an orgasm.
At first I thought he was just tired, and it would come back. He lay down next to me, went to sleep, and slept the rest of the night. When I woke in the morning, I watched the light play on his beautiful naked body. However, his flaccid penis was a reminder to me that he had ended our relationship without, so to speak, our final consummation. The mutuality was missing. I felt the old familiar emptiness emerging from within.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Caught excerpt by JL Merrow

You can run from the past…but the past runs faster.

Caught! - JL Merrow 
Shamwell Tales, Book 1

Behind Robert’s cheerfully eccentric exterior lies a young heart battered and bruised by his past. He’s taken a job teaching in a village primary school to make a fresh start, and love isn’t part of his plans. But he’s knocked for six—literally—by a chance encounter with the uncle of two of his pupils.

Sean works in pest control, rides a motorbike, and lives on a council estate. On the face of it, he shouldn’t have anything in common with Robert’s bow-tie, classic-car style and posh family background. Yet Robert is helpless to resist Sean’s roguish grin, and a rocky, excruciatingly embarrassing start doesn’t keep the sparks between them from flaring.

Despite Robert’s increasingly ludicrous attempts to keep his past where it belongs, his past hasn’t read the memo. And soon his secrets could be the very things that drive Sean away for good...

Product Warnings
Contains the alarming misadventures of a pest control technician, a stepsister with a truly unfortunate name, and a young man who may have more bow ties than sense.
Sahain Publishing Ltd (August 19, 2014) 


Stop pushing! Mr. Enemy, she’s pushing me!” George H was crimson-cheeked and close to tears. Destinee had that hard look on her overly knowing face that meant she was guilty as sin, but she was ready to deny it to her dying day.
“Calm down, please, you two.” I gave Destinee my sternest glare. “If I see any more of that, you’ll be staying in at playtime and sharpening every single one of the colouring pencils. Yes, even the boring colours.”
“But I didn’t do nuffing!” Destinee whined at me, her pathetic tone belied by the evil glint in her hazel eyes. She was probably already planning her revenge, most likely by stabbing me through the heart with a fiendishly sharpened pencil. In sludge brown. We had a short face-off, which ended with her making a tactical withdrawal. I wasn’t naive enough to delude myself into thinking it was a retreat.
All was peaceful for a moment as I carried on shepherding form 2E into St Saviour’s Church, tins and jars for Harvest Festival clutched in tiny hands. Thirty pairs of eyes (actually, twenty-nine and a half; Jodie was wearing a patch for her lazy eye) searched eagerly for sight of parents and grannies. I gazed out on the sea of female and/or wrinkly faces in the pews and wondered idly if there was any job in the world, anywhere, that was worse for meeting men than the average primary-school teaching post. Father confessor in a nunnery, maybe? Avon cosmetics rep? Or one of those poor sods who went round emptying the sanitary bins they put in ladies’ loos?
I gave myself an internal nod of approval. I’d chosen wisely for my first proper job since Crispin—
An outraged squeal pierced my eardrums and reverberated around my skull. My head snapped around, and I winced as my neck cricked. Destinee was kicking off again.
With a wail of “I said stoppit!” George H stumbled into Charlie, a sensitive young man whose mother was no longer in the picture and whose father, I’d realised, didn’t quite know what to do with him. I was rather fond of the little chap. I was less fond of his father, who had, with criminal lack of forethought, loaded him up with an enormous, heavy jar of pasta sauce. Inevitably, the jar slipped from Charlie’s startled fingers.
I dived for it without conscious thought, launching myself across the stone flags. Time slowed, the jar seeming to fall through treacle, giving me plenty of leisure for a flashback to a long-ago missed catch for the Loriners’ first eleven. History repeating itself, oh, bloody hell. I wondered how many weeks it’d take them to scrub the red stuff off the pews—and me, come to that—and whether Charlie would have stopped crying by then.
Then a pair of hefty, leather-clad arms shot out and fielded the jar mere millimetres before it could hit the stone floor.
I slammed into said floor myself with an oof and narrowly missed knocking the blasted thing straight out of his grasp again. Bruised and panting, I stared at the saviour of St Saviour’s—not to mention my Harris tweed jacket—from my supine position six inches away on the flagstones.
He grinned back at me from his. “That was a close one!” Green eyes sparkling in a roguish, ginger-stubbled face, my opposite number leapt back up to his feet and handed the jar back to Charlie. “Here you go, mate.”
And then he was gone, startling smile, freckles and all. Charlie was by my side, clutching the precious burden tight to his chest and whimpering softly. I got to my feet, dusted myself off and cleared my throat. “Right. Let that be a lesson to you, young Destinee. Now, carry on. We need to take our seats.”
Heads had turned. More than that, the Head had turned. Thank God disaster had been averted. Losing two jobs in one year would probably begin to look like carelessness. With the uncomfortable suspicion my face must be as red as Charlie’s ragù, I carried on herding the children into the pews and was grateful when I could finally slide onto a straight-backed wooden seat myself. And begin courting backache; apparently ergonomics wasn’t yet in vogue when the pews were designed. Or maybe they were just the furniture equivalent of the hair shirt.
St. Saviour’s was an old church, the present building dating roughly from around the time of the Black Death, when presumably ingratiating oneself with Him on High must have seemed like a jolly good idea. It was constructed on its exterior from the evocatively named Totternhoe clunch, a sort of indigestible porridge of flinty pebbles in mortar, and on the inside from large blocks of pale grey stone. Thanks to a recent sandblasting, it was rather brighter and cheerier inside than you might expect of a medieval building. The sight lines, though, were dreadful; the chancel was crowded with massive stone pillars at least a couple of bear hugs in circumference and the side chapels were all but invisible to those not actually in them.
Not, of course, that I was in any way straining secretly (and in vain) for a glimpse of black leather, copper-coloured hair and a ready smile. I wasn’t that daft. Sworn off men for life, that was me. Or, well, maybe not life. Just the next twenty years or so. Maybe thirty, just to be on the safe side. I’d be in my midfifties; surely I’d have acquired a bit more discernment by then.
Was he a biker, I wondered? The man who’d saved us all from the Great Spaghetti Sauce Massacre, I mean. The leather jacket might just be a fashion statement. I frowned. Could he be a parent? I’d had a vague impression of someone around my own age, so yes, it was possible. If he’d embarked on parenthood when I was busy swotting for my A Levels. I pursed my lips.
Charlie pulled my sleeve. “Mr. Enemy?”
“Yes, young Charlie?” I whispered back.
“Why are you making funny faces?”
I froze. “My nose itches.”
He looked at me solemnly. “You should scratch it. Like this.”
A grubby little finger plunged up an only slightly cleaner nose and started to move around vigorously. “Ah. Careful there, Charlie. You’ll give yourself a—oh dear. There we go.” I pulled out my handkerchief and did my best to stanch the Niagara Falls of blood from Charlie’s abused nostril. Then I glared at the children in the pew in front, who’d turned round to goggle at the poor boy. “Eyes front. Haven’t you ever seen a nosebleed before?”
“Is Charlie going to die, Mr. Enemy?” Destinee asked in a tone of relish.
“We’re all going to die, Destinee,” I said firmly. “Some of us sooner than others. Now hush. We’re supposed to be listening to the prayers.”
The rest of the service went rather as expected—Emily J forgot her lines, the reception class were adorable but inaudible, somebody’s little sister had an unfortunate potty-training accident and Mrs. Nunn, Destinee’s mum, got told off by the vicar for chatting loudly on her mobile phone. At least it hadn’t been her daughter she’d called.
I pasted on a smile as I strode to the crossing to lead the little darlings in a whole-school rendition of St. Saviour’s School’s official harvest song, “I Like Baked Beans”. I’d spent the last three weeks coaching them in it, and I was quite possibly never going to eat another baked bean ever again. I even dreamed about them, the song running through my head like a radioactive earworm. If it had gone on one more week, I’d have been at serious risk of having a nervous breakdown in the canned-food aisle in Tesco. I could almost hear the tannoy announcement: Straitjacket to aisle seven, please.
Would a redheaded, leather-armoured knight of the road have appeared to save me as I gibbered among the groceries? I wondered, beating time with every semblance (I hoped) of enthusiasm. My gestures became more and more exaggerated as tiny attention spans dwindled and expired in a puff of bad behaviour. Destinee was blatantly not singing, her arms folded and her lips pressed so tightly together they’d turned white. Charlie, bless him, was bellowing out the words loud and clear in his wobbly treble, flat on the low notes and sharp on the high. The terrible twins were playing slapsies with each other, but as I’d had the foresight to place them behind a pillar, nobody would ever know.
As the last notes died away, I lowered my hands, and the parents burst into applause made riotous by their relief it was finally all over. Unless that was just me. I turned to take a quick bow, and couldn’t resist scanning the congregation for a glimpse of orange.
All I saw were Edward C’s pumpkins and Emily G’s basket of tangerines. Good, I decided. I was safe. And at least Harvest Festival was over for the year.
As was apparently traditional, the parents formed a sort of honour guard along the path for the children as they came out of church, although I noticed one or two sloping off guiltily as soon as they’d been let out. Destinee’s mother was back on her mobile already, her highlighted hair tucked behind one multiply pierced ear as she texted with one hand and lit up a cigarette with the other in a rather impressive display of multitasking.
The Catcher in the Aisle, however, was waiting expectantly by the path. Seen for the first time in the light of day—not to mention in a vertical position—he proved to be tall and lean, although nicely broad shouldered. He was wearing a turquoise T-shirt that made his green eyes glow and washed-out denim jeans that looked as soft as velvet and fit him perfectly. His unruly red hair sent a warning—or a promise—of danger that was only enhanced by his battered black biker jacket. He was definitely at least in his mid-twenties, I thought, although perhaps a few years older than me. He had a slightly weathered look about him. An outdoorsy type.
I realised he was looking straight at me, a smile curving at the corner of his lips. Oops. He must have caught me staring at him. I stepped up to him before my better judgement could talk me out of it. “Excellent catch, there! Are you a cricketing man?”
He shrugged. “Nah, football’s more my game.” I could have kicked myself. My better judgement offered to put on a pair of steel-toed boots and join in. Men who wore scuffed motorbike jackets and embarked on fatherhood in their teens generally had other things to do on their Sundays than don flannels and step up to the wicket on the village green.
Suddenly his face broke into a wide grin that just about took my breath away. I found myself smiling back helplessly and then felt like an idiot as I realised he was looking straight past me. “Wills! Harry! Great singing, lads!” Two redheaded terrors—the terrible twins themselves—threw themselves upon him, squealing “You came!”
“Course I did. Wouldn’t miss this, would I? Good to hear you’re still singing the old song. I like baked beans, Brussels sprouts and tangerines…
I slipped away. I had a class of six-year-olds to shepherd back to school. Goodness knows what I’d been thinking, talking to the man like that.
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Monday, August 18, 2014

Trysts: Tales of "Tea Room Queens" excerpt by Mykola Dementiuk

A quickie from Mykola Dementiuk!

Trysts: Tales of "Tea Room Queens"
Sizzler Editions (July 31, 2014)


How many men had I jerked off and been jerked off by? Countless. Men come, men go, but there are always other men coming closer, stepping nearer to reach and hold and clutch my penis as I clutch theirs, as if it were a holy talisman sacred to only God. What is creation? It is God, which stems from the penis, aiming at itself, going round and round and round . . . .

I entered the restroom already hard and stiff, and within moments, the bathroom door opened, and I heard another man coming to the urinals. I didn't look to see his face; what would be the point? Was he relieving himself or cunningly looking at me? Of course, it was hard to tell. Bathroom trysts lasted for as little time it took to jerk off or do the same to another standing next to you. A tap on your wrist or an eye movement and a greedy hungry hand pulsed in, took hold, and stroked until you both erupted in cacophonous but controlled spasms. You zippered up and went your own way. I'd never met a man for longer than the time it took to reach ejaculation. Sure, there had been a few who held on a little longer, but in the restrooms it was just for that, a soothing rest, a sweet coming, and a fading back to where you were once before. I often wondered how they would have acted outside, back in the real world . . . .

I heard him enter the restroom, my penis stiff and eager. I looked up, expecting the usual, a typical morass of men who used public restrooms, but I was stunned by his bulky size as he, smiling and nodding, towered over me. He stood at the urinal next to mine. I instantly went erect—my body not my organ—and zippered up and flushed, turning away from him.

"Caro mio, please don't go," he whispered, seemingly all out of breath. "I just got here."

I was struck by the Italianism, but this was Lincoln Center, the operatic capital of the world. I turned to the urinal again.

"Bravo, such a sweet boy . . . ."

I was surprised by his daintiness of talking, also feminine. I looked up at him, his face red, and he was breathing very hard, a raspy, strained, wheezing, in an attempt to take in air.

"You're a big man," I meekly answered, slowly un-zippering.

A look of satisfaction appeared on his face, an easing, a peaceful serenity of acceptance.

"I've seen you many times before," he said, breathing in and out heavily as his fingers pawed at my crotch. I had barely pulled my zipper down but he succeeded in finishing it for me, lowering the metallic teeth, and reaching for my stiff dick. "But you're always so fast. I couldn't keep up with you."

I furrowed my forehead. What was he talking about? I've near been this far uptown; Lincoln Center was certainly out of my way.

"Always in a rush." I shrugged. "You know how it goes."

He nodded.

"Yes, yes, the early bird gets the worm, eh? You have a very nice worm there, if you get my meaning?"

I moved my hand over to the urinal and reached in for what I thought would be a huge dick, but was puzzled by its scant obtrusiveness. Where I had expected a big cock from a very big man, I found a wee little one, hard but barely the size of my pinky finger. I looked up at him, my hand trying to cling onto the wee stranger. I had pity on him.

"I know I'm small," he said, nodding, "but I am the maestro, with a passion raging within me. I need a young man, like you, who can comfort me and ease me in my periods of tension, before or after shows."

He was beating my cock in quicker and quicker movements, the bright aura of the vacant men's room almost oppressive in its brightness, which I'm sure was a natural to the big man. I let go of his tiny dick and gripped the flush valve, as if undecided whether to flush or not. The flush valve became his dick, which was hard and stiff, its moistness spreading on my fingers. My semen instantly shot out to the urinal; I flushed, gritting my teeth and clamping my eyes shut.

"Bello," I heard him mutter. "Bellisimo!"

My ejaculation was powerful, gripping me with the bright power of the light around me. I steadied myself, still holding onto the flush valve.

"What's that mean," I muttered, "Bello. . . ?"

"Bellisimo, simply beautiful, as you are." He smiled and sighed. "I've been looking all over for you, and here you are."

But I had zippered my pants and stood looking at him. "Why were you looking, for what?"
He also zippered up and flushed his urinal.

"I want you to be my good friend, mio caro. And I will please you in return. Can you do that?"

"Your friend, but we just met?"

He was shaking his head as he joined me at the sinks, pretending to wash his hands.

"All you have to do is please me, as only a young man can do, and I will please you in return. I have other young men for my other needs, but now you can join them. Imagine that, you will be Pasquali's assistant. Please, say yes, you will?" And he looked at me, biting his lip.

I looked at him, a huge robust man, it was very intimidating standing next to him. I wiped my hands on a paper towel.

"What do I gotta do?"

He smiled and breathed out.

"Eccelente, fortissimo!" He clamped his three index fingers together and gave an exuberant kiss to them. "Just come to the stage door and ask for Pasquali, tenor at the opera. You will be bustled in." He winked at me and stood proudly before the mirror, straightening his collar, and announced, "Ciao, I'll be waiting." And he exited the men's room.

I looked in the mirror and thought about it. A life as an opera tenor's assistant, giving him hand-jobs and blowjobs to his wee little dick whenever he needed it. And knowing him in the brief time I suddenly knew him, I was sure it was going to be many, many times. That would set me up for a new life, one of travel and seeing places I still hadn't seen before or even dreamt of ever seeing, I think . . . .

I grimaced. Who was he kidding? Opera, my ass! I'd still be handling dick, over and over, until he had his fill of me or would find someone else to replace me, as I was doing, standing in someone else's shoes. I'd be leaving the bathroom world for good. Might get fancy clothes and prestige but at what cost to my pride? But could I please him? I doubt it.

I shrugged and left the Lincoln Center men's room. It was a mistake in coming uptown; I should've known better. I didn't belong here. I headed back downtown. The wind was blowing, but I turned up my collar, smirking and thinking about Pasquali. What an asshole!

Monday, August 11, 2014

Eight Dates excerpt by Lori L. Lake

In Eight Dates by Lori L Lake, Skylar Cassidy has been on her own for less than a year after a disastrous breakup. She’s found that meeting women is difficult – kind of daunting, actually. She feels like she’s been run through the mill, and she doesn’t want to go through it again. But when her best pal and business partner Mitchell signs her up at the dating website and characterizes her as a happy-go-lucky, amorous, risk-taking single, all hell breaks loose. Suddenly women are coming out of the woodwork and Sky hardly knows what to make of it.
EIGHT DATES is a comical story of a woman’s search for Ms. Right – and how she finds quite a few Ms. Wrongs along the way

 Eight Dates
Launch Point Press (July 1, 2014)
  • ISBN-10: 1633040003
  • ISBN-13: 978-1633040007


Chapter One
I WAS KNEELING ON a hideously ugly orange shag carpet, unpacking one of three boxes that contained most of my important worldly possessions, when I heard a quiet tapping on the door of my apartment. Since it was October 31st, I wasn’t inclined to answer. It’s not like I had a big sack of M&Ms or fun-sized Snickers to hand out to a bunch of trick-or-treaters. I didn’t have any food at all, not even a single item in the crappy little fridge that sat on the corner counter in the world’s dinkiest kitchen. I’ve never seen a stove with only two burners, and I’ve seen larger sinks in Barbie dollhouses, but the price was right. Funds were tight, so I would put up with my miniature kitchen until finances improved.
The knock came again, a soft tock-tock-tock. With a sigh I got to my feet and pulled on the rickety knob.
On the walkway outside, Xena Warrior Princess peered up at me. Miniature Xena, that is. A dark-haired little girl with a pale face shivered in the doorway. She wore tan Ugg boots, a black and brown striped skirt, and a tiny leather bustier. For the Xena breastplate, she’d spray-painted a couple of dessert-sized paper plates with gold and connected them with paper clips. More paper clips were hooked together over each of her tiny shoulders. She wore what looked like a pair of black socks on her forearms to simulate Xena’s vambraces. A sword handle poked up over her right shoulder, and the outfit was made complete by a gold circular chakram hanging from her hip. The razor-edged weapon that the real Xena carried could slice through metal, but the girl’s version was raggedly fashioned.
“Is that a Frisbee?” I asked, pointing at her chakram.
“Yeah, I cut it out with a knife. It didn’t come out so great.”
“You did a great job painting it gold.”
“I guess.” She held up a hand, which was stained gold across her palm. “The paint isn’t sticking too good. Wish I had a real chakram.”
Once upon a time I did have some Xena paraphernalia, including a heavy-duty glittery gold chakram. I wondered where it all went—probably lost in the breakup.
I said, “The sword is very realistic.”
She reached over her right shoulder, pulled it out, and brandished it for me. “Got it at Target.”
“What the heck are you using for a scabbard?” I leaned forward and looked closely at the long gray tube she had duct taped to her shoulder. “Is that a vacuum cleaner attachment?”
“Yeah. I didn’t have anything else. I tried to make one of cloth but it wouldn’t hold.”
“I see. You’ve been very resourceful. Seems to me that you’ve put together a pretty decent costume.”
She squinted up at me. “If you let your hair grow long, you could get a Gabrielle costume and some red boots and be her.”
I ran my hand through my short light-brown hair. I look nothing like the actress who played Gabrielle—except that I do have blue eyes. I ignored the kid’s comment and said, “Are you trick-or-treating?”
“Kind of,” she said, her voice now soft and shy. She’d been glancing past me into my place during the brief conversation, so she probably already knew that no candy was forthcoming.
“But you don’t have a bag or pumpkin head or whatever to put candy in.”
 “I guessed most people here wouldn’t have any treats.”
“Sorry, I don’t have anything to hand out. I’m just moving in, and I pretty much forgot all about Halloween.”
She opened her other hand and showed me an open pack of Lifesavers. “Mr. Allen gave me these. He said they were good.”
“Butter rum, huh?”
“Whatever that is.” She sighed. “Nobody else has been opening their door. Not a very lucky day.”
“So you live here?”
She pointed to her right. “We’re next door to you.”
I felt sorry for her. This ancient motel-turned-into-apartments didn’t seem to be a good place for kids. I’d seen only older residents and some ratty-looking middle-aged guys, most of whom looked like they were no strangers to alcohol.
“Can’t your mom or dad take you somewhere else—to a neighborhood?”
“Mom’s working.”
“And your dad?”
She looked down. “He’s not around.”
“I see. Well, I wish I had some candy for you, but today I don’t.”
“The guy who lived in here before had a iguana.”
An iguana?”
“Big and gray and green, kinda like a mini-dinosaur. He wore it on his shoulder a lot of the time. He also smoked some weird cigarettes. My mom said he was a dee…dee…degen…”
“A degenerate?”
“I think that’s it.”
That explained the funky odor. Iguana plus marijuana equals apartment stench. I’d already cleaned extensively, and I’d vacuumed so much that the canister filled up twice, and I was well on the way to packing it full a third time. The two rooms weren’t filthy anymore, but in some ways it was good that I had so few possessions to get in the way. In the next few days I planned to look for a cheapo special at some carpet cleaning company so they could come in and do a thorough once-over.
“What’s your name, kid?”
She peered up at me, her dark eyes serious. “Maya. What’s yours?”
“Skylar. Or you can call me Sky.”
“Is that your real name?”
“It would be cool if you had a sister named Moon.”
“I once had a cousin nicknamed Sunny.”
“Once had? What happened to him?”
Astute kid. My cousin was ten years older than me and got his nickname because of the movie, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. Our family name is Cassidy, and my uncle’s nickname is Butch, so naturally his namesake, Matthew, Jr., ended up being called the Sundance Kid, which got shortened up along the way. Sunny wasn’t a bank robber like Butch and Sundance, but he did like drugs a little too much. He died of an overdose when I was still in high school, and my uncle never got over it.
I ignored her question. She didn’t need to know that Sunny offed himself. “How old are you, Maya?”
“Does your mom know you’re out and about?”
She looked away, her expression conflicted. Before she could answer, I heard footsteps on the cement stairs that led up from the courtyard below. A dark head bobbed above the rail, and the rest of the person’s physique was gradually revealed as well. A woman in loafers, jeans, and a vest over a dark purple blouse reached the head of the stairs and hastened toward us along the outdoor walkway.
“Maya, you’re not supposed to be—what in the world are you wearing?”
The kid let out a sigh. Frowning, she turned to face her mother.
And the woman was clearly her mother. With their brunette hair and dark eyes, her kid was the spitting image of her, with “spitting” being the operative term here. The mother looked mad enough to spit nails. Despite the restrained anger, she was attractive. Very pretty, in fact. In contrast to her daughter’s short, near-black hair, hers was shoulder length. 
 “You are not supposed to be out of the apartment, young lady.” The woman came to a stop near the rail across from my apartment door and folded her arms over her chest. “You just got off restriction for your last foray out without permission. Do you want that again?”
“But, Mom—”
“Don’t you ‘But, Mom,’ me. I told you I would take you out trick or treating, and now I’m not so sure we ought to go after all.” She glanced at me. “Has she been causing any trouble?”
“No, not at all,” I told her. “She’s a very nice kid.” What I wanted to ask was why an eight-year-old was being left to her own devices. Instead I said, “You work nearby?”
“In the office downstairs.”
“Here, you mean? For the complex?”
“Right.” She reached out a hand. “I’m Rebecca Talarico, and you’ve obviously met my naughty daughter, Maya.”
“Skylar Cassidy.” I shook her hand briefly, not knowing what to say to about her naughty daughter, especially since Little Miss Xena was looking so incredibly miserable. I felt sorry for the kid. “When do you get off work?”
“Obviously not soon enough for Maya.” She glanced at her watch. “Sorry if she bothered you.”
“Oh, no. Not a problem at all.”
Rebecca put her hand on the small of Maya’s back and guided her away. “You need to get inside right now. I’ll return by six, and we can go out then. What’s wrong with the costume I got for you?”
Even with her back to me, as Maya scuffled away, I heard her whine, “No way. I’m too old to be a bumblebee.”
“But it’s cute. You look darling.” She unlocked their door and pushed the kid inside. Last thing I heard was Maya saying, “I’m not wearing…” and then the door shut sharply. I was left standing in my doorway alone.
I gazed toward the units on the other side of this crazy little motel and met the eyes of an elderly woman sitting in a window. If I had a tightrope, I could have strung it from my railing to hers and crossed it in ten steps. Maybe that would have caught her attention. The woman didn’t blink or look away. I blinked, though. She looked pretty intense. I gave a half-hearted wave, but she didn’t respond, so I ducked back into my place and shut the door.

I WAS THANKFUL THAT the apartment manager let me in a day before the first of the month, even if it did mean that I was dragging things up the stairs from the parking lot on Halloween. Someone—I assume the management or perhaps Maya’s mom—had scattered a bunch of pumpkins and a bale of hay near the bottom of the stairs that led up to the second floor. The damn pumpkins were inconveniently placed, and I still had a couple of mattresses to bring up. I wasn’t sure why they’d bothered with the autumn theme. No amount of gourds or decorative items would ever cover up the fact that The Miracle Motel was seedy. A beat-up relic from days past.
When the place was built—back in the Forties, I’d guess—it would have been called a motor court or maybe a motor inn. Travelers who needed to stay in Portland for business or pleasure would have had space to stay for a few days and make meals right in their room. Back then—seems like a century ago—people’s needs were simpler, and I suppose they were less likely to eat in restaurants or go out on the town, and TV wasn’t all the rage. Instead, they might sit on the back balcony and watch the sun set. They might have taken a walk around the tree-lined avenues. Back in the early days, the scarred cement courtyard below might have been a pretty garden. It was long and narrow, too small to have had room for cars. All of the parking spaces were around the outside perimeter of the building, and there weren’t too many. I had parked on the street today.
Out front, an old-fashioned metal sign rose up out of a big lump of concrete. A faded yellow arrow along the top pointed toward the motel. Once upon a time, the arrow had sported a line of lights along the edge, but there were no bulbs in there now, and the holes left behind looked like they had wept rusted tears. The oblong sign below proclaimed the place “The Miracle Motel.” Each letter of Miracle was once painted bright, flashy colors, but now the background was brownish, and all the blue and green and gold and red lettering was washed out.
Underneath the big, bold lettering I could just barely make out some other white letters. After a bit of study, I realized the words were “It’s Magical!”
The Miracle Motel’s two-story layout was a narrow U-shape. The manager’s office and reception area were located downstairs at the bottom of the U, with a laundry room on the second floor above. The sides of the two “arms” of the U formed outside corridors. The upper apartments faced each other and overlooked the courtyard. Stairwells at each end and near the bottom of the U allowed access to the upper story.
The arms of the U had eight doors upstairs and eight doors downstairs on both sides. I’m such a math wizard that I counted 32 units, but no. Somewhere along the way, somebody decided to turn the motel into apartments. One of the two adjoining doors inside pairs of apartments was removed which explained why my 600-square-foot unit had two balconies on the back side of the apartments, two bathrooms, two exterior doors, and two kitchenettes. Lucky me, if I got hungry in the middle of the night, I could whip up a snack from the side of my bed.
In the past, putting a bathroom in the back corner of a motel room might have seemed like a good idea, but what idiotic designer thought it was a good idea to put the door next to the kitchenette? The right-side room, which was where the entrance was, had a breakfast bar—a floating island with two creaky stools—on the living room side. In order to access the bathroom door, you had to go around the bar, walk through the galley kitchen, and enter the restroom. Nowadays there were rules about how close a bathroom could be to the kitchen where you cooked, but back in the Forties, maybe not.
The left-side room didn’t have a breakfast bar at all, and the fridge in there was about seven hundred years old. To keep the electric bill down, I figured I’d never turn it on, and I planned to use the cupboards in that area for overflow kitchen stuff.
The two rooms weren’t huge, but they seemed a lot more spacious than modern day hotel rooms. With only one bay window at the front, and a porthole of a window in the back balcony door, it was dim inside.  I didn’t plan to spend any significant amount of time on either of my rickety balconies. They were surrounded by rusted wrought iron railing and looked shabby as hell. Then again, it was bigger than the footprint of my bathroom and kitchenette combined, so maybe I’d figure out how to use it as extra space for storage.
I went to the front window, opened the mud-colored curtains, and looked out. Not much light leaked into my quarters, but what did I care? I could buy a lot of lamps and keep my crap acquisition low.
The courtyard below featured chipped and cracked cement punctuated by weeds shooting up here and there. Someone had obviously weed-whacked in the recent past, and dead stalks lay here and there, drying in the afternoon sun. Four circular concrete flower beds, placed in a row and knotted with thistles and dandelions, were a real eyesore. The Oregon summer sun had done a number on the plants, and weeds choked out whatever flowers might have once been there.
I backed away from the window. I was focusing too much on my surroundings, but since I would be living here for God knows how long, I couldn’t help it. A twinge of pain tightened in my chest. Once upon a time, I co-owned a house, a car, a truck, and an entire household of “stuff.” How far had I fallen? I had next to nothing now and no immediate plan for restoring all that I’d lost.
All I could tell myself was that things mean nothing and money wasn’t everything.
I was not comforted by the thought.

BY SIX P.M. I had everything up from the car except for my mattresses. I was puzzling about who to call to help me when a knock came to the door. More Halloween visitors?
“Yoo hoo, baby doll. Open up.”
Oh, brother. My friend and business partner, Mitchell Hightower, posed in the doorway, one hand on his hip and the other holding a paper-clad bottle in the air as if he thought he was the Statue of Liberty. He wasn’t wearing a long green dress, but his shirt was bright emerald green and tucked into tight black pants. As usual he also wore shiny black boots. 
“Baby doll?” I asked. “Do you have to call me that in such a loud voice that now my neighbors think I’m some sort of weirdo?”
“Would honey-pie work better?”
I rolled my eyes and stood aside so he could enter.
“Love what you’ve done to the place.”
“Don’t be critical.”
“Sweetheart, if I wanted to be critical, I’d be using words like dive, hole, and hovel.”
“You exaggerate.”
“When you said number 204, I should have known you were up a flight of fifty stairs. ”
“It’s not that bad.”
“If you say so.” He held up the bag. “I’ve brought us a nice pinot.”
“I’ll have to find something to put it in.”
“Maybe you could also turn up something for us to put our asses on.”
“Very funny.” I had a flash of brilliance. “Hey, I bet you could help me with something.”
He grumbled the whole time, but he helped me cart my twin bed mattresses up and assemble the bed. Now I had one item of furniture in the bedroom and none in the living room.
As I dug around in a box, Mitchell said, “If I’d known you were going to make me labor like this, I wouldn’t have worn my best shirt.”
“You off to a party tonight?” I pulled a couple of coffee mugs out of a box and set them on the little counter in the galley kitchen.
“Of course there’s a party, and you’re coming with me.”
“Oh, no. I’ve got a lot to do here.”
“Yes, I can see that. For one thing, you need to look harder for your wineglasses.”
“Sorry, pal. I don’t believe I got them in the breakup.”
“That’s unacceptable!”
“Don’t get me started on all the unacceptable losses.” I pointed at the mugs. “Best I can do on short notice.”
Mitchell gave a dramatic sigh, but his blue eyes were merry. He was the prettiest man I’d seen in ages. His blond hair was artfully styled. And I should know. For the first eight months after the breakup, I lived with him in his two-bedroom bungalow that only had one bathroom, and he certainly had spent a lot of time on his hair. Now that I had two bathrooms, he could spend as many hours as he wanted and I wouldn’t be stuck waiting.
He poured me a glass—correction, mug—of wine, and handed it to me. “Try this.”
“Aren’t you supposed to let it air or something like that?”
“Why bother. I got it for five bucks at Trader Joe’s.”
“I feel so important.”
“You are.”
Mitchell was like a brother to me. We met at work six years ago and learned quickly that we made a great team. He was good with software and programming, and I could assemble hardware and repair and refurbish computers like nobody’s business. Working with someone and living with him, too, got old after a while. Once he started dating a guy seriously I knew it was time to find my own place.
Mitchell held up a mug. “Cheers to you for bravely going where no man has gone before.” He looked around the room. “No gay man anyway. Just what will you make in that appalling little oven? Cornish game hens? One at a time?”
I laughed. The oven below the two-burner stove was indeed miniscule. I wasn’t sure if even the smallest pan I owned would fit in there.
The wine was crisp, and I sipped it with appreciation. “Not bad for a five buck bottle, Mitch.”
“I should have brought a bottle of spray cleaner instead.”
“Ouch. I’m going to get a complex if you keep bitching about my bachelor pad.”
“You have a lot of work to do, sweetie, to get this place up to bachelor pad status. It’s so small. And what’s with the twin bed? I’ve been telling you for weeks now that you’ve got to get back on the market. Find a new squeeze. Have a few one-night stands to build your confidence. You’ll need a bigger bed for that.”
“Pulllease. You know I don’t operate that way.”
“You haven’t been operating in any way since Britney dumped you.”
“Yeah, yeah, I know. I haven’t got any desire to get involved with anyone. I’m perfectly fine on my own.”
“Oh, really? You need some companionship, little miss, at the very least. It’s not like you can have a dog here.”
I wouldn’t be able to have a dog at all, even if I wanted one. I’ve committed the Lesbian Cardinal Sin of being deathly allergic to pets.
“Sky, honey, you’ve got needs. Get out and find some women to fill them.”
I finished the last of the wine and felt it warm its way down to my stomach. I hadn’t eaten for far too long. “You want to order a pizza?”
“Hell, no. Andrew and Brian are having a gourmet potluck tonight for Halloween.”
“Not a costume party?”
“Of course it is. I have my outfit all laid out and ready to go. That’s why I’m here so early—to get you. You simply must come along.”
“I’ve got too much to do here. I want to get settled and be ready tomorrow morning when Eddie brings over the first load for me to work on.”
Mitchell did that little tsk-tsk thing with his teeth that I hated. “You can’t hide away forever, Sky. You’re missing out on a whole lot of fun and excitement. You’ve got to go out and find someone. And I’m going to help you.”
“No, no, trust me, that’s not necessary.”
“You’d do the same for me.”
“Actually, no, I don’t think so.”
“Don’t disappoint me with timidity.”
Oh, God. I had no idea what he had in mind, but I was pretty sure I wouldn’t like it.
Smiling widely he said, “You leave it all to me. I’ll get you a woman post haste.”
“I don’t want one, not post haste, not pre haste, not any kind of haste.”
“That’s what you say now. You’ll thank me later.” He set down his mug and came over to put his arms around me. “It’ll get better, doll. It will, trust me.”
“Thanks, Mitchell. Go have fun and report in later.”
He stepped back and gave me his version of a salute. “Sure you don’t want to go to the party?”
I shook my head. An evening of conversation with three or four dozen guys dressed like Liza Minnelli and Barbara Streisand and Katy Perry didn’t appeal to me at all. “What’s your costume this year?”
“Don’t you remember? I told you weeks ago.” He batted his baby blue eyes at me. “Marilyn Monroe, remember?”
“Oh, sure. Yeah. Marilyn.”
“I’ve even got a fan to blow my dress up.”
“Of course you do.”

Chapter Two

AFTER MITCHELL’S APPEARANCE THE night before, I should have known I was in for it. I didn’t realize how bad it could be until I opened my email. But that didn’t happen right away because I had to get up early and prepare for my work delivery.
In addition to going out in the field to help people set up their computer systems, I diagnose and repair computers. Mitchell and I opened our own business a year ago, but the downturn in the economy has taken a toll. Our premium office space in the Lloyd Center mall is small and costly, so we do our repair work offsite. While I lived at Mitchell’s apartment, I worked out of his garage. Now I’d work out of my living room.
I’d stayed up late in the night to set up tables and assemble a heavy-duty four-shelf unit, which I put along the wall near the front door. I also configured an air-card so I’d get Internet service. Now I plugged in surge protectors and strung extension cords. I was going to have to get a computer desk of some sort. For now, I put my laptop on a fold-up table, fired it up, and opened email.
I didn’t get much email ordinarily, so the one from GirlsGaylore caught my eye right away. Heart sinking, I opened it.

Welcome to
where sexy, creative, and
fun-loving women are found

With increasing alarm, I scanned the message. When I came to a line that urged me to click on the link to see my profile, I wanted to scream. Damn Mitchell anyway. He knew my passwords, so I didn’t even have the opportunity to reject the registration he’d done for me. I was going to kill him. No doubt about it.
I let my finger hover over the mouse, reluctant to click on it but also curious. As I agonized, I heard a pinging sound and the symbol popped up indicating I had a new email. Instead of clicking the profile link, I went to my email inbox.
Three emails from GirlsGaylore? What the hell? I opened one.

Dear GeekGrrl,
OMG—u sound like u r the kind of person i m looking for. Am a 26-year-old femme who’s sensitive and caring and likes cuddling. Would u like to get together 2 see if any sparks fly?

There were 249 femme fatales? The lesbian dating world should be very afraid.
Even scarier, Mitchell gave me a screen name of GeekGrrl? What was he thinking? It brought to mind dweeby emotionless dorks with giant, black plastic, pop-bottle-thick eyeglasses. If I saw a screen name like that, I’d run screaming.
I was already prepared to run screaming from Ms. FemmeFatale. Even if she was Number 1 instead of 249, why would I be interested?
But OMG was right. All of this was so alarming that I felt speechless. If Mitchell walked in the room right now, I wouldn’t know what to say. I’d just have to kill him.
What other lies and misinformation had he put in the profile?
I went back to the original email, clicked the link, and read, soon glad that I’d not yet eaten or I’m sure I would have puked.
He’d filled in the general details to say I was five-seven, 150 pounds, medium build, light brown hair, blue eyes, and a nonsmoker. Accuracy went right out the window after that. I don’t have a “master’s degree in the sciences.” I haven’t gotten my undergraduate degree completed. I’m 32, not in my “tantalizing twenties,” and my profession would never be described as “software magnate.” I’m not a social drinker, don’t own a Ferrari, and would never say I was “sophisticated.”
He’d also written that I was buff and physically fit, that I liked risks (but wasn’t overly risky), enjoyed adventures, and loved kayaking, whitewater rafting, and competitive swimming.
I’m a terrible swimmer. I wouldn’t even swim in Vancouver Lake—and it’s only six or eight feet deep. My ex and I used to canoe every once in a while with me in a massive life jacket, but that was it. The rest of the description was pure and utter crap, but the part that infuriated me the most was this:

I’m told I’m generous, reliable, and a good conversationalist. My friends describe me as a sexy butch with great legs. I love affectionate women who like to cuddle. I’m sensitive, caring, and looking for a hot lover who will also be my best friend. I’m interested in a committed relationship with a sensitive, thoughtful woman who’s a great cook and even better with her hands. I'm completely ready for a life-long romance of intimacy and friendship. Are you?

Where did he crib this bullshit from? No doubt, I was going to have to kill him.
Someone beat on the door with a heavy thunk-thunk-thunk, and I knew it’d be Eddie, the driver we paid to bring the morning load of computers and return at the end of the day and take the repaired ones back. To save money, Mitchell and I had talked about doing the delivery and pickup ourselves, but I didn’t want to waste ninety minutes a day in traffic.
Still feeling sick to my stomach, I got up to open the door and let Eddie in. He’s a foot taller than me and resembles an NFL football player. He wheeled in a stack of boxes and parked them near the shelving.
“Great idea to rent an apartment for this, Sky.” He looked around with admiration on his face. “And it even comes with a kitchenette so you can make your lunch. Cool.”
Such a different response than what I’d heard from Mitchell last night. Of course Eddie probably had no clue that I lived here, and he didn’t need to be enlightened.
“This it?” I asked.
“Oh, no. I’ve got another stack.”
“Sorry there’s no elevator.”
“No biggie. Be right back.” He picked up the dolly with one giant mitt and carried it out.
I stood in the cool morning breeze. The temperature was surprisingly comfortable for the first of November, and the sky was clear.
The door to 204 smacked open. Mini Xena, minus the Xena costume, stepped out onto the walkway, and I could tell she was in a huff. Her little face was all scrunched up and red, like she was about to cry but was holding back.
She said, “I don’t see why I can’t.”
Her mother stepped out of the apartment, pulled the door shut, and stuck in the key to lock it. “You don’t need Halloween candy as part of your lunch.”
“But I want it. I worked for it.”
I laughed. What kid called trick or treating work?
Surprised, Rebecca Talarico looked toward me. “Oh, good morning.”
Her dark eyes met mine and my stomach did a tiny flip-flop. She was very attractive. Too bad she was also straight. “And to you as well,” I said. “Sounds like somebody’s not yet enjoying the day.”
Maya looked up at me, eyes slitted and face closed. Whoa, she was monumentally pissed.
Rebecca said, “She didn’t get enough sleep. Excess chocolate and sugar do not agree with young people.” She looked pointedly at her daughter.
Maya stomped down the walkway. Eddie was at the far end wheeling a stack of boxes my way. As Maya got closer, Eddie cracked a smile. “You having a bad day, little lady?”
“What do you care?” I heard Maya say.
Eddie said, “See if I ever give you a dolly ride.” He passed the child, and I stepped aside to let him into my apartment.
Rebecca said, “She’s a very strong-willed little girl. Thanks for being kind to her yesterday.”
“She was perfectly polite. She’s a smart kid for only eight.”
“Eight going on twenty. Looks like you’re getting all settled in.”
She had no way of knowing that I was as settled in as I could be for now, so I just nodded.
She said, “I better get to the car or she’ll decide to walk to school.”
Behind me, Eddie called out, “Sky?”
I gave a wave to Rebecca and said, “Have a great day at work.”
“You, too.”
I went back into the apartment and signed for the delivery.
“Same timeline?” Eddie asked. “Back at four?”
“That’d be great.”
I fussed and fumed all day while taking apart computers and diagnosing why they weren’t functioning properly. Four out of eight were all jammed up with malware and viruses. They didn’t take long to cleanse. The others were more challenging, but I was able to repair all of them by noon. Time to go to the office and have a little chat with my sneaky business partner.

I CHARGED INTO THE office of Sky High Computer Experts so fast that Mitchell didn’t see me coming until I was halfway around the counter with my blood boiling.
 He rose from the desk, hands up and palms facing me. “Now wait a minute, Sky—”
“I will not. What the hell were you thinking?”
“Come on, you need—”
“You can’t tell me what I need.” I wanted to stick my finger in his face, but I restrained myself.
“Please. I just want to help. You know that.”
“I told you last night I don’t need help.”
“A little female attention wouldn’t be a—”
“Shut up.” I was mad, but I wanted him to understand my point, so I spoke slowly with the hope that his pea-brain would hear me. “I know you’re trying to look out for me, but I need some space now. I don’t need a bunch of people emailing me and trying to hook up with me. When I’m ready I’ll let you know.”
“Okay, okay.”
“You’re going to lay off all this pressure now.” I glared at him until he let out a breath and seemed to deflate.
“Yeah, whatever. Sheesh, I thought you were going to hit me.”
“Don’t make me,” I said in a mock serious voice.
He looked at his watch. “Shop closes up in ten. You want to grab some tacos?” This was always Mitchell’s offer. He’s gluten intolerant but he can eat beans and rice and corn tortillas, so when he wanted comfort food with me—or for me—that’s what he offered.
“Just make me one promise,” he said. “When you do decide to go out on a date, will you please let me cut and style that mop you’re wearing? God forbid that you should be seen in public with some woman when your hair looks like that.”
“Has anyone ever told you that you really know how to hurt a girl?”
“Just looking out for your best interests, baby doll.”
I resisted rolling my eyes, but I still wanted to smack him.

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