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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Monday, August 4, 2014

Scars on His Heart excerpt by Jaime Samms

It's been a disastrous five years away at college for Joe.  In Scars on His Heart, Joe returns to his aunt's farm and finds his childhood sweetheart Cameron eager to rekindle their relationship. Joe has a hard time confessing that he didn't come home until now because he's only just managed to leave Andre, his controlling boyfriend, and has a harder time renewing his submissive role in his affair with Cam. Cam thinks he has to find a way to remind Joe how to be strong. But what Cam doesn't realize is that Joe is strong, strong enough to leave behind a life of shame—though he's terrified his past will catch up to him. Joe must confront his ex and take back his own life, on his own terms, before he's able to give Cam everything they both desire.

Scars on His Heart
Dreamspinner Press (August 4, 2014)
ISBN: 978-1-63216-180-2 (ebook)
      978-1-63216-179-6 (paperback)


They sat and watched as the first few dances of the evening progressed. The bride was as beautiful as she should be, and Joe was more than grateful that Cam took Albert’s place for the duty of the father-bride dance. When it was over and Cam looked from the dance floor to Joe, still slouched in his seat just outside, Joe rose and stomped off into the darkening evening.

Strings of lights had been hung in the trees leading down to the pond, but the narrow path was deserted. The small clearing was ringed with citronella torches, and more lights led off from the far side. Between the trees, Joe could see the water glinting. The place seemed deserted. Just the way he liked it.

They had lucked out with the warmer-than-average weather. It was too early for mosquitoes, and just a bit past blackfly season. The music from the barn was only a faint sound in the distance, barely heard over the songs of the mating bullfrogs. More torches lined the water’s edge, throwing their flickering gold light out across the expanse.

An occasional splash sounded out beyond the reach of the light. In the near dark, the gurgle of the small creek that fed the pond seemed louder than Joe remembered. His boots dislodged the stones of the shore and they clacked together, a quiet counterpoint to the rest of nature’s music.

Joe bent to pick up a few of the smoother, flatter ones. He fitted one into the crook of his index finger and twisted his arm out and around. The stone sailed out over the water in a low arch. He lost sight of it in the darkness, but he heard it splash once. He tried another and a third, but each stone only hit the water with a plop and sank.

“Never were very good at that.” Cam’s voice drifted from the head of the path. He hadn’t ventured out onto the stones, so Joe hadn’t heard his approach. Still, his voice didn’t send a shockwave through Joe. It was as if he had expected the other man to come eventually.

“My dad tried to teach me. We used to come here all the time when I was a kid.”

“I remember.”

“You do?” Joe turned to watch Cam saunter across the beach.

Cam’s broad shoulders filled out his suit nicely. He had his hands buried in his pockets, and the jacket was hitched up around them. His tie hung loose around his neck. Joe eyed that tie and a slow slide of want slithered through him.

“Course I do,” Cam said. “I’ve lived on this farm my whole life, remember?”

Joe nodded, because of course he knew that. And he remembered Cam from the years before he had come to live with Aunt Marie and Uncle Albert. Cam had been a farmhand by then. Well, he always had been a farmhand, but Joe had never paid any attention at that young age. It was only when he’d moved into the farmhouse after his parents’ deaths that he’d realized Cam was more than just a regular worker….

Very shortly after Joe had moved here, Cam had proven to be so much more. He’d quickly become Joe’s confidant. His best friend. A lot of things Joe didn’t understand until he began to understand Cam wasn’t the only boy who fascinated him. He was just the one who fascinated Joe the most.

“The lights out here are nice,” Cam said.

“Yeah. Katie thought of everything.”

“I thought more people would be out here enjoying it.”

Joe shrugged. “Dancing is still going strong. Give them time. They’ll start slipping away in pairs soon enough.”

“Hmm.” Cam nodded sagely.

They watched each other in silence for a while. Finally, Cam bent and scooped a few stones from the ground. He flung them, one after the other in quick succession, and they could be heard skipping across the water far into the dark.

“Yeah, well.” Joe kicked at the ground. “Never did get the hang of it.”

Tossing the rocks had brought Cam closer to the shore and closer to Joe. “We all have our different strengths.”

“Sure.” Joe watched as Cam tugged on the loose ends of his tie. The blood rushed in his veins at the thoughts of what Cam could do with that tie. It made his mouth water and his palms sweat. He swallowed that reaction down.

“I rushed you earlier,” Cam said softly.

Joe kept his gaze riveted on the fingers curled tight around the strip of silk.


Joe licked his lips.

“I’ve always been rushing you.”


“Oh?” Cam let go of one end of the tie and pulled it from his neck. He passed it to Joe. “You hang on to this. I can’t be trusted.”

Joe almost smiled. The thing was, Joe knew a lot of men who couldn’t—or shouldn’t have been—trusted. Cam was not on that list. It was Joe and his inability to say no that was the problem. He took the tie anyway.

As if it was some sort of cue, Joe suddenly found he could lift his gaze farther than Cam’s chest. He stared into his friend’s face and found a sweet, longing expression there. That was enough to break down something in Joe that had kept him at a distance.

He took a step, all that was needed to put him inside Cam’s personal space, and tilted his chin up. He didn’t say anything. He didn’t think he had to. A heartbeat later, Cam caressed Joe’s jaw with a touch both firm and gentle.

Cam bent his head. “Joe.”

“Shh.” Joe had to lift up onto his toes to reach. He pressed his lips to Cam’s and tilted his head slightly. It was as though Cam was holding his breath. Waiting. As though he was being extra cautious and still. As though he thought if he moved or breathed, Joe would bolt. Joe pressed forward, pushing his mouth over Cam’s, parting his lips and darting his tongue out to lick lightly.

“Kiss me, idiot,” Joe whispered against his lips. “Kiss me before I start to think again.”

Cam’s fingers grew resolute, traveling farther back to tangle in Joe’s hair. He pulled Joe to him and turned so their mouths slanted over each other and their lips locked. He took control of the hesitant kiss so fast Joe’s head spun.

Grabbing handfuls of Cam’s suit jacket was the only thing keeping Joe grounded. He moaned softly and pushed his tongue past Cam’s lips. The kiss went from tentative to true to tangled in a matter of seconds, and Joe knew if he let go, or if Cam did, he would be lost. He would bolt. He needed the contact, the feel of Cam holding on to him to be brave.

When Cam’s tongue swept into Joe’s mouth, it was over. His will evaporated, and he pressed his body against Cam. He would have burrowed right into him if he could. Cam’s arm went around his waist, and Joe groaned. He could feel Cam’s cock, as solid as his own, digging into his hip.

“I want to fuck you,” Cam growled against his mouth. “I want to lay you out and fuck you ’til I’m all you know, Joe.”

Joe moaned and attempted to crawl up Cam’s body.

“Oh God.” Cam tightened his grip in Joe’s hair, pulling painfully. “Come to bed.”

Joe would have agreed to spread out right there on the unyielding stones if Cam demanded it. He nodded even as Cam took another kiss, another breath, another bit of him.

Monday, July 28, 2014

First Exposure excerpt by Alan Chin

First Exposure by Alan Chin is loosely based on his own story of becoming the target of homophobia while serving in the US Navy, when he took a second (off duty) job delivering flowers at a gay-owned florist.

Straight, married Petty Officer Second Class Skyler Thompson battles homophobia from his Navy buddies, the military, and his wife when he takes a job creating flower arrangements at a gay-owned florist. But rather than yield to pressure and quit, he refuses to give up the joy of creating beautiful arrangements, battling homophobia for artistic expression. His dream is to leave the navy and open his own florist shop.

Ezra Dumphy—his shipmates all call him Dumpy because of his obesity—is a gay sailor who likes to dress in drag. He is shunned by his shipmates, tragically lonely, and uses drugs to cope with his solitude. What he wants more than anything is someone to share his life with.

Can these two men, opposites in every way, help each other achieve their dreams?

First Exposure
  • Publisher: Bold Strokes Books (August 19, 2014)
  • ISBN-10: 1626390827
  • ISBN-13: 978-1626390829


The majority of the ship’s three-thousand-man crew and twenty-five-hundred-man air wing made their way to the flight deck to hear the president’s speech. Skylar, however, hustled to the squadron’s enlisted lounge where he found a dozen of his shipmates sipping beers and watching Bush’s speech on the television attached to the bulkhead. The screen showed Bush on a podium below the “Mission Accomplished” banner. “In the Battle of Iraq,” the president said, “the United States and our allies have prevailed.”

The crew on deck cheered; so did the men in the lounge, raising their beers in a salute. A bottle of whiskey passed from man to man, and from the little fluid left in the bottle, Skylar realized his shipmates were already halfway to shitfaced.

As Skylar sauntered across the compartment, he nearly choked on the aroma of warm beer, cigarette smoke, and human sweat. He snatched a beer and cranked off the cap, then perched himself on a chair in a corner where he couldn’t see the damned monitor. He removed a sketchpad and charcoal pencil he always kept beneath his shirt, and began sketching the image of the Viking jet. He softened the lines with his fingers, shading where needed. Skylar had a feel for drawing. He considered himself an artist, albeit an untrained one. While aboard, it was the only thing that gave him true pleasure.

“Why fly him here anyway?” Skylar asked no one in particular. “We’re thirty miles from San Diego, for christsakes.”

Shushes echoed from the men.

Dunphy wandered into the room holding a yellow writing tablet and ballpoint pen. He studied the remaining empty seats with a troubled scowl, as if trying to find the safest spot available. Skylar’s and Dunphy’s eyes met from across the room, and Dunphy rambled toward him and squeezed his bulk into the next seat over. Without a word, he bent his head over his tablet and began writing a letter. A minute later, he glanced up at Skylar, as if noticing him for the first time, and offered him a relieved grin.

Skylar returned the gesture. He scanned the room again. Smitty played bridge at the next table with Stokes, Kelso, and Nash. Hudson perched himself on a table in the center of the group of spellbound crewmen, chewing on a half-burned cigar and his eyes glued to the tube.

Skylar and Dunphy worked side by side, Skylar sketching and Dunphy writing. The first time Dunphy’s arm brushed Skylar’s, he hardly noticed. The second nudge was longer, almost sensual. It caught Skylar’s attention. He glanced down, noticing Dunphy’s hands for the first time, shapely and hairless, showing a particular beauty. Skylar moved his arm, giving Dunphy an inch more room, and began to draw those fingers wrapped around the pen.

The third brush convinced him it was deliberate. He pulled his arm well away and turned to stare into those liquid, unreadable eyes.

Before Skylar could begin to fathom Dunphy’s intentions, the hatch slammed open and Petty Officer Third Class Travis Bolton, the Brutus of the navy, charged into the room. His crew cut was the color of scorched grain; skin shaded a creamed coffee hue. Bruises adorned his face, and one of his muscular arms was bandaged and supported by a sling. Travis was two years older than Skylar, but when they hung together, Skylar felt like Travis was his little brother—someone who needed looking after.

Their shipmates had nicknamed them, the Evil Twins. They didn’t look alike, but Travis loved practical jokes, regardless of who they offended, and Skylar always backed him up when things went wrong, which was often. This bad boy role gave them both a certain amount of capital in this tough, unforgiving environment. It also awarded them a lot of solitude.

“It’s a fuckin’ zoo on deck,” Travis drawled in his baritone, Baton Rouge accent. He shook his head like a wet schnauzer. His black eyes blazed with restless energy.

“Look who they let out of the brig,” Smitty bellowed. “The mouth from the South walks among us once again. They even let him keep a stripe.”

“Christ, have you seen what’s going on up there?” Travis said, turning his back on Smitty. “There’s more press on deck than fags at a West Hollywood Gucci sale.”

“You’d be the one to know,” Hudson said. He let out a bark of laughter as he and Smitty did a high five.

Travis snatched a bottle of Jack Daniel’s from the crate and shoved his way toward Skylar. He cracked open the bottle, took a hot swallow, and wiped his mouth on his sleeve.

Skylar sipped his beer while he watched Travis stampede through the room with the lithe delicacy of a heavyweight prizefighter. Travis wore one of his hand-tailored uniforms that he had bought in Honolulu and upon which the three stripes of a petty officer first class had been hand-embroidered. Skylar inspected the fresh pale lines on his friend’s sleeves where two other stripes had accompanied the one there now. His eyes shifted to Travis’s damaged face. “Owww, Trav. Fightin’ with your cellmate to see who bends over?” he said, and chuckled. “Hope you boys used protection.”

“Don’t be jealous, Skye; he doesn’t have your boyfriend’s puppy dog eyes and big, cushy ass.” He nodded his head at Dunphy.

They smiled, clinked their bottles, and both took another swallow. This competitive banter became a delicate situation for Skylar, and he felt he had to restrain himself. Even though Travis was his buddy, it seemed their conversations always became delicate situations, both of them flirting with that invisible no man’s land between amusing and affronting. Delicate situations irritated Skylar. Who was it that said that Hell is being locked in a room with your best friend, forever? He thought of that moment of freedom he had experienced on deck, his arms spread and his face into the wind, just him and the horizon, and he wanted desperately to recapture that feeling.

“If bullshit were money,” Skylar said, “we could buy our way out of this suck-ass job and do something worthwhile.”

“Give up slavin’ for minimum wage, bein’ away from home for months at a time, brown-nosing the brass, and riskin’ our lives for God and country? Are you nuts? What’s better than this?”

“Right, what was I thinking?”

“So, Skye, what’s it like to flag the president’s bird? Bet you peed your tighty whities.”

Skylar glanced at his sketch of the Viking. “Same as any other. He’s just cargo, only dumber than most.”

“Yeah, but I’ll bet you put some extra Tinker Bell flair into it for the cameras.”

Smitty huffed at Travis, “Which makes you Captain Hook?”

“Naw,” Hudson said, “with that big mouth, he’s got to be the crocodile. What’s his name?”

“Tick Tock,” Dunphy said. “Who doesn’t know that?”

“Shut your piehole, fruitcake,” Travis said. “Nobody asked you shit.”

Skylar thought about all the enlisted men who, almost to a man, were thin-skinned, loudmouthed, and shallow. More and more, he felt out of place in their company. He wondered if the navy deliberately allured individuals who were, well… crude, or if they became that way after they joined as a defense mechanism to this testosterone enriched atmosphere. The question was moot. There was no way to change them or the environment. Whenever he thought about it, however, he felt an inkling of concern that their loutish ways were rubbing off on him.

Dunphy leaned closer, uncomfortably close, to peek at the sketchpad. “Hey, that’s amazing. You went to art school?”

“Naw. Got sidetracked.”

“Yeah, didn’t we all. But, man, if I had your talent I wouldn’t be here shucking orders and eatin’ runny eggs and burnt Spam.”

“Takes more than talent.” Skylar knew how arduous the hardscrabble art world could be for an unknown artist. He had friends that ate or starved on the whim of reviews, art fairs, and group shows, and who only dreamed of sales to collectors. Some had MFAs and adjunct teaching posts, but most produced sketches for third-rate advertising firms. Not one of them made the kind of money from painting that could support a family.

Skylar lifted his beer toward Travis. “You organize this? Pretty risky considering who’s aboard. You must really love brig time.”

“Aw, shit, Skye, the brass’ll be on deck all day, listenin’ to that lying sack of turds. By the time they finish lickin’ each other’s buttholes, there’ll be nothing left but empty bottles in the trash chute.” He took another swallow and nodded at Dunphy. “But wouldn’t you have wet your panties if the brass saw you unloading this?”

Dunphy’s face blushed the color of a ripe peach. He dropped his head, intent on his letter once again.

“Hell,” Travis continued, “Eighteen months at sea, we deserve some party time.” Travis became more animated with each mouthful of Jack. He snatched the pad from Dunphy’s hand.

“Hey, give that back, you Neanderthal.”

“Lookie here, boys,” Travis said, raising his voice, “Dumpy’s writing a love letter to his sweetheart.”

Dunphy stabbed for his pad. The wattle of fat under his chin shook.

Skylar shot Travis a look. “Give it up, Trav.”

“Tommy,” Travis read in a loud voice, “I got your letter, and I’m thrilled you’ll be in Washington when we dock—”

Skylar swiped the pad from his hand. “You’re such a dick,” he said, and handed the pad back to Dunphy.

Travis displayed a full set of dingy teeth. “Sounds like Dumpy has two BFs.” His voice held no trace of humor this time.

Skylar’s stomach spun a slow somersault. He laid his sketchpad aside and stood eye-to-eye with Travis. “Say that again, asshole. I dare ya.” He used the vehement tone that he always found startling, like thunder on a cloudless day, and that he had intentionally developed for situations like this.

The room fell silent.

Skylar made his eyes go hard, enhancing the challenge. Travis bunched up a fist and pulled his arm from the sling. Skylar bent his knees to lower his center of gravity.

Before Travis could make his move, Captain Jake Blake rambled through the hatchway, looking stern, unflappable, and fit for his fifty-two years. Beneath his salt-and-pepper crew cut and hiding behind his tortoiseshell glasses were his piercing hazel eyes, which revealed his self-assured temperament. His dress white uniform was crisply pressed and his shoes buffed, communicating respect for his position and underlining his attention to detail. He smiled, but it seemed more the result of a paralyzed face than a cheerful disposition.

Hudson yelled, “Attention on deck!”

The men snapped to attention. A bottle tipped over and rolled to Jake’s feet, leaving a trail of beer in its wake. Jake stepped over it as if it were a landmine.

Travis glanced at Skylar and mouthed a silent, “Fuck!”

Bold Stokes Books ( will release First Exposure, on Aug. 1, 2014 in paperback, Kindle, and all eBook formats. This book will be available on Amazon on Aug. 9th.

Monday, July 21, 2014

The Companion excerpt by Lloyd A. Meeker

In The Companion by Lloyd A Meeker, Shepherd Bucknam hasn’t had a lover in more than a decade and doesn’t need one. As a Daka, he coaches men in the sacred art and mystery of sexual ecstasy all the time, and he loves his work. It’s his calling. In fact, he’s perfectly content—except for the terrors of his recurring nightmare and the ominous blood-red birthmarks on his neck. He’s convinced that together they foretell his early and violent death. 

When Shepherd’s young protégé is murdered, LAPD Detective Marco Fidanza gets the case. The two men are worlds apart: Marco has fought hard for everything he’s accomplished, in sharp contrast to the apparent ease of Shepherd’s inherited wealth—but their mutual attraction is too hot for either of them to ignore.

Shepherd swears he’ll help find his protégé’s killer, but Marco warns him to stay out of it. When an influential politician is implicated, the police investigation grinds to a halt. Shepherd hires his own investigator. Marco calls it dangerous meddling. As their volatile relationship deepens, Shepherd discovers his nightmares might not relate to the future, but to the deadly legacy of a past life—a life he may have to revisit before he can fully live and love in this one.
The Companion
Dreamspinner Press (July 23, 2014)
ISBN:  978-1-62798-850-6
Chapter ONE
“I CAN’T wait,” Bill Smith wailed, his head thrashing from side to side on the bed. “I’m going to explode! I’ll die—I can’t!”
I wasn’t worried about the noise. I’d had my studio soundproofed as soon as I bought it. Bill could have screamed, and nobody would have heard much at all. The thick fragrance of our sweat, our breath, and the sage we’d burned at the beginning bore us up, up, into prayer.
He brought his hand to his penis to stroke it, but I pushed it away. “No. Don’t make it happen. You don’t have to. Just let it happen. Keep your eyes open. Listen to me. Let your body break all the way open, it’s good.” After weeks of practice, he was ready, so ready.
“See yourself opening to the sun, like a lotus,” I coaxed, undulating inside him. “Not to me, or me inside you, but to the whole universe. Give yourself to sun-fire, petal by petal. Keep your eyes open, breathe from your belly, let the mystery take you.”
He bucked, his eyes wide and fierce. He clamped his legs around my waist and dug his fingers into the sheets. He stopped breathing.
“Breathe out, now, all the way. Give all your beauty away. Now!” I pushed in all the way, and his breath burst out of him in a ragged prayer to “Oh, God!” as he came. His body arched and shuddered, beautiful and holy in release. Magnificent. I loved this work.
For a while, neither of us moved, just sweating, still joined. The only sound was our breathing as it slowed. After a few minutes, I leaned forward to kiss his throat softly as I reached for a small alabaster jar beside the bed.
“Thank you,” he said shakily, as I wiped him clean and slowly anointed his heart and belly chakras with sandalwood oil from the jar. “Fifty-some years since puberty, and I’ve never come without someone or something touching my dick before.”
“And?” I asked with a smile. I knew the answer already.
His belly convulsed as I slid out. “Amazing.”
BILL’S WEATHERED face still glowed as he tucked in his shirt, smoothed down the fabric. His hand stopped just below his solar plexus. “I can still feel that,” he said, his voice soft with wonder. “My breathing goes all the way down, wide open. Powerful.”
“Isn’t it wonderful?” I said, toweling my hair dry. “Breathing,” I repeated from our very first session, “is our first and most primal sex— welcome in, as deep as we can; pour out, twice as long as in. Twice as much time giving as taking. Without breath, we have nothing, are nothing.”
I came up behind my client to give him an affectionate peck below his ear. I rubbed my clean-shaven cheek along his neck, wondering how long he’d stay this pliant, this gentle. “You did great today, Bill.”
I knew what Bill Smith’s real name was. I took on clients only by referral and then only after a thorough background check, but I honored professional convention. He was a relatively new client and, so far, preferred the pretense of anonymity. If that made him feel safer with me early on, no problem—his comfort made it easier to do the work. We could go deeper into the mystery.
He caught my eye in the mirror and held it, as only a tough, silver-haired airline executive could. Very used to being in charge. “You didn’t answer the question I asked in the shower,” he said. “But I’d like an answer. Do you ever regret being so beautiful?”
“Not that I’m aware of.” I hesitated, cautious about where this might lead. “Why?”
He shrugged, his smile disappointed. “I would have preferred you to say yes. It’s selfish of me, but the world would seem a little more just if once in a while you felt there was a downside to your looks. Even here in Los Angeles, your physical perfection is... unnerving. When we’re together, I’d rather not be the only one in the room who felt a little awkward about that, at least once in a while.”
Involuntarily, my hand rose to cover the three blood-red spots of the birthmark that lay along my neck. “I’m not perfect.”
His laugh carried a hard edge. “You,” he said with quiet accusation, “are more physically perfect than any human being has a right to be.” His gaze flicked to where my fingers lay. “And those things serve only as punctuation, like an eighteenth century beauty mark.”
I laughed too, just to deflect him. “Okay, then. But that’s not really what my coaching is about. Would you be less interested in working with me if I were less attractive physically?”
He pulled the knot of his tie into place, looking thoughtful. “It might have mattered to begin with. Not now, certainly.”
“That’s because you’re beginning to experience your own beauty, inside.” I waggled a finger at Mr. Smith’s reflection. “But I’m hearing comparison and competition creeping back into your language already, and you’re not even out the door.”
“Competition makes the world go around,” he said, showing teeth.
“Not with me, not here in my space.” I hugged his trim, mature body from behind, catching a rich whiff of sandalwood, and whispered into his ear, “You are unique. That’s what makes you a pleasure to be with, for whoever you’re with.”
“Huh. I’ll bet you say that to all your customers.”
“Clients,” I corrected. It was almost the same thing, but not quite. Certainly not to me. I gave him another smooch on his neck, on comfortable territory again. “Of course I do. Because it’s true. My work is to help a man discover how true that actually is.”
“By having the most spectacular sex imaginable.”
“Exactly!” I squeezed and pulled away. “Can you think of a better way to discover your sacred inner beauty?”
Bill shook his head, finally surrendering a real smile. “Trust me, I’m not looking for a better way.”
I winked into the mirror at him. “Me neither.”
After he left, I massaged my chakras using lavender oil as I always did to separate from a client. I did some stretching, showered again, and dressed slowly.
His question about beauty had touched a nerve. From childhood, I’d been keenly aware that people thought me beautiful. I was. It had been one of Mother’s favorite topics of conversation with her martini friends. But in spite of Bill’s curt dismissal, I was also marked by ugliness.
I stared into the mirror at the rough red spots that lay on my neck like blood spatter. As they had since puberty, when I’d first started having the nightmares, they whispered to me of grisly, violent death. Mine.
Any number of times I’d decided to have them removed, but I’d never been able to go through with it. Always—once as late as actually settling onto the table with the plastic surgeon standing next to me—I decided it would be wrong to cut them out. They were a true part of me, somehow, even though I hated that they were. I didn’t want to be beaten to death like the nightmare promised.
My throat tightened and began to ache. I’d looked at them too long. Sweat beaded on my forehead. I shut my eyes and breathed into the rising swell of nausea. I’m safe right now. I began a silent affirmation. This is my studio. I choose my clients. I’m safe here.
I wouldn’t let that prophecy of violence and death become reality, even though it had marked me from birth. I had the resources to make sure it didn’t. I took all the precautions.
I wiped my face with the damp towel and shrugged into a fresh shirt. I needed to schedule another appointment with Reggie, my therapist, to work on that again. But right then, I was due for lunch with Stef at Chez Henri. My reservation was for two o’clock, and they wouldn’t hold a table even for a regular like me.

Chapter TWO
I LEFT the keys in the Maserati for the parking valet and stepped into the elegant, restrained clamor of Chez Henri. Stef stood waiting for me in the vestibule, looking a little nervous. His face lit up when he saw me, and I’m sure mine did the same. We hugged. He was such a great kid.
“They kept looking at me like I’d snuck in through the kitchen,” Stef said with his brightest aw-shucks grin. “Guess they don’t want an Oklahoma farm boy here unless he’s trussed up on a platter with an apple in his mouth. They should’ve asked—I’d’a said sure, for the right price!”
He glanced around the room. “Could be fun, with some of these guys.”
Stef was naïve, way too open for his own good, but I wasn’t sure how to teach him more caution without damping the irrepressible spirit that made him so special. I’d lecture him about it over lunch. Again.
“The Scottish wild salmon is particularly fine today, Mr. Bucknam,” the maître d’ murmured as he seated us at a window table.
“Thank you, William. Your ‘particularly fine’ must translate to ‘heavenly’ for the rest of us.”
One corner of William’s urbane lip curled heavenward at the compliment, maybe as much as a millimeter, as he withdrew into the flow of his domain.
I watched Stef tuck into his steak the way he did just about everything—with unabashed enthusiasm. I could list plenty of reasons why I felt so protective of him, why I enjoyed being with him so much, wanted to teach him how to flourish, succeed. I wanted him to be happy.
He was a good kid, smart and dangerously generous of heart. His love of adventure electrified everything he did. He made me laugh, more than I had in a long time. I also considered him my protégé, which was something new for me. I found my proprietary attitude surprisingly satisfying. He loved our work and would become superb at it.
Six months ago, Stef had tried to pick me up at a party as he worked the room—so new to LA he was still wearing cowboy boots and a belt with a giant silver and brass buckle, his straw-blond thatch headed in half a dozen directions without any help from hair product. I’d been mildly offended at first, but then as we talked, I became intrigued—and ultimately charmed.
For his part, Stef had been miffed when he discovered that he wasn’t going to make any money off this particular trick, but by then, he was too interested to say no. We had a truly wonderful time.
He was special. From that first night, he’d been eager to learn how to grow beyond just hustling. He was imaginative, playful, and talented too. He possessed the intuitive empathy that enabled him to listen to another man’s body. He was an excellent listener.
I took a bite of salmon. It really was heavenly. I lost myself in the melting texture and flavors for a moment. Beautifully delicate, with just the right whisper of tarragon in the butter.
“Wherever you went, I could tell you had a good time,” Stef said with a leer. “I swear, sometimes food is just as good as sex.” He waved his fork at me and winked. “Except sex with you, which is better’n food any day. I think I need another lesson soon.”
“Have you been doing your meditation and breath work?”
“Every day.” Stef dropped his eyes. “Well, nearly every day. I like it. Makes me feel good.” He looked up, his eyes soft and thoughtful. “It really does. I feel like I glow afterward.”
He cut off another bite and stuffed it in his mouth. “Mercy, that is fine,” he mumbled around it. “And speaking of sex, is it okay if I use the studio later this afternoon? I’ve got a high roller.”
“Sure. I was there just now, but I didn’t clean up. Camilla won’t be in until tomorrow morning, so you’ll have to tidy up before your appointment.” I paused, weighing whether I should ask. Stef got skittish if he felt I was crowding him. “Anyone I know?”
“Nah, it’s not even someone I’m supposed to know, but I do. This is our second time. First was at a hotel a couple days ago. But I saw him on the news yesterday going on about some big project. Political guy. Wild man in the sack, though. Big dick, knows how to use it.”
Stef impaled a spear of asparagus. “Isn’t it kinda stupid to stack these up in a tipi like they do? I mean, it’s the first thing I pushed over getting to the—”
“For god’s sake, don’t let on you know who he is.” I grabbed Stef’s fork hand so hard the asparagus jarred free and fell back onto his plate. “If he doesn’t want you to know who he is, then trust me, you don’t want to know either. You’ve got to play by the rules. You could get into serious trouble if you don’t.”
I let go of Stef’s hand with a squeeze, a little embarrassed at feeling—and sounding—like an overprotective parent. “I care a lot about you,” I said, trying to explain myself. “I should start screening all your clients.”
Stef shook his head firmly and picked up the dislodged asparagus. “I know you mean well, Shepherd, that’s a sure thing.” He popped it in his mouth and chewed. When he looked up, his eyes told me he’d dug in and wouldn’t budge.
“I know you got the finest corral I can imagine all ready for me, but I still can’t abide fences. Even yours.” He looked sad. “I get spooked every time I see a fence. I just ain’t ready to give up the right to pick my own guys.”
“I understand that.” I smiled and held up my hands, backing off. “It was wrong of me to put it that way. It’s just that I get scared for you sometimes, Stef. Los Angeles is a very different place from Oklahoma City. Bad things happen to men like us every day here. There’s good reason behind my paranoia.”
“Geez, you’re really serious about this, aren’t you?” Stef grinned at me as if reassuring a baby brother afraid to get up on the big scary tractor. “Don’t worry, dude. His secret is safe with me. I’ve got nobody but you to tell.”
OUTSIDE THE restaurant, Stef seemed to hang back when the valet brought my car up, its engine rumbling, impatient for the street.
“Where’s yours?” I asked Stef. I tipped the valet but closed the car door to stop the warning bell from dinging.
Stef blushed. “I’m already parked at the studio. I figured you’d say yes.”
“Not a problem. That’s why I gave you your own set of keys. How did you get here, then?”
“Walked. It’s only a mile or so.”
“Nobody walks in Los Angeles,” I laughed. “Jump in—I’ll give you a lift.”
Stef laughed and climbed in. “How can I say no?” The doors clunked shut, and we buckled up.
“Sweet.” He ran a reverent hand over the burl paneling. “Dude, you have no idea how much I love riding in this thing,” Stef sighed. “A bad-ass Maserati. I’d send my folks a big ol’ photo of me in it just to annoy them, but my dad wouldn’t even open the damn envelope.”
We pulled into traffic and turned up a back street toward Westwood. After a few blocks, we were stopped by a patrolman waving his arms. Lights from two police cars flashed. Another cop was stringing up yellow tape.
An ambulance siren got louder behind us, coming up fast. Something bad had happened; I could feel it. My stomach knotted. “Oh, damn,” I whispered to no one, bracing against the first wave of dread and nausea.
“It’s okay, he’s saying just go around,” said Stef. We crept forward. I kept my eyes focused on the street. Maybe I could get through this without a disaster.
“Look—just follow his... holy crap, check it out!” Stef crowed, pressing his face against the window. “The guy on the ground, he’s in cuffs. Look at all the blood! Cripes, how can he still be alive? He must have tried to... shit—there’s another guy, no cuffs, nothing. Not moving at all. Man, he’s gotta be dead already, lying twisted up like that. What a mess!”
I sped up, tried to escape it, tried not to look—but I did. One glance was all it took. I tasted thick salt, leaned forward, and lost my wild Scottish salmon through the steering wheel, onto the floor between my knees.
“Jesus, dude!” Stef shouted, laughing nervously, putting down the window. “What the fuck was that?”
I wiped my mouth with the back of one hand, steering the car past the crime scene with the other. “Sorry.” I smiled tight-lipped, afraid I might hurl again. “Violence. Makes me sick.”
“No kidding!” he coughed, his face screwed up in disgust. “You gotta get that taken care of.”
“Trust me, I’ve tried. Still can’t crack it. At least not yet.”
“Throwing up in a car like this, though. Jeez, that’s gotta be a federal crime all on its own.”
I shook my head. “The dealership can take care of it. It’s happened before. They’ll make it like new.”
We drove to the studio in silence through the hot Los Angeles afternoon. Even with the fan on high and windows down, the car still stank. I pulled into the garage and stopped at the elevator.
Stef leaned back in through the open window, looking worried. “You gonna be okay? Really?”
“Yeah, I’ll be fine.” I gave him a feeble thumbs-up. “You be careful, okay?”
“Sure thing, boss. I’ll call you later tonight.”
“No, call me tomorrow. I’ve got a club dinner and concert tonight. I probably won’t get home until after midnight.”
Stef nodded, returned the thumbs-up, and headed for the elevator, whistling.
Stinking and clammy, I headed home, calling on the hands-free to get the car scheduled for cleanup.