4 Stars, Amber Allure, Genre Romance, J.D. Walker, Reviewed by Lana, Short Story

Review: Romancing the Bouncer by J.D. Walker

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Amazon

Title: Romancing the Bouncer

Author: J.D. Walker

Publisher: Amber Allure

Pages/Word Count: 13k Words

At a Glance: I really enjoyed Romancing the Bouncer but would have liked it to be just a bit longer.

Reviewed By: Lana

Blurb: Bennett “Ben” Pachowski has been a bouncer at Throwbacks for years. He likes his job, though he gets tired of being thought of as more brawn than brain simply because of his size. He also prefers to be romanced before sleeping with a man.

Ben’s favorite band, Rebel’s Ultimatum, occasionally plays at the club, which gives him an eyeful of the sexy bass player, Monty Mabuse. They’ve been eyeing each other for months, though Ben is content to flirt and nothing more, since “commitment” seems a foreign concept to the selfish, arrogant and flirtatious bass player.

But Monty wants Ben to become the next notch on his bedpost, and a devious trick to get what he wants blows up in his face.

Will Ben be able to forgive Monty for his deception? Perhaps, but if Monty wants to have a relationship with Ben, he needs to make some changes, and it remains to be seen whether he can become the kind of man Ben will respect, let alone love.

Sometimes, a little romance goes a long way…

Dividers

Review: Romancing the Bouncer is a short and sweet romance that’s long on the sweet and very short on content, or rather, length. But, as they say, size doesn’t always matter; it’s how you use it. Well, the author used a small amount of space to create two characters that I really liked and felt for but wanted to see more of.

The story centers on Ben, a tough but sweet bouncer who’s looking for his forever man. Because of the way he looks and what he does for a living, people make assumptions about him, and they are always wrong. He’s a thinker and likes to read to the elderly at an assisted living home. And then, you have your typical sexy musician, Monty, who’s looking for his next hookup and sets his sites on Ben. Both are attracted to each other, and Monty gets the upper hand through some subterfuge. Ben’s not so thrilled and basically dumps Monty without even dating him. It was cute how Ben wanted something more meaningful, and Monty just wanted to get in his pants. After some time apart, and then a reconnection, Ben and Monty developed an actual relationship and it was very believable. Both characters for me felt like real people and not a caricature. Both evolved and grew, and I really enjoyed their progress.

And, I really enjoyed Romancing the Bouncer but would have liked it to be just a bit longer, something to get my teeth into. It’s sweet, sexy and just right for a very small snack.

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You can buy Romancing the Bouncer here:

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5 Stars, Bey Deckard, Holiday Romance, M/M/M and More, Reviewed by Lisa, Self-Published

Review: Careened: Winter Solstice in Madierus by Bey Deckard

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Title: Careened: Winter Solstice in Madierus (Baal’s Heart 3.5)

Author: Bey Deckard

Publisher: Self-Published

Pages/Word Count: 43 Pages

At a Glance: I loved this savory and sweet little morsel.

Reviewed By: Lisa

Blurb: A Baal’s Heart short, following the events in Fated: Blood and Redemption

Plagued by terrible dreams, Jon begins to distance himself from Baltsaros and Tom. Perhaps a little holiday cheer is just the thing to help the three of them find common ground again.

Dividers

Review: Well, this is a first. I never thought I’d use the words “sweet” and “Bey Deckard” together in a review, but here I am doing that very thing. Never say never…

Careened directly follows the events in this series’ Fated: Blood and Redemption, so if you’ve not read book three yet, this short holiday novella may not pack quite the same punch for you as it would knowing the full scope of events in that novel. Of course, though I say this story has a tinge of the sweet to it, it also offers just that much of the bitter to remind you that the alternate universe Captain Baltsaros, Tom, and Jon inhabit isn’t one without its dangers and grief and pain.

Jon is in a bad way after what happened to him in Sormaheine, the dark shadows of anger and regret following him through his days and nights as he tries to drink away the memories that dog him…though he can’t escape his sub-conscious and the nightmares that manipulate his thoughts and drive his depression. This is where the bitter tempers the sweet in this story, complements the storyline without overwhelming, and, in the end, makes the turnabout that much more satisfying.

Writing a convincing threesome is exactly what Bey Deckard has done. Believing in this threesome and the dynamics of that relationship is exactly what readers of this series are able to do because this author has created three men who just work, plain and simple, in spite of the challenges thrown their way. Crafting this short story to coincide with this verse’s version of a winter holiday is the perfect scenario to offer healing to Jon and begin a mending of the relationship between him and Baltsaros. There was, without a doubt, some truly romantic gestures in Careened, and, as has been the case all along, a Baal’s Heart book wouldn’t be a Baal’s Heart book without a wildly sexy scene or two to watch these three connect and command and show readers the bond they share.

I loved this savory and sweet little morsel. What a great interlude with these characters at a wonderful time of the year.

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You can buy Careened: Winter Solstice in Madierus here:

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5 Stars, Annabelle Jacobs, Dreamspinner Press, Freebie, Holiday Romance, Reviewed by Lisa, Short Story

Release Day Review: A Serious Thing by Annabelle Jacobs

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Title: A Serious Thing (Will & Patrick: Book 1.5)

Author: Annabelle Jacobs

Publisher: Dreamspinner Press

Pages/Word Count: 36 Pages

At a Glance: Annabelle Jacobs gives readers a sweet and FREE holiday treat.

Reviewed By: Lisa

Blurb: Patrick has a plan, and he’ll go to great lengths to see it through.
After three weeks apart due to work and school commitments, he and Will are finally getting to spend some time together. Patrick is staying with Will over the Christmas holidays, and he intends to tell him how he feels on Christmas Day. It’s going to be perfect.
But of course, Patrick’s plans don’t always go smoothly….

Dividers

Review: For those of us who fell in love with Patrick and Will in Annabelle Jacobs’ A Curious Thing, this sweet little Christmas vignette, A Serious Thing, is the perfect follow up to the story that left us with their happy-for-now-ish ending.

Patrick is so near to completing school, and he and Will have had to make do with weekends together, but life in general and Will’s obligations have kept them apart for three weeks now, and Christmas is just around the corner. Patrick has plans to make this holiday a special one for both Will and himself, but there’s a trick to the timing of it that Will not understanding may make things tricky for Patrick to pull off. The chemistry between these two guys is still white hot, and Jacobs doesn’t bother to keep readers in suspense, waiting for the sparks to fly between them. That’s the beauty of the short story, though—the instant gratification—especially when we already know the characters, and let me tell you, Patrick and Will burn up these pages in such a delicious way.

Ben, the best brother ever to Patrick—not to mention, the best friend ever to Will—also shows up again to be supportive and generally awesome too. Bottom line here is that this short story is wonderful, beginning to end, but I wouldn’t recommend reading it as a standalone. Get to know these guys in A Curious Thing first, and while you’re at it, you can grab this freebie as a sweet bonus holiday treat.

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You can download A Serious Thing for FREE here:

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4.5 Stars, Holiday Romance, Kenzie Cade, Less Than Three Press, Reviewed by Sammy, Sci-Fi/Fantasy/Urban Fantasy, Short Story

Reindeer Games by Kenzie Cade

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Amazon

Title: Reindeer Games

Author: Kenzie Cade

Publisher: Less Than Three Press

Pages/Word Count: 68 Pages

At a Glance: If you are looking for a nice little story filled with Christmas cheer and sexy men, then definitely take a chance on Reindeer Games.

Reviewed By: Sammy

Blurb: Dashing von Stride has one thing on his mind: winning the window display contest for the Miracle on Main Christmas Contest. His plans are set and ready—and then he walks into his toy store, Reindeer Games, to find a sleigh that shouldn’t be there. The mystery sleigh sparks a new plan, however, and now all Dash needs is the perfect Santa to model his display after.

This year, the pranks with his reindeer have gotten out of hand. Instead of preparing for the Big Day, Niklaus Kringle is hunting for his missing sleigh. Locating it should have been easy, but games easily won are seldom worth playing…

Dividers

Review: Cute, sweet, lighthearted: any and all of these words could be used to describe author Kenzie Cade’s Christmas offering, Reindeer Games. If you are looking for a well written bit of fluff to take your mind off the holiday and its mad rush, look no further. This little story is the perfect ticket to some much needed getaway time from reality.

Cleverly based on the idea that Santa has children and that elves are the magic that is Christmas, the story begins with the reindeer having played a trick on Nik Kringle by hiding his sleigh right before the “big day”. Found by a toy store owner who turns out to have a little magic of his own, Dashing von Stride (Dash) discovers the sleigh standing in his display room and immediately uses it as the inspiration for the window decorating contest held annually in the small town of (wait for it) Wassail. I was laughing so hard at these fantastic names and the tongue-in-cheek humor the author obviously used when coming up with them.

When Nik and Dash meet, there is an immediate sense of rightness—of everything finally falling into place for both of these fellows. Once Dash is clued in to exactly who Nik is and why he is in town, the story moves swiftly to an immediate and delightful happy ending.

Pure fun and a sexy happy-ever-after is what this novella is all about. Nik and Dash could not be more perfect for each other, or sweeter, and did I mention hot? But honestly, there was little to criticize in this story simply because you can sense the pure delight the author took in crafting this holiday offering. The two main characters sensed their immediate bond, and wasted no time in exploring exactly what that meant. The mischievous and aerodynamically correct reindeer only added to the fun. Perhaps the only criticism I might have is that the smarmy and nasty shopkeeper who always seemed to take first place in the window contest was under utilized in this story. I felt like a slight tussle with him, one that might have threatened Nik and Dash getting to know one another, would have spiced up the story a bit. However, that was more a matter of my personal taste than a real fault in the story.

If you are looking for a nice little story filled with Christmas cheer and sexy men, then definitely take a chance on Reindeer Games by Kenzie Cade.

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You can buy Reindeer Games here:

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4 Stars, Comedy, Dreamspinner Press, Holiday Romance, Reviewed by Sammy, Rob Rosen, Short Story

Review: Best Laid Trap by Rob Rosen

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Amazon

Title: Best Laid Trap (Sleigh Ride: Advent Calendar 2015)

Author: Rob Rosen

Publisher: Dreamspinner Press

Pages/Word Count: 24 Pages

At a Glance: Fans of Rob Rosen will immediately latch on to his wickedly humorous writing style and slightly crazed characters.

Reviewed By: Sammy

Blurb: Roy has a crush on Steve, so when a work-related ski weekend is offered, Roy jumps at the chance to finally lay a trap for his hunky coworker. An abandoned cabin nearby is perfect for his scheme, and Roy stocks it with champagne, rubbers, and lube. But fate intervenes, and it’s not Steve, but Ranger Josh, who ends up trapped in the cabin with Roy during an avalanche. Roy’s plan might be ruined, but there’s still a chance for a very happy New Year indeed.

Dividers

Review: It’s holiday time and Rob Rosen offers up Best Laid Trap, another offering form the Dreamspinner Advent Calendar: Sleigh Ride. I must admit I am a huge fan of Rosen’s acerbic wit and snarky repartee, and this little short starts out in typical Rosen style, replete with a near stream of consciousness from the narrator and star of the story, Roy.

The plot is a simple one: Roy has been crushing on a coworker and accidentally finds an abandoned cabin right off the bunny trail at the ski resort they are both staying. With seduction on his mind, Roy sets the trap for his amour and sits back to wait. Little did he know that Mother Nature, a randy forest ranger, and some karma would change his whole night–and perhaps his future as well.

Be forewarned, this short story is about as insta-lust as you can get, but with lots of humor and a fairly hot, lengthy sex scene to boot. This is a mere snippet, so if you are looking for a great deal of character development, or much past a short rendezvous with a hint of a happy-ever-after, then this might not be the selection for you. However, fans of Rob Rosen will immediately latch on to his wickedly humorous writing style and slightly crazed characters.

Roy is sweet and funny as he lays out his night of seduction for a coworker. When he finds that he is going to be left high and dry, he barely has time to be disappointed before the ranger of his dreams appears and he grabs opportunity with both hands! Barely a short story, Rosen still manages to pack this gem with soppy moments filled with inner dialogue from Roy’s head that will have you laughing. All in all, this was a fun romp that will leave you wanting just a little more!

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You can buy Best Laid Trap here:

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2 Stars, Dreamspinner Press, Holiday Romance, Reviewed by Jennifer, Sara Stark

Review: Leap Through Eternity by Sara Stark

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Amazon

TitleLeap Through Eternity (Sleigh Ride: Advent Calendar 2015)

Author: Sara Stark

Publisher: Dreamspinner Press

Pages/Word Count: 26 Pages

At a Glance: An Advent Calendar short that missed the mark for me.

Reviewed By: Jennifer

Blurb: Being evacuated from his apartment in the middle of the night because some idiot forgot his cookies in the oven isn’t the ideal way to meet a guy, but Mason’s hot neighbor Cole sure looks great in his underwear. The trouble is, Mason is the idiot who started the fire, and Cole doesn’t appreciate being lied to any more than he appreciates being driven out into the cold. It looks like their romance might end before it gets started, but Christmas is a time for second chances….

Dividers

Review: I wanted to like this story because I love clumsy main characters. Maybe it’s because I’m a clumsy person myself and can connect to the character so much; however, with this story I just couldn’t. There’s not much to it, being only twenty-six pages long, but I just couldn’t care about the characters. The plot is decent enough as a story idea, but a bit of a stretch. I can’t see firemen not allowing someone to grab at least pants when a fire is just contained in one apartment. Especially when the weather is so cold. As for Mason, he tends to ramble, go off on tangents, and seems repetitive. I found it to be tiresome after a few pages.

Another thing I didn’t understand was the title. I love to discover how titles connect to the story, especially when they’re clever. I have gleeful little moments of “found it!” whenever I see it. However with this story, I just don’t get it. Maybe at the end a bit, I suppose, but the ending was overly sweet and romantic for two people who basically just met. Had their romance been dragged out longer, I may have bought it, but as it stands, it was just too much.

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You can buy Leap Through Eternity here:

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3.5 Stars, Kari Gregg, Paranormal Romance, Reviewed by Lisa, Self-Published, Short Story

Review: Sightings by Kari Gregg

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Amazon

Title: Sightings

Author: Kari Gregg

Publisher: Self-Published

Pages/Word Count: 42 Pages

At a Glance: Sightings is a sweet romance with a nice little twist.

Reviewed By: Lisa

Blurb: Quinn Laramie moved to Mill Valley to care for his sick Aunt Betsy. After her recovery, he invested hours once spent in hospitals hiking and exploring the surrounding hills rather than returning to an empty apartment in the city.

Patrick, a photographer and self-proclaimed paranormal expert, saved Quinn from tumbling into a flooded creek where a bridge had washed away years ago, taking a pair of doomed lovers with it. Quinn and Patrick meet for other creepy jaunts thereafter: a derelict one-room schoolhouse, an abandoned cemetery, the burned-out shell of a home… Quinn hasn’t seen any ghosts yet, but Patrick’s shy kisses haunt him after each paranormal adventure ends.

Quinn wants more, and with their next spooky tour set to begin, Patrick is finally ready to give in. But what surprises wait them in the eerie manse atop Warner Hill?

Dividers

Review: Kari Gregg’s Sightings is a romantic and sexy paranormal story, with a bit of a twist to keep things interesting. The story is so short that summarizing the plot even a bit would risk giving away too much, the blurb serves just fine for that, so I’ll just say that I really liked the way Gregg brought Quinn and Patrick together. Patrick’s shy hesitance and Quinn’s longing for something more with the man who’d become a friend, and who’d even saved his life once, kept me wondering what the conflict was.

I also liked the role Margaret Warner plays in the story. She was a bit mysterious and I couldn’t help but be curious about what her significance was in helping Quinn to understand Patrick, which then plays right into the nice plot twist. While it’s no big secret something supernatural is at play in this story, I still liked the “what” of it, and once all was revealed, I thought it was a sweet resolution to the romance between these two men.

If you’re looking for a quick little ghost story that will tug at your heartstrings a bit too, Sightings will fill that need.

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You can buy Sightings here:

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4 Stars, Amber Allure, Genre Romance, Reviewed by Maryann, Sean Michael

Review: A Cowboy Out of Texas by Sean Michael

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Amazon

Title: A Cowboy Out of Texas

Author: Sean Michael

Publisher: Amber Allure

Pages/Word Count: 13000 Words

At a GlanceA Cowboy Out of Texas is a sweet, heartwarming little story, well written and keeps you interested in its characters.

Reviewed By: Maryann

Blurb: Sam Hawker’s fall off a bucking bronc at an event in Canada has left him both physically broken and financially broke and in a hospital with his leg in traction. Between worrying about how he’ll pay his medical bills and not being able to move, he’s going more than a little stir crazy.

Easy on the eyes, Pat Bouchard is the nurse assigned to Sam for his stay at the hospital, and the two men get to know each other as Pat cares for and entertains Sam. They grow even closer when Pat offers Sam a place to stay while he recovers.

What are they going to do when Sam’s all better and doesn’t have a reason to stay in Canada any longer?

Dividers

Review: Poor Sam Hawker. I think you’ll find Sam to be a really nice guy…who worries constantly about getting better. Sam is a rough and tough rodeo cowboy, but all he’s riding at the moment is a hospital bed. With a broken leg, Sam’s hurting, restless and worried, and then he spies that cute little nurse, Pat.

Pat Bouchard is such a wonderful, nurturing character, and he likes the cowboy. Besides taking care of Sam at the hospital, Pat spends personal time with him. So when Sam becomes anxious and wants out of the hospital but has nowhere to go, Pat offers to take Sam in until he heals up and can get back on the rodeo circuit. Which then makes Sam worry about taking advantage of Pat.

Sam and Pat are really great guys, and this story takes us into their everyday lives: shows us how they meet, who they are, and their feelings for each other. A Cowboy Out of Texas is a sweet, heartwarming little story, well written and keeps you interested in its characters.

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You can buy A Cowboy Out of Texas here:

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5 Stars, Genre Romance, JCP Books, Jordan Castillo Price, Reviewed by Lisa, Short Story

Review: Memento by Jordan Castillo Price

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Title: Memento (A PsyCop Short)

Author: Jordan Castillo Price

Publisher: JCP Books

Pages/Word Count: 22 Pages

At a Glance: If you love the PsyCop series, don’t miss Memento.

Reviewed By: Lisa

Blurb: Seasons change, and so do fashion trends. But in this heartstring-tugging PsyCop short, what’s beneath the clothes matters most.

Do clothes make the man? Jacob Marks cuts an impressive figure in his tailored suits, but Victor Bayne is another story. Nowadays, Vic does his ghosthunting in off-the-rack blazers, polyester blend slacks and cop shoes with nonskid soles. But back before he was a PsyCop—or even officially psychic—he rocked combat boots and a beat up biker jacket…and lots and lots of punk T-shirts. When he finds a faded tee in the back of a drawer, he’s eager to lob it in the trash. Jacob, however, finds himself waxing sentimental about Vic’s younger, more carefree days.

This steamy 5000-word PsyCop short in Jacob’s voice takes place after PsyCop #6, GhosTV.

Dividers

Review: On the list of things I love about the PsyCop series is the first person narrative. Victor Bayne tells a great story, sticks to the facts—which are often spare when it comes to personal details—and in that, we always see Jacob through the filter of Vic’s penchant for understatement and, perhaps, underestimating just how much Jacob loves him. And this is why I adore Jordan Castillo Price for giving us these little day-in-the-life snippets from Jacob’s point of view.

Memento shows us the sentimental side of Jacob Marks, gives us a glimpse of the Vic we never get to see from Vic’s POV. In this vignette we get to see just how much Jacob treasures even the smallest tokens of Vic’s past—before the asylum and before Camp Hell—and how distractible Vic is when it comes to his excessively sexy man. This is such a sweet and erotic little scene—no ghosts to contend with (except the ghost of a memory), just Jacob showing us how much he treasures these quiet and mundane moments at home with Vic. It’s an unexpectedly sincere peek inside the framework of a partnership that shows us Jacob loves Victor Bayne for much more than his ability to see ghosts.

If you love the PsyCop series, don’t miss Memento. I’ve already read it twice because, like Jacob, I have a miles-wide mushy sentimental streak, especially when it comes to these two men.

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You can buy Memento here:

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4 Stars, B. Snow, Dreamspinner Press, Reviewed by Kim, Sci-Fi/Fantasy/Urban Fantasy, Short Story

Review: Emily’s Magical Bejeweled Codpiece by B. Snow

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Amazon US

Amazon US

Title: Emily’s Magical Bejeweled Codpiece

Author: B. Snow

Publisher: Dreamspinner Press

Pages/Word Count: 48 Pages

At a Glance: I’m giving this short story a high recommendation for those who have a quirky sense of humor.

Reviewed By: Kim

Blurb: Tom, museum curator and expert in Renaissance jewelry, doesn’t think his boyfriend Peter is “The One.” Peter is perfectly happy with Tom, but Tom is obsessed with the artist Benedetto Emilio Nesci—exciting, passionate, extraordinarily talented… and dead for over 400 years.
Tasked with researching a bejeweled codpiece, Tom abandons his professional ethics—and his sanity—to try on the codpiece and is transported halfway around the world and back in time, right into Florence, Italy and Nesci’s workroom.
After his initial panic subsides, Tom seizes the opportunity to allow Nesci to seduce him, but Tom discovers not everything about the sixteenth century is as romantic as he’d imagined. Getting back to the modern world and Peter becomes Tom’s only wish, but desire and reality are two completely different things, and Tom might not get what he wants this time around.

Dividers

Review: First off, I have to say both the title and the cover of Emily’s Magical Bejeweled Codpiece caught my attention. But, to be honest, I made the mistake of reading other’s initial reviews and wasn’t quite sure if I wanted to read it. Still, I’m one who always likes to walk on the wild side and give new authors a chance.

OMG! I’m so glad I gave this book a chance. I started off grinning and then had some serious LOL moments when Tom made his trip back into time to meet his obsession, Emilio.

See, this is what I love about time travel stories that actually take the romance out of the time period and put a little something like reality into it. I actually know someone like Emilio, and damn if I didn’t have the same reaction that Tom had. I especially enjoyed how sweet it was when Tom got over his OCD with Peter.

Sorry…I’ve been known to have a quirky sense of humor, and I guess that’s why I loved Emily’s Magical Bejeweled Codpiece. There are two authors that I know of who share this sense of humor—Ethan Day and John Inman. I’m giving this short story a high recommendation for those who also enjoy that quirky humor too.

I’m so looking forward to reading more from B. Snow!

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You can buy Emily’s Magical Bejeweled Codpiece here:

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3 Stars, Genre Romance, Jay Northcote, Reviewed by Sadonna, Self-Published, Short Story

Review: All Man by Jay Northcote

Amazon US

Amazon US

Title: All Man

Author: Jay Northcote

Publisher: Self-published

Pages/Word Count: 44 Pages

At a Glance: Another cute and flirty story of an opposites attract variety, with enough surprises thrown in to keep us guessing.

Reviewed By: Sadonna

Blurb: “You’re the sleek little sports car to my Land Rover.”

From the moment Gareth walks through the door of the salon to fit some new sinks, Jules can’t take his eyes off him. Jules has always been attracted to men who are his polar opposite, so burly Gareth is Jules’s fantasy man.

At the weekend, Jules gets into a tough situation with another bloke in a gay club and Gareth comes to his aid. Gareth rejects Jules’s subsequent advances but leaves him with the hope that his attraction isn’t completely one-sided. Fantasy could become reality.

With Gareth’s work at the salon nearly done, he’ll soon disappear from Jules’s life for good. Time is running out. Jules needs to prove to Gareth that he’s tougher than he looks and that his feelings run deeper than gratitude.

Dividers

Review: This story is a spin-off of Top Me Maybe? (published a few months ago). Julian, or Jules, as he prefers, is a coworker in the salon with Tyler from the previous story. He is a little bit envious of Tyler’s hot butch policeman boyfriend. But then he is distracted by Gareth, the guy who has come to fix the sinks at the salon. He is everything that Jules likes: big, hairy, muscles, etc. He flirts a little with Gareth on a Friday and then offers to trim up Gareth’s buzz cut. When Gareth leaves, Jules sighs but looks forward to his weekend out dancing and clubbing with his roommate Sacha, and hey, he’ll get to see Gareth on Monday when he returns to the shop to finish the job.

But over the weekend, Jules happily runs into Gareth at the club he goes to with Sacha. While Gareth doesn’t dance with him, they do run into each other again at a very fortuitous time. Won’t spoil the surprise, but it turns out Gareth and Jules have more in common than they ever thought they would.

This is a really sweet (but not sappy) story of two guys who are attracted but may be a little bit apprehensive about the reaction they might get. Both are willing to be somewhat vulnerable and honest and, in this case, that is a good thing. Recommended for a short story with a happy ending. :)

 

 

 

You can buy All Man here:

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4 Stars, Amber Allure, Genre Romance, Reviewed by Maryann, Shawn Lane, Short Story

Review: Unobtainable by Shawn Lane

Title: Unobtainable

Author: Shawn Lane

Publisher: Amber Allure

Pages/Word Count: 13000 Words

At a Glance: This was my first time reading author Shawn Lane, and I have to say that though the story is short, it’s also very good.

Reviewed By: Maryann

Blurb: Scott O’Hara and Edgar Lopez have been partners in the homicide unit of Haydon Cliff’s Police Department for the last couple of years. Edgar is openly gay and a bit of a player. Though Scott is also gay, he keeps it to himself. Even from Edgar. Until one night, a slightly drunk Scott initiates sex between them. Scott doesn’t expect the sex to be repeated. He doesn’t do one-night stands or have casual sex-buddies. But Edgar has other ideas and Scott can’t seem to resist his sexy partner.
While they try to solve the mystery of who is murdering Haydon Cliff’s homeless, they also try to solve the mystery of whether Edgar’s heart can really be unobtainable.

Dividers

Review: Unobtainable is a fast paced murder mystery; suspenseful, with some drama and a lot of heat, and I really enjoyed the interaction between the two MCs, Scott O’Hara and Edgar Lopez. This was my first time reading author Shawn Lane, and I have to say that though the story is short, it’s also very good.

I could quickly tell Scott is a very caring person. He cares about his Mother, his sister and her family, even a homeless lady named Betty. I also liked the ease of the conversations between Scott and his sister Ofelia. And even though he more than cares about Edgar, Scott’s afraid of having his heart broken again. All he really wants is a solid relationship with the right man.

Edgar, meanwhile, is portrayed as a player, though there really isn’t a lot of that going on in this story. To me he just seemed like a good guy, but because of mixed messages between him and Scott, there is some drama added to the story. Deena, Edgar’s mother, is a good character too, and I loved how she talked with Edgar and Scott.

For being a short story, Unobtainable is a page turner. It held my interest to the end, so sit back, relax and just enjoy!

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You can buy Unobtainable here:

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3 Stars, A.V. Sanders, Genre Romance, Less Than Three Press, Reviewed by Jules, Short Story

Review: Percolation, Poetry, and Passion by A.V. Sanders

Title: Percolation, Poetry, and Passion

Author: A.V. Sanders

Publisher: Less Than Three Press

Pages/Word Count: 11000 Words

At a Glance: Percolation, Poetry, and Passion is a cute story with lots of potential.

Reviewed By: Jules

Blurb: Beckett works at a coffee shop to make ends meet while attending a prestigious university. It’s not the most exciting job, but he’s done it long enough he’s good at it—and can avoid the tedium by spinning sexy little daydreams of things he doubts will ever happen.

Daydreams that soon include Simon, the hot, handsome, and older freelance writer who stops in one day. But then Simon becomes a regular, a bright spot more interesting than the inside of Beckett’s head, and daydreams start to seem like they could be something far more tangible—if reality doesn’t get in the way first.

Dividers

Review: Percolation, Poetry, and Passion is charming at times, especially in the beginning, and Beckett and Simon really are pretty adorable, but it was also frustrating at times because I felt like, as a story, it had so much potential that was just not able to be fulfilled due to the length. I’m not sure if this was a submission call from the publisher that only allowed for so many words, but I truly wish that A.V. Sanders had been able to give Beckett and Simon more time.

This story ticked several of my boxes…college student, southern boy, May/December romance, etc., and, as I said above, the main characters were pretty adorable. Beckett lets Simon know, via subtle, or sometimes not-so-subtle, interactions at the coffee shop that he is interested. And when Simon is free to act on those advances – he does go through a breakup in the story – he asks Beckett out on a date. I really enjoyed the date scene; it was imaginative and lovely to read. We don’t get to see much in the way of ‘spark’ between the guys, but we see enough to know they have an attraction and a nice connection.

Things start to go awry when it becomes clear that there just isn’t going to be enough backstory to have everything make sense. There is a fight where Simon becomes extremely jealous and angry at Beckett because he is meeting his professor for dinner. Simon’s reaction seems out-of-character; however, we don’t know enough about his story with his ex, and we don’t know enough about Beckett’s professor or his intentions, to truly make everything click. The couple goes to New Orleans, Beckett’s home town, to see his family, but the scene is quite awkward because it’s just not fleshed out enough. That whole bit was so rushed, as was the entire end.

Percolation, Poetry, and Passion is a cute story with lots of potential. Unfortunately it simply felt too rushed and too short. Perhaps the author can show them some more love in an expanded novella? I bet many readers would love to see Beckett and Simon get the shot they deserve.

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3 Stars, Genre Romance, Jay Northcote, Reviewed by Sadonna, Self-Published, Short Story

Review: Top Me Maybe? by Jay Northcote

Title: Top Me Maybe? (BFP: The Secrets Collection)

Author: Jay Northcote

Publisher: Self-published

Pages/Word Count: 33 Pages

At a Glance: Cute short story that has characters acting against type, and loving it.

Reviewed By: Sadonna

Blurb: Duncan has a secret fantasy, but is Tyler the right man for the job?

Tyler’s new policeman boyfriend, Duncan, is gorgeous. Tall, broad, and über-masculine, he’s the epitome of the dominant top—in appearance at least.

When they discuss their sexual fantasies, Duncan confesses to a secret desire that surprises Tyler. Luckily for Duncan, Tyler’s happy to oblige and is determined to give Duncan a night to remember.

Dividers

Review: I have enjoyed Jay Northcote’s writing thus far, and this is no exception. Top Me Maybe? is the story of Duncan and Tyler. It’s a bit of an opposites attract sort of story in that Duncan is a tall, dark and handsome, brawny policeman who is rather freshly out of the closet, and Tyler is a hairstylist with blonde hair and a slender build. Together they have a lot of fun in their month of dating, and Duncan is a sweet and gentle man who is a wonderful top for Tyler.

One evening, as they are sharing, Duncan confesses that he does fantasize about being topped, and to Tyler, who has always been versatile, this is music to his ears. But will this work? Is Duncan serious about it, and what if he doesn’t like it? Tyler has a few fears, but he’s willing to put them aside to give Duncan what he needs and move their relationship to the next level.

Both characters are sweet and gentle with each other. They communicate in a warm and honest way that makes us root for them. They show genuine caring for each other and want to give each other what they need. I found them to be delightful together. It’s definitely a short and angst free read – recommended for anyone who needs a quick fix of the happy.

 

 

 

You can buy Top Me Maybe? exclusively at Amazon:

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4 Stars, Genre Romance, JL Merrow, JMS Books LLC, Reviewed By Carrie, Short Story

Review: Love Found on Lindisfarne by JL Merrow

Small Gems

Title: Love Found on Lindisfarne

Author: JL Merrow

Publisher: JMS Books

Pages/Word Count: 35 Pages

At a Glance: Who wouldn’t like a lovable dad, a precocious almost-teen, and a Viking?

Reviewed By: Carrie

Blurb: When single father Chris meets a Viking re-enactor on Lindisfarne, he thinks it’s the perfect recipe for a holiday fling — and nothing more. Ian, or Ulf, as he’s known when in character as a Viking berserker, is a dreadlocked nomad who never stays in one place for long.

Chris had a relationship with a free spirit like Ian before, and it didn’t end well for him or for his bright but troubled daughter Kelis. He’s determined not to risk the stability of her home environment for Ian, no matter how well she gets on with him — and no matter how much Chris is drawn to the man.

But Chris hasn’t reckoned with the Viking way of taking all you’re willing to give — and coming back for more.

Dividers

Review: Love Found on Lindisfarne is a short story that hooks you in from the first paragraph.

“It was a hot summer’s day on the Holy Island of Lindisfarne. The lanes were dusty underfoot, the languid breeze heavy with the scent of the North Sea, and a Viking had just offered to buy my daughter.”

Chris is a single father with regrets, and Kelis is his twelve year old daughter. Together they travel to Lindisfarne on holiday, in their quest to accomplish a castle a day – and meet Ulf, or Ian. Ian is a Viking reenactor who is really too great a guy to be a berserker.

This is a feel good story. If you have an extra hour and want a little pick me up, then grab this book. You will read it with a smile on your face that won’t fade once the last page is read. It will leave you with a little warmth in your heart. The story is also well written for being so short, something that is not that easy to accomplish. Sometimes you just want a lovely romantic short, and this fits the bill nicely.

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You can buy Love Found on Lindisfarne here:

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5 Stars, Genre Romance, J.D. Walker, JMS Books LLC, Reviewed by Lana, Short Story

Review: Heavy Metal Cowboy Blues by J.D. Walker

Small Gems

Title: Heavy Metal Cowboy Blues

Author: J.D. Walker

Publisher: JMS Books

Pages/Word Count: 25 Pages

At a Glance: I absolutely loved Heavy Metal Cowboy Blues!

Reviewed By: Lana

Blurb: Lester “Les” McCoy is a retired cowboy who now lives in the city, working days at the Ranch and Feed. He loves his country music. Not so his tenant, Damien Ridley, who lives downstairs in his duplex and works evenings at the gym.

”Metal boy,” as Les likes to call him, prefers to listen to all things rock and metal at decibels that make his ears bleed. Damien is attracted to Les, which he makes abundantly clear with those translucent gray eyes and his hot, kissable mouth. Problem is, although Les is in lust with Damien, he’s an old prairie bachelor and sees his metal boy as too young for a roll in the hay. He’d rather be put out to pasture.

Enter a friend who’s gay-bashed and a co-worker who kicks his head out of his ass, and Les reconsiders whether a heavy metal dude can help an old cowboy with the blues.

Dividers

Review: I absolutely loved Heavy Metal Cowboy Blues! It had just the right amount of cuteness, snark and hotness, a perfect mix that entertained and satisfied. But, as always, when I get into a story and it’s too short I get mad! LOL. This is my only negative here. The story was just too short and should have been a part an anthology or a full length novel.

The story is about Les, a thirty-something cowboy who likes country music. He’s sort of content in his life but lusts after his tenant, Damien. Damien works at the local gym, is also in lust with his landlord, Les, and likes to play heavy metal music at top volume. They bond over their hatred of each other’s music and a need to help out a friend. Les finally gives in to Damien’s relentless pursuit of him, and the result is perfect! I loved them together because they were total opposites that complemented each other. Okay, the opposites attract storylines tend to me my favorites. Their initial lust gives way to genuine feelings, and I wanted to know what happened after the story ended. It’s told from Les’ POV, and it was fun being in his funny, sarcastic head. This story needed to be longer!!

Heavy Metal Cowboy Blues is a sweet little tale that shows opposites do attract and can make beautiful music together!

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You can buy Heavy Metal Cowboy Blues here:

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4 Stars, Genre Romance, Kate Lowell, Reviewed by Lisa, Self-Published, Short Story

Review: Lead Me to You by Kate Lowell

Title: Lead Me to You

Author: Kate Lowell

Publisher: Self-Published

Pages/Word Count: 20 Pages

At a Glance: Kate Lowell has penned, unashamedly I might add, a full-stop tug at the heartstrings romance, with plenty of sizzle to add some heat to the sweet.

Reviewed By: Lisa

Blurb: Who takes their claustrophobic boyfriend spelunking for his birthday?

Henry can’t say no to Jaime. So, despite his misgivings, he lets Jaime lead him into the bowels of the earth for a surprise. In the intimate dark, he discovers that his love for Jaime is stronger than his fear of imminent death at the hands of Mother Nature.

And Jaime has an ulterior motive that will make all the hyperventilating worth it.

Dividers

Review: Kate Lowell’s Lead Me to You is easily one of the most romantic little stories I’ve read in quite some time. On a scale of one to ::sigh::, I must say it left me on the breathless side of happy that I spent some time with Henry and Jaime.

We get a not so subtle hint from the outset of Lead Me to You that this is an opposites attract story between our nerdy bookworm Henry and his rugged, outdoorsy lover, Jaime, but we also are given to understand their relationship works because they have enough important similarities that it makes their differences more endearing than troublesome. We also see put into play one of the universal commonalities of a loving and committed relationship—one partner pulling out all the stops to make the other happy. The best part of this story, however, is that it’s neither Henry nor Jaime sacrificing alone, but both giving of themselves equally, and this story ends in such a sweet and heartwarming way.

Kate Lowell has penned, unashamedly I might add, a full-stop tug at the heartstrings romance, with plenty of sizzle to add some heat to the sweet. I liked this small gem quite a lot and wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it to any of you short story lovers out there, for an instant gratification reason to smile.

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You can buy Lead Me to You here:

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4 Stars, Amber Allure, Genre Romance, Reviewed by Sadonna, Short Story, Vivien Dean

Review: Wild Fragile Vines by Vivien Dean

Small Gems

Title: Wild Fragile Vines

Author: Vivien Dean

Publisher: Amber Allure

Pages/Word Count: 13000 Words

At a Glance: This is a really beautiful and touching short story of a love that one man can’t let go, and the other can’t accept.

Reviewed By: Sadonna

Blurb: When his boss’s twenty-year-old son announced he wanted to be more than friends, Tim Kammerling told him no. He wasn’t ready to have a relationship with someone more than ten years younger than him.

Devin, however, knew he couldn’t stick around Napa and honor the status quo. Instead, he left town, and he and Tim became long-distance friends.

Now, through the letters he’s kept over the years, clippings he’s collected, and the memories he’ll never shake, Tim stands on the threshold of a new beginning.

Yes, a lot can happen in eighteen years. Letters are sent. Calls get made. And lives are changed…

Dividers

Review: There is nothing better than a good short story that is emotional without being melodramatic. This is such a story.

Tim has had a rough life – always taking care of his loser father. He’s finally got a good job he loves and that he’s really good at. There is just one complication that comes up—Devin, the young son of the vineyard owner who is home from Berkley on holiday, declares his love for Tim. While Tim won’t lie about his orientation, he doesn’t advertise it either, and he certainly isn’t ready to take up with the boss’s son. They can be friends but nothing more. Devin is a musician, and he decides to drop out of college and moves to Seattle to get his career started.

But he keeps in touch with Tim, no matter where his life and music take him. This story is told largely in epistolary form, starting with Devin’s letters and, as the years go by, cell phone calls, texting and eventually emails to Tim.

What a beautifully poignant story of a love that smolders for many years before it can burn brightly. Wild Fragile Vines is highly recommended as a wonderful example of a complete short story.







 

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2 Stars, Erotica, JMS Books LLC, Reviewed by Taz, Short Story, Wayne Mansfield

Review: An Island, Lost by Wayne Mansfield

Title: An Island, Lost

Author: Wayne Mansfield

Publisher: JMS Books

Pages/Word Count: 42 Pages

At a Glance: I feel this author tried to accomplish too much in the short amount of space he used for the story.

Reviewed By: Taz

Blurb: Clint is travelling on a small Cessna Citation over the Pacific. When the plane hits a pocket of turbulence, he is wrenched from his nap and plunged into a nightmare. The plane plummets into the ocean.

Clint and one other passenger, a man named Carlos, survive. The hulk of the plane sinks, leaving them adrift with no land in sight. They fight to stay alive, but thirst and exhaustion overtake them.

Purely by luck Clint finds himself washed ashore on a mysterious island. But where is Carlos? Did sharks get him? Did he drown? With survival foremost in his mind Clint finds clean water and fruit and a safe place to rest.

Then Clint discovers the island is inhabited by other castaways, men who have been washed ashore on this unknown island over the years. One of the men is Andy, with whom Clint falls in love.

Only much later does he discover Carlos’s fate, along with the fact that the island has more secrets to reveal. One that could cost him his life.

Dividers

Review: Every once in a while I choose a short story, somewhere between 10K – 20K words, mostly during the summer, as an enjoyable and quick read. An Island, Lost is one such book and was a first for me from author Wayne Mansfield.

This story opens with one of the best hooks you can imagine. A plane crash and the protagonist is one of only two survivors. I had high hopes for the story, but it quickly fell short of my expectations once it got going. The relationship with Alan was hot, and I enjoyed it, but when confessions of love were made, I had a hard time connecting to the strength of their emotions.

The lone woman on the island, who’d been banned from the male village because of her vampiric tendencies (although she’s never called a vampire) seemed a contrived conflict, placing Clint, our main character, in harm’s way. As quickly as the conflict arises, it is resolved (which makes sense in a story of just over 10,000 words).

In short, I feel this author tried to accomplish too much in the short amount of space he used for the story. Had this been about a man who crashed, landed on an island, and found love (with lots of smexy scenes woven in) I would have enjoyed it more. Or, if the conflict had been more about Clint struggling with his fate and then accepting it in the end, I might have found the story a bit easier to digest.

As it is, this story was not for me. Although I did have to cover myself when reading the sex scenes so as not to embarrass myself or anyone around me.

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4 Stars, Annabelle Jacobs, Blanket Fort Press, Genre Romance, New Adult, Reviewed by Lisa, Short Story

Review: Toy With Me by Annabelle Jacobs

Small Gems

Title: Toy with Me (The Secrets Collection)

Author: Annabelle Jacobs

Publisher: Blanket Fort Press

Pages/Word Count: 11000 Words

At a Glance: Toy with Me earns a solid “A” in the short story telling department.

Reviewed By: Lisa

Blurb: Aaron is hiding something in his drawers—but that’s not his only secret.

When he moves in with his new housemates, Aaron intends to tell them about his sexuality from the outset. But a large pink item of a personal nature, given as a joke, scuppers his plans and he misses his chance.

Fellow housemate Rob is out and proud. He guesses Aaron is gay, and when he finds Aaron’s other secret concealed in his sock drawer, he takes it upon himself to help Aaron out with a little sexual experimentation.

Dividers

Review: Short stories—it seems readers either love them or don’t, and understandably so, but I do happen to respect them as a time honored storytelling medium. And sometimes I just love the immediacy of the good feelz you get from diving right into the heart of a romance without a lot of angst to build up to it. It’s the get in/get happy/get out that I adore, when all’s said and done.

Annabelle Jacobs’ Toy with Me is a feel-good-romance that, in my humble opinion, works perfectly. As a New Adult story in a collegiate setting, Aaron and Rob aren’t posed as guys who’d have a dense and troubled life history behind them anyway, so the immediacy of their falling in lust with each other in a less-is-more way was not only sweet but believable too.

I loved Aaron’s innocence, the blushing and the trepidation he feels about revealing his sexuality to his new flatmates, even though it’s not at all likely to be an issue. I loved the contrast of Rob’s no nonsense approach to figuring out if Aaron, like Rob himself, is gay, and then leading Aaron to the story’s inevitable conclusion but doing so in such a subtle yet irresistible way.

Toy with Me ticks all the boxes required of a short story. It’s a romantic little tease that brings on more than a few smiles along the way, and, while it didn’t spell everything out for me, it did leave me with the belief that Aaron and Rob will look back quite fondly, decades from now, on their years together as college sweethearts.

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You can buy Toy with Me exclusively at Amazon:

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4 Stars, Dreamspinner Press, Genre Romance, Reviewed by Sammy, Rob Rosen, Short Story

Review: Twenty-Five Years by Rob Rosen

Title: Twenty-Five Years (A Daily Dose Story)

Author: Rob Rosen

Publisher: Dreamspinner Press

Pages/Word Count: 19 Pages

At a Glance: Check out this delightful romp. It’s guaranteed to make you smile!

Reviewed By: Sammy

Blurb: Sometimes letting go of an obsession leads to something better instead.

A twenty-five-year high school reunion is Conrad’s chance to finally come face-to-face with his unrequited love, Todd. Instead, he discovers he himself was an unrequited love for Gary, his friend from the chess club. When the two return to their old gym locker room, long-lost friends at last become found loves. As for Todd, well, let’s just say that karma can be quite the bitch.

Dividers

Review: If you have never had the pleasure of reading author Rob Rosen before, this short story, Twenty-Five Years, would be a most delightful way to introduce yourself to his writing. Humorous, smart and risqué, this author does tongue-in-cheek like no other.

A high school crush is not an easy thing to let go of, particularly when the person you were hungering after seemed to disappear after graduation. For Conrad, this dilemma was magnified due to the fact that he had just one memory of mutual masturbation in the high school locker room to feed his twenty-five year old crush on the class president, Todd Smith. Now a class reunion looms and Todd will be there—will Conrad get a second chance?

Sweet, short and very funny, Twenty-Five Years hits us all where we live. Who didn’t have a crush on the most popular boy or girl in school? And who doesn’t remember to this day that one moment our said fixation spoke to us—or looked at us—or breathed in our direction? Mr. Rosen cleverly takes us back to a time we all remember and wraps it up in humor and a happy ending. No, Conrad does not get his crush on—he gets way better! Check out this delightful romp. It’s guaranteed to make you smile!

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5 Stars, Dreamspinner Press, John Goode, Short Story

Review: Save Yourself by John Goode

Small Gems

SaveYourselfTitle: Save Yourself (A Tales From Foster High Story)

Author: John Goode

Publisher: Dreamspinner Press

Pages/Word Count: 35 Pages

At a Glance: Along with emotionally charged storylines that often have more than their fair share of pathos and grit, a John Goode title is nearly always guaranteed to make you think.

Reviewed By: Sammy

Blurb: Matt Wallace returns to Foster to be with his high school crush, Tyler. They’re finally together, but Tyler’s past is still a mystery to Matt. When the truth comes out, Matt is forced to decide if he can handle learning about what Tyler did, or if he’d be better off to cut ties and run.

Dividers

Review: Save Yourself is a sweet snippet for those who follow author John Goode’s Foster High Series. Veering away from the main characters of Kyle and Brad, Mr. Goode focuses this short story on two minor characters in that series, who have been further developed in a former novel, Taking Chances. One of them, Matt Wallace, played a rather significant role in the boys’ life over the course of the series.

A small town is a family in many ways. Some of those ways are life affirming, as when a community rallies around to protect one of its own, but some can be quite negative, especially when it includes grudges long held and secrets that carry such guilt that they threaten to destroy private lives. Matt Wallace carries such a burden and before long, his long-time crush turned new boyfriend will have to see the weight Matt carries and the very real fear that it will destroy their relationship before it ever has a chance to grow.

I have remarked time and again about the strength this author has when it comes to characterization and making his creations leap off the page with such clarity and realism that one could swear they have met those who people his novels in real life. Along with emotionally charged storylines that often have more than their fair share of pathos and grit, a John Goode title is nearly always guaranteed to make you think. His created world is one that pushes you to see just how messed up the real world is, but he also allows for it to be peopled with amazing characters. In allowing for both, this author gives us compelling stories that simply take our breath away and that always extend the hope that we, as a people, can be better than we truly may be.

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You can download Save Yourself for FREE here:

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5 Stars, Anthology, C.S. Poe, Dreamspinner Press, Genre Romance, Reviewed By Carrie, Short Story

Review: Love Has No Expiration by C.S. Poe

Small Gems

Title: Love Has No Expiration (A Story in the Daily Dose 2015 Package “Never too Late”)

Author: C.S. Poe

Publisher: Dreamspinner Press

Pages/Word Count: 29 Pages

At a Glance: The perfect amuse-bouche for love… and a great little appetizer for the heart.

Reviewed By: Carrie

Blurb: There’s more to life than work, and love has no expiration, even for those approaching their forty-fifth birthday.

Daniel Richards is a private chef in New York City who has committed over a decade to his skills and passion. He has carved out a name for himself in the industry and has bookings for parties and dinners months in advance. Now that he’s in his midforties, however, he’s come to the realization that he’s lonely and desperate for companionship. Two days before Valentine’s Day, he meets Keith Maxwell at a farmer’s market and can’t keep the much younger man out of his thoughts. Keith is eager and willing to take a chance with someone older, but Daniel’s reluctance stops Keith’s every attempt. Worried his career will suffer if he dedicates time to a serious romance, or that Keith won’t be satisfied with someone so much older, Daniel nearly thwarts his own attempts at finding happiness.

Dividers

Review: Smart, sexy, successful, Daniel is a personal chef in New York and too busy to realize he is lonely. Love Has No Expiration begins a few days before Valentine’s Day, with Daniel shopping for vegetables from the sidewalk stalls where he meets Keith. A few corny vegetable puns later, and some asparagus, and Daniel’s life will never be the same again.

This is a story about happiness and how we will never be completely whole unless we stop and make time for love. Daniel is busy, Keith is busy with 2 jobs and school, but together they make a team that makes the busy worth it. Daniel is 14 years older than Keith, but as he realizes, “I took the bunch of asparagus out of the produce bag, staring at them and feeling a sickening combination of guilt and sudden determination. Romance didn’t have an expiration date. It didn’t go bad once your twenties were behind you, not even four years after your fortieth birthday.”

Love Has No Expiration is a fantastic short story. We get a slice of these men’s lives when they meet and first fall in love, and it leaves you feeling satisfied with the story just how it is told. It is the perfect amuse-bouche for love… and a great little appetizer for the heart.

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Michael Kudo

An Exclusive Short: Until You Believe It by Michael Kudo

Untitled

Hello everyone! It’s your friendly neighborhood author Michael Kudo here. I’m so glad to be back on TNA after a long long break (we shall never go that long again!) to bring you an announcement and a short story.

The announcement being that although I said a few months ago I was taking 2015 off from writing, the writing demons couldn’t keep quiet and as a result I have a novel set to come out late May/early June. You’ll know the specific date ASAP – TNA will be the first stop on the eventual blog tour.

I’m super excited about this novel – it’s much different than anything I’ve released before. It’s less dark humor and more…ripping out your heart. I hope you guys enjoy it when it comes out. I’m super proud of it.

As for the present! I wrote a short story for an anthology a few months ago. Unfortunately, it wasn’t chosen to be included…but that doesn’t mean it has to go to waste. So for your enjoyment, here’s Until You Believe It.

Dividers

Marshall reached for his backpack and began piling his supplies into it as the shrill sound of the bell resonated through the loudspeakers. Most of the kids in his class had already packed up their things and kept their eyes locked onto the clock, prepared to jump out of their respective seats as soon as they heard a single sound – but he wasn’t one of them. He much preferred to leave the class well after everyone else was already gone. The halls were far from his favorite place to be. It was almost like walking out into a jungle: people rushing about like wild animals, students in packs; some of which were waiting to pounce on the few kids who were solitary and easy prey. It wasn’t safe there.

When the last student was gone, Marshall swung the backpack over his shoulder and rose from his desk. With any luck, he wouldn’t be too late to his next class. That would be a long shot, if ever there was one.

“Mr. Jordan?”

Marshall paused, only inches away from the door. He turned around slowly. “Yes, Mrs. Richardson?”

“If I’m not mistaken, today is the fourth day in a row that you’ve left this room well after the bell. It would be rather foolish of me to simply assume your first period teacher is fine with your habitual tardiness, wouldn’t it?”

“I…uh…”

“I’ll take your stammering as validation. Now please hurry on to your next period and how about tomorrow you try not to be the last one out of the room again. Okay?”

“Yes, Mrs. Richardson,” Marshall muttered. It’s not like he wanted to be late for his next class. He didn’t have a choice. After all, it wasn’t his fault that he didn’t like how chaotic the halls were between classes. It also wasn’t his fault that the halls weren’t safe for him. It wasn’t really anybody’s fault, well…then again, that wasn’t entirely true. But it wasn’t like he could do anything about that.

Marshall shuffled out of the classroom and made his way down the hall. There were a few stragglers still ambling towards their destinations, but it wasn’t as bad as it could have been, had he gotten out of the classroom earlier. He was almost at the end of the corridor. His first period classroom was a bit farther away – just ‘round the corner and two doors down. If he could only just make it there without being noticed…maybe the day wouldn’t be so bad. All he had to do was turn the corner and everything would be fine.

“Hey, Porky!”

Marshall stopped in place; his shoulders arched and his entire body tensed up instinctively. It was the one person in the entire world that he didn’t want to run into. But of course, had he managed to not run into the one person in the entire world he didn’t want to run into, it wouldn’t have been his life. He turned around slowly and mentally braced himself.

“Glad I could catch you, Porky,” Joel called, as he moved forward to stand next to Marshall. “You’ve been avoiding me, huh? I guess you don’t appreciate the time we spend together. I think my feelings might be hurt.” He laughed and his three friends joined in.

Marshall didn’t respond. He knew it was better to just ignore Joel and his band of rabid hyenas. He knew that the jerk was baiting him and he wasn’t a fish, so he wasn’t biting. No matter how great the provocation was.

“Awe, come on, fag-boy, are you giving me the silent treatment now? That’s not very nice. Now I’m definitely sure my feelings are hurt.”

“Don’t call me that,” Marshall muttered.

Joel’s eyes widened in surprise. “Oh, so now you have a backbone? That’s real adorable, isn’t it guys?” He turned to his friends and they responded with cheers and more laughter. “So which of my little nicknames bothers you so much? Is it Porky? Are you that sensitive about your weight? Or maybe it’s fag-boy. Because we all know how big of a homo you are.”

Marshall kept silent. He definitely was sensitive about his weight but he didn’t want those jerks to know about it. They thought themselves clever by calling him Porky, after the Looney Tunes pig, because after all, his weight was an easy target to make fun of. He hated it, but again, he didn’t want them to know how much he hated it. He didn’t want to give them the satisfaction.

“Come on, Joel, this is boring,” one of the hyenas declared. “It’s no fun if he’s just going to sit there and take it.”

“Yeah, you’re right,” Joel replied. “Come on, fag-boy, say something.” He pushed his hands hard against Marshall’s chest, causing him to collide with a nearby locker. “Or better yet, do something.”

Marshall grabbed his shoulder and winced a bit. Damn, it really hurt. He assumed after almost an entire semester of being shoved into lockers that he would be used to the sensation, but apparently it wasn’t the case. He threw a quick glance around the hall. There were no teachers in sight, of course. And the few students who were interested enough in the proceedings to look on didn’t seem to care enough to intervene. That was no surprise either. Joel and the hyenas were seniors and basically popular, so it stood to reason that nobody wanted to get in their way. Why would anybody want to jeopardize their social standing for one chubby, ugly, gay kid? Spoiler alert: they wouldn’t.

“So you’re not going to fight back, then?” Joel asked in a mocking tone. “You’re such a pussy, bro. You can’t even stand up for yourself when I’m in your space and pushing you around.” He shoved Marshall again and shook his head. “How pathetic.”

“Come on, we’re going to be late,” Hyena number two exclaimed. “The second bell is going to ring any minute now.”

Joel looked down at the watch on his wrist. “Yeah, yeah,” he shrugged. “It doesn’t matter, I’m not done having fun yet.”

“Yeah, but Joel you know that Mr. Franklin said the next time you’re late that you’re going to get detention and points off your grade.”

Joel snarled. He looked back at Marshall. “Okay fag-boy, you lucked out this time. But you better hope I don’t catch you around again. Because you’ll really get it next time, you got me?”

Marshall didn’t say anything again. He just nodded. He bent down to pick up his book bag which had fallen on the ground during the altercation. Before he could grab the strap, it was already in Joel’s hands. “Give it back!” he cried.

Joel ripped open the zipper and turned the bag upside-down, emptying its contents on the ground. He threw the bag at Marshall, who promptly caught it. “There you go, Porky. Have fun picking up your shit.”

Marshall sighed and waited for the crowd to disburse before he sunk to his knees and began collecting his possessions.

“Hey, you need some help?”

Marshall stopped what he was doing. With the way his luck went, it was probably one of the hyenas coming back to taunt him some more. His slowly elevated his gaze to face his potential aggressor. To his surprise, it wasn’t one of Joel’s friends at all. It was somebody he didn’t recall ever seeing before that moment, though vaguely looked familiar to him. The guy had bright glaucous colored eyes, which reminded him of a storm cloud and dark hair which made his pale colored skin stand out even more. He was beautiful.

“Did you hear me?”

Marshall blinked and simultaneously snapped back into reality. He had almost lost himself in the boy’s looks – not a good idea, especially when being gay was frowned upon by a majority of people. “Yeah, sorry, what was that again?”

The guy smiled. “I asked if you needed help picking up your stuff. I’m going to take your silence as a no.”

“No, no,” Marshall stammered. “I mean, no, I didn’t say no. I could use some help, if you’re offering.”

“Yeah, I’m offering.” The guy bent down and started gathering the pencils, pens, and pieces of paper that were closest to him.

After a few moments, everything was in a semi-neat pile in front of Marshall, who quickly stuffed it all back into the book bag. “Thank you,” he said softly.

“Don’t mention it,” the guy replied. He paused for a heartbeat. “I don’t think we’ve ever met before. What’s your name?”

“Marshall, Marshall Lawrence.”

“Nice to meet you, Marshall, Marshal Lawrence. My name is Andrew – but I prefer to be called Drew.”

Marshall rolled his eyes at the joke but couldn’t help the smile from crossing his face. “Nice to meet you, too, Drew.”

Drew returned the smile and rose to his feet. “I actually think I’ve heard about you…in passing, that is. I mean, your name, I’ve heard it before.”

“Oh?”

“Yeah, I heard…is it true that you’re gay?”

Marshall didn’t respond immediately. He got to his feet and kept his gaze focused on the floor. It wasn’t as though he was ashamed of his sexuality or kept it hidden or anything, but he had just met somebody who was actually being nice to him – the first person to be nice to him since he moved to town and started attending the local school district. People in his new town didn’t seem too receptive to the idea of homosexuality as the friends in his old town were. He didn’t want to say something that would cause another person to hate him. Especially when said thing was a significant part of who he was.

Drew looked at Marshall and nodded in understanding. He moved his hand forward and placed his fingers under Marshall’s chin, and slowly lifted his head. “You don’t have to worry, if you are gay, I mean. I’m gay too.”

“Really?” Marshall asked, fighting to keep the mixture of hope and excitement out of his voice. It wasn’t hard, considering he knew that even if it was true, that Drew was gay, there wasn’t anything to be too excited for. Drew looked like a GQ cover boy compared to him. He looked more like the person in the before photo from a dieting commercial.

“Yeah, I am,” Drew assured.

“That’s incredible…I think you’re the first person in this town that I’ve met who’s gay. Most people here seem against it.”

“That’s true,” Drew admitted. “Unfortunately, our town isn’t exactly super progressive or open-minded. But there are good people who don’t mind it as much. The key is to surround yourself with those people and ignore the douchebags.”

Marshall laughed. “That’s pretty good advice.” He tilted his head to the side and made a considering noise with his mouth. “How long have you been out?”

Drew’s face reddened. “To be completely honest, I’m not out…not entirely. I mean, my older brother and mom know, but nobody in school really knows. I think you’re the first I’ve admitted it to.”

“Are they okay with it? Your mom and brother?”

“They were shocked at first and a bit iffy. They assumed I was just confused. My mother said that I was just confused or something and not old enough to make such a big life decision. She’s over that now, and pretty accepting. My brother is another story…he doesn’t talk about it much. I think he’d rather pretend I didn’t say anything at all than accept the fact that his younger brother likes guys.”

Marshall noticed that the current subject seemed to bring a sad look on Drew’s face, so he decided to change the subject. “Well, thank you for helping me.”

Drew smiled again. “Don’t mention it, really.” He frowned slightly. “How did your stuff get all over the floor, anyway?”

“Joel Nelson’s handiwork. Do you know him?”

Drew paused for a moment. “Uh, not really. I mean, I’ve heard of him…but I don’t know him personally, or anything like that. I hear he’s kind of a jerk, apparently the rumors are true.”

Marshall opened his mouth to reply affirmatively but a loud buzzing sound from the loud speaker forced a groan from his mouth. They had exactly ten minutes to get from one classroom to another. They were given that time in case they needed to retrieve something from their locker, put something in, or go to the bathroom. The evil buzzing sound signified that he was now officially late to his first period class. And based on his track record, he was going to receive an earful from his disgruntled teacher. That was always pleasant.

“Shit,” Drew said, “I didn’t even notice that it had gotten so late. I was too…immersed in our conversation.”

“Yeah, me too,” Marshall said. “I really hope we can talk again…I mean, if you want to, that is.”

Drew chuckled and shook his head. “Of course I do, silly. Why wouldn’t I? It’s always fun to have a decent conversation.” He paused for a moment and looked as though he was debating on saying something else. “Especially when my conversation partner is so cute.”

Marshall blushed and didn’t know what to say. He didn’t know whether to read Drew’s compliment as a statement of fact or a joke. On one hand, he couldn’t think of a single reason why Drew would say something like that if he was joking because that would have been very cruel. On the other hand, he couldn’t believe that Drew could be serious because on a long list of adjectives to describe himself, cute was far from the top thousand. Maybe far from the top hundred-thousand.

“I’ll take your silence as a sign that you’re disgusted by my admission of how cute I think you are…and I probably should seek psychiatric help for thinking it was a smart idea to open my mouth. I’m sorry, okay?”

“No, it’s not that!” Marshall said quickly. “I…I’m not disgusted at all. It’s not every day that I hear something like that. So please forgive the brief existential crisis.”

“Ahh, I understand. Well still, I probably shouldn’t have been in such a rush to say that especially since this is the first time we’ve met.”

“It’s fine, I’m not upset. I just don’t believe you. I mean, you’re fit and attractive. It doesn’t make sense that you’d find me cute.”

Drew rolled his eyes. “You think that being fit makes somebody attractive? I hate to break it to you, but there are all different body types in the world and just because you have a little bit extra, doesn’t mean you’re not adorable. So stop with the self-loathing, please. That’s more of a…second or third conversation topic, don’t you think?”

Marshall couldn’t help but smile. “Yeah, fine. As much as I’d rather be here talking to you, we should probably get to class before we get in even more trouble. The corridor aids will think we’re skipping or something.”

“Yeah, you’re right,” Drew replied. “Well, I’ll see you later, Marshall. It was really nice meeting you.”

“Yeah, you too.”

 *~*~*~*

Marshall handed the lunch lady the money for his meal and walked over to the table where Drew was sitting. It had been a little over a month since they had first met and it had been an amazing couple of weeks. They had lunch together and hung out after school every single day. And even better, they were getting closer. Drew had given him his first kiss. It was almost too good to be true. “Sorry it took so long, the line was ridiculous.”

Drew half-shrugged. “I know how it can get. Don’t worry about it. At least you survived the journey and made it here alive. That’s what counts.”

“Yeah, we all know how dangerous the lunch ladies can be when they’ve gone too long without a cigarette.” Marshall picked up his fork. He impaled a few of his French fries and brought them into his mouth.

“So how do the fries taste?” Drew asked.

Marshall swallowed and shrugged. “I don’t know, frenchy? Haven’t you had cafeteria French fries before?”

“Actually, I’ve never had French fries in general,” Drew admitted.

“You’re joking….”

Drew shook his head. “Nope. They’re typically a fast food thing and my family doesn’t really go out for fast food. I’ve seen them on the menu, just never really been compelled to try them before. Especially when the choice is between them and nachos. Nachos always win, it is law.”

Marshall blinked and just stared blankly. “Wow…you’ve never had a French fry before. You poor, underprivileged, child. Do you want to try one?”

Drew looked at the plate of French fries in consideration. “I guess it couldn’t hurt. I mean, it’s not like eating those things can kill me or anything.” He glanced sideways. “They can’t kill me, right?”

Marshall laughed. “No, they’re perfectly harmless. I promise.”

Drew picked up a French fry and deposited it into his mouth. After a few moments he pushed the plate of fries closer to Marshall. “They’re okay, but I don’t see what the hype is. They’re nothing special.”

“To each his own,” Marshall replied. “I think they’re amazing.”

Drew scoffed. “Says a lot about your taste. I actually feel bad.”

“What do you mean?”

“Well, you think French fries are amazing…and you’ve said that you think I’m amazing, which is an issue because those two are mutually exclusive. Do you see the problem here?”

“Yeah, you’re a nutcase. That’s the problem.”

Drew threw Marshall a mock-affronted look. “If you’re not going to take my feelings seriously, we can’t have this conversation.”

Marshall threw his hands up in defeat. “Okay, fine. Clearly my taste in food is bad because my taste in you is the superior one. Are you happy?”

Drew gave a smug smile. “Yes, I am. But it doesn’t matter, really, because it’s blatantly obvious that out of the two of us, I have the superior taste.”

“Oh yeah?” Marshall inquired. “Why do you say that?”

“Because I’m attracted to you.”

Marshall didn’t know what to say to that. He blushed and suddenly became very interested in the pool of ketchup on his plate.

“Oh come on, it’s not like you don’t know how absolutely attracted to you I am. Don’t be all bashful about it.”

“So you say.”

Drew glared. “I don’t just say it, I mean it. And you should start believing it, too.”

Marshall took a sip of his chocolate milk and then sighed. “I know, I know. But you don’t understand what it’s like to grow up with everyone telling you how ugly and unattractive you are, and then having somebody just magically appear in your life and tell you different. It’s strange, okay?”

“You know, your life would be a lot less complicated if you just accepted my opinion that ninety-nine percent of the world are stupid as fact. Because anybody who could look at you and not think you’re beautiful can’t be very bright.”

“Even with how fat I am?”

“You don’t need to be so hard on yourself,” Drew chided. “You say fat with the same hatred that I’ve heard people say slurs. Having a bit of weight isn’t bad. I’ve told you this a thousand times. I’d rather be with somebody who had a bit extra than somebody who is too skinny. Not that there’s anything wrong with skinny people, but I like guys who have a bit of meat on them so I don’t feel like I’m going to break them. It’s just personal preference. So to me, you’re perfect.”

Marshall smiled in spite of himself. “That’s…very sweet of you to say. I’ll try my best to believe you and not put up such a fight in the future.”

“That’s all I ask. Anyway, I’ll be right back. I have to go to the bathroom.”

“Do you need company?”

“Nah, I’ll be fine. Plus you have to finish eating your mediocre fries,” Drew remarked. And with that parting shot, he left the cafeteria.

Marshall couldn’t help but smile. It seemed to be a recurring element whenever Drew was around. It was like the guy had the ability to summon happiness. It was wonderful. It was one of the many reasons why he was glad they had met. Maybe moving and leaving behind his friends wasn’t so bad, after all. Not if he found the one person in the world who could make him truly happy. That trumped everything.

“Hey Porky!”

Marshall dropped his fork in surprise. He knew exactly who it was, the voice was unmistakable. Not to mention the trademarked hateful nickname. It was Joel alright. But it wasn’t his lunch period. He had no reason to be there. The one place outside of the classroom that was safe, apparently wasn’t.

Joel walked over to the table and glanced around. His group of lackeys followed closely behind. “Two lunch trays? Damn, the lunch ladies should be ashamed of themselves. I can’t believe they’re contributing to your illness like this.”

Marshall clenched his fists. He wasn’t going to let Joel get to him. Especially not when he had somebody like Drew in his life. He outright refused to be bullied anymore. “The other tray isn’t mine, it’s a friends.”

“You actually have a friend? That’s adorable. Who is it?”

“It’s none of your business.”

One of the hyenas jeered. “Joel, man, are you going to let him talk to you like that?”

Joel frowned. “I think you better watch how you talk to me, fag-boy. You wouldn’t want to piss me off.”

“Then go away,” Marshall declared. “Because I’m done letting you pick on me. I’m tired of taking your crap, Joel.”

“Oh is that so?”

“Yeah, it is.”

Joel grabbed Drew’s milk carton and dumped its contents onto Marshall’s plate, drenching his uneaten cheeseburger.

“What’s going on?” Drew asked, walking back up. He noticed Joel and his face hardened. “What are you guys doing over here? This is a junior lunch period. You’re seniors.”

“We know what we are,” Joel remarked. “The better question is, what are you doing near fag-boy?”

“He’s my friend,” Drew proclaimed. “So you better leave him alone.”

“Oh really?”

“Yeah, really, unless you want me to inform that corridor aid that you guys are in this lunch period illegally. I think the standard punishment is two days of suspension. I’m sure that would go over well with your father.”

Joel’s eyes narrowed for a split-second and he growled in frustration. “Whatever, I have better things to do with my time than mess around with Porky here.” He made a beckoning gesture to his friends. “Come on guys, let’s go.”

Drew watched as they all walked away and shook his head. “Those guys are so immature, aren’t they? Especially Joel.” He glanced down at the table, specifically Marshall’s lunch tray, which was covered in milk. “Ugh. I can’t believe he did this.”

Marshall half-shrugged. He pulled a bunch of napkins out a nearby dispenser and began sopping up the milk. “I’ve been dealing with this crap since the beginning of the school year. I’m used to it by now.”

“That’s my point, you shouldn’t be used to it…because they shouldn’t be doing it. It’s bull crap.”

“Yeah, I guess you’re right, but what can you do? I’m stuck dealing with Joel and his little friends until the end of the school year.”

“Have you tried talking to someone about it?” Drew suggested. “Maybe one of the teachers or something?”

“I’ve tried telling teachers but it’s their word vs. mine. And unfortunately, he’s older and knows most of the staff, so they don’t really believe me. They think I’m being a crybaby or a trouble maker. So there’s nothing that I can really do except grin and bear it until then.”

“God, he’s such a jerk. I can’t believe he’s doing this kind of crap. He’s always been kind of stupid but actual bullying? That’s so–”

Marshall stopped what he was doing and turned slightly. “What do you mean, he’s always done stupid things?”

Drew shrugged and flicked his hand as if he were dismissing the question. “I don’t know, I was just annoyed…I misspoke or whatever.”

“It doesn’t sound like you misspoke. It sounds like you know Joel personally. What’s your relationship with him?”

“Come on, Marshall….”

Marshall shook his head. The look on his face was unflinching. “No, I will not come on. I asked you before if you knew Joel and you said that you didn’t. You told me that you knew of him, but you had no connection to him. Obviously that isn’t true. So answer the damn question. How do you know Joel?”

Drew took a deep breath and let it out slowly. “Before I say anything, I want you to know that no matter what I say, it doesn’t change anything. It doesn’t change how I feel about you.”

“Just tell me!”

“Joel is my older brother.”

Marshall couldn’t help but gasp in shock. Was this really happening? Did he really allow himself to get feelings for his tormentor’s brother? He had to have misheard him – of course, he didn’t hear Drew correctly. That had to be it. “What did you say?”

Drew looked apologetic. “The older brother I told you about when we first met, was Joel…I’m his brother. Well, half-brother, technically. But we grew up together…in the same house and everything. Please don’t be mad.”

“So…you lied to me and expect me to not be mad at you?”

“I didn’t mean to, honest,” Drew promised. “And I know that you have every right to be pissed off. But please hear me out.”

“Yeah, right…I think I’ve heard enough from you to last me a lifetime. Go to hell, Drew.” Marshall turned and rushed out of the cafeteria. He didn’t know where he was going or what he was going to do, but he knew that he just couldn’t be there. Not with Drew. He needed somewhere quiet, somewhere he could think and be by himself. The library was the perfect place for that. Luckily for him, it was close. He continued down the hall. As he was turning the corner and nearing the library, someone grabbed his arm.

Marshall knew who it was without even turning around. “Let me go, Drew.”

“I can’t do that,” Drew replied. “I need you to hear me out first. Please.”

Marshall laughed derisively. He ripped his arm out of Drew’s grasp and turned around to face the guy that he thought he could love – thought could actually love him. “Why should I listen to anything you say? It’ll just be more lies. I’ll bet this was some plan that you and your brother cooked up one day. Let me take a wild guess. You can act nice to the fat, ugly homo and pretend like you’re interested so that when he decides to takes a chance and believes that somebody could actually find him even remotely attractive, you could pop the illusionary bubble and all laugh at how stupid he is. Did I get it all or am I missing something?”

“No, it wasn’t like that at all!” Drew cried. “Please, believe me. I never intended or wanted to hurt you like this. I just wanted you to give me a chance.”

“What are you talking about?”

“Joel and his friends are huge jerks so it’s not exactly like I wanted to publicize any connection to him, you have to understand that. In fact, people don’t know that he and I are related. We have different fathers, so different last names. The truth is, before we actually started talking, I saw you around and I always thought you were cute. I didn’t act on it because I didn’t know if you were gay or not and I wasn’t really interested in putting myself out there only to get shot down. But then one day I heard my brother and his friends talking about you and how you were gay and…I wanted to see if I had a shot at winning your heart. And I couldn’t tell you he’s my brother because I didn’t want you to not talk to me. That’s it. There was no plan. Joel had no idea until today, honest.”

Marshall scoffed. “Yeah, that’s a real nice story. And I’m sure you and your brother spent many hours thinking it up.”

“Damn it, Marshall, I’m not lying to you.”

“For once, be still my heart.”

“Please, don’t be like this. You have to understand that I didn’t want it to come out like this. I wanted to wait for the right time.”

Marshall closed his eyes. There was a cold, burning sensation in the pit of his chest and he could feel a lump forming in his throat. He knew what was going to come and he was using all of his willpower to resist and begging his body to not show precisely how much he was hurt. He felt the first tear slide down his face and knew it was a lost cause.

“Marshall,” Drew breathed. He made a motion as if he were going to embrace Marshall but appeared to think better of it. “I know you’re upset and I totally understand why, but please don’t cry….”

Marshall opened his eyes and placed a hand between Drew and himself, noticing the former’s movement. He didn’t need nor want Drew’s comfort. And he knew if Drew touched him in that moment, he would lose himself in his sorrow and become intelligible. “You have no idea how badly you hurt me today.”

“Marshall, please–”

“No, it’s my turn to speak and you will let me say what I have to say,” Marshall said coldly.

Drew opened his mouth to respond but immediately closed it and nodded.

Marshall took a breath to steady himself but couldn’t stop more tears from betraying him and decorating his cheeks like melancholy war paint. “You couldn’t even begin to understand what I go through. Every single day your brother and his friends torment me. For the first couple of weeks I tried to not let it bother me. Eventually it did. And I tried getting help but nobody ever seems able to do anything. The teachers don’t pay attention and my father tells me to man up or whatever. And sometimes…it gets so bad that I think about killing myself, just so it’ll all stop.” He paused to take another breath. His whole body was shaking with the effort to not become a sobbing mess. “And then I met you. And for the first time those scary thoughts didn’t surface. And you actually made me feel like I was beautiful…like somebody could actually want to be with a guy like me with a body like mine. And now I find out that it was all a lie. How am I supposed to feel, Drew, I mean, God, how the fuck did you expect me to react?”

Drew sighed. “I didn’t…I mean, I didn’t want it to come out like this. I had planned to tell you, I swear, but I just didn’t know when I’d have the chance. I wanted to give us time to grow closer together so that we’d be on a strong enough foundation to handle anything. Even Joel.”

“That’s a sweet sentiment, but it means very little when the foundation you speak of was being built on lies. How could you ever expect me to trust you?”

“I wasn’t thinking that far ahead,” Drew confessed. “I was too focused on the prospect of us being together that I didn’t consider the consequences. And I know I said it before, but I’ll say it a thousand times if I have to – I may have lied about my brother, but I never lied about my feelings for you. Or how beautiful you are. That was all genuine.”

Marshall shook his head. “How can I believe that? Because it really just seems like one big ploy to make me look like an idiot. I don’t know how I look, but I certainly feel like one. So mission accomplished, I guess.”

“Will you please stop with that? I already told you, there was no plot, ploy, plan, or scheme. It was simply a desperate attempt by an equally desperate kid to win the heart of a really wonderful guy…that went horribly wrong. And that’s the honest truth. I don’t know what else I can say to make you believe me.”

“Well that makes the both of us. Because I honestly don’t know a single thing you can say that’ll make me believe you. I want to, God knows I do, but I don’t think I can.”

“Please don’t say that,” Drew begged. He was crying now too. “I don’t want things to end like this. There’s practically nothing in this world that can’t be fixed with enough hard work and dedication. I’m willing to do anything to make this work. Please, Marshall….”

Marshall stared at the floor. “I just need some time, okay? I don’t know how long it’ll take, but I just need to think things over. After that, we can talk and see where things go from there. Okay?”

Drew wiped his eyes off on the back of his right sleeve. “Yeah, I understand. I just hope with time when you think of me you think of forgiveness and not hatred, even though I probably deserve it.”

Marshall sighed. “No matter how upset or pissed off I am, I don’t think I could ever hate you, Drew. It’s just not in me. Just give me some time.”

Drew nodded. “I will. And again, I’m sorry.”

“I know you are. And I am too.”

 *~*~*~*

Marshall picked his back pack up as the bell rang. It had been almost three weeks since the worst day of his life and subsequent fight with Drew. Initially, he was worried that he would bump into Drew between classes and during lunch and it would be upsetting, but he hadn’t seen Drew since that day. He assumed that Drew was giving him the space that he asked for, but it still struck him as odd that he hadn’t even seen him in passing. Even odder was the fact that Joel and the hyenas hadn’t bothered him at all. They seemed to be acting as though he didn’t exist. Which was fine by him. It sure as hell was better than being assaulted or having his stuff thrown around.

Marshall entered the cafeteria about fifteen minutes later. Even though it had been a while since the whole issue with Joel, he still felt a sense of unease being in the room. It was fortunate that he spent such a small percentage of his school day in there, and that during most of the week he ate lunch in the writer’s club classroom. Small blessings. He got in line and grabbed his tray. His stomach growled like a pack of wolves. Boy was he hungry. He stepped to the side and looked ahead. Fortunately, there weren’t many people in front of him. It would only take a few minutes before he could get his food. Of course, time had the annoying habit of feeling longer when you were looking forward to something. Each second felt like an eternity.

Marshall was almost at the front of the line when he heard the cafeteria music suddenly stop and saw a few people whispering and then turning to look towards the stage. Curiosity got the best of him and he turned to see what the commotion was. Standing on the stage with the principle’s microphone in hand, was Drew.

“Hello, everyone. Can I have your attention please?”

Marshall’s eyes opened wide. He had no idea what Drew was doing at the podium but he knew it was probably going to get him in a lot of trouble. Maybe even suspended.

Drew glanced out into the crowd and licked his lips nervously as the cafeteria quieted. “A few weeks ago I met somebody real amazing…like seriously amazing. And I became good friends with that person. And it got to the point where we were considering dating.”

He paused as someone cheered. “Yeah, it was nice alright. But the thing is, I screwed it up. I lied to this person and really hurt their feelings. I wasn’t brave enough to be honest with them, even though they had been honest with me from the start. I had their trust and I destroyed it. And for that, I couldn’t be sorrier. This whole situation sucks so badly because I think, for the first time in my entire life, that I might be in love. And the worst part is, because of my actions, I probably ruined any shot I had.” He scanned the crowd and his eyes met Marshalls. “And I want that person to know that I know I already promised to give them time, but every single passing second spent without us being on good terms, is agonizing. I want things to be fine again. I want to be able to look into your eyes again and not see heartbreak. And most of all, I want to be able to hold you and let you know how beautiful you are each and every day so you never forget.”

Marshall couldn’t believe his ears. This was either the most romantic thing he had ever heard or the craziest. Probably a bit of both. But in the middle of all the disbelief, there was a surge of relief. Drew actually did care about him. It wasn’t all lies. And it meant that somebody actually did find him attractive. It meant that somebody actually could love someone like him. It meant they could be together. It meant everything.

He watched as two corridor aids came into the cafeteria and Drew was escorted off stage and presumably taken to the main office. Which was a good thing, because they honestly didn’t need an audience for the conversation they now needed to have.

Marshall made his way to the office. He looked into the windows on the door: the room was empty, save for Drew who was sitting in a chair by the principal’s door, staring at the wall and looking dejected. He walked inside and cleared his throat loudly.

Drew immediately looked up. “Marshall,” he exclaimed. “I didn’t expect you to see you here.”

“To be honest, I didn’t expect to be here. Is anyone else here?”

“Nope,” Drew replied. “They’re all eating lunch in the teacher’s lounge. So can we please talk about what just happened?”

Marshall nodded. “Wait. I have to ask you a question before we proceed with this conversation.”

“What’s that?”

“Are you out of your damn mind?”

Drew laughed. “Woah, what do you mean?”

“You know exactly what I mean. You stole the principal’s microphone and went on stage, during lunch and declared your love for me in front of the entire class of juniors. I’d say that qualifies you for the psyche ward, wouldn’t you?”

“I don’t think so,” Drew replied. “I didn’t exactly declare my love for any specific person or gender. As far as the rest of our grade is concerned, I was talking about some random girl I met.”

“So you were able to say what you had to say, charm me, and avoid any of our bigoted classmates giving us crap,” Marshall said slowly. “That’s smart and devious at the same time.”

“Well, I’m more than just a pretty face.”

“That’s debatable.”

Drew’s mouth gaped. “I can’t believe you just said that!”

“Yeah, well, it wasn’t smart for you lie, either. But I’m willing to forgive you because of your recent confession in front of our peers.”

Drew breathed a sigh of relief. “Well, that’s wonderful. To be honest, I was hoping it would be enough to get you to forgive me.”

“I’d say you did a good job,” Marshall said with a smile.

“If you really mean that, then I’m sure you won’t mind if I ask for a bit of insurance?”

Marshall’s eyebrows knitted close together. “Insurance, huh? What exactly did you have in mind?”

“I’m probably going to get suspended for my little display of courage on the cafeteria stage,” Drew explained, “I think, given the circumstances, the least you could do to reward my bravery is give me a kiss.”

“You think you deserve one?”

Drew formed his mouth into a pout. “Come on, I think I deserve at least that. I mean, you’ve forgiven me and everything is right with the world. I think it would be the perfect way to put everything behind us.”

“Oh God, not the pout,” Marshall exclaimed. “Anything but that, you know I can’t resist.”

Drew smirked in satisfaction. “Well then stop resisting and come over here.”

Marshall didn’t need to be told twice. He moved forward and closed the distance between them like lightning. He tipped his head forward and pressed his lips against Drew’s. The moment their lips touched it was like static surged throughout his entire body. It felt right. When they finally pulled apart, he couldn’t help but swoon. “You’re really good at that,” he informed.

“I’m glad you think so,” Drew replied. “By the way, have I told you how beautiful you are?”

Marshall beamed. He took Drew by the hand and pulled him to his feet, into a hug. “I believe you’ve mentioned it once or twice, or a thousand times.”

Drew leaned into the hug and allowed his head to rest on Marshall’s shoulders. “I’ll say it a thousand more until you believe it. I love you, Marshall.”

“I love you, too.”

Dividers

MichaelAbout the Author: Michael was born and raised on the Jersey Shore – the geographical location, not the TV show. As such, he cannot boast having tanned skin, a rock-hard body, or being BFFs with Snooki. His version of GTL is gaming, Tumblr, and Lounging. He didn’t know what to do for a living until he wrote a couple of fun short stories as an English class project and made people laugh, something he’s always enjoyed doing and decided that’s what he wanted in his future.

A self-described “Otaku” (person with obsessive interests in manga, anime, and/or video games) Michael spends most of his time enjoying those things, becoming emotionally attached to fictional characters and collecting every bit of My Little Pony merchandise available.

He lives with his fiancé of five years in the heart of NJ.

Stay in touch with Michael on Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads

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