Tag Archives: former-fan-fic

Pipe Dreams



GENRE: Contemporary, Erotica, Romance
LENGTH: 2,459 words
This story is included in the anthology, Flashed!

BLURB: When Paul Jacoby opens the door to plumber Ethan Randolph, Paul’s memories and libido are instantly reawakened. Paul lusted after the captain of the basketball team in high school, but he was too shy to do anything about his attraction to Ethan back then.

Can he pluck up the courage this time to make his yearnings for the hunky Ethan a reality, or will his pipes -- as well as his dreams -- remain blocked?


EXCERPT:

Paul leaned against the counter and watched Ethan open the cabinet under the sink. Those jeans ... a voice inside his head reminded him, but when Ethan bent over to move aside the stuff under the sink and his shorts pulled taut against his butt like a second skin, there was no way Paul would miss the show. Ethan began to empty out the cabinet, setting the bottles of cleanser and dish detergent out on the floor, and Paul noticed the gold ring on the second finger of his right hand. Nothing on his left. “You still seeing that girl?” he asked before he could stop himself. “What was her name? Jennifer?”

Ethan laughed. “God, no.” Leaning beneath the sink, he reached up and blindly grabbed one of the wrenches from his toolbox on the counter above him. “We broke up just after graduation.”

“Oh?” Paul asked, trying not to sound too hopeful. “I’m sorry to hear that.” And yes, I’m lying through my teeth.

Ethan eased out of the cabinet and winked at Paul. “Don’t be.” His gaze drifted to the ill-concealed erection at Paul’s crotch before he turned back to the pipes beneath the sink. “People change, you know?”

Paul nodded, distracted by that look. Did it mean what he thought it meant? What he hoped it meant? Sweet Jesus ... “What about you?” Ethan asked as he fiddled with the pipes. “You seeing anyone right now?”

“No,” Paul admitted.

“What about this roommate of yours?” Ethan sat back on his knees and watched Paul carefully, waiting for his response. “Bryant? Is that his name?”

“No, he’s not seeing anyone.” At the confused look on Ethan’s face, Paul realized that wasn’t what he meant. “Oh, you mean --” He laughed at the thought of getting with Corey, straight as a pin. His best friend who always managed to annoy the living shit out of him. “God, no,” he said, shaking his head.

I’ll Take the Rain



GENRE: Contemporary, Romance
LENGTH: 8,500 words
This story is included in the anthology, Love on the Rocks

BLURB: My boyfriend and I go to the same college, and one of the things I enjoy most is sharing a room with him. Sharing a bed. I hoped living together would improve our relationship, which has grown rocky as of late.

But he's the jealous type, and I always seem to say or do the wrong thing at the wrong time. I don't mean to provoke him; sometimes I just don't think how my actions might hurt him.

Unfortunately, our roommate only sees us when we're at our worst, so she thinks things are bad between us. When he's angry enough at me to kick me out of bed and I have to sleep on the couch. When he snaps at me for flirting with her, even though he knows I don't mean anything by it. She never sees how wonderful he is to me sometimes, or how perfect we can be together when we're alone.

I hope her misplaced concern won't come between us. Or maybe it'll be my own stupidity that tears us apart.


EXCERPT:

The two of us alone, finally, after a long day and an even longer night, but so far, he’s ignoring me. Where I sit on the bed we share, I nurse a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, practically choking it down, glancing over after every bite to see if he’s looking at me yet.

He isn’t.

He isn’t talking, either. He seems so far away, so distant, lost in his own thoughts. Talk to me, I want to say, but he doesn’t. Anything for his words, his touch. Please?

After a long moment, I clear my throat and hold out the sandwich like a peace offering. “Do you want a bite?”

He shakes his head without looking up from the book in front of him. No words. What did I say to bring on this silent treatment? What did I do?

I don’t know. Hell, it doesn’t take much anymore, does it? And he won’t tell me, not until he’s ready. If I’m lucky, he’ll say something when we go to bed, and maybe I won’t have to sleep alone on the couch downstairs. If he tells me why he’s mad, maybe I can apologize and sleep with him tonight. If he gives me the chance.

Minutes stretch like taffy between us. I force down the last bite of my sandwich, holding onto the dim hope he’ll want it instead of me, but he doesn’t. I finish my glass of water and think about brushing my teeth. Peanut butter isn’t all that great a chaser for champagne. My mouth tastes sour and it’s getting late.

As if he realizes the time, he pushes his chair back from his desk and stretches. I watch him openly, waiting for his gaze to turn my way, but it doesn’t. He stands, pushes in the chair, and heads for the door.

I catch his hand before he can make it past the bed. “Wait.”

He shrugs me off. “Was it worth it?” he asks, his deep voice quiet. He always speaks so quietly when it’s just us.

I’m not sure what he means. “Come here,” I say, reaching out to hold him.

He pulls away. “Tonight. The girls.”

There it is. He’s mad at that. “Seriously? You know I’m not interested in them.”

He pulls off his T-shirt and balls it into a fist before tossing it aside. I start to reach for the bare expanse of his back, but I stop myself before my fingers touch him. I know better. I don’t want him to move away from me -- I don’t need that rejection, so blatant, so stinging.

“You had to shake up the bottles, didn’t you?” he asks as he unzips his jeans. “Had to get her tits wet, didn’t you?”

It isn’t just the girls, I know. It’s sneaking the booze on campus in the first place, and taking all the credit for the party, and hobnobbing with the chicks, and rubbing up against them, and ... who knows? Maybe I looked at someone a little funny. Maybe he thought I flirted with someone -- male, female, it doesn’t matter who. The point is I invited him to come along and in the end didn’t really spend time with him. Instead, I had to be the life of the party.

He kicks off his shoes and shucks down his pants, his back still to me. I feel a tiny, ignoble pout begin to tug at my mouth as I watch him undress. It’s like I’m not even here with him. As if I don’t exist.

Playing for Keeps



GENRE: Contemporary, Erotica, Romance
LENGTH: 35,588 words | 126 pages

BLURB: Shy, soft-spoken clarinet player Thad Archer tours Europe over spring break with his college marching band. He's lonely so far from home and everything he's ever known, but at least he has his friends -- Mark, Peter, Seth, and Jamie. Thad has had a secret crush on sexy drummer Jamie McIntosh since they met but has never managed to pluck up the courage to confess his feelings. Could Jamie be as lonely and homesick as Thad?

Confident and cocky, Jamie is Thad's opposite in every way, but something about his quiet friend sets his heart aflutter. Unfortunately, Thad's deep in the closet, while Jamie is much more secure in his sexuality. Jamie doesn't want to rush Thad into anything he isn't ready for, but hopefully at some point in their friendship, they can move toward something more.

But any romantic hopes the pair have are frustrated by Mark, the band's drum major, who has his sights set on bedding trombonist Seth, or flutist Peter, or anyone, really. He isn't too picky. If he can't get into the pants of his straight friends, he'll settle for whoever he can get. Thad? Jamie?

The band will be flying back to the States in a couple of days. Thad knows once they're home, he'll have missed his chance with Jamie. Can he be satisfied just being friends? Or has Mark conducted his way between them?


EXCERPT:

Jamie’s a freshman, too, same as Thad. He lives down the other end of the hallway from Thad on the same floor of the same dorm. Quick to laugh, he has careless hair he can’t seem to tame and an infectious smile he shares with Thad every time their paths cross, be it at band practice or in the dorm. He said hi first, three days after Thad moved onto campus. It was the Sunday before classes started and Thad was in the bathroom, using the urinal and praying he could finish peeing before anyone else came in. After growing up an only child, sharing a hallway with twenty other guys was a bit intimidating.

The bathroom door opened and Thad jumped. “Hey, man,” the kid said with a casual wave. He ran the hand through his hair, pushing it back from his face. “I’m Jamie, room 403. What number are you?”

“What?” Thad choked. He started to turn toward Jamie, then remembered his unzipped pants and hurriedly hunched his shoulder to the wall, blocking the view. As if Jamie might be interested in stealing a peek. “Thad. Other end of the hall. Four-something.”

His mind refused to work. In the quick glimpse he had of Jamie, his heart stuttered to a stop and his cock stiffened in his hand. Almost perversely, his bladder finally decided to let loose at the same time.

“We’re all four-something,” Jamie said with a laugh, right behind Thad now.

God, you’re hot, Thad thought. His dick twitched and he prayed Jamie didn’t have to take a piss. The last thing he wanted was to be seen sporting wood in the bathroom of a boys’ dormitory.

“Four-eighteen,” Thad said. That sounded right. Part of him wanted to holler, Stop talking to me! while the rest of him never wanted the conversation to end.

“You’re Peter’s roomie?” Jamie asked.

Finished peeing, Thad flushed the urinal and tucked himself in his pants before turning to the sink. Jamie leaned against the counter, watching him. Watching. Hell. Thad hugged the wall as he approached to wash his hands. “Peter, yeah. You know him?”

“He’s in my band class,” Jamie explained. “I play drums. He said his roommate played, too ...?”

Thad scrubbed his hands furiously to avoid staring at the sexy guy beside him. After a long moment, he realized Jamie was waiting for an answer. “Um, yeah. Clarinet? It’s, um ...”

Jamie grinned. “I’ve heard of it. Are you marching, also?”

Thad could only nod. Marching, yes, right back to his room and locking the door to jerk off as he imagined this meeting ending with the two of them in his bed.

* * * *

Yeah, Jamie. Thad swallows the rest of his soda as he watches the way his friend moves on the dance floor. Here Thad is just another pair of eyes, anonymous in the crowd. There’s no chance Jamie will look over and guess the sordid thoughts racing through Thad’s mind. Jamie’s dark, wayward curls wink in the light refracted from the disco balls, and his body moves like seaweed in water, that graceful. One moment his shirt pulls taut across his thin chest; the next, his jeans hug his butt. If Thad closes his eyes, Jamie still dances in his mind.

It makes his heart ache.

I love him, he thinks. Jamie dances in the mirror, lost in the mindless rhythm of the club, blissfully unaware of the turmoil his moves cause in Thad’s loins. It’s that simple, I love him, I want him, I need him. As a friend, yes, but God, as so much more.

And what in the world am I supposed to do about it?

The answer is clear -- nothing.

His parents don’t know he’s gay. No one back home does. Thad thought college would be freer, more liberating, but so far he hasn’t gathered up the courage to come out to anyone. The six months he’s lived down the hall from Jamie have been delightful torture. Friendship grew between them but nothing else, and no matter how Thad tries to imagine making a move toward something more, he can’t. He doesn’t want to lose what little he already has.

Besides, what would his friends say? Peter Davis, his roommate? The other guys on the hall? Peter’s brother Seth, who plays trombone, or Mark, the drum major? Or anyone in the band?

No. He can’t take the chance. Even here, thousands of miles away from his real life, he doesn’t dare reinvent himself.

He takes another sip of his soda and winces at the taste. He wants to go home now.

Crash and Burn



GENRE: Contemporary, Romance
LENGTH: 11,811 words
This story is included in the anthology, Love on the Rocks

BLURB: Chris and Aaron have hit a rough patch in their relationship, but it isn't anything they can't weather. Part of the disconnect stems from their different work schedules -- Chris works in an office during the day, while Aaron works swing shift at a plant, sometimes working days, sometimes afternoons, sometimes nights. The odd shift causes stress in their relationship, but Chris knows they can work through it together.

Then he discovers Aaron is secretly taking prescription drugs for depression.

Suddenly Chris feels as if he doesn't know Aaron any more. He's afraid to bring up the pills he found, but more afraid of losing his lover. To mistrust, to denial, to addiction. He tells himself he'll step in before it's too late.

But will he be able to figure out when to step in and say something? Or will Aaron's growing dependence on prescriptions drive them apart?


EXCERPT:

In the bathroom I brush my teeth, peering into the mirror that’s already fogging up from Aaron’s shower. “Can you turn that off?” he asks, raising his voice over the sound of rushing water. “I don’t have any pressure here.”

Spitting a mouthful of toothpaste into the sink, I rinse my mouth and turn off the faucet. Then I lean over the counter, dangerously close to the mirror, and study the dark smudge of my hair. It’s cut as short as it can possibly be and still be considered hair, but I see the ends are beginning to curl already and I want to shave the whole mess off again. “I need a haircut,” I say, not because Aaron cares, but just to talk. I like when it’s the two of us alone and we don’t talk about anything but stupid shit. I can pretend we’ve been married for years, we’re that comfortable with each other, which makes me hope that one day we really are married and we’re still like this. I want that more than anything else out of life.

“Leave your hair alone,” Aaron says, splashing in the shower behind me. “There’s nothing left to cut.”

“But it’s starting to curl.”

He doesn’t reply because he likes my wavy hair, he always has. I know he secretly wants me to forget about cutting it and let it grow back long and thick, the way it was when we first met years ago. Secretly, I’ve thought about doing that for him.

Frowning in the mirror, I pick at the hair along my chin and think I should shave it off. Just for something different. But I stopped shaving a few months back in the hopes of looking older, more sophisticated. The moment the opening came up in sales, actually. I ditched the baby face and the boyish hair, started wearing ties and cuff links, the whole nine yards. Has anyone in the office noticed yet? If they have, it hasn’t done jack towards getting me a raise.

I don’t even own a razor any more. I was a disposable blade sort of man, but from the look of it, I’m never going to sport more than a shadow of stubble anyway. Aaron has a nice electric razor -- even though he sports a grizzly morning-after look himself on the days he has to work first shift, he has the Norelco his mom bought him for Christmas last year.

“Can I use your razor?” I ask. Before he can answer, I duck under the sink and reach for his little black travel bag. What’s he going to say, no?

Surprisingly, he does. “You’re not shaving your head.”

“I’m not,” I promise with a laugh. That would be cute, me trying to chop off what little I have. I can picture it now, hands behind my head, that damn razor buzzing in my ears, and who knows what the hell I’d look like then? “Just want to get this scruff off my chin.”

“Dip it in milk and let the cat lick it off,” he says.

I don’t know if he’s being serious or not, so I don’t bother to answer. Instead, I squat on the ground and pull his bag into my lap. Why he keeps all his toiletries in it instead of on the shelf in the medicine cabinet I cleared off specifically for him, I don’t know. The bag overflows with all sorts of stuff -- a well-squeezed tube of toothpaste, an extra toothbrush, a pair of my diamond-cut cuff links (so that’s where they went), three little black combs like the ones you get at a barber shop, Chapstick (also mine), cologne, one of those tiny hotel soaps he swiped from somewhere God knows how long ago, a trial size bottle of shampoo probably from the same hotel.

Beneath it all is the razor. As I pull it out, I hear the unmistakable rattle of pills. Aspirin, I think, because who doesn’t carry aspirin? I have a bottle in the cabinet above the sink, a huge generic bottle from K-Mart that has all sorts of pills in it, Advil and Tylenol and Aleve, even some Motrin my sister left behind. But these pills aren’t in one of those over-the-counter bottles, they’re prescription. I frown as I read the label because I don’t know what Effexor is.

Ask him.

I can’t. I didn’t know he was taking anything on a regular basis -- anything prescribed, when had he seen the doctor? And part of me knows he’ll get mad if he knows I found them. There’s a reason he didn’t tell me about them in the first place. If I ask now, it’ll only start a fight.

The date on the label is a few weeks back, right around when he doubled up his shifts to cover those in maintenance who were out on vacation. Maybe these are stress pills. Take one tablet three times a day, the label reads. I think a moment and try to remember if I’ve seen him take any. I want to say no.

Unless he’s not taking them.

I open the bottle and shake out a handful of the shield-shaped pills into my palm. The bottle’s more than half-empty -- if he isn’t taking them, he’s throwing them out three at a time, because I can see they’re disappearing right on schedule. He came in here last night, remember? After he couldn’t get it up, he came in here and brushed his teeth and probably took one then.

Behind me the shower cuts off. I dump the pills back into the bottle and twist the cap on quickly -- I don’t want him to think I’m snooping. I hate arguing with him about anything, anything at all, and I just know these pills are asking for it. I shove the bottle back into his bag and rummage around in it some more to cover them up with the rest of his things. Then I put the razor back in, because I’m no longer interested in shaving.

Endless Summer



GENRE: Contemporary, Erotica, Romance
LENGTH: 19,269 words

BLURB: It's the summer before his senior year of college, and the last thing Jason Mizzoli wants to do is spend it with his parents. But when his mother books a month's stay at a family friendly resort, she won't let him talk his way out of going.

Jason's determined not to enjoy himself ... until he sees sexy resort employee Travis. After a chance encounter over breakfast, Jason thinks Travis might be just as interested as he is in getting to know each other a little better. But hooking up is easier said and done.

It isn't until Jason's mother signs him up for a stupid dance class that Jason learns what exactly it is Travis does at the resort. Now that they've found each other, finally, the summer stretches ahead of them with the promise of first love.

There's only one little problem -- Jason isn't out to his parents. What will happen if -- and when -- they find out about Travis?


EXCERPT:

My gaze follows the dirt path we drove down to our cabin -- it winds through sparse trees and lush lawns fronting other cabins just like ours. The lake sparkles with sunlight off to the right, so close I could run and jump in the water if I wanted to ... which I don’t. At the head of the path sits the resort’s main building, where camp activities will be held along with community meals I’m already dreading.

On one side of the resort is a deck, facing the lake. I can see some employees out there for a mid-afternoon break. There are four young waitresses sitting at one of the covered tables. The umbrella shields them from the sun. In their short skirts and billowy shirts, their hair pulled back in sloppy ponytails, they giggle together and flirt shamelessly with a guy leaning on the rail.

He wears black jeans and a tight white tank top. Who am I kidding? Hell, if I were up there on the deck, I’d be flirting with him, too. He’s my age, has to be, maybe a year or so older. He wears his long hair in the same sort of sloppy ponytail the girls favor, and he keeps tucking wisps of sun-kissed hair behind his ears and out of his face. Even from this distance, I can hear his laugh -- it’s infectious, carrying to me on the wind, and I want to grin just hearing it. The curve of his sexy smile sends shivers down my spine.

God. Now here’s reason enough for me to stay.

Those full lips, the dimpled cheeks, the dark eyes glistening like the sun off the lake ...

He must feel me watching because he looks my way. I sort of wave until I realize I’m sitting on the bumper of a station wagon, of all things. Yes, color me pathetic.

Quickly I stand and step away from my dad’s car as if it isn’t mine. He’ll think I’m a loser, driving that piece of shit, tan with peeling panels and the tires going bald. Before he turns, I give him a quick grin. He thinks I’m a dork, I know it, and I just want to hide my head in my hands, rewind the moment and start again, start this whole day over. If I’d have known someone like him would be here, watching me arrive, I would’ve worn something a little bit classier than an old Lady Gaga T-shirt, torn jeans, and scuffed sneakers. I’d have done something with my hair, spiked it up maybe, or brushed it at least. I wouldn’t have let him catch me lounging along the back of my dad’s aging station wagon like I’m proud of the damn car.

Why is it I never get a second chance to make a first impression? There goes my summer.

But he looks my way again. When the girls crush out their cigarettes, flip their hair over their shoulders, and head back inside, he leans over the railing and watches me. Stares at me.

God.

I fight the urge to run a hand through my hair to straighten it. I can stand here all day just looking at him -- thinking of the thin muscles in his shoulders, his narrow waist, his lithe arms covered with fine hair I want to smooth down beneath my palms. Is it so bad to want to touch him? He’s everything I ever wanted, I just know he is. He’s smiling at me, a grin that says, “Come here.” I want to, God, I do.

I’m gathering up the courage to walk over and say something -- “Hello,” for starters, which would somehow morph into, “Your place or mine?” -- but before I make my move, my mom steps out of the cabin and hollers my name for all the world to hear.

Damn. I duck my head and wish I could just disappear. “Go away,” I mutter under my breath.

She doesn’t hear me. Of course not. “Jason! You bringing those bags in today or what?”

I feel his gaze burn along my back and wonder if I look as clumsy as I feel when I fumble with the luggage like a busboy on his first day of work. The bags don’t want to cooperate -- they slip from my hands and tumble to the ground, clattering at my feet. He’s laughing at me, he has to be, I just know it, this geeky little kid on vacation with his parents. Who does that? I mean, at my age?

I want to go home already.

At the cabin door I dare a glance over my shoulder. He’s still there, still leaning on the railing, still watching me. I venture an exasperated smile.

He returns it with a wink. A wink, Jesus. Score!

Don’t Be Late



GENRE: Contemporary, Romance
LENGTH: 5,240 words
This story is included in the anthology, Love on the Rocks

BLURB: Who says marriage is bliss? Blake and Jeremy had more time to spend together when they were dating than they do now as man and husband.

Working long hours keep them apart, and their schedules rarely sync during the week. They can't even make love except on the weekends -- no time.

When did life get so damn busy?

One hectic day follows another. Will the two men ever get a moment alone?


EXCERPT:

When the alarm clock rings at ten minutes to five in the morning, Jeremy Pollick doesn’t want to get up. He doesn’t want to roll over, and he doesn’t want to turn off the alarm, and he sure as hell doesn’t want to get out of the warm bed he shares with his lover. He can feel the strong body alongside his and he burrows beneath the covers, telling himself if he just ignores the buzz, the clock will shut off eventually. If he just pretends it’s not trying to tear him awake, then he doesn’t have to get up --

The bed shifts beneath him as his lover, Blake Tarrington, reaches across him and turns off the clock.

Thank you, Jeremy thinks. He sighs in the sudden stillness and tells himself he’s still asleep. Maybe if he thinks it hard enough, his body will believe it, too.

Blake’s arm wraps around Jeremy, hugging him back against the firm warmth of Blake’s chest. Into Jeremy’s ear, he breathes, “Time to get up, hon.”

Jeremy sort of mumbles something noncommittal and snuggles closer to his lover.

A quick kiss on Jeremy’s temple and Blake’s already getting out of bed, stretching in the darkness of their room, yawning and shaking himself awake. “Jeremy ...”

“I’m up,” he mutters into pillows that still smell like Blake. He doesn’t want to get out of bed -- has he mentioned this yet today? Because no one seems to be listening.

As Blake leaves the bedroom, he slaps Jeremy’s legs playfully through the covers, a barely-there touch buffered through the thick comforter. Come back, Jeremy wants to say, but when he hears the water running in the bathroom, he knows it’s too late.

He glances at the clock -- it’s now eight minutes to five. Too early. He fists the blankets beneath his chin, stubborn. He’ll close his eyes for a few minutes more, just until Blake gets out of the shower, and then he’ll get up, even though he doesn’t want to. He doesn’t want to get dressed, either, or fight the morning rush hour traffic, or spend the day at the office in meeting after meeting.

Let’s just skip all that, he thinks. It’s a wonderful idea -- he wishes he could really do it. Skip everything between here and coming home tonight. Then Blake could snuggle back beneath these covers with him, and they could make love until they fall asleep even though it isn’t Friday yet and they usually don’t have time for sex during the week. Maybe he’ll suggest a quick morning tryst when his lover comes back into the bedroom, still damp from the shower. Maybe Blake will agree that, for today at least, they can forget everything else but each other.

One More Try



GENRE: Contemporary, Romance
LENGTH: 13,761 words
This story is included in the anthology, Gay Daddies

BLURB: Six years ago, Evan Alexander played first base for Richmond's minor league baseball team, the Rebels. His best friend on the team was pitcher Charlie Madison, a sexy man Evan couldn't help falling in love with. When he finally admitted his feelings, Charlie seemed to feel the same.

But the season ended and Charlie left, breaking Evan's heart. Now the divorced father of a little girl, Evan has just started putting his life back together again.

Then Charlie shows up, looking for a second chance.

Can Evan give their relationship one more try? Or will his broken heart keep him from letting Charlie back into his life?


EXCERPT:

Kasey stood on one of the dining room chairs, directing Evan as he filled their plates with spaghetti. “That’s too much, Daddy!” she said with a laugh. “You can’t eat that many. Put some back.”

Evan grinned at her and scooped up a large spoonful of the pasta. “How’s that?”

She frowned at the plate, picked up one long noodle, and stuck it in her mouth. It dangled down her chin. “Help.”

Evan held the noodle out as she slurped it up between her lips, and when he touched her nose with the tip of it, she giggled. “That’s good enough,” she told him, pointing at his plate. “It’s time to eat now. Did you turn off the TV?”

Evan set the pot of noodles aside. “Yeah, I did --”

Suddenly the doorbell rang, echoing through the townhouse and startling them both. He wasn’t expecting company.

Don’t let it be Mere, he prayed, though he knew it wouldn’t be. She was at the beach with Paul this weekend, enjoying her time off from motherhood. Raising his eyebrows at Kasey, he asked, “I wonder who that can be.”

The little girl jumped down from the chair. “I’ll go see!”

Before Evan could stop her, she raced through the living room towards the door.

“Kasey! Don’t run in the house!” As Evan set the pot of spaghetti on the table, he heard her fumble with the latch. He hoped it wasn’t Meredith. She had never interfered with his time with their daughter before.

From the living room, he heard Kasey open the door. “Hello?” she asked, her voice so tiny, so chipper. Maybe it was one of his neighbors. Maybe it was UPS.

He was wiping his hands on a dish towel when he heard a voice he hadn’t heard in years. It made his knees weak and his hands shake. “Hey there, baby girl. Your daddy home?”

Charlie. Oh my God.

Evan’s heart began to race. Before Kasey, before Meredith, there had been Charlie Madison, star pitcher for the Richmond Rebels who single-handedly took the minor league farm team to the state playoffs the last season Evan played first base. It’d been six years since Evan last saw Charlie’s warm brown eyes and sexy grin. Back then, Evan’s life had been in control and he knew what he wanted.

What I wanted was him. When I thought he wanted me, too. But I was wrong about that, wasn’t I?

And I thought I was over him, finally. Only now he’s back and guess what? I was wrong about that, too. Damn.

Loosen Up



GENRE: Contemporary, Erotica, Romance
LENGTH: 8,521 words

BLURB: Between course work, an internship, clinicals, and a part-time job, med student Liam Martin is worn out. When his lab is cancelled, freeing up his Friday night, all he wants to do is crash.

Liam's roommates have other plans. They think Liam is too stressed and needs to loosen up ... as in going out to party, not staying home to rest. Adam scores coveted tickets to a concert by local alt band Ebola Rain and uses his connections to get backstage.

But Liam doesn't want to go, and manages to lose his roommates backstage by hiding out in one of the dressing rooms, where he promptly falls asleep. Little does Liam know the room belongs to Cooper Dawson, sexy frontman for the band, who also thinks Liam needs to loosen up.

Then Cooper asks Liam to hang out with him, and suddenly Liam isn’t so tired anymore.


EXCERPT:

When the vodka was gone, there was champagne that fizzed all over Liam’s hands and legs as he popped the cork, but this time he laughed with the others as the alcohol seeped into his jeans. He smelled like a brewery, but Cooper’s hand had drifted from his shoulder to the small of his back, where it rubbed small circles into his skin, and when Liam leaned back against the seat, that hand slipped around his waist to rest on his hip. Liam decided he quite liked the way it felt there. Then the champagne was finished, and someone suggested they stop at a club. Liam thought that sounded like a great idea.

Watch it, Doc, Liam told himself as he followed the others into the club, Cooper’s fingers laced through one of the belt loops on his jeans. You’re starting to enjoy yourself. Can’t have that. He laughed.

“What’s so funny?” Cooper wanted to know as they entered the club. At the bar Cooper stood close behind Liam, too close, and Liam told himself that wasn’t an erection pressing against his ass, it couldn’t be, but it sure felt like one to him. “Only freaks laugh at themselves.”

Liam snickered at that. “I am a freak, remember? You said so yourself.”

Cooper leaned around him and motioned to the bartender. Liam pushed back and smiled at the sharp intake of breath in his ear as he shifted against the singer’s erection. A quick look around assured him the rest of the band had disappeared, lost in the crowd, and when Cooper’s hand eased up the front of his leg, Liam dared to catch it in his and hold it against the bulge at his crotch. “My friends think I need to get laid,” he said with a laugh.

Cooper laughed with him. “You asking me to fuck you?”

“No,” Liam said. But now that you mention it ... “I’m just saying.”

Cooper squeezed Liam’s hard cock through his jeans. When the bartender brought them two mixed drinks, Cooper tossed his back quickly. “Drink up,” he said, glancing around the bar. His bandmates were nowhere to be seen.

Liam fingered the rim of his glass. “I didn’t mean --”

“Drink the motherfucking drink,” Cooper said, anger lacing his voice. “I didn’t buy it just so you could piss in it.”

Quickly Liam downed the alcohol. It burned a path down his throat and coiled into his stomach. “Cooper, listen,” he started, setting the glass on the bar. “I didn’t ask you to fuck me.”

Cooper poked at the hardness in Liam’s pants. “What the fuck’s this?” he wanted to know.

Liam blushed and tried to brush Cooper’s hand away. “Nothing, really.”

Cooper’s hand latched onto his. “Come on.”

“What?” Liam asked. I should say no, he thought. I should tell him I’m only playing around, I get turned on when I drink, it has nothing to do with his warm body and his muscled arms and his hard chest pressing against me.

But that would be lying, wouldn’t it?

Closing Time



GENRE: Contemporary, Erotica, Interracial, Romance
LENGTH: 5,298 words
This story is included in the anthology, Working Men

BLURB: Mitchell Nolan is a bartender working late on Christmas Eve. As the last patrons leave, he stays behind to clean up. Why hurry home? There's no one waiting for him, and he knows Santa won't bother leaving anything special for him this year.

Then he meets Romy Lariner, who ducks inside the bar when his car won't start. Sparks fly between these two lonely men this Christmas Eve. Maybe Santa has a little something up his sleeve for Mitchell after all ...


EXCERPT:

The bell above the door tinkled quietly as someone entered the bar. Mitchell looked up from the floor and frowned at the young black man standing just inside the double wooden doors. Should've locked those.

The man was Mitchell's age, maybe a few years younger, and wore a bulky winter coat he held closed at the neck with one hand to keep the snow out. His cheeks were a dark red, like cherry-tinted cappuccino, flushed from the bitter wind. As he surveyed the empty room, his dark eyes glistened. When his gaze settled on Mitchell, he grinned, revealing straight, white teeth that almost shone in the dim light. Then he tugged off the striped cap covering his head to reveal a head full of long, tight curls that sprang free above a heart-shaped face. Running a hand through his hair in some attempt to tame it, he called out, "Hey there."

Despite the late hour and the weariness clinging to his bones, Mitchell found himself smiling back. The stranger's skin was a smooth, dusky shade the color of heavily creamed coffee. Those eyes reminded him of Jamal's, but it was his hair that made Mitchell look twice. "Hey yourself," he replied, leaning on the broom handle. "Sorry, but we're closed."

"I figured." The man looked around again with interest. "My car won't start. I just wanted to know if maybe I could use your phone?"

His smile brightened, making Mitchell's heart skip nervously. Damn. He starred as the man unsnapped his coat. Now he'd never get to sleep tonight, thinking of the way that hand ran through those curls and imagining it on his own body, clenching in places he hadn't been touched in a long time. He wanted to dip his fingers into that hair, feel it in his hands and see those dark eyes staring up at him, hooded and sated, sweat pricked along that smooth brow, those ruddy lips curled around his...

Stop it! He thrust the images away. He didn't need to think that, didn't need to make it harder for himself, not tonight.

The stranger cleared his throat and asked, "Do you mind?"

"Mind what?"

REVIEWS:
Joyfully Reviewed:
"Closing Time is like an erotic movie with a bit of romance. The emotion makes things even hotter."

Lover’s Cross



GENRE: Contemporary, Erotica, Fantasy, Paranormal, Romance
LENGTH: 8,360 words
This story is included in the anthology, Perchance to Dream

BLURB: After a bad car accident, Jory's lover Peter assures him he's doing fine. But when Jory attends a get-well party at the house of a coworker, he's surprised when no one asks him how Peter is doing. More disconcerting, Peter's gold cross necklace is missing, and Jory suffers from headaches whenever his best friend Bruce brings up the accident.

Where is the cross? And why does Bruce keep asking Jory to remember what happened to his lover?


EXCERPT:

In the car on the way home, Jory stares at his reflection in the window and watches the night pass behind his glassy eyes, a blur of snow-covered ground and bare-limbed trees in the darkness. He can see the faint scar on his temple, a red slash beneath brown bangs just beginning to grow back after being shorn in the hospital after the accident. “You know what bothered me about tonight?” he asks softly.

“What’s that?” Bruce keeps his gaze on the road and one hand on the wheel. His deep voice is gravely from the wine and low between them. When Jory doesn’t answer immediately, Bruce gives him a sharp look. “Jory? What’s wrong?”

“No one asked about Peter,” Jory replies.

At the sound of his lover’s name, the headache that threatened him all evening suddenly flares to life behind his eyes, sending a wave of nausea washing through him. He leans his forehead against the cold window and waits for the sickness to pass.

Gently, Bruce says, “Maybe they didn’t think you’d want to talk about it.”

Jory frowns at his reflection. Talk about what? he wonders, before the pain sears through him again and bright lights cloud his vision. He has to speak around the thin taste of bile in his throat. “Well, they could have at least asked if he was okay.”

“Is he?” Bruce wants to know.

“Yes,” Jory answers, a little too quickly. Peter’s doing fine. Like he is. Fine.

“Where is he right now?” Bruce prompts.

The pain flashes through his head again, and Jory closes his eyes against the onslaught of images flooding his memory. A white shroud of snow covering the hood of the car like a blanket. Something wet and hot dripping into his eyes, pain in his legs, the radio low. The clench of Peter’s fingers holding his, keeping him warm. In the distance, a wail of sirens ...

“Jory?” Bruce asks.

Jory blinks away the visions of the accident. The sirens grow louder, somewhere out in the darkness of the night. They’re real, not remembered. Someone somewhere has been hurt, and sirens race to the rescue.

“He’s okay,” Jory whispers. Peter’s fine. “Probably sleeping right now. He’s ...”

He frowns. Peter’s okay. Just a little shaken up from the accident still, but he’s doing okay. Jory can’t wait to get home and hide away from the rest of the world, the staring eyes, the hesitant questions. He’ll crawl into bed and into the safety of Peter’s arms, and he’ll forget the evening at Janice’s. Peter will kiss away the headache and make everything fine again. Make everything okay.

For the Boys



GENRE: Historical, Romance
LENGTH: 16,460 words

BLURB: Falling in love was the last thing Army pilot Carl Prosser expected to do while stationed in Korea. But he meets a young man named Tommy who’s touring with the USO and does just that. Their relationship deepens through an exchange of letters.

When the USO troupe returns to the front, Prosser devises an elaborate plan to see his lover one last time before the entertainers return to the states. At the last minute, though, there’s a change of plans when the enemy hits the USO troupe and Prosser fears Tommy is gone forever.


EXCERPT:

He laughed and stepped into the shadows to stand beside me. I could feel the warmth of his body just inches away from mine and I had to fist my hands to keep from unfolding my arms and touching him. He still wore his stage outfit, long sequined pants in a gaudy camouflage pattern with a tight fitting vest to match. The pants hugged his hips and thighs, blooming out around his ankles, and in the faint light from the window of his friend's tent I could see the freckles on his bare shoulders, the thick muscles in his upper arms. He wore a small cross on a tiny gold chain around his neck and his hair was a mop of unruly brown curls the color of freshly turned earth that my fingers itched to roam through. When he smiled, I could see the sparkle of glittery makeup around dark eyes that twinkled like the stars above. "She is cute," he said. "Did you see our show?"

I nodded, awed, afraid that my voice would be gone if I tried to speak. No wonder the nurses were giggling over him earlier. This close he was breathtaking.

"The guys always fall for her," he continued. "I'm Tommy."

"Tommy?" I asked, confused by his sudden change of topic.

He grinned. "That's me," he said. "Don't you think she's cute?"

I shrugged. "She's okay, I guess. Not exactly ..."

I trailed off, unsure of how much I wanted to tell him. Everything, my mind whispered, but I didn't listen to it.

Tommy laughed. "Not exactly your type?" He took a step closer and the front of his vest brushed against my elbow, igniting my arm at the brief touch. "What is your type?"

I didn't answer, but my whole body cried out for him and when he touched the insignia on my shoulder, I almost jumped. "What's this stand for?"

"Warrant officer," I whispered, watching his finger trace the metal bar pinned to my jacket.

With a grin, Tommy lowered his voice and asked, "Does this warrant officer have a name?"

"Prosser," I told him. He looked up at me, eyes widening, and I remembered he was a civilian. "Carl," I corrected. I could feel a blush heat up my cheeks and I turned away from his intense gaze. "It's Carl."

"Carl." When he sighed my name, it sounded like a promise. Glancing at the door to his friend's tent, still closed, he asked, "So you're just waiting here?"

I stared at the skin along his neck, the shadows pooled in the hollow of his throat, and nodded because I didn't trust myself to speak.

He shivered in the night air and I wanted to wrap my arms around him, hold him close, cover those bare arms and warm him up again. "It's getting colder," he said with a slight laugh, but he didn't move away, didn't say he had to leave, didn't make up an excuse and hurry on his way. Instead he rubbed his hands together and asked, "Where are you from, Carl?"

I liked the way he said my name, the way it sounded in his voice. "Southwest Virginia."

He laughed again. "You're a far way from home, boy. I bet it gets pretty lonely out here."

"You have no idea." Lonely didn't begin to describe Korea. Some nights, when the wind whistled around the flaps of my tent, I would lay awake on my narrow cot and listen to Bert snore, and wonder if maybe I wasn't wasting my time out here, wasting my life for a war that the government refused to declare. Nights like that I wanted to be home, in the heat of the South, and I clutched the blankets tight around my body and ached for a lover's touch. Then there were days when I was trying to get the wounded off the battlefield and could hear the steady ping of enemy bullets off my chopper blades, and wondered if I would ever even make it home again.

Tommy watched me closely -- I could feel his gaze on my face, my neck, and I was all too aware of his naked arms and his thin clothing, sequins and silk, when I stood next to him in heavy fatigues and a thick field jacket. "I'm sure you have someone back home who misses you," he was saying, his breath warm against my cheek. When had he moved so close? "Someone who writes you long letters, cheers you up a bit. A girlfriend maybe? Someone like that?"

"No." I shook my head for emphasis. "No girlfriend." I didn't want to tell him that the only letters from home I got came from my mother or my sister. No lover, and definitely no girls.

"Not your type?" he breathed.

Staring into his deep eyes, I whispered, "You could say that."

Persistence of Memory



GENRE: Erotica, Futuristic / Sci-Fi, Romance
LENGTH: 23,084 words | 118 pages
This story is included in the anthology, Perchance to Dream

BLURB: Five years ago Joah was culled -- kidnapped by the government to be trained as a soldier. In the process, they erased his memory, destroying his past, his dreams, everything but his name. Armed with that alone, Joah escapes from the facility in search of someone to help him recall the man he used to be.

That person is Tobin, Joah’s husband, who never gave up hope of finding him again. He refuses to believe that the strength of his love alone won’t be enough to bring back Joah’s memories of their shared lives, and he’s determined to bring back the man beneath the soldier, the man he knows has to love him.

But an alarm in the chip blocking Joah’s memories was triggered at his escape, and if it isn’t removed soon, it will shriek his life away. Removing it won’t bring back his past, and may destroy the present that Tobin has tried so hard to build between them. How can the love they once shared possibly survive?


EXCERPT:

I awake to voices arguing low in the next room. I hear them over the screech in my head, which has eased up a little. Maybe I've already grow used to its constant presence. I keep my eyes closed and listen to the new voices, the real ones, because I know they're talking about me. "It's not him," the first says. A man, probably around my own age. Why does he sound so familiar?

"How can you say that?" I know that one -- it belongs to the man I saw in the fields, the one who knew my name. "Ashe, it's him. How can you not see --"

"See what?" Ashe asks. "That he's a soldier now? He was culled, Tobin. Culled. One doesn't just recover from that. They took him apart and put the pieces together again into something new. It may look like Joah, talk like him, act like him ... but it's not him. It's not the same man you swore forever to at your handfasting. Can't you see that? Or don't you want to see it?"

Tobin. The name drifts through my mind like stray notes to a tune I heard once but can't place. When he speaks, I hear barely restrained rage and energy mingled together in his voice, and I know he's thrilled to see me. I can almost feel his excitement zipping through the rooms of the house like a bothersome mosquito, never settling in one place for long. "It's him," he says, his voice growing louder as he comes into my room. I keep my eyes shut; I don't let them know I'm awake. Lowering his voice, he adds, "It might take some time, Ashe, but he'll remember who I am. Who we are. I'll help him remember."

Ashe sighs, a lusty, exasperated sound. "They erased his memories," he tries to explain, but this Tobin is stubborn, thinking he can help me remember who I am when the chip is still stuck into my brain. If only it were that easy, I want to tell him. "You can't just kiss them back. Your love can't make everything right."

"Why not?" Tobin kneels by my bed, and I fight the urge to laugh at him, to let them know I'm listening to their every word. Because you just can't, I want to say, as I feel his hand slip into mine. His grip is strong and comforting, and for a moment I almost believe he might do it, he might be able to bring back who I was before. I can feel determination curled in his fingers -- he seems strong enough and stubborn enough to stop the sun in its tracks if he sets his mind to it. So maybe he can help me remember who I used to be.

He raises my hand and kisses my knuckles, his lips soft against my skin. I feel his fingers trace the tattoo on the inside of my wrist, his touch light and feathery. Did I used to love this man? The way he touches me is so intimate, so familiar. Has he loved me all these years I've been locked away, knowing I was forced to forget him? And does he honestly think after all that I've been through, I can remember how to love him once again?

REVIEWS:
Coffee Time Romance: 4 out of 5.
"A hang-on-to-the-edge-of-your-seat kind of book. You are always wondering what is coming next. You feel the love that Tobin and Joah once shared and root for them to overcome the horrible things that have been put in their path. I highly recommend this exciting yet tender love story."
Fallen Angel Reviews: 5 angels out of 5, Recommended Read.
"Snyder has created such a heart rendering story that will definitely bring tears of sorrow and joy to the reader ... A very compelling story that held me spellbound from the beginning and brought tears of joy to my eyes at the end ... Thank you for writing a book that reminds us that love does conquer all!!"
Joyfully Reviewed:
"The first word that came to mind was wow ... The turmoil and fear he feels at his lack of memories is heart-wrenching, as is Tobin's intense love for him ... With suspense, deep emotion, a great premise, and lovely writing, [this] is an excellent book."
Literary Nymphs Reviews: 4 out of 5.
"A beautifully moving love story set in a stark and futuristic world that leaves you with a feeling of hope. This is a must read for any fan of a powerful love story, m/m or not."
My Book Cravings: 5 out of 5.
"This author gets better each time. I couldn't put this book down. The way Snyder wrote, the way [Joah] was taken from all he loved, all the memories taken, was heartbreaking. This story is one of those stories that will have you crying, holding onto your seat to see if [Joah] will find what he needs."
Puss Reboots:
"A well told story in an interesting science fiction setting. It's full of raw human emotion with a poignant ending."
Rainbow Reviews: 5 out of 5.
"I enjoyed [it] and you will, too, if you like well-developed characters, an engrossing setting, and a deeply romantic story that ties it all together."
Review by Elisa Rolle:
"I like the postapocalict tales by J.M. Snyder. They are romantic and angst, but always tender. In this tale we know two boys grown men together, and with them also is grown a love who goes beyond all is known in this world. Tobin is a beautiful characters, but Joah is fantastic: even if weaker in the body, he is the strength of the couple, he manages to go over his fears to give another chance to their love. This is a rather short novel but will leave you with a smile in your face and with the believe that love is the most powerful feeling."
Review by Frost: 3 out of 5.
"Snyder has a well-deserved reputation for writing stories of heartwarming romance and true abiding love in the midst of horrendous societal changes ... I have seldom seen a story that so clearly elucidated the perseverance of the heart."
Two Lips Reviews: 5 out of 5, with a "heat level" of 1 out of 3.
"I was determined not to cry while reading ... and thought that I’d succeeded until I got to the very end and Snyder broke through my resolve and overwhelmed my senses. The love between Joah and Tobin is remarkable and definitely an once-in-a-lifetime kind of love. The changes that they had gone through during their forced separation where heart-breaking but only seemed to lend to the overall impact of the story."

At Your Service



GENRE: Contemporary, Romance
LENGTH: 5,387 words
This story is included in the anthology, Working Men

BLURB: Danny's friend Jen is always trying to play match-maker, looking for the perfect guy for him. When they stop at a restaurant for an early dinner, she decides their waiter Todd is "The One." He's sexy, cute, flirty ... and obviously interested in Danny.

Jen conspires with another employee to get the waiter's number, determined to hook Todd up with her friend.

Danny doesn't know whether to be grateful for her help, or mortified at the lengths she'll go to just to get him a date.


EXCERPT:

The waiter comes back a few minutes later, glaring at us as if he thought we were going to leave and he's mad we didn't. With a sigh, he sets out silverware. "I'll be your waiter tonight. My name is --"

"Todd," someone behind him says.

I look up to find another waiter pushing Evan aside. Now this one is cute, with wispy blonde curls and tan skin and dark eyes that light up the room when he smiles. And he's smiling now, smiling at me, as he takes our napkins from Evan.

"Todd, at your service. I'll be your waiter tonight."

"This is my table," Evan starts, but Todd kicks him in the shin and he bends down to rub his leg. "Ow! Fuck, Todd." When Jen giggles, he frowns at us. "You're working the other side of the room, remember?"

Todd lowers his voice and turns away as if he doesn't want us to overhear. "Take one of my tables."

Evan's still frowning like he thinks it's a bad idea to switch.

Do it, I want to say, because Todd's a cutie and he smiled at me. I want him to smile again. He's so close, my menu brushes his wrist, and I watch the way the fine hairs on his arm stand up beneath the lamented paper when I move my hands.

In a heated whisper, Todd says, "Just this once, Evan. Please."

"Fine." Evan glares at us one last time like we're to blame, then stalks away.

When Todd turns to us again, that smile is back, and I can't help but grin at him. He's got a sexy way about him, and me, I'm glad Evan is gone.

Rolling his eyes, Todd leans down over the table and says, "Sorry about that, folks. You two ready to order?"

Jen points at the Jack Daniels chicken. "Can I have this?"

"We're out," Todd deadpans.

Jen's eyes widen and I think, Great. Out of chicken. There goes half the shit on the menu.

Then, in the same voice, Todd tells her, "I'm just kidding."

"What?"

I laugh at the confusion on her face and Todd smiles again. He waves the question away. "Nothing." Still grinning, he winks my way. "You want the JD chicken?"

She nods and he turns to me. "What about you, handsome?"

My face heats at his words and I stare at the menu, unsure what it is I want. Him, I think, but he's not on the menu. "You had me there for a minute there about the chicken. That was a good one."

"I can be better," he says, coy.

REVIEWS:
Fallen Angel Reviews: 4 out of 5.
"This story is short, sweet with a plot that will please anyone who loves a love story with a happy ending."
Joyfully Reviewed:
"Another example of how well J.M. Snyder does romance with realism. The sexual chemistry and tension is great without so much as a kiss between them ... short and sweet and has just the right amount of sexy, fun romance."
Love Romances & More Reviews: 3 out of 5.
"This reviewer enjoyed this short tale. She loved the zaniness of Jen, the hero’s best friend. She’s crazy and not afraid to speak her mind, or get what her best friend deserves ... an enjoyable short story and this reviewer would recommend reading this and others by JM Snyder. "
Two Lips Reviews: 4 out of 5, with a "heat level" of 1.5 out of 3.
"This time around you meet the shy Danny, his not so shy friend Jen, and a cute waiter that changes everything. Thought I would have liked to have seen this story fleshed out more, it was a nice way to wet the appetite and show that J.M. Snyder is an author you will never forget."

Bounty of the Heart



GENRE: Historical, Romance
LENGTH: 18,165 words
This story is included in the anthology, Renegades, Rebels, and Rogues

BLURB: For seven years, Emmett Ward has harbored amorous feelings toward his partner, Jack Robison. A chance encounter brought them together -- Emmett slaved in an illegal warehouse run by a Korean criminal known as the Dragon Lady, when Jack, a notorious bounty hunter with his sights set on her son Lin Ji, was captured. Emmett helped Jack escape in return for his own freedom. They've been together ever since, but Emmett aches for so much more than their platonic partnership.

A new bounty has been placed on Lin Ji's head, sending Emmett and Jack to the wilds of Alaska, where they hope to take out the crime lord during an annual dog-sled race. As they near their target, they run into Monty Becker, another hunter Jack used to know. He takes an interest in Emmett, who is drawn to the sexy, charismatic fellow despite Jack's warnings.

Emmett is torn between the two men -- Monty is more than willing to show him what he's missing, but Jack is what his heart wants. When the three team up to take out Lin, Emmett learns more of the past Jack and Monty share, and discovers just why his partner has ignored his obvious feelings for so long.


EXCERPT:

As the fire gutted low among the coals, Emmett leaned back, one hand on the ground behind Jack. His partner shrugged, as if that would somehow give him more space, but it didn't. For a long moment, Emmett stared into the flickering flames, gathering up his courage. It was cold, he'd reason, and the shelf on which they had camped was open to the elements. Perhaps they could push the bedrolls together, just for the night. Emmett thought if he could only close the gap between them, nature would take over and do the rest. He'd wake in Jack's embrace, his body still humming from the older man's attention. Maybe if Emmett said it was too cold; how could he argue with that? "Jack ..."

Out beyond their firelight, a twig snapped. Jack jerked his head, instantly alert. Emmett touched Jack, fisting his hand in the hide covering Jack's back. "What was that?" he whispered.

A small scurry of stones answered him. In one fluid motion, Jack stood and drew his pistol. Before Emmett could speak, Jack hissed, "Shh."

Emmett strained to hear something else, anything, over the quiet fire. He heard nothing, and wondered if it hadn't been an animal of some kind when Jack leveled his gun and fired.

The report was deafening. Jack aimed a second time. "Show yourself," he called, raising his voice. To Emmett, he muttered, "Bastard's been following us since Juneau."

"What?" Emmett clambered to his feet, ears ringing from the shot. Why hadn't Jack said something earlier?

In the silence, Jack cocked the pistol. "Get the fuck out here," he warned.

From the darkness came a man's voice, jovial and light. "All right already, Jack. Hold up, will you?"

"Who is it?" Emmett wanted to know. "And why didn't you tell me we were being followed?"

Jack's frown deepened. "You should've known."

Slowly a tall shape extracted itself from the shadows. As the stranger stepped into the circle of light thrown by their fire, a chill passed through Emmett. He took in the weathered cloak covering tight denim pants and a dark shirt, the long rifle slung over one shoulder, the ten-gallon Stetson pulled low over the stranger's face, and wondered how this man knew Jack by name. A fellow bounty hunter? An old friend?

The disgust that flitted across Jack's face as he holstered his pistol suggested otherwise. He took his seat again by the fire, dismissing the stranger. Tossing a small bundle of sticks into the flames, Jack growled, "What the hell do you want?"

The stranger shrugged easily. When he pushed the hat back from his face, he grinned wolfishly at Emmett, his thin, dark beard enhancing his lupine appearance. Tapping the hat firmly into place, he drawled, "Where'd you pick up the kid, Jack? He's too damn pretty to be your type."

Emmett blushed. The stranger couldn't be much older than he was himself. Clearing his throat, he said, "I'm not a kid."

"So I see." The stranger's gaze trailed down Emmett's body, audacious, before rising to meet Emmett's eyes. That look felt invasive almost, as if the man could see through the bulk Emmett wore and behold the body beneath. Emmett's cheeks burned furiously, more so when the stranger winked. "Can't imagine Jack will introduce us. Niceties have never been his strong suit. The name's Monty Becker. Pleasure's all mine. And you are ...?"

"Emmett." He took the hand Monty offered. Its grip was strong and sure, but Monty didn't let go right away -- his palm burned in Emmett's, his wicked grin never faltering. With difficulty, Emmett shook him off. "Do you know Jack?"

Monty laughed. "We go way back. You two mind if I join you?"

Without waiting for a response, he sank down to sit by their fire, folding his long legs Indian-style in front of him. Emmett, all too aware that he alone stood standing, took his own seat again beside Jack. This time, the elbow in his side was quick and sharp, roughly pushing him away. "I didn't say sit," Jack muttered, his voice as cold as the night around them.

"I didn't really ask," Monty replied.

REVIEWS:
Obsidian Bookshelf:
"The Alaska setting is vivid. Emmett is a sweet kid, smart and full of optimism. Sticklers for historical research might wonder about his absence of religious guilt and his easy acceptance of his own homosexuality, but I wasn't bothered by that."
Rainbow Reviews: 4 out of 5.
"If you’re looking for a different kind of story with a shimmering romance and well-crafted atmosphere, I recommend this story. You won’t be disappointed."
Sensual Erotic Romance & Erotica: 5 out of 5.
"J.M. Snyder is such a versatile writer that she has something for everyone. Bounty of the Heart is perfect for those of us who enjoy love in any shape."

Cafe de l’Amour



GENRE: Contemporary, Romance
LENGTH: 6,829 words
This story is included in the anthology, Working Men

BLURB: Barista Austin falls for Seth Jackson the moment the man enters Lakeside Cafe. Seth seems just as interested, but Austin's too shy to pursue a relationship on the other side of the counter. When Seth visits with a male "friend" in tow, Austin worries he might have missed his chance.

Seth's just as suspicious of Austin's best friend, Josh, who hangs out at the cafe. A lunch date offers a chance to clear the air between them. Will Seth and Austin make a special blend, or will Josh turn things sour?


EXCERPT:

From the moment he walks up to the counter and turns those pale blue eyes my way, I know I’m lost. He wears a meticulous suit, crisp and freshly pressed, cut to accentuate his narrow waist and the swell of his butt. When he smiles shyly at me, I grin foolishly back. Suddenly I’m all too aware of the dingy white apron I wear, the ground coffee under my nails, the new, too short haircut exposing my ears. I smooth my hand across the shorn top of my head, then wipe both hands on my apron. “Good morning,” I say, stepping to the counter.

“Good morning, Austin.” His voice is deeper than I expect.

A grin threatens to split my face. “How do you know my name?” I want to hear him say it again.

He points at my chest, where the nametag I wear proudly proclaims I’m Austin, manager-in-training for the Lakeside Cafe. I roll my eyes and try not to blush. Ducking my head, I toy with a tear in the countertop and notice the initial ring he wears -- SBJ. I want to know what each letter stands for, but I’m not the type to ask. But he holds out a hand and, as if he can read my mind, says, “I’m Seth.”

I’m too startled to do anything but shake his hand. His touch is warm and strong, and almost reluctantly I let go. “What can I get you this morning, Seth?”

When I glance up, those baby blues gaze back. Damn, he’s hot. I know I’m staring but I can’t help it. For a long moment he doesn’t say anything, just watches me, and I want to say something witty but nothing comes to mind. Great time to choke up, Austin, I chastise silently.

Just as I’m about to ask again, he nods at the small clapboard on the counter, where today’s special is written in my sloppy handwriting. “What’s a Mocha Locha Latte?”

Though the ingredients are written on the board, I like talking to him, so I lean over the counter to read the board, all too aware he doesn’t step away from me. His hand rests on the counter by my arm, and I want to touch him again but I don’t. “Chocolate and amarillo and --”

“Amaretto,” he says, laughing. When I look up at him, he’s so close I can smell the warm musk cologne he wears. “Amarillo is a city in Texas.”

“I’ve never been there,” I say, smiling.

He smiles back. “Why not?” His fingers brush against my arm accidentally, causing the hairs to stand up at the touch.

Are we flirting? God, I hope so.

On the Job



GENRE: Contemporary, Erotica
LENGTH: 5,944 words
This story is included in the anthology, Working Men

BLURB: Charles is a service technician with the cable company who doesn't usually do new installs. His day is limited to trouble calls and reconnects.

But an irate customer has called into the office -- he missed the installer and now demands the cable company send someone out to hook up his service. Charles is already in the neighborhood when he gets the call.

New installs aren't usually in Charles's job description. But when he meets the sexy Billy Jackson, he's more than willing to hook the guy up.


EXCERPT:

I get the ladder off the back of the truck and lean it against the telephone pole in front of his house. After jiggling it into a secure position, I climb up to the amplifier and change the fittings, trying not to think about Mr. Jackson inside the house, who's probably now undressed, drying off with that thirsty towel, rubbing it roughly through that wavy hair ...

Stop it.

I concentrate on unrolling the cable wrapped around my shoulder. Okay, sure, he's a cute one. Fuck, he's probably the hottest guy I've ever seen in this dead-end town. But I'm the cable man. I'm here to hook up his TV and make sure he has pictures and then if I'm lucky, he'll have no problems and will never call the office again.

Screwing one cable fitting onto the tap, I toss the rest of the coiled black wire down to the ground. I hope I have a long enough drop. When I walked from the house to my truck I counted my steps in an effort to take my mind off the young man inside, and for added measure I pulled out another ten feet of cable before I cut it. I don't want it to be too short. He'll think I'm an idiot if I have to do all this over again.

I turn to look over my shoulder, mentally measuring the distance from the pole to the side of the house, and I have a clear view into the second story window, where he's standing in that damn towel, digging through a pile of clothes. The curtains are open and I know he knows I'm here, he has to know, but he turns his back to the window and lets the towel fall away ...

Sweet Jesus.

As the towel drops to the floor, it reveals a round, chiseled ass, perfectly shaped, and I have to grab onto the telephone pole because I'm going to fall. I think I've already fallen, and I can't look away from the window as he tugs on a pair of white boxers followed by jeans, wiggling his hips to settle everything into place before he zips up. My mouth has to be open. My eyes must be bugging and staring and wide. Suddenly my pants are way too tight and every move I made chafes my cock, sending sweet splinters of pleasure through me. What did I turn around for again? What the hell am I doing here?

REVIEWS:
Joyfully Reviewed:
"A hot little tale of an unexpected attraction that just may lead to more."
Review by Elisa Rolle:
"Well plotted and the characters are deepens and originals. It's very funny to see Billy's open seduction and he is a mix of boldness and naiveete."

Lunch Break



GENRE: Contemporary, Erotica, Interracial, Romance
LENGTH: 6,226 words
This story is included in the anthology, Working Men

BLURB: Nick works as a stock boy at a local grocery store. He doesn't mind the work -- it's a way to help pay for college. Still, there are some days when he hates his job ... like when he's trying to flirt with a sexy young businessman named Kevin, and other customers keep interrupting.

When Kevin returns to the store just to see him, Nick once again finds himself in an embarrassing situation -- this time, cleaning up broken pickle jars on aisle three. But something about him interests Kevin, for whatever reason, and their second encounter leads to a lunch date, and the promise of so much more.


EXCERPT:

I glance up and flash him a quick smile before dumping the crap from the dustpan into the trashcan. "What's on your mind?"

"You."

The way he says it makes me stop and look up at him again. He's staring at me openly with those piercing eyes. Now I realize just how close he's standing, his legs just inches from me. It'd be so easy to just reach out and run my finger down the crease of his pant leg, but I'm sure I smell like pickles and I'm not that bold anyway.

At least he's thinking of me. The thought makes me grin like an idiot and he smiles back. "Are you seeing anyone?"

"As in dating?" God, I'm a fool, of course he means as in dating. "I mean --"

Kevin laughs. "Yeah," he says, "as in dating."

Suddenly I'm dizzy and my head feels like it's swimming, my fingers tremble and I don't think it's just the pickle juice anymore. Without looking at him I shrug again. I don't want to get my hopes up here, but who am I kidding? My heart is already racing like an overeager puppy and any moment now I'll roll over on the ground to wallow in the pickle juice, I'm that excited. Still, I'm proud that my voice sounds nonchalant when I manage to say, "Not really."

"As in you'd go out with me?" Kevin presses.

I sweep the handheld broom a little too hard and pickle juice sloshes over the top of the dustpan, splashing my hand and wrist with cold liquid. Smooth one, I think, grimacing as I shake the crap off, and Kevin laughs again. I could just die right now, I'm glad he thinks this is funny ... but he's asking me out, I remind myself, or at least I think he is. "Maybe," I say, wiping my hand on my apron as I stand.

Kevin smirks at me. "Don't be so definite, Nick," he jokes. "I could wait a lifetime for that maybe to turn into a yes."

You don't have to wait that long. "Okay, yes."

Damn, it's the only thing I've been thinking since I first saw him, the two of us together and now he's back here asking me out and when did someone start making my dreams come true? When he smiles at me, I can't help but grin back, and he's asked me out, we're going out, I don't know when or where or why but it's a date. I rub my hand over the short cut of my hair ...

Shit, I think, suppressing a groan. Tell me I didn't just smear pickle juice all over my scalp.

I did. With a sigh, I toss the dustpan into the trashcan and mutter, "You sure you want to go out with me?"

REVIEWS:
Fallen Angel Reviews: 5 out of 5.
"Love can happen at any time if you just keep your eyes and heart open for it."
Joyfully Reviewed:
"Sensual, erotic, and very romantic. It’s a great addition to the Working Man series."
Review by Elisa Rolle:
"In this case Nick is so sweet and Kevin so selfconscious and tender, that I'd like very much to read a whole story with these two characters."
Sensual Erotic Romance & Erotica: 4 out of 5.
"Attitude, humor and sensuality all vie for top billing in this fabulous short story ... a definite winner and I can not wait for more from this author."

Car Trouble



GENRE: Contemporary, Erotica, Interracial
LENGTH: 6,685 words
This story is included in the anthology, Working Men

BLURB: When Terrence Jackson's new Mercedes begins to act up, his secretary suggests he take it to a local auto shop she usually frequents. But a phone call to the shop's owner doesn't exactly instill him with confidence. Still, the place comes highly recommended ...

What begins as a bad day improves when he meets the mechanic. Dressed in a pair of tight, oil-stained jeans and little else, Jimmy exudes sex appeal. Terrence finds himself drawn to Jimmy, and soon it's not just his car being serviced.


EXCERPT:

The sudden ping of metal on metal is loud in the closed garage. Terrence whirls around. There's a blue Camaro behind him, parked in one of the far bays. As he heads in that direction, hands shoved deep into the pockets of his slacks, he hears the shuffle of sneakers, a muffled curse. Closer, coming around the front of the car, he sees slim, denim-clad legs beneath the bumper, and one bare elbow sticks out from under the open hood. "Hello?"

He stops at the side mirror on the passenger side and ducks his head to peer under the hood. He sees light brown hair the color of iced coffee, smooth as a curtain that hangs down to obscure the mechanic's face. That hair is cinched loosely at the guy's nape with what looks like a spare piece of rubber tubing, tied into place to keep it from his face, but the knot isn't tight and the hair has slipped free to fall over slim, bare shoulders. Terrence isn't one for long hair on guys, but he likes the way those feathery strands wisp over firm, pale skin, and his hands clench into unconscious fists in his pockets.

Then the mechanic notices him and steps back, startled. "Hey!" he cries, surprised. His voice is unusually loud in the closed garage. "Didn't hear you come in."

White wires snake into his ears, and when he tugs them away, Terrence can hear tinny music through the earbuds. He lets his gaze travel down the mechanic's lean frame, over the smoothly muscled chest, the barely-there six-pack abs, the tapered waist, a pair of low-riding jeans that scarcely manage to cling to narrow hips. Just below the mechanic's navel, a scant dusting of fine hairs starts up, trailing into those jeans. A hand curls into the pocket of his jeans, pulling them down a little as he shoves the earbuds out of sight.

Then Terrence looks up and, for the first time, sees the face hidden beneath that flyaway hair. Deep eyes the color of caramel stare out from light skin, and full, ruddy lips spread into an easy grin. "Hey there, big guy," he says, his voice lower now that he doesn't have to shout over his music. "What can I do you for?"

Wouldn't you like to know.

Unbidden, the thought of those pink, chapped lips clamped around his thick, black cock fills Terrence's mind. He imagines fisting his hand into that soft hair, thrusting into that wide mouth, that taut body tight against his own.

Damn. What's he here for, again? And why aren't they naked already?

REVIEWS:
Fallen Angel Reviews: 4 out of 5.
"The love scene between Jimmy and Terrence is very hot and visual."
Joyfully Reviewed:
"Terrence and Jimmy are opposites but they make a perfect match ... Car Trouble is an X-rated story with romance."
Review by Elisa Rolle:
"Really there is nothing more other than Terrence is a pretty interesting man, very vain and self-conscious that maybe is lucky to find a man like Jimmy who likes to be direct. And I have also my glimpse to a possible happily ever after, so I'm satisfy."
Two Lips Reviews: 4 out of 5, with a "heat level" of 2 out of 3.
"Snyder breaks racial barriers in [this story]. Terence is a rich black man and Jimmy is a hard working white boy. Yet, the fire they ignite you will have to read to believe."

A Heart Divided



GENRE: Historical, Romance
LENGTH: 41,542 words | 148 pages

BLURB: Confederate Lieutenant Anderson Blanks has grown weary of the War Between the States. He is all too aware of the tenuous thread that ties him to this earth -- as he writes a letter home to his sister, he realizes he may be among the dead by the time she receives the missive. His melancholy mood is shared by other soldiers in the campsite; in the cool Virginia night, the pickets claim to hear ghosts in the woods, and their own talk spooks them.

Andy knows the "ghost" is nothing more than a wounded soldier left on the battlefield, dying in the darkness. With compassion, Andy takes the picket's lantern and canteen in the hopes of easing the soldier's pain. After a tense confrontation with the soldier, Andy is shocked to discover none other than Samuel Talley, a young man Andy's father had chased from their plantation when the romantic relationship between the two boys came to light. The last time the two had seen each other, Sam had been heading west to seek his fortune, and had promised to send for Andy when he could.

Then the war broke out, and Andy had enlisted in the Confederate Army to help ease the financial burden at home. Apparently Sam had similar ideas -- he now wears the blue coat of a Union solider.

Sam is severely wounded and infection has begun to set in. Andy can't sneak him into his own camp for treatment because all Union soldiers are taken prisoner. But Andy's Confederate uniform prevents him from seeking help from the nearby Union camp, as well. It's up to Andy to tend his lover's wound and get Sam the help he needs before it's too late ... and before Andy's compatriots discover Sam's presence.


EXCERPT:

"I brought you water," Andy offered. Despite the stranger's harsh words, he felt a sudden kinship with this man, unseen beyond the circle of light cast by his lamp. They were just two soldiers, without rank, two souls somehow alive on a battlefield littered with dead.

"Water?" the soldier asked, as if he had never heard the word before. The surprise turned to suspicion. "Why?"

"I thought you were dying." Even though the stranger couldn't see him, Andy shrugged. "I don't know. My men heard you singing and thought you were a ghost out here, come to steal their souls for the devil." The stranger laughed again, and Andy smiled at the sound. "I came because if it were me, I'd want you to come. I'd want someone to find me and sit with me a bit, 'til I go."

"I ain't going nowhere," the soldier said softly, and Andy heard the faint clatter of metal as the rifle was set aside. "Water?"

Andy unshouldered his own rifle and set it down on the ground beside the lamp to show the soldier he was unarmed, as well. Then he shook the canteen, more than half full, and the water sounded like a promise as it sloshed around inside the container. "Water," he affirmed. "I can toss it to you --"

"You can bring it," the soldier replied. "I'm ... there's a bullet in my thigh. I don't cotton the thought of dragging through the dead to find the canteen if you miss."

With slow, deliberate movements, Andy picked up the lamp again and stepped closer. In the flickering glow he saw the soldier appear like a ghost, a faint outline propped against a fallen log, taking shape and definition as he approached. He saw pants dark with blood from a ragged hole high on one leg, and he held the canteen out as an offering of peace.

When he wasn't shot as he approached, he came closer, and knelt by the man's side.

The soldier took the offered canteen with a sigh. "I'm so damn thirsty," he whispered, uncorking the container.

Andy frowned as the stranger gulped down the water. The lamplight fell short of the man's face, but Andy could see the dark coat he wore, marking him as a Union soldier. Hardly more than a boy, he corrected, taking in the smooth hands and thin wrists that held the canteen tight. "I thought you a rebel," he said as the soldier drank. "You sound Southern."

The soldier laughed. "Most men I know would kill you for that comment alone, water or not."

"Then I'm glad you're not most men." Andy sank to his knees beside the soldier, the damp ground seeping through his weathered breeches. "You say you aren't dying?"

"Who are you?" the soldier asked abruptly, ignoring his question. "I can't see your face."

"Lieutenant Anderson Blanks, of the Fifth Regiment out of Biloxi." He felt a cold hand grip his as the soldier caught his breath. "What is it? What --"

"Andy."

The word was nothing more than a sigh, barely heard over the breeze, but it rang through Andy like the peal of a church bell, echoing through his heart and his blood. My God, it can't be. It's the night and the weariness and the memories haunting me, nothing more. Sweet Lord Jesus above, don't do this to me, don't You dare ...

But his name in that voice, one he'd heard in dreams every night for the past three years, since the day he had watched the train carrying his lover disappear into the west. "Sam?" he breathed. "Sam Talley? Christ above, is it really you?"

REVIEWS:
BookWenches: 4.25 out of 5.
"A moving story of love, hope, and duty that will capture your attention and make you wish for a happy ending for everybody involved."
Rainbow Reviews: 4 out of 5.
"Once again, Snyder has penned a cleanly written story with engaging characters and a descriptive setting, injecting intensity and emotion into the prose."
Sensual Erotic Romance & Erotica: 4.5 out of 5.
"Poignant, sensitive and suspenseful, A Heart Divided will touch your emotions as you watch these two work against time to save their future ... another excellent story by J.M. Snyder."
The Romance Studio: 5 out of 5.
"This book is more than a romance. It's one of those tales that may help people take a fresh look at history the way Snyder tells it through her characters."

Encore



GENRE: Contemporary, Erotica, Romance
LENGTH: 12,774 words
This story is included in the anthology, Beautiful Box Set

BLURB: In Beautiful Disaster, pop superstar Corey Evans realizes how hollow he feels until he discovers he's in love with his best friend and band mate, Ian Coltraine. Together they form the successful pop duo 2ICE, and this story picks up where the first left off.

A couple not only onstage but in the bedroom now, Ian and Corey have managed to hide their newfound relationship from the fans, the press, and -- most importantly -- their management. But when manager Dean Summers stumbles upon the two of them together, he's determined to put an end to what he sees as a destructive course which can only end up tearing the band apart.

Is the budding love Ian and Corey share strong enough to stand up to the pressures they face?

If you haven't read Beautiful Disaster, this story may not make much sense. So pick up the first story before diving into this short, satisfying sequel!


EXCERPT:

The kiss was electric, spiking between them, burning away the moment, the world and everything in it, everything that wasn’t Ian on Corey, in him. Yes, Corey thought, the single word eclipsing all other processes in his brain. Yes, God yes, this, please.

When Ian broke away, Corey fell back to the pillow and stared up at his lover, breathless. For a long moment, neither said anything. Truth be told, Corey thought they could never move or speak again, and he’d die happy. Ian was his, here with him now, and nothing else mattered.

Then a familiar glint lit up Ian’s eyes, a hunger Corey knew all too well. The heated blush of arousal spread through him like a fever -- the anticipation of things to come. Of them coming, together. Coyly Corey asked, “What?”

“You know what.” Ian half-rolled onto Corey, pressing his groin against Corey’s hip. “The condoms are in my bag on the sink. Unless you aren’t interested ...”

“When am I not interested?” Pushing himself up with both arms, Corey claimed another quick kiss, then slid off the edge of the bed.

He didn’t get far -- Ian caught one hand and held onto it, pulling him back.

“Give me one more,” he said, puckering his lips.

Corey obliged. What began as a quick peck deepened, and Corey had to lean heavily on the bed with his knees to keep from falling back to the mattress. Releasing him, Ian ran a hand up Corey’s forearm, over his bicep, up to his shoulder then down the thin muscles of his chest. One of Corey’s legs rose of its own volition, already climbing back into his recently vacated spot beside Ian. Fuck the condoms. He needed this.

Before he could climb back into bed, a hard knock rapped on the room door.

Corey’s eyes flew open. He found Ian staring back at him, a look of fear frozen on his face. When the knock came again, Ian groaned and closed his eyes in frustration. “Fuck,” he whispered, his hands falling from Corey’s body. “It’s too damn early for this.”

Corey frowned. “Who do you think it is?”

Ian touched Corey’s stomach. “You think I know?” When Corey grinned, Ian poked his forefinger into Corey’s belly. “Go find out. Tell whoever it is we’re busy and don’t wish to be disturbed.”

“We need one of those signs.” Corey stretched as he stood, and Ian’s finger trailed down his stomach, over his slight pubic mound, to tweak his half-erect cock. With a laugh, Corey danced out of reach. “Maybe it’s room service. I could use breakfast in bed.”

Ian rolled onto his back, the bed sheets sliding down to expose bare skin. “I didn’t call.”

A third knock kept Corey from answering. As he crossed the room, he snagged his boxer briefs from where they lay discarded on the floor and tugged them on, tucking his swollen dick roughly into the front of the underwear. If it wasn’t room service, it better damn well be something serious. His spot in the bed was getting cold, and he wanted Ian’s arms around him again. Quietly he approached the door and peeked through the peephole.

Their manager Dean stood on the other side. He blinked in the bright lights and looked down the hallway, scratching the back of his neck as he waited.

“Who is it?” Ian asked, snuggling deeper into the blankets.

Corey’s breath fogged up the peephole. “Dean. Shit.”

Before Ian could respond, Corey unlocked the door and opened it a crack, hiding behind the sturdy wood. “Yeah?” he asked, frowning.

Dean blinked at him and took a step back. “Whoa, wrong room, man. Sorry about that.” He looked down the hallway again and frowned. “Wait a minute -- aren’t you on the other end of the hall?”

Picture Postcards



GENRE: Contemporary, Romance
LENGTH: 3,671 words
This story is included in the anthology, Love on the Rocks

BLURB: Donny has loved his friend Greg for years but never told him. They shared one brief night together before Greg married Megan and Donny ... well, Donny tried to move on.

He thinks he's succeeded in relegating Greg to the past until he receives a postcard from his friend that suggests Greg still thinks of that night, too.


EXCERPT:

The postcard is waiting for me when I get home from work. It’s tucked in with a few bills, a letter from my mom, and an ad from Wal-Mart that I just toss away. The letter I put aside, and I shuffle through the bills, disinterested. Then I see it.

A glossy beach at sunset, a couple holding hands, walking along the surf. Love in L.A., it reads in a flourish script across the orange sun. I don’t know anyone in Los Angeles. I turn the postcard over, and my heart freezes at the tight black words scrawled on the other side.

I miss you. Everything about you. About us. I hate living this lie.

My address in the block letters I remember so well. A smudged thumbprint beneath the stamp. The cryptic message -- I miss you -- and nothing else. No return address. Nothing to tell me who it’s from.

As if I didn’t know. My throat closes as I read the message again. I miss you.

Jesus, I think. I miss you, too, Greg. Where the hell are you now?

Order Up



GENRE: Contemporary, Romance
LENGTH: 7,542 words
This story is included in the anthology, Working Men

BLURB: James sees the "Help Wanted" sign in a deli near his apartment and stops in on a whim. It's summer, classes are out, and none of his friends will see him wearing an apron while he makes a few bucks.

Then he meets Deon and falls hard for the sexy night cook. Too bad the guy has a girlfriend, Bree, whose call dashes any hope James might have of a summer romance.

But if she's Deon's girl, why does their coworker Joe seem bent on hooking James up with him?


EXCERPT:

Joe’s already leaning on the counter, pen in hand and reaching for a tablet to write on. “What’ll it be, dude?”

I shake my head again. “I was wondering about the job.” I point at the sign in the window. “It says help wanted?” As if he can’t read it.

For a moment he frowns like he hasn’t noticed the sign before, then he turns and looks down behind the counter. “We hiring, Deon?” I didn’t realize anyone else was here.

From below the counter a deep voice responds, hidden from sight. “Your dad put that up this morning, Joe. We’re looking for someone else at night.”

Two strong, dark hands appear on the counter by Joe’s elbow, and Deon hoists himself up from behind the register. As he stands, I see tight black curls shaved back off a smooth brow, the sides faded in lines over the ears. Dark eyes like shadows glance my way. A wide nose above full, sensuous lips ... damn, but he’s a sexy man. I have a thing for black guys, I admit, and this one has skin like rich caramel. I stare at his waist, where his apron is cinched tight, then my gaze travels up, my imagination erasing his clothes to expose a taut belly and firm chest. His arms are thin but muscular -- what I wouldn’t give to feel them wrapped around me. Then I meet his eyes again, those eyes, and I can’t remember what I’m here for. Did someone say order up?

With a hint of a smile, he asks, “You looking for a job?”

Is he talking to me? Before I can stop myself, I ask, “What do you need me to do?”

My voice cracks at the faint innuendo that runs like an electric current beneath my words. Joe laughs and looks at me critically, and my hand strays to the do-rag I tied over my hair this morning instead of washing it. I know he’s thinking I’m a thug, with this bandanna and these diamond stud earrings and this torn T-shirt, these baggy pants. I can see it in his eyes -- wigger.

I feel so childish all of a sudden, so out of place in this cozy daddy-owned deli, just a college kid from out of town looking for a place to work, and you know what? I don’t want the job anymore. I just want to walk out and go back to my tiny little two-room flat, stare at the walls and remember those melted chocolate eyes, his eyes ... I’ll never be able to forget them, or the way he smacks Joe and smiles at me when he says, “You ever worked in a deli before?”

I shake my head. “I can learn.” Damn, that sounds just a little too eager. My cheeks heat up and I pick at the cracked countertop with one bitten nail. “I mean, I’m sure it’s not too hard.”

Joe laughs again. “Hard compared to what?” he asks, winking at me.

I know my face is flushed now, I can feel my cheeks blaze. I don’t need to stay here and take this. I don’t need this job that badly -- I can find something at the mall, maybe somewhere on campus, on the bus route ...

“Don’t mind him,” Deon says, pushing Joe’s arm off the counter. “You want to order or are you just inquiring about the position?”

Inquiring about the position. It’s on the tip of my tongue to ask what position he prefers ...

Operation Starseed



GENRE: Erotica, Futuristic / Sci-Fi
LENGTH: 107,887 words | 236 pages

BLURB: Neal James is a space station navigator whose lover, Dylan Teague, left him for a starmapping mission. But when Dylan radios in a distant signal one night, Neal discovers that he hasn't managed to put the relationship behind him in the two months they've been apart. When he's one of the crew members sent to investigate the signal, he finds that his ex-lover feels the same.

The source of the signal is a lost colony ship. Only a handful of the original colonists remain, survivors of a deadly disease that killed most of their fellow shipmates twenty years ago. To keep the threat of disease to a minimum, the colony adheres to strict laws, including the prohibition of same-sex relationships.

When the same fatal virus seems to appear again, Neal and Dylan find themselves in the midst of an irrational panic and hate that threatens to destroy everything the colonists have worked so hard to attain.


EXCERPT:

On the captain's bridge, I hit the switch with my elbow and stand back as the door cycles out of my way. I step onto the deck and as the door closes behind me, I announce, "Soup's on."

There are two seats in the cockpit, the pilot's chair that Dylan is stretched out in and the co­pilot's seat, which is empty. Turning, Dylan smiles when he sees me, stands and takes the top tray from me as he plants a quick kiss on my lips. "I thought you'd never get here," he murmurs, kissing me again, lingering this time, his lips soft and his tongue insistent where it presses into my mouth. "I was afraid you were holding out on me."

I laugh and step back so he doesn't knock into the soup, my elbow hitting the door behind me. "Dylan," I say, "dinner's gonna get cold --"

"Let it," he tells me. Setting his tray down on the floor, he takes the other one as well, places it beside his own, then leans me back against the wall, a hand on either side of my head and his hips grinding into mine. "I need you," he sighs, kissing my neck. I let my eyes slip closed and fist my hands into his jumpsuit.

"Right now?" I ask, hoping it sounds coy and teasing and not the least bit like my blood's on fire for this boy in my arms, pinning me up to the door, but he thrusts into me and I know he feels that hard thickness at my groin, aching at the confines of my jumpsuit -- I know he feels it against his own erection because that rubs along my thigh, as eager as his lips that cover mine.

"Now," he breathes, and the hum of my zipper when he pulls it down is lost in my low moan. His knee presses between my legs and into my crotch, and then his hands are slipping into my open zipper, smoothing along my naked chest, cupping my erection through my thin boxers and then easing around my hips, beneath the fabric, until he has one arm wrapped around my waist, one hand cradling my bare ass, kneading hungrily. He buries his face in my throat and I hug him close, my arms around his neck, my lips in his hair and I moan his name again, he's kissing me and rubbing me and he's right, what's wrong with right here, right now? Somehow I get a hand between us and trail it down his chest, trace the zipper down to the bulge at his groin, take the hardness in my palm and squeeze it, making him gasp and thrust into me again. "Oh Jesus, now," he sighs.

I like him like this, so needy, so mine. "I like it when you call me Jesus," I murmur, but he kisses me quiet because he's done playing, he wants me and he's going to have me and he's getting no argument from me there.

I have him unzipped and in my hand, already damp where he's starting to come, and he's working my boxers down, trying to get into them without either of us taking the time to get fully undressed, when the vidscreen flares to life behind him and Vallery's face appears. I can see her over Dylan's shoulder. "Hate to interrupt --"

"Vallery!" Dylan cries. He tugs my jumpsuit closed, covering my chest but parts of me peek out below as I scramble to tuck him back into his suit. I don't know what all she sees but her eyes widen and suddenly the screen goes blank, she's turned off the cam. Still, I turn towards the door, his body blocking mine as I snap my boxers back together and fumble with the zipper to close my suit. "Fuck, you knew we were getting it on here --"

"I'm sorry," she mumbles, her voice filling the room. "I didn't mean to ... I mean, I thought you'd -- I didn't see anything much, I swear."

"You saw enough," I mutter. Dylan runs a shaky hand through his hair and we're going to have to talk about this, this is the second time she's done this to us, and now I'm going to be hard until I get with him tonight. We won't be able to get the moment back now, not with me thinking she might bust in on us all over again. This time I zip my jumpsuit all the way to my chin, and when I turn around Dylan has his only halfway closed, the collar crooked. I can still see his bare chest, smooth and muscled, and I straighten his collar, pull the zipper up all the way, whisper to him, "This is getting old."

"Val, we're busy here," he says, his arms slipping around my waist again until I'm caught once more in his embrace, but now my hands are between us, keeping us apart, and when he leans down to kiss me, I turn away. With a lusty sigh, he rests his forehead on mine and raises his voice as he calls out, "Well? What do you want? Make it quick so we don't have to."

"Oh, hey, I forgot," she says, her tone of voice making me grin at the frustration that flitters across Dylan's face. "This is just a pleasure cruise, right? We're only here so you two can kiss and make up --"

"Stop it," Dylan growls. Pressing his lips to my cheek, he whispers, "They don't understand how much I need you, baby." I do -- I can feel his need curled against my hip, but Vallery's right, this can wait. I try to push away but Dylan's stronger than me and he holds me close. "Where do you think you're going?" His breath is hot and exciting along my skin. "Val --"

"Hello, you guys?" she calls, as if we're not listening. "You think I'm doing this just to harass you?" Dylan opens his mouth like that's exactly what he's thinking, but I cover his lips with mine to silence him. "There's an incoming signal on the comm-link. Or are you two not interested in that anymore?"

On Company Time



GENRE: Contemporary, Erotica, Interracial
LENGTH: 16,480 words
This story is included in the anthology, Hard at Work

BLURB: Jimmy's job in customer service is just a paycheck, in his eyes. His boss Debbie wishes he were more of a "people person" and more enthusiastic about coming to work. To improve his skills, she schedules him to attend a two-day, out-of-town workshop Jimmy's already dreading.

Then he discovers Scott Raines will be tagging along.

Jimmy's had a fierce crush on Scott, who works in sales, since his first day at the office. The man is gorgeous and funny and so damn intimidating, Jimmy hasn't yet screwed up the courage to ask him out. Maybe the workshop will provide the perfect opportunity to remedy that. They'll travel together, share a hotel room, and who knows where things may lead? Johnny might yet get to make his move.

Unless Scott makes one first.


EXCERPT:

I finally push through the heavy glass door at the front of our building and step out into the hot summer sun. Squinting around the parking lot, I see Scott by his car -- he leans against the open trunk as he watches me hurry down the steps. When I approach, his smile widens, flashing impossibly white teeth that seem to dazzle against the darkness of his skin. Fashionable sunglasses hide his eyes but I feel his gaze trained on me.

A ball of excitement bounces around inside my stomach, making me anxious and nervous and not a little bit silly. I'm leaving work early and going on a road trip. With him. "Hey," I call out when I'm close enough. I point to my own car a few spots from his. "Let me get my stuff."

He nods. "Are you getting hungry?" he asks. "I was thinking maybe we could grab a bite to eat before we hit the road, so we don't have to stop on the way."

Now food is involved, and in my mind it's escalated into a date. I resist the urge to whoop into the air and hide my stupid grin by ducking into the back of my car for my overnight bag. My pants bite into a sudden erection that pounds at my crotch, and I resist the urge to fling myself across the back seat, unzip my pants, jerk off hard and fast in my hand just to alleviate the sweet ache that's set in. I love him, I decide. If we don't hook up this week, I'm going to come home and join a freaking monastery. This guy is meant to be with me.

"Jimmy?" Scott asks. "You want to get some food before we head out on the road?"

He sounds like he's coming closer, and suddenly I'm all too aware of the fact that my ass is up in the air, aiming his way. I hope he enjoys the view -- I have a nice round butt that looks great in tight pants, if I do say so myself. What the rappers call junk in the trunk. Lots of padding for the pounding, I liked to say when I was in college and looking to score. I wonder if Scott's staring at my ass right now, thinking something along those lines.

I hear his shoe scrape over the pavement -- he's stepped up beside my car, and for the briefest second, I feel a slight brush across my backside. Barely there, might have been fingers or might've been the hem of his shirt, it was that indistinct. But in the confines of my slacks, my dick jerks to attention, coming a little in its excitement. Did he just cop a feel?

God, I hope so.

In my haste to stand, I don't step back far enough to clear the car door and crack the top of my head on the edge of the jamb. Bright pain flares across the back of my head and blooms behind my eyes as I lean down over the back of the driver's seat. "Fuck!"

Strong hands grasp my head as Scott massages my scalp, his fingers rubbing gently through my dirty blond hair. I melt beneath his touch. "You all right?" he asks, pulling me toward him. "Jeez, that had to hurt."

"No shit," I mutter. What a way to damper a good mood.

I stay bent at the waist and let him examine my head. He's mere inches from me now, my face impossibly close to his groin. Anyone passing by would think I was blowing him.

And why aren't I?

Office Visit



GENRE: Contemporary, Erotica, Interracial
LENGTH: 3,430 words
This story is included in the anthology, Shorts

BLURB: As a doctor, Lee can't always take off from work as easily as his lover Curt, a college professor, can. At the end of the semester, Curt wants to celebrate another year behind him with a quiet evening at home but finds Lee still at the office. When his lover rushes him off the phone to see to a patient, Curt decides to make an appointment of his own to finally catch up with Lee.

These characters appear in the story, Just What the Doctor Ordered.


EXCERPT:

An hour later, there was no sign of Lee. I wasn't surprised. I put the steaks back in the freezer, the wine in the pantry, and toyed with the idea of calling the clinic again. One of the hazards of living with a doctor was that I had to share him with the rest of the world. But would it be asking too much for some time with him alone? It seemed he was always at work. If this kept up, the only time I'd get to see him would be if I made an appointment ...

Of course.

Before I could change my mind, I snatched up the phone and hit redial. When the clinic's generic message began, I hit zero and prayed I didn't get the same bitch nurse I had last time. Luck was on my side, though. After a few rings, the familiar voice of Lee's head nurse answered. "Riverside, Janice speaking. May I help you?"

"Janice," I laughed. "I'm glad it's you. When were you demoted to receptionist?"

Recognizing my voice, Janice groaned. "When I made the mistake of hiring Lisa."

She must have meant the nurse who answered the last time. "The one with the attitude?" I asked, just to clarify. "When did she start?"

"Today's her first day," Janice admitted. Lowering her voice, she added, "And it'll be her last, if she doesn't shape up. I don't care how short-staffed we are." Then, as if remembering her manners, she said, "But I'm sure you called to talk to Lee, not me. He's between patients right now so let me see if I can page him --"

Before she could put me on hold, I said, "Actually, I did call to talk to you."

Janice's bright voice grew suspicious. "Why?"

Taking a deep breath, I reasoned that the worst she could say was no. "I wanted to know if you could maybe work me into the schedule today. Just to see him. Brighten up his day. He works himself to death, you know he does, and I thought maybe you could put me down as his last appointment, or something? What do you say?"

"I don't know, Curt." Through the phone, I heard papers shuffling as Janice checked the schedule book. "Lee's got two walk-ins down, but he wanted to leave after that."

At least he was trying to leave early. "Just pencil me in after the walk-ins," I told her. "Please? But don't say it's me. I want it to be a surprise."

Still, she hesitated. "I don't know ..."

"Come on," I cajoled. She was close to giving in, I could feel it. "He'll thank you for this, Janice. Trust me."

No Apologies



GENRE: Historical, Romance
LENGTH: 10,793 words

BLURB: Donnie Novak and Jack Sterling have known each other forever. Growing up together in a small Midwestern town, they were best friends. After high school, they both enlisted in the U.S. Navy at the same time, and somehow were assigned to the same company before being stationed on the U.S.S. Oklahoma together.

One night on leave, Donnie crosses an almost imperceptible line between friendship and something more. A stolen kiss threatens to ruin what Donnie and Jack have built up together all these years, and the next morning, he can't apologize enough.

But a squadron of Japanese bombers has their sights trained on Pearl Harbor's Battleship Row, and in the early hours of December 7, 1941, Donnie might not get a chance to set things right.


EXCERPT:

Inside the galley, the tables are already crowded with sailors in dungarees, their trays filled with eggs and potatoes and toast. I fake a half-hearted grin when Ralph waves, and Jack looks at me briefly before turning back to his food. No smile, just a naked wariness I put on his features, and I'm not hungry anymore. I just go through the motions of getting a tray and letting the cook fill it up. Jack hates me, I know it.

I sit down beside Ralph; across the table, Jack looks up at me and I have to choke back a sudden sob that burns my throat. "Hey," he says softly.

"Hey." I toy with the food on my tray, mashing the eggs with my fork and trying not to watch his jaw as he chews. "Chuck's still asleep, lazy ass."

Ralph laughs. "He's still passed out, you mean," he says, finishing off his own eggs. "You guys shouldn't drink so much. I ain't dragging you back to the ship again. Next time, I'll just leave you there. You can explain to the captain why you didn't make it back."

Jack smiles and even though it's not at me, my heart still rises to see the curve of his lips. "You wouldn't do that."

He's right -- Ralph isn't the type to leave his friends. He's threatened it before but always gets us back safe.

"Just watch me," Ralph warns. "You never know. Just you wait and see."

An uneasy silence falls around us, despite the talk at other tables. I manage to get a forkful of eggs into my mouth, but they taste soggy and bland and it's all I can do to swallow them down. I want to tell Jack I'm sorry again, I want to apologize until he has to forgive me, he just has to, but I don't want to say anything with Ralph right here because then he'll want to know what I'm sorry for, and I know Jack wouldn't want me to say. I'm sure he'd just rather forget, or pretend the whole thing never happened, and I wonder if he still tastes my lips on his. I want to ask him that, I want to know ...

Ralph's voice startles me. "What's wrong, Don?"

I grimace at my tray and don't know how I'm going to finish this food -- I don't feel like eating now. From across the table, Jack glances at me with a slight frown on his face, a worried look that silences me. Don't tell, that look says.

When I don't answer him, Ralph adds, "You look like you just lost your best friend. And you're on leave, boy. Cheer the hell up, already."

Well, Ralph, I want to say, I did lose my best friend. For one little kiss, I threw everything we had away.

What the hell was I thinking? I wasn't that drunk, I wasn't.

Devil of a Night



GENRE: Contemporary, Erotica, Interracial, Paranormal
LENGTH: 10,914 words
This story is included in the anthology, Perchance to Dream

BLURB: Steve's relationship with his lover, Carlos, has been on the rocks lately. For months now, they've been distant to each other, quick to argue, and Steven isn't quite sure what's come between them. A night spent clubbing together seemed just the ticket to patch things up and, sure enough, the first half of their evening went well.

But after leaving the club, Carlos must have taken a wrong turn somewhere because the two find themselves lost in the back roads of New Jersey, what's known as the Pine Barrens. Half-joking, Carlos tells Steven a local legend about a mysterious creature called the Jersey Devil.

Then they're run off the road by ... something, Steven can't say what. He feels it out there in the woods watching them. Waiting ...


EXCERPT:

After a few minutes, the song drifted off and an announcer’s voice filled the airwaves, citing the current temperature and the Yankees’ final scores. Softly, Carlos admitted, “Maybe we’re a little off course.”

“I thought we might be,” Steven said, but Carlos’s hand was warm in his and he didn’t feel like arguing right now. “You said we were where? The Pine Barrens?”

Carlos nodded. “Ever heard of the Jersey Devil?”

Steven laughed. “You mean like the hockey team?”

“I mean like the Jersey Devil.” Carlos stared at the road ahead and thought for a moment. Steven knew him well enough to know he was warming up to a story, and he waited while Carlos gathered his thoughts together.

When he couldn’t wait any longer, Steven prompted, “It’s not the real devil, you know that, right?”

“No, it’s the Jersey Devil,” Carlos said. He squeezed Steven’s fingers and smiled. “Legend has it that years and years ago --”

“You mean back when we were in high school?” Steven offered.

Carlos laughed and raised Steven’s hand to his lips to kiss his knuckles. “Funny. You’re being bad.”

“But you love me like that.”

Carlos nodded. “I do. I love your wicked ways.”

“I’m going to remind you of that later,” Steven promised. “So, legend has it ...”

“Long ago there was this lady.” Carlos’s eyes grew distant as he recalled the story. “Mrs. Leeds. She had a shitload of children, like fourteen or fifteen, or something like that. And she was so tired of taking care of them all, feeding them and having them --”

“She should’ve kept her legs closed,” Steven said. “Easiest form of birth control there is.”

Carlos gave him a wink. “But some people just like fucking all the time. You do.”

Laughing, Steven reached over and cupped Carlos’s crotch through his jeans. Carlos thrust into Steven’s hand, his eyes slipping shut briefly. “Watch the road,” Steven admonished, but he was thrilled to find that, despite whatever tension there might be between them, his boyfriend still hardened at his touch.

Carlos slapped his hand away. “Then stop touching me.” But the smile on his face stayed, and when Steven tried to pull his hand back, Carlos held it tight. “Can I tell you this story or what?”

“Go ahead,” Steven said, resting his hand high up on Carlos’s thigh. He didn’t really care about the story, but he liked the sound of his boyfriend’s voice and the way it filled the night around them. Maybe if they kept talking, they would work things out between them. “This lady had a lot of kids ...”

“And she was sick of them,” Carlos continued, “so when she got pregnant again, she cursed the unborn child to Satan. Nine months later when the child was born, on a dark and stormy night --”

“It’s always dark and stormy,” Steven pointed out.

“Trust me. It was dark and stormy.” Carlos glanced over as if daring him to interrupt again. Steven shook his head, a faint grin on his face, and Carlos turned back to the road. “So this new kid, he was hideous, with cloven hooves and pointy horns, and a tail like a whip. It was --”

“A devil?” Steven asked.

“Am I telling this story?”

Steven snickered. Carlos threw him a warning look. “Don’t interrupt me again, mister. As my daddy used to say, don’t make me pull this car over.”

“And do what?” Steven teased.

Despite the closed look on Carlos’s face, a muscle in his jaw twitched, telling Steven he was trying hard not to grin. “I’ll pull your britches down and whip you.”

Steven’s eyes went wide, and he gripped Carlos’s thigh with both hands. “You promise?”

Exasperated, Carlos sighed. “Can I tell my story?”

Steven shrank into his seat, chastised, but Carlos caught one hand and pulled it back into his lap. “Yes, it was a devil, because she cursed it to hell, remember? She took one look at the child and fainted dead away. And before anyone could do or say anything at all, the child flew up the chimney and disappeared into the night. Ever since then, it’s haunted these very woods, waylaying travelers and preying on the innocent.” Taking a deep breath, he added, “There. I’m finished.”

Even though he knew better, a chill ran down Steven’s spine. “We should be safe then,” he said, grinning past his unease, “because there’s nothing innocent about either of us.” His hand strayed to Carlos’s crotch again, stroking the thick erection confined in his jeans, and he hoped Carlos got his point.

Apparently he did. Turning toward Steven, he leaned over and kissed the corner of Steven’s mouth, his lips warm and damp. Steven closed his eyes and squeezed the thickness beneath his hand gently, eliciting a slight moan from his lover as the car veered to the right. Opening one eye, Steven saw the bare road stretch away beyond the windshield, and he ran a hand along Carlos’s chest, pushing him up. “Hey,” he warned.

Carlos kissed him again. “We’re the only ones on the road,” he murmured, easing his foot off the gas. The car started to slow down as Carlos headed for the shoulder. “Once we stop, we can --”

Something suddenly leaped in front of their car.

At first glance, it looked tall and dark, like someone stepping out of the woods right into the middle of the road. Steven’s heart quickened in his chest and his breath caught as the headlights glared off the thing in the road. Blinded, he threw his hands in front of his face, bracing for impact. “Carlos!”

His lover slammed on the brakes with both feet. The car bucked beneath them as it swerved off the road.

“Oh, fuck,” Carlos swore.

He twisted the steering wheel hard and the car jumped off the road to skid along the gravel shoulder. Steven covered his face as they ran into the low underbrush—branches broke against the windshield, and dead leaves crumpled around them with a loud, crackling sound that drowned out the radio and the rest of the world. The squeal of the tires burned in Steven’s ears and the seat belt bit into his chest as it locked. One bright thought flashed through his mind -- at least he was kissing you, Steve; maybe there’s still something between you two yet -- before everything went still and silent and black.

Beautiful Disaster



GENRE: Contemporary, Erotica
LENGTH: 38,135 words | 186 pages

BLURB: Twenty year old Corey Evans is one-half of 2ICE, the biggest duo on the radio at the moment. Pronounced twice, they're number one on the Billboard charts this week with their latest single. And number one in download sales, with two albums that have already gone platinum, to hear their manager tell it. And currently on their second U.S. tour, which has sold out stadiums across the nation.

Despite this, there's an emptiness inside him which Corey can't seem to fill, no matter how many groupies he takes to his bed. He sees this same emptiness mirrored in the eyes of his band-mate, Ian Coltraine, who drowns his evenings after each show with a bottle of whiskey. Ian's the one Corey turns to when he wakes beside an unknown fan, still asleep in his bed and needs help evicting her. He's Corey best friend, the only person on the tour he can confide in, who he really trusts ...

The one, Corey finally realizes, with whom he is madly, deeply, terribly in love. And he suspects Ian might feel the same.

But his recent string of one-night stands makes Ian cautious about Corey's true feelings. He's wanted Corey for so long, and has watched him go through countless fans in search of ... what? Ian doesn't know. And he doesn't yet believe Corey when he says Ian might be it. Ian hopes so, but can't bring himself to believe Corey's fickle desire won't be gone in the morning.

Can these two young men somehow move beyond Corey's past and Ian's pain to embrace a love they both so desperately desire?

Note: The paperback contains the short stories Render and Encore as well.


EXCERPT:

Corey pulled back the comforter, exposing pristine white sheets that still looked ironed. Ian hadn't slept in the bed at all. As Corey eased between the covers, the sheets cool on his skin, he frowned and tried to forget about the girl in his own bed down the hall. What the fuck was he going to do about that in the morning?

He didn't know.

Leaning back against the pillow, he pulled the comforter up to his armpits and looked over at Ian, who sat in the chair watching him. Watching him. So he still existed. He was still real, still alive, still here. "The bed's big enough for two," he murmured.

"I'm fine," Ian replied, but suddenly he didn't look fine to Corey. He looked sad and old and alone, and not fine in the least.

With a sigh, Corey rolled his eyes and let a slight whine creep into his voice. "Ian. There's plenty of room." To emphasize his point, he patted the empty space beside him. When Ian didn't reply, Corey said, "This is your bed. I'll sleep on the floor if I have to. Is that what you want? It doesn't matter to me. Just as long as I don't have to go back --"

"Fine." Ian hoisted himself out of the chair and stumbled to the bed. Sitting on the edge farthest from Corey, he kicked off his shoes and glared at the floor. "You happy now? You got what you wanted, Corey. You fucking happy?"

"Jeez." Corey didn't say another word as Ian began to undress, slipping out of his shirt and tugging down his pants until he stood in just his boxers and undershirt. As he reached across the bed to cut off the lamp, his shadow fell over Corey, blocking the light from his eyes. Then the room plunged into darkness, and the bed shook as Ian climbed beneath the covers.

Corey lay on his back and stared at the ceiling, blinking to assure himself his eyes were still open. He waited until Ian settled into a comfortable position before he turned toward his friend, who was rolled on his side away from him. All Corey could see was the slump of Ian's shoulder outlined against the dim glow of the curtains. "Ian?"

"What?" His voice was muffled, his mouth probably buried in the pillow.

Clearing his throat, Corey asked, "Are you mad at me?"

For a moment he didn't think Ian would answer. Then Ian sighed. "No."

Corey released a shaky breath he hadn't known he was holding. "Good."

Now that the lights were out and Ian was just a shadow in the darkness, Corey's mind couldn't stop turning, and he didn't want the silence that surrounded them to get inside. He wanted to hear Ian's deep voice, soft and comforting and slurred, wrap around him and hold him close. He wanted to hear Ian's steady breath drown out the tick of the alarm clock and the sounds of the city beyond the drawn curtain. "Ian?" he asked again.

"What?" Ian replied, gentler this time.

"Talk to me." Talk to me and make me real. Make this real, so I'll be able to look back on it when I'm alone and scared again and know for a few moments at least I existed to someone as just Corey and not anything else. Please, Ian. Please give me that much.

Ian chuckled. "You wanted me to get into bed so we could sleep. Now you want me to talk to you? What do you want me to say?"

"Anything." When Ian didn't answer, Corey prompted, "What were you doing in the lounge?"

"Drinking," Ian said.

Corey grinned. "I know that. What were you thinking about?"

"You," came the soft reply.

"Really?" Corey frowned at Ian's back. "Me? Why?"

Ian sighed. "I don't feel like talking right now, Corey, okay? I just don't."

REVIEWS:
Fallen Angel Reviews: 5 out of 5.
"I found the look into the music business and all of its difficulties fascinating. Cory and Ian are very real-to-life characters that endear [themselves] to the reader from the very start." 
Joyfully Reviewed: Recommended Read.
"A beautiful and passionate love story ... Ian and Corey’s relationship was an emotional rollercoaster ride and I enjoyed every single moment of it. For readers looking for love, romance and angst I Joyfully Recommend Beautiful Disaster." 
Literary Nymphs Reviews: 3 out of 5.
"Ian ... was the sole reason for why I enjoyed the story as much as I did. J.M. Snyder has a knack for writing broken characters, which make you want to psychologically analyse them ... the author did a good job with this story, and I enjoyed it quite a bit." 
Review by Elisa Rolle.
"This is a very nice book, I always like when the characters are so young. Neither of them is a really dominant character, neither of the is a really fully grown man; it's tender to think that they will grow together and that they will be happy, since the bad world outside can't touch them." 
Rainbow Reviews: 4 out of 5.
"Aptly titled. Corey and Ian muddle through fame trying to make their way to one another, but they're hindered by deep insecurities and lack of trust. Snyder builds the tension subtly ... The moment when everything coalesces is sweet after such a tense buildup. I highly recommend Snyder's haunting love story set against the glitz and glam of pop life. Corey and Ian will linger in your memory long after you've finished reading." 
Romance Junkies: 4 out of 5.
"A beautiful story about two young men thrust into the limelight at a young age, trying to cope with fame and finding love and holding on to it at the same time."

Easily Addicted



GENRE: Contemporary, Erotica
LENGTH: 6,832 words
This story is included in the anthology, Shorts

BLURB: Ah, the luxury of a smoke break. For some, it is the opportunity to get away from the routine of the workplace. For others, a chance to refuel on the nicotine a cigarette provides. And for others? Well, it could be a chance to become easily addicted.

When Trevor meets a sexy co-worker on his smoke break, he's hesitant to take him up on his offer of getting together after work. But Zack isn't just some guy in sales, and sparks fly when Trevor finally makes it to Zack's office ...


EXCERPT:

"That's bad for your health," a man said as he approached Trevor's bench.

In reply, Trevor countered, "I didn't know the Surgeon General was in town."

Not used to company as he stole a quick nicotine fix outside the office where he worked, Trevor didn't look up immediately. Instead, he took a drag on his cigarette to get it lit, flicked off his lighter, took a deep breath to fill his lungs with acrid smoke, and held it until he felt his body relax. Then he squinted into the sun, but didn't recognize the guy. Someone in sales, maybe, or one of the admen upstairs. Trevor worked in customer care and had only been with the firm for a month or so. He could count on one hand the number of people he knew in the whole building, and none of them worked higher than the third floor. "Trevor Pritchett," he said, holding out a hand to the stranger. "And you are?"

"Zack Jackson," the man said, taking Trevor's hand in a firm grip. He had nice eyes, despite the way the skin crinkled in the corners when he smiled. With his pale twill pants, open-toe sandals, and salmon-colored polo shirt unbuttoned to show off a fine gold necklace against smooth, tanned skin, Zack looked more at home on a yacht than in the office. The dark mop of unruly hair on top of his head seemed to have a mind of its own in the faint summer breeze. Zack shook Trevor's hand as he sat down beside him on the bench. "Nasty habit," he said before letting go.

With a grin, Trevor admitted, "I'm trying to quit."

"Really?" Zack laughed. "I couldn't tell."

He didn't wave away the smoke from Trevor's cigarette, and the fact that he even bothered to sit suggested a level of tolerance, so Trevor gestured to the pack of cigarettes between them. "You want a smoke?"

Zack shook his head, then ran a hand through his hair to push it back from his eyes. "I quit a few months ago." Leaning closer to Trevor, he lowered his voice and added, "I'll just sit here and breathe you in for a bit, if you don't mind." At the look on Trevor's face, Zack laughed again. "I meant your smoke. Don't worry, I'm not hitting on you yet."

That yet snagged in Trevor's mind like a thorn. Suddenly he had the overwhelming urge to blow his next puff into Zack's face, just purse his lips and stare into those dark eyes as the smoke curled from his mouth to waft against that tan skin. Where the hell did that come from? With deliberate care, Trevor turned away to exhale. His voice shook slightly as he pointed out, "They say second-hand smoke is worse."

"Who are you," Zack teased, "the Surgeon General?"

Double Standard



GENRE: Contemporary, Erotica
LENGTH: 10,748 words
This story is included in the anthology, Hard at Work

BLURB: Executive Jeff Wallace has lusted after Evan Hawthorne since the moment his new employee first stepped into his office for a job interview. Evan is almost ten years Jeff's junior, fresh out of grad school, and one of the best salesmen in the office. Jeff thinks he's hot as hell and as luck would have it, he knows Evan is just as interested.

The only problem? There's a sticky little paragraph in the employee handbook that keeps Jeff from doing anything more than fantasizing about his new employee. The clause that states, in plain English, that managers and their immediate employees cannot fraternize. They can't get together, not even outside the office, just because Jeff's the boss.

Jeff has pleaded with his own supervisor, Kirk Morris, to change the rules. Why shouldn't he? Kirk owns the damn company and spends most of his time bonking Jeff's secretary. But it's a no go ... until Jeff finds himself working late one evening with no one left in the office but Evan, who decides to take matters into his own hands regardless of what the employee manual might say.


EXCERPT:

A thin blush creeps into Evan's cheeks -- the girls kid him about me, I know they do. He's so damn obvious, doesn't even try to hide the fact that he wants to get with me. I like to think I'm not that transparent. I pretend I don't hear Amber's comments or see Charity's grin when Evan hurries into my office a dozen times a day just to ask me this, that, or the other thing. I try to ignore the accidental touches, his hand on my shoulder, my arm, my wrist, the way he stands so close beside me or taps my shoe with his foot beneath the table. I try not to let him see exactly what his coy smiles and flirty looks do to me. As much as I might encourage it, I can't tell him I want him just as badly as he seems to want me. He can't ever know that.

Not as long as I'm turning in his hours, isn't that what Kirk said? Never mind that we're all salaried. I wonder if that argument would fly, but already suspect I know the answer. Of course not.

I take the papers from Evan and hand them back to Charity. "Make the damn copies," I tell her, angry. "Mr. Morris is waiting."

"Let him wait," she mutters, but it's a hollow argument. With an annoyed sigh, she flounces away, heading for the copier.

"I could've done it for you," Evan tells me.

I turn to find him beside me -- when did that happen? He's stepped around his desk and now leans against the edge of Charity's, so close that one hand brushes over mine where it's tucked into the pocket of my pants. He stares at me, eyes wide, lips slightly parted. I know he's doing this on purpose, looking this fine, looking like this, like he's more than willing to do anything I want him to do, and he's not sure what it might be but he's hoping it involves my pants down around my ankles and my thick length in his mouth, his hands on my ass.

His tongue peeks out to wet his upper lip in what I tell myself is an unconscious gesture. It has to be. He practically purrs when he says, "I don't mind."

"It's okay." I force a tight smile. Of course he doesn't mind -- he wants me, I can feel his need radiating from every pore, and it frustrates the hell out of me that I can't have him. I shouldn't even flirt back but I can't help it.

I can't meet his eyes so I look past him, out the window, and extract my hand from my pocket. It brushes over his, then I take his elbow gently. The mere touch, even through the shirt he wears, threatens to burn my skin. Still tucked away in its own pocket, my other hand pushes against the sudden erection that fills the front of my pants. "Come on. Mr. Morris wants an update."

Evan gathers together the spreadsheets he's been pouring over all day. My hand stays on his elbow, not so much to guide him any more but to keep him in place. Beside me, where he belongs. But my hand falls away when he knocks his pen to the floor and bends over to retrieve it. Then I have to clench my fingers into a fist as I stare at him, ass in the air, every nerve in my body itching to reach out and trace the curved flesh hidden beneath his taut pants. That's a deliberate move, I know it is. He wants me to touch him. I can almost feel his desire coming off from him, like the heat off a small sun.

Because I'm not sure I'm strong enough to not touch him, I look away. "Evan," I sigh, my voice low. We're relatively alone at the moment -- Amber in the restroom, Charity by the copier, the rest of the staff probably already in the boardroom. Kirk nowhere in sight.

"I'm coming." Still bent over, he flashes me a quick grin over his shoulder.

At that smile, my breath catches in my throat. Me too. Damn.