Monday, October 23, 2017

Random Paranormal Tales of 2017 Part 8


The Red Thread of Forever Love by Nicole Kimberling
Summary:
A "Not Quite New Year" Story!

Folklore researcher and PhD candidate Hank Caldwell has a problem. He’s come to Japan to get information for his book on supernatural creatures called yokai. Along the way he discovers that yokai are not only real, but one of them is determined to make Hank his forever lover.

Translator Daisuke Tachibana knows all about the shadowy figure in a business suit who keeps accosting Mr. Caldwell. He knows the creature must be stopped, but how? Their upcoming research trip to a remote, hot springs resort will be exactly the opening the yokai is looking for. Now if only Tachibana could stop thinking about Mr. Caldwell’s naked, freckled body submerged in steaming water long enough to formulate a plan to keep the amorous creature at bay.

Publisher's Note: This book contains explicit sexual content, graphic language, and situations that some readers may find objectionable: male/male sexual practices

Christmas Wish by BG Thomas
Summary:
Harry is desperately unhappy with his life. He hates his job, his apartment, and most especially, he hates the way he looks. Despite this, once Harry hears that his fantasy man, Javier Torres, is playing Santa at the local gay bar, he can't wait to get his picture taken sitting on Javier’s lap in hopes of finally catching the sexy man's attention. But it all goes wrong, and Harry ends up telling a different “Santa” exactly how his life could be made better... but he doesn’t expect his Christmas wish to come true!

Original Review December 2016:
We've all wished for a change at some time in our lives, 5 pounds lighter, hair not so frizzy, abs slightly firmer, job more fulfilling, and a hundred other things, Harry however takes it to the extreme and when he wakes the next morning, he's a different man - literally.  As the old adage says, you never know what someone feels until you walk a mile in their shoes and Harry learns that looks isn't everything.  Will he be able to fix it before he loses everything, especially his best friend Cody?  Well for that answer you'll have to read Christmas Wish for yourself and trust me, not only will you enjoy it but you just might learn something about yourself in the process.

RATING: 

Stalking Buffalo Bill by J Leigh Bailey
Summary:
A smitten coyote isn’t the only one stalking Buffalo Bill.

A buffalo walks into a cafe. Sounds like the start of a bad joke, but for coyote shifter Donnie Granger, it’s the beginning of an obsession. Donnie is a little hyperactive and a lot distractible, except when it comes to William. He finally works up the nerve to approach William but is interrupted by a couple of violent humans.

While William—don’t call me Bill—is currently a professor, he once worked undercover against an international weapons-trafficking ring. Before he can settle into obscurity, he must find out who leaked his location and eliminate the thugs. He tries keeping his distance to protect Donnie, but the wily coyote won’t stay away.

It’ll take both Donnie’s skills as a stalker—er, hunter—and William’s super-spy expertise to neutralize the threat so they can discover if an excitable coyote and a placid-until-pissed buffalo have a future together.

Corruption(Bureau #1) by Kim Fielding
Summary:
Once a proud demon of the night sky who carried nightmares to humans, Tenrael has spent decades in captivity as the star attraction of a traveling carnival. He exists in miserable servitude to men who plunk down ten dollars to fulfill their dark desires.

Charles Grimes is half human, half… something else. For fifteen years he’s worked for the Bureau of Trans-Species Affairs, ridding the country of dangerous monsters. When his boss sends him to Kansas to chase a rumor about a captive demon, Charles figures it’s just another assignment. Until he meets Tenrael.

Clay White(Bureau #2) by Kim Fielding
Summary:
Someone—or something—is murdering young men in San Francisco. Clay White has been fired from the Bureau of Trans-Species Affairs, but he’s determined to track down the killer. When he comes across a vampire named Marek, Clay assumes he’s caught the perp. But the encounter with Marek turns out to be more complicated than Clay expected, and it forces him to deal with his own troubled past and murky psyche. As Clay discovers, sometimes the truth doesn't come easy—and the monsters are not who we expect.


The Red Thread of Forever Love by Nicole Kimberling
It was happening again. Hank could feel the hot breath on the back of his neck and faint weight of a spectral body pressing down on his own. In spite of Hank’s efforts to elude him, the spirit had followed him from Tokyo. Why had he thought that it wouldn’t find him in a shinkansen sleeping car? He hadn’t thought any self-respecting ancient spirit would be riding Japan’s rails, but then again, two weeks ago he hadn’t believed yokai really existed at all.

“Suki desu, Hanku-sensei.” The yokai’s voice was deep and breathy and though masculine, filled with a creepy, almost childish yearning. “Suki desu yo!”

I love you.

The yokai sure had a funny way of showing it.

“I don’t love you,” Hank whispered. His Japanese wasn’t great, but he could hold his own in everyday conversations. “Go away.”

“I only want to be close to you.” The yokai’s long fingers tugged at the blankets. Hank held on firmly. He knew from previous experience that this particular spirit, whom he’d nicknamed “Fingers,” wouldn’t cause him bodily harm, but it got way too personal. “Can I look at your underpants? Are they Calvin Klein like before? I like your Calvin Kleins. Did you get them in Vancouver?”

“I told you, go away. My shorts are none of your business.”

“Do you work out?” Through the darkness Hank could now see the yokai shape floating above him. He wore the same dark suit as he had the previous times Hank had seen him, the same thick aviator glasses. His hands were much longer than normal, and his fingers wriggled like worms.

“As soon as we get to Aomori City, I’m going to find an exorcist and get rid of you.”

The yokai’s mouth turned down in a quivering frown. “But tomorrow is Christmas Eve. I want to give you a present.”

In the bunk above Hank’s, Daisuke Tachibana, the translator his publishing company had assigned to him, shifted.

He hadn’t told Tachibana about his new yokai buddy. He didn’t think any modern Japanese would take him seriously. It was one thing to research indigenous Japanese spirits as folklore, quite another to claim to have met one personally. He might as well claim to have met the Tooth Fairy or any of Santa’s eight reindeer. And somehow Hank found the fact that he’d attracted Fingers embarrassing. If he was going to be attacked by a supernatural force, he wanted it to be one of pure evil, not some creepy pervert with an underwear obsession. The yokai also had a very long tongue, and leaning forward, lips parted, he seemed just on the verge of using it.

Hank lurched sideways, but too late. The tongue slapped against the side of his neck and slid like a hot washcloth up the side of his cheek. Long fingers fumbled at the elastic band of his pajamas. Hank grabbed them. Fingers let out a giggle. “You want to hold hands? There’s a red thread from my pinkie to yours.”

Glancing down Hank saw that this was hideously true. A red line like a laser shone around his own finger. It wound and looped around like a tangled string until it found the yokai’s pale, too-long digit.

“We’re fated to be together.”

Dear God, no! This was going too far. Damn what Tachibana thought -- he was going to come clean.

“Tachibana!” Hank’s voice came out in a harsh whisper. He kicked the bunk above him.

Tachibana gave a snort. “What is it, Mr. Caldwell?” His voice emerged as a sleepy grumble.

Fingers frowned like an angry baby ready to let out a wail; then, like mist it dissipated.

Tachibana’s head popped down from the upper bunk. His dark, shiny hair tousled, pillow marks still creasing his cheek. He was cute, in the kind of harassed, nerdy way that all junior salarymen seemed to be. “Mr. Caldwell?”

All at once, Hank lost his nerve. “You were snoring.”

“Gomen nasai.” Tachibana rolled out of sight, the mattress springs creaking as he resettled himself.

“No worries.” Hank pulled the covers up tight around his neck, peering through the darkness, scanning the tight confines of the car for any sign of Fingers.

Hank Caldwell would never have described himself as a blushing flower of a man. On the contrary, he was a relatively young (thirty-five) relatively fit (worked out at least fifty-two times per year) and relatively intelligent (working on a PhD in folklore at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver).

Compared to the Japanese, Hank seemed especially coarse. He had hairy forearms and the slight swagger that anyone raised in Alberta acquires by osmosis and that years of living away from his native Calgary had failed to diminish. He also had a cowboy hat that he had purchased at the Calgary Stampede that caused virtually everyone he met to assume he was an American. He wore the hat with dogged persistence in spite of, or perhaps because of, the fact that it forced him to explain his nationality at regular intervals.

Not that he had anything against Americans. He just didn’t want to be mistaken for one. That’s was all.

The hat also served as a kind of disguise since few people associated cowboy hats with homosexuality -- even after Brokeback Mountain. Back home in Canada, the hat conferred a machismo that, as an academic, he might otherwise lack. In Japan the hat served mostly as an icebreaker and conversation starter. The office ladies at his publisher liked to try it on and pose coquettishly for him, unaware that they -- to paraphrase the saying -- barked up the wrong tree.

Now the hat gently levitated approximately six inches above his folded coat.

In the bunk above, Tachibana coughed.

The hat dropped back down to rest atop the shearling.

Hank watched his hat for a long time, but it didn’t move again, and at last he succumbed to sleep.

* * * * *

Tachibana lay in the darkness staring at the ceiling only inches from his face. The gentle rocking of the train car did not soothe him. He knew from the sweat beading Mr. Caldwell’s pale, freckled forehead that the yokai had gotten loose again.

If only Mr. Caldwell hadn’t been a redhead. The yokai had a fascination for the exotic.

Mr. Caldwell was not the first person who had caught the yokai’s attention. Three years before at a company retreat to the hot-springs resorts near Nakakawane, the creature had first appeared, lavishing his affection on Mr. Sato from accounting, cornering the poor man in a toilet stall in order to admire the symmetry of his testicles. Tachibana had discovered Mr. Sato there, curled up into the fetal position, his handsome face distorted by disgust and fear.

“Why the hell do we have to come to the only hot springs with a gay toilet yokai?” he’d wailed. “I hate homos. They’re filth. They should all hurry up and die.”

Up until that point, Tachibana had had a crush on Mr. Sato. Not that he would have ever said so, but at hearing those words, all fondness for the fit accountant evaporated.

The story of the gay yokai had become legendary at the hot springs, even attracting the attention of a local television crew bent on recording the supernatural phenomenon. The resort considered hiring a spiritualist to cleanse the place for the safety of their male customers, but it proved unnecessary. The creature didn’t appear again.

The second time the yokai appeared was at the beach.

Sleepless and lonely, Tachibana had gone down at daybreak to watch the sun rise. Two young surfers had been there, taking advantage of the empty sand and waves. They had been stunning in their wetsuits. Tachibana had been watching them, imagining they were lovers. The way they talked to each other, smiled at each other seemed so beautiful that he had been filled with a yearning to join them. Suddenly, the yokai had come loping down the beach like an excited dog.

“I like you!” he’d roared, tie flapping behind him. “Please have sex with me!”

The surfers had scattered like a couple of chickens before him, abandoning their boards and gear and pelting up the beach toward the concrete pylons where Tachibana sat.

“Look out!” one of them had bellowed. “There’s a crazy homo behind us.”

When Tachibana had looked back, the yokai had vanished.

The third time it happened, Tachibana finally knew that the yokai had been created by him.

He had been at his sister’s wedding reception six months prior, sitting at a table next to his grandmother, watching his sister and her new husband pose for pictures, cut cake, and drink toasts. He’d felt utterly miserable but kept up the appearance of benign happiness, intermittently clapping when the occasion required and making small talk with Grandmother.

His grandmother was four feet nine inches tall and as far as Tachibana could tell had survived on nothing but barley tea and bean jam for the last five years.

“Daisuke.” She beckoned him close

Tachibana stooped to hear her. “What is it?”

“You see that man your sister’s husband’s mother is talking to? Yuki Nogami?”

“Yes.” The man had been very handsome, dressed in clothes Tachibana had last seen on a mannequin in a high-priced Shibuya department store. He wore designer sunglasses on his head, even though it was the middle of fall and overcast. Tachibana suspected they were mainly a device to hold back the man’s light brown dye job. Nogami looked up just in time to see them gawking at him and flashed a winning smile.

Tachibana had immediately averted his gaze and reddened in embarrassment. Grandmother didn’t seem to care.

“I heard from Mrs. Iwasawa that he is a woman hater.” She poked Tachibana with one tiny yet hopelessly gnarled index finger. “You know what I mean.”

“No, I don’t.” But he had. He had known instinctively in that strange way that he often recognized or thought he recognized his own kind. The thought of having another homosexual in the very same room as him, at a wedding when it would be more than permissible for them to talk, filled him with longing and then crushing fear. If Grandmother knew about this guy’s sex life, then everyone else at the wedding probably did too. The thought disappointed him. Now if he, a confirmed bachelor, were to speak in a friendly way with Nogami, there might be speculation.

He did not need speculation. Certain parts of his private life simply could not bear the scrutiny.

He glanced back up and found Nogami looking at him in that assessing way.

His reaction had given him away. Nogami knew.

Safe in the recesses of his mind, he imagined Nogami walking across the room in slow motion, accompanied by a gentle wind that stirred not only the imitation autumn maple leaf table decorations, but also Nogami’s shiny, milk-tea-colored hair. Floating on this ethereal wind, Nogami held out his hand, smiling.

A piercing scream split his daydream.

“Look out!” Grandmother had rasped. “Here comes a yokai.”

The man in the suit was there again, holding Nogami by the lapels, swiping his foot-long tongue over Nogami’s face.

“You are so beautiful.” The yokai slobbered. “I want to taste you.”

“Get off me!” Nogami struggled with the yokai. Getting his face free of the offending tongue for a moment, he cast his eyes pleadingly at another guest, a burly man in the world’s most nondescript navy blue suit, who had been sitting at the adjacent table. “Masanori, please!”

Tachibana, along with nearly everyone else in the room, stared in shock.

With the expression of resignation of a man who has come to some major decision in life, Masanori launched himself out of his plastic chair and seized the yokai in a headlock.

The creature spun its head around all the way to face Masanori. A scream erupted from the crowd of onlookers. Tachibana could see the knowledge that they had a yokai among them rippling across their shocked faces. Oddly, his grandmother hooted with what seemed like girlish excitement. Tachibana wished the earth would swallow him up whole. But it didn’t.

“You want to have a threesome?” The yokai waggled his pink tongue.

“Yuki is mine!” the burly man growled. “Get out.”

“Yours?” The yokai’s expression had gone soft, like that of a sad puppy. “I’m very deeply sorry.” His entire body seemed suddenly to lack a skeleton. He deflated to the floor and then slithered along the ground, out the door.

Everyone at the wedding reception seemed, for a moment, to be paralyzed. Then the burly man, Masanori, reached into his pocket and offered his handkerchief to Nogami, who accepted it. Wiping his face, Nogami had said, “You might as well sit next to me now.”

Masanori nodded gruffly, then sat, glanced around at the circle of gawkers, and said, “Isn’t there any champagne at this wedding?”

This broke the spell and sent relieved laughter spreading throughout the assembled guests. Soon Tachibana’s truly compassionate sister, Tomoko, quietly offered her own handkerchief to Nogami, who was trying to dry his face, even as Nogami apologized for the disruption. Tachibana could not help but notice that Tomoko and her new husband were the only people who even looked at Nogami.

Tachibana, himself, avoided the scene by turning to his grandmother and saying, “Do you really think that was a yokai?”

Grandmother had given him a bewildered look, as if she were reassessing his intelligence.

“What else could it be?” Grandmother shrugged and reached into the sleeve of her kimono for another of the rectangular packets of bean jam she kept stashed there. “The question is, who made it?”

“What do you mean?” Strange guilt prickled just beneath the surface of Tachibana’s skin. Suddenly his collar felt too hot. “If it was, why weren’t you scared?”

“Oh, nothing can scare me. I lived through the war.”

“I...I see.”

“Did you ever read the Tale of Genji?” Grandmother gave him a sharp look.

“I...did.” Frankly, he didn’t like those old court novels so much. He much preferred informational manga. His strategy for getting through ancient literature had been to remember the salient facts just long enough to pass his exams and then forget everything immediately upon graduation.

“You can’t remember anything about it, can you?”

“Genji gets malaria, doesn’t he?” Tachibana hung his head. “The book wasn’t very interesting to me. I’m sorry.”

“Well, it’s a perfect example of the strong and denied feelings of a person manifesting as a spiritual force. Lady Rokujo wants the courtier Genji, but she can’t have him to herself, so her jealousy forms itself into a demon that kills the girl who took Genji from her.” Grandmother tried unsuccessfully to open the stiff plastic wrapper of her bean jam treat before finally handing it over to Tachibana to deal with. “So some man here created this yokai from his desire, but who?”

“Some disgusting pervert, no doubt.” Tachibana handed the opened packet back to his grandmother

“I don’t think so. It seemed like a harmless enough spirit. Overeager, but he went away right when that Masanori told him to leave. And who would have thought that Masanori was a boy lover? Or do you think he’s more of a woman hater? He’s a bachelor, isn’t he?” Grandmother gave him a shrewd look. “Like you.”

“Nowadays it’s just called gay, Grandmother.” Tomoko and her new husband had arrived at their table. “And I think it’s inspiring.”

“You don’t think it’s bad luck having a yokai appear at your wedding?” Tachibana had asked.

Tomoko’s husband grinned. “Are you kidding? Everyone’s going to talk about my wedding reception for years!”

Since that day he’d avoided his grandmother completely.

Especially after she started sending him paper charms and magazine clippings of articles about supernatural phenomena in the mail.

Not that he hadn’t kept the charms. There was one in his overnight bag right now. But that bag currently resided in the luggage storage compartment at the front of the car, and clearly the spiritual barrier that it formed did not extend as far as their sleeping car.

He should have kept one in his pocket. From here on in, he definitely would.

Christmas Wish by BG Thomas
IT WAS a Saturday night, and The Male Box, Harry’s favorite gay bar, was packed. A dance version of “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree” bombarded the patrons from all angles. There were men everywhere—lined up for drinks, dancing, waiting to dance, waiting for something more—but none of them was the man Harry Fielding was looking for.

“I don’t believe you dragged me here again,” said Cody, his best friend.

“I hardly twisted your arm,” Harry said. He was sure this was the night. It was the Saturday before Christmas.

“I hate it when we come here,” Cody said. “None of these men know we’re alive. That song from Chicago is about us.”

“Which song?” Harry asked, barely paying attention. The charity stand should’ve been big. Why couldn’t he see it?

“‘Mister Cellophane’,” Cody answered. “They look right through us, walk right by us….”

“I don’t give a shit,” Harry said. “Tonight, Javier is going to have to pay attention to me.”

“Yeah, right,” said Cody with a theatrical roll of his eyes. With anyone else it would have looked silly, but Cody somehow always carried it off. It was just one of the things Harry loved about his friend. “Why will he have to pay attention to you?”

“Because, Butthole,” Harry snapped, “he won’t have a choice. I’ll be sitting right in his damned lap. He won’t be able to ignore me.”

Cody shook his head.

Harry smiled wistfully. “I’ll finally be able to say something to him, Cody.”

“And he’ll be totally enthralled with your personality and turn away from his hunk friends?”

“Why are you being this way?” Harry shouted, and then he closed his eyes and took a deep breath. He wasn’t going to get mad. He’d been looking forward to this night all week. Javier was playing “Santa,” and ten bucks for a picture for charity meant he would be sitting smack-dab in the lap of his fantasy man. He’d be able to touch him. And if Javier looked anything like the Santas in years past, Harry’s fantasy wouldn’t be wearing much. Harry would get to touch quite a lot.

“I’m sorry,” Cody said. “I just know these guys, Harry. I don’t know why you obsess with their kind.”

“Their kind?” Harry asked, still searching for the Christmas display. The Male Box was a big bar, but not that big. “What ‘kind’ is that?”
“Clones,” Cody said.

“Says the hairdresser!” Harry laughed.

“Hairstylist,” Cody corrected with a wiggle of his hips. “At least we’re friendly. We’re real. Guys like Javier just don’t have anything to do with guys like us, Harry. They have a reputation to uphold. They can’t be seen—”

Stalking Buffalo Bill by J Leigh Bailey
Chapter 1
“YOU KNOW stalking’s a crime, right?”

I jerked away from the glass display case I’d been leaning on and glared at my friend Ford. “It’s not stalking. I don’t follow him around or anything. He comes here.” I swiped a towel across the gleaming surface of the pastry case. It didn’t need it, but just in case a little drool slipped out of my mouth. “It’s staring.”

Ford filled the espresso machine’s hopper with fragrant coffee beans. “It’s ridiculous, is what it is.”

He would never understand. “But he’s just so… so… so manly.”

Ford snorted. “As opposed to what, girly?”

It didn’t matter what Ford said. The manly man I spent hours every day ogling, and several more hours a day daydreaming about, was worth every stalkerish second. For the last eight months, he’d come into Buddy’s Café every day, sat at the same small table by the fireplace, and read a book or a magazine or fiddled on his tablet computer. He really was a masculine work of art. Tall and broad as a mountain, and I wanted nothing more than to climb him. Dark curly hair, a thick beard. Not one of those unkempt, No-Shave-November deals. It was neatly trimmed, but long enough I wanted to tangle my fingers in it.

“Donnie, you’re staring again.”

Damn it. I dragged my eyes away. I couldn’t help it, though. Today my manly man wore an oatmeal-colored sweater that should have looked bland but instead looked soft and cozy. My inner coyote pup wanted to snuggle into the plush knit and soak up his heat.

“And you have customers.” Ford nudged me, and I had to once again forcibly draw my eyes away from the man.

I tucked one end of the towel into the back pocket of my jeans and helped customers. Luckily I could practically do this job in my sleep since my mind stayed focused on my manly man instead of taking coffee and muffin orders. Things I knew about my little—er, big—obsession: his name was William, he liked his coffee black, his pastries savory instead of sweet, and whatever he did for a living gave him a couple of hours a day to hang out in a cozy coffee shop in Cody, Wyoming. Oh, and he was a shifter, but for the life of me, I couldn’t figure out what kind.

There were a lot of shifters in this part of Wyoming, partly due to Cody’s proximity to Yellowstone. But the town was also home to one of the only available shifter-friendly colleges this side of the Mississippi. Local humans didn’t know it, but a bunch of the students at Cody College were shifters of one kind or another. There weren’t a lot of places where animal shifters could attend school and have access to miles of forests, lakes, and mountains, and where classes could be modified to fit the special needs of the occasionally furry.

As a part-time coyote, my sense of smell was particularly keen. Which meant I immediately picked up the rich scents of musk and something herby, like sagebrush and grass. And, like his cozy sweater, the smell made me want to roll all over him.

I glanced at the clock above the stone fireplace in the corner. It was time. If I waited any longer, he’d get up and leave. “I’m taking my break.” I untied my forest-green apron and tossed it on the counter by the register.

Ford scowled at me. “It’s almost eleven. We have to prep for the lunch crowd.”

“I won’t be long.” I rushed to the back room.

The back room was about the size of a coat closet and held a small desk with a computer monitor, a safe, and a folding chair. There wasn’t space for anything else. I reached under the desk and grabbed the insulated bag I’d brought with me this morning. I pulled out the rectangular storage container, inhaling the distinctive basil-and-parmesan scent. My stomach lurched. It wasn’t the scones—they smelled fantastic—it was nerves. I’d been planning this moment for weeks. Now the time had finally come, and it struck me as stupid, potentially humiliating, and maybe a little dangerous. After all, what did I really know about my manly man?

“Don’t wuss out now,” I ordered myself, gripping the plastic box.

Before I could second-guess myself again, I pushed out of the back room and strode to the dining area with as much swagger as I could manage. Coyotes were good at bluffing, especially among the bigger predators.

William looked up from his newspaper. Jesus, those deep brown eyes should be outlawed. How was a guy supposed to remember anything while drowning in those coffee-colored irises?

He cleared his throat.

After an embarrassingly long pause—yeah, words really weren’t happening for me at that moment—he arched a brow. “Did you need something?”

“Scones.” I cringed. I’d blurted the word out a little too loudly.

He cocked his head. “Scones?” His voice was deep and rumbly, and I quivered at the sound.

I nodded. “Exactly. Scones.”

“What about them?”

I cleared my throat. From the corner of my eye, I saw Ford smirking at me. Damn, I seriously needed to get my shit together. “I made some. I wondered if you wanted any?”

He glanced down at his plate, which held half of an onion bagel with cream cheese. “I’m fine.”

I sucked in a breath. Whatever I’d hoped to accomplish with this little interaction was going to explode in my face if I didn’t get my head out of my ass. “No, I know. I mean, I’m trying a new recipe, and I hoped you’d taste test it for me.” I shoved the box toward him. “I noticed you stay away from our sweeter items, but you like the more savory bagels and such. And, well, I came up with a sun-dried tomato, basil, and parmesan scone recipe I thought you might like.”

He leaned back in his chair, the move showcasing the amazing breadth of his chest. “You didn’t have anyone else who could test them for you?” He was so hard to read. He didn’t seem opposed to the idea. Not standoffish. Reserved, maybe? Like he wasn’t used to people approaching him with savory treats.

“Well, my friend Ford,” I said, bobbing my head toward the front counter, “is allergic to tomatoes. And my family tends to be a bit boring in their tastes. Real red-meat-and-potatoes kind of people. They think they’re being exotic when they eat bison instead of beef.”

William’s mouth pressed into a thin line, and for a second I thought I’d made him mad. Maybe it was the meat comment? “Are you a vegetarian? I know some people don’t even want to talk about meat and food in the same sentence. Too gory for them, maybe.” On the edge of babbling, I snapped my jaw closed.

“It’s fine,” William said after a minute. “I’m a vegetarian, but I’m not squeamish.” He took the container from me. “Thanks. I’ll let you know.”

I shifted from foot to foot. C’mon, Donnie. Say something. Seriously, I was usually better than this. I’ve asked dudes out before. Even dudes I wasn’t sure were gay. I hoped it wasn’t wishful thinking, but I kind of suspected William was of the man-loving persuasion. Sometimes, from the corner of my eye, I was positive I’d caught him watching me. And not in the absent way so many people eyed servers and clerks. No, I’d catch in him a predatory heat that didn’t quite match his studious solitude. That, in addition to my own little crush, was what prompted me to attempt my scone-based seduction. So really, there was no reason for this to be so awkward.

“Is there something else?” He watched me from under thick, straight brows.

I guessed he was older than me by a decade, but I refused to let the possible age gap or intimidating stare put me off. Especially since it kind of turned me on.

“Oh, and I’m Donnie. Donnie Granger?” Shit. Now I sounded like an adolescent girl, all questions and enthusiasm.

His gaze flicked to my nametag, eyes crinkling, and it looked like he tried not to smile. “William,” he said.

“Oh, I know.” Again, I sounded a bit too enthusiastic. I licked my lips, racking my brain for something to say, anything to keep the conversation going. And preferably in a way that wouldn’t make me sound like a junior-high schooler. “What do you do?”

“About what?” William pushed his newspaper aside, and I took the gesture as an invitation. If he’d wanted me to go away, he’d have tried to read it, right?

“You know,” I said, dropping into the chair across from his at the small table. “For a living. A job. For fun. Whatever. You’re here almost every morning. It’s made me curious.” Crap. That made me sound like a stalker, didn’t it? No, not a stalker. An observant customer-service person. Right.

He pushed back from the table far enough he could cross one leg over the other, and his grassy, sagey scent wafted toward me. It was all I could do to stop my tongue from lolling out of my mouth like a dog. “I’m a professor of history and politics over at CC.” He paused. “The special track.”

Ah, that meant he taught some of the shifter-only classes.

“Damn, if I’d had a professor like you, I probably wouldn’t have dropped out.”

He raised his brows.

Double crap. If I wanted to impress a professor, mentioning I was a college dropout probably wasn’t the best way. “How long have you been teaching there?” I kept myself—barely—from adding that I hadn’t seen him around before February. And believe me, if he’d been anywhere near town before that, I’d have noticed. Even if his looks didn’t trip every one of my personal triggers, there was no way I’d miss his scent. But he didn’t need to know how obsessively I tracked him.

“Started with the spring semester.”

“Cool.” Jesus, I was a moron. Cool? Maybe I needed to go back to school after all. Conversation 101 was looking more and more necessary. Then, after that, I could attend Flirting for Dummies.

“What about you?” he asked, thankfully not put off by my abysmal interpersonal communication skills.

“Me?”

“Yes, what do you do?”

“Oh, right.” I pushed my chair back so it balanced on its rear legs. “Well, I work here, obviously. I’m taking a photography class at the community center. I spend a lot of time riding herd on my dozen or so nieces and nephews. I bake a lot.” Realizing I sounded like a college application, or worse, an online dating profile, I produced my toothiest cheesy grin. “And I like long walks on the beach at sunset.”

William’s lips twitched.

“Hey, Donnie!”

I growled low in my throat. The place better be under armed attack or I was going to strangle Ford. Didn’t he see I was finally making progress with my manly man? I turned my head to glare at my soon-to-be-ex-best friend. He glared right back, jerking his head to indicate the long line at the register.

“Damn.” I let the chair drop back into place, then stood. “I’d better get back to work. Let me know how you like the scones,” I said over my shoulder as I headed back to the front counter.

He nodded. “I will. And thanks for thinking of me.” He tapped the container of pastries.

“No problem. Hope you like them.”

A few minutes later, while I was elbow-deep in lattes and danishes, William left the café. When he opened the door, the wind blew in, carrying with it the aroma of fall leaves and sagebrush.


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Random Paranormal Tales of 2017

Part 1  /  Part 2  /  Part 3  /  Part 4
Part 5  /  Part 6  /  Part 7


Nicole Kimberling
Nicole Kimberling lives in Bellingham, Washington with her wife, Dawn Kimberling, two bad cats as well as a wide and diverse variety of invasive and noxious weeds. Her first novel, Turnskin, won the Lambda Literary Award for Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror. She is also the author of the Bellingham Mystery Series.

B.G. Thomas
B.G. loves romance, comedies, fantasy, science fiction and even horror—as far as he is concerned, as long as the stories are character driven and entertaining, it doesn't matter the genre. He has gone to conventions since he was fourteen years old and has been lucky enough to meet many of his favorite writers. He has made up stories since he was child; it is where he finds his joy.

In the nineties, he wrote for gay magazines but stopped because the editors wanted all sex without plot. "The sex is never as important as the characters," he says. "Who cares what they are doing if we don't care about them?" Excited about the growing male/male romance market, he began writing again. Gay men are what he knows best, after all. He submitted his first story in years and was thrilled when it was accepted in four days.

"Leap, and the net will appear" is his personal philosophy and his message to all. "It is never too late," he states. "Pursue your dreams. They will come true!"

J Leigh Bailey
j. leigh bailey is an office drone by day and the author of Young Adult and New Adult LGBT Romance by night. She can usually be found with her nose in a book or pressed up against her computer monitor. A book-a-day reading habit sometimes gets in the way of... well, everything...but some habits aren't worth breaking. She's been reading romance novels since she was ten years old. The last twenty years or so have not changed her voracious appetite for stories of romance, relationships and achieving that vitally important Happy Ever After. She's a firm believer that everyone, no matter their gender, age, sexual orientation or paranormal affiliation deserves a happy ending.

She wrote her first story at seven, which was, unbeknownst to her at the time, a charming piece of fan-fiction in which Superman battled (and defeated, of course) the nefarious X Luther. She was quite put out to be told, years later, that the character's name was actually Lex. Her second masterpiece should have been a best-seller, but the action-packed tale of rescuing her little brother from an alligator attack in the marshes of Florida collected dust for years under the bed instead of gaining critical acclaim.

Now she writes Young Adult LGBT Romance novels about boys traversing the crazy world of love, relationships and acceptance.

Sign up for my newsletter for sneak peeks, news, and upcoming appearances.

Kim Fielding
I have lived in Illinois, Oregon, Nebraska, and Croatia, but for a long time now I've called the boring part of California home. I have a husband, two daughters, a day job as a university professor, and a passion for travel. I write in many genres--contemporary, fantasy, paranormal, historical--but no matter when and where my stories are set, I love complex worlds and complicated characters. I think that often it's a person's flaws that make him stronger and more beautiful.


Nicole Kimberling
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BG Thomas
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The Red Thread of Forever Love by Nicole Kimberling
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Christmas Wish by BG Thomas
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Stalking Buffalo Bill by J Leigh Bailey

Corruption by Kim Fielding
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Clay White by Kim Fielding

Monday Morning's Menu: Hemovore by Jordan Castillo Price


Summary:
Mark Hansen thought working as artist’s assistant would be glamorous, especially if that artist was a vampire. Black tie events, witty repartee, gracing the pages of the local style section…. Didn’t happen. Not even once.

Jonathan Varga is an enigma. True, he’s quiet, generous, and scrupulously polite. But he has zero social life, refuses to be interviewed or photographed, and insists he can only consume feline blood.

Why supermarket blood won't suffice, Mark hasn’t asked. He’s rarely at a loss for words—he can dish an insult and follow it with a snap as quick as you can say “Miss Thang.” But one look at Jonathan’s black-as-sin gypsy eyes, and Mark’s objections drain away.

So he endures the perpetual grind of their routine: Jonathan hiding in his studio, swiping black paint onto black canvases. Mark hurling insults while he buffs the office to a shine with antiviral wipes. Each of them avoiding the other in a careful choreography…until a blurb in Art in America unleashes a chain of harrowing events.

As secrets from Jonathan’s past are brought to light, it becomes clear that all his precautions weren’t nearly enough.

Second expanded edition includes bonus novelette Sweet.

Author Bio:
Author and artist Jordan Castillo Price is the owner of JCP Books LLC. Her paranormal thrillers are colored by her time in the midwest, from inner city Chicago, to small town Wisconsin, to liberal Madison.

Jordan is best known as the author of the PsyCop series, an unfolding tale of paranormal mystery and suspense starring Victor Bayne, a gay medium who's plagued by ghostly visitations. Also check out her new series, Mnevermind, where memories are made...one client at a time.

With her education in fine arts and practical experience as a graphic designer, Jordan set out to create high quality ebooks with lavish cover art, quality editing and gripping content. The result is JCP Books, offering stories you'll want to read again and again.


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Book Blast: My Choice, My Chance by Taylor Rylan

Title: My Choice, My Chance
Author: Taylor Rylan
Series: Men of Crooked Bend #2
Genre: M/M Romance
Release Date: August 19, 2017
Cover Design: Jay Aheer at Simply Defined Art
Summary:
After a disastrous relationship in college, Jasper Welsh swore he’d never let anyone that close to him again. But after watching his twin fall in love with the man of his dreams, Jasper starts to realize that maybe there’s more to life than meaningless hook ups. After all, it’s been almost a decade since he’s taken a chance on someone again.

When a brutal ex almost kills Liam Campbell, he runs away with his best friend to Wyoming for Christmas with Rhett’s family. Little does he know, that even though he’s still broken and bruised, Liam’s life is about to be completely turned upside down when he meets Rhett’s brother, Jasper. But there’s no way Jasper could be interested in someone like him, right?

When Liam’s ex finds him in Wyoming and one of their family members almost pays the ultimate price, will the Welsh family forgive him for bringing danger to their family? Or will they fight for the battered young man and accept him with open arms?

Choices are made, and chances are taken when Jasper and Liam realize that their attraction for one another can’t be denied and must be explored. But with a wedding in the planning stages and an unforgettable bachelor party in Vegas, does the new couple really want to steal the grooms’ thunder?

My Choice, My Chance is the second book in the Men of Crooked Bend series. Each book in the series will focus on a different couple but will be better enjoyed as a series as the couples all make appearances in each book. Each book contains sexually explicit material between two men and is intended for adults over 18.



I finally made it to our new house with everything. I wanted to cry when I pulled into the driveway and saw Jasper’s truck there. How in the hell was I going to set everything up for my romantic picnic surprise if he was already there?

Admitting defeat and coming to the conclusion that tonight was not going to be the night to tell Jasper that I loved him, I got out of Baloo and walked up to the house to search for Jasper.

I was floored when I walked into the house. Jasper made a trail of lit candles. They started at the front door inviting me to continue inward. I followed the small flames, making my way to the living room. The sight before me made me gasp and start to cry. There, in the middle of the living room, surrounded by candles, and with a blanket and several pillows laid out on the floor was Jasper. It seems my man had the exact same idea as me! He obviously came straight here from the Realtor’s office instead of going to his office in Jackson like he’d told me.

I didn’t move at first. I noticed Jasper started to look uncomfortable so I slowly made my way toward him and the little picnic he had put together for us.

“Jasper, what…”

“Liam, just give me a minute here, alright?”

I had no idea what Jasper planned but I knew that there was absolutely no way I was going to let him go another night without telling him exactly how I felt. With as wonderful and sweet as this all was, this was my plan. Did I talk in my sleep? Nobody ever mentioned me talking in my sleep before so probably not. How was it that Jasper came up with the exact same idea as me? I took a big breath and did my best to calm myself and stepped into the room. I didn’t stop there. Nope! In true Liam fashion I walked right up to Jasper and hauled off and whacked him on the shoulder. Not the most romantic move ever.

“Liam! What the hell?”

“How dare you, Jasper!”

“How dare I what? You’re mad I try to be romantic for you? What? You want me to be an asshole or something?”

“No! I love it when you’re romantic. I love it when you plan trips and dinners and send me flowers and candy and stuff. It’s an amazing feeling knowing that you care enough about me to do all of those things for me.”

“Then why in the hell did you just hit me?”

“Because! You ruined my surprise!”

“How did I ruin your surprise? I haven’t even told you your surprise yet!”

We were both upset and started raising our voices, shouting at each other by that point. Not one of our best moments.

“What do you mean you haven’t given me my surprise yet? I had everything all planned and you beat me to it! I was going to come in and set up a romantic dinner for you, but you beat me to it, Jasper!" I was openly bawling by then. It was not a pretty sight. I know, I’ve seen me when I cried in the past. My face gets red and splotchy when I cry.

“Liam, I haven’t given you your surprise yet because the dinner isn’t your surprise. I wanted to give you a perfect romantic dinner so I could tell you just how much you mean to me.

My Forever, My Always #1
Summary:
Growing up on a ranch in the middle of nowhere Wyoming did not provide Simon Redfeather with a whole lot of opportunities to explore his sexuality. From a young age he’d known he was interested in men but wondered if he’d ever find someone to settle down with. Though he wanted to stretch his wings, he knew the ranch was his life and he’d inevitably follow his heart back home. Would he be able to find love with someone that could give as good as they get and love the land as much as he did?

Sean Welsh considered himself lucky that he’d grown up with two dads because coming out had been a breeze. Never wanting to trade in on the privilege of their last name, Sean and his identical twin wanted to forge their own path and open their own architectural firm in Jackson, Wyoming. He never expected Simon Redfeather, one of his new clients, to be a gorgeous, sexy, honest to god cowboy. With Simon pushing all his hot buttons, he finds himself wishing he wasn’t the shy twin and yearns to be daring, like his older brother.

The attraction is instant but are Simon and Sean willing to risk everything in order to find their other half?

My Forever, My Always is the first book in the Men of Crooked Bend series. Each book in the series will focus on a different couple but will be better enjoyed as a series as the couples all make appearances in each book. Each book contains sexually explicit material between two men and are intended for adults over 18.

Author Bio:
After several years of daydreaming about sexy men in her head, Taylor decided to finally start writing about them! That's where the Men of Crooked Bend came from, although at the time, she had no idea as to what she would name the town, nor what state it would be even be in. She quickly learned that even though she had ideas in her head, it was her characters that ultimately decided what would happen in each story. She goes into each adventure with a set plan but already knows that in the end, things will change and that her characters are going to get their way.

When she’s not writing about sexy men, she loves to read about them. Even if, her reading time has become less frequent since she started writing, she still tries to find time to read at least once a week.

She is a busy mom of three and one kitten named Lucky. If she’s not writing or reading about sexy men, she’s either running to some band function or another or is busy cheering from the stands at basketball games or marital arts functions.

Her Men of Crooked Bend Series is her first series but she already has two spin-off series planned!


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My Choice, My Chance #2

My Forever, My Always #1

Release Tour: Unacquainted by Leigh Lennon

T
Title: Unacquainted
Author: Leigh Lennon
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Release Date: October 20, 2017
Summary:
Rose
One night was all I could offer to a man I barely knew. I intended to return to my perfectly planned life, but now he is back, and with him the reminder of the irrefutable connection we shared.

It’s still there.

I crave him.

One night may unravel my perfect plans as I find myself at a crossroad between security and desire.

Brody
One night, that was all she could give me. Yet here I am back in her life as fate has intervened. When I first saw her in that form-fitting red silky dress,

I was captivated.

She owns my heart.

As I set out to make her mine, she has to choose between her past and future. I don’t think I will survive if her choice isn't me.


Rose
As expected, my mom shows up with Pad Thai, my favorite. “Mom, I said I would cook.”

“I never get take out, I got used to it for years and now Nick has this policy of cooking each night, so indulge your mom,” she spouts off as the hurricane known as Justine Wallace arrives on my front porch. Hurrying past me, she makes her way to the kitchen and at home in my house.

Embracing her, she says, “So, I heard you had a visitor last night?” Her smile tells me to spill it all while she unpacks our dinner.

“What?” I ask.

“Kai told me he gave your mysteriously handsome guy you disappeared with the night of their wedding your phone number. So, one last fling before Jones gets back?”

My mom is not the normal mother. Growing up, we had luxuries afforded to us most kids didn’t. Basically, if we were honest with Mom, we were allowed to do most anything. We could go to parties, hell, Mom would drop us off and pick us up. After my mom finally approved of Jones, which was a long haul and a longer story, she made sure I was given all the resources necessary when we started having sex, though the first time, I did it behind her back. And when Jane would come up from Sacramento to see Kai, she stayed in his room. We were given a lot of leeway in life and for this reason, my mom really has become my best friend.

With a smile on, I say, “Mom, it isn’t quite the way you think. First off, technically I am back with Jones. We have talked about making a commitment. You know we took this year and a half away to see if we truly were meant for each other. Last week he’d said he was ready to move forward in the next step of our relationship.” I stop for a second to collect my thoughts. My mom really should be the easiest person I break this to, yet now the butterflies invading my stomach add company to the baby I’m now growing in there. “Well, we were going to try but something has changed. It's one of the reasons I had you come over tonight.”

Sensing the seriousness in my eyes, my mom leaves our food in the kitchen, leading me to the couch to sit down. With a small smirk on her face, she says, “Well, could it have something to do with the cute young man who came by last night?”

“Indirectly, sort of. I guess a product of…” I trail off as my mom stares me down.

“What? You have me confused, Rose,” I know Justine Wallace hates being confused.

Brody
When we stop a couple of hours up the road to fill up my tank, she asks me to get her a bag of Skittles. “Ah, you have a little sweet tooth about you,” I tease.

When we get back on the freeway, I notice she has poured all her Skittles out on her lap into a handkerchief I assume she had in her purse. “What in the world are you doing, Toots?” I ask.

Looking at me, she only smiles. “I have to eat my Skittles in color order,” she says as if this is common sense.

“And what is color order?” I ask, not knowing there is indeed an etiquette to eating Skittles.

“It’s rainbow order, silly. Red first, then orange, yellow, green, blue and purple.” She scoffs at me and I’m not sure how to even respond to her. My girl is a little quirky. Quirky has never bothered me before.

“Well, now that I know I’ve been doing it wrong all these years, I will be following suit, Toots,” I tease but she doesn’t say much, just smiles at me while she eats all the red Skittles, one at a time, before moving on to the next color.

After her Skittles are eaten, she falls asleep in my passenger seat. Being so beautiful, with full breasts, luscious lips and dark skin, there is no denying the looks make her attractive but there is a connection I can’t resist denying, not that I want to.

As she stirs, I say, “Well, we made good time so let’s stop.”

Rose stretches, looking at the hotel I have pulled into. “Wow, Brody. I didn’t think it was possible but this hotel matches your car.” The truth is money is tight, so I need something as inexpensive as possible. Plus, I feel I should pay for Rose’s room.

“Okay, now that hurts, Toots,” I say, trying to feign a look of shock. She has given me notice on my car, but it has been a good car that I wanted to keep for another year, though I understand her worries concerning our child.

Unfiltered #1
Summary:
Justine
I never will get my happy ending. With my past threatening to ruin the possibility of love in my future, I keep every man at arm’s length. Nick appears out of thin air, becoming a part of my life instantly, leaving me breathless and wanting more. The pain that haunts me is still present, but Nick is worth the risk. When he promises me forever; can I trust him?

Nick
Justine makes me see that a forever is in reach with her. She keeps telling me she is hard to love; yet I find it quite easy. Once I break down her walls, she finally lets me in. But, I have a secret of my own which can expose her to the demons that destroyed me in the past. However, with Justine, I will do anything and everything to make her mine.

Leigh Lennon
Author Bio:
Leigh Lennon is mother, veteran and a wife of a cancer survivor. Originally with a degree in education, she started writing as an outlet that has led a deep passion as she wrote twelve books. Now ready to publish all of them, she lugs her computer with her as she crafts her next story. She can be found drinking coffee or wine, depending on the time of the day.


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Unacquainted #2

Unfiltered #1





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