Thursday, December 8, 2016

Random Tales of Christmas 2016 Part 4


Christmas Cole by BG Thomas
Summary:
Javier Torres was a sweet, plump, and very unpopular child. But over the years, he turned himself into a gorgeous gym god. The problem is he’s also become an egotistical snob. But one day his arrogance pisses off the wrong little old lady, and he wakes up to find that, like the Prince in Beauty and the Beast, he’s been transformed into something from his personal nightmares. Javier has nowhere to go but back home, where to his surprise, he is greeted with open arms, not just by the family he remembers, but by his new brother-in-law, Cole. Cole suspects there might be a pretty heart to go with the pretty face locked inside that new body, but has Javier learned enough to earn Cole—instead of coal—for Christmas?

A Christmas Kiss by Annabelle Jacobs
Summary:
Keeping secrets from your best friend isn’t right, but it’s easier than admitting you’ve fallen in love with him.

Sharing a late-night kiss with his best friend, Alex, is Riley’s dream come true. Waking up to discover Alex was too drunk to remember anything is more like a nightmare. Scared the truth could destroy their friendship, Riley keeps quiet and pretends nothing happened.

Alex can’t shake the feeling that he said or did something stupid on their group’s drunken weekend away—why else would Riley be avoiding him? Although the explanation he finally gets sounds plausible, Riley’s still acting strange, and trying to figure out why that is unearths emotions Alex has worked hard to bury.

Riley knows not telling Alex how he feels is probably selfish, but he wants one last normal Christmas before he has to come clean and face the potential fallout.

He should have known it wouldn’t be that easy.


Miscommunication and/or lack of communication can cause so many troubles and so much heartbreak, especially during the holiday season.  That's exactly what A Christmas Kiss brings us and though it's an often used cliche, when done correctly I don't mind and Annabelle Jacobs has done just that.  Yes, there are moments throughout the story you just want to give both Alex and Riley a good shake or whack to their backside for not seeing what is right in front of their eyes but that was also what kept me reading.  Will the BFFs finally see sense? Well, those who know my reviews know what's coming: for that you'll have to read A Christmas Kiss for yourself.  A great addition to my Christmas shelf and certainly one I'll be re-reading for many holidays to come.

RATING: 

Simple Gifts by LB Gregg
Summary:
Cornwall Novellas #2

A former ward of the state, Jason Ferris is fiercely protective of his carefully guarded private life. When he's felled by a rogue lawn ornament at a Christmas party, Jason finds himself in the care of his first and most devastating love - dark, dangerous, and equally damaged Lt. Robb Sharpe.

Newly returned from years away in the military, Robb's homecoming isn't exactly the stuff of fairytales. Now thrust together after a ten year hiatus, Jason and Robb discover that perhaps some things are worth waiting for.


Simple Gifts is another great addition to my holiday shelf.  First love or first crushes can be devastating when they don't work out the way you thought they would but when given a second chance years later, they can often be even better than you ever imagined.  Jason and Robb's story is a beautiful tale for anytime of the year but Christmas makes it even more amazing. A true gift for the reader's soul.

RATING: 

Gaudete by Amy Rae Durreson
Summary:
Every Christmas, child chorister Jonah Lennox used to meet Callum Noakes at Aylminster cathedral when Callum's mother came to sell roasted chestnuts at the market. After years of friendship, an argument separates them, apparently forever. Putting away the memories of his lost friend, Jonah left the cathedral and moved on with his life.

When Jonah returns to the cathedral after ten years away, the market in the cathedral brings back memories—and Callum, who has made a life for himself as a woodturner. Upon meeting again, attraction pulls them together, and the holiday may inspire their old friendship to mature into new romance.




All the Way Home by Devyn Morgan
Summary:
For the last couple years, Nick Palmer has raised his little brothers while working in a coffee shop downtown. Just a month before Christmas, his boss makes the worst possible announcement: the café will close if they can't find a buyer. JC, a decade younger than him at sixteen, and Hunter, only eight, deserve the best Christmas his money can't buy. Plus, he's been neglecting his own needs for far too long. When the perfect man walks through the door at the wrong time, a little indulgence turns into much more... 

Billionaire Declan Tanner is lonely. Since selling his company, he's got a bad first world problem: guys get intimidated by him or try to use him. He's responded by withdrawing and isolating himself, but on his psychologist's advice picks up a new hobby: learning to code games in a cozy little café. Hanging out every day with Nick, a gorgeous, clever, flirty barista, starts to stir ideas of more... but he has to take it at Nick's pace for the kids' sake. 

As Christmas approaches, Nick has to decide: should he let Declan in, or focus as always on keeping JC and Hunter happy? And what if there's a way to do both? 

**All the Way Home is a standalone gay romance with a HEA ending.**



Another new author for me and I'll certainly be keeping an eye out for other Devyn Morgan books.  I will admit that I had a hard time connecting to Declan, as he says himself to his therapist his first world problems are very difficult for me to sympathize with but the author does manage to make him so likable that you can't help but want to wrap him up in a huge Mama Bear hug.  As for Nick, well he's just so yummy and adorable that you want to buy the coffee shop yourself. A beautiful addition to my holiday shelf that I can definitely see myself re-reading for many holidays to come.

RATING: 

Random Tales of Christmas 2016 Parts

Part 1  /  Part 2  /  Part 3



Christmas Cole by BG Thomas
The sex had been good. Great, even—if not rushed. But that was the way Javier Torres had wanted it. Hot and wild and wet and hard and fast. Something to revel in, lose himself in, like drugs. But sex was not something he could overdose on—although he had tried many a time. What a way to go.

He had never seen the man before that evening, and the minute he’d laid eyes on him, Javier knew he had to have him. He was exactly what Javier had needed. The man was gorgeous—tall, hugely muscled, with dark smooth skin, long dark hair, a slight beard, and chocolate-brown eyes. Steamy eyes.

What was his name?

Gary? No, but that was close.

Harvey? No… (who cares?).

Harry. Yes! It had been a little joke between them. Funny because he, Javier, was hairy. And Harry was as smooth as that statue Mark had in his study, his chest like sculpted marble.

Mary, Mother of God, Harry had been good too. Javier couldn’t remember the last time a trick had nailed him so good and hard. A year or more. Since he and Mark had gone to the baths in San Francisco for Javier’s thirty-fifth birthday? Even Mark had gotten into it, and hadn’t that been a shock?

Shit.

Javier looked down at his Rolex. How long was this elevator going to take? The dude’s apartment was only on the fourth floor. He could have walked down faster. He was going to be late. He’d told Mark he’d be home after the Liddle Awful Annie Show at The Male Box. That he wouldn’t even stay for that “one more drink.” Wasn’t that why he’d dragged Gary… Harry (and since when did names stop mattering to you, Javier?) off the stage and into the night? So they’d have time for a quickie? If the guy was new in town, Javier wanted him first. Needed him first. What a coup that would be with his friends.

(“Oh, him? Yeah, I already had him….”)

It had been hot when Annie, the hostess of the Sunday-night show, had pulled Harry up on the stage and made him take off his shirt and—damn!—the dude’s chest had been better than Mark’s statue!

Why couldn’t he get his body to look like that, dammit? Javier had worked out for years—five days a week, at least two hours a day—and while he was proud of what he had done with his (fat) body, the guy on the stage was a god. He actually had an eight-pack! And his chest. Huge!

When Annie had asked the guy who he’d like to meet, who had he said?

Why, me! Javier felt himself glow at the memory.

Of course, he had played “fuck-me-eyes” with the guy the minute he’d seen him. Been thrilled when the muscleman had sat down right in front of him for the show. Oh yes, and the guy had kept looking, turning his head and looking. Thank God Javier was the master of seduction. He’d turned the sex on without thinking, returning the guy’s looks without a single blink.

Carpe diem!

So then Annie had called him up on the stage, and he and Harry (who wasn’t hairy) had practically done it right there in front of everybody. Hell! Shirtless and with their tight pants, the crowd could see their arousal four or five rows back. Oh, and damn, Harry’s had looked huge.

Looked?

Not just looked. It had been giant. And uncut. And that cock had felt so good inside him. Javier felt so truly alive when he was being topped. Why wouldn’t Mark top him? He used to. Everybody else wanted to. Dedicated bottoms would top him. Javier had been offered money for his ass.

(Wasn’t that basically how he and Mark had gotten together in the first place, for all intents and purposes? Not so much the offer of actual cash. But it had been the offer of a gay cruise.)

The only thing that had put a damper on the whole thing was when Harry had asked him to spend the night.

What the hell?

That had almost ruined it.

Hot, sweaty, nasty, on-the-hardwood-floor sex, and the dude brought up breakfast?

The only thing that saved it was the guy saying something about fucking until the sun came up.

That could have been hot.

There was a “ping” and the elevator doors finally opened, and Javier sprang through them like a jack-in-the-box…

… and slammed right into someone.

Jesus! It was a little old lady! She went flying back, arms pinwheeling, and for a horrible second, Javier thought she would hit the floor and then….

Then it was like time just stopped.

She seemed to float for a second, and then she was okay. A little old lady dressed in bright red….

God!

“You!” he shouted.

Her eyes narrowed behind small round glasses, her brows becoming one gray slash. “You,” she whispered. Her voice was like ice. Cracking ice.

Javier’s blood went cold.


Had it only been the night before that Javier had seen her for the first time? Waiting there in line to get her picture taken with him? It seemed forever ago.

Oh, he’d been on top of the world. Center of attention. In the spotlight.

He liked it.

A lot.

When Reva, the manager of The Male Box, had asked him to be this year’s Santa, he’d agreed without hesitation. Only the hottest men got a chance to play that role. And that meant that Javier was finally on his way.

There were people who would have laughed at the thought, would have considered playing Santa for charity at a bar to be small potatoes. But those people wouldn’t have lived here in Kansas City.

The Male Box was really the only hot bar in town ever since its main rival had closed down. Now you had to go to St. Louis to get better, and that was a good four hours away.

The weekend before Christmas was one of the biggest of the year for The Male Box. Cheap drinks (for a half hour, they were free), fantastic prizes (including a gay cruise), and a chance to sit in Santa’s lap. The men lined up for that opportunity because The Male Box’s Santa wasn’t some fat old man in red. Oh, no! He was a leatherman in classic leather gear. Black boots (because that was the first thing a leatherman bought: his boots), a small leather bar vest, harness, and chaps (assless if you were daring, and wasn’t Javier daring?). He’d chosen to up the ante by wearing only a red jock strap beneath his chaps, and let those out of the loop think the color was for Christmas. Hell. The stripes down the side of his vest and chaps were red as well, and how funny that there were those who didn’t know its significance. The sexual kink they advertised for those in the know.

The thought made Javier grin.

Yes, a New Yorker or someone from San Francisco would laugh at how thrilled Javier was to play “Naughty Santa,” but what they wouldn’t realize was that the ladder wasn’t as high in Kansas City. It took a while to get onto the first rung, but then in no time you could be on your way to the top.

Javier had been selling Jell-O shots for AIDS charities for nearly a year now. That had helped get him the Santa gig. Let people pay ten bucks to sit on his lap, play them up good and nasty (they might buy another picture), and you could very well wind up being next year’s Mr. Kansas City Leather. That meant you went on to International Mr. Leather. Had it been only a couple of years ago one of KC’s own had placed second? That guy had gone on to do porn.

Javier wasn’t sure if he wanted to do that. It sounded fun, but porn could follow you forever. Of course, it wasn’t like he was planning on running for president or anything. Or that his mother or anyone from that old life would ever see one of his movies. So if it was one of the big studios—Zeus, Falcon, Raging Stallion, Titan—he’d think about it. Some of those guys were rich. If they could stay away from the meth. And that was one thing he could surely do. He’d seen what drugs could do. Ruined lives and destroyed bodies. And Javier’s looks and body were who he was. They brought him attention. Hell, they brought him downright adoration.

So when Javier had sprawled back in that “Santa throne,” crotch thrust forward, men standing in line for their chance with him, he had been in heaven. It was thrilling to see the looks on their faces as they waited their turn for a moment in his lap.

All he had to do was pretend he was turned on to them as well. And in a way he was. He was turned on to them being turned on to him.

Javier had come a long, long way since the old neighborhood, since school, since Mr. Schultz.

Oh, if they could see me now, he thought, and the faces of cousins and high school classmates (and one teacher) flashed through his mind.

They’d called him fat. Panzón. Gordo. Sissy. Maricón. Faggot.

Now what would they think? Now that his belly and chubby cheeks were gone. Hell, he actually had cheekbones now.

Now his looks opened doors for him. While he was lucky genetics had given him his face, it was his own hard work that had given him his body. It had given him Mark, hadn’t it?

And if he was a “trophy wife,” so what? He lived in a big beautiful home, he had a BMW Z4, he wore the best clothes, and he had traveled the world. He didn’t even have to work. His job was to host parties and to be at Mark’s side. Javier had played his role well. He’d been on cruise ships, visited the underwater museum off the coast of Cancun, ridden a gondola in Venice, walked the cobblestoned streets of Tuscany, and partied in Amsterdam. And everywhere, there were men. Beautiful, hot, sexy men!

He didn’t even have to be monogamous.

Could there be a better life?

Maybe if there were romance…. But Javier got a bit of that here and there, and he supposed Mark did love him. As much as Mark loved anybody but himself. He told Javier that he loved him.

Mark certainly loved the looks of envy from his friends whenever and wherever he took Javier. It was a competition who had the hottest boy.

Of course, Javier had passed boyhood at least a decade before, but wasn’t Mark at least two decades Javier’s senior? Good-looking to be sure, but older. What did the man have to complain about?

Javier certainly didn’t complain. He had more than he could have dreamed of, and now soon there would be more.

All because he was sprawled seductively back in a big leather throne, letting twinks and queens and fatsos sit on his lap. Touch him. Javier just had to talk dirty to them. Be their brief fantasy. Use his unerring gift to reach out and find a nipple—even through a thick flannel shirt—and give it the appropriate degree of pressure. He could always tell how much. It was a gift. For some a gentle swirling touch, for another a good squeeze, for yet another a hard pinch.

He’d flirted. He’d commanded. He’d been master or boi, daddy or son, Dom or sub, somehow knowing what each man needed.

And he’d loved it.

Not a bad gig, especially when it could lead to International Mr. Leather.

It had been going gloriously.

That is, until she showed up.

It had been a little startling to see the old woman standing there. Not what he expected. She had to be seventy years old. A tiny thing, maybe five foot two or three. Her floor-length dress was bright red and had long sleeves with big white lacy wrists, and a huge white apron. She wore a red and green bonnet over white hair pulled back in a bun, and round gold wire-rimmed glasses, which framed intense, sparkling blue eyes. That was what had struck him most of all. From a good ten feet away, and in bar lighting, he’d seen those flashing blue eyes.

Javier had found himself sitting up a little straighter in his “throne” and pulling the leg that had been thrown provocatively over one of the chair’s arms into a more dignified position. He had actually dropped one hand in his lap, trying in some way to cover his amply filled red jock.

Then he’d swallowed, cleared his throat, and motioned her forward.

Without the least hesitation of some of her predecessors or the confident stride of others, she had glided to him as if on ice skates and then seemed to almost float up onto his lap. She’d laid an age-spotted hand on his shoulder and looked up at him through her little round glasses. Her eyes shone.

“Hello, Javier,” she said in a voice that was almost musical.

Who? Javier wondered. Do I know this lady?

“My, my, how you’ve grown!” She dropped her gaze to where his leather vest and crisscrossing harness exposed his hairy chest, and to his surprise, he found he wished there was some way to clutch the small vest closed. She looked studiously back into his face. “What would your momma say?”

Javier’s mind swam in confusion. “Do I know you?”

She smiled the sweetest smile. “Oh, I think you probably know of me at least,” she said quietly, and it had been a miracle that he could hear her at all over the loud bar music. In fact, it was Katy Perry who seemed to have faded away, as if down some long dark tunnel. “I certainly know you,” the old lady continued. “Been watching you your whole darned life. I must say you’ve turned out to be quite a disappointment.”

Javier nearly flinched at her words. “What the hell?”

“Hush now,” she said, and Javier found his words clogging in his throat. “Disrespectful too. Swearing. I know your momma taught you better than that. And how long has it been since you talked to her?”

The little old lady’s voice had lost its musical quality. “You were such a good boy. And such a wonderful young man. Always watching after your little sisters, Lupe and Juanita.”

Javier had frozen at the mention of his sisters. This woman has to know me, he thought. But who was she? Some friend of his mother’s?

“What would your sisters think if they saw you now? Your mama?” The little old woman ran a finger down his vest and across his harness.

He wanted to cringe from her touch.

“Your verga all out there for anyone to see.”

He’d nearly leapt to his feet then, afraid that she would touch him down there.

“Oh?” she said. “You know that word? You actually know some Spanish? But you’re so ashamed of your heritage that you wanted people to call you JT there for a while.”

At those words, he’d nearly dumped her on the floor. Only the crowd that watched kept him from losing his cool. Appearance was everything! “Who are you?” he asked again. “What do you want?”

She giggled then—like a schoolgirl! “Oh, Javier. I want to see if you’re getting pressies for Christmas. Or coal. I want to see if you’ll do the right thing.”

“What the fu—”

“Language!” she chirped, holding up a hand. “Now, look over there. You see that man waiting in line?”

Javier’s head had turned as if without any volition. There, he saw the man the old woman must have been talking about. He was one of the chubs, and he was practically jumping from foot to foot—

(he wants me)

—in excitement. Not fat exactly—

(they called me fatso)

—but he could certainly lose some weight—

(panzón, gordo)

—and for God’s sake, why didn’t he? Javier had done it, and he couldn’t understand why people could let themselves go like—

“Javier!”

His attention snapped back to the old woman.

“I want you to go home. My husband has business with that man, and you need to go so it can be conducted.”

The last words did something to him then. Since she’d walked up to him, things had become—weird. Like she’d hypnotized him or something. But when she’d told him he needed to go home, the words snapped him out of it. She was messing with plans too long made. The crazy biddy had crossed the line.

“Listen, old lady,” he said, just as the photographer took their picture with a bright flash. “I think it’s time for you to—”

At that, the old woman’s eyes had gone wide, bigger even than her glasses (and was that even possible?), and she leaned in close and whispered something in his ear. Not words exactly. It sounded more like the twittering of tiny birds. Were they words?

Then Javier had just known it was time to go home. He’d stood up, and she found her feet just as gracefully as she’d found his lap.

“Time to go,” he said.

“What?” cried the pudgy guy who was next in line.

“Sorry, man, I’m wiped,” Javier said and then thought, I am?

How could that be? “Don’t worry,” he informed the obviously upset man. “There’s someone taking my place.”

There was? Why had he said that?

“You’ll get your picture taken,” he’d finished, and for some reason that sounded perfectly reasonable. And as he turned to leave, he’d seen an enormous man, who looked so much like Santa Claus he could have been the real thing, step out of the shadows and sit himself on Javier’s throne.

Lose some weight, he thought, and then he left.


When Javier got home, Mark was surprised to see him.

In a big way.

Javier heard the moans first.

At first, he’d thought he’d caught Mark watching some porn.

He was. Mark was also fucking a young boy with dark skin and black hair. Indian maybe? The kid could not have been a day or two more than eighteen and was bent over the couch while porn played on their 58-inch HD flat-screen. The moans had not been only from the actors.

Javier had been shocked. Dozens of emotions and thoughts had swept through him in an instant—shock, anger, hurt, and surprisingly, disgust.

Mark was having sex.

With someone besides me! Javier thought. Mark doesn’t have sex with other people. He’s faking it. A joke. They’re not really doing it. Wait. No! He’s… he’s topping. He’s fucking that kid. That young kid. He won’t fuck me anymore, but he’ll…. “Mark?”

Mark did have the good grace to stop thrusting. He hadn’t, however, pulled out. The kid’s shining black eyes, at least, were wide in shock.

“You’re home early,” Mark said in a voice that was soft and even.

“I….” Javier swallowed. “Yes.”

“Can you give me ten minutes, darling?” Mark asked.

Javier moved his head up and down once. Turned. Then he’d gone outside into the unseasonably warm night and sat at one of the glass-topped tables by the heated pool.

Mark’s fucking a kid.

A kid who was younger than he had been when he’d first met Mark.

Javier didn’t think too much else. He’d been too stunned.

Mark had taken every bit of his ten minutes. He’d come out in his whiter than white robe and sat down at the table, sliding a short glass of something over to Javier—probably whisky. Javier had taken it, surprised to see his hand shaking, and took a sip.

The Macallan?

Was this good or bad?

“Do we need to discuss this, darling?” Mark had said then, and Javier had turned to look into his handsome face. Hair silver in the pool light, eyes shining blue—

(but not like hers!)

“Are….” Javier had to take a breath before he could finish. “Are you in love with him?”

Mark had laughed at that. His real laugh—the one that for some reason always reminded Javier of wind chimes—and not the fake one he used for bad jokes with clients or “important” members of gay society. “Christ, no!” Mark said.


Javier nodded. His mind was whirling now. What to say? Just pretend nothing had happened? No. “Is he my replacement?” Javier asked.

“For what?” Mark answered with a question.

“Are you done with me?” Javier said before he could stop himself, and he then held his breath.

“Oh!” Mark laughed again. “Not hardly, darling. He’s just a hustler. A pretty little bottom whore.”

“You were fucking him.” It had been a statement, not a question.

“Javy, I like to fuck boys.” Another statement.

“You don’t fuck me anymore.” It had almost been a cry, but somehow Javier had gained control of his emotions.

Mark took a drink from his own glass. “Ahhed” at its taste. Said, “You aren’t a boy anymore, Javy. You haven’t been in a long time. You weren’t really when we met.”

“Then why keep me around?”

“You had—have—other qualities.” Mark swirled his whisky in his glass. “My friends began to tease me. No. It was beyond teasing. Boys, they said, were all right to play with, but not to keep around. Then I met you. You were a little older than what I usually went for, but not too old. Enough that they tolerated you.”

The words stung a bit, even though they didn’t surprise Javier. He knew he was a trophy. It was just that the words had never been said out loud.

“Then you wound up having a head on your shoulders, could carry on a conversation. At first it amused them, then you began to impress them.” Mark laughed. “I will never forget when you recommended that stock to Jamison—which he ignored—and then it turned out to be good advice. He’d have made a shitload of money if he’d only listened. I certainly listen, don’t I?”

Javier paused. “Yes,” he said.

“After that, they started thinking differently about you. They even respected you. And they certainly didn’t expect us to last. Most of them can’t keep a lover for more than a year or two.”

“Why do you keep me?”

“Lots of reasons, Javy. There’s the fact that you were—still are—magnificent in bed. You’re beautiful. What’s more, rather than get all crazy on me for my lack of interest in the games you like to play—your leather and kinky games—and my lost interest in fucking you, you discreetly find playmates and don’t embarrass me. So we’re in the same boat. You find playmates for your tastes, and I do the same.”

Mark tossed back the end of his drink and said, “So I ask you, then, are you done with me?”

Like that, the shoe was on the other foot.

Could he be upset that Mark was having sex with other men? He had sex with others. Why not Mark? Wasn’t it the same thing? “No,” Javier said, hardly noticing he’d spoken aloud. It wasn’t the same thing.

“Oh good,” Mark said, misunderstanding Javier’s comment as an “all’s well.”

Javier didn’t correct him, though. What was he going to do? Leave? He couldn’t imagine it. Leaving this home, and everything that went with it? Going back to the way things had been before?

“Thank God, Javy. I was worried there you were going to get all Mildred Pierce with me. Throw a fit. Break things.”

“No breaking things,” Javier had somehow managed. “When have I ever caused a scene?”

“And thank Christ for that. Finding a new lover is worse than finding a new house or car. Javy, you know me. Know my likes and dislikes. You’re appropriate at all times.”

Appropriate.

“You look good at my side.”

I’m like his Audi R8, his Sean Scully.

“People may have thought you were nothing but a hustler at first, but you quickly dissuaded them of that notion. Which couldn’t have been more perfect. People make fun of gray and wrinkled men who keep the company of whores.”

Whores. I wouldn’t want to embarrass him. “You’re not wrinkled.”

Mark laughed that laugh again. The real one. Happy. “Not with the doctors I can afford.” He began to play with his empty glass, and Javier offered to refill him.

“Yes, that would be nice.”

“The Macallan?”

Mark’s face had lit up at that. “Ah. You see? That little hustler wouldn’t have known the difference between Laphroaig and some Berbiglia rotgut. You must stay.”

I know the difference between good and bad whisky. I know the whisky he likes is never spelled “whiskey.”

So he’d gone and refreshed Mark’s drink. Four ice cubes, three fingers. Just the way he liked it. While he was there, Javier quickly dug through the liquor cabinet and found the cheapest booze he could find—obviously something left at a party by one of Mark’s friend’s playthings—and took a huge swig. When he got back, he kissed Mark. He used lots of tongue.

Their eyes locked for a few seconds. Did Mark taste it? The cheap?

The cheap like me?


And so the next night Javier had set out to be inappropriate. Maybe even embarrassingly so.

Javier was afraid he’d have some major cruising to do. He’d had almost everyone worth having, and he wanted someone new. He didn’t even get any pleasure from the lust he saw in the eyes around him. At least not when the looks came from trolls and blimps. Fuck! Couldn’t they get a clue when they couldn’t even see their own dicks that it was time to go on a frickin’ diet?

Of course, Javier had to endure Gerald’s pawing. He was the owner of The Male Box, after all. But it wasn’t easy. The man was a blimp and a troll rolled into one.

To his pleasant surprise, Javier had found someone fast. Someone who wanted him, and Javier needed his ego stroked. He needed it bad. What’s more, the incredibly hot fucker seemed to be more into him than Javier was into the stranger. That was saying something, too, because Javier was really into the guy.

They went to the guy’s apartment and had sex. Crazy, but Javier had even offered to give up his ass bare, and what was that about? Being inappropriate? Punishment, maybe? Who was he punishing?

Mark?

Himself?

As soon as he’d cum, Javier was done. He wanted out. He didn’t bother to clean up, just scrambled into his designer jeans, his Michael Anthony boots, his Hollister T-shirt, and got the hell out. Ran while he was still high on the sex and before he could think about how he’d offered to bareback with a stranger.

Only when he bolted out of the elevator, he ran right into the creepy old lady from the night before. She was still wearing her red outfit.

Weird.

“You!” he said, and he suddenly remembered—only now!—that she had done something to him the night before. Hypnotized him, maybe (and wasn’t that just crazy?), made him leave the event that was sure to hand him the title of Mr. Kansas City Leather. He’d walked out of The Male Box with hardly a thought.

“You,” the old biddy whispered in a voice that reminded him of the ice pond he’d walked on when he was twelve. How the ice had cracked….

“You,” she repeated. “Javier, you could have hurt an old lady.”

For some reason goose flesh rushed up his arms. “I’m sorry,” he said.

“Didn’t I send you home to your man last night?”

Sure you did. Where I found him fucking a twink whore.

“And didn’t you learn anything?” she asked, and she actually shook her finger at him.

“Yeah!” he barked. “I learned something all right.”

“So now you’re turning around and making Mark pay? Is that it?”

Javier stiffened. “What?” Did she know? How could she…? “Who are you?”

“No! Who are you, Javier? Selling yourself to someone for a BMW? For a trip to Greece? To a man who doesn’t even love you?”

Javier backed away from the woman. Banged into the closed elevator doors. He glanced around, looking for a way out.

The little old woman snapped her fingers. “Eyes front, Javier.”

He jumped and their eyes locked. Those blue eyes. They were flashing like tiny thunderstorms. He couldn’t look away. He tried, but to no avail.

Bruja!

She laughed. “Witch? No, not that, but I am a force to be reckoned with. Call me a biddy? What other words do you use for people? Blimp? Twink? Troll? Have you forgotten? Forgotten your past? High school? What they called you? Gordo? Maricón? How did those words make you feel? How much did it hurt? So it’s okay, now that you’ve turned yourself into… into this?”

She stabbed at his chest with her finger, and he gasped at the force of it.

“Now it’s okay to treat people the way they treated you? That’s not the Golden Rule, Javier. It is ‘do unto others as you would have them do unto you’, and not ‘do unto others how they have done to you’! Have you forgotten who you were? Have you forgotten your dreams? Have you forgotten how you hurt?”

She was inches away from him now, and it was all he could do not to cry, not to wet himself.

Then it was like they were in another place. A huge field of snow, white below, gray above, cold—very cold—and windy.

Cold.

And her stormy eyes.

But then…?

Then they softened.

She smiled. The tiniest little smile.

“I think,” she said as softly as a breeze, “that it’s time you remembered.”

Simple Gifts by LB Gregg
"Jason? Everything okay?"

"Yeah. Fine. Quick question. Do you like astronomy?"

"What?" Robb closed the distance between us and I caught a whiff of spice, pine, and wool. He smelled like a lumberjack, not a soldier. He'd left his parka down in the bar, and his sweater sleeves were pushed to his elbows, his shirt collar lay open, and the sight of his pale Adam's apple had me biting my lip.
His finger brushed the back of my hand and I fumbled the key. Sick or nervous or not, the fleeting contact snapped across my skin like an electrical shock. His touch thrilled me.

"Jase?"

I stared at his fingertips, familiar yet strange, and the air between us shrank until I couldn't breathe to speak. Honestly, with a single stroke, he robbed me of thought.

I pulled away, but he said, "Hey. It's okay," in a disturbingly husky voice that I recalled too well. He took the key from my palm and I almost fell down the goddamn steps. I wanted to bolt -- living up to his expectations -- but he grabbed my borrowed shirt in his fist and my heart fluttered against his knuckles. His breath warmed my cheek. "Steady."

Mother. Fucker.

A smile hid inside the rough tones of his broken voice and the sound eased my troubled mind while stimulating other less troubled areas. I knew that voice. I'd heard it before -- in the dark of night, in the back seat, under the stars, in the boathouse, in his bedroom, behind the bleachers. And I'd hear him say steady again in the dark tonight, as I lay alone in my cold bed.

And, bang, I knew why he wanted to see me. He still wants me. He hasn't let go, either. He came to see me.

I would have stumbled a second time, but Robb had me. Jesus, he had me good. "You need to lay down."

I really, really did, but I could not for the life of me move to unlock my own front door.

"You good?"

"Yup. Fine." I squeaked and he let me go. Robb fit the key into the lock and I stifled a groan.
What the hell kind of drugs had they given me at that hospital? I swear I'm tripping.

The sound of my apartment door swinging free sobered me.

"No, wait! My cat--"

In a flash, Norm vanished into the stairwell, but that was the least of my worries.

"What the hell...?" Robb blocked the doorway. "Holy crow. Are those stars?"

I froze at the threshold of my home, not that Robb noticed. He wandered in, face tipped heavenward to better see the strange beauty of my apartment's contrived night sky. Above his head paper starlight shimmered down from a black-lit galaxy. Orion, Sagittarius, Ursa Major, Canis Minor, Scorpius, Gemini -- the constellations hung in painstaking precision, glowing on purple pinpricks, lighting the darkness.

Accurate and overly detailed, I'd crafted every star, made each scrap of paper and creased every fold. The project had taken years but, Voilà, origami universe.

Robb wandered, and the stars led him through the apartment, straight toward my bedroom as if they guided a wayward captain home after years at sea.

I shook that idiocy from my head and on leaden feet I trailed after my overnight guest. Hot blood colored my cheeks. "I know my apartment is a little odd."

"No." He turned to look at me and I banged into his chest. "Did you make all of these?"

"Well, yeah. Who else?"

"I swear, the sky looks exactly like this in the desert. Clear and wide and the stars go on forever. Only not as colorful, or so close." He tapped a tiny pointed star and it spun on a delicate silver thread. "This one was done in pieces, right? How the hell did you make them so small?"

"Practice." I left him marveling over my freakish masterpiece and flipped the bedroom light switch. There were a couple pair of jeans on the floor, and the simple maple bed lay unmade, but otherwise, a portion of the Milky Way flowed from my window, over the bed, and disappeared in the closet. Pretty much business as usual.

Robb followed me, nosing into my private life with ease. "Where did you learn to do this?"

"I thought you remembered everything?" I wouldn't bore him with a retelling, but the only real memory I had, before I became a ward of this fine state of Connecticut, was making my first paper crane when I was maybe four or five. We were in a bus station, my mother and I. We'd gone inside to keep warm and to pass the time, and she showed me how to crease those tricky paper folds. I could still see her blonde hair falling across my cold fingers as she worked. Make a wish, Jason baby.

Gaudete by Amy Rae Durreson
2013
IT WAS the scent of mulled wine and roasting chestnuts that finally drew Jonah out of the cathedral library. The smell wasn’t constant, of course, not in this climate-controlled environment, but every time the doors opened to let in another group of tourists, he caught a faint whiff of it, along with the sound of the choristers practicing, their young voices clear and sweet. This close to Christmas, their lives would be all music, from the moment the boarding bell rang to wake them for morning practice until evensong or the special services. He smiled a little at the memory, some combination of the sound and smell lifting his heart so that he felt ten years younger. It was a week until Christmas, and suddenly, out of nowhere, he was excited in a way he hadn’t been since he got old enough to be cynical.

Then the door opened again, bringing with it the tang of cinnamon and cloves, and he asked impulsively, “Where is that smell coming from?”

Janice, the archivist working with him, looked up with an amused smile. “It’s the Christmas market in the close. You must have walked past it on the way in.”

He’d been so lost in memories that he hadn’t really been paying attention to anything other than the cathedral itself. Shrugging, he asked, “Is it still going? I went to the first one.”

“From strength to strength,” she said, looking a little curious. “You a local boy, then?”

“Not really,” Jonah said, ducking his head down to adjust the scanner. Then he remembered this was one of the few places where it wouldn’t be seen as weird, and added, “I was a chorister.”

She nodded in recognition. “Jonah… Jonah Lennox, was it? You were Bishop’s Chorister—ten years ago?”

“About that.”

“It was the year I first started. Lovely voice, you had. Do you still sing?”

“Not properly,” he said, shrugging, and waved at the manuscripts of old music they were scanning in to be digitized. “I got into the history and traditions more, after my voice broke.”

“Our gain and music’s loss,” Janice said, and leaned back, rolling her shoulders out with a groan. “Ready for a lunch stop? My back’s killing me, and you’ve got me thinking about food now. Did they have a food court in the market in your day?”

“Just a couple of stalls. More the last few years, but it was never huge. They’ve become a bit more of a craze recently, I think.”

“Go and enjoy yourself, then,” she said. “Done your Christmas shopping yet?”

“It’s only the eighteenth,” he protested, and then added awkwardly, “I know, typical bloke.”

“Doesn’t matter how well educated you are,” she joked, wrapping the manuscript up with gentle hands.

After a morning in the dim, curtained alcove they were using to scan the manuscripts, even the shady main library made him blink. There was a small group of tourists in there, gathered around the cathedral’s prized copy of the Piae Cantiones, listening to a volunteer explain how Victorian carol writers had recycled the medieval tunes to create what were now seen as the “traditional” English Christmas carols.

“Are any of the original versions still sung?” someone asked.

“Some are certainly sung here in Latin, and some of the English lyrics are close in meaning. ‘Unto us is born a son’ is a direct translation. Others are very different—our ‘Good King Wenceslas’ is actually set to a springtime carol. The only one commonly still sung in Latin, which many of you will know, especially if you can remember the seventies, is ‘Gaudete’….”

“I always liked that one,” Jonah remarked to Janice as they headed down the ornate wooden stairs into the main cathedral.

“Me, I like ‘God Rest You Merry, Gentlemen.’ Nice and jolly.”

“So’s ‘Gaudete,’ if you speak Latin.”

She laughed at him and paused before they left the transept. “I need to drop some paperwork off. Meet you back in the library at one?”

“I’ll see you then,” Jonah agreed, and headed along the nave. The choir was still rehearsing, and he breathed in softly and let the singing flow through him, tracing every rise and fall of the music, following each intricate, intertwining line, and smiling with rueful sympathy when somebody’s high note wobbled slightly. None of the wandering tourists had noticed, but he knew, and the singer would too.

As the singing stopped, the intercoms crackled, and the duty preacher announced the hour and asked for quiet for a prayer. Jonah sat down, hooking his hands over his knees, and looked up at the soaring columns of Purbeck marble that supported the vaulted roof, and the thin pointed arches of the windows where the light fell through in sweeps of color to illuminate the polished floors. He had put his faith aside, with other childish things, but that didn’t mean he couldn’t appreciate the beautiful things men had made to glorify God.

When he finally stepped out into the cathedral close, the cold and the noise took his breath away. He pulled his scarf higher and pushed his glasses up his nose to stare at the spectacle before him. The ice rink installed on the cathedral green was the same, but there had only been twenty temporary chalets put up for the market in 2002, the last time he’d been here. Now there were a good two hundred, in aisles around the edge of the green and along the close, all bedecked in plastic greenery and strings of lights. Christmas music was playing cheerfully and the crowd seemed to be growing by the minute, everyone wrapped warmly as they shuffled from stand to stand. Even from here, he could see ten varieties of Christmas ornaments, three types of handmade jewelry, four soap stalls, six canework reindeer, two Gluhwein stands, and, quite possibly, a partridge in a pear tree. Determinedly quirky hand-painted signs directed him to the food court and the local craft market.

He couldn’t see the roast chestnuts, but he could smell them, and he kept scanning the crowd hopefully, that sweet, elusive sense of Christmas past settling into his heart. It was only after a moment that he realized who he was looking for. Christmas meant carols, the cathedral, and Callum.

Which was really rather silly, after eleven years away.

Callum had only come here to help out his mum, after all, and even if he was still hanging around, they’d both grown up, and there was no reason he’d even remember Jonah. The only reason he’d come to mind was because Jonah was back here in Aylminster, and Callum had been so important to Christmas here when they were kids. He probably wouldn’t find Callum himself, but maybe Callum’s mum was still selling chestnuts and he could persuade her to tell him Callum’s surname (which hadn’t mattered in the least when they were ten, but was a rather vital bit of information now), and Jonah could look him up on Facebook just to satisfy his own curiosity.

With that in mind, he plunged into the crowd, tucking his elbows in and murmuring apologies every time he jostled someone. It was a bright, cold day, and everyone was wrapped up in heavy coats and hefting bags of shopping. He had to slow down to the speed of the crowd, which was easier said than done when he was a good few inches taller than most of them and kept stumbling over his own feet trying to keep his strides short.

The smell of food was getting stronger, and he could hear the sizzle of sausages even above the contented hum of the crowd. Then, inevitably, everyone seemed to surge back toward him, and he almost fell over a waist-high wooden duck. He dodged it but stumbled into the path of a town crier in full Victorian costume (Dear Lord, why?), lunged back out of the way, almost drop-kicking a stray toddler, and then finally lost his balance just in time to go crashing down toward a rack of fresh, glossy, and horribly overpriced mistletoe.

Someone caught him, firm hands warm on his arms, and a kind voice said, “Steady on, mate. Alright there?”

“Yes, er, thank you,” Jonah managed, feeling his cheeks go scarlet. “Sorry.” He looked up, but the words dried up in his throat and he could only blush more. His rescuer was exactly the sort of gorgeous Jonah never had the courage to approach: laughing brown eyes and dark curls pulled back into a ponytail, and was that actually a rainbow-striped plug in his earlobe? It certainly looked like one, and even Jonah’s crappy gaydar couldn’t misread that, unless it was just a statement of solidarity or a fashion statement, or maybe this was just a chap who liked rainbows, and oh God, he really, really needed to stop staring now.

But Mr. Gorgeous was staring back, his eyes wide and a little amazed. Just as Jonah was starting to wonder why, he said, that warm voice suddenly uncertain, “Joe? Jonah? Is that you?”

Jonah gaped at him. Now that he could see past the initial rush of attraction, the guy did look familiar. It was in the brightness of his smile and the way he hunched his left shoulder in uncertainty. If you trimmed his hair down to an even inch and stripped off a foot of height and ten years of age….

The way the corners of his mouth turned down in disappointment sealed it. “Dude, I’m sorry. I thought you were an old friend….”

“Callum,” Jonah breathed, and smiled.





Author Bios:
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!"

Annabelle Jacobs
Annabelle Jacobs lives in the South West of England with her husband, three rowdy children, and two cats.

An avid reader of fantasy herself for many years, Annabelle now spends her days writing her own stories. They're usually either fantasy or paranormal fiction, because she loves building worlds filled with magical creatures, and creating stories full of action and adventure. Her characters may have a tough time of it—fighting enemies and adversity—but they always find love in the end.

LB Gregg
LB Gregg (Lisabea) writes fun, fast-paced contemporary male/male romances for a variety of publishers including Riptide, Samhain, and Carina Press. Her wildly successful Men of Smithfield books feature hot, hunky men looking for love in small town New England.

Amy Rae Durreson
Amy Rae Durreson is a writer and romantic, who writes m/m romances. She likes to go wandering across the local hills with a camera, hunting for settings for her stories. She's got a degree in early English literature, which she blames for her somewhat medieval approach to spelling, and at various times has been fluent in Latin, Old English, Ancient Greek, and Old Icelandic, though please don't ask her to speak any of them now.

Amy started her first novel nineteen years ago (it featured a warrior princess, magic swords, elves and an evil maths teacher) and has been scribbling away ever since. Despite these long years of experience, she has yet to master the arcane art of the semi-colon.

Devyn Morgan
Devyn Morgan is a contemporary man with a love of contemporary romance! He grew up in several different states due to his parents' careers, which instilled in him a love of travel and seeing new places. After finishing college, he traveled around the globe for two years in search of romance, experiences, and adventures. In that time, he came up with more story ideas than he could ever use, so he started to write gay fiction.

He currently lives in the eastern US with his partner and a dog, but he still considers himself a free spirit.


BG Thomas
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Annabelle Jacobs
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LB Gregg
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Amy Rae Durreson
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Devyn Morgan
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Christmas Cole
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A Christmas Kiss
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Simple Gifts
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Gaudete
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All the Way Home
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Free Today Only: Paladine by Kenneth Eade

Title: Paladine
Author: Kenneth Eade
Series: Paladine #1
Genre: Thriller
Release Date: September 18, 2016

***Free Today Only***


Summary:
Meet terrorism's worst enemy

From the best-selling & award winning author critics hail as "one of the strongest thriller writers on our scene" comes an unforgettable story of an unlikely "anti-hero."

Robert Garcia was an unremarkable man, tapped out of a promising military career to become a death squad assassin for the CIA. Retirement was not in the cards for Robert, so he disappeared instead. After he comes out of the cold to answer the call to aid a fellow soldier facing a bum rap, he is thrust back into the spotlight when he is in the wrong place at the wrong time and kills a terrorist, thereby saving dozens of lives. He finds gainful employment in the slaughter of jihadists, which sparks an urban social media legend that Robert, a dangerous and unfeeling assassin, is a living paladin, whose mission is to rid the earth of evil for the betterment of mankind. Social media gives him the name: "Paladine" and God help whoever gets between him and his next target.

2016 quarter-finalist in Publisher's Weekly's Book Prize in Fiction


The apartment obviously belonged to a bachelor, but it was neat and orderly, like a military man’s freshly made bed. The cushions on the couch were soft and comfortable and the Colonial style furniture practical and functional, rustic but not antique. The décor was earth tone and neutral, and the walls were peppered with tasteful framed prints, replicas of art that said nothing about the occupant. They were just hanging there so the walls would not be bare. There were no framed family photos on the tables, no stacks of well-worn books and no magazines. It was almost as if nobody lived there.

Robert Garcia was an unremarkable man. Other men, the exceptional types, could never be forgotten. Men of striking, imposing persuasion, or those with a certain superior intellect or cleverness. Robert held none of those attributes but, if you had the misfortune to have him touch your life in any way, and were fortuitous enough to live after the experience, he would be indelibly etched in your memory.

Robert’s characteristics were fine-drawn, precise. He could drift in on the night air with only a whisper of the wind, and then disappear into the shadows, the only place where he ever felt secure and content. At five-foot-eleven, dark-haired with a touch of grey around the edges, he was a chameleon that blended in with most crowds. But under the ordinary clothing he wore he had the body of a herculean powerhouse, chiseled and ripped. Née John Richards, Jr. to an American military career man who had taken a Lebanese wife, since Robert had been old enough to walk, he had marched in the footsteps of his father. When his country came calling, John Richards, Jr. proudly answered that call and served with pride as his father’s son, the nephew of his Great Uncle Sam. There was never any question of it. Working up the ranks the hard way, he made Captain, and it wasn’t long before his special traits and abilities landed him his first secret assignment, along with his first alias – Malik Abdul.

Malik was a name that had fit Robert well. He never did look or behave like a John Richards. That was a name his Anglo Father, John Richards, Sr., had insisted on giving the child and his mother dutifully went along with it. Eventually, it was adept profiling that helped Malik recognize his destiny. His swarthy skin and his second language – Arabic – made Malik a valuable asset to his country. Beyond his language prowess and physical attributes, Malik possessed a unique set of special skills, forged by intensive training and honed to perfection with experience. Malik and his band of assassins were utilized only in the most extreme of circumstances – covert operations for well-known agencies who called themselves by three letter acronyms – and the unknown ones as well.

Malik had tried to retire, tried his hand at transforming his life into the “normal” one of Robert Garcia, and had dutifully taken the number 4 train Monday through Friday, from his little brownstone in El Barrio to Two Penn Plaza, where he worked as a janitor. But Malik’s past had beckoned. It was a call he could not resist. He had come out into the open to support a fellow soldier who had been given a bum rap. About the only thing Malik had left which resembled a conscience was the soldier’s creed. He had no morals, no principles, except for those, which were burned into his hardwiring like a brand on a cow: The mission comes first; never accept defeat; never quit; and never leave a fallen comrade.

The comrade was Captain Ryan Bennington, an officer serving in the war against the insurgency in Iraq who had been sent on a mission by his superiors with instructions to breech four houses in an Iraqi village that intelligence had confirmed were being run by Al-Qaeda terrorists and kill any one of them who did not actively surrender. It was a mission the likes of which Malik – Robert – knew well, as he had been on many of them, committing unspeakable acts in the name of the War on Terror during the insurgency. Now the accused officer was being court-martialed and could face life in prison for simply doing his duty.

Robert had come back from the court-martial trial on the coast a ball of nerves, constantly looking over his shoulder. Now that the record had been set straight, Robert’s life was in a state of distress and disquietude. He couldn’t resume his job as a custodian. They could be watching for him there.  He couldn’t return to the woman he had been seeing regularly, and who had given him hope that he actually could rejoin society after all that he had seen and done, and he couldn’t go back to the little apartment in the quaint brownstone on 118th Street, between 2nd and 3rd Avenues in Spanish Harlem that he had called home for the past five years. Well, he had to come back here – for only one last time, he thought, as he shut the door behind him.

*****

Now that Robert had exposed himself and his new identity to set the record straight it was, once again, time to slip back into the shadows. Without a glimpse of emotion, he had left everything behind in the top floor of that little brownstone that had been collected by Robert Garcia over the years –the furniture, the clothing, the little knick-knacks reminiscent of the life he had simulated. He also left something in the apartment that had never been there before, a product of his life’s work – something that he had not produced for the past five years – the body of a dead man, five-foot eleven, olive-skinned and dark-haired. He took one last look at the life of Robert Garcia as he threw the match on the floor and then slipped away.




Come visit ManyBooks.net and see the latest interview
with this incredible author of spine chilling thriller as he is
honored with as the "Featured Author of the Day".

Author Bio:
Described by critics as "one of our strongest thriller writers on the scene," author Kenneth Eade, best known for his legal and political thrillers, practiced law for 30 years before publishing his first novel, "An Involuntary Spy." Eade, an up-and-coming author in the legal thriller and courtroom drama genre, has been described by critics as "One of our strongest thriller writers on the scene and the fact that he draws his stories from the contemporary philosophical landscape is very much to his credit." He is the author of the "Brent Marks Legal Thriller Series", the fifth installment of which, Killer.com, won best legal thriller in the 2015 Beverly Hills Book Awards, and the "Involuntary Spy Espionage Series".

Said Eade of the comparisons, "Readers compare me in style to John Grisham and, there are some similarities, because John also likes to craft a story around real topics and we are both lawyers. However, all of my novels are rooted in reality, not fantasy. I use fictional characters and situations to express factual and conceptual issues. Some use the term 'faction' to describe this style, and it is present in all my fictional works."

Eade has written twelve novels, which are now in the process of being translated into six languages. He is known to keep in touch with his readers, and offers a free Kindle book to all those who sign up at his website.


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