Thursday, November 23, 2017

Tales of Turkey Day 2017


A Midnight Thanksgiving by Trina Solet
Summary:
Alex and Vaughn have been frenemies for a while, but they never spent any time alone together. That all changes on Thanksgiving night. When they become concerned about a friend in crisis, Alex and Vaughn are thrown together as they go in search of him.

The guys make an unlikely team. Alex thinks Vaughn is too uptight and would never be interested in a carefree guy like him. Vaughn thinks Alex is irresponsible, but being around him breaks down his resistance. The more time they spend together, the closer they get. By the end of the night, they can't keep their hands off each other. But will they admit how they really feel or will it all be over when their mission ends?


A Midnight Thanksgiving is not the first Trina Solet story I've read but I don't think it was as good as A Pizza for Thanksgiving or A Christmas Boyfriend but it still was an enjoyable read that I was glad I gave a chance.  Alex and Vaughn may not exactly like each other but they put that aside to search for a missing friend on Thanksgiving and in doing so they realize that perhaps they find more than just tolerable company in each other.  As I said, A Midnight Thanksgiving is not a great story but I'm glad I read it and it still touches you and warms the heart all while entertaining which makes it all worth it in my opinion.

RATING: 

Sweet and Sour by Astrid Amara
Summary:
Miles Piekus thought he and Itai would make a great team, despite the infidelities haunting their past. After all, Itai is smoking hot, they’re both driven entrepreneurs, and they love each other. What else did a person need?

Well, a lot more, apparently, because not only are they no longer passionate, they don’t even share the same passions. Like people, affections change, and Miles wonders if a relationship this broken is truly worth repairing.

Itai’s business launch with his ex-boyfriend isn’t helping. And Miles himself has a new business to grow over a busy few weeks where Thanksgiving and Hanukkah collide to form either the best holiday season ever, or a kosher caterer’s worst nightmare.

But help comes in the unexpected, ruggedly handsome form of Detective Dominic Delbene, a pickle aficionado with his own ghosts, who stakes out the deli to capture a dangerous drug dealer. As Hanukkah’s eight days come to an end, Miles discovers that Nic is not only good with pickling; he’s good at everything.

Hannah's Big Night by Mary Calmes
Summary:
Matter of Time #8.5
A Jory and Sam Thanksgiving Ficlet.

Click Here for Saturday Series Spotlight: A Matter of Time
1st Re-Read Review 2016:
Another one I originally read August 2015 & forgot to mark it here. I re-read it again and I love Hannah & Kola nearly as much as the dads, Sam & Jory. You can definitely see Hannah takes after Jory and Kola is more like Sam.  A little adventure of Thanksgiving as only Jory, Sam, and their kids could find before them.

RATING: 


Pulling his Wishbone by Julian Clearwater
Summary:
It’s Thanksgiving, and Riley wants to pull Dustin’s wishbone! 

A highly successful real estate developer, Dustin returns to his gritty steel hometown to purchase and close the failing mill and make another fortune by selling off the land. 

Once he arrives, “Dusty” isn’t prepared for what he finds. 

Overwhelmed by a wave of nostalgia, he ends up hosting a Thanksgiving feast for the entire town. He also doesn’t count on falling in love – with his former football teammate, Riley Dunn, aka “Wishbone”. A shared bottle of whiskey is all it takes for Dusty to shed his inhibitions and give in to his carnal desires, which Riley expertly satisfies. 

Caught between exploring the feelings he has for his best friend and the money he stands to gain by destroying the town’s livelihood, Dustin must make a choice that could ruin his chances of happiness forever. 

Two bonus gay romance stories included.

Cold Turkey by Hayden Hunt
Summary:
I thought I could quit him cold-turkey. 

All I wanted was to come home and have an enjoyable Thanksgiving with my parents. But I should have known that wasn't going to happen. We've always had a rocky relationship, we're not close by any means.

I was much closer to my best friend's family. Ethan lived across the street from me growing up and we were always incredibly close. His house was a second home to me. So when he saw me outside of my parent's house, he offered to let me spend Thanksgiving with them.

Which would be great, if I wasn't trying to hide the fact that I'm still madly in love with him.

I never thought I'd see him again.

I was elated when I saw Daniel sitting outside of his parent's old house. When he went away after High School, I was convinced he'd never come back to this town. I have missed him ever since he left...

So when he agreed to spend Thanksgiving with my family, I couldn't be happier. And finally, I think I might have the courage to tell him how I really feel. I was a coward when we were younger, when I was still trying to figure myself out, but things are different now. At least, I hope everything will be different now.

Because I still really, really want him.

This standalone novel comes complete with HEA ending and bonus material from two of my other books!


When I was searching for stories centered around Thanksgiving I was coming up short but then I came across Hayden Hunt's Cold Turkey and thought this sounds interesting.  Was it great? No. Was it good? Yes.  Was it worth my time to read it? Definitely!  I have an amazing relationship with my parents so when I find a story where one of the characters has just the opposite, it breaks my heart for them but it also reminds me how blessed I am.  That feeling alone made this a perfect story for Thanksgiving.  Did it feel rushed at times? Perhaps but when the bulk of the story happens over a four day weekend some elements have to happen quickly but Hayden Hunt does it in a way that makes it believable, fun(okay fun might not be the best word but its what I got), and Cold Turkey definitely was entertaining that touches the heart.  A perfect Thanksgiving story that will warm the heart any time of year.

RATING: 


Sweet and Sour by Astrid Amara
“It’s a disgrace, what you’ve done to this pickle!”

Mr. Frank Elder, a loyal customer of Piekus Pickles for over fifteen years, brandished a sad pickle aloft, as if its very appearance were something so appalling everyone in the establishment would gasp in horror.

As it was, Miles Piekus, owner of Piekus Pickles and the one being verbally accosted, wiped the spatters of pickling liquid from his face and affixed an apologetic smile upon his face.

“I’m sorry, Mr. Elder. Can I get you another one?”

“You try it!” Mr. Elder cried, shoving the offensive vegetable in Miles’s face.

Miles took the small green pickle and bit off the end. It tasted crunchy, garlicky, and tart, just like a pickle should taste.

“It’s very sour!” Mr. Elder complained, and Miles understood the problem.

“This is a full-sour pickle. You usually buy half-sours.” Half-sours were brined in salt and spices only. This pickle had been brined in vinegar and for a longer time. Miles wondered if the old guy had finally lost his sense of smell. “See how dark it is? Half-sours are a lighter green.”

Mr. Elder scratched his temple. “But I thought I got my usual…”

“Did you select pickles from that first barrel by the window?” Miles pointed to one of six large wood barrels lining the wall of the deli. “Because I moved the barrels around when I renovated, and I bet you selected full-sours instead of your regular.”

“Even if that was the case, your mother would have caught the mistake before ringing me up.”

That was likely true and not the first time Miles had heard the complaint. He’d inherited his family’s store when his parents retired and moved to Arizona three months ago, and the transition embittered many of the older, traditional client base that found Miles’s youth and enthusiasm off-putting.

“I’m sorry,” Miles repeated, his smile firmly attached. “Let’s get you half a dozen half-sours on the house.”

“You don’t have to go that far—”

“I insist. You’re right. I should have caught the mistake, and I’ll make sure it doesn’t happen again.” Miles gathered a jar and used the tongs in the half-sour barrel to fish out half a dozen small cukes from the brine. He sealed the lid and moved quickly to the cash register to ring up the sale. As he did so, the bells over the front door jingled and two couples hurried in from the rain, talking loudly. Miles smiled at them, then stole a glance back to the closed door behind him. The door opened to a narrow flight of stairs that connected to the second floor of the building, where Miles’s boyfriend currently sat, ostensibly not helping with the business.

Miles sighed.

He handed the jar to Mr. Elder and made a note for his Regular Clients board hidden behind the counter about the man’s tastes.

“Thank you, Miles,” Mr. Elder said in a complaining voice. “I’ll give you one more chance.”

“I’m so relieved.” Miles waved him good-bye, annoyed but also grateful that when he called his mother that night to give her the daily update, he didn’t have to admit losing an old customer.

He’d already lost others. When he took over the store, he’d gotten a loan and renovated what had been a simple kosher pickle storefront into a full-scale deli offering freshly made, exotic, ethnic pickles from all over the world as well as a selection of soups and sandwiches. The traditionalists disliked seeing kimchi and tamarind chutney lining the counters alongside their kosher dills, despite Miles’s staunch adherence to the rules of kashrut.

So some previously loyal customers had not returned. But of course there were new clients, and the store’s location in the center of Northwest Market Street, the heart of the Ballard neighborhood in Seattle, made it a quick and popular lunch venue for the businesses in the area. His sales grew weekly as word spread. He’d done little advertising, yet every lunch crowd surpassed the last. And he’d had a rush that morning on his warmly spiced cranberry chutney that he’d advertised in the window for Thanksgiving.

The store had one staff member, a sweet woman named Chloe who cleaned, ran the register, and made coffees while he cooked and made the sandwiches.

But she went on maternity leave shortly after Miles took over. He assured her she could keep her position and that he’d rely on Itai for the extra help. After all, that had been the plan. Itai was supposed to be working with him.

It was a flawed plan, he now realized, as he tried to do the job of three employees all by himself.

Miles sold the last of his chutney to one of the couples that came in, and had to quickly make four sandwiches to go before helping another older customer with her order. When they all left, he was alone in the deli for the first time since opening at eight that morning, and he realized he really should start prepping another batch of the chutney before the lunch rush. But he’d been on his feet all morning, and the temptation of his stool called to him. After years of office work it was a difficult transition to standing twelve hours every day.

Miles’s boyfriend, Itai, had purchased him fatigue mats for behind the counter and in the kitchen, but they only provided so much relief.

Thinking of Itai, Miles glanced behind him again to the door that led to the staircase connecting the ground-floor store to the upstairs living area.

His parents had purchased the old two-story brick building in 1980 from a bankrupt manufacturing company. The storefront offered an airy space with wide windows overlooking busy Market Street, a deep walk-in refrigerator, and a large commercial kitchen. Upstairs, they’d converted the open space into a quaint three-bedroom apartment where Miles and his brother, Dan, grew up, steeping in the smells of vinegar and pickling spices.

Now that Miles had inherited the apartment above, he’d spent his meager savings from years in accounts payable. He’d renovated his living space and taken out a line of credit to complete the remodels in the store.

Itai had thought it stupid. Ballard was a Scandinavian neighborhood, not known for any impressive percentage of Seattle’s Jewish population, and a poor choice for a kosher deli. But opening in a new spot would have cost a great deal more. Besides, the old brick two-story was the only home Miles remembered.

“Itai?” Miles called loudly. He wasn’t surprised to get no answer. It was Tuesday, and Itai had online conference calls every Tuesday with the venture capitalists that had funded his startup. He rarely left the home office, let alone visited the store itself.

As Miles cleaned the counter, he allowed himself a few moments of self-pity. The plan had been that Itai would sell his share of Fantastic App Engine, the startup he’d founded with an ex-boyfriend, and join Miles full-time in the deli. Miles would teach him the family recipes, as well as the basics of ringing in customers, making the sandwiches, and doing the books at the end of the day.

But as the sale of Fantastic loomed, Itai seemed to further remove himself from their original plans. It was harder to find time to get Itai into the store at all, let alone hold him there long enough for training.

The lunch rush started early that Tuesday, and by ten thirty a line stretched from the counter to the door. The five tables were full. The phone kept ringing. Last-minute advance orders for cranberry chutney stacked up, and he made a mental note to quadruple the usual batch for tomorrow. But would he even be able to find enough fresh cranberries the day before Thanksgiving? He made another mental note to call the produce guy right after lunch.

By one o’clock he’d run out of the daily soup and switched it out for the kosher cauliflower tahini bisque he’d planned on serving the following day. Most customers took their lunches to go, but a few stayed behind and waited impatiently for a free table. He wondered absentmindedly, as he wrote down yet another complex sandwich order, if he removed the pickle barrels from the front entirely, whether a bar along the window could be installed to allow people to sit and look out onto the street as they ate their lunch. It was worth measuring to see how many folks could sit down—although the thought of removing all the barrels made him cringe. The remaining old-school customers would have a hissy fit if they couldn’t pick out their pickles themselves.

He’d already moved some of the lesser-selling pickle barrels behind the counter, so when the next customer ordered a sweet-and-spicy to accompany her sandwich, he had to pull on a glove and reach into the oak barrel to grab one. He shook off the excess liquid and turned to the counter.

“That’s a big pickle you got there,” said the burly-looking man next in line.

Miles realized he was holding the cucumber at crotch level, pointed toward the customer like a ludicrous green erection. He quickly dropped it onto the waiting plate, feeling his face turn red. “Can I help you?”

The man’s dark hair was a lot like Itai’s: thick, black, and cut short to keep it under control. But unlike Itai, who tended to his hair with an army of products to keep it slicked and styled, this man clearly didn’t care about his. It was tousled and wild, and Miles realized he liked the look better. He wondered if he could get Itai to forgo the gel.

“Am I speaking to the owner?” the man asked. He studied the deli wares in the cold case of the counter, his dark, arching eyebrows coming together with an expression like he was examining a virus in a microscope.

Miles generally tried to avoid people who asked for the owner, since they typically wanted to either complain or to sell him something.

“Yes,” Miles said.

The customer made eye contact briefly before glancing down to take in Miles’s body. At once Miles’s insides heated. It was pitiful how a simple look was such a trigger for him. God help the innocent man who just admired Miles’s belt buckle. He reminded himself that not every glance at his body was laden with innuendo.

Whatever the guy was selling, Miles knew he must earn a great commission.

“I came here a few years ago,” the man stated, “and it was just a pickle place. So now you offer a full menu?”

“Mostly sandwiches and soups, but yes, I’ve expanded my parents’ business into a deli and catering service. Would you like to sample something? All ingredients are organic, and I make an effort to seek out sustainable local businesses for my cheeses and breads.”

“No meat?” The man frowned at the deli case.

“No, we’re strictly kosher, so this is a dairy-only facility. But I do have fish and can recommend some great relishes, cheeses, and sauces to go with any meat dishes you might prepare at home.”

The man flashed him a quick, crooked smile, then glanced back down at the deli counter. He scanned the rest of the wares quickly before moving to the barrels. He looked everywhere: the back of the counter, down the corridor that led to the walk-in and kitchen and bathroom, the small seating area to the right of the entrance.

If he didn’t keep glancing back at Miles and offering a devilish smile, Miles would have suspected that he was casing the joint. As it was, he finished his inspection of the food offerings and the walls, floors, and equipment it was all housed in, and returned to the counter.

Really, Miles thought, what is this guy selling? Fire suppression systems? Advertising?

“I’ll take two pickled eggs, two fire-and-ice pickles, and a cup of hot lime relish.”

Miles packed up the man’s order. As he did so, the customer continued to examine the deli, and Miles wondered if the man had anything to do with the call he’d gotten last month from a realtor looking to buy out the old building to knock it down and put a larger office complex in its place. Real estate in Ballard had burgeoned in the last decade, and offers came in regularly for the brick two-story.

But the man didn’t mention his inspection as he collected his paper bag of goods. “May I also get a half-sour?” he asked.

“Sure. Help yourself from the marked barrel along the wall. Do you want a bag for it?”

“Nah, I’ll eat it now.”

“That’s $13 total.”

The man handed Miles fifteen dollars. “Keep the change.”

“Thanks.” Miles put the change into his tip jar. He always felt a little guilty having a tip jar with Chloe on maternity leave, since he owned the store and it seemed ridiculous to tip himself. On the other hand, a lot of customers had asked for it when he installed the espresso machine, since they were used to tipping baristas. Now it became a convenient place to throw the change customers didn’t claim.

“I like the changes you’ve made,” the man told him.

“Thanks.” Miles smiled. “It’s been a lot of work, but I’m happy with it.”

“My parents owned a deli when I was a kid, and this reminds me a lot of their place.”

“Oh?” Miles cursed silently as another four customers came in, all wearing suits. More from the brokerage next door. “It was in Seattle?”

“No, in Portland.” The man seemed to notice the customers behind him and smiled. “Well, thanks. Good luck with the business.”

“Come back soon,” Miles said. What demanding parting words. He shook his head to clear his embarrassment and took the orders of the four men.

As he prepared their sandwiches, he noticed the handsome customer hadn’t left. At first Miles assumed he was waiting for a table, but when one cleared, he didn’t claim it. He was examining the pickling barrels closely. At last he selected his half-sour. Miles watched as the man licked the sides of the pickle with excessive enjoyment before sticking the thing in his mouth and biting it in half.

He chewed and then stuck the rest fully into his mouth, his lips stretching around the wide, thick shape. Its pornographic connotations undoubtedly brought an embarrassing flush to Miles’s face, judging by the way his skin heated.

How much could that man fit in his mouth?

“What are you thinking about?”

Miles spun around at Itai’s voice. “What? Nothing. What are you doing here?” he asked, flustered. He’d been so focused on the customer he hadn’t even heard the upstairs door open.

Itai smirked knowingly. He knew Miles too well—knew that flush on his neck only came when he was thinking something perverted.

“I thought you wanted me to train today.” Itai moved toward the espresso machine and started up a drink for himself. He looked tired but still was attractive enough to take Miles’s breath away. He was more than just ruggedly handsome; he was gorgeous. Miles had always considered someone that good-looking out of his league, but here he was, living with him, planning a future with him.

Itai was tall for an Israeli, a little over six feet. His dark black hair was brushed away from his face to highlight his warm brown eyes and broad lips. He had high cheekbones and a perpetual five o’clock shadow that lent him an air of dangerousness.

And despite the fact that he worked at home and didn’t need to dress for the office, he always appeared stylish, even when he was sporting sweatpants. The designer brand complemented his long, muscular legs and perfectly contrasted with the charcoal-colored T-shirt he wore over his gym-toned frame.

“It’s kind of late now,” Miles whined.

“Hey, I have a job, you know,” Itai countered.

“I know.”

“I had my conference calls, and then Travis couldn’t figure out why the code was acting wonky on Mozilla browsers, so I had to help him sort it out.”

Miles had learned over a year ago not to flinch or frown whenever Itai’s business partner and ex-boyfriend was mentioned, but it still inevitably caused a stab of jealousy when he heard Travis’s name.

“He always needs help,” Miles complained. “He must be a sucky programmer.”

“No he’s not,” Itai countered, right on cue. If there was anything guaranteed with Itai, it was his defensiveness about Travis. “He’s awesome, but he’s exhausted with the launch so he doesn’t have time to problem solve.”

“And you have time?” Miles asked. “You’re as busy as he is.”

Itai blinked at him.

“What?” Miles hated that chastising stare Itai gave him.

“Honey, don’t be petty. It isn’t attractive to me,” Itai said. The words stung, but Itai lessened it with a quick kiss on the cheek. “I’m going upstairs again.”

“Wait, I thought you wanted to train!”

“You said it was too late.”

“Yeah.” Miles wiped a mess off the counter. “But I could use some help cleaning up.”

“Sorry. If you don’t absolutely need me, then I better get back to my wireframe.”

Miles scowled and scrubbed at the counter, listening for the door to shut behind him.

Shit.

Handled inelegantly, like all their interactions these days. It seemed everything Itai did pissed Miles off. And everything Miles asked for was terribly inconvenient to Itai. Maybe it was just that stage in their relationship.

They’d dated for a year, broke up, and were now on month eleven of their second attempt at domesticity. This time round Miles had set several rules, including the one about moving in together. At the time, Itai had agreed to them all. He loved Miles, he’d said, and would do anything to have him back.

But now Miles wondered if they weren’t both stagnating in the forced twenty-four-hour companionship, in a way that made him yearn for more and cause Itai to pull away. He couldn’t remember the last time the two of them had gone out on a date night. Or seen a movie at the theater, or gone to a restaurant instead of simply eating leftovers.

In fact, now that he thought about it, he felt like the only times they didn’t argue were when they discussed completely neutral, pedestrian topics like the laundry or the Seattle Sounders.

At some point in the last year they’d moved from dating to being married, he realized, and without any of the fun stuff that came before it.

The lunch crowd trickled out of the deli, and the line shrank, and no customers came in for the last fifteen minutes before three, so he was able to get most of his cleaning tasks done before turning the sign off, locking the front door, and pulling down the blinds.

Miles made himself a sandwich and did the books and his change order before inventory. He then wrote out his shopping list for the following day.

He spent an hour and a half shopping and making his deposit. When he returned, he headed straight to the kitchen. Of course, the cranberry chutney was first on his list. He’d marketed it for Thanksgiving, but this was an interesting year since Thanksgiving and Hanukkah coincided, and he’d sold a lot for those holiday dinners as well.

He also daily restocked his bread-and-butter pickles. He set about scrubbing cucumbers clean, slicing them, and laying them in large platters with layers of salt between them to sit overnight.

He took out those he’d salted the day before and moved them into the kitchen to start the pickling process. For him, it was repetitive but had a meditative quality he appreciated. He’d been making pickles with his mother since he was eight years old, and he knew the recipes and techniques by heart.

The only challenges came from the newer, expanded selection, but he cherished those culinary ventures. His last batch of pickled grapes with cinnamon and pepper had been left in the white-wine vinegar for too long, so he’d ditched them and started over again.

He then chopped soup fixings. He stirred sauces. He added ingredients to his weekly delivery list. By the time he was done in the kitchen, it was nearly seven o’clock. His feet ached, and he wanted nothing more than a shower, a beer, and a night sprawled on the couch in front of the television.

The moment he finally made his way upstairs and opened the second-floor door, Itai called out, “What are we doing for dinner? Are you cooking?”

Miles suppressed his annoyance. It was only a question. “I’m beat. Let’s order in.”

“Okay. Thai food?”

“Sure.” Miles kicked off his shoes and made his way across the weathered gray carpet to the bathroom. He’d wanted to replace the old flooring but it had been too expensive, so he was stuck with it until he started making real revenue from the store.

The bathroom was old as well and had blue linoleum tiles on the counter and cheap plywood doors on the cupboards. But the shower was hot, the water pressure was good, and that was all that mattered at the end of the day. He could enter their home in Architectural Digest someday in the future.

He stepped out of the shower and shaved at the counter naked. There’d been plenty of times in the past that Itai had come in during Miles’s shaving routine and things had gotten quickly amorous. But that hadn’t happened in months now. Miles was stuck with only his reflection for companionship. He’d lost weight in the months since opening the deli, undoubtedly an effect of stress. His brown hair was growing shaggy around his ears and was in desperate need of a cut, but that would have to wait a few weeks, at least until after Hanukkah. To his horror, he discovered the gray patch that had formed at his temples was increasing, not magically converting back to brown. And his hazel eyes were beginning to make him look older, with dark shadows under them from all the late nights working in the kitchen.

It turned out opening one’s own business did not improve one’s physique.

He threw on a pair of sweats and an old shirt, poured himself a beer, and cranked on the television. A few minutes later there was a knock downstairs, and Itai made his way down the back entrance to meet the delivery driver in the alley. He returned with a plastic bag full of noodles and soup. He and Itai sat next to each other on the couch and ate in front of the sports channel, saying nothing.

“I can change it if you want,” Miles offered, knowing the only thing Itai hated more than American football was watching the endless pregame and postgame analysis of football, but Itai shook his head.

“I’m not paying attention anyway. I have to get back to the computer.”

“Did you meet with that marketing team for your launch?” Miles asked. He didn’t particularly care, but he thought it was polite to at least feign interest.

Itai shrugged. “Travis did, and I’m going to go over the strategic plan tomorrow with him. The Saturday night venue is all set, and the media packets are done. I think there will be a good turnout.” Itai shuffled his fork through his noodles, not looking at him. “I’m sorry we didn’t hire you for the catering.”

“That’s fine. I don’t want to do an event that large right now anyway. I’ve got enough to worry about this Friday with thirty guests.”

“Travis didn’t want any ethnic food and got a great discount from La Brie’s.”

“That’s fine,” Miles repeated. He hadn’t been upset, but for some reason now he was. “You know I don’t do only ethnic food.”

Itai looked at him apologetically. “I know.”

“I can cook all sorts of things.” Miles realized he was sulking again and looked away. “But it’s fine.”

“I figured you would be exhausted from the Friday night Hanukkah dinner.”

“I likely will be. Maybe I can do your next launch party.”

Itai laughed at that. “God, I hope there is never another launch party. The whole idea is to get this product sold off and never work on it again.” Itai surprised Miles by putting his food down on the coffee table and scooting closer. He put his arm around Miles. Miles stretched closer, enjoying the brief and unexpected moment of companionship. He leaned his head against Itai’s shoulder, breathing in his cologne. Itai always smelled like products, but that wasn’t necessarily a bad thing; he found the scent of Itai’s shaving cream alluring.

But as he settled into the companionable comfort, Itai shifted away. He gave Miles a brief kiss on the forehead and stood. “I have to get back to work.”

Miles offered up his empty container of soup. Itai took this into the kitchen, leaving Miles to slouch on the sofa, staring like a listless zombie at the men predicting the Thanksgiving Day football game.

At nine o’clock Miles’s mother called, right on time. Since moving to the desert, his mother called every week without fail, at the same time.

“Hi, honey,” she said, sounding thrilled. He wasn’t sure what was more embarrassing: the way his mother still spoke to him with the same level of enthusiasm she had when he was a child, or the fact that after all these years it still filled him with joy.

“Hi, Mom.”

“How’s everything going?”

“It was a good week last week. We beat our sales record again.”

“Oh, honey, I’m so proud of you! How’s Mr. Nedlich?”

“He still hasn’t been in.”

His mother clicked her tongue. “I’m worried about him. Maybe you should call his house and see if he is still alive.”

“Mom, I’m not going to call clients to see if they died because they haven’t bought pickles in three weeks.”

“But it’s highly irregular,” she countered. “Mr. Nedlich would come in every Tuesday morning, at eight o’clock, as—”

“I know. I know. You’ve told me a thousand times. He’d come in right after dropping his grandson off at school. But he hasn’t come by. Maybe he’s fine and doesn’t like the way I make pickles.”

That was the wrong thing to say. There was a long pause. “You changed the recipes?”

Miles rolled his eyes. “No, Mom.”

“Because I made those recipes perfect over thirty years and—”

“I’m kidding, Mom. The pickles are fine. Maybe he doesn’t like me.”

“Well why wouldn’t he like you?” she asked, genuinely baffled in the way only one’s mother could be.

“I’m not you,” Miles reminded her. “I’m young. I’m gay. I’ve changed things. I don’t know. There are a dozen reasons to dislike me.”

“Oh, don’t be ridiculous. He’s probably dead, that’s all.”

Miles grinned at that. Only his mother would find it more likely that a customer would die than dislike her beloved older son.

“Have you seen Goldie and Len?” his mother asked.

“Yes. They came in on Friday. And Frank Elder showed up today, distraught because he’d picked up full-sours.”

“He only orders half-sours.”

“I know that now. I gave him half a dozen on the house, so hopefully he won’t hunt you down to call and complain.”

His mother laughed. “Let’s hope only old Ira is that crazy. How’s Itai?”

“Busy. The launch is this Saturday.”

“Has he learned how to use the register yet? Make sure to tell him about the broken tax key, because—”

“He hasn’t worked the register yet,” Miles said, hoping she wouldn’t pry too much.

“Oh. I thought he was going to—”

“I’ve got him helping with other things right now.” He didn’t want to have a long discussion about this, because he didn’t want her to be right. She’d expressed concern when they’d gotten back together, so he now worked to paint Itai in only the most favorable light.

“As long as he’s pulling his weight, honey,” she said.

“He is; don’t worry.”

“It’s just that I remember how much he hurt you before, and I don’t want to ever see you like that again.”

Miles expelled a deep sigh. The last thing he needed right now was his mother reminding him of the time Itai had cheated on him, leading to their breakup. Things were better now, but it was still a sore subject.

“Mom, drop it.”

She seemed to sense the tension and gave in. “I’m sorry. You know I worry, that’s all.”

“Itai and I are doing fine,” Miles lied. “And if Fantastic App Engine sells, he’ll make a ton of money.”

“As long as he’s being helpful to you,” she said again.

“Yeah, yeah. Where’s Dad?”

“Out in the pool, of course.”

“At nine at night?”

“It’s the only time its bearable going outside,” his mother said. “The rest of the day it’s too hot to do anything but lay indoors next to the air conditioner.”

“I thought you moved for the heat,” Miles said.

“We did. We love it.”

“But you sit in air-conditioning all day. Isn’t that like living in Seattle?”

His mother laughed like that was crazy talk.

Miles asked after his younger brother, and they chatted briefly about his struggles in grad school back east before she ended the call.

“All right, honey. Call me if you need anything.” She said this every time she called, as if he’d forget.

“I will. Love you.”

“Love you too, honey.” She blew kisses into the phone, and he hung up, feeling his typical mixture of embarrassment and affection for her. 


Astrid Amara
Astrid Amara lives in Bellingham, Washington. She's a former Peace Corps Volunteer, an advocate for animal rights, and a bureaucrat by day. After work she can usually be found writing, riding horses, hiking, or else sleeping. Her novel The Archer's Heart was a finalist for the 2008 Lambda Literary Award.

Mary Calmes
Mary Calmes lives in Lexington, Kentucky, with her husband and two children and loves all the seasons except summer. She graduated from the University of the Pacific in Stockton, California, with a bachelor's degree in English literature. Due to the fact that it is English lit and not English grammar, do not ask her to point out a clause for you, as it will so not happen. She loves writing, becoming immersed in the process, and falling into the work. She can even tell you what her characters smell like. She loves buying books and going to conventions to meet her fans.


Trina Solet
iTUNES  /  KOBO  /  SMASHWORDS  /  B&N

Astrid Amara
FACEBOOK  /  TWITTER  /  WEBSITE
B&N  /  KOBO  /  iTUNES  /  GOOGLE PLAY
EMAIL: astridamara@gmail.com

Mary Calmes
FACEBOOK  /  TWITTER  /  WEBSITE  /  KOBO
GOOGLE+  /  AUDIBLE  /  GOOGLE PLAY
BOOKWORLD  /  AMAZON  /  iTUNES
B&N  /  DREAMSPINNER  /  GOODREADS
EMAIL: mmcalmes@hotmail.com

Julian Clearwater

Hayden Hunt



A Midnight Thanksgiving by Trina Solet
Sweet and Sour by Astrid Amara
Hannah's Big Night by Mary Calmes

Pulling his Wishbone by Julian Clearwater

Cold Turkey by Hayden Hunt

Review Tour: Texas Gift by RJ Scott

Title: Texas Gift
Author: RJ Scott
Series: Texas #8
Genre: M/M Romance
Release Date: November 15, 2017
Cover Design: Meredith Russell
Summary:
A gift for every single reader needed to know what happened next for to Jack and Riley…

When Hayley arrived on the steps of the D, Riley and Jack knew life would never be the same.

Told through Riley and Jack’s eyes, this is ten years in the life of their family and watching Hayley grow up, fall in love, and start her own life. Hurricanes, illness, babies, happiness, sadness, work, play, the barn, the office, horses, friends, enemies, and above all love.


HOLY HANNAH BATMAN!!  And that was just my reaction to finding out there would be a new Texas entry, that we would get to ride along with Jack and Riley Campbell-Hayes to see what's been happening on the Double D.  THEN, I read Texas Gift and there was a whole new level to my excitement: HOLY HANNAH JUSTICE LEAGUE AND AVENGERS!

Texas Gift is exactly what the title says: a gift.  We get to see what the future holds for the Campbell-Hayes family and although its a HEA that doesn't mean it is an easy journey but it is an entertaining one.  I won't touch on details but I will say that you won't be disappointed.  Will we see more of the Double D down the road? Who knows, Texas Wedding was suppose to be the final one and yet apparently Jack and Riley spoke to RJ and said "we have more to tell you".  You won't be sorry giving it a read, lets face it if you are already a fan than you know the amazing-ness that you will find within its covers and if you aren't than boy are you in for a treat.  I re-read Texas every summer and it never gets old so having another installment to add is nothing but good for me.

If you have never visited the Double D crew, here is the perfect time to start because there is a level of "full circle" that Texas Gift brings to the table that makes it something special or even more special.  I feel lucky to call RJ Scott a kindred spirit but if I didn't, if we were at odds about everything I would still be recommending Texas Gift and the rest of the series because there is just something about the Double D universe that she's created that touches my heart and has expanded my horizons.  It was book one, The Heart of Texas, that was originally recommended to me by more than one of my book loving BFFs when I wanted to venture from slash fanfiction to M/M published works.  I can safely say that I loved it and it was the creativity of RJ Scott's Double D that led me to seek out other authors in the genre and in doing so led me to wanting to blog about books so that if I could help just one person find what I did than I would be happy.

I know that this is suppose to be a review of Texas Gift and it is because when you find a book(or series in this case) that can effect you like RJ Scott's Texas has me than that says more about the book and author than anything I can come up with.  So simply put, my review is: Texas Gift is an amazing read and whether or not it is truly the end to the series it will make you cry, make you laugh, and it will touch your heart.

RATING: 


Chapter One
Riley needed to apologize. Right now.

He’d fucked up big time, and he should have seen it coming, because everything he did went in cycles. He and Jack hadn’t argued in so long and maybe the tension that had been building inside Riley had needed an outlet; he’d provoked the argument. He’d pushed and prodded and sulked and shoved at Jack until Jack had snapped.

Not in loud, shouting temper, or anything like what Riley deserved. No, Jack had gone deathly quiet.

Absolutely. Utterly. Quiet.

Riley shouted at him, got everything out of his system, felt the weight of it all lessen by throwing it at Jack and what had happened? He’d stood there at first, confused, and then steadily calmer. Weirdly calmer.

They argued; no normal marriage went without arguments over things as important as the kids and as trivial as picking up wet towels. But they resolved things, Jack/Riley was a unit that worked. They sometimes bickered and teased, they shouted rarely, and on the odd occasion there would be sulking. Mostly from Riley. He considered it as thinking time but Jack just called him on his sulking like a child.

Their arguments always ended in love; talking, kissing, complete forgiveness that could only come when two people understood and loved each other.

This morning though, he’d made Connor cry, Lexie scowl, and Max hide under the table with Toby. Jack hadn't even stayed for that. The crying, scowling and hiding had happened after he’d left.

“Why are you shouting at Pappa!” Connor shouted back at Riley. “Stop shouting.” Then he’d started to cry, and Riley’s heart had broken into a million pieces. He’d sat between a crying Connor, and a sullen, angry Lexie and tried to explain that he had a bad headache and he didn’t mean to shout. For headache, read migraine, tight painful migraine that blurred his vision and made him feel sick. He’d taken meds and the sharp edges of the glass in his head were easing, but he couldn’t think straight. Connor stopped crying.

“You were so mean,” Lexie summarized, but she did give Riley a hug and kiss him on the forehead to make it all better.

Max on the other hand, while not angry with Riley and the shouting, was still under the kitchen table with Toby. The black lab, Riley’s black lab, was between Max and Riley in a protective furry wall.

“It’s okay Tobes, I got this,” Riley tried to fold all six-four of himself under the wood. He got caught on a bench, his neck burned, his stomach was in knots, but nothing was going to stop him from getting to Max. Toby did eventually move to one side but not too far. Toby may well have been Riley’s dog at the start, but he and Max were inseparable now.

“Max, buddy?” he began, and Max at least looked up at him for a split second. “You okay?”

“M’okay,” Max said. “You’re noisy.”

At least he wasn’t rocking, or stimming. He was just sitting with his dog in his favorite place under the kitchen table.

“Is everything okay?” Carol said from behind him. He scrambled back and brushed himself off. “Riley?”

“I shouted,” Riley explained simply.

“At the kids?” Carol asked, aghast, as if that was the ultimate sin in her eyes. Which, to be fair, it was in Riley’s as well. He and Jack didn’t shout, they cajoled, and bargained, and ran a happy house. Most of the time, anyway. Just not this morning.

“No, at Jack.”

“Is Max okay?” she peered under the table and smiled at Max. He adored her, the kids all loved their nanny, probably quite a bit more than they loved their dad today.

“He seems fine.” Riley peered out of the window at where Jack had gone. The damage had been done, but Connie and Lexie were chatting to each other, Max was with Carol and he needed to go and make things right with Jack.

“I think we’re okay in here,” Carol said, “Go find Jack.”

Riley shot her a grateful glance, and as he left the kitchen he heard Lexie telling Carol that her Pappa had a headache and that she’d kissed it better. When he closed the door it was just him and the ranch and finding Jack. It didn’t take him long; he was outside their barn, looking up at the siding, with his feet apart and his arms crossed over his chest.

Riley inhaled the fresh morning air and pulled back his shoulders. He could do this; he could ignore the pain in his head now it had lessened a little, he could push back the nausea, and he could go and apologize to Jack for being a fucking idiot.

“I’m sorry,” he murmured, coming to a stop next to Jack, only a few inches separating their arms. Jack didn’t move.

“It’s okay.” Although it didn’t sound okay at all. Okay was one of those words that meant nothing in the context of an argument, it was a word that plastered over cracks in a relationship. Okay was quiet and tight-lipped silences and Riley recalled okay from when he was a kid.

He hated okay.

“It’s not okay, I have a headache and I didn’t mean any of what I said.”

“You didn’t mean to say that life would be easier if you didn’t have to listen to me?” Jack’s voice was low and serious, and Riley winced.

“You were saying too much, and I couldn’t think.”

Their discussion had started in the bedroom.

“I asked if you’d made an appointment to see someone about the headaches.”

“I know—”

“And why you were limping again—”

“Jack—”

“And why you weren’t sleeping, and why you spent so much time at the office, and why the fuck have we not used the barn in over a month?”

The barn wasn’t just the barn, it was a euphemism for sex. They hadn't been together in a month, over a month now. How did Riley explain that he’d been at the office, sometimes with the blinds shut, closing out the light, sleeping? How did he explain he didn’t want to see a doctor because the headaches scared him? And how the hell did he tell Jack he was limping because every single one of his muscles hurt, because he was tired, because it was all too much?

“Jack, I’m sorry.”

“You’re not, Riley, because you won’t listen to me.” Jack pointed at the barn. “I’m thinking we turn this into a games room for the kids.”

Riley gripped Jack’s arm. “No, what the hell?” His tension fled and in its place was panic. This was their space. Sometimes they came out here to talk, to hide away from the world, but it was also the one place they had the hottest sex he’d ever experienced. He wanted that again, but he was so tired, every time he turned over in bed his neck hurt, and his head pounded, and his leg ached, and he was fucking tired of it all. “Jack, I’m sorry, don’t…”

Jack turned to face him, and his expression wasn’t angry. “Either you go to the doctor, right here, right now, or I start clearing the place for a pool table.” He looked deadly serious, and Riley couldn’t tell if this was an empty threat. Then Jack softened, cradled his face and pressed a kiss to his forehead. “Riley, please.”

Just those two words pierced the fear in Riley, he couldn’t stop the pain, or the threat of being sick, or not sleeping, but whatever was wrong, Jack would be there for him.

“I’m scared,” Riley murmured.

Jack gathered him close. “You think I’m not?”

“Please don’t,” Riley said against Jack’s neck. His words sounded slurred and fear made him sway. What the hell? “Please don’t let me chase you away.”

“I won’t.”

And that was the last thing he heard as his world went to black.




Author Bio:
RJ Scott is the bestselling romance author of over 100 romance books. She writes emotional stories of complicated characters, cowboys, millionaire, princes, and the men and women who get mixed up in their lives. RJ is known for writing books that always end with a happy ever after. She lives just outside London and spends every waking minute she isn't with family either reading or writing.

The last time she had a week’s break from writing she didn't like it one little bit, and she has yet to meet a bottle of wine she couldn’t defeat.


AUDIBLE  /  FB GROUP  /  PINTEREST
BOOKBUB  /  KOBO  /  SMASHWORDS
iTUNES  /  AMAZON  /  GOODREADS
EMAIL: rj@rjscott.co.uk



Texas Gift #8
AMAZON US  /  AMAZON UK  /  B&N
KOBO  /  SMASHWORDS  /  GOODREADS TBR

Series
AMAZON US  /  AMAZON UK  /  B&N






November 15 - Sexy Erotic XcitingGay Media Reviews
November 21 - Making It HappenMirrigold: Mutterings & Musings
November 23 - Padme's Library
November 25 - Dog-Eared Dadydreams
November 27 - Valerie UllmerThe Geekery Book Review
November 29 - Scattered Thoughts & Rogue WordsBayou Book JunkieJim's Reading RoomWicked Reads

Brought to you by:

Cover Reveal: Bob and the Polka-Dot Highway by R Murphy

Title: Bob and the Polka-Dot Highway
Author: R Murphy
Series: Bob Books #3
Genre: Paranormal Romance
Summary:
Poor Roz…once again stuck on the horns of a dilemma. Does she accept the great offer for a job that’s hundreds of miles from Crooked Lake? Or does she pick David, the great guy who grows grapes half a mile from her house? And either way—assuming our crabby woman-of-a-certain-age manages to make a decision—what about her ghost, Bob?

Granted, Bob and Roz have never had a … ummmm… ‘traditional’ relationship but still, martini-loving ghosts don’t toddle along every day of the week. What happens to the wit, the sparkle, the laughter?

So many questions…(sigh).

Join Roz, David—and Bob—as they spend a beautiful, but confusing, summer on Crooked Lake. And oh, by the way, watch out for drips…


Bob, the ghost who turns up at my place on a very regular basis, watched me as I placed the phone quietly on the table, a rare worried look on his face. “Good news, or bad news?” he asked. “It sounded like Tess offered you the job, but you don’t seem particularly happy about it. Should I make martinis to celebrate or to drown our sorrows?”

“Oh, it’s definitely time to cue the martinis,” I responded (more about the martinis later). “We need a party right about now.”

Bob brightened and got busy. While he’s occupied making his lethal cocktails, I’ll take a minute to bring you up to speed. (But as I said, for the full story, you probably want to read the previous books in this trilogy—Bob at the Lake and Bob at The Plaza). As you might guess from the titles, Bob and I have a fairly checkered history.)

The Cliff Notes version of these volumes, though, would be something like: “Roz, a woman of a certain age, struggles valiantly (some might point out, rather crabbily) with the financial havoc wreaked by the Great Recession. To complicate matters, the Universe (Clive?) assigns Bob, a martini-loving ghost associated with the Algonquin Round Table, to ‘help’ me (quotes added here by a thoroughly exasperated author) with two tasks: 1) do something ‘special’ (again, quotes = exasperation) and 2) decide whether to sell my beautiful but isolated and high-maintenance lake house.

The latter challenge seems to have been met—I listed my house about a month ago with Crooked Lake’s Marilyn Monroe-look-alike real estate agent, Penny Mae. (Who, incidentally, is now in hot pursuit of David, my mostly-ex-boyfriend.)

As for the ‘special’ task, Bob and I still debate the exact meaning of that assignment. In my mind, that job might be something related to my freelance work as a corporate writer who raises big money for Community Chest. Bob disagrees, hinting that my mission is probably more personal, perhaps pertaining to the unpublished book manuscript I’ve penned regarding our relationship. … The exact nature of this task has always been murky and an ongoing source of frustration.

And I hardly need another source of frustration—my life abounds with the stuff, thank you very much. I’m broke, with an expensive lake house to maintain. Plus, I recently lost one of my two paying freelance clients. And, even though my house survived Crooked Lake’s wicked spring floods, they left their mark, mostly on my psyche. The financial uncertainties caused by all of these challenges caused me to break off my budding relationship with David. I knew I’d have to look far afield to find a decent job, and I didn’t want to take the chance of getting in too deep with land-locked, mutually impoverished David and his vineyards. Not a fun decision, but probably a wise one since it turns out my new job places me squarely in the middle of Ohio…



Author Bio:
Roz Murphy is the pseudonym of a long-time Finger Lakes resident who lives with ghosts and doesn’t want to confirm in her neighbors’ minds how nutty she really is. (They already have their suspicions.) After decades of writing in Manhattan and throughout the country, Roz settled on the shores of New York’s Keuka Lake, some of the most beautiful country ever created. She’s an ardent fan of the Finger Lakes wine industry, especially the local dry Rieslings.






Bob at the Lake

Bob at the Plaza

Brought to you by: