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text 2020-12-01 22:59
Excerpt Reveal - Loverboy

 

 

Loverboy

(The Company #2)

 

 

Secrets, desires, and exquisite pie. It’s all in a day’s work at The Company.

Growing up, I was the rough guy from the wrong neighborhood who couldn’t catch a break. Posy was the pampered girl I tried to impress. But all she gave me was a single kiss before I had to skip town.


Now I’m back, and the tables are turned. Posy runs a struggling pie shop. I’m the VP of a secretive billion-dollar security company. 

 

Not that I can tell her.

 

There’s a murderer on the loose in New York, and he seems to spend a lot of time at Posy’s shop. It’s my job to identify him before he can harm a hair on her pretty head.
Going undercover as Posy’s new barista wasn’t my idea. I don’t even drink coffee. But now I have to call her “boss,” and do everything the curvy perfectionist asks of me. I’d forgotten how much we infuriate each other, and that she somehow fills me with both irritation and desire in the same breath.

 

There’s nobody more skilled at stealth ops than me. I can bring this killer down. Right after I take a cold shower. And just as soon I figure out how to make a skinny peppermint latte with milk poured in the shape of a kitten...

 

 

EXCERPT

 

Earlier, I’d spotted him even before he came into the bar. I watched him get out of that cab and then check the time. I saw him look toward the pub, weighing his choices.  

My heart had thumped along with only one word. Please.

 

Fine—not my heart. It was other parts of me who were doing all the begging. Silently, of course. Speaking up seems impossible right now. What if he laughs in my face? Or—this might even be worse—what if he says yes? And then we get naked and I can’t satisfy him? 

 

You’re not very adventurous, Spalding said. You’re not very good in bed.

 

My ex is the only person I’ve ever been naked with. And thanks to him, I’m afraid to try again with someone else. If another man tells me I’m no fun, I don’t know how I’d come back from that.

 

On the other hand, if I don’t get out of this rut, then Spalding wins. Maybe I sound melodramatic, but I don’t want to die before I experience terrific sex. 

 

It’s really no surprise that my drink disappears quickly. 

 

“Look, you don’t have to tell me what’s on your mind,” Gunnar muses, and I realize I've been silent for some time. “But something has you deep in thought.”

 

“Rhubarb,” I blurt. “It’s, uh, something I’ve used in springtime pies. But, um, I wonder if I could do better than strawberry rhubarb—that's been done, you know?” 

 

His smile widens. “Is that an occupational hazard? You can't eat or drink anything without reconfiguring it in your mind?”

 

“Yep.” I wave at the bartender. “Another round of these if you wouldn't mind.”

 

“Are you trying to get me drunk?” Gunnar asks. “Please say yes.”

 

My pulse picks up, because it’s hard to miss the innuendo there. But I dodge the question, because I’ve never been brave. “As if two cocktails and a beer would put you under my spell.”

 

“Oh, I'm easy,” Gunnar says, giving me an intentionally sleazy wink. “Besides, your pies have already made me slow and agreeable. That key lime and Thai basil pie was amazing. That stuff is dangerous.”

 

“You like my key lime and Thai basil?” I ask, hearing pleasure in my own voice. It never gets old when people tell you how much they like the product. “And I guess it figures that you’d be one of those.”

 

“One of what?”

 

“You have an adventurous palate.” I prop an elbow on the bar and try to explain. “People fall into two distinct groups. There’re the ones who always order the weird flavors. And the Dutch apple pie crew, who always stick to the basics. They don’t cross over. It’s something I’ve been thinking about a lot lately.”

 

Thanks to Spalding. He basically accused me of being a Dutch apple pie in bed. The whole reason I’m reading my sister’s romance novels is to try to learn what the other flavors are like. 

 

“Huh,” Gunnar says. “So, you can just guess which other pies I’ve tried?”

 

“Sure, I can. Did you try the pine nut and salted honey?”

 

“Oh, hell yes.”

 

My smile grows wide. “How about the matcha green tea tart?”

 

“Well,” he shakes his head, “I gotta say I haven't quite gone there yet. But I did enjoy the vinegar date pie.”

 

“Ah! And the ginger mango cream, right?” I press. 

 

“Yeah. Does that make me predictable?”

 

“A little bit,” I say, enjoying myself immensely. “Have you started doing that thing where you try to guess each customer’s guilty pleasure?”

 

He laughs. “Get out of my head. It's my new favorite game.”

 

“How's your accuracy?”

 

“Pretty bad. I started off trying to use clothing as a clue. I expected somebody wearing a navy blue suit and boring shoes to order the apple crumble. But that theory bombed. And then I tried to assume that people in workout clothes wouldn’t pick something sugary. But they totally do.”

 

“You have to look deep inside their souls,” I tease. “If you look at the shell of a person, you'll never get their pie order right. In fact, you have to look at their auras.”

 

He snorts. “What color is my aura?”

 

“Indigo, like tattoo ink. But with a streak of red because you’re contrary.”

He narrows his eyes. “You’re just fucking with me now.”

 

“Maybe I am.” 

 

“Okay, lady. But I have an issue with something you said earlier.”

 

“What?”

 

Guilty pleasures.” He lays a hand over my wrist. “I don’t believe in those. I don’t think pleasure should make you feel guilty.”

 

“Oh.” He’s barely touching me, but goosebumps run up my arm anyway. Now would be a great time to make a joke and diffuse all the tension I’m suddenly feeling. But I feel too tongue-tied to pull it off.

 

Gunnar removes his hand, which is a disappointment. But the next thing he says stuns me back into goosebump territory. “You know, I always had it bad for you.”

 

“You … what?” I ask stupidly.

 

“Back when we were tending bar, I had a big crush on you. And sometimes I thought you were on the same page. I usually have good instincts about these things. But not that time. You ended up with Mr. Pretty Boy Preppy instead.”

 

My heart is thumping wildly now, and I take a sip of my cocktail to steady my nerves. The truth is that I don’t really trust this little revelation. We used to annoy each other, for one thing. But maybe that didn’t matter to Gunnar’s libido. He was a horny college boy. He probably had it bad for all the girls. 

 

Still. “What if I’m the one who has terrible instincts? Did you ever think of that? And did you miss the part where I divorced Mr. Preppy?”

 

“Mmm,” he says thoughtfully. “I suppose that might explain a few things.”

 

“You’re the one who left, anyway.” 

 

His eyes narrow. “Do you really think if I’d stuck around, things would have turned out differently? I spent three months giving you the fuck-me eyes, Paxton. But you didn’t take me up on it.”

 

Oh mother of God. His gaze is turning hot, and I think it might incinerate me. And then I remember why we never hooked up in the first place.

 

LOVRBOY Now Available:

 

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review 2020-09-22 10:11
Release Day w/Review - Lies & Lullabies

 

 

 

Blurb:


Summer nights and star-crossed lovers! From USA Today bestselling author Sarina Bowen.


Once upon a time, he gave me a summer of friendship, followed by one perfect night. We shared a lot during our short time together. But he skipped a few crucial details.


I didn’t know he was a rock star.

 

I didn’t know his real name.

 

Neither of us knew I’d get pregnant.

 

And I sure never expected to see him again.

 

Five years later, his tour bus pulls up in Nest Lake, Maine. My little world is about to be shattered by loud music and the pounding of my own foolish heart.

 

 

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text 2020-08-28 08:10
Cover & Excerpt Reveal - Locked Heart

COVER & EXCERPT REVEAL
LOCKED HEART by Eden Finley


Release Date: September 14, 2020


Cover Design: Angsty G.
 

Genre: M/M Contemporary Romance


SYNOPSIS

CASH

Ten years ago, I left my heart with a boy when I moved to LA to become a rock star.

Eight years ago, his online presence disappeared completely.

We made a pact. If I ever performed at Death Valley Music Festival, he’d come see me play.

Now, after a decade of paying my dues, I’ve been booked as a headliner.

Only question is, will he show up or do I need to face the possibility of letting him go forever?


**Locked Heart is a 27,000-word MM novella that is loosely connected to the Famous series but is a complete standalone.


ADD TO YOUR TBR
 
 
GOODREADS LINK: https://bit.ly/2Et0YTJ
 

EXCERPT


I couldn’t not come to his show. I had to at least see Cashton perform. 

I’ve seen countless songs and concert clips on YouTube, but nothing—nothing—beats the real thing.

The plan was to watch him, maybe catch his eye and see if there’s any spark of recognition, but I couldn’t get remotely close to the stage. 

I hadn’t decided if I was going to try to talk to him afterward or not. Or if I’d even be allowed.

I was fully waiting for security to tell me I’m shit out of luck, but apparently, they’d been told of my possible arrival by Cashton’s manager.

I huff.

Manager.

Cashton has come so far, and until the moment I saw him, until we came face-to-face, I didn’t know how I’d respond to being in his presence again.

Apparently my first response was to wrap myself around him.

“I’ve missed you,” I rumble in his ear.

He smells different. He feels different. More man and less … boy. 

Even though he was eighteen the last time I saw him and not much different to now.

He’s just … different. But I love it instead of despising it like I was worried I would.

He’s lived a long ten years, and I want to know every story, every adventure, but he’s frozen against me, and now it’s becoming abundantly clear that this is probably crossing a whole heap of lines.

I pull back but can’t help keeping my arms around him. “Cashton?”

His brown eyes blink up at me. His hair has gotten even longer than the last time I saw him, bringing back the eighties rock band look, and his tempting mouth I’ve missed so much is only inches away. Nope, closer than that.

Closer.

His tongue darts out, wetting his lip.

“Cashton …” I say again.

“Fuck it, we can catch up later.” He closes the small gap between us, pressing his mouth to mine.

Pressing, attaching, attacking … Same thing, right?

Damn, I remember everything about the way this man kisses. I remember his demanding tongue that liked to dominate my mouth, right up until I fought back and took control of it. Of everything.

Of his tongue, his mouth, his body …

The moan he lets out is deep and guttural, and worry about crossing lines is no longer at the forefront of my mind.

I’m still taller than him, but he used to be more muscular than me. Neither of us look like muscly gym rats, but I’ve at least filled out enough to match him in that area now. It makes me feel bigger than him, probably bigger than I actually am, but fitting myself against him, I surround him and hold him to me as if he was always mine to possess.

Cashton trembles in my arms the way he used to. The way he would when he wanted something but was too shy to ask for it.

“I want you to fuck me,” he demands.

Guess that shy thing is something he got over, then.

As much as I should pull away and slow this down, there’s no way that’s possible.

“Turn around.” My throat is scratchy and dry, putting an extra growl in my voice.

Like any time I’d told Cashton to do something in bed, he complies immediately.

Nostalgia settles over me.

I plaster my front to his back and push him toward the side of the tour bus.

His narrow hips feel amazing in my hands, and that round butt of his looks amazing framed in those tight pants. 

“I’ve fucking missed this ass.” I press forward, rubbing against him with my already hard and aching cock.

Cashton moans. “I’ve missed your dick.”

I find that hard to believe when I’m sure he’s had a buffet of cocks since the one and only time I fucked him, but now’s not the time to get into that.

I’m going to take his words at face value—that he’s missed my cock now it’s pressed against him.

I run my hand down the middle of his back, and he shudders under my touch. “You gonna take me like you did ten years ago? Want me to fuck you until you can’t shake your ass onstage like I saw today? You think this ass belongs to your fans?”

“Well, it hasn’t belonged to you in ten years.”

I try not to wince. Instead, I take on that commanding, dominant role I know he loved even back then. I want to show him that even though so long has passed, I’m not all that different. I still want him crumbling for me and coming apart from my touch, my mouth, my body. 

My fist tangles in his long hair, and he yelps in pain, but I don’t let up. “I have news for you. It has always belonged to me.”

 



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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
 
Eden Finley is an Amazon bestselling author who writes steamy contemporary romances that are full of snark and light-hearted fluff.

She doesn't take anything too seriously and lives to create an escape from real life for her readers. The ideas always begin with a wackadoodle premise, and she does her best to turn them into romances with heart.

With a short attention span that rivals her son's, she writes multiple different pairings: MM, MMF, and MF.

She's also an Australian girl and apologises for her Australianisms that sometimes don't make sense to anyone else.
CONNECT WITH EDEN

Newsletter Sign Up: http://bit.ly/2owAsgY

Facebook Author Page: http://bit.ly/2GMjfag

Facebook Reader Group: http://bit.ly/2t1KqM4

Goodreads Author Page: http://bit.ly/2ouFzya

Twitter: http://bit.ly/2HQnyCv

Amazon Author Page: http://amzn.to/2EV9Roi

BookBub Author Page: http://bit.ly/2ouhBDq
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review 2020-08-26 08:10
New Release Blitz - Dragon Detective

 

Title: Dragon Detective

Series: Supernatural Consultant, Book Four

Author: Mell Eight

Publisher: NineStar Press

Release Date: August 24, 2020

Heat Level: 1 - No Sex

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: 29700

Genre: Paranormal YA, LGBTQIA+, YA, dragon shifters, mage, magical detective agency, magic-users, dragon family, kitnapping, HFN

 

Add to Goodreads

 

Synopsis

 

Nickel might be a water elemental dragon, but even he has limits—and the sudden rain storms, hail, and snow in midsummer are way over the line. Luckily, he works for Dane’s Supernatural Consulting firm and can use those resources to figure out who keeps mucking with the weather and get them to stop. Soon Nickel realizes he isn’t the only one searching for the weather worker: the enemy he has been hunting for ten years has finally reappeared, and it’s a race to see who will reach the weather worker first. Nickel isn’t certain he’ll win, or even survive, the attempt, but he’ll do whatever it takes to save the dragons.

 

Excerpt

 

Dragon Detective

Mell Eight © 2020

All Rights Reserved

 

Chapter One

 

Nickel walked into the office and shut his umbrella with a snap that spattered water droplets all over his pant legs. He grimaced and tossed the umbrella onto the stand by the door with a sigh of disgust.

 

“It’s not that bad, dear,” Becky said cheerfully from her oversized secretary’s desk in the middle of the room. He scowled at her in return, which she ignored with the ease of knowing him for over ten years. Becky looked warm and dry while wearing a nice summer-weight cardigan. The rain hadn’t started until an hour ago, so she had already been safely ensconced on her throne. Nickel, on the other hand, had been out and about getting lunch. He had been lucky to be near a shop selling umbrellas when it had suddenly started pouring, but that hadn’t saved his shoes.

 

Admittedly, Nickel liked rain. He was usually the first one to run outside to play when the skies darkened and thunder rumbled overhead, just not when he was wearing a nice suit. He might be able to save his shoes, but only if the scamp napping on his desk chair moved.

 

“Lumie, scram,” Nickel snapped.

 

Lumie popped one red eye open, saw that Nickel was the one speaking to him, and went right back to sleep. His long red hair flopped over his face as he took ignoring Nickel to another level. Nickel growled and ran a hand through his much shorter blue hair in exasperation. There was no talking to Lumie when he was in one of his moods. Instead of fighting for his chair, Nickel dropped to the floor.

 

His shoes popped off with wet squelching sounds, and his socks left a puddle on the floor. Nickel’s magic fizzled between his fingers for a moment before he directed it to pull on the water, calling it out of his shoes and socks. It was a gradual process. Water moved slowly. It was sticky, according to the science teacher Dane had hired to teach all the kits, and was therefore happier to remain attached to something than not. It was why water always hesitated on the edge of a counter before the push from behind and gravity below finally sent it falling. Of course, once the first drop fell, all the water built up behind it fell too because it was all stuck together. It took some doing before the water obeyed his magic, but once one drop and then another began to coalesce in Nickel’s hand, it wasn’t long before he had a small river flowing from his shoes and socks into his cupped palms.

 

The water was cool and welcoming, just the way Nickel liked it. He continued to call out the water slowly. Easy, routine magic, it was also good practice for when he worked larger spells. Except the water was starting to heat in his hands. First it was only just warm, which happened sometimes when he was being a touch careless, but when bubbles started to form between his hands, Nickel turned to glare at Lumie.

 

“Knock it off!” Nickel snapped. Lumie continued to breathe evenly, as if he really were asleep. Experience told Nickel that Lumie was a dammed good actor, though. The heat continued to rise until the water stopped protecting Nickel’s hands and they began to get uncomfortably hot. His shoes also began to smell. ’Ron had stuck a hairdryer into a pair of sneakers once to try to dry them. The bathroom had reeked of sweaty feet for days when she was done, and the office was quickly taking on the smell of that awful aroma.

 

Nickel tossed the water before it could start burning his hands. It arced beautifully in the air, steaming as it continued to boil, and landed directly on Lumie’s head.

 

Lumie shrieked and jumped out of Nickel’s chair. His red hair was plastered to his face and dripping onto his shirt. He looked like a soaked puppy, especially as he scowled. Nickel couldn’t help grinning at the sight.

 

“What was that for?” Lumie shook his head back and forth, deliberately spraying Nickel with more water. The water steamed off Lumie quickly, leaving his hair dry and slightly fluffy.

 

“You know why!” Nickel snapped back, his good mood forgotten with the reminder that Lumie had just tried to boil Nickel’s hands off and destroy the office with a pervasive stench.

 

“Sleeping in your chair is no reason for you to throw water all over me!” Lumie yelled. His eyes flashed with magic, so Nickel prepared himself to block anything Lumie was about to throw at him. “And ugh, what’s that smell anyway?” Lumie asked. He turned his head away from Nickel, the water incident already forgotten as he sniffed the air.

 

“I was just trying to help!” Alloy whined. He poked his head out from underneath the desk. His mixed red-and-blue hair was disheveled, and his eyes—one bright red and the other blue—were wide as he tried to hold back tears. Nickel jumped in surprise and then growled at himself. How had he missed the fact that Alloy was curled underneath the desk? He shouldn’t have. Apparently, the distraction of Lumie taking his chair combined with his wet shoes had been enough for Nickel to miss Alloy. That wasn’t acceptable; Nickel snarled to himself. He had to be better than that. Alloy wasn’t an enemy, but next time Nickel might not be so lucky.

 

Still, yelling at Alloy wouldn’t have any effect. Either Alloy would pretend to be Lumie and conveniently forget the scolding a few minutes later, or he would run to Copper and Copper would smooth over any hard lessons Nickel had tried to impart.

 

“You remember the time ’Ron tried to dry her shoes in the bathroom?” Nickel asked Alloy as calmly as he could. Alloy’s nose wrinkled in disgust so Nickel took that as a yes. “She used the hot air from the hairdryer, and the heat made her shoes stink. That’s why heating up the water in my shoes started to smell bad.”

 

“Oh,” Alloy said slowly as he began to understand the mistake he had made. “I should have helped your water magic, then?” he asked curiously. For any other dragon, what Alloy had said would have been an impossibility. Elemental dragons like them used one element of magic. That was it. Nickel used water, and Lumie used fire. Alloy was the result of a cruel experiment gone wrong and had somehow been born with power over both water and fire.

 

“That would have been better,” Nickel agreed. “But you should always ask first before you interrupt someone’s spell. You could have burned me if I hadn’t gotten Lumie wet instead.” Alloy giggled and Nickel couldn’t help cracking a smile at the memory of Lumie jumping up in surprise.

 

“Shut up,” Lumie grumped. At some point, he had left Nickel’s desk and had wandered over to Becky’s instead. He was busy plundering her candy jar, but he still shot them a disgruntled glare that only faded when he finally found a Cinnamon Bomb. He bounced off into Dane’s empty office with his prize in hand, Nickel and Alloy promptly forgotten.

 

Nickel could only shake his head. Lumie had to grow up eventually, Nickel hoped. Alloy was certainly more mature.

 

“Oh, don’t worry, dears,” Becky said in her best old-lady voice. She looked like one at the moment, although in another minute she might look like someone Nickel’s age or even someone in their thirties. Her outward appearance wasn’t confined by age. “I have enough candy for everyone.”

 

She reached into her plundered candy jar and pulled out a package of red Laffy Taffy. It was cinnamon flavored, but Alloy liked the high sugar content too. For Nickel, she waved a stick of blue rock candy. She had apparently been shopping overnight, because Nickel was certain there hadn’t been any of his favorite candy left yesterday. He had checked.

 

Was it demeaning to allow himself to be bribed by candy? Nickel couldn’t help wondering even as he padded barefoot across the office to take the proffered candy. Alloy looked at his candy and then down at Nickel’s shoes. He whined to himself and plopped down on the ground. Nickel felt the swirl of water magic in the air a moment later. He took Alloy’s candy too and brought it over. Nickel called on his own water magic and sat next to Alloy to help.

 

Purchase

NineStar Press | Amazon

 

 

 

 

Dragon Detective (Supernatural Consultant, #4)Dragon Detective by Mell Eight
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is book #4 in the Supernatural Consultant series. This book should not be read as a standalone novel. To be understood fully, and to avoid spoilers, I recommend reading this really imaginative series in order.

Nickel is a water elemental dragon. He is now working at the Supernatural Consultant firm. He wants to find out who or what is messing with the current weather. His searches may put him in danger, though.

Platinum is on the run. He has to hide from those mad scientists who have made his life miserable. If only he could get far away fast enough. Little does he know danger is lurking.......

This was the latest installment of one of the most creative series I have had the pleasure to read. The characters all have such unique powers, personalities and names. I enjoyed learning more about some of the more rare dragons in this story. I really cannot wait for the next book!


***This early copy was given in exchange for an honest review.

View all my reviews 

 

 

 

Meet the Author

 

When Mell Eight was in high school, she discovered dragons. Beautiful, wondrous creatures that took her on epic adventures both to faraway lands and on journeys of the heart. Mell wanted to create dragons of her own, so she put pen to paper. Mell Eight is now known for her own soaring dragons, as well as for other wonderful characters dancing across the pages of her books. While she mostly writes paranormal or fantasy stories, she has been seen exploring the real world once or twice.

Website | Facebook | Twitter

 

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text 2020-08-24 08:10
New Release Blitz - The Assistant

 

Title: The Assistant

Author: John Tristan

Publisher: NineStar Press

Release Date: August 24, 2020

Heat Level: 3 - Some Sex

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: 52900

Genre: Contemporary, LGBTQIA+, contemporary, gay, Japanese-American, trans, interracial, BDSM, D/s, power play, slow burn, personal assistant, disability/ chronic illness, depression, age gap

 

Add to Goodreads

 

Synopsis

 

Burned out ex-soldier Nick Kurosawa has drifted from job to job since he lost his family in a car crash. Lately, he’s been working on and off as a bouncer, barely managing to cover his bills; an opportunity for steady, well-paying work is just what he needs to get his life back in order. Jacob Umber, a secretive philanthropist, gives him that opportunity. Umber has fibromyalgia and needs a personal assistant to help him with the tasks of daily living—someone strong, adaptable, and, most of all, willing to let Umber take the lead. It seems a perfect opportunity for Nick. More than anything, he craves guidance and a purpose, and Umber gives him that in spades. When Nick starts craving more, it seems an impossible complication, but even the reserved Umber can’t deny Nick’s talent—and need—for following his orders. But Umber’s shadowy past holds secrets that could undo their fragile new relationship and any hope Nick has of a normal life.

Excerpt

 

The Assistant John Tristan © 2020 All Rights Reserved

 

It was a clear autumn night, with the moon low and yellow above the city. Between its fullness and the lights, only a few stars could be made out, pinpoints in the raw black silk of the night. Nick stood with his fists balled above the man breathing hard in the gutter. A trickle of spilled beer ran into his hair, foaming like shampoo. He smelled sour, of sweat and fear.

 

“Jesus, man!” The man’s companion—a skinny young guy with a circular Band-Aid over one eye, like a discount pirate—crouched beside him. “Somebody call an ambulance! Call the cops!”

 

“By all means,” Nick said. He forced himself to take a step back, unclench his fists. “Let’s call the cops and tell them the whole story.”

 

Discount Pirate slit his eye at him and helped his companion to his feet. The man was dazed but seemed unhurt. Still—he could easily have a concussion.

 

Nick hesitated. “Maybe we should call an ambulance—”

 

“Forget it,” the man said thickly and spat into the gutter. In the neon and moonlight, the blood in his mouth looked black. His eyes met Nick’s, and this was the worst part: they understood each other perfectly. He’d wanted to start a fight, and Nick had taken the bait. Another night, it would have fallen out differently.

 

“Let’s get out of here,” Discount Pirate said, putting a proprietary arm around his companion’s waist and dragging him off into the darkness.

 

Nick let out a shaky breath. The street was empty, now; if he was lucky, this wouldn’t get back to Merritt, who owned the Hellhole. He hadn’t hired Nick to start fights but to stop them as gently as possible—de-escalation, not macho bullshit. The Hellhole was the only gay bar in Westerley, which meant it drew both the occasional snickering asshole and its share of ex-boyfriend drama. Merrick wouldn’t thank him for bad publicity.

 

“Jesus, Nick.”

 

Fuck. This was the last thing he needed. He turned toward the familiar voice. “Hey, Alex.”

 

Alexander Finn—his friend, once-upon-a-time fuck-buddy, and self-appointed social worker—had come up out of the Hellhole at just the wrong time. Sweat was still beaded on his pale forehead, cooling rapidly in the night air. “What happened?”

 

“Didn’t know you were down here tonight,” Nick said, affecting a breezy tone. “Must have been here before my shift started.”

 

Alex rolled his eyes. “I know you’re not jealous, so you’re trying to deflect. What happened?” He took out his cigarette case—silver, engraved—and popped one into his bow-lipped mouth, then offered one to Nick.

 

He reached for it, then hesitated. “Haven’t smoked in months.”

 

Alex gave him a skeptical look. “Come on.”

 

“Vaping doesn’t count.”

 

He laughed softly. “I’ll give you that one.” He snapped the case closed and tucked it away. “Talk.”

 

“I don’t know.” Nick ran his hands through his hair. “The guy just. Got under my skin. It’s like he knew how to push my buttons.”

 

“You’re not supposed to have buttons while you’re on the door.”

 

“Fuck you. Give me a cigarette.”

 

He did; they smoked together in the neon-lit dark.

 

“This job…” Alex chewed on his thoughts for a moment. “It’s not good for you. This isn’t the first time you’ve let someone…push your buttons.”

 

Alex was right—he’d never let himself take it this far before, but there were more than a few times over the last few weeks when a sneer or a snicker or a muttered insult had gotten under his skin and launched him right in someone’s face, teeth bared, eyes glittering. His fuse frayed shorter every week he was out here. He took a long, slow draw from the cigarette and laughed bitterly. “Well. I still need the rent paid.”

 

“How long until your shift is over?”

 

Nick grinned sideways at Alex. “Why, you want to take me home?”

 

He sighed and shook his head, but it had raised a smile. “Just think you could do with a good night’s sleep. After that…” Alex hesitated a moment. “Can you take the next few days off?”

 

“I’m not back on shift until Monday evening.”

 

Alex nodded and took a card out of his pocket—his business card, Nick recognized—and then fished out a pen. “Turn around,” he said.

 

Nick did. Alex leaned on him, using his back as a desk to write on. He could feel the scratch of the pen through his shirt.

 

When Alex was done, he handed him the card. Nick frowned at it. There was an address on it, a place in the financial district, and a name: Jacob Umber. “What’s this?”

 

“Someone—someone I know is looking to hire. I thought…well, you already have a job, and I had someone else lined up, but—”

 

“You always have someone lined up for something, don’t you?” There was a slight edge of bitterness to Nick’s words. Alex networked—he always had a side hustle lined up for someone, for the washouts and burnouts, the ex-cops and ex-military, the bikers and drifters he seemed to draw into his orbit. His type: like Nick. “Is this meant to be charity? Because you can pass it on to one of your other tricks. I don’t need it.”

 

“Call it what you will. And you’re not a trick, Nicholas.” Alex leaned in to kiss him on the cheek, chastely. “You’re my friend.”

 

Nick swallowed a sudden lump in his throat and stuffed the card in the back pocket of his jeans. “Yeah, all right, fine. There’s no number on the card—am I meant to just show up?”

 

“I wrote hours on there,” Alex said. “Nine to three. Weekdays.”

 

“Right.”

 

“Nick…” He seemed to be struggling with his words. “This isn’t a guaranteed job. I can get you a way in, but you’ll have to impress.”

 

“Come on, Alex.” Nick flashed a smile. “Don’t you think I can pull out the stops when I need to?”

 

He laughed and shook his head. “I know you can. Good luck, Nick.”

 

“Thanks. No, really…thank you.”

 

He nodded and left him on the empty street. Nick took his vape out of his pocket and sucked down a nicotine cloud; he noticed his hands were shaking. There was a subtle ache in his knuckles, where they’d collided with the man’s cheekbone. He felt a tiredness deeper than exhaustion, something like lead in his bones, and on top of that, a thin hot skin of queasy arousal. He didn’t know if he wanted to sleep for a year or get fucked up against the wall of the nearest alley. Well, he told himself, right now it’s going to be neither. He smoked until his hands stopped shaking and then waited for the sky to lighten—for his shift to be over—so he could go home.

 

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Meet the Author

John Tristan is a multinational gay nerd, currently living in Manchester, UK. When he’s not writing, he works in the voluntary sector; when he’s not doing either, he’s probably playing video games or tabletop RPGs. After his mother banned books at the table during mealtimes, he read the backs of sauce bottles. His stories are sometimes romantic, sometimes erotic, often speculative, and always queer.

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