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Rent by Luke Jameson

Happy Friday, book lovers!

Today, I’m thrilled to share this hot new release for you from my Twitter-buddy, Luke Jameson!

Read on for the cover and blurb — and then click on a buy link to get your copy!


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Rent’s due, and Joe’s bank balance hovers perilously close to zero.

Desperate for cash, Joe hustles until he finds not just one man to satisfy, but a room full of hungry, powerful men in our nation’s capital. These men make laws that govern us all, and hide their true desires from everyone – except Joe.

Determined to extract every dollar he can from the corrupt elite, he dances his way into their fantasies, putting on a show that leaves them begging for release.

Joe and a fellow dancer put on a sizzling performance no one in the voyeuristic audience will ever forget. One night on stage doing what we all do in private guarantees he’ll never have problems making rent again.

Buy your copy:

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Kobo | iTunes

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Autumn Fire is back on the e-bookshelf!

My first novel, Autumn Fire, is getting a snazzy new re-release today over at Deep Desires Press! (For those new to the party, Deep Desires Press is my publishing company for erotica and erotic romance.)

Most authors have that first novel that they really wish hadn’t seen the light of day. Not me. I love my first novel.

When I sat down to revise it (and it needed an overhaul), I fell in love with the characters and the story all over again.

Come along for the ride — I know you’ll love it!

Click here to find out more.

Autumn-Fire-Cameron-D-James-2400

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Our Biggest Sale EVER!

Smashwords is having a year-end sale and almost all of the Indie Erotica Collective books are on sale! You can get fantastic deals on smutty reads from Cameron D. James, Master Dominic, Ethan White, and Sandra Claire!

All of these deals are valid December 25th to January 1st — so don’t miss out!

Now, on to the deals!

25% OFF

 

50% OFF

 

75% OFF

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Law of Love by Bob Masters

Hi readers!

As I’ve mentioned many times before, I’m the publisher over at Deep Desires Press — we publish erotica and high-heat-level erotic romance of all romantic pairings.

Law-Of-Love-Bob-Masters-600.jpgI wanted to share Law of Love with you. This short novella came to my inbox a while back and was immediately taken by it. On the surface, Law of Love is a sweet M/M romance (with a few erotic scenes) between a park ranger who’s never even questioned or explored his sexuality and the cute lifeguard that gets a job working with him.

Digging deeper, though, Law of Love is set in 1969, shortly after the Stonewall Riots, and is thus set in a time of tumult, as the LGBTQ community begins loudly demanding equal rights. Paralleling this setting of liberation is the liberating internal journey of Joseph, the park ranger.

Over on the Deep Desires Press blog, I just shared an excerpt from Law of Love. In this scene, Joseph has realized he has some sort of attraction to Jimmy, the lifeguard, but he hasn’t yet clued in that it’s a romantic attraction. Moreover, this is the scene where Jimmy more or less forces Joseph to loosen up. Joseph has been a straight-laced park ranger since he finished college and really hasn’t ever done anything wild or adventurous — but on a midnight boat ride, Jimmy strips down and skinny-dips in the lake, inviting Joseph to join him.

As I read this scene, particularly in the context of the whole book, the simple act of Joseph deciding to drop his boxers was incredibly moving and very empowering.

You can read the excerpt here.

And you can find out where to buy your copy here.

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Louder Than Words by Siryn Sueng

As I’ve mentioned more than once, I’m one of the co-founders and publishers over at Deep Desires Press, a publishing house for erotica and erotic romance.

When we received Siryn Sueng’s submission of Louder Than Words, I immediately knew we had to publish it. I think I feel a certain kinship with the book, perhaps because, like Derrek, I’m a former teacher who crushes on Starbucks baristas. And, like Alex, I have a communication-related disability (Alex can’t speak and I am hard of hearing).

But, most of all, the reason why I knew we had to publish Louder Than Words was because the banter between Derek and Alex is just so effing cute and awkward that I’m grinning the whole time I’m reading it.

You should definitely check out this book!


Blurb:

Derrek is a local teacher in Clearwater, Florida. He frequents a nearby coffee shop before work every morning, where he finds himself enraptured with a young barista, Alex. But Alex never seems to notice him, even when he’s handing Derrek his morning coffee.

After weeks of hiding in his corner under the pretense of working, Derrek finally gains enough courage to ask Alex on a date. He’s crushed when all he gets for an answer is complete silence. He thinks it’s the end, until he finds out that Alex has a disability that has paralyzed his vocal cords.

Sign language is Alex’s way of communication, and it’s something that Derrek knows little to nothing about. With renewed determination, Derrek asks Alex to teach him sign language. Derrek wants to be able to talk to Alex, to tell him how he really feels, and find out if Alex feels the same.

But more than anything, he longs for a relationship that goes deeper than just words alone.

Louder Than Words is an 18,000-word novella.

Purchase your copy:

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | iTunes | Kobo | Smashwords

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Excerpt:

I grabbed a bottle of water and went to the register, where the girl met me with a smile. “Candice” was what her name-tag said. I returned her pleasantries and handed her the bottle of water. As she rang up the total, I looked toward the back of the shop where employees were only allowed. I could see shelves filled with boxes but I didn’t see Alex anywhere.

I cleared my throat and got the courage to ask her where he was. “Uh, is Alex here?”

Candice stared for a moment and then laughed. “Oh, yeah. He’s here, in the back, getting more cups. Did you want to talk to him?” She paused and eyed me as if she knew me. Then she grinned. “You’re the guy from this morning, huh?” she said knowingly, catching me off guard. Had Alex told her about that? The thought had my heart tightening and my face burning with embarrassment.

“Y-yeah … about that—”

“Oh, don’t worry. He didn’t tell me much; just that you surprised him with your rather abrupt confession.” Candice interrupted me and gave me a wolfish grin.

I fiddled with my card and frowned at her. “Can I talk to him please?” I felt a little bad for speaking with a sharp tone, but couldn’t help it. I was annoyed that she was teasing me; as if Bryant didn’t do that enough.

She didn’t seem to care, though, as she walked away with her smile still in place. “Alex!” Her voice rang out in the back and I took a quick glance around the shop to make sure I hadn’t gained too much attention. I turned back to the counter as she came back with Alex in tow; quite literally towing him too, her hand wrapped around his wrist and a happy smile on her face.

“Here you go!” she said with such enthusiasm I was sure her and Bryant were related somehow. She presented Alex to me and he stood there in shock, fidgeting as he looked between her and me.

“Uh … hi,” I said and Candice snickered. I glared at her and she shrugged. It seemed to break the ice and Alex smiled.

“If you need a translator, I can do that for you. He doesn’t talk; he signs,” Candice offered.

“Yeah, I saw that earlier. Um … actually that’s why I wanted to talk to you, uh, speak with you? U-um … sorry. I’m not — anyway. I want to learn. I don’t know a single damn thing about signing, other than like A B C and hi.” I smiled like an idiot as I waved “hi” at him.

Alex’s smile grew and he leaned forward, bracing himself against the computer. He ran his tongue across his lips and I caught sight of a silver bar through the middle. Black bracelets laced his right wrist, the sleeves of his black shirt rolled up to his elbows. His lashes were long and thick, accenting his gorgeous green eyes. Alex’s laugh was raspy, the sound just about gone. The loudest part of it was the hard puff of air, followed by the faintest tone of his voice. He shook his head and ran a hand through his hair, pulling the black, sleek strands away from his face and I got a full view of the earrings in his ears; a couple of bars, rings of black and red, a stud, and a pretty, silver cuff.

He was definitely a good-looking man. I pressed on, now that the atmosphere between us wasn’t as tense. I was also distracting myself from that bar in his tongue … damn, was it tantalizing. “So, I was wondering if you could teach me. I’d like to learn.”

Alex played with the end of the black bar that crossed the top of his ear. His smile turned into a playful grin, and if I wasn’t already hooked, I was reeled in then. His hands and fingers weaved in the air forming his answer to me and I stared for a moment, too caught up in his sexy smile to really pay much attention.

“He said that’s fine,” Candice translated for me. “Said he wouldn’t mind teaching you. Especially since that’s not how you say ‘hi’ in sign language.”

Alex looked down, his smile growing, and he laughed again with that sweet soundless rasp, and my chest was tight.


About the Author:

Siryn Sueng is an erotica M/M romance writer. Mostly she writes in the fantasy, paranormal, and even Sci-Fi genres. Louder than Words, though, is her first ever contemporary work. She’s married to her wonderful husband of 13 years, and they have two cute kittens, Anubis and Kida, who drive them crazy almost all the time. Anubis fancies himself the destroyer of the elusive red dot…

Siryn is a lover of games on a wide range of platforms. She plays on the PC, console, and hand-held devices (her 3DS currently). She also plays otome novels on her tablet. Dragon Age, the Fire Emblem series, and the Tale’s series are her favorite games. Japan is where she would love to visit sometime. She’s a huge fan of Japan, including manga and anime. Siryn loves to read, though she’s been writing more than reading as of late. And she has a deep love for dragons. She has a very large collection of dragon statues in her house.

Siryn is also a co-writer with Usagi Kita. Together they write under the name ‘Lilia Blanc’ and have published their first book: King’s Lament.

Follow Siryn Sueng on Twitter: @Siryn_Sueng

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Modern Brides and Modern Grooms — Interview with Author Mark O’Connell

Greetings, readers! Today I’m thrilled to have Mark O’Connell here to talk about his book, Modern Brides and Modern Grooms: A Guide to Planning Straight, Gay, and Other Nontraditional Twenty-First-Century Weddings! First, we’ll start with the cover and blurb, then head on into the interview with Mark!

modern-brides-modern-groomsModern Brides and Modern Grooms

This book is for any couple—same or opposite sex—seeking a personalized wedding that dignifies the relationship and the individual self. No “new normal” here—this guide emboldens you to harness your unique, brazen, queer truth; to be creative; and to plan your wedding your way.

Every fiancé faces the question, how do I become something new without losing myself? Using his own story, author Mark O’Connell reflects on conflicts that arrive during wedding transitions, as well as various other transitions throughout your lives.

As a psychotherapist, O’Connell offers ideas to bridge relational gaps with your partner, family, and friends. As a professional actor, he also offers insight into the ways your wedding is a theatrical production and how this can help you to conceptualize the event, consolidate your efforts, and increase creative collaboration as a couple. This will serve you not only on your big day, but also for the rest of your time together.

Whether we’re straight, gay, or other, weddings inspire us to carve out more fun, freedom, recognition, life space, love space, and connubial space than we’ve ever had before.

Purchase your copy on Amazon. (Paperback edition releases January 3, 2017.)

Interview with Author Mark O’Connell

Tell us about Modern Brides & Modern Grooms.

10689767_10153283136182802_2409827048127737897_nMy guiding question for this book was: Why does anyone get married anymore?   Now that we can all get married in the U.S., and relationships are more gender neutral and equitable than ever before—gay or straight—why do so many of us still choose to get married and to have weddings?

I interviewed a wide variety of couples—of all ages, races, ethnicities, genders, sexual orientations, and religious backgrounds—whose wedding planning journeys were each unique and distinct, but at the same time, at the core they were all after the same thing: to prepare for a life together, not just for a perfect day—with a perfect, white fluffy princess and a frilly cake at the center. And I use those very personal, idiosyncratic journeys to drive much of the book, to help inspire and encourage each individual reader.

I was also interested in how the processes of collaborative communication, negotiation, and creativity that go into wedding planning, help to decide much more than what color napkins are best and where to put the ice sculpture. More significantly the wedding planning process helps couples to practice how they will arrive at every major mutual decision they have to make down the line. (I’m a psychotherapist as well as an author). So unlike most wedding books, Modern Brides & Modern Grooms offers therapeutic advice for improving relationships with one’s partner (same or opposite sex), as well as one’s friends and family. That communication advice is based on my years of clinical experience.  Whether the reader is gay or straight, this book is designed to help him or her to plan a meaningful life together, not just a day.

Modern Brides & Modern Grooms is also the only book on the wedding or marriage shelf that is truly for any DIY wedding planner, male or female, gay or straight (not just brides).

Also, as a trained, professional actor, I offer the reader a perspective on how their wedding is a theatrical event that can effectively reveal their authenticity, and how they can go about achieving that.

And there are lots of TRUE, painfully honest, sometimes hilarious, sometimes cringe-worthy, stories, from my own wedding planning, and from a wide variety other couples, to give the reader a bit of entertaining schadenfreude, and to validate and invigorate readers as they embark on their own unique marital journeys.

Why is there a need for this book? And I see that you say it is for both gay and straight couples – how would a straight couple benefit from a book targeted at same-sex couples?

The very first line of the book is “Marriage equality has arrived, and it’s not just for the gays!”

Marriage equality has liberated us all. We can all now follow the lead of same sex couples who have always favored gender neutrality and equality in our partnerships, and, creative freedom in the celebration of our unions. All couples now have the opportunity to bust out of traditional molds of marriage and weddings.

There was no single wedding or marriage book before this one that addressed how the concept of marriage equality emphasizes our likenesses more than our differences—whether we are gay, straight, or anything else. So I wrote one book to cover all those bases.

I wanted a guide to exist for the various people out there who want to celebrate their unique relationships their own way.  I also wanted to inspire and empower each unique couple to reveal who they are, as opposed to conceal their individuality behind tired social norms.  And I wanted the true stories I shared in the book—mine and many others—to not only help people to navigate their own wedding planning, but also the entire course of their marriages—again, based on my work as a therapist who specializes in identity, family, and relationship conflicts. I also wanted the book to be a good read, to flow, so that people could pick it up and get lost in other people’s true stories to help them make up their own minds about what to do, rather than to be told what to do.

One of the specific motivations for writing this book was the number of straight women friends of mine who had been inspired by my queer wedding, because it modeled for them a way to celebrate their individuality and the specificity of their relationships, eyes wide open and on their own terms, without having to sleepwalk through the steps of misogynistic traditions (like being given away by one man to another).

Also, I wanted to address something that gets missed in even the most modern, progressive, wedding books: wedding planning isn’t just for brides.  

Men (both gay and straight) are more and more interested in helping to plan their own weddings than ever before.  Especially when they are encouraged to think deeply about the specific purpose of the event.  It’s the couples’ day, as a team, not just the bride’s (if there even is a bride).  It’s the couple’s opportunity to tell the story of who they are as a pair.  But unfortunately, most (if not all) of the wedding planning self is still aimed at women exclusively (and straight women at that).  I wanted to expand what was available and to help readers to consider all the rich, meaningful, and fun, things that are at the core of any wedding, none of which have to do with the problematic, age-old, and superficial theme of “here comes the bride.”   I wanted to create a resource that any couple could look to as they co-produce their own personal piece of theater, so that, when the event is performed, they will effectively and meaningfully celebrate the integration of their families with their tribes.

How does a same-sex wedding ceremony differ from a “traditional” wedding ceremony? (I’m reminded of my mom, who got married this past summer. She went very non-traditional with her wedding, almost exactly copying a same-sex wedding she had been to the previous year. Rather than being steeped in centuries of tradition, they instead allowed for freedom, creativity, and inventiveness—and just had fun!)

You answered your own question! Brilliantly.

There is no difference, really. Other than the fact that same sex couples do not have the option to sleepwalk through tired old wedding traditions, because we don’t have any. We are forced to be, as you say, “creative and individualistic, and free” to build our own, unique, events from the ground up.

But, again, as you say, the truth is that more and more straight couples are inspired by their queer peers and are refusing to perform antiquated rituals that hold no personal significance to them—as individuals or as couples—choosing instead to be just as awake, and creative and free in their celebrations, as their gay and lesbian friends and family members. So as time goes by, weddings are becoming more alike than different, no matter the genders or sexual orientations of the spouses to be.

Can you tell us a funny or cute or romantic story about your engagement and/or wedding with your husband?

1507922_10153283244057802_4432941838876914642_nYes! Our entire relationship has been guided by Samuel Beckett’s wise words: “Try again. Fail again. Fail better,” and our wedding was no exception.

We chose a venue near the college where we first met, as awkward sixteen-year-olds. We had been fast friends (he made me laugh!). And one night he told me that he really liked me. And I told him I was *straight* (because it was 1993 and I had NO gay role models, and too much internalized homophobia). So we stopped talking. FAIL.

Then, six years later, after I had the chance to find myself sexually, I saw him on MTV’s The Real World, and heard him talking about an unrequited college love… and decided to write him a redemptive letter (on letterhead with my phone number at the top…) And he called me one night (which was wild, because I was watching him on TV, at that moment—I saw him travelling with his housemates through India as we talked on the phone). And we picked up where we left off, and became the boyfriends we never could have been at sixteen, had he gotten what he wanted. Then, six months later, we were walking, hand-in-hand, in Boston Common, and came across Ellen DeGeneres, playing frisbee with her then girlfriend. And I thought, how auspicious: I should tell him why I wrote that letter. And I said, “Remember when you were talking about me on TV?…” and he was like, “Um… That wasn’t you.” Oof. FAIL AGAIN.

Our good friend, Joy, officiated our wedding and told that story to our guests, emphasizing that Justin was not talking about me on the show. But also that he was…

mj-gaythicAnd getting things wrong turned out to be a theme of our entire wedding. As beautiful as many things were—like Joy’s speech—we also failed, repeatedly, throughout the day, including and especially when we realized, too late!, that we hadn’t prepared for our first dance… FAIL BETTER.

So, after being together for 17 years, I can say there’s definitely something to be said for trying and failing, and failing better, as opposed to hiding behind the illusion of perfection. Failing keeps you connected to other people in an authentic way. And to this day, I find it meaningful that we celebrated that concept at our wedding in a variety of ways.

What is the core message of Modern Brides & Modern Grooms?

That marriage is a personal and independent choice.  That each of us can make that choice with an awake, creative, and free mind; not only when we choose to get engaged or have a wedding, but again and again throughout our lives, every time we reach a major crossroads with our partner—in the form of family planning, or careers, or home-owning, or sex, or artistic goals. Weddings are opportunities to not only celebrate, but to truly prepare us to collaborate on all of those big decisions ahead, no matter who you are or whom you love.

Purchase your copy on Amazon. (Paperback edition releases January 3, 2017.)

Learn more about Modern Brides and Modern Grooms at Mark’s website.

About Mark O’Connell:

0864fdsiMark O’Connell, LCSW, is a New York City-based psychotherapist in private practice, author, and public speaker on issues related to gender, identity, and relationship conflicts.  As an expert on modern relationships and marriage, he is frequently interviewed by popular wedding planning sources such as Brides Magazine, The Knot, and Inside Weddings, and he is an official expert on Marriage.com. He writes for The Huffington Post, PsychologyToday,  Truthdig.com, among other popular sources, and his clinical writing has been published by The Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association.  His website is www.markoconnelltherapist.com.

Twitter: @MarkOTherapist

 

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Settling the Score by Eden Winters (Book Blitz)

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Greetings book lovers! Today we have a book blitz for Settling the Score by Eden Winters! Read on for the blurb, cover, excerpt, and giveaway!


Blurb:

Outed and dumped on national television by his rising star boyfriend, Joey Nichols must face the bigotry of the locals in his small Southern town alone. His dreams of a happy ever after lie crushed at his feet.

Novelist Troy Steele has an axe to grind against Hollywood heartbreaker types. Transforming Joey into a gorgeous, unobtainable hunk would be payback worthy of Troy’s poison pen. It’s a brilliant way to get back at Joey’s image-obsessed ex-boyfriend and the movie producer who’s mutilating Troy’s novels.

What begins as simple revenge may tangle them together in something far more complicated. Living well may be the best revenge, but Troy and Joey could rewrite that to loving well.

Add to Goodreads

Purchase: Rocky Ridge Books | Amazon | All Romance eBooks

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Excerpt:

The Nichols’ dining room table could easily seat six people if it weren’t covered with business records, homework, and car parts. Instead of clearing it off, the family assembled in the living room, parents on the couch, Joey and his sisters on the floor. Overloaded plates balanced on each lap.

“Hush, it’s starting,” Joey’s mom warned, mostly to thirteen-year-old Stacey.

“Oops! Gotta go!” Stacey disconnected her call and dropped her phone onto the floor.

Joey and Jackie were quiet already, Joey afraid he’d miss something important if he so much as blinked.

Ten years separated him and his twin from Stacey. Mom often joked that it had taken her that long to forget the horrors of giving birth enough to try again.

Dad blamed his cousin’s homebrew.

“Good evening, I’m Evelyn Hugh. Welcome to Hollywood Seen. Tonight’s hottie, err, I mean, hot story”—the show’s hostess began, grin unapologetic—“is a young man who’s got all of Hollywood talking. Riker Sanderson has what it takes to survive in this town: looks, talent, and a legion of screaming fans.”

On cue, the camera focused on the audience, where the legion, mostly young and female, chanted, “Riker! Riker!”

“Sorry to disappoint you girls. Rumor has it that Mr. Sanderson is taken.” Evelyn pouted for the camera. “Or is he? Joining me tonight is none other than Riker Sanderson, star of the action thriller, Something to Die For.”

Taken? Joey swallowed hard. Surely she couldn’t mean…

The camera zoomed out, showing the beautiful man who’d stolen his heart and who’d shared his apartment up until a few months ago. Riker, more muscled thanks to a heavy training routine for the movie, sported gold highlights in his now much shorter hair. He looked downright sinful in tight-fitting T-shirt and jeans.

Joey idly toyed with the silver band on his middle finger, a nervous habit, before noticing its mate missing from Riker’s hand. Maybe he’d taken it off for the movie. It didn’t mean anything. No, nothing at all.

All worries disappeared when Riker slowly raised a simmering gaze to the camera. Something clenched deep in Joey’s insides. Those dark eyes hypnotized him, even if they were on a TV screen and not actually in the room. Bedroom eyes intense enough to cause instant paralysis. How many times had Joey lost himself in them, lying in a sweaty, satisfied tangle with Riker?

“Thank you for joining us,” the bleached-blonde hostess gushed, a woman Big Joe said gave him gout.

“Why does she do that to her hair?” Mom asked. “She’s ruined it.” She added the tried and true statement guaranteed to grant forgiveness for any unkindness spoken by a Southerner: “Bless her heart.”

With her whiney voice and constant fawning, Evelyn Hugh reminded Joey of one of the teenaged fans. “I can call you Riker, can’t I?”

“Sure, if I can call you Evelyn.” Her ordinary name sounded exotic when spoken in Riker’s deep tones. That was his gift. He could make anyone feel like the most important person on the planet just by talking to them. Joey had warmed himself by Riker’s fire on many a cold winter’s night.

“I loved you in the romantic comedy, Trying the Knot, filmed in your home state of Georgia. Although only a minor supporting role, your portrayal of the obnoxious cousin at the wedding turned out to be a real scene-stealer and resulted in your big break, didn’t it?”

Riker hadn’t really wanted the cousin role that required him to wear a fat suit and play a backwoods redneck, even if he’d had to beat out a lot of other hopefuls for the part.

“Well, Evelyn,”—Riker turned puppy dog eyes on the hostess—“I’d originally auditioned for the role of Chuck.”

“The pain-in-the-ass playboy who seduced several bridesmaids? Oh, you’re too sweet to play such a cad.”

“You’re too kind.”

A better-known actor had won the honors of playing asshole Chuck. Riker had stormed around the apartment for days.

Riker smiled like he’d hit the jackpot by missing the role. “Actually, I found the cousin part more intriguing. I mean, it stretched my acting skills to play someone so unlike myself.”

“Oh, please, I’m trying to eat here,” Jackie spat.

Joey flashed her a quick evil eye and went back to watching TV.

What a tantrum Riker had thrown about “playing a hick nobody.” In the end he took the money, and assurances from his agent of appearing with a few big stars being a good career move and a way to get noticed.

But he’d done the part enough justice to bring Hollywood knocking.

“What an amazing experience,” the man of Joey’s dreams replied, though that’s not what he’d called it to friends. “It really helped me grow as an actor.” He’d privately referred to the part as beneath someone of his talent and his own personal hell.

“What’s it like working with powerhouse actress Clair Clancy?”

Joey lost the battle to keep a straight face. He’d gotten more earfuls about “Clair, the air-headed bitch.” She’d only spoken to Riker twice during filming when their roles overlapped.

Onscreen, Riker described her as, “An amazing actress. A true professional.” He waved at the camera. “Congrats on the birth of your little girl, Clair. You’ll be an amazing mother.” This from the man who’d wanted to pass a law making it illegal for the woman to breed. Wow, what a good actor. For a moment even Joey believed him.

“In a real-life Cinderella story, a relatively unknown actor is chosen for the lead role of Mitchell Keller in the biggest film of the year. How’s that working out for you?” Evelyn leaned her head on Riker’s shoulder, eyeing him through batting lashes. How dare she? She needed to back off.

A punch to the shoulder brought Joey back to reality, breathing hard and fingernails digging into the palms of his clenched fists.

“She does that with everybody,” Jackie murmured. “What’s your problem, anyway?”

Joey took a deep breath and let it out slowly, a flush creeping up his cheeks.

After what could have been two years, or more probably, two seconds, Riker answered, “It’s really amazing.”

“Doesn’t he know any adjectives besides amazing?” Stacey cut in. “I mean, really! He’s an actor, he’s supposed to be good with words.” Oops, the last holdout in the family swayed to the “We don’t like Riker” side.

Joey ignored her. He’d show them. Soon he’d be living the good life, basking in the California sun. He and Riker had even talked about getting married.

“…and my producer, Ian Hagan, is amazing,” Riker was saying.

Stacey made an “I told you so” face.

Their mother swatted her arm, nipping in the bud whatever sarcastic remark she’d been about to sling.

Riker plowed on. “He took a huge chance in hiring an unknown for such a major role, and I’m grateful he believes in me. I’ve done everything I can to make sure he doesn’t regret taking a risk. We’ve wrapped up the final scenes. Now it’s in post-production, where they’ll add the Hollywood magic.”

What? Riker said a few hours ago that they were still shooting. Well, maybe they had to reshoot some parts.

“Oh, that’s fabulous.” Evelyn’s fake smile lost its battle to look sincere.

Joey knew how she felt. The standing local rule: Never mention acting around Riker unless you had a least an hour and didn’t mind listening. Folks in town phrased their words very carefully.

“Now, Riker, I know you’ve heard the rumors and seen the pictures posted on the Internet of yourself with someone who is apparently very close to you.”

Joey’s heart pounded and his ears rang. Rumors? Pictures? He peeped over at Jackie, who sat up straighter and put her plate down on the floor.

The smile fled Riker’s face, and he wore the same pleading expression he’d used to get out of cooking. “Yes, I have. For the record, I’d like to state that my personal life isn’t anyone else’s business.”

Oh, shit! What had they found out?

“Breathe, Joey,” Jackie urged.

No matter how he tried, Joey couldn’t, because Evelyn dropped a bomb. “Are you gay?”

Oh, my God! They’d been careful since Riker signed the movie deal. How had anyone suspected? Sure, in a few months maybe, when they were ready. Not now!

Jackie stiffened and Joey held his breath.

“Yes, Evelyn, I am.” Riker sighed, his anguished eyes filling with tears. Joey had never seen anyone who could cry on demand quite so convincingly, not even Stacey. “I’m not ashamed of being a gay American, and I don’t see how my orientation has any bearing on my acting ability.”

“I knew it!” Stacey shrieked. Jackie shushed her. Joey ignored her again.

Evelyn scented blood and went for the throat—her trademark. “The man shown with you in the pictures, is he your boyfriend?”

Man in the pictures? Boyfriend? Surely it couldn’t be… Who the hell were they talking about? If it wouldn’t have given too much away, Joey would have made a mad dash to his parent’s aging computer to find out. Evelyn Hugh moved much too slowly. Stomach too queasy to eat, Joey plopped his uneaten meal down on the coffee table.

Riker sat quietly gazing into the camera and Joey almost heard the wheels turning under that mop of highlighted hair. Finally, his lover became his ex-lover with the casually spoken, “I guess you could say we were in a relationship at the time. Nothing serious. We’ve decided to cool things down while I focus on my career.”

What!? Nothing really serious?! Joey gaped at the screen, a flash fire creeping up his cheeks all the way to his ears. Did Riker mean him? A boulder formed in his throat.

They’d talked about forever. He gasped for breath, unable to turn away from the train wreck of his life unfolding on national television.

“Yes, it’s true.” Riker used the same sorrowful tone the hick cousin had during a big scene in Trying the Knot. “I mean, he’s back home, I’m here. It wouldn’t work out.”

Jackie might have snapped, “Oh, cry me a river!” Joey was too caught up in his own personal drama to know for sure.

He knows I’m watching! He knows I’m seeing this! Why is he coming out now? Why couldn’t he tell the nosy woman it’s none of her damned business?

Riker focused directly on the camera, as if seeking Joey out. “Yeah, we kind of grew out of each other. It’s time to move on.”

“I certainly appreciate your candor, and I’m sure there’s plenty of people around town willing to keep you company.” Evelyn sat up, patting at her hair. “We all look forward to your upcoming movie. It’s sure to be a blockbuster. Thank you for joining us.”

Joey dared not dart out of the room like he wanted to and give too much away. At the moment the family only knew that he’d had a gay roommate. Should he act surprised?

The camera left Riker and zoomed in on the hostess. Joey saw her through a glaze of tears and fears. “Remember that you heard it first on Hollywood Seen.” Her goofy grin dimmed a few watts. “Now, here’s another Hollywood Seen exclusive, the photographs that started it all. Last month they began circling the Internet. Until tonight, spokesmen for Mr. Sanderson firmly denied their authenticity. A pity, really. They made such a handsome couple, don’t you agree?”

Joey’s reality crumbled, replaced by a nightmare. The TV screen filled completely with an image of Riker and himself dancing at the club in Atlanta, Riker’s leg wedged between Joey’s, Joey’s mouth locked to his lover’s neck and his crotch pressed against Riker’s denim-covered thigh.

Oh dear God! He looked like a humping vampire!

The image lasted forever. Enough already, take it down! He’d been stripped naked. Laid bare, all his deepest, darkest secrets exposed.

Calm down, no one can tell it’s you. Maybe they’ll think it’s someone out in Hollywood. That hope dashed to pieces with another picture, probably taken shortly after the first. In it, Joey and Riker both faced the camera. The hostess delivered the killing blow. “Our sources tell us that the man in the picture with Riker Sanderson is Joseph Nichols, Jr., with whom Riker lived in Georgia before moving to California.”

Joey fumbled his cell phone out of his pocket and barely managed to hit the right number. Instead of one of the ever-changing heavy-metal ringtones Riker used, a recorded message stated flatly, “The number you have dialed has been disconnected…”


About the Author:

author-avatarYou will know Eden Winters by her distinctive white plumage and exuberant cry of “Hey, y’all!” in a Southern US drawl so thick it renders even the simplest of words unrecognizable. Watch out, she hugs!

Driven by insatiable curiosity, she possibly holds the world’s record for curriculum changes to the point that she’s never quite earned a degree but is a force to be reckoned with at Trivial Pursuit.

She’s trudged down hallways with police detectives, learned to disarm knife-wielding bad guys, and witnessed the correct way to blow doors off buildings. Her e-mail contains various snippets of forensic wisdom, such as “What would a dead body left in a Mexican drug tunnel look like after six months?” In the process of her adventures she has written sixteen m/m romance novels, has won several Rainbow Awards, was a Lambda Awards Finalist, and lives in terror of authorities showing up at her door to question her Internet searches.

When not putting characters in dangerous situations she’s a mild-mannered business executive, mother, grandmother, vegetarian, and PFLAG activist.

Her natural habitats are airports, coffee shops, and on the backs of motorcycles.

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