It’s giveaway time! I have a hard time grasping that half the year has gone by already and that this is the seventh giveaway we do.
If you haven’t been around before, I do a giveaway at the beginning of each month where I give away an ebook copy of the books that have published during the current month previous years. So that means, this month, I give away a copy of those of my books that’s been published in July.
I’ve messed everything up by re-releasing books, so the dates are all messed up. But, I’m going by the first release date. Next year I might do this again with the new dates (though that would mean a lot of books April through July and not so many the other months). We’ll see. I haven’t decided yet.
How does it work?
Some months I’ve done Kingsumo giveaways, but this month I think we do a random draw from the comments. Let’s fill up people’s TBR lists! Leave a comment below where you recommend one or more books you think people should read this summer.
We have three books this month – Around Seven, Nine Stones, and When Skies Are Gray.
Around Seven was recently re-released, but we’re going by the old date. This is an autumn story I wrote for the Seasons of Love anthology. We were given the Seasons of Love song from Rent, the musical, as prompt.
Nine Stones is a paranormal story about a cat shifter who has the hots for his neighbour but keeps getting killed when he’s trying to impress him (he doesn’t die). It was written for when JMS Books turned nine. We all got an in-house call to write stories with nine in them.
And then we have When Skies Are Gray. This one I wrote when the pandemic hit. I was in no frame of mind to write and spent a few weeks flapping about doing nothing of value. So I asked the members of my Facebook group to make requests, but short easy ones, like an element they wanted to be included in a story or an item or something, and I’d write a short story. One of the lovely people there wanted an age gap story inspired by the You Are My Sunshine song (it just hit me that maybe she meant another sunshine song. Well it fits the Ain’t No Sunshine song too LOL) So I wrote When Skies Are Gray.
The shock of hitting the water had stolen Oswald’s breath, then fear had kicked in. So fucking clumsy. He’d steered the canoe towards the portage; there had been signs pointing to where he should go, and the man he’d rented the canoe from had talked him through it.
Wasn’t standing up in a boat the first thing you learnt not to do? Oswald didn’t know, but when he’d begun swaying and wobbling those were the words ringing in his head.
It had been colder than he’d thought it’d be, but the pull of the current was what had panic roaring in his ears. Funny how when he realised he might die if he went down the waterfall he wanted to live. Invisible hands had dragged him down under the surface, and he’d fought them until his muscles ached, until his lungs burned, until a numbness had all but immobilised him.
He’d hit a rock. The pain in his hip as he’d crashed into the solid shape was jarring, but he’d managed to cling to it. Frothy whitewater washed over him as he tore his hands to shreds on the stones—crawling, pulling, dragging. When he’d finally managed to haul himself onto a rock a couple of metres from the riverbank, he’d collapsed there.
Where the canoe had gone, he didn’t know, and he didn’t have the energy to move. He lay there panting until his eyes drifted closed. He’d rest for a little bit, a few minutes; then he’d go the last bit till he was up on dry land.
A few seconds later he began chuckling. So fucking pathetic. No wonder Guy had needed others. He couldn’t even get himself down a river without fucking up.
The chills came next, his entire body shaking and shuddering and the chuckles turned into sob-like sounds.
Oswald didn’t sob; he didn’t cry—crying never helped anything. He’d walked in on his husband-to-be with his cock buried in the best man’s throat—and he hadn’t made a sound. He’d walked up to the altar and told everyone the wedding was off—and he hadn’t cried. He’d gone back to the apartment he’d shared with Guy for the last five years and packed his clothes—and not a single tear had escaped his eyes. He’d stood there while Guy had been screaming at him that he was ridiculous, that none of the others meant anything, that everyone knew that, no matter how many others there were, Oswald was the one who mattered. Oswald was the one he’d chosen to marry—and he hadn’t uttered one word in response.
Two hundred and seventy-three days, or was it two hundred and seventy-four now? He cracked his eyes open. It was near-full dark, so it might have turned into day number two hundred and seventy-four. With chattering teeth, he looked around.
A bird screeched not far from him; he’d always believed the forest was quiet after dark. Resting his forehead against the rock he tried to make his teeth stop chattering, but it was freaking cold.
Then a branch cracked, and the sound of muttered curses followed.
* * * *
Joshua followed the trail up past the waterfall. It had taken longer than he’d thought it would. His sweat-soaked long-sleeved T-shirt was clinging to his body, and it didn’t help that the darkness had grown thicker around him. He wasn’t afraid he wouldn’t find his way back; he’d walked here often enough in daylight to know where things could get dicey but also when the worst that could happen was he’d scratch himself on a twig.
He walked as close to the river as he could. It was easier to see there than among the trees. The sound of the water quieted as soon as he’d passed the fall. It was still louder than it was downstream, but at least he could listen again.
Glancing out over the river, he missed the branch that had fallen over the trail. His legs caught in it, the crack as he stumbled loud enough to wake the dead, and he cursed the devil and his mother while rubbing his calf—no blood.
As he looked out over the river again, he thought something moved on a rock just a little bit above where the currents really sped up.
The form moved again, and a moan travelled in the wind. Fuck. He’d hoped he’d imagined it. “Are you all right?” Stupid question.
“Splendid. Thanks for asking.”
Josh smiled. A man judging from the voice and probably not in danger of dying on him. “Well, then, are you planning on sleeping out there tonight or could I perhaps persuade you to join me up here where it’s a little dryer?”
“Rough weekend?” She grinned, and Felix narrowed his eyes.
“I was dog sitting for my sister.” And he’d been stood up. He should’ve known, Kirk was way out of his league, and he couldn’t believe he’d been so stupid as to think Kirk would be interested in him. It wouldn’t surprise him if Kirk had been home all weekend. Maybe he’d been sitting inside listening to Felix ringing his doorbell and knocking far longer than any sane person would.
What Felix couldn’t figure out was why? Did Kirk know Felix had run over his cat and was punishing him? But how could he? And Felix had never shown any interest so how could Kirk have known he’d accept the dinner invite? He’d put on his best shirt for fuck’s sake. Pathetic.
“Oh how cute.”
An image of Gibson shaking the poor kitty flashed before his eyes. “Not really. The dog is a monster.”
Hannah giggled and headed for her desk.
The clock was on sedatives. Felix spent the morning checking and answering emails, and it was the longest morning he’d ever lived through. He needed ice cream.
When it was forty-five minutes left to his lunch break he faked heading for the bathroom and snuck out the side entrance. The summer sun bounced off the glass walls of the office building and got trapped between the houses. It was hotter than a sauna and it would’ve forced him to take shelter in the ice cream place on the corner even if he hadn’t been heading there.
The bell chimed above when he pushed the door open, and he breathed out a sigh of relief when the cool air embraced him. Before the door closed behind him, it was pushed open anew, and Felix feared it’d be someone from the office. Looking over his shoulder, he stared right at Kirk.
“Felix.” His voice was desert dry. The tight black T-shirt he wore revealed a large bruise on his neck and the longer Felix stared the more scrapes and bruises he found.
“Oh my God, are you all right?” Damn, he was supposed to be angry, not concerned.
One corner of Kirk’s mouth lifted in a devastatingly sexy grin, and Felix allowed himself a mental groan. It was a practiced grin, had to be. He made an extra effort not to show any effect it had on him. Unfortunately, it only made Kirk smile wider.
“I’ve had better mornings, but I have to say the day is getting better and better.” He turned serious. “I want to apologize for not being home yesterday, it was a …eh…emergency thing.”
“You could have called, or you know, knocked on my door before you left.” Damn, he should shut up. He didn’t want Kirk to come knocking on his door, did he?
“Yeah…I…eh…figured you had your hands full with the dog, so I didn’t want to interrupt. Come on, let me buy you an ice cream to make up for it.” He stepped close enough to make Felix’s tongue stick to the roof of his mouth—ice cream would help the dryness, wouldn’t it?
Kirk ordered, and they took a seat. “So he’s gone now, the dog I mean?” Kirk licked his spoon while looking at Felix behind those stupid sunglasses. Why did he have to wear them? It made it so hard to read his facial expressions.
“Went home yesterday afternoon. Why?” The ice cream was lovely as ice cream always is but Felix had a hard time concentrating. The way Kirk’s tongue worshiped the spoon was distracting, and his lips looked soft and inviting. It was a good thing they’d never had dinner. Felix would have looked like a fool.
“I don’t like dogs and I always pictured you as more of a cat person.”
The air got stuck in Felix’s throat, and he coughed. “Cat? What makes you say that?”
Kirk shrugged, but it ended in a hiss.
“Shit, are you sure you shouldn’t see a doctor or something? What if something is broken? What happened?” Bruises on the neck were serious. What if he was hurt?
“It’s nothing.” He waved a hand and glanced around the room. Felix followed his gaze. It was a cozy place, small tables with four chairs. The walls were a soft blue and the furniture black. He liked it, it had a cool, relaxed atmosphere.
“So are you a cat person?” Kirk flashed his lopsided smile again, and Felix’s heart beat faster. He probably practiced in front of the bathroom mirror every morning.
“I like birds. Sunny, my canary, is the best companion a man can have. Was, he was the best…” Felix took a shuddering breath.
Kirk turned white as a ghost and Felix reached out.
“You what?” Levi’s voice echoed over the phone booths.
On the other end of the line, Amanda sighed. “He came to the restaurant. I couldn’t ignore him.”
“No, of course not!” He didn’t want Amanda to ignore Doc, he wanted details. Four days had gone by, and all the time he could’ve gotten details about Doc. “Who was he with?” Levi forgot how to breathe. What if he was on a date? He’d already sent the letter he’d written, but the possibility of Madoc seeing someone else hadn’t hit him until now. It had been there at the back of his mind, of course. If he never made it back, he wanted Doc to meet someone else — sort of — but that he would do so while Levi was still alive hadn’t even crossed his mind. It wasn’t part of the plan.
Levi had to get out of here. He couldn’t stay in this godforsaken desert when his man was at home, possibly dating someone else. Three more weeks then he was on leave for two weeks. Two short weeks before he had to get back here again.
It was inhumane.
“They were a group, having a birthday dinner.”
Longing, sharp enough to hurt, swamped him. He could picture Doc sitting by a table in The Windmill, a shirt perfectly fitted for his broad shoulders, a tie immaculately tied around his neck. Levi always had to restrain himself from pulling the tie off when they were out in public — at home though, all bets were off. Or had been, he didn’t have that right anymore.
“People his age?”
“Yeah.” Amanda sighed again. “He’s lost weight.”
“What? Why?” Doc didn’t need to lose weight, he was perfect the way he was. He had a stocky, Welsh build that matched his white-sprinkled red hair and green eyes. Madoc Griffiths belonged on the green hills of Wales, or better yet, he belonged in the deep forests of Northfield. He might dress up nice every day before he went to work at the bank, but there was a wildness in him he always kept under wraps. It drove Levi mad. He wanted to poke Doc until the controlled surface shattered. Getting him to laugh until tears clung to his eyelashes, would have Levi floating on clouds for days. He loved it when the pristine surface of his bank teller cracked and the warm, funny person hidden underneath came out.
“I don’t know why.” Her laugh was short, but it made him smile despite everything. He wanted to ask her to go see him again, to ask him things.
“You don’t have to go to the bank anytime soon, do you?”
“I’m not gonna stalk him, Levi.”
“It’s not stalking if you have an errand.”
She snorted. “I don’t have an errand.” Damn. “I’ll tell you what, though.”
“What?” He clutched the phone tighter, hoping she’d give him something, anything, that would bring Doc closer to him.
“He asked about you.”
“He did?” Levi’s heart flipped over. “And he didn’t have a date?”
“No, he and some other guy were the only ones who didn’t arrive in pairs.”
Levi blew out a breath. “Good, good, that’s… good. Who was the other guy?”
“A friend. They sat on opposite ends of the table. Do you want him to be unhappy?”
“No! Yes… a little.”
“Well, he looked miserable so that should cheer you up.”
It didn’t. He didn’t want Doc to be miserable. Fisting his hair, he sighed. “It doesn’t.” The sounds of the ones waiting in line outside the booths grew in volume and Levi groaned. He didn’t want to hang up. “I have to go, Mandi. The line is growing.”
“Oh, okay. Will you call again?”
He hated the worry in her voice. “Of course, I’ll call you. It might be a few days, we’re going on patrol in another district, going to sleep in tents and shit.”
“Remember how much fun we had camping?” He studied some of the new doodles on the wall while he waited for her answer.
“We never went camping.”
“Exactly. That’s how much fun it is.”
Oswald Sattle has been sleeping in his Toyota Camry for the last two hundred and seventy-three days, the exact number of days since he discovered his fiancé cheating on him. Now, out of money and out of options, he’s on his way to Nortown. Aiden, an acquaintance from his past, has offered him a job opportunity he can’t turn down, no matter how much he’d like to.
Joshua Roth moved to Nortown four years ago, and he has everything he needs—a job, friends, peace and quiet. He’s not looking for a boyfriend; no one even knows he’s gay, and he’d like it to stay that way. Everything changes when he offers Oswald a place to stay, though.
Oswald looks like he wants to run away, and Josh finds himself suggesting things that will make him stay. All he wants is for Oswald to smile. Oswald has learned his lesson. He doesn’t want to overstay his welcome, but nothing soothes his nerves like being with Joshua in his cabin.
How long can Oswald stay before it’s time to move on again? Can Joshua have Oswald staying with him without the whole town talking about them? Probably not, but does he care?
The only thing worse than having a hot neighbor you’re too intimidated to talk to is accidentally hitting his cat with your car.
Felix Lane was perfectly content to spend the rest of his days with Sunny, his canary life companion, in their quiet little corner of the suburbs. But then Kirk Shoo with his unusual eyes moved in across the street, and Felix’s carefully constructed life is starting to unravel.
When your every bad-boy fantasy lingers at the mailbox, stands too close and smells too damn good, what’s an under-appreciated administrative assistant to do? Besides sneak out the backdoor to go to work?
But when Kirk’s cat runs out in front of Felix on his way home, he has no choice but to face the music and his dream man. Unless…
What starts as a tragic accident turns into something far more bizarre. And when Felix’s backyard begins to look like a pet cemetery, he has no choice but to come clean. That is if he can manage to find his sexy neighbor at all.
Levi Campbell made one huge, stupid mistake.
When his older boyfriend fears he’s holding Levi back from fulfilling his youthful dreams, he encourages him to break free and seek adventure. Levi, hurt and confused, does just that… But in an immature act of rebellion, he enlists in the army. The army!
Levi never wanted to be a soldier, and he never, ever wanted to go to faraway places, but he is now committed to serving his country for two whole years.
Madoc Griffiths did the right thing when he let Levi go, he knows he did, but if it was the right thing, then why can’t he move on? Every night he dreams about Levi; every day he misses him. But Levi is young, and Madoc will not stand in the way of Levi following his dreams.
But being a soldier isn’t Levi’s dream.
There is nothing Levi wants more than to do his time, and return home to Northfield and fight for his man. Madoc was sure he’d be able to move on, but once he hears Levi will be home on a two-week leave, he can think of nothing except seeing him again. But can he stand to be with him for two weeks and then let him leave to fight a war?