FREE READS!

Everyone likes a free read, right?
 
Here you'll find a link to my m/m novella TONIGHT (written as part of the M/M Romance Group on Goodread's Don't Read In The Closet program)...
 
A flash fiction m/f first kiss story....
 
And a m/f Christmas story (that is an excerpt from MEANT TO BE, which is currently out of print---stay tuned for updates on that)! 

TONIGHT

(click to download FREE from Amazon, B&N, ARe, Kobo)

 

Blurb:

David has loved his older brother Derek's BFF, Wiley, since the first day he met him, five long lust-filled years ago. But, as Derek never hesitates to point out, Wiley is straight.

 

When Wiley has a falling out with his roommate and winds up crashing on David and Derek's couch for a month, he's a 24/7 reminder of what David wants but fears he'll never have. Until one afternoon when David's model doesn't show up and Wiley offers to pose for him---and it sure feels like the heat between them is mutual.

 

Could Derek have been wrong about his best friend for all these years? Would David's dreams about Wiley finally come true? The only thing David knows is that one way or another he'll find out for sure...tonight. 

 

(*If you are not in the US and this title is not showing up as free on your Amazon it can also be downloaded HERE.)

 

FLASH FICTION 

The premise---write a short piece based on the First Kiss video that went viral in 2014 (click here if you happened to miss it)---was too tempting. Even though the video was later revealed to be part an advertisement, I loved the idea behind it. Strangers meeting for the first time, getting paired together to kiss on camera? Sounds good to me. I'm a sucker for a first kiss. First kisses are among my favorite scenes to write (and among my favorite personal memories). 

 

 

OLIVER'S TWIST

 

I should be nervous but all I can think about is how the Altoid the short blonde girl handed me in the ladies room is burning a hole through my tongue. Curiously strong my ass. I’m not curious. I’m horrified. I also don’t see a trash can. What am I going to do with this thing? My eyes are starting to water. That’s not going to look good on camera. And no one’s going to want to kiss the crying girl. Fuck. All I wanted was fresh breath. Now I’ve got a mint coup going on in my mouth. The mouth I’ll need to use in less than five minutes if the giant clock above the sign-in desk is correct.

 

“Number eight.” The tall skinny guy who took my head shot at check-in is tapping me on the shoulder.

 

Tucking the mint into my cheek I turn toward him. “Yes.”

 

“We need you over here. Your partner’s ready.”

 

Partner. Oh God.  Now I’m nervous. And my mouth is still in the minty version of hell. I follow Skinny Guy, keeping an eye on his dark green Chucks so I don’t lose him as we weave past other people. Still no trash can in sight. How can there not be a trash can? He stops and I can see the guy he’s standing next to. His back is turned. Dark hair. White T-shirt. Thin but muscled. Great arms. Not too big but well defined. Narrow hips in classic faded jeans that look like they were made to be worn by him. And an index card in his hand with the number eight on it. My number. That’s my guy.

 

There’s no other option. I pretend it’s a Valium and swallow the killer Altoid. An icy streak tumbles down my throat and I swear I can feel it radiating its freakishly cool heat inside my stomach. But maybe that’s just more nerves. Number Eight has turned around and is scanning the crowd.

 

Skinny Guy points to me. “There she is. Okay. You two stay here. Everyone else is partnered up. Let me check that the crew is ready and we’ll shoot.”

 

Number Eight’s eyes meet mine and for a second I can’t breathe. Blue eyes are not my thing. But these blue eyes? I’ve never seen anything like them. Silver grey flecks and swirls inside the deepest, clearest royal blue. Like Murano glass. I didn’t know eyes could look like that. I can't look away.

 

“Eight?” He tilts his head to read the paper in my hand as he waggles his card between his fingers. Long, strong fingers. Those are my thing. I love men with expressive hands and long fingers are always a plus. Now I’m doubly mesmerized. Eyes. Hands. And the burn in my mouth has finally begun to fade. A little. Now it’s just a cool whisper every time I inhale, which I’m not doing much because I’m barely breathing at all.

 

“Yeah. I’m eight.” That’s what I’m opening with? Not my name or ‘how’s it going?’ or anything else semi-intelligent or friendly. No. I announce I’m eight like I’m a third grader who’s just been approached on the playground rather than a grown woman about to kiss the handsome stranger with perfect gemstone eyes and gorgeous hands and hair. Oh God. He’s got really nice hair. My fingers rake through my own messy brown locks before I can stop them. It’s my nervous tic. Only this time it doesn’t calm me, it makes me want to run my fingers through his hair. It’s black and shiny and just long enough that I wonder what it looks like when he gets out of bed…. But I don’t dwell on that because Skinny Guy is now talking really loud and everyone else has gone silent.

 

“Okay folks, we’re ready. There’s a crew set up in each corner of the room. We’ll start with couples one, five and eight. The crew will do a countdown so you know they’re rolling and the rest is up to you. Questions?”

 

Nothing I can ask out loud.

 

Blue Eyes has his hands tucked into his front pockets which makes his T-shirt bunch in a way that’s kind of adorable. It also accentuates how broad his shoulders are in comparison to his hips. He smiles, a little crooked, then makes a small laugh and glances down at the floor before meeting my eyes again. He’s as nervous as I am and it’s somehow comforting.

 

He takes a step closer to me and, like an idiot, I step back. I can’t help it. My instinct is to keep personal space between myself and people I don’t know. He chuckles. “Sorry,” I say and cover my face with my hands, raking my hair back again.

“It’s okay.” He reaches forward and tucks a strand of hair behind my ear. “I’ve no idea what I’m doing.”

 

That’s when I hear the accent. He’s British. Thank you God. Thank you blonde in the bathroom. Thank you hellish Altoid. My stranger not only has sexy hair, eyes and hands, he’s got a beautiful voice. James Bond’s voice. Double Oh my God.

 

Skinny Guy’s voice booms and I can’t help but startle. “And ready in five, four, three.”

 

He holds up two fingers then one and I know we’re being filmed.

 

My heart switches places with my minty fresh stomach. “I’m Abbey.”

 

“Abbey.” My name coming out of his mouth sends a ripple of excitement through me. He steps closer and this time I don’t step back. He tucks my hair behind my ear again but this time his hand lingers at the base of my head, his fingers lightly stroking my neck. “I’m Oliver.”

 

My hands go to his chest and I can feel his muscles tense beneath the soft cotton. Nerves? Instinct? Attraction? His thumb makes gentle passes up and down my neck that make my eyelashes flutter. “Nice to meet you, Oliver.”

His eyes stay fixed on mine and their blue heat starts to melt something deep inside me. Inching closer I slide my hands toward his neck. His other hand cups my face and my pulse skips wildly. Thick dark lashes obscure the blue as he tilts my head. Full brows, razor thin nose, cheekbones---did I mention the cheekbones?---all blur together  as soft lips graze mine then pull away then touch again. His nose brushes mine then his head tips to the other side and his mouth closes in, firmer this time. Once. Twice. Then he does it again. That perfect nose edges mine as his head shifts back the first way and now he’s kissing like he means it.

 

My hands slide around his neck and he pulls me closer. He bends his knees as I go up on my tiptoes and our bodies align as we move in toward each other. Strong fingers trail down my spine to my waist, clutching at the fabric of my dress and making it ride up the back of my thigh just enough that I shiver from the tickling sensation.

 

His head shifts and this time his tongue flicks out against my lips. Just a teeny bit. Like a question. I smooth my hand up his neck to his chiseled jaw, tracing my fingertips over his features, so I can see him again in my mind. A second flick repeats the inquiry and my mouth springs open. Our tongues meet, warm and sweet, and I sink my fingers into his thick dark hair, which I now know is soft and silky. A small sigh rumbles in the back of my throat and I wonder if it made a sound anywhere but inside my head. Oliver presses against me harder and his fingers grip at my waist. His muscles bunch beneath his shirt and I know he heard me. Heard me and liked it.

 

Oliver twists once more, angling his mouth in a way that makes me dizzy and for a second I forget that he's a stranger, that there are cameras watching, that we've never done this before. In that second it's as natural as breathing and I fill my lungs with him. His tongue spirals slower and then he’s back to soft kisses, our lips barely brushing. He presses his forehead to mine as he stands upright, still holding me. My hands are still curled in his hair but I ease my grip and slide them down his chest as we inch apart.

 

“Lovely,” he says, looking into my eyes, lips curving into a devilish smile. His gaze darts to the ground before flickering back up to mine.

 

A giggle bubbles out of me and my cheeks heat as I replay the kiss in my mind. I guess he likes mint.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

CHRISTMAS COOKIES  

(a holiday short story extracted from my novel MEANT TO BE)

 

 

It was an exceptionally cold morning for early December. Even inside the train Daniel was freezing. Frank was rubbing his own hands together every two minutes just to warm up a little.

“You coming over tomorrow night?” Frank asked.

“I think so,” Daniel said. “Justine mentioned it last night, so I assume we’ll be there.”

“Good,” Frank said. “Marienne’s on a baking spree and someone’s got to eat all that crap.”

“What?” Daniel wondered why anyone would complain about someone else baking.

“Christmas.”

“What about it?” Daniel asked, still confused. “It’s not for three weeks.”

“For Marienne Christmas starts as soon as Thanksgiving is over, even the twelve days of Christmas aren’t enough for her, she needs the whole fucking month of December.”

Daniel stared at him.

Frank paused to blow into his hands before rubbing them together again. “She’s over the top. She bakes a million different things and insists on giving cookie platters to people—old lady Hanson down the street, the people at the design firm, the fucking police station for God’s sake. I come home and there are racks of cookies cooling everywhere. Shit, I don’t even like cookies.” He turned to look out the window as the frozen trees raced by outside the train.

“And the house.” Frank groaned. “Don’t even get me started on what she’s doing to the house. I thought it was bad in our apartment. This is the first Christmas she’s got a whole house to go nuts on, there’s Christmas shit everywhere.”

“Sounds kinda nice.” Daniel felt melancholy.

“Don’t get me wrong. It looks great and all. She does a really good job. And I’m sure some day our kids will get a real kick out of it. She just overdoes it sometimes. I don’t know.” Frank shook his head. “I don’t get her sometimes. I don’t see what the big deal is.” He shrugged again and closed his eyes.

Daniel thought about his own house. No visible signs of an impending holiday whatsoever. Justine’s feeling was why go through the work involved in decorating only to have to take it down in a month. Illogical. He knew she’d eventually hang a wreath on the front door, more for the neighbors than anyone else, and that would be the extent of it. They’d go to her parents’ house, as usual, and come home when it was over and life would be exactly the same.

Justine had already told him what she wanted for Christmas—a necklace she had not so subtly pointed out in a catalog. “And could I please have it before we go to my parents’ house, so I can wear it there and show it off?” she’d asked him. “Sure.” He’d answered. Justine was getting him new bookcases for his office as his gift. She’d made him pick them out himself because she had “no idea” what he would want.

Daniel looked over and noticed that Frank was fast asleep. He closed his own eyes, thoughts of Christmas still in his mind.

As a child Christmas had always been Daniel’s absolutely favorite holiday. Growing up he’d delighted in the entire experience. Coming home from school each day to the glorious smells of cookies and cakes baking in the oven, the way the house would make its transformation from ordinary house to winter wonderland of lights and candles and decorations.

He loved to lie in bed awake in the weeks before Christmas, up close to the window, so he could stare down the street, watching the lights twinkle on the neighbors lawns and houses for as far as he could see. He’d dream about what Santa might bring him. It was all so magical back then.

One year he’d quested a little too diligently for his gifts and he’d found them, hidden at the top of his mother’s bedroom closet. He was initially excited, then ashamed and disappointed. He’d ruined his own surprise. His mother never mentioned it, but he knew she had realized.

When Christmas came she watched as he opened all the gifts he had already known he was getting. He thanked her and she smiled. Then she got up and went into the dining room, returning with a box he was sure he hadn’t seen before.

He opened it slowly and was thrilled to find a new radio for his bedroom. His old one was broken and needed tape to hold it together, but it still worked. He hadn’t even thought to ask for such an expensive gift. “It’s always nice to get a little surprise,” she’d said to him. He had loved her so much at that moment, for not scolding him about snooping, for knowing that satisfying his curiosity had ruined the surprise for him, and for still going out of her way to make sure to surprise him anyway. He’d felt so happy, so accepted and so loved. He had never snooped for presents again.

A few short years later she took ill and passed away, leaving him alone. The first Christmas without her had been almost unbearable because the only gift he wanted was to be able to spend it with her.  Anne had tried her best to include Daniel in their Christmas and make him feel at home. She had bought him presents and he’d accompanied them to the big family dinner at her husband’s sister’s house. But it had only reminded him of what he no longer had. There was no longer a family of people who loved him. No one to share old memories with. He was so lonely he felt like he might disappear.

Once he’d gone to college he had chosen to spend Christmas at the dorm. Only a few students were around and he’d go out of his way to avoid even them, turning down offers from friends to accompany them home. He made a point of doing the least Christmasy thing he could think of—a corned beef sandwich at a small Kosher Deli in the Bowery followed by the Woody Allen film festival over at the Waverly. Anything to keep his mind off how sad he felt.

When he met Justine he got swept into her family’s grand traditions. Christmas Eves at the country club with a staggering display of gaudiness and wealth, followed by Christmas Day at her parents’ house with a staggering display of greed and self-indulgence.  Everyone was in a good mood, with the aid of champagne and lots of potent eggnog, and the days were so different from those he fondly remembered from his youth that they didn’t even tempt comparison. He was able to pretend it wasn’t Christmas at all, just some other holiday, a random reason for Justine’s family to be decadent. He’d accepted that and had accepted the “new normal” that had taken over his Christmas traditions. But the sadness remained.

Daniel felt the train slow as it pulled into the station. Frank was snoring.

“Hey, we’re here.” He nudged Frank.

“What?” Frank said, startling awake. “Oh, thanks.”

“See you tomorrow.”

Frank nodded, yawning. “See you then.”

***

Daniel and Justine arrived for dinner right on time at 7pm, but Marienne was not quite ready.  She apologized for the delay, explaining that the cookies had taken longer to bake than she’d anticipated.  She set out dips and chips and veggies for them to munch on while they watched the football game and she scurried about the kitchen.  Justine loved football, yet another thing she and Daniel did not have in common. She and Frank were busy hooting and hollering at the TV screen, razzing the players, talking about bad ref calls.  Daniel got up and strolled into the kitchen.

“Do you need some help?” he asked.

“No,” she said, smiling. She tucked a strand of hair behind her ear then started mashing potatoes in a big pot on the stove. “I’m waiting for the chicken to finish roasting and then we can eat. Sorry about dinner being so late.”

“No worries.” He didn’t mind the wait at all. It smelled so good in the kitchen. The scent of roasting chicken mingled with the aroma of all the cookies that were cooling on racks around the room. There was not a single flat surface that didn’t have a rack or two of cookies on it.

Marienne laughed as she saw him surveying the room. “I bake a lot at Christmas,” she said, shrugging.

“Yes, I can see that.” He chuckled.

“Here.” She grabbed a rubbermaid box of baking supplies off one of the kitchen bar stools.“Have a seat. Try whatever cookies you’d like. I’ve got plenty.”

He was continually amazed by how warm she was. How inviting. Though he’d only known her for five months he felt as though he’d known her forever. Without thinking he grabbed a cookie and popped it into his mouth. It melted on his tongue and he moaned. “Mmmm. That’s so good.”

She tossed him a quick grin as she basted the chicken. “Try another.”

He needed no further encouragement. By the time she’d finished scooping the fluffy mashed potatoes into a serving dish and started on the gravy he was on his sixth one.  The tray by the kitchen table held cookies that looked temptingly similar to ones his mother used to make. His very favorite cookies. He’d spent years being lured into buying bakery look-a-likes, but had always been bitterly disappointed as they’d tasted nothing like what he remembered. He’d given up trying.

He eyed the tray as he sampled the other varieties. Each tasted better than the one before. He hesitated, not wanting to ruin the moment with unrealistic hopes, but curiosity got the best of him, and he grabbed a cookie off the final rack. He slowly bit into it, and there it was. The exact cookie he recalled from his childhood. The same texture, the same buttery rich flavor, the same chewy jam. “Oh my God,” he said, unintentionally out loud.

“What?” Marienne looked over as she stirred the gravy.

“These cookies,” he said, unable to keep the emotion from leaking into his voice. “They taste exactly like cookies my mother made when I was a child.”

“Is that a good thing or a bad thing?” she asked.

“Good thing. A very good thing. They were always my favorites. I haven’t had one in years.”

“Does she still make them?” she asked.

“No,” he said, looking out the window. “She passed away several years ago.”

“Oh Daniel, I’m so sorry.”

“No worries. It was a long time ago.” He gave her a brief smile, but he could see his sadness reflected in her eyes.

The oven beeped and Marienne checked the thermometer in the chicken.

 “Finally. We can eat,” she said, sounding relieved.

They sat around the table talking and laughing. The food was delicious, as always, and Frank seemed happy enough with the meal that he hadn’t made any snarky comments about the delay. All-in-all a successful night.

They helped clear the table, and put away the food. Marienne lingered in the kitchen a few moments longer than the rest.

“Here,” Marienne said, handing a shopping bag to Daniel as they said their goodbyes at the end of the evening. “Consider this your first plate of holiday cookies. I guarantee you’ll be getting several more.”

***

When they got home Daniel set the bag down on the kitchen counter.

Justine groaned.“You are eating all those cookies. In fact, take them to work, I don’t need temptation staring at me every day. I swear, I don’t know how she bakes so much. I’ve never seen anything like it.”

He knew even Justine was impressed by both the volume and quality. Daniel didn’t mind the idea of eating all the cookies by himself. In fact he’d hoped it would work out that way.

After Justine headed up to bed he peered inside the paper bag and removed the platter of cookies. It looked perfect, wrapped up in clear red plastic wrap, curly gold ribbons holding it in place with a poofy cluster in the middle, the different cookies layered artistically around the plate. He smiled, then tried to fold up the shopping bag, surprised to notice there was still something inside.

He reached in and pulled out a Tupperware with a deep red lid. He looked at it, a mix of emotions in his mind, then lifted the lid. Nestled inside the container, carefully layered between pieces of waxed paper, were the jam cookies that had reminded him of his mother’s. From the looks of it, she’d given him the entire batch. He removed one, then carefully sealed the container. He ate the cookie slowly, savoring each bite, as he looked toward Marienne’s house through their darkened yards. A glow of light came from her kitchen window. And for the first time in as long as he could remember it felt a tiny bit like Christmas.

 

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