Some think him a devoted son, a ruthless killer, a vicious monster. The heir of the infamous Valentino family, Nico is a man with blood-stained hands and a heart of ice.
To Gabriel Delatto, Nico is more than that: a childhood friend, a passionate lover, a misunderstood soul, a man whose cold, calculated outward exterior protects the broken man inside. Nico is his best friend, his lover, his other half—his better half.
But how much of that is true? And how much is just lies whispered between bloody lips?
New York to Tokyo—Gabriel is willing to follow his lover to the ends of the earth to find out what Nico is running from.
Or, maybe, what is Nico running to?
Nico was beautiful in his fear.
Nico’s hair was mussed, sweat dripping down from his hairline to the collar of his shirt, his pendant standing stark against his throat. There was blood splattered across his cheeks like macabre freckles, a dribble just below his nose making its way down his bottom lip.
Gabriel didn’t know if it was his or someone else’s, but it looked exquisite against his skin.
What would Nico’s blood have tasted like? What would Nico’s fear have tasted like?
It didn’t matter. Gabriel would have kissed it away if he could.
If he could, Gabriel would have done many things differently.
If he could.
If he could…
This was all wrong.
The air in the house was like an oven, nary a breeze to give either of them comfort. Despite the distance between them, a chasm that only seemed to grow wider, Gabriel could all but feel the heat from Nico’s mouth against his.
Nico was fire and Gabriel…
Gabriel was just the kindling.
They were so close—all Gabriel had to do was reach out. All it would take was a hand around Nico’s collar and he could crush his lips against Nico’s. They could fall into each other’s arms as they always had, always would.
That would have been right.
That would have been good.
But there was something pink and gelatinous smeared across the front of Nico’s shirt, something that Gabriel knew intrinsically belonged in someone’s head, not spread across Nico’s white button-up.
Nico’s hands shook like leaves on trees just before the hurricane ripped them off and scattered them across the sea.
When their eyes met, Gabriel turned away his head as though someone struck him.
Nico’s unbridled fear staring back at him through piercing dark blue eyes made his stomach churn.
That wasn’t how Nico was supposed to stare at him. That wasn’t what they had, that wasn’t who they were supposed to be.
Why was Nico so scared?
Why was Nico scared of him?
Gabriel could hear the words, feel the cold metal in his hand. He knew that there was something wrong with this scene, knew that this wasn’t how any of this was supposed to go. He could feel the heaviness of the gun, the cloying smell of blood and shit, the sweat on his brow, the panic clawing through his stomach—
“Gabriel—please. Please, listen to me. You don’t have to do this. I know you, Gabriel. I know you. This isn’t you. This isn’t you.”
“Get out of the way, Nico.”
It was his voice.
He could feel the hum of the words leaving his throat, how his lungs exhaled with every syllable. He could feel the way his lips touched, how they formed words, how his tongue clinked against his teeth.
He could feel it, feel all of it, just as he could feel the metal, hard and cold, gripped in his hand.
“You can’t do this. you have to stop—” Nico reached out for his arm, but it met nothing but air.
Gabriel tried to lower his hand, tried to loosen his grip on the gun, but he couldn’t.
“Don’t make me hurt you.”
“Gabriel—you’re better than this. You’re more than this!”
“My hands are bloodier than yours.”
Gabriel wanted his hand to shake, but it was steady.
It was too steady.
“Baby. Please. If you do this… you can’t come back from this.”
He wanted to let go, wanted to scream, wanted to say something—anything.
Why couldn’t he stop himself? Why couldn’t he let go? Why did it feel as though he were a marionette, a puppet with someone else pulling his strings?
I don’t want this. I don’t want to do this. Please. Please. Nico—please—
“Gabriel… I love you.”
It was a whisper between bloody lips.
“I love you. Please don’t do thi—”
Gabriel pulled the trigger.
Bang. Bang. Bang. Bang.
About the Author
Sai Fox was born and raised in New York City, so it doesn’t come as much of a surprise that there’s an ever-present coffee cup on her desk as she writes well into the night. A chronic insomniac, some of her best ideas come to her right before heading off to bed.
Currently residing in Tokyo, Sai finds most of her time spent writing, reading, and wandering the strange and intoxicating streets that tell thousands of stories… with a cup of coffee. There is always a cup of coffee.
Sai has been writing fiction for well over a decade, enjoying the ability to push boundaries of society and sexuality through her work.
Luke Ryan’s life is too chaotic for romance, what with running his business and being the legal guardian to his ten-year-old niece, but he’s hopeful he’ll find the right man.
Trauma surgeon Finn Thomason recently relocated from Chicago to Boston, where his focus on medicine leaves him little space for a personal life. Making a commitment to find a better work-life balance, Finn hopes he’ll also find a relationship.
Caught in an evening rainstorm, Luke shelters under a sidewalk awning…and encounters a handsome stranger. The two strike up a conversation and Finn offers to walk Luke under his oversized umbrella. Charmed, Luke accepts and asks Finn out for coffee in thanks.
Luke and Finn quickly grow close, but, as the summer draws to an end, Luke struggles to keep his connection with Finn while Finn tries to come to terms with caring for a man whose attention is pulled in many directions. Both men are scrambling to get it right, but only time will tell if they’ll learn there is more than enough room in their hearts to go around.
“Hey, Luke, I’m going to Starbucks to buy coffee for everyone. You want?”
Luke Ryan stared at the code on his computer monitors and nodded absently. “Sure.”
“Okay. Grab your stuff and come with me.”
Luke blinked. “What do you need me for?” He turned away from the monitors and faced his best friend and business partner, Simon Martin.
Simon stood and eyed Luke across their shared office. “To help me schlep back the orders.”
“Ugh.” It was nearly two p.m. and Luke’s concentration was flagging. As much as he wanted to keep working, fresh coffee sounded wonderful. The idea of going to fetch it, however, not so much. He stood and picked up his wallet and phone from his desk. “We wouldn’t be having this conversation if you’d let me buy a new coffeemaker.”
“I said I’d buy it, didn’t I?”
“Yes, you said that two weeks ago. And here we are, making the trek to Starbucks once again.”
Simon sighed at Luke’s grumbling. “Oh, goodness. I’ll buy one this weekend, I promise. In the meantime, you could stand to go outside for a few minutes. Your ass has been bolted to that chair all day. You didn’t even break for lunch.”
“Yes, I did.”
“You ate a plastic squeeze tube filled with something green.”
“It was yogurt,” Luke said. “I bought a box of mixed flavor tubes but Ella doesn’t like lime, so they’re all mine.”
Simon grimaced. “That sounds appalling. Serves you right for feeding that girl junk.”
Luke chuckled as they started for the door. His niece, Ella, was ten years old and particular about what she ate. Luke had been stuck eating food she’d rejected before, but he didn’t mind—weird foods came with the territory of raising children. Or helping to raise them, anyway, as Luke had been helping his brother, Peter, do for the past several years, ever since Peter’s wife had walked out on her family and Peter had moved Ella from the Marine base in Virginia back to Boston and into Luke’s Back Bay apartment.
Once outside, Luke and Simon walked a block and a half to Winter Street, navigating around shoppers and tourists. The line at Starbucks stretched nearly out of the door, and they stepped up to its end while Luke read over the orders his coworkers had scribbled on a scrap of paper.
“I don’t know what this says.” He pointed at one messy line. “This looks like Klingon.”
Simon squinted. “You would know, I suppose. I’m fairly sure everyone ordered cold brew, by the way. That’s all those hipster punks drink anyway.”
Luke laughed. “Good point. Gillian wants an almond milk Macchiato, though.” Gillian Vasquez was the third partner in their software development business. Petite, red-haired and whip-smart, her easygoing personality provided an excellent foil for Simon’s brashness and Luke’s hyperfocus. Gillian kept Simon and Luke in line and they knew it.
“Is she still doing the dairy-free thing?” Simon asked.
“I’m not sure. I think she just likes almond milk, to be honest. Ella’s the same.”
“That doesn’t make those bowls of sugar cereal you feed her any healthier, you know.”
Luke rolled his eyes. He’d never understood why kids’ cereals got such a bad rap. Beyond the high sugar content and their dubious nutritional value, that was.
“I found a recipe for Cap’n Crunch cookies,” he said. “I was thinking Ella and I could make them over the weekend.” He snorted with laughter at Simon’s obvious disgust.
“Where on earth would you find such a thing?”
“Pinterest. It’s loaded with all kinds of questionable recipes.”
“Oh, Pickle.” Simon made a sympathetic noise. “This only underscores what I’ve been telling you for months—you need to get out more.”
Luke winced. “Please don’t call me Pickle in public.” He glanced around, hoping no one had overheard the ridiculous nickname, and met the gaze of a dark-haired guy standing behind them.
Well, hello there.
Luke flashed a grin and the guy blinked, clearly surprised. He offered Luke a shy half-smile of his own just before the line shifted.
Luke faced forward. “You know I don’t have time to go out,” he said to Simon. “Even if I did, the men I’d meet would take one look at Ella and run for the hills.”
“Surely not every man you meet is averse to the idea of family.” Simon frowned. “I like children. Or Ella, at least.”
“Yes, but you and I are not dating.”
“Not since I kicked you to the curb a decade ago, true.” He smiled at Luke’s laughter. “Still, I can’t imagine anyone you meet not being charmed by Ella. She’s loveable even when she’s being difficult.”
They stepped forward as the line moved again. Luke hazarded another glance back and felt a pang of disappointment to find the cute guy talking on his phone. He met Luke’s eyes again, however, and Luke smothered a curse when Simon nudged him with his elbow.
“Ella likes you, so of course you think she’s fun,” Luke said. “Not everyone thinks the way you do or wants to stick around while I fill in for her dad, though.”
“Are you so sure?” Simon asked.
“I’m still single, am I not?”
“Yes, though I confess I don’t know why. It’s not because you’re lacking in looks and your personality is certainly adequate.”
“Nice.” Luke shrugged off both the compliment and the tease. He knew he was easy to look at. He was tall and fit with a heart-shaped face and gray-green eyes, and his friends joked he couldn’t take a bad photo. Luke didn’t suffer for lack of attention from men. Keeping a man’s interest presented the real challenge these days, and that had a lot to do with the fact that he was taking care of a young child.
“I’m thirty-two years old,” he said. “The men I meet who want children are either already parents or in committed relationships and headed in that direction.”
“This is why you need to meet new men,” Simon replied. “Ella isn’t your daughter, Luke. Pete’ll be back from deployment in a couple of months and that’ll take some of the pressure off you. There’s no reason for you to be celibate until then, either.”
“I’m hardly celibate,” Luke muttered, his cheeks hot. “And please keep your voice down.”
He paused as they approached the counter. Simon placed the order and Luke glanced at the guy behind them again. Thankfully, he was still on his phone instead of being forced to eavesdrop on the saga of Luke’s sad single life.
“I know I haven’t had a boyfriend since Ella moved in with me,” Luke continued while Simon paid for the order. “Taking care of her complicates my life, but it’s nothing compared to Pete’s wife taking off on them. And I do go out on occasion, Simon. I date.”
Simon cocked a well-groomed eyebrow at him. “Okay, and when exactly? Because we both know you don’t have time to yourself anymore.”
Despite Simon’s gentle tone, Luke winced. Even with help from his parents and his babysitter, Melissa, he rarely had a minute to himself outside his own bathroom. Even then, odds were Ella would knock on the door and blithely ask questions while Luke showered or shaved.
“In all seriousness, when did you last go out with a man?” Simon asked. They moved aside so the baristas could mix up their magic, and he patted Luke’s arm. “Hell, when did you last pick someone up?”
“I met someone while I was grocery shopping last week, believe it or not,” Luke replied. “We emailed a couple of times, but he dropped off the map. I picked someone up a couple of months ago, the last time Pete came home on leave.” He grinned at Simon. “You and I went out for dinner and drinks, then over to that bar in Back Bay named after Oscar Wilde. Remember?”
“That’s the bar with the boozy milkshakes?”
“Yes! I met Jeremy that night.”
Realization flashed in Simon’s eyes. “I’d forgotten that’s where you met. Where was I?”
“Sucking face with some bartender, I think.” Luke smirked at Simon’s raucous laughter.
“Oh, God, that’s right. Those milkshakes are lethal!”
“Believe me, I remember.” Luke reached up and ruffled Simon’s hair. “Anyway, I didn’t take Jeremy home that night, but we exchanged numbers and spent time together for a couple of weeks.”
“What happened between you two, anyway? I don’t think you ever said.”
“There was nothing to tell. Pete’s leave ended and I canceled a couple of dates because Melissa was busy and I couldn’t find a sitter. Jeremy just faded out.” Despite his careless tone, Luke’s heart twinged a little. He’d enjoyed spending time with Jeremy and watching him withdraw had stung.
Simon clasped Luke’s shoulder with one strong hand. “I’m sorry. It doesn’t have to be that way all the time, you know. I can watch Ella for you if Melissa is busy—I just need some notice. Gillian will, too. Hell, ask around the office if you need someone for a couple of hours. I’m sure at least one of the kids on staff is the babysitting type.”
“I know, and thanks. It doesn’t matter, though. The reality is I’m with Ella a lot because I want to be and guys usually bolt after they figure that out.”
Simon’s gentle scowl warmed Luke’s heart. He loved that his friend cared enough to listen. Then Luke saw the cute guy with the dark hair pay for his single coffee and leave. Damn. Once upon a time, Luke would have struck up a conversation with him instead of watching the opportunity slip away. Maybe Simon had a point.
“It’s fine,” he said. “And you’re right. I should make an effort to get out there and meet new men. Especially since things will go back to normal after Pete gets home. For a while, anyway.”
“That ‘for a while’ is kind of a problem.” Simon’s expression sobered. “Your brother will still be at Quantico more rather than less. I don’t even mean that in a bad way because I know you love having her here.”
Luke nodded. He’d never thought twice about welcoming his niece into his home. “I do. All the more reason to find someone who’s okay with Ella being in my life.”
Is that such a bad thing to want? Luke didn’t think so.
The barista called their order and Luke handed Simon the bags he’d been holding. “At any rate, it’ll be great having Pete back, even if he’s not in Boston. Ella hasn’t been the same since her dad was deployed.” Carefully, he collected the trays of cups.
Simon led the way out, talking over his shoulder as he held the door for Luke. “You think so?”
“Oh, yeah.” Luke sighed. “She really misses him, and it’s not like we can visit. She worries about his safety, just like my parents worry, and I do, too. Life will be a hundred times easier for all of us with Pete on US soil, whether he’s at the Marine base or not.”
“I understand,” Simon replied. “I’m just sorry I can’t do more than listen.”
Luke smiled. “Don’t be. I’d have gone bananas a long time ago without you and Gillian around to listen and keep me sane.”
“Girl, you’ve always been bananas,” Simon said, his tone airy. “But we’re used to it and don’t love you any less.” He shot Luke a wink and they headed for the office.
About the Author
K. Evan Coles is a mother and tech pirate by day and a writer by night. She is a dreamer who, with a little hard work and a lot of good coffee, coaxes words out of her head and onto paper.
K. lives in the northeast United States, where she complains bitterly about the winters, but truly loves the region and its diverse, tenacious and deceptively compassionate people. You’ll usually find K. nerding out over books, movies and television with friends and family. She’s especially proud to be raising her son as part of a new generation of unabashed geeks.
K.’s books explore LGBTQ+ romance in contemporary settings.
Attention: This book contains explicit sexual content between consenting assassins and not so innocent professors. There are depictions of masochistic masturbation, male chastity, breath play, watersports, humiliation, and torture by eighties hair bands with ginger sprinkles on top. Phew! Now, that that’s out of the way, Hi. I’m Mr. No your friendly communications agent for The Assassins’ Guild AKA T.A.G. I’ve been authorized by the head honcho himself, Mr. H, to release approved records from the agent files. Agent Code Name Mr. W was recovering from a near death debacle by way of an easy assignment in a small mountain town. Red flags sprang up immediately around the seemingly innocent English professor. Determined to get to the bottom of the mystery Jacob Peters presented, Mr. W made plans to do what he did best, watch , wait , and then capture and interrogate. But even the best laid plans can go awry and what Mr. W discovered derailed his plan to kill Jacob. Find out what brought Mr. W to his knees in this first release from the archives of The Assassins’ Guild.
Shortly, after the cock cage incident, Dad sat me down to have The Talk. I knew by then that I liked dick. At first, I thought maybe it was because I was around men all the time and hardly ever any women, but one day I pulled up cameras from the women’s locker room just to see. Yeah, even the more masculine looking females did nothing for me. I got off my dad’s laptop quickly before he caught me and went back to my room to look at the gay porn I had smuggled from the sex shop. So, my dad sits me down and I’m worried. Even as isolated as we were on the compound, I had access to the outside world. I knew how homosexuality was viewed. Yes, there were changes being made and it was more accepted now, but I still worried.
I was sitting at the kitchen table when Dad came in with a dildo in one hand and a weird looking toy in the other one. It looked scary from afar. He put them down on the table along with a condom and a bottle of lube before he sat down. I was already blushing and ready to make a dash back to my room, but he pinned me with that look he got when he was dead serious and started his explanation. He showed me how to put a condom on, which I rolled my eyes at because duh. That was proceeded with a long talk on all STDs, how you can catch them in non-sexual ways, symptoms, and pictures. He pulled up pictures on his laptop. I was mortified, but damn if I was going to make sure I used condoms no matter what.
He then picked up the item that I had been avoiding looking at. It was multicolored and just weird looking. It turned out to be a big silicon asshole more or less. It was weird. Later, I found out why it looked so weird, but that’s just not something I want to think about. Although, I did end up buying a few dildos from the fantasy dildo company it was from when I got older. But back to my horrifying sex talk with my dad. He opened the lube and briefly went over the best kinds of lube to use and when. At this point, it hadn’t occurred to me how my dad knew all this stuff. He was my dad. He knew everything as far as I was concerned. He then showed me how, if I were to have sex with another man, how to prepare them or myself for it using the silicon asshole of course. He explained things like the prostate and other key erogenous zones of the male genitalia. By the end, I knew I was scarlet and dying of embarrassment. If my dad was embarrassed in anyway, he didn’t show it. He was very clinical about it. He used his instructor voice and could have been going over the parts of a P-90, he was so unphased.
He never once said anything about women. The next day, I went to his office and asked him, “How did you know?”
He quirked an eyebrow at me and said, “Yoshi, do you really think Mr. Th (that was his assistant) got you stuff from the adult store in town without my permission?”
I turned beet red and stuttered, “No, sir.” I thought I was in huge trouble and kept my eyes on my feet.
My dad pulled me into his arms and hugged me tight, surprising me. “I’m not mad. I’m glad that you went to him rather than try to sneak off on your own or do something irresponsible. I figured you weren’t ready to talk to me about those kinds of things and that’s okay. Just know that I’m always here if you need me and I’ll never judge you.” I nodded and hugged him tight, not realizing that I had started crying. I hadn’t really thought how much I was worried about it until I felt the relief his words brought me.
“I love you, Dad.” The words came out more of a whisper than I intended.
He pushed me to arm’s length, so he could see me and wiped my eyes. “I love you too, Son. Now, go out to the range. You have a test tomorrow.” I nodded and headed to the door. I had my hand on the knob when he spoke again. “Just so you know, I’m gay too.”
I turned my head in shock. The surprise evident on my face, my eyes wide. He furrowed his brows at me. “What? Did you not think I had a love life, too?”
I tried to pick my jaw up off the ground to answer. “No, Dad. Honestly, I never thought about you having a relationship much less sex.”
Dad burst out laughing then. “Well, I do.”
I stuck my fingers in my ears and started singing, “Lalalalala. I don’t want to know, Dad.”
My dad sobered then and cleared his throat. “Do you think if I found someone I really liked that you’d be okay if I brought him round?”
I took my fingers out of my ears and went back and threw my arms around him again and squeezed tight and then let go. “Yeah, Dad.” Before things could get any more awkward, I dashed out the door and closed it behind me. I hissed traitor as I passed Mr. Th’s desk and went out to the range.
About the Author
A.G. Carothers is actually a dragon very cleverly disguised as a human. They are a non-binary author of LGBTQIA Romance and Urban Fantasy, who enjoys writing original and entertaining stories. They are very excited to share the worlds they’ve created with you.
A.G. currently lives in Tennessee with their platonic life partner, who is not a dragon. They yearn to live back in Europe and will some day. In their spare time they are addicted to losing themselves in the lovely worlds created by other authors A.G. is committed to writing the stories they see in their head without restrictions. Love is blind and doesn’t see gender, race, or sexuality.
Mating A Cowboy is book one in A Port Hope Small Town Romance series, but can be read as a standalone.
Release Date: May 23, 2019
Heat Rating: 4 flames
A bakery barely treading water, and a pending business loan has omega Dawson sweating more than standing next to the kitchen’s finicky oven. Serving up the sweetest temptations should be his primary concern, but when news of his alpha father’s death falls on his ears, Dawson learns that he has been named as the sole heir of his ranch in the small town of Port Hope.
Selling the ranch could be the miracle he needs to save the bakery, but after a chance encounter with a rugged small town alpha, Dawson struggles to balance his goal, with the cowboy’s lasso tugging at his heart.
Alpha Wyatt is no stranger to living the cowboy life. Having grown up in the serene countryside of Port Hope, Wyatt spends his days training and providing care to his rescue horses. Rolling hills, fresh air, leather saddles, and his Stetson was all Wyatt wanted in life. It was all he needed—then he met Dawson.
As their passion burns, the harsh reality starts to set in. Dawson has a life to return to in the big city, and Wyatt’s a country boy through and through. Is the bond they have worth fighting for? Or are their roots settled in the thousands of miles between them?
He looked in my eyes as mine lifted, the smile on his lips subtly bold, though the slant of his shoulders remained hesitant. The signals confused me even as they roused something protective. I knew he wanted me; it was in the dilation of his pupils, in the press of his fingers around my wrist. Maybe he was waiting for me to take charge, maybe he wasn’t sure where all this would lead in the morning.
I cleared my throat. “Do you—can I kiss you?”
His smile widened. I suppressed a wince because I knew it was a little late to be asking permission, but late was better than never.
“Yes,” Dawson replied, jaw flexing underneath my fingers.
I touched his lips a second time, but in this instance my eyelids fell closed and I inhaled. His head tilted back, mouth opening beneath mine as I pressed forward, deepening the kiss, our tongues meeting briefly, retreating, meeting again. It was a dance, the first few steps exploratory.
But as heat flared, my cock hardening, my fingers tightened their grip on his jaws and the dance morphed into a battle.
I pulled Dawson flush against my body, hands roving down his body to grip his hips, looping into the leather belt he wore. Spinning with him in my arms, I backed him almost blindly against the wall, slapping my hands on either side of his head as my crotch ground into his.
He gasped, hands reaching up to tangle in my hair. Tightly. As laid back as he was, the omega made his lust known.
“Bedroom,” he gasped against my mouth.
His lips glistened; it took a moment to tear my eyes away. “What?” He’d said something, right?
“Beeedrooom.” He drawled out the syllables.
I could fuck him right here, right now against the wall, but I sensed he needed, wanted, more care than that. If this was our first time together, I had to make a good showing for myself.
I didn’t want it to be the first and the last.
His hand slipped into mine, the gesture all the more touching for its casual intimacy. We walked the short hall silently, and I paused in front of my bedroom door, giving him that split second to retreat before pushing the door open and pulling him inside.
“Wyatt,” he whispered. The sound of my name on his lips… I don’t know how we ended up on the bed, my body braced over his. My mind blanked, body taking over.
I cursed. “Damn, we still have our shoes on.”
He laughed up at me. “And all our clothes.” Placing his hands on my chest, he pushed, eyes never leaving mine as his half hesitant, half teasing smile continued to stoke the flames of my lust. The need, the craving to make him mine engulfed everything else. I stood long enough to kick off my shoes, pull my shirt over my head.
Dawson sighed. “I guess we’ll save the striptease for next time.”
I paused, about to push my jeans down, and slowed the motion, trying to draw out his pleasure and my own using anticipation of the big reveal. And then my mind tripped on the ‘next time.’
“There’ll be a next time?”
About the Author
Kenna Grace is a small woman with a huge personality. By evening, she can be found writing, reading, and getting lost in her wild imagination. In her other life, she’s a behavioral analyst and devoted partner, but writing about men falling in love and their happily-ever-after is so much more exciting!