Book Title: Love
Beneath the Stars: A Matchmaker Wedding Novella
Author: Claerie Kavanaugh
Publisher: Half Caff Press
Cover Artist: Lauren Dombrowski
Release Date: April 26, 2023
Genres: Contemporary F/F Romance
Tropes: Age gap, celebrity, matchmaker, wedding
Themes: Coming out, forgiveness
Heat Rating: 3
Length: 30 000
It is a standalone story in the
Entertaining Love series.
They say love conquers all,
but what if getting it means losing your family?
After years of searching, a job
gone wrong finally led Hollywood’s most famous matchmaker Eve to her soulmate in up-
and-coming starlet Jemma Mason. For a year, they had pictured their perfect destination
Valentine’s Day wedding. But when Jemma’s family arrives from Montana, they quickly learn
perfection is hard to come by.
Jemma’s conservative brother
has always been distant, but when he meets his sister’s fiancée, who is seven years her
senior, he worries she’s moving way too fast and refuses to come to the wedding, let alone
keep his promise to walk her down the aisle. Can love really conquer all, or are there some
wounds that simply run too deep to be buried?
Eve and Jemma’s Wedding Novella. Sequel to LOVE AMONG
THE STARS in the standalone sapphic celebrity romance series ENTERTAINING LOVE.
About the Author
Claerie Kavanaugh has spent
most of her life telling stories, but she never imagined herself writing romance. In fact, she
used to think it should only be reserved for Hallmark movies. It wasn’t until college, when
she discovered fanfiction, that she learned what romance was truly about: not just fluffy
relationships and happily-ever-afters, but human connection, the desire to push one another
to be better, and create hope that somewhere, somehow, everyone has
When she’s not writing, she
loves to travel and explore new cultures, helping other authors polish their works as a
freelance editor, and singing while doing so. Broadway musicals are her soul-food,
something her mother and sister know well. She constantly blasts the newest soundtrack
through the halls of their Missouri home, much to the chagrin of her very sassy and spoiled
Trapped between a homicidal brother and a homophobic podcaster eager to reveal her lesbian romance novels, a seventy-year-old grandmother seeks help in Clear, Alaska.
Editor’s Pick Booklife Reviews: A fast-paced yet thoughtful romance of coming out and finding love in later life in Alaska
5 Star Clarion Reviews: A riveting novel . . . about love, courage, and solidarity
Trapped between a homicidal brother and a homophobic podcaster eager to reveal her lesbian romance novels, a seventy-year-old grandmother seeks help in Clear, Alaska. Suffocating in a loveless marriage and lonely existence, Taylor MacKenzie lives only through her writing, using the pen name Brooke Skipstone, her best friend in college and lover before her death in 1974. Afraid of being murdered before anyone in her family or community knows her life story, Taylor writes an autobiography about her time with Brooke and shares it with those closest to her, hoping for understanding and acceptance. Accused of promoting the queering and debasement of America by a local podcaster, Taylor embroils the conservative community in controversy but fights back with the help of a new, surprising friend. Can she endure the attacks from haters and gaslighters? Can she champion the queering she represents? And will she survive?
NO ONE in the world is actually named Brooke Skipstone.
Not for almost fifty years.
Taylor Baird MacKenzie, a long-term substitute teacher in Clear, Alaska, knew her secret had already begun to unravel. Brooke wrote novels about lesbian liberation, fierce coming-of-age stories full of high family drama. Her readers probably pictured an author in her thirties with tattoos and a gender-fluid appearance.
Certainly not a seventy-year-old grandmother with long, thick hair—still more brown than gray—wearing lined leggings and an oversized hoodie that covered her butt. And unhappily married to the same man for over forty years.
Much too old and too obviously straight to be writing such novels.
Soon, everyone would know the truth—she was the author Brooke Skipstone. How big would the shockwave be?
Taylor had long feared the repercussions and kept her pen name secret. What would her kids say? And her grandkids, who hardly knew her because she lived so far from them. And saw them even less than usual because of Covid. At times the thought of discovery had seared her guts, but the liberation of writing what she wanted, revealing the characters living in her mind and the love and pain in her heart, had become her main reason for existence.
While at her keyboard, Taylor lost herself in her secret world—vibrant, passionate, full of laughter and turmoil and utter joy. Not like her real world of silence and numbing isolation, where she couldn’t talk about what mattered most to her.
Keeping the source of her greatest happiness a secret had suffocated her life.
Taylor stood at her classroom door before her last class of the day, while students thumbed phones and talked as they sat at a picnic table in the center of the Commons area. The same kind of table she and Brooke sat at in the spring of 1973.
Soon after Taylor’s college roommate and fellow theatre major, Brooke Tobolovsky turned twenty-one, Brooke changed her last name. Though she didn’t have the internet to check, she said she had never heard of anyone named Skipstone, so claimed it for herself. She thought it sounded cool. Much better for the stage and screen. Besides, she’d always hated the sound of Tobolovsky.
Regardless of her name, no one could ever forget her. Long, thick, cinnamon-colored hair; high forehead; deep-set blue eyes; and the biggest smile Taylor had ever seen. She could play Lady Macbeth just as easily as Juliet and belt out a song like a combination of Cher and Stevie Nicks. She was the natural lead, while Taylor was the utility player—competent actress, writer, composer, and organizational queen.
Once all the legal papers were complete, they celebrated with a pitcher of beer at The Hangout a few blocks from Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas. They sat at a picnic table under canvas stretched between oak trees, blocking the March sun. Brooke carved her new name on the bench as they pushed flip-flops through pea gravel and peanut shells.
“Does this mean I can’t call you Tobo anymore?” Taylor laughed and snorted beer.
Brooke scoffed with a quick flash of her eyes, “I’ve put a curse on that name, as you can see. Say it at your peril.” She cocked an eyebrow.
Taylor coughed this time, spewing beer on her shirt.
“I always knew you couldn’t hold your liquor.” Brooke wiped Taylor’s chin with a napkin.
“That word will never cross my lips again.”
“Which word?” Brooke teased. Her tongue peeked out the side of her mouth as she dabbed the snot from Taylor’s upper lip. “Hmm?”
Flashing a smile, Taylor said, “From now on, you’ll be BS to me. Nothing but BS.”
Brooke narrowed her eyes and tightened her mouth. “You’d better be referring to Brooke Skipstone.”
Taylor raised her hands and cocked her head in a perfect expression of amused innocence. “Certainly.” She tried to swallow the guffaw rising from her gut. “That’s exactly what I was thinking.”
They stared at each other for three seconds, each holding her pose until Brooke broke into a smile. “That’s BS and you know it.”
Taylor’s guffaw erupted, and in their laughter-filled haze, they both knocked their glasses to the ground. No matter. They drank from the pitcher and later started a burping contest. Taylor conceded when Brooke burped the chorus of “I Am Woman,” earning a standing ovation from the crowd of hippie students and locals that had gathered around them. The girls walked home, Taylor’s arm around her friend’s neck; Brooke’s around the other’s waist.
They were known as B&T because they were inseparable. They’d shared the ground floor of a small rental house since sophomore year but spent most of their time acting, hanging lights, building sets, and running shows at the Owens Art Center. If one of them wasn’t around the other, people would invariably ask, “Where’s ___?” with a little frown and gasp.
Taylor wrote and directed plays and musicals mainly for teens, while Brooke snagged major acting roles every year. Taylor was involved in every one of Brooke’s shows, while Brooke sang and acted in each of Taylor’s studio productions.
They were two promising women, determined to make their own way in the world and support each other’s careers in theatre—Brooke as an actress at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival in Ashland and Taylor as a drama teacher at a private school in a nearby city. After breaking up with their casual boyfriends and graduating in 1974, they headed west in a very used VW Camper Bus adorned with painted flowers to cover the rust.
They loved each other completely as friends and had only become lovers two days before Brooke’s death.
About the Author
Brooke Skipstone is a multi-award-winning author who lives in Alaska where she watches the mountains change colors with the seasons from her balcony. Where she feels the constant rush toward winter as the sunlight wanes for six months of the year, seven minutes each day, bringing crushing cold that lingers even as the sun climbs again. Where the burst of life during summer is urgent under twenty-four-hour daylight, lush and decadent. Where fish swim hundreds of miles up rivers past bear claws and nets and wheels and lines of rubber-clad combat fishers, arriving humped and ragged, dying as they spawn. Where danger from the land and its animals exhilarates the senses, forcing her to appreciate the difference between life and death. Where the edge between is sometimes too alluring.
The Queering is her fifth novel. Visit her website at for information about her first four novels—The Moonstone Girls, Crystal’s House of Queers, Some Laneys Died, and Someone To Kiss My Scars.
The ruler of the sprites meets a proud, but wayward harpy. Will their love survive a little trickery?
At eighteen, Warrior Chieftain Kitlivri Cyrrien of the Sprite Grove gained his title. On a dark night, Kitlivri lost his parents, sister, and nearly his entire population thanks to a horrid wizard potion. The Draconises took in him and his brothers, and Kitlivri gradually healed. Now he is a talented businessman, and the sprites have expanded by three dozen. Honored to be the Warrior Chieftain, Kitlivri does not want to give up his important role in Draconis Enterprises, but he believes it’s a necessity.
Jace Pagonis is a proud harpy, but he chafes at his people’s antiquated rules. When Jace isn’t arguing with his mother—the leader of the harpies—he’s sneaking around to improve his archery skills. Weapons and tricks are forbidden to harpy men but are necessary for the women, who are responsible for the men’s survival. Desperate to convince his mother to join the Council, Jace creeps out of his village one night to explore.
Two weeks into his fact-finding mission, Jace meets Kitlivri and is stunned to discover that Fate has selected them as mates. Jace misses home, but he cannot leave Kitlivri, nor does he want to explain to the courageous sprite that he’s the bratty son of the harpy ruler. Jace throws himself into life as Kitlivri’s other half and co-leader of the sprites, but weaves tales to avoid the truth. However, secrets never stay hidden for long, and Jace must face his lies or risk losing Kitlivri forever.
Jace scratched his head and tried to make sense of their conversation. “You want to bind our souls for eternity but be just friends for now?”
“Is that such a horrible thing? We did already agree not to rush intimacy.”
“Yes, but you also mentioned you were interested in kisses. I’m confused,” Jace said. “I’m not against going slow, I just want to make sure I understand. I don’t want to do or say the wrong thing. I’ve spent my entire life disappointing people with my inability to fall in line with their expectations. I’d like to avoid that in the future.”
“I don’t have a strict timeline in my head of when I think we should move from friends to lovers or whatever. As we get to know one another, I think we will figure it out.”
“I understand,” Jace said. “Perhaps it’s something we can discuss in the future.”
“Communication is definitely key to a good matebond.”
Although Jace understood Kitlivri had experienced tremendous loss, it was deflating to think they were entering another lie. Among harpies, there was no bargaining with Fate when it came to her choices for a person. Fate chose mates and leaders, and she guided the decisions of her chosen. This was honored without question.
Though Jace flaunted his mother’s rules, his parents had a love that was indisputable. His older sister had her other half too and was rarely seen without the woman Fate had picked for her.
The rebellious part of Jace that wanted to forge his own path should’ve applauded Kitlivri’s desire to ensure that what Fate did aligned with his desires for his life. Instead, Jace wondered if the Warrior Chieftain was already displeased by him.
A voice in his head told him he was being unfair and should pay more heed to Kitlivri’s words about his devastated family, so Jace set aside his unkind feelings. Kitlivri was scared, and it was Jace’s role to support him, not question his motives.
“Yes, it is,” Jace said and somehow managed not to cringe since he’d already told lies and half-truths to Kitlivri. Jace wasn’t proud of his dishonesty, his unkind thoughts about Kitlivri’s desire to take their relationship slowly, or himself, in the general sense. It wasn’t until Jace had left his mother’s village that he’d understood how little confidence he truly had, and he was clueless about how to mend himself.
“I’m sorry I’ve upset you.”
“No, you haven’t,” Jace said. “I assure you I’m fine with moving slow. I’m upsetting myself by being foolish, and I understand why caring for someone must terrify you. Thank you for being courageous enough to share that with me. In time, I hope to offer you the same honesty.”
“Love is scary, but I’m already committed to being your best friend.”
The closest thing Jace had to a friend was his father, and Zephyr’s priority was, understandably, his mate.
“I’ve never had a best friend. I’d like to be yours,” said Jace.
“We might even find that we like each other.”
Jace grinned. “You have a growing list of attributes, Kit.”
“As do you.”
“Are you ready to do this matebond thing now?” Jace asked.
“I’m nervous, but yes.”
“Good, I’m glad I’m not the only one.”
Kitlivri held out his hand, and Jace didn’t hesitate to take it. “Did I thank you for agreeing to nearly every D’Vaire tradition?”
“Excuse me? I agreed to them all. You’re the one who was worried some of the feather markings on my skin would disappear if we did those tattoo-like mating marks,” Jace argued.
“I’m a fan of your feathers. Are you okay with sharing a bedroom with me tonight? I’d rather it be no one’s business but our own that we’re postponing intimacy.”
“I think I can handle my desire to ravish you.”
“I’m hoping I have the same ability to resist you,” Kitlivri said. “You are captivating.”
“Not a horrible thing to hear from a handsome man.”
“Am I allowed to call you that too, or will it offend you?” Kitlivri asked.
“As long as you see me as more than the face Fate gave me, you may comment on it as much as you like.”
“Or I could compliment you on other features.”
“I might be harpy enough to enjoy them too.”
“Jace, will you be my mate today?” Kitlivri asked.
“Yes. Yes, I will.”
Jace’s future was a blurry road with no destination in sight, but Fate had given him someone to travel it with, and he would do his best to rise to the challenges ahead.
About the Author
Jessamyn Kingley has published over thirty titles and refuses to pick a favorite among them. With an extraordinary passion for her characters, she enthusiastically adds tales to her D’Vaire series and avidly re-reads them whenever her schedule allows. After decades living in the Washington, DC area, she now resides in Nevada with her husband and their three spoiled cats. When she is not writing or adding new ideas to her beloved notebooks, she is gaming with family and friends.
All Wade Lewis wants during rookie preseason camp is to
play great football and to make it to the final fifty-three man roster. He absolutely does not want Tristan
His complete and total opposite. His teammate. His competition. And his roommate. During the day, Tristan unexpectedly proves to be
helpful on and off the field, but at night, when the lights go out, Tristan also becomes the
only man he can’t resist.
First, he’s a friend, then astonishingly, he becomes a
lover. And then he becomes the last thing Wade ever
This novella was previously published, and some light
editing has been done, but no new content has been added.
Tristan had nearly found Beau and asked if he could
switch rooms, but the problem with that was that he likedsharing a room with Wade.
He was a good roommate, conscientious and kind, and apart from this inconvenient
attraction stuff, he was becoming a good friend.
And he’d already been around the NFL long enough to
know that friends didn’t exactly grow on trees.
It shouldn’t have come as a surprise, then, that as
soon as the light went out, after this long-ass day, when both of them should have been
exhausted and immediately falling asleep, Tristan couldn’t help himself and instead of being
safe and smart and careful, like he had been all day, like he’d used all that safety up, he
asked the question himself.
“You ever kiss a guy before, Wade?”
Wade was quiet for such a long time that Tristan
wondered if maybe he had actually fallen asleep.
He found himself holding his breath, barely able to
breathe, his lungs clogging, as he waited for Wade to answer. Listening, way too intently, for
even the minutest change in Wade’s own breathing.
Why did he even need to know?
Why did it matter so much that the answer be
Finally, Wade let out a deep exhale, like he’d been
holding his own breath too. Like he’d made a decision.
“No,” he said. “No, I haven’t.”
Tristan dug his fingertips into his bedding. It was no
less dangerous to kiss Wade in this dark, private room than to do it in the middle of the day,
in the middle of the Piranhas weight room, but it was easier to justify because if they did it
here and now, nobody would ever know.
But you’d know,
Tristan reminded himself. And Wade will know.
It was those two things that kept Tristan in his own
bed, instead of joining Wade in his—and showing him just how great kissing a guy could
“Is . . . is that what that was earlier? You were . . .”
Wade hesitated for so long that Tristan, hanging on every single word, every single syllable
echoing through the darkness, nearly got up and went to his side and demanded to know
what it was he was supposedly doing. Finally, though, Wade finished his sentence. “Testing
It made no sense. Why would Tristan be testing him?
He already knew Wade was bisexual. Wade had told him himself. Tristan might have tested
Wade if he hadn’t been sure. If he hadn’t been entirely sure how his flirtation would be
But he definitely hadn’t been testing Wade
He’d been irresistibly drawn to the man.
It felt unfair to pay Wade’s honesty back with a lie, no
matter how dangerous the truth was.
So Tristan told him the truth.
“I wasn’t testing you. I was . . . if you have to know, I
was . . . I find you attractive, Wade, and I wanted to kiss you. As stupid as that was. I
shouldn’t have been thinking about it. You’re not out, and there were other guys around,
and on top of that . . . it’s a huge, massive distraction that could get us both released. You
know, teams don’t really like their players hooking up.”
Don’t really was
It was technically allowed because it couldn’t be not allowed but it certainly wasn’t encouraged. All the Piranhas needed was a really
good reason to cut Tristan, and this would be it.
“You wanted to kiss me?” Wade’s voice was full of
“I guess you missed the rest of that,” Tristan teased.
“You know, the part where it was—it is—a bad idea.”
“Sorry.” Wade actually sounded apologetic. “I got
stuck on that one bit. I just never thought . . . you and me. You’re so . . .”
It was playing with fire to ask.
Tristan knew it.
He asked anyway.
“I’m so what, Wade?”
“You’re so hot and confident and sure of yourself.
You’re a beacon of hope to so many closeted guys, guys who think that you can’t be gay and
play football. And then there’s me . . . not really ashamed but not open either, and not
experienced . . .”
“None of that matters,” Tristan interrupted him,
because he couldn’t listen to another moment of Wade putting himself down. “I can’t tell
you how much none of that matters.”
“Wade, you’re fucking gorgeous and you’re sweet,
and you’ve got this smile that lights up . . . well, it lights up everything around you. Including
Wade was silent for a long time again, like he was
digesting what Tristan had just admitted to.
Like he was weighing the danger of it, the inherent
risk of it, with the reward.
But how could he, Tristan thought, dying over in his
own bed, when he didn’t know what he was really missing? He’d never kissed a guy before.
He didn’t know.
“Why,” Wade said, his voice rough, “are you still over
About the Author
A lifelong Pacific Northwester, Beth Bolden has just recently moved to North Carolina with
her supportive husband. Beth still believes in Keeping Portland Weird, and intends to be just
as weird in Raleigh.
Beth has been writing practically since she learned the alphabet. Unfortunately, her first
foray into novel writing, titled Big Bear with Sparkly Earrings, wasn’t a bestseller, but hope
springs eternal. She’s published twenty-three novels and seven novellas.
Tyler Morales is a friend by association. So, when my
inebriated ass stumbles into his bedroom after a party and see him bare, face down, and
blindfolded in some sort of sensory play, I’m speechless. And when his partner removes the
earplug in his ear and asks him if I can join in, with a nod of Tyler’s head, my body moves
before my brain can catch up.
Initially, I want to forget that night. Tyler never saw me and
his partner doesn’t know me. But that proves difficult because I dropped something inside
Tyler’s room. He traces the item back to me but it doesn’t matter. I want him even though
I’ve never considered dating a guy. Problem is, Tyler hasn’t come out and it seems he comes
with his very own stalker. None of that shit matters. I want what I want. So, tell me, what’s a
guy to do?
When your life changes, it is always
Tyler Morales is a “friend” by association. When my friends
meet up, we end up hanging out. Aside from being acquainted with some of the same
people, we attend the same college and currently share a class. Like me, Tyler ranks at the
top of his class so if I need a partner in a class and he’s available, we link up.
He’s someone who’s easy to get along with. He’s modest
yet, he doesn’t fade into the background, which is what I try to do. Fading probably isn’t
possible for him. To be honest, he’s pretty as fuck, in a masculine way if that makes sense.
Let me explain…
He’s probably a couple of inches shorter than my six feet
four inches. Girls constantly orbit around him, gushing over him enough for me to know
details like how soft his curly brown hair is, how long and how dark his lashes are, or that his
hazel eyes have evergreen specks. Tyler is also pretty active on campus and I’m sure I’ve
seen him in a sports uniform before. Plus, he seems like good people and though I’m not a
social butterfly, it was nice of him to invite me to one of his rare get-togethers.
I push myself up off the floor. For several seconds, I comb
through my memory, trying to figure out how I ended up asleep in Tyler’s guest bathroom.
When I open the door, I see no one. I realize the small party/gathering is over. Half-awake
but groggy, I get the idea that I’ll just let Tyler know I’m leaving.
So, I stumble down the hall, realizing I’ve never been in his
place before now. It’s nice. When I trip over nothing and hit the wall, I know I’m not only
sleepy but a little lit so I’ll be sleeping in Tyler’s parking lot till morning. I wonder if he’ll let
me use his couch. That’s what I’m thinking when I stagger into the first door that’s ajar. If I
say I wasn’t ready for what I see, it’s an understatement.
I wasn’t fucking ready.
Tyler is on his knees, face down with his naked ass up and
blindfolded. His arms are stretched out with his wrists bound to the bed posts. At this angle,
I see some device in the ear. But what has me frozen and speechless is a guy I’ve never seen
before pounding into Tyler’s ass with abandon.
The sounds they are making…
The sounds Tyler’s making…
When I recover from my frozen shock and can bring myself
to move, I jump forward, grab the guy by the arm, and yank him away from Tyler. The guy
nearly crashes into an upholstered chair that’s in front of a window but somehow avoids it
and falls to the floor. I look back at Tyler who is breathing heavily and has fallen to his belly
as if exhausted.
I look back at the rapist, his eyes are wide and he’s righting
himself. I’m seeing red. The need to beat his ass bloody is becoming stronger with every beat
of my heart. But…I’m also finding it hard to breathe because my anger is mixing with
something I’m ashamed to admit. I am so fucking turned on that my dick is rock hard and
bucking against my jeans for release. This makes me even angrier.
“What the fuck!” the guy yells. “Look, man,” he says as he
stands and holds his hand up to stop me from advancing. “Tyler never said he had a
I pause, frowning.
“You should know we’ve been fucking for a couple of
months now. He asked me to tie him up and fuck him like this?”
The guy exhales as he rubs his hand over his hair.
“Gene? Gene, what’s wrong?” Tyler whispers.
I can hear apprehension reflected in Tyler’s tone. It’s not
what I expect. It dawns on me that his mouth isn’t stuffed with anything and if he needed to,
he’s capable of screaming for help. Help isn’t what I was hearing from him.
“He asked you to do this to him?” I ask. My voice cracks.
“He did. I’m sorry but how could I resist?”
I can’t believe what I’m hearing. Tyler isn’t gay, as far as I
know. I think we’ve even hooked up with a couple of the same girls.
I look at the guy. He’s ass naked too yet, I find nothing
appealing about him which is a relief. I sigh as I focus my gaze to his eyes and face.
About the Author
Shea is a woman who
believes that love is life’s greatest gift so it’s no wonder she writes Romance Novels. She lives
on the east coast of the United States with her family. A romantic to her core, Shea reads
and enjoys watching anything with a love story. She especially likes binging on Romance TV
around the holidays.
She enjoys spending time
with her family, meeting people, reading, chatting. Collecting Barbie dolls, toys, and Funko
Pops makes her happy. But she’s addicted to watching anime, k-dramas, movies, and playing
The Sims games. Shea also loves music and has mentioned that she writes better when she
has music playing as white noise in the background.
This exciting author writes
Adult Romance in the sub-genres of Contemporary, Young Adult, New Adult, Paranormal,
Sci-Fi, and Erotica.
In search of a story, he
found murder and romance.
Author Christian Costner is researching material for one of
his dark thrillers and Nyemouth seems like the perfect setting for his next book. The small
seaside town has witnessed plenty of trouble over the years, and Christian thinks it will
provide him with the inspiration he needs.
He hires local tour guide and fisherman Harry Renner to
help him explore the coastline for a couple of days. Harry is knowledgeable and mature
beyond his twenty-eight years. Handsome too, though Christian thinks Harry is far too young
As the weather worsens, Harry cuts short their first sight-
seeing trip. Heading back to shore they spot a figure in distress in the water. A difficult
rescue is made far worse when they discover the casualty has a knife wound to his abdomen
and dies before they reach the safety of the harbour.
United by the trauma, Christian and Harry find comfort in
each other, but when another murder comes to light, they find themselves at the heart of a
dangerous mystery and the target of a killer more ruthless than they could ever
Harry went to the bar. He didn’t know the bartender so
didn’t have to face another barrage of questions about Niko’s death. “Two of whatever these
were,” he said, holding up the empty tumblers. “Make them doubles.”
He glanced over his shoulder as he waited. Christian gazed
into the fire, looking lost in his thoughts. What was it about him? Just this morning Harry
had dismissed him as being far too old, but the more time he spent with him and talked to
him, Christian’s appeal grew stronger. He can’t
be that old, anyway, he reasoned. Ten, maybe
eleven years older than he was. It wasn’t like fancying someone his dad’s age.
Of course, Harry knew what really drove this new attraction
He’d learned from his time in the lifeboat how sex and
death went hand in hand. He had taken part in three failed rescues when he was a member
of the crew and afterwards he had always wanted sex. It wasn’t unusual. He’d even read an
article about it—how sex helped people to feel alive after a clash with mortality.
Is that what this is? Do I only fancy him because we
didn’t save Niko?
As he carried the drinks back to the fire, Harry realised just
how much he did want Christian. They had been through a gruelling experience. What better
comfort could there be than each other’s bodies? He didn’t want to go back to his flat on his
own and wondered whether Christian felt the same about his lonely hotel room.
Fuck it. One more drink and I’ll ask him. The worst he
can say is no.
Christian lifted his gaze from the flames when he returned.
Their eyes connected and, just for a second, a hint of a smile. “Thanks,” he said, accepting
“Is this your favourite tipple? Whisky?” he asked, sitting
“Sometimes. It depends on my mood. But at the end of the
night, when I want to unwind, it’s the best. I always bring a bottle with me when I’m working
away—for a nightcap.”
Their eyes locked again, and Harry wondered if there had
been a hint of an invitation in the last remark. Or
is it just wishful thinking?
He had never been good at reading signals.
“What’s your hotel like?” he asked in a rush. “I’ve had a
drink at the bar in Quay House, but I’ve never been upstairs.”
Christian’s brow furrowed in confusion.
Oh shit. I’ve judged this all wrong.
Then he smiled. “It’s nice. I’ve got a good-sized room that
overlooks the harbour. Actually, it’s pretty great.” He sipped. “You’re welcome to come up, if
you’d like to look around. I could also give you that nightcap.”
Harry’s pulse quickened, and a stiffness developed in his
groin. “I’d love to.”
This morning he’d been so dismissive about Christian
because of his age, and now there was nothing he wanted more than to spend the night in
his protective embrace.
About the Author
Thom Collins is the author of Closer by Morning, North
Point and the Anthem Trilogy. His love of page
turning thrillers began at an early age when his mother caught him reading the latest Jackie
Collins book and confiscated it, sparking a life-long love of raunchy novels.
Thom has lived in the North
East of England his whole life. He grew up in Northumberland and now lives in County
Durham with his husband and two cats. He loves all kinds of genre fiction, especially bonk-
busters, thrillers, romance and horror. He is also a cookery book addict with far too many
titles cluttering his shelves. When not writing he can be found in the kitchen trying out new
recipes. He’s a keen traveler but with a fear of flying that gets worse with age, but in 2013 he
realized cruising is the best way to see the world.
Check out his website for news updates and a free ebook, The Night.
Felix only wants two things: 1. To make music. 2. His best friend, Emery. But he’s not willing to risk two decades of
friendship for something more. Besides, a bout of writer’s block is preventing him from
creating new material, and he’s got deadlines to meet. He doesn’t need any
distractions—and Emery is the biggest distraction of all. Emery only wants two things: 1. To play hockey. 2. His best friend, Felix. He’s ready to risk it all for a shot at being together.
While he should be concentrating on playing his best hockey so his team will grant him a
contract extension, there’s no reason he can’t multitask. With their careers at a crossroads, the timing for
romance couldn’t be worse—but when Felix is forced to move in with Emery, will Emery
finally convince him to take a chance at becoming the stars of their own game?
Music was his heart and soul. It would never not be a part
of his life. But he was ready for something different, whatever that “something” looked like.
It was a vague, nameless something that poked at the back of his brain like a child lazily
poking at a drum set.
He had tour dates and venues for this summer to firm up
with his tour manager, and although he loved performing, the thought of touring made him
slump back against the wall.
Twisting open the bottle cap, Felix chugged half his water,
mopping up a drop that spilled onto his chin with the back of his hand. Fuck, he couldn’t
wait to get home, even though Vancouver in January was as dreary as Henryk Gorecki’s
Symphony No. 3. He had a house in LA too, in Playa del Rey, but Vancouver was home. He
wanted to sleep in his own bed, visit with his parents and younger sister, help out at his
mentor’s after-school musical theater program, and spend time with Emery.
His phone rang, and he pulled it out of his pocket. Well,
speak of the devil. Emery Stanton read his caller ID next to a photo of his
childhood best friend’s face, and Felix’s heart skipped a beat, an automatic smile pulling his
lips upward despite his exhaustion. Felix remembered snapping that picture. “Smile,” he’d
said one day when they—along with their other best friend, Kris—had been strolling along
Vancouver’s Seawall a couple of summers ago, and instead Emery had made a kissy
“I was going for pouty and sexy,” Emery had explained, but
the result was that he looked like he’d eaten a lemon.
Felix swiped to answer the video call. “Hey, Em.”
“Oh, hey.” Dark eyes flared in what Felix wanted to believe
was pleasure but was probably surprise. “I thought you were still doing the show. I was going
to leave you a message.”
“We just wrapped up,” Felix said. “What’s up?”
Felix waited out a whole ten seconds of silence where they
did nothing but stare at each other. Emery scratched his bristly jaw. Felix sipped more water.
Amusement tickling the back of his throat, he finally said, “What was your message going to
be about, then?”
“Oh, nothing. I was going to ramble on about the latest
movie I saw with the guys just so you didn’t forget the sound of my voice.”
being his friends on his NHL team.
Felix rolled his eyes. “I haven’t been gone that long.”
“It’s been two weeks, Fe. You disappeared right after New
Year’s. I miss your face.”
Felix did not let that go to his head—or his heart.
This was just Emery being Emery. “You were in Winnipeg playing a New Year’s game, and
then in New York, then Colorado. If I’d have been home, we wouldn’t have seen each other
Emery scowled. “That’s not the point.”
“What is the point?”
“The point is that it’s the middle of January and I haven’t
even said ‘Happy New Year’ to you in person yet.”
“Oh, the horror.”
“Sarcasm is unbecoming,” Emery quipped, quite
About the Author
Amy’s lived with her head in
the clouds since she first picked up a book as a child, and being fluent in two languages
means she’s read a lot of books! She first picked up a pen on a rainy day in fourth grade
when her class had to stay inside for recess. Tales of treasure hunts with her classmates
eventually morphed into love stories between men, and she’s been writing ever since. She
writes evenings and weekends—or whenever she isn’t at her full-time day job saving the
planet at Canada’s largest environmental non-profit.
An unapologetic introvert,
Amy reads too much and socializes too little, with no regrets. She loves connecting with
readers. Join her Facebook Group to stay up-to-date on upcoming releases and for access to
early teasers, find her on Instagram, or sign up for her infrequent newsletter.