London, 1924. Evan Calver is enjoying a quiet pint, when he notices a man smiling at him across the bar. While the Rose and Crown isn’t that kind of pub, Evan thinks his luck might be in, and he narrowly escapes humiliation when he realises the man is smiling at a friend. Eavesdropping on their conversation, Evan discovers the man is named Milo Halstead and served as an army captain during the war.
When they meet again by chance in the British Museum, artist Milo asks Evan if he would sit for a portrait. Evan is amazed that an upper-class artist wants to paint the son of a miner, and he’s just as surprised when their acquaintance blossoms into friendship. When he discovers that Milo is a man like himself, he hopes that friendship might become more. But as Evan and Milo grow ever closer, can they escape the fears of the past to find their future happiness?
On the opposite side of the cabinet, a man was gazing intently at the Athenian amphora. Evan doubted he was having the same thoughts as himself as he scrutinized the naked athletes, but he seemed transfixed by its sporting design. The dark-haired man was wearing a brown pinstripe suit, the kind seen in newspaper photographs of famous actors and royalty, which Evan could never hope to afford. The stranger looked born to wear his stylish attire, his confident posture showing the suit’s fine cut to full advantage. Then he raised his eyes, and Evan saw the man was not a total stranger. His hair was smooth with Brilliantine, and he wasn’t wearing his gold-rimmed glasses, but he was unmistakably Captain Milo Halstead.
Evan was about to make a hasty exit when he realized the former soldier was smiling at him through the glass. He may have looked smarter than he had last night, but his smile was still as warm and kind as a Nightingale Nurse’s. Evan didn’t imagine the captain remembered him, but he smiled back, thinking it would be impolite not to, then turned to walk away. To his surprise, Evan’s action was mirrored on the other side of the cabinet as Captain Halstead moved in the same direction. He was still looking at Evan, still smiling, and as they both reached the end of the cabinet, Evan wondered what would happen next. Would words be exchanged? And what would those words be? If Milo remembered him from last night and he wasn’t the genial man he seemed, they might hint at blackmail or violence.
Evan was tempted to put his head down and make a run for it, but he didn’t want to attract the attention of the museum guards. He took a breath and stepped forward, only to find Milo standing in his way.
“Excuse me. Could I get past?”
“Of course, but…” Milo’s smile was uncertain now, but he didn’t move from Evan’s path. “It was you I saw in the Rose and Crown last night, wasn’t it?”
Evan lowered his eyes and weighed up his options. He could admit he was at the pub and ask to know what business of Milo’s it was. Or he could deny being anywhere near the place, or even knowing of its existence. The latter seemed the most sensible choice, avoiding all confrontation, but when he looked up and saw Milo’s blue eyes sparkling cheerfully back at him, Evan was overwhelmed by a longing to spend a few seconds more in his company.
With no idea of Milo’s intentions, Evan answered, “That’s right. I saw you there too.”
About the Author
H. has worked with books for a number of years, and is delighted to finally find herself on the author’s side of the bookshelf. She enjoys writing historical romances, and contemporary stories too, and while her characters travel all over the world, they always have a touch of British humour.
H. has lived in various parts of the UK and currently lives in the north of England, where she’s enjoying city life as much as the beautiful countryside. In her spare time, H. loves going to the cinema and theatre, and her very eclectic tastes range from quirky comedy to ballet and Shakespeare, and pretty much everything in between.
A ray of sun in the drizzling rain. I’d been a traveler, floating adrift, while he’d stayed in one place. How was I supposed to know he’d become my anchor? My light. My everything. But would I ever become his?
A standalone romance, “Black” features detailed adult m/m content, a hurt/comfort relationship as well as “kitty play.”
A shove and he fell into a seated position. His hands were all over me. Squeezing at my thighs, shoving my shirt up. Stepping back, away from him, I grabbed the bottom of my shirt and pulled it over my head. I draped it over the coffee table and worked on my pants next. Kitties didn’t wear clothes after all. If I was going to be a kitty, I was going to be a good one.
Naked, body free in the cool air of my apartment, I lifted my arms above my head and stretched out. Flaunting. I wanted him to touch my cock. Heated, it swayed with each of my movements, begging for attention. That was for later though. Now we played.
Dropping to my knees, I turned my face towards him and angled my head to the side. Hands hit the floor, and I crawled towards him. Strutted as best as I could. It was like the evening before when I’d tried to seduce him. Except I’d already succeeded in my goal this time. Now it was all icing on top.
I crawled up to him, hands going to his knees. “Dima,” he murmured, reaching for my hair. He laced his fingers through, but I jerked my head away from him.
With a hiss, I narrowed my eyes and bit down on his fingers. It made him laugh, but he didn’t touch me again. If he wanted me to get into character, we were going to have to do it properly. I wanted to be something different, and he was going to have to deal with that.
Tony spread his thighs to accept me between them. I scratched and then dipped my head. With the skill of my tongue and teeth, working in tandem, I popped open the button of his jeans. The zipper was much easier, and then he helped me. While he worked on getting his pants out of the way, I showed off my body. Elbows rested on the floor behind me, back arched sharply as I waited. The skin stretched tight over my ribs, stomach a little dip. I was tiny, and I knew it, but Tony definitely seemed to like it.
“God, you’re beautiful,” he murmured.
I purred at the compliment, and when the couch stopped its faint squeaking from his movements, I was at my place between his thighs again. He’d not moved from his spot, making it easier on me. Without much ado, I dove face first into his lower stomach, brushing my nose into his tuft of pubic hair. He smelled faintly of soap and musk, sweat. A distinctly manly smell that drove me crazy. His cock flexed, the heat of it against my cheek. Too heavy to stand on its own when he was seated like that, it pointed towards his hip.
I nipped at his stomach and turned my head so my cheek rested against him. Keeping my eyes closed, I flicked my tongue against the side of his cock. He groaned and shifted, legs spreading wider.
He thought he was going to get what he wanted. One thing he would learn was kitties didn’t much care to do what other people wanted.
This time when I scratched at his thighs, I was attacking bare skin. He jerked against me, hissing between his teeth.
“Fuck,” he grumbled.
He might have caught the smirk that danced over my lips, but if he did, it was only a brief moment as I bypassed his cock and went straight to his balls. My tongue lapped across the tender flesh, tasting salt and heat. I swore I felt his heart beating as my nose brushed the base of his cock and my tongue worked him over. Curious, I mouthed at his sack before letting out a tiny “meow.” He arched so hard and quickly, I thought he was gonna jump off the couch.
If he liked that, Tony was in for a long night.
About the Authors
This is Quin&Perin. We are a team of Sultry Gay Romance writers who focus on detailed, toe-curling, and realistic smut scenes with a fair share of dirty talking (Oh, boy). We cannot wait to share our boys with you. Thank you for stopping by!
That said, it is time for the next level of smut: stories featuring fire, lust & desire.
Ben and Donnie are happier than they’ve ever been. Zac’s adoption went off without a hitch, their new home is tranquil and the perfect place to build their future.But Donnie can never catch a break. An old affliction flares up again and as a result his physical condition is more precarious than ever. Helen is nervous about the environment to which Ben subjects their daughter, and Ben struggles to keep everything ticking over.Then he meets Paul, an enigmatic, handsome journalist who is more than a little interested in Ben. In equal measures flattered and disturbed by the attention, Ben finds himself on the brink of a decision that might shatter the happiness he’s worked so hard to achieve
CHAPTER 1 How could they have so much stuff? When Donnie and Ben had moved into the duplex just over six months ago there had been ten boxes, eight of which had been Ben’s. Donnie had had a ruthless clear-out of his and Floyd’s little house, and had thrown away most of his meagre possessions. Of course, adding a baby—toddler now—to the mix meant a lot more stuff, and it all needed packing up. Still, fifteen boxes in the bedroom alone seemed excessive. Ben straightened and wiped his brow. He surveyed the result of three hours’ hard labor. Only a small suitcase remained open, with a couple of changes of clothes for each of them. The living room and kitchen were equally crammed with boxes, though they’d held back packing the crockery so far. The kitchen was chaotic enough with all of their different dietary requirements without having to hunt around for plates to eat from, too. The new house, a find of Arthur’s just like their condo had been, was less than a mile from the apartment. Ben and Donnie had both come to love Ormewood with its quiet, leafy streets. The small bungalow had two bedrooms, which they’d badly need. The smaller one was going to be the nursery, with a second bed for Laura. Unlike the condo, the house wasn’t freshly decorated, but the road it stood on was quiet, and they would have a large yard at the front and back, where flower and vegetable beds had already been in good use. The front door banged shut. “Evening,” Ben called, but there was no response. He put down the parcel tape and scissors and went into the hall. Donnie stood by the front door gripping the doorknob hard, his head lowered. His breath came in painful-sounding gasps. Zac, who stood by Donnie’s side, looked around. The confusion on his round face cleared as he spotted Ben. “Pa!” He came running, and Ben picked him up. Fear churned his gut at the sight of Donnie’s bent-over form. Hoisting Zac onto his hip, he asked, “What’s the matter?” In response, Donnie lifted his head and Ben’s question was answered at once. His face was white as chalk. “Whoa,” Ben exclaimed. “You look terrible.” “Some kids got the stomach flu, and… shit…” With a low moan, Donnie staggered past Ben into the bathroom and shut the door. “Dadda?” Zac asked tentatively. Ben stroked his back. “I think Dadda’s not feeling so good. We gotta be nice, all right?” Zac nodded, looking scared. Ben hugged him. “It’s gonna be okay,” he whispered into the little boy’s dark curls, as much to reassure himself as Zac. Donnie reemerged a long few minutes later, seemingly on the verge of passing out, his face ashen and sweaty. Ben hurriedly stood Zac on his feet and took Donnie by the elbow, his own heart hammering. “C’mere.” Donnie leaned his head against Ben’s neck, breaths ragged, his forehead burning. They stood still for a moment until Donnie began to shiver. “Let’s get you horizontal,” Ben murmured. Zac trailed them into the bedroom. Ben struggled getting Donnie out of his shoes and pants. He had sweated through his shirt so Ben got a fresh T-shirt from the open suitcase. Great timing.As if moving wasn’t stressful enough already. “Here, stretch out.” Ben pulled the blankets back. Donnie curled up, shuddering, his hands pressed hard to his stomach. “You sure it’s just flu?” Ben asked, dread twisting his insides. Donnie buried his face in the pillow. “What else?” His voice was tense and despondent. “Could be your pancreas again?” Ben swallowed, dismayed at the thought. He sat on the edge of the bed and put a hand on Donnie’s neck, which was clammy and hot. “Daycare kids’re sick,” Donnie insisted. “I just picked up their virus¾” “Even if that’s true,” Ben interrupted. “We need to get you looked at, have your T-cells checked¾” He broke off as Donnie groaned and struggled to sit up. Ben helped him to his feet, but Donnie pulled away. “Can manage.” To distract himself and give Donnie some space, Ben went into the kitchen to locate a basin in one of the boxes. He was on his way back to the bedroom when Donnie reappeared, looking even whiter than before. Ben took him into his arms and Donnie clung on hard. “Feeling any better?” “Not really.” The hands went back to Donnie’s belly. Fear gripped Ben like an icy fist, but he said nothing. Zac had somehow managed to climb into their bed. He looked at them with a serious expression on his little round face. “Dadda,” he said and stretched his arms out. Donnie stopped dead. “He’ll get sick, Ben.” “If he’s going to catch this it’s already happened,” Ben said. “But I’ll call Arthur, ask him if he can take Zac until you’re over the worst. I can’t look after you both, not with the move, as well.” Donnie’s face creased. “I don’t like it when he’s away,” he whispered. “But you’re right. I’m real sorry, Ben.” “It’s okay.” Ben hugged him and kissed his temple. “For now, give bub a cuddle. You need it.” He helped Donnie back into bed, and Donnie pulled Zac close, curling around him with a whimper. Ben watched them a moment. Donnie shivered and shifted around. With a sigh, Ben went to find his phone which he last remembered seeing in the chaotic living room. When he returned to the bedroom Donnie had fallen asleep. Zac was stroking his face, but when he saw Ben, he started to wriggle free. Ben extracted him with care. Donnie sighed and turned over without waking. Ben put Zac in his cot, then, phone pressed to his ear, he started to pack a bag for Zac’s visit to Arthur.
About the Author
Mel was born in Germany, where she spent the first twenty-six years of her life (with a one-year stint in Los Angeles). She has always been fascinated by cultures and human interaction, and got a Masters in Social Anthropology. After finishing university she moved to London, where she has now lived for ten years.If you were to ask her parents what Mel enjoyed the most since the age of six, they would undoubtedly say “Reading!” She would take fifteen books on a three-week beach holiday, and then read all her mom’s books once she’d devoured her own midway through week two.Back home in her mom’s attic there’s a box full of journals with stories Mel wrote when she was in her early teens. None of the stories are finished, or any good. She has told herself bedtime stories as far back as she can remember.In her day job, Mel works as PA and office manager. No other city is quite like London, and Mel loves her city. The hustle and bustle still amaze and thrill her even after all these years. When not reading, writing or going to the theater, Mel spends her time with her long-time boyfriend, discussing science or poking fun at each other.
Never interfere. Those were his orders, and for centuries he stood by them, faithfully serving those that had given him his charge. Until one fateful night, while hunting, the young vampire stumbles upon a handsome, young stranger. Within minutes, Holden finds his peaceful existence thrown into a tailspin. Soon, it’s a race against time to save the human that he just can’t seem to get out of his head.
When Holden opened his eyes, the only light in the room was the orange glow of the sodium street lamps sifting between the wooden blinds from the grid of city streets, forty-four stories below, and the pale blue light of his alarm clock. The colors combined to give his stark white walls a purplish tint. The clock read 10:32.
Shit. He had overslept.
The sun had set hours before, which meant he’d wasted good, prime hunting time. If he didn’t hurry, all he’d be left with would be drunks, junkies or the homeless. None of which appealed to him. Most of them would probably taste sour and would offer very little in terms of nutritional value, their blood tainted with so many chemicals.
Before he slid out from beneath his satin sheets, he quickly scanned his local armada of Ismeros for any sign of trouble throughout the city. He had about fifty or so Ismeros of his own posted around Chicago. Various members of the High Council probably had another sixty or seventy. They lived their normal, day-to-day lives, yet kept a close watch for him during the day while he slept. He offered them protection from the terrors that the world provided, while they provided him with information and food.
Truth be told, had anything serious happened that day, the psychic connection he held with his Ismeros would have woken him from even the deepest sleep. It was part of a vampire’s long-evolved self-preservation mechanism, an army to protect him while he was most vulnerable, while he slept. While the need for an army of Ismeros had long since faded, the tradition of keeping them had not. The simple fact that he’d overslept was a sign that all was peaceful in the city. At any rate, it was still something he did every evening when he awoke, just to be sure.
It had been decades since anything tempestuous had happened in his domain. The last Strigoi to invade Chicago had been John Wayne Gacy. His reign of terror had lasted far too long. It had taken the Council years to catch up with and dispose of the rogue vampire. They would have caught up with him much sooner had human law enforcement not gotten in their way. The thought of the long-executed Strigoi still made Holden rage inside.
That bastard had killed one of Holden’s favorite Ismeros, Lukas, back in the 1970s. That boy had fucked like a champ and tasted like heaven, dipped in amazing and served with a side of remarkable. It still made Holden sad to think about. After all, it was because of Holden that boy had learned to trust vampires, which ultimately lead him to his untimely death. Holden still felt partially to blame and like a failure for not being able to save him.
“Should I just order takeout? Or should I go pick something up?” Holden said out loud to his empty room as he climbed from the warmth of his bed, scanning a mental list of Ismeros again, this time searching for any willing blood donors, who lived happened to live nearby, that might pique his interest. It was Monday. Which meant the bars and clubs would be relatively quiet in the area, yet none of his Ismeros were catching his attention.
He always did what he could to avoid the any of the Council’s Ismeros, never fully trusting them. Their loyalty lay with the Council, not with him. So, he always thought of them as spies despite working for the same team. “I’ll pick something up,” he decided out loud to an empty room.
He moved to the window, pulling up the generic blinds, which released a cloud of dust and looked out the city grid below. The orange shimmer flooded the room, illuminating his naked body in the window. He really loved this new apartment; it was too bad he wouldn’t be able to stay long. The Council forced him to move frequently, more so because they thought it was best, not because he wanted to. It was an attempt to not to draw any unwanted attention from a nosey human. Human neighbors tended to notice when the twenty-something next door always remained a twenty-something.
Holden had learned that lesson quickly in the years following the Great Chicago Fire. A neighbor had accused him of being a witch, which made for an exciting few weeks. In a stroke of luck, she’d ended up dying of cholera a short while later, and the attention quickly dwindled.
That age had been a bit more superstitious than today’s society, but the Council insisted he not take any chances, so every few years he moved to a different part of the city. He had found this apartment a few months prior. Its location on a penthouse floor of a high rise on Lake Shore Drive had definite perks. Lincoln Park, the lakefront playground that stretched from downtown to the far north side, was directly across the boulevard-turned-freeway, and it offered plenty of dark areas for hunting, chock full of potential meals. Joggers, bikers, various riff-raff, late-night walkers… to a Vampire, it was like an international buffet. Each and every one of them ripe for the picking, with the park affording all the necessary discretion to do so. It was quite dark; all the trees muted the copper glow from the city streets on one side and on the other, a hundred mile stretch of the black, open waters of Lake Michigan. He almost always hunted his breakfast here, granted, it was usually a few hours earlier.
Another option was to try his luck in the local bars and nightclubs that the neighboring Boystown and Wrigleyville had to offer. Being a Monday the only people at the bars and clubs around 4 am, his dinner hour, would be the hardcore drunks. And that much alcohol neither helped with how they tasted nor with how well they’d perform in the bedroom, both of which were equally important to a vampire. Tonight, he decided, he would exercise his third option, he would find an Ismeros to bring over for dinner, but breakfast he was going to be an excellent old-fashioned hunt.
His naked form crossed the room into the ensuite bathroom, and he turned on the shower. Steam quickly fogged up the enclosure, which was entirely made out of frameless-glass. He climbed into the black marble interior and let the hot water spray over his skin and muscles washing away any trace of his early morning romp with last night’s dinner.
The hot water soothed as it poured over his body. He massaged both of his shoulders with his hands. All of his muscles ached and burned. They cried out to be fed, burning for fuel. Every muscle fiber in his body was silently screaming out for food, having long burned off the meal from his tryst the night prior. Reminding him that it had been almost eighteen hours since he’d eaten. Jacob? Jake? John? Joe? He couldn’t remember. Johann? He had tasted Swedish, or maybe Finnish; it was hard to tell here in the New World. Everyone was a little bit of everything these days. Whatever he was, it was nothing spectacular, neither in taste nor his ability to perform in the bedroom. The boy had wound up being rather prudish and shy in bed, which was what Holden had expected from a boy who agreed to come home with him less than thirty minutes after they’d met.
Sundays had historically been very easy. The boys of East Lakeview were always eager for one last weekend rendezvous before they had to go back to the monotony of the workweek. Most them begging for his phone number before he sent them on their way, always remembering the incredible fuck, never remembering him feeding on them. He was still happy to oblige. A vampire was always on the lookout for new Ismeros, sex, and food available at his every beck and call, but it was rare that they ever actually called. Sure, he’d sometimes get a text message, but in truth, the sleek iPhone that he’d bought at the insistence of his live-in Ismeros, Marie, rarely left where it was neatly docked on his desk in the living room. He had no real use for the thing, anyone he truly cared for, he was directly linked to, with a natural, psychic link. By the time he would see the text message, the boys usually had moved on to the next best thing, and that suited this vampire just fine.
He emerged from the shower, wrapping his toned vampire body in only a plain white towel. The terrycloth fabric hung low from his waist, showing off his well-defined abdominal muscles and giving off just the slightest hint of well-groomed hair that it hid beneath its rough surface, as he walked into the living room. Marie was there, folding the solid black, Egyptian cotton sheets from his feeding room. He kept a second room strictly for feeding and fucking, having long ago been taught that you don’t bring your food into the bed that you sleep in. Things, of course, could always end up getting a little bit messy, with the inevitable exchange of body fluids.
“You slept late tonight,” she said, giving him a sharp look of concern, “Are you feeling okay?”
“I wish you’d woken me,’ he smiled. “But, yeah, I feel fine,” he said with a shrug of confidence. He was a vampire, and vampires never got sick. “Have you ever known me, or any vampire for that matter, to feel sick? I’m not sure, maybe my dinner date wore me out last night,” He smiled, remembering how attractive the boy had been. His name had definitely been Johann. “Speaking of, did you see him out?” Holden’s voice had long ago become very Americanized, losing almost all traces of its European roots.
“He left shortly after he awoke this morning,” she said, “looking just as confused as the rest of them. I’m not sure how you do it…” She chuckled.
“Talent,” he said coyly, a smirk spreading across his porcelain skin. “I learned from the best.” He, of course, was referring to his Sire, Damek. The elder vampire was nearly a thousand years old and had personally groomed Holden to be in the position that he was, Watcher for the High Council of Vampires.
“I find it hard to believe that you aren’t the best,” she flirted, “I seem to remember you being the best.” Her New Orleans accent was still discernable after all these years and always served her well in the art of flattery.
They, of course, had a very long history, at least in human terms, dating back to the late 1960s. He’d found her, homeless on the streets, ravaged by a rogue vampire, who had briefly passed through town. Having run away from an abusive home in Louisiana, she had nowhere to go, so he’d taken her in, raised her first as a foster child, then as a lover, but now she’d out-aged him, and things had come full circle. She loved him, Holden could tell, but not as a lover as she had in her youth, but more maternally. He felt a pang of remorse deep inside his heart. Holden had stolen her youth, taken her life and any hope she had ever had for a family. Next, he would steal her golden years. He shook his head to clear the thought away.
“I think I’m going to the get dressed and head to the park for some breakfast,” he said. “No strange late-night visitors tonight, I promise.”
“Good, then maybe tomorrow I will be able to sleep in,” she said with a nod and a joking smile, returning to the pile of linens at her feet. “Take your phone, please.”
He, of course, heard her request, it was the same request she gave him every night but like most things’ humans said to him, he didn’t give it a whole lot of thought. He dropped his towel into the empty laundry basket next to her feet, turned and his naked form walked back towards his room to get dressed.
About the Author
Jay Barrett lives in Chicago with his husband. A writer in the evening, he’s a flight attendant by day and an avid runner. Marked is his first novel.
A big storm is brewing, there’s a killer on the loose, and the ghosts of Myrtle Beach are restless. Psychic medium Simon Kincaide and his sexy cop boyfriend, homicide detective Vic D’Amato have their hands full helping the Grand Strand brace for rough surf, driving rain and high winds as a winter storm roars toward shore.
Everyone’s on edge, and rumors are rampant about sightings of Blackcoat Benny, a ghostly omen of danger, and worse, the Gallows Nine, the spirits of nine infamous criminals hanged back in the 1700s, a harbinger of disaster. Rough tides wash the wreck of an old pirate ship into shallow waters, high winds threaten to damage an old mansion with a dark past, and the citizens of the beach town hunker down to ride out the storm.
As the skies grow dark and the sea turns wild, several men from prominent local families end up dead under suspicious circumstances. Simon’s premonition confirms Vic’s gut feeling—the killing is just getting started. As Simon tries to reach out to the spirits of the murdered men to help the investigation, he’s attacked by malicious ghosts that don’t want anyone getting in the way of their long-overdue vengeance.
With the storm hammering the coast, and new victims piling up, Simon is certain that the sins and secrets of the past are coming due, and that the murders have a supernatural link. Vic and Simon race to stop the murders against an unholy deadline, but as they battle rising tides and risen ghosts, can they save the intended victims without getting trapped themselves.
Trigger Warning: Mentions of suicide (not main characters)
Grand Strand Ghost Tours didn’t just arise from Simon’s passion for myth, legend, and folklore; it was rooted in his abilities as a psychic medium. Sure, the ghost tours were largely entertainment, but Simon also gave private psychic readings and conducted séances by appointment. Along with the books he wrote about ghosts and the speaking engagements he provided for local organizations, Simon had managed to create a thriving business. He leaned against the railing, enjoying a moment of contentment.
Or maybe, the calm before the storm, a little voice in the back of his mind warned.
His phone buzzed, and Simon pulled it from his pocket and smiled. “Hey. Miss me?”
“Always.” Homicide lieutenant Vic D’Amato’s voice was a husky rumble. “I just wanted to check what time you finish up tonight. Figured it was my turn to pick up dinner.” The tone in Vic’s voice promised far more than food, and Simon felt the anticipation go right to his dick.
“I should be finished around seven. It’s off-season, so no tours on Mondays. You have a busy day lined up?” Simon asked as he started walking toward his favorite coffee shop.
“Not yet, and I’m hoping it stays that way,” Vic replied. “It’s never a good thing when we’re busy.”
“Let me know if you hear anything official about the storm. I’ve heard six different forecasts, and I haven’t even gotten coffee yet.”
“Sure thing—but don’t expect anything dependable yet. We’re too far out.”
Simon knew how changeable forecasts could be so close to the ocean. Still, Myrtle Beach had barely gotten back on its feet after the last hurricane, so the news of another severe winter storm—hurricane or not—had everyone on edge.
“Be careful out there,” Simon said, letting his voice drop to a growl. “I love you.”
“Love you, too. Stay out of trouble.”
Despite the forecasts, Simon couldn’t help feeling a spring in his step after talking with Vic. They’d been together for less than a year, but Simon was finding it more and more difficult to remember what life was like before meeting his handsome homicide cop. Vic had officially moved into Simon’s retro blue bungalow after the holidays, and while they were still working out their new living situation, Simon had never been happier.”
“The boardwalk might not be busy, but Le Mizzenmast, Simon’s favorite coffee shop, was always bustling. The locals called it Le Miz, not to be confused with the musical. The building had previously been a pirate-themed attraction, and when Tracey Cullen took over, she couldn’t afford to remodel, so she just incorporated the pirate decor into her theme and went with it.
“Hi, Simon!” Tracey called with a wave from behind the register. “You want the usual?” When Simon nodded, Tracey turned to her barista. “One Dread Pirate Roberts and a mocha please!”
Simon took his place in line, remembering how he and Vic had met right here, waiting for coffee. Simon had taken one look at Vic’s muscled body, his dark brown eyes, and the ink on his arms and felt an instant attraction. After all these months and several hair-raising adventures, the magnetism had only gotten stronger. Being in love felt wonderful, and Simon resolved to enjoy every minute of it.”
Excerpt From: Morgan Brice. The Rising: A Badlands Novel.
About the Author
Morgan Brice is the romance pen name of bestselling author Gail Z. Martin. Morgan writes urban fantasy male/male paranormal romance, with plenty of action, adventure and supernatural thrills to go with the happily ever after. Gail writes epic fantasy and urban fantasy, and together with co-author hubby Larry N. Martin, steampunk and comedic horror, all of which have less romance, more explosions. Characters from her Gail books make frequent appearances in secondary roles in her Morgan books, and vice versa.
On the rare occasions Morgan isn’t writing, she’s either reading, cooking, or spoiling two very pampered dogs.
Other books include Witchbane, Burn, Dark Rivers, and Badlands. Watch for more in these series, plus new series coming soon!
There’s nothing like being blackmailed by a dead man to really bring a group of cons together. And what a group we are: a hacker, a thief, a con artist, a thug, and a Federal agent with an axe to grind. The deal is simple, we do the jobs and Charlie’s lawyer wipes the slate clean for each of us, one at a time.
Since job number one calls for some muscle, it looks like I’m up first. I’m Steele Alvarez, ex-Special Forces Close Protection Specialist (aka, a bodyguard for some not so nice guys).
After learning what the job is — taking down a seemingly untouchable senator with a penchant for beating up young male prostitutes — I’m in. No questions. A bullet ought to do the trick.
Then I met Senator Harlan’s latest victim: Breck Pfeiffer, the gorgeous hooker with a heart of gold and the soul of a fighter. One look at him and I’m gone. That kid laid me out harder than any punch ever did. I’ll do anything to protect Breck, even kill for him. But Breck doesn’t want the senator dead, he wants vengeance.
If we’re going to find a way bring down the slimebag and get the blackest mark on my record erased, I’m going to need all the help I can get.
Thank Christ someone had been bright enough to leave the air conditioning on in Charlie’s mansion. Dead men paid no electric bills, I guess. Fucking Florida. I’d been gone too long and had somehow forgotten how truly miserable the humidity could be. Sure, it could hit a hundred and fifteen outside of Baghdad, but it was dry heat.
I thought about taking off my suit, or at least my tie, but until I knew what the hell was going on here, I wasn’t going to let my guard down.
Besides, I looked good in a suit.
“Nice house, huh?” Wesley said from my behind me, as I was busy assessing the layout of the house and cataloging any possible pinch points. Like I said, I didn’t know what I was doing here, and I wasn’t taking any chances.
“I’ve seen bigger.” In my most recent incarnation as close protection specialist and hired muscle to some very rich and very bad men, I’d been in mansions that made this place look like a pool house. Not that this place sucked. Not at all. The cabin I’d grown up in could have fit in the foyer with room left over.
We followed Ms. Miranda Bosley, Charlie’s attorney, single-file down the tiled hallway of the big house like a line of ducklings. Wesley was the only guy I knew and consequently the only one in the group I trusted enough to walk behind me. Even Ms. Bosley looked like she wouldn’t hesitate to stab me in the kidney if she felt she needed to.
Seeing Wes at the funeral had been a surprise. A quick, stilted conversation had revealed that he was here for the same reason I was – we were both being blackmailed by Charlie.
I couldn’t imagine what Charlie had on the kid. I’d only worked with Wes twice before, but he was more a gray hat than a black hat hacker; the kind of person who didn’t mind doing the wrong things for the right reasons. A cross between MacGyver and Anonymous, the kid had probably been on an FBI watch list since he was twelve.
Wesley had triggered my protective instincts from our first meeting, but he’d never really needed much help beyond muscle. Sure he could take of himself with that jujitsu or whatever, but sometimes some people just needed their faces punched, and I was more than happy to do that for him. It was satisfying.
Now Angel-Face, as I’d taken to calling the gorgeous blond kid who’d been sitting a few rows ahead of me at the graveside ceremony, he triggered other instincts in me. Made me think things I probably shouldn’t be thinking at a funeral. But then again, Angel-Face hadn’t seemed exactly consumed with grief either. I hadn’t been completely surprised to see him following Miranda after the funeral along with Wes and me. Very interesting. What had that choir boy done to be in such bad company at such a young age?
There’s nothing like being blackmailed by a dead man to really bring a group of cons together. And what a group we are: a hacker, a thief, a con artist, a thug, and a Federal agent with an axe to grind. The deal is simple, we do the jobs and Charlie’s lawyer wipes the slate clean for each of us, one at a time.
I’m Bond. Wesley Bond. (I can’t resist saying it that way. Blame my dad, if you can find him.) You could call me a hacker. I redistribute wealth – moving it from rich slimebags to poorer but infinitely more deserving people – and make a tidy profit as I do. My mission, should I choose to accept it, is to bring down some modern-day slave traders.
I definitely choose to accept it.
With the life of the one person in this world I love on the line, I can’t afford any screw ups or distractions. Unfortunately, my biggest distraction is also my biggest asset – Danny Monroe. Danny is a leftover complication from our first job; a victim of the vicious senator we’d gotten locked up. He’s a smart, funny, gorgeous, ex-prostitute, who can’t seem to keep his clothes on. I can’t seem to keep my mouth shut around him. But I need a fake boyfriend, and Danny is the only option.
Fooling the world into thinking we’re in love will be easy; fooling myself that I’m not might be impossible.
“Hey, can anyone explain why my shirt drawer is empty?” Ridge Pfeiffer demanded, appearing on the patio where the rest of our little band had congregated. Our resident retrievals expert (read: thief) was naked from the waist up and scowling beneath his blue eyes and blond curls like the world’s most overgrown, pissed-off Botticelli angel.
I pulled down my sunglasses to look at him, then slid them back up so I could focus on my phone screen. Right now, I was engaged in a long-term bout of spear phishing at Campbell Enterprises, and I was about to close the deal. This was way more interesting than anything Ridge was likely to share.
Janie, I typed, I’m on a plane with Dal Anderson and he wants a four-paragraph summary of Thursday’s press release so we can prepare talking points for the investors!! Can’t access the secure server from here and I’m fah-reaking OUT!! Send me something? – Becks
There. That ought to do it.
Becks, aka Rebecca Frankel, Junior Executive Assistant to the VP of Human Resources at Campbell, according to her LinkedIn profile, was adorably naïve and helpful. For example, when a friendly IT man had called the other day and asked for her credentials to verify a “suspicious login” from her site, she’d provided all the necessary info. Hell, if I’d asked for her astrological sign and social security number, she’d probably have given me that too.
Once I’d accessed her email, I’d had the keys to the castle. It had been easy to copy her writing style – hyper-friendly, with way too many exclamation points for a person over the age of thirteen – to learn that she was going on a business trip with her boss this week, and to find that she was smoke-break buddies with Jane DeVoor, Assistant to the CFO. As soon as Jane emailed back a summary of Thursday’s press release to help her pal out, I’d make a few quick investment decisions like I’d somehow learned to predict the future.
Hint: Ditch your psychic friends and go phishing instead.
“Um, would we say the drawer is really empty, though?” Breck, Ridge’s identical twin, asked from the lounge chair where he was stretched out in the sun practically on top of his boyfriend, Steele Alvarez.
“Close enough. The only things left are a pink tank top that says I Would Bottom You So Hard and this Pittsburgh Steelers t-shirt.” Ridge held it up. “Neither of them is mine, and frankly I don’t feel comfortable wearing either.”
About the Author
A dreamer and an idealist, Amy writes about people finding love, family, and magic in the everyday world. From professional hockey players to professional thieves, her boys work hard, play hard, and love harder. She invites readers into her characters’ lives and worlds when they are their most vulnerable, their most human, and living with the same hopes and fears we all have.
Born on Long Island, NY, Amy has lived in Los Angeles, London, and Bangkok. She currently lives in a town suspiciously like Red Deer, Colorado.
New apartment, new job, new love – Ben and Donnie’s life in Atlanta is everything they dared to hope for. And when Zac, a baby in need of a home, comes to live with them, their family is complete.
But caring for a little one is hard work, and Donnie’s fragile health soon suffers. And then certain criminal elements from Donnie’s past turn up again. Ben and Donnie fight hard to preserve their little piece of heaven, but the destructive forces are determined to pull their happiness to pieces.
Can the two men prevail, or will they lose their baby son and everything they’ve fought for?
A drowsy post-lunch hush hung over the large, comfortable room. Small clusters of kids sat around low tables, drawing pictures or building models with brightly-colored Legos. Late fall sunlight dappled little faces and danced over the playful wall murals the community center volunteers kept adding to, whenever someone with a smidgen of artistic talent joined the team.
Donnie glanced through the glass doors into the courtyard. It was a beautiful day, mild for so late in the year. He planned to go outside with the kids for some sandbox playtime soon. He wondered if he could sneak into the staffroom and put the coffeemaker on for an afternoon cup before that, but just then, a small, dark-haired girl at a table near the back looked up from her drawing. “Donnie, can you help me?” she called in a stage whisper that made Donnie smile.
“Sure, Padma.” He wended his way through the other tables and kneeled next to the girl’s child-sized chair. “What’re we doing?”
She held out an orange crayon for him. “Can you draw a lion?”
Donnie glanced down at her paper. “Course. Where d’you want him?”
“There.” Padma pointed at a gray box with bars across the front. “Into the lion cage.”
The girl had drawn a zoo. There were cages for the animals, and enclosures with green grass and landscaping. A big red house had a stick figure outside. Donnie pointed at it. “Who’s that?”
Padma said proudly, “That’s the zookeeper.”
“But where are the animals?” Donnie asked. “Did they all run away?”
Padma shook her head and gave a tragic sigh. “I can’t draw animals.” Her big, dark eyes shone. “Can you do it for me?” she wheedled.
“All right, let’s see.” Donnie settled down on his haunches and pointed at a patch of gray and blue on the paper. “What’s that?”
“That’s the Arctic enclosure, where the penguins go, and the polar bear,” Padma said.
Donnie nodded, keeping his expression serious. This would take a while, but he didn’t mind. “Makes sense. Right, lion first.”
They had drawn the lion and four penguins, and were just getting started on a zebra, when Arthur came into the daycare. Arthur was the community center’s director, a retired high school teacher who had come from England to Atlanta with his wife almost forty years ago. After Bess’s death, Arthur had decided to stay. Donnie couldn’t imagine the center, and his own life, without the old man.
Arthur was accompanied by a young woman Donnie had never seen before. Arthur looked around, and when he spotted Donnie, he and the woman started to make their way to him and Padma. The woman carried a baby in her arms. They stopped in front of Padma’s table. Arthur leaned down to admire Padma’s drawing. “That’s a very nice zoo,” he said kindly. “Well done!”
“Donnie did the animals,” the girl informed him.
“Well, he did a jolly good job, too,” Arthur said, nodding.
Donnie smiled gratefully. Arthur was good with people, and he always took time with the kids, even though running the community center kept him busy. He treated the children as if they mattered as much as the adults, and Donnie tried his best to emulate him.
Arthur addressed Padma again. “I need to borrow Donnie for a little while, is that okay?”
The girl nodded, pleased to be asked for permission.
Donnie got up, shaking the pins and needles from his legs. He loved being with the kids, but maybe he was getting too old to crouch on the floor so much.
The woman by Arthur’s side gave Donnie a quick, nervous smile, and Arthur said, “Donnie, this is Celia.” He indicated the baby. “And this is her son Zac.”
Donnie gave Celia a nod and a smile. Small-boned and no taller than five-two, she seemed to be barely twenty. Donnie had worked at the center for long enough to know that her slenderness and pallor were due to drug abuse. But her eyes were clear, and she seemed alert. She clutched her child to her like a shield. The little boy watched Donnie with big brown eyes for a moment and gave a happy chuckle. Donnie estimated her son to be about six months old.
“Celia has a new job,” Arthur explained. “She’s starting at JFK High tomorrow, with the school lunch team. Zac will be with us when she’s at work.” Arthur took hold of Zac’s foot and jiggled it. The baby grinned at him with toothless gums.
“Thanks, Arthur,” Celia said in a quiet, musical voice. “I’m so grateful. This’ll work out, I promise.”
“Of course it will, my dear,” Arthur said.
So Celia was another one of Arthur’s foundlings. Whenever the old man wasn’t at the center, keeping an eye on things and leading the AA meetings, he walked the streets of downtown Atlanta, talking to homeless young people, junkies and anyone looking as if they might be in need of a square meal and a bed. He would find them a shelter place and then, once they were willing and able, a spot in a detox program or a job, depending on their wishes. Arthur had the biggest heart of anyone Donnie had ever met. He had saved Donnie’s life in more ways than one, and Donnie would be forever grateful.
“Now, then,” Arthur said, turning to Donnie. “Can you show Celia around the daycare? And explain to her about the medication protocol, too. Zac’s positive.”
The protocol held details of all the medication and healthcare needs of the kids at the center. The daycare had been established as a safe place for the children of drug users, rough sleepers and low-income single mothers, and many kids brought their very specific challenges. Several were HIV positive, or suffered from developmental problems related to fetal alcohol syndrome, or showed severe signs of ADHD. No child was ever refused a place, if they had room.
“Sure thing,” Donnie said, and beckoned to Celia. “C’mon, I’ll show you the place.”
“Thanks, Donnie, I appreciate it,” Arthur said. “I’ll leave you to it.” He nodded at Celia, patted Padma on the head, then left.
Donnie showed them around the large main space first. He pointed out the play areas, the row of cots where the smaller kids and the toddlers slept after lunch, and the outside yard with its playsets and swings. He introduced the other volunteers by name, and everyone exclaimed over Zac, who smiled at everyone and babbled away happily.
Only when they went into the quiet staff room and stopped before the medicine cabinet did the little boy begin to fuss. He seemed to miss the attention from the other volunteers already. Donnie held out a finger. Zac took it and put it into his mouth. A warm feeling flooded Donnie as the tiny, wet mouth closed around his knuckle. “He’s a cutie, all right,” he said to Celia.
“He’s my heart,” she said very quietly, more to herself. “I have to make it, for him. He needs a better life than what I can give him right now. The shelter…well…”
She wouldn’t meet Donnie’s eyes, and her face crumpled as if she might start crying. Donnie felt uneasy. He didn’t have a lot of experience with women, or people he didn’t know well. He had no problem relating to kids, but adults were a different matter. He would’ve liked to say something nice, but nothing appropriate came to mind.
“Err, right…this is where we store the meds,” he said, hoping Celia would be okay. He pointed to the locked cabinet. “I’ll add Zac onto the protocol. When you bring him in tomorrow, bring all his meds along, all right? I’ll help you figure out which ones we need to keep here. Then I’ll give you a receipt. At the pharmacy down the street they’ll give you extra refills with that.” That arrangement was another of Arthur’s triumphs. He was amazing at finding donors for the center children’s particular needs.
Celia nodded, back in control. “Thanks, Donnie. You and Arthur, you’re real nice. Do you,” she hesitated. “Do you get a lot of kids with HIV?”
“We got a couple at the moment,” Donnie said. He was about to tell Celia not to worry, that the volunteers were all trained to handle kids with special health needs, and that he was positive himself. But Arthur stuck his head through the door.
“Celia, the AA meeting’s about to start. Do you want to come upstairs and attend?” He nodded at Zac in her arms. “You can leave the little guy with Donnie for an hour. Like a trial run?”
Celia glanced up at Donnie, uncertain. “That okay with you?”
“Course,” Donnie said. “Me and Zac, we’ll get to know each other, and he can meet some new friends, too.”
“Okay,” Celia said, still hesitant. But then she squared her shoulders and handed Zac to Donnie. “He’s had his lunch, he shouldn’t need anything, really. Oh, except this…” She dug in her bag for a moment and pulled out a purple stuffed dinosaur toy. “It’s his favorite. If he gets grizzly, that’ll calm him right down.” She also pulled out a small baby bottle with water and handed that to Donnie, together with the toy.
Donnie held the dinosaur out to Zac, who grinned happily and put the toy’s head into his mouth right away.
“He sure is precious,” Arthur said, smiling.
Donnie nodded. “Yeah, he is.”
Arthur beckoned to Celia. “Let’s go up. Zac’s in safe hands.” Celia took one last, nervous glance at the baby, then let Arthur lead her away.
Donnie watched Zac’s expression as his mom disappeared from sight. The little guy seemed unperturbed, and looked around with interest. It was a nice feeling, holding him. Donnie liked babies. The daycare didn’t often have the very small ones, and Zac was cute. Donnie stroked his back. “D’you wanna meet your new friends, huh?”
He walked back into the main room. One of the volunteers, a bright, bubbly woman called Sonia, was gathering the kids for story time. They clustered around her chair on the floor, fidgeting and nudging each other. Donnie sat in a threadbare armchair to one side. Some of the kids observed Zac with curiosity, but it was Padma again who spoke up. “Who’s that, Donnie?”
Donnie turned his upper body, so Zac could see the children. “This is Zac, everyone. Say hello!”
Many of the kids called, “Hello Zac!”, a few waved, and one of the older girls said, “Aww, he’s so cute!”
Zac grinned at them for a moment, but then twisted in Donnie’s arms and, suddenly shy, buried his face against Donnie’s shoulder. Donnie rocked him, and stroked his soft curls. He could smell baby powder. The little body relaxed.
“All right, everyone,” Sonia called, and the children’s attention returned to her. “Who wants to hear the story of Toothless the dragon?”
Donnie settled down to listen. Zac had snuggled up against his shoulder and seemed very content there, sucking on his purple dinosaur.
It was peaceful, sitting in the sunlit room and listening to Sonia’s cheerful voice as she read the story. When Arthur and Celia returned after the AA meeting, Donnie was amazed to find that an hour had passed. He found it hard to let Zac go, and had to remind himself that it was a very short separation. The little guy would be back the next day, and every day after that.
About the Author
Mel was born in Germany, where she spent the first twenty-six years of her life (with a one-year stint in Los Angeles). She has always been fascinated by cultures and human interaction, and got a Masters in Social Anthropology. After finishing university she moved to London, where she has now lived for ten years.
If you were to ask her parents what Mel enjoyed the most since the age of six, they would undoubtedly say “Reading!” She would take fifteen books on a three-week beach holiday, and then read all her mom’s books once she’d devoured her own midway through week two.
Back home in her mom’s attic there’s a box full of journals with stories Mel wrote when she was in her early teens. None of the stories are finished, or any good. She has told herself bedtime stories as far back as she can remember.
In her day job, Mel works as PA and office manager. No other city is quite like London, and Mel loves her city. The hustle and bustle still amaze and thrill her even after all these years. When not reading, writing or going to the theater, Mel spends her time with her long-time boyfriend, discussing science or poking fun at each other.
Darkness Dawns is a love story. It also tells the tale of one man’s war with himself, brought onto the battlefield of his blindness. Leo Ferrar suffers from diabetic retinopathy and lost his sight two years ago. Unable to bear the scrutiny of strangers or the impact of his blindness on those he loves, Leo has determined on shutting the world out ever since. This is the man Ben meets on his first day at work as Mr Ferrar’s care assistant.
A former heroin addict, Ben was sentenced to six months community service as punishment for his crimes by a judge entitled to condemn him to a seven-year stretch. Far too charming for his own welfare, Ben proves unaccountably brilliant at ‘bulldozing the blind’.
When fate sees fit to dispatch Ben to the home of the man he has dubbed Mr Ferrarcious; it is with the words of the last five unfortunates who’d dared darken Leo’s doorway ringing in his ears. A door that is opened by a man who might be Lord Byron himself. Drop dead gorgeous and as hot as hell, Leo Ferrar has the most beautiful eyes Ben has ever seen.
Never has an irony seemed so cruel. Nor fate so fortuitous.
Leo knew heshould have opted to use the cane, instead of the arm Ben offered him for their unexpected walk. Should. Every time that word left someone’s lips, Leo wanted to scream; fists clenched in a screech of hopeless, helpless rage. The fact that everything he should do was For-His-Own-Benefit, made it so much worse, which was as ludicrous as it was true. Independence was the only thing he had left to aspire to. So, why the fuck did should rub Leo so raw it obliterated any inclination he may have had to do whatever it prefaced? He ought to want to do the things he should. But what if he tried…and failed? What if Leo couldn’t master any of them? Then he would lose even the hope that he might, one day, be able to. Even more galling, that loss would be down to him, because he was so bloody useless. He did want to show Ben that he was quite capable of managing…didn’t he? Very much, although why that mattered, Leo had no idea.
Why care what this latest in a long line of functioning eyeballs thought of him? It was probably more politic to say, ‘visually unimpaired’. Visually Impaired. Leo had to stifle the urge to punch people who described him thus. Impaired? Adj: weakened or damaged. Weak. Weakened. F’fucksakes. He was still chewing that particular wasp when Ben asked for his wrist.
Does he intend to lead me by it, as if I’m a toddler?
Leo found himself holding it out anyway. Christ knows why he was going along with all this. It was just that…being in Ben’s company was rather like sitting in the passenger seat of a snow plough driven by a drunk. Far preferable to standing in its path…and yet, somehow more appealing than staying behind, wherever the hell it was off to.
Nevertheless, he was still relieved when Ben clasped the proffered wrist—not to cart Leo off as he’d feared—but to plant his hand on top of Ben’s head. The fact that Leo could have changed the lightbulb without stretching a whole lot further, did seem to suggest he’d been addressing Ben’s nipples for the last half hour.
Quite how Ben then contrived to claim fault for something that was Leo’s mistake was less clear, but this was pulled off with such disarming charm, it would’ve been churlish to argue otherwise. Why the hell did the notion of calling Ben’s bluff feel as brutal a prospect as drowning his cat? If he had one, of course. Cat? More to the point…nipples?
“Thank you,” Leo managed to mumble, which was something of a result itself. Half an hour with Ben and he’d started to feel several sandwiches short of the proverbial picnic. He’d also begun to suspect that Violet had been a sweet little old lady—and quite sane—when she’d met Ben.
So off they went. The blindingly daft leading the blind off on a stroll around Camden.
In a bid to distract himself from well, pretty much everything he’d thought for the last five minutes, Leo decided to ask Ben to describe himself. For some reason he was intrigued, not only to know what Ben looked like, but to hear the picture he drew. Leo had an inkling this would prove more unmissable than an aural tour around the National Portrait Gallery. Unmissable? It was a bloody masterpiece. There most definitely were not any renderings of Steptoe’s six-four daughter there. The last two years might have felt a damn sight less soul-destroying if Ben had voiced Leo’s DVD visual descriptions.
Walking outside had lost all its appeal when the world became a giant landmine lying in wait to blow up in Leo’s face; every step into the unknown, a potential public humiliation. Despite this, and Ben’s partiality to lamp posts, they somehow arrived in Gloucester Crescent, alive and well. Even more shocking, was that Leo hadn’t fretted about…anything really, along the way. He’d just drifted along, listening to Ben weave words too beguiling to question where embellishment waved farewell to the truth. But who the fuck would want to, when that would feel as blasphemous as punching a fist through a Picasso?
About the Author
When Zakarrie was little and dreamed big, she wanted to be a writer. Just like Enid Blyton. Or p’raps not…having been most remiss on the lashings of ginger beer front. After moving to London at eighteen and flitting about for far too long, she finally settled, as blissy as can be, by the sea. When her castaway dreams resurfaced, they were believed into being by the warm words of friends who breathed life into her own. Her one wish now is that someone, somewhere, might enjoy the misadventures of her miscreants as much as she adores writing them.