Caspian, the Atlantean God of Justice, has devoted his eternal life to protecting the merfolk. He has no time for romance, not even when the merman he now watches over is his former lover reincarnated.
Phoebus, a merman living in the sunken city of Atlantis before the Atlanteans were banished, never intended to fall for Caspian, the most promiscuous of all the gods. Yet, when Caspian offers him immortality, Phoebus doesn’t know if he can pay the price, even if refusing means breaking the heart of a god.
Back in the present, Marin remembers the love he once had for Caspian, but he’s not the same merman now. Caspian might have loved him as Phoebus, but he knows the god cannot give him what he needs.
Marin doesn’t want Caspian’s protection. He wants revenge, and he is prepared to make the ultimate sacrifice to get it, even if it means breaking Caspian’s heart a second time.
“Caspian, there you are.” Cari breezed into the room and settled herself onto the chaise. “I’ve been searching everywhere for you.”
Caspian sipped his wine before answering his sister. “Well, now you’ve found me.”
Cari helped herself to a glass of her own. “Since when do you travel to this part of the world?”
“I needed some time alone,” Caspian replied. Rafe’s jealousies had pushed him to his limit today, so he had escaped to a small province in Italia for a little peace and quiet. Hiding from his priest wasn’t difficult, but avoiding his sister was another matter entirely.
“Rafe?” Cari asked.
“You know I don’t like it when you poke into my head.” He managed to block most of the immortals from his mind, but his sister appeared to have the ability to bypass all his defenses. He supposed it came from being the Goddess of Prophecy.
“I didn’t,” Cari replied. “But when I checked your palace, he was ranting about some merman you’d fucked. I simply drew my own conclusions.”
“I didn’t fuck him.”
“Rafe seems to think otherwise.”
Caspian rolled his eyes. “Rafe was present in the room the entire time. He is well aware of what we did.”
Cari huffed. “Did you ever think that your priest might not get quite so jealous if you didn’t make him watch you with other men?”
“The merman was having trouble breaking his mating fever. He came to me for help, we broke his fever and he returned to the ocean. That was it.”
“What was his name?”
“Who? The merman?”
“Phoebus. Why do you want to know?”
“Just curious. I spoke to Mother this morning.”
“And what did she have to say for herself?”
“She told me Medina had slipped you a love potion.”
“Apparently. She added something to my wine, but I don’t know what. She was probably bluffing.”
Cari laughed briefly. “Don’t you know by now that Medina never bluffs?”
“Well, it doesn’t seem to have had much of an impact on me. Probably she isn’t as good at brewing up mischief as she likes to think.”
Cari sipped her wine. “You never did figure out the difference between a love potion and one that simply inspires lust.”
“What do you mean?”
“I mean that if she’d given you the latter, which is what she hands out to most who seek her services, you’d be fucking that young merman right now. A true love potion, on the other hand, takes time to work, just like real love takes time to grow.”
“What are you saying? You think I’m going to fall in love with someone? The merman?”
“Like it or not, you are about to discover what falling in love is like.”
“I think I’ll let that particular experience pass me by, thank you all the same.”
“You seem to be laboring under the mistaken belief you have a choice in the matter.”
Cari finished her glass of wine and poured herself another. “I took a peek into your future after I spoke to Mother.”
“I suppose telling you I don’t want to know about my future would be pointless?”
“Very well. Tell me what you saw, and if I don’t like it, I’ll do what I need to so I can change it.”
“You can’t alter course mid-stream.”
“I don’t believe in fate.”
“It doesn’t matter what you believe in. You’ve met Phoebus, and been intimate with him, just hours after drinking Medina’s concoction.”
“He only sucked me.”
“That’s more than enough to trigger the potion. Chances are, if it’s one of Medina’s brews, the touch of your hand to his would have been enough.”
“I’m probably never going to see him again,” Caspian said, even though the thought of a second encounter with the merman made his heart race.
“I assure you, you’ll be seeing him very soon. He’s a nice man and I think he’ll be very good for you.”
“Why are you and Mother so eager to see me settled down with just one man? I’m perfectly happy as I am.”
Cari shook her head. “When you’ve fallen for him, when you’re head over heels, desperately in love with him, you’ll know what perfect happiness is.”
“Oh, please.” Caspian rolled his eyes.
About the Author
L.M. Brown is an English writer of gay romances. She believes mermen live in the undiscovered areas of the ocean. She believes life exists on other planets. She believes in fairy tales, magic, and dreams. Most of all, she believes in love.
When L.M. Brown isn’t bribing her fur babies for control of the laptop, she can usually be found with her nose in a book.
Trix is one of many felines who sells his body on the Pleasure Station, a space station devoted to entertainment, gambling, and the pleasures of the flesh. He’d never intended to spend his life there, but the place offers him security, regular cream, and over time it has become his home.
As a dual-gendered feline, Trix knows the risk of pregnancy is high, and sets his prices equally high to discourage customers. Trix never imagines that Delta, a canine with credits to spare will call his bluff.
When Delta pays for himself and Farron, a naïve avian from the swan clan, to spend the night with Trix, the three of them forge an unexpected bond, one that leaves Trix pregnant.
As a swan avian, Farron is incapable of being unfaithful to his mate, even when the bond is only partially formed. To complete the mating ritual, Farron must find Trix before the babies are born, or the bond will break forever, and Farron will be forced to live a life of celibacy.
When the Pleasure Station falls under new ownership, and the humans ban prostitution, Trix is left homeless. Upon hearing about this, Delta too races back to find Trix.
Both Farron and Delta arrive too late. Trix has vanished and the race is on to find him before he gives birth. Only then will they know if the bond they formed on their first night is strong enough to last a lifetime.
Two games in and Trix heard the voice of one of the more annoying felines working at the Pleasure Station. Like Trix, Brak was a working whore with a preference for male cocks. He was also a bigot, and for some reason had issues with dual-gendered felines. Which meant he had issues with Trix.
“What are you doing working the tables Trixi?” Brak asked.
Trix hissed at him, ignoring the question. He’d give his right testicle to know who had told Brak his parents had named him Trixi. He hadn’t told anyone that since he’d left Furyne. He supposed someone must have recognised him while passing through.
“Trixi?” the swan avian asked. “Isn’t that a female name?”
Trix sighed. Because the avian was a customer, Trix was obliged to answer his question. “Yes, it is.”
“Why do you have a feminine name?”
“My father thought my name should reflect what I am.”
“What do you mean?”
Brak laughed as he leaned on the table. “Trixi isn’t a male,” he stage-whispered.
Trix dealt the next round of cards as his face heated, more with fury than embarrassment.
“He looks male,” the avian replied. “Are you sure?”
The canine snorted. “He is male. He’s also sitting right there and getting more pissed off by the minute.”
Trix hadn’t realised his annoyance was so obvious. He’d thought he was hiding it quite well.
“I’m sorry,” the avian offered. “I’m not from around here.”
“That’s obvious,” the canine replied. “What our uninvited guest here is hinting, is that Trix is dual-gendered.”
From the confusion on the avian’s face, that didn’t help explain matters for him.
Thankfully for Trix, Brak was there to open his big mouth and clarify things in his own special way. “Trixi has a cock and a pussy, which means he can literally fuck himself.”
“Actually, no, we can’t do that,” Trix pointed out with a hiss of anger. He usually didn’t bother to correct Brak, but this avian was hanging on his every word and looked naive enough to believe him. “It just means I have both male and female sex organs.”
The canine smirked at him. “That’s not quite all it means, is it?”
Trix noticed the falcons collecting their credits and leaving the table. Damn. Valerie was going to be annoyed with him for driving away her players.
“What else does it mean?” the avian asked.
Trix sighed. “It means I can carry a litter of babies.”
Brak laughed. “During which time, Trixi becomes a female.”
“I do not!” Damn it, why couldn’t Brak go annoy someone else? And why was he even bothering to explain all this to some ignorant avian? “I’m dual-gendered whether I’m pregnant or not. It’s just a little more obvious when someone like me is pregnant.”
“How obvious?” the avian asked.
The canine snorted and shook his head. “Are you really that stupid?”
“He’ll get a nice big pregnant belly and grow breasts so he can feed the babies. There are probably other signs too, but those are the obvious ones.”
“Not that real males want to have anything to do with his kind,” Brak added. “You have to feel sorry for them, really.”
“I don’t need your false sympathy,” Trix snarled, at the same time the avian asked why.
Brak ignored Trix to focus on the question. “It’s like this, you see. For those who prefer the female form, hard chests and cocks aren’t what they’re looking for. Yet for those who desire males, they run the risk of accidentally shoving their cocks into the wrong hole.” He gave an exaggerated shudder as though the very thought of a vagina was repulsive to him. “Imagine, you’ve got to know him, you’re just getting intimate, then you slip your fingers between his legs only to find he’s really a mutant.”
Trix hissed across the table. “Did you really just call me a mutant?”
Brak shrugged. “Are you telling me that you’ve never had a customer recoil from you after discovering what you are?”
The sad truth was that he couldn’t. It had happened all too often, as Brak was well aware. While those who preferred females gave him a wide berth, the ones who preferred males could be particularly cruel with their rejections. Brak wasn’t the only one who believed Trix wasn’t a real male and refused to accept his gender identity because of his bigoted beliefs.
About the Author
L.M. Brown is an English writer of gay romances. She believes mermen live in the undiscovered areas of the ocean. She believes life exists on other planets. She believes in fairy tales, magic, and dreams. Most of all, she believes in love.
When L.M. Brown isn’t bribing her fur babies for control of the laptop, she can usually be found with her nose in a book.
A death that wasn’t what it seemed… A kidnapping that isn’t what it seems… Time is running out. The morning after his wedding night, Prince Marcelo thought he’d be embarking on a journey to his own personal fairytale happily ever after with his husband, Efren, the crown prince of Zioneven. But when news arrives indicating his sister’s death wasn’t as accidental as previously thought, that journey becomes fraught with danger. Enmeshed in political intrigue, death, and a kidnapping that might not be what it seems, will Efren untangle the web of misleading clues in time to save the naïve young man he’s already come to admire, or will Marcelo dig deep to discover a previously untapped inner strength and determination to facilitate his own survival?
Chapter 3: …Oft Go Awry
Efren blinked rapidly as he came awake with a start. He stared into the darkness and mentally shook the cobwebs from his mind. What had awoken him? Marcelo lay softly breathing in his arms, as relaxed and peaceful as only the innocent can truly be.
Around him, the night was silent. Too silent? He strained to hear the patrols rustling through the grasses, or the faint trills of their signals to each other.
A breeze swirled through the branches of the trees in the distance, rippling the leaves. Crickets chirped, apparently unconcerned about whatever either was or wasn’t going on in the meadow.
And footsteps. Quiet, approaching footsteps. It must be time for the shift change. That’s what had awoken him. Efren relaxed and nestled Marcelo tighter against him. One at a time, the guards would come in and wake their replacements.
Except—Efren tensed, then maneuvered his arm out from under Marcelo’s head and eased himself from under the blankets—the footsteps, furtively stopping and restarting, were approaching from multiple directions.
Efren shivered as goosebumps rose on his naked skin in the chilled night air and soundlessly slipped his broadsword and knife from their leather scabbard. He glanced at Marcelo, still sleeping, although less serenely with the sudden loss of the warm body next to him.
Guilt pinged his core as he shook off a strong desire to waken and forewarn Marcelo, but he pushed it down. Marcelo, completely untrained in warfare, would be safer in here. He seemed a heavy sleeper, likely incorporating outside noises into his dreams, unused to a need to be readily alert. He might even doze through the skirmish.
Or was that just wishful thinking? Because there’d be no hope that Marcelo could escape unseen, if it came to that.
Surely it would be better for such an innocent to be killed in his sleep, or with scarcely a brief moment of shock beforehand than to spend minutes quaking in terror, unable to defend himself.
Efren shook off his doubts and quickly pushed out the weighty flap, sword raised ready, and opened his mouth to yell an alert to awaken any of his warriors who hadn’t already sensed the looming danger, same as he had. But the breath he drew to strengthen his voice instead choked him.
He’d never before smelled these fumes, but the pungent, wet-dog odor had been described to him. The material of their tents was heavily treated to keep the toxin producing that odor from permeating the walls and closed flaps.
Icy apprehension slithered across Efren’s skin before settling in the pit of his gut. This was a completely unexpected development. The alchemists from the kingdom of Proye who’d developed this toxin—and unfailingly guarded the recipe—called it “Knockout.”
As Efren’s sword arm dropped, followed swiftly by his eyes rolling back in his head and his body slumping in a boneless crumple, a corner of his brain recognized how fittingly it was named, and hoped that enough of it had entered the tent through the briefly opened flap that Marcelo would succumb before Proye agents executed whatever they had planned. They’d been married for less than two days, and already he’d failed his innocent, young husband.
Copyright 2019 Addison Albright
About the Author
Addison Albright is a writer living in the middle of the USA. Her stories are gay romance in contemporary, fantasy, and paranormal genres. She generally adds a subtle touch of humor, a smidgen of drama/angst, and a healthy dose of slice-of-life to her stories. Her education includes a BS in Education with a major in mathematics and a minor in chemistry. Addison loves spending time with her family, reading, popcorn, boating, french fries, “open window weather,” cats, math, and anything chocolate. She loves to read pretty much anything and everything, anytime and anywhere.
Aleksander is short-tempered, antisocial, and though he’s unaware of it, wildly sexy. He’s also a naturally dominant shape shifting monster who’s sliding into madness. He needs a human ‘grounder’ to submit to him and draw forth his protective human side. Instead, he is given two humans: Constance, a fledgling sub with a reckless streak whose intense desire to serve has brought her nothing but heartache, and Kirk, a former NYPD cop who’s trying to subdue his own alpha instincts and play submissive in order to fulfill a family debt. But once these grounders meet their new master, they quickly discover that in order to save Aleksander from himself, they must alter their assigned roles and form a unique triad of domination and submission that goes against Aleksander’s very nature.
Features M/M, M/F, M/M/F
Aleksander wanted to touch her breasts, wanted their heavy weight to sit in his palms or rest against his cheeks. Though Kirk’s head blocked the sight of his lips, Aleksander could imagine, merely from the sounds, how it would feel to suckle Constance’s pink nipples. They would rest tenderly on his tongue, be plump enough for him to squeeze his lips around and tug. A scrape of teeth, and she would gasp—just like that. Aleksander ripped one of his hands out from under him and thrust it against his groin.
“Useless,” Kirk murmured against her skin. “She’s utterly useless to you, Sascha.”
Fortunately for the human, Aleksander was too aroused to summon the energy to yell at him for using the nickname again. He only wished Kirk would shut up and put his mouth to better use. It inspired a thought.
“Kiss down her stomach,” he ordered.
He watched them tense, Constance lifting her head enough to look at him in astonishment, Kirk hovering, unmoving over her body. Then Kirk chuckled, very softly, and Aleksander understood his amusement. He had tricked Aleksander into responding. Well, Aleksander thought hotly, the trick will soon be on you.
“Both of you remove your clothes,” he said, barely hiding his smile. He felt devious and intensely aroused. “If you are to properly ground me, you should be dressed for the occasion. Or not, in this instance.”
“Aleksander,” Constance breathed, her chest heaving. Her nipples were tight and gleamed with wetness from Kirk’s mouth. Aleksander was ferociously jealous, but he would get his in time.
For now, he stared hard at the back of Kirk’s head, half hoping the human would refuse. Kirk was more naturally dominant than submissive, and Aleksander didn’t understand why he was here, playing at being a grounder. But if he was content to place himself in Aleksander’s control—Aleksander would happily make Kirk regret it.
“If we’re naked, then you should be, too,” Kirk said, finally turning his head to the side, though not enough that he could make eye contact with Aleksander.
Aleksander smirked, pleased that he’d read Kirk right. The other male was trying to assert control, but he would fail. “I’m not the one submitting to a chimera. Or are you not, either?”
About the Author
Tricia Owens has been writing m/m fiction since 2000, after stumbling onto the term ‘slash’ and thinking it referred to horror stories. She is the author of the Sin City, A Pirate’s Life for Me, and Juxtapose City series, among several others. She lives in Las Vegas.
Mating A Cowboy is book one in A Port Hope Small Town Romance series, but can be read as a standalone.
Release Date: May 23, 2019
Heat Rating: 4 flames
A bakery barely treading water, and a pending business loan has omega Dawson sweating more than standing next to the kitchen’s finicky oven. Serving up the sweetest temptations should be his primary concern, but when news of his alpha father’s death falls on his ears, Dawson learns that he has been named as the sole heir of his ranch in the small town of Port Hope.
Selling the ranch could be the miracle he needs to save the bakery, but after a chance encounter with a rugged small town alpha, Dawson struggles to balance his goal, with the cowboy’s lasso tugging at his heart.
Alpha Wyatt is no stranger to living the cowboy life. Having grown up in the serene countryside of Port Hope, Wyatt spends his days training and providing care to his rescue horses. Rolling hills, fresh air, leather saddles, and his Stetson was all Wyatt wanted in life. It was all he needed—then he met Dawson.
As their passion burns, the harsh reality starts to set in. Dawson has a life to return to in the big city, and Wyatt’s a country boy through and through. Is the bond they have worth fighting for? Or are their roots settled in the thousands of miles between them?
He looked in my eyes as mine lifted, the smile on his lips subtly bold, though the slant of his shoulders remained hesitant. The signals confused me even as they roused something protective. I knew he wanted me; it was in the dilation of his pupils, in the press of his fingers around my wrist. Maybe he was waiting for me to take charge, maybe he wasn’t sure where all this would lead in the morning.
I cleared my throat. “Do you—can I kiss you?”
His smile widened. I suppressed a wince because I knew it was a little late to be asking permission, but late was better than never.
“Yes,” Dawson replied, jaw flexing underneath my fingers.
I touched his lips a second time, but in this instance my eyelids fell closed and I inhaled. His head tilted back, mouth opening beneath mine as I pressed forward, deepening the kiss, our tongues meeting briefly, retreating, meeting again. It was a dance, the first few steps exploratory.
But as heat flared, my cock hardening, my fingers tightened their grip on his jaws and the dance morphed into a battle.
I pulled Dawson flush against my body, hands roving down his body to grip his hips, looping into the leather belt he wore. Spinning with him in my arms, I backed him almost blindly against the wall, slapping my hands on either side of his head as my crotch ground into his.
He gasped, hands reaching up to tangle in my hair. Tightly. As laid back as he was, the omega made his lust known.
“Bedroom,” he gasped against my mouth.
His lips glistened; it took a moment to tear my eyes away. “What?” He’d said something, right?
“Beeedrooom.” He drawled out the syllables.
I could fuck him right here, right now against the wall, but I sensed he needed, wanted, more care than that. If this was our first time together, I had to make a good showing for myself.
I didn’t want it to be the first and the last.
His hand slipped into mine, the gesture all the more touching for its casual intimacy. We walked the short hall silently, and I paused in front of my bedroom door, giving him that split second to retreat before pushing the door open and pulling him inside.
“Wyatt,” he whispered. The sound of my name on his lips… I don’t know how we ended up on the bed, my body braced over his. My mind blanked, body taking over.
I cursed. “Damn, we still have our shoes on.”
He laughed up at me. “And all our clothes.” Placing his hands on my chest, he pushed, eyes never leaving mine as his half hesitant, half teasing smile continued to stoke the flames of my lust. The need, the craving to make him mine engulfed everything else. I stood long enough to kick off my shoes, pull my shirt over my head.
Dawson sighed. “I guess we’ll save the striptease for next time.”
I paused, about to push my jeans down, and slowed the motion, trying to draw out his pleasure and my own using anticipation of the big reveal. And then my mind tripped on the ‘next time.’
“There’ll be a next time?”
About the Author
Kenna Grace is a small woman with a huge personality. By evening, she can be found writing, reading, and getting lost in her wild imagination. In her other life, she’s a behavioral analyst and devoted partner, but writing about men falling in love and their happily-ever-after is so much more exciting!
When a veterinarian and a construction worker connect, it takes mishaps, mistakes, and a Rhodesian Ridgeback named Rex to show them they’re made for each other. Dr. Carter Falon is content living a quiet life in a small town caring for his animal patients. That doesn’t mean he’s not looking for a distraction. After finding himself precariously wedged… naked and at the mercy of a drop-dead gorgeous construction worker, Carter hires his savior to renovate his home. When Tanner Grady’s best friend and new niece needed him, he uprooted and relocated without a second thought. His life has since been centered on work and spending time with his family, but when he comes to the rescue of a cute vet, Tanner finds he’s a lot more interested in the homeowner than the house he’s renovating.
My eyes widened when they landed on his form. Damn, it wasn’t every day a client greeted me in the nude. Looking at the path between me and who I assumed to be Carter on the ground, I tried not to let my eyes linger for too long on his smooth expanse of skin. He was lightly toned, with a softness about him that was impossible to not notice, despite trying my hardest not to.
With a shake of my head, I calculated each step I took to get to his side. Once I made it safely to the top, the floorboards creaking under my booted feet, Carter angled himself to turn and look at me. Definitely pissed off and in pain, and perhaps a bit mortified too, a light blush covering his cheeks. His gaze roamed me from bottom to top before landing on my own. I quirked my brow in amusement and question while strategically ignoring how fucking pretty his brown eyes were. “So…?” I offered.
He sighed, and I watched in fascination as his Adam’s apple bobbed when he swallowed. “I rushed from the piece-of-crap shower when I heard the knock. My foot went through the board, and it’s stuck.” His pink cheeks turned crimson.
Unable to stay the small smile tugging at my lips, I grinned as I stepped closer. I took my time to get to him, wanting to help the guy out. The last thing he needed was me falling on my ass. Clearing my throat, I crouched down at his side, my focus now on his leg and foot.
The whole area was rotten and would need ripping out. But for the time being, I’d need to tear up the two surrounding boards to get his ankle free. “You have tried to get it out, right?” I felt like a jackass for asking, but it was always best to check first.
Carter huffed out a breath. “Yeah, I did. It’s wedged against something. I tried pulling it out, but it’s a no go. It’s tighter than a virgin ass.”
My gaze whipped to his. What the fuck? With lifted brows, I stared wide-eyed at him, drawing another blush from him.
“Shoot, sorry. That was inappropriate.” His eyes widened in horror. “I meant, it’s wedged. Erm. It’s just wedged tight, and—”
I grinned. “It’s all good. Give me a sec.” The poor guy looked like he wanted to join his foot in the space under the floorboards and curl over. He needed an out, and I needed to get some air in my lungs away from his intoxicating smell and firm thighs, which were impossible to ignore in such close proximity.
About the Author
Becca Seymour lives and breathes all things book related. Usually with at least three books being read and two WiPs being written at the same time, life is merrily hectic. She tends to do nothing by halves so happily seeks the craziness and busyness life offers. Living on her small property in Queensland with her human family as well as her animal family of cows, chooks, and dogs, Becca appreciates the beauty of the world around her and is a believer that love truly is love.
Jojo Arias, a Spanish-Filipino mestizo, didn’t expect to meet a U.S. Marine in a swank bar in the Philippines. But, Jojo can’t deny the electricity they have once he meets Adam. Although they come from different worlds, they struggle to keep their relationship private to protect Jojo’s status, and position as part of one of wealthiest and powerful in Filipino society. Billions of dollars could be easily lost if his family business was jeopardized by Jojo’s secret. Jojo is pressured to abandon Adam and live a life in the closet. When the struggle to maintain their secret romance unravels, Jojo is left with a life-changing decision to leave his family, or to pursue his love.
James Joseph Garcia Arias savored the last few drops, then set the now empty pilsner down, right next to two other empty bottles of San Miguel beer. Despite the thick glass windows in the swank Makati bar that should have offered some soundproofing, Saturday Manila traffic passed noisily one floor below. The rumble of buses, cars honking, and steady stream of headlights never bored him. He preferred the noise of the city to the quiet stillness that his parents called home.
He glanced at his Patek Phillipe Nautilus watch his grandmother had given him. He texted Erwin. Ready. Barely a second or two passed, when his phone received the reply text. Be right there, boss. He sighed. He’d asked Erwin not to call him that for the longest time, but Erwin insisted. Jojo stood, fished out the right amount of pesos, plus a slightly larger gratuity than what was expected, then headed for the men’s room. A large group of Americans sat around the glass-tiled bar, laughing loudly. He guessed they were military, based on their crew cuts, hanging out to blow off steam. When he returned a few minutes later, after peeing an hour’s worth of beer, one of the military guys glanced up, and smiled at him. The man’s eyes followed Jojo.
Walk on by. Don’t stop.
He wanted to listen to the voice inside his head but he couldn’t. Maybe the alcohol made him less inhibited, maybe he was still reeling from the breakup with his fiancee and maybe he wanted to talk to someone who wasn’t an employee or a family member, or maybe because no one left in the bar knew him because the next thing he did was he stopped, inches away from the blond.
“Is this seat taken?” Jojo asked.
The stranger smiled more broadly and shook his head. “No.”
Jojo waited a second to see if the handsome man would say something else, but all the blond man did was smile even more. “American right?” Jojo asked.
“I’m guessing you guys are U.S. military?”
“Marines, yeah. We’re sending one of our guys off, rotating from the Embassy here. My name’s Adam, by the way.” Adam offered his hand, which Jojo shook.
“James Arias, but my friends call me ‘Jojo’.”
Adam opened his mouth to say something but was interrupted by his friends who came over to meet Jojo. It didn’t take Jojo long to figure that Adam was probably the only sober one in the group, as the four other guys slurred their words, and often laughed uncontrollably at each other’s jokes. When Adam’s friends returned to their seats at the bar, Adam leaned in. “Your English is perfect, no trace of an accent, so I’m guessing you’re American too?”
“You’re partly right. I was born in America. My mother was a medical student in the U.S., and we lived in San Francisco but we moved back here after she got her degree.”
“So your mom’s a doctor?”
Jojo smiled. He wanted to tell Adam the whole long story of why his mother had never practiced medicine after she completed medical school because the family had seen no need of her working at a hospital or a clinic, and that these days her mother was busy hosting, or attending social and charitable events, but he thought the better of it and just answered simply. “Yeah, she is.”
“So you live here. . . I mean the Philippines?” Adam asked.
“Yes, I do.”
“I’m sorry I’m asking stupid questions because you don’t look Filipino. I hope I’m not offending you by saying that. Most Filipinos are short and very Asian looking. You look more like my Latino friends from Southern California and in a good way.”
Jojo laughed. “It’s probably the lighting, but my father and mother are both parts Spanish and Filipino so maybe that’s why my features are different than most.” Jojo’s cell phone vibrated. I’m downstairs, boss. Jojo palmed the phone for a second, aware that Adam was studying him. Erwin, something’s come up. Head back to the garage until I text you again.
Jojo shook his head without looking up from his phone.
Jojo raised his head and laughed at the handsome man’s brazenness. He liked how Adam’s strong jawline, full lips and dark eyebrows peered at him, waiting on every word. Maybe it was the alcohol. He moved within earshot so that only the Marine could hear. “No, I haven’t had a boyfriend in a long time. But, I did just break up with my fiancée.”
“Is that why you were nursing several beers over in that corner after your friends left you?”
Jojo narrowed his eyes. “You’re very perceptive, Adam. Except they weren’t my friends, they were . . . co-workers.” Jojo almost said employees, but stopped himself. Maybe it was the Arias family tendency to be secretive, and not give out too much information, but here he was on a Saturday night in a bar, drinking, when he was usually still in the office poring over engineering details, building plans, and contract proposals.
“I’m sorry about the break up. You look torn up about it. I couldn’t help but notice earlier when we first arrived. Can I buy you a beer?”
Jojo smiled, then laughed without meaning to. The last time a guy had bought him a beer was in a dive bar right outside CalPoly, after an engineering final.
“What’s so funny?” Adam asked, as he chuckled along.
“It’s been a while since another guy offered to buy me a beer.”
“No worries. It looked like earlier you needed it. Did she break your heart?” Jojo faced toward the bar, away from Adam. Jojo didn’t say anything, but he wanted to respond.
Adam spoke again. “You don’t have to answer that if you don’t want to.”
Jojo pondered Adam’s question as Adam’s friends got louder and louder on their end of the bar.
“Don’t worry about them,” Adam said as he pointed to his friends. “I’m the designated driver, and in about an hour they’ll all be sound asleep snoring in the government issued van I’m driving.”
So he’s brazen without alcohol.
Jojo faced Adam and breathed deeply. He couldn’t tell the color of Adam’s piercing eyes but Jojo couldn’t deny his own intense interest in the serviceman. Adam leaned in and prolonged his gaze. Jojo was mesmerized. Adam seemed genuinely concerned. And maybe he was wrong, but Adam appeared compassionate. “She asked me if I was ever going to marry her. If I loved her, and if we were only together because both our families wanted it. I had to tell her the truth, and that as much as I had feelings for her, I didn’t love her.”
“Ouch!” Then Adam smiled, his voice took on a tone of playfulness. “And you’re here, living and breathing with no scratch on you.”
“She is a very logical, rational person. That’s why I liked her when we first met. She was so completely different from the other girls my parents tried to set me up with.”
“You have a picture of her? I’m curious.”
Jojo nodded, fished out his phone, and scrolled through some pictures before showing a good one of his ex, Lani.
“Wow. She’s hot. Your parents had good taste if they thought she would be a good wife.”
One of Adam’s friends sauntered over and peered at Lani’s photo. “Dude, your girlfriend?”
“Ex,” Adam said. “That’s his ex.”
“How about giving me her number? She’s pretty.”
Jojo shook his head. If Lani, a black belt in tae kwon do, found out he’d ever given her number to someone, she’d probably roundhouse kick him in the head before he knew anything about it. “Sorry, I can’t do that.”
“Well, at least I tried,” the Marine said. “Hey, Adam, we’re thinking we should head on over to the bars downtown.”
“Downtown?” Adam asked.
“Ermita,” the man said.
Adam turned away so that only Jojo could see his face as he rolled his eyes.
“What do you say? For old time’s sake?” his friend asked. “You’re welcome to come along––’’
“––Jojo, my name’s, Jojo,” as they both shook hands.
“Mine’s Nate. Yeah, come along with us, I’m sure Adam won’t mind,” the Marine continued. “It’ll keep him company, and his mind off his ex-boyfriend he’s probably still pining after.”
Adam slouched. Adam’s reaction to his Marine buddy’s comment must have hit a chord and Jojo was compelled to find out more about Adam. Jojo hesitated for a moment. He wasn’t used to spontaneously accepting strangers offers to hang out, but Adam’s eyes beckoned him to say yes. Besides, maybe a few more hours out on the town would make him feel better for breaking up with Lani.
“If you’re sure I won’t be a fifth wheel, yeah, I’ll join you.”
Adam smiled. “Nate’s a little bit of a douche bag. So sorry about that.”
“Well, your friend’s had a little too much to drink.” Jojo leaned closer, sticking a hand in his pants pocket, his lips almost touching Adam’s ear, and whispered. “But to be honest, that scene is a little too, I’m trying to find the right words to say it––”
“––Red light? Yeah, I hate going down there.” Adam put his hand on top of Jojo’s wrist, squeezed it, and then removed it. The quick touch happened in a blink of an eye. “Do you have any other suggestions?”
Jojo didn’t say anything. He was shocked that Adam had just placed his hand on him, so casually, so friendly like. He couldn’t deny the electricity he felt when Adam touched him either. “If they’re looking for dancing women, there’s a club two blocks from here, more upscale but not so red light, as you say.”
“Well, lead the way, Jojo.” Adam smiled. “I’ll rustle them from the bar and we’ll follow you.” Adam stood and moved to where Nate and the other guys were huddled.
Jojo motioned to the bartender. “I’ll pay their tab.”
“Thanks, Mr. Arias. Shall I add it to your monthly bill?”
Jojo nodded. Before he could say anything else, Adam appeared at his elbow. Standing, he towered over Jojo by a few inches.
“The boys are cool checking out a new place. Thanks for the offer.”
“So who’s leaving that you’re having this party for?” Jojo asked.
“His name’s John.” Adam pointed him out. “He’s been stationed at the Embassy for more than three years now. Overdue for his new assignment back to San Diego.”
Jojo signed the chit the bartender handed him without even looking at the total bill.
“Hey, is that our bill? You shouldn’t have done that. What do we owe you?”
Jojo shook his head. “Don’t worry about it. I come here often enough that they actually give me a discount, and I’m glad to pay. Thanks for your service. All of you.”
Adam walked to where Nate stood, clapped him on the shoulder, and shouted something in his ear. All the guys around Nate, including John turned to Jojo and raised their glasses and beer bottles, some empty and others not so empty. “Thanks!” they shouted in unison.
Adam took two steps back to Jojo. “Now, they’ll follow you to the ends of the earth. Buying their drinks bought you some loyalty. Lead the way, fine sir!” Adam gestured with a bow, holding an invisible cap in his hands as his head followed the gesture.
Jojo laughed at the dramatic flourish and walked out of the bar, Adam right next to him as the other Marines followed them. As they took the steps down one level to the street, Jojo recognized the SUV parked on the side. “Hold on,” he said to Adam.
Jojo approached the Lexus with dark tinted windows. The whir of the window revealed Erwin’s face. “I didn’t go back to the garage, boss. They said I could just wait here until you were done, however long it lasted.”
“Well, we’re headed to my cousin’s VIP club down the block. You know the one. If you want to meet me there, that’s fine.” Jojo ignored his driver’s raised eyebrow. Jojo’s cousin, Tiny, owned a lounge with a rooftop bar.
Jojo hadn’t talked to Tiny in a week or so, since Tiny asked for a loan from Arias Holdings to help his deep in the red bar.
Tiny’s club had boxing on one floor, Ukrainian and Russian models on the second floor, and Filipino women, working as cocktail waitresses, dressed in Vietnamese ao dais whose skirts were mini-skirts rather than full length dresses. The male bartenders were all selectively picked for the discreet crowd. Cousin Tiny interviewed the entire bar and wait staff himself, making sure that they were attractive. The truth was, if they could flirt with Tiny and the head waitress, they were hired if they had a pretty face. Jojo didn’t care for the little people fighting in a small area that took up most of the dance floor, but his cousin assured him that he never exploited them, and that they were being paid handsomely to pretend to hit each other very hard.
The walk to the building where the lounge was didn’t take long. Security at the front recognized Jojo immediately. “They’re with me,” Jojo pointed to Adam and the Marines. The large security guard at the front, who Jojo guessed was probably part Samoan and part Filipino, was dressed in a heavy wool jacket and pants, nodded and then radioed the two equally large security guards by the door. They were shown to the marbled main floor of the building. As soon as they took the elevators, again escorted by another security guard, Adam and the Marines were quiet and didn’t say much. When they arrived at the final floor, loud music greeted them before the elevator doors opened.
About the Author
A military brat, who joined the military himself, W.S. Long now practices law during the day, but at night reads and writes male-male romance. When he’s not writing, W.S. Long travels and dreams of traveling far off distant lands with his mild-mannered college professor husband.
At this year’s Webcon, nothing will stay secret for long.
Everyone has their secrets. Last year Digi walked out on Webcon, on his fans, and on Gram. Now he’s back determined to give what they had a real shot, but Gram is more prickly than ever, not willing to risk his heart again. Despite trying to stay out of the spotlight, the anonymous Public Service Announcements draw Digi back in. As the secrets of the internet’s top celebrities are leaked to the world, it’s only a matter of time before Digi and Gram are next. To get through it, they have to set their rivalry aside. Will Digi handle the pressure of the bright lights long enough to find who is tearing their world apart? Or will the threat of full exposure be too much for him to handle?
Gram tosses his cell phone onto the bed between us. Playing along, I grab his phone and check the screen, and the selfie we took last night stares back at me. I smile, we both look relaxed and totally comfortable, even though my hand on his thigh had me buzzed in that exact moment.
I set my mug down and toss the phone back to Gram before rolling onto my side. “Reminds me of when we used to vlog together.”
He stares at the photo for a minute. “Yeah. It does. Did you see the comments?”
“Turns out, people are still insanely curious about where you’ve been for the last year.”
“Because you disappeared, Digi. You were one of the biggest vloggers and then you were gone. All those comments are asking about you. So … let’s collab.”
“Well we’re friends, aren’t we? I haven’t lined up any guest vloggers yet, and if you do this with me, I won’t have to.”
“Yeah, no. I’m not doing that anymore.”
“I’m not saying you have to go back to it, but this will give you a chance to tell your piece, then everyone will stop speculating and you can go back to whatever the bloody hell you’ve been doing.”
I scrunch up my face, not real interested in the idea. “I dunno, Gram. I like being able to come here and not be hassled. If I do that, I’m opening the door on everyone thinking they can stick their noses back into my life.”
He sighs. “I can’t say I don’t understand. And it is your choice though.” Gram watches me, completely unguarded for a change. There’s no tension in his face, and it’s the way I like him best.
“Hey, remember that time we snuck off while our mom’s were on a panel, and went to that dolphin place?”
“Oh yeah …” His gaze goes unfocused and I know he’s remembering that day. “Yeah, that was amazing.”
It was. We’d spent the whole day there, participating in the training sessions and swimming around. Gram hadn’t started dying his hair at that point, and I can still picture the way he kept pushing his black bangs back off his face.
His gaze flicks to me and away again. “Why are you looking at me like that?”
I blink, noting how wide my smile stretches. “I just felt real close to you that day.”
“Probably because you kept hugging me.”
“I think that’s when we first really became friends.”
“When I first realized I’d never be rid of you.” He pretends to cringe, but doesn’t do enough to cover the affectionate tone.
“When I first realized I never wanted to be rid of you,” I counter, knowing he won’t expect it.
He sighs. “You just say whatever is on your mind, don’t you?”
“Sometimes. Unlike you. You never say what’s on your mind.”
“I do when it’s important.”
“So tell me what you’re thinking now.”
“Well that’s easy, I’m thinking I’m going to be late.”
The smile drops from my face as I glance at the time. “You don’t have to go yet.”
“You know my schedule, do you?”
“I just … I mean, you can hang out for a bit longer if you wanna. We can order breakfast up here. You won’t have to worry about fans interrupting that way.” I’m just throwing out words at this point, but his schedule doesn’t start for another two hours and he’s clearly ready. There’s no reason he has to race off, right?
“I thought you were tired,” he says.
He’s frowning at the bed and it takes him a bit to answer, like he’s trying to come up with an excuse to go. “I told my mother I’d eat with her …”
“You get to see her any old time. We’re only here for two more days, Gram. Would you really deny me your company?”
He laughs despite clearly trying to hold it back, and shoves my shoulder. “Okay, fine. Just stop.”
“Being so needy.”
I shrug, sitting up so I’m facing him. “What can I say? I like attention.”
“Tch. No you don’t.”
“I like your attention.”
Gram frowns, wide mouth falling into a pout. “If I didn’t know better, I’d think you were flirting with me, Digi Lynch.”
I blink, eyebrows pulling up. Flirting with him? Am I? I replay my words over, and actually, I think I might be. Huh. “Would that be a bad thing?”
“It would be a strange thing.” He’s still looking at me odd, so I leave him to be confused and pick up the room phone to order our breakfast.
Gram settles back against the pillows, long legs stretched over the bed and crossed at the ankles. He’s not too much shorter than I am, but he seems smaller. Maybe it’s the over excitable personality he puts on for his vlogs, or the way his delicate face scrunches when he’s trying to be mean. I could scoop him up easily, like I did when we took that photo, and I’m hit with the impulse to do it again.
I grin as I imagine how surprised he’d be if I just grabbed him and pulled him close. I dunno want I’d do when I got him there—hug him for sure, but maybe … maybe he’d let me kiss him again?
“I’m sorry for shaving your eyebrows off,” he says suddenly, glancing over at me.
“Gram that was two years ago.”
“But I didn’t apologize.”
“You didn’t, but like I care now.”
“They’ve never grown back properly though, have they?”
I rub a hand over my eyebrows. “They’re a bit of a mess.”
“They make you look permanently bewildered.”
I laugh, lying on my side so I’m facing him. “To be fair, I feel like I don’t know much of what’s going on anyway.”
“You are adorably vague.”
“I’ll take that as a compliment.”
Gram screws his mouth up to the side, but his eyes light up, and it’s all I need to know that he’s definitely flirting with me too.
About the Author
S. M. James writes books for teens about squishy sweet characters.
While not writing, SM is a readaholic and Netflix addict who regularly lives on a sustainable diet of chocolate and coffee.
Member of SCBWI.
Unapologetically dishing out HEAs for LGBT+ characters.
Emperor Chrysander Draconis rules not only the dragons but the entire Council of Sorcery and Shifters. From the moment Fate selected him, he has devoted himself to ensuring his people thrive and prosper. His life revolves around duty; nothing stands in the way of his dedication to his job. One of the most prominent issues on Chrysander’s plate is the lack of hybrid drakelings that have survived the road from man to beast. When he receives word that one such rare soul is living in an obscure tribe, he races to help.
Ellery of the Fen-Lynthi elves is different from the rest of his people. He does not understand why his ears are shorter, why he stands taller than the others. Then his mother explains why the other children mock him and call him a mongrel: his father, a dragon, abandoned her the moment he learned of Ellery’s impending birth. With his mother’s often-fragile mental state, Ellery does not know if he can trust her words, but they are all he has. He spends his days ostracized, doing what he can to improve his lot.
Chrysander is overjoyed to find his mate among the Fen-Lynthi, but when it is confirmed that Ellery is half dragon, he is terrified Ellery will be ripped apart by the beast inside him. Regardless, Chrysander proceeds with their matebond ceremony, though he delays the event, believing duty demands they bypass elven tradition. This troubles Ellery, and he wonders if moving forward is what Chrysander truly wants. Their schedules present them with little opportunity to spend time together, which gives him further cause for worry. If that isn’t enough, Ellery is apprehensive over his new role as emperor. Chrysander and Ellery must confront their fears and learn to face the world as a united and loving front. In doing so, not only will they be able to defy the impossible, but they will change the world.
“I’m only trying to be realistic. We can’t ignore statistics, even if you are Chrysander’s mate,” Wesley stated.
“I am afraid I do not understand.”
“Ellery, what do you know about hybrids?” Chrysander asked, his voice warm with concern. Ellery liked his tone and wished they had a few moments alone to get to know one another, but for some reason Fate had paired him with a powerful man who had abundant responsibilities.
“Not much. My tribe did not interact with many people. I am the only hybrid I have ever heard of. I just know the other elves did not like that I was different. Is the Council the same way?”
“I won’t deny that there are those ignorant enough to think hybrids are somehow lesser than others, but they are very few. What Wesley’s referring to is survival rates for hybrids,” Chrysander stated, and his words were measured to Ellery’s ears, though he couldn’t discern why.
“What is the survival rate for hybrids?”
“In general, they’re quite high,” Damian revealed. “The ones who are half shifter almost always have a beast, though there are exceptions. However, the larger and more powerful the animal, the more trouble hybrids have surviving their first shift.”
“Dragons are very large,” Ellery observed.
“We’re also the strongest shifters,” Zane added quietly. “To date, no dragon hybrid has survived their first shift.”
Ellery let that tidbit of information settle into his mind. He reached down inside of himself where the entity inside him dwelled. It had always been a warm and inviting presence and at Zane’s words, all he felt was peace. A voice inside his head told him his dragon wouldn’t hurt him, and he decided to trust it. Just because no other hybrid had managed the feat did not mean Ellery was going to die. In fact, he refused to accept that it was his destiny. “How many dragon hybrids have there been?”
“Not many that we’ve known of, though hybrids in general are growing more common. Fate seems to be pairing more combinations of people than ever before,” Chrysander told him.
“How old are dragons when they shift for the first time?”
“Around one hundred,” Zane replied.
“So, my dragon is ready?”
“We’ll give you some time with a trainer but yes, you should be ready,” Chrysander assured him.
“I think we should wait until after Ellery’s shift for any of this. He can live here and concentrate on his beast. We’ll deal with the rest of the details afterward,” Wesley suggested.
“If that’s what Fate wanted, she wouldn’t have led him to Chrys until after his shift. The title is his,” Damian responded.
“I agree,” Chrysander said. Ellery found himself smiling. At least Chrysander appeared glad to have met him.
“Fine, but it’ll take at least six weeks to put together an appropriate mating ceremony,” Wesley argued.
“That’s fine, but everything else needs to be put into action immediately,” Chrysander replied, and Ellery grew irritated as his grin faded. No one was going to observe elven tradition or even ask him what he wanted, but he was now a dragon too. He needed to keep an open mind and learn about his other culture. This was his opportunity to put his life as an elf behind him and embrace dragonkind. He wanted to forget the isolation and sadness he’d endured and create something worthwhile that made him happy. But what he most required was to collect himself from the shock of his afternoon. There was a beast inside him ready to grow wings.…And even more astounding was the man he was going to share an eternity with. He was handsome, appeared kind, and Ellery welcomed the opportunity to discover more about him.
Ellery got to his feet. “Perhaps you could show me where I will be sleeping?”
“I’d be happy to,” Zane offered, and Ellery followed him out of the room. He wasn’t sure what his future held, but he wasn’t going to spend the next few weeks as if they were his last. The other hybrids may have failed, but Ellery was determined to make history.
About the Author
Jessamyn Kingley lives in Nevada where she begs the men in her head to tell her their amazing stories which she dutifully writes it all down in what has become a small mountain of notebooks. She falls in love with each couple and swears whatever book she wrote last is her absolute favorite.
Jessamyn is married and working toward remembering to start the dishwasher without being distracted by the scent of the magical detergent. For personal enjoyment, she aids in cat rescue while slashing and gashing her way through mobs in various MMORPGs. Caffeine is her very best friend and is only cast aside briefly for the sin better known as BBQ potato chips.