Maybe it didn’t end there. Maybe it started with a kiss…
The only thing Ilan Nadav knows about relationships and marriage is that they ruin people. He’s committed himself to the bachelor life, and he’s never been happier—until his best friend had to go and fall in the sort of toe-curling, sonnet-writing kind of love. Witnessing that created a hunger in Ilan, and now all he can see is the people standing near him who deserved better than they got. And one of those people makes his heart beat a little bit harder and a little bit faster—but he’s the last man in the world Ilan is allowed to want. After all, Fredric Pedalino is his best friend’s dad. When Fredric comes to him for advice about dating men, Ilan is forced to re-write his own reality—and maybe his stance on love, because Fredric is the sort of man with the ability to sweep him off his feet. Even when he isn’t trying. Ilan wants Fredric more than he’s ever wanted anyone before, but he’s not sure he’s willing to take the risk. After all, loving that man might cost him everything.
“I was on a date when you called me. My first real date maybe ever. You know, the kind that didn’t mean a quick hook-up on my couch before I sent him packing.” Ilan let out a huffing breath, and his fingers stroked absently over Fredric’s knuckles, sending sparks shooting up his arm. “I saw your name and I knew if I answered that call, that would be it. It would be over.”
“And you did answer,” Fredric said softly.
“Yes,” Ilan breathed out, “I did. I did, knowing what I was getting into—but I also did it thinking it was safe because there was no way you wanted… me.”
Fredric’s stomach twisted and his heart thrashed. He hated how hard this was, how complicated, how much fear ruled the moments between them. But like Teddy said to him, it would be worth the effort. “Except I do.”
“And I don’t know how to tell you no,” but before Fredric could lean in and close the distance between them, Ilan went on. “And I don’t know how to say yes.”
Fredric nodded, deflating a little, but not pulling away. “Then have dinner with me. And a little more wine. And that cake you brought.”
Ilan was silent a long while. “And then?”
“And then we take Bas for a walk. You can tell me what the winter sky looks like here at night. I’ve never asked before.”
Ilan’s fingers twitched, and his voice was thick. “I can do that.” He paused again. “And then?”
“And then, we do it again—something else,” Fredric said. He shifted closer, until their knees touched, and Ilan pressed back against him. They started to tangle in places, more than their hands, and it felt right. And as much as he was still nervous, he felt safe. “We see movies, and we eat dinner. We take a tango lesson at the community center. We find a wine and paint night and you can help me paint a cactus.”
Ilan laughed. “Yeah?”
“Yes,” Fredric said. “I just need to know that it starts here.”
“Just a chance,” Ilan breathed out, like he was making the promise to himself, not Fredric. “And if…if I can’t,” he said, then stopped. “If whatever inside me has been so wrong for all these years stays wrong, and you need something more…”
He couldn’t imagine a world in which that would be possible, but he owed Ilan at least one promise tonight, and he could make it that one. Tugging their joined hands toward him, he pressed the warm knuckles to his lips and let them linger for a long, long moment. “We will never be broken.”
Ilan’s breath was softer this time, but still trembling—just like his hands. But instead of pulling away, instead of letting whatever he was feeling get the best of him, he didn’t let go.
About the Author
E.M. Lindsey is currently living in the United States. They spend their time writing, reading, hiking, and binging Netflix – in that order. Find their work exclusively on Amazon.
When Toby meets his sexy neighbor Sean, he embarks on a new romance,
but there’s also a haunting and a murder mystery to deal with.
There’s romance waiting for Toby at Darkwater House. Set on the edge of London’s beautiful Hampstead Heath, what better place for love to blossom with a stunningly handsome stranger?
But as Toby explores a passionate relationship with his dream man, dark forces are stirring within the walls of Darkwater House. There’s an angry spirit haunting the corridors and Albert the creepy landlord might be a killer.
As passion grows between Toby and his new neighbor Sean, they also work at unearthing the secrets of Darkwater House, looking for the evidence that will convict Albert, finally lay the angry ghost to rest and allow their love story to deepen.
He entered the code into the electronic keypad next to the main front door and waited for the now-familiar click before pushing it open. Sean was standing in the communal hallway, his back to Toby, bending forward so that the material of his running shorts stretched across his muscular buttocks, revealing a tantalizing crack. God, Toby would have liked to smell that arse, run his nose from one end of the crevice to the other, taking a long, deep breath.
Sean was rubbing his right calf. Toby hesitated, then cleared his throat.
“Are you okay?” he asked, still staring at Sean’s butt while he had the chance.
Sean straightened and looked over his shoulder at Toby.
“I think I pulled a muscle,” he said, hobbling toward the lift.
Toby considered taking the stairs to avoid an embarrassing trip in the compact elevator, but instead followed Sean and pushed the button for the fourth floor.
“Is it painful?” he asked, breathing in the smell of Sean’s fresh sweat, reveling in the closeness of the other man. He could feel heat radiating from his post-exercise body.
“A bit,” said Sean, staring ahead. “I think I overdid it today. That was my second run.”
“I know. I saw you this morning,” said Toby. In his head, he was slipping a hand down the front of Sean’s shorts, playing with his flaccid but growing cock, his hand getting slippery from Sean’s sweat and pre-cum.
Then I’d lick my fingers, he thought.
The lift pinged and the doors opened.
“After you,” said Toby.
Sean nodded a thank you and walked awkwardly toward his flat. Toby followed, fixing his eyes on the other man’s butt, growing hard and once again fantasizing about burying his face between those cheeks, breathing in the masculine scent.
“See you later,” said Sean as he reached his apartment door, resting his gaze briefly on Toby’s face.
Toby blushed. “Yes, see you later. I hope your calf gets better.”
As he headed for his own flat, Toby wished he had some sort of medical training so he could have offered to check out Sean’s injury, maybe administer a gentle massage on the injured leg. The thought of his hands caressing Sean’s muscular calf, rising to his thigh, Sean watching him intently with his dark eyes, was all too much. Toby hurried to open his front door, pulling his cock out of his fly almost before the door had closed behind him. He jerked himself fast, still clutching the carrier bag of food and wine in the other hand. Several jets of cum shot across the hallway carpet. I’ll have to clean that up later.
Toby fell back against the front door, breathing heavily, pushing his cock back into his pants. He really did have it bad for Sean, even though they’d barely spoken and Sean seemed to dislike him, or at best, be indifferent toward him. Or perhaps that was the attraction? If he fell for someone he stood no chance with, he wouldn’t get hurt like he had before, because nothing would ever develop.
He dropped the carrier bag onto the kitchen surface and pulled out the bottle of wine he had bought at the supermarket. He studied it as if it were some ancient relic of great interest, rather than a cheap bottle of plonk. Then, with a sigh, he unscrewed the top and reached for a glass. It was Saturday night, after all, he told himself.
About the Author
Samuel King is London born and bred, and spent his twenties and thirties hanging out on the London gay scene, mixing with some true characters and even finding romance on a few occasions. Now more likely to be found eating in a nice restaurant on a Saturday night than clubbing, he also enjoys reading across many genres and watching films–especially old horror films and romantic comedies.
He is the author of four hot short reads—The Black Mask, Hard Lessons, Sage the Immortal and Mirror Man. His first full-length male/male romance Darkwater House is out now.
Can love and acceptance help Callum forgive himself?
Callum’s past haunts him and he’s desperate for a fresh start. When his uncle takes him in and the manager of the Heaven and Hell Club gives him a chance, things might be looking up.
Then he meets Dylan—a cocky, make-up wearing twink who challenges all his assumptions about himself.
Getting to know each other changes everything, as they give each other the love and acceptance they’ve both craved throughout their lives. But will it be enough to ease their doubts, heal their wounds, and allow them to have their own happy ever after?
Forgiven is the third book in the Heaven and Hell Club series. It’s a hurt/comfort romance, with a slow burn relationship, a bi-sexual awakening, tattoos, and piercings in interesting places. It can be read as a standalone, but works better as part of the series.
Content warning: homophobic parents
Callum didn’t move until he heard the door shut, then he started the level again. It was easier now that he was alone. His inhibitions dropped away from him and he focused on slicing his beams of light through the coloured blocks. He’d selected easy mode, which was fun but not a challenge. He managed to hit every block the second time through the song, so upped the difficulty level.
He had to move his body a little more on standard mode. The blocks came faster, the patterns were slightly harder. As they were more in time to the music, it actually made the level easier. He had to stretch to hit blocks when they were right at the sides or up high.
He upped the difficulty again and found himself moving even more—only to reach the blocks, he wasn’t actually dancing or anything. The pace of the blocks was almost frantic, and he quickly bombed out of the level. He tried again and again, quickly losing track of time as he became determined to get to the end of the level. Once he’d finished it, he set himself a goal to hit all the blocks in the right direction.
He wasn’t sure how many times he played it through. Being within the virtual world meant he was completely absorbed in what he was doing. He’d worked up a sweat, his heart beat faster and adrenaline made him buzz. He’d learnt the words to the song and was singing along to it. He was moving more now, his body reacting to the music as well as the blocks that flew at him. It was fun.
It was only when his stomach rumbled that he wondered how long he’d been playing. When he got to the end of the level, he stopped and carefully took off the headset. Dylan was sitting on the sofa. Callum glanced around, but there were no pizza boxes in sight. He hadn’t smelt any food either, but he’d needed to be sure.
“You never left, did you?”
Dylan shrugged. “You look like you’ve been having fun.”
Callum scowled. “You tricked me.”
“Maybe, but it gave you the freedom to let loose, didn’t it?”
Callum stared at the headset in his hands.
“I told you the game would get you moving.”
“I still can’t dance.”
“You should have seen yourself, darling. You’ve got a good sense of rhythm and some moves.”
About the Author
Colette’s personal love story began at university, where she met her future husband. An evening of flirting, in the shadow of Lancaster castle, eventually led to a fairytale wedding. She’s enjoying her own ‘happy ever after’ in the north of England with her husband, two beautiful children and her writing.
Sam never expected to move back to Cleveland. Donovan never expected to be attracted to a man. Well, shit happens.
After high school, Sam Shelby moved to New York. Eight years later, he returns to Cleveland and lands a job at the best ad firm in town. It would be the perfect gig, if his boss weren’t such an ass.
After his wife leaves, Donovan Cooper questions everything. The arrival of a young, arrogant, gifted graphic designer at Donovan’s firm is the last straw.
Tempers flare over office gossip, and following a nasty argument and scathing kiss, Donovan flails away from heterosexuality while Sam struggles to keep his “no relationship” rule intact.
Despite ugly socks, fiery fights, and their best intentions to not fall in love, these bullheaded coworkers can’t deny their chemistry. Donovan seeks happiness while Sam seeks success, but is there room for more?
Donovan sifted through a few hand-drawn logos on the desk and froze when he found a crudely drawn sketch of himself. Sam must have done it during a meeting at some point, capturing Donovan’s faux hawk, wide jaw, and severe expression.
Jesus, was this what other people saw when they looked at him? Did he really look so miserable?
“Make yourself at home?”
Donovan dropped the picture and stood straight at the sound of Sam’s voice.
He leaned against the doorframe, with one ankle crossed over the other.
“It’s really bullshit when people say that, you know?” Sam said. “Make yourself at home. No one actually wants their friends to take off their pants, drink all their beer, and binge The Great British Bake Off.” He paused. “What are you doing in my office?”
“I didn’t mean to snoop.”
The office door closed as he stepped inside. “Sure you did, or you wouldn’t be in here, so what’s up?”
Sam circled the desk, so Donovan circled the other way, although he noticed it was true what coworkers said: Sam did smell good—like clean laundry and cedar. “I think we started off on the wrong foot.”
Sam snort laughed and flipped through some files on his desk. “More like wrong continent, man.” When he found what he was looking for, he tapped the file’s corner against his palm. “I can handle guys like you, you know.”
Donovan shifted back on his heels. “Guys like me?”
“Hmm. Corporate assholes. All you see are dollar signs. You take no pleasure in your work. Advertising is money to you, not art, but without the artists, there wouldn’t be advertising, so…” He sucked his cheeks into his mouth, a momentary fish face.
Donovan wanted to tell him it wasn’t true. Donovan loved art.
He used to love art.
Sam continued, “I know I look like a six-foot-two Disney princess, but you’re not gonna rattle me.” To prove his point, Sam got right up in Donovan’s personal space until Donovan took a step back. Again, he was not used to dealing with someone his own height. “And I’m right about the Great Lakes ad campaign. If you’d pull your head out of your ass, maybe you’d notice.” He turned away abruptly.
“I’m sorry.” Ouch, that hurt coming out.
Sam’s rebuttal: “Prove it.”
He rested a hand on the desk and cocked his hip out—the very picture of young attitude. “Listen to me in meetings.”
“I was listening.”
“Nope.” He shook his head and ran a hand through his unkempt, unprofessional hair. “No, you were hearing. I need you to listen. There’s a difference. And I know I’m just some fucking kid to you, but I ruled the New York City advertising scene. I know what I’m doing, Donovan, so let me do it.”
“Fine.” He’d had enough. He’d apologized, okay, so he’d done his Monica-enforced duty. He didn’t owe Sam anything else.
He didn’t run for the door, but he definitely moved with speed.
About the Author
Sara Dobie Bauer is a bestselling author, model, and mental health / LGBTQ advocate with a creative writing degree from Ohio University. She lives with her hottie husband and two precious pups in Northeast Ohio, although she’d really like to live in a Tim Burton film.
Two guys, one film. An unexpected affair that changes everything.
JJ and Donnie are two lost souls from different worlds, brought together by a film that changes their lives. 18 year old JJ dreams of escaping from the North London tower block he shares with his emotionally absent mother and her abusive boyfriend. Donnie is a successful accountant in his mid-30s struggling to deal with the breakup of his marriage and his failing relationship with his 15 year old daughter. Both JJ and Donnie become entranced by the film ‘Call Me By Your Name’, a passionate love story featuring characters remarkably similar to themselves. Could they end up writing their own love story, or will their pasts and their futures end up tearing them apart? This powerful novella explores the passions and pitfalls of love in the modern age, as the two main characters dreamily live out their erotic fantasies before having to decide whether their destinies lie together or apart.
A gentle breeze crept through the open window, ruffling Donnie’s hair like a mischievous child. He stirred. He froze. There was someone in his arms. They were wrapped up in a sheet together. It was JJ. His mind filled, quick as a backdraft.
Donnie opened his eyes. The first thing he saw was JJ’s smooth, honey-coloured shoulder. So beautifully rounded. So bare. His eyes travelled along the top of JJ’s shoulder blades to the back of his neck, where wavy blond hair curled and fussed against young, lovely skin. Although his face was only inches away, Donnie moved in closer and inhaled gently, the scent of this boy so curious, so alien. He brushed his lips against JJ’s neck, not daring to do more than hold them there as delicately as he could. If JJ were to awake now, and decided this had all been a mistake, Donnie would understand, and forever be glad of this moment. And yet, he hardly dared move a muscle, for he wanted JJ to sleep forever. To waken would be to deny Donnie the right to this moment, to this precious, illicit moment, where right was wrong and wrong was so, so right. Where the dream and the dreamer suddenly find each other, as time separates from reality and consciousness transcends itself. Laying in his marital bed holding JJ, who slept so beautifully unaware, he realised that never once with Sarah had he felt this level of intimacy. This was something more than desire, more than sex, more than love. This was perfection beyond human comprehension.
Donnie suddenly noticed a throbbing in his groin. Ah of course, his earthly body didn’t understand the spiritual significance of the situation and was responding in its usual base, carnal way, for that is all it knows how to do. Even though they both had underwear on, Donnie felt that to allow his erection to creep its way towards JJ’s sleeping figure would be sacrilegious. He instinctively moved his hips backwards, yet in doing so broke the spell, and JJ sighed gently before turning his head, his body following momentarily behind as he shifted position. Sensing the light, his eyes flickered open. Donnie’s heart stopped. Their faces were no more than three inches apart, their eyes at the same level, staring, questioning, not quite believing. Donnie saw JJ smile. This was all the confirmation he needed. He pulled JJ’s body closer to him, and knew he was home.
About the Author
Christian Williams is the pen name of Anthony Williams, who mostly writes non-fiction work but has ventured into the world of M/M fiction for the first time.
Nathan Rhodes has put hockey first for most of his life, but as graduation looms, he has a different goal in mind. He needs to come out and reclaim his first love. If only Caleb will believe him…
Theater geek Caleb Stockwell gave up on love when his boyfriend chose the closet over being with an openly bisexual guy. Now, he hides his heartbreak behind a string of casual hookups. He loves the drama on stage, but he’s done with the drama of Nathan Rhodes. For good.
Nathan is determined to right the wrongs of four years ago, but the clock is ticking.
One month until he and Caleb go their separate ways. One month to take a final shot at winning Caleb’s heart back.
Former hockey player Brent Cameron has a plan now that he’s out of the closet. He’ll take a summer road trip, find a job, and settle down with a fellow jock. Lowell Prescott is not part of that plan, but when Brent’s travel companion bails, he’s the only option.
Out and proud, Lowell has a love of sports, a flair of fashion, and a disdain for anything conventional. Burned by past relationships, he’s wary of jocks who want to change him—and that includes Brent Cameron.
Tempers flare and sparks fly as the miles disappear behind them. Just as it seems they might be on a journey to something more than Lake Superior, Brent receives a phone call that could change everything.
Will Brent stay with Lowell and ignore a friend in need, or go sit by the bedside of the man who broke Lowell’s heart?
Micah Warner spent his whole life dreaming of pitching in the big leagues. Signing with a minor-league team near Chicago puts him one step closer to making that a reality. But there are no out players in pro ball, so any involvement with a man must be discreet.
Physical therapist Justin Lamb loves his job with the Cougars. A romantic at heart, he wants to find lasting love—with a man or woman—but traveling with the team makes it difficult to maintain a long-term relationship.
Micah offers Justin a no-strings-attached way to blow off some steam, and Justin reluctantly agrees. It doesn’t take long before they’re both in over their heads but falling in love will risk everything.
With their careers and relationship hanging in the balance, they have one last play to make.
It’s time to take a swing for real and lasting love.
Openly gay college swimmer Ian Harrington feels like he’s fighting against a current of tragedy. He’s grieving the loss of his parents and best friend, and now he’s dealing with a toxic coach and judgmental brother. But he won’t let that stop him from chasing his dream: Olympic gold.
Ricky Chavez has just about everything he wants in life: a great career, a supportive family, and a side gig as drag queen Rosie Riveting. The only thing he’s missing is a partner to share it all with.
When the two men connect after Rosie’s performance, they’re immediately drawn to one another. But it’s never that simple. Ricky isn’t the type of man to hide, and with Ian’s coach breathing down his neck, he can’t openly love a drag queen without making waves.
They’ll have to brave deep waters to make it to the finish line.
Excerpt from Bully & Exit
Nathan’s voice was soft when he spoke, gentle like it’d always been. “Caleb Stockwell. I’ve been looking for you.”
Caleb cleared his throat and ignored him, tipping the bottle up for another long drink. He licked the spiciness from his lips as he debated making another run for it. There was a shrub blocking his way in one direction and a hockey player in the other. Even if he hadn’t been drinking, the odds weren’t in his favor. “Nathan Rhodes,” he managed.
“Damn I can’t believe it’s you!” Nathan leaned in and Caleb pulled back, uncomfortable with him being so close.
Caleb laughed bitterly. “It’s me. Now that you’ve satisfied your curiosity, you can run along.” He motioned with his hand, encouraging Nathan to leave.
“It’s really good to see you,” Nathan said, ignoring him. He took a seat on the pile of discarded construction materials, his knees brushing Caleb’s as he lowered himself down. Caleb pulled away as if scorched.
“Yeah? Too bad I can’t say the same,” he muttered, his head swimming as the alcohol began to hit him. He eyed Nathan’s long, long legs and the way he was pinned in by them, remembering the way they’d felt tangled with his as they came, panting shallowly against each other’s skin. It brought it all back; the scent of Nathan’s cologne, the taste of his skin, the way Caleb’s heart raced in his chest when Nathan held him close. It brought back the memories the ones he’d worked so hard to run from. The good and the bad. The sharp, intense happiness of falling for Nathan. The aching, crushing hurt that paralyzed Caleb for months after Nathan was no longer in his life. Everything he’d buried four years ago and vowed never to touch again.
He caught the first glimpse of doubt on Nathan’s face. “Are you okay, Caleb?”
“Oh, I’m mother fucking peachy,” he snarked and took another long drink. “I’ve made it through four fucking years trying to ignore the fact we’re on the same campus and with barely a month left in my senior year, I thought maybe I’d managed to pull it off. But nooo, Lowell had to drag me to this goddamn party, and of course you showed up too. Just my fucking luck.”
He raised the bottle again, but Nathan wrapped a hand around the neck and tugged. He was stronger than Caleb, so Caleb let go, afraid he’d end up getting pulled into Nathan’s lap if he didn’t. Nathan took a drink and passed the bottle back, licking the taste of rum off his lips before he spoke. “You’re so angry at me.”
“Ya think?” Caleb snarled. “Didn’t it ever occur to you I would be? What the hell makes you think you can waltz in here and pretend like all the shit that went down between us didn’t happen?” He tried to stand, but Nathan’s dark denim-clad knees were on either side of his, pinning him in place. He pried the bottle from Caleb’s suddenly limp fingers and set it aside.
“I don’t think that,” Nathan protested. “I was just glad to see you and I … I wanted a chance to apologize. I didn’t … I wanted …”
Caleb’s lips parted in surprise as cool fingers framed his face and for the first time in four long years, Nathan’s lips were pressed to his again. Involuntarily, Caleb closed his eyes, feeling a rush of heat wash over him, taking him right back to the first time. Before Nathan broke his heart.
About the Author
Brigham Vaughn is on the adventure of a lifetime as a full-time author. She devours books at an alarming rate and hasn’t let her short arms and long torso stop her from doing yoga. She makes a killer key lime pie, hates green peppers, and loves wine tasting tours. A collector of vintage Nancy Drew books and green glassware, she enjoys poking around in antique shops and refinishing thrift store furniture. An avid photographer, she dreams of traveling the world and she can’t wait to discover everything else life has to offer her.
Her books range from short stories to novellas to novels. They explore gay, bisexual, lesbian, and polyamorous romance in contemporary settings.
It is a standalone story in the Scandinavian Comfort series.
Scandinavian Comfort is a series of standalone novels set in Scandinavia, sharing the common theme of Hygge. Hygge is a Danish word that is impossible to translate into a single English word. It’s a concept of finding happiness in the small things, of towing the middle line instead of always aiming for the top and finding joy in your home and sharing time with your family. In Scandinavia you will find that especially Friday evenings are often seen as Hygge time, where families eat favourite foods, light candles and watch a movie, preferably whilst wearing slippers and pyjamas. Another Scandinavian word that is very fitting to this series is the Swedish word Lagom, meaning ‘not too little, not too much’. Just right. This sums up the Scandinavian people in a nutshell.
Live your life well. Not too little, not too much.
Are you brave enough to stay? Or strong enough to walk away?
Mattias Strømme’s life is a recipe for disaster. He is a single dad of a 2-year-old, has an ex-wife who scares him, and a job in finance where he scares everyone else. And now he has been dragged in as a last-minute filler contestant on Baking Battles, the hit reality baking show. Mattias can’t bake. He can barely dress himself in the morning, and he definitely hasn’t got the skills to charm the viewing public, or the wannabe celebs who make up the rest of the show’s contestants. He’s not a nice person. He’s just… nothing. Mattias left his wife when life became unbearable for him and he fell apart. Now, when he is suddenly drowning in a mess of rumours, male supermodels, and unicorn glitter? Will Mattias be brave enough to stay? Or strong enough to walk away?
“Mattias, I’m in fucking deep shit, mate.” Danijel grits out between his teeth as the glass door to his own office slams shut behind them. He’s a small man, slim with some muscle definition showing under his fitted shirt, which is usually immaculate, but today there are patches of sweat forming under his arms, and his closely shaved black hair is getting frequent swipes from Danijel’s hands, a clear sign that something is bothering him.
“What now? I thought everything was going smoothly? Baking Battles is still well under budget, so financially there is nothing to worry about, unless there is a lawsuit brewing that you are about to hit me with.”
Mattias crosses his arms over his chest. He may have spent years taking shit from Sara, but he’s never been a pushover at work. He knows his shit. So does Danijel.
“Please tell me that you can bake.” Danijel almost whispers. “You brought that chocolate tray thing in a few months back when we had the Hygge-Fridays thing going on? Please tell me it didn’t come out of a packet?”
“It didn’t come out of a packet. Who do you think I am? I’m the master of the chocolate tray bake.” Mattias says cockily. Danijel is clearly in some deep shit. Sweat now pouring down his temples.
He should probably mention that Emilia had drooled in the batter and that the traybake he had brought in was his third attempt, and that the mess he had left behind in the kitchen, sparked off one of the worst screaming arguments he and Sara had ever had. He left a week later. It hadn’t been good. That damn cake brought nothing good with it.
“Mattias, we start filming tomorrow at ten, and we are three contestants down. I am officially pulling you in.”
“What?” Mattias shrieks. “It’s a celebrity special. Who the fuck am I supposed to be?”
“You do that finance segment every year on ‘Good Morning Norway’? You know the ’How to do your tax return?’ thing you did? And… and… You did that thing last week, you know when you talked about how to budget for Christmas without getting into debt? You definitely qualify as a celeb. We will just call you a Morning TV financial expert. Close enough. And anyway, everyone loves a bigwig trying his hand at being normal or some shit? Putting your money where your mouth is, or whatever? Getting down with the underdog? Showing your human side? I haven’t got a clue how we will spin it. That’s PR’s role. They will make it work, if you do this. And, Mattias, you are perfect. You are grumpy and impatient and have a fucking temper on you. It will make fantastic TV. The other good thing is that you won’t have a clue who all the other contestants are, so you won’t give a rat’s arse about pegging them down a notch or two, will you? It will be awesome.”
Danijel is chewing on his thumb. Rocking on his heels.
“No. Fucking. Way.” Mattias groans. “Hell no.”
“Why the hell not? You are single, and the girls will be hanging off you. Celeb status guaranteed. Pussy on tap. What’s not to love?”
“Everything Danijel! Every fucking thing! For a start, I can’t bake.”
“That Chocolate tray bake was edible?” Danijel is smiling now.
“I look like shit.”
“You are a handsome devil. Let someone dress you and get a haircut. Shave. Sorted.”
“I’ve got a reputation to protect. I’ll be the fucking laughingstock of the station!”
“People will love you. Profits through the roof. Spin-off series. I have a clear vision in my head.”
Yeah. Danijel is on drugs. Clearly. Standing there with his arms spread out and a dreamy look in his eyes.
“No, Danijel. Not happening. Baking Battles is this station’s number one show, our main cash cow, and we have been seeding this Celebrity special for months. We can’t just throw random contestants in and expect to pull it off. The public will see right through it. It’s desperate, and it’s unprofessional.” Mattias turns around letting his hand rest on the door handle. He is leaving. He is not getting drawn into this.
“Alima said yes.” Danijel says. His shit-eating grin wider than his face.
“Alima?” Mattias’s hand grips the door handle tighter. “Your sister can’t even peel a potato. She feeds her kids microwave meals and thinks it’s gourmet cooking. She’s going on Baking Battles as a contestant? You are kidding, right?”
Danijel’s pushing it here. Alima is his oldest friend. Well, the only friend that has stuck by him throughout his whole divorce mess. She lives life like she is some kind of hardcore Superwoman, and Mattias bloody adores her. She’s also married with a million kids and works full time, and has never baked a cake in her life. He knows that, for a fact.
“Dead serious, Mattias. She owes me one, and anyway someone has to get voted off in the first episode. She doesn’t give a shit, and we are marketing her as the Norwegian ice-hockey team’s physician, which isn’t a lie.”
“She treated their reserve goalie for a sprained ankle. Once.” Mattias whines into his hands. “Danijel, what the hell are you doing? This is crazy?”
“I have no choice Mattias. Amelia Hammerdahl had to pull out with the cocaine scandal that broke on Friday. Trond Pedersen is up for a fucking embezzling charge, and that rapper we were pinning our hopes on? Pregnant. Couldn’t stop puking through the test filming yesterday. We can’t use her, it is just awful. “Danijel actually looks a bit green himself. “So, we are down to Pablo from ‘Say Yay to the Gay’, Ida Sagnefjord from ‘Frognerfruer’, Paulina Sætermark, the news anchor from ‘Dagsrevyen’…”
“And not Mattias Strømme, a boring CFO,” Mattias says firmly. “Forget it, Danijel. It’s stupid, immoral and downright illegal. We are deceiving the public, lying and betraying the trust of the brand. Get yourself on the phone to casting downstairs. I am sure we have some D-list celeb just dying to make a spectacle of themselves on TV over Christmas.”
He walks out the door letting it slam hard behind him. Fucking hell, Danijel.
Mattias’s life is peaceful and quiet, his job rewarding and fulfilling. His daughter is the love of his life.
He doesn’t need this.
It’s eight weeks until Christmas. Four weeks until “Baking Battles, The Celebrity Christmas Special” will premiere in time for the December festive period. Eight mouth-watering spectacular episodes full of Christmas cheer, home-made flavours and quirky heart-warming mistakes by clueless celebrities, showing their human side. Christmas cakes. Fucking gingerbread houses. And fruitcakes… not just of the baked variety.
He’s not going anywhere near it. Nope. Not happening.
About the Author
Sophia Soames should be old enough to know better but has barely grown up. She has been known to fangirl over TV-shows, has fallen in and out of love with more popstars than she dares to remember, and has a ridiculously high-flying (un-)glamourous real-life job.
Her long-suffering husband just laughs at her antics. Their children are feral. The Au Pair just sighs.
She lives in a creaky old house in rural London, although her heart is still in Scandinavia.
Discovering that the stories in her head make sense when written down has been part of the most hilarious midlife crisis ever and she hopes it may long continue.
About the Cover Artist
Christina Stern is a Russian based artist. Quick sketches and portraits drawn in pencil are what she likes to do the most. Her work can be found on @christinastern on Instagram
Wiping the sweat from his top lip, he tried to breathe in something other than stranger’s body heat. It was thick. Solid. Like the air had been stuck in the carriage for years. And he knew as the doors beeped shut behind him, the five-fifty-two to London was going to be one bastard of a journey.
‘Close one, Georgie boy.’
‘I know.’ Wheezing, George slipped into the seat next to Alfie and sucked in mouthfuls of the staleness. ‘Got held up at work.’
Truth was, it had nothing to do with his job. Being late wasn’t something George Taylor was good at. He was the fucking champion. Tell him where and when to meet and he’d be there. Twenty minutes after everybody else.
Dripping with sweat, he dragged the back of his wrist over his brow then yanked the neck of his T-shirt in an attempt to cool his clammy skin.
Sitting on the chav wagon for an hour was hell for him. The thought of being sat amongst thirty-odd strangers, most of whom had no idea of personal space, gave him full on anxiety. Actually doing it, made him want to vomit. But it was worth it. Nothing could bring him down. Not even a soap dodger with an allergy to antiperspirant. He was on his way to see Ellie. And that was all that mattered.
‘Babes, please tell me you’re not wearing that tonight.’ Aimee momentarily glanced away from her phone and winced at his muddy top. ‘Ells will actually kill you if you turn up in that.’
‘Course not. I’ve got my going out gear in here.’ George unzipped his torn rucksack to prove he’d packed a fresh set of clothes that morning. He hadn’t needed the reminder that Ellie would disapprove of his work gear. ‘I didn’t have time to change.’
‘Or wash by the smell of you.’ Aimee turned her nose away. ‘You look like you’re covered in-’
‘Shit!’ Alfie jabbed his elbow into George’s side. He was gawping at a blonde who had just boarded the train in a tight figure-hugging blue dress. ‘Look at the bounce on those things.’
Never one to encourage Alfie’s ogling of anyone with breasts, George made a point of rolling his eyes. He couldn’t help but notice the impressive chest on the blonde himself though.
‘She is hot.’ Alfie whistled, manspreading into George’s space.
Aimee peered up from her phone to give the woman the once-over. Possibly the twice-over by her look of disdain. She was one of the nicest, sweetest girls on the planet but other attractive females brought out the monster in her. ‘What? No way. She’s so basic.’
‘I don’t care if she’s basic, I’d motorboat the fuck out of those things,’ Alfie beamed, following it up with a wink George’s way.
‘The way you objectify women is gross.’ Aimee huffed, pulling at her neckline to show off her own bronzed and perky assets. ‘Besides, you can tell she’s a total bitch, just look at her eyebrows.’
George and Alfie shrugged in unison as Aimee continued to glare at the woman. Like she was sizing her up for a coffin. George had no idea what the woman’s eyebrows had to do with her being a bitch, but by the grimace plastered on her face, Aimee seemed adamant about it. She always insisted that she had a way of knowing those sorts of things, but George had yet to see any proof.
About the Author
“My English teacher in Year 11 once said that I’d either be a rent boy or a writer. I wasn’t successful at the first so thought I’d try the latter.” Kent Lowe grew up in East London, spending most of his youth in Dagenham, before moving to Essex. Being a daydreamer and somewhat of a loner, he found art and literature to be the perfect medium for his endless imagination. After finishing college, Kent went on to study a Fine Art degree where he moved from canvas to installation which reared his love for both visual and literary storytelling. Kent has always had an affinity with animals, and growing up with a menagerie of creatures, he now has fish, an orange cat and four adorable dogs that make his chaotic world just that little more harmonic. As an artist and writer, all of Kent’s works delve into humour, love and friendship.
Fourteen-year-old RV does his best negotiating freshman year in a demanding high school, obeying the rules of his immigrant parents, and exploring his budding sexuality
RV is a good kid. So he’ll do his best to keep up in high school despite all the additional pressures he’s facing: His immigrant parents, who don’t want him to forget his roots. Some tough kids at school who bully teachers as well as students. His mean gym teacher. The Guy Upstairs who doesn’t answer his prayers. And the most confusing fact of all — that he might be gay. Luckily, RV develops a friendship with Mr. Aniso, his Latin teacher who is gay and is always there to talk to. RV thinks his problems are solved when he starts going out with Carole. But things only get more complicated when RV develops a crush on Bobby, the football player in his class. And to RV’s surprise, Bobby admits he may have gay feelings, too.
Why can’t life be like pizza?
I’ve been asking myself the question a lot lately. I love pizza. Pizza makes me feel good. Especially since I discovered Joe’s. Joe’s Pizza is quiet and out of the way and allows me to think. And Joe’s combinations are the best. Pepperoni and onions. Garlic and mushroom. Cheese and chicken. And if you really want that little kick in the old butt: the super jalapeno. Mmmm, good. Gets you going again. And lets you forget all your troubles.
What troubles can a fourteen-year-old guy have? Ha! First of all, I’m not a regular guy, as anyone can guess from my taste in pizza. My parents are immigrants who are trying to make a better life for themselves here in the United States. Besides the usual things American parents worry about, like making money and having their kids do well in school, my parents spend more time worrying about the big things: politics, communism, fascism, global warming, and the fact they and their parents survived violence and jail so I-better-be-grateful-I’m-not-miserable-like-kids-in-other-parts-of-the-world.
Grateful? Ha! As far as I’m concerned, life is pretty miserable already. Instead of thinking about the World Series or Disneyland, I worry about terrorists down the street or the dirty bombs the strange family around the corner might be building.
I don’t know why I worry about everything, but I do. It’s probably in my genes. Other guys have genes that gave them big muscles or hairy chests. I got nerves.
And then there’s my name. RV. Yeah, RV. No, I’m not a camper or anything. RV is short for Arvydas. That’s right. “Are-vee-duh-s.” Mom and Dad say it’s a common name in Lithuania, which is the country in Eastern Europe where my parents were born. A name like that might be fine for Lithuania, but what about the United States? Couldn’t Mom and Dad have named me Joe, or Mike, or even Darryl? My brother, Ray, has a normal name. Why couldn’t they have given me one?
I even look a little weird, I think. Tall and skinny with an uncoordinated walk because of my big feet that get in the way and make me feel like a clod. Oh, yeah. I’ve been getting some zits lately, and I wear glasses since I’m pretty nearsighted. Not a pretty sight, is it? At least the glasses are not too thick. Mom and Dad don’t have a lot of money to spend, but they did fork up the money to get me thin lenses, so I don’t look like a complete zomboid.
What can I do? I try my best, despite it all. I’m lucky because I’ve done well in school, so at least my genes gave me a half-decent brain. Hey, I’m not bragging. It’s just nice to feel good about something when most days I feel pretty much a loser at so many things. When I was in grammar school, there were enough days when I came home from school and cried because some big oaf threatened me, or I got hit in the stomach during my pathetic attempts to play ball during recess….
Okay, okay, I’m getting off track. I want to write about my first day of school. Mom and Dad gave me this new—well, refurbished, but new to me anyway—computer for getting into Latin school, and they keep after me to make good use of it. So, I’ve decided I’m going to write about my new life. My life away from cretins—Lith, American, or any other kind….
About the Author
Andy V. Roamer grew up in the Boston area and moved to New York City after college. He worked in book publishing for many years, starting out in the children’s and YA books division and then wearing many other hats. This is his first novel about RV, the teenage son of immigrants from Lithuania in Eastern Europe, as RV tries to negotiate his demanding high school, his budding sexuality, and new relationships. He has written an adult novel, Confessions of a Gay Curmudgeon, under the pen name Andy V. Ambrose. To relax, Andy loves to ride his bike, read, watch foreign and independent movies, and travel.
The calculated flying distance from Oslo to London is equal to 717 miles which is equal to 1153 km. If you want to go by car, the driving distance between Oslo and London is 1732.79 km. If you ride your car with an average speed of 112 kilometres/hour (70 miles/h), travel time will be 15 hours 28 minutes.
Adam Vik Solheim should not be in London. He’s not supposed to be anywhere near the British capital, because Adam Vik Solheim, age 19, is supposed to be on a beach in Bali. He is supposed to be on the first stop on an Asian backpacking trip of a lifetime. That was the plan. That is where he is supposed to be. Not here. Alone in a weird house in a strange city, being paid to look after some troubled 17-year-old.
Felix Haugland has to survive the final 3 weeks of school. Make it through 21 more days of hell. Then he is going to hide out in his room for the rest of the summer until he can figure out how to get his life back on track. Find a school far far away, where he can start over and not make mistakes.
He doesn't need a flipping babysitter. He just doesn't. His life is messed up enough as it is.
I don’t notice him at first, wrapped up in a blanket sitting on the sofa. The house is dark and quiet and if it wasn’t for the light from his phone, I wouldn’t have noticed him at all. He just looks up and meets my eye for a second. Looking a little bit sad.
“Where is your mum? I thought you were going to hang out today?”
“Gone to her boyfriend’s. Not sure when she will be back. Didn’t check. She left you money on the side there.”
I don’t know what to say. Apart from that I’m sorry she is a bit of a shit mum. I mean she left him here alone, whilst she’s gone off to see her bloke. Then, I kind of think that we are all adults. Well, Felix might be. I am not. I still don’t know what to say.
“Philip went on the group chat. I got bored.” Felix gets up from the sofa. Walking over to the kettle and flicking the switch. At least it fills the silence, the kettle humming quietly as the water heats up.
“I saw that, it was funny. Really good.” I pretend to check my phone.
Felix gets a cup down. Pulls out a teabag. Tilts his head towards the coffeemaker.
I get a coffee pod out and load it whilst Felix gets another cup. Nudging my hand as he places it in the brewer, which makes me jolt back. I don’t know why. I just don’t know how to act around him when we are alone. Like this.
He is leaning back against the counter. Chewing on his bottom lip with his arms crossed over his chest. Wearing joggers that are slung low over his hips, and a hoodie that just doesn’t quite cover the blond fuzz on his stomach.
I am standing there biting my nails and fiddling with the envelope on the counter. I try to catch his eye. Staring at his lips and thinking dirty thoughts. Then, looking away the minute he looks up.
It’s different flirting with girls. If Felix was a girl, I would be all charming and touchy-feely and wink and compliment her and we would both know where things would end up in the end.
With Felix, I haven’t got a clue. I don’t know where he falls, whether he is straight or gay or whatever he defines as. He might just think of me as some big brother figure. Someone who makes him feel safe. Someone who he kisses and clings to and cuddles. He seems as confused as me. His hand shaking a little as he pours the boiling water in the cup. Stirs with a teaspoon. Spills a little on the side.
I try to be helpful. I mean, I try to wipe it up with a tea towel, only to nudge his arm with my elbow which makes us both jump. I spill half of his tea. The cup spinning on the worktop. Felix’s hand touching mine, as we both try to catch the cup before it falls. Me catching it and Felix jolting back like he has been burnt. He is sucking his finger into his mouth. Catching my eye and not looking away. He just looks at me, all eyes and hurt and feelings and… I don’t know. I suppose it’s heat. Desire.
It makes me a bit crazy. I mean, I am already crazy, but I think I must be crazier than should be allowed, because I grab his face with both hands and launch at those lips. Just smashing my mouth on his. Walking him backwards until he is being squashed against the kitchen table that is creaking and scratching along the floor under the weight of us.
I am panting. Hard. Being the worst kisser in the world. There is nothing sensual or soft about me and my kissing. Not like I would kiss a girl. I am kissing Felix because I need to. Because I am desperate and because his hands are fisting the hair on my head, pulling and scratching my scalp whilst he catches his breath. Letting his forehead rest against mine, breathing hard and fast against my lips.
Then, he starts to kiss me. Properly kiss me. The way I should have been kissing him. Lips and tongues and more than a little bit of teeth, hard and hot and making me feel lightheaded. I am not breathing properly. Not getting enough oxygen to my brain. Grinding against him. Rutting and jerking whilst he is whimpering and panting and making all these little sounds that just egg me on.
I don’t know what I am doing. I don’t know what got into me. I let go. I let him go. Pull my hands back and step away from him. Wiping my mouth with the back of my hand. Stumbling backwards and blinking into the light like I have just woken up.
“I shouldn’t have done that.” I mumble. Well I shouldn’t. I wasn’t supposed to do that.
About the Author
Sophia Soames should be old enough to know better but has barely grown up. She has been known to fangirl over tv-shows, has fallen in and out of love with more pop stars than she dares to remember, and has a ridiculously high-flying (un)glamourous real-life job.
Her long suffering husband just laughs at her antics. Their children are feral. The Au Pair just sighs.
She lives in a creaky old house in rural London, although her heart is still in Scandinavia.
Discovering that the stories in her head make sense when written down has been part of the most hilarious midlife crisis ever and she hopes it may long continue.
Miriam Latu is a Norway based artist, specializing in hand drawn pencil portraits. She works with old-school pen and paper, and more of her work can be found on Instagram.