Cover Reveal + Giveaway: Summer of Hush by R.L. Merrill



Author R.L. Merrill and Other worlds Ink share the new cover for re-release, Summer of Hush! Check the updated cover, find out more about the rockstar romance and enter in the $10 Amazon gift card giveaway!


Summer of Hush - R.L. Merrill

R.L. Merrill has a hot new MM Rock 'n Roll romance out, and we have the cover reveal: "Summer of Hush." Plus there's a giveaway!
Hush is back… and it’s about to get loud. After two years grieving the death of his best friend, Silas Franklin is back on the road with his metalcore band, Hush. With a new member, a brilliant new album, and a headlining spot on the last cross-country Warped Tour, life couldn’t be better—unless Silas could meet the intriguing music blogger known only as the Guru.
Silas has followed his blog for years and feels the Guru might be the only person who “gets” him. For years Krishnan Guruvayoor has reported on the metal scene as an anonymous blogger, and he’s just landed an internship on the Warped Tour as well as a potential position with a well-respected music magazine.
His best friend arranges for him to meet singer Silas Franklin—but only as Krish the Intern. Their chemistry is instant, and Krish is thrilled to get to know the man behind the music. The rock star and blogger quickly go from meet-cute to cuddle session, but secrets, overprotective bandmates, meddling media, and a terrible accident all conspire against them.
Can their romance survive the summer of Hush?
This is a rerelease.

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Giveaway
R.L. is giving away a $10 Amazon gift card with this tour. Enter via Rafflecopter:
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Excerpt

Summer of Hush meme - R.L. Merrill
Krish’s finger hovered over the Play button.
What if it’s not enough?
Krish sat in his bedroom. His last final was this morning, meaning he’d unceremoniously finished college. He came straight home from school to start his new adventure. But before the insanity started, he had something very important to listen to—an album he’d been waiting two whole years to hear. The band was Hush. The album, Sunrise, was their fifth studio album since their founding in 2008.
It would break his heart to give a negative review to his favorite band. His alter ego, the Guru, was known for his brutally honest metal reviews. He had a million subscribers on his YouTube channel, where he posted weekly animated shows, five hundred thousand Twitter users who followed his musical and political rants, and his blog posts were often mentioned on such popular sites as Metal Hammer, Loudwire, and even HuffPost. He owed his readers an accurate review, even if he was conflicted.
What if losing their guitarist meant the end of Hush? He’d loved them since his brother introduced him to music—specifically metalcore—and though he loved them best, he tried to be impartial to all of the bands he reviewed, from live performances and new albums to whatever he felt the need to riff on.
And then there were his posts about social issues, namely mental health and the LGBTQ community. Those tended to get really personal, and after Gavin West committed suicide, his love of music and his personal life intersected. The blog he wrote about Gavin’s death was his most viewed ever and the one he almost didn’t post.
“Krish, darling, did you want anything to eat? You didn’t have lunch, sweetheart. I am worried about you.”
Krish’s mom stuck her head in his room and found him in the same position—earbuds in, finger over the button, and holding his breath.
“Is it the new album from Hush?”
Krish nodded.
“How is it?”
“I’m afraid to play it.”
His mom patted him on the shoulder. She knew how devastated he had been by the death of one of his favorite musicians nearly two years prior. She’d cried alongside him, just as she had a year before that when they lost his brother.
“Whatever they’ve done, it will be beautiful. They’re talented boys.”
Krish smiled up at his mom. How he managed to land the coolest Indian mom on the planet was a mystery he’d yet to solve. She indulged his every passion, from music to politics to books and his guilty pleasure, video games. Her own childhood had not been so free, so she was determined her boys would be able to do whatever they wanted with their lives. For Vivaan, that meant joining the Marines after college. For Krish, it meant a career in music journalism, and now that he’d finished his degrees, he was anxious to get started.
“Have you finished packing?” she asked him.
Krish swallowed hard. Warped Tour. The other benefit of his blog was that he’d caught the attention of Alt-Scene magazine. Their assistant to the editor in chief had arranged for Krish to join the tour. He’d remain anonymous and only the tour office manager would know who he was and why he was there. To everyone else he was just her intern. He’d post his blog as usual but also work on a piece for the magazine. If the magazine liked how he covered the tour, there was a full-time position waiting for him at the end of it.
“Mostly. Jake’s not picking me up until Friday morning. That means I have one more day to stress over what I can and can’t fit into the one duffel bag I’m allowed to bring on the bus.”
She smiled at him and tugged on his shaggy curls. “A whole summer on a bus. I hope you made room for air freshener and hand sanitizer.”
“There will be women on the bus. I’m sure between them they’ll have something that smells nice.”
“It’s been wonderful having you home,” she said, her voice softer. “I’m going to miss you.”
“I’ll miss you too, but it’s only two months,” he answered. Krish had moved home when they received the devastating news about his brother, and he’d commuted to UC San Diego for the remainder of his time there, needing to be near his parents as they all worked through their grief. Now that he’d graduated, it was time to start the next chapter in his life, and he’d been given the opportunity of a lifetime.
“The first two months of the rest of your life. This is an exciting time for you.”
He heard the tears behind her voice. He couldn’t look at her or he’d be lost.
“I wish he were here,” Krish said quietly. His brother should be having his own adventures while cheering on his little Guru. But Krish was on his own now, and it was time to think about not only starting a career and leaving the nest, but standing on his own without his biggest supporter.
“I’ll come down in a second.” Krish hugged her waist and exhaled a shaky breath.
“I’ll heat up some dinner.”
“Is there any of that tandoori chicken left?” he called to her.
“I’ll heat some up for you. Don’t get lost up here. Just push Play.”
She totally understood him. “Thanks, Mom.”

Author Bio

R.L. Merrill
R.L. Merrill brings you stories of Hope, Love, and Rock 'n' Roll featuring quirky and relatable characters. Whether she’s writing about contemporary issues that affect us all or diving deep into the paranormal and supernatural to give readers a shiver, she loves creating compelling stories that will stay with readers long after.
Winner of the Kathryn Hayes “When Sparks Fly” Best Contemporary award for Hurricane Reese, Foreword INDIES finalist for Summer of Hush and RONE finalist for Typhoon Toby, Ro spends every spare moment improving her writing craft and striving to find that perfect balance between real-life and happily ever after.
She writes diverse and inclusive romance, contributes paranormal hilarity to Robyn Peterman’s Magic and Mayhem Universe, and works on various other writing and mentoring projects that tickle her fancy or benefit a worthy cause.
You can find her connecting with readers on social media, educating America’s youth, raising two brilliant teenagers, trying desperately to get that back piece finished in the tattoo chair, or headbanging at a rock show near her home in the San Francisco Bay Area! Stay Tuned for more Rock 'n' Romance.
Author Website: https://www.rlmerrillauthor.com
Author Facebook (Personal): https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100005746815103
Author Facebook (Author Page): https://www.facebook.com/rlmerrillauthor
Author Twitter: https://www.twitter.com/rlmerrillauthor
Author Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/rlmerrillauthor
Author Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/9828914.R_L_Merrill
Author QueeRomance Ink: https://www.queeromanceink.com/mbm-book-author/r-l-merrill/
Author Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/R-L-Merrill/e/B00PI6Q1LI/

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Guest Review: The Redemption of River (Sex in Seattle #4) by Eli Easton

River Larsen is a world traveler, truth-seeker, and tantric healer. He’s a master of loving all—and no one. Both his past and his spiritual path warn him against attachment. When he falls for his surrogacy client and coffee magnate, Brent McKay, River tells himself it’s a temporary idyll, a beautiful encounter they’ll both enjoy and move on from like two ships passing in the stream of life. Except his heart misses that memo.

Brent McKay hasn’t been interested in sex since his wife died two years ago. When he goes to Expanded Horizons sex clinic in Seattle for help, he meets River Larsen, a sex surrogate specializing in reiki massage and tantric sex therapy. Brent never expected to be interested in a man, but River’s light-filled spirit, inner peace, and electric touch bring him back to life. Brent’s loyal heart is ready to commit again. But how can he convince River that love can last forever—if you just have faith?

The Redemption of River features a widower who surprises the hell out of himself, a gorgeous hippy who thinks he’s a dandelion puff, an age gap, midlife discovery of bisexuality, foodie Seattle, a houseboat, dogs, a trip to Mumbai, and tantric secrets. (You know, the ones that let you have sex for hours. Those secrets.)


Reviewer: Shee Reader

I’d previously read the other books in the series and was delighted when I saw this one up for review. It was well worth the wait, and River and Brent were the cutest couple, who could give anyone a hope for a happily ever after!

Brent married his high school sweetheart and had a long and happy marriage until cancer stole Kathy away. He’s been grieving for a long time but decides it is time to face his lack of sex drive with the help of a sex surrogate recommended by his therapist.

Enter River, the spiritual healer and tantric expert who has just landed in Seattle as a house sitter and gotten a job at Expanded Horizons clinic. River is a traveller and seeker with a less than ideal experience of family.

River has never felt the desire to settle and put down roots until now, but getting involved with a former straight client who owns the coffee shop River is working in, is definitely not in the plan. But Brent is amazing, and Brent and River together is something even more special.

I adored this book! Obviously there are plenty of sexy times, but the healing sessions are more about how Brent’s body has internalised the trauma of his wife’s death and how River works to help Brent to release the pain. The romance and exploration is more significant than the sex, and the sweetness and hope are a delight.

The writing is lovely, and the characters are so well developed, flaws and all, and the HEA is everything you would hope it to be.

Highly recommended.

I was given free copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.




Blog Tour + Giveaway: Innovation Flash Fiction Anthology by Various Authors


Queer Sci Fi Ink returns with the annual flash fiction anthology titled Innovation! Discover more from the seventh annual anthology that features stories from 120 authors and enter in the giveaway:  win your choice of a $20 Amazon gift card OR a print copy of four of the other five flash fiction books in the series – Flight, Renewal, Impact, and Migration (US only unless you are willing to pay the shipping outside the US)! Good luck!


Innovation


Queer Sci Fi's sixth annual flash fiction anthology is here - "Innovation" - and there's a giveaway too!

IN-NO-VA-TION (Noun)
1) A new idea, method, or device.

2) The introduction of something new.

3) The application of better solutions to meet unarticulated needs.

Three definitions to inspire writers around the world and an unlimited number of possible stories to tell. Here are 120 of our favorites.

Innovation features 300-word speculative flash fiction stories from across the rainbow spectrum, from the minds of the writers of Queer Sci Fi.


Other Worlds Ink | Amazon Kindle | Amazon Paperback | iBooks | Barnes & Noble | Kobo | Goodreads




Giveaway

Queer Sci Fi is giving away your choice of a $20 Amazon gift card OR a print copy of four of the other five flash fiction books in the series – Flight, Renewal, Impact, and Migration (US only unless you are willing to pay the shipping outside the US) with this tour. Enter via Rafflecopter:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Direct Link: http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/b60e8d47138/?




Excerpts


Innovation meme

“The fields are overgrown, have been for years with all the Bios underground. The wind kisses the grass in serpentine patterns long forgotten, patterns the Bios couldn’t imagine anymore. My mechanical hand stores the seed envelope in the mechanical pocket in my androgynous torso. In these suits, there is no gender. Gender is, always has been, in the mind. And I am finally, unequivocally, female.” —Seed, by Val Muller

“No one in the village knew what the Change would bring. They never saw it happen. They only knew what they had been promised: the Change would bestow three gifts.” —A New Way, by Rory Ni Coileain

“The girl kissed her, hard. Then backed away, grinning, teasing, drawing her to the end of the hallway and a flight of stairs leading downward. She took two steps and gazed back up at Lilian, one hand outstretched. Her brilliant red lipstick wasn’t even smudged. Her skin glowed in the harsh white torchlight.” —The Thing With the Bats, by Mary Francis

“Interspecies sex is outlawed on the Freespec Interplanetary Space Station. Politicians call it a safety measure. But I’ve been in the Medical Corps for half my lifecycle, and I call it criminally negligent prudery. Leaders would rather let innocents die needlessly—punctured by sperm darts and dissolved in sacks of voltaic pleasure mucus—than give them the knowledge to express their feelings safely.” — Are My Underwater Sperm Darts Normal?, Brenna Harvey

“The bell’s brassy gong echoes through the flat; the walls blush crimson. See, see! He’s at my door. The live feed shows him sniff his armpit; cup his breath. He wants to impress, but I’m impressed already. His lips softly part; he brushes them with stubby fingers, as he waits. Ugly fingers. Ugly hands. Scrawny neck. Milky eyes. But those lips, see, they’re perfect, just perfect. Plump n’ pale, a slither of my future.” —Just perfect, by Redfern Jon Barrett

“Lekke looked down over the valley, First People’s home for as long as any tales or dreams could tell. Now only Spirit Dreamer Manoot, neither he nor she but both, and Lekke, elder healer, were left. Lifetimes of Long-legs’ raids had driven First People to their deaths—or, some few, to the Way. If there truly was a Way.” —Going Back,” by Sacchi Green

“Savinna limped into her lover's workshop, her hip still sore from tangling with the marabbecca which had knocked her into its well before she managed to kill it. Such was the life of a monster hunter. Not at all surprised to see Larissa hunched over her bench, hard at work tinkering with something, Savinna ghosted her hand over Larissa’s back.” —Those Who Hunt Monsters, by Jana Denardo

“The baby cried as Freya lowered the bartering bucket into the wishing well. Many had come to the tree-shrouded clearing to make exchanges—a bushel of azure apples for a sword, a woven blanket for a day of rain. The well had been the final creation of a thousand-year-old inventor. But dead wizards often don’t anticipate how their gifts birth consequences.” —The Bartering Bucket, by Diane Callahan




Author Bios

120 authors contributed stories for this volume:

  • Adrik Kemp
  • Alex Silver
  • Alex Stargazer
  • Allan Dyen-Shapiro
  • Andi Deacon
  • Andrea Speed
  • Andrew Vaillencourt
  • Ava Kelly
  • Barbara Johnson-Haddad
  • Barbara Krasnoff
  • Beáta Fülöp
  • Benoit Lafortune
  • Blaine D. Arden
  • Bob Milne
  • Brenna Harvey
  • Brooke K. Bell
  • L. McCartney
  • Cassidy Frazee
  • Chet Gottfried
  • Chloe Spencer
  • Chris Bannor
  • Christine Wright
  • Christopher Koehler
  • Clare London
  • J. Clarke
  • M. Rasch
  • David Gerrold
  • Devon Widmer
  • Diane Callahan
  • L. Harrison
  • Romeis
  • D.E. Bell
  • M. Hamill
  • Edie Montreux
  • Elaine Burnes
  • Eloreen Moon
  • Emilia Agrafojo
  • Emma Johnson-Rivard
  • Eric Warren
  • Evelyn Benvie
  • Gareth Worthington
  • Ginger Streusel
  • Howard V. Hendrix
  • Needham
  • Zachary Pike
  • S. Garner
  • Jade Black
  • James Alan Gardner
  • Jamie Lackey
  • Jana Denardo
  • Jasie Gale
  • Jeff Jacobson
  • Jennie L. Morris
  • Jet Lupin
  • Jon Miller
  • Jonathan Fesmire
  • Joshua Ian
  • Julian Maxwell
  • Kitts
  • L. Townsend
  • S. Marsden
  • KA Masters
  • Katelyn Cameron
  • Kellie Doherty
  • Kevin Andrew Murphy
  • Kevin Klehr
  • Kim Fielding
  • Kitt Harris
  • Koji A. Dae
  • S. Reinholt
  • V. Lloyd
  • LC Treeheart
  • Lee Jordan
  • Lee Soeburn
  • Lou Sylvre
  • X. Kelly
  • Maria Zoccola
  • Mary E. Lowd
  • Mary Francis
  • Mary Kuna
  • Matt Doyle
  • Mere Rain
  • Milo Owen
  • Minerva Cerridwen
  • Naomi Tajedler
  • Nathan Alling Long
  • Nathaniel Taff
  • Nicole Dennis
  • Nina Kiriki Hoffman
  • Noah K. Sturdevant
  • Patricia Scott
  • Paul Uebler
  • E. Carr
  • L. Merrill
  • Raine Norman
  • Ray Lidstone
  • RE Andeen
  • Redfern Jon Barrett
  • Rory Eggleston
  • Rory Ni Coileain
  • Rosalie Wessel
  • S S Long
  • Sara Testarossa
  • Sean Ian O'Meidhir
  • Shannon Brady
  • Shannon Yseult
  • Skip J. Hanford
  • Stephen B. Pearl
  • Stephen J. Wolf
  • Steve Carr
  • Stone Franks
  • Stuart Conover
  • Susan James
  • Sydney Blackburn
  • T. Thomas
  • W. Cox
  • Tom Jolly
  • Val Muller
  • Warren Rochelle
  • William Tate

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Release Blitz + Giveaway: Wild Warrior (The Weavers Circle #2) by Jocelynn Drake & Rinda Elliott


Join authors Jocelynn Drake & Rinda Elliott along with IndiGo Promotions in celebrating the release of Wild Warrior (The Weavers Circle, #2)! Find out more about this fantasy romance, read an excerpt & enter in the $25 Amazon gift card giveaway too! Good luck!



Title: Wild Warrior
Series: The Weavers Circle #2
Author: Jocelynn Drake & Rinda Elliott
Publisher: Drake & Elliott Publishing LLC
Release Date: August 7, 2020
Heat Level: 4 - Lots of Sex
Pairing: Male/Male
Length: 106,000
Genre: Romance, Fantasy

Add to Goodreads


Synopsis


Baer Manning

What happens when Baer spills his big
secret about monsters and magic to a total stranger?

Chaos.

In Baer’s defense, he really thought
Wiley was a lost brother.

This case of mistaken identity forces
the cute artist to stay at the plantation house for his own protection while
they search for a way to take down a witch.

Wiley Stuart

He never should have gotten in Baer’s
Jeep.

But in Wiley’s defense, Baer is really
sexy. And funny. And so sweet. And did he mention sexy?

All his life he’d dreamed of superheroes
and a life of action. He just never expected to find himself swept up into a
world filled with monsters and goddesses.

Wiley will do anything to stay with this
magical band of brothers and help them with their fight. He just wished he
could be Baer’s soul mate.

Wild Warrior is the second book in the
Weavers Circle series. It includes fast-paced action, running through Savannah,
secrets, swimming pool fun, shapeshifting, an elephant, sexy times, lots of
snakes, insecurity, three crazy old ladies, and magic!

Excerpt



There were about five people ahead of
Baer in line—all of them staring at their phones or the shiny glass case of a
tantalizing rainbow of doughnuts and pastries. Including the sexy blond Mini
Cooper owner who was right in front of Baer in line. While Baer was a
relatively average height of five ten, the blond was at least a delicate five
seven or maybe five eight. The guy looked up from his phone as Baer stepped up
behind him, and he flashed a nervous smile.

“Hey,” he greeted in a slightly husky
voice and then flushed some more.

Yeah, this guy was all kinds of
adorable.

“Mornin’,” Baer replied. “You ever been
here before?”

The man shook his head, shoving his
phone into his pocket. “No. It was recommended to me recently. When I woke up
this morning, I just had to have doughnuts.” He gave a nervous little laugh. “I
guess that’s the result of nonstop marketing at its best. It’s fall, so we’ve
all gotta eat pumpkin-flavored everything for the next month.”

Blondie had the sexiest southern drawl.
It wasn’t too thick. Probably a local, but he’d spent some time out of the
area. Just enough to lose some of its natural thickness, but those lilting
drawls still mesmerized Baer when he spoke, leaving him wondering how his lips
and tongue wrapped around each vowel and consonant.

Good grief.  He really did need to
grab Grey for a boys’ night out in Savannah if he was going to start
fantasizing about a nerdy twink’s mouth. Soul mates and forever sounded great,
but it was clear that he needed to get laid. And what better time was there?
Things were quiet. They weren’t running and fighting for their lives.

Pumpkin doughnuts and sex could do a
growing boy good.

The bell hanging from the front door
announced the arrival of another customer. Baer was about to ask the man’s name
when the heavy scent of rotting flesh rolled through the room, overpowering the
delicious miasma of frosting and fried dough.

Fuck.

He didn’t even need to turn around to
know that behind him, pestilents had stepped into the bakery. It wasn’t enough
that the alien race was attempting to steal the power of the earth to save
their own dying planet while killing all Weavers in the process, but they had
to interrupt his attempts at flirting as well? Just not cool.

Silently, Baer cursed himself and his
luck. They’d all grown a little complacent over the past couple of months.
They’d even started venturing away from the protection of the plantation
without backup because the pestilents had stopped attacking.

Apparently they’d gathered enough
numbers to make another go at the Weavers, and he’d not been paying enough
attention to his surroundings to check to make sure there were no pestilents
close. Instead of checking in with the animals in the area that there were no
pestilents around, he’d let himself get distracted by big chestnut-brown eyes
and a sweet smile.

Twisting around to glance over his
shoulder, Baer swore under his breath to find a male and female pestilent
standing in front of the door. Humans wouldn’t notice anything different about
them, but Weavers could. The air wavered around them as if they radiated heat.
And, of course, there was the godawful stench. Pestilents were not meant for
this world, and their bodies started rotting from the moment they arrived.
Their time in this place was limited, but what time they had was spent trying
to kill the Weavers.

The pestilent woman wore a pair of
ragged jeans, and her brown hair was pulled back in a tight ponytail, making
her angular features seem that much sharper. A feral grin pulled across her
thin lips when she spotted him. She lifted the shotgun in her hands to her
shoulder and pointed it straight at his chest.

Baer sucked in a breath. Was she really
going to open fire in a small building crowded with people? Everyone was going
to be killed or injured. Not only one fucking Weaver.

Pivoting on the balls of his feet, Baer
wrapped an arm around Blondie’s slender waist and dove over the closest
table. A shocked yelp left the man’s lips, but he didn’t fight Baer as they
tumbled to the floor. With his free hand, Baer grabbed the edge of the table,
pulling it onto its side. They landed with the surprisingly thick wooden
barrier at their backs just as the shotgun exploded in the room, slamming into
the far side of the table and a scattering of chairs.

Purchase at Amazon

Get both in the Series

Meet the Author

 


Jocelynn Drake and Rinda Elliott have teamed up to combine their evil genius to create intense gay romantic suspense stories that have car chases, shoot outs, explosions, scorching hot love scenes, and tender, tear-jerking moments. Their first joint books are in the Unbreakable Bonds series.


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Blog Tour + Giveaway: Too Close to the Flame by Ryan Taylor & Joshua Harwood


Authors Ryan Taylor & Joshua Harwood, along with IndiGo Marketing, return with a new blog tour for Too Close to the Flame! The authors share an account of what romance means to a person who inspired the romance. Check that out and also the giveaway where you can possibly win a $25 Amazon gift card!


Title: Too Close to the Flame
Author: Ryan Taylor & Joshua Harwood
Publisher: Wainscott Press
Release Date: July 31, 2020
Heat Level: 3 - Some Sex
Pairing: Male/Male
Length: 86,000 words
Genre: Romance, Hurt/Comfort Gay Romance, Sweet Gay Romance

Add to Goodreads

Synopsis


Can he ever learn to trust again?

Brandon Weber’s old boyfriend almost beat him to death. Brandon survived, but still bears the emotional scars. Eighteen months later, he has withdrawn into himself, convinced he’ll never be able to trust another man.

Devin Macadam, fresh out of law school, has an exciting new job. He is also on the lookout for just the right guy, someone to take care of and love.

When Devin shows up for the first day of work at his new office, he meets Brandon, a legal assistant there. Sparks fly, but Brandon is paralyzed by fear and isn’t about to give another man the power to hurt him again. Devin, never one to give up easily, doesn’t want to take no for an answer. Both men feel the magic, but can their relationship ever get past the friend zone?

Too Close to the Flame is a dark-to-light, sweet romance featuring out and proud gay men, lots of feels, steamy love scenes, and a wonderful happy ending. The book is approximately 86,000 words and has X-Ray enabled for your reading pleasure.

Trigger Warning: Too Close to the Flame contains specific memories of physical abuse.

Excerpt




I raced into the kitchen like a madman, afraid that something was on fire. Acrid, gray smoke billowed out of the toaster, and I barely kept from yelling in frustration. Everything was going wrong this morning. My alarm hadn’t gone off, the water in the shower was cold, I cut myself shaving, and my best blue suit had come back from the dry cleaner with a stain on the lapel.

After unplugging the toaster, I used a fork to coax out the pieces of charcoal that used to be a bagel. Damn it!—it was the last one. Now I’d have to take time to scramble eggs, because there was no way I could go to my first day at a new job on an empty stomach.

Returning to the bedroom, I decided my gray suit would have to do. A white shirt and maroon Hermès tie made it look better than it was, and I wore my black cap toe oxfords. They were comfortable and looked great with the suit. Another glance in the mirror and I headed back into the kitchen, where I barely had time to cook and inhale three eggs. The drive to the office had taken about fifteen minutes when I did a practice run a few days earlier, but I wanted to leave half an hour early just in case.

The extra time turned out to be a good thing. Traffic on Massachusetts Avenue was mostly fine, but there was an accident where I was supposed to turn onto 9th Street. I sat for ten minutes waiting to make the turn. “Fuck!” I yelled about five minutes into the delay, and banged on the steering wheel for good measure. I ended the tantrum with a long blast of my horn.

My new job was a good one, and I wanted to do well. I had to be ready to do anything, as soon as I was asked to do it. Furthermore, I had to do a kickass job because I didn’t want anyone thinking I got the position because of my last name. But being the best wasn’t only measured by doing great work. Early and eager were watchwords I needed to live by.

Waiting for the intersection to clear, I thought back over the last few months. When I graduated from law school in May, I felt like I had the world by the tail—law degree, awesome boyfriend, and a job waiting at one of the hottest boutique firms in the nation’s capital. Things changed when I got home from bar exam prep class one day and heard a strange knocking noise in the bedroom. Afraid someone had broken in, I picked up a baseball bat that was leaning against the wall—I hadn’t put it away after our game the night before—and slowly crept through the apartment. When I pushed the bedroom door open, I almost threw up. My awesome boyfriend was riding one of our supposed best friends in the middle of our goddamned bed, his face screwed up in the ecstatic expression I’d thought was only for me to see. He must have heard the door creak, because he opened his eyes and smiled. “Hey, Dev. Want to join?”

Barely resisting the urge to wield my bat on both of them, I left the apartment and went to cry on my friend Jacob’s shoulder. He was a 2L, a year behind me, and was my best buddy since I helped with orientation for his class. After listening to me curse fate for a while, he pointed out that the lease to the apartment I shared with my ex-boyfriend was in my name. After a beer to soothe my nerves, he and I walked back the building where I lived. The ex-boyfriend was gone, so Jacob and I packed up his stuff and carried it out onto the front steps.

A honking horn brought me back to the present. Traffic was moving again, and I made it to the office with five minutes to spare. After introducing myself to the receptionist, I asked for Liam Macadam, my new boss. She made a quick call, but it wasn’t Liam who came around the corner thirty seconds later. An impossibly beautiful man with light blond hair and sparkling, sapphire eyes, put out a hand. “I’m Brandon Weber.”

I took his hand and —whoa!— the spark flew right up my arm. I jerked away. “Sorry. Static electricity?”

We both chuckled but he seemed frozen in place as he didn’t put his arm down. Seeing too good an opportunity to pass up, I reached for his hand again. He widened his eyes and I realized I needed to say something. “I’m Devin Macadam. Today is my first day.”

Brandon broadened his smile and nodded. “I know who you are. I’m Liam’s assistant. He’s running a little late, but he’ll be here soon.”

I gave him a flirty smile but couldn’t seem to move. After a moment, Brandon tugged his hand away. “Why don’t I show you your office and give you a tour?”

The spell was broken, and I quickly put my professional expression back on. “That sounds good. This is a nice place.”

“We like it. It’s an old warehouse, and you should have seen it when Liam and Michael—the first two partners—rented it. The building was a disaster and needed to be completely renovated. I can’t believe it’s the same place.”

A small cleft in Brandon’s chin caught my eye, and it was a few beats too long before I answered. “Yeah, it’s nice.” Oh God, get a grip. He’s a guy, that’s all.

Brandon put a hand on my elbow and guided us down the hallway. I noticed that he moved with an unusual, stiff gait. Three doors in, on the right, he held out his hand. “Here we are.”

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What Is Romance?
By Brandon Weber

Story by Ryan Taylor & Joshua Harwood

I was surprised when Ryan and Josh approached me about using me as a character in their book, to say the least. At first I wasn’t sure I wanted to put myself out there like that, considering everything from my past, but if my story could help raise awareness of an important issue, I was all in. For a while, I could have been a poster boy for what could go wrong in gay relationships, and now—thanks to an incredible man named Devin Macadam—I could be a poster boy for what can go right. All this got me thinking about romance and what it means to me.

The dictionary will tell you that romance is a love story. That is right, as far as it goes, but what does it really mean? Courting, flirting, and kisses? Sweaty nights and magnificent mornings? Eloquent professions of feelings? Yes, yes, and yes—but so much more besides.

At one time, I thought romance meant having a boyfriend to depend on and take care of. I assumed he would do the same thing for me, but I learned the hard way that I couldn’t count on that. The last thing I expected was for someone I thought I loved to use me, steal from me, and beat the hell out of me.

That doesn’t mean you can’t count on a boyfriend and take care of him. What it means is that you can’t rely on your relationship for your sense of worth and self-esteem. You have to be secure about who you are and what you need. That way, both of you are helping each other, giving to each other. Neither of you is subservient, and nobody controls the other. The romance street is definitely two-way. So, what do I think romance is?

Romance is a fresh start. We all have pasts full of great memories, regrets, and things we’d rather forget. All that is valuable because it makes us who we are. Our pasts are what deliver us to the present, and whenever we go into a romance, it’s our past that got us there. If we enter a relationship taking everything we’ve learned with us, we get a fresh start. 

Romance is an adventure. Everyone knows love is a lot of fun at the beginning. A well-kept secret is that it can be an adventure the whole time. The day you stop trying to learn about each other, the day you stop having fun with the small things, and the day you stop trying to solve problems together—that is the day you’re in trouble. People are always changing, so there’s something new to learn about your partner, even if you’ve been together for fifty years or more. Can you have fun making coffee together, or appreciate having someone to recap the day with when you get home from work? If so, you’re damn lucky. Can you focus on finding a solution to a disagreement instead of beating it into the ground? Must be love. All that is adventure—you never quite know how it’s all going to turn out, but you enjoy the hell out of the journey.

Romance is hard work. That’s why everyone doesn’t have it. Early on, he’s new, he’s good looking, and things are exciting. The sex is great, and everything seems easy. Things get more difficult as time goes on and his face isn’t new anymore. People change, their looks evolve, and even the same old sex becomes boring. Focus on the person you love, and see their changes as evidence of everything you’ve been through together. Patience is a lot easier to find when you remember that the guy who’s wearing on your nerves is the same man who made your heart skip a beat when he asked you out the first time. It’s not much of a problem to keep sex exciting if you’re both open to trying things and willing to venture beyond what you’ve always done. The catch is that all this requires effort; the thrill is that the rewards are phenomenal.

Romance is beautiful. Fun dates, special memories, sweaty sheets—no one would deny the glory in all that. What about patience, forgiveness, and being the one to say, “I’m sorry”? All that is magical. It transforms what can get pretty ugly into something incomparably beautiful. Don’t miss out.

Romance isn’t the end of your dreams, but the beginning. So many people spend their lives waiting for “the one,” whether they admit it or not. We all have dreams, and we desperately want to find the person to complete them. What if the right person is not the one who completes what you’ve always wanted, but leads you to it? That could well be the best gift of all, and it’s something worth waiting for.

I don’t know everything, although you may think I sound like it. It’s just that I’ve made a lot of mistakes and bad choices. I’ve been lucky enough to find a wonderful man in Devin Macadam, and if I have anything to do with it, I plan to keep our romance alive for the rest of my life.


Brandon Weber is a legal assistant at Macadam, Lawton, Roth & Roth in Washington, DC. He was part of the inspiration for the new book Too Close to the Flame, by Ryan Taylor & Joshua Harwood.

Meet the Author

Ryan Taylor and Joshua Harwood met in law school and were married in 2017. They live in a suburb of Washington, DC, and share their home with a big, cuddly German shepherd. Ryan and Josh enjoy travel, friends, and advocating for causes dear to their hearts. In addition, Ryan loves to swim, and Josh likes to pretend he has a green thumb every chance he gets. Both men love writing, and the romance they were so lucky to find with each other inspires their stories about love between out and proud men. You can contact them through their website at www.ryanandjoshth.com.

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