Tag Team Review: Dragon's Heat (City Dragons #1) by Lisa Oliver

Jon Erskine had made a good life for himself as one of the top Forensic Accounts and Systems Analysts in the country. He doesn't mind working with paranormal clients - after all, he's a shifter himself. However, he could do without all the slurs and derogatory comments. Not all shifters are wolves, bears and other predators. Still, his expertise and reputation is solid and Jon is more than capable of holding his own. That is until Dirk Hollingsworth runs from his office.

Dirk is running out of time. He has to find out who's been stealing from his company before his father turns up for his wedding in three weeks' time. Acting on the recommendation of a friend, Dirk turns to Jon, or at least thinks about it. That is, until he catches the man's scent in the doorway of his office and does a runner. Not the proudest moment for one of the proudest of all shifters, but Dirk has a responsibility to his clan and catching the tantalizing scent of a dog isn't going to change anything. Or so he thinks.

Family betrayals, a strong-willed dragon spirit; all things collide as Jon and Dirk struggle to find common ground. Calling off the wedding is easy; staying alive might be that much harder.

Lorix - 4 Hearts
... I think.

I have to admit I am slightly in a muddle about how to rate this book, it's a strange one alright. My initial reaction is that this book is weird - but - yep, there's a but - I couldn't stop reading it. I enjoyed it. My head was telling me one thing (poor format, lazy characterisation, sometimes just odd) but my heart just went ahead and enjoyed it anyway. And I want to read the next one. Which is how I came to the 4 heart rating. I pretty much agree with everything Lost says, I really do, however all that aside I enjoyed reading about dirk and Jon. 

The shifter world here is different to others I have read about and I embraced that. Dirk was an arsehole... but I didn't hate him entirely. Jon was lovely and redeemed a lot of this book. It was an odd little number really, but I read for enjoyment and entertainment and sometimes that just beats logical thought entirely.  Go figure.


Lost in a Book -2 Hearts

I've expended enough brain power trying to figure out how to start this review and every time I come back to same thought.

wtf.gif

I had to keep checking the book info just to make sure it wasn't listed as a shifter parody. My enjoyment might have gone up a smidgen if it was. My first thought was that it’s silly and cartoonish which is disappointing as I'm a fan of the alpha-shifter-growly-fated mate vibe. I think the intention was the latter based on the synopsis, but it wasn't executed properly. Not even a little bit.

I'm hoping you guys have read the synopsis so I can go ahead and make my case for its immediate citizenship approval to WTF-ville.

Exhibit A:
When Dirk catches a whiff of Jon and immediately realizes it's his fated mate, he runs the other way (against his dragon's wishes) because there is zero chance he would mate with a lowly dog.

Exhibit B: Dirk and his dragon were practically written as two separate beings that shared the same body. They had actual conversations about vacation spots, cuddling, etc... I get more of a Pete's Dragon (circa 1977) than a fiery alpha "proudest of all shifters" feel.

”We should take him on holiday and lavish lots of attention on him until he knows better; somewhere with lots of sun.”

”Ooh, our mate is soooo smart.”

petes dragon.gif

Exhibit C: Dirk dream-walks with his dragon to talk some sense into him. Dirk doesn't want to claim his mate so he tries to reason with his dragon in hopes it will stop putting him in mating heat. The dragon disagrees with the decision and removes himself until Dirk changes his ways.

“Fine. I will stop it. In fact, you won’t notice me at all.”

Exhibit D: Dirk comes up with a plan to use his mate for personal gain (again, bizarro world) which doesn't work. Once Dirk has been tortured enough by his own dragon, his dragon breaks free to find and claim Jon. Of course Jon forgives instantly, they find a little motel to have sex, get their claiming marks and are talking about adopting within hours.

Exhibit E: Lets not forget the soap opera drama with crazy dads, brothers, cousins, trapping into marriage, pregnant but not yours, attempted murders, embezzlement, getting shot but instead of checking your mate right away you have rational conversations with the two men who aided in the crazy. Around 50% I thought the book was wrapping up due to all the craziness getting resolved that I had to check the menu to see if another book was starting. Not to worry, more boarded the crazy train soon after and kept on going.

Exhibit F: After the claiming, Jon the dog shifter is now able to shoot flames out of HIS FINGERS.

Exhibit G: Dirk's brother challenges him with the intention of becoming head of the company/clan. This is where both dragon forms come out and they fight. But when they got to the challenge, Byron's dragon wouldn't come out to play because he didn't like the way Byron was treating him. Then, and I can't make this shit up...

Exhibit H: Byron's dragon spirit left his body. A little blue dragon spirit FLOATED up and refused to come back until their "human" changed its attitude.

“’You belong in me, dragon. Get your ass over here so I can fight my brother,’ he yelled, flapping his arms around, which when naked is never a good look.”

face palm.gif

Exhibit I: Dirk brings Jon to see his hoard and then they play in the piles of gold and gems.

“Count it. Roll in it. Add to it. Play with it.” Dirk stepped out of his pants and Jon swallowed his drool. “It’s fun. Watch.”

This one I could understand. If I was loaded, I'd probably wanna roll around in my money every once in a while too. *shrug*

moneyy.gif

There are more exhibits of evidence but the defense rests and I hope by now you understand why I’ve granted this book its WTF-ville citizenship card.

key.jpg

When I read shifter books I know I'm going to have to forgive more than I would in regular romance. I can overlook a lot and just pass off the ridiculousness as a mates thing. But this. Can't recommended this one.

A copy of this book was given in exchange for an honest review.
For more information see Goodreads!

Audiobook Review: To Love and To Cherish (Vows #3) by Addison Albright

Companion to ’Til Death Do Us Part

Jilted by his fiancé two weeks before their wedding, Nash Marino’s outlook on life in general, and love in particular, is jaded. After months of couch-surfing, Nash is fed up. He’s sick and tired of his living conditions, worn out by the demands of his nursing job, and despairs of ever finding love again. In fact, he doesn’t think he’s capable of true love. Monogamy, commitment, companionship, and regular sex ... that’s all he wants, and the sooner, the better.

When Nash crosses paths with a like-minded man who’s also in need of a live-in nurse for a beloved relative, Nash figures all his problems are solved. But matters are complicated by a freak accident and amnesia. When Nash’s marriage of convenience scheme is muddied by notions of love after his memory reboot, will their plans go awry, or will Nash’s new outlook on life be just what the doctor ordered?

Listening Length: 7 hours and 45 minutes
Narrator: David Gilmore


Reviewer: Annika

Let's start this off with a few words about the narration. The narrator, David Gilmore, was ok to listen to. He had a pleasant voice but I felt he had a limited set of voice differentiations for the different characters he was portraying. And at times I also felt that he was only narrating the book and not really trying to add that extra depth of feeling, truly being there with the characters you know. This is not a unique phenomenon as I feel that many narrators end up there, it's just what separates a great narrator from a good one. And David Gilmore firmly ends up in the latter category. So nothing that detracts from the book and the story, but he didn't elevate it either.

We first met Nash in ’Til Death Do Us Part, when he was engaged to Sam. I think we all felt for him, well the whole trio really. Such an impossible situation to find yourself in. Undoubtedly, people will get hurt no matter what. To Love and To Cherish probably can be read as a standalone as it's not heavily interwoven with the previous books and the backstory is explained. That being said, I think you should at least read the first book to fully enjoy this one.


So let's talk a bit about the plot shall we. I mean here Nash is, driving along with his friends to pick up his last few boxes so he can move in with Emmitt. They were generally having a good time...


Along comes a bird...


...and Nash's life will never be the same...

I'll spare you some of the gruesome details, but let's just say, the bird didn't survive the impact with Nash's arm. And it was touch and go for Nash too for a bit there. The result of this freak accident? Well Nash lost all of his memories of the past four months. Along with the memory of his new fiancé... Oh, he remembers that he's engaged - only he thinks he's still with Sam...


Now this could've turned out to be some melodramatic soap opera farce - I mean the setup is all there, but thankfully it wasn't. Nash never tries to win Sam back or mopes and longs for him.

So yeah, this plot device is beyond unbelievable. I mean come on, a bird collides with your arm and you lose the past 4 months of your life? Yeah, don't believe that for a second. But I will confess, that didn't bother me at all. I laughed out loud at the ridiculousness of the accident, and I thoroughly enjoyed myself throughout the book.

I loved Nash and Emmitt and they were just perfect for each other, ridiculous situations and agreements aside. They were fun and sweet, a bit naïve at times, but enjoyable to read about all the same. Sure I didn't get that depth of feeling like I did in the first book, but that was ok, it fit with this book. Angst-free mindless fun.
A fair warning, don't pick this book up and expect a plot anchored with reality, because that's not what you are getting. However you do get a lot of fluff and sweetness, fun and happiness. And lots and lots of love - resistance is futile ;)

A great end to a very, very sweet series with a great amount of love!

A copy of this audiobook was generously provided in exchange for an honest review.






Don't miss the release blitz HERE!

Audiobook Release Blitz + Giveaway: To Love And To Cherish (Vows #3) by Addison Albright


Celebrate the release of audio book To Love And To Cherish (Vows #3) with Addison Albright and Signal Boost Promotions! Narrated by David Gilmore, see more info about the new release below and enter in the backlist giveaway!





Length: 7hrs 45 mins

Narrator: David Gilmore

Vow's Series

'Til Death Do Us Part - Amazon US | Amazon UK | Audible US | Audible UK

From This Day Forward - Amazon US | Amazon UK | Audible US | Audible UK

Blurb

Jilted by his fiancé two weeks before their wedding, Nash Marino's outlook on life in general, and love in particular, is jaded. After months of couch-surfing, Nash is fed up. He's sick and tired of his living conditions, worn out by the demands of his nursing job, and despairs of ever finding love again. In fact, he doesn't think he's capable of true love. Monogamy, commitment, companionship, and regular sex...that's all he wants, and the sooner, the better.


When Nash crosses paths with a like-minded man who's also in need of a live-in nurse for a beloved relative, Nash figures all his problems are solved. But matters are complicated by a freak accident and amnesia. When Nash's marriage of convenience scheme is muddied by notions of love after his memory reboot, will their plans go awry, or will Nash's new outlook on life be just what the doctor ordered?


Companion to Til Death Do Us Part





Author Bio


Addison Albright lives in the middle of the USA with two peculiar cats. Her stories are gay (sometimes erotic) romance, and tend to be sweet man-love in contemporary settings. 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.


eMail: addison.albright@gmail.com

Website/Blog: https://authoraddisonalbright.com

Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/AddisonAlbright

Facebook Profile: https://www.facebook.com/addison.albright.profile

Twitter: http://twitter.com/AddisonAlbright

Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/addisonalbright/

BookBub: https://www.bookbub.com/profile/addison-albright

Queeromance Ink: https://www.queeromanceink.com/mbm-book-author/addison-albright/


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Review: Fangs and Catnip (Dead and Breakfast #1) by Julia Talbot

A romance worth fighting for—tooth and claw.

Solitary vampire Fallon Underwood gets all the social interaction he needs being the silent partner at the Dead and Breakfast B and B high in the Colorado mountains. Change is hard for Fallon, so when his business partner, Tanner, suggests hiring a new manager for the inn, he’s adamant that they don’t need help, especially not in the form of bouncy werecat Carter Hughes.

Carter is a happy-go-lucky kitty, and he loves the hospitality industry, so the D and B ought to be a great place for him. He falls for Fallon as soon as he picks up one of Fallon’s novels and begins to woo the vamp with gifts. When Fallon finally succumbs to Carter’s feline charms, the results are unexpected, to say the least. Their mating will have irreversible consequences—for their bodies and their hearts.


“Tell me a story?”
“What kind of story, sweet? A fairy tale?”
“Once upon a time,” he started, amused to the core.
“Oh, I’m good at those. Once upon a time, there was a werekitty. He came to save a vampire from himself.”
That quote really does sum up this sweet and supernaturally packed book.

Told through dual POV’s, this story begins as we meet werebear Tanner who runs the Dead and Breakfast B and B with his silent vampy partner Fallon. Though Tanner has help with a night manager and a cook for the guests, Tanner is exhausted and his bear would love to get some additional sleep during the winter. When Tanner gets Fallon to agree to hire help, he picks the best candidate to interview and ends up hiring him.

Fallon Underwood is one grumpy and gloomy vamp who is also one hell of a horror author. Housed in the top floor of the B and B, Fallon is a silent and stoic partner of the business, allowing Tanner to handle the day to day giving their menagerie of supernatural guests the best treatment the Colorado mountains can offer. When his best friend comes to him begging for help, Fallon gives in though he can’t quite agree with Tanners choice of a werekitty, but at least it’s not a mummy right?

Carter Hughes is the equivalent to Tigger with his kitty bounce and his sometimes very juvenile way of talking and thinking. Though his speech sometimes drove me nuts, Carter is a smart and caring man who just happens to think Fallon is stunning. Not only does he admire the vamps looks but when Carter gets his puma paws on Fallon’s books, he devours all of them in a matter of days and is head over heels for the author.

This was really sweet. I like that Fallon is all “I’m too old. Too set in my ways. I can’t be with a young cat that bounces” and all that denial he has going for him. When in truth, Fallon is drawn to Carter in ways he can’t quite understand. When Carter starts to woo Fallon with thoughtful gifts, Fallon tries to put a stop to it and let Carter down easy even though that’s not what he real wants to do. But with one whispered apology through a closed door and an overhead fanatic review of Fallon’s work by Carter has the vamp finally deciding that denial really is just a river in Egypt he doesn’t want to go down anymore.

These two were as cute as a vamp and a cat can be. I liked the take on Mates between different beings and how each of them handled it. I adored Carter in his shift and how Fallon saw him as well. Though there is trouble with their mating and all the biting (there is A LOT of biting!) that’s going on, neither man knew it what was going on and it does cause a bit of angst in the book. The angst, for me was unnecessary as it made the story drag on when it could have been dealt with sooner with the doctor but, whatever.

The guests at the B and B are so much fun to read about they really added depth to the story. I loved how many different creatures show up and how they B and B caters to their special needs. It really is a fun place to visit while reading this romance and I truly hope that with this being listed as the Dead and Breakfast series that a certain wolf gets a book possible with a certain doctor? Maybe?






Giveaway + Blog Tour: Infamous (Famous, #2) by Jenny Holiday


Jenny Holiday is making her clubhouse debut to promote Infamous, the second book of her Famous series. There's also a giveaway for a $20 Amazon Gift Card. See the deets below. Good luck!


Hello! I’m Jenny and I’m happy to be here to celebrate the release of Infamous. Infamous is book two in the Famous series, which mixes m/f and m/m romance. (And mixes famous musicians and regular people!) In Infamous, Jesse, our resident bad-boy rock star has to decide if he’s willing to risk his career to be with Hunter, a doctor he’s rapidly falling for. I hope you enjoy it!

About Infamous


All that up-and-coming musician Jesse Jamison has ever wanted is to be on the cover of Rolling Stone. When a gossip website nearly catches him kissing someone who isn’t his famous girlfriend—and also isn’t a girl—he considers the near miss a wake-up call. There’s a lot riding on his image as the super-straight rocker, and if he wants to realize his dreams, he’ll need to toe the line. Luckily, he’s into women too. Problem solved.

After a decade pretending to be his ex’s roommate, pediatrician Hunter Wyatt is done hiding. He might not know how to date in the Grindr world, how to make friends in a strange city, or whether his new job in Toronto is a mistake. But he does know that no one is worth the closet. Not even the world’s sexiest rock star.

As Jesse’s charity work at Hunter’s hospital brings the two closer together, a bromance develops. Soon, Hunter is all Jesse can think about. But when it comes down to a choice between Hunter and his career, he’s not sure he’s brave enough to follow his heart.



About Jenny Holiday

Jenny Holiday started writing in fourth grade, when her aging-hippie teacher, between Pete Seeger songs, gave the kids notebooks and told them to write stories. Jenny’s featured poltergeist, alien invasions, or serial killers who managed to murder everyone except her and her mom. She showed early promise as a romance writer, though, because nearly every story had a happy ending: fictional Jenny woke up to find that the story had been a dream, and that her best friend, father, and sister had not, in fact, been axe-murdered. Today she is a USA Today bestselling author of historical and contemporary romance. She lives in London, Ontario.

Connect with Jenny:
     Website: jennyholiday.com
     Blog: jennyholiday.com/blog
     Twitter: @jennyholi




To celebrate the release of Infamous, one lucky winner will receive a $20 Amazon gift card! Leave a comment with your contact info to enter the contest. Entries close at midnight, Eastern time, on December 2, 2017. Contest is NOT restricted to U.S. entries. Thanks for following the tour, and don’t forget to leave your contact info! 

Review: High Test by Elizabeth Noble

The coffee is rich. Hayden isn't. But Neal doesn't need to know that—yet.

Hayden Owens is just your typical graduate student working his way through school as a barista for the Owens Coffee Company—no relation. But he keeps the “no relation” part to himself when he meets dashing, older Neal Kirchner, a successful architect from an old-money family. Hayden doesn’t exactly lie, but he figures it can’t hurt for Neal to believe he’s a rich kid. After all, Hayden doesn’t want Neal thinking he’s a gold digger.


The closer they become, the harder it gets for Hayden to come clean. Something always seems to get in the way. When a company bankruptcy and a jilted, vindictive woman threaten to expose his charade, Hayden thinks it’s all gone down the drain. Luckily Neal is ready with some innocent trickery of his own.


I am a firm believer that there is a perfect time for a book to be read and for me, after having a stressful morning where I was hustling to get everything done, it was nice to spend some down time with Neal and Hayden watching them fall in love. This was such a simple yet sweet romance that I read in a single day. It’s a nice an easy read and Elizabeth Noble gave me a wonderfully light but poignant story that was perfect for my day.

Told from Hayden’s POV, the men meet as Hayden is working his university’s event for his major high-performance automotive design. Hayden has noticed Neal from across the room but on Neal’s arm is a woman. I liked that the first glance of Neal, Hayden realizes he is older than his 20 something years but admires that Neal is the type of man that just gets older with age and dubs him Mr. Silver GQ. When a patron decides Hayden is lonely and pawns him off on someone, that someone is Neal and the meet cute happens.

I adored Neal from the beginning. Of course from the blurb we know he is rich but his meeting with Hayden and how they get along paints Neal as a regular guy, an architect who loves his work as much as Hayden loves his. The age difference is there, roughly about 20 years between them, but you don’t feel in in this book. The men get along wonderfully throughout the evening and when Neal asks Hayden to dance, we get a swoony moment that leads into a sort of fairytale with Hayden having to run off to catch his bus home, leaving Neal without exchanging numbers.

From there the story moves along at a nice pace with Neal stopping in the coffeehouse where Hayden works and making a joke about Hayden keeping an eye on business the old fashioned way. Neal makes an observation when he puts Hayden’s last name together with the name of owners of the coffee house he works at, The Owens Coffee Company. Hayden realizes this mistake but doesn’t correct Neal immediately not wanting the man he’s now crushing on to think he is below his financial status. But the thing is, while Hayden knows Neal has money based on his appearance, he has no idea that Neal Kirchner is from old money and part of the family that owns the Indian Rose Tea Company. Just like age is mentioned in the story but not the main focus, wealth is mentioned but not the main focus. Really, this is a character driven romance that is sweet and sexy.

So while Neal pursues Hayden and they have a fantastic time together being able to talk about what they love with someone who gets it, there is this misunderstanding of Hayden’s family being an elephant in the room. Numerous times Hayden tries to come clean to Neal only to have them interrupted or Neal to tell him to hold the thought. It’s not that Hayden wants to keep this a lie by omission between them and does try to tell Neal the truth but circumstances don’t allow him to spill his guts.

I liked the time the spent together. It was romantic the way Neal courted Hayden and the physical attraction was definitely there but the men decide to take their time. I didn’t always want to them to wait... especially when Neal ‘rubbed one palm over the swell of Hayden’s ass, massaging lightly and slipping between his cheeks for a few beats.’ because it was kinda hot but I admired their respect and restraint. And yet, the moment they give in it was hot. With this series we are limited to the number of sex scenes we get and I love it when they author makes them count and these definitely counted.

Along with the romance, the talk and driving of expensive classic cars, there are a pair of dogs that belong to Neal, a woman who doesn’t get Neal likes dick and not her, wonderful friends of Hayden’s, staff members of the hotel who are like family to the couple and family members both good and bad. There is also Neal’s religion of Hinduism that was mentioned and we are given a few details of it.

But what I absolutely love about this book is how the author handled Neal’s age and the May December romance. . Too often we are given characters in romance that are over *gasp* the age of 40 and treated as if they are in their late 80’s. Being 40 myself, I find it a smidge offensive that folks my age are seen as this decrepit and geriatric human that is so old etc. etc. etc. In this, we get that Neal is 45 and that he is older than Hayden but other than the fact we know it and they mention it less than a half dozen times, that’s it. Age is just a number and the way these two men feel about one another is more important than the year they were born.

High Test isn’t just the name of Hayden’s favorite coffee blend, it’s also a lovely and light romance that made my Monday bearable. It’s a romance that proves age is in the eye of the beholder and the truth will set you free, even if the truth was already known.




Anniversary Shenanigans: Author Visit + Giveaway - Melanie Hansen


Have you had fun with us this month? We hope so! Much thanks to the authors and readers who helped make our 4th anniversary special! Our final author closes out our shenanigans with a major exclusive! 

Melanie Hansen chats about her upcoming romance from Carina Press, Point of Contact (March 2018)! She brought the first chapter for you to read! Shh, it's a secret. 

And she's not letting you leave empty handed! Melanie is hosting a swag pack giveaway that will knock your hooves off! 

Take it away Melanie!


Happy Anniversary, Boy Meets Boy Reviews! I’m so pleased to take part in the celebration, and very excited for the chance to talk about my upcoming book with Carina Press, POINT OF CONTACT. It’s the kind of story I like to write most—intensely emotional and one that’s very close to my heart. It’ll be out at the end of March 2018!

Only love can heal an impossibly broken heart.
There'd forever been a thread running through Trevor Estes's life—his son Riley, strong and constant like heartbeat. But when Riley is killed in combat, everything in Trevor's life unravels into a mess he doesn't know how to mourn. Until Jesse Byrne, Riley's friend and platoon mate, arrives on his doorstep with a box of Riley's things. Jesse's all-too-familiar grief provides an unlikely source of comfort for Trevor; knowing he's not alone is exactly what he needs.
Trevor never imagined he'd find someone who fills his heart with hope again. As the pair celebrate Riley's memory, their unique bond deepens into something irreplaceable—and something neither man can live without. But diving into a relationship can't be so simple. Being together means Trevor risking the last link he has to his son...leaving Jesse to wonder if he'll ever be enough, or if Trevor will always be haunted by the past.
Chapter One
July 2007—Ten months before
“Cowabunga, bitch!”
Trevor Estes winced and glanced toward the open window, resisting the urge to go look out. The men in the backyard weren’t children, but…
A loud splash and some whoops had Trevor pushing out of his chair and hurrying to the window. The party was rowdy, but nothing was broken and nobody had gotten hurt—yet. Trevor jumped as he felt strong arms wrap around his waist, a chin coming to rest on his shoulder.
“Everything’s fine, babe,” Carl whispered in his ear.
Trevor shook his head. “That damn keg. Some of them are underage. What if—”
“Trev, if they’re old enough to go to war, they’re old enough to have a beer first.” Carl’s voice was firm. “Besides, you laid the rules out for Riley before you agreed to the keg. Nobody drives, everybody stays the night. You collected all the keys, right?”
Trevor nodded, waving his hand at the small plastic bucket on the corner of his desk. It currently held all the car keys surrendered to him at the door by grinning young men who’d made a beeline for the backyard pool and the full keg his nineteen-year-old son had talked him into getting.
Carl tightened his arms. “Then let them have their fun tonight, just guys hanging with their buddies, swimming, having some brats and beers.”
Trevor took a deep breath. It wasn’t the party, or even the keg, not really. It was the thought of the next day, of the goodbye, of sending his son off into the unknown… The keg was just the convenient target of his anxiety.
Carl seemed to realize this, because he gave Trevor a gentle kiss. “You’re wanting to play dad one more time tonight, and that’s okay.”
Swallowing against the gigantic lump in his throat, Trevor forced out, “How am I going to get through this deployment, Carl?”
“Like every other parent, every other spouse, every other loved one does. One day at a time.”
With a small sob, Trevor turned and hugged Carl close, breathing deeply of the comforting, familiar scent of his aftershave. He let himself wallow for a few moments, then, squaring his shoulders, pulled away. “You’re right. I’m not the only dad saying goodbye to his son tomorrow. I’ve got to get a grip.”
“That’s the spirit.” Carl winked at him and ran the backs of his fingers down Trevor’s cheek. “Now go man that grill and try to have a good time. You know if Riley sees you upset—”
“I know.” Trevor pulled Carl’s head down to give him a hard, smacking kiss. “Thanks, babe.”
The doorbell rang with a loud, echoing peal, and Trevor hurried to answer it. He swung the door open, saying brightly, “Hey, I’m Riley’s dad, Trevor. Here for the party?”
The man in the entryway nodded. “Yes, sir. I’m Jesse Byrne, one of his roommates at the barracks.”
Trevor stuck his hand out and they shook, looking each other over. Jesse was a few inches taller than Trevor’s 5ꞌ11", military-cut blond hair bleached almost white by the sun. He was wearing a pair of board shorts in a loud Hawaiian print and a faded cotton tank top with the words Polite as Fuck printed on it. When he pushed his sunglasses to the top of his head, Trevor could see his eyes were a bright blue-green.
He seemed a little older than the other guys, maybe early twenties instead of late teens. Good. At least there’d be one legal drinker in the bunch. Trevor tried to remember what else Riley had told him about his roommates but couldn’t bring anything to mind.
He stood back to let Jesse into the house. “I need your keys before you drink. House rules.” Jesse didn’t protest, just handed him the keys without comment, dropping them into Trevor’s outstretched palm.
“Thanks. Everyone’s in the back swimming, and I’m about to grill some burgers and brats. You hungry?”
“Yes, sir.” Jesse’s voice was deep and husky, with what sounded like a hint of the South in it.
“Well, go on out and join the party. We’ll eat soon.”
Trevor gestured toward the French doors leading to the backyard, and Jesse nodded. Loud exclamations from the others greeted his arrival, and soon the splashing and yelling escalated again as Jesse joined them in the pool.
Carl was right; they deserved their fun tonight. These young men, barely out of high school, had volunteered to serve their country and now were headed straight into harm’s way. Trevor hurried into the backyard to search out Riley, who was standing in the shallow end of the pool with Jesse’s arm thrown over his shoulders.
They were laughing, so young, so carefree. Trevor traced his son’s face with his eyes, committing the happy moment to memory.
What would the year bring? Would Riley come home a totally changed man?
Of course he would. He was going to war.
Just let him come home, Trevor prayed. Please, God, just let him come home to me.
*
Trevor flipped the burgers before grabbing some tongs to turn the brats, listening to the sounds of merriment coming from the pool behind him. The eight young men in attendance seemed to be enjoying themselves, and the trash talk was flowing, thanks to the beer. Trevor, standing at the grill not far away with his back to them, was getting an earful. “What we need now are some girls,” someone commented lazily, and there were several grunts of agreement.
“I could call Brittany to come over.” Trevor recognized Jesse’s voice. “She fills out a bikini like you wouldn’t believe. Huge tits.”
“Fuck yeah, man, call her. Tell her to bring some friends.”
“Fuckin’ A, let’s get some chicks out here.”
Riley’s voice. “Nah, man. My dad won’t let us have girls over.”
Loud exclamations of disgust, and then Riley gave a loud belch. “Look, I was pushing it to get the keg, assholes. Beer now, girls later. I figure that’s what Italy is for.” Trevor glanced over his shoulder in time to see Riley, standing at the edge of the pool, waggle his eyebrows and do a sort of swiveling hip thrust.
“Hell yeah.” A guy named Smitty reached over and high-fived Riley. “We’re gonna rock their worlds, bro.”
Trevor turned back around to hide his grimace. Sorry, ladies. A bunch of cocky, drunken idiots are the last thing you need.
“Hey, Estes, you a trust fund baby or something?” This from a dude Trevor thought was named Enriquez. “Your dad loaded? This house kicks ass.”
Riley’s voice got louder as he headed to the keg set up not far from where Trevor was standing. “Just works hard, man. He’s an accountant, does rich people’s taxes and shit.”
“This backyard is something else. Never seen anything like it.”
Trevor looked around the backyard as if seeing it for the first time. It was large, meticulously landscaped. The custom pool was built in the style of a rock grotto, complete with waterfall and a “cave.” An elevated hot tub was set to one side of the waterfall, with some lush greenery giving the whole thing a tropical effect. Trevor was grilling in the elaborate outdoor kitchen, which included a wet bar boasting a granite countertop and four leather stools. White Christmas lights were woven through the trees and the latticework over the porch year-round, giving the whole backyard a cozy yet cheery effect. He loved it.
“Well, even if we can’t have girls, fuckin’ house and fuckin’ awesome party, dude.” Smitty shouted from the pool.
“Thanks, bro,” Riley said, coming around behind the bar to switch on the outdoor surround sound system, the satellite radio set to a contemporary pop station. Speakers cunningly disguised as rocks piped the music throughout the backyard, and soon the sound of splashing and yelling once again filled the air.
Riley clapped Trevor on the shoulder as he passed, throwing him a cheeky grin and a wink.
God, I love you, kid.
His heart full, Trevor watched as he set his beer down on one of the many small tables dotting the pool decking and dove with a whoop into the deep end, joining the water volleyball game in progress.
The French doors opened and Carl emerged from the house carrying a huge bowl of potato salad and a plate full of sliced tomatoes and lettuce leaves for the burgers. A few more trips with condiments, chips, plates and utensils, and the top of the bar was soon set up buffet-style. As Carl passed behind him, Trevor turned and caught him around his trim waist, pulling him close and giving him a soft kiss on the lips.
“Thanks,” he murmured, and Carl reached up to pat Trevor’s cheek before pulling away.
As Trevor slid the cooked burgers onto an empty plate, he caught a glimpse of Jesse watching him narrowly with a deep scowl on his face. Uh-oh. Great. Riley has a homophobe for a roommate. Trevor ignored him, setting the plates of steaming burgers and brats down before bellowing, “Come eat, boys!”
A mad rush from the pool, towels grabbed and wrapped around waists, and soon chattering, dripping young men were gathered under the covered porch, piling plates high with food. They retreated to sit on the chairs ringing the pool, stuffing their faces like they hadn’t eaten for a week.
Trevor shook his head, heading inside to grab some more burger patties from the fridge, his grill duty apparently not done for the day.
“Your dad is a fuckin’ grill boss, Riles.” The words were muffled as the speaker mumbled around whatever was crammed into his mouth. Trevor smiled to himself. He loved to cook, had even taken a few classes at the local culinary school. Nice to hear his efforts were appreciated.
The food was consumed as fast as Trevor could grill it, and he wondered where they put it all. Everyone was in great shape: lean, fit bodies honed by hours of PT and Army training.
How many of them would come home in one piece…or in a body bag?
Trevor refused to let his mind go there, using a wire brush to scrub the grill’s grate viciously until sweat was dripping off the end of his nose and the muscles in his arm burned. He tossed the brush aside and braced his palms against the bar top, breathing hard.
“What’s up?” Carl handed Trevor a plastic bottle of water, watching while he gulped it down. Trevor shook his head and swiped the back of his hand over his mouth before tossing the empty bottle into the recycling bin.
“You have to let him go, Trev,” Carl continued, reading the expression on Trevor’s face. “We’ve been over and over this. Riley’s an adult, and going into the Army was his choice—”
“But I don’t have to fucking like it, Carl,” Trevor hissed at him. “I’m fucking allowed to not fucking like it!” His voice rose a little at the last, and Carl put a hand on his back.
“No, you don’t have to like it. But that kind of attitude won’t help. If anything, you should feel—”
“Don’t analyze me right now, Carl,” Trevor interrupted wearily. “Just don’t.”
Carl’s hand dropped from his back, and Trevor could tell by his body language that he was hurt.
“Carl—” he tried, but Carl was already turning away.
“I’m trying to help, Trev. You don’t have to take things out on me.” He went back inside. Trevor slumped down onto a bar stool. Carl loved him, and God knew Trevor was crazy about Carl, but he didn’t seem to understand that Trevor was saying goodbye to his only child, his baby…and sending him off to a place he might never return from.
Trevor sighed. He should cut Carl some slack for not being able to empathize. He was here, and he cared, and that meant a whole heck of a lot, it really did. Trevor needed him, now more than ever, and he shouldn’t let this fester.
As if Carl had read his mind, he reappeared and stood in front of Trevor, looking down at him.
“I’m sorry,” they both said in unison. Trevor spread his knees and pulled Carl to stand in between them, wrapping his arms around his waist and putting his head on his chest. Carl threaded the fingers of one hand through Trevor’s hair, rubbing his other hand up and down his back, holding him close.
At last Carl pulled away. “I’m going to go on in, take a shower. I’ll be waiting to…take your mind off things a little, if you want.” He tilted Trevor’s chin up and kissed him deeply, thoroughly, until Trevor was clutching him around the waist again.
“Be there in a few,” he rasped, and Carl brushed their lips together one more time before heading off into the house, giving himself a discreet adjustment as he went. Trevor scrubbed his hand over his mouth, breathing hard, waiting until his own body calmed down before standing to finish the cleanup.
He caught a glimpse of Jesse watching them again, a look of anger now in his eyes…anger tinged with disgust. Trevor wanted to flip him off, but he didn’t, deciding to ignore the little shit.
By the time Trevor finished oiling the grill and getting everything put away, dusk was falling, and the sunset was gorgeous, lighting up the Colorado sky with brilliant purples and pinks. Even though the late summer day had been hot, as the sun went down the air grew a little chilly, and Riley turned on the outdoor gas fireplace, the flickering flames making everything seem warm and inviting.
The young men sprawled about on the outdoor furniture, talking desultorily about the upcoming deployment, the married guys who were getting some that night, and how good the beer was. A few of them were smoking, the acrid smell of cigarettes drifting to Trevor’s nose. He was enjoying eavesdropping on their conversation, and he fixed himself a cup of coffee, sitting at a small bistro table deep in the shadows on the porch.
A loud belch cut through the air, a couple of the other guys exclaiming, “Jesus, Byrney, excuse you.”
“Fuck off.” Jesse’s voice slurred, and he ripped another belch even more obnoxious than the last. Trevor’s lip curled. Drunk as a skunk.
“Damn, I wanna get laid tonight,” Jesse went on loudly. “One last taste before we have to go without, dude. C’mon, let’s get some girls out here.”
“We can’t.” Riley’s voice was firm. “My dad’s house, his rules.”
“Don’t you want one last chance to be balls deep—”
“Shut up, Byrne, you’re drunk,” Smitty interrupted, although his words were just as slurred as Jesse’s. “Talkin’ about girls gonna make my dick hard.”
“Ah, but you’re in luck, Smitty. From the looks of things, you could probably get your dick sucked `round here, no problem.”
Trevor froze, and there was a charged silence before Riley said, his tone sober and deadly serious, “Watch it, Byrne. You do not want to go there with me in my own fucking home.”
Trevor got up and slipped inside the house to watch and listen through the open French door, knowing Riley wouldn’t want or need his interference. This was a battle his son had fought many, many times before.
“Daddy, what’s a cocksucker?”
“What?” Trevor whirled around to see seven-year-old Riley standing in the doorway with a tear-and snot-encrusted face, his cheekbone bruised, his lower lip split and bloody.
“Steve’s big brother called you a cocksucker. I don’t know what that is, but I kicked his butt…”
“I’m just saying,” Jesse sneered, “that I didn’t know your dad was a—”
The sound of a chair being scraped back. “You’d better fucking consider carefully the next word that comes outta your mouth. You didn’t know my dad was a what?”
Trevor clenched his hand on the edge of the doorframe, resisting the urge to charge out there and get involved. He could see the mutinous look on Jesse’s face in the flickering light, could almost see his lips forming the word fag before he amended it at the last minute to gay.
“I didn’t know your dad was…gay.” The emphasis on the last word was insolent, rude. “All right? Gay.”
“Knock it off, Byrne,” Smitty started to say, but Riley cut him off, crossing his arms over his chest.
“Yeah, my dad is gay, and his boyfriend Carl lives here with him. If you got a problem with that, I’ll call you a cab right now and you can get the fuck out. Or if you’d rather settle it a different way, well…”
He beckoned to Jesse, balancing on the balls of his feet, and Jesse lurched to standing.
Jesus, no. Don’t let it end like this…
Jesse took a half-hearted drunken swing at Riley, stumbling, and in one smooth move Riley pivoted to the side and used Jesse’s forward momentum to shove him right into the pool. Jesse went in face-first with a graceless splash, resurfacing to shouts of “Weak!” and everyone hooting and hollering. The shock of the cold water seemed to sober Jesse up a little, and he scrubbed his hands over his face.
“You gonna say shit about my dad when you’re drinking his beer and eating his food?” Riley growled. “Fuck you, man.”
He and Riley stared at each other for a moment, and then Jesse pulled himself slowly from the pool to stand dripping on the deck. “Sorry, Estes,” he mumbled. “I don’t like those kind of people being in my face, that’s all. But I’m at your house, and I shouldn’t have said all that shit.”
Riley just looked back at him, and Jesse continued, “If you want me to leave, I will.”
“He’s not a ‘kind of person,’ Byrne, he’s my dad.”
“I know. I’m sorry.”
Riley blew out a breath, and looked up at the sky. “I wanna kick the piss out of you right now, man,” he said. “But I won’t. `Cause this is our last night at home and I ain’t gonna let it be like this. But you say any more shit about my dad or Carl, it’s on, I swear to fucking God.”
Jesse nodded. “I won’t.”
Smitty pushed to his feet and slung an arm around Riley’s and Jesse’s shoulders, pulling them into a group hug. “Kiss and make up now, aiight? Ain’t none of this gonna matter come tomorrow. `Cause we leavin’ here, and once those plane wheels lift up, all we gonna have is each other. Why? Why is that?”
Jesse and Riley glanced at each other, then away. Smitty gave them both a gentle shake.
“`Cause we goin’ to war, boys. We goin’ to war.”

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About the author


Melanie Hansen likes to consider herself a cynic, but at heart she’s a hopeless romantic. Every morning she gets up before dawn to spend time with her characters, creating stories that are deeply emotional, sometimes heartbreaking, but in the end where love always wins. Melanie’s proud of the fact that two of her books have been named as RT Book Reviews Top Picks.
She grew up with an Air Force dad, ended up marrying a Navy man, and has lived and worked all over the country. Melanie hopes to bring these rich and varied life experiences to her stories about people finding love amidst real-life struggles.
Connect with Melanie at meljhansen@gmail.com.
Discover more about Melanie’s books here or at melaniehansenbooks.com.

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