Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Re-Readables Part 2


I have never been one to do much re-reading, which is surprising because I can re-watch a movie or television show I love endlessly but books just never seemed to interest me for revisiting.  When they introduced audiobooks it gave me a chance to enjoy some of my favorites over and over.  The past few years I guess I've changed and there are some books that have become almost required re-reading, the summer wouldn't be complete without a revisit.  Here are three more series that continue to intrigue me no matter how many times I read the words.



My Most Recent Thoughts:
Overall Series 1st Re-Read Review 2016:
Gaslight Mysteries in another one of those series that even knowing who did what, why, and how it still gets me sitting on the edge of my seat.  Simon and Michael may be polar opposites when it comes to attitude and how they face life but at the heart of it all they are a perfect match.  The offset each other in a way that only makes them stronger.  I'll definitely be revisiting this investigative duo more than once in the upcoming years, perhaps not annually but I'll say hi to them again.

Books #1-3
Original Review 2014:
I read all three books and since the time frame from page 1 of Heart to Hart to the last page of To the Bone only covers about two to three weeks, I'm going to do an overall review for these entries.  I won't lie, the beginning was a bit tricky to get into with the Irish slang of the time but I was able to become comfortable with it after only a chapter or so.  As I write this I am thinking that it had more to do with me not letting go of the previous book before starting this series and less of the slang language, but whatever the reason, after that first chapter I was hooked.  Simon and Michael grabbed my heart and didn't let go.  I loved the humorous banter between the new found partners.  I found them to be very enjoyable and likeable despite their moments of infuriating debates.  At times, they reminded me very much of the banter and bickering of Bogey and Bacall in The Big Sleep.  The mysteries are quite intriguing and definitely hold the reader's interest as does the humor and the obvious attraction between the pair.  Michael McCree and Simon Hart are a captivating pair that I look forward to read many times over.

Thin as Smoke #4 
Original Review 2015:
Simon and Michael are spectacular once again.  I love the fact that this installment is centered around their one year "anniversary".  We get to see how each of them see that fateful day and when you throw in their new case and the addition of Michael's old colleague, you have yourself a perfect addition to the Gaslight Mysteries.

Speaking of Michael's old colleague, Sam Hammett, it's a special treat for me.  Not only does Sam bring a new element to the story, an inkling of Michael's history and Simon dealing with the jealousy that Sam's arrival has brought out, but for me it adds a bit of fangirl moments.  Sam Hammett, or as most people know him, Dashiell Hammett, is the creator of my most favorite mystery solving couple, Nick and Nora Charles and The Thin Man.  Neither The Thin Man nor Hammett's writing skills have any bearing on this story but just the addition of his character into the mix had me giddy going in and once I finished Thin as Smoke, I was just as giddy.  Miss O'Quinn weaves Hammett into the world that Simon and Michael live in with creativity and nearly as much charm as Michael used to originally worm his way into Simon's life back in Heart to Hart.

Now for the mystery itself.  Perfect for the duo, or should I say trio in this case.  I don't think that the case is as big a part of this story as the cases in the first three of the series.  However, I do think that how the characters deal with the case and each other is more at the center of Thin as Smoke, which is still part of the mystery so perhaps it's just from a different angle.  However you look at the ins and outs of the case, this is a great addition the series and a must read, especially if you like historical settings.

Masters of Cane #5 
Original Review 2016:
Masters of Cane begins less than 24 hours after Thin as Smoke ended and once again Simon wakes before Michael with his ongoing internal debate over their relationship still percolating, though he does seem to come to his wants and needs faster than usual.  But nothing comes easy for this lovely duo and this time they find their little friend Squeak the one possibly in danger.

Michael McCree has always seemed a bit on the me first side, at least on the surface, but he truly cares for those in his life and that includes Squeak and Copper as well as Simon and Sam.  Yes, Dashiell "Sam" Hammett returns and this time Simon may still hold some elements of jealousy for the history Sam shares with Michael but he also comes to see Sam as his friend too.

There may not be a paying client this time but they do have friends and neighbors to protect and they do it as only Simon and Michael can, with a little ingenuity, spontaneity, and passion.  Another great entry in the Gaslight Mysteries.

RATING: 



My Current Thoughts:
1st Overall Duology Re-Read 2017:
I'll be honest, even though I remembered the whos, whats, whys, and hows of The Dark Horse duology I did forget just how much I loved Sean and Dan.  Okay, forget is not really the right word because you don't really forget lovely, heartwarming characters such as Sean and Dan but the duo had kind of settled to the bottom of my heart where I hold fictional characters close.  If you are asking me to balance which of the two stories I loved more I would say that The Dark Horse tips the scale but by just a bit.

In a time where prequels and sequels are commonplace in Hollywood, I found the way Josh Lanyon meshes both into one book in The White Knight to be well written and most interesting.  We get to see into how Dan came to be Sean's protector that I loved in Horse but we also get to see how they are both still reeling some from what happened in book one.  What I found most intriguing in Knight was although the story is told from Sean's POV we also get to hear a bit how Dan was effected by the stalker case in Horse.  Writer's don't always show us how the protector feels so even though it's not done in great length or detail I really appreciated the effort put in Dan's pain being shown.

There's passion, heart, friendship, love, mystery, drama, angst, and a little humor all wrapped into The Dark Horse duology so there's a little something for everyone and considering by word count/pages these two are novellas that means they are packed tight with what I like to call "the uumph factor" from cover to cover. I may not add this duology to my annual re-read list but this certainly won't be the last time I revisit Sean and Dan's story.

Original Duology Review 2014:
Sean captures your heart with his sincerity and his hometown wholesomeness. Dan certainly captures your attention with his take charge bodyguard yet heartfelt attitude. The mystery keeps you guessing throughout both books as it is interwoven wonderfully with Sean and Dan's romance and their professional lives. The supporting characters only heighten the mystery as well as strengthen Sean and Dan's characters both individually and as a couple. I would definitely not turn down another story featuring these two lovebirds.

RATING: 




My Most Recent Thoughts:
1st Re-Read Overall Series Review 2015:
This series just got better and better.  Re-reading mysteries can be a tricky thing, remembering the whos, whats, whys, and hows can lesson the anticipation factor for some but it didn't bother me one bit.  Ty and Zane and the rest of the C&R universe members just got better with age, lol.  I may not be able to re-read this every year but its definitely going to be revisited more than once.

Original Series Review 2014:
From the time I started reading M/M books till I broke down and read this series was nearly two years.  By the time I was barely halfway through Cut & Run, I was berating myself for waiting so long.  I fell in love with Ty and Zane so hard, I barely took a breath until I was completely caught up.  I understand that some people were able to tell the difference when Abigail Roux took over the series by herself once Madeline Urban retired but I could not.  Had I read the books without the author names, I would never have been able to tell you which book the transition occurred.  I love the blend of humor, drama, mystery, and of course sexual tension.  I don't think I can say this is my favorite series in the M/M genre but it's damn close to perfect though.  I am eagerly awaiting the next and final installment of the series.  It will be read with a heavy heart because I will hate to see the final page knowing there won't be another but as Miss Roux's Sidewinder series takes place in the same universe, I'm sure we will see Ty and Zane again, even if it's only in passing.

Cut & Run #1
Original Review 2014:
I'm so glad that I finally had a chance to sit down and read this book. I loved the combination of mystery, action, wit, and of course the sexual tension between Ty and Zane. Hated partners from their first glance of each other quickly becomes so much more than either of them are willing or wanting to admit.

Sticks & Stones #2
1st Re-Read Review 2015:
Just finished rereading and loved it even more than the first time!

Original Review 2014:
LOVED IT!!!! Can't wait to start the next one!!

Fish & Chips #3
1st Re-Read Review 2015:
Finished rereading and once again, it's A-freakin'-Mazing!!!

Original Review 2014:
This was an amazing entry in C&R series. So good. I just don't even know where to begin without leaking spoilers and as you know, I don't do spoilers, so I'll just say once again--LOVED IT!!!!

Divide & Conquer #4
Original Review 2014:
Yet again, Ty and Zane have not only caught my attention but I can safely and honestly say, they are an addiction that I don't want or plan to give up anytime soon

Armed & Dangerous #5
Original Review 2014:
Another great entry in this series. Enjoyed meeting Julian Cross and Cameron Jacobs in this one. The chemistry between all 4 characters really ran the gamut and made every page incredibly interesting. Off to start the next one!

Dash & Dine #5.5
1st Re-Read Review 2015:
I know I read this last year when I re-read the whole C&R series but never posted before. I loved it then and still loved this little ficlet or short story. No matter how small or how large a dose of Ty & Zane it is, it's always perfect and fun.

Stars & Stripes #6
Original Review 2014:
Loved seeing both the guys in their family environments. Some of them I absolutely loved others, well let's just say not so much. Really not a big fan of Zane's mother but I love his dad and sister. LOVED Ty's first encounter with both the mother and Zane's niece Sabrina. Wasn't a huge fan of Ty's grandpa the first time we met him but loved him this time around. Can't wait to read more!

Touch & Geaux #7
Original Review 2014:
I'm not an "OMG" kind of lady but this book had me going "O-M-G!!!" with nearly every page. My heart broke for both Ty and Zane at times. So powerfully emotional that really puts the reader through the ringer. Be sure you have plenty of time to read because I really had a hard time putting it down to do menially chores such as eat and sleep.

Ball & Chain #8
Original Review 2014:
Another amazing story in this series. I'm all caught up now and I'm already feeling the withdrawl.

Crash & Burn #9
Original Review 2015:
Where do I begin without giving any spoilers?  With Crash & Burn we get to see nearly all of the characters we've come to love and a few we didn't love so much.  At the heart of this story, we have the love and partnership of Ty and Zane, but just like the other installments of the series, that love is only part of the tale.  We find truths that were so deeply hidden under mountains of lies that you find yourself questioning every character and their true motives and loyalty.  The passion that has always been a huge part of these stories is still there as is the wit, the puns-some intentional and some not so much, the arguing, the laughter, and the friendships that hold this ragtag group together.  I can honestly say that I don't think I've ever read a book that had me saying "Oh my God!" so many times.  Some times it was said out of despair for what the character was contemplating, other times it was out of laughter not being able to believe the character said this or that, and a few times because I was on the edge of my seat trying to figure out how they were going to get out of the situation they found themselves in.  A true masterpiece and a definite must add to your personal library.

RATING: 


Erin O'Quinn
Erin O'Quinn was born almost literally on the side of a mountain in Nevada and was hauled kicking and screaming into  the nearest town, fifty miles away, to attend first grade. To this day, she claims to be kindergarten-deprived.

O'Quinn earned a few degrees from the University of So. California, but her real education began on the back docks of the Las Vegas (NV) Review-Journal newspaper; on the good-old-boy car lots in Abilene, Texas where she sold new Chryslers and used cars; and in a big-box store where she alternately hauled pallets and ran a garden center.

Of 29 published works for adults, 25 are in the MM genre. From the Noble Dimensions series (small town/contemporary) to Old World Ireland and New World Scotland; and back to the retro world of Ireland in the Roaring 20s, she says, "This kind of writing, and these settings, have seized my imagination like no other."

Settle back, enjoy what Erin O'Quinn calls "literotica with a flare for the unusual and men with passions too big for their britches."

Josh Lanyon
A distinct voice in gay fiction, multi-award-winning author JOSH LANYON has been writing gay mystery, adventure and romance for over a decade. In addition to numerous short stories, novellas, and novels, Josh is the author of the critically acclaimed Adrien English series, including The Hell You Say, winner of the 2006 USABookNews awards for GLBT Fiction. Josh is an Eppie Award winner and a three-time Lambda Literary Award finalist.

Madeline Urban
Madeleine Urban is a down-home Kentucky girl who’s been writing since she could hold a crayon. Although she has written and published on her own, she truly excels when writing with co-authors. She lives with her husband, who is very supportive of her work, and two canine kids who only allow her to hug them when she has food. She wants to live at Disney World, the home of fairy dust, because she believes that with hard work, a little luck, and beloved family and friends, dreams really can come true.

MADELEINE URBAN RETIRED
Nov. 17, 2011 - I have made the personal decision to stop writing, for reasons that are important to me, including focusing on my family and my health. Writing and publishing comes with a whole set of expectations and pressures, and I find that it's just too much. While I am sad that this will upset and/or even anger readers, this is the right decision for me.
Abigail Roux will be continuing the Ty and Zane series, and I know she'll do a great job.

Abigail Roux
Abigail Roux was born and raised in North Carolina. A past volleyball star who specializes in sarcasm and painful historical accuracy, she currently spends her time coaching high school volleyball and investigating the mysteries of single motherhood. Any spare time is spent living and dying with every Atlanta Braves and Carolina Panthers game of the year. Abigail has a daughter, Little Roux, who is the light of her life, a boxer, four rescued cats who play an ongoing live-action variation of 'Call of Duty' throughout the house, a certifiable extended family down the road, and a cast of thousands in her head.


Erin O'Quinn
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Josh Lanyon
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EMAIL: josh.lanyon@sbcglobal.net

Madeline Urban
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Abigail Roux
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EMAIL: abiroux@gmail.com



The Gaslight Mysteries Series
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The Dark Horse Duology
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Cut & Run Series
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Sale Blitz: Beard Mode by Lani Lynn Vale

Title: Beard Mode
Author: Lani Lynn Vale
Series: The Dixie Wardens Rejects MC Series #1
Genre: Motorcycle Romance
Release Date: February 23, 2017
Model: David Byers
Photographer: Michael Stokes

⏳πŸ’ΈπŸš΅πŸ’Έ⏳Currently On Sale for 99cents⏳πŸ’ΈπŸš΅πŸ’Έ⏳
Summary:
Aaron don’t ever call me Fatbaby’ Sims is lucky to be alive. Or at least that is what everyone keeps telling him. He doesn’t feel lucky, though.

He’s scarred, has more than a little bit of a bad attitude, and there isn’t a single day that goes by that he doesn’t wish his wife would’ve just finished off the job.

After being denied his old position at the fire department, he leaves, and doesn’t look back. He heads straight to Alabama and into the semi-welcoming arms of The Dixie Wardens MC. There he becomes a part of a brotherhood that forces him to get back in the land of the living.

---

Imogen is a smart girl. A girl who doesn’t always make the best decisions.

Her heart is in the right place when she walks into that prison, but it doesn’t take long for her to realize that her heart shouldn’t have had any say so in the matter. Especially when one wrong move lands her in the arms of a scarred man that looks frightening enough to scare any sane woman away.

Immediately enthralled by the angry man, she tries to get closer to him. But the harder she tries to get to know him, the further he pushes her away.

---

The only thing Aaron wanted to do after his now ex-wife was sent to jail was escape. Escape the awful memories. The pity-filled eyes. The curious glances.

He does a damn fine job at ensuring he draws as little as attention as possible, but then that annoying woman with her startling blue eyes starts hammering away at his resolve. Makes him feel when he doesn’t want to feel.

Imogen comes into his life and carves out a place for herself, obliterating his defenses one heated kiss at a time.

It doesn’t take long, and he realizes he’s in deep. Too deep to ever want to come out.

Imogen will know what it’s like to be loved by a reject.


“New guy.”  Someone muttered behind me.

I turned only my head to find Stone, the president, staring at me with hard eyes.

“Yeah?” I asked him, dropping my bag on the floor and heading in his direction instead of out the door like I’d originally intended.

“You’re here because you have a special set of skills that we need.”  The leader of the band of misfits, Stone, drawled.

I nearly laughed.

“That sounds like a bad line out of a movie.” I muttered, wondering where he was going with this.

He tossed me a glare and then yelled.

“Truth!”  Stone yelled.  “Ghost! Get the fuck in here!”

Ghost and Truth walked in the door at the same time, both of them turning to the side to walk inside, and stared at Stone

“Ghost, hold Truth down so New Guy can give him the fuckin’ shot.” Stone grumbled.

Ghost tackled Truth and wrestled him to the desk, then sat on him while Stone leaned back and watched.

“No, motherfucker!” Truth yelled.  “I don’t want it!”

“It’s the fuckin’ flu shot, you dumb shit.  Not a fuckin’ tracking device. Take a fuckin’ chill pill.”  Stone grumbled, staring at the scuffle that was going down in front of him.

I picked up the syringe from the table, similar to the one I’d given everybody else’s flu shot with, and stabbed it in the meat of Truth’s arm.

Truth bellowed in rage, and I flipped the guard up on the syringe before tossing it into the trash can.

“Done?” I asked Stone.  “I have to get to work.”

Stone nodded.

“Yeah, thanks.” He nodded. “Have fun at the nut house.”

I grunted something unintelligible, causing him to laugh.

“Don’t sound so excited.” He laughed.

I flipped him off and walked out the door just as Ghost was letting Truth up

“Why you gotta be such a big motherfucker?”  Truth growled.  “If you’d been anyone else, I’d have gotten away.”

“Why do you think I called Ghost instead of anyone else?”  I heard Stone reply.




What Others Are Saying:
“Lani Lynn Vale has a way of taking your soul and twisting it and tearing it up, but then somehow, some way making sure that the book still makes you have a goofy freaking happy smile, and all in love with her by the end of it.” - MJ’s Book Blog

“It was sooo good and I am sooo excited that this was my first Lani Lynn Vale book...gasp....can you believe I have not read one of her books yet??” - iScream Books

“Don’t think about it, just go one click this book and you’ll enjoy it like, I did. One thing about this author is she keeps getting better every time. You will never be disappointed about it, I promise.” - Fabulous Ladies Book Blog







Author Bio:
I’m a married mother of three. My kids are all under 5, so I can assure you that they are a handful. I’ve been with my paramedic husband now for ten years, and we’ve produced three offspring that are nothing like us. I live in the greatest state in the world, Texas.


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Beard Mode #1
AMAZON CA  /  AMAZON AU  /  B&N
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Series
AMAZON CA  /  AMAZON AU  /  B&N
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Promo Tour: Scandal's Child by Pamela Gibson

Title: Scandal's Child
Author: Pamela Gibson
Genre: Regency Romance
Release Date: July 17, 2017
Summary:
Miranda Comstock, widowed and impoverished, accepts a position in London caring for a child who was blinded in a fire. When she discovers the child’s mysterious guardian is the lover who seduced and abandoned her five years earlier, her first thought is to flee. But nine-year-old Phoebe depends on her and is blossoming under her care.

Jeremy Montague returns from Jamaica to take up his duties as the new Earl of Longley and is shocked to find his former lover is his ward’s nurse. Believing she played him for a fool, he vows to remove her from his household, especially when his traitorous body begins to remember the passion they shared.

But there is a mystery afoot involving a long-ago disappearance, Miranda’s resemblance to a society debutante, and the child’s suppressed memories of the fire, which are starting to emerge. As Phoebe’s memories become sharper, Jeremy begins to suspect that he and Miranda were pawns in a twisted game. And both must learn to trust again, if they are to find their way back into each other’s hearts.


A glass of brandy awaited her when Miranda reached the parlor. Jeremy handed it to her without asking, and she accepted it gratefully. The fiery liquid brought her back to reality.

As she sat in the chair in her room, watching Phoebe go to sleep, a languid feeling had overtaken her. Her fight and energy had dissolved once she knew the girl was safe. All she wanted was to sink back into sleep. Now she was wide awake again, although her arms and legs still threatened to buckle under her.

Jeremy leaned against the mantle. She hadn’t noticed in the flurry of activity he’d lost his cravat and he was not wearing a waistcoat. Her only thoughts had been for Phoebe. Now every nerve ending was on edge as she studied his tall frame, his tight pantaloons, and the dark curls peeking from the top of his unfastened shirt. She remembered how soft they had felt against her bare breasts, how they tickled her nose when she lowered her lips to coax his nipples into hard buds. Warmth seeped between her thighs, making her squirm in the hard chair she had chosen. Shaking her head, she took a deep swig of the amber liquid and swallowed, making herself choke.

“Are you all right?” He came over and patted her back as she leaned forward.

“I am not accustomed to strong spirits,” she said between coughs.

“I’m sure you are not, but we all needed some tonight. Or is it morning?”

As if in response, the clock on a nearby table chimed twice.

Miranda blinked and gritted her teeth. Remember, this is the man who deceived you, who already had a mistress and a child when he was promising to marry you. This is the man who sailed away without a word, who never sent a letter, who left you enceinte and alone.

Be fair, he didn’t know you were increasing.

She stilled her inner voice and answered the question.

“It is morning as you heard. Shall we get on with this discussion, so we can all get some sleep?”

He sauntered over to the chair opposite hers and sat down. His lips were drawn in a straight line, and his eyes were cold.

“Now then, tell me exactly how this happened.” He lifted the crystal glass to his lips and drank deeply. Candlelight sparkled from its beveled surface. Miranda watched in fascination as points of light seemed to blur in front of her eyes.

“Miranda? Did you hear me?” He gave her arm a gentle shake. “Are you awake?”

He’d called her Miranda. She blinked and refocused on his lips. That was a mistake. All she could think about was how she longed to taste them, how she burned for the feel of them on her neck and breasts and thighs.

God, she must be exhausted to be having these thoughts.

Author Bio:
Award-winning author Pamela Gibson grew up loving books, history, and small towns. Her first career was a newspaper reporter, but when she returned to college to get a master’s degree, it was in public administration which eventually led to jobs running cities…not as an elected official, but as a city manager, the chief appointed one.

Writing was still her passion and when not busy—with the activities of two children and a lot of volunteer work—she was contracted to write several books on local history. Taking an early retirement at the urging of her very supportive husband, she turned to fiction and began writing the happy ending novels she loves to read.

Sign up for her quarterly newsletter on her website. New followers are eligible for a random drawing for two $5 Amazon gift cards prior to each edition. Author of six small-town contemporary novels, Scandal’s Child is her first historical novel.


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Monday, August 21, 2017

Monday Morning's Menu: Cupcakes by Sean Michael


For nearly 2 years now I've been highlighting anthologies & box sets on my weekly Monday Morning Mantelpiece feature well now I'm starting Monday Morning's Menu which as you may guess, food will play a part in the story, be it actual food, occupation, or setting.  Some weeks I will still be posting the Mantelpiece and others I will be posting Menu.

Summary:
Allen Jameson had it all—the perfect house, the perfect partner, the perfect life—until his partner, Gary, died suddenly, leaving him alone in the real world, where life isn't so pretty and people make mistakes. Now Allen is the owner of Sweet ‘n’ Sassy Cupcake Shop, a cute boutique downtown, where he invents delicious flavors like strawberry and French meringue. Between working long hours and making special orders, Allen barely has time to think.

Then a hunky contractor walks into his shop looking for a treat. Allen and Byron Bannigan are total opposites, but they're perfect together—salty and sweet like Allen’s signature peanut butter and chocolate ganache cupcakes. But as Allen struggles to juggle his business and his boyfriend, he learns he can only handle so much. He may have to choose between the cupcakes in his store and the cupcake in his bed.




Chapter One
PEANUT BUTTER with chocolate ganache.

Carrot cake with cream cheese icing.

Mexican chocolate with cinnamon frosting.

Fresh strawberry with French meringue.

Allen put out the day’s cupcakes and started the cappuccino maker.

He checked the clock. Six fifty-five. Time to open. He made sure the day’s muffins were out on top of the four-foot counter, then turned the sign on Sweet ’n’ Sassy’s door to “open.” Time for work!

The first customers started coming in immediately—Steve and Daniel, Rick, Lowell, and Ron. Heidi and Leeane. He loved his regulars and they loved him, coming into the tiniest cupcake bakery in the whole world for a muffin, a cup of joe, a quick hug, and a smile. Some people might stay long enough for a small conversation, but with only two tables, most of his customers took their sweets to go.

By the time it was nine twenty, he was out of muffins; time to head to the back to start the cupcakes for the afternoon orders. Lord.

The bell over the door jangled just as he got there, and he returned to the front to find the most stunning man he’d ever seen standing at his counter. Big, buff, and with the prettiest hazel eyes. The jeans and tight T-shirt only served to accentuate the man’s muscles.

“Good morning.” You hot thing. “How can I help you?”

“I need fancy food for my secretary. She’s pregnant and it’s her last day, and I’m supposed to do something.” The man sounded harried.

“Okay. I don’t do savory things, really, but I can make cupcakes. Do you know what kind and how many and when?”

“Cupcakes. That sounds good.” The guy nodded and then scratched the back of his head. “Today’s her last day, so I have to have ’em for three. We’re doing a little party.”

“How many?” Three o’clock. Damn. Okay. Maybe.

“Uh… two dozen? Is that possible?”

Oh. Oh, that was totally doable. “Yes. Yes, I can. Does she know if she’s having a boy or a girl?”

“God no, she’s gone on and on about ruining the surprise.” The guy chuckled. “These need to be really good cupcakes, so she remembers to come back to work.”

“I can do a dozen pink strawberry and a dozen polenta cupcakes with a blueberry frosting.”

“As long as a lady would think they’re pretty, it sounds great.” The man had an amazing smile, eyes crinkling up, teeth white in his tanned face.

“Okay. Okay, I’ll have them ready at 2:00 p.m. It’ll be a twenty-dollar deposit, please.” God. Okay. He’d be here late this afternoon making that birthday order for Mark and Wade, but it was a nice little bonus order.

“Oh, you rock. Seriously, you’re a lifesaver.” The guy pulled out his wallet and handed over a twenty.

“Thanks for stopping in. I’ll have your order ready at two.” Busy was good, right?

“Cool. Do I get a slip or anything?”

“Absolutely. Give me two shakes.” Lord, the man was making him stupid. He really needed to focus. “What’s the name on the ticket?”

“B. Banigan.”

“B. Banigan. I got it.” He wrote the receipt, then handed over a copy.

B’s fingers slid against his as he took the paper. “Cool. I’ll be back at two.”

“I’ll be here.” Allen’s fingers tingled, and he actually felt his belly get tight. God, he missed the days when Gary had connected with him like that. So bad.

B’s smile was warm and made the tight feeling stronger. “Me too.”

Then the man was heading for the door, offering a very fine view.

Allen rolled his eyes at himself. Christ, he was a giant dork. Seriously. He wasn’t in a place to even admire. Hell, he was finally in a spot where fantasizing didn’t make him cry. Still, if he was going to fantasize, Mr. B. Banigan was a good place to start.

Allen sighed, shrugged. Whatever. It was time to get to work, right? Make cupcakes, make joy for people.

He pushed B out of his mind and began.


IT WAS nearly three before Bit was able to leave the office to go get Josine’s cupcakes. He’d spent the day with her as she went through where she kept everything, where stuff was filed, how she paid the bills, and a million and one other things that she usually took care of for him.

They hadn’t been able to find an adequate temp to fill in for her while she was on maternity leave. So he was going to have to deal with it on his own. He was pretty sure he wasn’t going to survive.

Arriving at Sweet ’n’ Sassy just after three, he went in, the bell on the door announcing his arrival.

“We’re closed for the day, I’m sorry!” that soft, charming little voice rang out. “I’m just waiting for a customer to pick up.”

“That would be me. And I’m really sorry I’m late.” Man, he hadn’t realized they closed so early, or he’d have worked harder to be here at two.

“Oh, yay. I was worried. They’re all ready for you.” The lean guy came over, flour and frosting on his apron. God, the man was a poster child for adorable.

Bit grinned. “I was worried I’d be too late. I swear I don’t know what I’m going to do when she’s gone having her baby.” He licked his lips, more interested in the man at the moment than the cupcakes.

“You should find a temp or an intern, maybe.” The man’s eyes were on his mouth.

“I’ve tried temps, but none of them lived up to Josine’s standards. An intern might work….” God knew he needed someone, or he really wasn’t going to make it.

The man was still watching him intently. “I have a friend who’s a professor at the business school. I can ask him to contact you….”

“Really? That would be… damn, I’d appreciate that a lot.” He dug out his wallet and handed over one of his cards. “Banigan Construction, that’s me. B. Banigan” He grabbed a couple of twenties out next. “How much more do I owe you for the cupcakes?”

“Twenty-eight fifty.” Two royal-purple boxes were placed on the counter. “I do hope she enjoys them.”

“She will, and so will the heathens eating with her—my guys’ll eat pretty much anything you set in front of them. Thanks again….” He didn’t know this adorable, sexy man’s name.

“Allen. Allen Jameson.” Allen offered him a hand.

He shook it, taking a deep breath at the way his skin seemed to tingle where they touched. He held on longer than was polite, loathe to let go. “Nice to meet you,” he finally said, voice thick, his fingers still lingering.

“Thank you. I hope you enjoy the cupcakes.” He got a smile, and Allen’s bright-blue eyes danced for him. “I love repeat customers.”

“I can guarantee you I will be.” Whether or not the cupcakes were any good. He wanted to see Allen again.

Allen beamed. “Oh. Oh! Do you want to see them before you go?”

“Sure.” Anything to delay leaving.

The first box was filled with pink cupcakes with lovely white frosting and tiny pink hearts sprinkled over them. The second box had blue icing with little sculpted puppies on them.

“Oh, damn, look at that.” He was honestly tickled and impressed.

“I hope they’ll do.”

Do? They were amazing. “I thought I was getting cupcakes with icing. Instead, I got artwork—they’ll do.”

“Excellent.” Allen handed over a business card, the little thing a bright, shocking purple.

“It suits you,” Bit told him, grinning.

“I would hope so. I’m the whole thing. Chief cook and bottle washer.”

“It’s always good to meet a fellow business owner.”

“What do you do? Your company, I mean.”

“I own a construction company.” He’d have thought that was obvious, but if Allen was as flustered as he was feeling, that might be a good thing.

“Oh, that’s neat. My partner, Gary, used to be an architect.”

Oh, Allen was taken. Bit tried very hard not to let his disappointment show.

“Used to be?” he asked, trying to be polite.

“Gary passed away eighteen months ago.”

“Oh, I’m sorry.” Damn it, now he felt like an asshole, being jealous where he had no right to be and then finding out the man was dead on top of that.

“It was fast. He didn’t suffer.”

“That’s good.” He patted Allen’s hand awkwardly.

“Yeah. You’d better take your boxes before you miss your party.”

“My secretary’s party,” he corrected softly, though Josine was more an assistant than a secretary, with all she did for him. “You could come if you like.” He had no idea why he’d said that—it just popped out.

“Oh, that would be awkward, but that’s a nice offer, thank you. I… I have a few more orders to get done tonight, and tomorrow morning’s muffins made.”

“Okay, sure.” He grinned. “You would love Josine, though. Or at least she’d love you.” He chuckled and grabbed the boxes of cupcakes. “Thanks again. I’ll be back.”

“Please do. I’ll buy you a cup of coffee next time.” Allen’s cheeks were pink, and Bit could eat the man up.

“I’m going to hold you to that.” He almost said “See you tomorrow,” but didn’t. That didn’t mean he couldn’t show up tomorrow anyway, right?

Allen walked him to the tiny door. This had to be the smallest, most charming little bakery on earth with its two little tables, and Bit had the oddest urge to close the distance between him and Allen and kiss the man.

“It was nice to meet you.” Allen’s fingers brushed his arm.

“You too. See you soon.” He lingered a moment longer, then went out, carrying his boxes of cupcakes. He would definitely be back soon.

Author Bio:
Often referred to as "Space Cowboy" and "Gangsta of Love" while still striving for the moniker of "Maurice," Sean Michael spends his days surfing, smutting, organizing his immense gourd collection and fantasizing about one day retiring on a small secluded island peopled entirely by horseshoe crabs. While collecting vast amounts of vintage gay pulp novels and mood rings, Sean whiles away the hours between dropping the f-bomb and persuing the kama sutra by channeling the long lost spirit of John Wayne and singing along with the soundtrack to "Chicago."

A long-time writer of complicated haiku, currently Sean is attempting to learn the advanced arts of plate spinning and soap carving sex toys.

Barring any of that? He'll stick with writing his stories, thanks, and rubbing pretty bodies together to see if they spark.


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