Just Dex, A Les’s Bar Novel

Contributors: Jodi Payne and BA Tortuga
Series: Les's Bar #1
Genre: , , , ,
Release Date: January 19, 2021
Pages: 570

When Dexter Appleton’s best friend Huck commits suicide, it damn near kills Dex too. Huck was a bull rider with a crazy life, and leaves behind a big house, and a ton of unanswered questions. But Dex is just a simple guy, just a Texas redneck trying to scrape together a life, and he can’t handle much more before he breaks.

 

Cyrus Hughes is a professional Dom. He’s shocked to learn that Huck is gone, he’s met with Huck twice a month for years, and didn’t expected to miss a client so much. When he heads to Texas to pay his respects, he instinctively feels protective of Huck’s anxious and unlikely best friend, Dexter.

 

The attraction between them grows, even long distance, until Cyrus insists he needs Dex with him in New York. Clinging to his last bit of hope, Dex takes a leap of faith and moves what little he still owns in with Cyrus, hoping to find his place is in the world, and learn how to love a lifestyle Dom.

 

Their path is full of trial and error, adjusting expectations and discovering how they fit together. Cyrus and Dex try to smooth out the rough edges and create their own family, one where Cyrus hopes to convince Dex that he’s not “just” anything.

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Also in this series:

 

Excerpt:

Dex let himself into Huck’s house, his hand shaking so bad that he missed the lock twice.

Twice.

Huh, you’d think he was a drunk on a three-day binge.

Maybe he would be soon. Who knew? Maybe he’d run away from Salado, drive down to Galveston, up to Beaver’s Bend, away. Maybe he’d just go home and have a long nap. Maybe he’d head to Sixth Street and play with the college kids.

Maybe.

He could hear the alarm deal when he opened the door, distantly, and he wandered to the keypad, turned it off. Huck could do it from his phone—got a kick out of turning it on when he was house sitting, in fact.

Dex stood there in the foyer, the sun pouring into the house, lighting all the wood up, the dust making patterns in the air.

There was an alligator.

A tulip.

A longhorn.

A leaf.

A noose.

His knees buckled and he hit the floor, hands slapping down so hard it hurt.

Suddenly it was like he was Huck, hanging from his bullrope in a hotel bathroom, throat closed, body going heavy and swollen, nasty with gas and bacteria and flies and…

“No.”

The scream that wanted out was just a tiny squeak, but it proved he was here. Here in Huck’s house. Here, waiting for somebody—anybody—to tell him what the fuck to do.

His best friend in all the world—the face he’d known from the nursery at First Baptist, the first guy he’d ever kissed, the person who quit the baseball team when he got thrown out. Huck.

Huck was dead.

Jesus Christ, Huck McNamara was dead, and Dexter was…not.

 

***

 

Tuesdays were quiet enough that Cyrus could sit at the bar. He hauled himself through the front door out of the rain and stomped the water off his boots, shivering for a second as the air conditioning hit him. His iPad was stuffed under his jacket to stay dry and had been tucked against his side so hard he thought maybe he’d bruised something.

Ironic. He’d managed not to pick up any new bruises all day despite his client being particularly needy.

The bartender gave him a wave, and he waved back before hanging up his coat on the pegs by the door.

Tuesdays should be Greg behind the bar, but Greg finally got cast in some new off-Broadway show Cyrus couldn’t remember the name of and might be at rehearsal.

He set his iPad down on the bar at his usual spot with a good view of both the TV and the door.

“Mr. Hughes. Always good to see you.” A mug of hot coffee landed on the bar along with a bowl of pretzels.

Not Greg. Good for him. “Oh, perfect. Thanks, Perry.”

“It’s a fresh pot. I’m mainlining it tonight. I pulled a double yesterday and picked up Greg’s shift tonight. I’m toast.” Perry leaned against the bar, blue eyes shining in the lights. Such a lovely young man.

“Well, I won’t bother you much. I have a little work to do.”

“Bother me when you’re ready for a break. This place is dead with the weather.” Perry winked at him.

“Okay.” Sounded like Perry wanted some company. He’d just get the pressing stuff done, then he could chat awhile.

He took a sip of his coffee and hummed as the warmth chased the last of the damp summer rain away. Then opened up his iPad. His calendar was full. He’d had inquiries from two potential new clients, but fitting them in would be a challenge. He looked his week over and shook his head. The rest of this week was impossible but maybe—

Well, maybe next Thursday if Huck didn’t answer his phone soon. Cyrus had been calling him since he no-showed last week. It was the first time in nearly two years that Huck had missed an appointment; the cowboy was as regular as the sunrise. Twice a month on a Thursday since the very first time they’d met. It was more than a little worrisome.

He pulled out his cell phone and found Huck’s number, trying it one more time.

“McNamara’s phone. What can I do you for?”

Damn, that was…odd. Now he was definitely worried. And curious.

Okay. Discretion. He found his professional voice. He’d done this lots of times. “Hello. I’m looking for Huck. Is he available?”

“Oh hell’s bells, am I talking to his therapist? That’s what comes up on the phone.” So, another Texan—lover? Family?

Therapist was pretty common. He found the different ways people referred to him so interesting. “Yes, it’s Cyrus Hughes. Who am I speaking with?”

“Dex. Dexter Appleton. I—” There was a shaky breath, a pause. “Damn, Sam. This never gets easier. Never. I’m sorry, buddy. Huck hung himself in Nashville. He’s gone.”

“He what?” What? He knew something was wrong, but he was thinking rodeo accident or that Huck was in a wreck. Cy covered his other ear and listened. “I—I’m…sorry for your loss.” Hung himself. Cyrus would never have—he had no idea Huck was— “Shit.”

“Yessir. The funeral’s planned here for Monday. I mean, if you want to come out. You in Austin or Dallas?”

“New York,” he said absently. “I’m in New York.” Huck. Why didn’t you call me?

“New—What? Did you say New York?” The shock on the other end of the line was…huge. Like he’d said he was from the moon.

“Where are you? What was he doing in Nashville? How could he have hung himself?” Right. He needed to stop talking before this Dexter guy hung up on him.

“I’m at Huck’s house. We’re outside Salado. He was at a bull riding, and he used his motherfucking bull rope.” The guy’s voice started to crack, and he heard Dexter take a deep breath. “Sorry. Sorry. You need to know where to send flowers?”

“I think—” I think I need to be there. “When… When did you say the service was? Is it in…you said Salado?”

Perry glanced at him and he shook his head sadly, which made Perry come over and give his shoulder a squeeze. That was kind, but he really had no idea what he was feeling right now. He was in shock, obviously, as Dexter probably was as well. It definitely felt like real grief though.

“Monday afternoon at one. No viewing. Broecker here in town. I’m burying him next to his momma. Hold up.” There was a pause, and then, “Goddamn it, y’all! I am trying to deal with shit. Take that beer outside!”

He typed the date and time right into his calendar and the name of the town and the place into the notes. “Got it. I’m sorry, I won’t keep you. My condolences, I’m really very sorry.” He started to say that Huck was a good man, but what did he know really? He’d learned better than to assume. You’d think after all this time he’d know, but he didn’t.

“Thank you. I’m sure he, uh, he…liked you?” A soft chuckle sounded. “I’m sorry. I don’t know how that works—therapists.”

“He did. He trusted me.” In his world, that was the highest compliment Huck could have given him. “Thank you. Have a good night.”

He hung up and set his phone carefully on the bar.

Perry looked at him seriously. “You okay, Cy?”

Cyrus shrugged reflexively. “I lost a…a client.” It was really strange to think that a man with as much fight in him as Huck would hang himself. Sure, Huck was obviously frustrated, maybe angry, but suicidal? Wouldn’t Cy have seen that?

Should he have?

“Shit. I’m sorry, man.”

He tossed a twenty on bar and pushed off his stool. “I’m going to head home.”

“I get it. Safe home, Cy.”

He scooped up his iPad, tucked it under his arm and stepped out into the rain.

He was nearly home before he realized he’d forgotten his coat.

Fuck.

He’d go back for it tomorrow.

Title: Just Dex
Published by: Tygerseye Publishing, LLC
ASIN: B08S1R8J3C
ISBN13: 978-1-951011-38-3

Find Jodi's full catalog with links to all your favorite formats at Queeromance Ink!

Heart of a Cowboy

Contributors: Jodi Payne, B.A. Tortuga
Series: Higher Elevation #1
Genre: , , , ,
Release Date: October 29, 2019
Pages: 240

Heart of a Redneck

An East Meets Western M/M Romance

Colby McBride is a blue-collar cowboy trying to make ends meet laying tile in Colorado. A loner by choice, Colby works hard with his hands and finds his peace camping in the mountains outside Boulder. Gordon James is a white-collar restaurateur who owns not one, but two successful establishments in downtown Boulder. He’s a sophisticated urbanite who is devoted to his work and is accustomed to getting what he wants.

The men are friends, but sparks fly when Colby falls in love and decides to show Gordon how much fun a good old boy can be. They’re just beginning to explore their relationship when Gordon’s sister’s suicide leaves him with custody of his five-year-old niece.

Colby comes from a huge family and is eager to help with the girl and to prove his worth to Gordon. But neither of them is ready for the tremendous changes to their already busy lives, or for how this new relationship with Olivia challenges them, complicating the way they interact with each other. They say opposites attract, but can these two very different men work together to join their disparate lives and form a strong, if highly unlikely, family?

Available for purchase or to borrow with Kindle Unlimited

Buy the Book: Amazon

Also in this series:

 

EXCERPT

Chapter One

IT WAS a beautiful day. The sun was bright, and a light breeze ruffled Gordon’s hair as he got out of his Jeep Wrangler. He opened up the back, pulled out a heavy, square cardboard box and a bag with two bottles of wine, and then headed into the restaurant.

He stopped and set the two bottles of wine on the bar next to a man bent over some paperwork. “Hey, Oscar.”

“Hey, boss.” Oscar was the manager at Delmara. Gordon had hired him many years ago, not long after he opened the place. It had been Oscar’s brilliant idea to add tapas to the menu, and look where they were now. Oscar was constantly proving himself more valuable.

Gordon had asked Oscar if he’d be interested in running his new farm-to-table place, Gaia, when it opened a year ago, but Oscar had turned the job down. He said he knew what he was good at and it wasn’t yuppie tomatoes. Gotta love him.

“Oscar, these two bottles are for Mr. White. He has a reservation tonight and requested them specifically. The first one is on the house because I want him to sponsor part of the spring mentoring fundraiser. Make sure he gets his usual table and Becky as his server.”

“Got it. And is he bringing his… er….”

“Date. Call her his date. Remind Becky.” Becky had a few other choice words for her, he knew. He understood; after all, the woman, drunk at the time, had loudly accused Becky of flirting with White the last time they were in. But Becky would be fine. White liked her and tipped well, and she liked her bread buttered.

Oscar laughed. “I’ll do that. Oh, boss? Don’t forget that the ladies’ room has a….”

“Got the tile.” He pointed to the box under his arm. “But I need to make that call. I’ll go do that right now. Thanks, Oscar.”

Gordon hurried back to his office. The fucking special-order tile in that bathroom was costing him a fortune, but scheduling the work would be easy at least. His tile guy was also a buddy, and always easy to bribe with good beer. He closed his office door and dialed.

“Yo, sugarbutt. How goes it?” Colby answered him with a low drawl that reminded him of incredible whiskey poured over sugar cubes.

He put the box down on his desk and collapsed into his desk chair, grinning. “Hey, Colby. Listen, I need you to come by and install that replacement tile I ordered for the ladies’ room at Delmara. You got time this afternoon? I have a beer with your name on it.”

“For you? I’ll make time.” Colby laughed, utterly unashamed about wanting his beer. “You might have to have me dirty, though. I’ve been loading my truck with tile boxes all morning, and I’m covered in ceramic dust.”

That was Colby, always coming off a hard day’s work somewhere. “Please. Do you ever show up clean? What time will I see you?”

“Is four too late? Then I won’t have to run off.”

“Four it is. The bathroom stall has been taped off for a week. It can go one more day.” He still needed to head upstairs and change. He spent nearly every evening front of house, and he had a VIP coming in tonight, so he needed to be on time. Oh shit, he needed to pick up his suit at the cleaners. Okay, that errand was next.

“You’ll have to let it cure twenty-four hours anyway.” Something crashed, and he heard, “I swear to God, y’all. You break those tiles and I will personally rip off your heads and shit down your neck.”

“Oh, listen to you go all boss. Should I let you go?”

“Yeah, yeah. I got a reputation to uphold and shit. See you at four, man.”

Gordon laughed. Colby’s voice had dropped a whole octave. “Your secret is safe with me. See you at four.”

A raspberry sounded, and then Colby hung up on him. There was something about Colby—this genuine joy when it came to anything from working to shooting pool to watching a movie—it made the guy fun to hang out with. And Gordon needed some fun once in a while. He loved his job, but it could really eat up his personal time.

Still grinning, he put his phone back in his pocket. He cut open the box to check out the tile he’d ordered. It was the right stuff. He’d just leave it on his desk for Colby. He took a second to look through the mail Oscar had left for him. Bills, bills, and more bills as usual, but also the package he’d been expecting—the newest addition to his porn collection. He left that on his desk unopened and headed out to the bar.

“Hey, Oscar, I have to run out and get my suit, and I’m going to stop by Gaia and make sure they’re good for the weekend. I’ll be back by three. Colby McBride will be by around four to see about the tile. Send him to my office when he gets here?”

“Oh, great. Will do.”

“What do the reservations look like?”

“We’re packed, boss. Tonight and tomorrow, both.”

“Nice.”

“He’ll be out by six, right?”

“I’ll make sure he is.” It wasn’t a lot of work; it’d be okay. They could hang out and have that beer after Colby was done. Damn priorities.

“All right, I’m off.” Gordon brushed the wrinkles out of his shirt and headed out the door.

God, this gorgeous day. No wonder they were expecting a packed house. People were out everywhere. Nothing was as good for business as the promise of springtime.

After a long winter, there was nothing quite like coming alive again.

  

Chapter Two

“MCBRIDE? YOU get that utility room floor done?”

“Would I be out here looking for my draw if I didn’t, man? Y’all know I do good work.” Come on, motherfucker. Pay me. I got to tile a bathroom and see my man. He reckoned it didn’t matter a bit whether Gordon knew he was Colby’s. That was just details. Eventually he would make Gordon see him as more than a beer buddy.

If he could start his weekend with a check in one hand and a beer in the other, he would be a happy little cowboy. He’d started one job, picked up supplies for another, and trimmed out the third. He was a busy man.

Thank God for that.

“You’re the best guy out there,” Lou admitted grudgingly, handing over his draw. “And I gotta say, you will work for money.”

“I’m good that way.” He pocketed the check after peeking to make sure all the numbers were there. “Thank you, sir. I will be on the Williams’s job come Monday. Should take me a day and a half, give or take.”

“Then you’ll work that Best Western?”

“Just the lobby fireplace, man. You can get any asshole to slap down twelve-bys on the rooms.” He knew what his happy ass was worth, and it was worth more than mindless tile work. He liked to be pushed some.

“Just the lobby.” Lou rolled his eyes like dice. “The owner’s wife has ideas.”

“Faboo.” Something else he was pretty good at was talking to folks. He liked people, so for the most part, people liked him. “I can talk to her Tuesday afternoon or Wednesday, huh? Let her show me what all she wants.”

Lou snorted. “Oh, I’m sure she’ll love whatever you have to offer. Try for Tuesday, yeah? I want you done over there by Friday. I’ve got a couple of big jobs I’ve bid on for the week after, and there might be some design work on one of them. I could use you.”

“Just call.” Lou paid on time and, so far, didn’t seem to be too much of a dick, so Colby gave the big man priority. “Have a good weekend, sir.”

“You too, cowboy.”

He tipped his gimme cap and headed out to his F-250, then hauled his butt up into the cab. “Okay. Let’s get this show on the road.”

Colby cracked his window, turned Luke Bryan up loud, and put on his sunglasses. Damn, he did love to have him some springtime, even if it came later up here than it did back home. The snow was gone, the trees were budding, and the sun was making promises that it might be time to grill out wearing nothing but his cutoffs.

Between the weather and his music, the forty-minute drive from the worksite just flew on by. Traffic into town was pretty heavy but moving, and it wasn’t long before he was pulling into the lot at Delmara. He saw Gordy’s Wrangler, looking a damn sight cleaner than any Jeep he’d ever seen back home. Figured. That Wrangler probably hadn’t seen a dirt road in its life. He parked right next to the shiny Jeep, tossed his sunglasses on the seat, grabbed his tool belt, and headed inside.

“Ah, Mr. McBride.” Gordy’s manager waved him over to the bar. Hell if he could remember the guy’s name.

“Yes, sir. Mr. James called. Says he got a job for me?”

“Yes, but he wants you to stop by his office first. You remember where you’re going?”

“Think so.”

“I’ll buzz him. You can head on back.”

He headed through the restaurant to the office, thinking that the tile floor in the hall probably ought to be replaced. It was pretty beat-up.

Gordy’s office door opened before he even had a chance to knock. “Hey, man. Come on in.”

“Hey, honey. You wanting me to get to work on that bathroom, huh?” Look at that hot motherfucker. Colby did like him some stud.

Gordy closed the office door. He turned around, and Colby got a good view of his five-o’clock shadow and his crazy green eyes. “I’d really like to take a break now, but we open in two hours, and those ladies aren’t going to like you in their bathroom much.”

“I live to serve, honey, and your fancy-assed customers might be took aback by my Wrangler butt.”

“They’re not that fancy. You’re just that cowboy.” Gordy laughed, blond bangs falling in his eyes. He swept them away the way he did, one hand carding through them and then that little toss of his head. Gordy gave him one of them weird-assed man-hug deals, bicep popping through his shirt like some high-dollar Popeye. “Thanks for coming by. Now get to work.”

“Bossy old man,” he teased and opened the office door real quick before Gordy could react. “You put the tiles in the bathroom?”

“Oh shit. No, they’re on my desk.” Gordy picked up the box and handed it over. “Here. And don’t make me hound you for an invoice like last time.”

“Yeah, yeah. I’m on it.” He grabbed the box, nodded, then made his way to the bathroom. He was going to have to set up his wet saw to trim around the toilet….

Before long he was lost in the steadiness of the work, setting the tile, making sure everything was just so, and the time just flew by.

“Hey, looking good in here. Not that I would expect anything less.” Gordy set a cold bottle of beer down on the floor next to Colby. “We open in a half an hour, you close?”

“You know it. I’ll pop in tomorrow afternoon and grout it before y’all open.” He grabbed the bottle and downed half the brew. Oh, hoppy goodness. One thing about hanging with a restaurant guy? You didn’t have to drink so much Coors Light.

“That would be great. Really appreciate it. Come on up when you’re done if you want. I need a shower, and I have to put on a tie for a VIP tonight, but I’ve got some time to hang out. Back elevator’s running again.” Pretty neat that Gordy owned the building and lived two floors above the restaurant.

“Spiffy! Sure.” Man in a suit. Yay. “I got to go load my truck. You got a sign for this stall? Someone steps in here on this thin-set and they’ll slide and hurt themselves and ruin my tile job.”

“Can’t have that.” Gordy winked at him and then looked around. “Oh. I thought there was a rope and… yeah. I’ll get Oscar to set something up in here. Do your thing and then come on up. Door’ll be open.”

“Yessir. I’m on it.” It took him two trips to load up the truck and get his shit locked in his toolbox. He finished his beer on the way and took a second to wipe his face off.

Lord have mercy, he was filthy. Good thing he’d warned Mr. Fancy Tie before he showed.

He headed around to the back of the building and took the stairs instead of the elevator. The stairs were more convenient anyway; the fire door on the third floor opened up right next to Gordy’s front door.

He let himself in, as he had done many times before, and was overwhelmed as usual by the size of the damn TV in the front room. He kept telling Gordy to move it to the back wall, but the guy was as stubborn as a hog on ice. Otherwise, though, the apartment was comfortable and not nearly as showy as Gordy could probably afford to be if he wanted. Everything was new and shiny, but the couches were comfy, and the decor was basically gay bachelor pad. Framed Stonewall poster on one wall, rack of DVDs, mostly porn, under the TV, the usual. Broadway soundtracks lined up next to the stereo.

“That you?”

“No, sir!”

Some ancient rock band was on the radio. Gordy always had music going. Colby just shook his head.

Gordy came out of the kitchen still in his jeans but nothing else except the two bottles of beer he was carrying.

“You get mugged on your way up?”

“What?”

“You lost your shirt.”

Gordy laughed, holding out one of the bottles. “Have another beer, cowboy. Your jokes aren’t funny yet.”

“Now, now. Ain’t it you that ought to be having another one so I start getting funnier?” Lord have mercy, he did love to look at that man. He could watch Gordon James wander around his so-fancy condo for days.

Well, maybe not days. That would lead to long-term blue balls.

“Yeah, that’s never worked. There’s no hope for you.” Gordy took a swig of his beer. “Oh!” He pointed to the coffee table. “New porn in the mail.”

“Lord, honey. Don’t you know that’s all on the computer now?”

Gordy shook his head. “That’s vintage, my friend. The early bareback stuff. Low edit, tons of fucking. That’s not your cheap internet thrill. You should borrow it.”

“Low edit—what the fuck does that even mean, man? Seriously.” Tons of fucking he got.

“No cuts? No kissing and then cut to the money shots?” Gordon sounded a little snooty about it. Like this was something everybody knew but Colby. “You know, the whole scene—foreplay to finale.”

“Not all of us are conness… connoisseurs and shit. Me? I like a nice long bout of on-screen fucking. That way if your mind wanders….” He did love to tease.

“Your mind or your hand?” Gordon snorted. “I’m with you, the longer the better.” He drew his words out, and they had a little heat and a little growl in them. “Mm.”

“Listen to you.” He’d like for Gordon to listen to his happy ass, just for a second, just long enough to prove that he was man enough to rock Gordon’s world.

Gordon laughed. “One of these days we should hit the clubs in Denver. You get over there much?”

“Once a month or so. Depends on whether I have to run over for a specialty tile in the afternoon. That makes it easier.” And he got to dance. Damn, he did love to two-step.

“I think it’s been—God, I don’t know—maybe five or six weeks since I’ve been there. I used to go every Sunday. Last few weeks I’ve been watching a game or bad movies with this tile guy on Sundays. Or losing at pool. I’m still waiting for that chance to redeem myself, by the way.”

Few weeks? It had been three months. “Oh, now. I’ll play you any time, but you ain’t got redemption coming.”

“I might if you’d drink anything stronger than beer.”

“Country don’t mean dumb, Gordy.” He winked over. Some things were real important—knowing when to drink and when to make a bet were two of them.

“Nope. And apparently a college degree doesn’t make a man wise either.” Gordy winked right back at him. “Oh, speaking of wise. Have you got a couple of work days open in the next week or two? I’m having a new shower installed in the master bath, and I want to do something kind of modern and flashy in there with the tile after. I told them I knew a guy.”

“Yeah? Sure. We got lots of options. I’ll bring a few things over—wood-grain tile is huge right now. I did a bath the other day with glass pieces in the grout line. It looked like diamonds or some shit. Too fucking cool.”

“Glass? How cool is that? Must take forever to do, though, huh?”

He shrugged, took a long swig of beer. “Depends on what you want. They have some strips you can lay in. You do know a guy, after all.”

“Yep. A very reliable guy that does top-notch work. Thanks. Just let me know when you can show me the samples.” Gordy finished off his beer. “Drinking before work. Good thing it’s not full-on summer yet.” He set his bottle on the coffee table. “I need a shower. You want to hang out and watch the cable or whatever, go ahead. I might even have some food in the fridge.”

“You mean you’re not worried about your virtue?”

Gordon snorted and tossed Colby the remote. “Don’t drink all my beer, cowboy.” He headed down the hall toward his bedroom.

One day, man. One day I will have my shit together enough and I will make my move. Colby watched that tight little ass as Gordon disappeared into his bedroom.

He could be patient. In theory. Really he could.

He hoped.

Title: Heart of a Redneck
Published by: Tygerseye Publishing, LLC
ASIN: B09Y649SB5
ISBN13: 978-1951011758

Find Jodi's full catalog with links to all your favorite formats at Queeromance Ink!

Be sure to visit BA Tortuga online at batortuga.com

Stable Hill

Contributors: Jodi Payne
Genre: , , , ,
Release Date: September 5, 2019
Pages: 215

Can three men from very different backgrounds find a home and a future together?

After losing his husband to cancer, Oscar Kennedy has his hands full with their four girls, the house, his job, and his mother-in-law. When he loses his father too, keeping Stable Hill, the old horse farm where he grew up, becomes impossible. Oscar hires Jeffrey Stokes, a slick-looking real estate broker with a roll-up-his-sleeves work ethic, to get it on the market.

Russell White manages the day-to-day at Stable Hill. Russ had loved Oscar’s dad like a father, and took on even more responsibility when the old man fell ill. He is shocked and saddened by Oscar’s decision to sell.

All three men have a stake in Stable Hill, and it’s not long before they start to invest in one another too. But their complicated relationship doesn’t make having to sell Stable Hill any easier. Will the fragile triad they’re building last when the farm that brought them together is gone?

Available to purchase, or to borrow with Kindle Unlimited.

Buy the Book: Amazon

 

EXCERPT

Russ coughed, bringing him back to their conversation. “So… we’re meeting a real estate guy?”

“Yeah. His name is Stokes. Jeffrey Stokes. Have you heard of him? Bob Keller, you know him, Dad’s tractor guy? Stokes sold Keller’s farm about six months ago.”

Russ shook his head and squinted down the long driveway. “Nope, don’t know the name. Stokes, I mean. I know Keller, of course.”

“Keller is straight up. Should be a good recommendation.”

“Yeah.”

This time when the silence fell between them, Oscar tried to let it be, but Russ seemed way more comfortable with it than he was. He watched the waves of grass blowing in the hayfield and examined the porch railing, which Russ must have painted recently because it looked great. He did pretty much anything but look at Russ; if he were honest, he was a little intimidated. The guy knew the farm inside and out, as Oscar had once when he’d lived with Dad, but didn’t anymore. Russ also knew damn well that he hadn’t spent any real time out here in, well, years really, the last year especially. Russ and Dad had become friends, and sometimes he worried that Russ was closer to Dad than he was.

“I tried to get the girls to come out here with me today.”

“Yeah? Bet they’re getting big. Been a while since I seen ’em.”

“I know.” The last time they were here, the twins were fascinated by Russ’s tour of the barn, and Russ let them ride Lollipop, Dad’s ancient pony, walking them each around the ring on a lead. That had been a nice day for them.

They’d buried Dad that morning, so it wasn’t his best day, but it was great to see the girls enjoy the property.

“Car.”

He looked up. “Sure is.” It was a hell of a car too. A sleek black Mercedes coup. He’d never seen anything so shiny in his father’s driveway before. Stokes parked it alongside his incredibly not-sexy, seven-year-old minivan, and not far from Russ’s old dusty, rusty, red pickup.

Talk about out of place. And as it turned out, the Mercedes was second only to the man who got out of the car. Jeffrey Stokes was shiny himself—tall, dark-haired, embarrassingly well dressed.

And sexy as hell.

Russ whistled softly. “Oh. Damn.”

“Yeah,” he agreed quietly, just for Russ’s ears, pretending it wasn’t weird that they were both ogling the Realtor. He cleared his throat. “Welcome, Mr. Stokes.”

“Please call me Jeffrey,” Stokes said, climbing the stairs onto the front porch and going right to Russ first with a smile. “Well, hello.”

Russ’s return handshake was curt, and he pointed to Oscar. “Oscar over there is the owner. I’m Russ. I just manage the place.”

“Oh. Of course. I see.” Stokes gave Russ a nod. “Hello, Oscar.” The Realtor turned a breathtaking smile on him, giving him goose bumps and making him swallow.

Down, boy, he told himself, more amused than anything. That hadn’t happened to him in a very long time. Stokes’s hand hung between them for a moment and he blinked at it.

“Oh.” He shook with Stokes, forcing himself to smile back and think clearly. “Hi. Welcome.”

“So, this is a great piece of property you have here. Big, huh?”

Oscar raised an eyebrow. “Thank you.” No, I’m not interested in going commercial.

“You’re looking to sell it as a working farm, right? It’s a little off the beaten path, but it’s so beautifully situated, I don’t think you’ll have much trouble.”

Okay. He relaxed; this guy got it. Thank you, Bob. “It’s a working farm now. I’d like to see it go to someone that will keep it that way.”

“Great. I’m completely on board. I already have some thoughts, and I’m sure you do as well, but I want to work logically here and do a proper evaluation. If it’s all right with you, my preference would be not to discuss anything related to pricing or get too deep into any fix-up costs until I’ve seen the whole property and have a chance to sit down with the numbers.” While he was talking, Stokes took his jacket off, folded it in half and draped it over the back of one of Dad’s old porch rockers. Then he added his tie to it and rolled up his sleeves.

 

Title: Stable Hill
Published by: Tygerseye Publishing, LLC
ASIN: B07XF83BKP
ISBN13: 978-1-951011-06-2

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Cryptic: Puzzles, Book One

Contributors: Jodi Payne, BA Tortuga
Series: Puzzles #1
Genre: , , , , ,
Release Date: August 17, 2021
Pages: 190

Derek “Crash” Wheeler never really wanted to make detective. He was a good marine and a great beat cop, but now he has to deal with cases like the one he just got handed. Multiple deaths. Probably a serial killer. That’s all bad enough, but now he has a crazy ex-profiler calling and texting, acting like he knows exactly what’s going on. 

 

Matthew Herrera has more than one clue about Derek’s case. He worked on a serial murder case once that took everything away from him, and while the perpetrator went to jail, Matthew knows the case isn’t over. This murderer likes to play games, and he doesn’t work alone.

 

Racing against time, Derek and Matthew have to learn to work together to solve this case, and they find they have a chemistry they can’t deny, even if it feels selfish to indulge. People are dying out there, and it will take all their skills to work out this puzzle before it’s too late, or before one of them becomes the next victim.

Buy the Book: Amazon
Title: Cryptic, Puzzles Book One
Published by: Tygerseye Publishing, LLC
ASIN: B09BKB3DX5
ISBN13: 978-1-951011-55-0

Wrecked

Contributors: Jodi Payne and BA Tortuga
Series: East Meets Western #1
Genre: , , , ,
Release Date: July 23, 2019
Pages: 276

Wrecked

An East Meets Western M/M Romance

The call comes when Beckett Adler least expects it. He’s made a new life for himself in Vermont and has a law practice of his own. After four years he’s even stopped wearing his wedding ring. So when he finds out his husband, bull rider Skyler Paulson, has been seriously injured at an event, he isn’t sure what he wants to do. He knows what’s right though, so he heads down to Baltimore to bring his man home. 

Sky knows his injuries are a career-ender, and he can’t believe Beck has come for him after all this time. He’s not a hundred percent sure what went wrong with their marriage and he has no idea how to be anything but a bull rider. But he wants this second chance, so he grabs at it with both hands. 

There’s a lot Sky has to learn, from how to walk again to how to settle down with the man he loves. Beck needs to learn to open up and how to be more trusting. For their marriage to work again, both men will have to find a way to meet in the middle. Because neither of them wants to be wrecked anymore.

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Chapter One 

The offices of Walker and Adler, LLP closed closed early on Fridays. That was one of the perks of practicing law in Vermont; weekends were sacred. There were other perks--it was perfectly acceptable to show up late because there was fresh powder on the mountain, you could bring your dog to the office, and you only had to wear a suit on court days.

Of course, the rules, such as they were, didn’t concern Beckett Adler too much since he was the boss.

Beckett locked up and stepped out into the brisk afternoon, but the chill in the air didn’t keep him from stopping by the hardware store for varnish and a couple of foam brushes. In a month or so he’d get his boat back to Lake Champlain. His weekend plans included refinishing the tiller and the cleats, and maybe starting on the companionway.

He stopped by the co-op and picked up a few groceries to make his Friday night pizza, and he was nearly home when the rain started.

Rain was good. He liked snow, he loved to ski, but his mind was on the lake now; the water, the sunshine and the wind.

His phone buzzed, but the number that came up on the console was nothing he recognized, so he ignored it. He wasn’t at work; he didn’t have to answer.

He turned off Route 7 and onto Church Hill, stopping by the post office for his mail before heading home. He pulled his Jeep Wrangler into the garage and parked it next to his ancient pickup just as it started to really pour. Good timing.

The house was cold, so he stoked up the wood stove before starting dinner.

His phone rang again -- same number of course, damn telemarketers -- and he ignored it, but this time someone left a voicemail at least.

It made him nuts to have that stupid little red notification badge sitting there, like it was one more thing on his to-do list. He stuck his pizza in the oven, then listened to the voicemail on speaker.

“Uh. Hey. Hi. This is Parker Stephens. You probably don’t remember, but...shit. Shit, can you call me back on this number, man? I don’t know how to say on the phone, but I need to you call. Soon. I’ll call back in ten. It’s important, about Sky.”

He dropped the phone on the kitchen counter like it had burned him.

Sky.

He definitely remembered Parker. Parker was Skyler’s rodeo buddy. Rodeo buddy, best friend, fuck buddy. Whatever. If Parker was calling him in a panic, if the guy couldn’t just leave a message, it sure wasn’t good news.

Beckett didn’t even wear his wedding ring anymore. Did he really need to know? Did he want to?

He paced the kitchen, eyes still glued to his phone. What would happen if he called? What did that mean for tomorrow?

What would it say about him if he didn’t?

He scooped up the phone and dialed before he lost his nerve.

“Dude. Beckett, that you?” That lazy drawl was anything but. No, this was total panic. Fuck.

He closed his eyes and took a breath. “What is it, Parker?”

Is he dead? just tell me.

“Sky’s been hurt, buddy. Bad. He’s in a medically induced coma, but the docs don’t think-- I mean, if you want to say goodbye, you should come. Now.”

If I want to…?

He braced a hand on the sink and swallowed hard, working to keep it to together. He’d known in his heart he’d get this call one day. Now he needed to get through it.

Godammit, Sky. Four years since you left, and this is still harder than I thought.

He steadied his voice and focused on Parker. “Where are you? Where is he?”

“Mercy Medical in Baltimore. He was riding good, but…” Always the riding. Always.

Baltimore. Same time zone. Maybe even a direct flight. Might be faster to drive. But first he had to get Parker off the phone.

“You listen to me Parker. No decisions get made until I get there, am I clear? Unless it’s something life-saving it can wait. I’m coming.”

“You’re his next of kin and his medical power of attorney. I got no choice.”

Good.

This was Parker’s fault anyway. At least partly.

“If I can’t find a flight I’ll drive. I’ll be there as soon as I can.” He hung up the phone.

He didn’t want to know what had happened; that wasn’t important right now. And whatever was going on, he didn’t want to hear another word from that guy about it.

Jesus, Sky.

He pushed away from the counter surprised to find that despite the aching dread in his chest his knees were managing to hold him up. He rushed up the stairs to pack a bag. Jeans, a couple of shirts. He didn’t need much.

As soon as he’d closed his laptop and given up on flights, the smoke alarm went off downstairs. He raced back down with the laptop and his duffel in his arms, dropped everything and opened the sliding back doors to clear the smoke from the kitchen.

“Shit.”

He was able to yank his charred pizza out, toss it in the sink, and turn on the tap before his vision clouded.

Jesus Fucking Christ, Skyler. I swear to God if you don’t die I might wring your neck myself.

He hurried around the downstairs and muted the smoke alarm, then shut the dampers to cut off oxygen to the fire in the wood stove, closed and locked the sliding doors, and grabbed his keys.

He’d get dinner on the road.

And a huge coffee.

Title: Wrecked
Published by: Tygerseye Publishing, LLC
ASIN: B07TWK3Y8C
ISBN13: 978-1-733076-0-3

 

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Not Over You

Contributors: Jodi Payne
Genre: , , , ,
Release Date: September 14, 2021

Five years ago, Scott Borden finally shook the sand off his feet and left his Cape Cod hometown for a dream job in Silicon Valley. Scott barely gave Falmouth a second thought once he was in California, but he’s never been able to get Jarlath completely out of his mind.

 

Jarlath O’Connolly now owns his late father’s pub in Falmouth Heights. O’Connolly’s pub is part of the heartbeat of his hometown and its walls hold the memories of everything he’s ever loved. Everything except his best friend, Scott. Scott was easy to replace with a new bartender, but there was no replacing Scott in Jarlath’s heart.

 

The summer is ending, there’s a hurricane in the forecast, and Scott’s finally come home, but Jarlath isn’t sure he’s ready for the reunion. A lot has changed, including Jarlath’s understanding of who Scott really was to him. Will they still find each other hard to get over once they’re face to face?

 

Buy the Book: Amazon~~Universal eBook Links
Title: Not Over Your
Published by: Tygerseye Publishing, LLC
ASIN: B09D7FC7TW
ISBN13: 978-1-951011-57-4

First Rodeo

Contributors: Jodi Payne and BA Tortuga
Series: The Cowboy and the Dom Trilogy #1
Genre: , , , , ,
Release Date: October 15, 2019
Pages: 303

First Rodeo: The Cowboy and the Dom Trilogy, Book One

When a killer strikes, Texan and former rodeo cowboy, Sam O’Reilly, loses his older brother. Unbeknownst to Sam, James was also the lover and sub of a sophisticated New York City Dom named Thomas Ward. Sam comes to the city determined to stay until he can bring the murderer to his own brand of justice, while Thomas’ more ordered mind is hoping for a legal solution. Neither man expects their connection to the other, but having each lost someone irreplaceable, their hearts are crying out for comfort almost as loudly as their bodies are screaming for each other.

Some yearnings refuse to be ignored, but transcending their differences to explore the fragile connection between them will prove to be a steep a hill to climb--the first of many. As Sam and Thomas take the first tentative steps on the rocky path that might lead to a relationship, the killer steps out of the shadows...

And this time, his sights are set on Sam.

*Note: Each of the books in The Cowboy and the Dom Trilogy have fully realized romantic HEAs. However, the overarching suspense element leaves readers on a cliffhanger after books one and two, to be resolved in book three.

Available to purchase, or to borrow with Kindle Unlimited.

 

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Also in this series:

Chapter One

“What the fuck are you going to do, baby brother?” Bowie stood at the gravesite, staring down at him like Bowie always had. Gigantic prick. “Do you think you’re going to fucking fix this? James is dead.”

Like Sam didn’t know that.

Fury flashed inside him, hot and fueled by an agony he’d never expected, and he turned, his fist shooting out and catching Bowie right in the uniformed gut.

Rule number two: never monologue.

That surprised Bowie enough that it doubled him over, and Sam got an uppercut in. He had to get his shots in while he could. His big brother outweighed him by sixty pounds and towered over him by damn near a foot and, he had to be honest, had ten years of being a Ranger behind him.

“Motherfucker!” Bowie reached for him, and he danced out of range.

“You kiss my momma with that mouth, grunt?” He went for Bowie’s trick knee, thankful he had his shitkickers on. That pointed toe was useful, and he had a chance to fell the giant.

Rule number three: once you get them down, keep them down.

Used to be that him and James would work together to take Bowie down. That was never going to happen again.

Never.

The thought of that closed casket, that slashed-up face he’d had the misfortune to identify hidden under the oiled wood, made him gag and stumble, and Bowie took advantage, the fists on the back of his neck enough to face-plant him in grave dirt.

“Rule number one, baby brother. Don’t start shit you don’t have the strength to finish.” The hands around his throat were strong, the tremble in them only noticeable because they were so tight.

The sound of a pistol cocking was sharp and clear, and the fuzzy image of Aunt Linda wavered in his sight. “Boys, if you upset your momma and daddy, I will be put out. Get your skanky asses off the ground. Y’all are in your Sunday clothes.”

“Seriously, Aunt Linda?” Bowie muttered. “Even I didn’t come to the gravesite armed.”

“I know you boys. Can’t trust you as far as I can throw you. Get your asses up. Now.”

Bowie stood up and hauled him alongside, just as easy as pie.

“Now apologize,” she demanded.

“He started it.” Bowie was still a suck-up.

“Jim Bowie O’Reilly! You apologize to your baby brother for putting your hands on him right now!” God, she was a harpy—broad as a barn and fierce as any woman who had raised her own siblings had to have been.

“Sorry, asshole.”

“Yeah. Me too. I just…” Sam waved one hand toward the grave. This wasn’t right. James was supposed to be in New York, living this amazing life with lights and a zillion friends. Bowie had the adventure, James had the city, and he was supposed to stay home here and…hold down the fort or something. He was the baby, and… “It should have been you, Bowie.”

Everyone expected that awful phone call. Every time Bowie was deployed, they lived with that quiet fear.

James was a motherfucking school teacher. An elementary school teacher who didn’t get tattoos or take drugs or—

“Sam!” Aunt Linda sounded horrified.

“What? It’s true!”

“Yeah. Yeah, I know.” Suddenly Bowie looked…diminished. Gray and tired and older than the seven years that separated them. “Fuck you, Sammy. I know. So what the fuck are you going to do about James? I have to report back to work.”

“I’m going to go clean out his place.” He was between jobs. Hell, he was between lives—college was pretty much done with him, he’d educated himself into obscurity in ranching, and God knew, no one needed a broke-dick cowboy with a master’s in art history, a shattered leg from bronc riding, and a temper that tended to flare at inappropriate-at-best times. He would go clean things out and see if he could encourage the detectives to find out…anything.

“You sure you’re not going to short out, Sammy?”

“Fuck you. I’ve been to Dallas, Austin. Hell, I went with James to Mardi Gras in New Orleans. I ain’t a kid!”

“You’re my kid brother, Sammy, and I only have one left now.” An expression of pure agony crossed Bowie’s face, and Sam turned his back so he didn’t have to see it.

“I’ll be fine. I’ve got the time, and Momma’s got to take care of Daddy.”

Things hadn’t been good, but the news of James’s murder had made the little baby strokes turn into a real one, and while Daddy wasn’t crippled or nothing, no one was going to let him fly. Not yet.

“Come on. They’re waiting for y’all down to the big house. You know there’s food and all the Ladies Auxiliary waiting to make a fuss.” Aunt Linda didn’t so much as let a tear go, but she did slip her Saturday Night Special into her pocketbook. “Brother Martin will want to bless you both and lay hands.”

“That son of a bitch touches me and I’ll rip out his spleen,” Bowie growled, and Sam had to smile. That was his big brother.

He could hear James, right now, echoing in his head.

Be good, Jim, honey. You’re teaching Sammy bad habits.

God, it was never going to be right. Never.

“Come on. Let’s go.”

He turned and headed for his truck. James wasn’t here. That was a grave, a body, a stone. He was going to go find James where he’d lived.

 

Chapter Two

Thank God this was New York City, the only town he knew of, except maybe LA, where yellow police tape didn’t slow anyone down. Aside from the cops, he was the only one there, the only one who cared. Thomas had about as much privacy as he was going to get.

He leaned against the side of the building as the NYPD took the tape down, balled it up, and stuffed it into a nearby garbage can. The evidence markers had been gone for a couple of days, the chalk lines were gone now too, and even the bloodstains in the concrete were already fading. Another day or two and there wouldn’t be any evidence left that James had died here.

But Thomas wouldn’t forget. He couldn’t get away from it. He lived here, worked here, walked the same goddamn streets as whoever was responsible. He still carried around memories of his time with James that he’d never share with anyone. He carried around the plans they’d made and a future that could never happen now.

He hadn’t received an invitation to James’s funeral. This would have to be his closure, watching the investigation into his lover’s murder become routine, move on to the next “phase.” Watching all the evidence disappear.

That was perhaps the most awful addition to his grief. He understood that James couldn’t be wholly out to his family back home in…well, somewhere in East Texas, but understanding it while James was alive and in his arms was one thing. Coming to grips with his exile now was something else entirely. He was bitter; he was angry. Not at James, not at anyone in particular, just at a world that made them hide. He felt humiliated, and that wasn’t a pill he could swallow without choking on it.

Everything about his life was deliberate, yet at the moment, he was experiencing a lack of control he’d never imagined possible.

One of the cops walked over and offered him a smoke. Colletti was his name. “Wouldn’t you rather be home?”

“This is as close as I want to get right now.” God, listen to him. He refused the cigarette, but just barely. Vices sounded like such a good idea.

“Dobson is going to call you, routine stuff. Did they ask you not to leave town?”

“Yeah. It wasn’t an imperative, but it was strongly suggested.” Insult to injury.

Officer Colletti gave him a nod. “We’re done here. Take care, Mister Ward.”

“Thanks.”

The squad car drove off, and New York seemed impossibly quiet all of a sudden.

A man with a duffel and a cowboy hat walked up to the stoop, and for a second, Thomas’s heart stopped. He closed his eyes until he could breathe again.

Fuck, tourists were everywhere in this city. He just hadn’t been prepared for one in a cowboy hat. He took a breath and headed down the steps. He needed a coffee.

They passed each other, the man meeting his eyes and nodding. “Afternoon.”

“Where are you going?” He knew those eyes intimately. He reached out and grabbed the man by the arm, that hazel making his heart pound. “Who are you?”

“Who the fuck is asking, motherfucker?” The little guy just popped right up into his face, those eyes flashing.

Christ, the cowboy sounded just like James too. Only James would have known better than to meet his eyes.

He stood his ground, inches away, instinct and training helping him stare the kid down. “You’re an O’Reilly. Which one? Sam, right? The bronc rider? You’re too small to be Jim.”

“Bowie,” the kid corrected immediately, even as he nodded. “Who are you?”

Nobody you’d know.

“Right. Bowie.” He let go of Sam’s arm. He knew he should back down, but it took real effort. “I’m Thomas Ward. I…knew your brother.”

Fuck. I loved him.

“Knew him? Y’all worked together?”

What was he going to do? He wasn’t going to out James now. What would be the point? It hurt, though, denying James and jumping back into a closet he’d slammed the door on as soon as he’d stepped foot in this city years ago. “No. We are…were really good friends. He told me all about you guys.”

“Oh. I’m here to…clean up, I guess. Stuff.” Sam tilted his head. “Is this your building too?”

“Uh.” Well, fuck. James had always said Sam was bright. “No.” He’d asked about moving in together. James had been thinking about it. “I was just missing him.”

“Oh. I—come on up, huh?”

 

Title: First Rodeo: The Cowboy and the Dom Trilogy, Book One
Published by: Tygerseye Publishing, LLC
ASIN: B07YM1QNK4
ISBN13: 978-1-951011-02-4

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A Whole Latke Love

Contributors: Jodi Payne
Genre: , ,
Release Date: November 25, 2019
Pages: 46

A Hanukkah Short Story.

Have you ever been to an office holiday party? Well, Matthew Kaplan has been to plenty, and he’s not impressed. In fact, he hates attending the annual gathering at his office. This year, though, he’s trying to make partner in his small law firm and does his best to look like he’s enjoying himself, even though he knows the event is really a Christmas party with just the barest hint of a nod toward his own winter holiday, Hanukkah.

Ethan Becker works for a busy caterer, and although all the Christmas music at these holiday office parties used to make his head ache, he’s learned to tolerate it so he doesn’t lose his mind. Sometimes he even sings along. There aren’t enough toe-tapping Hanukkah songs for a party anyway, right?

Matthew is pleased to find latkes on the buffet and escapes the crowd to eat them peacefully in the kitchen, where Ethan recognizes his hunky one-night-stand immediately. Matthew remembers their night together fondly, but certainly hadn’t expected to run into the hottie with the sweet blue eyes again. When Ethan offers to make more latkes for Matthew another day, Matthew jumps to accept the invitation. But will their date be delicious or disastrous?

Available to purchase, or to borrow with Kindle Unlimited.

Buy the Book: Amazon
Title: A Whole Latke Love
Published by: Tygerseye Publishing, LLC
ASIN: B081QN85ZR
ISBN13: 978-1-951011-05-5

Deviations: Submission

Contributors: Jodi Payne and Chris Owen
Series: Deviations #1
Genre: , , , , , ,
Release Date: December 30, 2019 (Third Edition)
Pages: 338

Tobias Vincent is a big animal vet, and also skilled and seasoned Dom. City beat cop, and sub Noah desperately needs to find a man to help him work through a block but has yet to find someone who can take him where he needs to go.

Through a series of encounters in the world of bondage and discipline, Noah reveals why he has trouble trusting, and why he needs such a firm, steady hand. Tobias is confident he can help Noah, but he has trouble letting himself love. Still, Tobias can't resist Noah's charms, and the two of them set about making a scene for themselves, one that works for them and their unique set of challenges.

They learn to love, but how will they stay together while they explore each other’s secrets, in an environment where all is laid bare and emotions run high?

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Also in this series:

 

EXCERPT FROM SUBMISSION

There were many truths in this life, Tobias decided as he knotted his tie for the evening. Death comes to all, taxes must be paid, and fortieth birthdays were a reason for one's friends to buy nice wine, make lavish cakes, and throw dinner parties. Forty-first birthdays, on the other hand, went unremarked upon by all but one's nearest and dearest. As he had cards from a few friends and a message from Phan, he thought he'd just about exhausted the expected well wishes.

But turning forty-one did not mean he was dead or unable to make his own fun. He'd made his arrangements for the evening, planning with as much detail as he could—which, admittedly, wasn't much. He knew what to wear for his mood; he knew where he'd go and what he'd eat; he knew what he wanted. But there were an amazing number of variables at play, more than he usually allowed.

He was thinking about that as he straightened his dinner jacket and pocketed his keys. It was a highly planned evening of spontaneity that lay ahead of him, the novelty of which made him smile. Perhaps letting the fates blow once in a while was a good thing. In any case, he'd find out shortly; the worst he could do was have an evening of fine dining and a bottle of wine. The best would be far, far better, but it was rare to find exactly what he sought.

Tobias ran a comb through his hair one last time as he waited for his car, the light in the entry to his condo making the few stray silver hairs shine among the darker brown. Forty-one wasn't too old, he decided. It was a fine age to be, the height of his success and skill. He lacked for nothing, really.

Only someone to share his birthday with.

The phone rang and he pushed the thought away, startled to realize it wasn't the house phone signaling his car, but his landline. ''Dr. Vincent,'' he said as he answered. God, he hoped it wasn't an emergency—he really wasn't dressed to have a lamb be born, or to nurse a horse through colic.

''Good evening, Doctor, I'm sorry to call like this. I'm sure you have plans,'' came the smooth and cheerful voice of his elderly housekeeper.

''Oh, Mrs. Miller, hello. I do, yes—I'm just on my way out, but I have a few minutes.'' He smiled to himself ruefully; he would talk for as long as the lady decided, and he knew it. No matter how successful he got or how many birthdays he had, there would always be Mrs. Miller to defer to.

''I'm merely calling to wish you a happy birthday,'' she said, ''and to ask if you'll be out to the farm this weekend.''

Tobias’ smile grew. ''Thank you, Mrs. Miller, that's really very kind of you. And yes, I'm planning to drive out tomorrow afternoon until Monday.''

''Should I tell Peter not to come then, or would you like him to exercise the horses?''

''No, I'll do it,'' he decided. It was one of the best things about going to the country, and he wouldn't happily pay someone to do it for him when he was there. The house phone buzzed at him, two shorts. ''Thank you again, Mrs. Miller.''

''I'll see you tomorrow, Doctor,'' she said, and he could picture her grinning. ''Enjoy your evening.''

''I hope to,'' he said with a smile. He hung up, buzzed the front desk, and headed to his club.

* * *

The car pulled up in front of the building and Tobias lowered his window for the security guard. ''Good evening, Tobias,'' the man said with a smile that was entirely professional, despite his use of Tobias' first name. It was a club rule that all members were to be treated equally until there was an agreement in place between individuals, and as last names were not used at all in order to preserve anonymity, given names were expected.

''Timothy,'' Tobias said with a warm smile. ''When did you start out here?'' The last time Tobias had been to the club Timothy had been inside.

''About five months ago. I like it, though I'm called back inside if needed.'' Timothy made a note of the number on Tobias' membership card and smiled at him again. ''Have a nice evening, Tobias. And welcome back.''

The car moved slowly ahead and stopped at the wide front steps; by the time Tobias had opened his door the driver was there, and the front door was opening.

''Tobias! Timothy said you were here.''

Tobias shook his head and smiled again. ''I trust you don't mind me appearing again after all this time?'' he asked Bradford.

Bradford met him on the steps and shook his hand. Tobias' friendship with Bradford went back far too many years to count anymore, and even after Tobias’ long absence from the club, the man’s firm handshake felt as familiar and comforting as a favorite sweater. ''The day we turn you from here, my friend,'' Bradford told him with a warm smile, ''is the day I close the old place up. Now, come in! Eat. Enjoy your birthday. I have a room reserved for you, as you requested. You're not meeting anyone are you?''

The club had a small, exclusive membership made up of carefully screened Dominant and submissive men. These men had been screened not just for their level of training but also style and personality, thereby keeping the membership diverse and varied. It wasn’t a BDSM club in the common sense; it was more a place for men to meet, socialize and fulfill each others’ needs and fantasies in a safe and monitored environment. Bradford had taken over management of the club a number of years ago, and eventually assumed ownership as well when his mentor, a smooth, confident Dom who had also been a mentor of Tobias’, was ready to retire. Bradford was a natural host; he knew his membership well, and he had a knack for making everyone feel right at home.

Tobias shook his head again and allowed himself to be led inside. The solid doors closed behind him and he took a deep breath, immediately relaxing. There was just something about the dark interior, the plush fabrics and deep wingback chairs that called to him. Or perhaps it was the crossed whips decorating the walls.

''I don't have a guest, if that's what you mean,'' he told Bradford as they made their way to the small bar. ''But I'm open to possibilities.''

''I was hoping you would say that.'' Bradford suddenly looked speculative. ''In which case...''

''Wait,'' Tobias said, laughing. ''I'm not saying I want you to find me a date. I'm just saying I want to have a pleasant evening—a nice meal, people I like around me—''

''And it's been eight months since you've been here, Tobias. I know you spend your weekends on the farm and your weeknights in town. I'd certainly have heard if you had someone new.'' He shook his head sadly, making Tobias grin. ''No, my friend, you deserve to play. And I might just have the right someone for you.''

Tobias tilted his head and considered his friend. Bradford had been running the club for a number of years, had been an integral part of Tobias' own training. There was perhaps no one more capable of knowing the type of partner Tobias needed, liked... desired.

''Tell me,'' Tobias invited, accepting a glass of ice water from the bartender.

Bradford beamed at him, delighted. ''I can, and will do you one better. Come.''

Tobias had little choice but to follow as Bradford crossed the room with purpose to a small table. Tobias, being behind, could see little other than a man sitting alone. He rose quickly as Bradford made a direct path to him.

''Tobias,'' Bradford said grandly, ''I would like you to meet Noah. Noah, this is Tobias. It is my opinion that the two of you are well suited. Of course, you may decide otherwise, but I encourage you to at least discuss the matter.'' He then bowed his head and stepped back, wishing them good evening with a knowing grin before turning and walking away, leaving Tobias to face this stranger alone, knowing no more than his name.

Title: Submission
Published by: Tygerseye Publishing, LLC
ASIN: B083BKLWDJ
ISBN13: 978-1-951011-17-8

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Window Dressing

Contributors: Jodi Payne and BA Tortuga
Series: Merry Everything Series #1
Genre: , , , , , ,
Release Date: December 10, 2019
Pages: 189

When bull rider Sterling Kingsolver wins a national rodeo championship in a stunning upset, he becomes the public face of the rodeo league. But the big bosses had other plans, and Sterling knows he’s in trouble. Worst of all, though, he’s headed to New York City to do a publicity junket. Sterling is a quiet cowboy from New Mexico, and all the fancy trappings of his new title don’t sit so well with him.

Jonas Burke is an experienced public relations assistant. He’s been hired by the rodeo league to get a hick cowboy from the middle of nowhere cleaned up and presentable by New York standards, and he’s been told to cancel his week-long Christmas vacation to do it.

The two men square off a couple of times, but as they get to know each other, Jonas begins to understand what makes a real cowboy tick, and Sterling starts to realize there’s more to Jonas than a flashy smile. While taking in the sparkle and joy that is Christmas in New York City, their friendship slowly becomes more. But when trouble catches up with them, Sterling’s days in the city come to an end and Jonas nearly loses his job. Facing that infamous midnight hour, Sterling and Jonas have to decide what their New Year will bring.

Window Dressing is an opposites attract, enemies to lovers romance featuring a rodeo cowboy, a city boy in a suit, and the magic of New York City at the holidays.

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Prologue

Sterling Kingsolver was fixin’ to ruin his goddamn career for stupid pride, and he gave less than no shits.

He stood there, staring at Clint Masterson, the buzz of fury zipping between his ears like killer bees.

“Listen to me, boy. Cody Ball has been promised this year. You’re a baby. You’re a rookie. You throw this ride and we’ll make it worth your while.”

“I ain’t a cheat.” He might be a piece-of-shit caliche farmer, a desert baby balls to bones, but he wasn’t about to take a dive. He had Rookie of the Year in the bag, sure—but if he rode his last bull? Shit marthy, he would take the event win and the championship.

“We aren’t asking you to cheat, son. I’m telling you to make a smart career move, hmm?” Masterson had been one of the First Five, and he was the face of the league, the big boss. Shit, this man could ruin him. Shit.

“Fine. I think it’s bullshit, man. Total bullshit.” God. God help him. Was he considering this?

“This isn’t some little ranch rodeo, Kingsolver. This is the big time. Sometimes you have to lose a little. You got the Rookie of the Year money. Take it and run. Next year it will be yours.”

Right. Assuming he stayed healthy next year. Assuming he rode. Assuming he had another magic year. “Yessir.”

Fucker.

“Good boy. Go on. You need to strap in. Don’t make it obvious.”

Good boy?

Good fucking boy?

He stormed across the chutes, his boots rattling.

“Bit! Bit, come on! Tie on your damn glove! This is it.” Jack waved and bounced, his eyes as big as saucers. “What did Masterson want?”

“Nothing. Just to keep my ass on the bull.”

“Ah. Okay. Grab your bull rope. I’ll pull. Chance can hold your vest.”

“Right.” He went through the motions, acidic hatred burning in his belly. Motherfuckers, with their politics and shit. He could see Cody Ball and his long-assed ugly nose and sparse pussy-tickler mustache just staring him down with a bullshit smirk, knowing what they’d asked.

Just because Ball hadn’t fucking managed quite to keep himself centered, just because no one had thought Sterling was a goddamn threat until it was too late.

Now he was one ride away from taking the whole thing.

One ride.

His daddy was sitting there in the stands, the day sheet crumpled in his fingers. Daddy would know. He would know and judge, even if he never said a word about it.

“Focus, asshole!” Chance shook him. “Blue Belly isn’t going to thank you for woolgathering.” His old friend leaned close, peppermint on his breath. “Don’t do it. Ride this son of a bitch. Ride him into the motherfucking ground and make them all scream.”

“They said—”

“Don’t. Just hold on, cowboy. You ain’t a rodeo athlete; you’re a goddamn cowboy.”

Sterling nodded and got his legs set, slamming his glove shut over his rope. Blue Belly bucked in the chute, tossing his head, slamming Sterling’s leg against the gate. He didn’t nod, but the gate swung open, and he kept his mind in the middle.

Just hold on. You’re a goddamn cowboy.

That was right. He was. He was a goddamn cowboy, and he didn’t throw rides. This wasn’t a job; this was who he was.

By the time he finished telling himself that, the buzzer sounded, the arena going wild.

Well, okay then.

Time to hit the dirt and take his lumps.

Title: Window Dressing
Published by: Tygerseye Publishing, LLC
ASIN: B0827D3CM2
ISBN13: 978-1-951011-04-8

 

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