Whence He Came

Genre: , ,

CURRENTLY UNAVAILABLE

When Elliot Cohen left his small town for college in the big city, he was expecting to do big things. He wanted to pull his feet out of the quicksand he called home and go where everything was bigger, brighter, and just moved faster. He planned to claim a little fame, a lot of money, and a high-powered, influential lover.

Well he found fame, he found money, and he even found a famous lover, but nothing turned out quite as he’d planned. And all the while, no matter how hard he tried, he never forgot Tony, the sweet, closeted boyfriend he left behind. He could even remember Tony's scent seven years later. So when the illusion that was his perfect life unravels and fame slips through his fingers, he knows just where he needs to go. Home.

But he's going to have to untangle the complicated and embarrassing web of lies he's woven and seek forgiveness if he has any hope of winning Tony back.

 

EXCERPT

Jenny laughed, though, saving him from having to reply. "You're embarrassing him, Daddy. Nobody wants to be famous all the time. He's just the same old Elliot here. Right, Elliot?"

"Thanks, Jenny." That's exactly what he wanted.

Mr. Davis snorted. "Well, welcome home, 'same old Elliot'. Glad to see you haven't forgotten the little people," he said, and disappeared back into the kitchen.

"Hungry?"

"My mother stuffed me with pastrami. How about some coffee?"

"You got it." Jenny nodded. "Come on."

He sat on one of the bar stools at the counter and watched Jenny pull a mug from the stack next to the coffee pots. She had always been a pretty girl. Elliot remembered her being shy and sweet, well dressed and friendly. She had been a cheerleader and played the flute in the high school orchestra, and she had always worked weekends for her dad at the diner. Her father had raised her by himself because her mother passed away when she was young. The fact that Jenny's mother had died was never a secret, but to this day Elliot had no idea know how or why, or exactly how old Jenny had been when it happened, despite how close they'd always been. It just wasn't a question he'd ever wanted to ask.

Jenny set a cup of coffee in front of Elliot and leaned across the counter. "So. You see Tony, yet?"

At his age, after everything he'd seen and done in the 'big city', after all the men he'd fucked and been fucked by, he'd have bet real money that he was too jaded ever to blush again. And yet, Elliot felt the heat rise in his cheeks as Jenny said Tony's name, as if she were privy to his private fantasies. A picture of Tony, smiling impishly and looking flushed, flashed through his mind and that only made the moment worse.

He tried to sound casual as he answered, despite the display. "He's still in town?"

"Oh, yeah. He's still in town." Jenny's tone made Elliot look up from his coffee. She was grinning at him in a knowing way.

"What?"

Jenny pushed away from the counter. "You'll see."

Elliot couldn’t imagine what she was up to. "Is he married?"

"No," Jenny laughed. "Oh, no."

"He's single?"

"At the moment."

"Is he still living up on Whitehall?"

"Oh, no." Jenny was slicing something that was half-hidden by the register and he couldn’t see. "No, he's got his own place now, a house over on Mulberry."

"Mulberry? Is that still a nice part of town?"

"Yep. He's got a big old Victorian. It's nice. He's doing well."

"What does he do?"

"He bought the hardware store from Mr. Barrett."

Wow, Elliot mused, Tony owned the hardware store. He had just walked right by there not fifteen minutes ago. "God, Mr. Barrett must be older than dirt now." Mr. Barrett had seemed old seven years ago.

"Ninety-three!" Jenny nodded, sounded awed. "Can you believe that? He still walks down to the store to check on Tony every day." She turned around and held a plate out in front of Elliot at about nose-height. It had an obscenely large piece of pie on it.

"Oh my God." Elliot's eyes went wide.

"Lemon meringue. Your favorite," Jenny sang, setting the plate down in front of him.

"Get a fork. You're sharing."

Title: Whence He Came

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Creative Process

Contributors: Jodi Payne
Genre: , , ,
Release Date: October 22, 2019
Pages: 206

CREATIVE PROCESS WILL RETURN SOON!

Best-selling thriller author Reese Kelsey knows his career isn’t conducive to romance. He doesn’t work the normal nine-to-five, and sometimes his characters take hold and demand all his attention, causing him to neglect important appointments… and lovers. Rather than go through another heartbreak, Reese contents himself with his small circle of friends—fellow gay New York City artists—and his dedicated publicist, Chad.

Until he sees Owen Mercado lugging his cello toward the subway and impulsively offers him a ride.

Owen has worked long and hard for a career in the symphony, and success comes with a demanding schedule—something Reese understands. Their desires and lifestyles are surprisingly compatible, and Reese and Owen certainly set the bedroom on fire. They’re both carrying baggage, but they fit, and it’s hard not to hope for a future that once seemed impossible.

But when Reese’s work inevitably pulls him into its dark world and refuses to let go, Owen draws a hard line, and Reese discovers he can't rely on good intentions alone. He will have to control the obsession that drove his other lovers away or risk losing Owen as well.

Available to purchase, or to borrow with Kindle Unlimited.

 

Buy the Book: Amazon

 

EXCERPT

Chapter I

THERE WAS blood everywhere. It stained the walls, pooled on the floor, soaked into the duvet. Blood splattered violently over the nightstand and the windowpanes and seeped darkly into the curtains. A grisly trail led from the bed, across the rug, and through the door into what was likely a bathroom. The bathroom light was on, and a sliver of bright light sliced through the darkness of the bedroom, cutting past the partially closed bathroom door.

Detective Harris tensed and drew his sidearm. He stood in the entry to the bedroom and turned on his flashlight, aligning it with the barrel of the gun to get a closer look around the room. It was his third gory crime scene investigation in as many weeks and likely to be a vicious, senseless murder like the others. The brutal actions of a madman—a foul, premeditated murder in cold blood.

Harris held his breath as he searched the room for what he knew he was meant to find: the calling card of a psychotic serial killer.

He found it, of course: the photograph. A Polaroid shot of the victim the subject had pinned to the headboard with a scalpel that was stained from end to end, sticky with the woman’s blood. Below the snapshot the pillow was—

Below the snapshot the pillow was… what? The pillow was… well. He’d already used bloodstained, pooled, splattered, and trailed. What was left? Dripping? No, it wouldn’t still be dripping nearly twenty-four hours after it was shed. Tinted, drenched, colored, streaked, splashed?

Reese ran his hands through his hair. “Crap. Splashed, crusted, spattered…. Christ.” He planted both feet on the floor and shoved his chair backward. “Who the hell cares?” He stood up and walked away from his desk.

People cared, he knew. They did. People liked his books for the most part. Chad, his publicist, liked to remind him regularly that he was a “best seller,” a “genius,” and when Chad was feeling particularly cynical, “a cash cow.” The Ledger said his last thriller was “brilliant.” The Times called him “a pretty face with a deviantly twisted mind,” which, Chad assured him, was intended to be a compliment.

Reese paced behind his desk chair, up the length of the hardwood floor to the window that overlooked congested Sixth Avenue and then back again to the bookcase littered with reference materials, assorted jars of hard candy, and a shoebox full of hastily labeled flash drives.

His readers might like his work, but they didn’t sit in that chair day after day dreaming up images meant to make people cringe, to make men psychoanalyze the criminals and women double lock their doors at night. They didn’t go to sleep dreaming of sociopaths and wake up with visions of bloody bathtubs. At least he assumed they didn’t, or he’d be reading their work too.

Sometimes he hated it. Every time he finished a book he swore it would be his last, that he was tired of the twisted, tormented asylum of characters inhabiting his mind, talking to him in his sleep, in the shower, on the subway. But then a month, or six, or even a year later, another would take hold, and ideas would practically fly from him. His fingers would hammer on the keyboard at all hours of the day, words only lingering in Reese’s mind long enough for him to watch them appear on the laptop screen.

And other times, like right now, he would sit there, staring at the screen, trying to come up with a new way to describe insanity, depravity, and complete and utter gore.

Seriously, Reese yammered on in his own mind, how many ways could one describe—

“Congealed. That’s it. Congealed!” Reese scurried back to his chair and rolled toward his keyboard so hard that the armrests wedged themselves under the desktop. Fervently, he began typing.

…and below the snapshot, the pillow was stiff and heavy where the victim’s dripping blood had congealed.

“Or something.” Reese was fairly sure that congealed was the right word, but he flagged the sentence for his first round of edits. His cell phone rang, interrupting his train of thought. He ignored it.

Detective Harris holstered his weapon. The subject wouldn’t be here; that wasn’t his M.O. He’d have left roughly twenty-four hours prior and was, more than likely, already scoping out victim number four.

Harris pulled his cell phone from his pocket and dialed the crime lab.

Reese’s landline started ringing.

“Evelyn, I need you. Again.”

Evelyn sighed heavily. “I’ll call the team.”

“Jesus Christ,” Reese swore. He took a moment to type:

[HARRIS/EVELYN (HILL) DISCUSS KNOWN DETAILS RE KILLER]

and then stood up, covering the expanse between his desk and the telephone in a few long strides.

“Hello?” He hated being interrupted.

“You’re late.”

Reese’s brow furrowed. “Chad?”

“Yes. It is Chad, your underappreciated publicist. Chad, the most handsome appointment book on the planet. Chad, your conscience—”

“Oh shit.” Reese hurried across his living room to the bedroom, where he stepped into a pair of loafers. “Where am I supposed to be?”

“Book signing. Eighty-Second and Broadway.”

“Right! I remember!” He didn’t. “At… that bookstore.”

“Barnes and Noble.”

“Right! I can be there in ten minutes.” It was only a few blocks away, but he’d have to run.

“Do you know where you’re going?”

“Christ, I’m coming, Chad! Stall for me. Be charming.”

“That’s what you pay me for, to be charming while I’m covering for your late ass.”

That wasn’t technically true. To the best of his knowledge, covering for his ass wasn’t in their contract, but if Chad wanted to believe it was, Reese had no plans to disabuse him of the notion. “Thanks,” Reese replied and hung up the phone.

REESE RAN. He ran so fast his loafers pinched him and the heels of his favorite but ancient leather shoes made loud scraping noises on the sidewalk. He ran until he was short of breath, until he got his shaking fingers on the tall, heavy door of the Barnes and Noble.

“Here!” he said to no one in particular, panting hard. “Made it.”

Then he took a couple of deep breaths and let them out slowly in an attempt to regain his composure, straightened himself up, and went inside.

Mother. Of. God.

There were people—most of them women—everywhere. All over. A lot of people. People stood patiently in a seemingly endless line that snaked between rows and rows of books. The line turned a corner here and a corner there through the fiction section, wound around past the coffee bar, continued past the nonfiction and into self-help. There was a long table at one end of the store covered in tall stacks of his newest book, Tuesday, Bloody Tuesday, and next to that was a five-foot-tall rendition of the cover in all its red-and-black glory, the blood-spattered calendar and severed arm larger than life and twice as disgusting. Someday he’d get to have the actual final say on his covers. Chad promised blood sold his books, and his publisher seemed to agree, and since Reese hadn’t worried about a bill or checked to see if he could afford a vacation in over seven years, he had to assume they knew what they were talking about. Still, Reese wasn’t so sure he wanted the images on his covers to look like the stuff of nightmares, even if the writing actually was.

A hand hooked over his shoulder, and Reese turned to look, only to hear Chad’s urgent whisper in his ear. “Over here. Hurry, now, I’ve been able to keep the manager occupied rearranging the book table and planning some publicity shots, but I’m fresh out of small talk, Reese. It’s your turn. Do that voodoo that you do.”

Reese allowed himself to be dragged off to another table not far from the one where his books were stacked. He was maneuvered into a chair and handed a red Sharpie—bloodred, Chad thought it was cute—and then the onslaught began.

“Mr. Kelsey! Mr. Kelsey! Oh my God, I can’t believe I’m first in line. Oh God, I’ve been here since last night. I watched them piling your books on that table at six thirty this morning. I can’t believe I’m first. God, I love your books.”

He forced a smile. “Name?”

“Oh, Linda. Linda Hurley. Oh God. Oh! Wait!” Linda, as she called herself, reached out and stopped his hand before his pen hit the title page. “I brought a pen. A new one, because, well, you know. I hope you don’t think that’s too…. Well, of course you do, but would you anyway? Use mine? Here.” Linda held her own red Sharpie in front of his nose.

“Why, certainly,” Reese said smoothly, taking the pen carefully and ignoring his own little inner psychopath who was sending him images of Linda with the red Sharpie through her eye socket. He put her pen to use. Thank you for being first, and for losing sleep over me. Fondly, Reese Kelsey. His signature, if properly deciphered, actually read something more like Rs Kely, the letters in between scrawled to such a degree as to be completely illegible. Reese handed the book, and the pen, back to the woman called Linda Hurley.

“Oh! Oh. Thank you. Thank you! I just love your books, thank—”

“Next!” Chad bellowed from behind him. Thank goodness for Chad; Reese might have managed to go all afternoon without a headache had it not been for him.

 

AN HOUR or so later, Reese was getting punchy.

“Listen, sweetheart, here’s ten bucks. If you go over to that coffee bar right there and buy me a nonfat caramel macchiato and a big fudge brownie, I’ll make sure you get a poster. I’ll have Chad here sign it too.”

“Reese,” Chad protested weakly.

“Oh, wow. Okay!” The woman nodded and bounded off. He couldn’t remember her name. He’d signed maybe a hundred books or more, and all the women looked the same now. Linda, Susan, Christina, Abigail, Sarah, Margaret, Elizabeth… who knew anymore? As he signed the next few books and listened to his fangirls babble at him, he kept one eye on Errand Girl. She kept glancing over her shoulder and giggling every now and then while she waited for his coffee, and before too long she was making her way back toward him, goodies in hand.

“Pamela,” a woman said, holding her copy of his book out toward him. “If that’s too long you can just say Pam.”

Reese smiled at her. “Nonsense, Pamela,” he replied in a goofy voice. “You paid good money for my book. The least I can do is scrawl three or four extra letters in it for you.”

Pamela smiled back.

“Caramel macchiato!” Errand Girl sang and reached out to set the coffee down on the table in front of Reese just as he was handing the signed book back to Pamela-with-all-six-letters.

“You have a very—Oohhhhhh, shiiiiiit.” Everything suddenly went into slow motion. Reese shoved the book toward Pamela, smacking it squarely into the side of the cardboard cup of hot coffee. The lid popped off, sending caramel macchiato upward and outward away from Reese. Errand Girl’s arms flew into the air, and she screamed. Pamela screamed. Chad, damn him, also screamed. Pamela fumbled with the book but lost her balance, falling away from the table. Reese made a desperate dive for the cup of coffee as if he were trying to save the precious Heart of the Ocean from going overboard. Something, something that Reese later learned to be Errand Girl’s purse, smacked him squarely between the eyes. A flash of white pain hit him, and the world spun. The bookstore’s fluorescent lighting swirled, and then everything went black.

UNIVERSAL BUY LINK

Title: Creative Process
Published by: Tygerseye Publishing, LLC
ASIN: B07ZHLFWX1

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Breaking the Rules

Contributors: Jodi Payne and BA Tortuga
Series: Triskelion Series #1
Genre: , , , ,
Release Date: September 22, 2020
Pages: 450

Breaking the Rules: The Triskelion Series, Book One

Saul Reynolds manages a busy bicycle shop in downtown Boulder, Colorado. A recent CU graduate, he’s also a Dom, and has many friends his age in the scene. Saul’s an old soul, and even at twenty-five, he’s had enough experience to understand his own desires. He’s had plenty of lovers and he’s played the role of part-time Dom, but he’s never found the perfect combination of lover and sub in one man.

Troy Finch lost his lover in a rodeo accident twenty years ago, moved to Boulder, and has worked as a line cook in his friend Carter’s diner ever since. He’s attended many parties at Carter’s home with couples in the BDSM lifestyle and feels comfortable in a submissive role, but without a Dom of his own, Troy hasn’t explored what that really means to him. He has needs he doesn’t entirely understand and finds his only outlet at the hands of Carter’s husband, Geoff, a tattoo artist who has used Troy’s skin as a canvas for as long as they’ve known each other, covering Troy in colorful, intricate triskelia.

Troy doesn’t know what he was thinking accepting a dinner invitation from a kid half his age, but everything feels right about their evening together, including Saul’s Dominant side. The rules for a twenty-five year old gay cowboy from years ago, though, are totally different than for a twenty-five year old college grad in Boulder now, and despite Saul’s confidence, Troy isn’t sure whether they can make it work.

Saul and Troy manage to bend a good many rules in the name of caring and compromise, but in the name of love, there are some rules they’re just going to have to break.

Buy the Book: Amazon

Also in this series:

 

Chapter One

 

Saul held the mountain bike like a lover, like it was something precious, babying the new paint job and shiny chrome as he loaded it into the back of the pick-up truck. He wrapped it in a blanket so it would stay spotless on the drive and checked the tires for the third time.

Then he hopped out of the bed and shut the tailgate. All good. That bike was some of his best work. Thank goodness for Emma, he wanted to deliver this one personally and he didn’t have wheels of his own.

You got this.

It was another perfect spring day and downtown Boulder was busy. He drove up Canyon Boulevard and parked near the east end of the Pearl Street Mall, then reversed the process with the bicycle, gingerly lowering it to the ground. He got on it and took a lap of the parking lot, fucking with the gears and brakes. Damn, this was a sweet rebuild.

He walked the bike to Carter Lee’s diner, which of course he’d forgotten the name of, but he knew the one, he’d been there a bunch of times. Best cup of coffee in town, crazy good French toast. Small world, colliding with the man who owned that place.

He’d rebuilt the whole front end, put on new tires, a new chain, a new gear shift, replaced the scuffed-up pedals and the twisted handlebars, and had given the thing a new paint job. It sparkled like new, which was pretty much the least he could do after almost knocking out Carter’s front teeth.

He pulled up outside the diner and peered through the window, trying to see if he could catch Carter’s eye, but the place was hopping, and everyone was busy. He sighed and locked the bike up, making sure it was as far away from other bikes as possible, and headed inside.

“Just one?” The hostess grabbed a menu.

“Oh, I’m just… I was looking for…”

“This way, please.”

He blinked, totally off-guard, and followed her to a small table. “I’m actually just here to see Carter.”

“I’ll let him know you’re looking for him. Coffee?”

“Oh I, uh.” She peered at him expectantly. “Sure. Sounds good.”

“You take cream?” She handed him a menu, sighing as a group of mountain bikers showed up. “Ah, to-go orders. I’ll be right back with your coffee.”

“Yes,” he called after her. He glanced over at the bikers, but he didn’t know any of them. Must not be local. He knew a lot of the real enthusiasts in town from his shop.

He glanced at his watch. It was eleven-thirty and he’d been putting the finishing touches on the bike all morning. He supposed he could eat, but he really didn’t need the menu. He wanted that French toast with the berries and the vanilla-maple syrup. He could almost taste it.

“Troy! Troy, I need seven more turkey sandwiches to go. All chips.”

“On it, honey,” a rough drawl answered her, the John Deere ball cap the only thing visible through the pass-through.

That was one of his favorite things, the way Carter’s cook worked—steady, calm, fast and obviously damn good at his job.

He tried to think how long the guy had been working back there. Had to be forever, and in all that time he’d never heard the cook get ruffled. Just “On it,” or “Yes, ma’am” with that deep tone. He liked the voice, and he was pretty sure he’d have recognized it anywhere.

“Hey, man, how goes it?” Carter came and sat, offering him a smile. “Run anyone over this week?”

He grinned and felt his cheeks burn, totally embarrassed. “Nope. I’m finding you a tough act to follow. I think I’ve hit a dry spell. You?”

“Busy as a one-armed paperhanger.” Carter smiled for him, and, okay, he was totally glad he hadn’t knocked those teeth out.

“I see that. I have to say I’m sorry again. Hopefully your bike will make up for the bruises. It’s all done, I parked it outside. If you have any problems, you just let me know, I’ll get it right for you.” He smiled back, going for charming but not flirty. Carter was a handsome but married man.

“You rock, man. I mean it. Let me grab you a cup of coffee and…you’re the French toast, right?”

“My favorite. Thanks so much.” Carter was the coolest cat on the planet. He wasn’t sure if he could be that chill if someone barreled into his path out of nowhere, sent him flying and mangled his handlebars. He’d like to think he could, he tried to be level-headed, and shit happens, right?

“Right on.” Carter stood and went to pour his coffee. “Troy, I need a French toast with berries and a side of bacon on the fly.”

“On it, boss.”

On it, boss. Saul smiled and leaned back in his chair. That drawl was something. He thanked Carter again for the coffee and his stomach growled as he picked it up to take a sip. Yeah, he could eat.

He drank his coffee and checked his phone while he waited. He answered an email from Emma about the supply order he’d placed the day before. Thank goodness Emma was as much of a workaholic as he was. The shop was demanding and busy.

He also made a cocktail hour appointment with Khloe, who said she needed a hand. He wasn’t her Dom, but she didn’t have one at the moment and she was a friend. If she needed him, he’d be there.

“Excuse me. You’re the French toast?” Shocking green eyes stared at him. They seemed huge when paired with that bald head.

He stared right back and smiled, stunned by the handsome face that went with the drawl. “Actually, I’m Saul. But I’m having the French toast.”

“Good deal.” He got a smile, a nod as the plate was put in front of him. “Enjoy your breakfast, sir.”

“I always do. You make amazing French toast.” He boldly reached out and touched a triskelion tattoo on the cook’s wrist with curious fingers, keeping the man there another second. “Great ink. What’s your name?”

“Finch. Troy Finch. Pleased to meet you.”

As his gaze traveled up, he discovered the triskelions climbing up Troy Finch’s arm, some delicate and lacy, some violent and sharp-edged. It was fascinating, and he had all kinds of questions.

“I think the pleasure is really mine, Troy.” As much as he wanted to keep this lovely man talking, he lifted his fingers away. “I know you’re busy back there. Thank you for taking the time to run this out to me.”

“You’re welcome, sir. Boss is bad about letting his orders die in the window.”

“Get your ass in the kitchen. I hear you, telling lies about me.” Carter was barely holding his laughter back.

Troy snorted, but dropped him a wink. “Yes, sir. No smoke break for me?”

“Nope. Kitchen.”

“Thanks again, Troy.” Saul watched the guy take a few strolling steps toward the kitchen and then head back to work. He glanced up at Carter. “Interesting guy. Lots of pretty specific ink. Nice work.” He picked up the little glass jug of syrup and covered his plate in it.

“It is. My husband, Geoff? He did all the work.”

“Yeah? He must be pretty creative.” Who knew there were so many different ways to draw a triskelion? He’d seen at least ten or twelve and he figured there had to be more going up that arm. He started in on his French toast. “Mm. So good.” Like foodgasm good.

“Enjoy, huh? It’s on the house.” Carter grinned at him, dark eyes wrinkling with the power of his smile. “The bike looks great, man. Thank you.”

“You’re welcome. I’m glad you’re happy with it. I thought it came out pretty sweet.” Yeah, he could maybe be more humble. But he knew what his strengths were, and custom bikes was one of them. He was good at what he did. He smiled right back at Carter. “Try not to get in my way again, huh?”

“Yeah, yeah. Pay attention, and I’ll do my best.” The wink he got was pure mischief.

He laughed. “You’re on. Listen, what are you doing Sunday? You want to ride? We could have a rematch.”

“Sure. Sunday’s my day off. Let me check with Geoff, but he’ll be asleep. He works late on Saturdays.”

“Perfect.” He swallowed the big bite he had in his mouth. “Don’t let me keep you, I get that it’s busy. Thank you so much for the lunch.”

“You’re welcome. I’ll text you.” Then poof, Carter was off and running, greeting customers and bussing tables.

He knew Carter was going to like how he’d fixed up the bike. He knew it. Just like he was sure Troy’s stunning green eyes had gotten a good look at his ring, the one bearing the symbol that matched the carpet of amazing ink on the cook’s arm.

He finished his food and left a great big tip. Then he pulled out one of his business cards from the shop, flipped it over and wrote a quick note on the back before handing it to the hostess.

“Excuse me. Troy might need to reach me, so can you make sure he gets this?” He held the card out to her.

“Yeah, sure. Have a good day.”

“Thanks much. You too.” As he was leaving, he heard her calling back to Troy for more sandwiches to go.

 

 

Title: Breaking the Rules, The Triskelion Series, Book One
Published by: Tygerseye Publishing, LLC
ASIN: B08HL47PTT
ISBN13: 978-1-7330076-2-7

 

 

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

Refraction: A Collaborations Novel

Contributors: Jodi Payne, B.A. Tortuga
Series: Collaborations #1
Genre: , , , , ,
Release Date: January 10, 2020
Pages: 260

REFRACTION WILL RETURN SOON!

Texas artist Tucker Williams arrives in New York City for a gallery showing of his work and finds the city blanketed in snow. He meets free-spirited underwear model Calvin McIntire on the steps of the Midtown library and is captivated by a wild beauty that manages to compete with the demons that occupy his soul and fuel his work with their lust for blood and erotic imagery.

Unable to deny a new inspiration, Tucker sublets a studio and finds the city’s energy almost as addictive as Calvin. Tucker is obsessive, barely holding on to sanity as his art consumes him, and Calvin is dealing with demons of his own, trying desperately to protect his soul in a business where only his appearance has value.

They each prove to be the perfect remedy for the other’s personal brand of crazy until, in the midst of stress and exhaustion, they discover that a promise Calvin needs is the one thing Tucker can’t give him, and their heaven turns to purgatory.

Can both men find a path toward wholeness in Tucker’s beautiful but chaotic Texas home? In order for them—and their passionate relationship—to thrive, they’ll need to adapt, share their psychoses, and find a true balance between New York City and rural Texas.

Buy the Book: Amazon

Also in this series:

EXCERPT

Chapter One

Tucker Williams leaned against the steps of the library beside the big stone lion and watched the white stuff fall out of the sky. Colder than he’d ever been in his whole life, he shivered, trying to figure out what the fuck a guy like him was doing all the way up here.

The logical part of his brain, the part not frozen solid, reminded him that he had a gallery opening tomorrow. A major opening. Right.

So he was up here touristing all by himself and freezing his nuts and his toes off and waiting to show up in his best jeans and jacket tomorrow night.

Go him.

Christ on a sparkly pink crutch, everyone here wore black, and no one smiled a bit. Surely there had to be somewhere here with friendly folks and heat.

Right on cue, one of those black-clad Yankees—this one in a black knee-length coat, black earmuffs, and chunky black boots—came trotting down the steps right past him. Like every other guy on the busy street, he was on the phone.

“That spread is mine, Michael. I want it. You make it happen. I’ve got the best ass of the bunch, and you know it.”

The man stopped two steps below Tucker. “I’m easier to work with too. You tell them, okay? I need to get out of the weather. Who ordered this shit? Later.”

Huh. Earmuffs were a thing. Go figure. Tucker had to admit, the whole pseudo-duster thing was pretty hot.

“’Scuse me, sir, but is there a decent place to get a cup of joe around here?” Tucker asked.

The guy turned his head, but Tucker couldn’t get a good look at him behind the collar he’d pulled up against the weather. He was squinting against the snow, and his hair was mostly hidden under a knit hat, but it looked like it might be blond.

“There’s no such thing as a bad cup of coffee in New York. You look like you’re freezing your ass off, man. Come on, I’ll show you.” The guy just took off down the steps, and Tucker didn’t have much choice but to follow.

Good Lord and butter, these folks walked like huge flocks of birds. Great big old flocks of ravens. Oh. Oh, he could—he could paint that, right now.

“Calvin.” He was offered a gloved hand. Black leather, of course.

“Williams. Tucker Williams. Pleased.” He pulled his hand out of his pocket and shook.

“Not from around here, I take it?” Calvin gave him wink and a grin.

Cool. This one smiled. “No, sir. I’m a bit from home, but that’s obvious, I reckon.”

“I’ll say. In here.” Calvin opened a door, and Tucker was hit with the smell of baking bread and a beautiful blast of warm air. “We’re expecting a pretty good hit. How long are you in town?”

“Until Monday.” Then he’d go explore somewhere else for a few days. Although, he loved that bird image….

“Well, if you haven’t been in the city in a snowstorm before, and it looks to me like you haven’t….” Calvin laughed. “You should know that you can’t get a cab in the snow. Ever. Don’t even bother trying. Get some boots and take the subway. Just coffee? I’m gonna hang out for a bit and eat something.” Calvin pulled off his earmuffs and squinted at the menu. “Large almond-milk latte with an extra shot and the vegetarian chili… and…?” He looked at Tucker.

“Triple espresso and whatever y’all have that’s the darkest chocolate.” No way he was going underground to get on a train. No way on earth.

“Mmm, chocolate. That’s one way to warm up.” Calvin pulled off his gloves and then fished a credit card out of his pocket. “On me. Well, on my agent. It’s a work day.” He held his card up to the reader until it beeped, and the card disappeared into his pocket again. “I’m gonna grab a seat. You headed back out there?”

“I think I’ll just sit a minute. Defrost.” Eventually he’d figure out how to get back to his hotel.

“Do that.” Calvin glanced over his shoulder as he headed for a table, and this time Tucker saw a flash of bright green eyes as they caught the light. “Tell me why you’re up here in this shitty weather?”

“I have a thing I have to be at Saturday evening. Everyone told me to come up a few days early and explore. What kind of agent?” He had one too. Her name was Marge. She was something else.

“Oh, Michael. He’s a talent guy.” Calvin stuffed his gloves into his pockets. “So you came out in this weather just to visit the library? Did you get a picture with the lions, because that’s a thing. Patience and Fortitude.”

“No, sir.” It was a cool library, though, and he’d spent a couple of happy hours in the 750s, just looking. Sort of like he was just looking at Mr. Pretty here. “Are you from here?”

Their order arrived, and Calvin waited to answer. “I grew up in Vermont. But I’m from here now. Got here when I was seventeen.”

“Wow. I wasn’t ready for something like this at seventeen.” He wasn’t ready for it now, he didn’t think. Although that motion…. Tucker wondered if a guy could rent a studio space for, like, a week. Just to paint.

Calvin looked at him. “Oh. Did I say I was ready?” He laughed and picked up his latte. “No, I had a job, but I wasn’t anything close to ready for this town. I adapted pretty quick, though. It’s home now.” He sipped his latte and then spooned up some “chili.” Didn’t seem like a great combination.

Shit, he was fairly sure that vegetarian chili was a crime against nature, but he was a stranger in a strange fucking land, so he didn’t remark none on it.

“Where are you staying? Oh—that’s nosy, right? You don’t have to answer that. Sorry. I was just making small talk.” Calvin giggled.

Yeah, Tucker was pretty sure that qualified as a giggle.

“How’s your chocolate?”

“Dark.” He licked his fork and hummed, the bitter and sweet exploding over his tongue. “Possibly the best piece of whatever-the-fuck fancy-assed piece of cake I’ve ever had.”

Calvin put his spoon down. “You’re good at that.”

“At eating?” He’d hope so. Lord knew, he’d done it for years.

“No, the tongue thing. With your fork. Licking.” Calvin braced his elbow on the table and his chin in his palm, eyes narrow and a wicked smile on his lips. “Do that again.”

“Listen to you.” Lord have mercy. That was hotter than the hinges of hell. Damn, how did that… how did something like that even happen?

“Yes, listen to me.” Calvin sounded playful, and he shifted, picked up his latte, and took a sip. “Do it again, Mr. Williams? Please?”

“Well, since you asked so pretty.” Lord, please don’t let me get my ass kicked here. He took another bite, his cheeks lit on fucking fire. He licked his lips clean, then managed to meet Calvin’s eyes. “Ta-da?”

Calvin laughed and applauded, the sound pure happy. “Oh. That was lovely! So hot. You’re a riot, Tucker. I’m glad I pulled you out of the snow.” Didn’t seem like he was too worried about people overhearing, but then he leaned in closer. “Also, I think your cheeks are warm enough to melt that shit right off the sidewalk.”

“Y’think? Shit marthy. I can’t believe this mess.” That he was flirting like he knew this guy, like this feller knew him from Job.

“Wait until tomorrow morning. Might be eight or nine inches.” Calvin leaned back again and dug into his chili. “Might even be a foot. Hard to get around in this weather. Personally, I like to stay in bed all day.”

“Eight or nine inches, huh?” He couldn’t have stopped his expression if he’d tried.

“Mmm. Last I checked.” Calvin’s look was absolutely deadpan. “The weatherman doesn’t always get it right, though. Sometimes it’s a better idea to check out the radar for yourself, you know?” He took another bite and winked. “That might be carrying the metaphor a bit too far.”

He had to laugh, had to, because not only was that true, but he hadn’t expected to meet someone to flirt with shamelessly while on one of his wanders.

Calvin laughed with him. He got up to put his bowl in a rack by the garbage cans, and when he came back, still giggling, he shrugged off his coat and hung it over the back of his chair. “Warm finally.” He had on a tight green sweater that left almost nothing to the imagination. Every ridge and line of his chest was plainly obvious, and the fabric stretched across broad shoulders.

Pretty, pretty. Tucker liked that Calvin wore a color. The green suited him to the bone.

He could eat that fine son of a bitch up, yessir.

“In all seriousness, shit’s gonna close tomorrow. But the Empire State will be open and the World Trade Center, if you’re looking for a view and some local history. I’ve never been up to catch the view in the snow. I bet it’s pretty cool. You won’t have the same pictures as everyone else, anyway.”

Calvin’s phone started ringing. “Excuse me a sec?” He pulled the phone out of his coat pocket. “A-yo. Hey. No, I want the—well, you know my angle, whoever will pay me more. Oh, I’ve never heard that joke before, Michael. Ever. Yes, go with Calvin. Thanks, man.” He hung up. “Sorry.”

“No worries. I don’t mean to be keeping you from anything. Honest.” A man had to work.

“You’re keeping me from going insane in this snow. Keep up the good work.” Calvin sipped his latte again. “My agent thinks Calvin Klein jokes are funny. You can keep me from that any day.”

“Calvin Klein jokes? Like the drawers?” Those were still a thing? Lord have mercy. “Or don’t they do perfume too?”

Calvin laughed. “Cologne. And yes, they do that too, but you don’t get paid as well as you do for the underwear ads. Is that what you mean by drawers? They do jeans too, if that’s what drawers are.”

“Yessir. I mean tighty-whities. Is that what you do? Model?”

“Yeah. Sorry I didn’t say that earlier. Sometimes people get… sometimes they forget they’re talking to a real person when you tell them, so I like to hold off a bit.” Calvin winked.

“No worries. I work with models, every now and again.” For the most part, he found them patient as fuck.

“Yeah?” Calvin was flirting again. “What did you not say you do again?”

“I’m a painter—not houses.”

“Okay, not houses. What do you paint? Landscapes? People? Abstract stuff? I love art that you have to look at and think about.”

“Uh. It’s sorta… it’s a little weird.” He didn’t tell a soul at home about the paintings that he was showing here. Not a soul.

“This is New York, my friend. We make weird an art form all the time. But it’s cool. You don’t have to tell me. I’m nosy. I just ask questions.”

“I sorta make a living painting about horror, sex. Right now, birds. I’m very into birds.” He didn’t know why he did either, but he did, and he was, apparently, damn good at it.

“Horror and sex and birds.” Calvin nodded, looking thoughtful. “Can’t quite picture it. But birds are probably great subjects. They’re so aloof and knowing.”

“Yeah? Cool.” Okay, so Calvin didn’t run screaming or tell him he was going to hell; that was a plus.

“You have a pic on your phone? I’ll show you mine if you show me yours.”

“Fair enough.” Did he? Lord, yes. His phone was his goddamn life. He scrolled through, finding the album of his paintings.

“Deal.” It took Calvin about three seconds to pull up a picture of himself on a rooftop wearing a pair of blue boxer-briefs with DIESEL printed on the wide black waistband and a white tank top that he was lifting up around his ribs with one hand. City office buildings were blurred in the background. “No laughing.”

“Well, look at that. You have a nice heinie.” He could tap that, no question. “Was it hot up there?”

“Fuck, yeah. It was like working in a frying pan. They would spray the roof with a hose to cool it off, and it would dry in three seconds, and then they had about fifteen seconds before I started screaming.” Calvin laughed.

“Lord. You got some balls, I swear. I got nothing but respect for the work y’all do.” He personally thought posing was hell. He didn’t do still. Ever.

“Well, thank you.” Calvin beamed at him. “I had ice cream that day as a reward, so it wasn’t that bad. Okay, your turn.”

He pulled up one of his demon series—a fierce horned beast appearing from between white feathers, the mouth promising pure decadence.

“Oh. Oh my.” Calvin reached out and took the phone from him to get a closer look. “Fuck, man. This is way hotter than ‘horror and sex and birds’ sounded. I mean, Jesus. Look at him. You do this? You look way more… I mean, not like this. I would never have guessed. Wow.”

“No one does. That’s probably good, hmm?”

Calvin flicked his eyes from the phone to Tucker’s face. “Yes and no. I mean, you should look how you want to look, but man, the artist that does this work? With a body like yours? You could seriously rock something… way darker.”

“I tend to work buck naked. Saves clothes.” Wait. Did he say that? Out loud?

Calvin’s eyes popped open wide, and he started to laugh. Hard. Loud enough that people looked over at them, and he had to wave his hand to apologize because he seemed to be having trouble breathing.

He managed to just drink his coffee, keeping a mostly straight face. This guy let folks take his pictures in his skivvies; working naked was nothing.

Calvin silently handed Tucker back the phone, fanning himself with his other hand. He finally got a deep breath and puffed it out, grinning. “Jesus Christ. I don’t know what I was expecting you to say, but it wasn’t that. But that’s cool; I do some of my best work naked too. I just don’t get paid for that.” He winked and picked up his coffee. “Shit, my sides hurt.”

“When you get it from laughing, that’s okay, I think.” He pocketed his phone and finished up his sweet. So rich and good.

Calvin blushed. “I’m sorry. I’m not laughing at you. Honest, I’m not. I’m laughing at how stupid I am for looking at a fairly clean-cut, good-looking Texan, and… I don’t know. I got it all wrong, obviously, and for some reason that makes me absurdly happy.” The blush and a little humility made Calvin look younger, sweeter.

He grinned, that smile charming the hell out of him. “Shit, honey. I’m just tickled you didn’t ask if I was an axe murderer.”

Calvin’s eyebrows twitched. “I figured that would be rude since you hadn’t asked me that question yet.” He finished off the last of his coffee, tipping the cup up high to get the last drop.

“Rumor is you folks have all the axe murderers you need.”

“More muggers and thieves than axe murderers, actually. I don’t think I know anyone that hasn’t been robbed at some point. Especially people who look like tourists.” Calvin laughed. “You better watch your wallet.”

He arched one eyebrow. He didn’t think he’d take real kindly to that. Of course, who the fuck did? Seriously. No one just threw themselves in front of someone and said, “Fuck with me!” right? Right.

“I do, but thank you. I appreciate that warning.”

“For what it’s worth, crime usually goes way down in the snow.” Calvin slid his empty cup a couple of inches away. “I am all out of coffee.”

He leaned around the table and checked out Tucker’s boots. “Are those waterproof?”

“They do okay, yeah.” More waterproof than cold proof, for sure.

“Good. Come on.” Calvin stood up, looking more like a model now that Tucker knew he was one, and pulled on his coat. “Sorry. Unless you have plans, of course.”

“Plans? I have to be at the gallery Saturday night. That’s my plan.”

“That’s it? God, the things I could do with you for two days.” Calvin brushed a little too close as he stepped around Tucker and didn’t even pretend it was an accident.

They headed back out into the snow and retraced their steps to the library. The white stuff was starting to pile up, maybe three or four inches now.

Calvin didn’t say much on the short trip, but as he got close to the library, he poked Tucker with an elbow. “You’re gonna love this.”

He heard voices and laughter as they rounded the corner of the big building and headed into the little park next to it, where a small crowd of people was having one big snowball fight.

“You ready?” Calvin took a few steps backward and then started to run.

It took Tucker a second, but he figured what the hell? He hadn’t wanted to play so bad in a long damn time.

            Tucker gave chase, a redneck yell filling the air.

Title: Refraction
Published by: Tygerseye Publishing, LLC
ASIN: B083KMZ83B

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

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.

Buy the Book: Amazon

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!

Christmas Bizarre

Contributors: Jodi Payne, BA Tortuga
Series: Sapphic #1
Genre: , , , , , ,
Release Date: December 20, 2022

Charlotte Miller is tired of feeling like a failure. She may have gotten herself fired, her love life has imploded…so when she gets the call that the annual Summit Springs Christmas Bazaar, which helps support her family’s farm, is in trouble, she heads home to try to save the day. Maybe her luck will change and she will be happier for the holidays. Too bad her car decides to break down on the way.

Naomi “Lars” Beckett is too busy with the tree farm she runs and Christmastime to worry about a stranded hottie like Charlotte, but when they get snowed in together at an old cabin, she figures that’s what she gets for trying to help. On the surface these two seem to have nothing in common, but opposites do attract, especially with the magic of the season, and they find they have more in common than they think.

Once they’re back in the crazy mix of family, well-meaning town folk, and trying to make things just right for Christmas though, will they be able to make something together that lasts longer than old wrapping paper and holiday leftovers?

Christmas Bizarre is a small town, opposites attract, lesbian romance set in fictional Summit Springs, Colorado.

Buy the Book: Amazon
Title: Christmas Bizarre
Published by: Tygerseye Publishing, LLC
ASIN: B0B5K7FV9R

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

Land of Enchantment

Contributors: Jodi Payne and BA Tortuga
Series: Higher Elevation #2
Genre: , , , , ,
Release Date: September 24, 2019
Pages: 330

Land of Enchantment

An East Meets Western M/M Romance

East meets west. City meets country. Though there’s no denying opposites attract, can a college kid from New Jersey and a New Mexican cowboy learn to speak the same language, let alone trust each other?

When Mason Wild heads west to escape his past, he doesn’t have a plan or a penny to his name. Luckily he finds a job with a roofing company run by a rodeo cowboy who’s kind, easy to work for, and even with his jaw wired shut, hotter than July in the high desert.

Bull rider Levi Yost knows what it’s like to be down on his luck. He’s not much older than Mason, but he’s been around the block a few times, or at least around the rodeo arena. He takes a chance on the kid, giving him a job and a place to live on his ranch. The two of them discover a surprising amount of common ground, but trouble has a way of finding each of them. Mason has to learn to be fully honest with Levi, who in turn has to realize he’s not just riding out for himself anymore. 

Available to purchase, or to borrow with Kindle Unlimited.

Buy the Book: Amazon

Also in this series:

Chapter One

MASON WILD’S first stop after leaving New Jersey was a rest area west of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, where he met a truck driver in the men’s room who was headed down Interstate 81 toward Roanoke. It was the farthest away from home he’d ever been.

He had a little money on him but not much, and he had to stretch it pretty far because it was slow going finding rides after that until he’d passed through Knoxville and Nashville and landed in Jackson, Tennessee. By then he was a kind of hungry he’d never been in his whole life. He asked around, found some day work, and stayed there two days, keeping his head down and moving rocks around. It was shit money, but it was better than nothing, and nobody cared what his name was.

From Jackson he hitched a ride to Memphis. He was doing his best to be a good passenger, be polite like his mom taught him and just keep his stupid mouth shut. That was hard. He usually liked people and could talk about whatever when he wanted to, but right now he didn’t want to be too memorable.

Outside Memphis, he finally found a truck driver who was on a long haul. The guy was headed all the way to El Paso, and Mason figured what the hell, that was pretty damn far away, right? On the way, while the driver talked on and on for hours, he looked out the window as everything he understood disappeared in the rearview mirror and the world around him got flatter and drier. It felt like he spent weeks in that truck.

When he got to El Paso, he lucked into a stretch of work gutting some houses in town, but man, that was a long week. It was hot out and not only did the guys he was working with all seem to know each other, but they all knew what they were doing too. He knew some Spanish—you didn’t grow up in North Jersey and not know some Spanish—but apparently only enough local slang to figure out when he was being made fun of. Still, he was pretty much the biggest guy on the job, and he managed to hold his own even if they didn’t like his sneakers.

Mason hated them lately too. Everybody he knew wore sneakers at home, but out here, not only did he stand out as a city kid, but they were totally useless. He demolished a kitchen with a couple of guys one morning and stepped on a screw sticking up out of a cabinet door. It went right through his sole but luckily not into his foot. After that he spent half his time making sure he didn’t step on anything else or drop anything on his toes either. He couldn’t afford to do the hospital thing.

He was pretty sure he had enough money for some decent boots now, though, and he decided he’d buy some at his next stop—not that he knew where that was yet. But he was running out of real estate and he’d better figure something out soon. He couldn’t travel much farther away than he already had.

From El Paso the interstate only went north. He found a guy headed up 25 through Albuquerque, and hitched a ride, hoping he could bail somewhere near civilization.

It was an amazing drive—the grays and the tans and pinks seemed to be everywhere, the mountains and mesas like a whole foreign landscape.

“You know where you’re headed, kid?” The old cowboy didn’t look the slightest bit worried about picking him up. In fact, “Almon Ryder from right outside Dallas, pleased to meetcha, I do have my conceal carry permit,” looked like he might enjoy a bit of a fight.

“No.” Mason glanced over at him, wondering how polite the old guy expected him to be. He wasn’t planning on fighting anyone again. Ever. “Uh… no, sir. I’m just looking for work. You know.” Not too friendly, keep it to small talk. He’d gotten pretty good at riding in the passenger side of a semi and mostly pretending he wasn’t there, but a pickup was closer quarters.

“I do. There’s always work for guys that are willing. I’m going to see my son at UNM. He plays baseball there.”

Mason had no idea where that was. Baseball was awesome, though. “Yeah? That’s cool. Is he on a scholarship?”

“Yeah. He’s a good kid. My youngest. I have eight.”

“Sons?”

“Children. Seven of them are girls.”

“Holy crap!” He winced. “Uh. I mean, wow. That’s great. You’re totally outnumbered. And lucky. You’re very lucky.” He rolled his eyes. He should be keeping his stupid mouth shut. “Sorry.”

“I am totally outnumbered, kid. I lost my wife to breast cancer five years ago, with three still in school. Thank God for the oldest girls or the youngest might have starved.” The huge laugh boomed out, filling the cab.

Whoa. Small world. “I’m sorry, man. I lost my mom two years ago, same thing.” What a horrible time that had been. His whole senior year. “What was your wife’s name?”

“Sueann. She was a good woman. I’m sorry about your momma. It ain’t right.”

“Sueann. That’s a pretty name.” Nope. It wasn’t right. He used to think there was a bigger plan, but he wasn’t so sure anymore. He was just glad he didn’t have to break Mom’s heart when he left home. “So your youngest is in college. Where’s your oldest?”

“Married with four babies in Dallas. She’s an ER nurse. Her husband does something on the computer for work. He’s good to her and loves those babies, so I suppose I won’t have to kill him.”

“Uh. Well, that’s good, I guess?” Jesus. Everything he’d ever heard about Texans was true. Other things were true too, like this guy was super friendly and kind, but the whole gun-toting, bigger-than-life, major-accent thing? Totally true. And awesome. He’d never met anyone from Texas before now. Or wait, one of the truck drivers? The guy who’d driven him from Harrisburg to Roanoke… no wait, he was from Georgia.

His stomach growled. Loud. He looked out the window and pretended like he didn’t notice.

Almon grinned over at him. “You too, huh? There’s a McD’s up here. I’ll buy you a burger. You ain’t a vegetabletarian, right?”

He cheeks got hot. He hated handouts, but he wasn’t exactly flush at the moment. “Not me. If it’s food, I’ll eat it. That’s really nice of you. Thanks.” Vegetabletarian. Awesome.

“I hate eating alone, and I been down on my luck once or twice.”

“I’ll figure it out. I can work. I don’t know how to do much, but I’m big enough and I learn fast.” He had no choice, right? Thank God he didn’t have eight kids to feed. Whoa.

“Then you’ll be fine.” Almon pulled off and parked. “Let’s go in. Christ, my ass is too old to make this drive for a ball game.”

He got out of the truck. Almon was paying; he’d eat wherever the guy wanted to. He stretched, still a little sore from the last day of work and all the heavy lifting the smaller, older guys seemed happy to let him do. “Did you drive all the way from Dallas?”

“No, sir. I had been in Austin, seeing my four girls there; then I headed this direction.” He loved the way Almon said, “die-rection.”

“That’s a long drive. Geez. For a baseball game? He must be really good.” He followed Almon inside, getting blasted by the cool air as he held the door. The smell of the burgers and fries made his stomach growl again and his mouth water.

“Well, I haven’t seen my boy in a few months. What’s your poison?”

“Uh. The Buttermilk Crispy Chicken thing. Sandwich. Please.” And a ton of fries and a vanilla milkshake, but he wasn’t going to get greedy. Son in college in New Mexico, daughter in Dallas, four girls in Austin… he was missing one.

“Where’s your other daughter?” he asked as they headed over to a table with their food. He knew he probably shouldn’t be so chatty, but it felt good to have a real conversation with someone after almost a month of mostly keeping to himself. No one back home would believe he managed to keep quiet for this long.

“Two others.” Almon laughed happily. “Missy is in nursing school in Arlington, and Bessa’s in a band on the road. Last time I talked to her, she was in Oklahoma City, but I think she’s heading to Kansas City next. She’s hard to keep track of, that girl.”

“Two! Geez, that’s right. I’m glad you can keep track of them all.” He laughed. He’d have left one somewhere by mistake.

They sat, and the table got quiet as Mason sucked down his chicken. God, he could eat four of these things, easy. His sister had just… well, before he left, Izzy had told him she thought maybe he was still growing. He figured he just had a big appetite.

“They gave me an extra set of fries by mistake, kid. You want?”

“You don’t want ’em? Sure. Thanks.” Almon slid them over his direction, and he snarfed those down too. He had a feeling they weren’t there by mistake. He’d lucked out big-time on his ride. Back East he’d be wondering what the guy wanted from him, but Almon seemed like the legit dad type. Mason liked him.

“No problem. Doc doesn’t want me having too many, you know? I ain’t getting any younger.”

He nodded and grinned at Almon. “Better listen to the doc. If you need help with the rest of those, just ask.”

“Fair enough. I tell you what, this getting old shit is for the birds.”

“You’re not old, man. You just did a ton of driving today. Gotta be eight or nine hours to Austin maybe?”

“Thirteen by the time we get to the Duke City. We’re right outside of T or C right now.”

What? “I have no idea what you just said.” He laughed pretty hard. “I don’t know if it was the words or the accent. Sometimes I feel like I’m on another planet out here.”

“Albuquerque is the Duke City. T or C? That’s the town out here. Good camping.” Almon winked. “You’ll figure it out. New Mexico is a lot like Texas light.”

Like that was helpful. The only thing he knew about Texas was that it was huge, took forever and ever to drive across, and he didn’t really want to go back to El Paso.

“So you know where to find work in the city? If not, you might try starting down near the farms in Corrales. My son and his roommates do some odd jobs for beer money, and they always talk about driving up the hill to Rio Rancho, Bernalillo, Corrales. That direction. I will holler at him and ask, if you want.”

“Yeah? That would be awesome. I figured I was going to have to ask around, you know? But if they could maybe hook me up with a place to start, that would rock so hard.” He repeated the names in his head. Rio Rancho, Bernalillo, Corrales. He didn’t need beer money, and he wasn’t old enough to buy it yet anyway. But beer money could buy him some real food instead. He had enough in his pocket from El Paso for a couple of nights in a cheap place and a pair of decent boots. That was a start. If he could find work fast, he’d be golden.

“Can’t hurt to ask. Troy knows a shit-ton of folks.” Obviously Troy got that from his father.

“I really appreciate it, man. Thanks.” He hopped up. “Not rushing you, I just need to stretch my legs.” They were long—they got tired of being folded up under a dashboard after a while.

“Stretch away.” Almon pulled out his phone and started typing.

Mason looked at Almon’s phone, feeling kind of jealous. He missed his phone. He missed texting his crew and his sister, and Snapchat and iTunes. He even missed that stupid foulmouthed weather app. Not that he needed a weather app out here. The weather was the same every day. Hot.

He shook his legs out and scanned the other booths. People even looked different out here. More relaxed maybe. Tan too. There was an awful lot of good-looking skin out here.

The wind was blowing when he went outside, the black clouds covering the mountains like a blanket. Did black clouds mean rain? Down here or just up there? He knew he’d have a lot to learn out here, but he hadn’t expected understanding the weather to be on that list.

Mason stuck his hands in his pockets and breathed in the air. It did seem a little cooler. Sticky. And it was definitely cleaner than the city. He didn’t recognize the scent on the breeze at first, but it finally hit him about a half second before the wall of water started moving across the parking lot.

Jesus. Jesus, look at that.

He stepped back under the awning by the door and watched it march toward him. Where the hell had that come from? He got a little spray as the rain hit the sidewalk and drenched the building, but not enough to drive him back inside. This was way too cool.

The rain came down in waves, the parking lot turning to standing water in seconds. This was a deluge, and it had hit so fast.

If he were home, he’d be snapping pictures. Instead he just tried to memorize the way the water dumped from the sky and how he could just barely make out Almon’s truck at the end of the parking lot, so maybe he could tell Izzy about it one day.

“Look at that, huh? I ain’t never seen rain come down so fast and hard like here.” Almon grinned from the open door. “It won’t last.”

“I’ve never seen anything like this at all. I looked up and it was just coming at me. Like this crazy wall just cruising across the parking lot.” He shook his head. “Insane.”

“Rain in the desert. Talked to Troy, and he says he’ll make up a list of places that have steady work.”

“No way, really? That’s… wow. Thank you so much. Tell Troy I owe him a solid.” Steady work. Maybe this could be his last stop for a while. He could handle that. It was beautiful out here even if was hot and poured buckets sometimes.

“He’s a good kid. I think I’ll….” Just like that, the rain stopped like someone turning off a faucet.

He stuck a hand out from under the awning, then stepped out as well and looked up at the sky. “Huh. That’s it?” The clouds just rolled away the way they’d rolled in.

“That’s it. You ready to go?”

“Yeah. Sure.” He stared at the sky as he headed over to the truck, though, like maybe it might change its mind and start pouring again. He hopped up into the passenger side and stretched his neck as he pulled on his seat belt, feeling a little stiff and headachey. Probably that storm rolling through so fast. His mom used to get weather headaches. Or maybe like a blood sugar thing. “Thanks again for the food, man.” He was going to have to buy some Advil or something wherever Almon dropped him off.

“No problem. Thanks for the company.”

He leaned his head back on the headrest and stretched his legs out as far as he could manage, which wasn’t really far enough. “What do you do for work?”

“I own a cattle ranch, raise cuttin’ horses, and I run futurity bulls. Little bit of everything, I guess.”

Language barrier again. Some days he felt dumber and dumber by the minute out here. “You lost me again. What’s a futurity bull?”

“It’s a baby bucking bull, for all intents and purposes. You know, for the rodeo?”

“Oh yeah, I’ve heard of a rodeo. Guys have to ride crazy bulls and they win all kinds of money if they stay on long enough.” Why anybody would do that, he had no idea. He’d never seen anyone ride, but he kind of thought the guys were crazier than the bulls.

“If they’re on the big show, yeah. The steadier money is in the ropers.”

As they drove on, Mason had a bunch of questions, and Almon answered them patiently and told him about all the different rodeo events. It passed the time for one thing, but he kind of thought Almon enjoyed teaching him.

The mountains just kept getting bigger and closer. There weren’t any trees, really, just these huge rocky things. He wasn’t sure he’d ever get used to so much open space.

Things got quiet, and Almon turned on the radio. He closed his eyes after a while, not feeling all that great. Carsick maybe. It didn’t feel like a lot of time had passed, but when he opened his eyes again, it was almost dark out. He must have fallen asleep.

“Grab you some water, kid. You look green.” Almon pulled into the city, the trails of light flashing madly.

“Huh? I’m good.” He wasn’t good. The streetlights made him squint, and his brain was trying to escape out the top of his head. He’d sell his soul for some Advil. He reached over the seat and grabbed a bottle of water. “Is this Albuquerque? You can let me off anywhere, man. I really appreciate everything. I know you have people to see.”

“This is Albuquerque. Do you have somewhere to go?”

He shrugged. “I’ll find something.” All he needed was that list. He could find somewhere to crash for tonight, head right out in the morning to get work, and then—oh, shit. “You’re gonna want to pull over, man.” Seriously? He was gonna hurl.

Almon didn’t say a thing. The truck just swerved right off to the curb and Mason jumped out and brought up his lunch. After that, his head really started to pound. He rinsed his mouth and spat, then leaned back against the side of the truck with a groan. “Fuckin’ A.”

“Water, kid. Pound water. You got altitude sickness.” Almon handed him another bottle.

He took the bottle and swallowed back a huge gulp, but it didn’t sit right in his stomach. “I’ve got what?” He wasn’t sure that water wasn’t going to come back up too, but he kept drinking. Almon seemed to know what he was talking about. “There’s a little alien in my head, and the bastard is going to town with a jackhammer, I swear to God.”

“Water will fix it. Keep it down, and then we’ll try Tylenol. Do you have somewhere to go?”

“Not yet. I’ll find some… something. Shit.” He turned around and braced a hand on the truck, sure he was going to puke again, but he didn’t quite. His guts just felt punky.

“No. I’ll get you a room at the Motel 6. Just for a night until Troy can get you some information. Drink your water.”

He leaned on the truck again and finished off the bottle in his hand. “Thanks. It would be great if you could drop me at the Motel 6. I can get myself a room.” He felt like he was dying. He needed a room tonight; he’d figure it out. He could let his boots wait another week.

“I’ve got a room too. No stress.” Almon grinned, the look a little wry. “Troy’s got five roommates. Male ones. I’m not staying there.”

He snorted. He tried for some sort of grin but wasn’t sure he managed it. “Oh. Gross. I hear that. Can I get another water?”

“Absolutely. Keep drinking, have a nap and a shower. You’ll be okay.”

He climbed back into the truck and pulled out another bottle of water. “I guess you’re used to this altitude thing?” He sipped the water and sank back into the seat.

“Not everyone has a problem. I have a daughter that just has to fight it with all she is.” Almon gave him a half grin. “You ready for me to move again?”

“I guess I can relate to her, huh? Yeah, I’m good. Just gonna keep my eyes closed.” He’d like to look around, get his bearings, but that was going to have to wait for tomorrow.

“We ain’t got far.”

Almon was telling the truth—they pulled into a Motel 6 a minute later, and then Almon handed him a key card for a room, just like that. “I got to go grab my boy and take him to supper. You get some rest, and if you want, I’ll introduce y’all in the morning over breakfast.”

He looked at the key card and then back at Almon, trying hard to just accept help gracefully. It wasn’t easy. “Thanks. I owe you. Have a good dinner. I’d love to meet Troy tomorrow.” Hopefully he’d feel better by morning. Right now, he was going to fight back the frustration he was feeling and try to be grateful, crawl into bed, and die for a while.

“Drink your water. It will help, huh? Even if it makes you feel like your back teeth are floating.”

“Totally, man. I’m on it.” He stuck out his hand to shake, looking Almon right in the eye like Mom taught him to. She said nobody trusted a man that couldn’t look them in the eye. “Thanks again.

“You’re welcome. Get some good rest, and I’ll knock in the morning, okay?”

“Will do. Night.” He gave Almon a nod, backed up a few steps, and then set off to find his room.

He sucked down the rest of his water as soon as he got inside. He wanted to shower. He knew he should. He probably smelled like a… huh. Like a homeless guy, which he pretty much was right now. But that bed was calling his name, and that’s as far as he got. He’d clean up in the morning.

Title: Land of Enchantment
Published by: Tygerseye Publishing, LLC
ASIN: B07XJHS2VW
ISBN13: 978-1-7330076-8-9

 

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Deviations: Domination

Contributors: Jodi Payne and Chris Owen
Series: Deviations #2
Genre: , , , , ,
Release Date: December 30, 2019 (Third Edition)
Pages: 324

In this sequel to Deviations: Submission, Dom Tobias and Sub Noah are back, learning more about each other and their relationship, and testing the boundaries of what they can and can’t handle, both together and apart.

Tobias works at becoming more comfortable and finding his balance as a full-time Master again. His work brings out the true submissive in Noah, who faces some of his greatest fears, and his greatest secrets, finally confessing to Tobias about a terrible time in his past.

But Noah is not the only one who has a rough time. Tobias breaks down and shows Noah he's not all Dominance, too, which sends shockwaves through their romance, leaving them to wonder if they can hold onto their balance together.

Dominations is a deep exploration of the BDSM scene, with secondary characters who enhance the story and a central romance that has the reader rooting for Tobias and Noah to work through their obstacles and come out stronger.

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EXCERPT FROM DOMINATION

Wednesday. It had been a long, drawn-out week, and Tobias couldn't believe it was still only Wednesday.

He'd had a full day, out of town as usual in the morning, helping a mare to foal. She threw a beautiful dark bay colt that presented very much like his particularly handsome sire, and Tobias had considered making a bid for him right then and there but restrained himself. He was already training Noah; he didn't need another colt to complicate their weekends. Things were busy enough in his life without adding a new horse to his stables, a new responsibility to his already full plate.

In the few weeks since he'd met Noah at his club, Tobias had swung from one rush of feeling to another. Sexually, they were more than compatible, Noah's natural submissive tendencies meshing well with Tobias' own need to dominate. It went deeper than just mere sex, however, and in very short order Tobias and Noah had signed a six-month contract binding them together in a more tangible power exchange.

It was serious, it was important, and it was very heady. Tobias found almost all of his time taken up with thinking about his new submissive, lost in plans and a fair number of daydreams. It made his hours working as a large animal veterinarian seem almost relaxing by comparison. He only hoped that Noah's daydreams were confined to when he wasn't in his patrol car -- a police officer with his mind on his relationship wasn't good for anyone.

When Tobias walked in the door of his uptown condo, he set his keys down on the hall table and hit the play button on the answering machine as he pulled off his boots. After a long beep a rich male voice began to speak. ''Hello, Tobias, it's Bradford. I haven't seen you or your boy around the club in nearly a month. I trust this is a good sign? I'd like to get together and hear about how things are going. Yes, as a matter of fact, I am checking up on you; don't get your knickers in a twist, friend, it's just that... well, I worry. Oh, thank you for sending me a copy of your contract, I've put that in your files. Give me a call, Tobias, and let's have dinner. I'd like to catch up.''

Tobias sighed ruefully and nodded to himself. On some level he'd expected the call, though he hadn't really thought about it in terms of Bradford checking up on them. Still, it wouldn't be a trial to talk about Noah and where things stood at the moment; in fact, he'd welcome another perspective. He had a plan for the weekend and it might be a good idea to talk it over with someone who knew them both.

After stopping in the kitchen long enough to determine that he needed to order out for dinner, Tobias picked up the phone and called Bradford's direct line at the club. If the man didn't pick up, he'd at least be able to leave a message.

''Hello?'' Bradford was a man who'd done very, very well for himself. Part of his success was due to the fact that he could always be relied upon to respect the anonymity and privacy of his members and guests. Case in point, he never answered the phone with his own name or the name of the club, just a simple, discreet greeting, giving away nothing until he knew who was on the other end of the line.

''Good evening, Bradford,'' Tobias said with a smile. ''I got your message, Mother.''

''Ah, sonny-boy, so good to hear from you.'' Bradford snorted. ''Don't give me that crap, Tobias. I set the two of you up, you're both important members, and I want to know how it's going for you. That's called integrity, hmm? Trust me, I haven't a maternal bone in my body.''

Tobias grinned, not buying it for a moment. ''Sure. Whatever you say. You can stop worrying, though; things are fine.'' He crossed to the big window in his living room and looked out at the city lights, counting blocks until he found Noah's.

'''Fine' is such a drab, generic word, Tobias. Tell me what you really mean,'' Bradford encouraged.

''I mean... fine. Good. Great. He's coming along nicely; we've established a base level trust, I think.'' He turned and leaned on the window sill, facing the room. ''He had dinner with Phantom last week.'' Tobias resisted the urge to cringe at the thought of the two men, his new lover and his past lover, chatting happily over dinner. They both tended toward the unpredictable, and that worried him.

''Oh, yes, I know he did. That's part of the reason for my call. I gather it went well? Phan thought he was 'hot.''' Bradford loved gossip and made himself privy to all the rumors around the club. At first glance one might call it catty, but Tobias knew better -- he was simply protecting his own.

''It seemed to go well. Noah was fine when I saw him later. Calm, steady... he seemed to think Phan was -- look, how deep do you want to go here? I'd rather do this in person if you're looking for a long debrief. If you're just needing quiet assurances, both Noah and I are fine. The weekends are going well, and we're in touch through the week as well.''

Tobias knew as soon as he spoke that he'd sounded snappish and protective and that Bradford wouldn't miss it. The trouble was, he wasn't sure why he suddenly felt like pulling back -- and that meant he needed to talk it out. He sighed. ''Damn circular logic,'' he muttered.

''Tobias,'' Bradford sighed and made a clicking sound with his tongue. ''Be my guest tomorrow night for dinner. Here. What would you like to eat? I'll make sure it's prepared for you.''

Tobias rolled his eyes, safely several miles out of Bradford's view. ''Something gentle. Linguini in clam sauce?'' He hoped the tacit acceptance would be enough.

''Done. I look forward to seeing you, Tobias, it's been long enough,'' Bradford said softly, and Tobias could practically hear the man's very genuine smile.

He found himself smiling in reply. ''I'll see you tomorrow night, old friend. Around seven, I think.'' He hung up and turned once more to look out over the city, watching the cars cruise along Lincoln, toward downtown and Noah.

Title: Domination
Published by: Tygerseye Publishing, LLC
ASIN: B0839M66Z6
ISBN13: 978-1-951011-19-2

 

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Purchase it from Juno Publishing directly,
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Making a Mark, Triskelion Book #2

Contributors: Jodi Payne, BA Tortuga
Series: Triskelion Series #2
Genre: , , , , , ,
Release Date: October 5, 2021
Pages: 332

When Troy and Saul became lovers, they worried about a lot of things. There was their age gap, their younger Dom-older sub relationship, and Troy’s health, which was made worse by job stress. They managed all that and more with a deep commitment, and with a lot of help from Troy’s longtime best friends, fellow Dom and sub couple Carter and Geoff.

In fact, Saul seems to be what all three of the other men need to see what’s been there all along, and to provide the balance they need to deepen their relationship in a very meaningful way. They’ve already made their marks on each other’s hearts. Now it’s time to start living the life they’ve all been dreaming of.

Nothing is ever perfect or easy, though, and they all have to shift their perceptions. Geoff has to come to terms with his need for submission and desire to dominate Troy, and Carter must redefine the two most important relationships in his life. Troy struggles to understand why Geoff and Carter want this with him now, after years of watching from the outside. And Saul has to create a whole new definition of family. Can they all break the rules again and become something more special than they can even imagine?

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Title: Making a Mark
Published by: Tygerseye Publishing, LLC
ASIN: B09GX963VV
ISBN13: 978-1-951011-64-2