Winners from the Birthday Bash!

Print Book Winners:

End Street Volume 1:

JEN CW
DARREN CONNELL
YOUNELA
AIBOPALS
KERRY

Dragonmen Volume 1:

AMANDA LOGAN
TERA EDWARDS

 

Print book winners, please email your mailing address to Sheri at authoraccomplice@gmail.com, so we can get your prizes mailed out!

 

Gift card winners:

$10 Amazon Gift Card:

JULIE SCOTT
AMANDA POTTS
VASSMANN
SHERRY GEORGE

$25 Amazon Gift Card:

PAULA HADGRAFT

Please email Sheri at authoraccomplice@gmail.com, to claim your prize!

Ebook winners:

ANGELICA

LOONEY589

Please email Sheri at authoraccomplice@gmail.com, to claim your prize!

 

I will be announcing more winners from the various authors soon!

 

The Banded Brothers are back!

Amazon | Smashwords

Previously Released
Contains:
To Have A Human
To Catch A Croc

To Have A Human

Sometimes it’s the family you choose that loves you the most.

Carey Gale always knew about shifters. It was difficult not to when his best friends could turn into some of the deadliest beasts. To support his band, Carey gets a daytime job at a shifter-owned business, but he doesn’t expect to fall hopelessly in lust with Broden Lyall, the company’s alpha.
Broden has to battle his against his society’s low opinion of humans to remain as leader. But when hunters come after Carey’s friends, Broden learns that not all humans are alike, and he finds he will do anything to have the one slim, blond human who’d shown him that.

To Catch A Croc

Protect those you love, annihilate everyone else.

For as long as he could remember Denton Stills has followed his friend Carey around. When Carey gets a mate Denton starts to consider maybe it is time for him to find his forever man. However the only one sniffing around is an obnoxious puma who seems to think Denton is as good as his. When saltwater crocodile shifters try to move into Denton’s territory he takes a page from Carey’s father “protect those you love, annihilate everyone else. Will Denton be able to hold back a shifter invasion with his friends or will he have to ask for help from the one man who makes him thinks happily ever after might be possible?

Welcome to the Rainbow Advent Calendar Stop!

Thank you for joining me for my Advent Calendar story. I’ve decided to do a short on Quain and Peter since they’re in my latest book Pursuing Peter.  Questioning Quain is coming Decemberish. If you haven’t read Peter then I should tell you Quain is a psychic and has visions…see all cleared up!

If you leave a comment I’ll enter you to win a $10.00 Amazon GC! Winner will be chosen next Saturday!

Just in case you need it: Rainbow Advent Calendar Facebook Group

 

 

It snowed.

Icy flakes spun in circles outside the window. Winter had come in a rush of dingy gray clouds and dropping temperatures. Quain Ilves pressed his nose against the cool glass enjoying the coldness against his skin. The heater hummed a sad background melody to his thoughts.

Quain rubbed his arms. Maybe he should put on a warmer sweater. He had only worn the black one because Peter enjoyed the soft fabric when they cuddled. To bad Peter wasn’t home. He’d been missing since their fight.

It wasn’t even a big one.

A sigh tore through Quain as he reflected on their argument. It had started with Quain being resistant to going to the pack party, and ended with Peter accusing him of trying to distance them both from their pack family.

He traced a heart on the foggy windowpane. Maybe he should’ve mentioned his social anxiety, but he didn’t want Peter to think he was a wimp. Better to have Peter think he was part hermit than that he had issues with crowds. Growing up isolated had taken its toll on Quain emotionally and he’d rather anger Peter than have his sympathy. Something he regretted now.

“Come back to me,” he whispered against the windowpane.

He traced another heart on the steamy glass interlocking with the other one then, in an act of whimsy, wrote their initials inside. The first smile in two hours crossed his lips even as his own heart ached from his mate’s absence.

Peter wouldn’t hold a grudge, would he? Unfortunately they hadn’t been together long enough for him to know for certain. The scrape of a key in the door raised his hopes. Quain stood, but before he could take a step his world went black.

Impatience was the primary emotion rushing through him. He lacked his usual anticipation for a vision. Instead he longed for the ending so he could return to Peter and talk through his issues. Peter had never lost patience with him before and Quain had planned on making sure everything else was fine with his mate before airing his own problems.

Fog swirled in unfamiliar patterns. Quain tried to push through but nothing hurried the experience.

“What’s the rush, young seer?” a female voice asked.

Quain froze. He had half expected Zeus to make another appearance. Despite claiming to dislike mortals the god enjoyed stomping through Quain’s visions with startling regularity.

“My mate just got home. We had a fight and I’d like to talk to him.” It didn’t occur to him to lie to a complete stranger, nosy or not.

“You worry too much, honey,” the female said with warm familiarity.

“Sometimes.” Quain prided himself on knowing his own personality quirks.

“About your mate, more times than not.”

“Who are you?” The fog continued to hide the speaker. A burst of psychic wind swept away the fog and exposed the lady. A white gown swirled around her slim form. All of her was white. Even her skin held little color against her white locks.

“Consider me your fairy godmother,” she said with a wry smile.

“Are you a fairy?”

“Nope.” She giggled, an odd contrast to her previously serious expression.

“And you’re not my godmother,” Quain pursued carefully.

She shrugged. “Semantics.”

Quain waited but she didn’t say anything more. “What are you here for? Peter was coming home and I need to talk to him.”

“And tell him why you’re such a pill?”

“Yeah.” Quain shoved his hands in his pockets. “He needs to know why he has such a broken mate.”

“You aren’t broken, maybe a little chipped on the corners but nothing a bit of love can’t fix.” She pulled a sparkly wand out of the air and spun it around. Gold sparks flew around her.

“Huh.” Quain watched the light show not certain of what to do. Never before had a being entered his vision world waving a wand.

“I know pretty spectacular right?” Her lips formed a smug smile. “In order for your mate to understand you, maybe you should understand him.”

“How? He doesn’t like to talk about his childhood much.”

“There are reasons for that.”

“Is this where you show me my Christmas past?” Quain couldn’t help the sarcastic tone. Trust him to have a fairy godmother cliché.

She giggled. “Don’t be silly. Weren’t you there for your Christmases? I’m here to show you Peter’s.”

With a wave of her wand the scenery changed. Instead of a blank sea of white fog a room materialized. A little boy sat beside a Christmas tree dripping with decorations. Piles of presents covered the area around the trunk, pushing the branches up. The elegance and size of the room indicated they were inside a rich person’s mansion.

“Is this where he grew up?” Quain asked.

“Shh, watch. Isn’t he adorable?” She giggled madly.

A whiff of alcohol reached his nose. “Are you drunk?”

She waved her wand. “Don’t be ridiculous. One little interesting eggnog isn’t going to stop me from doing my job. And if you report me I’ll make all your visions female porn shows.”

Quain rubbed his queasy stomach. “That’s just evil.”

Before she could respond a female voice called Peter’s name.

“In here, Mom,” child Peter replied.

“Are you ready to open your presents?” His mother sat on a chair beside the tree.

Although Quain hadn’t ever met Peter’s father he could immediately see how much Peter resembled his mother. His cheekbones had definitely come from her side of the family along with his dazzling aquamarine eyes.

“Isn’t Dad coming?” Peter asked.

His mother played with the belt on her robe. “He’s not feeling up to it right now.” She didn’t meet Peter’s eyes when she spoke.

“He’s drunk again isn’t he?”

“No he just had a long night, And don’t talk about your father like that,” she scolded.

Peter picked up a present with little interest and began tearing at the wrapping paper. Before Quain saw what he uncovered the scene changed back to the fog.

“See,” she announced.

“See what? We left before we saw what he got.”

She batted his complaint away with her hand. “What he got was a lot of presents with an absentee father who gambled away their savings and an enabling mother. One more lonely Christmas in a childhood of them.”

“Which is why he wants to spend it with the pack,” Quain realized. “Damn, I guess I really do have to go to the party.”

“You don’t have to. You do have free will and all, but I bet he’d appreciate it.”

“Okay, let me wake up and I’ll talk to Peter.”

“Sorry I’ve got to do the entire spiel, it’s part of my Christmas bonus.”

Quain rolled his eyes. “You are the most unhelpful fairy godmother I’ve ever met.”

She twirled her sparkly wand. “Got an entire closet full of us do you?”

A growl rolled up his throat. Surely it wouldn’t be bad karma to strangle the annoying entity.

“Keep your pants on dear.” She flashed him a wicked smile. “Or don’t. How about I give you a quick sneak peak of your future, no seer skills required. I’ll let you handle the present as long as you lie if anyone asks.”

“Deal.” He agreed without hesitation. The odds of anyone coming to him for a fairy godmother employee review were slim. Of course he would’ve said the same thing about one actually appearing before now.

The scene changed, morphing from fog to living room, seamlessly.

“Wait, this is our apartment.”

“Nice to see you can recognize your living space,” she praised.

“How far into the future is this?”

“Hmm.” More wand twirls, as she thought over her answer. “A few years or so.”

Before Quain could interrogate her more Peter walked into the living room. Quain’s mouth dropped open. It wasn’t the sexy suit Peter wore with casual grace, but the baby in Peter’s arms that caught Quain’s attention.

“Where did he come from?” Quain asked.

“Well, when a man and a woman, or a woman and a sperm get together…”

“Shush!” Quain waved her quiet before she continued to ramble and fill his head with worrisome images.

A second Quain rushed into the room and took the child from Peter. “Are you ready? We’ve got to leave soon if we want to drop Elias off at the pack childcare for the night.”

“Elias?” Quain eagerly waited to hear more about this boy. Who would trust him with a baby?

“He’s all ready and I have his bag by the door.”

“Great.” Quain kissed Elias’s head. The little boy tugged at Quain’s tie then mouthed it a bit.

“Don’t eat the tie pin,” Peter warned.

“Like he’s going to listen to you. You know he’s a tiepin connoisseur. Why else would he always steal Anthony’s most expensive ones?”

“I’m going to owe him a new car at this rate.” Peter scowled.

Quain laughed. “It’s worth it.” He lifted the child up to dangle him back and forth. “Isn’t it Elias?”

Elias giggled.

“He’s adorable. Is he ours?” Quain asked his fairy godmother.

“Yes. You two make wonderful parents. Elias is the first of three.”

“Thank you,” Elias said sincerely.

“For what?” She twirled in place on one shoe like a little kid.

“For giving me hope. I never thought I’d get a family.”

“Then you need to stop being a gloomy Gus and tell your magnificent mate about your problems. You really are lucky to have him you know.”

“I know.”

“Good. Now go and give him a kiss for me!” She waved her wand.

Quain jerked back to reality to find Peter cradling him close, a worried expression marred his mate’s face.

“I’m so sorry. I shouldn’t have left you alone,” Peter mumbled. “I wasn’t thinking.”

“Hey, it’s all right.” Quinn cupped Peter’s face in his hands and kissed him with all the passion he had inside. When he let go Peter still had his eyes closed for a few seconds before they fluttered open.

“What caused that? When I left I thought you were mad at me.”

“I was more angry at myself. Let’s sit on the couch and talk.” Quain stood then pulled Peter up after him. “I have some things to tell you about my childhood.”

“Is this going to make me want to hunt down your parents?”

“No. But it explains why I’m reluctant to go to the party.” He flashed back to Peter’s lonely Christmas. “I think we should go to the party, but maybe not stay the entire time.”

Peter’s tense shoulders relaxed. “I can agree to that.”

Quain spent the next thirty minutes explaining his parents smothering followed by years of isolation. The entire time he kept thinking of the beautiful baby and the others to follow.

Peter’s sideways hug pulled him from his memory. “Next time just talk to me. I’ll always want to know if something bothers you.”

“I will. I promise.” He cleared his throat. “By the way, what are your thoughts on having a family? Not anytime soon, just in general.” Quain almost forgot to breathe while he waited for an answer.

Peter smiled. “I’ve always wanted kids.”

“Really?”

“Yeah, I used to dream of having two or three and a beautiful husband to raise them with. At least I got part of it right.”

“Yes, you did.” Quain smiled. He wouldn’t tell Peter about his fairy godmother, who wasn’t a fairy or a godmother. After all the poor man was still getting used to Quain’s visions. Telling him about imaginary people bringing him their future might stretch the bounds of reality too far, even for his accepting mate.

Quain patted Peter’s leg. “Let’s go get dressed and you can introduce me to the people I haven’t met.”

“Sounds good. We even have some fae in our pack,” Peter said.

“Really? Any females?”

Peter paused mid step. “No, why?”

“Never mind.” Quain kissed Peter’s cheek then ran down the hall to the sound of Peter’s laughter.

The past might have been lonely for them both but now they had each other. Quain planned to make this the best Christmas yet for his beloved starting with the party. Tomorrow he would show Peter the extra tools he’d purchased for his garage.

 

The End

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thank you to everyone!

I want to say thank you to all the authors and fans who participated in my month long birthday party!

Any prizes that weren’t chosen will be chosen soon. If you won a physical prize then this is the one time of the year that I will ship things on time 🙂

I’m planning to get a lot more books out in the coming year so if you have a favorite series I am going to work hard in getting some of them wrapped up as you know I have too many out there now. I hate to disappoint my fans over how many open series I have right now.

I will be posting the blog story again in the near future. Stay tuned 🙂

 

Welcome Birthday Guest KC Burn!

A Tea or Consequences Birthday

 

Riley flipped to yet another television station and sighed. Thirty-one hadn’t been as bad as he’d expected. After all, he’d solved a murder and gotten a boyfriend, the delicious Tadeo Martin, homicide detective. Tad had been his high school crush, despite having been a bit of a jackass, but he’d turned into a sexy, soft-hearted man who had an awe-inspiring job.

Riley, on the other hand, was an executive assistant temp. As proud as he was about doing his job well, it didn’t exactly stack up to homicide detective. This particular job placement was boring as hell, and he’d been restless almost from day one. A far cry from his last job, where he’d first been considered a potential suspect before tangling with the real killer and finding evidence the police needed to convict. Almost getting murdered himself was excitement he could do without, but there was no denying a regular job assisting yet another executive was just a trifle… dull.

Then again, maybe it was his relationship that had been chafing. He and Tad had been having a great time falling in love and enjoying themselves. Tad got along well with Riley’s friends, and Riley had met and been welcomed by Tad’s large family. Today, Riley turned thirty-two, and Tad hadn’t said a word about it. Riley had dropped a couple of subtle hints, but for a detective, Tad had been incredibly oblivious.

As of now, he had no plans, hoping to celebrate with Tad, but perhaps he’d be celebrating all by himself.

A key turned in the lock, startling Riley, even though it really shouldn’t. Tad had a key to his place so they could more easily spend time together with his odd hours, and were practically living together, but he’d expected Tad home last night, and it was almost noon. Aside from his birthday woes, he’d also been worried but it wasn’t the first time Tad hadn’t managed to make it home when he’d expected.

Tad burst into the apartment, looking disheveled and worn out. “I’m sorry I’m late. But we were able to wrap this case up, finally.”

“Good. I, uh, you probably want a nap, eh?” Not the most exciting birthday celebration, but at least Tad was safe, they’d be together, and there’d be plenty of time for Tad to nail him through the mattress later on. Riley had no complaints about sexy times with Tad, that was for sure. Riley got off the couch to give his boyfriend a welcome home kiss.

“Nap? Nope. No time, birthday boy.”

Riley rocked to a stop. “Birthday boy?”

Tad smiled at him and closed the distance between them, curling an arm around his waist. “Happy birthday.” The kiss was simultaneously carnal and sweet, and over far too soon.  “You thought I forgot, didn’t you?”

Riley shrugged.

“Nope. I didn’t want to get your hopes up, though. You know I can’t always predict my work schedule. Just let me take a quick shower.”

“Do you want some company?” Riley wiggled against his boyfriend.

“Always, but we don’t have time for that today.” Tad kissed him on the nose.

“We don’t? Where are we going? Should I change?” He was wearing worn, faded jeans and a T-shirt.

“Nope. We’re doing an escape room with your friends.” Tad pulled a promotional postcard out of his pocket and handed it over.

Can you escape the House on the Hill?  The question was posed in lurid red serial-killer font.

“What is this?”

“You, me, and your friends are gonna get locked in a room for an hour. We have to solve puzzles to figure out how to escape, and I thought you might like the haunted house theme. It’s supposed to be a bit spooky.”

Riley blinked at his boyfriend. Wrapping his mind around Tad planning a birthday event with his friends was a far cry from the complete nothing he’d been trying to make peace with.

Tad gave him a little smile. “I know you’ve been a bit restless, and it’s maybe not as thrilling as participating on a homicide case, but I thought it would be right up your alley. I’m going to be relying on you to get us out of that room.”

“You’re the best.”

Tad winked. “That’s what all the boys tell me.”

Riley rolled his eyes.  “Okay, okay. When do we have to be there?”

“An hour.”

“An hour? Go shower! I don’t want to be late!”

“I’m going, I’m going.” Tad laughed. “We’ll have an early dinner after with the group, then head back here. I want to make sure to get you naked and satisfied before I crash.”

“Mmm. Romantic.” Riley kissed Tad’s throat. “But I love it.”

“I love you.” Tad squeezed him tight.

“Me too.” Riley stared into the warm brown eyes of the love of his life. “But hurry up, or we’re going to be late.” No way was he missing out on the birthday Tad had planned.

Tad laughed. “You got it, boss.” He dashed down the hall toward the shower.

Riley stood there and admired Tad’s perfect butt before sighing and dropping back down on the couch to pull out his phone. He wanted to be prepared for this escape room. With his love of games and mysteries, and his intense dislike of almost getting murdered for real, this might become a brand-new hobby. Thirty-two was definitely looking up.

 

Amazon | Dreamspinner

Blurb:

Riley Parker: temp, twink, geek… sleuth?

 

Maybe Riley isn’t living up to his full potential, but being a temp executive assistant suits him. He’s never bored at work, he’s got friends who let him geek out, and he’s got a carefully crafted twink exterior… which might be getting constrictive now that he’s on the other side of thirty. Life isn’t perfect, but it’s comfortable.

 

It all unravels when he takes a job working for a tea-obsessed cosmetics queen, the owner of Gautier Cosmetics. During the launch party for a new product, Riley finds his boss dead under suspicious circumstances, and the homicide detective is none other than Tadeo Martin, Riley’s high school obsession who never knew he was alive.

 

Tad drafts Riley to get the scoop on the inner workings of Gautier, and for Riley, it’s like a drug. His natural inquisitiveness is rewarded with more and more Tad. Unfortunately, his snooping puts him in the running for two other roles: suspect and victim. The killer doesn’t care which.

 

Bio:

KC Burn has been writing for as long as she can remember and is a sucker for happy endings (of all kinds).  After moving from Toronto to Florida for her husband to take a dream job, she discovered a love of gay romance and fulfilled a dream of her own — getting published.  After a few years of editing web content by day, and neglecting her supportive, understanding hubby and needy cat at night to write stories about men loving men, she was uprooted yet again and now resides in California. Writing is always fun and rewarding, but writing about her guys is the most fun she’s had in a long time, and she hopes you’ll enjoy them as much as she does.

 

Visit KC at her website, on Twitter, on Facebook, or find out about new releases by signing up for her newsletter.

 

GIVEAWAY: Leave a comment to win a $10 credit for Dreamspinner Press from KC Burn!

Welcome Birthday Guest KD Worth!

A BIRTHDAY WISH COME TRUE

 

“Happy birthday!”

I jumped back in shock, surprised by all my fellow reapers wearing party hats and holding balloons. Everywhere I looked were smiling faces, balloons and presents.

And right in the center was my boyfriend, Max, holding a round white cake with nineteen candles.

“Wh-what?” I spluttered, unable to contain my grin. “How did you know?”

“Slade told us,” Meegan said, snapping her gum. Her 1980’s humongous hair was teased and off to the side, her lips a sparkly hot pink. All of us reapers had died in different decades, and we all retained the style from our era—which meant our eclectic group looked like the cast of a “Fashion along the Decades” documentary.

Max came forward with the cake, his face split with a huge grin that crinkled his big brown eyes. The cake was crooked and the “Happy Birthday” in pink icing looked like a kindergartener wrote it, not done with my usual finesse. Did Max make the cake himself?

“Happy birthday, babe,” Max said.

Overcome, my vision blurred with tears. Since I’d become a reaper, I hadn’t felt like I belonged. Being the only one among us who had intended to die—their deaths had all been accidents—I often felt like I was on the outside looking in on a party I wasn’t invited to.

But this party was for me.

I could hardly believe it.

When I’d woken up this morning, I knew it was my birthday, but I hadn’t said anything because I knew Max would feel bad for not knowing. But all along, he’d been planning to surprise me. I’d never felt so loved.

“Are you surprised? Max beamed, all but bouncing up on the balls of my feet.

Wiping at my face with the back of my hand, I nodded vigorously. “Yes, totally surprised.” None of them even knew what day of the week it was. Often I was the only one who kept track of dates. Yet they had taken the time to remember my birthday!

“Did you think I forgot?” Max asked, pleased with his cleverness.

I’d told him my birthdate once, but only because Heather was trying to figure out what everyone’s astrology sign was. “I didn’t think you would pay attention to the dates.”

“I’ve been counting for weeks,” he told me. He raised the sloppy cake higher. The nineteen candles flickered as bright as the love in my heart. “Go on make a wish.”

Brushing at my face again, I looked around the room at the smiling faces of my fellow reapers, each of them holding a gift and a balloon. Each and every one of them had been accepting and welcoming when I joined the team. None of them had condemned me for being who I was. My so called friends at church had tried to “fix” me through prayer when I’d been alive. But on this side of death, I was accepted for who I was. No one cared that I was gay anymore. Here, everyone was my friend—my true friends.

The one thing I had always wanted when I’d been alive.

I smiled at my boyfriend. “I don’t need to make a wish. It already came true.”

 

Enjoy watching Max and Kody figure out dating in the afterlife in THE WOUNDED HEART

coming Dec 12th  and available for preorder now.

Thank you for inviting me to celebrate your birthday, Amber!

To celebrate, one lucky guest will win a FREE ecopy of Book One,

THE GRIM LIFE

Just post a comment to enter!

 

K.D. Worth has always considered herself to have the heart of a teenager with an old soul. When not talking to the characters living in her head, she loves to hang out at her favorite townie bar, then go dancing and partying with her husband and friends. There is always music playing in her home, and if it’s too loud, you’re too old! On the flip side, K.D. enjoys spending time in her vegetable garden, canning the food she grows, and making homemade jams and jellies. She also is known to crochet washcloths and blankets for her closest friends and smiles when they tease her for her “grandmotherly” ways. These two different sides to her personality create a layered tapestry of life experience that brings depth and believability to the characters she writes. She loves to hear from her fans almost as much as she loves her cocker spaniels. You can find her on Facebook or get updates about upcoming books on her website. FacebookTwitter

 

THE WOUNDED HEART

The Grim Life: Book Two

 

Dating is tough… especially when you’re dead.

Max and Kody never really figured life out, and their afterlife isn’t proving any easier. They were supposed to live happily ever after, escorting souls to heaven for the Big Guy—as in God—but then their boss, the mysterious angel Slade, delivered some shocking news about the undead.

Their afterlife just got a lot more complicated.

The appearance of the undead shades can only mean one thing: wraiths—the malevolent incarnation of stranded spirits. But what do they want with Kody? If that wasn’t enough for Max to worry about, Slade makes a cryptic remark about the end of Max and Kody’s relationship—and Max already resents the time Kody spends with Slade.

Kody’s family is still reeling from his death, and his sister is spiraling out of control. She blames their mother, religion, and God. When Kody and Max form a plan to help save her faith and her heart, it could bring the wraiths into the mortal world… and the boys might not have the power to fight them.

Only love can push back the darkness and heal the wounds in their hearts. But sorrow and confusion might drive a wedge between Max and Kody when they need most to stand together.

 

EXCERPT

KODY—Chapter One

 

“SLADE ISN’T taking it easy on you, is he?” Max observed. “Second assignment and he sends you to a car accident.”

“Sends us,” I corrected, squeezing my boyfriend’s hand with gratitude.

We had materialized into the back seat of a swerving car, the stench of beer and a cheap vanilla air freshener overwhelming us. A middle-aged man clutched the wheel, jerking it to-and-fro as he tried to keep the car in his lane. In the rearview mirror, I saw his face, puffy from alcohol, eyes bloodshot and blinking rapidly.

“And a drunk driver no less,” Max muttered, flinching when the driver, one Jeremy Kane, roughly yanked the wheel again.

Nervous anticipation itched at my skin at the prospect of helping another person cross over to heaven. Though I’d spent three months training for this, Max had been on the job a lot longer, so it was wonderful having him at my side.

Especially at a time like this—hiding in the back seat of a sedan barreling down a country highway at breakneck speed. I winced when he swerved again.

This guy was gonna kill us!

Well, not really.

My name is Kody Michaels, and technically, I’m already dead.

“Go for it,” Max said as we braced ourselves on the seats in front of us when the car fishtailed once more. “He’s about to hit that tree.”

Up ahead through the windshield I saw a large oak, old and possibly broken by lightning. A sharp branch jutted out from the side—the blade waiting to claim Jeremy’s life.

Overcome with sympathy at the gruesome way this man was about to die, I rested my palm on his shoulder to deliver the reaper’s Touch, the very thing which separated the spirit from the body and ended the life. I wasn’t exactly killing him. Everyone died when they were supposed to, but it was still difficult for me to remember that. I felt bad, guilty even for doing it.

The opal ring on my finger heated with the power of holy spirit as I gave him the Touch.

A sudden rush of energy was forcefully sucked from my body.

Buckling over, I gasped.

Max gripped my elbow and teleported us from the car a millisecond before impact. We reappeared on the shoulder of the road the instant the car struck the tree. Tires squealed, glass shattered, and the large crash exploded before us.

Thank God I still had my eyes closed when that branch ended the man’s life.

For a heartbeat, the world spun and I couldn’t move, couldn’t think. I bent over and put my hands on my knees, trying to recover, shocked that I didn’t collapse.

What the heck?

I felt as if Jeremy had just sucked all the energy from my body.

“You see his spirit anywhere?” Max said, surveying the scene.

I forced myself to blink a few times, trying to understand what had just happened, and then I looked around too. “No.”

Wrapped around a telephone pole, the crumpled burgundy sedan had strewn pieces of bent metal everywhere, and glass littered the empty stretch of road. The engine choked, steaming and smoking. When it eventually died, everything around us fell silent. In the distance I heard another vehicle approaching—super hearing was a cool reaper perk. The car was several miles away, so it would be a while before the authorities arrived.

By then we would be long gone.

“Kody?” Max questioned. “Are you okay?”

“Fine, fine,” I assured him, though I felt surprisingly winded. I stood upright and tried to locate Jeremy’s spirit. We had a job to do, and I didn’t want to mess it up.

“You see anything else?” Max’s voice went unsure as he darted an anxious glance over his shoulder. My heart skipped—he wasn’t just looking for our assignment.

He was on the lookout for wraiths.

I shivered at the thought, knowing we were both on edge, waiting for an icy cold aura to announce their evil presence.

Thankfully no chill filled the air now.

I had no desire to have a run-in with the undead.

Scanning the area for my charge, I spied a tall, distraught man coming from around the back of the car. Jeremy examined the wreck, eyes wide with disbelief.

“W-what?” he muttered, grabbing on to his hair with both hands. As we approached, the hole in his chest began to close, but I don’t think he realized it.

Kind of weird, but a spirit didn’t look like a TV ghost. They didn’t wander around with an ax in their skull or a bullet hole in their chest if that’s how they died. They did at first, but then they healed, returning to their healthiest living version, a representation of how they perceived themselves. Jeremy changed from a drunken, middle-aged man to a frat boy in his midtwenties. His hair shortened and darkened, just as his paunchy belly flattened and the circles under his eyes faded.

“What’s happening?” Jeremy moaned. When he spied us, he rushed forward. “Help me! I think I was in a car accident!”

Max gestured to the car where the tree branch had impaled windshield and driver. “Yes, you were.”

“Oh my God!” Jeremy’s jaw dropped when he recognized his own body, dead behind the wheel. He raced back to his car.

“Great,” Max muttered, following the man. “We got a runner.”

I frowned at my boyfriend’s back. “Be nice. He’s in shock.”

Max harrumphed.

“Sir,” he addressed our wayward spirit, “do you know what’s happening?”

Eyes wild, Jeremy shook his head, grabbing at his hair again. “No! I can’t be dead. This can’t be happening. I have a family and—” He froze midsentence, some lucidity returning to his expression. “I had a family,” he whispered, voice small and defeated.

Before Max could chime in with his signature sarcasm, I asked, “What do you mean?”

He stared at me, blinking a few times. Then, as if clarity had come to him, his demeanor changed and he calmed. “Nothing,” he answered, but I heard his thoughts as if he spoke them aloud. I had a family until Fiona left me and took the girls. But what did I expect after what I did to her?

“When did she leave you?” I asked.

Max’s head snapped around, and he gave me a funny look.

Startled, Jeremy stared at me too. “Two months ago.”

Now, I didn’t know if all reapers experienced this, being only my second crossover, but I had a deep connection with this man. A strong, urgent sense of pity and kinship. He was terrified, and I desperately wanted to help him.

Had this been what Max felt for me the night he’d saved me on the bridge?

Whatever it was, with every passing second, I felt weaker than the last. I didn’t know why this crossover was draining me more than when I’d helped the old man yesterday. But I did know heaven was Jeremy’s destination, and I would get him there.

Taking a deep breath, I indicated the car. “Do you wanna tell me what happened, Jeremy?”

“I-I,” he hesitated, swallowing hard. “I just had a few beers at lunch….”

“A few?” Max intoned and I held up a finger to quiet him. To my surprise he raised his hands, locking his lips, and throwing away the key.

The gesture would’ve been cute if the circumstances weren’t so serious.

“Well, maybe,” Jeremy began, guilt visibly weighing down his body as shock gave way to pain. “Maybe more than a few. But, it just….”

When his face crumpled, I heard the words he didn’t have the power to voice as clear as day. I felt his regret for all the after-work beers with the guys from the engineering firm, and the times that drinking led him into the arms of other women. The shame he’d seen in his children’s eyes hit me hard and sharp. And the pain he’d caused his wife….

Stepping forward, I quietly finished his thoughts out loud, “It hurts, doesn’t it?”

He nodded, lips trembling.

“Jeremy,” I began patiently, heart still racing. Forcing a deep breath and finding power from somewhere I didn’t know I possessed, I fixed all my concentration on him. “You died. You know that, right?”

He darted a look at the accident. No, no, this can’t be happening.

The car I heard earlier had finally arrived at the scene. A woman exited, phone to her ear. But her frantic voice faded as the three of us moved farther away from the human realm.

“But I’m not…,” he began.

“No,” I said firmly. “I’m sorry, but there are no buts. Only facts. You died in a car accident, and I’m here to help you get to heaven.”

The man stared at me for a full moment. “Heaven?” he whispered. “I get to go… even after everything I did?”

I smiled, my kinship stronger to this man than I expected. Hadn’t I uttered similar sentiments after my death?

“You’re only human, Jeremy,” I assured him, wanting him to have the hope Max had given me. “We all make mistakes. But God doesn’t hold grudges like humans do. He is love, mercy, and kindness. Of course you’re going to heaven.”

“Really?”

Still out of breath, I managed to smile. “Yes, really.”

I held out my hand and he took it.

Revitalized by his cooperation, I created a wooden door in the road.

I still couldn’t get over the fact that I could actually do magic. Obsessed with Harry Potter as a kid, when I realized I would never get a letter from Hogwarts, I’d turned to magic tricks with cards and sleight of hand. But as a supernatural being, I could conjure doors, turn on the lights with my mind, and even teleport—just like a wizard!

While magic was awesome at first, as I led Jeremy to the door, I realized something had been taken from me after giving him the Touch. Magic might be cool, but the real-world application of it took more out of me than when Max and I had practiced.

Funny, but no one had bothered to tell me that tidbit in training.

The accident had all but faded away, but swirling shapes of the road were still distinguishable, as if we were under water staring up at the surface. The door and the three of us were the only things in crisp focus.

“It will all be okay now, Jeremy,” I told him as I opened the door. On the other side, a white light blinded us for a moment. When our eyes adjusted, I gestured him forward. “It’s time.”

“Are you sure?” he asked in a childlike whisper.

Smiling, I nodded. “Trust me.”

Taking a deep breath, the man walked through.

Relief washed over me and I sighed, some of the tension leaving my body. Jeremy obviously had a lot of dragons to slay, but I had faith he would find the truth in his death he’d been unable to find in life. But it would be a long journey, because dying didn’t change a person, or magically fix them.

Heck, I was the same neurotic kid I’d always been.

Being dead wasn’t exactly how I thought it would be. Though I don’t really know what I’d imagined it to be like. An end to the sadness, the guilt? A chance to start over, unsullied and washed clean? Maybe. Maybe not. But death had been on my mind a lot when I’d been living.

In fact, I tried to kill myself twice. Once at a camp designed to “fix” me, and the other while I was in college.

The second time, Max had been the reaper assigned to take me to heaven.

Instead of letting me end my life, he’d saved me.

Now, he and I work as reapers, escorting people through the pearly gates to meet the Big Guy. And yeah, I mean God. You know? The One who created everything around us. Not everyone believed, but He’s as real as it gets.

When I’d been alive, my entire existence had felt like a disappointment to God, my family, and everyone else I cared about. How could I be gay and a Christian, I used to ask myself. Was there a way to reconcile those two things? I would never deny God’s existence and that I love Him. But I couldn’t ignore who I was on the inside either. I’d grown so emotionally and physically drained from the inner struggle, the never-ending debate in my head, that death had seemed like an easier option than choosing one side over the other.

Thankfully Max had helped me to see these two sides of me could coexist. And every day that passed I grew closer to believing him.

Once sure Jeremy was safely where he was supposed to be, I closed the door. The light and door vanished in an instant, leaving Max and I standing in the street. I felt as if I could breathe easier, some of my energy restored.

That was different,” he observed.

“What?”

“Being all super intuitive that his wife left him. Telling him he was going to heaven.” He shook his head, perplexed. “How did you make the door?”

“Um, Heather told me she walks people through a door. I thought this guy would like that.”

Max put his arm around my waist, his warm touch bolstering me. “You amaze me.”

“Why?” I fidgeted. Had I done something wrong? “Wasn’t I supposed to make the door?”

“No, that’s fine. It’s just your kindness that never ceases to amaze me.”

Sighing, I brought his shorter body in for a much-needed hug. “Thanks.”

I placed my chin on top of his head, relaxing in his embrace. His positive energy helped ease some of my exhaustion. I always felt better when Max touched me. So warm and wonderful. Reapers were cold, but Max was so warm that he made me feel warm inside every time he hugged me, almost like being alive again.

He pulled back to look up at me. “Are you okay? You seemed kinda weird when you gave him the Touch.”

I cocked my head to the side. “Did I not do something right?”

“No, you did everything perfect. Like a real pro. You just seemed….” He studied me a moment. “Off,” he eventually said.

I averted my gaze. “This crossover was a lot harder than my first one.”

Max shrugged. “It was a shocking death. Of course it was gonna be harder. Wait till you reap a little kid. Those really hit you hard.”

My stomach dropped. I hoped I never had one of those cases.

“You ready to go home?” he asked, stepping back.

Reluctantly, I let him go and sighed. “Definitely.”

Now I understood why Slade had only given me one assignment per shift. Helping people cross over was very draining, both physically and mentally. Louie had been much easier because he’d lived his life to the fullest and was eager to rejoin his deceased wife. No wonder Jeremy’s resistance had taken a toll on me. Though I knew instinctively he wouldn’t have become a shade, apparently the harder a spirit clung to the mortal realm, the more a reaper had to give of themselves in order to be successful.

But I couldn’t shake the feeling that I was doing something wrong.

I’d have to get out my books and study some more so I could be as good as Max. I didn’t want to disappoint him or Slade.

Max teleported both of us back to the reaper base, rematerializing us in the large library. The vast room overflowed with ancient tomes, edicts, and stories about reapers from the past. Max and I agreed an upgrade with Google would’ve made the whole process of my training more efficient, but neither of us wanted to suggest it to Slade.

I smiled at Max. “I’ll never get tired of traveling that way.”

“I know. Teleporting is so cool.”

Exhausted, I stepped away and reached for a chair to sit down.

Face bright with intrigue, Max pulled on my hand before I could sit. “No sitting down now. I wanna show you what I found yesterday.”

“Do I wanna see it?”

“Yes, you totally wanna see this,” he assured me.

We’d spent the greater part of the past three months in this library while Max taught me how to be a reaper, and he completed his punishment for interfering in my death—writing “I will never disobey the rules of being a reaper” eleven thousand times on a chalkboard. Eventually, once I’d picked up all the nuances and the things my new spirit form could do, we left the library for practical lessons. The day we started teleporting around the office had been my favorite, but the real honor had come when Slade presented me with my very own opal—the stone that helped us separate a soul from its body, then open a way to heaven.

Any spare time Max found apart from training and writing lines, he’d spent researching shades and their evil counterparts—wraiths.

“Is it about wraiths?” I asked, suppressing a shiver.

Max gave me a quick, albeit guilty smile. “Kinda sorta.”

Knowing I wouldn’t win until he showed me what had gotten him so excited, I relented and let him lead me to the farthest corner of the library, but my feet were dragging. “Kinda sorta isn’t an answer, Max.”

“I found something about shades, not wraiths, so kinda sorta is an answer,” Max countered.

I scoffed.

Shades were lost souls that couldn’t, or wouldn’t pass over to heaven when they died.

If it weren’t for Max, I would’ve become a shade.

My guilt and refusal to forgive myself would’ve kept me tied to the mortal realm, and that’s why he’d broken the rules to save my life. I would forever be grateful because living as a shade had to be horrific. Tormented by unfinished business, they were stuck between worlds, endlessly trying to fix the unrepairable. Unfortunately, by refusing to let a reaper help them cross over, a spirit chose that life of punishment over one of peace. That was the real hell, not the one I’d learned about in church.

Sometimes a shade regretted their choice.

We’d recently learned a shade could enter a human body when its spirit departed because the corpse still had enough electrical current to be reanimated.

The moment a shade chose that type of existence, they became a wraith.

The addiction to being almost alive was the allure, but the host body eventually decayed and the shade ended right back where they started—stuck in limbo, or purgatory as some call it. The dark twisted entities always needed new “vessels.” They walked among the living in reanimated corpses, searching for the dying and even killing humans before their time in order to get one.

Talk about a real-life zombie apocalypse.

“Check this out,” Max began, leaving my side.

The instant he released my hand, I almost grabbed for it back, but Max hurried out of reach and wheeled out the large whiteboard he’d hidden behind an old bookshelf. Though the risk of discovery was minimal, neither of us thought it wise to let the others see it. One of our fellow reapers, Jake, browsed the bookshelves sometimes, but more often than not, the only one besides us who spent much time in the library was Herman the cat.

Post-its and scribbled notes covered the whiteboard. Anything he’d learned about shades, wraiths, and limbo. Plus a whole lot of questions about our boss, Slade.

Slade gave us reapers our assignments, and he got his orders directly from God. Despite his nonstereotypical appearance, Slade had to be a higher being than us humans-turned-reapers. I imagined him to be an angel of some sort, though he’d never clarified exactly what sort. While I called him an angel, I didn’t mean a chubby cherub or a glorious savior with a white robe, wings, and a halo. He was a big, blond, tattooed biker-dude, often seen toting a crossbow or a sword.

Pulling out a chair and plopping down heavily at the small library table, I noticed a new note written in blue and circled several times.

I keep meeting shades on the battlefield. They’re everywhere. Slade called it an “epidemic” and said it’s getting harder to control purgatory, but he won’t tell us why.—Ed Carter, 1921.

I pointed at the new entry. “Where did you read that?”

Smiling, he wheeled out the library cart with all the books he’d amassed and chose a dusty green one from the top. “That’s what I wanted to show you.” He took the seat next to me. “This belonged to Ed Carter. He was an eighteen-year-old who died in World War I and used to be on Slade’s team. I think we would’ve liked him a lot.”

Intrigued, I leaned in to examine the journal Max placed on the table in front of us. “Is this his diary?”

“Yeah.” Max wore a huge grin. “And you’ll never guess what?”

“What?”

“He was gay too!”

“Really?”

“Yeah,” Max continued excitedly. “When his boyfriend died in a farming accident, Ed lied about his age and joined the Army Air Corps in 1917. That’s what they used to call the Air Force. He was only seventeen but he became a fighter pilot! Isn’t that cool?”

“Yeah, that’s pretty cool. I could barely handle my homework when I was seventeen.”

“Right?” Max sounded awed by this former reaper. “Anyway, he was kinda like me, I guess, never satisfied with the answers Slade gave him about stuff. Slade kept secrets even back then,” he went on with a twinge of annoyance.

Slade and Max had an ongoing battle of wills, Max always pressing him for information and Slade always evading answers by posing more questions. It was highly entertaining when I wasn’t the topic of said discussions.

“Ed had lots of run-ins with shades because he worked the battlefields in Europe,” Max went on excitedly. “The soldiers weren’t ready to leave because they were so young.”

A deep swell of pity filled me. “Those poor men. Can you imagine being in a war at our age?”

“Well,” Max began, attention still on the journal as he flipped pages. “That wraith did tell me there was a war coming. Maybe we won’t have to imagine much longer.”

I suppressed a shiver.

Two wraiths had confronted Max the night we met. One of them had been waiting for my body when I’d been on the bridge—thank God I hadn’t witnessed that! Also unbeknownst to me, they’d followed us. Max fought them off with a lightning power he hadn’t been able to duplicate since, no matter how much he practiced. And during the eight months Max believed me to be dead—I’d been sorting out some things in limbo with our boss Slade, and time moved slower there—wraiths had followed Max every time he entered the human realm.

I was glad they hadn’t done so on our first two trips out to reap souls.

Max pointed to an entry dated August 4, 1920. “This is the first time one of his charges refused to go with him to heaven.”

I sat up straighter, intrigued. “What does he say? Does he describe them?”

Max told me wraiths looked like black, faceless shadow beings, and until Slade explained the difference, he’d assumed those wraiths in the diner were shades. Both of us wondered what shades looked like, and if they had any resemblance to dead spirits or if they too changed into something else.

Max shrugged. “Here, this is what he wrote: Today I delivered the Touch to a man my age, perhaps a year or two older—one could not be considered a boy after what we have seen. I stopped asking Slade long ago how old my charges were, for it has become quite depressing to me. His name is Eugene and he was yet another victim of a land mine, panicked and afraid like the others. But even as his legs reappeared and the chaos of the battle faded around us, he would not come with me. He saw the door but would not enter. He ran back into the battle, searching for someone named Karl. I cannot condone my failure, and guilt and agony gnaw at my insides. My poor Eugene. What will become of you?

“That’s awful.” The powerful need to help souls get to heaven was ingrained deep within a reaper. I couldn’t fathom how I would feel if I had to face a similar situation.

“Can you imagine?” Max’s face scrunched up. “Trying to reap souls during a battle? Totally nuts. But he never says anything about what Eugene looked like, other than the thing about his legs, so I’m gonna assume he didn’t change much. Maybe that only happens after they become wraiths?”

Not as excited about this gay reaper as I had been, I pushed my chair back, feeling the weight of more than just a loss of energy from the crossover. This whole topic might intrigue Max, but I hated talking about it.

The day I became a reaper, Slade had said, “Kody has a purpose. He has from the beginning. Just took me a bit to figure out what it was. For now, he’s gonna be a reaper.”

For now.

Those words always made my guts knot.

I had a purpose? Like what? Max seemed to think it had to do with the unique circumstances of my death. And though the wraiths had continued to follow Max, they had only confronted him the once—when I was with him.

Something he was wont to remind me of.

He also speculated I might have to help him fight these wraiths one day. But the mere idea of a spirit reanimating a corpse frightened me with thoughts of zombies eating brains, and I wanted nothing to do with any of it.

Apparently, I didn’t have a choice in the matter.

“Kody?” Max placed a hand on my arm, startling me from my thoughts.

I forced a smile. “Yeah?”

“You okay? You kinda zoned on me for a sec.”

“Um,” I began, standing up fast. The movement made my vision spin a little. “I just remembered I gotta do something for Slade.”

“Like what?” Max said, scrutinizing me in a way that made me wonder if he could read my mind. I didn’t think he could, not the way we could hear our charges thinking or Slade heard our thoughts. But Max was a highly intuitive guy, making it difficult to keep him away from the things I didn’t want to bother him with. If he knew everything that was going on, he would be so upset.

“Nothing big. I don’t wanna bore you.” I stepped out of his reach, bracing myself on the chair. Though Max’s constant warmth had revived me, I didn’t have the energy to stay and listen. I didn’t need another night of pacing my bedroom for hours—a habit Max knew nothing about—worrying about my future afterlife.

He raised his brows. “You feeling okay?”

Forcing a smile, I stood straighter. Pretending and hiding had been skills I perfected a long time ago. “Yeah, I’m fine. I’m just gonna go lie down. Helping people cross over takes a lot out of me.”

“It does?”

“Yeah, I’ll just go to my room.”

“I thought you had to do something for Slade.”

“Yeah, but I can do that afterward,” I said quickly. “You have fun with Ed.”

He assessed me for a moment, then smiled. “Okay, I’ll catch you later. Maybe I’ll bring his journal and we can read some more together.”

“I’d like that.”

“You sure you’re okay?”

“Never better.”

When he turned back to the journal, my stomach knotted.

Lying to my boyfriend had become a habit I didn’t know how to stop.

 

Preorder THE WOUNDED HEART today!

Welcome Birthday Guest Annabelle Jacobs!

Thank you Amber for letting me be part of your birthday bash.

Today I’m sharing a birthday short featuring Ryan And Matt from Maybe This Time.

 

 

 

Ryan sighed in contentment as Matt pulled onto the drive and turned the engine off. “Home at last.” He patted his belly. “I love my mum’s cooking, but Christ, she makes enough for about forty people.

Matt turned to look at him, eyes full of amusement. “Just because she makes loads, doesn’t mean you have to try and eat it all.”

“But it’s my birthday.” Ryan grinned at him. “I’m allowed.” Thirty-one. He struggled to believe it was only a year since he’d first met Matt. So much had happened since then. Glancing out the window at their new home, he reached over and grabbed Matt’s hand. “I still can’t believe we’re in.”

Matt squeezed his fingers. “Me neither.”

They’d been lucky and found their new home surprisingly quickly—after only a month of looking—and since the owners had already moved out, the process of buying it was relatively quick and painless.

“I know we’ve only been in a week, but it already feels like home.”

“That’s because it is.” Matt let go of his hand and reached for the door handle. “Come on, I’ve got one last surprise for you.”

Ryan grinned at him. “Well, why didn’t you say so?” He opened his door and was out before Matt, waiting by the front door, while Matt locked the car. When he gave Ryan a confused look, Ryan shrugged, “Forgot my keys.”

“Of course, you did.”

“Hey, I didn’t think I’d need them. You had yours.” He followed Matt inside and kicked off his shoes in the hallway. When he went to walk into the kitchen, Matt stopped him with a hand on his arm.”

“Just wait a sec.” Matt hurried to take his coat off and set his keys on the small table. “Right then.” He moved behind Ryan and put his hands over his eyes. “Now you can go into the kitchen.”

Ryan laughed. “It’s a little difficult since I can’t see.” Not that he minded having Matt’s hands on him. Especially not when Matt shuffled closer so that his front pressed all along Ryan’s back.

“I’ll guide you.”

Ryan allowed Matt to steer him slowly forward into the kitchen. “I like birthdays.”

“I’m sure you—oh fuck’s sake, Jinx.” Matt still had his hands over Ryan’s eyes, so Ryan had no idea what their cat had been up to this time.

A plaintive meow filled the kitchen, and Ryan chuckled. “What’s he done now?”

Letting his hands drop, Matt let out a half-laugh, half-sigh. “Happy Birthday.”

Ryan opened his eyes to see Jinx perched on the worktop, looking extremely guilty, with white icing stuck to his whiskers and nose. Next to him sat a boxed cake, with one corner of the box chewed open and some of the cake missing its icing.

“Oh, you bad boy.” Ryan fought back laughter, but when Jinx fixed him with his big blue eyes and meowed again, he couldn’t hold it in.

“It’s not funny.” Matt’s smirk said otherwise. “And I don’t know why you’re laughing, because that’s your cake he’s eaten.”

Walking over to him, Ryan scooped Jinx up, smiling when he automatically climbed up to perch across his shoulders. “It’s probably because we won’t let him out yet.” He tickled him under the chin, and Jinx began to purr. “And we can still eat the cake, just cut that bit off. It’s still a nice surprise, thank you.”

Matt came to stand in front of him, his hands finding their way onto Ryan’s hips. “I suppose we can do that.” He leaned closer and brushed a kiss over Ryan’s lips. “And that’s not your surprise.”

“No?”

“Nope.” Matt shuffled closer, pressing their hips together. “I’ll give you that later, when we’ve not got company.” He looked pointedly at where Jinx was almost asleep on Ryan’s shoulders, then smiled and gently stroked between Jinx’s ears.

“Right! Let me just go put him on the sofa.” As much as Ryan loved their cat, the thought of Matt’s birthday surprise was impossible to ignore. “I’ll make it up to him later.”

“No, let him stay where he is for a bit longer, we’ve got the rest of the afternoon and all evening.”

Ryan liked the sound of that even more.

“Stay there.” With a kiss quick, Matt let him go, and retrieved a bottle of champagne from the fridge. After pouring out two glasses, he handed one to Ryan and raised the other in a toast.

“Happy Birthday, Ry.”


Amazon

Moving into a new home starts with a bang when Ryan Blackwell celebrates turning thirty. Being hungover means he’s bleary-eyed and clumsy the next day, but even in that state, he can appreciate how sexy and fit his neighbour is.

Matt Thomas isn’t looking for anything long-term—one and done is usually his life rule. Why settle down early, like his sister, when casual relationships are so easy? With Ryan living in the same building, chance encounters are inevitable. When one night together becomes two, a friends-with-benefits deal seems a natural progression.

There’s only one problem: sex with no strings relies on matching expectations, so Ryan can’t help worrying. His huge heart always wants more, but Matt’s been clear about his limits. As passion leads to caring, they’ll have to make some tough decisions—maybe this time, breaking some rules will be worth it if that means they’ll get to share a future.