Winners!

Hi everyone!

The winner for Saturday contest on 2/14 is TerriA. Terri, please email amberkellwrites@gmail.com, to claim your $20 Amazon Gift card.

Also, because I (Amber’s PA), forgot to post the winners in a timely fashion, I’m giving a second winner, an electronic copy from Amber’s backlist that can be gifted from Amazon. That winner is Jess Shields, and I need Jess to email me at authoraccomplice@gmail.com. I’m sorry for taking so long!

 

Stay tuned for more teasers, guest posts and giveaways on the blog!

Welcome Jay Northcote!

PassingThrough_FINAL

Amazon | All Romance | Smashwords | Barnes and Noble

Don’t waste a chance at happiness…

Leo is a lonely workaholic with no time for romance in his life. His job in London takes all his energy and commitment. When he goes to Cornwall to stay with his terminally ill uncle, Edwin, love is the last thing Leo expects to find.

Tris lives in a cottage on Edwin’s land. Gay, but still half in the closet, he and Leo bond over their affection for Edwin, and the pull of attraction between them proves too strong to ignore. In Tris’s arms, in the wilds of Cornwall, Leo finds a peace he’d forgotten existed.

On his return to London, Leo finds himself grieving for more than just the loss of his uncle. When some unexpected news gives Leo the chance to return to Cornwall, he’s afraid it will be too late to rekindle things with Tris. But having learned much from his stay with his uncle, Leo doesn’t want to look back and wish he’d done things differently.

It’s time to seize the day—if it’s not already too late.

 

Excerpt:

On the beach they crunched along the shingle to the edge of the rocks, then turned to look out over the sea. It was almost completely dark now, and the moon was rising, casting streaks of bright silver on the oil-black water.

They stood in silence, watching and listening to the crash of the waves. Leo’s heart felt suddenly too large for his chest. He was overwhelmed by the beauty of the place, a place that had barely changed since his childhood. The sea came and went with the tides, the sands shifted, but the rocks were constant. Yet here Leo was, an adult now rather than a boy, and his uncle reduced to an echo of the man Leo remembered—physically, at least. Unexpected tears prickled the backs of Leo’s eyes as a rush of emotion so strong that it made him draw in a sharp breath assaulted him. He swallowed hard, forcing the feelings back down.

Out of his peripheral vision, he saw Tris turn towards him, but Leo carried on gazing out at the gentle, rolling movement of the sea. Tris shifted his feet in the sand, bringing him closer. The warm skin of his arm brushed Leo’s, and Leo ached for more contact. He needed human warmth and touch to chase away the cold emptiness in his heart.

 

Author Bio:

Jay lives just outside Bristol in the West of England, with her husband, two children, and two cats.

She comes from a family of writers, but she always used to believe that the gene for fiction writing had passed her by. She spent years only ever writing emails, articles, or website content. One day, she decided to try and write a short story–just to see if she could–and found it rather addictive. She hasn’t stopped writing since.

Website | Twitter | Facebook profile | Facebook Author Page | Jay’s books

GIVEAWAY

Jay has offered an e-copy from her backlist! Please leave a comment for a chance to win!

Throwback Thursday!

destiny

Extasy | Amazon | B&N | ARe

Liang wakes up and discovers breaking the curse had separated him far from the others. The bad news is another dragon has captured him, the good news is he found his mate.

Proteus couldn’t believe he found his mate. Unfortunately circumstances make it impossible for him to go with Liang and it breaks his heart when his mate goes on without him.

Aden has been struggling to keep everyone safe. With the evil against him mounting and the number of people he needs to protect increasing, will he be able to live up to his destiny and become the leader the dragons need or will evil triumph against him?

 

Excerpt:

Liang waited for several minutes before he dared to turn his head. Gone. No one else remained except for Liang and the sea creature, or at least nothing else in the dome.

He needed to get out of there and find his friends. He pondered his choices as the sea beast floated a slow trek across its aquarium. The king hadn’t shown any interest in the aquarium creature, but he must keep it for some reason.

“Hello, little guy,” he called out.

“You need to escape before Bingwen returns.”

The words spilled across his mind in a soft, intimate invasion. The creature had a male voice with a silky, seductive tone that had Liang’s body awakening for the first time since his petrification.

“I can’t get out of the cage. What are you?” Maybe he hadn’t asked in the most elegant fashion, but he needed to keep the conversation going in order to hear that voice again. Whatever compulsion he felt had nothing to do with spells and sorcerers.

“I’m a leafy sea dragon. We’re different from seahorses.” The sea dragon didn’t say how they differed. He didn’t appear eager to engage in conversation at all.

“I’m a water dragon. My name is Liang. What’s your name?” He held his breath as he waited for a response. He didn’t like having to pry information out of the little beast, but he needed to hear his voice again.

“Proteus.”

“Nice to meet you, Proteus.” Liang sighed as each word Proteus sent across their mind link settled in and made his cock sit up and take notice. He’d never met a sea dragon shifter before. Something about the male had Liang ready to do whatever was necessary to get them both out of their cages.

He ground his teeth together. Exchanging one prison for another hadn’t been in his plans. During his long petrification he’d imagined his life if he ever got free. He’d made elaborate plans to make a home with his brethren dragon somewhere, not live inside a cage. By now the China he’d known had no doubt been buried beneath office buildings and tons of cement. Besides, the land of his birth no longer belonged to his kind.

Once he escaped he needed to find his dragon horde and retrieve a bit of treasure to exchange for modern money. He’d amassed quite a fortune before his capture by the emperor.

“There’s the key!” The sea dragon’s voice snapped Liang out of his introspection.

Liang followed where the sea dragon pointed his nose. A ring of keys sat on top of a bookshelf. “That’s a little far to reach.”

“Use your magic!”

The frustration in the sea dragon’s voice had Liang snapping out of his bout of self-pity. He was a water dragon, under the water. The leafy sea dragon had a point.

Maybe being stone for all those years had broken his brain. He should’ve been able to come up with that solution on his own. Liang took a deep cleansing breath, and for the first time since he woke he pulled at his magic.

Energy rushed through him with a crackle of power. He focused his magic on the keys and pulled at the seawater flowing outside the dome. A thin thread of liquid spiraled toward him. Liang manipulated flow around the keys. The water danced under Liang’s direction. He reveled beneath the joy of using his magic again. Even if the emperor killed him in the end at least he had one more chance to use his power.

“Stop playing, Bingwen won’t be gone forever,” the sea dragon snapped.

“Sorry.” Liang had ignored the urgency of his situation beneath the joy of reconnecting with his magic. Properly scolded, Liang tightened his control and transformed the tip of the water flow into ice. The small hook snagged the key ring. Grinning, Liang called the water to him.

When the keys finally dropped into his hand it took all of Liang’s restraint not to shout his victory and draw Bingwen’s attention. Just because the dragon was out of sight didn’t mean he couldn’t hear what was going on in the dome.

“Good job,” the sea dragon praised.

“Thank you.” Flush from his success, Liang slipped the hand holding the keys between the bars and after a few false tries, he unlocked the cage. As soon as he was free he headed for the aquarium. Liang pressed his fingers to the spot nearest the sea dragon.

“You’re welcome.”

This close he could see intelligence glowing in the creature’s eyes. “If you shift I can get you out of here.”

Leafy green fronds floated around the little beast as he shook his head from side to side.

“Why not?”

“Can’t change.”

Liang wanted to ask why, but he needed to get out of there not get into a debate. Still, he couldn’t abandon his new friend. A strong connection pinged between them, compelling him to take Proteus along with him.

“Mate!” The sea dragon’s awed tone whispered in his head.

“We’re mates?” Liang didn’t know what to do with that information. He’d always thought he’d bond with one of his own kind, but he knew better than to question The Fates. He stroked the side of the aquarium. “Are you in danger?”

Sadness flowed from the sea dragon. “Not right now. He will keep me safe for a bit longer before.”

Various scenarios flashed through Liang’s head and not one of them was pleasant. “Why?”

How did the little creature know he’d be safe and why was Bingwen keeping him at all? Liang had never known the emperor to be interested in the smaller sea shifters before, but he didn’t know what might have changed during his curse.

“I can’t say. I don’t know you well enough.”

Liang ignored the pang in his heart protesting that his mate should trust him regardless. Weren’t mates fated to be with their better half? Why would Proteus choose to stay here after he claimed they were mates?

“I could take you in your shifted form. My water ability could keep you warm.”

“What about when we travel? I have to retain the same temperature or I could go into shock.”

Liang refused to acknowledge defeat, however he knew some tropical animals were extremely sensitive to changes in their environment. If he weren’t careful he could kill his mate with too large of a temperature fluctuation. He couldn’t chance it.

“I’m going to go get my friends. We’ll come back and get you out of here. I can carry you in a ball of water, but not as a dragon.”

He didn’t dare risk his mate’s life. As much as he didn’t want to leave Proteus, he couldn’t stay there and wait for Bingwen to recapture him. He had to go find his friends and warn them that others were hunting their kind. Telling Zhou the emperor had turned other dragons against them would be painful. His leader had always fought for the prosperity of dragon kind, to learn of their betrayal would be a hard blow. Hopefully the king of the Coral Sea was the exception instead of the norm for dragons.

“You need to go,” Proteus prodded him.

Crap.

“I will come back for you. I’m not going to leave you here forever. If you don’t want to shift, you’ll have to wait until I can get help.”

The sea dragon’s melancholy increased like an icy shard piercing his heart. “I understand. Save yourself.”

Guilt stabbed at him like broken shards of glass. “As soon as I find my people I will be back. I promise.”

The little shifter nodded, but Liang could feel his distress mingled with fear. He suppressed a burst of anger at the shifter’s resistance over leaving.

“I’ll be here when you return.”

“I wish I didn’t have to leave you behind, but I won’t have hands to hold you in dragon form.” He hated to admit a weakness, but if he couldn’t confess a flaw to his mate, who could he confess to?

“I understand. Good luck finding your friends.”

Liang wished he knew what his mate looked like. “When I come back will you show me your human form?”

“If it’s the right time.”

At least now he had a reason to survive.

He nodded his goodbye to Proteus, unable to say any more words as the pain of separation twisted him up inside.

Proteus seemed to understand since he returned the nod and said nothing else. Liang went to the door and opened it. Some magical force field kept the water out. He checked around, but the king of the Coral Sea must’ve gone off to get a snack because Liang saw no one as he shifted back into his dragon shape then swam away.

Tuesday Torturous Teaser

Quentin Heart pngIn honor of Meredith making me this gorgeous cover I’m giving another teaser for this book. Below you will find links to previous teasers on this book. I’m thinking a May release but don’t hold me to that. LOL

snippet one

snippet two

Today’s Teaser… (remember all teasers are unedited and subject to change)

“I made it.” Quentin laughed into his empty apartment. “I can’t believe it.” He collapsed on the sofa, smiling as he sank into the soft cushions.

A loud ringing made his heart hiccup in his chest.

“Shit.” Reaching into his jacket pocket he pulled out his cell phone. Reading the caller id he pressed the connect button. “Hi Stacy.”

“I got a call from the magistrate. How the hell did you transport Master Vlad and the entire cage?”

Quentin laughed. “Do you remember Hal?”

“The crazy wizard on 4th street?”

“Yep, he creating a transporting spell cage for me. I did up the design and he created the whole thing. Isn’t it cool?”

“Yeah, real cool but how do they get him out of it?”

“Umm. You have to say…” Quentin plunged his hands into his pocket cursing when everything fell out of them. His extra spell balls tumbled to the floor. Good thing they needed a vampire to activate them or he could’ve had a real problem. He let out a sigh of relief as the elusive piece of paper brushed against his finger. Turning the paper to decipher his own writing he read. “Touch the bars and say, release this vamp from cage to cell. That way he can’t go anywhere except inside the jail area.”

Relief swept through him. The one thing he didn’t confess when interviewed for the position was his sucky memory. Unless written down, Quentin couldn’t remember crap. Hopefully after he captured a few vamps, the necessary phrases would stick in his mind.

“Thanks Quentin, good work. The people at the station were really impressed with you.”

“Um, thanks.”

“I can hear you’re tired. Get some rest.”

Quentin gave a rushed goodbye. Laying his head against the back of the couch he wondered how his life had been reduced to this. If his mother hadn’t gotten sick maybe he would be accepting a professorship instead of walking into vampire clans and pretending he knew what the hell he was doing. Being a bounty hunter wasn’t his first choice of occupation but the pay was phenomenal and would allow him to take care of his mother after her fucking insurance company denied her claims due to pre-existing conditions. Quentin knew he had to come up with some cash and do it fast. Graduate school could wait another year, his mother might not live that long. He’d have to wake up early so he could see her before he went to work.

Taking off his jacket he collected all the balls off the floor and stuffed them back into his pockets for now. The sudden movement caused the necklace to thunk against his chest. Curious he moved to pull it off but an ice-cold burn against his fingers had him dropping it. As soon as he let go of the necklace it returned to normal temperature and lay calmly against his skin.

“What the hell?”

He walked to the bathroom and flicked on the light so he could see his reflection in the mirror. Leaning forward he took a good look at the necklace careful not to touch it with his hands. A brilliant platinum snowflake flickered at him in the dim bathroom lights with a large diamond sparkled in the center like frozen ice. The purity of the stone told Quentin, even with his limited jewel experience, that is was probably worth a fucking fortune.

Like a sledgehammer the events of the day slammed into him, the stress of his first job, the flush of success and the fear of dozens of vampires ripping him apart.

“Go to sleep, little human.”

The whispery voice sounded familiar but Quentin’s exhaustion stopped him short of identification.

“Okay.” He whispered to the strange voice talking in his head. He couldn’t remember the last time he got some real sleep. Worry for his mother ate at him, poking him with restless fingers. Stripping off his clothes he crawled into bed and for the first time in a long while had no problem falling asleep.

Moon Pack Monday

T1a

Here’s the limo scene you asked for!

****

Gabe climbed into the limo his mates eyed him with twin expressions of concern.

“Why did you come here without us?” Vien asked.

Gabe ignored the question and kneeled on the limo floor in between the twins. “I came because I wished to get you something special to signify our mating. I know the fae don’t wear mating rings so I thought this might be a good compromise. Among shifters they know we are bonded but if we go to live among the fae, your people might not understand our connection.”

Vien cupped Gabe’s cheek. “It doesn’t matter what anyone else believes. Our hearts know we belong to you.”

Viell nodded his agreement. “There is no one who can lure us from our beloved wolf.” The fae carded his fingers through Gabe’s hair, a tender motion he did often.

Struggling to keep focus, Gabe handed one box to each of his mates not wanting to present one before the other. Luckily the jeweler had put small stickers on the back indicating which color went to which mate. “I would like you to each wear these to represent our mating.” Gabe examined the limo floor afraid of seeing rejection in his lovers’ eyes.

“Hey,” Vien slid his fingers beneath Gabe’s chin. “We will wear anything you want. Hell, we’ll get tattoos embedded in our flesh if it will make you more secure. Anything you need, that’s what mates provide.”

Gabe blinked back tears as he turned to Viell.

“What my brother said is true even though I’m not a big fan of needles.” Viell grinned. “You are our soul, sweet Gabe and we will do anything for you.”

“Thank you. Please open your boxes.”

Vien and Viell exchanged looks then opened the jewelry boxes in one synchronized motion.

The scent of surprise then joy filled the limo.

“It is beautiful,” Viell said, lifting his necklace out of the case. The blue gemstone glowed in the dark limousine with an inner light. “I’ve never seen a protection amulet with so much energy before.”

“I donated a drop of my blood to seal the spell,” Gabe explained. “The jeweler said it would further bond it to us.”

Vien set his on the seat before grabbing Gabe and dragging him onto his lap. “It is a wondrous and considerate gift.” Vien fisted Gabe’s hair and planted a searing kiss on his lips until he’d grew hard and began humping against his mate, striving for more friction.

When Vien finally lifted his mouth, Gabe panted for air. “You’re welcome.”

A predatory grin slid across Vien’s face reflecting the hunger in his eyes. “We will make sure you feel completely thanked when we get home.”

“We’ll have to think of a proper way to mark our mate,” Viell said. “Something magical that will stay with him when he shifts.”

“You don’t have to.” Gabe slid off his tempting mate’s lap to sit on the opposite bench seat. “I didn’t give them to you to get something in return.”

His inner wolf enjoyed the sight of the twins putting on his necklaces. Their territory was now properly marked.

“We know, Gabe,” Viell said, holding out his hand. “Come sit between us. We don’t like you so far away.”

Gabe gave up the tiny battle. No good ever came of distance between mates. He allowed them to fuss and cuddle with him as they brainstormed over what to get him. Apparently he wasn’t the only on who wanted to thoroughly mark his mate before they ventured into the world of the fae.

Forever my Love #35

The past few weeks have been busy for me and I still haven’t quite visualized the ending for this story. Sorry for the delay in your next section.

****

“Come home with me.” Trent said.

Ike nodded, a shy blush staining his cheeks. “All right.” He turned to Lee. “I’ll wash and return your sweats.”

“Thank you but that’s not necessary they were old and I was going to get rid of them soon anyway.” Lee’s forced smile reminded Trent of Lee’s breakdown in the garden.

“Do you know Norm?”

Lee paled. “Um, yeah, why do you want to know.”

“Don’t Trent,” Lee said.

“No, this is important. Ike might know.” Trent examined Ike’s expression carefully as he asked. “Is Norm Antonio?”

Ike flinched. “Why would you ask that?”

“He is, isn’t he!” Lee shouted. “If he wasn’t you’d ask what Trent was talking about or who Antonio is.”

Ike groaned. “I suck at keeping secrets. I wasn’t supposed to let anyone know that Norm’s body was taken over by a spirit.”

“Well, he’s been taken by an angel now,” Lee said holding up a feather.

“That could’ve come from a big bird,” Trent said. He’d thought this move would be a good one but instead it just kept becoming stranger and stranger. First he saw a ghost and now that ghost inhabited a human and had been stolen by an angel. Give him a good old homicide any day over shape shifters and ghosts.

“It was Michael,” Ike said without hesitation. “He’s been hanging around here lately. I think he has a thing for Antonio.”

“A thing as in he wants to keep him?” Lee asked.

“Maybe.” Ike shrugged as if he had no interest in the conversation. “I’ve only seen him once. I haven’t had a chance to talk to Antonio very long either. He showed up when Norm died and took over his body. I got the impression Michael didn’t want him to take over Norm’s body but was forced to offer him the choice. You have to know he’s all about you Lee. I’ve never seen someone so devoted. I mean the man came back from the dead to be with you.”

Lee smiled, a warm, loving expression Trent had never seen pointed toward him. “That’s my Antonio, stubborn to the end.”

“Let’s take this back to my place.” Ike held out his hand to Trent.

“You going to be okay?” Trent wouldn’t leave Lee if the man was going to fall apart. Friends didn’t do that. Even if they weren’t going to be romantically involved he wouldn’t leave Lee if he were suffering.

A determined glint lit Lee’s eyes. “Yes. I’m going to go to church.”

Trent grinned. “Good luck.”

“I’m going to need it.” Lee turned toward Ike. “Take good care of our sheriff.”

“I will. If we see Norm we’ll let you know.” Ike said.

Trent wrapped an arm around Ike. “Let’s go.”

Welcome April Kelley!

whispers of home

Extasy

All Jaron McAllister wanted to do was get out of the small town where he grew up. After being bullied all his life for being gay, that’s exactly what he does. He loses all contact with everyone in the town of Pickleville, including his emotionally distant mother and the only true friend he ever had.

When his best friend and mother of the child they share, get murdered he knows he must ask for help in the one place he thought he would never go back to. Coming back home isn’t easy and finding himself attracted to the town man-slut spells disaster. Travis Heath isn’t at all what his reputation suggests though.

Excerpt:
Jaron had been to the grocery store three times this week. Going only once a week would be grand, but very unlikely to happen apparently. He seriously needed to start making lists every week.

“I want the little man cookies.” Bobby was practically bouncing in the cart, pointing at an elf.

“The fudge ones?”

Bobby nodded his head. Jaron grabbed them off the shelf and placed them in the cart.

“Good choice,” someone spoke from behind Jaron. The voice was deep and made him moan in appreciation. He turned to put a face to that wonderful voice.

It was as if Jaron’s thoughts had conjured him up and placed him right next to the Oreo cookies . Travis Heath got hotter since high school. And taller. When did men stop growing? Jaron was probably at the guys shoulder, but it was hard to tell from down the aisle. Travis Heath’s strawberry blonde hair was longer than it had been in high school and could be seen curling around the cowboy hat he wore.

The two women at the end of the aisle clammed up upon seeing him. Jaron didn’t blame them. He wouldn’t want to be caught talking shit either.

“I haven’t seen you guys in town before.” His smile was kind but his brown eyes—oh God help him—held mischief, as if the guy was up to something.

That more than anything kept Jaron’s mouth shut to all but basic knowledge. “We’ve only been in town a short time.” He had to give the guy something. He didn’t want to be rude after all.

“What brings you in town?” Travis said casually, while looking over the crackers in the aisle. “Damn it. Why is it she needs the most obscure friggin’ cracker on the planet,” he said under his breath.

Jaron’s eyebrows raised, not that the man was looking at him to even see his expression. “What are you looking for?”

“Wheat thins or something like that.”

Jaron look at the shelf and spotted what Travis needed. “What flavor?”

“I have no idea.”

“Well, they have two different flavors too choose from.”

“Where?” He asked, his eyes scanning the shelf, looking for whatever Jaron already saw.
Jaron picked up a box and held it out. Travis took it from him, looking right into Jaron’s eyes when he did.

“Thanks.”

“No problem.” Jaron cleared his throat and looked away, uncomfortable all of a sudden.
Travis took his cell phone out of his jean’s pocket and dialed. Before he even started talking, Jaron took off down another aisle and away from temptation.

“Daddy, you’re driving fast,” Bobby complained.

“Sorry buddy.”

They checked out quickly. The cashier rang them up, not saying a word but it was clear from the devious look on the girl’s face that she wanted too. Jaron could just tell she want to ask the thousands of questions going through her mind and then relay that information to everyone who would listen. She looked familiar but he couldn’t quite place where he might have met her before. He didn’t really care anyway.

It wasn’t until they were all checked out and down the sidewalk in front of the store that Jaron saw Travis again. And Jaron was secretly hoping to see Travis again. He was just hoping he wouldn’t get caught looking. Travis was sitting in a black pickup truck with his hand resting on the wheel and the window open. Jaron didn’t even see him until Travis called out, “Hey!”

He looked up instinctively, raising a couple fingers in greeting, hands full of kid and groceries, taking off around the corner towards home. The black truck pulled into a parking spot in front of the hardware store.
“Would you like a ride somewhere?” Travis said, leaning towards the open passenger window.

“No, thank you,” Jaron replied and kept on walking. In fact, he walked faster until Bobby protested the speed.
“You sure?”

“Very.”

“I’m Travis, by the way.”

Jaron remained silent and just kept walking. The truck slowly moved along-side them.

“And you are…”

“This is Bobby and I’m Jaron.” Jaron didn’t want to be rude.

“Well, it’s nice to meet you Bobby and Jaron.”

Jaron stopped walking, looked at him in his big fancy truck, and shook his head in disgust. Of course the hottest guy in this town wouldn’t remember the little queer who got bullied every day since seventh grade. Jaron thought for sure that was the end of it, the truck wasn’t following anymore, but then he heard a door slam. Jaron stopped, looking back just in time to see Travis get out of the truck and jog towards them.

Damn it. Okay, Jaron changed his mind. He didn’t want to see Travis again. Well, maybe just a picture, preferably one where the man was half clothed…or not clothed at all. Please God that would be good. Amen. In Jaron’s mind he imagined himself with his head bowed and his hands folded together. That way maybe God would give him what he wanted, if he did the whole prayer thing right, even if it was all in his mind. Wasn’t God supposed to know what you were thinking? And wasn’t that a scary thought.

Sorry for thinking up all the bad things that run through my head every minute of every day. Especially about that one buff pornstar. In my defense I really can’t help it. I’m just that weird. Oh, and sorry for watching porn.

Amen.

“Let me help you with your bag.” Travis said and took it from him before Jaron even had a say.

“Thank you.” Politeness was going to kill Jaron, damn it. He had worked hard to curb his big mouth over the years, as he got his ass kicked on more than one occasion. A good ass kicking was a strong motivator and he was successful most of the time.

“It’s my pleasure.” They walked in silence for a couple minutes, Jaron very much aware of Travis’ presence beside him. Travis was huge compared to Jaron, with wide shoulders and long legs. And his jeans and black t-shirt seemed to make him look bigger somehow. He had on boots, the kind a real cowboy would wear. They were scuffed and well worn. They probably added an inch to his height. Jaron still only came up to his shoulder.

“So how long are you in town?”

“I plan to stay for a while.”

“How long is a while?”

“I’m hoping to stay for good actually.” He was trying to make a home here for himself and Bobby, even though coming back to this town was like re-facing a firing squad whose guns misfired the first time around.

After that the questions stopped and a companionable silence fell between them. Pickleville always seemed to be surrounded by trees, even in the heart of the little town where the storefronts lined up in two small rows with Main Street in between them. The backdrop was a forested area. At some point in Jaron’s childhood he had learned how many forested acres surrounded the small town but couldn’t remember at the moment. His mom’s street was a dead-end street and it ended with trees surrounding the edge of the road. If you looked hard enough you could make out a trail that Jaron knew led back to a sand pit. The local garbage dump took sand from the pit to put over all the garbage the locals produced.

As a kid it was forbidden to play back there. His mom always told him it was dangerous. But Jaron went anyway and had a great time playing hide-and-seek when he was little. When he got a little older he would meet Brian back there and they would fool around. That was where Jaron had had his first kiss. Brian had been the nerdy type, but a cute nerd who fumbled around a lot and apologized for it even more. At the time, Jaron found it enduring. He probably still would, even though time changed him in ways that he sometimes didn’t like.

It wasn’t until they stood in front of Jaron’s house that Travis spoke again. “I just figured out why you look so familiar. You’re Jaron McAllister.”

“Yes.”

Jaron let go of Bobby’s hand long enough to unlock the door. He opened it for Bobby to enter and then looked at Travis. “Thank you for walking with us. And for carrying the groceries.” Jaron smiled up at him as he took the bag of groceries from Travis and placed it inside the door on the table.

Travis pulled out a cell phone from his jeans pocket. “Do you have a cell phone?” When Jaron nodded Travis asked, “Can you text?” Jaron nodded again. “Let me get your number,” he said stepping just inside the door.

“Excuse me.” Travis would never cease to amaze him. He was like an entire herd of cattle, just running all over Jaron with everything he had.

Travis fiddled with his phone for a second before he looked at Jaron expectantly. “I’m ready.”
“I don’t want to be rude, but why do you want my number?” Jaron just had to know.

“We can catch up.”

“Catch up on what exactly?” They were never friends in high school so there was nothing to catch up on. In fact, Travis’ group of friends was the main source of the bullying and caused Jaron all kinds of grief. Although, Travis never gave him the time of day, not even to bully him.

“I get what you’re not saying, okay. I was never your friend in school, but I would like to be now.”

“Why?”

“Jesus Christ. Why do I have to have a reason to be your friend?” Travis’ forehead got this cute wrinkled looked between his eyes. The irritation in his voice only added to the attraction Jaron felt for the other man.

“Forget it. Just get out of the doorway so I can close the door.” Jaron made a shooing motion with his fingers.
Travis just stared at Jaron like he had lost his mind.

“If I give you my number, will you get out of my doorway?”

“Absolutely.” Travis smiled. The smile got bigger as Jaron rattled off his cell number.

Five minutes after Travis left his stoop Jaron got a text.