The son of a wealthy business man, Mark Addison is
an expert at chess and hiding. Mason Grant labors with his hands in a menial
position; he's open about who he is and what he wants in ways that terrify
Mark. Their paths shouldn't have crossed, but now that they have...
They came from different backgrounds, yet each
adheres to his own version of family duty and responsibility. One would make
any sacrifice for his family's well being. For Mason Grant that means leaving
school at sixteen and working hard while living as a man of integrity to set an
example for his brothers.
The other would sacrifice anything to keep his family life calm. If that
means hiding who he really is from his high society, narrow-minded parents,
then that's what Mark Addison will do. He just wants to run his shop, host a
few tournaments, play a few games of chess.
When Mason meets fussy, precise chess tournament director Mark, he isn't
expecting much more than a few hours of uncomfortable sleep in his car while
his brother plays.
One disdainful look from Mark changes that.
surreptitiously glanced around the neat interior of the Mark's Opening Gambit. The
café-slash-chess parlor wasn't his first choice of places to spend a Saturday,
but when his brother begged a ride to the tournament, he'd caved immediately,
despite the exhaustion and body aches he'd earned the night before. Unloading
trucks and stocking shelves at the grocery store wasn't a mentally challenging
job, but the night shift paid a dollar an hour more and the extra money came in
handy. Times were tough, and a guy without a high school diploma didn't stand a
whole lot of a chance of doing something better. It also left his mom free to take
the day shift at the hospital where she worked, and he was available during the
days to ferry his brothers around to their high school events and activities.
Such as chess
tournaments hosted by button-down dress shirt-wearing, hot as hell, snooty men.
He might have been a bit more eager to play chauffeur if he'd realized the Mark
his brother had spoken of glowingly was such an eyeful. He'd stepped through
the shop door behind Johnny to find his gaze locked with a pair of eyes so deep
and golden it was like he'd stepped into honey. He couldn't glance away for the
longest time, and it took the other man's slow flush to make him realize he was
being rude. That first sight of the tournament host had sent a warm awareness
through him. He really wished that the sight of Mark Addison—Jesus, even his
fucking name was holier than thou—wasn't so appealing. Mark was perfect. Fucking
perfect, or perfect for fucking, with his neatly trimmed brown hair, touched
with golden highlights, his slim, wiry body, not the product of a gym but of a
man who led an active life. His lips enticed Mason, and he wanted to pull the
puffy lower one between his teeth and bite down, to suck it into his mouth and
devour the man with kisses. He wanted to touch the pale skin and see if it was
as soft as it appeared, as cold as it seemed, to stroke away the distance in
those eyes and make the other man notice him.
The golden-brown gaze
didn't warm in the slightest under his own admiring regard, but scanned his
faded Levi's and tight T-shirt with disapproval. Mason half expected to be
informed he didn't meet the dress code for the elegant little shop. Instead,
Mark Addison looked him over and dismissed him as though he were beneath
Shrugging off the
snobbery, Mason slapped his brother on the back. "Go get 'em, kid. Or
whatever you guys call it." He hoped to sleep in his car while his brother
played and turned to leave immediately.
He met Addison's eyes again, tried for a smile, but the arrogant
host stared right through him. "Students participating in the tournament
are to be supervised by adults at all times."
voice grated on his nerves as much as the pronouncement. It wasn't like these
were two year-olds, for God's sake. It was Chess Club. By virtue of their very
geekiness, they were mature, well-behaved teens.
Too bad such a
sexy voice and face belonged to such a prick. Unfortunately for Mason, he
couldn't focus on Johnny's progress through the tournament. All he seemed able
to focus on was that slim figure moving between the tables, the unconscious
grace of the small man's movements, the seductive draw of tightening khaki
across his backside as he bent to survey a board or pick up something from the
He scowled as Mark
glared at him again, turning and facing resolutely out the window into the
parking lot. In the reflection the glass provided, he watched Mark excuse
himself from Ainslie, the kids' coach, and head in his direction, a determined expression
on his face.
Good. The self-righteous
prick had noticed him. Mark stopped right next to him, and they stood staring
out into the parking lot together.
at me like that."
turned to look down at the shorter man. "Like what?"
The older man
twitched and licked his lips. Mason stifled the groan that wanted to escape. He
"You know. Like...that."
"Like I want
to throw you over my shoulder and take you out of here and fuck you? Sorry. Can't
do that." Fascinated, he noted the flush on Mark's cheekbones deepen,
heard the hitch in his breathing, and knew that he'd been right. Chemistry burned
Mark glanced cautiously around the shop at the kids concentrating so fiercely on
their chess games, the proud parents and coaches peering anxiously at their
little darlings. Mark stuttered to a stop before starting again. "Not
here. We need to talk privately. Meet me behind the shop in ten minutes."
Whoa. He hadn't
expected that. Maybe Mark's buttoned-down appearance was deceptive. Mason
looked forward to cracking that calm reserve and proving to the man that the
clothes they wore didn't define their roles. He nodded in acknowledgment, and
Mark wandered away to check on the progress of the tournament. Mason headed
straight to the front door, aware all the while of Mark's furtive glances. He
exited the shop and headed to his beat-up old Jetta, so at odds with the shiny BMWs
and SUVs that surrounded it in the parking lot.
A brief stop at
the car to pick up some things he'd need and he strolled casually around the
corner of the building, thankful that the chess café was at the end of the
strip mall and not in the middle. Behind the shop was a dumpster, and strangely
enough, a wrought iron table and two chairs on the cemented area that should
have been an unloading bay. Mason noted with interest the ashtray and coasters
on the table. A few potted palms provided a bit of shade and some privacy but
not enough for anything too intimate. Mark had created a little garden back here.
absorption in the details of the environment convinced him that he'd
overestimated Mark's intentions. More private than the store itself, yes, but
hardly secluded enough for any real interaction of a physical sort.
He spied Mark peering
through the back door of the shop. At the grocery store where Mason worked, the
back doors were battered and grimy. Not so at Mark's Opening Gambit. The door
to the back room of the shop was a shiny, pure white, fresh scrubbed, or
painted or whatever. Not so much as a fingerprint marred its pristine surface,
much like not so much as a hair on Mark's head dared stray out of place. It
made Mason want to grab a crayon and write on the walls, muss up the
environment just like he wanted to muss up those locks of brown hair. Mark's sweet lips pressed tightly together,
and his cheeks flushed, from anger or arousal maybe, as he caught sight of
Mason found his
gaze drawn to those lips, wanting to pry them apart and soothe the tension from
them with caresses of his mouth and tongue. He licked his suddenly dry lips in
anticipation as Mark approached.
sparkled with emotion as Mark came within touching distance. Mason fought the
urge to yank him even closer as Mark halted, gazing up. He felt again the
strange drowning sensation as he stared down into those eyes, unable to glance away.
Thank God Mark seemed to experience it, too, because whatever angry words he'd
been about to spout died on his lips as Mason ran a big, calloused palm along
the smooth-shaven curve of Mark's jaw, feeling his indrawn breath as much as he
heard it. The softness of Mark's jaw on his own work-roughened skin was
thrilling, and Mason bent down, tilting his head to the side before smoothly
bringing their lips together. With the merest brush of contact, he paused to
allow Mark the chance to refuse the kiss, to pull away, to slap his face, to
ream him out for having the gall to touch.
When no protest
came, he sighed with relief. His eyelids drift shut, and he pressed his parted
lips more firmly on the soft, sweet lips below his own. Carefully, ignoring the
throbbing demands of his body, he tasted the plump curves that had held his
gaze. Not wanting to startle Mark, Mason ran his tongue lightly over those
sensual lips, sliding his hand from the taut line of jaw around to the nape of
Mark's neck, burying his fingers in the fine, silky strands of hair there.
acquiescence was far from the response he wanted. He guided the man's head to a
better angle and slipped his tongue into the waiting cavern. Mark trembled in
response. Mason wanted Mark to burn as he did, to feel the same urgent desire
to throw caution to the wind and make love here in the open behind the shop. He
wouldn't go that far in this public setting, of course, but he wanted to strip
away the distance in Mark's eyes and make him a part of the present, force him
to respond, to reach for Mason with the same urgency that Mason yearned for him.
given up when Mark shoved him abruptly away, glaring at him with angry golden
eyes. Instead of the passion he'd hoped to inspire, the other man appeared scared,
panicky even. Mason stepped forward, guilt urging him to offer comfort.
Mark scowled at
Mason and pushed backward, dropped into one of the wrought iron chairs, and
reached into a pocket to pull out a packet of cigarettes. His gaze darted left
and right as though searching for someone. "No. What the hell do you think
causing Mark's near panic, anger at being pushed aside, and to some degree
sheer exhaustion had words spilling from Mason's mouth before he could evaluate
them. "Hey, I get it. No means no. Yeah. Like I'd want to kiss a wax doll
He spun on his
heel and stalked away from the little oasis in back of the strip mall, ignoring
Mark's harshly indrawn breath behind him. He shoved a hand into his pocket and
curled his fingers tightly around the condom and lube he'd shoved there. Thinking
with his dick. Fucking lucky he hadn't gotten knocked on his ass literally
instead of figuratively.
the smoke of his cigarette, striving to get his heart rate back under control. He
glanced cautiously around the back area of the shop. Foolish to be so paranoid,
but he really couldn't take the chance that any of his father's other tenants
would see and mention the kiss. Shrugging off his unease, he stubbed the
cigarette out in the little ashtray and returned to the shop. He closed the
door carefully behind him. It was regrettable that Mason Grant had
misunderstood his comment. He'd have liked to explain that it wasn't the kiss
he objected to. Dear God, what a kiss that had been! No, it was the location of
He couldn't do
PDAs. He'd meant to flirt a little, maybe exchange phone numbers, but the passion
in those brown eyes had rendered him speechless, and before he could do
anything, he'd been wrapped up in a kiss that hit all his buttons. He was
fortunate he'd managed to break away before they'd ended up engaged in sexual
relations right there on the patio behind the store.
Mason Grant to the back patio had been the wrong thing to do. He stood in the
tight confines of the hallway, bracing himself to enter the fray once more. Sally,
his mother's bridge partner's youngest daughter, stood serving coffee behind
the counter. He couldn't be sure that she would report anything she saw to his
mother, but there was always the possibility.
kids' chess team coach, was a bit safer. He was gay as well, but his family had
accepted his preferences. However, Ainslie was his father's partner's son and
could easily let something slip in casual conversation that would send Mark's
father on a rampage and his mother into a cold silence. Ainslie wandered
between the tables studying his players' moves, putting a comforting hand on a
shoulder here and there. They'd been friends since birth, but he couldn't ask
Ainslie to keep his secrets any more than he could share with Ainslie the
bitter traumas of his youth. If you hadn't lived it, it was unimaginable.
The shop was
his life, his dream, his most treasured accomplishment. His parents had
reluctantly agreed to allow him to open the shop as a sort of consolation
prize, for giving up what they termed his "foolish preferences." It
might be his intellectual haven, but it wasn't a safe place to be attracted to
someone. His parents could and would cancel his lease and shut down his
business if he didn't follow their life plan, which included vetting the type
of people he dated. Mason Grant was too blue collar, too brash, too male for
his parents. Someone male definitely would not make their list of approved
partners for their only son.
shop window, he tracked Mason to a faded red Jetta. Strolling casually among
the tables, he kept one eye on the handsome, younger man. He was reluctant to
let Mason go but couldn't see how he could make arrangements to see him again
without behaving suspiciously.
Mason got into
the car and leaned his head back, stretching his arms over his head. Mark
stifled a groan as he visualized that broad chest bare. Mason slumped forward
to rest his head on the steering wheel of the little car, the picture of
defeat. He rested that way a moment before sitting upright and fumbling a pair
of dark sunglasses on. The seat reclined completely, taking Mason out of Mark's
was entering its final three rounds. Several tiers of participants had been
eliminated already, though most stayed to observe the remaining games. Each participant
received a gift certificate for a free beverage, which Mark donated. Encouraging
kids to learn and play the Game of Kings was his only incentive to host these
tournaments. From here on out the winners would receive a variety of prizes from
books and equipment to private lessons.
Mark kept a
close eye on the kid who'd come in with Mason earlier. Johnny Grant was a
player who showed great promise. He hadn't been to a tournament here before, so
Mark was sure he was a novice, but he had a great deal of potential. Unfortunately,
his raw skills weren't balanced by knowledge, and he didn't seem to plan his
moves very far ahead. The kid would probably do very well with a few private
Mind made up,
Mark approached Ainslie for a whispered consultation. Ainslie agreed with him,
beaming in approval. Mark hastily shuffled back to the office to print the gift
certificate he wanted before the round ended. Four players would be eliminated
this round, and each of them would need to receive the same certificate for six
Johnny was eliminated in the round. As the youth got up from the table,
struggling to hide his disappointment, Ainslie approached him and the three
other students who'd failed to advance. He gathered the boys at the back of the
shop while Mark rearranged the tables and materials for the next round. Sally
came from behind the counter to help fold and put away the extra chairs while
the boys walked around stretching their legs. Mark tried not to cringe as young
hands curiously touched leather bound books and priceless statuary.
of the clock announced that the semifinal round was beginning, and the four
players took their seats at the tables. Mark waited just a moment to see that
the opening rules were followed and then scurried back to the youths waiting
near his door. He presented each one with their certificate of participation
and ranking, and the prize he and Ainslie had decided upon. Johnny Grant lit up
with excitement when he saw the certificate for free lessons, but then his
expression dimmed as he thanked Mark politely.
wrong, Johnny?" Ainslie asked.
going to be able to take these lessons." The boy's disappointment was
clear. "My brother... He works at night, and driving over here after
school, then getting back in time for his shift at the grocery store, it would
be hard for him."
Mark forced his
face into calm disinterest. "Would it be better if I came to your house?"
perked up again. "Could you?"
me talk to your brother about it, okay? I'll walk out with you." He shoved
his hands in his pockets to hide his own trembling excitement at approaching
Mason again. Private lessons in the boy's home would give him the opportunity
to get to know Mason better as well.
He walked out
to the car with Johnny, explaining that each lesson would last an hour and
require homework on Johnny's part. As they approached the car, Mason sat up and
rolled down the window but didn't remove the dark glasses. Mark wished he
would. He wanted to see those brown eyes again, to see if the pure passion he'd
seen before was still there. The remembered lust in Mason's gaze gave him
courage that he normally didn't have.
pulled a business card from his shirt pocket and handed it through the window. "Johnny
has won private lessons. He tells me transportation is an issue, so I offered
to give the lessons at his home. Please call me at this number to make
nodded, cleared his throat, and then spoke in a husky, sleep-worn voice. "We'll
call." The window rose before Mark could add anything to the conversation,
and he turned back to his shop and the tournament, discouraged. It seemed
unlikely from the animated conversation the two brothers held in the car behind
him, that he would be getting that phone call.
Important things first, are these sheets silk or cotton?
Penny: They are antique sheets, and I know we really aren't supposed to be in here right now—
Declan: Penny and I got a little carried away...
What are you wearing?
Penny: Nothing, should I be wearing something?
Declan: I'd rather not wear anything either.
What are we snacking on in bed while we read tonight?
Declan: I would rather we not eat anything in the bed. I am distantly related to the people who owned the historic estate that we are in. Just out of respect, plus I'm trying to get in good with the owners of the museum.
If I open this nightstand drawer, what will I find?
Penny: Let me touch the nightstand and—
Declan: Penny's psychic, if she touches the nightstand, most likely she could tell you about events that happened with that nightstand around.
Do you roll up in the blankets like a burrito, or kick the covers off during the night?
Penny: On this bed, I prefer to stay on top of the covers.
Can I put my cold feet on your calves to warm them up?
Declan: Sorry, I only let Penny do that.
What are we reading? Penny for the Night by Sally Max
This recipe is fairly
simple and classic, but you can't beat the taste!
Cut bacon strips into
4-in. lengths. Wrap each pitted date tightly with a piece of bacon, overlapping
ends. Set dates, seam side down, in a. nonstick frying pan over medium heat.
Turn dates occasionally until bacon is browned and crisp on all sides.
Drain on paper towels
and serve warm or cool.
Variations: You can
stuff the dates with a variety of fillings before wrapping and cooking.
Suggestions include cheeses, minced fruits, etc. Use your imagination and have
fun with it.
you write, you are bombarded with advice from people left and right about what
they think you should do, or how you should act. They want to tell you how to
write your stories, how to make your covers, and how to promote your books.
Or rather, how not to do those things.
other day I stumbled over a thread somewhere, where people (mostly other
authors) were talking about unfollowing on twitter and Facebook pages because
the account owners promoted too much.
seems they had a rule, that you could only post 20% promotional material and
the other 80% of your posts must be "other". If you share outside what they expect then
you're spamming them.
time an author sees something like this, we think "I need to do better, or
more, or less."
fact of the matter is, unless someone is stalking your twitter feed, they
aren't seeing every post you make.
could post 10 posts a day, have 2 of them be book links and 8 of them be "something
else" and if a person isn't sitting there, watching the twitter feed go by
at the speed of freaking light, they aren't going to see them, unless they go
to your page, scroll down your posts and read each one. I don't know about you,
but there's only a couple of people on Earth that I'd do that for.
logged on to twitter the other day to follow back my new followers, which is
pretty much the only reason I go on twitter these days (because hallelujah they
gave me Buffer and Hootesuite), and in the less than five minutes it took me to
do that, over 150 new tweets entered my stream.
No. To read them, I'd have to refresh my screen, and start scrolling down. I
hadn't gotten through those 150 when I got another notice of 79 new tweets in
I didn't read
Or any of the
other hundreds of tweets that arrived as I was taking care of business on
I figured you know what? If you don't like what someone posts, go ahead and
unfollow. But you should always be aware when you are choosing to follow
someone – an author, or musician, or chef- that the primary purpose of having
that account is promoting their work.
twitter feeds are public, and while you can send a message in private to someone,
pretty much all of what you say can be read by anyone who follows you. If you
can say it in 140 characters or less, then there it is. You're
"supposed" to interact with people on twitter- to talk to them and
have conversations. I don't find that feasible.
I've seen people conversing on twitter. I've even made an attempt or two to follow
a conversation on twitter – but it's not easy and it doesn't flow and it makes
you feel like a stalker.
line, I use twitter for promotional purposes. I share articles, interviews and
professional pieces, I retweet items I think are of interest to my readers, and
I promote my books.
do love hearing from and talking to my readers, other authors and industry
professionals. But I don't choose twitter as my vehicle for doing that.
is so much social media out there, that we can't actually maximize our presence
on all of them. I've made the decision to use Facebook and my blog for that purpose.
Don't Miss This...This is a great and fun way to give karma a
kiss—a good sweet endearing 'thank you' kiss...here’s what it’s all
about...Post a link with a snippet of a book, blog, new release,
award...anything, as long as it is NOT ABOUT YOU. Include anything about the
book: why you liked it, favorite character, great cover...whatever you want.
It's a sweet, feel good sort of story that will leave you with a
warm fuzzy feeling.
Noah Lethem is twenty-nine years old and raising his troubled
sister Hannah's two small children. Resigned to a life of permanent chaos, he
has given up on romantic relationships. Then, when his neighbour Marcy
encourages him to visit the local rec center for a pick-up game of floor
hockey, he meets Dillon Greer. Though they are both interested in starting a
relationship, Noah remains wary of shaking up the kids' lives. Of course, their
lives might be shaken up anyway, if Hannah has her way and takes them away from
the home they share with Noah to live with her new boyfriend. Now, Noah must
learn to balance his new romance with his imperfect family or risk losing both.
The hospital corridor seemed alarmingly quiet. Once in a rare while, there
would be the crackle of an intercom, someone's voice, electronically distorted,
calling this doctor to respond to that code in some room, or a group of nurses
would wander by, chattering; but it felt like there were no patients in this
part of the hospital. It seemed ridiculous, considering the fact that the
emergency room had been overflowing when Noah arrived, still in the good shirt
and pants he had worn to his aborted blind date. Now, his back was starting to
ache in the hard plastic chair; his discomfort and the weight of Delilah,
sleeping against his shoulder, was beginning to suffocate him just a little.
She was a hundred times too warm, making him sweat underneath his button-down,
even if her bubble bath and strawberry shampoo scent drowned out the antiseptic
"This never would have happened if you had been there."
Noah almost wished that his sister were capable of seeing the irony in her own
words, but even if she was, it wouldn't be tonight. She was too high, red-eyed,
and slightly slack-mouthed as she paced back and forth in front of Noah's
chair; she kept wringing her chapped hands together and putting them through
her hair and the woman at the nurses' station was watching her like she thought
she was going to make off with everything that wasn't nailed to the floor.
Noah was sure that she hadn't been high when she came to pick up the kids, so
sure. He'd checked her over desperately; but maybe he'd been distracted. He
couldn't afford to be distracted.
"If you had been there, he wouldn't have fallen."
"For Christ's sake, Hannah." He shifted in his chair, trying to force
a kink out of the small of his back. Delilah snuffled sleepily against his neck
in response, tightening her small hands in the fabric of his shirt. "You
see them maybe one hour out of every week and that's so painfully long you
can't keep your eye on them?"
Hannah stopped, stuttering and pale as she turned towards him, her entire body
a twitching, rabbit-like thing that Noah had come to recognize. "What are
"Nothing." He barely managed to suppress a sigh, shifting his niece's
weight again. "I'm not saying anything. God knows there aren't words
enough in the English language to make you into a responsible person."
"I do my best!" Her voice was sharp and bordering on hysterical.
Behind the desk, the nurse reached for the phone that would no doubt summon
security and complete the utter humiliation that was Noah's night. This, he
thought miserably, was why he didn't go anywhere; why, when his sister came to
take the kids to the playground or for ice cream so that they might love her
like she was really their mother, he followed them down the block in Marcy's
little blue Geo and watched, so that he knew they were safe.
"Of course. Sure." He wished he felt steadier, less frantic; but his
three-year-old nephew was getting his head x-rayed, so maybe he was entitled.
"You just do what you do, Hannah... and I pay your bills and wash your
clothes and raise your kids. You just do your best, and here we are, six years
later, and you still don't think I might want a life of my own one day."
Hannah stared at him, slack-jawed, as if he were speaking in tongues, as though
the thought of her big brother as a human being and not a convenience had never
actually occurred to her. That was how the doctor found them, staring at each
other as if they didn't know one another's faces, when he came to let them know
that Jack's skull wasn't broken.
To be nobody but yourself in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make you everybody else means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight; and never stop fighting. ~e.e. cummings, 1955