3/05/2015

Crawl in Bed With Thianna D #pridepromotions #mmromance


Crawling Into Bed With Thianna Durston
And a Good Book

Important things first, are these sheets silk or cotton?
Oh, honey, I’ve got satin sheets. Deep. Red. Satin sheets that caress with every movement. It’s like having an added lover in bed with you. Unless you get too rambunctious and then the satin tends to repel you off the bed instead.

What are you wearing? *looks down* I don’t tend to go to bed with clothes on. No need to worry. I only cuddle when I’m asleep.

What are we snacking on in bed while we read tonight?
I stay away from crumbs because, well…crumbs. But even with the threat of something uncomfortable between my soft skin and the sheets, I do love these. *picks up a bowl of strawberries and a bowl of whipped cream* Though whatever cream you use is up to you.

If I open this nightstand drawer, what will I find? *closes drawer deftly* Oh, you know. The normal things. A book, a nail file, a couple dildos, my favorite slapper, a toothbrush, and oh, yeah, strawberry flavored lube.  *blinks innocently* What? Not everyone has that in their nightstand?

Do you roll up in the blankets like a burrito, or kick the covers off during the night? Kind of depends on the time of year. Right now? I’m an automatic heater and while I start off cuddled with my blanket, I tend to gravitate next to whomever is in bed with me. Just a warning. *wink*

Can I put my cold feet on your calves to warm them up? Only if you expect to be kicked from the bed. *grins* I’m serious about my bedtime so if you plan to pull high jinx, it’s best to tie me up first. Not that I’m suggesting that or anything. *eyes nightstand drawer*

What are we reading?

 Book Name: As Natural As Breathing
Series? All They Ever Needed  # one
Release Date: August 7, 2013

Author Name: Thianna D (Thianna Durston)

Blurb(s):
For Christian Darringer, life isn’t worth living. Just back from the Middle East; scarred and with permanent damage to one leg, he does not think anyone will want him for anything. Meeting a gorgeous man he finds himself thinking about constantly is not in his plans. Pulled toward the startling younger man with striking blue eyes, he begins to question a lot of things – especially his sexuality. Not one to hide from a challenge, he plunges ahead only to find himself more than just attracted to Logan who is full of life and joy, he finds himself head over heels in love.

Logan Mannette has almost everything he ever wanted: loving parents, happiness, friends and security. The only thing missing is finding the love of his life, a love that is just like his parents’. When he meets Christian at a party, everything changes. Instantly attracted, he does his best to help this sad man and quickly finds himself feeling more than he has ever felt before. Raised in a domestic discipline household, he holds that ideal as what he wants but his interest in spanking became a fetish and when Christian admits that he wants to be spanked, Logan believes he might have found the perfect man.

Just as everything begins for them, Christian’s past intercedes and one of his brothers makes waves about him dating a man. If it weren’t for Logan’s support, he might fold; but with the love of one amazing man, Christian finds that living his life rather than just existing is as natural as breathing.


Categories: BDSM, Gay Fiction, M/M Romance, Romance

Excerpt:
Dinner was easy, the easiest first date Christian had ever been on. Logan laughed, talked, teased, but it felt like he was with a friend rather than with a date…but then again, that was what he asked for. After two large platters of sushi disappeared between the two of them, they paid and left. “Okay, we can drive or we can walk. The theater is only ten blocks.” Then Logan’s eyes dropped to his leg. “Damn, I forgot about your leg. Maybe we should drive.”
Shaking his head, Christian placed a hand on his arm. “Naw. I walk by the river all the time. I think I’d like to walk.”
Logan watched him, as if trying to make up his mind if Christian meant it or not. When he figured he did, he beamed. “Great. There is this cool piece of art you have got to see.”

Sales Links:

Author Bio:
Thianna loves to write strong stories with even stronger heroes. While all of her books have an erotic overtone, it is the story that is the most important to her. “The story should be able to stand on its own. The erotic elements are an add-on.”
She enjoys writing about couples with kink, paranormal couples, and straight out strangeness. But more on that later… mm.thiannad.com.

Where to find the author:
Website: mm.thiannad.com
Facebook Author Page: https://www.facebook.com/ThiannaDurstonAuthor
Twitter: https://twitter.com/the_weremouse
Publisher: Lazy Day Publishing/Blushing Books

Rafflecopter Prize: 2 eBook copies of As Natural As Breathing, and a $10.00 gift card to an eBook seller of the winners choice.  (Amazon, Barnes & Noble, ARe, Blushing Books.)


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Crawl in Bed With Karen Stivali #mmromance #crawlinbed #authorinterview #giveaway


Crawling Into Bed With Karen Stivali
And a Good Book

Important things first, are these sheets silk or cotton?
They’re cotton and they’re t-shirt sheets. I believe everything in a bedroom should be as inviting, soft and touchable as possible. Okay, maybe not everything should be soft…
*facepalm* Why did Will not warn me about this? What are you wearing?
Did you want me to wear something? I can go get dressed…
*sighs patiently* Just… Pull that sheet up over your… Yeah, that. What are we snacking on in bed while we read tonight? There are tons of blankets on the bed so even though it’s cold out it’s nice and warm in here---I’d say ice cream. You can choose the flavor. Just no rum raisin, please.  *blech*
You know, I've never actually seen rum raisin ice cream in a store? I'm good with most flavors, but I get a kick out of a little salt, so let's sprinkle that with some Spanish peanuts and drizzle it with chocolate sauce… mmm. If I open this nightstand drawer, what will I find?
That’s my night stand so you’d find books, pens, lotion (I love a good foot rub), lip balm, notes from all of my novels and several that aren’t written, probably a bit of candy (unless I ate it all the night before) and Ambien (I’ve got terrible insomnia). You might want to peek in the other night stand as well. *whistles*
*eyes other drawer* Oh really? Do you roll up in the blankets like a burrito, or kick the covers off during the night?
Depends on the season. It’s often below zero in the winter up here in NH so then I’m in burrito mode but the summers are hot and humid and I often don’t use covers at all. It also varies depending how hot the other person in bed is. Take that however you wish.
*blinks* Probably better if I just… er leave it as is. Can I put my cold feet on your calves to warm them up?
You could try but it’s pretty chilly in NH right now. My calves might chill your cold feet even more. I tend to be freezing when I first get into bed. I heat up later.
What are we reading? 


Moment of Truth

Moments in Time #2
Release Date: March 4, 2015
Author Name: Karen Stivali
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Cover Artist: Anna Sikorska
Blurb

Collin expected to spend another summer fixing cars and working at the college pizzeria. Instead, he's living in a beach house on Fire Island, waiting tables at a hip seaside restaurant and, for the first time since he and Tanner got together, they can publicly be known as boyfriends. Being "out" takes some getting used to, but with the help of new and old friends, Collin is happier than he ever imagined. And more in love. But newfound freedom brings unexpected challenges, and when friends get flirty, old insecurities arise. Moments of doubt and jealousy threaten their happiness, and Collin and Tanner must confront the truth or risk losing it all. 

Excerpt:
His smile twitched as he started up the next staircase. The last one. The one that led to our room and nowhere else. My hearth hammered hard and fast, and not from stair climbing. I needed to touch Tanner, soon, or every part of my body from my brain to my balls was going to simultaneously combust.
Tanner pushed our door open with exaggerated care and stepped inside. Jesus, is he trying to make me crazy? All I want is to….
My back slammed against the wall, and before I could complete my thought, Tanner’s mouth was on mine. The kiss was savage, tongue hot and heavy against mine, cock hot and heavy against mine. Even through our shorts, I could feel how ready he was. My head swam.
Desperate for more, I grabbed on to him, rolling us toward the door and kicking it shut. Tanner let out a grunt as I pressed him against the hard wood. Could anyone hear us? I didn’t care. I just needed this. Tanner. Now.
As soon as I shoved his T-shirt up his ribs, he yanked it off and tossed it aside. Warm smooth skin greeted my fingertips, filling my nose with his scent. God, I missed this. My mouth returned to his, tongues dueling as my hands fumbled with his fly. I couldn’t stop rubbing against him enough to get the zipper down. Tanner grabbed my ass, crushing his cock alongside mine, humping against me with enough intensity I had to force myself not to come.
I didn’t want that. Not yet. Not standing against the door when that crazy big bed was only feet away. As if he read my mind, Tanner shoved me backward, taking advantage of the moment our bodies parted to strip off his shorts. I tugged off my shirt, and before I could launch it across the room, Tanner had my shorts undone and down. Kicking them away put me off-balance, and Tanner steadied me with one hand clutching the back of my neck and the other wrapped around my cock.
Whimpers echoed through the room. My whimpers. His thumb slicked over my swollen head, round and round in circles that left me dizzy and panting.
“Let’s try out the bed.” Tanner’s voice was low and thick. I’d have said yes to anything he asked with that voice.
I couldn’t actually say a word, so I nodded and pulled us down onto the mattress. Holy Jesus. Soft cool sheets, warm hard body, wet velvety tongue. Heaven. Fire Island was heaven.

Author Bio: Karen Stivali is a prolific writer, compulsive baker and chocoholic with a penchant for books, movies, and fictional British men. She's also the multiple award-winning author of contemporary and erotic romances. She writes novels about love...like real life, only hotter.
Karen's lifelong fascination with people has led her to careers ranging from hand-drawn animator, to party planner, to marriage and family counselor, but writing has always been her passion. Karen enjoys nothing more than following her characters on their journey toward love. Whether the couples are m/f or m/m, it’s guaranteed that Karen's novels are filled with food, friendship, love, and smoking hot sex—all the best things in life.
When Karen isn’t writing (and often when she is), she can be found on Twitter attempting witty banter and detailing the antics of her fruit-loving cat, BadKitteh. She loves to hear from readers (and other writers), so don't hesitate to contact/follow/like her at the links below.

Where to find the author:



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Rafflecopter Prize: $20 gift card

Rafflecopter Code:

3/04/2015

#free at @allromance This Month! Unforgettable #mmromance #historical #highlander


FREE this month at All Romance books only! 

Like Highlanders? Like M/M? 



Unforgettable: short, sexy M/M Highland Romance is Free for the month of March at All Romance Ebook. Get yours today.




Can the love of a lifetime be forged in the aftermath of bloody battle?

Ian Kerr dreams of the blue-eyed gaze that met his in a strange, still moment on the field of battle. Brodick MacFarland, young and inexperienced, yet old enough to fight for his clansmen, saves a wounded man left for dead by his kin. Now, five years later, Brodick is a trained physician and an adult who knows his own mind. Fortunately for Ian, the clash between the clans still rages on, leaving Brodick fair game. Will Brodick come with Ian of his own accord or will this educated warrior continue to evade capture?

Reader Rating:  4 stars  (6 Ratings)
Sensuality Rating:   4 Lips 

EXCERPT
Thunder awoke Ian Kerr from a restless sleep haunted by troubled blue eyes. He wanted to reach out to the owner of those eyes, tell the man that it would be all right. "All right," he mumbled, forcing heavy lids up. His head felt thick and his vision blurred. 
Lying still, he forced himself to assimilate his surroundings as his head and vision slowly cleared. The floor beneath him was earth, the wall he lay against as well. A fire crackled nearby, providing warmth and a dim flickering light. His belly rumbled loudly, echoing the thunder. 
Last he'd known, his brother Andrew, and Agnes MacFarland had left him to cover their retreat. How had he come to lie in an abandoned shepherd's bothy? Still, it was out of the storm that raged outside, and for that he was grateful. A savory scent lingered in the air, and Ian shifted upright to find the source of that enticing odor.
"Ahh…" Agony seared his chest, and he clutched at it, marveling as his fingers found a neat row of stitches. The pain jolted his muddled brain and memories fought slowly to the surface. "The battle…" The damned MacFarlands had left him to die on the roadside when one of their untrained whelps landed a lucky blow with sword he'd been scarce able to lift.
"Aye, easy there." The soft burr drew his gaze to a thin man in a MacFarland tartan kneeling near the small fire. The youth filled a bowl with pottage and crossed the small space between them. The voice was familiar, the figure strange. 
"Where am I?"
"Boden's old place. I couldna get ye any further from the road. Wasna safe to take ye to the farm." When the youth knelt and offered him the bowl, Ian was struck by deep blue eyes, the steely blue of the sky before sunset, set in a fine boned face, beardless, thin, fragile nearly, and very familiar.
 "Ye're a MacFarland." He reached automatically for his blade, though the stripling was hardly threatening in his appearance. Memories stirred of the recently fought battle. Those were the eyes from his dream… "I remember ye from the fight. Ye were in Andrew's bride's guard."
Laughter lurked in the blue eyes before the youth ducked his head. "I'm Brodick MacFarland. Agnes is my sister." His cheeks flushed slightly, though it could have been a trick of the flickering fire. 
Brodick returned to the fire and filled another bowl of pottage for himself. Ian surveyed him cautiously. His instinct said the other man was no threat…but their families were at war. "Ye fetched the doctor for me?" Silently, he ate a few bites of pottage, studying the slim figure, the thin chest and wiry arms. This was no warrior, though he could plainly see the man wasn't as young as he'd first thought. 
Brodick met his gaze again. "I sewed ye up meself. I'm a student at Aberdeen. I'm sorry if 'tis no' perfectly done. But I didna dare let anyone know you lived."
Ian nodded. "Why?" This youth hadn't participated in the mild battle; Ian's injury had been caused by a startled looking stripling who'd vomited into the heather and thistle at the roadside immediately afterward. Ian's clansmen had left him, their need to escort Andrew's bride to safety most urgent. He caught a sidelong glance from Brodick, and something in the darkening gaze sent a flicker of heat to his groin. Clan MacFarland was known for beauty in a land where brawn was prized, Ian wouldn’t have been so smitten with the sainted Agnes, but this one was different…special. Where the other MacFarlands shared his creamy pale skin and plump rosy lips, instead of the deep auburn hair the rest of the MacFarlands sported, this one had been graced with a wild mane of black curls, cropped at the shoulder. Ian's fingers itched to bury themselves in those curls, to test their silky appearance with his fingertips. 


Reader Reviews at All Romance
Submitted By: milica_who on Jan 30, 2015
I like highlanders,so this one worked for me...nothing special, but I liked the setting,language was archaic and in the same time understandable, so I recommend it...
Submitted By: lady.kestrel on Jan 23, 2015
A change of pace - this is the first historical I've come across from Lee Brazil. It's nicely done, and the Scots dialect isn't too overblown, as some authors have a tendency to do. I enjoyed it & would recommend it.


3/03/2015

MM Romance on #sale at Breathless Press! #sexy #bargain #stockupnow


Good morning friends and readers! 
Just wanted to drop a bit of a note to let you all know that 
my works with Breathless Press are all on sale for the month of March. Check below for a list of titles available.  

Sale Prices ranging from 74¢ to $2.24 







A Gentleman Never Does (Regency M/M, short story) 
Donovan's Deal (M/M Contemporary, Truth or Dare #6 featuring Mischa and Donovan)
Holidays With Jacob (m/m contemporary)
It's Simple, Simon (m/m contemporary)
Loving Eden (m/m contemporary)
Mark's Opening Gambit (m/m contemporary)
Risking It All (m/m contemporary, Truth or Dare #5)
Saint's Curse (m/m paranormal)
Setting the Trap (m/m/m contemporary, twincest, taboo)
Temptation (m/m/m contemporary)
The Accident (m/m contemporary, short story)
The Ice King (m/m contemporary, FLIRT size, )
The Man Trap (m/m contemporary)
Trapping Drake (m/m/m contemporary, twincest, taboo)
Truth Deeper Than Logic (m/m paranormal)
Willow (m/m contemporary)


3/02/2015

Story Orgy Presents: Like A Wolf pt. 7 #mmromance #storyorgy #prompt




Good morning all! Before we get into today's post, I have NEWS. Story Orgy is planning a new anthology for this fall. In order to do that, we need PROMPTS from you! Please email your suggestions to lee.brazil@ymail.com or leave them in the comments here. Prompts are due by March 15th- so we don't have a lot of time. What are we looking for? 
Three things: A super power, a crisis, and a random object. 

Got it? Put on your thinking caps and let the good times roll! 

And without further ado, here it is

Like A Wolf

A Little Red Riding Hood Story In Which the Wolf Must Choose Between Innocent Red, and the Seductively Skilled Hunter He’s Been Toying With For Years

Chapter Seven
Mar 2: It was a false alarm.

“So where are you?” Robert glared around the nearly empty parking lot in the pre-dawn darkness. Even this early, before the sun had quite made its way over the tree line and the sky was shot with gunmetal and orange, he could tell it was going to be another gorgeous, warm day. 
“Uh… Sorry, Robbie. I’m--” Saul seemed a bit frantic when he answered the phone. “Having a bit of trouble.”
Morning sounds...the ticking of the engine, the hushed voices of the trees, and the occasional chirp or twitter of a bird filled the car, seeping in through the open window. Robert felt it all pressing in on him, along with the memory of how excited- stupidly excited, naively excited- he’d been driving over to Hank’s place the night before. He pushed open the door and bolted from the car and the memory of his behavior. Starry-eyed idiot that he’d been.
“Are you having car trouble?” The coffee he’d been sipping had long since gone cold, and the pit of his stomach was once more tied up in knots. Hank Wolf. The reason for his dawn appearance at the gym wasn’t far from his mind. Forget him. He’s already forgotten you. He glanced around again. Still no sign of Saul’s beater, and no sign of Saul. Just his luck, Saul’s little VW had probably finally decided to call it quits for good on some little side street. “Did Bess break down again? Do you need me to come get you?”
“No! Don’t come over. I’m… er. I’m a little tied up at the moment.” His friend’s voice rose in a squeak. 
Clearly the trouble Saul was having was to his liking. Sighing heavily, Robert sank onto the hood of his car, grimacing as it shifted under his weight. “You promised you’d be here to tell me about these machines.” The whiny note in his voice didn’t escape his notice, but he figured he deserved a few hours of whining over his lost maybe-love before he sucked it up and got on with his life.  
“I know.” Somehow Saul managed to sound both sympathetic and impatient. Having a friend who was a personal trainer had seemed a godsend when he’d wanted a distraction. 
The elastic waistband of Robert’s unaccustomed nylon shorts dung into his skin uncomfortably. He glanced morosely at the gym. Even this early he could see people inside… moving about the business of getting fit. Robert squeezed the soft flesh on his side with his free hand. Flabby. He’d never been one for a hard body… workouts were boring and gym class… He shuddered. “I don’t know anything about this. I was counting on you, Saul.”
“It’s not….” Saul stopped on a gasp. “Difficult. There should be someone at the desk. Tell them I said you should get started by warming up on a stationary bike. I’ll be there in a half hour.” Voices murmured in the background. Saul choked, his breath loud and harsh in Robert’s ear. “Forty-five… minutes.”
“Oh my god. You… Forget it. Take your time Saul. You can teach me about weights and cardio what-nots tomorrow.” He closed his phone without waiting for Saul to say good-bye. Straightening from the hood of the car, he eyed the gym with disfavor. The absolute last thing he wanted to do after a sleepless night in which he was haunted at various turns by memories of Hank’s lovemaking and the humiliating encounter with Hank’s… ex-boyfriend -  was walk into a gym full of physically fit specimens who would remind him of the handsome, blonde, smiling, suave everything-Robert-Redding-wasn’t man who’d calmly entered Hank’s house, calling out  “Hi, honey I’m home” in the absolute worst Desi Arnaz impression Robert had ever heard. 
The building in front of him epitomized everything he’d ever hated about gym as a kid. He was about to go in there and strip down to his workout clothes. Everyone in the room would see the flab of his stomach, the softness he’d never outgrown. 
Baby fat his parents had called it. 
Well, he was long past being a baby, and if he ever hoped to measure up to Hunter Grym, the fabulously beautiful ex… Well, not that he could do that. “Fuck this.” He took a determined step toward the door, then whirled around and dove for his car. “Fuck this. Measure up?”
He pulled open his car door and slid into the seat. “I’m happy the way I am. I don’t need to lose weight or tighten up for any man.” But he didn’t put the key in the ignition, and he couldn’t look away from the scene before him. 
“God damn it.” He jumped out and then slammed the door behind him. “I’m going to do a half hour on the exercise bike, but just because I want to. Not for him. Since I’m here and awake.” And you have nowhere else to go.
Inside the gym, a cute but athletic man stood at a counter with a clipboard. Exactly the sort of man Robert usually gave a wide birth, maybe unfairly, but nevertheless. He didn’t need a judgmental gym bunny making him feel bad about his physique. He managed that well enough on his own. 
Girding his loins, and maybe… just maybe sucking in his stomach a tiny bit, Robert approached, trying to convey confidence. “Hi. Saul Rosenthal sent me. I'm Robert Redding. I’d like to do a half hour on one of the exercise bikes this morning.”
The blond looked up quickly, smiling genuinely. “Welcome! Saul’s usually here by now himself. I'm going to need you to fill out some paperwork and sign a waiver.”
“A waiver?” He accepted the clipboard and pen the man handed him, reluctantly. “What am I waiving?”
“Oh… nothing important. Just verifying that you understand you work out at your own risk and that you won’t be able to sue us if you drop a weight on your foot or something.” Delicate lashes fluttered and rosy lips stretched in an entrancing smile. “Emergency contact information… the usual.”
Blinking rapidly, Robert glanced down at the papers. “Do you get a lot of accidents?” His doubts were multiplying. 
“Oh no… Why we’ve been accident free for seventy-seven days now, and that one hardly counted.” 
“Um…” The farmers’ market was looking like a better deal every minute. “I just wanted to use an exercise bike for a bit.” 
“Sorry sweetie. Those are the rules. I’d lose my job if I let you in there,” he jerked his head in the direction of the equipment room, “without filling that out.”
“Walking is good exercise, right?” He could walk the farmer’s market without filling out any papers… and if he happened to bump into Hank Wolf while he was there, well… Well then, he’d probably compound his humiliation of the night before by acting like a blithering idiot. “You got a pen?”
***
An artisan cheese maker’s blue eyes reminded Hank of Red. He ended up buying more cheese than he could use- with visions of fondues and gratins and the sexy, sensual sounds of Red moaning in appreciation as his eyes closed and he chewed Hank’s culinary creations. 
Pork and duck bacon, crisp green apples, and golden raisins joined the cheeses in the back of his truck, and Hank leaned against it, watching the sun climb higher in the sky. 
His shopping was done. He was less than a mile from Red’s diner… and it was early yet. Hunter wouldn’t be expecting him to call for another hour or more. 
There was time for him to stop by and see Red… to explain that he wasn’t really as big an asshole as he’d seemed the night before. “And what would that accomplish?” He asked the cheese laden truck. “A second date? Another meal?” A chance to get Red out of his clothes and back in Hank’s bed again? Provided Hunter found another place to stay that was. 
God damn it. 
He slammed the tailgate with more force than necessary and climbed into the cab of the truck without acknowledging to himself that he was going to the diner. The drive was fast, traffic and lights cooperating in a kind of synergy of fate that had him through the door of the diner in less than five minutes. 
Once again he sat at the counter, and this time a sylph-like waif of a girl with spiky black hair and a silver lip ring was working. “Hi, I’m Bella. I'll be your waitress. Can I get you a drink while you look over the menu?”
His glance flicked to the name tag, remembering his previous waitress and her assertion that Robert insisted on them. “Thanks Bella. Is Red in?”
She stared at him blankly. 
“Robert?” 
“Oh yeah. He’s in back scrubbing down the walk-in and getting in everyone's way. You want to see him? Who should I say is here?”
“You have to tell him a name?” He debated making something up, but what was the point? “I’m Hank.”
“What are you doing here?” Before the waitress could walk off, Red appeared in the swinging doors, his cheeks red, a bleach scented rag in one hand. The pretty, plump lips he’d kissed the night before were narrowed into a tight, angry line. 
“I was at the farmer’s market, and I thought I’d stop by and see about some lunch.” He flinched at the way Red’s eyes narrowed, the clenching of his jaw. 
“I’m not cooking for you.” Red ground out, lips barely moving. “You can order off the menu like everyone else.”
“Fair enough,” Hank nodded, striving to keep his voice soothing. “Can we talk?”
“I'm working.” He didn’t walk away though, and Hank took that as an encouraging sign. “And I have plans for this evening.”
“Can you just let the walk-in sit for a minute and come outside with me? We can walk in the sun and… Let me apologize for last night?” When did he decide he was going to apologize?
“Is that what brings you here? Well there’s no need to apologize. We had a nice meal, a little fun. What’s to apologize for?”
The blas√© attitude would have pissed Hank off, if he hadn’t known for a fact that it was faker than the waitress’s hair color. “Then why are you angry?” For some reason, Red’s anger settled the emotions Hank had been wrestling with all morning. “I didn’t plan to do this in front of everyone, but if that’s the way you want it, I’m game. I don’t mind. I’m sorry that Hunter showed up like that in the middle of the night. He doesn’t live with me, and we haven’t been together in….” He paused to calculate. “Damn near a year. We broke up… I broke up with him, I should say.”
“He named your garden gnome.” Red pouted at him, and Hank felt lighter.
“Well, yeah. But there was a lot of beer involved and Octoberfest…” He smiled coaxingly. “I’ve been walking the farmer’s market all morning. How about making me something to eat?”
“How about you get today’s special?” Red nodded at the whiteboard. “After all, you inspired it.”
Hank’s gaze followed the nod. Creamy mushroom and onion soup, beet and goat cheese grilled cheese. Dark, earthy and interesting. “I’ll do it. Are you selling a lot of them?”
Shrugging, Red blushed slightly. “Not as many as we are of the tomato bisque with grilled American croutons. It’s a new thing. Not all of my customer base is adventurous.”
He backed through the door, and Hank watched him go, conscious of a smile twitching at his lips. His phone vibrated in his pocket, and he pulled it out, setting it on the counter in front of him. The call was from the restaurant, so he sent them a quick text with instructions for how to get started preparing for the evening’s meal. 
“So… you’re Hank, huh?” 
Bella was back, eyeing him curiously as she fussed unnecessarily with a place setting for him. 
“I am. Henry Wolf, actually, and according to my mother, but my father and I settled on Hank long ago.” What the ever-loving fuck? He was babbling. Hank Wolf… never babbled. He spoke with intent and purpose. His restaurant staff called him curt. “And you’re Bella.” It just didn’t bear examination. Though since his mind was still on the fact that Red had created a daily special inspired by him… and that he was absurdly flattered by that… 
“Yes. You know Robert from somewhere?”
“Oh Red and I are good friends.” 
“Did he really say that he made this lunch special up just for you?” She tilted her head curiously to the side, and left off playing with the silverware and the linen place mat to fidget with the salt and pepper and napkin holders. 
“That’s what I heard him say.” Pleasure in the fact still hummed through his being, making him warm and tingly and … damn. Hank grabbed his phone and started keying in the ideas as fast as he could in One Note. 
“It’s just that usually his recipes are old-fashioned, traditional things that he talks about his mom and grandmere making when he was a boy.”
Hank snorted softly. “He’s still a boy. Barely twenty-five.” His fingers flew on the tiny virtual keyboard. There. Got it. The perfect dessert for tonight’s menu. He set the phone down and turned back to Bella. “I’ve met his grandmere. She’s quite an adventurous lady.”
“I’m twenty-nine. And yes, she is.” 
The plate Red set before him was beautiful. The mushroom soup wasn’t grey and murky like many, but a delightful golden brown, topped with thin crispy mushrooms, a sprig of parsley, and a dollop of pale cream with a faint green cast. “Tell me about it?” He asked, unable to take his eyes from the plate. He pulled it closer, inhaling the rich aroma, mushroom and beef, and something else. 
“It’s a green cream- flavored with beet greens. It’s really subtle.” Red sounded flustered now. He probably wasn’t used to people demanding that he talk about the food he made. “And um… mushroom soup, with beef stock and--”
“It looks and smells amazing.” Hank cut him off, scooping up a spoonful of soup and sipping a bite. The deep, complex flavors burst in his mouth, garlic and funky mushroom, sweet and savory, a hint of acid. “And tastes amazing as well.” He ate a few more bites under Red’s beaming gaze. “You keep cooking like this, and Guy Fieri will be knocking on your door before you know it.”
“I’m not cooking to impress Guy Fieri. I just want to feed people.”
The flavor of the food became secondary to the emotion behind that statement, and Hank remembered the panic he’d felt the night before…. the impression that Red was looking for more than he was capable of giving. “Only now, he realized that that wasn’t it at all. 
He had a capacity to love. He’d loved Hunter after all. And therein lay the crux of the problem. What if he did… love Red? Then Red, like Hunter, moved on? 
“Hank? Are you okay?”
“Fine.” He pushed the bowl away. “This is great, but I’ve got to get back to the restaurant.” It was running. He knew it… Just as long as Red didn’t, then it was all good.




TO BE CONTINUED 

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Be Yourself

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