New Release – Famiglia (Italian)

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For over a year now, I’ve been working with Quioxte Translation (formerly Francy et Alex Translations) and I can’t speak highly enough about them. They’ve been a joy to work with.

In spring of 2016, I released Compromessi, the Italian translation of “Equals”.  Last November I released the second book, Partners (apparently there’s not a direct translation for the title in Italian).

Because the third book is set around the holidays, we decided to wait until this December to publish the third book. It is now live!

After much internal struggle, I decided to release it on Kindle Unlimited. I’ve avoided doing that with any other books. I’ll be honest, I have a lot of concerns that long-term, KU devalues books and harms authors sales.

But sales are down all over and when the people at Quioxte Translations strongly suggested I enroll Famiglia in KU, I decided to take a gamble. They know far more about the Italian market than I do and I’m looking at it like an experiment. I’ll see how the book does and go from there.

So for the next three months, Famiglia will be exclusively available on Amazon. Click on the image below to grab your copy!

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Trust Release – Love is Not a Cure-All

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I am so excited to share “Trust” with you. I adore Evan and Jeremy and telling their story was wonderfully challenging for me as a writer. “Connection” and “Trust” both required a lot of research to get the details right. In addition, taking two bruised and battered men and bringing them to a point where they were healed enough to have a realistic and healthy HEA was an interesting struggle.

Love is amazing. It’s one of the best things out there as far as I’m concerned. But it doesn’t conquer all. It doesn’t fix gaping wounds.  In some cases, it can bandage them enough to allow time and proper treatment to heal them. It can inspire a person to work harder, be better, fix their own problems. But on it’s own it is not enough.

You’ll probably never read a book of mine where love is the cure-all. The idea that humans must heal themselves is too deeply rooted in my beliefs. Sure, I’ll write characters who make decisions I’ll never make. I will write awful, abusive characters like Evan’s father Jimmie. I’ll write horrible, neglectful characters like Jeremy’s parents, Kevin and Barbara.

But I won’t write main characters whose lives are magically fixed by love. That’s too easy and too unrealistic; it’s not what romance is about to me. To, me the beauty of a story lies in the struggle. Characters learning and growing and changing is what fascinates me.

It took me nearly 145,000 words and the better part of a year (in the story) to get Evan and Jeremy to a point where their HEA felt believable to me. Evan seeing past Jeremy’s scars didn’t cure Jeremy’s discomfort with them. However, it allowed Jeremy to work with his therapist to come to terms with them. Would Jeremy have done it without Evan’s love? Probably not.

Would Evan have been strong enough to tell his mother how he deserved to be treated if not for Jeremy’s love? I doubt it. But Jeremy’s love didn’t cause that, it merely created a safe place for Evan to flourish and grow.

Looking further out, I could argue that Russ and Stephen’s love for Evan and Jeremy was equally crucial for their growth. Because romantic love is only a part of what these men were looking for. All four of them were searching for love and connection. For family and trust and equality. And, in the end, I think that’s what all human beings are searching for.

We want to surround ourselves with people who love and support us. Who create the kind of environment where we can become the best possible versions of ourselves. Who love us, but know that we are the ones who need to do the real work. Who give us that opportunity and are proud of us when we achieve it.

Who love us and let us grow.

Summary:

Evan Harris thinks his relationship with Jeremy Lewis is going well.  But when Jeremy bolts, Evan is left nursing a broken heart. Jeremy loves Evan, but his inability to trust holds him back from facing his past head on and building the future he desperately wants. Evan’s patience is at the breaking point, and he struggles to decide if Jeremy deserves another chance.

Evan Harris thinks his relationship with Jeremy Lewis is going well.  But when Jeremy bolts, Evan is left nursing a broken heart. Jeremy loves Evan, but his inability to trust holds him back from facing his past head on and building the future he desperately wants. Evan’s patience is at the breaking point, and he struggles to decide if Jeremy deserves another chance.

Scarred by his own parents’ treatment of him, Jeremy doesn’t trust Evan’s mother’s motives when she reappears in Evan’s life after his father lands in jail. The ensuing disagreement about his concerns puts further pressure on their developing relationship.

Unless Jeremy can learn to trust and Evan can let go of past hurts, they’ll miss out on the relationship they’ve both been searching for.

Excerpt:

Jeremy wrestled his shoe on and stood. He swayed on his feet for a second as his skin went chalky again. Evan reached for him, but Jeremy shook him off. His anger seemed to dissipate as his shoulders dropped and his voice softened slightly. “Look, it’s time you find out what the rest of the world is like. Go meet guys, go be young and stupid.” He ran his thumb across Evan’s cheek, his smile sad and wistful. “Just not too stupid.”

Evan stared at him. “And what will you being doing?”

Jeremy’s voice came out gruff. “Feeling lucky I was your first for a few things.”

“Don’t do this, Jeremy.” Evan hated the way he sounded, like he was pleading with him. He wanted to drop to his knees and beg Jeremy to stay, but he was afraid that would only make things work. That it would make Evan seem weak in Jeremy’s eyes. “Please.”

“I can’t be the guy you’re looking for,” Jeremy murmured. “You have no idea how much I wish I could, but it’s not possible.”

“Why?” He winced, hating the way his voice cracked. “I don’t understand.”

“I’m too … damaged and I have too much of my own shit to deal with. I can barely manage to give you a handjob much less anything else. I’m not able to be what you need. I’d be a shitty boyfriend.”

Evan straightened and brushed away the tears. “What if—if you didn’t have to commit to me and we … we slept together. It wouldn’t have to mean anything. Give me rules about where I can touch you. You can keep your pants on. I don’t care.” Right then, he wanted anything, whatever Jeremy would give him.

Anything but losing him.

“I’m in no shape for sex and you deserve a hell of lot more than a cripple for a lover.” Jeremy’s voice was surprisingly gentle. “And let’s be honest, it’s more than sex, isn’t it? You want the rest too. Wouldn’t it hurt you to wonder why you weren’t good enough for me to commit to?”

Evan flinched. “I wouldn’t,” he protested, but he knew he was lying.

“You would. And I know I’m hurting you now, but it’ll hurt a lot less than some half-assed non-relationship.” Jeremy brushed Evan’s hair off his forehead. “I care about you, Evan, way more than I should. What happened last night was a mistake and we can’t repeat it.”

“Wasn’t it good?”

“It was perfect.” Jeremy sighed, the corner of his mouth twisting up in a sad smile. “But that makes it worse, right? I can’t give you what you need and it’s going to end badly if we continue. The last thing I want to do is hurt you, Evan.”

“You already have,” Evan whispered.

“Oh, kid.” Jeremy wrapped his arms around Evan and he collapsed gratefully, his cheek against Jeremy’s shoulder. “I know. And I’m sorry.”

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“Trust” Takes Time

I’ve had a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach for the last few weeks. The closer I get to the release date for “Trust”, the worse it gets.

I’ll be perfectly frank; I rushed the release for “Connection”. The story itself was solid, but I didn’t focus enough on promotion and my sales reflected that. I honestly believe a few more weeks of planning could have made a big difference.

This new reality of writing full time is an adjustment. It means stepping up my game as an author. Working harder, learning more, planning better.

I’ve been feeling under the weather since last week and spent the last couple of days in bed feeling like death warmed over. My betas have been busting their butts to get “Trust” back to me, but life happens and it took everyone a bit longer than planned.  Now that I’m well again I could rush through edits and probably get it done in time. I could probably even do a good job of it, but there’s always the risk I’d cut a corner I shouldn’t. I don’t want to do a good job, I want to do a great job.

 

There’s a lot more to writing than just getting words on paper. Especially when self-publishing. Most of it happens behind the scenes.  Where I update the backmatter in my books so readers can see what else I have to offer. When I plan promotions and connect with review blogs. If I don’t work at that, no one will be there to read my work.

I don’t mind it at all and I am happy to do the work. Hell, the most frustrating day as a writer still beats the best day at my former day job, but it does require an enormous amount of planning and time.

In light of that, the release date of “Trust” is going to be pushed back by a few weeks. I had planned to release it on December 30th. The new date will be January 28th.

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I hate the delay. I am so excited about this story and I want all of you to read and enjoy it.  But I don’t want to cut corners on either end of things. I don’t want to rush through edits and put out a story I’m not 100% confident about. And I don’t want to release it without being sure that it gets to as many readers as possible.

So I’m trusting my gut and giving myself a few extra weeks to get this book in order.

My deepest apologies to those of you who have been anxiously waiting for “Trust” to come out. I promise I’ll do everything I can to make it worth the wait.

 

 

 

Exciting News

I have two bits of exciting news for you today.

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First, “Equals” will be translated into Italian! I was pleased and flattered when Francesca of Francy and Alex Translation contacted me about translating the first book in the series into Italian. They came highly recommended by authors who had worked with them previously and, so far, they have been wonderful to work with!

I am very excited that my books will be reaching a wider audience *waves at the Italian-speaking readers* and am looking forward to the experience.

The book will be released in the spring of 2016.

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My second announcement is that I started a Facebook group for fans of my writing!

https://www.facebook.com/groups/brighamsbooknerds/

My goal is to make it a fun place to receive updates, ask questions, post pictures, and most importantly, discuss books! I’ve already shared a teaser from my upcoming novel “Trust” and an exclusive preview of the cover.

Please join us! I look forward to seeing you there.

Connection Release

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“Connection” was a long time coming.  Since the moment I created Evan’s character in “Partners” I knew I was going to have to tell his story as well.  If nothing else, my betas would have come after me with pointy things until I did!

It was during a conversation with Allison that it occurred to me that Jeremy was the perfect partner for Evan. I actually gasped when I thought of the pairing, because it was so unexpected, but perfect.  I hadn’t planned on another May/December romance, but Jeremy’s a stubborn one, and despite the fact that he and Evan seemed all wrong for each other on paper, I knew they’d be just what the other needed.  Evan needs someone who can recognize his loneliness and pull him out of his shell a little.  And Jeremy needs someone like Evan who simply doesn’t see Jeremy’s scars as a problem.

Meredith King made me a beautiful trailer for the story and I am so in love with the way it compliments the story.

Summary:

After a lifetime of being told he’s worthless, shy, sheltered Evan Harris is forced out of the closet and kicked out of his home.  Friends in Atlanta give him a place to stay while he gets on his feet, but despite his eagerness to explore the city, it isn’t exactly what he expected.

Physically and emotionally scarred from a devastating car accident, Jeremy Lewis struggles to reconcile the brash, outgoing man he used to be with the social recluse he’s become.

Loneliness draws them to each other, but a strong mutual attraction isn’t enough to overcome their pasts.  In order to be together, Evan must discover his own worth and Jeremy must trust someone to see past his scars.

Excerpt:

“So how do you know the grooms?” The man he was pretty sure he recognized from the sporting goods store dropped onto the stool to his left, and Evan jerked, spilling some of his drink on the bar.

“Oh, um, I met Russ and Stephen last fall when they were in Stephen’s hometown. I worked at the funeral home there when they buried his father.”

The guy frowned. “So you’re just visiting Atlanta then?”

Evan shook his head. “No. I moved to Atlanta in February. When we met last fall, Russ was nice enough to kind of”—he struggled to find the right words as he mopped up the spill—“take me under his wing, I guess. Once I moved here, Russ and Stephen helped me get settled and find the guts to go off on my own.”

He chuckled and nudged Evan’s elbow with his. “I dunno, seems like you must have had some guts in the first place.”

“Maybe.” Evan blushed. “I’d like to think so.”

“How do you like Atlanta?”

“It’s lonely,” Evan said, surprising himself with his candor. The drink he was working on must’ve loosened his tongue. “I mean, it’s fine, I guess. I just haven’t met anyone yet.” In his head, Atlanta had been a gay man’s paradise where there would be available guys everywhere he looked, but it hadn’t worked out that way. At least, not for him.

“Amen, kid.” The guy raised his glass and clinked it against Evan’s. “What’s your name, anyway?”

“Evan Harris.” He glanced at the guy out of the corner of his eye.

“Nice to meet you. Jeremy Lewis.” He narrowed his eyes at Evan. “Wait a minute, you came into Johnson’s sporting goods a while ago, didn’t you? You needed running shoes, I think.”

“I … yeah,” Evan replied, shocked but flattered that the guy—Jeremy—had remembered him. “I did. Russ suggested I go there, actually. Um, thanks for your help, by the way. The new shoes are much better. The fit specialist did a great job.”

Jeremy grinned. “Glad to hear my employees know what they’re doing.”

Evan wasn’t sure what else to say about running shoes that wouldn’t make him sound like an idiot, but he didn’t want Jeremy to stop talking to him, so he changed the subject. “How do you know them?”

“Stephen and Russ? I just met Russ a few months ago, but Stephen’s my ex.”

“Really?” Evan gaped at him for a moment before all the pieces fell into place. Stephen had mentioned his ex’s car accident. That explained the limp and the scar. “Oh.”

“Mmmhmm. Stephen’s always had a thing for younger guys. We met when I was twenty, and he was … oh, must have been about thirty-two, thirty-three, maybe? Hell if I can remember. It’s been fifteen years.”

Which meant Jeremy was in his mid-thirties now. Up close, Evan could see the lines around his eyes when he smiled. Evan liked them.

“You’re not jealous of Russ?” he blurted out, then bit his lip, hoping Jeremy wasn’t offended.

“It’s complicated,” Jeremy said with a sigh as his lips twisted in a bitter smile. “I know Russ is a hell of a lot better for Stephen than I ever was, and I’m glad they’re happy together. It’s … it’s not that I want to be with Stephen, and, hell, I’m not a relationship kinda guy, but something about seeing them together makes me envious, you know?”

“Yeah, I know.” Evan sighed.

Jeremy nudged him with his elbow again. “Come on, kid, I’m sure you can’t have any trouble picking up guys.”

Evan sputtered, nearly choking on his drink and wondering how the guy knew he was gay. Am I obvious? he wondered. “Umm, I haven’t exactly ever done it before …” he muttered into his glass, embarrassed to confess his lack of dating experience but unable to hold his tongue.

“Don’t tell me you’re a virgin?” Jeremy’s gaze was disbelieving, and the tips of Evan’s ears went red-hot.

“Okay, I won’t then.” Evan tilted his drink back and shook an ice cube into his mouth, crunching down on it. He refused to look at the guy next to him for fear he’d turn tomato red.

Jeremy whistled quietly. “Kid, if you go into a gay club it’ll be like waving a steak at starving tigers. They’ll be all over you.”

“I think you’ve had too much to drink,” Evan protested. “I’m nothing special.”

“Oh, Jesus, you have to be kidding me.” Jeremy stood with a groan. “Okay, unless you’ve got somewhere you need to be, I want you to come have a seat with me at a booth over there. My leg is fucking killing me, and we need to have a long talk about why you don’t realize you’re the kind of pretty little twink who makes gay men cream their jockstraps.”

Evan blushed, but he followed Jeremy toward the cozy booths anyway, embarrassed, terrified, and completely intrigued by the gorgeous guy who had called him pretty.

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Equals Outtake – Celebration

“Russ?”

He looked from his computer and turned in his office chair to face his husband. Stephen looked vaguely shell-shocked, and the hoarse sound of his name on Stephen’s lips worried him.

Russ rose from his chair, frowning. “What is it, Stephen? Is everything okay?” Oh no, what if something’s happened to Miss Esther? He thought, heart clenching. He knew she wouldn’t live forever, but apart from her arthritis she was quite healthy for her age. He’d hoped they—and especially Stephen—would have her around for years.

Stephen stepped closer, cradling Russ’ face in his hands, his expression impossible to read. “The Supreme Court ruling was announced.”

Russ’ heart took off, pounding so hard it felt like it would leap out of his chest. “And?”

His lips felt dry all of a sudden and he had to lick his lips. He rested his hand against the lapel of Stephen’s navy blue suit, his heart racing as fast as Russ’ was. Their marriage was legal in South Carolina. This ruling wouldn’t change anything, and yet….

“It’s legal, Russ. Everywhere.” Stephen’s eyes seemed even bluer than usual, and he blinked a few times, wetness glistening on his eyelashes. Russ could hear the shock and disbelief in his voice, the echo of Stephen’s younger self who had convinced himself he’d never have the opportunity to marry. Although they’d been married the fall before, Russ knew this governmental stamp of legitimacy meant more to Stephen than he could ever articulate. It mattered to the boy who’d grown up knowing he was different, to the young man who’d been disowned by his family, and the adult who’d never imagined he could marry his partner. “Our marriage is legal.”

Stephen,” was all Russ could manage. He felt Stephen’s lips against his, soft and needy, and he wasn’t sure which of them had closed the distance first. He lost himself in the taste and the feel of the man he loved, remembering the vows they’d exchanged on the beach nine months before. For a moment, he even thought he could hear the roar of the waves behind him and he pulled back to laugh with Stephen about it.

The sound didn’t fade though and he turned his head and realized their co-workers were standing in a circle around his cubicle, clapping. He realized he was grinning and he felt Stephen squeeze the back of his neck as if to say, “I love you”. Russ and Stephen rarely touched in the office, unless they were in Stephen’s office behind a closed door, and they’d both apparently been too caught up in the moment to remember where they were. Russ glanced around the room at their co-workers, shocked by how happy they all looked, how supportive.

“Congratulations!” Stephen’s assistant, Elizabeth, threw her arms around both of them. “I am so happy for you both.” She squeezed them both before stepping back to wipe her eyes.

Russ felt a strange sense of vertigo as the rest of the office surged around them, shaking his hand, clapping him on the back. Dazed, he thanked them, shocked to realize they were all genuinely joyful for him and Stephen. Even Sherry, the office busybody who’d sneeringly seemed to celebrate the rough patch he and Stephen had gone through early in their relationship gave him a small smile and nod.

A few minutes later, Elizabeth appeared with a tray of rainbow colored cupcakes—apparently she’d been planning ahead, in anticipation of a positive ruling—and an impromptu office party broke out. Russ found himself leaning against his desk, holding hands with Stephen as they spoke to Peter, who was Russ’s boss and Stephen’s friend. Both he and Elizabeth had attended their wedding on Hilton Head.

Russ’ phone buzzed in his pocket and he pulled it out to see congratulatory messages from his sister, Addie, and her boyfriend, Joseph.  As he finished his responses to them, a call from his father came through.

“You heard?” Alan asked when he answered.

“Yeah, Dad, I heard.”

“Figured you had, but I wanted you to know how happy I am for ‘ya.”

“Thanks.” Russ’ eyes stung. “I feel pretty damn lucky to have your support.”

Alan scoffed.  “It’s common sense.  I’m only sorry it took the rest of the country so damn long to get there. Sometimes I wish I’d done more.”

“You told me I deserved this.  That’s all I needed,” Russ pointed out.

“I’ll let you get back to celebratin’ but I love you son, and tell that son-in-law of mine I love him too.”

“I will.”  Russ reached out and squeezed Stephen’s hand.  “We love you too, Dad. Thanks for calling. I’m really glad you did.”

His eyes were still stinging as he ended the call and he had to clear his throat when he turned to Stephen.  “Dad sends his love.”

Stephen just smiled. The lingering sadness that used to be in Stephen’s eyes every time Alan expressed his love had disappeared and Russ was even more grateful for his father.

“Damn, this is one hell of a day, isn’t it?” Peter said, peeling back the cupcake wrapper and taking a large bite.

“It is,” Stephen agreed, nodding. “I keep feeling like I’m going to wake up and find out I dreamed it all though. I was afraid to get my hopes up and now that it’s here….”

Russ knew how he felt. Although he’d always believed marriage equality legislation would pass, the idea that it was a reality had yet to sink in. He’d been smiling so much his cheeks hurt.

“Sorry we disrupted the office,” Russ said to his boss, who shrugged and took another bite of cupcake.

“Hey, this is a historic occasion. If we don’t set work aside to celebrate for something like this, we’re no better than robots.” Peter paused, a thoughtful expression crossing his face. “Why don’t you two call it a day, actually? It’s Friday. Take the rest of the day off and enjoy a long weekend together.”

Russ turned to Stephen who gave him a slow grin, nodding. “I like that idea.”

It was rare for either of them to take any more time off than was strictly necessary, but today, Russ wasn’t going to argue. He thanked Peter with a handshake that turned into a hug, and he got another teary hug from Elizabeth on the way out. In no time, he and Stephen stood on the sidewalk of Midtown Atlanta ecstatic, but slightly dazed.

Russ turned to face Stephen. “What do you want to do? I’m sure Midtown’s going to one big celebration. We could check it out.”

Stephen gave him a thoughtful look. “Maybe we could get together with Marc, Curtis, Jeremy, and Evan this evening to celebrate,” he said, referring to two gay couples they were friends with.

“Sounds nice.” Russ grinned at him. “And what did you have in mind until then?”

Grinning back, Stephen wrapped his arms around Russ’ waist. “Oh, I thought maybe we’d go home and have our own celebration.”

“I like the way you think, husband,” Russ said huskily.

Stephen’s eyes shone as he leaned in to brush their lips together and Russ felt happiness rush through him, filling him with effervescent giddiness. He didn’t think it was possible to be this happy.

Russ had never been so glad to be proven wrong.


I hadn’t planned to write an Equals outtake, but Russ and Stephen are never far from my mind and as I thought about the ruling, their voices were clear and strong.

They’ve always held themselves a little apart from the majority of their coworkers, Elizabeth and Peter aside, but I thought this was the kind of day that would break down that barrier a little bit. I hope you enjoyed a glimpse of their celebration.

I assume most of you have read the Equals series already, but if you haven’t, stop by my page on Smashwords and pick up all of the books for free! Just use the following coupon codes to get the promotional price.

Equals – TT73J

Partners– WE93B

Family – TT74F

Husbands – FP59K

Etsy Shop – Two Peninsulas Press

I had a handful of people ask me about signed copies of the Equals Series paperbacks.  In order to save myself some headaches with keeping track of orders and figuring out shipping costs, I decided to set up an Etsy shop.

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A billion years ago (or maybe 10-12) I had an Etsy shop where I sold my photography. Etsy’s a whole lot bigger now, so it took me some time to get everything set up, but it’s up and running now.  I’ll be adding a few other items (bookmarks, magnets, etc.) in the near future, but the signed paperbacks are available NOW.  Be sure to include the name you’d like me to make the book out to in the “notes to seller” section.

The prices for the books are the same as they are on CreateSpace and Amazon and Etsy will calculate the shipping cost to get it from me to you.

Paperbacks Are Available!!!

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I can honestly say formatting and building a paperback was one of the most frustrating experiences of my life. I understand why authors go through publishers and pay formatters oodles of money to do the work for them. It is some of the most fiddly, exasperating work I’ve ever done.  And yet, I’m really glad I did it.

I learned an enormous amount, I accomplished something I thought was out of my reach, I pushed through the moments when I wanted to tear out my hair and scream, and I have some beautiful work to show for it.  I even figured out my business name and put together a logo.

Two Peninsulas Press Logo

I did a ridiculous (if completely necessary) amount of research before I began creating the paperbacks.  Even then, I found myself flying by the seat of my pants with some of it.  Wait, where do I put the section break? How do I unlink from the previous section? I couldn’t have done it without Mr. Vaughn (who put in at least $1,000 worth of work per book, if he billed me what his office bills his clients at his tech geek job).  He’s a whiz with headers, footers, and table of contents pages.  Plus, he took my original cover images and text and combined them into two beautiful covers.

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I went through a number of possible versions before I decided to combine the four novellas into two volumes.  It seemed like it would give you guys the best value for your money.  Volume One (Equals and Partners) is 272 pages (about 90,000 words), while Volume Two (Family and Husbands) are 230 (just under 70,000 words). I perused Amazon and compared my work to other m/m authors with books of similar length and arrived at $13.99 and $12.99 for the paperbacks.

They are available on Amazon and CreateSpace.  Did you know that authors get a larger royalty when the books are purchased directly through CreateSpace? I certainly didn’t. Amazon is certainly easier to purchase through, so you won’t get any complaints from me if you buy the books there, but if you have a few extra minutes and want to buy through CreateSpace it would be greatly appreciated.

Amazon                                                                                Amazon

CreateSpace                                                                          CreateSpace

Oh, and if you want signed copies? Give me a week or so and I’ll have some available.  I’m still working on that part.

Equals Series Outtake – Stephen and Jeremy’s First Meeting

Notes: I’ve had an idea for this scene since I wrote Equals.  Jeremy is such a compelling character for me and I love Stephen so much.  I couldn’t stop imagining what their first meeting was like.  I haven’t been able to do much writing lately, but recently I felt the urge to write and I wanted to work on something I didn’t need to do any research for.  This scene flowed right out and I hope you enjoy it.  It is unbeta’d so ignore any wayward commas.

This is set 15 years before Russ and Stephen ever meet.


Young Jeremy                           Young Stephen

Inspiration for Jeremy                                              Inspiration for Stephen

Meeting

“…in conclusion, being out in the business world does not have to mean sacrificing a successful career. In fact, under the right circumstances it can lead to a more positive working environment that benefits all employees.”  Stephen tidied the notes resting on the lectern and smiled at the crowd, trying not to let his gaze linger on the young man in the second row who’d been eyeing him since he began his speech.  “Thank you for having me here today. I wish all of you great success with your future careers.”

He acknowledged the applause with a nod of his head and stepped back.  He took a seat again as the final speaker stepped forward and began.  Despite his best efforts, his gaze wandered to the young man again and was rewarded with a wink.  Stephen’s mouth quirked up at the corner in response.  Like most of the students here, the guy appeared to be in his early twenties.  He had a square jaw and a smirk that wouldn’t quit.  He hadn’t taken his eyes off Stephen since the lecture began and Stephen couldn’t deny that he was flattered by the attention.

Taking part in the guest lecture series offered by the UGA gay-straight alliance group was something Stephen enjoyed, but he certainly hadn’t come expecting to pick up a man. It had been a long dry spell for him though–nearly a year–and he couldn’t deny how attractive the guy checking him out was. There was no guarantee they’d hit it off once they got to know each other, but Stephen definitely had plans to ask him out to dinner.

By the time the final speech was done, Stephen was half-hard from the attention and not entirely sure if his increased heart rate and the fluttering feeling in his stomach was from nerves or anticipation.

As expected, the moment the speeches ended and the students and guest speakers began to mingle, the young brown-haired man made a beeline for Stephen.  Unfortunately, Stephen got caught up in the crowd and had to spend far too long making small-talk with fellow business leaders congratulating him on his speech and students asking him questions.  With half his attention focused elsewhere, Stephen eventually managed to wrap up the conversations and excuse himself. The moment there was an opening, the young man crossed the room, headed straight for Stephen.

Between the slight swagger in his walk and his direct gaze, he gave off the kind of confidence Stephen envied.  He’d come a long way, but in college he’d had to work for that kind of self-assured attitude. It had never come naturally for him.

“Hey there.”  The man greeted him, his gaze traveling up and down Stephen’s body as his tongue peeked out briefly to wet his lips.  “Great speech.”

“Thank you. I’m glad you enjoyed it.”

“Stephen, right?” The young man stuck out his hand.  “I’m Jeremy Lewis.”

“Yes, Stephen Parker.” They clasped hands and the touch lingered longer than most handshakes, ending with a swipe of Jeremy’s thumb across the back of his hand. Up close, Stephen could see that Jeremy’s eyes were hazel, somewhere between a warm brown and green and he had a cleft in his firm chin. Damn, he was handsome. “Nice to meet you, Jeremy.”

He was rewarded with another smirk.  “Look, Stephen I could bullshit you and tell you I wanted to buy you a cup of coffee so we could talk more about being gay in the business world, but I hate making small talk.  We both know it would just be a prelude to me inviting you back to my apartment, anyway.  Why don’t we skip the preliminaries and get to the good stuff?”

Jeremy’s voice was pitched low, but Stephen still glanced around to see if anyone was listening to their conversation.  They didn’t appear to be, but he leaned in anyway, his eyebrows raising in question.  “The good stuff?”

“Sure,” Jeremy said.  “You, me, a box of condoms, and enough lube we could swim in it.”

The loud bark of a laugh that came out of Stephen seemed to startle them both.  Jeremy grinned, revealing white, even teeth.  Stephen wasn’t sure how they’d gone from introductions to discussing the potential for sex, but he couldn’t deny that a part of him responded to Jeremy’s assumption that they would be lovers, cocky as it was.  “I’m afraid I don’t have that much lube.”

Jeremy shrugged.  “That can be remedied.   So, my place or yours?”

Stephen crossed his arms over his chest and gave Jeremy and assessing glance.  “What makes you think I’m even interested?”

“Because the eye-fucking we’ve been doing definitely hasn’t been one-sided.”

Grinning, Stephen acknowledged the truth of the statement with a nod.  “Fine.  I’m not denying I’m interested, but I am a little taken aback by the speed at which we’re going about things.  I typically prefer to get to know my partner first.”

Jeremy rolled his eyes.  “Don’t tell me you’re the sex-only-in-relationships type?  How depressingly heteronormative of you.”

“I never said that,” Stephen countered.  “But I find sex is better if I know the man under me.”

“Jeremy Christopher Lewis.  Age twenty.  6’1” tall.  Born June 5 in 1979.  Gemini.  Business Administration major.  HIV negative. Versatile. And gagging to suck you off.  Any other questions?”

Stephen coughed and cleared his throat.  “That wasn’t quite what I meant.”

Jeremy shrugged, the impish grin never leaving his face.  “Look, we can go out for coffee and get to know each other if you want, but I think we’d both be lying to ourselves if we pretend like we’re thinking about anything but getting each other off.”

Grinning back, Stephen admitted defeat.  “Fine.  But how about after the first orgasm each, we take a little time to get to know each other, verbally rather than physically?”

“Deal.” Jeremy stuck his hand out to shake and they began to move toward the exit. “So, should I call you Daddy?”

The nickname made Stephen shudder.  “No. God no.  Calling me Daddy is the quickest way to end this before it even begins.”

Grinning, Jeremy nodded.  “I’ll remember that.”

Stephen rested a hand against Jeremy’s lower back as he held the door open, ushering him out into the warm evening air.

Jeremy paused outside the building and gave Stephen a speculative look.  “So, my place or yours?”

“I have a king-size bed,” Stephen offered.

“I like the way you think.”

Stephen glanced around to be sure no one was watching them before he leaned in spoke in Jeremy’s ear.  “You’ll like it even better when I have you bent over that bed, begging for my cock.”

“I was starting to think you might not be able to keep up with me, old man,” Jeremy teased.

Stephen slung an arm across Jeremy’s shoulder.  “Oh, I won’t have any trouble keeping up with you, pretty boy, don’t you worry.”