Thank you, Teresa!
Thank you, Teresa!
>My publisher’s having a pretty cool contest this month! Each day from December 26–31, Dreamspinner will draw one name from all the customers who have purchased during the month of December. Each winner will receive every eBook on their DSP wish list. If you haven’t made a purchase yet this month, you can use the code HolidayDreams to get 20% off through the end of 2011. Each customer can use this code for two separate purchases.
Goes off to load up the wish list …
>Happy to say that my short story “Stripped” has sold to Silver Publishing, for the “Never Say Never” Valentine’s Day anthology. It will be out, naturally, in February.
>The NaNo insanity is out of the way (well, mostly), just in time for a new release!
“Sharing Christmas,” my contribution to the Dreamspinner Press 2010 Advent Calendar Set, Naughty or Nice, is now available for purchase. The full set of 31 stories, one for each day in December, is also on sale, offering a discount off the combined individual selling prices.
As a bonus, Dreamspinner is offering a 20% discount on all items from now until the end of the year. The discount code is HolidayDreams, and each customer can use it twice. Clear off your wish lists and get your holiday shopping done all at once! 🙂
>Taking a short break from NaNo for a quick reminder that presales for the Dreamspinner Press 2010 Advent Calendar Set, Naughty or Nice, run through Thanksgiving Day, November 25. You get a pretty good discount by ordering in advance; the individual stories—31 of them in all—will be available starting December 1.
As a little appetizer, here’s an excerpt from my contribution, Sharing Christmas (adult content, m/m).
Rick hummed along with Bing Crosby wishing him a happy holiday as he slapped together a ham sandwich to take to work the next day. It wouldn’t exactly be a festive lunch to celebrate Christmas Eve, but he’d be nearly alone in the office, so it didn’t matter much.
Stuffing the sandwich into a lunch bag along with an apple and a can of Coke, Rick turned to put the bag into the refrigerator. The brightly colored flyer advertising free Christmas dinner at a homeless shelter nearby, stuck to door with a cheesy snowman magnet, caught his eye. His next-door neighbor, Steven, had dropped it by a few days earlier, along with an explanation and an invitation to a group dinner the next night.
“There’s a group of us who’ve gotten together on Christmas Eve the past few years to have dinner and put together care packages for the homeless,” Steven had said, his smile somehow a little nervous. “You’re welcome to join us if you’ll be around. And then we take the bags down to the shelter on Christmas Day. Some of us help them out while we’re there. It’s a pretty cool way to spend the holiday if you can’t be with family.”
Rick had been noncommittal at the time, but the idea had grown on him. He’d been in Atlanta a scant three months, after being offered a combined promotion and transfer from his company’s Dallas office that put him at the management position and the salary level he’d been wanting. Moving away from his family and friends had been difficult, but he’d lived in the Dallas–Fort Worth area all his life, and he was ready to try out something else for a while.
The downside was that, even as manager, he now sat at the bottom of his department’s totem pole, leaving him stuck babysitting his company’s servers over the holidays. The rest of the information technology team he supervised would be with their families, but Rick had none nearby and knew almost no one in town. He’d met a few neighbors here and there, not just Steven, but he hadn’t really gotten to know any of them beyond their names. Steven’s invitation would definitely beat sitting home alone. He’d be on call, of course, but the likelihood of anything going wrong when everyone else was off work was low.
Flipping off the kitchen light, Rick padded down the hallway in socked feet toward his bedroom. The apartment, in a high-rise along the city’s famed Peachtree Road, gave him a view of downtown from the living room and bedroom, both rooms with doors opening onto a small balcony. He’d rented the place sight unseen, based on pictures and the word of a real estate agent recommended by a colleague, and he’d been thrilled by it so far. If nothing else, the view he was afforded three mornings a week when he took advantage of the heated pool to run laps was worth it: beautiful women and even more beautiful men working their bodies hard as they sliced through the water.
Rick’s thoughts wandered as he stripped out of his clothes, dropping them into the basket in the bottom of his closet before walking naked over to his bathroom. He took only a few minutes to finish getting ready for bed, working on autopilot, mind offering up images from that morning’s workout. He mentally discarded the two overly muscled men as not his type, and the too-thin woman with the obvious fake breasts who’d seemed to spend most of her time batting her eyelashes at those two men. Rick preferred long and lean, and men in particular, although more than one woman had gotten his attention over the years.
He smiled at his reflection, watching his hazel eyes start to darken as he thought of Steven, who’d appeared poolside just as Rick had been leaving and who certainly fit the long and lean category. He had dark, wavy hair, much like Rick’s but a few shades darker, smooth, lightly tanned skin, and an elegantly Roman nose sprinkled with freckles. He was just about Rick’s height of five-eleven, and his deep brown eyes had been behind frameless glasses when he’d stopped by Rick’s apartment. Rick had never seen Steven with anyone else in the few times they’d run into each other in the elevator or hallway, and the fact that he was getting together with friends for Christmas seemed to indicate he was single. His nervousness during the invitation pointed toward possible interest.
Rick felt his cock twitch and swell at the thought. He hadn’t had time to so much as go out on a weekend since he’d moved, too busy settling into work and his new place. He didn’t know much yet about his next-door neighbor, except that he was pretty much Rick’s physical ideal, and just thinking about possibility of having that body pressed up against his sent a shudder through Rick.
Giving in to the inevitable, Rick reached for a clean washcloth, dampening it and heading back toward his bed, flipping off the bathroom light as he went. He let his free hand wander as he walked, fingers sliding up his thigh to sift through the wiry brown curls between his legs. His cock stiffened further and Rick let out a soft sigh, setting the washcloth on his nightstand and reaching for the bottle of lotion, squirting a little into his palm. He climbed into bed, curling onto his side, shivering in anticipation.
His eyes fluttered closed and he wrapped his hand around his cock, stroking softly and slowly, slicking up his skin as he gradually brought himself to full hardness. He pictured Steven’s smile and the lines of his body in his snug swim trunks from the brief look Rick had gotten that morning. Rick lifted his other hand to his mouth, wetting the thumb and forefinger and bringing them down to pinch at a nipple, imagining the wetness was Steven’s mouth. He let out a soft moan and tightened his hand around his throbbing cock as his fingers moved to tease his other nipple, pinching tight.
In his mind, his hands became Steven’s, the other man touching and stroking, exploring his body, bringing him closer and closer to the edge. Rick wet his fingers again, sucking strongly, this time sliding his hand over his hip and down the cleft between his cheeks. He teased his opening, dipping a fingertip inside, circling lightly, then sliding two fingers in to the knuckle.
“Yeah,” he groaned, back arching, fisting his cock harder as he fucked himself on his fingers. As Steven fucked him hard, driving his cock against Rick’s prostate, and that thought was enough to push him over. He groaned again, louder, his body tightening down on his fingers, and his cock erupted, come ribboning out onto the sheets.
It wasn’t until his mind started to clear that he felt guilty. Masturbating to nameless, faceless bodies was one thing; fantasizing about someone he knew, even on a superficial level, wasn’t usually his style. He reached for the washcloth, wiping come from the sheets and his skin, and silently told himself he wouldn’t do it again.
For the third time that week.
“So you don’t know how it happened?”
Will shrugged one translucent shoulder. “Nope,” he said from where he stood at the end of Brandon’s bed. Their bed, the one they’d shared until four weeks and three days earlier. “One minute I’m alive; the next, I’m this.” He waved a see-through hand to indicate his current form. “No idea what happened in between. Or why I don’t remember it.”
Brandon shifted his legs under the covers, sure this must be a dream but unable to bear the thought of waking up. Even in death, Will was gorgeous, especially considering the shimmering aura that surrounded him.
“You were in a car accident,” Brandon said, reluctantly. Maybe he shouldn’t say? He didn’t know the rules for this kind of thing. He didn’t know if there were rules.
Will frowned, and his glow seemed to fade a little. “It wasn’t my… I didn’t hurt anyone, did I?”
“No! No,” Brandon said, sitting up straighter. “It wasn’t your fault. You were blindsided. And it wasn’t the other driver’s fault either. He… he had a heart attack. He was probably already gone before his car even hit you.”
Will relaxed and brightened, literally. “That’s good,” he said. “I mean, not the other guy, that’s terrible, but it could’ve been a lot worse.”
Brandon surged forward at that. “Worse than losing you?” he demanded. “I don’t think it could get a lot worse than that.”
Will’s expression dropped and he walked (not floated, some part of Brandon’s mind noted) over to the side of the bed nearest Brandon. “It’s okay, Brandon,” he said, gently. “I’m okay.”
“But I’m not.” Brandon’s voice broke, and he felt as if all his energy spilled out onto the mattress. “It’s been a month, and I don’t know what I’m doing any more. I can’t think about anything else. I try to move on, try to get back to what I was doing before you… before, but I can’t.”
“Oh God. Brandon.”
Brandon was surprised to feel the bed shift as Will sat down. His gaze flicked to meet Will’s, who looked as surprised as he did. They both looked down, and as Brandon watched, Will reached out a shining hand to touch his.
He felt it.
Will was touching him, and he could feel it.
Brandon surged forward again, this time with arms and legs and mouth, wrapping himself around Will and kissing him hard. Will met his every move, hands skimming over Brandon’s body, tongue dipping in to taste him.
When they finally broke apart, it was Brandon’s need for oxygen that demanded it. Will looked like he was breathing, sounded like he was breathing, but even with their foreheads touching and Will’s face inches from his, Brandon felt no air coming from Will’s mouth.
“I don’t understand,” Brandon murmured, his fingers still exploring Will’s body, gaze raking over him. He didn’t look completely solid, but he felt that way. “How is this possible?”
Will laughed, a little shakily. “You expect me to know?” he asked. “I didn’t even know how I ended up like this. I didn’t know how long it had been. Like I said, I was driving, and then I was here. With you.”
He lifted his head, hands cupping Brandon’s face. “This is where I want to be,” he whispered, urgent. “This is where I always want to be.”
Brandon bit back what might have been a sob or a laugh and kissed Will again. He still didn’t know if this was a dream, or how long it might last, but he intended to take full advantage of it, no matter what.
It seemed Will felt the same way. He lowered Brandon onto the mattress, never breaking their kiss, hands skimming down to push away the boxers Brandon wore. Will’s clothes, the loose t-shirt and jeans he’d been wearing the day he died, simply disappeared, and he seemed to be touching Brandon everywhere at once. Brandon moaned into Will’s mouth, eyes filling with tears of joy and pleasure.
Will settled between Brandon’s legs, his skin cool and dry against Brandon’s. Brandon frowned and pulled out of the kiss, running his hands up and down Will’s back.
“You’re cold,” he said.
Will looked confused. “I feel fine,” he said. “I mean, I feel like I always did. Normal temperature.”
Brandon shook his head. “Your skin is cold,” he said. “Not freezing, but not warm.” He wrapped his arms and legs around Will, holding him closer. “I don’t know if I can warm you up?”
Will smiled and touched his lips briefly to Brandon’s. “It’s okay,” he said. “If it’s not too cold for you, I’m fine.”
Brandon grinned, relieved. “You feel a lot better than fine to me,” he said, pressing his hips up so their hardening cocks slid together deliciously, thrilled to feel that Will could harden against him, even like this.
“God.” Will kissed him hard. “I love you so much. I don’t ever want to be without you.”
Brandon did sob then, the tears taking them both by surprise. He couldn’t stop, and Will softened his touch, softened his skin, it seemed, and gathered Brandon up, holding him close. “Shhhh,” he crooned, rocking Brandon gently. “It’s okay. I’m here.”
“But you won’t be,” Brandon gasped against Will’s smooth chest. “I’ll wake up, or you’ll fade away, or something, and I’ll be alone again.”
“No.” Will’s voice was firm, his lips brushing Brandon’s temple. “You’ll never be alone. Even if you can’t see me, even if you can’t feel me, I’ll be there with you. Every step of the way.”
He kept holding Brandon close, soothing him, and gradually Brandon’s crying slowed and trickled off. He took in a shuddering breath and let it out, then another, and another. Will kissed his temple again, still holding him close.
“I can’t do this without you,” Brandon finally whispered. “I don’t know how.”
“You do,” Will replied. “You’re strong. You’ll grieve, and you’ll hurt, but you’ll recover. You’ll move on.”
“No!” Brandon insisted, holding Will closer. “No one else. You’re it for me.”
Will smoothed his hand down Brandon’s back. “I don’t want that,” he said softly. “I don’t want you to live the rest of your life without love. You have too much life left. Too much love to give.” He pulled back, but just far enough to look into Brandon’s eyes. “It would make me sad to see you live like that, Brandon. I want you to love again. It won’t hurt me. I want to see you happy.” He laughed a little. “I don’t know if I’ll see you at all, but if I do… that’s what I want.”
“Why are you so okay with this?” Brandon knew how harsh the question sounded but couldn’t help himself. “I feel like I’m dying, but you’re already… and you’re okay?”
Will paused at that. “I… don’t know,” he said. “I just feel… calm, I guess. Like everything’s fine. Maybe not happy, exactly, but settled. Content.”
He brought one hand up to Brandon’s cheek. “I know you’re hurting, baby, and I’m so sorry about that. That hurts me too. But I’m okay. I’m worried about you, but I’m not worried about me.”
Brandon studied Will’s face, seeing his sincerity, his concern, but most of all, his love. He nodded, slowly, not sure what he believed, not sure of anything except that Will was there, holding him, and he tried to push back everything except the feel of Will’s arms around him.
“Now,” Will said, wiping the last of Brandon’s tears from his cheeks. “Let’s not worry about all that, okay? We don’t know how much time we have together.” He smiled and raised an eyebrow. “I vote we make the most of it.”
Brandon smiled back the best he could, knowing it was still a little tremulous. “What did you have in mind, Mr. O’Donnell?”
Will’s smile widened into a wicked grin. “I think I could come up with an idea or two, Mr. Whittier,” he replied, hands already starting to wander. “Why don’t you just relax and let me do the heavy lifting?”
Brandon laughed and let Will lay him back against the pillows, his mouth covering Brandon’s, kissing him deeply, tongue coming out to slick along Brandon’s, wet and rough. Brandon sighed, hands kneading Will’s shoulders. His skin might be cool, but the muscles beneath were still firm and pliable, flexing and twisting as Will moved from Brandon’s mouth to his neck. Accustomed to the heat of Will’s lips, Brandon found the slight chill very different, but not in a bad way. Nothing about this could be bad, not with Will back in his bed, touching and kissing him like he had so many times before.
Like he never would again.
No, Brandon ordered himself, pushing the thought away. He’s here now. Enjoy what you have and forget everything else.
Will’s lips closed around one of Brandon’s nipples, and Brandon couldn’t think of anything else anyway. He cried out when Will bit down lightly, and Will soothed the small sting away with his tongue, rough surface rasping over the taut peak. He moved to the other side, bringing one hand up so he could rub his thumb over the abandoned nub while he licked and nibbled the other.
Brandon writhed under Will’s attentions. It had been a month since he’d felt any of this. His libido had died with Will, and the few times he’d made a half-hearted effort at masturbation ended only in frustration and longing. No one had ever touched him the way Will did, not even himself.
Will’s mouth wandered lower, kissed and licking his way down Brandon’s stomach, dipping into his navel, tongue twirling through the dark hair leading to his cock, which bumped against Will’s chin, hungry for his attention. Will laughed lowly and paused to give the tip a quick kiss, which sent Brandon’s back arching off the mattress, a growling moan coming from his chest.
“Shhh,” Will soothed again, rubbing his palms against Brandon’s hips. “Relax. Don’t think. Just feel.”
Brandon tried to relax, he really did, but everything Will did to him felt so good that he couldn’t help himself. He twisted on the sheets, moaning almost constantly, skin on fire despite the chill of Will’s touch. When Will took Brandon’s cock in his mouth, Brandon almost came on the spot, so high on arousal and Will.
“Oh God, baby,” Brandon rasped out, hands coming up to rake through Will’s hair, soft brown curls winding around his fingers. “So good. You’re always so good.”
Will hummed, the vibrations sending shivers out over Brandon’s skin, and he cried out from sheer bliss, overcome with happiness at having Will one more time and with pleasure from his ministrations.
Will slipped a finger into his mouth, slicking it up with the saliva that still came even though breath didn’t. Brandon’s mind focused just long enough to realize what Will was about to do before his finger circled Brandon’s entrance, pressing lightly. Brandon spread his legs automatically, and Will slid the finger inside, crooking up, searching for the spot that would send him into the stratosphere. When he found it Brandon jerked on the bed, unable to control his body’s reactions, and Will pushed in a second finger, rubbing hard as he sucked Brandon’s cock deep into his throat and swallowed.
Brandon broke with a shout, pulsing into Will’s mouth, coming so hard and long he thought he’d never stop. He collapsed against the mattress, boneless and empty, hearing soft rustling sounds but not having the strength or brain power to investigate.
Soon Will answered that question for him, his fingers returning to Brandon’s entrance, this time slick with more than saliva. His lips touched Brandon’s. “Want to be inside you,” Will whispered, and Brandon opened his eyes to stare into Will’s, wide and dark and full of love and desire.
“Yes,” Brandon whispered back. “Please. Make love to me.”
Will kissed him gently and pushed inside slowly, never pausing along the way, Brandon’s body opening to let him in as if he belonged there, because he did. He stopped only when he was buried all the way, breaking the kiss to catch Brandon’s gaze again.
“Okay?” he asked, his voice low but urgent, betraying the state of his arousal.
“Yes,” Brandon breathed, lifting his legs to hook around Will’s waist. “Yes.”
Will moved then, slowly at first but picking up speed quickly, long, even thrusts that brushed across Brandon’s prostate every time, filling him up and then leaving him empty and yearning before filling him again. They kissed over and over, wet and messy, every snap of Will’s hips driving a groaning grunt from Brandon’s mouth into Will’s.
Will finally pulled away, burying his head against Brandon’s neck and fucking in hard and fast, driving both of them toward release. He wrapped cool fingers around Brandon’s cock, jerking him roughly, until everything inside Brandon broke again and he spilled with a loud moan, just as Will stiffened and groaned out Brandon’s name, grinding inside, coming hard.
Will collapsed onto Brandon’s chest, driving the breath from his lungs with a soft “oof,” but he didn’t care. He twined arms and legs around Will, holding him close, running his hands over Will’s skin, slick now with a light sheen of sweat from their lovemaking.
It took Brandon a moment to realize that the words he was hearing were coming from him. “I can’t,” he was saying, over and over. “I can’t, I can’t, I can’t.”
Will shifted, pushing himself up on his forearms and kissing Brandon to stop the flow. “You can,” he murmured against Brandon’s lips. “You can do anything, Brandon. Anything you put your mind to.”
“I love you.” Brandon’s voice broke. “I’ve never loved anyone or anything the way I love you. I never will again.”
“I love you too, with everything I have,” Will said, pushing Brandon’s hair back off his forehead where it had stuck in sweaty strands. “I loved you until the day I died, and I’ll go on loving you forever.”
He fell silent, and then started to push away, but Brandon pulled him tighter. “Don’t leave me,” he whispered, and Will smiled and kissed him again.
“Just getting something to clean you up,” he said. “Just your chest, though. Saliva and sweat may come standard in this model, but apparently breath and semen don’t.”
He grinned, the wide, happy smile that he had on his face the first time Brandon laid eyes on him, and Brandon’s heart broke and healed in the same moment. He smiled back and let Will go, and Will sat up on the side of the bed, pulling a handful of tissues from the box on the bedside table. He cleaned off Brandon’s chest carefully, almost reverently, laying down a last kiss just above his navel before tossing the tissues into the trash can nearby. Climbing back into the bed, he wrapped himself around Brandon, both of them lying on their sides, heads on the same pillow, faces inches apart.
“I don’t want to go to sleep,” Brandon whispered, tears starting to well up again as he searched Will’s eyes. “I don’t want you to leave me.”
“Shhhhh.” Will smoothed Brandon’s hair back again, kissed his forehead. “It’ll be all right. I’ll stay with you as long as I can. As long as whoever let this happen will let me stay.”
Brandon pressed his face against Will’s neck, ignoring the chill of his skin in favor of the smell of it, musky and sweet. “I don’t want to wake up alone,” he whispered.
“You won’t, remember?” Will said, his hand cupping the back of Brandon’s head. “I’ll be with you every step of the way. I want you to believe that. And when you need me, just close your eyes and remember this, and know that I’m there.”
Brandon shook his head. “It won’t be the same.”
“I know.” Will lifted away a little and reached down to tip Brandon’s head up with a finger under his chin. “It won’t be like this, or like it was before. But I’ll be in your memory and in your heart, even when I can’t be anywhere else.” He ran the backs of his fingers down Brandon’s cheek. “And remember what I said, too. I want you to find someone else one day. Seeing you be happy again will make me happy.”
Brandon nodded. “If it’ll make you happy,” he agreed, not knowing if he’d ever be in that place again but resolving to try if Will wanted him to.
Will kissed him, slowly, lingering, drifting to his nose, his cheeks, his chin but always coming back to his lips. Brandon relaxed under the gentle touches, against the mattress, into the pillows, until finally he couldn’t fight any more, and sleep claimed him.
When Brandon woke up, Will was gone, just as they knew he would be. But the sheets and Brandon’s skin smelled like him, and for the first time in a month, Brandon didn’t feel alone.
He knew Will was right there with him.
>Dreamspinner’s 2010 Advent Calendar Set Naughty or Nice, which will include my story “Sharing Christmas,” is on sale now! For $39.99, you get a holiday-themed story every day in the month of December.
Price goes up on November 1, so act fast! 🙂
>Happy to announced that my short story “The Cabin on the Hill” has been picked up by Dreamspinner! Publication is tentatively set for February 2011.
Also, my holiday short has a new title: “Sharing Christmas.” I’m much happier with this one than the original. 🙂