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Friday, December 15, 2017

Yonder Star--A Pierce and Hal Ficlet

I promised y'all, right?  Here's the first road trip ficlet from Regret Me Not. 

* * *

"Huh," Hal said skeptically as he piloted his CR-V through the little suburban street.

"You sound disappointed."

"And you sound tired," Hal said, giving him a once-over at the light. The house was small and unassuming, and Hal wondered what he was doing here, when so much about himself was big and assuming a lot.

But Pierce's family was here, and he loved them, and Hal loved Pierce, and family was always sort of a test, right?

Hal really wanted to pass this test.

They'd talked non-stop from Tampa to Orlando, making plans, tentative timetables, hotel arrangements. Pierce was pretty handy with his phone, and Hal was forced to remember he was a computer engineer with lots of business cred under his belt. He'd certainly organized their next month and a half to within an inch of its life.

But they'd agreed--they'd mapped out the trip, they knew how long they were staying at Sasha's and about how long it would take them to get to Hal's parents and even had reservations for a week in New York City.

Pierce wanted to see the statue and Hal wanted to see Hamilton and Pierce wasn't sure he could get those tickets, but they had almost a month so he said he'd try.

Pierce, excited and planning their journey in the seat next to him wasn't any less wonderful than he had been when he'd ventured up the stairs to knock on the door and ask Hal to come with him forever.

But now they were here, at an average sized suburban house, green, with a shady oak tree in the front yard and probably a pool in the back.  Possibly an alligator in the pool--Hal had always hoped to see one.

But he was more excited about Pierce, green eyes fluttering closed, reddish-toned brown hair flat against his head as he fought off the effects of an eventful morning--and a really awesome night.

"Pierce? We're here."

Pierce sat up quickly and winced, then gave a self-conscious smile. "Here. Let's get the presents out, and my overnight bag and one of your suitcases--"

"Here, Uncle Pierce," Hal said with a wink. "Let me get the presents out and you can go say hi to that scary woman with the apron and the spoon." Her hair was a mane of curls--thank you Florida because nobody was safe-- and the spoon was covered in cookie dough, and Hal sort of loved her already.

"Sasha!"  Pierce's face lit up like Hal had seen when he'd been on the phone, and he had a moment's wistfulness for siblings he'd never been granted. He got out creakily, and Hal had a moment of hesitation. Did he need help? Would he stumble? A month of watching Pierce rehabilitate himself from someone wiped out with an hour in the water to somebody who could make it through almost a whole day and much of the night, and Hal still had moments of panic:

This person spoke to Hal's heart in a way no man ever had. God, let him be okay.

But Hal needn't have worried.

Sasha was small but just as fine-boned as her tall, lanky brother. Pierce wrapped long arms around her shoulders and hugged her tight and she waved the spoon over her head so she didn't get gunk on him.

"You made it! We started without you--I hope that's okay!"

Pierce pulled back and smiled, part of his mouth twisting higher than the other as he bit his lip self-consciously. "Is that cookie dough? Cause if that's cookie dough, I want that."

Sasha had a gamine little smirk, the counterpart to her brother's goofy grin. "It's amazing," she promised, and gave Pierce probably four-hundred calories of cookie dough in one swallow.

His eyes actually rolled back in his head, and Hal decided that yes, he'd be fine while Hal got the luggage.

"Wait!" Pierce said, disentangling himself. "Here--let me help. At least let me bear the gifts!"

Hal chuckled, and Pierce grinned and for a moment they were just them. "Yeah, yeah," Pierce filled in, "since we know your gift is a bear..."

Hal let loose an actual laugh and met Sasha's smiling face. "I can get it all," he said, but Sasha shook her head.

"Nope. You're a guest too."  She turned toward the still-open front door and cranked her voice up to Mom-volume with a single inhale. "Kids! Marshall! Come help get stuff! Pierce needs to go inside."

Pierce grimaced. "I'm really much better--I swear, Sash, I didn't just curl up and die there."

"I can vouch for that." Hal pulled the last of the bags, making a tidy little pile on the lawn. "Swimming, walks--the works. He was a good boy."

"Well, he always was," Sasha said softly. Behind them, a tiny herd of elephants clattered across the porch and down the stairs, and Hal lost Sasha and Pierce as a medium sized man and two smallish children came tumbling across the yard.

Fifteen minutes later the kids had carried the gifts and put them under the tree and Marshall had helped Hal with the bags to the tiny guest room with a queen-sized bed.

"You'll both be staying here, right?" Marshall was a completely average caucasian man--brown hair, hazel eyes, skin that would tan with sunblock and burn without. But he didn't bat an eyelash when he asked that question, and Hal was a fan.

"Yes--thank you."

"So, Sasha said a week, right? We've been looking forward to Pierce's visit--I hope that's okay."

"Yeah--we're moving on to my parents' the day after New Years--we sort of put together a schedule."

Marshall laughed and looked behind his shoulder, like he was imparting a secret. "Look, between you and me? Don't let him get too hooked on his schedule, okay? This thing with you? That's as spontaneous as I've ever seen Pierce. Keep it up!"

And Hal had a friend.

An hour later, Pierce and Sasha and Marshall were all talking in the kitchen about jobs and markets and things that made Hal's eyes glaze over. He stole a couple of cookies and wandered into the front room where Darius and Abigail were playing with their own Legos and looking with awe and respect at the Lego tree Hal had made from random blocks.

"Did you make this?" Darius demanded. "I don't see the schematics!"

"I made up the design myself," Hal said smugly. "Want to do another one with me?"  Because he still had Legos in HIS box.

"Yes!" It was unanimous, and an hour later Pierce wandered out of the kitchen, moving slowly.  Hal turned and patted the couch cushion behind him.

"Here--sit down," he said, trying not to fuss. Their whole relationship had been built on him cheerleading instead of fussing. But now there were people--kind, beautiful people, but other people--who didn't seem to be cheerleading him in the right spots. He should have been urged to sit in the    kitchen.  Maybe a lie-down before all the socializing. They'd stopped to eat on the way, but all the sugar wasn't good for--

"I've got some veggies and bean dip," Pierce said softly. "There's more in the kitchen, but you disappeared."  He held out the plate and Hal took it gratefully. Building Legos was hard work.

"Look, Uncle Pierce!" Darius cried. "Hal's been teaching us how to make trees! Mine has pirate heads for decoration!"

Pierce snorted. "That's amazing, D. I think you should show your mother that--she'll be so excited!"

"Mine has shoes!" Abigail cried, not to be outdone. Hal beamed at her. She'd pulled out an entire box full of Barbie shoes and he'd helped her run sewing thread through them and put them up as tiny ornaments too.

"That's truly amazing," Pierce agreed. "Go show your mom, and then they said we could watch some TV."

The kids got up and disappeared, and Pierce sighed and sank back into the couch. "Get up here with me," he said softly.

"Why?"  But Hal was already scooping the Legos into piles and putting them away.

"Because I miss you. I know we got all involved but I didn't mean to drive you out of the kitchen."

Hal finished scooping Legos and stood up, plate of bean dip in hand. In the other room he could hear the kids chattering excitedly and being rewarded with cookies.

HIs irritation disappeared and he sank gratefully into the couch with Pierce. "Your family is nice," he said, but that seemed inadequate. The kids had been a charming disaster, squabbling, one-upping--but also playing. Helping. Darius had praised the shoe idea to the skies. Abigail had helped him decapitate fifteen Lego pirates.

"I wasn't ready to leave our little bubble," Pierce told him, leaning against his shoulder. "I had you to myself for a month. It was heavenly."

It was exactly how Hal felt.

"Your family loves you," Hal said as graciously as he could, remembering Sasha and the cookie dough and Marshall telling him not to plan and the kids getting excited because Uncle Pierce presents were the best.

"You love me," Pierce murmured. "That's still magic you know. We just said those words this morning."

And the disappointment at seeing the small suburban house faded away. The alienation of the grownup talk about jobs and income and taxes melted away. That feeling--that terrible feeling of being exiled from his lover's side to the kids table--it was like it had never existed.

"And you love me," Hal said, because he was right. The words were magic. And some magic spells had to be repeated before the magic became fully real.

"Course." Pierce snuggled against him. "The Barbie shoes were classic, by the way."

"All your niece."

"Heh heh--all Sasha."

But as Pierce's breathing got even and he sank into a much needed nap, Hal had to wonder. For all Marshall's warning, Hal had seen Pierce play, had seen him be spontaneous. Maybe the pirate heads and the Barbie shoes were a quiet gift from Pierce as well, just nobody saw it but Hal.

The thought gave Hal another layer of warmth for the man practically laying in his arms.

He melted into the couch a little more, finishing off the veggies and putting the plate on the end table so he could wrap an arm around Pierce's shoulder.

By the time the kids came out, Pierce was asleep against his chest, and he didn't stir when the kids turned on cartoon Christmas specials.

Hal was completely immersed in The Grinch Who Stole Christmas when Darius and Abigail crawled onto the couch too, Darius on one side of him, Abigail in his lap. For a moment, he sat, stunned, wondering why a child might possibly do such a thing.

But he remembered that Pierce loved these children, and they'd welcomed him when he'd been uncertain.

An hour later Sasha came out and had everybody wash up for dinner. The kids were put together a few hours later, with snacks and hugs and Pierce reading 'Twas the Night Before Christmas with just enough drama for Hal to wonder if he'd ever dreamed of being on stage.

And finally, they were alone together, in the tiny bed in the tiny guest room, listening to the unfamiliar noises in the unfamiliar room.



"What if we want to change the schedule?"


"You're not going to ask how?"

"No." He was still tired.

"You're not curious?"

The chuckle in the dark reassured him. "I'm very curious," Pierce said, propping himself up on his good arm and facing Hal. "I mean, the kids sat down with plain old Legos and came out with pop art masterpieces. What can you do with an Atlas and a cell phone. I wait in awe."

Hal smirked. "But some of that was you!" he protested. "Those kids were bent long before I got here."

"I have no idea what you're talking about," Pierce declared airily. "I never watched Coraline with them when their mother said no, and I certainly never played pirate execution last Easter when I was down here for a visit."

Hal frowned then, because Pierce had still been married. "Did Cynthia let you do that?" Oh, Hal didn't like his ex wife.

"No," Pierce said, voice sober. "Because I asked her not to come."

"Because why?"

"Because, baby. This is my family. And I know they're a little bit suburban and boring to you--but I don't let anybody near them I don't trust. And I was starting not to trust her by then."

Oh! And this made it all worth it. "But you trust me?"

"Very much. You were..." Even in the dark, Hal could see Pierce's face go soft. "Amazing. After you left, we must have paused half-a-dozen times, just to hear you play."

Not exiled to the kids table. Not forgotten. Listened to. Appreciated.  Trusted.

Hal had to swallow against the lump in his throat. He kissed Pierce instead, open mouthed, carnally, because it was Christmas Eve, dammit, and all he'd wanted for Christmas for his whole life was a Pierce.

They necked, kissing fiercely, until Pierce pulled away, grimacing. "Uh... Hal?"

"You don't want to have sex in your sister's house on Christmas Eve?"

"Do you mind?"

"No. But it might cut our stay short. Do you mind?"

Pierce's teeth glinted in the dark. "Do I mind that you want sex with me? No. No I don't mind that at all."

"But it will kill your schedule."

"I already said that's okay."

"But how will you know when to stick to the schedule and when not to?"

Pierce spread his hand on the base of Hal's throat, almost a neanderthal move from a guy who'd been willing to follow. "You're my star, Hal. I'll follow you. I can't go wrong that way, you think?"

"I'm your star?"  Oh Jesus. His throat practically closed up.

"Yeah. My guiding star out of mediocrity and complete averageness."

"So... your schedule, your phone--I'm more important?"  As he'd never been to his parents. Either of them.

"Didn't we cover this idea this morning?" Pierce asked, swallowing a yawn. "The whole I love you? Save me from myself? If myself isn't on the track that gets sex with you, then by all means save me!"

Hal pushed gently at his shoulder. "Shift over," he ordered. "So I can spoon you."  Because Hal was the bossiest and got to be big spoon.

"Fine." Pierce yawned again. "Is this a magic Christmas spoon that's as good as sex? Because you kissed me and got me all het up."

"And you didn't offer so much as a hand job, you prudish bastard." Pierce rolled over and Hal wrapped his arm around his middle, squeezing tightly. "And it is a magic Christmas spoon that's as good as sex, because you are a magic Christmas unicorn and just being with you is Christmas even when I'm exiled to the kiddie Lego room and you get to talk about death and taxes with the grownups."

"You know, you left early. How do you know we didn't start talking about cartoons and DisneyWorld?"

"Please. If you'd said one word about DisneyWorld, those two lovely angelic children would have been all over your ass with bribery and blackmail."

Pierce chuckled softly. "Well, maybe we can come back sometime and take them."

Hal kissed him between the shoulder blades and settled down to being sex-less but Pierce-ful for the next seven days. "I'll do that," he said, not because he couldn't live without kids like Pierce apparently couldn't, but because he was invited, and trusted and appreciated.

And because he was Pierce's guiding star, and Pierce loved his family. Hal vowed never to steer him away from them, because this moment here was maybe the best Christmas he'd ever had.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Pun-day and Fun-day!

So, we finally decorated the tree today--we were going to do it last night, but it turns out the Christmas lights were almost thirty years old and decided they weren't doing one more frickin' tree. After the kids' dental appointment, we went to Target--which was almost shopped out--and Squishy and I decided on the white lights with the big colored stars, and it worked out nicely.  Chicken and
I went out for dinner and came back and Big T, ZoomBoy, and Squish had done this--and I was so proud.

I told them to pick a Christmas movie. They picked Gremlins. Mate was also proud.

Well, only a little bit of fun-- but the following two conversations happened today:

ZoomBoy:  Did you hear about the security guy in the Samsung store? He was one of the Guardians of the Galaxy!

Me: Oh God.

Squish: What?

ZoomBoy: So, if you illegally download a movie in Jamaica, are you a Pirate of the Caribbean?

Me: You know, in some countries it's illegal to pun!

Squish: Well we need to stay out of those unpunny countries, don't we!

Me: *waves flag of surrender*

And this one, which I posted on Twitter, but which I will laugh about until the day I die...

Mate, over phone: Can we do the thing tonight?

Kids: 😳😳😳😳😳😳

Me:We’re on speaker phone!


 Mate (on text later): I meant Christmas list! 

Me: Too late— your oldest was rocking himself back and forth going “No no no no no...”

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

A brief recipe...

So, tonight was our night to go get the Christmas tree--it's currently hydrating in the appropriate corner, but not yet decorated.

I thought I'd share our goofy little tree adventure--and my recipe for Instapot Chicken Bake, which I started before I left and was done when we got back.


A. The Christmas Tree lot we've gone to (when we haven't gone to Forresthill, was closed. Like, forever closed. But the guy--apparently a good guy, left the address of two other lots in the area as a recommendation.

B. We drove to Roseville for one of the recs, and I told the guy at the counter that he'd been on the banner in front of Abe's. He told me that apparently the guy in charge of Abe's was also in charge of supplying things like tents and portajohns and water stations for firefighters--that was his other business. Scarily enough, business has been really good, which is why he decided that this was the year to retire the Christmas tree operation altogether. FTR, the banner said, "It's been a good 60 years" so I'm going to assume this is a family business.

C. There is a business supplying the heroes who are currently saving our state. That is something you don't think about a lot.

D. There is also a business renting guinea pigs in Switzerland. No, I'm not kidding. It's illegal to only have one--apparently they die of loneliness. But I digress.

E. After choosing a really expensive Christmas tree (because hey, ALL THE TREES BURNED UP this year, so they were super duper pricey!) we stopped at Starbucks for hot chocolate. Now, Starbucks has seasonal hot chocolate, in four new flavors.

F. My family, being my family, we all ordered a different flavor and sat down for ten minutes and drank each other's hot chocolate and discussed the pros and cons of each one in depth. Because we're dorks.

G. For the record--cinnamon. It's a thing that should be in all hot chocolate. This was the consensus. Now you know.

H. We got home and Mate found the extra speshul laser light reflector that he bought two years ago, lost last year, and found again during a recent table excavation. FTR, it looks AWESOME.

I. And we got the tree settled, sat down, watched Lucifer, and ate.  Lucifer was STUNNING. And the chicken bake was awesome.

So here's the recipe:

This worked in the Instapot, which is like a crock-pot/pressure cooker and stuff gets done really fast. In a crock pot, I'd say give it about two hours. The Instapot is about 45 minutes.


Fill Instapot with the following things:

One bag of frozen chicken parts (we like boneless, skinless thighs)

About five large potatoes, skinned or not, chopped or not, up to you

One medium bag of baby carrots

One cup of condensed mushroom soup

2 extra cans of water

One package of turkey gravy powder.

Close pot. Set on poultry. Come back when it's done.

Very simple, very tasty, and not even my kids wanted butter on the potatoes.

There you go.

Enjoy while watching devilish excitement while sipping your choice of hot chocolate.  Make sure there's cinnamon.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

A Dead Sprint...

Okay-- so I am planning a Pierce and Hal ficlet sometime this week-- stay tuned for it, I'll hit up all the media outlets as soon as it's up.


Ambrosia has been coming over to work on my newsletter, and her visits aren't complete without her entourage. That's her boyfriend, Idris, and their adorable baby who I've featured before, and yes, they're gracing my disastrous house with their awesomeness.

Seriously--the. best. baby. ever.

And Idris is very kind to listen to me and Ambrosia speak in code all day and make himself and the squishy little bean comfy. (I love this kid--I treat myself to about fifteen minutes of baby holding a day, because mostly we're working and making hay while she's here, but... BABY!!!)

I look forward to showing more of that baby. Is all I'm saying.

And Friday was... well, a dead sprint.

Chicken wanted my help dyeing her hair. Berry Jello wanted to go to Michael's and do some shopping for a soap party she had this morning. I needed to go grocery shopping before picking up ZoomBoy and then going back again to pick Squish up from the bus that brought her home from science camp.

And then we needed a babysitter so Mate could drive me downtown for dinner with the Sacramento Writer's Group and a reading at the Lavender Library.

Would you believe we did ALL THE FRICKIN' THINGS?  Damn. Just... damn.

Anyway, Squish is home (can you see her super speshul sweater we got from Michael's? The eye slight up!)  The kids and I spent yesterday cleaning up the house while Mate and Big T went to help Mate's mom move.  And today was the soap making party (we made bath bombs! They're so easy! And so cool! And I want to make more and more and more!) as well as a King's Game. Squish and I made soap and Mate and ZoomBoy went to the game.

And then we all went out for Big T's birthday!

So... damn.

Just... ZOOM.

Like, barely time to write, zoom.

Like, where did those days go?  zoom.

Like... damn. I need a nap to recover from my weekend, zoom.

But Pierce and Hal are coming--I promise. *yawn* After I recover from the zoom.

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Snark and Circumstance

Just a few random thoughts...

*  For the last few weeks as I've been getting dressed, Geoffie as watched me put my bra on, then stood on her hind legs and made little digging motions with her forepaws against my stomach. It's very playful, very adorable, and very much a pain in the ass.

And I had no idea where it came from.

Then tonight I watched Mate play with her, and he teased her until she sat up on her haunches and made little digging motions with her forepaws.

"You!" I said, laughing. "You're why I can't get dressed in peace!"

"Naw-- that's not what I"m teaching her!"  He put his hands behind his back. "See?"

Yeah, I saw. I saw her sit up on her haunches and try to find China through his stomach, THAT'S what I saw.

When I was done laughing he said, "Well, you gotta admit it's cute!"

Yes. It is. Really damned cute. Can't lie.

*  Squish is at science camp and I went to snuggle with ZoomBoy as he pet Steve on our bed.

"Hey, Mom--what's it called when you pet a cat without paying a fee?"

My eyes got big. My brain said something really inappropriate and I stared at my son in horror.

"I have no idea," I rasped, hoping against hope it wasn't what I thought it was.

"Petty theft!" he crowed.

"Thank God."

"What did you think it was?"

"Petty theft works. Good one son. Heh heh heh."

*  And that's about it!  Got a couple of reminders going on here--

--Don't forget to get your copy of Regret Me Not!!! 

-- Don't forget to sign up for my newsletter!  RIGHT HERE.   I'm thinking of having a goofy little giveaway for everybody signed up by next week. Should be fun!

-- Don't forget about Scorched Haven, which is RIGHT HERE on Instafreebie. 

-- Don't forget to check out the blog tour! Today's entry was on the magic room of requirement closet Mate and I created out of blind panic!  Tomorrow's promises to be failing Santa 101!

The Novel Approach -- a story from my childhood about the intrepid Mrs. Clause

Two Chicks Obsessed With Books and Eye Candy -- a story from our first Christmas with a baby--right before the baby was born.

Happily Ever Chapter -- A story about books and the happy introvert over a very crowded Christmas.

My Fiction Nook-- A story about my books again--and my favorite gift during a tough moment.

Love Bites Reviews -- And this one isn't posted yet, and I've totally forgotten which one it was...

Kimmer's Erotic Book Blog -- But this one (when it comes out) is about failing Santa 101!!!!

Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words -- And this one will be about how now to fuck up your holiday with Crafting!

Boy Meets Boy -- And this one is going to be about giving yourself the gift you love the most. (Not that. Mind out of the gutter!)

Under the Covers (Link to come!) This one is coming out on Christmas Eve, and it's going to be a love letter from Santa from one of the characters. (Hal. It's gonna be Hal.) 

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

The Blog Tour of Christmas Past

So, Regret Me Not was released Monday, and as I've been doing, I sort of put my all into the blog tour.

This one was particularly fun, because I pulled out some memories that I possibly haven't blogged about--talked about some stuff--some happy, some sad--that you might not have heard of before.

I'll post as many links as I have to date--and I hope you guys take a moment to read them!

OH-- and in personal news?

Squish is on her science field trip this week. I"m a little sad because she's so grown up and really excited for her because... well, she's so grown up!  She was a little nervous this morning but when we arrived at the school, four other girls showed up to help her out of the van with all her stuff.

I think she'll be fine, don't you?

So here's the blog tour--enoy!

The Novel Approach -- a story from my childhood about the intrepid Mrs. Clause

Two Chicks Obsessed With Books and Eye Candy -- a story from our first Christmas with a baby--right before the baby was born.

Happily Ever Chapter -- A story about books and the happy introvert over a very crowded Christmas.

My Fiction Nook-- A story about my books again--and my favorite gift during a tough moment.

Love Bites Reviews -- And this one isn't posted yet, and I've totally forgotten which one it was...

Kimmer's Erotic Book Blog -- But this one (when it comes out) is about failing Santa 101!!!!

Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words -- And this one will be about how now to fuck up your holiday with Crafting!

Boy Meets Boy -- And this one is going to be about giving yourself the gift you love the most. (Not that. Mind out of the gutter!)

Under the Covers (Link to come!) This one is coming out on Christmas Eve, and it's going to be a love letter from Santa from one of the characters. (Hal. It's gonna be Hal.)

So that's a lot to look forward to, right?

I mean, I know.

Blog tour, blah blah blah blah-- they get old after a while.

But I swear I opened up a Christmas vein and bled red and green for y'all-- I do hope you enjoy the posts!

Monday, December 4, 2017

Merry Kermit Flail and a Happy Reading Year!!! (And happy Release Day to Me:-)

Have I told you all how much I love Christmas Novellas?

I mean, you might have figured it out by now.

The first thing DSP ever published of mine was If I Must, in their 2009 Advent Calendar, and from that moment on, I was hooked.

I've written either a novella or a short novel every year since--sometimes two!  And every year when that story releases I think, "Writing happy is so much fun! It's one of my most joyous things, and I love how much readers love the happy too!"

So between the Christmas Novellas and the Dreamspun Desires/Dreamspun Beyond novels on this Kermit Flail I am SO HAPPY--I have a novel waiting on my Kindle for me that's waiting to take me away, make me stop thinking, give me some respite and help me remember my taste for joy and adventure and I'm so excited to provide the same for you!

To start with, the Christmas shorts!  Louisa Masters and E.J. Russell (and myself!) all offer you Christmas joy this month!  Louisa and E.J. are published in my sentimental favorite--the Advent Calendar--and I have Regret Me Not, which is released December 4th!  I also have an e-book bundle/print anthology of five of my earlier Christmas shorts posted down at the bottom--it's available Christmas Day!  So yes-- you can find yuletide cheer here at the Kermit Flail-- even if I personally don't get to decorate my house until next Saturday!

And in the Dreamspun area, we've got Anne Barwell with a Dreamspun Desire and Jenn Burke with a Dreamspun Beyond-- both these imprints are written like the old Harlequin lines, so they should be fun and exciting and pulse pounding--and safe. They should give you all the happy safe you need this holiday, so enjoy.  As will Alexa Milne's sweet short, The Matchmaker--romance happy, y'all, we has it!

And for those of you who like things a little edgier? We have Deja Black with some urban fantasy and David C. Dawson with a gritty detective story.  Because we can't have sweet all the time, right?

So here we go folks-- Merry Kermit Flail and a Happy Reading Year!  I hope you have all the joy and excitement you can stand!


O Hell, All Ye Shoppers

by Louisa Masters
Ethan Hall plans to fill Saturday, December 23, with junk food and bad
TV, a day just for him amid the holiday chaos… until his baby sister
calls and begs him to go collect a present for her. At the biggest
shopping center in Australia. On the busiest shopping day of the year.
Hell no. Right?

Ethan’s soft heart gets the best of him. He battles through the
parking lot, and in the main shopping concourse, he’s trampled,
elbowed, and bombarded with terrible holiday music. Then he enters
hell itself, a specialty store aimed at women… where he meets Ty. They
bond in a sea of estrogen and manic shoppers, fighting together to
attain freedom, only to find they’re not quite ready go their separate

Buy at DSP

The author wants you all to come join in her giveaway, to be found here:

Broken Pieces

 by Deja Black

A detective and the future leader of a deadly coven. What can go wrong?

Remi Devereaux is a Louisiana born detective working murder cases in Louisville, Kentucky. While shopping for game-day with the guys, he spots the most amazing person he has ever seen. Peter is a man Remi wants with his whole being, a man he just can’t let go.

Peter Romanoff is a photographer who possesses the spirit of two creatures. Two beings that are slowly tearing him apart. He needs a Supruga, a mate, to help give him balance. When he meets Remi, there is a magnetic pull he can’t deny.

The next in line to lead a powerful coven, Peter is hunted, and the people he knows and loves are being killed. It will take Remi’s love and Peter’s skills to combat the enemy after them. Can Remi be the balance Peter needs before the coven destroys them both?

The Deadly Lies

by David C. Dawson

The Deadly Lies is the second in the Dominic Delingpole Mysteries series. The first The Necessary Deaths was published a year ago, and won an FAPA award for mystery and suspense.

Dominic and Jonathan are on their romantic Spanish honeymoon, and things are perfect… except Dominic has kept a secret from his husband. He’s failed to tell Jonathan that he plans to meet his former lover, Bernhardt, who is speeding on his way from Germany to present Dominic with a mysterious gift. 
But Bernhardt is killed in a suspicious car accident. Shortly before he dies, he sends Dominic a bizarre text message that will take the newlyweds on a hair-raising adventure. 
Lies upon lies plunge Dominic and Jonathan into an internet crime that could destroy the lives of millions of people. What is the mysterious Charter Ninety-Nine group? And will their planned internet assault force Dominic to choose between the fate of the world and the life of his lover?

The Matchmaker

by Alexa Milne

Sometimes you need a little push.

Josh is a carer and Simon is his employer. Each has a secret they keep from each other, but not from the other person in their lives.

Tom may only be a teenager, but he can see the attraction between his father and Josh. Can he bring them together and create a happy ever after for all three of them?

The Gryphon King's Consort

by Jenn Burke

Love takes flight.

The sudden death of the Gryphon King throws the kingdom of Mythos into uncertainty, and Crown Prince Luca rushes both his coronation and an arranged marriage to a man he’s never met. Eirian is young and idealistic, and while they both want what’s best for their people, their philosophies couldn’t be more different. While Luca believes in honoring tradition, Eirian is determined to infuse modern values into their kingdom of magical creatures. When given the choice between loyalty to his husband and his own crusade, Eirian makes a decision that might doom their marriage.

Still, Luca is committed to making their union work, and that means forgiving his brash consort. But when Eirian becomes the target of a deadly conspiracy, Luca must act fast—or forever lose the chance to explore their burgeoning love.

The Probability of Mistletoe

by E.J. Russell

(Part of the Dreamspinner 2017 Advent Calendar)

When software engineer Keith Trainor decides to start his own company, he knows exactly who he wants as his partner: Parker Mulvaney, his best friend from high school. But in the ten years since graduation, their contact has dwindled to nothing, and it’s all Keith’s fault. If he hadn’t tried to kiss Parker under the mistletoe at the winter formal their senior year, Parker wouldn’t have bolted. At their ten-year reunion, Keith intends to do everything in his geeky power to make amends.

Parker should have known that scheduling the reunion the day before Christmas Eve was a recipe for a headache of monster proportions. But when Keith sends a text that he’ll be attending, the evening doesn’t look so bleak. Can an unnecessary makeover, a nostalgic breakfast, an abortive shopping trip, and a whole lot of mistletoe culminate in a long-overdue first kiss?

Music speaks directly to the heart.

Two very different men face turning points in their lives after the collapse of long-term relationships….

Joel is a music teacher who knows it’s time to forget his ex and move on, while Marcus runs a lawn-mowing business and has come to Wellington to escape the reminders of a recent breakup. Although they’re opposites, when Joel and Marcus connect, their romance has the potential to hit all the right notes.

Too bad neither of them feels 
ready for new love.

With family and friends in common, dating is risky—things could get messy if it doesn’t work out. The sweet song of possibility draws them to each other, though, and they share a kiss following a Chopin prelude.  But it will take some practice and perseverance to find their perfect harmony….


Regret Me Not

by Amy Lane

Pierce Atwater used to think he was a knight in shining armor, but then his life fell to crap. Now he has no job, no wife, no life—and is so full of self-pity he can’t even be decent to the one family member he’s still speaking to. He heads for Florida, where he’s got a month to pull his head out of his ass before he ruins his little sister’s Christmas.

Harold Justice Lombard the Fifth is at his own crossroads—he can keep being Hal, massage therapist in training, flamboyant and irrepressible to the bones, or he can let his parents rule his life. Hal takes one look at Pierce and decides they’re fellow unicorns out to make the world a better place. Pierce can’t reject Hal’s overtures of friendship, in spite of his misgivings about being too old and too pissed off to make a good friend.

As they experience everything from existential Looney Tunes to eternal trips to Target, Pierce becomes more dependent on Hal’s optimism to get him through the day. When Hal starts getting him through the nights too, Pierce must look inside for the knight he used to be—before Christmas becomes a doomsday deadline of heartbreak instead of a celebration of love.

Contains the following five Christmas novellas:

If I Must
Joel Martinez, a practical and organized computer programmer, is roommates with Ian Cooper, a certified IQ-in-the- stratosphere mathematical genius who literally can't find his own underwear in the mess of his day-to-day life. When Joel uneasily leaves Ian for the holidays, he ends up telling stories to his sister and discovers he feels much more for Ian than he thought. So when Ian calls, distraught because the only other thing in his life that loves him (a half-feral cat named Manky Bastard) is going to have to be put down, Joel hurries back home hoping that opposites really do attract.

Christmas with Danny Fit
In a perfect moment of cold November sunshine, pudgy accountant Kit Allen realizes Jesse, his new office assistant, is everything he's ever dreamed about in a man. Feeling supremely unworthy and desperate to get a life—even an imaginary one—Kit embarks on a self-improvement campaign featuring DVD fitness guru, Danny Fit.
In the meantime, Jesse has begun a subtle campaign of his own, one designed to bring Kit out of his DVD dream world and into Jesse's arms. Jesse isn't perfect—he's no Danny Fit—but he hopes that the kind, funny man who has been looking at him so soulfully since his first day at work has what it takes to be everything Jesse has always wanted.

Puppy, Car, and Snow
Ryan’s entire life changed the night Scott surprised him in a bathroom at a party.  Now Ryan’s soulless climb up the corporate ladder has stalled—but his quality life has become a whirlwind of laughter, joy and surprises, thanks to Scotty’s playful, gentle heart.
After three years together, they’re going to Ryan’s parents’ cabin to spend Christmas.  Snowed in by the weather and locked under the icy glare of his mother’s disapproval, can Ryan show he has found the most profound happiness in the simplest of things?

Turkey in the Snow
Since Hank Calder’s four-year-old niece, Josie, came to live with him, his life has been plenty dramatic, thank you, and the last thing he needs is a swishy, flaming twinkie to complicate things. But when Justin, the daycare worker at his gym, offers to do something incredibly nice for Hank—and for Josie—Hank is forced to reconsider. Justin may be flamboyant in his speech and gestures, but his heart and kindness are as rock steady and dependable as anyone, even Hank, could ask for. Can Hank trust in his dramatic “turkey in the snow” to offer his heart the joy he and Josie have never known?

Going Up!
Every dreary day, Zach Driscoll takes the elevator from the penthouse apartment of his father's building to his coldly charmed life where being a union lawyer instead of a corporate lawyer is an act of rebellion. Every day, that is, until the day the elevator breaks and Sean Mallory practically runs into his arms.
Substitute teacher Sean Mallory is everything Zach is not—poor, happy, and goofily charming. With a disarming smile and a penchant for drama, Sean laughs his way into Zach's heart one elevator ride at a time. Zach would love to get to know Sean better, but first he needs the courage to leave his ivory tower and face a relationship that doesn't end at the "Ding!"