philosopher kitty

Not too long ago, I read a blog discussing how a Certain Famous Author got all preachy online, telling readers how they ought and ought not to read and react to a Certain Other Author’s book. Said preachiness being, apparently, in response to readers “not getting it” or whatever. I dunno. To be honest I don’t remember the details, and I don’t particularly care. Another internet tempest in a teapot, in my opinion. But it got me thinking about something I’ve considered before, that I find interesting — that is, the relationship of the reader with the work, and how those two entities interact.

The way I look at it, that relationship is a lot like quantum mechanics, in which the act of observing changes the behavior of the thing that is being observed. We authors write our books. We put a lot of thought into the characters, the plot, all of it. We have particular ideas in mind (usually) when we write. But once our books are released into the wild, they take on a life of their own, because each reader is different. Each of us brings our own history to the experience of reading that particular book. Each reader will look at the same plot twist, or conversation, or character quirk, in a slightly different way, based on the combination of our different personalities and life experiences. I don’t think the differences in the way we experience books (or movies, or music, or any of the arts) are only perceived, either. I think they’re very real. I don’t think that the interpretation I have in mind when I write any of my books is the single “correct” one. Every reader’s interpretation is correct for them. The experience of reading is too personal for one single, overriding “right” way to do it.

So, there’s Ally’s Tuesday Philosophy Moment. Ha. Back to your regularly scheduled programming :)

Tomorrow is Remembrance Day / Veterans Day. In Canada, October is when we see the boxes full of poppies start to appear in shops and offices. I start to hear One Tin Soldier on the radio and I see veterans being recognized on TV even more than usual.

It’s an important time of year for many people, and I wanted to take a moment to recognize the sacrifices veterans have made the world over.

In Flanders Fields

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved, and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

- Canadian Lt.-Col. John McCrae, 1915

So, this weekend ZA Maxfield, Belinda McBride and I are hanging out at Bent Cont. What is Bent Con you may ask? It is a Queer Sci-Fi Fantasy convention here in Metro Hell. This weekend it’s at the Burbank Airport Marriott. Comic books, fan art, books and Mermen Pool Parties, what more could you want.Day passes are still available, so come by and say hi.

 

Yes indeed, folks, Demon Dog (Mojo Mysteries book 1) is now available in lovely, molestable paperback. Yay! Exciting :D It’s on discount right now on the Samhain Publishing website, or you can get it on Amazon, at your other favorite third party retailers (hopefully), or possibly even at your local bricks-and-mortar book store. Check out the blurb and an excerpt below, or the links here to purchase the paperback. Enjoy!

Demon Dog One juicy mystery, mustard and relish included.

Three years after solving the hundred-year-old murder case that brought them together, Greg Woodhall and Adrian Broussard have settled into life together in the colorful college town of Chapel Hill. Adrian’s doctorate research and Greg’s two jobs keep them busy, but they have each other and life is good.

When Greg is offered the chance to help Bay City Paranormal scope out the historic PlayMakers Theater’s rumored spirits, he’s excited to get involved—at first. But as the protoplasmic trail unexpectedly shifts to DogOpolis, where Greg works part time, he senses something in the air besides the mouthwatering aroma of gourmet hot dogs.

There’s an entity that the team can’t quite get a handle on, but it’s creating havoc in Greg’s relationship with Adrian. Things that leave him doubting his own sanity. When the team finally uncovers the truth, no one is prepared for the danger—or what they’ll have to do to stop the thing plaguing DogO before it stops them. Permanently.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

© Copyright 2013 Ally Blue

Greg Woodhall burst through the employee entrance of DogOpolis, Chapel Hill’s one and only gourmet hot dog palace—as the proud owners called it—five minutes late. “Traffic,” he explained before the daytime manager could turn around from her inspection of the refrigerator’s thermostat. “Sorry.” He clocked in and sprinted for the break room to change into his uniform.

“Traffic, my tired feet. There’s bike paths all the way from your place.” The manager, Elena Sims, followed him. She leaned against the doorframe, arms crossed and forehead creased in a fierce frown. “Besides, I’ve personally seen you ride up on the sidewalk to go around a traffic jam, so don’t give me that.”

Busted. He opened his locker, peeled off his tank top and threw it inside. The sandals came off next, then the shorts, both adding to the pile on the floor of the locker. He turned to face her, giving her the full-frontal force of his very best puppy-dog face plus his boyfriend’s favorite tiger-print thong. “I just got going a little late this morning, Len. I’m really sorry. It won’t happen again, I promise.”

She pursed her lips, but he knew she wasn’t actually mad. “Okay. Seriously, though, make sure you’re on time from now on. You know lunch is our busiest time.”

“I know.” He lifted his dark green uniform pants out of the locker and stepped into them, shooting Len a wide smile. “Thanks for understanding.”

“Oh, yeah, I understand, all right.” She aimed a pointed stare at his chest, which bore several purple marks courtesy of that morning’s mattress romp. “Which reminds me, say hi to Adrian for me.”

“I’ll do that. Thank you.” Grinning, he fastened his pants and reached for the matching green-and-white shirt.

She rolled her eyes. “You’re on the register today. C’mon out when you’re done changing.” She turned to leave, stifling a yawn behind her hand.

As Greg shrugged into his shirt, he heard a shuffling sound behind him. He pivoted, expecting to see Len coming back into the room.

She wasn’t there. Neither was anyone else.

He frowned. Was he hearing things, or what?

Not that he had time to worry about it right now.

Shoving the uncomfortable thought to the back of his mind, he finished buttoning his shirt, pulled on the socks and shoes he kept in his locker for work and hurried after his manager.

———-

It happened again while Greg was ringing up one of his former UNC professors, although he didn’t realize it at first. After all, it was a busy afternoon. His fellow employees dashed back and forth behind him all the time. It took him a few seconds to notice that neither Denise nor Malachi had moved from the registers on either side of him.

He glanced around as subtly as he could. Everyone else was in the back. So whose footsteps had he heard right behind him just now?

On the other side of the counter, Dr. Clark let out a loud sigh. “Still with the attention span of a gnat, I see. Did you get my order, or do I need to repeat it?”

Behind the sweetest smile in the history of smiling, Greg smothered the urge to say things that were completely inappropriate in the workplace. “Two turkey dogs with mustard and coleslaw, an order of O chips and a large unsweetened tea.” He added gratuitous eyelash-batting when the professor’s nose scrunched as if he was disappointed that Greg had heard him the first time. “That’ll be ten-eighty, sir.”

Dr. Clark handed him a credit card. He swiped it, gave it back and set the pad on the counter for a thumbprint.

He heard the footsteps again as he was handing Dr. Clark his tray. This time, Greg didn’t look. He didn’t want to know.

———–

By the time his shift ended at five, the combination of an unusually busy afternoon and too many sounds without people attached to them had Greg jumpy and worn out. He changed back into his T-shirt and shorts before getting his and Adrian’s dinner dogs together so no one could keep him working. Damn, he’d never been so ready to go home in his life.

“Hey, G. Your O chips.” Malachi handed Greg a large bag of homemade kettle chips fresh out of the fryer. “I put in a thing of that chipotle ranch dip Adrian likes.”

“Awesome. Thanks.” Greg tucked the chips into the big plastic bag along with Adrian’s salsa verde dogs and his own mustard and cole slaw ones. “See you at rehearsal, yeah?” He had a part as a chorus member in the current PlayMakers Repertory Company production—job number two, though it didn’t pay as well as DogO—and Mal ran the lights and sound.

“I’ll be there.” Mal saluted him with a grin, brown eyes sparkling.

Greg laughed as he made his way to the employee entrance in back. “Bye, Len,” he called to his manager, who was ringing up a customer at the drive-through. “See you tomorrow.”

She glanced at him. “Bye, Greg.”

Between the office and the break room, a dark shape moved at the limit of Greg’s peripheral vision.

He turned, goose bumps rising on his arms. Malachi, Eden and Crystal continued at their respective tasks up front. Len had moved out of the drive-through window to gather the order. She gave him a curious look. “Greg? Did you need something?”

He looked around. He could’ve sworn whoever he’d seen was bigger than Len, who practically had to stand on a box to work the drive-through, but no one else was there, so it must’ve been her.

It had to have been her. Had to have been a person. Something real he saw and his brain misinterpreted. Creepy black shapes were a whole level up from footsteps, and dammit, he did not want to play that game.

“Naw. Thought I forgot something, but I have it.” He answered her frown with a grin that hopefully hid the way his pulse suddenly raced. “See you.”

He strode outside, sliding his shades over his eyes, and went to unlock his bike from the rack. Forget about weird sounds and shapes and stuff. He really wanted to eat dinner with Adrian before rehearsal tonight, and he had to hurry if he wanted to make that happen.

Dinner secured in the basket on the front of his bike, Greg swung himself aboard and started up the bike trail toward his and Adrian’s cozy little apartment a couple of miles away.

He smiled to himself as he rode. Sure, he bitched about his low-wage wiener-slinging job and not-exactly-starring role in the play, but that was all hot air. He knew how lucky he was. Especially when it came to the best part of his life—Adrian Broussard.

The thought of Adrian in bed that morning—tousled black hair, big dark eyes, sexy, kiss-swollen mouth, and oh God that gorgeous, naked body—spurred Greg to pedal faster. If he made it home in time, maybe they’d have a chance for more than dinner.

I saw a comic strip from Unshelved today that made me giggle and nod my head in understanding.

Linkage: http://www.unshelved.com/2013-10-22

I thought the concept of “down time” being a made up time was unfortunately accurate. Especially with today being the end of Daylight Saving Time for many of us. Who doesn’t wish they could have an extra hour every day? Though, if you’re like me you probably used that hour to stay up later instead of getting an extra hour of sleep…

What would you do if you could finagle an extra hour every day? Read? Write? Spend time with family? Sleep?

It makes me wonder how many of my hours I’m currently wasting. Imagine what you could get done if you filled up every hour you could and didn’t have to worry about fatigue. Until then, I’m going to try and find some fabled down time to sneak in some writing!

Thor explains calculus

Today, the totally fabulous Jet Mykles sent a fascinating link about worldbuilding to those of us lucky enough to be her crit partners. It was a really cool article. Anyone who’s interested, you can read it here. It really rang true for me. I’ve run into a LOT of those things — okay, all of those things — especially since I’ve been working on the Hellscape series. I’m working on book two now (Hell On Earth) and it’s definitely a major project trying to make sure everything in this future world lines up with everything else and is realistic.

Tonight, my daugher was watching an old Buffy The Vampire Slayer rerun. I was only half paying attention at first. It involved the characters dressing up for Halloween then some of them becoming the characters they’d dressed up as. Now, that got my attention, particularly considering the worldbuilding article I’d just read. Here’s the bit that got my brain going: Buffy, thinking herself a genteel 18th century lady (I think that’s the right century; not positive about that), was accosted by a guy believing himself to be an old-timey pirate. His teeth were all stained and crooked. So, I started considering the whole changing-into-your-Halloween-character business.

Clearly it involved more than just believing that you’re a ghost, or a soldier, or a pirate, if your teeth become stained and crooked and totally fucked up to a Blackbeard degree. But if that’s the case, then how far does it go? Does this poor teenager have rickets now? Does he smell bad from not bathing? Does he have fleas? Sores? How come he didn’t have an accent? After all, there was no general suburban American inflection when pirates with poofy shirts, head scarves and cutlasses terrorized the high seas. Or maybe he did have an accent and I just wasn’t paying attention. That is entirely possible. I didn’t notice the soldier’s toy gun had become real until it turned into a toy again. Doh.

All that just highlighted to me the need for deep, thorough, consistent world building. And made me realize I need to go over my manuscript and my world with loving care to make sure I have it all right. That should be fun. And, uber-dork that I am, I truly mean that *g*

So, GRL is over for another year and I already can’t wait for next year to come. It was a wonderful weekend of getting to hang out with old friends, meet new friends, see the sights and talk about books! How can you go wrong with that. Especially when the sights involved lovely strippers and porn stars who were so cute and professional but had absolutely no shame :)

I hung with Ally and Jet, naturally, and here’s a pic of the three of us all spiffed up.

I participated in one of the readings and had folks laughing at my Duck Fart excerpt. It had me giggling too, so it was all good. I also had a wonderful table at the author dinner and was so wrapped up in conversation I hadn’t even realized the dinner was over until Ally came to get me.

I was able to sit in on a variety of panels and readings and relished the chance to learn about new books (that I had to pick up naturally, my bag home was heavy…) and we had more fun at the parties than I can describe.

So, what did I learn from all that? Besides that I love my friends, naturally. My biggest takeaway from GRL was a discussion I had with Jet. She told me one thing that continues to poke and prod at me and is especially needed considering how draining the day job has been.

Most of you know that I’ve been having trouble writing because of the day job stress. This year I went from managing my own individual projects to managing the entire company, with all our clients and contractors. It’s been hard finding the energy and the time to write with so much pressure.

Jet reminded me that I need to write for fun. Take away all the stress, the deadlines, the expectations and just have fun writing.

Wish me luck!

Butt in chair, fingers on keyboard. Aaaaand… write!

Damn it!

This used to be so easy. Why is it hard? And not hard in a good way like a nice, thick…

Oh look! Squirrel! Oh wait, just a cat. Aww, how cute. Pet the kitty, obey the laws of toxoplasmosis. Pet the kitty.

No, Facebook. Oooo, yes. Used to hate FB but how was that possible? How did I ever keep up with all the minutiae of people’s lives? I need to know who’s having their coffee and who’s sitting in a bookstore. No, that’s not fair. I also find out about new books and…

Books! Oh yes. I’m an author. I must read. Look at all the new books. Amazon! Look at all…

Meh. I don’t really want to read any of those. There’s nothing good. How depressing. Okay, I’ll just open up the iPad and see…

(two hours later) What? Where did the time go? Did I really need to dedicate so much time to Farm Up and Hey Day? Was it important to play so many levels of Plants vs Zombies 2? Obviously, yes, it was. But now that’s done.

Butt’s in chair, fingers on keyboard. Ah, the key is to open up Scrivener and look at the manuscript! That’s a terrific idea I’ll do that…

Jesus. Did I write this drivel? Who the hell came up with these words? Do I even know me?

Netflix! Gotta catch up on Grey’s Anatomy. I’m only in season 6 and there’s like, what, 10 seasons? I gotta get watching!

Seriously, did I just do that? WTF? No. There it is. The manuscript. The words. Forget that you’ve had to basically start over, forget that you need to write it all again. Remember that you had a breakthrough! You know how this goes now. All you have to do is write the damn…

I’m hungry. Time for lunch yet?

party kitty

Last week was GayRomLit Retreat 2013, which in this, its third year, has become THE author/reader conference for the gay romance world. I didn’t think it was possible to have a better time than I had in Albuquerque last year, but this year in Atlanta was even better. I had the time of my life. To me, the best part of being an author is getting to talk to people — authors, editors, publishers, and especially readers — in person. GRL is the absolute best place to do that :)
Here, in no particular order, are some of my favorite moments from this year’s retreat.

* The fabulous strip show at Bliss, where a bunch of us went on Wednesday night thanks to the entirely awesome Max Vos who set up the trip. Everyone at the club from the door staff to the bartenders to the performers were friendly, sweet and so professional. And those boys on the pole? OMG, they are ATHLETES, y’all. I was in awe.

* Fine Southern dining at Mary Mac’s Tea Room with a whole bunch of my fellow retreat attendees. I’m a Southern girl born and raised, and that food was better than anything I’ve ever put in my mouth. And the company couldn’t be beat :)

* Dancing my poor old lady knees into arthritis at the after hours party with Devon Rhodes, Jared Rackler, Damon Suede, Mama Kris Jacen and bunches of other awesome party people. My knees are still recovering!

* Checking out the fantastic costumes at the Heaven & Hell Masquerade Ball on Saturday night. There were so many, I can’t even list them all. Highlights: Edmond Manning dressed as Naughty Snow White, Z Allora’s dark angel and her sweet hubby’s GORGEOUS Chinese robe, the Alice In Wonderland crew, and most especially (for me) Will Prater’s totally shiny Jayne hat. So clever, LOL.

* L.E. Franks theory about the aliens taking over the hotel. The evidence is overwhelming!

* Hugs and kisses from some of my favorite people who I don’t get to see nearly enough. Jade, Jet, Mama Kris, Amy, Jared, Damon, Will, Rick, Devon, Sarah, so many others. I can’t wait to see everyone again next year in Chicago :)

Well, maybe not my very first. I had another horror short story published a while back, but it’s out of contract now and languishing on my hard drive waiting for me to rework it. In the meantime, I have a new erotic horror tale out — “Flesh And Song”, published as part of Riptide Publishing’s Bump In The Night anthology of dark erotic horror. And I do mean dark. My story is the tamest one of the bunch by MILES :)

Check out the blurb and an excerpt from “Flesh And Song” below. Also, Riptide has a pretty awesome blog tour lined up. You can check out the dates and blog stops here. I’m not sure yet which dates/blogs will host my posts, but I’d check out all of them anyway. You can win a $25 Riptide gift certificate, and there are bound to be some fabulous posts by our editor, Rachel, the amazing artist, and my fellow authors.

Read on for the excerpt. Enjoy! And for those of you attending GayRomLit, I’m driving down to Atlanta tomorrow and I’ll see you there!

Bump In The Night

Turn off the lights . . . and turn on your darkest fantasies.

Demon pacts. Ghostly possessions. Monsters lurking in the depths. The things that go bump in the night frighten us, but they also intrigue us. Fascinate us. Even turn us on.

Join us as fan favorites Ally Blue and Kari Gregg bring over-amorous aquatic beasts to life with their mythic twists on the Siren and the monster in the lake. Erotic horror pros Heidi Belleau, Sam Schooler, and Brien Michaels show us just how sexy scary can be with a pair of demon deals destined to curl your toes and set your heart thrashing. And literary masters Laylah Hunter and Peter Hansen weave haunting worlds where ghosts and dead lovers can touch our hearts (and other, naughtier places too . . .) and teach us lessons from beyond the grave.

By turns exciting, evocative, and exquisitely explicit, the stories in Bump in the Night are sure to scratch your sexy paranormal itch. Explore your wildest fantasies with us in this collection of dark erotic tales.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

© Copyright 2013 Ally Blue

Back on deck, a quick inspection of the water between Ligia and the island told Noah that an offshore reef was guarding the lovely little bay. The waves rolled over the coral without breaking, but that didn’t necessarily mean he could sail across it without tearing open his keel. The depth over a reef could be difficult to judge in a calm like this.

In the end, he elected to ease his lady closer to the reef—though not close enough to cause her damage if she should drift—drop anchor, and take the dinghy to shore. A knapsack full of food, water, and other essentials went with him, having been packed and ready for weeks.

“Good-bye, sweetheart,” he said, leaning over the dinghy’s side to stroke the luscious curve of Ligia’s hull. “I’ll be back soon.”

His answer came in the creak of wood and the solid snap of the breeze in Ligia’s furled sails. He smiled. She’d wait for him, patiently, like she’d done since she’d first become his on his seventeenth birthday

Getting a firm grip on the oars, he began the long pull to shore. Navigating over the reef made him glad he’d anchored Ligia in the deeper water. His little rowboat barely made it, in spite of its shallow draft.

Once he’d gotten clear of the reef, he stopped rowing and glanced over his left shoulder, then his right. Palms swayed at the back of a beach so white it glowed in the sun. He couldn’t see the man he’d spotted through his binoculars.

Not that it mattered. Noah hadn’t come here for sex. He could get that any time he wanted back home in Costa Rica where he ran his high-end surf holiday business, or on any of the islands where he stopped on his frequent sailing trips. The mysterious stranger might be gorgeous, but right now Noah was frankly relieved not to have a human complication to deal with. He had enough on his plate.

When the dinghy’s keel ran aground, Noah jumped out and dragged the wooden boat more firmly onto the beach. The waves hadn’t been large beyond the reef. Here, they’d diminished to tiny, transparent ripples. Still, Noah preferred to play it safe. Just because the island resembled a poet’s vision didn’t mean he wanted to get stranded here. All he wanted was . . .

That was the question, wasn’t it? He’d told himself he wanted the adventure, and whatever profit he could gain, but the truth was he didn’t know what he wanted. Couldn’t define the cause of the vague ache inside him that grew stronger year by year, and had no clue how to ease it, regardless of how much money he made, how many new horizons he explored or how many men he fucked. Thus his quest for this place. Hoping to fill the vacuum inside him with sensation. Experience. New things.

Even the island’s name—Land of Beautiful Death, as they’d called it in Haiti, where he’d first learned of it—had intrigued him. It had never occurred to him to be afraid. What did he have to fear?

With his transportation secured, Noah shouldered his knapsack and turned to survey his surroundings. Beyond the beach and the initial scattering of palms, the ridge he’d seen from Ligia’s deck rose in an unbroken emerald slope on all sides. Leaves rustled, and birds called to one another deep in the forest. The breeze carried a sharp, wild smell like damp earth and flowering vines.

Noah dug his toes into the fine, cool sand. The island felt undiscovered. Untamed. The explorer in him itched to plunge directly into the green gloom beneath the trees and search out its secrets. The treasures hiding in the virgin forest must be spectacular indeed, to warrant the legends that had grown up around this place.

First, however, he needed to secure his campsite. If he got into trouble and didn’t return until close to—or after—dark, he wanted his tent set up and a fire pit ready to go.

Hoisting his pack more firmly onto his back, he strode up the beach and into the shade beneath the palms.

# # #

After he set up his tent, he put on his hiking boots and took a canvas bag out into the woods to look for firewood. Unlike the quiet, peaceful beach, the forest echoed with sounds—birdsong, insects buzzing, the crack and shuffle of branches and leaves and ancient tree trunks moving in the wind, or with the weight of animals, or under their own power for all Noah knew. A strange magic hummed in the air, making impossible things seem probable.

When he caught the first strains of a faint musical lilt from somewhere deeper in the woods, he thought it was a bird. He’d already picked out several calls he’d never heard on any other island. One more wouldn’t surprise him.

Except that this one was unusual. Compelling in a different way than the pretty but meaningless tunes of the birds. The more Noah listened, the more the flow of the enchanting sounds reminded him of words. Fascinated, he set his bag of firewood at the base of a tremendous boulder and slipped through the jungle, following the voice.

Logically, he knew he shouldn’t. He ran a huge risk of becoming lost in the dense press of trees, vines, and undergrowth. But the voice drew him like a compass to true north. He needed to learn what sort of being spoke with music, and what it meant.

The call grew stronger and more captivating as he went. Desperation pushed his body harder, made his pulse rush in his ears and his breath come in great gulps as he ran, faster, faster in search of the source of the sound. He’d die if he didn’t find it.

He crashed into a clearing so suddenly he almost fell over a rocky ledge into the wide blue pool only steps away. He might have, only his feet halted of their own accord when he saw the man standing beneath the little waterfall that fed the pool.

Even with the binoculars, the figure he’d seen on the beach had been indistinct with distance, but Noah would bet his fortune this was the same man—the same dark, glistening skin; the same black hair falling in wet curls to wide, muscular shoulders; the same tall, lean, perfect body bared to the elements. The stranger’s cock sprang from its nest of black hair to swing long, thick, and heavy between his hard thighs.

“Oh, my God.” Noah’s voice emerged soft as a prayer. He hadn’t intended to sound like a worshiper, but could he truly say he wouldn’t fall to his knees to glorify that body?

Across the pool, the man stepped from the waterfall’s flow and met Noah’s gaze with a bright, guileless smile. Stretching a hand toward Noah, the stranger spoke.

Noah leapt into the water—clothes, shoes, and all—and started swimming toward the man before he realized what he was doing. He was halfway across the pool before reason reasserted itself and he wondered, with a spark of panic, just what in the hell had come over him. He slowed, still staring into the beautiful stranger’s eyes—huge eyes black as midnight, black as sin, black as oblivion . . .

His feet hit rock. Long, graceful hands grasped his elbows and hauled him upright, pulling him flush against a naked body whose heat seeped through the cold wetness of his clothes and made him feel warm and safe.

Tilting his head back, he peered up into the stranger’s face. God, such a face. No one could be that exquisite. It wasn’t natural. His mad rush to get to this man wasn’t natural either. What the hell was happening to him?

The fear he’d always scoffed at when the old men warned him of the island’s dangers rose to clog his throat. He planted his palms on the man’s chest—warm, firm, the bare skin silky soft—meaning to push him away.

Those sweet, sensual lips curved into a smile that shook Noah deep inside. One strong arm tightened around his waist. The other hand slid into his hair, the man’s thumb rubbing circles on the angle of Noah’s jaw. Then the stranger spoke again, the words like bells and nightingales, calling up tantalizing shades of meaning in Noah’s mind and making his heart race with a need he didn’t understand. His burgeoning fear melted like butter in the sun.

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