The first and only time I’ll ever be on time

This truly a momentous occasion. Not that there are giveaways available but that I’m posting about them on the first of the month. Look at me, on top of it! This slightly makes up for not remembering to get good luck for March. I told my mailing list about a superstition where the first thing you’re supposed to say on the first day of a new month is ‘rabbit rabbit rabbit’ and then I forgot about that until I started writing this post and have already spoken. Maybe next month?

Anyway, here’s some giveaways for March.

This one is for books in Kindle Unlimited.

Writing About Writing, or what’s next for me?

I’m starting one project and finishing another. The finale book in the One More Thing Series is on pre-order and will be out in May. And I’ve just completed Black Cats and Bad Luck, which is the start of a new series. It’s currently available for those on my mailing list, hint hint, but will soon be out for everyone. For free too!

So as one series is drawing to a close soon, I figured I should tell you what I’m working on and what’s next. I’ve been dipping more into the fantasy/magical realm lately. If you don’t enjoy fantasy, I’m still going to be writing contemporary gay romances. I have some ideas for future books, but I’m just waiting until One Big Decision (the final book in the One More Thing series) is released before taking on another project.

This might be the longest I’ve ever written on one topic continuously. No, it definitely is, so this is still crazy to my ADHD brain. I’m adding some genre variety, but I’ll still be writing gay romance.

My main project right now is the Ward Magic series. I’m almost done with a novella for my mailing list about the main characters from that story, Mason and Horatio. They’ll be featured again in the third book, though the second book is about another character from the series, Avery. It’s called Instalove.

I’m also working on an email series, which is a fun and slightly terrifying new concept for me. The story I’m writing for this is called Sleeping Without Beauty. So it may or may not be about fairy tales. (It’s totally about fairy tales.) Some will be more fantasy-like, others will be magical realism or mostly normal. Sleeping Without Beauty takes place largely in someone’s brain, so it’s definitely the first option. That makes it sound like a delusion or something. What happens is a group of people take a field trip to someone’s mind. As you might have noticed, I have not yet written any promotional materials for this story.

I hope you have enjoyed me listing titles at you. That feels like what I’ve been doing. Which is a thing, right? I’ve seen authors do release date and title reveals before. It feels weird to not include an excerpt or quote or something, but I do that a lot, so I won’t this time. Variety!

One Little Word… free!

In an effort to introduce people to the One More Thing Series and get more reviews, I occasionally make the book One Little Word free. I don’t know if this is a good segue or just a really obvious way of saying that One Little Word is free right now. The sale lasts through Thursday.

I’m super proud of myself for the title because the ‘one little word’ is ‘free’ but it’s also the title of the book, so it works on multiple levels. Because author. I’m good at wording.

Even though there is no possible way I could regret this, I am going to chose a scene at random. Hey, I don’t regret it! So in this excerpt, Luke needed to pretend to date Ryan For Reasons and now he no longer needs a fake boyfriend, so all his problems are solved and everything is right with the world. Right? Not exactly…

~

Luke

I was single and ready to mingle. Wow, that sounded incredibly lame. I would never say that out loud.

I couldn’t keep a grin off my face as I walked down the halls. Maybe a few people shot me weird looks, but who cared? I had a lot to smile about. Namely, I no longer had a boyfriend! What a weird sentence. At least for me, a straight guy.

Dealing with Ryan these days had gotten… wait, he wasn’t a bad guy. For a snarky jerk, he was nice. I liked him. Platonically! Not romantically because I was straight. Some other guy will go crazy for him and those weirdly nice legs of his. Just not a straight guy like me.

-the rest is here. For free!

One Little Lie Cover

The joy of self publishing, or so I’ve heard, is that authors can try a lot of different options. Whereas traditional publishing means there’s less control and multiple people make any decisions. Which is cool for indie authors but also exhausting when you have multiple books. And while I have an opinion about everything, I suddenly become paralyzed with indecision, wavering between 25 or 26 point font as if this decision will make or break the whole book.

All I can tell you is I like this cover for One Little Lie. I don’t think I’ve shared it here yet.

Does liking one guy make you gay?
Everybody in Luke’s small town might say yes, but he isn’t so sure. The baseball player feels like the same high school junior who can handle pop flys but not pop quizzes. Except these days, he’s drawn to Ryan Miller’s lanky frame and masculine hands. Which means… Luke has no clue. About anything. Except that he’s not ready to come out to his parents. So to buy time, the athlete lies.

The ruse earns Luke a fake girlfriend, a secret boyfriend, and a whole new mess. The jock needs answers to his sexuality questions if he wants to keep Ryan, but he’s afraid of what the truth might cost him. Can Luke find himself without losing anyone he cares about?

One Little Lie explores coming out along with bisexuality, the bonds of friendship, and falling for someone you never saw coming. If you enjoy LGBT books like Never Do a Wrong Thing and authors like Adam Silvera, you will adore this M/M romantic comedy.

Buy your copy today to enjoy this quirky coming-of-age story!

A Festivus for the rest of us

The LGBTQ+ Romance New Year’s Freebie Fest is going on until the end of January, so I’m not completely late in posting this. Because it is winter and this giveaway includes the word ‘fest,’ I felt morally obligated to quote Seinfeld in the title.

Here’s some of the free queer books available now.


Former law enforcement agents try to lead a simpler life but a curse has other plans. This is a sample of Treasure Trail by Morgan Brice.

Sparks fly when Erik and Ben meet. But when a cursed hotel’s long-ago scandals resurface, the two men are pulled into a web of lies, danger, and deception that will test their bond—and might make them Cape May’s newest ghosts!


In Lease on Love by Lucy Ravens, being a good son means giving up many of his own dreams. He’s supposed to marry a woman and live the life his father wants him to until he meets his new real estate agent.

My parents have picked out the perfect life for me, including who I will marry… I have always been a good son, and with my father’s recent recovery from cancer, he deserves all the good things happening in my life. Those good things that happen to his son, he considers happening to him as well. I don’t hate him for it, but I can’t say I don’t wish for something more.


This is a bonus story from a series, featuring boyfriends and magic.

Join Remy and Laurence as they learn to control their magic with Bran Vingy’s head witch, Aella. Chapters contain steamy scenes intended for adult readers.


Trying to escape a killer leads a fox shifter to his wolf shifter mate, but finding the wolf might put him in danger.

A grieving wolf. A hunted fox. Fated mates, thrown together by chance, and the looming threat of a fabled Huntsman who might tear them apart forever.


The weight of things

Can someone go boy crazy if they are already crazy in general? I don’t know, but here is a deleted scene from One Little Problem. It is about a boy who may or may not be crazy thinking about his life and his relationship. There is some discussion of the shenanigans that occur in the book, but I don’t think you need to know about it to understand this scene. All you need to know is a boy wants to keep dating another boy, and he’s afraid he won’t be able to.

~

Ryan

Scales were one of the worst inventions ever, right? Yeah, they provided helpful information: the weight of something. That probably had numerous real-world applications. There was nothing inherently evil about knowing how much something weighed, but there was just so much bad that came along with it. Because once you knew how much you weighed, you could feel terrible about that, you could make false promises to exercise, say the weight was going to come off tomorrow and then just perpetually hate yourself when it never did.

Or you could weigh a perfectly healthy amount but still want to weigh a few pounds less, and then criticize yourself for not being better. It felt like my life was a set of scales, and someone somewhere decided the weight on the good side and bad side had to even out for some dumb reason or that having a disproportionate amount on the bad side and a tiny amount on the good side was okay but not the other way around.

Yeah, I couldn’t believe I actually wanted to fake break up but maybe that would finally tip the scales, let me have more good than bad. Not this weird cosmic balancing act where things with Luke were good so things with our parents had to be bad. Things with Luke were good, so things with my dad had to be weird. Things with Luke were good, so it had to have an expiration date. I had to go away for the summer, and what if everything changed?

Oh, who am I kidding, things with Luke were good and that’s what I cared about, about having that for as long as possible. So, it was pretty easy to break up. We did it without fanfare, no public spectacle that usually went with the more important moments in our relationship. We were less obvious at school but most people either had gotten used to the gays being weird gay or tried to pay us as little attention as possible or just didn’t believe we would stay broken up.

Curse your beautiful face

When a series of zany mishaps leaves our brave hero Ryan without clothes, he must bravely hide and hope nobody sees his naked ass. While hiding on a farm with a pretty boy nearby, there are so many potential pitfalls the young hero must avoid. This scene is from the free YA LGBTQ book When We Were Strangers.

The following scene is an example of that moment in love stories where your enemy will one day turn into your love interest, so you hate them but must grudgingly admit their hotness.

Ryan

Just when I began relaxing in my relatively secluded hiding spot, I wasn’t alone anymore. Most people were still right over there. Except for Luke Chambers. His evil hotness was right here, so close to me, only separated by a thin thing that separated us. I cursed him. I cursed you, Luke Chambers. Hopefully not out loud because we were close enough for him to hear me speak.

Which meant I was stuck.

Fuck. Fuck me. Fuck Luke. Fuck me and Luke, but in what order? Nope, there could be no fucking of anyone. Not while I was naked and about to be discovered at any moment. Because I couldn’t be excited when he caught me. And also, Luke was evil. Hot, yes, but things that start with ‘f’ could never happen with him, including but not limited to friendship.

There were noises as Luke worked. I peeked out and there was all his hotness. I got distracted watching his muscles work as he lifted things, all strong and sexy like. His bronze skin glistened with sweat, begging to be licked. He ran a hand through his blonde hair, and I swear it happened in slow motion as my eyes zoomed in on every tempting, appealing detail.

AH! I ducked back into my hiding spot as he looked around, muttering something about leaving his water bottle somewhere else.

“So freaking hot,” he said. Yes, yes he was. “Might be the hottest day yet.” Oh, he meant the weather. Not himself. Yeah, would be weird if he just talked to no one about how hot he was whenever he was alone. Though, real talk, if I looked like him? I would do that all the time. The air would need to know how gorgeous I was.

“Hotter than fucking hell,” he muttered next. How would he know? Guess he’d visited hell before. Maybe it was where he lived. Yep. Because in case it wasn’t clear, he was the devil.

~

LGBTQ Fiction Giveaway

Hello, I have been wrestling with WordPress and don’t have anything witty to say. I wanted to mention that the LGBTQ Fiction Giveaway is going on right now until Jan. 15. Here’s some of the titles that caught my eye.

There’s vampires, a prince, and supernatural mysteries in this 7 Chapter Sample of Dark Flame by Kat Silver. I maybe should have put a full story first instead of a sample, but I LOVE this cover. It’s so pretty.

Haunted by the death of his parents, Michael Blakeley wants answers. The twenty-six-year-old martial artist seeks their killer, but he also wants to know why electronics short out at his touch, and why his libido is a raging fire.

So when a group of soldiers calling themselves Guardians rescue him from a back alley ambush and claim to have the answers he needs, he agrees to go with them. Especially when they tell him the attackers were vampires. But nothing in this supernatural underworld is as it seems, and when the silver-eyed commander cages him instead, Michael’s answers slip further away.


Shapeshifters, psychics, and a love story that begins in dreams. This is Romp–A Fox Hollow Novella by Morgan Brice. The book I’m currently working on, Black Cats and Bad Luck, is about falling in love in dreams, so I’m excited to read this one. There is also kind of a shapeshifter.

When otter-shifter Dell Avery moved to Fox Hollow for a new job, he hoped that a change of location might also help him find a boyfriend. Then he discovers his cabin is haunted, and he starts having vivid, realistic dreams where he meets Mack, a man who checks off all his boxes for the perfect boyfriend.


Murders in a small town mean that a secret haven for shapeshifters could be exposed in Wild Retaliation by Ethan Stone.

Chief of Police John Dakota keeps two secrets close to his bulletproof vest. One is the truth about Seaside, Oregon—that it’s a safe haven for shifters. Including himself.

 The second is the nine-year-old mystery of why a series of brutal murders that rocked the sleepy tourist town simply…stopped. No one can know, especially not Trevor English. The local reporter who occasionally shares John’s bed.


In Tainted Life by Mel Gough, a detective going through a divorce doesn’t think he can handle anything other than a one night stand, but a mysterious photographer isn’t so easy to give up.

Desperate to forget his sorrows for a while, Pete seeks refuge in a Soho bar where he is approached by a sexy, funny, and clearly interested stranger. Photographer Liam Jackson is just the ticket for one oblivious night of perfect passion.


In Play On by Avery Cockburn, a hothead soccer player and a college student with a trouble past must battle inner demons before they can be together. Also Scotland.

Duncan Harris is on the edge. Scandal has shredded his LGBT soccer team’s history-making season, and now the once-unflappable striker is lashing out. Only one person can tame Duncan’s rage and make him feel like himself again…

Bullied by schoolmates in his wee village, Brodie Campbell lurked deep in the closet before coming to the city of Glasgow. Here at university he’s out and proud, but the years of abuse have left him emotionally paralyzed. Can flatmate Duncan help Brodie escape his past and heal his wounded heart?


A magical accident could turn the holidays into a very unhappy Christmas for a well meaning witch and his roommate. This is Flour, Eggs, Sugar, Magic by Daniel De Lorne.

Wannabe witch Will Brand’s attempts at making magic cookies for the kids at a local shelter go awry when his ex-boyfriend messages and turns Will’s good energy to anger.


Everything is starting to unravel for a hockey player, when the one who got away in college comes back into his life in Breaking Away by Van Cole.

Dan is a professional hockey player at the top of his game – but when his wife up and leaves him out of nowhere, it feels like game, set and match. How is he supposed to get through his upcoming games with an apartment empty of furniture and his wife off sleeping with some baseball player she’s supposedly been seeing for a while now?


In Forgive Me by Avery Katz, a prince and artist have a shot at a second chance, but overcoming the past won’t be easy.

The blizzard has trapped me with the one man I truly hate…and the only man I’ve ever wanted.

He can claim my body, but not my heart. I will never forgive him.


The Three Amigos (and Ryan)

Baseball bros for life, Joey, Zach, and Luke have a conversation about solidarity, sex, and how stupid the current conversation they’re having is. Luke’s boyfriend Ryan observes the scene. This was almost a scene from Falling in Love and Other Bad Ideas.

For context, here is a two word description of each of these characters.

Joey: Dumb Jock
Zach: Cool Prick
Luke: Clueless Boy
Ryan: Very Awesome

This was like 75% of an idea, which I meant to find a place for but never did. Which means that when posting on the blog, this was a fun exercise where I needed to fill in certain spots even though I did not remember what my original intent or plan was.

~

Ryan

The kid hassling Zach or Joey, or Zach and Joey, must be a colossal idiot. Because if antagonizing Joey, it kinda looked like a fly buzzing around a cow’s ass, where eventually the big, dumb animal got tired of the buzzing sound and swatted the insect with its tail. Not sure if that was what happened, probably not because nobody had a tail. It seemed like someone tried to give Zach a hard time. A foolhardy task because vain divas who thought they were better than everyone generally did not give a single flip about the opinions of lesser beings. Still, random heckler did his best.

Seriously, I heard a few comments which boiled down to ‘eww, a gay!’ My guess about the reasons for these comments? Zach likely never received his quota of prejudice from small-minded high schoolers for being bi. He escaped some homophobia when he came out after Luke and wasn’t actively dating another guy, and the homophobes could not let a gay go un-insulted for being gay or god would cry. So heckler heckled, and Joey decided to respond.

“Grrr!” Joey said. Okay, I walked over after this part, so the words remained a mystery, but the general message and tone definitely meant ‘grrrrr.’ The person still didn’t want to quit, so Joey made a threat, then followed it up with, “Seriously. I will hurt you and then,” he gestured to Zach. “He’ll make fun of you, and it will be a really good time for us, but you’ll hate it.” I would buy tickets to that movie. “And Zach will take all credit, and then you’ll have gotten your ass kicked by a f—” a teacher walked close by. “Friend of mine.”

A little shaky at the end, but all in all, pretty supportive. Especially as he glared at the person who walked away and draped a friendly, protective arm around Zach’s shoulder. Which actually, considering what they were just talking about, looked a little gay, but no one said anything. And Zach looked too close to actually almost having feelings to warn him.

This aside wasn’t as random as it appeared, but Luke loved when I acted like a huge weirdo for some reason. I guess I understood because I loved when he covered his eyes during scary movies or acted like a huge dramatic baby. Like now! He turned on Joey, all indignant. “How come you’ve never defended me like that?

“Oh dude, come on.” Joey crossed his arms and rolled his eyes, which would not protect him from the dramatic baby.

“No, I’m your best friend too,” my boo insisted.

“Has anyone considered,” Zach offered quietly, “That having a discussion about who exactly is whom’s best friend forever and what any special BFF privileges would entail will, in fact, be the dumbest and gayest thing ever.”

Luke and Joey thought about that for a minute.. I gave Zach a dirty look for using ‘gay’ in a pejorative light, but he gestured to the two dummies lost in thought, which I translated to something like ‘I know my audience.’

The time for quiet contemplation had ended.

“I’m your best friend too!” Luke quietly hollered at Joey, which served to only make it more dramatic.

“I think we have to risk it, dude,” Joey told Zach, squeezing his arm one more time and then removing himself from the other’s close proximity. “I can’t say I would ever go after dick—”

“Good,” I interrupted. “Or else I’d owe Lydia $20 bucks.”

“But if someone doesn’t have similar compunctions,” Joey talked loudly over me.

“Compunctions?” Zach judged his word choice. “Dude, are you studying for the SATS or something?”

“How dare you. I’m just saying.” He raise a hand. “Here’s all the girls Zach could be with,” He raised the other hand. “Here’s all the guys. Put it together, it’s more potential action.” He brought his hands together with a clap, which hopefully did not mean anything because the clap was not a fun, sexy thing.

“I get action!” Luke defended.

“And if you want that action to continue,” I filled in smoothly.

“It is a private and special matter between Ryan and I,” he wisely finished with.

“Being with one person is stupid, playing the field is smart,” Zach said. “Have you never seen a 90’s movie, listened to a rap song, or talked to other human males before?”

“So it would be better if I was having lots of gay sex with different people?” Luke wondered.

“See, that you can’t even understand shows how bad it is,” Joey said seriously.

“This is the dumbest conversation we’ve ever had,” Zach told them both.

“Okay, I get that you wear glasses and want to seem smart in front of your nerdy gay friend,” Hey that meant me. I allowed the description because I enjoyed the idea of Zach trying to impress me. “But that is so not true,” Joey said. He apparently did not understand that glasses did not translate to IQ points.

“Yeah,” Luke agreed. “You’ve actually taken part in way dumber conversations than this.” And then they proceeded to list them with glee while Zach tried to walk away and they wouldn’t let him.

-the end, I guess, because the words stopped at this point.

New novel, Black Cats and Bad Luck

As a writer of contemporary romance, one might not know that I love fantasy stories. Especially magical ones. Hey guess what? I’m working on a new novel called Black Cats and Bad Luck. There’s magic. And familiars. And soulmates. And more!

This is of course a gay romance, and this is the beginning of the book. The first part is about a transformation. The second part is two boyfriends shopping in an occult store. Or trying to shop while also trying to make out.

~

The Ward house rarely held such quiet. Sound always existed, from the voices of humans to the low hum of magic. Even the pixies in the garden were silent. Perhaps this warranted investigation.

Laying in a column of sunlight in the master bedroom, the cat raised its head— creatures such as him always stretched, just a little, past their limits. Seeing not only what there was, but what could be. Seeing with more than the eyes, reaching out to touch the swirling cosmos and twinkling stars, to—then again, it would be such a shame to waste this lazy afternoon on anything other than a nap. The cat rested its head back on the hardwood floor.

Awareness hovered somewhere, an insubstantial thing, easily batted away like a stray strand of yarn. He stretched, black tail swishing once in the air, before getting comfortable again.

An ordinary day can shift so quickly. After all, to go from idea to creation, it only takes a spark. The being in the empty house who currently wore black fur and moved on four legs knew all about that. It was his purpose. Mostly, except for the tiny piece of other. The call had been there for so long, a whisper echoing in his mind. He had never been able to answer. A force kept him in place, always with the same song, not yet, not yet, not yet, a melody he’d long since gotten used to.

After a nap in the sun, the perfect next step was up and to the right, a nap atop the comfy pillow on the big bed. He moved, curling up on the softer surface. Yes, perfectly content, he could stay there for-oh. Something was different.

Lifting his head, ears perking, no sound reached him from the still house beyond. Inside, no sound either.

The melody had stopped.

A sound, perhaps fingers snapping. The scent of jasmine lingered in the air. The shift began.

Mystical forces swirled and coalesced on the being indulging in an afternoon nap and… things changed. Transformation, accompanied by only a slight popping sound. Limbs twisting, body bending, almost naturally, like the back when arched, making a bow of the spine in the stretch he knew so well.

Life expanded beyond instinct, beyond black and white. While he hadn’t moved, the bed no longer held a feline. This was something new. He was something new. Even his thoughts were transformed, into the kind with words.

A jumble of images poured into his head like milk from a saucer. Magic. Grace. Whiskers. All of it him and not him. Paws to hands. Hands and hearts. Holding a heart in one’s hands, feeling it beat, and knowing what it meant to live.

He lived. Alive. A person, a man. One with an opinion, small, yet his own nonetheless. His first viewpoint boiled down to this: yes. His mouth stretched up; the thought felt good.

“Meow,” he said. It didn’t feel right.

“Now,” he tried. That was better.

No more time to rest when he could do instead. He rose from the bed on two human legs. Larger than before, yet almost entirely compressed into this place called flesh. The world no longer laid out neatly to view with ease. Whatever came next, it wasn’t for him to know anymore. Time to experience life in a new way, second by second.

The world held endless possibilities, more than even he could conceive of. Whatever came next, it would be amazing. How could it not be? The world was full of wonder. Seconds ago, he used to be one thing. Now, he was another.

* * *

Mason

When his clever hands and nimble body pressed me against the shelves, the strongest urge rose within me to flip our positions and forget about how we were in a public place with a job to do. Putting a respectable distance between us seemed impossible, even though anybody could turn onto the last aisle in this occult store and see us between the portable cauldrons and apothecary kits.

His green eyes sparkled with mischief. The only explanation for why I crave him so much and the way he’s more intoxicating than any whisky? It had to be a spell.

Then again, I know absolutely nothing about magic. My best friend says a good witch recognized when to call on the supernatural and when to let nature run its course. Yes, it would be simple to invoke attraction by dabbing a little love potion on the neck. However, there’s no substitute for the real stuff. Lust felt so much better when truly earned.

“Relax,” Horatio said, the word more coaxing than soothing. “No one can see us back here.” Tall shelving dark as night hid us from the customers browsing through crystals, candles, and whatever aromatherapy oil I surely needed to calm me down.

“Can’t you keep your hands off me for a second?” I grumbled, though I don’t exactly have complaints about our position.

Horatio drew his hands away, amusement in those bright green eyes as he counted the seconds he kept his hands to himself. One, two, three. Then came the smirk, and he rolled his hips into mine, because no one said they were off limits and—

Dammit. My hands settled around his waist and drew him closer. I tried to protest. “Don’t we have more important things to focus on?”

“Oh, I am.” He pecked my lips quickly with his own. “I assure you.” Another peck. “I’m focusing on—” his mouth began a journey to a spot just below my ear, and he punctuated each word with a kiss. “—the most important part.”

The record would show I tried valiantly to keep us on track. I gave up, getting lost in him instead. Surely our task couldn’t be as important as putting one hand in his black hair and slipping my tongue inside his parted lips. Despite the shoppers in the next aisle, we might as well be the only two people in the world. Our mouths danced together hungrily and—

“Ahem.” Someone cleared their throat.

We froze as if we were guilty teenagers sneaking around, only our heads turning to the noise to see two older women eyeing us with amusement. One stepped forward, the beads on her bracelets jingling, as she reached by my shoulder for what she needed from the shelf.

My beard hid the flush on my face from being caught, though Horatio’s own clean-shaven face showed no embarrassment. Only smug pride, the cat who caught the canary or something.

“Sorry about this,” I apologized to the women without being able to look directly at them. “We were just, uh—”

It had been pretty clear what we were doing. They both smirked, letting the humiliation continue another moment before one took pity on me. “Relax,” she said and then looked to her companion. “We were just as bad before our own Joining, weren’t we?”

“Worse,” the other said with a wicked grin. She looked to us. “Congratulations.” They moved on, chuckling while they went.

With a slight head tilt, Horatio considered me. His pale neck curved only slightly, not showing off the full stretch of skin I loved. I sounded kind of vampiric, lusting after the curve of a neck. With Horatio, there was so much to lust over. I wanted to join our mouths again, but…

“About that ceremony of ours,” I reminded us both. We were here to pick up supplies for it.

Sighing, he pulled away, the reluctance short lived as he remembered something. “Did Miranda put any thought at all into this rite? Maybe I have high standards for a High Priestess, but it’s like she picked the first thing she saw on the internet.”

“Something wrong?”

“If it weren’t for the lavender, our candle would have no masculine scents, and it’s all a little obvious.” He made a distressed noise. “And don’t get me started on the cinnamon and moon water, is this a serious rite or a teenager’s love potion?”

Question seemed rhetorical but he stopped talking, so it was my turn to provide input. “Uh, get whatever you want.”

“You don’t have an opinion?”

“None of this is exactly my area of expertise.” One suggestion did pop into my mind, yet for some reason, the words wouldn’t go past my lips due to a sudden unease that made me hesitate. Pushing away the misgiving, I said, “We’re here now, you might as well grab what you want.”

His eyes fell on my body as he considered the suggestion, then he shook his head. “Alright, though it’s your ceremony too. I’d think you would care.” He began walking away.

Catching him around the middle, I pulled him to me once more, brushing our lips together. I whispered, “There’s nothing I care about more.”

Appeased, he grabbed me by the wrist as he led me around the store, plucking items from shelves and displays and handing them to me to carry, creating his own ritual in his head. Anyone else, I’d worry about unexpected side effects. With Horatio, I wouldn’t be surprised if he had magic running through his veins instead of blood. Uh. Not sure where that thought came from. It felt true, but unease crept over me again.

The whole ceremony was a formality, so there was no reason to have doubts. As far as I was concerned, he was already a part of me. We didn’t need an incantation to bind us together. People didn’t get closer than us.

When he requested my input a moment ago, only one suggestion came to mind. Dandelion. Those little scrubby flowers growing free in fields and unchecked corners of dirt. A weed by some definitions. The same things kids plucked out of the ground and pulled the petals from, playing games of does he love me, does he not, trying to summon their true love, and I…

My true love stood right beside me while we waited in line to pay. He wrapped an arm across my waist, and I didn’t need to look to know he was grinning because no way he would keep it ther-yep, his palm moved lower, cupping my ass. My noise of warning only made him grin. We—

“It’s your turn,” someone said. When it came to Horatio, nobody else better be getting a turn-oh. In line. It was our turn in line, so the person behind us wanted us to move ahead.

Okay, going to the store and paying for this stuff? I could do that much. I really couldn’t contribute anything else. Which herbs and flowers are masculine, and which are feminine? No idea. Nor could I find flowers to represent passion and sincerity or select crystals to aid in a long and healthy bond. I might not even be able to list all the possible steps in this upcoming ritual we were taking part in. I only knew that we would stand up in public and declare our love for each other. I wanted that part.

In fact, the amount I wanted the public declaration seemed almost bizarre. Why did displaying our love out in the open in front of witnesses and the daylight appeal to me so much? We did that all the time. As our actions in this store proved, we weren’t very good at keeping our feelings private and our hands to ourselves.

Screw it. “You go ahead,” I told the person behind us, pulling Horatio to me so the customer could step around.

I laughed and his mouth covered mine before the sound could be heard, so did it even count as a laugh or was it only an idea? Nonsensically I thought, when it comes to him, everything counts. Wrapping my arms around him, I kissed the hell out of him.

And then I woke up.

Groaning, I glanced to the alarm clock. 6:45 in the morning. My girlfriend was already up and out of the room for a morning run. With a sigh, I got up. Even though my guests wouldn’t arrive until after 10. I should make a pot of coffee. I had a feeling it would be a long day.

The trouble with dreaming about a guy who didn’t exist? He was never there when you woke up.