R.J. Scott's Blog

February 7, 2016


Play it Safe: A Glasgow Lads Story
Buylink: Amazon

Find the rest of the series here.

Blurb: After living together for three months, Fergus Taylor and John Burns have come to love each other’s quirks, and the bond between them is starting to look permanent. But when John wants to take things to the next level, Fergus balks, haunted by the betrayals in his own past.

John knows if he’s not careful, he could lose Fergus. If only he weren’t so bad at being careful.

To overcome his fears, Fergus must embark on an epic journey, a journey that will test his faith, his trust, and his ability to keep a cool head in a hot, hot place.

A must-read for Glasgow Lads fans—and for new readers, a short ’n’ sweet intro to this hot new Scottish gay-romance series!

Note: Play It Safe features the heroes of Playing for Keeps, but like all Glasgow Lads books, it may be read as a stand-alone story.

Review: I've been waiting SO LONG for this book... at least a year (well it felt like that way even if it was only a few months LOL).

Awww, Liam and Rab, what can I say. I've been waiting for them, and I wasn't disappointed. If you are a fan of the Glasgow Lads series then you need to read this as soon as you can, and if you haven't read them before then see all my reviews and I promise you will love the stories!

Taster:

In the shower, they didn’t speak. There seemed nothing to say, nothing even to think.

Robert kept his focus on this very moment, with Liam kissing him under the warm streams of water; and this moment, with Liam’s soapy hands slicking their way over his chest and abs; and this moment, with Liam’s fingers slipping up behind his neck, into his hair, thumbs brushing just under his ears, hands holding his face so gently, as if he were something precious.

He didn’t think about the past, not even what they’d just done in front of the mirror. He didn’t think about the future, not even what they were going to do in those beds. Robert knew if he let his thoughts come unstuck from Now, even for a split second, he’d remember how precarious the two of them were.


After they dried off—haltingly, between kisses—Liam looped his towel around Robert’s waist. “Now that I’ve got you clean,” he said, reaching back to open the bathroom door, “I mean to get you pure filthy.” He towed Robert out into the hotel room and guided him toward the near bed. “Lie on your stomach.”



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Published on February 07, 2016 16:00 • 2 views

February 6, 2016

The BookWhen Andrew Craig dies, he leaves his brother Jason a list of places that he wanted to visit but couldn't. Attending a school reunion, London, Stonehenge, these are all on the list and Jason is determined to cross everything off and work through his grief at the same time.

Closeted soap actor Mark Wesley is shocked when a blast from the past looks him up, and devastated when he realizes he will never have a chance to make things right.

Together Jason and Mark agree to work on the list. But what happens when Jason and Mark grow closer, when passion and even love begins to grow?

Was this what Andrew wanted to happen all along between his brother and his friend?
















Buy Links - eBook Amazon (US)  |  Amazon (UK)  |  All Romance  |  Barnes & Noble  |  Kobo  |  Smashwords  |  iTunes


Buy Links - Print Book Amazon (US)  |  Amazon (UK)


Reviews Rainbow Gold Reviews  - 10/10 - "....Beautiful and heartbreaking in one emotionally charged, well written novella.

There hasn’t been a RJ Scott book that I haven’t enjoyed, and I couldn’t help but wonder, could this be the book that didn’t work for me?  Well I guess I will keep wondering because this wasn’t that time....

....This novella, well I can’t say enough good things about this one.  I loved it and would highly recommend this to you if you are looking for a story with some heartache and a whole lot of love...."

Bike Book Reviews  - 5/5 - "....This book is a lovely little treasure that I can't wait for you to read! Thanks Rj for another beautiful read that will be at the top of everyone's re-read list!...."
Click on cover to enlarge
Prism Book Alliance  - 4/5 - "....Scott has the ability to write characters who are real without being over-drawn. She leaves many details just out of sight, because they are not essential to the core of her story. We are not handed great amounts of angst, nor are there horrific traumas unexpectedly revealed. Yes, there is a mystery that needs explaining; and there is sorrow in Mark’s youth that needs to be exorcised. Scott gives us just enough to help us embrace both Jason and Mark for all the good things they are, and to understand their motivations as they rediscover each other through their shared love of Andrew and grief over his untimely death.

Romances can take many forms, and that variety is one of the things that appeals to me most about the genre. “The Bucket List,” however, is pretty purely a romance. In its purity and simplicity lies its success. Sometimes, less is more...."

Love Bytes Reviews  - 4/5 - "....RJ packed a lot in to a small space and I liked it all. A little plot, a little sex, a little travel, a little grief, and a little healing. She uses a delicate touch, giving us just enough drama from the past to keep in interesting, and some grief over Andrew’s death, but it didn’t get mopy. I liked it very much!

Oh yes… That cover? Hello! So pretty!...."

Multitaskingmommas Book Reviews  - 4.5/5 - "....This is definitely one of the best and fastest read written by RJ Scott and, well, it left me feeling really, really good. Definitely one to add to that list or just go for broke, sit with a cup of tea and finish in an afternoon...."

ExcerptChapter 1

Jason Craig cursed under his breath. How many times did he have to say the same thing? Why wasn’t this guard listening to him?

“Excuse me, sir, I’m here to see Mark Wesley.”

The guard ignored Jason for the third time. So far, the built-like-a-brick-outhouse rent-a-cop—Bill, according to his nametag—had let in a delivery of doughnuts, two bouquets of flowers, and the teased-blonde-haired interviewer from the local news station with a microphone in her hand and a cameraman following closely behind her.

The guard had let each of these in with a smile, and not for the first time, Jason wished he had thought about this in advance and maybe booked an interview—if it was at all possible to actually get an appointment with an actor on a closed set.

“Excuse me. Please,” Jason tried again. This time, the guard actually looked down at him from his lofty six and a half foot height and frowned.

“I heard you the first three times, sir, but you need to move on now,” he said. At least his tone was civil even if he hadn’t deigned to really talk to Jason.

“I have to get in to see Mark Wesley,” Jason replied.

“Join the line,” Bill said. He nodded toward the group of thirtysomething women on what looked like some kind of MILF day out. They were all pointing and giggling and shrieking whenever the door opened. Jason sighed. He’d been lumped in with the fans congregating to catch sight of the stars. He wasn’t a fan. Hell, he hadn’t even watched anything Mark was in. According to the IMDB profile for Mark Wesley, he played some kind of rich-boy lothario who bedded and connived and generally filled the bad-boy role in a soap that had been running a very long time.

Who am I kidding? He might have looked at IMDB recently, but at the end of the day, he actually had somewhat followed Mark’s career for years since Andrew, his brother, would mention things about Mark every now and then. He’d already known the boy who’d left town one night and never come back was now gracing the walls of many a fan’s bedroom.

“Can I make an appointment, then?” Jason asked, a little desperate.

“You should write to the studio, sir. Meanwhile, you may want to go stand over there. Some of the actors will be out later to see their adoring fans as per usual.” The guard sounded firm at first, but the second part of the sentence was dripping with sarcasm.

“I’m not a fan,” Jason protested. He looked over again at the chattering women. A couple were staring at him and pointing. Shuffling his feet and suddenly feeling uncomfortable, he wondered where to start to explain so he could get in. “I tried to find out where Mark lived and wanted to track down his family…” He stopped. I sound like some kind of creepy stalker fan. “Look, can you just maybe give him a note for me?”

Bill looked like he was ten seconds away from calling the cops on Jason. That would be just freaking great. How would he explain an arrest record for stalking to the education board when he was back at school? Finally Bill motioned toward a pile of books and notes and teddies that sat on the chair in his small hut.

“You can add a note to the pile.”

The pile? Jason didn’t have time for a note to be added to any kind of disorganized heap. He had exactly two days to get in, talk to Mark, and get him to agree to number one on his brother’s crazy-assed bucket list. The reunion is Saturday. We need to get home.

“If you could move away, sir,” Bill said.

Part of Jason wanted to take a stand and not move, but rebellion wasn’t really part of his makeup and he walked a few steps back. A voice to his side had Jason twisting on his heel. “Excuse me, my friend made me come over.” Jason faced one of the women from the group. He forced a mask of civility into place. Never let it be said his mom didn’t raise him right. “She thinks you are that Scottish guy from Days. You know, the one with the stepparents who turned out to be practicing voodoo and who ended up kidnapping the sister with the twins.”

“I’m sorry—”

“I said you weren’t him and that you were actually a lot better-looking than the Scottish guy, whose name I forget, Niall or Nick or something. Also, up close, you look way younger.” She tilted her head and let out a soft tinkling laugh, then placed a hand flat on his jacket. Jason instantly stepped backward. He wasn’t sure what Days was, but it didn’t sound like a good thing, not the way the rest of the group of women were staring at him like he was a side of beef on sale at the market.

“No. I’m not. I just need to…” He trailed off as two other women from the group joined the first, all three laughing and giggling and touching him. They’re touching me. Looking the guard directly in the eye, he hoped he telegraphed the sheer naked fear inside. Bill wouldn’t even glance at him, but there was a definite smirk on his round face.

“You could be a soap star, though,” Woman One simpered.

“Are you here auditioning?” Woman Two asked. She pressed scarlet-tipped fingers into his biceps and leaned into him. “Niiiice…”

“No, I’m n-not an, uhm, actor. I’m here to visit—” He took another step back when the remainder of the group joined the first three. Fifteen to one was not fair. It was only then, when he was surrounded, that the guard chose to intervene.

“Ten minutes, ladies,” Bill said. “Then the cast are coming out for photos.”

The group melted away from Jason like butter from a knife, and there were a lot of cackling laughs as they grouped around the narrow entrance and the gated hut the guard used. Resolving to get this sorted out, Jason excused himself as he passed by each woman and finally made his way through the heavily perfumed crowd and back to the guard.

“Please can you just tell him that Andrew Craig’s brother is here?” he called over the raised voices and chattering.

“Andrew Craig?”

“Yes. Andrew Craig. I’m Jason, his little brother.”

Seeming to take some kind of pity on Jason, Bill scribbled the name in a notebook. Jason wasn’t sure what changed; maybe only barely making it out alive from a pack of rabid housewives was a badge of honor that Bill wanted to reward. Jason made his way back to the wall and away from the group. He didn’t have to wait long. The door opened and people stepped out. Who had come out, Jason couldn’t see over the small sea of women in heels, but there was a lot of excitement.

He went on tiptoes, but he couldn’t see Mark, no one with dark hair, just two women and a blond man. Inspiration hit—maybe he could ask one of them to tell Mark he was here. He tried his best to make his way through, but the women had formed an impenetrable wall and he was too polite to shove. By the time Jason made it to the front, the door had shut and anyone from the show had gone.

Jason deflated, then decided he would wait for as long as it took for Mark to come see him. What he was waiting for, he wasn’t sure. Was it to have the guard come get him? Had Bill even given the note to Mark? Was the actor aware he was here? When the women walked away, all with huge grins and two exchanging oohs and aahs of having had their breasts signed by the blond Adonis, Jason was left standing alone with only Bill for company. He looked up at the guard expectantly.

“I sent in the name,” Bill said simply.

“And?”

“And nothing. Mark’s people have the note.”

Mark’s people? They wouldn’t know the name Andrew Craig. What was the point in giving it to them? The name should be given to Mark. It had been so many years, but surely Mark would recall Andrew. “They won’t know who Andrew is. Look, please. I need to see him. Can I write a longer note? To explain?”

“Like I said, they have your name.”

Jason contemplated his next move. What if he told Bill why he was standing here? He’d already said he’d tried to find out where Mark lived and placed himself squarely in scary stalker territory. Would it help if he told Bill about Andrew dying? Would that get him any compassion points to get through the door marked Private? Grief washed over him, and the memory of his brother’s voice filled his head.

“First thing, little brother. And this is the important one. Find Mark Wesley and make him see you. Explain to him. Tell him the keeper of his secrets has died. He’ll know exactly what you mean. And for fuck’s sake, get him to the reunion.”
“My brother died,” Jason said. Bill looked at him, and for a second, compassion softened his hard features.

“I’m sorry,” he said.

“Mark was his friend… I have to…”

The guard shook his head. He’d probably heard all kinds of reasons as to why people needed to get inside the closed set. Seemed like bereavement wasn’t going to swing it.



* * * * *



Mark Wesley slumped back on the closed toilet seat, and the last remaining ounce of energy left him in a noisy sigh. Two minutes’ peace. That’s all I want. But that wasn’t happening.

Mark blamed Evan. His agent had told him how good this fly-on-the-wall documentary would be. Emma Watkins is at the top of her game at the moment, she’ll give you good exposure.
What Mark hadn’t realized when he’d signed up for it was that it meant being constantly followed around by her and her cameraman. Which in turn meant no time to himself. Including bathroom time. They’d followed him for two weeks solid already. Consigned to digital film was hours of him acting, learning lines, going for dinner, and sleeping. They also asked far too many questions that slid close to things he had agreed with his agent wouldn’t become public.

“Mr. Wesley?”

Jeez. Did she never give up? She was inside the men’s bathroom and outside his stall door. Quickly, he glanced up, expecting to see the cameraman leaning over the top of the stall next to him. He could see the headlines now: Soap Actor Takes Crap, full frontal pics page five. Didn’t he even get a minute’s peace in the men’s room?

“I’ll be out in a minute, Emma,” he said. He was aiming for patience, but instead there was loosely restrained irritability.

“But—”

“Just give a guy a few minutes to himself,” Mark snapped. He heard the noise of her heels on the tiled floor, some muffled talking between her and the camera guy, and the sound of the closing door. One more hour, that was all he had to handle. Then she was gone to edit whatever she could from his boring life. Cautiously he opened the stall door and checked by the sinks. They really had left. He wouldn’t put it past Emma to have faked leaving just so she got a shot of him doing up his fly.

Crossing to the sink, he washed his hands and checked himself in the mirror. His skin had the orange tint of makeup, and in this light he looked like he had a badly applied fake tan. Getting in the makeup chair every day was not one of the perks of the job. He loved his work, and getting paid well for what was essentially a nine-to-five job was a definite plus in his eyes. Didn’t mean he enjoyed his privacy being disregarded, though. The door opened and rounded on the interloper with temper on his tongue, only relaxing when he saw it was his agent, Evan Rogers.

“If you don’t get that woman out of my face—”

“Mark, I get that you’re pissed—”

“She followed me into the goddamned bathroom, Evan.”

“I’m just as upset as you are—”

“Bullshit, Evan. She hasn’t followed you to film you taking a crap.”

“She filmed you doing that?”

“No, fuck, I wasn’t… I was just hiding…”

“I get it’s been intrusive—”

“You don’t know.” He and Evan had even done some playacting for the documentary, pretend business meetings discussing film options. Make-believe film options. But still, a couple of meetings was nothing like the kind of intense focus that had been on Mark.

“Mark? You okay?” Evan looked concerned. He made sure the main door was completely shut and leaned against it. “Talk to me.”

Mark sighed and rested his hands on the sink, bowing his head. “Yeah, just needed some space, is all.” No sense in lying to the guy who guided his career and who was the only other person to know all, or nearly all, of his secrets. No point in arguing with one of his only friends in the business.

“Just another hour,” Evan said. “You can do it.” He grinned. “Imagine the vacation you can have on the proceeds from this work. It’s money for nothing.”

“And you,” Mark deadpanned. Evan took a percentage of his earnings and would be doing okay off this documentary. Mark didn’t begrudge him, though. Evan worked hard and had gotten him this gig as the resident bad guy in the number-one daytime soap. That in itself was kudos and had made Mark a nice bank balance that sat pretty much untouched. Mark shouldn’t be shouting at the guy.

“I’m raising my rates,” Evan teased. “I want to take you for enough money to get a five-star hotel and a private beach.” He poked a finger at Mark’s chest. “With several naked gorgeous women to choose from.”

Mark smiled. Evan’s rate was a standing joke. “Don’t know what Mary would say about that. Ten years of marriage and you want a new woman?”

Evan wrinkled his nose. “I didn’t say I would touch the scantily dressed women. Just to look at the menu. I’d have some naked guys for her as well.” He snapped his fingers. “You should come and get yourself a guy.”

The last he said in a whisper; even so, Mark frowned at him. They didn’t talk about Mark’s preferences in public. That was way too dangerous.

“Look, I’ll be out in a minute,” he said.

“No worries, I’ll keep her off your back. But there was a reason I was looking for you. Some guy gave a note to Bill, and I wanted to let you know before you go back on set.”

“What is it?” Mark was curious. Evan dealt with fan mail, passing the whole lot in bulk to Mark when Mark had time to actually look at it. He didn’t usually pass over random individual notes.

“It’s not just the usual, so I thought I’d run it by you first, and it mentions that town you used to live in.”

“Cooper’s Yard?”

“Yep. The guy says his name is Jason and that he’s a younger brother of—hang on…” Evan checked the note. “Andrew Craig?”

Jeez. That was a shock from the past. Andrew Craig, from Cooper’s Yard, and his brother Jason. God.

“It’s been a long time since I’ve heard those names,” Mark said. It really had been. Just after his fifteenth birthday, Mark had moved away from the town he’d lived in from birth. Even though he should probably have gone back and seen Andrew, explained things, he never had. Life got in the way. Andrew had his own life now, anyway, he was sure.

“You know him, then?”

“I remember Andrew Craig and his brother,” Mark said. “From way back.”

“Before the reinvention?” Evan asked gently. Mark frowned. He hated that Evan called it that, even though that was essentially what it had been. Rising like a phoenix, a new Mark Wesley had been created from the old one who had too many shitty memories.

“Yeah,” he answered simply because he didn’t need to elaborate at all. Evan knew more about that time than anyone else. Except for Andrew Craig.

“What do you want me to do? We can’t let him on set as it stands; security won’t pass him.”

Mark considered the question. Andrew Craig was such a fond memory. They’d been as close as fifteen-year-old boys could be. Riding bikes around the neighborhood, climbing trees, noticing girls. Well, Andrew noticed girls. Not so much, Mark. Nope, he noticed boys.

He’d thought about his old friend sometimes. He knew how easy it would be to find where he lived and what he was up to. He never did, though. Never enough time, never the right moment. And the way they parted, what Mark had said? That was a memory he didn’t want right now.

I wonder if Andrew ever thinks of me in return? And why is Jason here? What does he want?
Andrew Craig. The only boy Mark had ever told everything to. The only person who knew all of the secrets Mark had inside. Knew what had happened with his less than stellar family life. Knew he had liked boys over girls.

“Can you go out and tell him that I’ll come find him when we finish. Tell him one more scene and I’m done.”

“What about the rest of the interviews with Emma?” Evan looked down at the note and back up at Mark. Mark could tell he was calculating times and schedules in his head.

“They just need a last goodbye thing. I’m going to get that done, get this last take down.” Inspiration hit him. “Tell security to let Jason through to Gino’s, surely they can allow that. I’ll be an hour; two hours, tops. See if he’ll wait.”

Evan nodded and left, and Mark stared at the wall, deep in thought. Maybe Andrew had asked his brother to look him up here in LA. Mark recalled Jason as a skinny kid with braces and the misfortune to trip over his own feet, but with the promise of so much more. The two brothers were close, though, Andrew and Jason, despite the usual sibling rivalries.

It had been so long since Mark had thought of the town that he had left behind. Cooper’s Yard, population three thousand and a handful of change. Or of Andrew. Rolling his shoulders, he looked from left to right to remove some of the kinks in his neck and then left his haven to walk straight into a camera slap bang in his face.

“So talk us through this take,” Emma said. Her voice was brittle. Clearly, Mark’s hiding in the bathroom was a sore point.

Forcing civility into his voice, he began to explain why they had to retake the last scene, but at the back of his mind, he was thinking of other things. He couldn’t wait for Gino’s coffee, a Danish, and to meet up with Jason. He was intrigued by what his old friend’s brother wanted, and maybe, just maybe, he could get an address and look Andrew up.

It was time.



Chapter 2

Gino’s was a regular haunt for the cast of the many network shows filmed in the huge hangers on the Burbank lot. A person needed to pass through security to get in to the coffee shop, but it was outside the strict ‘inner circle’ studio guards. Somewhere for the actors, directors, camera guys, PAs, makeup people—anyone, really—just to meet and drink coffee. Mark opened the door and let out two guys from the local weather show who smiled and nodded to him as they passed. The wait gave him a few seconds to inhale the scent of coffee and for his taste buds to tell him it had been far too long since he’d had one of Gino’s caramel macchiato specialties. Well, at least twenty-four hours too long.

He glanced around and discounted the people he recognized until his gaze landed on someone at a far table sitting with his back to the door. If that was Jason, then he had certainly grown, filled out, if broad shoulders were anything to go by.

“Hey,” Gino said in greeting. The diminutive Italian rubbed harder at a spot on his immaculate counter and then stopped to get Mark’s order. “What can I get ya?”

“The usual,” Mark returned. Gino grinned, did his thing with the huge silver coffee machine, and passed the completed coffee to Mark, who exchanged the nectar for dollars.

“Drink,” Gino encouraged.

“Thanks, Gino. God, I need this.” Mark sipped the brew and burnt his tongue with scalding bitterness followed by a spark of sweet. Beautiful.

“You still got that blonde following you around the studio?”

Mark shook his head, then cast a glance around to see if anyone was close by and could hear. “No,” he said quietly. “Thank God, it’s all done now.”

“Can’t see as what she got from following you to drink coffee. I can see the headlines now”—Gino waved his hands in the air—“Actor Drinks Coffee, exclamation mark, exclamation mark.”

“Actor Burns Mouth, more like,” Mark pointed out and grinned. When Mark turned from the counter, he saw the guy in the corner had turned to face them and had an expectant smile on his face. Jason. He looked so much like Andrew, only with more red in his dark hair and with a wider smile. Mark smiled in return, sketched a wave, and then carefully weaved his way through abandoned chairs and half-asleep studio staff to reach the table his friend’s brother had chosen to use. Jason stood and Mark looked up—and up—at the man who was at least a few inches taller than him.

“You grew into your legs, then, Stretch?” Mark said. The teasing caused Jason to smile, but it was a respectful smile and one that didn’t quite reach his eyes. “It’s been a long time.”

“Hi, Mark,” he said. He extended a hand, and Mark shook it firmly before placing his coffee on the table and sliding into the chair opposite. Jason really had grown into his height. Always kind of cute as a geeky adolescent, Jason had become a fine-looking man. Gone were the braces and the thick-rimmed glasses that never quite managed to stay on his nose. In their place was a beautiful smile with even white teeth, and a very clear view of Jason’s sapphire blue eyes, exactly the same as his brother Andrew’s eyes. His hair was longer, cut in the layers, and bangs fell nearly to his eyes even with the sculpted style. He must be thirty now? Hell, it made Mark feel old to be sitting opposite the kid he remembered at eleven or twelve.

“How are you, Jason?” Mark asked politely.

“I’m okay,” Jason said. His tone belied the words, though. Instead of being calm and positive, it was actually tight. “You look… happy.”

What a curious thing to say. “I like my job here, working here…” Stupid. Calm down. You’ve sat opposite a good-looking man before. Just never one that he’d known as a kid. “Do you want some more coffee?” He changed the subject.

Jason indicated the three coffee containers and the empty water bottle. “Any more and they will need to scrape me off the ceiling.”

“I know the feeling. Coffee keeps me going all day.”

Both men sat quietly, looking at each other, and Mark waited as long as he could before he decided to be the one to start talking.

“It’s been a while, Jason,” Mark began. “I’m sorry you had to wait outside. If I’d known you were coming, I could have got you on a studio tour, got you backstage or something. Hell, you could probably be an extra. Do you act?” He wasn’t entirely sure where the verbal diarrhea was coming from, but Jason went from startled to shaking his head.

“I only came here because Andrew told me to.”

“How is Andrew? I’ve been meaning to catch up. I can’t believe it’s been…” Mark trailed away. Something wasn’t right. Jason’s expression was bleak. Devastation cut deep into Jason’s face, and his blue eyes held so much anguish. Why was Jason here? What did he want to tell Mark? He couldn’t be here to tell him… It couldn’t be.

“I’m sorry,” Jason was saying. “Andrew passed away a few weeks ago. He’d had a mercifully short battle with cancer, and he died at home like he wanted to, surrounded by family.” The words were rehearsed. Jason had probably said them so many times. No one used mercifully in a sentence for real.

Shock struck Mark dumb. Grief followed the shock, unbidden. Images of the Andrew he knew, the boy he remembered, superimposed themselves on Jason’s sad expression, and it was all too much. Andrew had been the same age as him, both of them just into their thirties.

“He was only thirty-three,” Mark managed to force out.

“I know,” Jason responded in a low and level voice.

“But. He can’t… We didn’t…” Mark slumped back in his chair. This was impossible. This wasn’t right.

“He left me a list of things he wanted me to do for him. Kind of a bucket list, I guess.” He paused, then cleared his throat. “Top of that list was to find you and give you your own letter.” Jason reached into his jacket pocket and pulled out an envelope that had seen better days.

He placed it flat on the table and nudged it gently with one finger toward Mark. In response, Mark pulled away sharply. His chair made a horrible screech on the linoleum, and it seemed that every person in the room turned to look at him. When all he did was sit absolutely still, they all lost interest and the general level of chatter increased again.

“I’m so sorry, Jason,” he finally said. The letter remained where Jason had placed it, and Mark made no move to pick it up. “Losing a brother… jeez… I’m… It must be so hard. Was he married? Did he have kids?”

Jason nodded, eyes bright and worrying his upper lip his teeth. “He married Joanna three years ago and I have a two-year-old nephew, Harry.”

“You do? He did?” Mark smiled through the pain in his chest. “A wife? And he left a child here, a permanent mark.” He wondered if the toddler was a direct copy of Andrew, all mischief and sparkly-eyed and into everything. Mark had first met Andrew when they were little, but his memories of being so young were blurry. He wished he had photos, but his mom had burned everything a long time before she’d died.

“He said I have to wait for you to open the letter,” Jason encouraged. Mark reached for the innocent-looking green envelope and turned it over to look at the closure. Sliding a finger from the corner, he soon had it open and tipped the contents onto the table. A condom and a square card. Picking up the condom, he placed it carefully in one hand. Tears clogged his throat as memory upon memory cascaded in his head.

“He always said… all I needed was…”

Andrew had been so serious. “Just promise me you’ll always stay safe. Always use a condom.”

Andrew’s joking acceptance of Mark’s sexuality had been welcome after so much angst, but Mark’s voice choked in his throat. He couldn’t finish the sentence. Jason reached out and placed a hand over his and squeezed before pulling away. Andrew had been his staunchest supporter when he’d revealed he was gay, well finally revealed, anyway. At first Andrew had been horrified, but that had been bad timing. After a while there was no hesitation in his old friend, just a whole new opportunity for teasing him. Hence the condom.

“’Course, I had to look hard for a pack of extra small,” Andrew had added, which resulted in him and Mark wrestling in wet grass. The memory made Mark smile and want to cry at the same time.

“It’s okay,” Jason said. He’d probably done a lot of that. Sat listening to new grief from each person he told, then had to deal with helping those people come to terms. That wasn’t fair at all.

Mark blinked back the emotion and slid the condom in his pocket at the same time Jason released his grip. Damn Andrew and his shout-out from the grave, his words from all those years ago spinning in his mind.

“You should just be honest, Mark. The people that judge you are the ones that don’t matter. I’ll never stop being your friend just because you want to kiss Danny Foster and not his sister Trisha.”
Picking up the card, Mark turned it over and he blinked as he read the words, then reread them, not really believing what he was seeing.

Because apparently Andrew had seen fit to give him a ticket to the Cooper’s Yard High School fifteenth reunion, their old high school in a town Mark had left too many years ago to recall.

God. No. He’d moved schools, and the last thing he wanted to do was ever set foot back in his old school again. The gymnasium was the scene of his humiliation, of the final nail, of the moment he screwed a lid tight on so many secrets. Why would Andrew give him a ticket to that?

“Fuck no,” he managed to force out. Then his own disbelief was pushed to one side when Jason placed a card of his own on the table. That invite had Andrew’s name on it.

“This is mine. He wanted me to go in his place.”

Tears pricked Mark’s eyes, but he was not going to let the shock make him cry, not in front of Jason, who looked so bleak but was being so damn strong.

“Are you going?”

Jason nodded. “He wanted us to go with each other. I guess he figures that seeing me and the two invites together would hold some sway in getting you to go. I have something I am supposed to read you now,” Jason said uncomfortably. Mark looked up at him, confusion building. “It’s the end of number four on my own list. Is it okay?”

Mark didn’t want to know why this was number four, or what numbers one to three had been. Funeral arrangements? Music? Possessions? I feel sick. He nodded to indicate Mark should continue.

“Andrew wrote this himself just after he was first diagnosed, when he was going through his first treatments. Just in case you think any of this was done when he was near the end and his mind wasn’t…” Jason stopped talking for a moment.

“It’s okay,” Mark encouraged.

“He says I need to say this exactly as he wrote it, so here goes. ‘Mark, take these tickets and use them. The school is a much less scary place when you drive a Porsche and have made a life you can be proud of. Don’t let them win with their dead dreams. Oh and mostly, make sure you meet my beautiful wife and my gorgeous son, you’ll love them. Tell Harry all our stories so he knows his dad.’”

Jason finished and placed the letter back in a scuffed notebook where a small stack of letters were pushed tight and held with a band.

“That’s pretty heavy stuff.”

Jason shrugged. “I know.”

Mark swallowed. Didn’t matter how Jason tried to explain, fear held Mark tight and wasn’t letting him go any time soon. Andrew had known what had happened at that school, so why would he even suggest Mark go back to the place that gave him so much misery?

“I really don’t understand why he wants me to go back to a town that I hated, to a school I hated, to go to a damned party.”

“There has to be some reason,” Jason said. His tone was very calm, but there was a hint of trepidation. He was expecting Mark to laugh this off probably. After all, Mark and Andrew hadn’t seen each other in a long while. Jason probably looked at him and saw an ex-friend who didn’t care enough about Andrew to have even checked up on him.

Mark had so many emotions winding their way through him. All he wanted to do was get a bottle of whiskey and lose himself in grief for a few hours, remember what he used to be and the Andrew he recalled.

He moved Jason’s ticket so it sat next to his, and seeing the two names next to each other was like a knife to the gut. He pushed Jason’s ticket—Andrew’s ticket—back toward him and turned his own ticket over and over in his hand. Then he looked into Jason’s bright blue eyes and saw they held a combination of hope and despair.

Jason’s grief and expectations were a weight on him, and regret, fear, sadness, and pity all fought for dominance. But at the end of the day, acceptance won. He was clearly in some kind of shock but his heart knew he would do this for Andrew.



“Okay,” he said simply. “If that is what he wanted, if it helps, then I’ll go.”


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Published on February 06, 2016 16:00 • 5 views

February 5, 2016

Alpha Delta is now on Kobo

Have you read the Alpha series from All Romance?

Officer Finn Hallan has never run from a fight. With Niall’s life and love at stake, he’s not about to start now…

Part of the AllRomance Alpha series

Finn Hallan is a member of the elite Norwegian Emergency Response Unit, code name Delta. When the team is sent to respond to a hostage situation on a Oil Platform in the Norwegian Sea, he has to face demons he thought he had buried a long time ago.

Scottish engineer Niall Faulkner’s skills in oil platform decommissioning takes him to the Forseti platform at the worst possible time. When he’s captured by terrorists, his only thought is that he will never get to tell his lover how he really feels.

Can Finn keep Niall alive? Or will they both die at the hands of hijackers in the frigid waters of the Norwegian sea?






Buy Links - eBook All Romance  |  Amazon (US)  | Amazon (UK) | Barnes & Noble | iTunes | Kobo

Buy Links - Print Book Amazon (US)  |  Amazon (UK)  |  Barnes & Noble

Reviews Multitaskingmommas Book Reviews  - 4/4 - "....This was a really fast read and finished this in just one sitting. Yes, it was that fast and the story was super fast paced. Fortunately, this is written by RJ Scott so all the elements are present and accounted for: romance, erotica, men, gorgeous men, glasses, alpha men, and smaller men. Oh yes, there is the drama of the terrorist attack on an oil rig. Yes, this is trully a fantabulous story, but heck, it is one enjoyable read I just lost myself for an hour and came out grinning...."

Hearts on Fire  - 4/5 - "....There’s a lot going on in the second half of the book, with the crazy around. I did like very much when Niall is frozen in place on the boat deck. That seemed a very real reaction – Niall isn’t a Delta, he’s an engineer. But his thoughts of “What would Finn do?” help him through. And I thought the ending was so them...."

Rainbow Book Reviews  - "....An elite team of anti-terrorist specialists with a code name that demands respect? Check. Action-packed adventure with a side serving of love developing between men who would not normally consider each other as anything more than a one-night partner? Oh yes. And one of the most unusual settings I have ever found in gay romance—an oil platform about to be decommissioned? Put on your seat belts and get ready for one wild ride!...."

Gay List Book Reviews  - "....This is a short story so everything happens quickly. I enjoyed the romance and the way both wanted more but were afraid to ask for it, nothing like a life and death situation to put things in perspective. These guys were so hot for each other every time they were together, barring the life in peril portions, they were tearing up the sheets.

Fun, sweet, sexy, cute and entertaining. I enjoyed this brief interlude of excitement, danger and love...."

Excerpt
Chapter 1

“This is the second fucking time we’ve had to do this and I’m telling you now I’m not staying for the whole thing.”

Finn Hallan glanced over at his teammate and wondered if he should check him for any visible weapons. Erik was one of those guys who was never happy about sitting still, let alone in a meeting as seminar dealing with health and safety.

“Cap’s not going to like you backing out of this,” Finn warned. He was just as restless, too used to action and getting on with things instead of sitting here in a briefing room listening to changes in policy. Thing is, this shit was statutory and Cap had made Finn and Erik attend, in case there was anything important about oil platform safety. Finn was certainly not going up against Cap, and he knew Erik needed to keep his ass in the chair if he wanted to stay on the team.

Delta was a highly sought after group of people to join and if you made it you didn’t refuse to sit in meetings that you’d been ordered into.

“We need a serious emergency,” Erik groused. “A hostage negotiation or at the very least a terrorist threat.”

The woman in front of him turned and frowned at the words, but she took one look at both Erik and Finn and turned back to face the front. Finn knew they looked out of place. Both in the dark dress colours of the Delta uniform, not long off duty, they probably gave the impression of some kind of hardass security detail. Certainly not the kind of guys you told to shut up. She would know who they were, members of the ERU, codenamed Delta, and the ones who policed for terrorist activities in Norway and out into the Norwegian sea. Which, incidentally, was where most of these NorsDev employees in the briefing worked.

Erik grinned and raised his eyebrows suggestively before cupping his groin and looking pointedly at the back of the blonde’s head. Finn shook his head. She was a NorsDev exec and everyone knew the high-ups at the energy company had nothing to say to the ranks. If only she knew how much Finn and Erik could do for her if she was in trouble, if only she was aware of the kind of men they really were—ones who never sat still—then maybe she’d be a little more understanding of the boredom factor.

The presentation on the large screen at the front of the room switched to a new slide with a name in block capitals. NIALL FAULKNER. Not a name that Finn recognized and he couldn’t help the groan when he saw the line under the name. Platform Decommissioning Engineer.
“Oh Jesus fuck. Save me from nerds with clipboards and PowerPoints. I think my last brain cell up and died,” Erik muttered.

The speaker indicated the slide, “And now I’d like to hand it over to Niall Faulkner. Some of you will recall Niall was responsible for the X220 additions.” A ripple of murmurs around the room indicated that at least some knew what the hell that meant. Evidently this Faulkner guy was someone with a name at NorsDev. A man stood in the front row of the lecture theatre and made his way up the four steps to the stage, tripping on the last step and grabbing at the retreating previous speaker as he left. Luckily the new guy, Niall, Finn assumed, didn’t fall flat on his face, but he couldn’t help the smile on his face. It was funny shit seeing someone fall over.

Niall made his way to the lectern, looking down at his notes and shuffling them into some kind of order. The main spotlight flickered then focused directly on him and Finn had an instant gut reaction to the man on the stage.

Short and slim, with dark hair and glasses, he was the hottest safety officer Finn had ever seen.

“Woo boy,” Erik said under his breath. “You thinking he’s way to pretty to be a man?”

Finn didn’t dignify the comment with a response. Erik was the only member of the Delta team who knew Finn was gay and that comment was directly aimed at Finn and the fact Erik kept trying to get Finn hooked up with someone. Anyone.

“Not my type,” Finn lied very quietly. Actually, this Niall guy was pretty much the epitome of Finn’s type. Preppy with a side order of nerdy was just exactly what Finn liked under him, or over him, or hell, anyway which around him. And the glasses? Hell, glasses got him every time.

“You think he’s batting on your team?” Erik asked.

“Absolutely,” Finn deadpanned.


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Published on February 05, 2016 16:00 • 10 views

February 4, 2016


The Law of AttractionBuylinks to follow
Blurb: When a professional relationship turns personal, it’s impossible to resist the law of attraction.
Alec Rowland is a high-flying lawyer in a London firm whose career is his life. He doesn’t have time for relationships and his sexuality is a closely guarded secret. After picking up a cute guy on a Friday night, Alec’s world is rocked to its foundations when his one night stand shows up in the office on Monday morning—as the new temp on his team.

Ed Piper is desperate to prove himself in his new job. The last thing he needs is to be distracted by a crush on his boss. It’s hard to ignore the attraction he feels, even though Alec’s a difficult bastard to work for.

Both men strive to maintain a professional relationship, but tempers fray, passions ignite, and soon they’re both falling hard and fast. If they’re ever going to find a way to be together, Alec needs to be honest about who he really is because Ed won’t go back in the closet for anyone.

Review: This book ticked so many of the tropes I love, one night stands, workmates, understanding family, not so understanding family. It was a delicious read, and very sexy, and I devoured it in one sitting. Highly recommended...
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Published on February 04, 2016 16:00 • 13 views

February 3, 2016

Amy LaneLollipopEzra Kellerman flew across country to see if he had another chance with the man he let slip through his fingers. He didn't. Rico has moved on, but he doesn’t just leave his ex high and dry. Instead, Rico entrusts his family and friends with Ezra’s care. Ezra, confused, hurt, and lost, clings to Rico’s cousin and his boyfriend as the lifelines they are—but their friend Miguel is another story.

Miguel Rodriguez had great plans and ambition—but a hearty dose of real life crushed those flat. When Miguel finds himself partially in charge of the befuddled, dreamy, healing Ezra, he’s pretty resentful at first. But Ezra’s placid nature and sincere wonder at the simple life Miguel has taken for granted begin to soften Miguel’s hardened shell. Miguel starts to notice that Ezra isn't just amazingly sweet—he’s achingly beautiful as well. Suddenly Miguel is fending off every single man on the planet to give Ezra room to get over Rico—while fighting a burning suspicion that the best thing to help Ezra get over his broken heart is Miguel.

Chris QuintonBuylinks hereThe mutual attraction between Jesse and Will is a bonus for Melusine when her enemies close in and she needs to rebuild her war band—starting with Jesse, Will, and Greymalkin.

Jesse Adams is an ex-rugby player who's gone into seclusion to avoid the media following a guilty verdict in a court case. Jesse has come to live for a year in Greenlynn, where he is supposed to be writing his biography.

Will Blake is an out and proud policeman, respected and liked by the community he helps to protect from rural crime.

When the two men meet their attraction is instant, but they have no idea their love will draw them into a centuries' old conflict.

Melusine, a deity of rivers and seas, long ago lost the Battle of the Betrayal and is imprisoned in a nexus centred on the source of the Lynn River. She can only travel in the flowing water of her river, and cannot set foot on her banks. Her cats are not so bound. Neither pets nor familiars, they move freely between the realities, her agents among the humans who live along the Lynn.

When Melusine's enemies come to the valley in search of revenge, Jesse and Will discover they have a part to play in the ancient feud. Do they commit to becoming part of a mythical triad, or leave the valley and forget they ever knew that magic exists?


JL MerrowBuylinks hereWhen the costs are added up, will love land in the black?
Mark Nugent has spent his life in the closet—at least, the small part of it he hasn’t spent in the office. Divorced when he could no longer deny his sexuality, he’s sworn off his workaholic ways and moved to Shamwell with his headstrong teen daughter to give her a stable home environment.

His resolve to put his love life on hold is severely tested when he joins a local organization and meets a lively yet intense young man who tempts him closer to the closet threshold.

Patrick Owen is an out-and-proud charity worker with strong principles—and a newly discovered weakness for an older man. One snag: Mark is adamant he’s not coming out to his daughter, and Patrick will be damned if he’s going to start a relationship with a lie.

Between Mark’s old-fashioned attitudes and a camp, flirtatious ex-colleague who wants Mark for himself, Patrick wonders if they’ll ever be on the same romantic page. And when Mark’s former career as a tax advisor clashes with Patrick’s social conscience, it could be the one stumbling block they can’t get past.

Warning: Contains historically inaccurate Spartan costumes, mangled movie quotes, dubious mathematical logic and a three-legged pub crawl.





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Published on February 03, 2016 16:00 • 11 views
201626 February - Notes & Roses (MF, writing as Rozenn Scott)
24 March - Rancher's Son (Montana 2)

Coming soon
Deacon's Law (Heroes 3)

Kissing Alex (Bodyguards 6)
Gabriel (Book 1 in the Legacy series - an offshoot from Texas)
Sixways Lane (English Hearts 2)
Untitled (Montana 3)
Kyle (Legacy 2)
Danny (Legacy 3)  
Ghost (Sanctuary 9)Untitled (Sanctuary 10)

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Published on February 03, 2016 01:30 • 14 views

February 2, 2016


The BookBodyguard Max Connery is used to being mistaken for being younger than he is.

Being carded every time he buys a beer is usual. Even though he's just turned twenty eight and has two tours in Afghanistan as a pilot under his belt.

When a threat is made on the life of a prince attending University in the UK, Max is the perfect choice to blend in with  students and to keep Prince Lucien safe. Even if it means joining the swim team to be by his side.

But, when death visits the University, abruptly this job is a long way past keeping the prince happy and safe. Instead Max has to keep Lucien alive.

















Bodyguards Inc. Series
Book 1 - Bodyguard to a Sex God
Book 2 - The Ex Factor
Book 3 - Max and the Prince
Book 4 - Undercover Lover
Book 5 - Love's Design
Book 6 - Kissing Alex (coming soon)
Buy Links - eBook
Amazon (US)  |  Amazon (UK)  | ARe  Kobo  |  Barnes & Noble  |  Smashwords  |  iTunes


Buy Links for Print Book - Volume 2 - Max and the Prince & Undercover Lovers
Amazon (US)  |  Amazon (UK)


Reviews
Click to enlarge Bike Book Reviews  - 5/5 - "....First off let me say, "I have been waiting on this one!" This series is the one that started my obsession with Rj Scott books, and finally reading this one was like meeting a new friend from a family you have known a while, I loved every minute of it!...."

Rainbow Gold Reviews  - 10/10 - "....Max and The Prince is a great read, the best in the series so far. I was gripped from start to finish. I think RJ Scott has excelled with this book...."

Rainbow Book Reviews - "....This is a suspense-filled mystery, threaded with a hot, but not insta-love relationship....

....If you enjoy stories with suspense, intrigue, murder, bodyguards, princes, and passionate sexual encounters, you may appreciate this story. Thanks, RJ, for the exciting escapade...."

Paranormal Romance Guild  - 5/5 - "....This was a wonderful story with two amazing characters, a hot, macho bodyguard and a quiet caring prince. I am sure there are many out there who can't imagine a gay man can be macho and tough, but they can be. They can be a man’s man in more ways than one. How many heterosexual men out there are afraid of their own shadow? I can say in all honesty I never figured out who the guilty party was and that doesn't happen often. This series does not have to be read in order, but why miss out on other hot bodyguards?...."


Excerpt
Chapter 1

“This is the most important case you’ve ever had!” The shouted words boomed into the outer office, and Max frowned at the anger and vehemence in them. Seemed the new client was giving Kyle Monroe, owner of Bodyguards Inc., one hell of a time.

Ross Jackson glanced at his watch. “I think you’d better go in,” he said, punctuating the words with a tap of his pen to his desk.

“Will Kyle want me in there yet?” Max tried to ignore his concern about this whole mess. He wasn’t the kind of person to unnecessarily stress about situations. No, Maxwell Connery was a get-things-done kind of guy and had absolute focus. But this bodyguard to a prince gig was worrying him. He didn’t know if the actual prince was beyond the door to Kyle’s office, since the raised voices belonged to Kyle and only one other. The curse words from the other man didn’t bode well, but neither did they sound like any kind of prince Max had ever visualized. Max had arrived a few minutes after the potential clients and now sat with Ross in the outer office while initial discussion was undertaken, which was par for the course, but that didn’t mean he hadn’t heard every word from the angry man inside.

And now it was Max’s turn for his part in this beauty parade. He was up on a close protection job for a prince. A real, honest-to-God royal from some country in mainland Europe. He tried to get information out of the normally verbose Ross, but he was being uncharacteristically quiet this morning. Max couldn’t believe that Ross didn’t know something about what was going on in there. After all, the PA to the owner of Bodyguards Inc. knew everything and could always be relied on to pass along something that would give Max the edge during the interview.

“Before I go in, you seriously know nothing about the client?”

“Nothing,” Ross said. “Big scary dude who’s with our client isn’t happy, though.” He inclined his head to the closed door that was doing little to muffle the shouting.

“Is it the prince who’s doing all that shouting?” No doubt Prince Whatever was a spoilt, entitled, upper-class twat who coasted through life with no worries.

Ross peered at the screen in front of him. “Nope, that is Teddy. He’s built like…” Ross waved his hands around. “He’s the royal bodyguard. And that’s all it says. Just Teddy. Looks like he wants to kill everyone.”

Teddy sounded like a weird name for the guy Ross described and the owner of the cursing, shouting voice in Kyle’s office. ‘Teddy’ brought up images of a cute guy with an adorable button nose on his endearing little face. But as Max pushed himself up to focus on the job at hand, he knew he was the last one to talk about appearances. He was twenty-eight, but he was still carded all the time.

“At least my name is kinda cool,” he muttered, more to himself than Ross.

“Sorry?”

“Nothing.”

Drawing back his shoulders, Max knocked on the door and waited for the “enter.” There was no shouting now, just a horrible cold silence. Max quickly assessed the situation in the office. He recognized Teddy the giant—broad, six eight at least, short to the scalp hair, a scar on his forehead, black suit stretched over his muscled frame, earpiece dangling on his neck, and a scowl carved into his expression.

Which meant the other one was the prince. Right? Didn’t look much like a prince, though. The man was slouched in the chair with familiar white leads from earbuds plugged into an iPhone. Max couldn’t see the prince’s face, hidden as it was by the hood on a bright sapphire Cardiff University sweatshirt. Baggy jeans and scuffed Converse completed the look of couldn’t-care-less rebel. Max could hear the music the prince was playing from where he was. Not the bones of it to recognize an artist, but the high tinny beat of the music that flowed in time with the tap of the guy’s left foot.

“Maxwell Connery, Theodore Estevan.” Kyle indicated the giant. Max held out his hand to shake and was treated to a quick once-over from Teddy, or Theodore, as he was being introduced. “And this is Prince—”

“This is your man?” Teddy interrupted with something akin to horror. He stood up so violently he caused his chair to skitter back and hit the wall. “This child?” Teddy’s voice held an inflection—something Mediterranean, maybe?—though it was mostly lost in the sheer dismay in the tone.

Max didn’t drop his hand, and whether Teddy couldn’t think of another reason not to shake it or he was just being polite, Teddy grasped Max’s hand with a quick squeeze that was probably supposed to underline Teddy’s intimidating size and strength. Teddy was strong, that was undeniable, but Max didn’t flinch.

“Mr. Estevan,” Max acknowledged.

Max waited for an introduction to the elusive guy under the hood. Instead Teddy grabbed his chair and sat back down. There was evidently no rush to include the prince in any of this, not that he seemed at all bothered. Apart from the tapping of his foot and the rhythmic rise and fall of his chest, he didn’t move an inch.

“Max is one of my best operatives,” Kyle said, his tone the same one he used when he was calming Ross down after a missing stapler incident, low and encouraging. Like if he said something in just the right way, the situation would be diffused.

Teddy sneered at Max. “You told me this Max was a pilot, ex–Air Force. I don’t see that in this kid.”

“I am former RAF,” Max said. “Ten years, including two tours overseas.” Max refused to be insulted by the open contempt and disbelief on Teddy’s face. If it wasn’t for one crashed plane and a faulty ejection seat, he’d still be flying, and he was proud of what he’d achieved in his time in the service. People could judge him harshly on his age, but not on his accomplishments.

Teddy huffed dramatically with an angry shake of his head.

“You can’t think I am handing Prince Lucien over to the care of someone as… little… as this man. What happens when someone attacks? Is he going to blow them over with a kiss?”

Max refrained from making a retort. He wanted to, but that wouldn’t be professional. No, he had to let Kyle lead this. But hell if he would forget that kiss comment. He’d find Teddy and knock all six eight of him on the floor, then stand and laugh. There was no adage more appropriate than “The bigger they are, the harder they fall.” Max might only be five nine, but he knew all the moves to bring tree-size men to their knees.

“I’d suggest you show my operative some respect,” Kyle began. Max cast his boss a quick glance. That kind of language didn’t get sales. Kyle’s words could provoke, and provoke they did.

Teddy stood up again, and Max winced as the chair smacked the wall hard enough to leave scuff marks.

“I will not be spoken to like that. Prince Lucien, we’re leaving,” Teddy announced theatrically with a wave of his hand and the press of fingers to hood-guy’s shoulder.

The hidden man moved away from the hand, and with an exaggerated sigh, he pushed back his hood and pulled out his earbuds. He stood up, but Max couldn’t get a good look at him because Teddy was in the way.

“You need to go outside, Teddy.” The guy’s voice was slightly accented but English enough that it was difficult to ascertain the country of origin, similar to Teddy’s. Prince Lucien sounded tired.

Teddy stood firm. “I’m not—”

“Teddy, I’ll handle this.”

“I don’t trust him, sir,” Teddy insisted.

“I know you’re only thinking of me, but please, Teddy, give me five.”

Teddy didn’t respond, but there was a visible tightening of his shoulders and he spun, deceptively graceful for such a big guy, to face Max. There was one final stern glare that dripped with so much warning Max nearly took a step back, then Teddy moved away and left the room.

For the first time, Max got a good look at the man who had been hidden under the hood. Dark hair, tousled and messy in that just-out-of-bed look, with bangs that dropped to his eyebrows. With the hair was the darkest of eyes, a rich chocolate brown. The man had cheekbones to die for and a wry smile on his face. He didn’t look like any kind of prince that Max had seen before, certainly not all spit-polished and serious like he’d expected.

Max couldn’t help himself, he smiled back and extended his hand. “Max Connery.”

“And I’m Lucien Magrello. Could I possibly have the room for a few minutes?” He addressed the second to Kyle, who looked at both him and Max with concern on his face.

Finally, Kyle scooted up from his chair and left the room, briefly squeezing Max’s shoulder as he went past.

“Please, Max, have a seat,” Lucien said.

“I prefer to stand, sir.”

“Call me Lucien. Please.” He didn’t make a move to sit himself; instead, he looked at Max with a considering expression on his face. “Do you swim?”

Max blinked at the question. Swim? Why was that important? “I swim,” he said. He tried not to let the uncertainty in his head filter into his voice. He’d been on several jobs with BI before, but he’d never been asked whether he could swim.

“How well?” Lucien tilted his head as he spoke, his dark eyes narrowing as he assessed Max. “I mean, you’re not tall, so your length would be less than…” He stopped talking, a sudden flush of color on his cheeks.

“I swim well enough,” Max answered.

“Well enough to be on a swim team?” Lucien was so earnest and so young. Max knew Lucien was twenty-five which made him only three years younger than Max. But the way he was talking now made, all eager and excited, made Max felt terribly old. A swim team? That would involve swimming fast and yes, he could swim, but he wasn’t the fastest or the best swimmer out there.

A full sentence didn’t immediately come to mind. “Uhm…”

Lucien huffed a laugh. “Actually, you don’t have to answer that. I mean, it’s the perfect way to keep close to me if you practice with the swim team. But your boss had the idea of you pretending to be my boyfriend so you can come watch me practice even if you don’t swim.”

“If it becomes necessary then that is certainly an option,” Max said.

“Because I won’t give up my swimming, okay? Whatever you say, however many times you lock me in a room, I will always find a way to get out and swim.”

Max nodded like he understood every word that had just been said to him. He was a good swimmer, strong enough to keep up with the other cadets at Cranwell, but Lucien was right. Max was short, which was a handicap against long, lanky Lucien.

“I’m sorry, I just insulted you,” Lucien interrupted Max’s thought process. “I can assure you I am normally better mannered; it’s just I’m not in a good frame of mind. If that is any excuse.”

“You didn’t—”

“I mean, you’re short, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you can’t do your job, yes?” Lucien clapped his hand over his mouth. “I did it again.” The flush of embarrassment seemed to intensify, and Lucien added a frown for good measure.

“I’m five nine, which is actually about average, and yes, I can do my job.” That was the best Max could come up with at the moment. He’d always found honesty was the best policy.

“And about Mr. Monroe’s idea for you to pretend to be my boyfriend?”

“If that’s what it takes,” Max said.

Max swore he saw a flash of disappointment in Lucien’s eyes at his noncommittal answer, but it was so quick he couldn’t pin it down. He’d think on what it meant later.

“And, Mr. Connery, you will stop… everything?”

That Max couldn’t promise, not until he knew all the facts. “Why don’t we go over why you need a bodyguard—besides the obvious, of course—and then I’ll tell you what I can do.” He sat down in the chair the prince had suggested and indicated that Lucien should take the chair opposite.

“What do you need to know?”

“Tell me everything.”

Lucien glanced at the door, uncertainty on his face. “Shouldn’t the others be in here?”

Max shrugged. “Do they know more than you?”

Bitterness and sharp-eyed focus replaced the uncertainty and blushing. “Hell, no.”

Max sat back in the chair and forced himself to relax. “Tell me, then.”

“Where from?” Lucien did the opposite to Max and leaned forward in his chair, elbows on his knees and foot tapping to an unheard rhythm.

“The beginning.”

“Okay.”

Prince Lucien stopped for a moment, and his eyes lost that sharp focus. He was lost in memories and Max knew better to interrupt the flow. He just hoped that Kyle could keep Teddy outside for long enough that he could get a feel for whether he was a good fit on this case.

“I apologize for the way this story starts, because it’s a long time ago. And it isn’t excuses, but reasons. Is that okay?”

“Go on.”

“When I was five, my youngest brother was born. He was a beautiful baby, and I remember holding him when they brought him home.” A soft smile tilted his lips. This was clearly a very happy memory. “And I don’t mean for the official photos, I mean just holding him to hold him. He was so tiny, and I thought, ‘He’s the person I want to be good for.’ Right there and then I felt so empowered as a big brother I decided I would keep my room clean, not shout at my mum, the whole list of things kids do to test the limits. As far as I was concerned, Sebastian, or Seb as we all called him, would be my responsibility. My other siblings were older than me and away at school, and it would just be me and Seb for the longest time.” Lucien stopped for a moment and Max sensed this story was going somewhere very painful for Lucien.

Lucien sighed. “We were close, but he became ill, leukemia. He died when he was twelve.”

When Max had suggested Lucien start from the beginning, he hadn’t imagined it would go this far back and compassion welled inside him. Lucien had clearly adored his brother.

“I’m sorry,” he murmured.

Lucien sat quietly for a moment and didn’t look up to acknowledge the comment or make eye contact with Max. “There is a reason why I’m telling you this. You see, there are particular ways of reacting to things in my family. We stay quiet and we grieve privately. We don’t rant and rave at the world, we accept sympathy with grace and courage. But when Seb died, I didn’t… I went… I lost control of my life for a long time, drinking, partying, and having—” He coughed. “—an inappropriate liaison. Of which there are photos.”

“Photos of the drinking, or the liaison itself?”

“Both. The drinking my family could handle, but the, uhm… sex side of it was a bitter pill as it doesn’t look good.” Lucien air quoted the last words with resignation in his voice.

“Have you seen the photos?” Max prompted.

Lucien reached for an envelope on Kyle’s desk and passed it to Max. “In there,” he said.

Max opened the envelope and pulled out one photo just far enough to see a grainy shot captured with a long-distance lens of a man that could potentially be Lucien with what looked like another man. Very quickly he pushed the photo back into the envelope. “I don’t need to see any more. So this whole situation is about you being blackmailed for what? Being gay? Being caught on camera?”

“Kind of.” The way Lucien spoke told Max there was more to this than was obvious at first.

“Whoever’s threatening to expose you does realize this is the twenty-first century, right?”

Lucien colored, but at least he was looking at Max directly now. “In my family, my country… Look, the man I’m with in the photos is a government official, a married official. I promise you I didn’t know he was married… but I was… drunk… really drunk. I don’t expect you to understand, but my family is held to a higher moral standing.”

So Lucien believed that any family in the public eye should have higher moral standards than the rest of the populace. Useful to know.

Max was puzzled. “Do they have problems with you being gay?” Max couldn’t recall anyone in the British monarchy who was openly gay, but to be honest, he didn’t pay that much attention.

“They know that I am. They don’t—” He searched for the word. “—approve as such. But as long as I keep it all behind closed doors, it’s fine. After all, I have three older siblings who can take care of the family firm and the appropriate number of heirs.”

Bitter much?

“So, this government official, you think he is the one blackmailing you?”

“No, God no. The authorities went down that road and Edward denied everything and they couldn’t find any link or evidence.”

Max pulled his lower lip between his teeth and considered the information. Princely meltdown, photos, gay sex—none of it added up to Prince Lucien needing an actual bodyguard.

“There’s more, then,” Max said. There has to be.

Lucien shifted uncomfortably. “The first few notes arrived just after I was photographed with the man and they were sent to my parents. Imagine that? Your parents being sent incriminating photos of their quiet son. They were shocked, horrified, but they refused to negotiate with the blackmailer. They ignored them, and there weren’t any more threats, no more photos, and everything appeared to end. I just wanted to hand over any money they wanted, but my family wouldn’t let me, and it seemed they were proved right. Right then it seemed that whoever took the photos and threatened me had given up.”

“What do you mean, it seemed?”

“Because then they found the body.”

Lucien was growing agitated, twisting his fingers together, and he was no longer flushed with embarrassment but spiky with the beginnings of anger. A change of subject was probably a good idea.

“What body?” Max said.

“Wait, I have to get this straight in my head. I should start with university.” Lucien closed his eyes and looked to be getting his thoughts in order and Max had to hold back his instant state of alert at the mention of a body. “I decided I wanted to study in the UK, anything to get away from… everything. I’d already missed years by losing the plot, gap year from uni after gap year, always an excuse not to go. Then suddenly, that is all I wanted to do. My old tutor recommended Cardiff a long time ago when I was only twelve or so, something about the UK Universities having the best research facilities and Cardiff being a beautiful city. When I was applying I remembered what he said.”

“Not to mention it’s in a different country.” Max pointed out.

“Yes. I mean, at first my family didn’t like the idea of me moving so far away without a security team. Or without the pomp and ceremony of a visiting dignitary.” Lucien rolled his eyes. “But after everything I went through when Seb died, I think my parents finally came to the decision that any move to get my head out of my arse was a good one.”

Max couldn’t help the small snort of amusement. The word arse coming out of Lucien’s mouth was just all wrong. Lucien frowned momentarily at the snort but continued.

“So some years later than the other students I should have been with, I started my degree. I was registered as just Luke Magrello, the normal guy with the funny accent.” He pointed at himself and offered a wry smile. “Luke Magrello doesn’t need a bodyguard or any special treatment. The threats had stopped. Everything was quiet, and I wanted to blend in and be normal. I’m ashamed to say that I did my own bit of blackmailing by promising my parents to never drink again if they’d only let me study at Cardiff and live on campus and just be normal.”

“Okay, let me understand this. You’re a prince, royalty, but you imagined you could hide away and no one in the age of Twitter and Facebook would put two and two together?”

“Prince is a title, that’s all. My family doesn’t have the money one would think was attached to it. I’m maybe eightieth in line to the throne in the UK through my father’s side, but we’re not rich—in fact you could say we’re property rich but cash poor.”

Max couldn’t get any of that to make sense. Why was someone blackmailing a family with no money, and—wait, none of that answered his original question. “So why do you need a bodyguard?”

Lucien bit his lip. “I don’t think I do.” He held up a hand to stop Max from responding. “The letters,” he said. He passed over another envelope, and this time Max pulled out everything. Nine separate letters in individual plastic wrappers with the stamp of Cardiff police on three of them and a familiar country name on the other six. So that’s where Prince Lucien comes from. Envelopes were attached to each, but none had gone through a postal service as such. All hand delivered, then.

“They’re in order,” he said. “The first six were sent to my home before I moved here and when the police looked at them the first five were all linked by tone. Crude and sexual, whoever wrote these was after one thing, and they signed off OS. The sixth one is different. The first five had my parents demanding I had a 24/7 bodyguard, and there was no way they would have let me leave the country on my own. Look… you’ll see.”

Max read the first one, a letter of admiration and respect, albeit a short one. Nothing much that would ping his radar, apart from the fact the letter had been signed off with mine forever before the simple initials OS. It appeared all five of the letters ended the same way.

The second was a little more insistent, suggesting Lucien maybe hadn’t received the first, then apologizing for being a nuisance. Although there was no return address on the first, so how the hell Lucien could have replied even if he’d wanted to wasn’t clear.

“That’s just irrational,” Max murmured, more to himself than Lucien.

“It’s like he wanted a reply,” Lucien said. “I don’t get it either.”

The third was angry and said in no uncertain terms that Lucien should know better and where were his manners. Still irrational. The fourth was where it got interesting. Abruptly the writer was saying that Lucien wasn’t the man he thought he was, the man that OS, whoever OS was, had fallen in love with. The letter writer said there were photos and he would hate to see them released to the press if Lucien didn’t respond to the letters admitting he was in love with OS.

“That’s where I am thinking, respond to what? Is there something in those letters I should be seeing to know who to respond to?”

Max shook his head. “I don’t see anything. But somehow the writer thinks you should know him. Did OS seem familiar to you? Oliver, Oscar, something?”

“Nothing at the time, I promise you.”

“And the blackmail photos, I assume he means the ones I just saw.” He turned to the next letter and confirmed his own statement. Crudely stapled to the fifth missive was a black and white print of the blurred image Max had just looked at with the words You think I couldn’t give you this? All you needed to do was ask. Then written in block capitals, I will have you.

Lucien pointed at the writing. “We had checks done on printing and the tone of the words. All of the letters are a supposed match but because there is no part of it that is handwritten in cursive or script, we can’t get any more from them. The authorities couldn’t find anyone with the initials OS who had a direct link to me, but do you know how many people in my country have those letters in their name?”

Max glanced at Lucien, who was gesturing wildly to underscore the question.

“I can imagine,” he said.

The sixth letter was different. The paper quality better, and the words used less raw and more controlled. If Max didn’t know better, he’d say they were from a completely different person.

All it said was You don’t need to worry any more. I’ve dealt with him.

“The suspicion was that this was a different person,” Lucien said. “Then—” He squirmed a little in his seat. “—the police found a body in a burned-out car, a man named Oscar Sheiver.”

“You think that was OS?”

“His apartment wall was covered in photos of me, my family, and he had these printed wedding invites between me and him. All they could determine was the dead man, Oscar, had been murdered before being placed in the car, killed by several blows to the head. There was no evidence to link to who killed him, and for the longest time I thought my parents had cleared up the issue.” Lucien lowered his head. “I didn’t know what to think.”

“Okay, so letter six is someone admitting what they did,” Max summarized. “That they ‘dealt’ with OS.”

“That is what the police thought, but with no more leads, it was done. I sobered up, became more of who I should be, and applied for a university place here.”

Max turned to letter seven, the first of the ones with the Cardiff police station tag. I’ve seen what people are like around you. Be careful. The paper was again different, which ruled out a connection that way, but still, the tone of it was a warning and wasn’t threatening in any way.

“That was pushed through the door,” Lucien said.

“And you think it’s by the same person who might have removed OS from the picture?”

Max shook his head. “I don’t know. No one knows. It certainly looks like it, but it’s been so long since the first six letters, it’s anyone’s guess.”

If the author of the last letter six had followed the prince to his school in a completely different country, then it didn’t matter the tone wasn’t threatening. Not good.

Letter eight rambled on for two pages, all in capitals, talking of the kind of people that Lucien should watch out for: the teammates in the swim team who were lying to him and the housemates who wanted nothing from him but money.

“This seems pretty specific. Do you have a feeling that someone is lying to you on the team?”

“No.”

“And is someone in your house taking money from you?”

“No, nothing more than lending a fiver here and there,” Lucien said. “No one knows who I am apart from the uni authorities.”

Letter nine was on different paper, a pale yellow cheap stock from the weight of it. This was both somewhat of a threat couched in a demand for Lucien to ‘see’.

It ended with a strange sentence. I can’t always keep you safe, why don’t you see that? I need you to see or you’ll end up getting killed.

Just that. A simple collection of words that were stone cold in their finality and intent.

Max considered the last part: or you’ll end up getting killed. That wasn’t the same as ‘I’ll kill you’? The words were subtle in difference and it didn’t sit well with Max. “He or she didn’t say they would kill you, just that you’ll end up being killed. That suggests a dissociation from hurting you directly.”

“I can’t see the difference,” Lucien said. “At the end of it I’m dead, according to whoever wrote these.”

“You want my advice?” Max asked. He pushed forward before Lucien could say a thing. “Go home to the castle or palace or whatever with Teddy, and get as far from here as possible until the authorities track the letter writer down. If it’s the same person who dealt with OS and that person is here in the UK now, then you should be keeping your head down.”

“We don’t have a palace or a castle,” Lucien snapped. “And I’m not going home. That is exactly what my parents want. I’m in my last year, and I want to stay. The deal so I get to stay is that I have security. They sent Teddy over—he’s the head of security at home. But you’ve seen him with his best impression of a hairless Hagrid, and if he’s with me, nothing will be the same. I need someone who will just be with me. If I stay here, if I don’t want to go home, can you help me? Will you?”

Max glanced up from the letters to see the resignation on Lucien’s face. Lucien was expecting Max to say no. Vulnerability shadowed his eyes, and he clasped his hands together so tightly the skin was white. Max’s heart won out over his head. Lucien wasn’t arrogant or expecting Max to say yes, he was defenseless and scared. He might not be listening to Max’s advice, but that wasn’t what Max was here for. Max was merely the bodyguard.

“Let’s talk more.”
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Published on February 02, 2016 16:00 • 8 views

January 30, 2016

Valentine DelightsRelease date: 12th February 2016
Love Lane Books presents Valentine Delights, a collection of short stories celebrating love. It will be available free from All Romance eBooks.
Further details to follow.  
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Published on January 30, 2016 16:00 • 14 views

January 26, 2016

Cover art by Meredith RussellThe Book

When Bodyguard, Ben Collins, finds Daniel Lincoln in a room, hiding and hurt, he doesn't immediately think Daniel is the victim of abuse. Daniel is good at pretending and being a finalist in a TV singing competition he seems like he has it made.

But something about Daniel calls to Ben's need to protect and he hands Daniel a card to contact him if ever Daniel needed help. Abruptly, after one frightened phone call from Daniel, Ben is racing to Daniel's aid and what he finds is a horror he can't imagine.

Daniel is trapped in a relationship where anger and controlling hate are the only emotions he is given. When his boyfriend crosses the line and leaves Daniel vulnerable and broken there is only one man that he wants to call.

The sexy bodyguard who promised he could help him.



Bodyguard Inc. Series

Book 1 - Bodyguard to a Sex God
Book 2 - The Ex Factor
Book 3 - Max and the Prince
Book 4 - Undercover Lover
Book 5 - Love's Design

Buy Links - eBook

Love Lane Books  |  Amazon (US)  |  Amazon (UK)  |  ARe  |  Smashwords  B&N   |  iTunes  |  

Buy Links - Print Book

Amazon US   |  Amazon UK

Reviews

The Paranormal Romance Guild  - 5/5 - "....This is a wonderful story about same sex abuse. Daniel spent years trying to convince himself that he loved Cam. When Cam was sorry and loving, Daniel once again would fall into the trap of accepting what was happening to him. When Ben entered his life and picked him up from the floor of the tub, Daniel decided he had to make changes in his life. He hoped Ben would be there with him. Whether it is abuse between a man and woman, or a man and another man, it is unacceptable and leaves the abused an empty shell. The author did a wonderful job of bringing this topic to light and showing what can happen if a person truly finds someone to love them...."

Guilty Indulgence  - 4/5 - Oh this author is good at tugging on my heartstrings. It didn't take me long before I wanted to protect Daniel as much as Ben. I appreciate when authors include family and friends in books not just people that might be the next couple, I feel it gives the book more depth and brings more realism to the story...."
Click cover to enlarge
Because Two Men are better than one  - 4/5 - "....I think I particularly enjoyed it because I was drawn in by the abuse theme and appreciated the way it was handled. The other thing I appreciated was the setting and relevance to current time. Ben is working security for a reality talent show and there are references to the contestants and the panel of judges. It all felt very familiar. Daniel is a contestant on the show, who has worked his way into the finals. But for all his success with his music, he is not a happy man due to his long term abusive boyfriend. Luckily he has Ben to turn to. I loved Ben and the way his protective instinct kicked in but more than that, I loved his own vulnerability...."

Excerpt

Chapter 1

The crackle in his ear startled Ben Collins even though he’d been expecting the check-in.

“Alpha four in position,” the voice intoned. “Your handover for a break is two minutes out, Ben.”

Ben depressed the button to talk. “Alpha three, copy.”

Not a moment too soon. If he had to stand outside this dressing room listening to God knows what for another minute, he might just barge in the room and split up the two inside. Esmee Golder, pop princess and judge on this god-awful X-Factor rip-off show was “entertaining.” And wouldn’t the gossip columns love that the person she was entertaining was one of the boy band members through to the final.

At only eighteen the blond-haired kid was half her age, and they’d been at it for an hour now. Ben decided when he got back to base he was telling Kyle in no uncertain terms that he was not doing another showbiz stint. I’ve done my bit, he thought as he winced at the dramatic orgasmic cursing emanating from inside the room.

Another point the public might find interesting was the casual drug use behind that door. Esmee had asked for a loan of a hundred this morning. From him, her bodyguard. He’d just used his patented blank stare and pretended he hadn’t heard her. He wasn’t facilitating a drug purchase nor was he actually talking to Esmee any more than he needed to. Why couldn’t he have been paired up with any of the others? A contestant, maybe? That singer with the guitar was kind of cute, and from the way he looked Ben up and down yesterday, he was clearly playing for the same team.

A show runner came up the hall towards him, and he tensed even though he knew who it was and the guy was on the accepted list. The runner ignored Ben and instead rapped on the door Ben was guarding.

“Ten minutes, Miss Golder. Ten minutes.”

“Coming.” The words were strangled and ended on a laugh. The runner glanced at Ben, and they exchanged looks of disbelief.

“Is someone in there with her?” the runner asked in a mild panic. He checked his clipboard. “No one is supposed to be with her. She’s supposed to be meditating? Do you know if she’s been to get the makeup test for tonight?” Ben didn’t answer. His shrug said it all. He wasn’t saying a damn thing. Hell, he wasn’t paid to talk or keep tabs on airhead princesses like Esmee Golder, he was just here to stop people from stabbing her with a letter opener or some other weird thing the show owners thought could happen. Neither Bodyguards Inc., the company he was working for, nor Ben himself were convinced there was any threat here. In fact, he knew he was standing outside this room more as a status symbol than anything else.

The show runner huffed, and a frown knitted his brows. ”Jesus, everything is fucked up today. Daniel Lincoln is AWOL, and we’ve lost Mark from Twelfth fucking Wonder as well. Why can’t anyone just stay where I put them?”

That would be Mark “I’m gonna fuck you all night Esmee”, the same teen who was currently in the room behind him.

If only I could say that Mark was inside helping Esmee meditate.
Instead he focused in on thinking about where Daniel had gone. The young singer-songwriter with the sexy black guyliner was always missing. It seemed to Ben like the singer avoided all human contact, skittish, wary, and if Ben didn’t know better, he’d say Daniel was scared of him as well. After last week’s show, the two of them had ended up in line for coffee. They’d actually talked for a little while. Except, since that time, Daniel now inevitably turned and walked away whenever Ben was near him.

Even today Ben still mulled over what they’d talked about, nothing special—the weather, the show, was Daniel nervous about tonight’s performance—usual stuff really. They hadn’t actually finished talking about anything in particular when Daniel had been called for a sound check and had to leave his lunch on the tray.

All that Ben could recall was that Daniel Lincoln was cute, short—well, shorter than him—had a soft growly voice and eyes the color of the sky, and unfortunately he had a boyfriend. He wasn’t the kind of bodyguard to perv on his clients, not that Daniel was actually a client, but he was on the show that had hired BI for security. Daniel was off limits; still, Ben could look.

Not every bodyguard was like his co-worker, Adam, who’d fallen for the American actor he’d been working close protection for.

There was more movement in the hall, but this time Ben didn’t tense. He recognized the very Adam Freeman from his thoughts. One day he might even talk to his friend about just how he came to terms with dating a client.

Adam was one of the four Bodyguards Inc. guys on this job, and he and Ben exchanged nods. The runner left, scurrying back the way he’d come, muttering about boy bands and princesses. It would have been funny if Ben hadn’t been trying for a serious look on the job.

Adam looked up and down the deserted hallway. “She got someone in there?” he asked under his breath.

“The blond twink with the floppy hair,” Ben replied.

Adam inhaled sharply. Back at the office they had a pool on just how many boy-band members Esmee would fuck before the show’s final. Ben had opted for one out of the five. After all, Esmee was renowned as the girl next door, with her polite and gentle approach to life. Yeah, right, girl next door wasn’t how he would describe Esmee now that he knew what she was really like.

And Ben had lost the whole pot of money by episode three when she had first seduced the one with the sticking-up hair, then in quick succession, the skinny one who couldn’t dance so well on the first night of the live shows.

He didn’t say any of this out loud. Bodyguards did not discuss clients where anyone could hear them. He stood aside as the door opened and a grinning blond boy-band member exited the room casually like he’d just been in there talking about the weather. Unfortunately the fact he stunk of Esmee’s perfume was a giveaway. Ben watched the kid walk to his own shared dressing room and wondered how long it would be before the boy-band members, average age nineteen, would all realize they’d been used and discarded, and whether that would cause a fight or whether they were in a competition among themselves.

Esmee appeared. Her hair was tousled, but that was okay, as recently she was going for the ‘just out of bed’ look. Seemed like she was busy reinventing her girl-next-door image. Ben could admit that if he liked women, she would probably be on his list for looks alone, full lips, a permanent sex-kitten pout, blonde hair to her waist, and a body so small he could probably pick her up in one hand. She just had the morals of an alley cat and a vagina, both of which kind of pushed her out of his selection pool. Make it a man, though, and he kind of liked using his height and strength and picking up his lovers.

Like that Daniel guy, the one with the guitar. He was not more than five ten and slight. I could probably pick him up and hold him while I kissed him.
Ben deliberately pushed the thoughts to one side. “Five minutes, Miss Golder,” he said instead, and then with a nod to Adam, he left without a backward glance.

“He’s so rude,” he heard Esmee say to Adam, but Ben heard the huff Adam gave instead of a coherent reply.

Making his way to the break room, he had to sidestep dancers dressed in nothing but feathers, the entire boy band running past him and barreling through the backstage doors into the room behind stage, and a very obvious brush with Lee from lighting who called all the bodyguards here his big brave men and wasn’t beyond fluttering his mascaraed lashes.

“We must talk, sweetie,” Lee said in an exaggeratedly camp voice, his bright orange nails contrasting with his lime-green jacket.

“On duty,” Ben lied and sidestepped the final hurdle between him and the coffee machine. A low announcement on the PA system informed everyone that dress rehearsals were in thirty minutes as Ben let himself into the room the bodyguards had chosen as their own. Just off the beaten track, it was half storage room, and alongside the stacks of boxes there was a table and chairs. This was their place for all four of the Bodyguards Inc. guys here this weekend and would double as hideaway and conference room in the event it was needed.

Michael was there already, and he finished whatever was left in his coffee cup and stood with a grin on his face.

“Heard you lost the bet,” he said.

“That’s her third one. I tell you she’s gonna do all five of those boys,” Ben pointed out. “And she gets louder every time.”

Michael made a duck face in a fake kiss. “They are all very cute. Can’t believe your gay side is staying hidden with the enormous buffet of yum.”

“Ha fucking ha,” Ben said with no heat. He poured his coffee, but it was little more than thick sludge, and he cursed the parentage of whoever supplied the hired muscle with such a shit machine.

Michael stood and rinsed his Superman mug, the same mug that went on every one of his jobs. “I’m out of here. I’m on break.”

Three acts remained in this competition, labeled the BoyBand, the Diva, and the Rocker. Well, everyone else called Daniel by the code name Rocker, but Ben thought it should be more like Cutie. Because he was cute, and sexy, with his flicky dark hair and the eyeliner he used to emphasize his brilliant blue eyes.

Really cute in an introverted, vulnerable way, Daniel only came alive when he was on stage with his guitar and his voice. He played guitar, sang on his own, and he was all wrapped up in a package of gorgeous-sexy. Slim, with dark hair and those serious eyes brimming with emotion, he had this way of grabbing at the audience and not letting go. He’d made it through all the heats and the semis, but general consensus was that he was out first tonight on the live finals. The boy band, Twelfth Wonder, had the girly vote, the Diva had the older vote, and then there was Daniel Lincoln with his guitar and his voice and his quirky looks. Definitely third-place material. At least according to Adam, who liked to think he had his finger on the pulse of showbiz ever since he’d hooked up with the actor Logan Brady.

“I’m getting better coffee,” Ben said to no one as he realized Michael had gone. Damn the man and his scary ninja skills. Ben rolled his shoulders to ease the ache in them, the result of standing in the same position for the last two hours, and he felt the muscles loosen. Then he exited their room and turned left out of the door.

He knew that somewhere around here the team of makeup artists had their own sparkly coffee machine that made half-decent cappuccino. Left, left, right, left and straight on. He had a good sense of direction normally, but here at the Arena, they’d begun maintenance work, and it seemed like every turn he took was blocked by tarpaulin. Finally he found what he was looking for, and after a couple minutes flirting with three makeup girls who giggled and flirted back, he had in his hands a cup of coffee and two cranberry muffins that he’d been forced to take.

At six five of lean gym-fit muscle, he could afford a few muffins every so often, and he polished the first one off in a couple of mouthfuls. He spotted Lee with the clipboard and the lime jacket and God help him, he couldn’t do any more fending off of the man’s advances. He thought quickly and ducked through a door and into a darkened room, closing the door behind him. What was it with Lee and his insistence on attempting to get it on with any one of the bodyguards? Lee didn’t have any particular preference either, he’d cornered Michael yesterday and Michael had looked beyond annoyed and onto contemplating lethal force. Lee apparently had no self-preservation and had decided Michael was the one for him. Apart from the fact he was attempting to corner Ben as well.

In here Ben was safe. Lee hadn’t spotted him, he had a good half hour until he was back on duty, and he had a bloody good coffee warming his hands. Leaning back against the door, he enjoyed the silence and sipped on his blessedly hot caffeine. At least until he heard movement and the sharp inhalation of a curse.



* * * * *



Daniel Lincoln was fucked. He’d deliberately chosen this place to get his head clear, and someone had walked in. Not only that, but he or she had shut the door and they were in here with him, and Daniel was having enough trouble breathing, let alone concentrating on staying quiet.

Something was broken inside him, and he didn’t just mean his spirit, which was lying near death in his chest. The pain in his chest was too much and scraped when he breathed too hard. How the hell he was going to manage the dress rehearsal, let alone the live final tonight, he didn’t know.

The boxes he was hidden behind, on a seat of discarded outfits acting as a nest of comfort to his bruised and aching body, were enough so that even with the light on, he wouldn’t be seen. He wanted to cough, though, and that may well be the end of his ability to breathe at all. What if a rib had cracked and punctured a lung? Cam had never gone this far before. He’d always stopped at just enough to teach, but never enough to warrant a visit to hospital. This time, hell, what had he done, told Cam that he’d been offered a recording contract? That was all. Why the fuck had he said a word about what he might have been getting in the way of money? His eyes damped with more tears, but he couldn’t let them fall, because that would be letting the pain out for everyone to see.

No one wants to see my pain. Who would understand?

A cough spasmed inside him, and he couldn’t help the groan of pain.

“Who’s there?” a deep voice called from the door. The owner of the voice flicked the switch, and a dull energy-saving bulb lightened the room. Daniel shrank back into the shadows of the boxes and prayed to a god that never listened that the owner of the voice would just walk away. Now.

“I said, who’s there? I’m counting to three.”

Daniel closed his eyes tightly. He’d recognize that voice anywhere—Ben, the biggest, widest, tallest of the bodyguards hovering around. In the seconds it took for the man to count to two, Daniel wiped away every small part of himself that was broken and in pain and became the Daniel he could act out so well. He levered himself to stand and at the same time forced a smile in place and refused to clutch himself across the chest. When he rounded the boxes, he blinked at the full force of the light bulb and couldn’t believe just how right he’d been about who the hell was stood in front of him.

Ben. He knew his name, heard the others call him that. Ben, the observant one, the quiet one, the one who stared at him like he would look at a bug under a microscope. Although Daniel guessed all bodyguards—or close protection officers—were observant, it just seemed as if this one stared at him more than the others. Not to mention they’d spoken last week. Daniel didn’t really do talking, well, not small talk anyway. When Ben asked him if he was nervous about the vote, it was all Daniel could do to smile and offer a quick no before he was rescued by being called for a sound check. Something about Ben, the size of him, his deep voice, served to unnerve Daniel way past the point where he was comfortable.

And if Cam found out he’d been talking to another man? Even casually? Yeah, that really wasn’t going to go down well with Daniel’s possessive boyfriend at all.

“Hey,” Daniel said as carefully as he could and on a natural inhale so he could subconsciously control his breathing. The meds were starting to kick in, the codeine flooding his system and the morphine effect deadening some of the pain. At least some of it was better now that he was standing.

Oh well. Who needed to sit down anyway?

“Daniel?” Ben asked with question in his voice. “They’re looking for you.”

Daniel pulled himself up, and if anything he forced more effort into standing tall and straight.

“Yeah, just needed a quiet space,” he explained. In his head he was gesturing around him with a free hand, but in reality he couldn’t much move his right arm, which was going to fuck with his ability to play guitar. He thought maybe his shoulder was separated somehow. He’d seen Mel Gibson knock his own arm back into place in Lethal Weapon once, but that wasn’t happening here. He sure as hell wasn’t a hero who could push through pain.

“Jesus, you look like shit,” Ben observed.

Daniel floundered for something to say, and the line he came out with was pretty pathetic. “I’m not sure you’re supposed to say that to me.”

“What the hell happened to you?”

Ben placed his coffee on the nearest box and walked over to Daniel, and Daniel couldn’t help the instinct that made him stumble back and end up against the wall.

Why did you choose a room with no way out? What are you? Stupid?

“Don’t come near me,” Daniel said in his loudest, most strident voice, even though it was nothing more than a forced whisper to his own ears.

“Fuck, Daniel, seriously? What the hell?”

Why would Ben ask that? What did he mean? Daniel panicked. Did he have bruises on his face? How could he go out in front of millions of people and perform with bruises on his face? He must have said some part of that out loud because the man looming over him shook his head.

“I don’t see any bruises on your face,” Ben said simply, carefully. “You’re holding yourself like you have a chest injury? Or your shoulder? What did you do to yourself? We need to get you to Casualty. I’ll call the medics.” He turned to leave, to find the one group of people that Daniel didn’t want anywhere near him. Cam would fucking end him if he involved the authorities.

“No!” Daniel said loudly. The pain of the words radiated from his chest to his shoulder, and if it wasn’t for the wall, he’d be on his knees or unconscious. “I just need more codeine.”

Ben moved closer, but this time there was nowhere for Daniel to go; he’d run out of room. He closed his eyes tightly and waited for the first blow or the spitting accusations of how the fuck he had let himself get in this state. Instead all he got was a gentle touch to his left hand, the one without pain radiating down to it.

“Daniel, you need to listen to me. You know me. I’m Benjamin Collins, with the bodyguards. You can call me Ben.”

“I know your name,” Daniel said defiantly. Maybe if he said how little he knew, then Ben would just leave without hurting him.

Ben wore a scarlet T-shirt with the embroidered words “Bodyguards Inc.” on the breast, and whoever supplied it must not have had his size as it had to be too small and really hugged every muscle. Jeez, the man was muscle on bone, and he must spend a lot of time in the gym. Not to mention the way his black jeans stretched obscenely over muscled thighs and across his taut ass.

Fuck. Daniel shook his head a little to dislodge the desire that curled inside him. Cam would kill him if he did anything stupid like look at another man. Anyway, he didn’t need another man. He had Cam. He loved Cam.

I love Cam. Cam loves me.
“Look, don’t you think this is pushing things too far?” Ben had a soft voice now, not strident, nothing evil or shouting or accusing.

“What do you mean?” Daniel asked when Ben didn’t continue.

“You’re clearly in pain. You can’t believe you’ll make it out to rehearsals.”

“I need to put it back,” Daniel groaned on a painful spasm. “My shoulder, I hurt my shoulder.”

“I’m a bodyguard, not a freaking doctor. You need to get to Casualty.” Ben reached out and gripped Daniel’s unhurt shoulder, but he reacted viscerally and ripped out of the hold. White-hot heat took him to his knees, and he couldn’t help the tears in his eyes. There wasn’t any point in arguing with Ben, he was bigger and stronger than Daniel, he might as well just kneel at the guy’s feet and let him do whatever. Daniel had already fucked up the chance at the show’s final; he might as well give up.

Ben moved to a crouch in front of him. “Please, we need to get you some help.”

Ben’s tone was gentle and encouraging. He’d said please. He’d actually considered softening his tone just for Daniel. Something snapped inside Daniel in that second. He had to get help. This was worse than last time, and he needed to rest.

“Please.” He used Ben’s word back at him. “You have to know what to do.” He inhaled sharply. “I’ve dislocated my shoulder. Push it back for me.” Not like the pain could get any worse, right?

“What the hell? Daniel, if you’ve dislocated your shoulder, it’s not as simple as pushing it back.”

“Okay, then I’ll do it.” Daniel inhaled sharply and pressed the shoulder against the wall, letting out a thin wail of pain as he did so.

“Fuck, Daniel. No!” Ben shouted.

Why was Ben shouting, and who was crying? Am I crying?

“Let me see, you stupid idiot.”

Yep that’s me, fucking stupid. An idiot who can’t even stop another man’s pushing him to the ground and treating me like shit… I am shit… fuck.
“It’s not dislocated, I just think you’ve—” Ben gasped. “What the fuck?”

Daniel realized the man was pulling at his stage shirt, and he’d be able to see some of the marks on Daniel. The marks that Cam took so much time to lay in the places people wouldn’t look. The marks not even wardrobe would see because Daniel demanded that he be allowed to dress in private. The marks he tried not to look at himself.

“I fell down the stairs at the hotel,” Daniel lied. He didn’t know what the light in this place would show.

Ben said nothing. He was feeling all over Daniel’s shoulder so gently, but it still hurt.

“Okay, we need to get you somewhere. Medical. Can I at least take you to Medical?”

Daniel grabbed at Ben’s hand. If Cam found out someone else was involved—hell, if Cam discovered Daniel had told anyone, then Daniel would pay for it and Ben would as well in some twisted way. Cam would know some way to hurt Ben, and there was no way Daniel was letting someone else be hurt on his account.

“No,” Daniel pleaded. “I took codeine. It’ll be enough to let me get out there.” He attempted to clamber to his feet and dizziness assailed him. He really was fucked.

“You can’t think that you’ll be okay to go out on stage… Dress rehearsal is now.”

“No… I can’t,” Daniel admitted. “I know what to do. I just need to get to my dressing room. I have stuff there to take…” Inspiration hit him. “You could stand outside my door, tell them I was missing dress rehearsal, that I was in there and that I was resting my throat for finals. They’ll listen to you.” He couldn’t believe he was doing this, asking for help from someone so intimidating and angry. It was just opening himself up to more hurt. He should have tried to get to his dressing room earlier instead of hiding in that room, but there’d been so many people there in the way.

“Please help me.” Because, hell, asking for Ben’s help was the only thing he could do now. He’d only meant to sit in the dark for a short while, but codeine always made him sleepy, and he’d found a position where he could sit and let the morphine haze slide over him. Stupid move.

“Jesus,” Ben ground out.

“Are you helping me?” Daniel pressed a hand to Ben’s chest, tilted his chin, and looked up into Ben’s eyes with a pleading look. “I’ll pay you anything.”









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Published on January 26, 2016 16:00 • 8 views

January 25, 2016

Blurb for Kissing Alex

Martial arts expert Lewis is the kind of bodyguard who slips under most people’s radar. Quiet, reserved, but constantly on alert, he’ll do his job, keep his charges safe, then relax by reading Shakespeare in his spare time.

When he’s given a case involving a spoiled celebrity singer, Lewis isn’t all that impressed. The job is nothing but babysitting a pretty boy, and he’s used to diplomatic postings with depth and challenge. What could he possibly have in common with the man he’s being forced to look after?

Alex became the envy of many when he and his fellow bandmates won second place in a huge TV talent show. He has more money than he knows what to do with, no life goals, an ex-boyfriend selling a sex tape and now, someone who wants him dead, or at the very least maimed.

Can Lewis keep Alex safe, even when things usually in his control go to hell? Is running to a remote Scottish island the only way for them to stay alive?







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Published on January 25, 2016 09:00 • 25 views