The Vampire Billionaire's Secret Baby
Cat's Paw Cove Book 26
by Sharon Buchbinder
Genre: Sweet Paranormal Romance
The Vampire Billionaire's Secret Baby
Cat's Paw Cove Book 26
by Sharon Buchbinder
Genre: Sweet Paranormal Romance
Shadows of Atlantis Book 1
by Mara Powers
Genre: Fantasy Romance
Shadows of Atlantis Book 2
**Novellas are soon to be combined into one book!**
Shadows of Atlantis: Fulcrum
Shadows of Atlantis Prequel 1
**Get it FREE!!**
Shadows of Atlantis: Enigma
Shadows of Atlantis Prequel 2
The dark legacy of Atlantis continues in part two of the Shadows of Atlantis prequel series...
If Fulcrum seduced you with the men of Atlantis, you will be utterly bewitched by the women in Enigma...
Shadows of Atlantis: Twisted Serpents
Shadows of Atlantis Prequel 3
Dark days are on the horizon.
Mara Powers is what’s known as a wandering soul. The past few years she has launched into world travel to feed her quest for experiences, both inner and outer. She has elevated her travels from decades of living seasonally in different U.S. cities, among those being Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco, Austin and Denver. She has spent time in Paris, Venice, Madeira Island, Lisbon, Barcelona and Athens. Now she has been in Egypt for 2 months, going on three.
She is an expert on the myth of Atlantis, and has incorporated the works of Plato, Edgar Cayce and many others into the most comprehensive retelling of the Atlantis story to date. Her work is visionary fiction at its core, but it has also been called Fantasy Romance, cli-fi, and political allegory. She thinks of her work as Utopian Philosophy. Follow her at www.shadowsoatlantis.com
Subscribe to her Patreon for accounts of her travels and writing process.
She is also available for writing coaching and organizes epic writing retreats.
It’s easy to reach out, as she is always happy to hear from fans.
Any and all feedback is welcome, and reviews are even better
Follow the tour HERE for special content and a giveaway!
Word Count: 61,718
Book Length: NOVEL
ACTION AND ADVENTURE
CRIME AND MYSTERY
THRILLERS AND SUSPENSE
Author Christian Costner is researching material for one of his dark thrillers, and Nyemouth seems like the perfect setting for his next book. The small seaside town has witnessed plenty of trouble over the years, and Christian thinks it will provide him with the inspiration he needs.
He hires local tour guide and fisherman Harry Renner to help him explore the coastline for a couple of days. Harry is knowledgeable and mature beyond his twenty-eight years. Handsome, too, though Christian thinks Harry is far too young for him.
As the weather worsens, Harry cuts short their first sightseeing trip. Heading back to shore, they spot a figure in distress in the water. A difficult rescue is made far worse when they discover that the casualty has a knife wound to his abdomen and dies before they reach the safety of the harbour.
United by the trauma, Christian and Harry find comfort in each other, but when another murder comes to light, they find themselves at the heart of a dangerous mystery and the target of a killer more ruthless than they could ever imagine.
Reader advisory: This book contains murder, verbal racism and homophobia. It can be read either as a standalone or as book three in a series.
By late October every year, the tourists left Nyemouth to holiday in the warmer climate of the Mediterranean and the Canary Islands. Making a living wasn’t easy in the winter months for the locals who relied on seasonal summer trade. From the start of autumn to the dying days of spring, Harry Renner was grateful for every private charter that came his way. Today was no exception. When the man had called to say he wanted to hire Harry and his boat for two full days of sightseeing, he didn’t care why. He took the booking.
Even better, this guy, Christian, wanted to take the boat on Monday and Tuesday. Harry had weekend bookings until the end of November, private fishing parties and afternoon seal-watching trips, but the weekday work was sparse this time of year.
They had spent the morning sailing north. Unlike most of the men who chartered The North Star, Christian wasn’t interested in fishing. He’d asked Harry to show him the rugged coastline all the way up to Bamburgh Castle, more fascinated by the shore than any of the birds and wildlife Harry had pointed out. Harry had brought his cousin Tom along to crew the boat, but there had been almost nothing for him to do besides make tea and set out their lunches. All their client seemed interested in was taking photos of the land.
“We might have to put in an hour earlier than planned,” Harry shouted from his position in the wheelhouse.
Christian raised his eyes from his camera, a questioning expression on his face.
Harry pointed east at the heavy grey clouds, low on the horizon. “There’s bad weather coming.” The sky to their shore side was clear, but it wouldn’t last. He’d hoped the low-pressure front would hold off until the end of the day, but it looked to be coming faster than expected. If they were lucky, they would have another two hours. That would be enough time to turn the boat around and make it to the shelter of Nyemouth Harbour, but he doubted they had that long. The wind was already picking up, and he guessed things would get lumpy in the next sixty to ninety minutes. “The forecast for tomorrow is a lot better. We can make up for the time we lose today then—if that’s all right with you.”
Christian gave a curt nod.
He wasn’t much of a talker. He’d asked a lot of questions but had little to say for himself. When he’d turned up at the dock that morning, Christian Costner was not what Harry had expected. A lot of the men who booked private charters were of a type…arseholes. They would usually turn up with expensive fishing equipment, often brand new, in designer waterproofs and wearing their Rolex and TAG watches. They invariably brought along an entourage—the beta males to their alpha—guys beneath them they could show off to and lord it over. Harry wasn’t proud. If they had money to spend, he would take it—anything to put away for winter. For some reason, that was exactly what he’d expected of this guy.
Christian had turned up alone, which had been the first surprise. He wore jeans, a thick sweater and a regular jacket with no obvious designer label. Harry guessed he was in his early forties. There were lines around his eyes and more than a hint of grey in his short blond hair. His stubble was all grey. He was tall with a strong build and Nordic good-looks with pale eyes, a long, straight nose, sharp jawline and a wide, humourless mouth. There was something quite stern about him. He was handsome, no doubt, if Harry were into older guys, which he really wasn’t. His last boyfriend, at thirty-six, had been the oldest man Harry had ever been with. Still, Christian looked good for his age.
“You’re the captain,” Christian said, turning his camera back to the shore. “You know what’s best.”
Another surprise. Most private charters would bitch and moan the entire way home if Harry told them he’d have to cut the trip short because of bad weather—the same dudes who then turned green and threw up the beer they’d been drinking as soon as the sea turned choppy.
Well, he thought, whatever happens tomorrow, Christian is proving himself to be a near-perfect client.
Harry put the boat into a measured turn and headed south.
Christian had drunk nothing but bottled water or tea all day, and he didn’t look like the type who’d get sick in a swell, but it was better to be safe. Harry wanted to get him ashore before things turned ugly.
Tom climbed out of the tiny galley, where he’d been clearing away the lunch supplies. “Are we heading in already?”
Harry nodded. “Looks like it’s cutting in faster than forecasted. We’ll get a better shot tomorrow.”
Tom glanced to seaward and nodded before walking out onto the back deck. “Yeah, you can feel the swell is getting up.”
“We’ll get home before the worst of it,” Harry said, with more confidence than he felt.
At thirty-three, Tom was four years older than him, but for as long as he could remember, Harry had always been the more mature and level-headed of them.
Tom sauntered over to Christian, who put down his camera.
“So, what’s all this in aid of?” Tom asked. “Most people who hire the boat want to catch fish, not take pictures.
“Tom,” Harry warned, “that’s none of our business.” And to Christian, “Sorry.”
The older man gave a slight grin. “It’s fine. I don’t mind. I’m doing research.”
“Research. What? You mean, for like, TV or something?”
Harry smiled. His cousin had never been the sharpest of men. Christian apparently took it in good nature.
“It’s for a book.”
“Oh, I don’t read much.” He shuffled his feet. “So, what’s your book about? Fishing?”
Christian shook his head. “No, not fishing. I’m not sure what it’s about. That’s why I’m here. I’m thinking about setting a story somewhere along this coast. Maybe in a town like Nyemouth. I don’t know yet.”
Tom looked at Harry, a goofy grin plastered across his face. “You hear that? He wants to write a book about Nyemouth.”
“Set in Nyemouth,” Christian corrected. “Maybe. Like I said, I’m not sure. I’m looking for inspiration. Just trying to get ideas for now.”
“You’ve come to the right place,” Harry told him.
“Yeah,” Tom agreed. “We’ve got it all going on here.”
Christian smiled. It crinkled his eyes even further and revealed good white teeth. It was a very attractive smile.
For an older man, Harry reminded himself.
“Is that so?”
“Hell, yeah.” Tom bounced with excitement. “If I tell you about it, will you put me in your book? Like, as a character.”
Christian chuckled, humouring him in a good-natured way. “We’ll see. I can give you an acknowledgement…if your information is good.”
Harry listened as his cousin ran his mouth, content to steer the boat without contributing.
“For a little town, we’ve had so much shit going on that most people wouldn’t believe it—murders, attempted murders, drowning. Whatever you can think of, it’s happened here. Just this summer, the UK Border Forces intercepted a fishing boat coming into the harbour. They found sixty-nine migrants hidden in the hold. The boat had come over from Belgium. They must have figured it was easier to smuggle people onto the quieter north coast than down south, where everyone is watching for them. That caused quite a stir. And just last year, a local businessman tried to murder his husband on a yacht just outside the harbour. And before that, someone tried to kill Arnie Walker, you know, the actor, on the north shore beach. You should put all that in your book.”
Christian nodded, zipping his jacket. The wind had increased. “I know Arnie Walker—and his husband, Dominic. They are the main reason I’m here. When I told Dominic I was thinking about setting a book in Northumberland, he suggested I check out this area.”
“Oh, that’s right. Dominic’s a writer, too. I always forget that. He doesn’t use his own name.” Harry looked at Christian in a new light. Dominic Melton was one of the nicest men he knew, brave and dependable. If Christian was a friend of his, there had to be something good about him.
“That’s how we met,” Christian said, turning his cool grey eyes towards him. “At a literary festival about three years ago. We’ve kept in touch, though this is my first time in Nyemouth.”
“So, are you staying with Dominic and Arnie?” Tom asked.
“No. I’ve got a room at Quay House. Nothing against the guys and their lovely home, but I like my privacy at the end of the day. I can never relax when I’m in someone else’s place.”
Harry understood that well enough. He’d lived on his own since leaving his parents and couldn’t imagine the compromise involved in sharing with someone else. “What kind of books do you write? The same kind of stuff as Dominic?”
He shook his head. “Dominic’s novels are more action-oriented. I write crime stories, murder mysteries—that kind of thing.”
“What did I say?” Tom blurted excitedly. “You’ve definitely come to the right place.”
“Not from what I’ve seen so far. Nyemouth seems a quiet, laid-back kind of town.”
“It’s really not,” Tom said.
“When did you arrive?” Harry asked.
“I got here on Saturday afternoon.”
“Give it time,” Tom told him. “You haven’t seen anything yet.”
“Give it a rest, Tom,” Harry admonished. “It’s not that bad, honestly. There have been a few incidents over the years, but no more than any other place. I bet if you scratch the surface of any small town, you’ll find plenty of similar stories.”
“I know,” Christian said with a knowing smile.
The winds increased, and the boat swayed farther in the swell. The weather was changing much faster than he’d expected. A few heavy splats of rain landed on the deck.
“Things are about to get choppy,” Harry told Christian. “Come into the wheelhouse. You’ll be sheltered from the worst of it.” He told Tom to brew another round of tea.
As Christian stepped inside, the rain started in full and was soon bouncing several inches off the wooden decking.
“Is it always so unpredictable?” he asked.
“Yep. The only thing you should expect at sea is the unexpected. I’m going to have to pick the speed up a bit if we’re going to outrun the worst of it. That means it’s going to get bumpy. Hold on to something and watch your footing.”
Harry pushed the throttle. The front and back pitch of the boat increased as it ploughed through the strengthening waves. He estimated they were forty minutes out from Nyemouth Harbour. The North Star was an old vessel, but she was sturdy. She could handle a lot worse than this and had done so many times, but when people chartered the boat, he had a responsibility to them. Though some captains might take a different attitude, Harry wasn’t in business to make his clients sick or frighten them in high seas. He would get Christian back to shore before the worst struck, even if the ride was a little uncomfortable.
He glanced over his shoulder at the older man. He looked to be bearing up okay. Christian stared at the worsening conditions with seeming curiosity. There was no sign of anxiety.
Tom returned with three mugs of tea, distributing them without spilling a drop.
“There’s a bottle of whisky below,” Harry said to Christian, “if you fancy a tot to keep the cold out.”
“This is fine. Thank you.”
Satisfied that the client wasn’t about to freak out on him or fall over and break something, Harry gave all his concentration to the boat and route ahead. The wind blew hard against the port side, but they were far enough from shore that he didn’t have to worry about it blowing them off course or onto the rocks. When he reached the entrance to the harbour, the force of it would be behind them and shouldn’t cause much trouble.
“What do you do when you’re not running private charters?” Christian asked.
“Sightseeing mostly,” Harry answered. “During the summer, I run a variety of different excursions along the coast. Bird watching, half-day fishing trips, twilight cocktail parties…anything to get the tourists on board. I have a few private charters to keep me going over the coming weeks, but once we get into deep winter, I’ll spend my time maintaining the boat and getting ready for next spring.”
“Have you been out here long? Working on the boat, I mean?”
“My whole life. It used to belong to my dad. He was a fisherman, and I grew up on this thing, going out most weekends and every day during the holidays. He retired four years ago, due to his health. Fishing full-time isn’t for me, so I repurposed the boat for the tourist market. I’ve been running these trips ever since.” He glanced over his shoulder at Christian. “You’re not going to use me in one of your books, are you?”
Tom laughed. “You wish he would.”
Christian gave another of his cracking smiles. It completely changed the appearance of his otherwise down-turned features. “I don’t know what I’m going to write about yet—or whom. I’ll let you know. So, with all these exciting things happening around Nyemouth, have you ever been caught up in any of them yourself?”
He turned back to the view ahead. “I crewed on the lifeboat when I was younger, but not as much as I wanted to. I was at sea so much myself that I was rarely available when they had a call out. It was also a struggle to keep up with the training demands. We had some hairy rescues, all the same. We once evacuated the entire crew of a trawler just minutes before she sank.” He pointed ahead. “They were so close to the shore when they went down, about a mile from the harbour. They had taken on so much water there was nothing we could do. We might not have saved the boat, but we got the crew home safely to their families that night.”
“That’s what really matters.”
“I think maybe there is a book here. Everyone I’ve spoken to seems to have an interesting story to tell.”
Harry shrugged. “Maybe. I don’t think about it that way. It’s all part of life.”
The boat took a sudden lurch to starboard as a heavy wave struck them, side on. Christian crashed against the wall of the wheelhouse and hissed as he spilt his tea.
“Sorry,” Harry said, getting the boat under control. “Are you both okay?”
“I’m fine,” Christian said, “though it’s maybe more excitement than I bargained for.”
“It won’t be long now. If you look ahead and to the right, you can make out the harbour walls and the lighthouse. We’re almost home.”
They carried on in silence for the rest of the journey. Harry hoped the freak wave hadn’t startled Christian enough for him to cancel tomorrow’s trip. This shitty front was forecast to blow over during the night, and the outlook for the morning was good. He’d take him to The Fisherman’s Arms when they got back to make up for the shortened trip and persuade him to stick to his plan.
There was now less than half a mile to the harbour entrance. Almost there.
“Wait!” Christian shouted, stepping forward. He came up beside Harry and stared through the rain-lashed window.
“What is it?” Harry tried to follow his eyeline.
“I’m not sure. I thought I saw something.”
Harry eased back on the throttle. “What kind of something?”
Christian chewed his thumbnail. “I’m not sure. I thought for a second it was…a person in the water. I don’t know. Maybe…”
Harry’s pulse quickened in an instant. “Where?”
Christian pointed. The surface of the sea was a turbulent mass of dark-grey waves and deep swells. Harry reduced their speed even further, causing the boat to pitch and roll dramatically. Tom went onto the deck and scrabbled around the wheelhouse to the bow for a better view.
“When the sea is like this, it can play tricks on the eyes,” Harry said. “Are you sure?”
Christian narrowed his eyes, straining to see. “No. I’m not sure. It’s just—there.” He lurched forward, pointing.
Harry saw it at the exact same time on the upward sweep of a wave, the unmistakable shape of someone’s head and shoulders. The waves crashed, and they vanished from sight in the next second. He altered course.
If there was someone in the water this far out, they were already in big trouble.
Thom Collins is the author of Closer by Morning, with Pride Publishing. His love of page turning thrillers began at an early age when his mother caught him reading the latest Jackie Collins book and promptly confiscated it, sparking a life-long love of raunchy novels.
Thom has lived in the North East of England his whole life. He grew up in Northumberland and now lives in County Durham with his husband and two cats. He loves all kinds of genre fiction, especially bonkbusters, thrillers, romance and horror. He is also a cookery book addict with far too many titles cluttering his shelves. When not writing he can be found in the kitchen trying out new recipes. He’s a keen traveler but with a fear of flying that gets worse with age, but since taking his first cruise in 2013 he realized that sailing is the way to go.
Word Count: 46,089
Book Length: SHORT NOVEL
From number-one fan to number-one threat.
Ricky Morris, ex-cop turned private investigator for the elite Manhattanites of New York’s Upper East Side, came close to ending up on the slab when the St. Valentine’s Day murderer had him staring point-blank down the barrel of their gun.
Thankfully, NYPD officer Timothy Ward was there to save his neck and bring the murderer down. While Ricky and Timothy proved they could work well together in the shadows, their undeniable and dangerous passion for each other is leading to a forbidden relationship—the kind that Ricky promised himself he would never get tangled up in again.
Breaking it off with Timothy is hard to do though, and Ricky finds himself needing his help once again in a new case. The most famous burlesque dancer in Manhattan, Ms. Faye Fontaine—the Parisian Princess—has been receiving letters from a secret admirer…increasingly sinister letters, and Ricky knows all too well how these things play out.
Will Ricky and Timothy be able to work together and find out whose obsession has become deadly, or will the rampant heat of their forbidden feelings bring them down in flames before they can save the girl?
Reader advisory: This book contains period-typical attitudes, including slurs, and toward casual sex (no condoms m/m). There is on-page gunplay, and slow-burn MCs over course of series.
“Where on earth are you taking us, Ricky?”
“Have a bit of faith. I know exactly where I’m going.”
Timothy gave him a skeptical look from the passenger seat of Ricky’s Starlight Coupe. “Are you even allowed to drive down here? Isn’t this private property?”
“I know the fella that owns the building. He’s down in Tampa, enjoying the sun while he waits for the city to get the demolition papers in order for this old shoe factory. Nobody will even know we’re here.”
Ricky drove them through the abandoned parking lot behind the massive, derelict four-story building down by the Williamsburg Bridge in the Lower East Side. The place, Orson’s shoe factory, was right on the East River, facing the waterfront. While the dockyards up the river a ways were bustling with freight ships and hollering longshoremen working the graveyard shift, down here was eerily quiet and empty.
Ricky snuck the automobile through rusty shipping containers at the back of the factory’s parking lot and drove the Starlight down a narrow gravel path that brought them to a small clearing above the shoreline of the river, which was about fifty yards out from them. The water was at its highest, save for when storms blew angry breakers in off the Atlantic, but now the weather was calm, and the sky and water were perfectly clear. The heavy full moon hung low in the sky, beginning its nightly journey across the sky, and Ricky put the car in park and smiled, pleased with himself.
“Not too shabby, huh?”
“Holy moley.” Timothy gasped. He leaned forward in his seat to take in the view. Across the river, the Brooklyn skyline spread out in front of them, lit up with the hundreds of tiny twinkling lights of thriving New Yorkers. The occasional freightliner drifted upriver, making its way to the docks, but the water was nearly calm elsewise, reflecting the city lights like sparkling diamonds floating in the water.
This place was a cute little spot, if one didn’t mind the crumbling eyesore of a building behind them.
“This view is stunning,” Timothy whispered.
Ricky killed the engine and turned to Timothy so he could admire the view he had right here in his own car.
Timothy was neatly dressed in his usual navy-blue winter coat, but his mustard-yellow scarf and mittens were sitting beside him on the seat, thanks to the Starlight’s heaters. March was just ringing in, but the city was still cold and dreary.
In like a lion, out like a lamb. That was the old saying, and Timothy was a sweet little lamb himself. His short brown hair was trimmed and parted neatly on the right side, showing off the delicate, slender features of his face. His straight nose and high cheekbones, clean shaven cheeks and supple pink lips… Ricky admired them all, but perhaps not as much as Timothy’s bright green eyes, which were twinkling with the city lights spread out before them. There was just that refreshing boyish charm that radiated from Timothy that drew Ricky right to him like a moth to a flame, or perhaps a hungry wolf to an innocent doe.
Timothy finally glanced over and caught Ricky staring, so Ricky gave him a wicked grin.
“Yeah, the view’s pretty nifty,” he agreed.
Timothy laughed, shaking his head. He looked back out of the window, but Ricky caught the smile still on his face.
“You are certainly full of surprises,” Timothy said.
“Well, how about another one.” Ricky reached inside the front of his jacket and pulled out a flask from his pocket. “Care for a drink?”
“Do you carry that everywhere?” Timothy asked, chuckling.
“It’s tempting, but no. I just planned ahead for this little nightcap.” Ricky unscrewed the top and handed it to Timothy. “Have a sip, in honor of a lovely night.”
Ricky had been looking forward to getting Timothy out for a night alone, ever since the last time Timothy had visited his office. Earlier in the evening, Ricky had picked Timothy up at his apartment after his shift at the precinct and taken him downtown to a diner beside Washington Square Park to get some hamburgers and coffee. The grub had been decent, tasty and great for only a buck-fifty, but Ricky had been looking forward to this part of the evening, when there weren’t any prying eyes and he could get Timothy out of that timid shell of his.
“What is it?” Timothy asked, taking the flask.
“Just some gin. It’s good for the stomach. Give it a try.”
Timothy took a sip, careful but not stingy. He had a harder time swallowing it, his face pulling into a disgusted look for a second before he managed the burn of the liquor and took a deep breath.
“Was it really that bad?” Ricky asked, trying to keep a smile off his face.
“Actually, now that it’s down, it wasn’t the worst.”
Ricky laughed despite himself and took the flask back from Timothy.
“You know, I was wondering if you really were gonna call me,” Timothy said as Ricky took his own sip.
“Well, after what happened a few weeks ago…” Timothy left it at that, but Ricky read him loud and clear. To say that the circumstances in which Ricky and Timothy had met had been less than ideal was doing the whole crazy situation an injustice.
Timothy Ward had strolled into Ricky’s Upper East Side apartment-turned-office seeking his skills as a private eye a few days before Valentine’s Day, worried that his brother, James Ward, Deputy Chief of the Manhattan North Detective Bureau and Ricky’s old partner, was responsible for the recent string of murders hitting young, single women working for the massive chocolate factory, Darling Confectionaries.
Ricky had been far more interested in digging up the perfect piece of dirt on James than helping Timothy find who was behind the boxes of poisoned Valentine’s chocolates, but in the end, James’s wife, Primrose Darling, heiress to the Darling Confectionaries fortune, had been the sinister mind behind the murders. Ricky had stared down the barrel of her revolver for Christ’s sake, before James and Timothy had found them during the grand Valentine’s Ball, hearing Prim confess to the whole thing.
Ricky had been lucky, damn lucky. True, him planning and bringing his Minifon portable recorder had probably saved his hide and been the last nail in the coffin for Prim’s freedom as an innocent dame, but even he had to admit that it had been a little too close for comfort, coming that close to ending up on the slab himself.
Yet, the insanity of that case aside, his curiosity and fascination with Timothy hadn’t dwindled. If anything, watching Timothy dip his toes into the shady side of private investigating—snooping around in dark alleys and infiltrating an illegal queer club to gather information—had only piqued Ricky’s interest that much more.
That, and the fact that Timothy had been a fucking sight to see in the bedroom. Ricky had been able to get Timothy into bed long enough for him to get his first taste of him, swallowing his cock down until Timothy was a squirming mess and Ricky got to jerk them both off together.
That had been as far as they had gotten. Usually, Ricky was one to rush right to home base. He had a long list of one-night stands in his past, more than he cared to admit if he was honest with himself. But once he had found out that young, sweet, almost painfully innocent Timothy Ward was a virgin, giving Ricky those hungry, eager doe eyes of his in the booth of the queer joint, the Amethyst Lounge, Ricky had wanted him like all the others. Yet he’d also been wary of dragging Timothy down into the pits of hell with him.
Timothy still had his whole career on the force ahead of him, unlike Ricky who had tossed all that away with the foolish mistake of getting caught red-handed behind a similar queer joint, three-sheets to the wind with his tongue down some random John’s throat.
Yet, even knowing all the pitfalls and dangers that could come with it, Ricky had still called Timothy up and asked if he was interested in meeting him for some greasy diner food and to discuss that invoice Ricky had for him. Of course, Ricky wasn’t really going to charge the kid after all that happened, but it had been the perfect excuse for seeing him again.
What could Ricky say? He never was one for doing what was best for him, and when it came to a sexy young piece like Timothy? Ricky was a sucker for the cute ones.
“I’ve been in worse scrapes than that,” Ricky said, passing the flask back to Timothy. “And what about you? I was surprised that you accepted my invitation. Does James know where you stepped out to this evening?”
Timothy frowned. “No. He’s not my mother.”
“I didn’t mean to ruffle your feathers. I just know how overbearing he is.”
“Yeah, well…” Timothy shrugged and sipped the gin. “I guess that’s just how older brothers can be.”
“Sure, I suppose.”
“What about you?”
“Do you have any siblings? Any family?”
“No, no,” Ricky said, shaking his head.
“But what about your parents?”
“I grew up with my old man. He was a real piece of work. My ma skipped town right after I was born supposedly, so he was stuck raising me. He did the best he could really, but he was nearly always gone. He worked all these long hours at the steel mill, down here by Seaport.”
“And where is he now?”
“Over in Queens, in the Calvary Cemetery. He dropped dead on the line, right in the middle of his shift when I was nineteen. To be honest, it was a miracle he made it to the ripe old age of fifty-nine, considering the man drank like a fish every waking hour of the day.”
“Oh, I’m sorry to hear that.”
“Don’t be,” Ricky replied, handing the flask back to him. “I don’t have any family or nothing, but at least I’ve had Liz. She’s been my best friend for eight years. She keeps me in line. Well, as best as she can.”
“And what about boyfriends? You mentioned you had some nasty exes.”
“Yes. At the Amethyst Lounge.”
“Well…to be fair there was mainly only one. Things didn’t end very well between us, but that’s just how the cookie crumbles in the end for fellas like me.”
“Some people are meant to walk alone, I guess.”
“That’s a foolish thought,” Timothy said with a laugh.
“Really? Why’s that?”
“Well, it’s human nature to want companionship.”
“Wanting it and deserving it are two different things.”
Timothy shook his head, giving Ricky the last swig in the flask. “Everyone deserves love.”
Ricky bit his tongue. Love. What did young Timothy, virgin at twenty-four, know of love? Ricky had a feeling Timothy’s head was still full of childish fairytales. Queer guys like Ricky didn’t get to have a happily-ever-after with gold wedding bands and quaint suburban houses with white picket fences.
Those were never in the cards for Ricky, and never would be.
Yet he didn’t want to get into that kind of talk tonight, not when he was feeling good after an evening of cheap, tasty burgers and fine gin with even finer company.
“Here,” Ricky said, handing the flask back to Timothy. “Have the last shot, in honor of our strange meeting, and of our pretty swell evening.”
Timothy took the offer and gave a shy smile. “To us.”
“To us,” Ricky agreed. He watched Timothy drink the last sip, and when he pulled the flask away, Ricky couldn’t help but stare at his shiny lips and the tip of his pink tongue that peeked out to lick his bottom lip. That was the last straw, and Ricky’s polite patience went flying right out the window.
He leaned over and stole a kiss from Timothy, who sucked in a surprised breath through his nose before he melted into the kiss and opened his mouth for Ricky when Ricky’s tongue teased the seam of his gorgeous, supple lips. The empty flask was abandoned somewhere on the seat and Timothy immediately grabbed the lapels of Ricky’s jacket, tugging him even closer.
Ricky was happy to comply. He snuck a hand around the back of Timothy’s neck, scraping his nails teasingly at the base of Timothy’s skull, earning a cute little moan against his lips.
Ricky’s blood felt like it was slowly creeping to a boil, and he couldn’t use the few sips of liquor as an excuse either. He hadn’t had a lick of action since the last time he and Timothy had been together. It had been two long and grueling weeks with just his hand for company, so he had been thinking about kissing Timothy all night. Heck, he’d been thinking about that since their last stolen moment together in Ricky’s office.
The wait was turning out to be well worth it, especially if Ricky could keep getting reactions out of Timothy like that one. One thing was for sure, kissing Timothy was just as fantastic as he remembered. Timothy had been a quick learner and he gave just as good as he got, eager to keep up with the playful exploration of Ricky’s tongue. Ricky was eager himself, trying to taste that lovely mix of gin and Timothy’s tongue and lips and chasing it down until Timothy had to pull back, desperate for a breath.
Ricky wasn’t through with him yet, however. He trailed a line of kisses along the smooth line of Timothy’s jaw until he reached the left side of his neck. He knew very well how sensitive Timothy was there, that particular spot right behind his ear. Ricky tried not to bump his nose against the bit of plastic hearing aid hooked behind Timothy’s ear and went to town, gently nibbling and lapping at the soft skin.
Timothy shivered in his hold, tipping his head to give Ricky more skin to attack and letting out a shuddering breath. His voice was breathy when he whimpered, “Oh God, Ricky. Fuck. Please don’t stop.”
Hearing one of Timothy’s rare curses was like adding fuel to the fire. Ricky wished he could suck a deep red bruise onto the side of his neck, marking him as Ricky’s for the fleeting time being, but even that much was far too risky. Instead, Ricky left Timothy’s neck, though Timothy did let out a needy groan at the loss of attention to his favorite spot, but it changed to a pleased sort of sound instead when Ricky kissed his lips to make up for it.
To his surprise though, Timothy broke the kiss, but he didn’t let go of Ricky’s jacket, nor did he pull too far away. He was staring at Ricky’s lips, obviously torn with wanting more, yet he apparently had something he wanted to say.
“You know,” he began, fingers playing with the edges of Ricky’s lapels. “If you wanted another drink, we could always go back to your place. I can just take a cab back home later.”
That was an interesting idea. It was the weekend after all, and Ricky knew that Timothy was hoping for more than just another drink, which sounded A-OK to him. A shiver ran down Ricky’s spine at the thought of how much further he could get with Timothy tonight.
Oh, the possibilities.
“I could use another drink, if you’re feeling up for it, honey. How about we blow this place?”
The endearment brought a hint of blush to Timothy’s cheeks, but he nodded, nonetheless. Ricky gave him a teasing wink and got the Starlight’s engine going again.
A nagging voice at the back of Ricky’s head tried to remind him that the longer he kept this little affair with Timothy going, the messier it would be to end things. Yeah, he might just be thinking with his prick tonight, he could admit that much, but fuck it. Why couldn’t they have a little fun today, fool around for a while, get their rocks off then call it a night?
That was all this had to be.
Ricky eased the Starlight away from the riverbank, through the lot of the abandoned shoe factory, and back uptown toward his apartment on the Upper East Side. Timothy shifted in his seat, getting comfortable for the drive, and Ricky hoped traffic would be on his side tonight.
A Sinner's Cross Novel, Book 2
Date Published: 07-04-2022
Publisher: One Nine Books
Winner of the Literary Titan Gold Medal and the Pinnacle Book Achievement Award.
About the Author. . .