Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Wednesday Briefs: In Pieces #44 (11.3)

Good morning and Happy Hump Day! If it's Wednesday, then it must be time for more flash fiction from the Wednesday Briefers! We're a group of authors who bring you our finest flash fiction every week, 500 to 1000 words, inspired by one of our prompts.

Salvation is playing at The Dive, an underground nightclub in Houma, Louisiana. The place is rocking with very appreciative fans as Ryan busies himself taking pictures, having inadvertently forgotten his laptop. He accidentally runs into a stranger who catches him rather handily. See what's going on in this week's chapter of In Pieces. Don't forget to visit the other Briefers and see what's up with them! Their links follow my tale! Enjoy!

In Pieces #44 (11.3)

Ryan’s cheeks flamed with sudden heat, and he found himself momentarily tongue-tied.  The man’s arms were wrapped about his waist, and their unexpected and intimate proximity was throwing him for a loop.


“You must be quite a fan of the band, what with all the pictures you’ve been taking,” the man continued. He made no move to release Ryan, leaning in closer, as if to make sure the sound of his voice carried over the noise of the crowd around them, as well as that of the band.

Belatedly collecting himself, Ryan stepped back, breaking the man’s hold. “Um, yeah,” he stammered. “I mean no. I’m not just a fan. I’m with them.” Had this guy been watching him or something? An unsettling thought.

The stranger’s brows arched, somewhat skeptically, it seemed to Ryan.

“Funny, I’ve never seen you with them before. Are you like a publicity agent… or something?” Ryan didn’t like the way he said that, like he was a groupie… or worse.

“Kinda sorta,” Ryan said as he worked at collecting himself. “I’m traveling with Salvation, and I’m writing a book about the group. About the tour and everything. I just happen to take photos too.”

“Oh, the writer.” The man’s expression relaxed. “If I’d known Ben hired such a cutie, I’d have shown up a lot sooner.”

“Well, I just joined them, to be honest.” Ryan tried not to sound as flustered as he felt. Embarrassing enough to fall on the guy, but to be held like that, by a total stranger…. Wait, what did he just say?

“Maybe I should introduce myself before you think I’m the friendly neighborhood pervert or something.” The man laughed. “Brandon Devereaux, at your service.” He made a small bow. “What might your name be?”

“Ryan. Ryan Fremont.” A light bulb suddenly went on in Ryan’s brain. “Are you Abby’s Brandon?” he  asked without thinking, then wished he could take his words back. Too late for that, of course.

“That would be me. I see my fame precedes me.”

Brandon gave him an inquisitive look. Ryan hoped the man wouldn’t ask what he’d heard about him, especially considering what Abby had had to say. But all he said was, “Nice to meet you, Ryan. I’m sure we’ll be seeing a lot of each other.” His gaze raked Ryan up and down, as if he was taking his measure. Judging by his smile, he liked what he saw. Ryan took another step back.

“Um, I need to… I should… get back to work.”

To his dismay, Brandon edged toward him again, leaning in so close that his mouth was right by Ryan’s ear. “You’re so cute, I could just eat you up.” Then he straightened once more, and with a predatory grin, ambled away, leaving a shaken Ryan behind.

This guy had a girlfriend, one that was actually here, in this same night club. So what was he doing flirting with Ryan? Maybe he wasn’t as straight as Ryan had assumed him to be, which might explain his reluctance for Abby to have the surgery she wanted. Still no excuse for going against her wishes, though. It was her body.

Ryan wanted a drink so bad he could taste it. Just to calm his nerves, he told himself. He took two steps in the direction of the bar, then turned back. No, he didn’t need to do that. He just needed to get over it. Nothing happened, and nothing would. When the band’s break came, he would be able to spend a little time with Ben. Then everything would be all right.

Armed with that resolution, he went back to taking photos, throwing himself into his work once more.

to be continued

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Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Book Review: Blue Exorcist, Vol 20 by Kazue Kato

Blue Exorcist, Vol 20 

Author: Kazue Kato
Publisher: Viz Media
American release date: October 2, 2018
Format/Genre/Length: Paperback/manga/paranormal/210 pages
Overall Personal Rating: ★★★★★

The Ex-wires decide to throw a party—a combination birthday and Christmas party. Rin buys some cheap reindeer ears for himself and a moustache and glasses costume for Yukio, who is less than impressed. Shiemi dresses as Santa Claus and carries a large bag containing a full-sized decorated Christmas tree (it’s actually Nee). When tragedy accidentally ensues, they salvage what they can, and save the day by having a hot-pot party. As they are partying, Shima receives a call from his older brother Juzo—he and Mamushi are going to have a baby! Although they are officially married, they are going to have a ceremony for family, and they want Shima and Bon and Konekomaru to attend!

After the party, Rin and Yukio learn, to their surprise, that Shura lives in their dorm too. Shura has had a bit to drink and mentions to them that she met their mother. Naturally, they want details, so Shura tells them the story, which occurred when she was a bratty little girl being raised by Father Fujimoto. Afterward, the brothers discuss what they found out. Yukio expresses a desire to know more about their mother, but Rin doesn’t, to his brother’s surprise.

The Ex-wires all travel to Kyoto for the wedding. Everyone pitches in to help with preparations, although with his arm in a sling, Yukio is limited in what he can do. Lots of family members show up from both sides. Rin is concerned about his brother. He feels as if something is wrong with him, but he doesn’t know what.

Even from Kyoto, Bon checks on Lightning, chastising him to get out of bed. As soon as he hangs up with Bon, Lightning places another call, asking about Dr. Dragulescu’s schedule. Shima is sitting alone, away from the festivities, when Konekomaru finds him. They have a talk, and Shima starts to feel better about himself.

The Ex-Wires and a few others head to the temple for New Year’s Eve, with a stern warning to stay together, but Rin finds himself standing next to Shiemi, separated from the others. He reveals to her his feelings that Yukio is hiding something from him. Before they can really talk, though, they are discovered and the moment passes.

New Year’s Day. Bon helps his father prepare for the wedding ceremony. He asks him about Father Fujimoto, but before Tatsuma can respond, he is called away. Afterward, Bon is seated next to Yukio, during the ceremony. Yukio overheard Bon’s question, and wants to know what Lightning is investigating. Even as they speak, Lightning is making his move, but Bon tells Yukio he can’t reveal any information regarding the investigation. The situation threatens to boil over when Yukio threatens Bon with a gun, but everything ends up being put on hold when the Ex-wires are recalled to handle a dangerous situation—a Cyclops is loose in Ikebukuro Station!
There is a lot going on in this volume of Blue Exorcist, aside from the wedding and New Year’s and the baby. Yukio is trying to figure things out, such as why Father Fujimoto raised him and Rin, what is their mother’s story, and what do Bon and Lightning have to do with anything? Rin is trying to understand why Shiemi has chosen not to take the exorcist’s exam, although she assures him it isn’t because she is dying or moving or anything, but she can’t tell him the reason. She just can’t. We see Lightning in action and get a better feel for what he does. I have to say I’m liking him more than I did before. Shima is a hard person to get a handle on. As a double spy, it’s hard to say which is his true face, and which side is he truly on. Yukio reveals a surprising memory, which is a tender moment. I like seeing more of Shura as a little girl, it’s really cute.

On pins and needles now, waiting for the next volume!

Saturday, March 16, 2019

Book Review: Ten Count, Vol 1 by Rihito Takarai

Ten Count, Vol 1    

Author: Rihito Takarai
Publisher: SuBLime Manga
American release date: August 9, 2016
Format/Genre/Length: Paperback/manga/glbt/178 pages
Overall Personal Rating: ★★★★★

Shirotani believes that the whole world is dirty and contaminated. Handling certain objects is difficult for him, at best. Even so, he considers his beliefs to be his problem and no one else’s. But perhaps it’s time to readjust his thinking when he finds himself the cause of his employer being injured in an accident. Through the accident, Shirotani meets Kurose, who makes some very astute observations regarding Shirotani’s idiosyncracies. How does Kurose know? Kurose suggests Shirotani see a counselor and gives him a card, which Shirotani surprisingly keeps.

Not sure why, Shirotani finds himself in front of the address on the card. As he’s standing there, Kurose rides up on his bicycle. It turns out he’s a counselor at the center. He’s glad to see Shirotani there. But when Shirotani attempts to bolt, Kurose suggests that perhaps the two of them can meet, outside of the center, so he can help Shirotani. They end up meeting at a restaurant where they discuss Shirotani’s problem and some of the limits of what he can and cannot do. Kurose has him make out a list of ten actions or activities Shirotani has an aversion to, with number one being the one with the least aversion and so on. Shirotani leaves the number ten spot open, and Kurose says he can fill it in later. By the time he completes everything on the list, Kurose declares, Shirotani will be cured! Kurose assures Shirotani he need never come to the clinic. When he asks about a consulting fee, Kurose says there will be none, as he’s doing it on his own time. When Shirotani asks why he would do that, he’s surprised at Kurose’s answer—he wants to be Shirotani’s friend!

And so they begin with the first item on Shirotani’s list—to touch a door knob bare-handed.

I think the premise for this yaoi series is very unique. I’ve never seen anything quite like it. I like the way it handles Shirotani’s compulsions, never making light of them. Kurose is a thorough professional and very understanding. When Shirotani is late, Kurose usually knows why that is, what he’s gone through just to get there. But I think he also realizes he has feelings for Shirotani that he isn’t about to reveal or burden him with while they are in this current relationship of counselor and counselee. Of course I’m hoping that Shirotani and Kurose will become a couple, and I’m hoping that the tenth unrevealed item on Shirotani’s list is to be able to fall in love, and that he will do so with Kurose. Time will tell. There are five more volumes to go, looking forward to reading them.

Thursday, March 14, 2019

Book Review: Soul Eater, Vol 1 by Atsushi Ohkubo

Soul Eater, Vol 1      

Author: Atsushi Ohkubo
Publisher: Yen Press
American release date: April 22, 2014
Format/Genre/Length: Paperback/manga/paranormal/208 pages
Overall Personal Rating: ★★★

Maka is a scythemeister and a student at DWMA—Death Weapon Meister Academy. Her partner is a living scythe named Soul Eater. Maka’s goal is to make him into a death scythe worthy of being used by Death himself. In order to do this, Soul must consume 99 souls and one witch. Easier said than done. Currently, Death (also known as Shinigami-sama) is using Death Scythe as his current weapon. Death Scythe also happens to be Maka’s father, who is constantly yelling at Soul, warning him not to touch his little girl. When he isn’t busy being a major horn dog, that is. Despite his many protestations of love for his daughter, Maka spurns him, which reduces him to tears. Soul already has his 99 souls, all he needs is the witch. They find a witch by the name of Blair, so now the battle is on!

Black Star is a shadow weapon meister who wields a demon shadow weapon called Tsubaki. So far, he has collected zero souls, mostly because he is an egocentric loud-mouth who can’t seem to keep from announcing his presence and his intentions even in situations that require stealth and silence. When Shinigami-sama tells them there is a special way to become Death’s weapon without absorbing the souls of 99 humans and one witch, Black Star wants to know more. This way involves humans who are stronger than normal humans. And there is such a human, named Mifune, who is nearby. He is the bodyguard for a witch named Angela. That’s all Black Star needs to hear. Off they go! Does he have what it takes to defeat Mifune and absorb Angela’s soul?

Shinigami-sama has a son, Death the Kid. He wields two weapons, a pair of demon twin guns who are sisters, Patty and Liz. Death’s biggest problem is his unswerving need for symmetry. If something is asymmetrical, it throws him off his game and he becomes obsessed with making it right. His own hair distresses him because he has three white streaks on one side that are not on the other. As a shinigami, Death the Kid doesn’t need to collect souls, but he wants to make his own weapon with his own two hands. Because he uses two weapons, that means he needs to collect twice the number of souls. He asks his father if he knows anywhere he can get a large amount of souls. Shinigami-sama sends him to the pyramid Anubis in Egypt, where a necromancer witch is creating a large number of mummies. Will he be able to find the souls he needs and defeat the witch, or will his need for symmetry disrupt his plans?

The first day of school! Maka is excited and goes to wake Soul, only to find him in a distasteful position! When she finally gets him to school, they speculate about who their new home room teacher will be as the previous one was killed. To Maka’s dismay, the new teacher turns out to be Death Scythe! From the beginning, he is very upsetting to his daughter, like when he announces he’ll only take attendance for the ladies. Luckily for Maka and Soul, their presence is requested by the Shinigami-sama, so they leave the classroom. They run into Black Star and Tsubaki, who have also been summoned. Can this be a special assignment for them? Or is it something a lot worse?

I loved the first volume of Soul Eater. The characters are interesting and the artwork is really cool. Maka’s father, Death Scythe, is pretty cute even if he can’t stop perving on all the girls. I like Death the Kid, even though he’s a little strange. There are a lot of strange people in this world, though, to be honest. We meet another one at the end of the volume, and learn what his relationship to Death Scythe is.

I like the artwork, especially the color pictures of the moon. I would say my only real complaint is the amount of fanservice in just one volume. By which I mean lots of boobage. Which is great if you’re into that, not so much if you aren’t. I just tend to ignore it and move on. I am also watching the anime, which left me a little confused, which is why I decided to read the manga too. That makes the anime clearer.

This story has a great deal of humor and a lot of soul – no pun intended. I recommend this for teenagers and adults alike. I look forward to reading volume 2.

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Wednesday Briefs: In Pieces #43 (11.2)

Good morning and Happy Hump Day! If it's Wednesday, then it must be time for more flash fiction from the Wednesday Briefers! We're a group of authors who bring you our finest flash fiction every week, 500 to 1000 words, inspired by one of our prompts.

Time to get to work. Ryan realizes he's forgotten his laptop, his head is so high in the clouds in love, but there's nothing he can do about it now. At least he has his camera. As Salvation plays, Ryan takes killer photos. See what's going on in this week's chapter of In Pieces. Don't forget to visit the other Briefers and see what they're up to! Their links follow my tale! Enjoy!

In Pieces #43 (11.2)

They devoured everything Ryan and Abby had brought in record time. Everyone seemed to be in high spirits, looking forward to that night’s concert. When they were finished, they tossed their trash in the can  then headed back inside. The club was pretty packed now. Ryan thought it was awesome that so many people had come to see them play.  Surely this was a sign that Salvation was on its way to success. Fame, fortune… the sky’s the limit.

As they headed toward the stage, maneuvering their way between the tables and through the milling people, Ryan knew he probably wouldn’t be able to get a table, not as crowded as it was. He’d just have to roam the crowd, taking pictures, although that would make taking notes difficult. He couldn’t very well type standing up. 

Shit. He realized with a sudden twinge of guilt that he’d forgotten his laptop back at Cameron’s house. What was he thinking? He wasn’t, that was the problem. Too over the moon, head over heels in love with Ben to pay attention to what he needed to be doing. He was lucky he’d remembered his camera case, which he’d slung over his shoulder.

When they reached the stage, most  everyone  jumped on, heading to their respective positions. Ben remained at Ryan’s side. He gave Ryan a troubled look. “You okay?”

“Yeah, fine.” Ryan forced confidence into his voice he was far from feeling. “I think I’m just gonna get some shots of you guys from out in the crowd, then get closer in.”

“Yeah, good idea.” Ben nodded.

Ryan started to offer to fetch drinks if they needed them, then remembered the band had water bottles with them already. Maybe when they took a break between sets, he and Ben could grab a drink together. Assuming he wasn’t overwhelmed by his fans. If he was, Ryan would just have to live with it. This was Ben’s dream. He wasn’t about to rain on that or ruin it for him by being too possessive.
“Earth to Ryan.” Ben’s voice drew him out of his reverie.

“Oh, sorry,” he apologized. “I must have been daydreaming.” He laughed a little self-consciously.

“As long as it was about me,” Ben said with a wink.

“No one else,” Ryan promised, which garnered him a huge smile from his lover.

“That’s what I like to hear. Don’t go too far, sexy, I’ll be looking for you.” Ben pulled Ryan in for a long, deep kiss. People standing nearby broke into spontaneous applause and cheers. By the time Ben released him, he wore a great big smile which Ryan couldn’t help but return.

“Knock’em dead,” Ryan said. “Remember that I love you.”

“Love you too.” Ben leapt up onto the stage to cheers from the audience. Blowing Ryan a quick kiss, he grabbed the mic from the stand.  Hello Houma. We are Salvation and we’re gonna rock your world!”

The group launched immediately into their first number. Ryan loved the way Deacon’s keyboard sounded like a pipe organ, adding to the almost church-like quality of the music. The reverberations of the two guitars lent the song a definite metallic edge, along with Abby’s impressive drumming. As for Ben, his beautiful voice was otherworldly and enchanting. The light show was pretty impressive too. Maybe when they had a bigger budget to work with, they could add something of a gothic element. Ryan had seen a lot of concerts where the bands displayed computer graphics in the background to accompany the lights. Maybe he’d suggest that to Ben later. Being part of Salvation was exhilarating, something beyond his wildest dreams. Maybe this would put his writing career back on track too. Being with Ben was going to make all the difference in the world, he just knew it. With Ben, he could do anything.

Time to get to work.

Ryan pulled out his camera and concentrated on taking shots of the band first. He loved the way they dressed, each member with his own individual persona. Ben was the priest, of course, and Abby the nun. Aiden was dressed as a monk, although he drew the line, as he’d told Ben, at adding a tonsure, even for the sake of art. He wore a long brown robe with a hood, although he didn’t wear it up all the time. Probably got too hot under the lights. A chain link belt girded his waist, from which dangled a large Coptic cross. Keanu, as the bishop of the group, wore black robes adorned with gold buttons and crosses, topped with a high black bishop’s hat. His better half, Deacon, wore the scarlet robes of a cardinal, including a cape and a red skullcap. Ryan thought Ben looked the best of all of them, but he knew he might be more than a little prejudiced on that point.

The audience was more than appreciative, cheering each and every song.  Many of them stood and swayed, singing along with the refrains, adding an almost church-like atmosphere. Ryan knew he couldn’t possibly use all the pictures he was taking in the book, but he could use the best of them.  He worked at getting pictures of the band and the audience both from different angles, utilizing the zoom feature of his camera.

Caught up in what he was doing, he backed up to get a wider shot of the stage and unexpectedly hit something solid. Ryan started to fall. His first thought was not to fall on the camera.


Before he could regain his balance, he felt strong arms circle his waist, holding him tight.

“Careful there, handsome,” a low voice came from behind him.

Ryan found himself back on his feet, facing his savior. His first impression was of long red hair and deep blue eyes and a smile that went on forever.

“Never had someone as cute as you fall for me before,” the strange said in a long low drawl.

 to be continued

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Saturday, March 9, 2019

Book Review: Black Leopard, Red Wolf by Marlon James

Black Leopard, Red Wolf      

Author: Marlon James
Publisher: Riverhead Books
American release date: February 5, 2019
Format/Genre/Length: Hardback/Literature/fantasy/620 pages
Overall Personal Rating: ★★★★★

A man named Tracker has a story to tell, and such a story it is. He is called Tracker because of his nose, and his penchant for finding things. So he is sent on a mission to find a missing boy, and such a group he finds himself in. There is the shapeshifter Leopard, with whom the Tracker has a past but now the Leopard has a boy named Fumeli who carries his bow and arrows and maybe his heart. There is Sadogo, who will tell you he is not a giant. There is the Moon Witch, Sogolon, and others as well.

Their journey will take them to many strange places in the heart of Africa, and they will see many things in their quest for this missing child. Along the way the Tracker discovers many things about himself and his companions. Everything is not as he thinks, and he can’t believe everything he sees.
There is much mischief afoot and many creatures and people who mean harm, and who would prevent this group from finding the lost boy. What is the boy’s importance in the scheme of things? Who is right and who is wrong?

Black Leopard, Red Wolf is the first book in Marlon James’ Dark Star Trilogy. It is a book steeped in mythology and fantasy and history. But most of all, it is the story of one man, Tracker. Tracker is a compelling narrator. I found it impossible not to like him and not to root for him, to rejoice in his victories and grieve with him in his sorrows. This books takes you on a journey the likes of which you’ve probably never experienced before. I know I haven’t.

This book is beautifully written in a language that will pull you in and make you an interested bystander with a vested interest in what happens to its narrator. The writing is rich and deep and very compelling. Some of the creatures you will meet will enthrall you, others will terrify you.  I hope to never see such as the Omuluzu, creatures who come out of the ceiling and walk on it as if it is floor. The children will capture your hearts—the Smoke Girl and the Giraffe Boy, the Boy with no legs and the twins who share one body….how can you not love them? As well as the man who wins Tracker’s heart.

I cannot even begin to imagine what will happen next, but I’m certainly looking forward to finding out. In the meantime, I shall be visiting Mr. James’ other novels.

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

Wednesday Briefs: In Pieces #42 (11.1)

Good morning and Happy Hump Day! If it's Wednesday, then it must be time for more flash fiction from the Wednesday Briefers! We're a group of authors who bring you our finest flash fiction every week, 500 to 1000 words, inspired by one of our prompts.

Salvation is playing at an underground nightclub in Houma, Louisiana known as The Dive. Ryan and Abby have brought back some food from a nearby Cajun restaurant, so the band can eat before they go on. So far, so good, see what's happening in this week's chapter of In Pieces. Don't forget to visit the other Briefers and see what's up with them! Their links follow my tale!  

In Piecs #42 (11.1)

The Dive was already starting to fill with people by the time they returned with the food. A bouncer was on duty at the front door, collecting the cover charge.  He eyed them as they approached.

“We’re part of the band,” Abby explained. He gave her nun’s outfit a quick onceover and waved them in.

 Adjusting his eyes to the dimly lit interior, Ryan scanned his surroundings for Ben and the others. He wondered if they’d be able to find a place where they could eat without the band being mobbed by admirers. Dayglo purple lights highlighted the bar, casting a garish glow on the bartenders.  The floor was filled with a lot of small tables, set close together, many already occupied. On the opposite side of the long narrow room, Ryan spotted the stage. The equipment was already set up. Aiden and Keanu were playing riffs, while Deacon was fiddling with his keyboard.  And there was Ben, just in front of the stage, talking to a large man who stood at least a head taller than him.

“There they are,” Ryan said to Abby, but she’d seen them first and was already halfway to the stage. Ryan headed straight to Ben and the unknown man. As he drew nearer, he noticed the man wore a black kimono, and his dark hair was gathered into a small bun at the nape of his neck. He smiled at Ryan as he approached.

“You must be Ryan,” the man said. “My name’s Leo. Welcome to The Dive.”

Ryan had to juggle the plastic carryout bags  that hung from his arms so he could extend one hand. “Nice to meet you.” He found great pleasure in knowing Ben had mentioned him.

“Is there a place we can grab a quick bite before the show?” Ben asked. “Maybe someplace a little private?”

“Absolutely,” Leo replied. “Right outside the back door.” He gestured toward the rear of the club. “No one ever goes out there. There’s a place to sit and everything.”

“Awesome,” Ben said. “Thanks.”    

Ben turned toward the stage, waving one hand to gain everyone’s attention. “Eats are here.” He pointed toward Ryan. “We’re going out the back door so we can eat. C’mon.” Not waiting for a reply, he took half of Ryan’s load, saying, “Here, let me help.” They maneuvered their way through the crowd, naturally drawing attention by the way Ben was dressed, and out the back door. Ryan assumed this was where the staff came on their breaks.  There was a metallic picnic table that looked as though it had once been the property of some state park—garishly green and very heavy duty.  A metal trash can stood nearby that also looked like it had come from the same place.

Ryan and Ben set out the food containers on the table and distributed plates, silverware, and napkins  for the other band members before they took seats one bench . They sat so close together they were almost in each other’s laps.  The others had followed them out. Deacon and Keanu sat together opposite them, as did Abby, while Aiden took a seat beside Ben.  

Afraid to have Ben get his priest’s robes dirty before their first set even began, Ryan insisted on hand-feeding Ben the delicious appetizers. He handed them to him, one by one, so intent on what he was doing, he became oblivious to the presence of everyone else. After swallowing each appetizer, Ben licked Ryan’s fingers clean.

“Isn’t that so sweet?” Keanu teased, drawing Ryan’s attention back to the others with a start and a blush. “Maybe you should pre-chew his food too?”

“Shush and open your mouth,” Deacon admonished before Ryan even had a chance to reply. Ryan glanced across the table to find Deacon teasing one of the oysters over Keanu’s lips, brushing across them lightly until they parted then popping the oyster inside. Keanu’s loud moans of satisfaction brought laughter from the others. Deacon winked at Ryan, as if to say we know how to please our men, don’t we?

Ryan glanced at Abby, who gave him a thumbs up. Her look of approval warmed his heart. He turned his attention back to Ben, interspersing bites of food with kisses. Ryan couldn’t remember the last time he’d been so happy.

to be continued

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