As you'll recall, I ended Don't Look Back last week and promised to start something new this week, and I've done that. I'd like you to meet Vinnie and Ethan - Rose and Thorne. I hope you like them. I've also started a second book about Marshall and Lee, called Moving Forward, and I have the first flash of that too. I'll let you know when the first book is available in its entirety as a freebie. I have the cover made already. Hope you like my offerings, and don't forget to see what the other Briefers are up to. Their links follwo my tales. Enjoy!
Rose and Thorne #1 (1.1)
“Remind me again whose stupid idea this lipstick was,” I huffed out beneath my breath. Without thinking, I licked my lips. They felt greasy, and tasted even worse. I forced myself not to grimace, afraid it might crack the foundation I’d slathered on my face.
“Mine, you sexy beast,” came the smart-ass reply in my ear. “I think you got purty lips, mmhmmm.”
“Fuck you,” I growled. “You should be doing this, not me, and you know it. I did it last time.”
“What I know is you look better in a skirt than I do. And out of it, too.”
I felt my cheeks go hot at Ethan’s words. Luckily the darkness hid a multitude of sins and none the wiser. Hopefully, no one else was listening—I knew I’d never hear the end of it.
I pulled a compact from the purple paisley cloth purse slung over my shoulder and flipped open the mirror so I could assess my surroundings. I couldn’t see a damn thing. I growled again. I’d have to move closer to the half-assed excuse for a light this park possessed. The city fathers had been too cheap to install proper lighting, which is why they had this mugging problem to begin with.
“What’s wrong, Vinnie?” Ethan’s concern came through my earpiece loud and clear. He might aggravate me some of the time—or most of the time—but he always had my back.
“Nothing,” I muttered as I wobbled toward the light. These heels were ridiculous. How did women do it? I’d just gained an all-new respect for the fairer sex. They made it seem so effortless, while I possessed all of the grace of a wounded water buffalo. I’d tried opting for flats, but Ethan had nixed the idea. Said they wouldn’t go with the skirt. Plus he said the heels made my legs look longer.
The light pole stood just behind a metallic park bench shrouded by shadowy bushes. I think it was supposed to impart something of a pastoral feel, and maybe it did during the day, but at this time of night it only gave me the creeps. An icy finger climbed my spine, which I hurriedly dismissed.
The bench was a stone’s throw from the paved path which wound through the park, accessible to pedestrians and bikers both. I hadn’t seen much foot traffic tonight, mostly couples, hand in hand, seeking seclusion. Under other circumstances, that could be Ethan and me. Preferably in another park.
The path was about as well-maintained as the park was lit. I stumbled over what I assumed to be a tree root and valiantly fought to keep my balance. I lost the battle for equilibrium and dropped to my hands and knees, tearing my panty hose on the rough surface and skinning my knees and palms. I swallowed my cry of pain and clumsily regained my feet.
Just then something rustled in the bushes. I tensed. My hand snaked toward the gun which I’d tucked into the waistband of my skirt, underneath the jacket. I half expected a menacing figure in a long trench coat to jump out in front of me and flash his shlong. What I wasn’t prepared for was the small Pekingese which emerged from the darkness and flew at me. It yipped excitedly, like it thought I was about to steal its favorite bone.
It was just a dog. I needed to lighten up.
“Vinnie, what’s that noise?”
“It’s a dog, what does it sound like?”
“What’s it want?”
I rolled my eyes, even though I knew he couldn’t appreciate the gesture. “Gee, lemme ask him, Ethan.” I leaned down toward the canine, remembering to offer it my hand first. A stray thought ran through my mind, something about dog’s saliva having magical healing properties. With my luck, that was just an urban legend. Like the tooth fairy.
“You be careful, Vin, you hear me?”
That kinda went without saying.
“Nice puppy, good puppy.” If the dog was a healer, he obviously didn’t choose to waste such abilities on me. He made no move to lick the hand I held out. His high-pitched whine was getting on my last nerve. He’d make a great secret weapon if I ever needed to wake up the dead.
“Please be quiet,” I pleaded with the animal. To my surprise, he suddenly ceased his yapping as if I’d flipped an invisible switch, and he regarded me with a quizzical look. I was impressed with myself. I’d no idea I possessed such power over animals that I could bend them to my will. I’d have to remember that when I was dealing with Ethan in future. But my sense of accomplishment was short-lived.
A sense of disquiet slapped me like a blow to the chest. Goose bumps played up and down my arms, and the back of my neck prickled. Something wicked this way comes? The darkness felt almost palpable. I imagined it closing around me, suffocating me. I quickly pushed the image away.
Something was tugging at my purse. My first irrational thought was the dog had latched onto it and was trying to pry it away from me, even as I wondered what he’d want with it. That notion was quickly dispelled as the force grew stronger, yanking at the purse with a strength far beyond that of any small animal. If I hadn’t had it looped over my shoulder, my hand entwined in the strap, I’d probably have lost it.
Belatedly, it dawned on me I was being mugged. This was it.
My attacker was not quite as tall as me, but, even in the dim light, I could see he had the advantage in weight. “Let go, lady,” he fairly hissed, “I don’t wanna hurt you.”
“Hurt me, my ass,” I muttered, just as he directed a kick to my shins that threatened to topple me. I wobbled on the heels but didn’t fall.
One point for the good guys.
to be continued
Moving Forward #1 (1.1)
Marshall felt as though he was the belle of the ball. Or whatever the male equivalent of that might be.
Partners was hopping with its typical Western Night activity. The club was filled to capacity—wall-to-wall men with the urge to drink, dance, and play games, not all of which took place in the bustling game room. The small, private back rooms were high traffic areas on Western Night, and extra servers and attendants were on hand to make sure everything ran smoothly, and see that some sort of order was preserved.
Marshall and Lee hadn’t been back to Partners since before Thanksgiving. Mostly because they were busy, but also to put a little time behind them in order to forget the fiasco that was Rhonda. The way she’d tracked them down and tried to ruin their lives was a disaster narrowly averted. They didn’t realize how much they’d missed the place—and how much they were missed by their friends there—until Lee received an email from Slim, checking on them and asking when they were coming back.
They returned to Partners the first week in February. A slight chill hung in the air, necessitating jackets, but not coats. The promise of spring was in the air, and hormones bubbled in the veins of those at Partners. Different men kept coming up to the table Marshall and Lee shared with Roy and Slim and Denver and Rye, asking Marshall to dance. Each and every one of them made sure he asked for Lee’s permission first, which was always given. Lee encouraged Marshall to get out on the dance floor and kick up his heels. Have a good time. And so he went with them, and he whooped and hollered and had a grand old time. But he always returned to Lee after just one dance, and never went with the same man twice.
“Thanks for the dance,” Marshall told a tall, lanky cowboy who’d just escorted him back to their table. Only Lee and Slim were in evidence. The others must be off doing something else.
“You sure you don’t want to go again?” the cowboy asked hopefully, and Marshall shook his head. He reached for Lee’s hand and squeezed it, making it more than evident where his interest lay.
“Thanks but no thanks.” He raised his voice slightly, in order to be heard above the crowd around them.
The cowboy politely tipped his hat and walked away, as Marshall scooted closer to Lee and rested his head on Lee’s shoulder. He felt Lee’s lips graze the top of his head softly.
“Have a good workout?” Lee teased.
“Yeah, it was fun. So when you gonna take me out on the floor yourself?”
“Think you have room on your dance card for me?”
Marshall shifted his head and looked up at Lee. “You know I do,” he said earnestly before he saw the twinkle in Lee’s eyes, and knew he wasn’t being serious. They had an arrangement. Marshall was free to do what he wanted, with whom he wanted, as long as he was honest about it, and didn’t try to hide anything. Marshall knew it was Lee’s way of giving him an out, should he ever want one. To keep him from feeling tethered. He didn’t want an out, and he knew he never would. Dancing with other men was just that—dancing, nothing more. None of those men meant anything to him. Lee was all he wanted or needed. And dancing is where their involvement began and ended.
Marshall wasn’t the only one with a growing popularity at Partners. Lee had received his share of propositions, and he’d done a little dancing himself. Marshall couldn’t very well get jealous over something he was doing himself, and he knew he had no reason to, but he did watch Lee’s partners carefully, just to make sure no one was getting what he considered handsy.
“You know something,” Lee said, “I have a sneaking suspicion this has got to do with that damn YouTube video.” Marshall and Lee had found themselves the unwitting subjects of a video which was shot at Partners and subsequently posted on YouTube. In the video, they were dancing together, having a damn good time, attracting an appreciative audience to the dance floor. When the music ended, Lee had bent Marshall over backward and laid a huge liplock on him, which produced cheers from the spectators, who’d also taken pictures, as well as a video, of their exploits. The video had almost been their undoing—operative word almost, unwittingly drawing Rhonda to them, with her threats to tell everyone about them and their relationship. But now that was all just water under the bridge, and they were moving forward with their lives—with love and confidence.
“You mean we’re famous?”
“Infamous is more like it.” Lee snorted. “I guess it could be worse.” Marshall understood what Lee wasn’t saying. That the men at Partners accepted them at face value, and liked them without question. They were safe there. They could relax among their friends and simply be who they were.
“I was talking to the owner about that video,” Slim interjected, leaning toward them to make himself heard. “He thinks business has gone up thanks to you two. You’ve put Partners on the map. Gay men all over Texas thank you.” He winked at them.
At that moment, Denver returned to the table and threw himself into a chair, reaching for his beer. “A man can sure work up a thirst on the dance floor!” he commented.
“Oh yeah? What’s that got to do with you?” Slim punched the younger man lightly on the arm when he scowled.
“I’m a grown man, same as Marshall here. Don’t see you pickin’ on him.”
“Give’em half a chance and they will,” Marshall said. “You know how old men get sometimes when young men get all the attention.”
“Is that a fact?” Lee drawled.
to be continued
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