Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Virtual Book Tour: Whiskey Devils

Please welcome author Brandon Zenner, who is here to tell us about his new release, Whiskey Devils. Brandon will be awarding a $20 Amazon/BN GC to one randomly drawn commenter via Rafflecopter. The more you comment, the better your chances of winning. To find out where the rest of the stops on his tour are, go here. Don't forget to look for the Rafflecopter at the end of this post.

Whiskey Devils
by Brandon Zenner


GENRE: Crime Thriller



Evan Powers has become the new manager in Nick Grady’s well-established marijuana growing operation. Led by his roommate and best friend, little has changed in Nick’s secretive business since the late ‘60s, which is just the way the aging hippie would for like it to remain. However, Nick’s complex past comes full circle, thrusting Evan in a scramble to decipher the truth behind the enigmatic lives of the people he holds dear. Deep in the woods, demons will be unleashed.



We walked directly across the hall, to a second door leading to a second warehouse. It was like those Russian Matryoshka dolls that get pulled apart to reveal smaller dolls nesting inside. A warehouse within a warehouse.

Nick took me to the door and knocked.

My previous work took place down the long hall to the left, in a room around the corner in the rear of the building, and I looked over my shoulder to where I normally worked with Becka. She was nowhere to be seen. Whatever Nick was about to show me was entirely new, but I had a very good idea of exactly what was behind that thick door.

A sliding viewing port opened, and a set of eyes looked out. The viewing port closed, and the sound of a heavy lock clacked from the hollows of the metal door. A moment later it opened and we stepped inside, shielding our eyes from the glaring light.

“Holy hell,” I muttered, stepping into the room. The temperature was hot in there, muggy, and my eyes were practically blinded from the succession of thousand-watt high pressure sodium light bulbs lining the ceiling. A sea of tall marijuana plants filled the room, all set in carefully arranged rows, some attached to an elaborate hydroponic system. The smell of fresh marijuana was as thick as soup. A silver tray holding orange slices and a knife sat on a table by the door.

“So.” I turned to Nick. “What exactly do you need me to do?”


AUTHOR Bio and Links:

Brandon Zenner is an American fiction writer. His short fiction has been published in both print and online publications, the first being submitted when he was just 19 years old. THE EXPERIMENT OF DREAMS, his debut eBook thriller, has reached Amazon's top-ten charts within its genre many times. His categories of choice are thrillers, dystopian, crime, and science fiction.


Vote for this book on the Kindle Scout program: 


Information about the Kindle Scout program:

The Kindle Scout Page:

Social media, website:



a Rafflecopter giveaway

Wednesday Briefs: Moving Forward #15 (4.1)

Good morning and Happy Hump Day! Here we are at the end of 2015, bringing you the last flash of the year! Hard to believe this year is over, isn't it? Here we are with our flash fiction for your entertainment! The Wednesday Briefers are a group of authors who bring you, every week, our finest flashes, between 500 and 1000 words, inspired by one of our prompts.

Last week, in Moving Forward, an understanding was reached between Marshall and Lee concerning Dustin - and with not fixing Marshall up with him. This week, their trip begins with the journey to Galveston. How will that go, being in close quarters for four hours? Find out in this week's episode! Don't forget to visit the other Briefers to see what's up with them. Their links follow my tale! Enjoy!

Moving Forward #15 (4.1)

Denver and Dustin arrived bright and early the morning they were to leave for Galveston. Marshall and Lee were already up and had loaded the car with what they needed. Roy was there as well. He’d come by for coffee while making his rounds. Marshall knew he just wanted to make sure everything was okay with them and see they got off safely. While they were gone, he would keep an eye on the house and collect the mail and any packages.

“You should come with us,” Denver teased him, as he loaded his stuff in the trunk of Lee’s sedan.

Roy just laughed. “Maybe I would if I was looking for Mr. Right,” he quipped, “but I don’t see much chance of Miss Right being there, do you?”

“Maybe that’s a sign you should switch teams?” Lee suggested with a grin, which only earned him a snort from Roy.

“And what if I told you the same thing?”

“I’d tell you I already have Mr. Right.” Lee put an arm around Marshall’s waist, and Marshall’s heart swelled at the gesture. He stole a glance at Dustin, whom he’d barely exchanged two words with so far. The blond was just hefting his suitcase into the trunk. When he pulled back, he tossed his head to get the hair out of his face, and their eyes met. They stared at one another for a long moment. Dustin was the first to break away. He shoved his hands in his pockets and leaned against the car, his eyes trained on the driveway.

Marshall couldn’t help but remember he’d told Lee he’d try being friends with this guy. Maybe Dustin wasn’t really interested in him. Maybe he’d misread all the signs. If Dustin wanted to be friends, let him make the first effort. Until then, Marshall would be polite, nothing more. Once they got on the boat, hopefully, they wouldn’t see one another. Or at least any more than they could help.

The weather was typical for March in Texas, already a slightly cool sixty-five degrees. Lee had told him it would only get better once they got to the Virgin Islands. Marshall looked forward to swimming in the ocean, on the private nude beach. Maybe they’d get lucky and find enough privacy to make love on the sand. Just in case, he’d made sure to pack plenty of lube, along with some of their toys, to be used in their cabin. Lee had laughingly asked didn’t he want to do any sightseeing or did he plan to spend the whole trip flat on his back. Marshall had blushed as he replied that the best sight he could possibly hope to see was Lee above him, making love to him.

That earned him a kiss.

Marshall sat beside Lee in the front seat, while Denver and Dustin had the back to themselves. Marshall scooted as close to Lee as he could get. He reasoned this was typical behavior on his part, so Lee wouldn’t think anything of it. Lee gave him a quick scrutinizing glance, but he didn’t say anything. When he laid his hand on Marshall’s thigh, Marshall relaxed and turned the radio to their favorite country station. Willie Nelson filled the air.

There was no big rush to get to Galveston, with the early start they’d gotten, so after a couple of hours they stopped to put gas in the car. Then they bought some spicy fried chicken with sides of coleslaw and biscuits which they took to a rest area located just off the highway.

They sat at one of several picnic tables located beneath a grove of shade trees. The gentlest of breezes blew, barely ruffling their fast food bags. Above them, wisps of clouds dotted an otherwise clear blue sky. A family sat nearby, a couple with two children. The children begged to play, and the parents gave their permission. Marshall watched them scamper to the small playground, each taking custody of one of the swings. He remembered he’d had a swing in his front yard, a long time ago. A tire that Lee had put up for him. Lee had spent many hours pushing Marshall on that swing. Marshall smiled at the memory.

“Think of something funny?” Dustin’s voice intruded on his thoughts. Marshall forced himself not to scowl.

“Just thinking about something,” he said, his gaze fixed on the kids at play. “A swing I used to play on, long time ago.”

“The tire swing?” Lee asked, and Marshall nodded.

Marshall looked at Lee, and he knew Lee was remembering the same thing he was. Nothing more needed to be said, at least not in front of the others.

Marshall rose from the table and stretched. His back cracked in response. He’d been cooped up too long, he needed to move around. “I think I’m gonna stretch my legs,” he announced. There was enough wooded area to make a walk worthwhile before he had to sit through the rest of the drive to Galveston. He started to ask Lee if he wanted to come with, but Dustin spoke up before Marshall could get the words out.

“I’ll walk with you,” he volunteered. “I could use the exercise myself.”

Marshall wanted to tell him he could find his own way, but he remembered his promise to Lee, so he grudgingly replied, “Okay.” He glanced at Lee. “Coming?” With Lee along, it wouldn’t be so bad, and Dustin would be less likely to get out of hand, assuming he even wanted to.

“Naw, you go ahead,” came Lee’s surprising reply. “I’ll keep Denver company.”

Marshall realized there was no help for it, so he accepted the situation with what good grace he could muster. But, just for good measure, he made sure to lean down toward Lee and kiss him long and hard. Let there be no doubt who he belonged to in Mr Dustin’s head.

“Okay,” he said afterward, and walked off. Let Dustin catch up.

to be continued

Now see what the other Briefers have been up to!


Sunday, December 27, 2015

Vinnie and Ethan: The First Noel, Conclusion

As promised, I have the fifth and final part of Vinnie and Ethan's first Christmas, The First Noel, Part 5. I hope you enjoy it, and I look forward to presenting you with their first book, Bad Dogs and Drag Queens, about next May.  Have a great day!

Vinnie and Ethan: The First Noel, Part 5

As I drew near the mall entrance, I spotted Ethan. He was scanning the shoppers as they passed him, probably searching for me. No wonder, considering I was later than I’d said I would be. A slight crease puckered his forehead, but as soon as he saw me, it cleared. He met me halfway across the distance which separated us. Setting a large handled shopping bag on the floor, he pulled me to him and kissed me, and for a few moments I was saved from saying anything, too caught up in our kiss.

“Everything okay? You didn’t run into any trouble, did you?” He took my hand in his and picked up his package. I caught a quick glimpse of something wrapped in colorful paper. As we headed toward the exit, I felt even worse, and I didn’t respond right away, caught up in my guilt.


“What? Oh no. Sorry. Everything’s fine.”

“You mind if we stop and pick up something for dinner and take it back to the motel? I’d kindof like to be alone with you tonight, if you don’t mind.”

“No, that’s fine,” I mumbled. I’d tell him after we ate. I didn’t have the heart to ruin his obvious good mood. That might sound altruistic, but it was really cowardice. I couldn’t bear to see the look on his face when I told him what I’d done. It wasn’t so much the lack of a gift. He wasn’t shallow, and he wouldn’t really care. It was just the idea that this was our first time celebrating Christmas together, and I’d wanted it to be so special. I couldn’t even manager that.

We crossed the emptying parking lot, as last minute shoppers departed with their purchases. Home to their loved ones and Christmas cheer. Ethan set the bag into the bag seat and gave me a wink. “No peeking now,” he said, holding the door for me.

“Promise,” I said as I slid into my seat and buckled up.

“What would you like to eat?” he asked, as he pulled the car from the parking lot and onto the main road. My stomach was so tied up in knots, I wasn’t sure I could eat at all, but I had to make an effort. I tried to think of something I knew he’d like. “Chinese sounds good,” I said at last. I was rewarded with a smile, so I knew I’d made a good choice.

We stopped at a Chinese restaurant we’d gone to before, picked up an assortment of dishes—fried rice and pot stickers and crab Rangoon, I think—and returned to the motel we’d been staying at ever since our arrival in Charlotte.

I kept up my charade as Ethan set the various cartons of food on the small table that came with the room. We’d each gotten a bottle of pop to drink, and he twisted off the caps. As I started to take my seat, he stopped me. He took my hand and gazed into my eyes with concern.

“Vinnie, what’s wrong?”

“Nothing’s wrong,” I started to say, but the lie stuck in my throat. I couldn’t keep pretending. He deserved to know the truth.

He led me to the bed, and we took seats on the edge. He raised my hand to his lips and kissed it softly. “Vinnie, you’re scaring me. Tell me what’s wrong so I can make it better.”

My heart ached at his words. How could he be so good to me when I didn’t deserve it?

“Ethan, I’m so sorry,” I choked out. I pressed my face against his chest, sobbing. The tears I’d tried so hard to keep back poured from me in buckets. He rubbed circles against my back as he held me and made soothing noises until I was somewhat calmer.

Then I told him the whole story, beginning with my plans for our Christmas, my gift and what it meant, how I met Lenny, and ending with the reality of what I’d done with the money. When I was done, I worked at evening out my breathing. My nose was completely stopped up from crying, so I was forced to draw long breaths through my mouth. When he didn’t speak right away, I dared to look up at him, dreading what I might see.

The last thing I expected was to find him crying.

“Ethan?” I cried, alarmed.

“Oh Vinnie,” he said, and pulled me to him and hugged me long and hard. I gripped him in return and held on with all my strength, as we rocked together on the bed, silently. At last, he drew back, and sniffled, laughing slightly.

“Hang on, I think I could use a tissue. I think we both could.” I reluctantly released him, watching as he went into the bathroom and returned with a small box of tissues. He took a couple and handed me the box. I wiped my eyes and blew my nose, and he did the same.  We tossed the refuse, then resettled on the bed, looking at one another.

“I love you so much,“ he said. “I think you’re just amazing.”

“B-but,” I started to protest, but he shushed me with a finger against my lips.

“You just gave me the best present ever. What you did for that boy… that was awesome. You have the biggest heart of anyone I know.

“But my plans… the robes…”

“We don’t need the robes, Vinnie, we have each other, and that’s all that counts.”

I looked into his beautiful blue eyes, and I knew he meant it, and suddenly all my former fears seemed ridiculous. I should have realized he’d understand. Tonight wasn’t ruined, after all.

I glanced from Ethan to the bed and back. He caught on to my meaning immediately. “Aren’t you hungry?” He nodded toward the Chinese dinner waiting on the table.

I shook my head. “Only for you,” I said sincerely.

He squeezed my hand and rose from the bed. I followed suit, watching as he turned down the blankets, then looked back at me. “Are you sure?”

“I’m very sure.” I reached for him and pulled him down so I could kiss him.  “Ethan Thorne, I love you. Very much. And I want to make love with you.”

My heart swelled at the sight of his beautiful smile. “I love you too, Vinnie. Sit tight, I’ll be right back.” He hurried to the bathroom and quickly returned with a small bottle. “Lube,” he explained. I’d been right in thinking he’d be prepared.

“What about… you know… condoms?” I asked. Maybe I should have picked some up after all.

“We won’t need them. We’ve both been tested, remember? SOP.”

How had I forgotten? I guess it hadn’t seemed significant at the time since I knew I’d never been with anyone, and it was just one test among many. Now I was glad I’d waited for Ethan.

“Mind if I undress you this first time?” He sounded uncharacteristically shy, and I realized he was nervous too. That made me feel better, knowing that we’d find our way together. When I nodded, he slowly began to remove every article of clothing I wore.

Although we slept together, we’d never been naked in front of each other before, since we slept in our boxers. I hoped he wouldn’t be disappointed by what he saw. At his sharp intake of breath, once he’d taken me down to my birthday suit, he wasn’t.

I knew I wasn’t exactly a hunk, and I wasn’t what you’d call muscular, but I was in shape, and worked at staying that way. I’d utilized the fitness equipment when we were in training, and I was stronger than I looked.

“Say something, Ethan, you’re making me self-conscious.”

“Sorry, I didn’t mean to. Just thinking how beautiful you are.”

His words brought heat to my cheeks, especially as I knew he was being sincere. Thank you seemed inadequate to how I felt, so I kissed him instead.

“My turn now?” I asked. He nodded.

My fingers trembled as I began to unbutton his shirt. I’d caught glimpses of him when he was in the bathroom, after a shower, but this would be the first time I got to see the entire package. And what a beautiful package it was, I realized, once all his clothes lay scattered on the floor.

How to describe Ethan Thorne? He stood over six feet tall. Wavy blond hair threaded with gold, eyes the deep blue of a calm sea. Broad shoulders and chest, very lightly haired. A taut stomach which bespoke a lot of sit-ups. Long muscular legs. And an utterly gorgeous cock, surrounded by slightly reddish hair. He was already half-hard, and swelling even as I watched.

We reached for one another at the same time, pressing our lips and bodies together. Our cocks rubbed against one another, which only served to add to the heat of the moment. By the time we came up for air, I already felt more at ease with our nudity, and was eager for more.

We’d never discussed positions, or who would do what, but I instinctively knew what I wanted—Ethan inside of me. My body craved to be filled by him. Now.

I felt bolder than I’d ever felt before with Ethan, as if any last doubt or fear I’d had about making love had melted with the knowledge of my love for him, and my trust in him. I laid down in the middle of the bed, legs wantonly spread, and beckoned to him.

“What would you like?” he asked in a voice thick with lust.

“You. In me,” was my reply.

“You have to be ready first, Vin,” he said. He dropped to his knees on the bed and crawled toward me. How sexy was that?

“I’m ready,” I growled. “Come and get me.”

He didn’t reply. Instead he began to kiss me, not on the lips, but everywhere else he could reach, beginning with my jaw, and working his way south from there. My entire body tingled as he kissed and licked and sucked every square inch of flesh he encountered. I was already very hard, and leaking. I didn’t want to embarrass myself by coming for the first time before he even touched me.

“Ethan,” I whined.

“Shh, Vinnie, shh.” His voice was so calm, I felt myself relax under his influence and enjoy his every touch. When he reached my crotch, he buried his nose into the wiry hair around my cock and inhaled.  “Damn, you smell so good.”

He raised his head, and for a moment, we simply looked at one another, drinking each other in with our eyes. Then he bent his head once more and his tongue lapped at my cock, beginning at the base and continuing up to the head. He licked at the fluid that seeped from the slit, and just when I thought it couldn’t feel any better, he took me into his mouth.

Oh. My. God.

I arched my back as he began to bob up and down on my shaft. This was unlike anything I’d ever experienced before. I’d jacked myself off, naturally, but that was nothing like this. I moaned and writhed beneath him, fisting the sheets. If he kept that up, I was going to…

I’d barely thought that when my orgasm hit me, my cock writhing in delight inside Ethan’s mouth as I came, long and hard. This was nothing compared to my previous self-induced orgasms. This. Was. Amazing.

He swallowed every bit of my release, then licked around my cock, as it started to soften, and nuzzled it tenderly against his cheek. “You ready for me, baby?” he asked softly.

“Oh yeah,” I breathed. “I am.”

He raised himself up and slid up far enough to reach the side table, where he’d left the lube. When he popped the top, I thought I smelled strawberries. “It’s flavored,” he explained, squeezing some onto his fingers. “Hold this for now, will you?” he asked, handing me the tube. “I need to stretch you first.”

“Why? I’m sure you’ll fit. We were made for each other.”

That produced a smile. “Because it’s your first time, and I won’t hurt you. If I don’t prepare you, your muscles will automatically tense and try to expel me, and it’ll be painful for you. If I do this right, it won’t.”

“Did it hurt you your first time?” I asked, curious, as he settled between my legs again, and spread my cheeks.

“Me? I’ve never had a first time. Not on bottom, I mean. I topped, the few times I ever did it.”

I arched an eyebrow at his news. Maybe the shoe would be on the other foot, so to speak, one day. Definitely something to look forward to. Assuming I didn’t do anything to change his desire for me in the meantime.

I know, I’m hella insecure.

He inserted just the tip of one finger, easing it in, his eyes focused on my face. “How’s that feel?”

“Keep going,” I urged him. I could barely feel him, and I wanted more.

He slid his finger in a little more, and a little more, until it was completely inside, then started to add a second finger, slowly.

He was right. My instinct was to tighten my muscles.

“Relax, babe, relax,” he said, “just keep breathing, don’t hold your breath.”

I forced myself to do as he said, as he spread his fingers inside me, coaxing my muscle to relax. The more he did that, the easier it became. “Got that now, next you,” I fairly begged.

He continued to stretch me with one hand, while he stroked the tender skin on the inside of my thigh with the other. That felt so damn good, all of it, how could anything feel any better?

I was about to find out.

“Open that up,” he directed, indicating the lube which I still held. I flipped the top open and waited. “Want to spread that on me?”

Did I ever? What kind of silly question was that?

I squeezed the thick gel into my palm until it was well coated. He removed his fingers from my ass, then moved up a little, so I could reach him more easily. I wrapped my hand about his cock and greased it from top to bottom, loving the feel of him in my hand. If not for what we were about to do, I’d liked to have given him a hand job. Another time, for sure.

He eased back between my legs, and my heart began to beat faster as he settled into position. “I’m going to take this real slow at first,” he said. “Just remember to keep breathing, babe, and tell me if it hurts, okay?”

“Okay,” I agreed, taking a deep breath which I had to immediately release.

Ethan took himself in hand, bringing his cock up to my waiting hole and slowly began to push inside. I felt the cockhead as it breached the entrance, and I began to feel alarmingly full, but suddenly it was inside, and the feeling passed. He continued to move slowly, allowing me time to adjust as he did, and I found that I not only grew used to the feeling, but my body began to respond. My nerve endings sent out signals of pleasure that spread throughout my body. This was far better than I’d ever hoped or imagined it could be.

When he was fully sheathed, Ethan paused. “Want me to go on?”

Was that even a question?

“Fuck yeah,” I growled. “Right fucking now, Detective Thorne.”

“As you wish, Detective Delarosa,” he replied with a grin. He began to pull back, not quite as slowly as before, and once again frissons of pure pleasure cascaded through my body. I moaned even as I clenched my muscles about his girth, not wanting him to be anywhere but right where he was.
“Goddamn, Vinny, you feel so good,” he moaned, just before he began to thrust inside me again.

It didn’t take long for us to establish a rhythm between us, our bodies becoming syncopated to one another. I met his thrusts by moving my hips. The sensation of Ethan inside of me no longer felt strange, it felt normal, and very very good. I didn’t know how long we would be able to last, but I intended to enjoy every last second of our union.

“I’m almost there,” Ethan murmured, and I could feel the change in his body, the rising tension. Suddenly I knew I wanted to taste his lips as he came.

“Kiss me,” I begged, and he obliged, leaning down to take my lips in his as he continued to thrust, our slick bodies meeting wetly. His thrusts became harder and shorter, until suddenly he ceased, and I could feel the throbbing of his cock as he came inside me, feel him release his seed.

That was the most amazing sensation, like nothing I’d ever experienced before. When Ethan was spent, he collapsed beside me, working at catching his breath.

“C’mere, babe.” He scooted onto his back and reached for me, pulling me to him and wrapping his arm about me. I laid my head on his chest, listening to the steady beat of his heart beneath me.

We laid there for a few minutes before he tilted my head back, looking into my eyes, and I saw he was uncharacteristically uncertain. “Are you okay? I mean, nothing hurts, right?”

“Well, I think my ass might be a little sore,” I admitted, “but in a good way. Did I do all right?”

“All right? You were amazing. Was it all you hoped for?”

“All that and more. I’m sorry I took so long… I mean, I was just… nervous. A little afraid, I guess.”

“Don’t be sorry. I wouldn’t change a thing.” He kissed me softly, and I melted at his words. “We never did eat, did we? You hungry?”

“Yeah, give me a few minutes. I just like lying here with you.”

“Me, too, Vinnie. Me too.”

Eventually, we got up, showered, and sat down to the most delicious Chinese dinner ever. I think it wasn’t the food, so much as the company. We’d pledged ourselves, heart and soul, to one another, and we’d bonded in a way I’d never done with anyone else. I swore I would love Ethan until the day I died.

I woke sometime in the middle of the night and had to get up. On the way back from the bathroom, I happened to glance out the window. “Holy shit!”

Ethan came awake instantly, sat up in bed. “What’s wrong, Vinnie?”

“Come over here,” I said. “Come look at this.”

He padded over to me, both of us still naked, and looked out at the sight which had amazed me so. It was snowing. No shit, straight up snowing. And pretty damn good too, for a place that supposedly didn’t do snow.

“Isn’t that beautiful?” I said, feeling at home with this new development.

“Not as beautiful as you,” Ethan said. He put his arm around me and we watched the fat flakes fall from the sky. “I know what we’re going to do tomorrow.”

“Hmm? What’s that?” I asked.

“You and me are going to make a snowman.”

“We are?”

“We are,” he confirmed.

“And make love again?”

Ethan grinned. “You got it, baby.”

Best. Christmas. Ever.

May there be many more.

The End.... for now

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Vinnie and Ethan: The First Noel Part 4

The sage of Vinnie and Ethan's first Christmas continues, to be finished tomorrow. I hope you're enjoying reading about them!

The boy immediately thrust his hand behind his back. If I hadn’t been suspicious before, I certainly was now. He mumbled something that might have passed for an apology and started to edge away from me. I clamped my hand around one thin arm. He jerked at it in vain.

“Whaddya think you’re doing, man?” he protested. I noticed he kept his voice deliberately low, obviously to keep from attracting attention.

I had to hand it to him, he had guts. Or he was simply that desperate.

“Show me your other hand,” I demanded, nodding to the one that remained behind his back.
“Why should I?” he snarled. “Who the hell are you?”

“I’m the man who’s going to see what’s behind your back. And if it’s what I think it is, you’re in a world of trouble.”

His expression grew even more sullen, and I could fairly see the wheels turning inside his brain as he debated what he was going to do. When I saw his eyes begin to gleam, I knew he’d gotten an idea, and I tensed, in case his idea was to run for it

“I’ll scream,” he threatened, and he had that triumphant expression of someone who thinks they’ve just played a winning hand. “I’ll yell for security and tell them you touched me inappropriately. Then they’ll lock you up for being a pervert.”

Too bad he had no idea who he was dealing with. Still keeping him tightly in check, I used my free hand to flip open my jacket and reveal my badge. His face fell at the sight.

“You’re a cop? Goddammit. No fair. Hey, it’s Christmas, let me go.”

By now, even the unobservant clerk had noticed us. He and his customer were looking our way, and he seemed more than a little concerned. I suspected he was thinking of calling mall security himself. On impulse, I gave him a sheepish grin. “Kids !” I said, and shrugged one shoulder as if to ask what can you do with them. Then I pushed the kid  around a post and out of sight. I made sure not to cross over the boundaries of the store. If he had what I thought he had, that would probably trigger some kind of alarm. Jewelry stores didn’t just leave things where anyone could grab them without their own lines of defense.

“All right, now show me what you’ve got behind your back.”

He must have figured I had him dead to rights. Slowly he obeyed, pushing his clenched hand where I could see it.

“Open your fingers so I can actually see it,” I directed him. He released his grip on the object with reluctance. In the palm of his hand sat a bracelet. Aquamarine stones in a silver setting, as well as some diamond-shaped yellow stones  that might have been topaz.

“So what’s that for? A Christmas gift for your girlfriend?”

“No,” he said quickly. “Don’t have a girlfriend.”

“Boyfriend, then?”

“Don’t have a boyfriend.” He vehemently shook his head, his bangs falling into his face. He threw back his head to get the hair out of his eyes.

“Then why steal it? Were you going to hock it or what?” I was confused as to what he’d want with something like this. I assumed he wanted it for the money, but why? I hoped it wasn’t for drugs. “Looking to score something?”

He gave me a look that clearly said he thought I was particularly stupid to even ask him that. Okay, maybe he didn’t look like a stereotypical drug-using teenager, but I didn’t like to assume anything.
I remembered Ethan would be waiting for me, and I was losing time. I still needed to get to the boutique and get our presents. I’d have no chance of wrapping them now. Maybe I could talk the clerk into doing that?

He mumbled something, very softly, and I couldn’t make it out. “I didn’t catch that, what’d you say?”

He took a breath and repeated, “I said, it’s for my mom. For Christmas.”

I gave him a long piercing look. He looked less belligerent than he had before, more frightened. As if the enormity of what was happening to him had finally funk in. His eyes glistened suspiciously. Was he going to cry?

I took the bracelet out of his hand. He made no attempt to hold on to it. It really was pretty. The kid had taste. I debated simply replacing it in the display case, but I didn’t think I could get away with that. Keeping my hand on his arm, I walked him up to the clerk and waited for his attention.

“Can I help you with something?” he wanted to know.

“We were just looking at this.” I handed him the bracelet. “But we’re still making up our minds.”

“Well, we close in just about an hour,” he said, frowning.

“Thanks, we’ll be back before then. Thanks for your help.”

I had no time to waste. I nudged the boy out into the mall, debating what to do with him. Just across the way was a cookie store. I remembered they sold hot chocolate too. I towed him with me and ordered two cups and two gooey cookies. I gave him both the cookies, then pointed to one of the seats in the middle of the broad mallway and directed him to sit. I sat beside him, sipping my drink.

“So, what’s your name?” I asked.

“Lenny,” he replied, eyeing me with what was probably suspicion. “You trying to pick me up or something?”

I almost snorted chocolate through my nose at his question. “No, I’m not, for crying out loud. Don’t worry, I have a boyfriend, and you’re not him.” I shook my head. Kids. The things they came up with. Sheesh.

“Why are  you stealing a gift for your mom? Why don’t you get a job or something?”

“I can’t, I’m too young,” he replied. “Besides, Mom doesn’t want me to. She wants me to study, get good grades so I can go to college. Like we can afford that.” He snorted, his eyes meeting mine defiantly.

“What’s your dad say?”

“Nothin’. He’s a bum. She threw him out years ago.” He glared at me, as if daring me to make something out of that. I couldn’t, of course. It hit far too close to home.

“So, you’re having a tough time of it, huh?” I heard my voice soften, despite myself. This kid reminded me a bit too much of myself. It wasn’t so very long ago I was in his shoes, and I remembered what it was like.

“We’re doing fine,” he said, but his quavering voice belied his words.

“Lenny, you ever been in trouble before?”

He shook his head.

“Do you know how much it would hurt your mother if she found out you were stealing?”

“But it’s for her,” he protested.

Especially if it’s for her. That makes it worse, not better. You want her to feel guilty when I’m sure she’s done nothing but do her best for you, right? I bet she works hard to make sure you have a place to live, food to eat, clothes to wear… and anything extra she can afford. Am I right?”

He nodded sullenly.

“Don’t you know this would kill her?”

My words must have unlocked something in him. A tear trickled down one cheek, and then another. He swiped at them with one jacket sleeve, but I’d already seen them. I was about ready to cry myself.

“Lenny, you can’t do this. You have your whole life ahead of you. I think you’re a good kid. Don’t screw  yourself up now.”

He sniffled as he raised his head and stared at me. “What do you care? What does it matter to you? I’m just some punk kid, and  you’re a cop. Bet you got it made, don’t you?”

“If I, as you say, have it made, it’s because I worked to get where I am,” I responded. “Worked damn hard. Nobody handed me anything.”


“Yeah. Listen, I know what  you’re going through.”

“How can you know that?” He sounded more than a little skeptical.

“Because I’ve been there myself. My mom raised me alone. I never knew my dad. She worked damn hard, up until the day she died. I still miss her.” My own eyes were misting. I hadn’t counted on that. I sniffled to keep the tears from falling.

I think my words got through to him, judging by the horrified expression on his face.

“How old are you, Lenny?”


“I was just a little older than you when my mom died. You never know what will happen, you  have to do what you can when you can. But you have to do it the right way, do you understand?”

“Yeah, I think so.”

I wanted to do something, wanted to let him know that all people weren’t the bastard dad they’d done without. That someone cared enough to try to make a difference.

“Do you think she’d like that bracelet?” I asked.

“Yeah, I know she would. It would go good with her eyes. My mom’s pretty,” he admitted.

“C’mon.” He’d finished his cookies, and drained the chocolate. I set my cup down and watched as he stood.

“Where we going? You taking me in?”

“No, just come with me.”

As we headed toward the jewelry store, he started to panic. “Please, don’t turn me in. I promise I’ll never try anything so stupid again, I swear.”

“I’m not,” I assured him. The clerk was still at the counter, his previous customer gone. He smiled at us as we approached him, probably sure he was about to make a sale.

“That bracelet we were looking at, how much is it?” I asked. He told me the price and I nodded. 

“Okay, we’ll take it. Can you please wrap that? And quickly. We’re in a hurry.”

“Certainly, sir.” He took the bracelet and set it into a nice box, then wrapped it in shiny gold paper as I took out my wallet, and the cash I’d put there. I gave him the amount he’d asked for, he gave me my change and wished us Merry Christmas.

I walked Lenny back out of the store, still holding my wallet in my hand. I gave him the wrapped bracelet. “This is for your mom,” I said. “For Christmas. And this”—I gave him the remainder of the cash I had—“is for you to take your mother out for the best Christmas dinner you can get. Do you understand?”

He looked as though he didn’t really understand, but he took the cash, and put it into his own wallet. “Why are you doing this?” he asked. “What do you want me to do for you for this?”

“What I want you to do is to make your mother proud, study hard, and go to college. There are ways. I did it. Scholarships and grants. The better your grades, the better scholarships you can get. I don’t want to see you in any trouble, either, you got it?” He didn’t have to know I wasn’t even part of the local police department. That would remain my little secret.

“Yeah, I got it. I swear I will. You’ll never hear of me being in trouble, I promise.” He swiped one hand across his heart, as if to emphasize his words.

“Okay then, Lenny, you go on now. Have yourself a merry Christmas.”

He realized I meant what I said and started to bolt, headed toward the entrance to the mall. Suddenly he stopped, dashed back and threw his arms around me in a surprise hug.

“Thanks,” he said. “I’m sorry… I promise I’ll be the best ever. You’ll see.” Then he turned and hurried away. I watched until I could no longer see the top of his dark head.

At that moment, I felt my phone vibrate, and I drew it out of my pocket. Ethan. Holy shit, he must be wondering where I was.

Are you on your way?

I texted back, Yes, and replaced my phone.

Great. Now I had no time to get anything else for Ethan for Christmas. How was I going to explain that to him? Looked like I’d just fucked up our first Christmas.

to be continued


Friday, December 25, 2015

Vinnie and Ethan: The First Noel Part 3

Merry Christmas, everyone! As promised, my story continues. I hope you're enjoying their first Christmas together. May everyone have a wonderful Christmas, filled with love!

Twas the day before Christmas, and I was more than a little nervous of what was to come. Excited nervous, not scared. I wanted this first time with Ethan to be something we’d both never forget. I wondered if there was something I should do to prepare myself for him, but I didn’t have a clue and I didn’t want to ask. It’s not like he didn’t know I was a virgin, but I didn’t want to seem to be any more ignorant about sex than I was. Bad enough, I’d never had a boyfriend or even been kissed before Ethan. I only vaguely remembered what we’d learned in so-called Sex Ed. I don’t remember the teacher discussing the actual mechanics of sex, and certainly not as it related to two men.

I’d have to trust that Ethan, being more knowledgeable than me, would have whatever we would need. I couldn’t help but smile at the thought of making love with Ethan.

“Penny for your thoughts?”

I probably looked pretty goofy, smiling at nothing in particular. I resisted the urge to giggle, my spirits rising as I looked into his handsome face. “Just thinking about you,” I said, which was quite true. I was. I didn’t feel the need to add that I’d been thinking about him naked. On top of me.

If I thought his smile was beautiful before, it was radiant now. “I never asked, do you care if we exchange gifts tonight instead of tomorrow? Or we can wait, if you like. Whatever you want to do.”
Christmas Eve instead of Christmas Day?  I couldn’t think of any reason not to. Then I realized that meant our lovemaking would be tonight… oh my. Assuming he was willing, which I was pretty sure he was.

“Tonight’s fine,” I managed to choke out.

“Have you thought of anything you’d like to do tomorrow, Vin?”

“I thought we could play it by ear, if you don’t mind.” I wanted to see how tonight went before I committed to tomorrow. In case I fucked something up, or if I was bad at it or something. I didn’t want to second-guess anything right now.

“Sounds good to me,” he agreed. “Want to do a couple rounds together before we split up?”

“I’d love to,” I said. I reached for his hand, which was very unlike me. Generally I waited for him to make the first move, but I was feeling daring. I joined our fingers, and was rewarded for my boldness with a kiss.

The mall crowd was surprisingly orderly for the day before Christmas, everyone intent on their own errands. Was it too much to hope that the criminal element had taken the day off, infused with the spirit of good will to men and brotherly love? Or was that just so much wishful thinking on my part?

I had checked the hours of the men’s boutique after we arrived that morning. I would have plenty of time to make my purchase before we left the mall. Suddenly, I was glad we’d gotten this assignment. Everything was falling into place. It would be a perfect Christmas with Ethan.

After making our rounds, we split up and we each went our own way. I noticed there were more kids than usual today, hanging around the mall, or maybe I just hadn’t paid attention to them before. Out of school and looking for something to do? Hopefully causing trouble wasn’t on that list of activities.

 They congregated in groups of two or more, laughing and joking as they went from store to store. I remembered there was an arcade on the second floor. Seemed a harmless way to spend time. I liked to play video games myself whenever I got the chance.

I noticed Kevin, the mall cop, talking to a thin, dark-haired boy who looked to be maybe fifteen or sixteen. The boy’s eyes were fixed on the floor, and he appeared to be on the sullen side. As I drew near, the boy nodded tersely then slunk away. There was no Christmas spirit to be found in that young man, I decided.

“Hey there!” Kevin greeted me. “How’s it going?”

“So far, so good. Everyone’s behaving,” I replied. “What about you? Something up with that kid?”

“I dunno.” Kevin shrugged. “He was hanging around some women’s store, and one of the clerks flagged me down as I walked by, said he made her uncomfortable.”

A women’s store? I wondered what was up with that. “Maybe he was shopping for someone?” I suggested.

“She didn’t think so. She says she can tell when someone’s up to something. Besides, she said he didn’t look like he’d have the kind of money to buy anything there, you know what I mean?”

I knew too well what he meant. I’d had that lean and hungry look myself, once upon a time. I nodded. “Yeah, well, I’ll keep an eye out for him.”

“Thanks. Tell your partner I said hello.”

I promised I would, and went on my way. There was no sign of the kid, and I figured he’d left the mall.

All in all it was a quiet day. Ethan and I kept in contact, either crossing paths now and then, or phoning one another. I was becoming almost giddy with anticipation. I wondered if, when I gave him his gift, and showed him my matching robe, he would understand the significance of what I’d done? Or would I have to spell it out?

I wasn’t sure I could do that. I hoped he was as intuitive as I thought he was. At least, when it came to me, he sometimes knew me better than I knew myself. How scary was that? Maybe I should take some initiative and buy a condom? Then I realized I didn’t know what size to get, or if he had a preference. Guess not then.

We’d arranged to meet at the end of our shift at the South Mall Entrance. It was almost that now. The men’s shop was on my way. I hurried down the wide mall avenue, my cash burning a hole in my pocket, my heart beating rapidly as I quickened my steps.

Damn. Just my luck, I stepped on one of my shoelaces, and almost tripped.

Calm down, boy.

I moved to the side, bending over so I could retie my shoe without danger of tripping anyone. When I straightened, I was standing in front of one of the several jewelry stores in the mall. I glanced in the window, attempting to even out my breathing a little bit before I met Ethan.

 Someone had done up a beautiful display for the holiday, showcasing jewelry for all tastes and budgets. There were some very colorful bracelets there, I couldn’t help but notice. Blue and green stones that caught and reflected the light.  And others made of abalone. Not that I was in to bracelets or anything. Or any kind of jewelry, really. But these were the kind of things my mom liked to wear, on the rare occasions when she dressed up. Looking at them made me miss her all the more. I wished she could see me now, see what I’d made of himself. I was a federal undercover cop, and I traveled all over the country, trying to make the world a safer place. I just knew she’d be proud of me.

Lost in my thoughts, I was surprised to see a hand slowly snake its way into the display. It looked very much out of place, and my instinct told me something was up. My suspicion was confirmed when the hand closed around one of the bracelets and began to slide back with a little more urgency than when it had originally gone in.

Time to put an end to this nonsense now. Looked like the bad guys were not taking the day off.
My weapon was in my shoulder holster, hidden beneath my coat. I touched it briefly, as if to reassure myself of its presence. I could call for the Charlotte PD if I needed to, once I figured out what I was dealing with here. I sighed. So close to getting out of here I could taste it. And I still had to get the gifts.

I entered the store slowly. A middle-aged clerk stood behind the far counter. He was showing some rings to a customer, and was totally engrossed in pleasing her. He had no clue what was going on in his store. No sense in disturbing him if I didn’t have to.

With catlike tread, I turned a corner, approaching the area behind the window, looking out for the thief.  Just as I did, someone barreled right into me. He’d been looking down at his feet, walking quickly, and never saw me until we collided. He started to fall backward. Thinking quickly, I grabbed him and helped him keep his feet.

What the hell? It was that same kid I’d seen before.

to be continued

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Vinnie and Ethan: The First Noel Part 2

As promised, the story of Vinnie and Ethan's first Christmas continues. I hope you enjoy it, and thanks for stopping by!

As we drew closer to Christmas, things picked up a little at the mall as criminals began to come out of the woodwork and make their presence known. We foiled a couple of purse snatchings, deterred a few potential shoplifters, and prevented one attempted kidnapping with the assistance of one of the mall cops. His name was Kevin, and he seemed like a nice guy. After we turned over the would-be kidnapper to the local police, he suggested we get some coffee, so we agreed.

We stood together just outside the Starbucks, which was located near the entrance to the mall, watching the waves of shoppers ebb and flow past us. Presents to buy and little time to do it in.

“It doesn’t seem much like Christmas,” I commented as I glanced out at the bare—other than vehicles—parking lot. I was from northern Illinois, almost Chicago. Christmas was cold and white. This felt freaky to me.

Kevin laughed. “Who wants snow? Not me, that’s for sure. People here can’t handle it, anyway. Not like it happens very often.”

Ethan threw me a sympathetic glance. “I bet you used to go sledding back home, didn’t you? Built lots of snowmen.”

I shook my head before taking a sip of the rich, warm brew. “No,” I said, “I never did.”

Ethan arched a blond brow but he didn’t press, for which I was grateful. I didn’t like talking about myself very much, especially in front of other people. Didn’t like to dwell on what was.

“I think snowmen are overrated,” Kevin continued.  “I wouldn’t mind spending Christmas in Hawaii, with a hot hula girl and a big pig roast. Sounds like hog heaven to me.” He glanced at his wrist. “I’m getting off in a few, gonna take a last look-see before I do. If I don’t see you guys before, you have a merry Christmas.”

We wished him the same, and he melted into the crowd.

“I’m going to check down at the other end,” I spoke up quickly, before Ethan could get out any potentially dangerous questions. Our shift wouldn’t be over for a couple more hours. I could look out for suspicious activity and, at the same time, shop for Ethan. Sounded like a win-win situation to me.

Ethan didn’t press. Well, nothing except his lips against mine. “I’ll start down here, then,” he said, “and we’ll meet up somewhere in the middle, ‘kay?”

I nodded.

“Call me if you need me for anything. I’ll do the same.” With a last lingering wave, he merged with the consumer stream and was lost to sight.

I began to meander down the mallway, watching the people as they went about their business. I tried to focus on what I was doing, but I found myself continuing to think about Ethan. I didn’t know anything about his family, other than he had one. And they lived near Atlanta somewhere. He didn’t talk about them anymore than I discussed my mom.

A sudden thought hit me, and I stopped dead in my tracks, which resulted in my being shoved from behind.

“Hey, stupid, watch out, willya?” a deep voice boomed. I turned in annoyance to find myself face to face with a moose. All right, he wasn’t really a moose, he was just the size of one, and very bulky. He looked rather pissed off, although I doubt his running into me had hurt him in any way. A petite blonde stood beside him. She turned and punched him in the arm.

“Behave yourself, Frankie,” she admonished him in what sounded like a New York accent, “it’s Christmas. Be nice.” She threw me an apologetic smile. I waited to see what her huge escort would do. He scowled and shuffled his big feet, then growled, “Sorry.” Somehow I doubted his sincerity.
I smiled back at the young lady. “Merry Christmas to you,” I said, and maneuvered out of harm’s way as she took her brute in hand and they continued on their merry way.

What if Ethan was going home for Christmas and he hadn’t said anything yet because he assumed I’d figured it out? What would I do then? Same thing I did every year since Mom died—I’d spend a quiet day in my own company. No big deal.

So why did it feel like a tragedy in the making?

I ducked into the nearest store, without looking up to see where I was, and pulled out my phone. I forced my hand not to shake as I punched in Ethan’s number and cleared my throat, just in case. He answered immediately.

“Hey Vin, what’s up?”

I froze at the sound of his voice then took a deep breath. “Are you going home for Christmas?” I got the words out all in a rush. I’d be amazed if he even understood what I was asking.

“Home?” he repeated. “What did you say, Vinnie? I couldn’t catch all that. Do you want to go home?”

I tried again, slower this time. “No, I was just wondering… I mean… do you have plans to go home to see your family for Christmas?” There, I’d gotten the question out and managed to sound fairly cool. At least I hoped so.

“No, honey, I’m not going anywhere. You and me, remember?”

I released the breath I hadn’t known I was holding. “Oh, okay. Just checking.”

“Don’t be silly. I’m not leaving you for Christmas, or any other time. I love you.”

My lips parted, and I felt the words forming, attempting to make themselves heard.

Just say it….

“Hey Vin, I gotta go check something out.  I’ll catch up with you later.” He clicked off, the moment was broken,  and I was left staring at the silent phone. “I love you, Ethan,” I whispered.

I sighed and slid the phone back into my pocket. When I glanced up, I found myself standing in the middle of a men’s boutique. I was surrounded by male mannequins modeling the latest in pajamas and boxers and robes. Making merry for the holidays.

As I stared at the rather elegant and inviting apparel, an idea began to form. What if I got us matching robes and pajamas? Something we could lounge in on Christmas Day. Something Ethan could remove to get to his real present—me.

I had no doubt in my mind I wanted to be with Ethan, to give myself to him completely. Christmas would be a good time, wouldn’t it?

Would Ethan be happy with such a gift? I had a feeling he would. I’d have to come back when I had more time, a little closer to Christmas, and bring some cash with me. I didn’t like using my bank card, if I could help it. Besides, I only carried the one for business expenses, and this certainly didn’t qualify.

I glanced at the price tags. I wasn’t used to spending such sums on myself, but for Ethan, I would do anything. I figured out how much I’d need, added a little for cushion, even as I decided just which ones I wanted, in which colors.

I would show Ethan I loved him. Very much.

to be continued