Friday, October 21, 2016

Virtual Book Tour: On Fire

Please welcome my friend and fellow author, Alicia Nordwell, here to tell us about her newest release, On Fire!

Single people often have more time to write. Are you single?
No, I’ve actually been with the same guy since just days after my 16th birthday. I’m lucky enough to have my house/family and writing as a “job” instead of a traditional 9 to 5. Writing is still a challenge for me, though, because I spend a lot of time at my kids’ schools, running errands, cleaning to ease my slightly OCD tendencies, and being an admin/part owner of Some days I don’t even get to read until after 10 PM!

If you had to only work on one project for the next year... what would it be?
I want to self-publish my Carthera series. They need some serious editing, though. Just need a few more hours in the day.

Did something specific inspire you to write On Fire?
Dreamspinner Press promoted an in-house author novella series called “States of Love”, and I jumped on the chance to publish a novella with them set in my home state. It helped that I was writing a contemporary story set in Portland, just across the river, at the time the call went out.

Is there a particular character you most identify with, and how so?
I like Scottie. He loves the outdoors, he is passionate about his photography, and he is generally happy with his life.


Nothing beats getting out of the concrete jungle and into the quiet of the forest. Website designer Scottie Ness is taking a well-deserved vacation from the grindstone, and he plans to spend it in the solitude of Washington’s Gifford Pinchot National Forest around Mt. Adams. He’s prepared for everything—except the lightning storm that traps him in a wildfire.

The firefighter who rescues him sustains serious injuries and ends up in the hospital. Jax Quintero might be abrasive, but the guy saved his life, and Scottie wants to thank him. As they spend time together during Jax’s recovery and exploring the state’s landmarks when he’s released from the hospital, Scottie discovers there’s more to Jax than a smart-ass adrenaline junkie. Jax reassesses his opinion of Scottie as an arrogant city boy who has no business in the mountains. Though Jax’s wounds prevent them from taking things as far as they’d like for a while, they can’t deny the heat building between them—and this is one fire they don’t want to put out.

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Chapter One

“WHAT EXOTIC tropical locale are you going to spend your vacation drunk in?” Carter leaned back in his chair so he could see into Scottie’s cubicle. He smirked. “Or are you hitting the casinos in Vegas to make your fortune and leave all of us to toil away in the trenches alone?”

“Neither. Hiking and camping in the Gifford Pinchot around Mt. Adams.” Scottie adjusted a line of code, and the website header widened. “I’m all set to go in the morning.”

“Seriously? You have a week off in August, and you’re going to waste it trudging through the dirt and pine trees when you could be lounging on the beach somewhere?” Carter shook his head. “Wouldn’t catch me doing that. Aren’t there bears and cougars up there?”

Scottie shrugged one shoulder. “I might see a bear, if I’m lucky. Cougars are actually pretty shy.”

“You want to see a bear?”

“It’d make a great picture.” The website he was working on needed to be visually appealing on both computers and mobile devices, and he was having a hard time focusing. “It’s Friday. Don’t you have some reason to duck out and start the weekend early?”

“Nope. Miranda, Tark, and I are all going out for happy hour at Corrigan’s, but not until six. Don’t try to change the subject. You know you can take pictures at the beach, right? White sand, crystal blue water, and palm trees swaying in front of the setting sun.”

“Dime a dozen. I like living in Washington because we have so many places where I can take beautiful nature photos. Coastline, rivers, lakes, mountains, even the desert, all within a few hours’ drive. Besides, I’m still paying off my student loans. I don’t have money for expensive vacations.”

“Two words. Credit cards.”

Of course. Carter wore name-brand shoes with his fancy suits and never brought a lunch, preferring to order takeout. He’d graduated a year before Scottie, so it wasn’t like he made that much more money. “One word. Stupid.”

Carter rolled his eyes. “Whatever, man. When I take my week off next month, I’m going to Hawaii. Hotel on the beach, coconut drinks, and chicks in bikinis. Any women you come across in the campground will probably be covered in pitch and pine needles.”

“I’m not going to stay in the campgrounds. I’m hiking and camping off the trails, and for the most part, I won’t see any people at all.”

A look of horror crossed Carter’s face. “Seriously?”

He nodded. “I used to go camping with my family all the time growing up. We’d hike, fish, roast hot dogs and marshmallows over the fire. It’s peaceful.”

“Whatever, man. When you get munched on by a bear, can I get your chair?”

It was Scottie’s turn to roll his eyes. “I’m not going to get eaten by a bear, and your chair is the same as mine. Why would you want it?”

“I spilled fish sauce on mine earlier this week, and now it smells funny.”

“Well you can’t have my chair, and I’ll notice if there’s a fish funk on mine when I get back, so don’t even try to switch them. Don’t you have a project to finish? I have to get this done before I leave.”

“Fine, fine.” Carter rolled back to his desk. “Have fun communing with wildlife.”

SCOTTIE ROLLED up his backpacking tent with an extra tarp and fastened it to the bottom of his pack. His sleeping bag, a change of clothes, survival kit, portable stove, water filter, and food fit inside. The rest of his camping gear was piled along the wall, taking up most of the living room floor in his postage stamp of an apartment. He plopped down on the couch with a beer and opened his laptop.

Using a red highlighter, he outlined the trails he planned to take and marked his base camp as well as his possible overnight camping sites before printing out two copies. Picking up a pen, Scottie scribbled his full name, the dates of his trip, and what kind of vehicle he was driving on the back of one map. He’d drop it off at the ranger station before he stopped in Trout Lake for some sandwiches. No idea what they did to make them taste so great, but they were way better than anything he could make. He’d have to stop by the ATM on the way out of Vancouver to pick up some cash.

Now that he had all the nitty-gritty survival stuff out of the way, he had to get his photography equipment in order. Scottie didn’t spend much money on himself, but he had a nice Canon camera, lenses, a flexible tripod for his hiking pack, and a bigger telescoping tripod in its own bag. Using a polishing cloth from his cleaning kit, Scottie went over every piece of glass in his camera bag, making sure all the lenses and filters were spotless. Photography might be just a hobby, but he took pride in getting that one shot that made all the hard work worth it.

He’d finished his beer by the time he had the last memory card and battery stowed, and he waffled on what he wanted to do. He’d been up since six, worked a full day, and finished getting all his camping gear ready to load in the morning, but he wasn’t tired enough to go to bed. The weather report he checked promised sunny days and clear nights—though it wouldn’t be nearly as warm around Mt. Adams as it would be in Portland.

Author Bio:
The number one question folks ask Alicia when she shares she's a MM romance author: "Why gay fiction? Why write men when you're a woman?" and her answer is: "Why the hell not!" Alicia Nordwell is one of those not so rare creatures, a reader turned writer. Striving to find an interesting story one day, she decided to write what she wanted instead. Then the voices started... Yep, not only does she talk about herself in the third person for bios, she has voices in her head constantly clamoring to get out. Fortunately, with the encouragement of her family and friends, she decided for her own sanity to keep writing.

Now you can find her stories both free and e-published. When she’s not on the computer typing away, she's a wife and a mom of two in the dreary, yet ideal for her redhead complexion, Pacific Northwest. Except for when she disappears into one of the many worlds in her head, of course! She can also be found quite often at her blog, where she has a lot of free fiction for readers to enjoy or working hard, or maybe hardly working, as an admin on under her online nickname, Cia.

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Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Wednesday Briefs: Finndeavor #1

Good morning and Happy Hump Day! If it's Wednesday, it must be time for some 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.

This week, I'm doing something different. Not that I've forgotten Marshall and Lee, far from it, but one of the prompts called to me, and it would never have fit in the guys' story. So I wrote a little something, and I'd like to get your opinion - should I continue it or not? For right now, I'm using a working title of Finndeavor, but that is subject to change. I hope you enjoy it! Don't forget to see what the other Briefers are up to. Their links follow my tale. Enjoy!

Finndeavor #1

How many drummers does it take to drive a man insane?

Just one. All he has to do is pound out a steady rhythm that refuses to quit.

“Please stop that noise,” Finndeavor Washington Burr whispered aloud to no one in particular, but his heartfelt entreaty did nothing to ease the thrumming in his brain. Sterner measures were obviously called for, perhaps even rising, although he was little inclined to follow that course of action at the moment. He cautiously opened one eye but loudly groaned as a bright light of supernova proportions threatened to blind him. He quickly rolled over, away from the offending rays… and up against another body.

 Why was there someone in his bed? And who was it?

The lump rolled and resolved itself into the familiar form of his manservant, Jefferson.  But that didn’t answer the question. What was Jefferson doing in his bed? Jefferson threw one bare brown leg across Finn, never waking.

Finn cleared his throat. Startled large mocha eyes gazed back at him.

“Excuse me, Mr. Finn, sir, but why exactly are you in my bed?”

“I’m not in your bed, you’re in mine.” Finn corrected him and winced. “And please don’t shout. I’m right here and I can hear you perfectly.”

“I’m not shouting,” Jefferson assured him. “My head would explode if I raised my voice even a modicum.”

“Mine too,” Finn admitted. He tried to sit up, but Jefferson’s leg was making that difficult. The fact that the man was naked wasn’t helping any. Plus he was gorgeous. Under other circumstances, Finn would pause to admire his long limbs and finely sculpted ass. But not today. He gingerly slid the entangled limb from him, all too aware that he was naked also.

There must be a story here, but damned if he could recall it at the moment.

“Jefferson, what’s the last thing you remember?”          

Jefferson shook his head to clear it. The sight of his dark mane, hair flowing like sinuous snakes, never failed to fascinate Finn. He often marveled that Jefferson’s locks never tangled, despite their propensity to wave in the slightest breeze. Like the man himself, he was always in control of them, a trait which Finn found to be most admirable.

“As I recall, you wished to go out last night. To, as you put it, celebrate your last night of freedom.”
Finn frowned. “But the wedding isn’t for months yet…?”

Jefferson shrugged. “My place was not to argue, sir. You were most adamant in your desire, and I saw no harm in indulging you in a drink.” He flashed Finn a cautious smile.  “Or two. Or maybe a baker’s dozen? I believe I lost count.”

“As did I.” Finn groaned again, his stomach joining the fray, along with his throbbing temple. Bits and pieces of the previous night began to filter into his mind, like watching flashes of a half-remembered play when you had no idea who the characters were or what was going on.

“It was that new drink, wasn’t it? The caramel one.”

“A caramel mocha bourbon flame,” Jefferson confirmed. “The bartender assured us tis all the rage in Paris, so you insisted on having a taste. I must admit, it was very good.”

“Very good,” Finn agreed.  Maybe a little too good? He’d found it sweet and addictive, and it went down one’s throat as easily as water, but it was also deceptively strong.

As evidenced by the position in which they found themselves today.

Naked, and in Finn’s bed.

Belatedly, Finn realized that the current tableau would hardly meet with the approval of his fiancĂ©. Good thing she wasn’t here.

Taking his attention off Jefferson for a moment, Finn glanced around them. The room was a complete shambles. Clothes were strewn about the floor, along with what appeared to be feathers. Finn squinted at the walls. Had they always been that colorful conglomeration of colors, or had a madman snuck in and fingerpainted them while he was asleep?

“Did we do this?” Finn found that hard to believe. Sure, he liked to have fun as much as the next man, but this went beyond having fun. This was insane.

“I can’t remember,” Jefferson confessed. “Did I remember to tell you I need today off? Urgent family business I must attend do. I should go now.”

He made a futile attempt to roll from the bed but Finn caught him by the arm and pulled him back. Unfortunately that resulted in Jefferson lying on top of him. Very much naked.

And very hard.


Finn swallowed. “Forget it, mister. You’re staying right here.”

“Right here, sir?” Jefferson leaned closer to Finn, until his lips were mere almost on top of Finn’s. 

This was not what Finn had had in mind.

So why did he do nothing to regain the upper hand, which was all Jefferson’s at the moment? And why were his lips parting, almost as if in anticipation…

“I didn’t mean… I didn’t… I…” Finn stammered, unable to form coherent words, just as a piercing cry rent the air.

Jefferson fell back onto the bed, clutching at his head, an action which Finn mimicked.

A small furry bundle flew into the room and up on the bed. It wound its arms around Finn’s neck and began to chitter to him in monkey talk.

“Hamilton, please,” Finn pleaded. “I’ve got a headache.”

“You’ll have more than a headache when I’m through with you,” came an icy voice from the doorway.

Finn knew he was in trouble now. He darted a glance toward the speaker.  Abigail Prescott. His fiancĂ©. He’d seen storm clouds that appeared friendlier than she did as she glanced between him and Jefferson.

This was a catastrophe of major proportions. He couldn’t imagine the situation could get any worse.

A lump stirred beneath the blankets on the bed and a sleepy head popped up.

“Morning, gentlemen!” a cheery voice proclaimed.

Oh God. George. It just got worse.

to be continued 

Now to see what the other Briefers are up to!

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Virtual Book Tour: The General's Wife

Please welcome author Sara R. Turnquist, who is here to tell us about her new release, The General's Wife. Sara will be awarding a $50 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 other stops on her tour are, go here. Don't forget to look for the Rafflecopter at the end of this post!

The General's Wife
by Sara R. Turnquist


GENRE: Historical Romance



“Go home!” Ismene is speechless as she reads those words written in blood on the walls of her new home. The young, raven-haired Grecian beauty had traveled all the way from her homeland to marry the Pharaoh’s top general. But she never expected this. The hatred of the Alexandrian mob for their Greek rulers is right in front of her. It is the first of many threats she will receive.

Things are escalating out of control. Damaged crops and horses turned loose at night are one thing. But when Ismene receives a death threat, it becomes clear that there is a spy within her own household. She would turn to her husband to deal with this issue, except he left for battle by order of the Pharaoh. Not knowing whom to trust, she fears for her safety as well as the entire ruling class of Egypt.



“Can you please take this blindfold off?” Ismene loved surprises, but couldn't stand the waiting. Alistair had risen early to prepare a special breakfast for them and served her in bed. Then he had told her that he had something special planned for them today—a special place for them to visit.

“Not yet,” Alistair said as he gripped her waist. Their chariot went over a bump which caused him to pull her to him even more tightly. She smiled at the feel of his secure embrace; even after this short time it still caused butterflies in her stomach.

She felt the chariot continue to move down the smooth path with a little rocking here and there as the wheels found imperfections in the road.

“We're almost there, I promise,” he assured her. His voice was close to her ear and it gave her warm chills. She thought of the feel of those lips on her neck. There wasn't much time to daydream, though, because, true to his word, it wasn't much longer before she felt him slow the horses and still the chariot.

“Ready for your surprise?” he asked.

“Yes!” She feigned exasperation.

Only then did he reach up, untie her blindfold, and let it fall. “The great Library of Alexandria.”

What is your idea of perfect happiness? To belong. To be loved and cherished.

What is your greatest fear? To be a disgrace, and thus live out my life alone

What is the trait you most deplore in yourself? My flights of fancy. My idealism. I forget the world has rules and that I am bound by those rules.

What is your current state of mind? I am sad. I have just left my family and my love. Will I ever see them again? I fear not.

What do you consider the most overrated virtue? Duty

What do you most dislike about your appearance? My hair is often difficult for me to tame. Thick and curly. It is heavy and often frizzy in the humidity.

Which living person do you most despise? Right now? My father. How could he send me away? Doesn’t he care?

When and where were you happiest? In Greece, with Thelopolis

If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be? That I am a woman. Bound to the decisions of men. Unable to chart my own destiny.

What is your most marked characteristic? Probably my loyalty. My mother says I am loyal to my own detriment. Perhaps that is true. Maybe that is why being removed from my home and sent to a foreign land is so difficult for me.

What is your greatest regret? That I fell in love at all. This would be so much easier if I had not.



AUTHOR Bio and Links:
Sara is originally from middle TN. After a short stint in Memphis, where she earned a degree in Biology and began a career as both a Zoo Educator and a Sleep Technician, she then followed a dream to work for a large zoo in Orlando, FL as an Educator. Once she and her husband started their family, they moved back to Tennessee. Sara and her husband now enjoy a full life with their three beautiful and very active children. Sara enjoys many creative outlets – singing, piano, drawing, drama, and organizing anything. And even though she has enjoyed her career as a Zoo Educator, Sara's great love of the written word continued to draw her to write. She has always been an avid reader and, for many years, has been what she terms a “closet writer”. Her travels and love of history have served to inspire her to write Historical Fiction. Sara has made several trips overseas to the Czech Republic. Her time among the Czech people and the landscapes of the country inspired her and greatly influenced her work on her debut novel, The Lady Bornekova, set in Hradec Kralove, Czech Republic. Sara is also a member of the ACFW.

How to reach me:

Twitter: @sarat1701
Facebook: Sara R. Turnquist, Author -

Buy Links:


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Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Wednesday Briefs: Moving Forward #56 (13.5)

Good morning and Happy Hump Day! If it's Wednesday, 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, from 500 to 1000 words, inspired by one of our prompts.

In today's episode of Moving Forward, the guys are sitting around the pool, drinking beer, and talking about the future. See what's up with Marshal and Lee! Don't forget to visit the other Briefers and see what they've been up to. Their links follow my tale!  Enjoy!

Moving Forward #56 (13.5)

“What are we drinking?” Denver asked.

“Nothing fruity,” Dustin replied, and they all laughed. He caught the eye of one of the swimsuit-clad servers and waved him over. 

“Cold beer all around?” Everyone agreed, and in short order four cold bottles sat on the table before them.

The four men kicked back and relaxed with their cold brews.

“So, after the cruise, you going back home, Dustin?” Marshall asked. He remembered Dustin saying he was staying with Denver just until the cruise.

Dustin shrugged. “I dunno. I’m kinda rethinking things, you know?”

“What kind of things?” Denver sounded surprised, so obviously this was nothing they’d discussed.

“I been livin’ in that small town my whole life. It’s time I got out of there. I was thinking about maybe relocating in Tucker Falls.”

“Don’t you need to have a job to do that?” Denver asked.

Marshall couldn’t help but hope Dustin had no ulterior motives, not when things were going so smoothly. Tucker Falls was awfully close to home.

“And a place to stay,” Dustin agreed. “I’m more than willing to work and pull my weight. I was hoping maybe I could stay with you, cuz.” Dustin threw Denver a hopeful look. “I’ll be able to pay rent and my share of expenses as soon as I can. I have a little money saved up, should help tide us over. I mean, nothing great, but a little.”

Denver tilted his bottle back and took a long drink. Marshall couldn’t tell by his expression if he was happy about the idea or not.

“We can try it out,” he said at last, “with the clear understanding that you will contribute to expenses, and if there are any problems, then I’m going to send you packing. Is that agreeable?”

“Very agreeable, and very fair,” Dustin said, grinning widely. “I appreciate that, Denver. I promise you, I won’t make any trouble. I’m thinking about doing something with computers, maybe even take some courses.”

“There are online courses you can take,” Marshall spoke up. “Give me your email address and I’ll send you some information.”

“I appreciate that, Marshall,” Denver said. “I’ll do that as soon as I find something to write on.”

“That’s cool,” Marshall said. “No rush. We have the whole drive back too. Do you have your own place, where you live?”

Marshall thought he heard Denver snigger, and Dustin squirmed a little before finally replying. “No, I live in my parents’ basement. How embarrassing is that?”

“Could be a lot worse,” Denver pointed out. “Lots of people don’t have even that much.”

“I know, but it’s not like I can bring anyone home, either. Not with the little ones running around, and my mom there.”

“Doesn’t your mom know you’re gay?” Marshall asked.

“Sure, she knows. She’d be thrilled to see me with someone, but I don’t want to get her thinking that way about every Tom, Dick and Harry I bring home.”

Marshall arched his eyebrows and Dustin turned even redder.

“I didn’t mean it like that. You know how parents get, wanting to know all about someone you’re seeing, wanting to know if it’s serious, all that crap. Didn’t yours give you the third degree about Lee?”

Now it was Marshall’s turn to blush, feeling his cheeks warm at Denver’s words. He didn’t know what to say that wouldn’t either be a lie or reveal too much. Finally, he settled on a veiled truth. “I got my dad’s permission to be with Lee, didn’t need anyone else’s.” He stared at the table, unwilling to meet anyone’s eyes.

He felt Lee take his hand and squeeze it reassuringly. “Anyone ready for another round?” Lee asked. “This one’s on me.”

Everyone did, and the conversation turned into other avenues. But Marshall hoped that having Dustin closer wouldn’t turn out to be a major disaster for all of them.

to be continued

Now go see what the other Briefers are up to!

Monday, October 10, 2016

Virtual Release Day Book Blast: Barrier

Please welcome author D.C. Renfroe, here to talk about her new release, Barrier. She will be awarding a $10 Amazon/BN GC to one randomly drawn commenter via Rafflecopter. The more you comment, the better your chances of winning. To find the other stops on her tour, go here. Don't forget to look for the Rafflecopter at the end of this post!

by D.C. Renfroe


GENRE: Romance Thriller
RELEASE DATE OF THE BOOK:  October 10th, 2016.



When Claire Luna is kidnapped and taken to a remote island, her predictable life is torn to shreds. She thought she understood grief, loss and loneliness. But nothing prepared her for the island.

Tucker Knight had his world turned upside down when he was a young teen. He’d known love, security and normality. But things changed, and somehow he lost his innocence along the way.

Barrier takes you on a compelling, thrilling and sometimes brutal journey of Claire and Tucker, who in a bid to control their destiny, must learn about trust and submission. And also about love.

The island is under the control of Dr. Stephen Bell, a scientist obsessed with the secrets of humanity through genetic engineering. Claire is part of his obsession, and quickly comprehends Bell’s twisted intentions. She is forced to decide between submission and life-altering consequences. In her desperate attempt to survive, Claire surprises Bell and Tucker with her strength to fight.

But, can she trust Tucker? Is he her enemy or her savior? Claire understands that to surrender means to survive, but can she endure? Tucker can’t help but be enamored by the spirited and determined Claire, but to survive, he must face and overcome his haunting past. Up until Claire’s arrival on the island, he had never thought himself capable, or deserving, but perhaps this was his chance to finally do the right thing.



AUTHOR Bio and Links:

I began writing many years ago and put it aside to raise a family. I put myself through college working toward a Bachelor’s Degree in Communication, which I have almost completed. I took every writing class that was offered and finally put pen to paper after dreaming of completing a novel for almost twenty years. In the meantime, I worked as a freelance journalist for a local newspaper briefly and wrote a personal blog while living in south Florida. I currently work as an Instructional Designer based in Austin, Texas. I am a mother of four and truly believe they are my greatest creation! Two of my children inherited my love of writing and I encourage them to write every chance they get!


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Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Wednesday Briefs: Moving Forward #55 (13.4)

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

Marshall and Lee enjoy a little competitive swimming in this week's episode of Moving Forward. Are things looking up with Dustin? Maybe he has turned over a new leaf. Don't forget to see what the other Briefers are up to! Their links follow my tale! Enjoy!

Moving Forward #55 (13.4)

The pool on the Lido Deck was buzzing with activity by the time Marshall and Lee arrived, but there was as much action outside of the water as in. Marshall got the impression that at least some of the men who came here were looking to hook up, and did just that. A lot of flirting going on, as well as kissing and other activities. He noticed that if things looked like they might progress any farther than they should in public, a cruise employee was quick to step in and steer the amorous couple toward more private areas.

Which left plenty of room for them to actually swim in.

By the time Denver and Dustin arrived, Marshall and Lee were in the water, having challenged each other to race the length of the pool. Marshall hadn’t been able to beat Lee, but he’d gotten damn close, which was saying something, ‘cause Lee had some damn powerful strokes, so he didn’t mind losing to him.

“Hey guys, how’s the water?” Denver greeted them.

“Water’s great,” Marshall said. “Come on in!”

“You got a table?”

“Yeah, right over there.” Lee nodded in the direction of an white table underneath an umbrella emblazoned with the cruise logo. They’d left their drinks there, as well as their towels. “You can set your stuff there too, if you like.”

“Much obliged,” Denver said. He handed Dustin what little they’d brought and he didn’t fuss, just put it on the table next to theirs and quickly returned.

“Got room for me in there?” Dustin joked.

“I think there might be a little,” Marshall replied. “Come on in. Just don’t splash.”

Dustin laughed and eased himself into the water, followed by his cousin. “This feels nice,” he said. “I expected it to be colder, but it’s not.”

“Not cold at all,” Marshall agreed. “You any good at swimming?”

“Fair to middling. Want to see?”

“I’ll race you,” Marshall countered. “Length of the pool.”

“What’s the winner get?” Dustin asked.

“Winner takes on Lee,” Marshall smirked. He had every confidence that Lee could beat Dustin handily.

“Is that good with you, Lee?” Dustin looked toward him.

“Fine with me,” Lee said.

“Loser buys drinks?”

“You’re on,” Lee replied without hesitation.

“Not so fast. You have to beat me first,” Marshall reminded him.

“I didn’t forget. I just assumed I’d beat you,” Dustin smirked.

Marshall rolled his eyes. “You remember what happens when you assume, don’t you?”

“Yeah, but don’t worry, I don’t intend to make an ass out of either of us.” Dustin laughed.

“In that case, come on,” Marshall challenged him.

They got Denver to act as starter. He counted down to one and they took off. Marshall reached the end of the pool and was dismayed to see Dustin. The question was which one had gotten there first?

“It was Dustin,” Denver affirmed, “but just by a fraction of a second or so. Damn close call. Good race, guys.”

Marshall wasn’t overly disappointed. Now he could watch Lee take him down. And that would be worth having lost to Dustin to begin with.

“Good race,” Dustin echoed, slapping a wet hand on Marshall’s shoulder. He glanced up at Lee, who swam close to them. “You ready to take me on?”

“Maybe you should rest up after your victory,” Lee teased. “I wouldn’t want anyone to say I took advantage of you.”

“I’m ready to beat you right now,” Dustin bragged. “Denver, want to get us started?”

“If you’re sure,” Denver said.

“I’m sure.”

The two men got into position, and Marshall found a better vantage point to watch from as Denver counted them down and they took off.

Marshall couldn’t help but admire Lee’s physique as his strong body sluiced through the water. Beside him, he thought Dustin looked puny. Of course, he might be a little prejudiced in Lee’s favor. The race was close at first, and Marshall wondered if maybe Dustin had a chance when suddenly Lee surged forward with a greater strength and pulled ahead. He reached the end of the pool, the clear winner. Marshall watched Dustin arrive, too late, and wondered how he’d handle the defeat. For just a moment, his concerns over Dustin resurfaced, knowing he had a temper. But the two men shook hands in what seemed to be an amiable fashion, then swam back to where Marshall and Denver waited.

“Good race,” Marshall said, “but I knew Lee’d win. I didn’t have any doubt about that.”

Lee shook his head, as he caught his breath. “That’s why I bring my own rooting section,” he grinned.

“I hope I didn’t ruin your evening,” Dustin said, somewhat tongue-in-cheek, Marshall thought.

“How so?” Lee asked.

“Well, didn’t y’all say you were going dancing after this? I hate to think I tuckered you out too much for that. I mean, at your age and all.” His grin belied any sting in his words, and everyone laughed.

“The only thing you need to worry about is paying for that next round. It’s all yours.” Lee’s grin was even bigger than Dustin’s.

“Ouch.” Dustin pretended to be wounded, putting his hand over his heart.

“A drink sounds real good,” Denver said, “especially when he’s paying. Let’s go.”

They all agreed that was a splendid idea, and climbed out of the pool.

to be continued

Now go see what the other Briefers are up to!