Liam nodded. “I’m inclined to agree about Clint missing. Let’s get through everything here and see if we can get any leads and get some idea about Hatchet’s game plan. Jim will start on the computer.”
“Clint has a laptop and tablet too.” Griff nodded at the cabinet that held their television. “The doors on the bottom. And we need to check the baseball bat.”
“What baseball bat?” Liam asked.
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Mal grinned and nodded to an area of flat rock. “When I was a kid, I brought stadium chairs and cushions in here. I had a thermal chest over there.” He pointed to one spot tucked away near the cave wall. “And lanterns all over. I thought I had my own palace.”
“Like a tree fort without the tree—and underground,” Colt said.
“Exactly. I’m sure you’ve heard around the distillery that great whiskey starts with the best spring water?” Mal asked. He hopped lightly from one pile of rocks to another, then turned to wait for Colt. He waved to a stream of water and sat on the rocks at the edge.
“Yes.” Colt settled beside Mal and shined the flashlight around the interior of the cave.
“My great-great-granddaddy owned a little piece of land he’d staked out and settled. It was about twice the size of what’s inside this fence. He had a small shack on the top of this hill, but it was what was under here that he was interested in. The best whiskey and moonshine comes from the purest water.” Mal pointed deeper into the cave, and Colt swung his flashlight in that direction. “A few hundred yards down is a spring. All this water comes from it. He didn’t know why, but it’s got a much cleaner taste.” He leaned down, scooped up a handful of the water, and sipped it.
Colt mimicked Mal’s actions. “Wow. I always thought it was a gimmick, but this water really does taste fresher, better. It’s cold.”
“That’s because the spring’s source is nearly a thousand feet down, where it’s cool. This whole area is littered with limestone, and when the water travels over it, the limestone leaches the impurities and iron from the water. He wasn’t the only one with the idea. Other distillers knew the same secret. My great-great-granddaddy and Jack Daniel, the man, grew up together. They both learned the craft together, and when Daniel bought land with his spring, my great-great-granddaddy set out to find his own.” Mal shrugged. “Or so the legend goes.”
“So he landed here, and the rest is history?” Colt asked.
“Yep.” Mal nodded and laughed. “The one thing distillers like more than good ’shine or whiskey is a good tall tale. I’m sure it’s basically the truth, embellished.”
“This is an amazing place. Thank you for showing it to me,” Colt said.
“You’re welcome. It’s one of my favorite places, and it’s important to distilling whiskey and ’shine.”
Colt held up one finger and grinned. “A skill you did promise to teach me, and you are the best.”
“Oh geez.” Mal rolled his eyes and shook his head, but it was clear he liked Colt’s admiration. “I did indeed. We’ll need some downtime for that, and you’re getting quite popular. Have you seen the list of requests Audrey has?”
“No. She offered to show me, but honestly, I’d rather not know so I can concentrate on the ‘assignments’ she gives me. I do have a confession, however.” Colt ran one hand through his bangs and ducked his head a bit. “I hope you’re not angry.”
“Maybe you should confess, then let me decide?”
Colt made a face, then admitted, “I like the moonshine better than the whiskey. Especially all the wild berry flavors.”
My snippet this week is from Whiskey and Moonshine.
“There are rules against using your position of power,” Mal said. He turned his hand over and gave Colt’s a squeeze, then let go.
“I don’t think you’d ever do that.” Colt leaned back in his chair and rested his arms on the table.
“As long as you know you’re free to say no to anything and it won’t affect your job here,” Mal insisted.
“Does that mean we’re friends?” Colt ventured.
Mal smiled. He reached across the table and offered Colt his hand. As they shook on it, he said, “It does.”
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Book Title: Relevant Heart (Fearless Heart Series, Book Three)
Author and Publisher: Janice Jarrell
Release Date: December 6, 2023
Genre: Contemporary M/M Romance
Tropes: Established Gay Relationship, Ireland, Gay Attorney, Gay Psychologist
Length: 75 835 words/206 pages
Heat Rating: 4 flames
It is part of the Fearless Heart Series but can be read as a standalone.
It does not end on a cliffhanger. They get their HEA, of course!
Buy Links - Available in Kindle Unlimited
The best wish is knowing that there’s nothing left to wish for.
Colin is prosecuting his first murder case, and his ability to remain emotionally detached is challenged as the circumstances surrounding the crime awaken his deep inner fear of losing someone he loves, a fear nearly realized when - only two short months ago - Joshua was kidnapped and violently assaulted.
While Colin and his team gather evidence, Joshua endeavors to create a program that will establish a bridge between veterans suffering a mental health crisis and local police. But the effort drains Joshua's already fragile health to a dangerous degree, leaving Colin frantic with worry and frustration.
Meanwhile, Nate has a play opening off-Broadway and must live in New York City for six to eight weeks... alone. It is clear from the onset that the director has the hots for Nate - or at least for his talent as a playwright - which has David pacing the floor in anxiety. He is happy for Nate and proud of his husband but worried about the director's attention and unhappy about Nate's long absence.
By the time Nate celebrates his opening night, all four friends are exhausted both emotionally and physically and ready for the healing trip to Ireland they've been planning for months.
Colin’s breathtaking ancestral home provides many magical moments, but an unexpected and terrifying incident leaves them shaken and questioning the faith in each other that has always been their foundation. Will these shattering circumstances strengthen their bonds or break their hearts and tear their relationships apart?
I feel like I’ve been a bit annoying lately.” He stared down at the sheets and huffed out a noisy breath. “I feel like ever since you were abducted, I’ve been an impossible son of a bitch to live with.”
“That’s not true either! What is wrong with you today?”
Colin arched his eyebrows, his expression one of comic confusion. “No one knows.”
“Please stop being so hard on yourself. You have not been an impossible son of a bitch to live with. Quite the contrary. I couldn’t have gotten through this without you.”
Colin quirked his mouth and huffed out a sigh. “Well, if I helped at all, I’m glad.”
“You chose me, remember?” Joshua said, cupping Colin’s cheek.
“I did,” Colin whispered. “Smartest move I ever made.”
“Well, I chose you too,” Joshua told him. “And I knew—even when I left you and ran home to Glencoe—I knew I could never love anyone else.”
Colin smiled and turned his head to press Joshua’s fingers against his lips.
“It didn’t matter that you didn’t love me,” Joshua said, his voice soft and dream-like. “It didn’t matter at all. I was bound to you, and I knew I always would be.” He pressed his lips to Colin’s, his fingers tightening in Colin’s hair. “Didn’t matter that you were mad at me,” Joshua continued. “I thought you never wanted to see me again, and even that didn’t matter.” His dark eyes met Colin’s, and they were brimming with tears. “I was yours. Even when you didn’t want me, I was yours. Even when I believed I was the only one who loved… I loved you.”
Colin pulled Joshua tight against his body, rocking him in his arms. “My darling boy, you weren’t the only one who loved! Every minute we were apart was torment for me. I was just scared that if I let you love me, I’d somehow hurt you. Or worse… lose you.”
“You can’t lose what’s already yours.” He stroked Colin’s cheek. “When I fell in love with you, I gave you part of me that you couldn’t give back even if you wanted to. A part of me that’ll always be yours. My vision of who you are as a man. My faith in who you are as a person.” He shrugged, his thumb sliding along the rise of Colin’s cheekbone. “All that will stay even if I don’t.”
Colin drew in a quick breath; his face contorted in pain. “Don’t talk like that!”
“Relax,” Joshua murmured, nestling against Colin’s chest. “To quote a famous Irishman, I’m not going anywhere!”
About the Author
My name is Janice Jarrell. I am a retired grandmother who lives in Seattle, WA. I have two children and three grandsons. I’ve been writing gay romance since I was twelve years old, only back then it wasn’t called ‘gay romance’. In fact, it had no name at all. It was the fifty’s, and it was worth your life to admit to being gay, let alone confess to being a girl who constantly fantasized about relationships between gay men. Hell, I didn’t even know what a homosexual was. I lived on a farm out in the sticks in a tiny Michigan village and I’d never, to my knowledge, even heard the word. I just knew I loved the thought of boy-on-boy romance. I just knew that there was something hot going on between Tom Corbett and his Space Cadets and all those guys on ‘Combat’.
I wrote slash fanfiction for 30 years, writing over 337 stories, some as short as 100 words (a drabble), some as long as a series which was over 119,012 words. I enjoy writing my stories. I enjoyed the feedback I received from my readers. It was a creative release I’d been searching for my entire life and I blessed the Internet for leading me to this artistic oasis for my spirit.
Love’s Magic was my very first step into writing my own characters. I will always be grateful to the slash fanfiction community for nurturing the budding author until she was ready to blossom into a fully realized novelist. It’s been an amazing thing to watch the gay community’s growth over these past twenty years. My own journey has echoed theirs in many ways, and I’m grateful to all those gay activists who fought to give the gay community the rights and privileges they always deserved. Love’s Trials, Love’s Glory, and Love’s Lawyer were the second and third, and forth books in the series and all four books are available in audio format on Audible.
I’m also grateful to the gay romance community, readers, authors, publishers and promoters, who are making these, my retirement years, the most creative ones of my life. When I'm not writing, I'm traveling, walking, hiking, knitting, crocheting, and weaving.
I'm very excited about the upcoming release of my fifth contemporary gay romance novel, Relevant Law. Those of you who fell in love with Joshua and Colin in the four previous books in this series are in for a bit of angst in this latest episode. A dark and sinister cloud hangs over the University of Virginia after three students are abducted, raped and beaten. Colin works with both campus and city police to catch the perpetrator, but his hard work and effort proves futile when Joshua turns up missing!
Despite their struggles there are still many passionate, loving moments and the friends they treasure will be there to help them find their way.
Social Media Links
Daniel snorted, “You’re too much of a dick to die, so I’m safe there.”
“If you didn’t care about him, these past days wouldn’t have been difficult at all. Take some chances, Dan. You can’t live your whole life locked up in that mini fortress you have and in the bubble you’ve created around yourself.” Pierre put his hand in the air, waving. “I think young Kyle is exactly what you need. He’s right in front of you, ready and willing for the taking. All you have to do is reach out and let him in, do some taking for once. Really have someone, not just a series of one-night trysts.”
“I don’t even know if he’s interested.” Daniel turned and saw Kyle making his way across the commissary. He immediately felt his mood lighten, and despite his tough words to Pierre, he smiled.
Pierre laughed and slapped Daniel’s shoulder. “You’re a dickwad, you know that? I see how he looks at you, too.”
Daniel waved him off and stood to greet Kyle. “How’d it go?”
Shrugging, Kyle said, “I don’t know. They didn’t throw me out on my ass, so I guess okay.” He smiled and nodded to Pierre. “Hey, Pierre.”
“Kyle, you need to make sure Dan here doesn’t turn into an old, lonely fart at thirty.” He stood, patted Kyle’s back, and winked before ambling away.
“What was that?” Kyle turned and watched Pierre go before swiveling around to face Daniel again.
“Too many drugs? Or maybe not enough.” Resting one hand on Kyle’s back, Daniel rubbed a few times, appreciating the smooth expanse of solid muscle under Kyle’s shirt. “Let’s grab some lunch. We have to stay in the barracks until there is official word on their decision, but you’re right; if it was no, you’d have been booted out by now. Then we start your training.”
Once they received Keller’s official—positive—decision, Daniel took Kyle to begin training in earnest. Most came to the Militia with previous military or law enforcement experience. They didn’t need to be trained to handle weapons or fight hand-to-hand; those skills had been learned elsewhere.
Kyle was the first new member Daniel knew of starting from scratch. He’d be teaching Kyle, or arranging for others to teach him, and he wanted it done correctly. Kyle trusted him. Daniel wasn’t going to do a thing to jeopardize that trust. His priority was protecting Kyle. Teaching him to protect himself when needed was an important step.
Book Title: True North (Yule Lads #1)
Author: TA Moore
Publisher: Rogue Firebird Press
Cover Artist: TA Moore
Release Date: December 15, 2023
Genre: Paranormal Romance
Tropes: Opposites attract, star-crossed, enemies to lovers, fish out of water, work romance…sorta, betrayal, Christmas romance
Themes: Sins of the past, forgiveness, found family.
Heat Rating: 4 flames
Length: 40 500 words
It is the first book in the Yule Lads series.
It does not end on a cliffhanger.
Santa's missing. Presumed Dead.
Despite what his co-workers say Belling, Montana paramedic Dylan Holly does not hate Christmas.
TWENTY YEARS SINCE Somerset had tried to tap the power of his old position. Now he had done it twice in one night. He would never admit it, but as the wind blew up into his armpits, he wasn’t sure the magic he’d set aside would answer.
Apparently though, there were no hard feelings.
Cold filled his chest and soaked out into his body. It spilled out of his mouth on white fog and turned his marrow into frost. The only heat in him came from the prickle of pain as a dozen tiny fractures crazed along the bones of his arms and legs. The threads of the North Wind surged up around him and thickened under his feet. His boots skidded on the slick, snow-vapor surface at first. It was solid, but not still. The wind blew and eddied under his weight. It made for unsteady footing.
The weight of Dylan as he swung awkwardly from Somerset’s grip didn’t help. Somerset briefly indulged the thought of letting him drop. He was not a sentimental man at the best of times, that wasn’t what his kind had been made to be, and the chill of Winter magic in his bones reduced the idea of logic and odds.
Dylan didn’t scream or thrash. He gripped Somerset’s wrist with white-knuckled fingers and kept his eyes closed so he didn’t give in and look down. Somerset had always liked that quality about the wiry paramedic. No matter what happened around him, Dylan was always the calm at the heart of the storm. It made him… pleasant… to be around.
Something in Somerset’s chest, buried down deep under permafrosted meat and organs, felt warm. The rest of him was too Winter-numb to put his finger on what the feeling was. Guilt maybe. Or something stupider.
Either way, as he remembered the knack to riding the storm, he dragged Dylan into his arms. The other man resisted at first—Somerset didn’t take it personally—but the only other option was to fall. It wasn’t a hard choice to make. Dylan pressed against Somerset’s chest, arms wrapped around him so tightly that Somerset could feel knuckly fists dug into the small of his back.
Somerset enjoyed the feeling of the warm, lean body pressed against him for a moment, then he had to focus on what he was doing.
“You can fly?” Dylan asked, his voice ragged and his breath warm against Somerset as it seeped through the cotton T-shirt. When Dylan laughed, it was a thin, nervous sound. “Explains what happened to my car.”
Somerset hesitated as he narrowed his eyes. He could see the snow caught in his lashes. Dylan was right; that probably had been what happened.
As many questions as that answered, though, it raised more. Wolves couldn’t walk the storm, so who’d brought Gull down? Had he already been injured?
The wind took advantage of Somerset’s distraction and tried to drop from under him. He stumbled, caught himself, and did his best to ignore the way Dylan’s arms tightened around him.
About the Author
TA Moore is a Northern Irish writer of romantic suspense, urban fantasy, and contemporary romance novels. A childhood in a rural, seaside town fostered in her a suspicious nature, a love of mystery, and a streak of black humour a mile wide.
Coffee, Doc Marten boots, and good friends are the essential things in life. Spiders, mayo, and heels are to be avoided.
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“Did it touch you?” Todd shouted, charged forward, and pulled up short before getting too close. He backed off at once.
Master getting a little out of control?
It made sense, Todd shoving him away the night before, telling Nick to stay back. He knew of Nick’s infidelity. Being found out as a sentry wouldn’t produce much more than mild irritation
from Todd; that happened. They’d dealt with it before. Nick would never be blamed for that turn of events.
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Book Title: Signs and Wonders: A Supernatural MM Romance Adventure
Author: Morgan Brice
Publisher: Darkwind Press
Cover Artist: Lou Harper
Release Date: November 15, 2023
Genres: Paranormal MM romance, romantic suspense
Tropes: Hurt/comfort, getting comfortable with commitment
Themes: Learning to trust, evolving established relationship
Heat Rating: 4 flames
Length: 57 000 words/ 211 pages
It is part of a series (Witchbane, book 7) but can be read as a standalone. It does not end on a cliffhanger.
Can Seth and Evan save the warlock’s next target, bring down his crime syndicate, and live to tell the tale?
When a coven of dark warlocks killed Seth Tanner’s brother, Seth became a man driven by vengeance, sworn to stop the cycle of ritual killings, willing to die for the cause. He never expected to fall head over heels in love with the witches’ next intended victim. Evan Malone didn't believe the supernatural was real until Seth swept in with his magic and motorcycle to save him from being the next sacrifice.
Now they’ve gone on the road together, hunting the rest of the coven while they figure out how to keep the white-hot, once-in-a-lifetime bond between them. Days are filled tracking their paranormal quarry, honing their monster hunting skills, and gaining control of the small magics that have made a life-or-death difference. Nights are spent together, entangled in adrenaline-fueled passion, learning how to make this love last forever despite the odds. Seth fears that if they don’t eliminate the rest of the coven, they’ll be on the run forever, and more people will die. Evan is afraid that Seth’s obsession with revenge means they might not survive to get a happily ever after.
Seth and Evan head to West Virginia to confront one of the dark warlocks, a master con man running a cybercrime empire. Can Seth and Evan save the warlock’s next target, bring down his crime syndicate, and live to tell the tale?
Signs and Wonders is a thrill-packed supernatural thrill ride with plenty of paranormal suspense, hurt/comfort, hot nights, found family, deadly magic, immortal witches, determined hunters, haunted places, creepy ghosts, impressive explosions, spooky chills, and sexy thrills, and features an evolving, established romantic relationship with all the feels.
“You are dead and buried. This is not your place. Let go and move on to what lies ahead.” Seth continued the ritual, although his heart broke for the young woman whose life had been cut short by a thirst for adventure.
“I don’t want to go.”
Jenny’s spirit no longer attacked, weakened by the sigils Seth had chalked. She looked young and scared, lost in a place between life and death.
“Your family and friends cherish your memory. But you do not belong here. Go in peace, and do no more harm. In the name of that which creates, empowers, and sustains, and by the will of all those who loved you—move on.”
Jenny’s ghost flickered again and then faded as an icy wind swept through the atrium, making dust motes dance in the light.
“Is she gone?” Evan kept his shotgun racked and ready.
“I think so. At least for now, if not permanently. Milo said that if the banishment didn’t send her on, it would sap her strength so she couldn’t hurt anyone again for a while,” Seth replied. “I tried to get one of the local mediums to come with us, but once they found out where we were going, they all said ‘hell no.’”
“Guess we were just dumb enough to do it anyhow.” Evan’s grin made it clear he relished the adventure.
“Sounds like us.” Seth bumped Evan’s shoulder in agreement.
The abandoned Molly Stark Hospital was legendary for its haunts, but the crazed spirit that attacked them wasn’t from the building’s past as a tuberculosis sanitarium. Jenny Summers was a much more recent death, an unfortunate urban explorer who had come to investigate the hospital’s supernatural reputation and fallen to her death through a hole in the floor.
Unlike the hospital’s other ghosts, Jenny’s angry spirit lashed out at security guards and tour guides who ventured too near the building. That made her a hazard, meaning someone had to set her soul to rest. When the head of security couldn’t persuade any of the local ghost hunters to rid the site of Jenny, he had reached out to Seth’s mentor, Milo, who had tapped Seth and Evan since they were passing through the area.
“These old hospitals were built to stand forever, even when no one needed them anymore,” Evan noted wistfully as they slipped out the back door, locking it with the key borrowed from the security chief.
The four-story Spanish Revival hospital dated from 1929, when it had been considered cutting-edge in its amenities. Huge windows, wide verandas, and courtyards were meant to provide sunlight and fresh air to patients. By the time it shuttered in the 1990s, medical advances had left the huge complex behind.
“There are over a thousand feet of tunnels running between the main building and the outbuildings,” Seth said as they slipped through the cut in the chain link fence.
About the Author
Morgan Brice is the romance pen name of bestselling author Gail Z. Martin. Morgan writes urban fantasy MM paranormal romance, with plenty of action, adventure and supernatural thrills to go with the happily ever after. Gail writes epic and urban fantasy, with less romance, more explosions.
All of the modern-day Morgan Brice and Gail Z. Martin series crossover, so characters from one series appear in cameos and on page in important secondary roles in books from other series. Each book can be read as a standalone, but the more you read the more the expanded universe of friendships and connections becomes clear.
Morgan and Gail believe that paranormal elements make any story even better, and her worlds are full of ghosts, psychics, shifters, creatures, vampires, monster hunters, and magic.
She's also a huge fan of the TV show Supernatural. (Chibi art by Kamidiox)
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Walter Robinson has a new queer sci-fi book out (gay, lesbian), SVF book one: The Northern Route.
In the distant star cluster Messier 4, the vast and stagnant civilization of the Apeilous sits on the verge of its next great expansion. Several massive corporations have merged to start the Endeavor, the most far-reaching economic and humanitarian effort in history.
Vesta Amore leads a small team of private security specializing in the protection of whistleblowers and corporate defectors. She has no interest in the Endeavor until she is swept off her feet by the suave leader of the Fortuna Corp, an equal partner in the Endeavor. Balancing her altruism with the realities of power, Vesta joins the Fortuna as they work to establish a supply route along the contested northern border.
Cal Sunn is a career detective looking forward to retirement. When the Maressellya Corp backs out of joining the Endeavor, they hear rumors of a defector in their ranks and put Cal on the case. What starts as a simple assignment becomes a fight for survival as he works to untangle a shadowy conspiracy that threatens the Apeilous. With the Fortuna’s backing, he and his crew rush to uncover the plot.
Warnings: Combat violence, "off-screen" sexual assault, large scale loss of life
About the Series:
In the distant star cluster M4, the vast civilization of the Apeilous barrels through a geopolitically tumultuous era. The independent northern state of Tressel is upset by territory grabs orchestrated by the largest corporations of the Apeilous through a humanitarian operation known as the Endeavor.
Vesta Fortuna, once a lowly private security contractor, rose to power to lead the largest and most controversial state of the Apeilous: The State of Vesta Fortuna. The SVF series explores the rise and fall of Vesta as a state-maker, a wife, a mother, and ultimately an authoritarian leader. Shorter companion novels detail the origins of the people who rise to support or oppose Vesta:
Aelia, a refugee turned warrior turned politician who will stop at nothing to bring down SVF.
Kiton, a bright young detective keen to support SVF by rooting out corruption in its ranks.
Valentia, Vesta’s daughter and heir to the Fortuna family.
Augustus, Vesta’s son and the unlikely heart and soul of SVF.
Main character Vesta and her best friend Jak spend Act 3 forging ties between the Fortuna Corporation and the leadership of the independent planet Atayuma. Keen to make connections outside of the autocratic government, Vesta and Jak engage in a bit of old-fashioned diplomacy with group of mid-level army and navy personnel at the most popular bar in town. By this point in the story, Vesta and Jak have already made friends of several revolution-sympathizers in the armed forces.
Fun fact, the song in this excerpt was adapted with permission from the artist, Jason Webley!
Excerpt from Chapter 29, God Save the King:
Capital City, Atayuma (ISY-AT)
Three musicians sat in the corner of the room belting out drinking songs on a tuba, a drum set, and an accordion. The accordionist sang loudly, yet his voice barely rose over the short beats of the instruments and the din of the bar.
Vesta and Jak sat at a table for six, joined by three captains from the Royal Navy. The sixth member of their gathering was Captain Ernesto of the army division Aline had selected for the coming monsoon. While Vesta had spent the fore of the evening chatting and getting to know them, her efforts were stymied by a raucous sing-along song about storms and angels. Then the music struck a somber tone.
The singer had his bandmates restart the intro, seemingly to get the crowd’s full attention. He sang the first verse softly.
“To the old, cracked screen,
Of my mother’s voice,
I still cry when I hear her sing.
The clock struck twelve,
The voice I love so well,
Was eaten up by the machine,
It was eaten up by the machine!”
Vesta wondered what exactly he meant by the machine. Maybe he’s talking about the mines. Every voice in the bar joined in the second verse.
“When the glass is full,
Drink up! Drink up!
This maybe the last time
We see this cup.
If angels wanted us sober,
They’d knock the glass over,
So while it is full, we drink up!”
Just as Vesta started to tap her toes to the beat, the drum and tuba quieted, and the individual taps on the accordion’s keyboard became clear. The singer glanced at her with a kind smile and sang softly, twisting the next verse into something unknown to the crowd.
“A toast to our guests,
A girl from the stars,
I hear the king courts her,
But all of this cheer,
And maybe the beer,
Has brought her back here,
So let’s help her drink the place dry,
Yes, let’s drink the damn place dry!”
The crowd cheered, and many raised their glasses toward Vesta before downing them. Jak slapped her on the shoulder with a little too much force, and the singer repeated the verse. A few people joined in. Then the rest shouted along for the last three lines. The standard verses followed, and the discordant singing continued. Vesta could only sit and sway to the beat. Jak had other ideas, rising to his feet to join a line of people dancing forward and backward with their arms on the shoulders of those next to them. Ernesto joined too, shouting with the dance line that now snaked clear across the length of the bar.
The music crescendoed upward, and the singing grew louder for the last verse.
“...knock the glass over.”
“So while it is full drink up!” the crowd screamed. People clapped, some tossed coins and banknotes at the band members, and others spilled their drinks as they tried to toast with their neighbors at the bar. The joyous frenetic atmosphere remained past the end of the music, but there was a clear shift in tone and a color shift for Vesta’s deeper vision. A calm contentment filled the minds of the patrons closing out their tabs and shuffling out the front door. Many said goodbye to their friends for the night, clasping each other’s hands in front of their chests with a tense shake. Eager to return to the palace, Vesta cut off Jak’s animated conversation with one of the navy captains, handed the bartender enough money to cover the table, and started toward the door.
A crowd of eager-eyed Atayumans stood outside Rau’s. They all bubbled with joy as Vesta stepped onto the street. She took Jak’s hand, smiled, and moved through them, trying not to flinch as every person attempted to touch her shoulders. Countless glowing Atayuman eyes met hers before they reached the edge of the gathering.
A raindrop landed on her hand. She reached up and felt that the top of her headscarf was damp. She pulled her hood up and activated her wrist computer, nearly blinding herself with its white light. Navigating to the archaic weather app that the Atayumans operated, she looked at the radar map of the incoming weather formation. It was predicted to be light and move past the city shortly after sunrise.
“God damn, I love diplomacy,” Jak said, words soft despite their volume. “If only the [Vesta’s ethnicity] weren’t so uptight, we could’ve been doing this on [Vesta’s home planet]!”
“Jak, please,” she said sharply. With a bit of tugging and pushing, she guided him up the sweeping main road toward the palace gates. Some distance from the royal guards, Vesta tensed her jaw and held her breath to redden her face.
“Are you doing that thing?” Jak asked, taking a series of tiny steps to steady himself.
“Yes,” she huffed, shooting him a sideways look.
“Why don’t you just think about those photos you had me take—”
“Jak!” she said loudly, playfully pushing him, then grabbing his shirt to keep him from falling over.
“You know, the ones for Piata—”
“Yes, I know!” she said, feeling her cheeks burn. Embarrassed, she channeled her shy charisma and played a nervous flirty drunk. The four guards at the gate seemed none-the-wiser and cleared the way for them.
Walter Robinson is a speculative fiction author based in Western PA.
A classically trained engineer with experience in product development and advanced materials manufacturing, he has a passion for telling the human stories that are fundamental to the built world. When he isn’t writing or drawing, Walter spends his time designing and fabricating.
Author Website: https://svf-state.com
Author Facebook (Personal): https://www.facebook.com/walter.robinson.12
Author Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/thestateofvestafortuna
Author Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/163169298-walter-robinson
Now you can listen to Whiskey and Moonshine!
Drunk on love.
Like a well-aged whiskey, master distiller and old-money entrepreneur Malone Kensington is elegant and refined. Unfortunately he’s also a perfectionist who is more dedicated to the success of his generations-old company than his own love life.
That company needs a public spokesman.
What Colton Hale lacks in sophistication, he more than makes up for with the charisma that’s allowed him to survive on the street from a young age and charm his way into the lucrative—if overwhelming—public position at the Kensington Distillery. When Mal takes Colt under his wing, hoping to polish off his rough edges, opposites attract and a passionate romance blossoms despite the differences in age and background. But can it survive a Kensington Board of Directors who believe Colt is nothing but a gold digger and a kidnapper determined to profit from the love of Mal’s life—dead or alive?
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