brings joy to hearts everywhere. Between snow angels, festive clothing, holiday
decorations, and of course, all the beautiful lights, it’s hard not to partake
in the season.
you no longer have Christmas in your heart.
Alasdair has never shared the horrific memories that keep him from celebrating
the happiest time of the year, nor does he ever plan to. He’s fine being alone
and shut off from everyone; he has his restaurant and that’s all he needs. He
believes that, too…until the craft store next door from his eatery hires a
perpetually smiling annoyance. Really, it isn’t normal for someone to be that
happy all the time.
Leahman didn’t know what he was getting into when he accepted an invitation to
visit his best friend and help her interview people for the newly created
position of manager at Craft Time. When a surly man bumps into him and then
walks away with an enticing sway to his hips, Xander decides the position—and
Dermot—are perfect for him. Now all he can think of is finding ways to get
Dermot out of his clothes. Well that, and how to open this grinch’s heart to
the Christmas season and, hopefully, love.
man’s eyes were a brilliant, twinkling blue, like sparkly sequins in his pale
white face. The bell in his hand peeled, and the greeting on his lips grated on
Dermot’s nerves. He wanted to walk on by, for a lot of reasons. For one thing,
the five dollars in his pocket was all the cash he had on hand, and he really
wanted…no needed the peppermint latte it was going to buy for him.
latte from the specialty coffee shop. Prudence, the quirky barista/owner,
refused to make the delicious concoction except from November fifteenth to
January first. She even refused to share her recipe, which Dermot had been
unable to duplicate to his satisfaction.
salvation was one consideration.
jolly red Santa suit was another deterrent.
Dermot knew that behind that richly curling white beard and pillow padded belly
lurked the kind-hearted cartoonist who drew comical portraits for the tourists
in the summer for twenty-five dollars apiece. His own issues with Christmas
aside, he could appreciate Steve had nothing, and yet he stood out here in
temperatures barely above freezing, smiling and laughing and ringing his bell,
collecting money for charity.
he handed over the money.
bless you, and Merry Christmas to you,” Steve gushed.
brushed off the thanks. It wasn’t about the season, or the holiday, or even
God. It was about the need. If Steve could give of his time, when he had so
little, then Dermot could go without his treasured coffee. “It’s nothing.” He
shrugged and continued walking down the empty sidewalk to his restaurant. The
wind cut through his jacket. He might as well have been stalking the streets of
Parkerburg naked for all the protection it afforded him.
narrow-minded, short-sighted city council. Hunkering down, Dermot continued on
the way to his restaurant door, past the florist and the bakery, the art
gallery with its sad yellow sign announcing its closure.
was abysmal, each narrow period building boasted a handful of awkwardly angled
parking spaces. At this time of day, they were all empty. Nevertheless, by
mutual agreement, none of the shop keepers or their employees parked on the
street. It was a matter of respect and community empathy.
street-side parking, what precious little of it there was, belonged to the
customers. All the rest of them, the people who worked here and paid taxes
here, they parked blocks away. Even the alleys weren’t adequate. Barely wide
enough for UPS and Yellow Transit trucks, a single vehicle parked in the alley
behind his restaurant would block deliveries for half the block.
foot after another, he trudged down the walkway, trying to switch gears from
his anger at the community leaders to the tasks that awaited him at
sous chef was out this week with the flu.
would have to take over Chaz’s tasks as well as his own. He regretted Chaz's
suffering, and he really didn’t look forward to all the tedious chopping, but
the bottom line was that Chaz’s absence would probably save him enough money
this month that he’d be in the black. The restaurant’s finances skated perilously
close to the red zone lately, and Dermot didn’t like the nervous tension the
cheerful greeting broke through his concentration, and Dermot looked up to see
the new manager of the Craft Time craft store sweeping the sidewalk in front of
the shop. “Hey,” he muttered sourly. Xander Leahman made his head ache. Just
one glance and he wanted to snap at the man to comb his hair, put on a heavier
jacket, and for Christ sakes why wasn’t he wearing gloves outside in this
wasn’t going to stop. He had no plans stop and talk to the smiling man. Xander
bubbled more than a bottle of shaken soda water. Dermot didn’t have time for
his chatter, and he didn’t have time for the strange, compelling
not-quite-nausea he seemed prone to in Xander’s company.
he was allergic to the man’s cologne, or deodorant, or shampoo. Dermot leaned
forward and sniffed surreptitiously, but he couldn't smell anything other than
cinnamon and vanilla. An overwhelming urge to bake overcame him, and he jerked
was an executive chef, not a pastry chef. He didn’t bake, and especially not
something as…plebeian as oatmeal raisin cookies, which was what Xander smelled
me.” He deliberately stepped around Xander, who put out a hand and caught his
saw you coming down the street.” Xander set the broom aside and picked up a
steaming mug from the windowsill. “It’s not as good as Prudence’s coffee, but I
made it fresh this morning.”
in astonishment, Dermot stared from the mug to the hand on his arm. He could
really… “Thanks.” He accepted the mug and inhaled the rich aroma of good
coffee, scented with cinnamon and…yeah, vanilla. And he’d thought it was Xander
who smelled so good? He didn't know whether to be relieved or embarrassed. “I
needed this. That walk feels longer every day that the temperature drops.” The
first sip exploded on his tongue with soothing heat and delicious flavor and he
bit back a moan of appreciation.
can’t figure how Steve can stand to hang out on the corner all morning.” Xander
released his grip on Dermot’s arm with a charming “oops” smile. He picked up
the broom and swept the tiny pile of debris into a dust pan.
the coffee’s warmth spreading through him, Dermot found himself willing to talk
a little, to linger in Xander's unsettling presence. “He takes breaks, but I
guess he believes in the cause.”
of course he does! The organization does such good work.”
Dermot shook his head. “They might do good, but they aren’t all good people. At
least…” He gathered his thoughts as Xander seemed perplexed. “They
I saw you put money in the kettle.”
they’ll take my money. But they aren’t a friend to the LGBT community, not if I
interpret their stances correctly.”
why did you…”
I don’t need coffee, but that soup kitchen they support feeds families, and
when helping hands are needed, when natural disaster strikes, they’re the first
ones on the scene.” He shook his head again. “Look, I’m sorry. Complicated
moral issues of my impulsive donation aside, I’ve got a lot of work to do
today, and Chaz is still out sick.”
sorry. I didn’t mean to question you, just… I’ll see you later, okay? Maybe
come in for lunch?”
off the comment as a polite nothing, Dermot nodded and hurried over to his
door. He had hours yet before lunch service began at eleven, but the coffee’s
ability to ward of cold wasn’t unlimited.
watched the prickly Dermot Alasdair walk away, taking some pleasure in knowing
those large, talented hands were wrapped securely around the mug of coffee
Xander had given him.
brother, did he suddenly feel like an obsessed teenager again—he’s touching my
mug. He couldn’t help it though, ever since he came to Parkerburg the tall,
dark, and gorgeous restaurant owner had caught his eye. What Xander wouldn’t do
to be the reason behind a full-blown thousand watt smile on that man’s face.
was fairly certain if the man did smile more enthusiastically than the poor
facsimile he always bequeathed people, this cold front would end immediately.
finished sweeping the stoop in front of Craft Time and quickly cleaned up his
mess, putting the broom and dustpan away and bringing his own not-so-hot
anymore coffee inside with him.
ready to unlock the doors?” Xander glanced at his watch and saw they still had
five minutes before opening.
best friend of close to a dozen years popped her head out of the office
situated halfway to the back of the store on the right. “Sure, if you’re all
set up, let’s do this.”
chuckled as he turned back to the front door and flipped the closed sign to
open, not having to unlock the doors since he hadn’t locked them after sweeping
the stoop. Who’d have thought that four years of college and one
well-worked-for bachelor’s degree and here he was managing his friend’s
business? A craft store, of all things, with workshops on the second floor and
kids running around touching everything on the weekends.
I can see the morning rush is upon us.” Shawna grinned as the bell over the
front door chimed.
turned and smiled at Mrs. Mincer, one of Shawna’s best customers, as she
scurried through the door, rubbing her leather-gloved hands up and down her
cashmere jacket sleeves. Secretly he worried if her teeth chattered any more
violently, they might just pop out of her mouth.
chastised himself for such a thought and nodded in her direction. “Good
morning, Mrs. Mincer, you’re out early today.”
yanked on the middle finger of her glove, removing it from her hand. “Have you
felt the crisp refreshing air outside?”
I have.” He laughed as she handed him the gloves then laid the soft pink jacket
over his outstretched arms.
makes me feel alive, I tell you. Makes me want to be imaginative and create
things. So I told my Charlie, that’s what I call Mr. Mincer”—she winked at
Xander—“I told him I had no choice but to come here. I need supplies to do
right by this weather.” The wrinkles around her eyes and mouth came to life as
she smiled first at Xander, then Shawna.
He’d only taken the manager position Shawna offered him a few months ago, but
already he knew all about Mrs. Mincer and her Charlie. Though he’d never
actually seen Charlie, so he had to take Shawna’s word that he really existed.
Mrs. Mincer bellowed to the woman standing no more than a dozen feet from her.
“I need to build a squirrel feeder. With this cold air, I fear they won’t be
out and about as much and I want them to have plenty of rations for their time
in. Now, nothing too intricate, I’m not looking for fancy just sturdy.”
watched in awe as the two women discussed her options while walking to the back
corner of the store. Mrs. Mincer was easily older than his own grandmother, who
just celebrated her eighty-second birthday, but the woman moved like she was
half that age. She once lectured Xander on the horrors of Botox, exclaiming
that she earned each and every one of her laugh lines thanks to her three
children and seven grandkids and refused to be shamed into covering them like
some of Parkerburg’s hoity-toity society.
wondered if that hoity-toity society included the same people Dermot had
couldn’t stop the smile that spread across his face as he straightened the
impulse-buy bins. Who knew googly eyes and mismatched buttons qualified as
why are you so happy this morning?” Shawna hip bumped him before circling
around the counter and rummaging underneath on the shelves.
well, that is true, but today you are shiny happy. Ah ha! Found it.” She popped
back up, waving a little spiral notebook in her hand.
I’m glad you found that, because we don’t have nearly enough note paper around
here.” Xander nodded sharply, not even trying to hide his humor.
be difficult, I’ll call your mother.” Shawna started flipping through the
haphazardly chicken-scratched pages. “I put the ordering codes for those
pre-made kits in here somewhere. Mrs. Mincer’s new project reminded me I wanted
to order some for the endcap on the back aisle. I think the kids would love
them as Christmas gifts.”
leaned on the counter and tried to read the pages upside down, which wasn’t
hard considering some of them were evidently written upside down. “As long as
you don’t plan to try and pawn one off on Mrs. Mincer, imagine her outrage at a
pre-made feeder,” he whispered.
gasped. “Do I possess such nerve?”
you do.” He straightened and wiped his hand over the counter, brushing off
nonexistent dust. “So, I’m thinking of grabbing some lunch at Alimentaire today,
you want me to bring you anything?”
speed with which Shawna jerked her head up would’ve given a weaker person
He grabbed his coffee mug and downed the now cold liquid in two gulps. “Oh,
look at that, I’m empty. Would you like a cup?” He turned before she took him
up on his offer and fast-walked toward the office where the little kitchenette
was located. It wasn’t much really, a counter with a stainless steel sink, tiny
microwave, and coffee maker. Underneath, a mini-fridge nestled between two
think you can dodge me that easily.” She rounded the corner and burst into the
room like a woman on a mission. “You’re going over there to see him. Don’t deny
deny nothing, and admit to the exact same thing. What’s the big deal? He’s a
snort was her elegant response. He raised his eyebrow to her while reaching for
the coffee pot.
mean, Xan. You don’t do mean, you do happy.”
sexy. I do do sexy,” Xander countered.
rolled her eyes and laughed. “Oh, so you’re using that head to eat lunch with.”
I just want to see if I can make him smile.” Xander sighed.
shook her head at him. “Just don’t tell him any of your jokes.” Carefully
snatching the now full and doctored coffee mug in his hands, she winked. “You
want him to laugh with you, not at you.”
ha ha,” he grumbled, suppressing the urge to give her back the middle finger
Yep, you read right! Breathless Press is
stripping their prices in half for their black Friday sale! This includes the
last two books in my Synchronous Seductions series and my Djin book Wish MeNothing! Need a break from your shopping? Treat yourself to something a little
naughty and a whole lot nice! <3
P.S. The first book to my
Synchronous Seductions series - Harlan's Ryde - is FREE at All Romance e-books – and a whole
bunch of my other books are on sale there today & tomorrow also! *winks*
About Renee George: Multi-published,
best-selling author Renee George has been a factory worker, an army medic, a
nurse, a website designer, a small press editor, an artist, and a teacher, but
writing stories about sexy alpha men is the BEST job she's ever had. When she
turned thirty, she went back to college and earned her BA in creative writing.
She has been married to the love of her life, a wonderful man who supports in
every way, for over half her life (and that is a VERY long time!). She happily
lives in a small, Midwest town with her husband, two needy dogs and a very
independent cat. Anything else you want to know, just ask. She’ll give you all
the nitty gritty dirt.
A water sprite who can’t hold his shape at the
slightest touch of water.
An ash-tree nymph with a black thumb who kills
every bit of flora in her vicinity.
That’s Fortunate, Missouri, in a nutshell—the
town for abnormal paranormals. Nymph Romy, however, can one-up them all—her
particular flaw is killing her. But thanks to a possible love spell, the wolf
and the water sprite could be Romy’s key to cheating death. And the three
misfits may find that even imperfect creatures can still create a sexy, loving,
Scoop: Sol, Romy and Lucien
love each other—emotionally, spiritually and physically. Which means both
ménage and male/male action. You lucky reader, you.
Romantica® paranormal erotic romance
from Ellora’s Cave
All Rights Reserved, Ellora's
Cave Publishing, Inc.
Mathias was a korrigan, a fairy dwarf, and to
his detriment, he’d been born male. An abomination amongst the korrigans, who
were always female. Even his own mother had wanted him dead, but you can’t kill
When he finally strolled out from behind the
counter, his height no more than four feet, he held a red clay pot filled to
the brim with a dark, loamy soil. Carefully, he handed it to Romy. “Here.”
She stepped away. “And what the hell am I
supposed to do with dirt?” Maybe Mathias was tired of her bringing back dead plant
after dead plant. It didn’t matter how much she watered the damn things, fed
them, or even talked to them—none survived. She’d stopped giving them names
after a while, awash with guilt and shame over each death.
His red eyes sparkled with excitement. “In this
soil, there is a very special seed, my girl. Very rare and unique. I’m
entrusting you with its care.”
“You’ve got to be kidding me. There is no way in
hell I’m taking on a ‘rare and unique’ plant. No. No. No. Give me a hardy shrub
or weed. Better yet, maybe a cabbage. I won’t feel so bad about a cabbage when
Romy was a dryad; specifically, an ash tree
nymph. Which meant, in theory, plants should flourish around her, but she
couldn’t even keep her own tree alive. Her mother had postulated it had
something to do with the sperm donor, aka Romy’s biological father, but the
elder dryad had refused to say more on the subject. Tree nymphs were
traditionally a love-’em-and-leave-’em race of females. They didn’t get
involved with beings they considered no more than means to an end. Males born
to tree nymphs always developed into the same race as the male halves of the
couplings, while the females were always dryads.
Unfortunately, something had gone very wrong in
the making of Romy. It hadn’t taken long after the dryad equivalent of puberty
set in before her people had decided she was toxic.
She pushed the pot back to Mathias. “Uh-uh.
You’ve seen my track record.”
When her “birth defect” had eventually started
to affect the trees of her forest six months ago, Romy had been summarily
kicked out by the other dryads. Of course, her people had called it a “long,
extended respite” and sent her to the town of Fortunate, Missouri.
The moniker, over the years, had become a joke.
The town had been named after the Fortunate Isles, also called the Isles of the
Blessed, and had been used for more than two hundred years as a dumping ground
for the “paranormally challenged”. Those who didn’t fit in with their own kind
were sent to Fortunate to finish out their days. For immortals like Mathias,
the end of days was a long-ass time.
For Romy, well…without a tree to tend, she
wouldn’t live another year, the chlorophyll drying in her veins. The plants
were test subjects for her, to see if she could sustain life. So far, they’d
served only to help ease the ache of dying. But as far as tending plants and
making them flourish, she failed constantly.
For Mathias to trust her with a “special”
plant…no way was she taking on that kind of responsibility.
It was one thing to kill a common houseplant,
but a whole ’nother thing to be responsible for something “rare and unique”.
Was Mathias crazy? Romy shook her head again. “I can’t. Don’t you have an air
plant or something? Hell, those suckers don’t even require watering.”
He patted her hands, his fingers soothing and
gentle. “Ah, but my dear, I hope this may be the answer to—”
Mathias’ explanation was cut off by a barking
baritone. “Ah, shit!”
Romy put the pot on the counter as she scooted
around Mathias to see who the unfamiliar voice belonged to.
In the greenhouse area beyond the main shop, two
long, well-muscled legs and a firm ass, all packaged in perfectly tight jeans,
stood nestled between two rows of plants.
“Hello,” Romy said.
The owner of the legs and ass straightened,
making him a foot taller than Romy. And oh goddess, did he have an upper body
and face to go with the lower half—thickly muscled chest and broad shoulders
crowned by a face with bow lips, a Roman nose and the brightest green eyes. All
framed by messy, shiny black hair that fell about his shoulders. It was as if
the gods had decided to create perfection.
Ridiculous though—they would never do that. But
hot damn, they’d come pretty close.
“Uh, hello yourself,” he said back, dusting his
palms against his jeans.
His really low voice, which would have better
suited a grizzly bear, sent a humming through Romy that made her body sing.
“What have you done now, Lucien?” Mathias asked
when he walked into the back. His presence was enough to break the harmony, and
Romy snapped out of her new-guy-induced daze.
“What a great name.” She smiled. It made her
feel foolish, but she couldn’t punch down the giddiness.
“It’s a name.” He shrugged then leaned over
again, which gave Romy another clear shot of his fabulous ass. When he stood
once more, he held a small plant, cradling the roots carefully. He looked at
Mathias. “I broke the pot, but the fern is fine.”
Lucien had a slight accent, but Romy couldn’t
put her finger on the origin. If possible, it made the young man even more
exotic and mysterious.
Mathias shook his head, making his red beard
sweep his chest. “Where’s Sol?”
“I’m here!” Sol Winter, who’d been working for
Mathias long before Romy had moved to Fortunate, stepped out from behind the
last row of plants. He wore a baby-blue polo shirt that matched his light-blue
eyes. It also complemented his tan, a deep golden bronze. Natural, according to
him. Strange for an elf, but who was Romy to judge? His long blond hair was
pulled into a ponytail. He often wore it down and spilling over his shoulders,
but generally had it tied back for work.
Sol was taller than Lucien by several inches and
a little broader. His smile brightened when he saw Romy. “Hey, you.” His mouth
turned down in sympathy. “Kill another one?”
They’d had a strange relationship ever since
Romy had arrived in Fortunate, which generally involved spirited banter and
sarcasm. Even when the conversation turned a little mean, Romy was still
thankful for Sol. He was the closest thing she had to a friend.
“Shut the fuck up.”
“Nice.” He raised a brow. “Bitchy much?”
Even though she was certain Sol was gay, it
didn’t stop her from having some wicked fantasies about him. After all, the man
was hot-hot and knew how to dress. “Takes one to know one.”
“Someone woke up on the wrong side of the oak
this morning.” Sol scooped a handful of topsoil and pitched it at her.
“Oh no you didn’t.” In retaliation, Romy grabbed
a nearby hose and squeezed the nozzle trigger, dowsing Sol where he stood.
“Stop!” Lucien yelled.
Too late. At Lucien’s shout, Romy turned, the
spray of water slapping across the man’s face—and Lucien instantly melted into
a clear puddle on the greenhouse floor.
Mortified, she dropped the hose. “Oh no!” She
shook her head and stumbled forward. “What have I done?” Not only was she a
plant killer, apparently she was a man killer as well.
Two lips formed in the clear pool. “I’m fine.
Please welcome Lee Brazil and his new release
About Lee Brazil: Somewhere
in a small town in up-state New York are a librarian and a second grade teacher
to whom I owe my life. That might be a touch dramatic, but it's nevertheless
one hundred percent true.
Because they taught me the joy of reading, of
escaping into worlds crafted of words.
Have you ever been nine years old and sure of
nothing so much as that you don't belong? Looked at the world from behind
glasses, and wondered why you don't fit?
Someone hands you a book, and then turn the page
and see… there you are, running from Injun Joe in a dark graveyard; there you
are fencing with Athos; there you are…beneath the deep blue sea- marveling at
exotic creatures with Captain Nemo.
I found myself between the pages of books, and
that is why I write now, it's why I taught English and literature for so many
years, and it's why my house contains more pounds of books than furniture.
If I'd had my way, I'd have been a fencer…or a
starship captain, or a lawyer, or a detective solving crimes. But instead, I am
a writer, and that's the best thing in the world to be if you ask me, because
as a writer, I can be all those things and more.
hadn't learned to value the stories between the pages, who knows what would
have happened? Certainly not college…teaching…or writing.
Lee's good about playing well with
others...check him out here:
got blurbage: As if starting a new job, picking up the reins
of a disorganized former colleague, and moving back in with his parents while
he saves for a down payment on a house of his own isn't enough, Cecil Trace has
just discovered that part of the Art Director's job at the exclusive Linwood
Academy is putting on a series of holiday pageants…with the first one
celebrating Thanksgiving just three short weeks away.
He's got enough on his hands getting reluctant
students ready to wow their parents and the community with their brilliance,
and preparing a holiday showing of his own artwork at a local gallery, he
doesn't need recalcitrant but brilliant math instructor Reese Cavelli arguing
about every little detail.
While Reese understands the new Art Director's
urgency, he can't allow Cecil to undermine his authority with the students.
Reese can't help being an ass to the new art director, and he knows in part his
behavior is due to his own insecurities, but it's also got a lot to do with the
fact that the vibrant young artist is so damned sexy in his jeans and bohemian
shirts. Every time he comes into contact with Cecil Trace, he finds himself
sneak peek: The store doors whooshed open and a wave of cold
air enticed him inside. The silver gum wrapper nagged at the back of his mind,
but he was determined. No more picking up after other people. Not after coming
in early and staying late and spending all his planning periods cleaning up
Torey Crowe's disaster of a classroom over the last week.
Pulling out his smartphone, he called up a list
of items he needed and swung a cart out of the corral. He knew the store like
the back of his hand, but it seemed unusually crowded this Sunday. Ducking into
an aisle to detour around a woman who appeared to have at least six
two-year-olds in her charge, he nearly collided with another cart. Cursing, he
veered to the left quickly. Too quickly as he wound up hitting a hanging
display of sandwich containers in gaudy plastic colors.
"Fuck!" Instantly, he backed up a
little and bent to retrieve the objects that had fallen from the display.
Something rammed into his backside and sent him sprawling forward onto the
dirty linoleum. "Fuck!" he snarled, catching himself with his hands
and pushing upright.
"Oh, excuse me."
The pleasant baritone irritated him even more,
because it seemed familiar. Spinning about, he found himself face-to-face with
the devil himself. Or temptation. The man who'd hit him with the shopping cart
was stooping to pick up the sandwich containers, and Reese didn't have a very
clear view of him, but what he saw was enough to make his cheeks burn even
brighter and his heart falter just a bit before racing.
Golden hair, in a long, straight sheet fell
forward over his face, long…too long for a man, really. Reese tried to sneer,
but his fingers twitched again, and he wanted to reach out and push that hair
back behind the man's ear to see what sort of face it hid. He had an impression
of slenderness, caught a glimpse of faded denim, and a shirt that looked a hell
of a lot like his sister's baby doll pajamas before his cock swelled.
Embarrassed, he jerked his own cart and trotted down the aisle. "Watch
where you're going!" he choked out, racing for the produce department.