My Newest Book: Shadow’s Edge


Anyone who follows me knows I don’t like to write only one kind of story. Sometimes I’m not sure that’s the greatest career move, but it does keep things new; for me and the reader. However at the base of all my stories is romance. I can’t seem to write anything that isn’t ultimately about two people, going through whatever it is they’re going through, falling in love and triumphing over the challenge.

This latest is about a guy who has psychic abilities. Liam is grieving the loss of his boyfriend while helping the police solve a stubborn serial killer case. His unofficial partner is tough, and rumpled Detective Kimball Thompson, a twelve year veteran of the force.

While the two men are very different, they both share the same passion to get this murderous monster off the streets.

This one will be out January 21, 2017! Be on the look out. 🙂


Liam Baker can see things. Dead people like to visit him and tell them how they were wronged. Some might call it a gift, other’s a curse. But either way this ability makes him useful to Los Angeles homicide detective Kimball Thompson.

Some madman is slitting the throats of young male prostitutes and then dumping their bodies in the desert with vague clues of pink feathers and the number five. Usually Liam can talk to the spirits of the dead. But someone is blocking him. Someone is taunting him.

The case is rapidly deteriorating into a violent, psychic pissing contest and Liam can’t see far enough ahead to figure out who wins or who dies.


Thompson pushed one of the shot glasses toward me. “Drink up.”

Scowling, I shook my head. “No.”

He leaned forward and his light gaze was serious. “One drink isn’t going to kill you.”

“Why do you want me to drink?”

He shrugged. “I want you to loosen up a little. You’re wound as tight as the queen at an IRA meeting.”

I laughed in spite of myself. “I’m not that fun when I’m loose. You need to trust me on this.”

“I’m not saying get wasted. It’s one shot.” His smile was warm and coaxing. He unusually reserved that charm for reluctant witnesses and his captain. “Come on. I want to get to know you better.”

You do?

The cops at the bar were looking over and sniggering every now and then. I was surprised Thompson didn’t seem to care. Most hardened macho cop types treated me like I had cooties. None of them were in a hurry to go out drinking with me that was for sure. I was lucky if they didn’t glare at me when I arrived at a crime scene. I wasn’t sure why they seemed to dislike me so much really. It wasn’t like I was after their jobs. Maybe it was simply that the unknown bothered them because they didn’t understand it.

“Why?” I asked quietly.

His brow wrinkled. “Why what?”

I looked at the tequila shot and then back at him. “We’ve been solving cases together for three months. Why all of a sudden do you want to know me better?”

He sipped his beer and fingered his untouched shot. Then he said, “We work together.”


He shrugged and dropped his gaze. “Look, I should have taken the time long ago. But you’re kind of touchy and I didn’t bother for whatever reason.” He lifted his eyes to mine. “The more we work cases together, the more I realize I respect what you do. Because of that I want to know more about you. Is that a crime?”

His sincerity was like a warm blanket as it washed over and through me. I shivered at the intensity of the feelings it drummed up in me. Confused by the strange sensations I was experiencing, I grabbed the shot and took a sip, coughing as the bitter liquid slid down my throat.

He smiled and threw his shot back in one gulp. Then he licked his lips and that shiver rippled through me again. What the fuck was going on with me? My cock throbbed gently between my legs as he watched me intently. If I didn’t know better, I would say we were having a moment. A sexual moment. But this was Thompson and I didn’t have moments with guys like him. Or anyone for that matter lately.

“See, that wasn’t so bad, was it?” he asked softly.

I just stared at him uncertain of what to say and hoping he couldn’t tell what was going on inside of me.

He leaned back against the booth. “Why do you suppose Samuel didn’t talk to you tonight?”

That was still bugging me too. “I’m not sure.” I touched my throat as I remembered the choking sensation that had come over me at the crime scene. It had almost felt as if the presence of the murderer was there instead of Samuel’s.

“Has that ever happened before?”

“You mean the dead person not talking to me part?”


“Sometimes if the body is moved from where the murder took place, it’s like the soul stays behind where they died.” I swallowed. “But from the amount of blood and…” I shook my head. “I think that was definitely the crime scene.”

“Me too.” He cleared his throat. “Have you always had the ability to talk to…?”

“Dead people?” I guess maybe he really was interested in who I was. “Yes. But it’s gotten stronger with age.”

“I hate to picture you as a kid seeing the gruesome shit you do.” He bit his lip.

“I didn’t. Well, at least not at first.” I swallowed hard. “I used to just get feelings about stuff. Like maybe someone was beside me when no one was there.”


“Yeah.” I sipped my shot some more, actually enjoying the heat that was settling in my stomach now. “Then I started actually seeing things that weren’t there. Or at least I was the only one who knew they were there.”

“Like what?”

I laughed. “There was this one guy, I think he was in a gang and his own guys popped him. He would hang outside the front of the Popeye’s Chicken in town, bitching about how he was betrayed and stuff. He was one of the first ones I really heard clearly.”

Thompson grinned. “Popeye’s Chicken is delicious. If I ever get murdered, that’s where I’m hanging out too.”

We held each other’s gaze, smiling a little longer than usual. I looked away first. “Anyway, I started noticing spirits more and more, especially the ones who died violently.” To be more accurate I should have said they started noticing me noticing them. It was as if the second they discovered I could see and hear them, they were desperate to tell me stuff. Sometimes I pretended I couldn’t hear them just so I could ignore them in peace.



BelievingRory_FBprofile_OptizimedForFeedI was thinking about how sometimes, as an author, I feel pressured into writing to what I think is commercial rather than what I would want to write about. But it occurred to me that isn’t why I write. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy the lighter stories. I enjoy every story I write or I wouldn’t write it. But I do seem to be occasionally drawn to darker subjects. (Believing Rory and Painful Lessons would be examples of that) Or maybe just writing a story that isn’t dark, so much as it deals with dark subjects like stalking, death or subjects such as those. After all, I’m writing romance.

So I guess my question is; do you not buy books if they have any kind of serious subject? Do books that touch on the subject of death or grief turn you off? I don’t like movies or books that end sad, but I can handle anything if the book or movie ends happy. Are you like me, or do you veer away from anything that isn’t super cheerful and fluffy?

Go ahead and leave a response in the comment section along with your email address and I’ll pick two winners to receive an e-book of choice! I’m excited to hear what you have to say. Should authors just write to market or can you handle romance books that aren’t always light and fluffy, so long as they ultimately end happy?




Cowboy and the Pencil-Pusher



New release!


Paul Smith prefers his calculator to people. People are annoying and demanding, but numbers will never let you down. He works tirelessly for his dad’s mortgage firm, foreclosing when it makes financial sense, and not losing any sleep over it either. Paul’s dad has always been a demanding taskmaster. But when he has a major health scare, Paul’s dad see’s the error of his ways. He decides he wants to change to a more benevolent business model. After having decades of harsh business practices drilled into him, Paul is not a fan of his dad’s new idea.

Cort Callahan lives and has worked on his granddad’s ranch most of his life. But times are hard and they’ve fallen behind on their mortgage. When Paul’s dad decides he wants to offer them a way out of debt, if they’ll just go along with his unorthodox idea of turning the spread into a dude ranch, it’s hard to tell who thinks it’s a worse idea: Paul or Cort.
But when Cort and his granddad take the deal, Paul is forced to work closely with Cort. The two men are surprised to realize they share an intense attraction that only grows stronger the more they’re around each other.
The problem is Paul has spent his life trusting numbers and calculations. No matter how much he wants Cort, when he looks at how different they are from each other, the two of them just don’t add up.

I love pairing really different types with each other. There’s nothing more fun to me than showing my main characters differences in the beginning and then watching the two of them slowly come together.


As Cort worked on the fence next to me, I held my hand over my nose and stared down a black steer a few feet away. I assumed the numerous semi-fresh cow pies surrounding me were probably what smelled so bad. The bull didn’t seem that interested in me, but it had horns so I kept a nervous eye on him.

“Could you hand me the crimper?” Cort held out his hand.

I looked at the pile of tools near my feet. “What’s it look like?”

“Blue handle.”

I scoured the stack. “I’m not seeing it.”

“It’s right there.” He pointed with a frown. “The blue one.”

I grabbed a long metal gadget. “This?” He nodded. “This is teal, not blue.”

He rolled his eyes and held out his gloved hand. “Give it.”

I handed him the tool. “Here.”

“Much obliged,” he drawled.

I snorted. “But you’re color blind, just so you know.”

“Gawd.” He clipped a piece of wire and shook his head. “You probably have the entire color wheel memorized.”

I laughed. “What? You don’t?” I clutched my flannel shirt closed as a breezy gust buffeted me.

The wind had picked up in the late afternoon and the prairie grass waved and flowed like rippling water. The air was chilled, and I wished I’d brought a jacket, and not just the flannel shirt. Since he was distracted, I could study Cort as he worked. He was in a T-shirt and he had his hat off, and his silky black hair fluttered in the breeze. I wondered if it would be as soft to the touch as it looked. Sweat beaded on his forehead and he grunted occasionally when he’d lift the roll of barbwire. He was definitely all rough man. Not my usual type, but something about him got to me.

I licked my lips and tried to suppress the attraction that nagged at me at the sight of his firm biceps. Whenever he tugged at the barbwire his sinewy, muscled shoulders flexed, practically making my mouth water.

“I can help if you need me to,” I volunteered, hoping to distract myself from my lusty thoughts. “I don’t know what I’m doing, but I’m willing to learn.”

He straightened, pulling his gloves off, and wiped the perspiration from his forehead with the back of his arm. His shirt rode up and I caught a glimpse of defined, tanned abs. I swallowed against the push of lust that hit me, and lifted my chin to meet his gaze.

“Yeah? Would you mind holding this part up while I stretch the wire?” He sounded grateful and I was glad I’d offered to help. This task was most probably a two man job, but since he’d brought me along instead of one of his crew, he was stuck doing all the work.

“Sure.” I wiped my palms on my jeans and then started to grab hold of the fence.

“Wait,” Cort’s voice was sharp. “Hold up.” He pulled an extra pair of gloves from his back pocket. “Wear these. I wouldn’t want to ruin your baby soft hands.”

My lips twitched. “Screw you.”

He grinned. “It’s tempting, but right now we have work to do, City boy.”

An excited thrill went through me at the look in his eyes. He was teasing, but there was a heated flicker deep in his gaze. He took my wrist briefly and he handed me the gloves. The feel of his calloused fingers against my flesh had my knees weak. I pulled my gaze away and slipped on the rawhide gloves.

“That section there. If you can hold it tight I’ll stretch the wires.” Cort tugged on one side of the wire with a hiss and turned his head toward me. “Think you can hold this?” He sounded breathless.

I grabbed the barbwire and pulled with all my strength. I was in good shape for someone who went to the gym, but I didn’t kid myself that I was used to hard, dirty work like Cort. “How’s this?” I panted out my words.

“Perfect.” He slapped my back and went about placing the fence stretcher between the two sections of wire. Once he had both ends secure in the stretcher he met my glance. “You can let go.”

I did as he said and looked at my grimy gloves. I held my arms out at my sides so they wouldn’t touch my jeans. When I looked up Cort was grinning and shaking his head. Then he began to tighten the mechanism on the fence stretcher.

“What?” I asked frowning. “What’s so funny?”

He snorted as he jerked the ratchet on the stretcher. “Nothin’.”

“You’re laughing at me.”

He grinned. “No.”

“Yes.” I kept staring at him.

He chuckled and then finally answered me. “I just think it’s amusing that you’re trying not to get dirty.” He sniggered. “Good luck with that.”

“Of course I don’t want to get dirty.”

“You’re surrounded by cow shit.”

“I’m well aware. But that doesn’t mean I want to get it on me. These gloves look filthy,” I exclaimed. “God knows what’s on them.” I shuddered, examining the stained leather.

“I have a good idea.”

I scrunched my face. “Yuck.”

“If you’re out here working you’re gonna get dirty. You get used to it.” He finished what he was doing and stood back, breathing hard.

“I’m sure you’re right, but excuse me if the idea of having cow feces smeared on me doesn’t excite me.”

He narrowed his gaze. “Sometimes when you do hard work it is unavoidable.”

I pulled off the gloves and handed them to him. “That’s why I prefer to hire others to do the lowly menial labor.”

His jaw hardened and he looked away. “I would expect no less from a rich city slicker.”

I studied his irritable expression, wishing his easy going vibe would return. “I’m mostly kidding.”

“Sure you are. Only I think maybe you aren’t.”

“All I mean is I don’t like getting dirty.”

He returned his steely gaze to mine. “Shocker.”

I gave an uneasy laugh. “It takes all kinds, right? We have the macho types and then the brainy types.”

“Yep,” he snapped.

“Not that macho types can’t be smart too…” I grimaced as I dug myself deeper.

“Wow.” He shook his head.

I frowned at his irritable tone. “Are you mad at me?”


“Look… I’m sorry if I said something insulting. I didn’t mean to.”

“Paul, it doesn’t matter.” He bent down and kicked the roll of barbwire until it was wedged against the fence. “I need to be realistic, that’s all.” He headed toward his horse.

If that sounds like a fun read to you here are a few links:




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Also failed to mention…

3D-Book-TemplateDuring my lazy period *cough, cough* I also neglected to mention another book I released in May. It is called Unleashing Love. How about a blurb and an excerpt to catch you up? 🙂


A year ago Drew dropped out of the corporate world following the death of his boyfriend, Steven. Unable to stomach the cutthroat environment of his old job he starts his own dog walking business. Drew struggles to move forward, consumed by guilt over his lover’s death.

Kyle Bradley is rich, successful and relishes his orderly life. But things get turned upside down when his sister Janie gets sick and he temporarily inherits her dog and her five year old son, Benjamin. Drew can see that Kyle is completely out of his depth with the dog and the child and he offers to help out.

The two men are drawn to one another and as time passes the feelings grow stronger. But Drew is still guilty over Steven’s death and afraid to embark on a relationship with someone who comes from the shallow world he now hates.




I’ve been lax. Forgive me.

I’ve been busy but you’d never know that if you followed me on my WordPress page. I shall try and make a more concerted effort to keep you updated. I have a book coming out from Riptide August 8th which I’m super excited about. But first I want to mention a story I wrote for Dreamspinner Press that was one of my favorite books that I’ve written.


Believing Rory

Will Rory bring them together or stand between them?

Eighteen-year-old Lane Graham has always relied on his braver, more confident buddy, Rory. But Rory’s sudden suicide blindsides Lane and sends him into an emotional tailspin. How’s he supposed to start college in a few months feeling this damaged?

Baron MacDonald knew Rory from playing League of Legends together. He was always intrigued by Lane’s online presence, and Rory had promised to set them up. Now that Rory’s gone, Baron has to approach Lane on his own.

On the surface, Baron and Lane couldn’t seem more different. Baron is confident and serious, and Lane is guarded and uncertain. But it’s the pain beneath the flesh that binds these two souls together like barbed wire and cement.


Chapter One

I guess I’m the stupid one for believing Rory.

I’m angry at him. I know there’s no point in that, because not only is he nowhere around to feel my wrath, he wouldn’t care if he was. Rory always went his own way. I needed him more than he needed me. Obviously. He proved that when he leapt into the great unknown without me. I can barely handle staying in my old familiar life, untethered from him.

Is it weird that my skin hurts? I’m so depressed my flesh actually aches. The ends of my hair feel sensitive as I watch Mrs. Greg approach with my math test in her hand. A bright red C sits at the top right of the paper. Thank God, I passed. My mom would take away my laptop if I fuck up in school again. Especially this close to graduation.

“I expected more from you, Lane.” Mrs. Greg sniffs and adjusts her black-rimmed glasses farther up the bridge of her nose.

I take my paper, feeling the eyes of the class on me. They probably all think I’m stupid. I’m not. I wonder how well they’d do on a math test if their best friend died the day before. I think a C was just fine, considering. Obviously I’m the only one who thinks that way since Mrs. Greg is still giving me a disapproving look, and the redheaded girl next to me is shaking her head. I want to skip ahead to lunch where I can tell Rory about how judgmental they’re all being. He’d rub my head and tell me to relax. You’re overthinking things again, L, he’d say with his white grin splitting his face.

But Rory’s dead.

My stomach rolls and I stand abruptly, knocking into my desk. “May I go to the bathroom?” Mrs. Greg hates letting kids go during class. But there must be something in my expression that softens her. Or maybe she just doesn’t want me throwing up in her classroom.

“Don’t be long.” She hands me the key with a huge wooden plaque attached.

I jangle my way through the hall and hurry to the bathroom. I slam into the stall and unload everything in my stomach. Then I sit breathing like a racehorse, with tears streaking down my cheeks. I don’t know what to do with all the rage I feel toward Rory. It feels like it’s eating me from the inside. I want to punch something. But instead I sit in a pathetic, crumpled heap, sobbing onto the wooden plaque with a key attached.

The bathroom door squeaks open and two guys come in. They’re laughing and fooling around. There are two stalls, and I’m occupying one. I peer under the fiberboard walls and glimpse expensive orange and black hi-tops. One person takes a piss while the other guy talks to him. I scramble to my feet and, keeping my gaze averted, go to the sink area and splash cold water on my cheeks. The guy waiting shuts up finally, and takes the stall I just left, as the other person comes around the corner and stops when he sees me. Then he continues on to wash his hands. Good bathroom manners. It’s a rarity among high school boys.

“Hey,” the guy says. He’s blond with spiky hair and the bluest eyes I’ve ever seen. He’s watching me like he expects a response. Of course he would. Anyone well-bred enough to wash their hands after peeing expects a response when they speak to you.

“I have permission to be here.” I don’t know why I say that. We aren’t in prison, although sometimes it feels that way.

“Are you okay?” He sounds genuinely concerned.

Of course not, I want to scream. But instead I drop my gaze and turn to the door. “Is anybody?” I say finally as I leave.

Lunch is torture. If you’re dumb enough to only have one real friend to sit with, it kind of leaves you in the lurch if he kills himself. I’m not hugely popular. I’m not actually unpopular either. I’m one of those invisible kids who flits through the school years not leaving much of a mark on anything. God, maybe Mrs. Greg and that redheaded girl are right, and I am pathetic.

Somebody punches my shoulder. Wincing, I look up from my yogurt to find Mason Price standing over me. He’s the school clown. His talent surpasses just class clown. “I’m sorry about Rory,” he says gruffly.

He’s the only person who has even said a word about Rory dying. I’d have never expected such compassion from someone who sticks straws up his nose for a laugh.

“Thanks,” I say.

He punches my shoulder again and moves off. I guess hitting me makes him feel like less of a wimp when he offers me sympathy. I rub my shoulder and watch him join his friends. Someone plops a tray down across from me. Judy from science class has decided I need a pep talk. She has her hair dyed pink, with purple tips. Her makeup is similar to an anime character’s with thick eyeliner, and long fake lashes. She pops open her grape soda while staring at me. The color of the can matches the ends of her hair.

“You should have taken today off.” Her voice is gently chiding.

I stare at her wordlessly. If it were up to me, I’d take the rest of the school year off. But my mom wasn’t having any of it. She screeched at me until I was dressed and in the car. I didn’t have the energy to fight her. I just did as she said and now here I sit with my yogurt.

“There’s a suicide support group on campus. You should probably go.”

I wrinkle my brow and just watch her.

“Not that you’re going to hurt yourself. But they help the people left behind too.” She gulps her soda, her throat muscles moving up and down with each swallow.

Left behind. Fucking Rory left me behind.

“I’ll take it under consideration.” Wow. That was oddly formal. What, am I running for Congress or something? I’m finding it impossible to be normal. Well, my normal.

Her brown, makeup-enhanced eyes soften. “Rory was a dick.”

I should slap her for defaming my beloved friend. My lifelong buddy who jumped off a parking structure and left me all alone to face this fucked-up world. I’d rather hit Rory.

I nod.

She crunches her way through a bag of chips as she continues to study me like I’m bacteria lying in a petri dish. Then she says, “You can always talk to me if you want. I know you’re shy, so maybe a big group thing isn’t for you.”

Why does she care? I’ve had maybe three conversations with her in the four years of high school. Is she a psych major? Maybe that’s it. They love psychoanalyzing everyone. It makes them feel less crazy.

Somebody has carved their name into the top of the table along with a heart. Steve + Sally 4-ever. I trace my finger into the grooves, wondering if their undying love has survived high school. Steve would never off himself and leave Sally alone. The table wiggles and I notice Judy is getting up to leave.

“See you in class, I guess.” She wanders away into the crowd of students. She’s still easy to spot with her pink hair, though. Maybe that’s the point.











I have a blog tour going run by Creative Minds Blog Tours for the second book in my Assassins in Love series and the title for my latest is Assassins Love People Too.

My first stop is Rick R. Reed’s Blog where you’ll find the schedule for the other stops along the way. There’s a give away of course! Did you think I would forget how much you love free things? Never!

Enter to win a $10 Amazon gift card and book 1 & 2 in my Assassins in Love series.


Don’t trust anyone.

She raised her brows. “Do you have a name?”

I have several.

I said the first thing that popped into my mind. “Fred.” I’m not sure why that name came to me. I didn’t really feel like a Fred. It seemed like someone named Fred should have a pipe and a smoking jacket.

Not missing a beat, she asked, “Well, Fred, where in the States are you from?”

I avoided her gaze and fibbed some more. “Oregon.” Had lies always fallen off my tongue so easily, or was it meeting Marc that had brought out my storytelling abilities?

“Oh, is that right? What part?” Without waiting for my response, she continued, “My brother lives in Eugene. He’s older than me by about five years.” She clasped her hands in her lap and looked at me expectantly.

I didn’t really know anything about Oregon, so I just tossed out the first city I could think of. “I live in Portland.”

“That’s farther north than where Ted lives. Ted’s my brother. He owns a little grocery store up there. I wouldn’t have the courage to own my own business, but Ted says he loves it.” She scanned my face with her curious gaze, and I knew she expected me to give her some details about my fake life in Portland.

Instead of responding to her, I just looked away, and an awkward silence fell. I felt like a total prick ignoring her, but I knew the last thing in the world Marc would approve of was me making a new friend. His voice on the phone had been as close to panicked as I’d ever heard him, and that made me uneasy as hell.

She gave a funny little laugh and waited a few more seconds, but when I didn’t speak, she pulled a paperback mystery from her pocket. “I’ll just read and leave you alone.”

My cheeks warmed, and I felt like a jerk. But I knew the more I talked, the more she’d want to know, and that was a bad idea. “Sorry. I’m just really tired.”

Waving her hand at me, she said, “You don’t have to apologize. I need to finish this darn book one of these days anyhow.” She nestled down into her seat and focused her attention on the novel.

Resting my head against the cool glass, I watched the scenery flash by. Towering beige buildings and skinny palm trees made up most of the view. After an hour or so, the lackluster structures were replaced by the sparkling Mediterranean coastline and the beautiful Côte d’Azur, where white villas and bright pink and yellow umbrellas lined the shore. My thoughts continued to be fixed on Marc. I closed my eyes, giving into the worry. Was he safe? According to the ticket agent, this train ride was roughly six hours, and that seemed like a lifetime after that frantic call from Marc.

The stress of not knowing what came next was exhausting, and the rocking of the train was lulling. After a few hours of fighting sleep, my heavy lids dropped, and I drifted off. My dreams were chaotic with faceless villains chasing me down the streets of Paris. Marc was there, but I couldn’t quite see him clearly, and whenever I yelled for him, he shook his head. I jerked awake when someone touched my arm.






Painful Lessons is the story of Brett Bridgeworth’s first year in college. He runs into a few problems when he falls under the spell of an obsessive guy. It was written by tapping into those strange, insecure emotions of the new adult years. We’ve all been there. Maybe we didn’t have to go through what Brett goes through in this story, but we were all messed up, emotional kids at one point.

PainfulLessonsFSI guess if I’m honest I still often feel like that awkward kid. I think that person is still very much alive inside of me. I think I’d hoped that as I got older all my insecurities and pressure to measure up would just fall away. But it didn’t, and I don’t think it ever will.


Do you ever still feel like you’re that gawky kid from the past? Or do you have it all together now that you’re all growds up? Tell me how you see yourself now. Let me into your mind and heart.

Leave a comment below and I’ll pick three people whose answers resonate with me for a free copy of Painful Lessons.



As a freshman both in love and in college, sometimes there are painful lessons to be learned.

Excited to begin his first year of college, Brett Bridgeworth has just one problem: he sucks at math. Luckily there’s the sensual and mysterious math tutor, Jeremy Price, to help him out. It isn’t long before Jeremy is tutoring Brett in more than just pie charts, but it isn’t until they split up that Brett discovers Jeremy’s twisted, obsessive side.

Sam Hawthorne is two years ahead of Brett, and they share a strong mutual attraction. When Brett breaks it off with Jeremy and gets involved with Sam, disturbing things start happening. It soon becomes obvious that Jeremy isn’t willing to let Brett go without a


I definitely don’t want what I’m about to share to look like I’m bragging. But I think it’s important to give a glimpse into my first sexual experiences because it has a lot to do with who I am, or at least who I was, when I went through all of that shit with Jeremy. Looking back, now I can see so clearly that I was like a sail with the line sliced, flapping uselessly in the cool sea breeze. Well, maybe I’m getting ahead of the story a little bit. I tend to do that sometimes.

I’ve always been bad at math. I mean, like, really awful. But I’d managed to get through high school because my teachers liked me. Mr. Winter, my algebra teacher, liked me a whole lot. So much so that, senior year, he made a deal with me; he’d give me an A if I let him suck me off.

Mr. Winter wasn’t one of those hot teachers we students fantasized about. He wore a lot of loud polyester shirts, and he had a pot belly. I went back and forth about his offer, and I did a bit of research on the Internet so I’d know what I was getting into. But ultimately I agreed, because if I failed algebra I’d be held back, and that would be way too embarrassing to me and, more importantly, my dad.

My dad owns Bridgeworth Electronics, and if his kid failed high school he’d probably have a heart attack. So I let Mr. Winter pull the blinds, unzip my jeans, and do his thing. The sight of him on his knees and the glare off his shiny bald head was all very surreal. I remember being super nervous because, while I was eighteen and I knew I liked guys, I’d never been touched by one yet. It was just me and my faithful hand, up until Mr. Winter introduced me to fellatio.

At his first touch I was numb inside and grappling with insecurities. Would I come too soon? Would he be too rough? Or worst of all, was he going to make me suck him off? But the initial warm slide of his mouth chased those fears away. Old dude or not, my eyes rolled back in my head, and I’d thrust into his mouth, oblivious to the world around me. Afterward he’d grinned up at me with a crooked, lecherous smile, as if we were somehow coconspirators.

For my first time, it was a little seedy and humiliating. I’d certainly never pictured my initiation to a BJ happening quite like that. But I had to admit his lips on me still felt great, so I shoved down the feelings of shame and took my A. I never saw Mr. Winter again, and I went on toward college still horrible in math but no longer pure as the driven snow.

I spent my summer waiting for responses from the colleges I’d applied to, and worried someone would find out about me and Mr. Winter’s arrangement. Would they be able to retract my grade if they knew what I’d done to get it? I’ll admit to feeling guilty about the whole arrangement with Mr. Winter, but the thought of failing had been too terrifying. When my acceptance letter arrived from UCLA, I put thoughts of my old math teacher behind me and spent the rest of the break celebrating with my friends.

I will say, after my sexual encounter with Mr. Winter, it was as if my hormones woke up for real. I became a horndog of epic proportions. My dad hired a new pool guy for the summer, and he was the opposite of Mr. Winter. This guy was probably in his thirties and hot. I mean smoking, Zac Efron hot. We exchanged lusty looks for a few weeks before anything actually happened. One day after swimming, I was showering in the small side building near the garden, and Lex walked in on me.

He set his pool skimmer against the wall and pulled his shirt off with one yank. I swallowed the lump forming in my throat and waited for him to make the first move. Soundlessly he dropped his shorts and underwear and walked up to me. I couldn’t believe what was happening, but I was excited to think this gorgeous guy wanted to do things to and with me. I believe I said a breathy, “Hi.”

“How old are you, Brett?” he’d asked, almost as if it was an afterthought.

“Eighteen,” I responded right before he pushed me against the slick white tiles and took my mouth roughly.

He tasted like tobacco and cinnamon, and his hands were rough on my hips. His cock wasn’t as wide as mine, but it was longer and it fit next to mine nicely. When the kiss ended, he began grinding his cock against mine, and the heat that flared in my groin was like an inferno. I grasped his shoulders and held on as lust rumbled through me like a steam engine. It wasn’t romantic by any stretch of the imagination. The ceramic tiles were freezing against my back, and they hurt my shoulder blades, but I didn’t care. I was young and ready to explore what I needed sexually.

I’d had a growth spurt toward the end of high school, and I was slightly taller than Lex. I clutched his damp chestnut curls and panted against the orgasm gathering at the base of my cock. He was louder than me. He groaned a lot and cussed as he threw his head back and flexed his hips like a jackhammer. I liked his noises. They were guttural and dirty, and they made me excited as my need ramped even higher. When we came the warm water washed the evidence down the drain as if it never happened.

I remember he stroked my cheek afterward, as I stared into his golden-flecked brown eyes. “That was nice,” he panted, and then he washed under the water with me, dried off with my towel, and got dressed. Right before he left, he turned and asked me, “Are you a virgin?”

I’m sure my cheeks turned red. They were warm now, thinking about how embarrassed I’d been to answer yes. Not to mention I wasn’t even sure if I was answering correctly. Was I a virgin? Did blow jobs count, or did not having had anal make me a virgin? But Lex had just smiled and quietly closed the door. I wasn’t a “virgin” much longer because a week later, Lex took me in that little shower area. I still remember the smell of the coconut-scented lube and the first burning glide of his cock in my untouched ass.

I learned a lot from Lex. The guy had zero inhibitions. We fucked our way through that hot summer, and when it came time to leave for college, I was thankful I didn’t have to go there not knowing anything about sex. I’d assumed I’d show up at UCLA horrible in math and a virgin, but thanks to Lex, only the “bad at math” part was still true.

My dad didn’t have time to drive with me to my new school. He said something about a crisis in the capacitor industry. I didn’t know what he was talking about, and it didn’t really matter because it wasn’t like it was negotiable or anything. Hey, how about you come to my college, see my room, and pretend you give a shit about me for a day? I’ll bake brownies for you?

Yeah, not gonna happen.

I guess at this point, I should mention the reason it was only me and him was because my mom died when I was ten. She went in for a routine hysterectomy and never came home. I remember coming back from school and finding my aunt Rose sobbing in the kitchen. She’d hugged me and my dad, and stayed for weeks to cook casseroles and keep the house clean. But after that she’d had to go back to her family in New York. Aunt Rose called me and my dad “her boys,” and she phoned to check on us often. But my dad’s never home, and I didn’t want to talk about my mom dying, so the time between calls had become longer and longer.

So back to my college experience. My roommate, Ted, was nothing like me. He was boisterous and loud and straight as a ruler. He was hugely into sports and talked about football nonstop. I, on the other hand, knew little about that subject, preferring reading and sketching to getting dirty and running around a field with a pigskin.

We still found some common ground since we both enjoyed eating. We always went to the cafeteria together for all our meals. Generally his jock friends would descend, and I’d sit mostly in silence, shoveling my cheese macaroni in like a machine. I think having Ted as my roommate protected me from being picked on by his homophobic buddies. They gave me hard looks and didn’t sit too close to me, but nobody ever said a disrespectful word to me.

One of the guys I didn’t mind so much. He had auburn hair and light green eyes, and he always smelled like vanilla. His name was Sam Hawthorne, and he was the only one who would speak to me without looking like he was afraid my gayness would get on him. I didn’t hide that I was gay, but I also didn’t flaunt it. The “gayest” thing I did was wear a small diamond stud in my ear that was one half of a pair of earrings my mom had owned. I didn’t wear the earring to make a statement as much as it made me feel connected to my mom.

I soon learned I liked being away from home. When nobody knew me, I could be different and didn’t have to play the role I’d always felt had been thrust on me: good son. Grieving son. It had been eight years since my mom died, and while I missed her and her quirky sense of humor, I wanted to live a little. These were my college years, and I was expecting to have new and exciting experiences. I wasn’t supposed to sit around trying to remember what my mom looked like, although sometimes the fact that I had trouble recalling her features bugged me a lot and made me feel like a horrible person. So I’d pull out the crinkled picture I kept in my wallet. The photo was of a family vacation at the beach a year before she died. She looked happy, and we were both smiling like idiots. My dad wasn’t in the picture, and I guess I mean that both literally and figuratively.