Meet the Crew

Ever wonder about my life outside of writing? Yes or no, here’s a glimpse of the four-legged beauties who keep me (in)sane.

From left to right: Bess, Smaug, Loki, Marc-Andre, Sidney, and Tauriel.

A famous sidekick, a dragon, a god, a goalie and a captain, and an elf. All of my babies are named after people who inspire me or fictional characters I love. How do you choose the name of your pets?

Snippet Saturday: To Arizona

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Beside him he can hear Chandler parroting the standard thing all captains say. “We played a good, hard game. We can do better, but tonight was a good night overall.”

And then they ask him about Dustin.

“Charleston’s taking some time to adjust. He’s a good player, but I think he could be better with this team behind him.”

It’s a nicer answer than Dustin could have hoped for. Very media friendly.

“Has he got a team nickname yet?”

“He’s our Buttercup,” says Chandler, grinning so big it’s damn near blinding.

Dustin makes his excuses and flees for the shower before they can descend on him and ask him what he thinks about the name. His thoughts on it are nothing that can be shared with the public.

He comes out after the media has left and ignores the knowing looks from his teammates. Marc flicks him with his towel as he walks by. “We’re going out to Chiller’s. You’re coming. We’ve got to get you acquainted with the gems of Phoenix.”

“There’s this thing called jet lag,” he says, and they all start talking over him about how they’re experts and they know just what he needs to do. Of all the things to make him laugh with this team for the first time, it’s that. When he sees Chandler, he doesn’t understand the pleased look on his face.

It’s still there when he slides into the booth next to Dustin at the bar. He hands him a beer. “Drink up, Buttercup.”

“Why do you keep calling me that?” he asks.

“Because every time I look at you, I think ‘chin up, Buttercup.’ Maybe stop looking like we’re about to eat you, and we’ll give you a new name.”

“I don’t look at you like you’re about to eat me.” Inexplicably, once he hears the words aloud, his face flushes red. The heat to his cheeks is near instantaneous.

Chandler smirks, leaning in far too close. He bares his teeth. His canines are wickedly pointy. Dustin thinks they might all be real, rather than dentures from a long hockey career.

“Would that make you look any happier?”

His breath noticeably hitches. The tips of his ears join the rapidly heating party.

Chandler comes impossibly closer. Dustin feels like all his air is trapped in his lungs. “If it’ll put a smile on your face….”

His beer sloshes over the side of the glass he sets it down so hard. “Bathroom,” he says. “I’ve got to pee. Sorry.” It’s a weak excuse, and Chandler sees right through it, but he backs away and doesn’t follow him. He slumps against the wall once he’s in the restrooms and covers his face. Fuckity fuck. His gorgeous captain whom he hates and can’t stop fighting with on the ice wants to sleep with him. All but propositioned him.

He inhales shakily.

It’s not a good idea. Just because his dick is on board doesn’t mean it will end well. Chandler may be handsome and hunky, and his muscles might literally be the stuff of dreams, but he’s a cocky asshole. He’s a bulldozer on the ice. He gave Dustin a dumbass nickname. He’s not the type of person Dustin should get involved with.

He crosses to the sink and turns the tap on cold. He splashes his face. His cheeks are red in the mirror and hot to the touch. Now his eyelashes are dripping. He can barely tell where his pupil meets his iris, the brown has darkened so much—something that happens on rare occasions. His lips are chapped from the cold air of the rink. He licks them, absently chewing at his fat bottom one.

As much as he would like to, he can’t spend the rest of the night hiding out in the restroom.

Drying his face, he takes a deep breath and ventures out. He hopes he doesn’t look like he had to go splash water on his face to cool down. Chandler’s at the bar, so he squeezes between Marc and Joki. When Joki’s not a tiger, he’s a towering six foot four and surprisingly skinny. It’s all muscle, but when compared to his height, it doesn’t look as big as it should. He’s so graceful on the ice, Dustin thinks he could have been a figure skater. He’s currently talking to David about something that’s leading him to use grand sweeping gestures while he spouts out sentence after sentence in Finnish.

They’re not bad guys. If Chandler’s managed to get a team that’s so put together and close, maybe he isn’t all bad.

Dustin’s still not going to sleep with him.

Amazon / Barnes and Noble / Dreamspinner Press / Kobo

 

Checking it Twice – Release Day!

CheckingItTwiceFS_v1.jpgCloseted professional hockey player Eric Belanger is falling hard for an out-and-proud male model. He’s unable to resist Dorian’s charm and pushing personal boundaries he never thought he’d cross. But Dorian is the kind of guy who deserves someone who isn’t afraid to be himself. Eric’s fears about what coming out will do to his career clash with the future he hopes to build with Dorian. He knows he’ll eventually have to make a choice.

Dorian Carlisle knows better than to date a man who wants to keep him a secret, but there’s something about Eric he can’t ignore. So he’ll take the risk, and it’ll be all right, because this isn’t a forever romance. He’s happy to live in the moment. But somehow, at some point, feelings sneak up on him and he’s not okay anymore. At a breaking point, Dorian must also make a decision. Their time together will either be the start of something wonderful or nothing more than a happy memory.

Cover by Reese Dante / 75k words / Contemporary, sports / 3rd in the Carlisles Series

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Somehow Dorian’s name got tossed into the ring for a winter clothing line spread in some sports magazine, and now he’s on a set in downtown New York City with five big, hulking hockey players. A few of whom are pretty damn hot, and the majority of whom aren’t American. He can admit he’s a sucker for an accent, and it’s a little distracting.

Jackson, his brother, flicks his nose. He stops staring at the tall European guy who’s talking to the tall French Canadian, who has his shirt off and an abdomen that Dorian would pay to be able to lick. He scrunches his face up at his brother, mimicking the judgey look being thrown his way. He can’t believe Jackson took this job. Isn’t it bad enough that he has to work with Denver—his twin—more often than not?

“What was that for?” he asks, gaze already trying to return to the guys. He can’t help it. He’s innately wired to appreciate beautiful things.

“I’m trying to do your makeup, and you’re making it difficult. Stop looking at the toys you can’t touch and look at me.” Jackson grabs his chin and tilts his head just so, wielding eyeliner in his other hand like it’s a weapon.

Dorian pouts, sticking his bottom lip way out. “You don’t know. I could touch them.” In my dreams.

Jackson gives him a stern look, which is ridiculous since he’s a year younger. Dorian should be the one giving the parental stare-downs. “Hands to yourself. Professional athletes are never a good idea. Now open your eyes wide and don’t blink.”

It takes a lot of self-control to not sneak glances at the hockey players while they get dressed and their makeup gets done. And well, he just doesn’t have that control. So he manages a peek or two. The whole process is a lot of clothes coming on and off, muscles flexing, watching stylists run their hands through gorgeous hair. It’s like being in a candy shop and getting told you can’t have anything. So not fair.

Dorian can list on the fingers of one hand the things he knows about sports, and all of it mostly has to do with what the balls look like and the overall purpose of them: score goals. It’s not that he’s not interested—well, okay, he is—but he just doesn’t have the attention span for it. He’s done jobs with plenty of athletes, both male and female, and their sports sound interesting enough when they talk to him about them. It just doesn’t translate to him watching it.

His lack of interest isn’t normally a problem, but athletes are a peculiar lot, and sometimes that makes working with them difficult. They have a hard time understanding the shoot isn’t about them. It’s about the photographer’s vision. The designer’s vision. It’s about serving a purpose. And then there are the times where it’s like they’re speaking a whole other language.

Like now.

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Available at:

Dreamspinner / Kobo / All Romance / Barnes and Noble / Amazon

*Enter to win your choice of Ebook from my backlist*

Follow the guest post tour:

November 21 – MM Good Book Reviews 
November 28 – Dreamspinner Press Blog 
November 29 – Gay Book Reviews 
November 30 – My Fiction Nook 
December 1 – Alpha Book Reviews 
December 2 – Love Bytes

 

 

Welcome Laura Lascarso!

Laura’s here today to talk about her new release, Andre In Flight!

When up-and-coming Miami painter Martin Fonseca encounters youthful pretty boy Andre Bellamy washing dishes in the kitchen of La Candela, he swears he’s known him before, intimately. But Andre only arrived in Miami weeks ago, after running away from small-town AAndreInFlightFS_v1.jpglabama and his abusive father. When Martin discovers Andre trading sexual favors for a place to stay, he offers him a room in his studio apartment. As roommates only.

What starts as a playful friendship turns into something more as Andre begins posing for Martin, whose true passion is painting fantastical portraits. Martin’s obsession with Andre grows until they are sharing more than just flirtatious conversation. But when an eccentric art collector buys one of Martin’s paintings, Martin’s past jealousies resurface and threaten to destroy what he and Andre have so lovingly built.
DSP buy link http://bit.ly/2ePzPsG
Amazon buy link http://amzn.to/2f32CJl
Barnes & Noble buy link http://bit.ly/2f0rKBH
Goodreads http://bit.ly/2eYCL6T
Publisher Dreamspinner Press: November 16, 2016

Laura Lascarso lives in North Florida with her darling husband, two children, and a menagerie of animals. Her debut novel, Counting Backwards (Simon & Schuster 2012) won the Florida Book Award gold medal for young adult literature. She aims to inspire more questions than answers in her fiction and believes in the power of stories to heal and transform a society.

For social critiques, writer puns, and Parks and Rec gifs, follow her on Twitter @lauralascarso

Facebook /lascarso
Website http://lauralascarso.com
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Andre in Flight: An Excerpt

The Dishwasher

I had a problem with the dishwasher: I couldn’t take my eyes off him.

His hair was tied up in a blue bandana, and he had a tattoo of an arrow on his arm, shooting out the sleeve of his white T-shirt. His skin was the color of caramelized sugar, right before it burns, like God was tending the syrup closely when he was made. It was one of the colors I was still trying to master, difficult because of the way light plays on the surface of skin and brings out the yellow and bronze undertones.

The spray from the dishes kicked back up onto his T-shirt, but he seemed unaware. A secret smile played on his lips, as if there were some private joke running through his mind. I wanted in on it.

“Pay me five bucks, Martin, and I’ll tell him to take his shirt off,” Fang muttered, not even glancing up from where he was dissecting a salmon into ten perfect pink rectangles.

Fang, our head chef, was a big balding white guy in his late thirties with a substantial gut and a pettiness that I found infuriating. He always said the worst thing possible, to expose or ridicule you. He was one of those people who delighted in other people’s discomfort. He’d hit on me my first week on the job. Ever since I’d rejected him, he’d made my life as a server a living hell in small ways. Like not announcing it when my food was up, or using too much pepper in the soup, or cooking the fish ten seconds too long. Melissa told me it was because he wasn’t the food god everyone thought him to be, but somehow, I knew it was personal.

“The woman at table six said your gazpacho was tart,” I said without adding that she also liked its tartness.

“I got something tart for her.” He thrust his pelvis at the stainless steel counter while his expensive Japanese knife sliced through the salmon’s flesh with the precision of a surgeon.

“No fighting,” Melissa said, piling her tray with the rolled silverware I’d just deposited on the counter. As if feeling a new presence among us, she glanced to the back corner of the kitchen where the new guy was up to his elbows in sudsy water. His muscle tone was remarkable, objectively speaking.

“Who’s that?” she asked crossly, as if his presence were a personal affront. I found that odd. The dishwashers came and went. Their pay was shit, and they were usually illegal immigrants whom our manager, Hector, hired and paid under the table. But this kid was black, long and lean, so tall that he had to stoop a little when he reached down into the sink.

Regardless of their ethnicity, Melissa had not said one word to the dishwashers in the three years I’d worked with her, so the mere fact that she’d noticed him and then also thought to inquire about him was unusual.

“That’s Andre,” Fang said. “Fell off the turnip truck on his way from Alabama. Lucky bastard.”

“He looks about sixteen years old,” Melissa complained.

Fang shrugged. “At least he’s legal.” Out of the corner of his eye, he spied me and grinned like a creep. “In one way.”

Andre seemed oblivious to our speculation. The din of the kitchen and the water spray drowned out our conversation. I was thankful for that.

Melissa’s gaze veered in my direction and the effect was as if she’d snapped her fingers in front of my face. “You’ve been sat, Martin. Table seventeen.”

I should have felt the urgency of the moment, but my gaze drifted past Melissa to where Andre stacked silverware into the sterilizer. There was something familiar about him. He caught my eye and smiled bashfully, like he’d been seen doing something silly. He had dimples. I’d seen those dimples before.

“I know him,” I whispered.

“Customers are waiting,” Melissa said again. Her knifelike eyes focused on mine. I always knew with Melissa what she wanted me to do next. Like when she demanded I move away from landscape and still life paintings and start drawing people. It was a difficult move because people can’t be studied as closely as you would a flower or a fruit, and they expire after a few hours. But Melissa’s will was indomitable.

“A banana is a banana no matter how big or yellow you paint it,” she’d said to me not long after we’d met. “Your paintings need movement. People. Animals. People on animals. You’re too afraid of the human body. You were meant to paint portraits, Martin. Please, trust me on this.”

So I began painting people—muscles, lips, noses, eyes, hands, skin, hair, teeth, all the delicate and intimate folds of the human body—which stepped up my game dramatically. Still, it was daunting. There were like, a million shades of skin, and I’d only nailed about two dozen. In any case Melissa was right so often that I’d come to rely on her instincts.

“Ten bucks and I’ll get you his picture,” Fang said.

“Fuck you, Fang.” It was my standard response to him.

“Anytime, Martin,” he said with a sneer.

The restaurant quickly filled up, and I didn’t get another chance to spy on Andre until after the front shut down, but it was useless because Fang was there, bossing people around, talking about some stupid movie he’d watched, banging pots, and throwing his weight around lest we forget that the kitchen was his domain, and we were the mere underlings who presented his creations to the customers starting at thirty dollars a plate.

I wanted to know where Andre had come from, how he’d landed in the kitchen of La Candela, and what was the source of my compulsion to follow his every move. I wanted to know every single thing about him, and I wanted to know it immediately.

“We’re going to Wine Bar tonight for drinks,” Melissa said, hanging up her black apron on the hook under where she’d Sharpied her name on masking tape. “You coming?”

I didn’t answer. I was watching Andre stack clean dishes into plastic crates. I could watch him for hours.

“Do we know him?” I asked.

“No, we do not,” she said with absolute certainty. “You coming or not?”

“Yeah, I’ll meet you there.”

I took my time with closing, trying to find an opening when Fang wasn’t lording over the kitchen. But he didn’t leave once, not even to take a piss. It was as if he were deliberately obstructing me. I wanted to shove him out of my way.

Finally, I gave up, drove to my studio apartment to shower and change, then met up with Melissa at Wine Bar, which was owned by a friend of ours we used to work with. He’d saved up his tip money to open it, and we threw him whatever business we could. High-end restaurants were a dime a dozen in the Grove and the competition was fierce, so even though his wines were overpriced, we went.

“You’re awfully quiet tonight, Martian,” Melissa said. It was the name she used for me when I was off in my own world, which was pretty often. “Still mad about table twenty-two?”

Table twenty-two stiffed me. One of them was the bassist from some washed-up rock band from the nineties. I didn’t know their music, even though he insisted they were famous. He was definitely a cokehead. Him and his entourage drank Patron like it was Perrier, racked up a $500 bill, and left me 5 percent. Classy.

“Yeah, that was shitty.” She wouldn’t want to hear that I was really thinking about the dishwasher, the seemingly underage dishwasher, and the sense that I’d known him before, intimately.

“You’re still the hottest piece of Cuban ass east of Dixie,” she said and rubbed my back. Sometimes when customers stiffed me, I took it personally, like maybe I hadn’t performed well enough, or my appearance wasn’t pleasing. Melissa was always building me up. For whatever reason she indulged my vanity. “Speaking of which….” She arched one eyebrow, an invitation to come back to her place. Melissa and I hooked up from time to time, whenever one of us was lonely. I didn’t normally go for women, but she intrigued me. I’d painted her many times, but she was like a phantom. The light wouldn’t stick to her.

“I can’t tonight.” I dropped a few bills onto the table and said good night to our company, the servers of some of the other swanky restaurants in the Grove. You’d think after working all night long in a restaurant, we wouldn’t want to blow all our money on expensive drinks in yet another restaurant, but it’s what we did. I kissed Melissa’s cheek.

“Sleep well, Martian,” she said.

“I’ll try.”

But I rarely did.

 

Saturday Short

Bastien wraps his arms around James’s waist, notching his chin against his shoulder. When James leans back, Bastien widens his stance and takes his weight. James’s hands rest over his, cradling them to his stomach.

“It’s gorgeous,” says James, the words almost swallowed by the noise of the crowd around them, the awe almost concealed.

img_6987They’re looking at the Eiffel tower from their position on the bridge, standing steady in a sea of people all going somewhere. The merry-go-round spins, children and adults riding the ceramic animals in dizzying circles, the music spilling out into the night. It’s two minutes to eleven, and they’re waiting for the hour. The tower is going to brighten, lights sparkling and tap-dancing across the structure. Bastien has promised James that once he sees it, they’ll take a spin on the carousel.

Bastien tightens his arms, ducking his face to press a kiss to the cool skin of James’s neck. He smells like fresh air and a hint of salt, sweat from spending the last fourteen hours trekking the streets of Paris. “Je t’aime,” he says, lips grazing flesh. Three years they’ve been together now, and he never tires of letting James know.

James shivers beneath his touch, and his chest rises and falls with a low sigh. “Je t’aime mon cheri,” he returns, voice husky, twisting to press a kiss to Bastien’s cheek. His lips linger, warming Bastien.

The Eiffel Tower comes to life, splashing flashing lights across the dark sky.

 

 

Bi, bi… bye?

I’m bisexual. Have been, will always be. I dated a girl in middle school – I want to say 7th grade when I was starting to figure things out – and I got the usual “it’s a phase” party line from damn near everyone. Which, I’m a stubborn individual and the lack of belief in me knowing what I wanted pissed me off to an insane degree. I kissed the girl, and I didn’t enjoy it. I really wanted to. I felt like I had to enjoy it to prove to everyone that I properly knew myself. I was 12/13 at the time, and I wasn’t completely in the know about chemistry and the weird ways in which it worked. I kissed some guys after that, and you know what? They weren’t all that great either. Turns out I’m just not a fan of kissing all that much. It only took me nearly a decade to figure that out.

Fast forward over the years, and I never got a girlfriend. I didn’t sleep with chicks, didn’t kiss them, did a whole lot of nothing other than look. This unintentionally reinforced the idea that it was all a phase to everyone, and I’d get these amused kind of looks from people whenever I’d mention a crush on a girl, etc. You know the ones. The “I’m playing along” glances. Then, when I continued to insist I was bisexual, came the all mighty question. How do I know if I’ve never slept with a woman? I find this question infuriating on multiple levels, but I’m not going to go into that particular rant.

But eventually I started to doubt I was actually bi as time went on and my experience remained at a whopping zero. There was this little doubt in the back of my head that everyone was right, because I’d never done anything so how could I know. Tinder wasn’t working – turns out saying you’re bisexual on there is a big no-no for the women who exclusively like women. I’m socially awkward. I didn’t have friends who identified as anything other than straight. Maybe I wasn’t trying hard enough because deep down I didn’t want to.

 

Recently this has changed. I gave up on Tinder and went to a more bi-friendly app. And I met women. All of whom had pretty much the same thing to say about the attitude they received from others. One encountered a woman on Tinder who’s bio read “Bi? Bye.” And this wasn’t an uncommon response. People in a community that should be supportive were just as skeptical as everyone else about our sexuality. Apparently it’s a shock to some, but bi women can be happy in a relationship without a penis being involved. We’re not trying to “play the field” or some shit.

So, my point with this ridiculously long post, is that bisexuals shouldn’t have to feel like they’re making their interest up to be, what, cool or something? We shouldn’t have to have sex to get everyone to leave us alone and stop arguing with us. I hate that I started to doubt myself. I don’t like that my first thought after having sex with a woman was, “Oh thank god, I enjoyed it and I’m not crazy. I do know myself.”

It’s probably one of the hardest things to do ever (I suck at it), but don’t listen to anyone who thinks they know you better than you. Honestly, they don’t know a damn thing.

 

It’s Here!

Will You Be My Escort

willyoubemyescortfs_v1A Carlisles novel

Jackson Carlisle has rotten luck with men and women, and after an especially bad situation, he takes a step back from romance. But with a two-week family reunion in Hawaii looming, his mom is determined to set him up with one of the sweet singles she knows would be perfect for him. A normal person would tell her no and be done with it. Instead, Jackson tells her he has a boyfriend. The only problem? He doesn’t.

Aaron Wilkes is an escort. He’s a little surprised when a friend’s girlfriend hires him to date her brother, but he’s had stranger jobs. Jackson is cute, and he thinks a fling with Aaron might be just the kind of no-strings-attached fun he needs to get over his dry spell. As they explore the islands together, their carefully laid plans begin to get away from them. Feelings aren’t supposed to come into play, but that shouldn’t be a problem. After all, you can’t fall in love in two weeks….

Find it at: Dreamspinner  / Barnes and Noble / All Romance / Amazon

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What readers are saying about the second Carlisles novel

“I absolutely love the Carlisle family. They are a large, close-knit, in your business family that loves, respects and accepts each other for the person they are.” H. Martin – Bayou Book Junkie

“There is a lot of angst in this as well as family love, loyalty, hot sex, misunderstandings, denying feelings, nosey family members and lust. The games are fun to read about and instead of making the MCs heroes, they fall and have to pick themselves up just like normal people.” Babs – Amazon Review

I loved the premise and the execution. Filled with humor, hot sex, and enough realism that I didn’t have to suspend disbelief to get through it, this absolutely hit the spot in all the right ways.” Belen – Gay Book Reviews

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Win a paperback copy of Dinner for One the first in The Carlisles series.

Bastien isn’t used to bad reviews. His French restaurant is the toast of the town, and when a well-known critic insults it, he’s left off-kilter. Luckily for him he’s found a distraction. He’s just met an attractive writer at his niece’s school bake sale. He’s into food, into Bastien and the touch of kink they share, and there’s a chemistry between them that might make the perfect recipe.

James isn’t expecting to meet a good-looking French chef at a bake sale, but he’s not going to let the chance slide. It comes as a surprise when the chef turns out to be the owner of a place he knows—and has reviewed—and it puts James in a sticky situation. So he might have to omit some pertinent information to make it work… at least for now.

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Coming soon: The third installment in The Carlisles series, Checking it Twice, arrives on November 28th, 2016. Join Dorian and Eric on their not so smooth romance.

Closeted professional hockey player Eric Belanger is falling hard for an out-and-proud male model. He’s unable to resist Dorian’s charm and pushing personal boundaries he never thought he’d cross. But Dorian is the kind of guy who deserves someone who isn’t afraid to be himself. Eric’s fears about what coming out will do to his career clash with the future he hopes to build with Dorian. He knows he’ll eventually have to make a choice.

 Dorian Carlisle knows better than to date a man who wants to keep him a secret, but there’s something about Eric he can’t ignore. So he’ll take the risk, and it’ll be all right, because this isn’t a forever romance. He’s happy to live in the moment. But somehow, at some point, feelings sneak up on him and he’s not okay anymore. At a breaking point, Dorian must also make a decision. Their time together will either be the start of something wonderful or nothing more than a happy memory.