More Than A Friend by Nic Starr
Buylinks: Dreamspinner | Amazon | All Romance
More Than: Book Two
Tim Walker is a free man. He’s broken up with his girlfriend and is ready to move on to a new relationship. But the relationship he wants to pursue is fraught with challenges. Firstly, Scott Richardson is a man, and only Tim’s closest friends know Tim’s bisexual. Secondly, everyone knows Scott relishes the single life. And then there’s the big one: Scott is the younger brother of Tim’s best friend, Paul.
Scott can’t deny an attraction to his brother’s friend Tim. Lean, dark blond, and blue-eyed, Tim is hot and hard not to notice—especially since Scott and Tim work together. Too bad the man is straight, and too bad Scott worries how Paul will react if Scott hooks up with his best friend.
Tim and Scott want to see if there’s a chance for more than friendship between them, but neither of them wants to lose Paul. Together, they must find the courage to follow their hearts and find a way to have it all.
Nic Starr lives in Australia where she tries to squeeze as much into her busy life as possible. Balancing the demands of a corporate career with raising a family and writing can be challenging but she wouldn’t give it up for the world.
Always a reader, the lure of m/m romance was strong and she devoured hundreds of wonderful m/m romance books before eventually realising she had some stories of her own that needed to be told!
When not writing or reading, she loves to spend time with her family–an understanding husband and two beautiful daughters–and is often found indulging in her love of cooking and planning her dream home in the country.
You can find Nic on Facebook, Twitter and her blog. She’d love it if you stopped by to say hi.
“FUCK!” THE clatter of the pan hitting the floor reverberated around the tiled kitchen, as did the profanity that automatically fell from Tim’s lips. He dropped into a crouch and surveyed the damage as Sam came running into the kitchen. The door leading from the office to the kitchen slammed, announcing Sam’s presence.
“Are you okay?” Sam asked as he came to a stop and dropped to his haunches next to his friend and head chef.
Tim looked at Sam and took a deep breath before answering. “I’m fine. Shame I can’t say the same about the cupcakes.” He indicated the dozen or so cupcakes scattered across the floor. He was slightly embarrassed at his own clumsiness but more pissed off than anything.
Sam glanced to the floor, then looked at Tim. “The floor might be clean, but definitely not clean enough to eat off,” he chuckled. “C’mon, I’ll give you a hand. No point crying over spilled… cupcakes.” Sam stood and walked to the broom closet to grab a broom while Tim started picking up the damaged cupcakes and dropping them back into the pan they’d fallen out of. Sam swept up the crumbs while Tim took the tray to the trash and tipped the offending goodies in.
“Damn, I can’t believe I dropped the whole pan of them. Now I’ll have to stay back and make another batch.” Tim looked at the clock. It was already past five and the rest of the crew had finished up for the day, since there were no functions booked for that evening. Tim looked at Sam as he came back from putting the broom away. Sam didn’t show any of the annoyance Tim himself felt. “The cupcakes are for the Ferguson lunch tomorrow. I was baking them tonight so I’d have plenty of time to frost and decorate in the morning. I’ll have to get the replacement batch done tonight so they’ll have time to cool. It’s either that or come in extra early, but I don’t feel like getting in any earlier than I have to.”
“I’ll stay and give you a hand. We’ll get it done in no time,” Sam said.
“Thanks. I appreciate the help. More for the company than anything else,” Tim said before walking to the storeroom.
Together they gathered ingredients—flour, sugar, eggs, milk—and began making the batter.
Tim glanced at Sam, who was quietly humming as he cracked the eggs into a bowl. If Tim wasn’t mistaken, it was one of the Bad Boys’ songs, although it was somewhat hard to tell, as Sam really couldn’t carry a tune. Sam’s cheerfulness brought a smile to Tim’s face, though.
“Are you sure you’re okay to stay back? You don’t have any plans for the night? Something better to do?” Tim asked with a smirk.
“Something better than baking?” Sam said as he tossed an eggshell into the trash. “No, nothing planned. Plus it’s quite fun being out here with you in the kitchen. Much better than being stuck in the office.”
“You wouldn’t rather go see your man?”
“Sure I would,” Sam said, “but he’s not back in town until Sunday. The band is working on a new album. Four more days until he returns. Not that I’m counting or anything.” Judging from the smile on Sam’s face as he spoke of Rob, he was definitely looking forward to Rob being back in Blue Point.
Tim was pleased to see his friend and boss so happy. Sam was one of the most open and caring guys Tim knew, and he deserved all the good things that were coming his way. Sam and his boyfriend, Rob, had been through some rocky times over the past few months, with events happening that had placed a real strain on their new relationship. But things had changed for the better since just before Christmas, when Rob and Sam had sorted a whole lot of things out. Rob had come clean about his health issues and shared the circumstances surrounding his ending up working at the hospital as part of his community service. Once the air was cleared, there was no stopping them, and they were really good together. Not that Tim was an expert in relationships, given his disastrous last one. Even thinking about Erica made him cringe.
“Things are going well for you two, then? Rob’s doing okay?” Tim asked.
“Rob’s great,” Sam replied. “Since he got the all clear and hasn’t had to have any more treatments, he’s improved out of this world. There hasn’t been any nausea or tiredness these last few weeks. It’s like he’s a different man.”
“I’m glad,” Tim said, genuinely relieved things were looking up. “I guess I’ll see more of him around the place now we’re sharing a house.”
“I hope so. When he’s in town, anyway. It’ll depend on the recording schedule and tour plans. By the way, I don’t think I said thanks for helping with the move.” Sam began placing the paper cases into the baking tray while Tim stirred the batter.
“No worries. It wasn’t like you brought much with you anyway.”
At the beginning of January, Sam had decided to move out of the small cottage he shared with his aunt Poppy and into the house Tim shared with his best friend, Paul.
“Yeah. Lucky for me, I didn’t need to. You guys had the place well set up. I can’t tell you what a relief it is to have a bit of privacy.” Sam and his aunt were co-owners of Poppy’s Pantry, a catering business that was growing by leaps and bounds. But living with his aunt, now that Sam was involved in a relationship, hadn’t been working so well.
Tim barked a laugh. “It’s not like you’re going to have much privacy in a house full of guys.”
“Maybe not,” Sam replied, “but at least I won’t be worried about Poppy overhearing what goes on behind closed doors. There’s no better mood killer than imagining your aunt listening to you making out with your boyfriend.”
“Oh God, enough!” Tim laughed. “I don’t want to be picturing that either, thanks. We might need to send you back to Poppy’s.” Although he was teasing, he knew there was a touch of jealousy rearing its head.
Sam looked up from the cupcake liners he was filling. “Seriously, though, I don’t know what I would have done without the support of you all over recent months, what with Poppy and her broken hip meaning she wasn’t able to work, and it all happening over the holiday season.”
“Hey, that’s what friends are for. You’d do the same for me if I needed help,” Tim said.
“I would.” Sam nodded seriously before bursting out laughing. “Oh God, look at us. Getting all mushy.”
“Here, give me that.” Tim took the tray, balancing it with a practiced hand as he carried it to the oven and slid it in.
By the time he’d turned around, Sam was seated on a stool at the workbench with a couple of bottles of water. “Here.” Sam pushed one of the bottles his way. Tim twisted the cap off the bottle and enjoyed a long drink. He hadn’t realized how thirsty he was until the water hit his mouth. It was hot in the kitchen with ovens going, and Tim had been on his feet all day. He nearly finished the bottle before placing it on the counter.
Tim surveyed the mess in front of them—bowls, beaters, and containers of flour and sugar, evidence of the batch of cupcakes in the oven—but it wouldn’t take long to clean up. Within five minutes, the kitchen was returned to its spick-and-span state. Tim finally pulled up a stool next to Sam and looked at the large clock on the wall. “Ten to fifteen minutes and they should be ready.” He rested his forearms on the counter and let out a sigh as he laid his head on his arms.
“How’re you doing, Tim?” Sam asked. “We haven’t had a chance to talk properly, with you working so many shifts.”
Tim tilted his head to look at Sam. “Just tired. Nothing I can’t handle.”
“I don’t mean that,” Sam said, “although I don’t want you working yourself into the ground. I meant, how are you coping since the breakup?”
Tim lifted his head and sat up straight. He turned to face Sam. “In all honesty, I’m doing great.” He raised the water bottle to his mouth and downed the last of its contents.
Sam raised an eyebrow.
“I mean it,” Tim said. “It was a long time coming, damn overdue. You were right when you told me ending it was the right thing to do.”
“But that doesn’t mean it doesn’t hurt. You’re bound to feel regret, loneliness—hell, I don’t know—it may not have been the best relationship, but that doesn’t mean ending it has to be easy.”
Tim stopped twisting the empty water bottle and put it down on the counter. “Look, I’m really okay, Sam. The main thing I feel is relief. The thing with Erica and me, it was a relationship we just fell into. Erica didn’t love me any more than I loved her. Fuck, you know we reached the point where we didn’t see eye to eye on anything anymore. I certainly couldn’t do anything right in her eyes, and she was happy to move on to bigger and better things.”
“Yeah, sorry about that, man.” Sam sympathized.
Tim laughed but without humor. He may not have loved Erica, but it didn’t make it any easier to see his then-girlfriend flirting with the lead singer of Rob’s band and disappearing with him later in the evening. The only good thing about the events of that night was that it simplified the decision to end things then and there and not drag it out any longer.
“Thanks.” Tim stood and moved to the oven to check the cupcakes. A quick touch to test for springiness determined they were ready. He pulled the tray out and let the oven door slam shut. He used two hands, protected by oven mitts, to carry the tray to the counter, not wanting a repeat performance of dropping the hot tray onto the floor. “These can cool overnight, and I’ll frost them in the morning.” He draped a clean tea towel over the cupcakes.
“So I guess the benefit of you being single is I don’t have to feel guilty about scheduling you to work Valentine’s,” Sam said as he threw their bottles into the recycling container.
“Sure. No worries, buddy. You enjoy your Valentine’s with your man.”
“Oh, I intend to,” Sam said and waggled his eyebrows, causing Tim to laugh.
Tim did a last check of the kitchen to make sure everything was turned off while Sam shut down his computer and retrieved his messenger bag from the office. Tim grabbed his own bag on the way out. They switched off the lights and locked up before heading to their cars. As they walked their separate ways, Tim counted his blessings: good friends and a job he loved. Love life be damned.
RJ Scott – Texas Wedding is out today
The final book in the Texas series which started with The Heart of Texas is out today
Sometimes Riley and Jack have to be the ones to fight other people’s battles and stand up for what is right.
With the life changing prospect of a yes vote from SCOTUS on the issue of same sex marriage, Riley and Jack realise they have decisions to make. Add in some distressing family news and the very real possibility that old secrets may resurface, and this last book in the Texas series pulls together as many threads as the boys can manage to handle.
But through all the ups and the downs, children, family events, laughter, and tears, there is nothing as special as the forever love between these two men.
The full book list:
Book 1 – The Heart of Texas
Book 2 – Texas Winter
Book 3 – Texas Heat
Book 4 – Texas Family
Book 5 – Texas Christmas
Book 6 – Texas Fall
Book 7 – Texas Wedding
RJ Scott has been writing since age six, when she was made to stay in at lunchtime for an infraction involving cookies. She was told to write a story and two sides of paper about a trapped princess later, a lover of writing was born.
As an avid reader herself, she can be found reading anything from thrillers to sci-fi to horror. However, her first real true love will always be the world of romance where she takes cowboys, bodyguards, firemen and billionaires (to name a few) and writes dramatic and romantic stories of love and passion between these men.
With over seventy titles to her name and counting, she is the author of the award winning book, The Christmas Throwaway. She is also known for the Texas series charting the lives of Riley and Jack, and the Sanctuary series following the work of the Sanctuary Foundation and the people it protects.
Her goal is to write stories with a heart of romance, a troubled road to reach happiness, and most importantly, that hint of a happily ever after.
www.tumblr.com/blog/rjscott (some NSFW (not safe for work) photos)
Competition to win $15 Amazon/Are giftcard, and 2 further prizes of RJ Scott e-books – closes 8th October at 00:01 GMT (London)
OR DIRECT LINK:
Jack slid his arms around Riley from behind and pressed his cheek to the space between broad shoulders. He couldn’t stop himself from moving his hands under the soft T-shirt material and caressing the warm skin. Touching Riley was an addiction.
“You all done?” he asked.
Riley turned in Jack’s hold, the laundry in his hands crushing between them.
“It’s like these tiny T-shirts multiply,” Riley groused. “I turn my back for one minute and suddenly there’s another ten of the damn things.”
Jack smiled up at his husband, at the narrowing of his beautiful hazel eyes and the stubborn set of his mouth. Then he released his hold of his waist and instead cradled his face.
“It was your idea to sort out the twins’ old clothes,” he reminded Riley.
“I wanted to box it away….”
“We can do it together at the weekend.”
“I want to do it today—”
“It’s a Tuesday.” Jack interrupted Riley’s reasons why. “I thought you said you had that report to read from Tom?”
Riley huffed a little. “I can’t concentrate.”
“So, you’re sorting clothes?”
“Is that a bad thing?” Riley sounded so defensive.
Jack sighed. “What are you avoiding?”
Riley raised an eyebrow, and Jack couldn’t help but press a kiss to his lips. After all this time together, he had learned these weird domestic chores Riley undertook were usually a way of avoiding things he didn’t want to do. Whether it was Riley’s way of thinking about things, or pure procrastination, Jack didn’t know.
“I have a shareholder meeting the first week of February.” Riley finally said.
“I know. I got the same letter, but I wasn’t planning on going. Why will this be different from any other meeting?” Jack was confused. Hayes Oil meetings were dry and boring, and he’d survived the only two he’d attended by slouching back in a chair directly opposite Riley. He would eat as many of the complimentary mints as he could manage and gently disrupt the meeting by rustling the wrappers. This never failed to make Riley smile. Mostly Jack conned Josh into going, or gave Riley his proxy. Still, when he did go, he loved nothing better than insolently lazing around and being all cowboy in the room full of suits. Inevitably, this led to hot sex with Riley, who couldn’t keep his eyes off Jack throughout the entire meeting.
“I have something to admit,” Riley said with a sigh. He eased himself away from Jack and leaned back against the cabinet. “Dad has appointed this new manager to the team, and we have a history.”
Jack huffed a laugh. “Riley, you have a history with so many people, I lost count.”
Riley looked affronted for a second, but that emotion didn’t slip into a ready smile, so Jack realized this was serious. Jack stood next to Riley and waited for the man he loved, to admit what the hell was going on. In fact, Riley had been weird for a few days: less quick to smile, less easy to poke at, in a hurry to go find a quiet space away from everyone.
“Not like that,” Riley said. “The woman’s name is Charlotte Harrold, and her dad is Josiah.”
Jack nodded. He and Josiah had their own kind of history, one where Josiah had tried courting Donna and failed, where Josiah looked down at Jack, and where Jack refused to give a rat’s ass. The fucker had blocked Hayes Oil on several occasions and didn’t have a high opinion of Riley, nor of Riley and Jack. Add to that, Tom, Riley’s right-hand man at work, had unfortunately had a run-in with Josiah Jr., Charlotte’s brother. Too much history between the Hayes and Harrold families.
“Why would Jim hire her, then?” Jack paused to think about what he knew concerning Charlotte. “I remember her being a bitch with daddy issues.”
Riley shrugged. “I don’t know. I mean, I asked him, and he said she’s good at what she does, and that she’s changed, whatever that means. Oh, and I should give her as much of a chance as people gave me.”
“Cryptic. So you think she’s going to cause trouble.”
Riley looked at Jack sharply. “Hell no. I know her work, and she’ll be an asset. It’s only….”
Jack tensed. “You slept with her.”
“Jesus, Jack,” Riley said instantly. “No way. She was Jeff’s. I mean she and Jeff were having an affair. He called her Charlie, and I damn well walked in on them once. The wedding photos were still wet at the printer’s, and there he was, fucking around on Lisa.”
“Yeah, oh. And we’re going to be in the same room as her. All I can remember is that Jeff was balls-deep in Charlie, and he had his hands—” Riley demonstrated with his hands in front of him in a ring. “—around her neck.”
Jack immediately realized what the problem was. The joined families, whether Campbell or Hayes, had quietly consigned Jeff and everything he had done to something never to be talked about. Riley never shared cute childhood stories where he, Eden, and Jeff were friends; no tales of brotherly misadventures. To Jack’s mind, Jeff had been born a sadistic bastard, and likely there were a lot of stories Riley hadn’t told him about the kind of things Jeff had done to both Riley and Eden.
“Seeing her makes you face what he did,” Jack said. He reached over and held Riley’s hand, lacing their fingers together and squeezing. This was what he did best. He was there for Riley, supporting him, holding him up, knowing as much as he needed to know, and still being there for the man who was his other half.
Riley sighed and bumped shoulders with Jack. “Yeah,” he whispered.
“So your dad doesn’t know that Jeff and Charlie were…?”
“No. I’m sure I’m the only one.”
“Lisa didn’t know?”
Riley squeezed back. “She always knew he was unfaithful, but with Charlie, no, I don’t think so.”
For a second, Jack allowed the words to settle. Lisa was damaged by much more than physical pain. She had a world of hurt where her dead husband was concerned, not least of which was the end result of what he did to her. The secret she carried with her was too awful for Jack to contemplate knowing how she lived with it.
“We don’t see enough of Lisa and the kids,” he said.
That was true. Lisa hadn’t visited in a while. Although to be fair, whenever Jack and Riley organized a family gathering of any sort, they always invited her. She’d moved to San Antonio with her fiancé, Ed, and was building a place for herself and the kids well away from the life she’d had here. Luke was sixteen, Annabelle coming up for nineteen. They weren’t at the ranch as often as Josh’s kids. They had lives of their own, but still, Jack was all about family.
“We’ll get them over, or maybe we’ll go visit them,” Jack said. He wasn’t going to let Riley focus on this one thing to distract himself from the central issue. “Back to the meeting. When you sit there, it will be all business, and if she comes over to talk to you, you smile, nod, and put on the best goddamn Riley act you can.”
“You’re not planning on being there.”
“I hate them,” Jack said, then he felt guilty. Riley was clearly concerned about the meeting, and he should make the effort. “I can try.”
“Don’t say that.” Riley smiled at Jack. “As much as I like it when you do that ‘I don’t care, I’m a hot, dusty cowboy’ thing, I seriously think you should stay away.”
Riley looked at him again. This time, the shadows had disappeared from his eyes. “It’s like torture for you.”
“Tell me more about how you like the cowboy thing,” Jack growled.
Riley grinned. “When you push the chair back and you kind of sprawl there, with your thumbs in your belt. You smile and nod when you need to and all I want to do is crawl over the table and ride you right there in the meeting.”
Jack’s cock swelled and pressed against his jeans. Riley’s voice was husky and low and sent every molecule of blood south.
“Sometimes you unwrap those stupid little mints, and you press one to your lips, and then you suck it in.”
“I like the mints.”
“All I can imagine is my cock in your mouth, and I’m so freaking hard I can’t concentrate on the numbers.”
Jack wriggled to get comfortable, and he had to press his free hand to his zip to ease some of the pressure. “Like it’s easy for me,” he muttered. “You in your suit, and those ties you wear, and all I can imagine is ripping it all off, tying you down and fucking you into tomorrow. That’s the only reason I go.”
Riley moved so quickly Jack didn’t have time to draw breath. He straddled Jack and pushed him back on the bed.
“Carol.” Jack mentioned their nanny’s name with the last remaining moments of having the presence of mind. “People…,” he added as a warning, as Riley stole his words with the deepest, dirtiest, messiest kiss he’d had since the last time they’d been in the barn.
Riley pulled back enough so Jack could look into his eyes. “Barn,” Riley said. “Now.”
Riley scrambled up and away, unbuttoning his jeans and adjusting himself. “Now,” he repeated.
With determination, they made it out of the house. Hayley was at school, Max out with Robbie and the horses, the twins were happy with Carol, so they had nothing to stop them. It didn’t matter it was ten in the morning, this was happening.
Cronin’s Key III Blog Tour
Cronin’s Key III is on tour here.
Bayou Book Junkie: 5 * Review
Fangirl Moments and My Two Cents:
Just Love Romance: 4 * Review
Molly Lolly: 4.5 * Review
Scattered Thoughts & Rogue Words:
Sinfully Addicted to All Male Romance: 5 * Review
The Blogger Girls: 4.5 * Review
The Fuzzy, Fluffy World of Chris T. Kat:
The Novel Approach: 4 * Review
Vampires, Werewolves, and Fairies, Oh My:
Pre-Order Buylinks for Cronin’s Key III
Cronin’s Key III is now available for pre-order!Amazon | Smashwords | ARe | B&N | iBooksBlurb:
History isn’t always what it seems…
Twelve months after his change, Alec MacAidan is still getting used to his many vampire talents. While most vampires would give anything to have more than one supernatural power, Alec craves nothing more than peace and time alone with Cronin. But when Alec meets entities from outside this realm, he’s left powerless in their presence.
Zoan are half-lycan, half-dragon creatures that have slipped through time and reality, seemingly undetected by man and vampire. Or have they? They bear an uncanny resemblance to gargoyles, leaving Alec’s view on all things weird to get a whole lot weirder.
This new quest leads Alec, Cronin, and their band of friends to Paris, Rome, and Moscow, where they learn that gargoyles aren’t simply statues on walls. In the underground pits beneath churches all over the world, Alec discovers the Key’s true destiny. Facing the Zoan might take every talent he has. And he may need help from the dead to get them all out alive.
Alec sat back in the chair and held in a sigh, feeling every bit the lab rat he’d become. Since he’d changed into a vampire a year ago, he’d been put through test after test, so each and every one of his unending list of talents could be explored and documented.
He’d agreed to this, and he knew it was the right thing to do, but in that very moment, he wished to be doing anything else.
And with talents for making errant thoughts an instant reality—like setting fire to sofas and making Xbox controllers explode in Eiji’s hand because he’d somehow won—it wasn’t a good frame of mind to be in.
He loved Jodis. He really did. She had become one of his best friends. But she’d also taken it upon herself to document his talents, and he’d just about had enough for one day. If replicating wasn’t a talent so frowned upon in the vampire world, he’d make a copy of himself to endure Jodis’ tests while he and Cronin hid out in their bedroom. He’d replicated himself a few times, experimentally of course, and found it too taxing on himself anyway.
“Can you do it again?” she asked, notepad and pen in hand.
Alec had found a certain talent he’d dubbed the chameleon, for obvious reasons, because he could make things change color. It was absurd, really, and probably of no better use than a party trick. But he could, if he concentrated, turn a red pen blue or a white shirt black. The talent could only manifest by touch, and it lasted only a few minutes before returning to its original color, but Jodis was rather intrigued.
Alec, on the other hand, had passed bored like it was standing still and was well on his way to irate. “Jodis, I’ve kinda had enough of this today.”
“Last one, I promise.”
For Alec, it wasn’t so much as reining in a temper anymore, where the most damage done was a cutting remark. Now it was keeping a lid on a few dozen talents that reacted poorly to anger. He only had to get really pissed off and a rage would barrel out of him like nuclear fallout, literally knocking humans and vampires off their feet. Or he could burst eardrums with a furious roar, or maybe he could turn them to stone, or dust. Or maybe, just maybe, he could rip an earthquake through the apartment so he didn’t have to do any more of these stupid fucking tests.
“Alec,” Eleanor cautioned from the next room.
“I wasn’t actually going to do that,” he replied petulantly. He knew Eleanor, with the gift of foresight, saw possible outcomes of decisions made, and that did nothing to quell his frustration. “Jesus, now my thoughts aren’t even my own.” Standing up, he snatched the purple notebook off the desk, holding it for half a second and slamming it back down. It was now black, as was every page inside it, and it was smoldering as though it almost caught fire.
Cronin was suddenly in front of him, a hand cupped to his face. “He’s had enough,” he said to Jodis, and they disappeared.
* * * *
As soon as Alec’s feet hit the soft earth, he took a deep breath of fresh air and reveled in the silence.
His life hadn’t exactly been quiet in the last twelve months.
He felt the warmth of Cronin’s hand in his, smelled the sweet aromas of heath and moss from both the vampire beside him and the cool air of the long-abandoned battlefield, and Alec exhaled loudly.
Cronin had somehow learned to quiet his mind a little and it gave Alec the silence he so desperately needed. In the last twelve months, Cronin had taken Alec on more time-outs than he could count. Knowing when he’d had enough and was reaching his breaking point, Cronin would simply remove Alec from the situation, leaping him somewhere quiet where his mind could have some much needed solitude. But with a gentle squeeze of his hand, Cronin reassured him he was there.
“I’m sorry,” Alec said.
“Don’t apologize,” Cronin said adamantly. “I can’t begin to imagine your frustrations.”
“Jodis is only trying to help. I behaved badly.” He could very well speak words directly into Jodis’ mind and tell her privately that he was sorry. But he’d prefer not to invade the thoughts of others, preferring to apologize in person.
“She understands,” Cronin said, trying to pacify him.
Alec sighed loudly and allowed the quiet to envelop him. “I love it here,” he said eventually.
The field at Dunadd, Scotland, had become a sanctuary for Alec. No voices in his head, no city of millions with flurrying thoughts rushing unbidden through his mind, no politics of vampire councils, no meetings, no one hovering.
“It affords you a great privacy,” Cronin said. His Scottish accent and formal tone still made Alec smile. “Your talents as a vampire are a burdensome gift.”
Alec had learned very early on to block out the voices and thoughts of those around him, but living in such a large city made it a constant effort, and his display of anger at Jodis just minutes ago bothered him. “These talents are a pain in my ass.”
Cronin laughed quietly. “Your control over them still astounds us all.”
“The control you keep talking about is a talent in itself. It’s like casting a net over a thousand different fish.” Alec sighed loudly. “I’ve told you that before.”
“I know. Though it amazes me still.” Cronin squeezed Alec’s hand again and looked out across the field of long grass to the line of trees that fronted the river. “Lie down with me.”
Cronin simply lay flat on his back in the middle of the field and when Alec lay down next to him, Cronin snatched up Alec’s hand again. And together in the mind-clearing silence, they watched the blanket of stars glide across the sky.
It was a clear autumn night in Scotland, cold and dark. Neither of those things impeded a vampire of course, and Alec would never tire of the simple changes he’d gone through when he became a vampire. It was the complex changes he was beginning to struggle with. The talents he’d been given made him unique: the only vampire ever to have all vampire talents, some he was still discovering a year after his change. It was these talents that made his life hectic, his obligations as the key to the vampire world that gave him a great responsibility, and as Cronin had said, it was becoming a great burden.
Alec loved that Cronin would leap them to the very field where his human life had ended. The old battlefield in Scotland was also where they’d first made love, where they came to talk, to be by themselves. Like now.
“Thank you for bringing me here,” Alec whispered, his anger and frustration from before almost gone. “I feel like I can breathe here.”
“Is that not what husbands do?” Cronin asked with a smile. “Save the other from the myriad of madness?”
“Husbands,” Alec said, bringing Cronin’s knuckles up to his lips and kissing them softly. “Now that is something I’ll never tire of. And that place you call a myriad of madness is our home.” Since their wedding just six months prior, they’d barely had more than a few hours to themselves. Their apartment was never empty. Alec sighed, still looking at the night sky. “Do you think we could buy this place? That little farmhouse by the hillfort could be our private sanctuary. Just for us.”
“Do you wish to?”
Alec snorted quietly. “I was just kidding.”
“I will look into it. I rather like that idea myself.”
“I wasn’t being serious. It was just a random thought. I’m pretty sure husbands don’t just go and buy the other one every single thing he thinks of.”
Cronin leaned up on his elbow and leaned in so he could kiss Alec softly. “Don’t think it would be just for you,” he said with a gleam in his eye. “A quiet place where I could have you all to myself is more for my selfish reasons than your romantic whim.”
Alec laughed and rolled on top of Cronin. “So when I want a place for us to have some privacy, it’s romantic, but when you want some privacy to have your way with me, it’s what?”
Alec grinned down at him. “I happen to like wicked.”
“And maybe I could bed you in a place of our own without an audience three rooms away,” Cronin added. “And not in some random hotel or muddy field.”
Alec brushed his fingers through Cronin’s hair. “Random hotels are fun, but going back to the apartment full of people when we’re both covered in mud is the most fun of all.”
Cronin’s eyes crinkled when he smiled. “They were certainly surprised. Though it didn’t help that, when asked what on earth we got up to, you showed everyone the mental images.”
Alec laughed at the memory. Being able to show other people images in their minds was a talent with some benefits. And just because he could, he ran a reel of images through Cronin’s mind, snippets of them making love: flushed skin, hands gripping, thighs open, being joined, heads thrown back in ecstasy. And then, to prove a point, Alec surged out a cloud of what it felt like when they fucked. Empathic transference, allowing Cronin to feel what he was feeling, was one of Alec’s favorite talents.
Cronin bucked his hips instantly and growled out, “Alec.”
Alec pulled back the images and the lust, leaving Cronin breathless. His black eyes were swimming, swirling with want. He took a hold of Alec’s face and brought their mouths together in a searing kiss.
Cronin moved his arms down Alec’s back and held him tighter. He rolled his hips up and kissed him deeper until Alec was lost in him.
Then it happened.
Images. Visions flashed through Alec’s mind, visions he did not put there. Alec had learned to protect his mind, another of his talents was to shield his own thoughts from others. Yet someone or something had penetrated through.
“Alec, what is it?” Cronin asked.
When Alec looked down at a concerned Cronin, Alec realized he’d zoned out, their make-out session long-forgotten. “We need to leave,” Alec said, jumping to his feet. He pulled Cronin up by the hand, and before Cronin could ask why, Alec pulled him close, and they leapt.
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