Articles for the Year 2015

Teaser Thursday- Chance Met

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They walked away. Despite the cold, Crawford stood there watching them walk up the street alongside Burger King. He could have walked with them. Bremen Street was the next one, and though his apartment was further down the street, it still would have been a reasonable route for him to take. But he didn’t want to push his luck.

He’d already learned more about Trey than he’d expected. The guy was gay, given that Mikey had mentioned Trey having a boyfriend in the past. He knew about and accepted his son’s abilities but was cautious about letting others find out. It might have been solely because he was worried about the general public’s reaction, or there might have been another reason. The fear in Mikey’s eyes when he’d realized he’d given himself away implied the latter. If anyone had tried to hurt the boy because of something he couldn’t help, Crawford would—

Do absolutely nothing, because whatever had happened was probably over. And he couldn’t be the knight in psychic armor for the little boy, anyway. It was Trey’s responsibility to protect his son. Crawford would help as much as the pair would allow, but it wasn’t up to him to do it all.

He shivered. Thinking about Trey and Mikey had distracted him from the cold temporarily, but now the wind cut through his jacket. He was an idiot for just standing here. It was time to go home. To his empty apartment, where he would spend the rest of the evening watching TV and surfing online until he was tired enough to go to bed. Yeah, my life is fascinating.

He’d gone through the same routine for years now, with occasional breaks to assist Joel with evening workshops and seminars and to spend time with the few people he’d allowed into his life. Something which hadn’t happened for far too long.

He headed home, walking fast to try to warm up. His life had become one enormous rut, consisting of work and distractions and very few people. He kept telling himself he needed to change that, but he’d become so stuck he hadn’t even tried.

Now things were improving. All because a little boy had wanted hot chocolate.

He stuck his hand in his pocket to touch his phone. He had Trey’s number. Trey wanted to see him again. The mention of a dinner without Mikey had sounded a whole lot like Trey was asking him on a date, something Crawford had no objection to at all.

He would take things slowly. It wouldn’t help anything if he became too excited about the idea of having a friend. Or a boyfriend, as the case may be. He wasn’t quite sure what Trey had in mind, and it would make sense to let Trey have the lead on how things developed between them. Trey had his son to consider, and he probably wouldn’t want to get into anything too fast. But if he was able to spend any time with the other man at all, Crawford would be happy.

2015 In Review

This week, I’m going over some of the things that happened and changed in my life in 2015. Next year, I’ll talk about my hopes and goals for 2016.

In the fall of 2014, something happened in my personal life that led to me being unable to write erotic romance. I won’t go into detail here; it’s something I’d prefer not to talk about right now, and I think I’ve blogged about it before anyway.

In early 2015, I tried to write a male/male romance. I failed. I couldn’t get the characters to fall in love with each other given the circumstances in the story, and given the circumstances going on in my own brain, I couldn’t get them to have sex, either. It became a suspense novel with romantic elements, Dawn Over Dayfield, which will be released in March 2016.

Dawn Over Dayfield’s existence owes a lot to someone who was pretty important to me during the first 7 months or so of 2015. He was a huge part of my overall support system, was very supportive and encouraging about my writing, and with Dayfield in particular, he helped me brainstorm the plot, helped me create the town (which is fictional, but is located in the part of Massachusetts where he grew up), and did the historical and geographical research I needed. Unfortunately, in August that person ceased to be part of my life, which is sad for a number of reasons, not least of which is that some really exciting things have already happened for Dayfield and I can’t share them with him. That person exiting my life also impacted my writing, though this time more on the romance side than the erotic.

In June 2015, I tried to write another male/male romance. This time, I barely managed to get 10 pages in before I ran into some pretty severe mental health issues. I chose at that point to put romance writing in general on indefinite hold.

In 2014 and 2015, a number of my books were taken out of print. Six of my nine Ellora’s Cave titles were pulled at my request due to poor sales. Several of my MLR Press and Passion in Print Press books were pulled, I think in late 2014. (Sorry. Fibromyalgia…I have a brain like a steel sieve and would have to look things up to be sure of dates.) As of now, I no longer have any books available from Pink Petal Books/Jupiter Gardens Press. All told, I think my number of existing titles was cut in half in 2015.

My last erotic romance title, a heterosexual contemporary novel, was released in March. Since then, nothing has been released under Karenna Colcroft’s name. I’ve been working on promoting my books that are still out there, and on making plans for the upcoming year, as well as focusing a lot more time and energy on writing and promoting my young adult fiction under the Jo Ramsey pen name.

It’s hard to predict where my career will go from here, but I do have some thoughts and things I want to try for 2016. I’ll share those with you next week.

Teaser Thursday- Vengeance Is Sweet

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One positive thing about the Midworld: they had good food.

I discovered that when Ghast ordered a meal from a nearby restaurant. We didn’t even have to go outside. About half an hour after he placed the call, a small Asian man brought the food right to our apartment. I could get used to that kind of thing.

Ghast paid the delivery guy and closed the door. “Hungry?”

My stomach growled at the aromas filtering out of the large paper bag he held, and I followed him to the small round table in one corner of the kitchen. He split the food onto two plates, and we sat down. For a moment, I regarded the contents of my plate. Unaccustomed to Midworld food, I had no idea what sat there. It smelled wonderful, but looked like a pile of unappealing colors and globs.

Ghast showed no hesitation. He picked up his fork and shoveled some food into his mouth. “Try it. It’s quite good, and you’ll need to become used to this kind of thing.”

“I don’t want to get used to this human stuff.” Hesitantly, I took a forkful of food from my plate and put it in my mouth. It did have quite a good taste, and I decided I’d manage to eat it. When I swallowed, my stomach happily agreed.

“You haven’t much choice,” Ghast said. “I truly believe it’s the only way you’ll be able to prove Alejandro Ruiz’s innocence.”

“That might be harder than we thought, if angels are involved.” I toyed with my fork. “Angels gave the vengeance department the case. Angels visit the little girl. Angels may be involved in the false accusation. Angels allowed the soul of a suicide into Heaven.”

“Although I rather doubt their involvement in the accusation, it is possible,” he agreed. “Assuming the accusation is false. As for the suicide, this soul is not the first to go to Heaven. It’s dependent upon the reason the person chose to die.”

After the time I’d spent with Alejandro, I had no doubt about the accusation. “It’s false. I don’t think that man would hurt anyone for any reason, least of all his child or his ex-wife. Whatever her reason for killing herself, I don’t think Alex had anything to do with it.”

A thought flickered into my head. “If she’s his ex-wife, when would he have abused her? He said they’d been split up for over a year. They didn’t live together, and he almost never saw Keeley. He wouldn’t have had any opportunity.”

“Perhaps the abuse occurred before the separation,” Ghast suggested.

I shook my head. “The file said she killed herself to escape his abuse. She wouldn’t have any need to escape something that ended over a year ago.”

“Good point.” He ate a few more forkfuls before adding, “It does sound more likely to be a lie. However, that doesn’t mean the lie involved anyone other than her.”

“It would have had to,” I said. “I don’t think a soul would be able to fool an angel. Don’t you guys have built-in lie-dar or something?”

“We do have the ability to detect when we’ve been deceived,” he said. “Still, a particularly persuasive soul might be able to convince one of us.”

“How likely would that be?”

“Not very.” He set down his fork. “You realize you’re accusing a member of the Heavenly host of dishonesty. Perhaps more than one member. You have no proof, and you have no reason. You also cannot discount the possibility that Alejandro might have hurt his ex-wife as she claims. Perhaps he became angry at her refusal to allow him access to the child, and they fought about it.”

“I don’t believe he’d harm anyone for any reason,” I said stubbornly, twisting my fork through the stuff on my plate. “You saw how gentle he is with Keeley. Do you really think he’d do anything to her or her mother?”

“In my opinion, he wouldn’t.” He chewed a forkful of something and swallowed. “However, we’ve seen him with her only today.”

“And yesterday.”

“You saw him then. I wasn’t with you.”

“Fine.” I tried another piece of food. It tasted as good as the first, even though it looked no better. “Even so, I believe he’s innocent. Someone set him up.”

“And again, you have no reason why anyone would do this. You can’t make a claim without cause, Omara. Especially when it comes to the Heavenly host.”

“I suspect it has a lot to do with Keeley. When she said I was nice, it sounded like she knew, not like it was just something to say. It seemed like she’d seen something inside me that made her say it. Like she’d looked right into me.” It sounded ridiculous, but I didn’t have any other way to describe what I’d felt from Keeley.

Cover Reveal- Vengeance Is Sweet

Well, okay, so I’ve already revealed the cover on Facebook and Tumblr, but not on my blog until today. Because why shouldn’t I do things backwards?

Vengeance Is Sweet was originally published in September 2012, under my Jo Ramsey pen name. That was done because there’s no erotic content in the novel, but it isn’t a young adult story, so it didn’t sell well under that name. After two years of almost no sales, I asked the publisher to return rights to me, which they graciously did.

I’ve spent some time polishing up the novel: getting rid of a ton of repetition, clarifying a couple of plot points, and making it something I’m even happier with than I was originally. I ended up cutting over 10,000 words! And on January 11, I’ll be officially re-releasing the novel as a Karenna Colcroft title. It will be available exclusively on Amazon, and is already up for pre-order there.

And here’s the cover…

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Teaser Thursday- Changing Planes

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“Coming out?” Colin raised his eyebrows. “Are you gay or bi?”

“I don’t know. I think I’m a person-sexual.” Oliver had no other name for it. “I’ve been really into guys, and I was really into Sophia before things crumbled.”

“Okay.” Colin didn’t look any less confused. “So you aren’t going to tell your would-have-been in-laws that you sometimes like men?”

“Yeah.” When Colin put it that way, even Oliver was confused. “And I definitely don’t plan on telling them I like you.”

Colin grinned. “Okay. Well, now that you’re single, maybe we can see where that goes. Except you’re not staying in Sacramento, are you?”

“Not past the weekend.” Oliver sighed. Colin at least seemed interested in the possibility of getting something going, but it wasn’t enough to keep Oliver from going back to Boston. They weren’t together yet, and even if they had been, two days of knowing each other wasn’t enough to warrant him going through with his move. Especially when it would be so much easier to return to Massachusetts. “How do you feel about long distance?”

“I’m a flight attendant. Every relationship I’ve had has been long distance.” Colin hesitated. “We aren’t really talking relationship right now, are we? You just broke off your engagement. I can tell you’re relieved about it, and to me it sounds like you and she weren’t really much more than friends in the first place. That doesn’t mean you should just jump right into something with someone you barely know. I like you too, and I’m attracted to you. I won’t deny it. But I think you’re kind of on the rushing-things side right now.”

“Yeah.” The barista called his order, and he went to the counter to get it, both disappointed and relieved. Colin was right. Oliver was so thrilled to be out of the tangle with Sophia he was ready to plunge into a relationship—or at least a bed—with someone he’d just met. He had a feeling he and Colin would turn out to be pretty compatible, but he didn’t want to push his luck.

He returned to the table and decided to just say what was on his mind. “Okay. I’m attracted to you too. If you said right now that you wanted me to go back to your hotel room, I would, and damn sure wouldn’t say no to anything you suggested.”

“That’s because you need to get laid.” Colin lowered his voice and gave Oliver a wicked grin. “We’ll see. Friends hook up sometimes.” He folded his arms over his chest. “Seriously, I won’t be your rebound, okay? Let’s get to know each other. If it ends in bed, so be it. If it ends in more, it’s all good. I have no problem with long-distance friendships.”

“Sounds good to me.” Oliver drank some of his coffee and tried not to seem too happy. He and Colin would be friends. At the moment, that would have to be enough.

They chatted over coffee about their jobs and interests and parted after a while so Oliver could go back to the condo and make the calls necessary for his return to Boston. He didn’t actually want to leave Colin. He could have made the calls just as easily from Colin’s hotel room. But it was better to leave. He was free to lust after whomever he wanted, and right then he wanted Colin, but he didn’t want Colin to think he was only rebounding.

“I’m Not Going Anywhere”

In a relationship, one of the scariest possibilities is that of your partner leaving. For some of us with depression, anxiety, or other mental health issues, that fear can be particularly huge. Depression tells us we aren’t worth being with or don’t deserve our partner. Anxiety magnifies every small concern into a major fear. And some of us may have had previous partners say they couldn’t handle our “issues” and walk away.

Personally, I know I’m not the easiest partner to have. Sometimes I wouldn’t want to be around me, so I can’t understand why anyone else would. And I have had partners break up with me in part or in whole because they couldn’t deal with the depressive episodes, anxiety attacks, and/or PTSD meltdowns. (That isn’t something I suspect. It’s something those partners told me.) But I also have a husband who’s stuck it out for seven and a half years. And I have another partner who just last week, seeing me having an anxiety attack, said, “I’m going to tell you this right now. I know you’re afraid I’ll leave, because you’ve told me others have left you because of your anxiety. But I am not going anywhere.”

Those words meant everything. Once I got to a point where I was able to believe them.

When you’re in a relationship with someone who has mental health issues, it isn’t always smooth sailing. No matter how well-managed the illnesses are–and please keep in mind, these are ILLNESSES, not choices–by either medication, therapy, or both, there will be times when something flares up and things get rough. Those are the times when it’s most important to assure your partner that you’re there for them, that you aren’t going anywhere. And they’re the times when it will be the hardest for your partner to believe you. But they will try to believe, and hopefully you won’t go anywhere.

 

Teaser Thursday- Stepping Stone Not Doormat

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“It is what it is.” Navon didn’t know whether to sit or stay on his feet. The one thing he could be certain of was that Solara wouldn’t allow him to stay much longer. The guy hadn’t wanted him there in the first place. “Charlie?”

“Solara,” the other man snapped.

At least there’s some emotion there now. “Sorry,” Navon said. “Solara.”

“I go by Solara Flare. My stage name and the name I prefer. And female pronouns.” Solara sighed. “Not that it matters, because once you walk out this door, you won’t be seeing me again.”

“Why female pronouns?” Navon asked the question before he could stop himself. It wasn’t any of his business how Solara chose to refer to him—herself. He didn’t need to know the reasons because Solara was probably right. They wouldn’t see each other again.

That hurt like hell. Navon didn’t know what he’d expected from this visit, but he’d hoped his former lover would at least be happy to see him. He’d believed that maybe after so long apart, Charlie would want to spend a little time with Navon before Navon returned to Los Angeles. Obviously he’d underestimated the impact of the past on Solara.

To Navon’s surprise, Solara answered. “I’ve always asked for female pronouns when I’m in drag. I use my drag name as a daily thing, so I carried the pronoun thing over as well. And it’s another layer of protection. A female named Solara didn’t seem as likely to be on certain people’s radar.”

Mason’s radar. Navon had no doubt that was what Solara meant. Mason had always been pissed off if anyone referred to Charlie by his drag name or used female pronouns or even terms like “girl” or “bitch.” The jackass had been adamant that the “woman shit” remain only onstage or during other appearances and not cross into Charlie’s regular life at all.

Navon had to wonder if Solara had chosen deliberately to go against that order, not only to hide from Mason but because she knew it would have infuriated him if he’d ever found out.

“If you’re going to give me what you brought, better do it now,” Solara said. “Nice to see you, nice to fuck you. Now get out. Please.”

The raw pain in that single word pushed Navon into action. He knelt beside his backpack. “I didn’t mean to bring up bad memories.”

“It is what it is,” Solara said with a slight note of sarcasm. “Just like I always say. You asked why I never told anyone? I tried. That last time in the hospital. They laughed at me. Said he was so much smaller that I should have been able to ‘take him’ in a fight. A gay man hammers the shit out of another gay man, and no one cares. Especially if the one doing the hammering is smaller. I knew that. I wouldn’t have said a damn thing if they hadn’t recognized the injuries as an assault and told me to report who did it.”

Navon pressed his lips together and focused on opening the backpack. It was bad enough he’d wanted to kill Mason when he’d found out about the beating. Now he had a whole list of others to hate. Everyone who had let Solara down.

Himself included.

Teaser Thursday- Last Chance Tattoo

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Dorsey still hadn’t gotten Rad’s number, and he wanted to kick himself for it. The last time he’d heard anything from Rad was Friday when they’d gone their separate ways after lunch. Now, on Sunday afternoon, Dorsey was faced with a day off and no one to spend it with.

It was no different from all the other days off he’d had, but at the same time, everything was different. He had a friend now. Or something more. Whatever he and Rad were to each other, the one thing Dorsey knew for certain was he hoped for more time with Rad.

And he hadn’t asked for Rad’s number, which meant he had no way to invite Rad to get together. The tattoo shop wasn’t open on Sundays, so if Rad went there to find Dorsey, he would be disappointed.

Then again, Dorsey was only assuming Rad wanted to see him again. They had parted on Friday with an agreement to continue seeing each other, whatever that meant. Unfortunately, with no way to contact each other aside from Rad going to the shop, chances didn’t look good.

By midmorning, Dorsey’s thoughts had spiraled into a dark mass of things he didn’t want to deal with. Part of him still felt as if he’d been disloyal to Chester by messing around with Rad. Part of him wanted to go further with Rad. He’d even gone to one of the department stores outside the city limits the day before to stock up on condoms and lube so next time Rad visited, they would be prepared.

If that ever happened.

He couldn’t stand any more time alone in his apartment, so he dressed in the same clothes he’d worn the day before—the only clothes he had that were clean enough to wear until he went to the Laundromat—and headed to the coffee shop.

As he walked, it occurred to him that Kelly knew exactly how to get in touch with Rad. After all, he’d put his contact information on the application. If Dorsey could figure out how to ask for it without sounding like a creep, he might be able to talk to Rad. That alone made the walk through a light, cold drizzle worth it.

At that time on a Sunday morning, the coffee shop wasn’t very busy, since most people were at church or sleeping in. Dorsey went straight to the counter, where Kelly was arranging a tray of muffins.

She smiled at him. “Long time no see.”

“Sure.” He hesitated. “The usual coffee, please.”

“Why do I have the feeling that isn’t what you were going to say?” She set two more muffins on the tray and slid it into the display case, then turned to get Dorsey’s coffee.

Dorsey looked out the window. Because of the weather, few people were out and about. April wasn’t being particularly springlike so far.

He wondered what Rad was doing. Going to church with his grandmother, possibly, though Rad didn’t strike Dorsey as the church-going type. More likely either job hunting or spending the day out of the rain.

“Here you go.” Kelly set a cup on the counter. “On the house this morning because you look like you need it.”

“Thanks.” Again Dorsey hesitated. “You have Rad’s number, right?”

“Yeah. I kind of have to if I’m going to hire him.” She looked confused. “You don’t have his number?”

“No. You’re going to hire him?” That would be great news for Rad. And for Dorsey, since he would be able to see Rad simply by going around the corner.

Wow, you really have gone too long without a friend. And without sex. Get over it.

“I am, but don’t tell him.” Kelly grinned. “I’d pretty much already decided to, even before I interviewed him. But half the town knows I used to date his brother, so I can’t let it seem like I’m playing favorites.”

“Yeah. I understand.” Dorsey wondered whether Kelly knew what her brother had done to Rad and decided it would be better not to ask. It wasn’t his place to talk about it.

He drank some of his coffee and glanced out the window again. Rad was walking down the sidewalk on the other side of the street, heading toward the lake.

Without thinking, Dorsey hurried out of the shop. Rad had already passed. Behind him, Kelly called a question, but he didn’t pay attention. He crossed the fortunately empty street. “Rad!”

Rad jumped and whirled around, then relaxed. “Hey.”

Dorsey closed the few yards between them. The drizzle was turning into full-on rain, but he didn’t care. If Rad could stand it, so could he. “Hey. How’s it going?”

Rad shrugged. “Been better, been worse. I was going down to the lighthouse, except I’m not sure walking out there is a good idea in the rain.”

“Maybe, maybe not.” The lighthouse stood at the end of a half-mile or so causeway accessible only by foot. In three years, Dorsey had never taken the walk. The lighthouse was nice to look at from the shore. He saw no reason to go all the way out to it.

“Probably not.” Rad sighed. “When I was a kid, I used to go out there all the time. Even in the summer, it was a quiet place. I could think. Not to mention get away from my brothers and everyone. Even though I wasn’t far away, I could pretend I was alone in the middle of the lake. I liked it.”

Dorsey’s heart went out to the guy. From everything Rad had told him, his childhood had been pretty damn lonely. No one should have to be alone, especially with family around, but it sounded as if Rad truly had been.

That was one of the things Dorsey wanted to make better. Both of them had been alone too long.

Musings About Writing

I started writing stories when I was five. Writing became my escape, and sometimes my salvation. At times during junior high and high school, writing was the only thing that kept me going; if I hadn’t been able to create worlds where I didn’t have to deal with bullying and a difficult family life, I might not be around today. The same was true when I was married to my ex-husband. During all that time, nearly everything I wrote was for kids or teens. I wrote one novel for adults, which I don’t even have anymore and wasn’t all that good, and that was a completely G-rated thing.

When my friend in 2006 challenged me to write something erotic to help me overcome my belief that sex was a pretty crappy thing in general and especially in my life, everything started to change. A guy I dated a year later challenged me to write more, and to post on Literotica. And I kept writing, and kept posting.

And then I got published.

Being published isn’t a bad thing. Don’t get me wrong. But unfortunately, it added stress and pressure to something that up to that point had been relaxing and soothing. I wasn’t able anymore to just create things and abandon them at will, or write something no one would ever want to see without caring whether anyone saw it. I had to please editors, publishers, and readers.

Apparently I didn’t do such a great job at that. A number of my books barely sold, and if I remember right, two or three didn’t sell a single copy. Even though I was backed by publishers who were, in theory, pushing the books right along with me. That added to the stress and pressure. I had to write more and better so I would earn money and not piss off my publishers.

Then September 20, 2014 happened. I won’t go into details about it, though I think I have done elsewhere. Suffice it to say someone I trusted and was in a relationship with did something unforgivable that both triggered and added to my PTSD…and suddenly I was almost back to where I was in 2006 before that friend challenged me to write that first erotic story. And I’ve been there ever since. My two attempts after that at writing a new erotic romance resulted in panic attacks, worsened depression, and a decision that I had to step back whether I wanted to or not, for the sake of my mental health.

One piece of wisdom about writing and publishing is that in order to have consistent sales, you have to have consistent releases. I haven’t. My last release under this pen name was in March of this year, though it was written two years earlier, and that, judging from my royalty statements, has barely sold a double-digit number of copies. Meanwhile, nearly half the books that I’d had published in the past have been taken out of publication over the past year, either by me or by the publisher, all due to lack of sales.

I’m not posting this to whine or look for sympathy. My books are good, or so I’m told. Some of them have interesting plots and characters. They simply aren’t being bought and read for whatever reason. It’s discouraging. Seriously discouraging. I wish I understood what magical ingredients I’m missing that have brought me to this point, but I don’t, and no one I’ve discussed it with seems able to enlighten me.

As I announced recently, over the next two years I’ll be self-publishing some of those reverted titles, and I have a novel releasing from DSP Publications in March 2016. Last week, I finished writing my first erotica story in over a year, so apparently I can still write it… but I’m feeling so down about how things have been going that I’m not sure there’s much point. And most of the publishers that have accepted my books in the past either wouldn’t be willing to work with me now, or I wouldn’t be willing to work with them, or both, so even if I wrote something I wouldn’t have anywhere to send it.

Every career has its ups and downs. I think creative careers hit harder on the downs because we put so much of ourselves into the work. I know that’s been true for me with writing.

Teaser Thursday- I Should Tell You

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Upstairs, he discovered to his relief that he’d been right about his roommate. The place was completely dark and silent, exactly as Hunter liked it. He turned on the dim light over the kitchen stove, then proceeded to the living room at the other end of the apartment where he only had to open the curtains to let in enough light to see—thanks to Logan Airport, across a narrow strip of harbor on the other side of the train tracks.

As he watched, a plane took off. The noise had seemed ridiculous when Hunter first moved in, but within a few weeks he’d become accustomed to the planes and trains. The building had double-paned windows paid for by the agency that ran the airport, and though they did little to block the noise, they at least dulled it.

And Hunter enjoyed watching the planes, especially at night. The lights that rose into the sky reminded him of possibilities. Right now, he was stuck living in this dump with the son of the building’s owners, who expected life to be handed to him and who spent most of his money partying. Right now, Hunter worked at an office with a tyrant boss, doing menial paperwork that almost put him to sleep. But his life would change someday. Someday he would take his money and buy a ticket on one of those planes. It wouldn’t even matter where he ended up. He could go anywhere.

The possibility was the only thing keeping him sober some days. Things would change. He would make it happen.

He heard a sound behind him and tensed. It was the smallest noise. He barely noticed it over the roar of the plane’s engine, but it was there. His heart pounded. He was in his home, and the only other person who could be there was Jack, unless the guy had brought someone in to spend the night. He was safe.

Reminding himself of that did little to take down the fear.

“Don’t sneak up on me.” His voice came out as a croak, and he cleared his throat. “I mean it, Jack. Remember what happened last time.”

“Not sneaking. Fucking thirsty.”

Hunter let out a long breath and sagged against the frame of the glass door that led onto their tiny balcony. Of course it was only Jack. No one else could have entered the apartment. Even if someone had, it was unlikely they would try anything on Hunter. They might rob the place blind, but they wouldn’t be able to touch him. If they tried, he would fight them off. He’d taken three years of Krav Maga before he’d stopped because one of his classmates had become a little too interested in physical contact.

“You okay?” Jack’s slightly slurred voice sounded closer. He must have come through the kitchen instead of just getting a drink and going back to his room. “Didn’t mean to startle you.”

“No problem. I’m a bit on edge tonight. I’ll be going to bed in a few.” Hunter wasn’t sure he’d be able to sleep, but he had to at least make the attempt.

“Sorry,” Jack said. “Just got up for a drink. See you.” He shuffled back to the kitchen, and water ran a moment later.

Hunter stayed where he was, staring out at the runway lights and the harbor on both sides of the airport, though he could barely see it.