Sep 15

Mistakes I’ve Made

The following is a post I did on the Absolute Write forums. After re-reading it, and because of feedback I got from other posters, I thought it might make a good blog post.

I’ve technically been published since 2002, when a phonics-based reading comprehension program I wrote was released by a small educational press based in Maine, but from then until 2009 the only other thing I had published was an essay in AW’s Stories of Strength anthology in 2005. Both the phonics program and the essay were under my real name.

2009 was when I first started really aiming for publication. But I am not a business-minded person, and I tend to be VERY literal when it comes to advice from others. So, for example, when people said, “Build a bigger backlist and you’ll have more sales”, I wrote everything I could think of, sent it to publishers that didn’t do great with promotion and marketing, had a few dozen titles released from 2011-2013… and while my overall earnings from writing have increased every year, if I average it out per book, I’m earning WAY less than in 2009 when I only had three releases and was an unknown author.
That doesn’t mean “Build a bigger backlist” is bad advice. It means I *followed* it badly.

Books 1

And because of crap from my past, I found it very hard to look at writing as a career. In my first marriage, writing was the hobby that pissed off my husband and made him rant at me for neglecting him and my kids. Even after I started getting published and earning money–with the complete support of my second husband, who thought it was awesome–I was still in the mindset of “This is a hobby and I have to put my kids and husband and everything else first.” Even when my husband told me to start thinking of my writing as a career and to make it a priority.

I got too scattered. I jumped on most, if not all, themed calls that showed up from my publishers. I submitted to too many publishers, and as I said above, some of them did not work out for me. In the past five and a half years, I’ve only had 4 stories rejected. Two of those were rejected solely because they didn’t quite fit the theme of the calls I’d written them for. And one of those and one of the other rejected stories went on to be published elsewhere.

Does that mean I’m an amazingly awesome author? Not really. It means I ignored the prevailing AW wisdom of “Aim for the top and work down”, and instead started at the bottom because I knew they would accept my books. I have no one to blame but myself for most of the things that have gone wrong in my career.

In a writing career, as in life, there are no do-overs. But there are “start again and do it right” chances. In the past year and a half, I’ve vastly reinvented myself as a human being and as a woman specifically, and I’ve now reached the point of being more confident and more in control than before. I can’t undo the writing/publishing mistakes I’ve made, but I can go forward aiming higher, pulling books that are underperforming or are with publishers I no longer trust, and writing what *I* want to write instead of jumping on special calls or taking requests.

I started reinventing my writing career about a year ago, but things happened in my personal life that negatively impacted that, and so I’m not where I was hoping to be by now. But as long as I keep trying, keep tweaking what isn’t working and putting more effort into what is, I’m succeeding by my standards. And by taking advice from those who know what they’re doing–and who know me well enough to give advice I can understand and/or to answer my requests for clarification–as well as examining and analyzing what I’m doing and making plans for what I should do, I will become even more successful.

Sep 12

Spotlight on Ember Leigh

Our second Breathless Press author today is Ember Leigh, with her new release Carlos and Casey.

Carlos and Casey 200x300


Casey hasn’t seen Carlos in four years, but a business trip brings the ex-lovers together, and the fire comes roaring to life.

Recently divorced, Casey has been longing for a man’s touch. So when business brings her back to Carlos, the one that got away, it has to be fate. Casey soon discovers the four years apart have only done him better, and soon all she can think about is having his arms, and body, wrapped around hers. But Carlos is not the same man he was four years ago. Can Casey help reignite his fire or has time left them behind?


Her breath caught as she followed him up the staircase, tucked to the far side of the house. Carlos had always been fit enough, but it looked like he’d taken up some new form of exercise in the past four years. He was beefier, yet still lean. His ass moved round and tight in front of her as they climbed the stairs. At the landing, he gestured in front of them.

“This is my studio, but it’s all yours for tonight.”

It was a rec room that took up the whole second floor, and far more standard male than the ground floor alluded to. Movie posters, gaming systems, books scattered on floors and coffee tables, and, off to one side, the trumpet, asleep in a bed of sheet music. In the corner there was an overstuffed couch just about as wide as she was long – it would be great to sleep on, even better if he could bend her over that armrest and fuck her until dinner was ready.

She cleared her throat, deciding adult friendships could be fun, even after four questionable years. “I thought I’d be sharing a bed with you?” She tried to keep her tone playful as she sauntered toward the couch. She tossed him a smile and she caught a glimpse of him looking very stricken. Shit. Too far. Things are too different now. Abort!

Maybe too much time had passed in general. Maybe he was courting a girl and wanted to take it slow with her. Maybe he no longer found her attractive, four years becoming the dagger in the heart. Maybe he’d become celibate, or found her life too normal and boring. There was a whole list of reasons why she shouldn’t make the first move.

“I was just joking,” she said after a moment, rolling her eyes. “Come on, lighten up.”

He exhaled slowly, looking down at the ground as his tongue found the corner of his mouth. “I know it was a joke, Case.”

“In case you forgot, we used to share a bed.” She looked at him pointedly, already horrified that the words were coming from her lips. What was she getting at? Who had authorized this dialogue?

He squeezed his eyes shut and laughed softly. “Oh, I remember.”




Ember Leigh has been writing erotic romance novels since she was far too young.  A native of northern Ohio, she currently resides in South America with her Argentinean partner, a detail she uses to justify her Bachelor’s degree in Latin American Literature. In addition to romance novels, she also writes travel articles, maintains three blogs, and continually attempts to complete a mildly-gripping short story. In her free time, she practices Ashtanga yoga, travels the world, and eats lots of vegetables.

Sep 12

Spotlight on Leona Bushman

It’s Breathless Press day again, and first up is author Leona Bushman. Leona’s new release is The Midwife’s Moon.

Midwife's Moon_200x300


An ex-lover on trial, life as a newly formed werewolf, and a passion kindled; what’s a girl to do? Released from depraved control of a psychotic lupa, free to find his mate, and a passion kindled; what’s a man to do?

Lisa Sanchez is having a bad couple of years. She was betrayed by her lover and made into a werewolf but she’s making the best of her new life…except when it comes to love. Lisa is out of luck in that department until Lance arrives in her not-so-perfect life.

Lance Navarro once saved his mate from the clutches of his ruthless pack leader by hiding her in a rival pack. Then the packs merged and things got interesting.

Can Lisa accept that Lance is to be her new mate, and get past the betrayal of the last wolf who made promises? Can Lance protect her from the vindictive pack leader? Or will they end up sharing an early grave?


His hands started shaking, his breathing hitched, and his senses came to full alert. What’s triggered my wolf? Cautious even though he didn’t sense immediate danger, he began searching his surroundings. As his heart rate increased and a surge of sexual excitement hit him, he panicked. Had his time with Roxy made him so sick he equated danger with sex?

That can’t be right. He always feared sex with Roxy. His body reacted, but his mind never got excited. Wary now, he sniffed the air and all at once, it hit him. She was nearby. His mate. The one who didn’t know him, but he knew her wolf form. The sound of gentle laughter trickled in the wind, engorged with sadness to his ears. Melancholy he recognized, for he’d laughed like that. Laughed and smiled to hide the pain.

Now his heart restricted and plugged his ears as a roaring sound filled them. His wolf snarled within him and wanted to attack whatever caused such sadness in his mate. He walked faster, wanting a glimpse of the woman who was his mate. Still he couldn’t see her. A group of people walked ahead of him nearly to the door. She must be among them. Worried he’d lose her, he started to run, and the fear from the group escalated. They moved inside quickly with only a man turning his face to him.

Lance slowed back to a walk and went in, his shoulders hunched, hands in pockets to appear unthreatening. The warehouse, jammed from one end to the other except around the center raised half-circle, echoed with voices, shouts, anger, jealousy, and fright. He tried to pinpoint the fright as it felt so misplaced. Every wolf in here should smell the fear and react, yet only he seemed concerned.

A loud clanging in his head nearly drove him to his knees. An old-fashioned clock with metal ticking noises had taken up residence in his eardrums and did not look to be leaving any time soon. He fisted his hands in his pockets and looked around. Was he the only one who could hear the minutes counting down?

The crowd around him receded, and the noise in his eardrums became his focus. He followed his instincts and moved slowly as if in a dream. A petite woman in a black overcoat stood in front of him. He reached out to touch her shoulder, but she turned and looked at him.

Her eyes widened in shock as did his. His hand, still suspended where he’d intended to touch her to get her attention, moved up to her bronze cheek, caressing softly. The deep brown eyes gazed at him in wonder before closing up to him. He saw it as clear as day even as he told himself he imagined it. She hadn’t moved, hadn’t flinched, but she had closed down—except for the one brilliant moment when their souls met.



Leona Bushman goes by many names but the most well-known one is superhero. She earned this name from saving a kangaroo from a tree—and yes that is as hard as it sounds. The dragons taught their queen how to write, and Queen Leona hasn’t looked back, even when her muse tries to muck things up.

She can be found goofing off and loving dragons and other creatures of the supernatural at these places:

Twitter: @L_Bushman



Passion in Print:

Murder by Succubus


Breathless Press:

The Ulfric’s Mate*

Ravaged, Vol 1 ~ Barely There*

Rick Sexed Up the Doc ~ Naughty Nursery Rhyme

The Captain’s Christmas ~ Cyber

Crimson, Vol 1 ~ Daryn’s Slayer **my story is an historical vamp/wolf story

Serviced, Vol 1 ~ Over A Dead Body

The Midwife’s Moon*

Down on the Farm, Vol 1 ~ The Lion, the Witch, and the Faeries

Slow Burn ~Dead Man Walking special

Ravaged, Vol 2

The Shot**

*Denotes War of the Weres

**Denotes Traincoach of Death Steampunk series

Just Ink Press:

Mayhem in Mexico ~Urban Sci-fi~ please note, this is not a romance.


Sep 11

Teaser Thursday- Hooch and Howls



They pulled the rowboat out from the storage space beneath the cottage’s verandah. Malachi’s father had built the place on a slope, which left plenty of room below to keep things that wouldn’t fit inside the cottage, while avoiding the need for a separate shed or boat house. He gave the bottom of the boat a cursory inspection to ensure that he and Roger wouldn’t sink on their way to town, since they would have to row around to the other side of Herman’s Island and past the points known as First and Second Peninsula to reach Lunenburg, and then they carried the boat down to the beach.

“Lot of trouble to go to just to get to town.” Roger was out of breath by the time they reached the water. “Be easier if you had a car.”

“The roads aren’t the best,” Malachi replied. “This suits me fine. We should get your boat higher up, maybe into the bushes. Tide will take it otherwise, and if anyone comes looking for you, we wouldn’t want them spotting it.”

“Yeah.” Roger frowned. “I didn’t think of that. They might already have seen it.”

“If they did, they did. We should still move it. The tide’s coming in.” Already it was lapping at the bow of Roger’s little boat, whereas when Roger had arrived the water had only reached the boat’s midpoint.

They pulled the boat up into the bushes where Malachi had hidden the previous day, before getting into Malachi’s boat. Looking at the sun, he estimated the time to be around seven thirty; too early to expect the town’s shops to be open, but by the time they arrived most places would be. That was the only advantage of the trip taking so long.

He made Roger get into the boat and pushed it off into the water before climbing in himself. Cursing himself for not taking off his shoes, he took position in the boat’s stern and started rowing. “I can help,” Roger said.

“Rest,” Malachi replied. “Sleep if you want. I can manage.” He doubted the man was nearly as strong as he was. Increased strength was another side effect of being a werewolf.

Roger sat on the bench in the boat’s bow, facing Malachi. “Why are you so concerned?”

“You came to me for help,” Malachi pointed out. “And I may be a hermit, but that doesn’t mean I have no heart. How long have you been on your own?”

“On my own?” Roger sniffed. “I’m twenty-three years old. You make it sound like I’m a child.”

To Malachi, the man seemed like a child. A tough one; streetwise and too-knowing, but a child nonetheless regardless of his age. “Jonathan said you were on the street when he met you.”

“That.” An unreadable expression crossed Roger’s face. “Left home when I was twelve. I had reasons. Don’t want to get into them, if that’s all right with you.” His tone made it clear he didn’t care whether it was all right. He wasn’t about to talk.

“You don’t have to tell me anything you’d prefer not to,” Malachi assured him. “I don’t mean to pry. You might have guessed I don’t speak with others often. And if you’re not going to sleep on the way to town, we might as well talk to pass the time.”

Roger shrugged. “My father was a fisherman. Died on the water when I was eight. When I was eleven, my mother remarried. Another fisherman, one who did more drinking than fishing. He was free with his hands and expected me to be free with other things, if you catch my meaning.”

Malachi caught it perfectly and swallowed hard against a roll of nausea. He wasn’t naïve; he knew some men did horrible things to their families. But hearing Roger discuss it so matter-of-factly made his heart ache. “Did you tell your mother?”

“What could she do? He used his fists on her as much as me, and she said we needed him to keep a roof over our heads.” He looked down at his hands. “I took it once. Not that he gave me much choice. Hurt like hell. He wasn’t gentle. He didn’t care. I think he liked hurting me that way. I’d just turned twelve then, thought maybe I could find work in the city, so I went.”

“And did you find work?” Malachi braced himself for the answer he anticipated. He doubted a twelve-year-old boy on his own had found a job in a shop or on a ship.

“Of sorts.” Roger’s voice dropped. Even with his heightened hearing, Malachi had to strain to make out the words through the wind in his ears. “There were men who wanted the same thing as my stepfather. Some of them were gentler, and they paid. It kept me fed. Gave me shelter, sometimes. It wasn’t what I wanted, but all in all it might have been worse. At least I lived.”

Malachi’s heart went out to this young man, who had lived by means no one should have had to. And he had done nothing better than the men who’d purchased Roger’s body. “I apologize for what I did to you yesterday. I should have left you and Jonathan alone.”

“What?” Roger looked at him, surprised. “No. I didn’t mind that. I could have fought you off if I’d wanted. I—I’d done that kind of thing before. Some of the johns liked it, two of them and one of me. I didn’t mind.”

“I didn’t ask.” Malachi’s stomach rolled again. He tried to blame it on his hangover, but that had already faded thanks to food, coffee, and rapid werewolf healing. The truth was, in his drunkenness he had victimized one who had been victimized too many times before. He sickened himself.

Sep 08

It’s the Small Gestures

Romance isn’t always found in grand gestures. Sometimes something small means more.

Cooking for someone.

Making them a sandwich because you have a lunch date but not quite enough funds for a restaurant.

Walking between them and traffic along the side of a road.

Noticing that they need a rest and finding a place for them to sit.

Being interested in their career or hobby to the point of offering to help with it.

Sharing part of your past with them.

Telling them all the places you’d like to show them.

Making someone you care about feel special or loved doesn’t take much. And it doesn’t have to cost a cent. Sometimes all you need to do is show that you’re thinking of them, considerate of them, and interested in them.

Sep 04

Teaser Thursday- Knot Intended

Blue Fabric Texture

Joseph’s truck was nowhere in sight when Nolie pulled into their driveway. Of course. He was working late again even though it was the weekend. She admired him for earning overtime pay and helping to ensure they had a nice house and everything they needed, but time with him would have meant more than any money he could bring in.

Disappointed, she went into the house, kicked off her shoes and sat at her computer in the living room to check her non-school email.

At the back of the house, something crashed, followed by the tinkle of broken glass hitting the tile floor in the kitchen.

Nolie jumped, adrenaline surging through her, and her heart pounded. It couldn’t be a break-in. They lived in too safe a neighborhood for that.

A flash of lightning brilliantly lit the room for a moment, followed almost immediately by a boom of thunder. Wind howled through the bushes and wires outside the house.

The storm. Of course. The wind had probably thrown a branch through one of the kitchen windows or the sliding glass door that led to their deck. Although it seemed unlikely, the possibility reassured Nolie.

Through the pulse beating loudly in her ears, she strained to hear any sound that might indicate an intruder. Her breathing was shallow, but she couldn’t draw a deeper breath with the constriction in her chest.

She should have just called the police. Getting up to check on the source of the noise might be the stupidest thing she had ever done. All the books she’d read where the heroine wandered off to check on suspicious things had annoyed the hell out of her, and she didn’t want to be one of those stupid women.

But instead of picking up her cell phone from the desk beside her, she slowly rose from her chair.

Glass crunched in the kitchen. Someone was there.

Trembling, her heart racing so fast she would never have been able to count the beats, she crept toward the kitchen and peered around the doorway.

A man wearing a ski mask and mirrored sunglasses stood beside a scatter of broken glass. The sliding door was wide open.

Nolie clapped her hand over her mouth, stifling a scream. Her legs shook so badly she couldn’t turn away to run, and even if they had cooperated she was frozen.

Someone was in her house, and she was alone with him.

As she stood there, thoughts whirling through her head and unable to move, the intruder lunged across the room and grabbed her. “You’re coming with me, bitch.”

His voice was little more than a low growl in her ear, but she recognized it. She had heard it every day for years.


Nolie took a deep breath and tried to calm herself. Excitement warred with fear and adrenaline within her. He hadn’t forgotten their talk. And now he was going through with his plan.

Sep 01

Tweaks, Changes, and Adjustments

The past week has brought changes and reconsiderations in my writing career.

Wooden Pencils In Line

Two of my books which were previously under contract with Ellora’s Cave have been returned to me. The books hadn’t been edited, and there was no release date in sight, so I asked to cancel the contracts. Ellora’s Cave obliged quickly and professionally, which I appreciate.

One of those books, a contemporary novel called With Every Touch, is currently waiting for me to decide what to do with it. The other, a contemporary “spice up the marriage” roleplay novella called Knot Intended, was just accepted by Loose Id.

I also asked for–and was granted–my rights back on my novel Shiny Objects, an MFM menage romance originally published in August 2011. Sales were not as good as I and the publisher would have liked, so it made no sense for the book to continue as it was. Fortunately, in the world of digital publishing, poorly-selling books can sometimes find new life. I already know where Shiny Objects is going once I’ve done some revisions, though I’m not going to give details just yet.

I’m currently at work on Stepping Stone Not Doormat, which will be the next book in my drag queen series with Loose Id. (And the first book of the three to be officially identified as a series title… I’m guessing if accepted, Loose Id will add the series title to the other two books.) And the next romance project I have on my list is the next book in my Love Like Vampires series. 

Many great things are coming for me over the next year or so; I can feel it. And I can’t wait to see what happens.

Aug 22

Spotlight #2 on Monica Corwin

As I said in the first Breathless Press spotlight today, author Monica Corwin has THREE books releasing from Breathless this month! The second spotlight today is the second of those books. 

Paint the Roses Red 200x300


The Queen of Hearts is tasked with a mission she cannot refuse. Assassinate one of the most dangerous men in the galaxy—her former lover.

Rebecca, once called The Queen of Hearts, is the most feared assassin in the galaxy. Released from the Red Queen’s prison, she takes one last job in order to collect the bounty and flee to the edge of the verse. The cards are flipped into the air when she finds March at the end of her blade.

March, codenamed The Ace of Hearts, was Rebecca’s friend, lover, and partner. Believing her dead, he launches a revolution against the regime who took her from him five years ago.

Can she overcome the time they spent apart and the torment she endured during her incarceration to claim vengeance against those who wronged them both?


The door creaked open as if the hinges hadn’t been tended in sometime. No one had real doors anymore. Most buildings had a retractable atom field designed to recognize specific people. A real door was an unexpected novelty and made things much easier.

The main room displaying a plethora of colorful headpieces sat devoid of life. A tea room took up space in the back so she squeezed through the small opening and found a handful of tables. One man sat on a thick wood stool with a hat and a tea cup before him. He wore black clothing, and his long brown hair fell halfway down his back with a red ribbon tied in the center.

She approached carefully, intent on not startling him. No honor was served in a backstabbing, either for the victim or the killer.

He set the glass down with a clink but didn’t turn. “I’ve been expecting you.” His voice sounded deep and rich like dark, hot chocolate.

“Well, then please turn and face me like a man.”

The man stood and turned. Before her stood a ghost. Even if he’d been marked for death, she wouldn’t kill him while he wore someone else’s face.

Paint the Roses Red is available from Breathless Press.


Monica Corwin is an outspoken writer who believes romance is for everyone no matter their preferences. Displaced in Central Pennsylvania, Monica Corwin attempts to spend her days writing away in her home by the river. In reality she chases around a toddler and writes when she can. In her free time she drinks entirely too much coffee and collects tomes on King Arthur. Monica Corwin has over thirteen published works from publishers such as Crimson Romance and Cleis Press. You can find her on the web at

Breathless Press 5th Birthday


In August, Breathless Press is turning 5!  To celebrate we are releasing a limited edition Hardcover collection of our special birthday Wonderland Tales and to make sure that you’re able to indulge in a little birthday fun, we are also having a month long 50% off sale across our site (

Wonderland Tales HC Buy Link

Finally, 3 lucky winners could win prizes in our birthday giveaway through Rafflecopter!

5th Birthday Rafflecopter Giveaway

1st Prize: 1 x Limited Edition Hardcover copy of our birthda Wonderland Tales, a $20 Amazon GC and a $5 Breathless Press GC.

2nd Prize: Paperback print edition of our birthday Wonderland Tales, a $10 Amazon GC and a $5 Breathless Press GC

3rd Prize: A paperback print edition of our birthday Wonderland Tales, a $5 Amazon GC and a $3 Breathless Press GC

Aug 22

Spotlight on Monica Corwin

It’s Breathless Press day today, and I’m welcoming author Monica Corwin for BOTH of today’s spotlight posts. Clearly a busy woman, Monica has THREE releases from Breathless this month! So today I’m spotlighting two, and here is the first.


Helena Banks and Alex Parker are meant to be…if they can get past the secrets, lies, corporate espionage.

Helena Banks has the perfect life. Well, she thought she did until her perfect fiancé left her in the limo outside her perfect wedding. Like any strong woman she rallied with the help of one super sexy limo driver. But is he really who he says he is?

Alex Parker never wanted a complicated life. He lives for his work and that had always been enough. When fate drops a damsel in distress on his radar he realizes he’s not content after all.

But Alex has a secret…one that will turn Helena’s perfect life even more upside down. Can she handle it, or him?


A quiet knock sounded at the door, and Alex went to sign for the food without me even making a move to get up. The aroma of melted cheese hit me full force. I surged to my feet, ready to make a beeline for the tray when the alcohol caught up to me and I wobbled, about to keel over. Alex had nowhere near my level of intoxication and caught me smoothly. He could do nothing but help buffer the fall with his arms.

We both landed on the plush faux fur in a tangle of limbs. The silk of my outfit did little to disguise any part of me, and when we both stilled, he was laying in the curve my open thighs created. Alex pushed up on his arms, removing his comforting weight off my chest, but made no move to get up.

Those green eyes ensnared me, and I did the thing I had been dying to do since I watched his lips wrap around the bottle earlier. They were just as soft as I imagined and tasted like lemon and beer. He didn’t respond at first, but when I probed the seam of his mouth with my tongue, it felt like an electric current shot through both of us. He wrapped one arm around my back, and the other hand tangled in the mass of curls at the nape of my neck. Effortlessly he pulled me into his body while pressing his hips into mine.

Not even a Disney kiss could have been as equally magical. His tongue traced mine with a demanding edge I savored as small currents of need sparked from the tips of my fingers all the way to my toes. I would have stayed there for hours if the sound of the door lock opening to a keycard hadn’t broken the spell between us. We both looked up just in time to register the shocked face of my former fiancé.

You May Kiss the Bride is available from Breathless Press.


Monica Corwin is an outspoken writer who believes romance is for everyone no matter their preferences. Displaced in Central Pennsylvania, Monica Corwin attempts to spend her days writing away in her home by the river. In reality she chases around a toddler and writes when she can. In her free time she drinks entirely too much coffee and collects tomes on King Arthur. Monica Corwin has over thirteen published works from publishers such as Crimson Romance and Cleis Press. You can find her on the web at

Breathless Press 5th Birthday

In August, Breathless Press is turning 5!  To celebrate we are releasing a limited edition Hardcover collection of our special birthday Wonderland Tales and to make sure that you’re able to indulge in a little birthday fun, we are also having a month long 50% off sale across our site (

Wonderland Tales HC Buy Link

Finally, 3 lucky winners could win prizes in our birthday giveaway through Rafflecopter!

5th Birthday Rafflecopter Giveaway

1st Prize: 1 x Limited Edition Hardcover copy of our birthda Wonderland Tales, a $20 Amazon GC and a $5 Breathless Press GC.

2nd Prize: Paperback print edition of our birthday Wonderland Tales, a $10 Amazon GC and a $5 Breathless Press GC

3rd Prize: A paperback print edition of our birthday Wonderland Tales, a $5 Amazon GC and a $3 Breathless Press GC

Aug 21

Teaser Thursday- Deep Down

Deep Down 100


The train was relatively crowded. Apparently, they weren’t the only ones who’d thought of going downtown for an evening out. They got off at the Aquarium station and went to visit the harbor seals in their outdoor tank before dinner. Two of the seals swam up to the glass and regarded them solemnly. “They’re so cute!” Courtney exclaimed.

She sounded so excited, Tanner couldn’t help beaming at her. Her happiness was contagious. He didn’t bother trying to remember the last time he’d felt this way. Nothing before Courtney mattered tonight. “Yes, they are,” he agreed. “They’re fun to watch, too, but I’m kind of hungry. Maybe we can come back here after we eat.”

“Good idea.” Her stomach growled audibly and she giggled.

They headed around the corner to Legal Seafood. As they ate their meal, Courtney casually suggested, “Do you want to see a movie? We could rent something and watch it at my place.”

“Or we could skip the movie and do something else at your place.” Tanner winked. “Whatever you’re comfortable with, kiddo. I think we both know where we want things to go tonight, right?”

She looked at the table and fiddled with her fork. “Yeah. I think we do.”

“Hey, look at me,” he said gently. He waited until her eyes met his and said, “Honey, if it happens, it happens. I want to make love to you. But if it doesn’t happen tonight, we’ll have plenty of time, okay?”

“Sounds like we’re a couple,” she said tentatively.

He took her hand across the table. “Sounds like we are. Ready to hit the road?”

“Yeah,” she said with a smile.

Hand in hand, they went back to Aquarium Station and got on the train. Butterflies duked it out in Tanner’s gut. He wanted her so badly he was afraid he’d move too fast and fuck it all up. She was so sweet, innocent in some ways. He was damned if he’d mess things up with her. Even if that meant going home with nothing but a kiss.

Then again, after what they’d done at his place before Gavin walked in, he doubted the night would stop with a kiss.

When they got off the train at OrientHeights, Courtney led him to a nearby movie rental store. Her face was flushed, and she jabbered on at ninety miles an hour about the movies they looked at. He finally put his hand on her mouth. “Kiddo, it’s fine,” he said. “Nothing to be nervous about.” If only he believed that himself. “We don’t have to get a movie. Maybe there’s something good on TV.”

“Yeah.” She rubbed her face. “Yeah. If we stay here, we might never actually get back to my place. Sorry. I know you’ve been there before, but this is…”

“Different,” he filled in. “I know. It’s okay, but let’s go, all right? Whatever happens, happens.”

She took a deep breath. “Yeah. Let’s go.”

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