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Safer Sex in Fiction

Since I started writing erotica and erotic romance nearly a decade ago, I’ve repeatedly seen debates about safer sex practices in that type of fiction. Some say that the stories are fiction, or fantasies, and including condoms or dental dams or any other type of barrier or birth control takes the reader out of the moment. Others say that as authors, it’s part of our responsibility to educate our readers, and that includes making sure readers know safer sex practices are important, sometimes literally a matter of life and death.

My personal opinion is somewhere in the middle. I disagree that including safer sex practices in fiction pulls the reader out of the story. When I read fiction, especially contemporary erotica or erotic romance, I’m pulled out of the story if the author *doesn’t* include safer sex practices, or at least have the characters mention them. At the same time, as an author, I don’t think it’s my responsibility to “educate”; it’s my responsibility to entertain by portraying realistic situations (inasmuch as things like werewolves and vengeance demons can be realistic…)

In all of my fiction that includes sex, whether explicit or off the page (which is more my young adult stuff than my romances), I at least mention safer sex. Sometimes the characters decide not to use it. In my male/male novel Lost Soul, the main character, Joel, is a sorcerer who uses magic to prevent diseases, so he doesn’t have a need for condoms or other barriers. But the first time Joel has sex with Lanny, they talk about *why* condoms aren’t necessary. It’s a brief conversation (I’ll share the excerpt that includes it on Thursday, so stay tuned), but it’s still there.

Likewise in my heterosexual urban fantasy novel Beta Test, where werewolf Justin tells his human mate Tara that werewolves can’t get pregnant so they don’t need birth control, and werewolves (in that universe, at least) don’t carry any type of human illness or disease. However, Justin has failed to take into account the fact that Tara isn’t a werewolf, so while no STIs occur, Tara does get pregnant.

In most of my contemporary fiction, the characters use condoms. Those are brief exchanges as well; most of them are not much longer than, “Do you have a condom?” “Yes” followed by the guy putting on a condom.

Depending on the story and characters, this discussion can even give readers a glimpse into the personality of the characters. Does one of them hesitate about using a condom, or try to refuse? In a heterosexual interaction, is the woman terrified of pregnancy? Has one of them already experienced an STI, or lost someone to AIDS?

Safer sex practices, or the discussion thereof, don’t have to be long interruptions in the flow of a story, any more than they have to be long interruptions in the flow of a sexual interaction in real life. And an author doesn’t necessarily have to include it every time the characters have sex; I generally include the discussion and use of a condom with the characters’ first sexual interaction, and figure readers will assume (correctly) that the characters use condoms for all future interactions. But I do think it’s important to establish that the characters are playing safe.

Teaser Thursday- Hummus on Rye

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“I wouldn’t want to put you to any trouble,” Candace said.

That rang a little insincere. She might not have wanted to be trouble, but she definitely wanted to be the center of Tobias’s and Suzannah’s attention. Of their protection. I didn’t call her on it, but I stored it away to mention to Tobias later if he hadn’t picked up on it.

“It won’t be trouble,” Tobias said. “This is your first hunt with our pack, and it would be irresponsible of me not to stay with you. You’ll be fine with us. Kirk and Kyle will be along as well, and maybe a couple of our friends from City Pack.”

“But I don’t know them.”

“You’ll meet them before we shift.” Tobias spoke in a low tone, the way he spoke to me when I had to shift back to human after spending a few hours as a wolf. I hated the shift and needed him to guide me through it even now. I didn’t know if his calming effect was an alpha power or just part of him. Probably the latter, since none of his other alpha powers worked on me.

The tone had the same calming effect on Candace as it did on me. “As long as you trust them, I guess I can.”

“Yes, you can.” Tobias sat on the chair opposite her. “We always hunt in groups, Candace. And it will be good to have other wolves with you in case I have to leave the group to address an issue with another pack member. You’ll have four wolves you know right there with you, and I’ll make sure you’re introduced to anyone else who’s going to hunt with us before the shift.”

She nodded and swallowed hard. “Okay. I’ll try.”

“That’s all I ask.” He smiled at her again. “You’re one of our pack, Candace. That isn’t going to change unless you endanger the pack, and I don’t think you’d do that, would you?”

“Not if I could help it.” She paused and then looked up suddenly as what he’d said hit her. “You talked to my old Alpha. You know why he sent me away.”

“I e-mailed him,” Tobias said. “The Anax didn’t tell me much about you, and you said you were asked to leave the pack only because of the arguing. I needed to know the whole truth.”

“I didn’t lie to you!” She jumped to her feet. “It was because of the arguing. I didn’t go near any humans!”

“Sit down.” This time, Tobias spoke as Alpha. We all felt it. Candace immediately plopped back down in the chair, tears running down her face. “I am not accusing you of anything, Candace. Don’t twist my words. You knew that your former Alpha believed you showed yourself to humans, didn’t you?”

“Yes.” Her voice broke. “But I didn’t!”

“Please only answer what I ask you.” Tobias leaned forward, elbows on his knees. “We were just talking. Now I need to be your Alpha, because you’re upset and frightened and you’re about to lose control, aren’t you?”

“I need to run.” She tensed but didn’t stand. “Please let me run.”

“No. Not by yourself, and not in daylight. You’re safe with us, Candace, and as your Alpha I will keep you safe if you can’t do it yourself. This is how you felt when those humans found you on the bridge, isn’t it?”

“Yes.” She brushed a hand across her eyes.

“Tell me what happened.”

I didn’t know if Candace actually wanted to talk about it, but she couldn’t ignore Tobias’s compulsion. “I didn’t go on the hunt with the others. Two of them had threatened me earlier and I was afraid they’d follow through.”

“Why didn’t you tell your Alpha?” Kirk asked. Tobias glared at him and Kirk shrugged.

“He believed I caused the problems the others had with me,” Candace said. “When I asked him for help he told me that if I stopped causing problems, everything would be okay. But it wasn’t my fault.” She paused. “The ones who threatened me, they’d talked to him. The wolf who—who did things to me. I saw them. Afterward, they said they didn’t know what I was talking about. They didn’t remember seeing him. I think he made them threaten me.”

That sure sounded like something Saul might have done. And I wasn’t a bit surprised to hear that the other weres hadn’t remembered seeing him. Kind of like Tobias didn’t remember fighting him two nights earlier. I think she’s right, Tobias.

Teaser Thursday- Veggie Burgers to Go

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After Saul, only four names remained on Zane’s list. Of course, he didn’t call the names of the guests. We weren’t important enough.

“We have much business to conduct today,” Zane said. “We will meet for approximately two hours each session, with breaks between for food and any other needs. Alphas, remember that our cardinal rule is respect. Each other, yourselves, and me. Those of you who have accompanied your alphas to this meeting, please remain silent unless asked to speak.”

A few minutes of bureaucratic procedural stuff followed. I zoned out. I dealt with enough of that kind of thing at work, since my boss seemed to think he should run meetings according to some old rulebook or something. Besides, if I wouldn’t be allowed to speak, there wasn’t much point in my knowing how the meeting would be conducted.

There was some discussion among the alphas about the bureaucratic stuff. Then they actually started the business part of the meeting. “To begin, we have a new pack to formally recognize,” Zane said. “Tobias Rogan, Alpha of the Boston North Pack, please stand.”

Tobias did. There was a little grumbling in the peanut gallery. Apparently the decision to recognize our pack as legitimate didn’t meet with everyone’s approval. None of the alphas made a sound, but I had the feeling that was mostly because Zane had told them not to.

“Tobias Rogan, for over a century the Boston North Pack has existed as a subset of the City Pack,” Zane said. “You have been indulged with the allowance of attending these meetings as alpha; however, officially you have not until this point been alpha of your own pack. As Arkhon of the Northeast Region, I now confer upon your pack official status, and confer upon you the official title of Alpha of the Boston North Pack, pending the approval of the majority of your peers.”

Of course it couldn’t be as easy as Zane just saying it was so. Even though he had the power to do just that, evidently he ran the region the same way Tobias ran our pack. As a modified democracy. Zane doubtless would have final say, but he preferred to put things to a vote.

I just hoped that wouldn’t bite us on the ass.

“Thank you, Arkhon.” Tobias bowed his head. “I am honored to have my pack thus considered, and I await the word of my peers.”

Both Zane’s words and Tobias’s were clearly part of some ceremony. As Zane had said when he’d greeted us, a lot of things in the shifter world seemed to be ceremonial. I didn’t know if knowledge of the right words came with being an alpha or if they had to rehearse, though I hadn’t heard Tobias practicing any lines. And I’d certainly spent enough time around him lately.

“Alphas of the Northeast Region.” Zane turned his attention from Tobias to look at each of the other alphas in turn. “The Boston North Pack has run under its own leadership for many years, since before City Pack existed. Rather than subsuming the smaller pack, when City Pack arrived its alpha reached an agreement with Boston North’s to allow coexistence. Throughout the changes of alpha which have occurred in both packs, that agreement has remained intact. As Arkhon and as wolf, I believe it is now time to formally acknowledge this pact and grant Tobias Rogan and his pack official status among you. Who agrees?”

The “yeas” which rang through the room sounded like they came from most of the alphas present, judging from the volume. I couldn’t help grinning. I’d been worried, but apparently I had nothing to worry about.

“And those who disagree?” Zane said.

Several of the alphas said, “Nay.” Their voices were nowhere near as loud as the agreements had been.

“Then it is agreed,” Zane declared. “The Boston North Pack hereby is recognized as autonomous and legitimate by the alphas of the Northeast Region. Tobias Rogan hereby is officially instated as Alpha of the Boston North Pack.”

“You can’t be serious!”

I recognized the voice, and wasn’t a bit surprised to hear it. Saul.

“Saul Hughes, Alpha of the Erie Pack, rise and state your complaint,” Zane said. “And remember that we respect each other in this room.”

Saul stood. He was broad-shouldered, with a dull brown crewcut that stood out against the long hair worn by almost all of the other alphas. With his back to me, I couldn’t tell much more about him than that. Not that I wanted to know any more about him.

“I apologize for my outburst, Arkhon.” Saul’s apology sounded anything but sincere. “I am concerned about placing a new pack under the rule of an alpha as weak as Tobias.”

A hand went up, and Zane nodded at its owner, whom I couldn’t see until he stood. It was Chal. “The Boston North Pack is not new,” he said. “It has existed longer than my own pack, as the Arkhon just stated. Tobias has been its alpha for over three decades, and he has ruled well, as I can attest since his territory is nearly within my own. He has shown no sign of weakness.”

“He claims a man as his mate.” Disgust pretty much dripped from Saul’s words.

“And that is weakness?” Zane raised an eyebrow.

“I believe so,” Saul said. “I don’t believe anyone who engages in such behavior is fit to govern a pack, and I will not stand for it occurring now.”

“So much for respecting each other,” I muttered to Suzannah, forgetting about the hyper-hearing.

“Silence among the guests,” Zane said, the ring of compulsion in his tone. I discovered that his compulsion had no more effect on me than Tobias’s usually did, but I shut up anyway.

“You have no choice but to stand for it, Saul.” Tobias’s expression and voice gave no indication that Saul’s comments bothered him. “The alphas have voted and have accepted my pack and me. It is done.”

“It is done,” Zane agreed.

“No fucking queer is going to run a pack.”

Teaser Thursday- Salad on the Side

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The day had turned very warm, so having the car’s top down came as a welcome relief. Tobias drove carefully through East Boston to the highway, then took the ramp onto the Mass Pike and headed west. At least, that was what the sign told me.

We didn’t talk as he drove. At highway speeds, the wind noise prevented conversation. The lack of chatter didn’t bother me, though. I was here, in one hell of a sweet car, with the man my heart had decided to fall for without consulting my brain. We were headed for some unknown destination, just the two of us.

Nothing else mattered.

It took a long time to leave the city completely behind us. Boston’s suburbs and the surrounding area spread over quite a distance from my perspective. After a while, though, nothing lined the highway except trees and occasional glimpses of buildings.

He left the highway via a seemingly random off-ramp, leading to another highway heading south toward Rhode Island. I had no idea how much time had passed and I didn’t really care. The dashboard clock was clearly visible, but I chose not to look at it. The freedom of being alone with Tobias like this, alone even though cars whizzed by us and people stared and even waved, wiped any worries about real life right out of my mind.

A sign for Cape Cod led us to another off-ramp, which Tobias took. “We just made a hell of a circle,” he said when he slowed for a stop sign at the end of the ramp. “I could have just driven straight here without going through all that.”

“Then why didn’t you?”

He smiled and patted my leg. “Because then I wouldn’t have been with you as long.” He turned onto the road. “I’m going to take you somewhere I used to go with my family when I was a kid. I’ve never brought anyone else to see it, but I want to bring you. The only thing is; it’s going to be a while before we get there, and it includes a ferry ride. You up for it or do you need to go home for something?”

“Why would I need to go home?” I pointed out. “I live alone, my boss is probably ready to kill me, and so are a few shifters I know. Take me wherever you want.”

“Oh, I’d love to take you a few places.” His emphasis made the double entendre all too clear and my body responded accordingly. Maybe if I was discreet enough about it, I could suck him off while we drove…

He flicked the side of my head with his thumb and forefinger. “Alphas know what their pack is thinking. And I’m much, much closer with you than I am with the rest of the pack. Stop that before you get me all hot and bothered.”

“Failing to see that as a problem.” I put my hand on his thigh as close to his crotch as possible without being completely indecent. After all, we were in a convertible. “Does this place you’re taking me to have any secluded spots? Outdoor sex has always been a fantasy of mine.”

He laughed. “Unfortunately, not secluded enough for what you have in mind. I think you’ll really like the place, though, once we get there. Just bear with me, because it’s going to be a long drive.”

“And the idea of spending more time with you is so reprehensible.”

He swatted my hand. “Stop giving me a hard-on and let me drive.”

I took my hand off him, though I was very reluctant about doing so, and watched the road. Being this close to him and not being allowed to touch him constituted the worst kind of torture as far as I was concerned.

Being tormented like that was actually kind of fun.

Teaser Thursday- Stepping Stone Not Doormat

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Mitch nodded. “You need good things. Just don’t let him take advantage of you.” He bit his lip. “Yeah, I’m one to talk about taking advantage of you. I’m sorry, Sol. For every time I shit all over you trying to help me.”

Solara blinked. She had no clue what had brought that out of Mitch, and it took her a moment to respond. She rested her hand on his shoulder. “Boo, you didn’t take advantage of me. Not even a little. You took what I offered, nothing more.”

“I kept screwing up, though.” He looked at her with watery eyes. “You kept trying, and I kept screwing up.”

“Mitch…” Solara couldn’t even begin to figure out what to say. She looked at Hunter, hoping he would help out.

“In therapy, he’s been working on deciding who he should apologize to,” Hunter said. “You know, the whole twelve-step thing. He said you did the most for him, which means you’re the one he took the most from.”

“I see.” Solara was all too familiar with the concept of making amends. Not that Mitch had to make amends to her, as far as she was concerned. “Mitch, baby, you didn’t do anything wrong by me. Not ever. Sometimes I wanted to shake some sense into that skinny little body of yours, but you don’t owe me any apologies, okay?”

Mitch nodded again. “I guess.”

“Boo, I am a stepping stone, not a doormat.” Tears came to Solara’s eyes, and she blinked rapidly. She was not about to get emotional in public. Mitch was doing enough of that for both of them. “I gave you what you needed to make a good life, and I haven’t regretted it yet. Don’t be down on yourself, okay? I accept your apology if you feel you need to give it, and I forgive you for whatever you think you need my forgiveness for.”

“You really don’t think I did anything wrong, do you?”

Solara considered her answer. Mitch was strong enough to hear truth now, and if he was going to truly recover, he had to know how his actions had affected others.

“I think you did some wrong things,” she said slowly. “Not to me, though.”

“Okay.” Mitch pressed the heels of his hands against his eyes for a few seconds, then smiled. “Okay. I know you wouldn’t lie.”

Solara’s curiosity got the better of her. “Why are you bringing this up right this second?”

“Because I know what I did, and I want to make sure no one else does it to you.” Mitch tilted his head. “And because if you’re a recovering addict, you probably did some of the same things as me. You forgave me. And Hunter forgave me for what he saw before I went into rehab. If you guys can both forgive me, Navon should have forgiven you. And he should definitely tell you now that he does.”

It took a moment for Mitch’s words to sink in. Sometimes the boy was just plain astonishing. Solara grinned. “You’re pretty smart for a young guy, boo.”

“I have hidden depths.” Mitch looked proud of himself. “We have to go see Hunter’s mom. See you tonight, okay?”

“Absolutely.” Solara hugged him, then Hunter. “Drive safely.”

The two of them walked over to Hunter’s car on the far side of the parking lot. Bemused, Solara watched them get into the car and drive away.

Teaser Thursday- Last Chance Tattoo

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Dorsey didn’t expect to see Rad again. The kid—the guy. He’s an adult. I need to remember that—didn’t really strike Dorsey as the type to get a tattoo. Even though Rad had seemed excited about the idea, Dorsey suspected Rad would back out on the reality. Dorsey was damn good at his job, but there was no way to do a tattoo without needles and some pain, and he wondered if Rad would be able to handle either.

Yet after Dorsey opened the shop at ten that morning, he kept looking out the window. Not for just any customer this time, but for Rad.

Thinking about the guy sent small, barely familiar jolts through him. The longer Rad had hung around the shop the day before, the more intriguing Dorsey had found him. Rad had an almost feminine softness to his features, but when he’d rolled up his sleeve so Dorsey could see a possible location for a tat, the muscles in Rad’s upper arm were obvious. He was several inches shorter than Dorsey, and that plus Rad’s young appearance gave the impression he needed to be taken care of.

But the way he’d talked about his family and the people who’d bullied him proved otherwise. Rad might have considered himself a fuck-up, but he could clearly take care of himself. Maybe not financially, but in other ways. Rad’s cuteness and size hid a lot more strength than Dorsey would have expected.

Dorsey was attracted to Rad. He couldn’t deny it. Something in him that had slept since Chester’s death had begun to wake, and it wanted Rad.

That lithe body in Dorsey’s arms. Somewhere… The location didn’t matter. Somewhere no one would find them.

Both of them nude, skin to skin. When they stood together, the height difference was too much for Dorsey to rub his cock against Rad’s as he wanted. Rad’s cock was larger than Dorsey would have guessed, perfectly shaped and hard as steel. Just like Dorsey’s cock.

Dorsey shuddered and hitched in a breath. Three years of denying any release other than quick, sometimes bitter masturbation, of believing he would never want anyone again. Now this skinny little guy walked into his shop and turned him right the fuck on. Without doing a damn thing other than talking and acting like a scared little rabbit.

The shop was far from the right place to indulge in fantasies, let alone to get himself off. He had to keep it together. The weather was better than the day before, sunny and windless, so customers might actually show up.

Rad might come back. Anything was possible.

Teaser Thursday- I Should Tell You

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Tentatively, Mitch brushed his fingertips over Hunter’s cheek. Hunter pushed the kiss a bit further, still tender but with a little more hint of what he truly wanted. Mitch’s tongue touched his. For a moment the kiss became as hungry and desperate as the one they’d shared the night before.

Heat coursed through Hunter, and he fought to keep his hands on Mitch’s shoulders. He was used to kissing and touching leading to fucking, and he wouldn’t have objected a bit if this had gone the same way. But he’d promised Mitch they wouldn’t go so far.

He broke the kiss and looked into Mitch’s startled brown eyes. “You can feel how much I want you.”

“Yeah.” Mitch licked his lips as if trying to taste Hunter’s kiss. “So do I.”

“I told you we were just going to kiss and touch.” He smoothed Mitch’s hair. Hunter had to be crazy to turn down sex with such a gorgeous man, but he was determined to keep things on a level they could both handle. If Mitch learned to tolerate Hunter’s touch without drugs, he might be able to tolerate sex.

Except Hunter didn’t want mere tolerance. He wanted Mitch to genuinely desire him and enjoy sex with him without anything numbing the emotions.

“It’s torture,” Mitch said. “The only person who’s gotten me off lately is me, and that’s not much fun.”

“I’m horny too.” Hunter kissed the tip of Mitch’s nose on an impulse he didn’t even try to understand, and Mitch gave a surprised bark of a laugh. “You’re fucking hot and cute and everything I’d love to have wrapped around my dick, but it isn’t happening this morning. When we fuck, I’m going to take my time with you so you can stop me if you need to, and so you can like it and want it so bad the nightmares won’t be able to touch you.”

“Nightmares?” Mitch ran his fingers down Hunter’s arm. “I don’t think I’ll be asleep.”

“People like us don’t need to be asleep to have nightmares.”

“No, I guess we don’t.” Mitch rested his hand on Hunter’s thigh again, this time with a bit more distance between it and the bulge of Hunter’s cock. The contact still added heat to the arousal already raging inside Hunter, and he took a deep breath to cool himself down.

Mitch’s eyes gleamed. “God, I want you. Please?”

“No.” Hunter had to force the word out of his mouth. “Not now. Not in a rush, and not after last night. I’m not walking away from you, baby.” The endearment, one he’d never used, fell from his mouth and sounded more right than anything he’d said in the past few days. “We have to figure out how to make this work so you don’t need the pills and I don’t have to keep picking you up. Not that I won’t be here for you, but I can’t be your strength. I can only help you find your own.”

“I don’t think I have any.” Another of Mitch’s tears fell onto Hunter’s chest. “I’ve always been weak.”

“I don’t believe you. I think you just haven’t had anyone tell you you’re strong.” Hunter tightened his arm around the other man, hoping Mitch would take it as the comfort he intended. “You’re one of the stars of that club. You’ve made a life for yourself despite whatever you went through. You kicked the pills, even if you relapsed. That’s strength, baby. Don’t ever doubt it.”

Teaser Thursday- Stepping Stone Not Doormat

“You’re going out with him?” On the other end of the phone, Mitch’s voice rose. “How can you go out with him?”

Solara held the phone away from her ear and took a deep breath. Mitch was looking out for her. That was all. Even if it pissed her off, his heart was in the right place.

She sank onto her couch and propped her feet on the coffee table. “If I’d known you were going to act like this, I wouldn’t have told you.”

“He hurt you,” Mitch said more quietly.

“Yeah. In the past.” Solara closed her eyes. If Mitch hadn’t called to invite her to spend the day with him while Hunter was at work, they wouldn’t be having this conversation. Usually when Mitch needed company for the day, she was there. But today, she couldn’t be, and he’d demanded to know why.

She should have known he wouldn’t react well to hearing she was giving Navon a chance.

“Right, and if someone hurts you, they’ll hurt you again.”

“I don’t know that,” Solara said, trying to keep the anger out of her tone. “That’s why I’m spending the day with him. He wants another chance. It’s been fifteen years since he fucked me over. Fifteen years is a long frigging time. People change. I sure as hell have.”

“So what if he’s changed?” Mitch snapped. “What are you going to do, move him in with you?”

“Whoa. Stop right there.” If Mitch didn’t keep his mouth shut, Solara would completely lose her shit. He had no right or reason to be jealous. The couch wasn’t his bed anymore. He had a home with Hunter. A life with Hunter, and Solara hadn’t begrudged him that for a single second. She deserved the same respect from him.

Mitch didn’t say a word, but Solara could hear him breathing heavily. He didn’t do confrontation well. Even though he’d started it, he was probably afraid of what she might say or do to him for standing up to her.

He had guts. She would give him that. A couple of months earlier, he wouldn’t have dared to speak to her this way.

Once she was sure she could sound calm, she said, “You’re trying to protect me. I get it, and I appreciate it. But this is a case where I have to make my own decision. If it bites me in the ass, so be it. I can handle it. What I can’t handle is wondering what if, and that’s something I’ve been wondering for a decade and a half. What if things had gone differently between him and me? This is my chance to find out.”

“He might hurt you again,” Mitch said in a small voice.

“He might. Or I might hurt him again. Or maybe neither of us will hurt the other.” She hesitated. If Mitch was reacting this way just to the news that Solara had a date with Navon, she could only imagine how he would respond to hearing about Navon’s planned move. But that was the reason for the date, and maybe Mitch would understand that.

“He’s thinking about moving out here,” she said. “He doesn’t know anyone else in the city. I want to see if we can at least get along enough to be friends. Maybe more, maybe not, but at least that.”

She stopped again as a realization came to her. Mitch had never been jealous of other men when it came to Solara, and maybe he wasn’t jealous now. Maybe he was afraid she wouldn’t have time for him anymore with Navon in the picture, the same way he always feared she would abandon him like most of the other people in his life.

That fear was something she could address. “And it doesn’t mean you’re going to lose me, boo. No matter what Navon is or isn’t to me, you’re my family, and that isn’t changing.”

“Okay.” Mitch sounded relieved. “You’re my family too. That’s why I want you to be okay.”

“I know.” Solara sighed, wishing again she hadn’t told Mitch what was going on. “Look, I have to go get ready. He’s going to be here in a few minutes. I’ll try to give you a call later, but don’t worry if I don’t. I might not have a chance until tomorrow.”

“Yeah, if you’re naked, I don’t want you calling.”

Release Week! Stepping Stone Not Doormat

Tomorrow is the official release of my new male/male novella Stepping Stone Not Doormat! This is the third book in what wasn’t intended to be a series about drag queens who perform(ed) at a club in Boston. The series started with I Should Tell You, which released in March 2014, and continued in Last Chance Tattoo, which released in August 2014.

Although Last Chance Tattoo takes place in a different state and shares only one character with I Should Tell You, Stepping Stone Not Doormat is a direct sequel to ISTY. The main character is Solara Flare, first introduced as the “drag mother” of one of the main characters of ISTY.

When I wrote ISTY, Solara, inspired by real-life drag queen Latrice Royale, stood out as an incredibly fun character to write, and I made up my mind that someday, she would have her own story. And apparently readers liked her too. In one review of ISTY, the reviewer questioned whether Solara would become the lead in a future book. After that, how could I say no?

Meanwhile, my publisher Loose Id put out a call for reunited lovers stories, and so I gave Solara a former lover, Navon, who shows up in Boston unexpectedly. But as I began to brainstorm their story, something was missing. I knew why Navon and Solara had broken up: Solara is a recovering drug addict who used heavily during their initial relationship, and Navon ended the relationship when Solara was arrested for burglary and possession. What I didn’t know was how Solara had found her way from Los Angeles, where that occurred, to her current home in Boston. Nor did I know why she chooses to use her stage name and female pronouns in her daily life despite identifying as male.

As I was struggling to put the pieces together, I saw a link on Facebook about domestic violence in gay couples. The link led to an article that included statements about how often male victims of male abusers aren’t believed; that male-on-male domestic violence is sometimes passed off as “just a fight”, or the victim is blamed for not defending himself.

As soon as I read that, I knew the rest of Solara’s story. How she fled across the country and changed (not legally) her name and pronouns to escape an abusive lover, believing that he would face no consequences. And that gave me Navon’s reason for finding Solara: To tell her that her abuser was dead and had left behind something that had once belonged to Solara.

Solara is a strong character who has overcome a lot, but even now, nine years after coming to Boston, sometimes her past weighs her down. But she fights to have a good life, and I hope readers will take encouragement from her.

Teaser Thursday- Last Chance Tattoo

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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.

“You’re looking for time alone now?” He deliberately made it a question.

“Kind of.” Rad shrugged again. “I didn’t feel like hanging around Gram’s house. Last night was, let’s say, interesting. And this morning, the drama continues. I needed a break for a while, and I thought the lighthouse would be a good place to go.” He shook his head. “It’s raining too hard. Where were you? I didn’t see you until you caught up with me.”

“I was having some coffee. Come on over and I’ll buy you a cup.” The rain was falling even harder now. Dorsey was pretty much done with standing in it. He just hoped Rad would come with him.

To his relief, Rad nodded. “Thanks. I’m freezing, so coffee will be good.”

“Yeah.” Dorsey considered offering Rad his jacket until they were inside. It would have seemed too intimate though. A gesture a boyfriend would make. They weren’t boyfriends.