Second Chances: Cover Reveal

Seeing as all I have left to do is finalize a few things and upload to Amazon, I’ve decided to drop the cover and blurb of my debut novella, Second Chances!

This is the first book in the Sheltered Hearts series–a series of stand-alones that are set in small-town Sundog Park, Indiana, revolving around cute guys and their colorful cast of rescued pets 🙂 It’s a MM contemporary second-chance romance with a HEA and no cheating. All the books in the Sheltered Hearts series stand alone, but characters overlap in later books!

Second Chances is 28,000 words and will be in Kindle Unlimited, so subscribers to KU read free! It will also be in print at a later date.

Cover is by the amazing Amy Queau at Q Designs!

second chances ebook

BLURB:

Fear took him away, but longing brought him back…

Six years ago, Nikolas Steele’s heart was broken when his best friend—the man who he thought was his forever—walked out on him without an explanation. Now, Ky Kendall is back in town, just in time for the holidays. When he shows up at Nikolas’s Santa Shop with a little girl who looks like him, Nik has questions.

In a time of need, Ky steps up to play the part of Santa’s Helper to keep the spirit of Christmas alive, but neither of them expect those old sparks to fly. Despite their renewed passion, Ky’s still running scared and Nikolas knows that at any moment, their fragile relationship could be shattered once more.

And this time, he isn’t sure if he’s strong enough to survive it.

#RainbowSnippets – 11/25/17

Welcome back for another round of #RainbowSnippets!

In case you didn’t know, #RainbowSnippets is a Facebook group for LGBTQ+ authors, readers, and bloggers to gather once a week to share six sentences from a work of fiction–a WIP or a finished work or even a 6-sentence book recommendation.

One last little tease for Second Chances, since I hope to have it edited, formatted and published before next weekend (cross your fingers!) 😀

“Please…”

Nikolas nipped his collarbone, teeth scoring into sensitive skin. “Patience, baby,” he tutted and then his warmth was seeping away as he backed away and Ky wanted to howl. He leaned against the wall, breathing hard, but he didn’t look away from Nikolas.

The other man winked and stripped from the Santa Claus coat, folding it over the back of the chair. He kicked the oversized gold-buckle boots off and shimmied out of the crushed velvet slacks. “These cost a fortune to dry clean,” he said, but Ky’s gaze was locked on the bulge hidden away in Nikolas’s candy cane boxers.

 

#RainbowSnippets – 11/18/17

Welcome back for another round of #RainbowSnippets!

In case you didn’t know, #RainbowSnippets is a Facebook group for LGBTQ+ authors, readers, and bloggers to gather once a week to share six sentences from a work of fiction–a WIP or a finished work or even a 6-sentence book recommendation.

Today I’m sharing with you an excerpt from Second Chances, which is my holiday novella that will be coming out shortly. It’s a little longer than six sentences, but it lost something. I won’t tell if you don’t 😉

 

“Ky? You’re here early. What are you—” But his words were stolen away as Ky crossed the distance in two long strides and kissed him. There was nothing gentle or curious or even hesitant about the kiss; his hand cupped the back of Nikolas’ neck and dragged him closer, until he could feel the heat of his body. Feel the way the other man shivered, then melted into the kiss.

And melt he did. A soft, breathy moan of pleasure escaped him when Ky pulled back. The look that Nikolas gave him, though… It took the cake. Hope and desire and need wrapped up in paper and tied with a golden bow. “Ky…”

“Don’t talk,” Ky mumbled, glancing sidelong to catch a glimpse of the clock. “We still have two minutes until we open. I don’t want to talk. I want to kiss you.

 

Free Fic Friday – Amaranthine

These two are actually one of my oldest MM couples–a demon and an angel–who never quite could figure out how to come up with a book for themselves. Their story was never really a happy one, more bittersweet than anything. Today they spoke to me and I was able to give them the one-shot they deserved after years of sitting on the shelves of my mind, even if it doesn’t have a happy ending.

Amaranthine
Undying, unfading 

Where are you?

The ache in my chest swelled. I gazed out at the barren city, its streets empty and lined with a thick layer of permafrost, leaving behind a frosty glow. As twilight descended over the world and snowflakes fell in an almost lazy dance to blanket the Earth, I was left looking out of the window of the abandoned library I’d holed up in to call my final resting place.

It was a two-story grave of brick and mortar, lined with shelves and shelves of bookcases. Fitting, in an odd sort of way, since this is where it all began. I drew in a deep breath and turned away from the window, setting my jaw. There was no use hoping. It was over. The world was all but cold now and I was alone once more.

I need you.

I slowly meandered down the aisle of bookshelves that stretched from ceiling to floor. The ancient tombs that sat upon them were musty, discolored and coated in dust, their spines bent and their pages tattered and yellow. They’d seen better days, but hadn’t we all? My boots scuffed over the old floorboards with a hollow thunk.

The library was dark, as was the city all around it. Not a single light glowed in the aftermath. They always told me that the world would end with a bang, but in all reality, life as we knew it would simply peter out. As the temperatures plummeted to subzero levels, one by one, our lights—the spirits fighting so hard inside of us—would blink out. Animals, humans, demons, and angels, we would simply cease to exist.

I dropped my forehead against the cold chill of the wooden shelves and closed my eyes. Heat billowed inside of me, the fever almost hot enough to suffocate me and steal my breath away.

I’d hoped… I’d hoped for so much, so damn much. I’d wished that it would’ve been different, that maybe we would’ve gotten a better ending than this. The human race was destined for extinction, but I always assumed that Heaven and Hell would march on. Immortal. Eternal.

Amaranthine.

But the gates were skewed, made of rusted metal and angry grudges, and in the end, hatred won. Humans turned on each other, vicious and filled with animosity. Angels took to the skies, their massive wings blotting out the last pallid beams of sunlight. Armed with weapons made of magic-imbued steel and cursed demonglass, we clashed. Blood spilled. Tears fell. Bodies slowly went cold.

But I don’t think Lucifer expected Earth to be our final battlefield. Our last hurrah. Our swan song. Cut down by my own kind, I fell, broken and battered, to the icy ground. Too exhausted to keep going as the world ended all around us, I dragged myself through the streets of bloodied corpses. Back here.

Back home.

Please…

Home was where the heart was, if demons truly did have hearts. I didn’t believe it, not before I met him. I thought that we were all just ruthless bastards with a penchant for violence. Funny how it was the touch of an angel’s innocence to breathe life back into me. This was home, but he was my heart. He was my fire.

I’m so sorry.

I sucked in a shaken breath. I knew that he’d fallen. I’d seen the pain in his eyes, his beautiful face smeared with gore as he was dragged away. I’d tried… I dropped my chin to my chest and pressed my eyes tightly shut. The tears burned and pricked at my eyelids, but they didn’t fall. He wouldn’t want me to cry.

“Keep your chin up, Dante. This isn’t how it ends,” he’d murmured, pressing a kiss to my temple in what would be our final embrace. His magnificent ivory wings curled around us in a feathery embrace. “Don’t let them get you down, my firebrand. You’re far too strong for that.”

I hadn’t felt strong. Not as I fisted my hands over the cold steel grip of my demonglass daggers. Not as I marched into the frozen expanse at his side, ready to wage war on those who threatened what little sliver of peace we’d made for ourselves. Not as he was ripped away from me, snarling and spitting angelic curses while demons cackled, painfully loud in the eerie quiet.

Definitely not now.

I stood in the empty hallway of the place we’d called our sanctuary, my throat raw and my chest tight. It felt as if my ribcage had been split open down the center, blood-washed bone torn free of muscle and sinewy tendon to expose a broken, mangled heart. What was left of me, was this.

“I can’t do this alone.” My whisper was hoarse in the silence of the building. It echoed off the metal shelving, bouncing back to strike me with a chill. This library had been our hideaway from the world, a safe haven from the Archangels who’d demanded my head, and the Blackbloods who’d declared me a traitor to my own kind.

Mizuki was wrong. There was no peace.

Hatred would always win.

I returned to the window and shuddered against a fresh wave of pain. I saw only white. Foolish. I knew it was stupid to hope that he’d find his way back home to me. My soul cried out for me to go search for him amongst the frozen remains of humans and enemies alike, but I didn’t have much time left in this world. I wanted to spend my last few hours here, surrounded by memories of him. Of us.

The Great Freeze wouldn’t be the end of me. It was the angelic poison licking through my veins, slowly but surely, that would be my undoing.

I touched my fingertips to the soiled bandages I’d swathed over my gut wound in an attempt to stop the bleeding. Had I been human, the blow alone would’ve killed me. I wasn’t lucky enough for that. Instead, my body would continue to try and heal itself while the toxin that had coated the blade slowly ate away at me. I’d managed to crawl home with my tail between my legs, to climb the steps without bleeding out into the snow.

Here, I would die alone.

I swallowed hard around the lump lodged in my throat. My gaze lingered over the frozen landscape, the buildings crusted with frost. Snow continued to fall, soft and silent. It was oddly beautiful, the end of the world. I climbed up to sit on the small ledge of the window and rested my cheek against the cold glass. It fogged up with each breath and I drew a path through the condensation with one finger.

I saw him then—a figure cloaked in black, stumbling through the snow. My pulse skipped a beat and I sat up straighter. The only feature I could make out was the mop of ruby red hair, a single flame burning in the night.

Please. 

My heart pitched. I didn’t bother with my coat as I stumbled down the steps. The heavy wooden doors swung open and I was blasted with an arctic chill that stole my breath away. The figure drew closer and I could tell now that he was limping. I couldn’t wait; despite the weakness ringing through me in protest, I ran.

“Mizuki!” I screamed, crunching a wild path through the snow. The figure froze and so did my heart. It was him! He’d come back to me. How, I wasn’t sure, but I wouldn’t question it. I couldn’t breathe as I forged my way through the snow, slipping and sliding on the icy ground. My stomach wound throbbed with each beat of my heart, but fuck it.

“Mizu.” I gasped his name as I buckled over.

“Dante?” His voice was a rasp. I collided with his chest. He let out a soft sob as his long arms curled tightly around me, cradling me with his warmth. I clung to him like a lost child, shaking violently now. I couldn’t stop. “Shh, love. It’s okay. Everything is okay,” he whispered, his warm breath tickling my ear. The tears fell free now, leaving damp streaks down my cheeks that turned icy. “Dante.”

“I love you,” I managed to say, holding my stomach. His gaze dropped to the bloodied bandages and what little color was in his cheeks washed white. His forehead crumpled, but he only held me tighter. One wing hung pendulous, broken and tattered, its snow white plumage stained with gore. I reached out and touched a bent feather. “I’m sorry.”

“Don’t apologize,” he murmured. I groaned low in my throat and sagged against him, exhaustion settling over me once more. Weakness laying claim to a body that was once strong and virile. “Let’s go back inside.” His hand at my back guided me forward. By the time we made it to the doorway, I’d collapsed with a cry and he had to carry me up the stairs. My mind was fuzzy, the world spinning circles around me.

This was it, then. I was really dying.

“Please stay with me.” I held tight to his neck.

His blue eyes, always so crystal clear, darkened with sorrow. “I’m not going anywhere, Dante. I’ll be right here, until the end.” He knew. It was written across his face. He cradled my trembling, fevered body to his chest. We lay in the bed we’d made love in, far too many times to count. He’d awakened that gentleness in me. He’d made me happier than I thought was possible in times like these.

“I love you, Mizu. You made life not suck so bad.” My lips didn’t want to form the words, so they came out slurred on my tongue. I laughed at the absurdity of it and he peppered my face with kisses. When I closed my eyes, his lips caressed each lid. I felt his teardrops on my skin; I wondered if he could taste mine. I breathed shallow now, the pain consuming me. “Don’t let me go.”

“I’m here, love. Right here. I love you. You are my fire, my phoenix, rising from the ashes of this broken, beautiful world. You gave my life light in its darkest days, and for that, I will forever be thankful. Just relax now.” He nuzzled his nose against my cheek, his breath warm and comforting. His arms embraced me close to him, holding me so tender, as if he let go, I’d slip away.

I was leaving him alone. He would die alone. No one would hold him as his light flickered out. The realization of it made me whimper, but he kissed my words away. “Don’t apologize, Dante,” he said, as if he knew what I was about to say. “Close your eyes, firebrand. Shall I sing you a song?”

I swallowed around the glass in my throat. “Yes.” It was barely a whisper now. My heart was fighting to keep beating. It was becoming hard to breathe. He dropped his lips to my hair, kissing me atop the head, and his voice came out soft and deep.

I didn’t understand the words, spoken in another tongue, but it felt like a lullaby. It felt like a goodbye. His voice broke on the next verse and he held me all the more tighter, but he didn’t stop singing, not until the very end.

And when I died, it was in his arms, safe and warm, wrapped in love and sung to sleep.

If there was an afterlife for us, when the world stopped turning and the last few breaths had been taken, I hoped that he might find me again. Maybe, in another life, it wouldn’t have to end like this. Maybe next time, love would win instead.

Our love was amaranthine.

pexels-photo-533925

#RainbowSnippets – 11/11/17

Climbing back on the horse for this weekend’s #RainbowSnippets with six sentences from the first chapter of the novel I just finished last month, which is titled Little Infinities.

It’s a MM contemporary romance that was supposed to be a stand-alone, but it turned into the beginning of a series of stand-alones. I fell so head over heels for Sebastian and Apollo that I flew through writing it — 73k in 39 days! Planning to release this book early 2018 and I’m super stoked.

Hope you enjoy 😉

Sebastian~

What I needed was to get so completed shattered that I couldn’t think straight. I needed to get so shit-faced that I didn’t continue to dwell on the harsh reality that had impaled me like a blade early this morning. It was late and I was buzzed, but what did it matter? I could grab my bike and hit an all-night liquor store, buy whiskey by the gallon, and retreat back to this ratty no-tell motel room and just…

Implode.

That sounded good right about now.

November Update

Depression is a bitch. It grabs you by the throat and it pins you to the ground and it messes you up, and you’re left feeling shaken and exhausted to the bone, with no creative mental energy, what-so-ever.

The good news is, I think I finally found a med-cocktail that works! I’m writing more than ever and I’m getting super excited about the upcoming year!

2018 is The Year Of Getting Things Done — and published! I’m starting from scratch, a new name and a new me, but I hope that in time, people will love my books (and my boys) as much as I do.

In July, I wrote a short story about a pride parade’s kissing booth meet cute, where the two guys who used to crush on each other back in high school finally meet again. It’s called The Kissing Booth and it will be a free read that I’ll pop up on Instafreebie here soon.

In October, I wrote something that I’d planned to be a standalone, but it turned into a series. This story poured out of me–73k in 39 days–and I laughed and cried along with these two men. They’re my favorite thing I’ve ever written, in all the years of writing that I’ve done. It’s title is Little Infinities and it’s the second chance story of a rockstar and the model whose life he saved, several years prior. (Plus I’m now 22k deep into Book #2 of this series, going strong!)

Lastly, Second Chances (Sheltered Hearts #1) is getting one last edit sweep. I’ve got a cover. I’ve got a blurb. I’ve got a plan. Since it’s a Christmas story, I want to get it out into the world for the holidays, for anyone who needs a smile and some holiday cheer. Check back soon for details.

~Kiska

July Update

When I fall off the wagon, I fall off hard LOL

No but seriously. I finished Second Chances (Sheltered Hearts #1) at the end of May and June was a bust (I dabbled, but didn’t get anywhere on any of my current projects).  I managed about 20k on a YA project for my original pen name and then boom–radio silence, static in the brain. Nothing, nada. Third shift sucks, yo.

So I turned to brainstorming. I re-read Second Chances and fell back in love with the characters, and that made me come back to ruminating on the issues I had with Kit and Hemi–and I /think/ I managed to figure up the hangup that made me come to a screeching halt on Three Dog Night.

I also think I might’ve figured out how to FIX the issues (yaaaay!) as well as came up with motivation and plots for books 3 & 4. FINALLY A BREAKTHROUGH!

Here, have a cookie ~

“It’s ok. Hey. Actually… I know you’ve just moved back. Any chance you need a job?” He flashed an innocent smile.

Ky looked taken aback for a moment. “Is that a trick question?”

“No. I mean, hell. You saw my assistant. She’s sick and without a photographer, I’m sunk. You know how many little kids are gonna be heartbroken when they find out Santa isn’t gonna be there this year? All those little kids…just like Hope?” He was practically begging, but he didn’t care. “Please? You were always so good with a camera. I’m desperate here.”

Ky groaned, but he was grinning. “Is the elf suit optional?”

“Ehh…” Nikolas tilted his hand back and forth a little.

“Damn it, Nik. You know I look awful in green.” But that wasn’t a no, and they both knew it. “When do you need me?”

“Uh. Tomorrow morning, nine AM. I know that’s short notice, but—”

“Yeah. I’ll be there,” he said softly. “I owe you.”

Nikolas shook his head. “You don’t, but thank you. You are a literal lifesaver.”

“I think you’re misunderstanding the word ‘literal’,” Ky said dryly.

“I don’t think I care,” Nikolas replied with a smirk. “Nine AM. Thank you.”

Second Chances ~ Chapter 1 {Teaser!}

For the readers and fellow writers wandering onto my site, wondering if I’m someone you want to read…figure there’s no harm in dropping the first chapter of #SecondChances here, at least until I publish it officially 🙂 Enjoy!

~Kiska

ONE

Deep inside the satin-lined pocket of the well-loved Santa Claus suit he wore, his phone vibrated violently against his outer thigh for the eleventh time in the past four hours. He didn’t need to fish it out to know it was his mother—for the eleventh time in the past four hours. He’d already answered two of the calls on his last break, not to mention replied to a handful of text messages /and/ rang the on-call nurse, even though he felt like it was pointless. It wasn’t like there was much he could do but relay information, but if it gave her peace of mind, so be it.

Damn he hated this.

Up front in the lobby, a little girl with pigtails had thrown herself dramatically on the hardwood floor, twisting and kicking and screaming bloody murder because she didn’t want to wait in line. She wanted to see Santa Claus and she wanted to see him /now/ and no amount of cooing and coddling from her incompetent mother was helping the matter.

On top of that, his assistant was trying to manage the clients while coughing up a lung every five minutes. The poor thing looked like he felt—dead on her feet and totally /over/ today. God, he was over the holidays in general and they were only halfway through December and that wasn’t like him at all.

His family /lived/ for the holidays. Christmas was such an integral part of their blood. There was so many traditions passed down from generation to generation, so much so that Grandpa Nick had founded this little slice of holiday cheer when he’d retired in [1947].

Old Saint Nick’s was his dream project, born of his heart and soul. His grandfather had wanted some way to give back to their tight-knit community. He’d bought the little shop on the courthouse square with it’s plate-glass front and had turned it into a place where kids and adults alike could come enjoy a slice of Christmas and meet Santa Claus. Years later, it was a yearly thing now in Sundog Park. It might’ve been a tourist attraction to some, but for the people who’d known and loved Grandpa Nick, his memory lived on.

He loved the shop. He loved the people and the joy on little kids’ faces when they saw Santa in the flesh. It was just…complicated this year. Nikolas Steele III hadn’t planned on taking on the family business for a long time. Especially not at twenty-eight and without a single gray hair in his beard, but things happened. Cancer happened, and now? Stressed out was an understatement. Nikolas would’ve given just about anything for a smoke break.

With another round of coughing, Mara Crosswind doubled over, hacking up gunk into a tissue in the most unladylike of ways. Nikolas glanced up at the ancient hand-carved wooden cuckoo clock on the wall and his lips twisted down into a frown. They were still technically open for four more hours, but he didn’t think either of them would make it that long.

“Hey, do me a favor, would you? Flip the sign,” he said as she dabbed at her watering eyes. Her gaze flicked up to him, obviously questioning his decision, but Nikolas shook his head. “Do it. You need to see a doctor before you end up with walking pneumonia. Your health is worth more than this. Flip the sign and lock the doors. We’ll finish up the clients left in the shop and call it a day. Okay?”

Relief flooded her reddened cheeks. “Thank you, Nikolas.”

“It’s Saint Nick to you, Elfie,” he said around a chuckle, gesturing to her own green and red get-up, complete with a pair of realistically molded elf ears. Thank god for Amazon Prime. Mara started to laugh, but it fast turned to another set of body-wracking coughs, thick and rattling. He was gonna put his bet on bronchitis and that meant he needed to find a stand-in photographer pronto.

Just another layer to heap on to the pile of stress.

He straightened his red velvet robe and settled in for the next kid. The hellion that had just screamed bloody murder stomped in next, trussed up in a complicated silk and lace outfit with way too many frills. Her face was as bright red as her dress, flushed and tear-streaked from her tantrum. Her slip-on flats clapped against the polished wooden floor as she shot a glare at her mother, who looked just as charming as she’d sounded.

Mara made a face and ducked behind the camera. Probably because the heavyset forty-something with a soccer mom bob and pasty makeup was none other than her sister-in-law.

The little girl climbed up into his lap and squirmed, grinding her bony butt over his knee. Her blue eyes were bright with a fire only an enraged toddler could have. “You aren’t really Santa Claus. Momma says you’re a fake.” Her lips pursed into a pout and her mother offered an apologetic smile. Nikolas had to suppress the snort that begged to be released.

“Maybe your Momma doesn’t believe in me anymore,” he said simply, with a wave of his white-gloved hand. “But that doesn’t mean you can’t believe. What’s your name, sweetheart?” He fell back into that smooth, soothing tone his father always used, smiling behind the itchiness of the beard.

She side-eyed him, like she wasn’t quite sure she could trust him. “Priscilla Amelia Greyson,” she said, and not without a touch of pride. She looked at him for a moment and he’d never seen such a condescending little four year old. Jesus. At least she’d stopped wiggling. That in itself was a small miracle.

“Of course. How could I forget you, Priscilla.” He winked and leaned in. “But I need you to do something for me, okay? See, Santa Claus exists because all the little boys and girls around the world believe in him. Their love and their belief make magic happen and that magic makes it possible for him to fly from house to house, near and far, and deliver presents every Christmas. If you stop believing in him, there would be no magic…and if there was no more magic, you see, there would be no Christmas.”

Her jaw loosened, eyes widening just a fraction. “…Really?”

“Yes, really. Santa needs you to believe in him. Can you do that for him?”

Priscilla hunched her shoulders, but her lips twitched up at the corners in the beginnings of a smile. “Do I get a present if I do?”

He laughed in the way only Santa Clause himself could laugh—hearty and full of ho-ho-hos. “Of course, little girl! What do you want for Christmas, Priscilla?”

“I want an iPad and the new Monster High doll—the vampire, not the zombie—and a One Direction CD and… I want a pony. A black pony named Sugar.” She bounced up and down in his lap, squirming once more as she reached up to twirl a pigtail between her fingers before nibbling on the frayed ends of the blonde strands.

“My, my. Santa will do his best to make your Christmas very special,” he said gently, tapping her chin with his fingertip to draw her face back up. Her gaze met his and he smiled. “Remember to believe in him. Old Saint Nick needs your magic, okay Priscilla?”

She pulled a face, like she was done believing in his mumbo jumbo, but she nodded and then grinned a gap-toothed smile, big as you please. “Okay, Santa. I promise.”

“There’s a good girl. Now sit still so Elfie can take a picture for your Momma,” he said, shifting her around so she was facing the camera. Her legs swung off his lap, heels kicking against his shins. She flattened her hands over the silk taffeta of her dress, then posed for the camera like a damn model. The flash popped with a flare of light that made little spots dance in front of Nikolas’ eyes. “I’ll see you next year, Priscilla. Be a good little girl!”

“Okay, Santa. Oh.” She paused to contemplate something. With a wicked little grin, she cupped her hand around her mouth and stage-whispered, “Tell Rudolph hi. Give him a kiss for me, but don’t tell the other reindeer that he’s my favorite.” She slid off his lap to land with a click of shoes on the floor. She danced over to her mother, the flouncy layers of her dress bouncing with each step.

The moment the door shut behind them with a merry chime of bells, Nikolas shot up out of his seat, scrubbing both hands over his face. “How many are left in the lobby? I need a damn smoke break.”

“…Nikolas.” Mara gave him the stink eye.

He grunted and waved her off. “Yeah, yeah, you and my mother both. I already told myself this is my last carton. It’ll get me through the holiday rush, anyway. I promise I’ll quit. Okay?” He meant it, though. The last thing he wanted was to end up on the other end of an IV line, getting pumped with chemical pharmaceuticals that supposedly killed cancer. Guess they did a pretty good job at killing you, too. The side effects of the chemo alone were enough to make him want to stomp out the cigarette before he ever lit it.

“Nikolas, honey, it’s your life. You don’t have to promise me anything. Just think about your poor mother.”

He groaned out loud. “I can only deal with one thing at a time, Mar.”

“Go.” She gestured to the back door that led to the alleys behind the courthouse square. Someplace no one could see jolly old Saint Nick lighting up a cancer stick. “Five minutes. We have one kid left. The end is near.”

“Glory god, hallelujah,” Nikolas said with a laugh before grabbing the pack of camels and making a beeline for the alley. The moment he lit up and inhaled that first icy blast of menthol, he could feel his muscles, like tightly coiled springs, slowly relax. With each puff and exhale of smoke through his nose, his spirits rose. Why did something so bad for you have to be so good?

“One more kid,” he told himself as he stubbed out the cigarette on the chipped brick of the alley wall and let the butt fall to the snow-damp ground. One more and he could close shop, lock the doors, and go home and take a hot shower to relieve some of this pent up energy. One more. He could do this. He took a leak and adjusted his suit in the mirror, puffing up the pillow that made up his big belly. Santa Claus couldn’t be skinny—it just wasn’t right. He fixed his beard, took in a deep breath, and went back out into the parlor.

He sat down in his chair and gestured for Mara to send the last client in. A chubby little girl with a full head of coffee-colored curls launched herself at him. She was maybe five, if that, but she didn’t seem to have a single worry in the world as she wrapped her short arms around him and hugged him. “Santa! Daddy, look! I told you! I told you he was real!” she chimed out and Nikolas all but melted. This. This was the reason he did this. Not for spoiled little kids like Priscilla, but for the ones with hope in their eyes.

“Of course he’s real, princess.” Her father shuffled into the room and his laugh, low and husky, made goosebumps prickle across every single inch of Nikolas Steele’s skin. His head popped up fast enough to nearly give him whiplash as his gaze landed on the tall, broad-shouldered man who stood almost awkwardly in the center of the room. He stood with his hands stuffed into his pockets and his elbows jutting out at an odd angle, like he wasn’t sure what to do with his hands.

For a moment, all Nikolas could do was stare at the man, whose expression twisted up, almost painfully rueful as their eyes met and held. He didn’t look away. Nikolas couldn’t. He was trapped there, transfixed as his pulse began to jackhammer, shattering every last thought in his mind in rapid succession as he gazed at the dark-haired man who’d walked out of his life six long years ago.

“Hello again, Saint Nikolas,” he murmured.

Niko swallowed around the lump that was fast forming in his throat. Even though he stood right there, right in front of him, smiling despite the world-weary lines etched into his face, Nikolas couldn’t believe his eyes.

Ky Kendall was home.

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First time #RainbowSnippets

Popping my #RainbowSnippets cherry today. Found this nice little six-sentence LGBT Facebook group through a new-to-me writing friend (everyone wave to Nell Iris! HI NELL!) and I decided to give my hand at it.

#SecondChances is a sort of ‘prequel’ novella that will start off my small-town MM contemporary romance series. Sheltered Hearts will be a series of stand-alone HEA novels set in an idyllic little town called Sundog Park, and each of them have to do with pets (be it rescues, shelter animals, or just dogs and cats as pets in general) and the men who are blessed with their companionship.

Second Chances tells the story of Nikolas Steele III who runs a sort of Santa’s Workshop thing–yes it’s a Christmas story–and the series of events that follow his ex-boyfriend’s return after six years. Ky Kendall had his own reasons for jumping ship…but both of them seem to be drawn back to each other and they find themselves hoping for a second chance at love and happiness.

So here we go! (I think it might be seven sentences–oops!)

For a moment, all Nikolas could do was stare at the man, whose expression twisted up, almost painfully rueful as their eyes met and held. He didn’t look away and Nikolas couldn’t. He was trapped there, transfixed as his pulse began to jackhammer, shattering every last thought in his mind in rapid succession as he gazed at the dark-haired man who’d walked out of his life six long years ago.

“Hello again, Saint Nikolas,” he murmured.

Niko swallowed around the lump that was fast forming in his throat. Even though he stood right there, right in front of him, smiling despite the world-weary lines etched into his face, Nikolas couldn’t believe his eyes.

Ky Kendall was home.