Guest · Reviews

Special Guest & Review: Lockset by Brenda Murphy

Hi 🥰

I’m so sorry for the lack of new writing, my brain seems to have left the building and embarked upon a bitalot of a break. Left to my own devices I’ve been catching up on Drag Race, watching movies and, o’course, reading. 

Not many authors could have lured me from the thriller-fest of assassin slaughtering antics I’d been devouring—particularly between books 2 and 3 of a trilogy—but Brenda Murphy is as irresistible as Valkyrie is invincible. Thus, it was that Bourne had to stuff his Ultimatum where the sun don’t shine until I’d sallied forth on a second trip to University Square.

*Review progress report: they seem to be getting more random, rather than less, with practice*

4c299-lockset-f500

Series: University Square, Book Two

Publisher: NineStar Press

Heat Level: 3 – Some Sex

Pairing: F/F

Genre: Contemporary, LGBTQIA+ romance, family-drama, interracial, lesbian

***

Synopsis

After a string of failed relationships, brilliant litigator Eunice Park is determined to stay single. Who needs distractions when you’re trying to make partner at Chicago’s most prestigious law firm? A Sunday afternoon visit from the police is the beginning of a series of events that turn Eun’s life upside down, and she’s forced to return to her hometown and confront her estranged family.

Morgan Wright, locksmith and part-time animal shelter volunteer, is convinced the perfect woman exists, just not for her. After a chance encounter with Eun, Morgan becomes embroiled in Eun’s family drama.

Charmed by Morgan’s easy swagger, Eun invites her back to her hotel room. Bone-melting sex and a surprisingly soulful connection leaves Eun questioning her return to Chicago. But not everyone in Sikesville is happy Eun has returned.

My Review

As much as I adored the first book in the series, I may have enjoyed Lockset even more than On The Square. The instant sense of familiarity was a pleasure in itself. As luscious as sinking into a bubble bath scented with my favourite almond blossom. It felt as if I’d never been away…

If I loved the first novel like Haagen Dazs Pralines ‘n’ Cream with hot fudge sauce and nutty sprinkles…warm walnut shortbread and freshly baked bread…this story? Was a litre bottle of Bailey’s Irish Cream; lavishly laced with a whiskey warm kick. I may have made these novels sound supersweet; they are not. They are rich and real and feel as authentic as they are fulfilling. I love these women. They are strong in the sort of way I admire most. They retain a stubborn pride in their own self-sufficiency, above and beyond all reason. A trait that does tend to result in a refusal to rely on others and an inability to accept (let alone seek) help. All of which makes for fabulous friction in tandem with sizzling chemistry. And fantastic fiction, full-stop.

Eun may have had a dump truck of misfortunes land in her lap but she retained the sort of quiet strength that makes sharing them a journey, rather than an endurance.  I never for one moment doubted that Brenda Murphy would give these wonderful women the destination they deserved. No matter how rocky the road or tire-slashing the lurkers lying in wait to throw a spanner in their works.

On that note…the image of Morgan weilding a wrench was the single most sexy sight I wish I’d witnessed since Mai last licked her fingers in On The Square. (I am sure she must have done this. She is a cook. That’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it). It was an added dollop of delight to visit her now thriving restaurant and see her again. I could clearly do with another season of Nigella to warm my cockles. Or a reboot of The (exceedingly) Delicious Miss Dahl. I p’raps have a bit of a type…warm, sensuous women with lush curves…and sublime skills with a bag of sugar.  Ah well, in the meantime, I can but hope that a third trip to University Square might be on the menu and offer utmost compliments to the chef who cooked up this delicious series for our delectation. Oh, and a five star recommendation.

Treat yourself…you deserve it. Times are tough. 😁

Buy links

Amazon UK

Amazon US

💙💙💙💙💙

Book One

On The Square

Synopsis

Dropped from her television show after a very public split with her cheating ex, celebrity chef Mai Li wants nothing more than to reopen her parents’ shuttered restaurant and make a fresh start in her former hometown. So what if twenty years of neglect has left the building in need of a major renovation?

Seduced by Mai’s charm and determination, hard-edged contractor Dale Miller agrees to take on her renovation project.

After a spring storm causes significant damage to the building and renovation costs exceed Mai’s budget, Dale offers her a deal, but is it a price Mai is willing to pay?

My Review

https://zakarrie.com/2020/09/13/guest-brenda-murphy/

Wafflish

My Way – Epilogue Pt 1

Hi,

I’m so sorry it’s taken a wee while. It’s getting a mite out of hand, so I’ll post the lastest part soon…

 

My Way

 

 

 

Epilogue (Pt 1) 

 

 

 

 

Wednesday: 2 days later

Mac

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Gnhh…” Mac stirred, adrift in the half-way world where dreams and awareness merge. Heavy with slumber, floating too freely to surface when consciousness couldnae compare. “Hmmh…”

Warm…slither-soft, moist… Dangerously so. As if Mac needed reminding exactly why he’d written this off as a ‘gateway drug’ he couldnae afford to indulge in for…far too long. Far, far too… Hmmm…

“More…?”

Joe. Mac snapped his eyes open, halting whatever the fuck his spine was hell bent on pulling off. Bent? Damn thing was concave, shoving his arse towards the source of such contraband bliss. No. Fuck no. Nooo…Mac’s bones were melting. 

“Stooop…” 

“Up?” Huge hands clamped to Mac’s hips, hitching his arse higher, high enough for that far too talented tongue to dart between his cheeks and…dapple. Mac clenched his butt muscles, trapping it. Briefly. “Now you’re just teasing me…” The miscreant blew a stream of cool breath across damp skin, a sensation so persuasive that Mac’s treacherous cheeks staged a sodding mutiny. Goddamned arse would’ve slapped out the welcome mat if it could. In darted that demonic tongue, flickering like a fucking firefly, dead set on demolishing every last scrap of Mac’s sanity. Swirling…oh, so slowly…purgatory. Paradise. A world of black-shot-scarlet bright behind his eyelids. Brighter than the sun. Too intense to insist on…whatever the hell Mac should. Soon. 

“Nooo…” 

“No? Oh, okay…” What the…? Plush heat vanished, about a silent shriek of protest before Mac found himself tilted off balance before being flipped onto his back, to lie blinking up into daylight. A retina searing sight eclipsed by a streak of alabaster and mop of platinum hair when Joe straddled his hips. That face. Moonbeam pale, beyond beautiful, swooping to meld their mouths for an all-too fleeting moment. Shattered, when slick fingers closed around Mac’s cock, about a snatched off breath before Joe sank down—impaling himself hilt deep and Mac in a devastating scorch—with a sigh so sublime it was obscene. It damn near finished Mac off. 

“Gaarrhhh!” Tight hot, white-hot heat as acute as being flayed alive. Mac gritted his teeth against the need boiling his blood, battling it back, fighting to get a grip, when the grip was eye-watering elsewhere. A stillness serrated by his ragged breaths that felt as if each was hauling a steel-trap after it. Mac’s body was leaden, stupid with bliss, saturated in sweat. Brain shot to shit. The self he’d so assiduously constructed, snatched from his clutches and tossed to the wind like candy floss. Decimated with a twirl of demonic tongue and (quite possibly) a ‘wee sit down’.  Even Joe’s imaginary mind was monstrous. 

“I’m going to kill you,” Mac managed to groan. “Later…” 

“‘Kay…” Joe smiled, midnight eyes ablaze with knowing. Far, far, too much. “I’d better distract m’self for a bit then. Take my mind off the trauma…” A sage nod as the monster started rocking his hips, as if he were settling in for the duration. 

“You’re…” Mac couldnae think of a thing that could begin to cover it. 

Not ‘entertaining myself’ on your cock. Nor, using you ‘to abuse’ myself…” Joe leaned forwards to murmur “…’cept with pleasure.” at Mac’s lips before catching the bottom one between tender-sharp teeth. He wasnae lying. He’d prepped. Fucknows how long Joe had been awake. If he’d even been to sleep. He’d also clearly had his ‘breakfast’. Then recovered enough to be way too coherent at stupid o’clock and repeat Mac’s words from a lifetime ago, t’boot. Words he’d uttered in a last ditch attempt to protect himself, far too late. 

Who the fuck is this and what the hell has he done with Joe Fitzgerald?

With those eyes…? Pinned so wide he’d bypassed ethereal en route to unearthly. Impossibly beautiful. Mine. Whoever he is.

“Joe…” Mac croaked, “Please move…”

Hmmm…” Joe’s sigh was the most mind-boggling expulsion of air Mac had ever heard in his life. Coupled with an expression that could convey more than most could proclaim with a soliloquy. ‘Move’ swiftly morphed into finding himself cut adrift, lost to a rolling rhythm so inimitable only Joe could have rendered it. How wrong Mac had been. Far from ‘entertaining himself’, Joe might’ve been putting on the performance of a lifetime...if Mac could credit such a travesty of truth.  He watched, rapt, as Joe rose and sank; as unselfconscious as a creature of the Fae flitting through the trees. Flicker-frame flashes of liquid midnight and rosebud lips, head tipped back, baring the superlative arc of Joe’s throat to Mac’s greedy gaze. He was extravagance personified, gift wrapped in porcelain skin, pearlescent in the light filtering through the French windows.

“Will I be…enough?” Words Mac couldnae suppress with the onset of the tour looming so large. Joe was his. Mac didnae share…with anyone. For anyone. Not even Joe. Particularly not Joe.

The moment he sensed that his miscreant was done with him, Mac would be gone before dawn…but while Joe still wanted him? Mac couldnae abide another bastard laying a finger on him. If they so much as tried, he’d break a helluva lot more than that. It would probably be the last thing Mac ever delighted in doing. 

He didnae expect an answer, but Joe blinked, focussing on Mac’s face with irises too dark to discern how pinpricked his pupils were. “Yesss…” Joe gasped, “H-how could you…doubt it? Unless…” His gaze softened, smudged. Imploring. “Please d-don’t leave me, Mac…”

Leave you? Fuck no.” Never had a concept seemed less possible. Or more ludicrous, when nailed by need as compelling as the ever-building pressure, hovering on the precipice of unbearable bliss. 

“Mac!” 

“AGHH!”  A god-awful racket clawed Mac’s throat when Joe upped the ante, pace, undulation of his sprite-like self, as if dead set on driving Mac demented before he was, indeed, done. It was all Mac could do to close his fist around Joe’s tremouring cock and watch, rapt, as he rode the waves sweeping him to the edge of everything and beyond. Mesmerised by the perfection that was Joe on the precipice of paradise; realms away, yet never more present. It was with a sharp cry that his tufty head rocked back when Joe shuddered with a spasm of inner muscles that blazed through Mac in blitzkrieg of bliss.

“Hmm…” A sound matched by the beatific smile with which Joe sank forwards in a slick and sticky smear of skin. Mac would crawl over broken glass for one last glimpse of that expression. He would do far more than that. Right then, he couldnae think of a thing he wouldn’t do to merit that smile. Nor summon the will to worry about it. “Hmm…Mac…?”

“Aye…?” 

“Did you mean ‘fuck no’ the way it sounded?” 

 How the hell had Mac said it? He had a sneaky suspicion that he knew damn well. As if it was the last thing he might ever do, perhaps?  Too emphatically to suggest a single marble might be left rattling around in the bottom of Mac’s Bergen?

“Aye…” he repeated with a rueful smirk, instead.

“Will you say it again? ‘Twas hellish sexy,” Joe murmured, lifting his head to unleash the lashes.

“Fuck off,” Mac snickered.

“That’s very distracting, Mr Chuckles. Please…for me?” Rapid blinking. Pity-me-pout. Monster.

“Phhhh…” Mac hmphed. Trouble’s lips just twitched, knowing damn well that he was about to be obliged. Oh why not…what the hell. Mac couldnae be any more buggered. Unless he was, surely?  “Fuck no Growled, with a steely glare. Mad bastard.

“Hmm…” A happy hum of sound succeeded by a question from left field. Of course. “Mac, how long is ‘fuck no’ for?” Big round eyes beseeched, impossibly innocent.  Oh...for about as long as it took for Joe to finish one of them off? At least.

“Until you’re bored…and/or start finding your diet rather…restrictive, shall we say?”

“You can say it, if you like, but I sure won’t. The latter wouldn’t cross my mind, let alone leave my lips. I don’t find anything restrictive when I’ve shackled myself to it, you daftie. I’d get miffy if someone else told me what I must do, eat, say, for fifteen minutes, let alone forever. But never if I chose it myself. Beats me why folk have kiddies if they get fed up of stuff in five seconds flat. Scary that. Weirdos.”

If there was an answer to that? Mac wasnae likely to fathom it before he’d had his first smoke of the day. A stiff drink wouldnae go amiss, either…

“Mac…are you miffy?” Joe asked, hot on the heels of Mac’s silence. Unless, of course; the miscreant knew damn well why that might be. 

“Should I be…?” Mac raised his head, arching a wry eyebrow

“Sorry…? Um, it ‘wasnae a wandering digit‘ to break…the terms? Or feed to the dog?” The face Joe donned was best described as ‘all eyes and teeth’.  Like a cartoon character caught red handed.

“You broke the spirit of the terms—as well you know it—or you wouldnae be asking.” Mac informed him, with a lofty sniff. Far from ‘withering’, but about the best he could muster, when really. Joe was impossible. It was like trying to scold Pootle Flump. Okay. You’re really showing your age now, you old git. Baby Groot? He’d do. More to the point…scold?

Five days with who the fuck is Joe Fitzgerald and Mac had mutated into a badass grandma. 

Five days? It felt like five minutes and forever, Joe Mean Time. Meanwhile…in real time? The weekend in Marlborough had been followed by two rehearsal days in London. The second of these—Tuesday—had unfolded in much the manner as the first, except Joe had been the one to take Adam aside to ‘fine-tune some stuffs’. Apparently. The misreant had seemed untroubled when he’d emerged, so Mac hadnae pressed for any details. He could not micro-manage Joe and his own manager. His own control-freakery had started to freak Mac the fuck out. In his own indefensible defence…? Fear was a cruel taskmaster. One he was so unaccustomed to serving that Mac’s instincts had snatched up the proverbial sledgehammer with which to crack the nut. 

Overcompensation? Guilty as charged, but underestimating Joe really wasnae an option. There was no middle ground to scope out. Mr Fitzgerald avoided that as if it might incite a plague on his person. 

Every song had been sung as if for his last supper, performed with a focus so transfixing Mac would’ve been hard pressed to tear his gaze away had the drug squad stormed the room. Joe’s band had burned through every track like men on a mission to fight fire with fire, lest they be left stranded.

Adam had been right, he could have filmed those rehearsals…and promptly sold ‘Junkie Joe’ down the river. Made a mockery of every word scripted for him with such pitiless derision by poisoned pens. Mac almost wished that the conniving bastard had done just that, lest—  

He couldnae go there. It was a horror show waiting to hook its claws into Mac and shred his ever flimsy façade of civility. It’d wind up about as effective as a clingfilm flack jacket if—when—the shit hit the fan.

Mac couldnae afford to fool himself. He sure as hell had not come armed with a magic cock that could wave Joe’s demons away. Particularly when the miscreant made Mac feel as if he could. Not literally, of course (he had retained a modicum of sense), but metaphorically. Letting those eyes persuade him otherwise might well prove his fatal flaw. Joe’s life depended on that. If it was the last thing he ever did, Mac would make damn sure that Joe wanted to live it. 

 

*

 

tbc…second and final part to come.

Wafflish

My Way 7

My Way

 

9 Mac

 

 

When Mac emerged from the bathroom, it was to find himself staring at an empty landing. Shit. Had Joe gone back up to the attic…or downstairs?

“Joe!” No answer came the reply. The former seemed most likely, so Mac took the rickety steps three at a time and found…fuck all. Gone for a smoke in the study? Off Mac set, skidding down two staircases to the detritus strewn hallway. Joe wasnae in the study, kitchen, or anybloodywhere else on the ground floor. “Joe! Where the hell are you?” 

Mac might not know where Joe was, but knew damn well what the miscreant was up to.  The rooms leading off the landing seemed the most likely prospects; the ones he’d claimed were just ‘full of stuff’. If Joe wasnae to be located there—then where had he shot off to—in the sliver of time it took Mac to empty his bloody bladder?

“JOE!” His former bedroom seemed Mac’s best bet, so he stuck his head around the next two doors, slightly ajar, which were, indeed, full of fucknowswhat, but no Joe. The third housed a bed, buried beneath a mountain of clothes and yet more crap, but no occupant.

There was, however, a second door in the corner, which was the only one he’d come across so far that was shut. It was probably a closet—the least natural habitat of the lesser-spotted Joe, on irony grounds alone—but Mac was short on options. “Joe!” he hollered for about the fifth time, yanking on the handle. Nada. Locked. “JOE! F’FUCKSAKES! Joe, are yer in there?” Stupid question. Of course he was…it was bolted on the inside. Mac slammed his palm on it in frustration, “Let me in!” 

“Come in…” Joe’s sing-song voice sighed. 

At least he’s alive, but strewth, give me strength… “‘Come in’, f’chrissakes,” Mac muttered to himself, blowing out a looong breath. “Joe! What yer doin’ in there?” Cretinous question; the sequel. “Open this bloody door! NOW!” Mac snarled, hammering the wood with the side of his fist.

“I’m on the looo.” A likely story. “Macass?” ‘Macass’? For the love of all things unholy. Who the hell else would it be?

Mac wondered whether his shoulder would suffice—there being no keyhole—which tended to indicate a perfunctory ‘I’m in the loo’ catch. Or, whether he’d be forced to kick the damn thing down. At least he was wearing boots, kickboxing proficiency or no…

The door juddered, but held against the slam of Mac’s sole. The splintering that accompanied the second side kick sounded promising…one more and the lock surrendered, allowing the door to swing wide with a crash. Revealing the slumped-on-the-bog body Mac was supposed to be guarding. He wasn’t sure whether he was more pissed with Joe, or himself. Aye, he damn well was. Only one of them had failed to live up to their billing. 

When the hell had Mac become so lame-brained? Or allowed himself to be lulled into a false sense of security? Ever. Not least by the breeze off a pair of bloody eyelashes. Albeit, aided and abetted by Joe’s apparently right-as-rain frame of mind and its focus on… Mac’s arse, or the appetite of his own. Of course, Joe would have been beset by cravings—he was awake—but he hadnae seemed wracked by withdrawal. Had he simply seized the first opportunity, or had something specific triggered Joe’s flight? Later. 

“C’mon, get up,” he sighed, clasping a wiry bicep. Joe just aimed a smudgy smile Mac’s way as pinprick pupils made an effort to target his face. Dragging on a rag-doll arm proved as pointless as Joe was impervious to instruction. So, Mac grasped gangly wrists and hauled hard, before ducking beneath an armpit. Bracing himself, Mac straightened up with his semi-conscious cargo draped over one shoulder.

The staircase was too narrow to cart the miscreant to his sanctuary…and the bed beyond the bathroom was covered in crap. The study armchair was about Mac’s best bet. Joe would be upright, in case he threw up after being carried...if  he made it that far without barfing down Mac’s back. Splendid. There was so much Joe, his fingers would probably trickle down each step on their way. It was like trying to wrangle a deckchair. Joe weighed much the same; there was nothing of him, he was all skin and bone and sharp joints. Fragile.

After advising Joe on the perils of puking, Mac was informed that it wouldnae be ‘a fitting tribute’ to his own backside. Or words to that effect. F’chrissakes. Semi-comatose, and Joe’s mental hard-on was still indefatigable. Good grief, it would be like shafting a stuffed toy giraffe.

“Here. Sit there,” Mac grunted, bending to let Joe slither off into the chair. “Do not move. I’m gonnae fetch you a glass of water. God, I need a smoke,” a litre of Glenfiddich and the aforementioned bucket of coke. 

He should have confiscated Joe’s stash for safekeeping, if only to prove Mac meant business. There’d still be caches secreted in the obvious to most preposterous places, of course: pockets, cisterns, sock drawer, tobacco tins, taped under tables, ad infinitum. Sweeping the house wouldn’t suffice without sniffer dog assistance, in which case the dust in the attic would likely set it off.

The kitchen wasnae desecrated with quite the carnage Mac had expected to assault his sensibilities. There were a distinct lack of pizza boxes, mouldering saucepans piled in the sink and used teabags squatting in rusty puddles. Nor were any black bags disgorging their contents onto the floor, which indicated that Adam had either tidied up a bit, or Joe hadn’t stepped foot in it for six months. After finding a clean-ish mug, Mac filled it with water and returned to the study where Joe had (thank fuck) stayed put. He was still draped over the armchair, all languid limbs and fluid lines, gazing in the general direction of the door through half-mast lids. He did make an effort to focus as Mac approached, cherub lips curving in a dopamine smile. “Sorry…”

“Liar…” Mac’s lips twitched in a smirk, despite himself.

“I didn’t say I wouldn’t…?” Joe offered, with a hint of sheepishness so unexpected, it belied belief.

“I meant the ‘sorry,’” Mac clarified.

“I’m sorry I…made you cross?” Joe amended, blinking up at Mac with pools of liquid midnight. Lethal.

“I am ‘cross’ with me, not you….but sure as shit wish you hadnae scurried off the second you saw your chance. You’ve proved your point, happy?”

“I-that wasn’t…I didn’t—”

“Joe, that’s how it felt.” Mac cut in, before Joe tied his tongue in a knot trying to excuse the inexcusable. “I am not your enemy, I stated that from the off. I’m pissed because my word meant fuck all, was worthless. I asked you to be straight with me…and I wouldnae have stopped you. So, why?”

“I was….scared you might. Wasn’t worthless…’twas…improbable. Mac…?” Bottomless eyes, as imploring as they were implausible. ‘Beguiling’ didn’t begin to cut it. Bewitching

“What?” Mac slammed his own shut and…willed some blood to his brain.

“I am sorry…”

“Aye…and you will be next time…” Mac sighed, shaking his head. “Smoke?” He turned to reach for his cigarettes, avoiding the visual amplification of that plaintive tone. It had, at least, sounded…contrite. 

“Hm…please.” 

Mac tugged a couple out, lit one and held it to pincushion lips that parted, wonderment writ large…where else? Bloody things would be the death of one of ’em. At least.

“Like I said, I’m not your enemy,” Mac grunted, sinking into the other seat and lighting his own before dragging in a deep lungful. Ahhh..

It hit Mac that he didn’t have a clue how long ago he’d arrived in the Cotswolds. At fifteen hundred hours. Precisely. Now? It could be five-ish or half-eight, or thereabouts… Mad Hatter’s Tea Party time, for all it felt as if he’d fallen down the rabbit hole. 

In fact, it was probably still fifteen-o-five in London. He’d drive Joe back there on ‘Monday’ and it would still be 15:25 on Saturday afternoon—the same day he’d left—Today. Mac had patently lost the plot. How entirely unsurprising.

‘Who the fuck is Joe Fitzgerald…?Mac spluttered the most indecorous snort when his own shit-for-brains snark made a most unwelcome reappearance. Oh f’chrissakes…

 

 

***

Wafflish

My Way 5

My Way

 

 

7 Mac

 

Spending time in Joe’s company felt a lot like freefalling through finite reality. To where…? Fucknows.  A realm of infinite probabilities pretty much covered it…and a fair few of those wouldn’t be pretty. A helluva lot like taking an acid tab, in fact. A ticket to the thrillride of your life…or a trip to the pit of Tartarus. With no guarantee of return.

Vince’s assessment of Joe had been more astute than his showboating soundbites gave him credit for. He chews up bodyguards and spits ‘em out like cherry pips… made Joe sound like a caricature from a fuck-awful gangster flick. Rather than someone too raw and real for their own comfort. Or Mac’s. Joe was as lethal as the eyelashes he wielded like the weapons they were; mere feathery frames for les pièces de résistance… Christ, those eyes. Mac would have fared better facing down a jacked-up, machete wielding pimp. He could emerge from that unscathed. 

Whether he would emerge from that bed unscathed was a whole other matter. Mac stood in the doorway, staring at the sea of CD cases, debris, dog-eared notebooks and flea-market trinkets littering the floor. There were bookshelves everywhere, some hosting one random trophy or treasure, others heaving beneath the weight of the ancient hardbacks they held. A shaft of sunlight shone through the small casement window, swirling with dust motes, illuminating the filmy layer coating everything else. Joe must spend most of the time stooping, so he didnae smash his head on the sloping roof. Then fold himself in half to crawl into bed, which was lodged into an alcove. 

A ‘bad-ass’ bastard he might be, but the thought of crawling between those sheets made Mac’s skin do likewise. Upon enquiring about the likelihood of a clean pair, he was informed: ‘No-one’s sullied them, except me, Mr Snarkypants…’

Now that seemed about as probable as Joe declaring a sudden whim to go cold turkey. Yet the miscreant insisted that the bed was a recent installation in the attic he found ‘cosier’ than his former sleeping quarters. Cosier? It was hard to see how Joe could think it cosy. It distinctly lacked the things Mac considered home comforts and hadn’t even housed a bloody bed. So, cosy in what sense? Had this ramshackle room in the eaves of Joe’s stately pile become his safe haven from the world? Mac had presumed that the property itself served this purpose, but the longer he stood, absorbing his surroundings, the more certain it seemed that Joe spent most of his time holed up here. Alone. 

Mac couldnae see any evidence that anyone else had ever stepped foot in the attic, except himself and his bloody great Chelsea boots, stomping about in Joe’s beloved sanctuary.  And yet…he’d chosen to bring Mac up here, rather than his (recently vacated) former bedroom, leaving Mac none the wiser. Why? Instinct, because Joe was a creature of habit? Surely instinct would compel Joe to protect his safe place from the ‘bad-ass’ he was being forced to endure? 

In this, and pretty much everything else Mac had encountered since crossing the threshold, the workings of that brilliant brain were indecipherable. Mac’s insistence that Joe was far too good at being himself proved the one point it found too perplexing to fathom.

“I can’t make up my mind if you think that’s a good thing, or a bad one…” 

Nor could Mac…because it was both. Neither. ‘Deadly’ would do.

It would also prompt questions too perilous to invite…but  Mac had demanded honesty, so it would be a wee bit hypocritical to lie in order to cover his own ass. Particularly when his answer seemed to matter to those eyes. Darker than ever with self-doubt; deep enough to drown him. Too big a burden to shoulder, standing centre stage, alone. Vulnerable.

Mac couldn’t bring himself to shrug that aside with a blithe response that meant nothing and was worth less. In that moment, he felt certain that harsh judgement could shatter Joe, crush him beneath Mac’s boot. In stark contrast to the man who didnae seem to give a stuff what Mac made of his home or habits. So, he told the truth…in professional terms. Then, to all intents and purposes, Mac lost the plot…or his mind. Both. 

“With regards to my opinion? You’re a disaster waiting to happen—to yourself—which worries me. But that doesn’t change the fact you’re the most…authentic person I’ve met for longer than I care to remember. Far too beguiling…and quite impossible.

“Thank you…I think. I feel as if I’ve been probed under strobe lighting.” Joe stood, blinking in bewilderment. The proverbial doe-eyed deer in the headlights, writ large. What else…

“I’ve only got two days, not two decades.” Mac smirked. Mostly because that sure as hell beat, ‘oh, if only…’ 

“Pft…I’m an open book. You’re the enigma, Mr McBadass.” Joe narrowed those eyes to spear Mac with squinty scrutiny.

“You don’t need to know anything about me, other than; one, you can trust me and two, I won’t shaft you.” Mac shrugged.

“Literally, or metaphorically?” Joe ‘wondered’ before catching his plump lower lip between his teeth. Strewth.

“Joe, I am here to keep you fucking safe, not fuck you senseless.” 

“Ooh…that’s cruel,” the miscreant pouted, but the brown burned so fiercely it all but blowtorched Mac’s skin. “You could do a spot of multitasking. I’m safe in my bed, am I not? I can’t be busy in there and up to mischief elsewhere, can I?”

“Safe? No. Mischief? I wouldn’t put it past you.” Mac muttered.

No? Ooh, you’re just being a cock-tease now. Cruel too…and rude, t’boot.” Joe huffed.

“Rude? I beg to differ. I rather think it was a backhanded compliment.”

“Hmph. I get into most mischief when I’m bored, Mr McBadass, but…if you think I’d be bored…” Joe trickled off, leaving that dangling in the air like a bloody carrot.

“I am not biting. I’m not a sodding donkey,” Mac snorted.

“S’okay…I’m not a size queen.” Joe winked.

“Oh f’chrissakes…” he groaned. “Fitzgerald, you are a goddamn demon. Quit trying to wind me up and phone a bloody friend if you’re that desperate for a seeing to. I am not here to service you. This really isn’t flattering.” As Mac spoke, he realised just how serious he was; more than he’d supposed before stating as much. “C’mon, get your hungry arse into gear and show me around,” he sighed. “I need a drink…and a smoke.”

“You couldn’t be more wrong, dear sir. My arse has a far more picky appetite than my cock,” Joe informed him with a lofty sniff. “By the way…you still haven’t said no. Just sayin’.” A parting gem tossed over Joe’s shoulder while sauntering to the attic door.

“No.” Mac spat, as Joe skittered off downstairs, a devilish chuckle wafting in his wake.

Wafflish

My Way 4

Hiya…

If you’re reading these words, thank you.❤️ Here are the next two chapters:

 

 

My Way

 

5. Mac

 

 

I hope you’re better at your part of that bargain than me, or we’re done for…After unleashing this travesty of truth, Joe attempted a smile, but the result was sadder than the sigh it came accompanied by. 

How could he possibly think himself inadequate? Joe had somehow managed—in the harsh glare of the media no less—to remain utterly himself. Unsullied by social conditioning; as if all attempts at enforcing its norms had wafted in one ear and out the other. Or, been tuned out as nought but white noise, while Joe pottered on his merry way, unaffected. Uninfected. As intrinsically himself as Mork from Ork or Thomas Jerome Newton. Sans script.

“It’s a bloody tragedy if you believe that, but maybe you do…The truth is, you’re too good at being you. Too good for your own good. That is the problem.” 

The reason it had all gone to shit was simple. The solution was not. Least of all for Joe. While the world might be eager to lap up the lavish gifts and excess of all that was Joe Fitzgerald, it came with caveats he didnae have a hope in hell of fulfilling. Not if it expected him to dial it down a notch or fifty when the proverbial curtain came down. It would have been easier for Joe to hack off a leg or two in a bid to comply. It had taken Mac all of…minutes to discern that attributes deemed ‘extra’ in modern vernacular were baseline Joe. Much to his chagrin, Mac had been forced to consult the urban dictionary to explain why ‘he’s so extra’ was not an (irritatingly) incomplete sentence.

‘Excess’ could only be channeled, or syphoned off, as Mac knew all too well. It couldnae be diluted, nor dissipate into thin air. It could, however, be drowned…or drugged into a state of torpor. For a wee while…until the ‘solution’ became a bigger problem than the one it was supposed to suppress.

“You just told me that all I have to do is be me…and leave the rest to you. But now you’re saying that being me is the problem, which means I must be making a mess of it. That’s a bit befuddling…if I’m ‘the product’ they’re buying, then surely they want me to keep skidding off the rails? The press definitely does, so what are you saying? Carry on having mishaps and I’ll mop up?”

“I clearly haven’t had enough to drink,” Mac groaned. “What I am saying is, all I intend to do, while we’re here, is watch and learn. Baseline observations, if you wish, so I can gauge how best to safeguard your sanity. To do that, I do need to know where your stash is squirrelled away.”  

Joe prickled visibly, hackles rising in affront like a spiky kitten. He didn’t hiss, but he did look rather as if he might arch his back and start spitting. “You’ll have access to it,” Mac assured him, “But I have to know how much you’re taking and when, to work out what you need—to function—and where that tips over into fit-for-fuck-all. So, I want the truth and nothing but. All you have to do is trust me…and I’ll take care of the rest.”

“But you earn trust. That’s not a given—or a right—is it?” Joe pointed out.  

“I concur…but I dinnea have time.” Mac sighed. “So, we’ll have to work backwards; you can retract your trust if I screw you over. What d’you have to lose? You have two days to decide if you cannae trust me. What would be the point in cutting you off, when I know damn well that there’ll still be a stash secreted elsehere?” An observation that was greeted by the tip of Joe’s tongue. “I’ll bite that off, if I see it again.” Mac stated, matter-of-factly.

“You would too, methinks,” the miscreant chuckled.

“Damn straight I would. Joe, they might be footing the bill, but this is about you. Not them. I dinnae a flying fuck what they want. But I do want you to be able to fulfill what’s already been booked. For your own pride, if nothing else. I intend to see Adam, to put a freeze on whatever the hell else they have planned…until I know exactly what you want. Right, speech over. This bag is for the kitchen…I dinnae know whether you had anything edible and I sure as shit wasn’t going without. The second one has all my gear in it—that can go in the bedroom—I need a drink.”

Joe blinked. Several times. “Crikey…You don’t ’alf chunter when you get going…and become more Scottish, t’boot. D’you want your drink before, or after, you dump your bags?”

“I wasnae thinking in terms of choice,” Mac muttered.

“Well I hope you’ve got some whisky in there, cos you’ll have cleaned me out by bedtime, Mr MacBadass.”

“I do indeed. There’s no ‘A’ in that, by the way.”

“I beg your parsnips?” Joe frowned in puzzlement.

“In the ‘Mc’.” 

“Sorry, I shall beg them again then, for any cultural offence caused. There’s a wee flaw in your cunning plan though, Mr Mc.”

“And that would be..?”  This was the most stupid question that had ever crossed Mac’s lips. There was no flaw, wee or otherwise. 

“What about if I need a shag?” Joe pouted.

Exactly.

“We’re heading back to London on Monday, f’fucksakes,” Mac rolled his eyes. As if in exasperation.

“I’m not going to last that long,” Joe protested.

“Phone a friend.” Mac shrugged.

“But you’re kipping in my room! Perv!” Joe actually had the brass neck to gape in ‘shock’.

“I really hope you’re not trying to suggest you’ve never shagged on the bus, backstage or in the bogs…” Mac smirked as a headline flashed through his head: ‘Junkie Joe’s portaloo passion! Read all about it in your super soaraway Sun!’

“Noo I’m not…but that’s beside the point,” Joe sniffed. “I can’t phone a friend and say: D’you fancy a shag? Oh, by the way…have you met my McBadass?

“Well, that’s up to you, if it doesnae suit, you have a wrist. You’ll have to make do.” 

“Hmph. By the way, you haven’t said ‘no’. Just sayin’…” 

“Do I look like rent-a-cock? Don’t answer that.” Mac added sharpish, when midnight eyes sparkled with mischief.

“Spoilsport. Not even if I’m succinct?”

“I’ll give you succinct in a minute,” Mac grunted.

“I wish you would. That would do for starters.” Joe grinned.

“So would a melon boat,” he retorted.

“Can I have an orange sail slice on a cocktail stick? With a cherry on top…or has that ship long since sai—?” 

“Joe.” Mac growled, cutting him off with a withering glare. Before it became impossible to rustle one up. “I am going to gag you, if you don’t put a sock in it.

“Oookay…” came the sing-song reply as Joe meandered over to the drinks globe. “I shall not dignify that with the answer it deserves. Here you go…” he snickered, extending the bottle of whisky Mac’s way. “It’s a waste of time giving you a glass when, despite all indications to the contrary, you are clearly unfamiliar with the term ‘a wee dram’. So you might as well just guzzle away…” 

When Mac closed his fingers around the neck of the bottle they brushed Joe’s skin; it was all he could do not to suck in a sharp breath. Fuck. He’d never felt more grateful for being olive skinned in his life. Mac didnae have a hope in hell of schooling his features into indifference, so he kept his head down while muttering his thanks.

Their chances of making it to Monday without wheeling in the dessert-trolley were well below the waterline. Making it to the bloody bedroom would require navigating uncharted waters of restraint—for which Joe patently possessed no compass whatsoever—leaving Mac to steer the melon boat. Fair enough, that was his forte…but the cherry on top was not on the table.

 

***

 

 

6  Joe

 

Joe passed Mac the bottle of whisky…and damn near dropped it when their fingers brushed. Brushed? It was akin to being branded. The shock of skin contact sizzled up his arm like a spark scarfing a trail of dynamite with a hotline to his cock. It was staggering, not least when (truth being the order of the day an’ all) Joe had found himself feeling far less…well, anything for months. As a result of too much what, he wasn’t sure; there were a fair few ‘whats’ to consider. 

Pinpointing the culprit in an ever spiralling cocktail of smack, crack, coke, rum, men, women, wine ’n’ insomnia was a tad tricky. The cause could be cumulative…or singular. Joe had knocked the crack on the head of late, at least. It may have made him a tad um, testy…but sure hadn’t shot his synapses to shit. So, if there was a particular perp responsible for his maladies, Joe didn’t want to know. Suspecting that he knew all too well. Sod’s law, wasn’t it…? The one he could least live without. Even if it killed him. 

Demon supression must be a helluva lot harder to pull off than sedating a few sensory receptors, after all. While Joe could function just fine, he’d scarce felt a thrill of fuck-all for…his cock couldn’t care less. With one exception: the less his nerve endings reacted to stimuli, the greater its appetite grew. The upshot of all this was, Joe needed more of everything, to feel less of anything. At all. This going-nowhere-fast stream of (far too) consciousness must have had a point in the first place, but the plot had got lost along the way. Ah yes…the McBadass and his sensation(al) superpowers. It was all Joe could do to keep his grip on the bottle until it was safely in Mac’s magical mitts. His litany of torture tactics was longer than the list of things-not-to-think about. In addition to trying to sleep beside the baddest-ass-on-earth, he’d be tucked up in bed with Taserman. (In his own defence, Shocker was already taken).

The sizzle was so scorching it seemed impossible that Joe felt it all on his lonesome. Logic, oft reluctant to pop in for a visit, pointed out that Mac’s blood might be 70% proof, but wasn’t likely to send sniffer dogs into a frenzy any time soon. Nevertheless, if logic cared to muse upon the matter for a mo, then Joe’s toxicity levels hadn’t mustered so much as a fizzle of late. There was no telling whether his bad-ass had been stirred in the slightest, let alone been shaken like a can of Irn Bru. Mac’s head was dipped, fringe flopping forwards, and about all Joe could glean was the fact his socks seemed more interesting than his face. While they were red, and thus quite eye-catching, they still looked a lot like red socks, which could undoubtedly be noted in a nanosecond. 

Joe’s brain felt fit to blow—the light too bright, sound too sharp—so he scrunched his eyes tight, which didn’t help. The glare was more intense inside his head; louder too, with his lids shut.

“Y’okay?” Mac’s Black Velvet voice was tinged with concern.

“Yeah…my head hurts, s’nothing,” Joe assured him, mustering a careless shrug ’n’ smile. 

“Y’sure?” 

“Yup. Shall we go and dump your stuff in my room first, then I’ll show you around?”

“Okay…” Mac regarded him with a squinty scrutiny, then nodded his consent and snagged one of the holdalls to follow Joe upstairs.

“I’ve been kipping in the attic, so we may as well head up there and work our way down. If it’s a tad cluttery for your exacting standards…I didn’t anticipate sharing it,” Joe pointed out, pushing the door open. “It could’ve been worse…?” he offered, when the Bad-ass simply stood in the doorway. Blinking. A bit. 

“Er, it’s very…charming. In a bombed-out wartime thrift-shop sort of way.” Mac’s lips twitched, despite his deadpan delivery. 

“Damn cheek. It’s shabby chic, that. Or thereabouts,” Joe added a sniff of affront he far from felt. 

Whereabouts should I dump my bag, is more to the point?” Mac smirked. It was a good question, it must be admitted. The floor was p’raps a bit…busy.

“On the bed?”

“I really hope you have some clean sheets,” Mac commented—snippily—while tossing his holdall onto it.

“No-one’s sullied them, except me, Mr Snarkypants.” 

“A likely story.” Mac scoffed.

“But still true. I could even add ever, if y’like. I slept in one of the bedrooms at first…but it’s cosier up here, so I kept waking in that chair. I didn’t get round to ordering the bed ‘til a few weeks ago and I’ve mostly been in London, since then. Besides, you told me to be honest. Why should I bother, if you’re not even going to believe me about something so daft?”

“Fair point.” Mac admitted, scrutinising Joe with another squinty stare before twitching his head in an almost imperceptible nod. 

“Thank you muchly. So, do we need to go shopping?”

“For what?” Mac frowned.

“Sheets? Do keep up.” Joe sighed.

Keep up? I’d need to imbibe a bucket of coke.”

“I hope you’ve got some stashed in your bag with your whisky then. I’m starting to feel like a moderate man.”

Mac spluttered, throwing his head back with unbridled glee. It was undoubtedly the most staggering thing he’d done thus far. He’d come swishing in, as cool as fuck with his flinty glint, dripping control freakery and pithy wit. Joe had never guessed that the bad-ass could let rip with such gay abandon.

On that particular subject… ‘Can I have a slice of orange sail on a cocktail stick? With a cherry on top…or has that ship already?’ Joe’s attempt to root out this pertinent bit of info had been rudely interrupted thus: ‘I am going to gag you, if you don’t put a sock in it’. 

Was Mac was sooo straight that the very notion was an affront to his personage…or… had Joe cut too close to the bone for bad-ass comfort? It was tricky to tell, Joe’s gaydar had run amok…alongside the rest of his sensory receptors. While there was a certain je ne sais quoi lacing Mac’s louche elegance, that predatory grace could originate in the martial art he practised. P’raps fencing, too? It wouldn’t surprise Joe in the slightest if Mac wielded a sword with much the finesse of those hips when he swished. ‘Walk’ being a woeful verb for the melody of movement that was Mac. 

“When you’ve quite finished yukking it up, Mr McBadass…you still haven’t answered my question, which seems to be a bit of a habit. Do we have to pop to the shops, or not?”

“No…these’ll do fine. I just didn’t fancy lying in every Tom, Dick and Harriet’s body fluids, thank you very much.”

“That’s rather presumptuous of you,” Joe sniffed.

“‘Presumptuous’ would suggest that your sex life hasn’t been exhaustively documented, surely?” Mac snorted.

“Dagnabbity papers. You shouldn’t believe everything you read, y’know,” Joe huffed. 

“You’ve point blank stated that your appetite cannae hold out until Monday. Then noted that I haven’t said ‘no’ should you feel disinclined to a spot of DIY. I think it’s safe to say that covers all my ‘presumptions’, don’t you?”

“Bugger. Hoisted by my own petard,” Joe p’raps pouted.

“I couldnae have put it better myself,” Mac grinned. “I’d be willing to wager you don’t stint yourself on that front either.”

“Sadly, you’re right. I insert my foot everytime I open my mouth…particularly in print,” Joe winced.

“You’re journalistic gold. Even if they weren’t accustomed to being bored shitless by ‘celebrities’ who’ve had media training in the art of saying fuck-all worth hearing. Like I said, you’re far too good at being you.”

“I can’t decide if you think that’s a good thing or bad,” Joe admitted.

“That’s because the answer is subjective. You’re too you for your own welfare. The repercussions are…perilous. In professional terms, it depends whether you believe that all publicity is good publicity. I don’t…even before factoring in its cumulative effect. With regards to my opinion…”

This was the part Joe wanted to hear most. The press part was Mac’s snapshot of life lived in the media. 

“You’re a disaster waiting to happen—to yourself—which worries me. But that doesn’t change the fact you’re the most…authentic person I’ve met for longer than I care to remember.” Laser beam greens narrowed, zoning in for the kill. Uh-oh. “Far too beguiling…and quite impossible.”

What? Did I hear wrong? Beguiling…? It might mean charming, even enchanting, but that tends to be in a Loki-like way; tricksy…a beguiling bastard. ‘Far too…?’ For what? How? Why? About a trillion questions ricocheted ’round Joe’s head like ping-pong balls. ‘Impossible’ was a bit of a no brainer, though.

“Thank you…I think. I feel as if I’ve been probed under strobe lighting.” Joe blinked, a bit bedazzled. 

“I’ve only got two days, not two decades,” the scoundrel snorted. “C’mon…let the tour commence. I need the loo. And a drink.”

Yessir. Strewth, Joe was starting to suspect that twenty years of being probed and bossed by his bad-ass mightnae be long enough at all…

 

***

Wafflish

WIP: My Way

Hi,

Heaven knows how much I’ve written of this storyp’raps 70%? I’ve edited a fair chunk of it so here’s the prologue and the first chapter if you wish to read along.

It’s an MM Bodyguard/Rockstar romance called ‘My Way’.  While it’s no doubt daft, it does dabble in darker topics. Joe Fitzgerald is the toppermost male solo artist in the country. He is also a heroin addict. Enter Mac. The baddest of all bodyguards procurred at great expense by Joe’s record company to protect him. From himself

Pastel Themed Natural Plants Mood Board (1)

Prologue

Mac

“About bloody time, too…” Vince snarked, leaning back in his bespoke leather chair.

“Fuck off. I was…unavoidably detained,” Mac retorted, flicking the office door shut with his foot.

”How long does it take you to cram it back in your pants, for chrissakes?” smirked his Agent. 

“I refuse to dignify that remark with a witty retort. What, or who, is responsible for that covetous glint of teeth masquerading as a smile?” 

“Joe Fitzgerald.” Vince’s air of smug satisfaction was palpable.

“Who the fuck is Joe Fitzgerald?” Mac sighed, still none the wiser, despite suspecting he was supposed to be impressed by said moniker.

“Mac, you might only listen to dead rock stars on principle, but

“Actually.” Mac interrupted. “If we were having this conversation not so long ago…Bowie was still very much with us.”

“But we’re not.” Vince pointed out.

“My point still stands. I wouldnae have listened to him ‘on principle’ for the last twenty years, if your supposition was correct.” Mac rolled his eyes with a long suffering sigh. “Do you ever intend t’get to the point?”

“F’fucksakes…beats me why I put up with this crap.” Vince glowered from beneath brows as black and fierce as his scowl.

“You know very well why…and you still haven’t responded to my most reasonable enquiry. Who the fuck is Joe Fitzgerald?

“You’d be out the door on the end of my foot if you weren’t shit-hot, you tosser. Joe Fitzgerald is the biggest male solo artist in the bloody country.”

Oh Christ. No. Get someone else, Vince. You dinnae need me for fending off a few screaming teenage girls.” Mac groaned, very glad he hadn’t bothered to sit down.

“True. I wouldn’t, but we ain’t talking fending off a few screamers.” The smug grin was back. “This gig will make Winehouse look like a piece of cake in comparison…and we know how well that turned out. Not. Fucking pillocks.  You’re a cussed git, but I reckon Amy might still be delighting us with her dulcet tones if…well…your ego’s big enough. So, you up for it, or what?” Vince leaned forward, resting his elbows on the huge mahogany desk and flexing his fingers with the air of a man about to flash his trump card. 

“Okay. I admit, I‘m intrigued. Are you saving that scotch for Christmas, or is it just for show?” Mac enquired, spearing the crystal decanter and two tumblers with a pointed stare.

 Mac had ignored the invitation to take a seat, largely because it never hurt to highlight the fact he might be on his merry way if a worthwhile offer didn’t ensue. His Agent’s preposterous chair was significantly higher than the one Mac had been invited to park his arse in, and he wasnae inclined to sit there—on principle—unless there was an alluring offer on the table. Aside from the whisky. 

Vincent was patently hell-bent on securing Mac’s services if the tight-wad was serving up the good stuff. A packet of peanuts and a bottle of Irn Bru would suffice, if the challenge tickled Mac’s fancy but he’d never seen fit to mention this. Very few people knew fuck all about Mac McCafferty—nor would they—any time for the foreseeable.

“So. Fitzgerald. What’s the score?”

“He does. Far too frequently,” Vince smirked.

“Drugs or groupies?” Mac allowed his lips a twitch of amusement.

“Shall we just say: I don’t think Mr Fitzgerald has any concept of the word ‘or’.”

“Vincent, if you expect me to babysit a spoiled brat with the brain of a haggis then—” 

Hooold your hosses.” Vince raised his palms, shaking his head from side to side. S-l-o-w-l-y. “If that were the case, then I’d send Dave to strong-arm him, I’m sure they’d have a ball watching Timmy Time together. Nope. He chews up bodyguards and spits ‘em out like cherry pips.”

“So he’s an utter tosser too?” Mac surmised, accepting the tumbler extended his way before folding himself into the Disney chair. 

“Nope. He pulls all that off with a twinkle in his eye. I ain’t saying he’s a tricksy bugger….but you might find it advisable to take your strongest pair of cuffs and some tranquiliser darts.” Vince’s gruff voice was now tinged with anticipatory triumph. 

“Straight up? Someone must be waving some stupid money about if you’re hell bent on luring me in with Heroin Houdini…” Mac knocked back the scotch and thunked the tumbler down the huge oak desk, shooting the decanter a pointed stare. 

“Straight up. Though he ain’t.” Vince grinned as he topped up their glasses. “Like I said…he ain’t got no concept of the word ‘or’.” 

“So what’s in it for me? If I accept.” Mac enquired, leaning back with an air of languid indifference while extracting his cigarettes from the pocket of his leather.

***

Chapter 1  

Mac

Mac stood on the gravel drive of the Georgian pile he’d been assured that Joe Fitzgerald was, indeed, residing in. Or had been, half an hour ago, when Vince phoned to confirm said fact. 

Joe’s not-so humble abode might have been a five-bedroom listed building, but it had a quaint, ramshackle air that was strangely charming. One that suggested it was the country pile of a dotty old squire who strode around the grounds waving a rifle about, wearing plus-fours and a deerstalker hat.

In the intervening hours since leaving Vince’s office, Mac had endeavored to discover who the fuck Joe Fitzgerald was. A swift scroll through the results of googling his name was all it took to ascertain that Vince hadnae exaggerated in order to reel Mac in. Mr Fitzgerald had the face of an angel and the disposition of de Sade. It was also blatantly obvious that Joe was gifted with way too much charisma for his own good…and far too much everything for Mac’s. 

 Having been promised that Joe was home—alone—for the weekend, someone’s stash of Macallan Triple Cask Matured had better start praying that proved true. Mac really wasnae in the mood to wade through the emaciated limbs of a dozen drugged-up groupies dossing in the hallway. Adam, Joe’s manager, had stayed over last night before heading back to London less than an hour ago, so the miscreant should, at least be in a fit state to answer the bloody door. Unless he’d had the pizza delivery boy in the meantime. Mac just hoped to fuck that was all that had been delivered in the interim. 

Mac rapped smartly on the heavy wrought iron knocker and stepped back to wait, wondering how long he would be expected to stand there, twiddling his thumbs. Not long at all, it soon transpired. Mac heard the creak of a rusted hinge from above his head and glanced up just in time to see a shock of platinum hair poke through a little attic window…largely filled by eyes. And a grin.

“Hiya… ” 

“Joe?” Stupid question. Who the hell else could it be, unless he had a doppelgänger decoy? Or a twin brother.

“Yesss…to whom am I speaking?” Joe Fitzgerald intoned grandly. Then grinned. Again.

“I’m Mac.”

“Are you the bass-ass sent to whip mine into shape? Actually, that’s starting to sound a lot more fun than I suspected…”

“I—” Mac began, but was (thankfully) cut off before having to muster some sort of response.

“Hang on a mo…” His dandelion-fluff head bobbed back inside and Mac soon heard the skitter of footsteps, a thud and a muttered ‘Ow..fuck’ before the heavy front door was finally tugged open. The apparition standing in the doorway was…very tall…very pale…and very nearly naked.

Mac blinked. Fuck.

“Hello…sorry, come in. You’re not what I expected at all.” Joe declared, waving Mac inside with a gallant flourish rather more in keeping with his house, than the current century.

“What were you expecting?”  Mac wondered aloud while stepping across the threshold. He found himself standing in a large parquet-tiled hall, littered with an unholy collection of clutter. An antique globe (cracked open to reveal a dozen half-empty bottles), a teetering hatstand, battered brown guitar case, two skateboards, one ancient bike and dozens of shoes (‘pairs’ being somewhat optimistic), scattered like lego brick landmines underfoot. 

“D’you fancy a cuppa? Oh sorry. I forgot to answer, didn’t I? Someone built like a bulldog, with a hatchet face and meat-hook fists, a bit like Butch from Tom and Jerry.” Joe grinned before swivelling on his heel to weave his way down the hallway. If ever instructed to ‘walk the line’ Joe would be buggered. He didnae even walk—he meandered—quite possibly in time to some melody audible only in his head. 

“Sorry to disappoint you.” Mac muttered, making a mental inventory of five doors and a curving staircase leading off the hallway.

“Disappoint?” Joe whirled round—limbs like windmill sails—before cocking his head to regard Mac with a dark, liquid gaze so luminous he couldnae help but wish he’d left his shades on. “Nope. I find myself surprisingly amenable to the whole ‘whipping me into shape’ idea,” Joe decided with an impish glint of teeth.

If Mac averted his eyes, he would find himself blinded by an extravagance of alabaster skin bisected by a pair of snugly fitting boxers. This didnae leave many options, other than fixing his gaze on Joe’s mouth; so plush, it verged on obscene in repose. Even his shock of hair was strangely endearing, when it would have assumed a peroxide sneer on most men. Endearing? That was a bloody weird word to rustle up. Joe Fitzgerald was a fully-grown, fully-fledged liability, not a gangly puppy.

It had become blatantly transparent why Vince had been so determined to lure Mac into accepting this job. When he should’ve sent Nurse Bloody Ratched instead…or an eminent psychologist, such as Dr Lecter. Someone who had a hope in hell of making it through the day without being devoured by those eyes. Or the grin. 

“Sooo…Mac-the-Knife. Is that your first name or surname and would you like a cuppa or something stronger?” Joe rattled off, without pause for breath or punctuation.

“Just Mac will do.” This had to be kept professional, or Mac was buggered before he began. A very unfortunate turn of phrase, if ever there was one.

“Tragic that. I could scarce imagine a more perfect moniker,” Joe beamed, unabashed.

“For a character in a Threepenny Opera, maybe.” Mac snorted.

“Or a bad-ass bodyguard. It’s better than Kev, that’s f’sure.” Joe flitted from subject to subject so swiftly, Mac still hadn’t got round to answering whether he would prefer tea or something stronger. That was a no-brainer, he was wound so tight something might snap if he didnae have a bloody drink.

“The character was ‘Frank’ I believe. Whisky, please.” Mac’s lips twitched in a treacherous effort to smile despite himself…and the deadpan demeanour he’d adopted.

“Phew, I was worried you’d be all teetotal and only drink green gloop. Or raw egg. You’d have to catch a chicken first though, cos I p’raps forgot to go shopping. Right, whisky it is, help yourself, JustMac. I’d better go and mooch up some clothes, I seem to be a smidge unseemly. It’s a good job you weren’t the vicar’s wife.”

“Does she pop round often?” Mac inexplicably asked, while pouring himself a generous dram of scotch. JustMacf’fucksakes. The rascal was as incorrigible as he was unrepentant about that fact.

“A fair bit. She keeps bringing me cakes, cos she thinks I need ‘feeding up’. There was a crock-pot on the doorstep the other day when I woke up. Good job it had a hat on, or I might have had an impromptu paddle.”  

The vicar’s wife was correct. Joe was as skinny as he was tall; so much so, he might well blow away on an errant wisp of wind. He was a good three or four inches taller than Mac’s five-eleven, but far too close to half his weight for comfort.  

“Have yourself a sit-down in there, I won’t be long…” Joe added, pointing to a doorway beside the hatstand, through which could be glimpsed floor-to-ceiling bookshelves and a marble fireplace before spinning on his heel to slalom toward the open staircase.

If the miscreant did have anyone stashed away up there, chances were Joe might be some time. Not least when Mac had damn near drilled a hole in Joe’s head with his eyeballs…rather than relish the downward drift they were dead-set on.

***

cover reveal · Guest

Cover Reveal – Conned by Kim Fielding

Hiya,

I’m sorry I’ve been away for a while, I took a little time out to work on some edits and catch up on a spot of reading and a few movies.  I hope that you and your loved ones have all remained safe and well.❤️

 I thought it would be lovely to return with a Guest Post rather than launch straight into some more wafflish. So here, for your delectation…is the gorgeous cover of the new MM historical paranormal mystery, ‘Conned’ by Kim Fielding:

 

Coming soon: 1st June 2020

Book 6 in The Bureau series


Blurb

World War I veteran Thomas Donne is new to San Francisco. Always a stoic man, shell shock and a lost love have nearly turned his heart to stone. No matter—a private eye has no room for softness. Almost broke, he takes on what appears to be a simple case: finding a missing young man.

As a magician and medium, Abraham Ferencz cons his audiences into believing he can cheat death and commune with their dearly departed. Although his séances are staged, the spirits are very real, and they’ve brought him almost more pain than he can bear.

When Donne’s case becomes complicated and the bodies start to pile up, he and Ferencz must fight their way through a web of trickery and lies. The truth is obscured by the San Francisco fog, and in their uncanny world, anyone can catch a bullet.

Amazon | Smashwords


Giveaway

Kim is giving away a $10 Amazon gift card AND eBook copies of The Bureau V1 and V2 to one lucky winner. For a chance to win, enter via Rafflecopter:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Direct Link: http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/b60e8d47121/?


Excerpt

When Abe was done with the slates, he would ordinarily have turned to the third and final act of the séance. It involved darkening the room, asking the audience to concentrate on their loved ones beyond the veil, and then operating a series of trap doors and curtains via hidden controls. Masks and gauzy drapery covered in luminescent paint would make flickering appearances. One key here was for his accomplice to have the first sighting. Rosie would gasp or scream before Abe had yet showed a prop, making everyone else eager for their own glimpses. The other key was to do this illusion after the guests had lost any lingering doubts.

It was a wonderful illusion, one that would send his guests away feeling as if their money had been well spent. But today one guest continued to have doubts, and Abe’s curiosity was too strong to resist. He decided to postpone the finale.

“Friends, I vill now move among you and see if I receive any messages from beyond.”

Rosie lifted her eyebrows, clearly surprised he was going to do a cold reading. He generally did that only during séances where he’d given the guests a brief refreshment break and Rosie had the opportunity to slip him notes about the people she’d spoken with at the beginning. It certainly hadn’t been part of today’s plan.

Nonetheless, Abe moved among the chairs with his head atilt, as if he were listening for a faint sound. He stopped in front of Rosie and closed his eyes. “Ah. I’m hearing a voice…. A woman. Mary? No. Margaret.”

Rosie gasped and clutched her chest. “My sister Meg?” she asked tremulously. “She passed five years ago from rheumatic fever.”

In fact, Rosie had two sisters—neither named Margaret and both quite alive—who she didn’t especially get along with and spoke to only infrequently. But she wobbled her chin convincingly as Abe nodded. “Yes. She says she misses you. She remembers the… the necklace you gave her for her birthday. It vas such a lovely gift, she says.”

Tears started to leak from Rosie’s eyes. Crying convincingly on cue was one of her many strengths. “She loved that little thing. We buried her in it.”

“She vants you to know that she’s very happy vhere she is now. She knows your life vill be long, but someday you shall see her again.”

“Th-thank you, Mr. France. Tell her I love her too.”

“She knows.”

Abe moved down the row to a man in his fifties, a Mr. Van Goethem. He was dressed moderately well but not richly, and his weathered face and battered hands suggested he’d once labored outdoors. He had an accent—Dutch or Belgian; Abe wasn’t certain—but it wasn’t strong, so he’d been in the United States for a long time. These observations and a general knowledge of human beings allowed Abe to make some safe guesses.

“I am hearing a woman again. She is…. I see the letter A?”

“Anna?” Mr. Van Goethem seemed confused.

“I am not sure. I believe the A is not at the beginning of her name.”

Mr. Van Goethem let out a noisy sigh. “Johanna. My mother.”

Perfect. Abe had chosen A simply because it was common in feminine names; after that, he could get the guest to lead him on the right path. “Yes, your mother. She says…. Oh.” He frowned deeply as if distressed.

“What? What does she say? Mama, I—”

Abe held up a hand to silence him. “It’s…. Oh, I see.” He bent so as to put his eyes on level with Mr. Van Goethem’s and lowered his voice as if to tell a secret. He knew his words would carry nonetheless. “She says she forgives you, sir. She knows you are a good man at heart. She is proud of you.”

Mr. Van Goethem didn’t cry, but he clamped his lips together and his throat worked. He gave a jerky nod.

This had been nothing but a guess. In Abe’s experience, nearly everyone had disappointed a parent at one point or another.

At last, heart pounding, Abe moved to the back row and came to a halt in front of Donne. Standing this close, he could see a bit of pale stubble on those broad cheeks and stubborn chin. Donne’s eyes were more fog-like than ever: opaque and chilling. The type of eyes a man could get lost in. He sat straight-backed but not tense, heavy muscles relaxed beneath his cheap suit and good shirt. But his hands—yes. They hung over the armrests and moved with the hint of a tremor.

Interesting.

Without truly intending to, knowing it might even be dangerous, Abe reached out and settled a palm on Donne’s shoulder. Although Donne flinched slightly, he didn’t strike out or move away. His jaw tightened, though, and his eyes narrowed.

The war, Abe thought. Yes. Donne was the right age for it, and his accent thick enough to suggest he’d come of age in England instead of the United States. Besides, there was something about the set of his body and the creases around his eyes. “I hear… a man,” Abe began.

And then he did.

As clear as if the person stood next to him, a voice spoke in Abe’s ear. It sounded young and sad and thin. Tommy. Oh, my darling Tommy, what have they done to you?

Abe unwillingly echoed a phrase, the words tearing his throat. “My darling Tommy.”

Donne leapt to his feet, jerking back so violently that he toppled the chair. One hand went into his coat pocket, and Abe was certain he was about to be shot. The idea didn’t frighten him, mostly because he was too deeply awash in the spirit’s sorrow. “Don’t hurt him, Tommy.” From his own mouth, but it wasn’t his accent or his voice. “Please don’t.”

The spirit… the man had been in his early twenties, perhaps. A pointed chin and sharp nose, thin mobile eyebrows, a wide mouth always a moment away from a cheeky grin. Ears that stuck out a little. Abe knew this although he couldn’t see the spirit. Just as he knew the spirit’s name. “Albert,” he said in his own voice.

Donne jerked again but held his ground. He was breathing hard.

Abe’s knees felt weak, his head swam, and Albert whispered in his head: tiny snippets and phrases that Abe couldn’t quite catch. Reaching out for a chair back to support himself, he became aware of the wide eyes and gaping mouths of his guests.

With considerable effort, he gathered his wits, giving Donne a quick apologetic glance before striding to the front of the room. He cleared his throat before falling back into his faux accent. “I am sorry, friends. Today the spirits have qvite exhausted me. I hope you have found some of the answers you sought.”

The guests seemed pleased as they gathered their coats and hats and filed toward the hallway and the door. They thanked Abe as they shook his hand. Soon only two others remained: Rosie, looking about as if perhaps she’d mislaid a glove, and Donne, towering and jut-jawed in the back of the room.

“I need to talk to you,” Donne growled.

Abe simply nodded. He took Rosie gently by the arm and led her down the hall, surreptitiously offering her five dollars at the door. She took it but paused with her hand on the knob. “Are you all right?” she whispered.

“I’m fine.”

“That was—”

“I’ll explain another time, sweetheart.”

She scrunched her mouth together. “But that big fella, he don’t look too safe.”

“Nothing worthwhile ever is. I’ll see you tomorrow, Rosie.” He gave her a gentle push out the door and locked it behind her. Then he turned and walked back to face Donne.


Author Bio

<imgsrc=”https://www.otherworldsink.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/05/AUTHOR-PIC-Conned.jpg” alt=”Kim Fielding” width=”600″ height=”600″ />

Kim Fielding is the bestselling, award-winning author of numerous m/m romance novels, novellas, and short stories. Like Kim herself, her work is eclectic, spanning genres such as contemporary, fantasy, paranormal, and historical. Her stories are set in alternate worlds, in 15th century Bosnia, in modern-day Oregon. Her heroes are hipster architect werewolves, housekeepers, maimed giants, and conflicted graduate students. They’re usually flawed, they often encounter terrible obstacles, but they always find love.

After having migrated back and forth across the western two-thirds of the United States, Kim calls California home. She lives there with her family, her cat, and her day job as a university professor, but escapes as often as possible via car, train, plane, or boat. This may explain why her characters often seem to be in transit as well. She dreams of traveling and writing full-time.

Author Website: http://kfieldingwrites.com

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