Free Short

fields-1800Hi All, here’s a bit of flash fiction from Pete’s point of view in honor of the re-release of Fields of Gold (Tarnished Souls 2). Enjoy!

Snakes and Ladders

One of my favorite things about September was the sweet smell of fallen apples. We did our best to harvest the fruit on time, but inevitably the wind knocked a few apples out of every tree, leaving the orchard fragrant with decaying fruit and buzzing with bees.

Avi probably should have been working on lectures or lesson plans or whatever it is that history professors did on Friday afternoons a few weeks into the fall term, but instead he had volunteered to help me pick apples to sell at the Saturday farmers’ market. It was one of those perfect September days that make going back to school a cruel and unusual punishment. Avi’s last class ended at three and by the time he got home, I was already ten feet off the ground with a bushel basket half full of gorgeous orange-red Pricilla apples. A few not so perfect specimens rattled around my shoulder bag, destined for our own cellars.

From my perch in the tree I watched him approach. Two years together and it still rocked my world to see him cross the field toward me. If anything, Avi was even better looking than when I first met him. He’d bulked out from working on the farm and the sun had deepened his olive skin to a rich golden brown. He’d lost that slump shouldered scholar look and walked across the field like a man who knew where he belonged. Right here. With me.

At the bottom of my ladder he smiled up at me. “Hey gorgeous, where do you want me to start?”

Where did I want him to start? Fuck the harvest, I wanted to roll around getting sweaty in the apple-scented grass. His smile widened like he knew exactly what I was thinking.

I glanced at the horizon, then up at the ridge top. It could wait. We had a little more than an hour of daylight left. With a sigh, I pointed the old MacIntosh tree. “The Ginger golds and Jonafrees won’t be mature for another week, but the Mac needs picking.”

“Got it.” He collected a step ladder from under the Paula red tree we’d finished picking the week before and walked it over to the Mac.

Along with a few Honeycrisps and Cortlands, the MacIntosh had been one of a handful of trees my grandfather planted years ago. In his day, the apples fed the family and livestock. My father mainly ignored the trees. When my sister and I inherited the farm, one of the first things we did was to expand the orchard and add heirloom varieties that matured at different rates. It had taken a few years, but now we had a steady supply of apples to sell at the market from early August until the first deep freeze. Most of the orchard was now made up of spindly young trees like the one I was picking from and only a few gnarled grand dames like Avi’s.

“Let me know if you find any storm damage.” I called once he had settled the ladder under the most heavily laden branch. We’d had strong winds the night before. We didn’t lose too many apples and the force wasn’t bad enough to hurt the young trees, but the no matter how much we pruned the old guys, sometimes they couldn’t take a punch. I watched Avi climb the ladder, wondering if I ought to switch with him. The last thing I wanted was for him to get hurt. Again. He wasn’t exactly accident prone, but back when we were first together… As they say, shit happens.

“Don’t look so worried, Pete.” Avi called to me from his perch on the ladder. “I’m not the type to go out on a limb. Couldn’t be safer.” He plucked an apple and studied it with that mock serious look of his. “Of course, that’s what Adam thought, isn’t it?” He grinned at me and took a huge bite.

“Does that make me Eve?” I lobbed an ugly worm eaten apple at him.

He ducked. “Not Eve, Petey, you’re my temptation.”

Oh yeah. “Better get to picking them apples, Yeshiva boy. We need to fill a lot more bushels before I’ll let you play with my snake.”

I love to watch Avi laugh, love the way he throws back his head, abandoning his usual urbane countenance and committing to a moment of pure joy.

It took us almost an hour to fill the wooden crate boxes I had stacked on the ATV trailer, drive them back to the barn and load them into the truck. One more thing I wouldn’t need to do before the sun came up. Avi slid the last of the crates to the front of the truck bed, leaving room for the fresh vegetables we’d pick and load at dawn. He climbed down and dusted off his jeans.

“I’ve got a surprise for you.” At his raised eyebrows, I gestured toward the ATV, from which I’d unhitched the trailer. “Hop on.”

I climbed on and he slid behind me.

He wrapped his arms around my waist and slid his hands lower. “Is this where I get to play with that snake?”

I leaned back into him, savoring his warmth and the excitement of his touch through my jeans. Reluctantly, I straightened. “Almost.”

I started the ATV’s engine. His hands moved from my crotch back to my waist but he stayed pressed close against my back. His breath tickled my neck, sending shivers down my spine. I gunned the engine, ready to get where we were going—fast.

We got to the top of the ridge in time to see the sun dip toward the horizon. The blanket was where I’d left it, spread out on the only high point of land we owned. From there we could see the entire farm, the orchard, vegetable fields, grazing cows, the barn and the old farmhouse.

“Wow.” Avi whispered in my ear. “I feel like I just stepped into a Victorian novel—a buggy ride to a picnic in the early evening.”

“Let’s hope the squirrels didn’t get into our cooler.” I let him climb off first, then followed. No squirrel damage—the cooler still held bread, cheese and champagne. I popped open the champagne and poured us each a glass.

Avi was looking at me with an indulgent smile. “Will there be strolling minstrels passing by?”

Such a romantic. I sat on the blanket and smiled up at him. “Indulge me. We’ll sit here and drink our champagne, watch the sunset, cuddle. It won’t hurt, I promise.”

He took the glass, sat and looked out at the sunset. “It’s beautiful. Thanks.”

I took a sip—cheap champagne, but it was the thought that counted. I leaned my head on Avi’s shoulder. He put his arm around me. We watched silently as the sky lit with a blaze of color and the sun slid below the horizon.

“Dinner at your mom’s house got me thinking.” I drained the last of my glass, sat up and retrieved the bottle.

Avi sighed. “I know it’s awkward. It was nice of you to come.”

“It’s getting easier. Give us all time to get used to each other.” I refilled his glass and my own before going on. “It got me thinking about traditions—don’t burst out into song, Tevya, that’s not what I meant. I like the idea of family rituals and you know I love dipping apples in honey for a sweet new year. What I realized was that we’ve got you doing Christmas and Easter here at the farm with us, but ship the Jewish celebrations off to your mom’s house. And while I’m happy to go there with you, I think we should develop some traditions of our own. How about an annual Rosh Hashanah picnic?”

“Sounds more like Succoth to me.” Avi traced my jaw with his fingers.

Yet another holiday? “Succoth?”

He shook his head. “Doesn’t matter. A Rosh Hashanah picnic with you sounds perfect to me.”

His lips on mine were cool from the champagne but the kiss got hot quickly. When he pulled away it was dark, but even so I could see the shine of his eyes. He whispered, “God, I love you.”

I set my glass down and wrapped my arms around him. “Wanna play with my snake?”

“Loose that mighty serpent. I promise not to bite.”

An owl hooted in the woods nearby but I didn’t care. He could watch if he wanted. I pulled Avi down beside me. It was going to be a very sweet new year.

The end

Fields of Gold from Love is a Light Press

available at Amazon and Barnes and Noble

Road trip!

Cover by Fiona Jayde

Cover by Fiona Jayde

I love a good road trip. There’s nothing better than piling in the car with my sweetie, the dog and a big bag of snacks and heading out to find adventures.

My new book, Driving into the Sun, takes place on 190/94 from Chicago to Northern Idaho. It’s not exactly your standard family vacation – Dusty and Joe have a long way to go in more ways than one.

Bring on the light

Cover by Jordan Castillo Price

Cover by Jordan Castillo Price

It’s September and up here in Northern Wisconsin, that means the days will soon be getting shorter and much, much colder. It’s a good time to look toward the land that never warms up. September in Antarctica is Winfly, the short period between when the continent is locked down in darkest winter and the frantic summer work season begins. In other words, in Antarctica this month they’re getting ready for the light. It might not get warm during an Antarctic summer, but it gets very, very bright.

In honor of Winfly 2014, Love is a Light has released an author version of August Ice, my Antarctica love story. I’ve made some changes, most notably to the beginning and end of the story and the book has a gorgeous new cover by Jordan Castillo Price. You can find the new and improved August Ice on Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

Here’s to the sun as it waxes and wanes in all of our lives.

Growing community

I’m all about community. Which is funny since I’m a bit of an introvert (not that you’d know that by meeting me). I think what I love about creating communities is that we can get so much more done together than we ever do on our own.

First home grown salad of the year.

First home grown salad of the year.

One of my favorite community activities is working in our local community garden. We started one garden five years ago. It was so popular that we expanded to a second site two years later. You’d think that in a rural place like Northern Wisconsin, there wouldn’t be a need for a community garden. People may not have much money up here, but there’s a lot of green space around. The thing is, we also have lots and lots of trees (wonderful) and deer (umm… I suppose they’re cute if they’re not camped out in your front yard eating the flowers). In the community garden people can farm a small plot inside a big fence where there’s plenty of sun and no cute little Bambis to scalp the peppers.

We also grow food for the local food pantry. I’m in charge of the tomatoes we grow for the food pantry. Last year I tried growing them in straw bales. It worked great so I’m doing the same this year. Straw bale gardening is all the rage up here and I’m definitely sold.

1TW_3019The tomatoes still have a long way to go. But it’s wonderful to be outside gardening again. Especially in community.

How about you? How does your garden grow?

 

The First Question A Passover Story (Isaac and Nathan)

Cover by Jordan Castillo Price

Cover by Jordan Castillo Price

This Passover I’m releasing a new, improved author version of Learning from Isaac, the first Tarnished Souls books, which was originally published by Loose Id in 2012. The new version is a little longer (5%) with a few plot and narration tweaks. I’m hoping it gives readers a fuller vision of both Nathan and Isaac and their sweet love story. To celebrate this re-release, I’m posting this short to let everyone know where the guys are now. The new version of Learning from Isaac (with this stunning cover by Jordan Castillo Price) is up on Amazon now. I hope you enjoy both the new version of the book and this little glimpse into their life two years later.

 

The First Question

 

Plain, egg, onion, whole wheat, poppy seed or spelt? My stomach twisted in knots as I stared at the matzo display. On some level I knew that no one would really care, but hosting our first real Seder felt like a big-deal, grown-up, serious thing to do and I wanted it to be perfect. For a lot of reasons.

I was the kid who never paid attention while the adults droned through the ritual. One year they caught me passing notes back and forth with my cousin, playing hangman instead of learning about Moses and the red sea and plagues. But these days, Passover meant something different for me. Looked at one way, Seder at Nathan’s mother’s house had been our first date.  Which was the way I liked to remember it. That other first date? Some things are best forgotten.

And now here I was, standing in a grocery store in front of a Passover display that was nestled between tortillas, canned chilies, beans, and rice noodles and soy sauce, with a shopping list and a case of nerves. Nathan was back home cleaning out the spare room for his mom and her boyfriend who would be flying in from Chicago in the morning. l grabbed three different boxes—variety’s good, right?—and started shoveling the rest of the supplies into the cart, gefelte fish, macaroons and sweet wine. The horseradish tripped me up again—regular or pink with beet juice? Both. I wasn’t taking chances. I’d been planning this night for a long time.

The cart bulged with regular and ritual food. I could picture Nathan’s face when I dumped bag after bag of food on the counter. He’d stare at me wide-eyed in that sexy way he had, then shake his head and smile. And I’d go all gooey inside. Maybe we wouldn’t make it to the end of putting away the groceries before we were going at it on the kitchen floor. It wouldn’t be the first time.

The bill was three times what we usually spent on food. And it was okay. We could afford it. Wasn’t that amazing.

I stepped out into the April heat and inhaled the gas-fume-laden air. I loved California, the heat, the ocean, my job, loved the word engineer in my title, and mostly I loved the freedom of walking down the street without meeting anyone who’d known me before. I hadn’t expected to like respectability. But I did. I loved it—loved our life, our overpriced condo and our grown-up furniture. Our friends had real jobs and even if I was almost always the youngest at any social gathering, it was okay because I was just another guy, half of a couple, a matched set.

I drove into the snarl of traffic. Faces in the cars beside me looked mad or anxious or resigned, and maybe I would have too, if I hadn’t spent long winters in Chicago selling my soul for tuition money and another long winter in Madison only seeing Nathan on weekends. Three months before, I’d graduated early, Nathan quit his job and we moved to sunny California and now we car pooled to work for the same environmental consulting company. It was like stepping into the light. I was still blinking from the contrast.

In the empty kitchen, steam roiled from a pot of water boiling on the stove. A carton of eggs sat next to it. The balcony door was open and there stood Nathan, beating the guest room rug, his hair a dark halo in the sunlight and a deep furrow between his eyebrows as he squinted against the dust. I watched him. Even after two years, having Nathan in my life felt like a miracle. My Nate. The professor—smart, sexy and all mine.

He glanced up and smiled. I loved the way he looked at me with those dark, kind eyes. Like I was special. Like I was worthy. Like he thought I was a prize, too.

The water. Hard boiled eggs for tomorrow. I dropped in a dozen eggs, turned off the burner and walked into the living room. Nathan came in from the balcony, meeting me halfway for a hug and kiss too long and deep for the hour I’d been away.

“I bought too much matzo,” I told him when we pulled apart.

“Egg?”

“Among other things.”

“Mom loves you. There’s nothing to worry about.” He brushed hair out of my face. It was getting too long, the curls too wild, but there didn’t ever seem time to get it cut. Besides, he liked it. He kissed me again, this time sweet and slow.

When the kiss broke, I looked into his deep brown eyes. It was right there on the tip of my tongue. Had been for months. “Nate…”

The timer beeped.

“Is that the eggs?” He pulled away and strode toward the kitchen. “We should peel them now. Getting the shells off is tricky once the albumen has cooled.”

God I loved him.

I trailed him to the kitchen. He dumped the hot water and ran cold into the pan. I leaned against the counter, chewing on my unspoken words.

He handed me an egg to peel. It was warm.  “Nate?”

“Hmm?” He frowned down at the egg in his hand as some of the white chipped off with the shell.

It was like diving into the ocean from a high rock. You had to just jump.

“What is it?” Nathan stopped peeling and looked at me, his fingers still in the icy water.

I took a deep breath and leapt. “I think we should get married.”

He dropped his egg and stared at me.

I rushed on before he could say no. “It’s legal here and we already have a joint checking account and, um, it would be good for our taxes.” I could hear the whine creeping into my voice and shut up.

Nathan didn’t say anything. He pulled his hands out of the water, reached for a dish towel and dried them. He folded and set the towel on the counter and looked at me, that furrow between his eyes back again.

“You think we should get married for the taxes?”

“No.” I leaned forward, not touching him but wanting to. “No. I want to marry you because you’re it for me. The one man I can see myself loving forever. You’re my heart. My home. I just thought you’d find the taxes argument more convincing.”

His eyes went wide. He shook his head and smiled. “I’m a lot older than you. When I’m sixty-five you’ll be—”

“—Twenty years older than I am now and it still won’t matter. We get to change our names when we get married, but not our ages.” I put my right hand over his heart and took his hand with my left. “I thought about making a big proposal at dinner tomorrow night, down on one knee and everything, but I decided you wouldn’t like that. So now, over a pot of unpeeled hard-boiled eggs, I’m asking you, Nathan Kohn, if you’ll make an honest man out of me.”

“You’ve always been that.” He caressed my jaw, his eyes searching mine. “Are you serious?”

I nodded.

His face split into a wide smile that went all the way up into his eyes. He wrapped his arms around me and drew me into a long, deep, whole-body kiss.

I guessed that was a yes.

A new version of Learning from Isaac out for Passover this year

Look for it on Amazon somewhere around 4/15. I’m calling this an author’s version, or maybe “take 2″, and I’m hoping that in the new Learning from Isaac readers will fall in love with Nathan in the same way I did. There’s also a spectacular new cover from Jordan Castillo Price.

To celebrate – I’m working on a flash piece to let everyone check in on how Nathan and Isaac are doing two years later. More later – in the meantime happy spring!

Cover by Jordan Castillo Price

Cover by Jordan Castillo Price

Happy Purim!

Purim is a crazy holiday, a religious celebration based on a bedroom farce (really, read the Book of Ester yourself if you don’t believe me) during which you are COMMANDED to get drunk. Although most people treat it as a kid’s thing (a Jewish Halloween) and let it go at that, if we’re doing it right, we get dressed up, shake rattles, put on terrible skits and drink until we can’t tell the difference between right and wrong – sort of a slapstick take on annihilation.

Of course my Purim story (Bread, Salt and Wine) dwells more on the threats than the fun, but that’s just me. For most people, Purim is about costumes and parties and eating your enemy’s hat (hamentashen – check it out). And drool over these beauties by slqckqc at Flickr Creative Commons – yum.

See the original photo on flickr http://www.flickr.com/photos/slgc/6961659235/in/photolist-bBbjKv-bBbhgg-9rVvqv-dUbg9c-dUbfYT-dUgSMU-dUgSKL-dUbgwZ-dUgSA5-dUgSxw-dUbgb8-dUbgB4-dUbg1z-dUbfWK-7JCkTd-9rHKUK-9rVvnP-9rYsQU-9rVuK4-9rYsxU-9rVuE2-9rYsNC-9rYsn9-9rYsB1-9rYsHG-9rYsDm-9rVuND-9rVuG8-9rYsFY-dXotAd-bBvHhp-bBvHdx-bBvHgM-boANcN-bBvHoe-bBvHek-boANo1-boANiu-bBvHhV-9KJMqq-bBvHd8-bBvHiD-boAN7W-bBvHfz-dXcLas-7Gv4wv-7Gv4vn-dYmaMm-9rrcCQ-9smKE4-aKes3V/lightbox/

 

Seth’s Valentine

Moving in Rhythm from Carina - March 2012

Moving in Rhythm (Carina 2012)

It’s been a couple of years and I thought you might be interested in what’s up for Mark and Seth from Moving in Rhythm.

The original story is available on CarinaAmazon and Barnes and Noble

Seth’s Valentine

“And five, six, seven, eight.” Seth snapped his fingers and watched his first grade dance class fly into their unique chaos. He glanced at the ornate wall clock, a studio-warming gift from his folks. It needed dusting. Ten more minutes. Just enough time to practice the sunflower routine for the spring recital.

He clapped his hands and the kids lined up in a vaguely snaking line, Mackenzie the reluctant tail. She was forty pounds heavier than the other kids and the butt of all their jokes, no wonder she hated dance class. Seth had seen the same thing with his oldest sister, who’d battled weight all her life. She was convinced she would have found her own way to health if their parents hadn’t shoved her into every humiliating group physical activity they could find. Seth had no idea if she was right, but shame didn’t help anyone. He’d offered to give Mackenzie private lessons at the same price, but her parents thought she needed a social life. Right. Some social life.

As he passed out the props, his knee started to ache. Not compared to what he’d made himself endure in the old days, but enough to make him glad the day was almost over. His post-accident life of spring and fall recitals, choreographing small town musicals and teaching exercise classes on the side was a long way from the professional dance life he’d planned. He’d spent years sweating and straining and gritting his teeth against the pain, only to find himself sidelined from the dream. And happy. Amazing.

Ten other girls, two boys and round little Mackenzie tiptoed in a circle, waving their plastic sunflowers. Flowers. He should stop on the way home and pick up some. They hadn’t talked about Valentine’s Day. Did Mark have something planned? Sometimes it was hard to tell what was going on inside that gorgeous head of his.

Half-way round the circle, Mackenzie tripped and went down on one knee. The boy behind slammed into her and stumbled. Kids laughed, a girl yelled. Mackenzie’s bottom lip quivered. Her eyes on the floor, she seemed to shrink into herself. It was heartbreaking. Seth stepped in, broke up the incipient fight and dismissed class. The dance floor thundered with the pounding of little feet as everyone rushed toward the anteroom and their parents. He squatted next to Mackenzie, still huddled on the floor where she’d fallen.

“You okay?”

She looked up and nodded. He pulled a tissue from the pocket of his sweatpants and handed it to her. She blew her nose and solemnly passed it back to him. He tried not to wince.

“It gets better.” He patted her shoulder, hoping he was right.

Mackenzie didn’t meet his gaze, climbed to her feet and headed for the front door and her escape.

Seth’s knee complained again as he stood. He carried her soggy tissue over to the trash can. Maybe part of being human was the instinct to rip open anyone who was different. It wasn’t the best part. He gathered up the sunflowers they’d left strewn across the floor.

The parents and children were gone by the time Seth had cleaned up, turned off the lights and shrugged into his coat. February was a cold month in Lacland. Come April they’d be staying to chat, maybe clustering on the lawn in front of the dance studio. But with the snow deep and the wind sharp, they just wanted to scoop up the kid and run.

Seth inhaled the cold air. He felt a flutter of excitement. Valentine’s Day. He still couldn’t believe Mark had agreed to move in with him. Two months, and Seth was still pinching himself every morning he woke up to find Mark’s clothing still hanging next to his in the closet. Even the dogs were happy. Of course, they’d had a couple of years to get used to each other.

As he strode across the parking lot, he pulled up the collar of his coat against the wind. Mark’s stuff in the closet, his weights in the spare room, his dog sleeping on the couch—all that added up to love, right? Mark might not have said it, but that was just Mark. He wasn’t ever going to be a talker. That’s just the way it was. Everyone was born their unique biochemical self. Especially Mark.

Seth rubbed his hands together and blew on his fingers while he waited for the old car to warm up. People always talked about courage like it was something you had when you weren’t afraid to jump out of airplanes or fight in ridiculous wars. Watching Mark, Seth had learned a lot about courage. True courage was walking into a room full of people when the very idea made you break into a sweat. Or talking to a stranger when the words choked in your throat. Or being with the man you loved even though it terrified you. Because Mark did love him. He did. Seth could tell it in the way Mark looked at him and the way his hands felt on Seth’s skin.

Flowers. Was that too much? Not enough? Seth had debated making dinner reservations somewhere quiet where they could have a table away from everyone else. But that might end up as another test of courage, with Mark going along to make Seth happy but sweating bullets the whole time. That would be a cruel valentine. Better to settle for flowers, good steaks and a long night in bed—something they’d both enjoy.

He pulled up to the curb in front of the apartment building. The lights were on. He climbed the stairs, smiling. Mark was somewhere inside. At home. He opened the door, expecting Mark on the other side, big and shy but always ready to kiss, a man whose native language was touch. The dogs bounded up to greet him.

“Mark?” No answer.

The living room was empty. The only other light was in the spare room. Mark would be lifting. The one thing Seth enjoyed about Mark’s constant anxiety was the way he soothed it by lifting weights. His hands around the barbell, his muscles bunching and quivering, sweat gleaming on his skin. Whew, baby.

Seth set the groceries in the kitchen and carried the flowers toward the spare room, which looked like a gym now—a full weight set and bench faced the mirrored wall and barre Seth had installed when he first moved in. It took a moment for Seth to register. Mark wasn’t moving. He sat on the weight bench holding up a dumbbell, his bicep bulging and beginning to shake. He was staring at his hand, a strange look on his face. Seth called his name but he didn’t look up. Shit. It had been a long time since Mark’s last full-blown panic attack. Almost long enough for Seth to forget. Almost.

Dropping the bouquet, Seth crossed the room and squatted beside Mark. He put his hand on Mark’s shoulder. “Hey.”

Seth reached for the dumbbell and wrapped his hand around Mark’s. Mark blinked, looked up at Seth and let him help lower the weight to the ground. Seth held Mark’s gaze. It was the only thing he knew to do, stand witness to Mark’s pain and fear without flinching. Sometimes it helped. Sometimes it didn’t. But at least he was there.

“I’m sorry.” Mark croaked out.

“Nothing to be sorry about.” Seth rubbed Mark’s arm. It had to hurt. How long had he been holding up that weight?

Mark looked away. He swallowed. Seth stroked his arm. He hated watching Mark struggle—it left him feeling helpless, useless and mad at the universe for making life so hard for sweet, sweet Mark.

Seth nodded toward the kitchen. “I got some great stuff for dinner. If you walk the dogs, I’ll cook.”

Mark shook his head. He gestured toward his foot. “Fucked up my ankle. Took the dogs out an hour ago but I need to give it a rest.”

“You hurt yourself? How?” Seth followed his gaze, trying not to panic. His knee seemed to pulse an SOS—injury, danger, scary stuff. “Do we need to get you to the emergency room?”

“Just twisted.” Mark used his tee shirt to wipe his forehead. He met Seth’s eyes. “Stupid. I was trying to dance, and tripped.”

Seth stared at him. Each word made sense but this was Mark and… “Dance?”

Mark looked down. A deep blush colored the back of his neck and into his cheeks. He cleared his throat. “You like to dance.”

Seth stared at him. The dots slowly connected. “You were practicing so we could go dancing?”

Mark nodded, his eyes glued to the floor. “For Valentine’s.”

Seth’s chest ached. All those people crushed together on a dance floor—Mark’s biggest nightmare. “Oh man. You don’t have to… that’s such a sweet thought.”

“No. It’s not. I’m not.” Mark shook his head violently. “For Christ’s sake, I should be able to go dancing with the man I love.”

Seth sat back on his heels. The man he loved. His eyes welled and he blinked. He reached out and brushed Mark’s damp hair out of his eyes.

Mark gave him a sheepish look. “I planned to go out with you tonight, make you happy, and finally get up the balls to tell you I love you.”

Seth buried his face in Mark’s neck and whispered, “Yes. I love you too.”

Best Valentine ever.

Dog run

Jonas thought he was in a stable relationship – maybe not passionate or romantic – but a working partnership, in all senses of the phrase. Turns out he’s been fooling himself. It’s time to move on. He lands at a small town veterinary practice, not exactly the high powered research center he’s used to, but more like what he dreamed of as a boy.

Could be a place where dreams come true and love is always possible.

And on a side note, the third dog in Nobody’s Home – my new story (out now!) is a little thing named Squirrel.