Jason Collins is my HERO!!

jason collins

Jason Collins came out today in Sports Illustrated as the first openly gay professional athlete in “the big four” (basketball, baseball, football, hockey). I’m in awe. What a brave man! Check out his story HERE at Sports Illustrated.

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New Release!

American Icons - CowboyEverybody loves – or at least lusts after – the Alpha Male. And there are certain men who are more Alpha than others! Join journalist Ryker Shane as he explores the mystique of the Alpha Men who stir our imaginations (and libidos!) again and again. They are the American Icons: the embodiment of everything we crave in our beds.

Ryker’s journey begins at the Hasty K Ranch, where he meets the “quintessential cowboy”,  JT Reese.

Here’s the excerpt:

The interview goes well. He’s candid with his stories about buckle-bunnies, and the less than glamorous side of the rodeo. He talks about his injuries, but in a way that makes even the one that ended his rodeo career sound amusing. Yeah, JT is funny, which is crazy sexy.

It’s also crazy sexy watching him pose for Jamie. His jeans aren’t particularly tight, but they’re well worn and conform to his wiry frame in a way I can only describe as intimately, cupping a tight, flat ass and a sizable bulge in the triangle made by his chaps at his crotch.

He’s teasing me, and we both know it. From the way Jamie’s lips are pressed in a tight line, he knows it, too. I spare a second to wonder what’s got my photographer so tense. He knows I’m gay and it’s never been an issue. For that matter, I’ve seen him leave a bar with just as many hot guys as he has hot girls. Soon enough the pictures are all taken, his equipment is all packed up and, with one final, piercing look, Jamie’s on his way. Once he’s gone JT gives me a piercing look of his own, and offers me a tour. Something in the tilt of his head and the quirk of his lips tells me the ranch isn’t the only thing he’s inviting me to explore.

By the time our tour reaches the tack room, the tension that’s been sizzling between us since I first caught sight of JT’s ass outlined by those dusty leather chaps is almost unbearable. I look into his eyes, a look that I know is just asking to be fucked—or, if he’s straighter than he acts—fucked up. There’s heat lightning there, sparking in the blue, leaving it almost gray and glittery.

Yeah, I’m a writer. I get poetic once and awhile. Sue me.

I find myself herded back against the door, which has somehow become closed and locked behind me.

“Tell me no.”

I shake my head. Not “no, I don’t want this”, but “no, I’m not gonna tell you to stop”. Thankfully he seems to get it, and moves in closer.

He crowds me, bracing himself on his forearms on either side of my head. His body is hot, damp with the heat of the day. He smells of musk and man, a little dust, and the clean scent of soap from his hurried shower.

He’s hard against me. Not just his cock, which is digging into my hip like a burning poker, thank you very much, but his whole body. He presses against me, nipples to knees, and he’s a tactile feast of hard bone and ropy muscle. One knee works its way between my thighs, pressing up. Just. Enough. Enough to give my balls a little pressure, a little tease. Then he sets his other leg along my thigh and squeezes, bending his knees a little and then straightening in a long, slow, full body rub that has my nerves jumping, and my dick throbbing.

“If you don’t tell me to stop, I’m gonna fuck you, Shane.”

The words send a shudder through me. The pure statement of intent, no hint of a request. And the way he uses my last name. Somehow that’s just blazingly hot to me.

“Last chance.”

His mouth is against my neck, lips parted just enough for him to place light, sucking kisses along the length of it. Up, up, up, stopping at the ridiculously sensitive hollow behind my ear. Tiny, stinging kisses, not quite hard enough to leave a mark. But damn, I can feel them.

“Not saying no.” I force the words out, but even focusing all my concentration on forming actual syllables, that last one trails off into a moan because he’s sucking on my earlobe, and it seems to have a direct line to the tip of my cock.

“That’s good, Shane. Real good.”

Buy American Icons: The Cowboy exclusively HERE at Amazon for Kindle!

And Now, the Irresistibly Adorable Jackie Nacht!

I’ve mentioned once or twice that there isn’t ANYONE in the world cuter than Jackie Nacht. Except maybe Devon Rhodes. Seriously. The two of them together? Deadly with the cute! Jackie’s got the triple threat thing going, too. Cute, funny and smart. Smart enough to come up with the idea for the Three Degrees of Heat antho, as a matter of fact. Jackie is our caboose – her story is the last of the three, and the “sweetest” of the bunch. Love her story, love her sister, and love her. And I know all of you will, too.

So, here’s Jackie’s blurb:

Best friends since childhood, now it will take everything Chase has to heal Landon and finally make him his mate.

After receiving a call from his old roommate, Foster, stating that he was needed back home, Chase drops everything to go. What he finds when he gets there is that not everyone has healed from the wrath brought down by the old Alpha. His best friend growing up, the one he secretly knew was his mate when he was sent to college, is still wrought with guilt and never healed from the abuse at the hands of the Alpha, who happened to be Landon’s father.

Landon doesn’t know what to do. He’s laced with guilt for seeing his father become more twisted as the years passed but never voicing it. And worse, he can’t bring himself to face the Leash or even go back to the house where the violence began. Feeling lost and scarred beyond healing, he goes to the one place he feels safe, to the lake.

Will Chase be able to help Landon heal, and is it too late to tell the man he grew up with that not only is he his mate but the love of his life?

And her excerpt:

white fox 1Chapter One

Chase couldn’t get there fast enough. Two hours earlier, he’d received a call from Foster, making him fly out the door to his Jeep. The vibes he’d had for months about home and the unanswered questions were all beginning to make sense. That didn’t make him any less pissed off that his brothers transferred him to a college three hours away this fall.

Finally, after white knuckling the whole damn drive, he pulled into the driveway of the home he shared with his older brother Benjamin and, apparently, his new mate, Foster. His other brother Axe lived next door with his mate, Scotty.

Chase already knew Foster since he’d roomed with him in school, but he’d barely ever talked to the Omega, Scotty, since he was so shy, and Chase tended to spend all his time with Landon. He’d wanted to come home to be with the family, but again got a firm, you need to stay where you are until the end of the semester. Why did he listen? Oh, that was right—because his brothers were Alpha and Beta while he was only a gamma. They never gave him shit for it, but he still submitted to them in all things. He couldn’t help it, as it was bone deep in his instincts to submit.

Chase cut the engine and took off for the front door. He had such a bad feeling in the pit of his stomach but wasn’t sure what was going on. Things had been so…weird when he left. The old Alpha, Joe, had changed his brother’s role in the Leash and had planned on sending them on missions outside the Leash. Benjamin didn’t want him to stay by himself, so he transferred him to a college to live in the dorms. That had seemed so strange in itself, but his brothers had been tightlipped. Then there was Landon. Was Landon okay? After all, Foster said he was in trouble. God, why hadn’t he insisted on keeping in touch with Landon?

Walking in, Chase yelled out, “Foster! Benjamin!”

Axe appeared, imposing in the kitchen doorway, “Calm the fuck down, Chase. Come in here. We need to talk to you.” Axe turned and didn’t so much dismiss him as just knew that he would follow him in. Yep, the gamma in him had always followed his brothers around. They were more dominating, but they never used it on him unless he was being a shit, which he had been a time or two growing up. C’mon, everyone had their bratty moments as kids.

Chase walked in and saw Benjamin leaning against the kitchen sink with his arms crossed. Chase thought that maybe he would see his brothers’ mates, but it was just the brothers. Benjamin pointed to a chair, “Take a seat, Chase. We need to talk.”

So calm and so in control and very much unlike him right now. He went and sat in the chair, where his damn knee started bouncing, and his thumb did a nice fwap fwap fwap on the wood table. Benjamin and Axe sat down across from him. Axe passed over a beer before handing Benjamin one and taking a swig of his own. No, thanks, he was too geared up to even take a drink.

Benjamin looked him straight in the eye, “You know I’m the new Alpha of the Leash, and Axe is my Beta.”

Chase nodded. He was too pissed to be snarky and say No shit! Yeah, he received a two-minute call. A call! He had been mostly getting text since he left for school. There was only one time in the year they actually talked for more than a minute, and that’s when his brother had told him he was the new Alpha. He’d asked his brother if he could come home. What he got was, we need to figure out what’s going on and make sure you’re safe. In other words, it was a nice way of keeping the weakest link out of the picture. Thanks, bros, for the vote of confidence. That was also the time that Foster pulled a disappearing act on him.

Plus, he’d hated leaving Landon when he knew Landon’s father was such a bastard. Then, to hear he’d been abusive before Benjamin took over. He’d never seen marks on Landon, but the few times they would go to the lake, where they would shift and run until they fell asleep under the stars, he always did that when it was so dark. Was he hiding marks? And Landon never wanted to go home…ever.

Axe slammed his beer down, making him jump and bringing him out of his thoughts. “Pay attention, Chase.”

“Yeah, I am.” Chase glared at his brother even though he knew he’d gotten caught.

Benjamin leaned forward, “Here’s what’s been happening. Alpha Joe was a lot more twisted than we thought. We didn’t know half of the shit that was going down until after I took over. The Leash is…recovering…slow, but it’s moving in the right direction. Our concern is for Landon.”

Chase knew it, “What wrong with Landon?”

“He’s withdrawn. The Leash was taking out their wrath on him until we quickly intervened. Landon was shunned by the Leash, and we thought it was over, but Foster and I keep having to have little chats with them. He’s been taking it pretty hard and hasn’t been back to his home in weeks. The last we saw him was a few days ago in the woods. We thought he just needed a little time to heal. Scotty told me he saw his dad kill Laurie right in front of him. That’s not even mentioning that he had his own fair share of abuse at the hands of his father. We think he might need you.” Benjamin gave him a knowing look. It wasn’t like it was hard to tell that Chase had always loved Landon. It started as childhood friends, but it had become so much more in the last couple years.

Wait…Landon lost his sister, and it happened right in front of him? Those two were always close, since they never knew their mother. Hell, by the looks of them, they probably had two different mothers, but that never seemed to matter to them. Laurie had always been so shy and sweet to Chase. His heart hurt from the loss. Landon must be beside himself.

“Why didn’t you call me weeks ago? How come you had me stay away? Hell, it was Foster who called me. What the fuck?” Chase was pretty sure he knew, but he wanted to hear it. They think I’m weak.

Surprisingly, Axe was the one who answered, “We weren’t sure what was going on. We had our suspicions and knew it involved the Alpha, but we needed you away from Landon to protect you. Remember, Joe kept sending us away, and that would have left you totally vulnerable. Then when Benjamin took over, there were still a lot of issues that were unstable with the Leash. It was best that you stayed at school…safe.” Yep, weak.

Chase pushed his chair back, pissed, “I can take care of myself, and who the hell was taking care of Landon? Shunned? Alone? Are you fucking kidding me?”

Axe stood up, a challenge in his eyes, “Our priority was to you. How much worse would it have been for Landon if the Alpha had seen the two of you mate? Oh, don’t even look so shocked that I could see it, too. You two were right at maturity, and a blind fool could see you two were mates, even the Alpha. He would have toyed with him and who the fuck knows what else. He might have killed him just to get to you. And through you, he would have gotten to us. Same after he was gone. It was a shit storm here, and we couldn’t afford for anyone to harm you. Yeah, you’re an adult, but there were foxes here that were stronger and almost as bad as Joe.”

Axe’s logic made sense, kind of…but there were other options out there they could have taken, which involved giving the Leash the bird and walking away together. “I’m going to go look for him. I can’t…I can’t talk to you two right now.” Chase started shaking his head, but he couldn’t let this drop, “How could you let him go through this without me here? How could you not tell me?”

For the first time, Axe’s eyes looked at him pleadingly, “We didn’t know what was going on behind closed doors. We were gone, and when we got back, no one was talking. We protect each other first, and then we protect the other members of the Leash.”

“Landon is so much more than another member of the Leash.” Chase gritted out.

Ben scrubbed his hands over his face, “We know that, and we fucked up. All we can do now is try to help everyone heal. We want to help Landon and we know you’re the only one that can help him. We might not have been the bad guys, but we’ve had to learn a lot, too. Foster and Scotty have been the balance this Leash never had. We’re learning as we go, here.”

“We’ll talk, but later. Landon is my priority now.” Chase turned and walked out the front door and down the steps.

He made his way into the woods, knowing that Landon would be at their spot. Foster had told him as much, but he knew Landon would stick close to what felt safe. In fox form, it was a mere five minute run but, in human form, he was going to be hiking for closer to half an hour. Maybe that would give him some time to pull it together. Chase wasn’t even sure what he was going to confront. Was Landon going to be pissed at him because he’d failed to protect him? Or maybe mad because he didn’t take Landon with him when he left? Whatever it was, Chase was going to do everything in his power to make sure Landon healed and never had to worry about walking alone in the future. Shunned, it was absolutely unthinkable, and the shit before…Chase’s stomach churned.

Trying to clear his head, he breathed in the fresh pine-scented air and listened to the soft sounds of nature’s very own music. The last of the day’s sun rays were breaking through the canopy of trees. For just a moment, Chase was centered enough to think he might be able to approach this with a level head. That was until he broke through and saw Landon for the very first time.

Something was…wrong. Landon was sleeping in fox form on a patch of grass down by the lake. That was pretty much the spot they had always slept when the two of them came here, so that wasn’t the difference. Chase looked Landon over, wondering what was wrong with Landon’s white fur. All over the back and sides bald patches showed through where beautiful fur used to be. How come he hadn’t healed? A lump formed in Chase’s throat. To be permanently marked like that in his fox form. What the hell had happened? Chase tried to school his features and walk to Landon as slowly as possible. He didn’t want to frighten him or cause him to run.

Chase got within ten yards of Landon when the fox gradually opened his eyes. Seeing the shadow falling at his paws caused him to pop up and get ready to bolt.

Chase held out his hands and squatted down, “Easy Landon…easy. It’s just me.”

He kneeled with bated breath until Landon cautiously approached him. Landon stood inches apart from his outstretched hand for one moment before a soft whimper left the fox, and he pushed his furry head into Chase’s hand. The fox slowly closed his eyes as though he might be relishing the touch. It was a far different reaction than Chase had expected. Maybe it had to do with all the distance from the rest of the Leash. Chase knew himself that he always loved the closeness of others, from his brothers to Landon.

“Landon, can you shift so we can talk, please?” Chase continued to stroke the soft fur until it began to shift into longer silky pale strands. The height change made his hand rise until he was cupping Landon’s face in front of him. Chase knew Landon was naked but couldn’t take his eyes from the sad light gold ones that stared into his. They held him captive, but Chase wanted to make sure Landon was okay.

Eventually looking down, Chase saw pucker marks from his neckline all the way down to his thighs. They might have been farther down, but with Landon’s legs tucked under him, there was no way to know. My God, how did this happen? Chase tried to keep his composure in order to be the strength that Landon needed but he could feel himself breaking. His eyes began to burn and, with his last bit of restraint, he took a quivering breath to keep himself together.

“Your dad,” Chase whispered. It wasn’t a question, but Landon nodded anyway.

“Why didn’t you call me? I would have come and gotten you out of here, Landon.” Shit, his body was trembling from anger, or maybe shared pain. Chase had no idea.

“If it wasn’t me, Chase, it would have been one of the females, and if you would have come, he would have killed you. He told me that…daily.” Landon’s voice came out gruff and hoarse from being unused for so long.

What could he say to that? He had no effing clue, so he sat there and continued to stroke Landon’s hair for comfort. Landon’s white hair had always been unique to the Leash. His mother must have been an artic fox, but no one knew for sure. Landon’s mother had never been in the picture as far as Chase knew.

“Will you come back to the house with me and stay?” Chase attempted to help Landon up. The injured man hissed in pain and needed more help than even Chase thought. Looking down, Chase saw that Landon’s legs were riddled with scars, and his feet looked like they’d gotten the worst of it. They were completely covered in overlapping scars.

“Brands,” Landon whispered, drawing his attention.

“Brands?” Chase felt the words pass his numb lips.

“My dad figured out a way that we don’t heal ever—branding. It was his favorite thing to do.” Landon broke off and turned his head clumsily, sitting back on the grass. His body began quaking, silently crying. Chase sat next to him, grabbed a hold of Landon, and held him as he cried from the pain he had endured over the last year.

To find out a way to permanently scar a shifter and then turn around and use it on your own son—the idea was so sick and twisted his stomach turned. Landon’s crying began to quiet, and he looked up with a tear-streaked face, pale gold eyes gazing at him.

“Do you think I’m ugly now?” Landon whispered, and Chase could feel the very breath of those words brush against his own lips, they were so close.

With complete honesty, Chase answered, “You’ll never be ugly to me. Everything about you is perfect—scars can’t ruin that.”

Landon closed his eyes and leaned his head on Chase’s chest. There were no more tears. He had his cry out, which he’d needed to do but never had before this, and, knowing Landon, would fight tooth and nail before he did it ever again. That was just the way he was. That fact didn’t make him a weak man or strong—it just made him Landon.

“It’s starting to get late. I’d like you to come back and stay the night with me at my brother’s house.” Chase felt Landon tense beneath the hands that were soothing him.

“I…I…” Landon swallowed, not going on.

Chase tried another tactic. “We can grab something from the kitchen and then go up to my room where it’s just us, food, and a nice warm bed. How long have you been sleeping on the forest floor?”

“Too long,” Landon muttered. That was a weakness of his friend. Whenever Landon came over when they were younger, he was a bed hog all the way. The only way Chase ever got any sleep was to wrap himself around Landon in the middle of the bed. Chase never complained about that. Sleeping next to Landon were some of his happiest memories growing up and, looking back at it now, he should have known what that peaceful feeling meant when he lay with his friend at night.

Chase stood up and pulled Landon up with him, “C’mon, food and bed.”

Landon wrinkled his nose, “I may need to use your shower, too. Somehow, the lake just doesn’t cut it.”

They began a leisurely walk toward the house, and Chase glanced over at the thin golden frame. Landon wasn’t quite as tall as his five-ten height, but he was really close. Landon was ten pounds shy of his one hundred eight pounds, or, at least he used to be. Landon had lost the sleek muscles that usually were the body type of a Gamma. Chase observed Landon and figured he’d lost maybe twenty five pounds, making a few of his ribs show through the tan skin. Landon still wasn’t small like an Omega, but only height was making that difference, because it certainly wasn’t the weight.

Some of the Leash might seem to think it would be weird for two Gammas to be mates. There was no dominate and submissive partner in the mating which was more typical with foxes. However, that wasn’t always the case, and Chase was only too happy for it. Somehow, being mated to another Gamma suited Chase just fine. They fit each other perfectly.

“Do you want to go over to your house and grab some clothes?” Chase asked casually. He didn’t expect Landon to stop in his tracks next to him.

“No, ugh…can I just borrow some of yours?” Landon’s whole body began to tremble. Shit…of course he didn’t want to go back there but still…had he not gone back since Benjamin took over the Leash?

“Do you want me to get you settled in the shower, and then I can go get a bunch of your clothes and bring them over to the house?” Chase watched Landon’s eyes go wide as he visibly swallowed hard.

“Could you?” Landon whispered.

“Yeah, I’ll go grab anything you want.” Chase grabbed Landon’s hand, walking him back to his home.

“Just the clothes, thank you.” There was so much sadness in his voice with just a touch of underlying bitterness that Chase tried to squeeze the hand in comfort. He found it wasn’t good enough and pulled Landon closer until he had one arm wrapped around him. All the tension in Landon’s body seemed to melt off him. Chase felt relief and guilt. Could he have been here to help him when he had been going through it? Get him out? He knew it would haunt him all his life that he was writing term papers while Landon was being branded by his very own father.

And, just so’s you don’t forget, the Three Degrees of Heat anthology is available HERE at eXtasy Books, and HERE at Amazon for Kindle.

Presenting… The Unbelievably Amazing Stephani Hecth!

Working on Three Degrees of Heat was a treat in every way. First, I got to live with Axe and Scotty – a couple who are much more complex than I ever would have guessed. Complex enough that they’ve got more story to tell. Just sayin’. Second, I got to know the fantastic folks at eXtasy Books. Love. Them. Seriously. I’ve been made to feel welcomed, valued, and just basically pretty darned awesome. Finally, and most overwhelmingly fabulously, I got to work with sister team Stephani Hecht and Jackie Nacht. Oh. My. God. They have to be two of the most wonderful women on the planet. They both have very different writing habits than I do, which was fun for me because it made me stretch myself and try new things. And, like I said, they’re just generally wonderful. Love. Them. So, at the end of it all, I had this amazing experience and this amazing book and I’m so proud to share it.

So, without further ado, here’s the blurb for the second story in our anthology, Omega Lost by Stephani Hecht.

Sometimes it takes getting lost to find out who you really are. Red_Fox_close-up

Foster has never felt like he was part of his birth Leash. Abused, mocked and humiliated because he can’t fulfill his duty as a Gamma, he is given one last chance to redeem himself by being sent off to college. Maybe with an education, he will be able to help out his Leash instead of being a burden. But soon, Foster admits that may not happen when he finds himself flunking out.

Desperate because he knows he can’t go back a failure, he looks for a way out. When he overhears his roommate talking about another Leash that has a new Alpha, Foster sees his way out. He packs his bags and makes a run for it.

The moment Benjamin sees the small, trembling fox on his doorstep, he knows he’s found a lost Omega. He just can’t understand why Foster keeps insisting that he’s a Gamma. Either way, the attraction between them proves to be electric, and they soon find themselves in bed together.

Will Benjamin be able to convince Foster the truth about himself, or will Foster continue to deny the fact that he is indeed an Omega lost?

And the excerpt:

Chapter One

 Even a guy like Foster who’d been raised by a bastard of a father and a bitch of a mother knew it was wrong to eavesdrop on somebody’s conversation. It was rude. An intrusion. A violation. What made it all the worse was he was doing it to Chase, the only true friend he’d ever had in his life. But then again, nobody had ever accused Foster of being perfect.

Yet he still couldn’t pull himself away from the closed door. Nor could he stop himself from listening in on the phone conversation Chase was having. It was a trait that most foxes had and, baby, did he ever carry that gene to the extreme. It’d gotten him into trouble more than once in his short twenty years of life, and he was certain it would get him in more in the future.

So far, Foster had been able to determine Chase was talking to his older brother, Benjamin. That was probably what made Foster pause to listen in. Never before had he heard two foxes have such an easy going, happy conversation. In his Leash, there was always distrust, name calling, and hatred. Nobody ever let their guard down long enough to just laugh and talk about normal everyday things. It was always you better watch your back and fuck yous. There were never ever any hi, how are yas or nice to see yous.

Letting out a small sigh, Foster wondered what it would be like to live in a Leash like that. One where he didn’t have to worry about being hit or punished for the slightest infraction. Or where he wasn’t constantly being told that he didn’t live up to expectations. It must be heaven. Or, at the very least, it had to be…well, normal. Other Leashes couldn’t be as bad as his, could they? If so, then what was the use of being a fox, only to live a miserable experience? That just didn’t seem right at all. There had to be better out there.

And if Foster went back to his Leash, he would be facing all kinds of punishment and then some, there was no question about that. He was failing all his classes. Not just by a little bit, either, but by a lot. If they gave out medals in failure, he’d easily get the gold. His Alpha had warned him that this was his last chance to redeem himself, too.

A shiver went through Foster, as he didn’t even want to think about what waited for him back home after the semester was over. If he was lucky, exile would be his punishment. Deep down, though, he had a feeling that they’d be doing something more drastic—culling him from the Leash.

While the practice was archaic and supposedly outlawed, his Alpha liked to play by his own rules, and Foster could easily see him thumbing his nose at the council. After all, it wasn’t like anybody would miss Foster, and his parents certainly wouldn’t file a complaint. They didn’t like him any more than the Alpha did. They often liked to tell Foster that they should have stopped at eight children, and, since he was the ninth child, that sent out a pretty strong message. Even he wasn’t that bad at math.

“No way! So, you’re the Alpha of the Leash now!” Chase’s voice cut into Foster’s thoughts.

There was a pause before Chase continued, “You know what this means, the Leash is finally going to be a safe place to be. There are going to be no more punishments, and everybody will be equals again.”

Foster pushed himself away from the door, his heart pounding with excitement. He knew all about Benjamin. Or, rather, he’d learned a lot about him second-hand from Chase. Benjamin was kind, and he was fair. Most important, he was very protective of those who were weaker and smaller than him. Chase was right, with him as Alpha, the Leash would be nothing short of a utopia. Okay, maybe calling it a utopia would be taking it too far, but it would be a shit ton better than his own childhood Leash. Hell, that HBO prison OZ would be better than his old home.

Just thinking of belonging to a Leash that was nice and welcoming made Foster’s chest ache with want. How he would like to be able to have a clean bed to sleep in at night. To know that he could make it through the day without having to face a verbal lashing or a beating. To not be told day after day how worthless of a Gamma he was. To be able to hold his head up with some sense of pride and belonging.

He once again thought about having to go back to his old home, and his body began to tremble. Call him a coward, but he didn’t think he could do it. Maybe that made him a bad fox, but he was past caring about that anymore. It wasn’t like they gave a damn about him anyways, so why should he give two squats about them?

So, that left him with one option—he had to run.

But where could he go? Lone foxes never lasted long. They needed the stability of a Leash to survive. Trying to mesh with human society had been known to drive foxes mad or worse. It wasn’t in the makeup of a fox not to be with their own kind.

Then he thought back to Chase’s conversation. Benjamin! Of course! It was such a simple solution. He could go there and ask for sanctuary. Going by what Chase had told him about the fox, Benjamin would surely say yes. Especially once Foster told him the entire story. Sure, it would be embarrassing to fess up all the embarrassing [BV1] details, but it sure as hell beat going back home to get beaten or culled. Maybe he would get lucky, and Benjamin would have a soft spot for clumsy, dumb, ugly foxes, and he would find a place in his Leash for Foster. He could make Foster their water boy or something.

Foster ran back to his room, grateful to find it was empty. While he would have loved to have said goodbye to Chase, the fewer who knew about his plans, the better. That way, if his childhood Leash came around and asked questions, nobody would be able to tell them anything.

Foster gathered only what he could carry in his small backpack, a few changes of clothes ,and his treasured iPhone that he’d saved up all summer to buy. Couldn’t live without his Grindr App. Just kidding! Okay, maybe not, but a guy had needs, right?

Then, before he had a chance to change his mind, he left the dorm.

Since his funds were low, which wasn’t new since the siblings born before him got much bigger allowances, Foster headed to the bus station. Luck was finally with him when he realized he had just enough money for the bus to take him to a town that stood smack in the center of five Leashes. While it meant he would have to walk twenty—yes, twenty—miles to Benjamin’s, it also meant that if his old Leash tracked him, maybe they wouldn’t know which of the five he’d gone to.

What kind of idiot are you? They know who your roommate is, so of course they’re going to know where you’ve gone.

“Ah, but, inner voice, since Chance was in the old Alpha’s pack, they may think I would avoid that Leash because of hard feelings,” Foster replied aloud.

When several humans gave him odd looks, Foster realized he’d been arguing with his inner voice again. He quickly ducked his head. Okay, so maybe that wasn’t the healthiest habit to have, but when his inner voice was the only one who would have a civil convo with him, sometimes it’d become a necessity. He wasn’t crazy…honest. Maybe a little bent, but he certainly wasn’t ready for a padded room, at least not yet. A few more years under his old Alpha, then that might be a different story.

He went up and paid for his ticket, glad to see that the bus was already loading up. The last thing he wanted was to hang out at the station. It would be kind of humiliating if his grand escape ended before it even began, with them finding him before his bus even left because he had to wait five hours for the next one.

Slinging his backpack over his shoulder, he went over to the bus and looked for an empty seat. When he spotted one next to an elderly lady, he decided to take it. She seemed harmless enough. She had her knitting out and looked to be making the ugliest blanket in the world, but Foster was willing to forgive that so long as she didn’t try to pick him up or stab him.

He grabbed a paperback out of his bag, then stored his luggage in the overhead before sitting down. When the older woman didn’t even look in his direction, Foster let out a sigh of relief. Maybe he could get some peace and quiet during the trip.

Then the bus lurched to a start, and his silence ended, as the woman turned to him, “So, why is a nice young man like you traveling so late?”

Foster plastered a fake smile on his face. “Going to see some friends.”

Or, at least, he hoped they were friendly and didn’t tear him to shreds for going onto their Leash lands uninvited. Foster knew he was taking a big risk by just showing up uninvited the way he was.

She smiled, showing off her set of dentures that were at least a size too large. They went well with her oversized puffy jacket and sweatshirt that had ten…yes, ten…kitties dancing on it. “I’m going to see my daughter. She just had a baby boy. It’s my twelfth grandson.”

Foster then spent the next two hours being entertained with tales about every single member of the lady’s family. He learned about Jim the doctor. She was just so proud of him. Then there was Teddy the meth head. She wasn’t quite as proud of that one. Then out came the pictures. Foster, ever the polite one, oohed and ahhed over each and every one of them, even though there had to be over fifty of them. How the lady managed to carry them all without toppling over was a mystery to him.

When the bus finally came to a stop, Foster almost stood and did the Snoopy Dance just out of sheer relief. He still stayed behind to help the elderly lady with her bags and made sure she made it safely off the bus and to a cab.

Now left alone, Foster took a deep breath. Time to get going on the long walk. Leave it to him not to plan ahead and time his escape for the daytime, either. Now, he was going to have to navigate his way through the dark. Sure, he had better vision than a human, but the roads were all dirt, and there were roots and vegetation sticking out all over the place.

You are so going to fall down and make an ass out of yourself.

“Why can’t you have any faith in me,” he muttered. “And stop talking to me. If I show up at the new Leash talking to myself, they’re going to throw me out before I even have a chance to make my case for sanctuary. The last thing any Leash wants is a nut case on their hands.”

Heaving in a deep sigh, Foster began walking. It wasn’t until he was a half hour into what was sure to be at least a five hour long walk that he remembered that he was terrified of the dark.

It wasn’t just a simple fear, either. It was so great that his fear was one of his former Alpha’s favorite forms of punishments to use against him. If Foster fucked up really, really bad, the Alpha would order Foster to be put into the box. In all actuality, it was more like a coffin. They would nail the lid shut and leave him in there, alone in the total pitch dark, for hours at a time. Foster would get so scared that he’d claw at the top until his fingers bled. He would try to hold back the screams, but every time, he would break and start yelling until he became hoarse. That still didn’t stop the laughter of the other foxes who were standing outside the box, listening in on his suffering.

He tripped over a large rock sticking out of the dirt road and went down hard. He put his hands out to stop himself, but was too late. His face hit the dirt, his cheek skittering on the ground, while several small rocks cut into his palms.

He let out a yelp of pain and felt a trickle of blood dribbling down his cheek. Great! Now he was going to make a wonderful first impression. He reached down to his knees and felt huge holes in his jeans. Well, damn. Those were his favorite pair, too. They’d been a gift from Chase. At the time, Chase had said they didn’t fit him anymore, but Foster had known better. Chase had taken pity on him because he’d seen Foster’s poor wardrobe.

Left with no other option, because he couldn’t just sit there and lick his wounds all night, Foster got up and began to walk…and walk…and walk.

After about five hours, just as the sun was beginning to rise, he heard some rustling in the bushes on either side of him. Several foxes came bounding out and surrounded him.

Shocked, and so scared that he worried he might have ruined his good pair of underwear, Foster froze. Then when the foxes made no move to attack, Foster said in his most respectful voice, “I need to speak to your Alpha. I promise that I mean no harm.”

When one of the foxes nodded his head, Foster took that to mean okay. He began to walk again, only this time he had his own version of the fox secret service with him. Rounding the corner, he let out a gasp when he saw the house. It was a beautiful, two story log cabin that managed to look both opulent yet rustic at the same time. It had a large circular drive and a porch that wrapped around the entire house. It sure as hell beat the heap of junk his old Alpha lived in. That was for sure.

One of the foxes gave him a nudge from behind, and Foster walked up the steps, his legs shaking more with each step. All he could think about was what if Benjamin didn’t take him? What if he was turned away? Worse, what if Benjamin called Foster’s old Leash and told them what he’d tried to do? Then Foster would be in it for sure.

Raising a trembling fist, Foster knocked on the door. It was instantly opened, showing that Benjamin was waiting for him. Foster gazed up at the tall man. With dark short hair, a chiseled chest that was made for nibbling on, and deep, brown eyes, he was a gift from the gods. He also looked pissed as hell. And all that fury was directed at Foster.

Foster was so terrified, all he could do was say the first thing that came to mind, “Oh, shit!”

And, of course, you can find the complete anthology HERE at eXtasy Books, and HERE at Amazon for Kindle.

Late, but Foxy…

Yes, I’ve been planning to post excerpts in a much speedier manner but, as usual, life interfered. So, tardy as it is, here’s the next excerpt from the Three Degrees of Heat anthology I have with the incredibly awesome Stephani Hecht and Jackie Nacht.

THREEDEGREESOFHEATFirst, the blurb:

Everyone knows that if you love someone, you must set him free— but sometimes the only way to do that is by holding on tight.

 When Leash Alpha Joe Fields turns feral, everyone in the clan suffers, but none more so than Scotty Stephens, the Leash Omega. After months of abuse in private, Joe finally snaps and makes Scotty an example in public. Leash Beta and Enforcer, Alexander “Axe” Ashe, has wanted Scotty ever since the young Omega came of age, but he didn’t think someone as gentle and tender as Scotty could ever want him back. When Joe crosses the line from cruel to psychotic, Axe knows he has to do something. In a desperate attempt to keep Axe from unforgivable violence, his brother, Ben steps in and challenges Joe, ultimately becoming the Leash’s reluctant new Alpha, and leaving Axe to pick up the pieces of their broken Omega so that he can finally heal.

And the excerpt, from the first of the three stories, my story, “Setting Him Free”. First a tiny bit of set up: Axe has rescued Scotty and brought him home. He’s helped him through his initial anxiety attack, and is determined to just take care of the Omega the way he’s always wanted to.

 Scotty was wandering the house like a ghost. The fact that the house consisted of a great room, a single bathroom, and two bedrooms just highlighted the fact. Particularly since he was very conspicuous in avoiding any room Axe happened to occupy.

Axe wasn’t sure what to do about it. He’d gone out of his way to make Scott feel safe, and he’d been very careful not to make any demands on the Omega, but it seemed like the more room he gave the younger man, the more restless and anxious Scott became.

Axe was at his wit’s end. He couldn’t stand to see Scott so frantic, and the younger man’s incessant wanderings were starting to fray Axe’s nerves. By lunch time, after watching Scott not eat breakfast and not sit in one place for more than a minute or two at a time, Axe was ready to snarl. Not at the Omega—he had reason enough to be unsettled. No, Axe wanted to go drag Joe Fields out of the hole Ben had put him in and kill the bastard all over again.

Finally, desperate for them both to get a decent meal and some rest, Axe did the only thing he could think to do. Scotty had responded well to commands last night, maybe he’d be equally obedient today.

“Come sit at the table.” He kept all the anger out of his voice.

Scott was seated across from him almost before the words were out of his mouth, and Axe breathed a sigh of relief. Now maybe the younger man would settle a bit.

His relief was short lived, however. Rather than eating the soup Axe had laid out for him, Scotty was playing with it, poking with his spoon, mashing the potatoes and carrots against the side of the bowl, and shooting surreptitious, frightened glances Axe’s way whenever he though he wasn’t looking.

It was unacceptable. The younger man was already too pale, too thin, and had bruised-looking pits under his eyes.

After a moment of thought, Axe decided to go with what worked.

“Eat your soup, Scotty.”

Scotty tried, Axe had to admit that. But his hands were shaking, and when a chunk of beef landed on the table with a wet plop, the Omega dropped his spoon and shrank back in his chair, looking for all the world as if he were bracing for Axe to hit him.

“Dammit.” Scott flinched, which just fuelled Axe’s anger. With a deliberate—and Herculean—effort, Axe brought his face and voice under control.

“Bring your chair over here, little one. Sit by me.”

Scott did, of course, moving jerkily and shaking the whole way. That was okay, though, Axe decided. As long as the younger man followed directions. Eventually, he’d learn not to expect pain from Axe at every turn.

Once Scotty was perched on the edge of his chair at Axe’s side, the shaking calmed a bit. Oh, he was still clearly terrified. His eyes were wide, the pupils so large there was only a fine rim of dark emerald visible around them. But it was increasingly clear that if Axe gave him specific directions, Scotty felt more comfortable, so that was what Axe would do.

When he leaned across the table to get Scotty’s bowl, the younger man’s breath caught. At least this time, he wasn’t flinching from an expected blow. Axe didn’t respond, and the younger man blew out an almost silent sigh when the Beta sat back in his chair.

He wouldn’t go so far as to call it progress, but at least Scotty wasn’t a shaking wreck.

Scooping up a spoonful of soup, he held it in front of Scotty’s mouth. The Omega’s eyes grew even wider, which he hadn’t thought possible.

“Eat.”

With a slow blink, Scotty opened his mouth and accepted the soup. Axe chose to ignore the way the younger man’s lips looked closing around the spoon. And he really chose to ignore the way his cock twitched and showed signs of waking up at the sight.

Everything about the man turned Axe on. His slender body would fit perfectly against Axe’s, Axe just knew it. The lush line of his lips begged to be nibbled and licked. Axe could only imagine how the man would taste. Would he be sweet or spicy? Whatever the flavor, Axe knew it would drive him out of his mind.

Scotty was an Omega, a natural peacemaker, and naturally submissive. That calm seeped into Axe’s skin, even as Scotty all but shook with nervous tension. That was one of the benefits for an Alpha or Beta of mating with an Omega—the Omega smoothed the stronger fox’s rough edges, gave him peace. At the same time, that soul-deep submission appealed to every dominant instinct Axe possessed, triggering every protective tendency while arousing him almost beyond bearing.

So not the time for that.

That first bite was successful, so Axe continued feeding the Omega, taking a bite himself, then pressing a bit of beef or chunk of potato against those plump lips. He’d fed him about half the bowl when fearful green eyes flicked up to meet his. Pink lips opened, then closed silently.

“What is it, little one?”

“D-do I have to eat any m-more?”

“You’re full?” Scotty nodded quickly, eyes back on the table. “You’re sure?”

“Any m-more might m-make me sick.”

Axe was reasonably sure the Omega didn’t stutter, which meant he was frightened enough of Axe’s reaction to stammer out his words. Joe Fields had died much too easily. On the upside, though, at least Scotty felt safe enough to speak up at all.

“Promise me you’ll eat something more in an hour.” That should be long enough for the younger man’s stomach to settle, and if he made it a direct command, he was fairly certain Scotty would do it. And, God knew Scotty needed as much food as he could get. The Omega could stand to gain ten or fifteen pounds easily. Maybe even twenty.

He was inarguably beautiful, but right now it was a brittle beauty. His bones were too near the surface, sharp and fragile looking. Axe wanted to see him healthy, body wrapped in lean muscle and enough flesh that he didn’t look like he’d break under the lightest touch.

“Y-y-yes, s-sir.”

“All right then,” Axe nodded. “Take your things to the sink. I’ll get everything rinsed and in the dishwasher when I’m done.”

“I can do that.”

Axe blinked. It was nearly the first thing Scotty had said without prompting. He couldn’t help but notice that, when the younger man wasn’t stammering, his voice held a velvety rasp that was…appealing.

“Okay.” Scotty’s shoulders seemed to relax at Axe’s quick agreement. “Take care of the dishes, and then I want you to go into the great room and lie down on the couch.” He’d be damned if he let the man go fluttering around the house again, burning off any calories—and calm—he’d managed to take in.

Scotty’s expression was so surprised and confused, Axe couldn’t suppress a smile. He smiled even more when a soft flush crept up those too-pale cheeks.

“You may wrap up in an afghan if you’d like,” he added. Scotty was blinking at him, looking as if he didn’t exactly understand what Axe was saying. The Beta’s smile faded with the realization that it would never occur to the younger man to take care of himself, let alone that someone else might take care of him.

“You’re to lie there for at least an hour. Eyes closed. Hands still.” Maybe if he made it a command, the younger man would be able to rest. “Would you like me to let you know when your hour is up?”

Scotty nodded silently.

Axe had a sudden thought. “If you’re asleep, I’ll leave you alone. You need the rest. So don’t be upset if you wake up and several hours have gone by. In fact,” Axe reached out with slow deliberation and cupped the Omega’s cheek, running his thumb just below the dark circle ringing one green eye. “I’d prefer you sleep for several hours.”

Scotty’s lips opened slightly. His expression was still all confusion, but Axe thought that just maybe there was a hint of hope there, too.

“I want you healthy and strong, little one,” he said, and wondered if Scotty would realize the words were a promise. “Now go take care of your dishes and then go rest.”

The Omega drew in another breath, looking like he wanted to speak, then pressed his lips together with a nod and carried his dishes to the kitchen.

Axe was pleased to note that he wasn’t shaking at all.

 

* * * *

 

Go rest.

Huh.

Scott couldn’t remember the last time someone had said that to him. His mom, probably, before she got sick. Before Joe had taken them in. Before…

No, he wasn’t going there again. Not when he felt almost safe.

Scott wrapped the afghan more tightly around his shoulders, even though he knew it couldn’t combat the ball of ice that lived in his gut. It smelled good, spicy and musky, and like Axe.

Scott felt the faintest stirring of longing. He craved the Beta’s touch; the man’s scent just made him want Axe more.

And what a surprise that was. Not only that Scott flat out loved the scent of the man, but how everything about Axe was different than he’d expected.

He was strong, terrifyingly so, but he’d been so gentle with Scott, treating him like something fragile and precious. And he seemed to have some sort of ability to read Scott’s mind. Well, maybe not his mind—nothing in his mind was coherent enough for Scott to make sense of, let alone a man like Axe. No, maybe it was that Axe could read Scott’s soul.

Whatever it was, Axe somehow had discovered the key to shutting down the roaring in Scott’s brain. A few sternly spoken words, and the chaos went quiet, and Scott could function.

Joe had recognized Scott’s need for structure and control, too. In the beginning, he’d even given Scott most of what he’d needed. He’d stood in as a parent, as a guardian, and even a comforter as Scott’s mother’s cancer had progressed.

Scott wasn’t sure when comfort and guidance had morphed into control, and when control had bled into abuse.

Bled.

Yes. There’d been a good deal of bleeding.

Things had started so well with Joe and ended in blood. Scott squeezed his eyes closed and tried to shut off his brain.

Go rest.

He’d been given a command by a much stronger fox, and, for once, it was a command he wanted to follow. Scott drew in a deep breath and blew it out, along with a small amount of the tension that was cramping his muscles.

There was nothing he could do now, not about Joe, not about Axe, and not about the snake pit that was his mind. So he’d do as he’d been told and rest.

Three Degrees of Heat is available now at eXtasy Books and from Amazon for Kindle.

Foxy Excerpts

THREEDEGREESOFHEAT

As you, hopefully, know by now, I’ve been lucky enough to work with the amazing and incredible Stephani Hecht and Jackie Nacht on a Fox Shifter anthology, Three Degrees of Heat.  (On a side note, I’m considering changing my last name to something ending with “cht” just to fit in…) Well, our antho came out on April 1st HERE, at eXtasy. I hope you’ll check it out.

And, just to whet your appetite, here’s the blurb:

When Leash Alpha Joe Fields turns feral, everyone in the clan suffers, but none more so than his son Landon, and Leash Omega Scotty Stephens. After months of abuse in private, Landon escapes and Joe finally snaps, making Scotty an example in public. When Joe crosses the line from cruel to psychotic, Leash Beta Alexander “Axe” Ashe knows he has to do something. In a desperate attempt to keep Axe from unforgivable violence, his brother, Ben steps in and challenges Joe, ultimately becoming the Leash’s reluctant new Alpha. It will take the love of an unexpected Omega to heal the Leash, and the love of Axe and the youngest Ashe, Chase, to heal Joe’s most broken victims.

And here’s the first of several excerpts I’ll be sharing during the next couple of weeks:

Prologue

Joe had been out of control for a long time. They had all known it, even if they hadn’t been willing to admit it. That would have required them to act and, Axe aside, they were a pretty peaceful group.

But, dammit, Axe wasn’t peaceful, and he’d known something was wrong from the first time the Alpha’s son Landon had shown up at a Leash gathering with a black eye and swollen, split lip.

Axe’s inaction had come with a high cost, though he hadn’t realized it before now. Now, at the gathering Joe had neglected to inform him of. Now, when the most gentle of them all, the pack Omega, was the living proof of the evil consuming their Alpha.

Scotty was already naked when Axe arrived. Bruises marked his pale skin, some dark purple, some fading into greenish yellow. His face was battered, his left eye angry red and swollen nearly shut.

He knelt at Joe’s feet, hands clasped behind his back, eyes cast down, head tilted to bare his throat. Everything about the boy screamed terror and submission. A surge of nausea took Axe’s breath as he realized Scotty’s mane of curly copper and gold-streaked hair was matted with blood.

He was already moving forward when Joe reached out one huge, rough hand and wrapped thick fingers around the Omega’s throat. Axe heard the gasps and tentative protests from the Leash through a buzzing in his ears. Their voices came from a distance, but somehow Scotty’s whimper of pain and fear was as clear as a bell.

Axe’s blood was rushing, his fox snarling in his head, but this wasn’t a job for the beast. This was a human problem, and the man had to deal with it.

He hadn’t taken more than two steps when he was blocked by a wall of flesh and muscle. Eyes the same bitter-chocolate as his blazed back at him as Ben grabbed his biceps, stopping him in his tracks.

“Wait,” his twin muttered, fists tightening like iron bands as Axe tried to break free of his hold. “You can’t just attack him. You know that.”

“I know he has to be stopped. Now.”

Their Alpha, seemingly oblivious to the Ashe brothers’ arrival, lifted Scotty by his grip on the boy’s throat. Axe lunged at him, but Ben’s grip held.

Joe slammed Scotty face down on the heavy oak table that dominated the room and grabbed a flail, which Axe was horrified to realize had been there just waiting for use. Axe lunged again, vaguely aware that Ben was talking, was feverishly reminding him that as much as Joe needed to be stopped, Axe couldn’t just kill him. He had a moment of grim satisfaction at the knowledge that Ben was every bit as aware as he was that Joe Fields needed to die.

He couldn’t stop, though, couldn’t listen to the voice of reason. Not when Scotty was whimpering softly in pain. Not when Joe was drawing his arm back, ready to strip the milky white skin from the Omega’s back.

Something caught his eye, a shimmer on the back of Scotty’s thigh and a streak of blood. Understanding hit him like a lightning strike, and everything went white and then blood red.

Ben had no hope of holding him now, no chance of dragging him back to sanity. Axe was in motion, leaping for the Alpha’s throat, ready to rip it out with his bare, human hands.

Joe had finally become aware of their presence and faced them, lips drawn back in an ugly snarl of rage. Axe was going to turn that snarl into a death mask.

As Axe crouched to strike, Ben slammed into him, knocking him flat on his ass. Before he could spring to his feet, his brother had planted himself between Axe and the sick bastard who needed to die right the fuck now.

“I challenge you.” Ben’s voice was firm, no hint of the rage Axe had seen in his eyes mere seconds before. “I formally challenge you for leadership of this Leash. Here. Now.”

Feelin’ FOXY!!

Feelin’ FOXY, and feelin’ a bit tardy, because (drumroll)…

THREEDEGREESOFHEAT

Three Degrees of Heat, my Fox Shifter Anthology with the amazing Stephani Hecht and Jackie Nacht, is available NOW at eXtasy Books!

I loved working on this anthology – it gave me the chance to work with two of my favorite author-peeps in the world, and also introduced me to the fantastic folks at eXtasy. What an awesome experience!

Here’s the Blurb:

From steamy to sweet—an anthology that tells sequential stories of three fox shifter brothers who work together to heal the Leash that has been under the hands of a ruthless Alpha.

When Leash Alpha Joe Fields turns feral everyone in the clan suffers, but none more so than his son Landon and Leash Omega Scotty Stephens. After months of abuse in private, Landon escapes and Joe finally snaps, making Scotty an example in public. When Joe crosses the line from cruel to psychotic, Leash Beta Alexander Axe Ashe knows he has to do something. In a desperate attempt to keep Axe from unforgivable violence, his brother Ben steps in and challenges Joe, ultimately becoming the Leash’s reluctant new Alpha. It will take the love of unexpected Omega Foster to heal the new Alpha and the Leash, and the love of Axe and the youngest Ashe brother Chase to heal Joe’s two most broken victims.

Find Three Degrees of Heat HERE!