A Matter of View

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It snowed last night, just a little, but will probably be gone within hours. No, this is not a black and white picture although it seems to contain little more than shades of gray

This morning, as I considered the dusting of snow we had last a night—a rarity, by the way, for my Eastern Tennessee home—I searched for my morning mountain fix. The fog, or perhaps snow falling in the distance, prevented me from seeing the Great Smoky Mountains I’ve grown to need every morning along with my coffee.

For me, the snow was nothing, but for those who have never lived anywhere else, it was a reason for near panic. The local news showed pictures of empty bread shelves and milk coolers. My Internet news-feed featured similar scenes in New York City where residents prepared for several feet of the white stuff, not inches.

Growing up south of Buffalo, New York, I know snow. I lived with it every winter until after I graduated from college. Learned to drive in it. Winter often started in October and an April snowstorm was to be expected. It just happened, every year, and you dealt with it.

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My usual morning view this time of year as the sun breaks over the Smokies. It will eventually burn off the fog rising from the river that runs from the mountains you see in the distance.

It’s a matter of perspective, and experience.

The same could be said for writing.

Each of us brings our own, unique experiences and viewpoints to everything we write and read. Just the other day I wrote a scene that came so easily to me. It was about one of my women assassins, from my upcoming Black Swan series, who was finishing a mission in a Middle Eastern country. She couldn’t wait to shed the abaya she’d been forced to wear in the Muslim nation. Grace, my character, had to follow a male operative around her plane for flight pre-check, because even driving a car was a punishable offense, flying a plane would get her killed.

As a feminist, I felt her oppression, her need to be free once again.

Again, is the key word here. Grace knew what it was to have freedom of choice. She’d grown up in America where we women can do, and be, whatever we want. We learn from a young age about making choices, because we have them.

And it’s not just women. Last year I almost got my friend killed. Yes. Murdered. Executed. He’d asked me for a copy of my first book when it was released. I sent it to him. In Afghanistan. He had to hide it the whole time he was there. Because my book, Explosive Combination, has explicit sex scenes and a strong female heroine, it is banned in many countries.

So, like my character, Grace, who knew she would discard the abaya, and fly her jet and team of women home, I know the snow will melt, and I’ll see my mountains again in a day or two.

But there are women in this world who will never have the perspective those of you reading this do. They will never know the choices we take for granted. They can’t make the choice to read:

  • KaLyn Cooper’s hot, sexy book Christmas in Cancun
  • Lynn Lorenz’s Bayou Des Enfants, a male/male 4+ flames
  • Vanessa North’s Double Upinvolving two men who fall in love with each other
  • Aliens having more sex than you in Monette Michaels’ Prime Claiming, a Prime Chronicles short story,  erotic scifi romance
  • About Jianne Carlo’s Prymal Passion, a SEAL paranormal suspense that’s 4 flames HOT
  • Perhaps Rosanna Leo’s The Stand-In where the male and female have sex before marriage ~slaps face OMG!~ (just kidding, more like ooo-yeah!)
  • You could choose Becca Jameson’s Bound to be Tested,Emergence series Book 3, a BDSM menage m/f/f and 4 flames smokin’ hot
  • Seducing Kate by Emilia Mancini, a cougar/cub erotica and comes in with a 4 on the heat level (who caught the pun?)
  • Who can resist a Cowboy Redeemed by Parker Kincade, a contemporary western romance, M/F, 3.5 flames. 🙂 that’s hot and explicit
  • Robin Danner’s paranormal, slightly hot, shifter romance

We can choose to buy these books and read these books. We bring to these stories our emotional and life experiences, whether it’s as a reader or a writer.

I thank God every day, that I was born in the United States of America, free to make my own choices….and to write hot, sexy romance novels.

~~stepping down off my Rant box now~~

By the way, in the time it’s taken me to write this blog, all the snow has melted and the clouds are lifting. I can see the first ridge of foothills. 🙂

Queer Romance Month Has Begun!

October is awesome for many reasons, but this year, it’s awesome for a new reason: Queer Romance Month! We kicked off today with a fabulous party over at Joyfully Jay–including some awesome giveaways, and I’d love if you’d come check it out here: http://joyfullyjay.com/2014/10/giveaway-guest-post-by-queer-romance-month/

Having chosen to not just get involved in the event, but to be a part of the organizing team, I’ve given a lot of thought as to why queer romance is important to me, and it’s honestly an extension of why romance is important to me. Many years ago, I deduced that if I wanted to read about women with sexual agency who actually, you know, survived to the end of a novel, pretty much the only place to find it was the romance genre. And in romance, not only do women with sexual agency survive, they actually thrive.

They thrive.

They are rewarded with a happy ever after.

This, my friends, is in this day and age, still revolutionary. And we aren’t even talking about queer romance yet.

Imagine how my heart swelled three sizes (in a metaphor way, not a take-me-to-the-hospital-now way) the first time I read a romance with queer main characters. Queer people, in a book, who didn’t die. And who lived happily ever after.

I was hooked. Yes, I still read and write het romances, but I made room on my shelves, in my heart, and in my own writing for queer romance, because by god, I want everyone to live happily ever after, not just cisgender heterosexual beauties and their alpha male heroes, but everyone.

Queer Romance is a celebration of everything that makes romance great for queer people, for heterosexuals, for everyone who believes that love is love. Please celebrate with us! Follow the blog at http://queerromancemonth.com to read the amazing contributions of our authors, from personal essays to flash fiction. Tweet to us @queerromance, and share the love.

 

Length Matters

Oh, you perverts.

This is a craft post, loves. I don’t blame you for thinking the other, because I do sort of make a career writing about people falling in love and, yes indeed, having sex. However, I also make a career out of writing <gasp!> short fiction.

By short fiction, I mean anything shorter than category length–under 40k words. Last week, a writer I know was lamenting on twitter how she hasn’t written a novel, and feels pressure to do so in order to be a “real” writer.

Let’s stop that “real writer” stuff right there. Do you write? If the answer is yes, you’re a real writer. You aren’t imaginary, and the words on paper aren’t pretend. You’re a real writer. Now that we’ve cleared that up, let’s talk about the craft of writing short, and about making a career of writing short. I’m primarily talking about writing genre romance and erotica, because that’s what I do.

Writing a novella or short story requires a different sort of focus than writing a novel. For a novella, you pare down to one major plot (in romance, that’s the relationship, in erotica, that’s the sexual journey), and one or two subplots. These subplots need to demonstrate something about your characters and propel the story forward. You don’t have time to meander. For example, in my forthcoming novella, Double Up,  a subplot involves a wakeboarding competition–providing a setting and a timeline, and illustrating character traits about my two main characters. If a subplot can’t enhance or enrich the story in some way, it doesn’t belong. Excise anything that doesn’t belong.

For a short story, under 10k words, focus needs to be even tighter. You need to perform a little relationship synecdoche. You might have to pick a certain moment, perhaps a proposal, or the first time two characters make love, how they meet, or the moment they realize they are in love–and let that piece illustrate and symbolize the whole relationship. Subplots should be used very judiciously if at all. If you feel you require a sub plot, maybe you really want to write a novella? Think about it carefully–can the story you want to tell be told without that subplot?

Now, once you’ve written your short or your novella, you need to decide how to publish it. Many agents don’t represent short fiction, for obvious reasons–big publishing houses aren’t buying single shorts. It’s not a productive use of the agent’s time to rep it. Don’t just query them anyway hoping they’ll make an exception. They won’t.

The good news is, many digital publishers publish short fiction, and you can query them directly. Research the houses that publish your genre carefully, talk to the authors who are published with them, and follow submissions guidelines.

Are you considering self publishing? Study your market and look at your timeline: For example, there is a market for frequent publication of short form erotica at a $2.99 price point. If erotica writing is your thing, and you can produce a quality short once a month or more, this may be a good route for you. By “produce,” I am talking about having the book professionally edited and formatted, as well as having a professional cover made. This type of timeline favors self-publication, but don’t rule out working with a publisher–especially if that relationship is already there. Talk to your publisher about how you are building your author brand, and your plans for this type of work.

It is absolutely possible to build a career–or supplement a novel-writing career–with short fiction. Know your story; know your market.

Do you write and publish short fiction? Would love to hear your strategies in the comments.

Have questions for me? I’m all ears!

I am in love with love

The M/M Romance Group’s Don’t Read in the Closet event for 2014 is live, and my story, The Lonely Drop, has been posted! I am SO thrilled to join this event again this year, and with a story I absolutely adored writing. Why? Because I am in love with love.

Let me explain.

Pamela Su provided the prompt I chose from which to write my story. It was a prompt which evoked in me an immediate reaction. In subtle, subtle ways, it called to many classic romance tropes. But most prominent was the second chance romance/reunion romance trope.

I am an absolute SUCKER for this trope. My very first romance I ever read was LaVyrle Spencer’s “Twice Loved,” which remains an absolute favorite–hands down, until the end of time I will love and adore this book. And I guess I internalized my love of this type of story. When presented with an opportunity to write a second chance romance? I’m like a dog with a porterhouse.

There were hints of other tropes in the prompt, which I hinted at and wove into my story. And others evolved organically from the characters’ situation and timeline. Somehow, as I was writing a story that made me happy, something else happened too–I wrote a love letter to the romance genre. I write romance not because it is the most financially lucrative genre–(get it, girlfriends)–but because it is a genre I adore. I love the tropes. I love the genre’s unabashed celebration of the happy ever after over every bit of conflict thrown its way. I love romance–not merely the sentiment, but the genre of romance.

I am in love with love. And The Lonely Drop is my grand gesture.

You can find The Lonely Drop for download absolutely free here:

http://www.mmromancegroup.com/the-lonely-drop-by-vanessa-north/

I hope you enjoy it!

Erotica vs. Erotic Romance…What’s the difference?

In honor of the release of my first erotica book, The Dark Collector, I thought I’d answer one of the most common questions asked about the genres I write: What’s the difference between Erotica and Erotic Romance?

It seems there are as many different answers to that question as there are writers in the two genres, so I am going to keep it simple: it’s not about the sex.

It’s not about who puts what where, how many people are involved, or how kinky or vanilla the sex is.

It’s not about the sex.

Erotic Romance is about a relationship–two or more people overcoming conflict in order to forge a relationship and live happily ever after (or happily for now).

Erotica is about a single character’s emotional or sexual journey. It can have any number of characters from one on up to a full-blown orgy. (Hee, blown). What matters is the character arc for ONE character. Sometimes the sex is vanilla, sometimes it’s kinky, sometimes it’s raw and dirty, sometimes its very sweet and loving. What matters is the character development brought about through the erotic journey.

The Dark Collector Cover 1600Now that we’ve got that out of the way… who’s ready for Oliver’s erotic journey? The Dark Collector released today!

Read the blurb and excerpt for The Dark Collector at my website.

The Dark Collector is available for purchase from the usual suspects:

Amazon

All Romance eBooks

Kobo

A whirlwind two weeks!

I hope you all enjoyed the Love in the Cards event as much as we enjoyed putting it together for you! The eBook anthology should be ready for download soon, and of course we can’t wait to share that with you all as well.

For me, a lot has been going on during the last two weeks while the event was happening.

hostilebeauty-510Hostile Beauty, my M/M retelling of Beauty and the Beast, released on the 18th, and it has been a roaring success, hitting bestseller lists at Amazon and ARe, so thank you, thank you, dear readers, for reading my guys!

The Dark Collector Cover 1600I’m finalizing The Dark Collector for it’s official release next month, and there are already review copies in the wild, and reviews cropping up on Goodreads. My next blog date here at LL&L, I’ll be able to share buy links, because it releases on the 13th!

While I didn’t attend GRL 2013, it was local to me, so I got to swing by and have dinner with fellow LL&L author Lynn Lorenz, which was lovely! I also got to surprise one of my very favorite authors, Amy Lane, with a bit of hand-knit fan art–the frogs from her book Clear Water. It was so fun to connect with friends, if even briefly, over the course of that weekend.

I’m gearing up to do NaNoWriMo next month, working on a farcical M/M romantic comedy and giving myself an excuse to be as silly as possible and remember all the things I love about writing.

Lastly, a not so lucky me has come down with some evil cough/cold thing which has pretty much had me confined to the house for the past week, so I haven’t been particularly active on Facebook or Twitter as I’ve been reading a lot and not sitting at my desk where the work AND the procrastination happen. But hopefully I’ll be on the mend soon and will see you all around the internet, up to our usual shenanigans. 😀

All the best!

xoxo,

V

 

 

Love in the Cards — Two of Wands by Vanessa North

Two of Wands

When I say my best friend Pierre is “not my type,” I don’t mean I’m not interested in completely hot, slightly-fem, Creole twinks with lips for days and the roundest perkiest little asses on the planet. ’Cause that’s kind of exactly my type.

When I say Pierre is “not my type,” I don’t mean I’m not interested in the kind of guys who bring you coffee just because and also sometimes fold your underwear because you left it in the dryer. ’Cause that’s kind of also my type.

When I say Pierre is “not my type,” it’s not because I don’t love it when he comes over a week before Halloween with a bag of feathers, a million yards of tulle, and a sewing machine, strips down to skivvies and says, “Cher, I need you.”

It’s one hundred percent self-preservation. Pierre is not my type.

So, since I’ve known him since grade school and we were the only two out queers at our high school and we roomed on the same hall at Tulane—and not because he’s my type—I let him set up his sewing machine on my kitchen table and I get him a cup of coffee, and bless my own rotten heart, I ask him what’s the matter.

Of course, now that he has room to sew without his roommates giving him a hard time, he hums along with the machine and smiles up at me, all blissed out. Apparently, his needs are met by a little bit of space and whatever he is doing with those feathers.

“I got you an invite to this Halloween party. There’s this whole Tarot theme going on, it’s going to be fabulous, and I need my best wingman.”

“You need the straight-looking jock BFF to make you look extra-precious by comparison to the resident bears?” Oh, hey, where did that bitterness come from? Maybe from last Halloween when he called me to pick him up at a leather club at three a.m.? Or the year before that when we went camping because he was so over masquerade parties, cher. There is nothing even remotely fun about camping in the bayou in October. It’s wet, and it’s—no, really it’s just wet—and fuck, it’s colder than you think it would be. Really, self-preservation dictates I don’t need to be Pierre’s best wingman ever, but most especially not on Halloween.

Of course, when he bats those pretty eyelashes at me and says, “Oh, cher…”

I’m so fucked. And I take the cheesy Tarot-card invite and I nod my head and I pull out my phone and start looking for a costume online.

“This better not be some hoodoo Halloween hookup party.” I grunt as I ponder whether I can recycle that pimp costume from the frat party senior year.

“Oh, no, Jakey. Would I drag you to some tawdry frat party in disguise?” He looks offended, but then giggles. “No, don’t answer that. It’s classy as fuck, I promise. So, do not even think of ordering a costume from one of those online party stores. I have enough feathers for both of us.”

****

Which is how I find myself standing on the sidewalk, wearing a glitter-covered mask and goddamned hand-stitched black wings, staring up at the house in front of us. Dacre House is a typical Garden District mansion done up like a haunted house, the kind of place that reeks of money. How the hell does Pierre score invites to parties like this? And how the hell am I supposed to make small talk with the type of people who come to these parties while my best friend—who is not my type—is on the prowl?

“I will blow you if you don’t make me do this,” I whisper to Pierre. I mean it as a joke, but the annoyed huff he makes tells me he doesn’t share my sense of humor.

His face is all hard in a way Pierre’s face is never hard with me, and it fucking hurts.

“What? Did I say something wrong?”

He shakes off the pissed-off expression, flutters his lashes at me, and smiles. “No, cher, it’s good to know my cock rates somewhere above social interaction in your list of likes and dislikes.”

Now what the hell is that supposed to mean? I’d ask him, but he’s already ten steps ahead of me, disappearing through the front door of the house. I bolt up the steps and follow him, showing my invitation to the dude at the door. The guy tries to tell me something, but I brush him off, not wanting to let Pierre get away before I can apologize.

I manage to catch up to Pierre in the foyer of the stunning house, grabbing his arm with one hand. “Pierre.”

“What?” He looks over his shoulder at me. I’m not sure what his costume is supposed to be exactly, but it involves black leather epaulettes and something about them makes him look dangerous.

“I’m sorry, it was a joke.”

“Whatever.” He brushes off my apology with a dramatic eye roll. “I’m here to have a good time. You can go sulk by the bar if you want, but I am not about to let your bad attitude ruin my night.”

My bad attitude? He’s the one pouting!

But before I can say it, he’s flounced away. Have you ever seen a grown man flounce? It’s sort of heart-wrenching, and now I’m all ashamed, again, but I’ll be damned if I’m going to chase after him to apologize twice in the same night.

Without Pierre in his avant-garde costume to capture my attention, I take in the scene. Bass thumps around me in a sensual beat, and the crowd of masked party-goers throbs with the music. A dancer in a cage catches my eye—he’s wearing next to nothing and his skin glistens with body paint and glitter. His movements walk the line between sensual and sexual. My cock chubs up a little in appreciation of the sight, but I really wish Pierre could see him. This dancer guy might be a pro, but Pierre moves like his spine is made of liquid. Where the dancer walks the line between sensual and sexual, Pierre dancing is pure sex. Pierre would take one look at the cage dancer, smile, and say “that ain’t nothin’, cher” and he’d proceed to put that professional dancer’s skills to shame.

Yeah. Time to go sulk by the bar.

I don’t know when I started resenting my friendship with Pierre, and I don’t want to think about it.

A few people by the bar are sipping something orange and frothy. “What is that?” I ask one of the bartenders, gesturing at the concoction.

“Pumpkin martini.”

I can’t quite suppress a shudder, but the bartender laughs so I guess that’s okay.

“Let me guess, you’re more of a tequila guy?” He leans over the bar, a bit of flirtation in his eyes.

“Maybe. But it’s no fun doing shots alone.” I place my hand on the bar, close enough to his that he’ll move it if he wasn’t flirting.

“Hmmm. Got it.” His hand brushes over mine as he turns to fix a drink. Definite invitation there. He’s cute, with blue eyes and dark hair, a little cleft in his chin. I would normally be all over that.

But he’s not wearing leather epaulettes and feathers and he doesn’t have pouty, sultry lips or move as if his spine is made of liquid. He’s attractive and flirty, and that isn’t enough. So when he hands me a glass of bourbon, neat, and leans in to brush a kiss over my cheek, I pull back so he’s kissing air.

“Sorry,” I mutter, blushing.

“It’s okay. You’re not here to kiss the bartender I guess.” He winks, and I smile back.

“Guess not.” I pay him for the drink, and he smiles again. “So, which card have you got?”

“Card?” What’s he talking about?

“The invitation—the tarot card. Which card?”

Oh. I fish it out of my pocket. It’s half a card, actually. “Two of Wands. Why?”

He laughs. “Didn’t they tell you at the door? The other half of your card is with someone else in the house. It’s kind of a party game. Icebreaker. Go play.”

I shove the card back into my pocket. “Thanks.” I salute him with my glass and turn back to the throbbing music. Sure enough, people are talking and laughing over their half-cards, clearly getting into the game going on all around them.

A petite blonde bumps my arm. I look down and steady her with one hand. She smiles at me from behind a red mask.

“Thanks. I’m Ellen.” Ah. Ellen with a charming smile. There’s something hypnotic, almost fey about her smile. She’s looking at me as if she expects me to say something. When she holds out her hand for a handshake, I blush.

“Jake. Sorry, not so good with the social stuff.”

She laughs. “Thank goodness for icebreaker games then. What card do you have?” She holds hers up so I can see it. Three of Cups.

“Sorry. Two of Wands.” I shrug apologetically.

“Oh well!” She grins back at me. “Kinda funny though, a gay guy getting the Two of Wands.” She giggles at the innuendo.

“You either have the best gaydar on the planet or I know you from somewhere.”

“Nah, I saw the bartender fail to close, but it didn’t look like it was because he was a dude. I’m a people-watcher.”

“So, do you know anything about these?” I hold up the card. I don’t buy into all that fortune-telling business. After six years in New Orleans, I’ve seen some strange shit, but none of it made a believer out of me.

“A little. I mean, this is New Orleans, who hasn’t seen a tarot deck? Three of Cups is about family, being in tune with the people around you. Your card is a little more interesting. It’s about choice. Courage. Two paths before you, and once you go down one, the other is closed forever.”

“Cool.” I smile. “Well, guess I should…” I wave the hand with the card around.

“Yeah. Have fun.” A flash of the fey smile and she disappears into the crowd.

I wander through the house, trying to push aside my ennui and get into the game, but I can’t quite get my head into the right space for this. I didn’t even want to come to the party, I just couldn’t stand the idea of turning Pierre down. Coming to a party like this by himself, he could be hurt, or taken advantage of, or…or he could go home with someone else.

I need to get out of here.

I set my long-empty glass on the nearest horizontal surface and head for the door. If I could just clear my head. I don’t want to leave Pierre alone at the party, but suddenly the house feels oppressive and the music is too loud and the shrill laughter of a woman in the next room is piercing.

Outside, the air—or my mind—is a little clearer. I wrap my feathered wings around me like a jacket and head across the street for the cemetery to walk off some of my angst. Something seems fitting about walking between the crypts when you’re in a shitty mood on Halloween.

It’s a clear night, if a little cold, and moonlight silhouettes a figure sitting on a bench outside a huge crypt. I would recognize that shape anywhere, even without the leather epaulettes. I trudge over.

“Hey.”

Pierre looks up and smiles weakly.

“Don’t you look like an avenging angel?” He gestures at the seat next to him, and I sit.

“I’m sorry.”

“Don’t, Jake. It’s my fault. I know you don’t like parties. Our history with Halloween is shit, and it was super selfish of me to impose on our friendship by inviting you to come with me.”

“If it’s a real friendship, your company is not an imposition. I shouldn’t treat you like it is. The thing is, Pierre—”

Oh God. I’m really about to end a decade-long friendship. I swallow hard. Courage.

“Don’t say it.” His eyes glitter in the moonlight. “I don’t think I can handle hearing you hate me. I know the only reason you’re friends with me today is because we were friends yesterday. I don’t want to hear we wouldn’t be friends if you met me tomorrow.”

God, he doesn’t even get it. I shake my head.

“We wouldn’t be friends if I met you tomorrow, Pierre, but not because your friendship isn’t important to me. Your friendship is the most precious thing. But we wouldn’t be friends if I met you tomorrow, because I’d be trying my damndest to make you my lover.”

His little gasp sounds loud against the thud of my heartbeat in my ears, but he doesn’t say anything. He just stares at me, his lips open in shock.

Slowly, slowly…so fucking slowly I could cry, he reaches up and traces the planes of my face with soft fingers. This isn’t the touch of a friend. For the first time ever, Pierre LaVoie is touching me as a lover.

“I thought I wasn’t your type,” he whispers.

“You’re exactly my type.” I catch the side of his thumb with my teeth, then draw it into my mouth with a hard suck.

His eyes flutter closed, and I’m struck by how perfectly fucking gorgeous he is. I let go of his thumb. He surges into my lap just as I reach for him.

Our first kiss isn’t tentative or quiet or even playful.

It’s reckless and hot and explosive. He thrusts against my hip, grinding his cock into me and biting my lip.

God, the things I want.

I grab his legs and pull them apart around mine so he’s straddling me, and then I place a palm on his bare chest and push him back enough to look in his eyes. Ellen’s words come back to me in a rush. Choice. Courage.

“We do this, we can’t go back. We go down this road, the other is closed to us,” I warn.

He nods, his face serious. “I don’t want to go back.”

I kiss him again, drawing him out, making him mine. I run my hands down his back and palm his ass, kneading it hard until a shudder runs through him and into me. His hands seem to flutter around me as if he can’t decide what he wants to touch first. So when they land on my chest and rub hard across my nipples, it’s a shock. A delicious, achy shock that lights me up from inside out. It runs down my body and sparks at the base of my cock.

Pierre grinds against me and rubs my chest again. It’s a hard touch, a claiming touch. It’s not something I’d have expected from him, but it feels good. How many times had I fantasized about him over the years? How many times had I wanted him to touch me just like this?

I thrust up against him, knowing the base of my cock is pushing up behind his balls and knowing exactly what it will feel like to him—the pressure, the little ache which isn’t quite pain and isn’t quite pleasure, but somehow desperately wants to be both. He shudders again and tears his mouth away from mine to suck in a deep breath. His eyes are closed and his chest heaves. I can’t remember ever wanting another person like this.

“If you have something against public sex, we need to get a cab right now.” His voice shakes, but his eyes open and the lust I see there hits me straight in the gut.

I can’t answer him, and fuck if I’m going to stop what we’re doing to call a cab. I unzip his jeans and pull his cock out. It’s beautiful. It’s darker than the rest of him, intact, the glans peeking out of the foreskin. The very appearance of it makes me greedy. I want to taste him.

“Up,” I murmur, using my hands to urge him higher. He moves over me, bracing his palms on the back of the bench. I wrap my fist around his cock and push the foreskin back to expose him. I run my tongue around the sensitive head, teasing at the frenulum and drawing a whine out of him.

I open my mouth and take him inside, sucking with a slow, steady rhythm as he rocks forward into my mouth. I love the weight of him on my tongue, the salty-bitter taste of his skin and pre-come. He moves one of his hands from the back of the bench to cup my face and strokes his thumb along my jawline, urging me to open farther. I take him as deep as I can, letting him take my breath for just a moment before he draws back. I pull off him, still working my hand over his shaft, pulling the foreskin over the head and then pushing it back.

I’m rewarded by a hot, throaty noise and a visible shiver down his spine. It’s a gift, seeing him like this, knowing I’m making him this hard, this aroused. I put that tremble in the hand that grips my hair and guides me back to his cock. When I suck him deep again, I’m the one who makes him shake and groan.

“Oh, God, Jake, cher…” His hips snap forward more aggressively, and I want to make him come. I want to see his face. I tilt my head so I can look up along his body as he thrusts into my mouth again, and the sight of him is perfection.

His skin, so much darker than my own, shines under the moonlight. His nipples are drawn up hard. Leather epaulettes add a strength to his shoulders, and the cloak made of feathers and tulle flows back from his shoulders like a mantle.

But his face, his face is magic. His head thrown back, his features contorted in the grimace of lust, he looks like a gladiator claiming victory as he shouts out his climax with another vicious thrust. Tears spring to my eyes as his semen spurts onto my tongue. My Pierre, my best friend, is coming in my mouth, and I’m the one who made this happen. He might look victorious, but this is my celebratory moment.

When he draws back with another shudder and sinks back onto my lap, I claim his mouth in a salty kiss. I run my thumbs along his cheekbones, wiping away tears. I shush against his lips.

“Why tears, Pierre?”

“Mais… oh fuck, Jake. I’ve wanted this for so long.” He’s boneless in my arms, a warm, solid weight, and I want to protect him from the whole world.

“Me too.”

He kisses me again, and I can’t help but thrust up a little. I can’t fuck him now, not so soon after he’s had an orgasm, but God, I want him.

“I got you.” He reaches between us, cupping me hard. It’s my turn to whimper as I thrust into his hand. I close my eyes, enjoying his possessive touch. I feel his weight moving off me, and I open my eyes to watch him sinking to his knees. I scoot forward to the edge of the bench as he opens my jeans, then shoves them and my briefs down. The bench is cold on my ass, but his lips and hands are warm as he takes me into the haven of his mouth.

“God, yes.”

He pulls off as quickly as he took me in. “Go ahead and just let go. I don’t mind if you get rough, but don’t pull my hair.”

That’s all he says before he starts sucking hard. My hips roll up and my eyes drift closed. I take him at his word and fall into a lusty, rutting rhythm as he takes me completely apart with his lips and tongue.

He slides one of his hands under my legs to tickle and tease and push at my taint. I lose all thought beyond seizing the orgasm looming right fucking there for me to take. He groans around my cock, and that’s the moment I lose it. Pleasure rolls over me in a great huge tsunami of a wave. I feel him swallowing, and I can’t help but thrust a little harder, wrenching a grunt from him and another spurt from my cock.

He pulls off me slowly. Now it’s his turn to pull me into a rough celebratory kiss, his turn to feed my own taste back onto my tongue, and even though that’s never been my kink, I love the taste of both of us mingled together.

“We just had sex in a cemetery, cher.” He buries his face in my neck and giggles.

“We just made love in a cemetery,” I correct.

“Made love.” He agrees. “I do love you, Jake. I’ve loved you for a long time. I was scared to do anything about it.”

His eyes are serious and sad as he pulls away from me. Is he mourning the friendship we’ve forsaken tonight, or is he mourning the time it took us to figure out we loved each other?

We straighten our clothing and zip up. As we stand on shaking legs, I take his hand and kiss the back of it, offering him my reassurance. “I love you, too, Pierre. Love you so much.”

This time our kiss is sweet, unhurried. He rubs my chest again, not in possession, but in exploration. As I slide my tongue into his mouth, I frame his face with my hands and skate my thumbs along his cheekbones.

I pull away. “Can we go home? I don’t want to go back to the party.”

“Your house? My roommates are home.”

“Yeah.” My house. Maybe he’d consider moving in and then it could be our house. I’ll talk to him about it in the morning over coffee.

“Hey, Pierre?”

Cher?”

“Your invitation … what card is on it?” I don’t know why I’m curious, but for some reason, I just want to know.

He pulls it out of his pocket. “Two of Wands. Stupid party game.”

I take his card from him and pull my own out. Sure enough, they’re the same card, cut in half. I feel all warm and happy, like the afterglow of our lovemaking has been given some sort of blessing. “I’m going to take these home, tape them together, and frame this fucker.”

“A souvenir from your hoodoo Halloween hookup?” he teases.

“A souvenir from the first time you said you love me.”

“It won’t be the last,” he promises.

“Prove it.”

“Jake Forrester, I love you.” The declaration isn’t any less poignant for having been demanded.

“I love you, too, Pierre.”