Archive for September, 2012

Knitting for Andrew

My dear friend Amy Lane knitted me a pair of fingerless gloves I can wear during the winter when I’m writing and when I asked her if she’d like to guest blog, she wrote about her knitting and the gloves she made for me.  Amy is totally wonderful and I love her to bits.

One of the things I regret most with my new writing career is the lack of knitting time.

It’s true, I still knit (and I definitely still buy yarn!) but if someone is in my yarn queue, I must love them a helluva lot.  Hell, I hardly knit for my children anymore!

But that doesn’t mean I’m not always thrilled to add someone else to my list.

So when we were at a convention and Andrew (who, for those of you who haven’t had the pleasure to meet him in person, is an absolutely darling man, with an infectious ebullience that will have you bouncing on your toes for a week after meeting!) had a special request from me.

He wanted me to knit for him.

I was honored.

But… well… there was a time crunch and I wanted so badly to knit for my friend, but how to fit it in, how to fit it in… and… well….


See, when I wrote The Winter Courtship Rituals of Fur-Bearing Critters that was supposed to be one in any number of novellas with a knitting theme.  The only problem was that I had to actually write a pattern for each novella, and as I discovered with Super Sock Man, writing the actual pattern and knitting the product took more time than writing the novella!  However, when I’m knitting for friends and family, I often have go-to patterns—simple patterns that I’ve modified and made my own and knit from memory.  One of my all-time favorite go-to patterns is the fingerless-mitt (which actually seems really silly to say, I can’t explain why, and I can’t think of anything better to call it!)

Anyway, the fingerless-mitt is one of my favorite things.  I have half-a-zillion pairs floating around my house (literally half-a-zillion, since none of them match!) and when it gets cold, and it’s late at night, and I’m working, I slide a pair of those babies on, and I can still type, but my hands are covered and my fingers are oh-so-much less achy and uncomfortable. Making a pair of those for a fellow writer seemed like a kindness—he too could share in the fingerless-mitt secret, and type late at night without aching fingers, right?

So that’s what I did.  Instead of inventing a whole new pattern for the upcoming novella, I made Andrew something warm and comforting, something I knew he’d use, and I typed up THAT pattern, in a thousand sizes, and had my daughters model them, including the pair I made for Andrew.  That’s the pattern in How to Raise an Honest Rabbit, and that’s why I chose mittens and the thing Aiden makes Jeremy when he’s courting (or, more aptly, “gentling”) Jeremy into a relationship.  My friend asked me for a gift, and I wanted to give him comfort and warmth.  It was perfect!

That’s actually why knitters are constantly foisting their wares on the unsuspecting, by the way.  We’re constantly thinking about what we want to give—really want to give—the people we care about.  We want to give comfort and warmth—figuratively, of course.  I can’t hug my children all day (well, I’ve tried—they wiggle) and I can’t follow them everywhere they go, either.  (I’ve been to first grade.  I passed.  Really, why go back?)

So I knit for them, if they’ll let me.  One of my nicest moments was when my daughter asked me to make her a sweater for her before she went away to college.  It’s not done (and I just got back from dropping her off!) and when it is done, it’s going to be Sherpa-grade toast-your-insides-till-they’re-melty insulation (which I understand you need in San Diego, right?) but, by golly, that child is going to have wool-clad PROOF that her mama loves her.  And was thinking about her with every stitch.

That’s why I knit for people I love.  And that’s why I was overjoyed when Andrew told me that he lurved his brand new fingerless-mitts!  Andrew’s just one of those people who deserves knitting, you know?

Well, you’re tuning into his blog.  Of course you do!


Read Full Post »

I just received the covers for Burnished by Fire and A Slice of Love.  Both of these stories are being released in the next couple months.  For the blurb and a detailed release date, please check the Coming Soon Page of my web site for details.  I try to keep that up to date with all the latest information.

Burnished by Fire

A Slice of Love

Read Full Post »

Maryland Writer’s Workshop

Yesterday I attended a conference hosted by the Maryland Romance Writer’s chapter of Romance Writer’s of America.  The conference centered around editors and what was behind the submission page.  In other words what are editors really looking for.  Three editors spoke to the group, one form Carina Press, One form The Wild Rose Press, and One from Entanbled Publishing.  All three editors did a great job explaining what they were looking for and how their businesses worked.  The one thing I was msot impressed with was how candid and forthright the editors were.  All three presses were very different, Carlina with its links to Harlequin, Wild Rose, a small, home grown press, and Entangled with its immovative business model.  All three had advantages and all three had disadvantages.  The important thing was to learn what each publisher expected so each author coudl go into their dealing with them informed and with their eyes open.

My final thought is to say thank you to Angela James, Kathy Cottrell, and Stacy Abrams for taking their time to talk to us.


Read Full Post »

Shared Revelations was just released by Dreamspinner Press!!!!  When I was writing this story I swear I was channeling my dear friend and wonderful authior Amy Lane.  I really hope you like it!!!


It’s the sixties, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy to be different. Eddie Baronski spent his high school years looking out for his partially deaf friend, Jack Emmons. Now that they’ve graduated, they spend their free time at Green Bay’s newly renamed Lambeau Field, taking in the practices.

When Eddie’s crush, Johnny Grant, a new Packers team member, offers him a ride home, Eddie thinks it’s the start of a grand romance. But Johnny and Eddie may not be on the same page, and love—true love—sometimes comes from an unexpected quarter.

Add to your Dreamspinner Wish List: http://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/store/product_info.php?products_id=3226


“Shhh,” Jack scolded, but he smiled as he said it.

“Maybe he’d be better off deaf,” Donny cracked in a soft voice, and Eddie reached behind Skip and smacked Donny lightly on the back of the head.

Jack was the unfortunate one in the group, even if his family had money. When they were kids, Jack had had a difficult time hearing, and as he’d gotten older, he’d been able to hear less and less. The other kids had picked on him mercilessly, but he never heard half of it anyway. He wore hearing aids that sometimes whistled, and in a group like this, he often turned them off because the ambient noise drove him totally crazy. Jack was also the closest person to a brother Eddie had. When the other kids had teased him, it was Eddie who’d taken them on. Sometimes he’d won and sometimes he hadn’t, but once they became friends, no one picked on Jack with impunity. And that extended even to now. Jack was his brother in every way that counted. Eddie was an only child, and while Jack had older brothers and sisters, he was his parents’ “late in life baby,” and the other kids had been nearly out of the house by the time he and Eddie had met in junior high.

“Hey,” Donny griped, rubbing the back of his head, but Eddie simply glared at him before turning his attention to the field. The guys were running play after play, practicing for the game in a few weeks. His friends all liked Bart Starr and thought he was the cat’s meow, but Eddie watched Johnny Grant. He wasn’t one of the stars of the team, but for some reason Eddie could always pick him out of the group of players, his eyes gravitated toward Grant wherever he was on the field. Eddie knew damned well why, but he tried not to admit the truth, even to himself, because after watching an hour of practice, Eddie would have to shift in his seat a few times to hide the wood he was sporting. There was no way he could admit what he was feeling to anyone in the world. But his eyes rarely left the field as he watched Johnny run plays with the other guys.

“Bart’s doing great,” Skip said from next to him, pointing out the star of the team, and Eddie nodded, agreeing silently as he watched his own star on the field. But what he thought he loved most were the tight pants and the way Johnny kept bending over all the time. Every now and then Johnny’s practice uniform would ride up, giving Eddie the fleetingest glimpse of skin before the shirt fell back into place.

Eddie knew he was being completely ridiculous, and he knew nothing could ever come of his infatuation. And for God’s sake, no one on earth could ever know how another guy made him want things he could never have. “It’s getting late,” Skip said. “Dad wants me back at the store by seven, so I gotta go.”

“Okay,” Eddie said as he half stood to give Skip and Donny a chance to scoot by in front of him. “I’ll see you guys tomorrow.”

“Okay, Mr. Whipple,” Skip quipped, jumping out of the way before Eddie could take a swipe at him. “Don’t squeeze the Charmin.” Skip hurried away and up the stairs with Donny right behind him. Once they were gone, Jack moved over, and Eddie noticed him fiddling with his hearing aids.

“Is it better now?” Eddie asked, and Jack nodded slowly as he continued to watch the men on the field. The practice wouldn’t go on for much longer. It was starting to get dark, and while they could work out under the lights, Eddie figured they’d already been practicing for hours. Sure enough, before he could say anything to Jack, the men started walking to the sidelines, gathering their stuff and headed into what Eddie knew was the entrance to the locker room.

Jack stood, and Eddie did as well, and both of them walked up the stadium seats and  through the empty corridors, their footsteps echoing off the walls until they reached the outside. “Were you able to get tickets to the game next Sunday?” Jack asked as they passed by George in his booth.

“No. I can’t afford them. You?” Eddie asked, and Jack shook his head. Both of them were lucky if they got to go to an actual game once a year, and some years they weren’t able to swing that since tickets were just that scarce. They both said good-bye to George, and he waved at them as they passed. Jack walked across the parking lot to where the old car his mother had given him was parked. They called the old Cadillac “the Boat,” because the thing was huge and rode like a land yacht.

“I’ll see you tomorrow,” Eddie called, and Jack continued walking toward his car. He knew Jack hadn’t heard him. Jack had told him that even with the hearing aids, according to the doctors, his hearing would continue to get worse, and in the next few years, he wouldn’t be able to hear anything at all. Eventually Jack turned around, and Eddie saw him wave. He returned it and watched Jack get into the car, and heard the engine start before his friend drove away.

Eddie walked to where he’d left his bike,  got on, and pedaled twice before he realized the bike didn’t feel right. Stopping, he looked down and saw that his back tire was totally flat. “Damn it,” he swore and walked the bike back to the rack. The parking lot was empty when he looked around. Eddie returned to George’s booth, but he was gone too, the gate and doors locked up tight and the only phone around was in the closed guard booth. Eddie had no idea how he was going to get home except to walk. Figuring he had no other choice, Eddie started walking. At least it was still warm, and along the way he could probably find a pay phone to call his dad. Eddie fished in his pockets to come up with a nickel and remembered he had one tucked in the corner of his wallet. Sighing loudly, he headed toward the road on the far side of the parking lot.

Headlights shone around him, and Eddie turned as a car moved in his direction and pulled up close, the convertible top down. Eddie could hear the radio playing. He noticed the deep-red paint and white scoops along the side of the impressive sports car before he saw the man driving it—Johnny Grant, in the incredibly handsome flesh. “Is something wrong?” he asked in a deep, rich voice that sounded like Eddie’s mother’s hot chocolate felt in the middle of winter.

“I got a flat tire on my bike, so I was walking home,” Eddie said, and Johnny reached over and popped the door open.

“Hop in. I’ll give you a ride home.”

Eddie hesitated for a split second before sliding down the plush seat and closing the door. “Thank you, I appreciate the lift.” He thought about asking to take his bike, but Johnny giving him a ride was favor enough.

“No sweat,” Johnny said with a smile as he gunned the engine and they took off across the pavement toward the parking lot exit. “I see you and your friends in the seats for almost every practice.”

“We’re all big fans, but can’t afford tickets very often. My dad knows someone who knows the coach, so we get to watch the practices. The guard at the gate lets us in.” They stopped at the corner, and the air in the car got real still. Eddie got a nose full of Johnny’s rich, herbal scent, mixed with a hint of soap. He wanted to lean closer and inhale deep, but he stared ahead. Damn, he was just inches from the man who gave him wood just from thinking about him. Thankfully he’d left his shirt untucked, so he could use it to cover the huge woody he was sporting right now.

“Which way, uh….”

“Eddie,” he supplied. “Straight up Military to Dousman and turn right toward town.” Eddie was trying to figure out how he could delay getting home. When the light changed, they took off, and Eddie laughed as the wind whipped his hair. He was riding in a car with Johnny Grant.

Read Full Post »

Jerry Lincoln has a problem: his Sioux Falls IT consulting business has more work than one man can handle. Luckily, that means he can hire some help. Jerry just hopes his new employee, John Black Raven, ends up being more helpful than distracting—but John’s deep eyes and long hair are very distracting.

John came to town for an education and a chance at a life he couldn’t have on the reservation, but what’s important to him now is getting a job and keeping it. Six months ago, his sister died, and now her children are in foster care. Despite having the law on his side, John can’t get custody—can’t even see his niece and nephew.

As Jerry and John grow closer, John discovers he doesn’t have to struggle alone. Jerry helps him win visitation rights and provides much-needed support. Yet their victories aren’t without setbacks. Child Services is tangled up with money, politics, and red tape, and Native American children are their bread and butter. But John and Jerry are determined to fight the good fight and to win—in more ways than one.

Purchase link:      http://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/store/product_info.php?products_id=3188


The doorbell rang with my next appointment, and I answered it. Another young man stood on the stoop, and I took him, and later the next young man, through the same interview process. I didn’t get the same encouraging signals from them, but I gave them the problems. One of them gave up after fifteen minutes, and I thanked him for coming. He looked disappointed, but I thanked him anyway. The other interviewee admitted defeat just before the last interviewee arrived. I noticed that Bryce seemed lost in his computer, typing away as I escorted the third applicant outside. After shaking hands, I said good-bye and was about to close the front door when I saw a man striding up my walk toward the door. As he got closer, I felt my throat go dry, and I had to remind myself that this was a job interview and not a pickup at a Castro gay bar.

“I’m John Black Raven,” he said with a smile, and we shook hands.

“Jerry Lincoln. I’m pleased to meet you.” The heat from his hand was startling, and I had to tear my gaze away from John’s deep, dark, almost black eyes. “Come in and we’ll go into the dining room to talk.” I motioned him inside, and John peered into the living room as we passed. I saw Bryce look up from his work, and he smiled and nodded to John, who did the same back before continuing on. “I take it you and Bryce know each other.”

“Yes. We’ve had many classes together,” John answered before pulling out a chair. He passed me his résumé, and I scanned it.

“Your grades are good, and you’ve had plenty of experience.” It looked as though John had worked at least two jobs for years. Many of them appeared menial and looked like brutally hard, physical work. “None in software development,” I commented. He was also older than the others, nearly twenty-seven.

“No. I worked hard to pay for school, and this is the first interview I’ve had.” His eyes shone with intensity and determination, and I did my best not to look at John’s shining black hair that was pulled into a ponytail, or his sun-kissed skin and full lips. This man was here for a job, and I needed to keep myself under control. “But I always work hard, and computers seem to speak to me.”

I was intrigued. “How?”

“I seem to have a mind for them. My teachers often offered extra credit for solving tough problems, and I always saw the answers right away,” John answered in a measured, rather soft-spoken tone that sounded almost musical. “I don’t have much real-world experience because until I was able to come here to school, there were no opportunities.” John sat back in the chair, indecision in his eyes, and I thought he wasn’t going to elaborate. “I grew up on the reservation, and there are very few chances there.” I’d heard rumors and stories, but I’d largely thought those were tales born out of narrow-minded stereotypes. “I left to try to make a better life,” John added and then grew quiet. Of the four interviews, this one was definitely the hardest. Some things were apparent, though. John was a hard worker, and judging from his grades, that had transferred to his schoolwork.

“What sort of things would you like to know?” I asked him, and John asked the usual things about pay and benefits, which I answered the same as the others. I showed him my current workspace and explained about the work area that was being developed.

“Would the insurance also cover children?” John asked tentatively.

“You should be able to add them,” I answered, reminding myself that I had to see about changing my health insurance policy if I was
going to hire people. “How many children do you have?”

John looked sad. “None.”

I thought his question combined with his answer odd, but it was really none of my business, so I let the subject drop. “I have something I’d like you to do for me so I can judge your skill level,” I told John when we returned to the dining room. I handed him the thumb drive, and I watched as he pulled out a very old laptop. Then, after transferring the files, I got him settled in the living room.

“I’m finished,” Bryce said with a grin once John was settled, and I had him come to the dining room to show me. Bryce had indeed found the error and fixed it. He’d also developed the application I’d requested. “I even got the exception handling to work with meaningful messages.” Bryce showed me, and I couldn’t help holding back a smile.

“It looks good,” I said, quite pleased, because I had at least one candidate with potential. I made sure I had his current contact information, and after I shook Bryce’s hand and said good-bye, he left with a grin on his face.

Once he was gone, I stopped in the living room again, and John looked up from his work. “Have you eaten?” I asked, and John nodded. “I’ll be working. Come get me when you’re done.” John nodded again, and I sat down at my console to work. I could see John if I turned my head, and I found I was having trouble looking anywhere else. He was stunning, in a quiet, understated sort of way. His eyes held an intensity and pain that intrigued me, but it was his hair that I couldn’t take my eyes off of, and I kept wondering what he’d look like with it loose around his expressive face. Forcing my attention to my work, I hid behind my monitors and got down to the task, but that failed as well. I kept wondering what I saw in John, and then I’d peer around the monitor again just to watch him for a few seconds.

I had lived in San Francisco and had seen smoking-hot men almost every day of my life—guys who walked down the street and made almost every head turn. Those men usually did nothing for me. Sure, they were pretty to look at and attractive as hell, but as soon as they opened their mouths, some form of incomprehensible gibberish came out with every other word punctuated by “like.” “We, like, went to the store and, like, he grabbed my butt and I said, like, dude, like, don’t do that.” I’d actually heard that in a conversation, and I had wanted to smack the man on the side of the head.  Somehow I knew deep down that John was very different from those men. There was definitely intelligence at the bottom of those eyes, and his attractiveness smoldered just below the surface in the way he walked and carried himself—tall and proud. I forced my eyes away from John and got to work for a while.

“I think I’m finished,” John said as he got up from the sofa. Thankful for something to do besides stare at John, I got up and met him at the table. “I fixed the problem with the program; that was easy,” John said. “But I wasn’t sure quite what you wanted with your specifications. On the right, you said you wanted each of the graphics lined up with the appropriate links. I wasn’t sure if you wanted them static or not, so I made them scroll.” He brought up the page, and the graphics scrolled along the side of the screen from top to bottom. “If you click on the graphic, they can link to the other pages if you create them.”

I smiled and stole a glance at John. “I was expecting the easy method, and instead you gave me more. Very good.” I was more than a little impressed. He’d delivered something beyond what I had expected, and he’d done it in the same amount of time as Bryce. “I’ll be making my decision in the next week.”

“Thank you,” John said, and we shook hands. Then he gathered his things, and I watched him leave. As soon as the door closed, I released a long sigh before walking into the kitchen. I grabbed a diet soda and chugged most of it as I ran over both viable candidates in my mind. After throwing the can in the recycling, I was about to return to work when the phone rang.

I picked up the old house phone. “Hello,” I answered, sitting at my workstation.

“Jerry, how did it go?” Peter asked excitedly. “I told you I could find qualified applicants, and I steered people your way I knew you could work with.”

“How did you find these guys?” I asked, wondering how he’d been able to put together a group of reasonably qualified people so fast.

Peter sighned softly, and I heard him shifting as the phone crackled slightly. “Every summer there’s a new graduating class, and at some point most of them don’t get jobs and come here looking for anything so they can work. I simply pointed some of the more qualified people your way. I could have hired any of those men here at the store, but they’d either leave eventually or end up at a dead end. So what did you think?” Peter was not going to be put off.

“Two of them were fantastic, and I have to decide which of them I want to hire. They’re both qualified, and I think I could work with either of them.” I figured both Bryce and John would be a big help, and part of me had a particular preference, but I made it a point not to think with that head and make the right decisions for my business.

“Take some time and think about it. Your gut will tell you what you need to do,” Peter said optimistically, and I rolled my eyes to the empty room.

“I’ll do that,” I promised, and after talking briefly about nothing, we hung up and I went back to work. I’d lost the better part of a day, and deadlines were always looming, so I hunkered down and tried not to think about red-brown skin, long black hair, and deep eyes.


Read Full Post »

This scene takes place between Geoff and Eli, the characters who started the Love Means… Series.  Their story Love Means… No Shame is followed up with the rest of the stories in the series.  I hope you enjoy this glimpse in Geoff and Eli’s life together.

“Geoff,” Eli called as he walked through the barn, the horses sticking their heads out of their stalls probably to see why he was yelling at such an ungodly hour of the morning.

“What is it, Tiger?” Geoff asked as he closed the stall door, smiling at him as he turned. Normally that smile would light up his heart the way it had every day for the past twenty-plus years.

“Don’t Tiger me,” he said stepping closer, holding up the crumpled piece of paper. “When were you going to tell me the doctor wants you to have some additional tests? After your checkup you told me everything was just fine, and now I find this when I was cleaning up your office.” Eli knew his anger and fear resonated in his voice, but he couldn’t help it. “I bugged you for months to make that appointment,” Eli blazed. “Now do I have to make another one and go along with you so you’ll tell me the truth?”

“I’m fine, and I had those tests last week. The doctor hasn’t phoned with the results, but I’m fine. You can stop worrying.” Geoff soothed the way he usually did, reaching out for Eli and folding him into his arms. “I’m going to be around for a very long time.”

“I’m sure that’s what your father said, and you know you’re the same age he was when he died,” Eli said against Geoff’s chest. “I’m not allowing that to happen to you.” Eli lifted his head so he could see Geoff’s eyes. “Because if you up and die on me, so help me, I’ll… smack you silly.” Eli knew he was being ridiculous, but the thought of going through what had happened to Len all those years ago scared the hell out of him.

“I’m fine, love, and you have nothing to worry about. If you want, once the doctor’s office opens, you can call them. I added you to the HIPAA forms, so they’ll give you any information you want,” Geoff told him with a smile, and Eli felt some of the anger and worry dissipate. “Like I said, I’m going to be around for a long time, and when we go, we’re going together.” Geoff smirked, and Eli smacked him lightly on the shoulder before moving back into his arms.

“Sorry,” Eli said. “I shouldn’t have gotten mad.”

“Hey, it’s okay. I forgive you. But next time just ask. I’ll tell you what you want to know. I’ve never kept things from you, and I don’t intend to start now.” Geoff squeezed him lightly before resting his head Eli’s shoulder.

“Is this the calm before the storm?” Eli whispered, and he felt Geoff nod his head. “I suppose I better help get the chores done, because we’ve got a big day.”

“Yes, we do,” Geoff agreed, but he didn’t move away.

“Morning, Geoff,” Joey called as he entered the barn, completely unfazed at the sight of the two of them together. Joey and his partner, Robbie, had worked at the farm for twenty years and were like family. A number of years ago, they’d bought into the farm as junior partners, and with their help, Laughton Farms had continued to grow so that now they were the largest landowners in the county, maybe that part of the state. They had thousands of head of cattle and thousands of acres under cultivation. They’d even started an orchard a number of years ago, and after some initial troubles, that had turned into a success as well.

“Morning, Joey, is Robbie with you?”

“No. He’s teaching a class this morning, and then I need to pick him up. We won’t be late, don’t you worry,” Joey said as he wandered out of the barn, and Geoff heard one of the tractors start. Regardless of the festivities happening later, there were still chores to do.

“I’m going to make breakfast, and then we can all get ready,” Eli said, finally moving out of Eli’s embrace. “And don’t think for a second I’m going to forget to call the doctor,” Eli warned as he walked toward the barn door and out into the crisp, late spring air. The first rays of sunshine bounced off the dew-covered grass as he walked toward the house, his home for over two decades. Inside, he found Adelle making breakfast. She’d retired about eight years ago, but she’d become family. They’d told her that she had a place with them for as long as she wanted, and she’d never left. As she’d gotten older, she’d slowed down, but she still insisted on making breakfast each and every morning.

“I haven’t seen Jake yet,” Adelle told Eli.

“He stayed at a friend’s last night, but he’ll be home in time to eat,” Eli said, and Adelle chuckled.

“That boy never missed a meal yet,” she teased, and continued cooking. Sure enough, the back door opened and Jake hurried in, setting down his bag before hurrying back to the door.

“Hey,” Eli said, and Jake returned, hugging the stuffing out of him.

“Got chores to do or dad will be pissed,” Jake said as an explanation before kissing Adelle on the cheek and then rushing out the door. Eli shook his head, walking into the living room and then up the stairs, deciding to take advantage of the availability of the bathroom.

After his shower, Eli dressed and headed downstairs to a house full of people. Geoff and Jake came in from their chores, and everyone sat down at the table for one of Adelle’s famous farm breakfasts. The meal promised to be last quiet moment of the day, and sure enough once the meal was over, the house turned into a hive of activity as the last people got ready to go.

“Are you ready?” Jake said from behind them.

“Yes,” Eli answered. “Have you got all your things? We won’t be able to come back in time if you forget anything.”

“I have it all.” Jake lifted the garment bag in response, and Eli released Geoff. Most everyone had already headed out, so Eli, Geoff, Jake, and Adelle got into Geoff’s car for the trip to town.

They pulled up to the high school, and Geoff found a place to park. Jake grabbed his things and hurried inside while Eli, Geoff, and Adelle followed the people into the courtyard, which was filled with chairs on the sunny day. Looking around, Eli saw Joey stand up, and they made their way toward their contingent. Len and Chris hugged both him and Geoff. Both men were in their seventies and still active—definitely slower, but still vital. Jonah and Raine hugged them as well as their son Benji threw himself at his Uncle Eli. Stone and Preston were there too. The surprise was who stepped out from behind them. Arie was supposed to be playing concerts with the Chicago Symphony, but here he was with Duane, now the sheriff, both of them beaming.

“What are you doing here?” Geoff asked happily, ‘“I thought you were booked in Chicago.”

“I have to be back in Chicago tonight, but there was no way I was going to miss this,” Arie beamed before hugging both of them.

The music began to play, and they all found their seat as the orchestra serenaded them. After a while, the music shifted to Pomp and Circumstance as the graduates filed down the center aisle in their blue caps and gowns. Eli watched for Jake, smiling as he saw his son walk down the aisle, but instead of taking a place with the other graduates, he climbed the steps onto the stage, joining the instructors, principal, and superintendent. Once all the graduates were in and seated, the music wrapped up and a warm spring breeze wafted through the courtyard.

The speeches and ceremony began, but Eli heard very little of it. All he kept seeing was his son on the stage. The boy he and Geoff had adopted together. The boy whose diapers he’d changed and who he’d walked around the yard a million times on his first pony. The little boy who’d taken off across the yard wearing nothing but a smile as he made a break for the barn, looking for daddy because he wanted a pony ride, and it didn’t matter if he was still wet from his bath. This was also the same little boy that he and Geoff had taken together on his very first day of school, and the same one that they’d had to pick up from school a few years later because the teacher had told him his daddies weren’t married, and he’d told her she was “full of shit.”

Eli felt Geoff’s hand touch his and he realized there was a tissue in it for him. He could still see Jakey when he’d come home from school with his prize from the science fair, and he could see each and every blue ribbon he’d won at the 4H fairs. He also remembered teaching Jakey to ride and having to explain that he couldn’t sleep in the barn with his first horse, even if it was cold out there. It was only the speaker’s closing remarks that pulled Eli out of his memories.

The principal took the podium once again. “It’s my pleasure to introduce this year’s class valedictorian. He’s graduating with a near-perfect academic record and a full scholarship to Michigan State University, where he will begin his work toward a degree in veterinary medicine, Jacob Henninger-Laughton.”

Eli felt a tingle run all up and down his spine. He’d of course known that Jake was valedictorian and that he’d be giving a speech, but not how he had asked to be introduced, and even after getting offers to help with the speech, Jake hadn’t told anyone what he was going to say.

“Good morning. These speeches are usually about the same thing each year—looking ahead to our future—and as most of you know, I rarely do what’s expected and I don’t intend to today. Instead, I want to speak about the people who got us here. I’d like to ask all the graduates to please stand up and look at the person or people in the audience who raised, supported, and loved you.” Jake paused a few seconds. “Now please give them a hand.” All the graduates clapped, and Eli couldn’t help grinning as his own son looked at him and the rest of their group. The applause died down, and they took their seats again. “Because without these people who took us to little league, helped us with our homework, chaperoned class trips, and the million other things we did over the last eighteen years, we wouldn’t be here.” Eli swore he wasn’t going to cry.

“To illustrate how vital the support of our families was, I intend to use my own as an example. I’d like to ask my family to stand up.” Eli looked at Geoff, and they slowly stood up and then sat back down again. “Actually, I mean all of you,” Jake’s gaze swept the entire group of people, “because, yes, there’s my dad, Geoff, who brought home my first puppy, and my dad, Eli, who taught me how to ride a horse, and between the two of them, they also taught me about laughter, love, and what it means to be a man. There’s also my Uncle Robbie, who taught me to play the violin, and my Uncle Joey, who first let me drive the tractor when I was seven. Dad, if you’re wondering why it was so easy for me to learn to drive, I started early.” The crowd laughed, and Eli peered at Geoff, who was smiling. “There’s also my Uncles Raine and Jonah, who when I visited them in Chicago when I was twelve, took me to the Field museum and showed me my very first dinosaur. Uncle Arie, who took me to Windsor, outside Natchez, Mississippi, and showed me where the columns play music in the wind. Uncle Duane, who as sheriff taught me the importance of putting others before yourself. And my Grandpa Len and Grandpa Chris, who taught me that love is open to everyone, regardless of age.” Jake paused, and Eli wiped his eyes, trying to swallow around the lump in his throat. “And to my Grandma Adelle, who taught me the value of the wonderfully simple things in life, like being able to lick the spoon. She also taught me that love doesn’t know color or ethnicity. Hilary Clinton wrote thatit takes a village. Well, I had a village in the form of an extended family that, while extremely unconventional by most standards, made me the person I am today. So, I ask all of the graduates to think about your own families and what they taught you. Those lessons will stay with all of us and carry us out into the world. Don’t lose sight of them, because they’re the best and most important lessons we’ll ever learn.” Jake paused, and with tears running down his face, Eli applauded along with everyone else in attendance.

There was no way Eli could look around him, so he held Geoff’s hand and concentrated as the diplomas were handed out. The graduates threw their caps into the air, and then with more music from the orchestra, filed out and inside the school. Then the rest of the parents and guests filed out, and Eli blew his nose and tried to wipe away the last of his tears. They found Jake inside the school, and Len took pictures like he had through a lot of the ceremony. Then they all rode back to the farm, where Adelle and Eli got things together for Jake’s graduation party.

Once everyone else arrived, Eli got a few minutes, so he snuck into Geoff’s office and made a phone call. “Good morning, Dr. Woltanski’s office, this is Kathy,” the receptionist said in her usual friendly tone.

Good afternoon, this is Eli Henninger, and I’m calling because Geoff Laughton had some tests run. I’m calling for the results—sorry it’s so late, but we just got back from graduation at the high school.”

“Oh, hey, Eli, sure. Today was Jake’s big day, huh?” He heard her moving around. “We got those results, I think. Hold on, let me check the files.” The line went quiet, and Eli waited nervously. He’d read that they were running prostate and liver function tests and he knew what those meant: cancer, just like Geoff’s father had had. Those few words on that piece of crumpled paper had scared him half to death.

“Eli, yes, the results came back and the doctor said there was nothing to be concerned about. He was being cautious because of some minor anomalies in the bloodwork, but everything came back normal and there’s no sign of any issues,” Kathy told him pleasantly. “So you can stop worrying,” she teased. He was about to protest, but gave it up. He’d known Kathy since she took her first riding lesson at eight years old, so it stood to reason that she’d know him pretty well too. “I’ll see you next week when I bring Sarah for her riding lesson, and give that handsome husband of yours a hug for me.” They said goodbye, and Eli hung up the phone with a gigantic sigh as he heard the office door open behind him.

“Everything okay?” Geoff asked from behind him, and Eli nodded. “Did the doctor say I was fine?” Geoff asked with a knowing smile.

“Yes,” Eli admitted. “Everything’s normal, but don’t scare me like that again. I want you around to see our grandchildren and to help me teach them to ride a horse and drive a tractor.”

Geoff held up his hand. “I promise,” Geoff said softly, leaning close, hugging him tightly before kissing Eli with a hint of passion and a lot of love. “Now, we have a party to attend, and then once everyone’s in bed, I’ll show you just how healthy I am.” Eli chuckled before kissing Geoff once again. Then, together, hand in hand, they left the office and joined their family and friends in celebration.

Read Full Post »

Free Read – A Tidbit of Love

I thought my first post on my new blog would be a freebie for my readers, so here’s A Tidbit of Love.  It’s a scene from the Of Love series that includes A Taste of Love, A Serving of Love, and A Helping of Love.  And the next installment, A Slice of Love will be coming soon.

“Billy I need you to work tonight,” Darryl said as his partner came into the kitchen of their restaurant.

“I will, but why? We have plenty of people scheduled and I have an appointment this afternoon I can’t miss and the boys are coming over,” Billy told him with a very disappointed expression. “I suppose I could cancel, but what’s the problem?”

“Maria just called in. Her kids have the flu and she needs to stay home.” Darryl sighed, the joys of running a restaurant.

“I already knew that. Sebastian is coming in tonight to fill in and I’m leaving in half an hour. Robert has some sort of Bar Association thing and Sebastian wanted an excuse not to have to go.” Billy gave him look like the two of them had cooked up the excuse together. They were always cooking up something together and at times Darryl lived in fear of what they were going to come up with.

“All right. I should have known the two of you would have it covered.”

“Of course we did,” Billy quipped before giving him a quick kiss and then heading through the kitchen doors to the dining room. His life hadn’t been the same since the day he’d taken a chance and given a job to the little spitfire who’d now been his partner for almost four years. Darryl went back to work and an hour later, Billy came in the kitchen taking off his uniform, getting ready to leave, “Remember we have the boys tonight,” Billy told him and Darryl nodded his head. He’d already told him that.

“I know. I have the evening off so we’re all good. I’ll see you at home in a few hours.” Darryl barely looked up from his work and called out the next orders that came in.

Two hours flew by fast and his relief came in, so Darryl made sure everything was ready and left the restaurant heading home. He was already tired and he loved Davey and Donny to bits, but they always had so much energy, and he wasn’t quite sure how he was going to make it through the evening without collapsing.

Darryl pulled open the front door and expected to step in chaos, but the house was quiet. “Billy,” he called.

“I’m in here,” he heard from the kitchen in the back of the house.

“Where are the boys?” Darryl asked as he stepped through the door and was surrounded by the scent of heaven.

“They’re at home,” Billy told him with a smile. “Happy anniversary.” Darryl stood completely stunned. “Four years ago today you took pity on me and gave me a job at the restaurant.”

“And my life has never been the same,” Darryl said with a smile.

“I should hope not,” Billy said with mock indignation. “It’s better than you ever dreamed and you know it.” Billy squealed as Darryl slid his arms around Billy’s waist, pressing his chest to his back.

“Yes it is,” Darryl agreed. “Better than I ever hoped. Who would have thought giving someone else a job would give me the love of a lifetime.” He sucked lightly on Billy’s ear for a few seconds before nuzzling Billy’s neck until the smells in the room had his stomach growling. “What are you making?”

“I got a pork roast that’s in the oven and I made mashed potatoes with carrots and salad. Nothing fancy, but just what you like.” Billy squirmed against him. “Maureen sent home some special dessert for later, or maybe after.”

“After what?” Darryl asked coyly.

“Dessert for after dessert,” Billy turned in Darryl’s embrace, sliding his arms around Darryl’s neck. “Happy Anniversary.”

“Happy Anniversary Sweetheart.” Darryl Kissed Billy passionately. “Do you think we could have dessert first?”

Billy chuckled and took his hand, leading him toward the Kitchen door. “Dinner still has forty five minutes.”

Read Full Post »