Sunday, November 30, 2014

Heart-mate, MINE by N.J. Nielsen

Two lives--One destiny. When fate decides two people belong together, nothing can stand in its way. Liam Kantry and Carlo Bruenelli find themselves caught up in the madness of Christmas and taking care of a child as they discover the meaning of being true heart-mates.

Liam Kantry wants to be with the man he has loved his whole life, yet incessant gossip and innuendos have labelled him the pack whore—a point he has never disputed. Now the rumours have come back to bite him in the arse.

Carlo Bruenelli is waiting for his heart-mate; he's one of the pack who truly believes they really do exist. In his heart he wants it to be his best friend, only problem is he knows Liam doesn't believe in heart-mates. What will it take to change Liam's mind? And should he even try?

Christmas is drawing near, and between snowball fights and the inter-pack gathering, Liam and Carlo find themselves caught up in the excitement and obsessing over what their future holds. Especially when a small child forms a bond with them. They learn there is more out there than they ever dreamt was possible.

Can Liam and Carlo work around the newness of their own mating to protect someone who needs it most?

CONTENT ADVISORY: This work is a significantly expanded (almost tripled in length), re-edited re-release title.

Everyone had a fear, and Carlo's was probably no different to anyone else's. His fear involved running into the love of his life, Liam Kantry, and being ignored completely. Liam often starred in Carlo's nightly dreams of who his heart-mate should look like, yet sadly Liam only ever looked at him like an annoying, dorky, younger brother--a brother you didn't want hanging around all the time. Usually, it was hard to avoid him since they belonged to the same pack. Thoughts like these had been plaguing him for the last month or so leading up to this special week.

The Moon Runner Pack had been chosen to host the inter-pack meet-and-greet on their lands where guests from other packs would be coming in hope of finding a mate. Most people didn't believe in heart-mates. Carlo was truly one of the few in the pack who actually believed heart-mates existed. Somewhere out there's the perfect person looking for me. A tingle of excitement surged through him at the mere possibility of it being true. I'm twenty-one. I'm finally old enough to attend the party. Let's hope he's here and just as eager to meet me. Wish it could be Liam, but wouldn't we have known by now if we were? Hopefully Christmas Day I'll have pushed aside my crush on Liam Kantry and I'll know whether or not my heart-mate is out there searching for me as well—that is, if he even comes to the gathering. My luck, he won't even bother turning up.

Man, he hoped he was wrong and his heart-mate existed in the here and now, waiting to meet him as well. Never once had he doubted that his future mate would be a male. Fate wouldn't be so cruel to pair him with a woman he could never really love. Being mated to a female wouldn't be fair to either of them. If it came down to his mate being someone who wasn't male, he'd simply explain everything to her and let her find someone else she could be happy with. Carlo had even heard that this year there were packs coming to attend from even farther afield than usual. This gathering also became the time new alliances were made between packs, where packs could ask another for help in any way. Bloodshed was frowned upon at these gatherings, but sometimes it became unavoidable—or so he'd been told.

The alpha had asked him, because it was his first time, to become involved this year by being seen at the meeting hall, not hiding away from the pack like he usually did. Apparently all members of the pack who had come of age and were eligible to attend were asked to help out. So here he was now, wet as all get-go—because he'd only moments before slipped and landed in a puddle as he tried to dodge a car on the street outside the hall. Dripping wet, he grumbled as he walked through the falling snow toward the last place he wanted to be—the pack town hall. Carlo hoped to avoid everything until the starting ceremony itself, but Darian and the alpha had nixed that thought early on. The plain truth was he didn't want to have to be anywhere he'd have to bear witness to Liam flirting with other people. Carlo was a coward, and he knew it. He wasn't disputing the fact at all. As he neared the building, the noise coming from within sounded muted, but still loud in a raucous kind of way.

Carlo waved to a couple leaving the crowded room as he entered. He didn't know them, but he thought it would be a polite and friendly gesture to the wolves who'd be arriving to stay with the Moon Runner pack over the next few days. He didn't even complain much when Sally Anne Meyers, the alpha's younger sister, made him strip out of his outer layers before she allowed him to step foot inside the door.

She'd joked, "If you were smarter, you'd strip in time to the music and make yourself a little money on the side." Her laughter sounded light, and Carlo knew she wasn't being mean. Being twenty-one herself, she probably also found herself being forced to be sociable. Unlike him, Sally Anne actually liked being the centre of attention, especially if it garnered the interest of a certain pack member. According to Marcus, the pack gossip, Sally Anne had set her sights on Wade Michelson this year. She'd chosen him as her mate and she'd do anything to get what she wanted.

"The only problem is they'd make me pay the money back with interest once they saw me naked," he replied, snickering before he handed her the wet clothes.

"Go sit by the fire and I'll call your mum to bring you some dry clothes. We wouldn't want all your lovely bits and pieces to fall off, now would we?"

What the fuck? Is she flirting with me? "Are you trying to get my arse beat? If you keep that talk up, you'll make Wade crazy jealous and he'll come after me."

"Hah! That big galoot wouldn't know which end faced up if someone didn't tell him." There seemed to be no heat in her words.

"I thought you were determined to be his mate?" Carlo asked, curious as he saw the glint of something in her eye.

She waved him away. "He's mine. He just doesn't know it yet. His days of sleeping around are over." She sniffed haughtily then burst out laughing. "Go on. Go warm up and I'll get you some dry clothes. I saw Liam in here earlier--not sure if he's still here though."

He gave her one last smile before he did as told. "Thank you." He wasn't sure if he thanked her for calling his mum or for letting him know Liam Kantry sat in the hall talking with friends.

The sounds of carols playing through the speakers, combined with happy laughter ringing out were enough to get even the most miserable person into the Christmas spirit. The interior walls had been transformed from their usual drab wooden bareness to having an array of colours splashed across them. The effect was kind of stunning. Whoever had decorated this year had taste.

With all the festivities going on around him, Carlo couldn't have stopped smiling even if he'd wanted to. He actually loved this time of year--always had. The fact remained he loved everything about Christmas, from the addictive aroma of the baked goods to the scent of the pine trees filling the air, but most of all he loved the feeling of family and everyone being together.

His love of everything Christmas started the year his father gave him his very own sled. That year he'd met Liam Kantry for the first time. He'd also met Liam's brothers Marcus and Theo. They'd taken turns sharing his sled while riding down the hills out on the back of the pack lands. The day seemed to rush by, none of them coming in until August Kantry, the boys' father, had come looking for them. On the way home, he'd given them all a lecture on what were safe and unsafe times to stay out playing when their parents were sitting at home and waiting for them.

Christmas was just around the corner and his family was getting ready to celebrate in style. His mother was known by many as a baking fiend when it came to roasts, but no one in the pack came even close to beating Mary Kantry when it came to baking Christmas goodies. She had become a legend among the pack, especially for her Christmas bread. Hell, even just the thought of it had Carlo's mouth watering. His thoughts came back to the present when he heard an all too familiar voice. Oh great, so Liam really is still here—yippee... not!

Author Bio
NJ needs to write like she needs to breathe. It’s an addiction that she never intends to find a cure for. When you don’t find NJ arguing with Vlad, her muse or writing about the wonderful men in her stories, you’ll find her reading work by other authors she greatly admires. NJ lives in the SE of Qld, Australia with her family who all encourage her writing career even if she does occasionally call them by her character’s names. NJ thinks that anyone taking the time to read her stuff is totally awesome.

Find N.J. Here

A Matter of Trust by A.C. Katt; Free on 12.15.14; ONLY AT MLRPRESS.COM

On December 13th MLR will start their twelve days of Christmas giveaway. Free book will be given away from December 13th until the twenty-fourth.

MLR Press is giving away for free A Matter of Trust the first in the series of Indiscrett Novels. The giveaway is on December 15th from 12:01 am to 11:59 pm at the only.

A Matter of Trust by AC Katt


Donald K. Drummond is the Master of all he surveys; a legend in commercial real estate
in New Jersey by day and by night a Master Dom at the gay BDSM club, Indiscrete. What he couldn't find was a boy to call his own. That all changed when a nerd with taped glasses and worn Dockers barged into his office spilling his bottle of 1985 Bourdeau over his priceless Persian carpet. Brian Murphy came with a host of troubles, the least of which was his grasping Aunt, his invalid mother and his rather tenious position in Donald's mail room.  Can a Dom with issues of his own come to train and trust a needy boy from his own mailroom. It's all A Matter of Trust.


logo   Mary Lynn Hansel , Writing as AC Katt |

Brooklyn Bound by Jenna Byrnes

Availible for pre-order now
VIP download from Totally Bound Dec 5
General Release Jan 2
Tucker and Gabe discover they’re soulmates. If only they can get Gabe’s wife Brooklyn to admit her own true desires.
Tucker Gleason is a junior partner in the prestigious law firm of Dryer, Stokes and Associates. His career is going well—he’s on track to make full partner, having won more cases than any other lawyer in the firm. His love life is another matter. On his own for too long, he gets a much needed jolt when he meets one of the owners of the construction company hired to build the new law firm offices.
Gabe Conner is a happily married man, until he meets Tucker and is reminded of the hot gay relationship he experienced in college. Thinking it was just youthful experimentation, he never mentioned it to his wife. But now that he’s met Tucker and the two men are so drawn to each other, he has no choice but to bring it up.
Brooklyn Conner isn’t as shocked to learn her husband has gay tendencies as she is to find out he’s interested in one of her bosses. She’s a paralegal at Dryer and Stokes, and worries about losing not only her husband but also her job if things fall through with the sexy junior partner. She can’t resist their advances when they both join forces to seduce her, and quickly decides she doesn’t need to. Sex with two men is hot. Until Tucker’s true appetite is revealed, and Brook’s vanilla world is turned upside down.
Reader Advisory: This book contains scenes of M/M intimacy and ménage in a polyamorous relationship between two men and a woman.
Publisher's Note: The stories in this series are linked solely by theme and can be read in any order. This book can be read as a standalone title.

Excerpt from Brooklyn Bound by Jenna Byrnes

He inhaled. The man had given him an opening. Should he use it, or ignore and focus on the job at hand? As much as he knew he needed to ignore the feelings in his gut, that was the last thing Gabe wanted to do. He looked at Tucker. “I’m not feeling that laid-back right now. I’m, uh, feeling something else. I get the sense you’re feeling it, too.”
The lawyer’s eyes widened. “Are you freaking kidding me? I felt it the first time I set eyes on you. I’ve been trying to convince myself not to act on it, what with you being married and all. Not that I could tell by looking at your left ring finger.”
Gabe glanced down. He had a wedding ring, but didn’t wear it to work. “Yeah, that’s an issue for sure. How about you, Tucker? Is there anyone special in your life?”
“There hasn’t been for about a year, now. Just me, myself and my hand.”
Gabe grinned, then grew serious. “Brook means everything to me. I could never do anything behind her back, or take a chance on losing her.”
“I figured.” Tucker took a step closer to him. “But you’re thinking about it, right?”
Gabe’s gaze went from the man’s eyes to his soft, pink lips, then back again. “I haven’t thought about much else, damn it!”
Tucker leaned in so they were almost touching.
He held up his hands. “I’m sweaty already.”
“I know, and it’s turning me on like crazy.” The lawyer reached for his hands and moved them down to his sides. He cupped Gabe’s neck and drew him in for a gentle kiss.
Gabe’s eyes rolled back in his head before they closed. The rough scrape of Tucker’s face against his had his cock springing to attention. The musky scent of masculine cologne filled his nostrils and he thought for a second that he’d died and gone to heaven. He’d missed this. He loved Brook like no man had ever loved a woman, but by God, he needed this. Sighing, he opened his mouth and moaned when Tucker’s tongue batted his.
Forgetting his sweat-slicked skin, he grasped Tucker’s waist and slid his hands beneath the suit coat to clasp his ass. They had matching hard-ons, and pressing them together made both men groan.
Neither seemed to want the kiss to end, but Gabe finally had to breathe. He pulled back and they stared into each other’s eyes.
“Want you,” Tucker mumbled, gaze filled with lust.
Need you,” he replied, then shook his head. “But I can’t do that to my wife. I love Brook, and I pledged her loyalty in our vows.”
Tucker smiled. “Bring her along.”
Jenna Byrnes
Page Scorching Erotic Romance


Saturday, November 22, 2014

FOREVER AND A DAY by Stormy Glenn

Wolf Creek Pack 11
Available Now!
Samuel Erickson, a human and former blood slave, hates vampires with a vengeance.  He doesn’t trust a single blood sucker, except for maybe Sully, the vampire that saved him. But trusting someone and giving in to the desire that burns within every time he’s around the handsome vampire are two distinctly different things. When their lives are threatened and they have to fight side by side just to stay alive, the hatred Samuel harbors seems less important.
Sully Buckley, a vampire, despises humans just as much as Samuel hates vampires. Nothing good could ever come of their association. Sully has been telling himself this since he first set eyes on the frightened human. To his dismay, he was finding it harder to remember those reasons the more time he spent with Samuel.
Despite the issues between them, nothing can prevent Sully from running to the rescue when they are attacked by soldiers sent by Samuel’s father. When betrayal comes from within their ranks, Sully knows he has to put aside his hatred and fight for his mate or lose him forever, and he desperately wants forever and a day.
Samuel Erickson glanced up when he heard a soft knock on his bedroom door. He wasn’t surprised when the door opened a moment later, even if he didn’t invite anyone in, and Sully walked inside, shutting the door behind him. Sully looked over at him for a moment then stepped over to the wall next to the door and slid down until he was sitting on the floor.
Samuel could almost predict what the vampire would do. Sullivan Buckley had been coming into his room almost every night for nearly three months. The only time he didn’t show was when he was on a mission for his prince—another vampire.
Sully would search the room until he saw Samuel and then slide down the wall to sit on the floor next to the door. He usually brought a book or something to read, sometimes his Ipad.
Sully stopped trying to get Samuel to talk after the first week.
Samuel still couldn’t figure out why the vampire continued to come every night when he knew Samuel hated vampires. He loathed them. Every damn last one of them needed to be staked through the heart, slowly. Several times. Then maybe burned at the stake or drawn and quartered.
Well, maybe not all of them, but most of them. His brother Danny was mated to a vampire. Prince Dominic Xavier Lucian Ruelle seemed somewhat okay. He made Danny happy and kept him safe. Samuel was grateful for that. The danger they were in on a daily basis from their psychotic monster of a father never seemed to lesson.
Maybe that was why Sully visited every night.
“Why are you here?” Samuel needed to know. He was no longer afraid of Sully, for the most part anyway. He still got a little nervous around the vampire. Despite the fact that Sully had rescued him from a life of hell as a blood slave and never made a single threatening move toward him, the man was still a vampire. He still drank blood to survive. Having been a blood slave for several months, Samuel could honestly say that it was something he never wanted to experience again in his life.
Sully’s eyebrows were raised as if the man was shocked to hear Sully speak. “You sleep better when I’m here.”
Well, that much was true. Samuel woke up screaming in the night if Sully wasn’t there. When Samuel had been a blood slave, the nighttime had been made of nightmares even when he was awake. That was when the vampires would come for him, after the sun set.
Samuel didn’t remember any of his nightmares, and for that he was thankful. But he knew they were bad. He woke screaming in a cold sweat. It took hours to calm down and feel like his heart wasn’t going to jump out of his chest.
Sully’s presence made him feel like he could breathe.
“Did you feed today?”
Sully’s dark eyebrow went up, just one of them. “You know I did.”
Samuel reached down and rubbed his stomach when it clenched. He tried to understand that vampires needed blood to survive but he just didn’t understand it. It was gross and terrible and humiliating.
Everyone tried to convince Samuel that it wasn’t a horrible act, that they weren’t forcing some poor soul to bleed for them. Samuel didn’t believe a word of it. He had seen how vampires fed. He had experienced the excruciating pain involved with being a blood slave. No one was going to convince him that it didn’t hurt or make him wish he was dead. Not even the vampire that chased his nightmares away.
“Is he alive?”
Sully’s dark eyes rolled, a smirk twisting his lips. “She is fine.”
Samuels gut tightened as Sully’s words scraped over his skin like a razorblade. He knew enough from eavesdropping on conversations and the things Sully said to know the man was straight as they came. He even preferred his blood donors to be female.
Samuel turned back toward the window. His thoughts were jumbled, sporadic. He was having a hard time pulling one together enough to have a complete thought. It shouldn’t have bothered him that Sully was straight, and yet it did. The man was a vampire. Despite what Danny said, Samuel knew nothing could ever come of the draw he felt toward Sully.
Hell, Samuel didn’t even know what the draw was. Just that it was there. His heart always beat a little faster until he saw Sully, his stomach knotting until the vampire was in the room with him. He felt…something when Sully was around. Safe, and yet afraid at the very same time.
His feelings toward Sully were confusing. He anticipated the vampire’s arrival in his room like the coming of the sun. And yet, the only way he could truly think of Sully was by not thinking of him as vampire. He didn’t really think of Sully as human, either. It was readily apparent to anyone looking at the physically imposing man that he wasn’t human. There was something feral about him, an uncivilized edge.
It was as attractive as it was terrifying.
Samuel’s entire body seized painfully as a series out loud pops sounded from somewhere outside of his room. The brash bangs were quickly followed by an earsplitting scream and several voices raised in volume.
Sully was on his feet and pulling the door open before Samuel barely got turned around. “Stay here!” Sully ordered as he hurried out of the room, slamming the door closed behind him.
Samuel pulled the edges of his blanket up to his chin. The sounds of violence were growing louder, more dangerous. They were growing closer.
His heart pounding faster with each sound he heard, the fear building inside of him started to make his chest ache. Samuel jumped up and ran across the room, turning the lock on his door. It might not keep anyone out but it would slow them down some.
He hoped.
Samuel backed away from the door, watching the door handle intently. He wanted to know what was going on, and yet he didn’t. The fear of what might be happening was almost paralyzing. Samuel backed up until he hit the far wall, and then he wedged himself down into the spot between the dresser and the wall, trying to make the smallest possible target.
Samuel slapped his hand over his mouth to keep from crying out when someone kicked at the door. Fear clogged his throat, blocking the air trying to escape in a blood curdling scream. Whoever was on the other side of the thick wood continued to kick at it until it splintered and the door crashed open.
For a brief moment, every horrible thing that had ever happened to him flashed before him. Samuel thought he was going to be sick.
Then the voice that was calling out for him took on a name and Sully’s face appeared before him. “Samuel, snap out of it,” Sully snarled as he grabbed Samuel by the arms and yanked him to his feet. “We need to go.”

“Damn it, Samuel.” It took all of Sully’s brute strength to keep Samuel from hitting him. He finally just wrestled the man against the hard stone all, pinning him there with his arms restrained behind him. “That is enough!”
“Get off me!” Samuel snapped.
“Not until you calm down.”
“Fuck you!” Samuel growled.
“Don’t temp me.”
Samuel froze. Not a muscle moved. If Sully didn’t smell the blood rushing through his veins or didn’t hear the man’s heart thundering in his chest, he might have thought Samuel was a mannequin.
“You don’t like men,” Samuel whispered. “You don’t even feed from them.”
Sully frowned as he released Samuel’s wrists and spun the man around. Samuel leaned back as if he needed the wall to help him stay standing. Sully wasn’t sure discussing his feeding habits with Samuel was such a good idea but he didn’t want the man to get the wrong idea about him either. For some reason, he wanted Samuel to think good things about him.
“I like men and women, Samuel, but I tend to lean toward men, which is why I usually choose women to feed from. Feeding can be very intimate and I don’t want to cross that line with someone that is just there to feed me.”
Sully’s eyes followed the movement of Samuel’s tongue as the man licked his lips. He knew he needed to keep his name in the game because this was a very serious conversation, but damn. That was one of the most erotic things he had ever seen.
“I thought you chose women to feed from because you preferred women.”
“No.” Sully shook his head. “Many of my kind believe sex and feeding go hand in hand. I don’t. I believe it can, but only if both parties agree. I’ve seen too many vampires feed and go into a frenzy  where they didn’t even hear the word no let alone listen to it. I refuse to go there so I feed from women who, most of the time, don’t arouse me like men do.”
Samuel’s eyes narrowed to little slits of anger. “What men?” Almost as quickly as he had spoken the words, Samuel’s eyebrows shot up his forehead and he slapped a hand over his mouth. It was obvious he hadn’t meant to speak those words, but he had.
And Sully could no more have prevented the grin that spread over his lips than he could have stopped breathing. He moved a little closer, pressing his body against Samuel’s. “Does that bother you, Samuel, knowing I become aroused when feeding from other men?”
“No, of course not,” Samuel whispered but the emotion burning in his eyes said otherwise.
Sully inhaled sharply at the instant lust that filled him when the heady scent of Samuel’s arousal seeped into his skin, curling around his senses.
Samuel made Sully forget…everything.
Sully’s eyes locked onto Samuel’s tempting lips. They were made for kissing, for licking. They were made for him. Sully grabbed Samuel and slanted his mouth over his, trying his best to devour the man.
He wrapped his hand around the back of Samuel’s neck, curling his fingers in soft wavy curls, holding him close. Sully’s other hand slid up Samuel’s side, wrapping around him and pulling his body closer as he tilted his head for better access.
Samuel opened, allowing Sully’s tongue to do whatever the hell it wanted to. He explored the warm, wet cavern of Samuel’s mouth, luxuriating in Samuel’s sweet little moans.
Samuel’s hips cradled Sully’s thick cock. Arousal spiraled through Sully like a bullet ricocheting through a rubber room when he felt Samuel’s hard cock bush against his own.
Sully broke the kiss and inhaled the human’s enticing scent into his lungs. He unzipped the hoody and slid it off Samuel’s shoulders, followed by the weapon’s vest. Samuel didn’t need to be armed for what he had in mind.
He pushed Samuel’s shirt up to his armpits and ran his hand down the man’s slim chest. He let the warm pleasure of just being able to touch Samuel roll over him in waves as he began to trace patterns across Samuel’s stomach.
When he reached the waistline of Samuel’s jeans, he moved just a little lower and pressed the palm of his hand over Samuel’s erection. A course of lust shot through Sully’s groin when Samuel’s lips parted and a moan escaped his lips. Sully was fascinated by the sight, his dick throbbing in anticipation of what was to come.
Hell, his cock was about to explode in his jeans.
“Sully,” Samuel groaned words Sully never thought to hear come out of the human. “I need, Sully.”
Sully tugged hard at the waistband of Samuel’s pants, and the buttons gave way. He pushed them down Samuel’s legs until the man could step out of them. With nothing beneath but skin, it was easy for Sully to cup Samuel’s cock, stroke him, make him want and need.
He slid Samuel’s shirt up farther, pulling it up and over Samuel’s head. Samuel raised his arms and allowed Sully to undress him. He tossed the shirt aside and then he ran his hands down Samuel’s chest, his thumbs playing at Samuel’s beautiful brown-hued nipples.
Sully’s fingers tightened, squeezing Samuel’s nipples, rolling them between his fingertips. Samuel bucked against him, pressing his chest harder into Sully’s hands. It was the most erotic thing Sully had ever seen.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Broken by Jessica Freely

When the closeted younger brother of a mob boss falls for the boss's latest acquisition, a rent-boy from Hong Kong, it's either suicide or one last chance for two broken men to rescue each other.

Published by Loose Id

ISBN: 978-1-61118-554-6

Genre: M/M Romantic Suspense
60,000 words


It was Saturday night and Club 7 was packed with people in fancy clothes, dancing, partying, and shouting at one another over the pounding music. 
This was so not Eben's scene. But Nicky loved it here. Eben waded through the crowd of girls in skimpy dresses and guys in expensive suits. The mingled scents of cologne, perfume, and alcohol made his head swim.
Finally Eben made it to the roped off VIP section where Nicky held court. His brother sat on a leather couch with Jimmy and Paul Shawnessy. Rhonda, Tabitha, Goldy, and Chevonne were all over them.
Paul looked uncomfortable, but Nicky and Jimmy were enjoying themselves, feeling the girls up and sipping champagne.
"And here's the guest of honor!" said Nicky, spotting Eben. He rose, holding a bottle of champagne aloft. "What took you so long? Come on. Let's get this party started!"
Nicky drew Eben over to the couch. "Everybody, my little brother is twenty-one today." 
A cheer went up. Over by the VIP bar sat Bill William, Big Pete, and Sean Hoolihan. Their wives were there too, clustered around someone dressed in a tuxedo that Eben couldn't quite make out. 
Until Brenda Hoolihan bent to pick up her purse.
Xiu looked right at Eben. Their gazes locked.
All of Eben's breath left him at once. 
Xiu wore a black tuxedo that skimmed the lines of his slender frame perfectly. His hair was neatly combed, glossy in the dim light of the club. He held a glass of champagne in one hand.
He looked like James Bond.
"Here you go, bro." Nicky handed Eben a glass of champagne.
Xiu lifted his glass to him and drank.
Eben downed his in one long gulp.
"That's my boy!" said Nicky, pulling Eben down onto the couch. Eben lost sight of Xiu in the crowd. Just as well. His face was burning. At least he had the alcohol to blame it on.
"Got a special night planned for you, little bro," said Nicky.
Over his shoulder Jimmy grinned. 
Eben suppressed a shudder. Special usually meant fucking. "You shouldn't go to no trouble for me." 
Rhonda, looking glamorous with her blonde hair swept up and a red mini-dress clinging to her curves, leaned over, pressing her breasts against his arm as she whispered in his ear. "Don't worry, baby. Me and the girls got your back." She sat back, patting him on the cheek. 
Eben relaxed. Rhonda knew about him. She'd put two and two together a long time ago, but she never blew his cover. In fact, she made sure all the girls covered for him too. They even spread stories about him. The kinds of stories guys wanted girls to tell about them: how big he was, how he fucked like a machine.
As long as Rhonda was in on whatever big surprise Nicky had planned, Eben didn't have to worry
"You want another drink, baby?" asked Rhonda, standing up. 
"Can I have a beer?"
Nicky laughed and wrapped an arm around Eben's neck. He pulled him close and ran his knuckles over Eben's skull. But not hard. He was just playing. "That's what I love about this guy. We got thousand-dollar Crystal Magnums for his birthday, and he wants a beer." 
Nicky released Eben and leaned over the coffee table where a mirror with lines of blow sat. He picked up the mirror, did a line, and handed it to Jimmy. "Anyway, Paul, I'll fill you in on the rest when I have more specifics, in a week or two. But get ready. This thing is going to be big."
"Okay. Yeah." Paul glanced around at all the expensive clothes, the lush surroundings. "Now unless there's something else you need to talk about tonight, I'll be going."
"What? It's Eben's birthday."
Paul nodded. "Happy Birthday, Eben."
"Thanks Paul." Eben didn't mind Paul much. He was older. He'd been Da's advisor and he'd kept the Flannery family operating until Nicky came of age. No fuss about handing over the reigns at that point either. 'Course anyone could see Nicky was born to take over the family business. Paul was a smart guy, and no meaner than he had to be.
But that didn't mean he was immune to pissing Nicky off. "What the fuck? You disrespecting my brother's birthday?" A dangerous edge came into Nicky's voice.
 Paul raised his hands. "Not at all. I have the utmost respect for your brother, his birthday, and for you. But" -- Paul gestured to Tabitha and Goldy, who were making out while a bunch of the guys watched, and to Jimmy, who'd brought the blow to the bar and was sharing it with Bill, Pete, and Sean -- "I'm old school. This ain't my scene. In your da's day, we met at the Shillelagh, and it was either business, or serious drinking. Never both. And not all of this other stuff. The drugs, the girls. Throwing your money around like some kinda rap star."
"You object to the girls?" said Nicky. "What, you a fag or something?"
"I'm gonna let that pass 'cause I know you don't mean it. But that's another thing. This new whore you brung over. It's a dude. What are folks gonna say?"
"What are folks gonna say? They're gonna say, 'Look at all that money Nicky Flannery's making off the fags. He's one smart motherfucker.’ That's what they're gonna say."
Paul shook his head.
"Trouble with you old timers is you're stuck in the past. This is the twenty-first fucking century. You want a make a killing these days, you gotta think outside the box. Get it? Think outside the box?"
Everyone laughed, including Paul.
"'Sides, the ladies like him too. Check it out." Nicky nodded to where Brenda, Sally, and Colleen hovered around Xiu like honeybees. Brenda had a hand on his shoulder. Sally tossed her hair. "They're nuts about him."
"But he's a queer."
"Yeah. Go figure. Chicks are weird."
Rhonda came back with Eben's beer and someone brought out a cake. Paul stuck around to eat a slice, then departed. By then Nicky was too busy sticking his face in Tabitha's cleavage to notice.
Eben drank beers and tried not to get caught staring at Xiu. He was on his sixth Heineken and slowly sinking ever deeper into the couch when "Happy Birthday" started playing.
Everyone gathered around. "Time for your birthday present, little bro." Nicky placed a box wrapped in gold paper on the table in front of him.
Eben heaved himself upright. "You got me a present? That sure was nice of you." 
"Open it. Open it," said Nicky.
The box was heavy. Eben peeled off the paper to reveal a stainless steel case. As he put it down on the coffee table, the weight of it seemed to settle on his heart. He knew what came in cases like this. He unfastened the latches and opened it to reveal a chrome-plated 10mm Glock automatic. Its polished surface gleamed in the soft light of the club. "Wow." 
Bill whistled. "That's a beautiful piece."
"Time my little brother had one of his own." Nicky hugged him.
Shit. Eben forced a smile and hugged him back. "What a wonderful birthday present. Thanks!" He didn't want it. Didn't even want to pick it up, but he had to. Everyone was watching. Eben lifted the gun out of its case and hefted it. He checked the action and held it out as if to shoot with it. Can I put it back in its case now? He turned back to Nicky, trying to look delighted. Thank the Holy Mother of God I'm drunk. 
"Wait, there's more," said Nicky.
Fuck. What now? Another box wrapped in gold foil appeared before Eben, which at least gave him an excuse to put the gun back in its case. He opened box number two to find a shoulder holster. "Awesome."
"Try it on, try it on," said Nicky, bouncing up and down like a kid on Christmas morning. 
Eben hoisted himself up off the couch, swayed a little and then slid the holster on over his shirt. Rhonda helped him adjust the straps. Nicky took the gun from the case, snapped the cartridge in place, and slid it into the holster. It bulged under Eben's arm like a tumor.
"You should see yourself," said Nicky. "You look totally badass."
Eben scanned the gathering. Everyone was smiling and nodding in approval. It's already decided. This is who I am. But then he caught sight of Xiu, over by the bar. 
Xiu tilted his head and gave him a crooked smile and a little shrug. Of everyone there, it seemed like he alone understood how Eben really felt, though of course, there was nothing to be done about it.
Someone handed Eben another glass of champagne and he downed it.
Suddenly the music got louder. All the girls clustered around him.
"Time for your birthday lap dance, Eben," said Nicky.
Rhonda winked at him as she pushed him back down onto the couch. Eben was very aware of the loaded gun nestled at his side as the girls writhed all over him. At least he was safe in the knowledge that none of them would mention it was the only thing that was hard. He sank deeper into the cushions of the couch.
Eventually the girls finished and everybody was clapping and laughing. Then suddenly the crowd parted and Xiu stood before Eben. He swayed ever so slightly and his cheeks were pink, but he carried himself like he owned the place, and Eben too. How much had he been drinking? He undid his tie and fixed Eben with a smoldering look. "Happy Birthday, to you."
Somewhere behind him Eben heard Nicky laughing, louder than ever. Everyone else joined in. Big joke.
Xiu threw his tie in Eben's face. He peeled off his black tuxedo jacket. He started unbuttoning the shirt beneath.
Eben tried to keep from getting hard. It was impossible, even with Nicky and everyone else standing around watching and giggling.
"Happy Birthday, to you." Xiu took off his shirt and tossed it in Eben's lap. 
Thank Jesus.
Xiu climbed onto Eben's lap, straddling his thighs. He rested his hands on Eben's shoulders and swayed from side to side. "Happy Birthday, Eben Flannery."
Smells of champagne, cologne, and sweat wafted over Eben. He felt dizzy -- probably all the blood rushing to his cock.
"Hey Nicky, you gonna let this go on?" said Sean. "Eben's too drunk to stop him."
"I'd do something about it, but I can't stop laughing."
Laughter surrounded Eben and Xiu like a shield. They stared at each other as Xiu gyrated on Eben's lap. Eben could see the outline of Xiu's erection. Eben's own cock felt like it was made of steel. 
Xiu leaned closer, his breath warm on Eben's face. "Happy Birthday, to you." He ran a hand down Eben's chest, toward his jeans.
Eben opened his mouth, to say 'stop,' 'more,' or to kiss Xiu, he wasn't certain which.
Suddenly a hand clamped down on Xiu's shoulder. "Okay, Schoolboy, enough. You've had your fun. You've got a date tonight, remember?" It was Jimmy.
The invisible shield surrounding Eben and Xiu dissolved. The laughter of the rest of the party seemed louder than it had been a moment ago. It crashed in upon them like ice water, dousing Eben's arousal.
Xiu seemed to wilt under Jimmy's hand. Shoulders slumped, he got up off Eben's lap, taking his shirt with him. 
Rhonda took Xiu's place, straddling Eben's thighs. She grabbed his hands and pressed them to her breasts. "Here honey, I got what you're looking for."
Eben's smile was one of gratitude, not excitement, but nobody else had to know that. Over Rhonda's shoulder, he watched Xiu walk away with Jimmy.
Jimmy kept his hand on Xiu's shoulder, pushing him toward the door. Just as they reached the red velvet rope that marked off the VIP section, Xiu looked over his shoulder at Eben. 
Eben couldn't decipher the look on Xiu's face in that moment, but it haunted him for the rest of the night.