Fake Date Flip-Flop

A Williamsville Inn Story

Fake Date Flip-Flop cover

The first family wedding after a painful breakup. A milestone high school reunion. A hotel with a history of romantic meetings and happily ever afters.

While checking in at the Williamsville Inn, Nash and Tobias meet and feel an immediate spark of attraction. During an impromptu shared dinner, they commiserate about being single for their weekend events: the wedding of Nash’s niece, and Tobias’ thirtieth high school reunion.

When they hatch a plan to be each other’s fake date for the weekend, neither man realizes that while they’re pretending to be an item to satisfy nosey family and inquisitive friends, they just might end up falling in love for real.

This story is set at the Williamsville Inn and is part of the Williamsville Inn Series of gay romance stories.

Excerpt:

Who had a wedding on a Sunday in January?

"Cheaper," Nash muttered to himself as he pulled on a pair of jeans. He went through his suitcase, assessing and discarding shirts.

Maybe the blue chambray that brought out his eyes? “What the hell am I doing? It's not a fucking date."

Shaking his head at himself, he chose the navy cashmere V-neck pullover he'd brought for the rehearsal dinner and tugged it over his head. Any other shirt he'd brought could work for the dinner.

But it doesn't matter because it's not a fucking date.

“You’re treating it like one, though.”

He pulled on the pair of casual winter walking boots, grateful he’d packed them considering how much snow he'd have to deal with all weekend. And which, according to Tobias, was just the beginning. Why did people live in this region?

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When there was a knock at the door, Nash checked his watch. Thirty minutes right on the dot. That was a good sign.

Not that it means anything because you're not going on a date. It's dinner with a guy you just met.

And how is that not a date?

Nash grabbed his coat and pulled the door open, stopping and staring as Tobias stared right back.

Tobias wore a flannel shirt over a black T-shirt, both tucked into a pair of jeans that had to have been altered to accentuate his amazing ass. Nash couldn't seem to pull his eyes up from Tobias's ass, until he realized Tobias stood turned slightly sideways to show off his profile.

Cheeky bastard, showing off that delicious ass he probably spends three days a week working on at the gym.

"Wow." Tobias caught himself and tried to act more casual as he leaned in and said, "Is that cashmere?" He attempted to look like he was studying Nash's sweater but seemed instead to be ogling his pecs and the chest hair sticking up through the neckline.

"It is. Is that pure flannel?"

Tobias grinned and set off down the hall. Nash noted he really did have a fantastic ass. “One hundred percent, baby. I graduated in the 90's. It's all about the grunge."

Nash followed and pulled on his coat as he asked, "Is it really grunge flannel if you tuck it into your jeans?"

The grin widened into a bright smile, and Tobias nodded as he pressed the call button. "All right. You've got some sass and snark underneath that Gruff Daddy exterior. I like it."

"Gruff Daddy?"

Tobias gave him a look. "Oh, please. Don't even try to pretend like you've never heard that before."

Nash sighed. "Fine. I've heard it before."

"How often?"

"A lot."

"I'm sure you have." Tobias look him up and down, taking his time, and Nash’s stomach did a little somersault. It had been a long time since anyone had checked him out like that.

The elevator arrived, and Tobias stepped inside. Nash followed, wondering what the hell he was getting himself into.

COLLAPSE

Murder Most Deserving

Murder Most Deserving Cover art
Part of the Lacetown Murder Mysteries series:

An acoustic music festival comes to Lacetown, and with it, another dead body—this one found at Fleishman’s Funeral Home. Michael recuses himself from the autopsy, handing the job over to his arch-nemesis from a neighboring county.

Luckily Michael and local hairstylist Jazz are closer than ever. Between a trio of funerals, a blowout BBQ, and a couple of trips on Beulah, Jazz’s beloved scooter, Michael and Jazz do some sleuthing of their own. With the first gruesome murder still fresh in their memories, they can’t help but wonder if notorious murderer and famous author Russell Withingham might be targeting them from jail, where he’s awaiting trial.

The festival, however, brings in a veritable lineup of potential killers, including a familiar—and most unwelcome—figure from their past. As the murderer circles ever closer to Jazz and Michael, Sheriff Musgrave is quick to remind them that everyone’s a suspect until Sheriff Musgrave says they’re not!

The Cupid Crawl

A Williamsville Inn Story

The Cupid Crawl cover

What happens when a confirmed hook up app user falls for a man who is his polar opposite?

Carter Walsh will be alone on Valentine’s Day, and his plans include a candy sampler of hook ups.

But after learning about the Cupid Crawl—a bar crawl covering a half dozen bars, gay and straight—he changes his plans.

During the crawl, he runs into:

An ex-co-worker nemesis who resurrects—loudly—an unfortunate nickname she bestowed upon him years before.

Several hot men eager for a quick hook up.

And one man absolutely not Carter’s type, but who manages to pique his interest and, possibly, steal his heart.

The Cupid Crawl is a funny, sweet, and steamy opposites attract, slight age gap story that takes place in the Williamsville Inn series world, and features characters from the Christmas stories Snowflakes and Song Lyrics by Hank Edwards and Snowstorms and Second Chances by Brigham Vaughn.

Excerpt:

Vic, the organizer, led the way, squeezing past the men and women standing in the doorway and forging a path for Carter to follow. At first, Carter thought he was way overdressed. The men he slid past were shirtless, some wearing just white loin cloths or even cloth diapers along with feathered wings strapped around their broad chests. These men gave him a brief glance, maybe a quick smile, but were busy talking to each other or women who were also baring a lot of skin. Didn’t these people realize it was February in Boston?

When he reached the bar, Carter was relieved to see people wearing shirts and pants instead of just diapers and short shorts. Vic leaned in over the bar and said to the bartender, “Don, this is my good friend, Carter. Put his first two drinks on my tab.”

“Oh, you don’t have to do that,” Carter insisted. “I have money.”

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“Happy Valentine’s Day, Carter,” Vic said. “The first two drinks are on me to help you relax. I’m going to make a round of the bar, but when I return, I hope to find you talking with someone, and not just leaning on the bar all alone.”

“I know how to socialize,” Carter said.

“Oh, I’m sure you do.”

Vic winked again before threading his way through the crowd, greeting people as he slid past them. Carter ordered a beer from Don, and then fished a couple of singles out of his wallet for a tip. He lifted his bottle to salute Don and had just taken a swig when a piercingly high voice shrieked from just behind him. The sound startled him so much he choked on his beer and started to cough. He turned, coughing and sputtering, and squinted through his tears at the woman standing behind him.

Auburn hair done up tall, bright green eyes that could be nothing other than colored contact lenses, a pert, upturned nose, and a broad mouth filled with teeth laser-whitened to solar flare level.

Carter’s heart stuttered with surprise and dread as he struggled to clear his airway.

“I saw you walk in and had to come over and see if it was really you!” she exclaimed.

With a final clearing of his throat, Carter managed a smile and said, “Lizzie. Hello! What a treat to see you.”

Lizzie’s smile widened even further and she crossed her arms. It was then Carter noticed she wore what looked like a sports bra with a pair of white wings strapped to her shoulders, and a sheer white shift around her waist that showed off a pair of black panties trimmed with lace.

“As I live and breathe,” Lizzie said with a shake of her head. “Carter the Farter.”

COLLAPSE

Snowflakes and Song Lyrics

A Williamsville Inn Story

Cover image showing a singer wearing a hat and holding a guitar.
Part of the The Williamsville Inn series:

A hotel room with an overactive heater.
A rising star struggling to write a Christmas song.
Song lyrics written in secret.

Will Johnson is shocked to discover his hotel room window overlooks the courtyard patio of one of his favorite gay singers, Rex Garland. Even more amazing, Rex seems interested in Will too.

When Will overhears Rex struggling to write an original Christmas song, he is struck by a flash of inspiration and drafts an anonymous note with song lyrics. Will is sure nothing will come of it, but the Christmas magic swirling amidst all the snow in upstate New York is about to change both their lives forever.

This funny, sweet, and heart-warming love story about a boy-next-door and the celebrity of his dreams is set in the Williamsville Inn world.

Excerpt:

The Williamsville Inn had seen better days. Most likely sometime back in the 1960s. The early 1960s.

Will entered his room after a long first day on the job, and the heat nearly made him pass out in the entryway. It had to be ninety degrees! He desperately pulled off clothing as he searched for a thermostat, but by the time he was down to socks and his boxer briefs, he’d had no luck.

“So I’ve died and gone to Hell, and this is what I have to look forward to for eternity?” Will muttered.

The heating/air conditioning unit under the window—a long metal contraption with a number of vents set at an upward angle—made a thumping noise followed by a quiet hiss. Will sidestepped to the end of the bed and peered down at the thing. A stamp with the brand name Rest Easy was affixed to one corner, and warm air gusting out of the vents blew the sheer curtains away from the windowsill.

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Will approached the unit and discovered a small metal flap on a hinge at one end. Underneath was a small knob with a faded line painted on it. The knob was turned all the way over to COOL, and Will sighed. No more cool setting to try, apparently.

“So much for resting easy, I guess.”

He pulled the flimsy white curtains aside and inspected the window. Happiness filled him when he discovered the age of the hotel at last worked in his favor, and one side of the window was a slider he could open for some fresh air. The locking mechanism was old, however, and took some struggle before it finally released and allowed him to shove the window open with a squeal of the metal frames scraping together.

Will closed his eyes and drew in a deep breath of the fresh, cool air. He released it slowly and opened his eyes to look down into the courtyard. His room was on the top floor of the three-story building, and the first-floor rooms across from his all had small patios outside a sliding door. Metal café tables and chairs were provided for each room, and all of it was covered in snow. A quartet of lights in the style of old streetlamps, complete with large round frosted glass shades, provided gentle illumination to the area.

Just as he was wondering if the first-floor rooms cost more because of the tiny patios, one of the sliding doors almost directly across from his window opened, and a man stepped out.

He was tall, with dark hair and a matching full beard. A flannel shirt covered a white tee that hugged his broad chest and flat stomach. The cuffs of tight black jeans had been tucked into black Doc Martens. Something about the man seemed familiar, and Will guessed he’d seen him around the hotel. Someone like that would have definitely caught Will’s eye.

But then the man turned to call to someone still inside the room, and the sound of his voice tripped recognition in Will’s brain.

Rex Garland.

Will sucked in a breath and stared down into the courtyard, watching Rex pace around the cafe table, leaving a path in the snow. His hands were stuffed into the front pockets of his jeans, and he seemed to be muttering to himself.

A burning in his chest reminded Will to let out his breath and pull another one in.

Rex Garland was staying at his hotel. Would he be here for the entire run of his appearances at the Side-Eye? Will’s heart pounded, and a fresh sheen of sweat covered his body. Even the bottoms of his feet were damp!

A man joined Rex out on the patio, and the two of them spoke in low tones. Will watched, lips slightly parted as he absently rubbed a hand through the fine hair covering his chest. He couldn’t make out any words of their conversation until Rex threw his hands in the air and said, “I know I need to get it done, okay? Back the fuck off.”

The other man held his hands up in a sign of surrender and went back inside the room.

Rex’s paces around the small café table picked up speed, and Will could hear him talking to himself. He hated to see his favorite singer in such a state.

Suddenly, Rex stopped and stared across the courtyard. Will pressed his forehead to the glass in an effort to see straight down, but he wasn’t able to. When he looked back, he discovered Rex looking right up at his window. Realizing he must look pretty fucking creepy standing in front of his window in his underwear, Will dropped to the floor and lay there for a moment listening to the heating unit rattle and hiss.

Shit. Now what?

Will rolled onto his belly and did an Army crawl away from the window until he’d reached the far side of the bed. He got up and hurried into the bathroom where he sat on the lid of the toilet with his head in his hands.

Rex Garland was staying at his hotel.

Rex Garland was having a hard time with something and had shouted at one of his team.

Rex Garland had more than likely seen Will standing in his boxer briefs at the window and watching him.

His best friend Carter was going to love this story.

COLLAPSE

Dread of Night

Something big is prowling the woods around Parson’s Hollow, and Demetrius Singleton is afraid it’s another wolfman. The sudden arrival of Cody’s niece, Summer, and the strange behavior of Demetrius’ Aunt Amelia distract the two newlyweds from investigating until they learn some people have gone missing and others have been violently murdered. Demetrius and Cody now realize they are the only two with enough experience to stop whatever lurks in the woods.

Refusing to believe in a paranormal entity, Deputy Lucia Durant calls in a State Police sergeant, and Cody and Demetrius are surprised to find it’s Hap Blanchard, an officer they’ve worked with before who’s more open to paranormal possibilities. Soon, Demetrius, Cody, Lucia, and Hap are joined by a number of familiar friends who help them race the countdown to the next full moon and solve their most deadly and personal case yet.

Excerpt:

“Okay, so we have a lot to do, and we’re going to need some fuel to do it," Demetrius said. "What’d you two find for dinner?”

Cody exchanged a look with Summer. “Ketchup surprise.”

“Didn’t you two just go shopping?” Demmy said.

“You guys eat out a lot,” Summer said. “Do you ever cook?”

“Sometimes,” Cody said. “When we’re not hunting monsters.” He stood up and said, “Let’s get our fancy clothes on and go to Antonio’s.”

“What?” Demmy looked surprised. “Did you win the lottery or something?”

“Nope. Just think we should treat ourselves once in a while.”

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“Is it like Margie’s?” Summer asked, looking at him suspiciously. “Is Antonio Margie’s brother or something?”

“Antonio’s is the nicest restaurant in town,” Demmy said.

“Tablecloths and cloth napkins and glass goblets for water.”

“Won’t Margie miss you?”

“If you want, we could stay here and you could make us all dinner,” Cody said.

“Antonio’s sounds nice.”

“I thought you might see it that way.”

“Back to Parson’s Pines afterward?” Demmy asked. “Check on Felicia?”

Summer got up from the table and ran toward the guest room. “I’ll get changed! Do I need to wear long pants for such a fancy restaurant?”

“We’ve created a monster hunting monster,” Cody said.

“Let’s hope she doesn’t get a taste for it,” Demmy said, giving him a quick kiss before walking to the bedroom to change.

A note taped on the inside of Antonio’s glass door read: Sorry, closed due to family emergency.

“That sounds ominous,” Demmy said.

Cody had been thinking along the same lines. “How old is good ol’ Antonio?”

Demmy shrugged. “Not sure. We don’t eat here often enough to really know him.”

“Correction,” Cody said, “we don’t make enough money to be able to eat here often enough to really know him.”

Demmy grinned. “I stand corrected.”

That grin helped Cody feel a bit better in spite of everything. It let him know things probably weren’t as bad as they seemed. Yet.

He turned away from Antonio’s door and stopped at the sight of Summer standing just behind him with her arms crossed and a sulky expression.

“I take it we’re going to Margie’s again?” she said.

“In case you hadn’t noticed, there aren’t a lot of options here in town,” Cody said.

“Have you considered going to another town?”

Cody frowned. “Why would we do that?”

“Ugh.” Summer turned toward Margie’s Diner, several storefronts away. “I put on long pants for this.”

COLLAPSE

Swamped By Fear

Critter Catchers Book Three

While in Florida visiting Demetrius’s parents, best friends and business partners Cody and Demetrius realize their feelings for each other run deeper than just friendship. As they each struggle with emotions that promise to either detonate or deepen their relationship, Demetrius must also deal with his mother’s health issues. When a missing person’s case hits a little too close to home, the two tangle with a creature so frightening it’s scaring alligators out of the Everglades and into the swimming pools!

Excerpt:

“Hey Mr. Gator," Demetrius said as he dipped the end of the leaf net in the water and made some splashing sounds. "Let's get you out of there, okay? You've got to hate the chlorine, don't you? I bet it's messing up your eyes, isn't it?"

The alligator floated closer to the edge of the pool. Demetrius took a step back, extending his reach to keep the edge of the leaf net just above the water.

"Careful Demmy," Cody said in a calm, gentle voice.

"Yep, absolutely."

He knew alligators could move fast, but when the thing lunged at the leaf rake, as prepared as he thought he was, it still surprised him. The gator grabbed the leaf rake in its strong jaws and twisted as it dove beneath the water. Demetrius reacted without thinking and tightened his grip instead of releasing the rake. As the gator pulled the leaf rake under, it pulled Demetrius into the pool and under the water as well.

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Fear flared inside him, hot and suffocating. He remembered to release the leaf rake and struggled up to the surface. This section of the pool was ten feet deep, so he couldn't touch the bottom. Every moment he expected to feel the alligator's jaws clamp down on his foot or his leg and drag him underwater for good. Demetrius swam toward the pool's edge that seemed miles away instead of just a few feet. Cody was shouting something, but Demetrius couldn't make it out over the sound of his own panting breath and splashing water.

Something hit him in the back of the head and Demetrius screamed, thinking it was the alligator. But then he realized it was the life ring that Cody had thrown to him. He grabbed the ring to hold himself up and looked across the length of the pool as he reached out for the concrete edge. The alligator swam right for him, its snout creating a furrow through the water. Demetrius's heart pounded, and his breath came in short pants. He was never going to see how his mother's surgery went. He was never going to see his parents again. He was going to die with a whole list of things he had yet to do.

Cody was shouting his name over and over again, but Demetrius could not understand what he was saying. All he heard was the blood rushing in his ears and the sound of his own breathing. The alligator lifted its nose up out of the water and started to open its jaws. It was only a few feet from him now, and coming fast like a speedboat.

Demetrius pushed off from the wall, dragging the life ring along without thinking about it. The alligator missed him and hit the edge of the pool, sending a tidal wave of water out onto the deck. It thrashed its tail in anger. Demetrius did the sidestroke, heading for the shallow end of the pool as he kept the gator in sight, his left arm hooked through the life ring.

The alligator dove under the water and a sense of panic enveloped and consumed the fear inside him. The panic built on the fear, quadrupling then octupling it until it lived within him like some kind of invasive spirit, making it difficult for him to breathe.

Something tugged on the life ring, pulling him off his course and toward the side of the pool closest to the house. At that moment he felt the swell of displaced water behind him and it pushed him even closer to the house side of the pool. The alligator had surfaced right where he had been swimming, and if he hadn't been pulled out of the gator's path, it would have dragged him beneath the water and drowned him.

Cody crouched on the side of the pool, Hubert right behind him, both of them pulling on the rope tied to the life ring, dragging Demetrius through the water. Both men were shouting, but Demetrius still couldn't understand what they were saying as his heart pounded, his breath rasped in his throat, and the water sloshed around him. He touched the side of the pool and then reached up, feet kicking, stretching for the bottom but still unable to find it. How fucking deep was this pool, anyway? Then Cody had hold of his hands and lifted him out of the water and into his arms.

"I've got you," Cody said, holding him tight. "I've got you. You're safe."

Demetrius's heart pounded, and he could feel Cody's heart beating in time. They both had been frightened by his fall into the pool.

COLLAPSE

Screams of the Season

Critter Catchers Book Five

The holiday season pounces on Cody and Demetrius like one of the monsters they’ve tangled with. After their first time hosting Thanksgiving dinner as a couple, the two travel to Colorado to visit Cody's parents for Christmas. With all four of Cody's brothers expected as well, they're in for some pretty intense Bower family time.

When Cody's father drives his truck off the road and goes missing two days before Christmas, tensions run high within the Bower family. After Demetrius discovers some unusual clues at the scene of the accident, he and Cody suspect Greg Bower's disappearance might be tied to something more monstrous than icy roads. As often happens when the guys start working a case, some bizarre twists and turns leave Cody cursing monsters as he wonders if his parents' relationship is as solid as he's always believed.

In between samples of Cody’s brother’s primo cannabis product, the two deal with the rest of Cody's brothers, Christmas shopping with his nieces and nephews, a movie stuntman with a terrible sense of direction, and a police sergeant with some secrets of his own.

Excerpt:

Cody stopped and leaned against a hardwood tree to catch his breath and looked back. Demmy had paused as well, propping himself against a different tree as he panted. His face was red, and sweat stood out on his forehead just beneath his hat.

"This deep snow is hard to walk through," Demmy said.

"This may not have been my best idea."

"Better than trying to skateboard down my road by holding onto the back fender of my bike."

Cody chuckled and flexed his knee. "I still have the scars from those scrapes."

"I'm very aware of every one of your scars." Demmy grinned and waggled his eyebrows.

"If I weren't afraid of passing out trying to peel off all your layers, I'd be all over you right now."

"You say the sweetest things."

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Before Cody could suggest they turn back, he heard a sound. From Demmy's expression, he'd heard it too. Cody looked into the trees ahead of them. The sun was sinking fast, and the light played tricks with his eyes, making shadows seem to move. He held up a hand for Demmy to stay where he was and took three long, careful steps.

Something moved behind a tree about ten feet in front of him. It was tall and broad and looked like it was covered in hair.

Fucking hell. It could be a bear. Or Demmy might have been right about that footprint.

Cody started to look back at Demmy and motion for him to retreat, but the tall, broad, hairy figure moved. It faced away from them, shifting position as the muscles in its back flexed. It lifted its leg, pulling a massive foot out of the snow and planting it behind for better support.

And then it turned and looked over its shoulder right at him.

"Run!" Cody shouted.

He turned away from the thing and took off running. Demmy wasted no time asking what he'd seen. He had already turned and started running back the way they'd come.

Cody heard the thing rumble some kind of growl, and the sound urged him to move faster. Demmy was a few feet in front of him, high-stepping to clear the snow, both of them grunting and panting.

A mix of growls and snorts from behind sent shivers through him. He expected to feel a big hand grab his shoulder and spin him around, and then the thing would choke him until it crushed his neck.

How far had they walked away from the wider animal run? It felt like they had been trying to escape forever.

He risked a glance back, and his heart hammered even faster.

The thing was bounding after them, the fur around its face dusted with snow, highlighting the simian appearance. It reached out for him, but Cody was a few feet out of its reach.

"Faster!" Cody shouted.

Demmy looked back, his eyes big and his mouth a dark O of shock and exertion.

"What the fuck?" Demmy managed to shout between gasps.

"Just go!"

They burst out of the trees onto the animal run. Free of the thigh-deep snow, Demmy sprinted through the more widely-spaced pine trees and out into the open field. Cody was just a few feet behind him, and he could see people standing around the police cruisers in the gas station parking lot on the other side of the field.

He looked back and gasped with relief. The thing had not pursued them across the animal run. Cody could barely see its outline, glaring at him from behind a couple of trees.

Cody slowed a bit and managed to say, "Demmy… It's okay… It stopped."

Demmy looked back and then tripped over his own feet and went down on the snow. He reached Demmy and dropped to his knees beside him. They were both out of breath as they looked at each other.

"You okay?" Cody asked.

Demmy nodded. "Was it…?"

"Bigfoot? Most likely." Cody looked back, but the thing had moved back into the trees out of sight. "Fucking monsters."

COLLAPSE

The Devil of Pinesville

Critter Catchers Book Four

It's business as usual for Critter Catchers Demmy and Cody, with one pretty major change. Now, they're not only juggling their animal control business and decades of friendship, but the beginnings of a romance as well. Cody's always put a time limit on his past relationships, and he's certain he's going to mess things up with Demmy. For his part, Demmy is pretty sure Cody will, too. But trouble arrives in the form of one of Demmy's ex-boyfriends who contacts them about a case they might be able to handle in Pinesville, New Jersey. Sensing not just physical but romantic danger, Cody makes certain to accompany Demmy on the trip.

In Pinesville, they meet up with a handful of residents just as colorful, if not more so, than those in Parson's Hollow. And both are surprised to find they have some competition on this case, namely the Critter Ridders, a pair of very competitive women operating their own animal control business.

As the case intensifies, tempers flare and loyalties are tested, bringing Demmy and Cody to the point where they must decide if they're willing to save the business, their friendship, or their romance.

Excerpt:

Cody set the flashlight on the ground, beam pointed at two of the cages occupied by pacing skunks. He hefted the wet towels, one in each hand, as he looked for the one remaining skunk, of which there was no sign. "And the towels are going to keep their spray from getting out of the cage?"

"That's what the site claimed," Demmy said.

"Well, if it's on the internet, it must be true."

"Are you ready?"

"No."

They stood in place, towels in hand, flashlights on the ground and aimed at the cages.

"How about now?" Demmy asked.

"I'd like to know where that other skunk got off to."

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Barking erupted from behind them. It was frenzied and high-pitched, intermixed with shouts of surprise from Jugs. A string of harsh curses quickly followed, and the stink of skunk floated to them on the evening breeze. Moments later, Jugs rushed past them, eyes wide in the glow of their flashlights. His arms were stretched as far out as he could reach, and he held a frantically wriggling Enid Helen.

"She's hit!" Jugs shouted as he ran past. "It got her."

"Guess that answers my question," Cody said.

Demmy nodded. "Let's go."

Cody managed to drape a towel over the first cage with no problem. As he moved to the second cage, he stooped to pick up his flashlight and directed it toward the area of the yard where they'd been sitting. Jugs's lawn chair lay on its side, but there was no sign of the skunk.

With his attention diverted, Cody didn't realize how close he was to the next cage until his foot bumped against it. He cursed as he stumbled over it, the flashlight tumbling from his grip as he stretched out his hands to break his fall. A pungent stink exploded around him. He gagged and turned away to draw in a breath of fresh air as he scrambled to try and stand. His feet went out from under him and he fell flat on his stomach, face turned so he stared at the business end of the elusive skunk. He had just enough time to squeeze his eyes shut and turn his face away before he got blasted a second time.

"Shit!" Demmy shouted from somewhere nearby. "I got sprayed."

Cody kept his eyes closed and held his breath as he got to his hands and knees. He crawled blindly away from the skunks, lungs aching for fresh air. He ran into something and fell on top of it, rolling onto his side as he gasped for breath.

"What the fuck?" Demmy said from beneath him. "Oh, god. You… Skunks!"

Another blast of awful stink erupted around them. Cody's eyes burned and tears streamed down his face as he coughed and gagged, trying to catch his breath. Demmy squirmed beneath him, gagging as well, and suddenly Cody was rolled to the side. He got to his hands and knees and crawled a few feet away. The smell was everywhere, he couldn't get away from it. His nose and throat burned. It felt like steel wool had been packed into his lungs.

He gasped and drew in a deep breath. The searing odor filled his chest and his stomach twisted in revolt. Moments later, everything he'd eaten came up in a burning rush. He blurted out curses between each ugly clench of his gut until there was nothing left. Fuck, he hated throwing up.

A hand touched his back and ran slowly up and down his spine.

Demmy.

And from the lightness of his touch, Cody thought — hoped — that Demmy had forgiven him.

"I covered the three cages," Demmy said. "Can you stand?"

"I can't see anything," Cody said. "It got in my eyes."

"It's all over you. And pretty much all over me as well."

Demmy helped Cody to his feet and they moved away from the cages. The air cleared with each stumbling step, until they reached the chairs. A lingering cloud of skunk stink washed over them and Cody gagged again and went down on one knee.

"Shit." Demmy grunted as he tried to keep Cody on his feet. "This is where Enid Helen got sprayed. Over here. Come on."

Demmy directed Cody across the yard. After they'd staggered a distance from the chairs, Cody went down on his hands and knees. He could barely see his fingers splayed in the thick grass from the tears blurring his vision.

"Fuckin' skunks," Cody managed between coughing fits.

"Stay here," Demmy instructed. "I'll get the hose over here so you can wash your face and flush your eyes."

Cody put his forehead against the cool grass. He took deep, gulping breaths and kept his eyes squeezed shut as he muttered, "Fuckin' skunks."

COLLAPSE

Horror at Hideaway Cove

Critter Catchers Book Six

Cody and Demetrius are getting married! Along with the usual wedding details—venue, flowers, catering—they also deal with a sneaky otter and a growing guest list. The big day goes off without a hitch, and Cody whisks Demetrius away on the honeymoon he planned all on his own. When they arrive at the town of Hempstead, Cody is dismayed to discover the small town gets much of its tourism from the legend of Esther, a Loch Ness type monster rumored to live in the depths of Heaversford Lake.

At first the secluded cabin on an island in the middle of a large lake is the perfect setting for a romantic honeymoon. But then the power goes out, and after that they discover large wads of sticky, smelly plastic trash during their morning hikes. When a local resident drowns under mysterious circumstances, Demetrius and Cody realize that no matter how reluctant they might be, their experience with unusual creatures could help these town people solve the mystery of Esther once and for all. If it doesn't kill them first.

Excerpt:

The butterflies in Cody's belly had mutated into a flock of pterodactyls. He shifted his weight and cracked his knuckles, then tugged at the collar of his heavily starched white shirt. Sweat had slicked the skin of his back. How fucking hot was it inside this building? Did someone crank up the heater?

"You okay?"

Cody looked at the man standing to his right. He knew it was one of his brothers, but for a few terrifying seconds he couldn't think of his name.

Dave. It was Dave, his younger brother and best man. And he was keeping Cody company while he waited to walk down the center aisle of the chairs filled with their friends and family inside the Parson's Pines Optimum Life Community Center. The ceremony was being held in the Wickersham Room, while the reception would be across the hall in the Langley Room. 
"Huh? Me? Yeah. I'm fine."

"You're a little pale."

"It's the tuxedo. It's washing out my complexion."

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Dave chuckled. "Yeah, I don't think a white tuxedo is going to make you look quite this pale. You look like you're going to throw up."

Cody shook his head. "No. Just a little nervous."

"About getting married?"

Cody held his hand up and waggled it back and forth. "Sort of. Mostly just talking in front of everyone."

"Dude, you talk with all of us all the time."

"Yeah, with all of you, not in front of all of you."

"You'll do great. Just focus on Demetrius."

Cody glanced toward the black screen Amelia had asked Otis to put together. It blocked his view of Demetrius who stood at the opposite side of the room. Because they didn't want to assign any kind of gender roles, they had discussed with Amelia how to handle the wedding processional. After some long conversation, she had finally suggested Cody and Demmy enter from opposite sides of the space, to the left and right of the guests. The wedding party would walk down the center aisle, but a screen would be set up to keep Cody and Demmy from seeing each other until it was time. They would walk in at the same time and come down the far aisles, turn at the front and approach each other until they stood together before Amelia.

It had all sounded great and easy and swell when they had been talking about it, but now that it was almost time, Cody was afraid he was going to trip or stumble or fart or belch or throw up or pass out, or any number of other embarrassing things.

The low and calming music faded out, and Cody's heart pounded. His mouth felt dry, and his tongue seemed to have grown to the size of his forearm, complete with hair.

Dave pulled him into a tight hug. "I love you, big brother. And I'm really, really happy for you. You're my best friend, and I wish you and Demetrius every happiness."

"Gark," Cody managed to say in reply.

Dave stepped back, winked, then turned away and lined up behind Jugs and Demetrius's roommate from college, Trent Warburton, who had agreed to be his groomsman. All four men wore black tuxedos, including Demmy's best man, Oliver, who also happened to be his ex-boyfriend. Cody had only griped a little bit when Demmy had told him who he'd wanted to ask to be his best man. The truth was, Cody had gotten to like Ollie over the years, even though he pretended he wasn't very fond of him.

Still, he didn't think he'd want Demmy and Ollie running off on a road trip any time soon.

Now that the music had faded out, Cody could hear the quiet whispering and shifting of their guests. There weren't that many people, he tried to comfort himself. Just everyone they knew.

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Terror By Moonlight

Critter Catchers Book One

Cody Bower and Demetrius Singleton have been friends for over twenty years even though they are polar opposites. Cody is tall, handsome, athletic, and straight, and Demetrius is average height, more of a thinker, and gay. They have started an animal control business together and have to figure out how to be business partners without letting it affect their friendship, but that’s the least of their problems. When one of their first clients ends up brutally murdered in what appears to be an animal attack, the two realize something big and dangerous is stalking their tiny town of Parson’s Hollow, and it’s up to them to catch it before it kills again.

Excerpt:

Several hours later, Demetrius’s legs had fallen asleep. He shifted position again and winced at the pins and needles that prickled up his legs as the blood started flowing through them once again.

“I’m hungry.” Cody’s voice floated out from the other side of the tree in the darkness.

“Me too,” Demetrius replied with a sigh. “Shouldn’t be much longer now. Raccoons forage at night, so it should be coming back home soon, right?”

“Whatever you say, Ranger Rick,” Cody said. He yawned, and Demetrius could just imagine him opening his mouth wide, showing off rows of glistening teeth.

“Keep it down,” Demetrius whispered. “You’ll scare the damn thing off before it gets to the trap.”

“Fuck that,” Cody grumbled. “It probably found someplace new to live. Stupid rodent.”

“Raccoons aren’t rodents. They’re mammals.”

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Cody snorted. “Strike two against them. And strike two against old man McLeod for being such a crabby old fuck.”

“You pitching a no hitter tonight or something?” Demetrius asked. “That’s a lot of strikes.”

“Look at you with the sports reference,” Cody said with a chuckle.

“I’ve picked up a few things from you over the years,” Demetrius said.

They waited silent and surprisingly alert for spending hours sitting in a tree in the woods outside old man McLeod’s house. They had arrived later than expected after getting a flat tire on the truck, then finding the spare flat as well. By the time they’d arrived at the house, it was already late afternoon and Demetrius had to spend some time smoothing over any hard feelings Ian McLeod had from hearing Cody’s unprofessional message as well as their tardiness. They’d climbed a ladder and shined a flashlight into the section of the house’s eaves where the raccoon had jimmied open an entrance, finding it empty. They’d assured Ian McLeod no other raccoons were inside, but he’d protested, not believing them until Cody had climbed the ladder and snapped a picture on his phone.

After McLeod had agreed the nest did, indeed, appear to be empty, Demetrius had secured the opening and set a live trap on the ground beneath the spot. McLeod wanted the raccoon gone as soon as it was trapped because he didn’t want “to be kept awake by the fucking thing’s scratchings and scrabblings all fucking night long.” To appease their first customer, Demetrius had agreed and convinced Cody they needed to wait to see the animal caught. Demetrius figured it would come back sometime after midnight, nothing too late. It had been Cody’s idea to climb into the tree, his reasons muddled between “hunters do it all the time” and “I like trees.”

That had been at sunset almost three hours ago. Now, they were tired, damp with dew, and hungry.

A muffled shout came from the direction of the house, and Demetrius felt a chill go through him. He closed his eyes to listen harder, then asked, “Cody, did you hear a shout from the house?”

Cody snorted. “Probably old man McLeod reliving the terrors of World War I.”

Demetrius smiled, then stiffened as something trundled through the underbrush to their right.

“Is that it?” Cody whispered.

“I think so.”

“Sounds like a big fucker, doesn’t he?”

“Yeah. Bigger than that running back from Harriettville that got past you to run forty yards and score the winning touchdown the last football game of your senior year.”

Incredulous silence followed Demetrius’s comment. Then, “Really, Demmy? You gotta just keep shoveling that back in my face, don’t you?”

“Shh, it’s coming,” Demetrius said with a grin.

Suddenly, a deep, vicious growl rumbled through the mist-shrouded trees. Moments later, something even bigger than what had been trundling through the woods pounced out of the underbrush a dozen yards away, and Demetrius could have sworn he felt a gentle ground tremor that made the tree sway.

“What the fucking hell was that?” Cody whispered, and Demetrius heard his own fear reflected in Cody’s voice.

“Bigger than a raccoon,” Demetrius whispered back.

Something squealed in terror and pain, and then a few seconds of silence followed. Complete silence. No insects buzzed, no frogs croaked, no night birds sang, nothing rustled. Demetrius slowly, quietly, let out the breath he’d been holding. The branch he sat on seemed to dig hard into his buttocks, and his bladder suddenly felt very full, but he was too scared to move. He felt the light touch of Cody’s arm against his own where they each gripped the trunk of the tree, and that helped to reassure him a bit.

With a heavy huff of breath, the large, unseen creature tromped off deeper into the woods. In a few moments, the insects, frogs, and birds started up again, as if someone had thrown their “on” switch.

“Christ, that was scary,” Cody said and pushed to his feet, standing on a thick branch.

“That was no raccoon,” Demetrius added, as he stood up as well.

They climbed down from the tree and both squinted across the moonlit yard toward old man McLeod’s house. Even in the deep shadows on the back porch, Demetrius could see the back door stood open, and the screen was shredded.

“What the fuck?” Cody stepped from the trees onto the dew-soaked lawn.

Demetrius followed, casting his gaze right and left until he saw something near the edge of the woods. “Wait, look.”

They approached the twisted, bloody, furry lump, and Demetrius felt bile rise in the back of his throat. “Oh my God.”

The front half of a fat raccoon lay at their feet in a tangled mess. Blood had splashed over ferns and bracken for at least a foot all the way around. Its eyes were wide, and its mouth gaped open, tongue lolling out the side. It had been bitten in half just behind its front legs, the sleek, nimble fingers spread wide as if reaching for escape.

“What the fucking hell?” Cody said. He turned to look at the back of old man McLeod’s house. “Shit, Demmy. I think we’re in a heap of trouble.”

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