Snowflakes and Song Lyrics

A Williamsville Inn Story

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

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Exchange Rate

A Salacious Single

Bill treats himself to a trip to Ireland in an attempt to get over his cheating ex-boyfriend. When he meets Sean at the exchange rate window, something clicks between them. Can this butch Irish lad be the very thing Bill needs to help him move on?

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.

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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."

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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."

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