Monday, August 1, 2016


Well, our ManLove Summer Fantasies contest has come to an end and fall will soon be here. As we bring this contest to a close, I would like to thank all the readers who left such wonderful, uplifting messages for our participating authors. More times than not, it's the little things like a reader's love for a book or a particular character that gets out muse moving and helps us write that next book. Don't forget to come back in October for our ManLove Fall Fantasies contest where we will have more showcases for you. Our theme will be Halloween.
I would also like to thank all of the authors that took the time to participate in this contest and share with us their favorite books. Your participation is always appreciated.
Now, for what you've all been waiting for. The winner of our grand prize Kindle Fire HD7 with a donated book from every participating author is...drum roll please...

Sunday, July 31, 2016


Hi everyone!
Thanks for all the kind comments left on 07/22 for Firework Part II.  Hope all of you enjoy part 3 of Kendall and Chris’s story.  I’m planning on turning this short into a full-length title. 
Part III
Andrew Jericho

Kendall woke with Chris still lying on his chest.  He rubbed the back of his hand across Chris’s cheek. 
“Mmm.”  The young man stirred.  “Not yet.  I don’t want last night to end.”
“It never will.  Hold it in your heart.”
“In my soul.”
Kendall rolled his lover beneath him.  He took Chris’s lips in a passionate kiss. Their tongues caressed.  Kendall rubbed the palms of his hands up and down Chris’s body.
He had woken with a raging hard-on.  Satisfying his passions, and those of the man beneath him, were Kendall’s only thoughts. 
“Can’t get enough.”  Kendall moaned between kisses.  “Can I?”  Kendall’s pulse quickened.  His breathing became erratic.
“Are you asking permission to fuck me again?”
Kendall nodded.  He brushed his nose against Chris’s.  Much to Kendall’s surprise, Chris rolled Kendall over.  His lover searched the tangled sheets for the lube.
“Baby,” Kendall groaned. 
Chris was straddling his torso.  The young man rubbed lube down the shaft of Kendall’s dick.  Kendall arched his back as Chris slide his rim over his cockhead.
“So fucking tight,” Kendall’s hands grabbed Chris’s hips.  His palms moved to his lover’s buttocks.  “Ride me, Chris.  Nice and slow.” 
Kendall groaned again.  The muscles of Chris’s ass were opening around him.  Kendall was sheathed deep inside his partner’s body. Chris rode him slow, gradually increasing speed.  With each downward movement of Chris’s body, Kendall thrust upwards. 
“Every damn muscle of your ass is responding to my touch,” Kendall said.  He slapped Chris’s buttocks.  “Made for me.  Only me.”
Kendall rolled Chris to his back.  He slipped his dick back inside Chris’s body.  “I meant everything last night.”
“More enticement to get me to accept your gift?”  Chris asked. 
Kendall wrapped Chris’s legs around his waist. “I don’t entice.  By the looks of you lying beneath me, I wouldn’t have needed to anyway.” 
Their lips met again.  Hard kisses full of smoldering passions.  Kendall’s ego swelled at the idea of Chris being his partner.  The young man ignited whenever Kendall touched him.  Raw passion burned in the jockey’s eyes.  A young man.  A spitfire.  The Fourth of July was long forgotten.  The leftover hot dogs and apple pie left behind.  Chris deserved all the promises they had made the night before. 
Their bodies were still joined.  Kendall placed both hands beneath Chris’s hips.  He laid his full weight against his lover’s flesh.  Kendall began to move his cock in rhythm. 
“I’m in love with you.”  Chris whispered against Kendall’s ear.
More than an ‘I love you.’  The sentiment sent all the blood from Kendall’s body straight to his dick.  He swelled inside his lover.  Kendall ground him hips and bottomed out, completely filling what was offered.  “I’ve been in love with you for a while, too.”
“So hard.”  Chris shifted beneath him.  The young man’s hands clutched his back, frantically rubbing his skin. 
“Are you okay?”  Kendall pulled out halfway.  He studied the face beneath him. 
“Yes.  Why did you stop?”
“Don’t want to hurt you.”  Kendall thrust again, burying the shaft of his dick back inside Chris’s anal cavity.  “Ah, fuck!  Fuck.”
“Come with me.”  Kendall grabbed a pillow shoving it beneath Chris’s hips.
Chris gasped.  “Right there.  Don’t stop!  Don’t.  Fucking.  Stop.”
Kendall slightly rolled off Chris’s body.  He lifted his lover’s leg, as he pumped his dick against Chris’s prostate.  Over and fucking over again. The fireworks from last night exploded behind Kendall’s eyes, as his come took hold of his body.  Three rapid thrusts into Chris ended with Kendall’s cum flooding out of his lover. 
“Help me.  Kendall!  Don’t leave me like this.  Kendall!”  Chris writhed.  A wild look in the jockey’s eyes pushed Kendall to a point of desire he’d never shared with anyone. 
Reaching between then, Kendall used his cum to jack off his lover’s dick.  “Shh…you’re almost there.”
“Kendall!”  Chris cried out.  The young man’s hands rubbed his upper thighs. 
Kendall stroked hard and fast.  His lips hovered above his lover’s mouth.  Kendall tugged on Chris’s bottom lip.  “Come, baby boy.”
Chris arched his back and moaned.  He gasped and placed a hand over Kendall’s fingertips.  They both stroked Chris’s cock. “Mmm.  Fuck yes!”
Cum shot from Chris’s dick, coating Kendall’s hand.  Chris lay back against the sheets.  His pale skin was flushed crimson. 
“Fireworks?”  Kendall asked.
“Yeah.”  Chris smiled.  The young man still lay on his back. 
Kendall rose up on one elbow.  He reached for some tissues on the nightstand.  He returned to care for Chris’s trembling body.  Kendall covered his lover with a sheet.  He smoothed the damp locks of Chris’s hair.  Kendall reveled in the man.  He allowed his heart to beat in unison with another.  A theory only lovers could explain.  Kendall covered Chris’s face with gentle kisses.  The young man wound his arms around his neck.  The affection was returned.  Several minutes passed as they lay quietly in each other’s arms.
“What time is it?”  Chris broke the silence.
“Don’t know,” Kendall replied. “Power is still off.  Hot as hell in here.”  Kendall reached for his watch next to the box of tissues.  “It’s nine in the morning.”
“I should get up.  I need to clean out the fridge.  Food is ruined.  I need to check for damage downstairs.  I need a shower.  The horses at the track —”
“The horses at the track are fine.”
“I was going to go check on the ones boarded there this afternoon.  With the forth being on a Friday, I wanted to make sure the handlers left enough food for them over the weekend.”
“You okay?”
Chris didn’t answer.  Instead he sat up and pulled the sheet around him. 
Kendall got out of bed and went to open the French doors.  A cool, but humid, breeze filled the room.  “Better?” Kendall asked.  He got back in bed.  Kendall sat next to his lover.  He put his arm around Chris’s shoulder.  “Talk to me.”
“There’s nothing to talk about,” Chris said.  “This is intense.  More than what I expected.”
Kendall kissed Chris’s upper arm.  “Let it ignite Chris.  Let it in your heart.”
“We’re from two different worlds.” Chris waved his arm.  “Look at this.  I live in a two-bedroom apartment.  Yesterday, I was your houseboy.  I ride horses for a living.  I haven’t raced anywhere else but here.  I don’t want to be a kept man.”
“Did I hurt you?  Kendall asked.  He placed both of his palms on Chris’s cheeks.  “You excite me, Chris.  If I went too far, or was too passionate, I’m sorry.”
“No man has ever touched me with more tenderness.  It’s not that.” 
Chris’s green eyes were staring into his own.  The intensity of the young man’s emotions almost undid him. “I was saving this until tonight.  I had a place picked out to properly ask you.” Kendall laid a black jewelry box in Chris’s hand.  He also slipped an envelope into his lover’s fingers.  “In last night’s passion, we said a lot of things.  When I asked you to be my partner you said yes.” 
“I’ve already accepted.”
“Have you let our love into your heart, like I asked you to?  Chris, this is our world now.  Here.  This is home.  Our bed.  Now, I don’t deny someone has to do household chores.”  Kendall laughed.
“Shut up,” Chris replied.  He elbowed Kendall in the side. 
Kendall pushed Chris down against the sheets. “I’ll do my share of household duties.  Including making sure you’re taken care of.  Chris, you haven’t been my houseboy in a while.  You’re not a kept man.  We’re partners…lovers.”
Chris opened the jewelry box.  He took a deep breath.  “Kendall.”
“I bought one for myself, too.  It’s a matching set.”
Kendall eyed the solid gold bands with a small diamond horseshoe set in each center.
Chris fingered both rings.
“I had them custom made,” Kendall said.  “I fell in love with you first when I hired you as my houseboy.  The second time you stole my heart was when I watched you race for the first time.  It was raining that day.  You won.  Mud on your boots and face.  When they led you into the winner’s circle, I wanted to take you into my bed.  The sexiest man I’ve met.  The way you handle yourself on a horse is incredible.  The passion in your eyes for what you do.  The trust between you and the animal.  You’re brought those same traits into our relationship.  I also wanted to throw you down in the nearest stable that day and put my dick in you.  The third time you captured my soul was last night.
Kendall took one of the rings from the box and slid it on his finger.  “If anyone should have reservations it’s me.  A twenty-two year old twink means more to me than anything else in this work.  Horseshoes are for good luck, too.  I’m so damn lucky to have you in my life.”
Chris’s eyes glassed.
Kendall wiped away a stray tear on his lover’s cheek.  “Now open the card.  There’s something else.”
Chris smiled and untucked the flap of the envelope.  The young man pulled out a plain white card.  He flipped through several pictures of a black thoroughbred horse.”
“Now read the card,” Kendall said.
She’s yours, baby boy.  Love, Kendall. Chris read the card out loud and laid it next to the jewelry box in his lap.
“She’s never been raced,” Kendall said.  “A two-year-old filly.  Her name is Firework.”
“I can’t accept this.”
“You can and you will.  I bought her and she needs a jockey to race her.  You’re the best I know.”
“I have my own money, Kendall.  I’ve been saving—”
“No more talking,” Kendall said.  He covered Chris’s mouth with his own.  We’re going on a road trip this weekend to bring her home.” Chris’s mouth opened under the pressure of Kendall’s lips.  “I’m guessing you accept?”
“Do I have a choice?”  Chris laughed
“Chris, you’re always had a choice.  Just like when you walked into our house yesterday afternoon and owned the fact you weren’t leaving until I took you.  Now, we’ve got some packing to do.”
To Be Continued…

Prison Masters 1
[Erotic Alternative Consensual BDSM Ménage a Trois Romance, M/M/M, HEA]
Ace Freeman is the president of Prison Masters, a BDSM club for gay males.  He’s in love with cellmate Tyler Chase and guard Paul Ryder.  Ace is Dominant, desiring to take both men as pets.
As an experienced sub, Tyler wants to give submission to two Masters. He slips an explicit drawing into Ace’s notebook. Later, he blurts out his affections for Paul. Tyler hopes his actions will gain collars from both men. 
Underneath Paul’s shy and soft-spoken exterior lies a man who lives the BDSM lifestyle. Paul is a switch. The guard desires a Master who can fulfill his need for no limits, and a pet to dominate. However, Paul knows his desires for Ace and Tyler have the potential to cost his job.
A good Master cares for his pets. Ace believes that principle. Once a triad begins to form, Ace needs to find a way to ensure their love will survive even in the hard times.
Note: This book contains double anal penetration.

Story Excerpt: 
Within two months, Ace was sleeping in Carlos’s bunk every night. One month later, the handsome Latino whispered, Te amo mi amor siempre. Ace still heard his tender voice. That was the first time another man had declared love. Ace had to eat his own words. The same night, he gave his body to the one who would become Master.
Carlos had been twice his age, but neither man cared. I’ll always love you, Master. The sentiment filled Ace’s mind. Tyler stirred, bringing him back to the present.
“Shh, baby,” Ace said. “Sleep. You’re safe.”
For two years, Ace had felt safe in Carlos’s arms, too. The Latino’s gentle touch kept him sane. Carlos had given him the freedom to explore sexuality. From puberty, Ace had wanted to kiss boys. As he grew, so did his desires. Carlos became his best friend, lover, partner, and Master. Then one day, it was all over.
Carlos had been in charge of the Prison Masters’s club. He hated the word “gang.” Carlos believed it incited violence. The group was for gay men, including those interested in the BDSM lifestyle. Submissives were also welcomed. A riot between Prison Masters and White Aryan Resistance had broken out. Carlos was shanked. He bled out in Ace’s arms. Ace still wore Master’s collar. More memories of the man he still loved filled his thoughts.
* * * *
“I’ve taught you well, pet.” Carlos’s voice quivered in pain. He reached for Ace’s hand. “I’m so cold.”
“You’re all right. Master, stay awake!”
“Pet, you’re in charge now. You’ll make a good Master, because you’ve known submission.”
“One last scene.”
“Anything, Master.”
“My last order—I bind your submission to me. Never give it to another.”
“Mi amour—”
“Master? Master! Wake up! Dammit, don’t leave me!”
* * * *
Sometimes ten years ago seemed like yesterday. At others, Carlos was a distant memory. Ace didn’t even have a picture of him. The memories lived in his heart. He would always be in love with Carlos Sanchez. Their final scene would be eternally played. Ace had never given submission to another man. Carlos had symbolically bound them in that dynamic forever. Out of respect for Master, he had never spoken of that moment with anyone.
Ace had become a man in his Latin lover’s arms. Carlos had made love to him first. Then, several months into the commitment, they had negotiated their first scene. BDSM had saved Ace, mentally and physically. The positive effects counteracted the negativity of prison life. While it wasn’t completely negated, it made it bearable.
From the first time Carlos had put him in subspace, Ace craved it. It hadn’t just been the cuffs on his hands and ankles, or the way Carlos flogged him, but his lover’s dominant words. The euphoria came slow, arriving like an evening tide. Once Ace surrendered to it, every inch of flesh tingled. He experienced sensations of tunnel vision. Carlos’s face was the only image visible. BDSM quickly became their preferred form of lovemaking.
After Carlos’s death, Ace had assumed leadership of Prison Masters. The club’s members accepted Ace without question. Even though Ace had been Master’s pet, he was now a Dominant man. Since then, he had experienced Domspace, but subspace would always find its way back. Many nights, Ace recalled Carlos’s final order. Raw arousal burned through his body. He would cuff himself, imagining it was Carlos’s hands buckling the leather. The memories slipped him over the edge.
Some of the club’s older men defined him as a switch. Others saw his dominance. Regardless he had earned their respect. Members from rival gangs didn’t lay a hand on anything belonging to Master.
One afternoon, six months ago, Ace had learned it was possible to be in love with three men—Carlos, Paul, and Tyler. The twink in his arms ignited his dominance in ways no other man had, except for Paul Ryder. Paul started work as a guard a year before Carlos’s death.
The blond-haired, soft-spoken man still worked the midnight to noon shift. He was a decent guy, just trying to do his job.
Prison Masters met each morning at breakfast. The group had nearly two dozen members. Even though Paul was on duty, he always seemed to be more interested in their meetings than guarding. Paul had been friends with Carlos, so it was natural to continue the camaraderie with Ace.
A year ago, Paul’s Dom had passed away, leaving the handsome guard an emotional mess. A few months after the man’s death, Ace had eased Paul’s pain, making him feel like a submissive again. Two months before Tyler arrived, both men admitted their love, but held each other at arm’s length. Ace knew it would cost Paul his job to become involved. What type of life would they have with Paul dividing his time between prison and the outside world? Ace feared the heartbreak.
Sure, he had been with other men besides Paul and Tyler. He had fucked, made love, and even been Master to several during play. Men transferred units, and some got paroled. Prison Masters provided a safe, sane, and consensual place to play, but Carlos had whetted his desires for more. While Carlos had awakened his submission, Tyler peaked his dominance. Ace not only wanted to play with the young man, he wanted a commitment again.

Tyler hoped his eyes reflected the desire in his body. Ace was buckling leather fur-lined cuffs around his wrists. When Ace put the first restraint through one of the cuff’s D-rings, Tyler whimpered. He arched his back off the bed.
“Hold still, pet.”
Ace finished threading the restraint through the D-ring. Then, he slipped it around the gold metal bars of the headboard. He repeated the process with the other cuff. Once Tyler was secured, Ace pressed his mouth to his trembling lips.
“Making that drawing come true,” Ace said.
“Both of you are my fantasy.”
“We know.”
Tyler’s dick ached. His lover’s dominance fueled his submission. Tyler’s whimpers were muffled by a three-way kiss. Tongues tangled. Lips moved against each other.
Paul finally broke away from the kissing. “Always compared it to a gentle hug, keeping me in submission.” He wound a strip of hemp rope around Tyler’s left forearm. Each twist created a neat row. The guard tied the two ends in a center knot. Paul repeated the action on the other arm.
The guard used longer pieces of rope on Tyler’s upper thighs, repeating the same process. “There are many styles of kinbaku.” Paul used the technique on his lower legs. He bound him from the knees, down to his ankles, with rows and neatly placed knots. “Don’t want your legs completely restrained together. Couldn’t fuck.”
“We’d fuck, Master,” Tyler replied.
Tyler had been restrained before, but never in the intricate weavings of kinbaku. Paul was right, it was a gentle hug. The sensation of the guard’s rope work, combined with Ace’s restraints, pushed Tyler toward his inferno.
The young man couldn’t decide who was hotter. Both men had smokin’ physiques. As their skin brushed his, Tyler’s flesh tingled. Ace and Paul were back between his legs. Two sets of hands caressed him. Lips skimmed his neck, shoulders, and chest. Paul took a nipple into his mouth, teasing the hard peak with his tongue. Tyler cried out. Ace’s hand smacked his ass.
“Get you warmed up,” Ace said.
“And worked up,” Paul said.
The guard moved down his body. His lover bent his legs against his chest. Paul licked Tyler’s rim, circling the opening.
“Holy fuck,” Tyler spoke.
Paul sank his tongue inside Tyler’s ass. “Are you Master’s slut?” Paul’s tongue teased his rim again. “Expect you to answer me, if you want it back inside you.”
“Yes, what?”
“Yes, Master.”
“Don’t forget again.”
The fullness of Paul’s tongue pressed back inside. The guard’s fingertips kneaded his buttocks, keeping the cheeks apart. Tyler whimpered. Ace’s hand spanked his ass again. Paul mirrored the action on his other hip.
Tyler’s dick was rock hard, laying at an angle against his abdomen. Each strike of his lovers’ hands produced a stream of pre-cum. Ace was licking the juice from his cockhead.
“Put me in your mouth, Master,” Tyler pleaded.
Ace hesitated, teasing his swollen head with his tongue.
“Dammit, put me in your mouth!”
“Pets don’t make demands.”
Tyler smiled. “I’m a brat, remember?”
“Yeah, we know,” Paul replied. The guard resumed fucking Tyler’s ass with his tongue.
Ace wrapped his mouth around his shaft. Tyler writhed on the bed. He pulled at his restraints. The young man arched his back off the bed. Ace pushed him back down.
“Love you, Master.”
“I love you, pet.”
After several swirls of Ace’s tongue on the shaft, Tyler’s cock was removed from his lover’s mouth. Tyler protested, yanking at his restraints.
“Yeah, you’re a brat,” Ace said, “a brat who’s going to watch me get his other Master aroused.”
Tyler was trembling. A warm sweat broke out over his skin. The base of his spine tingled as his release built. The smack of hands on his ass cheeks, elicited another moan. He didn’t know how he would survive watching Ace fuck Paul, but he damn sure knew it would keep the inferno smoldering hot.
Ace pulled Paul to the center of the bed. Both men knelt in front of Tyler.Hot. So fucking hot. Ace’s tongue inside Paul’s mouth kept a steady stream of pre-cum running down Tyler’s shaft. The guard’s moans sent electrical current to Tyler’s dick.
“Fuck him, Master.”
“Pet doesn’t like to just be taken. Have to break that wall of shyness.”
Ace’s hands were caressing Paul’s body. Fingertips smoothed the guard’s muscles. Tyler bit his lip when Ace’s tenderness turned to smacks against their lover’s ass. Paul’s eyes closed in pleasure.
“Master,” Paul said.
“Submit, pet.”
They touched each other with familiar affection. The dynamic Ace shared with Paul went beyond Dominance and submission. The couple shared a private passion. Tyler recalled his own intimacy with the president of Prison Masters. Right now, that same man was giving what another needed.
“Those needs I couldn’t satisfy before won’t go unmet,” Ace said. He placed a finger against Paul’s mouth. “Don’t speak.”
Paul brushed a hand against his eyes. Tyler knew it was to hide tears.
“I love you, Master.”
“I love you, pet.”
Holy hell. Sweet Jesus. Ace put a ball gag in Paul’s mouth. Tyler must have missed Ace dragging that out his duffel bag, as well as white nylon rope, and the black flogger on the foot of the bed.
Ace turned Paul around, binding their lover’s wrists behind his back. His partner was whispering into the guard’s ear, with each twist of the rope. What was said was not important, but the look on Paul’s face was. Damn. Holy Fuck. Paul was a little slut, too, in Master’s arms.
Paul nodded. Ace picked up the flogger. Tyler expected to see hard lashes against their lover’s back. Instead, Ace wielded the implement in gentle strokes. The tails caressed Paul’s back in erotic massage.
Restrained and bound, the fantasies of Tyler’s drawings were coming true. Seeing his two Masters play was even better. Paul was the hottest switch Tyler had ever known. The man slipped from Dominance to submission smoothly. Tyler already had a taste of Paul. He wanted more.


Andrew Jericho is a ManLove erotic romance author for Siren-BookStrand Publishing, LGBTQ rights activist, humanitarian, and freelance journalist/photographer.  His books explore gay men in real situations of life and love.  Andrew blends romance, passion, and eroticism into all of his characters. He is a gay transgender man, who lives with his partner, John Jericho, and family.  He enjoys photography, eclectic tastes in music and the arts, and browsing the local library and art galleries.  All of Andrew’s work can be found at: 


Saturday, July 30, 2016


Red, White and a New Beginning
Thomas Grant Bruso

July 4: the new beginning of an old relationship.
Dave and I arrived at the annual fireworks event downtown by the water’s edge.
We came in separate cars.
I parked two blocks from the town hall monument on a narrow side street adjacent to the DMV building.
I broke out in a feverish sweat as I navigated ninety-degree temperatures and congested streets with people who were heading to the same destination. This year had been the hottest summer in upstate New York to date. I didn’t know if I could bear seeing Dave after a year since we separated and went our own ways. He moved from Oakville to Albany seeking work as a paralegal. He believed in the law, but not in us.
“We need a break from each other,” he had told me last year. “To think.” It was close to summer break when he uprooted and asked for time to consider life without me.
A year felt like a century. Our split would never have happened it if had been up to me. I didn’t want Dave to leave. But I agreed that we needed to reevaluate the needs and wants of our relationship. The future looked bleak.
I knuckled sweat off my furrowed brow with the back of my hand, thinking about Dave’s apple pie voice, sweet and homey, calling me at home last night to meet him tonight for fireworks. “I need to see you,” he had said. I smiled at his singsong voice, but it was fleeting. I didn’t know what I was getting myself into after being away from him. The curiosity alone forced me out of my air-conditioned apartment to the sweltering streets to find out.
As I waited at the crosswalk with a large crowd of people gathering around me, parents with their small children and young and old couples holding hands, I felt alone, not the first time in a long year.
The sticky heat of perspiration dripped down my neck, to my back, and pooled under my arms.
When the light changed, a swarm of warm, sweaty bodies rushed past me, stepping out into the hot, crammed street. A stampede of nervous energy swelled inside me as I jammed my moist palms into my shorts pockets and joined the tail end of the crowd, walking unhurriedly, as if I were an out-of-towner, a tourist, seeing the sights for the very first time.
I don’t know when it happened, but I heard a car horn blasting behind me, people yelling at me to get out of the middle of the street, and when I turned, there he was, flashing his textbook smile, his cavernous blue eyes hypnotizing me, putting me under his spell. His thatch head of blonde hair, cut and coiffed effortlessly, glowed beneath the burning sun. His enthusiastic wave and the way he leaned against the side of his parked BMW on the corner, waiting for me on the other side of the street, reminded me of the good old days, as if time had stood still.
Nothing had changed. Yet everything was different.
We found a quiet, comfortable spot under a thick gnarled oak, away from the flock of people assembling close to the water’s edge with their folding chairs and ice coolers.
“You look good,” Dave said, tossing me his boyish grin and gulping down a Michelob.
I smiled, smacked the small pouch of my protruding stomach and shoved my hand through my thinning brown hair. Ben and Jerry kept me company when Dave left me. I was a snag out of shape, but content. You didn’t have to be one-percent body fat to be beautiful, I thought. Six-pack abs and muscle-bound bodies were overrated in a country obsessed with implants and youth and Botox faces. But I admired Dave anyway for his dogged persistence for staying active—and handsome.
He handed me his beer. He had aged well in the last year. Smooth, polished skin, healthy looking, worked out religiously.
I chewed the hot dog he had bought me and swallowed it down with his drink, handing him back his bottle. “Aren’t you going to eat?” I asked, scrubbing a hand over my bushy beard.
“Gotta keep my girlish figure.” His mouth twisted into a grin.
From the look of it, he had not missed a day at the gym. Strong arms with prominent veins snaking through them; not exaggerated, or steroid-induced. He had always been strong-willed, his head to the ground, a get-it-done type of person.
I admired him then, when we were together, and still do. The determination to get the job done had always been Dave’s forte. My only willpower was to get home after work and sit in front of the TV and play video games with a pint of Rocky Road—my unwinding period. 
“What have you been up to?” he asked.
“Work. Six days a week.”
“Are you still feeding homeless people?”
I had volunteered at a local shelter during holidays to feed not only the homeless, but also my insatiable need to do the right thing, the Good Samaritan in me.
“On weekends,” I answered. “I’m a chef during the day.”
“Where? I’ll have to stop in.”
I wiped grease from my mouth with the edge of a crinkled napkin. “The new Greek restaurant that opened six months ago on Main.”
“I’ve been gone a while.”
“Too long.”
We stared at each other for a brief second.
Children darted by us, laughing and screaming playfully, a dark brown Great Dane chasing them.
Dave raised his beer to his mouth and emptied it.
I devoured the last bite of my Michigan, stood, and headed for the concession stand for a cold bottle of lemonade. “Another beer?” I asked him.
He raised his empty bottle in the air. “Sure. Thanks.”
When I returned, I watched Dave uncap his Michelob, tossing the lid on the grass beside him. He was stretched out, his sinewy legs the result of being a devoted runner in high school and college.
My idea of exercise was walking to the refrigerator late at night for a midnight snack. “That hot dog hit the spot.”
“The carcinogens in it will kill you.” He winked.
“You never had an appetite for good food,” I teased him, staring out into the mass of eager faces awaiting this year’s fireworks.
His robust laugh prompted me to smile.
“I’ve missed that beautiful sound,” I said.
He fingered a bubble of foam dribbling out of the corners of his mouth.
I sat up, Indian-style, facing him.
He caught me staring at him, setting his face to memory. Again.
He licked beer from his fingertips.
I gawked, openmouthed, at the way his lips puckered around the edges of his moistened fingertips. It turned me on. I shifted nervously, crossing and uncrossing my legs.
“What are we doing here?” I asked, shaking off the naughty, erotic thoughts playing out in my head like a spool of film, over and over.
“Waiting for the fireworks.”
I cocked my head. “Come on. After a year, you didn’t drive an hour all the way to Oakville just to watch fireworks.”
Anxiously, he peeled off the label from his bottle then looked up at me. “I wanted see you. What I wanted to say to you last night had to be said in person.”
I nodded. “When we talked on the phone last night, it felt like you’d never left. I shrugged. “Like you were across town, waiting.”
The bulge of his Adam Apple bobbed up and down like a marble caught in his throat.
He gulped his beer, kept quiet, glanced out at the tranquil waters of Lake Champlain, as night descended, the pink sky turning a dark shade of bruised eggplant.
“Even though we’re miles away, I think about you every day,” he said. “I’m glad I called you.”
“What went wrong?” I asked. “A year ago.”
He turned to me, pulling his knees up to his chest. “I wanted space. I felt too confined. Claustrophobic.”
“I never knew how you really felt until now,” I said. “I’m sorry.”
“Don’t be sorry, Adam. What happened a year ago was my problem, not yours.” His face pinched, as if thwarted. “Maybe my being an introvert drove us apart.”
“I think that was part of it.”
He nodded.
“Did you miss me?” I asked.
“Every day.”
“I missed waking up to you in our bed and cooking you breakfast before you went off to work.” I smiled at the epilogue of our lives a year ago, “Two eggs, over easy; one toast, slightly burnt, buttered; a glass of orange juice, never from concentrate.”
He smirked. “You know me to a tee.”
“A year worth of good times,” I reminded him.
“Not all of them were happy.”
“Nobody’s relationship is perfect.”
He sucked in a deep breath. Held it. Shook his head. Exhaled, drank his beer.
“What did you miss about me?” I asked.
He finished his beer and tossed the empty bottle between his legs. “Your devotion for keeping the rough patches of our life tolerable.”
“Is that why you split?” I tilted my head to the side and added, mostly as an afterthought, “When things got rough…”
He turned away from me, looking out at a family of four—mom, dad, two boys, sitting on a blanket across the grass, arms slung over each other’s shoulders, laughing.
Dave nodded. “One reason. The other, I was scared of commitment.”
I drank my lemonade.
“Don’t get me wrong,” he said. “I loved you. I loved being with you.” He paused. “I still love you.”
“I know you did.”
“It was—”
“What? It was what?”
Dave grew quiet.
Night descended, blanketing us in semi-blackness.
Silence had been one of the rifts in our relationship, I thought.
“What were you going to say?” I asked.
He tore at the sharp blades of grass at his fingertips: he loves me; he loves me not.
“It was hard for me to discuss my feelings a year ago,” he said.
The truth.
“It was difficult for me to see you struggle with those feelings,” I said, reaching for his hand in the dark. “I wanted to be there for you. I wanted you to be able to open up and talk to me.”
“I know—”
I lowered my voice. “I wanted you to fight for our relationship as hard as I fought for us. I didn’t want you to pick up and leave everything we worked so hard for in the last year.”
“I screwed up. Big time.”
“Yesterday is forgotten.” I reached out to him. “Today is a new journey.”
He looked over at me, and I could see the startled look on his face through the veil of shadows between us. Panicked, dubious. What will people think? What will they say seeing two men holding hands in public?
Dave’s gaze fell to my outstretched hand as the thundering sounds of fireworks lit up the sky in a kaleidoscope of bright reds, blues and yellows.
“Thanks for coming,” I said.
Dave and I sat in the dark, side by side, for an hour, until the firework display ended.
Later, when everyone else gathered up their belongings and headed back to their homes, emptying the downtown area, leaving us to our peaceful discreetness, Dave and I stayed behind.
We sat in relaxed stillness, our hands intertwined.
Nothing was said, but the moment was right.
Life was good.



Christian Rivers has been single for a year and a half. Emotionally disconnected, he focuses on writing his next best seller. Unfortunately, his neighbor’s teenage son, Bret Hicks, causes trouble next door with his bad friends hanging out, smoking marijuana, drinking, and abusing Christian's dog, Darth Vader.

Incensed, Christian phones Milestone County’s Sheriff Philip Erickson to lay an animal cruelty charge. When Sheriff Erickson arrives, the two men have coffee, and a spark of attraction that has been developing between them since they met, flickers to life. But Philip is on duty and has to leave.

Later that night Christian wakes up from the sounds of breaking glass as someone forces entry into his house. He calls Philip but before the sheriff arrives, Bret appears in the door of Christian’s bedroom, drunk and wearing a Halloween mask.

In the aftermath of the drama the suppressed attraction between the two men comes to a boil, leading to new hope and mutual satisfaction for Christian and the sheriff.

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Amused, I think back to when I interviewed the sheriff for a double homicide on the south side of town during my second year of living in Milestone County. It was a hectic week atThe Milestone Review and I was running around town questioning witnesses to the murders, trying to keep levelheaded.
Sheriff Philip Erickson and his young deputy were the official chiefs on the case and I had my hand on something more than a hot story during that busy afternoon. But I didn’t know it at the time.
Sheriff Erickson, a brooding, virile presence, put me at ease, answering my questions professionally and with straightforward candor. He treated me with respect. But it wasn’t until he asked me to join him for a cup of coffee down at the police station and thank me privately for my investigative reporting on the double homicide that I knew I felt differently about him. The way he winked at me and when he shook my hand after the interview, his handshake lingered for a tad longer than expected. But I squashed the silly idea because of my loyalty and love for my then boyfriend, Russ.
Philip’s voice jerks me out of my daze. “I lost you again,” he says taking a step over the threshold, back into my shut-in life.
I have to look up to meet his eyes. “Sorry. My mind is elsewhere tonight.”
The weight of his right hand on my shoulder reassures me. “Everything will be fine. You know where you can reach me, if need be.”
I nod and my movements feel stilted. What a dork I am.
“Even if you feel like just talking,” he says. “Call me.”
He removes his hand and I feel naked and alone. I watch him turn and stroll to his car at the foot of the driveway. His body sways lithely like he is dancing with himself in the dark.
When he reaches the end of the drive, he stops, turns, and says, “By the way, Chris, I enjoyed your book recommendation of Anne Perry’s new novel.”
His words transport me back to the time when he had waited in line for almost an hour at our local bookstore, The Book Nook, for a signed copy of one of my books. I had seen him staring at me from the back of the long line. And when he finally reached me at the table where my books were being displayed and autographed, our gazes locked. It felt like a familiar flicker of energy swelling through my body, as if we had known each other for a long time.We are not strangers. His smile was warm and pleasant. He was out of uniform, wearing a polo shirt and tight fitting jeans, worn-out at the knees and buttocks, and I noticed his hands were soft and clammy when he brushed my fingers as we passed the books.
Now, I cock my head to the side and stare at him in the dazzling light of my front porch. The burden I’ve been feeling lately suddenly lifts like fog. I recall the recommendation I made in the book column I write every month for our local newspaper, The Milestone Review, along with the occasional front-page feature story.
With that, I wave and thank Sheriff Erickson for his house call.
“Get some sleep,” he yells back.
And before I close the door and slip between the flannel sheets for a good night’s rest, I get the impression Philip wishes I had offered dessert with coffee.
He’ll never know, but our thoughts are one and the same.

Author Bio:
Thomas Grant Bruso knew at an early age he wanted to be a writer. He has been a voracious reader of genre fiction since he was a kid. His literary inspirations are Dean Koontz, Thomas H. Cook, Marcia Muller, Bill Pronzini, Karin Fossum, Jeffery Deaver, Joyce Carol Oates, and John Connolly. He loves animals, book-reading, writing fiction, and prefers Sudoku to crossword puzzles. He writes book reviews for his hometown newspaper, The Press Republican. He lives in upstate New York. He can be reached at: