Hope everyone had a nice holiday season in spite of it all, whichever you celebrate or do not as the case may be. I’m currently iced in, trying to catch up on things.
I’m back to <i>These Haunted Hills</i> This is the day after Brendan lost his pendant.
Brendan had left the cabin early in the morning He’d been distant – Josh could understand why – but apologetic at the same time. He said he needed to go to Columbus for a day or two. There wasn’t much Josh could say to that. He could only hope things hadn’t been ruined between them entirely. It wasn’t his fault but reminding himself of that helped not at all. Brendan had kissed him but Brendan was also completely freaked out by the pendant. Maybe he did need time to himself. Josh couldn’t get past the fear Brendan had gone and wouldn’t be back.
For someone on break, I can’t find time to do anything. I will catch up on everyone’s posts, I promise. I decided to share a story from a couple holidays ago for Yule. This is from my steampunk Christmas story, The Glow of Luminiferous Aether on Tinsel with Ninestar Press
“He can’t be dead.” Al clutched her shoulder, tucking his cheek against her.
Minnie drew closer. “Al, Jacob is fine. He’s a hard man to kill.”
“People are easy to kill,” he growled.
“Not him,” Grace replied sternly. “Death came for him once, and Jacob beat the reaper off with his own scythe.”
As Chief Tactician for the airship DeGrasse, Jacob Scarberry has spent the last six months on a wearying tour of duty. He’s missing home, and his prosthetic leg is conducting the December cold straight to his core. But with the holidays coming up, he’s looking forward to a well-earned leave, sharing some Christmas surprises with his lover, Dr. H. Alphus Troyer, and welcoming in the dawn of the 20th century.
A professor at Ohio University, Al is already on Christmas break, and his unconventional household is in a festive frenzy. Al is a bit less joyous, his anticipation of Jacob’s return warring with uncertainty over the special gift he had commissioned for him. Would Jacob appreciate it, or will it put a strain on their relationship?
Suddenly Al’s worries become trivial when the newspapers report an attack on the DeGrasse. With Jacob fighting for his life miles away, Al is left to wonder whether Jacob will return at all, or whether the planned festivities will become holiday heartbreak instead.
Spent the day putting in grades but at least I’m free for a few weeks now.
Finishing up the scene with Brendan and Josh and the trauma from These Haunted Hills and since I’m running ridiculously late, let me jump into this.
Josh got up and filled the kettle. Brendan turned on the TV. When Josh sat back down, Brendan had folded up against the arm of the couch, looking small. It killed Josh to see him that way. He sat back down while they waited for the kettle.
“Can you spend the night?” Brendan whispered. “Not for anything…you know? I don’t want to be alone and I obviously have some more obstacles to maneuver around but I want you to stay.”
A lifetime of bad experiences has left Iddy homeless and wary of shelters.
Rumors of a monster hunting the city streets at night surface, but between the cold and predators of the human variety, Iddy has more important things to worry about. That is until he comes face-to-face with the monster and survives. Now, it has him in its sights.
She was pretty in a white-bread, picket-fence way. Idal didn’t want to be creepy, but those floor-to-ceiling windows provided the frozen world below such an excellent voyeuristic view. His gaze kept drifting right back up.
If she sensed him watching, she gave no indication. He envied that. A warm, placid bubble of unguarded ignorance. Living that pretty, happy life as if she had no idea how ugly and cold the world could be.
Felt pretty damn cold down there though with nothing but a flattened cardboard box between his frozen ass and the snow.
A footstep crunched behind him. He looked back as his friend, Calaca, slipped into the small space of his cardboard shelter. The guy looked more gaunt than usual. More ragged. But the steam wafting up from a tall paper cup in those bony hands stole Iddy’s attention.
“Are you fucking stupid?” Calaca grumbled as he plunked down next to him.
Iddy’s frozen little heart fluttered. He sucked in a shivery breath through his teeth and snuggled in close against Calaca’s side. “Oh my God, that smells amazing. Can I touch it?”
Calaca scowled at Iddy through his thick emo fringe, but he handed the cup over. “Four more last night.”
That sounded ominous. Iddy would have loved to riddle it out, but his mental faculties were blocks of ice, and the heat that seeped through his threadbare gloves made everything else so much less important.
Calaca glared at Iddy for a long moment. “They found four more bodies, Iddy. All of ’em hobos like you. You should be at the shelter.”
It was sweet that Calaca cared, but Iddy had enough to worry about without adding urban legends on top of it. He hung his nose over the lid’s vent and let the steam caress the numb tip of his nose for a good couple of seconds.
“I’d rather take my chances with the mothman than lock myself in a gymnasium full of violent homophobes.” Iddy closed his eyes as he inhaled the bitter aroma. “Mm, dark roast.” He exhaled with an exaggerated moan.
Calaca let out a derisive laugh. “Fuck, just drink it.”
Iddy’s eyes popped open. He looked excitedly up at Calaca and flashed a broad, frozen-stiff grin. “Oh my God, I love you.” He took a greedy sip. It burned his tongue but felt so damn good going down, he immediately took another.
After a moment, Calaca’s stubborn grumble broke through Iddy’s coffee-flavoured haze with more doom and gloom. “It’s not ‘mothman’. Animal attacks actually happen, you know. It’s not fucking fiction.”
“I definitely heard someone say ‘mothman’.”
“And I heard someone say Chupacabra.” Calaca rolled his eyes. “Fuck, my dealer thinks he saw a UFO, and now he’s got his whole apartment block crying ‘aliens’. Take the word of crackheads and schizos with a grain of salt, you know?”
Iddy snickered. “Damn, there goes my whole news network.”
Calaca curled his lip in a frustrated sneer, and his attention drifted out to the frozen pedestrians bustling by. “Shit… Just get off the street tonight, okay?”
Iddy smiled warmly at him. “That, I can do.”
The sun dropped so fast Iddy felt its desperate descent in his bones.
He stood against the wall with his shoulders hunched up to his burning ears. His teeth chattered. Frost teased at the tips of his fingers. This cold snap wasn’t the first this bitch of a winter had thrown at the city, but it promised to be the longest. As if he didn’t already have a thousand knocks against him, it would be a miracle if he survived the season without a permanent hunchback and a few frost-blackened digits.
The clock had struck six o’clock. Pity hour where people with tables full of hot food waiting for them occasionally let their guilty consciences pry a couple of quarters from their thick wallets.
A young girl with a head full of ringlets skittered up to him. She flashed an adorable, pinched-nose smile, sans two front teeth. “Aren’t you cold?”
Iddy let out a shaky laugh. He tried to still his chattering and puffed out his chest. “Of course not. I’m Jack Frost.”
“No, you’re not!” The girl’s nose pinched tighter. “Daddy says bums are boozers. Jack Frost can’t drink—it would freeze!”
“That’s what boozecicles are for.”
The girl giggled. “Boozecicles.” Then her pinched little face turned stern as she pulled a crumpled dollar bill from her pocket. She wiggled it in the air and ordered, “No boozecicles! You need to eat!”
Iddy smiled as warmly as he could manage and tipped his knit hat. “Yes ma’am.”
“Hey!” Someone barked. A middle-aged man stormed across the road towards them. “Get the fuck away from my daughter!”
The evening rush froze still. Every pair of eyes on the street snapped to him with a wave of mass judgment and fear. He froze too, like a deer in the headlights. He wanted to run, but he knew that would validate all their ugly assumptions.
The man snatched the dollar from the little girl. He shoved his way into Iddy’s personal space to tower threateningly over him. “If you touched her, you perverted piece of shit—”
“I—I didn’t,” Iddy stammered.
The girl shrieked, “Daddy!”
Daddy grabbed Iddy by the throat with one hand and threw him roughly against the wall of a derelict bookshop. Iddy barely got out a gasp as his head banged against the brick and he collapsed to the salted sidewalk.
Iddy stayed on his hands and knees. When a splatter of thick, yellow spit hit his cheek, he flinched, but he didn’t move. Much as he desperately wanted to avoid his pants getting soaked through, he didn’t want the guy to think him getting up was a challenge. So, he waited with his head hung low as the guy grabbed the little girl and strutted off. And he kept waiting until the spectators dispersed.
When he finally picked himself up and dared a glance around, people were still watching. Most were subtle about it, but their disgust hung in the air. Their minds were made up in clenched fists and flared nostrils.
There was no way he was getting any more pity money out of that crowd. Time to find somewhere to crash anyway—every minute the temperature dropped more and more. So with a resigned sigh, he collected the bits of change from the Styrofoam bowl at his feet. Two dollars’ worth if he was lucky.
Sam Clover has been writing for over 15 years on online archives. She started out in the fanfiction community and made the leap over a decade ago into original queer fiction. She has a passion for representation, for kindness, and for encouraging new writers first putting their pen to paper.
She is a pansexual feminist with a penchant for pirates and horror, and she lives waaay up North in Alberta, Canada with her furbabies.
CEO Maine Braxton and his invaluable assistant, Colby, don’t realize they share a deep secret: they’re in love—with each other. That secret may have never come to light but for a terrifying plane crash in the Cascade Mountains that changes everything.
In a struggle for survival, they brave bears, storms, and a life-threatening flood to make it out of the wilderness alive. The proximity to death makes them realize the importance of love over propriety. Confessions emerge. Passions ignite. They escape the wilds renewed and openly in love.
When they return to civilization, though, forces are already plotting to snuff out their short-lived romance and ruin everything both have worked so hard to achieve.
Colby LaSalle never dreamed his life would end in a plane crash over the Cascade Mountains in Washington State. But here he was, whispering fevered petitions to the Lord as the plane screamed, plunging downward…faster, faster.
Out the windows, all he could see was white. And the only outcome he could imagine was that once that white cleared, the last thing he’d take in would be towering pine trees and the cold side of a mountain hurtling toward him. It was almost too horrific to comprehend.
In those few moments, as Colby braced himself in his seat, head down near his knees, he found himself thinking what a loss this was. The man across from him, his boss, Maine Braxton, would never know the most important thing about Colby. And that thing was not his proficiency as an administrative assistant, keeping Maine on track and on schedule in all his business affairs, but that Colby was passionately—and secretly—in love with him. With all his heart and soul.
That fact, and the unspoken words that hid it, seemed tragic to Colby, maybe even more tragic than the life he was about to lose. What kind of life, Colby wondered, did you really have if you’d never truly loved and been loved in return?
Colby, at twenty-eight, had never been in love before. And now it looked as though he would never have the chance to act on his desire, on that feeling that made his heart flutter whenever Maine walked by his desk. Was love like a tree falling in the forest? If the object of that love never knew of it, did it really exist?
Colby looked up for a moment, maybe to have a final look at Maine, but was distracted by the view through the cockpit window of the six-seater plane they were traveling in—a Beechcraft Bonanza. The opaque fog of white cleared for a moment, and Colby could see, to his horror, that his imagination was correct.
They were hurtling toward the side of a mountain. The view was surreal. Shock kept him from thinking it was anything other than a very vivid nightmare.
He then looked over at Maine and saw he had slid from his seat to the floor. The strong, powerful man cowered there, hands over his head. His lips moved in what Colby could only assume was silent prayer.
Colby longed to slide over, to cover Maine with his own body and shield him from the impact, but he was paralyzed, a butterfly pinned to a board, and could only add his own whispered prayers to those of his boss.
“Please, God, help us get out of this alive. Let Maine know how very much I love him. Give me that chance.”
The private pilot, a blustery, gruff man named Gus Pangborn but whom everyone just called Rooster, shouted, “We’re gonna try and go up! We’re gonna try and go up!”
Colby didn’t know if he was talking to him, Maine, or himself, but the desperation in the pilot’s gravelly voice was clear. The despair in Rooster’s words communicated one thing to Colby and one thing only—he had no hope.
Colby squeezed his eyes shut tight and placed his head back down toward his knees again, covering it with his hands, although he wondered how much good it would do once the plane crashed, once it was consumed by a giant fireball.
What Colby LaSalle didn’t realize, though, was that the plane crash would signal not the end of his life, but the beginning.
Rick R. Reed is an award-winning and bestselling author of more than fifty works of published fiction. He is a Lambda Literary Award finalist. Entertainment Weekly has described his work as “heartrending and sensitive.” Lambda Literary has called him: “A writer that doesn’t disappoint…” Find him at http://www.rickrreedreality.blogspot.com. Rick lives in Palm Springs, CA, with his husband, Bruce, and their fierce Chihuahua/Shiba Inu mix, Kodi.
Vivien Dean has had a lifetime love affair with stories. A multi-published author, her books have been EPPIE finalists, Romantic Times Reviewer’s Choice Nominees, and readers favorites. After spending her twenties and early thirties traveling, she has finally settled down and currently resides in northern California with her British husband and two children.