Of Love

Book Cover: Of Love

Free-spirited computer programmer Kent McMann loves life, candy, his family, and his job designing apps. With his go-getter attitude, he succeeds at anything he tackles. So having a child with a surrogate mother is the perfect start to the family he’s always wanted, even though he still hasn't found his longed-for Mr. Right.

Then, into Kent’s life comes triathlete Dex Lochland, who also happens to be a successful app designer, and the two of them hit it off. They soon begin a relationship full of fun, sex, laughter, and love. But when Kent learns his attempt at fatherhood with the surrogate has succeeded, Dex is shocked. Unknown to Kent until that moment, Dex has never wanted children.

Kent's decision before he met Dex might cost him the man of his dreams.

Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Cover Artists:

DEX LOCHLAND stepped off the elevator and tried not to sigh. The rooftop of the Tech for Life building was jumping with partygoers, the atmosphere cheery. It was a celebration, after all. Whatever new piece of tech or new program they were launching was sure to make the company a mint. TFL was the number-one fitness accessory and app producer in the country, and it showed in the party. Everyone was elegant and the food was decadent, despite the fact that neither of those really had much to do with fitness.

Why was he here again?


Oh right, Julie had accused him of being too inside of his own head and of having no life outside of the Ironman triathlons he ran. The barb had hit just a little too close to home, and with his thirtieth birthday looming, he’d heeded her advice that he “get himself out there.”

The problem was, parties like this one tended to bore him. He hadn’t even come to his own launch parties, aside from the first one where he’d discovered he didn’t talk tech, he didn’t do well at random small talk, and he wasn’t interested in rubbing elbows with celebrities.

Just find one person and talk to them. Then you can go home.” Julie’s instructions rang in his head when he would have turned around and taken the elevator back down to the lobby, so he straightened the tie that threatened to choke him and that Julie had insisted was proper attire—it was a fitness-app release for Pete’s sake, wouldn’t running or yoga gear have been more appropriate?—and waded into the throng.

He passed on the waiter with the tray full of champagne flutes and grabbed a bottle of Evian from a side table so they wouldn’t keep trying to offer him a drink.

He didn’t know anyone here aside from Douglas Manning, the VP of development who was his own liaison here at the company, but he didn’t really want to make Douglas his one person. Besides, he was pretty sure Julie had meant someone new. She’d probably even meant someone who was potentially a date, but he was going to count it as done whether he talked to a woman or a man.

Sipping at his water, he was drawn to the fountain surrounded by greenery at the far left of the rooftop.

I brought Hula-Hoops for everyone!” The words rang out, a wild-haired guy bouncing and smiling wide. It was like watching a cartoon, seriously. A crazy, bright, loud cartoon.

Kent!” The cry sounded from almost everyone.

Dude. Kent McMann, crazy genius and mad developer. That was who this launch party was for. Something to do with the damn Hula-Hoops, but the guy had all sorts of apps and add-ons for your phone, your tablet. In like every field. The man didn’t let categories hold him in.

Dex found himself caught as he watched the guy passing out Hula-Hoops in every color imaginable. Kent smiled at everyone, spoke and touched and chatted for a second. The man had the make-nice thing down; Dex was impressed. He could make a pretty good go of it when he really tried, but he had a harder time pretending this kind of thing didn’t bore the hell out of him. At least today’s craziness was outside.

Ironman!” McMann got to him. “Great to meet you in person. Love the app. The logo tickles me.”

Now Dex was even more impressed. Not to mention Kent was adorable as hell with the crazy blond hair and the freckles across his nose. “Thanks, man. Congratulations to you! It’s your big day.”

Thank you! I’m totally stoked. Want a Hula-Hoop?” Okay, this man was adorable.

I can’t remember the last time I hula-hooped.” If he ever had. Still, he found himself holding out his hand, pleased when a rainbow one was handed over.

I hope you make good use of it.”

I don’t know, I might need lessons.” Was he flirting with Kent?

I know a fabulous teacher.” Whether or not Dex was flirting, Kent was totally flirting back.

You’ll have to give me his number,” Dex suggested.

Give me your phone. Better yet, meet me at the elevator in fifteen minutes.”

Dex could totally handle fifteen more minutes. Especially if more time with Kent was his reward. “I’ll be there. Hula-Hoop and all.”

Rock on, Ironman.”

Keep on hooping.” He gave Kent a wink, then watched the man go. Broad shoulders moved down into a tiny little waist and a sweet, sweet ass.

Damn. This event was looking up.

He checked his watch and began wandering. He’d talked to his one person and, if he was lucky, was leaving with him. Dex actually found himself talking to a few folks, making small talk that was actually pleasant. The worst part of the event was that he was going to have to tell Julie she was right. Which was pretty much a win for both of them.

After fifteen minutes, he left his water bottle in a recycling bin and headed for the elevator.

Two minutes later, Kent was right there, those sherry-colored eyes shining. “You stayed!”

He couldn’t help but grin at the man. “And you showed.”

I’m good that way.” Kent pushed the button on the elevator.

From where I’m standing, you’re good a lot of ways.”

When Kent blushed, that pale skin went bright pink, and Dex was charmed. Utterly.

The elevator dinged, doors sliding open, and he waved Kent in ahead of him. Kent bounced in, looking like a happy puppy. That happiness drew him like a moth to a flame.

He pressed the button for the lobby and settled close to Kent as the doors closed and they started moving down. It gave him a chance to check Kent out properly. Pale and more than a touch goofy, Kent’s entire self was in constant motion, hands sliding over the railing in the elevator, adjusting his watch. It made Dex wonder how those fingers would feel against his skin.

He cleared his throat, trying to distract himself from thoughts that were going to make him hard.

It was Kent who broke the silence. “Do you drink beer? Wine? Coffee? Or did you genuinely want me to show you hula-hooping?”

I’m happier with juice and water,” Dex admitted. “But I’d love to grab a drink with you. Maybe we can save the hula-hooping for later.”

Sounds like a plan. There’s a place right around the corner here—upscale diner. We should be able to get what we want.”

Works for me.” Dex thought he might have agreed to just about anything for the chance to get to know the bubbly Kent better.

The elevator came to a stop, the ding sounding as the doors slid open, and again, he waved Kent ahead of him. “After you.”

Thank you, sir.” Kent bounced out with a flourish. “Coffee, ho!”

He had to laugh; Kent was so full of life. He had to admire the man’s ass, too, as he followed along. Tight and tiny and made for sin—it was a thing of beauty. Dex’s prick began filling, and he was thankful they were turning in to a little diner. He was even more thankful to slip into a booth, hiding his growing hard-on.

Kent propped his Hula-Hoop up in the window, the rainbow foil shining and sparkling, leaving designs of light on Kent’s face.

That is charming as hell,” Dex noted.

What is?” And that genuine cluelessness was even more adorable.

You are.”

Oh, you’re a lovely flirt. Thank you!” The best part was that Kent looked totally pleased.

Thank you for asking me out.” It had been unexpected and pretty great—the best kind of surprise.

The waitress came over before he could say anything else. “Can I get you boys something to drink?”

I’m good with water, please.” He didn’t need the empty calories found in alcoholic drinks.

Water and coffee, thanks.”

Can I buy you dinner while we’re here?” Dex honestly wanted more than just a quick coffee. He couldn’t remember the last time he’d been so taken so quickly.

Absolutely. I would love that.” Kent grinned at him, wriggling in his seat. “I am free as a bird now that the cocktail party is over.”

That’s great.” He passed one of the menus the waitress had brought to Kent and opened the other one. “You like diner food?” If Kent didn’t, they could have their water and coffee and move on.

Oh, I like food. I’m really the easiest on that front. I’ll eat anything from McDonald’s to fine dining.”

What I go for depends on where I am in training,” Dex admitted. “I’m alternating right now, so I’m eating a more normal diet. Have you eaten here before?”

I have. I eat here all the time.”

Yeah? What do you recommend?” He wasn’t surprised, really. The place suited Kent somehow.

The chicken and dumplings are exceptional, the polenta cakes with the candied bacon is stunning. Uh…. Oh, the chili burger is surprisingly good.”

You had me at candied bacon.” He rarely indulged in bacon and this sounded especially decadent, but he felt like giving it a try.

Kent cackled, the sound surprisingly birdlike. “That’s totally what I’m having.”

Well, looks like we have stuff in common.” He closed his menu, watching Kent.

That’s handy. You like sweet crunchy salty goodness and Hula-Hoops.”

We both design apps,” Dex added.

We do! We’re both into dick.” The last was offered carefully.

We are. Thank God, or there would be this really awkward moment at the end of supper.” Because he had totally assumed Kent was gay when they’d been flirting.

No shit on that.”

They looked at each other and cracked up, laughing together merrily.

He managed to sober up when their waitress came back with their drinks. They both ordered the polenta with candied bacon and got side garden salads with that.

When she was gone again, his focus turned back to Kent. “So, I have to ask. Why Hula-Hoops?”

I like to hula-hoop. It’s fun and it makes people laugh.”

You actually are going to show me how it works, you know.” Dex thought it would be fun to learn a new form of exercise.

Totally. I took classes.”

Why didn’t that surprise him? “I didn’t even know they had classes in hula-hooping.” It made sense, though, that if there was an app, there were classes too.

Oh yeah. It’s a yoga thing. You get in touch with your inner wiggle.”

Your inner wiggle….” Dex had to laugh again. “You don’t seem to need any help finding yours.”

No. God, no. I am the wiggle king.” Kent stopped, blinked, grabbed his smartphone. “Note to self. Wiggle king.”

Dex couldn’t remember the last time someone had made him laugh so much, just by being themselves.

I want a dedication.” He had no clue what was going to become of that note, but he still wanted that nod.

God, yes. Hell, you get collaborative credit.”

Excellent. You’ll have to tell me what it is we’re collaborating on.”

I have no idea,” Kent admitted.

Look at that smile. Dex was hooked. And laughing again.

His laughter was interrupted by the arrival of their food. He managed a “thank you” to their waitress, then cleared his throat a few times—laughing and eating at the same time would lead to choking.

They fell on the bacon like they were ravenous. Despite his misgivings about bacon, this candied version was damn good. He’d need to put in a lot of running for this. The polenta was good too, but the bacon was definitely the draw with this meal.

Kent licked his fingers, moaning happily. “God, this is good shit.”

It is. Diners always have the best food.”

Don’t they?” Kent looked so pleased.

Thanks for inviting me.” He touched Kent’s knee under the table.

Thank you for saying yes. That’s a grand thing.”

Will you say yes if I ask you to come out with me again sometime? There’s a new rock-climbing gym that opened up on Nelson Avenue.” Dex had been wanting to try it but hadn’t had the opportunity yet.

I would love to try that. I’ve never done rock climbing before. I love new things.”

It’s a date, then.” Dex grabbed his phone and opened his calendar. The rock climbing would fit in great with his training on Thursday or Saturday. “Are you free Thursday afternoon?”

Kent checked his calendar. “I have an appointment at noon. Say three?”

Three works great. Maybe I could make you a meal afterward?”

I’d love that, man. Should I bring something?”


Oh, that’s handy. I have that in spades!”

God, what a charming, dear man.

Dex owed Julie big time for making him go to the event, and he was so taken with Kent, he didn’t even mind.

Do you have room for dessert, or would you like to walk off dinner first?” He knew of a little cheesecake shop that did an amazing duo plate to share.

Let’s walk and then snack, huh? We can store your Hula-Hoop upstairs.”

Upstairs?” Dex frowned. What was upstairs?

My apartment. I like the building.”

You coy devil, you. Upstairs it is.”

What? It’s true.” Kent chuckled. “I told you, I’m in here all the time.”

I believe you. I believe you.” He put up his hands. “Does that mean you get a discount on the food here?”

Only when I remind them I own the building.”

Well, to make sure they make their rent, I’m happy to pay full price.” Not to mention he’d offered to treat Kent at full price. He pulled his wallet out.

I’ve got this one. You’re cooking Thursday.”

Works for me. Thank you for dinner. I’m pretty sure I can’t rival candied bacon.” Hell, just the idea of candied bacon had never even occurred to him. Not to mention it was a rare indulgence, not something to be had several times a week.

Oh man. Note I didn’t cook it. I just paid for it.”

I’ll have to remember that.”

Dex was a good cook, though. He’d learned a lot about nutrition and cooking himself the best meals for training and running the triathlons. Hell, he’d invented the app for that. Which was why, in a roundabout way, Kent was coming for dinner on Thursday after their date at the rock-climbing gym. How cool was that?

Come on up, honey. You can drop your hoop, and we’ll go have a wander. I love walking the city.”

Sounds good.” Dex took a last sip of his water and followed Kent out the back entrance of the diner. This one led to the lobby of the building instead of outside. There were other stores, along with a bank of elevators, which was where they were headed.

The building was light, open, and they headed up to the penthouse level. The space here was spectacular—bright and modern, the white splashed with jewel tones.

You have a decorator do this?” He suspected not. The brilliant color matched what he knew of Kent’s personality.

Nah. I just put things where I wanted them, where it felt right.”

Good, then this is you. And I love it. It’s a happy place. Kind of like you.” He wasn’t sure he’d ever met anyone as happy as Kent. It was infectious.

Yeah? Thanks. I’ve been here three years and it’s home.”

My place is considerably smaller.” It had a room for his workout equipment, though, and that’s what counted.

Yeah. I’m not… please don’t think I was being all ‘look at me this is mine.’”

Thought didn’t even cross my mind. You don’t strike me as the boastful type.”

Kent was just happy to show off his home. Dex could see that.

No. That’s no fun. Playing is fun.”

It sure is.” Chuckling, he got hold of Kent’s shirt and tugged him close. Tilting his head, he took a kiss.

Oh.” Kent laughed into the caress, tongue sliding over his lips.

He opened up, letting Kent in. The kiss was playful, somehow light and lovely. He could easily have lost himself in it, but he was hoping for another chance before they parted ways. Anticipation was good for the soul, right?

Oh, that is tempting.” Kent backed off. “Will you be offended if we walk now? I… I’m not a one-night-stand guy. I like to take it on the slow side. I know that’s odd, but… I really want to get to know you.”

We’re on the same page—I was just thinking a little anticipation would make this even sweeter.”

Oh good. Good. Excellent.”

He took Kent’s hand, and together they headed out to wander the city and find some dessert.

This was the best evening he’d had in a long, long time, and he couldn’t wait to see what happened next.


From the Get Go

Book Cover: From the Get Go

When easygoing Texas artist Dakin McBride makes his way to Ottawa, Canada, for a showing, he meets Jeff Tamrin, the fastidious manager of the Sussex Gallery. Despite coming from different worlds and being opposites in almost every way, the attraction is immediate, and soon Dakin and Jeff negotiate their own brand of diplomatic relations, forgetting all about art or seeing the sights the city has to offer. They get wrapped up in the moment, each of them intrigued by what he feels for the other.

The more they get to know each other, the more they like what they see. Dakin has a life to go back to in Texas, though, and Jeff has his own in Canada. Is there any way for their budding romance to survive the thousands of miles separating them? The relationship seems doomed, but at the same time, it feels too right to give up without a fight.

First Edition published by Torquere Press, 2005.

Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Cover Artists:


Book Cover: Cupcakes

Allen Jameson had it all—the perfect house, the perfect partner, the perfect life—until his partner, Gary, died suddenly, leaving him alone in the real world, where life isn't so pretty and people make mistakes. Now Allen is the owner of Sweet ‘n’ Sassy Cupcake Shop, a cute boutique downtown, where he invents delicious flavors like strawberry and French meringue. Between working long hours and making special orders, Allen barely has time to think.

Then a hunky contractor walks into his shop looking for a treat. Allen and Byron Bannigan are total opposites, but they're perfect together—salty and sweet like Allen’s signature peanut butter and chocolate ganache cupcakes. But as Allen struggles to juggle his business and his boyfriend, he learns he can only handle so much. He may have to choose between the cupcakes in his store and the cupcake in his bed.

Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Cover Artists:

PEANUT BUTTER with chocolate ganache.

Carrot cake with cream cheese icing.

Mexican chocolate with cinnamon frosting.

Fresh strawberry with French meringue.

Allen put out the day’s cupcakes and started the cappuccino maker.


He checked the clock. Six fifty-five. Time to open. He made sure the day’s muffins were out on top of the four-foot counter, then turned the sign on Sweet ’n’ Sassy’s door to “open.” Time for work!

The first customers started coming in immediately—Steve and Daniel, Rick, Lowell, and Ron. Heidi and Leeane. He loved his regulars and they loved him, coming into the tiniest cupcake bakery in the whole world for a muffin, a cup of joe, a quick hug, and a smile. Some people might stay long enough for a small conversation, but with only two tables, most of his customers took their sweets to go.

By the time it was nine twenty, he was out of muffins; time to head to the back to start the cupcakes for the afternoon orders. Lord.

The bell over the door jangled just as he got there, and he returned to the front to find the most stunning man he’d ever seen standing at his counter. Big, buff, and with the prettiest hazel eyes. The jeans and tight T-shirt only served to accentuate the man’s muscles.

Good morning.” You hot thing. “How can I help you?”

I need fancy food for my secretary. She’s pregnant and it’s her last day, and I’m supposed to do something.” The man sounded harried.

Okay. I don’t do savory things, really, but I can make cupcakes. Do you know what kind and how many and when?”

Cupcakes. That sounds good.” The guy nodded and then scratched the back of his head. “Today’s her last day, so I have to have ’em for three. We’re doing a little party.”

How many?” Three o’clock. Damn. Okay. Maybe.

Uh… two dozen? Is that possible?”

Oh. Oh, that was totally doable. “Yes. Yes, I can. Does she know if she’s having a boy or a girl?”

God no, she’s gone on and on about ruining the surprise.” The guy chuckled. “These need to be really good cupcakes, so she remembers to come back to work.”

I can do a dozen pink strawberry and a dozen polenta cupcakes with a blueberry frosting.”

As long as a lady would think they’re pretty, it sounds great.” The man had an amazing smile, eyes crinkling up, teeth white in his tanned face.

Okay. Okay, I’ll have them ready at 2:00 p.m. It’ll be a twenty-dollar deposit, please.” God. Okay. He’d be here late this afternoon making that birthday order for Mark and Wade, but it was a nice little bonus order.

Oh, you rock. Seriously, you’re a lifesaver.” The guy pulled out his wallet and handed over a twenty.

Thanks for stopping in. I’ll have your order ready at two.” Busy was good, right?

Cool. Do I get a slip or anything?”

Absolutely. Give me two shakes.” Lord, the man was making him stupid. He really needed to focus. “What’s the name on the ticket?”

B. Banigan.”

B. Banigan. I got it.” He wrote the receipt, then handed over a copy.

B’s fingers slid against his as he took the paper. “Cool. I’ll be back at two.”

I’ll be here.” Allen’s fingers tingled, and he actually felt his belly get tight. God, he missed the days when Gary had connected with him like that. So bad.

B’s smile was warm and made the tight feeling stronger. “Me too.”

Then the man was heading for the door, offering a very fine view.

Allen rolled his eyes at himself. Christ, he was a giant dork. Seriously. He wasn’t in a place to even admire. Hell, he was finally in a spot where fantasizing didn’t make him cry. Still, if he was going to fantasize, Mr. B. Banigan was a good place to start.

Allen sighed, shrugged. Whatever. It was time to get to work, right? Make cupcakes, make joy for people.

He pushed B out of his mind and began.


Add Love and Mix

Book Cover: Add Love and Mix

Firefighter Jason “Jase” Weller and EMT Scott Bronson are living the perfect life. They work together in jobs they love, they live together, and in their downtime, they still can’t get enough of each other. It’s been six amazing years. Then on Christmas Eve, Jase’s former lover Elsa shows up with a six-year-old girl in tow. The strung-out junkie claims Kerry is Jase’s daughter and it’s his turn to care for her, and then she walks out.

Shocked at both the fact that Elsa is now a junkie and that he has a daughter he never knew about, Jase nonetheless steps up to the plate as her father and Scott offers his full support. Having an instant family comes with plenty of challenges, and the two men work to deal with sweeping changes in their lives and to make things right for Kerry.

It’s not going to be easy, and their new circumstances test them and their relationship like nothing ever has. They’ll need all the love they have for each other—and the love they discover for their daughter—to keep from breaking apart.

Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Cover Artists:

JASE WHISTLED as he drove the truck back to the firehouse. He was pumped like he always was after a call.

The snow was falling thick and white, coating Ottawa in Christmas cheer.

He almost always worked Christmas Eve, but this was the first time he could remember it actually snowing. Looked like it was going to be a big storm too before it was over.


He pulled into the house and parked the big rig, grinning as the ambulance pulled up next to him.

It had been a good call. Small fire, no injuries, and they’d dealt with it in record time.

He hoped that would be the last call until Boxing Day. Not because he didn’t want to work, but he didn’t want anyone’s Christmas ruined like that.

Jase climbed out and joined the other guys in making sure everything was ready for their next call, then lingered, letting the other guys hit the showers first.

He headed over to the ambulance, finding Scott on his own, restocking.

Merry Christmas Eve, babe.”

Hey, gorgeous.” Scott grinned at him, green eyes warm and sparkling under the crazy mop of black curls.

God, he was in love with this man. Still. Time and proximity only seemed to deepen the way he felt.

You almost done there? I bet the showers are deserted at this point.” There was a reason they both took their time when they got back to the house.

Perv.” Oh, that was a naughty smile.

Takes one to know one.”

Jase stepped up into Scott’s space, looking into the green eyes, the heat he was feeling matched there.

Someone might catch us,” Scott said.

Don’t you mean catch us again?” Jase laughed and rubbed Scott’s crotch. “They’ll give us some privacy, long as we’re quick.” And he knew they could be quick. Hell, they were both so ramped up from the call, they’d be going off like rockets.

Go. I’ll be there in two shakes.”

Of my ass?” Eager and randy, Jase shook it as he headed into the station proper.

The place was decorated for Christmas: lights twinkling, the tree fully decorated, everything shiny.

There were even gifts under the tree. The guys who worked over Christmas did a white elephant game. He had his real gift for Scott under his bed.

The showers were empty, and he went to the far one, turning it on hot before stripping.

Barely three minutes passed before warm hands wrapped around his waist, the touch sure, wanton.

Jase leaned back against Scott’s solid body and groaned. “Hey, babe.” Resting his head on Scott’s shoulder, he kissed his lover’s neck.

Hey,” Scott said. “You ready for our vacation to start? I sure as fuck am.”

Yeah. Boxing Day here we come. You think next year we should take the holiday off?” They worked because they didn’t have families, but they had each other.

Eh. Maybe. I like to save it for the guys with kids.”

Yeah, I know.”

Jase grinned as he nibbled on Scott’s neck. “We’re motherfucking selfless wonders.”

Saints. True saints.”

He laughed, turning to grab Scott and push him up against the tile. Then he took the kiss he wanted, diving into Scott’s mouth.

Scott climbed up his body, legs coming to rest around his waist.

Jase humped against Scott, their bodies slamming up against the tile.

Their cocks rubbed together, the sensation fucking amazing.

They didn’t have time to goof around, to take their time. They simply had to get to it.

Biting at Scott’s lips, Jase moved faster, moaning when Scott’s hand wrapped around both their cocks.

Scott knew how to touch him, how to touch them and bring them off.

Fuck, yeah. Just like that, babe.”

Groaning, Jase closed his eyes, feeling the pleasure course through him.

So easy.” Scott was such a tease.

He bit hard at Scott’s lower lip. “Butthead.”

There wasn’t any heat behind the word, though. Nor any strength, his body entirely focused on how good everything felt.

Uh. Uh-huh. Yours.” Scott tugged the tips of their cocks good and hard.

Fuck!” Jase jerked, bucking their bodies hard against the wall, and came, spunk spewing up over Scott’s hand.

Scott watched through his orgasm, then began jacking them both good and hard.

He shuddered. “Fuck. Sensitive.”

Still, he didn’t ask Scott to stop, did he? No, he leaned one hand against the tile and, pushing the other between them, tweaked Scott’s right nipple—the more sensitive of the two.

Scott arched, bared his teeth. “One more time.”

Jase twisted the nub harder this time, digging his fingernails into Scott’s flesh. “Come on. Give it up for me.”

Scott shot like a hose, spunk pouring out of him in long pulses.

Fucking love that smell.” To Jase it meant safety and sex and love and happiness.

Grinning, he took another kiss, lips lingering lazily against Scott’s. He knew they had to rinse off and get out before they got walked in on, but he wanted another moment with his lover.

Merry almost Christmas, love,” Scott said. “I mean it.”

Yeah. All that matters is that we’re here together, and it’s a good one.”

Jase gave Scott one last kiss and stepped back. He slid his hands to Scott’s ass, holding on until Scott had his feet back on the ground.

Grabbing the soap, Jase made short work of soaping up his lover’s skin, touching more thoroughly than he probably needed to.

Scott helped out, and they managed to get out of the shower and into towels before Andy came through, rolling his eyes.

Jase, man, you got someone at the front asking for you.”

Seriously?” Practical jokes abounded at the firehouse. Especially when they were working holiday shifts.

No, I’m making it up. Yes, seriously.” Andy rolled his eyes again, and Scott laughed, snapping his ass with a towel.

Jase sent a mock glare at both of them and pulled on his jeans and a T-shirt before heading out to the front.

He blinked at the woman standing in the lobby. She looked like shit—strung out and hollow cheeked, hair stringy and ragged.

Can I help you?” Jase asked.

What? You don’t remember me? We slept together for six months, you pig.”

He shook his head. He didn’t know any crackheads. The only woman he’d slept with for six months was just before he’d met Scott. He and Elsa had broken up over six years ago.

He met her eyes, ready to tell her he wasn’t who she was looking for, when he saw a flash of Elsa in the sunken eyes.

Elsa? No way.”

You do remember. Excellent. I got something that’s yours, and I don’t want the little bitch no more.”

With that, she shoved a skinny, filthy little girl with tears streaking her cheeks and a huge bruise on her tiny face toward him.

Mommy! Mommy, please!”

Shut up. This fucker is your dad. You’re his problem now.”

The girl started crying outright, and Elsa went to backhand her, but Jase stepped in between the two of them, hand on the little girl’s shoulder as she began to wail louder. “Hey! What the hell happened to you? And what are you talking about, I’m her dad?”

This was not the woman he’d known. And they’d always been careful. He knew they had.

Aside from condoms, she’d been on the pill.

You left, and I found out about the little bitch three weeks later. Tried everything to get rid of it, but it lived.”

Hey there, sweetie.” Scott’s voice was soft, gentle. “Would you like to see my ambulance? Maybe have a Coke?”

Jase turned and nodded to Scott, mouthed, “Thanks,” then shifted his attention back to Elsa.

Why didn’t you call me?” He would have helped. Gotten her and the baby the proper care. Hell, helped pay for the abortion if Elsa was determined to go through with it. “And when did you get hooked?”

Fuck you. I was using when I was with you. Why do you think I had to start selling shit? You weren’t ever there. I needed something.”

Jesus, Elsa….” He didn’t know what to say. He totally didn’t recognize this awful bitch in front of him. Either physically or mentally. “I’m sorry. You need some help getting clean?”

Fuck you. I’m out of here.” She tossed a tiny backpack at him. “I tried to sell her. No one wants her. She’s worthless.”

Jase’s mouth dropped open in pure, unadulterated shock.

That shock began to turn to anger as Elsa turned on her heel and marched out.

He went to go after her, but Andy grabbed his arm, held him back.

Don’t, man. That kid is better off pretty much anywhere else.”

He nodded jerkily. Andy was probably right.


Jase was nearly shaking, his emotions a jumble.

Why don’t you go find Scott and see how she’s doing?” Andy suggested.

Yeah, yeah. Good idea.”

He headed out to the bay where the ambulance was parked.

Do you like the red ones? I do. Lots.” Scott was talking, chattering away, and the little girl’s tears had dried up.

Hey, there,” he said quietly. Shit, Elsa hadn’t even told him her name.

Scott and the little girl both looked up, and Jase crouched so he wasn’t so tall. “What’s your name, honey?”


Jase blinked. That had been his twin sister’s name. She’d died when they were six. A boating accident. “That’s a beautiful name. I had a twin sister named Karissa.”

He saw Scott looking at him in surprise.

Jase didn’t talk about her very much, but it seemed appropriate, what with the little girl in front of him.

Mommy told me. She drownded, and she’s a ghost that pinches bad girls.”

Scott’s eyes widened farther.

What? No. No.” Jase put his hand on her back. “She was a wonderful little girl, and she would never pinch anyone.” Maybe him, when they were bickering, but usually only in retaliation. “She’s my guardian angel, and I bet she’s looking out for you too.”

Are you really my daddy?”

He looked at Scott. What did he tell her?

She was the right age for it to be a distinct possibility. And Elsa had named her after his sister.

But would it be fair to say yes and have it turn out later that she wasn’t?

He looked from Scott to her, and she stared back, giving him his first look at her big blue eyes. Christ, he saw those eyes in the mirror every morning, and he’d seen them every time he’d looked at his twin sister too.

Yeah, Kerry,” he told her, his twin’s nickname falling off his tongue easy as anything. “I think I am.”