Blast from the Past: The Boys of Summer

The Boys of Summer200x300

The Boys of Summer by Sarah Madison

Contemporary/Historical M/M Romance

Finalist in the 2013 Rainbow Awards. Nominated Best Historical in the Goodreads M/M Romance Reader’s Choice AwardsSelected as a Best Read in 2013 by Jessewave. Winner of Best M/M Romance in the 2013 PRG Reviewer’s Choice Awards. 


This couldn’t be happening. The plane couldn’t be going down.

As production assistant, David McIntyre has been enjoying the heck out of his current assignment: touring the Hawaiian Islands in search of the ideal shooting locations for a series of company projects. What’s not to like? Stunning scenery, great food, sunny beaches…and indulging in his crush on his hot pilot-for-hire, Rick Sutton.

Everything changes when a tropical storm and engine failure force a crash landing on a deserted atoll somewhere in the South Pacific. Sutton’s injuries and a lack of food and water make rescue imperative, but it takes an intensely vivid dream about the Battle of Britain to make David see that Rick is more than just a pilot to him. Will David gather his courage to confess his feelings to Rick—before it’s too late?

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People often ask me what was the inspiration for writing The Boys of Summer, and the answer is simple, really. I was merrily trucking along with my contemporary story, but I couldn’t shake the image of Rick Sutton in a WW2 RAF pilot’s uniform, leaning against the side of a Spitfire.

Well, that didn’t fit with the story I had in mind, but no problem. I’d introduce a little dream sequence that allowed me to use that powerful image. It would work because David McIntyre was researching Bletchley Park and Alan Turing for a film project he was working on—stranded on a deserted atoll with an injured pilot, having discovering a WW2 listening outpost, it would only be natural that his dreams would turn to WW2. Logically, I should have written about Pearl Harbor, seeing as the story takes place in the South Pacific. But that RAF uniform stuck with me. Right, so a little research online to get the details right about the time period and off I go.

Only the more I researched, the more appalled I became at my level of ignorance about WW2, and the Battle of Britain in particular. Sure, I’d heard Churchill’s speech about “Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few” but the words hadn’t completely registered with me before. It wasn’t until I read in detail about the Battle of Britain, and the odds these young pilots faced, that it really began to sink in. Many pilots were sent into battle with less than ten hours of flight time. At one time, the average lifespan of a fighter pilot in the RAF was six weeks. The more I delved into the history, the more important it became to me to do justice to their story. Sure, I could have written an entire novel just on that period in time, but it would have ended in tears. I needed a happy ending. I believe in happy endings. And so the weird amalgamation of historical and contemporary story was born. Some people hated it, but many more loved it. I hope you will, too.



“Hey! Hey! Don’t pass out on me,” David warned, reaching under Sutton’s jacket and around his body to take hold of his torso. “I’ll never get you out of here if you pass out, and I can’t reach whatever’s bleeding from here. I need to stop the bleeding, okay? You’re going to have to help me.”

Sutton nodded silently. His lack of heroic banter worried David. He tightened his grip around Sutton’s chest, locking wrists that were slick with far too much blood. Where the hell was it coming from? He braced his feet against Sutton’s chair and pulled.

At first, it seemed like nothing was happening, as though he was attempting to lift a two ton gold brick. Then slowly, he felt Sutton coming with him, oozing out of the seat like a man being pulled out of quicksand. Sutton wasn’t helping him much, a fact that scared the crap out of him. He’d slung one arm around David’s shoulder, but he was pretty much dead weight as David tugged on him. Nonetheless, things were progressing steadily, with David gradually pulling Sutton up out of the crumpled mess that was the pilot’s seat, when suddenly they stopped moving.

David grunted and tugged some more, but to no avail. He slithered around, trying to get a different grip on Sutton but nothing worked.

“Hang on,” Sutton said, his breath coming in short, warm bursts near David’s ear. “I think I’m caught on something.”

“What, again?” David asked, and was rewarded with a faint chuckle. It was odd to think he could so easily turn his head and his lips would be on Sutton’s. They were practically embracing now. As it was, Sutton shifted, trying to move his injured side, reaching around behind him. His actions caused him to arch his back slightly, pushing up against David’s chest. The rain had soaked through Sutton’s shirt, leaving no questions as to his physical fitness. They could have been skin to skin, the contact was so close.

“Fuck, that hurts.” Sutton slumped against him. “Sorry.” His words were little more than exhaled breath. “I can’t reach it.”

“I don’t know what’s wrong with you,” David huffed, pulling Sutton closer into his body and then fishing around blindly behind him to see what he was caught on. He found the offending piece of cloth, hung on part of the console. When he couldn’t unsnag it, he tore it instead. He collected Sutton into his grip once more. “Most heroes could get impaled in the belly at least once every other episode, and still manage to fight off the bad guys and get the girl in the end. You’re supposed to say, ‘I’m fine, I have at least two kidneys’ and keep moving, mister.”

A laugh so soft it only stirred the hair near his ear sent a ripple of undefined emotion through David. He was so afraid Sutton would die. He needed Sutton not to die.


Sarah Madison Author Bio and Contact Information

Bio: Sarah Madison is a veterinarian with a big dog, an even bigger horse, too many cats, and a very patient boyfriend. She is a terrible cook, and concedes that her life would be easier if Purina made People Chow. She writes because it is cheaper than therapy.



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Blast from the Past: Island House by Bru Baker

Thanks for hosting this Blast from the Past, Kim! Island House isn’t too far in the distant past—just a year—but that was six books and two anthologies ago for me, so it definitely counts. It was also my first novel, so it holds a pretty special place in my heart.

IslandHouse_FinalBlurb: Unable to move on after the death of his lover, British expat Niall Ahern clings to Nolan’s dream of living in the Caribbean by moving to Tortola. Once there, he finds that not even the beauty of the island can fill the hole in his heart. Broke and spent in nearly every way imaginable, Niall wants out of the lonely, miserable, guilt-ridden life he’s carved out for himself. When Ethan Bettencourt, a wealthy tech guru, shows up in British Virgin Islands looking to purchase a second home, he gives Niall hope that he can move on. Both men fall hard and fast, but Niall finds piloting his yacht in the midst of a hurricane is nothing compared to weathering life’s simple misunderstandings. As their troubles come between them, Niall is left to wonder if he and Ethan are over before they’ve begun.

Ethan ends up being exactly what Niall needs, but it takes quite a bit for him to realize that. Along the way, Niall comes to terms with his grief over the loss of his partner and finally gives himself permission to move on.

Niall’s journey in Island House sets the theme for the Dropping Anchor series. Each book follows a different person in Niall’s small group of friends as he grows and matures. For Niall, it’s forgiving himself and learning to love again. For Ian in Finding Home, it’s finally settling down and becoming a responsible adult. And for Frank in Playing House, which comes out Dec. 22, it’s a late diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder and how that affects his relationship with his husband—and their prospects of starting a family.


Island House Excerpt:


“You’re Ahern?”


The voice belonged to a tall, dark-haired man who would have been handsome save for the stubble covering his face. The rugged two-day growth transformed his slightly sharp features into something dangerous, and paired with his slight tan and blue eyes, the end result was nothing short of breathtakingly gorgeous. Were it not for the faded button-down and pair of tattered Dockers the man was wearing, Niall would have sworn he was an 18th century pirate somehow transported to the modern day.


Niall didn’t realize he’d been staring, until Jacks cleared his throat and stepped forward, hand outstretched to welcome the visitor. Niall swallowed, his already heat-flushed cheeks burning with the beginnings of a blush. He hadn’t reacted to a man like this since—well, since ever. Niall’s only serious relationship had been with a man he’d known since childhood, and it definitely hadn’t started with a spark of lust like this. He felt a familiar pang of guilt at the thought of finding a man other than Nolan attractive, though Nolan had been gone for years.


“Sorry?” Niall asked when it became clear the would-be pirate was talking to him again.


“I asked if you were Niall Ahern,” the man said, blue eyes narrowed slightly as he studied Niall. “He said he’d be here to pick me up—”


“Mr. Bettencourt!” Niall felt his stomach drop. Ethan Bettencourt was one of the world’s most sought-after software developers and technology consultants. He wore Armani suits and custom-made Italian shoes, not ancient Dockers and flip-flops. But as Niall stared at him, he could see the full lips and aquiline nose that had made Ethan fodder for gossip magazines across the world. It was definitely him.


“I’m so sorry, sir,” Niall said, rushing forward. He wasn’t sure if he should shake his hand or offer to take his luggage, and as a result he did neither, hand raised awkwardly in front of him as his mind tried to catch up and figure out what to do.


Bettencourt solved Niall’s dilemma by shifting his bag to his other hand and reaching out to take Niall’s half-raised hand. “Call me Ethan.”


The contact had Niall cringing inside, the cool skin of Ethan’s hand making him even more aware of his own sweaty palm.


“Of course,” Niall said, cursing himself for being so flustered. He’d never had this problem before when greeting important clients. Of course, he’d never had an important client who was as gorgeous as Ethan, nor one who could keep Niall’s business afloat for another year with a single transaction.


“Welcome to the islan’, Ethan,” Jacks said, sliding back into his put-on accent and into an easy conversation with Ethan about his flight and the weather forecast for the next few days. It bought Niall enough time to marshal his thoughts, and he made a mental note to buy Jacks a beer the next time he saw him at The Cab, the tiny bar where most of the locals gathered to get away from tourists.


“My car is just outside,” Niall said, reaching out with more grace this time to take Ethan’s bag. Ethan let him, his full lips quirking into a small smile that had Niall’s heart racing again. “I thought you might like a chance to settle in at the hotel. If you like, I can leave you with some of the information on the listings we’ll be looking at tomorrow.”


Ethan’s eyes narrowed slightly, and he dug in his pocket, pulling out a Blackberry that looked like it had been through a war zone. The screen was scuffed and the back was covered with scrapes and deep scratches. It was more suited to a rock climber or beach bum than a man who’d made his fortune in technology. Before Niall could say anything, Ethan had dialed and was pressing the phone against his ear, his tanned knuckles skimming his jaw.


“Explain to me why Mr. Ahern has no idea I’m staying with him for the duration of my trip to Tortola,” he barked into the phone without preamble, startling Niall with both the tone of his voice and the unexpected information.


Niall’s brow creased, his brain registering Ethan’s words as the other man lapsed into silence, apparently listening to whoever was on the other end of the phone. He’d had his office manager, Keandra, handle all the arrangements for Ethan’s visit. Niall had assumed she’d gotten Ethan a suite at Frenchman’s Lookout. It was standard operating procedure with their high-end clients, even though accommodations at the pricey resort cost Niall more than double his monthly mortgage on his boat and the office combined. The hotel gave him a bit of a discount, since he was a local, but still, it was a shock every time the bill came. Regardless, it was worth it. Even if he spent upward of $10,000 wining and dining a single client for a week.


“… absolutely not. I’ll fly back if that’s the case.”


Niall’s head flicked up at the finality in Ethan’s tone. He was obviously not happy with whatever the person on the other end of the battered cell phone was telling him. Niall swallowed, mentally inventorying the state of his house. He hadn’t been home in weeks, as per his usual September routine. It was the one month out of the year Niall decamped to his boat and lived on it full-time. His quick trip home to change into the suit he was wearing had been the first time he’d been in the bungalow since the beginning of the month. Niall made a quick mental study of the rooms, trying to picture whether he’d seen laundry strewn around the bathroom or plates cluttering the kitchen. He didn’t think there had been.


Niall wondered if he should pull out his own phone and call Keandra, but it was her afternoon off. He hated to bother her when she was out with her son. Between her job as Niall’s office manager and working second shift at The Cab, she didn’t have much time with Sebastian. He was brushing the top of his pocket to delve inside for his cell when Ethan made a disgusted noise and stabbed at a button on his phone, glaring at it for good measure before tossing it haphazardly on top of the suitcase he’d set on the terminal floor. No mystery to why it was so banged up, then, Niall thought absently as Ethan swung his black gaze over to focus on him.


“Apparently there has been a miscommunication.” Ethan ground his teeth together, the motion making the tendons in his neck stand out in a way Niall knew should have been off-putting but wasn’t. “Susannah somehow overlooked the arrangements your secretary sent her along with the appointment confirmation.”


Niall wondered if Susannah would still have a job when her boss returned to the mainland; Ethan was infamous for his hair-trigger temper and his exacting standards. Niall had done a fair bit of research on Ethan when he’d taken him on as a client, and one thing that had come up time and again was Ethan’s penchant for dramatics.


Niall felt for the secretary. It couldn’t be easy to work for someone as demanding as Ethan Bettencourt. He was beginning to find that out firsthand, and he’d only been in his employ for several minutes.


“I only have thirty-six hours to find a home, Ahern, and I don’t intend to waste any of them lounging poolside at whatever passes for a resort here,” Ethan snapped. Niall stiffened his spine at the insult. Tortola was the gem of the British Virgin Islands, a place he and Nolan had handpicked out of dozens of potential islands when they’d been looking for a place to start a business. He opened his mouth to respond, but Ethan was off and running again before Niall could form any words. “I’ll be staying with you. If you have a problem with that, I’ll find someone else to work with.”


Niall’s lips flattened at the threat. There were plenty of other firms here Ethan could give his business to; Niall knew that all too well. His tiny independent real estate firm hardly caught any of the multimillion-dollar action, and the thought of losing such a big client made his skin turn clammy under the weight of his heavy suit. He was sure Ethan knew he couldn’t afford to lose the commission; in fact, he wouldn’t put it past him to have picked Niall’s firm simply because he knew Niall’s desperation would make him agree to just about anything.


“You’d be much more comfortable at a hotel.” Niall ground the words out, forcing himself to smile.


Ethan studied him for a second before patting his pockets in search of his phone. Niall was about to point it out on his suitcase when Ethan pulled a slimmer, sleeker phone out of his shirt pocket. It was much more in line with what Niall had expected a man like Ethan to carry.


“Change in plans.” Just like before, Ethan didn’t pause for the person on the other end to get a greeting in. “Refuel the plane and have it ready for me in ten minutes.”


Niall’s eyes widened and he stepped forward slightly, panicked. “I—”


“Joe? Never mind.”


Niall watched Ethan end the call, Ethan’s full lips twisted into a smirk. It made Niall wonder if Ethan really would have left. The calculating gleam in the other man’s eyes made him pretty certain it hadn’t been an empty threat.


“You be needin’ a car, Mr. Niall?” Jacks’s voice took Niall off guard, and he shook his head slightly. He’d driven to the airport, as he was sure Jacks well knew. The parking lot wasn’t very big, and Jacks would have seen the familiar battered Mercedes when he parked his cab.


“No, Jacks. We’ll be fine,” Niall said. His brain felt woolly and like it was trying to catch up. He’d been in a fog ever since Ethan had stepped into the terminal, and he needed to shake it off.


“Storm’s comin’,” Jacks said, picking up Ethan’s bag and walking toward the exit as if Niall hadn’t spoken. For a second, he wondered if he hadn’t actually said the words out loud, but then Ethan turned toward him and arched an eyebrow.


“Your car?”


“Right.” Niall jogged a few paces to catch up with Ethan and Jacks, the wind outside drawing his attention for the first time. It had kicked up considerably since he’d arrived at the airport. The tall palms were thrashing from side to side and the sky was an ominous shade of dark gray.


“Didn’t think Sookie was supposed to make landfall here,” Niall said, squinting at the clouds that seemed to be hovering unusually low.


“That’s Thalia.” Ethan shrugged when both Jacks and Niall looked surprised to hear him weigh in. “Sookie fell apart, but Thalia was right behind it. Looks like we won’t get so lucky with her.”


God, he hoped the storm didn’t actually hit, Niall thought sourly as he opened the trunk for Jacks. That’s all he needed, to be stuck in a tiny bungalow with his jackass of a client during a tropical storm.

Buy links: Dreamspinner Press, Amazon, ARe






cropped headshot Bru BakerBru Baker is a freelance journalist who writes for newspapers and magazines. Fiction makes her happiest, whether it’s creating her own characters or getting caught up in someone else’s. She and her husband live in the Midwest with their two young children, whose antics make finding time to write difficult but never let life get boring.

Visit Bru online at or follow her on Facebook and  Twitter.


Blast from the Past: Deception by Grace R. Duncan


Tagline: Cyrus and Nadir care deeply for each other but they’ve forgotten the first rule of love: communicate in honesty. Their love remains strong enough to weather the changes—if they have the courage not only to face the coming dangers, but to put aside deception and find their truth.

Title: Deception Author: Grace R. Duncan Series: Golden Collar #2 Genre: M/M, Historical, BDSM, Erotic Romance Publisher: Dreamspinner Press Release Date: November 1st, 2013 Cover Artist: Paul Richmond Format/s: eBook / Paperback Length: 380 pages


Cyrus and Nadir first met as hungry orphans on Behekam’s streets at twelve years old. They became friends, then partners in the thievery that enabled them to survive, and as they passed their days together, they fell in love. When they are both taken as pleasure slaves in the opulent palace of the Malik of Neyem, love becomes more complicated.

Rumors of an attempt on Malik Bathasar’s life put Cyrus and Nadir’s relationship to the test—they must pose convincingly as intimate slaves to the young malik as part of a plan to lure the assassin into the open. Teman—Malik Bathasar’s real personal pleasure slave and true lover—was once trained by Cyrus for the same duties, and the attraction and care Cyrus developed for him then still remains. The Malik of Neyem proves an easy man to love and Nadir’s feelings for him grow while they’re pretending to love each other.

Cyrus and Nadir care deeply for each other but they’ve forgotten the first rule of love: communicate in honesty. Their love remains strong enough to weather the changes—if they have the courage not only to face the coming dangers, but to put aside deception and find their truth. A Timeless Dreams title: While reaction to same-sex relationships throughout time and across cultures has not always been positive, these stories celebrate M/M love in a manner that may address, minimize, or ignore historical stigma.

Dreamspinner Press: Amazon: All Romance eBooks:

Excerpt: (Rating: Mature)

“Your hair is getting long, Cyrus. About due for a trim?” Karum asked.

Cyrus nodded and tilted his head back as Karum poured the water over him. “Yes. It is. Nadir says he likes it like this, but it gets in my eyes and drives me insane. Though, if Nadir likes it, I may just leave it and learn to deal.”

Karum laughed. “Makes me glad I don’t have a lover. I like my hair the way it is.”

Cyrus glanced over his shoulder at Karum’s very short black hair. It was cropped almost to the scalp and in tight curls. Karum had dark skin, much darker than any of the other slaves, and it was rumored that he had been picked up by a trading caravan on the other side of the sea. “Oh, it is worth it.”

“Even here?” Karum asked.

Cyrus hesitated. How many times had he said something like absolutely! But he wasn’t sure that was true anymore. He glanced up at Nadir, who caught his eye and smiled. That smile always made him feel better, always warmed him, and he put aside his gloomy thoughts. He returned Nadir’s smile, and his lover’s widened. “Yes, even here,” Cyrus replied. “We are limited, but I can accept that to have Nadir with me. I love him.” He shrugged a shoulder at the simple statement and closed his eyes so Karum could rinse his hair.

Karum made quick and silent work of the rest of Cyrus’s bathing; then he was dried off and moved to the bench to be adorned. These adornments hadn’t changed much since Bathasar had taken the throne, as the nobility they appeared at dinners to entertain still liked to see them. So the basket Karum brought over contained a familiar jumble of gold in chains, clips, and other things.

Salehi stepped in at that moment and crossed the room. “Just a moment, Karum. They won’t be using all of that yet. They will be taking some of it along.” He lifted a cloth bag. “The snake and chains that connect to it will be put on them later.” So saying, he lifted a few items from the basket and placed them in the bag. He handed a light golden version of their cock cages to Karum. “Put this on him first,” he instructed, and Karum did as he bid, oiling the inside of the cage portion before securing it in place and locking it.

The next thing Karum picked up was a metal plug. Cyrus braced himself on the bench as oiled fingers stretched him just enough to take it. Karum worked it into him slowly. Then, at a light tap on his back, he stood and fidgeted slightly as the pressure on his prostate increased. It was one thing he never really got used to. He wasn’t plugged all that often, except when he was present for court dinners.

His collar and cuffs were returned to him next. His collar was like the other slaves’: wide and thin, made of etched gold. It was hinged in the back with a loop in the front for the lock and another below it. Originally, the second loop had been for a leash to be attached, but Bathasar refused to allow them—one of the changes he made to the slaves’ treatment—and so it was reserved to connect simple decorative chains instead.

The cuffs were made just like the collars, without locks. Roughly two inches wide, they were very thin and etched in a similar pattern as the collar. They had small rings on either side of the wrists, but that was all.

Karum next fitted small gold nipple rings that surrounded Cyrus’s nipples, and pinched them closed. They didn’t hurt—barely even put pressure on them, just enough to stay in place and cause his nipples to harden. Cyrus could—and often did—take pain during the course of his service, so he didn’t mind a bit of it, but he liked these rings because they didn’t cause any. Chains were attached to the rings, then hung between his nipples and connected to the loop on his collar.

He was given gold hoops for his ears and more snakes to wrap around his biceps. Karum carefully combed his hair, Salehi handed him the bag with the other items in it, and he was ready.

When he looked at Nadir, adorned as his lover was, his cock jumped. He never got enough of seeing Nadir done up like this. Nadir’s lighter olive skin warmed with the gold, and the thought came to Cyrus that someday, maybe, he could put jewelry on Nadir—jewelry he had purchased just for his lover.

He closed the distance across the room and took Nadir’s hand. “You are, as always, beautiful,” Cyrus murmured and kissed Nadir on his cheek, near his ear.

Nadir’s smile was wide. “You are the beautiful one, Cy.” Cyrus shook his head, but Nadir just laughed. “Stop. You know it is true. Lord Atherol tells us all the time. So does Teman. Even the malik.”

“They also say that you are, as well,” Cyrus countered, and Nadir laughed again.

“That is true,” he conceded. “Well, we shouldn’t keep our master for the night waiting, should we?”

“No, we should not,” Cyrus agreed. He turned toward the door, and, with head bows at Salehi, they made their way out of the slaves’ wing.


Praise for GRACE R. DUNCAN

“I really enjoyed the characters, and loved watching them on their journey. Duncan does a great job of giving a really detailed story, and taking us on a great ride as two men find their happily ever after.”

—Joyfully Jay, on “No Sacrifice

“There were so many wonderful themes going on in this story, I was wrapped up in them all and couldn’t wait to see how Grace brought them all together.”

—Love Bytes Reviews, on “No Sacrifice

“I don’t really read a lot of historical fiction but some of it is damn good, including Grace Duncan’s Choices… The world building is excellent and draws you right in. The character development is also wonderful.”

—Mrs. Condit & Friends Reads Books, on “Choices”


Grace’s Bio:

Grace Duncan grew up with a wild imagination. She told stories from an early age – many of which got her into trouble. Eventually, she learned to channel that imagination into less troublesome areas, including fanfiction, which is what has led her to writing male/male erotica. A gypsy in her own right, Grace has lived all over the United States. She has currently set up camp in East Texas with her husband and children – both the human and furry kind.

As one of those rare creatures who loves research, Grace can get lost for hours on the internet, reading up on any number of strange and different topics. She can also be found writing fanfiction, reading fantasy, crime, suspense, romance and other erotica or even dabbling in art.

Grace’s website: Facebook: Twitter: @GraceRDuncan Pinterest: Google +:



Blast from the Past: The Trust


Thanks, Kim, for hosting this Blast from the Past! I thought I’d share one of my more unusual books – this one written with my good friend, Venona Keyes. The Trust is probably best described as a gay James Bond meets “The Matrix.” It’s a romance (HEA, of course, since I won’t write a book without one!), but it’s even more an edge of your seat thriller where it’s hard to figure out who the good guys are sometimes. There’s a mystery to be solved that takes “executive” Jake Anders on a journey halfway around the world.

The book was based on an idea by Venona about implantable microchips that “speak” to the host. Artificial intelligence that encapsulates a human personality. Some of the microchips are purely invented personalities. But one in particular is based on Jake’s former mentor, Trace Michelson, who was assassinated six years before. Or was he? That’s the mystery Jake must solve.


The Trust, by Shira Anthony and Venona Keyes

Publication Date:  June 18, 2012, Dreamspinner Press

Blurb:   Eight years ago, Jake Anders was a college kid from the wrong side of the tracks. Then Trace Michelson recruited him into The Trust, a CIA-backed agency whose “executives” eliminate rogue biotechnology operations. Trace was everything Jake ever wanted in a man: powerful, brilliant, and gorgeous. But Jake never admitted his attraction to his mentor, and Trace always kept Jake at arm’s length.

Now Trace is dead and Jake is one of The Trust’s best operatives, highly skilled and loyal to the organization. But the secret agent has his own secret: six years ago, before he was assassinated, Trace designed a Sim chip containing his memories and experiences—and now that chip is part of Jake. It’s just data, designed to augment Jake’s knowledge, but when Sim becomes reality, Jake wonders if Trace is still alive or if Jake really is going crazy like everyone claims. He doesn’t know if he can trust himself, let alone anyone else.

To learn the truth about Trace and the chip, Jake embarks on a dangerous mission—except he’s not the only one looking for the information. Some of the answers are locked in his head, and unless he finds the key, he’ll be killed for the technology that’s become a part of him.

Now, more than ever, Jake wishes Trace were here to guide him. Too bad he’s dead… right?


Chapter One: The Hitman is Hit

Shit. Shit, shit, shit!

Blood gushed from his leg, and for just an instant, he watched it with growing anger. Watched it, that was, until the adrenaline kick-started his brain and he realized he would die if he kept bleeding like this.

Gotta stop the bleeding, he thought with desperation.

He dragged himself to the women’s bathroom, pushed hard on the door, and stumbled in. Between the sound of the door slamming against the wall and the sight of all the blood, the startled women inside screamed and ran out.

Blood coated everything he touched. He leaned against a stall door, and it swung open under his weight. One hand applying pressure to the gunshot wound, he elbowed the toilet-paper holder. He fell to the floor and the roll sprang free. He placed the cheap one-ply paper over the wound and pressed down hard—it only took a minute before the roll was a deep crimson.

He tapped the microphone on his chest and shouted, “Agent down! I need an extraction, now!”

“Who’s down?” came the calm, even voice in his earpiece.

“I am. Sandoval fucking ambushed me. Caught me in the leg. Hit an artery.”

“Anders, where are you?”

“I—” He broke off, looking up to see a slender man leaning casually against the stall door, grinning at him. The Silver Fox, Jason Sandoval. Sandoval wasn’t Jake’s target, but it seemed as though Jake was his. Jake had always detested Sandoval. Now he knew why.

“So… there you are. Thanks for leaving me a trail of bloody breadcrumbs to follow.”

“Agent Anders, where are you?” the voice in his ear persisted. He ignored it.

“Looks like ya got a bleeder there, Anders.”

They had never been friends, but they had been colleagues. Now, Jake wanted nothing more than to blow the smirk off the other man’s face.

Fucking traitor.

“I’ve had worse,” Jake lied. If Sandoval wanted him dead, he’d probably only have to wait a few minutes for him to bleed out. But that wasn’t Sandoval’s style—he had never been a patient man, and Jake knew it.

“Not sure that’s true, but I admire your bravado.”

Again, the voice in his ear. “Agent Anders, who’s there with you?”

“What do you want, Sandoval?” Jake asked. He’d pretty much always suspected Jason Sandoval was insane. Now he was sure of it.

Who the hell is he working for? Foreign government? Private concern?

They had come here as a team, their mission to intercept a scientist who was in town for a conference. But things had gone horribly wrong. It had been a setup, the entire scenario. Three of their own agents had turned their guns against him and his backup team. But why?

Fucking traitors. All of them.

“Well, I could watch you bleed to death. Or I suppose I could just end it for you now. Seems a shame, though. You really were a first-class ops guy, Jake. Now your life is fading away, and I get to witness it.”

Jake slowly reached inside his pants.

“Now, now, Jake,” drawled Sandoval, “no cheatin’. Take that hand out of your pocket.”

“I’m trying to stem the bleeding at the pressure point.”

“Like hell.”

Jake withdrew his hand and flicked his wrist faster than the other man could follow, impaling him in the right eye with a knife. Sandoval staggered backward and out of the stall without uttering a word. Jake reached for his gun, but it was missing. When had he lost it? He needed to finish Sandoval off before he was the one lying on the floor with his brains blown out.

He heard the distinctive muffled “pflnk” of a silencer. With the last scrap of his energy, Jake pushed the stall door open in time to see Sandoval fall backward, hitting the tile wall and sliding onto the floor. He was dead.

“Jake,” came a familiar baritone voice. “Reduce your heart rate, just as I taught you. It will slow the bleeding.”

Jake closed his eyes, and in spite of the ice that flowed through his veins and the drowsiness that threatened to pull him under, he forced himself to meditate. He envisioned the frantic beating of his heart slowing down, imagined the damaged artery closing, the blood clotting, and the wound beginning to heal. The thundering rush of blood in his ears began to ebb, and the dizziness subsided. He slowed his breathing, and his heart steadied.

“Good work, Jake,” he heard the soothing voice say. “It isn’t your time to be with me. Not yet.”

“Agent Anders! Agent Anders!” He wanted to swat the microphone away, but he didn’t have the strength.

He blinked, trying to focus his uncooperative eyes on the figure that stood before him. “Trace?” he whispered as he passed out.


“Fucking traitor Sandoval,” Ryan Roberts growled from nearby.

“If Jake hadn’t killed him, I’d’ve gladly done it myself.” John Carson—Jake recognized the voice.

“He’s a damn lucky bastard.” Ryan’s voice again.

“Un-fucking-believable. Got that tourniquet on and still had the presence of mind to write the time on his leg,” added Carson.

“I gotta hand it to ’im—got Sandoval once in the eye, then turned around and shot ’im to make sure he was dead—all while he’s fuckin’ bleeding to death.”

“Gentleman, Agent Anders needs to rest.” A woman’s voice this time: soothing, no-nonsense, and familiar.

“Sorry, Dr. Carroll.” Carson sounded embarrassed, but Jake could hear the note of concern in his gruff voice. “We just wanted to be here when Jake wakes up.”

“He will regain consciousness when his body’s ready. He’s lost a lot of blood, and he’s been in surgery.”

“We’ll wait,” Ryan replied. Jake almost smiled to hear the stubbornness in Ryan’s voice.

“Agent Roberts, Agent Carson, the director has called a meeting, and you both need to be in attendance.” Stephanie Carroll’s voice was now commanding.

Jake felt a strong hand squeeze his shoulder. “You better get your lazy ass outta here, Anders, or I’m gonna have to beat the crap outta ya.” The sounds of chairs scraping the floor and fading footsteps followed Ryan’s words.

“It’s all right, Agent Anders. They’re gone,” Jake heard a few minutes later.

The dim light of the room was too bright. Jake squinted, blinked several times, and slowly opened his eyes. He had a splitting headache.

“Welcome back to the world of the living, Jake.”

Jake attempted to smile back at the gentle-voiced doctor, but it came out more like a grimace.

“Are you in pain?”

“My head feels like it’s gonna explode.”

“I’ll give you something.”

Jake watched as the tiny woman took a syringe and injected it into the IV in his arm. He felt warmth radiate from the site of the line as his muscles relaxed and the pounding in his head began to lessen.

“Thanks. I think I feel less ‘vincible’ now,” he said, managing a lopsided grin.

She smiled at him. “Jake, I really can’t tell you how impressed I am with the skills you exhibited under the extreme pressure of the situation.”

“I had help.”


“The Trace Sim. He told me to slow down my breathing and meditate. I imagined my artery knitting itself back together.”

“Impressive. I didn’t think the simulation microchips were so detailed in their programming.”

Jake shrugged. “Neither did I. It’s like he was right there in front of me.”

“When our bodies are under acute stress, we often imagine things,” she replied in a kind but patronizing tone.

Jake guessed that she’d heard the recording of his call for help and had wondered why he’d spoken Trace Michelson’s name.

“He seemed so real. Not like the usual Sim.”

Her answer was what he’d expected and hoped for: reassuring and kind. “The brain is an amazing organ. In times of severe stress, it can be a powerful tool to ensure survival.”

The tension in his shoulders abated with her words.

She’s right. It was probably a combination of the Sim and my own imagination. Either way, it worked, right?

She offered him a sympathetic smile. “You need to rest.” She checked the IV and made a notation on the chart at the foot of his bed.

She turned to leave, then paused as if considering something. “You know, Jake,” she said with a contemplative hand to her chin, “applying a tourniquet made from the toilet roll spindle and your torn shirt was quite remarkable, given the extent of your injury. But you didn’t really need it—the artery had already begun to heal on its own. It appears Dr. Michelson’s techniques are more effective than we originally thought. Quite fascinating.”

“Tourniquet?” It was the second time someone had mentioned it since he’d regained consciousness. But he didn’t remember a tourniquet, let alone applying one to himself in the heat of the moment.

“The one you placed on your leg before you lost consciousness.”

“I don’t remember that. The last thing I remember is Trace.”

“Writing the time you placed the tourniquet on your leg required true presence of mind, Jake,” she continued, undaunted. “We were able to quickly ascertain how long the circulation had been compromised.”

“I don’t remember that either.” He frowned.

She gave him another reassuring smile. “You really must get some rest now. I’ll be back to check on you later. Would you like something to drink?”

“Something more than ice chips?” he asked with a hopeful expression.

“I’ll see that you get some water.”

“Thanks.” He closed his eyes. He heard her walk out of the room and close the door behind her.

Tourniquet? Writing the time on my leg? And who killed Sandoval? I couldn’t have shot him; I didn’t have my gun….

It made no sense. An image of the man with dark hair and slate-blue eyes filled Jake’s mind. He’d seen that face many times while training with his Sim. He had known the real man himself years before—Trace Michelson had recruited Jake into the Trust. But for years, it had been only a virtual Trace who had inhabited his mind, training him, sharing his knowledge with his host as all Sims did.

This was different. He was so… real.

He forced his eyes open again and stared up at the ceiling. The gray acoustic tiles provided him with no answers.

“Idiot,” he muttered as he fought the overwhelming urge to sleep. “Of course he wasn’t there. He’s been dead for nearly five years.”


About Shira:  Shira Anthony was a professional opera singer in her last incarnation, performing roles in such operas as Tosca, Pagliacci, and La Traviata, among others. She’s given up TV for evenings spent with her laptop, and she never goes anywhere without a pile of unread M/M romance on her Kindle. Shira is married with two children and two insane dogs, and when she’s not writing, she is usually in a courtroom trying to make the world safer for children. When she’s not working, she can be found aboard a 35’ catamaran at the Carolina coast with her favorite sexy captain at the wheel.

Shira’s Blue Notes Series of classical music themed gay romances was named one of Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Word’s “Best Series of 2012,” and The Melody Thief was named one of the “Best Novels in a Series of 2012.” The Melody Thief also received an honorable mention, “One Perfect Score” at the 2012 Rainbow Awards.

Shira can be found on: Facebook: Goodreads: Twitter: @WriterShira Website: E-mail:


About Venona:  Venona Keyes is a modern woman who believes in doing it all; if doing it all is only in her head. She amazes people that she can be wholly unorganized yet pack a perfect carryon suitcase for a ten-day trip to Paris. Ms. Keyes is a believer in the just in time theory, and can be seen sprinting to the airport gate before the plane door closes.

Venona has experienced love and loss at the deepest level, and is thankful for writing and daydreaming, for it kept, and still keeps, her sane. Writing also introduced her to some of the most supportive and wonderful people, to which she will always be grateful.

Venona is a voracious reader, loves her feline boys, volunteers at an animal shelter, attempts to cook everything in her CSA boxes, is an accomplished speaker, is a seasoned triathlete, and enjoys swimming, biking, hiking, skipping, and her beloved overgrown garden.

You can find Venona Keyes: Facebook: Goodreads: Website:



Blast from the Past: Violet’s Present

I’m starting several new features. Most Fridays will be Blast from the Past days. Other authors and I will highlight a book that was published at least one year ago. I’m hoping this will help you discover some overlooked or forgotten treasures.

VioletsPresentFSViolet’s Present” by Kim Fielding

When Matt’s Great-great-aunt Violet dies, she leaves him a precious gift: a photo album he loved as a child. Then Matt starts having dreams—very good dreams—about Joseph, one of the men in the pictures from the 1940s. One morning when Matt wakes up, the bruises are still there. Could there be more to Violet’s present than he thought?

Originally released June 2012.

Available from Dreamspinner Press and Amazon.

An excerpt:

Somehow, Matt wasn’t surprised when he looked up from his plate and saw Joseph standing beside his table, Aunt Violet at his side. “You don’t mind sharing with my bratty cousin, do you?” she asked.

Joseph’s eyes were even more amazing in person, in color. They were somewhere between gray and blue, a shade that Matt hoped he could reproduce with his paints. Joseph wore blue jeans and a red-and-white-checked shirt and looked both annoyed at Violet and intrigued by Matt.

“Sure,” Matt said, his mouth suddenly so dry that he had to take a quick swallow of the cooling coffee.

Joseph plopped down in the opposite seat and grinned. Matt’s heart almost stopped. “Pancakes and bacon,” Joseph said to Violet. “With the bacon done—”

“Really crispy. I know.” She cuffed him lightly on the shoulder before she walked away.

“Where are you from?” Joseph asked. His gaze was so piercing that Matt felt a little like an exhibit at the zoo. “And does everyone there have hair like that?” He gestured at Matt’s head.

Matt ran his fingers self-consciously through his waves. He’d never had the patience for goos and creams like Brandon used, and he tended to go too long between cuts. “California. And yeah, a lot of guys do, I guess.”

“California! I always wanted to visit there. Can you really pick oranges right off of trees? Do you know any movie stars? Do you lie on the beach all day?”

“Yes on the oranges but no on the celebrities. And the beaches near me are damn cold.”

Joseph leaned back in his chair, not even looking over when Violet plopped a glass of milk in front of him and then sailed away. “What’re you doing in the middle of nowhere? And how come you ain’t in uniform?”

“I’m… passing through. On my way home after a funeral in Omaha. And I’m… I’m disqualified from the military.” Which was true enough, he supposed. In 2012 they might be celebrating the end of “don’t ask, don’t tell,” but back in 1942 he would not have been welcomed into the military, wartime or not.

Arctic eyes narrowed in confusion, then widened in realization before narrowing again speculatively. “Disqualified, huh?” Joseph said.


There was a brief pause. Joseph sipped his milk, giving himself a very faint mustache that Matt longed to lick away. Three farmers at a nearby table erupted into hacking laughs at some joke while Violet slammed plates down in front of an older couple who looked like they hadn’t smiled since the previous century.

“I’m going in next week,” Joseph finally said, very quietly. “Army.”

Matt’s heart clenched and his gut twisted. Could you puke in a dream? “I guess you have to,” he said.

“I wanted to get a deferment while I went to college, but Mom and Dad couldn’t afford the tuition and… and here I am. Ready to do my duty. I guess.”

“You’ll get to travel. See places way more interesting than California.” And bleed your life away onto foreign soil, he didn’t add.

Joseph’s eyes went dark, as if he knew exactly what Matt was thinking. Then he shrugged slightly. “Yeah.”

New regular features

Far be it from me to claim that I’m regular… but I thought it would be fun to run some scheduled features here. I’ll still chat about my family, my travels, and my books, and I’ll still have guests. But I’ll also have some scheduled things for you to (I hope) look forward to.


Mondays will be What’s Kim Reading Now? I’ll give you brief recommendations for books I think you might enjoy, in a variety of genres.


Wednesdays are for Ooh! That’s Interesting! I’ll discuss some bit of trivia that’s caught my attention.


And Fridays we’ll have a Blast from the Past. Guests and I will highlight books from our backlists–treasures a year or more old that you might have missed.


I hope you enjoy these new features. I’d love it if you comment on them, and feel free to suggest topics as we go.