Addison Albright: The Neighbor’s Yappy Dog

Is there one particular sound that acts as a trigger for you? I have to admit I’m with Nathan in this story; there are few things more irritating than a constantly yapping dog! But Addison manages to conjure up a wonderful picture of domestic bliss in spite of the endless yip yip yip

Incidentally, Addison creates many of her short stories using prompts. This one stemmed from the phrase ‘neighbor’s yapping dog’ but if you’d like to challenge her, or one of our other authors for that matter, to write a story around one of your own (work safe please!!) phrases then please suggest a few in the comments and we’ll see what we can come up with…


Pic credit: dahancoo on

Yip, yip, yip!

“It’s my turn,” one of the kids—it sounded like Jeremy—hollered from the other room.

“Is not!” Georgie’s reply wasn’t exactly a solid gold debate winner, but in his defense, he was not quite three, and had learned his arguing skills from Jeremy. Needless to say, there was only one likely reply…

“Is too!”

“Boys, Dad’s still sleeping. Quiet down.” Anthony’s voice was calm as ever. “Georgie, it’s Jeremy’s turn. I’ll set the timer. When it dings it’ll be your turn again.”

Yip, yip, yip!

“I swear to God…” Nathan grumbled, stuffing a pillow over his head. The neighbor’s yappy dog annoyed him more than the noise from his family. He didn’t expect “Stepford kids,” and the boys’ hearts were in the right place.

“Here, Georgie.” Anthony’s voice drifted down the hallway. “You can help me crack eggs for the pancakes.”

Nathan smiled beneath the pillow. Anthony was a master at redirecting the kids’ interests, but even he could predict where this one would go.

“I wanna help, too,” Jeremy said.

“Great!” Anthony said. “Go get the other stepstool, I could use another skilled egg-cracker.”

Yip, yip, yip!

Nathan chuckled despite the exasperating yapping, and emerged from underneath the pillow. Anthony had known as well as Nathan did that Jeremy would want to “help,” too. He blinked a few times and stumbled to the bathroom. Anthony would probably appreciate some real help.

When he was freshened up and decent, he breezed into the kitchen and took an exaggerated breath. “Bacon, coffee, and pancakes…what more could anyone want on such a glorious Saturday morning!”

“Chocolate milk,” Jeremy, aka Mr. Literal replied.

“And apple juice,” Georgie said, because of course he couldn’t let Jeremy be the only one chiming in.

“And Pop’s beautiful smile,” Nathan added for good measure as Anthony beamed at him from the other side of the table.

Anthony stepped around and gave him a quick peck on the lips. “How about adding a good morning kiss to that list?”

Yip, yip, yip!

Even the yappy dog couldn’t ruin this lovely scene. Nathan trailed a finger along Anthony’s jaw. “Better and better.”

Kaje Harper: Visions of Spring

The weather is sorta-kinda trying to be more spring-like, now that it’s technically the vernal equinox. By which I mean that here in the Far North of England it’s struggled up to 11c (about 52F, I think) and is only raining some of the time… But there are daffodils out and the first few lambs bouncing around in the fields so it seemed like the perfect time to post this fun little poem from Kaje, which really made me grin.


Some folks wax poetic about daffodils

And going outside without getting the chills.


Some mention the sun coming up before eight,

Or the end of the tough winter driving they hate.


Of course I agree that the blossom smells sweet

And I like getting rid of the slush in the street.


I’ve nothing against a red robin or two

And the kids out on bikes doing stuff that they do.


There’ll be baseball and golf, with the grass turning green

And I see the appeal of a pastoral scene.


But for me, there’s just one thing I wait for each year

And I watch Michael closely to see it draw near.


That first weekend day, when the sunshine is warm

And the dirt’s been splashed up by a passing rainstorm.


You can keep all those flowers and children and sports

Give me one hot guy washing his car, in his shorts.

Fiona Glass: Combustion

A fun and very tongue-in-cheek little piece about two men, a Ferrari and a birthday present. The story, which first appeared in my newsletter last year, involves the characters from my book Trench Warfare – archaeologist Steve and his sweet right-hand-man Jon. You can read about how they got together in the first place (and about the temple they discovered) in the book, which is available on Kindle and Kindle Unlimited here. (Sorry for the plug, by the way, but it seems like too good an opportunity to miss!)


Pic credit: Martin Kattler on

‛WHOA. IS IT ALWAYS THIS quick?’ Steve gasped and made a grab for the dashboard. He’d been expecting a wild ride but hadn’t thought it would be quite this powerful. Or this exhilarating. Or this terrifying, if he was honest with himself.

            ‛It’s fine. Relax.’ Jon had his mouth full. ‛I haven’t finished yet.’

            Steve bucked in his seat. ‛God! I thought finding that temple was an adventure but I’ve never known anything like this before.’

            There was a muffled, breathless laugh. ‛Yeah. Suck, squeeze, bang and blow. Nothing to beat it.’

            ‛You what?’ His voice came out as more of a squeak than he’d intended. He cleared his throat.

            ‛I read it somewhere. Good description, don’t you think?’

            Steve bucked again. ‛Very appropriate. I could even say four strokes and an emission and you’re anybody’s.’

            ‛Hey. That’s hardly fair.’

            Jon looked so hurt that Steve relented, and reached out to ruffle his hair. ‛Just teasing. You go ahead and enjoy yourself. It’s your birthday treat after all.’

            A little-boy grin peeped out from under the long sweep of hair. ‛And we’ve still got twenty minutes to go. Hang onto your seat—let’s see what it’s like when I really rev things up.’

            Half an hour later Steve clambered unsteadily out of the car, wondering what had happened to his legs. They weren’t usually this much like jelly, even when he’d been crouching in a trench for hours. ‛Whoa,’ he said again, and leaned against the door for support.

            Jon seemed less ruffled than his hair. ‛That was fantastic. Wish I could do it every day of the week. I’ve always been partial to throbbing pistons.’

            ‛I’m more of a leg man myself.’ Steve eyed the long, jeans-clad pair beside him. ‛We’d better get this thing back to the garage, though. If we’re late they’ll charge us for the overtime.’

            ‛I guess you’re right.’ Jon sighed mournfully and stroked one hand over smooth metallic curves. ‛Pity, though. She’s beautiful. Your Mini just won’t seem the same.’

            Steve gazed at the sleek lines and gleaming scarlet paintwork of the Ferrari Testarossa he’d paid to take out on hire for an hour. It had cost him an arm and several legs, but it had been worth every last penny just to watch the child-like joy on Jon’s face.

            Who would have guessed that Jon of all people—nerdy, quiet, reserved Jon with his love of music and anything ancient or covered with dust—would turn out to be such a speed-freak petrol-head? He’d let it slip a few months back, when Steve had caught him gazing wistfully at the pictures of Aston Martins, TVRs and E-type Jaguars in an old copy of What Car magazine a client had left behind. And a plan had been hatched. One that had worked out perfectly, judging by the glow on Jon’s face as he threw the Ferrari round the curves of their local driving track. ‛Glad you enjoyed it. It’s certainly an experience. I thought I was going to lose my lunch when you went over that speed bump at ninety-five.’

            ‛That reminds me.’ Jon ducked back inside the car—a feat of contortion for his six-foot-two frame—and emerged with a slightly squashed super-size packet of rum and raisin fudge. Another of his pet loves. He’d been chomping bits of it for the last half hour. ‛Nearly forgot this. Want one?’

            ‛No, thanks.’ Steve eyed the crumpled wrapper with distaste. ‛Looks like you’ve been sitting on it. Anyway, it’s your treat.’

            ‛Yeah.’ Jon popped two more pieces of fudge into his mouth at once and chewed, before adding indistinctly, ‛Best birthday ever. Thanks, Steve. Means a lot.’

            Steve leaned in and kissed him on the lips. They tasted of sugar and artificial rum. An acquired taste, but one he’d be happy to get used to, especially if it meant more chances to snog his right-hand man. ‛You’re welcome.’

            Jon tucked the sweetie bag in one pocket. ‛Those seats aren’t exactly comfortable, mind you. My back’s killing me.’ He stretched his arms above his head until his spine clicked.

            Steve watched the resulting play of lean muscle under the denim and swallowed hard. ‛What was that you said about sucking and blowing?’ There was only the faintest hint of a tremor in his voice. He should be proud of himself.

            Nothing moved on Jon’s face apart from one eyebrow, which somehow managed to change his whole expression from smile to leer. ‛You want to give it a go for real?’

            Steve swallowed again. ‛We really shouldn’t. We’re already late and the garage won’t thank us if they’ve got other bookings. And it’ll be a squeeze. And it’s probably illegal. All the same…’ He glanced wistfully at the car, then at Jon. ‛I, er, could give you the rest of your birthday pressie…’

            The leer became sheer mischief. ‛Here? In the Ferrari?’

            That was another discovery about Jon—his unexpected love of making out in unusual places. It was risky; it might even be dangerous. One of these days it would probably get them arrested. But in the meantime, it was tempting enough that his own jeans grew a little tighter at the thought. Even if it cost him another hour’s hire charges, not to mention the inevitable cleaning bill. Even if the cabin was so small he’d probably knock himself out on the steering wheel. But sex in a Ferrari? That wasn’t something you did every day. He licked his lower lip. ‛I guess… maybe… if we’re careful… But not actually here, here.’

            ‛No problem. I know a nice quiet bit of woodland a couple of miles away.’ Jon grinned, inserted himself back into the driver’s seat and twisted the ignition key, then yelled over the sudden roar of all twelve cylinders’ worth of decibels. ‛Come on, then, get your arse inside. Let’s bugger off while nobody’s looking, and I’ll see if I can’t spark your engine to life.’

            Steve ducked back down into the car, trying not to damage his rock-hard cock. The vision those words conjured up was almost too much. The Ferrari, parked somewhere out of the way. Windows down as far as they would go. The scent of leaves and earth and bark. Smooth leather against his back, a cool breeze on whatever bits of skin they left exposed. Hot breath. Jon’s beard rough against his chin. Feet everywhere—out the windows, probably; their bodies a writhing tangled mass. Suck, squeeze, bang and blow indeed. He cleared his throat again. ‛Motor’s already running, mate.’

Jeff Baker: Barney Miller’s Gay Connection

This is the latest in Jeff’s series of articles looking at lgbt content in vintage US TV shows – and yet another series I’d never even heard of. It brings home how few US shows ever made it to this side of the pond and it’s always interesting to read about the ones that didn’t, and what made them stand out. (And I do love the ‘anonymous’ joke – read on to find it!)


Pic credit:

            One thing was certain when you entered the 12th Police Precinct of New York City; you would be treated with respect, a few quips and some questionable coffee. At least that was the way it was on the fine American sitcom “Barney Miller” which aired from 1975 to 1982. And LGBT people were welcome there too, from the very beginning.

            In fact, the series may have affected the course of LGBT history but that wasn’t obvious at the time.

            “Barney Miller” was a situation comedy about a squad room of detectives in New York City’s fictional 12th Precinct. The show premiered in January 1975 and within a few episodes Marty Morrison (played by Jack DeLeon) was brought in for shoplifting. Obviously and unapologetically Gay, Marty would be a semi-regular and would show up in several more episodes and we would be introduced to his partner Darryl Driscoll (Ray Stewart) by the end of the year.

            Marty: (entering the squad room.) “I love what you’ve done with the place!”

            Darryl: “Quit perpetuating a stereotype.”

            The pair would encounter the humanity and hilarity of the 12th as well as introducing viewers to Darryl’s ex-wife who tries to file for custody of their son, jealous of the good time he usually has with Darryl and Marty at fancy restaurants and shows.

            They were not the only Gay characters to traipse through the 12th. In the episode “Inquisition” Barney receives an anonymous note from an officer working in the building who outs himself just to say there is a Gay presence in the department. Word of the note reaches the heads of the NYPD and soon someone from Internal Affairs is snooping around. Barney learns that the writer is Officer Zatelli (played occasional guest star Dino Natali) but won’t tell. The hostile Lt. Scanlon of Internal Affairs (the hilarious George Murdock) demands to know who wrote the letter. Barney says the writer prefers to remain anonymous.

            “I wanna hear that from him!” Scanlon bellows.

            By the episode’s end, suspicions of each other among the Detectives have been quelled by Barney, and the case of a man who tried to trash a Muzak player is also resolved. (That was the sort of oddball the 12th frequently attracted.)

            While there are some Gay jokes in these episodes, often they show up the ignorance of the people making the jokes, and humanity and character are always put first in this well-acted, well-scripted series.

            Years later, a far-right anti-Gay activist revealed that he had gone to the network and voiced objections to the Gay characters on the show and the network had shot back “You mean, you object to them just because they’re Gay?”

            The activist said that the question had caught him unprepared and he didn’t know what to say.

            “Had I known how to respond,” he said later, “there would have been no “Will and Grace,” no Gay Marriage…” The pop culture perception of the LGBT movement affected the movement for real, and some of that can be traced back to this 70s sitcom.

            Barney Miller, even edited to make room for more commercials, is one of the best T. V. Comedies, no, best T. V. series ever. a familiar friend airing in countless reruns on cable and broadcast. And the subtle benefits of the interactions of the LGBT community with the men of the 12th are still being felt today.

Alexa Milne: Tattooed Me

This is a really thought-provoking and bittersweet story from Alexa. Bear with it as although at first it seems unbearably sad, there’s hope and love in there too! I hope you enjoy it as much as I did, and if you’d like to see more of Alexa’s books then just click here.


Pic credit: Shaarc on

 I’m dying. I’ve known for a while now, but I’m over it. So I’ll never see the year 2000, I can live with that, or die with it. When you reach over seventy-five you know your time is limited, despite what they say about everyone living longer. After all, for there to be an average, some people have to die below that age, and I guess I’m going to be one of them. I’ve left everything in order. Jenny and the kids will be all right. I married late, you see, and she’s young enough to remarry. I’ve told her to find someone else, and I’ve told the kids to let her. I’m sorry I’ll miss my grandchildren growing up but these things happen in the best regulated of lives.

Cancer sucks. It took both my parents, so I wasn’t surprised when it got me. I’ve always had what you might call a delicate stomach—but you don’t want to hear about that—and I left it too late. So here I am, waiting to die, pressing my morphine drip to ease the pain, and thinking about him.

Sorry, did that surprise you? The him was Jack, who I met when I was eighteen. His name is tattooed on my shoulder, we spent twelve glorious months together in the middle of a war. He was older than me, but not by much. We were called up the year before the D-Day landings and trained together. He wasn’t anything special to look at, but then neither was I. He’d been down a pit digging out coal and suited that work, being small and wiry like many from the Black Country. Ten stone of muscle and sinew, and only five foot four—he was definitely no matinee idol. He also swore like a trooper and got placed on a charge more than once for insubordination. I watched him cut grass with a pair of scissors all afternoon once.

The sergeant-major got him to box, to channel his aggression they said, after he’d threatened to knock the teeth out another soldier’s head. I never did discover what had been said. Jack wasn’t really a talker which was just as well as his accent was thicker than mine. I was his second in the ring, towelling him down, feeling those muscles. I didn’t understand at first why my stomach did cartwheels just touching him—I told you my stomach had always been dodgy—or why my hands shook trying to tie up his gloves. When we sparred together, I loved the way the sweat ran down his chest, and when he clutched me, bringing us skin to skin, my body seemed to respond on its own and in a way I didn’t really understand.

Don’t get me wrong, I knew about sex, I’d grown up on a farm after all, but I guess I was naïve at first. Sometimes, I caught him looking at me differently. His gaze seemed to take in all of me and I blushed as if he’d caught me doing something wrong. I found myself making excuses to touch him, rubbing him down after a bout, pressing my fingers into his bare flesh. I was thankful he couldn’t see me. He was a popular guy, winning as often as he did. All the services loved their boxing and Jack was good. He could have been professional in peace-time, but then he fought for the army, against the navy and the RAF, and beat all comers.

After one successful fight, which won a lot of money for those that bet on him, he got a two day pass for us both. I remember being surprised that he wanted to take me. We went to London. Neither of us had been before. I’d been brought up on a farm in the wilds of Cumbria. He was from a small mining town. My family had kept sheep on the hills for generations. Later, I got into looking after animals in the army and trained to be a vet. I had my own successful practice. It’s where I met Jenny when she brought in their family’s prize border collie. But I digress. We booked into a hotel. The capital was still busy, despite the bombing. We shared a room. No one thought anything about that back then. We were both in uniform, and on leave, so we could sort of be heroes, even if we’d seen no action as yet. We had plenty to drink—alcohol wasn’t rationed, and people bought us rounds. Girls hovered about us, and we danced a bit, but neither of us wanted to take one back with us, or screw one against the wall in a dark alley. All sorts went on in the dark in those times.

We fell into the room around midnight and on to the bed, laughing at some joke Jack had told. I remember how he stared at me as if he was seeing me for the first time. He’d shaved that morning, but dark hair was already creating the beginnings of a beard on his chin. There was a small chink in the blackout curtain and the beam of moonlight hit his face and lit up his eyes. He kissed me, his stubble rasping against my skin, and suddenly everything fell into place. I knew why I wanted to touch him and why my body had responded as it did. I didn’t want to give it a name though. I was hard in what seemed like seconds, and I could feel him rubbing against my thigh. I reached for his trousers and undid the buttons needing to touch more of him then reached inside. His cock was shorter than mine but thick and he groaned as my fingers closed around him. I opened my own trousers wanting to press myself against his body, desperate to feel every part I could.

“Take them off,” he whispered. “Or we’ll get them stained and end up on a charge.” We took everything off and lay pressed up against each other, cocks rubbing as we moved. His hand grabbed us both, pushed us together. The feeling was glorious, and it didn’t take long for either of us to come. I felt the sticky wetness between us but didn’t want to let go. I couldn’t believe what I’d done—what we’d done. I lay trembling in his arms, terrified we’d been too loud and that the police would come bursting through the door to arrest us, but other than our breathing, there was no sound. I was safe. I’d never felt safer in my life.

“That was…,” I started, but I didn’t really know what it was, not really, or what it might mean, not then, but from that time onwards we took every opportunity to be together. Little touches when we could, kisses when no one was looking, and more when we dared. In a barrack there wasn’t much time to be alone. We knew about queers, everyone knew, but we didn’t give ourselves that name at first because we weren’t like them, were we? Some people thought that queers didn’t join the services because they were all cowards, but I came to know better, especially after I’d served for a while. I discovered that when your eyes had been opened that you saw more. At least that’s something that’s changed over the years.

I wish we’d been young now, not then, and in wartime, because everything was so fleeting. The first time he buggered me, I thought I’d never feel anything so glorious again in my life. I suppose using that word would be considered wrong today. He called it fucking, but I’ve never used that word, never felt comfortable with it. I was full of him, as close as two people could be. It was winter and snow lay on the ground. I’d taken him home for Christmas as he didn’t have a family of his own. I was his family he said, and I cried hearing those words. We’d been rounding up the sheep and we were tired and sweaty, in spite of the cold. The straw in the barn was warm and welcoming. We had a chance to be alone and we took it. I asked him to do it. I wanted to be his, to consummate what it was we had. I don’t know what he felt—we never talked about feelings. Men didn’t talk about that sort of thing—not then. People didn’t back in the day. You just got on with things. I remember thinking that I must be a queer after all if I wanted him to do this. I also remember being terrified it would hurt or that we’d get caught but need overcame fear. We had nothing but spit and what we got from our cocks, but he took care with me, stroking me to divert attention, even so it burned like hell when he pushed in slowly, carefully taking his time, checking with every thrust. I felt whole in a way I’ve never felt since. It should have been wrong, but I knew then that it was right in the way that nothing would ever be right again. He’d made me his, found that secret part of me and exposed it, made an invisible mark on me so I couldn’t help myself as the words slipped out.

“I love you,” I whispered afterwards, but he didn’t reply. Maybe he didn’t hear me. He never said it to me, well not in words. Four weeks before D-Day, he was posted to the South coast. We were going to be parted. We’d known that it might happen. In war nothing lasted forever. The night before most of us got drunk on alcohol someone had smuggled in. It was illegal stuff, strong enough to kill. The sergeant turned a blind-eye, and we knew we’d all have to get up in the morning regardless. When I woke up the next day, I felt an unfamiliar sensation in my shoulder. I had a vague memory of pain the night before and of me and Jack laughing outside in the moonlight. I looked in a washroom mirror and saw it. He’d carved his name with his penknife. JACK—there on my shoulder and inked over with the fountain pen he’d stolen from the office. It looked angry, outlined with red, and I had to cover it up so no one could see.

He wrote to me once only after we parted. I’m looking at that letter now, over fifty years later. He didn’t say much. It was wartime after all, and letters were read, but I knew what he meant. I know he landed on one of those beaches on the first day, on what became known as the longest day. The British fared better than the Americans, but he was reported missing. His body was never found. There were rumours he’d deserted, but I knew he was dead or he’d have come back to me.

My squad went over after the main attack. I was there when we opened the camps in Germany. Such things we saw. From then on I was Jack. It made it easier to explain the tattoo as a diminutive of my own, although I’d always been John until then. Time passed. My life continued. I’ve never regretted my choices. I love my wife and children, but I know that when my eyes close for the final time, it’ll be his face I see. And if there’s a heaven, it’ll be his face I’ll want to see. He tattooed me, named me anew and so has stayed with me forever.

K. L. Noone: A Traveling Poem

An absolutely gorgeous poem by K. L. Noone which really gets across the heart-aching void of missing someone special whilst travelling abroad. Don’t forget you can find all of K. L.’s other books and writing here.


Pic credit: Yousef Aluhigi on

I miss you.

There’s a sunrise outside

the airplane window and already I miss you.

I miss the weight of your body against mine. I miss

Reaching out a hand

and knowing it’ll find yours.

I have distractions. I speak

of history and stories and theories and scholarship,

academic and precise. I speak

to other people.

They are very nearly as real as you are.

You are my anchor. I will see you soon.

My skin counts down the days, the hours, the minutes.

The sky above the city might’ve been a Monet painting

as we crossed the bridge today, exploring this city:

no visible source of light, but light all-encompassing,

swirling through the clouds.

I wanted to say this to you, and I thought

about the day I knew I was in love with you,

the day on which I knew that I wanted to say everything to you,

bad puns, strange asides, random whims that came to mind,

because I could: because you’d nod, or laugh,

or shake your head while smiling, and take my hand.

That knowing

is the best thing I’ve ever done.

I take photographs of places you would like,

intricate colors, angled shapes,

signs that’d make you smile.

I try for some time to capture the lens flare

on the edges of a building

the way you would,

with the eye of your camera. I do not succeed.

But I will show you my efforts.

Tonight I will speak to you, electronic and windy,

across distance and a continent;

your voice will be warm in my ear before sleep.

Jay Mountney: Lunch

Here’s a fun, and perhaps even slightly naughty, offering from Jay featuring two men, a country picnic and some asparagus… Yes, asparagus. Just take a look at some of the photos of that stuff online – especially the new shoots – and you’ll soon see what I mean! And don’t forget to check out Jay’s other writing at her website.


Pic credit: Foodie Factor at

Steve had suggested a day walking in the Peak District and had hoped against hope that Matt would agree. They had parked near Lord’s Seat and wandered upwards, leaving Mam Tor, with its carefully engineered steps, to the tourists. They were tourists here too, of course, but they knew the area well and considered themselves locals even though they lived and worked some miles north on the outskirts of Manchester. There were no hang-gliders or paragliders today; although the sun was glorious the wind was wild and cruel. Matt’s hair danced in the gusts and the grass whispered beneath their feet.

He had offered to bring a picnic. A flurry of shopping in Tesco’s followed by a session in his small kitchen had produced a mini-feast of delicate smoked salmon sandwiches, asparagus spears with a mayonnaise dip, tiny, bite-sized quiches and some chocolate truffles to go with the flask of coffee. There was wine, too, a South African Chardonnay that he knew was good but had chosen mainly for its easy screw top. All luxuries. He knew Matt probably expected ham salad muffins and a couple of cans of beer. The actual contents of his rucksack should help to give a message if he lost his nerve. He had brought plastic wine glasses as well and had made sure that there was plenty of food. Quantity as well as quality would be needed to sustain them. He hoped they would stay all day; that Matt would not leave when he realised what Steve wanted.

They sat at the top, looking out over Edale, listening to the sheep. There were early lambs, calling constantly for their mothers to watch their games. If you knew where to look, the start of the Pennine Way was visible. Maybe another time. He hoped there would be another time.

They were silent, tired from the climb but content. Would the content last when Matt understood what lay behind the invitation? Recently Steve had thought his overtures might be accepted but maybe it was all wishful thinking.

He unpacked the food, concentrating on what he hoped would be a calming task. He was supposed to have psyched himself up for this, but now that the moment had come his nerves were back in full force.

Matt opened the wine, a strange look, almost a query, on his face as he filled the glasses. He sipped slowly, watching Steve lay out the food on the lid of the container he had brought.

Steve opened the pack of asparagus and the mayonnaise. He dipped a pale green spear in the sauce and held it towards Matt with a questioning half-smile.

Matt’s answering smile was broad and seemed to light up the hillside. He accepted the offering and their fingers touched briefly, sending a spark flickering across Steve’s hand. Matt brought the spear to his mouth, still smiling, and licked the creaminess from the tip with slow, careful movements then let the tip of his tongue linger on his lips.