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.”

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.’

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.

Kaje Harper: The Right Thing

I make no apologies for putting the zine into full-on mushiness mode this week, with this adorably sweet yet “make you think” story from Kaje, which involves, er, two men and a baby… Don’t forget to check out Kaje’s other books and stories at her website here.


“She has your nose,” David said, his voice soft and low.

I rubbed his back and held in my laughter. “I’d look pretty silly with that tiny nose.” Not to mention, we’d met our daughter’s mother when the teen was five months pregnant. There was nothing of me in that minute perfect body, except love.

The love, though― I’d thought with adoption, feeling connected would take time. Like when you get a new puppy, and at first it’s just generically cute and helpless and in need of care, but after a little while it becomes your puppy-baby-precious. But Lylla had blinked her unfocused blue eyes at me, eyelids still puffy, skin blotchy, tiny hands curled in fists, and I fell. So fast, so hard.

I reached past David’s arm to run a fingertip over Lylla’s tiny satin cheek, and then brushed the back of David’s thumb. My family.

“I don’t want to love her yet,” David murmured.

“Why not, hon?”

“Thirty days.”

“Ah.” His words made my stomach clench, though I tried not to show it, stroking his thumb again, inches from our precious child. Thirty days. Lylla’s mother had that long to think about the adoption before we could finalize it in front of a judge. I didn’t think she’d change her mind. But Amanda had already pulled back once and then reaffirmed her choice, in the four months we’d supported her pregnancy. She was a great girl, trying to do the best thing after her parents kicked her out, but desperately lonely. What if Lylla looks like the answer to never being alone?

“I want to grab Lylla and run,” David sounded fierce. “Take her to, like, Hawaii or somewhere perfect and keep her safe forever.”

I returned my hand to David’s back, rubbing firmly. “Amanda’s smart and she’s realistic. She knows she can’t take care of a baby right now.”

“I don’t trust her.” David turned wide dark eyes up at me, even as his hands cradled our daughter so gently. “What if― What if she decides she can? What if someone convinces her she’s going to hell for giving her baby to a gay couple?”

That wasn’t a shot in the dark, because Amanda had started out at one of the so-called crisis pregnancy centers, which had convinced the runaway fifteen-year-old that keeping her pregnancy was God’s will. She’d run away from the God-fearing foster home they’d sent her to, back on the streets, much too late to change her mind. Although my heart clenched at the thought of Lylla gone from the world as if she’d never been, Amanda had gone through a lot of hell that abortion might’ve spared her.

Our gift came at her sacrifice. And at her stubbornness and independence, because that original group would never have let a gay couple darken their doors.

“She’s not going to care about what someone like that says. You know that.” Her best friend on the streets had been a gay teen. She’d been cool about us from the start.

David bit his lip. “I know. I just…”

“You just worry.” He took things deeper to heart than I did, and agonized over every choice. All the more so after our overseas adoption had fallen apart at the last moment, and the organizer couldn’t look us in the eyes as she claimed not to know why.

I leaned over his shoulder, putting a little weight on him, and wrapped my arm around his to brush the baby’s wispy dark hair. “Look at her.” I kissed his temple, there beside my mouth. “So precious and perfect. Our baby. Whatever happens, even if we can’t keep her, even if she has health issues, whatever― you’re going to love her with all your heart. No matter what comes afterward. That’s also who you are.”

The baby waved a little hand and her eyes screwed tighter like she might wake and cry. David leaned his weight up and down on his elbows so the pillow supporting her rocked gently. He sang, “Hush little baby,” almost under his breath, his voice warm and rich, and she quieted.

The wave of love that went through me stopped my breath. I’d battle the world for these two, now and forever. “She’s going to know she’s always loved,” I said. “Unconditionally. That there’s nothing she can do or be that takes our love away from her. She’ll have what Amanda never had, what you didn’t― parents who are there for her in the hard times and the easy, gay, straight, trans, pregnant, porn star, whatever.”

David made a sound halfway between a laugh and a sob. “Did you just encourage our daughter to become a porn star?”

“Her body, her choice―”

A laugh behind us made us both turn our heads. Amanda stood in the doorway, a robe we’d bought her wrapped around the hospital gown she wore.

I straightened quickly. “Should you be out of bed? Can I get you anything?”

“I’m fine. Third-world women have a baby and go right back to work.” She shuffled toward us, arms wrapped across her stomach.

I grabbed the nearest chair and pulled it to the bedside but she just put a hand on the back. “I’m not staying. I just― I know I said I didn’t want to see her again after she was born, but I needed to see you with her. To know you’ll love her.”

“Absolutely,” David said. “Always.”

Amanda looked down at the baby. “Is that pillow one of yours?”

“Yes,” I said. I’d knit a few things— well, maybe a lot of things— waiting for our daughter. Little blankets and caps, sweaters and pillow cases, and even stuffed animals.

“Pretty.” She stared at Lylla, not reaching to touch her.

David kept his big hands around the baby and his eyes were wide, but he said nothing.

Eventually, Amanda pushed up from the chair back and nodded to us. “You swear that was true? All that part about her body, her choice? That you’ll never give her up?”

“Never,” I promised.

“Okay.” Amanda looked at David, then met my gaze. “If I want you to send me pictures now and then, will you? I think maybe I do want to see her grow.”

“Anytime. Keep your contacts updated and we will.” I chuckled, though my throat was hoarse. “David will fill your inbox, if you want.”

“Just a few. Now and then.” Her chin came up, and she pushed a strand of mussed dark hair off her forehead. “I’m going to graduate and go to college and become a vet, and then I’m going to have my own kids and they won’t ever have to wonder if I love them either.”

“I’m sure you will,” David told her.

“Doing the right thing is hard sometimes.”

“It sure is,” I agreed.

“You’re the right thing for her. For Lylla.” She raised a hand in a tiny wave, a twitch of slender fingers. “Bye, baby, have a perfect life. With your two daddies.” Turning, she shuffled back out of the room.

On the bed, the baby stirred, turned her head, and began sucking on David’s broad fingertip. I reached for the bottle, ready in the warmer, knowing our daughter’s powerful-lunged cries were only moments away.

“That was your mommy,” David told Lylla. “She’s strong and she’s brave and she loves you so so much. I don’t know if you’ll see her again, but Matt and I will make sure your whole life, you’ll have parents who put you first. And if you grow up to be like her, we’ll be proud.”

Lylla blinked her eyes open, and for a second she stared up at David as if meeting his eyes. Then her rosebud mouth opened and her appallingly strong wails began.

“Quick,” David said, lifting her into his arms and sitting on the edge of the bed. “We just told her we’d take care of her and now we’re starving the poor thing. Bottle, Matt. Hop to it.”

I lifted the bottle, wiped the outside dry, and set it in David’s hand. Lylla stopped crying to fumble at the nipple, then settled in to suck vigorously.

“You’re right,” David murmured. “Can’t do anything but love her with all our hearts, come what may.”

My knees went weak and I dropped to the bed beside him, wrapping my arm around the two of them. Ten years ago, I bumped into a bespectacled nerd in a coffee shop doorway, and his sweet, hesitant smile of apology went through my heart like an arrow. Today our daughter’s soft sounds in his arms stole my breath from my chest, and it was the most welcome pain I’d ever known. “Don’t forget to burp her,” I muttered, desperate to cut through the sentiment. “And it’s your turn to change her diaper. And there’s already spit-up on your shoulder.”

David turned the exact same smile on me, despite the decade between. “I love you too,” he said.

Jeff Baker: The Night in Question

Here’s another nice sweet (okay, maybe even mushy!) romantic story, this time with added ghosts, to get you in the mood for Valentine’s Day. As Jeff explains, the story was inspired by his local store: “The convenience store down the street from the College I went to was a real place (still is!) and I really did wander down there with my friends for beer, snacks and comic books just over forty years ago. Don’t know about romantic ghosts but it’s a possibility!


Pic credit: Jeff Baker

            He had been named after the sylvan glade of mysteries and after Merlin Sylvestris, the sorcerer. But the old convenience store with its pocked pavement and peeling paint was hardly anything pastoral. Nonetheless, something he sensed caused Silveria to stop the car (no traffic in the early evening, thankfully!) and take a second look at the young man standing at the corner of the building where the payphones had once been.

            At first glance, he seemed a young man of Silveria’s age; his early twenties. But his clothes were subtly out of date; bell bottom jeans and a button down shirt with an owl stenciled on the side. Silveria realized the man was not of this world.

            The man had no shadow.

            “Hello,” Silveria said, walking from where he parked the car. “I know who, or rather, what you are.” Silveria realized he could see through the young man, who looked up startled.

            “Connecting with spirits is my family’s gift. We help spirits move on.” Silveria said.

            “Uh, that really isn’t necessary,” the ghost said.

            “I am Silveria, and I…”

            “Look, I’m Johnny and I’m sure you mean well, but I don’t really need that,” the ghost said interrupting. “I’m okay, I’m just waiting for someone,”

            “I don’t think you realize what happened to you.” Silveria said. “I can help you.”

            Johnny started to say something when another young man came around the corner, seemingly not paying attention and bumped right into Johnny. The newcomer was wearing plaid knit pants and a worn brown jacket over a blue t-shirt with the old name of the college that was a few blocks away.

            Both men were slightly transparent.

            “Oh, my gosh!” the new ghost said, taking no notice of Silveria. “I’m sorry! I wasn’t watching where I was going! I was just…”

            Johnny was shaking his head and pointing at Silveria. “Ralph, this guy can see us.”

            “Wha?” the second ghost said looking up open mouthed.

            “I am Silveria,” he said. “I am here to give you passage. I can open up the way to the realm beyond for you.”

            “We already have that,” Johnny said. “He thinks we need help,” he said to Ralph, the second ghost.

            “Ohhhhhhh,” Ralph said. “Look, we’d better explain.”

            “My name is Johnny Cole,” the first ghost said. “This is Ralph Mayhew. We were going to Millington College back in January of 1976…”

            “It’s the University of Millington, now.” Silveria said.

            “Wow.” Ralph said.

            “Anyway,” Johnny said. “One January evening, right after school started back up after Christmas Break, I drove down here to get some munchies.”

            “And I bumped into him, literally when he was standing here making a phone call.” Ralph said.

            “I asked him if he needed a ride back to the dorm and he said yeah…” Johnny said.

            “Then we went into the store to get some snacks…” Ralph said.

            “And a six-pack of beer!” Johnny said, grinning at the memory.

            “This place never checked I. D.” Ralph said.

            “I don’t think they even make that beer anymore,” Johnny said.

            “Yeah, it’s too cheap.” Ralph said.

            The two ghosts laughed.

            “We went back to his dorm room and drank the beer,” Johnny said.

            “And I got a little tipsy and I said a couple of things I shouldn’t have.” Ralph said.

            “Like telling me you liked what I was sitting on, and you didn’t mean the chair.” Johnny said.

            This time all three men laughed.

            “To make a long story short, we realized we were…” Ralph said.

            “Simpatico.” Johnny said with a grin,

            “We moved into our own apartment the Summer of our Junior year.” Ralph said. “Discreetly.”

            “We were together for what? Thirty-two years?” Johnny said looking at Ralph.

            “Then all those cigarettes caught up to him.” Ralph said.

            “Yeah,” Johnny said, glancing down at his feet for a moment.

            “I joined him a few years later,” Ralph said. “And when we found out we could, we came back here on the date we met to re-enact how we first met.” The two ghosts grinned at each other, not looking creepy in the least.

            “We do it every year,” Johnny said. “And afterwards we go back. Of our own volition.”

            “What? No beer?” Silveria asked. The three of them laughed again.

            “One year we went into the store,” Ralph said. “Y’know, for old time’s sake? But the lights are too bright for us now.”

            “Okay,” Silveria said. “Sorry to bother you. Look, happy anniversary.”

            “Thanks,” the two ghosts said grinning.

            They waved as Silveria walked back to his car. As he drove away, he could somehow still hear the ghostly voices:

            “I wasn’t watching where I was going! I was just…well, I’m sorry!”

            “That’s okay. Hey, haven’t I seen you up at school? I’m Johnny Cole…”

Fiona Glass: Coffee for a Kiss

It’s February, which means Valentines Day is almost upon us. So this week I thought I’d post one of my own little stories, which has a Valentines theme and is kind of cute. I first wrote this back in the Dark Ages (well, the early 2000s) and I think it originally appeared in a Torquere Press newsletter, and featured last year in my own newsletter. I hope you have fun reading it, and if you’d like to see more of my m/m romance books why not check out my website.


Barista © Nicholas Horn; Coffee cup © Ibrahim Rifath; Hearts background © Freestocks, all on

Coffee taste like mud? Hardly surprising—it was only ground this morning!

            Dan read the new sign above the coffee shop counter and groaned. ‘That one’s as old as Methuselah. I remember getting it in a Christmas cracker in about 1982.’

            The barista, young and dusky with a gold earring, held up his hands and grinned. ‘Don’t blame me—it wasn’t my idea. Although it does get the point across that the coffee’s fresh. We roast it ourselves.’

            ‘I can tell.’ Dan savoured the rich smell coming from the kitchen, and tried not to ogle the barista’s backside too obviously. He was nice-looking, with flashing brown eyes and a cheeky smile, and the pertest little tush Dan had seen in a long while.

            ‘So, what’ll it be?’

            I suppose a shag’s out of the question? ‘Skinny latte, please.’ He’d noticed his waistline getting saggy lately. Needed to do something about that.

            ‘Coming right up.’

            Not half as much as what I’ve got coming up…  He watched as the barista turned his back, measuring coffee, banging things, squirting hot milk. The guy had nice hands, too, with long deft fingers that made art of the ordinary tasks. Too soon the performance was over, and a steaming mug appeared on the counter.

            ‘Cheers.’ He fished in his pocket for small change, enjoying the pressure on his newly-awakened cock. ‘What do I owe you?’

            ‘Well, the coffee’s two pounds fifty.’ The barista winked. ‘But I wouldn’t mind if you gave me something else.’

            Dan tossed a handful of coins on the counter and grabbed the mug, wrapping February-frozen fingers around it and hoping they’d thaw out. Raising it to his face he breathed the richly scented steam in deep, took a sip, and felt the caffeine hit all the way to his toes. Mmm. That was good coffee… Then he registered the second part of what the barista had just said. ‘You what?’

            Another wink. ‘You’re a nice-looking guy. I was thinking along the lines of a long slow kiss.’

            Half way through another mouthful, Dan spluttered and coughed. ‘What? Here?’

            The barista’s grin was positively wicked. ‘Much as I fancy having you shag me on the counter top, people outside might be a little shocked. We could use the back room, though.’

            ‘Yeah?’ Dan met the twinkling brown gaze head on. ‘Oh. Yeah.’ He dumped the mug on the counter, contents barely tasted, and followed the barista’s back through the door. The storeroom was full of the heady scent of newly-roasted beans, and in the slightly subdued light it was also, suddenly, full of arms. The barista was standing right behind the door, and grabbed him as he came in. Dan went without resisting, letting the guy reel him in until his back was up against the gritty, unyielding surface of a breeze-block wall. What was in front of him was much more enticing, though. Thigh met slender thigh; chest rested against chest and the rough cotton fabric of the barista’s apron caught against his arms.

            ‘You’ve got a coffee moustache.’ The barista stared at him from inches away. ‘Let me help you with that.’ He stuck out his tongue and used it to circle Dan’s mouth, tracing the shape of his lips and flicking into the folds at the corners of his mouth. ‘Mmm. Always did like the taste of Arabica and hot milk.’

            Dan was enjoying the tongue, and the warmth of the other man’s body pressing against his own. But the words had given him an idea. ‘Hang on a jiffy.’ He dashed back into the shop, flipped the sign on the door to ‘closed’, mouthed ‘Sorry,’ at a disappointed-looking woman on the pavement outside, then grabbed the coffee he’d left on the counter top.

            Back in the dark fragrance of the storeroom he took a swig of the cooling liquid and swirled it around in his mouth. Then he leaned back in to the barista’s embrace, waited until their lips were just touching, and let a thin stream of coffee trickle onto the guy’s waiting tongue.

            The barista’s breath hitched. ‘Nice. Want more.’

            Dan was happy to oblige. He took another mouthful and repeated what he’d just done. The result sent an electric thrill rushing through his veins but he wanted more, wanted to touch the other man—especially that tush he’d been admiring from afar. One hand held the coffee mug, but the other was free. He rested it on the small of the barista’s back, then, greatly daring, slid it down to cup on delicious rounded cheek. It felt every bit as good as he thought it would—firm, smooth, and very squeezable. So he squeezed and was rewarded, through his mouth and tongue, with the thrum of a lush little moan.

The game lasted as long as the coffee did: mouthful after mouthful of latte circling his tongue, dribbling down, with the barista drinking it straight from his lips. An occasional drip ran down his chin, catching on his beard hairs, and the barista licked that off, too. Too soon, the mug was empty. He held it upside down and shook it to show that no more coffee was left.

            The barista pouted, then grinned and kissed him again anyway, lips soft and warm against his own. Then he swatted Dan on the backside and pushed him away. ‘I’d better get back to work. The customers will get grumpy otherwise. But tell me I’ll see you in here again.’

            Well, duh, Dan wanted to say. We’ve only been doing this on Valentine’s Day every year since we got married, and that’s six years ago. And I’ll be waiting for you tonight at home, just like I always do. He didn’t, though. He knew how much Mitchell enjoyed their little game. ‘Are you kidding?’ he said. ‘Of course I’ll be back. That was the best I’ve ever had.’

            ‘The coffee’s not bad, either,’ said the barista with a grin.

Jay Mountney: Serendipity

This week’s fiction offering is a lovely sweet romance that takes in the first eyes-across-the-room meeting and the eventual outcome – a honeymoon in a sun-kissed land. If you enjoy this slice of romantic heaven, all of Jay’s writing and books can be found on her website.


It started in a shared taxi. The rain was bucketing down and they both seized the door handle, each asserting themselves and their right to a ride, to get out of the weather.

No, wait, it started at the concert, when their eyes met across the auditorium, quite by accident.

But it started before that.


James was walking up from the beach, musing on the wonder of rocks and patches of thrift, when he saw the discarded wrapper. He picked it up automatically, intending to find the nearest bin. Green was both his surname and his nature. As he was about to drop it in, muttering about litter louts and the environment, something made him look at it properly. It was the outside paper strip from a foil wrapped chocolate bar; as well as advertising the name of the product, it claimed in loud letters: YOU MAY BE A WINNER. James shrugged, but something, the weather, serendipity, environmental gnomes, made him put it in his pocket and continue homewards. He phoned the number, amused at himself and faintly guilty at the cost; these prize numbers were all about making money through the phone charges. It seemed he had won a ticket to a concert at the huge new arena. A pianist was performing a varied programme and he was free on Saturday evening – as usual. A serious (and unattached), gay environmentalist who didn’t enjoy ‘the scene’ was rarely out at weekends.

Even then, at the last moment he almost didn’t go. The sky was stormy and he had a new DVD to watch. But his sister phoned and told him he ought to get out more, so, although he didn’t think this was quite what she meant, he set off.

The young man at the ticket office appreciated the dark gold curls and the honed physique of the prize winner but didn’t even dare flutter his eyelashes at the aloof expression on the conventionally handsome face. He told James to enjoy himself and watched him head for the stairs, then turned his attention to the next in line.


Iain stared petulantly at the computer screen. He was so tired of  trying to conform. His wife had worked out his ‘secret’ so his ‘good’ behaviour counted for nothing, and their acrimonious divorce had left him struggling to make ends meet, so ‘bad’ behaviour was unlikely to occur with any regularity. He surfed the net and ended up on eBay, bidding without much hope for a ticket to see his favourite pianist at a local venue. To his surprise, he won the bid at his lowest, rather than his highest figure, and hurried to pay the seller and wait for the post. Meanwhile, he continued to work at the programming assignment he’d accepted.

On the day of the concert he did grocery shopping in the afternoon and got drenched in one of the sudden downpours that seemed the norm for the month. By the time he’d showered, changed and dried his long black hair, scrunching it back tightly into a pony tail, he thought he might be too late for the concert, but public transport was on his side for once.

He gave a quick glance at the people in the queue, glad he had his ticket already, and didn’t need to wait for fate to be kind, then followed a group of people up to the doors that led to the stands of seating.


During the interval, James looked round, wondering why this particular concert had attracted such a huge audience. It was good, but not, he thought, good enough to merit such a turnout; it wasn’t as if they could all be prize winners. He noticed the rapt expression on the face of the dark haired man directly across the aisle. He must have been looking hard, because their eyes met, in a sort of recognition, although they had never seen each other before. He was sure of that.


Iain was still in a music-induced reverie when he felt eyes on him, and looked up to meet the gaze of a blond stranger. He turned away, flushing slightly and cross with himself at his automatic response. He was free to look, now, but when he did, the other man had turned his head and the moment had gone.


Except that when they left, it was raining.

The entire crowd was trying to find taxis, which are as rare as jewels, especially when the weather makes them desirable.

If they hadn’t, if it hadn’t, and so on. But they had, and it did, all by happy accident. Their hands met and they shared the taxi.



Yesterday he had been solitary, slightly sad and somewhat serious.

Yesterday the most important thing in his life had been his job as a park ranger.

Yesterday he had been accustomed to living alone, to having to rely on fantasy for fulfilment.

Yesterday he had expected to continue in his self-imposed isolation, withdrawn from the social whirl that had sickened him with its superficial pleasures.

Yesterday his greatest loves had been the red squirrels and the quarrelsome gulls of the coastline he guarded.

Yesterday he had sighed when his sister told him to ‘get a life’.

Yesterday it had rained.

Today, there was Iain, and the sun was shining.

A whirlwind spring and summer were followed by a whirlwind wedding and a hastily organised honeymoon. 

The hotel was perfect, golden stone dreaming in the sun, and a room with a view of the mountains, snow-capped as he’d hoped. The place was run by a gay couple who made the atmosphere as comfortable as the rooms. Iain was pleased with their choice and hoped James was too. After freshening up and a few hugs (they’d keep the main course till later), they decided on a walk before dinner and went out to explore the village.

The steep, narrow, stone stairs that stood in for streets started from the hotel’s back courtyard. Strings of onions and garlic hung from wooden balconies and pots of geraniums and chrysanthemums straggled up the smaller steps at each entrance.  One doorway boasted a smart rose with striped petals and an air of modernity at odds with its surroundings. Further up a woman was washing her steps, and the rest of the street by default as the water gushed then trickled down the hill. Ian wondered if the rose looked forward to a daily deluge. James thought it was merely being brave and bold in the face of adversity as roses should always be.

There were people about. A couple of builders stood by their open-backed trucks blocking the cobbled main street (mercifully not stepped), chatting and exchanging news with passers-by. Iain was bemused by the strong similarity of all the men he saw. The younger ones, from tradesmen to homeward-bound clerks, were all short, dark-haired and stocky, quite handsome despite a decided lack of sophistication in their manner and clothing. At about sixty they turned inexplicably into replicas of garden gnomes, gnarled and stooped, prone to wearing outlandish caps and scarves. Despite the cloudless sky they all, young and old, carried umbrellas slung across their shoulders or hung from the back of their collars. He felt like a giant and even James, shorter than him by a good few inches, towered over the locals. He felt feckless, too, unencumbered by any protection from the unlikely rain.

The women were shorter still, dark-haired and pretty, calling to each other across the narrow lanes from one balcony to another. The sixties rule seemed to apply to them too. James said he thought the origins of northern European witches might have started here in these mountain villages. A crone whose nose almost met her chin shouted a cheerful greeting to them. James thought his Portuguese good enough to reply with a cheerful ‘bom dia’ but the woman cackled and repeated her ‘boa noite’ just as the church bells rang a dolorous seven, echoed thirty seconds later by a slower church clock, further down the valley.

Iain laughed at James’s mortified blush and pulled him down yet another street stair. Perhaps they could return to the hotel a different way. The small post office was still open but the only postcards on offer were tired views of the last skiing season in the mountain. It was a good job not many of their friends would expect postcards from a honeymoon couple. Their parents were a different matter and they would have to look further afield. A few of the gnomes were gossiping on stone seats around the bandstand that evidently served as a village centre. Faded posters advertised delights that by the pictorial content included grape harvests, new wine and dancing.

The lane narrowed further, taking them between gardens full of glowing flowers and ripening grapes. A dog suggested they were trespassing and was shouted into silence by its owner. A cat watched them pass and merely licked its tail, settling more firmly on the gatepost. They came out at the front of the hotel again, seeing the late summer reds and oranges of the vines on the slopes beneath them and hearing the clink of glasses in the outdoor dining area.

It was, Iain reflected, like a film-set, perhaps for a fairy tale or fantasy, and yet he’d never felt so real, so alive. He turned to his partner and found an answering smile. Yes, he concluded, they’d chosen the perfect place. And the perfect person to share it with. As they entered the hotel they heard music over the loudspeakers in the dining room. It was piano music and was, Iain realised, ‘their’ piece, the one played just before the interval in which their eyes had met. He looked at James and knew he’d recognised it too. And so they went in to dinner accompanied by the sound that had brought them together in the first place, and brought them here.

Addison Albright: Bad Ankle

Don’t you just love it when a hiking trip goes wrong? This one has a little pain, but a lot of comfort. And Addison wrote it using no fewer than fifteen prompt words from a random word generator. Given the wild difference between many of the words, I take my hat off to her!

You can find more of Addison’s writing (and of course, her books) at her website, here.


Pic credit: Martin Jernberg on

Our descent from the north ridge took longer than it should have. More than the hike up had taken, that was for sure. I never would have guessed that Phillip, an Army veteran for Christ’s sake, would jump at the sight of a mouse and twist his ankle.

“For the last time,” Phillip grumbled, “it was a fucking rat.”

“Sure,” I replied. My tone implied a tease rather than acquiescence. Although I had to admit the critter had been on the large side for a mouse, so it might have been a small rat. I couldn’t eliminate that theory, anyway. There was no way to prove it one way or another at this point. The damned thing had come and gone in a flash, and I wasn’t an expert on rodents anyway. Neither was Phillip for that matter.

Phillip leaned heavily on me as we approached a narrowing of the path at a steep section passing between two boulders. I edged in front since it made more sense for me to precede him to make sure he didn’t fall on his ass once he got past the bit where he could use the large rocks for balance as he hopped through.

His lips thinned into a tight grimace as he watched me get into position. The misery personified on his features was like a bucket of icy water thrown on the jokey mood I’d tried to foster. I didn’t know if it was more from his physical pain or the fact he hated to be seen as less than strong and fully capable, but it twisted my heart.

“It might’ve been a rat,” I conceded. “I jumped too. I was just lucky there wasn’t a rock in the wrong place when I came down.”

“There’s no ‘might’ve’ to it.” The muscles in his arms bulged as he braced himself on the boulders and swung his body through the passage. Once he joined me on the other side I reached out and slipped both arms around his waist, pulling him in for a hug.

“I love you,” I murmured.

“Love you, too, Dustin.” Phillip’s words were muffled by my hair as he planted a couple kisses near the top of my head. “Sorry,” he added. I barely heard that last whispered word.

“Shit happens.” I shrugged and slipped to the side, tightening one arm around his back and hooking my fingers through his stiff belt. “Nothing to apologize for. It wasn’t your fault.”

I felt—more than saw—him straighten his back. I wasn’t surprised. “Tough” and “determined” were two words that exemplified Phillip’s character. No way he’d wimp out. He’d steel himself to face whatever he had to deal with no matter the hurdles he encountered.

“Got any bars yet?” Phillip asked.

I reached into my pocket and pulled out my phone. We were almost to the 4-wheeler accessible flat stretch that would be the final leg of our journey back to Phillip’s sister Gracie’s house.

“Finally. A couple,” I said. “What’s her number?”

“Fuck,” he groaned. “I don’t have it memorized. It’s in my contacts list.”

And his phone was charging on Gracie’s kitchen counter. “Email address?” I asked. “I can at least message her with that. Those beep on her phone so she might see it right away.”

“I don’t know. She’s got a string of numbers in it that mean nothing. I just click the contact to send her stuff. I forwarded you that email from her last week. You still have it?”

“Oh yeah, now that you mention it…” I opened my archive folder and scrolled. “Found it.”

I copied the address and fired off a message giving her my phone number and imploring her to call ASAP.

We hadn’t gone even twenty more yards before my phone rang. I answered it on speaker so Phillip could hear her, too. The sound of Phillip’s niece, Ellen, practicing the piano in the background was the first thing we heard.

“Gracie?” Phillip asked.

“Phillip! What’s going on? Are you guys okay?”

“Nothing major,” he replied. “I twisted my ankle, but it’s not broken or anything like that.”

“Shit. Well, you don’t need to walk on it. Hold on.” The phone went silent for a minute, presumably muted, then the background piano practice returned along with Gracie. “Hey, Alex will head your way on the 4-wheeler. You can return on it, and he’ll hike back with Dustin.”

Phillip’s body relaxed perceptibly. “Great. Thanks.”

“I’ll crush up some ice ready for you. See you soon.”

I ended the call and slipped the phone into my pocket. “Just a little farther, then we can sit and wait,” I said.

“First thing I’m going to do is crack open that rosé we brought,” he said.

I shook my head. “No more than a sample taste. You’re going to have to take some pain meds. That doesn’t mix with alcohol.”

Phillip sighed. “Fine,” he grumbled.

I gave him a squeeze. “Love you.”

“Love you, too.”

Jeff Baker: In the Caves

Real Life TM has intervened temporarily which means I’m not getting time to update the zine quite as often as I’d like. However, this should calm down soon and in the meantime, here’s another cute little story from Jeff, as part of his Marogas Hills tale. I hope you enjoy it – and don’t worry, Jeff assures me there’ll be another episode soon!


Pic credit: Tsvetoslav Hristov

            They had climbed the hills and found a passage between two of them when the sun came up. There was an area like a natural bowl made of hills and a steep rock wall in the middle of the hills.

            “There,” Zinack said, pointing to a clump of dark green bushes amid the rocks. They could see  a patch of darkness through the thick greenery.

            “The caves?” Zayas asked.

            Zinack nodded and signaled for quiet. Zayas wondered why, if they were alone.

            They climbed over the rocks and past the brush to a low opening in the reddish stone. Zinack pointed and Zayas followed him into the cave. Once inside, Zinack breathed a sigh of relief.

            “We should be safe now,” Zinack said. “Even if they track us, they won’t be able to come in here.”

            The inside of the cave was about the size of the back room they usually slept in. The roof was low and Zinack stretched his arm up and touched the roof. Zayas looked around; there was what looked like a tunnel toward the back of the cave.

            Zayas was going to ask something when he felt a breath of wind from behind him and heard a sound. A deep sound, like a huge animal breathing. Then there was another rush of air.

            The cave was breathing.

            Zinack nodded. “There’s a wind hole a little further down the cave. Just steer clear of it if we have to go in deeper.” He felt along the walls of the cave and peeled what first looked like shadow but was a black moss. He sniffed it and smiled, then he tore the sheet of moss in half.

            “Here, have some of this,” Zinack said, handing it to Zayas. “It’s good as long as it hasn’t gone yellow.”

            Zayas cautiously tried the moss. It was surprisingly salty but tasty. He hadn’t eaten anything since their rations at sunset.

            “This is good.” Zayas said. “How did you know about edible cave moss? Did that water cave monk tell you about it?”

            “Something like that,” Zinack said. “I read about it when I was in school. The monk confirmed it would be here.”

            Zayas shook his head. He had never learned to read, it was not considered necessary for a slave to read but Zinack had not always been a slave.

            “We’ll be safe here, but don’t try to step out of the cave,” Zinack said. “We’ll figure out where we’re going after we’re sure nobody is tracking us.”

            Zayas nodded and finished eating the moss.

            Zayas woke with a start.

            The angle of light from the opening meant he had been asleep for a few hours. He was huddled up next to Zinack, his soft breathing and the breath noises of the cave had lulled him to sleep. It must be near Middle-Day.

            He reached up and put his hand on Zinack’s shoulder; he was still asleep. Zayas realized he was staring at their bare arms where the binding tatts had been. Zayas realized he couldn’t remember sleeping this late, or even being allowed to sleep this late. He smiled as he lay his head back on Zinack’s chest.

            He heard a sound form outside the cave. In the distance but getting closer. Talking. And barking. Trackers! And their dogs!

            Zayas shook Zinack awake and clamped a hand over his mouth and then pointed at the cave entrance.

            The sounds were coming closer.

            “We need to run.” Zayas whispered.

            “We can’t.” Zinack said.

            “To the back of the caves,” Zayas said scrambling to his feet and pointing to the dark hole in the far wall.

            Zinack grabbed his arm. “No. We can’t go to the lower caves. They are back there.”

            “They?” Zayas asked but Zinack hushed him. The sounds of the dogs were coming closer.

            “In there,” came the voice. “They’re in there!”

            Zinack clenched his fists. Zayas glanced around the floor and walls of the cave looking for rocks, branches, anything to use as a weapon.

            “I will die here before I let anyone become my master again,” Zayas muttered.

            They could hear the dogs and trackers just outside the cave entrance and even see their shadows. Then there was a low, guttural roar that swelled around them and then a cold wind from the back of the cave blasted past them almost knocking them over. They could hear the wind roaring outside the cave and see dust and leaves swirling in the daylight and then they heard the screaming of the men and the agonized howling of the dogs.

            Then the wind died down into silence.

            “The power of the Dal Lords,” Zinack said. He looked pale.

            Oh, Zinack, what did you get us into? Zayas thought.

            “We cannot stay here,” Zinack said. “By middle-week all three moons will be in the sky. We must leave here by then.”

            “Where do we go?” Zayas asked.

            “Toward the Moonrise,” Zinack said. “Along the edge of the desert. We will be out of the domain of our Master.” He shrugged. “That is all I know.”

            Zayas held Zinack and they kissed, but Zayas noticed Zinack was still shaking.


Kaje Harper: Redefined

Hello again, and happy New Year! Let’s hope 2023 is full of m/m romance and everything else that’s nice. I’m starting the new year as I started off the zine last year, with a story by Kaje Harper. This one’s both sweet and amusing, and I hope you enjoy it as much as I did. You can find all Kaje’s books on her website, if you’d like to read more.


Pic credit: Matheus Farias on

I’d had a crush on Bishop Stoneleigh since the day he walked in to take over our department, looking like Clark Kent and talking like a college professor. I mean, the guy was everything I drooled over on the fandoms I followed. Probably only a few years older than me, but had a vibe that made most of us want to sit up and salute. Perhaps not everyone with the same body part.

Bishop Stoneleigh. Black hair and high cheekbones and sharp wit and no tolerance for sloppy work. He could rip you up one side and down the other so incisively it didn’t all sink in till hours later.

No, I never deliberately screwed up to get called into his office for a one-on-one reprimand. That’d be stupid, right? I’m not stupid. A little impulsive, maybe…

I was used to him coming in earlier and working even later than I did, and I was the night-owl of our group. Our last boss left without warning and apparently with a hunk of cash, leaving the department books in a mess. Bishop― Mr. Stoneleigh to me, no matter how many fantasies I had of him running his hands through my hair while I called him “Bish”― had a hell of a job cut out to turn things around.

I stuck my head around the door like usual to say “Good night, sir,” and cut the words off short.

He lay sleeping, pillowed on a binder, glasses askew, suit rumpled enough to show his bare wrists below the cuffs of his pristine white shirt. He wasn’t snoring, but there was the tiniest hint of a rasp as he breathed through parted, full lips. In sleep, he suddenly looked his real age, and something like tenderness caught my breath. Poor guy’s been burning the candle at both ends.

What now? Logic said I should leave and pretend I never saw him there. Sleep is a vulnerable thing, and I’d bet he wouldn’t like just anyone watching him that way. Then again, I wasn’t just anyone.

This is my chance, right? I could make a mark, stand out from the crowd of techie underlings he commanded.

Of course, it’d have to be the right kind of mark.

Rocket fuel, maybe. Most of the department lived on Mountain Dew, and the breakroom fridge was well-stocked, but Bishop was a coffee man. Extra large, black, one sugar. Not that I’d paid attention deliberately. One just notices these things.

One also notices the excellent vocabulary with which Bishop described the breakroom coffee. Swill, dregs, and sewage were the ones I hadn’t had to look up. He always brought a thermos, but by this time of night it’d be empty. The coffee shop on the ground floor was open till two AM, though.

I bribed the barista with twenty bucks to make a new pot of coffee and ordered an extra large, carefully stirred in the sugar, and took it back up the elevator.

Bishop still slept where I’d left him. His glasses had slipped a little more. I went over to his side, and set the coffee down on his laminated coaster. Winter Soldier. Nice one. I’d thought he might wake up with having someone that close, but he snoozed on, the limp sleep of exhaustion.

If he didn’t wake up, the coffee would get cold. I wasn’t a fan, myself, but it seemed like hot was an important part of the package. I cleared my throat.

Bishop jolted up and flailed his hands. One elbow knocked over the cup and the tide of hot coffee that spilled across his desk hit my crotch square on.

“Ouch! Shit!” I jumped back, hands cupped protectively over my nads as I tried to tent the scalding fabric away from tender skin.

Bishop leaped to his feet and grabbed my arms, bleary dark eyes staring right into mine. “Charlie!”


He blinked and his gaze sharpened. “What did you call me?”

My brain caught up with my mouth a moment too late. Steaming your balls is a recipe for not paying attention to your words. “Nothing. I mean, I said I wish I hadn’t done that.”

“Hah.” He glared at me but his lush mouth turned up at the corners. “You called me Bish.”

“You called me Charlie,” I countered inanely, because he was the boss and he’d called me Charlie the last four weeks.

“I haven’t been Bish since my little sister outgrew her teens.”

“Sorry, sir.”

He let go of my arms, and a snicker escaped his lips. “Seriously? All that work to maintain the correct gravitas and that’s how my subordinates think of me?”

“No, no, I’m pretty sure it’s just me,” I hurried to say, then felt the heat rise in my neck and face. No doubt red and splotchy, because that was what my skin liked to do. “Sorry, Mr. Stoneleigh.”

“What are you doing here at this hour, Charlie? Didn’t you get last week’s memo about a healthy work-life balance?”

“Yeah, but I figured you didn’t mean it.”

He sighed and ran a hand over his face. “He figured I didn’t mean it.”

“Well, you’re still here.”

“True.” He blinked, then pulled open a desk drawer and found a handful of napkins. With his first swipe at the liquid on his desk, he paused. “Hey, that’s hot.” He lifted the cup, eyed the logo, then tipped the last drops into his mouth. “You brought me hot coffee.”


“That’s not your job.” He pushed his glasses more firmly up his nose and went back to wiping up. “You’re my best programmer. The one guy with priorities and a work ethic, and a sense of humor. You don’t need to fetch coffee.”

“I thought it’d be a nice gesture.” I was still standing there holding my slacks tented out over my dick.

“Top grades for initiative. Perhaps not for execution.”

“Story of my life,” I muttered.

“Are you okay? Did you burn yourself?”

“I’ll live.” The impulse to ask if he wanted to check and make sure was completely resistible. Completely.

“At least you didn’t soak your slacks at the beginning of the day. I did, once.”

“At least coffee isn’t yellow, like Dew. Slightly less like I pissed myself.”

I got that quirk of a smile again. “Charles, can you keep a secret?”

“Not my strongest suit,” I admitted.

He actually laughed. “Well, it’s not much of a secret. I’m leaving this job in two weeks. The boss found a new hire with the actual skills to do the work, instead of faking it like I am.”

“You were doing fine!” I got mad on his behalf. “He could’ve given you more than a month.”

“No, no, you don’t get it. This was always temporary. I only took the job on the grounds that he would hire someone suitable as expeditiously as he could.”

“Oh. Well, we’ll miss you.” No more Clark Kent glasses and raised eyebrow?

“Will you?” He checked his chair for drips and then sat, looking up at me. “You, specifically?”

“Um, yeah. Sir.”

“That right there.” He pointed finger-guns at me. “When I leave, I will no longer be your boss and you won’t be my employee.”

“That’s what leaving generally implies, yeah.”

“So in two weeks―” He snagged the corner of my pocket and tugged me a step closer. “―when it’s not unethical anymore, do you think you might want to go for coffee with me?”

“Ugh. Coffee.” I bit my lip as the startling implications caught up with my sleep-deprived brain. “I mean, yes, yeah, I’d like that.”

“Donuts if you prefer, maybe. Doritos. Or we could go wild and go out for real food.”

I needed clarity here. “Are you asking me on a date?”

“Not now. That would be against company policy. I’m asking what will happen in two weeks, if I ask you.”

A slow smile tugged at my mouth and a much more pleasant heat warmed me from the inside. “Well, then, you’ll have to try it and find out,” I said. “Anticipation is the spice of life, Bish.”