Wednesday, July 27, 2016

ORIENTATION Gets Reincarnated at Wilde City Press!


With its brand new edition and brand new cover (releasing just last week on July 21), I thought I'd share a sample from my reincarnation love story, Orientation, which won the EPIC eBook Award in 2009 as the Best GLBT Novel of the Year. This excerpt takes place at Christmas, 1983. Get the Kleenex ready....



BLURB
Christmas, 1983: A young man, Robert, tends to his soul mate, Keith, who is dying from AIDS. Robert tries valiantly to make this a special Christmas for his lover, but loses the fight late Christmas night.

Christmas, 2007: Robert ventures out late Christmas night and finds a young girl about to fling herself into the unforgiving waters of Lake Michigan. He rescues her, and the two form a bond forged from an odd feeling they share of familiarity, and even love. Neither understands it, since Jess is a lesbian and Robert has never been attracted to women. But there's more...Jess begins having strange dreams, reliving key moments she couldn't know about in Keith and Robert's life and courtship. Robert and Jess begin to wonder if their inexplicable feelings might be rooted in something much more mystical than a savior/victim relationship.

As the two move toward and pull away from each other, Ethan, Robert's younger lover, plots the unthinkable. His crystal meth-addled mind becomes convinced there's only one way to save himself, and that is through Robert's destruction. Christmas 2007 spirals downward to a shattering climax in which both love and lives hang in the balance.

There's a murder attempt...salvation...redemption...and a new love is born...

EXCERPT
CHRISTMAS NIGHT WAS memorable for Robert, if only because it was the night the one great love of his young life was taken, stolen away by a disease he could never have imagined just a few years beforeThe night was also memorable because there was a kind of Christmas miracle, even if it lasted only a few moments. Keith came back to him. His Keith, the one who could make him laugh and make him feel “like a million bucks.” For the briefest of moments, the real Keith returned, smiling and making of his death mask face a hint of what had been there before: a handsome, distinguished man whose cheeks were no longer sunken and hollow, whose green irises were rimmed in yellow no more, and whose smile could light up a room.
Maybe seeing the old Keith, handsome, devilish, strong jawed from his Mediterranean heritage, was just a figment of Robert’s imagination, something he wished for so hard it came true. But the lucidity that came late that Christmas night was not his imagination. Something had clicked in Keith’s fevered brain and for just an instant, he came back.
            But it was only to say goodbye.
            Robert had spent the long afternoon cooking. He knew it was pointless. Keith, in his best moments, could only keep things like Jell-o and protein drinks down, and Robert had no appetite himself. But in spite of a decided lack of hunger around the Harris/Jafari household, Robert had made quite a testament to culinary expertise in the marble and glass kitchen. The counters were crammed with cutting boards where Robert had used his Wusthof cutlery to prep a garden of fresh herbs, mincing parsley, sage, basil, and thyme into stacks of fine green confetti. He cut garlic into translucent slices. Halved lemons lined up in an orderly row beneath the windowsill, waiting to release their juices. And there, near the sink, a twelve-pound goose waited for Robert’s touch, ready to have its skin loosened and lifted and for him to infuse it with chopped herbs, to stuff its cavity with lemons and whole garlic cloves, and, finally, to be buttered and rubbed lovingly with extra-virgin olive oil and trussed. It would spend the rest of the day basking in the heat of an oven, religiously basted every forty minutes. Robert had made oyster stuffing, rich with fresh-from-the-sea briny juices, sage, and fennel sausage. He had shorn the bottoms off artichokes, trimmed their leaves, and stuffed them with a mixture of bread crumbs, garlic and Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese. In the sink, a mound of Yukon gold potatoes awaited peeling. Brussels sprouts needed to be cleaned, steamed, and tossed in butter, lemon juice, and garlic.
            And when the kitchen windows fogged with steam from bubbling pots and the whole first floor of the penthouse was redolent with roasting bird, Robert went into the little powder room off the kitchen and threw up. He sat there by the toilet afterwards, gasping, and wiping angrily at his mouth and nose with Kleenex that left shreds on his stubbled face. He started to sob, the tears coming easily, hating himself for being such a coward, for spending all this time, all this money, to prepare this glorious yuletide feast no one would ever eat. He slapped his own face, punishing himself for being so stupid, stupid, stupid. Who was he trying to kid? Did making a Christmas goose with all the trimmings wipe out a year of love, passion, and happiness? Did all the cooking, decorating, and wrapping of presents put a different face on Death, who paced the penthouse, features furrowed, waiting to take his own Christmas present, which lay, just inches away from “delivery” on sweat-soaked Egyptian cotton sheets?
            Why couldn’t he accept what was happening? It was over. It was only a flame that had flared and then was snuffed out. He forced himself up, gripping the little pedestal sink, and splashed cold water on his face. He looked at himself in the mirror above the sink, hating the vibrant, rosy glow in his cheeks, his fine, small-pored skin, twinkling blue eyes that betrayed not a hint of his exhaustion and despair, and his shining blond hair, in ringlets because of the kitchen humidity.
            Why did Keith have to die?
            Why did Robert have to live?
            He closed his eyes and went into the kitchen, ready to feed the fabulous food to the garbage disposal. The work, just like the preparation of the meal, would take his mind off things.
            And then he heard Keith’s voice, watery, weak, a shadow of its former self, call out. If the garbage disposal had been on, he wouldn’t have heard it. But the sound of his own name coming from his lover’s lips filled him with a kind of insane joy and optimism. The irrational part of him wanted to take it as a sign, a U-turn in the road toward death.
            His Keith was getting better! Getting better in spite of the fact that all these other men with AIDS were dying quick, painful deaths. Keith would be the exception to the rule. He always had been. A sob caught in Robert’s throat and he hurried toward the stairs.
            “Robert?” Keith’s voice sounded again, querulous and weak as a kitten. But it was Keith and he was calling for him.
            Robert rushed up the spiral staircase, tripping once, a startled laugh escaping from his lips. Who knew? This AIDS thing was still so new. Who was to say there weren’t people out there who could beat it? People with imagination and fortitude.
            People like Keith.
            Robert hesitated outside the bedroom door. Inside, it was quiet, and he dreaded going in there and finding Keith on the bed asleep, a sheen of sweat clinging to his sunken cheeks, his breath phlegmy and labored. What if Keith’s call was just a momentary peek through the twin curtains of fever and consciousness? Or worse, the product of his own overly-hopeful imagination?
            What would be, would be (hadn’t some virginal blonde even once sung about it?). Robert steeled himself: deep, cleansing breath, let it out slowly. And entered the room.
            Keith was awake. His face looked even more drawn and tired—the color of ash. Robert would have said it was impossible for him to look any sicker even this morning, but now he did. In the air, despite the cinnamon and vanilla scented candles in the room, was the smell of sickness and shit.
            But oh, Lord! Keith was looking at him. Looking right at Robert. And he was seeing him! For the first time in forever, their gazes met and connected. Robert approached the bed warily, as if a sudden movement would send Keith plummeting back into unconsciousness.
            “Honey? Can you hear me?” Robert stood, wringing his hands, heart fluttering, beating against his ribs.
            “Of course.” Keith’s voice was a croak. Gone were the bass notes that had made him sound so sexy and assured. Keith reached a bruised hand out over the covers and patted the bed. “Would you sit next to me?”
            “Oh, of course!” Robert took two steps and weighed down the bed, reaching out to brush a strand of hair off Keith’s forehead, biting his own lip at the heat radiating off Keith’s flesh. “I’m so happy you’re awake.”
            Keith swallowed. The swallow took a long time and looked as if it took all of the sick man’s effort. He let out a weak sigh and turned his head. He looked up at Robert and managed a wan smile. Robert closed his eyes and gently laid his head atop Keith’s.
            And then Keith began to talk, his old voice suddenly returned, strong and sure. “I have just a few things to say, Robert. And I need you to shut up and listen. No interruptions. The first thing I want to say is ‘Merry Christmas.’ I’m so sorry I couldn’t be a bigger part of things for this, our first Christmas together, but that decision was taken from me and it doesn’t look like Mr. Claus is seeing fit to give me a chance to make it up to you.
“The second thing I want to say is that I love you with all my heart. I searched forty some odd years for you, for what I’ve always dreamed of, and what I thought I couldn’t have when you dropped, like a gift, like an angel, into my life last winter. You were what I hunted for all my life: a family. You are my family. Don’t ever forget how precious that is.
“The third thing I want to say is that you’re an idiot, running around, burying your head in the sand and trying to make a Christmas that neither of us has the capacity to enjoy. And last, I love you for that. I love you so much for trying…for hoping against all odds that this moment would come and I would let you know how much I appreciate you. For hoping that we might share one final kiss before I have to go. And my love, I do have to go.
But I couldn’t leave without you hearing these four words. You. Are. My. Family.”

BUY

Monday, July 25, 2016

Dining Review: 7-11

More Bang for Your Dining Buck: The 7-11 Food Review 


Looking for a smorgasbord? A garden of gastronomical delights? A place where culinary variety is truly the spice du jour and you can get your every hunger, of the food and drink variety, sated? No, you say? Well then move on to the next window in your browser, you anorexic thing, you.

For those of us who enjoy the finer things in life, especially when it comes to food in its many varieties, read on.

Now, some of you might be thinking, as I tease you with visions of a cornucopia of foodstuffs that I’m talking about some swank establishment like Old Country Buffet. Perish the thought, children!

If you’re really hungry, on a budget, and want a bevy of choices laid tantalizingly before you, look no further than the friendly, fluorescent-lit environs of your nearest 7-11. True, the atmosphere is often one of hustle and bustle, and there’s nary a table to be found in the joint. But you can make your selection, have it rung up, and devour it right there on the curb in the parking lot in a matter of minutes!

In this instant, microwaved millennium, what could be more appealing?

Need breakfast? 7-11 is there for you. Head to the deli area, grab an artfully (and hygienically!) wrapped egg salad sandwich, then head over to the cooler and pick up a quart of Schlitz and you’re on your way! Hangover begone! If something more saccharine is to your taste, check out the glass case of donuts, éclairs and other yummy sweet treats. One, two or more of these confections is sure to set your energy level to hummin’!

If noon rolls around and you haven’t yet eaten, there’s no better place to stuff your gullet. The aforementioned deli section is always stocked with an assortment of sandwiches and, for the health conscious, salads. Pair that up with a bag of red hot pork skins, or a sack of Cheetos and a Slurpy and you’ve got yourself a balanced meal, Mister!

And, after you’ve eaten, choose from any one of every existing cigarette brand to top off your meal.

And who says you need a fancy sit-down establishment for dinner? Not my pocketbook, that’s for sure! 7-11 offers freshly heated hot dogs, bagel dogs and more…they’re grillin’ all day long, so you don’t have to wait for the six o’clock dinner bell to chime. A delicious assortment of Twix, Snickers, and Reese Cups makes for a sublime dessert.

The fun doesn’t stop at the three squares you can get at the store whose façade you’ll find in the dictionary next to “convenient.” If you don’t want to eat in the parking lot or near a handy Dumpster, where you can responsibly dispose of your refuse, you can take home a plethora of healthy eats like Dinty Moore beef stew, Van Camps Pork and Beans and everybody’s favorite—Spaghetti-o’s. 7-11. It adds up to perfection.

Bon apetit!


Saturday, July 23, 2016

Loving the Words of this Pastor, Even though I'm a Lapsed Gay Catholic

Don't tell my husband, but I love John Pavlovitz. Every day, on his blog, he says "stuff that needs to be said" and I eat it all up. His compassion, kindness, and wisdom are compelling and always provide a respite for me during my most trying days.

The fact that he preaches the Christian gospel (and I am not a Christian, but spiritual, honoring all paths to spirituality) is irrelevant. His words are so imbued with love that they always resonate.

Take this post, which actually made me cry, because it's an antidote to all the hate spewed by Christians against LGBTQ people, in particular the religion I was raised in, Catholicism.

In part, Mr. Pavlovitz says:

If you’re reading this and you identify as LGBTIQ here’s what I really hope you know: 
You are not an abomination to God. Anyone with even a cursory understanding of the Bible knows that this is a completely irresponsible use of Scripture, and that using such a loaded word for another human being simply because of their gender identity or sexual orientation or because of the person they love is a reckless bastardization of the Bible and distortion of the heart of God.
Refuse to wear this label. It doesn’t belong to you. You are far too great for it. 
You are not a mistake.The same God we credit for the stars and the sea and the butterfly’s wings created you. This means you are made of the same stuff God is and with the very same care. Never allow someone to make you feel as though you are at all an error in need of correcting, that you are somehow less-than. You are intentional and perfect.
Even if it has taken you some time to figure out who you are, God has always known. 
You are not broken.Your gender identity and sexual orientation are not flaws or moral defects. They are not signs that you are damaged and to be repaired. Your intelligence and character, your humor and capacity to love, your gifts and passions, your goodness and humanity all comprise the sum total of who you are and it is a thing of beauty. 
You don’t need fixing.
Read the whole post though...it's really worth it. And if you agree with him (and me) please share it. This is not only stuff that needs to be said, but to be heard. 

Friday, July 22, 2016

Food in Books - A Guest Post by Jessica Skye Davies

When writing, I often find myself ‘feeding’ my characters rather well.  They get to experience some of my favorite foods (which I often end up with cravings for myself!)  Josh and Ben are no exception, and have probably been the best fed of my characters to date.  Town Man, Country Man also holds a nice little gift for readers – more about that in a moment.  

The old saying, “You are what you eat,” rings true here.  Ben tends to like rich, hearty foods, and Josh typically goes for healthy with bold flavor.  Even doing the shopping together is revealing – Josh sees a passion come alive in Ben when they’re shopping for fresh ingredients in Pittsburgh’s Strip District, but he also witnesses how cagey Ben gets when shopping in a farmer’s market in his own rural community.  

Food is an important part of Josh and Ben’s budding relationship.  Their first “morning after”, for instance, they work together to make crepes with berries and they share breakfast on the balcony.  When Ben invites Josh to spend a weekend with him, he and Josh make Ben’s favorite potato soup together.  For these boys, cooking and enjoying meals together becomes a significant expression of love.  As another character says later of his own pastry chef husband, “It does wonderful things for domestic harmony.”

And because, as I mentioned, I often find myself with a craving for the foods I write into a story, I included a surprise bonus for Town Man, Country Man readers – a selection of recipes at the end.  A major shout-out to Tray Ellis for the recommendation of including those after a beta read-through.  I hope the readers enjoy the recipes as much as I do!

Here’s another of my fave easy and quick recipes for a healthy, gourmet-quality meal:


MUSTARD-LEEK CHICKEN

Sauce:
Leeks, 2 large (recommend Googling “how to clean leeks” – they’re usually very sandy!)
Chicken stock, 1 cup
Dijon Mustard, 3 tbsp
Half-n-half, ¼ to ½ cup
Oil, 1 tbsp

Chicken: 
Boneless, skinless chicken breasts, 2-4
Pepper and/or other preferred seasoning (basil, oregano, thyme, paprika, pinch of curry all work really well for this recipe) 
All-purpose flour, approximately ¼ cup
Oil, 1 tbsp
Pan with lid
Timer

Directions:  
I prefer to prepare the chicken first, then set them aside (covered) and do the sauce in the same pan.  The recipe for the chicken alone will work for any chicken dish, so you might even want to do up a number of chicken breasts and pack away for later the ones you don’t use for this recipe.

Mix seasoning into flour in a shallow dish or plate.  Lightly dredge chicken in flour mixture (just enough to scantly dust chicken).  

Heat oil in pan on medium heat.  Place chicken breasts in pan and cook for no more than 1 minute.  

Turn chicken over, cover pan immediately, and reduce heat to low.  Set timer for 10 minutes and leave chicken to cook.  No peeking!

After 10 minutes, turn off heat and reset timer for 10 minutes more.  Still no peeking!

When 10 minutes of “resting” are up (that was a good time to wash and chop your leeks, by the way), check chicken for doneness.  Every time I have done chicken with this method, they turn out perfectly every time – very succulent.  Now you can briefly set these aside in a covered dish while you use the chicken drippings in the pan to prepare the sauce.

In the pan you cooked the chicken in, drop in a little more oil and heat.  Put in your chopped leeks and give them a stir to get a coating of oil, then put the lid on the pan and cook on low for about 10 minutes to soften the leeks (recommend giving them a stir halfway through to keep them from getting too done on one side).  

Add stock and stir in mustard, then increase to medium heat and let the mixture come to a fast boil.  

Reduce heat again and gradually stir in half-and-half.  Return chicken breasts to the pan stir sauce over them.  Simmer on low for about another four minutes to allow the leeks to soften a bit more and to allow the flavors to blend.  

This also works exceptionally well with a good piece of broiled salmon.  Keep it simple and healthy with a side of green beans or asparagus.  Both the chicken and salmon version pair very nicely with sauvignon blanc (I personally prefer New Zealand’s selection of Marlborough area sauvignons).  


“Town man” Josh Douglass meets “country man” Ben Bauer at a mutual friend’s wedding, and passion kindles immediately. As urbanite wedding planner Josh and closeted contractor Ben spend more time together, they develop a deep, comfortable romance despite the fifty miles between their homes—and despite the drastic differences in their lifestyles. But as they grow closer, it becomes apparent that Josh and Ben have been enjoying the first flush of love without giving much thought to longer-term logistics. 

 A crisis leads Josh to ask himself serious questions about how his relationship with Ben can realistically work. But just as Josh is feeling ready to talk about the next step with Ben, a misunderstanding threatens to put an end to their love affair. Compromise is the key to any relationship, but it isn’t always easy to balance careers, friendships, and family expectations. Josh and Ben just need to see that bringing together the best of both their worlds is well worth the sacrifices they’ll have to make to remain in each other’s lives.

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ABOUT JESSICA SKYE DAVIES 


Wednesday, July 20, 2016

BLOG TOUR: Evasive Maneuvers by Lynn Michaels

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AboutTheBook

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TITLE: Evasive Maneuvers

AUTHOR: Lynn Michaels

COVER ARTIST: Jay Aheer 


LENGTH: 58,500 words


RELEASE DATE: July 16, 2016 


BLURB: 
Campbell Fain has been rebelling against his father, refusing to grow up for so long, he's not sure what his life really means anymore. When he meets the man that makes his heart melt, he lies to impress him. Unfortunately, facing the truth may turn out to be the least of his problems when he's forced to come face to face with the sins of his father.


He was the quarterback in high school, all American sweetheart and solid guy, but Stone Medlock is just figuring out his life. When he meets Campbell Fain, it turns his world around and he just might be falling hard for the rebellious punk, but will he still be able to support and trust Campbell when the lies come out?

Will Campbell's lies tear them apart before they even begin? Will they find the love behind the lies?

FROM THE AUTHOR
Hi ya’ll!  Here’s the down and dirty on Evasive Maneuvers.

This book was totally inspired by the main character Campbell Fain. He was just a blast to write and he really stayed with me, persistently bugging me, until I had it done.  He’s a bleached blond dynamo with serious issues, but he learns and grows throughout the story. His love interest, Stone Medlock, is a local Tampa boy, football hero, who kind of lives in his own world. Campbell turns Stone’s life completely upside down. It’s a bit angsty and a bit sweet with tons of issues to work through and a great supporting cast.

Here’s an exclusive tidbit that will emphasize what I mean about their chemistry:

Campbell fell back against the couch, his eyes crinkling up and his pink tongue darting out across his bottom lip. “Open your eyes, Campbell.” I had to watch his ecstasy.
Slowly, he showed me what I needed, opening his eyes sluggishly. I leaned closer to see they had shifted to a darker shade, and a dark, almost black line circled the outside of the color. His pupils were huge. I thought I saw curiosity along with the lust in them. The thought had my lip lifting at the corner in a smirk.

Footnote:  Campbell and Stone have a bonus scene at the end of the book that you don’t want to miss. I wrote it because I felt like we just needed one more sexy time with these two. They really steam up the page!

I hope you’ll enjoy it and check out my other work as well and follow me on Amazon.




Excerpt 


Stone pulled his jeans all the way off, dropping them to the floor along with his sexy briefs. I couldn't help notice how manly they were; everything about Stone was manly. If I hadn't met him at a gay club, I never would have thought he batted for my team, but every bit of me was so happy he did. It never hurt to have out jocks on the team! He smelled masculine too. Some of that could have been his products that I could smell on myself too, but some of it was just his own natural, earthy scent that I couldn't get enough of.

As I stared at him, waiting for more, his face shifted to something a little less sexy. His brows pressed down, making him appear unhappy or concerned.

“What?”

“Campbell. Listen. I need to know what else you lied about.”


I chuckled, nervously. “What?” Why the hell did he bring this shit up now, especially when I thought we'd gotten past it?

BuyLinks


AuthorBio

Lynn Michaels lives and writes in Tampa, Florida where the sun is hot and the sangria is cold. Lynn is the newest addition to Rubicon Fiction, and she loves reading and writing about hot men in love.  She writes paranormal and contemporary gay romance.




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Winner’s Prize: Signed Paperback of the book & an E-copy of the book!



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Friday, July 15, 2016

Flashack Friday: PENANCE


Penance was part of Dell's historic horror line, Abyss, lauded by none other than Stephen King, who called it "remarkable".

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BLURB

Bound by misery. Marked by sin. Set free by death.

Barely into their teens, without homes, they dwell in neon shadows, the violent eddies of urban America. They trade their innocence for money, abuse their hopes, and then a monster comes...

 A monster without fangs or claws, but more deadly. Because of them, he has lost everything: his wife, his family. And he vows to clean the streets of Chicago...for good.

 One of the street kids and a man of the cloth form a desperate pact. Together, they will find the madman whose basement has become a chamber of horrors...

EXCERPT
Lawrence Avenue was alive with rain-slicked excitement. Here, in Chicago’s uptown, royal blue, yellow, and green neon reflected off the pavement’s darkness. Cold night air. Steam rushing up through manhole covers. Christmas lights in neighborhood bar windows beckoned passersby with watery promises of “Christmas cheer.”

Jimmy Fels occupied his street corner. At thirteen, he already knew the poses. There was a casual defiance in the way he leaned against the storefront doorway, pelvis thrust out just enough to attract the interest of the cars cruising by more slowly than the others. He wore a faded jean jacket, Metallica T-shirt, pegged jeans, and Reebok Pumps. His ripped T-shirt deliberately exposed a nipple and a flash of smooth white stomach. The top of the T-shirt was cut away to reveal a gold rope chain, glinting in the glow of the streetlight above him.

Green eyes, wizened beyond their years, stared out of a pale face. He brought a cigarette to his full lips, lips almost too feminine and full for a boy, too ripe for anything clean. His hair, freshly washed, was still damp, looking darker than blond.

He tried not to appear too interested in the cars passing by, some slowing down to take a look at him. He knew it was bad to look too hungry. Make them think you’re doing them a favor…always keep the upper hand. Street knowledge passed on. Remember Gacy. Remember Larry Eyler and what he did to Danny Bridges, the boy who ended up chopped into pieces and thrown into a Dumpster. Get it over with as quickly as possible and keep moving. But he looked anyway, his eyes moving slowly, catching glances out of the corners, and saw the shadows of men leaning forward, their faces ghostly through car windows.

*

Dwight Morris looked at himself in his bathroom mirror. Forty-two years old, he thought, forty-two years old and you can’t even tell. The Cubs baseball cap was positioned just so, with the bill facing backward. His acid-washed Levi’s jacket hung loosely on him, with the cuffs of the sleeves turned up. Under the jacket, he wore an old grey-hooded sweatshirt unzipped just enough to show the New Kids T-shirt underneath. The mirror didn’t reveal the pegged black jeans and the BK high tops.

Dwight smiled at himself, exposing the boyish gap in his teeth. The hint of rouge on his cheeks made him look flushed; a young boy.

I must look at least twenty-five years younger.

*

Jimmy imagined their yearning.

He was cold, but didn’t want to warm himself. That would destroy the pose. The tough guy. So his arms remained at his sides, the cigarette an orange glow in one hand, held between thumb and forefinger. Too many suburban guys tucked at home with wife and kiddies, Indiana Jones on the VCR, lust for his little thirteen-year-old ass on their minds.

“Isn’t it a little cold out here for you, little boy?”

Jimmy jumped at the sound of a girl’s voice. He turned to his left and there she was. Miranda. Tonight she was wearing a black derby, a big black sweatshirt, urban camouflage pants, black leg warmers, army boots. Christ.

An amused grin played about her lips. “Shouldn’t you be home in bed, little boy? I think your mama has some cocoa and Oreos waiting.”

“Real funny, ’Ran. C’mon, gimme a fuckin’ break. I’m workin’.”

Miranda rolled her eyes. “Slow night?” She took off the black derby she wore and ran her hand through her close-cropped red hair, making it stand on end.

“It is with you standin’ there blockin’ the fuckin’ view.”

Miranda shook her head. “I can see we’re in a mood tonight.” She started away from him, hips sashaying, swinging her bag.

“Hey.” Jimmy took a last drag off his cigarette, flicked it into the gutter.

Miranda stopped and turned, cocked her head. “Thought you didn’t want to be bothered.”

Jimmy raised his hands to her. “See ya later?”

Miranda shrugged. “Depends on how it goes.”

“Right. That’s cool.”

Jimmy watched her walking away. Who would she find tonight? Would she make enough to buy herself a bottle of Cisco?

“How you doin’, son?”

The man’s voice made Jimmy take his eyes away from Miranda. He pulled a cigarette out of his jacket pocket and lit it, cupping his hand to shield the flame, before he looked up.

It was the creep. At least that’s what Jimmy called him. Some fucking preacher who lived around here. Tall, thin, pasty white with these little old-fashioned wire-rim glasses.

“Beat it. I ain’t interested.” Jimmy sucked in on the cigarette, blew the smoke toward the man.

The preacher made a gesture like a shrug, bringing his hands up, like I’m innocent.

Right. “Look, man, I’m okay. All right? See you later?”

Jimmy smirked as the preacher walked away, his hands dug deep in his pockets, head hunched down against the Chicago wind whistling down Lawrence, off the lake.

A Toyota pickup pulled over to the curb. Black with neon detailing. The truck had these squiggles of hot pink and turquoise. Jimmy pretended not to notice at first, then glanced in the direction of the truck. There was some young guy inside, wearing a baseball cap backward, leaning over and rolling down the window. Jimmy leaned over to get a better look at the face.

Wait a minute. Jimmy moved a little closer, trying to make it look like he’d just decided he wanted to cross the street or something. But he needed to get a better look.

This guy wasn’t so young. There were lines around his eyes, across his forehead. He had so much makeup on his cheeks he looked like fuckin’ Bozo the Clown..

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