Friday, June 24, 2016

DON'T JUMP! An Excerpt from BIG LOVE

Big Love is about accepting yourself for who you are. And that lesson can be very, very hard-won, especially for those of us who are “different.” This scene illustrates how hopeless that acceptance can seem:

“He’s up there!” Betsy pointed to Truman on the roof ledge, her voice high with hysteria. “You have to do something, Dane!”

Dane peered up, squinting. For a moment he could see nothing. Although the day was bitter cold, with the temperature in the single digits and, with the wind chill factored in, most likely below zero, the sun was blinding and bright. The sky was a brilliant cerulean blue. The anxiousness and terror in Betsy’s voice ramped up his own terror, making him feel like an animal being plunged into nightmare.

Quickly, his eyes adjusted to the sun’s glare, and he could make out a silhouette on top of one of the two towers that fronted the school, one on either side, like a castle. A small figure with its legs dangling casually over the ledge flung Dane’s heart into his throat. Out of the corner of his mouth, he whispered desperately to Betsy, “Who is it?”

“It’s Truman Reid.”

“Oh God. Of course it is.” Dane flashed back to only a short time ago and what he had witnessed on the school’s central bulletin board. He must have seen. The kid was desperate. Dane recollected that it seemed like almost every week, maybe even every day, the boy was the punching bag for a bully, the butt of a joke, or a target for derision. Dane tried to step in when he could, but he couldn’t be everywhere at once. With staff cutbacks and growing class sizes, it had become harder and harder for Dane to concentrate on individual students, no matter how compassionate he wanted to be or how much they needed him.

And today, right now, Truman Reid needed someone.

He let out a shuddering breath and reached for Betsy’s hand, clutching it for a moment and squeezing for courage. “What do I say to him? What do I say?” Dane felt on the verge of tears. There was a quivering in his gut that made him feel dizzy, as though it were he and not the boy dangling over the edge of that rooftop. His next few words could, quite literally, mean the difference between life and death.

Betsy Wagner, teacher of social studies and human sexuality, could be relied upon for her well of knowledge in a desperate situation. She leaned in and whispered, “Hell if I know.”

Dane turned away from Truman for a moment to glare at her.

“But you’ll think of something. All the kids trust you,” she said, and Dane was sure the smile she gave him was meant to be reassuring, if not inspiring.

Like Truman, Dane once again found himself alone. Betsy stepped back and away from him, presumably to give him more space to conjure up just the right words, the magic speech that would coerce the kid into swinging his legs back slowly off the ledge and then to retrace his steps back inside the school, where he could get the help he needed.

Dane put a hand up to shield his eyes from the sun. “Truman?” he yelled. “Truman? Can I just talk to you, man?”

A shadow fell across the ground to Dane’s left as someone stepped up next to him. He turned quickly and saw it was Seth Wolcott, the new teacher. Seth’s hazel eyes, behind his glasses, seemed darker with concern. He handed Dane a bullhorn. “We had this in the theater department. Thought you could use it.” Seth clamped a hand on Dane’s shoulder and squeezed. The simple touch gave Dane courage.
Dane lifted the bullhorn to his mouth, grateful for the amplification. He only hoped he could hear if and when Truman responded.

“Truman?” he repeated. “I just want to talk to you. Okay?” He glanced behind him, stunned to see a massive crowd had formed. It appeared the whole school stood outside now, behind him. It was both a comfort, a horror, and eerie, because there was no sound from any of them. Dane hadn’t even heard them assemble.

He whispered to Seth, “Has anyone called 911?” Dane longed for official help. He also feared it—the sound of a siren could startle poor Truman right off the roof.

Seth answered, “Betsy called a few minutes ago from her cell. Someone should be here soon.”

For now, though, silence prevailed. Dane lifted the bullhorn to his lips once more. “Listen, son, whatever’s got you up there is something bad. I’m not gonna kid around with you or insult your intelligence by pretending otherwise. Life has dealt you a raw hand, and that really sucks.”

Oh God. This is terrible. I can’t make this speech. I can’t. Where are all the wise words from the books I teach?

Dane drew in a quivering breath and called up, “But whatever it is, the one thing I know, and I think you know too, deep in your heart, is that nothing stays the same. Nothing, Truman. There’s no one on God’s green earth who can say what’s gonna happen tomorrow. Or even a few minutes from now. We just don’t know.” Dane looked up at the boy’s silhouette, unmoving, above. Was he getting through at all?
“Truman? Can you just throw me a bone and let me know that you hear me, son?”

Dane waited, figuring he’d give the boy some space in which to reply. The wait seemed to go on for hours, when Dane’s rational mind told him it was only seconds until he heard the boy’s high and thin voice filter down.

“I hear you.”

Dane shut his eyes for a moment, feeling immense gratitude for such a small gift. “I’m glad you can hear. But can you listen?”

“I’m not going anywhere… yet,” Truman called down.

Dane was relieved to see the tiny trace of humor in his response. Gallows humor, but it was better than nothing.

“Then listen to me. What you’re thinking of is an end. There’ll be no coming back. What you’re doing is taking hope out of the equation. What you’d be doing, if you jump or even accidentally slide off that roof, is removing any chance at all for things getting better.”

“They always say ‘It gets better,’ but they lie,” Truman screamed. “Nothing ever changes!”

“Truman, you’re too young to be so pessimistic. Everything changes. Constantly. Whether we want it to or not. Things go from bad to worse, from good to better, and everywhere in between. And most of the time, none of it makes sense.”

Teacher Dane Bernard is a gentle giant, loved by all at Summitville High School. He has a beautiful wife, two kids, and an easy rapport with staff and students alike. But Dane has a secret, one he expects to keep hidden for the rest of his life—he’s gay.

But when he loses his wife, Dane finally confronts his attraction to men. And a new teacher, Seth Wolcott, immediately catches his eye. Seth himself is starting over, licking his wounds from a breakup. The last thing Seth wants is another relationship—but when he spies Dane on his first day at Summitville High, his attraction is immediate and electric.

As the two men enter into a dance of discovery and new love, they’re called upon to come to the aid of bullied gay student Truman Reid. Truman is out and proud, which not everyone at his small-town high school approves of. As the two men work to help Truman ignore the bullies and love himself without reservation, they all learn life-changing lessons about coming out, coming to terms, acceptance, heartbreak, and falling in love.


Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Exclusive Excerpt: The Hardest Part About Being an Escort: A Taste of A DANGEROUS GAME


It’s all fun and games in the escort business until someone gets hurt, or falls in love. Here’s what happened to one of the escorts in  A Dangerous Game.


Sex can be a dangerous business. So can love.

On the worst day of his life, Wren Gallagher wants oblivion when he steps into Tricks for a drink. When a mysterious stranger steps up to pay his tab, he offers Wren the key to fulfilling his dreams of prosperity and true love.

But appearances are not always what they seem.

His savior owns the escort agency À Louer, and he wants the young and handsome Wren as part of his stable of men-for-hire. Down on his luck, Wren figures, why not? He needs the money. When he joins, though, he doesn’t count on meeting Rufus, another escort with whom he falls hopelessly in love.

But their love story will have to overcome the obstacles of not only trading love for money, but À Louer’s dark—and deadly—secrets.

1st Edition published as Rent by ManLove Romance Press, 2012.


During this time together Evan realized he had done the unthinkable and crossed the line he had been told, not only by Dave but by other escorts, that he should never cross—he had fallen in love.

The words, as they lay side by side in Dan’s king-size bed, slipped out of him just before they drifted off into slumber. “I love you,” Evan whispered huskily into the darkness, wishing, as soon as the words had escaped his mouth, that he could take them back. In what world, Evan had wondered, was it appropriate for a prostitute to say such a thing to a client? He lay still, feeling heat rise to his face, waiting for Dan to tell him he’d better go, that he would call him a cab.

But that wasn’t what had happened. Dan had risen up on one arm to gaze down upon him in the wan light afforded by a crescent moon shining in through the window. Evan couldn’t bear to look at him, certain Dan’s face would reveal disappointment, ridicule, anger, disbelief.

He never imagined that Dan would be smiling—and not in a mocking way. When he allowed himself to look, Evan could have sworn his heart leaped into his throat, because even in the darkness he could see Dan was happy, yes, maybe even a little thrilled, with his admission.
Dan reached out to run a hand across the smooth expanse of Evan’s chest, then leaned down and kissed him, his lips a soft counterpoint to the rough stubble scratching against Evan’s smooth face.

Dan pulled away and, gently stroking Evan’s cheek, said, “I love you too. I didn’t mean for it to happen, but there it is. I wouldn’t have said anything if you hadn’t spoken first, but I do believe, Mr. Maple, I have felt this way from the very first moment I laid eyes on you.”

“Me too,” Evan whispered, hot tears of joy gathering at the corners of his eyes.

“You were not the first escort I hired, but I do believe you’ll be the last.”

Evan could see in his mind’s eye the enraged and disapproving glance of Davidson Chillingsworth as he let even more unwise words slip from his lips. “Oh, Dan, I could never charge you. Not again. Not with what we know.”

Evan, who was all of twenty-four, had yet to experience real love in his young life, and his mind flooded with fantasies about a future with Dan, leaving his escort days behind him, becoming a couple.

Now Evan took a sip from the latest drink the bartender set before him and shook his head, remembering how quickly Dan dashed those fantasies.

Dan had slowly made circles around each of Evan’s nipples with his forefinger, at last letting out a long sigh. He spoke. “Yes, you will charge me. Because what we have here is what fits.”