Tuesday, March 26, 2024

AUTHOR! AUTHOR! REDUX - Chapter Two with S.C. Wynne



As longtime viewers know, I used to occasionally do author interviews with friends and folks who interested me. It's been awhile. Not because I don't still have friends and folks who interest me, but, for a variety of reasons, I've become very...disengaged with social media. 

I still use it to promote new releases, and I do the Advent Calendar as a thank you to readers, but beyond that, I just don't have the time or emotional bandwith. There's so just so much going on right now that isn't at all related to my writing life. I think you hit a certain age and that becomes inevitable. 


The interviews were fun, and helpful to readers and authors alike, so I thought maybe I'd go back to throwing them into the mix now and again. And what do you know? We have someone celebrating a book birthday this very week! 



JL  – Tell us who you are and what you do. AND NO PEEKING ATTHE ANSWERS!


SCW - First of all, thank you for having me on your blog, Josh!  (And I only peeked a little!)

Now I’ll let the voices in my head introduce me third person: S.C. Wynne is a Lambda Award winning author and has been writing MM Romance and Gay mystery since 2013. She lives in California with her wonderful husband, two quirky kids, and a loony rescue pup named Ditto. 

JL – The last time we spoke (online in blog format *cough*) you still owned the coffee house and writing was not yet your fulltime gig. That’s all changed now. Share a little bit about that journey.


SCW - Has it really been that long? Oh, God, the days of running a coffeehouse. Don’t remind me. Talk about an exhausting endeavor. These days I like to enjoy my coffee without the joy of jumping up and down to serve customers. Originally, writing was just going to be a side gig. However, I loved it so much, and it proved to be profitable for me, so I dove in with abandon and, in 2017, became a full-time author. Before we sold the coffee house and the writing was full-time, there was crossover. That was a tiring period in my life. I was writing full-time and also running the coffeehouse. Many, many books were produced during that time. I had amazing concentration skills back in the day. Probably from the gallons of coffee I drank.


JL – Up until now you’ve mostly written contemporary mystery and romance, with some paranormal thrown in, but now you’ve partnered up with my friends at Blind Eye Books and completely new and exciting project. Tell us about Beyond the Veil.

SCW - The partnership with Blind Eye Books came about when I posted about one of my WIP on Facebook. Nicole Kimberling, the editor of BEB, reached out because she happened to have a free slot in their publishing schedule. Before that, the book I was working on was originally going to be my basic MM mystery romance thing with paranormal elements. But Nicole needed a book that was more fantasy based and so I tweaked the idea a bit. With Nicole’s skillful guidance, I was able, I hope, to hit the marks needed to make the story actual fantasy.


JL – I remember what an intense and instructive experience it was working with Nicole Kimberling, the editor at Blind Eye Books, on Strange Fortune. What was the best part of working with Nikki. What was the most challenging aspect of the project?

SCW - The edits were indeed intense. That’s a good word for it. But I’ve worked with many houses over my writing journey, so I felt ready for them. The best part was I learned a lot from Nicole, especially about the difference in writing fantasy romance from writing a regular mystery romance. In the mysteries, I hold a lot of info back and feed it out in little bread crumbs. But with fantasy, it seemed as if Nicole wanted answers to things quickly. Perhaps she’s just an impatient little minx? She didn’t like being kept in the dark, which is what I do with mysteries. So, she pushed me to reveal things more quickly than I would have naturally. As I recall she was also very impatient with me for promising spirits, but then not having enough spirits appearing soon enough or often enough. There were many editing comments like this: See, like this scene would be much better with ghosts sprinkled throughout, or How about the ghosts. What are they up to? You promised me lots of ghosts!

JL - THAT SOUNDS FAMILIAR. I believe in my case it was rolling heads. FORTUNATELY, a favorite of mine. 😂

SCW - The most challenging thing about working with a publisher again was going through a real content edit. Since I’ve only been self-publishing the last few years, I usually just get copy edits. I feel fairly confident in my story telling abilities, but not at all confident about commas. They’re such confusing little things. Having another opinion about where the actual story should go took a little getting used to. Relinquishing control when you’ve had total control for so long was probably the hardest part. But I respect Nicole, and I did my best to do as she requested. I only pushed back a little when her suggestions didn’t feel like something my characters would do. Other than that, I tried to be a very obedient little author. Right, Nicole? I was a joy to work with, right? RIGHT?

 JL - 😁

JL  – What are you most excited about with this new book? What do you hope readers take away from this literary adventure?

SCW - The most exciting thing about writing this book was it forced me to stretch my creative wings. I think authors should do that from time to time. I enjoyed the experience a lot. It was tough, but I look back on the edits with a real feeling of accomplishment. I know the book is better for them. I’d happily work with BEB again, if asked.

I’m not sure what I hope readers take away from this little adventure of mine. Hopefully, while the book has fantasy elements, readers will see that Beyond the Veil is still very much an S.C. Wynne book. What happens to my characters is fantastical, but my characters themselves will still always be true to my writing style.


JL – Are we going to see more spec fiction titles from you?

SCW - Perhaps. I do love writing all kinds of different stories. I have a backlog of mysteries I’ve promised readers. But once those are published, there might be more spec fiction in my future. I’ll have Lorenzo look into his crystal ball and tell me what’s next!


JL – How would you say the writing biz has changed since your last visit to the blog?

SCW - For one thing, it’s way more crowded. There used to be like three books published a day in our genre, now there are sometimes thirty? Also, I believe Kindle Unlimited came about the year after I began writing. That definitely changed everything. Many readers now simply borrow books rather than buy them.

It also seems like the craft of writing isn’t anything anyone talks about anymore. Everyone is very fixated on promotion. There are a lot of people making money selling authors courses on how to promote their books, but less people talking about the writing itself. I remember when people devoured and discussed books. I don’t see that happening much anymore. Everyone is reading so quickly because there are SO MANY BOOKS.


JL  – While it’s hard to get specific data, there’s significant anecdotal evidence suggesting most authors, particularly self-published authors, give up within the first 2 -5 years of launching their writing career. So, you’ve already lasted longer than the majority of authors last in this crazy business. What’s the secret to your success? Do you have any advice for someone starting out today?

SCW - I can’t imagine ever giving up. I’ve been writing for eleven years now, and I still absolutely love it. I don’t know that I have a secret to success. The experts say authors should pick one genre and beat that to death. Maybe I’d be more of a household name if I’d been able to do that and only written one thing for eleven years. I tend to jump around a lot because I love writing so many different things. While I’m not a person who is bored easily, I do have a lot of things that interest me and so I try them. I don’t really regret that though because it’s made my writing journey more interesting for me. I think if you’re bored writing something, and I would be if I only wrote one thing, the readers can tell.


JL - What’s next for S.C. Wynne?

SCW - I have a standalone mystery idea I’m really excited about. It has to do with a lover presumed lost at sea, who isn’t actually lost. That’s all I’ll say for now. No, shhh. Don’t ask for details. I shan’t tell. That book idea has been percolating in my brain for a year now. I can’t wait to start that one. There’s also a Dr. Thornton book coming in the next few months. How I’ve missed Max and Royce. Also, I have another book planned for my Kip O’Connor cozy mystery series too. Rest assured there are many story ideas ping-ponging around in my brain. I’m excited for 2024. :) 


Being a psychic in the small seaside town of Fox Harbor is challenging enough, but winter months are brutal. Not that using his clairvoyant abilities to hunt down lost pets isn’t thrilling, but Lorenzo wouldn’t mind a tiny bit more excitement in his life.

Be careful what you wish for?

Things get more stimulating when the charismatic Dr. Ian Thatcher takes a romantic interest in him. Unfortunately, their promising evening takes a ghastly turn when an old man dies on Lorenzo’s doorstep, after warning Lorenzo his life is in danger.

Before Lorenzo can say “Give me my old boring life back, please” his home is ransacked, a fiery being tries to burn him to death, and he’s informed he’s the only hope to save the world.

                                           CLICK TO BUY






Friday, March 1, 2024

NEW RELEASE: The Lemon Drop Kid

 I'd mentioned awhile-two years ago?--back that I was working on a Christmas short story called The Lemon Drop Kid. Welllll, the more I thought about that story and those characters, the more I realized 1 - Christmas story or not, I wanted to write it, and 2 - There was way too much story there for a short story.

Anyway, it's set at Christmas time, but I don't know that it's really a Christmas story. What I do know is, it's a bit of a departure for me. A little more emotional than of late? A little darker than of late, for sure. 


How The Cookie Crumbled


As sole heir to the Bredahl Cookies and Cakes fortune, Casper led a comfortable, happy-go-lucky life. Some would say, a charmed life.

 Sure, there were challenges: relentless pressure to join the family business, and his unrequited feelings for former high school crush Raleigh Jackson. But yeah, a charmed existence, compared to life after being arrested for murder and spending nearly a year in Chippewa Falls County Jail, awaiting trial.

 Exoneration, freedom, came at too steep a price. To say Casper isn’t in the mood for the holidays, is putting it mildly. In fact, the only thing he wants for Christmas is to see Detective Raleigh Jackson, the man responsible for wrongly putting him behind bars, get his just desserts.



As I stepped out of the wood line, I saw a black SUV parked behind the Range Rover. The SUV bore the familiar—and now dreaded—red and white insignia of Little Copenhagen Police Department.

My heart stopped.

I’m not doing anything wrong. I’m allowed to be here.

Before panic—and rage—could take over, I recognized the tall, dark-haired figure peering through the driver’s window of my vehicle. No uniform. A plainclothes officer. My heart kickstarted back into life, began to pound in a painful mix of anger and hatred—made even more painful by my recognition that even now, my instinctive reaction to seeing Raleigh was…delight.

Because I had loved him all my life. And as much as I hated him now, the conditioned reflex of my blood and bones to the surprise of seeing him was…


Raleigh must have caught my approach out of the corner of his eye because he straightened up, turned. He didn’t look surprised, but then he’d have recognized the car.

The snow made a squeaky-creak sound as the ice crystals shifted beneath my boots. It seemed to take a very long time to cross that clearing. Raleigh didn’t move. He was too far away for me to read his face, but then it was always hard to read his face.

I kept walking toward him, not saying anything, just looking at him without any expression. You learn fast to hide your feelings in county. You learn fast not to have feelings.

Raleigh stared gravely back—his eyes were the color of the shadows on the snow. Maybe he was waiting for me to get closer than shouting distance or maybe he was waiting for me to speak first. If so, he was going to wait a long time.

I was never willingly going to speak to him again.

Even as that thought formed, it was washed aside by the fury now always bubbling beneath the surface.

“Problem, Officer?” I sounded clipped because I was out of breath. It’s funny how anger winds you.

Raleigh gave a short shake of his head. “Hi Casper. Just making sure everything’s okay.” He dipped his head, drew a sharp breath. “Actually, I’m glad I—”

“Oh yeah,” I cut in. “Everything’s fantastic.”

His light gaze flickered.

“But you’re a detective now. You probably could tell that just from the way I parked.” I made a commiserating face. “Then again, you’re a pretty shitty detective, so maybe not.”

Raleigh’s expression changed, grew stony.

Funny—crazy—that I had kissed that straight line of a mouth. That he had kissed me too. Not once, not twice, not by accident, not because we’d been drinking. Many times. Many kisses. I regretted every single one.

Raleigh didn’t sound stony though as he stumbled through his disjointed whatever-it-was-supposed-to-be. Explanation? It sure as hell wasn’t an apology.  “Look, Casper. I was doing my job. You know I didn’t—you think it was easy for me?”

“Oh my God,” My parka crinkled in the chilly air as I put a hand to my chest. “It must have been terrible for you. What am I thinking? All those months you had to go on with your life and suffer through getting a big fat promotion you knew fucking well you didn’t deserve. How can I be so selfish?”

“I thought you were guilty!”

It seemed to bounce off the distant snowy hills.

And just like that I was calm again. Ice cold. “So you said at the time.”

Both times. The night he arrested me. And the day he came to see me in jail to explain why, friends or no friends, he couldn’t overlook my committing murder.

Raleigh was calmer too. Quieter. “Casper.”

“But like you said, nothing personal.”

“I never said it wasn’t personal. Of course, it was personal. I—” He gave a disarming swallow in the middle of it. “I cared for you. You know that.”

“No doubt there.”

“But if you were capable of murder—”

“Except I wasn’t.”

He sounded sincere and kind, like the old once-upon-a-time-there-was-a-prince Raleigh. “I know that now. We all know that now. And I’m glad you’ve been exonerated. I can’t tell you how sorry I am for everything that happened.”

I smiled. “Worried about the lawsuit?”

He stared.

There wasn’t any lawsuit. Not yet anyway. My lawyer had broached the idea; I figured he was disappointed he hadn’t been able to make mincemeat of LCPD in court.

I laughed.

It wasn’t much of a laugh. It sounded like icicles falling.

I think one of those icicles must have found its target, because Raleigh seemed frozen. He continued to stare at me and then he snapped out of it.

His face was cold, his voice hard as he said, “Do your worst, Caz. In the meantime, what are you doing parked out here in the middle of nowhere?”

I opened my mouth—the old Casper would have snapped back with a smartass answer. But I was eleven months older and, if not wiser, much more careful. It took a lot to make Raleigh angry, but he was angry now. I didn’t want to push my luck. The idea of being arrested, jailed—for even five minutes—was enough to fill me with panic.

I understood how very fragile freedom was.

“Looking for Freyja. She ran away two days ago.”

He didn’t say anything for a moment. Raleigh was as crazy about dogs as me. That was one thing we’d always had in common. For another, I’d got Freyja from Linda, Raleigh’s mom. Linda raised golden retrievers. Raleigh’s dog Loki was from the same litter.

He said neutrally, “She’s chipped. Did you try the animal shelter and the vet clinics?”

“I tried.”

“I’m sorry. I’ll keep an eye out for her.”

I nodded, shrugged. “Thanks. I know she’s gone. She wouldn’t stay away this long.”

Just one more thing I blamed him for, and he probably saw it in my face.

He nodded curtly. “Drive safely. It’s getting dark.” He turned his back on me, not waiting for the response that he correctly assumed wasn’t coming.

I didn’t watch him walk away. I unlocked the Range Rover, got inside, and started the engine—and nearly jumped out of my skin as someone thumped on the driver’s side window. Hard.

Raleigh glared down at me.

I fumbled to find the button to lower the window.

As the window slid down, he said hotly, “You know, I wasn’t the only one. Everybody thought you were guilty—”

I said, matching his anger decibel for decibel, “You aren’t everybody, Raleigh. You knew me. You were my—” My voice gave a humiliating crack, but I got control. “You were supposed to be my friend.”

He was supposed to be a hell of a lot more than my friend. 

So far it's only listed on Amazon and Smashwords. I'll try to get it up everywhere else today. 

(I guess there's still an issue with the book being searchable on Amazon's global sites, so here are some direct links to the obvious suspects)

https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B0CWB2T8DN Amazon UK

https://www.amazon.fr/dp/B0CWB2T8DN France

https://www.amazon.de/dp/B0CWB2T8DN Amazon Germany

https://www.amazon.it/dp/B0CWB2T8DN Italy

https://www.amazon.ca/dp/B0CWB2T8DN Canada

https://www.amazon.com.au/dp/B0CWB2T8DN Australia

Monday, February 5, 2024

Now Open: CLOAK AND DAGGER (new JL Author Merch)


A funny thing happened on the way to creating merch for my Patreon account...

The first funny thing was that I ended up creating an Etsy store. That one is still a puzzle. But, I mean, everyone needs a retirement plan, right? Okay, probably not Etsy. But still. Everyone needs a hobby. 

So then, I finally got around to creating some Patreon-exclusive merch, but the problem was where and how to handle that merch. I didn't want to mix it into my Etsy store. I didn't want to have Patreon handle my merch given the issues Patreon has with super basic things like...search functionality and internal messaging. Yeesh

Once upon a time I had--well, I didn't have it, but there was a Zazzle store to handle my author merch, but that store was run by my various and dear mods in order to fund the book launches and giveaways and celebrations. But I don't really do book launches anymore. 

And of course, I've changed a lot of covers and written a lot of books since back in the day.

Anyway, that's a long way of saying I finally have a new author merch store. It's called Cloak and Dagger after you-know-whose-place-of-business. 😉

Saturday, December 30, 2023

New Release - A FUNNY THING HAPPENED... An Adrien English Christmas Story


To make a long story short, I'm withdrawing the ebook edition of Fatal Shadows: The Collector's Edition from publication. 

The idea was to make a very expensive (even in the paperback!) collector's item available in some form to everyone who loved the Adrien English Mysteries series, without regard to cost or geographic restrictions. And the ebook has been available for a year--and I'll leave it up through January 1st. 

The idea of a digital "collector's edition" is just a bit NFT, isn't it? 😂🤣 But I'm glad we did it. I'm glad the ebook was made available to everyone.

The print editions will of course remain available.

What I am going to do though--in fact, I've already done it--is take that "final" AE coda in the collection (yes, THAT one) expand it a wee bit and publish it as a short story. Because that story seemed to be what a lot of readers were actually after anyway.

So that is now available as A Funny Thing Happened...

It's not even on my website yet, but you can purchase it through Amazon and Smashwords and Google Play. It will be everywhere eventually, but I plan on taking a little time off during the "holidays," that doesn't involve me lying in bed with a Nyquil bottle in one hand, the TV remote in the other, to the background music of Murder, She Wrote

We've Got Winnahs!

 Happy Holidays again! 

As you may have guessed, I did have an unfortunate collision with the latest strain of Covid virus and that was pretty much all she wrote for Christmas. So, yes, I'll confine my comments to NOT THE BEST CHRISTMAS EVER. 

I'm just hoping that when that last calendar page flips over at midnight on Sunday, that will be the end of what felt like a truly jinxed year. Not that it was all bad. Some really terrific things happened this year too, and it's better to focus on those, I know that, but I can't help feeling a little bit like...what the what?! 

Anyway, I have Advent Calendar winners to announce! 

From Advent Calendar Day 6 - The winner of the LGBTQAI Holiday Blanket is... Teresa F.

From Advent Calendar Day 10 - There are still copies of HIDE AND SEEK available for download, but that giveaway ends tomorrow night! 

From Advent Calendar Day Day 14 - The three winners of The Thin Man-inspired ceramic mugs are Mr. Pinkerton, Sandra @ Waiting For Wentworth, and Karla!

I just want to add how much I enjoyed reading about everyone's family traditions. I was severely pressed for time this year and wasn't able to comment on the calendar, but I read every comment and I do truly appreciate everyone who took the time to read and engage!

And, finally, Advent Calendar Day 21 - Our three winners of ALL I WANT FOR CHRISTMAS are CathyR, Claudia, and Byron B.

Now, just a reminder, don't put your personal contact info here in the comments! Contact me through my website or Facebook or, if you're on Patreon, DM me there. I need physical addresses to ship these items to you. :-) 

This concludes 2023's Advent Calendar. Thank you so much to everyone who took part, from the talented authors to the generous and supportive readers. I hope this little annual tradition brings a few extra smiles during your hectic holiday season. Thank you so much for being here--not just for the calendar, but for the books and my musings and all the rest of it. 

Here's to 2024! 

Monday, December 25, 2023

Advent Calendar Day 25 - MERRY CHRISTMAS!

 Merry Christmas to one and all. Wishing you every happiness this holiday season and best wishes for a splendid New Year!

I can't deny I'm looking forward to seeing the last of 2023, especially since it's final parting gift was to give me and the SO Covid. Well, the SO has it for sure. As of writing this post, I'm feeling okay. My throat's a bit sore, but that could just be...well, whatever. There's probably no slipping through its clutches, but I'm going to do my best to have a merry Christmas anyway. Although it's looking like it will be me and the dogs cuddling in front of the fire and having a midnight cocktail on Christmas Eve. 

Anyway, thank you to all of you for your kindness and support this year! Thank you for your patience as well. It was not the year I planned, that's for sure. Right down to the final days. But so it goes. I hope you enjoyed this year's calendar and thank you so much to Byron, Natascha and Meg for their lovely contributions. 

Oh! I'll figure out who won what next week and post it on the blog. 


Sunday, December 24, 2023

Christmas Coda--No. Wait.


This morning's coda is actually a Halloween Coda for Cosmo Saville and John Galbraith of the Bedknobs and Broomsticks series.   That wasn't the original plan, but plans change as I am here to tell you. 

Anyway, this coda follows the end of Bell, Book and Scandal.


When I got home, I found John peering inside the 19th century wedding armoire carved with carved love birds, flowers, and acanthus leaves, given to us by my great-aunt Laure d’Estrées.

“What are you doing?” I asked.

Ex-navy SEALS do not jump in surprise, but he definitely gave a little start, before turning to face me. “I didn’t hear you come in.”

“I tried something different and it worked.”

His dark brows drew together. “Oh…kay.” He was a little perplexed, I could see that.

“I didn’t have to use kiddie Craft. I just thought of this room and I was able to step into it.”

John said slowly, “You mean you materialized?”

“Close enough.”

“That’s new.”

I nodded. “Yes. Do you mind?”

He was still frowning as he reached me, but he said, “Of course not. You live here too. You can enter rooms however you please.”

“You don’t like magic though.”

He dipped his head to kiss me, murmured, “I make exceptions.” He kissed me lightly, then drew back. His expression uncharacteristically concerned. “You’re like ice, Cos. Are you all right? You’re so pale.”

“Oh yes.” I smiled and titled my head back to kiss him.

But John rested his hands on my shoulders, examining me. “There are twigs in your hair and you’ve got a scratch over your eye. Were you running through the brush?”

I laughed.

His alarm increased. “Are you on something?”

I laughed again, shook my head. “No.”

“Your pupils are huge.” Immediately, he was all business. “We need to get you in bed and warm.”

“That sounds wonderful.” I wrapped my arms around his neck.

He kissed me, but it was almost absent-minded, as he efficiently and swiftly undressed me. “What happened up there in those hills?”

I only smiled.

Magic things. Wondrous things. Secret things.

He said a little grimly, “You were drinking, that I can tell.”

“Well, yeah.” I kept kissing him, and he kept kissing me back in that quick, distracted way, and then he scooped me up and tumbled me into our bed, building a nest of blankets and pillows around me.

I shoved the bedding away, tugging him down. “Make love to me, my consort.”

John snorted. “That again.” But he lowered himself beside me.

“It’s true though.” I stared at him, and I could see that despite the hardness of his face, he was genuinely worried for me.

I smiled. “Truly, I’m fine, John. Just a little chilled.” I teased, “And with your military background, surely you can take care of that?”

He regarded me for moment, but apparently what he saw in my face reassured him. He shook his head, said, “I know a trick or two…”


It was quite a bit later, when he muttered, “Did the bed move?” 

I laughed shakily. “I don’t doubt it.”

“No. I’m asking.”


“Because I thought it lifted a few inches at one point.”

The words slowly sank in. I blinked back to wakefulness, thinking it over.

“It’s possible. It’s a witch’s bed.”

“That, I know. But it’s never tried to fly before.”

“No, I mean, it was built for a witch. Originally crafted for a witch. Not me.”

The bed in question was a black and bronze Victorian antique four-poster with a superbly cast brass plaque decoration in the shape of a five-pointed star and one perfect crystal knob atop each tall and graceful post.

I turned my head to study John’s face in the soft lamplight. “That’s one of the things that’s so funny about your wanting this bed so much. That star on the footboard is a witch’s star.”

He was silent and then finally he said, “I didn’t want the bed for myself. I wanted it for Jinx.”

“But that’s even funnier, really.”

Given John’s feelings about Jinx “dabbling” in the occult.

He wasn’t laughing though. He was still thinking it through.

I changed the subject, “Maybe you were dreaming?”

“No, I don’t think so.”

I didn’t think so either. In fact, I had wondered about the bed for a while. Those crystal knobs were real crystal. The kind used for scrying stones.

John said suddenly, “It wasn’t the bed that I wanted. It was you.”

I grinned. “Now you’re rewriting history. You most definitely did not want me.”

We had come a long way if I could laugh about that.

John pushed back a little, reached over and brushed my hair from eyes, holding my gaze with his own. “Of course I did. Whether I knew it or not. Everyone needs a little magic in their lives.”


Saturday, December 23, 2023

Christmas Coda 70 - Zach Davies and Flint Carey from PUZZLE FOR TWO

Christmas Coda 70 – Zach and Flint from PUZZLE FOR TWO


“God bless us, every one!” Brooke raised her plastic champagne flute and downed the last mouthful of bubbly.

They all laughed, but Zach couldn’t help opening his mouth to remind her she still had to drive home after their office Christmas party was over. He was forestalled by Flint’s light nudge—Flint was standing behind him, methodically disposing of the last butter cookies Arlisse had baked for their little get-together.

This was their first official celebration as Security Solutions, LLC, and there was plenty to toast to. The last two months had been busy, even chaotic, as Carey Confidential merged operations with Davies Detective Agency. While business couldn’t be said to be booming, it had definitely picked up, and with two investigators—well, two-and-a-half, since Brooke was now working part of the time as a trainee-investigator—they were able to take on more complex cases.

Next month, Flint’s lease was up on his space in the Del Sello Center, so they would be paying one less office lease. And with Arlisse taking on office manager duties, Brooke was freed up to handle a lot of the research and background checks in between her Criminal Justice courses.

“Did you want this last cookie?” Flint inquired, hand hovering over the solitary remaining butter cookie on the grease-soaked paper lace doily.

Zach threw him a sardonic look. “No, no. You go on. You’ve got to keep your strength up.”

“Ha.” Flint finished off the cookie, brushed the crumbs off his hands. “I’ll remind you I didn’t have lunch.”

Zach and Brooke exchanged knowing glances, then Brooke exclaimed, “Oh my gosh! Is it that late?” She hopped off the reception desk and grabbed her coat.

“Where are you running off to like your hair’s on fire?” Zach inquired.

“I’ve got a date with Devin.” Brooke’s tone was breezy as she wrapped a long blue scarf printed with cherry blossoms in an elaborate arrangement around her neck.

Zach frowned. “I thought you weren’t—oww!” He glared at Flint.

“Have fun, kiddo.” Flint wrapped his arm around Zach’s shoulders, mostly in affection but partly in restraint. He gave Zach a little squeeze for good measure.

“I plan to!” Halfway out the door, Brooke paused. “We’ll see you guys Monday for Christmas dinner?”

“Of course,” Zach said.

“Yep.” Flint was a lot more cheerful about it.

He had briefly fallen out of favor with Mrs. Davies when she realized his buying out her share of Davies Detective Agency did not mean he was going to oust Zach from the PI biz and back into accounting. But she had since forgiven him, and he was now, to Zach’s exasperation, the apple of her eye. Something Flint was smugly aware of.

“Great! Have fun you two crazy kids. Don’t do anything I wouldn’t!”

Is there anything you—” Zach began only to have Flint give him another of those increasingly-less-subtle squeezes.

The glass door swung shut with the sweet chime of jingle bells, and Brooke was gone, her slender shadow darting past the plate glass windows as she hurried to her car.

Zach didn’t move out of the circle of Flint’s arm, but he said shortly, “The guy’s married.”

“Separated. They’re getting divorced.”

Zach groaned. “Like we don’t spend half our time following around guys who claim to be separated from their wives?”

“I know,” Flint said soothingly. “But McLaughlin really is getting divorced. And he seems like a pretty decent—”

“He’s almost seven years older than her.”

Uh oh,” Flint said. “Is the age difference a deal breaker? Because…”

Zach made a face and wrapped his arm around Flint’s waist. “That’s different. We’re both adults. Anyway, you’re only five years—”

“Brooke is an adult too,” Flint cut in.

“Maybe technically.”

“And I’ll tell you something else, she has to figure this one out for herself. In fact, the more you kick, the more likely she is to dig her heels in.”

Zach scowled, met Flint’s green-gold gaze, and sighed. Flint’s mouth curved into a slightly sympathetic grin. He turned Zach so that they stood face-to-face.

For a moment they just studied each other, half-smiling, half-serious.

“Alone at last,” Flint murmured, and swallowed Zach’s laugh in a kiss.





Friday, December 22, 2023

Christmas Coda 69 Adrien English and Jake Riordan

 Adrien and Jake from The Adrien English Mysteries.

This coda follows the events of "A Funny Thing Happened" (the little coda in Fatal Shadows The Collector's Edition). I hope to release the expanded short story version of that coda later this month. Fingers crossed! Anyway, you might want to skip this if you haven't read the coda/shortie.

Or not.

Christmas Coda 69 – Adrien and Jake


“Married?” Lisa squeaked.

My mother is not a squeaky woman. I’m not sure I’d ever heard that particular songbird note from her before.

I said quickly, “It’s not like it was planned or anything.”

“But it was planned. The plan was that you were waiting until we could all be together.”

I glanced automatically at Jake. His tawny eyes gleamed in the firelight. We were back at the ranch, as they say, sitting in front of the fireplace, having a bottle of celebratory champagne, and test-driving the unexpected delight of finding ourselves well and truly hitched.

“Right. Well, that’s true. But the opportunity presented itself—”

“Darling, you got married without us. You do realize that?”

Jake made a sound that fell somewhere on the scale between snort and scoff, and shook his head.

It was funny, but there was real hurt in Lisa’s voice and, of course, I didn’t want to hurt her. But yeah, that comment did say a whole lot about Lisa. And probably me as well.

“I do realize that,” I said patiently. “And you’re right, it wasn’t the plan—”

“Plans change,” Jake remarked.

I gave him a warning side eye. “But since we had this opportunity—and after what we’ve all been through these last months, we didn’t want to wait.”

“You can’t just get married.” My mother spoke with sudden dark suspicion. “One of you had to have the wedding rings with you. That makes it premeditated.”

 I felt a twinge of guilt, which was ridiculous, I know. Especially since I hadn’t been the one carrying our rings around in his breast pocket.

Well, you know what I mean.


Jake put his hand out. “Let me talk to her.”

I opened my mouth, but really, that was just too good to pass up. I mean, how endearing. Not the part where he imagined he was running interference for me. Though, yes, sweet. But I mean the part where he thought he would succeed where so many had smashed to pieces on the reefs.

I handed my phone over and sat back to enjoy the show.

“Hey, Lisa. It’s Jake. This is really my fault. Adrien was just as surprised as—”

“Oh?” Her tiny long-distance voice chirped, “Was he unconscious? Did you marry my son against his will?”

I laughed at his expression, leaned over, clicked settings, pressed the speaker button.

“You have a very evil laugh,” my husband muttered.

My husband.

“What? I didn’t catch that,” Lisa objected.

“Me again. You’re on speaker now, Lisa. First, I’m sorry. I know you wanted to be there. I wanted you there. Of course. But it really did feel right. The moment presented itself and we both felt it was right.”

“We waited a hell of a long time for it.” Jake’s voice was quiet; those words weren’t intended for her. They might not have been intended for me.

Lisa said, “But you do understand why I wanted so much to see my only ch—son married? Do you really feel that’s so unreasonable?”

Jake looked at me and cocked an eyebrow.

“Of course not,” I said. Then added unwisely, “Anyway, it was just the wedding. We’re still going to have a little—”

“Big,” Jake corrected.

“Medium-sized reception with everyone who matters to us.”

“The wedding is the important part!”

I sighed. Jake took the phone back, said, “Lisa, you’re making Adrien feel terrible on his wedding night.”

“No, don’t,” I said.

He gave me a quick serious look, and waited for Lisa’s response.

It took a couple of moments.

“Adrien, darling, you know I don’t mean it. I do understand. I just—I was a little disappointed, that’s all.” Her voice wobbled. “After all, I was there at the very beginning.”

Jake grinned silently, it was a kind of feral grin, but he said quite kindly, “We know.”

“But of course I’m very happy for both of you. You know that, darling. You know that’s all I’ve ever wanted for you. To be happy, I mean. And if it’s with Jake…”

Jake made a soft sound of amusement.

“I do know,” I said quickly. “And I’m very happy.”

Jake said as solemnly as if we were reciting our vows all over again, “Lisa, I give you my word I will love, honor, cherish, and protect Adrien with all my heart till my dying breath.”

I wiped the corners of my eye, glared at him.

His face softened, he leaned in and kissed me.

When we parted at last, Lisa was talking about setting dates for the reception.

“Okay-dokey,” I said. “We’ll talk when we get home.”

We said our goodbyes, then Jake refilled our champagne coupes, raised his glass, which sparkled in the firelight.

“Here’s to you, Mr. Riordan.”

We clinked glasses and I said, “And to you, Mr. English.”


Thursday, December 21, 2023

Advent Calendar Day 21 - A Giveaway!


Happy Solstice!

This giveaway has no geographic restrictions. Today I'm giving away 3 print copies of ALL I WANT FOR CHRISTMAS.

In 2012 I began a holiday tradition of writing Christmas codas for some of my -- and your -- favorite stories. I ran the codas on my blog and left them up there for readers to enjoy all year round. Eventually readers began asking if the codas could be collected, formatted, and made available for purchase. 

I thought that was a fun idea, so I did that very thing. The codas were edited, some expanded a bit, formatted and collected in two digital collections along with a few recipes for cocktails and dishes that were either featured in the original works or added (IMHO) a final comment or insight into the era or the characters or their relationship.

This print collection contains the two digital collections, meaning codas from 2012 - 2017. I've just about got enough codas to do a third digital collection, which I plan to put together after this year's holiday codas. At that point I believe I'll have written a holiday coda for nearly every one of my stories! 

Anyway, to win one of these three copies, just comment below on which of my character pairings are your favorite--and why that is. 

Wednesday, December 20, 2023

Advent Calendar December 20


The eighteenth day of Christmas! 


Thank heavens I finally (yesterday) finished all my Christmas shopping. I think. Not counting those last minute panics--the gardener! The mail person! The pool guy!


For your holiday enjoyment we have the second of Byron Beach's codas featuring Griff and Pierce from Stranger on the Shore

As I mentioned last week (wait..was it last week? I'm losing track of time!) Anyway, this coda takes place a decade after the book ends. It's really lovely. I know you'll enjoy it!

A Pirate Christmas Eve


"I missed you, Louis Lane," Chloe sighed, using the nickname she'd fondly given Griff. "You really didn’t have to pick me up, but I guess you wanted to flaunt this...vintage beauty?"


"Hey, she's a classic," he defended, casting a sidelong glance at Chloe, who raised an amused brow. “And you know I wanted to see your flawless beauty” laughed Griff “But she is pretty sweet.  Nicky helped me polish her up just yesterday - all for you.”


“God you are so sexy when you get all blue collar, but don’t go giving my nephew ideas about becoming a mechanic, because I know he wants to be either a pirate or a lawyer – assuming there’s a difference.”

Shaking his head, Griff expertly navigated his cherished '63 356B Porsche coupe, in Irish racing green, onto the Highway, the subdued hum of the engine echoing his current mood. Every bolt and weld of this car held memories from discovering it in a dusty old barn out in Montauk while he was his research on his second book to restoring it with loving precision.

“OK, spill, how on earth did YOU, get talked into a Pirate’s Christmas Eve party?” inquired Chloe “I would have bet big that you’d never agree to this kinda thing ever again, after the wedding debacle.”

“Uhhhh, please don’t mention that day” groaned Griff

“Hey, you might have suffered, but that family photo is the best; it’s my screen saver” Chloe cheerily answered “and I still laugh every time I see that look you have, glaring at the camera, ready to deck the photographer – so priceless. Oh god, and Pierce, looking like he’s about to panic, yet his mom and Jarrett are smiling like Reagan has returned.”

“And, as I remember, you look perfect in that pic.” Said Griff

“I do don’t I?  That was a great dress, and even better Mom and Marcus were fully plastered, and Muriel looked constipated, but come to think of it, that’s how she always looks”

”I do love seeing Jarrett smiling, I miss him.” Griff said softly as Chloe put a hand on his arm “Well, life is a learning experience, I figured out that despite mostly being Superman, Pierce is powerless in the face of his mother. She has that kryptonite vision that can bend him to her will.”

“Yeah, yeah I get that, but that still doesn’t explain how Honey Mather talked you into this Christmas Eve extravaganza – at your house?” Chloe said shaking her head in mystery.

Griff sighed, “Kids change everything – She and Diana joined forces with Nicky, and it was all over.  I get that ‘Daddy please’ look and suddenly I have a Pirate ship with a 14-foot Christmas tree mast in my living room and every child in Nick’s kindergarten coming over for a Christmas Eve treasure hunt, oh and we must have something for the parents, and gifts for everyone and ‘Just a small four-person jazz combo’ and on and on...”

Griff gripped the wheel tighter and pressed down on the accelerator as Chloe started crying from laughter.

As he reached for Chloe's luggage, a familiar, teasing tune emanated from inside her carryall. The mischievous gleam in Chloe's eyes said it all.

"Really? Pirates of the Caribbean?"

"Every pirate deserves a sword," Chloe retorted with mock innocence.

Griff snorted. "Designed to drive his dads mad, no doubt." But he couldn't help the fond shake of his head as she sashayed past with laughter on her lips.

The house burst with reunion upon their entry. "Chloe!" Nick's enthusiastic shout drowned out the playacting roars of his pint-sized pirate friends. Before Griff could properly react, he felt the little whirlwind that was Nick darted past him, zeroing in on his beloved aunt. As he did, Griff looked to Pierce, who silently acknowledged they were no match for Chloe's allure.

Chloe, ever the dramatic, swept Nick into her arms, leaning in with a whispered promise of a "special gift." The resulting gleam in Nick's eyes, as the sword's tune echoed again, had Griff murmuring to Pierce, "She's diabolically genius."

The bubbling hum of Nick’s excited chatter enveloped him. “I’m Captain Kringle, and we have a Christmas ship! Everyone’s got eye patches, Aunt Chloe. And there’s an actual parrot! And everyone got presents - that Gramma bought so they are good” Nicky said with a side look at Griff  then continued in his explanation, “We have Christmas cookies in lots of colors and cake and a log thing Auntie Diana brought and, and, and we are going to have a battle and kidnappings and a huge treasure hunt, and Auntie Diana said we can replay it all again on Christmas Day.”

But amidst the innocent exuberance, the word 'kidnapping' jarred Griff. True crime wasn’t just a genre Griff dabbled in; he'd penned two bestsellers that dissected the darkest recesses of the human psyche. Yet, that single word unraveled him, rekindling old fears, that had been smoldering ever since Nick had turned four. They smoked and flared, gradually building as Nick began leaving home in the mornings for school. It was as though an old scar was being ripped fresh, the familiar tension reawakening.

Feeling Pierce's grounding presence — a gentle touch, the whisper of his breath by Griff's ear. "Everything okay?" There was a layered concern in Pierce’s soft query, a lifeline pulling Griff from his spiraling thoughts.

Griff took a moment, then relaxed subtly, leaning into Pierce’s embrace. Their bond, fortified over the years, remained steadfast. To Griff, Pierce was always the sanctuary amidst the storm.

Nick’s youthful enthusiasm acted as a counterpoint, pulling Griff back to the present. "Daddy, it's going to be so epic!" The innocent in Nick's voice made him feel all the chaos might be worthwhile. He ruffled Nick's hair, the gesture carrying more weight than words. "I bet it is, buddy."

Taking in the spectacle of their transformed home, Griff felt a wave of annoyance. The family room, patio, and living area had transmuted into a curious blend of Christmas and pirate wonderland. Family gatherings of such magnitude were not Griff’s forte He'd imagined a simpler, humbler upbringing for Nick, away from the spectacle of grandeur. But when Diana and her mother, Honey, kept telling Nicky stories of Jarrett’s legendary Christmas Eve parties, and then painted a vivid picture of what a Pirate’s Christmas Eve could be, and Griff knew resistance was futile. Now, they were playing host to a boisterous mix of twenty children and sixty adults, all decked in comically unique pirate-inspired Christmas attire. The chorus of 'Yo ho yo ho' from Nick’s sword, was punctuated by a horn, heralding the treasure hunt's beginning.

“It'll be a week before everything’s back to its place,” Griff muttered under his breath.

Perceptive as always, Pierce leaned in, whispering, "Arrr laddie, a couple of days and the tide will recede. We’ll be sailin’ on smooth seas by Boxing day."

Griff smirked, nestling into Pierce’s hold. “Only Superman could convince me of that right now,” he retorted playfully. But there was the truth in that jest.

Pierce keeping to the pirate theme asked. “How about a drink me husband? A little pirate grog to calm the stormy seas?”

“A beer would do the trick,” Griff replied, distracted by the flurry of children fanning out across the yard, their little feet in search of buried treasure. Pierce returned, handing him a chilled mug of Blue point Brewery’s Winter Warmer. Griff looked around, taking in the boisterous environment, and whispered, “Thanks,” planting a soft kiss on Pierce’s jaw.

As the enthusiasm of the treasure hunt mounted, it was Nick at the forefront of the marauding pack, wielding his singing sword like a seasoned buccaneer. As every clue was revealed, a renewed wave of excitement rippled among the young adventurers.

Chatting with his mother-in-law, the ever-elegant Honoria 'Honey' Mather, Griff inquired, “So what treasures await these young pirates?”

Honey beamed, “I've got delightful chocolate doubloons, candy jewels, honeycomb pieces of eight and these exquisite silver horns. They'll be over the moon.”

“You have out done yourself; Jarrett would be proud of this bounty fit for young buccaneers,” Griff replied, chuckling.

As he took in the scene, Griff observed clusters of tiny pirates pursuing their mission with zeal. But amidst the frenzy, Nick's familiar grin was conspicuously absent.

“Nicky seems to have made quite a few friends at the Country Day School. How's he liking it?” Honey asked, pulling Griff’s attention back into the conversation.

As his gaze darting around looking for Pierce, Griff answered, “He's makes friends easily and is loving the activities. So far, it's just been half-days, but starting in March, he'll attend three full days a week.”

Honey's continued chatter became a mere hum in Griff's ears as anxiety began its familiar ascent. Unable to spot their son among the bustling crowd, the din of conversations faded. He turned, silently seeking out Pierce with a questioning, worried glance. “Have you seen Nick?” he mouthed, barely concealing his rising panic.

Pierce’s eyes softened. “Give me a sec, love,” he murmured, slipping through the patio doors.

The minutes seemed to stretch, amplifying Griff’s anxiety. When Pierce finally returned, he was carrying Nick’s sword, his expression was a puzzle Griff couldn't decipher. “Diana and Chloe are scouring the gardens. I... I haven't spotted him yet. I found this in the driveway.”

“He's gone, Pierce!" Griff's voice broke, a pitch higher than he intended. Demons from his own past were clawing back – the haunting memory of his own kidnapping wrapping its cold fingers around him.

Pierce's voice was controlled, yet Griff could hear the fear. "We'll find him. We will"

The ensuing minutes were a whirlwind of frantic searching, with every corner and hideaway of the property being scoured for any trace of Nick. Griff's heartbeat echoed in a pounding parental dread. This couldn’t be real; someone was playing an awful prank.

Suddenly, a muted commotion arose from the garage. Griff ran outside and peering through the half open door there at the wheel of Griff’s beloved Porsche, Nick sat low in the driver's seat, his youthful imagination having swapped pirate escapades for visions of roaring racetracks.

The weight that lifted from Griff's chest was overwhelming. As he met Pierce's gaze, without words, they pulled Nick and each other close. Amid the chaos, this was their grounding moment; a realization that the love they shared, this bond, was the true treasure.

Pierce's voice floated through the dim bedroom, a gentle warmth, “Captain Kringle crashed rather quickly tonight, didn’t he?” He moved closer, the ambient light catching the sheen of his black silk boxers. A sight Griff had seen countless times over the years, but it still made his heart race with wonder.

“It's been a day of adventures,” Griff murmured, the edges of fatigue blurring his voice. “Maybe next year we can go away for Christmas?  Just the three of us?”

Pierce cocked an eyebrow, playful challenge in his eyes. “As long as you are the one who tells my mom, I am all for it.  After today you look as tired as I feel”

Griff chuckled, flicking back the duvet. “Come here, Superman. Looks like you’ve got one more Gotham citizen needing rescue.”

As Pierce slid into bed, he drew Griff close, his fingers sketching circles of comfort on Griff's back. “You alright?”

The exhaustion in Griff's eyes spoke volumes. “I’m getting there.”

Pierce looked into his eyes sensing what he was thinking, “That incident today... I can't imagine what it triggered in you.”

Griff swallowed, but in a resolute firm tone explained. “It’s not as though I am plagued by fears, but the party, it was a lot, and it put me a bit on edge. But ever since Nick turned four I started thinking about my parents; and then when he started school -  it’s like looking in a mirror. The innocence, the fear of what might come."

Pierce sighed, his embrace tightening. “I wish I could shoulder that burden for you. But know this, Griff – Nick is safe, he’s protected.”

Griff shook his head. “It’s not really about safety, it’s more about pressure. Every damn reporter spins a tale about the ‘lost Arlington heir.’ But none of them get it. None of them see how many people were ripped apart by that story.”

Pierce adjusted their position, so they were face to face. “Maybe it's time you tell it. For you, for Nick.  I know you put your book aside years ago but someday you should lay claim to it, it’s your story!”

Griff's voice was soft. “But becoming a father has changed the story. I can feel the anguish my parents must’ve felt losing their Brian. And not just them, I also can see the heartbreak and fear Alice experienced.” He paused, inhaling deeply, letting Pierce’s familiar scent soothe him. “But I am worried. I know how the press works; I don’t want to activate the tabloids. Or laying us bare.” Looking up a Pierce, Griff continued ‘This isn’t just my story, you and Nick are a part of it too, I don’t want to do anything that could damage this, us, our family.”

Pierce brushed a kiss on Griff's forehead, a gentle reassurance. “Your words are a gift they are your power and your truth. I believe in you and I’m right here, every step.”

Feeling the weight of the day ebb, Griff nestled against Pierce. “Thank you, you and Nicky…. love...” he couldn’t finish.

As his mouth found Griff’s, Pierce softly voiced “Merry Christmas my love.”

Deep in the night, comforted by Pierce’s heat, Griff felt a weight on chest lift, his breath ease. Under the canopy of love and trust he realized he was ready.


Tuesday, December 19, 2023

Christmas Coda 68 - Barry and Mike from HALLOWEEN IS MURDER


Christmas Coda 68 – Barry and Mike from Halloween isMurder


“Krampus,” Barry repeated.

“Right.” Mike’s pale green eyes were watchful. Maybe he heard it in Barry’s voice. Heard that finally, finally Barry had had enough.

After three years of hunting monsters, who wouldn’t have had enough?

Oh right. Mike. Mike hadn’t had enough. Mike, it seemed, would never have enough.

Barry said shortly, “And that’s its real name? Krampus? Or is that an alias?”

Mike frowned. “I briefed you on all this.”

Yep. He sure had. Here it was Christmas Eve, and they’d spent half the evening talking about a pagan German Hel-spawn—literally, the son of Hel, Norse God of the Underworld--nickname “claw.”

So much for the holly-jolly mood with which Barry had started the day.

“Pals around with Santa,” Barry said in a bored voice. “Except his job is to punish the naughty kids.”

Mike’s weathered, blunt features were always a little difficult to interpret, but reading between the lines, he looked affronted. Or at least as affronted as a monolithic slab can look. “What’s got into you, Fitzgerald? We’re not talking about lumps of coal, you know.”

Barry dropped his head in his hands and groaned. “Mike. For the love of God.” He raised his face and stared into Mike’s astonished eyes. “It’s Christmas Eve.”

“I know it’s Christmas Eve,” Mike snapped. “That’s the point. This is the one night of the year when we get our shot at him. Last year we had the Delano job. The year before that, you insisted we had to stake out the Ford place—”

“Paying jobs, Mike. Commitments we made to real live people. Human people.”

Mike, relentless, as a gear shift stuck in drive, plowed on. “And the year before that—”

He stopped.

Barry glared at him, waiting for him to say it, almost willing him to say it, because that really would be the end. If Mike regretted spending that night, their first real night together, the sweetest, the happiest, the best night of Barry’s entire life—if Mike regretted spending that night with Barry instead of chasing monsters, then it really was the end.

And maybe it would be easier that way. Easier than hanging on, hoping that eventually, one day there would be time for them.

 Because after three years, a nice fat bank account, and a whole hell of a lot of unbelievably weird nights, it was pretty clear that day was not coming any time soon.

Barry understood. He really did. Mike was a man with a mission. A mission and an obsession. Barry understood the mission and sympathized with the obsession. But he didn’t share it. Either of them. Yes, he was glad, even a little proud, to be able to take some of the credit for ridding the world of yet another creature of the night. And some of these supernatural capers paid well. Unbelievably well. Some, like tonight, were pro bono. Anyway, the money wasn’t the point.  

The point was…

Well, it was hard to say what the point was. Not because Barry couldn’t articulate it, but because he wasn’t sure anymore of how Mike felt. About them. About him. Maybe for Mike it really was just about having someone to hunt monsters with.

As if reading Barry’s thoughts—part of his thoughts, Mike said, “I don’t remember you kicking about the dough.”

“The money’s good,” Barry agreed evenly. “The money’s great. Money isn’t everything.”

Mike snorted. “You don’t say, Socrates.”

Barry felt himself turn as red as Rudoph’s schnoz. He opened his mouth, but for once he wasn’t sure what to say. Sure, he was irritated and disappointed, but that was any partnership. He, well, he loved Mike. And he’d been riding along for the last three years thinking, assuming, Mike loved him too. Not that Mike had ever said so. Not in so many words. He’d said things that Barry took to mean the same thing. But sometimes, you needed to hear the words. Even a tough guy—semi tough guy—like Barry sometimes would have liked to hear the words. Needed to hear the words.

Before he could settle on a less embarrassing way to put that into plain and simple syllables, Mike said shortly, crisply, “If you don’t want to go tonight, just say so. We’re wasting time.”

Barry’s head snapped back as if Mike had slapped him—that was what it felt like, for sure—his eyes narrowed, and he said flatly, “No. I’m not coming tonight. I’m going to my sister’s and celebrate Christmas Eve with my family, the way we used to do.”

Mike absorbed it. Nodded once. Curtly.

“You’re welcome to come too. Celebrate together.” If Barry sounded stiff, it was because it was obvious that, after telling him that it was a waste of time hearing him out, Mike was about going to decline his invitation with all the graciousness of a sledge hammer.

Sure enough, Mike’s lip curled sardonically. “Thanks. I’ve got a previous date.”

Barry rose from behind the desk, saying bitterly, “You know, Mike, it’s not like we’re ever going to run out of monsters.”

Mike had tensed when Barry stood up, but he said coolly, “Sure. See you the day after tomorrow, I guess?”

“I guess so.” Barry didn’t even care that his voice shook with all that dumb pointless emotion that Mike didn’t share, didn’t even notice.

Mike stared at him stonily for a moment, then walked out of the office. The door shut silently behind him.

Barry dropped down in his chair, rested his face in his hands, worked through the last five minutes. He didn’t think he was in the wrong. But at the same time, Mike had this…this calling. This slayer vocation heritage thing that went back generations. It probably wasn’t fair to spring it on him the way Barry had. He should’ve warned Mike earlier that he was, not wavering in the mission, but that he wanted some kind of a life—a life with Mike—outside the mission.

Not that Mike had seemed particularly interested in that part of the conversation.

Anyway, it didn’t matter because he couldn’t let Mike tackle this Krampus guy alone. He’d give Mike tonight, and of course tomorrow they’d be recovering from tonight, but maybe he could pitch the idea of taking some time off for New Year’s. Or maybe even Valentine’s Day?

His natural resilience reasserted itself, and Barry was on his feet again. He grabbed his hat and coat and was out the door, flying down the stairs after Mike. He was praying Mike hadn’t left without him; he didn’t want to be traipsing all over Mt. Wilson on his own—but when he reached the sidewalk outside their office building, he spotted Mike leaning against his Chevrolet, arms folded like he was counting down the minutes.

He straightened up when he spotted Barry. The hard white moonlight illuminated his face, but it was like looking at a statue. The Colossus of Rhodes maybe.

Barry reached him, said sourly, “I guess you think you know me pretty well.”

“I wasn’t waiting for you,” Mike said.


“I was thinking.”

Barry’s brows shot up, but for once he kept the wisecracks to himself.

“You’re right. We’re never going to run out of monsters.”

“Well, it’s not like we can’t give it our best shot,” Barry said bracingly. Mike could be moody. He didn’t want him getting depressed about his family legacy.

As he studied Mike’s somber face, it came to him that it was now or never. He drew in a breath, said the thing that had been weighing on him for months.

“Look. It’s just... It's six years we’ve known each other, Mike. I just want some time for us. Business is good. The money is good. It just seems like maybe there could be time to build something. For us. Together.”

It got a little choppy at the end, because Mike was staring at him like they hadn’t been properly introduced.

Finally, finally, Mike spoke.

“Then you meant it?"

"Uh, yeah. Which part?"

"About celebrating together tonight?” If it had been anyone else, Barry would have said there was a note of uncertainty in Mike’s low voice.

“Hell yes, I mean it. Of course you should be there. Aren’t we…”

“Are we?” Mike asked.

Aren’t we?”

These two lunk heads probably could have gone on like that for another five minutes, but Barry caught something out of the corner of his eye: a distant bright light skimming through the stars and gliding over City Hall. What was that? A plane? No, the trajectory was wrong. A slow-motion shooting star?

“Hey, there goes Santa Claus,” he joked.

But Mike continued to gaze at him in that dark, troubled way. “It’s just that your mind always seemed to be on the job.”

“Because your mind was always on the job. And that was okay when I was thinking we were working toward being able to have a life together. A real life. Sleeping late on weekends and having barbecues in the backyard and maybe going fishing sometimes.”

“You never said any of this before.” Mike sound ever so slightly accusing.

“I didn’t think I had to say it. And then I didn’t think the time was right. I wasn’t sure you wanted to hear it.”

“Why wouldn’t I want to hear it? We’re together every night. Including the nights we're not working,” Mike protested. 

“Yeah, but we’re not talking!”

Mike laughed. Barry laughed too, a little uncertainly.

Was it going to be okay after all? Did they both—

Mike reached out, cupped the side of Barry’s face, whispered, “You should have said. I thought you were getting tired of all of it. Of me.”

Barry shook his head. “No. No, I want more you. Less monsters. That’s all. That’s all I ask.” He pulled Mike’s palm from his face, kissed it. “I love you, Mike.” He smiled shakily, tried to kid, “And what would you like for Christmas?”

Mike pulled him into a bone crushing embrace, whispered against Barry’s ear, “I love you. How do you not know? I always have. I always will.”

High, high above, something sparkled and flashed across the night sky before disappearing from sight, quick and bright as a twinkle in the eye.