Guestpost, Release Blitz

World Naked Gardening Day: Warning! Deep Water by A.L. Lester

Hello everyone! Thank you so much to Nell for letting me pop in today to tell you a bit more about my part of our collaborative World Naked Gardening Day project. Nell, Holly DayK. L. NooneAmy Spector and I have all written gay romance novellas based around World Naked Gardening Day, which happens on the first Saturday in May. This year it’s the 7th, which is when our stories happen to be released!  You can read about all of them here

Warning! Deep Water is a 16,300 gay romance set in the UK 1947, just after the worst winter in living memory and eighteen months after the end of the second world war. Let me tell you a bit about George, one of my main characters!

George Parker 

Description: Short hair. Brown eyes. Shorter than average and a bit pudgy round the middle. Nearly forty and feeling it.
Personality: Prefers flowers to people.
Occupation: Owns a flower nursery.
Habits/Mannerisms: Runs hand up through hair when frustrated. Doesn’t swear. 

George served in the army during the war, although he didn’t have to join up because agriculture was a reserved occupation. However, he’d always worked with his parents on the family horticultural nursery and he desperately wanted to get away. 

His parents were killed in a bombing raid on London when they’d gone up there for the day in 1942 and George is running the nursery with the help of some ex Land Army women. They kept the place going in the gap between his parents dying and him coming home. He’s sad about his parents but also a bit relieved they’re dead because they were sometimes emotionally abusive. 

George is aware he has internalised homophobia. He has a convoluted belief that he doesn’t deserve good things because of both that and because of his sexuality, a sort of dual guilt from two different angles. His parents more or less beat it in to him that he owed them everything. They caught him with another boy when he was in his teens and they used it to keep him in line. The other boy was sent away and George never saw him agan.

During the story, it becomes clear to us that he is gradually coming to terms with his sexuality, a process that began when he left home to go to war. Meeting Peter and falling in love with him challenges George’s belief that he  is somehow wrong for being queer and that queer people can’t have nice things.

George is a quiet, reliable person who just wants to get on with life and not have any drama. He spends a lot of time during the day hiding from his workforce and then comes out at night and spends time with the plants and with his dog, Polly. Part of his healing process when he meets Peter is that he becomes slightly more social again.

He’s never going to be going to social clubs or doing anything with crowds of people, but he begins to make quiet friendships and (I hope) we see him grow as the story progresses.

Without further ado, here’s some more about Warning! Deep Water. I hope you have as much fun reading it as we all have writing our stories. 

Warning! Deep Water

It’s 1947. George is going through the motions, sowing seeds and tending plants and harvesting crops. The nursery went on without him perfectly well during the war and he spends a lot of time during the working day hiding from people and working on his own. In the evening he prowls round the place looking for odd jobs to do.

It’s been a long, cold winter and Peter doesn’t think he’ll ever get properly warm or clean again. Finding a place with heated greenhouses and plenty of nooks and crannies to kip in while he’s recovering from nasty flu was an enormous stroke of luck. He’s been here a few days now. The weather is beginning to warm up and he’s just realised there’s a huge reservoir of water in one of the greenhouses they use to water the plants. He’s become obsessed with getting in and having an all-over wash.

What will George do when he finds a scraggy ex-soldier bathing in his reservoir? What will Peter do? Is it time for them to both stop running from the past and settle down?

A Naked Gardening Day short story of 16,300 words.

Buy from JMS Books – Add to Goodreads – Buy from Amazon USBuy Everywhere Else

Excerpt

“You didn’t say you liked music,” Peter said, as they were sitting across the table from each other over a cup of tea, once he’d finally pulled himself away from the instrument and reverentially closed the keyboard. 

“Well,” said Peter. “It didn’t come up, did it?” He paused. “Mother used to play a bit,” he said, eventually. “Not like that, though. Hymns, mostly. She was big on chapel.”

There was clearly a story there. 

“It’s nice to hear it played,” George went on. “Instruments should be used, not just sat there as part of the furniture. And…,” he paused again and blushed, “And you play very well.”

“Well,” said Peter shuffling with embarrassment. “I learned as a nipper and just carried on with it. Dad wanted me to go and study somewhere, but I wanted to get out and earn. It would have taken the joy out of it if I’d had to pass exams and such.”

George nodded. “I can see that. And you’re good with your hands.” He blushed again and became very absorbed with mashing the tiny amount of butter left from the ration into his baked potato. 

Peter coughed. “Well yes,” he said. He couldn’t help smiling a little at George, although he didn’t let him see. He forged on. He really didn’t want him to be uncomfortable. “I think mathematics and music sort of go together, you know? And I was always good with numbers as well…it’s a good trait in a joiner.”

George nodded, clearly feeling they were on less dangerous territory. “Yes,” he said. “There’s all sorts of things you can use maths for; but music is pretty rarefied, isn’t it?”

Peter nodded. “This way I get to keep the music and earn a living. There’s always work for a carpenter, like you said the other day.”

He gradually became less self-conscious about playing when George and Mrs Leland were in the house over the next few weeks. It made him feel like another piece of what made him a person was coming back to life. 

****

What it didn’t do was make him any less confused about what was happening between him and George. Half the time he thought George was completely uninterested. But then something would happen that would make him reconsider. The comment about being good with his hands was a case in point. It was a perfectly commonplace thing to say and George shouldn’t have been embarrassed. But he had been. Which meant he’d thought of it in a context that might cause embarrassment. 

Peter spent several very enjoyable hours spread over several evenings working through different variations of what the other man might have been thinking.

George was nobody’s Bogart. But he was decent-looking. Nice face, especially when he smiled. A bit soft round the middle, but otherwise hard muscled from the physical work he did day in, day out. Clever…did his own accounts. Liked music. Made Peter laugh with his dry commentary on things in the paper or local gossip and the social pickles the girls reported on in the break room. 

Peter liked him a lot. And fancied him. After the third night of considering at length how he could demonstrate how good with his hands he actually was, he gave up pretending. He fancied George a lot

About A. L. Lester

Writer of queer, paranormal, historical, romantic suspense, mostly. Lives in the South West of England with Mr AL, two children, a terrifying cat, some poultry. Likes gardening but doesn’t really have time or energy. Not musical. Doesn’t much like telly. Non-binary. Chronically disabled. Has tedious fits.

Facebook Group : Twitter : Newsletter (free story) : Website : Link-tree for everywhere else

Guestpost, Release Blitz

World Naked Gardening Day: The Hermit of Aldershill Manor by K.L. Noone

Please help me welcome K.L. Noone to the blog, my second visitor here to talk about her naked gardening shenanigans, and all around lovely human being. Welcome, Kristin, we’re happy to have you!!

Hi there! Thank you to Nell for letting me drop in again – this time, it’s to tell you about my contribution to our collaborative World Naked Gardening Day project – for which Nell, myself, A.L. Lester, Holly Day, and Amy Spector have all written gay romance novellas based around World Naked Gardening Day, which happens on the first Saturday in May. This year it’s the 7th, which is when all our stories will be released!

My story for our project is called The Hermit of Aldershill Manor, a 17,000-word m/m romance between Lionel, a gardener on a historic estate, and Charlie, the newly arrived historian, here to help with the archives. There’s a bit of an age gap, and an unexpected summer storm, and shelter in an old hermitage. And an instant spark, among rain and flowers and green growing things.

My family loves gardens, and it’s always been a part of our lives (even though at the moment we’ve got low-maintenance and drought-tolerant landscaping—it’s far too hot where we live for anything else!). When we travel, especially with my parents, we always find a garden to explore—we’ve been to historical and botanical gardens in Ireland, Iceland, England, and Australia, as well as here in the United States! It’s also the field my father works in, so my brother and I grew up with flowers and trees and roaming around the (plant) nursery and getting his help on botanical science-fair projects, as kids. (We got good grades on the projects, of course!) So when our writer chat was tossing around the World Naked Gardening idea, well…of course I wanted to join in the celebration! Plus, I got to make some truly terrible puns about roots and seeds. (I couldn’t resist. But at least I avoided the joke about being sappy?)

I always have music on when I’m writing, and I know Nell likes songs about rain, so I figured I’d share a couple from this playlist before I go! This time, we’ve got the Eurythmics, with “Here Comes The Rain,” and Savage Garden, “The Best Thing,” because how could I not have Savage Garden in a gardening-themed story, plus The Pretenders, “Don’t Get Me Wrong,” and for something very recent, Wet Leg, “Wet Dream,” and also Tegan and Sara’s “Closer,” because it’s so perfect for the fizzy bubbling-over wanting-more emotion. And Lionel and Charlie definitely do get closer. (And naked, as per the theme…)

Here’s a bit more about Hermit! I hope you enjoy it, and I hope you enjoy all our Naked Gardening stories—I’m so excited to share this project with you all!

Buy Links:

JMS Books :: Amazon

Blurb

Charlie Ash is ready to start a new job and a new life at Aldershill Manor. As a historian, he’s thrilled to dive into the estate’s archives. Plus, he can move on from the end of his last relationship, when the man he’d thought he’d marry broke his heart. He’ll find solace in exploring the manor’s famous gardens…until he’s caught in the rain, and found by a gardener.

Lionel Briar enjoys making people happy, as long as he doesn’t have to talk to them. He does not enjoy tourists, small talk, or social obligations. But he does like plants and history and his job, taking care of Aldershill’s gardens, helping beauty grow. He likes gently tending the world.

So when Lionel discovers the estate’s adorable new historian getting drenched by a summer thunderstorm in his gardens, he offers Charlie shelter…a rescue that could bloom into love.

Excerpt

Just around the bend, and up the small rise; the old hermitage beckoned: an eighteenth-century fantasia of ornamental tower-curved stone and climbing roses and tumbling ivy, tucked into a garden corner by the stream. The honeysuckle and irises by the door, drenched in rain, perfumed the afternoon. Old stones welcomed wet feet, going up the shallow steps.

Lionel opened the door, tugged Charlie in—the young man was looking at the tower with wide-eyed delight, as if expecting dragons and princesses—and only then realized that he’d done more touching of another person, in the last five minutes, than he’d done in the last three years.

His hands catching a slim arm when Charlie’d slipped, earlier. His hands brushing ungloved fingers, handing over a jacket. His hands resting on Charlie’s shoulders, nudging thinness inside.

It’d felt right. It still felt right. He didn’t know why. 

Charlie hadn’t protested being nudged, either. Though he was now gingerly peeling off Lionel’s coat, wincing, apologizing. “I’ll just stand over here, I’m dripping everywhere…” His hair, darkened by rain, had flattened into treasure-box colors: old gold and shimmering amethyst. 

“You’re not a problem. You need to get warm.” Lionel yanked off his own boots, winced as the tangle of his hair got into his face, shoved it back. “I’ll find you some clothes.”

“I’ll be right here.” Charlie waved a hand at him. “Which is already better than being out there, thanks.”

Lionel did not know how to answer, and so escaped, heart beating faster than it should’ve done. He felt Charlie’s presence at his back as he went.

The hermitage had been converted to a residence sometime in the nineteen-thirties, and then updated in the seventies, and then again much more recently, with the influx of visitors and finances to the estate. It was an odd shape, only four rooms, the one main tower and the three smaller towers joined on at the back, all of them short and snug. But the walls were white-plastered and the wood floorboards were pleasant, and books lined most of the main room, and the central fireplace would heat the whole space, once he got that going.

Lionel had always liked the hermitage. They fit each other, awkward but hopeful, part of the garden grounds. 

He tried to hurry, crossing the main room, opening the third door. He tried not to drip on his sofa or his books or the braided rugs, not too much, at least.

The wardrobe and his bed took up ninety-five percent of the space in the bedroom tower, and that wasn’t an exaggeration: he barely had room to walk around. He liked his bed, though. The wood had been hand-carved by a local artisan, crafted from a fallen oak on the estate; it belonged here, and had a purpose. Right now it gazed at him in silent four-poster astonishment, as Lionel flung open the wardrobe and dove into denim and flannel and knit.

Too large, everything would be too large—sweatpants, perhaps—heavy socks—

His hair, wet, got into his eyes. He swore. Found a hair tie, and contained it.

He ran back out. Charlie had obediently remained in place by the coat-rack, dripping onto the mat, which was designed for that. His lips were more pale, and he was shaking, though he was trying to hide it.

He was still beautiful. Those cheekbones, that chin, the way his eyes were framed by the knowledge of laughter. Lionel swallowed roughly. Thrust clothing his way.

Charlie took the offering, but paused. “Should I…go and change in your bathroom? I mean, unless you want me to sort of do that right here, and not get anything else wet.”

Lionel’s cheeks got warmer. He felt it, wondered if it was visible, tried to recall how to speak to humans instead of rosemary and yarrow. “You. Either door. Bedroom. Or bath. You can.”

“Thank you again,” Charlie said, and went off to the second door, which led to the hermitage’s small but serviceable bath. He was careful, Lionel noticed, to leave muddy shoes back on the mat, and to drip as little as possible along the way. Precise, and considerate.

Precise, considerate, beautiful, and in Lionel’s house. Lionel exhaled, and wanted to collapse back against the aged stone tower wall and let it hold him up. He didn’t, because he was still gently damp. But he wanted to.

A person. A man, obviously an adult but also obviously younger than Lionel himself, probably by a good ten years. Someone he’d only just met. 

And now here. In his home. How’d that happened? What had possessed him to offer? For that matter, why had Charlie said yes?

He scrubbed a hand across his face. He also needed to shave. And evidently he’d had a leaf in his hair the whole time, which he only discovered upon dislodging it.

He took a deep breath, let it out. What mattered most was the next step. Charlie was here now, and Charlie needed to get warm. Which meant a fire, and tea. Perhaps biscuits. Or bread.

He could do those things. Concrete, clear-cut, things. Warmth and comfort. Yes.

He found the kettle. He tried not to shiver, because although he wasn’t too wet, he hadn’t managed to change clothes yet.

Which a mysterious young man was doing. In his house. Which he was not thinking about. Obviously.

He built up the fire, in the old-fashioned fireplace. He made it large and glowing.

He turned from poking a log, and found Charlie behind him, having just come in.

Their eyes met. Lionel forgot how to breathe, momentarily, because that was what happened when one discovered a petite American garden sylph standing in one’s living room, dressed in too-long sweatpants and a thick knit jumper. He managed, “Sorry.”

Charlie’s eyebrows went up, spring-blond drifts of surprise. “For what? I hung the wet stuff in your tub, by the way. If you’ve got a dryer—”

“In the kitchen. Don’t worry about it. Sit down.” He dove for tea, a shield. “Tea? Chamomile. From the gardens here.”

Thunder boomed, and rain burst against the windowpane, a sharp rattling clamor. Charlie laughed, and curled up in the chair closest to the fire, giving in. “I guess I’m not going anywhere.”

“No. Yes. I mean. Not in that.”

“Well, thanks for the sanctuary.” Charlie accepted tea, wrapping slim fingers around warmth. He took a sip and made a small pleased sound, and Lionel couldn’t take that and therefore gulped half his own to drown out any thoughts. It was very hot.

“So,” Charlie went on, grinning at him, pushing one too-large knitted sleeve up, “what’s your name? And what do you do? When you’re not rescuing academics in distress, that is.”

Lionel stopped to gaze at him. Academic? A scholar? Not an enchanted flower-sprite or dryad? With that bewitching gift for conversation, familiarity, putting the world at ease? 

He was holding the mug halfway up, in front of his face. Neither here nor there. He lowered it hastily. Felt his cheeks flush. “Lionel. Is my name. Lionel Briar. I’m a gardener.”

Bio

K.L. Noone teaches college students about superheroes and Shakespeare by day, and writes romance – frequently paranormal or with fantasy elements, usually LGBTQ, and always with happy endings – when not grading papers or researching medieval outlaw life. She is currently the servant of a large black cat named Merlyn, who demands treats on a regular basis.

Guestpost, Release Blitz

World Naked Gardening Day: The Death of Digby Catch by Amy Spector

Today Amy Spector is visiting, the first of my fellow Naked Gardener writers. It’s Amy’s first visit to my blog, so please help me make her feel extra welcome! ❤️

Hello everyone! First, I’d like to thank Nell for letting me drop by and share a little about myself, and my new release for our World Naked Gardening Day project!

I always enjoy writing as part of a group, though up until now, other than taking part in a few anthologies, my group project experience mostly consists of working one-on-one with Ofelia Gränd (aka Holly Day) on a series of supernatural/paranormal/horror collections. And I’ve noticed, the larger the group, the more decisions there are that need to be made. But I’m easy going, something I credit to being a middle child. The quiet one. The peacekeeper. Embarrassed by attention, and still—even as an adult—regularly horrified by scenes my family make.

Which brings us to The Death of Digby Catch. A story about murder, struggling with forgiveness, instant attraction, and ill-behaved family that makes you—if not want to crawl under a rock—want to move far away.

I personally still live close to my family, but I do try and limit being out in public with some of them. LOL

In the Death of Digby Catch, Theo Webb has a complicated relationship with his mother. And when he returns for the funeral of the family’s estate groundskeeper, Digby Catch, the strain is still very much alive. And it doesn’t help that she has an eye for younger men.

At least, not when he might just have his eye on the same man.

You can read the blurb and an excerpt from the story below.

Buy Links:

JMS Books • Universal Link

Blurb:

It had been more than eighteen years since August Catch’s uncle Digby had disappeared to the Cape to mourn the death of his sister. So, when August arrives at Arachne’s Loom to collect his late uncle’s things, he wasn’t expecting to find stories of a man larger than life. Or the very real possibility that Digby’s death may not have been from natural causes.

Theo Webb has had few people in his life that he loved, and fewer still he could trust. But the estate groundskeeper, Digby Catch, had been one of them. Returning home for his funeral, he’s thrown together with Digby’s nephew, and the attraction is instant. But so is Theo’s certainty that things surrounding Digby’s death don’t add up and that at least one person isn’t telling the truth.

Discovering a killer is difficult when someone is desperate to keep more than just their identity a secret. And when all the clues point in one direction, even Theo isn’t sure what to think. The two of them must work together if they’re going to solve a murder, and not let the thing growing between them be a distraction.

But then, maybe a distraction is exactly what they need.

Excerpt:

“You look nice this morning.”

She made a noncommittal noise, too absorbed in the paper she was reading, just as his father had always been on those rare occasions when he joined them for breakfast. But she did look nice, in a pale blue blouse and a colored tint to her lips she’d been wearing for as long as he could remember.

Theo was hit then with a sad longing for something he couldn’t quite put his finger on, so he busied himself with breakfast, not looking up from his plate until he heard the door to the room open.

“Mrs. Webb?” Silvia, his mother’s assistant, was always so serious Theo thought it a miracle she’d stayed at his mother’s side for as long as she had. “Mr. Catch is here.”

He looked up then, and sat straighter in his chair.

August Catch was even more spectacular looking now after a few hours’ sleep and some dry clothes than Theo had imagined possible.

“Mr. Catch. Welcome to Arachne’s Loom.” His mother was out of her chair, animated in a way that only the presence of an attractive man was able to accomplish. “So glad you came.”

“Please, call me August.” He stole a look at Theo, and Theo smiled and tried hard not to apologize. For what exactly, he didn’t know, not yet. But there would inevitably be something, and it would be mortifying. The day was still young.

As she walked their guest down the length of the buffet, encouraging him to fill his plate, and practically wrapping herself around his arm like a snake, Theo’s appetite disappeared altogether.

“So, August.” They’d taken their chairs, and his mother had folded her newspaper and placed it on the corner of the table next to Theo. “Is this your first time to the Cape?”

“Yes.” August took his cloth napkin as he spoke, unfolded it, and placed it on his lap. “Digby invited me up to stay with him a few times, but it never worked out.”

“I think he might have been eyeing you as his replacement.” His mother was smiling, leaning toward him, making slow, deliberate circles on the tablecloth with one French-tipped nail. “Tell me, do you enjoy World Naked Gardening Day as much as your uncle did?”

“Good Lord, Kitty.” Theo was saved from having to cover his mother’s mouth with his hand by the appearance of her lawyer. Never had he been more happy for the arrival of Dante in his life. “Let the poor man eat his breakfast.”

“August?” Instead of looking embarrassed, his mother just smiled. “This is my dearest friend in all the world, Dante Lolan. Dante, this is August Catch.”

“Nice to meet you.” Dante poured a cup of coffee and took a seat at the far side of the table, looking less than pleased.

“Glad to see you’re feeling better.” Theo’s mother was still smiling serenely, as if she liked annoying the man.

“You’ve been sick, Dante?” Theo grabbed onto the change of subject.

“It was nothing. A little stomach bug. So, Mr. Catch.” Dante put an abrupt end to that conversation too. He didn’t like to share his personal life. It made Theo wonder what he and his mother found to talk about. “What is your plan, and how can Mrs. Webb be of service?”

“Well.” August picked up his fork, fiddling with it a few moments, before putting it back down. “I believe my uncle had a bedroom on the estate? I thought I could go through his things this afternoon, box up what I’ll be keeping, and make arrangements to ship it back…home.” He hesitated on the word home. “Or depending, swap out my rental for something larger and drive it back myself.”

“A house.” Theo wanted more than a single nightmare of a breakfast to get to know Digby’s nephew. “There’s a groundskeeper cottage at the back of the property. Near the greenhouse. Three bedrooms, one and a half baths, a kitchen, living room, and a study. It’ll probably take a little longer than an afternoon.”

“I’ve already had boxes and bubble wrap dropped off. And I’ll send you over a few of the girls to help.” For once, Theo hated his mother’s love for efficiency. “I’m sure you have a life to get back to.”

“Mom, August might want a little privacy.”

“Oh.” His mother turned and blinked at him, as if she’d just realized that they were talking about August’s dead uncle’s belongings. “Of course. I wasn’t thinking.”

“No. That’s alright, but yeah. I might prefer a chance to go through at least some of his things myself. But if you don’t mind, as soon as I think I’m ready, I would be grateful for the help.”

“Not to break this up, but there are a few things we need to discuss, you and I.”

Dante held Theo’s mother’s gaze for a long moment before she seemed to give in. She stood, pardoning them both, leaving Theo alone with August at the table.

“After breakfast, I can walk you over to the groundskeeper’s cottage.” August gave him a smile and did little more than slowly pick at his plate. “Digby used to use one of those…little utility vehicles to run around the property, but it’s not far, and a beautiful walk. “

“I’d appreciate it.” August gave him another one of those polite smiles, and Theo felt like he was failing at whatever it was he was trying to do. Maybe it was just that since Theo felt like he somehow knew August, he hoped August would look at him with the same recognition, and not paint him with the same brush as his mother. Or if nothing else, their shared connection with Digby would make them fast friends.

“So, you’re ground manager at a horse farm?”

“Up until recently.” August seemed relieved at the subject change. “The Blue Horse. It was more of a horse center really, with an equestrian history museum and campgrounds. And they host different events throughout the year.”

“Sounds nice. Do you ride?”

“No. I had someone that was teaching me.” August shrugged, and then seemed to abandon the pretense of eating altogether. “But that fell through.”

After a few moments of silence, Theo made a show of checking to see if anyone might be listening, looking to his right and then to his left, before leaning in. “How about we swap plates and then I’ll walk you over before my mother gets back. She’ll never even know you weren’t particularly hungry.”

This time August gave him a genuine smile, and Theo would have sworn he felt butterflies.

“You’d be my hero.”

You can check out another excerpt on my website at HERE.

About Amy Spector

Amy Spector grew up in the United States surviving on a steady diet of old horror movies, television reruns and mystery novels.

After years of blogging about comic books, vintage Gothic romance book cover illustrations, and a shameful amount about herself, she decided to try her hand at writing stories. She found it more than a little like talking about herself in third person, and that suited her just fine.

She blames Universal for her love of horror, Edward Gorey for her love of British drama and writing for awakening the romantic that was probably there all along.

Amy lives in the Midwest with her husband and children, and her cats Poe, Goji and Nekō. 

Connect with Amy on social media:

Website • Facebook • Twitter • BookBub • Goodreads • Newsletter

Guestpost, Release Blitz

New Release Spotlight: The Cake Shop by Ofelia Gränd

Hi! *waves* Thank you, lovely Nell, for letting me drop by today. I have a little story out and thought I’d tell you about it 😁 It’s called The Cake Shop, and it’s a short fated mate tale.

I know I’m visiting the queen of short stories, and she certainly doesn’t have a problem forming a connection between her characters despite only having a few pages at her disposal. I, on the other hand, cheat. 

Fated mates is my go-to trope when I’m to write something short – in all fairness, I have a lot of fated mates in my longer stories too. I like the idea of there being someone out there meant for your even if you’re a monster (shifter, vampire, magic-user or whatever). Someone who’s perfect for you. 

I often write interspecies couples because differences interest me, and I guess I could claim interspecies here too. York is a wolf shifter and Torbjorn is a bear shifter. In this story, I don’t focus on their differences, though.

And whether having fated mates is cheating or not, it speeds up the process of the characters forming a connection. It makes everything easier when everyone knows who they belong to… that’s the idea at least. 

In The Cake Shop, Torbjorn knows York is his mate, but he plans to ignore it. Nothing in this world will make him mate with a wolf. At least, that’s what he tells himself LOL.

York, on the other hand, is just happy he’s found his mate, he doesn’t care what species he is. He realises he needs some time to convince Torbjorn they’ll be perfect together, and what better way to buy himself some time than to use the pouring rain as an excuse to get Torbjorn to let him stay for a bit.

Perhaps I should tell you that it’s called The Cake Shop because that’s the name of Torbjorn’s bakery. York is a member of the same pack as Zev in The Drunken Dog and Roarak in Cup o’ Sugar. They can all be read as standalone stories though, so no need to panic 😆

I wrote The Cake Shop for one of JMS Books’ either-or calls. They’re short story calls where the author gets to pick one word or the other and write a story to it. This time we could choose from either Rain or Shine. I chose rain.

Blurb:

York Winter and his packmates are attacked by a rivaling werewolf pack at a lumberyard. Injured and exhausted, York runs into a part of town he’s not familiar with, and when the enemy is closing in, he takes his chances and escapes into a bear-owned bakery.

Torbjorn Holt doesn’t do people, and he doesn’t do wolves no matter what the pull in his heart is trying to tell him. He’s learned his lesson and will not have wolves in the bakery, and he’ll definitely not mate one. Luckily, York isn’t too badly injured, so Torbjorn doesn’t feel bad about kicking him out into the rain. 

York can’t believe what’s happening. He’s finally found his mate, but Torbjorn refuses to let him stay. Torbjorn will never trust a wolf again, and if York doesn’t leave soon, he’ll knock him out with a rolling pin and dump him in the alley. York has to make Torbjorn understand he means him no harm, but how will he do that when Torbjorn refuses to talk to him?

Paranormal Gay Romance / 12,864 words 

Buy links:

JMS Books :: Amazon :: books2read.com/TheCakeShop

Excerpt:

Torbjorn cradled his head in his hands, his elbows resting on one of the two islands in the kitchen. He had to get the wolf out of here. His heart was banging hard and a roar bounced around in his skull.

“Hey.”

Torbjorn jumped. “Get out!” Shit, he’d been so focused on himself he hadn’t noticed the man coming closer. “Don’t bleed in my kitchen.”

“I’m York.”

“I don’t care.” York, who named their kid York? He tried the name out in his head. It wasn’t too bad. York. He could say it on a sigh. “Go clean up.”

“You’re not gonna help me?” York grinned, though he was too pale to make it look good.

“No, I’m not gonna help you. You’re gonna bandage yourself up if you still need to, and then you’re gonna leave.”

York frowned. “I can’t leave. You’re my—”

“Leave!” Torbjorn tore off toward the walk-in fridge. The cool air wrapped around him as he pulled the door shut. He should have dragged York out into the alley when he’d had the chance. Alexandra would have protested, but she was already convinced he was a nutcase so it didn’t matter.

He made a quick inventory of the cream, milk, and eggs while he waited for York to leave the kitchen. He must have gone into the restroom by now. If he snuck out of the fridge and hurried up the stairs to his apartment, he could come down and lock up in half an hour or so when York had left. Nodding to himself, he counted to a hundred and opened the fridge door.

York was leaning against the closest island, his hurt arm cradled to his chest. Torbjorn couldn’t breathe. “What are you doing here? I told you to leave.”

“I need help.”

“No, you don’t.” It was a scratch.

“I’m right-handed, can’t do shit with my left.” He shook his unhurt left arm.

“I’m sure you can manage without a band-aid. It’s not like you’re bleeding to death.”

York smiled. “So, you wanted to drag me out into the alley and feed me to the wolves?”

“Alexandra has too soft a heart.”

York nodded. “But you don’t.”

“No, so get out of here.”

“You’re a bear, right?”

Torbjorn didn’t want to talk.

“I always assumed I’d end up with a wolf.”

“Well, I won’t, so either clean up and leave or leave as you are.”

York took a step in his direction which made Torbjorn take a step back. Frowning, York stopped. “Could you at least help me put on a band-aid?”

Torbjorn gritted his teeth. He didn’t want to go anywhere near York.

“Whose territory is this?”

“Mine.” It wasn’t big, he only had three blocks on the outskirts of the city and the small forest separating the residential buildings from the industrial ones. It wasn’t much, but he hardly ever shifted into a bear—nothing good came from shifting—so it didn’t matter.

The wolves had the northern parts of the city, and the vampires ruled the south. Had he known what he knew now when he moved here, he’d have looked for a building fit for a bakery in the southern parts of the city instead of the northern. He wouldn’t have minded vampires as neighbors. The northern and the western parts were mostly shifter-run, though not by any large packs or prides or whatever they called themselves, so there were always struggles.

Torbjorn only wanted to be left alone. He defended his area when he needed to, but he didn’t care what happened outside his borders.

“How big?”

Torbjorn glared at him. “Not big, but mine, so don’t get any ideas.” Fuck, he couldn’t fight off a pack of wolves.

“Don’t worry. We can hardly hold what we have. Expanding isn’t on our list of wants right now.” York watched him with a blank expression. “You don’t have a… sleuth, is it?”

“No.”

“No, you don’t have a pack or no it’s not called a sleuth?”

“It’s called a sleuth.”

York nodded. “Help me?”

Torbjorn growled but stepped closer. “But then you’re leaving.”

York didn’t respond.

About Ofelia Gränd

Ofelia Gränd is Swedish, which often shines through in her stories. She likes to write about everyday people ending up in not-so-everyday situations, and hopefully also getting out of them. She writes romance, contemporary, paranormal, Sci-Fi and whatever else catches her fancy.

Her books are written for readers who want to take a break from their everyday life for an hour or two.

When Ofelia manages to tear herself from the screen and sneak away from her husband and children, she likes to take walks in the woods…if she’s lucky she finds her way back home again.

Find Ofelia on social media

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Guestpost, Release Blitz

New Release Spotlight: A Well-Functioning Cubicle by Holly Day

The fabulous Holly Day is back on the blog to tell us about her newest release, A Well-Functioning Cubicle. But first; today is Holly’s birthday, so HAPPY BIRTHDAY my friend. 🎉 If I could bake, I’d make you a chicken cake like this one and have it delivered to you for maximum yumminess, but minimum interaction with people! I hope you’re having a fabulous birthday with lots of gifts!

But now. Back to book content. 😀


Hello, everyone! Thank you, Nell, for allowing me to come back again. I have the feeling I’ve soon overstayed my welcome. It’s been a release-heavy period, and I’ve been popping in more often than could be considered healthy LOL

Do you know what date it is? Fourth of April, 04-04, and it just so happens that I’m turning 40 today, so many zeros and fours 😆

You might think I’m all about celebrating since it’s what I do, but no. I do my best to avoid birthday celebrations. My mother-in-law called to tell me to buy a couple of hens for myself, and she’ll pay for them. The perfect gift, I think.

But, I’m not here to talk about birthdays or hens – though I could talk a lot about hens LOL. I have a new story out, A Well-Functioning Cubicle, and it’s about Jace and Paxton.

I wrote it for National Flash Drive Day, which is observed annually on April 5th, so tomorrow. 

Jace is a bit obsessive. He needs things to be in their place, events to follow a certain order, and all lines and labels to be straight. I’m not a neat freak in any way, I wish I was more of one than I am when it comes to my home. I hate to clean, it’s such a waste of time – that doesn’t mean I don’t like it when it’s tidy around me. I do, but I have four children, two cats, one dog, and we’re currently down to only two hamsters. I could clean myself to death and it would still be a messy house.

Though, if someone were to touch my bullet journal or my notebooks, all hell would break loose. There, I need things to be in order, I need straight lines, and – again, I have four kids – if someone draws in them, however nice they mean to be, I explode. And it’s not only in a mild ‘oh, that’s too bad’ I’m talking a the-world-is-going-under feeling. I also have a hard time with people not accepting what’s mine is mine and you don’t fucking touch anything that’s on my desk if you want to continue living – hard for a six-year-old to understand, so I’m having many, many moments of deep breathing and counting to ten every week. Let’s just say I understand Jace. I feel for Jace. Jace and I are kindred souls. 

Paxton, on the other hand, has no need for straight lines or boundaries, and once he figures out how much a crooked label can upset Jace, he makes sure all labels are crooked. It amuses him.

He’s a bit of a dick.

Or not really, but he doesn’t understand how upsetting a messy desk can be. All Jace wants is a well-functioning cubicle. It’s not too much to ask for, is it?

Blurb:

Jace Villin likes straight lines and clean surfaces. Life is so much easier when everything is in its right place, and he and his friend Felicity have a good system for the cubicle at work. They have a drawer each, one side of the bulletin board each, and they don’t interfere with each other’s territories. But then Felicity quits, and Jace has to share his cubicle with someone else.

Paxton Sallow promised himself never to work in an office again, but there are no job openings, and he has bills to pay. The job might be the most boring he’s ever had to endure, but at least he can amuse himself with moving Jace’s things around. It’s amazing how upsetting a crooked label can be.

Jace doesn’t know what to do with Paxton. He wants to snarl at him to respect his boundaries at the same time as he wants to run his fingers through his hair and kiss him silly. Paxton knows he should leave Jace alone, but he can’t help himself. He wants to see Jace outside of work, but how will Paxton get him to agree to have a cup of coffee with him when he runs off as soon as he tries to ask him out?

Contemporary Gay Romance: 14,339 words

Buy links:

JMS Books :: Amazon :: books2read.com/AWellFunctioningCubicle

Excerpt:

Jace stared. His skin crawled at the sight of Paxton’s name on the drawer. What had he done? He pulled in a shuddering breath, crouched, and ripped the name strip off the drawer before stomping toward the supply closet.

“Jace? What’s wrong?” Andrea watched him with a frown.

“He…” He sucked in a breath. “He put the name on crooked!”

Andrea frowned. “What? Who?”

“Who?” His voice rose, and he took a calming breath to prevent himself from shouting. “Paxton, of course. I had it perfectly aligned, and he moved it.”

Andrea calmly watched him before nodding. “I see.”

He huffed and went into the supply closet, punching each letter in Paxton’s name with more force than necessary on the label maker.

“I’ll talk to him.” Andrea stood right outside the door watching him.

“No, it’ll only…” He shook his head.

“It will only what?”

“Set him off.” Jace had survived school—barely—and knew what happened when predators smelled blood. If Paxton figured out exactly how much a crooked label bothered Jace, all labels would be crooked from here on out, and he’d be tossing and turning through the night reliving uneven lines and chaos in the cubicle. It was already chaos. Paxton had opened his drawer, had eaten his pretzels, and lord knows what else.

“Set him off how?” Andrea’s tone was smooth and careful. It made Jace wince as memories of oh-so-patient therapists flashed by in his mind.

“He’ll do it every day to mess with me.”

Andrea’s eyes narrowed. “Can’t you ignore what’s going on in his drawer?”

“Yes, in his drawer. That’s his, but the outside of the drawer is affecting everyone.”

“I see.”

Jace held in a breath. He didn’t think she did. “I better get some work done.”

It took a couple of hours before he found his rhythm, and when it was time for his first break, he refilled his drawer with snacks he’d brought from home. The bag of pretzels was more or less empty, so he ate the last ones and threw it in the trash in the break room so he wouldn’t have to look at the empty bag in the trash can in his cubicle.

As the day went by, his skin shrank. He grew jumpier and jumpier the closer Paxton’s arrival loomed. Never had he missed Felicity as much as he did today.

“Hiya, Jace.”

Jace startled. There were ten minutes left of his shift. Paxton shouldn’t be here yet. “Hi.”

“How are you today?”

“Good.” He reread the top paragraph of the email he’d opened only seconds before Paxton arrived.

“Yeah? You look a little… pissed off.”

Jace didn’t reply, which made Paxton chuckle. “I’m gonna go grab a cup of coffee in the break room, do you want me to bring you a cup?”

“No.”

When there was a touch on his shoulder, a strangled sound escaped his throat, and he threw himself back, causing the chair to roll away from the desk.

“Shit, sorry. I didn’t mean to… frighten you. I…” Paxton shook his head. “No coffee? Or maybe you’re a tea drinker? I can make you a cup of tea.”

“No.” Jace looked at him. Paxton wasn’t grinning or even smiling, he looked uncertain, something Jace hadn’t seen before. “No, thank you. I’m finishing up here and then I’m hitting the swimming pool.”

“Do you swim every day?”

“Almost. It calms my brain.” He winced as the words left his mouth.

Paxton nodded and put his hands in his pockets. “I’ll go grab a cup; let you finish in peace.” He looked at Jace again, a frown deepening on his forehead. “I wasn’t going to grab you or hit you or whatever you thought I was gonna do.”

“No, I know.” How could anyone know? People looked friendly right up until they slammed you into the lockers in the school corridor.

Paxton watched him for a few more seconds before nodding and walking off. Jace blew out a breath and slumped in the chair. When he looked out through the opening of the cubicle, he found Sophie watching him. “I’m okay.”

She gave him a slow nod but didn’t look like she believed him.

About Holly Day:

According to Holly Day, no day should go by uncelebrated and all of them deserve a story. If she’ll have the time to write them remains to be seen. She lives in rural Sweden with a husband, four children, more pets than most, and wouldn’t last a day without coffee. 

Holly gets up at the crack of dawn most days of the week to write gay romance stories. She believes in equality in fiction and in real life. Diversity matters. Representation matters. Visibility matters. We can change the world one story at the time.

Connect with Holly on social media:

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