Book Blitz & Excerpt: The Reluctant Royal + Giveaway

The Reluctant Royal
Catherine Curzon & Eleanor Harkstead

Word Count: 93,492
Book Length: SUPER NOVEL
Pages: 352
Genres: CONTEMPORARY, GAY, GLBTQI, ROYALS, THRILLERS AND SUSPENSE

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As an unseen enemy draws near, a royal bodyguard must choose between duty and love.

Risking his life to save a princess is all in a day’s work for Sergeant Joe Wenlock, a Close Protection Officer detailed to protect the royal family. After months of recovery following his brush with death, Joe’s ready to return to duties. But Alejandro Fuente-Sastre, as infuriating as he is fabulous, is the last royal Joe wants to be assigned to.

Alejandro isn’t quite the sort of queen that the British royal family is used to, but when Joe learns that Her Majesty’s step-grandson is also drag bombshell Paloma Picante, it makes his job a whole lot tougher. But is there more to Alejo than sulking and sequins?

When Alejandro’s life is threatened by an unseen tormentor who progresses from internet trolling to arson and violence, Joe must keep his charge safe from harm.

Living in close quarters with the man he shouldn’t be falling for, Joe begins to discover his true self. But as Alejandro’s enemy prowls ever nearer, Joe must make the impossible choice between duty and love.

Reader advisory: This book contains instances of homophobia and homophobic language, cyberbullying and threats, harassment, terrorism, drug use and abuse, Islamophobia and suicide. There are mentions of domestic abuse, including physical, emotional and gaslighting.

Excerpt

Joe took another sip of tonic water. He wished it contained gin, because being the only sober person at the table was hardly his idea of fun, but as he watched the bottle of champagne being passed around, he knew he didn’t really want any alcohol anyway. He couldn’t go back to work the worse for wear. Not after months of sick leave. Best foot forward, as his dad would say.

And it wasn’t only his decision not to drink that made Joe an oddity at the table. These were all Wendy’s friends, out for her birthday. Solicitors, legal types, who’d spent most of the evening already talking shop. Joe looked on, his mind on other things. Would he cope on his first day back? Would they trust him to ever do a good job again?

“So, Joe, we’re taking bets on who you’re going to be coddling next week!” Wendy put her second bottle of Prosecco on the table and settled into her seat. Her leg brushed Joe’s momentarily and she shifted, putting air between them again. “Izzy thinks one of the Fergie duo. Barnaby’s bet his bonus on Wills and Kate. I think it’s going to be the queen. The top job for a top bobby!”

“I don’t know yet.” Joe shrugged. “Maybe one of the corgis?”

“I bet you do know, and you’re teasing us!” Wendy’s friend Jemima brayed. “Have you signed the Official Secrets Act?”

Joe turned the plastic stirrer through his fizzing drink, rattling the ice cubes against the glass. He didn’t pester Wendy’s friends about confidential matters, so why did they think he was fair game? “As you know, if I had, I wouldn’t be allowed to say.”

“Whoever it is,” Wendy told them, “let’s hope they don’t put my poor old hubby in hospital again! He’s getting too old to play the action hero!”

Wendy’s friends laughed, and Joe tried to look happy, but he really didn’t want to be reminded of the accident. The headlamps coming straight for him in the evening darkness—and after he’d pushed the Duchess of Albany out of the way, there had been no time for Joe to leap aside. Just that crushing pain as the car slammed into him. Joe had slumped over the bonnet and found himself eye to eye with the idiot who’d just tried to deliberately run down the duchess.

“He’s not that old!” Verity giggled. She patted Joe’s leg and he tried not to flinch. “And still in fine form, too, Wendy, you lucky thing!”

“Lucky old me!” Wendy’s smile looked like a grimace. How would she know what form her husband was in when it had been over six months since they’d so much as kissed, let alone more? She refilled her glass and whispered to Joe, “For God’s sake, have a real drink.”

“Come on, you know I can’t,” Joe replied. “I can’t risk it. First day back and all that.”

“It’s my birthday.” Her pink lips grew thin and she drew in a deep, sharp breath, as sharp as her fresh blonde bob. Then she put her lips to his ear and hissed, “Stop showing me up, Joe, have a drink.”

“I’m drinking a stunt gin and tonic. That’s enough.” Joe held up the glass. It had the brand name of a well-known gin printed down its side. “They do tests, you know. I want to be nice and clean when they poke through my bodily fluids, thank you very much.”

“Barnaby!” Wendy subtly turned away from her husband, the centre of attention all over again. He was dismissed, just as he had been so many times over the five years of their miserable married life. “So, we’re all dying to know how your Tokyo merger’s going. It’s all everyone’s talking about. Tell us all the latest from the front line of big money!”

Joe sat his glass down on the table. The last thing he cared about was Barnaby and his bloody merger, which he’d heard snippets of for weeks as Wendy had made business calls at home. Barnaby this, Barnaby that, ‘Barnaby’s going places.’

So am I.

Joe nudged his seat back and stood to leave. Verity glanced at him, as if she was surprised he was going, but her attention turned to Wendy and Barnaby. Joe wasn’t sure where he’d go, but he needed fresh air. He wanted to be away from loud drinkers, away from Wendy’s carping. His head was pounding and as he stepped outside the pub, a car drove by close to the kerb. He instinctively jumped back, pressing himself against the wall behind him.

Calm down, Sergeant Wenlock, he told himself.

The night was cold, as cold as the pub had been hot, and Joe took a deep breath of autumn air. London tonight seemed even more surreal than ever, the streets a curious mix of the same well-dressed professionals who filled Wendy’s group and those who had embraced Halloween, escaping the real world in the form of cats and devils, vampires and aliens, some already stumbling, others only just starting out. And there in the middle of them was Joe, who would rather be anywhere else but there.

Maybe Joe should’ve thrown aside his tweed jacket and sensible open-necked shirt for a costume. He’d have made quite a good Frankenstein’s monster, maybe, though that said, when he’d first been taken to hospital and had plaster casts and bandages in places he hadn’t thought possible, he’d have been a brilliant cursed mummy.

Joe decided to go for a wander. Once he was working again, he’d have little time to call his own. He’d take his freedom when and where he could. Music blared from pubs and bars, people laughed, taxis pulled up and disgorged their passengers. And up ahead, someone was shouting.

Bloody people, can’t hold their drinks.

“Don’t you ever, ever bloody do that again! Do you hear?”

It was a man’s voice up ahead. Joe could see two figures, one in a black suit with a skeleton painted on it in white. He was wagging his finger—jabbing it—at the red-headed woman walking beside him in heels so high Joe wondered how she didn’t fall flat on her face.

“It’s so important to me, so fucking important, and all you have to do is just nod, and instead, you’re pissing about, making a fucking joke of yourself!”

“I’m sorry!” Her voice sounded almost desperate and she recoiled from her companion’s stabbing finger, jerking away as though it were the blade of a knife. She hurried after the skeleton when he stalked onwards, scooping up the silken hem of her shimmering red evening gown to follow. “Don’t be angry, I’m sorry!”

“I’m sorry!” he mimicked. Joe could almost see him in profile. The man’s face was disguised by makeup that turned his face into a skull.

Seemed a bit rich for him to be accusing someone of making a joke of themselves.

“The man’s an investor in my film, and I wanted him to know that I’m serious about my art, and then you’re there hanging over my shoulder, interrupting and gobbing on about God knows what!” The man clenched his hands. Even they were tricked out in skeleton makeup. “Why do you wind me up like this? You do it on purpose, for fuck’s sake, then it’s all I’m sorry! Well, you bloody well will be!”

“He was laughing too,” the woman said, a fresh note of desperation in her sing-song voice. No, not desperation. Fear. “He was having a good time, you’re not thinking straight! Just—please, don’t be like this!”

“My thinking’s perfectly clear!” The man gave a long sniff then, and Joe knew exactly what was going on.

The drugs are talking.

The man stopped where he was and raised his hand at the woman. The way she flinched back told Joe that this wasn’t the first time it had happened. As she drew away, he saw her makeup clearly, a glamourous sugar skull in a rainbow of colours that nearly took his breath away.

“Please don’t,” was all she said.

Joe increased his pace. The man’s raised hand trembled but in a split second he slapped the woman across her painted face.

Joe ran.

He was on the couple in only a few steps, and interposed himself between them. He didn’t look back at the woman, but could hear her frightened breathing just behind him. “That’s enough. Time for you to go.”

“And who the fuck are you, James Bond?” the man sneered.

“I’m not going to stand around and watch a bully like you slap a woman.” Joe clenched his fists, resisting the temptation to give Skeletor a taste of his own medicine.

“A woman? That’s a fucking joke. She’s a drag queen—a bloke!”

Joe turned to look at the woman.

A bloke?

Was she?

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About the Authors

Eleanor Harkstead

Eleanor Harkstead likes to dash about in nineteenth-century costume, in bonnet or cravat as the mood takes her. She can occasionally be found wandering old graveyards. Eleanor is very fond of chocolate, wine, tweed waistcoats and nice pens. Her large collection of vintage hats would rival Hedda Hopper’s.

Originally from the south-east of England, Eleanor now lives somewhere in the

Midlands with a large ginger cat who resembles a Viking.

You can follow Eleanor on Facebook and Twitter.

Catherine Curzon

Catherine Curzon is a royal historian who writes on all matters of 18th century. Her work has been featured on many platforms and Catherine has also spoken at various venues including the Royal Pavilion, Brighton, and Dr Johnson’s House.

Catherine holds a Master’s degree in Film and when not dodging the furies of the guillotine, writes fiction set deep in the underbelly of Georgian London.

She lives in Yorkshire atop a ludicrously steep hill.

You can follow Catherine on Facebook and Twitter and take a look at her Website.

Giveaway

Enter to win a FREE Catherine Curzon & Eleanor Harkstead romance book!

Catherine Curzon & Eleanor Harkstead Giveaway

ENTER HERE FOR YOUR CHANCE TO WIN A FREE CATHERINE CURZON & ELEANOR HARKSTEAD ROMANCE BOOK! Notice: This competition ends on 2nd February 2021 at 5pm GMT. Competition hosted by Totally Entwined Group.

Release Blitz: Dragon Dreams and Fairy Wings + Giveaway

Dragon Dreams and Fairy Wings
Bailey Bradford

Book 1 in the Fire & Flutter series

Word Count: 58,252
Book Length: NOVEL
Pages: 252
Genres: EROTIC ROMANCE. FANTASY, GAY, GLBTQI

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Book Description

 

When one fairy with a faulty memory meets a snarky dragon, the supernatural world will never be the same.

Griff was born a Love fairy, but he never quite fitted in. He didn’t want to be part of a harem…at least he didn’t think so. What with his wings gone and his memory damaged, he can’t be certain of what he felt in the past. All he does know is he wants his wings back. Without them, he’s grounded.

Blaze is a dragon shifter who tends to stick his foot in his mouth—and some other parts in other places—when he really shouldn’t. His brother’s the king, and his sister-in-law is scary. Blaze’s last screw-up got him grounded, unable to shift into his dragon form. His punishment seems harsh to him, but there’s no escaping it.

When the Love fairies come to the castle to work on forming an alliance, Blaze has about had it with guarding the horny beings, and he’s disappointed that they don’t stay small and cute. Swatting at something buzzing him, he almost starts an inter-species war when it turns out to be a fairy on a dragonfly.

And from that snarky first meeting between Griff and Blaze, something wonderful, and dangerous, will come…

Publisher’s Note: This book was previously released elsewhere. It has been revised and reedited for re-release with Pride Publishing.

Excerpt

Blaze rubbed his shoulder where it still ached. He’d been lucky the whip had only caught him a glancing blow, otherwise he’d really be in pain.

Of course, even being whipped would be better than his punishment of not being allowed to fly. Or shift. Being stuck in the puny human form and dependent on two scrawny legs just sucked troll balls.

That imagery almost made Blaze gag. Trolls smelled really bad, worse than the dragon dumping grounds—and if anyone needed an explanation for what that area was, they didn’t have a nose.

Plus, trolls were ugly. It was part of them being trolls and all. They also tended to have large, pendulous balls that swung down close to their ankles.

Blaze did gag then, pressing a hand against his stomach. He had to get his mind out of the troll gutter.

“Hey, freak, heard you got your powers taken away, all for a piece of ass.”

Blaze glared at Bort. “Oh, yeah. Your dad wasn’t worth it.”

“My—” Bort’s eyes glowed red, and smoke gusted from his nostrils. “I’ll bake you, you fucking freak!”

Blaze kept his trembling inside. He’d learned not to show any fear to bullies. “Go ahead. King Fyre will be thrilled with you. You’ll look great on a spit.”

“You think just ’cause your brother’s the king means…”

Blaze arched an eyebrow at Bort—which he knew looked cool, because he’d practiced it until he had it perfected and he knew how awesome that one arched eyebrow thing was. “It pretty much means he’ll toast you if you lay a hand on me.”

The only reason the guy who’d hit Blaze with a whip wasn’t dead was because Blaze had kind of deserved it. Kind of, because he hadn’t known Valdez was married to another man. Otherwise, Blaze wouldn’t have fucked him. Probably. Blaze’s morals were questionable at times, but only because he was so desperate for someone to touch him.

“Right, whatever,” Bort drawled. “You’ll probably cook yourself anyway and save all the good dragons the trouble. Crazy Blazy.” He cackled and flipped Blaze off with both hands.

Probably with his toes, too, but Blaze didn’t think to check. Instead he watched enviously as Bort shifted into a gorgeous teal and gold dragon.

Bort blew a stream of fire right past Blaze’s head, then flapped his mighty wings and flew off. A rancid scent lingered in the air.

Blaze sighed and touched his hair that Bort had just singed. Everyone was going to think he’d done that to himself—again. Even though he was grounded, assumptions would be made that he’d done something stupid to burn his own hair, and rumors would fly. He’d have to worry about that later, if at all. Right now, he had to deal with a bully. Blaze really missed being able to shoot flames.

It was true that he couldn’t control his fire, and he could be dangerous. He hadn’t killed anyone on accident, yet, though. “Sheesh.” Blaze sniffed and fanned the air around him. It was no use. The smell was on his head. He could fan all day, and it wouldn’t make any difference.

Resigned to walking all the way back to his nest—which meant heading through the center of the dragon city, since he could no longer fly—Blaze prepared himself for the looks and murmurs. People would be talking about him more than usual today. He ought to be used to such stuff, but the truth was, it always hurt.

Even so, when he heard the buzz of conversations around him, Blaze held his head up high, despite the burnt hair. He hoped everyone gossiping about him got a snoot full of the noxious odor.

* * * *

“Where did I put my shoes?” Griff fluttered as much as a fairy without wings could as he looked for his soft purple shoes. Surprisingly, he could flutter a lot, although that translated into gestures with his hands and much twitching on his behalf.

“Did Egregio eat them?” Gia asked, hovering above him.

Griff glared at her. “Could you maybe not do that? I already feel like a complete loser without my wings.” Who knew they could be knocked off you? Griff hadn’t, and it’d come as a shock to the other fairies in his frolic. Of course, Love fairies weren’t exactly brainiacs. They were more into the sensual than the mental. For brains, people looked to the Genius fairies, though good luck to anyone wanting help from those snobs. They didn’t speak to anyone with an IQ under one-sixty—which left out most of the magic world.

“Sorry.” Gia floated down and grimaced. “Ick. How can you tolerate standing all the time? My legs don’t like it. It’s work. It’s so much easier to fly, or—” She smirked.

“Don’t go there.” Griff knew his own kind through and through. As a Love fairy, he shouldn’t be bothered by hearing about his sister’s sexual escapades. Maybe he was just jealous. “Keep your sordid stories to yourself.”

Gia crossed her eyes at him. “Please. How did a prude get hatched into our frolic?”

“I’ve asked myself that a thousand times,” Griff muttered. “Aha!”

“Aha what?”

Griff knelt and stuck his hand under his bed, then reached farther. “I swear to the gods, Egregio, if you bite me, I will feed you to the dragons.”

“Rawr!” It sounded more like a whine than not.

Griff ducked his head and looked at the catterwaul under his bed. Much like the human-world cat except with two legs and large, hairy toes, and fangs the size of Griff’s index fingers, the beast was rather fierce-looking.

“I’m not joking. Last time you bit me, it got infected. You’re lucky I didn’t toss you out then.”

Beady red eyes glowed at him. “Rawr rawr rawr.”

“Yeah, you’re sorry now.” Griff wiggled his fingers. “Give me my shoes.”

The purple shoes were tossed at him while Egregio continued to vocalize.

“I know, I know, they’re pretty. That’s why I like them, too. Now if you’re good, and you keep the dung beetles away for a whole week, I’ll see about getting you your own shoes.” Catterwauls were great to have as long as they were loyal. Sometimes they forgot that, though.

A few more rawrs and Griff was pretty sure he had his catterwaul vowing to fight off the shiny green beetles that migrated through the area on the way to the dragon dumping grounds. Griff hoped so. The buzz of beetle wings always left him with serious headaches as well as memories of the worst time in his life.

“Okay, got my shoes on, Gia. Now we can go…” Griff spun around, looking for his sister, but no. She had left the mushroom’s interior at some point. “Great. Great! Now how am I going to find my way to where my wings might be?”

Griff couldn’t remember things like he should have been able to. The hit he’d taken from a human’s fly swatter had cracked his skull, knocked off his wings and almost killed him. His memory hadn’t been right ever since, but he was lucky to even be alive.

Although the term lucky was relative. If he couldn’t find his wings, what point would there be to life?

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About the Author

Bailey Bradford

A native Texan, Bailey spends her days spinning stories around in her head, which has contributed to more than one incident of tripping over her own feet. Evenings are reserved for pounding away at the keyboard, as are early morning hours. Sleep? Doesn’t happen much. Writing is too much fun, and there are too many characters bouncing about, tapping on Bailey’s brain demanding to be let out.

Caffeine and chocolate are permanent fixtures in Bailey’s office and are never far from hand at any given time. Removing either of those necessities from Bailey’s presence can result in what is known as A Very, Very Scary Bailey and is not advised under any circumstances.

You can follow Bailey on Facebook here and Twitter here.

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Enter to win a fabulous gift package and a FREE Bailey Bradford romance book!

Bailey Bradford’s Dragon Dreams and Fairy Wings

BAILEY BRADFORD IS GIVING AWAY THIS FABULOUS PRIZE TO ONE LUCKY WINNER. ENTER HERE FOR YOUR CHANCE TO WIN A LOVELY GIFT PACKAGE AND GRAB YOUR FREE BAILEY BRADFORD ROMANCE BOOK! Notice: This competition ends on 9th February 2021 at 5pm GMT. Competition hosted by Totally Entwined Group.

You can also find my review over on See Sadie Read

Release Blitz & Excerpt: Edging Closer + Giveaway

Edging Closer

by L.M. Somerton

General Release Date: 19th January 2021

Word Count: 45,233
Book Length: SHORT NOVEL
Pages: 183
Genres: BONDAGE AND BDSM, CONTEMPORARY, EROTIC ROMANCE, GAY, GLBTQI

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Apparently, the path of true love meanders through a minefield.

After several years of adventures, submissive Olly Glenn and his Dom, Joe Dexter, are about to tie the knot. Needless to say, all does not run smoothly on the path to matrimony. Only Olly can turn a visit to a cupcake shop into a police incident.

While Joe and Olly’s friends join forces to make their wedding the most memorable ever, others are not so keen on them getting their happy ever after—or living to experience their honeymoon. So, when Joe walks into a carefully laid trap, it’s hard to see a way out.

Olly is determined that nobody, not even a sociopathic killer with connections to his past, will ruin the big day. He wants Joe standing next to him, in one piece, and he’ll risk anything to make sure that happens, even if they have to be handcuffed together. In fact, that idea has possibilities…

Reader advisory: This book contains scenes of violence, stalking, abduction, and attempted murder.

Excerpt

“Olly, that dog is a menace. He needs more training, a bit like you.” Aiden’s tone betrayed his exasperation.

“Parker is just exuberant.” Olly gave his best friend in the world an aggravated glance. “He’s high on life. And I am very well trained, thank you very much. Ask Joe.”

Aiden snorted. “I’d sooner ask Heath to give me a foot rub and feed me grapes.”

“I’d like to be a fly on the wall for that conversation.” Olly laughed, simultaneously scanning the edge of the trees for his dog. “Where has he got to?”

“He’s not living up to his namesake, is he?” Aiden muttered. Parker was named after Lady Penelope’s chauffeur in Thunderbirds.

“He’s loyal and brave and…cleverer than he looks. Parker is the perfect name for him. What do you think I should have called him? Fang or Brutus, I suppose.”

“Fluff Butt, Hairball, Drool Monster… Want me to go on?”

“He does not… Okay, well he does drool a bit, but only when he gets excited.”

“The only time that animal is not excited is when he’s asleep.”

“He can’t help it, it’s in his genes.” To the best of Olly’s knowledge, and the educated guess of his friend Drew at the local animal rescue centre, Parker’s genes were from a spaniel retriever mash-up with a bit of old English sheepdog thrown in. He was pale yellow, long-haired, and had huge floppy ears and enormous paws.

“I think we had better get off the beach and follow him into the woods, don’t you?” Aiden turned away from the shoreline, extending his strides. “I have to get back to work soon. I can’t believe I let you drag me out here.”

“You spend too long in that dungeon you call an office,” Olly said. “You’re turning into a vampire. I know you like to look all pale and emo, but you need your vitamin D.”

“Trust me, I get plenty of D. And you’re a fine one to talk. My diet is far better than yours. You’d exist on sugar and caffeine if Joe let you.”

“Sugar comes from beets. Beets are a type of vegetable. Chocolate comes from cocoa beans. Beans are also vegetables. Coffee comes from…”

“Enough already.” Aiden shook his head. “You’re never going to convince Joe that any of that stuff is good for you, so I don’t know why you bother. Now, stop thinking about sugar and concentrate on finding your daft dog.”

“Nag, nag, nag. You’re worse than Joe.” Olly crossed the treeline into the semi-darkness of the forest, which covered one side of the island housing The Edge, the training centre where he and Aiden both lived and worked. He and Aiden had explored every inch of it, but preferred to walk along the shore. Parker, however, had other ideas. The woods meant rabbits and other small mammals that he could chase. It was easier to dig in the soft leaf mould than it was on the pebble beach, and he loved to shove his nose into burrows, nests and boggy patches. A frantic beating of wings and general disturbance in the trees gave Olly a clue as to where Parker was. He exchanged a glance with Aiden and they set off in the direction of the kerfuffle. There weren’t any proper marked paths through the trees, just animal tracks, and it took some effort to move through the undergrowth.

“We’re heading towards that hollow where the badger sett is, aren’t we?” Olly asked.

“He’s too big to get down those holes.” Aiden growled under his breath.

“It won’t stop him trying.” Olly sped up as best he could, scrambling up the incline that led to the lip of the hollow. “Whoa!” Momentum carried him forwards and he tumbled down the steep slope, finally rolling to a stop in a patch of damp grass and moss. Something wet swiped across his face and he opened his eyes to find Parker giving him an enthusiastic tongue bath. He burst out laughing, batting the dog away as he rolled to his knees. “Where did you get to, Parker? You had me worried there for a minute.”

Parker gave a gruff bark then nosed at Olly’s pocket for treats. “You don’t deserve treats.” Olly slipped him a biscuit bone anyway.

“Are you okay?” Aiden skidded to a halt at his side. “That was a spectacular tumble.”

Olly gave himself a pat down. “I had a soft landing. I’m fine and I found Parker.”

“So I see.” Parker gambolled around Aiden’s legs, almost knocking him over. “What were you doing, you daft mutt?”

“From the amount of dirt around his snout, I think he’s been trying to find badgers to make friends with,” Olly said as he staggered to his feet. He brushed at his clothes in a vain attempt to remove some of the muck. “I’m filthy.”

“No kidding.” Aiden picked a piece of twig out of Olly’s curls. “Are you sure you haven’t damaged anything other than your dignity?”

“My dignity is fully intact, thank you very much.” Olly attached Parker’s lead to his pale blue collar. “But we had better be getting back. I’ve got loads to do.”

“Wedding plans?” Aiden asked.

Olly nibbled his lower lip. “There’s so much organising involved.” He sighed.

“What’s wrong? You have been a bit quiet lately, come to think of it, and I am your best man, so if there’s anything I can do to help, you know you just have to ask.”

“It’s nothing—well, it is but it isn’t. I mean, I really, really want to get married, but…”

“But what? Spill it, Olly.”

“I’m not sure I want such a big event.” There, it was out in the open. Olly couldn’t meet Aiden’s eyes.

“And have you talked to Joe about this?”

“I… Haven’t found the right moment.”

“He so going to spank your behind if you don’t tell him.”

“But he’s been so good about researching all the arrangements. What if a huge wedding is what he wants more than anything in the world?”

“Joe may be all stern and Dommy, but when it comes to you he’s as sappy as they come. Whatever makes you happy is what he’ll want.”

“But I want him to be happy too. This wedding isn’t all about me, it’s about us.”

Parker led the way out of the woods to the path that headed back to The Edge, sniffing at every interesting smell they passed. Olly let him have his way, concentrating on not falling over again.

“And that’s why you should be talking about it, not keeping things to yourself. Joe would be devastated if he thought you were doing something just because you assumed he wanted it and not because it made you happy.”

“Maybe.”

“There’s no maybe about it. Talk to him.”

They circled the main building to a back door where Olly could wash the worst of the mud from Parker’s paws with a hose. “You get on—I know you have to get to work. I’ll see you later, ’kay?”

“Sure. Talk to him today, Olly. I mean it. You won’t be happy or settled until you do.”

Aiden disappeared into the building, leaving Olly alone with Parker. “Well, boy, let’s get you clean. Can’t take you inside in that state, can we?”

Once Parker was as clean as he could get without a full bath, Olly took him inside to the boot room, where he kept a stack of old towels. He gave him a quick rub down, and when he was satisfied that the dog wasn’t going to track dirt through the building, he took a shortcut to the courtyard that granted access to the stable mews cottage he shared with Joe. He fed Parker, who scoffed his food in ten seconds flat before curling up in his bed next to the fireplace and dropping off to sleep.

“So much for having a confidant,” Olly grumbled. “You’re asleep, Aiden’s at work with his secret squirrel stuff, Reuben’s out of bounds in the kitchen. I suppose I could call Kai or Christian, but it’s a bit early. Bite the bullet, Olly. Much as I hate to admit it, Aiden’s right. I should talk to Joe.”

Without bothering to change out of his mucky clothes, Olly wandered through the main building, taking a circuitous route to Joe’s office, which was situated off the main entrance hall. There were a few people around, and he waved to those he knew and greeted those he didn’t, but didn’t stop to chat. If he got distracted, he’d never talk to Joe, and that was what he needed to do.

Despite it being late summer and still warm, there was an open fire burning in the grate of the massive fireplace in the entrance hall, which always seemed to be a bit draughty. The flagstone floors were covered by bright rugs and the furnishings made the space cosy, but the number of people coming in and out of the front door meant that it was difficult to keep it warm. For that reason, Joe often kept his office door closed, but Olly could see that it was open a crack. He didn’t need to knock, but he gave the mellow oak a soft tap anyway before pushing his way inside. It had been less than two hours since he’d been snuggled in bed with Joe, but his breath still hitched when he met his lover’s icy blue eyes as Joe looked up from whatever paperwork he was dealing with.

“What on earth have you been doing?” Joe asked, his tone mild. Olly wasn’t deceived by the gentle enquiry. He nibbled on his lower lip. “No, you don’t have to tell me. You’ve been out walking Parker, haven’t you? I suppose he got into some kind of trouble and took you along with him. Or perhaps it was the other way around.”

“Sir,” Olly whined. “We don’t get into trouble, we have adventures.”

“Adventures that end with you covered in mud and with a grazed elbow.”

Olly inspected the offending arm. He hadn’t noticed the small graze that was oozing a couple of spots of blood. “Oh, I didn’t realise… I wonder how I did that. Probably when I fell down that hill.”

That statement got Joe to his feet and stalking around his desk. “You took a fall?” He pushed his office door closed and turned the key. “Take your clothes off, Oliver. I want to look you over.”

Olly sighed. He should have known that Joe wouldn’t be satisfied with him saying he wasn’t hurt—he had to have the proof of his own eyes.

“But I want to…”

“Oliver.”

“Yes, Sir.” Olly stripped to his underwear then stood, placid, while Joe inspected him.

“Hmm. A couple of bruises, some scratches and that graze. You’ll live.”

Olly fidgeted, shifting his weight from one foot to the other. Being in such close proximity to Joe when Joe was fully dressed and he was clad in skimpy underwear had an inevitable effect. He crossed his hands in front of his groin and attempted to look demure.

“You really think you can hide anything from me, Oliver?”

“No, Sir,” Olly mumbled.

“I think some quiet time is called for.” Joe gestured to the armchair in the corner of his office. “You may sit there while I carry on working. Think about why it’s important not to worry your Dom by throwing yourself around in the woods.”

Olly knew it was useless to protest, and besides, he liked being in the study while Joe worked. He curled into the chair, plumping the cushions to make a nest.

“Are you warm enough?”

“Toasty, thanks.”

Joe returned to his seat and bent over his papers, grumbling about some kind of error on an invoice. Olly let his eyes drift closed. He ignored his aching cock and allowed himself to daydream about Joe bending him over the desk for a spanking. He smiled. It wouldn’t be the first time.

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About the Author

L.M. Somerton

Lucinda lives in a small village in the English countryside, surrounded by rolling hills, cows and sheep. She started writing to fill time between jobs and is now firmly and unashamedly addicted.

She loves the English weather, especially the rain, and adores a thunderstorm. She loves good food, warm company and a crackling fire. She’s fascinated by the psychology of relationships, especially between men, and her stories contain some subtle (and some not so subtle) leanings towards BDSM.

You can follow Lucinda on Facebook, Twitter and her Website.

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