Re-releasing: December 5, 2014
See Missy Welsh for eventual buy links.
Every Time a Bell Rings
Brian dropped everything last year when his mother became ill so he could take care of her until the day she died. People he thought were friends didn't stick with him and he's somehow become kind of a recluse without meaning to be. Only Mike, his best friend since they were kids, has stuck by him and is now saving him from homelessness after a fire destroys Brian's apartment building days before Christmas. Though Mike has to go down South for the holiday, Brian stays in Mike's apartment with his slightly singed kitten Oreo. Brian's only goal is to set his affairs back in order before everything shuts down for the holidays and then make it through those holidays in one piece. He's lost so much—his only real possession is a photo album of his mom that he risked death to save from the fire—and he's feeling lost and very alone... until Mike, his hot neighbor Trent, and even little Oreo conspire to give Brian the best Christmas possible and a future that looks a lot brighter.
An Angel Gets His Wings
Mike Sharp is in Little Rock, Arkansas, visiting his family for Christmas while his best friend Brian Bailey's up north walking right into Mike's plans to hook him up with his neighbor Trent. Unfortunately, it seems like someone's conspiring to get Mike panting after his third cousin, twice removed (or something like that) named George Whitlock. George who keeps sneaking up on him, being all shy and cute, and then having the audacity to give Mike great big calf eyes that are just begging Mike to drop to his knees. Mike will not give in because, if he does, he could lose his entire family when they discover he's gay.
Mike’s apartment building was two floors with four units on the quiet, family-oriented Casterton Avenue. The structure was old and brick with high ceilings and original oak woodwork throughout. I’d always loved the balcony because he had plants all over it. The plants were gone now, but he had replaced them with an abundance of kitschy, lighted Christmas decorations. His electric bill must be outrageous.
He carried the album like the precious cargo it was all the way from the car to the hallway outside his apartment door. The whole neighborhood seemed fast asleep, so it rattled me when the door opposite Mike’s suddenly opened. Then there was this hunk of divinity standing there, and my libido kicked in with a flash of heat that sizzled through me because my every wet dream was embodied in this man.
And I was covered in soot and probably had tear tracks on my face. Not to mention the fact I hadn’t been with a man in over a year. At least the plumbing hadn’t forgotten how to work. That was nice.
“Hey,” he said, his voice deep and scratchy. “Mike told me what happened, man. Glad to see you’re okay.”
“When?” I asked. It was practically morning. Oh wow. Had they been together when Mike got the call from the ER nurse? I stared at him, unable to believe he was involved with his neighbor and hadn’t told me.
“Oh, well.” Mike looked a little sheepish. “I kind of freaked out when they called me. I accidentally woke Trent up while I was trying to get the door locked to leave. He helped.”
Suspicions gone, I mumbled, “I’m really sorry,” and meant it to both of them.
“Jeez, Brian,” Mike said. “There’s nothing for you to be sorry about.”
“We got through it,” Trent said and smiled as he patted Mike’s shoulder. The gesture and his expression didn’t look like anything more than friendship to me.
“Okay,” I said lamely.
“Oh!” Mike said, making me jerk. “Forgot all my manners! Brian, this is Trent Stewart. Trent, Brian Bailey.”
Trent’s big paw came out to grasp my hand, making mine look delicate. All of me felt delicate around this guy despite the fact we were about the same six-foot height. Probably because he had about fifty pounds of hard muscle on me. I really loved that.
The rumpled, just-woke-up thing worked in his favor too. His dark blond hair stuck up in the back and his face was pink on one side. I tried to keep my eyes above his neck because he wore only a pair of black sweatpants that barely hung onto his slim hips and showed off his rippled abs like a frame. But I was too tired to get any of my body parts to obey me now, and couldn’t resist sliding a glance up the trail of blond past his navel and over the pelt covering the center of his mounded chest. His nipples were pink and peaked, and I had a momentary fantasy of suckling them while I played in all that golden hair. To let the world fall away and give into sensation while wrapped in his arms and—
Oreo dug a few claws into my gut, making me flinch, and Trent dropped my hand.
“Damn,” he chuckled. “That looks like something out of Alien.”
“It’s Oreo.” I fished her out. “My kitten.”
Trent reached over and patted her back. He could’ve palmed her entire body. “Both of you were really lucky.”
I nodded. We were, sure. Maybe tomorrow it would feel that way.
“Look, Mike said he was going out of town tomorrow,” Trent said, brown eyes looking right at me, “so if you need anything, you just come to me.”
I nodded at his sincerity. “Thanks.”
He smiled again. It was a really sweet smile. “Well, I’ll let you go. Just wanted to make sure you were okay.”
He moved back into his apartment and shut the door with one more glance back.
I turned to Mike and found him grinning knowingly at me. “Shut up.”
He giggled, then let us into his place. Whispering, he said, “Did you just pick out your Christmas present?”
Missy Welsh stares into space a lot, has conversations with cats, takes notes while people-watching, records conversations (not the ones with cats), named her laptop Norbert and her phone Pushkin, has backups of her backups’ backups, faints at the sight of a misused semi-colon, and will often ask socially unacceptable questions of strangers. Basically, she’s a writer.
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