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Stream of Consciousness Saturday: ‘Date’

SOCS badgeBack for another edition of Stream of Consciousness Saturday and today’s prompt is ‘date’. We’ve got a busy day planned and it’s starting early with breakfast then going to look at a new motorcycle. Then, we have a surprise party(pretty sure the person doesn’t read my blog, but just in case, “shhh”). So, I’m going to get right into this. Still playing with my characters from Defending the Heart. I finished Piers’ back story yesterday. Next week, I’ll work on the antagonist’s then start the actual plotting.


“Casey said you had a date today.”

Piers waited for Xavier to look over at him, hoping none of his feelings about that came out in his words. Xavier didn’t need to know that news had been like a dart thrown right at his heart.

“That’s right,” Xavier said, not looking away from his screen. “I’ve gotta leave soon to pick her up.”

Her? Xavier had a date with a girl? “When’s the last time you had a date with a girl?” Piers tried to keep his tone light, but it was difficult. Maybe in the three years they hadn’t spoken, Xavier had realized he actually was attracted to women, too.

“‘Bout two weeks ago. We usually go out twice a month.”

“Oh.” Piers chewed on the side of his thumb a moment, realized he was doing it, and dropped his hand. “Well, have fun then, I guess.”

“We usually do.”

Piers tried to concentrate on what was on his screen, but it was hard when all he could think about was Xavier wrapped around some dark-haired beauty. Although, who knew, he might go more for blondes or redheads. Why was he even thinking about this? He and Xavier were over. They both knew it couldn’t work. It hadn’t before. He was free to date whoever the hell he wanted.

Xavier pushed his chair back. “I better get going. Mags is expecting me to pick Josie up soon.”

Piers stared at him as Xavier grabbed his jacket from the hook beside the door. “Your niece? You’re taking your niece on a date?”

Xavier grinned over at him. Despite everything, that grin still twisted him up inside. “What did you think was going on, Piers?”

He didn’t even know. Not anymore.

Stream of Consciousness Saturday: Cash

We have another busy weekend. Last night we had a motorcycle ride that raised money for the drug and alcohol coalition. Today we have another one that’s raising money for the oncology department at a local hospital. There’s another ride tomorrow, one we did last year, that’s sponsored by the Riders Advocating Against Child Abuse, but we’re not going on that one this year. Instead, we have a picnic hosted by the Moose club we belong to. I’m going to be very peopled out by the end of Sunday.

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Anyway, we’re here for Stream of Consciousness Saturday right now. I’ve been using these prompts to explore my characters from the WiP I’m currently plotting out. It’s book 3 in the series, and I’m just about finished up with book 2(I wrote the climax yesterday, so just need to wrap the rest up). I’ve been focusing on Xavier, since I was writing his back story. But, I’ve started Piers’, so may  be looking at things from his perspective now. *This does reference what happened during that climax of  book 2, but it’s not all too spoilery.


“You ever going to cash in that favor I owe you?”

Piers glanced over at Declan, one eyebrow twitching up. “Favor? I don’t recall a favor.”

“I told you I owed you for what you did. I wouldn’t have gotten Eva out of there if it wasn’t for you. I told you, whatever you want, I’ll find a way to do it. You haven’t said a word about it in months, though.”

“You were high on pain medicine when you said that,” Piers said, keeping his gaze on his computer screen. “I would never hold you to it. And, I told you then, you owe me nothing.”

To his surprise, his old friend didn’t push it anymore. Then, Piers glanced up and saw who else had walked into the office. He closed his eyes and rubbed his fingers over them. Right. Declan knew all about that now. Or at least how Piers felt about it. He hadn’t meant to let it out. But, there was nothing he could do to take it back now. And he didn’t think Declan would say anything.

“What is it, Xavier?” Declan asked. Piers wasn’t even sure he could speak.

The other man’s eyes met his then darted away again. Well, at least one thing between them was mutual.

“Case and Alex want to see all of us. I said I’d get you.”

Xavier had gotten him at one time. Every single thing about him. Not so much anymore.

But, there wasn’t much he could do about that either. Except try to move on.

Stream of Consciousness Saturday: Art

We haven’t had Internet since Thursday night. I noticed it wasn’t working when I finished a book on my Kindle and tried to add the next in the series to my wishlist. Figured it would come back on. But, all day yesterday, it didn’t. Finally called and they’re sending someone out “by evening” to try and fix it.

In the meantime, I turned the data back on on my tablet (usually use it on airplane mode with the WiFi ) so I can at least get some stuff done. Like today’s Stream of Consciousness post. The prompt is “art”. I’m just starting to plot Defending the Heart  (book 3 in my BC Security series) so exploring these characters some more.

“It’s an art form.”

Xavier looked up from the computer screen and snorted. “You’re ridiculous sometimes, you know that?”

Piers’ lips barely turned up, just a ghost of a smile. It didn’t matter what they were talking about. Xavier would always get entranced by that smile. He shouldn’t have even looked up. They had to work together on this job, but that didn’t mean anything else would happen.

He was just lucky Piers would speak to him.

“It’s a computer,” Xavier said. “I see nothing artful about it.”

“And Alex said you were their best computer guy until I came back. I don’t see how that can be possible with that attitude.”

Xavier let out an undignified snort. “It’s a computer,  not oils on canvas. It’s about manipulating code, not. ..careful strokes and mixing colors.”

Piers’ gaze heated, and Xavier drew his bottom lip in between his teeth.  Maybe he should have rephrased that. Tension crackled between them until finally Piers looked away.

Hell. At this rate,  Xavier wouldn’t survive this case, let alone the rest of his career if Piers stayed on with the company. Somehow he’d have to deal with it.

And make sure he didn’t hurt Piers any more than he already had.

Stream of Consciousness Saturday: Second

Time for another Stream of Consciousness Saturday post. Today’s prompt is “second”. I’m almost to the point in Protecting the Heart where I’ll start outlining the next story. In this case, Defending the Heart, Piers and Xavier’s story. So, I think I’ll explore more of what’s happening between them.


“Now, just wait a second.”

Piers turned slowly at the other man’s voice. “What, Xavier? I figured you would prefer it if I leave.”

“I know I’ve never said that. You’re the one who walked away from me.”

“Because you could not even keep a simple promise to me.”

“There’s nothing simple about it. I told you-”

“And I told you I would not be your secret anymore. But, that is just where you wanted to keep me, wasn’t it? Where you would still keep me if I let you.” Piers hated the flash of pain that went through the other man’s eyes, but he couldn’t do it. He just couldn’t.

“It’s not what I want,” Xavier insisted. “I just don’t know how to handle it any other way. Dad is-”

“You already told me you didn’t want to disappoint him. There are worse things, though, X. Mine barely spoke to me for a year. Even these last two, things have been strained. And all that for nothing because you refused to see your end through.”

“Are you done now? Or are you going to interrupt me again?” Piers scowled, but he didn’t open his mouth again. To his surprise, Xavier’s lips did pull up slightly. “As I was trying to say, Dad’s sick. He’s been having a lot of health problems for more than a year. I don’t want to add more stress on to him.”

“And you really think him knowing you love another man would add stress?” Or maybe love never had anything to do with what was between them. He didn’t want to accept that, though.

“And I’m not willing to risk it. I’m sorry, Piers, but I just can’t.”

So, they were still at a standoff. Just as they had been for the last three years. Only now Piers couldn’t avoid Xavier. They’d be working together. Maybe it had been a mistake to accept Alex’s offer after all. But, it was one he’d have to live with now.

Just like falling for Xavier in the first place.


Oh, these two. I always knew Piers would get his own story, I didn’t realize until they ran into each other at the end of Guarding the Heart that they had a story to tell together. I also wrote that moment when things first fell apart back in April, if you want to take a look at more of their background.

Teaser Tuesday: JuNoWriMo Edition

So, next month(which starts tomorrow! Eek!), I’ll be participating in JuNoWriMo once again. I love doing these monthly writing challenges(if you haven’t figured that out by now). I’m not only working on one project for this, though. I actually have 6 different on-going projects right now(that doesn’t count the 3 that are in active revisions) and will be working on all of them during the month. For today, I’ll share a short summary and the last few lines I have written.

Protecting the Heart(BC Security #2):

Declan Portor, who has spent most of his life protecting others, is brought back to his first client, but saving her a second time could cost his own life.

His throat went thick at that, and he glanced back at Eva. He hadn’t been doing a great job of helping them. Barely staying one step ahead of trouble. He was going to have to change that. But Eva was smiling at them, like that thought wasn’t even bothering her. She trusted him, and he had to make sure he didn’t betray that by letting either of them get hurt.

“Can you read them to me? I think I’d like to know more about this Nighthawk. As long as he doesn’t fly around my apartment anymore.”

But, Dani grinned at him and put the rest of the books down. “I can do better. I made up a story about him. I can tell you that one.”

Declan settled back on the couch and gestured for her to climb onto his lap. He glanced back at Eva again, worried she wouldn’t like that. But, she was still smiling at them. “I’m listening,” he told Dani, bringing his attention back to her and trying to make sure his eyes stayed open.


Ready When You Are(Hunter Family #3)

Kelan Hunter has never quite fit, but just as he feels he may have found someone who accepts him as he is, they face blackmail and threats and are left wondering what will become of their lives.

There was that desperation again, and it tore at Kelan’s chest. “[xx], there’s nothing wrong with you. No matter who you’re attracted to and who you aren’t. Have you talked to your parents about this?” He certainly didn’t want to be the one to out the boy to them if they didn’t know already. But, someone should know what he was going through. Kelan hadn’t had anyone at that age, and he still hadn’t known just what he was then. Maybe if he’d talked to someone else, it would have saved a lot of years of questioning himself, though.


Paint Me a Picture(Gilbert, CO #4.75)

Artist, Rylan Stevens, wants to give single mother, Kirsten Matthews, and her daughter the life they deserve, but just as they get started, someone from her past returns.

Rylan took the hand Kirsten offered and let her lead him back to her bedroom. He’d seen the fear go through her eyes when he’d said he wanted everything. Was she really afraid of him? She had to know he would never hurt her. Not even once. So, it had to be something else.

He turned to her as they stepped into her bedroom doorway. He slid one hand up her neck to cup her cheek. “We don’t have to do this,” he told her. “We don’t have to do anything you don’t want to do.”

“I wouldn’t have invited you over if I didn’t want this, Ry,” she told him. “That’s not what scares me. I know it doesn’t have anything to do with you. It’s all me.”


Shed Some Light(Gilbert, Co #5)

When his brother is apparently framed for a crime he didn’t commit, Carlos has to turn to the one woman who could save or ruin them both.

Tereza grabbed her bag from the seat beside her and hurried out of the car. She was already running behind. She’d wanted to have a chance to stop and see Brent before the hearing. See if he would be at least a little more cooperative than the last couple meetings they’d had. But, her car hadn’t wanted to start, then after it finally had, she’d gotten stuck in traffic. She’d realized she wouldn’t have time to stop by the jail and get to court in time.

Like it would have done any good anyway. Brent refused to help her help him at all.

She slammed her car door shut and walked as quickly as she could without losing her footing on the icy parking lot. The last thing she needed was to show up in court with a sprained ankle. She did slip a couple times, but thankfully managed to not fall. Thankfully the sidewalk had been shoveled and salted, so she was able to move at a brisker pace once she hit it.


Break on Me(Kurztown #4)

Gabriel Saranno wants to honor his friend’s memory with his father’s latest construction project, but when that friend’s sister gets involved, with the project and him, he doesn’t know if he can hold on to a promise he made.

His house for dinner? Why had Lora agreed to that? Being alone with Gabriel Saranno had to be a mistake. A huge one at that.

But, still, instead of calling him, or at least the office since she didn’t have his personal number, she stood in her closet, trying to decide on an outfit to pack. They were just going over the presentation to give to the town at the next council meeting. It’s not like it was a date.

So why did she have to agonize so much over the choice?

“You’re being ridiculous, Lora,” she muttered. “Just grab something, so you can put the rest of your shit in the bag. You don’t need to impress Gabriel.” Not like she’d ever been able to anyway.


In the Moonlight

When Yasmin Reisner inherited her great-aunt’s house, it comes with more than she expected; an alleged ghost, a relentless realtor, and possibly the love of her life.

“I’ll see you in the morning then, Ms. Reisner.” She turned away,  but I reached out and put a hand on her arm. She stopped and waited for me to say something.

“It’s Yasmin,” I reminded her. “I told you to just call me Yasmin.” I didn’t need the formality.

“Yasmin then,” she said, and her smile nearly knocked my legs out from under me. “I’ll see you in the morning. I hope you have a more restful night.”

I watched her walk away and highly doubted that would happen. But, I might get some good dreams out of it. And I’d still call that a win.


Looking forward to working on all of these. Anyone else participating in JuNoWriMo this year? Any other writing challenges you like to participate in?

Story a Day: Day 22 – Not Again(Take 2)

Today’s prompt was to take something from an earlier piece and do something different with it. Well, I decided to tell my sidekick story, Not Again, from Xavier’s POV this time. Dig into his thoughts a bit more. I have about to the halfway point of my outline drafted for Protecting the Heart(which this takes place during), once I get closer to having the end written, I’ll start outlining Piers & Xavier’s story, Defending the Heart.

Xavier didn’t have a clue what to do. He probably shouldn’t even be here. He was better at installing their security systems and even standing in as a bodyguard. But, Casey had told him to help Piers find any information that would help find that little girl. And that was more important than any of his feelings. He couldn’t help thinking about his niece, Josie. She was about the same age, and he knew how terrified his sister would be if something took her.

“Do you see that?”

Piers’ voice dragged him out of his thoughts, and he moved up behind him to see what he was pointing at on the screen. Even sitting, piers shoulders came nearly up to Xavier’s chest. A tingle went through him as his chest brushed over the back of those shoulders. He should move away, but he couldn’t make his feet to move.

He studied all the numbers on the screen and saw the same pattern Piers had. “Yeah, I do,” he said. “Just what are they up to?” And what did it have to do with Doug taking little Danica? “You ever call your boss that much?”

Piers didn’t respond at first, and Xavier worried his attempt at levity had been lost. They used to talk like this all the time, joke around, tease. And then he’d gone and screwed it all up.

“Do you?” Piers finally asked, lifting one eyebrow as he glanced back over his shoulder.

Something tightened in Xavier’s stomach. He wasn’t sure if it was the question or the way Piers looked at him. Either way, he could feel heat rising to his skin. Hopefully his darker coloring, from his Hispanic mother, hid at least some of it. “Jealous?” he asked, hoping the old teasing would hide more of it.

Piers didn’t respond, though. His face tightened just a moment before he turned back to face the computer. Xavier’s stomach dropped, and he squeezed his eyes shut. It shouldn’t hurt so much. It had been three years, and this was all his own fault anyway. He was the one who had screwed things up. Xavier shifted away, wishing distance would help. But, it hadn’t over the last few years. Why should it now?

“It would help to know what all they talked about on these phone calls,” Piers said, bringing Xavier’s attention back to the computer screen.

“You’re hacking skills can’t get us that?” Piers was about the only reason Xavier knew more than how to turn on a computer and run a search. He could do a lot more than that now. All those coding lessons had done good even though they’d always turned into make-out sessions.

Piers’ head tipped back, and Xavier was sure he was rolling his eyes, or at least looking up as if asking for some divine intervention for the heathen. He smirked a little at that.

“We don’t talk about that, remember?” Piers asked, and finally there was some amusement in his voice. Xavier had missed that. But, it disappeared again when Piers said, “And, no. Not without more equipment. It’s not a magic power.”

“Seems like it sometimes,” Xavier murmured.

Xavier saw red creep up the back of Piers’ neck at that, but the other man kept his eyes glued to the screen. “We should get the information we have to Declan. He won’t leave his woman, but he should see this.”

He knew Piers was right. And it would be better if they got out of here. He heard the printer start up and turned to grab the papers that came out of it. Piers nearly ran into him as he turned back around. Xavier had to step back, but the contact sent heat swimming through him. He bit down on his lip, as if that pain could ground him. And saw Piers’ eyes heat as they fell to his mouth. God. No. They could not do this. Not again.

“Come on,” Piers said, stepping around him. “We need to get them this information.”

Xavier followed him out of the apartment and couldn’t help checking out the rear view. It was as good as it had ever been. But, they couldn’t do this. All they ever did was hurt each other.

Teaser Tuesday: Guarding the Heart

I haven’t shared anything for Teaser Tuesday for a while. I currently have three projects in various stages of revisions. Two of those I’m waiting for feedback on, though. So, today I have something from the other one, that’s really in the pre-revision stage. I’m filling in details that I left blank during the first draft. I’m almost halfway through that, and then I’ll be starting to dig into revisions before I add it to the list to send to my critique partner. But, for now here’s the beginning of Guarding the Heart:

Casey Brannigan stood at the back of the church. He hated these places. Hated them like nothing else. And he’d hated plenty of things during the last thirty years. But churches, and particularly the funerals held in them, held a special place in his list of hatred. There’d been too many. Too damn many. And he was sick of attending them. But, he’d missed the one he should have been there for the most.
The thought, the memory, nearly had him doubled over with the pain of grief. Eight years. Eight damn years, and it still hurt. He should be over it by now. Should have moved on and gotten over her.
He’d never get over her.
He felt a hand clamp down on his shoulder and winced even though he knew who it was. “Goddamn it, Alex. I’ve told you not to do that.”
“Watch it, Casey. You shouldn’t take the Lord’s name in vain in his own house.”
The words were light, but Casey knew his best friend took his faith seriously. “I don’t think your Lord has anything to do with these places or half the shit that goes on in them.”
“Again, you may want to watch it.”
Casey realized people’s heads were turning their way and pursed his lips together. He was silent as the pastor read a passage from the bible. “We shouldn’t be here,” he finally said.
“She was our client, Case. You’re the one who wanted to come.”
“Exactly. She was ours. We shouldn’t have let this happen. How did he get past us?”
Alex shook his head then glanced down pointedly at Casey’s side. “He nearly killed you, that’s how. Your guardian angel is gonna quit his job if you keep this up.”
“I was just doing my job, Alex. We’re supposed to protect our clients.”
“I’m not stupid, Casey. You’re still trying to make up for not being able to protect Marie.There was nothing you could have done. You weren’t even in the country.”
There it was again. That pain in his heart, in his gut. He turned away from his friend before he gave in to the urge to punch him. “I need to get some air.”
He heard his friend’s soft curses as he turned and left the sanctuary. And he couldn’t help the twitch at the corner of his lips. Alex was always the one to lecture him about swearing in the church. Like it would get him struck down right then and there. And now he was doing it. Then, he heard his footsteps following. “Damn it, Casey, get back here.”
He turned toward the other man. “When I say I want air, I don’t usually want company.”
“Look, I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have said that. I just worry about how hard you push yourself. If you keep putting yourself in the path of danger, you’re not going to get out of the way one of these times.”

I probably won’t have this one out this year, but hoping for sometime early next year.

Stream of Consciousness Saturday: “Zoo”

Time for another Stream of Consciousness Saturday post. Today’s prompt is ‘zoo’ either as the word itself or as part of a word.


Declan jerked his head as the missile went past, and he felt it nearly graze his cheek. For just a brief moment, he was back. In the middle of the fighting, not knowing when an explosion or bullet could take any of them out. Then, he was brought back. By a little girl’s giggle.

“Sorry, Declan,” Danica said.

And he was right back in his living room. With Eva in the kitchen, and Danica scurrying after the toy she’d just thrown across the room. He rubbed a hand over his eyes. He couldn’t believe he’d fallen asleep sitting up on the couch. That shouldn’t have happened. He couldn’t let it happen again.

Not while these two were still in danger.

“Are you supposed to throw things in the house?” he asked.

“I didn’t,” she said, her eyes wide as she shook her head.

Declan glanced over his shoulder at Eva, who seemed to be trying to smother a smile. He turned back to Danica. “It went flying past my head. So, unless it grew wings, mo cara, you did just that.”

She shook her head again. “It’s Nighthawk. He can fly.”

He lifted one eyebrow at her, and she nodded. “He can, Declan, really. I’ll show you. Wait here.”

Declan hadn’t really planned to move from the couch. Not unless he had to. But, as he looked over his shoulder, Eva bent down to scoop up the toy and moved over to his side. “This is Nighthawk,” she said. “One of Dani’s favorite superheroes.”

He glanced at the toy and reached out to take it but winced at the stab of pain that went through his arm. Eva ran her fingers lightly over the bandage there. “Just relax,” she told him. “I’ll handle this. Get her to play quietly.” Her lips twitched. “It is rare, but it can happen.”

“It’s fine. I’m fine, Eva.”

“You were shot. Protecting us. I still don’t see why you won’t take a pain pill.”

But, he couldn’t. Not unless he got one of the other guys to keep an eye on things. “It’s not that bad,” he assured her, not for the first time.

Before she could argue once again, Dani came running back into the living room, several books clasped in her hands. She jumped onto the couch, and he barely held back another wince as his arm was jostled. “Dani, be careful,” Eva reminded her. “Declan was hurt.”

He didn’t bother reminding her he was fine, the bullet had done only a little more than graze him. He’d been injured worse than this before. But he didn’t have two people’s, who he was coming to care quite a bit for, safety as his sole responsibility then. He sent a smile to Danica, though, to assure her it was okay. “What do you have there?”

She sent a worried look at her mom then turned back to Declan. “These are all about Nighthawk. This one is about his beginning. And these other tell all about the people he helps. Like you do.”

His throat went thick at that, and he glanced back at Eva. He hadn’t been doing a great job of helping them. Barely staying one step ahead of trouble. He was going to have to change that. But, Eva was smiling at them, like that thought wasn’t even bothering her. She trusted him, and he needed to make sure he didn’t betray that by letting either of them get hurt.

“Can you read them to me? I think I’d like to know more about this Nighthawk. As long as he doesn’t fly around my apartment anymore.”

Danica grinned up at him then opened the first book and started reading.


This takes place during Protecting the Heart, which I’m currently over 17k into. This part(him getting shot) hasn’t happened yet, but it’s in the outline. I had no idea where this was going to go beyond the zoom at the beginning. Don’t know if this scene will even make it into the story, but it was fun to write.


A-Z Challenge: V is for Vivienne Quincey


“Mom. Seriously, I will be fine. Stop worrying.”


Vivienne Quincey saw her son, Piers, roll his eyes. Her only son, and now he was heading to California for basic training. About as far away from her as he could get. Okay, that was not true. She could still be in Sainte-Martine, and then he’d be in a different country. Maybe if she had raised him in Quebec more rather than following Peter to Texas and raising Piers mostly here, he wouldn’t have been so set on following his father’s footsteps right into the Marine Corps.

Oh, who was she kidding? Piers had always been a near copy of his father. There was no changing it.

“Dad, tell her I’ll be fine. We have to leave soon.”

“Viv,” Peter said, slipping his arm around her waist, “he’ll be fine. You know he will. He’s tough. He’ll get tougher.”

But, she didn’t know if she wanted to see him get tougher. She didn’t want to lose her sweet boy who always stood up for others. “Are you sure you have to go?”

“Yes, Mom,” he said with a laugh, though she could hear the aggravation in his voice. “And soon. Or I’m going to miss my bus.”

She hated to see him go. Why he’d had to join up, she didn’t know. She and Peter would have been proud of him even if he didn’t. Even if he didn’t make it through basic training, they’d love him. No matter what ever happened. “I still don’t know why you aren’t doing something with computers. You love your computers.”

“The Marines need someone to run their computers, too.” He sent her that same wide grin he always did. “And I’ll be doing more than being some IT drone in an office.”

But, at least in an office, he would be safe. She couldn’t say that, not now that he was leaving. And she knew it would just make him roll his eyes once more.

“It’s only twelve weeks,” Peter reminded her then tossed a set of keys to Piers. “Go start the car. I’ll be right out.”

Piers stopped to give her a kiss and tight hug. “I’ll be fine, Mom,” he insisted before walking out of the house.

“He will be,” her husband said when they were alone. “I know you’re scared. I know you worry every time I leave still. But, this isn’t the same. He’s going to be okay.”

“Now. And when he’s fully a Marine instead of just a recruit? I don’t want to have to bury my son.”

“You married a Marine, remember?” He pressed his mouth to the top of her head and held her close. “We don’t go down easy. Now, I really do have to go and get him there. I’ll be back in a while. I promise it will be okay.”

She just hoped he was right.

Note: I didn’t have too many characters who started with V. But, there was Piers’ mom. And if you read yesterday’s, you’ll see how far that pride and love stretched(at least at that moment. Really hoping his dad came around eventually. He hasn’t told me that yet, though).

A-Z Challenge: U is for Xavier Urban


Xavier Urban sat at a table near the window. He’d see Piers as soon as crossed the street to the diner. His hand shook slightly as he reached out to pick up his coffee cup. He set it right back down, not really wanting to spill it on his hand.

“Coffee not quite up to your standards, big brother?” a voice said behind him. “Don’t tell me the Marines actually served you better.”

He turned his head and grinned at her. “Just letting it cool off, “Magdalene.”

“Oh, Poor Xavier, the big bad Marine, scared of burning his mouth.”

He reached out to smack her arm. “You’re still just as much of a brat as when I first joined up. How does that husband of yours put up with it?”

“He’s in the kitchen. I could send him out so he could tell you himself. You know if you’d order more that ‘just coffee’.”

He almost laughed when she made quotes round the last two words. “I’m not hungry right now.” At least he didn’t think he could eat anything. At least not until after Piers got there, and they talked. And it would be best if her husband didn’t come out to see him. Xavier always seemed to make a fool of himself in front of the other man.

He turned his head at the sound of the bell on the door. And watched as Piers walked into the diner. Damn, that man looked fine. Always. In a t-shirt and combat pants. Decked out in his combat gear or dress blues. Or wearing a dress shirt, tie, and slacks as he was now.

And that smile he flashed now. It always did something to Xavier. Which was going to make this so much harder.

Magdalene smiled. “Welcome, Piers. Let me guess, you want ‘just coffee’ too.”

“I assume I’m missing a joke there. But, yes, I would like that, Mags.”

When she turned away, Piers leaned over the table. Xavier pulled back, though. “Not here,” he hissed.

Piers narrowed his eyes, but he slipped into the chair across from Xavier. When Piers reached for his hand, Xavier pulled that back, too. “I said not here.”

“You’re shaking. Qu’est-ce qu’il y a?”

What was the matter? At least he was pretty sure that’s what Piers had asked. Where to start? “Nothing. It’s nothing.” It was everything. It was the only promise he’d ever broken to Piers.

“You didn’t tell them yet,” Piers accused.

Xavier dropped his gaze to his coffee. “I couldn’t,” he said quietly. “I just couldn’t do it.”

“Seriously? I came out to my strict Marine father and ultra-Catholic mother, and you can’t even be truthful with the people who once put you in private school they couldn’t afford to get you away from vicious bullying. Isn’t that what you told me?”

Xavier nodded. “The bullying didn’t stop with that, it just changed.”

Piers reached out and pulled his own hand back this time, as if he was fighting with himself. “We said we were both going to do this. We’re out of the Corps, we won’t face any blowback there. Our families will come around. But, we said we weren’t going to do this in secret any more. My father would hardly even look at me, but I did it so I could be with you. In the open.”

Xavier finally looked up from his coffee. “You didn’t see them when I came home, Piers. So damn proud. They’d never looked at me like that before.” He was having trouble keeping his voice down, but his sister hadn’t come back out of the kitchen at least. “I couldn’t tell them I’d lied about not being attracted to guys anymore. That I was in love with one.”

Piers snorted. “In love? I’m obviously the only one who suffers under that condition. But, I won’t do it in secret.” He pushed back from the table. “Let me know if you’re ever brave enough to be honest with yourself, let alone your family. I’ll let you know if I still suffer from it.”

The parting words were almost more than he could take. He pressed both hands on top of the table, as if that would get them to finally stop shaking. It didn’t work. And almost before the bell had stopped chiming at Piers’ departure, Magdalene was beside the table, filling a second cup with coffee and joining Xavier.

“What’d you have to go and break that man’s heart for, X?”

He jerked his head up at that. “I…I don’t know what you mean.”

“Oh, you certainly do. I saw the way you were looking at him.”

“You were spying on us? I’d have figured you’d grown out of that by now.”

“Never, big brother. And I have the right, maybe even the responsibility, to keep an eye on my customers.”

“You are delusional.”

“No, X, just worried about you. Mom and Dad might have bought your story that being gay was just a phase, and the Marines turned you straight again, but I never have. Even before I saw you looking at him.”

“Don’t tell them. You aren’t going to tell them, are you?”

“Of course not. I’ve never spilled any of your secrets before. I won’t start now. But, you should. You’ll never be happy as long as you’re living a lie.”

“Let me worry about my happiness.” But, he couldn’t help looking out the door, even though Piers was long gone by now. Xavier wondered if he’d ever see him again.

Note: Some time has passed since Piers and Xavier first met and realized they had feelings for each other. About twelve years, in fact. I didn’t “meet” them until about three years after this. And it was obvious there’d been something between them that had broken. I didn’t know exactly what it was until I wrote this. Can’t wait to get to their full story and start to mend things for them.

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